Monday, September 28, 2009

A Meditation on the Lord of Wisdom

Here's the next in the set of meditations and essays that I'm doing to examine potentials for 'mystical' meaning in ADF's Order of Ritual. For these first efforts, I decided to create visualization and contemplation meditations for the deities, while using essays and less 'worshipful' excercises for the abstract principles. I'll be writing some exercises for the Three Hallows directly. In the meantime here's the partner work to the Earth Mother item given below.

Let the Druid come before the Shrine, and enter a basic trance. Work a simple opening rite and compose the Vision of the Lord of Wisdom, thus:
• Envision the Lord of Wisdom, the Keeper of Gates, before you. See his towering figure, huge above a crossroad in the mist, feet floating above the road. He is slender and strong, dressed only in an open robe of white that billows in the moving air. His face is youthful, but his long hair and beard are snowy white. His left hand is raised, palm forward, and in his right hand he bears a shining white wand with a flame at its tip.
• Around his head shines a nimbus of every color and pattern, filled with every sign and letter of wisdom, shining around his being. His forehead shines with a wondrous light, with a flickering flame in the center. He stands at the crossroad, and you see that every road of it stretches away to another crossroad, and another. At each the Lord stands, in reflection outward, standing at the Center of All Ways, the Fire at the Center of the World.
Make a simple offering of whiskey or incense, or as you can, nine times, as you recite this hymn three times:
Lord of Wisdom
Wanderer on the Roads
Keeper of Gates and Ways
Priest of the Sacred Grove
I make due offering to you
(Offering given)
Because you teach wisdom
Because you guide spirits
Because you reveal secrets
I make due offering to you
(Offering given)
Lord of the Twilight
I worship your cunning
Keeper of Gates
I worship your might
Teacher of Heroes
I worship your wisdom
Lord of Secret Knowledge, inspire my mind with the Elder Ways
Keeper of gates, accept my sacrifice!
Renew your vision of the Gatekeeper and abide for a while in contemplation of that vision. Then proceed thus:
• Contemplate the shining presence of the Lord of Wisdom for a time. When his presence feels real to you then envision yourself seated at the crossroad with the gatekeeper behind you, his aura surrounding and interpenetrating you. You gaze along the roads and you see yourself at every crossing point, your awareness extending outward along the Infinite Paths. Feel your extending presence, out through the whole Web of Worlds. Abide for a while in contemplation of this vision.
• When you are ready, allow the whole vision, the Gatekeeper, the Web and your own form to shrink down and to become equal to your own head. Let the wisdom, knowledge and cleverness, the freedom to pass every barrier be concentrated in you. Feel the presence of the Gatekeeper shining in you, within the boundaries of your seated form. Abide for a while in contemplation of this vision.
• Finally, allow the image to grow again, bringing all the reflections of yourself firmly together in your material presence. Allow the form of the Gatekeeper to grow larger and larger, attenuating to become one with the light and air.
Renew your center, balancing all once again within you, and recite a simple ending charm, such as:
The blessings of the Holy Ones be on me and mine
My blessings on all beings, with peace on thee and thine
The Fire, the Well, the Sacred Tree
Flow and Flame and Grow in me
Thus do I remember the work of the Wise.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Occult Bollywood

It's possible that you won't thank me for pointing out this movie. I ordered Goddess from BBuster on-line, because I have no problem risking zero dollars on a flick that gets 1 1/2 stars with a description like: A wealthy and handsome gentleman falls for a charming and beautiful woman without realizing that she is actually the snake goddess Devi in disguise in this sumptuous take on the classic Hindu fable. Realizing that her mortal lover is in danger of attack from the malevolent snake deity Dantra, Devi does everything in her power to keep him safe from harm.
So, this flick, popular throughout SE Asia, apparently, is over 2 1/2 hours long, and the first hour has only a little cool stuff. The insipid melodrama of two Indian families is fast-forwardable, but the scene in which the Serpent-Devi arrives on earth in the totally psychedelic vimana, strays from her giggly-hot serpent-devi companions and is attacked by the indeterminate rakshasa type is a taste of more to come. The father of the key family sacrifices his own life to save our wayward Devi, and she becomes the guardian angel of the family.
The cool thing about this flick is the importance and depiction of Hindu (and totally Saivite) ritualism, including some directly practical-magic rites. The Snake-God and his Devi daughters are the good guys, and the demonic fellow gets some excellent footage using his tantrik (not sexual) rites to summon his hideous even-demonier god. The film culminates in a double-devotion rite, in which the mortal woman does ritual in her home while the demi-goddess (surely a 'daimon' by euro-standards) works bigger ritual in a mythic locale - all visually satisfying and culturally fascinating, to my particular sort of geekery.
The musical footage during the rites is very nice - the subtitles are minimalist, but the hymns are recognizable if you know that sort of thing. The bollywood musical love-song stuff seems lame by bollywood standards, but the visual effects are pure color and light, even thiongs appear and disappear by the most usual sort of stop-footage.
Anyway, worth seeing to find the footage of ritual and magic. Be of stout heart, and get through the first hour...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Self & Psyche in Druidic Ritual Symbolism

Pt 2 - The Two Powers and Three Realms
This is the next article in the series of attempted 'mysticism' things, based on our Druidic Order of Ritual. The first one part is the Earth Mother meditation posted here previously. This one is based on the 'honoring the Center' portion of the rites, as expressed in our Three Hallows of Fire, Well and Tree.

As we enter our second quarter-century it is perhaps time to begin a new phase in our spiritual practice and discussion. We have refined and focused our ritual order, linking it firmly with Indo-European concepts of cosmos. I think we can move beyond our current understandings to find new layers of meaning. It may be that this has been going on quietly in our Groves and hearths for some time, but I’ll make an effort to lay out some of my own thinking on how we can find deeper experience and meaning in our ritual symbolism.
It is common in traditional Paganism for spiritual techniques and symbols to have several levels of interpretation. For instance we can understand our Order of Ritual first as a feast that the house or clan sets for the Gods and Spirits. The Fire cooks the food, the Well gives drink. On a deeper level we can understand that the physical realities of the rite are spiritual and mythic as well. The Well is the Eye of the Underworld Waters, the Fire the Light of the Heavens. The Grove becomes one with the Center of Worlds. In these essays we will examine another level of interpretation, in which the symbols of the Order of Ritual are applied to the human psyche – the body/mind/spirit complex. In this I accept that ancient maxim best known to us from the late classical age: “That which is above is as that which is below, and that which is below is as that which is above.” By applying cosmic realities to personal realities I hope to find insights toward a Pagan Druidic mystical and spiritual path.
The Primal Powers and the Vertical Axis
The powers of the proto-cosmos – the Underworld Waters and the Fire of the Heavens – can have deep meaning in the personal self as well as in the rites. The Two Powers find expression as central functions of the psyche. They can be the root of much further analysis and practice.
The Underworld Power finds expression first in the material self as the inheritance from our genetic ancestors. The Underworld is the place in which all that has come before is boiled up and boiled down into its basic elements, to feed the rise of new forms. We as individuals rise from the chance of combining DNA – from the Womb of the Deep.
On a psychological level we can think of the Underworld as referring first to the place where body meets mind – the oldest and most ‘primitive’ impulses including hunger, reproduction, territoriality, pack-hierarchy and fight-or-flight. Even though modern humans have some ability to manage these impulses they continue to influence our behavior even in the most civilized of circumstances.
Just as the Underworld Waters bear all the raw nutrients that remain from that which has passed away, so in our mind the memory is the vasty deep into which our experiences are dissolved. Science now knows that memory is not a filing system in which events are clearly preserved. Rather it is more like a bog, in which events are sometimes dissolved, sometimes preserved, and sometimes sprout into living things. In this way the memory is a fine expression of the Underworld Power.
On a spiritual level we carry within our own flesh and spirit the power of the Dead. Our inheritance makes our very face and form an idol of our ancestors, and ancient religion plainly understood ‘the blood’ as carrying the power of our lineage. This presents many opportunities, including transpersonal memory, access to increased personal potential and the mysteries of the Road of the Dead themselves. Those roads lead finally to the Thrones of the Gods of the Deep. Euro-Pagan cultures show us images of the King and Queen of the Underworld, who welcome the Dead and grant peace, rest and, as needed, justice. We hear that the Celts said that they were descended from the Underworld Father. Among the Hellenes and the Norse it is the Underworld Queen who is regarded most highly. These mighty Powers exist by reflection within our own psyches as surely as they live in the Halls Below.
The Heaven Power finds expression in our body as the genetic pattern that makes each of us unique. We grow out of the long history of mating and mixing that preceded our own births, and the genes of our parents came together with a variety of potentials. It is the power of organization and quickening from the Heavens that assembled each of us from the potentials of chance, and our flesh is a combination of Underworld potentials formed by Heavenly shaping. In this way the Heaven Power is just as far outside of our ‘normal’ awareness as the Underworld – it happens whether or not we watch it or direct it.
However, we ourselves possess the Power of Shaping, to one degree or another, in our ability to shape matter and, perhaps, spirit by our skill and wit. The Heaven Power in us allows us to focus our awareness to make patterns and to shape both material and spiritual forms. Equally it finds expression in our human power of reason. Supported by the more complex structures of the brain we are able to plan, design, execute and support our will. For many of us these ability lie largely in potential – spiritual work can lead us to develop our access to the Power of the Sky.
On a spiritual level we carry in ourselves the Divine Fire of the Gods. The principle of Cosmos, of the Rightness of Things causes us both to exist as individuals and to be players in the Game of Worlds. The Heaven Power offers us a transpersonal view of the patterns of existence that we must strive to perceive and on which we may act when we can grasp it.
The Heavens wheel above us, shining their Light on all existence. In the same we have in us an ability to view our own beings, to step above our daily processes and see into our own patterns and habits. On that Inner Mountaintop we can survey our minds and our hearts, and perhaps find a perspective that sees the road through time, from decision to decision, event to event, offering us a more divine perspective on the flow of life.
In the highest halls of the heavens the Bright Ones are enthroned. The Father of All and the Queen of the Gods, the Thunder Hero and the Dawn Goddess all dwell in the Upper Realms. In much Pagan lore the dwelling of the Gods themselves is in the Sky Realm, though there are always hidden roads that link it with the places of the Gods Below. In their High Halls the Gods meet in council, making the plans that guide the worlds.
The Middle World finds symbolic expression as the World Tree or World Pillar in our Groves, rooted in the dark waters, crowned in the Heavens’ gold. We can conceive of All That Is growing, fruiting, passing away and nourishing the future, between the depths and the heights. The World Tree in this way is like our own individual beings – the product of the action of the Two Powers upon the forces and forms of the Middle Realm.
The question of the nature and identity of our personal existence is central to the work of mysticism. In order to seek the transpersonal it seems worthwhile to develop an understanding of our own person. Every tale of the mystic journey begins with the hero-to-be choosing to leave their lives behind. In the same way we may have to think of the spiritual journey as, in some way, a leaving behind of the ‘self’ that we have built for ourselves over the years.
The Middle Realm is a place of unending variety, and every manifest thing springs from the effects of the organizing power of the Light and the massive potential of the Darkness. So, in our personal mind, the thing we commonly perceive as “me” is not in fact the entirety of our being. Rather our daily perceived identity is more of a floating point-of-view. It - as we might say, “I” - wander in the Middle-Realms of the mind, encountering objects and beings – thoughts and memories, perhaps – and reacting to them. When we sleep our point-of-view wanders in the quasi-sensory realms of dream. When we wake, that same point-of-view functions as our sense of “me”, as we move through our daily lives and through our waking minds. If we are sick or injured we may dwell in our pain, when we love we dwell in our joy. In one moment we may be firmly in our bodies, at other times we drift in the abstractions of our minds. We construct our sense of ourselves out of our impressions, habits and inclinations, a figure built of memory and idea. We come to identify this figure with the body we see in the mirror, but the self is so much more.
The Underworld and Heavens are reflected in us as often unobserved portions of the personal mind. The ancient tales show the journey of the seeker through realms strange and distant, though much of the ‘action’ may take place in the Middle Realm. So the mystical seeker sets out “into” a mind that is rather like the land – tangled or cultivated, civilized and savage. We make our way through it by ‘our’ wits.
So, we dwell in the Middle Places of our minds, in our constructed “character” or “persona”. We have some limited awareness of a greater existence, and the connection of our commonly manifest presence with the Heights and Depths of the world sometimes gives us hints of something greater. If we are not open to that intuitive awareness, which varies widely in untrained individuals, this can lead to confusion, and difficulty in making wise decisions. We feel the impulses of the greater world, but dwell within our constructs, and thus we find that instinct often conflicts with will, memory conflicts with ideals, inertia conflicts with intention.
When we bring the Sacred Fire and Holy Well into the material world through ritual, we have an opportunity to contemplate that work as opening our own Middle Realm awareness – our common sense of self – to the presence of the Deep Memory and the Higher Reason. When we work the Two Powers meditation we powerfully direct our common mind to open to those greater psycho-spiritual forces. When we hallow the presence of the Fire and Water during our sacrifices or on our shrines we can take that into our contemplations as a catalyst, opening for us a fresh and clear access to a greater degree of our own spiritual nature.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I Like Ohio (Weirdest Thing I've Seen This Week...)

I like northeastern Ohio for a lot of reasons. It's starting to be fall here, and the air is getting crisp and pleasant. Not much rain, and our woods and meadows are dry and walkable. I like NE Ohio because we're a bastion of center-left mind-yer-own-damn-business liberalism, where no fundy preacher gets any socio-political cachet. I like the Lake, and I even like most of our four seasons, though that fifth month of winter some years can be trying. But... I also like NE Ohio because we don't have too many natural disasters - too moist for fires, too well-drained for much flooding, tornadoes mostly go south of us, hurricanes don't get here. Euro settlers killed all the predators years ago, though we're getting the coyotes back. But you know what? We also don't have TERRIER-SIZED CRABS THAT EAT COCONUTS AND CAN CLIMB TREES! Call of Cthulhu players take note...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Meditation on the Mother of All

In the process of staring at the next phase of work on the Nine Moons, I have decided to write a series of short things focusing on the possible 'mystical' potentials of the elements of the Druidic Order of Ritual. By mystical, I will continue to mean concerned with the relationship between the personal psyche and transpersonal awareness. The first step in our Order, of course, is honoring the Earth Mother. Rather than write an article, I thought I would create a simple meditation/offering practice. the intent here is to bring the operator's mind into more direct contact with the Mother of all, through symbolic interaction. Let me know what you think.

A Meditation on the Mother of All
Come to your Shrine, open as usual and enter a basic trance. If you wish to open the Gate, do so, then envision the Earth Mother in the Gate:
• See the Mother of All, the Mountain Woman, before you. She is huge as a hill, seated with her back against the World Tree, naked, sitting with her knees drawn up, displaying her cunny and her round belly. Her breasts are great and round, hips and thighs mighty. She holds one hand raised, palm turned toward you, and the other she extends, palm up, as if in offering or receiving. Her face is beautiful, eyes kind and wise, and she smiles lovingly.
• Around her head shines a nimbus of light, gold and silver like sun and moon. Vines and trees are her gown, flowers and fruits her ornaments. Her womb shines and flickers with a light like moonlight on moving water. Every beast and bird, serpent and crawling thing are her court as the green of the world grows all around her. To gaze upon her is to feel the unconditional offer of her bounty, and also her challenge to the strong and to the weak.
Make simple offerings of grain or oil, or as you can, nine times as you recite this hymn three times:
Mighty Mother of All
Womb of Life
Source of Plenty
Soul of the Land
I make due offering to you
(offering given)
Because you uphold the World
Because you freely give your Bounty
Because you grant every Blessing
I make due offering to you
(offering given)
Queen of Sovereignty
I worship your Power
Mother of the Earth
I worship your Bounty
Giver of Every Life
I worship your Spirit
Earth Mother, uphold my work as you do the world
Earth Mother, accept my sacrifice!
(offering given)
Renew your vision of the Mother, and abide for a while in that vision. Then proceed, thus:
• Contemplate the wonderful being of the Earth Mother for a time. When her presence feels real to you, envision your own body, seated where you are, as lying within Her Womb. Become aware of your own body, naked beneath your garments. Feel the Mother appear around you, vast, your form an egg among countless eggs, kept safe and warm, filled with potential. Abide for a while in this vision.
• When you are ready, allow the whole vision, both the Mother and your own form, to shrink down and be enthroned in your own heart. Let the love and power and all-flowing generosity, the safety and strength and warmth be concentrated in you. Feel the presence of the Mother shining in you, within the boundaries of your seated form. Abide for a while in this vision.
• Finally, allow the image to grow again, until the seed-self is reunited with your material presence. Allow the form of the Mother to grow larger and larger, attenuating to become one with the land around you.
Renew your center, balancing all once again within you, and recite a simple ending charm, such as:
The blessings of the Holy Ones be on me and mine
My blessings on all beings, with peace on thee and thine
The Fire, the Well, the Sacred Tree
Flow and Flame and Grow in me
Thus do I remember the work of the Wise.