In a world where an unequal power structure dominates the relationship between men and women women are vulnerable. Barbara’s story is a perfect example of one woman’s attempt to find direction and acquire power in a potentially dangerous but compelling way.
“I was born into a Republican, Calvinist, working-class family in Ferguson, Missouri, and was a teenager during the 1950s. Nothing remotely “spooky” or occult about my life. I was fortunate to discover the Unitarian Universalist Association during my freshman year in college and was a happy Unitarian until the late 1970s, when I completed my formal schooling and moved to Southern California. Nothing spooky or occult about the UUA, either.
After I moved to California, I met people interested in occult and metaphysical topics. I wanted to know more, so I started reading. I read the mainstream metaphysical literature, the books on the European Occult Revival and the various psychic sciences, books on ceremonial magic, New Thought, alchemy, the Qabala, theosophy, metapsychiatry, and the Universal White Brotherhood. I read Madame Blavatsky, Charles W. Leadbeater, Annie Besant, Dion Fortune, Horace Quimby, Stewart Edward White, Charles Francis Stocking, Manly P. Hall…well, the list goes on and on. (Those books are still on my shelves.) Although I learned enough to be a walking footnote to this day, I didn’t learn anything helpful about the spirit guides that a popular teacher in Anaheim told me were running my life. My boy friend was regularly doing automatic writing, so under his tutelage, I tried automatic writing, too. All I got was a stiff hand. I visited The Psychics To The Stars. I went to a spoon-bending seminar. (I bent one spoon). I attended a remote viewing workshop. All I got was a lot of debits in my check register. I didn’t meet any of my spirit guides.
One day I went to a local metaphysical teacher. “Well,” she told me, “have you tried the pendulum?” Although I didn’t realize it, that was the beginning of the end of my enchantment. But it took me more than a year to get through the learning process. What this teacher told me to do was get a piece of typing paper and print the letters of the alphabet on it in an arc, like a Ouija Board, plus the numbers from 1 to 10. She showed me how to hold a pendulum above the paper. Soon it began to swing from letter to letter, spelling out words. “Just write down the words,” she said. “This always works.” “Good for you,” my boy friend said, “but just to make sure you don’t get under the influences of any evil entities, say the Lord’s Prayer before you begin. And give yourself an hour or so every night.”
Reader, do you know the meaning of “compulsive”? Have you ever seen obsessiveness in action? I should mention here that my son, Charles, was twelve years old at the time. He has always been very bright, very skeptical, very resourceful. I suppose I could safely say that my adventures with the Invisibles helped him become more resourceful and self-sufficient. Within a week or two, my nightly hour with the pendulum doubled. We moved the TV into Charles’s bedroom. My doubled hour doubled again. I sat on the couch, not watching TV, not listening to music, not talking on the phone, not reading paperback mysteries, not petting the cat, not meditating. I sat there with a mini-Ouija Board and a pendulum and talked to spirits. As I told Charles, I was watching the “wizards drive the pendulum.”
I don’t remember the names of all the Invisibles who came through my pendulum, but Wow, I thought. Now I know why I’m on earth. I know what My Purpose In Life is. Four hours every night after work with pendulum, spelling out a sentence and writing it down, spelling out another sentence and writing it down, watching the wizards steer the pendulum round and round and round.
An Invisible who said she was Isis also came and talked to me. She said she’d been my mother in a past life. (Really??) Another Invisible said that my boyfriend had been David and I’d been Bathsheba. Another one said I’d been Cleopatra (the topic of my Ph.D. dissertation) and he’d been Caesar and another boy friend had been Marc Antony. Another one said my boy friend and I had been the King and Queen of Atlantis. Guess what? I wasn’t even skeptical. Yet.
By this time, my boy friend, who had been doing automatic writing for four or five years, had a whole stack of notebooks filled with different kinds of messages in different handwritings, none of them his own. My stack of pendulum papers was about ream-high. We were waiting to assume our rightful places in the sacred hierarchy of the world.
One Friday night, as soon as supper was over and my son was in his bedroom listening to Billy Joel records, I picked up my pendulum, assumed the position, and waited for wisdom. The pendulum began to swing.
We want you as our earth slave.
I put the pendulum away. I went into Charles’s bedroom and watched TV with him.
But I was addicted. First thing Saturday morning—back to the pendulum. We want you as our earth slave. I prayed over my paper Ouija Board. I cupped the crystal pendulum in my hands and prayed again. I visualized white light on the paper, around the pendulum, around my hands, around my pen and notebook, around my whole body, filling my living room. White light everywhere. I called upon angels and spirit guides to protect me.
We want you as our earth slave.
Our Father Who art in Heaven—
I had figured out by this time that I could influence what the pendulum said. I could make it spell out what I wanted it to say. Not this time.
Don’t bother praying. It won’t work. We want you as our earth slave.
…hallowed be Thy Name….
It was noon. I tore up the paper and burned the pieces in an abalone shell on sacred sand. Then I buried the ashes in my back yard. I took the expensive crystal pendulum outside. I also took a ball-peen hammer and used it to smash that crystal. I burned the black thread, and buried it all. But I was addicted. Sunday morning, I found another crystal point and tied it to another piece of black thread.
What’s going on here? I asked. Then I held the new pendulum over my new paper Ouija Board and waited.
Who are you?
My name is Walter Troll.
I nearly dropped the pendulum. Who are you? Why are you scaring me?
That’s not really my name. But you may know me as Walter Troll. It’s my job to scare you.
Well, you’re doing a really good job of it.
Glad to hear that. Have you looked at your life lately?
No. All I’d been looking at was that pendulum. I’ve been learning things from my spirit guides, I replied to this new Invisible. And Isis, she’s a famous goddess, you know, and she talks to me all the time. They say I have a mission on earth.
Do you expect me to believe that?
I believe it!
Do you really believe what a pendulum is telling you?
Yes! Of course I do. Why wouldn’t I?
It was, Walter Troll told me, time for a reality check. What is the quality of your life?
The quality of my life was lousy.
Good girl. Now pay attention. The way to live your life is to get out there and live it. That’s trite, yes, but it’s quite true. You’re so smart? Examine your life. What are you actually learning that is of any use to you, your son, or anyone in the world? What are you learning that is true and useful?
Reality check, indeed. I put the pendulum down and picked up a pencil and wrote in my journal. I went for a walk. I took Charles out for lunch and we had a genuine conversation about the wizards driving the pendulum. And more important issues. I phoned a friend, who said she’d been wondering if I was still alive. Monday morning, I went to work and edited a proposal to build a cement plant in northern Idaho. Then I edited a report on a construction project in Florida. After work, I came home and watched a little TV with Charles, then took him out for supper. We came home, watched some more TV, and after he went to bed, I picked up a paperback mystery. I had to start at the beginning because I’d completely forgotten the plot.
Atta girl, Walter Troll told me Tuesday night. If you spend all your time waiting for instructions from spirit guides, what else do you have time for? You want a task on earth? How is your son growing up? When’s the last time you spent time with your friends?
How could I reply to him?
I thought for several minutes. Walter, I said, are you my friend? Really? Who are you?
Yes, my dear, I am your friend. Who do you think I am?
I wish I knew! Why are you here? Why did you tell me you want me to be your earth slave?
Do you still believe you’re the queen of the earth?
Well… No. That just doesn’t make sense.
Do you need this pendulum?
Okay. Yeah. I’m looking at it with clearer eyes now. But why did you scare me? Who are you?
Walter Troll never answered my questions. Like the Little Prince, he was much better at asking questions than answering them. But you know what? He made me face myself. To this day, I don’t know who he was. And all the other Invisibles who talked to me through that pendulum—were they real or did my needy self make them all up? I’d read quite a lot and, when I reread their dictation, I saw that none of those invisible beings that drove the pendulum had said anything I hadn’t already read.
Who was Walter Troll? I have never heard from him again. He spent a week in my head, a week driving my pendulum. What he taught me was to be skeptical of “messages from beyond.” He taught me to look closely at power and magic and claims of power and magic. He taught me that the invisible world may exist only between our ears and beneath the canopy of our skull. The invisible world may also be all around us. It can be hard to tell the difference. And he taught me not to be afraid of knowledge, whether it comes from worlds visible or invisible. He taught me to face gods, goddesses…and invisible trolls. Walter Troll had arrived just in time to tug me back toward feminism, to point me at the Woman’s Movement, and to prepare me to meet the Goddess.
Who is Barbara Ardinger? Ph.D. (www.barbaraardinger.com), is a published author and freelance editor. Her newest book is Secret Lives, a novel about grandmothers who do magic. Her earlier nonfiction books include the daybook Pagan Every Day, Finding New Goddesses (a pun-filled parody of goddess encyclopedias), and Goddess Meditations. When she can get away from the computer, she goes to the theater as often as possible—she loves musical theater and movies in which people sing and dance. She is also an active CERT (Community Emergency Rescue Team) volunteer and a member (and occasional secretary pro-tem) of a neighborhood organization that focuses on code enforcement and safety for citizens. She has been an AIDS emotional support volunteer and a literacy volunteer.Barbara also regularly publishes stories on Carol Christ’s feminismand religion.com, a blog that I read and contribute to regularly.
What I find most compelling about this true story is that “becoming an earth slave” is one way of aligning oneself with the powers of earth/self even before Barbara had a conversation with Walter Troll. Aligning oneself with the earth allows the goddess to manifest in one’s life. For me this has meant that I see my self as part of the whole earth. I don’t see the goddess as a mythological figure. I see her in every tree, flower, dog, bird, wild creature. She lives in the green of my woods… she births life out of every rotting log. When the birches lie down to die in the forest they nourish the soil for new life. Life, death, renewal…This is the circle of life.