Chöd and Hekate

“That which is called 'devil' is not some actual great big black thing that scares and petrifies whomever sees it. A devil is anything that obstructs the achievement of freedom. . . . Most of all, there is no greater devil than this fixation to a self. So until this ego-fixation is cut off, all the devils wait with open mouths. For that reason, you need to exert yourself at a skillful method to sever the devil of ego-fixation”

- Machig Lobdron (quoted from Harding)

I don’t recall exactly when it happened… after a night of 3 am fires in my little temple, creating green flames with absinthe in an offering cauldron. The clean smell of purely burnt offerings brought the familiar feeling of snakeskin against mine, the Fear creeping up my spine as Her darkness gathered about me. My nostrils filled with the subtle manure smell; organically processed grasses mixed with toxins dispelled. This is how I know it is Her and not another, my Titaness cannot be replicated by other mocking spirits. One word came through...a word I was not familiar with and one that would take me on an amazing journey over the next 5 years: Chöd.

In thoughts She speaks to my inner mind, the place which one can barely grasp once it is seen. From afar, Her message comes in one or two words sometimes, or reflective images as surface water. In the very first vision She showed how to cover my head, although I never felt “right” doing it...so it became one of those negotiated requests Gods sometimes offer us. Instead, I always include a special ring. But this theme of “heads” is recurring in my life and is very important to the rest of this story.

  1. My body has never suffered injury, except to only my head (rock thrown at me, concussion from car accident).

  2. When I took an undergraduate class in Ancient Philosophy, I decided the ideal state of being was for me to be a floating head...no body to drag around, but the intellectual and imaginative mind was free to be. Maybe it was the report I wrote on Hedonism, or maybe it was from watching “The Adventures of Baron von Muncheusen”, but I became convinced it is the seat of the Soul.

  3. I used to sculpt Goddesses, and nearly all of them had trouble with their heads staying on. I also had a tendency to rip the heads off my Barbies as a girl, which you should know makes it SUPER hard to put back on.

  4. Once I went to a ritual for Yeshe Tsogyal...the central statue was one which I also had bought on clearance at Target (of all places). A tall wooden dakini, this generic ‘world’ art became the seat for a Bodhisattva in my own home, who unfortunately became beheaded during a move by my husband. I mentioned this after the ritual, for which was told how in one story of Yeshe Tsogyal she is beheaded and walks around holding her own head.

As if these weren’t enough connections (I am hard headed), it was the recurring dreams that lead me to my teacher, and the topic of Chöd came up. After a year of attending Dark Moon devotionals to Hermes and Hekate, our Priest offered an afternoon workshop transmitting a Pagan Chöd with Hekate as the guide. My head nearly exploded. I realized after all this time, when I was trying to find a Buddhist group to learn from or a corpse garden to go sit and meditate in (yes, I was willing to go there), this was what She had meant.

The build up to the workshop was fervent. My gut was completely inflamed with anxiety, spent by my IBS. I placed my cushion as close to the bathroom as I could...in case I vomited or shit myself. He handed out the papers and we spent the next 30 minutes receiving instruction...but the ACTUAL practice only took 6 minutes or so. I was kinda disappointed. I went through so much, got myself worked up and excited for some big elaborate ritual that was going to catapult my spiritual life onto some new level...or something like this, in my mind. But we did the practice, I became Hekate and severed my head from my body, chopped up my body to put in the flipped over skull like a cauldron, then used my femur to stir the pot. I called to demons, ghosts, animals, to any and all sentient or wandering and suffering beings who were hungry, to come and partake. And they came in swarms, swiftly and without notice to each other. I maintained the visualization, trying not to be distracted by the other demons, my own, which pulled at my hair and toes trying to keep me from feeding the hungry spirits. PHAT!

Afterwards I returned to my Self, but before I could begin reflecting on the experience we performed it again, and a third time. Afterwards, I ate a little food to remind my head and body they were united, feeling almost speechless for the first time in my life. It was subtle, this profoundness...I sat with it for a week when finally I saw the effects. Two people in our group had their partners leave them. I was sad for them, but glad for being spared whatever effects were rippling in the aftermath of Chöd. A few weeks later I decided to try performing the ritual myself, maybe even starting a daily practice. Shortly after, the two people whose partners left them had a huge falling out with enormous repercussions; this also included the majority of our budding Priesthood to abandon their oaths and group. I was absolutely shocked and swore not to do the Chöd practice again, just in case.

Months passed when I decided my spirit was strong enough to really break through my Fear and do the practice. On New Year’s Eve, I made the commitment to myself and my Queen, to begin a daily practice of the Chöd for 40 days. I got 4 days into the practice when my husband started fighting with me. I pushed through until day 8 when he lost his job. I stopped immediately...the Fear had won. My life, at that point, had been exactly what I always wanted: working in a library, husband working from home and doing his thing, living in the country and having enough money to live comfortably. We were even shopping around for our first home to buy. This sudden change had a domino effect: my husband had to move back to the city for work, our marriage took a huge strain and we’ve since relocated back to the Bay Area.

What happened? Where is all the merit I accumulated from this practice? Do I continue the practice? Well, I gave it away...emptied my Self of all karma. My actual Fear was manifested before me… causing unhappiness for so many, including my Self. This is not a safe practice and something I will return to again over time. These demons and spirits, even if viewed through the psychological lens of one’s own personal demons, manifested from our subconscious… they still have to be dealt with, regardless.

I obviously have some connection to it on a soul level, but as I researched this practice the relevancy became much more apparent. This practice is one of the only ones to develop in Tibet and migrate to India...usually Buddhist practice is the opposite. Also, Chöd was first taught by a woman ; Machig Lobdron was consort to a holy man, had children and STILL pursued spiritual advancement successfully. She had been the tantrika Yeshe Tsongel in a former life with guru Padmasambhava; both incarnated together. Many others who had shared lives with Yeshe Tsongel and Padmasambhava followed them into the next lifetime, where they were married and householders. Machig (pronounced, ironically, like ‘magic’) was an unusual woman who in her younger years had learned to read and worked as a liturgy or holy scripture reader for an otherwise illiterate community. Machig was well known for her very quick readings; fitting several stops a day before going home to Her own chores and meditations. Families who heard the readings were blessed for being within earshot and also accumulated merit, or what we might call ‘good karma’, for sponsoring the recitation of the Prajnaparamita (Heart Sutra)... the more times it is read, the greater the benefit.  Her multitasking confounds me, as can be demonstrated by the complete ritual; a double-sided drum in one hand, bell in the other whilst singing the chants and songs...at one point a bone flute is also played to lure hungry ghosts to the spiritual feast. The traditional Chöd practitioners are akin to the Aghori of India; wearing cast off clothing, eating/drinking from skulls and living in graveyards.

For me, Machig is a reminder that some Buddhas and Bodhisattvas came from humble, ordinary places in life. Enlightened beings find their way back to each other, to continue the work they could not complete in one lifetime. Perhaps this is my time, now… to go and sit in a place of Fear, to call demons and to dance with them. Confronting the four demons which arise from this practice: one which blocks the senses, another that distracts the mind,the third lures away one from discipline with promises of pleasure, and the final demon of ego. I see how they have manifested in my life, and how I have had to battle them… and badly at that. But I am managing to hang on to my head, even if it is hanging from the neck.

“Without hope, Chöd practitioners are freed from the limits of hope and fear; having cut the ropes of grasping, definitely enlightened, where does one go?” - Machig Lobdron (quoted from Sorensen)

Sarah Harding, Machik's Complete Explanation: Clarifying the Meaning of Chöd. Snow Lion Publications. 2003.

Michelle Janet Sorensen. Making the Old New Again and Again: Legitimation and Innovation in the Tibetan Buddhist Chöd Tradition. Columbia University Academic Commons. 2013.

Machig Labdron

Machig Labdron

Episode 2 of Podcast is UP!

Thanks to everyone for listening to the show! I have uploaded the newest episode on the static page of The Podcast , but I will upload to a post too to see if it's easier for everyone. Leave some feedback, let me know which you prefer, and see some of you at Pantheacon. [audio mp3="http://www.psychopompgroupie.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Episode2_Praxis.mp3"][/audio]

 

 

Fire and Water, Then Earth Begins

The past two months have been a whirlwind of activity...which makes sense after 30 days of Air invocations. It ended in the culminating passion of Fire, the Will, the pentagram drawn from the heavens, that starlight straight to the belly:

“I call forth the power and the presence of Fire,
May the Powers of Passion,
Be present within Me.”

And with it came the nausea and vomiting for weeks. At one point it was reminiscent of morning sickness. But as the passion rose, so did the flames...burning much including karmic debts and bad luck. Where Air expressed itself through my libido, Fire was heart-centered. Compassion and feelings in general bubbled up very easily to the surface. Tensions were high in my household among all family members. Unfortunately it also meant my husband was laid off from his job. This came as a shocking effect...but he had several interviews a day within the week (and employment after we 'moved' into water, later on that). Fire brought warmth of belly and center; the hearth flames were re-ignited with the furnace of my Will. During these Fire invocations was the first time I practice Dark of Moon Devotionals without the company of my beloved Hermetikoi and Hekatoi. I was not feeling well so did the entire service from my mind; every act including the listening of others singing the chants. But I fell into a sleep and dreamed of being in Her torches, seeing my Will in Her hands. I became enflamed in Her and remembered what it was like, just when it was Her and I. No Priests. No traveling to another location. Now I am different; before it was just my Lady and I. Hermes and Hekate stood behind me and placed hands on my shoulders, armoured and broad enough to handle their tasks.

"The Four Elements" By Jacob Matham (Holland, Haarlem, 1571-1631) [Public domain]
"The Four Elements" By Jacob Matham (Holland, Haarlem, 1571-1631) 

The day I began invoking water, it rained. California has been in a horrible drought and much of my prayer work has been centered around this delicate matter. But the storm, She came in from the Pacific... cold and fierce rain. It made me smile. It snowed like 5-7 feet in Buffalo, New York that day as well...but I figured the wrong coast to lay any claim.

I moved from the Bay Area to my hometown, in the foothills of Northern California. Only 2 hours from ocean, desert, mountain or swamp. The spirits called me home...so I agreed. Funny how when you decide to let Deity and other allies take the lead, things easily happen. My husband got a fantastic job working from home, I had some job opportunities come up as well, so we made the decision to move. Action was put into play: packing and collecting materials, finding a house, school, doctors, having utilities turned on. Although we ate really crappy, somehow my husband had managed to lose twenty pounds, and I ten over the course of relocation.

Aligning my Self with the energies of Water, I thought about how it moves around obstacles...strong enough to carve mountains with meandering patience. Time is relative as water is solid, liquid and gaseous in forms. In the waters of mind is the heart of intuition:

“I call forth the power and the presence of Water
May the Powers of Intuition,
Be present within Me.”

In listening to those inner voices, that rain kept coming. It washed over the aches and soothed my spirit. Where Fire blistered or rubbed raw, Water was a salve.

With only two weeks settled in, I erected the altars to my Chthonic Lord and Lady... attuning to the Dark Moon Devotionals from afar... but this time I saw my fellow Dedicants. I saw them each going up before the Herm, sprinkling incense and offering wine...and I chanted along as if there, lifting my voice for them as witness to the Shining Ones. In the moment, there was no physical distance or time. I hovered about, sensed someone was missing even (I later confirmed it)...it wasn't a cliche after all. Just as all water IS one water, never ending in it's cycle on Earth, so are we connected to spirit. No distance too great, no depth untouchable. I saw the streams of rain wash down the sides of those Sierra Nevada mountains, into the dry and cracked creek beds. The wells, aquifers, underground lakes all need to be filled before any run off is truly visible, but they ARE being fed...and that is all that matters.

Today I began the invocation of Earth... the Mother, where roots gather and clutch to hold ahigh the trunk of me. From the dark, moist loam I reached down and gathered it to propel my pentagram:

“I call forth the power and the presence of Earth
May the Powers of Stability,
Be present within Me.”

This promise of mountains is not far behind, as I see the snow covered caps of Mount Shasta to the North, and Mount Lassen to the East. A glacier resides inside the Northern Mother, with the fiery sulphur and boiling water which spews from the volcanic Eastern Sister. The spirits of these majestic and dangerous pillars are axis mundi, conduits of power and portals between worlds. The local natives believe Shasta to be a place of the Dead, where Ancestors travel to. On the other side of the valley is Lassen, who birthed all of creation. And I am at the Crossroads, as Hekate and Hermes would have it.

The Air

“Every man and every woman is a star.”
― Aleister CrowleyThe Book of the Law

Astrology confuses me, only in that I understand Astronomy. Some schools of astrology say my Sun is in Gemini, others that I am a Taurus: both I identify with whole-heartedly. However, I am still very much an Elemental creature. All living things are, as Crowley's quote suggests, made from starstuff. In the beginning maybe some God put it together, or we crawled from water, or crashed here from another planet...the Earth, the Water and the Fire still needed that key ingredient which set us apart from our floating-rock neighbors: Air. And I have been spending the last 30 days breathing, shouting, invoking this all-encompassing Element...tool of intellect and mindfulness. Sharp as a tack and willful as wind, I very much identify with this element. Since I can remember, my mind has been involved with two modes of action: reading or writing (this is why I love being in school so much I suppose). During this time period of daily invocation and manipulation of Air, there was a different effect than I expected. Mercurial, feathered and flights in dream I experienced academic revelry in my undergraduate studies...this was the last time I did an Elemental discipline. One week of each Element as a young witchlet, was a way of experiencing them purely, getting to know the 'critter' (as my teacher would say). And as I greeted the Eastern Sun every morning, chanting the seed mantra to Wind, my mind became sharpened, grinding quicksilver, hardened on steel.

Alchemical symbol for the element of Air.
Alchemical symbol for the element of Air.

But I am a different person these days, and my relationship with the Elements has changed as well; environmentally rather than spiritually. Whilst I lived in the rural areas of Northern California, it was much easier to interact with the Be-ings of primordial magicks. I mean, they are EVERYWHERE! The rivers are full of water sprites, mountains alive with flowing lava and sulfur springs, the trees sentinels and stewards of all who walk beneath their sappy arms. But I am in the suburbs now, as they call it...too urban still for this country witch. The property I live on has six sad baby palm trees and a few bushes; no trees to speak of. All my plants are in containers, keeping them somewhat protected from any soil pollutants. The nearby freeway fills the atmosphere with sounds of busyness, not to mention exhaust. The Fae and other unseen folk are hidden in the landscape, hardened by the asphalt and cement which line their land. They do not come so easily with offerings of sweets and shelter, but draw near to the light which only gets brighter with magick.

For the first week of invoking Vāta, I used the traditional invoking pentagram as provided in the GD system. After performing my Star Ruby, I take refuge in the tradition of our Hermetikoi...and begin the invocation. At first I used one written by my brother Devotee, only in that I loved the way it sounded coming from him. I soon found this was not necessarily true for my Self. Coming from my voice, the invocation left me feeling weepy the whole rest of the day. I was confused as the wording was quite practical and reminiscent of my academic years...a focus on the sharpness of mind, quick of wit, eloquent speech and seeing through deceit. I asked my Priest why he thought this was happening...he told me to ask the spirits of Air and invoke through improvisation. The problem with this, I didn't want to use my old style of “off the cuff” magick as had always worked so well in the past. I have been on a strict diet of Thelemic ritual with tried and true words. I was doing this as a spiritual challenge. Focusing on the one Element after a month of all four...well, let's just say the unbalancing effected my practice. It shifted and I needed to INSPIRE my Self.

My invocation is short and sweet:

“I call forth the power and the presence of Air,
Powers of the Mind, Be present within Me.”

I say this aloud, commanding and firm, with the appropriate invoking pentagram in time with the words. Drawing from my right shoulder, my dominant hand...the only wand I'll ever really need. No athame can withstand the magick a living, human bone does. I draw this energy into each of my chakras...illuminating and spinning the wheels with winds of spirit.

Throughout the day, I think about the air I breathe and the other creatures who share it with me; animals outside, bugs, birds...but people most of all. I see light polluting atmosphere, stars are so dim and washed out. I see smoke from fires to the north, sacred lands burning as part of a natural cycle. To the south, a hurricane with torrential rains. Why could not wind blow this storm north to help with these wildfires? If there was a witch among us in California who could, why did it not happen? Because there are some natural cycles, such as wind and weather, stronger magicks than all; Mother Nature is the last wildness of our planet some days. I also became immersed in a fantasy novel...and enjoyed it a little too much.

My friends, the spirits of Air are fast, flighty but also fierce in the focus; like fanning fires of fastidious fashions. Forever fawning over the facts, leaves fantasy in a final funk. Fussing and fighting is fucked. Face forward, find flowers and frolic in the forest.

The Star Ruby

Facing East, where beginnings come and illuminate from, I start the ritual. APO PANTOS KAKODAIMONOS Striking out from the sign of Harpocrates, I am rested and still until, with these words, I drive all energies misaligned with my work. Flee all spirits and mischievous divinities with intent to harm or distract. Be gone all thoughts of mundane events or feelings, for magickal transformations are about to take place. Crossing the traverse of my body, I bless and commit from head to phalle, sealed in my heart and gathered before forming the first banishing pentagram in my mind's eye, the energy propels the star as I bellow THERION. After the call, I receive the response. Returning as a powerful wave rushing onto my toes in sand...facing the land, the beast ebbs and flows. Activating this primal power, the essence of our human beginnings. With horns at my temples, I snarl and rut.

I resonate NUIT to the Northern quadrant, a Star as the central gem in the crown of the heavenly queen. The light of a midnight sun brightens the pentagram. With a motherly embrace, cool as the night sky and black as space, She returns unto me. My heart and womb are filled with Her expansive grace, stardust covering. Nothing happens without Her witness.

With all courage I muster to approach the Western realm of BABALON, mother of abominations and liberation. In a whisper I send the sticky sweet pentagram, throwing open my arms to widely embrace Her wide hips. With yoni in my nostrils, Her scent is musky, salty and wine drenched. She is the modern Mother, Goddess of the New Aeon.

Facing the Southern fires, I turn to call forth HADIT, in a quick mercurial thrust the pentagram travels. The promising future is delivered on scales of a serpent, as He wraps around my womb, like a fiery Orphic egg. I draw it up to my arm, releasing spent passion shed from coils.

Armed with the blessings of the Gods, the consorts surround my temple, blasting away all shreds of UN-necessaries. Turned round again widdershins, I sing: IO PAN, the gestures seal the deal. Hail and praises to the PHALLE, phallus and axis from which all revolves! Hail and praises to the PAMPHAGE, devourer and destroyer. Hail and praises to the PANGENETOR, forever creator. I greet and give honor to all that is, was and ever shall be.

With the TELETARCHAI of completion in front of me, whirling JUNGES behind me, to my right the SYNOCHES have joined with the DAIMONES on my left...I am whole and humbled. The enormity of the pentagrams, the gem between my hands as I raise them above my head....in a quick hand-clap it becomes fixed as the six-rayed star, drawing it down into my Self. My body is the husk of this genuine and authentic piece of my Soul. It is precious, as each living thing is precious. Knowing it is in there, I am it's guardian to defend from those who would try to harm or steal the magick contained. The seed of enlightenment, my True Will is the secret contained within.

I reaffirm as at the opening of this ritual. Bringing together all of the elements, all of the Gods' empowerment which have filled my mortal shell. My Being is no longer the smallest in this nesting of spiritual layers. Inside, the deepest part of my Self illuminates as a rainbow, a hologram which changes and moves slightly within the light. All shadows gone, with castings sloppy like watercolors, dragged across my body to form the Crossroads over again.

Something is different, transposed and morphed. There is a surety, a confidence which was not there before. I am centered like bamboo, flexible with incredibly deep roots. A raw existence is left behind. Whereas the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram left me feeling empty and angry, the Star Ruby fills and empowers me. Like an occult superhero, ready for battle and on note with the greater potential of humans it does not give me immense pride as expected. Oh no... whilst this could feel like the swelling of ego, it is more of a letting GO of it. That part of me which is attached to this world, which is not of the Gods is ego; it is extra baggage I am banishing, with help from some spirits of the New Aeon. How can one be expected to travel across the desert dragging luggage full of rocks?

Here is the version I used.

"Whore of Babylon" by William Blake.
"Whore of Babylon" by William Blake.

30 Days of Hermes: A Composition

Day 23: Your own composition – a piece of writing about or for this deity

Straight to sky thy head is bound,

Over hedge and the underground,

Swift-shifter, mighty strong Polytropos!

Hermes! Oh my Lord Chthonios!

Bless me, this messenger, Angelos desire,

Writer and grifter with words to inspire.

Give bent ear under thy wide-brimmed halo,

Slipper of coin, prophetic dreams to follow.

With golden potency of an alchemical mix,

Please shepherd prosperity without any tricks.

Detail of Hermes with Pegasus. From "Parnassus" by Andrea Mantegna (1497).

Detail of Hermes with Pegasus. From "Parnassus" by Andrea Mantegna (1497).

Mother Invocation

I have not forgotten You.

You, always in my life,

Are still watching me.

Most caring of Mothers,

In the guise of a strong warrior-maiden

You brought me down this path,

Giving me courage and strength to endure.

I finish waxing and reach the nourishing peak,

My route has gathered in Your fullness.

Mother Goddess,

May I be fruitful and never have for want.

May I be a vehicle  of Your compassion and loving kindness.

May I open my heart to Your blessings.

May I be a shining example of Your happiness and health.

All of this and more,

As Your daughter,

I pledge and pray.

Red Rose of May