Brian Shaughnessy (sammhain) wrote in timemagick,
Brian Shaughnessy

The Secret Lives Of Schools

The following article is the first part of a series that I have pieced together from various attempts to write about my experiences using school grounds in time magick. Mostly it talks about the earliest experiences I had with a spirit I evoked at a near by school and while it is largely a personal account I think I have been descriptive enough that folks wishing to play with some of these experiences will find places to start. This is in many ways my most ambitious piece of writing to date. Thanks to a recent bit of inspiration I decided to play around with hypertext in these articles. The photographs of school ground I took for these articles are of the school where the events I write about transpire, but they were not actually taken until just recently. Anyway, without out further adieu, I present The Secret Lives Of Schools.

Time and space two things seemingly separate are in fact a single fabric. We can read about these ideas in books, but with magick in mind the challenge is to lift the ideas off the pages and put them into action. School yards are one way to interact with the strange connection between space and time. For me elementary and middle schools are it, more so than high school or college campuses they convey a sense of a time warp, places locked in a cycle of perpetual youth where the faces change but the ages stay the same. There is a commonality between these buildings, something shared that is not explained simply by architecture. For practical reasons schools are only going to be useful when no one is attending them, especially if you can’t possibly pass for a student. I have found however that night time heightens the sense of stepping into some mysterious other side where time/space flows oddly and seems more malleable.

The Otherside

More often than not it is summer here in Virginia Beach, thick and heavy like heat coming off of new asphalt. Summer always makes me lonesome for autumn, and in this this desert of summers school grounds serve me as autumnal oasis’s. I’ve had these two connections; perpetual youth and perpetual autumn since I was about twelve, when both autumn and school yards took on peculiar significance for me. Yet for some reason it wasn’t until a few years ago that I decided this correlation begged to be applied to magick concerning the patterns of time and space.

The school at night.

Walking home one Summer night a while back I caught the scent of autumn on a breeze that had kicked up in front of a little school up on a hill near my apartment.The blue of the sky seemed to grow colder. No one was waiting up for me at home, so I decided to take some time to explore these grounds and breathe in a welcomed reminder of my favorite season. The minute I crossed the invincible borderline between the part of the city that is not this school, and the part of it that is, my sense of the fall grew. Longing washed over me the way hues of crimson and gold wash over foliage that time of year. Architecturally the only similarities between this school and the one 666 miles away to the north which served as the womb for my magickal gestation are the red bricks. Even so I feel like I’ve got one foot in that place as I walk the grounds.

These places all have a spirit which is particular to the specific grounds of the school and yet essentially similar. It shouldn’t be hard for the enterprising magician to find of way of externalizing this poetic notion. I’ve yet to stumble across a school that didn’t feature something that could be used a sigil or totem of that school’s spirit. The school by my apartment for example, right near the rear entrance of the school where the children are unloaded I found a square painted green with a white lizard like foot print in the center. Upon seeing this sigil I launched into an impromptu evocation.


I started off by inventing hymnals to past school grounds that had brought me joy, paeans of a misspent youth, a rejoicing in the journey of the fool. I convoked the spirit to appear before me with a litany of sacred verses about discovering the joy of playboys in a tire tunnel, about the glory and sting of wall ball, and of fist fights beneath the dome of a polygonal jungle gym. I decide at this point to just go for broke with the theatrics.

“Appear before me! Welcome me! Share your mysteries daughter of perpetual youth; offer up to me your treasures!”

Realizing how queer I would look to anyone peering out into the night from the rows of houses across the street I started giggling like mad reliving in full that same ecstatic awkwardness that accompanied my first forays into magick. With this remembering the spirit appears. There is just the faintest shimmer in the night air and the echoing of laughter, the laughter of several young girls nowhere to be seen. Perhaps it just a hallucination I think but then some of the most powerful and life changing events of my life have been hallucinations (Much respect due to the demoness LSD) The whole place took on a strange light and I started noticing peculiar nuances of the place each of which seemed to be transcribing into my mind a set of instructions about which places were good for this, and which were good for that.

The laughter and the flood of images offering up secrets suddenly coalesced into a single presence sitting on a bench beneath a twisting tree. Speaking with the voice of a young girl the spirit asked me to call her Lisa. I desperately want to tell her how refreshing it is to meet a spirit not going by a name filled with a ridiculous amount of consonants, but think better of it. I sat down on the bench and began scribbling notes in a tattered old note book as we started to talk.

The bench beneath the axis mundi.

The more we talked the more the place reminded me of Barbieri. The conversation started out primarily as small talk, she tells me a little about the school, but mostly she is interested in me telling her stories. In particular she wants to hear about the flower of kairos and about tesseracts. Eventually she asked me to read to her from the copy of A Wrinkle In Time that I was carrying.

After I read for a while she asked me again about the flower of Kairos, specifically if it was pretty and if it smelled nice. I drew her a picture of it, and I got the sense she was smiling the sort of smile my sister smiles whenever she solves a jigsaw puzzle. I have stretched out on the bench at this point and the sky has tuned from blue to violet. I am exhausted after a long day at work. The twisted tree reminded me of the axis mundi, the serpent of the caduceus crawling up its trunk. At some point I must have passed out as the next thing I knew I was in the midst of a lucid dream.

Lisa is there with me she has taken on the appearance of the, daughter of a woman who used to watch me after school when I was in second grade. Though I can’t remember the mother’s name I do remember that her daughter was also named Lisa. I hadn’t thought of her since I was a young boy, but the choice of form was very appropriate. I was a school boy again, and we were walking the grounds at Barbieri. The place felt like sneaking out a back door into the freedom of a parent-less night.

We didn't speak for a long time and then suddenly she looked at me and said “Time is all I am you know. I’m going to give you something you lost as a reward for finding me, I’ve got lots to show you after that too if you promise to come visit again.”Before I can answer I snaped awake. I was alone now and the violet of twilight had grown into the darkness of a starless night. I started off for home the scent of autumn was gone but in her benevolence mother nature was promising rain.

I stopped off at the school again the next night, there was some general of autumn but I was not reminded of the fall nearly as much as I was the night before. Nothing was happening and I started to feel a bit foolish . No matter how many times magick proves itself to me I am always a bit of a skeptic, half expecting myself to become the punch line of my own joke after every working. Eventually I decided to set off for home and as soon as I did that familiar musk of dried leaves hit me. This though was no gentle reminder of my sweetest season. Overcome by by a raw association-less nostalgia which bled into a deep and abiding peace, my eyes closed. This would be the holy spirit if I were still inclined to use such filters.

I think that I opened my eyes but instead of a familiar lanscape I found myself staring directly into the eyes of my first magickal co-conspirator, Julia. This is the day before I move away from her, from my Eden. The last light of day before a long dark night of the soul. This is the moment I say my good bye to Julia. She smiles at me again,just like she did all those years ago, but this time something is different. This time she speaks.

"Did you waste it? That precious moment squandered on triviality gave birth to the most profound moments you could ever know. It's okay to not need a reason, not to care care for consequences. We can never know all the stray seeds we sow, nor do we keep all that we reap. We are now, non linear and beautiful."

For now you'll have to trust that this made perfect sense and filled a part of me that had been hollow for so long I had forgotten how dead and empty that part of me had become. I moved around a lot as kid, made a lot of friends and said good bye to a lot of friends, but I had always been bitter about this particular move. Bitter at moving away not just from her, but from a thousand other good things, and all for a promotion I knew my father would blow with his drinking. For a good part of my life. I felt that if I had stayed I'd have spared myself the pain and isolation of my teen age years. Felt that instead of wasting years on trivial distractions, I would have molded myself into some sort of superhuman self realized individual. I wanted to be more than I was, and felt that I had done a grave disservice to people, and events that I cherished.

I had payed a lot of lip service to the idea that I didn't regret my life because it was all necessary to become the person I had become, and I liked myself. This was in some sense true, but also though I scarcely dared to admit it felt like a shadow of myself.

Until that precise moment reliving that goodbye without the holes, I hadn't really internalized the fact that despite, or maybe even because of things I did end up doing and not doing I ended up creating something that allowed me to explore every imaginable person, including the one I thought had disappeared the day my parent's Buick rolled out of Framingham for Cape Cod.

There it was though, all laid out in a few words by Julia. That was so typically her too, changing me profoundly with a few words spoken as casually as you or I might tell someone we like their shirt. Anyway I came to and really opened my eyes and for the first time in forever,instead of thinking I was happy, I was happy.

A few nights later I went back the school, to evoke Lisa and thank her properly for finding that piece of me, and putting it back where it belonged. She had more to tell me, much more starting with the row school buses out back. A story for another time perhaps.

To be continued...
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