Day One: I arrived way too early for enjoying anything: the bars, vending room and hospitality suites were still not open, many people were still arriving and the only thing to do was sit under a tree for joints and grounding. I just really wanted to avoid traffic to San Jose. Dirt: No one has dirts like my boys from The Vodou Store! Not only did they bring all of their wonderful graveyard dirt, baths and hand rubs, but the amazing artwork of Jeff Cullen graced the Vending hall with Hekate, Baron Samedi and Lady Brigitte ruled. Their eyes moved over us all, statues as watchers and witnesses.
Dedicated Temple Space: I wonder, is this the FIRST time in the PantheaCon history there was an actual permanent temple raised? The Coru Cathubodua established a living space for the Queen Morrigu and Her tribe, the Tuatha de Danann. I somehow 'ended up' at the initial raising and whilst the Raven One is not my Mistress, I serve Her sister Hekate in the Sinister Sorority. Much reverence was shown and the holiness maintained through ritual purity by taking off shoes and asperging with sea water before entering the temple, maintaining silence in the temple space, offerings specific to each deity available...it was remarkably PAGAN. It was the first time I felt peace at the Con. In the process, I became the “death doula” over the course of the weekend: bringing devotees to Her feet for the cathartic crying, screaming and grieving. It was wonderful to have space which was only sacred to a specific intention for the duration of the Con...instead of the rotation of energy occurring within physical space every 3 hours as workshops/lectures finished and began again in a different current.
Detoxing of Druidry: I was finally able to actually hang out there this year, and the ADF suite was un-hospitable. I sprayed it down with Bitch Be Gone, and then found myself unable to really go in the room! The décor was reminiscent of Thanksgiving, with small, easily knocked over, succulent plants no bigger than my pinkie toe, at each table. The Costco bar food really wasn't too bad (chex and nut mixes, room temperature cheese and a plethora of processed foods), but the lack of recycling or composting bins was rather surprising for a group of Druids; especially after the beautiful efforts of last year.
I was also quite disappointed by the pile of cigarette butts that accumulated out on the hospitality suites' balcony in general...Pagans used to be well known for leaving spaces cleaner than they find them. As a non-smoker I noticed it; as a medical cannabis patient, it was even harder to stand around breathing the secondhand fumes and toxic fog.
What was supposed to be a great Pan-Druid panel ended up cancelling... and no one really understood WHY. Included were members from several Druidic faiths, OBOD, ADF, RDNA, and FoDLA; several members of these organizations who were at the Con were just as confused and bummed as I.
Another embarrassing Druid moment included the “hard launch” of the Cornerstone Pagan Fellowship; a newly formed organization which follows along with several 'teachings' shared by ADF founder Isaac Bonewits. I believe this is a schism occurring with ADF, according to the very definition: “A division or split within a religious group”. Whilst normally I welcome new approaches to spirit, especially rebelling paths, my personal experience with the people involved cannot allow me to support it. Cornerstone President and Founder Jessie Olson, who was suspended from ADF Clergy, has since left the organization of ADF after nearly 15 years of service and moved on directly to form this new organization. It will be interesting to see what shall become of something which seems to be very localized, focusing on Northern California community...the website doesn't really spell out HOW the funding is used on a bigger level except for a land purchase. Unfortunately, Olson probably should have waited for the smoke to clear with ADF before attempting such a feat, but good luck to her anyway.
Day Two: The morning began for me with sacrifice and the panel presented by the Coru Cathbodea was something the community needed. Although all the panel members were academically and theoretically able to discuss this practice, Mambo T. Chita Tann was the ONLY one to actually have ever performed a blood sacrifice; several in fact. Although not as normative like most horror movies and outsiders seem to imagine, the act of sacrifice is something not taken very lightly in Mambo's Haitian tradition. Religious scholar and Master Mage Sam Webster gave wonderful insights to traditions of sacrifice in the Ancient world, reminding us all of the most basic religious connection we can make: BBQ. We pray, kill, pray again, eat, then pray. In the modern world we are missing this connection with food; unless raised on a farm, meat usually comes butchered and wrapped. Money has become the commodity, not blood. It was wonderful “food for thought”. Amy Hale, Folklorist, reminded all of the nature of blood sacrifice and raised questions of why it is even needed in the first place. Ideas of the Gods needing sacrifice in order to be sustained IS a somewhat outdated idea, but it was a way of encouraging a relationship based on reciprocity. I am paraphrasing here and these are just my impressions...so Dr. Hale please excuse me for not getting 'direct' quotes. Another member of the panel who I was not at all familiar with, but found to bring some much needed laughter to lighten the mood, was Jeffrey Albaugh from Cherry Hill Seminary and is the program manager for the Conference on Modern Paganism. The last remaining panel member was Crystal Blanton, there representing the 'social' aspect of sacrifice; her area of expertise is as social worker and cultural empathy advocate. I felt she didn't really have much to add to this conversation for several reasons, one being the idea of “self sacrifice” she advocated, which to me is a very Christian concept. Blanton further mentioned how sacrifice is a culturally specific act; which is true in form only. Why was other ritual specialists not brought to the panel? I saw several people in the audience whom had much more hands-on experience in this area, yet their wisdom was not drawn upon. No matter...in the bigger picture this is a can of worms long ignored by the Pagan community discussion table and I was very excited to see it handled with integrity.
Donations: over the past few weeks Sam Webster, along with several other members of the Bay Area Pagan community, has launched the Pantheon Foundation . This very transparent and genuine service to the Pagan community will give educational support, fiscal and tax exemption status for the community at large, whilst also maintaining the anonymity Pagans love so much in their individual paths. The Foundation will seek to assist with several issues including healthcare advocacy, hospice and “end of life” services. We are hearing the aging generation of baby boomer Pagans call for help, this has been especially true over the past few months as several community elders have asked for assistance with funerary expenses, chemo costs, and other financial/emotional support. It is our obligation to step forward and give back to the folks who have lead, taught and inspired our community; now and for future generations. I hope to help in any way my skills and talents can be used with this most powerful offering to the Gods and community. Stay tuned.
Dance of Darkness: The Hexenfest dance party highlighted the upcoming event in April, 2014; dark rock band Pandemoneon with guest DJ Jason Pitzl-Waters of the Wild Hunt was an added bonus! Whilst I missed the band due to shenanigans at the Green Fairy Party, something too easy to do with the darkly ambience and generous pouring, getting my “old goth” groove on to the decadently dark sounds of Ministry, NIN and other goodies was the highlight of this day!
Day Three: The morning crowd of Pantheacon was definitely well hungover; booze, sex, sweat, and the juices of the accumulated energies of the weekend. This is usually the most magickal day of the entire weekend for me and this year was no different. I started the morning learning about the simple, and powerful, Arte of guising and mask-making. I have tried so many times to attend a Peter Paddon workshop and was so excited to FINALLY be there, my IBS kicked in. Now I will just have to buy his book.
Divine Sovereignty: The Coru Cathubodua's Great Queens ritual invoked over thirty sovereign daughters from the span of human history. In what could have easily been a Dianic rite, the Macha was called into Be-ing as guide for each participant, which was a nice balance of male and female, to reach into the folds of time, through the bloodlines in which we are all meant to be connected with in royal currents, and find our own personal 'queen'. During guided meditations, I tend to play “ahead of the game”; sort of like when you are in school and some kid is reading out loud slowly.... so you read ahead. Before the rest of the group met Her, the Macha was before me with the flaming hair, blue woad gown and shining brow. She asked “Why are you here?” I replied, “Holding space in this ritual for those I love” With that, She offered Her hand. Through woods I followed Her chariot, flying alongside as golden sparks flew from it's wheels. I came to MY ancestor, MY queen, the one whom I am descended or that will be in the future... and She was Self. This confused me because the point of the ritual was to identify who the queen of our lineage was; but I think this is the secret mystery to it all. We already ARE stars, as Crowley tells us...and so now do these Pagans know their rightful place. It was so very beautiful, heart-wrenching, empowering as we all began to 'rise up'; stopping feet, risen arms joined together, linked through our hearts and blood. It was beyond gender, beyond form...and now we all remember.
Dimensions of Drama: Traveling through time was a theme for Sunday apparently, as that evening I attended the most anticipated ritual of the weekend for me: Jason Mankey's 1899 Ritual. Now apparently this is infamous and well known through his blog Raise the Horns; and whilst I DO tend to read, and often disagree, with Mankey's historical articles and occultic commentary, this was something altogether different. Whilst usually a funny and light-hearted fellow by reputation, there was definitely a more serious undertone as the coven performed a poetic, dramatic and magickal composition of reconstruction by Mankey. I was highly impressed with the energies being raised despite the high theatrics. Unfortunately I ran into two issues: 1) the wine-infused pebble I had drawn out was a rather LARGE one...keeping it under my tongue whilst reciting what seemed a LONG charm of protection. I felt ridiculous at first, mumbling and drooling, but quickly saw the significance from the absurdity. There is also the fact I am known as a 'big mouth'. Well played, Mr. Mankey. 2) The cakes were made according to traditional standards so I took NO chances! The demons of my lower intestines would have made the ritual experience much more painful with gluten, dairy and who knows what else in the Wiccan concoction! Whilst everyone else enjoyed, a highly talented, singing Priestess stole my heart as she sang a nostalgically “The Pipes of Pan” in a beautiful soprano. That being said...it was my first truly Wiccan ritual and it was a tremendous triumph. Bravo Jason, bravo.
Day Four: Bittersweet and stewing in the broken realities of fractured vision, I watched the massive exodus from the lobby. I was filled with good humors from the singing of Lon Milo DuQuette the night before...having a drink and listening to his sweet songs of heartache, fear and humor reminded me that to be re-made we must become broken. I am smelted, melted into a forge and hammered out thin. I am pliable to shape, by the Will of the Gods and my own Summon Bonum. I saw the blood, sweat and tears in the dark corners of the Con and the brilliant, changed faces that emerged at the end. Another weekend of change, replenished nourishment and vulnerability. Thanks to everyone for the insights.
This week I shall be immersing my Self in the strange world of public Paganism and will be taking a break from the PBP . Yes, there will be several people I don't like there. Yes, I plan to “hardcore it” as always at Pantheacon 2014; non-stop ritual and workshop for 12 or more hours each day. Yes, I plan to actually have some drinks...a rarity to those who know me. And YES I will return with an epic story, although maybe not in prose as last year. Have a great Lupercalia with DANCING, DRUNKENESS, and DIRTY DEEDS!
As one of the most highly misunderstood characters of the 20th century, Aleister Crowley has influenced not just religious and occult thought, but popular culture. He has been a never-ending source of inspiration for lyrical content in music, the main character of a novel, and a contributor to the evolving path of witchcraft and Western mystery traditions as a whole. Infamously and self-identified as 'The Beast', associated with the number 666, his lifetime goal was to be remembered as 'The Anti-Christ'...bringer of the New Aeon. These nefarious connotations really have more in common with Crowley the Legend rather than the Man. Even within the occult community, many are unaware of his attributed advancements in the sport of mountaineering; his strange and beautiful poetry, obsessively written and published; or the sheer experimentation in the arts of High Ceremonial Magick. Born Edward Crowley (after his father), the self-named Aleister came into the world on the same date as famous Enochian magician Eliphas Levi died. The Crowley family came from a lineage of wealthy brewers in Leamington, Warwickshire in England. They were also part of a fanatical Christian sect known as the “Plymouth Brethren”. Young Crowley often accompanied his father whilst traveling the countryside, preaching and proselytizing. His mother, Emily Bertha Bishop, was very strict and initially gave Crowley the nickname 'beast'. Neither parent allowed toys in the home, with Christmas seen as a pagan holiday. The entire household, including servants, were required to gather together every day for prayer meetings.
As a young man, Crowley's curiosity in the line of metaphysics was legendary, and true. One story tells of an 'experiment' to determine if cats really had nine lives:“I caught a cat, and having administered a large dose of arsenic, I chloroformed it, hanged it above the gas jet, stabbed it, cut its throat, smashed its skull, and, when it had been pretty thoroughly burnt, drowned it and threw it out of the window that the fall might remove the ninth life. The operation was successful. I was genuinely sorry for the animal; I simply forced myself to carry out the experiment in the interests of pure science” (Symonds p.18).
It is understandable that his mother saw her son as the zenith of evil. After this and a few sexual situations with the help, Crowley was sent off to school. It wasn't until he moved to London after the death of his father, that young Edward dropped the paternal name and was forever after known as Aleister. So obsessed with impressing others and feeding his unusually high appetite for attention, Crowley constantly was re-inventing himself, using various aliases and personalities to match. This is not so different from what modern artists and pop icons do today; i.e. Madonna, Lady Gaga, Prince just to name a few. It was when he entered the Order of the Golden Dawn that he took the name Frater Perdurabo (Latin for “I Will endure to the end”).
Crowley rose quickly through the ranks of the O.G.D. , some members thought it a little too hasty. Whilst engaged with the Order, Crowley met his first guru, or magical mentor, a young man named Allen Bennett, known in the Order as Iehi Aour. The two actually met by chance following an evening ritual:
“Iehi Aour suddenly came up to Perdurabo, looking penetratingly at him and said in an almost menacing manner, 'Little Brother, you have been meddling with the Goetia!'” (Confessions of Aleister Crowley) .
When Perdurabo denied working with these spirits, Bennett replied, “Well my friend, then the Goetia have been meddling with you!” Ten years Crowley's senior, Bennett was both highly feared and respected; he also introduced Crowley to mind-altering drugs, primarily through experimental treatment of his own chronic asthma. As a matter of fact, Bennettt moved throughout many South East Asian countries seeking out cures, in the end studying and practicing Buddhism. Eventually he ended up becoming part of a Sangha, taking the name Ananda Metteya. Crowley went to visit Ananda during a mountaineering expedition once in Kandy. Highly interested in yoga, Crowley studied with his old friend and quickly proved his adeptship. The speed which Crowley could achieve altered states of consciousness impressed even the monks.
There is one story in particular of this time period, Crowley recalls later as an old man to his biographer... His friend Ananda had taken refuge in a hut, having achieved a state of nirvana. The other monks became concerned about Ananda and sent Crowley in to see if his friend was still alive.“He opened the door of the bungalow and to his amazement and horror saw Ananda Metteya hovering in the air at eye level. He no longer had any weight and in the draught from the open door he was being blown about like a dry leaf” (Symonds p.40).
Crowley would combine what he learned in the East with the skills acquired through Western traditions. His attitudes were dangerously ahead of his time. Like the Buddha, Crowley saw all beings having the potentiality of obtaining Godhead, even Apotheosis. Contemporaries of Crowley were inspired by his strange adventures. Somerset Maugham, a friend of Crowley's first wife Rose, was inspired by their relationship and wrote his novel The Magician, published in 1907. The main character is Oliver Haddo, a deranged magician who is very controlling of his new wife; instead of being offended, Crowley was flattered.
His 'daredevil' ways spilled over into his life as well; a risk-taking adventure was always on Crowley's horizon. Pushing himself, and sometimes his climbing crew, to the limits of mountain climbing, including K2, the highest peak available to Europeans in the Himalayas during Crowley's lifetime. His travels inspired poetry and refined his artistic perspective of alchemy. He spent time in Egypt, India, Southeast Asia, Mexico, North and South Americas, and Russia. It was in St Petersburg, whilst staying at a hermitage, Crowley was inspired to write on of his best beloved and critically acclaimed poems, City of God. The following excerpt emphasizes Crowley's playful use of words, pushing his imagination to the very edge, whilst conjuring images of an ethereal city:“Gold upon Gold, dome upon dome, faint arrow Kindling sharp crescent, as the sunrays swept, Save for one midnight moment when one narrow Fierce ray, exhaling from no eye that slept Of God, our God, the sun – gold upon gold, Frond upon frond, fold upon fold Of walls like leaves and cupolas like flowers, And spires and domes that were as fabled fruit Of the low lands beyond the pillared seas...” (Crowley, 1945).
Most remember Crowley for the controversial associations he was not afraid to make public through anecdotes. His ramblings of astral journeys and literary focus on ancient traditions, Crowley's imagery was thematic of Egyptian and Kabalistic teachings. His work with John Dee's Enochian magick brought a renewed interest into the scholarly pursuits for young magicians of the next 100 years. Crowley's spiritual ideologies crossover all religious, esoteric traditions; combining not only high ceremonial magick but also personal gnosis, sacred geometry and alchemical mathematics. The complex and rich teachings of Crowley left the world of the occult sciences with the challenge evolving to new realms of consciousness and ways to thinking about connections between science and religion.
Symonds, John. “The Great Beast: The Life of Aleister Crowley”. (1952). Rider and Co., London, U.K.
The virtue of fortitude is sorely lacking in modern people, and this is true of the Pagan community as well. There are so many hangups in explaining UPG or new research sources, a fear of being 'wrong' can cripple a person's spiritual journey; stagnating growth. When we come to an obstacle we are afraid to face, there really is no other way except through. In the ancient world Courage was most closely associated with warrior bravery and action, including heartfelt conviction. Hell, even Socrates had seen battle before settling into his intellect. There is a belief involved, a level of earnestness that is essential to courage. Decisiveness is needed to make choices based on courage; it is to act with poise which generates from proper dedication to Gods and Self. In Greek mythology the hero Perseus, Son of Zeus, displays courage in the archetypal Hero fashion. With some help from the blessed tools of the Gods, Perseus is victorious in some of the most impossible challenges. He is able to take the head of Medusa, using the reflection from Athena's mirror to see her; Hade's helmet of invisibility and Hermes' winged shoes for stealth. These tools remind Perseus he is not alone; he has the help of Gods and gives him the courage to face any foe. As a matter of fact, most heroes tend to have some extra 'help' in the background. We too can be as Perseus in recognizing our skills, which are gifts from the Gods.
I have known people with courage in small ways; not battling monsters like Perseus, but facing real personal obstacles. My friend Dennis was the most courageous person I've ever known. He knew he was dying from Cancer at 33 and faced it with a fierce Taurean love in his heart. There was fear at some level, the uncertainty of facing an unknown afterlife; but the love experienced in his new wife kept him strong, in order to make sure his affairs were organized in the end. I don't know if I would have the courage to do that, but he wanted to make sure his children would be taken care of and all affairs were in order. Even at the end, Dennis' sense of integrity motivated the courage I never knew he had...summoning the will to stay for others, in pain. That is compassion with courage and something I am reminded with every Spring, as he died on the Equinox looking out at green pastures dotted with wildflowers. The world was beautiful, young like him and he smiled. I woke that morning from a dream with him...still asking after everyone else. Selfless compassion is couragous...and it frightens me.
“All is in thy hands, all power, all hope, all future. One came as a man, and was weak and failed. One came as a woman, and was foolish, and failed. But thou art beyond man and woman, my star is in thee, and thou shalt avail” (Liber 49, 43-46, The Book of Babalon by Jack Parsons).
LBRP, Liber AL, Tantric meditation, sex magick...all awakening parts of my Self never thought to have existed. Remembering and re-enacting these rituals...words out-loud dripping from my tongue, dancing in my head and reaching out beyond the screen, all sends a rush of familiarity to this heart. I don't believe in angels yet invoke them daily; my tantric practices include Western Gods; the Beloved Dead surround and assist my magicks. Hekate is my Holy Guardian Angel, leading and guiding the way forward as I come to the edge. She asks if I wish to fly above the abyss, towards the cup of Babalon where I can dip my burnt wings in the salve of Her wine.
Poetry aside, this Babalon is another egregore like Baphomet; I wrote about Her in a review for the book The Red Goddess. The last line stayed with me... “For those brave enough to face the fear and shame, the promise of liberation is just around the corner”. I thought about this for a long time and believe I found the solution. Whilst this is all over my head essentially, one thing is very clear: Crowley pushed himself to the brink, how could the 'wickedest man in the world', the Beast 666, shame himself? He lavished in the stories which circulated about, whether true or not, of orgiastic sex magick, sacrifices and beastiality. It was going to take something REALLY degrading for a man like Crowley to be humbled and 'broken'. I think that is what Crowley found in the desert with poet Victor Neuberg. They attempted rituals of magick to work through the entire Enochian system...AGAIN with the angels! It was only when Crowley assumed the submissive 'bottom' position during homosexual sex magick, did the clarity come. He was a 'top' man, in charge even with his Scarlet Women...allowing himself to be 'taken' by another man was just the thing to shame Crowley, strip him bare so he could progress through.
We must annihilate the Ego; what a strange goal of attainment for magicians. We become God-like in power through psychic and scientific means, then let it all go for the ultimate prize of liberation. How do we get there though? If I follow along with Crowley's process, I have to ask what 'shames' me? I regret nothing in this life, and see no reason to become a 'holy whore' searching a beast to ride. How can I approach this current without hurting others, like family and friends? I am not sexually repressed in the very least. In fact, I'm rather proud that in my ten-year relationship we still have several sexual encounters a week; I share not to brag, but help illustrate a point. Throughout my entire adult life, even late adolescence, I never masturbated. It was forbidden territory to touch, let alone talk. Catholic girls are taught early on that God is watching, it is a sin and sex is only for procreation. Well, when I left the church I had no issues with any of those points and went along my merry way. But when I came into my be-ing with the Gods, I felt they WERE watching; or I didn't really know how to turn my SELF on. With a partner it's easy...alone requires focus, relaxation and solitude; all things difficult for me to attain consciously.
With patience, meditation and porn I set to crossing that Abyss of self love. On pleading bloodied knees, burned in the fires of shameful lust, hands calloused, I approach the cup She holds between flaming thighs. Babalon gifted me Self Love. I learned to love my body in it's new post-apocalyptic form, because it really isn't ME, only the vehicle/vessel to get around in. Sensuality spills out into daydreams of poetry and fantasy. Even the Moon and Sun chase each other in an endless display of flirtation. Not only do I see the Love which pervades all the Universe, but I am learning to accept it unconditionally. Love of Dark, Love of Heart, Love of Blood and Dirt. I become enraptured in Her current, strip off the shackles and skin leaving bare bones exposed. I am a raw lump, shaping and molding... no longer looking toward the future for happiness and potentialities but in present joy. I hope to live more heart-centered rather than head-strong.
- "And he shall separate them one from another,
- as a shepherd divided his sheep from the goats.
- And he shall set the sheep on his right,
- but the goats on his left."
- — Matthew 25: 32-33
Spooky and adorning more than a dozen heavy metal album covers and t-shirts, this spirit is something conjured out of the middle ages; literally. An alchemical egregore, the Sabbatic goat we, as witches, tried hiding it, motivated by a need for acceptance in the mundane world. It is Baphomet...an idol descending from Knight Templar records. Steeped in archaic and Kabbalistic symbolism, which I do not pretend to begin understanding, the duality is perfectly clear even to an untrained eye. In my exploration, I am trying to answer my own questions: Is Baphomet a Deity, a Spirit, or simply a mandala for meditation and contemplative purposes?
Baphomet is hermaphroditic, having a phallic penis with swollen breasts. The snakes intertwine around the phallus, looking something similar to the caduceus of Hermes; I don't think this was by chance. His 'rod' is a wand, an extension of Hermes' creative energies and the mages' staff. At the same time, the breasts are enlarged and full of nurturing milk, inspiration. The anthropomorphic head and hooves are that of a goat, more specifically the Sabbatic Goat of witchcraft. Between the goat-headed antlers is the illuminating flame of intellect; that 'fire in the head', driving the Arte of witches and mystics from a primal/bestial place. The themes of duality continue with the placement of human hands, the feminine pointing up toward the white moon and the masculine down at a black moon, connecting as a liminal gesture signifying something like “As Above, So Below”. Written or tattooed reads the Latin words SOLVE (“separate”) on the upraised arm and COAGULA (“join together”) on the down-pointed arm.
I know...these are heavy-duty mysteries. Baphomet is a composite Be-ing that takes on all kinds of imagery from opposites, combined in a harmonious image of stark beauty. It is the 'moonchild' of Crowley's theories, a result of unifying Babalon with Chaos, the poster-child for left-hand path practitioners, who hope to become deified through apotheosis. Everything at odds within oneself at ease, working together in equilibrium, as one unit. There is no inherent “good” nor “evil”, Baphomet destroys all dichotomies of ethics and morals...why this idol has become adopted by many Left Hand Path practitioners, in the breaking of taboos and embracing ALL sides of magick. I embrace that flame and alight my heart with the fires of Baphomet's inspiration.
Last March I began attending a public dark moon devotional in honor of Hekate and Hermes. Now, anyone who has been reading my blog for ANY length of time already knows I am very partial to Our Lady of the Crossroads. Except for the occasional Luciferian consort, my work with Hekate has developed into sort of henotheistic path (who was a hard polytheist and became commited to working with only one Deity) with dystheistic tendencies (deity is not entirely good...and maybe even evil). Not that I think Hekate is evil, but She is a sinister Titaness that really can sway either way: Her benevolence is saved only for the most worthy and wrath of justice enacted for Her devotees. The service has been carried out for over a decade already and is only now being shared with the public.
Our priest, Sam Webster , has incorporated elements of High Ceremonial ritual (Golden Dawn & Thelema) with those of Tantric Buddhism into our devotional service. The chant we use for praise and calling forth of Hermes; until recently it was used also for Hekate but soon replaced with another composed by YeShe Rabbit Matthews. Working with these two Deities was nothing I planned...and they are an extremely compatible couple! One psychopomp leads the Dead into the Underworld (Hermes) and the other out of Hades (Hekate); an energy coming down and another other going up. These two forces can be seen from many perspectives according to each person's Pagan experience. For me it is the Masculine, solar energies of Hermes pulsing down and meeting with the chthonic Femininity of Hekate, which is carried up through lunar magnetism. This energy meets in my heart, renewing and re-booting until the next dark moon.
The chant starts with some seed syllables: HAD, RA, NU. This is not foreign in my own practice, as mantras are already heavily present. The trouble I had was with introducing the formulae of ABRAHADABRA. Having some working knowledge of occult history, the familiar ABRACADABRA was closely related; I became a little confused and investigated further for clarification. I should have known Uncle Al would be behind this sudden appearance in my practice...it was like having sex and he did the “accidental anal divergance” maneuver. It isn't just about sex or union with Godhead, or Gnosis or any of that other stuff we think as spiritual occultists we are striving for. It is not about becoming perfection, but the end result of the journey.
“ABRAHADABRA is a word to be studied in Equinox I, V.,“The Temple of Solomon the King”. It represents the Great Work complete, and it is therefore an archetype of all lesser magical operations. It is in a way too perfect to be applied in advance to any of them… the formula of Abrahadabra concerns us, as men, principally because each of us represents the pentagram or microcosm; and our equilibration must therefore be with the hexagram or macrocosm." -from “Magick in Theory and Practice” by Aleister Crowley
Resonating these words, contemplation had arisen with questions of what it means to become like the Middle Pillar, the Axis Mundi, to draw upon the Two Powers (in reference to ADF's meditation exercise)? It is not simply starlight and green energy from within the Earth Herself; to access these higher Be-ings of self is to empower and activate evolutionary progress within. The realms of Hekate and Hermes, the Land, Sky and Sea...kingdoms of the Dead and Immortals become increasingly available for information. It is a key to the New Aeon, a unifying force pushing and pulling at the conflicting sides of myself.
I seek balance and peace. My spiritual life is completely satisfying, my sexual life full and my family happy, healthy and without want. I am finishing my Master's degree this year. I have everything I asked and worked for, essentially. Now what? I have never been interested in money and things, so buying a house is not really a motivating factor to finding work, but in the current economic climate I don't want a JOB....I want an INCOME. I have no wish to become rich and famous, although getting more readers to my blog would nice. But having enough to sustain my spiritual explorations, experiments and pay the student loans is a goal worth having. The great merging of these two realms of my life which have always been at odds are coming together; the fusion is painful and long. The divide of doubt disappears into the Abyss as I generate the potentiality within myself and those around me. If it is my True Will, let it come.
We are already becoming more of our true Selves each and every day. But why not go a step further and deify? Whilst the path of spirituality and religion for most people is about becoming closer to Deity, it is my mission to be AS Deity... to elevate my soul and metaprogram what DNA, culture and the Universe has dealt me. Why should this status only be reserved for celebrities and noteworthy persons... fuck that. On the astral, I'm a superstar of Lady Gaga proportions. This may seem delusional to some... hell, even in the occult community there are less narcissistic tendencies. Some might even say this goal is ego-driven and empowered by grasping; to that I say 'nay'... Bodhisattvas reject this elevated state in order to free others, turning from a God-like realm in the Otherworld. Yes, it is still part of Samsara and the cycles of rebirth; but at least the choice is being made consciously instead from out of ignorance.
There are several paths which embrace the apotheosis paradigm, and not just obscure occultic philosophies. Aspiring Buddha-hood or entrance into the Pure Land are common motives for meditation and prayer advancement in several forms of Buddhism. Ancient Hellenic cultures placed rulers on pedestals and created state religions centered around these national ancestors; the same thing occurs in Asian religions like Shinto with royal lineages linked to deities. Even after death, canonized Catholic Saints are still attributed to miracles associated with reliquary worship and incorruptible corpses.
Realizing and cultivating our God potential really isn't as hard as one would imagine. By making spiritual life motivated towards the end result in deification, everything else is simply by-products, or added bonus points. Sure we can amass followers, establish a temple to receive donations and funding for various projects or write books for royalties...but this would all require effort away from the ultimate goal. In realizing our true nature of Deity, letting that Luciferian flame spark and ignite, we inspire our True Will to shine...our Buddha nature. I am already perfection in what I am; ascending FURTHER above that is my Will. My body is the temple for God-self to arise in...it must be purified, cleaned and kept sacred.
After a two-week hiatus of violent vomiting episodes from various flus, Solstice gatherings and Christmas dreading, the Yuletide is now beginning to ebb and we get down to brass tact. The year of Pagan Blog Project is ending for 2013; I am both proud and bored with it. However, since I did get a late start, and only to be fair, I have to overlap a wee bit with the few letters I missed this time around. For those who are interested, I highly do recommend taking part in some kind of writing project or devotional time set aside to do this kind of work. Purging thoughts and sharing stories with readers is cathartic, along with being highly narcissistic. On that note, I come to where the space is held now, in my body, in my sacred space, in my life. 2014 is starting off right with a Hekatean Deipna and Noumenia at the New Year, super moons, strange winds blowing cold and hot, magnetic poles flipping... it's enough to make a New Agers head explode. But I look forward to it all, embracing the Chaos and finding my center through it all. Over the past few weeks a great working has been underway; starting with an intensive Hermes ritual to remove obstacles, then the burnings, and finally the purgings. Cleaning the house from top to bottom, recycling and giving away of un-wanted and un-needed are top priorities. Simplifying and detoxifying includes not only materially and physically... but also the removal of people who are holding you back or maintain stagnant environments not fertile for spiritual and personal growth.
The un-changing part of myself, and of us all really, is mitochondrial: through our Mothers, Mothers' Mothers, the constant variable through the lineage. This is how I got 'zeroed-out', a term used in Algebra and/or Accounting... I don't recall as pushing the agony of mathematics is slightly on the PTSD side. My mother, her mother, and her mother before that all shared this and the middle name of Marie. They were all the eldest of each generation... and it goes on through the names. My maternal grandmother's maiden name is Zilch... a German name with spelling that changed upon arrival in the New World. Catholic and also bearing another matriarchal name carried through a Marie, Beer, this lineage has included midwives, nuns, mothers, educators and intelligence too crafty for others to know about. On and on it goes...to the first women, to the first ones to grow legs from the water and so on.
Reaching Zilch, I re-booted. I am likened to a nesting doll as DNA of the future/past within and of my flesh. Keeping this temple of arcane knowledge in a pure form spiritually is well and good, but the body is in need of repair. If anything, with sickness from the holidays came a clarity of mind and stomach... a clean sate in which to re-decorate the colors of my organs in rosy hues of health and wellness. Clean food, alive food, my food, nourishing food... I will not poison my body any longer. Embracing Apotheosis...
The first mantra I recognized as 'not prayer' was given to me at 18. A budding Buddhist playing with the feminized witchcrafts of Starhawk, Ffiona Morgan, Zsusanna Budapest, and even Scott Cunningham; all I had read were warm fuzzies of magick and meditations. My teacher/mentor/father-figure 'A' challenged me to meditate with him after a meeting with our journalism department. I had no clue he was a meditation teacher and master of invocation, but thought the strange little German man was putting me on at first. So I tread carefully forward. We went for a walk in the woods behind the junior college campus. The jogging trails were full of the late summer's poison oak and the large oaks were just starting to turn brown. My cynical, youthful mind thought it was boring, but might be a good place for a meditation teaching he promised. I look back and think how young, naïve and stupid it was to go into the woods with a man in his 50's I barely knew except as an editor of the college paper I wrote for. Being very good at investigative reporting, I had checked with our professor at first to make sure A was legit... and I was assured, even encouraged, to learn what I could from the man.
As we walked along the trail, A and I came to what at first appeared to be a man-made pond, but turned out to be a cesspool. The early, clean morning air immediately was swallowed by the stench of excrement and urine and whatever else was floating around out there. I suggested we turn around and go another way, but A insisted we go forward. I was so grossed out... I was going to vomit, but needed to be confident more. In his thick German accent, A asked me “What are these theengs there? Flouting in the vater?” I looked closer at what he was talking about. “They are tampons A. Used, nasty tampons floating on ponds of shit. Can't you see?” He turned to me and asked “So, how do you meditate?” I was stunned... no clue what to say. We went from talking about the toxic sludge that surrounded us to sitting on the ground and staring out at the ponds.
“Show me what you do”. So I sat... and he stopped me. “No, no... not here. Over there!” and A's finger pointed to a 'deck' of sorts built off from a narrow pier, jutted out into the middle of the pond. I looked at him and asked “Are you serious? You want me to go sit out there, in the middle of all this shit, and meditate?” I really thought the red, hairy, almost Santa looking man was joking... A always had laughter in his eyes, a smile on his lips, and a loud booming voice to match the belly. At this moment, he was not smiling. He was not laughing as he looked me seriously in the eye and told me “Go show me how you meditate”.
I humored the old man and walked out there. . The planks leading to the deck did not feel sturdy and all I could imagine was slipping, falling into the pools of waste. The poo smell was stronger out there... the sun was shining on my back and glistening off the melting frost. I sat with my legs crossed in full lotus on the cold concrete slab. I took a few deep breaths and thought vomiting might be better; an acidic burp mixed with my morning chai was all I could muster. I closed my eyes only the find my sense of smell more heightened. I tried breathing through my mouth and could taste the acrid air. “What are you trying to prove here old man?” I asked aloud, with my fingers still numbing and breath hanging in the mists of dung. I tried to concentrate but no matter what I did the place was toxic and invading my every thought.
Frustrated and nauseated, I stood up, walked back to the bank and sat next to A. He was in meditation and just gazing at the black waters with the strange fuzzy fish. We sat there in silence for what seemed like hours. After fighting the smells, the boredom, and finally the cold...it became suddenly still. I didn't notice the smell, or my breath, or the damp grasses under my behind making my corduroy jeans wet. Nothing was heard within or without, except my breath. And in that silence was the peace I never thought possible: my mind went completely empty. I didn't have to try, just be.
Some time had passed before A roused me, asked how I felt and if I could see the difference between trying to meditate and actually doing it. I told him yes, but didn't understand the purpose of meditating in front of a pit of bio-hazardous waste. He asked me to contemplate and meditate on it... which I did. I understood the purpose of this first lesson: Meditation is mutually exclusive of everything else. It doesn't matter where you are, what kind of conditions you are in, the state of your physicality...there is no limit to what the spirit is capable of experiencing.
It was this answer my mentor wanted from me... and also the focus. I made the pilgrimage up to the mountain Shasta (where he lived) and spent an intensive weekend learning the art of mantra. I woke each morning early to chai tea and sitting meditation. We'd walk and talk, then more meditation and invocation, dinner and evening meditation. It was on the second night I received the thunderbolt...and my perspective of Deity was changed forever. But this is not what I wanted to share about this week... it was the mantra assignment A gave to me that shook me up in a more lasting way.
So when A gave to me a mantra for my own practice to go home with, I was ecstatic, on fire and ready for whatever challenge he deemed good for my soul. Being of the magickal persuasion, he knew I'd want some thing uber powerful and impressive. And I was surprised with Yod He Vau He. I had no clue it was the Hebrew name of God, and much more. It is a magickal formulae, just as Sanskrit mantras or barbarous words. 'Yod' is the Father of creation, who comes together with 'He', the cosmic Mother. The union producing their offspring, the 'Vau' Son and a Daughter obviously named after her mother, another 'He'. For me, this was the most sexist formulae I could have received...why is the feminine energy of the universe, no matter how many daughters She produces, always just named the same? Why does the patriarchal line continue to evolve and change in it's essence, but the matriarchal remain the same? It is only years later, when I come back to this formulae for greater workings (LBRP) that re-examining it with mature, educated eyes can I see the secret lying within.
Man is the mutant and Woman is the more perfect of the species. Their extra chromosome turned the womb and vaginal cave inside-out, forgetting to erase nipples. The spirit works similarly.... there can be no evolution without the base remaining, the Terra Firma which churns and turns and burns the refuse in Her cauldron. She is the chaos, which in it's ever-changing is never-changing. 'He' is from a very primal place... it come from the womb, sounding deep within “hay”. It is the breath, warm and melting; moist condensation and sweat of tears. She is the buffer between 'Yod' and 'Vau', as Mothers are the eternal peacemakers. The interjection of 'He' assures me that Yahweh is even effected by the instability and ecstatic energies of a chaotic, and sometimes uncaring, Multiverse.
“Yahweh, I know you are near. Standing always at my side.
You guard me from the foe and lead me in ways everlasting.”
- Lord You Have Searched my Heart by Dan Schutte (communion hymn)
Yes, I was a Catholic at one point in my life... but left before confirmed. I knew Yahweh was not the one for me very early on. My mother likes to tell a story about when I was a toddler living in Hawaii. I almost remember the moment.... my memory can go back far. I came to my mother and told her “Mommy, God is knocking on my heart”. She asked me “So, what are you going to do?” I smiled and replied, “Let Him in”. There was a huge weight that fell on my chest; this I recall because it feels the same way even now.
I was always afraid of this moment coming, after hearing and seeing hippies speaking in tongues at the beach during some religious excursion my rebellious mother took me to. She was trying to run from her roots for a while (and still does), but I think this was the best thing my mother could have ever given me. I had witnessed people being 'saved', even traveled to Alaska with a church member without my parents when I was 4... I remember that too: the Anchorage Zoo, playing with kids, no snow was disappointing. The flight was long but the military airlines always took very good care of us kids. Even when I was older and much more skeptical, I reached outside the confines of my Neo-Gothic church built of red bricks. Our tiny town has this church with beautiful spires, flying buttresses, huge stained-glass windows, murals of the twelve apostles on all the ceiling panels with their names in Latin, and the high altar gilded in light, sliver and gold. You would never think a cowboy town in Northern California would have something so wonderful. I really loved the peacefulness of Jesus, the comfort of Mary, and the obscurity of Joseph... but was afraid of Yahweh. The Father God, the highest, creator and destroyer of the Universe on a whim. The Old testament was always rallied about in these other churches I visited with friends or paternal family members (Jehovah's Witness, Pentecostal, Southern Baptist).
The problem was in realizing these were two different Gods. Almost like my own Father, Yahweh was firm in His love and very much a disciplinarian. Mom was the softness of Mary, but the purity and wholesomeness of Her is something every Catholic girl tries and fails at attaining. I asked the wrong questions, unsatisfied with answers: If God loves us so much, why does He keep destroying the world and His children? Why is 'original sin' all Eve's fault? Why can we pray to saints and Jesus with it not being considered a broken commandment? After leaving home for college, I got my answers as I delved deeply into Religious Studies and doubled with Humanities, trying to answer these riddles. It never did make sense except that I wanted nothing to do with the lot of them.
Yahweh still knocks at my door, over and over, especially during the Christmas season. The Ancestors egg Him on, my blood screams to talk with Angels of the Highest Orders, but for reasons not fully understood I have taken control of these urges. It has been especially apparent since I have begun a regular routine of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (LBRP). Last year my experiments with Thelema, Crowley and Magick began with doing this most basic, and effective, ritual. At first I really fought the urge to stop, as the uncomfortable feelings surrounding the names of God from the Judeo-Christian lineage played with the childhood memories of the wrathful Jehovah. So many people come to witchcraft and Pagan religions with the Christian baggage they claim wanting to leave behind. Instead they intend on pigeon-holing mysticism and occult teachings into a religious organization comparable to the very ideologies they 'left behind'. After doing the prayers backwards, know that the past is dead. (Our Father).
After weeks of daily LBRP, I meditated on the Archangels I was invoking to surround me. I wondered, how could I sense them when I didn't believe? Re-examining this, I considered they were more like Buddhas: a strong presence there of intent. I had also been intoning the name of my Goddess, Hekate, at my heart in the beginning and end (instead of Crowley's Aiwass) of each ritual. For me, no other presence was allowed to stay without Hekate's permission, as She is the sentinel in all my workings and devotions these several years. With Her in my center, as the middle pillar I become Her axis mundi... Yahweh has no place here. His Angels, Saints, Prophets, Worshipers are all held in the same esteem as any religious person or entity I encounter; with caution and from a distance. With Hekate, I was able to face my fears of Yahweh and be firm in my choices with whom I share sacred space with.
There comes a point in our paths when we can make a choice in whom to serve. We have free will, no matter what our beliefs concerning destiny or pre-destination are in our personal philosophy. We are always given the decision of accepting friendship with a person, so why not a God? I don't invite the Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons into my home, and so I “just say no” to Yahweh as well.
I loathe the holiday season. The commercialism, sudden surge of goodwill, and the “put the Christ back in Christmas” bullshit all gets on my last nerve. I go into social hibernation shortly after Halloween, hoping not to see anyone until the New Year. It's like those folks who think it is sacrilegious in using 'X' to shorten the holiday's name: a short-hand version used primarily by advertisers in early 20th century America... it might actually have a more sacred meaning if the followers of Jesus looked more closely.
A few years back, some Christians decided to wage a war against secularists or others who don't take the “Christ” so seriously around this time of year.
“But for us as Christians, this is one of the most holy of the holidays, the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. And for people to take Christ out of Christmas. They're happy to say merry Xmas. Let's just take Jesus out. And really, I think, a war against the name of Jesus Christ” - quote from evangelist Franklin Graham on CNN (2005).
There are so many things wrong with this statement and attitude surrounding the issue, but they have failed to actually do any sort of research; even Christian preachers should be able to use wikipedia. If so, they would know the use of 'X' goes back to the beginning of the religious movement. X is actually the Greek uppercase letter of Chi, adding the letter P as Rho and we get the labarum (☧ ), an ancient symbol representing the Christos, or Christ. So literally, when people are using the abbreviated version these evangelicals loathe and take offense of so much... they are giving MORE spiritual and historical relevance in modern 'christmas' by putting the Χριστος where it belongs.
Since having a family I am now forced to create some kind of traditional thing or carry on those I had growing up with. Since I was Catholic, my mother, sisters and I participated in Advent a few times and the beauty of midnight mass. I remember being bored to tears with the baby Jesus story and waiting for the magickal moment when we lit the candles... I can see why the Jews started doing Hanukkah. This ancient symbol of a light in the darkness of winter heralds back to even further through my genes and my mother's intention of re-building it after she took German in high school. On December 6th we would receive a visit from Saint Nicholas, a tradition held mainly by Catholics in Germanic countries. A lot like Santa (whom I was terrified of... come on: big red guy, scrambled Satan letters, sneaks in after dark whilst all the adults are asleep; more like a nightmare than some sugar plumb fairies), except being Old School he brought hard candies, nuts and fruit... yippee.
The treats of St. Nick were still better than the alternative: rocks and twigs. It was only later when researching these traditions that I re-discovered the Krampus! Now that was something to truly be terrified of! Hairy beasts roaming the city streets and countryside on the night before Saint Nicholas' feast, being invited into homes by parents for beer and snacks only to judge the wicked children from the good. If they were the former, they would be dragged off by the Krampus, usually thrown in a sack to be beaten with twigs and carried off to their lair. What happens at that point, I don't wish to find out... but I think it would be awesome if we resurrected this fearsome character!
The winter months used to be a time of darkness, hope and family as we rarely went out, conserved the foodstuff and counted our blessings. This is the tradition I have always hung onto and try to share with my daughter...
We are elemental creatures, whether we like it or not. Chemistry, Alchemy, Physics, Metaphysics... it is like blind men describing an elephant. Of the many different things which we are made of though, almost 80% of our matter contains water. We might have even come from water, an evolutionary path out of the primordial ooze. It is a precious thing, water... coming in many forms: vapor, solid and liquid. It is adaptable, destructive, nourishing, cleansing, vibrational; water is a universal element, a current and nourisher of spirit. Water is healing, above all else. When people are in hysterics or stressed often a hot bath is suggested to soothe nerves. Hot herbal teas release comfort not just in the medicines released but the warmth given too. Our ancestors knew water for the resource it is, some still do worship at sacred springs, rivers, falls and lakes. The ocean is often considered Mother and we, Her children, do not treat Her as such...for if we did half the things to our actual mothers as we do unto the world's oceans and lakes, well it would be considered a shameful abuse.
The spirits of water are not always the cute little sylphs and sprites often shown in fairy tale books. They are not just lovely mermaids combing their hair on boulders and rocks, singing songs to sailors. They can also be immense like dragons, watery serpents who hide wealth and hold back disease. Several years ago a mentor of mine challenged me to connect with these spirits as a remedy for my own depression... as a way to cope with a close friend who was suffering from lymphoma... as a blessing to the genus loci, local land spirits who inhabit the environment surrounding the waterways of Northern California. Every dark moon, I visited a local running creek, grotto, waterfall... I went everywhere I could think or that was convenient to give prayers to the Naga King, who rules them all. Milk and honey, poured out with a mantra (received from both His Holiness Serkong Rinpoche and Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche, not transmitted personally):
TAYATHA OM TATHAGATA BHAGAVAN NAGA RANDZE SHORA
ADHISHTHANA ADHISHTITE SOHA
I did this for 2 years consecutively, even when a Wiccan lady freaked out saying I was feeding 'demons' or random dis-incarnated spirits. Even when I was accused and trash talked, I knew in my heart of practice it didn't matter. If there were suffering Be-ings floating by who partook of these offerings, so be it. The merit was passed on to them all through the act of heartfelt giving and the intention of alleviating suffering for all, including myself.
Time went on and I abandoned the practice, becoming busy in my new motherhood and graduate studies. Earlier this year I began a water practice that was similar, an on-going global ritual Mother of the New Time; every full moon blessed and charged water that I partake of as well, then pour into a jar collected over the year. On New Year's Day 2014, I will release this into one of the nearby bays. With the moon risen high and the cold clouds forming a halo, tonight I stepped out and performed my ritual with thoughts of a familiar challenge.
Just in the past few days, my mentor from years ago has called me to take up this challenge again and I accept with loving gratitude. Instead of only a few spiritual workers we are now integrating more on a global level; the project has been translated into French and soon Japanese. Our Oceans have been calling us and I hope many of you will take up the mantle of protector and answer the challenge as well: Our Ocean Project.
In Pagan and Witch forums online, you hear a lot of people referring to be “out of the broom closet” and whilst the term was cute back in the early 1990's, now it is cliché but I understand what they are trying to say. Although I'm at a point in my spiritual life where I don't feel a need to share what I do, my degree in Religious Studies opens the door to that conversation more times than I wish. Usually to keep it simple, I just tell strangers or acquaintances I am a Buddhist; which I am in many ways. But the witchcraft stuff doesn't come up as long for as I can help it. Thinking about this, I am reminded of the first time I DID have that conversation... with my mother. I thought it would go easier since she was already disillusioned with the Catholicism we both were raised in. “Why does it have to be THAT word” my mother asked, and continues to ask more than a decade later. She figures with my academic background I can come up with an east to understand term, one that is okay to share in polite conversation and requires little explanation. What my mother, and many other people, wished for was a major religious ideology; really it as an esoteric one found in the world's religions also.
Yes, my own personal tradition of witchcraft is spelled funky, with a “Y”... and there is a reason for it: it is driven by wyrd, it is always being challenged and most importantly it is does not include the “I” of ego. Like Uncle Al who used a different spelling to differentiate between the stage magic of prestidigitation and the magic(k) in the New Aeon, I too prefer to separate my craft from generic 'witch'. I do this not just because I am unique other than by DNA, but because the path is always evolving, ever changing and nearly impossible to label.
Wyrd is a Germanic and Anglo-Saxon word/concept for dealings in fate and destiny. As a wytch, it is my goal to be in control of these. This is the entire point of the magical arts, is it not? Without believing in predestination I still understand there is karmic debts and contracts made in other lifetimes, with spirits and Deities alike, that we are all bound to. Much as Buddhism is the shortcut out of samara's endless cycles, the path of wytchcraft could be a way of getting to that same end, if the blinders are removed.
Constantly challenging and stepping up to change is part of this path. Witches need to realize every ritual, every spell, or every journey is not going to get the same results every time. We must be flexible in our craft, dare to step outside our normal, self-projected boundaries and allow spirit to move through us. Forget the books, transmissions from gurus, initiated oaths and blood-sworn promises... there are no secrets which cannot be revealed in the heart of every Wytch. Redesign your working space without looking on Pinterest, start taking pictures for retrospective analysis of your spiritual growth... clean, attune and give gratitude for modifications.
I missed out on an important part my occult education: summoning and conjuration. How is this possible? Well for starters, I never worked with lesser entities (i.e. demons)... always stuck with good ol' evocation and invocation which naively seemed safer. Hell, it has only been in the past 5 years I began including the Beloved Dead in mine Arte. Years of reading fantastic tales and anecdotes about demons and angels controlled by or coerced into a magician's bidding always seemed like more work than it was worth. In my experience, it seemed a waste of energy to have someone or something do what I could otherwise do for my Self. In revisiting classic Western traditions over the past year, I am starting to reconsider these old attitudes or opinions, and realizing they might not serve me any longer.
Servitude and sovereignty are things I have avoided as they seem nothing more than attachments and feeders of ego. However, influenced by a recent blogpost (God-owned or God-slave?), I am wondering if maybe this is just part of the relationship I have with Deity. Instead of Be-ing a 'slave' to my Gods, my role is really more of Regent: secretary of spirits, policing other practitioners who might abuse their abilities, calling out those who exploit our traditions and culture for monetary means...all of these are spiritual roles I reluctantly agreed to do many, many years ago. But what IF I could just as easily summon something/one else to help do other things like warding, prophecies, so I can put my psychic and spiritual attentions on something else? It would be like having a witchy personal assistant, right? But unlike an apprentice or student, this Be-ing would come with a whole skill set surpassing my own, able to do things I have yet to master or try. Doubtfully, I am not the first occultist to consider this thus we have the Goetia and other grimoires of spirit conjuring.
Realizing all these things, I turned to my tried and true favourite “Mastering Witchcraft” by Paul Huson. Yes, here we go again... BUT, in it there are specific instructions and suggestions on working with one of the more approachable of the Goetic demons/angels/spirits: Vassago. I remember seeing this in a movie once, and only later in reading Huson's book did I realize they used his materials in the cult classic Season of the Witch (a.k.a. “Hungry Wives” from 1972), directed by George A. Romero. In it, a bored housewife starts fiddling around with witchcraft and performs Huson's “Conjuration of Vassago”. It's not very clear why she summons this particular Prince of Hell except He is described in most sources as somewhat benevolent and can be persuaded to reveal things of the past and future.
So again, why bother? Well, there are specific questions I have asked my own spiritual guides, oracles, psychic strangers, mambos, pretty much anyone else who provides service for divination, all for which I have not been entirely satisfied with. So, I seek out this spirit and prepare for an adventure of Goetic proportions.
The first step will be preparing for the working, which according to my text is going to include many tools being properly cleansed and consecrated. With herbal washes my blade, glass chalice and thurible are cleaned. One of the best tried and true herbs for this level of serious cleansing is Vervain, also known as Verbena. A pretty little blue flower, it has been called “witch bane” or “holy herb” due to it's protective qualities, specifically in the areas of magical attack. Infusions of vervain were used by the Romans to keep evil at bay, and so I bathe my body as a tool for this craft. Empowering with lodestones, magickal paints and smoking incenses of forgotten scents, the witches' art is finely tuned for the conjuration. Salted water, by Satandar and Asentacer, gathering paper and drawing triangles.
Placing the girdle around my waist, inhaling the scent of vetivert, my mind travels to the sacred tree. Into the trunk, through the staircase and into the middle world which surrounds Yggdrasil, the living World Tree, axis mundi. I follow the path to where the a Well waits, with water silver and still. Shown to me by spiritual guides, I know how to ask the questions and see into distorted reflections for the answers.
I am a natural Seer, specializing in oneiric prophecies. Some of the first dreams I ever had I can still recall... in one I remember being a man and my wife was making us late for a dinner party; I was somewhere around 3 or 4 years old. In 4th grade our pet hamster died, that night I dreamed of my parents divorcing, my mother re-marrying a cowboy, and my parents fighting over money (which later happened in 7th grade). That same year, I dreamed of falling into a large snake-infested lake and was bitten on the ankle; I awoke to a bloody wound that morning. Some dreams were epically long, creating an actual series that picked up where the last one ended. The ones my family recall hearing about most were the repetitive 'theme' dreams; in my junior year of High School, I dreamed of Buffalo over and over, only to have an albino Buffalo born, an omen to Native people indicating a period of peace among their tribes. As I developed in my witchcraft during the teen years, I learned to better control these visions, often called 'lucid dreams' but at a price: sleeping walking, talking and general unconscious activity increased.
Waking trance is something I took for granted in my youth. It came so easily in those days, but was suppressed by the usual retinue of parents, teachers, priests. The 'daydreaming' visions, the Wonderland type visits I am no longer banishing from my thoughts. I allow them to come, and occasionally write down. Try to remember this as I raise my own daughter: to keep her imagination alive and the innocence captured only in wisdom as a witch can know safely. This bloodline runs through me and is something not really celebrated in Neopaganism... some have called it the 'witch blood' believed to be passed down, going all the way back to the time of God's Watcher angels on earth, taking human wives. I am not going to deny there might be some kind of ancient connection with people who are naturally adept in the Arte; whether it is an environmental factor, societal or genetic is really all speculation. There has been evidence of certain occupations or talents being handed down through generations of breeding; a good example would be families with many Rabbis or Priests/Nuns... a natural tendency toward spiritual endeavors, perhaps?
Which is where I come around to talking about the Völva. The title is one from Pagan Germanic/Norse culture... a woman who traveled around giving oracles from a high-risen seat. It was similar to the work of the Pythia of Delphi... who's hissing answers, channeled messages of Apollo for aspirants were interpreted by the male Priesthood. Although I am not Hellenic in my genes and only barely in my practice, I don't identify much with that title. I identify more with these ancient Germanic women, who belonged nowhere nor to anyone, except to the Shining Ones. A spokesperson, librarian who knew stories, the messenger who updated news from village to village before written words; Völva knew the songs to call the Gods and remembered for everyone. She would often eat of the livestock and sleep under the roof of a patron, to better learn about the hosts and give better readings. Her power, like my own, was in her visions and voice. I hope to honor my ancestors with this skill by giving service someday. I continue to offer my body and mind to their Will. The blood and bones never forget.
For further information I highly recommend the work of Diana Paxson and the folks at Hrafnar. This is a great craft blogpost about the craft of Seidr and the role of the Volva from a modern practice: "The Return of the Völva".
The autumn is now into full swing and the Hallows have passed. Themes of 'unity', 'tolerance' and 'understanding' come up at all the Pagan Pride events, intentions at public rituals and shoved in the faces of newcomers, and veterans alike. And that is fine... except it is a two-way street. As I have often written about, I have a bit of a pet peeve with the “we're tolerant to everyone except (fill in the blank)” people. Whether racists, conservatives, Republicans, monotheists, atheists, monogamous... Pagans really do come in flavors other than 'fluffy' and 'recon'. And diversity is what we all love about this community... but there is still this underlying thing everyone is missing the point on. You can preach about community and compassion until you are blue in the face... you can lead a horse to water, but cannot make it drink. Teaching by example is usually the best way, but when the intolerance brigade comes through with their unity flags demanding nothing to be exclusive, everything allowable, just not (fill in the blank) culture or (fill in the blank) religions they are just as bad, if not worse, than those they are 'against'.
I propose a genuiness that is not the authenticity we all pretend to have. I don't need to know the horrors of your life, or who your sexual partners include, or what problems you continue to have when magic is obviously not enriching your lifestyle or mind. We don't need MORE nude rituals, MORE inhibitions peeling away, MORE acceptance and crap piled on top of our otherwise already full spiritual plates. We say it is a safe space, when really many are just waiting to pounce on any original idea, thought or way of precessing something which may not agree with their ideology. The key is not MORE but LESS... simplicity brings about vulnerability.
GET OVER IT. This is spirituality, folks... if we have to put up shields of protection at events, bite our tongues for fear of belittlement in sharing UPG: defensiveness and general righteousness are poisoning our 'religion'. Strip it all down to the bare bones and forget the attachments which keep us from pursuing what is true and pure. It is only when our shells are stripped and we come before the Gods as authentic Self, without expensive velvet/leather clothing, without labels of race/sexual orientation/gender or any other thing of THIS world... in spirit it doesn't matter. Until we can work in pure form and allow our Selves to really be children of the Multiverse in our naïve nudity, with our wounds exposed to truly heal, we are just throwing a pretty bandage on it.
I have a loud voice. And not just in a spiritual sense... more on that later. I mean physically it 'carries', is slightly raspy and has been this way since I was a young kid. They thought at first I was hard of hearing, when that was shown to not be the issue I was sent to a throat specialist. I remember the feeling of a hot, extended mirror going down the back of my neck and them seeing the effects of my talkative nature: calluses on vocal chords. I saw a speech therapist after that and went back for regular follow-ups to keep an eye on the per-cancerous nodules. Didn't help in the long run and I never got cancer; but I learned how to say all kinds of wonderful tongue twisters, diaphragm-controlled breathing and beautiful diction. I participated in choir at both my elementary school and church (seasonally) and for a number of years, harmonizing my bass tone to the otherwise cherubic sounds coming from other children. I had private singing lessons, drama, jazz dance, various wind instruments all to learn control over my growing body and feed my nerdy love of the humanities. As I got older, so did the power of my voice become more noticeable. I could talk over other people, get a room's attention...and this all spilled over into my spiritual life. Whilst parents, boyfriends, teachers and everyone else who thought they could control my voice kept trying to do so, it was mutating and becoming something so much more than I ever realized. When I performed my first invocation, spirits, Gods, elementals... all came. It's like, they couldn't resist. Even ones I didn't know were showing up as my intonations and cosmic vibrations refined into skill. It was a perfect match when I found mantra yoga, Tibetan Buddhism and practiced chanting every day. My vernacular speech became much more intentional, I found power in the words I spoke. Freudian slips and slurred words of accidental repetition. Coven mates feared an occasional teasing which might otherwise ensue a period of chaos in all communications, especially when Mercury would go retrograde.
It was somewhere during my undergraduate years I wanted to challenge this on a new level. I was in a relationship with an older man for several years and we were having the normal couple issues. The biggest one I felt was that my boyfriend did not see me as an equal... so I set out to find an example I could emulate as the perfect consort. It was in the Hindu story of Siva and Shakti was the potentiality for what a good relationship could be. And so I began the work with Siva, although not necessarily in the way I had planned.
I started with buying a golden dancing Siva statue, some plain Nag Champa and a simple candle in blue. The mantra was chosen and I began to intone it 108 times or more daily, over a 40 day discipline. At first everything was going well: om namah shivaya in my head, day and night. I would hear it when walking around campus, shelving books in the library, it was everywhere I went. This was, in my experience, a good sign. Until one morning I sat down in front of Siva and began my chant: om namah shivaya. By the time I got to the 30th bead on my mala, my voice creaked and choked. It almost felt like my throat was dry, so I drank some water, gargled and swallowed. Taking a few breaths, I picked up on the last mala and started where I left off. About three more of om namah shivaya and it happened again. I repeated the gargle and tried again, but this time I could only get as far as om namah. So, counting the remaining mantras in my head I finished my daily ritual and set about getting ready for the rest of the day, which was uneventful. The same thing happened the next day, and the next day... with the effects of my voicelessness being drawn out for longer periods of time.
I finished my 40 day discipline, with most of the prayers coming from within a still throat. I could not say this prayer no matter how hard I tried. Then one night, my boyfriend and I were making love. The room was candlelit and a great image of Ram with Sita hung over my bed... the divine couple I hoped to emulate. Whilst I looked up to see Ram, my eyes turned down to my lover and was shocked to see my lover had blue skin also! He was a complete Atheist, cynic, developing prestidigitator and sometimes even made fun of my spiritual practices. But he had turned into Siva!
I didn't know what to do. being mid-coitus and having a God appear between my thighs. I wasn't some experienced Tantrika and did the only thing I found to be natural, I kept going. He smiled as the body He rode in stiffened up like a corpse. I could see a frightened look trying to express through the mask of Siva. But I climbed higher in ecstasy and as the energy pulsated and rose through, my body arched and my mouth opened up, and the mantra came out...loudly, quickly and without waver. It flowed out of my essence like honey, drowning my Self, my lover, and all else in the room. The pressure built up and His energy flowed up into me, exploding out the top of my head. I collapsed, sweating and shaking but with a huge smile on my face. When I came too, I noticed my boyfriend was trembling a little and seemed disoriented. This was very out of character and worried him. I consoled him, but never told what REALLY happened.
That was when I knew this was not an ordinary skill, talent, or otherwise mystical gift. This was a powerful weapon which has spilled over into the manifestation of words on paper, in print and online. Facebook statuses manifest easily, spoken spells hardly need much else except a candle and word. I have yet to evoke or invoke a Deity who will not appear. Yes, I am a special snowflake and my voice will not be stifled from saying so.
Sometimes I miss having students. There have not been many and the reason for that is a general lack of discipline in most people's spiritual lives. Having been raised Catholic, and then my later years as a Buddhist, gives me an edge to my devotional work which puts me at an advantage. Another reason is each of my students, for some reason or another, will not have anything to do with me ever again... all ties of social or spiritual connection get absolutely severed and this is never my doing. Ungrateful and cowardly, they slink off into the sad little worlds I found them in. They never stick around long enough to know how much I learned from them in the process. Seeing magick work for the first time, getting to that place in trance when you learn to journey, invoking and actually experiencing Deity: these are the occult 'firsts' teachers/mentors/elders get to re-visit over and over. In the past year I made a friend online whom I started working with from a distance magickally. When we initially decided to start working together, M gave me a reading and proclaimed me as being “noob” to this path... that in my eagerness and passionate excitement I came across as being someone NEW to this path and kind of work. At first I laughed... during our Skype face-to-face conversation M was looking at me rather seriously. I asked him, “Are you serious? Dude, I have been on this path for 20 years or more... who is fucking counting?” I lost my cool. It was eventual since M is what I like to call an 'Atheistic Witch', meaning M and others like him approach the magickal arts from a psychological perspective (Jungian Archetypes, Luciferian Deific Masks), versus a Theistic perspective (which includes Gods/spirits/deities/etc.).
After reflecting, I realized this wasn't an insult but an opportunity. So I played the part of student, attempted to be naïve in our journeys and workings. I started re-visiting my old magickal journals, looking at the evolution of my praxis was more cathartic than I realized. I changed all my altars, started reading less and praying more. I placed my Self back into the fires of creation, ready to mould and shape whilst retaining my essence. In this humbling, the desire to apply this approach to other aspects of my life became refreshing, accepting, allowing me to experience the wonderment of the world again; just as my 5 year old daughter does daily.
This reminds me of a process in Zen Buddhism called Shoshin, or “beginner's mind”. It is a way of shifting perspective to allow one Self an opportunity for openness . As Zen master Shunryu Suzuki says: “In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few.” Coming to my witchcraft and spiritual life with this kind of eagerness for learning and growing, finding that some things I considered unnecessary or uneventful in my earlier years have new meaning or strength.
It seems all of society is doing this right now, not just in the little microcosm of our occult 'community'. Everything is coming apart at the seams, unraveling like an old patched up afghan. The Federal Government re-opened yesterday (whatever that means), our local mass transit system BART went on strike for the second time this year, there is an Occupy credit card, wars, economy, health, all in a state of flux. Balance is needed and not found, so chaos steps forward to destroy these old patterns of thinking. When we fight change it becomes more painful and difficult. But the multiverse has other plans and if we do not learn to roll with the punches, or surf the waves as I like to think of it, then we're liable to be crushed under the wheels of time. This apocalyptic vision is nothing I fear, but something to be embraced. The purging leads to a re-building, into something stronger and lasting. Every day is a chance for newness and holds an opportunity for peace, by un-learning and deconstructing.
In Pagan conversations, there is often mention of a flow to the universe and how magickal practitioners try to align their deeds with the natural order of things. Much of this fluffy kind of talk include phrases like “An Harm None” and “In accordance with Divine Will”, but what is the point of spell-work if we are not actually trying to change the ways things are intended? Are we not going against the flow? Laying back passively to float and bump whatever obstacles come our way is not my idea of living. What if with foresight (divination/prophecy) we could maneuver (magick) through the rushing stream, making our journey through life easier? Or maybe even swim upstream to find a small cove for rest (trance)? Those of us who refuse to simply accept fate eventually become masters of their own destiny. To be a witch or practice the magickal arts, I believe, is to go against what natural course the Universe has provided for us in the first place. It is our role to be wyrd/weird and step outside normal existence, to be supranatural in our motivations. It shouldn't matter what outside accoutrements and glamour is summoned... witches were never meant to be pretty, bubble riding fairy Queens but terrifying and chthonic like their deities.
“What are these So wither'd and so wild in their attire, That look not like the inhabitants o' the earth, And yet are on't? Live you? or are you aught That man may question? You seem to understand me, By each at once her choppy finger laying Upon her skinny lips: you should be women, And yet your beards forbid me to interpret That you are so” - from Shakespeare's Macbeth, Act 1 Scene 3.
What happened to the days of secret knowledge? Sabbatic initiation exclusively for the deserving? Why are my neighbors no longer afraid of me? Because through religions such as Wicca there has become a general acceptance of benevolent witchcraft. With the help of New Age movements, a return to botanical remedies and a longing for a continuity of European ancestral worship have trumped the traditional views of the witch, making her the sexy pinup or sweet village healer. Wrapped up in politics, cultural Marxism and sexual revolutions, the NeoPagan and occult community is too 'busy' arguing with each other to really accomplish anything. The Sabbatic night ride is still elusive to these folks but for those in the know, the party is just starting.
Now that we are allowed to be “Out of the Broom Closet” (a phrase over-used and trivializing to the use of brooms in actual witchcraft), the acceptance and trendiness has plateaued. The tourists are being discovered as they jump from pantheon to different tradition, trying to fit their sweet Lord and Lady into pegs completely out of character. The mask is coming off... the witch really is green and haggard, oily from the fats of animals, infused with baneful herbs which could otherwise cause problems for the uninitiated, burnt blood and smothered in ash; this isn't our feminist mother's witchcraft any more. We've been in the shadows, collecting, watching and buying time until the receding waters reveal what is buried in the sand... what has been there all along... be afraid for the season of the Witch is upon us.
Soon after attending regular Dark Moon devotionals to Hermes and Hekate at The Sacred Well , I began reading a book by our Hermetic Priest, Sam Webster , called Tantric Thelema. New to Thelemic thought, I am taking my time (so far 6 months) with this very dense, short book. It's funny, but although intentions were quite the opposite surely, I am learning about Thelema (in general) through Webster's application of eastern tantric methodology to the Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis . This topic is one which many Neo-Pagan and New Age communities have the wrong impression of... if they truly understood the genuine techniques and value of Tantra, their whole attitude about the good/evil dichotomy would change forever. Instead most Westerners think of it only in relation to sacred sexuality, specific breathing/touching techniques, and delayed orgasms... which is all true as well, but not what Tantra is ALL about. From the Sanskrit root meaning 'looms' or 'weaving', Tantra essentially means the sharing of revelatory teachings or group of lessons from a guru, often from a mystical perspective. As Webster points out, Liber AL is a perfect example of a Tantra and offers a simple definition which I think might be more understandable from a Western perspective:
“Tantras tend to have the characteristics of presenting a theory and goal of practice, a means or vehicle of practice and a divine form that embodies the practice and its successful outcome” (Webster, xiii).
It is easy to understand how this word can be thrown around; after all, there are two cultures which use it in some similar contexts, Hindu and Buddhist. In ancient India, Tantra essentially had 4 branches: Action, Performance, Yoga, and Highest Yoga. This stratification is a way of describing the path to Vedic enlightenment and escaping samsara (cycles of rebirth). Some other Westerners seem to think it's COOL in having past lives... they brag about how many famous people they have been, when in reality they should be ashamed. If you were so great, why are you still HERE and not off in the seven realms of heaven/hell (another topic for another day)? I digress, only to come back to how these four descriptions help in understanding Tantra.
It begins with taking on Action Tantra: trying to pursue knowledge as one seeks a lover... a thirst and desire which rises upon first glimpsing a grimoire, sutra, or an illustration which teaches and touches. We share in our Performance Tantra: giving attention and fawning over to satisfy Self and the object of our affections... this is a place of creation. Offering of gifts, establishing a shrine or altar space, enticing and delighting the Deity/Lover creates an inviting space. Using sly moves, the physicality involved in Yoga Tantra is sleek and smooths out the 'hand-holding' process... we are now at second base, so to speak. Beginning a practice, we are also forming a personal cult to touch and caress whatever is laid before us. It is when we are able to embrace and become One with Deity/Lover in the act of either physical sex or intense meditation... there is no third base as the ball is hit out of the park, so to speak. Devotional workings, prayers, offerings, disciplined meditation eventually pay off in Union with the Divine.
“The desire born from sexual passion can be used to destroy the desire that binds beings in samsara, like using a thorn to remove a thorn” (Lopez, p. 228).
On the flip side of the tantric coin, there are meditations of death called chod, a short-cut through to completely destroying the ego; the goal of Vajrayana Buddhism. Tantra, in this way, is about killing demons of attachment. More about this aspect in another future post.
This is a lot for Western thinkers to take on, and it is also why this practice is not suited for everyone. For those who are willing to engage in meaningful and often challenging growth spurts of spiritual grace... the tantric path is waiting for you.
Webster, Sam. Tantric Thelema. Richmond, California: Concrescent Press, 2010.
Lopez, George. The Story of Buddhism: A concise guide to its history and teaching. San Francisco, California: HarperCollins, 2001.