Dark Night of the Soul
Author: Draconis Wierinsan Kinthasil
I always knew I was different. I spent almost twelve years blindly accepting what I was taught was the only truth, that there was only one God and He was unchanging. That the Church was always right and if you disagreed, then you were a, “Godless Pagan!” A soulless heathen, lacking in morals and, perhaps even humanity. I accepted it, even praised myself for my avoidance of “sin”, or at least anything remotely connected with pleasure, happiness and joy, which was how I thought of sin.
But, in my heart of hearts, I had begun to question everything I had been raised to believe. I was lost in a sea of my own inner trials. I had thought for many years that my view of the world was right, that I was an essentially good person. Seeing the crimes, the hatred and pain that came from taking faith, any faith to extremes, soured me on it all. I questioned, asked for answers and still came up spiritually empty.
It had been a difficult time for me; I had left the Hanover-Horton school district after the sixth grade and I was still having trouble with the aides they had me working with. One in particular, Mrs. Paxton made me seem like an idiot, when she tried to say that I needed to have periodic meetings with her three or four times a year. One of the things that got me was she was actually nice when I saw her later. All I ever heard from her and her cronies was “He’s unorganized! He can’t spell! He doesn’t understand the simple concepts!” On and on they went about stuff that didn’t matter, things that only added to my feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Though I was not forced, it was in essence assumed that I would believe a certain way. My parents, though they never espoused any particular religious faith, both came from fairly mainstream backgrounds. My search for my own truth, for what I truly was as a person, led me, at first, to reread the Bible and other books, seeking answers. This however, proved more confusing. I saw for the first time the contradictions, the deep chasm between what the Church-folk and Bible-thumpers preached, and how they acted.
The hypocrisy of spending six days a week drinking, lying and stealing, then crawling to church on Sunday and everything was supposedly “forgiven.” I remember I saw it firsthand when I was stupid enough to ask a pastor “Why can’t women be priests?” He sputtered, turning away. He never did give me an answer. Later I learned that the clergy didn’t appreciate those sorts of questions. So I expanded my search, including religions that were a complete departure from what I had known.
The impetus to this process of self-transformation came in the unlikely form of Mr. James Wright, a leader of Boy Scout Troop 134, of which I was a member. He and his wife had given me a pamphlet that gave a brief overview of several different faiths. It, combined with my inner turmoil, proved to be the kick I needed to launch me on a journey of self-discovery.
Just before Samhain, an old Celtic name for Halloween, of 2003, I rediscovered papers I had printed from the Internet two years before. They contained things I’d pulled from the multitude of sites that covered the many faiths of the world. Reading through them again, my thoughts were skeptical. At first I had the attitude that all faiths other then the Christian one were false. This prejudice soon fell away as I began to discover that I was less of a Christian then I’d thought.
I spent days wrangling with the issue. What was so wrong with believing differently? That haunted me for a long time, making my break with the Christian faith more difficult. But, like a drowning man I grasped at the one thing I knew was still true. That “If I can’t blame myself for the foolish deeds I’ve committed, how can I blame others for the choices they made?”
One night shortly thereafter, I prayed for guidance as I took the first step what will soon be an eight-year journey of, awakening, study, meditation and prayer. I discovered the Craft (Witchcraft, the Craft of the Wise) through the Internet and other forms of media.
It was as if a light switch had suddenly flicked on in my brain. I felt something…a sort of gentle nudge from somewhere inside, a little voice saying that I needed to know more. I made a choice then and there, for a year and a day, one complete cycle of what Witches call the Wheel of the Year I would walk the Path, learning if it was what I sought.
So I wandered along the winding road of transformation and discovery. I studied, I prayed, and I learned. Many obstacles, the disapproval of my family, my own fear of what I might find out about myself and my fear of taking that step into the unknown, stood in my way. Greatest among them and hardest for me to take were my parents thinking “Oh it’s just a phase he’s going through” and this required me to keep my inner travels hidden from the outside world. At times I felt like I was walking in darkness, seeking something I couldn’t name. What I found was the essence of my true self, the truth of my faith.
As that first year and a day flew by, I read and pondered the words of those learned men and women who spoke of the Craft. Raymond Buckland, whose books showed me the spiritual side of the Craft, It was his description of what a Witch really was that gave me my first glimpse of the spiritual realm that intersects our own. Scott Cunningham and Raven Grimassi both pioneers in the study of the historic roots of the Witch and the modern form that practice took. Gerald Gardner, the first to bring Witchcraft out of the shadows and offer it to the world. Ted Andrews, whose writings on the roots of animism and shamanic magic gave me new insight into our relationships with our environment, were my first teachers. Through their writings and my own emerging sense of self-empowerment I began to become a Witch in truth, not just in name. Being a Witch as I soon learned meant having self-control. It was difficult for me, to break the cycle of fear and self-hatred but in doing so I began to shed the worst aspects of my character I worked and studied, learning and absorbing information, learning more about myself, and who I was.
Prayer, once central to my life as a Christian, took on a new meaning. My soul recoiled from the thought of bowing my head in fear. That was what I had been taught, that God was wrathful and powerful, casting all but his followers into Hell. I rejected fear of the Gods, instead, I prayed in homage and in reverence. I honored them for their power, not because someone told me to. Now, for the first time in years, I had a reason to pray, a desire to know the Gods. I called out to the powers of the universe, asking them to show themselves. I paid homage to the Lady and Lord, as I first knew the Goddess and God, celebrating the eight sacred festivals of the Wheel of the Year, wondering in the back of my mind if I was just being foolish. That was my greatest fear at that point, what if I was truly damned? Was I risking my very soul? About six months into that first year, I received the answer.
I had prayed that evening as had become my custom, asking for guidance, expecting nothing. I remember I had readied myself for my daily meditation when it happened. I had a vision. I was awake, and yet I was dreaming. I felt a tingle on the base of my neck and a jerking, swooping sensation in my stomach and before my eyes was a vast field.
I was standing before a great temple, carvings of leaping stags and running wolves adorning its doors, the scent of freshly turned earth filling my lungs. A swirling mist enveloped me, cool and damp, fresh like the air after a spring rain. As if brushed away by an unseen hand a tendril of mist swept away on the wind revealed massive standing stones, weather-hewn monoliths carved with symbols and signs from some long ago time.
As a long mournful howl split the air, a shiver raced down my spine and my blood ran cold. From the mist that surrounded me came a tall, masculine figure, his face half hidden by shadow. A flash of silver, like spun moonlight solidified into a kilt of linen He wore belted at His waist. His skin was dusky gold and I felt power coming from Him, a wild, untamed, feral power.
The hair on the back of my neck prickled, this wasn’t a dream; something inside told me “This is real.” My eyes locked on the spear in His hand, a shaft of ebony and gold with faint silver symbols I couldn’t make out engraved along its length. Finding the strength somewhere deep inside, I lifted my gaze to His face. But, fear held me immobile and coiled around my heart, as he came into the light of the luminous silver moon, I saw for the first time the true nature of his outer form.
Atop His shoulders was the black furred head of a great wolf, his eyes a fiery amber-red. Ornaments of bone hung from His wrists and neck, and His eyes burned with the wild essence of a true predator. Yet, there was no malice in his gaze, no cruelty, only wisdom and caring. In the Wolf-Lord’s eyes, like fiery pools of molten metal, I saw compassion and love. Such emotions were weakness, or so I’d always thought, but no one would call Him weak, for no weakness could be seen in the corded muscles of his powerful body.
I felt His hand rest on my shoulder, warm, like the summer sun. Then, He spoke, His voice like rolling mountain thunder. “I have heard you, my child. The wildness in your soul, the freedom you crave, the passion that burns within you, these are my gifts to you.” I felt His hand clench on my shoulder as He pronounced with solemn authority, “To mark you as one of those who keep our ways, take for yourself a new name. For it I call you Kinthasil, Shapechanger, One who Serves the Old Gods.”
Before I returned to my body, as if shouted from far off, I heard His name, Lupercus the Wolf-Lord, the Hunter in Shadow. I knew then I wasn’t dreaming; this had felt too real, to be just a dream. The Gods had heard my call and came at my summons. So with no other taskmaster, and more determined than ever, I redoubled my studies. But, nearly a year after that first questioning, just before Samhain 2004, I again had a vision.
This time, I stood in a twilight glade and a woman approached Her movements lithe and graceful. She wore a gown of russet and brown buckskin that matched for her reddish brown hair and doe-soft eyes. The sliver of the waning crescent moon lent hints of dusk and shadow to the creamy color of Her skin. Belted around her slim waist was a cord of spun silver, knotted at both ends. But my eyes were drawn to the necklace of antler and silver, shaped in the image of a star in a circle set between a pair of crescent moons, the points on each facing outwards, the circle between them connecting them both.
The Lady, whom I would thereafter call Sabdh, the Doe-Maiden, smiled, Her eyes filled with warmth. She beckoned somewhere beyond me and, as if by some spell; a russet-gold stag, His antlers wide and branching, points too many to count, stepped forth from the shadows.
I stood in awe as the Antlered Lord raced across the glade, His hooves raising gusts of wind and yet, no blade of grass bent under His weight. Even more amazing, was the Lady, racing along at His side, matching Him step for step. They circled around, and just before His antlers impaled me, He slowed to a stop, the cool smooth tips of His antlers resting over my heart.
He reared and in a flurry of movement changed form. He became a man, His bare chest shining with sweat, His amber eyes alight with the fire of life and massive antlers sprouting from His brow. In those eyes, I saw a great power, the same force I’d seen in the face of the Wolf-Lord.
My eyes were drawn to the long, yew bow that hung across His back and beside it, a quiver of maple-shafted arrows with fletching made from the white feathers of the Peregrine Falcon. From His belt, hung a knife; its bronze hilt shimmering in the sliver of moonlight overhead and on his left hand a ring of silver and moonstone glittered like a star.
Even now, I can still hear his voice echoing in my mind. He placed His palm around the staff that rested against a nearby tree. As he spoke the antlers and golden sphere atop it glowed with a radiance that was like white-hot fire, but cool to the touch. “I am Wierin Cernnunos, ” He said, and as He spoke I saw a montage of images of leaping stags and men with bows, arrows drawn and ready, praying to Him in homage.
Then, like the Wolf-Lord He gave me a new name. “Wierinsan” He called me, “Son of the
Stag-Lord Ye shall be.” It was in essence, a coming home, a rebirth. A few months later I took for myself the name Draconis or “Of the Dragon” in Latin. It is a symbol of my ability to dwell in the spiritual realm and yet remain grounded in the physical, the “real” world, the here and now. Thus by the Gods I am called Draconis Wierinsan Kinthasil. It is the new name I chose to represent the person I had become. Through the trials of spirit, through the pain I endured came the power of the flame that shaped and tempered the iron of my soul.
As the years have passed, for my newfound faith, for the peace I had found in my soul, I have faced criticism, hostility and, at times, outright ridicule. But, knowing what I knew, that the Gods have seen fit to choose me, mark me for some special purpose I have yet to understand, has kept me strong. It has allowed me to stand firm against the scorn, knowing at last what I was and what I believed.
Those like me, the Witches, Pagans, Heathens and others who worship the Old Gods, when I finally met them, welcomed me as a kindred spirit, a fellow wanderer in the Realms of the Gods. Through my Internet connections I have become what I had once sought, a guide to others on the path. But, though I have done and learned many things, I am still and will always be a student.
Walking the path of the Witch is not about controlling others, or bending another to your will. It is about shaping yourself from your experiences, learning from the foolish, stupid things you have done, of controlling yourself. It is walking the earth in friendship, not in dominance. That by helping others, you are helping yourself.
Though I didn’t plan it when I first began my studies, I am determined to learn and train to serve as a priest. By doing so I hope to help others to discover the peace of spirit and sense of fulfillment I have attained.
My experiences, real, spiritual, mental and physical have shaped the man I have become. They have shaped the core of my ethical code, the one fact I have come to see as divine truth: That harming none does not mean playing the other guy’s doormat. It is about standing up, for yourself, your Gods and your faith.
It means tempering your destructive emotions with passion and love. Giving of yourself completely in faith or in love. It is being honorable and just, but not blind to the evils of the world. Doing good, not for yourself, not for what you can get out of it, but doing good for others.
Names have been changed