Pray to the Moon when She is round,
Luck with you will then abound,
What you seek for shall be found
On the sea or solid ground.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Harvest Moon: Woo-Woo in the Hood

I observed the most recent Harvest Moon esbat by attending a belated Mabon event hosted by an open eclectic Wiccan circle. I had many misgivings about this, not the least of which was its timing with the Moon's fullest night. It was hosted in a neighborhood that few would list among Anchorage's finest. This also gave me some misgivings, mostly because I always have my doubts about ceremony in densely people-populated places. Below is a stream-of-consciousness memory of the evening's happenings & lessons learned. For myself, for the files.

Welcome to The Hood, let's share some Woo!
Welcome to The Hood, let's share some Woo!

Before I begin, a note on Woo: "Woo-woo" or simply, "Woo" has become something of a double entendre for me of late. For many years I have used it as a mild pejorative for the pomp & pageantry characteristic of some pagan traditions. More recently, it has come to refer to the ethers & sensations that come with listening, making spiritual contact, walking between the worlds, or something. This makes for a peculiar juxtaposition of meanings since the first would be used to point out posturing, or a sense of theatre, while the other points to something quite real, but utterly unprovable. Interestingly, both are entirely subjective. Both are also entirely apropos for this particular story. 

September 29, 2012: Harvest Moon/Mabon Circle

I receive a slightly frantic telephone call from the High Priest concerning wine & cranberry juice & sacrilege & I think to myself, "So this is how it will be..."
Later, riding in his rattling truck, I listen to him explaining foibles, many of which I no longer remember... but feast first? Really? He thinks this is good because he can drink wine beforehand. He never drinks before a rite. 
He tells me, "...the place this is happening is really in the hood. It's tiny. I've seen small zero-lot-lines, but this place is the smallest I have ever seen. It's gonna be something..." I think to myself, "...small, crowded, densely peopled... how does this leave room for the Spirits?" Yes. It will be something.
As we turn into the housing development, a sign welcomes us to "the hood." Honesty. I recall finding that strangely reassuring.
We arrive at the tiny sardine-can townhouse, brimming with people. The neighborhood is assembled of so many similar people-places packed like lemmings on cluttered, sinuous streets. Postage stamp backyards are boxed in by ramshackle fences only alluding to privacy. It is strangely communal, the neighborhood where sounds of music & powertools & teenagers dominate the air. Very busy, very public. Secrets are few, keeping up appearances, a waste of time.
I take a moment to acquaint myself with the ritual site, a diminutive backyard with fallen fences. The neighbors are repairing the fence to the North -- hammers, hip-hop & skillsaw working together to restore the thin illusion of separateness.
I remember wondering "How will this work? Mabon to pop music..." 
The ritual space has already been set up, little folding table altars in the quarters, a larger table in the centre. It is chilly & snow lingers on the lawn on the North side of the South fence, clinging to sustaining shadows. As I tend my doubts, I notice a few frozen fungi, kicked over in the grass & upon further inspection, note that the circle has been -- unknowingly, no doubt -- set over a fairy ring. In fact, the entire miniature yard is demarcated by this fungal circle. "Oh, you. You guys really are everywhere, aren't you?" Satisfied, I return to the warmth & conviviality of the people-house.
Food is plentiful & rich, but I eat sparingly. Despite my misgivings about supping before ritual, I succumb to a large wedge of fresh-baked potato bread & a thick slab of Irish butter alongside a wonderful cup of bean & moose soup prepared by the huntress herself. A salad of dark greens with beets follows & finally, a glass of red zinfandel. Everything is different, but not unpleasant.
The rite is delayed. We are waiting for bacon. There is much confusion. Bewildered murmurs abound, "Why do they need bacon? I have never been to a rite that used bacon..." Bacon turns out to be the High Priestess's son's friend. Bacon is not yet in the house.
Even when Bacon arrives, we wait. The neighbors are still working on the fence like frenzied wasps & someone makes the call to hold off until nightfall...
In the cramped but cozy kitchen, we discuss fencing, herbalism, community, Alaska, the Moon. To my utter disbelief, I learn that no one else in the room is aware that the Moon is full tonight. What? Really? Perhaps these Wiccans, Witches, are not about the Moon the way I am? Maybe this is why I fought back the urge to correct someone who casually referred to me as "Wiccan." For the sake of maintaining a pleasant course of discussion, I opted not to correct her. But even now, I yearn to make that clarification. Why so strong?
The time for the rite finally arrives & we process into the now frost-glittered yard. Fancy ladies in sheer black dresses & strappy shoes -- I wonder how they will fare. I am warm under a thick, blue cocoon. Some hours earlier, when it was still afternoon, the High Priest had handed me his heavy, wool & velvet cloak, a striking azure. I said to myself, "He thinks I am Water..." 
Circle is cast, space is set, quarters are called, invocations made... all the perambulations that make Wiccan ritual what it is. There is whispering, laughing & a cheerful sense of reverence without solemnity. I am still tuned into the neighborhood & I find myself distracted by people on the street, by floodlights, by the neighbor's dining room lamp & silhouettes. On. Off. On. Off, as they watch out the window. Are they trying to get the best view?
The Moon is rising from behind the hedgerow of houses over my shoulder. She can be seen by some members of the circle already. I cannot help but feel a bit of envy & scold myself for not securing a station in the West. Like Water.
Words are spoken, many of them very wise & I gain a different view of persons I have only just begun to know...
A flock of Canadian Geese interrupts, passing overhead & everything pauses as we gaze skyward, all smiles at the elegance above. The falconer at my side whispers surreptitiously, "Oh, to have my hawk right now..."
I am still feeling a disconnect from this circle (circus?) when I remember the fairy ring -- mycelia underfoot. I look over my shoulder & there She is. They are raising an enormous bowl of Water Moon-ward & uttering reverential things. The crystal reflects Her glow. Moon...Water... Mushrooms...
Unthinking, perhaps imprudent, I become conduit.
Lacking the skills to manage the connection properly, I focus further on the weblike, spidery network meeting my feet at the grassline. I focus on Moon-over-shoulder. My body reacts with a force I can only weakly mitigate. Woo.
The Water is moving around the circle now, flames extinguish in its path. I am weak & sick & my heart races with frightening ferocity. I am weighed down by the heaviest cloak on Earth... or is its stiff fabric holding me up? 
I am developing a creeping fear of this force that runs through me -- neither good nor bad, but simply unchecked. Alarm whips at my racehorse heart. Will I faint? What if my heart cannot maintain this pace?
Somewhere in the meanderings of my panic-striken mind, it occurs to me this is a stationary rite. It is characteristically stifled like most new-pagan ceremony -- why always so still? Something more primal would allow me to do something -- I could dance or rock this off. But unmoving, how, where do I direct it?
Calmness, composure. 
The cloak is so heavy. 
I close my eyes & wait...
& breathe
& hope.
Then, the Water is before me.
"Tears of the gods. May you be blessed."
Releasing the words is like opening a pressure valve & I feel a wild surge leaving me -- leaving me relieved, relaxing into a new circle.
My heart calms. My eyes open.
This is a new neighborhood, a new ecosystem, with the Moon over my shoulder & the mycelia beneath my feet & people-creatures dwelling in closely-packed nests. They walk in the night & create their own lights. I can hear them breathing. This place is alive, as alive as my forests, as alive as my desert & like them both, it has a place for mushrooms & Lady Moon. 
The rite continues in this new circle. There is more laughter, silliness even. People are cold. I see the frost on the altar leaves twinkling, resplendent in the candle light. I think it might be the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.
We linger in the kitchen after the rite. More honest, hopeful talk. I consider the Wicca. Here, in their own element, I see a very different culture from that of my more Druidically dominated community. Thinking about this, I realize that I always feel as though I am walking between worlds. Spirit-worlds, people-worlds, are they different?

Feral paparazzi-ethnographer, animist free-agent. I walk among the traditions. I can do this, as long as I have Lady Moon to guide me & mycelia at my feet.

On the road home, I do not mention these happenings to my High Priest guide. That conversation will be saved for a later date.


nurture said...

beautiful.. i was feeling the rush and the epiphany along with you, the way you told it. .. you're truly blessed

Moma Fauna said...

"you're truly blessed..."

Or something. ;)

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