A philosopher somewhere probably said that life started with its first breath. Well, then, so did this ritual. With a grand breath that sounded draconic, the madam inhaled and then exhaled loudly.
She was planted summoning style, feet planted shoulder width and hands raised at her side. Her head was flung back like she was trying to suck in the whole sky. She was now wearing both the circlet and her hooded cape. White sage and incense cones smoldered in the cauldron, crystals strategically placed around our circle, along with the sticks, sorry – staves. A small cloth lay before the fire pit, named ‘altar’. There was the goddess and god figurines on it, the wand, and the stacks of candles and the drum.
We were also each holding a candle, looking like dutiful minions in a cult movie.
With a final exhale that, I’m telling you, sounded quite like a dragon sighing, she drew the hood over her head so it covered the circlet she was wearing. She stepped to the altar and picked up her shaman’s drum and beater. Stepping back to her stand at the head of the circle, she spoke to us all. “We are now about to do something very dangerous. We are going to do a banishing.”
Alright, I may be just an itty-bitty lil’ Gardenerian, but I’d seen my fair share of banishings in my witchy life time. They weren’t dramatic. Often, they were understated and simple affairs that were mainly effective.
This, I realized, was not to be the case with today’s ritual.
“In this ritual, you may see things, feel things. You may even be attacked supernaturally!”
Oh great. Way to set a calm and unprejudiced mood.
“I ask you all to hold the ranks! Do not be afraid!” Despite her previous fear-mongerings. Sure. “I will prevail!”
She held up her drum – then seemed to change her mind. “We will now cast the circle,” she announced.
Putting her drum down, she picked up her wand. Turning her back to us (and thereby facing Sapphire who was sitting safely away and watching) she raised up her wand and declared “In the name of the Goddess and God!” and she swept down her wand to point out at the ground. Then, head held high, she began marching around our circle, clockwise (of course).
She muttered something as she walked, but a wind was stirring, sweeping her words away from me. And frankly, I wasn’t quite captivated. I was feeling sleepy, like I had missed my afternoon coffee. Which, I realized, I had missed. No wonder I was sleepy. Hmm. Would I be able to get it soon?
But the madame had reached the beginning of her circle again. “The circle is cast!” she proclaimed, raising her wand for a hero pose similar to that of Amethyst’s previous ritual. I wanted to groan. What was it with the hero-posing?
Seemingly chuffed with excitement, she stepped up to the altar. Dropping down her wand (ouch!) she scooped up the salt. “I cleanse this circle!” she bellowed, throwing salt over her shoulder. “May no harm come here! May no evil happen here! By the power of the goddess, the god, the powers within and without, the fairies, the dragons, the elementals and djinn, I proclaim it!”
Then she set the water back down and picked up the water. Again, she bellowed “I cleanse this circle, by the power of Elohim, the Astarte, the Danu, the Morrigan! The many and the one, be with us here now!”
Say what? Who was she summoning? All that at once?
Now she set down the water and picked up the white sage. Then she checked her pockets. “Does anyone have a lighter?” she asked.
There was a rustle of pocket-checking around the circle. “No,” we all had to admit.
“I do!” called over Sapphire, rising from her chair.
“Oh,” with a light laugh the madame turned around, holding out a hand. Sapphire tossed over the lighter. It struck the madame in the forehead. Whump.
“Sorry!” Sapphire called over, sitting back down. The madame rubbed her forehead but was just a little stunned. Now ignoring Sapphire, she turned back to us.
“I cleanse this space,” she declared, somewhat not as loudly as the other two times. “By the power of three, the triple blessings, and so mote it be!” She clicked the lighter and waved the white sage bundle over the flame. “Eli, Mogroth, Djinn of the east! By your power, I cleanse this space!”
She thrust the white sage up into the air. Tingles rose over my arms. I hated to admit it, but her summonings were working. I could feel presences. Chaotic presences, lurking around like they were cautiously wondering what the hell they were doing here.
“Now,” setting the smudge bundle down, she plucked up her drum and drum beater. “We shall begin our trance. Be not afraid, for I am a seasoned shaman.”
And then she began to beat her drum. It was rhythmic at least, and I began to feel a lull in my senses. I felt drowsy, relaxed. I didn’t even notice that she had began to hum along with her drum. Then she began to shout.
“Evil that hath come to this place! Michael before me! Evil that hath come to this place! Michael behind me! Evil! Michael, I demand you to stand between me and this evil! To destroy it completely!”
I jolted. I felt, very powerfully felt the presence of the archangel. Whether you believe it to be a thought-form, archetype of whatever, it was there. It was fiery, it was powerful, it was pissed off.
“Oh, evil of this land! Great horrors that have been committed here! I summon you, great evil!”
Dimly, in the back of my mind, I wondered why she’d had us hold these candles. Had she forgotten about them?
“Great Evil!” wailed on the madame, summoning something for sure. My arms were tingling with goosebumps. I felt a very, very, pissed off presence. It was strong, like iron, and very angry.
It seemed to be standing straight at the opposite end of the circle from the madame and her archangelic protection. Which, unfortunately, was directly where I was. So this mass of anger and fury was directly before me, with no angelic protection on my side.
Dear sweet Goddess, I thought grumpily in my foggy mind, protect me from this idiocy.
“Great evil! Murderer! Accuser! Ha-shaitan you are called!”
Holy crap, I thought, who the fuck is she summoning now?
“Iblis you are called!”
“The great fallen one you are!”
Now, I felt a greater, more powerful, entity taking place. No longer were we dealing with our genus loci, or spirits of the place. These were cosmic spirits, great ones with great thought-powers amassed.
“I command you! I compel you!”
An icy wind had picked up. Were we near a farm? There was a nasty smell on the wind.
“Great powers of good, forces of the universe!”
Good goddess! This woman was really going all out!
“We battle side by side! We combat the forces of evil!”
The wind whipped up, snapping our clothes tight against us.
“We will crush this evil that has manifested here! We will destroy it! Michael to the front of me! I command you to destroy this evil! Rebuke it! Crush it under your heel!”
Then, definitely taking the whole yelling thin up a notch, she bellowed “Eli eli, lama sabacthani! Destroy it!”
The wind snapped again. I felt a sudden void. The great nastiness was gone, whoever it had been. Leaving behind the fiery angelic presence … and a smaller, not quite cosmic sort of evil.
Because, you see, she summoned both the nastiness of the land and the spirits of Shaitan and Iblis. But she only banished the second one.
Crap, I thought as she began crooning. “Oh angels, great voice of the beyond, we thank you for your help! We bow to you, we sing your praises!”
The drumbeat stopped too suddenly. It felt like a lurch, like I was about to fall over.
Arms held out, drum aloft, she continued singing the praises of the ‘good’ who had defeated the ‘evil’. I felt quite sick. So much so that Paulette was suddenly helping me stand.
Completely clueless to my nausea, the madame waxed on and on. Then, lowering the drum, she finally noticed me. “Oh!”
I waved my fingers at her. “Just a little dizzy.”
She paused, looking like a deer in headlights. Then, shaking her head, she put down her drum and picked up her wand. Striking the hero-pose, she called out “Oh great beings! I release you all!”
Well, that was another giant energy vaccuum. Anyone who had been left behind/summoned but not used, left as fast as if their pants were on fire. Again, I felt dizzy.
Dimly, I heard her calling out to the circle that it was now open, and we were all basically free to go.
I plunked straight down, Paulette squeaking. Grumpy as could be, I set the unused candle down before me. There. This was over.
Drawing my knees to my chest, I decided that I needed a good grounding. That and maybe some space. Which, coincidentally, was not happening.
“Are you okay?”
“What’s the matter?”
“How do you feel?”
Legs swarmed around me, including the big skirts of the madame. Then, a pair of gray suit pants.
“Move,” said Sapphire in that cold tone that got shit done.
Suddenly there was space around me and I could breathe again. “Here,” Sapphire was crouching before me, holding out a granola bar and Crystal’s water bottle. “Take this.”
Behind Sapphire, the madame was waxing on to an avidly listening Crystal that “We just can’t predict who they will attack when you try and banish them.”
“Fuckin’ shit,” I muttered under my breath, scowling as I chowed down on the granola bar. I didn’t consider myself as a terribly sensitive soul, so, in my books, that ritual had been shit. Yeah, she’d gotten energy stirring. But in my opinion it was like calling ‘stirring the pot’ the same as making perfume. One stinks. One doesn’t. Point finale.
Still crouched before me, Sapphire smirked. “Need some more?” she asked, drawing another granola bar from her corgi’s harness pouches (which I hadn’t even noticed were there).
“No thanks,” I muttered savagely before taking a sip of water. Then I handed it back to her. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome,” she said with a smile as she rose to her feet. She offered a hand, and I took it to get up.
“Promise me we’re done with the stupid rituals,” I muttered to Sapphire. She winked at me. Then, we turned and rejoined the group.