The following is a guest post by Pylon member Nachtreisander, sharing his unique perspective of our beautiful city.
In Austin and the areas surrounding it, hidden waters run deep and dark. When I first moved to Austin in the early ’90s, I quickly became aware that the city seemed to be a magnet for certain types of individuals, who like myself were seeking things that seemed less easily attainable elsewhere. “Finding oneself” is not unique to the young, nor is Austin the only city that attracted people who wanted to live unconventionally, but it sure seemed like early ’90s Austin was one of the major destinations for individuals interested in breaking from the pack, to explore different ways of thinking and living.
I was still in the very early years of my own magical journey, having absorbed a few years of random new agey, occultnic gobbledygook, before rejecting most of it. I entered my early 20s realizing that I didn’t know much about anything, except that the goofy combination of Wiccan beliefs and ’70s bookstore mysticism that I’d previously (and eagerly) embraced seemed like bullshit. But I felt pretty strongly that magic was real. Some of it sure seemed to work, and I’d settled into a comfort zone of being a LaVeyan style Satanist, for lack of finding a better fit. I never bothered with joining the Church of Satan, as it didn’t seem necessary to me. LaVey’s written works were simple enough to digest, and I didn’t need help getting laid, or a new social environment. I didn’t feel like I wanted to belong to an organized group of any kind at that time. But LaVey’s ideas were simple and refreshing, in that they were relatively lacking of the kinds of claptrap that made other magical systems off-putting to me back then. Satanists believed in magic, but seemed more concerned with living a fulfilling life in the real world, and that resonated strongly with me.
I’d grown disillusioned with crystals and chakras, and I wasn’t interested in replacing the creepy, jealous God of Abraham with Mother Nature either. That growing discontentment with the new agey, white light style of spiritual revolt that seemed to be dominant in occult circles I was privy to paralleled a feeling of running against the wind in other areas of my life. I lived in Houston at the time, and while I was comfortable there, I was also bored.
Boredom is a strange feeling, as it can indicate that a person needs to open their eyes and work to find things that stimulate them. It’s a bourgeois obstacle much of the time. Boredom is often a problem with being too comfortable with an unchallenging state of being. It certainly was for me at that time. I began to feel like I needed to get out of town and see what experiences other places might offer an oddball like me. I suggested to my roommate that we should check out Austin, which was only a three hour drive, and had a reputation as being a more bohemian town than Houston. Neither of us had ever spent any significant time there, but after making a day trip to the Capitol City, I quickly began making plans to move there, shocking my roommate and most of the people I socialized with. I’d sensed that Austin was the right place for me, and within a month I was living there, knowing only a small handful of people.
Austin in the early ’90s was still a magical place, both literally and figuratively. For young people, or the young at heart, it was on a short list of cities where being a weirdo was OK. Rent was cheap, there were plenty of crappy low effort jobs available, and it seemed like the perfect place to run to if the pressures of other cities and mainstream culture had gotten you down. Consequentially, a LOT of people flocked there from all over the country, looking to forge their own version of the pursuit of happiness. The city had a transient feel, and still does, being a melting pot of people from all over the country. Meeting the occasional Austin native was rare, and felt like spotting a unicorn, but it didn’t matter. Sure, some of the aging hippies bitched about how things were falling apart, but Austin still seemed like a place where being strange wasn’t detrimental, and could actually be a positive personality trait. I took to the town like a fish to water, and it was definitely a case of being the right time and place for me.
In the first few years I lived there, I began to have a growing awareness of a mostly hidden current that runs through Austin, and it’s one that can be an extremely creative catalyst for certain individuals, but it can also destroy others. Austin is built on and from that current, but like magic itself, tapping into it comes with certain risks.
While it’s true that people who live fast often die young, that seems doubly true here in Austin. Time and time again, I saw people who were drawn here almost as if to a beacon, to ride a high wave of success or creativity for a few years, only to meet sudden and abrupt ends. In other cases, the city’s reputation as a paradise for slackers led to many naive folks mingling with dangerous people who moved here to victimize or exploit them. Part of that can be explained simply as growing pains, as a city explodes in population, and goes through changes as a result, but to me, there has always been a lot of danger in Austin, just barely hiding under the surface, and it eats up those who are unaware or ill-equipped to handle it.
But that danger and the city’s dark nature is also exhilarating and empowering to individuals who approach it with caution, and who are comfortable working with dark currents. People who naturally suspect that the smiling hippie guy they’ve met at a party might also aspire to be the leader of his own death cult are probably also suited to working with the magic that is native to this place. One should be prepared to encounter some hard truths along the way, and to face the sometimes uncomfortable need to discard things along the path of self transformation. Moving to Austin was one of several events that created massive changes in my life, and the dark nature of the town has continued to inspire and transform me. I changed into a person that grew dissatisfied with Satanism, although to a much lesser extent than other magical systems I’d encountered previously. Its use of Satan as a symbol of personal sovereignty and rebellion still rings true, but it became unsatisfying to use an Abrahamic boogieman once the fun shock factor wore off. So, what I have Become is deeply tied to Texas, but especially Austin.
More on this at another time…