Saturday, October 7, 2017

Putting the Tarot's Star in Context: Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here

The Thoth Star card
Crowley/Harris, Thoth "The Star" tarot card

Very Telling of Each other, the Tarot's Star Card & the Age of Aquarius

by Race MoChridhe

The Star is, unquestionably, one of the best-loved cards in the Tarot. Across multiple decks, it is routinely voted “most beautiful”, and I have yet to meet the reader who does not breathe a sigh of relief upon seeing it, taking comfort in its traditional meanings of peace, inspiration, guidance, and hope.

Hope, however, is a complicated thing. The name of the infamous Pandora originally meant “all-giving”, and it appears that the earliest version of her tale cast her as a goddess bringing humanity a jar of blessings. The Greek poet Hesiod, however, reinterpreted her as “all-gifted”—a divinely crafted seductress whose irresistible charms led man to ruin when she opened a jar (“box” is a Renaissance mistranslation) of curses from the gods, unleashing pestilence upon the world and leaving only hope inside. Interpreters have argued over the story’s end for 2500 years. Why was hope left at the bottom of the jar? Did the jar seal hope off from humanity or prevent its flying away, so that humanity might keep it? Most importantly, is hope a blessing that empowers us to endure the jar’s myriad of evils, or is it a curse—a false hope that only increases our torments?

Our world today certainly seems to have more of this latter kind of hope than it does of the former. The hope of our time has best been described as a vague “progress-ism” which assumes that, despite all setbacks, the natural trajectory of all science and scholarship, all politics and economics, even all spirituality and morality, is “up” or “forward” (with the relative direction of these terms being defined by whichever demagogue happens to suit the moment). To the adherents of this unusual ideology—unknown anywhere in the world before the Renaissance and anywhere outside Europe before the “Enlightenment”—the Star’s traditional association with the sign of Aquarius seems the consummation of hope. The incoming Age of Aquarius, held by a majority of astrologers to have begun sometime in the 20th century, is widely held to be, in the words of the musical Hair, a time of “Harmony and understanding / Sympathy and trust abounding / No more falsehoods or derisions / Golden living dreams of visions / Mystic crystal revelation / And the mind’s true liberation”. This is to put something of a gloss on the raw data, however.

More soberly expressed, the common attributes of the Aquarian Age are usually given as some variant of this list: electricity, computers, flight, democracy, freedom, humanitarianism, idealism, modernization, nervous disorders, rebellion, nonconformity, philanthropy, humanity. The dire implications of some of these, such as nervous disorders, are already evident enough to require no further comment. Many of Aquarius’ more insidious elements, however, have not yet come to be commonly recognized.

The Piscean Age was a time of deep feeling (as befits a water sign). Life was, in consequence, intensely personal. In the West, the family was the dominant social institution, the economy and the bulk of social services were in the hands of local guilds and church institutions, and political power was mediated by bonds of personal loyalty. It was also, in keeping with the mutable and dual nature of the sign, a period in which human beings were understood as bridging the spiritual and the material worlds. For this reason, political thought was largely dyarchic, seeing both the spiritual and temporal authorities as working best when in balance with one another.

The Star, tarot
Rider Waite Smith, "The Star" tarot card

As the copious efforts of medieval copyists to preserve ancient literature attest, even the Pagan and Christian inheritances of Western culture were reconciled in a view well summarized by Nicolás Gómez Dávila, who wrote that “Paganism is the other Old Testament of the Church”. The Piscean world strove to balance the vaultingly universal with the intensely personal, the transcendentally spiritual with the avowedly worldly, and faithfulness to the past with authenticity in the present. It left us the great cathedrals and the romances of the troubadours by which to pass judgement on its efforts.

The Age of Aquarius can only be understood by contrast, because this close to its inception, its qualities are less absolute values than they are movements relative to the Piscean order. It is a time of rationalization and abstract intellect (as befits an air sign), in which the arts have decayed and spirituality has become scorned. It claims to care deeply for “humanity”, but exhibits no patience with the particularity and diversity of flesh-and-blood human beings, presiding over the most rapid and violent extinctions of languages, religions, and folkways in human history. It has desacralized the family, broken the guilds, and usurped the personal loyalties that once gave security and meaning to human life, replacing them with a vast, impersonal bureaucracy that regards its subjects as so much human livestock, devoid of any need or aspiration beyond being dry and well fed.

The Aquarian narrowing of human vision to the purely intellectual has prized rationality and efficiency over the sacrality and aesthetic of traditional craft, and thereby devalued the working woman and man. It is in the attempted remedies to this crisis that the astrologically “fixed” nature of Aquarius has become most apparent. In place of the Piscean reverence for human heritage and humility before nature (human and otherwise), which promoted a certain measure of flexibility in the thinking of that time, the Aquarian world believes itself the culmination of history and proclaims itself lord over a dead universe, imagining that all problems can be resolved by an ever more intense exploitation of the natural world and by the rigidly universalistic enforcement of materialist values and ideals that, in their reductivism, are regarded as immutable laws of nature. Chief among these is mass democracy—the conversion of organic communities into atomized electorates, the replacement of local leadership by the “will of the people” on an abstracted national scale, the reimagining of responsibilities to others as rights for oneself—a sickness peddled as a cure.

Such Aquarian traits as flight and humanitarianism have thus not found their expression, as the writers of Hair were still able to hope in a swelling of human unity, at the vision of the earth from space, but instead have come upon the plane of manifestation as relentless bombing campaigns against Iraq, Libya, Syria, and a dozen other nations in a quixotic bid to rain freedom down in shell casings. If the reader thinks this vision unduly pessimistic, she may consider for herself whether as much of the Age of Aquarius as she has experienced answers better to the promises of Hair or to the predictions of the Australian astrologer Robert Ziller, who has suggested that “the Pisces world… will be replaced in the Aquarian Age by a world ruled by secretive, power-hungry elites seeking absolute power over others… knowledge in the Aquarian Age will only be valued for its ability to win wars… knowledge and science will be abused… the Aquarian Age will be a Dark Age in which religion is considered offensive” (“The Use of Archetypes in Prediction,” The FAA Journal 32.3, September 2002, pp: 37–53).

There is a certain sense, then, in which the hope offered by the Star is a curse—a false hope that the evils of pollution can be fixed by more industry, or that the evils of political instability can be cured by further regime change—follies that have their more personal reflections in readings for clients who are taking out loans for a Ph.D. because their Master’s degree in the same subject was unemployable, or who are thinking of having a baby to fix their broken marriage. In the sequence of the major arcana, the Star is followed directly by the Moon—a card traditionally associated with fear, illusion, and bewilderment. Joan Bunning writes of this transition that, “his [the Fool’s] bliss [coming from the Star] makes him vulnerable to the illusions of the Moon. … In his dreamy condition, the Fool is susceptible to fantasy, distortion, and a false picture of the truth.”

As I look at the Star amidst the failures of progress-ism, however, I find myself paradoxically inspired by another kind of hope—the hope that is implicit in despair. It is a truism of pop psychology that people do not change until it becomes too painful to stay the same. It is only when the Fool is well and truly lost in the moonlight that he realizes that the Star has not guided him, and only then that he can turn from it and begin to perceive that what appeared as darkness while he was striving toward the unobtainable light of a far-off sun, is in fact the reflected light of his own proper star. Once he turns his vision from the Star to the Moon, he finds the Moon transfigured, in his new and deeper spiritual perception, into the Sun.

Such is the epiphany of one who moves back from the big city to her small hometown, or who stops chasing some dream job upon realizing that he can find contentment in the career to which fortune has led him. Perhaps someday it will also be the epiphany of a world that turns its back on industrialism and mass politics, and douses its electric lights so that it can, once more, behold a blanket of real stars.


llustrations from the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck®, known also as the Rider Tarot and the Waite Tarot, reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902 USA. Copyright ©1971 by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. Further reproduction prohibited. The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck® is a registered trademark of U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

RWS image is a Wikimedia file from a 1909 deck originally scanned by Holly Voley

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

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Draught of Lethe: Further Reflections on the Goetic Demon Kings (Part II)

Goetia spirit Vine's seal
Viné's seal

The Primary Message of the Goetic Demon Kings :: Know Yourself

by Race MoChridhe

In my last article, we examined the strange afterlife of the Goetia’s demon kings, focusing on their uptake in contemporary popular culture as a form of entertainment. We gave less attention to the reasons for their survival as objects of occult working, and it is this which we now consider.

As I observed before, most of us have forgotten the great demonologies that it once obsessed scholars to compile; and the magickal arts that commanded their denizens, have passed for the greater part into oblivion. The preservation of some small portion of both by a diverse panoply of occultists, sorcières, and Satanists is a testament to a much more powerful and pervasive form of forgetting, however.

In Greek—the great theurgical language of the West—the word for truth is aletheia, which literally means “un-forgetfulness” (sharing a common root with the river Lethe in Hades, which erased the memories of the shades [spirits of the dead] who drank from it). This is because, in common with many other systems of esoteric and mystical teaching the world over, the ancient Greeks held that the soul, on some very deep level, retained the knowledge of all things from its once blessed state of union with divinity, but became forgetful of them upon entering the plane of physical manifestation. This teaching is expressed very clearly in Islam, where the story of Adam and Eve is told not as a tale of disobedience and rebellion, but as one of forgetfulness, where the primordial couple eats of the fruit because they are not mindful of God’s command.

The concept of forgetfulness is less foregrounded in Christianity, but implicitly present, as St. Paul’s writings make clear that all human beings are mystically united as one in Christ (Romans 12:5; Galatians 3:28)—an idea to which Jesus alludes many times in the Gospels, such as in John 15:5, to which we shall shortly return. To the extent that Christ dwells within us, and that we “have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 2:5) such that God is in us all (Ephesians 4:16), all knowledge belongs to us by birthright, and it is only by the forgetfulness of our earthly existence that we do not remember.

In surveying the lists of the Goetia’s demons, who promise many and varied rewards to their summoners, it is therefore striking that the most common—indeed, nearly ubiquitous—promise is knowledge. The king known as Paimon (or Paimonia, or Pymon, depending on source) is an excellent example. He comes from his house in the northwest with a great roaring voice atop his dromedary. He is lovely of aspect, but does not offer his summoner comeliness.


He wears a precious crown, but does not offer riches. He is escorted by a swelling retinue of infernal musicians, but does not promise cheer. He commands two hundred legions, and may be accompanied by captains commanding yet more, but it is not power for which his aid is sought. Instead, he is evoked as a teacher of all manner of arts, philosophies, and sciences—able to divulge each kind of understanding, from the mysteries of the natural world to the nature of the mind. It is in this last that the point comes home most forcefully that he has been evoked precisely to learn what, in truth, we should know already within ourselves.

In Filianic lore, the Daughter of Eternity (a figure cognate in many ways to Christ, or the Shekhinah, or a Bodhisattva) is accosted by a host of demons who taunt and threaten Her. When their threats do not avail, they seek to tempt Her, offering to deliver the whole world into Her power, but She responds simply, “How shall you give to Me that which is Mine?” (Mythos 4:9) One thinks of the king called Beleth (or Bilet, Bileth, Byleth), who was legendarily invoked by Noah’s son Ham to help him write a treatise on mathematics.

Goetia spirit Beleth

The grimoires tell us that he is of terrible aspect, and will seek to frighten his summoner, who must maintain the steel will to strike a triangle with a hazel wand and command Beleth to enter it. Often enough, Beleth refuses, in which case our terrified magician must rehearse again the extensive list of threats attached to his conjurations, at which point Beleth will become obedient, provided that the evoker also pay the homage due to one holding the rank of king, show utmost respect, and hold a silver ring against his own face in imitation of the deference shown in hell to the demonic prince Amaymon.

What are we to make of this near schizophrenic fusion of arrogance and obsequiousness—of command and contrition? It is the pitiful usage of one who has gone to a loan shark to borrow his own inheritance, or apprenticed himself to an abusive master to learn the teachings of a book that he, himself, has authored. To be “in thrall to the Devil” has come, in our culture, to sound of melodrama and superstition, but it becomes rather more intelligible when we imagine the occultist, whose innermost being is one with the Source of all Creation, alternately beckoning and bowing to Beleth to ask the secrets of the cosmos and we recall, with eyes fixed upon that sad sight, Kant’s definition of enlightenment as the “release from self-induced tutelage”.

It would be a mistake, however, to imagine that the authors of these grimoires were simply too ignorant of perennial metaphysics to realize the absurdity of the scene. On the contrary, the grimoires—like all other literary inheritances from the ancient world—have come to us primarily through churchmen, who were the preservers of both the texts and their arts throughout the Middle Ages.

We noted last time the Book of Abramelin the Mage, which taught the art of summoning demons for the purpose of overcoming and banishing them. Other books were less obvious in their intent, offering instead warnings by their contents. This is most clearly seen in the case of the king named Viné, who, like so many others, “answereth of things hidden”. Viné’s name is, indeed, etymologically derived from Latin vinea, meaning vine. In rehearsing the New Testament’s many assertions of human unity with the divine nature I alluded briefly to John 15:5, which those who won school awards for scripture knowledge will recognize as the famous saying of Jesus to the Apostles that “I am the vine, you are the branches.”

Goetia spirit Viné

Viné’s symbology systematically alludes to and opposes that of Jesus. Viné appears in the form of a lion, which both alludes to the lion as symbol of the lineage of Solomon (and hence the ancestry of Jesus, cf. Matthew 1:6–16) and implicitly opposes Jesus’ symbolism as the lamb (John 1:29) through reference to Isaiah 11:6. Viné rides a horse, opposing Jesus’ riding of the donkey on Palm Sunday (John 12:14). He builds large towers, opposing God’s casting down of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:8), and he makes waters choppy or stormy, in contrast to Jesus’ calming of the storm on the waters (Matthew 8:26; Mark 4:39; Luke 8:24). The originator of this depiction thus established his demon king as the antithesis of Christ, but it would be simplistic of us to read this merely as a stock portrayal of unholiness.

In the context of the purposes for which Viné is summoned, it would seem that the author of his description wanted us to be confronted, as starkly as possible, with the realisation that we are seeking outside ourselves a knowledge that, in truth, lies within, and that in doing so we conform ourselves to a twisted image that reflects our forgetting of the image in which we are made.

Wherever the summoning of demons finds a new lease on life, we may thus be sure that it owes less to preserving the memory of ancient arts, and more to forgetting an ancient wisdom. In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus instructs His disciples, saying: “[T]he kingdom is inside of you… When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty.” (Thomas 3)

What the Goetia and all like grimoires teach us is not how to call demons out of hell, but how to recognize that, if we have allowed ourselves to become the poverty of our own ignorance, hell is precisely where we are.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Strange Afterlife of Goetic Demon Kings (Part I)

Goetic demon king Baal
Goetic Demon King Baal (Bael)

The Last Great Conjurers (Touching Upon the Topic of Demon Kings)

by Race MoChridhe

Arts, like humans, are tenacious; they will find ways to survive. Most people think of classical music for example, as being something static and preserved. But in truth, orchestral composition is very much a dynamic and living art form, constantly budding with new work that the old masters would recognize as being akin to their own. It simply went where most of us don’t think to look for it; what were once symphonic suites are now film scores. Evocation is an art like this. The word itself is Latin—evocare—literally meaning to call out or to call forth.

Referred to rituals of the Roman army illustrate that they induced the tutelary deity of a city to abandon it and leave it a prey to Roman conquest. Generally, the god or goddess in question would be lured out with offers of a new, grander temple or more lavish festivals and devotions in the Roman occupation, in order to forestall any bad feelings that might arise if the existing temple or other sacred sites were to be damaged or plundered. During the late Empire, there were few new cities left to conquer in the wake of the victorious Roman legions, and few believers in tutelary deities left in the wake of victorious Christian missionaries, and so the art of evocation reinvented itself.

Goetic Demon king Asmodeus
Goetic Demon King Asmodeus (Asmoday)

In the new hybrid of Christianity and nostalgic imperium that came to be called Christendom, the evoker’s art stopped calling gods out of cities and began calling angels out of heaven and, more controversially, demons out of hell. Both, reputedly, could offer knowledge, wealth, and power to those equipped to command them. In the high middle ages, this equipment consisted primarily of pure intent and the favor of God, without which no spell or incantation was believed to avail. By the early Renaissance, however, the success of the scientific method and the emerging discipline of mechanical engineering inspired a renewal of the ancient magical belief that a ritual performed correctly will get results regardless of such niceties as unblemished hearts and lives of prayer.

The printing press thus, in more ways than one, brought forth a profusion of mass-produced demonological reference books and grimoires from the late 1400s on, intended to aid the aspiring evoker in his chosen work. Bafflingly contradictory and routinely plagiarized, these works fell out of popular favor after the enthusiasm for witch hunting died down in the early 18th century. Though they continued to circulate and to find admirers, evocation became an increasingly arcane hobby that left the realm of county fair cunningfolk and back alley fortune tellers to move into French salons and upscale London apartments.

There, these works were studied, cultivated, and systematized first by the Rosicrucians and then by the para-Masonic magical orders such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. To the extent that most of what contemporary people know about evocation, is owed to this tradition, and particularly to the work of MacGregor Mathers in translating the Lesser Key of Solomon—commonly known as the Goetia—and of Aleister Crowley in publishing it with his own additions, which included an ingenious treatise redefining evocation for the modern age, and presenting it as a tool for making contact with the deeper aspects of one’s own psyche.

Goetic demon king Belial and some followers (woodcarving)
Goetic Demon King Belial and some of his followers

Though it is still the case that most people have never read even the Goetia—now undoubtedly the most commonly circulated and cited grimoire—a surprising number know the names of some of the demons it describes, because, where orchestral music found its niche in Hollywood, evocation found a home in video games. The chief demons listed in the Goetia—the Goetic “demon kings”—star in games that are now household names. Baal, Azmodeus, and Belial all figure in Blizzard’s Diablo series, the most recent installment of which has sold 30 million copies to become the ninth best selling video game of all time. Twenty-two demons from the Lesser Key appear in the Final Fantasy franchise, which has branched out from video games to include television, film, and radio productions, in addition to comics and novelizations.

The Goetia presents techniques for summoning demons in order to command them, as King Solomon legendarily did to build his Temple. Another early modern grimoire (in which Crowley was also greatly interested), The Book of Abramelin the Mage, gives summoning instructions not in order to command demons, but to overcome and banish them so that the magician, cathartically freed of their influence, might draw nearer to God.

Game designers, like film directors and Aleister Crowley, are psychological adepts who work their magic by understanding just a little more than the average person does of what lurks in the recesses of every person’s mind. Perhaps quite unaware, millions of people who will never open the Goetia but who have started up their computers to summon its great demon kings to battle, have spent their time more profitably than we may have even thought... as what they have done is they've cornered, banished and slain their demon kings, in ways that others in real life have had to work far harder to do.

Part II

Friday, June 30, 2017

Ulexite, Healing and Metaphysical Properties

Ulexite; a Wikimedia file, CC by SA 3.0. Attribution: Rob Lavinsky,

What is Ulexite?

Ulexite... it has a neat name, and is commonly referred to as the "TV stone".  It can be clear, white, or somewhere in between. This stone is somewhat unusual in that there are naturally occurring fibers within it that conduct light fiber optically.

Metaphysical Properties

Its energies are suitable to program for assistance in connecting with spirit guides, angelic beings, those from other locations within our universe; and also our own higher self. Ulexite enhances creativity through boosting the imagination; as well this stone will allow you to clearly pick up life lessons and other messages that lie hidden within daily circumstance.

Like so many, you may be working to heighten your psychic awareness. Keeping a piece under your pillow when at sleep and on or close to your brow chakra during meditation sessions, will help you on your way. The energies within it have a strong clearing effect mentally, physically, and spiritually; and therefore it creates harmony between all three aspects of being. Its light transporting properties send the divine energy of light to where it needs to be.

When experiencing complexity or facing problems at work or in any area of life, ulexite holds the potential to guide you to find solutions. As well it promotes understanding, this as its energies transfer subliminal communications. When you can sense what someone is feeling, it's simpler for you to relate to them.

Herkimer Diamond on Amazon

Disclaimer: You should consult your health and/or mental health professional before using any alternative healing methods. This article does not suggest otherwise.

Healing Properties

As it works with the pineal and crown chakra centers, it provides healing to all conditions located in the head; this including eyesight and hearing problems, and it alleviates headache pain as well. When feeling fatigued, this stone bearing the properties of light can offer you an energy boost.

With Psychic Awareness

Like all "eye" or otherwise optical stones, such as hawk's eye and tiger's eye, ulexite can assist us to develop our psychic vision. This crystal type supports psychic vision over distance in two ways. First off, we can use it to see more distantly into time; and/or we can use it to more effectively conduct remote viewing sessions, which are often perceived over great distance by land or space. Here I will take the time to acknowledge that many remote viewing practitioners do not consider the skill to be psychic in nature.

More on its properties as a seer stone, is that it helps us to better read the energies of others and "see" the purposes they may have in mind for us. It is said to support the rest of the clair senses beyond that of clairvoyance as well. At times we need more insight into issues of self, and this stone can assist there too.

Optical Qualities

Articles describing the parallel between this mineral's properties and a TV are plentiful; the most common description goes like this: when placed upon printed matter, looking through it, the writing underneath appears to be at the surface of the stone, similar to the way that a TV screen presents an image.

But there is a different description for the TV-like phenomenon as well: this is a crystal type that is not see-through but from one angle. Place it on top of writing (or something else that's easily distinguishable); and when looking through it in the direction of the grain, you can see the text through this otherwise non-see-through stone.

Notice that with the second description, there's no mention of what you see appearing to be close to the surface. Now that doesn't seem so extraordinary, but on the other hand, a non-transparent stone is passing an image through, so maybe it is after all. TV-like? Who knows, it shows an image, that's TV-like, isn't it? This second explanation of its properties makes more sense to me though, as it's in line with my own experience. But with that said, I'd like to add that though I have a piece packed away somewhere, I did not test it to make sure that it was ulexite and not satin spar selenite, commonly sold in its place.

In 1991 it was presented in the Journal of Geological Education, that when you hold a piece of polished ulexite to your eye and look towards a source of light, you'll see concentric circles of light (G. Donald Garlick and W. Barclay Kamb).

Where is it Mined?

Ulexite is mined from a borax mine in Boron, California.

Care and Maintenance

Don't cleanse in water, as it will melt; this is what makes this mineral unsuitable to use as a gemstone.



This crystal type is relative to the pineal, or brow chakra, and secondarily the crown chakra. Due to it having primarily white or no coloring and a high vibration frequency, it relates to all chakras to some degree.


The properties of ulexite, generally speaking enhance intuitive and psychic awareness, and also promote wisdom, discretion and better judgement. As already touched upon, this stone will lead you to better understand others. And of course it works the other way around as well, others will better understand you when you carry some with you.

When working with such high energy stones, it's a good idea to use a grounding stone. Either of black tourmaline or black obsidian is recommended, as they offer strong psychic protection on top of grounding. Using protection is wise when making psychic connections, lest your own vibration not be suitably high enough to connect exclusively with light beings at any given time.

Oh, and if you want a piece of this mineral, do some research and know what you are buying; some say that satin spar gypsum is often sold as ulexite.

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Basic Hints: Enabling Your Body to Heal Spiritually

balance and harmony

Body, Mind, and Spirit: Basic Points in Staying Healthy

by Joodhe

In theory you can heal your body through healing your spirit. Yes, of course you can, but it sounds daunting... wouldn't that be a long and arduous process? Well, it depends on how much work needs be done to energetically set you right. And once you are set right, naturally some ongoing maintenance will be required.

Now let's take a look at things we can do to help cleanse, center, harmonize and heal. It's both the small things and the large things that will make a difference. And even considering how redundant it sounds, as with all kinds of remedial processes we must actually follow through with our plans, not just make them. The suggestions I offer are not all metaphysical solutions, but some are. Proper healing methods will address you holistically - in body, mind and spirit. With these things in mind, here are things you can do to help regain or establish overall health and to promote healing:

Eat healthier foods. As cliche as it may sound, body is a temple, right?

Stop eating GMOs, and consider going vegetarian or vegan. GMOs wreak havoc upon your physical body. And meat carries the energy of a dead animal's carcass. We do not want or need these things.

Drink more water. Our bodies are primarily water; this only makes sense.

Stop drinking coffee. Not only does it make you edgy, recent research suggests that it dumbs you down as well.

sound healing

Do daily ritual cleansings. Here are a few suggestions for cleansing methods:

  • Take a selenite stick or palm stone, rub it across your entire body. 
  • Cleanse yourself with smudge. 
  • Sit in the sun.
  • Sit in the moonlight.
  • Soak in the tub, have a shower, or go swimming. Soaking in sea salt is especially good. Putting a bowl full of non soluble crystals in your bathtub is beneficial as well - whichever ones you feel serve you best. 

Ground, ground ground. Holding negative energies inside of you will create destruction and disease within your body, mind, and spirit. Grounding will release it.

Meditate. Meditation provides you a strong connection to the oneness, and allows you to understand and know all that you need to, in order to simply go with the flow of your highest aspect of being.

Work to balance and open your third eye and crown chakras. When facing less stress you'll be healthier. When your third eye and crown chakras are working optimally you'll find solutions and you'll find the best path in all things by going with your intuition.

Socialize. No man or woman is an island. If they are something is dreadfully wrong. We are connected to infinite intelligence and wisdom, to opportunities and networks, and to all the solutions that the universe will ever deliver us when we have friends. Without them we are off the grid in a sense.

If you have found yourself alone in your life - do what you can to begin reconnecting socially. It is of utmost importance; if not it's highly likely that you'll face ongoing life obstacles. How is the universe going to get help to you without a social circle? Yes, there are some that can thrive outside of society's bounds, but they are extremely rare. To live without connections one would have to be very connected to the universe in other ways. I've noticed that those that do so successfully often work the land, as if their connection to the Earth itself is key; and/or they meditate regularly, and have a direct connection to the universe as a whole in that sense.

Stay positive minded. Remain aware that everything you do and say will not only build the world around you, but will also adjust your health accordingly to the energy frequency range you reside within.

Listen. Listen to the unhearable. When doing nothing, listen to the universe. This helps you find solutions in life that you would otherwise miss.

Listen more. Listen to all of those frequency and singing bowl recordings that were designed to raise your frequency vibrational rate. You know, the ones you often see on YouTube, book mark and leave sit indefinitely waiting.

Listen to music. Whether you realize it or not, music is very healing.

Relax, and also get enough rest and sleep.

Walk outside. It's one way of connecting with nature.

Work outside. Garden, mow the lawn, paint the fence. In doing so you are grounding, and connecting with the earth as well.

Meditate in the woods. Meditating in a concentrated natural setting as such, does wonders for the soul.

Feel appreciation. Appreciate all things, especially things we often take for granted. You have a roof over your head, good food to eat, hopefully good friends. Go outside and see green grass, the beauty of a bird, or a cloud that looks like something familiar to you. A cat that looks happy to see you even. There are reasons everywhere, to be thankful.

Pay attention to synchronicity. It may not be easily identifiable as a healing thing, but you know, knowing that we are far from alone in this world and universe, enables us to feel empowered. Allow yourself if you haven't already, to tune into the fact that as an obstacle presents, immediately an opportunity arises to solve your problem (but one example of synchronicity). Once you've opened your mind to see it, your perspective will be forever changed. If it (solutions presenting) isn't happening it is because you've closed your mind somehow, and that's a sign you have work to do!

As stated though, the above is not the only example of synchronicity. All of the universe, past present and future is going on now. This means that at any time YOU have the power to make decisions that affect you positively or negatively from here on in - it's your choice. Your power lies entirely in your hands, which is a healthy belief to hold.

Avoid EMFs. If you must be exposed to them, consider drinking a glass or two of water a day with a teaspoon of baking soda in it, as it helps your body release some degree of EMF toxicity.

Stay away from negative people and toxic interactions. If you can't remove them from your circle or leave theirs, acknowledge how you feel interacting with them and be willing to accept those feelings for what they are. Once you have briefly processed your feelings, let them go, don't stew in them.

Avoid participating in negativism. Sometimes we might find ourselves caught up in an interaction where someone is making fun of a person or is taking a potshot. And when we don't know how to react or have been socially conditioned to participate ("everyone does it!"), it's hard to completely stop. However, this is not harmless, and becomes more harmful to a person as they ascend. Here's how I arrive at that conclusion: As we ascend we are given lessons. It is assumed as with all lessons, that the more advanced we get the more knowledgeable we become on the topic, and the more proficient we become at making good judgments.

So we become meditators, healers, counselors, and so on and so forth. And then we go to the coffee shop and get pulled into a convo where people are verbally picking on Joe Blow? Let's get real, hey? Most of us learn not to do this pretty fast; but if we don't immediately pick up on this lesson, as we ascend the lessons we get not to do it become stronger in progression.

So do what you can to stay healthy in body, mind, and spirit... really, as a good life is all about that.



By the way, I didn't write every single hint of this type that could be mentioned, nor could I. Thus if you have suggestions, by all means leave them in the comments section!

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

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.


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.


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.

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