And to the temple came the holiest of our faith. They arrived with relics of unimaginable power, slung over their shoulders and held close like Tommy guns. Their very presence dimmed the lights and drew out of the air a hazy, shifting hue, as if casting their magic upon the incandescence. With a collective countenance bold and ready for the task, in a sonically powerful number of five, the priests began their cant led by the one known often as the Ginger Elvis, (although it is rumored this particular priest is also known as Carlo von Sexron and, sometimes, Baby Duck).

Chapter and verse, the priests summoned the sacred tones and this holy sermon was as spiritual food to the faithful. Thick like liquid sex, gestational like a sudden impregnation of cool.

And behold! the drumming of the Sacred Skins of Castillo (of which, gentle readers, you may have heard in the gathering sometimes called the Eagles de la Death und Metal) awakened even the most fickle of spirits and, as the excitement rose, I saw Cannabis Rex stomping through the crowd. His roar was like a blow to the chest, and with his great green tail the beast rendered judgment on the heads of the gathered. Of course, the beast didn’t hurt anyone for, as everyone knows, the Cannabis Rex is actually a very peaceful creature, angered only when cornered, caged, and put on display in dirty little Altoid tins and moldy animal cracker boxes. Rather, he picked up members of the congregation and threw them into the air. And, since it is true that people can fly, everything was better than before, some of us pressed into the sweat-strewn, pew-less chamber, others now orbiting the altar high up like sweaty little cherubs.

The priests wended faithfully through the First Book of Joshua. Relics flailing, their bodies flung like scriptural discourse into serpentine rhythm, watchers properly anointed by the oils PatrĂ³n and Don Julio and wreathed in the smoke of the now-flame belching Cannabis Rex (who is become more like a fucking dragon than a short-armed dino and, who, by the way, kept hogging the beach ball), the gathering was spiritually raised to levels we never thought ourselves capable, hands up, punctuated by the strobes, snapshots of our togetherness imprinted like cunning programming into the deepest parts of our brains, one exceptional party of worshippers and the priests at the helm. Ritual. Fucking magic in the making.

And the Ginger Elvis did perform the rite of the bottle, this time Finlander (although it is often Goose of the Grey) but, in a wonderful turn of events, the priest bent his back to the masses and offered up this holy water. We took it kindly and while the holy vessel was passed among us, the priest spoke. Give us all your drugs. And the faithful responded to the commanded confiscation, tossing amber prescription bottles and crumpled Glad sandwich bags filled with who knows what to the altar where the high priest took them dutifully, remanding the illicit to his person.

Things never really got out of hand until the baby was sacrificed. My eyes were closed, my brain laid bare by the tail of none other than Cannabis Rex, throbbing and wet in the sweaty temple air, ready to receive the truth of the electric sermon, third eye viewing the red filtered cholla, mountains on the horizon, the black asphalt under rolling wheels, low like thunder, horsepower dragging me down the 10, the sermon a Song for the Deaf, and the desert-gilded sanguinity of it all was too much. The squirming child was handed up, complacency tattooed across his forehead like the statement of the prosecution, and, as the fervor mounted, the priests devoured the child with silvery knives and forks on a table cloth once white and silken, now crimson with the work of the pious. Or, perhaps, it was just an impression that filled my ears – who are you hiding – is it safe for the deaf. Clearly that’s a baby being eaten.

It was some two hours before the quick waves and thank you Santa Cruzes and the collective melancholy at their passing, as if the circus had come and was now gone, the lions back in their cages, the clowns taking off their makeup. The followers, alone together again, house lights bright like the next morning, eyed one another with sultry evaluation. What did we do and will we regret it? Pressed together now under those mercury vapor lights, sweating, herding, our faces showing a common elation. Our spirits rendered anew. It was a glorious thing. I, for one, await with eager anticipation the next opportunity to receive the sermon of the most holy, and I urge you, dear reader, not to miss the show.--Words and photos by Doug Woolsey