Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Stuff Pagan Culture Likes Is Live!

I said I was going to, didn't I? With many thanks to my partner-in-crime, Glaux, Stuff Pagan Culture Likes is up and running. Go and have a look and let us know what you think--and know that if you are terribly offended and behave badly, we will point and laugh at you. :)

Monday, 29 March 2010

Visiting The Lady

Anubis arrives in New York Harbor; Lady Liberty appears to be greeting him.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Spirituality for Sale

Over at Letter from Hardscrabble Creek, Chas Clifton makes a point rarely heard from a modern pagan: namely, that throughout history and across cultures, spiritual ceremonies and services have always come at a cost. Taking money for conducting rites is frowned upon by many neo-pagans (though there always seem to be plenty of them willing to part with cash for "workshops" or to attend festivals where rituals and instruction will be offered). To my mind, having such an extreme aversion to the exchange of cash for services rendered is just as indicative of an unhealthy attitude toward money as would be charging exhorbitant amounts for same. The old adage about fools and their money applies here as in secular life, and if there are unscrupulous charlatans out there eager to part them from it, aren't those fools at least partly responsible for their own actions?

No one likes to talk about that kind of responsiblity, either--and I'll admit to being a bit twitchy myself about banging the "personal responsibility" drum these days, since it's become such a rallying cry among certain political factions that I personally find reprehensible, but I'm damned if I can let people off the hook for making utterly stupid choices. I've made some incredibly dumb-assed decisions in my life, too. Everyone has. But there's dumb-assed and then there's dangerous, and if you're going to go out into the world and call yourself a magician and think you have the ability to shape and change your world, then you'd best be able to demonstrate at least the marginal ability to make rational decisions. It's about the least you can do, and it's a shame that it seems to be beyond so many.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

A Word to the (un)Wise

A scholar's corpus of work cannot be invalidated simply on the basis of it not supporting your biases or upholding your pet theories. But I do love that the craft has its own equivalent of young-earth creationists.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Stuff Pagan Culture Likes

I think it would be amusing to keep a blog called Stuff Pagan Culture Likes. The idea, of course, comes from sites like Stuff Christian Culture Likes and Stuff Christians Like, both of which were likely inspired by Stuff White People Like. (There does exist a blog called The Stuff Pagans Like, but as it hasn't been updated since last July it may be dead.) The only thing that's stopping me is a vague sense that I might end up being less humorous and more mean-spirited, and I'm trying very hard these days to be, if not nice exactly, at least less consistently negative. I've noticed that I find it much easier to be objective when studying other cultures than when examining my own co-religionists, and it bothers me somewhat. (Only somewhat; there are vast quantities of things and people that deserve a righteous snarking, and I am quite qualified to provide it.)

I'm sure I'd get a lot of hate mail, though, of the "OMG you're so meeen" variety. Or, more likely, I'd receive the kind of response that was often lobbied at me back in the days when I was listmod for a traditional Gardnerian e-list a mail group that has long since closed, to wit: "If you think/believe/feel that way, why are you even here?" Just a veteran of the old internet flame wars, that's me. Online outrage is the same as it ever was.

Stuff Pagan Culture Likes. I do like the idea of it, sort of a humorous sociological study, the anthropology of the absurd. Perhaps I will.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Sign of the Times

This morning, the sign out in front of the local Southern Baptist church* said this:

In the eyes of Jesus,
you're either a sheep or a goat.

Now, this implies a certain value judgment about these two rather different species, as well as presuming a knowledge on the part of the reader about the behavioral characteristics of them. Let's consider, then.

Sheep are docile, herbivorous ruminant mammals, easily led and prone to gregarious habits; they flock, in other words, and are manipulable by their handlers. They are typically more malleable in larger groups; a flock of less than four may exhibit less predictable behavior.

A "sheep person," therefore, would be one content to go along with the crowd, willingly being led by a dominant personality--preferably one dispensing something desirable, be that food (for an actual sheep) or things of a more ethereal nature (for a spiritual sheep). You'll want to play on that herd mentality, though, because if left to their own devices they might wander off.

Goats, on the other hand, are known to be curious and intelligent creatures, difficult to contain and eager to break loose from any enclosure. They love to climb and explore, will eat just about anything, and tussle for dominance in a group situation. They can be trained, but with some difficulty if the goat isn't inclined to be cooperative. They are also associated with sexual licentiousness.

The "goat person," then, would be smart, curious, and disinclined toward being led. Not your best choice for a follower, actually.

In Greek mythology, Amalthea was sometimes depicted as a goat who fostered the infant Zeus in a Cretan cave. She is also associated with the cornucopia or "horn of plenty," which is variously recognized as the horn from which Zeus drank, or the goat's horn which was broken off, filled with offerings, and presented to the god.

I was born under the sign of Capricorn. Make of that anything you like.

You may be more sheepish or goatlike, or you may be something else entirely. Unless you consider yourself to be otherkin (a can of worms which WILL NOT be opened here at PLv3.1) it's unlikely that you feel a strong association with any particular animal. Me, I'm kind of owly. No word as yet on what Jesus thinks of owls.

* The SB Church in my small rural community regularly posts interesting messages on its sign. I pick only the choicest comments to blog about here.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Equinoctial Greetings

If you don't know what spring equinox signifies, I'm not going to tell you. Go outside! (Unless you live where it's still snowing. You can stay inside and curse me for being where it's warm.)

Friday, 19 March 2010

Fragment (Poetry)

More Appollonian than Dionysian, still
I feel the sap rising at the greening of the year,
wake and stir with longings half-dreamed
and the taste of ecstasy honeyed in my mouth.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Springing Eternal

This year so far has been unseasonably, though not unbearably, cold, with temperatures remaining consistently about ten degrees below average. Thus, some of the seasonal markers I'm accustomed to were pushed off schedule. This week, I've finally started to see some progress: not only the daffodil foliage, but the first shoots of my tiger lillies are coming up, along with the few remaining tulips that the squirrels haven't gotten to yet. Today I actually saw the first daffodils blooming out along the main road into town, and at work a few of last fall's pansies have reincarnated. The Bradford pear trees are bursting with the fuzzy greyish catkins that will, in just a few days, puff out into those delicate white blossoms that look so pretty and smell so vile. Up next will be the fragile ornamental cherry trees that decorate our parking lot; the softly fragrant pink blossoms will appear, and I'll become very sentimental and write haiku about them, and then they'll rain down in pink drifts along the curbs, and I'll mutter incoherently about wabi-sabi and the impermanence of things. I love spring.

Usually the crocuses (all right, crocus singular--the squirrels dug up and ate all the rest of them) appear in February, but not this year; I just noticed it yesterday. The weed crop is already coming in nicely. Looks like I'll be spending some time this weekend weeding and clearing up leaves, digging out dead bits from last fall and maybe putting down some mulch.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The Luck of the (Scots-)Irish

We were engaged on St. Patrick's Day, 15 years ago. It was a surprise to me. I'd never given much thought to being married, never really considered wanting to be married--or for that matter, anyone wanting to be married to me. I'd even had proposals in my past, albeit of the casual, jokey sort (at least I think they were joking; no rings were presented, and I've always been extremely dense about relationship stuff), but still, marriage was not on my mind at the time. We went out that evening to a hooley, and during the course of events a question was asked, a ring was proferred, and an affirmative was given. (I would point out that this all took place beneath the phallic standpipe of the old water tower, the base of which is ringed with heathen idols classical statuary of gods and goddesses. Appropriate, that.) And that was 15 years ago.

I am wearing green today, but don't read anything into that; I'm very often wearing green. I very nearly chose an orange tunic dress for today, until I heard that there was apparently a move afoot to get pagans to wear orange on St. Patrick's Day in protest of some damned misunderstood something-or-other; that seemed like a bad idea to me, though I couldn't quite remember why (something-something-Orangemen-something-dark-side) until I found a link to this most instructive post which gives a concise explanation. Yeah. Symbols? They mean stuff. It is recommended to know those meanings before engaging the symbols. (For me, it meant nothing other than I like my orange tunic dress and wanted to wear it to be teh hawtness.)

In any case, Naomh Padraig brought about the conversion of Ireland to Christianity, officially at least; there are pagans aplenty in those lands to this very day, though of a modern sort. Some of my distant ancestors came from that part of the world, though I don't have sufficient information to say exactly how beyond the barest of details. I was a heathen child who was painlessly converted to nominal Christianity and happily deconverted in early adulthood. I won't be doing anything special to mark Patrick's day, as the old hooley no longer takes place and I have no desire to go sit in a bar and watch people swill down green-dyed beer and sing Danny Boy over and over. If we do anything to commemorate anything else pertinent to this date, that will be between us.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Hitchens Revises The Ten Commandments

I don't always agree with Christopher Hitchens, but I must concede that he's on to something here:

It's difficult to take oneself with sufficient seriousness to begin any sentence with the words "Thou shalt not." But who cannot summon the confidence to say: Do not condemn people on the basis of their ethnicity or color. Do not ever use people as private property. Despise those who use violence or the threat of it in sexual relations. Hide your face and weep if you dare to harm a child. Do not condemn people for their inborn nature--why would God create so many homosexuals only in order to torture and destroy them? Be aware that you too are an animal and dependent on the web of nature, and think and act accordingly. Do not imagine that you can escape judgment if you rob people with a false prospectus rather than with a knife. Turn off that fucking cell phone--you have no idea how unimportant your call is to us. Denounce all jihadists and crusaders for what they are: psychopathic criminals with ugly delusions. Be willing to renounce any god or any religion if any holy commandments should contradict any of the above. In short: Do not swallow your moral code in tablet form.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Pagan Periodicals

I was in Borders the other night, and happened to see a couple of the current crop of glossy pagan-oriented magazines that are still in publication. I flipped through first one, then the other, and I have to say I was unimpressed. Not by the production values--on cursory glance, at least, the layouts looked nice and no glaring typos leapt out at me--but by the content. I'm just not interested in reading interviews with self-important, edgy Big Name Pagans, or elementary level how-to articles, or essays on subjects that to me seem tangential at best (i.e. otherkin, sexual practices and preferences, etc.). I don't want to read a lifestyle magazine (for that is what these were); I'm more interested in the whats and the whys than the whos and the hows (or at least, the how-tos). I already know how to live as a pagan. These days, it's the history and sociology of what we are and what we do that piques my interest.

I miss Gnosis magazine. The Pomegranate interests me very much, but it's pricey and doesn't appear at bookstores. There are good quality publications like The Cauldron that cover topics of history and folklore and the cultural context of modern paganism, but again they're not readily available, and unfortunately I don't have a subscription budget right now that would allow me to regularly receive them. I wish any of the local stores stocked the interesting foreign publications, but the local population wouldn't buy them; they'd buy the glossy lifestyle mags if they bought anything at all. And I put those down, bemused, and drift over to the next aisle where KMT and Archaeology could be found, filled with comforting articles on Egyptology.

Yeah, I know: cry moar, snobby girl. ;)

By Any Other Name

Names have power. Knowing a thing's name concretizes that thing, makes the thing itself knowable, gives us a place to begin in our understanding. A name can exhalt or humble, can color our perceptions, can make the beautiful ugly or the plain profound. Most of us have more than one name, even in mundane life, and those of us on occult or pagan paths sometimes have far more names than might seem necessary. But just as we each have multiple titles in life--daughter, son, sister, brother, wife, husband, mother, father, doctor, teacher, minister, and so on--so do we have those names that help shape and define our places in other realms, identify us among our fellow travelers, announce us to our chosen gods.

When I first went online in the early 90s, I used my Craft name as my online name. I'm still known as such to a handful of people whom I've known since then, but I've stopped using that name online for the most part. If you knew it, and knew me, you'd either laugh at the irony of it or be offended that I of all people would take that name. (I pronounce it oddly, for one thing, and while I have my reasons you might just think me illiterate. You might also think me beholden to a particular deity, which I am not. Worst of all, the name has a connection to a practice which I eschew. Why don't I change it? Well, because it's mine, for reasons that have nothing to do with any of that; plus it's on my papers, and inscribed on expensive things that I can't replace.) In some places, I'm also known by my Shemsu name, which was given to me when I took my vows as Kemetic Orthodox. I have blogged extensively under yet another name, and I've got yet another one here at Blogger, since that previous one was unavailable. I tried on two other Craft names early on before I settled on the one I discussed above. I also have a confirmation name from when I was baptized into the EGC a few years ago when I was more actively practicing Thelema.

The Egyptians knew well the power and importance of names. To grant continued immortality to the dead, it was necessary to "make their name to live," that is to speak of them often, and to recite the funerary offering formulas for them. A New Kingdom text tells of how Isis gained power over Ra by tricking Him into revealing His secret name. For those in the esoteric arts and religions, most of which are still misunderstood and mistrusted by the mainstream culture, having your identity revealed in inappropriate situations can reap consequences ranging from embarassment to open harassment. In a very real sense, knowing someone's name can give you power over them.

Ceremonial magicians have long taken on magical mottoes by which they are known; witches, at least of GBG's type, took on pseudonyms by which to be known at larger meetings, with the idea being that if one of them were taken and tortured, they couldn't reveal the true identities of the other witches if they only knew false names. Nowadays, grandiose and pseudo-fantasy character names have become the norm among the pagani, making it sometimes hard to take people seriously. I wonder how many of the Raven SummerStars and Orion BeltSanders in the world put more than a moment's thought into their naming, choosing something they thought sounded cool or witchy rather than something that expressed some part of themselves. I'll concede that if I were to go back in time, I might well choose a different name than the one I'm known by in the circle; but I don't really regret the choice, and do believe it suits me on some level. And if I'm not, on the surface, the person you might expect me to be based on that name, then I'd say you don't know what lies beneath. Maybe you never will; but that's for me to reveal or not in my own time. Your name carries its own secrets, and its own responsibilities.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Good Again

Forgive the slight intrusion of fandom in the new header image, but it was too appropriate to ignore. The quote up there on the left sums up my worldview pretty efficiently, so when I saw that someone had made a pretty banner out of it I couldn't resist using it. There's a lot of nice symbolism in there, actually. It works. And yes, life really is good again, at least for now.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Hypatia of Alexandria

Hypatia, the Divine Pagan. (Perp. Fest. Cal.) "March 12, Hypatia." (Cassell's New Biog. Dict.) "Hypatia, born circa 370...Head of the Platonic School of Alexandria." (Brewer, Dict.) "The Divine Pagan, Hypatia who presided over the Neoplatonic School at Alexandria."

(Enc. Brit. 1810 ed.) "Hypatia, a learned and beautiful lady...a celebrated philosopher and mathematician, and president of the famous Alexandrian school, was born at Alexandria...'She explained to her hearers (says Socrates) the several sciences that go under the general name of philosophy; for which reason there was a confluence to her from all parts of those who made philosophy their delight and study.'

"Her scholars were as eminent as they were numerous. She was held as an oracle for her wisdom, which made her consulted by the magistrates in all important cases."

Hypatia was the daughter of Theon, a celebrated philosopher and mathematician, the author of a commentary on Euclid, in which his daughter is said to have assisted him. An only child, she showed deep interest in philosophy and mathematics from her early youth. Her father instructed her in these subjects with care and diligence, and she soon became one of his most brilliant pupils. Her writings, according to Suidas, included commentaries on the Arithmetica of Diophantus of Alexandria, on the Conics of Apollonius of Perga, and on the Arithmetical Canon of Ptolemy, all of which are now lost.

While Hypatia was living in Athens she came in contact with the Neoplatonic Schools which had been founded by Plotinus, Porphyry and Iamblichus, and identified herself with the Neoplatonic Movement. Later, when she took up her residence in Alexandria, she began to hold lectures and classes in the famous Museum, where her eloquence and profound wisdom, her youth and extraordinary beauty soon attracted great crowds of students and admirers. She was admitted into the intimate circles of the great Alexandrian families, and numbered among her friends two of the most powerful men of the day: Orestes, the Prefect of Alexandria, and Synesius, the Bishop of Cyrene.

The Neoplatonic School reached its greatest heights in the days that immediately preceded its destruction. Hypatia brought Egypt nearer to an understanding of its ancient Mysteries than it had been for thousands of years. Her knowledge of Theurgy restored the practical value of the Mysteries and completed the work commenced by Iamblichus over a hundred years before. Following in the footsteps of Plotinus and Porphyry, she demonstrated the possibility of the union of the individual Self with the SELF of all. Continuing the work of Ammonius Saccas, she showed the similarity between all religions and the identity of their source. (THEOSOPHY, Vol. 25 No. 5, March 1937)

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Signs of the Season: Spring

There is a portion of a farmer's field visible from the main road through town, on a slight incline rising up away from street level to display a near-perfect barn at its peak. (The barn would be perfect if its side bore a message like See Rock City or Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco. Did I mention this is a rural community?) Every year about this time a faint green outline takes shape, the early shoots of foliage that will eventually burst forth in brilliant yellow daffodils. The plants in question are arranged in the shape of a hunormous cross. I understand that in the Christian mythos, the cross is symbolic of resurrection, so installing annuals in the shape of one is pleasingly appropriate. But still.

There is a delicious irony in the fact that my most reliable indicator of spring's return is the appearance of a Roman torture device in a nearby field.

Monday, 8 March 2010

What Do You Seek?

Sometimes I think I am probably not very likeable.

There are people who seek the things that I have literally just fallen into; some of them want those things quite desperately, but cannot find them or are denied them somehow. I think I can understand how such a person might view me with contempt or jealousy or anger, because I know I can come off as being very cavalier about my blessings. I don't do humility very well at all, though if you catch me in the right mood I can wallow in self-recrimination and low self esteem with the best of them. Usually I am just oblivious to the deeper desires of the hearts around me, unable to really plumb the depths of their wants and needs and often unable to find a reason to try. If I have something and I'm inclined to share it with you, I will; but if I get the impression you're trying to extort it from me, or emotionally manipulate me into giving it up, I'll dig in hard to deny you. I'm wary of alterior motives, even the ones I can't understand.

At the time that I met the man who would become my high priest and initiator, along with lover, husband and partner, I wasn't actively seeking much of anything. I found him on a lark--hell, it was practically a dare--and thought he sounded interesting. The word Wicca meant little to me; I was a pagan already, following an Egyptian practice, and all I knew of Wicca was what I'd gleaned from the one Scott Cunningham book I owned. All those little early-70s paperbacks I mentioned in an earlier post I'd quite put out of mind by that time--all those nekkid rituals and whatnot were just hippie free-love crap, remember? But he was Gardnerian and I was bored and curious and a little tired of the rut of my solitary practice (not as much ritual stuff available for the Kemetically inclined back in those days) and I was just willing to suspend disbelief long enough to consider that someone else might have something I'd like to have--knowledge, wisdom, insight, experience. I was in my late middle 20s, book-smart and people-dumb, and went tripping along blithely over the cliff before I even quite realized I was on the precipice. In a very short time I was initiated, then acting as priestess for a pagan grove, then being elevated, then running a coven, and did I have clue-the-first as to what I was in for? Does anyone, ever?

But it came so easily to me, gifts that were bestowed upon me that I never actively sought and probably would not have sought had I thought them through. I was fortunate to have a partner who balanced me so well; I'm fortunate still, in that regard! I learned on the fly and did the best I could, though I know now that I was sorely lacking in some most of the interpersonal skills that a High Priestess needed. To me there is a difference between priesthood and ministry; I always felt myself to be of the former and not the latter, and if that doesn't necessarily excuse any of my people-skills failings it at least does go a way to explain them. But those who sought what I held so lightly in the palm of an open hand were not always disposed to draw such fine distinctions, and my dispassionate stance could only have been off-putting to those who wanted--needed--a compassionate and maternal presence to guide them on the path.

I was a motherless child, in the Craft sense; abandoned early and left to flounder without an experienced female role model. I had to make a lot of stuff up as I went along, draw my own conclusions, think things through far more thoroughly than I might have done otherwise. It's probably the only reason I made it this far, really. My husband wasn't going to banish me as an HPS most surely would have had I hit her with the kinds of impertinence he faced from me daily. But having to think for myself meant that I expected no less from everyone else--Why are you asking me? Who cares what I think, what do you think? I'm sure more than one person mistook me for being a complete know-nothing simply because I would not or could not spoon-feed them my hard-won knowledge, but that just wasn't my way. It still isn't. Fortunately things are different now.

I know there are seekers, those who want to be a part of British Traditional Craft, and I tend to avoid them. What I have, what we have and what we do, are absolutely a part of that current, of that continuum of practice, and yet I know--instinctively as well as intellectually--that we're just off-center enough for it to be a problem. Most of the seekers who seek these ways are also seeking community and connection, and that is something that we can't offer, because we are Independent and keep our own counsel. I don't want to disappoint anyone else who comes to me looking for something that is beyond my means to give.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Weird Science

If Hogwarts existed, and I'd been plucked from my muggle-born world and sent there to study, I think I would have enjoyed Potions most of all. (As a child I'd have gone in mortal terror of Professor Snape, though by my teen years I would have been regularly costing my House points for snarking back at him.) I love experimenting with things, making messes, making potions, making magick--the magick of scent, that most evocative of sensations. I love settling in to my witch's cottage (yes, I have one) and setting out my ingredients, setting up the atmosphere for crafting something wonderful. I work by candlelight, of course, and utilize things like cauldrons and stone mortars and pestles, wooden bowls, wooden and pewter and silver spoons, glass jars and stoneware jars. I like music for background and inspiration, but since it's impossible to play the harp and do handwork at the same time, I use recorded music instead; Blackmore's Night, typically, though it might as easily be something else in a similar vein.

When I was blogging on the Temperance card the other day, I completely forgot the version to be found in one of my all-time favorite decks, Kipling West's Halloween Tarot. I got that deck out this morning and when I turned her up, I couldn't believe I'd forgotten. That's me, the me I have in mind when I'm doing my thing with my herbs and oils; the witchiest me, not the High Priestess of the Wica or anything ceremonial or outwardly imposed. That's the me that I held in my heart and my imagination from the time I was just a child, and to me that's what Witchcraft will always look like: cauldrons and cats and owls and hats, something bubbling away over a fire, shelves of obscure tomes and jars filled with you-don't-even-want-to-know-what. Steady hands, good instincts, curiosity, a willingness to experiment, those are the characteristics of Witchcraft to me. The religious aspects, and all the other trappings, they have their place but are wholly secondary to me in my practice. The craft, the Craft, the work of the hands and the imagination and the senses, that is Witchcraft, and that is magick. It's my own weird science, and it fulfills me.

(Yes, I was one of those kids who had a chemistry set, and a backyard meteorology set, and I made messes and set things on fire and drove my parents nuts. I used to stake out plots in the yard and conduct archaeological digs. I even had a job working in a laboratory once; I loved it, wearing a lab coat and gloves and messing around with beakers and centrifuges and such. If you were wondering.)

I remember being quite young and finding paperback books on Witchcraft, all of them the kinds of little books by folks like Hans Holzer that were so popular in the early 1970s, and I read those books and sort of glossed over the descriptions of "skyclad" ceremonies and ritual sex and such. I was culturally aware enough to dismiss those as being hippie free-love stuff, not actual, you know, witchcraft, which certainly involved the necessary ingredients of cauldrons and cats and owls and hats and potions and candlelight and...you get the idea. I'm considerably older now, and I'd like to think better educated and more experienced, but that early image of Witchcraft has never left me, and I guess it never will. No matter what my age or experience level, I'll always be that little witch in her cottage, mixing up something arcane by candlelight, overseen by cats and owls and the quiet stars above.

(Bonus: I also own boots like that. Stockings, too.)

Friday, 5 March 2010

An Anniversary

The Fellowship of Isis was the first vaguely pagany organization I ever joined. I did so largely because of the very open nature of the organization; there
was nothing required of me beyond stating my desire to be a part of it, and sending a dollar for postage to the foundation center in Ireland. That much I could handle. It was 1993, IIRC, and by that time I'd been reading on metaphysical subjects literally since childhood and attempting vague experiments in magick since high school. The Egyptian pantheon had grabbed me--I was quite determinedly nontheistic before, even back when I was a nominal Christian--but something about Egypt's deities struck me in a different way. I can't describe it any better than to say that they had an immediacy and a perceptible power about them that was very intriguing and appealing.

I found out about the FOI through a chapter in the book Isis and Osiris by the late Jonathan Cott, may his ka be justified. I was as intrigued by the people in Ireland worshipping ancient gods in their castle as I had been by my Egyptological readings. A postal address was given, an inquiry was made, and in due time I was sent a certificate and some other materials. A couple of years later, my partner and then-fiance joined also, and inquired about our founding an Iseum; and in March of 1995 a charter duly arrived. We were leading a rather half-assed Egyptian mysticism study group at the time, and thus Lady Olivia proclaimed us the Iseum of the Mystic Isis. And now, 15 years later, we're still around.

It's been the most painless and drama-free association I've had with any spiritual organization in all my years, and for that I'm glad and grateful. These days our Iseum exists primarily online, though we do have the occasional IRL meeting; we're having one tomorrow, in fact, to celebrate that 15th anniversary of our founding. (The photo above is of the main Isis shrine I tend for the Iseum.) And after all these years, I'm now pursuing a structured course of study for the FOI priesthood, as well.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Becoming The Lotus

(Translation by Normandi Ellis, Chapter 46 of the Papyrus of Ani)

As if I'd slept a thousand years underwater I wake into a new season. I am the blue lotus rising. I am the cup of dreams and memory opening--I, the thousand-petaled flower. At dawn the sun rises naked and new as a babe; I open myself and am entered by light. This is the joy, the slow awakening into fire as one by one the petals open, as the fingers that held tight the secret unfurl. I let go of the past and release the fragrance of flowers.

I open and light descends, fills me and passes through, each thin blue petal reflected perfectly in clear water. I am that lotus filled with light reflected in the world. I float content within myself, one flower with a thousand petals, one life lived a thousand years without haste, one universe sparking a thousand stars, one god alive in a thousand people.

If you stood on a summer's morning on the bank under a brilliant sky, you would see the thousand petals and say that together they make the lotus. But if you lived in its heart, invisible from without, you might see how the ecstasy at its fragrant core gives rise to its thousand petals. What is beautiful is always that which is itself in essence, a certainty of being. I marvel at myself and the things of earth,

I float among the days in peace, content. Not part of the world, the world is all the parts of me. I open toward the light and lift myself to the gods on the perfume of prayer. I ask for nothing beyond myself. I own everything I need. I am content in the company of god, a prayer that contains its own answer. I am the lotus. As if from a dream, I wake up laughing.

Ceci n'est pas une pretresse gardnerienne

But for good or ill, it is the blog of one, of a sort.

If I am honest with myself and you, dear reader, then I have to admit that I probably never should have been initiated, let alone elevated. Am I a good HPS? I think that I am, and I've been told that I am. Am I a good Gardnerian HPS? Gods, no, at least not in the strict fundamentalist sense. My partner was a very good Gardnerian HP, and he is far better at it than I could ever hope to be; but that's because he gets it on a level that eludes me. Things that make sense to him seem arbitrary and illogical to me; my understanding of such things is academic and intellectual when it needs to be visceral and emotional. He provides that, so we can work together and balance each other out, but I know there are things that I lack, have always lacked, that were necessary to be an effective traditional Gard HPS. And so I'm not.

But what I am is a damned effective non-traditional traditionalist. I'm a very competent ritualist, and my mojo is as strong as it ever was--maybe even more so, since I've learned to play to my own strengths and not worry about what others perceived as my weaknesses. We--that is, my partner and I--finally reached a point where we felt we could own the tradition we'd both trained in and sweated for and nearly broken up over and jumped through an inordinate number of absolutely pointless and stupid hoops for. No one but the most liberal of Gardnerians would likely recognize us as such, even though in practice what we do is about 98% indistinguishable from what you'd find in the strictest trad circle; the differences are more amorphous, more philosophical than anything, but those differences opened up an unbreachable chasm and caused what Mulder referred to in The X-Files: Fight the Future as "the shit-storm of all time." Well, it took us years to wash off the fallout, but we've sorted ourselves out. And if what's going on behind the curtain for me is different than what you've got within yourself, that's fine with me--and as long as it's fine with you, too, then there will be no problem. (Of course, it rarely plays out that way in reality, but sometimes you get lucky. The lucky cases are the people I cherish most.)

So you could just think of us as Independent Gardnerians. We won't come to your circle and expect you to welcome us. Nor will we tell you that what you're doing is wrong or invalid or tell you that you're not proper persons. We don't advertise. We don't want to be a part of some imagined "greater community." What we do want is to work our Craft, and preserve the traditions with which we were entrusted, and to do those things in the way that makes the most ethical and philosophical and magical sense to us. It's not the only thing either of us do spiritually, and it may not even be the most important thing to us, but it is important, and we have fought and worked for it. And like many other initiates who ply their craft in secret because for whatever reason they were a bad fit with the mainstream of the tradition, we will carry on, and those who come after us will do the same.