September 16

[Darkling Light]

I simply cannot divert my eyes from Rosebay, the divinatory adept that drew out the wonder of the dazzling dance commencing with the second round. As he offers up his prayer, layer after layer of Clan Male dissipates in the smoke with the mystical effluent of the herbs gently sprinkled on the glowing coals. Slowly he strips off the aura of his Spirit Fletcher demeanor and with it goes its yew badge. Rosebay stands naked in the fire light. He is exceedingly tall and although willowy, his masculine strength is well defined in the illumination. With inordinate tenderness Rosebay bathes his body in the fragrant sweetness with reverence to the vessel to which he will return, paying homage to the power with which he has been endowed. Yet, even as he does so, that extraordinary maleness, virility sufficient and pleasing to both Raven-that-Sings-at-Night and Snow Rose, transmutes to effeminate grace. A thin buckskin tunic slides easily down his frame, rich, brown, and lush, as our women wear in the summer. He combs out his long braids, they now rippling down his back, containing the wild flow, a sumptuous wreath on oak leaves and acorns. Transition complete, Rosebay moves as an oak tree moves in the breeze, stepping softly, gracefully on our Earth, as women do, as the woman to which he has transmuted. I am breathless and shiver slightly with his beauty. Rosebay is myth manifest.

As he makes his way delicately to the circle of ritual I wonder in what mystical continuum of life and death our stories flow, even as Rosebay’s hair flows out into tangible awareness. Are they reborn again and again through the telling and re-telling by whimsical, wisdom-struck storytellers? Do they disperse like ancestral dust, dissipate into mist or meet catastrophic oblivion in the some self-propelled avalanche of loss? Or will Gobetween, our eclectic enigma, carry them like a fragile new life into another age?

Rosebay speaks his voice the soft, sweet cos of a dove. He moves and sways to the melody of the air that stirs in unison great stands of glistening rushes. With a single sweeping gesture Rosebay draws out awareness to the tree spirits emerging from the forest nightblack into the circle of our people. Each has donned the green, some flocked in alder, and others wreathed in ash or holly. There are those who sparkle with dogberry while others are dark and brooding like the yew. Somewhere, someone strikes the big drum once, sealing in the magic, launching one and all into the mystery. The drum starts up in earnest, singers bring the songs and tree spirits dance. Leaves rustle, branches rattle, limbs bend and move to the uncanny sound of the wind, produced by the Flutemakers. The deep, resonate heartbeat of our Mother moves up into our bodies until we reside within the womb of wonder and beauty again.

The shades of the forest slip and slide their way amidst the people to the containing edge forming a grove of sanctity. Rosebay, blush and shy, reaches into a basket drawing out mauve blossoms, tucking them demurely into the waterfall of his hair; tilting his head to and fro showing off his beauty. He moves about with the swing and sway of a willow. We are spellbound and silent. A longbow of yew transmigrates from a single thistle plucked from his hair, from another substantifies an arrow. In an incongruous instant the magnificent beauty strikes the pose, invoking a warrior’s fighting spirit. With extravagant motion Rosebay stalks the crowd with drawn bow seeking not human prey but malevolent stealth that hides within the human spirit. Spotting the quarry he is poised, then drops the bow, pulls a thistle head from his dress, and combs away the bane. The tormented relinquish their vexation back to the Earth.

Young and old, the shy ones of Clan Male approach the fire, it burning vividly bright from bearberry bavin. Rosebay touches each with a bundle of short kelp, they now powered up for mystical journeys. Each plucks a birch twig from a vessel and offers it up to the Ancient Ones, the safekeepers of star-struck peripateties. Clowns jump into the light armed with brooms tied up with fescue, the handles carved and lewdly phallic. As they dance the antics of foxes, first on tiptoe then leaping absurdly into the air, the farcists poke at the crowd before frantically sweeping the dust, chasing away the spirits of broken hearts. Absolute joy rises from the people, blowing the cloud into oblivion.

Quiet settles the big drum, replaced by an assembly of pervasive birch. The shifting sound contracts and intensifies the image of intent. A different troupe takes up the beat; they draped in garlands of dandelion, a spirit of abundance. Each in turn drops the flowers into a simmering vessel. Wafts of steam rise and bless the people conveying secrets of prophetic imagery, consecrating our progeny, and hallowing the spirits of love and psychic ineffability. The tie that binds us to beneficence is fortified, peace and expression refreshed, the pain of malevolence flees, defeated by ardent intention.

Rosebay educes our love of history, dancing with a bouquet of burdock. He moves toward the singers blessing them with bits and pieces. No voice or sacred song will be stolen from us tonight, no cycle interrupted, no renewal thwarted, no power thieved from a people preparing for a new life. The birch drum sustains the imperative of historic knowledge. We are clear and protected as each of us sees the foibles of former lives, releasing the impediments, and embracing the challenge of rebirth. Honor is offered to the history that passes before our eyes, touching those who left, and the cycle that brings us the unborn. Deer dancers join us, tapping their antlers to the beat of the drum, uniting the amplitude of distant worlds to our fervency. Love abounds; we shielded behind its nurturing nature.

Ram and Bird, crowned in ivy, join in the joy, spiraling around the people. We sense our immortality as we whorl from antiquity through our passing lives into the cosmic lambency of hope borne beyond this moment. The undulating arms swirling with distant while ever-present stars, the Infinite Present, our tendril resurrection of peace, is secure and protected in the drift.

Prayer Runners move in, they the majestic youth of Clan Greihound, deeply inhaling the perfume exuding from the clutches of the vetch they carry. The scent wafts into the throng as runners twist and twirl restoring rhythmic breath, calling home lovers and empowering hunters. Dancers’ feet move perfectly to the hypnotic drum, resetting the harmonic rescript to cyclical essentiality.

Wielding skewerwood in mock intimidation, the Ram displaces Prayer Runners, watchful and wary of their predacious Greihound foes. Prayer Runners in jest run out of the circle, dragging meddlesome spirits into the brush to be devoured. Satisfied, the Ram drops the skewerwood into the fire from which explodes the vibrant power of enlightenment. Fluctuating creative forces are at once anchored to persistent, unselfish service; the luminary of obligatory incumbency availed before the moonrise of resurrection. Knowledge of details looms in the presence of sacramental bee orchid and those touched by the magic vow to fast until service is rendered up to indigence. Wronged passions are checked, rededication shatters neglect. We are empowered by the collective of our people, enduring as a coalescing force of one. Synodic, we leave nothing unresolved as we submit to a new beginning.

Distant, anxious fear is soothed with tender sprigs of charity. We watch as the offending spirits shrink and disappear in the promise of new life. Rosebay offers up snow rose in memory of its Roebuck daughter, so young and vital, gone already to the Ancient Ones. He and his Twilight Woman stand entwined as Moondog and Gobetween come to their side. Roebuck and Greihound advance, lying to rest the unrequited love lost to them all. Raven-That-Sings-at-Night sobs appallingly as spirit handlers advance to purge the grief stricken display of its determined power, obliterated in the tears that flow unimpeded. Rosebay offers another branch to the flames knowing that Raven-That-Sings-at-Night will move into the season of dreams enveloped in peaceful reflection. Death Clans rejoice. No longer encumbered by the weight of sadness they feel the power already amassing and moving toward the Winter Wait, incalculable blessings await. The aromatic bounty of sea fennel seals the fate of pain; it destroyed before the impending progress into the dictate of goodness. Profound revelation overtakes us; the spirit of grief succumbs in the smoke of bugloss. We are well and prosperous in the blessing of abundance.

A maple drum assumes command and singers surge in its power. Fire keepers add maple to the blaze and spirit handlers prepare in the smoke to appease more of the shades that haunt our lives. Lynx and Moose take the stage stomping their feet to the drum, running off the release. Exorcismal incantations persist replacing tragedy of every known twist with the joy of the hunt for wisdom, insuring that aspirations are realized quickly with vitality and clarity of purpose. Meadow spirits, painted up green with liverwort, knowingly disrupt the flow, chasing off spirits that meddle in the dreamtime, hiding behind troubling eroticism. As their steps re-establish the rhythm visions are re-mixed into receptive wonder. Linden is offered up, she the keeper of life and order. Energy refreshed, love and abundance fortified, we stand ready, renovating swift and healthy. Clutching sprigs of ladies tresses and wintergreen chickweed, our wellness intensifies, luring the spirits that bring profound vision to our lives.

The smudge of feverwort reaches into the vivid, starry night sprung to life with the moonset, She taking her illumination beyond us into the darker world. Dancers, in the splendid esotery of whirling steps, defeat the spirits shooting invisible arrows that break hearts and cloud visions. They slow to an acute, prophetic focus of attention, nibbling incongruously on the delicate leaves of mouse ear. We are spellbound in the silent display and feel protective directness taking form, safe and assured of our rejuvenation.

Wellspring Women join the shades of the meadow wielding bog asphodel, dashing all traces of lingering, meddlesome spells with divinatory magic. We watch as dark shadows are consumed by the night and we are transformed. Bull and Ram advance again, entering into an ecstatic, celebratory dance as Clan Bear passes the delicate black blessing of cow wheat bread to the crowd. The drum and voices cease as the players partake of the blessing. A gaggle of children come forth and sweep the ring into pristine patterns to receive the next wave of blessings.

The beauty of the long song begins again with a single resonating thump on the big drum, re-establishing our intent. One-flower wintergreen is offered up, moving us forward in our resolution. We struggle to stand in symmetry again, expelling the spirit of infidelity corrupting our sacred place within the mystery that envelops us.

A strange and frightful troupe sporting fangs and claws converges on the circle. Whistles, eerie and shrill, commence simultaneously with haunting, inhuman songs. The dancers’ masks are dark and appalling, re-igniting our urgency to put to rest all that distorts the sanctity of our lives. We stand at critical mass; the moment to choose abandonment of either harmony or spiritual catastrophe from which there can be no return. Spirit handlers step into the fray wielding baneberry, driving off the shades of malevolence that dance among us, stealing our health, our sacred expression, our loved ones. It plays out before us in this peaceful yet predacious display as determined goodness slays our fall from grace and our stumbling steps slowly resume their rhythm with cyclical injunction.

The crowd squeals as the apparitions of fear disperse amidst a band of Bardic Hare; they hop while nibbling sea beet. It’s an absurd display, masks both hilarious and nauseating, rebuking our penchant for indolence. Our missteps, seemingly insignificant, one by one have built the very barriers between ourselves, our ancestors, and our vibratory vision of invisible worlds. More and more Hare join in until a great glut moves as an undulating, helpless mass of misgiving flesh, devoid of clarity, ancestral guidance, and the benevolent spirits that light our path. Lynx suddenly spring to action from the stalking stillness of their secret domain, devouring our loathsome loss of awareness, leaving us standing at the edge of an abyss, one filled with the glitter that rebirth holds. In this moment we can choose to remain self-consumed, or leap into the star struck wonder of the unknown, free of that which we have imperceptibly become since we last stood here.

Another group of clowns enters the ring, masked, painted up, and scurrying around like chipmunks. They lift people’s feet, peek under dresses, conduct silly searches of armpits, and draw out miraculously materialized caches of beechnuts. They pummel the crowd with them. Instead of protectively shielding their heads, arms reach into the air to catch the flying, falling blessing of nuts. Deer and Roebuck begin to jubilantly dance as the people they serve munch the medicine that flings open the gate to ancient wisdom. We re-unite with our ancestral memories, invoking the spirit of reflective knowledge, insuring that whatever mistakes we have made we will not make them again. Inhaling, we reacquaint ourselves with the essence of our human spirit, the erudition of our Primordial Mother, She the benefactress of energetic direction and wholeness.

Bear Clan dancers lumber in, slow feet striking every other beat. They, having purified with berries, dress out in flowering dewberry garlands culled from some secret reservoir of perpetual spring. Bear Clan holy men bless the hunters among us, even their steadfast dogs. In return hunters extend their quivers to have them touched by the spirits of strength and empowerment. Some seek blessings against illness; others relinquish parasitic spirits into capable spiritists’ hands. Mummers advance, crowned in antler headdresses, draped in the green buckskins of ritual lovers, revitalized and sanctified by the touch of berry laden Bear Clan medicine. Our women and their cyclical nature are honored, our energy and hope renewed, regeneration secured.

Old Man Beard Lichen, who could ever forget him, calls up the Deer dancers, decorating their antlered masks with generous clumps of his namesake. He adds touches of yellow paint to the dark swirls tattooed in their skin. The Deer prance away bringing comfort to the distressed, placating the spirit of pain; shielding our people with a cloak of protection as bit by bit each of us relinquishes our failings. Gradually we sense ourselves aligning anew to an order so holy, so ancient, and so essential we wonder how we ever strayed so far from the center. What a relief to be coming home again.

We feel a collective shiver of awe as the Deer dancers are joined by those of the Wildcat Clan. They are emblazoned with a pigment rendered in secret from lichen, and dressed frugally in sacred, diminutive pelts. Few have ever seen them, believing that Clan Wildcat was a thing of myth. We watch as they portray the stalking of vulnerability while shaking little clutches of heartfree, relieving the anguish held close in matters of the heart. Clan Wildcat elicits yellow bird’s nest, love medicine, and the magic of lunar cycles and tides. We are reminded that our failure to relinquish old wounds has led us to the spirits of frustration and untenable stress. We concede, so wanting our vision of wonder returned to us with the new life now within our reach. An old group struggles into the circle, laboring to remain on their feet, illustrating our acute hunger to be healed, bound to paralysis by our own hand. Deer work ritual magic to release us from our bonds as the Wildcat brings blessings of traveler’s joy, returning our ability to move, and refreshing our sense of well-being. The offending spirits are gone, replaced by the thrill of creativity. Frayed agitation disperses like steam into the night sky, our attention to beauty returns. Invisible arrows are extracted, in their place we are reunited to harmonic awareness and our profound tie to the prophetic dreamtime. Vision and clarity return to us with a simple blessing of hawkbit. We stand at the threshold of fertile artistic lives once again.

As though awestruck children we watch the dancers and clowns unravel what we have become, slowly, inevitably throughout the cycle now dying before us. It is never quite known when we left our path, we only know that somewhere we had. Where had the bliss in our relationships gone, the peace and happiness of sacred unions? We watch as the spells of love are recast with marjoram. Our happiness and prosperity return in the magic. Much like the tranquility of absolute purpose strikes us when we put aside everyday garments and dress out in the fancy clothes of a sacred agenda, our stance animates with the mandate of mystery. Suddenly Butterfly people flutter in, they as deceptively small as children, wielding the prepotency of Sacred Twins. I, both man and woman, join them, the eminent figure of the power inherent to flawless balance.

The big drum sounds once and silence falls. We wait, holding our breath, for what is thought the exquisite moment of this long ritual, Death Clan Dreaming Twins entering the circle. They are the rarest jewels to stand among us, mortal perfection, and the wild leek of unspoiled, untamed panorama. Each set is clothed in nothing less than an exquisite masterwork. Buckskins are fringed in luxurious, flowing, abundant lengths. Seashells and bone bits tinkle as they move. Some sparkle with micaceous stars; others with vividly iridescent fish scales. We see butterfly wings and sparkling crystals. Each carries the pristine pelt of their clan heredity. Few have been seen in the last near nineteen years and never together. A rare sighting, we forget that they even exist and have long forgotten their beauty, so breathtaking, the thing of visions and other worlds. Dreaming Twins, so utterly obscure, are our only link to the Ancient Ones and they travel those realms with the same ease as air moves across our Earth. In one sweeping motion each takes a crisp, wild leek and bites it. We are so quiet we hear the sharp snap. The spirits of negativity and sickness are crushed beneath the power of this seemingly simple gesture. We are cleansed of the malevolence that has seeped into our lives, and our children are freed from the dark dreams that startle them out of the peace of sleep.

The Deer and Wildcat fade away slowly as we feast our eyes for awhile longer on our Twins. The Butterfly flit into the night and I follow, disappearing into the darkness. Our Twins linger, rekindling the spark of knowing that although unseen they stand among us always, embracing the dreamtime of the Winter Wait in our behalf. They reassure our hearts that the living are protected and the dead are alive, safe and happy in the Infinite Present. They move to take leave of the circle and a quiet cry rises among us as though to say, we are sorry we need you so badly to attend to that which we are incapable of attending ourselves. With that our Twins are gone as well, back to a world we will never know, a realm outside of our comprehension, they the mystery of the dreamtime and ancestral memory.

The palpable silence is replaced by degrees as baskets containing dried strawberries move throughout the crowd. Our happiness soars, we can feel the benevolent spirits joining us in some transmuted social circumstance of joy. Our foresight of good things becomes enhanced and strengthened. Safe and fortuitous, we are energetic, yet peaceful and consumed by the wondrous vision of hope. We know that unseen guardians protect our people, the liaisons between the mystery of spirit and ourselves. We hear their prayers when the snow is deep, and feel the power of their offerings on starlit bitter nights, given selflessly in our behalf. We are blessed.

The Fox Clan shows up as a comic reminder of the rapture inherent in the luminosity of knowledge. They dance and jump and scramble with great glee, dispensing gentle hare’s ear to the people. Their antics, seemingly silly and invoking laughter, are the predacious tricks of cosmic travelers. We acquit our hearts to the conveyance of prayer as a thing of delight. The illumination of spirit is the thing that we hunt. Our failings dissolve and disperse in moments of elation, not as cathartic purges but with love and laughter. And too we seek our reflection safeguarded by the luminous sparkle of water, an image of a whole people, complete and perfect within the redemption of struggling always for it. The evocation of muskroot assures us that benevolent spirits, the expulsors of all malevolence, will prevail as long as we prevail within the living, breathing breath of our community.

Old women assemble before us drawing our attention to the deep Earth secrets that heal the most confounding insular afflictions. We watch as they manipulate the powdered root of hellebore that allows us to travel unseen through dangerous places. The same magic touches the melancholic and frees them of that spirit. Hearts, forlorn and tired, are relieved. Gratitude and blessings are extended to the animals that taught us how to live in a good way with the mystical cycles that govern all of life.

They offer tansy to safeguard our sense of immortality held in the sacrosanct vitality of ancestral memory. Each of us takes a sprig with the promise to attend to the bones of the Ancient Ones tucked away in wild places. We are cleansed and empowered, moving confidently toward the end and beginning, knowing we are safe from distraction as we do so. Benevolence infuses our open hearts as we meticulously put to rest all that troubles us. The Crones offer up allseed securing our confidence, underwriting warmth and abundance, knowing that great wisdom can be attained at night where nothing fearful now lurks. The old women give us the blooms of pot marigold to be tucked away for delicious dreams and prophetic visions. With it we can dance with the spirits again.

The tragic ones are guided toward the Crones, so harrowed and silent we simply can’t comprehend what spirit could be responsible. Cloaked in ancestral wisdom the old women draw forth their yew wands casting one last spell for knowledge. As they do so young apprentices wash the victims’ feet with glasswort opening the way for the offending sprit to flee. The women continue to pray enhancing the release and counseling the anguished in whisper tones that mystical adjustment is taking place. And although what form that change will take is not yet known, it will be good, safe and sanctified, uncluttered and clear. Go to the yew groves, they say, and make that prayer. The Moose come in with plumes and shells filled with eyebright tea. They speak of visionary strength and the clarity of memories as they touch each of the afflicted with a feather full of eyebright. The old women seal in the blessing by dabbing paint rendered from lichen on the sad ones’ foreheads, creating an impervious shield against doubt. They reborn, weeping and grateful leave the old women and return to the containing edge.

As the Old Ones are assisted back to their comforting spots Clan Antelope is assembling to dance. Their feet begin to move with the drumbeat, arms and posture portray the wide-angle vision of their expansive grasp of diversity. This is Antelope medicine at its finest. They shake bundles of sheep’s bit and butterwort, destroying the barriers that blind us to the essentiality of our diverse world, the very gatekeeper of abundance and security. As the Antelope dance they portray our ever-narrowing vision as the catalyst for collapse, crushing world after world beneath its wake until nothing at all exists. It is gentle chastisement at its formidable best reminding us that plants, animals, spirits, even ancestors would leave us if we fail to take care of them. The Antelope presents bouquets of avens, touching the people with the spark of renewed spiritual direction. Enhancing our expression within a multi-faceted world, the medicine fortifies our attention to Her. We are Her lovers, our return to Her a hunger for which She has longed. That love is the quintessential medicine of peace, the thing that gives us strength regardless of outcomes. It keeps the mystic magi inviolably sanctioned even as they confront the direst of circumstances and render resolution. The wondrous diversity of our Mother holds all the secrets to vital lives, residing right at our fingertips so long as we remember to honor Her and read the signs. Our ancestors knew the presage, taught by the benevolent spirits that pity us. We dare not close that gate by neglecting to remember them.

The Ram and Bull come in to affix the medicine as first light seeps into the dark night that earlier enshrouded us. They dance with staunch tenacity, demanding the wisdom of freedom and equality in the resolution of all disputes. As the dancers rattle bundles of couch grass we feel tired and relieved, confident that we move toward new life peacefully and with clarity of purpose. The Bull reminds us that our wisdom is only as astute as that which is reflected in those we have willingly taught. The Ram bound around with bundles of firewort. We shed the last fragments of melancholy, disinterest and hurt. Our energy returns with the rising sun, we are strong, restored to harmony within the natural world, protected. Daybreak brings us home from the journey of the night and we are happy.

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Responses to “September 16”

  1. Angela Cheetham Wilkinson September 19th, 2013 - 11:20 am

    ‘We are happy’ – so ends the chapter.
    Such a simple ending for so extended, energetic, committed, deeply spiritual ritual which is awash with intent to cleanse the troubled soul, bring peace to sufferers and victims whilst connecting, always it seems, to those who have gone before.
    Rosebay’s metamorphosis mesmerised me – his beauty was right with me, I saw him, I felt him – wow!
    The ritual involved so many different groups – like a seemingly endless theatre experience in which, just as the spectators think the curtains are about to fall, new actors command the stage – over and over again. I feel the intensity of the intention – the ‘show’ will not end until every person present is filled with renewed hope and has no evil in their heart.
    Those Dreaming Twins – such drama, the sparkle, those marvellous costumes, the sheen of the fish scales – who could have escaped this great cleansing uncleansed?
    Not me.

    • Theater is a good way to describe many tribal rituals. Spectators are considered an essential part of the performance; even more so when the “actors” begin to intermingle with the spectators. This interaction is often prearranged, the spectator having approached the “actor” before the ritual in order to receive a particular blessing. That is especially true of the clowning. Tribes that have clown societies understand that the clowns, who often use public embarrassment and antagonism as tools, are essential to health and healing. They use the same tactics for resolving disputes between and within families and clans. Clowns are considered the single most important and powerful society in the tribes that include such a society in its pantheon.