In the final episode of American Horror Story: Coven, the apprentice witches attempt the Seven Wonders – an extreme test of magic – to determine who will become the new Supreme.
One of the tests is Descensum, a descent into hell. While there, the witch’s worst day repeats itself over and over again. They have until sunrise to escape, or they will be trapped there forever.
American Horror Story is entertainment. It’s not magical instruction. It’s not myth. But as happens so many times, art imitates life.
Over the past few days, many of us have experienced our own Descensum.
We watched Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony with a combination of admiration and sorrow. We watched Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony with a combination of anger and dismay. And like the apprentice witches, we descended into our own personal hells, reliving our worst days over and over again.
And sunrise is coming.
I have never been sexually assaulted. I have other trauma in my past that has been brought to the surface by the testimony, and especially by the responses from those who said “even if it happened it’s no big deal.” If I’m this troubled, I can only imagine how bad things must be for those were violated far worse than I was.
For the record, I believe Dr. Ford. But even if by some chance her memory is faulty, Judge Kavanaugh’s performance clearly showed he does not have the temperament to serve on the Supreme Court. And yet, barring a sudden discovery of a conscience by at least two Republican senators, that’s where he will be.
We are in hell, and sunrise is coming.
This is not a self-care post. For that, I recommend Handling Rage As A Witch While Handling #Metoo, #WhyIDidNotReport by Scarlet Magdalene. She has some very good suggestions, and she links to a similar article at Teen Vogue, which has become the field manual for survival and resistance in the current world.
American Horror Story is fiction. And yet…
Misty Day could not escape her hell and was stuck there forever. She didn’t deserve that – she was a victim, it wasn’t her fault. But that’s where she was, and that’s where she stayed.
The testing ended when Cordelia – who declined to attempt the Seven Wonders because she didn’t want to be Supreme – claimed her power, passed the tests, and took her rightful place as Supreme, as head of the coven.
Each of us must claim our own power. We must learn to wield it with skill and passion… and when necessary, with ruthlessness.
What is done is done and cannot be undone. Brett Kavanaugh cannot go back and behave like a decent human being instead of sexually assaulting a 15 year old girl. He can only accept responsibility and try to make things right. He has refused.
We can only work bit by bit to dismantle the patriarchy and oligarchy that invests unworthy men with power over the lives and bodies of women, people of color, the poor, and others they deem inferior.
For some of us, this means political action. For others, it means public service. For many, it simply means living an honorable life and setting a good example for others.
And for some of us, it means recommitting to our oaths to the Battle Raven, practicing our magic until our skills are sufficient, and fighting the battles in front of us until they are won. It means caring for those who are hurting, those who are immobilized in their pain, and those whose wounds are deep. It means clearing the battlefield, and preparing the land for new growth.
I’ve been talking about the Call of the Morrigan for the past six years. This is not the only reason so many have heard Her call, but it is one of the reasons. Reclaim your sovereignty. Pick up your sword, or your bow… or for those of us who fight with more arcane weapons, prepare your spells.
This battle is not over yet. And there will be many more battles to come.
The final stories in the Irish legends recorded in Gods and Fighting Men recount the conversations between Oisin, the last of the Fianna, and Saint Patrick. Patrick attempted to persuade Oisin to convert to Christianty by telling him of the torments that Finn and the other Fianna were suffering in hell. Patrick said “Finn is in bonds in Hell … in satisfaction for his disrespect to God, he is under grief in the house of pain.”
Oisin found this incredible. He replied “If the sons of Morna were within it, or the strong men of the sons of Baiscne, they would take Finn out of it, or they would have the house for themselves … Finn of the Fianna could not be held in any house that was made by God or devils.”
No hell could hold Finn and the Fianna, and no hell can hold us if we but fight together.
At the time of this story, Oisin was old and weak. But still he said “If myself and open-handed Fergus and Diarmuid were together now on this spot, we would go in every path we ever went in, and ask no leave of the priests.”
If we fight together, we need ask no leave of judges or senators or the lieutenant governor of Texas.
This past week has been extremely painful for me, and I know it has been much worse for many women – too many women. I’m struggling to determine how to respond. All I know to do is to keep doing the work set in front of me, and keep caring for those close to me who need it.
And keep encouraging all of us to fight, with all the weapons at our disposal.
If we fight together we will win, eventually if not immediately.