Burnt Snow, my first novel, was released in 2010 by Pan MacMillan Australia. White Rain, the sequel, is due soon. As part of a trilogy about witches, earth magic, curses, love and revenge, this blog archives my research into the world of the witches - as well as my own magical saga as a new author.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Signs and Portents

Argh, I ventured outside today and I think it was a mistake. I didn't go very far, or for very long, but now I'm so tired my eyes feel as ringed and hollow as slices of pineapple. What is this ridiculous sickness I've got? I've had to delay my flight back to Britain, so Imbolc/Candlemas will be an Australian affair... hmm... wonder if I'll have to switch the festivals around... Must.. consult... Almanac...
On my brief walk, I happened to stand near a crossroads. In folklore, the crossroad junction is a symbol of the liminal - it marks an intersection nor merely of journeys, but of worlds. The crossroads are the home of Papa Legba, the trickster god of the Vodou religion. Papa Legba will, if you seek him, show you the way to the spirit world. Tradition states that he taught humankind how to use and interpret oracles.
Now, I didn't see a dark old man with a stick, as Papa Legba is depicted - nor did I see an old man sprinkling water, or a dog - his attendant animal. But I did see a crow.
Crows are also notorious mythological tricksters - not to mention the naughty creatures who copulated on Noah's Ark (according to the Talmud). They are also symbols of the gateway between worlds. The Qu'ran credits the crow with teaching humanity how to bury its dead. Folk superstitions hold in Britain that a crow on your rooftop means that someone in the household is going to die.
I've personally always viewed crows as a luck symbol. They always seem to appear at junctions in my life when my fortunes ride the edge of fair or foul; for me, seeing a dancing crow usually augurs a golden phonecall, an email of good news or one of those marvellous mystery deposits that end up in my bank account and save me from the bailiffs. I always associate crows with my grandmother because they used to gather in her front yard, and caw over the roof of her house. Maybe I think of them as her looking over me. Certainly Nanna saved me from the bailiffs more than once.
So there they were, these two symbols of the permeable world, and what hour of the day was it but twilight, when the wall between worlds is at its thinnest. Behind the crow, dancing on a telegraph pole at a crossroads, the waxing moon was pregnant in a lavender sky.
What does it mean? The symbol dictionaries would tell me that the Otherworld is near. Reason tells me that it's just a crow.
I'm waiting for the phonecall, anyway.

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