(first published in Ink Sweat & Tears Oct 15, 2016)
She didn’t think things could get much better. Madame Blavatsky blew out all the candles on the cake, closed her eyes and wished. Each of the encircling adepts then extinguished their own single candles. A cloud crossed the lambent Sicilian moon, she breathed in a mixture of incense and mountain thyme. The ceremony had reached its climax. Aleister Crowley rose up from his oaken throne, cast his eyes upward and uttered a short prayer to Horus. The entire assembly stood in reverent silence. Apart from the goat.
Crowley then took a step nearer to the Unicursal Hexagram that had been incised on the flat-topped limestone boulder. Unluckily, in the shadows, he collided with L. Ron Hubbard, crushing Hubbard’s toes beneath his glass-beaded sandal. Hubbard groaned and inadvertently released his hold on the goat. The goat should perhaps have escaped at this point, but leaping away in alarm from Hubbard’s groans and curses, it only succeeded in thumping into the massive posterior of Lord Tankerville, who was shaken but not stirred. The stunned goat was then instantly recaptured by W.B. Yeats. However, a great glob of hot wax from Lord Tankerville’s extinguished candle spilled onto Madame Blavatsky. Naked as she was, the hot wax caused her to send up an animal howl of shock and rage, which would have surprised her old Tibetan Lama-Instructor. Crowley made a mental note concerning Blavatsky’s probable unsuitability for sado-masochistic rituals.
The shredding cloud tore away from the moon’s face and ghastly light returned to the pagan grove. In a compelling voice, Crowley called for the ceremonial blade. Gerald Brousseau Gardner stepped forward into the circle, wearing his newly-designed Wiccan robes (golden sickles, sprigs of mistletoe, and wreaths of oak-leaves, all on a pink background).
‘Hast thou the blade, O Scire?’
Gardner, bowed his head and produced a long-bladed knife from the folds of his robe.
A ragged chorus murmured: ‘He has the blade! He has the blade!’
‘A terrible beauty is born!’ (this last was from Yeats).
Crowley received the knife and, with a bow, passed it to Madame Blavatsky. Blavatsky began to utter a long, hissing incantation in a strange tongue. The adepts listened in awed silence. The strangely passive goat gazed upward at the long, glittering knife. Dennis Wheatley averted his eyes.
In one flashing movement, the knife plunged downward. And sliced the cake – icing, marzipan and all.