Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sigils in the Greenwood

I took a walk in the forest yesterday. It's been far too long since I've made pilgrimages into the woods, but now that autumn is here and the weather has cooled somewhat, I feel more able to do so. My mission was to explore some paths I had not encountered before and seek out some crossroads in the wild. Before I left the house, my mother suggested I take our dog Tigger on the walk with me, but he is a bit too high strung for a sigil-crafting expedition so I decided to go alone.

Looking at the map of the area, you can trace where Old Haycock Road once connected with (Old) Ridge Road. The construction of the lake and establishment of the area as a state park bisected the original road and rendered one section of it nearly obsolete, like some sort of vestigial limb. Although most of it is still paved, the forest encroaches upon it slowly and steadily. It's obviously narrower than it once was and there are pronounced cracks sprouting with green life running across its entire width. The park maintains it as a trail for hunters and other visitors, otherwise the asphalt would already be obscured under a carpet of ground cover. There were once farms and houses along these roads and if you look carefully, you can still discern the shadows of their existence: here and there a wolf tree, a series of the same species of shrub or tree which are too conspicuously aligned and evenly-spaced, the stamped metal ribbon affixed to what might otherwise be a normal rotting log.

I found a set of crossroads as I had hoped. Tucked inside the bag slung over my shoulder is a small pouch of organic white cornmeal I bring with me to offer to the genii loci while on my walks, should the need or desire arise. I had already given some to a nine-tined Maple on the roadside. Upon encountering the first crossroad where the paved road meets perpendicularly with a wide, unpaved path into the woods, I knelt down to place some there also. Instead of simply offering pinches of cornmeal arranged in a tiny mound, I wanted to make a sigil of some kind inspired by and dedicated to the place itself.

It started with an imperfect circle. Three sets of curved horns marked the directions of the physical paths, a crescent marked an implied, unseen path. Inside the circle, a design emerged which I now think might represent the denizens of the green world: leaves furl upward and roots curl downward, in the direction of the obscure path. While I was making it, the forest seemed to come alive with sounds and peripheral movements that I had not noticed (or perhaps weren't there) before. For some reason my mind drifted to Odin, perhaps because the sigil reminded me of Icelandic galdor-staves and helms of awe. Odin sacrificed Himself to Himself to obtain knowledge of the runes, and He is involved in the magic of signs drawn, inked, and carved. It was Wodenstag after all.

At the second set of crossroads I thought I might just leave a simple offering and be on my way, but as I was placing the meal on the ground I felt compelled to make another sigil. This one began with the central dot and eventually incorporated some nearby leaves and twigs. It turned out that the impromptu art itself was an offering, along with the cornmeal with which it was drawn and the words spoken over it.

On the walk back to my car, I rounded a curve and saw a man and a dog on the road. At that distance they were not much more than silhouettes, although I could see the man was wearing a brightly-colored baseball hat. The man had the same build and stride as my father and the dog was the right size and proportion to be our Boston Terrier. My father had taken Tigger on a walk just the other day and wore a nearly neon orange cap (it's archery season so it's a good idea to distinguish yourself from the surrounding palette). It seemed that my mom had sent them to check up on me, although I didn't think I had been gone that long and figured they should be used to me taking long walks alone in the woods by now. However, as I previously mentioned, it has been some time since I've gone wandering and they'd be expecting me to start dinner soon.

As they approached the resemblance was further confirmed. I resisted the urge to wave erratically or make some sort of sarcastic comment at the figures based on an assumption of familiarity. It was only at the distance of a few yards that I was finally able to determine that they were strangers to me. The man and I exchanged hellos and then I looked down to greet to the darkly-colored dog I thought had been my own. The dog approached me, quiet and composed (in this regard quite unlike my own dog). "If you talk to him, he'll be your friend forever," the man said about his companion. I smiled at this statement and as I glanced back, I noticed the dog only had one eye. Further along down the path I saw faces appear among the trees from the corners of my eyes, only to disappear when I tried to stare at them straight on (I really should know better by now), and I half-expected to turn around only to find that the man with the graying hair and his one-eyed dog had similarly vanished.