A couple years ago, I had the chance to experience something that I have both feared and desired for some time. I waited a long time to write about it because it affected me on a deep level.
Twice a year or so, here in Denver, there is a hook pull ceremony call the Danse of Life. I have never attended. I avoided it, not because I am not interested, but because I always felt like I would be intruding into a ritual that I was not ready to be a part of.
In the summer of 2011, Fakir Musafar and his apprentices were in town, and held a hook pull ceremony. Attendance was limited and they had long ago run out of space. But about two hours before the beginning of the ritual, I was approached and asked to accept one of the spots vacated by someone who was not able to attend.
I hadn’t prepared for that. I hadn’t asked for it, planned on it, or felt I was ready for it. But one of the piercers, an apprentice of Fakir and a friend, took me aside and encouraged me to go for it. I heard the same things from my partners and close friends who I went to, somewhat in a panic, for advice. So, I decided to trust in the people who were conducting the event and take the leap.
I still have trouble describing the experience. Not only because it was so incredible, but also because I was in and out of my body for much of it. So some of the forthcoming narrative is taken from descriptions of witnesses.
It began with a short presentation with Fakir and his partner, Cleo, giving a short history and background of hook pulls. Next was an opening ritual, cleansing the space and bringing everyone into focus.
After that, everyone lined up for the five available piercers. I got in line for the person that had convinced me to show up. I was the last in his line, meaning that I watched as nearly everyone else got their piercing done. Two hooks in the chest.
When I arrived to the front of the line, he made the decision to bring over one of the other piercers so that they could do both hooks at the same time. The idea being that, while it might be a little more challenging, it removed the temptation to abandon the experience after the first hook. I guess he talked to her a bit on the side, and she mostly took over. While the first piercers energy was calm and comforting, she took on more of a “You’re going to do this, and get through it, and feel what you need to feel, because I won’t let you not do that.”
She took me in hand and guided me through the journey. She could tell that I had a deep hurt, that I needed to let it go and feel the pain so that I could start to move past it.
The pain was incredible, though like most pain, I can’t really remember the feeling now, only my reaction to it, which was to scream a lot. I actually tried to hold it back and stay quiet. The piercer chided me. “Let go, let it out, or I’ll make it hurt more until you do”. I didn’t listen and still tried to control it, so she lifted up on the hooks until I finally let loose.
From there on, the rest is a blur.
After the hooks were in, I was led over to an attachment point, where I was hooked into a structure that I could pull against. I sat on the floor and began to lean back, putting weight onto the hooks. My partner, Lilith, helped me, alternately holding me up and pulling me back, pushing me to get the most from the experience.
After a while, the piercer came and had be stand, pulling on the the hooks while I pulled back.
Honestly, there is very little else that I can remember, except that I felt a lot lighter when it was over.
In the years since, I have experienced very few moments that compare to this in intensity or impact. I hope one day I can find the courage to do it again, and to pay more attention to the experience while it is happening, rather than simply endure it.