Twelve naked, hairy people gathered in a circle in the courtyard of the little Sicilian villa and paid silent homage to the rising sun. In the center of their orbit of flesh stood the tallest of the group but he was not naked or hairy. He wore a flowing white linen robe over his lanky body and, except for the long white mane the color of corn silk that hung to his shoulders, he was devoid of hair, two of his female disciples having shaved his entire body earlier that morning. To call upon his gods, he must be clean of body, if not in spirit.
This was the end of one existence and the beginning of a new one for Ataturk Muhler. The life that was ended in celebration the night before when he and his disciples, in recognition of the full moon, participated in rites of the flesh. He choreographed and directed the drug-fueled debauchery and he himself had the pleasures of four of the women and two of the men. The ewe and the German Shepherd were left to the enjoyment of the others. The sheep bleated loudly in discomfort but the dog, after a little stimulation, seemed to enjoy the festivities. Fortunately, the Abbey of Thelema near the town of Cefalu was remote so there was no one around to hear the revelries. Nor would any townsfolk dare to approach the place since, for nearly a hundred years it had been known as a place where evil, having defeated good, continued to dwell. How how much they fear and how little they understand, he thought.
But today, with the rising of the sun, his new life began. The consecrated vestment of white would be his only garment for the next six months and the pleasures of the flesh in which he and his minions regularly indulged would henceforth be denied him. “By the mystery of this holy vestment I will clothe me with the armour of salvation in the strength of the Most High that my desired end may be effected through thy strength. May the power of Aiwass, sustain me,” he prayed in a reedy voice and, with a nod dismissed the twelve who scurried off like cockroaches at the turning on of a light.
Ataturk walked a narrow path that took him into a circle of mature chestnut trees that created an intimate and shaded clearing in the center of which was a small chapel built of rough-hewn stones, well-fitted so as to not require the aid of mortar to keep it standing erect. He carried with him a bundle of olive twigs tied together with pieces of hemp string. One end of the bundle had been dipped into creosote and now burned with a stubborn flame that even the brisk Sicilian morning breeze could not extinguish. Ataturk stepped out of the simple leather thongs on his feet, paused for a moment, and entered the oratory. The altar opposite the chapel entrance had been prepared in manic obedience to the instructions passed down over the ages from Abramelin the Mage. Though it was a simple wooden cabinet made of pine, Ataturk had designed it to be elaborately endowed with symbols of his place in the cosmos, symbols that reflected the evil thing he was about to do. Symbols that were considered profane by the teachers who had trained him.
Ataturk walked solemnly to the altar. First, he held the flame of the burning olive twigs to the wick of the oil lamp that hung over the altar. Until he had completed his task some six months from now, that lamp would never be permitted to go out. Next, he put the torch flame to the contents of the censor that sat prominently on the altar. The combination of frankincense, stacte, and agarwood that Ataturk himself had prepared followed the recipe of Abramelin and its smoldering produced a sweet, almost cloying aroma. He backed away from the altar and knelt in the center of the pentagram of obsidian that was embedded into the white pine floor, head bowed and silent for several moments. Rising up and looking heavenward, he began in a thin, watery voice:
“Oh Lord, Supreme God El in whose name I pray, make me worthy of the task set before me. Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, O Lord and I shall be clean; Thou shalt wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.”
This post is an excerpt from Mis(s)pellings, a novel of magical comedy.