Just a reminder: This book is intended for audiences at least 13 years of age.
An Introduction to Magic
My first magic lesson was scheduled that evening at Carolina’s house. It was a more natural location than the tattoo parlor, which would make it easier for me to sense and control the magical energy. Carolina had another client, so I headed home for a couple hours before following the directions she’d given me to her house.
The road led through an expensive neighborhood in the foothills East of Payson and up a canyon I hadn’t known was there. After winding through the narrow canyon for nearly a mile, the terrain opened up into a large bowl-shaped hollow. I passed through an open gate and followed the road through the trees for another quarter mile before passing a massive resort-style building. Half a mile past that was Carolina’s cabin.
A black Ducati Streetfighter was parked in front. I pulled my Jeep up beside it and shut the engine off. I could hear birds chirping and a soft breeze blowing through the trees, but everything else was silent. Just around five miles outside of downtown Payson, and we were in the middle of nowhere.
Carolina appeared at the front door before I was even out of my Jeep. She was wearing a clingy silk robe that ended high up her thighs, the front barely held closed by a narrow silk belt.
“Hey there.” Her voice had a sultriness to it I didn’t remember from before.
“Hey.” I replied, hoping I didn’t sound confused. I had all kinds of sexy notions about Carolina, but I had been fairly certain this was supposed to be a real magic lesson.
“We’re heading this way.” Carolina said, walking past me and beckoning me to follow.
I followed as she padded barefoot down a narrow dirt path through the trees. About ten minutes later, we arrived in a rich grassy meadow surrounded by a variety of massive, old trees.
Carolina led me to the center of the meadow and turned to face me. “Mana, the energy that powers magic, is everywhere and in everything, but in nature is where we’re most connected to it. And we’re most open to it in our own natural state.”
“You’re telling me to take my clothes off.” I said to make sure I hadn’t missed the point.
“Yes.” Carolina smiled, a redness glowing in her honey cheeks. “And to keep it from being awkward, I’ll remove mine as well.”
“You don’t think that might be a little distracting” I asked.
Carolina smiled, her hands untying the knot in her belt. “Sexual desire is a very natural thing, and is connected with some of the most powerful magic.” She slid her robe from her shoulders and let it fall to the ground.
Her ink and jewelry added an erotic emphasis to her natural feminine sexuality. The intensity of my desire for her increased dramatically. She couldn’t help but notice it as I undressed myself, and she didn’t make any pretense not to. We both stood looking at the other’s naked body for a moment.
“Magic and sex have much in common.” Carolina said, lowering herself to sit on the grass. “We could act on our selfish lusts and find a degree of superficial satisfaction. Or, with patience and discipline, we can achieve a more profound connection that fills us and binds us.”
I sat down on the grass facing her, my knees close to hers. Her body language made it clear she was thinking about more than just a metaphorical comparison between magic and sex.
“There are many magic users whose short-sighted greed prevents them from attaining any great power. They depend on artificial devices and shortcuts. We typically refer to such people as sorcerers. A sorcerer’s power is not their own, it’s collected through magical implements called channels. Like a battery, a channel stores power.”
Carolina was holding a gorgeous damascus steel hunting knife with a polished elk antler handle. Both blade and handle were engraved with complex patterns. “This knife is the most powerful channel I have ever made.”
Carolina spun the knife in her hand, catching it by the blade and extending the handle to me. I took the knife in my hand and admired it. The intricate engravings included familiar magical symbols and runes as well as seemingly random curves and sweeps. It was an incredibly gorgeous knife, but that’s all it seemed to be.
“To some people, this would be an incredible source of power.” Carolina continued. “But to someone like you or me, it’s nothing more than a pretty knife.”
“You’re saying I can learn to channel energy without something like this?” I asked.
Carolina smiled and leaned forward. “I’m saying you already know how.”
She placed her hand around mine on the hilt of the knife. I wasn’t certain if the warm tingling sensation I was feeling was her magical energy, or just me reacting to her touch.
“Once you have developed sufficient awareness of the flow of mana within and around you, this knife will seem insignificant.”
I looked down at her hand, where heavy black brush-like lines and streaks of bright color formed a snarling wolf that extended up her wrist. She wore a silver ring on her thumb, another on her middle finger, and a fine silver chain wrapped twice around her wrist. Her tattoos and jewelry seemed to have a mild hum of energy, but I couldn’t even be sure of that.
“What do I need to do?” I asked, looking into her eyes.
Carolina withdrew her hand from mine. I couldn’t remember letting go of the knife, but it had vanished. “For your entire life, you’ve been taught to believe your senses, all but one. We’re taught to deny our sixth sense because it’s hard to explain and impossible to prove. There are a lot of people out there who profit off our lack of self-awareness. It’s time to unlearn that. Let go of your prejudice and embrace what you know to be real.”
“Ok,” I said. “How do I do that?”
“Breathe.” Carolina answered.
I took a long slow breath like I did when practicing taiji. I would have closed my eyes, but I didn’t want to stop looking at her. I let my eyes explore the intricate seal of Solomon tattooed on her left breast. Stars were inscribed within stars, all within a ring of ancient script and runes.
“That’s great. Keep doing that.” Carolina said. She synchronized her breathing with mine. Then she reached forward and touched her fingertips between my eyebrows.
There was no abrupt change like the previous time. In fact, at first I couldn’t tell anything had changed. Then I noticed it. I knew I wasn’t seeing it with my eyes, but I could see it just as clearly. I couldn’t touch it, but I could definitely feel it. The awareness of it was impossible to describe, a sense that was as real and intimate as any other, and yet completely alien and new.
I watched the energy flow along the ink lines like blood through veins. I was mesmerized at first, like watching a breeze blow over coals. After a while of doing that, I found my gaze wanting to wander over the contours of her body. Each time I caught myself wandering, I forced my gaze back to the tattoo, straining to pick up the flow of energy again.
“Relax, James.” Carolina’s voice was soft and calming.
I tried to relax, but as soon as I did, my eyes wandered again.
“Sorry.” I said, forcing myself to re-focus.
Carolina took her fingers from my brow and scooted closer to me. “Why do you keep tensing up?”
I looked up to meet her eyes and sighed. “I keep getting distracted.”
“Maybe it’s not a distraction.” She said, placing her hand on my knee.
I blushed. I knew exactly what sort of thoughts I was having, and they seemed pretty distracting.
“You’ve been taught all your life that your sexual desires are a distraction — or worse. Am I right?”
I swallowed and nodded.
“Well, if you want to master magic, you’re going to have to unlearn that idea.” Carolina answered. “Mana is natural energy, it’s a product of and an integral aspect of nature. In order to master it, to truly sense and influence it, you must be in balance with nature yourself. That’s not possible as long as you are repressing an essential aspect of your own nature.”
“That’s going to take some work.” I admitted. “I was raised by some pretty serious Protestant parents. I’ve had a lot of training suppressing my sexual desires.”
Carolina laughed. “I understand. My parents were devout Catholics. Sexual desire ranked up there with murder in their minds.”
“Yeah, pretty much.” I answered with a sigh. “My parents would be having a full-on conniption fit right now if they had a clue what I was up to.”
“So here’s some food for thought.” Carolina said. “The modern notion of God as some impersonal remote, passionless being is actually a fairly recent idea in Christianity. It definitely doesn’t mesh with what’s actually in the Bible.”
“Really?” I asked.
“Really.” She replied. “God got stripped of his ‘body, parts, and passions’ less than five hundred years ago. According to the Bible, Jesus — who is God, or at least a part of God — has an immortal physical body. He said if you’d seen him, you’d seen the Father, which means the Father part of God must also have a physical body.”
“That might be a bit of a stretch.”
“Then consider Genesis. It says Adam and Eve — male and female — were made in the image of God. That not only means God’s got a body and parts, it means God has both male and female parts.”
“Like a hermaphrodite?” I asked, critically.
“Like two separate individuals, one male, the other female.”
“But what about the whole ‘one God’ thing?”
“Christ and the Father are two individuals but one God. The Holy Spirit is part of that one God. Christ told his disciples to be one, even as he and his father were one. God told Adam and Eve to be one flesh. They were commanded to multiply and replenish the earth. God commanded them to have sex, to be sexual beings. Sexual desire is an aspect of our divine creation in God’s image.”
I looked at Carolina thoughtfully. “You really believe all that?”
“I do.” She answered simply.
“You know most Christians would brand you as a heretic for even suggesting any of that.”
Carolina laughed. “I’m a witch. Most Christians would happily tie me to a stake and burn me.”
I laughed with her. There was something about what she’d said that appealed to the deepest, most honest part of myself, the part I couldn’t let out around my parents or respectable society.
After a minute, Carolina looked me in the eye. “Look, you don’t have to believe all that stuff. I just want you to try something. We’re going to do the same exercise again, only this time, when your mind and eyes start wandering, don’t stop yourself. Don’t try to control what happens. Just let it happen.”
I looked deep into her sparkling eyes as I considered her proposal.
“If it helps, I’ll promise to stop you before you get to third base.” She added with a teasing smile.
“Ok.” I agreed with a laugh.
Carolina scooted close enough that her knees were resting on mine, and put her left hand on my thigh. “Just like before.” She coached. “Start with the tattoo, and breathe.”
I looked down at the tattoo on her breast and began tracing the lines with my eyes while I took slow breaths in and out. I felt her body moving in rhythm with mine as she matched her breathing to mine. She touched her right index and middle fingers to my brow.
It felt like heat began radiating from her fingertips through my body, working slowly downward as it filled me. Soon I could sense the energy flowing along the lines of black ink. For several minutes, I just followed the flow of energy along those lines.
It happened just like before, I felt my eyes being pulled from the ink lines to the curve of her body. I let myself flow with it, my mind thinking about how it would feel to touch her skin, to trace my finger along the contours of her muscles. I noticed that many of the lines of her tattoos followed those same contours, emphasizing the curves and lines.
Eventually I realized that even where the tattoos didn’t go, there was energy flowing along those contours. Soon, I could see the flow of energy like the fine strands of a cobweb, scattered across her skin. It was a familiar pattern, reminiscent of diagrams I’d seen of the human nervous system. I followed the energy to where it gathered to a central column at the core of her body, a pillar of energy flowing up and down from her head to the base of her hips.
“You see it now.” Carolina whispered.
“Good.” She smiled, then took her fingers from my eyebrow. For a second, I could still sense the energy flowing through her body, but my awareness slowly faded.
“That’s enough for tonight.” She said, and I realized the sun was long gone from the sky. Stars sparkled in the blackness above us. “Now you know what to pay attention to, how to feel and sense it, you can practice feeling your own mana flow. You won’t need my help, but you should try to be in a natural place and state when you do it, at least for the first few times.”
Carolina stood up, catching her robe in her hand as she did. “Our dinner should be ready by now.”
I gathered up my clothes and stood up. Carolina brushed past me and headed back down the trail towards her cabin. As I followed her, I studied the sepia tattoo barely visible against the rich honey skin of her back.
At the top, spread from shoulder to shoulder, was what appeared to be angel’s wings done in an intricate tribal-style pattern. Just above her butt was a v-shaped celtic knot design. Between those were three people. The one in the center wore a black robe and hood, and held a massive scythe, clearly representing death. The woman to his left had her eyes bound and held a massive sword. I assumed she was justice. The woman on the right was kneeling, holding a pitcher.
“Justice, Death, and Mercy.” Carolina’s voice came drifting back to me. “The balancing forces of life.”