Ocracoke island is the most magickal, spiritually vibrant nexus of beachy delight I’ve ever found…well, in my neck of the woods, anyway. The island vibe is other-worldly, wrapped in shoreline on all sides, held in the balance of land, sea and sky. Magick happens every time I return, and this time it was especially powerful.
Loving the Liminal
My Belovèd is a musician. At the beginning of each June, just before he leaves me for his huge summer tour across the continent, we journey back to this island so he can perform in the OcraFolk Music Festival and we have a romantic getaway. We fall in love all over again – with each other, with ourselves, with the artists who live there, and with the way the sea cradles this tiny stripe of land in it’s liminal embrace. The gravity of this island makes it incredibly difficult to leave. I’m certain a piece of my soul dwells there year-round, calling me like a homing beacon to eventually make my home there.
The liminal is where magick happens; the “limit” or boundary, where both sides of the option mingle, held in mutual potential. The liminal is betwixt and between, neither here nor there; the river bank, the ocean’s shore, the hedge, the twilight and dawn, equinox and solstice…. Old magick calls us to these edges, and like a keyhole, we unlock the door into another realm where anything is possible. This is the witch’s sweet spot.
Crossing the Waters
All the best mythological odysseys about holy missions, take the hero on a quest across mysterious waters. Crossing the sea, the lake, the river to find a mystical realm, where time ticks to a different rhythm, where matter coalesces at such a vibration that those seekers cannot even see the destination until they are Spiritually prepared. Ocracoke Island is my Avalon.
The only way onto Ocracoke island is by boat, and it is so far from the North Carolina coast that when we drive our cars onto the ferry, the voyage across the sound is 2.5 hours long. With the sea breeze in our hair, and the pelicans flying escort along-side, the shifting vibration is palpable. My soul uncoils just enough that my breath takes on a new cadence, muscles soften. The veils thins out there on the waters, and together we slip into another realm.
I watch the shift happen among the other passengers, too. On the mainland we are all strangers speeding about our mundane lives, trying not to get entangled with the messiness of other people; heads down, no talking. Then we turn off the country road into the station at Swan Quarter, and pay our toll to the ferryman. I get this thrill of pride when he deems us worthy to cross and waves us through.
We line up and wait for our boat to arrive, and there is a sort of soul-recognition among us travelers now. THESE people in THESE cars are members of a special fellowship. We are young and old, in our straw hats and flip-flops, sun glasses and band t-shirts. But beware the alligators…they live here patrolling these banks. No good quest across the waters is complete without a few monsters.
Thirty minutes into the voyage, the blinders of separateness begin to fall away, and we become the kindred of those who cross. Inevitably, we decide it is time for chatty introductions, or a nap with the windows open, or a picnic lunch shared freely. Mobile phone service drops out and that nagging, frantic scream of the outside world quiets. We phase into a different dimension.
Our transformation completes as we privileged few pull into the docks, and drive into the Village of Ocracoke at Silver Lake Harbor. At this point I am usually bouncing in my seat like a little kid, so excited to park the car and switch to riding our bicycles for the duration.
Messages from Heron
There is private beach on the west side of Ocracoke village that looks out over the Pamlico Sound. We are so far out into the sea, that sun sets into the water, which is a rare treat on the east coast. It’s a secret access to the water and is easy to get to on bike from Silver Lake road, but it is unmarked. You just have to know… and everyone on the island, even the tourists, seem to just know.
I was reminded of this stanza of a poem called “Entanglement” I wrote long ago after a promise of engagement was broken, along with my heart….yet again. Since then, heron guided me along a liminal journey to where I now stand strong and renewed of hope.
“Tiptoeing the banks,
heron feet in the murk,
head down to probe the mud,
discerning waste from sustenance.
What say you now, wings?
To rise or fall with these tides?
Ripples in these waters still throb,
and sights scryed in the black,
say, “Take flight, take heart,
and beat the songs of these reckonings
to where the sun meets horizon
and is resolved in the dissolving
across a lonely sea, chasing
that elusive fish
who gets away.”
The first time I visited this beach, a kindly tourist told me her tale of being proposed to in this spot, and then later returning to be married here. Proposals and vow-making ceremonies are also forms of liminal magick; I hear that happens here a lot. That is how potent this patch of beach has become…the power soaks the very sand. The lapping waters and cries of birds sing that heart song, for those who can hear their refrain.
Wishing Magick Spell on Three Edges
Old folk magick tells tales of witches who straddle the liminal places where three realms meet. On a sudden impulse, as a Witch I rise in determination, seeking out a sea shell. I stand on the water’s edge. Like the heron bird herself, one foot on the shore, one foot in the waters, head and wings in the wind. My Will burns with the fires of the setting sun, and as he slips toward that watery horizon, I whispered my wishes into that shell, seeing my heart’s desire fulfilled.
Tears flow; the wind carries my voice in secret pact; sand in my toes and waters lapping my ankle; when the orange sun slips completely beneath the surface, and the opposites of fire and water dissolve in momentary union, I throw that shell as hard as I can into the horizon, and both my fears and my desires are embraced by the waves.
Our last morning on the island, we awake and just off the back porch over-looking the waters of the canal, these two white herons hunt for their breakfast. I sit in the porch swing with my coffee and camera and we observe each other carefully for a long while. Choosing to accept my company, she wades the shallow water, head held high and observant, until she spies her prey. Then crouching low to the surface, leaning in, long neck coiled back as a vicious spring to launch her jabbing beak into the water, snatching with precision her sustenance. She throws back her head, and swallows in a flash without hesitancy, without compromise.
Again, we make long eye contact, then she turns to stroll a few steps, always watchful, the picture of grace, knowing her power and what she wants. She never misses. Nor did I miss her lesson for me that lovely June morning.
When the time of our departure comes, I am once again filled with dreams and sadness to bid my Belovèd and this island adieu for another season. Each memorable visit here, like beads on a silken strand of time, are drawn close to touch, as though no interim passes between them. Then onto the ferry we drive once more, doors open, new friends gathered together in a more melancholy picnic now, camaraderie in the shared regret of our return. We doze in dreamy, snuggled napping. Then the mainland appears, WiFi returns, and that irritating call to rush and bother of mundanity floods back in.
Though my body returned from Ocracoke, my spirit is resistant to mainland acclimation. My Belovèd traveling bard is gone again on summer tour. Ten days since landfall and he’s already in Colorado again which feels so very far away. Both heron and the ocean know my heart goes with him, wherever he wanders.
Ocracoke magick, draw us home to your shores once more.