A Mercurial Vacation

Originally published in Peacock Goat Review Vol. 1 No. 9

This article is going to be a little different than my previous ones; it details my initiation in to the planetary sphere of Mercury and was written over the course of a vacation trip so rather than write it in one go, I’ve decided, in a kind of mercurial spirit, to write it as a journal of my trip, broken up into entries on each day.

    This is the way to travel! I am writing this while on a train, taking a much needed vacation. This is the first time I’ve ever ridden a popper passenger train and I have to say I like it much more than flying or driving. In a lot of ways, this journey feels like it is a manifestation of my Ninurta initiation which I did a couple weeks ago. (Ninurta being the Sumerian god associated with the planetary sphere of Mercury.) While waiting in the station for the train, which was over an hour late pushing it’s arrival to about 4:30 am, I decided to get out my Thoth tarot deck and do a one-card reading regarding the trip. The card I drew was The Magus – the card I think of as being the quintessential mercurial card. The synchronicity have been ramping up; seeing things repeating all over the place, especially numbers.

    Early on starting shortly before my initiation I had a dream about joining the Freemasons. Since the initiation I’ve had two more dreams on the topic plus one of the most obvious synchronicity I’ve seen yet. I saw somewhere between five and eight cars in a row on the highway driving home from work who’s license plate started with 33; a significant number in Freemasonry representing the 33 degrees of initiation. I’m seriously considering joining the nearby Le Droit Humane lodge after I move so I’m closer to it. I feel like it’s the right step to take and what Ninurta is pushing me towards.

    On this vacation, we’re going to Massachusetts to visit my partner Zoey’s family and do a lot of fun stuff while there. I’m planning on visiting Salem to see all the witchy museums and Plymouth, where my great great great…grandparents settled when they moved to America from England all those years ago. The record of their lives there was unfortunately destroyed when the local parish caught fire but I have a pretty god idea what cemetery they are likely buried in so hopefully I can find their graves and fill in at least a few of the gaps in the record of my family history I’ve been slowly building.

    I’ve found it hard to stay asleep on the train for long. There’s so many stops and things that happen that I tend to wake up every hour or so. Part of it, I imagine, is simply the novelty of riding a train and the fun of watching all these places I’ll probably never get to visit but can imagine exploring go whizzing past me. Seeing these places through witch eyes really gives it a feel and a pleasure I never really had going on trips as a child. Seeing all the different plant and animal species cohabiting with humanity, seeing all those little nooks and crannies that just scream faeries, and picking out places that would make excellent places for ritual…it seems so much more imminent and alive. It’s almost like each place tells me a bit of its story as I watch it drift past.

    So much of this trip seems tied into my Mercury initiation somehow. So many things that didn’t quite go according to plan but landed me in places that gave me a lot to think about. I’ve been to a lot of historic places lately, especially related to my ancestors who moved to America all those years ago in the Recovery of London to be Puritans. It feels like a kind of ancestral reckoning in a way.

    At Plymouth plantation there’s a section dedicated to the native tribe of the area where they had some people from the tribe who worked there to teach people about their history and continue to live a bit of the traditional lifestyle so people could see it. It was an interesting experience seeing it through my witch eyes. Very sad to say the least. When our group came up he was talking about the process of making a canoe and that led into a discussion of what the forest used to be before the settlers came. Something he said really struck me. He said when the white people came over from England they started turning it into England. Then someone asked about trying to get things back to how they were and he simply said “You can’t”. I haven’t been able to get that out of my head.

    One thing I thought was interesting was in the Nathaniel Hawthorne house there was a number of very beautiful drawings by his wife? Sister? Daughter? I’m not sure the relation, of the Greek myth of Persephone. It struck me as significant in a way probably nobody else has considered: even in the depths of the most strict and isolated sect of Protestantism humanity has ever seen, who ran away from home because they couldn’t be fundamentalist enough; even they couldn’t help but look longingly at the paganism they lost. Of course Salem being what it is and that whole history of the witch trials…when faced with the inevitable return to the ways of old, they only knew how to respond with murder. Worse, many still haven’t learned from the mistakes of the past; so many eyes full of murder because how dare we be the living embodiment of the wrongness of their beliefs.

    Still, I find it kinda beautiful that the pagan community has taken a place with such a tainted past as Salem and turned it into the witch capital of the country. It was an absolutely wonderful experience. This must be what going to the mall is like for normal girls who’s biggest delight is a pretty pair of shoes. I’ve never seen so many metaphysical shops in one place! I must have gone to at least 20 of them or so. Most of the stores had the kind of stuff you see at any typical metaphysical shop. Some with a more new age bend. Some with a more Wiccan bend. Some more general. My favorite one was the one on the end of the wharf next to the water where I bought the Cunning Man’s Grimoire, the Book of Thoth, an extra Thoth deck and a couple Tarot bags. It was full of Solomonic, Enochian and Thelemic stuff. It was wonderful!

    We took a day to relax due to the weather and by this point I was starting to feel homesick. The next day though, we visited someone who I found very interesting. She was a classically trained priestess in an indigenous African tradition who not only was able to tell me things about myself I never shared but also was able to answer a lot of the questions I had been left with from previous initiations. It was very personal and out of respect for her I am being intentionally vague, but without giving too much away it alone made the whole trip worth it. I may finally get closure on the hungry ghost problem I’ve been having with my ancestors which I talked about in previous editions of this magazine. After that we spent the rest of our last day there at the mall and at the theater. We watched the new Men In Black movie which I enjoyed.

    The day of our travel home, which I’m writing this part mid-way through, was absolutely horrible. Unlike the trip down, the trip back was a flight on American Airlines. What a horrible way to travel. Getting to the plane was an anxiety-riddled nightmare, especially getting through security. Worse, our group was the last to get on the plane, and by the time it was our turn to board, they had over-filled the plane and thus made us check our baggage, which was meant to be carry-on, as checked baggage. They didn’t charge us for it at least, but it was an inconvenience which only got worse as the trip progressed. The plane took 3 tries before we finally landed and all the elevation changes about made me ill. After we landed, things got still worse. We were supposed to take a connecting flight which would take us the rest of the way home, however between the plane being late to take off and late to land, plus having to take a shuttle across to the other side of the airport to get to the terminal (which they had changed from the one on the ticket by the time we got there, of course). By the time we got there, the airplane was already leaving. It had stopped boarding early, 20 minutes before the time on the ticket, so they sent us to the customer service desk who told us the moment we landed they knew we weren’t going to make it so they had already printed us tickets for the next flight out to our destination, but flat out refused to give us any kind of compensation for all their screw ups and tried to act like it was our fault, even going so far as to call the wait for the airport’s shuttle “traffic”. (Which we had no option but to take because it was the only way to get across between the buildings). They told us to contact their corporate customer service. During the wait for our new flight, we tried calling their customer service line and they told us they couldn’t do anything either, that we would instead have to email their customer service email address and they had no idea whether our baggage made it or not or if it will even be there when we finally arrive. It felt like absolute amateurish behavior you would expect of a newly started local shipping company, not a national corporate airline service. It was completely absurd.

    In a way, this seems like a kind of book-end to this trip. I started this article gushing about how much I was enjoying traveling by train, and am now complaining about how horrific traveling by airline was. Seeing both sides of that aspect of the sphere of Mercury – the good travel and the bad. Mercury is after all a sphere of opposites and constant change. It’s the most fluid sphere and it seems perfectly consistent with its nature to have an absolutely wonderful trip down and a horrible one back. At least with the plane, even with the delays, we will be home today. I miss my home state and I’m ready to get back to it. We have plans after we return; we’re going to start looking for a house to move closer to my work – something else which I suspect will tie into my Mercurial initiation as well. Only time will say for sure.