"Looking for the O.T.O. huh?"
I turned to look over my shoulder and was somewhat disconcerted to discover someone already there. He was a little taller than myself, with wispy black hair and a jack-o-lantern grin.
I'd been in town for only a few weeks, although I suppose "in town" would be a somewhat generous description because I was in the Navy at the time, stationed aboard the U.S.S. Samuel Gompers. I didn't really live in any town. I did get into Oakland and San Francisco quite a bit though, and I'd been exploring what the Bay Area's various occult bookstores had to offer. At the moment, I was in Ancient Ways.
Now, I'd been in occult bookstores before. The first one was in Erie but it was more New Age than occult, with lots of crystals and singing bowls. Very little in the way of spellbooks. There was Harry's in Philadelphia, which was very much like an old-world apothecary, but the first really impressive magic shop I'd been to was The Magickal Childe in New York City. It was marvelous - you could practically feel the evil oozing out into the street. Still, Ancient Ways had quickly become my new favorite.
One wall was full of books, the other full of herbs. Glass display cases showed off various curios and artifacts from this tradition or that, along with jewelry, tarot cards and all manner of ritual tools. And, as I was about to find out, Ancient Ways also offered classes. At the moment, I'd been flipping through their class schedule when I came across a flyer for Thelema Lodge OTO.
I'd read about Ordo Templi Orientis and the Golden Dawn, and other magical orders in my books, but I'd never met anyone who was actually a member of any of them. Once in Philadelphia, I'd asked a store owner if he had any personal experience with the OTO. He lowered his voice and asked "Are you a member?" and when I said no he leaned back and said "Well, I don't think they really exist." It didn't help.
So I spent the afternoon pestering Ebony about the OTO, and I came back to attend his Ceremonial Magic classes. Aside from a few bumps in the road (like having to explain to him that not everyone knew Solomonic Hebrew) it went really well. Everyone attending learned a lot about the structure of ritual, most importantly how to recognize and use ceremonial formulas.
So that became my life. I conveniently moved in across the street from Ancient Ways, and I'd endure days in the Navy so I could rush home and go to Ebony's class or go hang out at Ebony's house. Everything became a lesson, whether we were pawing through his library, frankensteining a computer together out of spare parts or just getting high and playing chess. I was regularly attending the Gnostic Mass at Thelema Lodge on 63rd street and getting to know everyone in the community. For the first time in my life, I was receiving formal instruction in magic from someone who was an actual Master.
Life was good.