Last year I walked The South Downs way. It was absolutely intended to be a magical working. The South Downs Way as a modern, long-distance footpath was made by connecting known prehistoric trails, some of them dating back thousands of years. Testament to this is the sheer number of sacred sites that are connected by the path. I have wandered around the South Downs for many years and am familiar with all kinds of spirits which inhabit specific places. One of the intentions for the walk was to reach out to a wider range of spirits and more than human inhabitants of the South Downs and to learn from them.
This is a description of how magic becomes one’s own, the same way that art and writing become your own once you have learned grammar and technique. The Devil’s Jumps are a magnificent series of burial mounds on the top of the Downs above Treyford. It is astonishing that they are not better known since their scale and setting is similar to many other prehistoric monuments that attract crowds of summer visitors. Nonetheless, this was the site of a profound experience on my walk which will be described elsewhere, but which introduced me to the guardian spirit of the place who named himself Alfar, a name I later learned might be a category of being rather than a personal name, but I use it as such.
After a long and intense experience with Alfar I knew that there was a way to continue that connection when I was at home. It was just a mile before the Devil’s Jumps that I began to notice a change in the flints which pepper the path. Up to that point their interiors were pale-blue and blue-grey, and some indefinable shift of geology meant that they were now black inside. There was a dew still on the ground and the black surfaces were completely jewelled where they were still in the shade. I gathered them from the path, and chalk also. The chalk of the South Downs is an ancient seabed that is now lifted into the sky, it is a magical thing indeed. Scrying is not hard and it is described in many books; this is scrying in the language of the Downs. The whole point of documenting this is not to suggest anyone should rush out and order chalk and flint off the web but rather go out into their own places and to allow the spirits of their places to teach them their way. This is what I do.
I take a small lump of chalk from the path and pummel it to powder in a mortar. Then cast it onto the table in as perfect a circle as I can. The circle is not a protective one, it is more in the way of a target or a beacon. One of the things I learned very early on in my walk is that the circle, the magic circle so called, in all its variants, is a way of helping the spirits to see us. It shines out to their perception in the way a lighthouse shines through fog in ours. For this reason I have learned that the more perfect the circle, the more visible it is.
These are the words I use:
Creature of chalk, today I call you Millions of Years, you are the depths of the sea, you are the land in the sky, you are the power that moved one to another. You are the dust of our bones and the force of uncountable lives. You are the bright, white circle of ancient light. Shine in the void and call the spirits of Alfar to my sight.
I take an oil. Olive oil would do, but a scented or magical oil equally so. I anoint the black face of a broken flint and then wipe the oil away. This gives the flint a wet, polished look without it dripping. I place this in the centre of the circle of chalk so that I can comfortably gaze into the dark surface.
These are the words I use:
Creature of flint, today I call you Ancient Night. You are black as the time before time, aeons devoid, an eye that was closed before We were born. You are opened now and cleaned, anointed, let this late come light simmer through your lattices and show Alfar’s willing spirits to my sight.
The rest is scrying as you know it. This set up is in a room lit only by a candle. It is the kind of dark where you feel you can’t see anything at all and then your eyes accustom just enough to see things like a white chalk circle on the table. Sit comfortably. Be comfortable in bladder and bowel. Do not strain your eyes, be comfortable of eye as well. Repeat the words occasionally if you feel it’s necessary but be prepared to sit a while, an hour is not uncommon. When you see a spirit in the stone be polite and confident in your questions, be respectful and when answers are given speak your thanks. Close by wrapping the flint in a soft tissue and wiping away the chalk.
Part of my negotiation of this magic is that each piece of chalk and flint is only to be used once. The reason for putting this here, and I cannot stress this enough, is as an example. This is a method I would use as above at home with a specific group of spirits related to Alfar, or in a slightly different way if I was out on the Downs themselves to contact whatever might be around. There will be an expression of this magic in any place or landscape you know well. It will have the same grammar underlying it but it will be in your voice, accented to your own more than human allies, and flavoured by your stories and your places.