Frolicking Among the Lotus Eaters

After 1, 770 miles, we have arrived at the Quartzite, Arizona, secret initiation ceremony for new Casita Brothers and Sisters into the Casita Union of Lifelong Transients, or CULT for short. We are in the middle of the desert with some hundred and fifty or so other Believers, most of whom have already endured the stringent initiation rites, though some of whom, such as myself, apprehensively await The Trials to come. As you will remember, at last year’s ceremony in Alabama, Val leaped into the abyss, endured The Trials, and joined CULT, while I feared to take the plunge and remained an observer from afar. But this year I am committed, though with considerable anxiety. The first night of the period known as The Trials begins with each of the hopeful novitiates coming before the Senior Elder who addresses the applicant with the prompts from the secret Casita Catechism. Each applicant must give each of the ancient responses, and the slightest memory lapse results in failure of the first Trial. Nevertheless, it can be revealed that the first night also involves branding of the Casita secret symbol on the bottom of the initiate’s left foot, a symbol whose occult meaning dates back centuries to the time when Casitas were pulled by horses and oxen.

The second night of The Trials, as I observed from a safe distance last year, involves prospective initiates dancing naked around an enormous bonfire. Hopeful initiates are judged primarily on their display of ecstasy and their ability to dance without limping after the branding of the night before. Those judged insufficiently rapturous or mobile are culled by a vigorous slap on the rump by one of the Elders, who, with stern countenance, points a disapproving finger into the darkness immediately beyond the fire’s outer ring, a ring that marks the outer boundary of the Circle of Joy. Dancing continues for half an hour, involving hundreds of circuits around the bonfire, with arms flowing, ecstatic cries, and tremulous wails of orgiastic and even orgasmic utterance issuing from the glowing, fire-lit faces of the hopeful initiates. Obviously, some degree of fitness is advantageous, and those unable to sustain these exertions fall or slump to the desert floor, their limp and spent bodies dragged by others beyond the Circle of Joy. One of the Elders, a concerned, older man, is especially attentive to the younger dancers, particularly the females, gallantly darting in at critical moments if any seem about to fall, lifting and supporting their glistening, bare bodies, whispering what are no doubt words of encouragement. He is so assiduous in this role that one can only infer that it has been assigned to him by the Senior Elder herself. At the end of the half hour, the senior Elder blows on a gigantic ram’s horn to signify the end of the evening’s festivities. The Hopefuls are wrapped in gorgeous Casita blankets—emblazoned with the secret symbol—and disperse to their respective campsites.

Of course the climax of all the festivities occurs on the third and final night of The Trials, in which one of the Hopeful initiates is selected for ritual sacrifice. Historically, this has tended to dissuade some owners from seeking membership, thus opting to forgo the many benefits, such as learning the secret handshake and participating as an Elder in future initiations. The process of selection of the Honoree (the term “victim” is forbidden) is, of course, secret, partially for legal reasons, as the legal team is still exploring the outer boundaries of Congress’s recent pronouncements on the concept of religious freedom. Some among the legal team have suggested that the organization’s acronym–CULT–might invite prejudice in this regard, but consensus remains elusive. In any event the grand announcement of the name of the Honoree is typically met with some relief and general applause. Naturally the choice is inconvenient for the person chosen, and usually results in some annoyance to the spouse, significant other, or next of kin of the Honoree. But that annoyance is substantially ameliorated by the awarding of a brand new Casita to said survivor, as well as the prospect of finding a new mate among the survivors of previous Honorees.

The final and most august stage of The Trials begins with the lighting of the final ceremonial bonfire, and each initiate, wearing a purple, ornate Casita robe, again comes before the Senior Elder and recites the Casita Oath and Law with appropriate and edifying gravity. Obviously I cannot reveal publicly any of the language of this venerated document upon pain of various unmentionable torturous punishments, which themselves cannot be specified to the general public upon pain of those very same punishments. Forgetting a single word leads to expulsion and possible confiscation of the initiate’s Casita, depending on the gravity of the memory lapse. Successful initiates, now first year novitiates, receive from the Elder the Casita necklace, which they are adjured never to remove.

These are the tests that lie before me. I have committed the Catechism, Oath, and Law to memory and steeled myself to the upcoming travails. Val assures me that, with a proper attitude, and presuming I am not the Honoree, I can actually enjoy them by submitting to their rigors with joy and exaltation. I’ll try to keep you informed if I get in.

Note: A few minor liberties were taken with the facts for this report.


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