It was your classic classroom set up. The third form of high school, or year nine. With the tables arranged in rows that viewed the teacher at the front of the classroom. As the teacher attempted to maintain the rabble and gossip of the students, Isabella eyed off one of the boys in the middle row whereas she sat up in the back. Talking to her girlfriends, they were all rating their male classmates on a scale from one to ten. They were all dressed in their school uniforms. With their patchwork skirts and the boys in their black trousers and white shirts. The act of wearing a uniform to assist with the drilling away of individual autonomy. The hammering of student confidences to replace their behaviour with robotic automatism. The eventual product being a servile and docile youth ready for the workforce.
However, every so often a strong enough identity would rise above such an institution and come to stand on its own two feet. Isabella was one such identity that beyond the coursework of the classroom would follow her own pursuits. The pursuits being that of the magick and the divine. For secretly, hidden in the cupboard of her bedroom, she would hold a shrine to the goddess Hekate. Seeking the secret knowledge and tutelage of a force higher than she. Some would brand her as a witch, which in the new millennium had become a generalized form of rebellion against those in power. The new age practices of witchcraft had long since been redefined since the hangings, drownings and burnings of the Salem witch trials. Even though in Scotland in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, it was estimated that between three thousand and five thousand women were being accused of witchcraft. Perhaps the effects of English imperialism considering that the numbers of those accused in England at the same time were much the lesser. Science and the enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries had come to define such practices as hocus pocus; bullshit basically. But Isabella was not so sure. A childhood of experiences had led her to come to believe that there was some practical knowledge in regards to all the hocus pocus.
As she sat in the classroom while the teacher directed the teachings. She passed a note to the boy in simple handwritten script. It was passed on to him and read, ‘Hi! What’s your name?’
The boy, Callum, read the note and scribbled his name down on the piece of paper. Passing it back to Isabella sitting in the back row. The passing back and forth of notes continued on through that class and every successive class that they held together. Isabella had her attention focused upon him and she was perturbed for the fact that he managed to throw them off relentlessly.
After school she would take the trams and trains that would deliver her to her favourite shop in the city. A new age, spiritualist shop that sold: incense sticks; crystals; beads; books on witchcraft; and other new age matters. She managed to pick herself up a copy of Agrippa’s ‘Three books of occult philosophy’, she had been told that amongst its pages was a means of communicating with higher spirits such as that of Hekate. She had saved enough money to purchase the book through household chores and the allowance that her mother afforded her for the tasks involved.
At home, she read through the text. It was difficult to ascertain much of the knowledge that was inscribed within those pages. The book had been published in 1533 and some of the details of the first book involved such ritual magick as, ‘cutting out the heart of an owl and placing it beneath a woman’s pillow while she sleeps in order to get her to tell the truth.’ Much of what was written within those pages were filled with patriarchal gibberish and she had to do much to sort through the babble of men. But within the layout of the second book of the text, it began to get interesting as it discussed different celestial bodies that existed within the heavens, and pathways of communicating therein. The book held within it the fundamentals of what would later develop into current practices of astrology and divination.
There were various diagrams and symbols laid out in the text and through the reading of the text she was able to accumulate enough knowledge so that she could draw up a specific symbol and cross-reference it with other material that she already owned on the Goddess Hekate. Enough so that she could open up a divine connection between her mind and that of Hekate.
Hekate, whose name means, ‘influence from afar’ is known as the Queen of the night, the spirit world and witchcraft. Her origins seem to arise from what is now considered as Turkey. And she holds dominion over life, death, regeneration and magick.
It was for the last part that Isabella desired to create a connection with the Queen of the night. For the promise of magick and the ability to work it to her own will was what she desired. She created a symbol made up of sticks that she had picked from a birch tree in the backyard. The tree itself being used was used to represent new beginnings. Not that she knew that when she picked up the sticks, but the symbol that she created was that of the Goddess Hekate. She set the symbol up in her bedroom cupboard upon her altar. Where there was a small place that she could sit and meditate upon her altar. She lit three candles around the symbol that burned different scents.
She picked up a small mouse that she had bought earlier that day from a pet-shop. The mouse had been designed to be fed to pet snakes. She did not own one, but she held the mouse in her hands as it scrambled against her clutches. She held a small knife from the kitchen and slit the small rodent’s throat and dribbled its blood across Hekate’s symbol. A small sacrifice to gather the attention of the Goddess. She lay the mouse’s now lifeless corpse to the side of the symbol and then sat in a lotus meditative pose before the shrine.
She breathed in the different scents and meditated so that she could open up her mind to the divine forces of the heavens. The blood of the small rodent melted in with scents of the candles and as she caught a whiff of the copper taste of blood, she opened up her eyes and began offering a chant to the Goddess, “Quiet is the night. Dark is the moon. I ask Hekate, the Crone. To take her throne.” And then she paused before offering her plea, “Goddess Hekate, great one. I ask thee thy tutelage in my life endeavours so that I may accumulate great wisdom and the means to practice thy art of magick. Bless me, wise one. I will be thy willing servant and accomplice for life if thy takes me under your wing and shepherds me.”
For a period of time there was nothing but silence. But then minutes passed and it reached the stroke of midnight. A gust of seamless wind came from the direction of the altar and a great and pervading voice entered her mind, “Ah sister, I have heard your plea. What is it that you ask of me? I know that you ask for magick, but what particular spell do you wish? For your sacrifice I will beseech your request.”
Answering the voice inside her head, she spoke aloud, “I ask for a love spell. A charm to attract the one of whom I desire.”
“Then grab a quill and paper, I will take possession of your vessel and transmit such a spell to your mind.” Isabella grabbed a pen and a blank piece of paper. Then she sat there and in a mental blank started to sketch out something upon the blank piece of paper. It was a powerful transmission, like having a seizure. Half of her mind was aware of what was taking place, the other half was powerless to take any action of her body as she sketched out a nameless series of runes upon the piece of paper. The seizure and the sketching of runes lasted for a period of ten minutes. And then Isabella was once again in possession of her own body. “Hand this to the one you love and he will love you in return. Until the spell is ended with a kiss.”
“What sort of kiss?” Isabella, the schoolgirl asked, “Like a full on one or a peck?”
It was as if Isabella could hear Hekate wince at the naïve youth’s question, “A passionate one. That comes from the heart.”
Isabella, sensing the Godess’s irritation, left the issue alone, leaving any other questions she had unanswered. She placed the piece of paper with the charm written on it within her school bag and settled into her bed for the night. Eagerly awaiting to test out the authenticity of the charm’s effects.
The next morning Isabella awoke and prepared herself for the school day. She sat down to a simple breakfast of Nutri-grain breakfast cereal and a cup of tea. She talked to her mother as any regular teenage girl would do. In the fashion of a disgruntled youth forced to attend school, as were the rules imposed upon her by the rest of society. And slowly she was drilled out of her home and on her pathway to school. She would take a walk to the trams and trains, where she would catch public transport to her local high school. Inside her backpack was the piece of paper with its magickal inscription.
As school began, she tucked the piece of paper inside her pocket, folding it. The first two periods of the school timetable she didn’t share with Callum, her crush. So during the intervals between classes she kept a lookout to see if he was present. She saw him in the halls, gathering his books between the first two classes. But she decided to wait until the fourth period where they shared a class together.
The fourth period arrived and together, with the rest of the students, they sat in attendance. As the class completed coursework, Isabella went to sharpen a pencil by the rubbish bin. Placing the note firmly in Callum’s hands. Callum opened the note and viewed the runes written on the piece of paper. He took a quizzical look at the figures printed on the piece of paper, attempting to decipher their hidden meaning. But for the meaning he could not understand as the runes worked their magick in upon his mind, weaving a web of entanglement and fulfilling the purpose of the spell.
Callum quickly jotted down on a piece of paper, in response, ‘I don’t know what this means. But I like it. Can I take you out sometime?’
Isabella was excited. The spell had worked. But then she thought about it… Just one kiss. One kiss? The spell would be broken on the first date. She took a bathroom break to consider the possible pathways of what she should do with her newfound lover.
She stood in the bathroom that was all but empty apart from her own attendance. She stared at her reflection in the bathroom mirror. At first she made expressions of confusion, attempting to figure out what possible use just one kiss would provide. She began chanting in the mirror, attempting to summon Hekate’s presence, “Quiet is the night. Dark is the moon. I ask Hekate, the Crone. To take her throne.” The lights of the bathroom flickered; once, twice and three times the charm. Then a figure, Isabella’s own reflection took on a darker hue. At the appearance of the dark figure of her own reflection, she knew that she had Hekate’s attention. “Hekate. Your spell has worked, but what am I supposed to do with just one kiss?”
The voice, inside her own mind, once again began to speak, “I heard your plea sister. It was for me to take you under my wing and teach you the secret knowledge. I will fulfil this on the condition that you refute the boy of his kiss. For the time that the boy is under the spell, I will take you in and teach you as if you were my own child. I will make you invulnerable and take you under my guidance until the spell ends.”
Isabella thought of this, the consideration of the secret knowledge and invulnerability. It was a proposition that could not be denied and so she spoke, “Agreed.” As Hekate’s presence left the high school bathroom, a group of female students entered.
Isabella went back to the classroom and wrote on a piece of paper, handing it to Callum in response to his offer. It read, ‘Not in your life pal.’
Isabella left the school due to her mother finding a job overseas. And Callum was left instilled with a desire for the ever elusive Isabella. Have you ever had an itch that you can’t scratch? Because it lies just beyond your reach. But that spot, just beyond your reach, keeps on nagging at your mind… Aching and swelling in a place just beyond your reach. That’s the sort of feeling Callum was left with. Desire burning ever so brightly, so fiercely. He attempted to stay in touch with Isabella, but soon enough she had changed her email so that he could not reach her. He yearned to hear her voice again, to see her face, but all he was left with were school snapshots of the class. He would stare at them for hours and his heart would swell.
Soon, this level of infatuation became a problem for Callum. He would ignore the affections of others who sought to win over his heart. He would daydream endlessly about Isabella… Just to see her face once more. To be brought into contact with what he viewed as a divine presence. Because his infatuation was interrupting his studies, Callum’s parents enlisted him into the services of a counselor. The counselor stated that, “Sometimes, in life, this happens. We just have to do our best to cope with our emotions and carry on with our lives. I can’t deny what you’re feeling, but if those feelings aren’t returned, we just have to move on and focus our attentions elsewhere.”
The little pep talk from the counselling services didn’t assist much. He was under a spell and as time passed, his feelings became more intense. A year passed and although he couldn’t remember the girl properly, he was still infatuated with her. He had built up this complex fantasy around her. An entire intricate and elaborate world where she served as a Goddess that dictated her own form of reason and logic. It twisted in his mind and brought about feelings that seethed and hissed, torturing his soul. It was like a fiery whip always bringing in waves of scorn to those around him that made his behaviour intolerable and irrational.
He developed drug and alcohol habits. Starting off by smoking marijuana and punishing his mind with copious amounts of alcohol. It was the only time where he could rest his weary heart, when he was passed out unconscious from the different things that he had taken. Callum was often found passed out in a pool of his own vomit, after having drunk too much. Or he was greened out, laying in a bliss haze of marijuana smoke. Sometimes he would even lose control of his bladder and a wet patch would develop around his crotch area when he had passed out. It was a beautiful sight to behold. One of grotesque proportions that brought about feelings of concern from Callum’s immediate family. But whatever intervention that they would attempt to impose, they weren’t able to have any effect.
Soon Callum was placed into the care of a psychiatric ward. The drugs that he had taken over the years had done some form of permanent damage to his brain. The hospital staff conducted a CAT scan upon his person and it was revealed that he was left with a chemical imbalance. He was dosed up with olanzapine and Valium, a cocktail mix of different sedatives that ensured he remained calm and docile. As he sat in a one seater couch, he would be interviewed by different hospital staff to allocate the source of his pain. He would dribble through the meetings, a string of saliva collecting from his mouth to his chin. He would complain irrefutably about the great pain that the separation from his beloved’s presence. The psychiatric staff would interview him, “Yes. Yes. We understand that there is pain. What is the source of this pain?”
“Isa… Isa… Isabella …” He managed to dribble out.
The hospital staff understood that he was infatuated with a young woman by that name. But there was very little that they could do to soothe the situation. There were several suicide attempts. The first came when he had day leave from the hospital. His parents had taken him out to a local café to have a coffee. As he sat there chain smoking cigarettes and taking sips of his latte in between puffs of his cigarette. His parents attempted to soothe him with talk of upcoming movies. Ones that he would enjoy. “The new X-Men movies are casting Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.”
Callum’s cigarette burned to produce a sizeable amount of ash on his cigarette, “Yeah, well I don’t give a fark about Hugh Jackman or the X-Men films. And you know why?”
“Why?” They asked hesitantly.
“Because it’s all farked. Hugh Jackman… Celebrity culture… It’s all farked. Hugh Jackman can smoke cigarettes out of his arsehole for all I care.”
Shortly after that Callum ran out onto the road and hurled himself at traffic, hoping to be hit by a passing car. The incident caused a traffic accident and traffic congestion a kilometre long. His parents didn’t know how to explain the incident to authorities and shortly after that, his leave entitlements from the hospital were soon revoked.
He was entrapped within the hospital’s walls, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Put under section twelve of the mental health act. He was allowed internet privileges in which he communicated with the outside world. He used it to communicate with old friends from high school and the like. Those who knew him best and witnessed his gradual decline into insanity and obsession. They had seen it all: the self-inflicted punishment through drug abuse; the imbecilic drunken rants of devotion to his beloved Isabella; and the lack of will to take proper care of himself.
Sometimes they would visit him within the hospital walls. They would always leave those visits disturbed and disgruntled with the world. Seeing someone like this, anyone like this, was no easy thing to bare. Especially if you cared about the person.
Then came the emergence of social media. Particularly that of the Myspace phenomenon. Confined within the containments of the psychiatric ward, he created a profile. Carefully selecting images that presented himself as your normal, everyday, non-confined, non-imprisoned citizen. Then the search began. Sorting through the mass of women named Isabella, he came to find her. And what a sight she was. Cheerfully happy, non-distressed and illuminating the picture frame in perfect composition. His heart felt a slight gust of wind, as if taken into his previous constructed imaginings of a perfect reality. And with a smile and a click of a button, he attempted to reach out towards her. Through the diametric and cybernetics of cyberspace. A simple message of greeting was how it started. Asking if she remembered him.
And for that she responded, ‘Sure, I remember you.’
Seven years had passed since Isabella had left the high school. Did she remember Callum? Did she remember him? The boy had acted as the catalyst for the major shift in her life where she had begun receiving the guidance of the Goddess Hekate. Not something one easily forgets.
Over the years she had forgotten him. All of the pain that he must have been going through via his root cause of desire. The spell that she had put him under. She had learnt much over that period of time. Taken on many a lover and undergone her own struggles and journey. She had buried herself in the texts regarding tarot and astrology. Became a master deckhand at the dealing of the tarot. A master of Waite’s deck and also Crowley’s Thoth deck.
And this was only the beginnings of her teachings. Through the instruction of Hekate she had come into knowledge of the war between the different Gods and Goddesses. Now the ancient wars, these were steeped in ancient mythology and recorded the world over. But the wars that had presented themselves over times concurrently. These were things that only the initiated possessed knowledge of.
Throughout history there had been the wars recorded down in the textbooks of history. But beneath them there were feuds and religious rites taking place behind the scenes. Hermes Trismegistus had first proposed the concept that all acts within the Earthly planes were direct reflections of the Heavens above. The Second World War was a period of great upheaval in the context of history. Alesteir Crowley documented such inner workings of occult societies and lodges through his novel ‘Moonchild’. Nazism was deeply rooted in the occult and with its alternate force of the Golden Dawn. It’s difficult to understand the complexities of what transpired at that period of time. But she had learnt… Or had begun to learn.
She had found herself as a foot soldier under the guise of Hekate. Learning ritual and sacrifice. That everything that is given by the heavens, must be paid with by a price. The world of spirituality dealt in a world where finances were nothing. The only gains to be had were via blood, sweat and tears. And over the years she had paid for her gifts dearly. Callum was just the initial piece. The primary token by which she paid her way, for the Goddess Hekate to consider her proposal seriously.
And now here he was. Messaging her in the new age of digital media. She had liked the boy, but not that much. She attempted to explain to her current partner the circumstances of his contact, omitting the details of her witchcraft practices.
It became a difficult thing to explain as messages were sent back and forth between the two. He was messaging her details of his sordid longing. The pain that he had undergone over the past seven years and the anticipation over meeting up.
“What is he? An artist? If he’s an artist then I get it. They have muses all the time. Somebody to inspire their art and as far as these things go you’re pretty awesome and deserve the attention.”
“Then what the hell is he? Is he a stalker? I’ll bloody well beat the shit out of him if he is.”
She remembered the ritual, how she had cursed this boy so long ago. She couldn’t help shake the feelings of guilt and remorse. It was a complicated situation. On one hand, she despised reading the messages that he was sending her. They were just so… Just so… Pitiful. In many ways she had a kind heart. More kind than your average person. She cared a lot… It was just that these things were now affecting her own life. Creating a terrible mess of her relationships and as much as she attempted to deny it. She had feelings for the boy. She had long ago shaken away any initial romantic feelings. If there were any in the first place. But she had a greater love for humanity. It was difficult for her to find any feelings of malice for anyone really. She had a deep respect for nature and acknowledged that all living creatures, great or small, played their part in the divine matrix of the cosmic celestials. Like a wounded animal that shows up on your doorstep, there was a nurturing side to her that desired to enable that care. But she had long ago learnt that you don’t take in stray animals that you don’t plan on feeding. She quite simply had moved on, long ago.
“If he’s an artist then they’re just weird. They all have this messed up shit going on in their lives relentlessly. Don’t worry about it. He’ll move on. Find some other leg to hump.”
“What the fuck does it matter if he’s an artist or not?”
“They’re emotional creatures is all I’m saying.”
Isabella sent Callum a message, for him to move on and stop wasting his life on something that was never going to happen.
Years passed and things came to pass. However, it seemed that Callum was still stuck. Instituted into the mental health system, bound and incarcerated. His only means of contact with the outside world as far as she could see was through social media and his virtual existence. She continued living her life. Relationships came and went. She travelled the world and learnt more and more of the occult world that existed behind the inner workings of everything.
Then Callum sent her another message, this time it read, ‘I’m trying my best to stay away from you. Trying to train my mind not to think about you. But I can’t do it. It’s painful. It hurts so much.’
This time Isabella found herself in another relationship, a more serious one and her partner was seriously losing his shit, “Who the fuck is this guy!? Who the fuck does he think he is!? He can’t just keep on doing that to you!”
Isabella attempted to calm him, “Look… He has mental health problems. He’s delusional, he’s done a lot of drugs and now he’s all fucked up.”
“I don’t give a fuck! He has to learn to respect other people’s lives. It’s not your fault that he’s some fucked up loser.”
The messages became that much more sinister. Every time that Callum messaged Isabella, there was a twisting of Callum’s soul. One that eventually turned into bitter hatred and flowed with malice. And that was all that Isabella could take. She messaged to him one last time with some hidden threat of taking action, ‘Let me be clear. In case I wasn’t before. Fuck off and don’t message me again.’ And that was it. However much Callum was suffering in some undisclosed part of the world. He didn’t message her.
She didn’t think about Callum for quite some time. Her relationship flourished now that it was free of any ties to the past. As did her teachings and wisdom. But at the back of her mind lay her beginnings. She was now a fully fledged witch. A divine acolyte of the Goddess Hekate and she had her questions. Questions about her past.
She prepared her altar with the usual preparations. She burnt sage in preparation for the ritual and took her seat before the altar, conducting herself in the lotus pose. “Quiet is the night. Dark is the moon. I ask Hekate, the Crone. To take her throne.” Outside it rained. The pelting of the rain washed up against the window panes and lightning cracked in the night sky.
A voice entered her mind, a voice familiar to her over her many years of practice, “Ah… Isabella. Sister, what is it that you wish to know?”
“I have learnt much from you, dear Goddess. More than one could ever wish to know in a single lifetime. But I have questions.”
“Of Callum and our original arrangement. Does he still suffer?”
“Very much so…” The Goddess answered, “He is almost on the edge now.”
“The edge?” Isabella asked, she had always hoped that he could move on, despite the bindings of the magick she had used to entrap him.
“The edge of the abyss. Staring into hollow nothingness. Without hope and inflamed by desire. It burns upon his soul. You would not recognize him anymore. He has become despondent.”
“I wish there was another way… I did not want this.”
“But there is: a kiss.”
“A kiss and then I am released from your guidance, a kiss and then I am rendered vulnerable.”
“Ah, yes. It is these ones that we wish to discuss. The ones in your life that you pass over. The ones that you leave to pursue your own path. For reasons you alone know, you pass over their affections and move on to something else.”
“Yes, what’s with that?” The thoughts of Callum made her feel like she was still in high school for a moment. She quickly regained her senses, “What role do they have to play within the journey of my life?”
“They are your drive, your motivation. They empower you.”
“You do one of two things. To accept or deny their love. To accept is one thing. To deny is another entirely. When you deny someone, they are left to their own devices. Whether it becomes an act of obsession or an act where they decide to work on themselves, it all acts to spur you forward and motivate you. Obsession will just as surely motivate you as anything else will. To put yourself into question, ‘Am I worthy of such infatuation? Such desire?’ And for that you will attempt to mould yourself to the point where you feel comfortable. And if they build on themselves, work on themselves, then that will be further cause to empower and motivate you.”
“Like you taught. Everything is connected. Everything has its role to play in the great pathways of our destiny. Am I worthy of such obsession?” Isabella looked on to the altar with a tear in her eye.
“Some people are just overly expressive with their words. And their actions. Some people will pour themselves into their work and they will find a happiness of their own.”
“I see and Callum, what happiness did he find?”
“Back to the boy. Tell me what happiness would you find with him? A momentary embrace of the flesh and then what? Children… grandchildren? Fucking away your lives together in ecstasy until your flesh becomes haggard and old. Until your bones ache and you come to the realization that all you are is flesh. Until you become so decrepit in your desires that it knows no bounds. That your teeth rot away and they cart you off to some retirement village where you await death to come and take you away. And what will you present to the Gods upon entering their domain? An empty desire to return to the flesh once more so you can fuck away your existence.”
“There was always that choice, I suppose…”
“Isabella, dear sister. You would never have taken that choice. What would mindless obsession and being a slave to desire serve you? You have always been a dedicated and observant woman. You are bound by flesh, but of the spirit. You see through such charades as mindless flattery… Hardly worth the salt of a tear.”
“That choice was mine.”
“Not any longer dear sister. The boy died a year ago. Burnt up in fiery desire. He carved the name ‘Isabella’ into his forearm as he did so. He’s gone.”
“He’s gone? Then the promise I made to you, our agreement?”
“It still holds. Forever more. Until time comes to an end and the faintest star relinquishes all of its light. We are bound together. I will be your haven from men, I will shelter you when times are rough, I will give you work to unravel your soul. Until you are a wizened old hag. Bound by flesh, but of the spirit.” At Hekate’s final proclamation, lightning cracked in the sky.