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In a winter forest digging through the wet, fecund earth my fingernails become encrusted with the dark brown soil, smelling of earth and rain and decaying leaves. Kneeling beside a white birch tree, stark against the darker evergreens, my knees sink into the ground amidst the leaf litter and pine needles. I am dressed in a thin white dress, almost like a night gown, except that I don’t ever wear night gowns and my hair is loose, billowing in the breeze. I dig further until I feel something solid and I brush the dirt off to see what lies underneath.

The box is wooden and carved with oak leaves and acorns. It is brown. There is some green paint that has faded outlining the leaves. I open it. Immediately the scent of must hits my nostrils and I know what lies inside is old, maybe ancient and I can feel the excitement alight in my breast. The box is deep so it is hard to really see what is inside. Reaching my hands into the darkness, I lift out a light, dark object, a mask. It feels like it is made of a soft supple leather as I run my fingers over it. The leather is black and as I lift it above my head and into the ray of sunlight peeking through the trees to see it better, I see it is a mask of a deer crowned with a wreath of oak leaves and acorns.

Immediately I place the mask to my face and tie the black ribbon behind my head to fasten it. I start to walk, my bare feet sinking and making a sloshing sound as I lift them from the earth with each step. I start walking deeper into the forest, up a steep incline. The ground is covered in leaves and bright green moss, burying the gray rocks underneath and there is a light dusting of snow over everything.

As I walk my front foot turns into a hoof and then the other. Looking above the hooves I see legs covered in a silvery fur. I continue to walk up and up, as I walk I see big snorts of breath puffing from my nose and I hear my hooves clicking on the rocks underneath.

I reach a clearing. I know this place. I have seen it before, in other dream-filled nights. I am up on a high hill and below me is a clearing, a large, flat frozen area. Tall, grayish, snow-covered mountains surround it. Everywhere I look, the predominant color is white. I start running down the hill and over the clearing. The cold wind in my nostrils is exhilarating. I feel free, alive, unbound. My powerful legs kicking up snow all around me, the cool droplets sticking to my fur. But I don’t feel the cold, I am warm and comfortable in this body. My body feels right for the first time, uninhibited, strong and dependable.

On the other side of the clearing there is a dark forest, I run towards it – I am being pulled there, every instinct tells me I will be safe there, it is home. Once I reach the border of the forest I become human again. I am wearing the mask, the white dress and my feet are still bare.

I reach a large open area, surrounded by yew trees full of their bright red berries. And in the middle of the clearing sits a dark and heavy wooden chair. But it’s not a chair. On further inspection it is more like a throne. This is the chair of someone important and powerful, but who?

Walking up to the throne, I close my eyes and kneel in reverence. I take several deep breaths, the cool air entering my lungs, refreshing me, filling me with peace and relaxation. Slowly I open my eyes and they fall upon heavy boots made of reindeer hide and the boots sit in a pair of old-fashioned wooden snowshoes. I place my face on the boots and smell the soft animal fur, the musky scent strong and warming. I feel the droplets of water from the melted snow on my face.

As I look up the sun is in my eyes and I cannot see his face. I see a fringe of coal black hair lying at his shoulders, dark stubble on the razor sharp edge of his chin.

He knows me and calls me Reinna. He places a hand on my head in blessing. I begin the dedication:

“I am a child of the Gods and I ask them to bless me.
May my mind be blessed so I can accept their wisdom.
May my eyes be blessed so I may see the path they have laid before me.
May my nose be blessed so I may breathe in divine essence.
May my lips be blessed so I may always speak with truth and honor.
May my heart be blessed so I may show your love.
May my hands be blessed so that I may use them to do your work.
May my womb be blessed so I may honor the creation of life.
May my feet be blessed so I may walk side-by-side with Wuldor.
Tonight I pledge myself to Wuldor – I will walk with him beside me and ask him to guide me all the days of my life.”

As I speak the words his warm and powerful hands touch each part of my body, smearing it with the blood of the reindeer. As I finish my prayer, my dedication, he pours more blood over my head from a silver goblet.

My tattoo, the one on my arm of a reindeer in flight, he smears with more blood and on the belly of the reindeer, with a bone knife, carves a rune of protection, his rune. I have been accepted. The initiation is complete.

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