Author’s Note: This piece is a recreation of the invocation of Daedalus that I did during Christopher Penczak’s Witchcraft Five class. When I did a journey to ask Daedalus’ help with telling his story I was told, “Why don’t you just step aside and let me tell it myself?” All it took was mustering enough courage to surrender myself (just my body actually) to my first public invocation. I remember turning the lights down low, sitting in Christopher’s big black chair, rubbing my face a few times, taking a few deep breaths with my hands covering my face and then visualizing my spirit vacating my body to make room for Daedalus. I have no idea what was actually said in the classroom that night. I have had my wife and a couple of my closest classmates help me recreate what was best described as “a proud yet incredibly sorrow-filled spirit who only sought to do the best possible work in life.”
How do I begin to tell you about a life of service, a life that begins in the head, travels through the heart and lives on through the hands? A life always lived in that small perilous place between the realms of the gods and the courts of kings. I believe there is no way to do justice to the twists and turns and the many faces involved a story like that, so I will tell you my own instead. My name is Daedalus. I have come to this place and taken the storyteller’s seat so you may hear my story.
There are many stories told about me. When you catch the eye of a king, you also come under the scrutiny of his court. There are those who play some fast and deadly games in those courts, games where the only point of the game seems to be to topple as many pieces as you can in order to improve own your position. Yes, there are many different stories told about me. One of the stories you will hear is that I was “high borne” but I was not. Stories such as these are meant to steal the life, skills and history of someone like me and redirect it for personal gain. I was never a favorite of the gods or a child of royalty, nor was I ever a common man. I have always been something different and set apart. I am a craftsman, an artisan.
I had to advance my skills and hone my abilities the hard way. As a youth I cut and carried stone for men who knew how to turn the bones of the earth into works of art. Just as they turned that common rough material into objects of great value, so too did they turn a rough youth into a skilled craftsman. These men were many times very rough themselves, yet capable of being patient and generous. Many of them knew my skills would soon surpass their own, yet they taught me all they knew because they believed that was their path to immortality, for the master to live on through the apprentice. Sooner than anyone expected, I had reached the point where I had risen to the position of architect and had my own apprentice.
My nephew, my sister’s son, came to work side by side with me.He was an exceptionally fast learner and worker as he too had a quick, open and inquiring mind. I began to understand why my early mentors were so eager to challenge me and teach me all they knew, they wanted their skills and spirit to expand and continue through other’s efforts and actions. Unfortunately for me what they saw as a blessing became a curse for our family. My nephew fell from the edge of the Acropolis while we both were up there working. Some will tell you I pushed him to his death. They will say as he worked with me every day I saw his skills had the potential to eclipse my own. In their opinion, jealousy came to consume me on that fateful day.
When an inquiry was made, my accusers asked me, “Did you push him?” to which I replied that I pushed him every day he was with me. They then asked me, “Were you responsible for his death?” and I told the court that my work, words, and skills were what brought my nephew to be there, so close to the edge, when he fell, so I indeed felt responsible for his death. In the end the stories and influence that circulated through that court as well as the king`s court caused me to be convicted of killing my own nephew, my sister’s child.
There are many small and perilous places in each of our lives. Once you allow balance to slip away and enter that place that exists between the fall and the impact, you begin to understand whether the gods intend to support you or let you collide with the full gravity of what they believe is in your heart. It wasn’t until I was forced into exile and indentured to a new king that a different story emerged. There was no body for my sister to bury because her son was allowed to cheat death. As he fell, the gods intervened and transformed him into a bird. I and the others who witnessed his fall watched him fly away. Those men owned voices my accusers would not allow to be heard in court. My nephew’s last day by my side and the following days in court are days that will stay with me for eternity.
My new master, King Minos, was a great king. In his mind he was the greatest king who ever lived and deserved only the best of everything. He had a beautiful daughter named Ariadne who loved to dance, and it was my pleasure to construct a dancing ground that would match her beauty and grace. The celebrations that were held there were beyond measure, and the delight of the princess as she put what I had made to use brought great joy to her, her father and their people. During one of these ceremonies, King Minos asked the Sea God for a sacred bull so that he might use it as an offering to the gods. When the king beheld this magnificent animal, he knew he had to keep it for his own. So he sacrificed his best bull as an offering instead and hoped that would appease the gods. As a result of this fateful decision, Poseidon caused his wife, the queen, to lust after the same sacred bull her husband had sought to make his own. The queen came to me and asked for my help. I fashioned a cow made from wood that the queen could hide inside and finally become one with the source of her desire. As a result of these meetings, a child was born, a child that was both an abomination and the son of royalty. A Star Child that was half man and half bull – the Minotaur. As the beast grew it developed a taste for blood. The king suspected I had a hand in bringing the Minotaur into the world, so he summoned me. You do not lie to the gods or your king if you want to continue to make your way in this world. I told him the whys and hows of what I had brought about, and he ordered me to devise a way to keep the Minotaur safely away from him and the rest of his court. So I designed and built a labyrinth so clever that nobody could escape it, not even his Star Child. I built it so well even I couldn’t find my way out without help, but we’ll return to that later.
To feed the beast, Minos demanded a tribute of seven youths and seven maidens every seven years from the people of Athens. It wasn’t long before an Athenian hero came in disguise among the offerings. As soon as the princess Ariadne laid eyes on this hero, she fell in love with him. When she came to me and asked for my help in order to keep her hero from being consumed by her half brother, it was I who laid a ball of twine in her hands and told her how her beloved Theseus could defeat both my invention and the Minotaur. After the deed was done and Ariadne departed with her hero, the king was so enraged that he locked my son Icarus and me into the labyrinth and gave specific instructions to put to death anyone who aided our escape. He sealed all the ports on island of Crete, effectively sealing our fate, or so he thought.
I had hours beyond counting to devote to nothing but thought, and my mind kept returning to how my nephew had escaped death through the gift of a pair of wings. For many months, my son and I gathered feathers from all the birds that came to visit us while we were imprisoned. I fashioned two sets of frameworks from materials left over from other projects that the king had demanded of me, and I fixed these feathers onto the framework and to each other with wax. When at last I felt everything was right and had proven my invention was sound with a test flight, I began training and instructing my son. I prepared him for flight and a new life beyond the walls, the labyrinth and the court of this tyrant king. When our last day as prisoners of Crete came, we stood on the wall together, wings outstretched in the early morning sun. Before we stepped off into freedom, I reminded him to fly the middle path – neither too low, so as not to weigh his wings down with spray from the sea, nor too high where the heat of the rising sun would melt the wax and cause his wings to be damaged. He smiled and told me I worried too much about him. “I’ll be all right. Please just see to yourself, Father” were his last words to me.
For days on end, Icarus and I watched the sun break free of the horizon, fly across the sky, and be swallowed by the sea at day’s end. Most days we thought nothing of it; it was just a way to mark the beginning and then the passing of another day. I should have paid closer attention to that simple everyday event.
I will share with you this simple truth now – until you have seen your own son rise into the sky on wings you provided, watched him take flight and taste freedom only to ignore your warnings, only after your warnings have become pleadings to remain true to the plan and the panic sets in, will you realize what you have missed. Before you witness your son’s fall and then his last moments of light before he is dragged down into the darkness, every sunrise and sunset will come and go as an everyday event. After you have seen your son fall from the sky as his first day of freedom is just beginning, you will realize just how cruel and heartless the gods can be. On that day your heart will turn to stone, and you will trust the gods no more.
I honored his last words to me. I shut it all out, focused on my freedom, and saw to myself. Like my nephew, I flew from that place of death.
I reached the shores of Sicily, and the king there gave me refuge in return for my skills. It wasn’t long before Minos came looking for me. In his mind, I was his property and his alone. He went from kingdom to kingdom and posed a riddle before the courts there. He presented a spiral shell and offered great riches to whoever could pass a thread through the entire shell from beginning to end. When Minos was asked to leave the shell with my new patron, the king had one of his servants bring it to me. Remember how I instructed the princess to give her hero and love a simple ball of twine in order to descend into the heart of the labyrinth and return into the light defeating my clever invention? I used a variation of that trick to pass the thread through the shell. In this case, my hero was a simple ant. The reward for this common hero was not a beautiful princess, but a single drop of honey coaxing the ant to thread its way through and step back into the light.
When Minos saw the shell with the thread passed through it the next day, he knew who was responsible for solving his puzzle. He demanded that my new patron produce me. My new king reminded him that there was plenty of time for that. He recommended that later in the day, during the coming feast, would be a more appropriate and dramatic time to present his fugitive craftsman. Minos agreed, and when the king of Sicily suggested that Minos might want to bathe before the feast – and then offered his daughters to assist him with his bath – Minos was even more agreeable. My earlier-than-expected appearance came as a surprise to Minos. He didn’t recognize me at first as I was disguised as a servant. As the king’s daughters distracted him, I and several others advanced with vessels of scalding water which we poured over him once the princesses had stepped back. I looked into his eyes as that water hit him. He realized too late who was in the chamber with him and what his fate would be. He died bellowing his rage, just like his Star Child and all the bulls that were sacrificed in his name. After the death of Minos, I was free to travel and lived out the rest of my days in the courts of true and noble kings.
I had hoped to be remembered as someone whose skills and abilities could be relied upon when asked to take an unfocused vision and turn it into reality. Someone who could take a dream or desire, give it wings, and help that dream to fly. I came to understand that we never really know the true cost of our dreams and actions until it’s too late. When I finally left this earth, I was made to stand before someone I thought I’d never see again. After suffering that terrible death, King Minos was given the task of judging all the souls who pass into the Otherworld.
It matters little what stories they choose to tell about you in the world you’ve left behind when all you have to look forward to is serving a king like Minos and looking into those burning, hate-filled eyes for the rest of eternity.
After leading a nomadic life with his wife Raven, who owns and runs Ancient Star Herbals, Daedalus settled on the coast of Maine, where, as he says, “We have devoted our lives to magick. I personally specialize in Elemental Magick and working with my hands. I have several decades of experience making my living creating a wide variety of things in wood, metal, stone, and bone to include things like custom motorcycles and yachts. The current focus of my personal practice is on the history, creation and use of tools to include ritual and shamanic tools. Raven and I haver recently finished our fifth and final year with the Temple Mystery School.”