A Promise to a River


When you tour around to various magic-themed festivals as much as I do, you end up participating in a lot of community magics. Which, of course, I love. Sharing in ritual is a wonderful way to strengthen ties and build lasting bonds with the people you meet, imbuing a talisman with memories and insights from the festival experience. I always make an effort to participate in whatever magical intent the organizers have prepared for us.

Such was the case a few weeks ago, when we played two festivals on consecutive weekends in Ontario; Spirits of the Earth and Kaleidoscope Gathering. At Spirits of the Earth’s closing ritual, we were each given a stone with an 8-rayed star painted on it. We were to imbue the stone with something we wished to manifest, a goal or yearning that we would carry forth into the world, fueled by the inspiration of the festival. Then we were to cast our stone into a body of water.

A fairly standard bit of magic, as these things go. The spirit of nature, in this case the soul of a river, invigorates our talisman with its own properties, and we benefit through the linking. We offer our stones to the water; a lake, a river, an ocean, as a way for nature to witness our desire, to accept it into her. To attune ourselves to the rhythm and flow of the natural world is to open our souls to her, and an open soul has a much better chance of crafting a fulfilled life. I link the sticky emotion of my desire to the stone, and then offer it to the river, that she may enliven it with her own essence, that our mingled essences will bring the wisdom of the river to my heart’s desire.

Such were my musings as I realized, the next weekend at the Kaleidoscope Gathering, that here I was, in the presence of the perfect river. I had been swimming in the glorious Bonnechere River every day, so a relationship had already begun. As I was scheduled to make the mad dash back across the country the next day (and thus have a significantly higher concrete to water ratio) I decided this was the right moment to cast my stone to the waters.

So what was my intention? Often, I take every opportunity, magical or otherwise, to boost my earnings, as keeping enough money coming in to continue this “musical ministry” of ours is an ongoing challenge. However, this time I felt secure enough in that regard to turn my focus on another issue. I want to gain more mastery over my health. I want to keep myself fit enough to do this work for years to come. I need to find ways of getting enough exercise on the road, and I need to make sure I have healthy food prepared ahead of time so that I can avoid eating junk. My voice is very dependent on being well rested, on my muscles being toned and strong, yet relaxed, and on allergies not being triggered. Exhaustion definitely takes a toll on my voice. And yet exhaustion is difficult to avoid on the road.

So my wish was to have my voice working in prime capacity at all times, and to find and develop the habits that would most support this. For when my voice is on, I know that it is a gift. It is a tool of magic that can enchant and captivate, and if I can enchant and captivate with consistency, the money will be there.

I spent time in meditation, and then I waded into the river and cast my stone, asking the river to help me. I then swam and surrendered myself to her totally.

A short time later, I realized something. I hadn’t merely asked the river to help me, to open me to insight and guidance that would lead me to vocal and physical well being. I had also made a promise to the river.

I had made a promise to uphold my end of this bargain, to actively commit to finding ways to maximize health on the road. It is not only what the river can do for me, it is what I am pledging to do, as the river is my witness.

This is what a reciprocal relationship with nature looks like, at least in part. If I believe in the soul of nature (and I do), and the soul of this particular river, enough that I find worth in asking it to witness, to hold my prayers, to lend me its life force, then surely I must also see that asking the river for its attention compels a certain respect on my end. What effort, what direction of life force am I throwing in with my stone, that makes this more than a meaningless gesture? If I ask the river for her gifts, I must also agree to put my own skin in the game. I am making a promise to this river to cultivate my own human vibrance, that my voice stays supple and strong enough to sing to her when next I see her.

I would not expect my new river friend to magically solve my problems for me, any more than I would expect a human friend to do so. We all know the frustrated therapist, at her wits’ end because those she counsels won’t do the work. And yet, too often we forget that the magic we cast doesn’t just happen, well, magically. Our magic deepens and supports our work, but it is still our work to do.

So Bonnechere River, here is my pledge to you. In exchange for your inspiration, for your delicious, electrical life force, which invigorates me anew every time I see your picture and remember you on my skin, I commit myself to actively refining my health, so that I am a finely tuned machine, able to deliver songs that set spines tingling whenever they are sung. I will demonstrate this commitment to you by writing and recording you your very own song. I thank you for your gifts, Bonnechere River, and they will not be taken for granted.