Note: This was written in May 2005, I was living in Austria at the time.
I had been preparing my dedication for 13 moons (and of course all the 15 years before that), and it was important for me to do it on Bealtaine, my favourite sabbat and a time in the year when it is already warm enough to spend the night outdoors. So on Saturday afternoon, I packed my sleeping bag and a thin straw mat, warm clothes, some ritual items, and Bealtaine bread into my sports bag and set out at around 4 pm to watch the setting up of the May tree in my town. I’m about the luckiest person I know, and just that day it had stayed dry for the first time in weeks, and the sun warmed the air to around 20 degrees Celsius.
It was an impressive May pole they put up there, huuuuuge and with a real fir tree on top, decorated with red and white ribbons (Austria’s colours). Half my little town was gathered in the town square, there was a brass band, beer and sausages, and I chatted to two elderly ladies who told me how years ago, the May tree hadn’t been pulled up by a small crane as it was this year, but by men climbing up ladders.
I left my bag with the people at the food stand and walked to a friend of mine who lives nearby and had her own private exhibition of ceramics works that weekend. The exhibition was lovely, my friend was delighted I had come, and as I was walking there and back through the tranquil sunny streets of my town, I felt completely happy and “right” – I just knew it would all be perfect.
When I arrived back at the town square, it was around a quarter to six. I retrieved my bag and set out on the path up the Bisamberg. Now the Bisamberg is more like a hill, but it does take around 20 minutes of steep walking paths to get to the top, and in the blistering sun I was soon steaming. I took my time though, stopped often along the way to take in the absolutely stunning view over my town and the Danube and to smell the lilacs that were just starting to blossom along the path. At one point I got so warm, I took off my t-shirt – and put it back on again just in time before a mountain biker drove past me from the top of the hill…! I had almost reached my destination when I passed by a little side path that led up to a small ledge by the path, a beautiful little grass-covered spot. I decided at once that I would do my dedication there in the morning.
At around six thirty, I arrived at my chosen spot and thankfully found it unoccupied. It was a circular place among trees just aside of the path, with a flat stone in the middle, raised about five inches off the ground, for a fire, and similar but smaller stones in a circle around it. Nearby is a large clearing with grass and a swing for kids from where I had the most breathtaking view.
I don’t have many pictures of that area, here’s one just to give you an idea of the view from the place, down to the valley:
It was still sunny and pleasant, and I spent most of the next two hours collecting firewood. There were plenty of dry twigs under the trees behind the playground, it was only a matter of carrying them back to my little fireplace. I wasn’t going to take any chances, and didn’t fancy running out of wood halfway through the evening, so I collected a LOT. Occasionally I’d take a break to enjoy the view, and later on I had a go at the swing, went up really high and then sent out my love to a few friends who are especially important in my life and spirituality.
There seemed to be no more people around, everyone who’d taken a walk had left the Bisamberg (with its steep narrow paths up, it’s best to get either all the way up or down again before dark), but then all of a sudden four young guys – they must have been around 18 – arrived with backpacks and dropped on the ground by the swings. I watched them through the trees and thought, ‘Just in time for May Eve, here’s a couple of horny gods!’ It made me giggle because they really were kids. I went to talk to them, it turned out they were on a hiking tour, and I told them about the time I had been hiking all across Austria. Thankfully, they left me alone then and went on to camp somewhere else. It wasn’t the last I saw of them though – but more about that later…
The sun went down spectacularly over the Wienerwald across the Danube, and the sky turned red. I sang a line from Inkubus Sukkubus’ Song to Pan: “The sky is afire from His flashing eyes…” and went back to my little fireplace. Some time before nine, I started the fire, built it up for a while and then did my Bealtaine ritual.
It was beautiful, though solitary outdoor rituals are always VERY different from anything I perform in the house. They are more intense because of the direct connection to nature which is the single most important thing about my own path – but things like meditation and trance don’t work very well, if only because I always keep my senses alert for potential intruders. This time, I also needed to tend the fire so there weren’t any extended calm periods. I still had an intense experience, but as usual outdoors, it was a bit less focused, and the energy I raised, while strong, was much too scattered to be directed. I called the quarters without casting a circle, invoked the Queen of the May and the Horned One with songs and dance, and went crazy whirling around the fire. The forest was alive around me, the air still mild, and I could smell the scent of fresh leaves and flowers. It was intoxicating! I leaped over the fire a few times, calling out things I want to get rid of in my life. Eventually, I sat down and had a piece of Bealtaine bread with some water, giving a bit of both as a libation. I hadn’t had any solid food that day, and the ritual cakes were an exception to my fast before the dedication in the morning.
I had long finished the ritual and was sitting by the fire when I heard people approaching over the clearing. At first I was pretty sure it must be the guys I’d talked to before, but when they came closer and didn’t call out or anything, I was beginning to wonder… It was pitch dark and I’m not foolish enough to risk anything when I’m alone in the forest. I could hear them beyond the trees by my fire, and I’d had enough, so I picked up one of the larger logs of firewood and walked around the trees in the dark. And there they were, two of the young guys, lying flat on the ground and sneaking up on me – yeah, right… try to surprise a hag in the woods, HA! Not a chance. I was a bit pissed off and told them to get lost, and they made tracks. In a sense, it was a good opportunity for me to confirm that I really have sharp senses… I’d heard them from miiiiles off, and I’m also night sighted, while they didn’t even notice me until I was standing right next to them – and I hadn’t even tried to walk silently, teehee.
After they’d left, I realised that I didn’t mind all that much. After all my ritual had been long over, and later on when they came back to the playground and sat on the swings, I briefly talked to them again and they apologized for the stunt. It was around eleven by then, and I told them I wanted to sleep before my fire burned down, so would they mind leaving? They did, and I didn’t see or hear of them again, so all was well. In a way, the whole spook seemed oddly appropriate for a dedication, a bit like the challenges people are put through during traditional initiation rituals…
I had been thinking of staying up all night, starting my dedication with a vigil, but as a former insomniac, I associate mostly negative stuff with not sleeping, so I decided I would get a couple of hours at least. The firewood lasted until around 1 am, and I crawled into my sleeping bag, enjoying the night and the warmth of the fire. The sky was clear and I looked up at the bright stars while the crowns of the tall trees around were softly swaying. As usual, I felt completely at home and at peace in the forest, and I occasionally sighed with happiness.
When the last log was on the fire, I closed the zip on my sleeping bag, now wearing a warm sweater and using my summer jacket as a pillow. The fire gave off enough heat for another hour or two, and after a while I actually fell asleep. After around two hours I awoke again, freezing. I had expected that, so it was ok, although it was far from enjoyable. I watched the quarter moon rising between the trees, so it must have been around 3.30 am at the time. It took me a while to get warm enough again to go back to sleep, but I managed eventually.
When I woke up the next time, the sky was just beginning to change colour. I heard the first birds starting to sing and I guessed it must be around five. Sure enough, the church bells in the valley below struck the full hour a moment later, and I decided it was time to go. I was about to sit up when I suddenly heard the most impressive sound I’ve ever heard in my life: a cry, a bit like a bird’s caw, but much deeper, resonating and so loud the ground seemed to shake. I sat bold upright and thought how lucky it was that it hadn’t begun two minutes earlier – if this racket had startled me from my sleep, it would have given me a heart attack! It went on for several seconds, and I wondered what it was. I had the feeling it might be a deer, a roebuck’s mating call (talked to a friend in the meantime, who confirmed it was probably a roebuck). Odd, isn’t it… just as I was waking up on the morning of Bealtaine… coincidence, eh? I like to think of it as a greeting from the Horned One himself.
I stretched and packed up my things, then I walked onto the clearing in the slowly brightening light of dawn. After a last “visit to the bushes”, I stood on the brink of the clearing, just before it slopes down sharply, and looked out over the town, the silvery band of the Danube, and the Wienerwald hills on the other side, where mist was lying in the valleys. It was so beautiful! I could see “my” fields and even the house where I live.
I stomped around for a bit, trying to get warm, and then I walked down the path to the spot I’d discovered the day before. I climbed up the small rise and dropped my bag. The spot was absolutely perfect, a bit of raised ground with soft grass surrounded by bushes and young trees, and there were even two small bunches of “altar flowers” on the ground (I don’t know their names in English, but one had yellow flowers and the other purple). I stomped on the ground and jumped up and down for another while so I wouldn’t start freezing during my dedication. The air was still fresh, but it was much brighter now, I could see my town down below, and the trees behind me, and between them another part of the Bisamberg where the sun was just rising. The quarter moon was still overhead.
Obviously, I won’t be able to share all the details of my dedication, but I’ll say as much as I can. A good part of the structure was taken from Marian Green’s suggestion in A Witch Alone because I found that it could be easily adapted to my purpose. I started with the “calling the light” meditation, which basically consists of inwardly looking to all four directions and visualising landscapes appropriate to the quarters and their correspondences as well as appropriate qualities in my life; and then visualising the moon waxing, full, and waning over my head; then looking into the earth where everything dies and is being reborn; and finally locating the light in my own heart, thereby creating a sphere of light around myself with the inner light as the central point. After that, I grounded and started the actual dedication.
I called upon the High Ones and asked them to witness and accept my dedication. With my hand on my heart, I said the words I had written long ago and learned by heart for months, because I wanted them to come to me naturally. It worked – throughout the text, I never had to concentrate on remembering the words, but rather thought of their meaning, and I realised what a big step I was taking. I was binding myself to powers far greater than myself, thereby confirming my own responsibility, taking on duties, and becoming serious about actually, unconditionally trusting life and the universe. I felt a bit light-headed and shaky, and I’m pretty certain it wasn’t all from the fasting!
The funny thing about planned rituals is that they’re still unpredictable. Often the things I thought would be a piece of cake, don’t work, while others I never expected to happen, do. When I was lying down and visualised sinking into the ground, I really had to visualise because the feeling didn’t come. It’s the sort of thing that usually comes to me easily, but not this time – the earth felt solid and reassuring, but not at all as if it was closing all around me. So I just went on imagining that I was deep within the earth, dying to my old life, letting go of things I wanted to leave behind. Marian Green writes that there might be tears then, but I found this part very easy and pleasant – maybe it’s because I’ve done a lot of personal-development work in the past years and was clear about what I wanted to let go, and did so happily.
Then when I got to the part where I felt the pure springs and the waters of life trickling, the time when there might be a “baptism”, I was stunned when I actually did receive a new name. I had been pretty sure that this part would never happen to me, since I find the whole “taking on a new name” thing mostly ridiculous. It had only started to make some sense a little while ago, when I read that the secret name is never to be shared or even written down to make absolutely sure that when one hears this name, it must be the High Ones calling. I was so surprised when I received the name, I even had to ask twice – typical me, I wasn’t sure I’d heard correctly! Imagine the situation, during an awesome encounter with the powers that be, and then going: “Excuse me – come again?” (all in my head of course, this part was never spoken out loud by anyone)!
I am still filled with warmth about the name I was given. It is perfect, not some fancy goddess name, but a simple, beautiful one. I didn’t think it actually existed as a name, I just found it pretty, but I’ve since looked it up and found it really is a name, and the meaning in its language is so spot-on it gives me shivers whenever I think about it. Later on I realised that it’s also a palindrome (a word that can be read back to front as well as front to back, like “level” or “pop”) – all around a truly special name!
I curled up in a foetal position, feeling myself born into a life of the Old Ways. It was then that I started to sob for a bit, overwhelmed with sheer bliss and awe, and I remember thinking: ‘After all, it’s not the dying people who cry, but the newborn babies!’ I was strangely overwrought, and was looking forward to breaking my fast, grounding myself properly again. But first I had a promise to make, again after Marian Green. I kneeled on the ground and said: “I desire to will, do dare, to know, and to keep silent, in my new name … I so promise.” Then I pricked the small finger of my left hand and squeezed a few drops of blood onto the earth. Again typical me, all I thought of was that I’d probably catch blood poisoning when some of the dust stuck to my finger!
For another while, I knelt there and hummed my secret name, but I didn’t have any further awe-inspiring communication with the High Ones at that point. All in all I had gone through the individual parts of the dedication rather quickly, not wanting to get cold, and anyway I felt I had received quite enough gifts already. So I got up, ate another Bealtaine bread and drank some water, again giving the first piece and sip as a libation, and walked up and down for a while, grounding and returning to normal consciousness. The last drops of water I gave to my “altar flowers”, they were so beautiful and it was as if they were blossoming there – on this spot on the ground – especially for me and in honour of my dedication.
I left at around six, walking all the way back past the fireplace and the clearing, and taking a different path down from the Bisamberg, a path that is closer to my own house than the town center. I took my time, visiting a few of my favourite spots along the way, and it was almost a quarter to seven when I arrived home. I showered and changed, then climbed into my bed where I had put on fresh sheets the previous day, and had some “breakfast in bed”, consisting of another Bealtaine bread, with butter this time, and a mug of hot tea. When I’d finished, I got a hot-water bottle and went to sleep for about three hours.
Bealtaine itself was a glorious day in the East of Austria, with sunshine and temperatures of around 25 degrees Celsius. I spent the day at home, had tea with my neighbours on their terrace, and met my favourite people in the chat later on. It was perfect, and I had and still have a new sense of connection, of direction and purpose, and of inner peace.
In short, I’m very happy!