The ritual is concluded, the candles flicker while the smoke from the burnt offerings lingers as a ghostly witness to the incantations spoken into the night; the journey however, has just begun.
Stillness comes forth as a dark and silent mist, slowly and surely engulfing the land and my senses. I am consumed by sensations; my heart searches for its rhythm somewhere between arousal and terror as ambient sounds become distant memories. Blood courses rapidly through my veins, I feel alive, electric, even power-filled and thus powerful. My eyesight begins to blur and darken; a far more primal sense is awoken. Only with this gift of vision beyond sight can I begin to appreciate the mysteries hidden in the darkness.
The once gentle and all but forgotten pulse of my heartbeat now thunders forth with the commanding boom of a tightly strung drum. Thum-thump, thum-thump…thump…thump, so beats this drum of sacred blood. The reverberations call out to the cavernous depths of the earth as I tune into my surroundings. I am here; I have entered the cave of the ancestors; I have descended into the liminal realm between the worlds.
This is a place of shadows cast upon shadows; a crossroad, not between the waking and dream worlds; no, I am far deeper down the rabbit hole in a threshold between forgotten dreams and the dreamless. I stand in a time and place that is neither time nor place for it not in this world nor in the next. This is a junction of paradox, somewhere long before the past and well beyond the future, an ephemeral nowhere and eternal present that lingers perilously above that dark abyss from where we all came and into which we shall all return.
The beat of the blood-drum echoes into the depths and the walls respond by undulating and blending into the darkness of the shadows. It is from these shadows that he emerges. Dressed in animal skins and crowned with majestic antlers he dances forth carrying a torch ablaze with primordial Fire. He weaves in and out of the darkness as the bones adorning his garments rattle like castanets heralding the immanent danger of seduction. This primal music of blood and bone, drum and rattle, weave together in the hollows of the cavern and between the beats, I swear, I can hear the voices of the dead whispering their secrets.
The light dances with him, it responds to his will as only that which he desires to be seen is illuminated. He guides my vision. In the flickering light his antlers become horns; those of bull, a ram, a goat, a buffalo, of animals far extinct and those yet to be…One moment he wears these animal headdresses, the next he is therianthropic, his broad shoulders supporting the head of a bellowing beast. He appears as a man, a beast, and a god. Regardless of his form, this is the one for whom I have come, or perhaps it is he who has come for me.
In the wake of his torch a serpent of light follows and precedes him, it slithers and coils hypnotically pushing and pulling together with his steps. Without needing to speak a word this dance tells a story – one forged in the fire of spirit. It is a tale of how against all odds a species endured and prevailed. How our ancestors long ago made a covenant with the land to live and die upon her in exchange for this sacred flame, this primordial fire of knowledge, of will and intent – of magic and mystery. It is the story of how beings of spirit became creatures of flesh, and how creatures of flesh awoke to their luminous spirit. This story has been retold in many forms and by many cultures, but in truth it never needed to be written or read, for it runs through my blood as it runs through yours. It is kindled in our ancestral blood to be claimed by those who dare to come forth and accept his Promethean gift.
For he is the light-bringer, the first shaman, sorcerer, and witch! This is the master of fire and the ancestral father who taught our species to illuminate the darkness of the night, to brave the cavernous depths of the earth and to enlighten our minds. Oh he has many names and many titles, call him what you will, but for me, he is – and will always be – the ancestor of my ancestors.