When I turned twenty I swore I would change my life. I realized I mostly lived for others, to satisfy their expectations of me, and like a tape recorder repeated others' words and actions.
It took time, took years, as I knew it would do. I changed myself brick by brick, piece by piece. It was an almost imperceptible process at first, but I, like a twenty year old boy would hardly have recognized myself only a few years later. The process from a fairly suppressed person to a free human being had started, in countless visible and less visible ways.
Then, June 21. Midsummer Night 1988 my life changed drastically and inevitably.
I had been in London, the City of Cities a few days. That was, as always a beyond great experience, a cascade of experiences and impressions. My previous stays in the city had been shorter, but this time I had more money and had planned to stay there a while. I had more time to explore and seek, do things I hadn’t had the time and opportunity to do earlier.
My first trip to London, the summer of 1983, my very first trip outside Scandinavia contributed considerably to my development, my growth. I realized that life was, in truth completely different from what I had been told.
But that was nothing compared to what happened this night.
One may wonder, really wonder sometimes, about coincidences and fate. What makes one go left or right or straight ahead at a given crossroad? What makes a person, one day or one night go to a place he or she has considered going several times before? What makes one act on an increasingly stronger desire to seek and find the unknown and hidden that very night, when one hasn’t all those nights before? Aleister Crowley, one of the most infamous sorcerers during the twentieth century writes in his autobiography Magick in Theory and Practice that one may visit a place one night, pass a door on a desolate road or street, and if you don’t walk in that door that night and regret your decision the next day and return it will no longer be there, and that is a great illustration of my experience. A unique opportunity revealed itself, one that might not ever do so again, and it had enormous consequences for my further life. Perhaps I would have found one similar at a later moment or perhaps not, but I would have certainly missed everything following this one.
I had heard rumors about an upcoming witchnight somewhere in the city. The very thought brought forth everything from excitement to fear to ridicule in me. I had read about witches, of course, and that included modern witches, but had never met any. The term paganism was, for instance, completely unknown to me. But a word like curiosity will always be hopelessly inadequate to describe what I feel on such occasions. It was that drive, that fire I would learn to recognize so easily in all the fantastic years to come. My passionate curiosity (also hopelessly inadequate to describe the indescribable) was roused, and I began visiting, several days early the places where such subjects, such radical concepts and actions would come up. But even on those places it was difficult to find out anything, find facts, instead of ghosts and shadows. But I followed the ghosts and shadows still, and on the third or fourth day I spoke with and drank frothing Guiness with two sinister dressed people.
- It’s in Hyde Park on the 21. the lady said.
- But it’s said that it will be only one hundred yards from the police station, the man added.
That was just two days.
My impression was that they wouldn’t show up and at that time I didn’t feel much for doing so myself either. It felt too freaky and wild. Two days later, when I during twilight walked into Hyde Park, just before the gates were closed for the night uncertainty and anxiety still haunted me, and I had rather low expectations. I recall that I decided going, just to do it. This was London, a place that always given me positive vibrations, a place where all my longing, all my inner strength was magnified a thousand times.
Hyde Park is huge. If one stands at its center, there is quite a distance to the city outside, on all sides. There are fields, waters and trees that can look like a small forest.
The place wasn’t difficult to find. People gathered at the shore of The Serpentine. They stood there like small groups and like individuals. I recognized easily the uncertainty and the worry and the inherent devil-may-care attitude in everybody’s eyes. We glanced at each other, at ourselves with flickering gazes. I still remember it vividly, how it felt, not just then, but in the years before and during adolescence in general. Earlier that day I had seen a beggar sorting through a garbage can, and a young boy screaming in despair and utter desperation, and another boy kicking the beggar, kicking him hard, both the boys and the beggar and humanity as a whole reduced to a pale, broken figure walking into the twilight, deprived of everything, everything making life worth living. Water, deep and dark is misplaced all over the world. All of us, all of the deep water and darkness’ human beings sought this place, in search of what we missed so strongly.
What followed is impossible to describe with words, no matter how hard I try. It never gets quite right.
The night… fell. Those of us that were looking could still glimpse a line of gray light in the horizon. The night fell, and we felt the voice of the night call to us. I heard a drum from somewhere, but there was no way I could see anyone playing it. Others spoke about the sound as well, and expressed their anxiety. They worried that society uniformed thugs should hear it and come for us. A man and a woman entered the gathering, leading a larger group. I still remember how they seemed to me, to us all, so confident and relaxed and intense. The woman welcomed us to the gathering, praising us for our courage, for our ability to seek, to find this place, beyond all odds. This is Midsummer Night, she told us, the original and the best, the way they celebrated it in ancient times. We glanced around us and suddenly it seemed like the trees surrounding us… had grown in number, as we were actually by a pond inside a forest. The world we had known, such a short while ago suddenly seemed far away. The woman stood there with a torch in her hand, and its light flickered and bathed us all, and everything beyond the flickering light seemed like a dark wall, and we imagined there was nothing there, nothing what so ever, and that this was the entire world. Welcome, she greeted us. Welcome to the bewitched forest, to the Sherwood Forest, something that isn’t a place, but a state of mind, a free port to everybody seeking true and unblemished freedom. Feel the fire inside, touch it and pull it out in the open. Touch yourself, independently of the world. Feel yourself in the world. It is within you. It is you, nothing anything separate or strange. Humanity is a part of nature, the generous and ruthless nature, a part both small and infinitely large, not more, not less than any other creature. Feel the greatness. Touch it, accept it. Accept yourself, beyond all the uncertainty and fear hammered into you from an early age.
We didn’t take anything, weren’t given anything, didn’t ingest anything that could make us see things that weren’t there, and that still feels unbelievable to me, that, too. We were ourselves, and that was enough. We saw ourselves and the world, like we and the world truly is.
The latest arrivals began dancing, and we did, too. We were swaying and bathing in the sound of the drums. I know that the sound of drums can be stimulating, can lead a person into a trancelike state, but this was something more than that, far beyond that.
Seek each other, the man called, chanted. Seek the world. Feel the Earth open itself beneath you. Feel its unlimited embrace, its burning heat.
Then he said a word, Hollow. Allow yourself to fall. Come with us to The Other World, embrace the world and everything in it.
And we found ourselves in the forest by the water, and the water was burning, and we were bathing in it and the swimming began. Someone was playing the flute, someone no one could see in the flickering light, the dancing shadow. I saw a girl reach out a hand to a boy, and pull him down on the ground. A man embraced a woman from behind, and she sighed in pleasure, in wild, relaxed expectation. Fabric faded like dew before the morning sun (there was no sun), like the inhibition to everybody present embracing each other, caressing each other wildly, in the shadowy shadow, in the burning water.
Behold thy Shadow, called the shaman, called the witch. Face your soul, accept it and draw strength from it.
We beheld it, the dancing shadow before us, surrounding us all, and I saw my own face in that Shadow, looked into myself and knew beyond certainty that I was watching my own mirror image and met my own eyes, and it was so much more there, infinitely more than I had believed there was.
Some people screamed and ran off, fled from themselves in blind panic, but that felt so unimportant, so very, very wrong, and shook off their ignorance, and knew it could have been us, only a few hours, minutes earlier.
I accept you, I said, we said, in unison, all remaining, by the Fire Lake. You are a part of me. I am a part of you. We are one.
Somebody pulls down my pants and I experience the unlimited freedom ravage me. The push against the pants, causing me pain for minutes, vanished, and everything felt so good, so very good. I glance around me, and we’re all nude. I kiss someone, and am being kissed by someone. We swim in a sea of embraces, from one person to the next, and it feel so good, so indescribably good, in the sea of life we have become. I empty myself once, countless times and have long since lost all sense of numbers, of time and place.
We are indoors, in a smoke-filled cabin «somewhere», and we are once again human beings, once again the creatures we are born to be, without shame or hesitance. I look across the water, towards the forest, and there is nothing there anymore, except the forest. The distant, tall buildings have vanished completely, into the nightmarish state they belong. I see ravens, see them rise from the treetops, see The Raven, hear its screams. And then…
And then, as we all lay there gasping and moaning and living, swimming in the fire lake, swimming in eternal embraces… we look up. And in the distant moonlight, in the glow of the many fires we see a woman levitate in the golden and silver moonlight. We see her, through mist, through fire. A woman with claws and long fangs smiling to us, bathing in the shadows and the fire surrounding her. The sight of her burns us. Even long after she is gone, she is still there, without being seen, without being heard, among us, in every single sound we release, every single expression of pain and pleasure rising from us all.
It feels so good lying there afterwards, and just enjoying the close proximity of the others, on every side, so peaceful, so filled with life and fire.
So often, both before and after the dawn has come as an anticlimax, but not this time. This time the fire and the shadows and the night were with us, tangible and undeniable into the pale day. We find our clothes, at least some of our clothes or other clothes, find enough to cover ourselves somewhat, and we leave for house not far away. We have to walk through a few streets, cross some roads, but we meet only a few people, and even though we scare them they don’t scare us. The small apartment is filled quickly. We just lie down on the floor, or wherever there is room and fall asleep, sleep long into the day, until the night and fire once again are just one arm length off. We need only to reach out a hand and everything is there.
Twenty years ago, and it feels like yesterday.
We discovered that we had been seen, had been observed, and that the police posted a heavy guard the night after, an also swore to do the same the subsequent Midsummer Night (and they did), without that mattering much. We were soaring, and they were left behind, where their kind will always be, in the poisoned dirt of modern, tyrannical society. They never admitted publicly that a «heathen orgy» had taken place in their backyard. The duplicity displayed by the uniformed estate never ceases to surprise me.
Except for further Travels here and there I lived in the City of Cities for close to five years. Midsummer Night was celebrated once again in Hyde Park three years later, when the police no longer guarded it, and I met even more friends and like-minded human beings.
Something infinitely great began that night, and it has been an integrated part of our lives since. We have done certain attempts at… exporting it, both successful and not.
The attempts alone have given me many great moments, many explosive nights.
Life is indeed a fantastic Journey, and not the smallest part of today’s extensive horrible society can change that, because this society, in its foundations is just a pale shadow of Life, as it truly is.