Purification: 30 Days of LBRP

Here we go again....writing about the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. Recently, Hekate has placed me upon a path of Dedication to Hermes. I attended Dark Moon Devotionals to Her and Hermes for a year, with the exception of Disneyland and husband working late once. Even during these times of what I considered to be a spiritual failure the words, songs and offerings were there in heart. At my household shrine and Sleeping Beauty's castle in Disneyland, I offered libation and cakes at these fabricated crossroads. I followed the oneiric signs to the service every month with Sam Webster, learning by doing and re-learning Tantric technologies I had long placed upon a shelf. There is fire in my head, heart and root of Soul as it reaches to weave Self into the Multiverse. Over the past year, I have also performed the LBRP sporadically, on an “as needed” basis instead of disciplined schedule. Having a multitude of familial spirits and the big ol' toe of Hekate is more than enough protective beefiness , so I felt a daily routine would give me the same effect: a boring conjuration of Angelic Be-ings I don't believe in, but adapting the ritual to include Mother Hekate has kept it within my devotion to Her in check. During this time I was also lead to begin a Dedicant path to Hermes, which included a period of Purification as the first step. And so I began the LBRP three times daily for 30 days. I could have chosen something else but to receive any benefits from the practice, a true activation occurs once devoted to the routine (according to Sam).

The first week was the hardest; introducing a new daily activity to an already busy and often chaotic schedule challenged Self and family. In the same time period, my daughter became ill, husband worked from home and in-laws came for a weekend visit. How was I going to do this? Swinging a black athame around, resonating ancient names of God my redneck brother-in-law wouldn't recognize except for the occasional 'AMEN'? But I did it anyway, in my bedroom, the shower, the halls of my mind whilst laying in bed: all are rituals of manifestation, sending fiery pentagrams around and throughout. My five year old daughter has taken to imitating now, with a foam pirate sword and exoteric mumbling, she is a magician in the making!

Pentagram_whiteSo HOW does the LBRP purify, you might ask? Aside from the fact divine beings are invoked to swoop through, cleaning your ritual space, something else going on from the practitioner's perspective. In the very beginning of ritual the "Middle Pillar" is a suggested preparation; I use a similar visualization of grounding which I learned during my training in ADF, called “The Two Powers". Granted, in the beginning that too took time to learn, but after a year of daily practice I am able to accomplish it in three long breaths. I extend roots deep into the chaos of Hekate's womb, through the loam and rocky soil, through the very bedrock into secret black waters. Pulling it up, it swirls through my body, and out the top of my head, bathing me in blessings from the Underworld. My consciousness rises to the top crown like foam, reaching further into starlit skies to ascend. I bring down the cosmic starfire, lighting the flame within heart, hands and foot soles. I become a flaming, swirling ethereal column of potential and a clear conduit for blasting away anything not wanted, needed and given to the pursuit of my True Will. or something to that effect.

To be continued....

 

 

 

 

PBP: “D” is for Detoxing, Deflecting and Dirt, The 2014 Pantheacon Report

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.

PBP: “A” is for ABRAHADABRA

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. Pan and Syrinx, François Boucher (ca. 1762)

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.

PBP: “S” is for Sacrificial Schedules

As a polytheist, keeping a schedule is probably the most important tool in my arsenal of things which keep my spirituality running smoothly. It's not that I am obsessive/compulsive, it's just that when one has obligations to so many spirits and deities, it is important to keep everyone satiated... otherwise there can be problems. For example, I give sacrificial offerings to Hekate at certain times of the month of different reason, such as at the true Dark of Moon (the 'deipnon') is when I feed Her and the restless dead outside, but at the Full Moon I give thanks and offerings of gratitude for my blessings at Her shrine indoors. Thursdays are all about Santisimo Muerte, Fridays are dedicated to Hathor and now Aphrodite (since I have recently incorporated Her into these devotionals), Wednesdays are for Hermes and the other tricksters, whilst Monday and Saturdays are always dedicated to my matron Hekate. My ancestors and Beloved Dead get favourite drinks and coffee on most Sundays whilst the genius locci are happy with the fruit, honey and milk given sporadically through the year. There is also the agathos daemon, our household guardian and spirit, who gets offerings of bay leaves almost daily. Lafferty_grave

As stated before, things can go VERY wrong if we don't pay attention to what our Kindred are asking for, or more than likely an obligation is not being met, a complete imbalance can take place. A very good example of this was when I began to include Ancestor worship into my devotionals a few years ago, which was heavily influenced by the integration of ADF into my personal spiritual praxis. At my Ancestor altar I include spirits of nature and those I knew in this lifetime who I wish to honor. Everything was going fine until my father's younger brother died in a rather tragic car accident. The thing is my uncle was a bit of a conman, a minister who'd been in jail, addicted to pain meds after burning nearly 70% of his body; the kind of guy you hide jewelry from when he comes to visit. So when he passed, it wasn't too much of a surprise but it was hard for my family, especially his children. He was my 'godfather', the person who stood and pledge my spiritual life in the Catholic Church I was baptized in. This man who, even though was always trying to get me to convert or be 'saved', would smoke a joint with me on the back porch at Gramma's house. I lit a candle and sang “Amazing Grace”, asking our Beloved Dead to come and help my Uncle find his way, to give him the peace he never knew in life. It was about this time, a few days after, that the candles began to explode.

The first one was a tall, fat, hand-poured jar-candle dedicated to Cernunnos. Halfway through the burn it cracked, spilling grey-green hot wax all over my plants and altar, leaving a permanent scent of bayberry on everything. I figured it was a bad pour, so didn't think much of it. A few months later, another jar candle cracked, this one being purchased at the local dollar store... I chalked it up to cheap wax or glass and decided to be extra careful where I acquired my next candles.

On and on it went, spread so far apart in the events that it took me almost two years of increased frequency that I finally realized “I've got a problem here”. After discussing the issue with some experts, they suggested I buy several different ones, dedicate to different deities, and without dressing or anything, see what happens. They all assumed I was purchasing cheap candles... when in fact several came from different proprietors who were advising me on the matter! After me showing pictures and explaining what I was experiencing I was advised to seek out counsel from my spirit allies or some other divination to discover the root of the problem. Well I tried Hekate but She is so cryptic, then I asked my tarot cards... still nothing. Even my close psychic friend wasn't getting any 'hits' on the issue at hand. We decided it might be best to bust out the Ouija board... see if anyone floating around might have something to say since the regular routes were not helping.

Immediately, my deceased Uncle came forward to be the Godparent he was not in life. He informed me that the damaged candles were HIS doing because he wished for me to return to a Christian path. This surprised me because he knew I was a witch, and had been for 20 years... most of my family gave up on 'talking sense' to me some years ago. I stood my ground and firmly stated “I'm sorry, but that isn't going to happen. Is there something else you want?” He gave clues to indicate, after verification with one of my cousins, he wanted offerings too with the rest of the Ancestors … specifically Pepsi and a Mr. Goodbar. I consulted with my father on this as well, and he surprised me with the following advice, “Don't put him to work... Your Uncle never did like having a job so you better 'wheel and deal' with him to get what you want”. So I did... and the candles have since stopped exploding and the man who I would never have invited into my home as a living person, is now a welcome addition to the Ancestor Shrine. I don't worry about him getting out of line again, now that he understands the rules of MY house.

Making adjustments, evolving praxis and coming up with new solutions to surprising problems are all ways in which our path riches and deepens. We discover who we are being looking to our Ancestors; especially the ones who knew us in life. They watch, learn and see how to manipulate energy, enjoy themselves again and feel part of a family when they come to visit. The Deities are not always there as my Ancestors, although sometimes they get called away for some reason or another. The Deities are only present when I call them... or sometimes not even then, but when they feel like it. I find having a schedule not only benefits me, but the Kindred as well... it gives them a true devotional, a dependable and reliable resource they can enjoy or not. This is true service.

PBP: “P” is for Procrastination by Piety

For the most part, people are spiritually lazy. Even the fundies who spend more time protesting, planning protests, and praying for the conversion of everyone is doing it ALL in vain. The Neopagan community is not a good example of a pious people either... most only celebrate their pagan ways at the turning of the year or at festivals. What happens when they go home? Do they, in the excitement and fervor after a weekend of preparing, discussing and sharing, go home to their altars and continue that energy? If so, for HOW long does it last? Most people approach Deity out of convenience or when in need. It's a sad fact but the Gods are used to it; over the course of human history there have been a plethora of worshipers only fulfilling sacred duties, going through the motions without right intentions. I have an eye for these folks at public rituals and events; they are the ones looking awkward or talking too much to over compensate for their lack of experience. Because really, there ARE those in the Pagan community who are actually doing stuff every day, every week, every month and year without need of a holiday. I think the only exception to this group of Pagan procrastinators might be the African Diaspora Religions; such as Vodou, Santeria, Umbanda... they all are VERY dedicated to keeping their Deities and Spirits happy.

Mary Magdalene by Ary Scheffer (1795–1858).

I get so irritated by the folks who don't “get it”: they create altars to every Deity they find interesting and try to create deep, meaningful relationships with each so they can receive blessings. By spreading themselves so thin whilst trying to serve several masters, they usually end up not making the time actually needed for true connections, there is no advancement on their paths. These are the magickal and Neopagan folks I see who always have troubles and woes; the ones who spend more time on Facebook knit-picking and trying to call each other out than serving their Gods. On the other hand, constant offering and feeding of spirits, deities and ancestors is not something that is necessary to have a fulfilling spiritual life either , not to mention nearly impossible.

But those who DO practice prayer or any other pious activity DAILY tend to have a stronger connection to Deity because every time it occurs the bonds between them are reinforced. This relationship goes one step further in Druidry, with the concept of ghost-i ; banking up the offerings and prayers like credits in a slot machine which might pay off someday. Daily giving without future motivations is humble and more appreciated by Deity, making for a richer praxis.

I believe Piety is something which requires self-discipline, cognitive thinking and a passion/love of Deity. I do not give so I can receive later, my gratitude extends beyond love into a devotion I enjoy daily. Tending the shrine, cleaning, talking to my icons, washing them and sometimes oiling them down... much care goes into choosing the right colour schemes, flowers, incense and other preparations become more than mundane acts of accumulated religious paraphernalia. The very ACT of thinking or executing the prayers begin a chain of events which, if kept up with in the momentum, will eventually become easier and more frequent. It takes 40 days for something to become a habit, for our brains to create those new neurological pathways of behavior and thinking. If a prayer is said every day, a candle is lit, or a moment of presence is acknowledged for 40 days, it will become second nature.

I have been so busy thinking about piety that my prayer work and devotional offerings increased. For the last week, I have been involved with learning to be a medium, traveling trances, reciting prayers, singing songs and engaging in conversations related to pious activities. I became so engulfed in my own shrine flames that I forgot to write my blog post, which is another sort of piety.... a devotional act to my Muse and Self , an oath honored and a promise kept.

PBP: “G” is for Gnosis, as Unverified and Personal

In all the 25 plus years I have spent studying religions, philosophy, foreign cultures, all the other humanities stuff both personally and academically, the term “Unverified Personal Gnosis” never came up. It was not until I actually joined an organization, ADF (Ár nDraíocht Féin), that I came to understand the place it serves in the Pagan community as a growing tradition. Ancient religious practices and ideologies are finding new meaning for modern Druids, Heathens and other Pagany folk. The distinction between what is actually being reconstructed and what is filling the gaps from historical record in a wabi-sabi kind of way needed to be established in literature and conversation. What was being resurrected from the remnants of lore left from oral traditions such as the Celts, the Norse and other European traditions are considered verifiable, since it could be tested against records left by conquering nations like Imperial Rome and the Catholic Church. By Camocon (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia CommonsGnosis is an umbrella term, coming from the Greek meaning 'knowledge': γνῶσις f . Information of the religious type comes in one of two ways: from an outside source, such as holy text or teachings, or from within as personal/spiritual insight. Gnosis was originally a term applied to all mystery cults, groups such as the Neoplatonic philosophers and some early Christian sects later were referenced this way. There is also a difference between a revelation and gnosis, which usually get confused with each other; a revelatory truth is disclosed to the supplicant via a deity or other being, outside oneself. There can be a gnosis brought about through a trans-personal experience with deity/higher self, but the information being downloaded is from some cosmic akashic record versus what is tangible in this realm.

So how does one verify a revelation or insight? Is the experience only considered approved if it is shared? If so, who decides this? All religious information has to starts out this way. The Gods did not punch a hole in the fabric of the universe, enter this world and announce to all within hearing distance of their existence and traditions. The ways of spirit were experienced by several individuals at first, with it being shared through story telling; the tales of heroic deeds embellished, deifying ancestors and eventually honorably remembering them through ritual-induced worship. It developed with the lore, carried to all parts of the earth through our humanity. Eventually the written word developed and the story of religion was recorded; the mythos changed over time, added and subtracted from until all that remained was hearsay and speculation.

There are some in the Pagan community who refuse to accept any modern UPG; this is not a new obstacle. I am sure there were PLENTY of people who thought John the Baptist was a nutcase and refused to write down or follow His radical, extreme teachings. The work of Dr. John Dee with Mr. Edward Kelly revolutionized magic with the revealed Enochian language of Angels and demons, including ways to invoke them... something new always frightens the establishment. Whilst a healthy dose of skepticism is good in ANY religious context, an openness to the experience of others and receiving information is a blessing too. So to those who would “poo-poo” at UPG I say unto you: Maybe you need to stop reading what the historians say and talk to the God/Self directly...because the moment you do, the chains of fear are released and you will be free to realize the full range of accessibility available out there. Seek out and grasp your OWN gnosis.

PBP: “H” is Hospitality, Not Just For Heathens

Let's have a Druish moment, shall we? A few years back I did the Dedicant work for my membership in ADF, Ár nDraíocht Féin. I also did it in a year by following Michael Dangler's Dedicant Program Through the Wheel of the Year ; it was a well laid out plan following a week by week curriculum I had no problem following. I had just had my daughter seined in the ADF church and had decided this would be a test: if I can do the work required for the D.P. whilst handling my new motherhood, I could probably participate in a Master's program I was considering. So I bought the books, read them during nursing sessions and nap times, and before I knew it the year had passed and I was taking my oath. What initially drew me to ADF, aside from the scholarship and dedication to excellence, is the Virtues. Having more of a witchy background than Heathen, I had never encountered these before in my personal spiritual studies and if I had it was brushed aside. At that moment, I had a new family growing and needed something to bring them together from the very beginning. I was committed in my partnership, as a parent to be the example. Little did I realize, this would also extend to the rest of my life as well.

Recently I visited my mom and met her new husband in Florida... and experienced some good ol' southern hospitality pretty much wherever I went. This got me to thinking about Hospitality in general and reminded me of the Nine Virtues of Druidry (and I believe the Heathens have something akin to this called the Nine Noble Virtues).  All of them are important in my life: courage, perseverance, piety, wisdom, integrity, vision and wisdom. But the top of my personal list is Hospitality (in 2009, it was at the bottom). Reflecting on what I wrote for the requirement, I went back and re-read what I had written back then and decided it might be time to create an  addendum or two.

“The Dedicant Handbook defines Hospitality as follows: 'Acting as both a gracious host and an appreciative guest, involving benevolence, friendliness, humor, and the honouring of 'a gift for a gift'.'

I can understand why the concept of ghos-ti would have been necessary in our ancient past. It would represent impropriety and ignorance to not reciprocate gifting or kindness. But I don't think we should be demanding it of our Gods, especially in the modern age. I would not expect this type reciprocity from a friend who came to visit, why should I expect it of the Kindred? Nor would I give with the expectation of receiving something in return. When I give to the Gods in a devotional rite, the only motivation I have is establishing a connection with them. It would be nice to be in their light as I live out my days.

Dido and Aeneas by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin

I also see how I use offerings to give thanks to the Kindred, sending praises and incense for their enjoyment. These ancient and almost forgotten Deities should be remembered and given honour. It is good to be in their service for many personal reasons. I find it spiritually uplifting and gratifying to give out of love and compassion. I get a sense of satisfaction in being a gracious hostess; essentially, that is what I believe a priestess is. Since every person has a bit of the Divine in them, I try to see others as always potentially being a sentient being. I think this is an effect of being a good and moral person and should be included as one of the Nine Virtues of Druidry. Being polite and showing some humility I feel are both traits of true excellence in a person.”

I still pretty much feel the same about hospitality, but must make mention of some things I didn't put in this initial insight, for fear of offending my reviewer (I knew her personally AND she already didn't like me either, so I made sure to omit it):

To me, cleanliness is next to Godliness (or Goddess-ness, however you prefer). I have been to some of the grossest homes in the pagan community... not to say they are dirtier than other religious groups, it just seems like there is a general lack of concern for tidiness or just general hygiene. I mean, most have cats but never seem to clean out their boxes or there is a perpetual smell of cat pee in the house covered with Nag Champa or patchouli fuming from virtually every room. I have been to some 'priests' homes where they invited folks over for a ritual or meeting and there was no toilet paper in the bathroom! I mean, who does that? It seems like the most un-hospitable thing you can do to a guest; the predicament involves having a scavenger hunt in the toilet. See, now I wouldn't invite the Gods into my home if it was like this, let alone mortals with bodily functions.

I admit to a bit of pride from being an excellent hostess; I LOVE having company at my home and so does my husband. We love to entertain, pull out the good wine and nosh, provide clean sheets and towels... and never try to 'impress', we just do it for the sheer joy of sharing our home with loved ones and friends. I think this is why so many spirits, deities, and otherworldly Be-ings enjoy coming to my home, and I want them to feel like honored guests just as I would want to be treated.

But what does this mean for Pagans? To be hospitable might mean different things, such as simple toilet tissue availability or hosting a weekend retreat on personal private property. To the Gods and those who serve them, all are on the same level of value if given from the heart. We should emulate our Gods and Ancestors with our deeds and thoughts every day. Cook our meals as if the Buddha were coming to visit, make our beds in case Aphrodite wishes to go for a romp, and clear a space for Odin to sit in the best seat.

Liminal Book Review: A History of Pagan Europe

A History of Pagan Europe by Nigel Pennick and Prudence Jones; Routledge, London, England. Published originally in 1995, revised 2001. 288 pages.

Whilst I am very drawn to the Eastern 'pantheons' of Buddhas and Bodhisattva s, my DNA wants to connect and find things in common other than ancestry. A History of Pagan Europe, by Nigel Pennick and Prudence Jones began a genuine perspective not brought about intuitively. Organized by civilization, Pagan Europe starts with the Hellenic worlds of ancient Greece, Crete and the eastern Mediterranean; when studying the history of Western Civilization this is always the best place to begin. While much of this was a refresher for me, after having studied these humanities formerly in college, I was surprised to see how I could apply the cosmology of my Druidry in this ancient history. In particular, the >axis mundi and how it is utilized in the various Indo-European belief systems is of interest to me.

In ancient times, the axom or gate was based on locality, the site already being sacred instead of the hallowing needed in modern Pagan rites. For example, the Olympians were associated with various trees and before the need of structures, the temples were natural environments utilized by oracular servants; Zeus and the Oak at Dedona, Athene's Olive in Athens, etc. The authors speculate these localized axis points were “linking the mundane world with the celestial world. In contrast to the trees reaching up toward the Heavens, the beings of the Underworld were accessible through the Omphalos stone; the 'navel of the world'. The very act of prophecy can be seen as the restructuring of the Universe as the seer being the center. The most famous of course being the Delphic Oracle of Apollo; sitting beside the stone on a tripod, the prophetess would inhale the fumes from below.

"The omphalos too was seen as the centre of the world, as Plato tells us ('Apollo sits in the centre on the navel of the earth'), but unlike the axom...(it) was placed in an underground setting...originally a shrine of the earth-goddess, and so the tradition of prophecy must have continued in the time-honored manner, by reference to the Underworld, not to the axis of the heavens” (p.19).

As the book moves on through the ideologies of Celtic, Germanic, Baltic and Russian lands, this theme of a central pole, column or tree in which the world revolves around is a common grounding element, a conduit and link with the Deities. This connection with the axis mundi of the universe from a Hellenic perspective is something I very much long for. Another central rite in my paganism is the making of offerings; gifts of ghost-i and thanks to the Gods and Goddesses. While not a common enough thing in most other Neo-Pagan traditions, I find it brings balance to my spirituality. The commonality of sacrifice in ancient religions is well known, but the nature of these sacrifices I think are not; the motivations were not simply to appease an otherwise angry God out of fear. The authors' discuss this Hellenic view of sacrifice, giving two logical reasons for giving to the Kindred:

"The emphasis that comes through the main practice of sacrifice is one of social responsibility of sharing what one has with other people and with the originators of all bounty, the Immortals. The ceremonial pouring of liquids in addition sanctifies a place, whether the ground itself, its altar or its omphalos. The other kind of sacrifice is a re-sanctification, the redressing of a wrong, an alternative to the punishment which the Fates would otherwise inflict(p.15).

Fulfilling a spiritual debt is not uncommon in Indo-European religions, where making oaths and swearing to the Gods was taken much more seriously than today. This sort of purging of the spirit not only clears the practitioner's conscience, but allows them to also take responsibility for their actions. Owning up to my mistakes and making amends is an important virtue to me and I would say it is an act of Piety as well, in this Hellenic perspective. The arts, philosophies, and political cultures of the Hellenic world have been in the forethought of my Pagan experience, but never truly explored. My classical sense of beauty and worship is a good match with the Gallo-Roman-Hellenic pantheons; the drama of ritual theater, mythic heroes, and theistic traditions all appeal to me. As I look for wisdom from the past, I reconcile the conflict within me as I see my ancestors not only in the Celtic world; my French/German roots very easily lie in Gaul. The call of Cernunnos, the Dis Pater I have been missing in my Pagan spirituality, now makes sense as I embark on a new journey of discovery in my polytheistic life.

http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415158046/

Something different, Something liminal...

What exactly is a psychopomp?

When I first heard this term within the context of my Dedicant Druidic training with Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) I thought to myself: So it is a shortened version of a psychotic, pompous deity? Because there very well could be some huffy-puffiness among the Kindred...hubris is often something left to mortals, after all. In actualty, a psychopomp is a way of describing a certain kind of immortal being...one that is useful and has the ability to travel between all the worlds at ease. In ADF they are referred to as the Gatekeepers, opening the ways to the Gods and Goddesses through the opening of a portal...leading up into the axis mundi to give access to all realms of sea, sky, and land. As I explored hearth cultures in which to work with the Kindred in my personal Druidry, finding a psychopomp in which I could connect with as a guide for communication proved to be more significant than I would have originally imagined.

There are specific traits all psychopomps have, and whilst they may be from different hearth cultures and pantheaons the commonalities transcend boundaries of language and time.On the whole, psychopomps tend to be deities or beings in which:

  • adept at guiding others through transformative experiences just as death or major changes in life
  • are nonjudgmental, compassionate, and generally approachable by anyone
  • tendancy to be border crossers and walkers between worlds
  • tricksters who will do whatever it takes to meet their goals
  • shapeshifters who can change their appearance at will
  • arbiters of change for individuals and the culture
  • magical beings who can facilitate healing in unexpected ways

(http://www.psychopomps.org/what-is-a-psychopomp.html)

The Sitter in the Doorway

Having the patronage of the Lord Cernunnos has been something very different in my spiritual life: praying and connecting to a masculine divinity. In the past, my path has been primarily focused on different Goddesses, in all Her aspects. Turning away from the Patriarchy of my childhood Catholicism, I saw the Goddess as empowering and nurturing to my soul. I could not ignore the presence of Cernunnos, as He repeatedly appeared in my life over and over in classical and literal form. The more I meditated and asked for guidance, the more apparent His Patronage over me became. He appeared in dreams, visions and meditations, speaking to me without words, helping me to shapeshift and run free as a deer in His sacred Herd.

Image

Having come full circle back to a Father God, I am seeing the peaceful possibilities He offers and the clearing of spiritual confusion. In researching his place in the ancient world, I found his many names to be similar to that of the “10,000 Names” for the Goddess; Herne, Cernunnos, Pan, Greenman, the Horned One: all are names for a God of the Hunt and Vegetation. His is the mystery of the spiral. Cernunnos is considered a chthonic God, a God of the Shadow Self with ties to the Other or Under World. Cernunnos is a liminal God, born only to die and be reborn again and again.  He is the promise of the Son/Sun at Yule, the return of the animals and plants at Spring, the golden light touching and caressing the Earth becoming her lover at Beltane, and finishing with His sacrifice in the Autumn promising to keep us comforted throughout the cold season ahead. With His hoofed feet in all worlds, the Horned God is a Gatekeeper; a guide through the unseen mysteries and dark places of my heart. By looking at these fears instead of leaving them in the unswept corners of my psyche, Cernunnos empowers me to move forward, gently.

Walking the Ways

As the doors became opened for me, I stepped up to the challenge ahead...many more were waiting to be connected with and understood. The lessons to be learned and roadways walked have since shown me the possibilities that come with being flexible and open in my spiritual life. I surrender more and more each day and pray for the guidance to choose wisely as opportunities present themselves. The Gods want us to be happy, we need only listen and willing to adapt to the pathways spread before us.