Those of us who walk a spiritual path through life, whatever our backgrounds, tend to notice ourselves going through stages. I’m a Shamanically-flavoured neo-Pagan, happy to go into Circle with Wiccans and also with Ceremonial Magicians (depending on the workings), and very happy to work (worship) alone.

I’m not very knowledgeable or even very interested in astrology, but a friend of a previous boyfriend in about 1982 did erect a chart for me (and later became sensationally famous, becoming a TV-astrologer, so I’m naming no names!), and didn’t surprise me at all by saying that my chart was heavily focussed on Fire and Earth. Given that background, it is hardly surprising that I take any opportunity I can in meditation to go subterranean, and have dived into or swum through lava-flows more than once.

An Icelandic classical composer, Jon Leifs, wrote a very impressive orchestral tone-poem called “Geysir”, which I have on CD: I’ve been known to turn off all phones, lock myself in, turn it on, and sink into the earth with the music, feeling the building of pressure and temperature, and exploding as superheated steam through fissures in surface-rock.

All gods are aspects or facets of the one (which may well just be my own mind), but all of them are real and living and individual, too, and do not take kindly to being treated in a one-size-fits-all style. In order to get the most out of any divine relationship, you have to know what you’re dealing with, and you have to be mentally strong enough to deal with it. You have to be respectful and worthy of being respected, you have to behave appropriately and behave decisively.

I find that I grow and develop through time. Gods that keep me company in some stages of my life – often for many years – do not necessarily keep me company forever: others will fade-in in importance as they fade-out. All of them are there, and all of them that I have had personal relationships with are living and vibrant, they just may or may not be what I am connected to at one or another stage of my life.

In about 1984 or 1985, as my second-last heterosexual relationship was ending (I don’t count the “fling” that was necessary to conceive my daughter as a relationship), I faded out of a close and personal relationship with a nameless Mud-Goddess and the Green Man, and faded into a close and personal relationship with the Greek Hephaestos.

As a Euro-Pagan, I really felt I should translate Him into the Western European equivalent Weyland or Wayland, but that didn’t work. And the Roman Vulcan didn’t work, either, nor the Hawaiian feminine Pele. I knew I was dealing with a masculine energy, and I knew that energy was about Fire and metal and Smithing and lava, molten rocks and creation of new land by volcanoes; and all of these gents looked after this kind of stuff. So it wouldn’t matter what name I used, would it? Wrong – it did. He let me know in no uncertain terms that He was Hephaestos and nobody else, even though I don’t generally do Olympic Gods.

I spent years with him, and learnt a lot. He also pushed me into doing weekend workshops in welding and blacksmithing twenty years ago when I had both the income and time to waste, but I never got very far or kept it up – that was his requirement of me, not my passion. Perhaps now I’d be more enthusiastic, as I’ve matured a bit.

When he had taught me what he wanted to, and I had served him as I could, he faded out, and I went onto other godforms. In about 1992, roughly the year of my daughter’s birth, I moved onto a Celtic Goddess appropriated as an Irish saint, Brighid (or Bridget, or Bride) of Kilcare. She, too was about fire: the hearth, the home, light, warmth, healing, and pure healing springs and wells. Fire and water – the combination is very Brighid.

I found Brighid very much more modern than Hephaestos: he used to come complete with anvil, forge and half-completed knives, horse-shoes or swords which he worked on in my presence, or take me into mountain caves or lava flows to watch the very minerals forming into mineable seams of metals. Brigid, instead, had me do a batch of quite alien housework and had me almost living by candlelight – then she grabbed me by the scruff of the neck when I was involved with PODSnet (a pre-internet computer spiritual network) and tied me into the Daughters of the Flame, a modern group of woman lighting candles sequentially all over the world in her name. I stayed with them for a couple of years and loved it, then had circumstances get in the way for a few years, then found them again last year and re-joined.

Brighid has backgrounded again to a certain extent and I am working with other things, but she smiles on me warmly when it is my one-day-in-twenty to keep the Flame in her name, and I am very, very happy to do that for Her.

Also in my PODSnet days, a guy made me a beautiful double-bladed Athame (ritual knife) with an ebony handle, forging the blade himself, in exchange for my working a fertility ritual for him and his lady (the child is a few months younger than mine). Because I had earnt it by getting them pregnant, it was very, very special to me, and I loved it for years. After twelve or thirteen years, I had a drunken step-son, and one night in a violent fit he picked it up off the Altar, rushed off out of the house, and embedded it in someone’s back in a street brawl.

I grieved. Of course, I never saw it again, and wouldn’t have enjoyed it any more after something like that. So I was Athame-less for years. A little while ago I paid my rent, and rewarded myself for it by getting a coffee in my favourite cafe. One of the waitresses introduced me to another regular, who asked for a Tarot reading, and as I had a deck with me, I did it on the spot. She gave me a fistful of money which was outside my budget, so I wandered into a knife dealer’s shop window-shopping.

I didn’t see anything in his display that I liked. I told him I wanted a wooden or bone handle, a fairly straight blade, and that nothing he had on display appealed to me. So he did me the honour of showing me some “special knives” he had in a locked shelf, and I fell in love with one that was really warm and comfortable and well-balanced in my hand. And coincidentally, the deposit he wanted for it was exactly what I’d just been paid, outside my budget! You just can’t fight fate.

It took me a few weeks to pay it off, and I’ve been getting to know it since. I’ve oiled it down thoroughly, which it needed badly. I’ve got to know every dimple in its patina. I’ve got to know every microscopic notch in its well-used and well-sharpened blade, and the one on the back of the blade, too. I’ve got to know its speed, its strength. I dreamt an Icelandic word that I’d never heard of, and on Wikipedia it turned out to be the name of a ritual sword, so I had it engraved on the blade. And best of all, Hephaestos came back!

I’ve been spending a bit of time with the knife (which is quite certain it’s a ritual knife and not an Athame), and I’ve caught glimpses of things. Sliding along under the skin of some kind of large herbivore, an ox or a deer or something. Being driven into the brain of a large fish. Gutting a hell of a lot of smaller fish. And once, sinking into the throat of a badly-injured dog, I think a black one. Slowly, the knife is giving me its secrets, the secrets of its working past.

And this morning I was there, running my fingers along its blade and I suddenly “saw” the blade as red and malleable, saw it being turned in a pair of tongs over an anvil and repositioned. And before the image faded, the lame Smith looked up, and met my eyes. Hephaestos is back!

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