Plucking from Potter, the Witch Queen’s daughter referred to the time when she received an excoriating ‘howler’* from her mother, or in other words, a ‘Maxine letter’. Like a samurai sword which leaves the body intact for a split second after deftly slicing through it, there is a short-shock time lag before one realises they’ve been diced.
Except if you’re me, of course.
At some subconscious level I believed I was shielded from the sword by a protective immunity granted to me by the Witch Queen herself — the howlers were meant for others, including certain High Priesthood, and as for the daughter thing — well, mothers and daughters have their moments.
It did not even occur therefore, in my blissful ignorance, that the tenet of ‘Everything in the Craft must be asked for’ applied to me just as much as any other Initiate and if I wanted to take my 2nd/3rd degrees, I had to ask. Not only did I have to ask, my Teacher was positively precluded from offering, enticing, or suggesting it. The shift had to occur in my own consciousness and awareness.
And so it happened that at a late September visit to my Teacher in ’14 when I was on a stratospheric high having just returned from Salem after working the Autumn Equinox Rite, in one graceful fell swoop she whipped the footstool ‘round to face me, sat half a metre away, and locked eye contact. Steely-eyed and perfectly still, she unleashed an auric chokehold, dropped her voice — and demanded to know what more I wanted from her.
As the steady strangulation set in, I struggled to comprehend let alone verbalise anything. It took all my effort to manage a mere whimper — ‘would I still be allowed to come for our weekly visits?’ Tears brimming.
‘If you work hard’ she snorted as she snap-dropped the invisible ligatures and turned on heel, leaving me crumpled and dejected in body and soul.
Had I not been working hard enough? Were not the weekly visits, almost daily phone conversations, endless scribing, diarising, copying from the Temple of the Mother Book of Shadows, working together with both herself and Karagan designing the Autumn Equinox ritual, my going to Salem to work the rite with Karagan and his Coven — not enough?
I was given three days to revert to her. With what? I was mad, frustrated, panicked, and holding back tears. How could this woman do this to me? I thought we had some sort of connection; after all, she’d taken me under her wing, rescued me from a bad situation, allowed me into her home, trained me up to lead a ritual — and yet now cast me aside with thoughtless abandon.
‘Contrary‘ I’d heard her been called. ‘Cross her and you’ll be sorry‘ I’d been warned. But, our rapport was different, surely it could not be that she’d been leading me on — and if so for what? I was immune — remember! This wasn’t supposed to happen, certainly not to me. Could it be true, those disparaging things I’d heard about her?
I left our session in a miserable state, confused, bewildered, and feeling betrayed. It was the longest drive ever from North London back to Wimbledon since we had started our sessions over a year prior; the stone in the pit of my stomach could only be described as abject grief — the Abyss? I was none the wiser as to what I’d done wrong, what she was expecting, or whether everything had just been an illusion now dissipated into nothingness. I had no idea whether I would ever see her again or even be welcome back. It was utter, inconsolable desolation.
Less than 48 hours later, whilst I wallowed in the reverie of my feelings of inadequacy, a sudden bolt of light pierced the darkness in the form of an email from her saying how she thought I had done ‘extraordinarily well’ with the Autumn Equinox ritual in Salem. I simply did not have the presence of mind, however, to recognise the vial of healing balm it was, and so with wounded-animal hurt, I sarcastically retorted by telling her she was exaggerating.
Bad move that.
‘Always be kind’ is a regular of her maxims, even when she is speaking or writing an unpleasant truth — which is often, and this time was no exception. A brief missive arrived in my inbox:
From: Maxine Sanders
To: Sharon Day
Subject: Extra extraordinary
Date: Sun, 5 Oct 2014 11:56:03 +0100
It is a matter of opinion, which we are each entitled to. ‘Extraordinary’ is not that difficult especially when it brings about true analysis, which brings us back to extraordinary. As for the magic, it’s there already, we just have to relax a little and let it work through the layers of the past. In the meantime we have choice, which can be exciting especially when not bound by blurred expectations of the future.
I’d learnt by now that the barometer for gauging her emotional undercurrent is revealed in the opening and closing salutations of her personal correspondence, not only with me, but most anyone. Here, the missing conjunctive ‘and’ between ‘Much love’ and ‘Blessed Be’, coupled with the uncharacteristic stacking of the phrases, left little doubt that it was a rebuke of the ‘kindest’ form.
I immediately knew I was in danger of losing a treasured opportunity for continued training, but knowing what I had done wrong in the first place still eluded me. Whatever it was though, it was clear I had exacerbated matters with my petulant snottiness. In my despair, all I could do was try to communicate astrally as I sensed she would not answer the phone if I rang and writing further emails ran the risk of delving further into what was now an unceasingly downward spiral.
I opted for the only thing I could think of, knowing that one of her favoured working methods is with Sound and Colour. I radiated my Golden Cross of Equilibrium, sounded bells, went within, and sent her ‘yellow’ with an apology — a yellow hand-tied bouquet of flowers with an apology gift tag to be precise.
Within minutes, she finally took pity on a daft witch and put me out of my misery:
From: Maxine Sanders
To: Sharon Day
Subject: RE: Extra extraordinary
Date: Sun, 5 Oct 2014 15:50:10 +0100
We all have bad interpretation days and this maybe is one of yours. All I need to know is which path -
1. to continue doing as you are as a 1st Degree, or
2. aiming for the High Priesthood and your own Coven.
Knowing which will enable me to guide accordingly as long as you know this is not a usual practice. The usual practice is with a covenstead. We witches are adaptable, occasionally egotistical, often arrogant, and more readily daft.
Much love and Blessed Be
Calm restored, forgiveness received, closing salutation returned to status.
Request for the latter made.
*A Howler is a magical letter in a red envelope which enchants the written message into the writer’s voice, usually at a very high volume. The physical temperature of the Howler begins to rapidly increase upon delivery, and it will explode if left unopened for too long. This mechanism ensures that the recipient will open the Howler, even though he or she knows that it contains an unpleasantly loud message. Once the message has been received, the envelope bursts into flames leaving only ashes.
The purpose of the Howler is to deliver a message expressing anger or great displeasure in a manner which standard writing cannot adequately convey. As such, a howler will convey the displeasure of its author/sender even if left unopened, for it will shower the recipient with insults and cursing upon exploding.