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Request of The Raven Voice
Magic is not your friend. In some ways, it is your master.
Above is an audio version of the essay, read aloud by the author. The music in the background is “Dragon Roost Island,” from The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker OST.
Last afternoon, I lay on the floor of my mother’s room, my breathing finally normal after having come down from an hours-long anxiety attack. I’m not usually a fan of skin-to-skin contact in this state, so I was surprised when my mother’s embrace and request to breathe with her brought me back into a state of equilibrium.
“I don’t want you to die.”
This past year and a half has been rough on my mom health wise, but it’s been rough for me, too. Accompanying her to the hospital during her radiation treatment was actually the least difficult part about it.
The most difficult part was the request of the Raven Voice.
Several months before my mother’s heart almost failed, I had one of my classic insomniatic episodes. Ever since I was a child, I’ve been a poor sleeper. I often wake up in the middle of the night and hear voices, with the episodes sometimes escalating to full-on hallucinatory sleep paralysis. Though it has been years since I’ve had a proper round of sleep paralysis episodes (I only had one last year, and the few I nearly had I managed to fight off), this more recent one was very different in nature, for I hadn’t yet fallen asleep and was still very lucid.
I was lying sideways in bed, with some disconcerting combination of alertness and fatigue dangling over me, when I felt a certain density in the air a few feet in front of my face. I closed my eyes, and very clearly, I could see the face of some raven-like humanoid creature.
Shocked by the viscerality of my closed-eye vision, I opened my eyes. The creature usurped my internal monologue, so that its voice was what I heard instead of my own:
Your father’s heart is breaking, it said. If you don’t say something, it will kill him.
I was hesitant. How could this possibly be real? Despite the fact that I have had precognitive dreams since childhood, I approach all parapsychological matters with a healthy dose of scepticism, for reasons that I believe should be obvious. (If you’ve never suffered from spiritual delusions of grandeur, are you even living?)
I took a breath. I cannot recall if I definitely ignored the first experience or accepted my purported role, but I do remember the Raven Voice returning to me several times over the next few months, adding a considerably disturbing tone to my days. As much as I tried to place the thoughts out of my mind, explain them away as anxiety, or create some sort of rational explanation, they simply persisted. At a certain point, I agreed to do what the spirit asked. I agreed to say whatever it needed me to say.
I decided to speak with my father. I was hesitant, though perhaps for the opposite reasons one might think. Two of my father’s best friends are babalawo, or priests of the Ifa tradition. He probably has more of a concrete belief in spirits than I do. If you can believe it, that was the reason I was hesitant.
You see, I am agnostic about the concept of spirits. I only know that I’ve experienced something which can only be described in animistic terms. Neither conceptual nor psychological language speaks to the fullness of these experiences, for they are transpersonal in nature, and some might say these types of experiences are ineffable.
In any case, spirits are so widely experienced as being real that there seems to be very little utility in dissecting the how or why of them. Whether they are a psychological phenomenon or whether they point to the existence of immaterial beings, in my opinion, misses the point entirely. The point is that these phenomena are experienced and that for most people, they mean something.
In my case, they very well may have saved my mother’s life.
Several months after I spoke with my father, expressing my concerns in the least woo way possible, my unease had not shifted. My mother complained to me one day that she was feeling tired. She wondered if she ought to go to see a doctor, but at the time, she didn’t have a primary care provider.
Without thinking much about it at all, I suggested that she go to the walk-in clinic a few blocks from our apartment. They had primary care, as well as extensive blood labs. Her face brightened.
“I’ll go tomorrow.”
She visited them and was immediately rushed to the Emergency Room at New York Presbyterian.
Her heart was breaking.
Several weeks and one pacemaker later, Mom is doing just fine, but a few family members have stated more than once that I’m the reason my mother is still alive.
Is it strange that my impulse is to give credit to the Raven Voice? The voice that told me it was my father’s heart I was meant to save? The voice that I cannot verify exists outside of my insomniatic experience?
Regardless, whenever I see individuals speaking of synchronicity and of magic as if it were something we have the power to pick and choose all the meaning around, I do my best to bite my tongue. It’s hard to tell people they’re bypassing when the thing they’re bypassing isn’t even something they take seriously.
Synchronicity is not positive, nor is it negative. It simply arises, and at times, it will show you things that you do not want to see. It will give you wrong answers, or answers that are only 98% right.
To demand a hundred percent accuracy of something so innate to the human experience is to deny what it actually means to be human.
It is as unwise to only see magic that makes us feel good as it is to only feel emotions that we believe are socially acceptable. It simply doesn’t work that way. You’re either open to all of it, or you’re numb to all of it.
And listen–I don’t think the universe is conspiring to bring you all that you desire, and I don’t think it loves you. It is full of cryptic secrets that can at times be nearly impossible to decode. Sometimes, it feels like it’s laughing in your face. In its corners and cracked walls lurk monsters and mirages, unfettered and unsympathetic to our preferences or capacity to process what they hurl at us.
That’s why we need to surround ourselves with allies of all kinds, human or otherwise. Allies that we know love us and are willing to show it. It’s why, when a Raven Voice demands to be heard, we must listen with the eyes of a sceptic, the heart of a child, and the willingness of a warrior.
It would hardly be an adventure otherwise.