The Spring Equinox, also known as Ostara, seems to me to be the pagan high day that requires the least amount of explanation. I really don’t have to tell you about it, for you already feel its purposes: that deep, itchy and feverish stirring. Every hour something else is in blossom and bud. The birds are both laying and getting laid—not in that order—and rabbits and hares abound in our flower-poked and greening gardens.
The hare is an ancient symbol of the Spring, as the companion of the goddess Eostre. I have been thinking of hares lately, remembering that they have traditionally been in the repertoire of shapes that witches can slip into. So I have also been thinking of shape-shifting and how it works.
Now that it is Spring, everything, not just hares and women, is shifting shape: the apparent appearance of things that over the Winter had seemed such a fixed fact changes everyday, moment by moment. The landscape is brightening. Inside eggs and mamas bellies, cells are transforming into baby animals. Spring reminds us that reality is not fixed; that what seemed crystallized and still is really quite dynamic and can change rapidly!
Even if you don’t choose to shift your own shape, you can shift the shape of something, if you ever need to. This is how to do it, and you don’t even need a spell.
Recently, a dear friend of mine became creeped out by a face-shaped stone in her fireplace that looked ominous: the kind of phenomenon you can remember skirting quickly by as a child. She asked me to ‘do something’ about him, which was not even a favor but an ‘of course,’ since this is the kind of ‘what’ she and I do for each other.
I didn’t have a solution prepared so I looked at the stone face to decide what to do. I made myself gaze at this gnarly face without recoiling or flinching; not in a hurry or challenging way, but to see what I was dealing with. I made myself, rather I let myself, soften so I could really see him. And then I noticed him begin to change, to shift away from snarl to sadness: ‘Look, Corey,’ I said. ‘He does not want to be scary. He’s actually sorry he scares you.’ And then I reached out to touch the stone and stroked it until the face melted away more of his scariness. He kept changing until he looked gentle, like an old mountain man who is missing half his teeth. Corey could see it too: she regarded him in wonderment and put her hands up to the stone face to touch him, without fear. By looking at him, by seeing him, we had changed him.
Corey is Brazilian so she named the face ‘Gui’ and he is now the protector of her house and she greets him as she passes. And since she has been talking to him every day, the whole energy of that area of her house has changed: from a dodgy and apprehensive feeling to a happy, peaceful, belonging, and recognizable one. We had done a shape-shifting on Gui and also on our own hearts.
It is true that there is a definition of magic that says magic is the art of causing changes in the consciousness. I think the secret of shape-shifting is something like that, but even dearer/closer to the heart and more mysterious. An old tradition running through Jewish mysticism, in Kabbalah and Chasidism, says that every created thing has a spark of the Divine inside it: that at the beginning of the universe, a great vessel was shattered which sent countless sparks of light flying everywhere, scattered to the endless reaches of space. Everything that exists has a spark of this divine light trapped inside it, and it is the skill of a holy man, a tzaddik, that he can go ‘down into’ a thing to see the spark in it and free the spark by raising it up through his love and recognition. He changes his consciousness not in order to see reality differently and therefore alter its appearance, but to be able to perceive a reality that is already there.
But you do not have to be holy to do this…or rather I should say, you don’t have to be any holier than you already are. You simply have to allow things to be and to recognize their being with love.
It is a great act of mercy to see things as they want to be seen, to see things as they were created to be, and to let them do what they are supposed to do. All around us in the Spring, everything is breaking out with joy, in full exultation of what it is, and we, through our love and recognition, help to make it more of what it is. We bring it to life, like the Na’vi in Avatar who say, ‘I see you.’ When you see down into the inner life of things, you can change everything.
The deepest magic of transformation is just this: when we can pause to see, we see the spark that dearly wants to be seen. And through seeing what is to be known, when we do so, it flies up; it is free. Whether the spark would be free without us, is a mystery beyond my current ken to know. I cannot ordain or declare our necessity to the world. But I do know that when we withhold our true sight, the world is poorer for the longing of what is waiting to be expressed, and that when we express what we have the potential for, everything evolves, flowers and flourishes. We all rise together!
And I do know that when we see things for what they really are, we free the sparks within ourselves. And in that moment, whole universes can shift, and reality changes, and many more things are possible than we can ever dream.
May you free many sparks, in yourself and in the world, this Spring! May the light of your sight help the whole world’s light expand!
Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us. —Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
*Hare art by Danielle Barlow
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