A portal can appear as many things and opening one looks like even more. It can be a memory, a spell/ritual, a prayer, a wish, a dream, a flashback, a trigger even. Engaging with a portal is the act of allowing the mind to travel without the body in tact, which in most cases can be very dangerous, unless specific parameters are set and guidance is given. Many times, we see this in the form of full ceremonial magic, where energy is summoned and invoked, taken from somewhere other than the plane that we can see. Opening a portal can be an unstable act resulting in access to places and experiences we are not yet equipped to understand or integrate. There is benefit in the opening, but opening and closing are 2 completely different rituals with 2 completely different sets of instructions. Whether the ritual be small or large, conscious or unconscious, it is advised that with portal opening that you also prepare yourself to close it.
My upbringing was intensely rooted in the Southern Baptist and Pentecostal faiths, both mutually terrifying and awe-inspiring. I don’t think my mother really understood religion or even the purpose of it, but my grandmother absolutely did, to the point of being in a relationship with Jesus Christ on Facebook for a number of years. We went to church for her, every Sunday and every Wednesday, just me, my sister, my mom and my grandmother. Afterwards, we’d have a feast, somehow prepared, setup, and ready to eat the second we got home after Sunday School. How on earth my grandmother made that happen, I will never know, but it filled me with wonder and a love for god because he was the one that granted us this meal, always. It sometimes didn’t make sense why we always had to thank him. He didn’t cook anything and he didn’t buy the groceries, but the rhyming scheme of the dinner prayer did excite me. I gave thanks anyway, mostly because my family got a kick out of me beatboxing it at the dinner table each Sunday. “God is great! God is good! Let us thank him for our food! By his hands, we are fed! Give us, Lord, our daily bread!”
One Sunday, I woke up my 7 year old self at the absurd weekend hour of 8am to get ready for church, only to see my mom in the hallway looking a bit anxious. She said, “……So we aren’t going to Sunday School this morning. But there’s a new church I want to try, it’s a little different because the service is at night, but I’ve heard really awesome things from my friend, Celeste. You can go back to sleep if you want! But promise me you won’t tell Grandmama. I told her you had strep throat again.” Of course I agreed because I hadn’t been able to sleep in on a Sunday or watch cartoons or stay in my Tigger pajamas for as long as I could remember. It was an awesome day spent sleeping in, binge eating Lucky Charms (marshmallows only) and playing in our small patch of yard outside in the deep July heat of a Georgia summer. The day passed and around 6pm, my mom asked me and my sister to start getting ready for the 8pm service. We had dinner before we left, which was a garbage salad, a term my mom coined for a pile of nachos with whatever we had in the fridge on top. Sometimes lettuce, sometimes chicken and dumplings, sometimes okra, sometimes tuna salad. It was my all time favorite meal and I realize now, it was also an incredibly crafty way of hiding from us that we were absolutely dirt poor and all of our food came from a food bank. We arrived at the church a few minutes before the service started. The boxy wooden building with only 4 walls and no air conditioning, no bigger than 700 sq ft, was packed to the brim with devout Christians ready to see a miracle. We stood near the very back of the church, me in between my mom and my sister, holding both of their hands. Even from a young age, I had intense social anxiety. Large groups of people made me very uneasy, especially when I was the shortest person in the room and I measured up no higher than anyone’s waist. I did think it was very strange that no one was sitting down, or even that there were no chairs in the room, except for one with arm and ankle straps placed up front in the direct beam of positioned ceiling lights. I felt more like I was in a haunted house than a church. This was not what a church was supposed to feel or look like. A few minutes passed and the room got quiet as a man in a very sweaty white button down shirt began to welcome everyone in the room, stating that he was the pastor of this Pentecostal congregation. He made a short speech filled with a number of quick prayers, thanking us for coming and asking for our undivided attention and worship. Another 2 men came out of the shadows and into the beam of lights holding up a stumbling young girl in a white dress, no older than 10. She looked incredibly familiar and I quickly realized that she went to school with me. I didn’t know her name and we had never spoken, but the sight of her stumbling was unsettling even to my 7 year old self. As I peered through the legs of the others standing in the room, I watched as they sat her down in the chair. The pastor assured us that the straps on the chair would only be used if necessary and I quickly asked my mom, “Is she ok?,” to which she shushed me. The pastor began to speak to the girl with such conviction and I could feel a tangible energetic shift in the room, like lightning inside of the building. He was speaking to her in and out of english and a language I couldn’t understand that sounded as though he was just making noises that seemed to get stuck in his throat and fill his mouth with spit. With one raised hand and a bible in the other, his words began to wake her up. She started sitting upright and her posture changed in a way that looked as though a whole other person had crawled into her skin. The people watching began to get involved, as they wailed and lifted their hands to the sky, sobbing and singing and praying to god to show his power in this space. The girl’s head hung halfway with her eyes lifted, staring directly into the crowd at what I thought was through their legs and right into my soul. I could feel the hair on the back of my neck begin to rise and tears well up in my eyes. What was happening? I squeezed my mom and sisters hands as tight as I could, as we all watched the girl stand up crookedly and slowly be handed a snake from one of the men that carried her in. The snake seemed to wrap around her arms and neck and it looked as though this was her pet. She slowly began to move around the front of the room, loudly speaking to the crowd in the same unknown language the pastor had spoken in. The crowd seemed to all be breathing at the same time, all of their hands lifted to the ceiling in worship, some even kneeling at this child’s feet, begging her to bless them. My mom gripped my hand tightly and quickly turned around and pulled me and my sister through the crowd and out of the church. We got into our car and she drove away as fast as she could. My sister softly began to cry in the back seat, which made me start to cry as well, and my mom looked at her in the rear view mirror and then to me and said “We shouldn’t have gone there. Please try and forget you saw that and PLEASE, do not tell Grandmama.” The next day at school, I looked for that girl in the lunch room, only to find her sitting by herself silently with the same crooked posture she had had holding the snake as she spoke to the crowd.
Years later, I asked my mom about that night, and after much convincing that I was old enough to hear the truth, she told me that the service we had seen was some sort of Pentecostal revival where the pastor promised the congregation that god would facilitate a miracle through him. She told me that she had been questioning her faith lately and needed to see something to make her believe. And that the unknown language was the “biblical gift” of speaking in tongues, a direct channel from heaven. I asked her why we left so quickly that night and she softly replied, “That wasn’t God.” After my own research in my adult years, I began to understand that what occurred was actually an invocation ritual, one that I’m unsure was fully understood by the ones who performed it. They believed that they were bringing Jesus Christ into the girl’s body, but the request for the snake and the sinister behavior of the girl led me to believe the portal opened was of demonic nature, not of heaven. And in that moment of invocation, no boundaries or wards were set to protect the girl. No closings were performed. They just waited for her to collapse under the sheer power of the almighty, only to perform the miracle again next Sunday at 8pm, leaving her portal permanently opened and her body permanently inhabited.
The necessity of closing portals after ritual is without a doubt one of the most important aspects of working with magic, small or large. The void is filled with many energies, mostly curious and harmless ones looking to assist, but if you dig deep enough, you will find creatures in the depths capable of distorting the human reality. Magic should always be thorough and after the duration of every spell and ritual, you should make an active effort and put as much energy into closing it out. This not only solidifies safety for you, the magician, but also that the ritual has been done in full and is complete, closing the portal.