A Funny Thing Happened at the Dionysian Ritual

A Funny Thing Happened at the Dionysian Ritual May 11, 2017

This is the tale of that fateful Samhain in the wilds, where Jason “Pan” Mankey invoked the God Dionysus and a dance party broke out to the greatest hits of the 80’s and 90’s. Young and old, we all let our hair down and danced around like crazy teenagers until some magickally curious, and seriously funny shenanigans went down….

Chapel before the Morrison Ritual began with Jason Mankey - photo used with permission 2016
Chapel before the Morrison Ritual began with Jason Mankey – photo used with permission 2016

A Funny Thing Happened at the Dionysian Ritual

Once upon a time, in a secret forest clearing, there was erected a temple to the Old Gods. On that sacred ground, witches gathered from neighboring lands to celebrate the Grand Sabbat of Samhain, to light the bonfires, and embrace the coming darkness of winter without fear. Around that temple lay an old cemetery, and there they circled to honor the Mighty Dead of the land, blood and Spirit…especially the Spirit of Jim Morrison, as an incarnation of Dionysus.

Into their temple, they welcomed an honored Priest, flown in from distant lands, there to teach and lead their rites. Pan Mankey was his witching name, golden haired, and laughing, all coy charm, reverence, and sincere badassery. He raised his bottle of cider, and his voice spoke out the invocations, unlocking the wild witches from all fettered convention. Together, they enacted The Morrison Ritual, Lo, that fateful sabbat day.

CC0 Public Domain - Pixabay
Jim Morrison CC0 Public Domain – Pixabay

The Doors opened, the timbers shook with Jim’s crooning, and we hallow’d him by his ancient names…Dionysus, Bacchus… God of wine, joy and hospitality…god of the vines, fermentation and enjoyment. He was invoked in full lusting hedonistic delight by his own prophetic recordings!

“Come on through to the other side,” we sang. Then, each in their turn, the pledge was made to live in holy ecstasy, in balance of daring and responsibility, of satisfaction and self-preservation. Each witch distilled from the poison of death, the antidote to living well and free–each to their own degree.  Lo, that fateful sabbat day.


Libations flowed, the dance began and witches all whirled in their power, to rhythms pounding out Pan Mankey’s holiest playlist. It was a liturgy of youth sung loud and proud, magicks fed with sacred sweat and heaving breath, uniting all to their task to LIVE and live thoroughly!

Power raised and resonating, a new pulse to the old gods thrummed beyond that forest, and like a magnet through the town of Tarboro the natives awakened, senses perking, curiosity driving them to seek out what mischief pounded beyond those trees.  Lo, that fateful sabbat day.

Outside the chapel and cemetery the night of our Morrison Ritual - 2016
Outside the chapel and cemetery the night of our Morrison Ritual – 2016

When what mysteries should appear for so late an hour, but strangers driving down their temple lane. So far now from the road, wandering cowans,* either brave or fools, to breech the witching perimeter, a couple parks and wanders in, where they happened upon the first witch they find at our kitchen fires, as he rested from the dance.

“Hey there!” they call. “What’s going on here? Is this a party that we may join?”

“Who are you? This is a private event. How did you find us here at this late hour?” the witch inquires.

“We were driving by and saw your sign by the crossroads. We were so curious and had to know if we may stay and have a drink with you?” the cowans ask once more.

“If you are hungry, may I offer you a bowl of hot food? Stay here, and let me go ask the others,” the first witch offers hospitably, as though Dionysus would have it no other way. The trespassers accept a bowl, and unknowingly dine at our Samhain, on bear-meat chili, prepared with magicks old–in the middle of the conservative, Christian wilds North Carolina, no less. Lo, that fateful sabbat day.

Cemetery Fence with Sanctuary Candles lit for all the Ancestors of the Land, buried there. ~Heron Michelle
Cemetery Fence with Sanctuary Candles lit for all the Ancestors of the Land, buried there. ~Heron Michelle

Leaving them to dine, to the temple the first witch sought the coven council… “There are strangers among us,” his cry went up! “Locals who’ve heard Dionysus’ call. Perhaps our music is a homing beacon, but they have no clue they are among witches this dark Samhain night. What shall we do?” 

The priestess answers, “They are unprepared… no perfect love or trust is known between us. They must away! No cowans may stray into our halls unbidden! Not this or any sabbat day!”

Before any may act, a second witch rushes to the temple door, and with an impish grin, “The strangers! They’ve abandoned their bowls by the kitchen fires, and when I found them again…well…such bold fuckery is this!  They’re having sex upon the hood of their car, in broad view of all the Gods and camp! What now?!”

“Well, that escalated quickly!”  The priestess exclaims! “There are younglings in camp! Tell these trespassers they must go!” and off he goes to confront them.

Bacchus (Dionysus) and Ariadne by Caesar Van Everdingen 1660
Bacchus (Dionysus) and Ariadne by Caesar Van Everdingen 1660

Gossip flies faster than besoms, and as one psychic wave of movement the temple empties of curious witches, to see what spectacle ruts upon their car. Laughing, hooting, joking through the tiki-lit path, elated by wine and the ecstasy of their dance, they circle round the cemetery grounds, a mob of cloaked and hooded witches, eyes bright with power.  As just ahead, their emissary crosses out of the trees ahead of them, to confront the cowans in their compromising desire…

Lo and gotdamned behold, in the chill of this November night, this middle-aged woman is bent over the hood of their sedan, skirt raised, and him mounted behind her, pants around his knees. In wanton, animal exhibition, overtaken by their salacious hunger, and the bear chili just wasn’t enough! Though they still don’t know they’ve stumbled into their first Witches Sabbat! What a fateful sabbat night!

The couple startles at their approach. Poor trespassing cowans, such rude coitus-interuptus…alas… Quick! pants jumped up, skirts smoothed down, and flying ’round the hood, they bolt into their car, just as the emissary reaches the open, driver’s window, leaning in to say…. “You are at the Witches’ Sabbat. This is our Rite of Samhain that you’ve trespassed. You must leave now.”

At just this perfectly-timed moment, our inebriated, and hilarious coven, 20 witches strong, breaks through the treeline into the full moon light of the grassy lot, all fire and hoods and swishing cloaks, and not yet knowing what was just revealed to these trespassers, takes up a beating chant of… “sa-cri-fice…sa-cri-fice…sa-cri-fice….”

Hearing us, our emissary breaks into puckish laughter, as their eyes grow wide as the full moon itself, and without a word, she throws the car into reverse!  Without care of any of us standing around, she skids into gear and with dust flying, tears out of our woods like a bat out of Hades, never to return.

With a hearty, drunken, Hail and Farewell, we closed the outer gates at the road, banishing all fear behind them. We then resumed our glorious revels. Lo, that fateful Sabbat night!

Jason "Pan" Mankey and Heron Michelle, Samhain 2016 Visit in North Carolina
Jason “Pan” Mankey and Heron Michelle, Samhain 2016 Visit in North Carolina

Moral of the Story:

Remember, my witches, that the power of the Old Gods is alive and well and regaining strength here in the middle world. We invoke them into these material spaces, and with our own voices we sing their songs; with our feet we dance their dances; with our bodies we make music and love all as worship. And ALL the music, and ALL the dances, throughout all time, are just as much THEIRS as the ancients tunes. We prepare ourselves to be their vessels and of our own free will we do that Work.  We are transformed, but so is the world around us.

Remember that this power is emanating like a magnet that is so strong that it awakens the general populace – the veil drawn back from their eyes so that they, too, may see again. They call this the apocalypse, and it is a real thing. This is why we are here at this time. This is the Great Work of Witchcraft; that our work of personal evolution and remembering of our ancient power, will eventually level-up all of humanity around us.

That being said, I don’t advise letting random strangers gate-crash your magickal workings. Tread the path with wisdom and great care, for you are incarnate gods. May your sabbats never be boring!

A secondary moral of this story is never underestimate the power, sincerity and skill of Jason “Pan” Mankey. He is a genuine and valuable witch, priest and human being, and I consider myself lucky to have stood on sacred ground with him.

May the Gods preserve the Craft!
~Heron Michelle

aka “Story Morrison”


Silliness of my story aside, last Samhain The Sojo Circle flew Jason Mankey out to join us for our three day sabbat camp-out at St. Anne’s Chapel – a 100 year old adorable, 1 room church with family cemetery, surrounded by trees, that lies in a crossroads out in the countryside of uber-conservative, Tarboro, North Carolina. The only neighbors – far enough away that it is unlikely anyone could physically hear us- are farmer’s fields and a huge, ugly, conservative warehouse church. There was no indication at the road that anything was going on that night, besides this green sign:

The only sign at the gate on the country road, that led the trespassers to our Sabbat, in the dark of a late Samhain night. ~photo Heron Michelle
The only sign at the gate on the country road, that led the trespassers to our Sabbat, in the dark of a late Samhain night. ~photo Heron Michelle

My conclusion to all this excitement is that Jason is one badass priest! He happens to be the editor of this Patheos Pagan Channel, an author with Llewellyn, and the intrepid blogger of Raise the Horns. All of those accolades aside, he is an long-time friend of mine, and is good company to have around ye’ old sabbat campfire.

My favorite of all his fine offerings is his Morrison Ritual…as in, Jim Morrison of The Doors…invoked as an incarnation of the God Dionysus….via his music and spoken poetry. Yes, that Dionysus…the god of winemaking and joy… Also known as Bacchus with his Bacchanal of hedonism and exuberant enjoyment of life.

It is a very rock-n-roll kind of ritual that should be taken very seriously, all while having a blast.You would not be disappointed should you choose to hire him to travel to your community to teach and lead.  This is some serious and important witchcraft. Even the distant natives become restless!  This ritual changed my life in many excellent ways. It was here I was given the new Clan name of “Story Morrison.” Eventually I even landed this blog….so I could tell our stories. Go Figure. HAIL DIONYSUS!

“Dionysus was a god known for his lightheartedness and always offered his help to anyone in need. He was therefore very popular among gods and mortals… Dionysus was one of the Olympian gods who actually did not live in Mount Olympus but was constantly traveling around the world together with Satyrs and Maenads in order to discover the secrets of winemaking.”  source

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