Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Green Man and the Dragon (review)

By Paul Broadhurst, isbn 0951323679, £12.95, illustrated (some in colour)

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

Handfasting of Dave Rankine & Sorita D'Este

I was honoured to be invited to their long awaited handfasting at the beautiful Rollright Stones, on the Oxfordshire/Warwickshire border. I was also pleased to be asked to do one of the readings, no only that but also to invoke one of the four 'patron' gods for the ritual. It fell to me to invoke Lucifer - a complex deity - perhaps even a post modern contruction. The first line that popped into my head: 'Got your priest in a whirl, not sure if you're a boy or girl' - but sounds familiar.

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
Lucifer I

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

Hindu Mâyâ & Vipra

A guide to Hindu Magick

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.

For example:

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
diksha (initiation)
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.


leading to:

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
≫ vipa
vipá m. a learned man (= medhāvin) Naigh. iii, 15
• (ā), f. speech (= vāc) ib. i, 11