Whenever I’m in Hollywood, I always feel like I’m walking through the footprint of a giant dinosaur. The stuff in is interesting and all, but you find yourself wondering what it may have been like before its current, not-so-glamorous state. Personally, I’ve always been fascinated by the occult. The more “left-hand” and esoteric, the better. I guess I’d be turning over branches and rocks trying to find the ever-elusive “missing link” in that dino footprint. At least then I’d be putting my degree to some use, right? Well, in a way, my search for the occult kind of did (is doing?) that.
As you may or may not know, I am a practicing Heathen. Yes, put yet another tally mark on the anomaly that is Damian. Asatru, as you may find, has some curious history behind it. It was founded around the same time as the American Church of Satan (LaVey) and the “hippy” movement, and I believe it all came out of Berkley. So you have Wiccans, Satanists, and Vikings offering all kinds of alternative philosophy to the masses in the 60’s.
Wicca becomes mostly associated with women, especially with the Dianics getting out the strong, female voice of our pagan sisters. Satanism is almost theatrical right out of the gate, and weaves in and out of the media’s spotlight to this day, getting people to embrace the god within themselves. Asatru was easily the little sibling of the three, providing people of European descent a religion and philosophy to “return home” to. As you can see, this idea would be very problematic for many to accept with open arms. Indeed, not obviously “white”, I’ve had my own struggles walking the Odian path throughout the last five years or so from people within the community that I should feel comfortable in. But I’m stubborn, and will not be told I cannot belong or that I am not good enough (a little LOL for you- some paleoanthropologists think that unusual stubbornness is a trait left over from the Neanderthals of what is now Germany). So on to Hollyweird.
You always see this stuff in movies. The lights are off in some place that looks abandoned. You hear muffled voices carried off by the wind. Candles’ glow pulsates in a dark window. You take a few steps closer and swear you pick up the smell of something in the air. Sage, perhaps. Now you’re at the window looking in. Hooded figures huddle around an altar, their arms raising and lowering as they chant. There are a number of statuettes on the altar that you do not recognize, along with some odd looking instruments that resemble medieval weaponry. Then fear roots you to the floor as you realize there’s a (probably naked) young lady tied to the floor, squirming and trying to scream! You have just stumbled upon a cult ritual, no doubt! Probably…dun dun duuunnn…SATANISTS!* Or in my case, there’s just no naked people. Or Satanists. Just some silly Heathens up to their monthly moon worship, or seasonal welcoming.
The first time I was invited out to Hollywood’s Besant Lodge (a stone’s throw from the Hollywood sign) to do a ritual, I was flat out excited. I felt like a kid who was just promised a new toy or something. Occult Hollywood! Something was plucked out of the footprint that I never imagined I’d get so intimately close to. And what a place, let me tell you. It smells old, for starters. That’s the first thing I always do when I go to a new place like that…I take a big whiff. The paintings on the wall are something out of The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, I kid you not; portraits of random people without titles, and a really awesome and creepy painting of a castle. To add to the strangeness and amazing energy of the place is a really small stage at the far end from where the door is. A fellow Gildie pointed out that they used to play silent movies at the Lodge, and that it’s actually a CHURCH on Sundays! The plain old good feeling you get when you’re in there is just something else.
With the lights turned out, it’s a different story. You quickly begin to feel unsure of your presence there as your friends become shadows, and the dagger in your hand feels more like a weapon for self defense than a ritual tool. But the chanting begins, and it takes the edge off. You harness those feelings of insecurity and use it to channel the essence of …Thor…or Vanaheim …or whatever or whoever you’re aiming to bring into the room. Neopagan ritual in a historical place like that is pure magic(k). Then we take down our banners, horgh (altar), and pitchers of mead…and just feast as a family around the hearth.
The joy that that little piece of Hollywood has brought to my heart in immeasurable. Looking at it now, I actually feel as though the Lodge was never touched by the menacing foot of a prehistoric beast. It’s a window of history that is largely undisturbed, waiting to be discovered by those lucky enough to be granted permission to enter its portal.
I have purposefully omitted certain things about myself, the history and current state of Asatru, and the particular group I have associated with in the past, as I did not want to add too many unnecessary distractions. If you have any questions regarding Asatru, Paganism or Satanism, please contact me through Facebook via private message and I would love to chat about it!
*The iconic imagery of a female being sacrificed by a cult comes from LaVey. He was very big on using the nude female form as a living altar for his perverted rituals. Aleister Crowley was also into this sort of thing.
Damian Alonzo is an Anthropology graduate and a native of Los Angeles. His focus for the last ten years has been on folklore, with an emphasis on Germanic Heathenry, the supernatural, and youth culture. Most of his free time is spent playing too many hours of PC games, otherwise he might actually have more writing done.