by Screaming Ssnake Womoon
The first few years that we
did this Sabbat, my coven was in it's Shamanick phase. We'd go outside and drum
on the frozen ground, pretending we could sense Spring coming. We'd get
Shamanick influenza and fry our drumheads in the fire, vainly trying to get
some sound out of them.
One year, our Priestess
decided divined that Candlemas Imbolc was the
proper time to Initiate our Dedicants. She also decided
channeled the information from our Guides that the influenza tradition had
arisen because we weren't in harmony with nature. Therefore, those desiring
Initiation would have to do an all-night Vision Quest outside, and a Sweat
Lodge at dawn. Mind you, this was during February in the Northeast. Some of the
Dedicants decided that this was a test of their Wills, to see if they were
willing to stand up to her and say "no." Others, in true Macho Tradition form,
decided to do it. Those of us that stayed inside didn't get much sleep that
night.we could hear them grimly drumming away out there in the frozen wastes...
it still gives me the creeps to think of it... Of course, by the next morning
they had indeed broken the tradition of Shamanick Influenza... It was now
The only "Initiations" that year were those of struggling to survive the effects of the "Vision Quest".
Since our Priestess had also participated in the Vision Quest, SweatLodge, and subsequent Pnuemonia, the rest of us were left to our own devices. Suffering from major Witch Guilt, I tried to lead a meditation ritual (punctuated by the hacking coughs and feverish moans of the others); but whenever anyone mentioned visualizing white light I got "White Light / White Heat" by the Velvet Underground stuck in my head. I tried to transform it, since I couldn't seem to get it to stop any other way. (For the unsettling results, see "White Light / Witch Guilt". "This here is my Power Song, doo dah, doo dah..."* --Are we Bardic yet?)
A few years later, we'd gone through some personnel changes, and the new trend seemed to be an attempt at being more "Traditional". There was also a strong desire among some to cut down on the length of these Sabbats. You see, over the years we had continued to add more and more material to the rituals until it took about two days to perform the Sabbat. On top of all our Shamanick Eclecticism and personal catharsis we now had enactments of The Cailleach (as the Hag of Winter) drinking at the Sacred Well and being reborn as / transformed into Brighid (as the Spring Maiden) -- She Who brings the Fire of SpringTide. Of course, the well was always frozen, and our efforts to melt it were about as draining and surreal as our efforts to get the frozen wood to light in the firepit. We also tried working with the symbolism of Brighid's Lamb defeating the Hag's Dragon, but it was really hard to move in those weird costumes (Baaa!). Also a very vocal faction had decided our use of made-up "Vision Quests" and "Sweat Lodges" was racist, cultural appropriation and that, anyway, it just didn't work cohesively with the new "Trad" material. Or maybe it was that they just didn't want to get pnuemonia, I'm not sure.
A compromise was reached. "Vision Quest" became "Vigil", "Candlemas" became "Imbolc." And like good white people we did our ritual inside. We'd never really gotten it together to do a proper sweat ceremony of any sort, so no one really missed that. In many ways it was a nice change from declaming "Welcome SpringTide! Welcome Brighid!" on frozen ground and having pnuemonia, and we only burned a little bit of our Priestess's hair off with that crown of flaming tapers. She decided it was an omen from Brighid to cut her hair short as a Sacrifice or something.
We also did a song sharing and I got to share my Power Song ("White Light / Witch Guilt") that I'd written during the Shamanick days. I thought it was very appropriate, but apparently some of the others didn't appreciate the electric guitars and/or some of the lyrical content. I decided it was another omen from Brighid that maybe it was time for me to find a new coven.
A few of us who'd stuck together through the years of
experimentation and -- "coincidentally" enough -- also performed "Witch Guilt"
together at that last Imbolc circle,
got kicked out hived off
and formed our own coven. We're not yet sure if, this Imbolc, we'll bundle up
and go outside or stay in and play music. We've got such a miserable history
with this Sabbat that there's a cynical opinion going around that if it's too
cold, maybe we should just give this one a miss and go to the Nine Inch Nails
concert instead... Nah, who are we kidding, we'll go outside and do a Sabbat
ritual; we have to, we've still got too much Witch Guilt not to.
*quote from "the death crones power song" -- largely unpublished ("...it's real stupid and it's way too long..."), but a fragment was published in "the death crones Heal the Earth" in Harvest, Spring '87 issue. (But now, if you look around, much of it (or as much as ever got scrawled down) is available, for the first time anywhere, stashed somewhere on the crones site. Happy hunting. (welcome the darkness...))
copyright ©1992, 1998 screaming ssnake womooon