Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Book of Hope 27: Raising the Dead, Part Deux

My first thought was that somehow Alex or Dr P had phoned the Mothership and somehow convinced her to overnight-Fedex the dummy from my closet to Pauanne. Then, doh, I realized that Safe-T-Man was still for sale as a product, even in Europe, and that all the copies of him looked exactly alike. So it was just an eerie coincidence. Or something. And of course, I'd just seen Dr Praetorius making a book 'walk' with threads at the National Library in Helsinki--obviously he was doing exactly the same thing right now, just on a much bigger scale. Even though I could barely see at all and was getting a really splitting headache (and my nose was throbbing big-time by now--I was just praying it wasn't broken), I could appreciate the artistry involved in his performance. I mean, it really looked amazingly real, even from, where I was standing.

So I just stood there staring with my mouth hanging open, which was really starting to happen to me a lot in Finland it seemed, when I felt Alex tugging at the back of my skirt. Which I guessed was my cue to climb down from the stage. So I let him lead me back to our rock--the only problem now, aside from being all swollen and in pain, was that I couldn't actually see much of what happened next. Everything looked like one of those blurry 'bursts of color' screen-savers. First I'd lost my contacts, and now my glasses were like totally busted. Obviously I needed to see an optometrist or an optician (I can never remember which is which) first thing tomorrow--I mean what was the point of sight-seeing in a foreign country if you couldn't even see??

Anyway what I think I saw next was Dr P invisibly raising Safe-T-Man up in his 'grave' so that he appeared to be standing upright, just sort of swaying and trembling like a marionette. At some point I remember Dr P leaned over and started licking the foamy stuff off the dummy's face--at another point he asked him two or three questions in Swinish, to which Safe-T-Man gave grumbly answers in a sort of echoey far-away voice, which I assumed was ventriloquism. I understood one of the answers, which was "54". Then Dr P killed the poor swan, who didn't seem to object much or make much of a fuss, by cutting its throat with a dagger. Meanwhile the crowd got into it again, banging on drums and chanting and stuff, and when this reached a crescendo, Dr P set Safe-T-Man on fire. He practically exploded into flame, blazing up like a nylon nightdress or something and sending off clouds of dark, rubbery-smelling smoke. People were screaming and howling all around me, dancing around like kids in one of those day-care exercises where you all pretend to be animals out of a Richard Scarry book or something. My main feeling was pretty much embarrassment. And of course I was totally pissed about my glasses and my broken nose, which I now could not breathe out of. And I was like way exhausted, because it had been a long day. More like two or three.

One of my very favorite and most loyal readers of this blog is named Mikhail from Russia, who's just emailed me in response to the last chapter saying:

"First you say you hate stories where no details are given about magical rituals, and you say it is cheating. But then it seems to me you are doing the same thing here! ;))"

OK, busted. If anyone really, really wants to memorize the details of the ceremony, which I later pieced together from Dr P's notes and my own research, here they are. Don't try this at home, though (oh, WTF, go ahead. In fact, I dare you. Email me if it works for you):

To raise the dead properly, the ceremony should take place on a Night of Power and be tailored specifically to that night; in this case, Lunasa (or Lughnasa), the night of the first full moon of Leo and festival of the harvest. The ceremony should also accommodate local deities, legends, and even flora as much as possible and will require three willing volunteers, in addition to the necromancer. The necromancer should be wearing robes made from flayed human skin or at least clothes taken from a corpse, and to help the process go smoothly must adorn himself and the ground around the ceremonial circle with tokens of death (such as bones, skulls, pieces of dried human flesh, etc.), as well as the head of an owl. The flesh of a dog can sometimes be used instead and even consumed as a substitute during parts of the ritual. If the subject has been dead for a long time the necromancer can call the spirit to an earthen grave outside anywhere--the actual gravesite isn't necessarily important. If the necromancer merely wants to interrogate the spirit of the departed, he can ask the questions required and then either burn the corpse or bury it in quicklime so that it could never be disturbed again and the spirit can return unhindered to the netherworld. If a substitute for the corpse is created in order to resurrect the dead in another physical locus these 'mock-remains' must always be burned so that they do not become a soulless zombie. The necromancer can alternately finish the ceremony by feasting on the flesh of the corpse, although this does not always destroy its animation. Burning that which remains afterwards is always wisest.

Altar supplies: yellow or orange candles (preferably of tallow or rendered human fat mixed with pitch and sulphur; animal fat if this cannot be obtained), burner, herbs, chalice for body liquids, salt, pentacle, chalice of wine, dagger or sword, wand or staff, plate of bread or wafer, ambergris, and a honeycomb. Because Lemminkainen is a fertility god (Adonis, Baldur, the Zodiacal Leo), and not just an ordinary everyday mortal, his own colors and plants must be included: chalices and dagger should be made of real gold whenever possible, and the drapery should be white, not black. Because Lemminkainen was killed by the Swan of Tuonela, a swan should thus be sacrificed as part of this ceremony. His plants are ash, chamomile, celandine, marigold, mistletoe, and St John's Wort, his runes are sowilhu, fehu, and raidho. Also Fall flowers, ivy and leaves for decoration.

Light twelve candles at nightfall and cast them three at a time, to the dwarves of the four prime directions (Nordhri, Sudhri, Austri and Vestri). Place ambergris, human bone, hair or fingernails in the first gold chalice and ignite them. Place the bowl in the center of the twelve candles, thereby completing a pentagram of occultated space above an earthen grave. Lay a solid line of moist earth in a complete circle around the candles. Outside the first circle, lay a second circle of common salt. The reason for this that when the proper time and place is fixed on, a magic circle is to be formed, within which, the master and his assistant, for in these ceremonies there must be at least two participants, three if the master is not pepared to use his own ejaculate, four if he does not wish to use his own blood) are to carefully respected. The dimensions of the circle is as follows: a piece of ground is usually chosen nine feet square, at the full extent of which parallel lines are drawn one within another, having crosses and triangles described between them close to which is formed the first or outer circle; then, about half a foot within the same, a second circle is described; and within that another square correspondent to the first, the centre of which is the seat or spot where the necromancer and his acolytes are to be placed. The vacancies formed by the various lines and angles of the figure, are to be marked with the names of gods and spirits written on runestnes or scraps of vellum or skin. Then cast a third circle over them with the sword or dagger, saying,

"I consecrate this circle to the ancient gods of this land [you may wish to invoke them by name], asking that they appear to us inside here and restore their beloved son to life."

Then go back to the altar, facing north, and raise your hand or wand in greeting above the belly of the girl or woman lying upon it. Her sex should be exposed and her legs parted to receive the offering of a male acolyte. If you do not choose to perform this office yourself, at this point summon him. After he has ejaculated inside her retrieve the mixture from between her thighs, saying:

"I stand now at the Gate between Two Worlds." Add to the first chalice of burnt offerings a mixture of semen and vaginal fluids, and place it inside the pentacle, then hold the dagger above it, saying,

"Great Mother-Goddess of us all, bless this offering of human seed to your service." Then plunge the dagger into the flames of the incense-burner and hold it in the flames until it begins to smoke, then raise it over the salt, saying,

"Great God-Father of us all, bless this offering of salt, and through fire transmute it to your desire." Then sprinkle the salt into the chalice inside the pentacle and hold the hot dagger in the mixture. Carry the cauldron counter-clockwise around the outside of the circle beginning with the east, then return it to the altar, saying,

"Many fragments were wanting to make up the body of Lemminkainen--half of his head, a hand, many little fragments. Life was wanting in the body. But still his mother would not cast it back into the river. Once again she raked Tuonela's deep river, first along it and then across it; his hand she found, half of his head she found, fragments of his backbone she found, and pieces of his ribs.

She pieced all together; the bones fitted, the joints went together. She chanted a Magic Song, praying that Suonetar would weave the veins together, and stitch with her finest needle and her most silken thread the flesh and the sinews that were broken. She sang a Magic Song, praying that Jumala would fix together the bones. Then the veins were knit together, the bones were fastened together, but still the man remained lifeless and speechless. He needed blood. Now I call upon the Flower of Saari, the Bride of Lemminkainen to come forth with her gift of blood."

The Bride approaches the altar and is given first the wafer, then the wine. Then blood is taken from her, and along with the honeycomb is added to the burning liquid inside the cauldron, with the words,

"Great Father and Mother, I take this blood, freely given, and offer it for your blessing so that your son may live once more. All the Fires of Creation, All Powers of the Air, I bind in your name inside this blessed circle. Cauldron of the Great Mother, cauldron of birth and renewal--hear my call. Return to the earth your son Lemminkainen at cock-crow, healed of all illnesses; rebuild his body, his mind, and his spirit."

On the offering plate should be the mountain ash leaves, cloudberries, feverfew, vervain, and wormwood, as well as the precious oils belonging especially to Lemminkainen, frankincense and cinnamon. The totem animal of the local deity, in this case a swan, should now be offered. It is wise to drug the animal first, both to spare it suffering and to render it docile. Lead it into the circle and employing your dagger, slit its jugular with a single firm swift motion. [you may wish to practice this on farm animals before performing it publicly, as a botched sacrifice can wreck the ceremony.] After the gravesite has been sprayed with its blood, cut it to pieces and extract its liver and sex. Sprinkle these, along with the herbs above, over the smoldering mixture, then tap the chalice three times with the dagger.

"And now as once did Lemminkainen's mother, I sing the Magic Song [now begin the incantation below and speak loudly and clearly]:




Then, little by little the grave begins to stir, and various strange sights appear to the sorcerer while the dead man is being very gradually raised; but it goes very slowly, as the dead are most unwilling to move, and say "Let me lie quiet!" But the necromancer must not give in to their pleading, nor yet let himself be dismayed by the sights, but must mutter his incantations faster than ever and roll his stick until the dead man is halfway out of the ground. At the same time he must be very careful that no earth falls outside the grave when it begins to heave, for such earth can never be put in again.

"For she bade the bee go forth and find the honey-salve that would give final healing. The bee flew across the moon in the heavens; he flew past the borders of Orion; he flew across the Great Bear's shoulders, and into the dwelling of Jumala the Creator. In pots of silver, in golden kettles was the salve that would give final healing. The bee gathered it and brought it back to Lemminkainen's mother.




With the salve she rubbed him. She called upon her son to rise out of his slumbers, to awaken from his dreams of death."

[Now say very loud and fast five times]:


Up he rose; out of his dreams he wakened, and speech came back to him. Even then he would have slain the Swan so that he might win a bride in Pohjola. But his mother persuaded him, and his mother drew him back with her to his home. There the bride awaited him whom he had won in another place and on another day, Kyllikki, the Flower of Saari. Now join with me in chanting five times [in this particular instance]:

Live, Lemminkainen! Live, bright one, shining God, light for all to see! Return to us and walk the earth once again!"

When the dead man has risen half way out, the magician must ask him two questions:

"What was your name in life?"

["Donho Frederik Likkanen."]

"How old were you in death?"


Never ask a third question, or the corpse will be released back to the realm of the dead.

When the dead man has said who he is and is half-way out of the grave, the sorcerer can either drive him down again if he chooses, or can continue the spells till he is completely emerged. When the dead first emerge from their graves, their mouths and nostrils are often bubbling over with a frothy mixture of mucus and mud known as 'corpse froth'; this the magician may lick off with his own tongue for its magical properties. Then he must draw the salve from the chalice, and moisten the dead man's body all over with it. When this is done and the corpse is standing fully upright in his grave, then comes the final ritual: he is set on fire. If the ceremony is successful, this will be a blinding blaze and all-consuming--trapped inside the circle of power, he will silent and unmoving, be turned to ashes in just a few short moments.

Now everything connected with the ceremony must also be burned, and all the ashes collected and buried together in a ploughed furrow in a field before cock-crow.

After everything onstage, including the remains of the poor swan, had been tossed into the grave and burned up too (and damn, it really stank), the still-smoking ashes were gathered up into the chalice and a bunch of us followed Dr P and Anssi outside. It was quite a slow procession, since Dr P was gasping for breath from all the unaccustomed exercise, and I was just barely able to hobble along behind him. We walked past the little artificial lake on the top of the hill next to the Great Hall (more of a mosquito-ridden pond, really) to a spot of meadow-land beside the tree-line, where someone had dug a sort of shallow ditch. We buried the ashes in it along with a Barbie doll wearing a wedding dress, then stood there chanting for a few more minutes until we could see the first faint light of dawn.

"Once upon a time, we'd have buried you instead of the doll, " Alex whispered to me as Dr P tossed the first clods of earth onto the doll. He sounded a teeny bit regretful.

A moment later a teeny little pink prick of light peeked through the trees, and somewhere a rooster crowed. In fact, once it started it wouldn't shut up.

"I bought that along with the swan--too bad we couldn't have killed it instead," said Alex, putting his arm around me to help me walk back. "But apparently no magical ceremony is considered over until dawn or 'cock-crow'. And Dr Praetorius is a literalist. Which is good news for me--this is all going to make a fantastic chapter in my book." Great--after all my hard work I was gonna be a chapter in somebody else's book.

I was like, "So it's over?"

"All over," said Anssi, grabbing my other arm. I felt like a drunk being helped home in an old screwball comedy or something. "How do you think it went?"

"I thought it was totally stupid and disgusting," I said.

"That's not quite what I meant to ask." He looked at Alex, whose lenses reflected back at us blankly. "Do you think it worked?"

Alex burst into laughter. "Do I, bollocks!" he said. Together, the two of them somehow got me back down the hill and into the woods where it was still pretty dark. Every now and then I could hear a rustling or a crashing noise, and a couple or a group would burst into view whispering to each other or whooping or making animal noises. Then they'd disappear again together looking for more private places to party, I guess. All I could see was pale splashes of naked skin in the forest gloom with dark shapes like pointed ears or antlers above them. And then suddenly I realized that maybe it wasn't so dumb or embarrassing after all, what they were doing. For years I'd studied Mythology and magic without really thinking about the reality of it much. Well, this WAS the reality of it. I mean, they were just doing what our ancestors had done naturally and even like religiously for thousands of years. I guess it was sort of still wired into us humans or something, because after being just plain disgusted by everything that had happened so far that night, suddenly the sight of all those naked people flitting through the trees in the darkness or whatever was actually making me horny! I totally couldn't believe it!

I guess maybe it's the same sort of thing that sometimes happen to me when I'm commuting to work on the Washington subway, which is called the 'Metro' after the one in Paris. Whatever, in the Metro the light is always so soft and dim that it's like you're in Dante's Inferno or some sort of club or underworld down there--sometimes you feel totally anonymous, like nothing you did would actually count, if that makes any sense. And because of the lighting guys' faces often look way cuter than they really are, unless they're like old old or super-ugly, in which case they look hideous and evil. I know this for a fact because a few times I've flirted with guys on the platform and then once we were at street level discovered that they were actually not hot. Which is always embarrassing.

Luckily--or maybe unluckily--neither Alex or Anssi seemed to notice my mood change. They left both right after they got me back to the Pace-Arrow, and I fell into a deep, drugged-feeling sleep on the bed as the world started to turn a pale peach color. There was no sign of Riita.

Continued here...


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