Treading The Mill

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Unlike raising the Cone of Power, this practice is less about raising energy, and more about creating a vortex. Also known as the Widdershins Walk, this is the way to descend to the Wasteland, where we can work directly with our most ancient Ancestors. Craftings involving treading the Mill are generally concerned with moving between the Worlds or opening a portal between the worlds in order to affect an exchange of some sort. An excellent example is what we do at Samhain, when we open a gateway into the Mound to allow the spirits of the recently departed — gathered by the Wild Hunt — to be escorted into the Land of the Dead where they will be placed in the Cauldron of Cerridwen for rebirth.

This is not a technique that anyone would call fun, except that we all seem to be addicted to doing it… it has some superficial resemblances to laying the Compass, except that it is always widdershins (well, there is a deosil version, but used for very specific reasons), and there is no attempt to focus on an outcome or a “result”. In fact, it is important for the participants to surrender to the brutality of the physical process, leaving just the Mill leader to guide and control it.

Physically, there are two ways of doing the Mill that I have learnt — I’m sure there are others too. The first of these is the way that the Clan of Tubal Cain does it. They place a focal point, such as a candle, at the centre, and extending their left arms, point at the flame with their index finger. Turning their head to the left, they sort of cock it backwards, so that their left cheek is over their left shoulder and they are able to sight down the length of their arm and finger. This is described obliquely in the Cochrane letters, alluding to the way a cow looks over
her shoulder, and it results in both a visual effect (from gazing at the candle flame surrounded by swirling circular movement) and a slight restriction of blood-flow to the brain, which combine to create a powerful trance state. This technique is most effective for oracular work, or for seeking answers and guidance.

The other method, which we use in Briar Rose, is mostly used for taking the entire coven to the wasteland or some other realm, where they interact with entities or do a crafting together. It opens doorways in a very physical, visceral way, such as when it is done to open the Mound at Samhain.

The technique this time is to tramp around the circle widdershins, with your eyes loosely focused on the back of the person in front of you. The centre of gravity is lowered by bending the knees and curving the back so that everyone is in a crouching gait, and each step includes swaying to the side where the foot is planted, giving everyone a shuffling, side to side gait, so we almost zigzag around the circular path. Like the Compass, the goal is to get the feeling you are pushing against an obstacle and sinking into the ground. A slow chant is used to keep everyone in step like a chain gang, because it is important that nobody has a single thought about the goal or purpose of the task at hand, but rather they all mindlessly stumble along behind the one in front, as if they are joined by a chain to the leader. The Mill does not speed up — if anything, it is likely to slow a little — but it gets more and more intense, until the participants are feeling real discomfort, bordering on
agony as the pressure build. When the leader feels the whole thing is ready to burst, they yell “down!”, and everyone drops to the ground and releases the pent-up tension and energy, which is directed by the leader to open the portal, push unwanted things into the void, or upon up the vista of the realm being visited