ACE Starwood XXI
 July 17 - 22, 2001 ~ Sherman, NY

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Charlene Mann

Living as I have for the past several years in the Psychic Cesspool that is Fitchburg, MA, I could hardly believe my ears at the accounts of my Starwoodian friends of the excellency of the Festival. Apart from our Quidditch Team (see "Quidditch Through the Ages by Newt Scamander/JK Rowling; we're mentioned there!), there is simply nothing doing here that we Pagani don't do ourselves; the apathy of the impoverished and otherwise-damaged local populace is thick enuf to slice and sell. But this year, I borrowed the cash and went to Starwood. I was not disappointed. Let me tell you of how this is...

Of all the nights, Friday ("Fireworks Night") was the best - and the most telling for me, since I had gone there on a conscious quest to "find my people" and witness for myself the full power of the Starwood experience. That quest was duly and truly fulfilled in every possible detail. There were so many synchronicities that my poor brain was often kept a-reeling far past bedtime, night after night! But Friday was the Top-Grade Corker. Let me tell you about it...

First: I must point out that, though the Veil is comparitively rather thin for me anyway these days (this being due to long-standing Witch practice plus abundant natural inclination), I had that night "warmed" my brain with a small quantity of an ancient votive elixir much-loved by the late Dr. T. Leary and numerous others. Not enough to cause incoherence, inarticulate speech, hallucination, or stumbling - just enough to gently open the "Doors of Perception" even a few degrees wider than is ordinarily so for me.

That being done, about the time the ACE lasers became visible through the trees, I made my way down to the waters' edge from my campsite. Someone handed me a rainbow Cyalume halo, which I accepted and donned with a grin. Then someone else handed me a pair of "3D laser glasses", which I likewise accepted. I made my way to a vantage point and took in the light-and-fire show, which was utterly spectacular.

The lasers and fireworks being concluded, (and my brain being fully warmed by this time), I Trusted (as I 'most often do) to know what was next. That aspect (my constant companion) of Consciousness which I have seen dubbed "She who Whispers" (thank you, Luisa Tesch!) pointed out a direction. ("Go that-a-way!") Following the excellent rock band music I heard in the distance, I soon found my way via Luminaria-lit path to the Pufferdome. Here the music was so loud I dared not enter the structure, having already in years past sacrificed far too much of my precious mundane hearing in various explosions I have taken part in. So I sat outside and took in the Subgenius video, joyously immersed in a living wall of light and sound. I stayed an hour or more. It was most excellent indeed. But even this was not what I had come for. I got up and walked away into the candle-lit darkness, still Trusting to meet someone, I knew not for certain who...

That one was now not long in appearing. His aura was both strong, and of the right color. Call him "Virgil", if you like. We exchanged watchwords and countersigns quite spontaneously. He had one question: "Have you walked the Labyrinth yet?" I conceded that I had not. "Do you know where it is?" I conceded that I did not. "Then may I show you? I'm going in that direction myself." I accepted gladly, doubting nothing. We walked.

Upon arrival at the Labyrinth, I knew instantly that this was indeed the event I had sought. A journey to the Underworld was in the offing - and I was ready. Bidding my gentle guide adieu with gratitude, I made my way toward the entrance.

The altar just outside the entrance was littered with, among other items, numerous pairs of the laser "Illusion goggles" such as I still had in one hand from the fireworks show. I remembered well the account of the Goddess' descent unto the underworld from my own first-degree Witch initiation, some thirteen years prior. In that spirit, I too laid my "Illusions" down upon the altar and made ready to enter the Underworld.

Surveying the scene, I counted four persons within the luminous Labyrinth. Two were Lords of the Underworld, or "Firetenders" as the case may be, at the center of the construct. Two other sojourners could be seen within the maze, making their way along on their own journey. The Witch at the Portal saw me, smiled, and beckoned. I stepped forward, received the Cleansing and the Blessing, and entered. "Keep the Light on your right as you walk", she said. I did so, and entered, nothing doubting.

Rounding the first turning, I spotted something I had not seen at all for some reason from the outside. An Inner Altar was ready there, with fire and other votive materials in good supply. I knew what to do there, and did it. Having thus cast all my Karma forward, I arose and walked on.

A figure loomed out of the semi-darkness, passing me on the left, going in the opposite direction to my travel. Then another. Then another and another! I glanced toward the central fire pit. Two Lords of the Underworld (or Firetenders as the case may be) still stood there in their cloaks. I scanned the entire candlelit scene. Nobody else was visible. Where had the other two come from? Hmmm. Maybe not really my business. Besides, this place was, as I Knew full well, well-enchanted. There could be another Portal to this construct, off on another World, or opening out into the Space Between the Worlds... "You are analyzing. Walk on!", commanded She who Whispers. (Her Voice was much stronger and clearer here, I noticed.) I did so.

As I walked, I lapsed into a musing on how it was that I was there - at Starwood, in the Labyrinth... on Planet Earth. The chain of cause-and-effect that had led to this most excellent result in my life was now clear and most precisely delineated indeed to my perception. I recalled the early years (starting about age 9) of angry, empty searching and sometimes disastrous experimentation. The tidbits of consistent knowledge and undeniable observation that turned up on the way, that I simply could not discard, fitting together as they did into small pieces of whayt I knew was a much larger Whole. The Way Ministries and their unique teachings from the Christian Bible, repeatedly verified by myself and numerous others, regarding how to reliably receive from the Divine. The Brotherhood of the White Temple and my very first formal magickal Initiation, which to this day leaves a lasting impression. The later declaration (out of the blue) of a Very Grumpy Wizard (also a BWT student) I had known, one night, years ago, that one day I would "meet a thing that will eat your soul!", as he put it.

I reviewed the near-fatal collision of Old Wolf, who was my Witchly Mentor/Initiator in the First Degree, and myself, many years after that declaration, with one whom I had learned later was a Voudonsi "bokor" (a term used here in the Haitian pejorative sense to denote a purely malefic Voudon practitioner) of many, many incarnations and incredible power. That one had in the end (having failed to overcome my Mentor's and my free-will resistance to his intrusions in our Witchly affairs by any other means) seen fit to implant just such a "Soul-Eater" into both Leonard (who did not survive) and myself (who barely did). The subsequent decade I had spent alone and among non-magickal strangers, Old Wolf having gone homeless and mad, as had I for some few years. All the fruitless attempts to "shake" the affliction according to the as-received tenets of my particular branch of the Craft, invoking daily for my afflictor's Illumination (which he did not accept) and Redemption (which therefore of course did not follow). How I had finally given up on that line of approach, and handed the whole sorry mess off to the Highest for resolution. Sure, and I had made mistakes along the way. But I was fundamentally innocent of any deliberate, knowing magickal or spiritual wrongdoing in this case, and I knew it. Old Wolf (rest his soul) had often declared in the course of our too-brief time together, "The righteous need fear aught of the Law!", and I knew that to be true.

I walked, and I mused as I walked. I reviewed the Call I had sent up to the Highest - never mind the Name - in the end the Name means nothing - for Assistance in removing that voracious pestilence from my being. The vicious blows and insane, howling laughter ("You'll NEVER be rid of me! I'll RIP YOUR GUTS OUT!") of my miles-distant afflictor (all from INSIDE my skull!) that had accompanied my supreme votive effort that fateful night as I mentally cast Circle (no props; not even one candle!) and sent up my True Will for release. The Rainbow-Tailed Meteor that had showed itself in the Eastern sky that very night, hanging in the air for exactly four seconds before winking out, maybe eight minutes after my petition. (I had at that point stepped outside my then-residence to buy a pack of cigarettes.) The one with impeccable magickal credentials and an equally impressive "Gangsta" affiliation, who had subsequently (a mere two weeks later) appeared in my life from half a continent's breadth away, uprooted from his Indiana home by his own devotion to Reality, guided only by a dream-that-was-no-dream to my doorstep. How Old Wolf had in fact prepared me over a decade before for the very association that would follow, in the course of one of his prescient nocturnal "Knowledge Lectures", while the bokor's earthly minions stalked that night just outside our very windows.

I recalled the votive and thaumaturgic work my Nameless Helper (who remains so by explicit request) and I had since done together, roughly four months prior to the present night. That Work had run four days and three nights of continuous invocation and psychic battle. Even my cat took part, as cats will and do. It had resulted in the soul-eater's removal from my being, and in my complete release from all distress caused thereby. How that bokor's unholy altar on the Planes (where he had evidently thought it inaccessible to all but himself) was now long since utterly destroyed. How we had found all the other little dolls on that altar, mine and Old Wolf's among them, and all we had done to reliably restore their rightful owners' well-being before bringing that altar down to dust, and then "Disappearing" the dust itself. The bokor's final appearance before my own two (three?) eyes as a gauzy, filmy apparition in the World of Form with a sniveling, "I'm sorry!", and my heartfelt reply to him: "So am I. Goodbye!". How his vestige had "winked out", and had disturbed me no more from that moment.

I recalled my now-former torturer's corrupted Essence being removed from his physical body and hermetically sealed in a specially-marked glass bottle. How I, being a glassblower, was Called upon in our work on the Mental Plane to make that very bottle and personally conduct that bokor's essence into it, the which I did reverently, determinedly, yet with far more sadness than joy. How the contents of that sealed bottle now rested on a shelf in a place far distant from (yet intimately connected with) Planet Earth, never to afflict humankind again. How, at some point in the distant future 'long 'bout the End of Time and Days, I would no doubt be called upon to give full evidence in formal, Rightful legal proceedings before finally walking away from it all, completely free.

I briefly reviewed the accounts we had later received by Boston-area eyewitnesses, who confirmed to me that this formerly high-handed, imperious, and universally nasty one seemed now to have a vacant, lost look about him, and "hasn't got it any more". The return to complete Inner Silence within myself that had followed our Work, and my successful subsequent discontinuance of all the prescribed antidepressant and anti-psychotic medication that had kept me going throughout the decade-plus-long ordeal. The Rightness of All Things, and the Reality thereof. Who could not be grateful for such a thing as this? I certainly was and shall ever be so.

While thus engaged in reflection, yet another figure became visible within the Labyrinth lane in which I walked. This one, too, was walking in the direction opposite mine. But this one was not like the others I had passed. The others had been hearty men, standing bolt upright as they walked. This one stood no more than four feet at her stooped shoulder, head bowed. She was covered in a yellow-and-black, fringed shawl after the manner of the Russian Babushka. She hobbled briskly along "on three legs", her upper body weight well-supported by a gnarly old brown stick that likewise showed signs of great age. This one I had seen no sign of whatsoever in my visual scans of the luminous Labyrinth construct. I could hardly help it. I stopped in my tracks.

So did She. Raising Her head to reveal a face as lined and ancient as Time itself, She looked right at - and through - me with eyes as piercing as the sharpest needles. I felt Her consciousness touch mine. It was both cold as Death and warm as Life at the same time, with no conflict or contradiction between the two qualities. I Knew that She knew me by a name that I would one day know myself. For some reason, an image of two figures at a crossroads appeared briefly to my mind's eye. I knew Her; there was no doubt. "Hello, Grandmother", I mind-spoke to Her consciousness. "Mmmph. Well done." came by way of response. Then, still expressionless, no word being spoken between us that was not "written on the Wind", She resumed her stately hobble. So did I. But casting my gaze two seconds later, just once, over my left shoulder, I objectively determined what I might well have subjectively suspected: there was no sign of Her to be seen behind me.

The rest of the journey was uneventful. I warmed myself briefly by the fire at the center of the construct and paid my respects to those who stood guard there before continuing on. I met no others on the way out. I returned to the World of Form with a feeling of renewal, of completion, of verification of all that I had ever held dear and been laughed at for - or worse - by ignorant others.

Sure, and there will certainly be those who having read this account shall aver, "Hey, she was on ac*d! She was on illegal psycho-dru&s! What do you expect? She hallucinated the whole thing! None of it could have EVER been real! None of that stuff ever is! She's stupid, or crazy, or both! Lock her in a rubber room and feed her OUR Government-approved drugs - no, I mean medications! WE'LL show HER what's real!" To those I say, "Beloved, I have walked many miles in your shoes before coming to this place. There is more in Heaven and on Earth than eye can see, nor ear may yet hear. Now won't you kindly walk a mile or two in my bare feet before condemning me to imprisonment in your version of reality? They're good strong feet, and they're not bleeding any more..."

In point of fact, in all the Great Acts of Magick I have ever demonstrated (including one in which I deliberately faded from Invisibility into visibility directly before the eyes of one very astounded eyewitness standing a mere four feet from the chair in which I materialized), I have done so unaided by any herb or potion at all. The drug is not the point. It's the Authorization that counts, and the willingness of one to instantly comply, moment-by-moment, without fear, equivocation, analysis, or denial, when the Call arrives. It's not that I am any exceptionally powerful one, no. It's just that my willingness to follow Instructions when Received is, by dint of Inner determination and practice, undiluted by temporal considerations. I say that with adequate cultivation, and ones' will being kept faithfully in the right place, anyone can take part in such things. (Many just might wish to avoid involvement at this level of Magick; that's OK too. Everyone learns at their own pace.) Yes, as my (also deceased) friend old Ma Ball (rest her soul as well) was fond of declaring at times of disagreement and strife, "God is Good!" (I agree, needless to say.)

I shall indeed return to Starwood next year, and doubtless in all the years to follow. Non-attendance is, at this point, simply not an option. Besides, there's most likely a Gatekeeper or two bound to be there with whom I must meet again in the flesh. Have I said too much yet? Need I say more?

Brightest blessings,

Charlene Mann
Asphodel Duchess of Fitchburg, MA USA
4th Degree Priestess and Witch, True Craft of the Wise
4th Degree, Sacred Society of the Sword and Shield
4th Degree, Ordo Secundis du Priore de Sion
1st Degree, Brotherhood of the White Temple (Ejected due to a medically necessary sex-change process, but that's OK.)

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