Liminal Book Review: The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Hekate Books

“The Priestess pours the wine betwixt

Their horns;

Then cuts the curling hair; that first

oblations  burns,

Invoking Hecate hither to repair:

A powerful name in hell and upper air” - Aenid by Virgil

For being so little known or preserved about Her cult practice, there sure is a lot of books out there about Hekate. The very basics we all pretty much can agree on: She was an imported Goddess/Titan from the Near East into the Mediterranean, most often depicted as a Maiden or young woman (when in an anthropomorphic portrayal), carries an assortment of tools (keys, torches, daggers, snakes, apples, whips…), associated with the Dead and Crossroads, etc. But what is always in the forefront of Devotees from every part of the world and of every flavor of Panganism, is the HOW of giving Her devotion. This is why there are so many different ideologies and approaches. Unlike other Gods of the ancient Hellenic world, there are fragments of Her mythology littered and slapped together in other large frameworks that to single them out would feel 'broken', leaving modern devotees to piece together scraps as a collage, each unique.

But which ones to read? What are the best titles to pour over, jot notes from and feed that longing to fill in the gaps? SO many suggested reading lists are out there, and I’d rather not reinvent the wheel… but I would like to share some gleaned insights, and annoyances, I have found in recently published materials. For more information on these other titles, check for links at the end of this post.

evoking_hekate.jpg

Let me start with the best…Evoking Hekate: The Goddess of Magickby Anousen Leonte. I found this on a basic search among Kindle books and was curious. The cover art was an abstract, spooky looking sigil/Roschardt inkblot image of white with a black background. What can I say...I like simplicity. Also the price made it very accessible, at $2.99 I could take a chance of it being pure rot. But it wasn’t. This short book ended up surprising me with it’s very practical approach, with a touch of ceremonial magick to keep all levels of practitioners interested. This was not an academic piece but full of personal gnosis; which very much are in alignment with my own personal experiences, and a multitude of colleagues in our working with Hekate. One tip I found extremely resonant is in the use of imagery surrounding Her altar and idolatry. I prefer the use of custom statues or little used imagery in personal practice because it keeps me from having any preconceived visions to appear; my friend using a Maxine Miller piece as a seat for Our Lady may be a different experience of Hekate than my custom Jeff Cullen statue. However these pieces influence my perceptions of Her, the author makes a good point when exploring the idea of using sigils and symbols instead of a human face for Hekate.

“When an image of a Spirit is used, the conscious mind is engaged, whereas when a symbol is used it is the unconscious which is engaged” (Leonte, pg. 142).

The  author goes on to share some wonderful planetary sigils associated with Hekate...as She comes down through the celestial spheres to visit/merge with Her beloved children. My daily encounters during planetary workings (according to day of the week), I found Hekate sneaking in to approvingly observe ‘from afar’ my actions: anointing with corresponding oils, adorning my body with colors and medals of those spheres. Deep symbols speak to the buried, sleeping parts of my mind to carry forward strengths of these Celestial Lords, with Hekate being the conductor for what is orchestrated in this harmony. Hekate is so varied, so adaptable, and this author shares insights into Her different aspects. Limiting our practice to only dark of night and moon phase is not necessary, as She addresses different needs through the hours of the day (another level to the planetary vibes).

“To evoke a day-side aspect of Hecate is to evoke her aid in areas of life commonly associated with reason, prosperity, creation, health and ambition. To evoke the night-side is to delve into other, less appreciated territories: mystical perception, dissolution, destruction, personal metamorphosis ad occult knowledge” (Leonte, p.232).

On the same reading theme of ‘inexpensive personal gnosis books about Hekate’, I also purchased Pagan Portals’ Hekate: A Devotionalby Vivienne Moss. I really WANTED to like this. I have seen this person’s posts online and had always thought of Moss as a genuine devotee which made me give credit to this publishing project. Her integrity and passion comes through in this book, which is essentially a journal with devotional poetry placed throughout … unfortunately I found it all confusing and chaotic. It seems like a journey at times, with descriptions of landscapes followed by annotations and ideologies; but then there is prayers added here and there. I really felt like I had stumbled into someone’s bedside notebook, where random thoughts and ideas get jotted down for memory’s sake. Needless to say I only got through to Chapter 3 before putting it aside.

“The writing of this book is an offering to Hekate. The sacrifice is knowing that not everyone will agree with or like what I have to say within these pages. Some, I’m sure, will not understand the way I see and feel Hekate. I may get negative feedbacks, or worse, none at all. Maybe some will laugh or be offended with what I have written” (Moss, p. 18).

My issue was never with WHAT she was saying, but how. The writing is bad; making statements like this ¼ into a book says an author is not strong in their confidence of voice. Writers don’t make excuses for our art, ever. We speak the Truth and of what we Know. It wasn’t my kind of book, but many friends enjoyed it’s rawness more than I.

And finally, a more mainstream title. The newest edition to the catalog of books published by Avalonia’s owner Sorita d’Este, Circle for Hekate -Volume I, History & Mythology: Dedicated to the light-bearing Goddess of the crossroads in all her many faces, manifestations, and names. I was able to borrow it from the Kindle library for free. Aside from having an incredibly long title, the book is marketed as being the first in a series called “The Circle for Hekate Project”. The build-up for this title was a long-time coming. Devotees in so many Hekate groups and circles were awaiting the release, anticipating some new insights from these sacred spaces and the tight research d’Este is best known for. Unfortunately much of the data is already well-known (and often repeated) with citations used in d’Este’s other Hekate titles as well. The biggest disappointment was the number of typos and grammatical errors found throughout the text. The other two titles already mentioned in this review, actually had better copy-editing than this mainstream book. However, there were still some golden moments to be sure.

One interesting thing I had never seen, nor bothered to read about, before was concerning any oracles of Hekate known in the ancient world. While Devotees are often going on and on about being Her oracle, I haven't seen much written on the subject. It appears the ancient philosopher Porphyry gives an account of one such Oracle answering a question regarding Jesus Christ and early Christianity; it shows how the two cultures were overlapping in his time, while also giving the new rising Christian faith a Pagan voice of opinion.

“And to those who ask why he (Jesus) was condemned to die, the oracle of the goddess (Hekate) replied,

‘The body, indeed, is always exposed to torments, but the souls of the pious abide in heaven.

And the soul you inquire about has been the fatal cause of error to other souls which were not fated to receive the gifts of the gods, and to have the knowledge of immortal Jove.

Such souls are therefore hated by the gods; for they who were fated not to receive the gifts of the gods, and not to know God, were fated to be involved in error by means of him you speak of.

He himself, however, was good, and heaven has been opened to him as to other good men.

You are not, then, to speak evil of him, but to pity the folly of men: and through him men’s danger is imminent’” (from “Oracles’ by Porphyry, 3rd century CE).

Other topics covered in the sphere of Hekatean scholarship included gathering together specific details for the making of statues, offerings, and the most heated topic of the modern era: the triplicity of Hekate. Thankfully  d’Este puts forth several facts regarding the birth and meaning of Her triple form; one being there was no such depiction of Her in this way until after the 4th century, BC. Her looking in three different directions is “a natural apotropaic symbolism and emphasizes the goddess’ role as a protectress” (p.2830, d’Este). She also makes the claim of Aleister Crowley being the first to portray Hekate as a Crone, specifically in his 1907 poem Orpheus, alluding to his use of the description ‘frail’ to indicate an elderly matron. It’s a weak connection, but then she points to a passage in his book Moonchild:

“...thirdly, she is Hekate, a thing altogether of Hell, barren, hideous and malicious, the queen of death and evil witchcraft...Hekate is the crone, the woman past all hope of motherhood, her soul black with envy and hatred of happier mortals”.

I was glad to see d’Este putting to rest this argument of Hekate historically being a ‘crone Goddess’ in the triple Goddess archetype. It does not negate any modern worship or how devotees experience Her, but it should be acknowledged as not being an ancient concept of Hekate.

There are so many books out there for research into one’s own approach to relationship with Hekate, and depending on the readers level of literacy it is best to explore them with sharp critical thinking (as we should with anything we read these days). Sarah Illes Johnston’s Hekate Soteira and (if you can every get your hands on a copy) Stephen Ronan’s The Goddess Hekate are both modern academic classics which are highly recommended throughout the Hekatean community. For personal anecdotes and narrative, I really enjoyed the devotional anthology Bearing Torches, while d’Este’s Hekate: Her Sacred Fires is a more popular collection I have several friends published in. Queen of Hell by Mark Alan Smith (the first in a series) is a rare tome of the Luciferian persuasion with Hekate and Hecate’s Fountain by Kenneth Grant is an exploration in Her Typhonian current...both rare and expensive books of the Left Hand Path. For a persepctive of Hekate involving Her and witchcraft I highly recommend The Rotting Goddess by Jacob Rabinowitz and a traditional craft treatise from Shani Oates titled A Paean for Hekate.

Please be sure to check out the links below for extensive lists of Hekate reading recommendations:

Beginner's Reading List about Hekate

Hekate's Library

A Hekate Reading List (at the end of the blogpost)

Liminal Book Review: The Witches' Ointment

The Witches' Ointment: The Secret History of Psychedelic Magic. Thomas Hatsis; Park Street Press, Rochester, Vermont. 286 pages.

As the waning moon appears on a darkened horizon, I remove my clothes and light a candle with intentions of oneiromanic prophecies. From a hidden cupboard in an old 19th century secretary, I remove several tins with arcane symbols...magickal salves of soporific splendours made by a witch in Canada. Choosing the right one for my purpose, I dip deeply with Saturn's finger, marking my body with the opaque ointment. Stars in my armpits, inner thighs, palms and footbottoms and a final one to my third eye, I am careful to wash my fingertips in case I rub my eyes in the night. Climbing between cool white sheets, my breathing takes it's natural shallow waves to the belly. I say a prayer to Hekate, Domina who guides and keeps safe my spirit during these nocturnal journeys, and close my eyes. I can feel the herbs taking effect, creeping through my teeth and stomach like low-grade LSD. After an hour or two, I begin to dream...

My interest in flying ointments is what initially got me into exploring the study of witchcraft. As discussed on my last podcast, the night flight stories of witches seemed fantastical and entirely possible; even from a psychological perspective, the idea of acting out lewd and illegal fantasies while in the dreamscape of my mind sounded like a healthy expression. Reading the old recipes for true “witches' potions” were something out of a fairytale: bat's blood, opium, henbane, hemlock, belladonna and, of course, the fat from a unbaptised baby.

I first heard the interview with Thomas Hatsis on The Black Chair, a podcast I tune into from time to time, discussing The Witches' Ointment. Then there were lecture dates in the Bay Area, which I was sadly unable to attend. But, I was able to order the book and just finished as the new horror movie, The VVitch, was playing at theatres...(SPOILER ALERT) the opening scene includes a classical sequence of using baby fat as a base, churning with herbs, then smearing it all over her old body for the sabbatic flight. Hatsis deconstructs the myths from realities in a very concise and narrative manner; with folktales and historical account retold at the beginning of each chapter. Although oozing with solid academic research, the author's approach makes the data very digestible for those of us who do NOT like reading history books. Hatsis presents these 'confessions' and concludes that different experiences fall under the categories of either ointment induced experiences (used as an entheogenic tool for performing journey or magick), or blasphemy motivated nocturnal journies...but rarely were the two happening at the same time.

Whilst absurd to the modern practitioner, some of these recounted testimonies were given by actual folks who used these ointments, even if their chemical effects were unknown, and had intense experiences. Hatsis pinpoints when the stereotype of a satanic/diabolical witch's' use of Ye Olde Broomstik, including the fabrication of it as a masturbatory tool, is explored and debunked (we go from Heretic to Witch in less than two hundred years' span).

The dusk flowers adorned the altar, their scent lifted by my heightened senses. I did not plant these, but this ally appeared in my new garden as an old friend. The intense summer heat had made the liminal times sweeter for their delicate white petals, releasing their strange smell. In dreams I sense their proximity, my soul flew through layers of spiritual projection to a wild, overgrown and ancient garden. A dry fountain overgrown with periwinkle, ferns of every shape and conifer trees help to hide the rabbit-faced beings which surround and spy on me. Their silvery glamour does not shade their true intentions...

In particular I enjoyed the fourth chapter titled “Roots of Bewitchment”, which focuses on commonly known materials used in traditional ointments, for either 'soporferis medicamentis' (sleeping medicines) or 'pocula amatoria' (love potions) (p.76). Plants, animal secretions, minerals and other pharmacopeia are examined; a background including etymology of the names, historical uses, medicinal uses and folkloric connections. I had a particular interest in the Solanaceae family: the henbane, mandrake, nightshade and, especially, datura. As a young woman interested in the herbal arts, these plants called to my curious side of gardening. However cautious as I am, it was better to try ointments from more skilled herbalists than bumbling through another experiment which could potentially make me ill, or worse.

It was last summer that Datura stramonium made a home in my new garden bed. Although I had grown this plant a few times in containers (always with great success), the seeds sowed themselves and I soon had huge datura plants. Drought tolerant and sun lovers, these beauties opened every morning at dawn and nightly at dusk, making it a wonderful setting for nocturnal devotionals to Hekate. Sitting amongst them, the plants cooling from the days' heat, I would put my face close to them and inhale deeply of the trumpets. Sometimes called “mad apple”, I can see how this strange plant could be intoxicating to the point of fatality...but what a sweet way to go. The ointment from this plant was used extensively in the ancient world to help with insomnia; the effects of doziness I experienced to be rather rapid and the sleep deep but restful without feeling 'hung over' the next day. If I DO manage to stay awake after using the ointment, there is a euphoric but tense feeling... I actually have to fight off sleep but like a happy toddler.

The Awen comes straight into my mind...visions from my own imagination take on an absurd realism otherwise not experienced in regular lucid dreams. Poetry flows like colors, messages come to me in strange tongues and anticipation flows as wine in cups made of amethyst. I drink, deeply and awaken to write.

I was surprised to read Datura wasn't just used in shamanic journeying or to poison/bewitch unsuspecting muggles, but some users found the imagination whipped to the point of exquisite inspiration...something I experienced as well.

Writing in 1784 Prussian toxicologist J.S. Halle became on of the first writers to praise the drug for stirring the artistic mind: 'Mixing the ground seeds of datura with wine will produce an artificial, magic and fantastic tincture; if a poet would drink (this blend), it would provide him with his most exalted flight in odes.' This datura-wine elixir will 'fire the pictures of imagination in the most vivid manner, swirling the natural impulse of the muse beyond all enthusiasm of wine'” (p.100).

For further information on the safe uses of these herbs, and to purchase some excellent ointments, follow these links down the rabbit hole.

Evolution of witches' ointment

Article by author, Thomas Hatsis

Wise words of caution and use, Sarah Anne Lawless

More flying ointment history

Flying ointment feedback

Ointments for purchase

 

Datura from my garden.

Episode 5: The Hekatean Special

[audio mp3="http://www.psychopompgroupie.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Ep5_Hekatean-Special.mp3"][/audio] As promised, here is the long-awaited episode in which I spill the beans about Hekate. I hope this will become an annual event, growing and maturing with the show.There's music, anecdotes, information, recommended materials...slight rants. I kept this episode all about Our Lady of the Crossroads. Below you will find links to websites and online sources, shops and artists of which I am a proud patron. Please enjoy.

Jeff Cullen Artistry and The Vodou Store are both resources I have been dedicated to over the years. Graveyard dirt, blood sacrifice oil, bath formulas, my Hekate statues and art...so many of my supplies are purchased by this dynamic duo.

Conjure Oils have created the perfect Hekate oil....it is sweet and dusky, something beautiful to wear. I am very, very picky about fragrances due to a very sensitive nose, but being able to order from a localish company (Oregon) and loving the little pips (samplers) allowed me to try different scents without investing too much.

Wendy Rule is a modern songstress, bard, witch of words and sound. Seeing her in concert was like witnessing a spellworking, as everyone became entranced. Please support pagan artists, especially  exceptional ones like Rule.

Jade Sol Luna books are available on Amazon and I highly recommend them.

Sarah Iles Johnston has many other titles all in classical Hellenic studies.

Avalonia produces many kinds of books, even though I do not care for the woman who runs the company I think they put out some quality resources.

'Hecate', Natascha Root Photogrpahy.
'Hecate', by Natasha Root Photography

 

Episode 4: Dirty Witchcraft

Been a while, but I had the time to spare for recording another podcast episode! In it I discuss my dirty traditions, gardening, books and some snarkiness at the end. Music by Inkubus Sukkubus. For feedback, questions or just to send me hate mail: wytchfawn@gmail.com . Keep an eye on this page for upcoming book reviews, a contest, and the next podcast... Episode 5: The Hekatean Special. [audio mp3="http://www.psychopompgroupie.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Ep4_Dirty-Witchcraft.mp3"][/audio]

Some links to products mentioned in podcast:

The magicks of Sarah Anne Lawless at her shoppe, the Black Arts Foundry

Seeds and herbs from the Unfettered Wood, purchased through the Etsy Store.

Books from Nephilim Press, Troy Books, Scarlet Imprint, and authors Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold & Nigel Pearson.

More information about the Esoteric Book Conference can be found here.

The Liminality of Bardo

"The time hath now come for thee to seek the Path [in reality]. Thy breathing is about to cease. Thy guru hath set thee face to face before with the Clear Light; and now thou art about to experience it in its Reality in the Bardo state, wherein all things are like the void and cloudless sky, and the naked, spotless intellect is like unto a transparent vacuum without circumference or centre. At this moment, know thou thyself; and abide in that state. I, too, at this time, am setting thee face to face." - Tibetan Book of the Dead

As I read the newsfeeds, headlines and reports these days, all I see are religious groups struggling for power...either over themselves or each other. Nothing new to humans... we've been doing this since the beginning. Ebola, Israel/Gaza, ISIS, Religious Freedom/Persecution used as a shield for questionable ethics and ignorance...it is enough to make one long for a better world. And there are, but like many other ideologies and mythologies we know it is beyond this mundane realm and, for some, only accessible through the process of Death. This is no argument in favor of suicide, although I believe in each individual's right to live or die (more on that later). As a matter of fact, in order to properly navigate the Otherworld(s) we need to stay alive and accumulate the necessary tools. At least, this is what the Tibetan Buddhists believe. Similar to the Egyptian Book of the Dead (“The Book of Coming Forth By Day” or rw nw prt m hrw), the 'Bardo Thodol' is a guide through the afterlife, translated as “The Great Liberation through Hearing of the Bardo". The “book” is actually a series of sutras and texts compiled over a long period of time, but is believed to have first been initially composed by legendary master magician Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche ). The process of dying and death is taken very seriously in Tibetan culture, and in some ways it's a welcome transition in general Buddhism. Unlike the Christian belief of resurrection, the laws of reincarnation and karma play a much more significant role in the recently departed. There is no waiting around for some Bodhisattva to come and liberate them; the work of the Buddhist consists of preparing for this final “test” so an individual can free themselves. Customarily, if one can afford it, holy men come to the deathbed and chant these sutras, giving directions and encouragement for the soul to reach it's final destination, whether through an incarnating physical body or settling into one of the many other realms of existence. The instructions are read over a 49-day period, the time it generally takes a soul to reach it's destination; depending on spiritual pursuits and meditation they did in life, some souls will take less time than others to move through the bardos. It is much more complicated than this simple explanation, but is essentially how I have come to understand it.

The term Bardo is essentially the combining of 'bar' (in between) and 'do' (island or mark)...it is a “place” between the various realms of existence, a crossroads of the soul. Whilst there is only three Bardos described in the Book of the Dead, there are multiple layers within each. Each is a threshold and opportunity for the departed to reconcile their karmic debt, and can be quite frightening to the unprepared. The first bardo is entered upon right before the MOMENT physical death occurs. Hovering between life and death, the individual realizes they are about to disappear into the next world. In the Shambhala Dragon Edition of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, there is a great passage in the commentary section which describes this process as an elementary releasing:

“Physically, you feel heavy when the earth element dissolves into water; and when water dissolves into fire you find that the circulation begins to cease functioning. When fire dissolves into air, any feeling of warmth or growth begins to dissolve; and when air dissolves into space you last the last feeling of contact with the physical world. Finally, when space or consciousness dissolves into the central nadi, there is a sense of internal luminousity, an inner glow, when everything has become completely introverted” (p.4).

Once death hastens the process and allows the 'self' to release the body, so does the biggest journey begin. The series of bardos that follow are opportunities for the soul to receive enlightenment, to get final chances at realizations the individual may not have practiced or pursued in life. This happens through a series of visions and travels through the different realms. If there had been a true connection made with deities or Buddhas, this is the time when they appear as guides for us to move forward. If this does not occur, the soul moves on into the next phase.

The Six Realms of Existence are states of Samsara (cycles of rebirth) which become available in the second bardo. The realms resonate a bright guiding light and unless focused on the task at hand, the soul is like a moth blindly following illusion. Now, pay attention because this part is kinda important: Our mundane human existence is located somewhere in the middle of this hierarchy, our karma was pretty good if we are now humans. And really, this is a very advantageous place to be because we can go either way: ascending into the realms of the demigods and Gods, or descending into the hellish realms of hungry ghosts and animals.

The Six Realms of Existence.
The Six Realms of Existence.

At the very lowest realm of hell, all intensity is expressed. Anger and loneliness are the dominating tortures in this world, which very much resembles Dante's Inferno: areas of complete freezing cold, rivers of magma, and the skies a fiery blaze. For those who escape or serve out time, the next realm is not much more pleasant as it is inhabited by the pretas, or Hungry Ghosts: beings who experience over and over the desires they attached themselves to in previous lifetimes. “Want” is the big theme here, feelings of greed are prevalent. In classical art they are portrayed as beings with very large bellies, but tiny necks and mouths, sitting before large plates of food they cannot manage to get at. This is an illusion, as they cannot see the food is spoiled and filled with the ravenous poisons they cultivated.

The next realm is that of Animals and whilst we, as humans, tend to like the idea of coming back as a housecat, this is just another illusion. Animals are sentient beings in their innocence...but really, that is just a nice way of describing their “dumbness”. Animals lack a sense of humor, are in a constant state of survival and have no time or intelligence to comprehend the dharma. They act solely on instinct, violence and death are not contemplations but ways of living. Some people are on the borderlands of this realm,I think, succumbing to bodily cravings and destruction for their own 'survival'. Humans are just above this realm, as we have evolved from this primal state of action and turn to the research of potentiality.

As we progress through the realms, just above the humans are the Jealous Gods, or Asuras; envy and suspicion reign supreme here. The beings here are demi-gods... not really good enough to become a fully realized being because they have these attachments of intrigue to work through. They are so busy looking at the shiny pretty details they are missing the bigger picture. It is the distractions of mind, spirituality wrapped up in theories so the soul does not progress but rather becomes “stuck”.

The next realm is that of the Gods: those who have built whole worlds, within their physical bodies, working towards apotheosis as an elevated being of the cosmos. Really, it doesn't sound so bad; a playground of the Devas in which pleasure is maintained and “rewarded” for all their hard work in previous lives. It is still illusion though, as Ego drives the motivation in this realm. The attainment of prideful worship and eternal pats on the back does not help to escape from the cycles of rebirth; which really is the ultimate goal of Buddhism. Even here, the impermanence of the Universe is Law and the heavenly realms are subject to the evolutionary progression of the soul.

Now, depending on how one acts and reacts through the second bardo will determine where they end up. Rejection, fear or attachment to other realms can become the cementing force slowing down the soul's progress....which is why it is important to develop these skills now whilst we still have time, being that it's relative. We can also pray for those who are still trapped in these realms. Making offerings and requests for karmic debt to be eliminated on their behalf, whilst also accepting that karma for ourselves, is a win-win. If all else has failed and the soul does not accept any of the options placed in front of them, the final bardo is crossed into and a “judgment” takes place. This is not unlike the “final boss” experienced in the afterlife of many other religions; the Egyptians face Ma'at where their heart is weighed against the feather of Truth. Facing this Truth is the most important part of the entire journey, facing what we truly ARE and not hiding behind all the falsities of our previous existences. If liberation is not achieved, rebirth is necessary. It is at this point potential parents or lifetimes are presented, with bright lights drawing the soul towards the most favorable womb. So, in essence, we chose this lifetime we are in now. We DID select our parents in this realm and gave ourselves another opportunity to achieve liberation.

All we can really do to avoid such suffering in the afterlife, is to try living a good life, be compassionate and kind-hearted. It seems, according to the Book of the Dead, even this is not enough as we should strive to become virtuous in spiritual pursuits. Our aim is to take advantage of opportunities and privileges for learning meditation, mantra and visualization; all skills we take with us after this lifetime.

"There being several turning-points, liberation should be obtained at one or other of them through recognizing. But those of very weak karmic connexions, whose mass of obscuration is great [because of] evil actions, have to wander downwards and downwards to the Sidpa Bardo. Yet since there are, like the rungs of a ladder, many kinds of settings-face-to-face [or remindings], liberation should have been obtained at one or at another by recognizing. But those of the weakest karmic connexions, by not recognizing, fall under the influence of awe and terror. [For them] there are various graded teachings for closing the womb-door and for selecting the womb-door; and, at one or other of these, they should have apprehended the method of visualization and [applied] the illimitable virtues [thereof] for exalting one's own condition. Even the lowest of them, resembling the brute order, will have been able -- in virtue of the application of the Refuge -- to turn from entering into misery; and, [obtaining] the great [boon] of a perfectly endowed and freed human body, will, in the next birth, meeting with a guru who is a virtuous friend, obtain the [saving] vows."

30 Days of Hermes: Locations of Worship

Day 12: Places associated with this deity and their worship

"The highest mountain in Arkadia is Kyllene, on the top of which is a dilapidated temple of Hermes Kyllenios (of Mt Kyllene). It is clear that Kyllenos, the son of Elatos, gave the mountain its name and the god his surname. In days of old, men made wooden images, so far as I have been able to discover, from the following trees ebony, cypress, cedar, oak, yew, lotus. But the image of Hermes Kyllenios is made of none of these, but of juniper wood. Its height, I conjecture, is about eight feet" (Pausanias, Description of Greece).
 

12. Place is relative, as time. Hermes travels the Multiverse and is boundless. He is also not one to stay put for long, but ever anywhere was special or sacred to Him, it would foremost be Mount Kyllene in Arkadia. There in a cave, it is believed He was born and thusly became a popular location.There were temples and shrines erected all over Greece, not just the outside city walls of Athens, Korinthia, throughout the Peloponnese, Thebes. It would be impossible to count all of the Herms found at roadside shrines. In nearly every gymnasium an altar was erected for Hermes and Herakles...both patrons of sport and athleticism.

Anywhere there were boundaries, a pile of stones or wooden Herm was erected...and all were/are sacred to Him. No temple could hold this wayward God, even if for a short visit. Four-way crossroads are the most sacred of all spaces to Hermes, as traveler and Lord of liminality...where decisions are made both figuratively and literally. The Hermai were ancient rest areas, places to stop eat lunch, waiting area for others (since it was a guide post), or to make offerings for safe passage in unfamiliar places.

He was close to the people and accessible especially in the marketplaces (agora), known there as Hermes Agoraeus. I think He pretty much likes to be anywhere people congregate...Hermes is into people-watching. Today we might find Him in the enclosure of an air-conditioned mall; not as exciting as the open-air markets of ancient times with haggling or bartering. But in the modern context, He would prefer the local swap meet or garage sales...where unusual items are procured, and people come together looking for bargains in the spirit of commerce. He would also hang out at financial and stock exchange centers, airports, underground subway stations and railroad lines.

Herm with erect phallus. Marble, ca. 520 BC. From Siphnos.
Herm with erect phallus. Marble, ca. 520 BC. From Siphnos.

30 Days of Hermes: Holy Days and Feasts

Day 11: Festivals, days, and times sacred to this deity

“Whichever of the youths is judged to be the most handsome goes round the walls at the feast of Hermes, carrying a lamb on his shoulders. Hermes Promakhos (Champion) is said, on the occasion when an Eretrian fleet put into Tanagra from Euboia, to have led out the youths to the battle; he himself, armed with a scraper like a youth, was chiefly responsible for the rout of the Euboians. In the sanctuary of Promakhos (the Champion) is kept all that is left of the wild strawberry-tree under which they believe that Hermes was nourished.” (Pausanias, Description of Greece)

11. Traditionally, days to offer to Hermes regularly took part on the 4th day of each month, with 4 being a sacred number to Him as well. Wednesdays are also auspicious as a liminal middle day in the week (it is also sacred to Odin and Cernunnos too, named after Woden). Like Hekate and other psychopompic deities, Hermes favours liminal times, such as dawn or dusk, midday and midnight. These in-between times are opportunities to bend reality, manifest magick, to reach between the veils and travel the realms. Hermes is also given honor at the dark moon, or deipna...alongside Hekate at crossroads in their twin chthonic aspects.

There was a Greek festival specifically dedicated to Hermes, the annual Hermaia; an initiatory time with rituals taking place in gymnasiums. Contests of physicality and skill took place, alongside gambling which usually follows along with sporting events. There is some evidence that also suggests Hermes was part of the festival at Eleusis, escorting the Goddess Persephone out of Hades and reuniting with Her mother, Demeter in the annual festival of Thesmophia.

The Romans in their adoption of Hermes as Mercury celebrated the Mercuralia, or the Ides of May (May 15th) believed to be His birthday. Suppliants would take water from a fountain in Porta Capena at aqua Mercurii, to asperge boats with bay laurels in blessings of commerce and profit. Some modern practitioners celebrate His birthday as April 4th, which makes me wonder if there is a connection between this and April Fool's on the 1st, a modern, secular holiday. I believe today, July 11th (7/11) is a sacred day for receiving blessings of Hermes in luck.

Detail of "The Feast of the Gods", by Giovanni Bellini and Titian.
Detail of "The Feast of the Gods", by Giovanni Bellini and Titian.

Liminal Book Review: Lunatik Witchcraft

Lunatik Witchcraft: Illuminating Your Underworld. Shay Skepevski; 2012. Lulu.com. 196 pages.

This gem of gnosis is offered up to the Hekatean community as a grimoire from mystic and artist Shay Skepevski of Sydney, Australia. With a familial background in Macedonian and Greek cultures, Skepevski draws on his heritage along with commonly known primary sources concerning the worship and magic of Hekate. Skepevski's Lunatik Witchcraft focuses SOLELY on Hekate as Matron and Guide on the path of shadows... alone and without the need of some consort. Between personal narrations, rituals, and background given with each step of the journey, Skepevski initiates the seeker into his praxis through the Underworld to the very heart of Hekate's light.

The book is split into two sections (EN EREBUS, 'In Darkness' and PHOS, 'Light!'), it is not organized by chapter. Skepevski's style is very non-linear and in keeping with the 'lunatik' feel of the offering... and what a gift to us all it is. Lunatik Witchcraft is organized in a way which takes the reader on a journey delving deeper into one's own 'lunatik flame' of inner illumination; reminiscent of the Luciferian flame offered in many LHP traditions. Unlike these others, I like that Skepevski explores so many varied topics of Her traditional and magickal domains including: herbs, necromancy, prophecy, trance and ritual drunkenness shared with the likes of Dionysian maenads in it's frenzy.

“Bearing the Lunatik Flame (Lunatik Consciousness) has the potential to become an extremely mantic experience, guided by Hekate's well-known powers of divination and prophecy. Her light shall shine down upon the unknown and we shall wield the psychic power to unify with the whole of nature, as we mould our psyche into infinite other forms and open a clearer line of communication between Witch and animal, or tree, fire, moon and Witch. We will be able to evoke the fires of creativity, ecstasy, inspiration, epiphany, and clarity from our deepest and most luminous soul” (Skepevski, p.126).

Skepevski is straight to the point in supporting his methodologies, which are all sound and grounded in obvious research and experience. I like that he also did this without including footnotes all over the damned place to prove it; giving it a true grimoire feel. Personally, I would determine this to be VERIFIED personal gnosis: I am verifying it Mr. Skepevski.... publicly and with the love of Our Lady. I tell you that many of the practices and ideologies you are revealing in this wonderful devotional offering (and it IS), I have been led to doing the same in my private personal practices over the past few years, with Hekate as guide. This is a wonderful offering to the Hekatean community and bless you for sharing it.

Having followed the work, writings, philosophies and poetry of Skepevski for quite some time now, I was rather disappointed the artwork included in the text was only printed in black and white. I am sure this was due to cost, but Skepevski's paintings are illuminating, highly evocative and would have made this a true masterpiece. I pray some publisher picks it up and re-issues a collector's edition of this beautiful book, as a hardbound color incarnation of Her flame.

"Peacock Vision" by Shay Skepevski.
"Peacock Vision" by Shay Skepevski.

 

 

PBP: “Q” is for Quintessence

There are still mysteries in the Multiverse. I do not pretend to understand them, just like I can admit physics and science in general are things which elude my intelligence. It made for some difficulty in researching this word that kept popping into my head, something manifesting in the occult literatureI read this week. Quintessence has a special meaning for practitioners of the magickal arts or folks who work in the astral... it is the 'ether', the Void, Dark Matter/Energy, or literally from it's Latin roots the “fifth element”. All of this might sounds like a bunch of metaphysical mumbo, but be assured it is ALL very much real and unexplainable even by the most brilliant minds in theoretical physics. "Map of the dark matter distribution"

It is said the matter we can measure in the Universe does not really equate with the amount of gravity force. So, where is all this 'hidden' gravity at? Well, that is where dark matter comes in... or I should say “out” since it is a repulsive energy. It makes up for the majority of the Universe (something like 10 times the amount of SEEN 'stuff'), pressing in and keeping the balance so our sun does not fly off into the unknown leaving us floating around, bumping into other things and causing planetary .This 'unknown' equation is thought to support a theory about God, this oppressive force is something having to do with Divinity? If anything I believe it's lack of interaction with light speaks volumes... how it bends and slows down. Dark energy particles are so strong... there is no way to see it, only to see how everything changes in response to it. Seems a bit adversarial to me, only Be-ing known in reference to what it is NOT. Science and religion both have this in common.

Science is finally coming up with ways of describing and theorizing what shamans, witches, healers, priests, spiritual workers, sadhus... what they have known for all of human existence. This happened once before (remember the Renaissance?), when the logic of the sciences deviates and overlaps into the unknown territory of spirit. Those set upon the path of change by stepping outside the mainstream ways of thinking, the innovators and path burners, I know what propels us... what compels us to play devils' advocate through reflective art, satire, the calling out of hypocrisy; for Truth is in the missing essence, as we can only prove what it is NOT.

So what does this mean, all the dark energies and matter? Does it scare the crap out of those who only wish to stay in the light? Where it is safe spiritually and physically? This energy is not opposition, it is neither/nor and that to our linear thinking is unstable. It is in this un-making, traveling on uncharted territory which we can experience what in Zen is referred to as 'suchness': Be-ing present in a moment, knowing there is no good or bad, there is nothing and you are everything. This energy is not 'dark', it is only impervious, objective in a Multiverse that supports itself. This is that last part of the pentacle, the element combined with fire, water, air, and water... the alchemy of spirit and unknown energies... a power which can go either way, natural. Science is reminding us of the potentiality waiting in the dark.

PBP: “P” is for Preparing to Enter the Pond

“On the fly”, impromptu, unplanned rituals and magickal spells have a certain energy which lends a wildness to any working. There is something primal in relying on intuition and being guided by spirit/personal gnosis. That being said, spending many days researching a rite, investigating backgrounds, practicing and re-reading incantations, finding appropriate herbs, flowers... all the time invested in the preparedness of a working can also have an intensity. Building up the anticipation is much more focused and alive than keeping one's heart and Will in a place of liminality. I think and ponder this days before I am to lead my first public ritual since moving to the Bay Area two years ago.

I used to live in the mountains of Northern California proper... and was a big fish in an otherwise small Pagan pond. My experience in facilitating and organizing public rituals, meetups, leading public panels/forums, workshops, creating and perpetuating monthly women's circles... all the expanse of my 20 years of being a Pagan witch. After the birth of my daughter, I finally had enough and burned out after a public stint in my Druidry. I wanted to go back to the roots of my spirituality, when it was just me with my Gods and Beloved Spirits. Taking baths, walking to my personal shrine, spending as long as I like sitting in trance or simple meditation, without worrying if people were uncomfortable or having to lead guided meditations. When my family relocated, it seemed a good opportunity to take some time off. There is such a HUGE amount of events, rituals, workshops, circles, and private events going on all OVER the San Francisco Bay Area... people here have no idea how blessed they truly are! I have been able to stay incognito, be small and sometimes quiet as I listen, learn, and stay neutral.

Why then am I so nervous? I find as I make my list of supplies needed, music compiled and copies made there are butterflies in my tummy which used to never be there. My past experience should make this second nature to me, but I don't feel like that same person any more. I am a small fish in a BIG pond, surrounded by spiritual giants and people I still get a little starstruck around (I hope I shield it properly); they have that spiritual “shininess” which makes them so popular in our little niche community. What's the worst that could happen, really? I will either get gobbled up by a bigger fish, grow into a big fish too, or (my favourite option) grow legs and leave the pond entirely. It's not running away with tail between legs, but more like retreating into a cave... letting those who seek my spirit to find ME instead of me reaching out to them. I have no desire to teach, lead or even work with the community on a regular basis. But I do want to make available my talents, lend some of my own “shininess” to the otherwise larger glowing beacon of hope and acceptance for those who seek out this path.

*** I will be a guest facilitator at the Temple of Aphrodite services this Sunday from 11 am to Noon at The Sacred Well in Oakland, California. This is a public devotional service for all: "Men and women of all backgrounds are invited to participate in monthly rituals and activities dedicated to the benevolent Lady of Love. These services help you tap into the ever-flowing fountain of love within, and to connect that love with your personal practices, work, relationships, and activities in the world".

A Liminal Visit to the Past

The Rose of the Tor

Written in Glastonbury, Somerset, England in 2003

The night before, I dreamed… walking through a type of bazaar where paths of consciousness were being offered to me: beautiful colours, deities, and people offering me esoteric knowledge. I was beginning to feel overwhelmed when I heard a far off voice singing my name… but somehow recognized and knew whom it was. I awoke with the sunrise and left for my pilgrimage up the mighty Tor. I anointed myself with an oil called “Ancient Voices” I had bought it at a witchy shop in the High Street the previous day and without so much as taking a shower, I walked in the direction of the Tor.

I still felt a little weary from the community dance the night before. There was a gathering in the town hall, just across the way from my hostel. I went with a girl I was rooming with at the hostel to explore the music and costumed people who were arriving. Once inside, it looked like the scene of a rave with techno-style music and moving images projected on the bare walls. In the middle was an altar of sorts, each direction facing inward. The local Priests and Priestesses cast a circle and blessed every person there, sharing a bowl of raisins offered to the Deities and human guests. My new friend and I danced for hours before finally collapsing in our bunk beds.

The song was still ringing in my head, my name in that distant voice as I tramped through muddy hillsides, over moss-grown stone fences, and the dampness of the settling morning. Everywhere I walked, with every step, I felt the eyes of the landscape on me. The Divine was looking through them all, the ravens dancing on the wind, the squirrels running along the ancient trees, and the hint of a smelly skunk that lived nearby.

When I reached the base of the mighty hill, I looked to see where there might be some sort of path. Historically there was at one point a winding path leading to the top, but all I saw was the overgrown, terraced surface of the mysterious hill. Climbing up, I paced myself the best I could, considering how out of shape I was. At one point I took off my heavy London coat, preferring the crisp morning air to breathe into my skin better. Keeping my senses open to any and all, I sang a Goddess chant as I walked softly on the soil.

At the top, I greeted the four corners. In the East, there were 20 or so ravens, their black feathers reflecting in the first mornings’ ray, that fought through the early clouds. To the South, I felt the fire of my own passion; what had willed me to push forward on this pilgrimage. To the West, I felt the presence of my loved ones back home and I had a deep longing for the great Pacific Ocean. And finally, when I reached the Northern part of the Tor’s peak, I contemplated the Mother Goddess whose spirit ran all through this landscape.

As I sat, I heard a man chanting an “ohm” from within St. Michael’s Tower, a Christian monstrosity which had since replaced the stone circle said to have been at the top in ancient times. The voice was vibrating through the tower, spilling out the top and reverberating through the cool air. Looking out towards the horizon, I felt such peace as never known before…I had found my heart's true home. I remembered throughout the rest of the day my vision, myself in another life, a priestess here. I had loved and lost, as many others had.

Before departing back down the hillside, a young woman came from out of the mists, hangers-on of the departing night. She was dressed like a hippy, with no shoes,standing from the south and looking at me. I smiled in acknowledgment, recognizing a kindred soul on this beautiful morning. She asked me about the Tor, how I liked it. I replied to her “words cannot describe”. She invited me to her home for breakfast; I was starving and a new friend sounded exciting.

I noticed she had come from the opposite direction from whence I had. I asked her about it, and she replied “There’s a paved pathway leading straight to the top on this side. Did you come another way?” I smiled, and told her about my journey that morning, and she laughed. “Well, then you better go back the way you came, so as to retrieve your coat. You don’t want to leave things lying around here, fairies” she said, in a matter-of-factly voice. Realizing she was right, I thanked her for the offer of breakfast and said goodbye as I set off the other way.

When I reached the half way point, on the side I had left the now muddy trench coat, I saw something sticking out of the ground nearby. I had not noticed it there before when I discarded the extra layer of clothing. It was a red rose, just stuck in the ground; no attached vines, like an offering either to or from the Goddess. since I declined one offer already this morning, I decided on the latter and placed it behind my ear as I headed back to the High Street.

Keybearer of the Crossroads

Illumination Through Fire

Hekate is a major presence in my life, although I have only acknowledged this in the past 3 years. In the past I tended to avoid dark goddesses, specifically “crones”; part of me didn't identify with them whilst still a young woman. During the pregnancy of my daughter I was caught in the heat and smoke of wildfires surrounding the area we lived. I had quit smoking cigarettes and pot, become reclusive from friends, and had a difficult time magickally during my entire pregnancy; add to that the stress of my husband and I being newly unemployed, renting a room, and having to evacuate because of fires with our cat and dog. It was savage, unrelenting, and somehow beautiful...the entire state was ablaze after a mighty storm came through with thunder and lighting burning up all dead, un-needed debris. By not cleaning up and keeping our state clean, nature found a way to do it FOR us...and Hekate has a way of doing this also. All this destruction juxtaposed to the life growing inside of me was very profound. I feel this was the moment She tapped me, but I still wasn't “listening” until almost a year later.

She started showing up at my women's circles; we did a ritual to Her and Janus at the New Year to face our fears. My greatest fear is debt and finances, handling them and no longer ignoring them was something I had avoided for years. A few months after this happened, I was in a car accident ('no fault' they called it and not a single person was hurt) and my family's ONLY car was totaled. It took a few months but we saved up and bought another car, but it was a big slap in the back of the head from Hekate. The lesson was it can be taken away and replaced as easily if I own my responsibilities and am disciplined. By that Samhain I had paid off several debts and my family's financial situation has only improved for the better ever since. It is still a struggle for me, but She is the patron of my financial anxiety so I pray to Her for the strength and guidance I need to face this.

I see Hekate as the true mirror, the guide to things we don't always want to admit or own up to; I think this is how She got Her reputation in the first place. Her torches illuminate our delusions or truths, whichever we believe more. Although I don't necessarily believe in the stereotypical 'angel', I think She may be one in a sense that She is a guardian to Her Devotees, Witches, and somewhat comforter to the Dead. She is also the tough biker lady who gives me the swift kick in the ass I need to get things done, to stay true to vows, and keep my integrity.

Her face changes constantly. She evolves and transforms as compost, with the phases of the moon, the tides of the oceans and earth's crust in both profound and subtle ways. To some, Hekate can be frightening; Her associations with the dead give Her a fearful reputation. However, She is about more than just physical death, but the death of one way of living and adapting to another, or value system, or any other changes one NEEDS to make. It is not a matter of choice or wants, but necessity for our souls to evolve and for some that is scary.

Her fire burns bright

In the pleasures of the night

Far from the lands of the living.

When the fires go out

She is roaming about

Reaping unneeded and unforgiving.

With a halo of flies

She takes to the skies

Black bird of prey, unrelenting.

Into the underworld's grave

Her magicks to save

In a flesh box, fermenting.

Brimo, Soteira, Mother of mine

Different names in a different time

Aid me now in meditation and study.

Be present in me

Show what I can be

With hands cold and ruddy.

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.