“2008 is dead, now let’s see the birth of a Champ!”
When I went up to Vermont for New Year’s Eve, I expected a pretty quiet night. The last time I celebrated the turning of the year in that state, in the early 90s, I spent most of the night looking through a telescope; I learned a lot about the stars and how many layers I was wearing that night. This time the plans had included First Night, but Burlington was a bit far and a bit expensive, so I figured a few drinks with friends, maybe some talk about resolutions to pass the time, and we’d be set.
However, as the hour of reckoning approached, we found out that the neighbors had a tradition of their own that they liked to follow. My friend whom I’ve called Noodleman in past posts became our gatekeeper as surely as Tom Bombadil did for the young hobbits, urging us excitedly into the eerie stillness that comes from great cold in the mountains. We skittered across the road and down the snowy slope to where a flammable, man-shaped construct had been assembled of scrap wood, cardboard, clothing and rope. Introduced briefly to the family and resident partygoers, we all stood around as the father immolated this vaguely manlike representation of 2008. As it went up in flames, it looked almost, but not entirely, unlike the picture to the right. The smell suggested accelerants and the way the construct collapsed kept us well clear of the heat, so it was with no little relief to me when our attention was directed within the tiny house itself.
There were more than a few comments about whether all the attendees, now that our merry band had come across the road, would fit within. As we removed our shoes we were greeted by happy dogs, curious cats, and a warm hostess whose name was lost to me as the barely-controlled crowd entered her home. It seemed large enough for us all inside, so I wasn’t clear about the concern as we were all handed drums to play. Then, however, the whole lot of us was taken into the darkened bathrooms with our drums. In the half-full tub was a wooden boat, upon which was a wax effigy of Champ, the creature that lives in Lake Champlain. Pounding our drums with gusto, we forced the boat around the tub with sound alone to propel it. Once, twice, thrice it circled the claw-foot tub before the officiant declared that Champ had been born. There was much rejoicing, and the people did feast upon the orangutan and the fruit-bat and . . .
Well we actually returned across the road at that time, declining the drum circle invitation, but full of a new wonder for Vermonters and their traditions. They don’t all build a Wicker Man with the same types of materials or level of skill, but apparently they do so whether they’re Pagan or not. And now I suspect that a Champ cabal is alive and well in Starksboro, Vermont. We Discordians must stick apart, indeed.