It’s been five months since I have last seen the Werewolves and my pining for the experience has grown to an unsustainable, heavy sensation of missing the community, camaraderie and the profoundness of the rites and conversations.
Just like the last time in May, the warning for the upcoming event came with only two weeks left for preparations. Leonardo, the Alpha of Dire Dogs as my readers may recall, has told me that they would be gathering in the Alps for a moot and I knew I had to be there. The stars aligned rather well this time as I had both time and money for a trip so of course I jumped at the opportunity.
“You will need a sleeping bag the sports equipment and the general stuff. Just like the last time. Will you bring your camera?” Leo asked.
“Of course I will!”
“Oh yes… we will be sleeping outside.”
“Will we have tents or something?” I asked with careful excitement.
“No. Tents are for the weak…”
Fast forward two weeks and it is 4am in Helsinki as I set out on my journey. I was just at work the previous day and didn’t have time to sleep. Long journey ahead with an eight hour overlay in Frankfurt. That’s quite alright - it is a good test of endurance.
After the flights, the small tour of Frankfurt and a night in Milan I take a train to a little town north of Verona. During the ride on the train I see out of the window the mountains rising as eternal, wise giants who have seen both life and death, peace and conflict. Roman troops went by them to conquer new lands north of the empire, Hannibal has crossed these paths to knock on said empire’s gates, the planes of both world wars have surveyed the skies above those tips in search for the enemy. I always had a strong connection to the mountains, even though I am not originally from a mountainous region myself, but there is always something so mystical and eternal about those mighty formations that makes me ponder my own existence, much like the cathedrals of relatively younger religions such as Christianity make their worshiper feel small in front of the divine majesty of the domes and the towers.
“My Heart’s in the Highlands” springs to my mind…
Soon enough I arrive to my destination where I would be met by our host. I walk out of the station and see a familiar cut worn by Davide Morini. The patch of Dire Dogs proudly on his back one can sense an eternal calmness in that man, perhaps or surely even bestowed upon him by years of training in the martial arts and spiritual work he has exalted in around this area, where he lives with his wife Nena.
We get into their car and our drive begins through the town out into the valley where the steep rise, the quick turns and the speed combined with around 35 hours of being awake and airport food, which had god knows what in it, make me a bit car sick. No matter… and no point complaining about such a minuscule thing. As we drive above the valley Davide points to the opposite side and says: “There is my house!” I can’t really see anything… just a mountain covered in the rich green of the forest on top of it… “Right there!” Surely there is indeed a house - in the middle of nothing. Seems completely separated from the world a small, lonely set of small buildings right at the midpoint of the mountain.
As we arrive to our destination I exit the car and I see this vista of mountains, trees, clouds, villages and the town which we left in the distance all illuminated by the Italian sun shining from above. This place is like a dream or a vision I have seen before when I meditated in the peace and quiet of my home. It is exactly like it! I feel I have left the normal world and entered some other dimension, some other plane of life and several complicated emotions rush through my head in a fraction of a second.
Davide shows me around the place, pointing to all surrounding mountain tops, he explains to me: “I have been to the top of each one, I know all of these forests by heart. This is my territory! There is a cave nearby, which is unknown to men and I have found it. It is my place of meditation. We will go there tomorrow.”
Davide and Nena live almost completely in self-sufficiency. They grow vegetables, keep chickens and goats. There are grapes growing all around, which by this time of year are completely over ripened and are sweet beyond any stretch of imagination. I taste one and just can't stop grazing on them through the rest of our whole stay - and I am not the only one. As we go to feed the goats, Davide tells me: “I am just tired of all these games… Why do I have to work for other people waiting for a salary, so I can pay half of it to the government, which does nothing? It’s a stupid game. Here I am free and I can LIVE!” These words resonate with me deeply as the kind of self-sufficiency he has reached is a dream of mine as well and as the location is just like the one I have always imagined as a “perfect place”, I feel the small tingling of a green eyed monster rising inside of me. Understandable of course and in spite of it I primarily feel nothing but the utmost respect for what I see they have managed to accomplish. The surroundings of their home is decorated with animal skulls, bones and runes. I sit down on one of the benches overlooking the valley and try to soak it all in as Nena comes to me and with a reassuring smile says: “Breathe!”
It doesn’t take long before the first group arrives. It is Leo, Vetrar, Darko and Leo’s girlfriend Gaia. We greet each other with warm smiles and embraces and I recognize that I have known these people for just under a year, but in this time we have grown to be friends and I trust them, as I feel they trust me. Especially with Darko I have been talking almost every day as he has been my strength coach and he compliments me that I have changed visibly since we last saw in May. I am quite happy for living up to the expectations as the time between our meetings has been turbulent for me with several changes, challenges and obstacles, but one of the very basic credos of Operation Werewolf is to overcome and rise, and I have done that to the best of my ability so far.
As we settle down outside to rest and take in the sun we exchange gifts between each other. Patches, pins, necklaces… My gift to the guys was something specifically shamanic and Finnish - a ground up reindeer horn, which was used as a supplement for male potency and virility. As it is Leo’s birthday during this weekend I make a joke: “You know, you are getting old, so you will need this soon!”
Darko gives me a statue of Svetovid he brought from Serbia.
We converse, share stories and I take time to educate Vetrar and Darko on peculiarities of Finnish language:
“Do you know you can have a whole conversation in Finnish with just two letters?”
“Bullshit!” Vetrar retorts.
But I continue:
“Kokoo koko kokko kokoon.
They stand in amazement and I spare them this time from explaining that the words “kuusi palaa” can have at least six or seven different meanings which have almost no relation to each other. Or how do you translate such a word as “juoksentelisinkohan”(should I go out and run around without a purpose)? Perhaps my Finnish readers will understand the joke… Anyhow because of that for the rest of the trip I could always hear “kokokokokoko” being thrown out at my general direction. It didn’t help my case at all that I have also told them a story from Finnish tradition about Sauna Elves, who prove themselves to be rather vicious in case one is misbehaving in a sauna. The story goes that if one goes to a sauna, which is a rather sacred place in Finnish culture and for example farts in there or has sex, the sauna elf will come around your bed while you sleep, skin you alive and hang your skin to dry out at the door of the sauna. This story used to be frequently told to children… Needless to say, from that moment on I was referred to as a sauna elf during our moot and it is something I feel I will have to live with for a long time.
Our little moment of grazing on grapes and bullshitting about the gory sauna elves was interrupted by Davide summoning us to take a hike with him in the nearby woods. I grab my camera and we set off walking through the wilderness for a while before we arrive to a spectacular sight. It is something one sees only in romantic paintings of the 19th century, or a CGI ridden films of modern times, the colors, the smell, the texture of everything around us felt quite unreal as we approached a waterfall and a reservoir below it. All of us quiet down as the beauty of that place consumes us. All of us choose a rock to sit on as Davide takes out a singing bowl and starts striking it. The sound penetrates the wilderness and my mind as well. Within my own spiritual path I am quite unused to meditate with other people around me but I do my best, listening to the sound of the magnificent waterfall and the bowl. With the corner of my eye I spot Leo taking out a knife and letting some blood out of his arm. On the other side Vetrar leans down to the water and seems to almost baptize his cut with those waters.
The whole place has an aura of sacredness. Something eternal, something that surpasses our understanding, something that is much bigger than any human that has ever walked upon this earth. This water falling down with fury and grace has seen more revolutions of The Earth than our puny race and it has been feeding the earth around for far longer than we have been experiencing it. I feel (but that might be quite my own subjective experience) that we are honoring that fact.
For myself there is an urge to go and swim in these waters, however I refrain from it. Instead I have to contain myself with just dipping my hands in, drinking it, washing my torso with it thinking about Odin, who had to sacrifice his eye in order to drink from the well of wisdom.
At last the last attendees arrive, a couple of hangouts and Dire Dogs prospect, Samuel. For the rest of the day we spend our time talking, eating, drinking and generally enjoying the views provided by Davide’s and Nena’s front yard.
Next day after we wake up and eat breakfast of bread and eggs, we set out for training that consisted out of running through the mountainous terrain with frequent stops for calisthenics. I felt rather happy with myself for being in a good shape, but some members of our congregation didn’t enjoy the same success. The terrain wasn’t of the easiest kind with steep rises, rocks, branches and what not constantly being tangled at our feet. After a we arrive back to the house and take a moment to drink water and breathe it is already time to head back out for the very meat of this weekend - the fighting.
Before this journey I have joked with Vetrar that I do need a rematch with him after he has absolutely destroyed me in Germany and even though I have not had the time to train in the martial arts, I have indeed become stronger and more resilient.
After a brief explanation by Davide and Leo that bare knuckle fighting the very essence of Dire Dogs we begin training in some simple attacking and blocking techniques. We switch partners often and there is great atmosphere of joy in this activity - how could it be any other way?
After the training is done we form a ring to in the usual tradition and Davide takes out his shaman drum to beat as each of us challenges a partner for a fight in our own respective turn.
I fight Vetrar, against whom I feel this time the fight went better, but he still had the upper hand. It was a good fight and he joyfully tells me: “Well… It is 2-0 for me now!”
Finally I get to fight against Leo as well - a fight we wanted to have ever since we first met back in February of this year. We didn’t have a chance in Germany so now was the time. As I get to stand in the ring against him he comes closer to me and with a sly smile tells me to go hard on him: “Don’t worry! I like to get punched in the face! Heh!”
It felt really balanced, but I know for a fact that he was taking it real easy on me. Real real easy… Nevertheless I enjoy it - hearing the shouts behind my back: “Andy DEFEND! Get in there!”
After a rest I get to fight Samuel as well and after the first couple of fights being a decent warm up I attack with a bit more fury. I get a couple of good punches in, he gets some as well, but as in one brief moment I neglect my guard and he gets a straight punch right into my jaw with full force, which almost knocks me on the ground. The astounded sounds of “ooohhh…” could be heard all around. I remain standing nevertheless and carry on fighting. In spite of that it was the most enjoyable experience.
Myself and others seem to find the most joy when Davide gets up to fight Leo as they surely are among the most experienced fighters on the European side of the Operation beside the Danish Operatives, the violent attacks of which I have experienced on my own skin in Germany, as my readers may recall. The Bear and the Wolf fight to train each other but they also clearly fight to inflict damage and are not afraid of blood spilling during some routine sparring. The differences in their style are apparent even to my untrained eye as Leo has this ferocity of a young wolf who is never afraid to attack and often does so in long sets and combinations of punches, while Davide is more reserved as he watches and analyzes, counter-attacks and dodges often. Many who have sparred with him said that it seems like he is teaching you as you go, not by saying anything but by leading and showing you the movement while you spar with him.
The endless rounds of violence go about as everyone fights everyone in their turn. Darko gets to brag that he found against each and every one of us this time! I fought only against five… While others fought I made sure to take photos and try to capture the action, but it seems that a couple of hard knocks in my head made it a bit hard to adjust the focus properly on my camera. I wasn’t surprised to be quite honest.
As we return to Casa Morini it is time to eat and rest. Darko and Vetrar spend a lot of time laughing and talking about history together, Davide and Nena take a nap, Leo and Gaia talk to each other and I hover around taking photos, and every once in a while laying on the ground to catch a drop of sleep. In my mind I am very aware that we are still bound to go on a hike to the “Dragon Cave” for our ritual.
The ritual has been my favorite part of each moot so far because in it the primal feeling and the extreme rush of adrenaline you get is something that I am addicted to. If I could, I would love to spend the rest of my life in such frenzy and ecstasy, although in such a case my life would be a very short one indeed. But what would be better - living a long life with nothing happening in it besides the banal cliches of the modern life: get a career, get promoted, have kids, pay taxes, have a holiday in Thailand, maybe go skydiving blah blah blah blah… or would it be better to live for a day and die in a state of frenzy which is so intoxicating that your primal animal nature is as sober as it has ever been as the shackles of “progress” and decadence are cast aside?
Would it not be better to live a day as a lion rather than a thousand years as a sheep?
In many ways the ritual has been that moment for me when I can see my own self in real light - I can touch and feel what I am inside. It is strange and scary but liberating and addictive at the same time.
As the dusk is getting nearer and the sun has already hidden behind the mountains we begin our walk towards the cave. The journey isn’t long but we have to be careful, for the ground is slippery and the side of the mountain is steep. I walk behind Darko, who’s shoes proved to have next to no grip and I am constantly preparing myself to grab his vest at any moment he would finally slip and slide towards a 20 meter fall to the left of us. He didn’t slip though…
Much sooner than I thought, we arrive to the cave and the preparations begin. The prospect starts the fire with the hangouts and Darko prepares ashes to paint our faces with. Davide goes out to meditate in the woods and Nena lights candles around the cave. Leo stands in the back of the cave observing everything. I can see a thousand thoughts running through his mind. Every once in a while someone growls and someone else howls… the sun is setting.
I get out of the cave for a second and lay down on the ground - on the cold, wet, fallen leaves of Alpine autumn. I look up onto the trees and examine their movement, listening to their leaves rustling, the wind blowing through them. As I lay and meditate on the nature that surrounds me a feeling of unity (for the lack of a better word) rushes through me and for the first time in my life I really feel being a part of nature. Some sort of euphoria and a sensation of being “unbound” washes over me.
We paint our faces in ashes, mud, blood and wine. There is blood coming out of my arm and I paint some of it on each Dire Dog. Darko paints an :URUZ: rune on my left shoulder. Nena leaves a mark of her hand on my right forearm. The shaman drum starts beating…
All of our eyes are fixated on the fire as Leo walks around it on all fours - like a wolf. After some time the drumming stops and after a moment of quiet reflection Davide speaks out:
“The nature, mother earth - she is with us tonight. We are all together!”
I stood on his left side and as he said that I look at him with astonishment as his words describe what I felt right before we started. This fills me with a reassuring motivation and I am caught in this larger-than-life spectacle of occult lycanthropy. Perhaps not all of our circle felt the same. Perhaps only a few of us felt “it”, but we did.
The elements were invoked around us but I couldn’t see anything. I only felt the water being splashed on my face, I felt falling on the ground and tasting the earth. My hands were engulfed by the fire and my lungs were filled by the purest air I have ever had inhaled.
Leo and Vetrar kneel down and join hands together as Davide hovers around them cutting their foreheads with a knife and then pouring goat milk over them. It is an ancient ritual of Celtic origin to provide blessing and courage for the warriors. This way Dire Dogs and Wolfe Nordland proclaim their bond and eternal brotherhood to each other.
“Ave Lupo! Ave Lupo! Hail Dire Dogs! Hail Wolfe Nordland!” - the frenzied shouts echoed through the Alps…
The screams of our congregation rise and rise. The arousal of our spirits is growing ever higher and we move around for the climax of the ritual.
“GEBO! GEBO! GEBO! GEBO!” - we shouted in the darkness, cut only by our pyre, as Davide and Leo clashed violently with the snarls and shouts I could recognize anywhere by now. So many times I have enjoyed their display of total violence. Davide stood high, like a bear penetrating the forest around us with his shout as each fiber of muscle contracted and he bid Leo to attack him. In turn Leo snarled and showed his sharp teeth - his eyes turning wild and wolf-like.
Eventually myself, Darko and Vetrar pull them apart and as we do so Leo tries to bite Vetrar. For the uninitiated it would have looked like too much, like we are going too far… but for us it wasn’t. It wasn’t even close to “too far”. It was good. It was… well… it was Us.
Towards the end we calm down and stand in contemplative silence before saying a few words to each other. I was honored to hear being greeted as a “Brother” by Dire Dogs, from their very mouths and that I shall surely not forget any time soon.
Indeed it would be perfect to end this account on the what Vetrar said during this last part of the ritual:
“The seeds that we sow here right now are a start of something great!”
It must be noted that many groups have been there before, who were trying to get together and create a culture. All of them had this passionate fire that burnt ever so brightly and ever so quickly, for they never knew the true discipline of creation - creation of something eternal. I for once never believed a passion to be a good thing in particular for it blinds reason and clarity, but that might just be my northern reservedness speaking. But what makes Operation Werewolf so different? How come I see all tribes constantly evolving and pushing harder and harder? How have Wolves of Vinland already exist for over a decade? Well I can think of quite a few reasons, but it would be better to summarize them in one swift allegory. Operation Werewolf is not a wildfire consuming everything around it and then eventually dying out. Operation Werewolf is a nuclear fucking weapon.