As I came down from the muddy hillside, sweat dripping off my brow, my head reeled over what had just occurred. The Indian heat had certainly affected me, but I was somewhat sure the events of the past two hours were not a hallucination. Trekking up earlier in the morning, I had been greeted by two black-clad young men who beckoned me in Hindi to come. Yes, I had hesitated; but their insistence was smoothed by a sweet kindness and the sentiment offered that it was their Babaji, their “respected father” or guru, who was asking me to make the detour.
The year was 2003, and it was just after Solstice. I followed the men, two devotees of Lord Shiva in his most fierce of forms, to Babaji’s encampment on the top of Nilachal Hill. I was in Assam, and the place was called Kamakhya, abode of the lover’s dance, place where Shiva and Shakti, the eternal Female Force, joined. At this time, Devi, Goddess, bled. Her moon cycle came but once a year, and now the red earth and menstrual blood metaphor mixed in a harmonious shout out to the life Divine. I was enthralled to be there once more, my annual pilgrimages since 1998 necessary soul-felt recharges of all my mind, heart and spirit.
Babaji’s knife was old. Curved and rusty, seeing it brought a wave of tremendous fear, and I wondered what other blood was required. Something deep inside told me, however, to trust the moment. I surrendered. The cut took time between the thickness of my mane tightly plaited down the back and the knife’s dull edge. Babaji pulled me close, and I could feel the coolness of his skin, the tickle of his stubble, and the wetness that dripped from his intoxicated eyes and nose. In these moments, I received initiation into the Aghori mysteries. I had not asked for this blessing, yet there it was. And with the blessing, a responsibility into which I am still growing.