Long before all living memory, and even beyond the reach of history, there existed a time of what today we might call magic. It was not adolescents waving sticks and speaking incantations. It was not old hags burning candles in front of cauldrons filled with eyes of newts and toes of frogs. Neither was is prehistoric hippies chanting to trees. It was a dark magic, that sometimes granted dark gifts. The magic is gone, but these dark gifts still present themselves even to this day.

I am no expert on these prehistoric times. I am no archeologist or academic. But I am the recipient of a small collection of dark gifts. And I am not the only one. There are millions of us, and many more receive such dark gifts each day. Most turn their faces from them, so strong is both their power, and revulsion. As a result, many recipients do not even realise they possess such gifts.
The gifts vary, but there are some common things all of us recipients share. The first is a kind of knowledge of a time we have never experienced. Deep down we know from where these gifts come. They come from a time where sacrifice meant more than giving up the remote control for the evening. In this time it was common knowledge and considered common sense that to make any real progress in life, one had to make a sacrifice – and not something trivial. The powers that be, who had the ability to help you, demanded significant sacrifices. They might have demanded your time in years of servitude. They might have demanded all you possessed. They might even have demanded a life – yours or the life of one you loved.
In these days of religion things are much more convenient. If we want something we apply for credit. Or we might sell something we own to get something new. Or perhaps we just pray for it. Or maybe we just take what we want and ask for forgiveness later – more prayers or confession with a few our fathers or hail Marys. Sacrifice has been reduced to dollars and cents, pounds and pence, euros and cents. And in the case of forgiveness, it is reduced to attendance at a service and possibly a few prayers asking for forgiveness. Done.
But the dark gifts come from the olden time. No prayer will get you one. Only good, old-fashioned sacrifice will get you one. And even then you might mistake the catastrophic impact of the sacrifice, for the gift itself.
So just how powerful are these dark gifts? One need only look at their source to understand their power. Witness a death, share the moment of death, prepare another for an impending death, or even be responsible for a death. Experience any of these with someone as dear to you as you could ever imagine or that the subject of the sacrifice reaches into someone you live dearly — these are the sorts of sources that spawn the dark gifts.
It is difficult to describe the true nature of the gifts. This magical fog makes it impossible for the granted to pass along the gift to those who have not yet been granted. You see, you are not allowed to prepare to receive the gift. What I can say, is that the gifts center around a powerful new perspective on the secrets of life and death. Once received they can never be returned, no matter how much one would like to. In fact, it is a rare person indeed who would not trade their dark gifts just to undo the brutal sacrifices that delivered them. But the dark gifts don’t work that way. It is part of what makes them so powerful
The sacrifices cannot be undone or unseen. They are with us until it is our turn to join the real silent majority.
What I can say, is they offer insight. It is as if you have been granted a kind of superpower that you never asked for and would gladly return if you could. But it is more than just an insight. It is almost a being unto itself now within you. It avails itself to you whether you want it to or not. It has some autonomy. There are times when just being normal is all you really want. It is often at such times it comes out and reminds you it is there, shares its power, and subtly reminds you that you do not call all the shots. It forever humbles you.
Perhaps the most unnerving thing about these dark gifts is that they push you in the path of other dark gifts and sign you up for sacrifices you never agreed to. At the very least, a dark gift casts a shadow over a bearer’s life. There are probably statistics one could bring forth, but my instinct as a bearer is that these gifts can and do demand the ultimate sacrifice of the bearer most of the time. They allow us to burn brighter, but shorter than if we had never had such dark gifts. Some bearers succumb to stress-related disorders that are the fellow travelers of dark gifts and what spawn them. Some retreat into isolation and deeply embrace the gifts, become addicted to them and never come back from the rabbit hole. Others still take their own lives, unable to bear the weight of these gifts.
This all sound rather grim, so how can one call such a thing a gift at all? Well, there is no deeper understanding of compassion, particularly as it relates to death and other catastrophic forms of loss, than through a dark gift. There is no more profound grasp of the nature of love itself, but for the power of a dark gift. And who would not sacrifice a part of one’s own life for these two insights alone?
One last query remains and that revolves around those who know bearers. The gift may live and die within the bearer, but it reaches out to anyone who is close to the bearer. They can feel its shadow. But they can also benefit from its power. You will know when you have been in the presence of a bearer by the power of love and compassion the emanates from them. It is the calling card of the gift and you are lucky enough to feel it, embrace it, experience its joy, without having to make a direct sacrifice. But know that in those ancient times, when magic ruled, no good thing came without a sacrifice of some sort.

3 Comments

  1. I would like to thank Rachel Hawadi who inspired me this morning to bring this piece out from the back of that dusty drawer, uncrumple the vellum and transfer its fading ink to this blog.

  2. Thank you Mark….for this. The joy and energy of your gift of Kipuka. And the knowledge of the gift you carry. No….your not alone.

    1. Thank yo so much Lauren. Your timing is excellent as ever — My next piece is on loneliness and it is a bit of a bear to write. Taking much longer than I had hoped to write.

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