Saturday, December 30, 2006
Is it possibly to derive ethical views from pagan values?
Assuming we can use the term 'pagan' to capture a specific set of religious practitioners - it's unlikely they would be able to come up with an agreed list of values. Its the nature of paganism to be vague about these things. Even so here are are some possibilities.
1. Cause no unneccessary harm
I've a feeling that might be a self-evident truth.
You have to be pretty bloody minded to think the opposite.
Can you think of a counter example?
2. The necessity of polytheism
Some would say monotheism is the only necessity.
But true monotheism is rare.
For example, Christianity is a good example of polytheism masquerading as monotheism. The complexity of nature implies a natural polytheism
3. The plurality of ultimate truth
A great deal of effort has been devoted to the discovery of one 'ultimate truth' or one 'Theory of Everything.' But theories such as Godel's Theorem of incompleteness surely imply this issue will always be unresolved. In which case ultimate reality is always plural - which is expressed in certain pagan mythology such as that the world comes into being from the interaction of a god and a goddess.
5. Principle of Honour
Death and Burial
I take it Caliban's long comment is intended for the issue of 'Death & Burial'. He seems to be saying that the intellectual paganism of the classical period (Greeks and Romans) is responsible for a loss of the richer attitudes to death and the otherworld, traces of which are still discoverable in older cultures. It's an interesting idea and one that is evidenced in the literature. It maybe goes hand in hand with the idea that magicians of the period were such trouble makers that they provoked their own demise. Certainly it can't all be blamed on the Christians - bad as they were - the first laws against magick were enacted by Augustus way before the Christian hegemony.
The high culture of Egyptian had three classes of sentient being-
the ankhw, the akhw and the neterw -
the living, the spirits and the gods.
All that talk of 'spiritualism' is really about the Akhw - the spirits of departed who have some continued existence - sometimes in a way helpful to us sometimes not so. Death customs may be for the benefit of the deceased or serve some other aim - perhaps display or redistribution of wealth. Nothing so far implies an afterlife in some otherworld. The Akhw live amongst us not somewhere else, if they did maybe they would be less troublesome? Some death customs clearly do implie an otherworld - as for instance when someone is buried with a sword presumably to do some fighting on the other side. The death customs I like seek to return the body to the biosphere in respectful but also quick and efficient manner. The departed spirit is reborn or otherwise reintegrated into the living world of those that come after. That to me seems a more pagan way.
Drugs - use & abuse
Medicine & its limits
A dialogue - please leave your feedback
Monday, December 25, 2006
I'm still not quite sure why some people get so hot under the collar about Jan's interpretation of the mysterious seidr practice. Surely there is room for more than one view on what it might have been. Jan attempts through various arguments to link it to the universal phenonemon of the shaking trance. But some heathens will have none of it - pamphlets have been published in the vain attempt to repudiate Jan's view; he is accused of an unspecified eastern influence; speakers have been known to digress from their scripts in order to warn their audience of the dangers of following Jan's lead.
Jan's seething hypothesis is hardly that threatening. Afterall it's not as if Jan isn't also sympathetic to the new American style seidr. He may point out the uncertainty of its theoretical basis but recognises that authors such as Diana Paxson have developed a nice syncretistic divination ritual which works well and to which they have appended the classy, ancient name seidr. All Jan does it point out that this same title is also associated with lots of things they don't like. Perhaps this explains why they loathe his theories and try to argue Nordic literature away?
Jan Fries is very much in favour of people making up new things. Afterall there is no necessity for all good things to be ancient in order to be genuine. I'm sure he would want them to be proud of their new interpretation of seidr which now has an ethical frame it probably lacked in its historic version.
Alan Nash is the latest to enter the fray. The intentions of Alan's letter in Pentacle may have got a bit lost in 'translation' but I suspect his interest is to provoke discussion and see the arguments rehearsed. Alan questions why Jan's appears to deny that that the lady in Erik's Saga was doing seidr. Erik's Saga is one of the prime sources of information on Seidr, and in it there are details of a supposed seidr rite (see Jan Fries Seidways: shaking, swaying and serpent mysteries, for the full text). I'd say that Jan merely asks why, if this really is an account of Seidr, the priestess isn't referred to as a seidkona as one would expect, but is instead almost invariably called a spakona (seeress)?
Alan Nash also questions Jan's apparent characterisation of seidr as 'evil' - now things are really getting serious as that could be seen as an insult to the whole heathen tradition! What Jan says is that historically seidr did have such a reputation in Nordic literature. Like it or not - there is apparently not a single text in Nordic literature that says anything kind about the practice.
Finally - as has been common on this debate - which has rumbled on for a while now - Alan evokes the shade of Edred Thorson, who apparently has strong views on this issue. The great man may have spoken but whether what he says stands up is another matter: "One thing I must vigorously insist on is that the word seidr can in no way beconnected to the English word 'seethe'."(Witchdom Of The True: A Study of The Vana-Troth and the Practice Of Seidr, Runa-Raven Press, 1999).
As any student of logic knows, definition is supposed to explain what a term means, not what it does not mean. Irvin Copi once wrote: "to define the word 'couch' as meaning not a bed and not a chair is to fail miserably to explain the meaning of a word." But to be fair I've not been able to see the article and perhaps it has some stronger arguments. I'm told Edred is an expert on etymology - so presumably he meant to say "Old English word 'seethe' ", occuring as it does in citations before 1100 AD. According to the lexicographers at the Oxford University Press it is in fact an Old Teutonic word - infinative seothan* - with an obsolete form sod.
There is a related word in Gothic sauth* which brings out its ritual connotations - as a sacrifice - which as Jan says in Helrunar - has the literally meaning of 'boiled meat' - the sine qua non for a Nordic sacrifice. The Oxford Lexicographers explain the limits of the OED's remit in their introduction, thus it is true that they do not mention Seidr as one of its cognates. The connection between the two is thus still, AFAIK, an open question. They do however say that seething had certain figurative uses not found in later texts - meanings such as 'to try someone by fire' or 'to afflict with cares'.
I suppose I ask myself does the word seidr survive in any form in the languages of Europe. If it does, then Old English or Modern English Seething, being very similar in sound to Seidr, would be a far from ridiculous suggestion that might yet be proved correct. The connection between Seidr and Sauthr is not something Jan made up. It has been argued before in many academic tomes, including Jakob Grimm's Deutsche Mythologie in the 1830s.
But as it happens, Jan's characterisation of Nordic Seidr as 'seething' was probably never really based on linguistics - his arguments are more about the nature of magick and trance activity. The English word he choose turned out to have a fortuitous and evocative history all its own. Seething takes us right back to the appropriate time and to the rich sacrifices that go into the steaming cauldron of magick.
Check it out for yourself. By all means let's debate the issues but let's also stick to the facts rather than spurious appeals to authority.
E&OE - comments welcome
Yvonne comments (probably tongue in cheek) that 'Seidr' might be related to 'Cider'.
Strangely enough if you check that in the OED - it turns out to be a very old loan word from
Old Testament Hebrew - 'Shekar*' meaning 'strong drink' ; )
I may be facilitating a workshop of this style of Seidr/Seething
at London's Beltain Bash, May 2007. A chance to meet other seethers,
talk about problems, exchange ideas and techniques.
Friday, December 01, 2006
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
7.00pm Tuesdays (2nd & 4th in month)
34 Osnaburgh Street
(Meetings in Skylight Studio or Work Room at
34 Osnaburgh Street or Cherokee Room on Triton Square). Tubes:
Gt Portand Street, Warren Street & Regents Park.
Check London Earth Mysteries Circle website www.lemc.ic24.net for venue details and Autumn Programme 2006.
Nov 14: Pyramids for the future with Bob Harris
Nov 28: Evil Sleep of Egyptian Magick with Mogg Morgan
‘The night was man’s first necessary evil, our oldest and most haunting terror’
A Roger Ekirch (2005) At Day’s Close.
It is widely supposed that the night was always a source of fear, the domain of frightening and threatening entities. Thus Plato wrote:
‘Evil spirits love not the smell of lamps’
It may be well to remind ourselves that the humble lamp, that we take so much for granted, had in the ancient world wider connotations where is was a complex magical instrument with which the huddling masses did battle with the monsters from the Id.
I will discuss some of the Ancient Egyptian responses to the terrors of the night. This will bring us into the realm of ancient psychology and demonology. It will also reveal the domain of private, freeform Egyptian magick and witchcraft. We will touch upon the natural history of the Egyptian vampire. It will cause us to read the most ancient of dream books, and also look at almanacs of lucky and unlucky days. It will also uncover some hardcore 'spellkits' designed to fight evil with ‘evil’.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Thursday, November 02, 2006
The literary vocabulary is peppered with metaphors of food and eating. We talk of 'good taste', 'to savour something' or of 'food for thought'. In this article I hope to show that this use of language is not accidental and in fact leads us to the heart of poetry. The contention that the mental feelings of enjoyment are indebted to bodily or physiological feelings may be difficult for some people to accept. We are inclined to draw a strict dividing line between mind and body; but this has not always been so, nor need it be in the future.
Aristotle in his Poetics speaks of 'Catharsis' which is also a medical term meaning cleansing or purging; a crucial component of the medical practice of his time. Aristotle was a physician as well as a philosopher and in the system of healing he practiced, which was based upon the Humours, Catharsis would have brought the sick person back to a state of psycho-somatic equipoise or isonomia
The similarities between Greek ideas and those of ancient Indian aesthetics are so striking that it is highly probably that they derive from a common source.
The oldest system of Indian medicine is called Ayurvedic, which is a compound of two words, 'ayur' meaning longevity and 'veda' meaning knowledge [anglicised spelling]. The main textual sources of Ayurveda go back to about the beginning of the present era. Many of its ideas are much older and derive from a very creative period in Indian culture at around the sixth century BCE. Ayurveda views the world rather like a vast organism, in which all the parts are interconnected. The essence of this organism is a constantly changing liquid called 'rasa', and so one analyses all its various parts by the sense of taste, which in Sanskrit is the same word - 'rasa'. This homonym has a number of interesting and related meanings, including sap, liquid, essence, elixir, serum, chyle, mercury, semen, taste, feeling, and sentiment. Therefore the sense of taste is the connecting link between an individual and the larger whole; an idea that has very wide implications in art and culture. In this system there are said to be six varieties of taste:
Sweet, Sour, Saline, Pungent, Bitter and Astringent.
According to the Ayurvedic system what one eats, and therefore tastes is also the cause both of health and illness.(1) This is because all foods are broken down in the stomach into a pure liquid food chyle (rasa), and its waste products. In this process three humours are also produced, in Sanskrit they are called Vata, Pitta and Kapha, and they are sometimes translated as Wind, Bile and Phlegm. The term 'humour' is a translation of the Sanskrit word 'dosha' which means 'to spoil. These substances are essential constituents of the human body, but if they are produced in too great a quantity or in the wrong part of the body they are the fundamental cause of all diseases that afflict humanity. Thus one form of Bile keeps the skin in a good tone, but if there is too much of it leads to swelling.
The Ayurvedic system tells us that there is a dynamic relationship between the three humours and the six tastes. For example:
Bile, which is oily, hot, sharp, liquid, sour, fluid and pungent is soon overcome by medicine having opposite qualities.
Wind, which is rough, cool light, subtle, mobile, non-slimy and coarse, is reconciled by medicines having opposite qualities.
Phlegm, which is heavy, cool, soft, oily, sweet, immobile and slimy is relieved by medicine of opposite quality.(2)
The relationship between tastes and humours is complex but can be represented in a very simplified form by the following diagram: (add diagram)
Equipoise is achieved by manipulation of these relationship through the food that one eats, so that a person is restored to or maintained in good health by an appropriate diet.
How all these factors effect the Mind gives us the link between medicine and poetry. The Indian intellectual tradition makes a division between consciousness and the body which is quite alien to that of the Western tradition. The Indian tradition divides all phenomena into two broad categories of spirit and matter. On one side is purusha, the transcendental aspect of ones personality, and on the other is ranged all our physical attributes, which in this system includes the Mind (manas), the Intellect (Buddhi) and the Senses (indriya). Thus ones mental sensitivities, although they are constructed from a finer material than the more gross aspects of the body, are still essentially part of the same model of causes and effects outlined above. The Mind has its food just like any other part of the body. Thus insanity (unmaada) means literally intoxication. Mental equipoise is achieved by reference to an allopathic model of mental tastes designed to counteract a particular temper.
The aim of Sanskrit poetry is to create a state of bliss in the hearer, an "impersonalized and ineffable aesthetic enjoyment from which every trace of its components..material is obliterated."(3). Aesthetic enjoyment is both a means of achieving perfect mental balance and ultimate salvation. This transcendental aspect of poetry is something lost in the present day, but would have been taken for granted by our ancestors. Plato spoke of the power of art to bring about spiritual liberation, and this tradition flows strong in the history of Celtic Bardic traditions. A good poem is often still recognized by the mysterious frisson it brings about.
Sanskrit poetry has several different moods designed to provoke particular emotions. "Mood" is another possible translation of the Sanskrit "rasa", literally the taste or flavour of something. This is more than an accidental homonym. The fact that the same word occurs in medical and poetic texts has to mean that there is a fundamental unity of outlook.(4). There are eight or sometimes ten moods in Indian poetics: Love, Courage, Loathing. Anger, Mirth, Terror, Pity and Surprise and optionally tranquility and paternal fondness .
Interestingly Yeats used the term "Mood" in a short piece on the purpose of poetry published in Ideas Of Good & Evil, page ?? this volume.
Perhaps the most widely used Mood is the erotic one, as it is a remarkable feature of Indian culture that the spiritual truths are most often conveyed by erotic images. Thus the story of Krisna's dance with the Cowherd's wives conceals an essential spiritual message. Each girl dances with Krisna and feels that she is unique. This symbolizes the mystery of the communion of the multiplicity of all human souls with the undivided Absolute. This theme is the subject of one of Indian most treasured poems, Jayadeva's Gitagovinda or "Love Song of the Dark Lord". which should be sung with Raga Vasanta or Spring Mode
Soft sandal mountain winds caress quivering vines of clove.
Forest huts hum with droning bees and crying cuckoos
When spring's mood is rich, Hari roams here
To dance with young women friend--
A cruel time for deserted lovers.(5)
Indian poetry is created within a totally integrated philosophy of the human psyche and body. Our aesthetic sense, literally our sense of taste, connects us to the wider universe of which we are only a small part. Perhaps here lies the mysterious secret of poetry. Its ability to lift us up out of ourselves, at the same time purifying and healing our alienated nature. The basis of which Indian poetical works may strike some as too literal an interpretation of the facts. However these ideas completely permeate the art of the sub-continent and have generated some of the most sublime artistic creations of any culture.
1 Agnivesha's Caraka Samhita translated in English by R K Sharma and Vaidya B Dash (Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office, Varanasi 1976) I.xxv.29
2 ibid I.i.59-61.
3 S K De History of Sanskrit Poetics (Calcutta 1960) page 37
4 R K Sen Aesthetic Enjoyment and Its Background in Philosophy and Medicine. (Calcutta 1966)
5 Jayadeva's Gitagovinda - Love Song of the Dark Lord Edited and translated by Barbara Stoler Miller (Columbia University press 1977)
Medicine of the Gods:
Basic principles of Ayurvedic Medicine
by Chris Morgan
(If you would like to read a short essay explaining some of the principles of Ayurveda, click here)
ISBN 1869928377, 120pp. £9.99/$14.99
Order this book
Ayurveda is an Asian medical system which has its beginnings in the sixth century BCE and thrives even to the present-day. There was once a celebrated doctor called Caraka who lived in the second century of our era. He was one of the greatest physicians that has ever lived. He recorded the fact that the gods themselves were perplexed by the continued existence of disease, which was a hindrance to humanity's progress to enlightenment. These same gods, he says, therefore prepared the way for Ayurveda, which literally means the 'science of longevity' to be taught to the human race. Thus the title of this book is Medicine of the Gods.
Medicine of the Gods is the first of a series that aims to introduce the physical and metaphysical concepts of Ayurveda to a non-specialist audience. Medical ideas underpin a great deal of Eastern thought especially Tantrism, alchemy, yoga and the science of love. The book is not intended as a series of health tips or as a textbook for the clinical practice of medicine, which in the Ayurveda tradition requires at least seven years intensive training. The book is aimed at students and lovers of South Asian culture, perhaps also anthropologists and others with a need for a straightforward introduction to the core principles of another scientific tradition.
Praise for first edition:
'The author's main purpose, introducing ancient Indian medical theory in a relatively trustworthy manner to the interested general reader in easy language, while at the same time being intellectually challenging, is served well by this book.' Rahul Peter Das in Traditional South Asian Medicine Vol 6 2001
This book contains virtually everything you could want to know about the Hindu system of Ayurvedic medicine, which began on or about the sixth century BCE and is still thriving today. The history, correspondences or "humours', and other intriguing aspects of this intricate system are described in easy-to-understand language for those unfamiliar with Ayurveda. There is also a catalogue of ailments and how Ayurveda views each of them, and illness in general. I found this fascinating reading, both as a western herbal practitioner, and as a reader fascinated by how other cultures view the world and what goes wrong within it. Highly recommended!
Reviewed by Cerridwen Connelly in The Pentacle
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
The Persian 'Mar Nameh': The Zoroastrian Book of the Snake, Omen and Calendar and the Old Iranian Calendar, essays by Payam Nabarz and S H Taqizadeh. ISBN 1905524-250, 128pp, £12
This is Payam Nabarz's follow-up to very well received Mysteries of Mithras. As one might expect he is extending further some of the cultic material available to initiates involved with that mythos. In this case he presents a short omen text from the Zoroastrian tradition.
Essentially this is a reprint of an 'Old' Iranian omen text in 30 verses with an accompanying short modern commentary plus the author's own rendering of the text. This rendering is rather misleadingly referred to as a 'transliteration', which might indeed have been useful too. The second part is a reprint of Seyyed Taqizadeh's 1937 essay on Persian calendar studies. This essay is obviously very erudite but likely to be mainly of interest to fellow researchers in calendar studies, although doubtless there have been other more modern studies in the sixty odd years since its composition? This is certainly the case with some of the Egyptian comparative material - Egyptian calendrics has experienced a continual renaissance over the last fifty years. Even so it presents quite a lot of highly informative material on the topic although it is at times impossibly heavy going for the non-specialist such as myself. The whole could have done with some sort of glossary or editing to provide the reader with a way through the jungle of unfamiliar terminology which obviously would only make sense to Persian readers.
The subject is complex because Persia, like so many countries in the region, has had many different calendar systems over the thousands of years of its existence. For example, Professor Taqizadeh tells us: 'the theory of the Persian New Years' Day originally falling on the Vernal Equinox is not supported by any convincing proof' (p52). In other words prior to the rise of Zoroastrianism in the sixth century BC, the original Persian New Year, may well have fallen on the summer solstice and not as is nowadays the case, on the spring equinox! Professor Taqizadeh was a prominent Iranian politician, responsible, so we are told, for many modern calendar reforms. He moved modern Iran away from the Arab based lunar calendar to a solar based system based firmly on Zoroastrian principles. Which made me wonder how very different the current situation might have been, if the learned professor had instead reconnected with the far older lunar-solar tradition of his land before the coming of Zoroaster!
Turning then to the 'Mar Nameh: the book of the Snake'. The observation of omens of one kind or another is an ubiquitous feature of the culture of the Ancient Near East. This particular omen text gives a Zoroastrian spin to what is a very ancient tradition. We are told this is a relatively modern exemplar, first translated into English in the nineteenth century and presumable composed a few centuries before that? The core of this edition is a metrical rendering, based on that first translation: For example:
1. If you see a snake on the day of Hormozd
Your honour, property and pay will increase'
The useful commentary tells us that Hormozd, is the lord of wisdom, (Ahura Mazda), the Zoroastrian name for God. It is also the name of various kings of the Parthian and Sassanian dynasties. The Zoroastrian calendar reprised an older tradition that linked particular gods with particular days (originally) of the lunar month, and indeed different quarters of the moon. These days were mapped onto a fixed year and the older lunar mysteries largely submerged and forgotten. On the whole I found Payam's book a useful stimulus to debate. There is also something for those non specialists in need of a short guide with which to interpret interesting dreams or alarming physical phenomena. - [Mogg]
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Interesting piece but one has to bear
in mind that what he called 'sanatana dharma' or 'old time religion' is
really a construction of the nineteenth century when hindus were
striving to present a sanitized version of hinduism to their colonial
masters. Many commentators - including this one - are far from disinterested
academics but have a definite axe to grind. So for instance where he
'From an orthodox Hindu viewpoint, most neo-Pagan groups would have a
status similar to the tribals of forested Central India. Though the
tribals are recognized as Indian fellow Pagans, Hindus by Savarkar's
definition, they are nonetheless commonly perceived as savages because
of their disregard for certain taboos and because of their not so
strict morality (as in the common youth dormitories where sexual
experimentation is encouraged). The city jungles of the West have
somehow spawned a lifestyle similar to that of the tiger infested and
snake haunted jungles of India.'
infact what he calls the tribals are closer to the religious diversity
of the indian subcontinent - where for instance the eating of meat is
definately Vedic or 'pukka' - and is still used in Ayurvedic medicine.
To get behind the propaganda you have to read something like David
White's Kiss of the Yogini and indeed tantrik material - but even
here you have a different set of prejudices with which to deal.
om ganeshaya namah
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Wales' south-eastern industrial population may not have all the trappings of other regions but is it any less the Welsh for that - I don't think so? We refuse to learn Welsh because we don't want to lose our welsh identity - English is our mother tongue - English is a language of Wales - is it not?
Then there is the question of Nationalism. During my teenage years I was an paid up member of the ultra-left - it goes with the territory afterall. I think it was Kate Roberts who wrote that Wales is under the 'triple net' - language, religion and politics. So for me politics has always been a stronger force than the others - which is hardly surprisingly given my roots.
Whatever the problems that beset the people of Wales, are they really deep down about nationality? I think lifestyle and social class are as valid a candidate for the core or base of society - from which so many structures and problems grow. Isn't it always the way of the demigog to play the nationalist card on any and every issue?
Back in Newport in the 1970s I was a young radical - not even out of school and bunking off to be on the picket-line with striking building workers. It brought me into contact with Irish labourers, amongst whom were fugitives from Ireland's 'troubles'. Into this melting pot - welsh nationalists were drawn. It was a bit of a dilemma for the neo-marxists, who had but recently inherited the mantle of the moribund communist party of Wales.
'Rebel in the soul'
How did it all start this political thing? Being a rebel was the only way to survive at school after age eleven. Either that or a victim be. Casting my mind back to my first overt act of political rebellion - it was always intimately connected with the whole nationalist thing - but never straight forwardly so. It was the tour of the Springbok rugby team - a racially segregated side from South Africa and therefore very controversial. I lived a stone's throw from the rugby ground - but had no natural affinity for the players - I was too much of a wimp for that. The newly formed anti-apartheid thing was in the news but was hardly expected at a redneck place like Newport. There was to be a picket of the match - I can't remember from whom I learnt it - but it seemed like such a good idea. I'm not sure i really understood the issues but the idea of standing outside the ground with placards sounded perfect to me. It was my first meeting with my own kind. I remember being particularly shocked then impressed by the presence there of the school Religious Studies teacher - I forget her name. I guess she had me marked down as just another oik but that day she made a point of saying hello.
But whoa - did it cause a row at home. I never did manage to get my placard out of the house. It can't have been too long after that my older brother Roy, who had actually joined the Communist Party, was asked to leave. I was grounded. Why such a strong reaction, my father had afterall been brought up in Moscow - the Maesglas suburb of Newport that had consistently elected communist town councillors? Maybe that was it - familiarity breeds contempt? Stories of the 1926 General Strike still did the rounds of Maesglas - lots of railwaymen lived there. When my grandfather - a former stoker - cold-shouldered someone in the street - my father asked why - 'because', came the reply, 'he went over the wall during the strike. Such was the bitterness following the defeat of the strike that nobody spoke to that man again - nobody went to his funeral. Politics was a serious business - the kind of thing that could ruin your whole life if you weren't discerning. And in the 1960s, apart from the occasional Labour interlude, most people were happy with the conservative consensus. The communists were seen as a moribund fifth column.
I asked my economics teacher what he thought of the communist newspaper the Morning Star. He told me it was the worst of the gutter press. I never could bring myself to read a copy afterthat even though I guessed that was not a balanced view - but it maybe gives an idea of the zeitgeist. The communist party was a spent force, a pale reflection of its glory days. A new ghost was haunting Europe - Leon Trotsky. Legend has it that my brother went to one of those monster Anti-Vietnam war demos in London - maybe he was even there on that fateful day outside the American embassy in Grosvenor Square. There was a splendid riot. He met one of the new trotskities called Pat Jordan and invited him to come speak to the communists of Newport. After the meeting the whole branch upped and joined a little organisation, headed by the likes of Tariq Ali and Jonathan Guinness which went by the soubriquet of the International Marxist Group. I being still a minor was earmarked for its youth section - the Sparticus League. My first ever political outing, was to London for the unification conference of both organisations.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
The entrance to the park passes through wrought iron ornamental gates, painted green and emblazoned now with Casnewedd's grand crest - the one that has my face. The vegetation is so luxuriant, almost tropical, covering the sides of the steep valley through which gushes a vigorous stream. I love the fenced walkways that snake the way over bridges until I am deposited just below the huge Victorian plant house, tea rooms and toilet. I love the view across the docklands to the Peterstone flatlands beyond. But when you look down, over the balustrade, into the seedy bushes, the sight is often not so good.
Time to move on, to the west end of the park. The feeling I had that first time I found the megalithic stone circle, right there in the park. The beautiful, hungry stones of local old red sandstone, blackened by the Casnewedd air, encrusted with lichen and moss. The secluded grove of ancient oaks lent it a synister feel that spoke of sabbatic rites to a god unknown. At its centre a single step led to a stone platform of appearance. Was this a place of sacrifice? The atmosphere darkens, the picnickers in the nearby meadow fade from view. Once I sat and quite spontaneously began to meditate - although back then I did not know that's what I was doing. A shiver ran through me anyway. Was this a magical place?
It was a while before I told anyone about my secret place. When I did I learnt that although it looked old it had been put there in the early part of the twentieth century as part of the celebrations for the eistedfod! The circle was 'false' but also real? But there again was it really false? Now Paul tells me all these 'bardic' circles are modelled on one very special instance from Boscawen in West Cornwall. I've still never quite been there. How can you not quite be anywhere? That's very Welsh isn't it? Simple - I got to within a few yards but had to turn back. Paul tells me Boscawen is the most perfect example of all the megalithic circles - that's why it was chosen as a form. I have a photograph of that day in 1910 when the vast crowd, now all ghosts, but then dressed in their sunday best, as they swirl around their priests. So maybe afterall I really did get a message from the past, that day in Belview park amongst the wind lashed trees?
Friday, September 01, 2006
The discussion initially ranged around the twin poles of 'places of power' and 'ley lines' - whether or not they existed. These two phenomena are often linked with certain types of bodily 'energy' such as chakras and nadis - thus it provides a neat example of the occult doctrine of 'as above, so below' - the body as microcosm of a worldly meso- or macrocosm. The erotic and otherworldy quality of landscapes was discussed, leading to ideas about how to harnness this power, or interact with it as in some more recent ideas of eco-sexuality. Most agreed that the 'earth' was the source of much power in magick and this was one of the central mysteries in question. Another interesting new concept (for me) was that of places of negative power - to use a sanskrit term - 'earth marmas'.
(?) in Israel
Hell Fire caves
Phillip Heselton Earth Mysteries
Mogg Morgan: 'The Erotic Landscape Revisited' in Tankhem: Seth and Egptian Magick
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
George, in origin a Greek name meaning 'farmer' or 'tiller of the soil',. St George was a Roman military tribune martyred at Nicomedia in 303. The dragon-killing legends were attached to his name later. His cult was brought to England from the East by returning Crusaders; he was said to come to their help under the walls of Antioch in 1089 and was then chosen as their patron by the Normans under Robert of Normandy, son of the Conqueror. There are 126 churches dedicated to him in England. But George as a christian name was slow in taking root. The earliest example noted is one George Grim at the end of the 12th century and there are occasional occurences in records of the 13th and early 14th c. Edward III had a particular devotion to St George and in 1349, on St Georges Day, founded the Order of the Garter, which he placed under his patronage and dedicated to him the chapel of the order at Windsor. From this time he was regarded as the patron saint of England.'
The above is the subject matter of Paul Broadhurst's solid tome, although taken from The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names (ed E G Withycombe), not quoted in Broadhurst's bibliograpy unlike many a lesser source.
Of course when you examine the early part of the myth - the trail soon runs cold and one is left with the unsatifactory conclusion that there must have been more than one 'holy Geo' - or is he some sort of god in disguise? The saint in roman armour is precisely the form than late images of the god Horus take on in Roman Egypt. This last fact has led many to suppose that the glyph of St George and the Dragon, is a cypher for the Contending of Horus & Seth, a theme explored in one of the many chapters in Broadhurst's book.
After his migration to England, St George is soon embroiled in the spirit of Beltain, into whose season his feastday on 23rd April falls. I wasn't sure how to take some of the more technical arguments in this book, especially those around calendar reform. One often does hear grumblings about the use of modern (Gregorian) dates, but to me the previous dates derived from the Julian calendar seem just as arbritrary and divorced from any natural cycle? In parts the narrative could be a little clearer and I personally could do without some of the more wacky linguistic arguments (shades of Kenneth Grant here). For example is the name really the trisyllable 'Ge - Or - Ge'. 'Or' cannot be the root of the name Horus - whose name is spelt 'HR' in Middle Egyptian. Egyptian vowels are largely a mystery - the 'O' just a publishers convention with no historical significance. But these and other quibles aside - this book presents all the pertinent facts in a stimulating manner and is a welcome addition to the literature on the topic. [Mogg].
Sunday, August 20, 2006
The name Lucifer first occurs in one of the many translations of the Bible and is perhaps the product of scribal error. The entity actually being referred to is the morning 'star' - Venus. Because of its position as 'herald' of the dawn, it receives the epithet 'lightbringer' or Lucifer. So no evil intent there afterall - although having erupted into the language - the godform perhaps denotes things that are outwardly dark but when you get to known them are not.
There aren't too many good poems or hymns to Lucifer - which surely is a gap in the market? If you know of any good ones please do add a comment. Whilst researching this I found one very wordy example from the mystic 'AE'. And I hope one day to pen my own 'Great Hymn to L'
In the meantime I offered up the following short prayer - which I prefaced, for reasons of my own, by the vibration of the Aurochs rune:
I invoke Lucifer Rising - The Lifeforce
I invoke Lucifer Rising - the morning star
I invoke Lucifer Rising - the evening star
I invoke Lucifer Rising
come in peace, beautiful god
blessings be upon you and this company
I invoke Lucifer Rising - trickster with the crooked smile
I invoke Lucifer Rising - the morning starfire
I invoke Lucifer Rising - the evening starfire
I invoke Lucifer Rising -
come in peace, beautiful god
here's another from the web:
George William (“A. E.”) Russell (1867–1935). Collected Poems by A.E. 1913.
120. The Morning Star
IN the black pool of the midnight Lu has slung the morning star,
And its foam in rippling silver whitens into day afar
Falling on the mountain rampart piled with pearl above our glen,
Only you and I, beloved, moving in the fields of men.
In the dark tarn of my spirit, love, the morning star, is lit; 5
And its halo, ever brightening, lightens into dawn in it.
Love, a pearl-grey dawn in darkness, breathing peace without desire;
But I fain would shun the burning terrors of the mid-day fire.
Through the faint and tender airs of twilight star on star may gaze,
But the eyes of light are blinded in the white flame of the days, 10
From the heat that melts together oft a rarer essence slips,
And our hearts may still be parted in the meeting of the lips.
What a darkness would I gaze on when the day had passed the west,
If my eyes were dazed and blinded by the whiteness of a breast?
Never through the diamond darkness could I hope to see afar 15
Where beyond the pearly rampart burned the purer evening star.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
The Yoginis whose cults were central to Kaula practice had the following features: (i) they were a group of powerful, sometimes martial, female divinities with whom human female "witches" were identified in ritual practice; ' (2) their power was intimately connected to the flow of blood, both their own menstrual and sexual emissions, and the blood of their animal (and human?) victims; (3) they were essential to Tantric initiation in which they initiated male practitioners through fluid transactions via their "mouths"; (4) they were possessed of the power of flight; (5) they took the form of humans, animals, or birds, and often inhabited trees; (6) they were often arrayed in circles; (7) their temples were generally located in isolated areas, on hilltops or prominences and were usually round and often hypaethral; and (8) they were never portrayed as practicing yoga for the simple reason that yoga as we know it had not yet been invented. David White/The Kiss of the Yogini
(work in progress began - feedback and advice welcome)
started: Full Moon 9th August 06
diacritics omitted for now - ie anglicised spelling
'Truth is singular although sages (vipra) call it by many names' (1)
Maya(2) is a feminine noun whose original meaning was magic or uncanny power. In late Hinduism it came to signify illusion. It is the earlier meaning that most interests me here, although the story of the change of meaning from 'magic' to 'illusion' is not without interest and is well represented in the literature.
Maya is often hypothesised as the goddess Maya(qv).
Mayashastra (science of magick)
Before considering the more advanced mayashastra it is probably a good idea to look at the more 'orthodox' and 'classical' ideas of the texts such as Yogasutras. The Yogasutras below to the so-called 'sutra' period of Indian intellectual history. This period is usually dated circa 2nd century bc to 2nd century ad. The text consolidates all previous ideas concerning yoga. Yoga is a technical term meaning 'work' or 'activity'. It shares some of the connotations of maya or magic. Famously, the yogasutras are where we first encounter the idea of eight limbs or branches of yoga:
The eight 'limbs' of yoga
The eight limbs are a progressive series of steps or disciplines which purify the body and mind, ultimately leading to enlightenment. These 8 limbs are:
Yamas - The Yamas or restraints (Don'ts) are divided into five moral injunctions, aimed at destroying a supposed lower nature. It is tradition to list five such Yamas:
Ahimsa or non-violence
Satyam or truthfulness
Brahmacharya (control of all senses).
Asteya or non-stealing
Aparigraha or non-covetousness
Niyamas - The Niyamas or observances (Do's) are also divided into five and complete the ethical precepts started with the Yama.. These qualities are:
Saucha or purity - this internal and external cleanliness.
Santosha or contentment
Tapas or austerity
Swadhyaya or study of the sacred texts
Ishwara Pranidhana which is constantly living with an awareness of the divine Presence (surrender to God's Will)
Asanas - Postures
So-called Hatha yoga is considered by some to be a path to enlightment in it's own right. Even if that way doesn't suit your temperament, most find work on posture usefull. I use yoga as part of the warm-up, which i recommend before any act of magick. It's also handy to be able to sit properly for long periods of concentration. I am guided by the words of the Bhagavad Gita, where is says posture should be easy and steady. I interpret this as meaning something less than the famous lotus pose but maybe a good confortable posture sometimes known as 'perfect posture.' Aleister Crowley recognised the value of Patanjali's Yogasutras but IMO he lacked a competent/humane teacher and therefore his advice on posture is best ignored in favour of a more contemporary approach.
Pranayama - regulation or control of the breath. Asanas and Pranayama form the sub-division of Raja Yoga known as Hatha-Yoga
Pratyahara - withdrawal of the senses in order to still the mind.
Dharana - concentration. The last 3 steps constitute the internal practice of Raja Yoga. When Dharana is achieved, it leads to the next step:
Dhyana - meditation is that state of pure thought and absorption in the object of meditation. In contemporary idiom this is very like 'visualisation'.
In Hindu ritual the worshipper (pujari) calls to mind a mental image of the goddess or goddess. Eg: imagine an island made of seven sacred stones, etc. In the Victorian occult revival 'visualisation' was known as 'astral projection'. In my opinion the quest for 'astral projection' has driven many into the buffers. For a more contemporary approach to the technique i recommend Jan Fries' book Visual Magick: a manual of freestyle shamanism.
Samadhi - the superconscious state. In Samadhi non-duality or oneness is experienced. This is the deepest and highest state of consciousness where body and mind have been transcended and the Yogi is one with the Self or God.
Success in the eight limbs of yoga leads to great powers of concentration or one pointedness. These supersensual ability can be used to accomplish certain temporal ends. This is perhaps another parallel with mayashastra or magic way of thinking.
The special powers known as 'siddhas' of the accomplished yogin, are described in the third chapter of the Yogasutras.
Yogasutras chapter III
25. By making Samyama on the strength of the elephant and others, their respective strength comes to the Yogi.
. . .
27. By making Samyama on the sun, (comes) the knowledge of the world.
28. On the moon, (comes) the knowledge of the cluster of stars.
29. On the pole-star, (comes) the knowledge of the motions of the stars.
30. On the navel circle, (comes) the knowledge of the constitution of the body.
By way of contrast here are some ideas from the more overtly magical tradition sometimes known as 'Tantrik'. In practice many tantrik magi have some acquantance with the pan-Indian techniques of the Yogasutras. Tantra has a range of meanings worth exploring. In this context it means 'simplified rites'. Tantrik ideas probably developed after the sutra period to which the Yogasutras belong. That is to say some time, perhaps centuries after the second century ad. However these ideas have a context and do not come out of vacuum. In fact the tantrik magi viewed themselves as the essense of or as completing all other previous systems. So some knowledge of what came before, the context, is handy.
The technical term 'tantra' has a range of meanings, exoteric and esoteric. In some sense all Hindu religion is tantrik or has tantrik elements. Tantra went mainstream (esoteric) a long time ago. 'Tantra' is as in 'vague' in meaning as 'Hindu' or 'Magick'. It's probably a waste of time looking for neat essential definition. In my opinion, the most productive approach is to look instead for specific activities. This is like looking for a medical syndrome or perhap a synodic definition. There are said to be eight signs of the tantrik magician.
Ashtalinga or Eight 'marks' of the Tantrik
Traditionally this is said to be an essential prerequisite to adepthood. I guess we would all agree that some kind of contact with a mentor or teacher is advantageous. This is illustrated by looking at mantras, one of the things exchanged between adept and candidate during initiation.
Take for example the mantra:
om maya, mamaya, mahamaya, bodhi svaha
You may not have a clue how to 'vibrate' this. The initiator may well save you a lot of time in that regard. This is not to say that you wouldn't find your own solution given time.
Means 'leading straight to a goal' hence particularly applied to magical practice, medicine and alchemy. Sanskrit roots 'sâdh' and 'sidh' - from which derive words such as Sâdhaka, Sâdhu and Siddha as practitioners or followers of a particular practice or the direct path.
In the third edition of Jan Fries' book Helrunar: a manual of rune magick, there is a discussion of nordic seidr or seething which links it with sanskrit vipra. Mention the word vipra and most people will think you are referring to a brahmin or other kind of Hindu holy man. But its linguistic origins are very revealing and lead us to the legendary times of the seven shamans of the extremely ancient Vedic texts. Vipra come from the linguistic stem vip, meaning to tremble, and a vipra is someone overcome with religious ecstasy. I therefor suggest that vipra might be considered part of sadhana.
One of its earliest occurances is in the famous words of the Vedic sage Atri who says: "By birth every one is a shudra, by samskars he becomes a Dvija (i.e., twice-born). By studying the Vedas, he becomes a Vipra and by realizing Brahman, he attains the status of a Brahmana" (Janmana jayate ....etc.)
To be continued offline now - so if you want the latest version let me know.
The six magical acts:
pacifying, subduing, causing enmity, driving away, uprooting (uccatana) and causing death. (see Yogini Tantra) Six Shaktis appropriate to these acts. The Padmini is suitable for pacifying and Sankhini for subjugation. He then outlines the mantras appropriate to the six acts.
(1) Vedic proverb - 'ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanthi' Rigveda-verse 1.164.46
(2) diacritics omited from here on
(3) vip 1
vip (or vep), cl. 1. Ā. (Dhātup. x, 6) vepate (ep. also ○ti
• p. vipāná RV
• pf. vivepe Gr
• vivipre RV
• aor. avepiṣṭa Br
• fut. vepitā, vepiṣyate Gr
• inf. vepitum ib.), to tremble, shake, shiver, vibrate, quiver, be stirred RV. &c. &c
• to start back through fear Pañcar. Kathās.: Caus. vipáyati or vepayati (aor. aviivipat), to cause to tremble or move, shake, agitate RV. &c. &c. [Cf. Lat. vibrare ; Goth. weipan ; Germ. wîfen, weifen, Wipfel Eng. whiffle.]
≫ vip 2
víp mfn. inwardly stirred or excited, inspired RV
• f. 'easily moved or bent, flexible (?)', a switch, rod &c., the shaft (of an arrow), the rods (which form the bottom of the Soma filter, and support the straining cloth) RV
• a finger Naigh. ii, 5
vipá m. a learned man (= medhāvin) Naigh. iii, 15
• (ā), f. speech (= vāc) ib. i, 11
Saturday, July 15, 2006
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
'I've spoken to my bosses and they want to ask you these specific
questions, you don't need to answer them fully now, but if we interview you
these are the exact themes of what we will be discussing: Can you talk about Alchemy at the time of Mary Shelley?'
I say 'I'm not sure if you are using alchemy as a metaphor for the renaissance of Georgian magic - seems like Shelley's main interest then was natural magic - which includes some alchemical topics - but yes I can do that although Adam Maclean is probably the expert on alchemy per se. BTW I would assume that Shelley might have at least known of Francis Barrett - whose book the 'The Magus: or Celestial Intelligencer' was published in 1801, (the poet Robert Southey wrote some v critical letters about Barrett - who was all over the news for his ballooning adventures.) Barrett wrote a very influential new synthesis of older grimoires such as Agrippa. There is a very interesting eye witness account in that of the old folk believe that a corpse bleeds in the presence of a murderer - and this reanimation could also be an influence on narratives such as Frankenstein - as well as the alchemical homunculus thing.'
OK he says 'Can you easily define European 17th/18th century Alchemy in a way which the viewer can grasp quickly?'
To which I reply: 'Alchemy is a very powerful myth of the 17th/18th century. A kind of spiritual chemistry. Humanity's religious quest reduced to the manipulation of the world's physical components on the assumption that this will unlock the secrets of life itself - which is occasionally does. Alchemical texts are written in code. Some alchemists took this code quite literally ie lead into gold. Others realised that they were dealing with religious metaphor - ie lead into gold - stupidity into inspiration by meditation. There is of course a third, middle way. . . '
Ah, he says 'Can you explain the search for the philosophers stone, can you tell us the history behind it, and explain why people want to find it so much
(especially during Shelley's time).'
'Yes, i think so but it would flow from my own theories concerning the Tantrik quest for immortality via the ingestion of transformed bodily 'medicines' .'
The he asks: 'Can you give us a demonstration of a philosophers stone type experiment?'
This last question needs multiple exclamation marks. Can I do something that eluded all known alchemists? but I give it a go:
'In my view this would involve the creation of a 'cake of light' which is made from sexual fluids - wouldn't have thought this could be demonstrated on TV but might be possible to get round this with some sort of hieros gamos - ie bbc scotland have film of a part of the 'gnostic mass' which could be brought to bear??'
I went out abut 11pm to take a look - it took a while to find a good vantage point. Being so low in the sky - there were wispy clouds in an otherwise clear sky with moderate light pollution. The moon appeared bigger than usual, very cheesy with a horizontal band passing directly through its midpoint - a lunar omina?
Sunday I was in Bath for the Omphalos moot and met Storm Constantine for the first time ever. The topic was truth in magick - are all systems ultimately contrived or are some more 'authentic' than others?
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
few hours spent in our secret places on the cursus more than
compensated for that. So what we missed in terms of the Golden Dawn was compensated for by a fine lunar omina (a gift of Seth) - which would have been all but invisible in the arc lights of the main drag and henge. From our vantage point we could watch the mahem, sheltered some by trees from the predawn cloud burst - that left the sky clear enough to see some stars rising before dawn.
We even saw off some very officious and intrusive patrols from English heritage. Like all bureacratic types - they can't resist trying to control even what is supposed to be an open access - to a site that is besides that on a right a way. The first landrover crept by in the darkness - the driver only leaving his cab to slam the gate loudly to the cursus barrow enclosure where we lay hidden. Half an hour later a second came - then a young man with a torch asking us what we were doing - his false bonhomie barely able to conceal his nervousness. What a pointless life. When I told him we were pagans engaged in pagan worship and this was the second unnecessary intrusion, he soon shut up and beat a quick and apologetic retreat.
The atmosphere this year was the best i've known. Very little loutishness. Some truly friendly pagan greetings. So maybe JD is right and the place is changing people?
Thought for the day:
Britain's catholic cardinal, the one with the unlikely Celtic name, says he has a Disquiet growing in his garden. He thinks he's found a scientific argument against abortion, but his 'bad faith' is all too obvious. So he is afterall into 'necessary evil', but can't quite bring himself to recommend a condom.
Friday, June 16, 2006
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Anyways - we arrive for the second and what turns out to be the quieter of the two days. Lots of familiar faces, some not so. Professor Ronald Hutton is due to speak on sexuality and paganism - so we sit through the Daughters of Gaia, (who have a website) - and have somehow managed to turn some of the slightly overdone pagan chants such as 'we all come from the goddess' etc into new age torch songs. Not quite to my taste but the audience seem to like it. For me it adds to the slightly faded quality of some pagan events these days - they hardly seem cutting edge and I wonder whether they ever did?
Ronald's talk was as entertaining and comprehensive as we've all come to expect - which is amazing considering he is recovering from quite a serious illness AND has to run a large university history department. Makes me feel quite lazy. Some of the ground covered in his talk is familiar to me from my own researches for Katon Shual's slim volume 'Sexual Magick'. I.e sooner or later we all have to face up to the fact that some classical pagans, eg the Stoics, were every bit as puritanical as their Christian nemesis. Although I'd still say not all good things are the gift of the modern pagan. The lifestyle of the high culture of Egypt shows some of the same predilection from 'Sex, drugs and R&R.'
Time for a breath of air, outside I bump into lots of old pals in the smokers circle - and suitably refreshed - I can face an hour with 'Scots' Mary in the incredibly stuffy Bertrand Russell, or is it Mani Shinwell room? I should say that 'Scots' Mary is one of the alumni of Alex and Maxine's 1970s magical coven - so respect. But the talk is hardly rocket science but twenty years ago I would have appreciated this kind of thing - but I'm wondering if the younger members of the audience are impressed? Actually twenty years ago i would have been a bit of a bolshevik and might have protested or even have asked what is it that wiccans actually do with their wands? Or as my friend Alex says, was Gerald Gardner smoking behind the bike-shed when that particular topic was discussed in the Hairy Potheads skool for wizards?
Two lectures under my belt I can safely head for the pub where all the other cynics have decamped for a gossip and another smoke. After an hour I decide to take a look at the valedictory rite more as an anthropological exercise than anything else. It's billed as a two hour psycho-drama based around the mysteries of The Wizard of Oz. The whole crowd of 'munchkins' sighs ahhhh in unison as the high priest enters in his Toto costume - you get the drift. I suppose one shouldn't be too sniffy. Levanah Morgan regularly lectures on the occult symbolism of this and other Hollywood films. Perhaps Julian Vayne is right afterall, we are all Chaos Magicians now. Many moons ago I walked out of an 'Erisian' ritual based around the energy of football - among the other lurkers on the threshold I met my future wife and partner - so chaos magick can't be all bad. - mogg
Sunday, May 28, 2006
J writes: 'I have been looking through tantra sadhana again, as I have been using a form of the opening ritual mentioned in the text. As an extension to the opening ritual you mention vibrating the vowels whilst drawing invoking pentagrams. I have come across this idea of vibrating the vowels in both the works of Jan Fries and Peter Carroll. I was wondering if you could give me some tips as to the origins of this method?
For my personnal practice I also use a combination of the elemental tattwas and vibrating of the vowels as a method of getting energy to flow through the chakras that correspond from the root to the neck.
Is there a relationship between the Sanskrit Bija mantras and the vowels? I also thought of it having a more mystical origin, but perhaps someone found pronouncing english more practical and simple?'
The issue of the seven vowels is quite interesting - the seven vowels are those of the greek language but of course like all vowels they are part of the universal nature of speech - so will be constant all over - approximately 2000 years ago the egyptian religion went through a great reformation - and the seven greek vowels and attendant mysteries were incorporated and accepted into the mix - it was either because it already had resonance with egyptian practice or that they recognised the value of this part of the greek tradition (despite their dislike of their greek colonisers) Contemporary reports say that egyptian temple musick was essential vowel chanting - It seems natural enough to extend this idea to the hindu realm - which was also in contact via alexandria etc - and also acknowledged the power of mantra, sound and vowel chanting.
The physical postures are i think the sevenfold heptagramme rite of egypt - which has parallels as part of the international language of magic of the classical world.
love and do what you will
PS as the research continues, one project you (and others) might like to add to yours is the whole business of lunar observation for omens - ie observe the moon and note and phenemena such as halos, patterns, unusual colours etc - these are collated for lunar omina.
'Most descriptions of rituals I have seen involve having the altar at the centre of your working and generally moving around it, but what happens if you haven't got space? However in the "House of Life" you say "be content with the corner of your bedroom, this is what most of us use and it's perfectly adequate". In such a setup the altar would be outside of any circle created with say the LBRP?'
The problem for me with some descriptions of GD rites is that it leaves me wonderering if the folk are really doing it? It's part of a specific tradition that has its advocates - but there are other, equally valid streams of thought. 'House of Life' is closer to the tradition of a domestic shrine or altar - as attested in religious belief from the beginning. Another possibility is some sort of 'shrine box' fixed to the wall. All these things act as a focus but i'm not sure its such a good idea to always have something in the centre of your 'circle' or sacred space. In some outdoor rites, people build a fire then do the ritual around it. However that then gets to be a bit too focussed on one thing - the centre. I've found it handy to move the fire to a place outside the circle - where it is still available for useful things like keeping warm but leaves the circle a clear space to move, dance etc. It also preserves night vision and lets one make things such as veve etc.
In 'chaos magick' there is an idea that all magick is much more about intent than getting the details right. The circle is a virtual space really - and wherever you are, it's always going to be more of an idealised space than a real one - after all most people's rooms are square not circular - so what happens to the folks next door?? See Now That's What I Call Chaos Magick for discussion of this kind of thing.
Mogg (18.3.6) 'Red Moon on the day of Rams'.
Are Kenneth Grant's 'typhonian' books, and indeed other sabbatic titles really worth the premium prices being asked on the secondhand market? Is there another way for the beginner to learn more about this important new current?
I understand the problem. And yes I agree the prices for some things are stupid - and I suspect those books don't quite 'deliver' as promised - as you say - its about 'grass is greener ' complex as much as anything else. The best KG book is probably 'Aleister Crowley & The Hidden God' - but even that commands a very high price on the secondhand market so i'd say do as you're doing and read in a good library or via interlibrary loans. Take advantage of the availablility of stuff when it first appears at the normal price - eg you won't regret that - (for example look at those ebooks editions of Francis King's Secret Rituals of the OTO' (see mandrake Speaks (archive) for details). Are books such as the "Secret Rituals of the O.T.O.," by Francis King, one of the occult’s ‘banned books’ worthy of $25 for a pirated electronic copy? I’d say definitely worth it if you want to read that book – as its pretty much impossible to find otherwise and enormously expensive if you do. Whether there are any real secrets in there - that can't be found elsewhere is a moot point. At least you will have the background to the debate - and for $25 it could work out a lot cheaper than the grade fees you might pay only to find all that glisters is not gold.
I also think that some of the newer books in the 'sabbatic' and 'typhonian' tradition can be equally enlightening - if not in some cases better - eg try Nathaniel Harris' 'Witcha: a book of cunning' and indeed my own books: 'Tankhem: seth and egyptian magick' & 'The Bull of Ombos'. Check out Jack Daw's Cornish witchcraft site - for much info on that current and indeed get a copy of Paul Huson's 'Mastering Witchcraft' before that disappears again. I know I'm recommending lots of my own stuff but I have been involved in various aspects of this mythos for a while now and think you will find important aspects of it in our list and websites.
How do you feel about Kenneth Grant's notion of the 'Tunnels of Seth'?
tankhem has turned out to be a short work more on certain themes that will be
elaborated as time goes by - hence the exploration of temple of Sety I ends
at the shrine of amon ra - kind of homebase - but if you work more with the temple you will in fact discover there is a real live 'tunnel of seth' - (personally i think each individual as they work will find these tunnels individually in different locations within their own 'erotic landscape' - ie not always in the egyptian mythos.
The idea of the klippotic tree is related I guess - also the tankhem mythos is more about the roots that lie behind the tree - but one theme i have noticed is the dialectic between 'plurality' and 'unity' - the equivalent of 'Kether' in the nightside tree, is, I believe called 'thaumiel' - meaning duality - and this is set against the unitary aspect of kether - it's interesting to compare this with ancient (egyptian) kingship - where at various times to ideal situation was thought to be dual rulership - rather than one unitary or despotic (Horus?) king - i think people are led to believe that a good strong solitary leader is better than a collective
entity - but i wonder if that is really true??
Is a 'guru' really necessary in order to learn magick,
especially the 'tantrik' variety?
The Hindu intellectual tradition has several different points of view on this - although one tends to hear the most recent. The personal teacher or mentor is pretty essential although it's obviously possible to get by without them - most people have no choice but to plough on without one. A good teacher can speed one's progress long the path. I'm not sure if the institution was ever meant to be a permanent relationship. People in the ancient world changed gurus as they needed more specific information. The invention of the book in the pagan world, shook things up a lot. The book becomes the teacher and the student is released from the need to memorize text. If the tantrik texts are insufficient without the guru - then why did those teachers bother writing them in the first place?? It's like those modern practitioners who insist they are giving secret knowledge, but if so, why do they put it in a book?? Max 'Moksha' Muller once criticized the Theosophical Society for saying there was a 'secret doctrine' - he maintained there was no esoteric tradition in India - its all there - in the text - the trick is in making it work - doing the practice.
An Indian friend once gave me a little Sanskrit phrase that for me puts the whole thing about teachers and paths into perspective - in my own words I have this as:
Footsteps of the Gnostic Sphinx
ÂOne foot from the teacher comes;
A second from others on the path;
A third from your very own self;
Lastly through the passage of time.Â
The Book of Shu
A little bit of fun but there is a truth in it - ie the teacher is only one quarter of the conditions necessary for spiritual growth - the others parts come from other students, from yourself or just through the passage of time.
Drugs (Etheogens) and Magick
'I am currently reading Visual Magick by Jan Fries. I really like it. Also it really resonates with me due to myself also being an artist.What intrigues me though - and this is the reason i am inquiring of you, having searched internet for some feedback about this - is he seems to not value hallucinogens. This is confusing to me, mainly because of my own experiences iwth hallucinogens which have been the most profound experiences in my life, but also from research I have done regarding their significance in shamanism worldwide, and other forms of spiritual movements.
I have also read from various sources that Mircea Eliade, who first claimed that hallucinogen use withing shamanism was a decadenct developmment coming later from non non-hallucinogenic ritual. A view it's claimed he changed in the later stages of his life. I also have read Shamanism and the Drug Propaganda by Dan Russell, who argues the world-wide prolific use of hallucinogens within shamanism and for spiritual inspiration, also influencing mythology--much of the hallucinogenic-plany symbolism being 'hidden' in the mythiologies. So, can you see why i wonder why Jan Fries doesn't seem to take this history into account?
'Its not true to say Jan doesn't value the use of etheogens etc - its just that, IMO, he is just as interested in how people learn to produce these drugs inside their brains by ritual, dance, seething etc - there is a lot more discussion of the things in Seidways - shaking, swaying and serpent mysteries, especially the chapter 'the cauldron of ceridwen' - its not the drug its the trance that is important surely - hence there is quite a lot on plant drugs in this book - but also some powerful physical techniques to replicate the experience that can indeed initially be opened up by drugs.
Varieties of useful meditation techniques
In your 'House of Life' document Mogg (p21 I think), you mention that you practice a Buddhist sitting meditation. Is this something likeinsight or vipassana meditation? I am familiar with this and would tend towards using it daily, although most occult guidence which I have seen seems to favour pranayama. I find pranayama better for concentrating my mind, but vipassana more beneficial all round.
I think at that stage I had in mind what to do whilst preparing for the more specifically magical meditation/visualization -I found at least three buddhist meditation techniques useful:
1. 'mindfulness of breathing' - which could be seen as a form of pranayama anyhows -
2. 'being compassionate' (vipassana)
3, 'just sitting' when you do a visualisation its often the way that you run out of mental stamina at some point- hence unless you want to just stop - its handy to have something up your sleeve to do until the 'visuals' restart or the time runs out - Not too many people favour ACs techniques these days although they probably do have their uses and certainly help to build mental stamina - he seemed to favour a kind of 'one pointedness' technique and that won't suite everyone - so its best, IMO to let it mutate into a targeted vision - or oscillate between various types.
Perhaps all these techniques lead to the same place - ie 'one pointedness' tends to mutate into lurid visions - and vice versa. Magick requires a good imagination - perhaps the tankhem ideal is closer to the tantrik 'overload of the senses' scenario - ie you try to form quite elaborate imaginal worlds - its what been called a 'rule governed creativity' - a middle way between absolute chaos and a blank
What can the ancients do for us?
Whilst reading Tankhem, it has become glaringly obvious the extent of the intricacy of the ancient mind. I have never been crass enough to assume that the scientific mind is superior, or even that it can draw parallel to the ancient mind, but I have been left in awe at just how far the ancient mind excels its modern contemporary. It just leaves me inquiring to the extent of their knowledge. Just how much and what did they know? More importantly for me, is how did it all start and is it possible to trace a genesis point of such thinking?Answer:
Tankhem only scratches the surface - more is coming all the time. The technology of the ancient world was far more advanced than we think - but was destroyed in one of those taliban moments starting, to be fair, just before the Christian story. Imagine how it would be if we had built on that base with no gap of 1500 years until the renaissance? In medicine alone it was only in the nineteenth century that physicians began again to wash themselves and their equipment before touching the patient!! We have caught up and overtaken now in most areas but probably not in the domain of consciousness and secrets of the body Âthat, IMO, is where there is still much to play for - imo
Why are the Abrahamic faiths so convinced they are right?
Why do they see themselves as so superior?
It is quite clear that the bible is opposed to polytheism, but why? Why do they consider their god superior? It may seem that I have started down the magickal path for the wrong reasons (that being to oppose my early conditioning) just by reading that last paragraph, but I am only asking that question because even though I was christened, I know little about Christianity.
As to Abrahamic religions Â they too have a hidden history of things like polytheism (see Patai: the Hebrew Goddess) But its the old story of the victor's writing the history - perhaps its also a bit of ethnocentric bias - the way we see things from the western metropolis - Asian scholars find it hard to understand how such a confused theology is given such a positive PR. It claims to be monotheistic yet has a singular male god - true monotheism would require an abstract principle. Besides Hindu scholars long worked out that polytheism was a more reasonable theistic approach to the prolix nature of reality.
Is the Necronomicon and its contents genuine?
To borrow some words from the historian Michael Woods Â its fake but also real'.
What is 'Occult Crime'?
As I write this a self-styled ÂsatanistÂ is in the news at the conclusion of his trial for the slaying his girlfriend. It is unlikely to be the last time such as crime is in the headlines (The Guardian 22 Jan 05). Coincidentally it is also the week when a picture of prince Harry, an heir to the British throne is also on the front pages. His photograph in Nazi uniform together with friends, one dressed in the white sheet of the Ku Klux Klan, another as a Âblack and white minstrelÂ has made quite a splash. I leave it to you to sort out what the theme of the fancy dress party might have been. Of course no-one ever thinks to link those kind of ÂoccultÂ images with violent crimes. But shock-rocker Marilyn Manson, thatÂs another story ainÂt it? Psychopaths exist in all societies. Restricting the discussion of taboo issues such as sacrifice and cannibalism will not, in my opinion make the world a safer place. Afterall weÂve had the way of restriction for a long while now and the results are every where to be seen. So called ÂoccultÂ crime has its own causes one of them being ignorance. ThatÂs why IÂm particularly keen to discuss this material in an informed way. We may not be able to stop violent crime but perhaps we can discourage the psychos from traducing the ideals of magick. The Hidden God and some taboo practices is undergoing something of a renaissance. The stream of thought leads to the contemporary magical conclusion that there is no need for violent sacrifice. The most powerful of all magical sacraments is freely given and does not involve harm to the donor. - mogg
Thursday, April 13, 2006
I travelled up to Cumbria to visit some wiccan friends. They had a house full of people for a second degree initiation on the saturday night. We watched the rather excellent 1960s film 'Legend of the Witches', just released on DVD. It prompted a discussion on the whole topic of 'sky clad' rituals. I should say that our hosts have always been keen on that particular aspects of wicca. But as some of us get older and less 'body beautiful', it become more and more tempting to consider other options.
Why do some magical people think this issue is so important? There are, in my opinion, two main issues here: Firstly there is an implicit eroticism in many wiccan rites. Secondly there is a strong believe in nakedness as a sign of deconditioning, as a visible sign of freedom from societal norms, and this includes an attempt to see the person beneath the clothes, even beneath the bodily shell. Fat or thin, beautiful or not so, it's not supposed to matter.
Mainstream culture is dominated by quite normative views of the body. What was once called 'body fascism' is back with a vengence. So whatever people say, there an awful lot of looking and judging of how others look. The magical community is as much prone to that as everyone else. Perhaps more so, given the current dominance of the commercial form of wicca as evidenced in several mainstream magazines such as 'Witches & Wicca', 'Spirit & Destiny' etc.
For these and many other reasons people's views are changing. Witchcraft & Magick is being eroticised. Nakedness will always retain its role in initiation - but could it be that the sight of older initiates, joyously obese, will become less common? There are many, 'performers' and 'audience', who would prefer it so : ) Eroticism in a rite is a lot more complex than nakedness. Nakedness per se is not erotic. Eroticism necessitates the selective exposure of flesh - the form in which it is concealed being almost as important as what is exposed. Consider the way the ancient Egyptians dressed. None but the gods were ever totally naked, although much flesh was on display, from the kilted, but bare chested men, to the topless women in their sleeve dresses.
On reflection I think eroticism is the way to go, and maybe for the time being forget all the 1960s stuff about 'the real you' which doesn't seem to apply anymore. The naked body is still a surface and can be as much of a mask as clothes. Perhaps our focus can shift to the adopting of a magical persona, which can also include being naked. It's a question of what works for you.
For many years the Sexual Freedom Coalition* has been working with these kind of issues. The magical world can learn something from their experiences. In their social events they are trying to creat a theatre of individual freedom - a pleasure dome if you like, in which a kind of gentle 'flirting' and 'posing' is the norm. Some people are just too sexually predatory or consumerist to really enter this environment without infringing another's space. The obvious example is the platoons of desperate heterosexuals in dinner jackets who are determined to get their money's worth. They often carry with them the same kinds of consumerist and judgemental attitudes that the majority of people in the pleasure dome are trying to avoid. The organisers of such happenings should and in fact do try to restrict their number to a manageable few or exclude them altogether. Perhaps that is one lesson we can learn from the social experiments of the 1960s - you have to learn to be free - it requires training and work - and some people maybe to just too damaged to ever make it to the pleasure dome?
[some of these thoughts sprang from a discussion of these issues at the recent Oxford Talking Stick. The Sexual Freedom Coalition has a conference on 6 May with guest speaker Alison Lapper. See http://www.sfc.org.uk/news-conference2006.htm for details]
Saturday, April 01, 2006
Skrying, astral contact and other freeform ritual work is indeed another important but often neglected aspect of GD. Again, new research is revealing that dream and vision questing was also a feature of the late antique Egyptian magical religion. Some contemporary practitioners tend to write off this feature of Victorian GD type work, thus it is often hidden or edited out in favour of a more masonic interpretations. Same goes for much Crowley ritual work. Doing so restricts your magick to one 'channel' and robs it of the valuble use of music, dance and trance induction. The same goes for ancient Egyptian magic, which for a long time was interpreted through the lens of the (supposed) Victorian GD techniques - which few people find very effective. It's worth thinking about this issue of multi-channel magick (I've borrowed the term from educational psychology.)
A useful corrective to mono-channel type magick come IMO from Chaos Magick and works by Jan Fries, especially Visual Magick. Incidentally it's been quite hard to get this message across - one recent encyclopedia on nature magick refused a piece on Crowley, because their 'crowley expert' said there was no need for him to be in - presumably because they felt he didn't practice nature magic - so the circle of misinformation continues!!
More information on the Heptagramme Rite is available in the modern reconstructed version in Steven Flower's interesting book
'Hermetic Magick: the postmodern Magical Papyrus of Abaris'
Its also recommended in my own book
'Tankhem: Seth and Egyptian Magick'
Because of the sevenfold nature of the rite - it is currently in use by several 'sethian' and 'sabbatic' groups as an alternative to the LBR. The whole business about the symbolism of the number seven, the starry plough etc., is something whose significance is spreading to many other practitioners.
Which leads on the the question of how many of the barbarous names of the occult tradition are based on Egyptian godnames, rubriks and stereotypical formulae? Many of the later were 'mistaken' for god names or voce magicae during the Roman revival. The best example off the top of my head is 'Ouphor' - which is not a god name but the name of the ritual for the opening of the mouth. In the PGM, only the name survives. The rite alluded to is extremely ancient and important in the animation of mummies and other fetish objects.
Thaphthartharath occurs in one such medieval grimoire as an invocation of Thoth.
Chris Lehrich goes through the whole QBL analysis of the name - which is interesting although I would have thought the first place to look would be in the Egyptian language itself - then Greek then Hebrew - I was thinking about it yesterday in my own 'house of life' and it could be something like:
Thaph thar tharath
Which is very close to the name Thoth, 3 times by reduplication -
which is a very egyptian thing - hence Thrice Great Thoth!
Incidentally a new edition (text and translation) of the egyptian 'Book of Thoth'
was published last year - the mss thought to be the work of eqyptian hermeticists.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Saturday, January 07, 2006
'The forty-four cemeteries of New Orleans lend themselves to mystery, ghost stories and occult tourism. Local citizens call them 'cities of the dead'. First time visitors receive a surreal shock - ancient ruins, marble monuments and tall crypts celebrate death and refuse to sterilize, deny or make it merely a medical fact Against the skyline, angels, crosses and statues of grieving mothers make the aura of decomposition exquisite. Mile after mile of tombs resemble houses, small mansions or places of worship - neighborhoods where another branch of the family lives . . . The Creole citizens of New Orleans came to be infatuated with tales of open graves, gruesome deaths and skeletons or ghosts who lead independent lives along the avenues of the cities of the dead. . . (p. 94)
This new biography by Martha Ward is published by University of Mississippi Press, at approx 20 UK pounds (ISBN 1-57806-629-8). Beneath the dull gray cover lurks a colorful hardback documenting the history of the New Orleans Voodoo clan of Marie Laveau and her eponymous daughter. Marie I, born in 1801 died 1881, is buried in the famous New Orleans Tomb which every year is visited by many thousands of pilgrims. She and her daughter lived extraordinary lives, spanning the purchase of Louisiana by the fledgling USA, the civil war, the decline and suppression of Voodoo and the rise of segregation.
Its unlikely that any earlier author had as much freedom to research the subject, using original documentary material, her own intuition and the extensive archive of oral history compiled during the years of the depression by the Federal Writer's Project. Marie Laveau's magick is clearly neither wholly black nor white - she was charismatic enticing her second racially white husband to declare himself black despite the vicious race laws of the time. Time and time again her actions emerge as not quite what they seem - the accusation that she owned slaves changes significance when the author's painstaking research exposes how she and her husband manipulated the law to resist slavery and secure a kind of freedom to anyone in their orbit.
Her daughter (also Marie Laveau) at first resisted but later embraced Voodoo. 'she liked parties, she loved the attention men paid to her striking good looks. She danced the Bamboula and the Calinda in Congo square on Sunday afternoon. There each time she ran into Jim Alexander (Dr Jim not Dr John??) a voodoo practitioner and respected two-headed doctor of Hoodoo, he confronted her; he told her that she radiated power. He offered to initiate her, to be her mentor, to take her through the door to the spirits. She turned him down time after time, because "she would rather dance than make love". One night however ' a great rattlesnake entered her bedroom and spoke to her.' p110.
Some say that in 1999 she returned to a St John's Eve Voodoo gathering on Bayou St John - hopefully she will return. Highly recommended book [Mogg]
Yesterday, in the House of Life, I was reading Jan Assmann's 'Search for God in Ancient Egypt' - which I really recommend, even if some of his theories are very controversial - he does also talk about comparative religion and how it might apply to the Egyptian quest.
Many people talk about different _forms_ of deity or contrast for example Tantrik ‘ideas’. Seems like many people are in their personal religious quest, seeking a common religious experience rather than a narrow cultural expression. Personally I am very drawn to the project of reconstructing this common ground between traditions - including the 'international' language of magick.
Jan Assmann talks about three types of religious experience:
2. Mystical / personal piety
3. Historic or religion of personal destiny
Corresponding examples would be -
1. Neolithic 'shamanism' (having no real geographical domain)
2. Hindu mysticism & yoga
3. e.g.: Judaism
Incidentally Assmann says none of these models quite fits the Egyptian material 'as a whole' but there are notable exceptions - which is where we all come in. For example, the cult of Hathor is very ecstatic - involving crazy dancing and consumption of beer - laced with red ochre - (Guinness might work here ;) is very apposite in this context). Another important exception occurs in the Cult of Seth - which probably has all the aspects of ecstatic/shamanic religion, a mystical or path of personal piety and perhaps (as in the case of the King Ramesses) - an notion of personal destiny.