The Bard and Jester

Welcome Readers! Here you will find some real life experiences and musings that I'd like to share with you. So, come on in, if you have the time and I'll do my best to be entertaining... Please click on my sponsors' links!!! Established March 12, 2005.

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Location: New York, United States

I can be a clown, a poet, a fool, a romantic, a diplomat, a beast...it all depends upon the timing and circumstance.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Dancing Naked With the Witch Covens of NYC part 2

A campground in the western part of New York state plays hosts to a huge annual Pagan festival called Starwood...in fact, it's the Woodstock of the Pagan world. People from all over come for this week long camping experience in a virtual city of tents and pavilions. Clothing is optional and many prominent nudists attend. By day, you shop at the booths of Pagan vendors or attend mystical seminars and workshops hosted by Pagan celebrities. You can have piercings done, or maybe get a nice massage. You can have your body painted or even tattooed. By night, you party to live music--contemporary and medieval--in the band hall or dance primeval around the campfire to a gathering of drummers. And if you stroll along the shadowed fields, further out from the partying and music making, you're very likely to chance across lovers making love beneath the moon. And on your way back to your tent, you can hear erotic sounds coming from the tents of your neighbors.

This was a Pagan gathering and, to these folks, sexual pleasure is a beautiful thing to give into, not a dirty sin to be condemned and leashed.

"All acts of love and pleasure are my rituals," says the Goddess, according to Wiccan lore.

I went to Starwood with my girlfriend, who, like myself, was a Wiccan at that time. This was the summer of 1996.

That first day, we attended a workshop--I can't really remember what it was all about now--and, for some reason, I chose to do the workshop skyclad. And I wasn't the only one; there was also a short, skinny, naked man there and what nature had denied him in height, it made it up to him in penis size. My girlfriend and I privately laughed and nicknamed him "Tripod".

At one point, towards the end of the workshop, we were asked to find someone in our little group and hug them...real New Agey stuff. As fate would have it, my girlfriend had found someone else to embrace, in fact EVERYONE had found someone...except for myself and Tripod. I can see the memory of that moment now in slow motion: people starting to embrace; me standing behind Tripod; he slowly turns as my head whips around looking in vain to find anyone--ANYONE--but him to wrap my arms around; Tripod completes his turn, a big friendly smile on his face; he sees me...I'm trapped! I stick a false smile on my face, open my arms and I hug a naked man for the first time.

And you know what? It wasn't so bad. I was a sheltered fool for making such a big deal about it. I learned since then that if you're confident in who you are as a person, then it doesn't matter who you hug in whatever state of dress or undress.

My girlfriend and I had a wonderful time. She had scored some magic mushrooms and we tripped beneath the moon as it did a slow dance in and out of the velvet veils of clouds.

At one point, as we tripped, we wandered along a trail through high weeds. I was in the lead and ahead of us, I saw an approaching glow. A figure came around a turn in the path then, a tall, thin, elfish man in white robes with a serene smile and a crown of battery-operated lights cresting his head. Seeing this, in my drugged state, I had a Lord of the Rings experience; I blinked in awe at what seemed to be Elrond visiting from Rivendell or the Gray Havens. The elfish man nodded to me and then passed us by.

Starwood culiminates with a Saturday night bonfire. Everyone gathers at one end of the campground to form a procession that marches to the beat of drums, the pluck of harps, the chirping of flutes and the chanting of voices toward a towering pile of wood.

Being a city-boy, this was my first bon-fire. We offered some prayers to the gods of old and then the fires were lit. Such heat! I could feel the air in my lungs burn! The final party then commenced. We sang and danced in a circle round the great fire, beneath the full moon. We seemed to be transported to another age, another place and we were all linked in a very spiritual way...something I can't really explain...again, spiritual experiences lose much in the translation. Suffice to say that it was a bonding, a sense of unity that I never found in any church.

Though I've long since moved beyond Wicca (and parted with my girlfriend), I've taken alot of it with me as I walk through life, building my own belief system.

I'm glad for the memories, glad to have experienced a wilder and lesser known side to the world.

And they do make for interesting tales.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Dancing Naked With the Witch Covens of NYC part 1

When I first got on the internet, back in 1994, I found my way to the religion of Wicca through Prodigy ISP...which is funny because the ISP's symbol was a pentagram.

I won't go into how Wicca has nothing to do with Satan and evil and I won't go into much detail on Wicca itself...there are a multitude of books that already explain that and if you're curious, go check them out.

I met a Wiccan priestess local to NYC on Prodigy's New Age BB who was willing to teach me the Wiccan Mysteries. During the course of my initial education, she introduced me to a witchy store in NYC's East Village called ENCHANTMENTS. Last I heard, the store was still there.

ENCHANTMENTS held classes on late Saturday mornings in a lovely backyard garden called "The Grove". It was fenced in and tall buildings loomed over it on all sides, but the way the garden was set up, with trees, shrubbery, trickling fountains, a camp fire and statues of Pagan spirits, you could forget that you were in a crowded city of millions...especially since the buildings effectively blocked most of the city's ever-present din.

It was a place made for chanting, dancing and calling up the gods of the ancient religions. I had a great time there and I met some interesting and a wacky folks. Sure a few were real kooks and others space cadets, but that didn't matter, each and everyone of them, regardless of the state of their respective sanity, was open-minded and questing for the spiritual truths that elude us all...I love those kinds of people best...especially after a life time growing up among people stagnated and sheltered in the security blankets of beliefs that were programmed into them since a very early age and, thus, not come by honestly.

I even met Pagan celebrities like Laurie Cabot--Salem's most famous witch--and I was eventually initiated into the coven of a well-known witch-author named Silver Ravenwolf.

I loved those times. After the Grove session ended, I would often lead a bunch of us to Thompkins Square Park, which was just down the block. There we'd sit in the grass and listen to or dance along with the drums of the Mediterranean people who jammed there.

Oddly, though I belonged to Silver Ravenwolf's Black Forest Coven--which was located in Pennsylvania--my teacher, an aspiring theatre actress living in NYC, had us study and socialize a lot with another coven, that of a Saxon magickal tradition. They held their sabbats and esbats in the basement of a large Queens apartment building. The superintendent was a witch of that Saxon coven.

It was this Queens coven's tradition to perform all their rites skyclad--the Pagan term for nude--and the first time I was invited to participate in one of their Sabbat rites, I was told that if I agreed to attend, I'd have to do so skyclad. The basement, like those of many of the larger NYC apartment buildings, was extensive, with many warrens and usually only the super could get access to it all...so we were assured of privacy.

I said, "What the hell, why not." I thought it would make an interesting tale to tell someday and it was a real test of my courage...to step out naked before people both familiar and somewhat unfamiliar. I wanted to see if I had that courage...of course, it helped that I was physically fit.

The only concern I had was getting an erection during the ritual...I mean there were married couples there and without pants, anyone can tell what a man is thinking and I didn't want to offend anyone.

So, I went. The building looked like your average city tenement, which I'd seen about hundred or so of and, prior to that day, I had never once given a thought as to what secret events may be occuring within their bowels.

So, I went in, undressed and then stood naked with about 15 other equally skyclad people. It was summer, but the concrete was cold to my feet, the air comfortably cool on my bare skin.

The ritual began. We chanted, we invoked, we danced. Fortunately, I didn't have an erection and the general awkwardness melted away. There was something about chanting and dancing in the buff that stirred some primeval memory in my blood. I actually enjoyed it and, after that, nudity--whether it was another's or my own--no longer made me uncomfortable.

But the real test for a heretosexual male like myself is hugging another man while the both of us are naked. That takes alot of confidence in who you are as a person.

But I'll tell that tale in part 2, and all about the big, week-long, Pagan festival in Western New York State.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Strange Neighbors & Events Of Our First Apartment PART 4: The Final Straw


For Rent
Originally uploaded by vraven.
(continued from Part 3)

The night before Halloween, the driver side window of my wife's car was smashed in by vandals. Though the complex had a parking lot, our private entrance faced the street and so it was convenient to park at the curb...until the vandalism started, that is.

It was the surburbs and street lamps were few and far between. Our section was particulary dark, unless we left our outside light on (the super never replaced the bulb of the security lights after it burned out)...and even then, the street was draped in heavy shadow.

The October of that year, gangs of punks went around Long Island, smashing windows. That Halloween night, after the trick-or-treaters ceased their rounds, I kept a lone vigil near our vehicles, hidden in the shadows behind a tree close to the curb, with a thin metal pipe hidden up the sleeves of my black duster.

Remembering that night, I think of John Travolta's character, Vincent Vega, from PULP FICTION, who, angry about his car having been keyed up by vandals, said (and I'm paraphrasing here), "I wish I could've caught him...it would've been worth him doing it just so I could've caught him." That's pretty much how I felt that Halloween night.

Though I frightened a crowd of teenagers going about egging and shaving creaming each other (I thought they may be the vandals I waited for and peeked around the tree--which spooked them and they ran away), I never caught the vandals. I'm glad I didn't; who knows what sort of legal trouble I would've accrued.

After that, my wife and I parked our cars in the lot, which was behind our building and a bit of a walk, but we never had trouble again.

A couple of months passed and in that time we had a new neighbor move into the Crachit apartment. The old saying, "Three's the charm" was true about the third person to occupy the apartment. His name was Randy, a man of perhaps 50, with long white hair and a flamboyant character. In the cold weather, he wore a fur coat colored like a lion's mane and looked like something from the 60's. In fact, it reminded me of a coat I once saw Jim Morrison wear in a photo. Each apartment used to have its own mailbox, but that changed and all mailboxes were moved to a centralized location in the complex. Randy ranted on and on about this, "The Post Office...screwing us again!"

Though he was certainly colorful, he wasn't a bother like the Crachits or the Putana and her pimp. When you walked past Randy's apartment on the way to the parking lot, you often heard video game sound effects and music blasting from his open windows.

Another new neighbor occupied Alan's old apartment...well, occupied isn't really the right word. I don't believe he actually lived there, but simply used it. His name was Ernie, a man in his 40's with a brand new BMW. Ernie, I noticed was only there in the daytime--be it a weekday or the weekend--and only for a brief time in which a freckled, reddish-blonde woman, in her late 30's, would arrive in a little, mid-90's sport car a few minutes after him. They'd come out of the apartment some 40 minutes or so later, kiss goodbye and then leave in their separate cars.

It seemed to my wife and I that they were having a secret affair and that Ernie maintained the apartment simply for that purpose. I remember that, when Ernie first "moved in" and I had warned him about parking on the street here, he asked, "What about in the daytime...is it okay then?"

Yeah, I'd say his apartment was defintely a love nest for his tryst with the reddish-blonde woman.

But the final straw for my wife and I came when a new neighbor moved in below us, in the apartment vacated by Dad and his muslim family.

It was a single mom and her young child. Her nickname became The Bitch and I'll tell why shortly. She was one of those inconsiderate people who, when moving into a new place, begin the actual unloading of furniture and boxes after 9 pm. She had a guy on a Harley helping her move who had parked on the sidewalk just outside her door and below our bedroom windows. They must've finished sometime after 11 pm, because my wife and I were awoken by the sounds of the Harley's engine exploding into life.

That first week after her arrival, we began to hear a mysterious rapid banging sound from the apartment below. It was erratic and went on all night, past 10 pm, every night.

I finally went down and knocked on our new neighbor's door to complain. She was a nasty woman with a scowl not unlike Mrs. Crachit's and adversarial eyes. I made my complaint and asked her to be more courteous to her neighbors.

She snapped back that she had an autistic child and that she can't help his fits. I sympathized but asked that she take away from him whatever he uses to bang on the wooden floors with all night long.

The Bitch said that he didn't have anything to bang with. I then said, "Well, please take off his shoes then."

She said he wasn't wearing any.

I frowned. If you had heard the racket going on below us--which sounded like a carpenter's shop--you wouldn't believe that a 5 year old autistic child could make that heavy banging with merely bare fists or feet.

The racket went on every night, all night long...sometimes waking us from our slumber. I got into shouting matches with the Bitch...I mean, I sympathized with the woman's plight, but autistic child or not, we couldn't sleep!

I put in a formal compaint to the landlord, who was reluctant to get involved...probably because it concerned an autistic child...so he did nothing.

That was it.

My wife and I decided to spend about $600 a month more on rent to move into a nice gated complex a few miles from here. I wrote the landlord a professional letter, outlying all the problems past and present and asking him to find the kindness in his heart to release us from our lease.

He did...I guess it was easier for him to do that then deal with any potential legal issues regarding the autistic child.

We moved out and it was for best. We're now in a very nice place...a large two bedroom aparment with a terrace, a pool, a gym, tennis and basketball courts, grounds keepers, reserved parking spots and security patrols.

We can laugh now as we think back upon the strange neighbors and events of our first apartment.