I’d been initiated into Witchcraft and kept the sabbats. He had studied Ceremonial Magic and yoga. I taught him Witchcraft, he taught me Ceremonial, and together we studied sex magic, both in theory and practice.
After a few months we ran away together – broke off our relationships and said goodbye to the community. I jumped on the back of his motorcycle and we roared off over the mountains.
Washington is an agricultural state. Every year in September the call goes out for pickers to live in the orchards and bring the harvest in. We ended up in the Okanogan Valley, living in a picker’s cabin without electricity or running water, with a communal shared toilet-shower.
At the end of the harvest season Alex was offered a job in the orchard as a “steady hand”. This came with a cabin with wood heat and running water! We still used the shared toilet-shower though. With a steady job and a place to live, he proposed, and I accepted. We turned up in front of a justice of the peace at the county courthouse with a couple who served as our witnesses, reception at the Dairy Queen after.
Having traded the motorbike for a beater truck, we roared off to spend our honeymoon in a tent on the coast. It rained, the tent flooded, we checked into a hotel, and I took another step in the lengthy process of growing up.
We lived in that apple orchard for three years. Pre-internet, out in the Washington sticks, we had to use mail order to bring books into the house.
Alex worked each weekday, I worked seasonally in the orchard and in the house when there was no work. At night, on weekends, we studied and practiced magic. At sabbats there were just two of us in the circle. We bought the Aurum Solis Magical Philosophy series – we were among the people who sent in money to print the fifth book – and worked through that system as a self-study program, doing rituals together and apart, writing journals, taking notes.
At the end of three years we felt ready to emerge from our lengthy magical retreat. We traded the beater truck for a travel trailer and roared off over another set of mountains to settle in Puget Sound. Seattle is a big town or a small city. We have spent more than two decades working with various magical systems but staying in touch with the same people.
It was such a luxury to be able to focus on nothing but magic for all that time. However far I’ve gone in my magic and travels, that early magical retreat provides a solid substratum for my practice. I am still immersed in the world of community, but I have a thought at the back of my head that I will end up in my old age holed up in a cabin in the woods on one final magical retreat.