Sunday, December 29, 2013

Lughansadh 2003 Monograph

Chapter 1: Dust, darts, and cucumbers.

Be careful what you wish for...

7 years and a few days after being whalloped by the Goddess at the Chalice Well in Glastonbury, I returned. This time I also met her consort, the Horned God. And my body was 5,000 miles away when it happened.

Solaris 2003 was tough for me. This was the first year that the pagan community's 'naked camping' trip was on a private piece of land outside of Madera. Mid-July, no air conditioning, 8 million degrees in the shade. I could barely do my job as 'kitchen witch' and spent most of the weekend lying in a dark room with a fan blowing on me. I felt disconnected from the tribe because of this, and I was looking forward to the Lughansadh/Lammas ritual two weeks later as a way to reconnect. I was also excited because this was one of the few rituals that I was not taking an active role in. In fact, I had no idea what the 'youngsters' would come up with.

The ritual took place in a clearing in a small canyon off of Harvey West Park in Santa
Entrance to the picnic area. The ritual took place
up the path to the left, about 200 yards up.
Cruz. We had done a Beltane ritual there earlier, and so I was familiar and comfortable with the locale. The usual crowd was there at the waiting area below the canyon, swelled by the ranks of the Community Seed 'regulars' who had been at Solaris two weeks earlier and who also were celebrants rather than part of the ritual crew. In addition there were many strangers to me, newbies and solitaries who were attending their first Community Seed gathering, or in some cases, there first public ritual of any kind. My heart swelled as I chatted with old friends and new.

The ritual was late in starting. Even more than usual. So I separated myself from my friends and did some yoga and breathing exercises, melding my energies with the land, catching the wave of this place. I felt relaxed, confident, and light. Light headed, and light hearted. And, as a celebrant and not a member of the crew, I was completely free to play and connect. No lines to remember, no cues to perform, no responsibilities to keep me grounded. In short, all of the circumstances had lined up to allow the cosmos the speak to me, and for me to surrender to it. I mean, Kathy, the quarter caller from the West actually brought in the spirit of the Chalice Well.

You can't plan this stuff, but in hindsight we couldn't have planned it better.

Finally the call came to begin, and we all processed up the canyon a short way to the clearing. There it was explained to the 50 of us that this would a 'different' kind of ritual. One of the central tenants of Lughansadh was that in ancient times a faire would be held this day, with games of skill and chance. The ritual crew had ambitiously decided to take the games part seriously, have a grand competition and crown a king of the year.

Me at Beltane, 2003, in the same ritual space. Yes, I AM wearing
tights and I have a plastic flower lei on my head.
Those who wished to compete were to take a step into the center of the gravel and wood chip circle. I initially decided not to volunteer.  My thinking was that I wanted to support my community, not stand out. I felt that I had done enough standing out by being incapacitated at Solaris, but digging deeper I realized that I did want to compete, but merely as a way of participating, of playing with my tribe. Not an ego thing then, but a service thing. At the last moment I stepped in when the signal was given.

As is the way of things in Santa Cruz 2/3 of the group stepped in with me, including about 10 women who would be vying to become king. I love this town. Our first task was a test of speed: a foot race. The course was from the circle up the canyon to a solitary tree. The wrinkle was that we had to advance with a cucumber between our legs, and if we dropped it we could not pick it up ourselves. I decided to play it safe and just work my way slowly. Oh well. My nylon short pants conspired against me, and I spent the majority of the race trying to convince bystanders to put the big vegetable back between my legs. I finished well back in the pack, with minimal points.

Next was the test of cunning - a riddle contest. Not a strong subject for me, but I enjoyed Will's masterful telling. I guessed one of about 25 riddles. (Something about music and footwear that I figured was about 'Soul'.) So I was well back in the standings for this one as well. But I really wasn't bothered. I had no big desire to win this competition and I was enjoying the fun of hanging out with my friends and acting goofy.

Next was a test of accuracy - darts. Here was some good luck. I grew up with a dartboard and the same cheapo plastic darts that I was now given. Not caring = not thinking. Just aim and hit the target. I came in first. Now the first culling of the herd transpired. Those who had the lowest accumulated scores became fans. My score in darts just barely made up for my flailing in everything else, and I advanced.

The ritual space 7 years later, in 2010. The Jungle is definitely
reclaiming it. View is towards the East.
Down to eight, and the next contest: Divination. Pick a small pot of flowers. Half contain magic beans, half don't. We were arranged in an inner circle with the plants in a still smaller circle in front of us. I was having fun so far, and decided to 'get into it' a little more and see if I could detect which vessel had the bean. I tuned into the same vibrations I sense when pendulum dowsing. Ask questions, receive answers. I reached for the pot directly in front of me, felt, asked, recieved a 'no' and instead picked the pot to my left. Correct choice. My pot had a bean, and the one in front of me (chosen by the sole remaining woman), did not.

Down to four, and the test of strength: Indian wrestling. In this game you grasp right forearms, and place your right feet alongside each other, so each contestant is twisted sideways to face the other. Then you pull and twist and try to get the other person to move their feet. Fairly simple, but not without its technique. I had one major deficiency - I am left-handed. Very strongly. In fact, about the only thing I can do with my right hand is (as George Bernard Shaw said), scratch my left elbow. The other three semi-finalists were divvied up according to size. So Tymn got Mike, both average size, and I got Ranger John - big guy. How could I hope to compete against a large Righty? I couldn't. So I decided to have some fun with it. Tymn and Mike went first, and while they were competing I went to work on Ranger John.

"Sorry to have to do this to you." I said. "But only one of us can win this." A low voice, just enough to carry to him. He responded to my trash talking as I hoped he would. He started to care. And caring equals thinking. I had him thinking about how much he wanted to be crowned king. "Only one of us can go on," I continued, "I hope you won't take this personally." His eyes glinted and his breathing quickened. He knew I was kidding, but he was getting into it just the same. Mike had won the other match: It was our turn to go.  My gaze never left his as our forearms interlocked. I swear I saw his nostrils flare. The order was given, I let my arm loose, he pulled on it, shuffled his feet to compensate, and I won.

Ranger John and I cardboard tube fencing during Lughanasadh, 2008.
And then there were two. Me and Mike. And here is where I started to care. Because I knew Mike, and I knew that he was new to the tribe. He had just come to Solaris by himself the two weeks before, and we immediately inducted him as one of our own. Still though, as great a guy as he was, was he more deserved of the crown than me? I had to think on that, and decide whether thinking was the right thing to do.

The final test was one of power. Simple yelling and the crowd would vote who was the most powerful. Mike, as the newcomer, went first, and he was damned impressive. He stepped back, out of breath, and I had the circle to myself. And I said to myself. "You are not here to beat anybody. You are here to have fun." So I decided to milk it a bit. I went into a contemplative crouch, head down, alone with my welling power. The crowd got it and laughed. I picked up a pinch of dirt and rubbed it slowly between my fingers, ala Russell Crowe in "Gladiator". The crowd went nuts. What I was really doing of course, was stalling. Hoping the judges would forget Mike's performance - and giving myself a chance to relax and get a really big breath of air. I began my yell, slowly rising to my feet and giving it all I had.

I finished and there was Silence. The voting would be by show of hands, except that we would not see who was voting. Mike and I grinned at each other, closed our eyes, and waited. Finally we heard Will, the consummate master of ceremonies, say in a perfect stage whisper: "Holy Shit."

A tie. Each of us had received 27 votes.

Now what? I suggested "pissing for distance" to the crowd, but that didn't have many
Mike (left) and me (right) playing with Tymn and Catherine as
Aumakua, in a hotel room at Pantheacon, 2005.
supporters. After much consultation and badgering from the circle the ritual crew decided to repeat the Indian wrestling. And Mike, was, of course, another Rightie. I kept my mouth shut and we grasped right forearms. I had about 4 inches and 40 pounds on him: How strong could he be? We squared off, no fancy trash talking or mind games anymore.

And I learned that size is no measure of strength. Also, Mikey was amazingly flexible. Grasping forearms we struggled for a bit and then I slowly bent him over backwards. Eventually I had him with his head touching the ground, but amazingly his feet had not moved! I was impressed and I had another conversation with myself, as we paused, quivering. I decided that wanting it or not, competing or not, thinking or not, I deserved to win because I had more experience with the tribe. Whatever they had in mind for the 'king' to do, I felt that between the two of us I could better serve the community. And that was what convinced me. It wasn't an ego thing, it was a service thing.

Crouching low and building up the energy in my legs - all that soccer and cycling pays off sometimes - I locked my elbow and picked him up by his forearm with my legs and threw him over my head. Tenacious to the end he did not let go, but took me with him. We collapsed together in a heap, engulfed in a cloud of dust, surrounded by wild applause. We both had left our feet, but he had left his first, and so - I won. 

We picked ourselves up, gave each other a hug, and he nobly stepped back, leaving me alone in the circle. I looked around me, smiled - and slammed through the canyon wall at the speed of light.

Chapter 2: "You must be God." 

The last linear thing I remember was that I was looking at all of the cheering people and laughing at myself for having pulled off this stunt. Then the voice of the universe spoke to me inside my head. (Well, spoke isn't exactly the method of conveyance, and the inside of my head was just the closest point in three-dimensional space.) There were no actual words, as words are a recent addition to the communication devices available to humankind. But, as with all things temporal and pan-dimensional, we will attempt to force these things into the framework of what we normally refer to as "reality".
The canyon wall that I went through.

A sound like a thousand-voiced choir speaking in perfect unison asked if I would like to go. As with my earlier freak-out at the Chalice Well, the voice was polite, but its energy was insistent. The voice was different than the other one though: More male. I considered for a moment. Standing in the middle of a circle of 50 people - most of whom I did not know - is hardly ideal conditions. On the other hand, I was among the people that I loved and trusted most in the world. So I assented to the request.

I found Jenya, the priestess of the ritual, and tried to speak to her, to explain to her what was happening to me, but I was already beyond words. Our eyes met however and the concern and alarm in hers let me know that she had an idea of what was going on.

From there I looked slightly to my left, at the canyon wall. I was facing East and a little North. And they took me. I saw the canyon wall. Then I saw the trees and shrubs of the canyon. Then I saw two sand-colored foxes who were watching the ritual. Then I saw a caterpillar on the spiky leaves of a juniper bush, then I saw smaller organisms. Cells? Bacteria? Viruses? Parasites? I could not tell. Then the fey: Elves, Fairies, Sprites, Goblins, every and all descriptions and species were there. Vaguely aware gossamer plant spirits to mischievious leprechauns in short green jackets. Do fairies read Brian Froud? Or does he just have the direct connection to their sensibilities? No matter: we see what we want to see and they appear as they wish to be seen. To me they FILLED the canyon from wall to wall, doubled and tripled through each other and through us.

Then it was dark and I saw giants. These were amorphous blobs, hundreds or thousands of feet high, each with a vague pastel color. Imagine Stonehenge from the perspective of a hedgehog, with the sarsens made out of various flavors of Jell-O®. I went through and around them. What were they? I believe they are the transitional stage between life and non-life, between three-dimensions and four or more, between reactive and conscious awareness, between linear time and radial time, between micro and macro. The vaguely-aware bridge between nothing and everything.

And then the blackness slowly filled up with light and I was flying over the Isle of
Glastonbury, the "Isle of Avalon" (unknown Photographer)
Avalon, back to the land where I had first met the Goddess 7 years before. This time I was headed straight for Glastonbury Tor. But this was a previous version of the Tor, with more land on its top and no trace of St. Michaels tower. I believe I was not in any actual era of the Tors history, but rather I was at the version that has always existed, just beyond our senses. Glastonbury exists and ages and transforms. Avalon IS. And the light continued to grow as I barreled towards to the plain on the top of the Tor. Light beyond our senses, beyond our capacity, beyond our range. A spectrum that we have no instruments for.

Now simultaneous with this I was also looking back at the sacred circle as I was looking forward. I was also watching myself from a third-person view. The things you can do in radial space. I was looking back because I was concerned. I remembered that the other time I had done this I had one hell of a time getting back to my body/time/dimension. So I was trying to make a path, or gather some landmarks, or leave a trail of bread crumbs, or something that would help me return. (Unlike Astral Projection there is no string of light involved to lead one back.)

What I discovered was that I was taking some people with me. My friends knew of my earlier freak-out and were aware of what I was experiencing. Others too had an inkling of what was transpiring, and were using their powers to assist me. What I saw looking back was a human chain, stretching from the baffled celebrants in the circle, to the more
powerful witches, to the High Priests and Priestesses, to my girlfriend Karen who knows me best, and lastly to Catherine, who was present with me at the Chalice Well, and so knew where I was going. I could see them all, hands locked, stretching back along the path that I was zooming through, and I knew then that I would be safe. I snapped back to forward view and completed the journey.

(Again, the above is told in linear perspective. What I experienced at, time, was all of it happening simultaneously. I was in the circle, through the canyon wall, looking at myself, watching from the Tor and flying through the ether all at once. Once through the veil all of these seeming contradictions cease to be a problem. We humans are equipped for the spirals beyond the veil, and once through, we adapt {or re-learn} amazingly quick.)

The light on top of Tor was blinding, there was a sound beyond sound that was deafening, there was a smell like blood and roses and sweat and musk and dirt and sex that would have made my nose explode. If my normal senses had been present, at least. As it was my Higher Self could handle the sensational overload easily. What was harder to take in was the Love. I was in the presence of the Lord of the Forest and the Dark Lady, the Goddess and the Horned God, the One that we see as two that become one over and over again. And they were nothing but light and nothing but Love.

And there are really no words for their audience. But I think that mystics and shamans and the Holy from all times and all places and all faiths would know of what I cannot put into words. Humans perceive and divide and dress up Divinity as their path dictates, but the immutable essence remains whole and pure. And I was in his, in their, eminently beautiful awareness for all time.

Or at least it felt that way. How long I was away is hard to gauge. Call it half-an-hour to
The view from the top of the Tor. Chalice
Hill on the right, Wearyall Hill ahead.
45 minutes. Same as Freak-out #1. But, unlike my serene and pastoral yoga session at the Chalice Well, there was still a Lughansadh ritual to complete back at Harvey West. And I was the star attraction. And I was a basket case.

What follows is a report of what the rest of the ritual looked like. I am relying on others accounts for most of this, as I was only dimly aware of this world, and, as I was seeing it all in spiral time, it all happened simultaneously. What I remember seeing was flashes of faces, dirt in a cauldron, 10,000 fairies, my nose being wiped, and beating hearts, all overlapping.

The script called for the winner of the games to be crowned king. Then a short speech, if the king chose. After that the celebrants of the circle to were to bring a pinch of dirt with them to the center of the circle where it would be blessed by the king before being placed into a large cauldron. Then there would be a dance of some sort, a raising of energy and the sending off of the wishes of the community. Then the usual dismissal of the elements and closing. I am afraid, however, that I screwed the whole thing up. But I think we ended up with something much more profound and memorable.

First off, I was immediately cared for. Jenya, Karen, Catherine and others gathered around my staggering form and surveyed what was left of my consciousness. They decided to continue. On with the show! Jenya, for one, suddenly had a major problem. As High Priestess she was in charge of a ritual that had just spiraled completely out of control.

The crowning I only vaguely recall. Whoever did it was was shorter than I, and the crown of leaves was about 4 sizes too small. (I have an enormous skull.) I think it fell off and I don't have any memory of it after that. I was standing, barely, staring in the direction of the canyon wall (East and a little North remember, towards England). My gaze however was fixed in the middle distance, about 30 feet away. My eyes were a little buggy but not wide-eyed surprise, my skin temperature had noticeably risen and the energy radiating out from me was off the charts. I was there but He was here, trying to fit into a human body. Oh Boy. Karen and Catherine were concerned for me, but not overly frightened. They knew where I was, and they knew that I had been there before. I would be back. But in the meantime...

Cauldron (Pic from Ebay)
Time for the dirt-in-the-cauldron Working. This called for everyone in the circle to gather in close, form a line and take turns approaching me at the cauldron. But there was a problem. All of the sympathetic energy of the circle, all of the people who were psychically attempting to assist me in my trance were actually amplifying the buzz.

Channeling Cerennunos and having a direct energy line from diety back to sacred space is powerful enough, but coupled with 50 witches actively pouring their energy into me was simply overwhelming. I was a power outlet, a lightning rod, a 40 watt bulb in a 100 watt socket. And, being 5,000 miles away, bodiless, and in another dimension, there was nothing I could do vent or ground this energy. Instead I exploded, falling to my bare knees, praying, braying, raging, crying, mindless. My poor head, carried on the momentum of my bloody knee-drop, plonked down straight into the cauldron.

I remember liking the cauldron. It was cool and dark in there. And the thick iron shielded me somewhat from the effects of the circle. But I eventually came back out into the light, trailing tears, snot and blood. Bodies gathered around me. Peeks of the canyon wall beyond. I believe I was still on my knees, but gentle hands were holding me upright. And then face after face knelt before me and gave their offerings to the community spell.

The radial-time-as-processed-through-the-linear-brain gave me a weird perspective on this. I saw a single head with blurred features. Then a focused face would appear out of the head for a moment and then retreat back into the blur. And then another completely different face would rise. It was as if each face was swimming towards me and then backing away. I don't remember any of the celebrants moving away, or kneeling before me. Just their faces, emerging from the mists.

Some dim part of me wanted to be there at the circle, to accept the offerings of the
Pic of me at Pantheacon.
Photo by Shimmering Wolf.
celebrants. But I could not organize my brain. Humans are very capable of being comfortable across the veil, but we have big trouble being in two dimensions at once. Our wetware just won't partition like that. Plus I was also channeling Him, so it was bi-location sickness AND multiple personalities.

I was trying very hard to focus and look each person in the eye, but I kept seeing their auras, their futures, their sins, their beating hearts. And, again, I was seeing them one by one and all at once at the same time. The celebrants really were looking into the eyes of the horned god. But it wasn't me. I could feel him though, looking out of my eyes. I was rising and falling with his lifeforce - pulsing with his touch. I could create life with my finger, and take it with a thought.

I am told that at one point the circle formed itself into a flying wedge. I was the apex, those who knew me best were directly behind me, High Priests and ritual crew behind them, and the rest of the circle fanned out beyond, all touching, all pouring their energy into me.

Eventually all had made their petitions and I was faced with daylight again. On my feet again, suspended between helpers like laundry, I could see the canyon wall once more. The foxes had fled. The fey were still there, some interested, some not. The cauldron was before me, blessedly cool and quiet but now full of the wishes and blessings of my tribe. And a very old part of my brain now took over. Somewhere in my genetic map I had been here before and knew the routine.

Feasting area and 'my' tree.
I shook off my friends, staggered, went immediately back to the gravel and wood chips on my knees (youch!) and plunged my face into the cauldron once more. This time my hands went in as well and I emerged with two handfuls of the sacred dirt, laced with the desires of the circle. I stared at it, part of me wondering what the hell I was doing, and then I smeared the dirt all over my face. In this way I took on the wishes of the tribe, aligned myself with their needs, promised my sacrifice to the common good.

I am told that somewhere along here I gave a speech of sorts. I do not recall anything about it, except that it involved Mike, the 1st runner up. I think it had something to do with naming a successor.

When next I came to I was standing again, a few steps away from the cauldron, and other hands and shoulders were supporting me. I was beginning to swim back to this dimension, but I was still mostly useless. I felt like a newborn, learning to use my faculties, senses, and limbs again. I perceived that Jenya and her crew had decided to dispense with the rest of the ritual, quickly close the circle and get me out of there. I was dragged to the side of the circle, and watched feebly as the circle was closed.

I remember Zoe wiping my nose for me; a kind and loving gesture. The ritual ended and groups of people began to saunter down to the picnic area for the usual feasting. But I could not walk. I was supported mostly by Jim at this point, whose shoulders are wide enough for several folks to lean on. He performed some sort of grounding exercise on me that helped enormously, although I have no memory of what it was. Someone else behind me - Brighton? - performed a chakra aligning move that allowed me to walk better.

Matthew and Karen took over at this point and decided to retrieve me. I was trying to come back, but part of me did not want to leave their Holy Presence on the Tor. Plus, He was reluctant to leave my brain, and intra-veil there is all sorts of other muck and residues to wade through.
I was propped up against this tree,
facing left.

So when Karen spoke my full name to me I am told that I gave her a dark look and waved off her words like they were attacking birds. When Matthew asked me what my name was I growled back "My. Name. Is. Legion."

(This answer completely unnnerved a Catholic friend of mine, until I realized that I probably recalled the name from a video game I was playing at the time.) Matthew quite rightly rolled his eyes at me and repeated the question. And between the two of them I was brought back. Well the connection with Avalon was severed, but I was still somewhere between the worlds. But from here on, I have a coherent and linear memory of events.

My friends attempted to feed me, but I was knew at this chewing thing, and didn't get very far. Catherine came through by chewing fruit herself and then transferring it to me via kiss. Which is just about the most intimate act that one person can do with another. Food and drink helped enormously. Nothing like a snack to make one feel human again.

I half-walked and was half-drug out of the circle at last. I said two things on the way down. My first report. I repeated these two phrases many times on the way down and I have no memory of them. First I told everybody around me, "So BIG...." and then I asked, "Why do my knees hurt?"

And the weirdest circle in the history of Community Seed came to a close.

Me in 2003.
My posse decided to set me beneath a large tree, slightly apart from the picnic area. Blankets were placed, and I was propped up with my back against the tree, which missed its brethren that had been chopped down in decades gone by. I was fed more bread and fruit, and I drank everything I could reach.

Many celebrants came over from the picnic area to speak with me, or receive counsel, or just bring offerings of food. I did what I could, but having just learned how to chew, the finer points of diplomacy were beyond me. I tried to convey that what they were feeling from me, in the circle, and now, is NOT ME. I was channeling a God, and I was still buzzing from the encounter. 

Women in particular were looking at me in a way that I was not comfortable with. Thank you for your interest, but the horned god has left the building.

I was still pulsing with the afterglow though, so aside from the innocuous answers I gave to people, I knew who was cheating on their spouses, who would cause their parents profound grief, who had taken life with their bare hands, and so on. But these things were not for me to know.

Later I was taken to a Ranger John's house where a small group of us talked and laughed and ate even more food well into the evening. And I went home that night and dreamed the most beautiful dreams of Love beyond imagination.

Be careful what you wish for!

Angus McMahan

 (All photos from Authors collection, unless otherwise attributed.)

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