The becoming-tiresomely-usual content warning ahead of this one. As you’ve probably realised by now I have stuff to deal with which for some reason – probably attention-seeking, you know me – I’m apparently choosing to do fairly publicly. I’d like to think it’s part of the whole “having a conversation about mental health” thing and actually serves some purpose, but who knows?
So once again, CONTENT WARNING / CARE NOTE: talk ahead of depression and suicidality. Also swearing. A bit. Sorry. Not really sorry.
I don’t claim to know a great deal about magic. ‘Magick’, if you insist; but magic. I don’t know much about it; I don’t very often mess about with it. In fact I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually consciously tried to manipulate the energies of the cosmos – assuming we’re not counting the sciencey ones like electromagnetism, which I screw around with all the time, or the strong nuclear force which keeps me from falling through my chair.
One of the things I do know about magic — old magic — is that names are a thing. Names are considered of great importance, and crop up repeatedly in magical traditions around the world. There are two basic themes that, at first glance — as well as at subsequent glances — seem to contradict each other. One principle holds that when we give a thing a name, we give it power.
The other, a little confusingly, holds that by giving a thing a name we exert power over it.
As I said, I’m not a magically inclined person — not in the sense of traditional witchcraft and ceremonial magical systems, at least. But I am very much a words person and, much like music, words are a magic of their own. There are realms out there, back there, under there, in which the words used to identify, define and describe something shape not only the thing itself but the very world around it.
It’s why I get so very fussy about the way we describe things, even though it isn’t nearly so influential a force here in the real world.
Still, the urge to name things as a way of exerting control over them is instinctive to me, just as sympathetic magic might be instinctive to any traditional witch. Create or represent in your ritual the result you want to see, and the cosmos — or at least its mystical reflection — may be prone to follow the groove you’ve carved out for it. Or it may not. Those other worlds I spoke of might well be far more compliant, but all we can do here is our best, what?
This is probably the reason that, as these recent thoughts of mine… Come on, call them what they are, Kate; let’s not shy away from it at this point… my suicidal inclinations have become more insistent and compelling over the last several months, part of my approach to them, as well as sensible things like finding counselling and occasional GP/Crisis Team support, has been to want to name them. To give a name to that voice inside, which does, sometimes, seem to have quite a distinctive personality.
I’m not literally hearing voices, I should say — but sometimes the thoughts and the impulses are clear enough that it’s almost as though there is an alien presence in my mind, trying to get me to do things I don’t want to do. Or, rather, things that I might actually want to do at a given moment, but which I know will be… well, let’s just say they’d result in a non-positive outcome. And as a passing aside, I can now quite understand the instinct to attribute such clear, but apparently out-of-place, unpredictable and yes, downright scary, thoughts to a literal possessor: a demon or similar entity. I can quite understand how people in this position in the past might have been willing to believe they had an intruder in their minds, because that is genuinely how it can feel. Why, after all, would your own brain want to hurt you, and by extension hurt itself? Surely it can only be an external influence of some sort?
It isn’t. It’s my brain that’s gone a bit wrong… um… wronger than usual. I’m lucky to feel that I know what I’m dealing with, and there is no demon or alien presence or mind-control ray — not in my case, anyway. It’s just me and the mess of chemicals that slosh around the grey sponge thing in my skull.
Which is why I feel no particular qualms about naming the demon I might have attributed this to if I’d been born into a different time or culture or both. I give it a name not to empower it as an entity, because it is not an entity. I name it because that way I can describe it; I can talk about it; I can tell it, not to put too fine a point on it, to fuck the fuck off, you fucking fuck (© Lisbeth Salander).
So for the purposes of this post let’s call it… Hmm… Well, I’m an eighties kid (born in the 1970s but my cultural foundation was pretty much in the 1980s I reckon), so let’s call it Zuul — a classic demon beastie: angry and snarly and with enormous huge dangerous teeth, except when it’s trying to be alluring and wheedling and convince me to do something momentarily tempting but kind of long-term unhealthy.
(Legal note: this should not be construed as comment on actor Sigourney Weaver who I’m sure is lovely and not at all snarly and I mean after all that movie was thir… Wait. Thirty-five fucking years ago?! How the shit did that happen?)
So anyway, harsh lessons in the passage of time notwithstanding, I’m naming it; I have power over it. In theory. I’m sure it will try to persuade me otherwise, but now I can quite clearly say, “Fuck off, Zuul”; and I can always plinky-plink the top notes of a piano at it if nothing else helps.
They hate that.