Goddess Murder, 29: North to Sonoma, 3

Goddess Murder, 29: North to Sonoma, 3 October 21, 2013

XXXI. North to Sonoma, 3

“Dotty sounds like a fascinating character,” I said, “but that is one of the most improbable biographies I’ve ever heard.”

Andy frowned. “Take any thread in history and it will seem improbable. So many other things could have happened. And perhaps they did. Even physicists believe there could be alternative histories. There may be a universe in which the Nazis won World War Two. There may be one in which the Padres didn’t push north to found Mission Santa Theresa. There might even be one in which my family doesn’t exist. The current debate is over whether there are forces that continually guide history back to a predetermined path.”

“I’m a little too cynical to believe in metaphysical forces,” I said.

“No, there’s nothing metaphysical about it. It’s just a description of how the Deep Mind works. You probably call it the Unconscious Mind. How much do you know about it?”

“Hasn’t been one of my top research priorities. It’s the part of the mind that dreams, that gives us hunches, that you have to get to cooperate in order to write poetry . . . “

“Right so far. But the usual terms are backwards. It’s our ordinary consciousness that become unconscious, when we sleep. And it is rarely conscious of the other mind, which exists behind a barrier that’s like a one-way mirror. The Deep Mind always knows everything that the ordinary mind knows, is always conscious, and is our true humanity, as Blake knew.”

“Blake? The poet?”

“And painter. He is one of my favorite writers, because he thought like a Witch.”

“I’ve never seen anything about witchcraft in anything I’ve read of his.”

“That’s because you don’t know how Witches think. I hope to enlighten you. “

There was an odd, almost teasing tone to her voice. I glanced over at her. “Could you maybe start filling me in now? We’ve still got a long drive ahead.”

“No, there’s more you need to learn before my theories could make any sense to you. Let me whet your appetite. I intend to demonstrate to you that it is parsimonious to suppose that there is a single, unified consciousness behind all human existence.”

“That isn’t going to be easy.”

“But you have no idea what my demonstration will be like.”

“No, I suppose not. Will it have anything to do with your family tradition?’

“That’s an astute guess, Eddie. Yes, it will. In fact, it’s something central to our tradition.”

“I’m curious about your tradition, of course. How long has your family been hereditary Witches—or maybe that’s a dumb question.”

“Yes, in a sense. We have no way to trace how far back our particular genetic patterns may have existed.”

“You said your great-grandmother, Dotty, was one source of information for Gerald and Edith. So how similar is your family tradition to Wicca, or maybe to Megan’s coven?”

“It’s not, or it wasn’t, very similar at all, although Megan’s coven is closer because of my mother’s work with them. Apollo, our resident poet, is quite advanced. In general, our tradition looks more like folk magic.”

“That’s about what I’d expect, going from what I know of the two or three pre-Gardnerian traditions I’ve managed to track down.”

“Yes, we’re not the only hereditaries. We’ve always tried to keep in contact with the others. All of our practices are quite similar,” she said. “When our family gets together, it’s always specifically to work magic. We often gather at the full moon, because that’s when the natural tide of magical energy is highest, but the full moon is not a holiday that has to be observed. My family never paid much attention to the Sabbats that Witches celebrate now. Our pattern was to honor dates that our tradition remembered from Roman times. For example, in the period when we had to pretend to be Christian, we would have a family gathering supposedly for the Feast of the Assumption. What we were celebrating was the feast of Diana at Nemi, which falls two days before.”

“So is your family tradition the same religion as Wicca or not?”

“That question is far more difficult to answer than you probably think. I’ll have to explain some of the difficulties to you later. Wicca—meaning Gardnerian-style Witchcraft, whether people can trace their Tradition back to Gardner or not—is a wonderful innovation. It’s brought some of our key beliefs and practices to more people than we could have imagined even fifty years ago. But it’s a fairly sedate movement. They like to think of themselves as being an audacious religion for radicals, outlaws, rebels, and other outsiders, but it really functions as a religion for middle-class intellectuals, professionals, and other people who read books. The greatest difference between Wicca and our Tradition is that we teach and pass on some advanced psychological techniques that most people couldn’t cope with. We don’t think we’re being elitist, just realistic about differences in people’s abilities. But you can’t guess what I’m talking about, at least not yet.”

“I’m guessing,” I said, “but, true, I don’t think I understand what you mean at all. Did your family, or do you now, have specific rituals that you do?”

“No,” said Andy, “not at all. One of the exoteric traits of Wicca is their idea that you can work magic by reading a script. When we get together, it’s for a practical purpose. There’s no script. There are certain things that are usually done, but not always, and they’re not always in the same order. Most of it is improvised, working from some basic principles and traditional associations. Is that clear at all? Maybe I’ll have a chance to show you some of it.”

“I’d like that. Were your family gatherings anything like the Witches’ Sabbaths that the witch hunters claimed they were? Was there any basis for all that?”

“No, that was just their pathological fantasy. Centuries ago, you would have been crazy to go gather someplace in the dark and dance naked and so on. Even before the Inquisition became monstrous, that would have attracted unwanted attention. No, as far as I know, my ancestors gathered to celebrate in broad daylight.”


“At country fairs, the open markets. Those were the periodic gatherings that were much like current Pagan festivals. People came there to buy and sell, but also to feast, drink, dance, and make love to anybody who was willing. You could get drunk with the local priests and monks, and nobody would suspect anything.”

“How did your family survive the Burning Times?”

“It wasn’t hard if you had money and political clout. It was the common people who were persecuted, not the nobility. Much of it was motivated by pure greed, since the witch hunters got to confiscate their victims’ property, so you could always bribe them. And if they asked you to have sex with them to prove you were not a heretic, my people would always do that, of course. It was their own Christian women, the poor bewildered things, who would refuse them and get raped and burned.”

“What an incomprehensible tragedy all that was. I wonder if we will ever understand why that happened,” I said, turning off Highway 101 in Healdsburg. I began following the winding narrow roads up into the hills. It was already getting dark. The sun was setting on the other side of the hills. After passing the house I had mentally tagged as a landmark, I slowed and began watching the hillside carefully. An opening between the blackberry hedges appeared. I turned into it and began driving carefully up the dirt road.

“Good thing the rains haven’t started yet, or we probably couldn’t get up here. Puck has a four-wheel drive vehicle to ensure that they don’t get cut off.”

After a few more minutes, we topped a rise. Before us sprawled the rambling wooden house and outbuildings that served as the headquarters of Avalon.

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