Mountain of Initiation ~ Capricorn
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Herculina's Harrowing Hare Hollow Hike Hallowed

It was the eve of the last Christmas Eve of the millennium late in the afternoon when two hikers, Herculina and Promethea, set out for a walk in the forest. On this the day after the winter solstice, the Sun shone a warm blanket of radiant light on its descent through the western clouds.

Sunset had begun with the peachiest of subtle hues as the two pilgrims strolled along the path up the mountain then it grew more and more bright into the deepest of pinks and oranges as it drew lower under the horizon to penetrate the thin, shiny bank of clouds and blue sky. The hikers stopped along the switchback trail to bask in the glory of the sun's swansong, drinking in the firmament of the holy sky in solstice glow.

While dusk's mystical light slowly began to replace the Sun's warming blanket, Lina and Thea climbed the mountain on the well-trodden path so many had trod before.

Stopping frequently to inhale the seasonal fragrances, by the time they reached their lofty destination the pair were reveling in the beauty of it all ~ the hollow home of the forest spirit called "Bunny" by faithful visitors who had stopped for years at the bay laurel tree to pay homage leaving tokens, statues, and donations inside.

Older pilgrims could recall the brown fuzzy bunny statue that appeared in the hollow, and then disappeared each year during the coldest days of winter, sometime before the Spring Equinox. And then it would reappear around Eastertime with the annual influx of new light in the forest. Over the years the hollow home had seen many changes, and on most any visit the Bunny representation would be different ~ endearing rabbit statues or toys, and on occasion other animal forms, for all those who knew of the hidden place to see.

On this turn-of-the-millennium Christmas Eve eve, the two women arrived to stop just as the light was disappearing from the alcove, and they quickly bade their respects to the special tree and its hallow hollow. More light was required to see all of what was inside: a shiny quarter sat atop the "wall" on the back of the tiny enclosure, and below on its floor there were a dusty collection of tiny rocks, the leg bone of a small deer, a sand dollar, and other items of no immediate significance, other than a small statue of a cow that lay on its side on top of the rubble. To the left, in a small indentation, shone a dime as they held up a small lighter (for they had no flashlights) to reveal some of what was inside.

They stood the little cow back up on its legs and set inside a lovely ritual talisman art piece, which Herculina had just that afternoon given Promethea as a special holiday gift, for the temple. They blessed it, and then shared a snack of chips and chocolate with spring water, before carefully gathering their belongings to return.

As the Sun had gone low and to return on the same path would be darker, Promethea suggested, to scale the mountain downwards, taking another of the trails than the one they had climbed. Onward they went, walking in the dark across the ridge of the mountain, taking steps carefully in the limited light in order not to slip and fall.

Soon after starting to descend Herculina pointed out the path was getting obscure, and so the two turned around to retrace their steps. But their subsequent attempt to find the path got them even more off course. Realizing the darkness was obscuring the trail, they couldn't see where to go. Promethea suggested the way down would be to walk along the nearby ravine, and since it appeared to go in the right direction this seemed reasonable for some distance as they traversed the empty stream bed.

"If we hit water we'll have to go up," said Promethea, seeing the darkness of the unknown terrain ahead. Mountain lions were known to be in the nearby forest, and the difficulty of traversing the ground as it dropped below was not beckoning. This did not please Heculina, who called a halt to survey the problem.

Finding they were not on even footing at this point, a sense of panic threatened. What to do? Thea was convinced the way down was through the ravine and offered to go ahead for help, but the hill itself they were now scaling to avoid sliding into the center of the ravine, was very slippery, charred with ashes from a previous summer's fire—with nothing to hold onto. Without skill and concentration, both could feel how easy it would be to lose hold and drop far down into the canyon from gravity's pull, which seemed to be getting stronger every moment.

There was no choice but to turn back, best as they could do this. So as they clung their fingernails into the ground, backs hugging the hill underneath them, they made an agreement: to stay together, to get back up to the top of the ridge, and to look for the same path they had come up. And not to go onwards unless both were in agreement as to direction.

They still had to get back up to the ridge, and attempting to scream for help, they had moved some distance up the slippery hill before realizing how imperiled they were from the danger of sliding. And they knew, once they assessed the situation, it was important to get their bearings before moving on. They tried to breathe as they straddled the side of the mountain, holding for life as they inched across the hill.

It was a matter of sliding backs to the ground across and up the big hill in order to reach a multiple-trunked tree, the first milestone at which they could stop with something to brace them. Gathering their senses, all of a sudden nothing that had seemed important before, other than their survival and rescue, was relevant whatsoever.

There was no more time, only getting to the tree. And it didn't get easier, until that milestone was reached. Grounding to the tree, panting and shaking, as Herculina and Promethea collected their energies they remembered, thankfully, that the Solstice full moon was due to rise ever so shortly.

Having acknowledged the inclemently warm weather of the evening now that their ability to move was restored, they climbed on foot to a higher ledge, and after screaming many cries of "help" towards civilization for several minutes, with no success, they surrendered themselves to the increasing possibility of having to stay out there all night.

And just then, the moon rose.

Assessing the situation further, an inventory revealed the ritual piece they had blessed in the tree, along with Promethea's vessel of water, had been lost to the darkness of the ravine. Nevertheless they celebrated the newly risen light by splitting the last of their rations, a tangerine, and waited for the moon's glow to increase.

Now that it was growing lighter, they walked carefully back up to the ridge. Before long they could see where they had left the path, clear almost as day for the moon was the closest to earth and as full as it could be.

Though their path of return was shaded from light by clumps of trees in many places, it felt easy to follow, in comparison with where they had just a few minutes before been scaling the mountain, clinging for survival. Indeed, their rebirth of the joy of life felt rich and full of wonder as they reached the clearing at the bottom of the trail, and knew once again they were safe.

It is said that all who visit the hollow in the Bunny Tree receive a special initiation, one which bestows both healing and protection. The pilgrims do in return take on a responsibility, once they have accepted the gifts of the tree. And this differs from one to another, based on individual karma and magnetism.

And so, the moral of this story is, "Always take a flashlight on the path of discipleship."

Or, to the initiate, "Lost am I in light supernal, yet on that light I turn my back."


Click here to read the classical Capricorn myth and interpretations, from The Labours of Hercules.


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