Doing Magic on the fly in the U.S.A.


by Christopher Blackwell


Black Rock Desert Thunder-Egg

Thirty years ago I was selling thunder-eggs in a small mountain village of Madrid, New Mexico about fifteen miles south of Satan Fe in the United States. Madrid had started as a company town owned by a coal mine in the 1890s. The company and the town went out of business in the 1950s and Madrid was a ghost town for twenty-five years before it re-birthed as a hippy artist village. Madrid is now more of a retirement town.

At the time I was there it only had a population of 350 old hippies, artists, a few summertime shop keepers, a few very flaming gay people, local pot farmers, a melodrama theater group, and during the summer season, a Jazz blue grass festival. The festival was visited by the Banditos biker gang and non-biker tourists. It had one bar; an old 1940’s road house that played only 40′ and 50’s music on its jukebox.

I sold my thunder-eggs in the parking lot of the road house and the coal mine museum. The melodrama theater was the former engine house for the old locomotive during the town’s coal mining days. While it got by during the tourist season in late spring to early fall, everyone was on food stamps and welfare for the rest of the year.

Madrid was a very special place for me. It was where I earned enough money to build my rock shop. It was where I went to my first four Pagan festivals and where I first practiced as a Witch using Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance as a guide. My first sabbat was Samhain of 1983, celebrated in a small nearby sandstone cave. It was the first place I was forced to figure magic out in an emergency.


Madrid, New Mexico

Madrid is in a very long and narrow canyon. The early miner’s cabins, sawed in thirds, had been shipped on flat cars into the canyon by train and then put back together. Even the more substantial buildings on main street were built without foundations. The local source of water stank of sulfur.

So this was the situation I found myself in when I looked down the canyon and saw a funnel cloud moving north towards the town. It had not yet touched down to become a tornado but it was heading right at the town. I admit I was terrified. Something had to be done but I had no idea what.

I ran up the mountain to the Coal Mine. In the outdoor part of the Museum was an old electric mine loco which I scampered up onto. From there I could see the whole village. Ignoring a few curious tourists I did one of the few things that I knew how to do. I cast a protective circle and called the quarters to help protect the village.

The funnel cloud was still coming towards the village. When it reach the protective circle it suddenly made a right angle turn into the mountain. I do not remember if I actually opened the circle afterward. I was just relieved that the village was no longer in danger.

Needless to say, I could not quite believe what had happened. Was it my magic or some quirk of fate? A decade later I was talking to a meteorologist and I asked him if he had ever heard of a funnel cloud in a narrow canyon making a sudden right turn and crashing into a mountain. He said in his forty years as a meteorologist he had never heard of such a thing.

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