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

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.

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

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 #AmazonADlink: 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 via 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
Read about various forms of divination on Wikipedia
#AmazonADlink: Fortune Telling, by Raymond Buckland

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

Thursday, August 4, 2016

What a World of Solemn Thought Their Monody Compels: Bells in Ritual

Bells of ritual
Copper alloy bells for sacred & magic rituals, apotropaic symbols of protection. Roman period. By Tilemahos Efthimiadis, from Athens, Greece CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Subtitle: Bells: Their Importance in Ritual Usage

by Race MoChridhe

I am not aware of any Pagan tradition that uses bells as part of its standard equipment (though I am aware of a few good Pagan books that recommend them). Bells are part of the standard equipment in every temple of the world’s largest continuously surviving pre-Christian tradition, however. If you have ever come very early in the morning to a Hindu temple, bearing flowers for Sri Durga, and sat in the midst of the bell’s reverberations, as the rope and the clapper and the priest’s firm hand become one motion and one being, you will know why the bell is indispensable. If you have not, then I will tell you.

Many Western ritualists I know do keep a bell for opening and closing rituals. Whether the performance is magical or devotional, it is useful to mark its boundaries in time as well as in space. During a group ritual, this has the very practical benefit of simply calling everyone’s attention to the same moment for getting underway. Even in a solo rite, however, there is the additional benefit of calling attention to this moment. Much like a blessing or aspersion received before entering the space of a circle, the clear, sweet tone of the bell is a purification, signifying unmistakably to the mind that the time has come to leave all daily concerns aside and to focus on the ritual task at hand. As a preparation for either the intense focus required for magical work, or the deep silence sought for devotion, this signal is ideal.

Ritual handbells used in ancient Japan
Ritual handbells used in ancient Japan

The bell’s true function, however, is even more profound. Both partisans and critics of the Roman Catholic rite will occasionally describe it as “smells and bells”. In the churches of the West, no less than the temples of the East, the bell is ubiquitous, in keeping with a common theme of religions... In the Abrahamic traditions, including Christianity, God creates the world through an act of speech. In Filianic tradition, the world is begotten from an act of laughter. In Hindu tradition, not only the world, but the gods as well, arise from the reverberation of the primordial sound aum or om, which contains within its fathomlessness the potential of all being. The first moment of Creation is always a moment of sound.

To appreciate this, one must go beyond merely reading it.* Go and listen to the strike of a clear brass bell, its ripples fading even into the darkest corners, and hear the aum… aum… as it bears motion to profoundest stillness. Go and sit at the base of the church tower when a bevy of iron bells begin to strike their chorus, overlapping one another in excited agitation, like the angels pouring down at God’s command, “Let us...” (Genesis 1:26). In the midst of the awe-inspiring cacophony you will hear the words woven through the rings like a lady’s ribbon—yehi or, yehi or… Let there be light, let there be light... (Genesis 1:3).

bell and striker
A bell and striker, styled after those popular within Tibetan

When the bells are struck, be it at Notre Dame or Varanasi, it is more than just a symbol; it is a mythic identification. Eternity is not everlasting time, but a state of timelessness. We are not separated from the primordial sound of Creation by billions of years, but only by the thin veil of our awareness, which imposes time upon the raw experience of All-That-Is. Within the peal of a bell lies the affirmation of our ritual power to draw that veil aside and to stand within the echo of eternity—to cast our voices back into the very stream that spoke us. The bell does not merely call our attention to this moment; it reminds us that this moment is eternally the Moment, if we will only open our ears.

Executed properly, the ringing of the bell is thus an act of magic by itself—one far more difficult and ambitious than those usually undertaken by even the most skilled magicians. Approached in the right frame of mind, the ringing of the bell is already union with the sun and conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel. You need have nothing more than a bell to rain the heavens down upon the earth. And yet no one will require you to have one, and in this is a profounder lesson still, for those willing to sit a while in silence.

*Nonetheless, for those who do not recognize the origin of this article’s title, it is highly recommended to read Poe’s The Bells before undertaking the exercise that follows it.

My next article is on the chalice.

Other articles in this series include:
The Sacred Tools of the Druid
Ancestors of the Athame

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

As Old As Time: A Brief History of Amulets and Talismans

gnostic amulet
A Gnostic amulet (to draw love, wealth, strength & protection)

Protection in History :: Amulets and Talismans

The history of mankind has been, at times, a history of danger and conflict. For denizens of the ancient world, drought, famine and war could be impossible to predict and difficult to survive. As a result, much emphasis was put on protective charms. We've heard of King Arthur's Excalibur, or the Golden Fleece of Greek mythology, but there did in fact exist a plethora of amulets and talismans that were specifically crafted to protect regular citizens from the whole range of human maladies, from plague to bad luck.

Though the terms are often used interchangeably, talismans and amulets are not the same thing. Amulets are traditionally considered to be inherently magical items, either because of the symbols they bear or the materials from which they are constructed. In contrast, talismans must be imbued with magical properties by their creator. In many cases, talismans are made for a single, specific purpose whereas amulets are more generally protective and helpful. Of course, history is long and there are many, many exceptions to this rule.

A class of amulets that has become especially important over time is the apotropaic. These amulets deflect evil influence, particularly the effects of the evil eye. In Western Asia and the Mediterranean, the evil eye is a glare given by one person to another that transmits ill will and misfortune. Also known as the stink eye and the bad eye, this glare is purported to have powers that range widely among individuals and cultures. Some view the evil eye as merely symbolic of envy and negativity, while others believe more literally in its killing intent.

hamsa hand amulet
A hamsa hand amulet (to repel the evil eye)

Turkish nazars are common amulets, worn either on individuals or strung on buildings and trees to ward off the evil eye. The hamsa, or khamsa, is an ancient amulet resembling a hand with two thumbs, the palms of which are adorned with an eye.

The hamsa is almost as old as civilization itself. It began in the Fertile Crescent, in Mesopotamia, where it was designed to mimic an open right palm. Holding one's right palm up was among the first universal gestures of safety and protection, potentially because it showed that one was unarmed and honest. The hamsa as a symbol and artifact can now be found throughout the world and is especially important in the Middle East, Asia, North Africa and parts of South America.

In the West, we perhaps think of amulets and talismans as adornments worn by individuals in the form of necklaces and jewelry, but this is at times far from the case. Paleontologists have found amulets from the Neolithic period crafted delicately out of human skulls. Similarly, amulets made from hand, foot, leg and arm bones are common throughout the Old and New worlds. Not all of these amulets are meant to be fearsome or morbid either, some are crafted to be buried along with the dead to honor and protect them, while others are intended to draw good luck.

Later in history, the astrologer and alchemist, Tycho Brahe, created an astronomical observatory called the Uraniborg in which scientists worked at studying the heavens. The Uraniborg was designed to function as a massive protective talisman for those working inside of it. Brahe aligned the walls and supports of the building such that they mimicked the ratios of the distance between Jupiter and the sun, believing this would bring good fortune both on a scientific and spiritual level.

main building, Uraniborg
The main building of the Uraniborg; public domain image via Wikimedia Commons

Another example of an unexpected talisman is the swastika. This design is ancient and a good example of a symbol that is somewhere between an amulet and a talisman. Some form of the swastika has existed in almost every major civilization on Earth. The Western world titled it as the gammadion cross because its arms resembled the Greek letter gamma. It is a standard character in Chinese and Japanese writing and an oft-used and beloved Indian symbol for good-luck and well-being.

Unfortunately, in our contemporary world, the swastika is most often associated with Nazi Germany and the atrocities committed by Hitler. This is a shame because for thousands of years before that, the swastika was an indicator of auspiciousness and a way to attract good fortune and bountiful harvests. Many individuals in India and Asia still abide by this original meaning of the swastika.

The allure of amulets and talismans is an important aspect of their history. Maybe you've noticed that many of the most iconic symbols and shapes used in our everyday life had their origin as part of a protective charm. In the United States and other industrial nations, we’ve become desensitized to these items because we're flooded with logos and brand names that, in some cases, function as a kind of contemporary talisman. Ultimately, just about anything can become a talisman or amulet for an individual, but it’s always interesting to see how certain symbols have endured throughout centuries and millennia, serving as a source of comfort and strength for near countless generations of human beings.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Druid’s Sacred Tools

Ancient Druidic historical site
An ancient Druidic historical site

Magick (Druidic) :: The Three Commonmost Tools

by Race MoChridhe

One of the topics which invariably receives the most interest from students of magickal arts is that of tools. Many inquiries received by a teacher in this vein are entirely sincere, and reflect their pupils’ earnest desires to align themselves with the tradition and to “get things right.” Many, however, suggest a measure of what cyclists call “shiny helmet syndrome”—attraction to an activity simply out of a desire for fancy kit. At the risk of contributing to this phenomenon, it may be well to speak somewhat of the matter nonetheless.

No one post can do justice to the topic’s breadth, since there are as many sets of magickal tools as there are traditions of magickal practice (indeed, somewhat more), but to begin a series I might start with the tools of the Druid, partly because I am one, but more because the tools are very simple, and make very clear the origins of their power. The first thing to be noted in that regard is that, strictly speaking, no tools of any kind are required to practice Druidic magick. Much could be done by a single Druid in sensory deprivation; everything could be done by a Druid standing naked and unarmed in a field. A small number of tools are commonly used, however, for a few compelling reasons:
  1. Focus, focus, focus. Magickal ritual has been aptly described by any number of authors as “moving meditation.” Just as, in purely mental meditation, one is greatly assisted by the use of an image or a mantra to anchor attention and keep the mind from wandering, so, too, a moving meditation draws strength of focus from physical objects that can fix attention in the same way.
  2. Sacred space and sacred time. While the above aim can be achieved by a focus on, say, specific points on the ground, or specific parts of the body in motion (as when one casts a circle using only one’s fingertips), ritual tools, like ritual clothing, send a powerful signal to the mind that one has stepped outside the flow of everyday activities and undertaken something special and specialized. This is the greater part of what is meant when magicians speak of tools becoming “charged” or “imbued” with energy over the course of years working with them—the more hours one spends with a tool while consciously focused on spiritual work, the more powerful a trigger that tool becomes for putting the mind back into that same state with which it has become unconsciously associated.
  3. Symbol, story, and narrative. The tools in your garage vary by what they move or adjust. The tools on your altar vary by what part of a story they tell. That story differs depending on the magickal tradition; a Druid’s tools tell a slightly different story about how the cosmos is structured, whence a magician draws his or her power, and how the acolyte becomes an adept, than do the tools of a Wiccan, a Cochranian, or a Thelemite, but they all tell stories. In this respect, they might be compared to the stained glass in a church; one can certainly offer prayer and worship without any, but many find the experience enhanced by having the sacred stories of the tradition immediately before them, and being surrounded by them in a physical sense.

Though Druids of different traditions have slightly different customs, and though various kinds of specialized work may occasion the use of more unusual devices, the three most common items in a Druid’s grove are a wand, a cauldron, and a crane bag.

The wand and the cauldron are nearly ubiquitous magickal tools, and almost every tradition employs either them or some close approximation thereof. At their most fundamental level, they represent the masculine and feminine principles within both the macrocosmic universe and the microcosmic self. In the Celtic traditions from which Druidry draws, the spear (as a close symbolic relative of the wand) is a tool intimately associated with figures representing divine masculinity, ranging from the god Lugh to the hero Cuchulainn. The cauldron, on the other hand, is linked throughout a range of stories to goddess figures, from Danu to Cerridwen. The wand/spear asserts will and brings death, while the cauldron receives all and gives rebirth. Witches, ceremonial magicians, and many others will have no difficulty in recognizing these basic archetypes.

The crane bag, on the other hand, is more peculiar, and therefore more mysterious. It is a sewn or woven pouch, similar to a Native American medicine bag, which various practitioners use to hold herbs and oils, runic sets for casting, or a variety of other tools. Why it should be considered a magickal item in and of itself, let alone be part of a triplicity with such powerful artifacts as the wand and the cauldron, is not readily apparent. But this is where point number three from our list comes into play. Much of modern Druidic lore comes from Welsh legends, and particularly the story of Taliesin. Taliesin was the most famous and powerful of the Welsh bards, but his story began as the tale of a humble youth named Gwion Bach. Gwion was tasked by the goddess Cerridwen to mind a cauldron for a year and a day, in which she was preparing a magickal elixir from which the first three drops would grant Awen—divine, poetic inspiration—to her own son, Afagddu.

When the brew was ready, however, three drops leapt out and singed Gwion’s thumb. Without thinking, he stuck it in his mouth, and thus drank the three drops intended for Afagddu, gaining the power of Awen in the process. Enraged, Cerridwen chased him, and both ran through a series of shape-shiftings before Cerridwen, in the form of a hen, caught Gwion, in the form of a grain of wheat, and swallowed him. Cerridwen soon discovered that she was pregnant, and nine months later she gave birth to Gwion again, who was now too beautiful for her to have the heart to destroy. She sewed him up, instead, in a leather sack and cast him on the water, where he was discovered by a fisherman who raised him as his own son, and named him Taliesin, meaning “radiant brow.”

It is only in the context of the aforementioned story that the crane bag can take on a magickal dimension. In its light, we perceive that there are two incubations in Druidic tradition where many other traditions have only one. Cerridwen’s cauldron, like the Witch’s cauldron and many other cauldrons like them, is a symbol of the womb and of rebirth, but the Welsh story makes the rebirth from Cerridwen’s womb only the first part of a greater process. By that means, Gwion escapes death to come into the world again, but his true life does not begin until he is sewn into a bag—another symbol of the womb—and reborn from it under a new name, to make manifest in the world the powers of wisdom and inspiration which he had received.

Just as the Hindu brahmins called themselves the “twice-born”, and Jesus spoke of being born again (John 3:6–7), so, likewise, modern Druids make a distinction between the macrocosmic sense in which the world is constituted of cycles of life, death, and rebirth witnessed by the seasons, and the microcosmic sense in which one seeking enlightenment is reborn into an illuminated life of the spirit. Out of the story of Taliesin is drawn a distinct doctrine, and out of that doctrine comes a symbolism reflected in a choice of tools that, in any other context, might be perceived as a redundancy, or even an overstressing, of the feminine divine, when, in actuality, it is a representation of the divine child of the wand and the cauldron—the Druid herself.

In my next installment (on the athame), we will use this understanding of the link between traditional story and ritual kit to enter more deeply into the symbolic world of the Witch’s altar.

Other articles in this series include:
Bells as Ritual Tools
The Chalice's Gender Status

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Of Mormonism and Magickal Virtue

a magician

Editor's Introduction

Within this piece, of which the underlying premise is the uniting of humanity with divinity in will, author Race MoChridhe touches upon a few interesting points, including how Mormonism differs from other religions in how it regards "the Holy Trinity," Eliphas Lévi's "magickal virtues", and Crowley's improvement on said magickal virtues, and more.

Mormonism vs. Other Religions :: Rationalizing the Trinity

By Race MoChridhe

One of the most interesting (from a Pagan perspective) and troubling (from most other perspectives) aspects of religion is the extreme fungibility between heroes and gods. The Classical pantheon is well-stocked in apotheosed mortals, from Orpheus to Empedocles. The Celtic epics, with maddening inconsistency, often make the same figure an immortal god and a long-deceased noble. Even today, at the edges of the great Abrahamic religions, lurk shadowy sects and rogue mystics who find divinity in Ezra, Ali, or the Blessed Virgin. Pagans rarely feel a need to rationalize these apparent inconsistencies, and most Abrahamicists simply dismiss them as heresy, but there are some who keep an interest in the mechanics of such things. Two who would do well to talk to each other more are Mormons and ceremonial magicians.

Mormon theology is non-trinitarian, insofar as they do not believe that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are ontologically identical, as most Christian groups do. They rescue monotheism, however, in a fascinatingly magickal way—by claiming that, although the three are not united in their nature, they are united in their will, and because their wills are in perfect accord, they are functionally one God. To place one’s will in perfect accord with the Heavenly Father, of course, is a very difficult thing to do. Even the greatest of the medieval mystics regarded this more as a theoretical ideal than a thing achievable (in this lifetime, at any rate). The linking of mortality and divinity on Earth is therefore seen in Mormonism as something miraculous—outside the natural course of events and attributable solely to the grace of God.

book of mormon
The ceremonial magician Eliphas Lévi, on the other hand, saw the process as quite natural—a product not of divine grace, but of human initiative, which requires more than will alone (will suffices, of course, in all matters for God, but not always for men). In what is perhaps his most popular work, Transcendental Magic, Lévi enumerated four magickal virtues (sometimes called the “Powers of the Sphinx”) which make the link between humanity and divinity possible. Customarily named in Latin, they are scire (to know), audere (to dare), velle (to will), and tacere (to keep silence).

Though now only one of four components, will, remained the keystone of Lévi’s conception when he wrote in The Great Secret that “magic ... has for its purpose the placing of supernatural power at the service of the human will in some way. To attain such an achievement it is necessary to KNOW what has to be done, to WILL what is required, to DARE what must be attempted and to KEEP SILENT with discernment.” In essence, this was simply a reversal of the Mormon concept; while it speaks of man joined with God by the alignment of human will to the divine power, Lévi spoke of divinity yoked to man by the alignment of the divine power to human will. Using Odysseus as an example, Lévi spoke of how he used these virtues to “sway the gods”, and wrote to his students that “You are called to be king of air, water, earth and fire; but to reign over these four living creatures of symbolism, it is necessary to conquer and enchain them … be the heir and despoiler of the sphinx”.

Our old friend Aleister Crowley (of whom we have lately written so much), could no more leave this system unimproved than he could any other, especially since he claimed to be, himself, the reincarnation of Lévi. Feeling that the elements of spirit, which had come into common use among kabbalists since Lévi’s time, required a corresponding virtue, he added ire (to go). Where Lévi, steeped in Western occult tradition, thought in terms of spiritual domination and the harnessing of supernatural powers, Crowley, an avid student of Eastern spirituality as well as Western, dreamt of the transcendence of such dualities.

For him, the cultivation of the magickal virtues was not about wielding divine power as a tool, but about realizing one’s own identity with and in that power. “[A]s Spirit is the Origin, the Essence, and the Sum of the other four [elements],” he wrote in Magick Without Tears, “so is to Go in relation to those powers. And to Go is the very meaning of the name God … the means whereby we demonstrate the Godhead of our Nature.” For Crowley, one’s mastery over the elements arose not from “conquering” and “enchaining”, but from finding oneself in the heart of that from which the elements flow. It is not a matter of reducing them to an extension of one’s will, but of realizing them as emanations of one’s own nature, and hence of one’s True Will:
[T]he four Virtues of the Adept …  enable him to overcome the resistance of the elements; they are: to Will, to Dare, to Know and to Keep Silence. By the harmonious exercise of these, the fifth Element of Spirit is formulated in the being of the Adept. It is the god within, the sun, which is the centre of the Universe from the human point of view, with its own particular virtue, which is to Go." (Book of Thoth)

In effect, by proper application of the magickal virtues, one becomes actus purus (pure act), which is one of the defining traits of God in the Christian theological tradition. The sacred center is imagined as the perpetual activity of divinity, ceaselessly creating and recreating the cosmos, and the adept who wills, dares, knows, and keeps silence is returned to this stream of activity from which she or he was once birthed into manifestation. By thus returning in a willed and purposeful way, however, the adept retains a paradoxical measure of his or her independence. Like the Mormon Christ, the adept is both God and man—creator and creature. Like Lévi, the adept is in command, but like any good Thelemite, is also commanded by her or his True Will.

Concerning the above, we have an altogether fresh take on Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying that the cup may be taken from Him, but that the Lord’s will be done in all matters. In traditional Christian thought, this text (Matthew 26:39; Luke 22:42) has been deeply troubling, with its suggestion of a rift between Jesus’ human desires and God’s immutable will. In Crowley’s concept, however, we find a possibility that these two wills can be identical not only by a gift of divine grace, such that Jesus’ prayer would be read as an interruption of that grace, but by the active effort of the one who prays, such that Jesus’ words in that moment become not a sign of wavering, but an affirmation of persistence. Human and divine initiative stand reconciled, in Crowley’s model, and the fusion of the human and the divine is seen to be both mundane (as in Lévi) and miraculous (as in Mormonism).

If we return, then, to Lévi’s example of Odysseus as a true magician in mastery of the four virtues, we are truthfully hard-pressed to decide if he is a man or a god. In Crowley’s terms, he is both, and we might well say the same of Empedocles, Lleu Llaw Gyffes, or Mary. For too much of the history of Christian thought, virtue has been a means by which one comes to God. Virtue is, though, as they say, its own reward, and in magick we find it not as a means, but as a recognition. The adept does not tread a narrow path of virtue to reach the Kingdom of God; the adept, by the practice of virtue, recognizes it within.

Monday, March 28, 2016

A New Approach to the Order of the RWS and Thoth Courts

knight's arthurian style helmet

Regarding Attempts to Reconcile the Thoth and RWS Tarots...

Subtitle: “And Whosoever of You Will Be the Chiefest, Shall Be Servant of All”

 by Race MoChridhe

One of the Golden Dawn’s signal contributions to the divinatory arts was standardizing the court cards of the Tarot, which had varied in naming and order across traditional decks in Europe and the Middle East, as the sequence King, Queen, Prince, Princess. It is notable, however, that the two most prestigious decks created by Golden Dawn initiates—Arthur Edward Waite’s Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) and Aleister Crowley’s Book of Thoth—both eschewed this scheme in favor of other arrangements. Waite gave his deck a King, Queen, Knight, Page order (the most common traditional naming), while Crowley equipped his with a Knight, Queen, Prince, Princess progression. The correct method for equating Waite and Crowley’s courts, and of equating both with the Golden Dawn system, has been debated ever since.

The simplest and most accurate solution is to say simply that they do not equate. It is a pernicious notion that all Tarot decks can ultimately be resolved or rectified into one another by sufficiently clever correspondences. The Thoth is no more explicable in terms of the RWS than Crowley’s Thelema is to be interpreted in the terms of Waite’s Catholic mysticism. The genius of both men is undeniable (as is the genius of the artists who interpreted and realized their visions—Lady Frieda Harris and Pamela Coleman Smith, respectively), but very different. Just as their philosophies, while sharing much in common, must be appreciated in their own right as independent systems, so too their Tarot decks. Something, however, may well be learned from the occult exercise of seeking correlations.

One popular “solution” has been to identify the Thoth knights with the RWS kings. This is based largely on the Thoth’s pairing of knights with queens in the context of the Tetragrammaton. The Thoth knights are equivalent to the yod of the divine name and represent the first, most active inception of their respective elemental principles—swift, violent, and fleeting. They find their stabilizing match in the queens, who correspond to the first heh of the divine name and receive the ephemeral, inseminating force of the knights to be matured into a fuller state of creation. Synthesis is achieved in the princes, who correspond to the divine vav and manifest the union of the queen and the knight in a more enduring form.

Lastly, the princesses embody the Tetragrammaton’s final heh, completing the creative process by crystallizing the initial energy of the knight into a final, material form (which is also the reabsorption of the spent energy that makes the renewal of the cycle possible). Taken at face value, the RWS king, as the consort of the queen, seems to correspond to the role of the Thoth knight in this progression. (Joodhe, however, offers a different, and more interesting argument for this correspondence.)

At the same time, however, the brash and impetuous energy of the Thoth knights does seem a closer match to the often unbalanced forces of the RWS knights, suggesting that these two should be identified instead, leaving the RWS kings as counterparts of the Thoth princes—both more stable forms of energy. There does seem to be significant evidence in the iconography that Waite intended his kings as depictions of the Golden Dawn princes that served as the basis for the Thoth princes. A close comparison of the Golden Dawn card descriptions shows that the symbols of the Golden Dawn princes, which occur also on the Thoth princes, are consistently present in the RWS illustrations for the kings, but not for the knights. It this on this evidence that an argument for correspondence of kings to princes, rather than kings to knights, most usually (and most solidly) rests.

a medieval setting
They may well have been discussing how to reconcile the RWS courts with the Thoth courts, until obviously, rudely interrupted...

In this case, the true hierarchical order of Waite’s deck would, when set in comparison to the Thoth, be Knight, Queen, King, Page. It may seem counterintuitive to move the RWS king “down” in the order in this way, rather than placing him first, where his natural position would seem to be. This arrangement, however, may not be so backward as it appears if we consider Waite’s possible motivations for it. Arthurian romance deeply influenced Waite’s understanding of the Tarot and, in the most classic version of the tale, it is one of Arthur’s knights—Sir Lancelot—whom Queen Guinevere takes as her lover in his absence. Arthur, as king, is Lancelot’s lord, and yet comes beneath him in Guinevere’s affection. This suggestive arrangement, so similar to the narrative which Crowley would later give to the Thoth court, may well have appealed to Waite as a representation of the paradox that lay at the heart of his other great mythological commitment—his Christianity.

Most systems of Christian Kabbala identify Christ with the sephirah of Tiphereth, which unites the forces of the opposing pillars in order to balance Keter—divinity in its unknowable transcendence, associated with God the Father—and Yesod—divinity in its most immanent form, associated with the Holy Spirit—in such a way as to manifest Keter on planes that cannot otherwise perceive it directly. The role of the Golden Dawn prince bears an obvious similarity to this function of synthesis and reconciliation—one which Crowley notes in Liber 777, which identifies the Tarot princes with this sephirah. Waite, in addition, would have been mindful of the theological debates surrounding the relationship of Jesus and the Father. The paradox of the Son who is both supreme (Matthew 11:27; 28:18; John 3:35; 17:2; Ephesians 1:20-3; Philippians 2:10; etc.) and subordinate (John 10:29; 14:28; etc.) may well have reminded Waite of Arthur, who is both king and cuckold (and frequently identified with Christ through the symbolism of Arthurian lore). Moving the king to the crucial third position of the court would thus have alluded to the complex cosmological truths exemplified by both Arthur (King of the Britons) and Jesus (King of Kings; Revelation 19:16).

Whether that was indeed what passed through Waite’s mind as he named his cards we will probably never know; his published writings do not afford such detailed knowledge of his intentions. What is certain, however, is that we should not assume those intentions were more traditional than Crowley’s simply because Waite reappropriated a more traditional naming. Waite was fond of fitting radical ideas with the vestments of tradition, and his deck’s similarities to the Thoth might just show how original he could be.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Reconciling the Thoth Knights with the RWS Kings


Why Have I Chosen to Equate Thoth Knights with RWS Kings, Rather than Knights?

by Jude

I should begin by saying that not everyone agrees to equate Thoth Knights with the RWS Kings as I have done in my card definitions. For experienced readers the correlation is not likely to be an issue, but for newbies, suffice it to say that if you intend to read with the Thoth tarot alone, it may not serve you to define the Thoth Knights and Princes as being relative to the RWS Kings and Knights; best case scenario would be that you wouldn't feel need to reconcile your choice of deck with any other.

However, if you regularly move back and forth between Thoth and RWS based decks, you'll likely find it simpler to equate the Thoth Knight with the RWS King, and that's one big reason behind why I've chosen to use this particular correlation, I believe most will choose it. The other even larger reason is this - the King of the RWS deck has achieved much of what he's set out to achieve, his posture demonstrates this; notwithstanding that he must continue to grow and move forth in many ways. And the Prince, that is supposedly his Thoth counterpart, is very much a mover and shaker, far more than should be archetypically characteristic of someone who has experienced much of life.

With the above said, the occult names of the Thoth Knight/RWS King do not match, nor do their elemental attributions; but as well you should know that some apply fire as the elemental attribution to the RWS King, which makes correlating these two systems easier to digest. The Thoth Knight has the same occult name as the RWS Knight, ergo the Thoth Prince, the same as the RWS King. Point being, no matter which approach you take, it is not a fully effective reconciliation.

The reason I'm posting this, is because some will doubtlessly say that the correspondences I've used are wrong, and that's okay. The underlying concept is, that Misters Waite and Crowley each had considerably different approaches to defining the Courts and their roles, thus their decks weren't meant to define each other.

There's certainly more that could be said on this, that's why I've asked Race to write an article on it, to be posted at the end of this month, March 2016.

Update: The piece referred to above has now been posted.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Virgin and the Whore: Faces of the Nondual Divine Feminine in Thelema

virginal/sensual, duality

Aleister Crowley - Reconciling the Sacred Whore of Babylon With the Virgin Mary

by Race MoChridhe

In my last article, we examined (all too briefly) Aleister Crowley’s reconciliation of the symbolisms of Christ and Satan through his adopted title of TO MEGA THERION. This work, however, was only one component of Crowley’s much larger quest to use the terms of Christianity itself to overcome the dualisms of Christian thought.

Thelemic writings are filled with gods from other pantheons whose subtle interrelations annihilate polarities. From the ancient Egyptian religion, which provides so much of Thelemic imagery, Crowley inherited the dyad of Horus and Osiris, whom the Egyptians sometimes viewed separately as father and son, and sometimes as aspects of one another—the same god at different points of his mythic cycle. Crowley used this pairing frequently to symbolize the duality of immanence and transcendence and the ultimate non-difference between the two. By pairing Horus at other times with his twin, the Ptolemaic god Harpocrates, Crowley expanded the symbolism to transcend activity and passivity, as well.

#AmazonADlink: Magick in Theory and Practice; by Aleister Crowley

Even more fundamental for Crowley, perhaps because it represented the opposition which the modern West finds most difficult to reconcile, was the Egyptian dyad of the divine feminine, in which Isis, the goddess of birth, rebirth, and magick, was sister to Nephthys, a goddess of death, trailing wrappings and decaying flesh. In Egyptian thought, these two were united by their myths, as when Nephthys disguised herself as Isis in order to sleep with her brother-in-law, Osiris. Later Ptolemaic traditions put them in further creative tensions, such as the Paracelsan ascription of them to the two halves of the alchemical cycle of nitre. Together, they represented the wholeness of creation and destruction, each begotten of and begetting the other, each united in passion with the ultimate reality that transcends immanence and transcendence, activity and passivity.

Within Christian symbolism, Crowley found the counterparts of Isis and Nephthys in the Book of Revelation (his personal favorite), identifying them with the Woman of the Apocalypse (12:1-17) and the Whore of Babylon (17:1-18). This is where Crowley’s facility with Christian imagery shone brightest, as he repurposed a figure of ultimate disgust and evil into the central goddess of Thelemite devotion.

In Revelation, the Whore of Babylon carries “a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication” (17:4), and also that she is “drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (17:6). In its original context, this imagery harkened back to the Old Testament metaphor of Israel as the Lord’s adulterous wife, selling herself cheaply to the nations of the earth, and also referenced the Roman persecution. Crowley, however, identifies the cup held by the Whore of Babylon as the Holy Grail, into which the saints have bled themselves in releasing their attachments to the ego. Whoredom was, for Crowley, the ultimate symbol of this self-emptying, which he took to be the relinquishing of the limited self for the sake of union with the cosmos—from his perspective, a kind of spiritual promiscuity. Here, the “martyrs of Jesus” are those who have lost their lives to find them (Matthew 6:25; 10:39; 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24), and in doing so have become non-different from all that is. This simple insight, followed to its natural conclusions, reveals the Whore as the paragon of Christian virtues. In the 12th Aethyr of The Vision and the Voice, Crowley writes:
This is the Mystery of Babylon, the Mother of Abominations, and this is the mystery of her adulteries, for she hath yielded up herself to everything that liveth, and hath become a partaker in its mystery. And because she hath made her self the servant of each, therefore is she become the mistress of all. Not as yet canst thou comprehend her glory. Beautiful art thou, O Babylon, and desirable, for thou hast given thyself to everything that liveth, and thy weakness hath subdued their strength.

The Whore, in this rendition, becomes the ultimate model of one's surrender to become the vessel of another's will, representing in Thelemic terms, surrender to one's own True Will. As is often the case in Crowley’s work, we are led to perceive the utter naturalness of something, that before, would have been utterly inconceivable—in this case, that the Whore of Babylon is fundamentally identical with the Virgin Mary.

This is subtly implied by Revelation’s juxtaposition of the Whore with the Woman of the Apocalypse, whom the Church traditionally identified with Mary. It is elaborated in the complex network of mythological correspondences that Crowley weaves with Egyptian figures, given the transfer of so many ancient symbols of Isis to Mary. It is in his presentation of the Christian virtues of the Whore, however, that Crowley moves beyond literary pedantries and makes the connection a cosmic reality, for Mary’s supreme act is her fiat (Luke 1:38)—her willingness to render her body completely to a stranger, yielding her own identity to become the vessel of another. The Annunciation occurred in the Temple to which Mary’s mother, St. Anne, had promised her before she was born, and Crowley accordingly presented the Virgin’s miracle as an act of sacred prostitution, in order to reclaim all that he perceived Christianity as repressing—sex, the body, the feminine—as inseparably vital to the acts of creation and salvation.

virgin mary/her Thelema counterpart
For him, the act of bleeding ourselves out into the Grail is also, symbolically, an act of impregnating the womb of the Whore of Babylon with ourselves. If the aim of Christianity is, as the great Christian mystics taught, to become wholly united in spirit with Jesus as the Christ—if it is truly intended that, as Paul suggested, we are to be members of one body with Him (1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Romans 12:5)—then, Crowley suggests, we can be born again through the Whore even as He was through the Virgin—our egoic destruction can truly be the counterpart of His universal conception. Like the light-bringing of Lucifer and the resplendent light of Christ (8th paragraph via link), immersion in the baptismal waters and bleeding into the Whore’s cup are, at last, one and the same.

Such inspired blasphemies as these were, for Crowley, the only means to avoid what seemed to him a far greater sacrilege—the suggestion that sensuality, both physical and spiritual, is something unworthy of a saint, or that sainthood is something above the station of a whore.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Meditation - A Step-by-Step Guide for the Beginner


How Meditation Can Help You

Our "how to meditate guide for beginners" was created because meditation is increasing dramatically in popularity nowadays, so it's certain that there'll be plenty looking for a simple guide. The growing interest is likely due to more people becoming aware that it will help them to attain and maintain optimal physical, mental, and spiritual health. Practicing 10 minutes of meditation each day will help keep your stress level down, and lead you to feel more balanced, grounded, and peaceful.

Too, meditation will enhance your creativity and mental focus; and will provide insight as to how to make the best choices for good results in all areas of life. This is done by providing you with a strong connection to both Universal Energies as a whole, and to your higher spiritual self. For those who perform divination, meditation can provide insights additional to those offered by other divinatory methods and tools.

Learning to Meditate Requires Patience and Dedication 

Discovering the process of how to meditate can be difficult for a beginner. You must be patient, that's the key. It’s highly unlikely that you will be able to master the process quickly and must prepare mentally for that. If you understand this as you begin, it will enable you to muster the necessary degree of dedication required to master the process.

Prepare to Meditate 

Choose a time of day which is best suited to you and your schedule. Ideally, you should be able to sit down to meditate at the same time every day. Meditation is an excellent way to both start and end your day, so try to pick a time right after you wake up in the mornings, or shortly before bed. If you can do both, that’s even better!

Choose a Pleasant Location to Meditate In 

Next, you will need to choose a location for meditating. If the weather is agreeable and you can meditate outside, then it's an excellent choice. If there is no place suitable to meditate outside, consider creating a special area in your house. This should be a quiet location, away from any noise and distractions. Any family living with you should understand that when you are in this space, you shouldn't be disturbed, unless there is an emergency.

Setting yourself up for success is essential to a beginner’s practice. Consider placing some meditation cushions or a special chair in your space (if sitting on the floor is too difficult for you due to health reasons), so that you can be physically comfortable while meditating.

ambiance boosting decor and tools
Ambiance boosting decor and tools

The Extras Add to the Ambiance and Refreshing Quality 

Including a few other things in this area, such as an incense burner or oil warmer can also be helpful. Scent can have a powerful effect on the mind, and can assist you in staying calm and focused for longer periods of time. Lavender is a particularly relaxing and calming choice, and excellent for a before-bed meditation. You might also consider sandalwood, which enhances a feeling of groundedness, and can help center your energy efficiently.

The ambiance provided by having a pleasant environment and the luxury of added tools and enhancements, is an added bonus providing a facet of incentive to your sessions; it's more to look forward to.

#AmazonADlink: Singing Bowl

Wear Comfy Clothing to Meditate In 

Before you begin meditating, there are several things you can do to let your mind and body know that you are ready to proceed. First, make sure that you are dressed in comfortable clothing. You won't be able to focus with anything binding you, restricting blood flow, or similar.

Have a Snack, Keep It Light 

Also, consider having a light snack before sitting down, particularly if you are practicing first thing in the morning. This could be a piece of fruit with some nut butter; just something so that you will not be famished and distracted while meditating. Whatever you choose to eat should be natural and organic, and it's best to avoid grains and animal protein before meditation. If you choose to meditate on an empty stomach as part of a fasting regimen, have a small glass of cool (but not ice cold) water before beginning.

A Shower Provides Cleaner Energies for Meditation 

In some cases, you may also want to take a cleansing bath or shower before you sit down to meditate. I highly recommend this, as it's helpful for removing negative energies, particularly at the end of your day. This is especially important if you are using meditation as a gateway to your spiritual practice. Step into the bath or shower and wash yourself, concentrating on sending any negative thoughts or feelings away with the water and down the drain. This doesn't have to be a long process – just a quick step into some warm (not hot) water is enough.

Finally, you are ready to begin meditation. First, clear your mind of any preconceived theories about what meditating is like; the actually practice is rarely anything like what you may have seen in movies or read in books.

Our "How to Meditate" Guide...

Have your space fully prepared. Perform a space clearing ritual such as using tingsha bells, and/or light any incense you have chosen to use.

Sit comfortably either in your meditation chair, or on your cushions. Some find sitting cross-legged to be comfortable, others find that this position restricts blood flow to the legs and can become painful. Instead, cross your ankles and let your knees fall open. This places you in a semi-cross-legged position, but should allow you to remain comfortable.

If you are sitting in a chair, sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor. Keep your back straight, but at the same time this shouldn't be uncomfortable.

Breathe deeply. Close your eyes, and focus on the rhythm of your breathing. In through your nose and out through your mouth. Breathe slowly and feel it in your diaphragm (which is located in the center, just below your rib cage). Push out as you breathe in, and collapse inward as you breathe out.

As you exhale, hear yourself make a soft “hahhhh” sound. Don’t pay attention to thoughts that drift in and out of your mind; simply return your attention of focus to your breathing. As you progress in your practice, you may choose to follow a meditation script; but in the beginning, learning to quieten the mind and focus on breathing is a difficult enough task.

If focusing on breathing alone proves too difficult of a task, you may consider using a focus aid, such as a flickering candle. Don’t stare at the flame wide-eyed; instead relax your gaze until it is slightly unfocused and your eyes are half-closed. Concentrate on either the tip or the base of the flame. This will help if you find your thoughts continuously wandering to other things.

It is important to recognize that your conscious mind may be resistant to meditative practice at first. You will need to be firm but understanding with yourself, and diligently return your focus to either your breathing or the candle in front of you. For beginners, this is all the information you'll need to begin; anything more will easily provide too great of a degree of difficulty for initial sessions.

It May Seem Confusing at First, How to Make Meditation Work for You 

For a beginner, meditation often seems like a mystery, especially with all of the conflicting information out there. Advice like "clear your mind of thoughts" isn't helpful, as usually once you try to do so, you'll find that’s nearly impossible. However, with focused effort and regular practice, you too will master the process of meditation. And too, it will help you to know that there is no set range of time within which you are likely to master the process. Take it easy and proceed at a relaxed and natural pace which is best suited to you. Do not pay heed as to how long it may take to reach your desired result.

We hope that this step-by-step guide to preparing your mind, body, and space for meditation proves helpful, and serves as a gateway to a successful meditative practice. Blessings to you on your journey.

Monday, February 15, 2016

A Remarkably Powerful and Beautiful Prayer - of Infinite Abundance...

money, abundance

Everyone Wants to Live Abundantly

Post submitted by Jude

As of late, I, the post author, have developed a taste for chaos magick; and while poking around here and there, investigating various paths towards manifestation (yes, Cha-Ching...), I found this beautiful Infinite Abundance prayer. It's amazing, it apparently provides an effective connection to Higher Powers, as each time I say it chills run around my body, over and over again.

Sidetracking for a Moment...

On a separate note - for those that haven't thought this way, like myself - I'd like to point out that to learn chaos magick (as touched upon above), one doesn't need to take a course... perhaps there was a time when that was the case, but it certainly isn't anymore. I'd have taken it up as a hobby long ago if I'd have realized how easy it is to get started nowadays. Heck, all you have to do is browse the #AmazonADlink: magick books at Amazon.com, and that's just the beginning. From there you can poke around on forums for spells, check out links to free eBooks (such as this one), and too you can find tutorials and other insights. Furthermore, you can read blogs written by those willing to detail their hands on experience. Today, as it appears, the sky is literally the limit!

Back to the Matter at Hand - I suppose most of us realize that in saying #AmazonADlink: abundance prayers, no matter how powerful they are, the reward they provide lies in the opening of channels of opportunity; it's how we proceed from when such windows have opened, that makes all the difference.

I'll admit that this post is much less meaty than the average post on this site; however, the main point was to share the prayer. Anyway, here it is; by the way, it will be clearer if opened in a new window, as Blogger compresses images:

I acknowledge that not everyone believes in God; tbh, I don't either. I believe in a substance, a concept that cannot be defined--an energy cluster or a universal force; I believe it to be ineffable. To suit my own beliefs, in this exercise I change the word 'God,' to be 'Infinite Wisdom.' 

prayer of abundance

Monday, February 8, 2016

Clear and Rock Quartz Crystal; Healing and Metaphysical Properties

Quartz Crystal
Quartz Crystal

Quartz Versatility 

Quartz is known for its multitude of healing properties and applications. If there is a crystal type you would like to use for a certain type of healing work and you don't have it, clear or white quartz can be used in its place. Quartz intensifies the energies of other crystals because of its amplification quality; furthermore, given its amplification abilities, it shouldn't be used on or near people with health issues that should not be sped up. Examples of such would be cancer or any tumorous growth, as well as certain mental health issues.

Some of the metaphysical properties of quartz include: protection from negative energy and hexes, reducing the harmful effects of EMFs; and helping one to remember and interpret their dreams.

How Quartz Processes Energy 

Each type of quartz crystal has six main properties which govern the way that energy is processed; they are: to amplify, store, focus, transmit, transform, and structure. 

#AmazonADlink:  Quartz Crystal Rough

What Quartz Is 

Quartz can be found in a wide array of varieties and colors, including your basic variety clear quartz. Clear quartz (or rock quartz) is void of color, and possesses a diaphaneity ranging anywhere from absolutely transparent to translucent. Some of the more common varieties of quartz include amethyst, rose quartz, smoky quartz, onyx, agate, and jasper.

Quartz is a silicate, and has a trigonal crystal system. Its hardness registers on the Mohs scale as 7, or possibly a bit lower. The hardness is dependent upon the amount of impurity it does or does not contain.

Two Divisions

Quartz can be separated into two main types, macrocrystalline and microcrystalline. Macrocrystalline quartz types can be seen without magnification, whereas microcrystalline cannot. Macrocrystalline types are generally clearer; and they include rock quartz, amethyst, rose quartz, aventurine, citrine, smoky quartz, and others. Microcrystalline quartz types include agate, carnelian, sard, chalcedony, onyx, jasper, chert, and more.

A Beneficial Frequency

The geometry within quartz represents the divine ratio (1.618). The divine ratio is the frequency of healing; it represents energy in its most flawless and boundless form. This is the same concept that applies to healing with sound such as in the case of tuning forks and singing bowls; they too are representative of the divine ratio, also referred to as the golden mean or golden ratio.

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 of Quartz

  • Amplifies energies of other crystal types.
  • Works on all chakras including the crown.
  • Raises energy vibration levels.
  • Unites the body, mind, and spirit.
  • Adds clarity to the thought process.
  • Aids in manifestation.
  • Reduces EMF pollution.
  • Can be used for spiritual protection.
  • Stores information to be recalled as needed.
  • Eliminates negative energies within your environment.
  • Enhances communication with animals.
  • Aids in establishing communication with spiritual beings.
  • Can provide protection against curses.
  • If you are exposed to negativity from others, quartz can counter its effects.
  • Allows us to access stored ancient wisdom within it.
  • Dream recall is facilitated.
  • Aids those engaging in astral travel.
  • Strengthens the immune system.
  • As it cleanses the etheric field as well as the body, the entire physical body and organs within function more efficiently.
  • Ailments such as chronic fatigue, bone injury, depression, stomach issues, arthritis, and fibromyalgia can be lessened or healed.

#AmazonADlink: Assorted Tumbled Stones

Where Quartz Is Found

Quartz is the most plentiful mineral on Earth. As quartz is so abundant, it’s no surprise that it can be found scattered across many areas of the world. Its primary source, however, is Brazil, where the largest specimens are found. All of the main varieties of quartz can be found in Brazil; only Brazil can make this claim.

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