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What it looks like: a oral history of the Roasting of Mara, our Tantric Sorcery Gathering

Updated: Jun 18


Our core group photo of the last day


What does a tantric sorcery gathering looks like?


If you can, let's picture the Witches' Market in Buenos Aires. In the sketchiest part of town, between the slaughterhouses, the whorehouses, the crack houses and the San Cayetano church, because of course there's going to be a church there.


It's Saturday afternoon, and the usual denizens are afoot. It's cold, the sun's dying fast, the local temples are prepping the sacrifice animal for the Egunes and drunkard junkies wander aimlessly threatening people.


It's the least serene and Buddhist place to be for a retreat, a veritable charnel ground.


Of course we're there.


Against all better judgment, all the participants have voted unanimously to visit the place in the only time we have open for sightseeing. Of all the places in that fair city, it's the last place you want to be, at the worst moment possible. Conflicting feelings arise in me: the pride of being with them and the very real fear we're going to get mugged or worse.


Still, I'm in a kind of a cave/shop, translating the instructions for the Amansaguapas oil (lit."Tame the fair ones" oil) when I hear a commotion happening outside.


You see, one strange thing that awaited us was that the Witches' Market, that most irreductible of witchy places was suddenly...very Buddhist. Statues of the Buddha hanged everywhere, shoulder to shoulder with Eleguá and the Christian devil, while Kali appeared next to a Pomba Gira.


We loved it, of course.


Perhaps too much. While I was translating love oils, one of our teachers found an image of Kali, a deity that appears in our mandalas as a protector. She roped another one of our teachers into singing, impromptu, a Sanskrit praise to Kali.


Suddenly, out of nowhere, a man appeared screaming. He had a cut on his tongue, and he was bleeding from it. Everyone started freaking out. The man started acting violent. The singers weren't sure to either stop or continue. Someone went to fetch me. When I arrived, the singers had just stopped and the man had disappeared.


When explained to me, I was aghast.

"What? Why have you stopped? Bloody hell, start again!"

But they wouldn't.


Still, ten minutes after that we got a street preacher to start tripping after he met us ("You will lose your soul if you continue on this path" were his introductory words to us, to which we replied "oh, mate, ahead of the game there") and one hour later, already in dusk we narrowly escaped being mugged by a large group of assailants.


So a great day for a tantric sorcery retreat, all in all.

 

The work of a Mara Roast starts long before the Roast itself happens. Usually it starts on the ending days of the Roast from the year before.


And as you can read, it's an intense thing. It's work, but it's also a wild ride.


It's the pain in the body from being seated in the floor for twelve hours a day for days.

It's the forced intimacy of having a lot of people living together for days at a time.

It's the visions and trips that people had in the middle of the empowerments.

It's the dreams and sign that arose for everyone involved.


It's Lama Sherab teaching at the University the story of Jabir the alchemist and Mahasiddha


It's us swarming the small classroom until we didn't have space for a photo


It's Lama Sherab and Lama Jilly teaching at a rock pub, or Lama Josh dancing a secret dance.



It's the impromptu Lama Cele recital, after she had been the gathering's logistician,




The impromptu teachings; Lama Sherab teaching Mahamudra, the divination teachings, the thousand new things that came out of our meeting.


But mostly is the joy of having a Kula that embraces the tantric Path, and how we can see the signs, visions and dreams arise for everyone that participated right there, in real time.


To see this wonderful, beautiful group of people walking the same path as the Mahasiddhas of old, towards a Shambhala that draws nearer with a heart full of Bodhicitta brings joy, at least to me.


So, how does a Tantric Sorcery retreat looks like?


Messy and intense. Full of screaming Dakas of Kali, broken showerheads, impromptu empowerments for the Mother of Planets in rock pubs, visions of Dharmapalas appearing, the taste of chicha in the street, the smell of old socks and new incense, of blood offerings and flowers.


It looks like a gathering of the bizarre and the magical, of a Kula filled with Bodhicitta, the Gurus, Deities, Dakas, Dakinis and Dharmapalas.


And if that's something you're interested, you'll more than welcome to the next Mara Roast!



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