Invite to the Viking Camp

Chelsea says she’s invited to the Viking Camp of Stone Wolf Coven, says they told her to stop by if she heard drumming in the night, and I can come if I walk with her by her tent first to drop off her swimsuit and pick up her smores supplies to share at the Stone Wolf Fire.

            Terror is equal to a molten curiosity in me.  A cloudy night, darker than you’d ever walk back in the city, dark as entering a great sea. A post ritual exhaustion thick in the air, but radiating and smoldering coals burn on a few more hours into the night. Chelsea, the lamb in the darkness, her small lamp spilling across faded grass as she leads us on.

I’d loved her as soon as I saw her, felt her rush and she is so much like Rachel I can’t hide the magnetic pull. We’d met just the night before at Gryhpon’s Nest Camp in Springfield, Louisiana, maybe an hour and a half drive from my home in New Orleans but you have to watch the Baton Rouge traffic. My fourth stay at this private campground, with my Pagan community for the sacred holiday Imbolc which doubles as my birthday and I now have 30 years.

            All the way to the back of the property she leads me, brave and focus ahead, says we need to look for the big tires: the true entrance to the camp.  Bare feet find twigs and we navigate through partially trodden bushes and briars that have been gently parted over and over again and lull loosely back into place. 

            Low murmer of voices in the near distance.  Chelsea turns off her small light and slows her steps.  A warm light illuminates her brassy blonde hair and our bare feet are grateful to find a straw softer than I knew existed, covering the large area in a thick blanket, freshly placed down as a soft and clean carpet. 

            Chelsea holds a last weakened vine open like a curtain for me, as the low murmers fall to a sudden halt and we are left with the songs of crickets and we know we are being watched, they know we are here. 

            My fear grows to an almost unbearable pressure but it is too late to turn back, we see their figures, pale faces offset with dark hair and dark clothing.  They circle tightly around a large cooking fire, wooden shields and bright flags hung from the makeshift walls.  A maze of temporary buildings fill a large dip in the field that is Gryphon’s nest, they stay close to the Cypress Swamp that circles us. In a collective trance they gaze deeply into the fire, ritual plants wearing off and a welcome back to ordinary reality.  Women in chairs with young men on the straw floor, leaning back into the women’s laps. 

   Animalistic terror but I cannot turn back and Chelsea is with me,
she would not hesitate to step through the fires of hell for a lunch with Hades. Tired Viking men maintain a loose grip on their handmade axes, carved with protection sigils.

            The Viking king stands to give us a booming welcome with an order to make ourselves at home.  Warm, and fetching us his personally aged burnt honey mead, served in a bison horn and passed around.  The men shuffle their seats to offer us the best spot by the fire, passing us apple wine and a pipe.  The young Vikings pick up their conversation, lightly teasing and joking with each other.  Chelsea insists I tell of the 2 dreams I had the night prior, as they are a popular tale circling Gryphon’s Nest this Imbolc holiday.  I flush at the attention but speak as they watch me.  Smiling, they poke fun at my eels and we laugh together.

            When Chelsea’s marshmallows emerge, a man is commanded to fetch us roasting sticks, which turn out to more resemble harpoons, and the soft candy looks comically small, stabbed and perched above the flame.  The king declares his boar brought out, and a large shank, hooves and hair and all is placed on the fire and he sits back, satisfied.  He speaks with me for a long while as his wife dozes next to him and sweet young men shyly meet my eyes from across the heart of the fire.

Krewe Du Vieux

Saturday, sacred night Rachel and I go to the Marigny to Lower Decatur in the French Quarter, we walk 7 blocks through our dirty streets it is a warm February night it is a young night yet.  We wear our best and most extravagant and weird and sexy and wrong.  We are attending the infamous Krewe Du Vieux parade, it is Carnival Season in New Orleans, Louisiana


There are saints in white and gold lace dripping from crowned heads they are blindfolded they hold scales and are lit with soft glowing lights in their hair, they are Dr. Sandra Ford, Lady Justice.  They peer knowingly at the crowd and slowly march past with a solemnness that is unusual for a parade like this. In dizzying contrast, next arrives a giant paper-mache Putin holding a baby Trump like a tiny screaming sock puppet meanders by, fist in ass.  Next is a float and marchers that parody the construction issues in NOLA they carry signs that say on one side “stop” and on the back “twerk”, and the crowd, eager for revelry, obeys the turn of the signs as squealing women wearing nothing but caution tape march past.

Nuns and priests and the pope himself saunter by with paddles, spanking the crowd’s asses if you bend over to receive. 

They hand out weed wrappers and lube and all handmade throws.  The parade is entirely walking, save for small human or mule drawn floats.

              We get drinks, a whiskey and ginger ale for me and a vodka cranberry for Rachel at a new “goth” bar, used to be Pravda so long ago, used to be a lesbian Riot Grrl bar before that, Rachel says.  Inside men place themselves close to me at the bar side, inviting a hello from me as I ignore and turn to my best friend.  Not out of boredom or lack of attraction, but not wanting to deal with men lately. Outside, and a tall and handsome punk man with a lavender mohawk, not spiked, jokes with us and playfully flirts.

              I fall in love with Rachel over and over again I watch out for her when she goes to the restroom and we talk about fear of men.  Katie Mackey joins us, she is so small in the crowd and can’t see the parade.  Eventually I help her to the front, and she is alive, a local through and through.  Matthew Chauvin and Edward join us, both a little insecure but radiating anxious smiles, and  I am thrilled to see them.  Next floats by an alien in bondage with a giant green penis, gagged and hung high above the crowd, Rachel and I scream and beg to be abducted.  It says, “In space, no one can hear your safe word.” Rachel gives her weed wrappers to Matthew, her fiance, and hands a couple packs of them to a fellow parade goer behind her because at Carnival we share.S

Edward, strange but kind. Sweet but not forcing his charm.  Authentic.  Small diamond earrings, nice shoes, some type of chain around his neck but under his tee shirt, peeking as it lays across his neck and collarbones. Skin of his kind face a little affected by faking many smiles.

Says people don’t respect new money but he is just as excited to tell us all about his pet bird.

Does not pretend to be tough or to be a good guy.  They ask us girls if we want to go to their office in the CBD and hang out on the rooftop patio, with a view of the whole city.  They offer us beers and iced coffee on tap.

              How. Could. I. Say. No.

We walk and walk and the crowd fades from locals to tourists, Rachel and I climb the streetlights and she twerks and tourists want to stay a bit longer in New Orleans, Louisiana.  I’m jumping and climbing on anything I can, and we arrive at a chic building, elevator up, up, on a sterile and dead quiet shared office space.  All windows, all glass you can see everything, dozens of rooms, floors and stairs up and down and real succulents it is a jungle it is empty and horrifying and I am lost and I want to cry I am stuck on a landing the doors are locked it’s glass all around me and drop off to floor so so far below there is nowhere to hide I hear Rachel calling I don’t know where, an infinite soft echo her voice a hallucination. In my head I imagine myself folding and crumpling and crying and hair messy and makeup running and Edward or even Matthew finding me and consoling me and telling me it’s all going to be okay and they pick me up and just hold me.

Here this is my reason to cry, here I have found my chance.  A valid reason to request comfort.  A fear you can see and measure.

Rachel finds me and we ascend to the rooftop patio, I awake to a perfect mist a gray embrace holding the skyscrapers together, remaining in comfort the Holy Ghost, lingering low and spending time with the children.  The city on fire of mist and the fog illuminated by the shallow and excited breathing of our shared ecstasy, wild beauty.

              Rachel is so beautiful; this light does her justice and I insist on taking photos of her and she offers to take some of me.  I hear a voice calling and Matthew hears it also, a person stands somewhere in the infinite possibility of surrounding sky scrapers, with infinite reasons to be speaking into the darkness.  On a ledge near the edge I lie flat on my back and push up, hands and feet and back curved high, I enter a full and deep wheel, with my leg and toe extended directly up.


This electricity carries us to Matthew’s car where we enter and they play loud 90s rap

      and Katie rises like the moon, like the irrepressible sun, refusing to stay quiet, through the window and shouts at the tourists,

the passerby through the CBD and French Quarter and we laugh and laugh until we are all hoarse and Matthew is so happy and I scream a joke at a cute Pedicab driver and we laugh and all go home and sleep very, very, deep and well.

              There exists a part of me in terror in Matthew’s car with Edward up front and I think of what they could do and if I am in danger and I tell myself that one is Rachel’s fiancé and the other a close friend and Katie and I will be okay and I choose to let those thoughts pass by and I cannot lie that part of that fear is thrilling too.