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The Story of the Rolling Mountain of the Black Rock Sibyl of Delphi

by Sadie Damascus (continued)

This year, as it happened, was a wonderful feel-good year at BM for me, though my husband stayed mildly cranky; the music seemed so much better than usual, with traveling bands and jazz and taiko drums and guitars, and much less piped and pounding beat, so I hardly needed my ear plugs. The attendees' average age seemed so much older this year, I felt myself for once among my peers. Also, I had a good new Costco bike, though I got the honorable blisters from riding too much on those washboard roads. Ow. So I only took the Oracle on the road three times during the week, and made one person assume the mantle, late one night; then it was just a painted mountain waiting to burn.

So, it was Wednesday, two days after I arrived, and surely time. I fasted. I prayed. I removed everything, jewelry and ego and socks.....I assumed the garment, the wreath; I made offerings, water on the ground and bay leaves burning; a dance of preparing to be (ridden?) (borrowed?) (given a lifeline?). I walked, making the mountain glide; inside the mountain, I tranced myself trolling, repeating in booming electronic anonymity (robot setting), "The...Oracle...will...answer...your...questions!" ....and they ignored me in droves.

Any safe place for an unlighted semiblind rolling mountain in a dusty wind at night is off the path beaten by people who know what their questions are. I finally had to dismount, fake a brake, step into the windy dark, squint and holler for custom....and I found some. I would boom my message (I can still hear it; it scared me, and still does) until someone headed toward me, when i would quickly duck down and crawl back in, stand up and turn, and resume anonymity and dignity so as to keep the (wormhole?) open.

Some people were puzzled despite everything. And they fucked with me. I was asked dumb questions (Should i go to 9:00 and Child? What's up? What's your name?) and it was a lot like when Homer Simpson travels to Tibet with his neighbor Apu, to consult the wisest man in the world. They are permitted only three questions, and Homer wastes them ("Are you really the president of Quick-ee-mart? Really? Honest?"); it was like that. I didn't get the respect that a couple of dozen undraped accolytes deployed ahead with bullhorns, torches, bows and bulging quivers could have gained me; I probably didn't get the respect that Lucy got in her moveable "Psychiatric help five cents" booth, on the playa a few years ago.

But who understands the will of the gods? Poetry did erupt from my lips once or twice, and an awesomely unrepeatable comic tirade of rhythmic scolding, when some clumsy oaf ripped my window out, trying to pillage the offerings or grope the oracle. Answers came easily; drumming up business was hard. I often played two people, the ponderous ancient Sibyl and a more streetwise priestess who ran interference and explained the procedure. It was always necessary to be ready to defend myself; curious people kept sticking their hands in wherever they could, or trying to get me out; running lights (or an alligator) would have lent me identity, status and protection. Next time?

The one last longest night, before i gave up prophecy for the duration, came on a windy, warm, sugar-cube-soaked night of purity and danger, a combination I love. I was able to sit inside the mountain and just lift my feet and be blown around freely, and at times i lay communing with Whomever while traveling, and I never hit a thing. At one time, a jolly willing woman heard my litany and begged to try the Oracle's mantle herself, so I told her this story so far, repeated to her all Don Jon's words of guidance, showed her around, the cave, made her undress and then put on the white robe and wear the wreath, passed the consecration over to her easily, mouth to mouth, and then I lit out to roll in playa dust and smoke and babble. She spoke once with the Voice, drew someone instantly to her from the horizon, whispered the answer to his question, and then called me in to take back the role again! She was finished with it after two and a half minutes.

I continued to have adventures and oraculate for several hours, stoned as a monkey, driving blind and upside-down, but protected as though held in someone's large hands, while my possessions and several bodily fluids fell through the holes and were lost at light speed. I was powerfully filled with huge and God-pleasing music for seven or eight ages, until I found myself suddenly back where I had begun, about to run over my bike, with it's headlight left on, back at the opera camp, and I knew i was through. I could barely make it home, what with one thing and another.

The next day (Friday? the day of the Black Madonna parade, in which I drummed and sang and throat-sang with a dedicated group of people and puppets) I wrote a list of procedures, which I taped inside the Mountain, with a large clear sign stuck outside, that directed hopeful Pythons to fast hard for three minutes, change the arrow on the "THE SIBYL IS IN/OUT' sign, and then strip, enter the mountain, and follow further directions.

I assured them that they could make no mistake, that the water and bay leaves and other prep were both subjective and idiotproof (similar to taking a trip guide and prerecorded musical accompaniment on a journey of the soul), but I urged them to be ready, to take Immortal Possession very seriously. I left all the sacred gear inside, and only saw the Mountain once again, when we collected it on Sunday and hauled it to the nearest burn platform to burn it. There were more offerings in the basket, and empty water bottles and butts were neatly stashed, and a package of jellybeans had been tucked inside the horn of the voice changer.

It all burned beautifully.

Also by this author:

Misadventures in Shelter Building
Helpful hints for hanging on to tent and your cool.

Tales from the Playa - full index

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