The next few months were pretty uneventful for me. I bought my camper trailer, moved into the cemetery, and didn't have a single close encounter with anything paranormal. I read through every book in the mausoleum, jotting down notes in my own Book of Shadows so that I felt like a proper Witch. I journaled my dreams there as well since they were my only glimpse into the astral plane.
By late March I had yet to successfully astral project, and I was starting to get nervous. If I couldn’t manage to do it by May Day, then I’d have to wait at least until the next Halloween before I’d have a chance to petition Persephone to release my friend, another six months of literal Hell.
As heavily as the thought weighed on my mind, I didn’t head downtown that day looking for another Witch to help me learn The Craft. I just went to get seeds so that I could plant a garden when the weather turned warmer. But while I was driving along Queen Street, a building just down Albion Avenue caught my eye. It was a beautiful Victorian house with the ground floor converted into a storefront. ‘Eve’s Eden of Esoterica – Spiritual Wellness and Metaphysical Supply Center’, a New Age shop that I had seen before but never really gave much thought too. Even after my experience on Halloween, I never considered that commodified mysticism could offer any actual answers to me. And yet, as I gazed upon the building, I couldn’t deny that my spidey sense was tingling. My clairvoyance told me that something genuinely paranormal was in that shop.
Even if I was wrong, it couldn’t hurt to look.
I parked on the side of the avenue and walked up to the entrance, where I was greeted with multiple posted flyers advertising the shop’s wares and services. They sold crystals, candles, incense, books, tarot decks, Ouija boards, spell kits, altar idols, holistic medicine, herbal teas, and an assortment of related paraphernalia. They frequently hosted yoga and meditation classes, offered personalized metaphysical consultations - whatever that meant - and once a month held ‘women-led sacred sexuality seminars’.
Honestly, the place embodied pretty much every New Agey stereotype I could think of, and I almost would have laughed at it if it weren't for the hand-drawn logo on the front door. It was a blonde, Biblical Eve, but instead of an apple, her forbidden fruit was a pomegranate. She raised a seed to smugly smiling lips exactly like the portrait of Persephone in the mausoleum. Obviously, a feminist reimagining of an old story turning an act of subjugation into one of empowerment wasn't a novel concept, but the specific similarities to the Persephone portrait were uncanny. Whoever had drawn that clearly knew something of the Underworld, and I needed to speak with them.
I pushed open the door, ringing an old-fashioned bell as I did so, and I immediately saw what it was I had sensed from outside. Sitting at the front desk and reading a book was an absolutely breathtaking young woman. She was tall and lithe with long tresses of ashen blonde hair, intense blue eyes with smokey eyeshadow, feline cheekbones with a delicate nose and chin, her fair skin decorated with colourful nature and pagan tattoos. She looked like the Eve on the front door, just wearing slightly more clothing. She was dressed in a dark green, hooded, crocheted vest that was only held closed by a drawstring at the chest, leaving her flat stomach and pierced navel proudly on display, along with a pair of khaki shorts.
What was even more remarkable than her appearance was her aura. I could sense with ease that she was a powerful clairvoyant like myself, far more so than anyone else I had encountered since I started studying the occult, someone who might actually be able to provide me with some guidance into this new arcane world I had stumbled in to.
And I, being the socially anxious wallflower that I am, just stood and stared dumbfounded at her, too nervous to even say hello.
After a moment of silence, she looked up from her book, greeting me with a retail smile that instantly morphed into an expression of genuine surprise and delight.
“Hello sister,” she beamed, rising from her desk and extending her right arm. At first, I reflexively recoiled at her attempt at imposed familiarity, but then realized that she could read me as easily as I could read her. If being Witches didn’t make us kin, then what did?
“H-hello, sister,” I murmured, meekly shaking her hand and averting my eyes as much as I could. Even though she was only actually a few inches taller than me, I felt completely dwarfed by her. “Ah, you’re Eve then, I take it?”
"Genevieve, yes. Genevieve Fawn. Eve or Evie works fine though," she introduced herself.
“Wow. Genevieve Fawn. That’s such a beautifully witchy name,” I fawned. “I’m, ah, Samantha. Sumner. And I do prefer Samantha in full.”
“You got it,” she smiled warmly. “It’s a rare pleasure to meet another gifted woman, especially a lovely redhead like yourself. How is it that we’ve never crossed paths before? Are you new to Sombermorey?”
“Oh, no. I’ve lived here all my life,” I replied. “But, I only recently became aware of my clairvoyance. Last Halloween I had a pretty intense encounter with the supernatural, and since then I’ve been studying it intently. I’m concerned that I’ve come as far as I can on my own though, and I felt your aura from outside. I was hoping you might be able to help me hone my abilities. I’m especially interested in learning how to astral project.”
“I would love to take you on as an initiate,” she smiled with sparkling eyes. “Do you have some time now actually? We can go into the parlour and talk over some wine or weed if you like. I have plenty of both.”
“Big yes on the wine. Merlot if you have it. I always need a little social lubricant to open up to new people,” I nodded, relieved that I wouldn’t have to fight against my social anxiety just to talk to her. “I’ll only smoke if you have a CBD dominate strain. Anything more than 15% THC tends to turn my anxiety into full-blown paranoia."
“I’ve got some Sativa that should work for you," she replied. "Please, take a seat. I'll be with you in a moment."
I did as she asked, sitting in the parlour while she flipped the open sign on the door to ‘closed’ and fetched a bottle of Merlot, wine glasses, and an adorable little mini-bong with a pentagram on one side and a Triple Moon Goddess sigil on the other. She poured the wine first and I sipped mine as she readied the bong.
“There, take a little hit off of that and tell me if it’s too much for you,” she said, passing it to me. I nodded appreciatively as I took a small hit to test it, swirling the smoke in my mouth a bit before inhaling into my lungs then blowing it back out.
“That’s perfect, thank you,” I said, taking a bigger hit before passing it back to her.
“No problem,” she said as she took a hit herself. “So, how about you start by telling me about this encounter you had on Halloween?”
And I did. I get pretty talkative when I have something in me to calm my nerves, so I spent more than an hour telling her everything that I'd been through since October. She sat there listening with rapt interest, rarely interrupting. I let out an exhausted sigh when I finally finished and went to drain the rest of my wine.
“Wow,” she murmured. “You really had to watch him die?”
“Yeah. It was probably the worst thing that’s ever happened to me,” I admitted. “And when I say that, it sounds like I must be pretty damned stupid to be living there now.”
“I don’t think you’re stupid Samantha. I think you’re incredibly resilient to have not let one traumatic experience ruin a place that clearly means a lot to you,” she countered earnestly. “I mean, I love this house, but if something like that happened here, I don’t know if I’d be strong enough to stay. You’re a remarkable woman, Samantha.”
I nodded half-heartedly, utterly unconvinced of that.
“Um. The, ah, the picture on your front door, of Eve, it looks almost exactly like the portrait of Persephone in my mausoleum,” I finally managed to bring up. “When I saw that, I thought that it couldn’t be a coincidence. You’ve spoken with spirits yourself, haven’t you?”
“I have, including ones that have claimed to have visited both the Underworld and Summerland,” she nodded. “I also have visions, on occasion. I’ve seen the Maiden Goddess ruling as Queen of the Underworld, and the spirits confirmed this for me. It makes sense, truthfully. The Maiden embodies all aspects of women’s youth, including the need for independence from our mothers and to forge our own identities apart from them. The myth of Persephone is much more palpable to me in that light; she’s a woman of extremely assertive agency, and bastardizations of the myth that reduce her to something pretty for Hades and Demeter to fight over were only meant to take that agency from her.”
“Hmm. Everything I’ve read about her in the ancestor’s journal so far has made it very clear that she does not want for power,” I agreed. “Though, considering what I’m planning on doing, that’s a little more intimidating than inspiring.”
“And you are sure that’s what you want to do? Journey to the Underworld to petition Persephone to pardon a man you barely knew?” she asked. I nodded somberly, not really expecting her to understand.
“I knew him well enough to consider him a friend, and my interactions with him, brief though they were, ended up changing my entire life trajectory and world view. He had a significant impact on my life, and it troubles me deeply that he suffered, died, and is now trapped in Hades for all eternity because of a deal made well over a century before he was even born. I figure if a mortal convinced Persephone to do this, a mortal can convince her to undo it, and no one else is going to argue for my friend’s freedom but me. This is something I have to do, not just for him but for me, because I can’t justify abandoning one of the few people I’ve felt a connection with when they need me the most.”
“Hmm,” Genevieve smiled, anxiously biting her knuckle.“I really admire your conviction, even if I don’t completely understand it. I’m more than willing to help you. Tell me about your attempts to astral project so far.”
"I start by meditating for at least twenty minutes, then once I'm fairly relaxed, I visualize a glowing astral body rising up from my physical body, over and over until I actually start to feel myself floating and the vibrations of the astral plane,” I explained. “And then I always chicken out.”
“That’s perfectly understandable. Your technique sounds good though, and I think that just having a guide with you could help you finally cross that threshold,” she commented. “Entheogens are also helpful, both for calming the mind and enhancing your clairvoyance. I microdose on mushrooms and have a special strain of cannabis called Delphi Dream to help get into the right headspace. Binaural music and soothing incense are good too, of course.”
“I’m willing to try all of that,” I nodded eagerly. “We can do all that here, in your mediation studio?”
“We could, but I think it would be best to do it in your cemetery,” she said. “It’s familiar to you, where you’re comfortable, and close to the Underworld portal. You’re also used to trying with a weakened Veil. I’d also like to see this place for myself. It’s amazing to think that I’ve been so close to an astral nexus all these years and had no idea, though I guess they’re not supposed to be easy to find.” She halted when she noticed I was staring at her. “What?”
“You called it a cemetery,” I smiled softly.
“Isn’t that what you said it was?” she asked confused.
“I did, but no one else I’ve ever told about it has been able to remember that for more than a moment,” I explained. “I’ve even had my parents out there, and they can’t remember it’s a cemetery. I…” I brought my hand to my mouth, trying to stifle tears. “I’m sorry. This whole thing has been weighing on me more than I’ve realized, and it’s such a relief to finally be able to really talk about it to somebody, and I’m so sorry to burden you with all of this...”
I trailed off into sobs and Genevieve placed her arm around me consolingly.
“Samantha, you’re not burdening me with anything,” she swore. “I’ve been practicing astral projection for years, but I’ve never been able to leave the physical plane. For years I’ve been searching for a way to visit the Underworld or Summerland and see my Goddess in person, and then you walk through my front door and tell me you’ve been living in an astral nexus for the past four months. Meeting you has been the best thing to happen to me in a very long time.”
“Same,” I murmured meekly. “God, I’m sorry. I’m not great at this. And by this I meant, I mean, I meant whatever you mean, or meant, or… I don’t want to misread you, because I do that sometimes and make things awkward, but if I pretend not to notice and I wasn’t misreading you then you might get offended and things still get awkward, and -”
“Samantha,” she interrupted as politely as anyone possibly could, gently sweeping back my hair. “Would you like to spend the night with me?”
I hesitated for just a moment. I’d never slept with someone I had just met before, and I didn’t really think of myself as the kind of person who did that. But she was the only other Witch I had ever met, the only person who could help me and I could confide in, the only kindred spirit who could truly understand what I was going through.
And she was so beautiful.
I leaned in and kissed her and… I’m not actually penning an erotica here, so those are all the sexy details you’re going to get about that. Sorry. I will share an unsexy detail with you though; I cried again, at one point. I hadn’t had physical relations for a few years, and I guess I was in denial about how starved for affection I was. It’s just that all of my previous relationships, with women or men, had never really amounted to much and I had just accepted that I didn’t pair well with anyone. But Evie and I, we just clicked. I was smitten.
In the morning she made me breakfast with plant protein eggs and soy bacon, and even though I had never really been able to get into vegan food before, just the fact that she cooked them for me made them wonderful. We packed up everything we would need and once her shop girl was in we set off for the cemetery.
It was a beautiful early spring morning: just above freezing, crisp clean air filled with the singing of the newly returned birds, lingering patches of snow, and creeks and ditches flowing freely with the winter runoff.
“I don’t get out of the city as much as I should,” Genevieve remarked as we drove down Harrowick Mile Road, admiring the majestic forest around us. “I do most of my outdoor rituals in Euphemia Park. But these woods, they have a primeval, nearly pristine feel to them, like the Horned God still runs wild in them, a remnant of the once-great forest our ancestors destroyed. It’s sublime. Why are you slowing down?”
“The cemetery’s just up ahead,” I said, pointing right. “Do you see it? Look just past the tree line.”
She leaned forward and squinted, but shook her head.
“I just see trees. Maybe a bit sparser here than before, but that’s all I notice,” she replied, sounding a little disappointed. I turned onto the looped path, and as soon as we passed under the arch her face lit up in wonder.
“You feel it, right? Of course you do,” I smiled.
“I’ve never been anywhere the Veil was this thin before,” she gasped. “This, this really is an astral nexus, a conduit between the astral and physical planes, sacred to the Great Goddess. And… I couldn’t see it. Does… does that mean I’m not worthy to be here?”
“Absolutely not,” I said resolutely. "I wasn't sure if clairvoyance was all that was required or if there was something more, but even if there is, it’s not about worthiness. I’m sure of that. The occultist that made this place sure as hell wasn’t worthy. Honestly, I think it was just my fascination with cemeteries combined with my latent clairvoyance that let me see this place. I’m not special, just weird.”
I brought the car to a stop right in front of my trailer.
“And this has been my house for the past four months,” I said. “I know it’s not even a tenth the size of your beautiful home, but I find the ample yard space more than makes up for it.”
“Oh my god! It’s a tiny house! You have a tiny house! I love it!” she screamed, leaping out of the car and excitedly running laps around my trailer. "It's completely solar-powered?"
"Yep. I've got five 275-watt panels all up on my roof and 12-kilowatt hours of power storage," I explained as I got out of the car and shut both our doors. "I hooked up an electric pump to the well for water, which I did have tested, and I keep a rain barrel for back up.”
“What about your sewage?”
“I use a compost toilet, so I don’t have any black water, and all my soap is biodegradable so my greywater is safe to just dump. I’m also going to plant a vegetable garden soon, and I’m going to build some cold frames and maybe even a small greenhouse so that I can garden next winter. I’m really trying to embrace a homesteading lifestyle and become as self-sufficient as possible.”
“You are amazing! Look at this thing! You closed in your awning with a mesh net so you have an outdoor room and – is that a hot tub?”
“Just a little one. There’s no room for a tub in the trailer, and I like to take baths.”
“You did not do this place justice when you described it to me,” she claimed. “This isn’t squatting. This is glamping. You are the most glamourous Hedge Witch in the history of Hedge Witches.”
She was the first person to ever call me a Hedge Witch. I liked it.
“Go get set up. I have to feed my cat before we start. I’ll be with you in a minute,” I instructed.
When I stepped into my trailer I was greeted by the irritated meowing of my tabby, Moxley.
“I know, I know, I didn’t come back last night and you’re hungry. I’m so sorry,” I apologized as I set to work filling up a bowl of food. “I have a good excuse though. I met someone. Someone wonderful. Someone kind and magick and smart and beautiful and very, very good with her fingers.” I placed the bowl in front of him and gently scratched his head as he gobbled it up. “She’s going to help me with my astral projection today. I’m really excited about it, though we could be doing almost anything together and I’d be really excited about it. Can I tell you a secret, Moxley? I’m already hoping she’s going to be your new mommy. I know I said I didn’t want other people out here but… I think she might deserve an exemption. You can meet her in a little bit, but right now we’ve got important Witch stuff to do. I’ll be back later.”
I kissed him on the head and went out to join Genevieve in the cemetery, who was already sitting in the lotus position on the blanket she’d brought. The incense had been burned, her music was playing on my Bluetooth speaker, and she was once again preparing her bong.
“Has that microdose hit you yet?” she asked.
“I think so. Colours are more saturated, and all my senses, including my clairvoyance, feel sharper,” I replied.
“Good. Entheogens really do make all the difference for first-timers. The Delphi Dream will definitely make it easier to astral project, but it’s right at your limit for THC,” she cautioned. “Do you want to try it?”
“Yes. I think it will be okay. I feel pretty safe here. And… with you,” I said shyly, sitting down across from her. She smiled and passed me the bong. I took a few small hits off it, and it was definitely unusual. I felt the usual calmness and euphoria I would have expected from a hybrid strain, but there was no risk of stray anxious thoughts snowballing into a panic attack. I was instead shifted into an altered state of consciousness where my thinking was much more intuitive than my usual anxious overanalyzing. My thoughts flowed like water, and I merely watched as a detached observer. This combined with the fact that my clairvoyance was now noticeably stronger, making it almost effortless to focus on spiritual manners. Lulled by the music and Genevieve’s guiding voice, I soon entered a deep state of meditation. At Genevieve’s instruction, I envisioned my astral body rising upwards. I felt myself levitating almost immediately, along with the higher frequency vibrations of the astral plane. This time though, I felt no fear, and I didn’t stop. I just allowed it to happen.
“Samantha. Open your eyes,” I heard Genevieve say. I obediently complied, and to my amazement saw her literally radiant form floating proudly in the air. She was now as nude as the image on her shop’s logo, her flowing hair draped over her chest and a soft light emanating from her womanhood, simultaneously obscuring it while framing it as something profoundly sacred. In shock, I looked down at myself to see my glowing form hovering over my physical body. To my relief, I wasn’t nude, but dressed in an approximation of what my real body was wearing – jeans, a red hoodie and green thermal vest - presumably because that’s what I’d been imagining. I could still feel my body, I wasn’t free of it, just projecting my consciousness outwards. Since my real eyes were closed, I could only see with my clairvoyance. The physical world now seemed dark and ghostly, seen through a fog and heard underwater. Only astral bodies, like myself and Genevieve, appeared bright and distinct and fully real.
“Thank you,” I whispered softly, too stunned by my success to be excited by it.
“Congratulations Samantha, you are now officially an astral projector,” she cheered. “Do you want to just fly around for a bit? It’s fine, that’s what most people do their first time. It’s really cool.”
“No,” I shook my head vigorously. “I’ve been trying to do this for months. I can’t waste this opportunity. I need to seek an audience with Persephone.”
I turned my attention towards the rear archway, the astral portal to the Underworld, and I was effortlessly whisked towards it. On the astral plane, it bore little resemblance to its physical form. It was instead a colossal structure of carved onyx, its pillars made of miserable skeletal figures, eyes glowing and mouths agape, crushed beneath the weight of Hades and Persephone on their thrones. The portal itself was occluded with thick white fog, but it emanated a devastating sense of dread and despair, and I could hear the distant, anguished wails of the dead on the other side.
And it was cold, a coldness that represented a dearth of energy and life.
“You, ah, might want to put on something warmer,” I said, half-jokingly. She grabbed my hand, and an invigorating warmth spread from her astral form and into mine.
“These aren’t our physical bodies, and that’s not physical cold. We need astral energy to keep us warm, and I have plenty of that,” she assured me. “Remember that we can’t get trapped down there. We’re still bound to our bodies, and all we have to do to end this is open our eyes. The only way to be separated from your body without dying is to achieve complete detachment from Earthly desires, and I love weed, wine, and women too much to be in any danger of that. Funny, that that’s what’s going to keep me out of hell.”
She paused, noticing that I was staring up in utter horror at the idols of the gods who had turned my life upside-down, whose domain I now dared to trespass in.
“Samantha, I won’t think any of less of you if you don’t want to do this,” she promised. I shook my head, tears flowing down my cheeks.
“I can’t give up now,” I said adamantly, more to myself than to her. “If we get separated, we’ll both wake up immediately. Agreed?”
“Agreed,” she nodded. “Whenever you’re ready, sister.”
I tightened my grip upon her hand, its warmth consoling me, reminding me that I wasn’t walking into Hades alone as I had thought I would, that I had the support and guidance of a wise and powerful Witch, that I wasn’t just some lone recluse daring to meddle in matters beyond her ken.
With her by my side, I could do this.
I inhaled deeply of the astral aether and, shoving all fear and doubt from my mind, Genevieve and I stepped through the portal to the Underworld.
Written by The Vesper's Bell