Over the Hedge
There is a division between the physical and the metaphysical realms, though the exact nature of it seems to vary. I've only had to interact with it in Chicago, where it is thick and dark. But Abuela said that back in Honduras it was thin and airy, bright and covered in flowers. She told me stories from before the Europeans arrived, when the division between realms was like the surface of water, when the only thing really keeping a mage from diving too deep or dwelling too long was not the difficulty of crossing, but of staying.
This claim raised a number of questions for me, so I began to study other concepts of the division from around the world. Sometimes called a wall, or a veil, or any of a number of other such concepts, I have come to understand it as a hedge. This is partly because it was the manner in which I had always known it through Abuela's descriptions, but I was also convinced that no other title adequately described the variety of its experience or the fact that it seems to be alive in its own way. The living, changing nature of it is part of what I think explains the history I was taught. My best guess is that the Victorians are to blame.
The first thing to note is that the metaphysical realm itself is not static. Whatever else may be true of it, it is a dynamic realm where the thoughts or emotions of human beings seems to leave a direct impact. Nan's study of auras suggests there is something more to them than a revelation of what people are feeling, and Abuela said that our dreams and fears and memories walk alongside us on the other side of the hedge. Hecate taught me that seeing what was really happening in the metaphysical realm requires a still and disciplined mind, as any fluctuations I bring with me will change both my perception of the realm and the realm itself; but she also taught that strong connection to one's own emotions aids in accessing the power of the realm for other forms of magic.
The only conclusion I can draw from these notes and my own studies and experiences is that the metaphysical realm is fundamentally reactive, that its very nature is to reflect what is poured into it. It is the astral plane where minds meet, and the realm of dreams, and the great pool of human memory and desire and terror, and the abode of spirits. Are minds inherently connected? Did we create the realm? Was it created alongside us? Is it possible that there was a time before the realm, and that something bound all of mankind to it? Is it any more, or any less, possible that it existed before us and that somehow we either connected to it or arose from it? If there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, is it connected to the realm, or to their own version of it, or not at all?
Wherever the realm came from and however it came to reflect us, the division that keeps the physical separate from the metaphysical seems to share its nature. It is reactive, putting up as much resistance to us as we give to it. This would explain why the hedge is so much more daunting in Chicago, where there is very little acknowledgement of it, than it is in a village where the existence of the spiritual is simply an assumed part of daily life. It also may explain the change that happened to harden the hedge, apparently on a global scale.
The Victorians were in a unique position in that they had novel ideas about spirits and the means to enforce those ideas in other cultures. Victorian spiritualism introduced the idea of a hard barrier between the physical and the spiritual, a massive wall that could not be broken without significant effort and cost. Their fiction and nonfiction writings that touch on the matter reflect this notion, and their deep interest in the spiritual meant that they spent a great deal of time honing this idea and reinforcing it in their own minds and culture. Under any other circumstance, this would have created a stronger wall in places where they congregated in large numbers, but had little effect anywhere else. But this was the height of the British Empire, which meant that they congregated everywhere. Their ideas spread naturally among their own world-spanning culture, and their subjugation of other cultures ensured that what they believed about the world was taught to these other cultures. Their literature, which was placed as the global standard, forced other writers to explore the themes and ideas that they had written about. Finally, the spread of these ideas across European borders into other colonial powers sent these ideas to their own empires. By the time the Victorian age had come to a close, the vast majority of the world had been force fed a concept of spirituality that put a hard division between realms.
With that many people all around the world believing the spiritual was inaccessible, the metaphysical realm had to make itself inaccessible. It had no means of fighting against the popular tide of the human imagination because it does not, and possibly cannot, operate fully independent of that imagination. This inaccessibility became the hedge that now stands between the realms and has never been fully uprooted. This hedge has made the spirits more distant from us, made the energy that fuels magic a more limited resource, and I cannot imagine that putting distance between humans and the one thing that unifies us all has been a positive influence on history.
Colonialism killed magic, and its blood still drips from the thorns of the Hedge.
Nan told me some months ago that it was probably not worth the effort to dig much into the two beings that appeared to me when I was tracking down Alethea. But something about them seemed important, and the lack of solid information on them in the lore we knew kept nagging at me. I had to see if I could find anything.
The first lead we had was the idea that they might be Odin's ravens, who were tasked with traveling around the world and reporting what they saw to their king. But the description given of them was vague at best, and they did not strike me as beings who answered to a Norse deity that would have no reason to interact with me. Their behavior did not strike me as passive observers. And when I sat down to think about it, I began to suspect I had heard something of them from Hecate.
It took a great deal of digging before I realized that the only places where I found references that may have described this pair were on the fringes. They were background entities, present for a great many first-hand accounts but rarely active enough to be remembered in later tales based on the events. Other spirits seem to know of them, though my experience and what I've heard from Nan suggests they are not a comfortable topic of discussion. But a few universal facts arose; they alternate between human and raven forms, they are always seen together, and they possess great power but are rarely seen using it. Then I began to put the words used to describe them into columns and that was when I noticed that the descriptions of the woman always seemed chaotic, wild, and active, while the descriptions of the man always seemed ordered, reserved, and cryptic.
When Hecate told me about Anchors and Warlocks, she claimed that they represented the same forces that 'The Two' represented; Anchors brought physical order to the metaphysical realm, while Warlocks brought metaphysical chaos to the physical realm. By association, then, perhaps the man (who is always described as clean dressed as human or solid black as a raven) is Order and the woman (who is always described as composed of swirling energy) is Chaos.
But what are they? Do they influence both realms? Do they influence only one? Or are they simply beings who operate in the domains of order and chaos and do not themselves control it? Hecate deeply hates ravens; is it possible that these beings claim some dominion over Anchors and Warlocks (who she also claims dominion over), and if so, are they rivals to her? Are they rebellious servants of hers, originally tasked as intermediaries between her and the humans under her domain?
There is something to this connection between her and them, and I cannot help but feel it is the reason they arrived in my life when they did. I cannot let this go now. I have to learn more.
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