The Antlered God
A Chaos Working of a Wiccan Rite
-Michael J Dangler
The cat o' nine slammed into my back again. At this point, I'd lost track of how many had crossed it. It had faded into the background some time ago, along with the chant I was using. I no longer felt my arm as it moved from shoulder to shoulder, delivering the ends of the cat to the flesh again and again.
Every so often, either the lash or a slip of the tongue would bring me back to momentary consciousness. It wasn't long enough to feel everything, nor was it short enough to feel nothing. I suspected that it was an irregularity of the lash that brought me out on occasion, and that this irregularity was caused by my arm becoming tired. When my tongue slipped, I suspected that this was caused by my mind wandering somewhere I didn't want it to.
My eyes closed as the lash continued. My back was past pain (it had left that realm very quickly), but I could still feel the lash. It wasn't a sting anymore, but rather a sound mixed with a sensation. I continued the chant, focusing on the words I spoke and the sensation and sound I experienced.
I could see the darkness behind my eyelids roll back. I had seen this before, back in grade school, when I thought it was cool to push on my eyes hard with my fists, forcing the darkness to be replaced by millions of starbursts, so that when I pulled by hands away, the world was dark for a moment, until my vision began to clear and I could see what appeared to be clouds of darkness roll back, revealing a world of starbursts that slowly became reality.
The reality I saw now was vastly different than the one I had seen so many years ago. When my vision cleared and the darkness rolled back this time, I found myself watching the starbursts reveal a new reality. This one was a dark forest, where thunder rolled and the sky had opened up and was now dumping torrents of rain upon my body. Already I stood soaked, gazing around into the darkness. Above me in the east, where the rain clouds had not yet reached, a gigantic moon hung low in the sky, full and slowly rising toward the rain. To my left and my right, the trees extended far. My back was shoved roughly against a tree. Before me there was a clearing.
I stepped into the clearing, feeling the rain fall harder upon me. I stood and chanted. I raised my hands before me, fingers parallel to the ground. I tilted my face to the sky, and the rain poured onto my eyelids, into my mouth. I brought my chant up louder, crecendoing into the rain, shouting with all my strength and with all my voice.
A lightning bolt struck near me. I held my chant, bringing my voice louder than I thought I could. I was becoming hoarse, and my intonation was suffering, but I made up for it in gusto and sincerity. A hound bayed nearby, and I tried to pour more into the chant. Thunder rolled about me, and the storm seemed to grow in strength with my voice.
Lightning flashed again, and this time illuminated a figure. He stood tall over me, shoulders broad, imposing, and dangerous. His silhouette remained after the flash of lightning, but the next flash showed him directly in front of me. It was then than I saw the antlers atop his head. It was also then that I finally blacked out.
All that dies shall be reborn"
I was laying on the floor in the basement. Around me were scattered the remains of an altar I had apparently fallen into: a broken pentacle; five candles that had gone out when they hit the floor but had left pools of dried wax; a chalice and a knife, both laying near the wall; the cat o' nine with its loop around my wrist; and a pair of antlers.
I took a moment to check for pains that shouldn't be there. I couldn't feel any yet, but I knew that this would probably change when I moved. I lifted my arm tentatively, and my back felt as if it were on fire. I lay back down, gathering my strength. I pulled my arms down to my chest and pushed up, doing my best to ignore the pain. I stood for a moment, looking at the floor around me. I pulled the cat off my wrist, and was not surprised to see some dried blood on the ends. I knew what I would find when I saw my back in the mirror. I also knew that I had gone a bit far.
All that dies shall be reborn"
The chant came back to me. I ignored it for now. I'd only been out about an hour by the clock, allowing for an hour of ritual and self-flagellation prior to the actual trance. I made my way to the bathroom to clean up, and was surprised to find only a little of the skin had been broken, and that far down the back. I figured it would heal quite nicely and might not even leave any scars. I dipped an old towel in alcohol and applied that to my back, and then replaced it with a cold wet towel to stop the bleeding.
I stepped back into the other room and gazed again at the damage. I realized that I was more than a little lucky to have avoided seriously hurting myself when I knocked over the altar, and I promised myself not to try anything like this again in the near future. My eyes fell on my notebook though, and all thoughts of doing anything but writing disappeared.
All that dies shall be reborn"
The chant came back into my head. I tried to write at first, to force my way through it and to open up the experience in my mind, but I couldn't get through. Finally, I simply sat back and listened to the chant in my own head.
It was then than the images came back to me. They didn't come on slowly or easily, but they came on full-force. I could see the clearing, and the giant antlered man in front of me. The image filled my minds eye, and it terrified me. I shook my head clear of it, and fell back on my last line of defense. I laughed.
Or my steak shall be forlorn!"
I laughed at the chant. I laughed at the man with the antlers. I laughed at the moon and the storm and the trees. I laughed at myself. I laughed until I cried and then I laughed longer.
And finally, the image held no power over me. Finally, I could smile instead of shiver. Finally, I could write what I saw and what I learned. Finally, I could move on to something new and more exciting.