This is the fourth post of a small group that all go together. If you haven’t read from the beginning, the first post is You Can’t Say No to the Universe. It will make much more sense if you read it from the beginning. Subsequent posts are linked to their predecessors, so they’re easily followed. 🙂
Previous post: SWLC Post, The Third: Leather Is As Leather Does
(The photo above is the pendant created from my hooks by the lovely Elegant from Fantasies In Leather.)
My original impetus for wanting to attend Southwest Leather Conference was the Dance of Souls. It is the hook pull event that had caught my attention via a friend’s experience and was the main reason I wanted to go.
If you’ve read my previous SWLC posts, you already have an understanding of how transformative the entire event was. I’d always thought the Dance of Souls would be what was transformative, but as it turned out, there was probably no way for it to be bigger than the epiphanies I’d already had that weekend. So the Dance ended up being an experience that underlined the message I’d already been given, that my body is stronger than I give it credit for and that I should give it the respect it deserves.
I’d never been to a large ritual event like this before — there were probably 100 or so people there. Well, unless you count being raised Catholic. Everything about Catholicism is ritual 😉
The Dance was held in one of the large ballrooms. On the far end, along the shorter wall, about a quarter of the room had been shrouded in plastic, Dexter-style. Drop cloths covered the entire floor. About 10 or 12 tables had been set up in the middle of that quarter of the room, positioned in a way that created “lanes” that the piercers worked in. Between the tables were a few chairs, one for the piercer in that lane and one for the person being pierced. There were a couple other chairs available in each aisle, but mainly those were the two used. Every chair was covered in a garbage bag that was secured on with tape.
When I say it looked like a kill room, I wasn’t kidding 😉
While the piercing area was brightly lit, the rest of the room, which would be used for the ritual, was darker. Attendees could easily see, but the dimmed light added to the ritualistic atmosphere.
Against one of the long walls sat narrow tables filled with food: fresh fruits and veggies, granola bars, cookies, candy, water bottles, and various other things. Getting hooked is hungry business!
The other short wall, opposite the ballroom from the piercing area, held more long tables draped in cloth. It served as an altar. A small water fountain — water over rocks — bubbled in the center, surrounded by candles, stones, and crystals. Attendees were encouraged to add anything they’d like to the altar.
Along the final wall, the long one opposite the food tables, is where the drummers had set up. As I understand it, the drummers themselves weren’t part of the event, but came each year to provide the sound and rhythm everyone would dance to.
In the center, dominating the room, stood the Portal. It had been in this room — where the evening contest events had been held — all weekend. The Portal, like a bit of nature in a man made room, consisted of four columns connected by crossbeams, with something like a trellis on top. Each of the columns had been made of essentially a tree trunk, with the crossbeams made in the same style, but with slightly smaller diameters. The bark had been stripped and the surface sealed. Before it had been sealed, however, symbols — universal, human — had been carved into different places. There were zodiac symbols, nature symbols, directional symbols. On one column, I saw a spiral, which seems to be a part of every ancient people’s symbology. One of the crossbeams had carved on it an Earth Mother: a round-ish woman with large breasts.
Each column of the Portal and all four crossbeams had connection points for Dancers to affix their hooks to, two on each.
After announcements and the ritual’s opening by Archer and Elwood, attendees who wished to be hooked lined up and the drums began. As a note, though most did, not everyone who Danced took hooks. There were many who danced, drummed, played tambourines or other hand-held instruments. Being hooked is not a requirement to Dance.
But I’d already decided I would be hooked. I’d brought a small bag with my moleskine notebook and a pen. I wasn’t entirely sure whether I’d write while there, but I had an idea that I would. I got in line and waited for the piercer I’d asked for (who was also one of those who had helped me get to SWLC in the first place).
As I stood and waited, a whip top whose class I’d attended had already gotten pierced. She was pulling at her hooks via the attached cord and giving out primal yells again and again, laughing in between. The drums had already begun, the thumping and sound vibrations echoing into my blood.
I’ve never had hooks before and I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I’ve done needles in the past and though I don’t love them — don’t really even like them enough to have an actual needle scene — I’m not afraid of them at all. So I wasn’t afraid of the hooks either. And, let’s face it, I’d gotten my ass kicked by a heavy Sadist not long prior, so I couldn’t imagine getting a couple hooks would have been anywhere near that bad.
I wasn’t wrong. I sat down and my piercer helped me focus on my breathing. He made some jokes and we laughed together. When the hooks went in, it was like a strong pressure and a sharp pain together. I could feel the specific path of the needle, then the hook, through my flesh. It was very strange, but fascinating, at once. It hurt, as having something sharp go through your skin often does :p and I yelled, loud, as each went in.
The hooks had been placed on my upper chest, one on the right and one on the left. The one on the right felt more sensitive than the left; I suspect it was a little closer to a nerve bundle. I thanked my piercer, went to the table to get my cord and carabiner, and then went out into the greater room with the rest of the Dancers.
SWLC post, the Final: And We Danced… Part Two (tbc)
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