Years ago, when I still lived in Ohio, I was blessed to have participated in several spiritual retreats with women of the Pagan community. These retreats took place twice a year on average – once in the spring and once in fall, generally speaking.
Most of the retreats I remember attending we were in the woods at one campsite or another, though one time we had the chance to camp out at the Olentangy Indian Caverns with several special arrangements made. The best of which was the opportunity to go through the caves after the tourist portion of the place was closed. The lights were turned off and we drummed, prayed, chanted, and sang there in the dark. The next morning my (then) boyfriend and I took the tourist tour through the caves and it was an empty, hollow experience compared to the intensity and magic of the night before. The spirits of that land were awake and hungry for more of what we were able to do simply by being there, at peace with them, sharing community, drumming and chanting in ways similar to what they must have had centuries before… Before their homes and sacred knowledge had become a cheesy tourist trap with memorized scripts given by passionless guides only there for a summer job.
But that’s not the dream I had last night…
In my dreamwalk, I journeyed back to the site of another retreat in the woods, where the large cabin I stayed in was next to a beautiful ravine. It was common practice at these retreats for us to invoke and work with feminine power and energy: Goddess, and that was always wonderful. But one time, that changed and we instead stood in a circle facing one another and invoked the God.
I was nervous about this. It wasn’t what I expected. I’d been Pagan, a Witch, for a few years now at that point, but in the back of my mind somewhere I still felt that the God was too foreign to me. I was comfortable with the notions of the divine Mother, but uncertain how to truly connect with Her other half. I’d heard about him. I’d heard how Wiccans were believers in dual divinity and the balance between male and female, men and women, God and Goddess. But personally, that wasn’t how I felt about things.
To me, “God” was still too far away, too patriarchal, too unfamiliar and too unreachable.
I thought I was okay with that. The Goddess was all I really felt like I needed and for the most part, I felt like I was giving ‘lip service’ to my belief in masculine deity. Sure he was there, but always just names in a book: Apollo, Herne, Enki, Hermes, Osiris, the faceless ‘other half’ of divinity.
All of that changed that night however. Candles flickered, women chanted and hummed, and there was something ancient, primal, powerful, strong, and otherworldly that filled the room. Even now, I still recall the energy of it but as then, lack sufficient talent and vocabulary to put it into words. But I still feel the warm static chills it brought. It smelled of moist, dark earth that was ready to be planted but could have been just as easily prepared for a grave. It smelled of forest, rain, burning sunlight, sweat, sex, and death. It wasn’t a simple scent that wafted through your nostrils… No… it was all-encompassing, swallowing you completely until there was nothing else and you didn’t even feel as if you were still standing inside of a building but rather on bare earth and there was no roof overhead… just starry heavens.
I held the bare skull of an antlered stag in my hands and felt something I’d never felt before whoosh through me, over me, inside me, around me, everywhere all at once. I spoke and felt the words resonate from someplace other than my throat. As if my heart, stomach, mind, and larynx were all joined together somewhere behind my eyes but managed to get out through my mouth.
I don’t remember what I said. I just remember saying it with the intention of recognizing Him for the first time and asking Him to join with us. I desperately wanted that connection. I wanted to know Him as more than just “the Lady’s Consort”, more than just dusty names from ancient sources that didn’t really feel alive to me. I wanted Him to be more than just relics and myth, a character in stories who used to reside in what are now crumbled ruins and broken groves.
He’s answered ever since.
Last night I journeyed in a dream back to that cabin near the ravine and I sat there, naked on mist-moistened earth with sunlight only a greyish hint in the sky. I smelled him again as I had that night. He arrived across the ravine as a graceful stag with golden threads like holiday tinsel weaving through the tines of his antlers. Each time he turned his head or moved they flashed. He was powerful and graceful, gazing at me across the ravine; a ravine covered across the bottom with mist so thick that it appeared I was seated both on the cool ground and above a cloud. He began walking towards me, sure-footed over the mist, hooves bouyed up by it until he arrived as he had before, smiling and happy to see me again.