The Gears of Chance: Steampunk Magic

I turn the gears of coincidence, I turn the gears of chance.
This is my magic: the fulcrum, the lever, the steam, the fire, the dance.

Chronospheres

The Clockwork Universe

We turn through a world of tension and pressure, movement and poise. Cycles within cycles that turn together, their teeth in rows — the still center of being, that emptiness around which every gear circles.

This is the clockwork of the universe, a shining mandala of interconnection and interrelationship.

The delicacy of craftsmanship expressed through the primal forces of the elements: forged metal, fire, water, steam and space. All these have their place, turn their way, in an intricate dance with one another.

This is not the Old Man Watchmaker’s dull work, some bauble set loose after a few quick windings to tick quietly in a pocket until it softly runs down.

This is a dance of power, a great engine of spirit churning. The hum and whirr of gears and springs, the hiss of steam, the roar and crackle of flame, all these are the melodies that make the Song of the World. A mandala of turning cycles and spirals, glimmering, polished and slick with grease. The work of soul is to keep the dance going, to slip into those spaces and join hands in the dance.

The Steampunk Shaman

The steampunk shaman knows the intricate patterns of the dancing world. Her wisdom penetrates the delicate work of friction and force, knowing exactly when to introduce the slightest pressure, and where, and how hard. Time Travelers PicnicNo brute or bully pushing her will onto the world, she turns, she gives way, she waits in the center of stillness and open space, waits for the gears to shift into alignment.

When her work is done, you might say it was all just coincidence, the wheels of fortune spinning out through inexplicable chance. This is the work of the steampunk shaman: she turns the gears of coincidence. Through creative nonaction, all action is done.

Like shamans of the ancient times, she dresses herself as her animal kin: leather and silk and feathers, fetishes and objects of power woven into her garments and hair. Practical, worn soft, stained dark here and there from the hard work of dirty hands. Delicacy married to hardship, beauty contrasted with sweat. She plays in the polarity of gender and class.

When she moves, the buckles of her boots clink like the sound of far-off bells chiming in some otherworld. She wears the chains and charms of her trade, delicate gems set in polished metal imitating the gears and springs of the clockwork universe, an ornamental mandala, meditative adornment.

These are objects of power and transformation, too: the artificial eye, the brass mechanical wings. The blending of humanity with the elements of earth come alive at a touch — the hard gleam of metal and the transparency of glass.

The Alchemy of the Forge

Magic is the work of transformation. The steampunk shaman knows the transformative work of the forge. She brings together will with love, ferocity with joy, as fire meets water in the darkness amidst hot sparks of light.

blacksmith: spiral on fireFrom the forge of her soul, will and love arise mutually tempered, sharpened to a point — a blade that will never go dull. Like the butcher who cleaves precisely between flesh and bone, slipping his knife into the emptiness within all things, she moves through the clockwork world with power and purpose, always sharp, poised, polished to a smooth edge.

Just so she also knows the mystery of the inventor’s workshop, of steam and pressure. She is friend to the elements, to fire and water — and the polarity between them from which tension arises into creativity, necessity into invention. She brings together will and love into fierce joy, held in careful check by a trained and skillful hand.

Her wisdom penetrates the delicate work of force and friction, knowing exactly when to release that pressure, let slip that quick hiss of steam that will turn the gears of chance and move the world.

Spring, Tension and Ritual Time

Time, too, is a spiral, the turning seasons and cycles spinning past, never quite repeating in their steady, interlocking motions.

Yet the steampunk shaman stands with one eye fixed, turned to that strange beyond-time. She watches the seconds sweep past as a hand across the face of the world, a thin wand turning around a central axis.

This is the dreamtime, this is the time of myth and ritual. Here and now, day and night flash past, millennia span no more than a blink of the eye, and the present expands as a presence whose circumference is nowhere and whose center is everywhere.

The steampunk shaman in her magical work enters the dreamtime of spring and tension, winding her circle about herself with a few steady turns. All time is now-time, past and future condensed, held together by the tension of her will. She compresses the spiraling spring of time into a perfect unending circle of space, marked off by the horizon, screwed tight to the axis of the world.

It is in this circle that she holds her power ready, moving delicately here and there, tinkering in the emptiness of the spacious present. Love and will build to fierce joy and power contained within the dreamtime of her magical work — she knows, in her wisdom, just when the release the pressure, to let the power go.

And when she does, the circle unwinds her will into past, present and future, time springing back into shape to move the world anew.

When her work is done, you might say it was all just coincidence, a series of events begun long before the magical act itself was even conceived. You might say it was simply the wheels of fortune spinning out through inexplicable chance.

This is the work of the steampunk shaman: she turns the gears of coincidence. This is her magic: the fulcrum, the steam, the dance.

one eye on the time


This post is part of the Pagan Blog Project 2012.
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Photography Credits (under the Creative Commons license):
– “Chronospheres,” by Gita Rau
– “Time Travelers Picnic,” by Anna Fischer
– “blacksmith: spiral on fire,” by Bernat Casero
– “one eye on the time,” by Scribe

Alison Leigh Lilly
Alison Leigh Lilly nurtures the earth-rooted, sea-soaked, mist-and-mystic spiritual heritage of her Celtic ancestors, exploring themes of peace, poesis and wilderness through essays, articles, poetry and podcasting. You can learn more about her work here.

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