Ritual: Venusian Dreams

The ritual began as so many rituals began: with a wish. “I wish I felt more like I was a part of things.”

That’s the kind of lament that, coming from someone I would consider so integral to the local community as I do, makes the part of my head that I’ve long since learned to identify as the mage, the part of self that has Work to do, sit up and take notice. That doesn’t mean she always has an active role to play, but it means her attention is needed, if only to stand by and listen and help others make spaces for themselves. “What makes you feel like you’re not a member, do you think?” I tried to ask the question innocently, openly. I don’t want to guess at second- and third-layer motivations until I’ve at least heard the first-order ones directly.

The statement, and the question that followed, turned into an extended conversation over multiple days, out of which came two central points. The first was fairly simple: many of the ongoing activities that we’d organized, we’d scheduled on days that, because of a non-standard work schedule, they simply couldn’t join. It wasn’t a deliberate attempt to exclude, but it was something that we hadn’t considered when we’d picked the nights we had for things. “No problem,” I said. “We can schedule at least one good hookah night on a Saturday, and I’m sure we can shift things around to make the like happen more regularly.”

The second took more navigating. I’m long overdue on my own essay on postfurry, or at “what postfurry means to me” from the perspective of self at whatever point in time it was taken, since that will change. However, one of the typical — and most visible — outcomes of postfurry is that fursonae tend to be more than “just” furries. Many sport some kind of visible artifice, ranging from a few cybernetic implants to being obviously synthetic. A great many members are animate plushes, robots, extruded rubber, or statues of glass. In my own stable of closely-held identities, I have both a clockwork automaton powered by alchemy and a tightly-clustered nano-colony that happens to look like a rabbit because that’s the form she had when she was organic. In a community of such exotic structures, I was told, it was easy to feel overwhelmed and a little intimidated when one’s own expressed inner self was “just an animal-human hybrid.”

I need to pause a moment and note that the community is more than its aesthetics. One of our many syncosms — shared fantasy worlds — is the 12Fold setting, in which Venus is home to a race of culturally neo-primitivist rabbits struggling against aggressive megaflora left over from terraforming experiments gone wrong. Once, many years ago, I posited the existence of a species of symbiotic plant-life on Venus that lived part of its life inside its sapient inhabitants, feeding on the emotional energy of the seed-bearers. Then, as the plants overtook the rabbits hosting them, they would bear hallucinogenic and psychotropic fruit whose visions would depend on the emotional states of those who bore the trees in life. The more joyous the bearers, the more positive the dreams they could induce in the shamans who ate of them. Thus, it became a sacred duty to the tribe for those who were selected to carry such seeds to be kept as genuinely happy as possible, and for those who were the bearers of such seeds to take care of themselves and seek out joy and pleasure in their lives.

Near the end of this back-and-forth discussion, I described a rabbit with a large tropical flower growing from one ear whose petals were sensitive to the touch, bearing a bit of a distracted smile as the tendrils had just started to grow around a few of the major nervous clusters inside. Perhaps a few vines had poked through the skin here and there, but this was a buck very early in the cycle, just stepping into the sacred duty of being joyful, and that there were many years yet to enjoy life before being transplanted to the Endless Orchard. I said at the time that this was only one vision of many possible, and I was more than happy to offer others if this one didn’t suit.

I think it took a few days to hear back a yes.

Of course, the Great Work being what it is, that was right when I had to leave for ConComCon, and there were other issues, so we scheduled a small censer respiration for July 9, giving me about a month to prepare. That would be plenty of time to construct a Venusian Dream.

I had always envisioned the Venusian dreamfruit as being some terraformed mutation of the cherimoya, given its nickname of “most delicious fruit known to man,” with flavors reminiscent of pineapple and peach. I asked if those appealed, and was told they did. Cinnamon pairs well with both pineapple and peach, and I thought a subtle bite would help emphasize the headiness I wanted to impart. The use of spices in magic is old, far older than I am, and something I referenced back in Bonds. It didn’t hurt that the meanings of cinnamon I found when writing Bonds were things I wanted to evoke anyway.

Flavor profile established, it was time to begin crafting all parts of the dreamfruit. I knew, ultimately, that I wanted a fully themed experience around a flavor profile and the images it established, wrapped in a small gathering that didn’t have to know every nuance to appreciate it. To those who knew what was happening, every part touched every other and the event was a warm and enveloping cocoon of symbolism. To those who didn’t have to have exposure to that level, it was a hookah gathering themed as many others have been around a flavor profile. We’ve done these before, for coffee and herbal concoctions and the classic “double apple,” so a small pineapple-peach theme wouldn’t be too unusual, and everyone could participate at the level of their own comfort. At least, that’s how my mind envisioned the events, and that’s what I carried with me as I put myself to work.

I started the Work with a small request from my Patron. I’ve learned not to ask for any specific outcome unless I’m willing to make very heavy concessions to get it, and I didn’t think this warranted it. This was just a non-specific help me see this event to the end, along with the usual offerings. I had a chance along the way to make an extra gift of self, thanks to a fire pit one night at the Eyrie, but that was well into the process, and we’re still at the beginning.

Time, you may have noticed, is not as straightforward “one thing and then another” as it seems around here. It’s hard to tell if that’s intentional, and whose intent it is.

First, I needed a couple of infused liquors. Into a large jar with an airtight rubber gasket, I put the following:

  • Three cups of pineapple — one fresh pineapple, diced into small chunks
  • Two cups of fresh peaches
  • Two cinnamon sticks
  • Three-fourths of a teaspoon of vanilla extract

I then covered this with golden rum, which by the end was about a bottle-and-a-third; I didn’t take an exact measurement of how much of the second bottle I used, but it was enough to fill the jar and cover the fruit. The cinnamon sticks came out after three days, the spice sufficiently incorporated into the mixture. The rest sat until the night of the ritual, at which time I had thoroughly flavored rum, and thoroughly rummy fruit:
A jar of dreamfruit-infused liquor

This left me with roughly two-thirds of a bottle of golden rum, to which I also added two sticks of cinnamon and three-quarters of a teaspoon of vanilla extract. In the absence of the fruit and with the much-reduced volume, this produced an incredibly stiff spicy brew after just three days, at which time I also removed the cinnamon sticks and stored the bottle for later. This would become the flavor for my seeds.

After some pondering and research, I settled on konjac instead of gelatin for the seed substrate; I wanted something that would read as “firm” to the tongue and fingers, but still yield under the teeth and be easy to work with. The night before the ritual, I combined the following in a bowl:

  • Ten grams konjac jelly powder
  • Twenty-four grams sugar
  • A pinch of gold cake icing luster dust

I mixed these thoroughly with a fork to remove all the lumps from my sugar, then added them to a small pot on the stove. Then, into a cup measure, I carefully added my wet ingredients:

  • 150 milliliters of water
  • 50 milliliters of dreamfruit seed extract
  • 1 drop of brown gel icing dye

These went into the pot and sat for ten minutes to let the konjac thoroughly rehydrate. I brought the mixture to a slow boil, stirred carefully for three minutes until I had a paste-like consistency, and then spread the mass in a small glass dish which thickened near-instantly. As soon as it cooled to room temperature, I cut most of it into irregular shapes with a pizza cutter and dropped the pieces into a vat of sugar to let its hygroscopic properties draw some of the excess moisture out of the gel overnight. This resulted in irregular raisin-like lumps which I coated in a mixture of cornstarch and gold cake dust to produce my dreamfruit seeds:
A bowl of dreamfruit seeds.

Seeds prepared, I turned my attention to other means of expressing the idea. I decided to serve dinner as part of the evening’s event, so I baked coconut-crusted cod and sweet potatoes, served with a peach-and-pineapple salsa with cumin and onion. Blue corn chips — because I decided it wouldn’t really be a postfurry meal without a blue food, thanks Rik — completed the meal. Aside from the fish, it was actually vegan, which I thought was a nice touch, and the whole meal was gluten-free so that one of our other friends could participate fully. I used coconut flour instead of wheat for the undercoat on the fish, and coconut milk instead of egg for the binder. Wholly aside from the ritual itself, I’m going to have to try that again using toasted coconut instead of fresh, just to see how that alters the taste. A+++, would make again. Pineapple-peach yoghurt smoothies with cinnamon agave and rum, made half with fresh fruit and half with the infused fruit from before, rounded out the food offering.

Finally, I have to thank Amphora for her amazing rendition of the theme into the hookah. She took the idea of dreamfruit, used a bit of the seed extract in one of her vases, and blended peach and pineapple stones in the bowl to produce an incredible result. About eight of us, all told, gathered in the Observatory and cuddled, and we helped bring a new rabbit into the world, one with a sacred mission to nurture happiness and love and joy within himself.

No wands were waved, no incense burned, no prayers recited. There didn’t need to be. I offered the bowl of seeds I’d prepared with a smile. When I was asked, “what is this?” I inclined my head, and the light dawned. He took one and swallowed, washed down with a sip of water. Someone else repeated the question, and the moment passed. “Cinnamon-vanilla gummies, homemade with konjac,” I said, and passed the bowl around. Folks took what they needed to take from the moment.

Throughout the night, from time to time, I leaned down and asked, “How’re you feeling, bunny?” The first time I did it, I didn’t get an answer, and it took someone else wondering to whom I was talking, because of course I’m “th’ buni.” That necessitated a bit of an explanation, and some hugging and cuddling, and some smiles and blushing and much petting and a broadening of the ritual. By the end of the night, though, when I asked, “how’re you feeling, bunny?” the answer I got back was a warm liquid smile and a soft but solid “good.”

At that point, the ritual was complete. I had done what I needed to do. All that remained was to transfer the infused dreamfruit liquor into a bottle I’d procured for the occasion, and add in a few of the dreams we’d made that night to help spark the memory. If you look closely, you can see them glittering in the depths:
A bottle of dreamfruit liqueur

Hopefully the bottle, the memories of its production, and its contents, will help carry the effects of the ritual long past this one night, but I think regardless, I can say this was a success. Thanks go to my Patron for the assistance, to my Guide for leading me to this future, to Amphora again for her part in helping prepare some of the sacraments, to the residents of Blazewing Eyrie for their participation, to the folks at Station Beta for putting up with my madness, to my wife for encouraging me to be so mad so beautifully.

And, of course, to Koʻoloaʻula. Good morning, bunny. I hope you slept well. May all your dreams be beautiful.

Well I see trees of green and red roses too,
I’ll watch them bloom for me and you.