Now I am quietly waiting for the catastrophe of my personality to seem beautiful again, and interesting, and modern.

Frank O’Hara
Meditations in an Emergency

Characters simply come and find me. They sit down, I offer them a coffee. They tell me their story and then they almost always leave. When a character, after drinking some coffee and briefly telling her story, wants dinner and then a place to sleep and then breakfast and so on, for me the time has come to write the novel. In a novel there’s not much autobiography. There are characters in transit. Naturally, I can project something of my experiences onto these characters, but they have their own autonomy, a personality that is often a mystery to me. I don’t always understand my characters. I write to understand them better.

Dacia Maraini

The Silence of the Outcasts: an interview with Dacia Maraini

Words without borders March 2008

There’s so much advice (conflicting or otherwise) on the internet regarding the practice of witchcraft and magic. Ninety-nine point nine percent of it is…well, frankly, crap. Wishful thinking or delusion seems to be the only rule.

Before any wannabe witch casts (or even attempts to cast) a spell, before they venture in to the arcane minutia of traditional witchcraft with its intricate and very exacting performance of ritual, they need firstly to KNOW themselves.

Margot Anand explains how at the suggestion of an Indian Tantric mystic, she participated with a group of psychologists in an experiment of sensory deprivation. “I was left alone in a quiet room in the countryside, blindfolded and with earplugs, for seven days and seven nights. Each day’s nutrition consisted of water and a pound of grapes. There was no interaction with anyone else for the whole period.

“In this state of isolation, deprived of external stimuli, I soon began to move inward, penetrating through layers and layers of my own mind. In doing so, I began to meet all the various people and voices of my past that had somehow given shape and substance to my personality. I had the feeling that I was going through crowded rooms filled with relatives, friends, teachers, priests, lovers, all standing around at one huge, chaotic cocktail party, spouting contradictory opinions about how I should live my life.

“After several days, I arrived at a place of deep stillness and tranquility. It was a strangely paradoxical sensation, because I could feel a tremendous amount of energy coursing through my body that would normally have made me very active – wanting to run around, make love, throw a party, anything to burn of the excess energy – and yet on this occasion I felt deeply relaxed, in an act of totally letting go, in a state of acceptance and trust.

“I had the feeling that I had at last touched the depth of my being. It was a state of consciousness that not only conveyed an authentic sense of self, the essential “me”, but also extended far beyond, linking me with the collective consciousness of all living things, of the planet, and of the universe itself. It was a state at once luminous, ecstatic, universal, and peaceful.”

Thus it was Ms Anand discovered her true self. She became as one sitting under Kalptaru, the legendary wish-fulfilling tree of Hindu mythology, which manifests people’s innermost longings. In short she had her first true insight into the state of magical consciousness.

As Jean Houston expresses it: “The body is the supreme temple of transformation, the place where all the forces of the universe gather to be channeled and transformed into a higher integral order of nature and spirit.”

And it is this ‘mental state’ that any witch wannabe MUST first achieve. Knowledge and understanding of self is an essential. It takes time; there are no ‘overnight fixes’. Patience and commitment are very necessary. Only when this ‘state’ is finally realised, will true magic become a possibility.

As the river gives itself to the ocean,
what is inside me moves inside you…

Robert Bly
The Kabir Book