Thursday, April 27, 2017

Advice for an Unsexy, Work-Filled Beltane

The National Library of Wales by Wikimedia Commons. By CC 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.


Regarding Beltane Traditions


by Race MoChridhe

Spring, sometimes, is a long time coming.
I have lived in the fertile, sheltered valleys of Oregon, where Imbolc brings the first shoots of bulbs from the soil and daffodils come up as readily as snowdrops. I have lived in the great temperate woodlands of Minnesota, where the astronomical and botanical aspects of spring coincide, and the equinox mists the tips of long bare branches in a haze of green. I have lived too on the subarctic tundras of Alaska, where snow is thick on the ground even as Beltane approaches and what was for the ancient Irish the beginning of summer, is instead the first faint glimmer of spring.

What all these places have in common, however, is that both religious and secular observances of Beltane/May Day (which, although closely related, are technically distinct traditions) are virtually extinct. I was an adult making my first studies of the Pagan community before I ever saw an actual maypole (known to me previously only from scattered references in Edwardian stories) or witnessed anyone light a bonfire. I grew up with a handy father, however, who took advantage of the first pleasant days of the year to involve me in pouring new concrete steps for the patio, re-staining the fence, or planting trees. Ever since then, this time has brought a memory of energy to my hands and a desire to see will into action, idea into actuality. I also grew up at the end of the Cold War, and so, while I have had to work at my relationship with observances of Beltane and May Day, the arrival of International Workers’ Day is felt in my bones.

At first, these two takes on the season—giant-phallic-pole-in-the-middle-of-the-village May Day and giant-phallic-rockets-in-the-middle-of-Red-Square May Day—seem very different. All cultures, however, form their beliefs and rituals on patterns woven by a universal fabric, and these two traditions are, in fact, closely intertwined.

May blossom, the common hawthorn flower; Crataegus monogyna. Ceridwen, 
by Wikimedia Commons CC by SA 2.0

For the ancients, Beltane was a celebration of fertility, and modern Paganism has presented this most often in the Wiccan image of the marriage of the Lord and Lady, whose union begets the abundance of summer life. Yet who has been fruitful and multiplied without tilling the earth from which they were taken, and eating by the sweat of their brow? The sweet, sweaty trysts following the maypole dance have become so clichéd that double entendres hardly register in the Pagan community anymore, and every year about this time one sees a flood of articles reassuring both single Pagans and parents of small children that it is possible to mark the first of May in an entirely celibate fashion. These pieces generally have much to say of fun spring-greeting activities, but offer little meaning to the holiday aside from sanitized metaphors of the same primal themes—fertility rites worked with garden trowels instead of athames. It is in looking to the traditions of the labor movement that we can make deeper meaning of the day, because they remind us to look not just at the planted seed, but at the digging hands.

The moment our focus shifts in this way, we begin to see that the work is not just a metaphor for fertility, but a spiritual principle whole unto itself—one distinct in nature but alike in dignity. By the same inexorable logic that brought Pagan and Socialist May Day into being at this same point on the Year’s Wheel, the Roman Catholic Church appointed 1 May as the feast day of St. Joseph, patron saint of workers, and there is something profoundly beautiful amidst the fleshly tangle of Pagan Beltane in glancing through a church window to see Joseph celebrated for performing the work of being Jesus’ father even though he was not biologically so.

As Dorothy Sayers once sagely observed, the first and most essential thing which we can know of divinity is the act of creation, by which the ideas of the divine mind are given substance and expression in the worlds. Though we may figure this act, as Wicca generally does, in the terms of biological fertility, it is more fundamentally an illumination of the unformed by form—an actualization of potential, a bringing forth of dream into reality. The spirit-drunken post-maypole frenzy and the spirit-sober consummation of the handfasting are, in the end, just as much metaphors as are the various “replacement” activities of the yearly round of consolation articles—activities which are, in some ways, actually a step closer to the reality, for all that they are consist more of art and less of instinct.

This is, of course, not to say that the old-fashioned fertility rite is not effective, or even that it is not profound, for it can most certainly be both in the hands of a responsible practitioner. It is only to say that such rites are the first tender shoots of the Mystery, and still far from the ripeness of its fruit. The true fullness of spring, with all its rich intensity of flavors, well—that can still potentially be a long time coming.


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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Wiccan, Pagan, and Magick Wands – All You Could Want to Know

A wand
A handcrafted wand. Public domain image by Martin Brož, via Wikimedia Commons.



The Magick Wand and its Uses


by Joodhe

When it comes to Paganism, the magick wand as a tool is optional. Even at times when one would come in handy, pointing your finger towards that which you are focused upon serves the same purpose. Whether as the tool of a Pagan or a non Pagan a wand is most often made of wood. A wand may alternatively be made of other natural materials such as crystal or stone, or non-ferrous metals (such as copper, pewter, bronze, silver and gold).

The reason ferrous metals are not commonly used, is because they interfere with the ideal flow of energies during the ritual use of tools containing them. This is the same theory behind why many Wiccans/Pagans reject having ferrous screws, or in some cases any other kind of metal screws, holding their altars together.


But What if the Wand I Want isn’t Made with Natural Materials?


It would benefit one to know that a magick wand crafted from a non-natural substance can be programmed to hold the properties and energies of the natural substance of one’s choice. It’s easily done. The one stipulation is that I’d recommend you not waste your time trying this on a wand containing ferrous metal.

Let’s say you have a resin cast wand and want it to hold the properties of wood (I have done this). Cast your circle first if you standardly use one. Call on a divinity to assist you if you like, but it isn't necessary. Place the wand upon your altar and hold the intent of transforming it to wood. Firmly focus that thought upon the wand, and hold the intent until you know the task is done. Upon completion of this task you simply acknowledge closure by saying "so mote it be." Afterwards, if you called upon a divinity, say thank you and bid them farewell.

When done, pick the wand up and acknowledge the wood properties that you feel within it. For a while it is best that you repeat this affirmative action each time you see the wand to reinforce the transformation.

I know that this process works as when looking for my own wand, the only one I could find which I could relate to was a cold-cast resin Harry Potter wand! I varnished it then performed this simple ritual. It feels and works like wood and I love it!


What Exactly Does a Wand Do?


No matter what specific purpose a wand is being used for, its primary purpose is to house and direct energy. The wand in and of itself will not have any magickal power. It is what you do with it after its construction that will determine the purposes it may be used for.

Although it initially has no power of its own, your spiritual energy (power) will become one with your wand as you consecrate and charge it. Once charged, wands are most commonly used for directing energies.

There are various purposes for which one would choose to use a wand, also known as a magick wand. They are commonly used both within and outside of the Pagan and Wiccan faiths. Rather than speak from a Pagan or non Pagan viewpoint, I will do my best to cover both. From my point of view, there seems to be a lot of crossover.


A Wand Can be Used For:

_____________
  • Directing energies: During rituals, simply pointing the wand with a given intent will direct an energy towards where it needs to go. This applies whether for witchcraft or other types of ritual usage.
  • Invoking Goddess or other spirits: A wand may be used to invoke Goddess, it may also be used to call upon various other beings in spirit. You would do this to request their knowledge or advice.
  • Healing: Any wand, whether or not it contains crystals can be used in certain kinds of healing rituals. There are many ways to direct healing energies by intent alone; a person doesn’t need to be a Reiki practitioner to heal. To concentrate healing energy on a focused area one may choose to use a wand.
  • Condensing the purpose of an amulet: In this case you have previously charged an amulet and are topping it up again by aiming the wand and focusing your intent upon the amulet to recharge it. It’s that simple. Conclude with a simple "so mote it be".
  • Drawing Symbols: A wand can be used to draw symbols, such as a pentagram or what have you either in the air or on the ground as a part of your ritual.
  • Stirring: A wand can be used to stir mixtures and blends when opportunity presents.



How to Cleanse Your Wand


The best ways to cleanse negative energies from your wand are ones that don’t involve water. If you have a wand that you know for sure could be safely cleansed by running it under flowing clean water, by all means do so. If you do not know it to be water safe, opt for smudging. Another great technique that’s quite simple, is to hold your wand up towards the sun and order the negative energy to flow into the light, then pause focused on that intent. When you can tell that the process has concluded, say "so mote it be".

You can alternatively run your wand through the smoke of incense and utter an appropriate offering of verbiage. I would say something such as – I release all negative energy from this wand to return to the light. I now bless this wand and imbue it with positive energy – so mote it be. Yet another wonderful way to cleanse your wand is to have it rest on selenite. Consider making a stand containing selenite for your wand.

Remember that once your wand is regularly being used, you will need to cleanse it frequently to remove negative and stale energies from it.


Consecrating Your Wand


You would consecrate a wand in order to make it a sacred object. Here are the instructions to do so.

A wand made out of natural, unfinished wood
A wand made out of natural, unfinished wood


How to Charge a Wand


It’s simple to charge a wand, or any other sacred object or tool. Here’s how it’s done.


What is So Mote it Be?


It’s a closure to seal in an intent. Nothing more. It is common amongst Pagans to use this particular form of verbal closure, but it is something anyone can use.


Proper Handling, Storage and Care of a Wand


A wand when not in use should be wrapped and stored in a box. Ideally the wrapping material should be natural in origin; silk works well. The box is best made of wood. Natural materials prevent the wand from being contaminated by other energies than your own. Also, keep your wand away from being handled by other people as it’s a sacred tool that should carry your energy alone.

Wood for making wands
Wood to be used in wand making


A Traditional Pagan Belief About Harvesting Wood for Your Wand


Many Pagans believe that wood to be used for a wand should be fallen as opposed to being harvested for the purpose. Others feel it’s okay to harvest the wood as long as you first ask for permission from the tree. If you choose to do this, you must remember to thank the tree for the sacrificed wood once done. Be gentle with the tree by removing as little wood as necessary for the purpose.


What Shape Works Best for a Wand?


Even though for most a straight wand works best, some choose to use some fairly bendy ones. And that’s okay too, but obviously it’s going to be somewhat awkward at times.


How Long Should a Wand Be?


It shouldn’t be longer than from your elbow to the tip of your middle finger. That said, whatever suits you is what’s best. You want it long and short enough to handle without being awkward.

There are extra-long wands used for certain purposes, they are called staffs. The proper way to fit a staff to you is to choose one as long as you are tall.


A Fun Fact


In Tarot, the wand relates to the suit of Wands.  A wand (and too the Tarot suit of Wands) corresponds with the direction South and the element of fire. That said, in some Wiccan traditions a wand (and thereby the corresponding Tarot suit) is associated with the element of air and the direction East.  In Tarot however, there are very few decks that reflect that alternative choice.


The Wand is Male


The wand is a male tool and carries a male energy. Another example of a male tool is an athame; examples of female tools are chalices and cauldrons. It’s simple to understand the difference as it is symbolic of anatomical differences between males and females. In many Wiccan traditions there is a balancing of male and female energies during rituals. For more reading related to this last paragraph, read "The Druid's Sacred Tools."


A few related YouTube videos:



For the video below, as a word of caution, when she gets to the sound charging section, prepare to turn your sound down. Though not so loud, it is somewhat irritating to hear.




Sunday, March 19, 2017

Ostara: A Festival Without a Cause

Ēostre/Ostara
Oatara. Eduard Ade [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


An Overview of Ostara; Looking at why it Exists, and its Date


by Race MoChridhe

There is something in the air at Ostara. The Egyptians know this well, because every year since about 2700 BC they have gone out into the countryside to take the air, which is believed to be unusually rejuvenating on this day.

What that something is, however, is hard for anyone to say, for while the equinox is widely celebrated the world over, and though a very large share of traditional calendars take it as their new year, there are very few instances of theological significance attached to it. Some sources suggest that Norse communities held a Dísablót on the equinox, but many others, including Snorri Sturluson, place that sacrifice at the beginning of winter instead. The Celts leave no record of celebrating anything at this time. The Greeks and the Romans marked a variety of thematically unrelated dates in the weeks surrounding the equinox, but payed the day itself no particular mind. From the Slavic world, the pre-Christian Balts, or any other corner of Europe or most of the rest of the world, there is only the chirping of crickets (and, in northern climes, even that isn’t heard until Beltane).

In the ancient world, only Palestine and Iraq offer us vernal equinox celebrations focused on more than just spring cleaning, preparation for planting, marking a calendrical milestone, or taking in the fresh air. In what is now Iraq, the Sumerians (and later, Babylonians) marked the day as the return of the goddess Inanna/Ishtar to the world of the living after her descent into the Kur—the realm of the dead. In Palestine, the Israelites marked the Passover commemoration of their Exodus from Egypt on the fourteenth day of the lunar month of Nisan (cf. Leviticus 23:5), which was so arranged to always fall after the vernal equinox. So important was this that, if unripeness of the barley or any other indication was brought forward as evidence for a late spring, a special intercalary month (Adar II) would be inserted into the year to delay Passover.

The imprecision of such dating became fateful with the advent of Christianity. The Gospels mark Passover as the time of Jesus’ Crucifixion and resurrection (cf. John 19:14), and the earliest Christian communities celebrated Easter starting on 14 Nisan as a result. The trouble was that it was also well established in traditional Christian teaching that the Resurrection had occurred on a Sunday, and 14 Nisan did not always fall on one. In the second century, the Bishop of Smyrna marked Easter on the fourteenth regardless of the day of the week, citing authority from John the Apostle himself. Pope Victor I was having none of this, however, and attempted to excommunicate everyone not following his own practice of observing Easter on a Sunday proximate to the middle of the lunar month.

This dispute actually managed to be settled amicably (a rare enough occurrence in early Church history), and the Council of Nicaea universally decreed Sunday observance in 325. By that time, however, there was a new problem in determining which Sunday to use. Christians in Syria continued to consult rabbinic authorities for the date of 14 Nisan, but some Jewish communities, apparently including those at Antioch, by this time allowed the fourteenth to fall before the vernal equinox.

Frigg as Ostara
Frigg als (as) Ostara. By Carl Emil Doepler (1824-1905) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Christian communities elsewhere had taken to calculating the lunar month for themselves, taking it as axiomatic that Easter not be allowed to precede the arrival of spring. The Council of Nicaea accordingly also decided that there should be a universal date for Easter and that it should be computed independently of Jewish reckoning, following a model used at Alexandria that eventually gave us the present Western system, which places Easter on the fourteenth day of the lunar month beginning after the equinox (this is called the Paschal full moon, although it can vary from the date of the astronomical full moon by up to two days). This is why modern Easter varies each year between dates in mid-March and dates in late April.

The so-called “Easter controversy” had a particularly long afterlife in Britain, where the Irish monks clung steadfastly to their own methods of calculating Easter at variance with Rome. This became political, and finally the Synod of Whitby was called in 664 to settle the issue, deciding against the Irish system and in favor of conformity with Rome. The Synod’s arguments became heated, and the enforcement of its edicts even more so. A letter written by St. Ceolfrid justifying the decision to the King of the Picts suggested somewhat histrionically that, “Whoever argues, therefore, that the Paschal full moon can occur before the equinox … allies himself with those who believe that they can be saved without the assistance of Christ's grace." Even the force of this denouncement, however, cannot compare with the attitude taken by Bede who, besides being our only source for the etymological connection between Easter/Ostara and the goddess Ēostre (for whose existence he is also the only source), also left us an account of the slaughter of native British monks by the heathen Æthelfrith in which the calamity is interpreted as a just punishment ordained by God for their recalcitrance.

What does this have to do with Ostara? A great deal, I think. The vehemence of Bede’s feelings are somewhat difficult to explain. The festival had no meaningful antecedent in his culture. Its traditional dating was based on a festival from another religion (Judaism), which itself was dated somewhat arbitrarily by a religious law in Leviticus that Bede, like all other Christians of his time, did not feel obliged to follow. Yet he felt so strongly that the Resurrection could not be commemorated before the spring equinox that he could look on the martyrdom of fellow Christians with contempt. In Christendom generally, and in Britain most fervently, God Himself seemed to be sublimated to the logic of nature’s renewal in the balance of the light; Jesus could turn water into wine before His hour had come (John 2:4), but was strictly forbidden from redeeming Creation before the equinox.

Modern Pagan Ostara is even more arbitrary. It has no direct ancient antecedents in formal religious observance, and even the folk customs upon which it draws are often very recent (the association of hares with the time around Easter, for example, is unrecorded before the 17th century, and does not appear to have spread outside southern Germany until the 18th). Gardnerian Witches did not mark Ostara as a sabbat until Doreen Valiente, before her public career, borrowed its observance as a cover, allowing her to claim that her practice was Druidic (Druid orders being much more respectable in Britain at the time). Even the older Druidic celebration didn’t go back further than the 18th century, being a product of the Welsh Revival. (For a debunking of many “ancient Ostara” myths, consult D.C. McBride). And yet, as modern Pagan mythology developed out of Robert Graves’ teachings on the White Goddess, Margaret Murray’s speculations on medieval witchcraft, and a patchwork of other sources, it developed its own ideas of dying and reborn gods that could, by the same inexorable logic as that which controlled the dating of Easter, not possibly find expression at any other time of the year.

Outside Judaism and Christianity, the equinox cannot really be said to commemorate anything old. All over the world, though, from Jewish Passover and Christian Easter, to Egyptian Shem el-Nessim and Persian Nowruz, to new year’s celebrations in India, southeast Asia, and Mesoamerica, it is a time of celebrating what is new. As modern Paganism, scarcely seventy years old in anything like its now recognizable form, takes its place among the world’s religions, Ostara may be the most genuinely Pagan festival of all, not despite the fact that it is a modern fabrication, but precisely because it is. Every new thing must happen now—for now is the time of renewal—and that is a very old tradition, indeed.


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Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Hierophant and the Divine Passion

Thoth Hierophant

The Real Hierophant, that it Seems Relatively Few Know Of


by Race MoChridhe


I find the reputations of Tarot cards fascinating. Just as with the symbols of religions and mythologies, simplifications of meaning are commonly being used as expedient tools for teaching students easily overwhelmed by a surfeit of detail. Which is a valid approach, until those simplifications overwhelm the original symbol and reduce it to a parody of itself. Looking at which simplifications take on such lives of their own reveals a great deal about the society we live in.

One such victimized card is the Hierophant, whose cropping to the boundaries of societal expectation about what “church” and “religious institutions” mean goes too frequently uncorrected for the simple reason that nobody knows what a “hierophant” is, and far too many think they know what a “pope” is, in decks that so name their fifth trump. The Hierophant, associated with structure, tradition, and societal expectations and institutions, has thus developed an unfortunately stodgy image, not unlike the story of the little girl who, when asked who Jesus was, responded that he was a man who scoured the earth looking for people having fun and made them stop.

In a culture enamored of free spirits, rebels, and renegades, the Hierophant often comes off as the person over thirty you should no longer trust. When he is brought into association with another card, it is often to pair him with the cold and inaccessible High Priestess (first paragraph via link) or to oppose him to the following card, The Lovers, with its emphasis on personal values.

This opposition, or perception of opposition, tells us much more about ourselves as 21st century people than it tells us about the medieval figure on the card. The term “hierophant” comes from ancient Greek, meaning literally “one who shows the holy.” The title belonged most famously to the chief priest at the Eleusinian Mysteries, but was used anywhere someone held the sacred function of bringing congregants or initiates into the presence of the Divine. Frequently enough, as at Eleusis, that presence was in some way connected with fertility. Some decks call this card the Pope—a figure whose full Latin title, pontifex maximus, means “the most great bridge-maker”, linking the world of the sacred with mundane reality, but whose common title of Pope (Italian Papa) means “father”.

We are so used to desexualizing this term in religious contexts, applying it most frequently to celibate priests, that we often forget its wider range of connotations. Far from a masculine counterpart to the chaste High Priestess, was have here a figure much closer to the Emperor, with whom he shares this fatherhood association, and the Empress, who is the model of the goddess of fertility represented by Demeter in the Eleusinian Mysteries. In the order of the cards, the Hierophant stands directly after these, and directly before The Lovers, as the one who brings them into the sacred presence of each other—the preparer of the marriage bed. Is this not, in fact, what the Pope does in Christian parlance, where the Church is “the bride of Christ” being perpetually prepared for the Bridegroom?

The Hierophant speaks to us, certainly, of order, tradition, and institution, but not as some external counterpoint to a romanticized notion of “natural” spontaneity and instinct. Rather, he reminds us that, within human nature, the one is never found without the other. Half a world away from the preparation of Christ’s bride we find a startlingly similar image, of the shepherdess Radha being sumptuously prepared for her tryst with the God Krishna by her friends and handmaidens. For all that Radha and Krishna’s love is one of intensity, passion, and transgression, it is also one supported by careful planning and preparation, by strategy in setting and adornment, by art as well as by impulse. To this day, Hindu devotees in sects pledged to Krishna are often urged (men as well as women) to see themselves as the handmaidens of Radha, preparing the meeting of God with His beloved.

An insightful philosopher once observed that the experience of orgasm takes its significance in human life from the fact that it is neither wholly a voluntary act nor wholly an involuntary one. If it were merely a spontaneous response of the body to stimuli, like the reflex of a struck knee, there would be nothing of our heart and mind in it, and so it would reveal nothing of our inner life. Yet if it were wholly something within our conscious control, like the words we speak, it would also tell us nothing, for then it could lie. It is because of its liminal status, as something within and beyond our control, that it cuts to the core of what lies deepest in our souls.

The Apollinian Emperor is a creature of reason and intent who, left to his own devices, would sit immobile upon his block, like Manannán mac Lir set in stone. The Dionysian Empress is less a being than a becoming, impossible to fix in form or to direct in the service even of her own will. It is the Hierophant that prepares their meeting, through the medium of his traditions and his structures, that the one might be led and the other contained until they come together as the Lovers, united within and beyond themselves, neither restricted nor formless, but free—which requires a measure of both.

The Hierophant is not the old priest who scowls at your flirtations with a fellow congregant, but the old priest who conducts your wedding in full and approving cognizance of the wedding night, transforming that impulsive attraction into something much deeper, and much more revealing of your truest desires. He is not the Scottish kirk warden who has you punished for dancing freely, but the village elder who sets your steps into a pattern that dances with your ancestors of a thousand years, and your descendents of a thousand more to come. Like the art teacher who disciplines you to rules that he waits anxiously to see you break, he is the one who reminds you that your unformed instinct is as false as your blind obedience, and that your true self can grow only where air meets earth.

The Hierophant is a liberator, and if we have trouble seeing him thus, it is only because we have confused license with liberty. And that is when we need him most.

Thoth image copyright (c) US Games Systems Inc.; AGMuller; O.T.O.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Newbie’s Guide to Santería

A man baptized into Santería
© Jorge Royan, via Wikimedia Commons by CC 3.0.  Baptized in Santería a man is reborn with a different name and for the first year has to wear white. Here, the birthday party of Lazaro Salsita, born 15 years ago in the body of Lazaro Medina Hernandez, 35, Sculptor. Havana (La Habana), Cuba.


Santería: Looking at the Basics


By: an anonymous author
_____________________

Santería is a Spanish word that literally means  "devotion to the saints" or "way of the saints". The term Santería was originally a slur used by white plantation owners, denoting impure or deviant forms of Catholicism that worshiped saints over God or Jesus. In Santería, Christian saints are equated with Yoruba orichás, or gods. White slave owners knew nothing about orichás, and thus simply believed that the Africans were overly interested in the Catholic saints.

Most practitioners of the religion call it La Regla de Ocha – the Order of the Orichás, or La Regla Lucumí – the Order of Lucumí. “Lucumí” refers to the many Africans of Yoruba ethnicity who were forcibly brought to the New World as part of the Atlantic slave trade, particularly to the islands off of North America such as the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, Haiti, and Cuba. Cuba is the area most associated with Santería, and has the highest concentration of practitioners. It is said that a common phrase - my friend (oluku mi) - used by the Yoruba people when greeting each other, spawned the term Lucumí.

Santería is a blend of Roman Catholicism and Yoruba mythology from West Africa. It’s an example of a process called religious syncretism, when two faith systems coexist or blend into one. The process wasn't quite as harmonious as it sounds – Africans, or Lucumí, arriving in the New World were forced to convert to Catholicism in addition to the sheer devastation of being sold into slavery. In order to protect Yoruba traditions, the Lucumí disguised and protected their cultural values by merging them with Catholicism.


Beliefs and Central Ideas in Santería


While Santería began as an underground religion that preserved Yoruba beliefs in a hostile culture, it evolved to become a more complete combination of Yoruba tradition and Catholicism. It is relatively uncommon for modern practitioners of Santería to draw contrasts between Roman Catholicism and Yoruba beliefs. Instead, they see the two faiths as inherently similar and are often just as comfortable attending a formal Catholic Mass at a church as they are participating in a traditional Lucumí ceremony within their own homes and temples.

Unlike Christianity, Santería doesn't have a set of formal scriptures. Instead, the central tenets of the faith are passed by word of mouth from one generation to the next. Santería tradition also involves the telling of sacred religious parables known as patakís, which on top of making traditional values known, are used at times used as a form of guidance.

Ashé, or aché is a central component of Santería. Ashé is the spiritual energy that comprises every creature, object, and even the universe itself. According to Lucumí tradition, when the universe, or aché, became aware of itself and began to think, it turned into the god Olodumare, (sometimes, Eledumare). Though Santería has many deities known as orichás, the central gods are Olodumare, Olorun and Olofin. They are not three distinct gods but three different facets of one supreme ruler, very similar to the Holy Trinity in Roman Catholicism. Basically Olodumare represents God, Olorun is on par with the Holy Spirit, and Olofin is the equivalent of Jesus Christ.

Olodumare is the architect and orchestrator of the universe (he is aché personified). Olodumare is not directly consulted by adherents to Yoruba-based diasporic faiths, instead they consult the orichás. Olorun creates life by spreading vital energy in the form of sunlight, and is also ruler of the heavens. His energies are spread as ashé throughout everyone and everything in creation. Finally, Olofin (also Olofi) is the personification of divinity. He communicates the Supreme God's beliefs and commandments to the orichás, who then communicate to human beings, specifically the priests and priestesses of Santería.

Humans, orichás and Olodumare are all connected through ashé. All human beings and all living things contain ashé, but not in equal amounts and not of the same kind. The differences in ashé explains the differences found among human beings. Ashé allows one to achieve and to create positive change and balance; thus a lack of ashé manifests as an imbalance. Beyond this basic description, as ashé is contained throughout all of the universe (including Olodumare himself), properly working with it, is in essence a way of paying tribute to and bonding with the Supreme God.

Practitioners of Santería work to cultivate and balance their ashé by showing strong ethics. Iwa is the term for one's moral character. One demonstrates Iwa by their devotion to God and the way they treat others.

A shop in Havana, Cuba selling Santería items
Image: A shop in Havana, Cuba selling Santería items. By Ji-Elle (Own work) CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Orichas


While there are only three main manifestations of the Supreme God, there are said to be at least 401 minor deities, or orichás. Because of the slave trade and the massive diaspora of Africans to islands and countries across the New World, orichás are not unique to Santería, or to Afro-Cuban communities, but permeate a variety of other Latin ethnicities and traditions as well.


Afterlife


There is one pronounced difference between Lucumí beliefs and strict Roman Catholicism, that can be seen in the way practitioners of Santería regard death and the afterlife. Priests and priestesses of Santería believe in the existence of Heaven, but they don't see going there as being the ultimate reward for living a morally sound life. Instead, they believe that the ashé within a person can be recycled after death, allowing that person to be reincarnated. Thus, the reward for living a good life and showing devotion to God occurs while on Earth (Ayé) rather than in Orun, or Heaven.


Initiation into Santería


Santeros (priests) and santeras (priestesses) are also known as olorichas. There is an intensive initiation process for those working to become olorichas. Not all involved in Santería become formal priests. Casual practitioners, or those consulting with priests on an occasional basis are known as aleyos (strangers, or outsiders). The initiation process spans out over a period of one week. First the initiate undergoes a cleansing procedure, where a maternal or paternal ancestor cleanses them with an herbal preparation. Much focus is given to the head during this process, it is rubbed with natural substances known to bring peace.

After the cleansing is completed, the initiate undergoes the first phase of initiation - a ritual process known as Obtaining the Elekes. An eleke is a bead adorned necklace; each eleke style represents a specific orichá. Divination is used to determine which orichá is best suited to an initiate, this of course determines which eleke they will be given. The eleke they will ultimately wear will serve as bonding device of sorts, between them and their guardian orichá. However, Obtaining the elekes is not simply about the connection between an initiate and their guardian orichá, it is also representative of an age old tradition within this faith, that requires an ongoing relationship between a godparent and their godchild.

The godparent's role is to be there as an advisor - the godchild is to consult the godparent to ensure that they traverse their spiritual journey with greater ease, and also their connection ensures that an age old tradition survives intact through their lineage. Thus the godparent's role in this part of the initiation is of great significance.

Once an initiate receives their eleke, they meet with a priest who will determine the initiates ideal path of Eleguá - there are said to be more than 100 paths. This second ritual phase is called Medio Asiento, of which the primary element is building a likeness of Eleguá. From their life being analyzed by the priest, it is better understood what they will need in order to traverse their journey. Eleguá will journey with them and will protect them. The likeness of Eleguá that the initiate builds will guard their home.

During the third ritual, Los Guerreros, or "Receiving the Warriors," an initiate will receive sacred metallic objects that represent the orichás known as warriors. The purpose of the rite is to have the warrior orichás protect the soon to be oloricha henceforth. After this part of the initiation is completed, there will be an altar prepared to honor the warriors, and it will be the initiate's duty to ensure that he/she makes offerings to them. For the record, an initiate that has undergone either or both of the Obtaining the Elekes or Receiving the Warriors Rituals, is thereafter called an aborisha.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is the ritual of Kariocha, known as "Seating the Orichá" or "Making the Saint." Highly secretive, this purification ritual could loosely be compared to a baptism, in which an initiate is brought into their new incarnation - that of a priest or priestess. Though this seems like a final step it is in essence a new beginning, as thereafter the individual begins to grow and develop, once they are cast into their new role as a priest or priestess. On top of having become bonded with his or her guardian orichá during this process, the oloricha will also have bonded with Eleguá, Changó, Obatala, Oshún, and Yemaya.

For a period of one year after their initiation has taken place, they are called an iyawo. It is required that they dress entirely in white. An iyawo must observe numerous restrictions, that are believed to preserve their spiritual purity and allow for proper bonding with the orichás.


The Depth of Santería


Santería is a vast and complex religion that draws from many locations and cultural groups. It is common in the West to believe that Vodou or Vodoun and Santería are the same faith, but they are entirely separate religions. What they do have in common is that they are both syncretic between Catholicism and the Yoruba faith. Santería is not the practice of black magick, as some are prone to believing, but is a fully-formed faith system used by many.

It is easy to see how a faith that is not governed by defined scriptures will differ from region to region, and too will differ within each ancestral lineage it is being practiced by. So while there are doubtlessly going to be lineages that will frown upon anything but the use of the most gentle of magickal rituals, there will just as well be lineages that embrace the usage of magick of various kinds, that have tweaked the tenets of Santería to meet their differing requisites. At any rate, it is claimed that those practicing magick within Santería commonly conceal magickal skills, to all but those within the faith that should know of them.

Some adherents of Santería claim that black magick is not in line with the tenets of this faith in its purest form, and that Santería is primarily about invoking blessings through following advice from ancestors, elders, and orichás; and for this reason magick relative to the truth of Santería, would be performed to draw blessings and good fortune, and also to protect. At the same time it could also be said, that the definition of what Santería is in its purest form, would differ from lineage to lineage. I threw this last comment in to show what an expansive breadth this faith could truly cover, rather than to imply that those who practice Santería secretly all engage in magickal practices - either helpful or harmful in nature.

A true estimate of how many Santería practitioners there are worldwide would be difficult to produce, but a popularly provided estimate suggests that the actual number lies between 75 and 100 million.

The aspects described above only scratch the surface of all that Santería contains. It seems that the only way to truly understand it, is to speak with practitioners and learn in a face-to-face, hands-on setting.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Cup That Brimmeth Over: Reflections on the Inclusive Chalice

Chalice


Observations on the Gender Status of the Chalice


by Race MoChridhe
_________________

In the last installment of my series on magickal tools, we looked at the story of the athame and its entrance into modern Wiccan practice, focusing especially on Gerald Gardner’s fascination with the magical knives of Southeast Asia.

The meaning of the chalice ranges just as far. In its symbolism and functionality it is a tool documented back thousands of years, sometimes bearing sacred drink as in the soma rites of India, and sometimes bearing sacred flame as on the altars of Greece and Rome. The conjunction of these two uses is in no way accidental, as the motif of “the fire in the water” can be found ubiquitously across Indoeuropean cultures, where this particular miraculous paradox represents the union of opposites generally, but with a sharper point depicts the descent of essence or form onto unformed substance (or sometimes, its birth within unformed substance).

In classical Greek thought, certainly, this eternal moment in which the illuminating power of fire meets the fecundity of the waters was the fulcrum of creation—the point at which divine intelligence refashioned chaos into the ordered cosmos, a point reflected in their (admittedly unscientific and often sexist) view of the relationship of the male to the female in the act of procreation. Modern witchcraft’s dipping of the athame into the chalice, previously discussed, as well as certain Druidic rituals involving tapping a chalice with a wand, all hearken back to this basic ritual framework of metaphysical meaning.

That the modern use of the chalice is not directly descended from this double-symbolism of Classical culture is indicated by the fact that we do not now, generally, regard the chalice as a fire symbol, or light fires in it. (Except for Unitarian Universalists. Cauldrons, of course, are another story.) All modern Western ritual use of the chalice (aside from a small number of rites inspired by Hindu tradition) has been filtered through Christianity. From the classical world, the Christians inherited the metaphor of chalice as womb, with Mary carrying the “light of the world” reprising the ancient theophany of the fire in the waters.

chalice
To that basic premise, however, they added the historical incidents of the Baptism in the Jordan, when the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove, marking Him as the Son of God (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32), and of the Last Supper, when Jesus transmuted the contents of a chalice into His blood (Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20). Layered on top of this came the Christian experience of Pentecost, in which the Holy Spirit was felt by the Apostles to descend upon them as tongues of flame (Acts 2:3). The three layers quickly became conflated in Christian iconography in ways that systematically eliminated the chalice’s masculine aspect.

The first of these conflations occurred across the Christian world at an early stage, when the dove and the ray of light from the Baptism became identified with the Pentecostal flame, and both were figured as descending upon the Eucharistic chalice. Most people with an interest in esoteric matters know this image from A.E. Waite’s design of the Tarot Ace of Cups. While fire has been esoterically masculine in Western cultures going back to the oldest strata of Greek thought (and grammar), the Holy Spirit was, until relatively recent times, consistently feminine in Christian tradition (a fact made explicit in the Gospel of the Hebrews, which was quoted to make this point by several Church Fathers). Furthermore, the dove, which accompanied the descending light of heaven at Jesus’ baptism, was made a Marian symbol through syncretism with the that bird’s ancient associations with Venus. These two developments together ensured that, while fire remained masculine in most Western occult thought, the fire of the Spirit became feminine in Christian contexts.

In medieval Wales, this line of thinking was taken a step further by reflection on Aristotle’s medical treatises, which claimed (inaccurately), that the developing fetus derives its blood from its mother. This led a number of Welsh theologians to conclude that the blood Jesus shed upon the Cross, and which had been contained in the Holy Grail at the Last Supper, was, in fact, Mary’s. To the extent, then, that the blood within the cup had recapitulated the metaphor of the light of the world within Mary’s womb, that symbol became circular, with Mary as both blood and womb—both fire and water, both essence and substance. In short, it made her All in All.

Britain most particularly thus developed an exclusively feminine association to the chalice as symbol of the womb, symbol of the unformed, symbol of the spirit, and symbol of divine inspiration (this last being helped by Celtic traditions that had treated whiskey as “fire in the water”). To what extent Gardner was knowledgeable about indigenous British theology is unknown, but it is wholly conceivable that he had some knowledge of Welsh traditions on this point. Whether or not he did, however, we are left with a tantalizing thread to follow.

We observed last time that “in his [Gardner’s] tools we find suggestions that it [the union of opposites between athame and chalice] is an operation internal to the masculine nature as well” as being enacted between the masculine and the feminine. Armed with a deeper knowledge of the chalice’s background, we find that it can contain the whole principle of union within itself also, and thus locate it internal to the feminine nature.

There is much talk these days about developing an “inclusive” Wicca, and much criticism of the Gardnerian tradition for its staunch heteronormativity. Much of that criticism has been deserved by the conduct of many of that tradition’s advocates. Nonetheless, a close examination of Gardner’s unique symbolic construction of the toolkit offers possibilities for reading even very strict, traditional Gardnerian rites in a new and more inclusive light, with both athame and chalice being complementary, and yet also whole and dialectically dynamic within themselves. This is, perhaps, a paradox, but the fire in the water always was.


Other articles in this series:
The Druid's Sacred Tools
The Athame's Ancestors
Bells in Ritual Usage

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

An Overview of Psychometry

Skull in hand, psychometry
Psychometry can be performed with virtually any object


The Secret Language of Inanimate Objects: Psychometry in a Nutshell 


by Joodhe and an anonymous author


Working Definition: Psychometry is a word derived from "psyche" or "psukhe", meaning "soul" and "metron" meaning to measure. A literal definition is soul measuring or a measurement of the soul. In practice, however, it's a little more complicated than that. But for this blog post a definition is of import, so psychometry could be encapsulated thusly: To take an object and touch it in order to read its energy, in order to discover facts about its history or to divine the future.

And many adhere to that basic definition; but Joseph Rodes Buchanan and others back in the day discovered while researching psychometry, that in investigating the energy trail there basically was no end. Thus it could also be said that psychometry is not in fact limited to working with inanimate objects, but covers the entirety of the universe instead. Of course this includes humans and everything else.

When you think of it in such a way, psychometry becomes harder to briefly summarize. But with a now larger picture in mind, we could add onto our initial description with that: what is touched is not always physically visible, such as in aura reading for example. As well, what is read is not necessarily touched, such as when a person does a psychic reading for someone. Thus we can see that there’s a wide range and a lot of nuances involved in fully describing the art of psychometry, and that any definition ever provided would be just scratching the surface. With these things said, this article alternates between presenting from a micro and a macro perspective.


How psychometry fits in with other supernatural skills and abilities:

Psychometry is relatively similar to other "psychic" abilities like clairvoyance and psychokinesis (also known as telekinesis) insofar as they all use an internal, non physical force to act on objects and people in the material world. However as already broached upon, psychometry as its own specific art is standardly limited to the narrow description of learning information from inanimate objects.

The methods of gleaning the information and the kinds of information that can be gathered vary depending on numerous belief systems and myths. Activities like throwing dice (astragalomancy) and reading tea leaves (a form of scrying called tasseomancy, tasseography or tassology), and even some tarot readings are forms of psychometry. Though these processes are somewhat far removed from the standard definition of this metaphysical art, with an energetic connection being necessary to reveal the insights that diviners seek, it is easy to see in one’s mind’s eye how these arts tie in strongly with the entirety of what psychometry can be.  


History of the Term


Terms for psychic phenomena can be confusing because some of the practices are ancient and yet some titles now used for them were coined in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Example being that while the term psychometry was created by Joseph Rodes Buchanan in 1842, the practice was potentially and likely employed in ancient times but not referred to as psychometry. Due to the modern title for the practice being the primary one recognized, a precise historical outline is painfully elusive.

Buchanan was a physician who started psychometry as his own branch of science. To prove the validity of his science, he conducted experiments with medical students asking them to identify hidden objects and unknown drugs. The students seemed to have an uncommonly high success rate, so much that when Buchanan published his article, it made a stir in the scientific community. Buchanan predicted that psychometry would revolutionize the world by expanding our common understanding of how most fields of science were governed. He even began to criticize conventional medicine, and in some instances, conventional science as a whole. His belief was that most conventional methods would be rendered obsolete as psychometrics developed.

Unfortunately, this never quite came to pass. While Buchanan influenced several other scientists, and while further experiments were conducted where individuals seemed to exhibit psychometric abilities, no conclusive results were ever found. By the early to mid nineteenth century, mainstream psychometry was relegated to stage tricks and scripted séances, while its scientific pursuit was neglected.


The Theory Behind Psychometry

Buchanan's original hypothesis was that the soul in every creature and many objects, projects an aura that can be felt and interpreted. Other researchers and investigators expanded on this idea by suggesting that souls produced vibrations and ripples that could be felt and decoded by a psychometrist. And while some understood the aura or vibrations given off to be electromagnetic in nature, others thought the soul sent out signals in the manner of radio waves (a subdivision of electromagnetic waves with shorter wavelengths).

In most every theory though, the basic principles are the same—that each object emanates an invisible energy and that the psychometrically inclined are able to receive those emanations.


Practitioners

Since the early 1900’s several individuals have come forth as psychics and mediums capable of making consistently accurate predictions. Early mediums of the twentieth century included Edgar Cayce and Stefan Ossowiecki. Ossowiecki worked with police forces at the time to assist in investigations. He also participated in several publicized tests of his abilities and was so successful that he convinced Nobel Prize laureate Charles Richet of the existence of psychometrics.

Edgar Cayce was an American who lived from 1877 to 1945, and thus was roughly a contemporary of Ossowiecki. Cayce had a history of making predictions while in a sleeping or trance state. His abilities surfaced during his childhood. A poor student, Cayce fell asleep on a pile of school books one night and found that upon waking up, he knew all of the information inside of them.  Cayce went on to provide over 10,000 psychic readings, many of them to individuals with health problems. Though he was a fairly low-key man, Cayce’s abilities and beliefs sparked more than their fair share of controversy.

There were high-profile advocates and skeptics of Cayce’s skill. U.S president Woodrow Wilson sought Cayce out for advice. On the other hand, there are several stories of Cayce making wildly incorrect predictions. As is the case with many mediums who worked before the advent of modern technology, it’s impossible to know how accurate or legitimate his skills were. However, it could also be said that there have been studies done, that suggest that the very best of psychics can be correct for no more than 70% of what they predict; this probably due to details such as them having to translate their source information (images, symbols, sounds, and so on), and then apply it to the situation they’re consulted on.

In the contemporary United States there are several television personalities who purport to wield psychometric abilities; however, none of these individuals have been scientifically studied and their level of accuracy hasn’t been recorded. Which is a shame, as performing such investigative studies on any level would lead to the eventuality of us finding out more about how psychometry works, and would also allow us to know when we're being duped.


A Field of Mystery

Psychometry is by its very nature, a mysterious subject, as it is difficult to prove or deny the existence of psychic abilities in a person because there are so many factors determining the outcome of a prediction. Our present understanding of telekinesis and psychometry as portrayed in the media, is presented from a twentieth century spiritualism movement type of perspective. However, the general concept of divining information from the psychic auras of others, is a practice that dates back to the Greek Oracle at Delphi and even before, thus is certainly nothing New Age.

Psychometry exists on one level or another throughout many of the metaphysical arts. Think of palm reading and phrenology for example; both require energy perception to obtain more than just easily surmisable insight from a reading. Furthermore, there are many stories you can read on the topic, some telling how revealing it is, others dismissing it as junk pseudoscience.

So then, perhaps this ancient skill is destined to remain shrouded in secrecy and speculation, at least for some… while others may through their own faith, find a way to make a living through practicing it or any of the many metaphysical arts relative to it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Athame’s Ancestors

Ceremonial Ritual Athames
Ritual Athames

The Athame Through Story


by Race MoChridhe
_________________

In my last article, we examined the sacred tools of the Druidic magician, with a particular eye on the ways in which story informs the meaning of magickal equipment. This month, we will look at how the meaning of tools is shaped not just by the stories they represent, but by the stories that produce them, in the form of what is now probably the most commonly used magickal tool of all—the Witch’s athame. The athame is a double-edged dagger, generally with a black handle, used by Witches in most Wiccan traditions for a variety of magickal purposes, most notably casting circles, invoking and banishing the elements of the four quarters, and representing the masculine principle in the Great Rite.

The word probably comes from the medieval Latin artavus, or “quill knife”—a special, small knife used by scribes in the middle ages to resharpen pens. Often garbled in translations, the word appears as arthame in certain late French editions of the medieval grimoire known as the Key of Solomon. This is probably where the creator of modern Wicca—Gerald Gardner—first encountered it. It is in those pages that it is specified the knife must be black-handled (as Gardner’s own instructions to his initiates later stipulated), and it is there that detailed instructions may be found for the drawing of sigils (particularly pentagrams) for summoning and banishing spirits.

Medieval magicians were not known for their kindness in this last respect. Although it is often believed by Witches today that the requirement for the blade to be double-sided is simply meant to avoid awkward turns of the wrist to keep the knife oriented during sigil work in the air, the traditions of ceremonial magick that made use of the artavus felt the advantage of a double-sided blade to be in its more threatening appearance, since it was primarily used for threatening and cajoling the spirits summoned. This resonated also with the custom of Roman emperors to wear another kind of double-edged dagger—the pugio—as a symbol of their authority over life and death. For medieval magicians to forge such a blade from iron was preferable, since iron was held to be baneful to the fairies and other spirit creatures, and provided a measure of control that the wooden wand (commonly used in other operations, such as the making of talismans) did not. Gardner’s substantial study of occultism would likely have made him aware of all of this, and this heritage of Western magick is one part of his athame’s story of origin.

Man holding an athame
What's this pic doing here? Well, it's just a nice image that fit in with the topic matter

Gardner's own biography plays a tremendous role as well, though. Gardner was 16 years old when he moved to Sri Lanka, he went on to spend the greater part of his life in Malaysia. By the time he retired and moved back to England, he had spent thirty-six years in Asia. In that time, he had become one of the world’s leading experts on ritual knives of southeast Asia. He came back to Britain towing a large collection of them, and he was particularly fascinated with the traditions surrounding the kris—a (mostly) ceremonial dagger central to the cultures of Malaysia and Indonesia, and well-known in many nearby regions. This too is a double-sided blade used for the working of magick, but the customs that pertain to it are less violent and tyrannical than those of Europe's ceremonial magicians wielding the artavus.

Javanese culture, especially (where the kris is arguably most revered), emphasizes the kris’ quality of piyandel—the ability to inspire self-confidence in its user—and regards gentility of expression as a sign of that self-confidence. A Javanese groom, for example, comes to his wedding wearing a kris festooned with wreaths of jasmine, symbolizing the possibility for his assurance of his own manhood to conquer his impulses toward anger, cruelty, aggressiveness, and tyranny.

This weapon would not only have been on Gardner’s mind as he crafted the role of the athame in the Witchcraft religion he would teach in the 1950s and 60s, but would also be in front of his very eyes on a regular basis as a part of his collection. Gardner’s athame indeed seems to carry traces of both weapons’—the artavus and the kris’—spiritual heritage. In his and in multiple other traditions, the athame is used as an expression of power to project etheric fire in the casting of the circle, but is also used in a complex and subtle way to express the masculine principle in relation to the feminine chalice. When the Great Rite is performed symbolically, one of the common methods is to dip the athame, point-down, into the chalice to symbolize the union of the masculine and feminine principles—a reflex of the elemental union of fire and water, which is alchemically representative of many different polarities and conjunctions. For Gardner, this operation of union was most commonly depicted in the sexual union of male and female (whether literally or metaphorically), but in his tools we find suggestions that it is an operation internal to the masculine nature as well.

Far less common among Wiccans today than the athame, but important for very traditional Gardnerians, is the scourge. This tool also, Gardner identified with the element of fire, on account of its being “an instrument for exercising power over others.” Very commonly, however, Gardner writes of the scourge as representing the sacrifice and suffering one is willing to undergo for learning (while its feminine counterpart, the kiss, represents the blessing and abundance received through learning). One does not sacrifice, however, by exercising power over others, but by submitting oneself to them. Here we have a paradox not unlike that of the Javanese wedding kris, where one gains the ability to act with restraint and humility as a result of the blade’s gift of self-confidence.

Medieval Athame. Copyright, AzureGreen.net
A medieval style athame

One cannot help but detect a trace of the aforementioned in Gardner’s comments regarding his second degree initiation rite, in which the candidate for initiation is scourged three times at the beginning of the ritual, but at the end returns this scourging to her or his initiator threefold: “For this is the joke in witchcraft, the witch knows, though the initiate does not, that she will get three times what she gave, so she does not strike hard.” It is with “an instrument for exercising power over others” in our hand that we most keenly realize the virtue of curbing that power, so that we may bear it when we must submit ourselves to the power of others, just as it is with the assurance of the kris on his back that the Javanese groom can lay aside his need to prove his masculinity, and recognize the fullness of his own manhood in gentleness and service toward his wife.

When we remove the athame from the context of its ancestry, we are left with many things: a representation of fire, a tool for focus, a phallic object… But we are left without its essence—without the part of it that we must internalize in order to use it properly. This comes only with the knowledge of its story, and the stories of those who made it.

In our next installment, we will seek the story behind bells in ritual usage.


Other articles in this series: 
The Druid's Sacred Tools
The Chalice

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Visiting Blue Fairy

A faerie
Though not blue, a faerie just the same


A Beautiful Blue Fairy Imparted a Message to Me


This is one of the rare times I will break protocol and write an article from a personal perspective. Perhaps in the future there may be more such articles. But for now I'm technically on hiatus, and therefore wanted something really quick to write that would catch the interest of readers on some level. So here is my true story, of the visit I had a couple of mornings ago - from a faerie no less.

I'd been lying in bed a while when a vision appeared in front of me, the diaphanous form of a faerie. She was all blue, no other colors. Certainly a faerie though and not an angel, she was your quintessential vision of one, and even had a wand in her left hand that had a faerie star (7 pointed) on top.

Well right away the vision disappeared and I immediately got up. At that time I wasn't heavily focused on it, as I was thinking it was a fluke sort of thing; that it was simply something seen in my mind's eye with no attached message. Then as I sat at my computer with my morning coffee ready to do my day's work, a few things came to mind:

1) that I don't "believe" in faeries. Okay, well I do, but not in the way that believers in the fae do. I believe that they exist because they are a common form of thought that people have, and that thus they exist somewhere in our universe. However, at the same time I have never invested any of my own thought energy into them.

2) that in my life I've only had one interaction of any kind that I'm aware of, that involved faeries. That was a long time ago and involved a friend that I used to have - one that it just so happens I had recently prior to this, re-established contact with (coincidence? I think not).

3) I am developing psychic awareness as of late; and thus believing that this vision was some flukey coincidental sort of thing, was just not logical thinking.


So I stopped to clear my mind; I was hoping to understand whether there was anything to be gained by my having been exposed to her vision. And apparently there was, here's what I picked up through entering a meditative state:

  • That now I'm developing psychic awareness, this fairy took opportunity to swing by and give me a message - one that both answered some questions I'd long had (since that particular friendship faded into the background of life) and additionally no doubt delivered something that she felt need to share - that addressed in part not only my lack of belief in faeries but also my beliefs in how healing works. This is becoming important, as in my life I am discovering I have a healer's touch.
  • That back in the day when my friend sent me, hmm, was it 100 or 1000 faeries to heal me - it seems it was 1000 - I had said to her "don't you mean angels? There's no such thing as faeries". I knew right away as I said it that it was a silly thing to say, as many believe in the fae; so whether they were real to begin with or not, they've been given life. But as I remember, I didn't bother to retract the words. So the blue faerie's visit was in part to suggest I reconsider challenging people's beliefs in that way.
  • That when I was hurt that the friend in question and I were drifting away from each other quickly at one point, I'm to now know that it was simply meant to be, we had served each others' purpose in healing. 
  • That my friend's purpose in my life was to heal me, by sending me that pack of faeries. 
  • That my purpose in my friend's life was to heal her by adopting demons from her, as I had a way to immediately remove them, and apparently she did not have knowledge nor resources to do that. Her life circumstance was confining in multiple ways, and now I can see given the faerie's message, that it was the demons attached to her that kept her confined. For the record, she is no longer confined. I did have a brief interesting phase that was influenced by the demons I took from her, but I lived to tell the tale, and came through pretty much unscathed. (Know that at the time I was not aware that I was to take the demons from her and that it was a duty of sorts to me, but I did quickly discover after the fact that I was being "haunted".)

Yeah, so that's it, that's the whole sordid ordeal, more or less. The only other thing I can think to add in terms of insight, is that at the time I was fully engaged in that particular friendship, within the last few years prior I had contracted Lyme disease and had let it ravage me. Not out of having given up, but out of not knowing what to do when the health care system refused to acknowledge that I had Lyme. I felt resourceless. Well the pretty blue faerie let me know that from the time that cluster of faeries was sent by my friend, I'd always been healing on some level, and as well that those faeries led me to find other ways to heal.

* * *
I am sharing this with you because maybe one day you might have a vision that you may be prone to dismiss. So through this post I urge you, don't be too particularly fast in dismissing it... 


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Bone and Dice Divination: The Art of Astragalomancy

A crystal ball, symbolic of divination
A crystal ball, symbolic of divination


Bone and Dice Divination: The Art of Astragalomancy


Astragalomancy, meaning divination by dice, is a compound word derived from the ancient Greek astragalos, meaning a bone from the vertebrae, or when in the plural, astragali, a dice or knuckle bone; and manteia, meaning prophesy or divination. The confluence between dice and bone makes sense because the ancient Greeks made their dice from sheep knuckles. A related term, astragyromancy, comes from the Greek word gyromancy, which suggests divination performed by the spinning of a dice. Both of these terms are actually subsets of the larger discipline of cleromancy, which is divination by the process of sortition, or casting lots.

Sortition was an important concept in the ancient world, especially in Greece and Rome where the casting of lots was used to to select government officials. Sortition was considered by the Greeks to be a purer, less corruptible form of democracy than holding elections. It had in the past at times been popular to believe that casting lots indicated the will of the gods. Included amongst possible items used to conduct the process, were marked sticks and pebbles.

There are numerous instances of the casting of lots in the Bible. The Bible does not condemn the practice; which is a bit of a conundrum, as it does cast a pall upon other divination practices.


How is it Performed?


Divination with dice requires the user to associate definitions with each sum of numbers that can appear upon the throwing of the dice. Often when the dice are thrown, the numbers as well as the position of the dice for each throw are recorded, and the information is then interpreted. There are a variety of differing traditions and styles for astragalomancy that originated in different cultures and places, beginning, perhaps, in ancient Egypt and getting passed along to the Greeks and Romans.

Countries in Central and East Asia have their own history of divination, some methods involving dice and one even involving doughballs, as in Tibet. Doughball divination is interesting enough; balls of dough ensured to be equal in size, are stuffed, each with a choice of possible answer to the query posed. For three days they are left to sit, untouched by anyone, near a sacred object or statue. Prayers are spoken. At the end of that time the cover is removed from the bowl. A worthy lama rolls the doughballs around, he allows one to fall out; this is done in close proximity to the sacred object. The answer held within that ball is deemed the correct one. Though not identical to the casting of lots, with the response defined by drawing from pre-marked objects, in a sense it is a similar process.

Wooden runes
Runes

Divination that makes use of colors or symbols rather than numbers is known as pessomancy (also psephomancy, psephology). In this form of divination different colors and numerals are ascribed different meanings and portents. There are other methods of divining from this same practice that branch off into determining the meaning of the cast by the position of the objects and the nature of their relationships with each other, and thus the process is called thrioboly, and in other instances geomancy. By these descriptions, reading runes is a form of pessomancy/thrioboly.

Practices relative to the above have also been recorded in parts of Africa. In the past and into modern times, practitioners have used objects such as wooden dice and etched bones in their prognostications.

An African man throwing/reading bones.
Wellcome Images vie Wikemedia Commons. CC BY 4.0

The Specifics


Generally, divination occurs on a specially prepared surface. The Greeks would draw a circle and divide it into 12 even spaces. The sum of the dice (typically 3 were thrown at a time) would be interpreted in relationship to the space on which those dice rested.

Another simpler method in use today, is to draw a circle with no divisions in it. The practitioner then throws three dice and those that land outside of the circle are ascribed varying degrees of good or bad luck. It is often considered a sign of good luck if all of the dice land outside of the circle; however, if only one or two die land outside, it's considered bad luck. The dice that land inside of the circle are added together. Many diviners who use three, six-sided dice have a list of 18 possible interpretations. This is because with three dice the highest sum that can be achieved is 18. Thus, every possible sum of the dice has a different interpretation ascribed to it.


Interpretation and What Affects It


The position of the dice relative to each other also affects their interpretation. For instance, if a die falls on the floor it is considered a poor omen for your friendship and social life. If one die lands on another and remains there, it means a gift is on its way to you.

Many traditions are also sensitive to the timing and frequency of divination. Conventions differ with some traditions claiming Mondays and Wednesdays are poor days to throw dice and others saying that they are ideal days. Most traditions agree that dice should not be thrown more than two or three times per person per day.


Related Reading


A PDF on dice divination
Rolling dice, by Dionaea.com 
Cleromancy, by Starzkarmic Kyra
An interesting post on fortune telling, at Psychic Nirup
Book: Fortune Telling, by Raymond Buckland
Read about various forms of divination on Wikipedia

Please not that we neither recommend nor disrecommend any services offered via the sites listed above, they simply have some interesting related articles.

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