by Xenophon Hendrix
After supper, I headed to the basement to read the guitar books until the changing sounds coming from upstairs led me to conclude that the kitchen was free of people. When I went upstairs and saw that my conclusion was correct, I got a cup of water, some toothpicks, put some table salt in a small bowl, and took an old sleigh bell and a small box of wooden matches from the junk drawer. I then carried the assorted paraphernalia down to the basement table. There were already a few candles in the basement, and I fetched one of them, too. Finally, I put my pocketknife, a small lock-blade with a mostly black handle, beside the rest of the stuff.
The Ursus part of my brain commented that spells are more efficient the more of himself a magician puts into creating his tools and materials. The ideal situation would be to start by gathering by oneself the raw materials directly from nature. The magician would then create simple tools and use them to create more complex tools. He would slowly work his way up until he had entirely gathered and created everything that he used in the execution of a spell. Of course, I didn't have time for such a process, which would take many years, and for the simple work we were doing, maximum efficiency wasn't necessary.
I pulled the table away from the wall and put one of the chairs about three feet to the table's north, one chair to the east, one to the south, and one to the west. I put another chair against the south of the table for me to sit in while I worked. The final chair I put out of the way.
I placed the bell on the north chair, the bowl of salt on the east, the candle on the south, and the cup of water on the west. Arthur thought, What if someone comes downstairs?
We'll simply tell them we are working a magic spell and ask them to avoid our work area, replied Ursus. Everyone expects kids to do weird stuff.
I put the matches in my pocket for later use and then sat in the chair near the table and began the meditation process. When I had achieved trance, I called the manna to me. "Come to me. Let us work together. Come to me, old friend. Come to me, most faithful of companions. Come to me." It came easier than it had the night before. I drew it in until I was full.
I opened my eyes and stood. As my attention wavered, I lost some of the manna, but I still held enough to serve. The first order of business was to cast the circle. I walked to the north. My athame was not yet consecrated, so I used the extended index and middle fingers on my right hand. I drew the pentagram for air in the air, parallel to the walls. As I did so, I fed my inscription a trickle of manna and envisioned the lines being made of air. Air itself was hard to visualize, so I pictured in my mind's eye a vortex of leaves, colorful smoke, and streamers. I said aloud, softly, "May the elemental power of air bless and protect this circle."
Once the pentagram was inscribed, I began drawing the first arc of the circle while continuing to give it manna. Because I was creating rather than removing, I walked deiseal, that is, with the path of the sun. At first, I continued to visualize air, but as I approached the east I began picturing a mixture of air and earth, and then, finally, a line completely of earth. At the eastern point, above the bowl of salt, I scribed the pentacle for earth. "May the elemental power of earth bless and protect this circle."
Continuing on to the south, I pictured the line of the circle slowly change from earth to fire. I drew the pentacle for fire above the candle. "May the elemental power of fire bless and protect this circle." Going to the west, I visualized the line change from fire to water. As I drew the pentagram for water, I intoned, "May the elemental power of water bless and protect this circle." Finally, I pictured the line change from water back to air as I moved north and closed the circle.
I picked up the bell. Because I was now banishing rather than casting, I walked widdershins, that is, contrary to the path of the sun. I began shaking the bell and intoned, "May the elemental power of air purify this circle." As I walked the circle, I pictured air blowing away all evil spirits, malignant influences, and old magic. When I circled back to the north, I replaced the bell and then continued walking to the west.
I picked up the cup of water. Walking the circle, I used my finger to spread drops of water. "May the elemental power of water purify this circle." I pictured water washing away all badness. After that, I lit the candle in the south and then walked the circle picturing fire burning up all evil. Finally, in the east, I took the bowl of salt and sprinkled crystals while I walked, picturing them burying and desiccating all malevolent things and entities.
Upon replacing the salt upon its chair, I walked the circle back to the north and then went around the table and sat back down. The circle had been cast and purified. I meditated for a while to renew my concentration. When I was satisfied, I called more manna to me to replace that which I had used.
I reached for my pocketknife and opened it. I studied it for a while, looking at the scratches on the handle and the blade, the faint pattern that could be noticed in the steel, the way the light reflected from the edge. It felt like I was truly seeing it for the first time. When I felt ready, I lifted my shirt and carefully pricked the skin over my heart.
On my right index finger, I colleted the drop of blood that oozed out and wiped it down both sides of the blade and hilt. As I did so, I imagined the blood binding with the knife. I imagined my emotions, my intellect, and the most fundamental part of myself binding with the knife. Into it I fed almost all of the manna that I was holding as I said, "I consecrate this knife as my athame. May it serve me well. May it never turn in my hand. May no one ever take it from me."
I was starting to feel somewhat tired, but I again restored my concentration and gathered more manna. I arose and recast the circle, this time using my athame to inscribe the pentagrams and arcs. Sitting back down, I removed a piece of paper and a roll of cellophane tape from my school supplies.
I pricked my left index finger with the athame and, using a toothpick and my blood, drew a crude self-portrait. As I worked, I trickled manna into the picture. For good measure, I taped a few of my hairs to the portrait's head, wiped the moisture from my eyes onto its eyes, some spit on its mouth, and--what the hell--some snot on its nose.
I was now definitely feeling weary. Ursus thought, We don't have much endurance yet, but it will grow. I arose with my athame and approached the spot where I had scribed the pentacle for air. I drew a slash through it with the blade and intoned, "I thank and dismiss the elemental power of air." Walking widdershins, I did the same for the pentacles for water, fire, and earth.
I felt kind of buzzed. I was slowly releasing my remaining manna when I finally noticed Mary sitting on the end of the couch. Her arrival had never registered upon my consciousness, and she had kept silent so far as I had detected. I walked over to her and pressed her nose with my pinkie finger, one that had neither been cut nor up my own nose. As I did so, I passed her the rest of the manna. She smiled at me.
I walked over to the bar sink and washed my hands, Mary followed me. "That was freaky. Do you really believe that stuff will work?"
We had gone over this before going in for supper earlier, but Mary apparently wanted reassurance. "I hope so, and I think it will."
"It will get you some money?"
"This was just the preparation for tomorrow's spell. That one should make us some money."
"Oh. How did you learn how to cast spells?"
"Reading, studying, experimenting."
"This is a side of you I've never seen before."
"What can I say? I would appreciate it if you don't talk to the parents about this. I think it would be best if they figure I'm just playing around and don't take it seriously."
"All right. Will you teach me how to do magic?"
"If you want, but wait a while. I'm just figuring out some things myself."
"OK, but you will teach me someday?"
"Yes, if you don't change your mind."
I hid my self-portrait amongst my schoolwork, snuffed the candle, piled all the equipment on the table, and straightened everything up. Mary helped me push the table back against the wall and slide in all the chairs. After that, we went upstairs. Everyone but Susan, who was in bed, was watching television.
"Mom, can I borrow a ten-pound note, a five-pound note, a one-pound coin, a half-pound, and a quarter? I'll give it back tomorrow. I already have a decipound and a cent."
"What do you need all that money for?"
"I'm not going to spend it or even take it out of the house. I'm just trying to train myself to spot fallen money better."
"Train yourself…. You get some of the damnedest ideas."
"How in hell are you going to do something like that?"
"Well, I'm going to--"
"Stop! I decided I don't really want to know." She looked at Mary standing beside me. "Are you getting your sister involved in your bullshit?"
"Yes, she will be assisting."
Mom shook her head and said, "Your ass is full of blue mud," but she got up and handed me the money from her purse. "Don't lose it."
Before heading to my room, I whispered to Mary, "I'll come get you when I need you tomorrow."
I put the money away for safekeeping and, after doing the evening hygiene rituals, climbed into bed with the guitar books. I read until I started to doze and then went to sleep. Not even Rich and Charlie getting ready for bed woke me.
The next morning, I got dressed and took the money and a piece of string downstairs. Dad had already gone to work--he frequently had to work Saturday--but no one else was up. I again set up my ritual area, meditated until I could touch manna, cast a circle using my athame, and did the purification ritual for the circle and its contents. I then sat down with my examples of currency and my self-portrait.
"O elemental powers, O powers of manna and magic, please aid me in my quest. I seek to find the money that others have lost." I picked up a centipound coin and meditated upon if for a while. Feeding out a trickle of manna, I then brought it to touch the eyes of my portrait. I got up from the table and slowly walked around it, so that I could bring the coin to touch the eyes from several different directions. As I did so, I imagined what a lost coin would look like upon on the ground. What would it feel like when I picked it up? How would I feel when I found it?
I then put the coin on the table and walked around it again while looking at the coin. I looked at the coin from straight overhead, from 60-, 45-, and 30-degree inclinations, and from on my knees with my eyes just above the edge of the table. I partially covered the coin with a sheet of paper and did it all again. I almost completely covered the coin and did it all yet again.
After that, I meditated for a while until I could recharge my store of magical energy. Then I repeated the ritual with the decipound coin. In summary, I repeated the process until I worked my way through all of the money. With that part of the ritual finished, I sat down and wrapped up the decipound coin with the string until I was sure it couldn't slip out. I fastened the string in a knot while intoning, "May this spell last until the knot is untied." I made a loop with the last of the string and tied it off so that I could wear the wrapped coin around my neck. I hung it down inside my shirt.
The spell finished, I broke the circle and thanked and dismissed the elemental powers. I felt strange as I did so; my eyes kept tracking to all of the edges and corners of the basement. I pocketed Mom's money, did a perfunctory cleanup, and again hid the portrait among my schoolwork. Ursus thought, We should destroy that picture later. It would be catastrophic if it fell into the hands of a competent magician.
Do you think any are around here?
I really have no idea. There can't be many, or I would have seen the signs when I scouted this node, but there might be some.
My eyes scanned every corner of the stairs as I walked up. I had to be careful not to trip. Rich, Charlie, and Susan were watching cartoons in the family room. Mary was at the table eating a bowl of cereal. Mom was drinking a cup of coffee. She lived on the stuff. As I entered the kitchen, I spotted a cent coin sticking out from underneath a piece of cabinet molding. I knelt down and dug it out.
As I was doing that, Mom asked, "Were you doing homework in the basement?"
"No, I was learning how to find money." I got up and returned the money I had borrowed from her. "Thank you. I didn't lose any of it, and I just found this." I placed the centipound coin with the rest.
Mom gave me a long-suffering look. I refrained from comment and said to Mary, "Are you ready to go?"
"Yep, just let me rinse out this bowl."
"Where are you two going?"
Mary answered. "We're going for a walk to see if Arthur can find lost money. We'll probably be a while."
"I see." Mom shook her head at the folly of children. "Well, it's at least nice seeing you two get along. Good luck, and be careful crossing streets."
Mary and I put on our coats and headed out. My job was to spot lost money. Mary's job was to keep me from tripping, falling into holes, walking in front of cars or into posts, and generally out of trouble while my attention was elsewhere. It was about 9:00 when we left.
Ursus had conceived of the experiment under the hypothesis that people lose quite a bit of money. Coins drop and roll. Bills get caught in the wind. In an urban or suburban setting, there should be a worthwhile amount to find for a person properly prepared to find it.
Mary and I walked up and down streets, through vacant lots, back and forth across the yard of the high school (which was only a short walk from our house), the elementary school we attended, and the elementary school that we didn't attend but that was actually somewhat closer to our residence. (The ways of bureaucracy are often unfathomable.) Every once in a while, I would stop to pick up some money. I found it in cracks, next to curbs, partially hidden under fallen leaves, and sometimes just lying in plain sight. A couple of times it was completely hidden, but I still knew it was there.
Mary well earned her keep. Once she prevented me from falling when I stumbled, and another time she stopped me from being hit by a car. After about three hours and an estimated ten miles walked, we were tired, footsore, and fairly near the house. "Want to call it a day?" I asked.
"I'm pretty beat."
I took the decipound from around my neck and untied the knot. Suddenly, I felt dizzy as my perspective changed. Mary reached out a hand to steady me. I looked around. Cracks, crevasses, corners, and hiding places weren't nearly so interesting.
"Are you OK?"
"Fine. I just felt a little weird when I broke the spell."
"Did the spell really work, or where you just paying better attention."
"I think the spell worked. Again, though, it would be best if you don't go on about it to the parents. And don't tell anyone else."
We walked home. When we went inside, I unloaded my pockets onto the kitchen table, and Mary and I split the swag. Mom looked at the table and said, "Well, I'll be a son of a bitch; you two didn't do so badly." Alas, we never found any folding money, but we did find a one-pound coin. In grand total, we rescued six pounds, 33 centipounds. Mary and I gave the odd cent to Susan. Figured on three hours work, we had made more than we would have working in a fast-food place. Including all the time I had put in on the spells, though, we hadn't done so well, but the collective that now made up my mind, and its young body, had gained some valuable experience with magic, and at age eleven, no one was likely to hire me for formal work in any case. I felt pretty good.