15.12.2009 - Contributed: Halo Manash


Travelogue of America ~ September 23rd – October 2nd, 2009

Personnel: Anti Ittna H. / Adinath Puri / Riimu


In the wake of the ever-deepening pilgrimages and ascending journeys, where inner marks seek their reflections in the outer world(s), and have thus far taken Halo Manash in search of those reflections across Europe and Russia, to India and Nepal, and now finally to that strange and wild land across the sea, America.

The intentions of the festival, named Stella Natura: Reaping the Flesh of Light, were stated thusly:

This Autumn, for two days just beyond the wane of Mabon, the Sierra Nevada mountains of Northern California will be graced by a Gathering of Souls, a channeling of primordial fire into performance and art in honor of the All. This festival will draw together some of the most important voices in the international dark arts world, focusing on those who have contributed in some meaningful way to the gnosis that informs us. This festival will transcend musicality in a reaching for the Beyond, and will prioritize those of us working with Spirit in any of its manifestations. In short, expect nothing less than a gathering of peers, those others who you've sensed are out there, shadowed, working towards the transmutation of life itself.

The locality chosen for the gathering was situated right at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, surrounded by giant, old trees rising toward the sky, and was alive with plants and elements, animals both feral and familiar, spirits old and new. There was a river adjacent to the site, and following its constant flowing, streaming sound downwards, one eventually came to a cleft in the forest that opened into a sacred natural enclosure - a rocky waterfall and adjoining pond surrounded by lush greenery. This sacral cleft was used for meditation each morning, as well as ritual bathing and purification that proceeded the actual invocations.

Halo Manash was to perform the opening and closing invocations in the outside amphitheatre. The days preceding the invocations were spent communing with the spirits of the land, as well as preparing and gathering all the different elements required – branches of trees, stones and substances, water from the river, flowers and fruit, and other elements hidden and revealed. Many of the elements present were also given to us, and were thus incorporated into larger acts of giving, which in a sense were the invocations themselves.

Photo by T. Ferguson

On Friday, the first day of the festival, a collective altar was erected at the fire-circle by the lodge (in which all inside-performances were to take place), consisting of various sacred items that people brought for it, such as a skull and flowers, various herbs and plants, stones, bones, feathers and other talismanic objects of personal significance. At dusk, with all participants gathered, a conch was blown and the fire was lighted.

Photo: T. Ferguson

After this short opening rite, the conch was blown yet again at the amphitheater, to signal the beginning of Halo Manash opening invocation – and to gather and bring into unison All who were to be present. Surrounded by massive trees, we conducted a tre-evocation – a tripartite calling into all three worlds, mirroring, marking and inviting the dominant spirits in and around us to part-take in the proceedings. The main sacred fire, which had been decorated with flowers and herbs, was ceremonially lit, and fed with substance, element and intent, and a seat for the spirits was drawn on earth. With the coming of darkness and the unveiling of the clear starry sky, the fire carried the flames and sparks of invocation into all directions.

Late into night, rituals were conducted, music and sacred theatre was performed, stories were shared and connections made between people of spirit, even if the manifestations of spirit(s) took on a myriad of different cultural and personal forms. Still, beyond these forms and manifestations, there were real connections, and in our book, connection equals magic.

The closing invocation on Saturday was more in-depth and complex than on the previous night. The altar was carefully draped in earthen red and decked with stones, horns, totems, wooden cups with water and spirits, shells filled with burning ghee, ash and incense, various plants, a multitude of flowers and two large platters filled with fruit. The fire was likewise again decorated with flowers and herbs, as we were smeared with ash.

Photo by Ann Hageman

Photo by Kathleen

Photo by Ann Hageman

The invocation itself consisted of two parts and was dual on many levels --- being a manifestation sprining from the source, and a withdrawl of manifestation back to the source; an exhalation and an inhalation; a coming-into-being and a passing into non- or new being; internal and reductive, external and expansive. These dual aspects consisted in turn of five elements (and in turn, the five sense organs), each element corresponding to a specific part of the invocation (with it's corresponding process, material, substance and instrument[s]), proceeding in an order from least dense to most dense, and conversely returning in the opposite order. The point between these two cycles was to be the conjunction of the two. The processes and elements in themself were manifested as: the offering of various substances, liquids, and fruit to All present in form and/or spirit; as the bathing in and breathing of fire; as the using of ”vihtas” made out of local treebranches; as the shapeshifting and formtaking of spirit-figures, and as a series of subtle vocal mantras.

Photo by T. Ferguson

+++ More live photos here +++


Aion aikaan astua
hohtaa kannella aavalla
veen ihoa imarrella
aamullan alle luoda
ajatta ajelehtivaisen


There was an instant and deep kinship with some fellow travellers and seekers present, and some individuals highly impressed us with their spirit and life-force --- which in turn is an affirmation of the life-long path and pilgrimage that we have embarked upon. There was similitude, in signs and marks, that were visible both on and under the skin and surface of the apparent. Gifts were given and received, paths crossed under the stars, and the fires burned long into the night.

We were honored to take part in such a seriously intentional event, quite different in tone from the usual subcultural gatherings. The depth and committement to inent that such an act requires goes well beyond all possible technical or organisational difficulties and trivialities that might have arisen. And we are grateful to all whom took part in making the event happen, wheter it be the organizers, performers, or volunteer-workers who had signed up to help with the practical organisation of the festival, such as the preparation of food and drink (of which Damiana IPA and Mugwort Stout should be given special mention).

Ultimately, we were witness to an unveiling of the sacred, a conjunction of spirit(s), the ramifications of which will echo far into the lives of those truly invested in it.

On Sunday, a day of rest and recharging after such an intense series of days, we experienced some chance meetings and genuine Americana in Nevada City. We were joined by a woman who had attended the events of the previous evenings, and desired to take us to some special location. After a winding drive between the mountains, the concrete road became a dirt road, and finally ended, leaving us in night and darkness on a woodpath. Walking on the stony path, the moon made the mountains visible and the familiar sound of a river came ever closer. Finally, after climbing down a deep sandy canyon and over some huge boulders of rock, we had surprisingly arrived at what was genuenly stunning location --- a little enclosed beach by a truly otherwordly river between two mountains. The stones shone an eerie white and the river bathed in the silvery luminesence of the moon, as our naked figures entered the stream, our feet visible in the clear water and touching the perfectly round stonepebbles of the ground beneath the surface. In this sacred place of power and spirit, mantras were whispered and merged with the eternal streaming sound of that great river. On the shore, our nightly troupe of spirits shared libations, and our woman-guide gave us all malas made out of a local sacred plant.

As Monday dawned, we began our road trip, mirroring the great American traditional and mythical journey with no real goal or aim, save for the the going itself, the journey being the main focus. Before us the open road and clear sky, and the changing vistas under the sun.

We headed into northern California, crossing plains and mountains, woodlands and lakes. At night, after several stops along the way, we finally arrived at the shores of the Pacific Ocean. The wind was strong, the waves crashing to the shore, and there we stood and gazed. Warming by a fire in a nearby patch of forest, and later still, sleeping on the ground under the stars, we could hear and sense the ever-presence of the Sea, like something as vast and eternal as the sky.

Photo by Adam Torruella

The next day our journey continued by the Sea and shoreline. At Glass Beach, we strolled along the beach filled with seaglass of different colors and shapes, all rounded and softened by the sands and time.

Then into the Redwoods. Silently immersing oneself in the shadows of those giant trees, as massive and old as mountains, one could sense something strong and almost ancient, a relation like a child to an ancestor. And silence pervaded, as we walked on a dry riverbank running through the forest --- perhaps some things are not to be verbalized.

Photo by Adam Torruella

Photo by Adam Torruella

Photo by Adam Torruella

Continuing our journey, after stopping at various surreal roadside attractions, we continued south toward San Francisco. After yet a few strange stops and chance meetings along the way, we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge in darkness, and delved into the night of this place illuminated by city lights.

The next days were a journey into many strange and special places in San Francisco. By the seashore close to Alcatraz there was a Wave Organ, where sound is created by the movement of waves in an out of a series of pipes in the water.

Following in the footsteps of another American mythic grouping, the Beats, we visited some landmark places, bookshops and bars, that once were the home of great writers, poets and artists that put into words something fundamentally essential of this land and its spirit.

Haight-Ashbury, once a supposed hippy heaven, was now a shadow of what it may once have been, the streets being lined with young vagrants, drop-outs and beggars, and the effects of changing times readily apparent.

At the recommendation of a friend, we also visited a mysterious blue house that graced what was probably the world's largest collection of blotter-art, and other psychedelic artifacts. Our gracious host narrated us with amusing stories and anecdotes and histories, as we stood in literal awe of the powerful precence around us. Afterward, each of us independently felt strangely and deeply effected by the visit --- electrified, almost overwhelmed and touched by something very strong. But that should not come as a surprise: after all, even Albert Hofmann viewed LSD not as merely a chemical, but as an actual spirit.

As a contrast to these urban experiences, we also visited a very special site at the outskirts of the city. The ruins of the Sutro Baths, a large privately owned swimming pool complex that burned down in 1966 and was abandoned, glowed in the bright moonlight as the sea roared right beside them. Our entourage consisting of us three, our guide and a few select friends proceeded downward along a path and arrived at our destination: a cave right by the sea that extended into a passage going all the way through the cliff and opening at the other side. In the middle of the passage a large opening through which the tides and waves came gushing in just below. In this sacred cave we invoked using instruments all had bought along, sharing libations of mead, voicing mantras carried along by the waves --- and yet again, and for the final time on this journey, spirits converged.

Photo by Johnny

Photo by Johnny

Photo by Johnny

There is something very different in America that sets it aside from all other places we have visited, something elusive and hard to define. There is a revolutionary, pioneering, almost faustian spirit, that is equally expansive and free, as well as restless, reckless and violent, and stark in it's duality. In that land that is the confluence and clashing point of so many different peoples and cultures and gods, there is also a sense of rootlessness and spiritual homelessness, a vacuity of connection to a living spirit and history, that manifests itself in a multitude of ways. Perhaps it is something to do with the land itself, as William S. Burroughs wrote: “America is not a young land: it is old and dirty and evil before the settlers, before the Indians.”

And yet, be that as it may, in many people there was also a strong hunger to find such aforementioned connections --- and connections were cultivated during our journey. Whatever the land may be and become, these people impressed and inspired us by their depth, spirit and kindness.

We are indebted to give a deep Thank You to all organisers and helpers, to all whom opened their homes for us, offered us gifts, to all artists and performers, and to all friends old an new.

A special Thank You should be given to Adam, our friend and guide.