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Somewhere close by, a drum sounds. Somewhere close by, a heartbeat pulses. It pulls us onward and inward. Something important is happening. Soon, the smell of red spicy foods fills our our senses. Friends old and new can be seen greeting each other, becoming acquainted and reacquainted. There is a heavy sense of purpose in the air. The Red Dragon is coming!
The Red Dragon Feast, which took place on Saturday, February 11, is in its 14th year here in Washington, DC. Each year, energy and money are raised in honor of the Red Dragon. The intent is to find a cure for blood-borne disease. In particular, the focus is on HIV/AIDS. This year, $1,000 was raised for Joseph's House, "a hospice home for homeless men and women who are in the end stages of AIDS and cancer." Though the recipient for funds raised and the makeup of the ritual change each year, this is an ongoing magical working. Between feasts, says organizer Eric Eldritch, people are invited and encouraged to do work at their own altars to continue the magic and then to join the feast the following year.
This year's gathering was pretty positive, according to organizer Nikki, and 50 people attended. All aspects of the Ritual, from food preparation to decoration to ritual creation, are handled "in house." The organizers and volunteers do everything themselves, all the while infusing the food and other materials with the magic of the Red Dragon.
The Ritual begins with drumming. R. Tigre Cruz leads a core of drummers to call people to start to focus on the purpose at hand, to come physically into Circle, and to ground and center with a heartbeat rhythm. At the same time, he is transforming the energy of the space, claiming the sanctuary borrowed from Westminster Presbyterian Church for the ritual at hand.
A blood orange is sacrificed, its juice drained into the cauldron. This is the Invocation of Blood. Its purpose is to remind people that we are all part of the cycle of life. Snowbaal reminds attendees: "Our magic is not a metaphor. It is real, it is personal, it is powerful!"
Once everyone is grounded and the circle is cast, the elements called in, Tigre comes to the center of the circle and, supported by the circle drummers, calls in the Red Dragon. The Dragon leads a spiral dance to raise a cone of power. Once raised, the power is sent out to amplify and support the work being done for the cure.
At the heart of the Ritual this year were the Well of Memory and Healing and a working to raise and integrate energy to aid in energizing the World Community Grid.
The Well of Memory and Healing is a working to honor and support people living with blood-borne illnesses (symbolized with red rose petals) and to remember and honor those who have died from them (symbolized by white rose petals.) The Well flows from the feet of the Dragon. People danced this year in the Well. (This working was last used in 2006, and I was lucky enough to be there for that one. It is a quiet and profound working!)
The energy working for the World Community Grid was new to Red Dragon this year, but it's a perfect application of techno-magic. By participating in the World Community Grid individuals donate idle time/energy from their computers to science to make these resources available to speed up research for cures. In the Ritual, the participants amplified the project's goal of using people's idle energy, through intent, to energize the work of the grid.
The second part of the Ritual featured Feasting and Toasting. People "eat red foods, drink red drinks to raise energy in an atmosphere of red that heightens awareness." The altar for the Feast is at the center of the labyrinth in the center of the sanctuary of the church. People are encouraged to get up and go to the altar and give toasts, each of which is met with cries of "All Hail the Red dragon! All Hail the Life-Giving Blood!" People toast loved ones, living and dead, doctors, institutions, and of course, the Red Dragon. This is always a very emotional part of the day.
The fundraising is accomplished via live and silent auctions. The live auction is always raucous and loads of fun. The auction team, this year represented by Fritter, Tophu, and Drew, first chooses "strumpets" from among Ritual attendees. The "strumpets" present each live auction item as bids are being taken. This year, there were some very exciting items on offer.
Highlights included a very elaborate, heart-shaped mirror in a round frame with two dragons and a Celtic Cross, a statue of the Dark Morrigan, and a silver urn, contributed by Radical Faerie Elder Peggy Lee, filled with seven homemade incenses. Each incense came with poetry and images that were meant to energize them. Several people make the items they donate for the auction, often working throughout the year on them. Says Eldritch, "We did all of this to deepen the magic."
Also new and exciting this year were Faeries who came from outside of the DC area. The Red Dragon Feast annually draws participants from Maryland, Virginia, DC, Delaware, and New York. This year, a contingent of Faeries from Philadelphia attended. Also, a Faerie named Husk brought a magical scroll--an acorn wrapped in magical cloth from the Kawashaway Faerie Community in Minnesota as an invitation for "cross pollinization." At the beginning of the ritual, a Faerie named Sizzle invoked all Faerie Communities around the nation and around the globe.
A final highlight to this year's Ritual was an indoor drum circle led and organized by Tigre, but not just any indoor drum circle: This was the first indoor drum circle to be held at the Open Hearth Foundation Community Center! This will very likely become an annual event.
From the new developments with the Feast to the visitors and their invitations to connect to the new drum circle, it is very clear: The magic is growing.
Many thanks to organizers Eldritch, Nikki, Tigre, Leland, Christy, and Drew for their time and dedication to this very important work and for the interview that has allowed Capital Witch to share the magic of the Red Dragon with the community! Anyone who would like to help to organize future Red Dragon Feasts is encouraged to contact Eric Eldritch at: email@example.com .
(Here is our coverage of Last year's Feast.)
Photo credits: Eric Eldritch