I’ve had some personal stuff come up, and so I’ve been taking a bit of a break the past week. I’ll be back on track in a few days, with some new blogs posts and a new video soon.
I’ve had some personal stuff come up, and so I’ve been taking a bit of a break the past week. I’ll be back on track in a few days, with some new blogs posts and a new video soon.
Walter was teaching what he called a “Metaphysics” class. The class was ostensibly centered on the tarot, but the topics and exercises ranged far and wide, which any decent Qabalist can tell you is how it should be. After all, everything is connected, and as Lon DuQuette said, if you focus on any one thing long enough, you can see the rest of the Universe through it (or something to that effect).
But Walter saw a potential in me, and we began meeting outside of this class. It was very Karate-Kid-esque, with me helping him clean his basement, fix cars, and mow his lawn. And he showed me how he did things in his life: shopping auctions, buying old cars and fixing them up, and most importantly, how to get people to do what you want.
Cleaning the helping around the house was a way for him to see how I operated. Auctions were a way for me to see how he operated. And the lessons were subtle: he was teaching me how to see value in things very few saw, and how to find the people who did see it (and sell to them). He showed me an art form that I had little experience with in my youth: charisma. And it is a powerful force, which can move mountains and summon armies.
Walter really is a bit of a mystic, and I suppose in a very real sense is a true wizard. His craft is the craft of the wise, and what he taught me was how to see how things fit together, where the patterns are going and how they fit together, and how to anticipate shifts in the patterns and upcoming trends. He came from the old school, that focused on states of being, and it seemed to work for him. The problem is that he had such an innate grasp of what he was trying to show me, he couldn’t readily explain a lot of it. I observed a lot, and began to watch him with all of my senses to see how he did things.
The magic was just a side effect. His experience with ceremonial magic was minimal and mostly theoretical. He didn’t do ritual work because he didn’t need to. He could work without it.
Walter’s demonstration of charisma showed how confidence and self-assurance can get you where you want to be, and how flirting and flattery really will get you everywhere. (Say what you will about pick-up artists, but they are masters of practicing the art of charisma.) Unfortunately, he also showed me some of the down sides of charisma: it can run out. He functioned in large part on the adulation of his students, and when his class stalled out, all of his other activities did as well.
But having a mentor isn’t just about having a teacher. It is about a deep personal relationship with someone who imparts a part of their magic to you, that it may awaken something withing yourself. It is about having someone you can trust, or fight with, or who you can teach back. And I’m pretty sure that I taught him almost as much as he taught me. And there were ebbs and flows over the years, as he succumbed to his depression or I rejected some of his advice on self-important moral grounds. And new classes would pop up, more focused on one area or another. And new people were met, new connections made. And in time, I was not just his student, but an assistant, a student teacher, an apprentice.
And I was brought in to his inner circle.
He really did have a group of very select people that he met with on a regular basis. I’m not even sure if Jack knew about it, for while he was also taken under Walter’s wing, he did not appear to receive the same attention I did. (I asked Walter about that once. He said that unlike Jack, I “was willing to pull the trigger.”) There were really only four people, but I was allowed to join in. And as green a noob as I was, I found my opinions in our discussions being met with respect. It was pretty damn cool.
And one night, Walter and our friend (whom I shall call Gina) were sitting with me, and they told me quite simply: “Chiro (No, they used my real name. Duh.), you have no value whatsoever to society. You are worthless.”
Yeah, that stung a bit. But they were kind of right. Fortunately, they gave me a solution. “Get educated.”
The Inner Circle fell apart, mostly because of the impact Gina’s stroke and death had on us all. Walter went into another depressive bout, a pretty bad one. He went off the radar for a bit.
I went to college. And I herded cats.
When I was younger, a friend of mine lent me a book series called the Death Gate Cycle. It features a race of powerful wizards that access their power by activating runes tattooed across their bodies. The idea has always intrigued me, and I have always carefully pondered what runes or glyphs of power would make potent tattoos (and where they would go).
It was with this mindset that I read Taylor Ellwood’s essay on using magic to enhance your body.
Taylor describes three techniques:
1) Using magic to enhance muscle strength while working a physically demanding job.
What I did before the shift was to run my hands over my legs and arms, putting energy into the muscles so that I could warm them up ahead of time, as well as help them heal. This allowed me to condition my muscles during the first couple of weeks so that I wasn’t as sore as I would’ve been otherwise.
2) Using magic to facilitate more rapid healing.
When I get tattoos, I tend to heal fairly quick because what I do is communicate with my cells and direct energy toward the metabolism functions in order to improve the speed of healing. I’ve also used this for other injuries. While it doesn’t provide instantaneous healing, I have noticed that healing occurs quicker than it normally would.
3) Pairing magical work with physical exercises to enhance eyesight.
One of the activities I do on a regular basis are eye exercises, which include bringing my sight into and out of focus as well as rolling my eyes and looking up or down or to the side for more than a second. Doing these exercises help to enhance my sight, but I’ve also done some inner alchemical work with the rods and cones as well as the natural chemicals in my eyes, focusing on cell regeneration, so that I can keep my eyesight at its current performance.
I have used similar techniques. My efforts to sustain muscle strength tend to be less focused: I radiate the energy from within rather than “apply” it from without. The healing techniques I have had the most success with are those discussed by Mike Sententia via his Direct Magic system, and it involves directly communicating instruction to the body to adjust its energy signatures to induce healing. The vision thing I haven’t done, and I may give it a shot at some point, because my eyesight sucks low swinging old man scrotum.
My specialty is maintaining alertness. One trick I stole from a Dune novel, and it involves a focused meditation (nap?) for 500 heartbeats. As in seriously focusing on your heartbeats and counting off 500 of them, all while breathing deeply and clearly. It is kind of a nap, but it’s a bit more somehow, and can add a few hours of alertness. I’m also really good at drawing in magical energy to keep myself alert or energized, and in fact keep certain pieces of jewelry charged for this purpose. (I have a ring that can hold about 4 “charges,” each good enough to jolt me for a few hours more.) I am capable of drawing energy straight from the environment, but I am more cautious with that, ever since the time I established a direct magical link to the Sun and couldn’t sleep for several days.
I’ve played with the jewelry idea a lot, and have different pieces for different purposes, each storing different types of energy or having spells enchanted into them. I’ve also done this with clothing before, especially coats and hats.
But my interest is in direct body modification.
I have no tattoos. (If I ever get one, I’m sure pictures will appear here.) I have no piercings. But my talent with enchanting talismans and other objects — especially in the ways described — inspire me to ponder how piercings or tattoos could impart permanent or semi-permanent magical effects. Enchanting shields or wards onto an earring or nose piercing would be easy-peasy (perhaps a belly-button ring might work better — nearer the solar plexus). Sigil tattoos should work very effectively on theory, and the notion of protective or magic enhancing tattoos has intrigued me ever since I read the book series mentioned above. My own ideas for potential tattoos have included the Rose Cross Lamen, the Octogram, and a variant of my family crest.
One of the concerns I have had regarding tattoos is the claim I have heard from some chiropractors and acupuncturists that tattoos read as scar tissue to the body, and can disrupt the flow of chi. But this just interests me more, for it may be possible to construct and place tattoos so that they actually help enhance the flow of chi through the body.
To my knowledge, there has not been must serious discussion of these ideas, but I’m sure that someone somewhere has thought of them before and played with them. I’d love to heard any experiences from the tattooed out there, as well as from anyone else who has worked along these lines of thought.
The dichotomy of natural versus artificial is one that I have discussed before, mostly because it comes up so frequently in pagan discourse, and because I think it is a fabricated construct that does us a disservice:
The real issue comes with how we define “nature.” Nature as a concept is a romantic notion, one that brings to mind pristine and peaceful wilderness where noble savages live in peace and robust health. This is contrasted to the concept of the “artificial” or the manmade, which is seen as exploiting or going against the virtues of Nature. This ignores three simple facts: 1) The “natural” world is inherently dangerous, and doesn’t give a flying crap if we survive comfortable or die slow, agonizing deaths; 2) The “artificial” world has bestowed upon us many things that have proven greatly beneficial to our comfort, survival, and well-being; and 3) Humans are animals, and are a part of Nature, and as such any activity we undertake, no matter how complex, is “natural.”
When people talk about things being more “natural,” what they usually mean is less complex. And even that isn’t really true, because “natural” things are oftentimes more complex than “artificial” things. That’s why we refine things: we take the part we want and simplify it and discard the rest. What they’re really getting at is an idea of purity. (But I digress …)
So I read this essay by Elinor Predota on the divide between urban and rural with interest.
To me it almost seems like a fairy-tale environment – too perfect to be real – and the same goes for the surrounding countryside of Somerset: an example of English rurality so perfect as to be almost a Platonic ideal.
While we walked around Bath, Josh and I discussed our differing responses to urban environments. I have a more typically ‘Pagan’ response to them, which is to say that I find them socially easier than rural environments, but energetically and spiritually more challenging. It was an interesting conversation.
I am strongly aware that my current difficulties in coping with life in urban settings is a big drawback to my ability to engage in human social life. Our conversation helped me to recognise that I have skills in relating to the non-human in more-than-human rural and green environments that I can transfer to the human in human-dominated environments – distinguishing between different scales of life, of energy, and of being, and relating appropriately to each, in a way which enables me to function in an environment, without becoming energetically overwhelmed.
Unlike the natural/artificial dichotomy, the divide between urban and rural can be define in a real and meaningful way. Suburbs can muck those divisions up a bit, so I prefer to think of the difference between urban and rural as one of developed versus undeveloped. Oops: rural areas are highly developed and planned.
So, to begin again. Urban areas are highly developed in terms of dense placement of dwellings and means of production. Rural areas are spread out (especially in places like Kansas) and open. It takes longer to cross rural distances. Urban activities are driven by high populations and follow their own temporal patterns.
And that is what occurred to me in reading Elinor’s comments. The main difference between urban and rural is one of pace, of process. There is far more activity in a city than a rural town. More people, doing more things, at a faster pace, ignoring sunrise and sunset. This is why I can’t sleep in Chicago — there are too many people doing too many things too late, and I feel it all throbbing underneath me.
But it’s not the buildings. They’re made out of the same rock and mud as a farm. It’s not the roads. The same roads crisscross the countryside. It is simply the energy generated by people doing people things. It is the difference between a squad of bees searching for nectar and the bustle of the hive.
And that very much is about being able to deal with people. But unlike the rural environment, it is about dealing and interacting with people you probably don’t know, and you can’t anticipate or understand, but who’s energy washes over you anyway.
And I don’t know that the energy of the land and the voices of the spirits are any quieter in the city. In fact, I doubt they are. But if you are attuned to the subtle energies of life around you, it is harder to sense the spirits of the land through the cacophony of millions of people living their hopes and fears.
I’m sure that there are ways to mediate this energy and work around it. I’ve done it myself, although I honestly don’t remember how I did it. But my concern is that one of the reasons so many pagans have trouble sensing the subtle energies of urban areas is because they’re taught that they can’t. And who knows – perhaps learning to open up to and cope with that much human energy will help is live together more easily, just as living in nature helps us adapt to the world that exists happily without us.
There’s been some interesting discussions about water at No Unsacred Place.
Emma-Jayne Saanen writes about her experience and reaction to water. Spoiler: Does not like.
I have a primal fear of water; Loch Lomond is no exception. I find my soul being called into her inescapable depths; the dark water pulling my light inwards. I would be lost, forever. Sitting above her energy in a tiny boat made the Loch even more intimidating. She could have claimed me as her own easily enough, her song calling me to climb to the upper deck, calling me to jump into her icy embrace.
Water is unnerving.
Inspired by this tale, Lupa offered her own perspective:
I grew up near creeks and streams, and fishing in ponds, and although I didn’t go to any ocean until I was in my late twenties, the Pacific has inspired child-like joy and wonder in me every time I visit it. I’m even happy splashing around a swimming pool or soaking in a hot tub, and my daily shower is one of life’s luxuries. I’m fortunate to have lived in places with uniformly clean, good-tasting tap water, and I never developed a bottled water habit.
So I suppose my relationship to water is overall pretty positive. Maybe it’s my evolutionary inheritance; supposedly we humans are attracted to places with water because in the savannahs we evolved in, knowing where the water is was crucial to our survival. But then again, it could also just be the culmination of a lot of positive experiences with water, too.
So, as with most things, this shall be an excuse to talk about myself.
Here is all the information that anyone could ever possible want to know about me and my entire life:
That’s not the best picture, so let me summarize it a bit in the context of water as an element. I have five planets in water signs. Three of them are in Scorpio, and two of them are in Cancer. This includes the Sun and the Moon. My ascendant and midheaven are also in water signs.
Astrologically, I’m kind of a watery person.
Also of not is that the only planet I have in an Earth sign is Chiron, which many don’t consider a planet. And it’s retrograde. And if we don’t count it, the my natal Saturn is void-of-course.
Astrologers out there have just been given a tremendous insight into my personality. Non-astrologers may be a bit confuddled, so I will shorten all this. I’m not what most would consider “down to earth” or “well-grounded.” I don’t ground the way most people do, I’m empathic to the point that it can be near-crippling, and while I usually just as practical minded as most, I tend toward flights of fancy and bits of whimsey at random intervals. I emote easy, pick up on other people’s emotions easy, and am good and getting a feel of the energy of a room, whether I want to or not.
These are traits associated with water. Water permeates things. Things dissolve into it. It flows between one space and another, often with no clear boundary. It flows deep and conceals what lies beneath, and it churns things up from those depths.
Yeah, that’s me.
But perhaps I’m crossing the line between metaphor and reality. (But if you got the above you know I like to blur boundaries.) This is how I deal with water as an element. What about as an omnipresent chemical in our environment?
Like Lupa, I grew up around a lot of creeks. There are a few lakes and ponds out here, but most are artificial (as if that matters). But the creeks are everywhere, to the point where springtime flooding is a yearly danger. (Just helped a friend clean out her flooded garage, actually.) So there is a great respect out here for flowing water and falling water.
That said, I love water. My childhood often centered around trips to the pool or playing in the bathtub. I still feel very out of sorts if I cannot have a good soak in a tub at least every couple of days. Swimming is a grand pleasure, especially if I am allowed the luxury of skinny-dipping, which is simply exquisite. Floating freely in a body of water, especially one teeming with life, is an extraordinary sensation to me. Swimming in the Atlantic Ocean was borderline ecstatic. (Have not made it to the Pacific or the Gulf yet.)
Water is cleansing and supportive. It caresses and soothes. It can cool and refresh or warm and invigorate. It restores balance. Moving in and through water is a natural, and indeed spiritual, extension of myself into the environment.
But I understand the fear of the depths of the hidden, the unseen churning deep below. I feel its siren call and know the dangers of its crushing oblivion. And I think that is part of water’s appeal, the fact that despite the ease with which it can destroy, it also supports and nurtures all life. So even as I fear it, I embrace and accept it, for its power sustains me.
Now deserts, they fucking terrify me.
The volleys in the war to define paganism are many and great. It is an on-going thing on the pagan blogosphere right now (I have contributed myself here, here, here, here, and here), and I happen to think there is good reason for it.
But then I came across this interesting blog post from Inominandium, who discusses being perceived as not-pagan:
I think it would be accurate for some people to say that I don’t fit their definition of Pagan, but so would lots of other Pagans. I did mention in a post recently that this was not a Pagan blog and thus had different concerns when it came to the spirit/fiction debate, but it’s not a Buddhist blog or Gnostic blog either.
I mean, you can decide I am not Pagan because I am a Gnostic Bishop, but so is J.M. Greer and a half dozen other Pagan elders I know. You can say that because I am a Buddhist I am not Pagan, while it is true that I do not take refuge in Gods, I do practices that honor many many Gods and Spirits. At the moment I am writing a chapbook on Planetary Magic with 49 Hymns that focus on the Greek Gods associated with the planets. Chronos didn’t care that I am also a Gnostic Bishop and Tantrika when I made offerings to him this morning.
Good points, and similar to some thoughts that have already been brought up. But then we get his with this gem:
In a way the current myopic focus on the details of ones belief that is dominating the Pagan conversation at the moment is actually a very un-pagan thing. In classical paganism, religion was much more about what you did (like honoring holidays and offering sacrifice to the gods) than it was about what the details of your personal theology were. If anything this focus on belief as the key factor of who is Pagan and who is not is kind of, well, Christian.
Religion did not exist as a thing until the Enlightenment. That is not to say that we didn’t do religious things or have religious ideas, but the label “religion” wasn’t really there. As a distinct category or life, it wasn’t labeled. At most, it probably would have been called “tradition.” The ancient Greeks and Romans didn’t really have words for religion, because what we consider religion was so deeply entrenched in life that it was inseparable as a concept.
So for much of history, what we call paganism was more of a default setting. You may have had different ways of dealing with the gods, or conceiving of them, or different experts who petitioned them. No one generally cared. When most people traveled from one place to another, they abided by the customs and traditions of that place. There wasn’t much worry about labels.
Christianity did kind of change all that. You had to be a Christian, that is to say, a follower of the Christ. Which meant certain rituals and beliefs had to be entertained, and certain ones were no longer allowed. I suppose Judaism started that mindset, but it was always a minority religion and was regarded as pretty much an oddity to be tolerated on occasion by the rest of the pagan world. But Christianity pushed it, and as it became dominant, reinforced that mindset of belonging to the right group with the right beliefs.
Ancient pagans wove their cults into their community and culture. It was part of what everyone did to come together. Religious and political identity were one. Christians transcended that to a degree. Religion still defined the community, but now did so primarily by belonging to the correct religion.
What I’m getting that is that ancient pagans didn’t worry about how paganism was defined. Because it wasn’t at all – it was assumed. Christianity began the work of defining and labeling religion, is that they could ensure boundaries and identities were proper. Pagans didn’t really give a shit.
I still think that defining and labeling paganism as a concept is important, but that’s mostly because the dominant Abrahamic religions have made it so. As a minority group, we need to be sure where our borders are — well, mostly. But that is still allowing Christians (and Mulsims) to set the frame of the debate. As we gain in numbers, perhaps defining ourselves strongly will become less important instead of more so.
So am I pagan? I guess so. I don’t know that it matters much anymore.
Images of the Triple Goddess as Maiden, Mother, and Crone have dominated Wicca, and through it, paganism in general. This vision of the divine feminine reflecting the cycles of women’s lives has become so popular, that some have attempted to develop similar schema for men as well.
Well, the whole thing is really made up.
Yes, truly. The notion of a Triple Goddess reflecting the Maiden, Mother, and Crone and standing for the waxing, full, and waning Moon, has about as much historical veracity as the myths of the Burning Times or the Golden Age Matriarchy. As in, none.
And Fire Lyte has been kind enough to point this out. In detail.
That Triple Goddess, as defined by modern authors of Pagan works, was said to be a divine cycle of Maiden, Mother, Crone. These three monikers not only delineate differences in age, but in life perspective, position, wisdom, power, and phases of the moon. Carl Jung, a Swiss psychotherapist and darling of the modern Pagan community for his work on archetypes, put forth that the notion of a triple deity (or triad), generally speaking, was a pattern throughout myth arising from the most primitive level of human mental development and culture. Divine Triads exist in Hinduism – where the concept is known as the Tridevi and includes Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Parvati as manifestations of Shakti, Norse mythology – the Norns which are cognate of the Greek Fates or Moirai, Irish myth – both Brighid and the sisters Ériu, Fotla, and Banba have been presented as possible triads. The Morrígan is a figure from Irish mythology said to have possibly been a triad, though which goddesses exactly were supposed to make up that triad varies between authors and historical accounts.But, let’s take a moment to pause and note that the concept of the Divine Triad has rarely, if ever, been depicted in myth as being a young, virginal girl, a woman in the prime of her life, and an old crone who is past the age of child-bearing. Indeed, the Greek Fates were depicted, both in art and story, as old and ugly. Likewise, the Norse Norns are both the same age and rulers of destiny, not of specific times in a person’s life. Indeed, throughout myth and culture, the notion of the young maiden, the fertile mother, and the ancient crone seems to exist mostly in the modern day, supporting the proposition by Hutton that this concept came about at the turn of the 20th century. While it is an interesting influence of art and entertainment – this theme has run rampant in modern fantasy literature, television, and film – it does not have as much historical veracity as other parts of modern Paganism.
You might immediately see something that’s a bit disconcerting for a religion whose deities are supposed to represent balance and shared authority. While the Goddess must be the Mother in any incarnation of her triad, the God gets to skip out on the title of Father in favor of the much more masculine and testosterone-filled moniker Warrior. These ideas, granted, are argued ad nauseam online in message boards, chat rooms, blogs, podcasts, and any other form of new social media you can use.I find this absolutely fascinating and inspiring and the source of my answer to the problem of identifying with only one of three potential archetypes at a time.Let’s assume that the reason many permutations of the God triad exist is because it is generally accepted that men can be, and are, more than just fathers and more than just warriors. What if we stuck all of them together? A sort of Choose Your Own Adventure style of deified life phases? What if we said the God could be Youth, Warrior, Father, and Sage? Is that less neat and tidy because it gives us four options rather than the classical three? But, what if you choose the path of the academic or poet or scientist rather than the path of the warrior? Could the God then be Youth, Warrior, Academic, Father, and Sage?I realize that the argument can quickly be made that the word “warrior” is a stand-in for an idea, and it is not to be taken literally, but that is false. Words mean things. They have definitions. While we can say that a Warrior can also mean a fertile adult male in the prime of his life, that isn’t what the word means, and, thusly, can be hard to relate to should a man not think of his prime as Warrior-hood.The same is true for the Wiccan triad of Maiden, Mother, and Crone. Mother can mean a woman in the prime of her life, but that isn’t what the word means. The word is specifically defined in relation to the children she either has given birth to or otherwise cares for. But if you choose to be childless, how can you relate to a word that is foreign to you? What if you’d rather be a Maiden, Warrior, Crone yourself?