It was a Wiccan publication, a half-size underground zine that came out eight times a year on the usual holidays — Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Lughnasadh, Mabon, Samhain, and Yule — and there I read about a big gathering mid-summer, so that would be Litha on the Summer Solstice (June 21).
I rode my motorcycle down the freeway, always an buffeting excitement, and my tail was plenty numb by the time I parked outside a modest cottege in Silicon Valley. I heard singing inside, some Celtic thing, so I burst through the door and asked was this the revival meeting?
To general good vibes, I was introduced around, to Tim Zell, and his wife and goddess by the name of Morning Glory, and she was a glory to be sure. A caravan of vehicles was planned, but way too far for my moto.
So that was how I got invited to ride in the converted schoolbus with Morning Glory, and Tim Zell, and the python, and the boa constrictor.
Morning Glory explained that the snakes were not very intelligent, though they were quite empathetic. I kept very still and tried to be an empathetic kind of guy as the python undulated under the table, sliding smooth and slow as molasses, quick black tongue flickering. It seemed to like my motorcycle boots.
Luckily they are too big for a python to eat, so he didn’t try.
Behind me, on the back window of the bus was a flat piece of plastic with concentric lines. “It’s called a fresnel lens,” explained Tim over his shoulder as he drove the bus up the freeway. Although the plastic piece was flat, it acted like a lens so he could see if any fool was standing behind the bus, so as not to squash them.
Morning Glory was a statuesque honey blonde wearing barbarian’s clothing, emitting a kind of musky sensuality that made it difficult to sit still, her body and movement earthy, her breath a heady perfume. I liked her.
Some hours later, once free of the freeway, we wound through tiny roads up and up and up, through pine and red-barked manzanita and scrub, until a cattle guard and a dusty dirt road up the side of the mountain. The schoolbus was doubtful, but perseverence, care, and the grandma gearing paid off.
Atop the mountain, we found a vast meadow surrounded by the forest, tall trees older than we, and no sign of mankind if you don’t count the 200-300 pagans gathered there.
These wild people were picnicing, singing songs with guitar, and having a wild pagan softball game. I esconced with a dozen others beneath the trees, and soon was demonstrating the Hurley Tarot deck, feeling quite at home. There’s no group like the witches for being friendly like folks, has been my experience. You may feel differently, but they seem an odd-ball and loving group of people to me.
We ate somehow, and the darkness eventually drew near. I had no bedding nor place to sleep, and chatted up a pretty brunette wearing gypsy clothing and keys to a station wagon. I don’t remember how we spent the night, but it was in the station wagon. (I saw her for some weeks after my return home, but she was the recently-divorced ex of a policeman, and had a habit of claiming that “her feelings were hurt” every four or five minutes, so it didn’t last that long.)
The next day was the big ceremony. Being solstice and the longest day of the year, the appropriate time would be high noon, with the big sun right overhead.
A Wiccan ceremony generally goes roughly like this: The high priestess would ring a bell or call out while everybody stood in a huge circle, holding hands. The words go something like this:
“Let this be our circle!” cried Morning Glory. “What is in the circle is not of the world. What is not of the world is between the worlds. Let this be our circle!”
Often the Lady (for example, of the sky) would be invoked to bless the ceremony, and in this case, the Lord of the Wood was invoked to give us all courage and hope, for of course we were standing with forest all around us. The Lord of the Wood is usually portrayed as having antlers like a deer, and he is swift, subtle, and strong.
As we stood in the circle, which right then felt very much not of the world, as we gazed into the bonfire burning in the center of the circle, and as Morning Glory called upon the Lord of the Wood, suddenly in the meadow arose what back in Texas we called a “Dust Devil”, like a mini-tornado of spinning dust. The spinning column arose from nowhere, and spinning and reaching up into the bright summer sky, it floated through our circle.
The hair stood up on the back of my neck. The column of dust reached higher in the air, up toward the sun in the sky, and then it vanished.
I was happy that the Lord of the Wood was able to join us that day. I don’t recall much of the rest of the ceremony, but I’d reassure you that they don’t kill chickens or anything like that. I also don’t know where this place was, nor could I find it again. Later that day I rode home in the station wagon with the brunette, and eventually found my motorcycle.
I put on my helmet, and returned to San Francisco, so distant from the forest of the Lord of the Wood. But, you know, from time to time, I think I felt him, perhaps in Golden Gate Park, or on Mount Tam, or around a corner in Chinatown. Perhaps he was passing through. Perhaps not. But that’s a whole nother story.