There is a point in the story, before the rebirth, before the completion of the journey, when the old self has to die.
A lot of times, in books and movies, it looks like a choice.
A lot of times in life, it feels like there is no other choice.
This is the cool conversation I had today with Ravyn Stanfield, as we were working on the final pieces of the path we’re teaching in a couple of weeks at California Witch Camp. We were talked about that moment when the initiate, or hero, when the person at the center of the story faces their worst fear, and somehow, the act of facing it works. The act of facing it and still moving forward, still being committed to the journey… somehow that act of courage creates the magic of change, moves them, and if we are watching, moves us across the threshold with them.
The threshold. This is one of Ravyn’s terms. It is also called the Ordeal. When John Jacobsen of the Seattle Film School was teaching me about the Heroes’ Journey, he called it “The Cave.”
And there’s something that Ravyn said a few months ago when we were first tossing around ideas about this work… something that stuck with me. She said of the threshold, “Not all initiations get completed. Some of them get stuck at the threshold… it’s just that those aren’t the ones we hear about.”
That was back in late fall, when I was really going into the darkness, after a long long time of being too afraid to face it. And when she said that, I had one of those moments, like the goddess holding up a mirror behind me, so that I could feel my own eyes on the back of my neck. Recognition. Yes. This time, I have been down here a while, too afraid to cross the threshold and come back up.
Funny thing about hanging out on the threshold. It does tend to keep getting darker down there. Almost like the dark is speaking…
“Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now?”
I hung out on that threshold for a long time, watching Netflix and drinking red wine and singing “nahnahnah!! I can’t hear you!!”
But, I was blessed with a practice. I had learned a thing or two from all my beloved teachers, and from the tradition of natural magic, and from my divine guides.
I had learned to pay attention. For at least part of the day, each day, I stopped numbing out and faced the darkness and worked with it and it got in me, farther and farther until I couldn’t stop it anymore. Until it penetrated me and the stuck thing inside me that refused to face itself came pouring out.
Fortunately, I was on the phone with a witch at the time.
“Horizon, I am lonely. I can’t do it all alone, anymore. I am lonely! And I am depressed!”
These words, which I had been trying to unlive for two years—two years when I was in horrible lower back pain, when I couldn’t support myself without pain, these words came bursting out. I was horrified! But of course once the gates are open, out comes the flood, so not only am I saying those horrifying words, I am also really, really crying, like with sucking sounds.
Shame and relief. Shame and relief. Shame because it’s not okay to be lonely! It’s pathetic. Also, it’s not okay to be depressed. It’s a buzzkill, dude.
Relief because I have spoken aloud my greatest fear. That I am alone and can't do it.
That was a turning point for me.
That opened me up to all the fan-fucking-tastic rebirth that has followed.
That was a threshold.
Within an hour, I had a text from another witch friend, who I hadn’t heard from in years, but who I’d met the same year I met Horizon. She was going to be in Seattle. Did I want to hang out?
She ended up staying with me for three weeks. And a third witch friend came up from Portland to stay.
Within two days of that outburst, my house was full of witches and I kept on telling the truth, and more people and more magic kept coming in and coming in.
Telling the truth, facing the threshold didn’t just release me. It released the magic that was waiting for me, all this time.
I’ve felt this before- when I left college midway through. When I left my fun bartending job to return to college. When I moved. When I got a divorce… All the scary decisions that I’ve made, in the dark, listening for the sound of my own voice on the other side of that threshold, calling me forward.
This time, it wasn’t any easier. But it helped that I sort of knew what was happening.
Maybe I’m actually getting wiser, or maybe it’s just that spending all that time studying the heroes’ journey makes process easier to recognize. Maybe roadmaps really do help.
I know this. My back is healing, my bed and my house are full of love, my relationships are starting to hold me and I feel free, released and yes, reborn.