on an Easter long ago
the Dark Night of the Soul
the self crucified on the cross of Ego
“Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?”
It is Finished!
the stone, Restriction,
rolled away by Will
light beamed forth
it was I who arose
bearing the Light
no grace, no guilt,
no sin, no god in sight
stepping forth into the Day
created by the spark within
shedding rays of Light, Life, Love and Liberty
©2010 by Shawn Gray.
Sexuality, while it should be a topic of freer thinking in the pagan community, is still viewed with great suspicion in many of our circles, covens, and pagan philosophies. In fact, it has become a very sensitive topic, bringing out suspicion, fear and misinformation, which we would normally discover in the world of our evangelical Christian counterparts. I for one, being a former evangelical seminarian, and well versed in their philosophy, have come to see many pagans as harboring the same misconceptions. And those who have published anything on the subject are seen by some as strange or otherwise abnormal. In my opinion, there are several reasons for this phenomenon.
Many pagans come from abusive, strict, religious upbringings, where the ideas of sexual expression were literally in the vise of fear based teachings. Being a child of the Catholic Church, my peers and I were deeply indoctrinated — anything sexual was purely for the bonds of marriage, and primarily for procreative purposes. The topics of pleasurable sex, masturbation, desire, and normal biological functions were taught as “sinful,” dirty, and repulsive. Many parents, ingrained in these ridiculous doctrines, passed on the teachings to their children as universal truths to be obeyed at any cost, whether that cost be physical or emotional. What is really amusing to me is that in the Bible itself, there’s a book named “Songs of Solomon,” that is filled with sexual references. However, I never received one iota of teaching in seminary school from this book. In fact, I never heard one speech, lesson, or sermon on this book.
If you expressed sexual desires that were biologically normal and functional, you were told this was bad in the eyes of God” and that it would lead down the road to damnation. This just furthers the damage in a child and in many adults in the religious world, who, instead of doing their own independent research, are instructed to simply, “trust and obey.” One is never to think, and then decide if one should obey. Sadly, the Christian world, even in this calendar 21st century, continues to espouse these spiritually and sexually damaging teachings.
As pagans, we are supposed to be on a higher plane, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. Remember why you became a pagan? Was it not because you experienced the spiritually deadening effects of the fundamentalist realm? Would you as a pagan still carry and pass along that emotional baggage to your children? Did you not discover a newness of spirit and emotional freedom in being pagan? No matter what your tradition, why would anyone allow themselves to be bound in the past?
As a person of color, I am often asked whether it matters about my “alternative” view of spirituality, and my personal practices. This is a question that seems to bother a lot of people, especially those reared in very structured backgrounds. I ask them this question. Was there a law written somewhere, that because you were raised a certain direction, that you have no power to change your spiritual path? None have ever answered in the affirmative. Yet too many people, because of birth culture and customs, simply refuse to change, or to even explore the possibility of different paths.
Some are afraid that if they do make a conscious change, there will be ethereal after effects, such as their “soul” going to hell. This has been deeply ingrained in most people I encounter, especially those whose background was of a very strictly enforced religious nature. When I was an evangelical, there were numerous episodes of hearing ministers strenuously warning people against exploring other spiritual paths. Their way was the “only true way” to whatever God they worshiped. To do otherwise was to endanger your afterlife. For many years, I sort of believed this, although there were many lingering doubts. I could not fathom in my mind and heart any loving Deity that would throw someone into a burning, boiling, hellish atmosphere, simply because they were of another faith. What if such a person died without ever hearing about my religion? Are they going to hell? What about deeply spiritual people such as Gandhi, Hindu by faith, who lived a great life. Is he in hell now? The rules seemed impossible, narrow-minded, and bigoted.
Spirituality and birth culture do have many common roots, especially when you delve into the issues of ancient history, tribal customs, and sectarian beliefs and practices — you can understand why people adhered to their particular spiritual or religious practices. Some tribal cultures were not as educated as we are, and certainly did not have the diversity of ideas that we enjoy. And yet even in these so called “modern times,” there are still those who live under this type of emotional and spiritual bondage, along with others who are imposing the so called “rules.”
People have an inborn nature of exploration, seeking new ideas that lead to more innovative thinking. If not, the computer I write this on would probably never have existed. We would still be lighting our homes with candles, and cooking with fires and cauldrons. The old superstitions of life would still apply in everything. People such as Galileo, Copernicus, Marco Polo, Isaac Newton and others would have never made their wondrous discoveries. Think about a world where Leonardo DaVinci did not invent or create. And yet, even today we still have many people following as sheep, rather than striking out and discovering their true spiritual identity. Fear of the unknown, potential loss, and admonitions from rather turgid doctrines are the elements of blame here. True spirituality is where you have balance and harmony. It comes when you have a newness of life and spirit, not ignorance and fear or preconceived notions of the world and people around you who are “different.” It accepts all as true spiritual beings who harbor hopes and dreams and are unique in their individual natures. There are still too many people bound by the traditions of parents, birth cultures and upbringing. When they finally break free, then the truth of spirituality will enliven their hearts, and spirits. Their minds will be open to new and wondrously creative concepts.
Ancient pagans did not view sexuality for the sole purpose of having children. They understood the joys, ecstasies, and pleasures of sexuality. For many paths, sex is considered the “Divine Union” of the goddesses and gods. For example, look to the works of the Kama Sutra. Filled with sexual positions, there is the deep belief that the Indian deities engaged in sexual dalliances, doing so with joy and enthusiasm. Even in pre-Christian parts of Asia, Europe, and Africa, one will discover many examples of various deities having sexual exchange. If you are willing to do the research, these ideals will become clear as crystal.
Sacred sexuality has a rich history. In the pre-Christian era of the Roman and Greek empires, two gods and several goddesses are noted for sexually attuned festivals, and practiced open sexuality in many rituals, temple practices and in certain cycles of the seasons. Bacchus and Dionysus were among the gods who notably embraced sexuality. Celtic deities too numerous to list had rituals that were intermingled with sexual activity. Certain sabbats and esbats are sexually attuned with nature. Sexuality is not just a physical expression. It is a mixture of physical, emotional, and spiritual investment that, when mixed with an atmosphere of love, reverence, and mutual honor, reaps joyful and boundless rewards.
We are born as sexual beings. From birth. sex is very much a component of our linear existence, in both spiritual and physical terms. To deny, hide or misinform ourselves or others shows a highly abnormal attitude concerning that which is perfectly natural, as well as nurturing. The pagan community needs to examine itself as a whole and come to grips with this issue. Sexual freedom is a part of our very being.
Does this mean that we should not be sexually responsible? Should we just have “free for all sex” just because we are pagan? Of course not. As with anything, there are responsibilities. Sacred sexuality should never be treated as a libido driven hippie fest. Unfortunately, there are those who do so, making otherwise responsible and respectable pagans who explore this issue appear as “perverts” or “bent abnormally.” Sexuality should be joyful, and a free expressions of your pagan personality. It does represent the “Divine Union.” Each person should honor their sexual partner as Goddess or God, according to their gender.
Even in a circle or Coven, rituals of sacred sexuality should be carefully scripted, composed with the sacred being the highest goal, and all activity should be safe, sane and consensual. Consider those words as a Wiccan would the Rede, or the Law of Return. Even spiritual tools, such as crystals, runes, tarot, and pendulum are useful in the discovery of sexual wisdom. Unlocking the mysteries of love, romance, intimacy, sexual desires, and partnership will elevate your spirituality, I encourage us all to explore our pagan sexual natures.
©2010 by Mel Fleming II.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.
Bio; Rev. Mel J. Fleming II is organizer of the Circle of the Pheonyx Sacred sexuality groups. He is an eclectic pagan of 15 years, having completed courses in human relations, human sexuality, marriage and family, counseling, abnormal psychology, comparative religions. He is ordained by the Universal Life church, with a Masters in philosophy, just having obtained his Ph.d. He is the author of the newly published book The Tarot, and the Mysteries of Love and Sex, along with Ms. Cynthia Joyce Clay of Oestara Publishing.
Not long ago I had the chance to participate in my first sweat lodge. I thought it might be useful to set down my impressions of the experience, for others who have never undergone it but who are curious as to what is involved, or may be thinking about undertaking the ordeal for themselves.
The sweat lodge is an ancient part of shamanism that is widespread around the world in various forms. It was the ritualized spiritual custom for many of the native peoples of North America. A modern secular derivative of the practice is the Scandinavian sauna. In the sweat lodge the body is subjected to prolonged exposure to high-temperature steam. This causes abundant perspiration, hence the name.
The lodge in which I participated was overseen by a group of shamans in my part of Eastern Canada, among them some of the Mi’kmaq tribe, which is the Indian tribe native to the province of Nova Scotia, and to other areas of the north-eastern part of North America, such as New Brunswick and northern Maine.
Prior to undergoing the sweat lodge, I had no first-hand knowledge of what it would involve, and did not know what to bring with me. I wondered if I would have to be naked in the lodge during the ceremony. Not to worry, everyone wore clothing of some sort. I was told that an old pair of jeans would be fine, but that I should bring along a change of clothing, since whatever I wore during the ceremony would get wringing wet. I wondered if I should wear shorts instead of long pants but was told by one of the people who planned to participate that, no, jeans would be fine. Mistake — but not a fatal one. Shorts are the clothing of choice for the sweat lodge.
The men generally wear loose shorts, and undergo the experience naked from the waist up. The women wear loose dresses or light tops, and skirts or shorts. In the sweat lodge ceremony I attended, the women were not naked from the waist up, which hardly seemed fair to me. Why should the men get to strip off their tops, but not the women? None the less, that’s the way it was. There is a general custom of modesty in the sweat lodges that are held across North America. However, everyone goes barefoot inside the lodge. No exceptions to this rule.
We were asked to arrive at the sweat lodge an hour before the beginning of the ceremony, which took place in a small clearing in a wooded valley at the end of a long private road, far from any human habitation. The result was complete privacy for the ceremony. Two lodges were being run simultaneously — one for men only in the smaller of the two sweat lodges, and another larger mixed group of men and woman in the bigger lodge. The men’s group consisted of about half a dozen men and the shaman who led the ceremony. I attended the mixed group, which had around eighteen or so participants, plus the person leading the ritual activities.
When I got to the clearing, a huge bonfire was blazing over a pile of stones. It was a nice, mild pre-spring day in Nova Scotia. Most of the snow was gone from the open patches of ground but the winter-browned grass and the sod were still frozen solid. The breeze was fitful and tossed the rising smoke of the fire in all directions, so that it was impossible to avoid it no matter where I stood or sat. Benches had been arranged around the fire, but the smoke was so capricious, no one could use them. We stood around talking while the stones got hot.
One of the organizers of the sweat lodge took me aside and gave me the low-down on what was expected. She told me that I would have to take off my boots and socks to enter the lodge, that it was necessary to crawl through the door and that I should not stand up while inside the lodge. All movement in the circular lodge was sunwise around the central fire pit. She warned that I should take off any jewellery as people had sometimes found that wearing jewellery during a lodge could result in burns on the skin when the metal of the jewellery became hot. She also told me to remove my contact lenses.
The larger lodge was a round, hut-shaped structure about twelve feet across and six feet or so tall. It was made of a frame of slender poles bent together, and was covered in fabric similar to blanket material. It had no windows of any kind, and a single door in the north side facing the fire, so low that it could only be entered by getting on hands and knees. This doorway was closed by a flap of fabric. Inside, the floor was bare turf. I noticed a small vent at the very top of the hemispherical lodge, which I presumed was there for ventilation, to prevent us all from suffocating.
I have to admit, after the recent disaster in the autumn of 2009 concerning a sweat lodge in Sedona, Arizona, in which three participants were killed and 21 others sickened, being able to get enough fresh air was a concern in my mind. I was glad to see this vent, small though it seemed to be. It was baffled to prevent the entry of any light.
In the center of the floor there was a circular pit around three feet in diameter and about a foot deep. I knew in a vague sort of way what the pit was for, but did not have a clear idea of how it would work during the ceremony itself.
All these features of the inside of the sweat lodge I learned only when I crawled inside for the first time. Before that happened, we performed a brief ceremony while standing in a circle around the bonfire. Each of the six directions of space, and the center, was acknowledged successively in prayer. This was done in an interesting way. Volunteers were asked to speak for the directions. Those who volunteered did not recite a prepared script, but spoke spontaneously from their hearts as the impulse arose within them at that moment. This resulted in uneven prayers, some better than others, but it had a spontaneity that I liked.
When we addressed the east, we all turned to face the east; when we addressed the west, we turned to the west. When we gave thanks and acknowledgment to the earth, the downward direction, many of those present knelt and touched the ground, although this must have been voluntary since many remained standing. I chose to crouch as a mark of respect.
A little mix-up occurred in the sequence of prayers. It was supposed to be the gods of the center that were acknowledged last, but the person speaking for the center jumped in too early, and we ended up praying to the sky last. The leader of the ceremony joked that she was sure the gods would understand, and would not be angry.
Inside the Lodge
We all took off our shoes, lined up on the frozen grass, and crawled into the sweat lodge. The men took up positions on the right side, and the women on the left side, from the viewpoint of the door facing inward. There was enough space to crawl around the lodge sunwise between the seated participants, who had their backs to the wall of the lodge, and the central fire pit.
It was pretty cramped in there, and uncomfortable. The ground was cold and hard, and more than a little damp. The wall of the lodge was uneven. I found that I could not lean back against it without having a ridge of wood dig into my spine. There was very little room to put our legs. I tried sitting cross-legged for a while, but in the end extended my feet toward the fire pit. That seemed the most comfortable position. Nobody wanted to press against those beside them, so everyone was trying to avoid contact by scrunching up, but there was so little room in the lodge, contact was unavoidable. This may have been deliberate on the part of the leaders of the lodge. We were told that the sweat lodge is an ordeal, and that it is supposed to be uncomfortable.
It was time for more warnings. If anyone could not stand the heat a moment longer, they were to call out in a loud voice “open the door! open the door!” which was the signal for the door to be opened. It would have to be called out loudly because there was going to be a lot of noise during the ceremony. Anyone who could not take the heat would be allowed to leave the lodge, but we were all asked not to give in to the heat unless we absolutely thought we were about to die, because it was very disruptive to have to open the door in the middle of the ceremony. We were also cautioned not to crawl into the fire pit in the darkness of the lodge by mistake, because the stones in the pit would be very hot. Well, duh.
I sat there a little nervously, trying to adjust my legs to a comfortable position, but found that there was no comfortable position. I tried to keep the sharp edge of wood on the side of the lodge from digging into my back, but every time my shoulders slumped, there it was again. Even so, I was glad I was sitting on the outside rim of the lodge — some people were sitting in a second circular row in front of me close to the fire pit. I was glad for the coolness of the side of the lodge at my back, and for the coolness of the earth under me. I wondered if I would be the first one to crack from the heat and call out “open the door!” That would be embarrassing.
I wore a T-shirt and jeans. Most other men were naked to the waist and wore shorts. I wondered if my extra clothing would make the ordeal more difficult for me. The person beside me told me that I could strip down to my underwear – nobody would mind – but I kept my clothes on. I wondered if the wedding ring on my finger would burn my skin, or if my metal belt buckle would burn through my jeans. We had been told to drink plenty of water, but I had only swallowed a single mouthful.
Part of the spiritual energy stimulated during a sweat lodge comes from this uncertainty as to what is going to take place. It is strongest the first time, when the person undergoing the lodge ceremony has no idea of what is about to happen. I was primed for a peak spiritual experience. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to come out of the lodge alive.
How the Sweat Lodge Works
The way a sweat lodge works is this — stones from the fire that are called “stone people” are carried into the lodge and placed one by one into the fire pit in the center of the floor. About eight stones are used, and each is around ten to twenty pounds in weight. They are so hot from the bonfire, that when they enter the dimness of the lodge, they glow red in their centers, and you can feel the heat radiating from them even from a long distance.
Since I’d never undergone a sweat lodge before, I had assumed that the heat came from the rocks directly, by radiation. Not so. The heat is in the form of steam, which is generated by pouring water from a bucket over the hot rocks using a ladle. The rocks are so hot, that when the water touches them it is instantly converted to steam. I was afraid the boiling water might splash over my feet, which were close to the pit, so I covered them with a towel, but I did not need to worry. The rocks are so hot, the water does not boil or splash, it is all turned to steam instantly. The water comes from a large bucket that holds around four gallons, which is set beside the fire pit next to the person in charge of the ritual. That person controls the steam.
There are three levels of heat in a sweat lodge, as I soon learned. There is the first level, when a stone is being lifted through the open door on the tines of a pitchfork to the warning call of “rock!” and then blessed with a scattering of herbs, which burst into little sparks of fire and smoke the instant they touch its glowing surface. All the rocks together radiate a large amount of heat that can be felt on the face and skin like the heat from a blazing fireplace.
The second level of heat is when the first ladle of water is poured over the rocks in the pit, and a cloud of white steam rushes upward with a great hiss like that of a giant serpent. It is many times hotter than the heat from the rocks alone. The steam rises upward to the roof of the lodge, and then rolls around and down the sides in a moving curtain, so that it first touches the participants on the head and the back of the neck. It is easy to feel on the exposed tips of the ears.
The final and most intense level of heat is when the door flap is sealed tightly so that no trace of light or air can enter, and the inside of the lodge is plunged into absolute darkness. The ventilation from the open door prevents the full effects of the steam from being felt, but when the door flap is shut, there is nothing to cool the inside of the lodge. The level of heat is magnified several times over. It is most intense a few seconds after the water is applied to the rocks, when the curtain of steam has had time to fly up to the roof and roll its way down the walls.
Each ordeal lasts as long as the water in the bucket. The faster the water is applied to the rocks, the hotter it gets. I half-expected the rocks to explode and scatter hot fragments over all of those sitting around the pit when they were hit with splashes of icy water, but was told that the rocks were basalt and very old, excellent for holding the heat without breaking down. And indeed, none of the rocks cracked.
We did not just sit there in the dark and suffer the heat. All the while the door was shut and the water was being applied to the rocks, the air was filled with the sound of a rattle being shaken and often with the rhythmic pounding of a flat shamanic drum. The leaders of the lodge chanted and sang songs, some with words that were recognizable, and others native songs that seemed to have no words, or only a few words repeated over and over. Everyone was encouraged to join in. Many people began their own chants and songs when the initial song was dying down, so that a continuous noise of singing and chanting was achieved. In part, I think this chanting was designed to distract the mind away from the ordeal of the heat, but in part it was an invocation to the spirits of nature that were being honoured by the ceremony.
We did four sessions in the lodge that afternoon — by that I mean four times when the door was sealed shut and the bucket of water ladled over the hot rocks. New rocks were placed into the pit for each session, so that they would be hot enough to turn the water to instant steam. The first session was devoted to honouring the Mother Earth and women’s mysteries. The last was free-form, during which we were invited to pray and speak as the impulse arose within us. Each session lasted around half an hour, and we opened the flap of the lodge and exited to cool off between sessions, and to drink water.
In the middle of the second session, the leader threw ladles full of icy water over the people inside the lodge. I think it was designed to shock us into a more intense self-awareness of the time and place. We didn’t know it was coming because of the pitch darkness. The first ladle-full caught me square in the face. It was quite a surprise. I suspect the leader of the session aimed it at me, because the experience was completely new to me, and I would have no idea it was coming, but how he managed to hit my face so accurately with the first shot in total darkness, I don’t know.
During the hottest part of the sweat lodge experience, it is difficult to breath easily. The steam is so hot and dense that it burns the insides of your nose, and if you try to breathe through your mouth, it burns your lips and tongue. We were told to breath through out bared teeth at those times. I found that this did not help much. It made my teeth too hot. The best approach, for me, was to breath very, very shallowly through the nose, and very slowly so that the steam was drawn in gradually, not fast enough to burn. The steam in the air can become quite dense. When the door-flap is first opened after a session, admitting light, the steam is so thick in the air inside the lodge that you can barely see across to the other side.
Needless to say, I got soaked to the skin at each session. Standing outside in front of the smoking bonfire served to half dry me off, but I was never completely dry before we crawled in for the next session. My bare feet on the frozen ground had the hardest time. They became numb but I was able to warm them by holding them up close to the bonfire, and that prevented them from being frozen too badly.
I learned that many of my fears had been groundless. My wedding ring did not burn my skin. Maybe this was because I took care to shield my ring from the direct contact of the new steam as it rolled around the lodge. I could probably have worn my contact lenses, because I kept my eyes closed most of the time inside the lodge. Since the darkness was total, there was not much point in keeping them open.
The herbs that were mixed with the water poured over the stones left a curious taste at the back of my throat for a time, but no ill effects. Apparently, it is possible to modify the effects of the steam by putting various herbs in the water. Each shaman has his or her own recipes of herbs to use with the water.
The Peace Pipe
After the four sessions in the lodge, participants were invited to sit around the fire pit inside the lodge with the door-flap left open, and share a peace pipe. Many chose not to do so, including myself, because they did not smoke and did not wish to expose their lungs to tobacco smoke, and this was fine with the leaders of the lodge. No aspersions were cast on those who stayed outside during the pipe ceremony.
The general mood inside the sweat lodge throughout all four sessions was one of joyful exuberance. Everyone was encouraged to sing, chant, and release their emotions, and everyone seemed to do just that. There was nothing heavy or forbidding in the ceremonies — it was all child-like happiness that comes from living in the moment. Prayers were given, spirits were seen by many of those who participated, and prayers were answered. A good time truly was had by all.
©2010 by Donald Tyson.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.
Donald Tyson is the author of Sexual Alchemy: Magical Intercourse with Spirits, Familiar Spirits, and Soul Flight: Astral Projection and the Magical Universe, among other works. You can visit his website here.
This is the first in a series of articles in my column “Faith and Healing in Paganism.” I must say that I am eager to see where the discussion will go, and I hope you can share some of my excitement along the way.
The focus of this column will be on healing. The advantage of this focus is that it allows for articles on healing, pagan and comparative religious experiences, and cross-cultural perspectives on many pagan and magical practices. My specific approach as a healer is usually embodiment, or the experience of a person being inside their body, rather than being “in their head.” I am looking forward, in future posts, to writing on aspects of healing that seem to be problematic, but because of the larger debates going on, it is probably important to start with “faith” as a topic.
I feel some trepidation using the word “faith” in a pagan context. Certainly, I am unwilling to use it unexamined and undefined. That, then, will be the purpose of this first column: to look at the meaning of faith as a basic human experience of the numinous, and to look at what other meanings have been added to it, so that they can be stripped away, allowing the flowering of something that is more wholly pagan. In discussing faith in a pagan context, it will be critical to cut the core idea away from many of its associations and, in the long run, pagans will need to redefine “faith” to match pagan cosmology and theology.
Faith does not mean what we think it means.
An examination of the meaning of faith is, I believe, timely. In the news media, in current books and magazines, and on the internet, there are ongoing discussions of the meaning and importance of faith. The many authors all have different meanings for the word. Some imply belief alone, some mean unquestioning belief in a religious context, and others hold it to be an irrational belief in a system opposed to humanist rationality. While these may all agree with one another on some points, none of them reach to the core of the idea, or more accurately, the core of the experience of faith.
Faith is associated with the dominant monotheistic religions, as well as with “blind” belief. Just this week, as I was writing, Newsweek (February 22, 2010 edition) had two discussions about religion: one about Moderate Islam, and the other about the debates around teaching religion at Harvard. The cultural pitfalls that surround discussing religion and faith, the social dangers of disagreeing with someone else’s protestations of faith, and the general humanist vs. religious aspects of faith are all apparent parts of the cultural landscape. In short, everyone is talking about faith.
“Faith” is a dirty word in some circles, even, or especially, pagan circles. Yet at the same time, a religion free of “faith” would be a hollow thing. I believe that pagans should come to their own understanding of what faith is, recognizing the differences and similarities of their experiences to those of other religions. Faith is what happens to the human mind when it is confronted with spiritual presences that are vastly greater than us. For pagans, however, that is not some distant, solitary God. In my experience, there is an immanence to our spirituality, the awareness of the spirit in all things. This “spirit” is not somehow separate and directing, but interwoven and integral with the world. For pagans, such experience is not tied to removal from the world we live in, but rather it ties us more closely to this world. The clear experience of the “numinous other” does not have to happen only in some distant Heaven, but is just as valid as we stand here on the Earth.
Faith has come to mean many things, mostly as a result of our cultural exposure to Western Christianity. What has happened is that the simple, unclouded experience we could call faith has been redefined and informed by two thousand years of tradition based on different underlying assumptions of the universe — ones that, as pagans, we categorically reject. Perhaps the most important of these is the belief that the world of the spirit is remote, and somehow greater in power than the world in which we live. To hold the earth as sacred disrupts this separation; to hold the earth as inherently and simultaneously physical and spiritual is to begin to recognize that these divisions are not “outside” of us but “inside.” At the same time, as members of our culture, these are mental associations that we often unthinkingly accept. They are simply part of the way our culture and language are “shaped.”
For example, I would like to critique the idea that faith and belief are synonymous. This suggestion is not true, at least not as I am going to define faith below. Faith is a spiritual experience which can lead to belief, but it is not the same thing. Culturally, faith has come to mean “unquestioning belief.” Let’s look at the simple sentence, “I have faith in Sarah.” What does this generally mean? Well, if I read it, I would say that it means that the speaker has an unquestioning belief about Sarah. It probably does not mean that the speaker has had (or is having) a spiritual experience based on Sarah. This is a co-opting of the word “faith” for much more mundane reasons. It is this understanding of faith that I wish to escape. It might be easier, with all the associations that come with the word, to turn our backs on it, avoid it, and dodge the debate. That would mean that we have taken the easy way out. Instead, I suggest that we embrace the term, taking our place in the great intellectual and religious wrestling match that is going on around us. Some might argue that the specific word “faith” is not important. However, in the end, I cannot use a different term because faith is the best term for the experience I am discussing.
Faith is personal and spiritual.
What I would like to do now is momentarily step aside from the above debate and talk about what “faith” means, not so much as a word, but as an experience. Behind the many uses of the word, I would argue, there is a simple experience of the Divine. Faith begins in the moment that one travels the road from “I believe in higher powers” to “I have direct experience of higher powers.” That is what faith, as a word, means here. This is not about blind belief, but about beliefs that seem blind from the outside because the person who carries them has based them on experiences that are personal and cannot truly be shared. Faith is about experiences that are beyond words.
Faith is a spiritual experience. The ideas attached to that experience, and used to interpret it, are actually a mental filter between the numinous and the everyday mind. Religion, in the context of numinous experience, is not so much a set of beliefs as an interpretive construct for understanding that which is purely spiritual — or perhaps more accurately, outside of everyday experience. Traditionally, in Western culture, religion tries to codify, interpret, and pass down to future generations these valued experiences. What the culture is less good at, in my opinion, is accepting that these beliefs are interpretations of something that was intensely personal and contextual. The words, and not the spirit behind them, are recognized as sacred. It is in this way that faith and belief have become entangled.
Faith is a key part of human religious experience.
What is faith, then? If it is not a set of blind, non-rational beliefs that we pass from generation to generation, then what? Faith, as I mean it here, is directly analogous to the Christian “state of grace,” the direct communication with something (usually represented as a god-figure) that informs and directs our experiences in the world. That sounds pretty heady, doesn’t it? Well, it is. This is not an experience that belongs alone to the Christian Charismatics, or the Sufis of Islam. It is a basic experience that belongs to all people. The religions themselves, the sets of beliefs that we share, are ways that we use to find meaning and relate these experiences in words. Faith, itself, goes beyond words. Faith does not belong to the part of the human mind that uses words.
Years ago, when I was being social with friends, a woman turned to me and asked, “Do you believe in witchcraft?” I looked back at her and responded, “Do you believe in rocks?” “But rocks exist!” “Yes, exactly.” My point then, as now, is that only ideas and beliefs can be analyzed for truth value, and that once we have experienced something, it is not a matter of belief. Moments of faith, therefore, are transformative. They realign our perceptions of the world. To wax metaphorical, belief alone can do no more than sow the fields of faith. That is not to say that belief is without merit itself, but it does mean that belief is not faith. Belief, however, does allow us to interpret and ascribe meaning to our experiences of the other.
With our hands, we reach out and touch rocks, and we know that they exist. Certainly, we can argue the implications of the idea of “exist,” and say that the meaning of “exist” that we use in our culture is probably horribly wrong, but we have no doubt that they exist. We can say that they do not exist outside of our own minds, and while that might be true, we can nonetheless pick them up, admire them, or make houses from them. By placing existence in our minds, we have simply changed the value of the word “exist.”
With our spirits, we can reach out and touch the numinous. With our spirits, we can look around us and see the effects of that spirit within the world. This is not something that is solely the purview of certain religions, but is instead something that is a part of all humans. Insofar as we are in touch with our own spirits, we are aware of the spirits of others. This recognition of the spirits of others is called “compassion.” This compassion is in fact a key aspect of healing work. It is important in Christian and Muslim faith healing, it is important in such modalities as Reiki, and is important in the practices of Buddhism. I am suggesting that these religions are all pointing to the same experience: the awareness, by means of our own spirits, of the existence of the spirits of others. But, let me throw in a word of caution. Compassion is not simply “being nice.” Compassion is not a weakness. And compassion is a virtue, but not the only one.
Like compassion, faith is an opening of a part of the human spirit to the outside. As a healer, I would argue that the opening to faith is a valuable part of being a healthy human. Faith is as much a part of us as “instinct” or “being grounded” (a term which I will argue in a later column has two separate meanings, depending on context). Of course, while we might like to be paragons of virtue, the purpose of virtue is to have something for which to strive, not berate ourselves and others for not living up to our beliefs.
Pagans will need to redefine faith to match pagan cosmology and theology.
For faith to be a useful thing for pagans, we must reexamine the foundational ideas out of which all other notions grow. These foundations will be different from those of the monotheistic religions of the world, but not unrelated. Faith should be a part of pagan religion, as should belief, but it need not be the sole foundation.
For this, we must remove from the term a belief that faith alone is the cornerstone of religion. With all this talk of faith, it would be very easy to slip into a position that it is the core of religion. But for pagan religious experience, it is important to relegate faith to a place where it is balanced with other aspects. Faith can be a guide, but reason, compassion, and grounded experience of both our culture and the world at large must be balanced as well. Faith offers one kind of truth, but that truth should be recognized for its value without being placed on an untouchable pedestal. The beliefs that come from faith must be recognized as personal and contextual. The experiences can be powerful, but it is sheer hubris to believe that they are more “true” or more “valuable” than other kinds of knowledge.
Pagan faith lends itself to being integrated into the wider, global world, without leaving us helpless to act in it. Pagan religions are, by their nature and creed, more accepting of a wider world in which there is a polyvocalism, rather than a single voice of Truth. For this, we must focus on living in the world as it is, not as we believe it should be.
©2010 by Christopher Drysdale.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.
April 30, 2010 by Gerald del Campo
Filed under alchemy, christianity, columns, experimental, gnosticism, hermeticism, magick, philosophy, qabalah, religion and spirituality, the dictionary of traditional magick and etherical science, thelema
A column by Gerald del Campo, The Dictionary of Traditional Magic and Etherical Science features ten author-selected definitions per issue. The definitions included in Mr. del Campo’s Dictionary do not necessarily reflect the views of the administrators or other contributors of this magazine.
(Gnostic) Someone who claims that they do not know or are unable to know whether God exists.
(Philosophy) Actions performed for the sake of others are altruistic. Altruism is the hypothesis that morality involves acting for the sake of others.
(Magick, divination) Literally, “clear seeing,” also known as skrying or scrying. The astral art of acquiring visions, images and other information. The actual technique used is very similar to Astral Projection. Clairvoyance has been taught by numerous magical orders in order to investigate the archetypal nature of magical symbols, or to view real-life locations. It was extensively used in England during WWII to spy on the Nazis and again in Russia during The Cold War to spy on the U.S.
(Philosophy) An epistemological view which maintains that there are two kinds of knowledge or beliefs: basic beliefs, which are obvious or self-justifying, and non-basic beliefs, which are justified by basic beliefs. The basic beliefs explain why the justification of knowledge does not involve an Infinite Regress.
(Yoga) Sanskrit. Gives mastery over the breath, and leads to the control of the physical body and vitality.
(Alchemy) The third and final stage of alchemical transformation. Because it is marked by the purpling or reddening of the material during the Coagulation operation, it is also known as the “Purple Phase.”
A ray, star, digit of time, radiance, essence, perfume. The vital psychosomatic essence which is manifest as a result of Maithuna (linking, joining, as in Tantra), these are considered to be 16 in number, 8 manifesting from the female and 8 from the male. The Tantric “glow” of the Kala will be different according to the digit in time where, when, and with whom the Tantra is worked.
(Philosophy) The branch of philosophy that deals with the formal properties of arguments and the philosophical problems associated with them. Central questions in logic include: What is a good argument? How can we determine if an argument is good or not? What are paradoxes? Can they be resolved? How can we talk meaningfully about objects that don’t exist, such as God or fairies?
(Ecclesiastic) A plate, usually of gold or silver that is used to hold the host during the Mass. Also called a “patina.”
©2008-2013 Gerald del Campo. Edited by Sheta Kaey.
Gerald del Campo has authored three books on the subject of Thelema: A Heretic’s Guide to Thelema, New Aeon Magick: Thelema Without Tears, and New Aeon English Qabalah Revealed. He is a photographer, musician and CEO for the Order of Thelemic Knights, the first Thelemic charitable organization. You can visit his blog at http://solis93.livejournal.com and his websites at http://thelemicknights.org and http://egoandtheids.com. Gerald formerly served as Senior Managing Editor of Rending the Veil.
Bless my space, O Lord!
North, south, east, west;
My Lord brings me all things blessed.
East, west, south, north;
All shadow, our God’s life drives forth.
South, north, west, east;
Angels draw us to the bridal feast.
West, east, north, south;
Let wisdom’s winds flow through my mouth.
From earth and sky,
All evil fly
From blessed birth
In sky and earth.
From sea and fire,
Our foes retire.
By fire and sea,
Comes love to me.
©2010 by Ambrose Hawk.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.
. . . stories dramatize ideas and truths that we all intuitively recognize. Although these stories are not exactly ‘true,’ they nonetheless offer a kind of Truth that is more compelling than hard facts.
— Rabbi Cary Friedman, Wisdom from the Batcave
No matter where you read it,
Or who has said it,
Not even if I have said it,
Unless it agrees with your own reason
And your own common sense.
— The Buddha
It’s an interesting time to be writing about belief and religion.
Consider, for example, the Avatar Otherkin.
Otherkin, for those of you who’ve not come across the concept, are people who believe they are (in some sense, be it spiritually or literally) non-human. There are lots of variations of this belief — some feel they are elves, vampires (in all flavours from Anne Rice-y to Twilight-ish), werewolves or dragons — others believe they are entities from what we usually call fiction — such as inhabitants of The Matrix, anime characters. . . or, recently, Na’vi from Pandora.
I trust I don’t have to explain what Avatar is.
What’s especially interesting to me (as someone who not only has a lot of sympathy for people looking to fiction for their spiritual metaphors but also who was involved with Otherkin earlier in my occult life) is not just how quickly this particular strain of Otherkin have emerged, but how vehement some of them are concerning their rights.
The Na’vi Anti-Defamation League were founded only a few weeks after the film was released. Their purpose is “to monitor and take action upon groups and individuals who are promoting hate speech and anti-Na’vitism against fans, Na’vi-kin, and followers of Eywa.” Now admittedly they’re a small group on LiveJournal. . . but nonetheless, that they exist at all is interesting to me.
Why Avatar was the film which stimulated such strong feelings — among many people world-wide, not just the rather specialised area of the Otherkin community — is of course not entirely known. Some have suggested it was the exaggerated realism of the immersive 3D environment and computer graphics, or that its (to some folk) rather diluted version of classic mythological themes allows it to appeal to a wide range of viewers — or it could be simply that it’s the biggest hit movie of our time. For whatever reason, it’s become a major metaphor — to the point where Palestinian protesters in Gaza dressed as Na’vi when on protest.
After seeing Avatar, I have to say that all the criticisms — from plagarism to white guilt – have justification. (A nice cumulative bitchslap version of them all here.)
But, you know, Smurf Pocahontas jibes aside. . . parts of the film still made me weepy with the sheer mythic aptness of it all. That much-maligned plot — a crippled warrior, twin of a dead scholar, seeks healing & truth in another world he enters through (more-or-less) lucid dreaming, finds magic powers after trials and ends as a fusion of his old and new cultures — None More Miffick.
You can certainly make a case that Na’vi spirituality is a watered down appropriation, a morass of once truly authentic cultural memes reduced to their lowest common denominator. . . but probably not to someone like me, whose view of the value of authenticity in mysticism is, shall we say, a tad harsh. It could be that the diluted Deep Green/Gaia Consciousness of Avatar simply fits some folk better than anything that other mythos of the world can offer.
And of course you could also make a case that Otherkin — Avatar or otherwise — are just mad. That they’re taking their imagination and wish-fulfillment too far, that they’re just sad fanboys-and-girls who’ve played one too many role-play games.
For one thing — every religion or belief system looks crazy from the outside. All of them. Yes, even yours.
For another, these sort of beliefs are not only becoming more prevalent, but they’re also starting to be recognised as a legitimate expression of spirituality in our post-modern (and increasingly — I hope! — post-Judaeo-Christian) world. The sociologist Dr. Adam Possamai has coined the term “Hyper-Real religions” to describe them, and I’ll be coming back to that idea much more in later posts. Short version for now — people trying to seek meaning in a world where trust in traditional top-down belief structures has failed them often look for new myths to try and work out just who they are. They’re often a lot less picky about how true something is for it to be real to them. . . and there’s an awful lot of mythos to choose from these days. The end result — Otherkin, the Jedi religions and much else.
The Tribe of the Strange has a lot of overlapping sub-groups. The Venn diagram for “SF fan,” “occultist,” “tabletop role-player,” “BDSM/kink practitioner,” “polyamorist,” “Pagan,” “computer programmer,” “comic book reader,” “cosplayer.” etc. will often show a lot of people in any one category having at least two of the others going on. Unsurprisingly, they all feed into each other. . . so that, for example, the roleplayer — whether in the form of tabletop or computer gaming or sexual exploration — will see a parallel between what they do in that state-of-mind and carry it across to their spirituality. (And if you’ve not yet experienced the kind of intensity which a good role-play session can create, the heightened unreality that nonetheless feels, at the time at least, utterly true and real. . . then your opinion is, shall we say, uninformed.)
But like any bunch of tribes, there’s a certain amount of internecine warfare going on among the conversations between them. (Drop words like “furry” or “Gorean” into some of those conversations, for example. . . ) The degree of snottiness involved usually stems from one group having a perceived status over the other — of being more “real” or “sensible” or “proper” or, my old fave, “authentic.” But there’s a phrase from one of those overlapping groups that fits pretty well here.
Your kink is not my kink and that’s okay.
Why not draw inspiration from a myth you know isn’t based on fact? Why does that idea harm your beliefs? For some folk, it just suits them more than the half-true (at best), “legitimate” religions of the world. Some mystics would bluntly state both come from the same source (one version of which is Alan Moore’s concept of Ideaspace). Some would even say it’s more honest than insisting a blurry, ancient myth structure is unassailable truth. At worst, it’s a new perspective, a different angle from which to view the numinous signals that inspire all faith. (Assuming of course that you’re not one of those believers who’s utterly certain theirs is the One True Way. . . )
There’s nothing at all wrong with drawing on avowedly fictional sources for definitions of your personality, mysticism, even sexuality. The trick is, as I’ve said often before, being able to step away from that viewpoint from time to time, to consider it as if real, not as real. And to be fair, many of those who identify as Otherkin do so. It’s nowhere near as simple as these people suddenly deciding they’re a dragon and not actually thinking about what that entails. . .
From my experience in these realms, that’s actually hard to do. There’s something deeply attractive, even intoxicating, about getting some confirmation that not only are you not like everyone else, but that there are people similar to you who feel much the same way. The dichotomy of being an individual and being part of a tribe, combined. For me, finally, it was a good and beneficial place to visit, but I couldn’t stay there. For others, it’s a perfect fit. Same could be said of any faith or perspective, really.
But there’s no question that once you permit the possibility of a belief based on fiction having as much validity in consensual reality as established religions, all sorts of interesting problems occur.
Such as the one which sounds an awful lot like a bad joke, that starts “this Jedi walks into a Job Centre. . .”
More on that next time. . .
“The movie is the modern equivalent of oral tradition. The indigenous people would transfer their theology and ancestral through storytelling. Those stories were mythological from modern standpoint, but still maintained identity in their cultures. Avatar is our equivalent of oral tradition.” (http://nadl-org.livejournal.com/1011.html)
I’m far from the only occultist to note and draw inspiration from the Otherkin — the clear leader in this field is Lupa, whose drawing together of the Otherkin impulse and older shamanic aspects (such as shape-shifting) is well worth your time. This old thread at Barbelith is also worth reading.
If you feel drawn to looking at the Otherkin community further, you could do worse than looking at the forums at Otherkin.com. But if you’re going to comment, don’t be so impolite as to troll or stir it — for one thing, they’ve heard it all before.
And a big retrospective thanks to the Elves — you know who you are. . .
©2010 by Ian Vincent.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.
Ian Vincent was born in 1964 and is a lifelong student of the occult. He founded Athanor Consulting, a specialist paranormal protection consultancy, in 2002. He closed Athanor in 2009 to better focus on studying wider aspects of the Art. He blogs on magical theory.
To the Goose, and the outcast dead of Cross Bones Graveyard, and to John Crow, the caretaker.931
To all the girls I ever loved before, and to Chris de Burgh.
To the Lady in Red, and to the Lady in Scarlet.
We both read the Bible day and night,
But thou readest black and I read white
— William Blake
It is I who am the wife; it is I who am the virgin.
It is I who am pregnant; it is I who am the midwife.
It is I who am the one that comforts pains of travail.
It is my husband who bore me; and it is I who am his mother.
And it is he who is my father and my lord.
It is he who is my force;
What he desires, he says with reason.
I am in the process of becoming; yet I have borne a man as lord.932
— On the Origin of the World (late third century)
On Halloween 2006, I forwent my usual ritual of dressing up in rubber shorts and a gasmask codpiece and attended a belated wake for the medieval dead of Cross Bones. It was a fluffy affair, full of dyed-in-the-woolly armpit pagans, but it was certainly necromantic enough for an old romantic like me, and the dead were as lively as ever.
But this story begins with a comic book two weeks before. Alan Moore’s stunning Promethea series was blowing my mind with every installment, and then I came to The Wine of Her Fornications. The issue in this issue, and the paradox central to Uncle Al’s cosmology, is that the Virgin Mary and the Whore of Babylon are one and the same. Whilst this had always appealed to my sense of aesthetics, I couldn’t get my head around the concept, but neither was it something I could forget, because in Thelema this secret is tightly bound up with the apocalypse.
Who can say when a story begins? This one winds back at least two more years, to a night promoting streetwear at a Japanese nightclub. I was inspired that night, ranting tirelessly about hemp and graffiti and London, and the B-boys were interested, but I was more interested in women. I was very horny indeed, but there were very few ladies out. This was the curse of working for an uber-trendy drum n’ bass brand in a country without much of a scene; it was so cutting-edge that the clubbers were nearly all boys in puffer jackets with vinyl fixations.
So the horn rose, ascended into my throat, and splashed out all over the club in ecstatic praise of the goddess hemp, the fabric, the fuel, the ecologistics, the medicine, the buzz, and a whole lot more. I left in the morning, alone of course, and boarded a train bound for Kyoto and my deeply lonely abode, a large, dilapidated, two-storey house. It had no furniture, three naked light bulbs, and no decoration at all. The rent was very cheap, however, because the house was awaiting renovation, as were my housemate and I, both of us getting over our respective wives. He took me in when she threw me out for the sixth time, and we spent the time drinking heavily, making misogynistic jokes, and playing computer games in the room with the communal light bulb. Those were the days! A cold winter of discontent with a poisonous caterpillar plague in the garden, the slow throb of loneliness disturbed only by drunken bicycle injuries and suicide notes from the ex.
Figuring that I was unlikely to attract any women in this pitiful state, I had started practicing Taoist seed retention, and three weeks in, my nuts were about to explode. The train was not leaving for another half an hour, and I was literally squirming in my seat. Something had to give, and that something was my attitude towards prostitution. This was one of the few sexual taboos I had left intact, and I would sit quietly contemptuous when my expat friends reminisced about their sordid trips to Bangkok. No one was going to bust me at six in the morning, so I jumped off the train and hit the smutty streets of Minami-Hankyu.
Getting laid in the red light district is not as easy as one might imagine. Although prostitution is perfectly legal in Japan, most establishments are closed to foreigners, and it took me half an hour of polite Japanese refusals from scantily clad women before I found a welcome with Ai-chan, who was friendly and had nice teeth. Unfortunately another ugly foreigner found her shortly after I did, and was not cultured enough to wait quietly in the waiting room. He poked his bald head into our tacky love-nest and asked if he could watch in appalling Japanese. Ai-chan shouted “NO!” in English, and pulled the covers over us, an harlot genuinely abashed. She asked me if he was a friend of mine. I shouted “NO!” in English, and sank into the bed in horror, painfully aware of why most knocking shops are closed to foreign barbarians.
Ai-chan quickly regained her composure, asked him to wait, and fleeced me blind. She also left me hooked on hookers, and there begins a whorey story, because the brothel door is difficult to shut once opened. It lasted about six months, until I witnessed the deeply unreverend Nemu running at full speed through the streets of Kuala Lumpur in a frenzied and ultimately futile search for an open brothel. I was unsatisfied by two other prostitutes that night, but the ladies of the night melted away as the sun came up, and the Reverend Neverend give up his quest frustrated.
Back in England a winter later, I had regained my composure, though not, of course, the mojo of a Western man in Japan. The whore was on my mind again, and this time I decided to approach her with a little more ceremony. A friend and I were conducting a healing ayahuasca session with a third friend, who had just had an operation for cervical cancer, and it seemed appropriate to invite BABALON, the Thelemic goddess of the cosmic uterus. Her tarot card Lust went on the altar, a naked temptress straddling the beast with seven heads, reins tight in her hand and head thrown back in exquisite abandon. In the ceremony I was too busy concentrating on playing the music to think about her, or even look at the card. The beast was reined for the session, we held it together, and two years on, news from her cervix is good.
The following day I awoke with a burning desire to know a particular whore in a Biblical sense. I began chasing women through the pages of The New Testament, The Golden Bough and The Greek Myths with the one track mind of a depraved divorcee chasing hookers through the streets of Southeast Asia. It soon became clear that there was something about Mary, the name shared by all the significant women in The New Testament, but five days later I had a party to get to, so I toweled down my sweaty palms and went to the Cross Bones bash.
The party was held in SE One club, on the site of a Roman temple to Isis, and featured bawdy medieval drinking songs and sordid verse from the lips of London sex-workers. I had to bully Seth into coming; though he is usually up for a spot of necromancy, his plan was to curl up at home under a duvet, listening to Goth music and weeping over his ex-girlfriend.
My girlfriend refused to come, asking why I was so into dead people. (I told her they usually had fewer hang-ups than the living.) Seth had a great time, despite himself. I regretted his company only once, during the group tantric exercise, squeezing our neighbour’s hands in time with our perineal muscles and pelvic floors. He was my first tarot teacher and a dedicated Thelemite, so we had occasion to nod knowingly at each other whenever the poetry wound round to the Whore of Babylon, or when the divine harlots sung choruses of the “a-poca-poca-poca-lypse”. Widdershins around the altar, where I had left my Lust card, and incantations to the goddess and to he of hoof and horn. A masked priestess gave each of us a word on a leaf-shaped card. Mine was ‘Strength’, the name for Lust in traditional tarot decks. This was the card that had set the ball rolling in the first place, the energy of the lion that sets all balls rolling.
John was curb-crawling the shadier streets of the astral in his acid-fueled pimpmobile when he first met his muse, the Goose, a seventeenth century prostitute with an ear for verse. The Revelation of my mate John (otherwise known as The Book of the Goose) begins as she sets the scene:
For tonight in Hell they are tolling the bell
For the Whore that lay at the Tabard.
And well we know how the carrion crow
Doth feast in our Cross Bones graveyard.933
“Cross Bones” struck him as a fitting poetic name for an outcast’s graveyard, but later John discovered that it really was the name of an unconsecrated burial ground, where bodies unwelcome in Southwark Cathedral cemetery were interred. Outcasts included the Winchester Geese, prostitutes licensed by the Bishop of Winchester since 1161. They rested in peace until the mid 1990s, when London Underground began developing the derelict site, and digging up skeletons. John received his first message in November 1996, since which time he and his chaotic confederates have made a Discordian shrine of this urban wasteland, conducting monthly rituals to honour the dead.
The hookers and their John led a procession of pagans, ayahuasqueros and other Halloween fiends from the club to Cross Bones, singing songs of gin and syphilis. We remembered the dead by reading their names, which had been given out on ribbons. I had one for a baby girl, and another for a man from the workhouse who shared a name with the founder of my school. I met some lovely randoms, and ended up fried at a dirty tekno party in Stoke Newington, in my reverend’s robe and my gasmask at last. A nearly divine London harlot gave me a kiss, then turned and left me pining, remembering the SM temptress I once married, whose face glowed scarlet with anger, the lion’s mistress who had turned me out and inside-out, who fleeced me of everything worth anything, and left me empty.
On the bus home I did some automatic writing, producing a page of filth (see Appendix Automatic 1). It was the wrong bus so I had to walk for miles. I ended up in A & E, on E, pondering the A (it is indeed an A, not a Y, but best not ask too many whys of hoes; it always adds up the way the lady says). I wasn’t sick, just a little dizzy from the MDMAganism, but it was freezing outside and I needed somewhere to catch the flood of words. BABALON’s limitless lovejuice was drowning me in pungent poetry (see Appendix Automatic 2).
As Noah’s flood subsided, the dry island of consciousness rose out of the waters of chaos, and everything that had been remembered stepped off the Ark. Noah’s family multiplied, and “the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.”934 They voiced the same idea with the same tongue, to build a tower to the heavens:
And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven935
The first project of the first New World Order was a noble goal, but soon the structure became more beloved than the builders. The Talmud relates how even pregnant women were forced to build, and the sick were cursed for their uselessness. As the Tower of Babel grew, it took ever more effort to raise masonry to the top. Builders wept for a falling brick, but not for a falling man.936
What was the Tower of Babel? There was a seventy-meter ziggurat in Babylon called Etemanaki, the End Platform of Heaven and Earth, but bricks were not all that were baked in Babylon. Babylonians also baked clay tablets pressed with one of the earliest alphabetic scripts, setting treaties and tax agreements beyond argument, fixing regulations and codifying correct conduct. The ziggurat is dust today, but Hammurabi’s law code survives, four millennia after it was made, carved into an ancient obelisk in the Louvre.937 Its shadow falls over the entire planet.
Marked tablets formed the foundation of our law codes, built up ever since by kings and presidents. When one truth is inflicted on all, the structure become more important than the builders; Milgram’s nightmare begins, and people start dropping from the scaffolding. “The Truth” is lethal, but whilst the letter of the law is fixed, interpretation is a different matter. Tongues become confused, and the project is derailed. Man is saved from his fixations as “Truth” is fractured into a multitude of languages.
The Bible relates the word Babel to the Hebrew balal (to confuse). It is derived from the Akkadian bab ili (the gate of god),938 and this ba-ba-baby talk is also the root of the English “babble.” In a world of confused babblers at the gates of infinity, names are changed to protect the intransient, and meaning streams into seventy currents of consciousness. Matthew turns on a new tap with a redefinition in the first chapter of The New Testament:
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.939
The prophet referred to is Isaiah, translated in the KJV as follows:
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin [sic] shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.940
But what about this virgin? Mark and John never mention a virgin. The Greek word in Matthew is parthenos, which does indeed mean “virgin,” but the Hebrew in Isaiah is almah, which simply means “young woman.” This is not an ambiguous Hebrew word; it is a mistranslation. Wherever almah is found in The Old Testament, the KJV renders it “virgin” (or “maid,” meaning virgin), but it makes for some silly scripture. In Proverbs, for example, the Hebrew clearly refers to a little bump and grind, but in the KJV:
There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid [sic].941
There is nothing wonderful about the way of a man with a virgin; it makes no sense. Another time it makes a nonsense of The Song of Solomon:
There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins [sic] without number. My dove, my undefiled is but one.942
What are all these virgins doing in a harem? If they are virgins, how can there only be one who is not defiled? This wouldn’t fool a rabbi. In translated Jewish Bibles, these virgins are all young women, because to a Jew, altering the word of God is high blasphemy. To anyone with a sense of aesthetics, it is a crime against poetry, surely.
Whilst virginity is exalted in Christianity, there is none of this in The Old Testament. When Jephthah, a hero born of a whore, has to sacrifice his only child to fulfill a promise to the Lord, his dutiful daughter insists that he honour his word, and she does not complain about her death. She asks only “let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity.”943 Presumably there were plenty of shepherd boys willing to take the sting out of her sentence. Virginity is a curse in Judaism, not a virtue. Sex is a duty, every day for men of independent means, once a week for scholars and ass-drivers.944 Two weeks without nookie was already reasonable grounds for divorce,945 and you can leave the hole in the sheet for the Puritans. In Jewish law, lovers must be completely naked, so nothing can come between them.946
The Israelites were neither prudish nor moralistic about sex. Judah went a-whoring, and he fathered a great tribe.947 In The Talmud, Eleazar ben Dordia “did not leave out any harlot in the world without coming to her.”948 At the end of his life, after a revelation which began when the classiest whore in the world farted during coitus, God calls him “Rabbi,” and tells him he is “destined for the life of the world to come”! So why the mistranslation? Did an honest mistake change the nature of the religion? What about later clerics, who reconstructed the hymens of various Old Testament young women to fit in with the evangelist’s fetish? Once is a mistake, as my dad likes to say, twice is stupid, but three times is on purpose. True for a night’s whoring, certainly, and for translating scripture as well. This virgin is here to stay. Did Matthew have a thing for virgins, or was there a particular virgin on his mind?
Virgin mothers were worshiped all over the pagan world, from the Amazon to Babylon. Was it Isis or Ishtar or Astarte remembered in Matthew, or was this almah Al-Mah, the Persian virgin goddess of the moon? One of the earliest virgin mothers was from Sumer, one of the oldest settled civilisations, where some of the oldest surviving text was laid down. Her name was Inanna, and her habits are not what one might expect from a maid. Ancient poems relate how she went scantily clad into town wearing “the pearls of a prostitute”, to play drinking games and “snatch a man from the tavern.”949 “She praised herself, full of delight at her. . . remarkable genitals,”950 but she was always a virgin, regardless of what she got up to. Like the moon, and like a woman, she always returns to her pristine state, ready to bear again.
Inanna was goddess of many things, including shepherds,951 carpenters,952 love, sex, and temple lovers.953 Her priestesses kept a sacred institution, a ritual dramatisation of the value of sexual love, and even respectable married laywomen would make love to strangers who approached in the darkness and left a coin. This is called “sacred prostitution” in modern terminology, but the term is deceptive, because of what prostitution means to us. Back in the day, these women were devout temple attendants performing a vital service for the community, a role that is still necessary today, but performed with less ceremony in scummy hotels and backstreets. The sacred harlot, the Har of Babylon, is remembered as the Whore of Babylon. She was one of many virgin mothers who bore solar heroes on the winter solstice as Virgo popped over the horizon, saviours destined to be murdered. Whilst the mythology survives in part, his mother’s nature has been forgotten. But is The New Testament betrayed by a smudge of scarlet lipstick?
In The Second Book of Kings, Ashtoreth is the abomination of the Zidonians, This is Astarte, who was called Asat in Egypt (whom we know as Isis), mother of the saviour Horus. Like early Christian images of the virgin and child, Egyptian representations depicted Horus suckling at his mother’s breast, though Mary’s breast was covered up as Christianity became increasingly prudish.
Asat was protectress of the dying god Azar (Osiris), and she was addressed as Meri in Egyptian, meaning beloved.954 In The New Testament all the Marys, with the exception of the virgin, are helpers or protectresses. Mary Magdalene accompanies Jesus to his death and to his tomb,955 where she watches over him, and is the first to meet him after his resurrection.956 The Mary in Romans “bestowed much labour on us,”957 and another from Acts hides St. Peter when he is on the run.958
Another Mary is a helpful soul who spends much of her time weeping over her brother Lazarus, who had been dead for four days. Lazarus is the only character besides Christ resurrected in The Bible. In Egyptian mythology, Asat wept over her brother Azar until he was resurrected. Azar’s name Latinised becomes Azarus, and with an honorary “El” (like El Shaddai), the name becomes a familiar El Azarus, or Lazarus. Mary, sister of Lazarus, spends a year’s wages on ointment to anoint Jesus’ feet,959 an extremely significant act which makes Jesus the Messiah (literally, “anointed one”). Two verses later, the Messiah is betrayed as Azar was betrayed, setting the scene for his execution and resurrection.960 Asat’s sister Nephytys also took part in Azar’s resurrection. She was also titled Meri, and hence both sisters together were called by the plural Merti.961 This is very close to Marta (Martha in English), the name of Lazarus’ other sister.962
There is something else about Mary, something both exalted and shameful. The anointer is named in Matthew, Mark, and John, but in Luke she is unnamed, and she is not connected to Lazarus. It is also in Luke that she does more than just anoint his feet. She showers him with kisses, and gives his feet some serious attention.963 We learn “what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner”,964 and the people pass judgement upon her, but “her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much.”965
Luke brings the holy harlot back into the story in this pivotal role as Messiah maker, at a time when she was falling out of favour in the Roman world. The geographer Strabo wrote in 23 A.D. that sacred prostitution continued at the Temple of Aphrodite in Corinth, but he called it “wholly shameful.”966 Whether he actually visited is unknown, but it shows that the idea was still in currency, and frowned upon in his time. Perhaps this is why the other canonical Gospels, which give the anointer the honourable name Mary, do not allude to her harlotry. Mary Magdalene is one of those who “ministered unto him of their substance.”967 She had her demons, but she was no slapper. All the other Marys are spotless, but the unnamed Messiah maker in Luke was “a sinner.”
It was no simple task merging the exalted feminine of the old pagan world with the paternalistic mores of the Hebrews and the Roman Empire, and the explosive success of early Christianity is a testament to the ingenuity of its authors.968 Inevitably, however, and tragically, Christianity was institutionalised and sanitised as it grew. Any ambiguity about the anointer was ironed out by Pope Gregory in 591, who ruled that the sinner’s sin was sexual, and that Mary Magdalene, Mary sister of Lazarus, and the unnamed sinner, were one and the same hussy.969 The beloved nurturer was dragged from the foot of the cross of the King to the grimy streets of King’s Cross. The work of her priestesses became the shame of prostitution, and there begins a tale of misogyny and the repression of female sexuality, which continues to impoverish both women and men of Christendom today. Mary Magdalene was Jesus’ lover in The Gospel of Philip, but such scandalous stories were purged from the Biblical canon. The only woman worthy of devotion was the Virgin, who most certainly does not put out, not for love nor money.
Within a few centuries, aging celibate church fathers were decrying the perils of sex. St. Ambrose exalted virginity in lengthy prose, and St. Jerome went as far as to write that even martyrdom could barely cleanse a woman of the stain of marriage. St. Augustine argued how both impotency and unwanted erections reveal that sex turns the body against the will. (St. Augustine, who was a genuinely compassionate and forward thinking man, lamented that we have more control over our farts than our willies, evidenced by the fact that many can produce melodies at will from their bottoms.970) Christianity quickly become a dreadfully frigid faith most unlike its Jewish and pagan roots.
Goddesses worth their salt, however, are not in the habit of being dominated by stuffy old clerics, at least not for long; the holy whore went underground. Asat’s sacred geese were sacrificed well into the Common Era, all the way from North Africa to South Londinium. Goosey-goosey gander waddled across the continents and the millennia, upstairs, downstairs and in the master’s chamber, and all the way to Medieval England, where the Old English term for prostitute was “goose.”971 The Winchester Geese lived in the Liberty of the Clink and were buried in Cross Bones graveyard, where they rested in disgrace until London Underground disturbed their sleep.
Asat may have been forgotten, but her rites continue to this day at Easter. The name “Easter” derives from Astarte, and the festival was a heathen fertility rite. It is mentioned only once in The Bible: the evil King Herod attends Easter as Peter languishes in his dungeon awaiting execution.972 Hot cross buns were offered to pagan gods 1500 years before Christ. The Easter pig is eaten for the boar that killed Ishtar’s lover Tammuz, whose rites are called “abominations” in Ezekiel,973 and he is still mourned today with forty days of lent. There are no bunnies in The Bible. The Easter bunny hopping about delighting Christian children is a celebration of the defining characteristic of a rabbit, which is sex, and the eggs he distributes are, of course, fertility symbols.
It is obvious when you think about it, but thinking is exactly what church fathers sought to prevent, with threats of excommunication, such as the papal decree of 431:
If any one refuses to confess that the Emmanuel is in truth God, and that the holy Virgin is Mother of God, for she gave birth after a fleshly manner to the Word of God made flesh; let him be anathema.974
Like Inanna, Mary is always a virgin, and is remembered as such in the Greek Orthodox liturgy, where every mention of her name is prefixed with the words “always virgin.” Unlike Inanna, however, her virginity was protected by a new magick, which suppressed thought with fear. Mary’s virginity was far too questionable to be questioned. Catholic dogmas concerning Mary multiplied, and soon Catholics were also terrified into accepting that the immaculate conception was a unique event, and that Mary was a virgin until death, at which point her entire body, including her immaculate hymen, ascended into heaven.975 The Pope was still issuing threats in 1950:
If anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith.976
The pagan origins of Christianity have always upset purists. Jehovah’s Witnesses valiantly attempted to chase the heathen from their midst, ditching crosses, candles, Easter and Christmas, retaining little more than a Godfearing frown. For the Witnesses, the party comes at the end of time. They give eschatology a bad name, as far as I am concerned; I like to think that my group is the complete opposite of theirs. Wherever Christians gather there is the danger of Christian fascism, and sadly Daime is no exception, but for the most part we love pagan wisdom, and we shout “Viva!” for all the beings of the Celestial Court to close our ceremonies. Whereas the Witnesses dream of a past age of purity, our party is a post-modern mash-up in a free house, where all are welcome, and we sing so loud that the gods start to boogie. . .
The virgin mother has been with us for at least 6,000 years; by now we should be grown up enough to learn the truth about where her baby comes from. The Virgin Mary is the goddess of the new moon, but the cycle continues. The goddess of the full moon is the divine temptress, the nurturer for whom all nature swells into readiness, whether lemons or lingams. Mary Magdalene carries a clue in her name, the root of which is gadol, meaning both “large” and “grow” in Hebrew. She accepts all comers into her double-D cup of compassion. The goddess of the full moon accepts us because she knows us and the depravity of our desires. She knows we are all the same with our trousers down. She has seen it all before, she forgives and keeps giving. It is time for us to reciprocate, to love her as she was loved in ancient times.
Greeks and Indians sculpted sexy women for their temples. Inca effigies have enormous knockers. Women are sexy! They are nurturing, and comforting, and divine, but Christendom got stuck with a virgin fixation. The sacred harlot became a demon, as do all deities under the force of repression. Her fleshy desires became a disgrace, but her rites continue in alleyways, valued in rocks of crack. The goddess has been defiled and her divine name made vulgar. In India she was Kunti, who summoned gods with a secret mantra and bore their children. In Rome she was Cunina, protectress of babies. Derivatives of the sacred C-word were titles for goddesses, priestesses and wise-women, including, perhaps, our own “Queen,” but the word is our dirtiest, so offensive that well-raised American girls cry if you say it with enough malice. Our hang-ups about the word, the organ, and the woman surrounding it are abstractions built upon a confused mess of neuroses. Why does a healthy appetite make a slut of a woman and a stud of a man? Dogs aren’t offended by cunts, nor by the word “cunt.” What exactly are we scared of?
The feminine shifts between absolutes, indistinct in the moonlight, moving in and out of balance, swelling up and shrinking down, and always returning to the source. The mother is confusing and contradictory, one thing and then the other, and this constant wave is the wellspring of life. The Law of the Lord is laid down with a word, and the wave collapses into one particle, going one way. Its potential is fixed, later to be falsified. The masculine limits, but the cosmic cervix is limitless. Code gestates quietly until it tumbles fully formed and perfect into the world as a symphony, a cosmology, or a baby. But with the mystery of infinity comes the terror of the black hole. She drives men to poetry and to murder, and all for nothing. The feminine is a great gaping 0, pungent, potent, and dripping with blood.
The Hebrews never discovered zero, and neither did the Greeks. It was imported from India in the thirteenth century, but even then few understood it. It is more irrational than the irrational numbers the Greeks discovered, more invisible than negative numbers. It is an affront to Aristotle, neither one thing nor the other, neither negative nor positive, so how can it be anything? And yet it is not the same as nothing. “Zero children” is not the same as “an empty playground.” Zero is the assertion of nilness. It is empty potential, and that is something quite different.
Our master is a sun god, an “I” drawn across the sky, following his will(y) on his missions, penetrating territories, parching seas, illuminating and casting into darkness as he dies at the end of the day. The world fractures along the edge of sense defined. Stuck here in the rational mind, it is only the constant confusion of words and definitions that allows for reinterpretation and regeneration. Creative writing redefines the boundaries. Matthew’s ingenious slight of hand brought the virgin mother into the narrative, and some influential patriarchs thought it best to keep mum. YHVH, for all his dynamism, is not an easy father to get along with, Elohim is too dimensionless to deal with, and Jesus on the cross has his own concerns to worry about. The goddess, however, is ready to receive you without judgement.
Pagans exalted all three phases of the moon and of womanhood. Persephone, Diana and Brigit of the new moon are perfectly pure and full of potential, virgins associated with birth and the birthing bed. Selene, Luna and Ceres are full moon goddesses, nurturers, protectors, and lovers, with soft curves to cradle our confused heads. Her rite is marriage and her sacred place the nuptial bed. After a period of plump fecundity the moon shrinks into the crone, whose names are Kali, Hecate and Nephytys, a wise old woman with a pickled face and a head full of craft. She sees through your charm and has a herb for every illness, if you have the humility to ask. The crone presides over death and the deathbed; she guides the dead to the underworld, and converses with the spirits of their world.
The waning moon suffered a similar fate to the full moon. Her honorifics “crone,” “hag,” and “witch” became insults. Her craft was pushed underground. She was denied in the ninth century, and drowned and hanged from the fourteenth century. The fire of persecution began to roar in the sixteenth century, with the Spanish Inquisition adding fuel on one side and Luther fanning the flames on the other.977 It burned well into the eighteenth century, as the Age of Reason was constructed, and even today the hag continues to suffer. Old women crumbling alone in nursing homes are no less victims of this ugly prejudice than was Helen Duncan, the medium described in “São Miguel in Stockwell’.
The Biblical Marys appear in order of the phases of the moon. The Virgin Mary is present at the beginning and leaves after a few chapters. Mary the nurturer appears in various guises, pushing the story in the middle, and the crone arrives at the end as Mary, mother of James, attending Jesus’ death, following the body to the grave,978 979 sitting over the sepulchre,980 and bringing spices to anoint the corpse.981 Along with Mary Magdalene, she is the first to learn of the resurrection.982
Matthew was not the first Gospel written, but it is the first read. It appears to be a close copy of Mark with added pagan bits, such as the star of Bethlehem and the virgin birth. It is the most mystical of the canonical Gospels, the only one that mentions dreams, but there were Christian scriptures far more mysterious. All sorts were mixing in the Hellenistic crucible, including Egyptians, Jews, Romans, Arabs, Africans, and Oriental kings wandering through, following stars, carrying strange spices. Different traditions explored the story in various directions for 200 years, leaving as many as fifty contradictory Gospels reflecting a broad spectrum of belief. The Gospel of Thomas appears to be older than the canonical Gospels, and it is laden with mystical code and paradox, where the end is the beginning, where giving money to the poor harms the spirit (which makes sense in the welfare state). In The Gospel of Judas, written within decades of the canonical gospels, Jesus tells his most beloved disciple “you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothed me.”983
For many Gnostics, the Virgin Birth was the mystery of the feminine Holy Spirit giving birth to the cosmos, without anything fertilising it. The Gospel of Philip lampoons the orthodox position:
Some said, “Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit.” They are in error. They do not know what they are saying. When did a woman ever conceive by a woman?984
As Christianity became more mainstream, the lunatic fringe became a sensible side parting. The messy mop of Christianity was trimmed to make it as neat as possible, and as easy to control. Gnostic sects were stamped out, texts were declared heretical, and those that were not hidden were torched. Irineus of Lyons, a converted pagan with a political agenda, and the man who developed the idea of original sin, selected which Gospels entered The Bible. He censored most stories alluding to a nonmaterial level of reality. He cut The Acts of John, where Jesus’ steps leave no footprints,985 and The Apocalypse of Peter, where Peter goes into a trance and sees “a new light greater than the light of day.”986 In the official canon, doubting Thomas touches the resurrected Jesus, keeping the story in the material world, whereas in most Gnostic stories his hand passes through. The least mystical of all Gospels is Luke, which takes place entirely in the physical world, and it is here that the anointing woman is unnamed and sinful.
For most Gnostics, the resurrection was not fleshy but spiritual; the spirit of Jesus returns in dreams, trance, and intuition. The creed, however, made resurrection “in the flesh” a dogma to be affirmed weekly, questioned on pain of eternal damnation. This nasty piece of Roman politics was incorporated into the church liturgy, despite having no basis whatsoever in The Bible, nor in paganism. The Gospel of Philip encourages Christians to follow the Holy Spirit rather than such articles of faith. The mistrust of words in this banned gospel is almost Taoist, as is the monistic philosophy expounded.
As with censorship in the Churche of Scyense (see Chapter 3), the censorship of Gnosticism was a political exercise, and many of the same issues arose, including the existence of invisible powers and questions of authority. It is almost impossible to control a group of enthusiasts who take instructions not from appointed authorities, but directly from invisible entities in dreams or visions. In The Gospel of Mary, Jesus appears to his favourite disciple in a vision and tells her to “not lay down any rules beyond what I appointed you, and do not give a law like the lawgiver lest you be constrained by it.”987 This is not conducive to the ambitions of an empire. Tertullian insisted that a Church meeting was only valid with a bishop (poimen in Greek, meaning “shepherd”), and the bishop of Antioch explained how separation from one’s bishop meant separation “not only from the church, but from God himself.”988
For Gnostics, it was not the “dry canal”989 of a bishop that validated a church but the Holy Spirit, which was invisible but instantly recognisable. Adam was the psyche, or thinker, and Eve was the pneuma, or spirit, the connection to the invisible world. Some churches left the ceremony in the hands of the Holy Spirit, choosing the prayer leader by lot,990 or waiting in silence until someone was moved to speak, as do modern Quakers. The Holy Spirit, personified as the lovely Sophia, makes Adam’s snake rise and opens his eyes. Her ecstasies bring intimate knowledge, or gnosis, to the Gnostic, and she gave out far too much authority. Trance, miraculous healing and communication with spirits were everyday events in the Hellenistic world, and in one church, the initiation ceremony concluded with the words “Behold, Grace has come upon you; open your mouth, and prophesy.”991
In the early years of Christianity, the feminine was in the ascendant. Many churches ditched the Jewish custom of segregating the sexes during prayer, and in some churches women were uttering prophecies and even leading ceremonies. Church fathers, however, banned the worship of Mary,*992 and Tertullian preferred “the devil’s gateway” in her traditional role:
Do you not know that you are each an Eve? The sentence of God on your sex lives on in this age; the guilt, necessarily, lives on too.993
Tertullian filled his free moments fantasising about and gloating over the eternal torment awaiting scholars, poets, playwrights, philosophers and dancers among others,994 but whilst his spiteful imagination was rich, his theology was poor. He knew he was on shaky ground when he wrote that the resurrection of the flesh “must be believed, because it is absurd.”995 By the end of his life he had disavowed most of his early anti-Gnostic polemic, but his immature convictions became a central part of Church doctrine. The Holy Spirit was bound and gagged, the passage of the moon was arrested at the first stage, leaving us with a third of a goddess and an irrational fear of the irrational, a culture where feminine wisdom was removed from the discussion. Christians, with nothing better to believe in, fell into line behind their shepherds as a flock of docile sheep, and occasionally a gang of battering rams. But the lusty lion eats sheep for breakfast.
Gnostics questioned authority all the way from bishops up to YHVH Himself. He was Yao, the demiurge, a limited and ignorant being, master of a world where a perfectly innocent man is tortured and executed.996 He punishes Adam in envy997 and floods the world out of spite.998 He demands you “serve him in fear and slavery all the days of your life.” These ideas were quite common once; they are heretical today because of the political acumen of early church fathers.
There is a middle way between angry rejection of YHVH and capitulation to Him. This Lord is a part of us, and a condition of our world, to be accepted and observed. Whilst conditions can be overcome, He and His bishops have dominated us for millennia, and recently His Gospel of one true truth has been taken over by scientists and lawmakers who, like He, are convinced they know it all. YHVH censors BABALON’s narrative and filters out rays of infinity, but time is on her side. She flows on, a babbling brook, whilst he scribbles along, a bloody long book. YHVH thrust his way from A to Y, rubbing his way around the world, but all this friction is coming to a sticky end. BABALON keeps coming, a multiple, perpetual orgasm, pagan love juice streaming sweet scents of infinity, whereas His sense is finite. She swells, bears, shrivels, and reverts to her immaculate state. BABALON is mother of all and mistress of forms. Poetry tumbles from her void, lubricated with the intoxicating potion of liquid intelligence. She is the ever-changing moon, and He is an oldskool hardcore tune, remixed until the end of time.
The world begins with Mama. First comes Ma, Mama, Mum, Ima (Hebrew), Mae (Portuguese), and Mary, Mama’s mammaries, massive and milky and mine, for meeeeee! Baby-talk begins as cries and voiced exhalations, usually maaas, uums, aaams, maaams and mums. Nana and Inanna are mindlessly uttered, the names of the Yoruba and Sumerian mother goddesses. Maa can mean “measure” in Sanskrit, marking out the matrix and making the world. Mmmm describes pleasure. It is the sweet sound of sex, as the cosmic cervix draws us in, and makes everyone moan. “Tell me about your mother,” says the shrink, but he already knows. Mmmm may also be all the noise a dying man can make. Mother Mary is with us at the birth bed, the nuptial bed, and the deathbed, with a different face at each.
Outside of these sacred beds, however, some sense is required of us. Ma is where a baby finds her voice, but ba is the first word, an easy plosive phoneme somewhere between the immensity of ma and the point of pah, between utterance and eloquence. Ma-ma-ma comes endlessly and mindlessly from a baby’s mouth. Once we get to pah and fah, father, papa, pater (Latin) and pitara (Sanskrit), we know who we’re talking about, but thoughts begin with a bah. The Bible begins “in the beginning” with “Bereshit,” not the first but the second Hebrew letter, and it is forbidden to inquire into the breath of aleph before the beth.999 Now we’re talkin’, but listen to the sense we’re making. We’re babies talking boobies and baba. Baba is slang for “poo” in Japanese, whilst ba is the root of aunty, and Baa-san means granny. In Gujarati mother is ba, and in Greek it is buha; it is feminine, but over in Yoruba lands, baba is father, and in Hebrew father is abba. Ab is a masculine root in Hebrew, and macho man Abraham was the root of the tribe, beginning with the breath of aleph followed by beth. Ba crosses the border, as yet undecided what it wants to mean. This is where BABALON babbles and bubbles, forming sense and nonsense at the edge of the cosmic cervix, before “who’s yer dada?” becomes a question. Phonemes frame coded chaos, and the world is cut into shape. Mama/Papa is the first division, and some of the first words learned, soon followed by other dualities: on/off, hot/cold, up/down, and so on. Now spend the rest of your life trying to get over that one. . .
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,”1000 but when the divine word is uttered, the aeon crumbles. It is the beginning and the end, the Alpha, the Omega, and the mega-Om, the opening of the cosmic joke and its rib-splitting punch line. The word which contains all words is the set that contains all sets. (Georg Cantor, a pioneer of number theory, began the first of many extended stays in the nuthouse after postulating and trying to get his head around the infinite set.) All other words are limited, bound at both ends. BABALON will be bound, and you can bend her any way you wish, but whatever kinky position you have in mind, she ends up on top. Entering her mysteries at the point of ecstasy, sense fails as blinding blackness descends. The magician penetrates the unconscious void, his wand firm amidst the undulations. From here he can direct his will where he will, and shape magick worlds with magick words.
The goddess’ cycle generates a stable world, but this world doesn’t go anywhere. YHVH breaks through the wave, devastating intervention causing permanent transformation. His name changed over the rises and falls of empires, but His story has been roughly the same, ever since stories have been pressed into clay, ever since Gilgamesh spurned the goddess of love to trek to the end of the earth in a futile quest for immortality. YHVH’s earthly representatives wrote the law on a monolith raised over Babylon. His lawyers started the oldest argument and are still holding freedom hostage. He is Yaldabaoth, “child of chaos,” order arising from the noise of the void. He is the phallus, erect with desire, and He makes the goddess writhe when He respects her infinity over His limits. But when He offers her the rank shabbiness of Mr. Loverman, He degrades her, and sickness follows.
In the beginning was the Word, which split into a confusion of tongues and perspectives to interpret our beautiful universe. Under the homogenising force of Christianity, most of the world was united, but for this to happen the moon had to be fixed and the tides held back. The Western psyche has finally grown up enough to enjoy Sophia’s many tongues in his ear, and just in the nick of time. Nukes, gung-ho bioengineering, rampant materialism and fundamentalist fools threaten our survival, but meanwhile new technologies force us into a global system, a net that stretches rather than a tower that falls. It grows by forming links rather than by pressing down on old foundations. It brings us together whilst maintaining our space. We are a few clicks, not bricks, away from New Jerusalem, and a few ticks away from complete annihilation. Sit back and enjoy the grand-finale. The goddess is returning, and she’s still a virgin, but this time she’s in fishnets.
It is time to remember her, succulent and delicious, and to give her the love she deserves. The virgin planet is long since fucked, rubbed raw by the jealous god manhandling her and intellectual rapists forcing themselves upon her, siring bastards. She can’t help us anymore; she is not present at the resurrection. It is time to get a curvier goddess with “remarkable genitals” back on top where she belongs. She is eying you across the cosmic dance floor, waiting for you to come over to her side. Her pheromones permeate the air with significance and the magick of the everyday. Feel her rhythms, and your step gets funkier. Caress her curves and your clumsy desires are transformed. Her dark eyes bewitch, and she invites your embrace. Kiss her and the void is at the tip of your tongue, for she is aching with fertility. She lives for loving touches in the right places, but only a serious pervert goes looking for the G-spot with an endoscope.
The divine harlot teases us to give up our currency of exchange, the meaning we make of the world. She lures us across the abyss into wordless silence. She strips us of our material attachments and draws us up into the universal current, one small step for a man, one giant leap for a tin-canned mind. The beast that sends a respectable reverend running wild through the streets of Kuala Lumpur can be yoked and redirected towards the infinite. Hold tight the reins, for the clear light outshines the red light. The whore and the virgin are one, a mirror reflecting what you offer, an empty page dreaming of stories, a quiet space aching for song. Touched by the wand, she erupts in a fountain of words, ever-changing, redefining and recreating. Approach as you will, and receive what you deserve. Let her fleece you of everything you own, let her take you into her chamber on her terms, and she will open your eyes to the universe: Yin-yang, thank-you Ma’am! Offer her arguments and rationalisations, however, and she might tear out your balls.
However illogical and wrong it is, for her it is right, even if the neighbours are complaining, even if the last bus is leaving, even if the world is ending. . . The goddess is a mega-babe, but occasionally something dreadful comes tearing out of the void. We are due for a tremendous whack of PMT. There will be hot flushes, violent mood-swings, broken crockery and rivers of blood as the womb is cleared to make way for the birth of the New Aeon. A small-minded man deserts his beloved at a time like this, but a wise man keeps his head down, sweeping up what she smashes up, strong but silent at the eye of the storm, bringing her cups of tea as they pass through this difficult period together.
“Strength” was not the only card Uncle Al renamed. He also changed the final card from “The World” to “The Universe,” expanding horizons for the New Aeon. As the sun prepares to change its ways to save our souls and cool off Mother Earth, the awakened are breaking through the scales of this dimension into the astral, and into galactic consciousness. Kepler’s intuition about the harmonies in the solar system has been proved true with modern measurements.1001 The sizes, speeds and positions of the planets are governed by mathematical constants and laws, and related to our musical scale. The math is too complex to go into here, but the reason that the moon is exactly the right size to obscure the sun during an eclipse is because of the exquisite order governing the sizes and positions of the heavenly bodies. . .
The solar system is swimming in harmonic relationships, but macro-organisation stretches even beyond it into the apparent chaos of the galaxy. Magnetic fields have recently been discovered acting across galaxies, coherent domains over distances hitherto unimagined by physicists.1002 Sirius, the star of BABALON, is the brightest star in the sky, and almost the same size as our sun, but not quite. The ratio is an intriguing 1:1.053, a harmonic constant precise to three decimal places, putting the stars into resonance. The same ratio is said to be coded into the sizes of the pyramids, and other astronomical harmonics are coded into Stone Henge and Mayan monuments.1003
Oh my goodness gracious goddess, things are getting Sirius! Here at the end, the reverend reveals himself, with whores and heresies from East Asia to Outer Space, my goodness graceless godless me! Listen carefully, you sons of virgins and sons of whores, you daughters of purity and sin, listen to the ba-ba-bits and bobs broadcast on Radio BABALON. There is sense amongst the nonsense, order amidst the chaos, and meaning in the madness. All this crazy maths is a bit far-fetched for my pulpit, to be honest, but call it what you like, Starseed transmissions or amphibious extraterrestrials, there is something about Sirius that attracts the attention of the skyward bound. I could go on about Sirius at length, others have, at great length, but Nemu’s End has an impending and very final deadline, and I don’t have time to sift the chod from the chaff. I prefer to dream. And you are invited.
Perhaps Uncle Al’s greatest service to humanity was to get together with Auntie Frieda and redesign the tarot deck. Tarot is all about revelation. A deck of cards is a random number generator par excellence. The cut pulls code from the chaos of the shuffle, throwing out a story of numbers and elements, princes and players to reveal the themes beneath the surface. Each of the twenty-two tarot trumps represents one of the twenty-two chapters of Revelation, and trumps are named after the trumpets the angels blow in this intriguing book.
There is one final trump Uncle Al renamed, the second last, the penultimate step on “The Fool”’s journey towards “The Universe” and understanding of the whole. It was called “The Final Judgment” in traditional decks, but he called it “The Aeon,” because. . .
. . . shhhhhhhhhh. . .
Perhaps we should keep quiet about that.
931-938 — Not supplied by author.
939 — Matthew 1: 20-23
940 — Isaiah 7:14 (KJV)
941 — Proverbs 30:19 (Jewish Publication Society Bible)
942 — Song of Solomon 6:8-9
943 — Judges 11
944 — Tractate Ketubot 62b
945 — Ketubot 5:6
946 — ibid 48a
947 — Genesis 38:15
948 — Tractate Abodah Zarah 17
949 — A Hymn to Inanna as Ninegala — The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, lines 109-115
950 — Hymn to Inanna, Segment A
951 — ibid, Segment I
952 — ibid, Segment D
953 — ibid, Segment I.
954 — An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary: With an Index of English Words, King List, and Geographical List
with Indexes, List of Hieroglyphic Characters, Coptic and Semitic Alphabets etc. by Ernest Alfred Wallis; Budge (New York, 1978) p. 310
955 — Matthew 27:61
956 — John 20:14
957 — Romans 16:6
958 — Acts 12:12
959 — John 11:2, 12:3
960 — Mark 14:10
961 — The Egyptian Book of the Dead – The Chapter of Breathing the Air and of Having Power over Water in
962 — John 11:1
963 — Luke 7:45
964 — ibid 7:37-47
965 — ibid 7:47
966 — Geography by Strabo 8.6.20
967 — Luke 8:2
968 — The Wisdom of the Egyptians by Brian Brown,  p. 283
969 — The Making of the Magdalen: Preaching and Popular Devotion in the Later Middle Ages by Katherine
Ludwig; Jansen (Princeton, 2000) pp. 34-38
970 — Saint Augustine by Garry Wills (Guernsey, 1999) pp. 130-139
971 — Shakespeare’s Sexual Language by Gordon Williams (Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006) p.143
972 — Acts 12:4
973 — Ezekiel 8:14
974 — Third Epistle of Cyril to Nestorius
975 — Church Dogmatics by Karl Barth, Geoffrey William Bromiley, Thomas Forsyth; Torrance (Continuum
International Publishing Group, 1961) p. 141
976 — Munificentissimus Deus by Pope Pius XII (November 1950) article 45
977 — Witchcraft Persecutions in Bavaria: Popular Magic, Religious Zealotry and Reason of State in Early
Modern Europe bu Wolfgang Behringer, J. C. Grayson, David Lederer (J. C. Grayson, David Lederer
trans.) (Cambridge, 1997) p. 66
978 — Matthew 27:56
979 — Mark 15:40, 47
980 — Matthew 27:61
981 — Mark 16:1
982 — Matthew 28:5
983 — The Gospel of Judas, Published by the National Geographic Society, 2006 &
The Gospel according to Bart by David V. Borett in The Fortean Times 221, April 2007
984 — The Gospel of Philip (Wesley W. Isenberg trans)
985 — Acts of John, verse 93
986 — The Apocalypse of Peter (James Brashler and Roger A. Bullard trans.)
987 — The Gospel of Mary 4: 38
988 — Pagels p. 105
989 — The Apocalypse of Peter (Brashler, J & Bullard. R. A. trans.)
990 — Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels, (Penguin 1986) p. 60
991 — Libros Quinque Adversus Haereses by Irineus 1.13.5
992 — Hislop pp. 19-20
993 — On the Apparel of Women – Tertullian, Book I. (Rev. S. Thelwall trans.)
994 — De Spectaculis – Tertullian
995 — Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels, (Penguin 1986) p. 53
996 — The Apocalypse of Adam (George W. MacRae trans.)
997 — The Testimony of Truth
998. Hypostasis of the Archons
999 — Genesis Rabbah 1:10
1000 — John 1:1
1001 — Kepler by Max Casper (C. Doris Hellman trans.) (London, 1959) pp. 264-290
1002 — Precocious Galaxy’s Magnetic Field is Bizarrely Strong – New Scientist webstite 1st October, 2008
1003 — The Sirius Mystery by Robert Temple, 3rd edition
©2010 by The Reverend Nemu
Edited by Sheta Kaey
The Reverend Nemu first started thinking about the apocalypse whilst baiting the Jehovah’s Witnesses who appeared at his door. Since then he has written a fat book on the removal of the veil, studying it from various perspectives, including as a neurological process which can occur for an individual at any time, and a collective cultural cataclysm which happens occasionally in history.
He really is a reverend, albeit an irreverent one, and is available for weddings, christenings and funerals.
Douglas “Dag” Rossman
Seven Paws Press (June 30, 2005)
At first glance, Norse mythology can be a daunting dragon. Rough living, the world coming into being from a cow licking an ice man and humans starting as trees, enough names with Thor as a root you would need a spreadsheet to keep track of them, and then the world ends and no one can stop it and even the Gods die. Not only can it be depressing, but finding a good starting place isn’t always easy. I regularly see people new to Heathenry inquiring about good books to start with in order to become familiar with the lore. Douglas “Dag” Rossman has provided one which I think should be in the top five list of Things to Read First In Asatru with his book, The Northern Path: Norse Myths and Legends Retold…And What They Reveal.
The first section of the book is Rossman’s retelling of several tales from the Eddas along with his take on Beowulf and the Nibelungenlied. His tales focus heavily on those involving Old One Eye, including a take on the tale of Odhreorir very much in line with my fellowship’s view of the relationship between Odhinn and Gunnlod. “Beowulf” and the Ring cycle have both been greatly compressed, and are a much less intimidating introduction to both tales. Finally, Dag shares stories of Thor, the theft of Idunna’s apples, how Skadhi came to marry Njord, Loki’s binding, and Ragnarok. Each of the stories in the book show Dag’s own style, and not all follow what would be considered the canon of the lore. I don’t think this is a drawback; since there was certainly no written canon a thousand years ago, it is easy to think of different skalds varying stories based on region and their experiences.
Part two of the book covers Germanic cosmology and gives insight into the mindset of the people. Among the topics covered are the relevance of mythology, how he himself came to be a skald, an introduction to the Aesir, Vanir, elves, the enemies of the gods, the significance of Ragnarok, and how the lore has survived into modern times. I was very interested to read about his own experiences of creating an initiatory experience using the lore for young men attending Sons of Norway campouts. The idea of teen boys learning about their ancestry by participating in mock adventures and having to fare out alone at night combined with the mythology would make the Gods come alive for these young men. Truly, I am surprised that Rossman did not identify outright as Heathen, though he does mention people worshiping the Gods in modern times and his own implementation of an old Germanic mindset in his life.
One line that stuck out for me when I was reading was this section where he describes his idea that the battle between Thor and Jormundgand as allegory for order and chaos in the universe.
“In the scenario just described, it seems clear that Thor acts as a representative of Order, and the Midgard Serpent a representation of Chaos. Their first two encounters are standoffs, a reflection of the dynamic balance that exists between Order and Chaos, and which I believe lies at the heart of the orlog. So long as this balance is maintained, the Nine Worlds will continue to exist. Should Thor finally prevail over the Serpent of Chaos, nothing could ever change, stagnation would set in, and all possibilities for future creativity would cease. Should Thor be slain, Order would totally disintegrate, and the Nine Worlds with it. Alas, the Eddas tell us of yet a third possibility, a final confrontation between the two adversaries at Ragnarok (the Doom of the Gods) in which both will be slain …and the Nine Worlds consumed by fire and flood.” (p. 194-195)
I don’t agree with the honoring of giants who are depicted as outright enemies of the Gods, mind, but I thought this to be one of the simplest and clearest explanations as to why they might exist.
This is an excellent book for any Heathen library. Not only is it perfect to hand to someone to introduce them to the mythology and worldview without overwhelming them with names and unfamiliar terms, for those who are well versed in the lore it’s a very entertaining spin on the mythology. One can easily imagine a skald coming around the community a thousand years ago, with tales both familiar and new, all having his own special spin and perspective threaded throughout. Rossman’s work is truly inspired.
Five stars out of five.
Review ©2010 by Soli.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.
January 24, 2010 by Gerald del Campo
Filed under alchemy, christianity, columns, gnosticism, hermeticism, magick, philosophy, qabalah, religion and spirituality, the dictionary of traditional magick and etherical science, thelema
A column by Gerald del Campo, The Dictionary of Traditional Magic and Etherical Science features ten author-selected definitions per issue. The definitions included in Mr. del Campo’s Dictionary do not necessarily reflect the views of the administrators or other contributors of this magazine.
(Alchemy) In alchemy, the top part of a still. Often used to refer to a complete still. An instrument used for distillation.
(Gnostic) The “first begetter”. A Greek reference to Yaldabaoth.
(Ecclesiastic) A member of a religious order choosing to dwell within a convent, monastery or a community, as opposed to a hermit, who lives in solitude.
(Magick, Religion) Literally, “calling out.” Evocation is the application of magick to cause the physical or astral guise of a spirit to appear. See Invocation.
(Alchemy) A process of separation, in which material is passed through a sieve or screen designed to allow only pieces of a certain size to pass through. In alchemy, the procedure is illustrated by the sign of Sagittarius.
(Yoga) Sanskrit The Gunas are the three basic principles in Ayurvedic medicine that represent the process through which the subtle becomes gross. They are defined as consciousness or essense (sattva), activity (rajas), and inactivity (tamas). These principles also correspond with the alchemic principles of Mercury, Sulfur and Salt.
(Philosophy) The doctrine that a person actually pursues nothing but his own interests. Note carefully how it differs from Ethical Egoism.
(Philosophy) The doctrine that genuine knowledge is not established by sense-experience, or at least not by sense-experience alone, and so is wholly or at least to a significant extent A Priori. Contrast Empiricism.
(Alchemy, magick, general usage) One of the most stable geometric designs. In alchemy, the triangle represents the three alchemical principles: Mercury, Sulfur and Salt. In magick, demons are invoked into a triangle.
(Alchemy) One of a class of fabled female water spirits. They have the advantage of receiving a human soul by intermarrying with a mortal.
©2010 by Gerald del Campo.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.
Gerald del Campo has authored three books on the subject of Thelema: A Heretic’s Guide to Thelema, New Aeon Magick: Thelema Without Tears, and New Aeon English Qabalah Revealed. He is a photographer, musician and CEO for the Order of Thelemic Knights, the first Thelemic charitable organization. You can visit his blog at http://solis93.livejournal.com and his websites at http://thelemicknights.org and http://egoandtheids.com. Gerald formerly served as Senior Managing Editor of Rending the Veil.