Sometimes you have to need to provide context before you can tell a story. Sometimes, it’s best to tell a story first and dig into the context afterward. This is the story of how I came to perform my re-Dedication as a part of my Beltane festivities in 2009 … I’ll get to the context in a little bit.
It was my second Beltane after my failed life in St. Louis, the first with Aradia. It may almost go without saying tat we were at Camp Gaea, with my massive tent set up in Dava Wood. I had big plans for the weekend, aimed at jump-starting my magical career* in preparation for the re-Dedication I intended to perform at some point over the summer, and we were partying with the KU Cauldron. It’s tempting to break this into three different stories which coincidentally took place over the course of a single evening, but … I’m not so sure that they’re unrelated.
Aradia and I had already been camping for a day or so, but we were waiting for some other folks to join us and make the Sabbat a bigger event. The Cauldron showed up just in time to be late for dinner. While they ate and got ready for their own celebrations, I went off to the side to do my solitary work. My first shamanic journey had led me down a particular path that I had been afraid to follow through to the end, and I felt that in order to move forward I needed to finish that journey.
The original journey took place in St. Louis, where a friend of mine showed me the rabbit hole and I described to her what I was seeing. I went down, down, down, and came out of a cave located on a cliff wall. A golden dragon lounged at the top of the cliff, far above me, and a jungle stretched out in the valley below.
I flew down to the jungle, and then walked. There wasn’t a path so much as a direction I knew I needed to go. I came across an albino boa constrictor and a massive furry spider on the way.
I ultimately found myself at the foot of a step pyramid, which I climbed. At the top of the step pyramid was (perhaps) the strangest spirit-contact I have yet made: a statue of a feathered serpent which spoke to me briefly.
I descended into the bowels of the temple via a wooden ladder and a hole in the top. There was a cave within, glowing with green light, and a naked crone guarded the entrance. She didn’t bar me passage, but the glowing cave frightened me, and I retreated.
That Beltane (about two years later) I went back to the cave, following the same route as before. I collected the totems** I had met the first time, draping the boa around my neck and wearing the spider as a hat.
What I found was powerful, but somewhat anticlimactic. Inside the cave was a glowing green well, which I jumped into. I found myself falling through a void, and each of my chakras was blown open, cleared, and cleansed. I came back to the waking world trembling, and aching to be filled.+
I promptly found my wine and blessed it in the name of Dionysos. Rabbit++, the head of the KU Cauldron, came running over waving his bottle of vodka. “Do me! Do me!” I looked at him, looked at the bottle. I took it and raised it over my head: “You heard him, boss.”
The Cauldron as a whole performed their Beltane ritual, in which Araida and I participated. Then we got to drinking.
I was pretty hammered, way more than one toke over the line, and still buzzing from my initial ritual, when Rabbit announced his intention to go find a grove where a few of the less pragmatic visitors to Camp Gaia had made a grave for some baby rabbits that had been killed and partially eaten. He wanted to make an offering … and had even brought (a very, very cheep airplane bottle of) rum for the Baron Samedi.
Before you ask, no: Rabbit is not a trained practitioner of any tradition to whom the Baron is native. He is (or was, he may have grown up by now) the sort of eclectic Wiccan to utter the phrase “The Goddess would never let anything bad happen.” in all seriousness. As you can probably imagine, I thought that is was a Very Bad Idea. Also, I didn’t want to get up off my lazy ass. This became my problem when it turned out that everyone else wanted to go and I was the only one who knew the way in the dark. And since I neither wanted them to get lost nor to be left by myself… well, let’s just say that the evening ended up getting a lot more interesting.
I led them out to First Field, and we found a circle of trees which Rabbit decided was the grave-site. He poured his rum and said his invocation … and the Baron appeared. Or something did, anyway. This is one of the few times in my life I have seen spirits with my eyes: a black man in a ragged suit with a top hat and eyes like burning coals. His smile was definitely threatening. Almost as soon as he appeared, a feminine force rose up behind us. I couldn’t (or didn’t, at any rate) turn to see her, but the sense of her was massive and bright blue. All she said was, “Play nice.” And everybody did.
I stood there, watching as he continued with the ritual, until something called me into the woods. Thoth’s Grove, of the many temple-spaces erected around Camp Gaia, is located just off of First Field, and I found myself weaving through the woods into that space.
As I mentioned above, I had already written a dedication ritual in the weeks before. It was beautiful and elaborate and thick with symbolism … and it all went out the window when the sky opened up and a god spoke to me: “NOW.”
So I knelt down, and Dedicated myself to my path then and there, before the as-yet-unidentified god in the sky. It was spontaneous, minimalist, and inarticulate … but it seems to have done the trick.
When I was done, something settled over me and rode me back to where the others were standing. The only words I could say were “Follow me” as I led them back to the Grove, where they had their own transcendent experiences. This is the first and only occasion on which I have been ridden by a power. It was pretty fucking trippy, and I have no idea how to describe it except to say that it faded slowly once I had fulfilled its requirements, rather than ending as suddenly as it began.
When all were done, we went back to the camp site and partied until we collapsed.
* Boy, howdy, did I.
** I hate that word, but I don’t really know a better one.
+ Take that as you will.
++ Not his real name, but you see why it’s appropriate.