Archive for the ‘paganism’ Category

Llewellyn Magick Blog: American Gods and Where Gods Come From   1 comment

Greetings Gaiman-ites!  (Is that a thing by now?)

 

magick_blog_updated

From the Llewellyn Magick Blog, June 28, 2017:

I’m willing to bet, if you are reading this blog, you have already watched every episode of the new hit TV series American Gods. Or, if you haven’t, you’ve probably heard a ton about it from your Paganfriends. And, seriously, *WHY* haven’t you watched it yet?? The first season is complete, and only eight episodes, so you can easily binge-watch the whole thing.

[…]

 

I strongly recommend both the book and the show. If you can read the novel first, and then watch the series, do so! However, this blog entry isn’t a review of either one. Instead, I want to delve into one specific aspect of the story’s underlying philosophy: where the Gods came from.

Read the Rest at:  https://www.llewellyn.com/blog/2017/06/american-gods-and-where-gods-come-from/

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Posted June 28, 2017 by kheph777 in history, llewellyn blog, paganism, religion

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Florida Pagan Gathering, the Frosts and a Modern Day Witch Hunt   17 comments

Greetings to my Neopagan Friends!

I just got back from an incredible week at the Florida Pagan Gathering (hereinafter “FPG”).  Keep an eye on my Facebook page, as I will be uploading some awesome pics from the event – including many shots taken with us, Janet Farrar, Gavin Bone, Todd Berntson, Orion Foxwood and others.  I actually got to sit around and talk shop with these elders and experts like I was one of them or something – so that’s a win.  😉

I must say I am moved by the close-knit community I see at every festival.  Having headlined there several times – as well as at their sister festival Green Song Grove, and even given workshops at the festival when I’m not headlining – I have come to know the board of directors and staff pretty well.  In each and every case I have found them to be dedicated and wonderful people, who sacrifice so much of their lives and livelihoods to make these events happen.  Many of them have become close friends of my family.

Sadly, not everyone appreciates that sacrifice as much as myself.  To be fair, most people honestly do – but you can’t expect to run a festival as large as FPG and not have a few issues.  Or that you won’t piss off some people no matter how hard you try.

And that leads me to the subject of this blog post.  Sadly, the FPG Beltaine 2014 event had a bit of a dark lining.  It wasn’t something that disrupted the festival itself (though, believe me, it tried!), but there was certainly some serious turbulence going on beneath the surface of the festivities.

 

The Actual Creep – Kenny Klein

It all started with a real piece of shit named Kenny Klein.  If you’re active in the Neopagan communities you’ve probably heard of this creep.  He was a pagan author and musician, and traveled around the festival circuits.  He also apparently had a reputation for crossing boundaries with the ladies.  Heartbreakingly, many of his intended targets found that it was pretty damn hard to accuse a “BNP” (Big Name Pagan) of inappropriate action.  This isn’t uncommon in any community, I’m afraid.  People don’t want to believe that “it could happen here” and they sure as hell don’t want to believe their idols and elders could engage in that kind of behavior.  So Klein pretty much got away with his attitudes for quite some time – a problem that really does need to be seriously addressed in our community and all communities everywhere.

So why is this suddenly an issue we’re all addressing?  Because Klein got himself arrested for possession of child porn.  He got hauled off to the slammer where he belongs, the women he had abused over the years came forward in a wave of “we told you so, you frigging idiots!”, and the entire Neopagan community went haywire.  They suddenly realized a predator had been living right in their midst, attending their festivals, spending time with or near their children –  you know the kind of moral panic one can expect after news like this breaks.  People start to question their safety, which is a good thing to think about.  But then they start to get afraid.  And when fear sets in…

 

The Witch Hunt – Gavin and Yvonne Frost

So now the subject of Neopaganism and pedophilia has become a hot topic, and people have begun to cast around for targets to attack.  You might think it wouldn’t be hard to find someone.  Pagans can get pretty raunchy around the bon fire, especially if the booze has been flowing.  Most of the time any play that ensues is consensual.  Sometimes – like in the case of Klein and the way he treated women – it’s not.  Surely it wouldn’t take much effort to find any number of big horny pagan dudes with a habit of thinking with the wrong head…

And find someone they did!  They tracked down an 80 year old man and woman, who had written a book forty years ago (now out of print, mind you!) that contained some objectionable material.  And so enters Gavin and Yvonne Frost, and their Good Witch’s Bible (first published in the 1970s).

Without a doubt, that book is the most controversial book ever published on the subject of Wicca.  The Frosts make some pretty wild claims about themselves – such as insisting that they brought Wicca to the United States and that their Church and School of Wicca is the oldest organization of its kind.  In other words, they claim to be the primary Elders of the entire Neopagan movement in the US.  They are also way, waaaaaay into the Great Rite and have published a lot of material about sacred sexuality.  They are rather (in)famous for having some shocking ideas about sex and how it should be approached in the Craft.

What actually got them targeted by the post-Klein inquisition was a chapter in the Good Witch’s Bible.  The Frosts claimed the material was historical, presenting practices that had been done in the earliest days of the Wiccan religion.  It spoke of preparing female initiates for the Great Rite by giving them phalluses to take home and practice with.  It suggested that virginal initiates go to a doctor to have their hymen broken, so they would not experience pain during their first ritual intercourse.  Shocking – but not evil.

But they also suggest that female initiates could go home and have their father help them use the phallus!  Scandalous – and most certainly fodder for Jerry Springer.  (For you kids, Springer was a senator with his own television show… oh never mind.)  But still not the reason the peasants have stormed the Frost castle.  No, here are the lines that have everyone in an uproar:

 

“The physical attributes of male and female virginity are destroyed at the youngest possible age, either by the mother or by a doctor. In the female case, the hymen is painlessly broken surgically. In the male case, the mother makes absolutely sure that the foreskin can be drawn fully back by cutting the underside attachment membrane.”

 

And with that, the Frosts declared to the world that early Wicca sought to “destroy” the “attributes of virginity” in initiates at the “youngest possible age.”  Thus, you can see how some readers might get the impression this is a description of ritualized pedophilia.  It gives the uncomfortable impression that early Covens actually performed these ridiculous acts on little girls 13 or 14 years old!

My opinion, as an author and historian, is that the Frosts are full of shit.  I don’t buy for one second that early Wiccans sent home dildos for their female aspirants to use with their fathers.  My studies into Neopagan history and practice has shown nothing of the sort, and I don’t think the Frosts could prove these claims with any documentation.  Peer review would ask exactly where these practices took place, exactly when, exactly who.  It would demand references and documentation.  None of these things are found in the Frosts’ account, and I would hazard to say we can dismiss the material as fanciful nonsense.

At the same time, I think those who dislike the Frosts and their work have also jumped to conclusions.  The Frosts have never claimed to engage in these practices themselves.  And even if they did, they have stated many times that no one under the age of 18 is allowed to join their Church and School of Wicca.  In 40 years there has never been a single accusation or complaint that the Frosts have ever harmed a child.

Yet this hasn’t stopped the public from hanging the pedophile label onto the Frosts.  That phrase “at the youngest possible age” just sits wrong with people, and I can understand why.  Therefore, after Kenny Klein’s head was put in the stocks, the posse headed straight on over to their place.  Not only were the Frosts targets themselves, but suddenly any venue that might give them a platform to speak was also considered fair game.  Pagan festivals that had the Frosts scheduled were lambasted.  They were first accused of “supporting pedophilia”, but this soon turned into accusations of protecting pedophiles on camp sites and even practicing pedophilia themselves!

A full blown Witch Hunt was underway!  People who had been brothers and sisters in the Craft for decades were suddenly attacking one another with vile accusations.  An atmosphere of “us vs. them” and “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” developed.

To defend the Frosts’ right to publish what they understood to be historical information was equated with supporting pedophilia.  In fact, every complaint issued against the Frosts (or anyone defending them) was couched in the unspoken assumption that they are, in fact, practicing pedophiles or at least knowingly advocating it.  No one could be bothered to stop and ask if the Frosts really were supporters of sex with little children…  😦  They just are, so attack!  And because they “just are” we must also attack with zeal every person and every Pagan festival that doesn’t agree the Frosts are pedophiles.

And that is when the Florida Pagan Gathering was put in shackles and hauled up before the Grand Wiccan Inquisitors.

 

Caught in the Middle – Florida Pagan Gathering

FPG was one of the venues that had invited the Frosts to speak this year.  Now keep in mind that the Frosts had been to FPG the year before, and it wasn’t a big deal.  There were a few who didn’t like them being there, but I never saw a real issue develop over it.  I attended their astral travel workshop with my daughter and we really enjoyed it.  (In fact it was the very first guided astral trip my girl had ever taken!  She was a natural at it, btw.)  The workshop was well attended, and I personally found the Frosts – particularly Yvonne – to be very sweet and pleasant folks.  I couldn’t see any harm in having them come back the following year as fellow headliners.

But then the Klein debacle went down, and suddenly the Frosts were the harbingers of evil, a cancer upon the community who were being coddled and facilitated by an uncaring FPG board of directors.  Or so said a bevy of detractors – many of them long-time FPG attendees and even some staff members.  It all began when several of them got together to write a “Joint Resolution” in protest of the Frosts’ invitation to speak at FPG.  (You can read it here, scroll to the very bottom of the page.)

Now, to be fair to these guys, that Joint Resolution is pretty tame.  It merely states that they believe the Frosts advocate “the sexual initiation of children into the Craft” and that therefore they feel the Frosts should not be allowed to present workshops at FPG.  It invited others who agree to sign on.  Notice, too, that the resolution doesn’t call for the Frosts to be banned from the festival.  It doesn’t accuse the Frosts of any crimes, or of being secret predators.  It just states that the Frosts wrote some bizarre and objectionable stuff and the signatories would rather not see them give workshops during the festival.

Of course, I disagree that the Frosts would ever advocate any kind of sexual activity with a child.  Just writing about a historical practice does not mean you advocate it.  (I write about animal sacrifice in my work.  I even defend its practice within the ATR communities.  I include a section on the subject when I give classes on magickal offerings.  But that doesn’t mean I sacrifice animals myself, nor that I encourage my students to do so.)

And I also disagree that FPG – or any venue – giving an author a platform to speak automatically means they support or advocate every word written by that author.  Come on folks, that one is a standard disclaimer in every venue in the history of ever!

So I obviously have some fundamental disagreements with the authors of the resolution.  But, still, they have every right to publish that resolution – just as I defend the Frosts’ right to publish the malarkey they did.

However… this is the Internet, and we all know what that means!  The resolution quickly attracted the rabid anti-Frost crowd, along with no small number of internet trolls who simply like to stir shit anywhere they find it.  Flame wars erupted and all the vile accusations I mentioned above began to be tossed around.  FPG had to delete several of the threads that had gone too far, and finally had to shut down comments on their page entirely.  The anti-Frost Witch Hunters jumped upon that as “proof” that FPG was protecting and covering up the practice of pedophilia at their festival.

Before it was over, some coward had even contacted the owner of the festival site (which also happens to host children’s’ camps during the summer) and told them that hoards of pedophiles were about to descend on FPG to have their way with any children they could find there – and that the FPG board of directors were pederasts who would facilitate the abuse!!

Disgusted yet?

The result was that FPG was forced to call the Frosts and tell them how bad things had become, and the Frosts agreed to simply stay home.  Someone out there was actually willing to harm the camp site to get their way, and even to destroy FPG itself if it was necessary.  Meanwhile the Frosts have been dis-invited from several festivals around the nation, and their livelihood has been taken from them.  Two old people who never committed a crime, destroyed thanks to one douchebag (Klein) who actually did.  This is one of the most vile displays of cowardice I’ve seen in my lifetime.

I’m angry over this issue for two reasons.  First, as an author and historian I will defend to the death the First Amendment right of my fellow authors to report history.  Even if that history turns out to be bogus – which I think it is in the case of the Frosts – it should be torn apart academically and tossed into the historical rubbish bin.  But we can NOT persecute the authors merely for publishing it!  If we go down that road, then every occult author in the world is royally screwed.  Forty freakin’ years from now I might find myself excommunicated because I once wrote about animal sacrifice, if the Pagan community at that time decides it is not an acceptable practice.  And what else will be banned?  What other books will we burn?  What other authors will we destroy?

Second, I am angry that the anti-Frost trolls who made this mess are so willing to drag the good people at FPG down into the mud with them.  They claimed that FPG dismissed them and their concerns, but that isn’t the case at all.  FPG disagreed with their assertions about the Frosts – and that made the rabble rousers angry.  So they resorted to accusations and attacks, and even called the FPG board a bunch of pederasts.  It was simple cyber-bullying and nothing more.  I’d take one of the Frosts’ alleged dildos home and use it on myself before I’d tolerate a petty bully.  Or a group of them.

 

The Infamous FPG Round Table

I got involved right around this time.  At the festival, the FPG board hosted a round-table discussion.  Far from “ignoring” or “covering up” the issue, the board was willing to gather everyone together (face to face, not on a goddam Facebook page) and allow absolutely everyone to have their say.  A talking-stick was used to preserve order, and any holder of the stick was given 90 seconds to say anything they wished.

That day I got to hear every author (including Janet and Gavin!) stand and speak in defense of the First Amendment and against the kind of bullying that had taken place.  (Except for one, which made little sense to me.  I won’t say who it was.)  I saw a soldier stand and remind us how he had given up his rights and put his life on the line overseas so we could enjoy the right to publish what we will.  I saw a police officer say exactly what he thought of child molesters, but that he would be damned if he’d let a vocal minority dictate what he can and can’t read or who’s workshops he can attend.  I saw a fiery druid priestess stand and tear the bullies a new one.  And I saw many long-time FPG attendees and staff stand and literally break down in tears over the vile things said against the festival and the board.

I decided to attend that round table for several reasons.  First, I had seen this situation grow, and I was pretty disgusted by the Witch Hunt atmosphere that had developed.  Second, I was not going to sit silently by without defending my FPG friends – they are damned good people who didn’t deserve to be bullied for issues (Klein, the Frosts) they had nothing to do with in the first place.  And third, as an author and headliner at the same festival the Frosts were banned from, I had to stand and speak out for everyone’s right to free speech, including my own.

So I carefully wrote four points I wanted to cover in my minute and a half.  When I got ahold of the talking stick, I walked right out out into the middle of the room and really let everyone have it.  Here is what I said, nearly verbatim (I am writing this from memory):

 

My name is Aaron Leitch, I am an occult author.  You’ve heard from some very wonderful and kind people here today.  I’m not kind.  I have four points I’m going to cover here:

Point #1:  I have heard a little rumor that the anti-Frost faction in this nonsense has claimed all of the authors here at FPG support them.  How dare you?  How dare you involve my name in something without consulting with me first?!

Point #2:  I am disgusted that a bunch of self-proclaimed “witches” would involve themselves in a Witch Hunt!

Point #3:  You cannot provide a single victim of the Frosts.  Not a single arrest.  Not even a single complaint in 40 years.  So you are not protecting children here, you are engaging in book burning and witch hunting and nothing else!

Point #4:  For those of you who would engage in lies and slander, who would call these fine people [I gestured toward the board members] pederasts?!? – You are not Pagan, you have no business in this community, and if I had any authority in this matter you would be banned from this festival permanently!

That is all I have to say.

 

NOTE:  I have been asked by several people to clarify point #4 above.  Am I suggesting everyone involved with the original Joint Resolution is not a Pagan?  No.  I defend their right to their opinion and their right to publish that opinion.  I admit the original resolution didn’t call for any of the flames or hate or dirty tricks that followed.  But – those things followed anyway, and I refuse to accept as “Pagan” anyone who would lower themselves to such tactics.  And that includes anyone involved with the original Joint Resolution that has used, and some who continue to use, those methods of getting what they want.  That’s not Paganism.  It causes harm, and that pretty much breaks the one basic rule we all agree upon, doesn’t it?

 

So there you have it…

Now you have heard the story of this debacle from an actual FPG insider, rather than from some tabloid-style hit piece posted by someone with half a clue and less brains to back it.  I have no doubt whatsoever that this post will result in loud proclamations that I, too, am a lover of little children.  And probably that I eat babies and kick puppies, too.  But, hey, this is the Internet.  You gotta expect the stupid…

The Santa Template for Pagan Worship   2 comments

Greetings Festive Pagans – and Happy Solstice!

Back in 1998, I published one of my earliest articles:  The Ancient Gods and Neopaganism.  I wrote it during the period I was discovering the Old Magick that would revolutionize my spiritual practice, and the essay is a great reflection of that transition.

To this day, The Ancient Gods and Neopaganism remains one of my most popular essays – especially around Christmas.  And the reason is the Santa Template.

Essentially, I point out that the modern Neopagan methods of working with Gods are very different than how the ancients did it.  Ask a modern practitioner how to go about invoking a deity, and you’ll hear about casting circles and inscribing sigils and wielding magickal tools.  But when we look at records of ancient civilizations, we find their methods of invoking deities were based upon specific feast days and religious celebrations.  In other words, the manner in which we celebrate Christmas today is much closer to how gods were worshipped “back in the day” than how most moderns are going about it now.

And so it is in the spirit of the season, and on the off chance you haven’t already read about my Santa Template, I offer it again:

The Santa Template for Pagan Worship

(Adapted From “The Ancient Gods and Neopaganism”)

Santa-Claus-Rockwell

It will surely amaze you to find out that Santa Claus is a modern deity who fits each and every requirement of ancient Pagan deity worship.  What follows is not about the well-known Pagan origins of the Santa Claus image (aka, Father Christmas – who has close ties to Germanic images of Odin).  Instead, this is about the modern incarnation of Santa himself as a Western deity.

Father Christmas

Father Christmas

The manner in which we moderns deal with Santa Claus, and Christmas in general, is exactly how rites to Gods were performed in ancient times. Knowing this, it can provide an awesome sounding board against which to test our methods of dealing with any God we choose. At the very least, it offers us a glaring contrast to our normal Neo-Pagan methods.

To begin with, Santa is certainly old enough. He is not young enough to be a new thought-form creation (like- say- Cthulhu).  Nor is he the soul of someone recently dead.   He was, however, a once-living human.   Nicolas of Myra was a Greek bishop who lived in fourth century Greece (in the area of modern Turkey).  He made such an impression on the people around him – especially his legendary kindness to children – that he was eventually canonized into Sainthood by the Church.  From a practical standpoint, a Saint and an Angel are much the same kind of creature – and one can erect altars and perform invocations to either one in times of need.  You can even find religious icons painted in his honor:

st-nicholas

St. Nicolas

Much as we see in the most ancient forms of ancestor worship, St. Nicolas’ spirit was captured after his death and never allowed to escape.  Honoring this spirit, the people gave it strength and nourishment. Now he is known round the world, and even invoked in a religious context.

But that’s all very Orthodox stuff.  What interests us here is how our modern western culture honors this deity today:

We start by having a Holy Day for him- every Christmas.  Oh, I know they say that the holiday is to honor the birth of the Son of God.  Or, as some know it, the Sun God.  But, think way back to your childhood:  Jesus might have been the Sun of God…  But to a kid, God’s Name at that time of year was “Santa Claus.”  His image was everywhere.  You yearned for his coming.  You wrote him letters and even offered prayers.  I would hazard to say that not one of us as children ever cared about some guy born in a desert two thousand years ago.  It was Santa we were focused upon.*

[* – Note that I do not mean to discount the honoring of Jesus (for Christians) or the Sun God (for Pagans) at this time of year.  I could write at length about either.  But this particular essay is about Santa.]

But we weren’t alone!  Our god here is not lacking in priesthood any more than he lacks worshippers.  He certainly had Prophets; men who would assume his form and have full authority to speak on his behalf.  We saw them on street corners, we saw them in malls.  The malls were where we could gain audience to the Prophet and ask him what the God had to say about our wishes. It was a divination plane and simple. We all knew that it wasn’t the real Santa, but we all played our roles for the divination so that the Prophet could properly invoke Santa’s essence and speak with his voice.

Ralphie-and-Mall-Santa

You’ll shoot yer eye out, kid.

Mind-altering drugs were not absent.  The insane amounts of sugar we ate throughout the holidays altered our consciousness, and contributed to the euphoric feeling we associate with the season.  All the sacred cookies and candies – often in the shapes of Santa, reindeer, snowmen and other icons – were especially consumed before traveling to consult the Prophet at the mall.

Yet Santa has a Secret Priesthood as well; the priests who are never seen, but are responsible for making sure all the “miracles” associated with the deity are accomplished.  Today we know they were our parents, but as young children we didn’t. We still thought that the God himself was manifesting bodily and performing the miracles of Christmas morning.   Each Christmas Eve our parents would usher us off to bed, and claim to go to bed themselves. Then, they would enter the Temple and perform Santa’s role. They would lay out the presents, and eat the milk and cookies. Sometimes they leave “evidence” that “Santa” had been there.

Why, I was once mystified by the sound of sleigh bells outside my window on Christmas Eve as I struggled to fall asleep.  I lived in Florida, so of course these were not among the usual sounds of wintertime. I knew that no car was driving by, and that no one was walking or running by with them, for the sound had been too brief. Yet it had been long enough to be obvious- it was sleigh bells!

That event mystified me until I reached adulthood.  Then one Christmas, when I was visiting home, I saw my mother do this to the children in the house (among them my own son).  And now, I do it every year for my daughter.  I pray it has effected them like it did me.

These are the priests of Santa- both those of the inner sanctuary and the outer prophets. The Temple I spoke of above is, obviously, your living room. It is decorated in very specific colors, with trimmings of specific kinds and shapes. Holly is sacred to him, as was mistletoe, and the mistletoe has important rites associated with it. Santa’s image must to be there, as well as his sacred tree. Every decoration hung on that tree, and in the temple, has a reason for being there. Each has it’s own rituals and tradition, which reflect family history and culture.  And everything has to be “just so”; the instructions for that are no less involved than what one might find in Exodus ch. 30, where the Tabernacle of Worship was outlined.

Christmas-Temple

Santa is even to be nourished with offerings sacred to him: pure milk and the sweet pastries known as “cookies”.  Or at least some variation thereon.  These were always consumed by one or both of the inner sanctum priests of your specific cult (family).  It is a Eucharist for them.  A similar Eucharist for worshippers in general (the rest of the family, friends) consists of more cookies and eggnog.

We even sing songs to Santa in the temple for the rather specific purpose of invoking and strengthening his presence into the room. This increases steadily all season until it hits its peak on the twenty-fourth, where the invocations are accompanied by specific rites on the holiest of nights.  There are very intricate rituals that must be enacted on Christmas Eve, finally ending in the worshippers laying down to sleep.  More than sleep- entranced into having visionary dreams.  The sacred literature instructs that we should envision sugarplums if we do it right.  We never do.  Even more intricate and specific rites have to be performed the following morning and day. A description of that could fill chapters!

Not only this, but Santa can be offended and driven away. Bad behavior from children is at the top of that list. Although, anyone can offend him enough with an attitude that we have termed “Scrooge” or “Grinch.”  We even have sacred literature about those kinds of people: such a person would end up alone and sad, and far from what Santa has to offer.  But those stories always ended with the villain being converted and made a holy man at last!  Of course, our sacred scripture incorporated much more than that.  It also contained our whole mythos concerning our sacred heroes- Frosty and Rudolph for example.  And the instructions for the visions of sugarplums.

As children during Christmas season, every day and in every way we lived, loved, and worshipped Santa Claus. We gave ourselves to him in pure faith, in perfect love, and in perfect trust. It was that simple.  There were no circles. There were no “correspondence charts”.  The rituals throughout the holy season weren’t technical, they were devotional.  And they were so much a part of you that you never even thought much about them.

This is what it was like for the pagans of the ancient world as they honored their Gods. We Neo-Pagans have so very far to go.

St. Nick – The Template

Therefore, I have created what I call the “Santa Template for Pagan Worship.” Any time you feel you have a need to honor a specific God or Goddess, you might first wish to lay the Santa Template over them first.  See how your own knowledge of the God in question lacks before you even get started. I will give an example. First, let me highlight the Template.  Santa possesses all of the following:

• Sacred Images

• Holy Days

• Numerous and very specific rites and rituals.

• Specific Eucharist/Communion (and for other gods, Baptism and other religious observances as well).

• Sacred foods, plants, colors, trees as well as:

• Specific temple lay out and sacred objects as decoration. Traditions, mythos, and rites associated with all. Each to be properly maintained.

• Specific dances and music. Even specific musical instruments.

• Divinations, Visions, and petitions for the God’s aid or blessing.

• Sacred scripture and Mythology.

• Specific “sins” and offenses against the commandments of the God. Or, making yourself ritually unclean.

• An organized priesthood who take care of most of the above details, perform the important and most secret rites, and are also our direct link to the God by invocation of Him.

• Altered consciousness.

• Total and faithful dedication and love toward the Deity. If the God’s holy day doesn’t feel like Christmas, then you’re doing it wrong.

I do not believe that even one of the above points was missing from the temples of the old gods.  Not only the above, but even more that I’m sure we’ll never even guess.  Imagine a person five thousand years from now trying to observe Christmas from what he reads in maybe four or five surviving copies of our modern books on Christmas.  Or even only commentary and short quotes about our Christmas from people who came after us. Or maybe (worse yet!) from old television commercials that have been recovered!  Do you think he would capture what our children feel today?  Not a chance- and that is what you are up against in attempting to re-establish contact with one of the ancient gods.

When dealing with a God other than St. Nick, we have to ask ourselves how many of the above points are we capable of fulfilling? How much information did we recover from those eras and the God’s cult (to be found in archeology books, not Neopagan beginner’s manuals), and how many points of our Template will be left empty?

Marduk – An Example

Marduk_and_pet

Marduk of Babylon

Let us assume that we wish to honor Marduk of Babylon. How many points of the Template can you fill out for him?  What does our current knowledge of Marduk contain?  Holy days?  Yes, a few of those have been figured out. Certain rites and rituals?  No- we can only connect Marduk to the opening recitations of some exorcism rites, and that’s all.

Very specific foods, plants, sacrifices, and other materials?  Aside from Lapis Lazuli (which Marduk is often associated with), none.

At least we know what he looks like in one of his forms – thanks to a surviving image of him from Babylon.  We also know he was associated with a strange dragon-creature that we can see resting at his feet (the same dragon depicted on the Ishtar Gate of the city of Babylonia) – though no one is sure who or what that dragon was, what he represented or what relationship he had with Marduk (or Ishtar).

Do we know what he was directly averse to; that is, what he considered sin against his commandments?  Do we have any of those commandments?  No.

Do we know the proper ways of gaining contact- the music, the dances, the particular tools used?  We know none of this.

Can you speak to Marduk in his native Babylonian tongue?  I would bet the majority would have to say no on that point as well.  However, Babylonian is not a forgotten language, and you can learn it if you’re dedicated and can gain access to the right academic works.  At least you can make use of it as a sacred language in your work with him – if not a conversational one.

These examples don’t even cover the entire Template, but it sure does put things into perspective. When it comes to comparing Marduk to Santa- we see how little we really know about Marduk!

What can change this is hard work and life-long dedication. Hours spent in the libraries scanning and re-scanning archeological and anthropological texts; both books on the shelves and articles from archeology journals. Do everything in your power to fill in each and every point in the Template before you even begin. Consider the ones you could not fulfill, and what might be done in their stead.

And with that I’ll bring this excerpt to a close, and let you all get back to your Christmas traditions.  Enjoy!

Posted December 21, 2013 by kheph777 in Christmas, paganism

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The Elements and the Four Cardinal Directions   40 comments

Greetings, Dear Readers!

The Four Philosophical Elements

The Four Philosophical Elements

Most of you are likely familiar with the four Elements and their association with the four cardinal points of the compass.  The usual pattern in most modern traditions places Air in the east, Fire in the south, Water in the west and Earth in the north – an arrangement often attributed to the “four winds” of the earth-plane.  A more stellar arrangement (based on astrology) places Fire in the east, Earth in the south, Air in the west and Water in the North.  (See later in this post for more on that.)

I just had Ravin Digitalis ask me if I was aware of any tradition that assigns Air to the north and Earth to the east – and if such a tradition could be traced back to 5000 BCE.  In my response, I cover many different associations of Elements to directions and where they (or where they likely) came from.  I think you might find it interesting:

To my knowledge, there are no systems of correspondences of Elements to directions that go back to 5000 BCE.  The earliest such correspondences could have arisen would have been in cultures that developed astrology – likely going back no further than Babylon.  Not even Egypt had such correspondences that I know of – though they did have the four Sons of Horus as the pillars of the four directions (associated with the arms and legs of Nut), I’ve never seen any Egyptian text that associates them directly with four Elements.

From astrology we have Fire in the East (Aries), Earth in the South (Capricorn), Air in the West (Libra) and Water in the North (Cancer) – an arrangement that still existed when Agrippa wrote his work (see Three Books of Occult Philosophy – Scale of the Number Four).  Another, perhaps sidereal, version would use the fixed signs:  Leo in the East, Taurus in the South, Aquarius in the West and Scorpius in the North.

I’ve never found anything definitive on where the Air in the East arrangement – common in the Golden Dawn, Thelema and thus Wicca – came from.  However, the GD was very into Ezekiel’s vision – which shows God’s Throne supported by the four Kherubs whose faces are Man (Aquarius) in the front, Eagle (Scorpius) behind, Lion (Leo) to the right and Bull (Taurus) to the left.  If you face the Throne Eastward, and assume that “right” and “left” are from the perspective of the Throne itself, that gives the usual arrangement of Elements to the directions: Air-East, Water-West, Fire-South, Earth-North.

However, there is some ambiguity here.  In Ezekiel’s vision (approximately 600 BCE), the Throne is not facing the East – he describes it as coming out of the North and facing/moving Southward.  That would put the Man (Air) facing South and the Eagle (Water) facing North.  If we still assume Ezekiel’s mention of “right” and “left” are from the perspective of the Throne, that would put the Lion (Fire) facing the West and the Ox (Bull) facing East.  That would give you Earth in the East, but not Air in the North.

BUT – if we assume Ezekiel was referring to his *own* right and left, the two Kherubs would be reversed so the Lion would face East and the Bull would face West.  But that doesn’t give you Air in the North or Earth in the East…

The only other example I know of (off the top of my head at least) is from the Key of Solomon, where directions are given for the construction of a magick carpet.  There, one is told that Michael (Fire) is in the East, Raphael (Air) is in the North, Gabriel (Water) is in the West and Muriel (Earth) is in the South.  This one gives you Air in the North, but not Earth in the East.  lol

So I don’t see any traditional source for the arrangement [you mention] – and sure as hell nothing going back as far as 5000 BCE!  lol  Good luck!

If anyone knows of other associations and their origins, feel free to reply below and share with us.  🙂

UPDATE:  Looks like Alex Sumner can tell us where the Golden Dawn got its “Four Winds” (aka Seasonal) attribution of the Elements to their directions.  In the same blog, he reveals something fascinating:  the “ADNI Formula” (as opposed to the better-known “YHVH Formula”).  Awesome!

LVX

Aaron

Posted August 24, 2013 by kheph777 in golden dawn, paganism, solomonic

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The WMT and Wicca   9 comments

Greetings fellow Pagans!

I was recently invited to give a lecture on “ceremonial magick” to a local group of second degree Wiccans.  After accepting the invitation, I took some time to consider what direction such a lecture should take.  What about ceremonial magick would interest them, and how could I present it in a manner to which they could relate?

The answer came quickly enough: I would give them a condensed history lesson about the Western Mystery Tradition – covering the development of Hermeticism, the Hebrew and later Christian Qabalah, Rosicrucianism, Masonry, the Golden Dawn and Thelema.  Finally, all of this would culminate in a discussion about the rise of Wicca and its interrelationship with all of the above.

In the lecture, I pointed out the influence of the Golden Dawn in Wicca’s magickal methods – such as circle castings, pentagrams, Watchtower guardians, the four Elements, etc. I discussed the impact of Regardie’s publication of ‘The Golden Dawn’ on mid-twentieth century occultism (Neo-paganism included).  And I even discussed Gerald Gardner’s association with Thelema – drawing much from my old Thelemic Origins of Wicca essay.

Overall, I’d call the event a resounding success, and it looks like I’m going to have to come up with some ideas for a future lecture for the same group.  😉

Meanwhile, in the days since the event I have discovered there is something in the air about this subject.  I just received the latest edition of Hermetic Virtues Magazine, and wouldn’t you know it included a wonderful essay by Peregrin Wildoak entitled The Influence of the Golden Dawn in Wicca.  I have been wanting to write that very essay for many years – but it looks like Peregrin beat me to it, and did it better than I would have done.  😉  I forwarded a copy to the Wiccan priestess who organized my lecture, so she could offer it as “further reading” to her students.  (I also recommend you get a copy of the latest Hermetic Virtues to check it out!)

I sent a message to Peregrin, offering my kudos and asking if he had ever read my Thelemic Origins… essay.  He said he had indeed read it, and even brought it up in a related lecture he had given:  The Influence of Aleister Crowley on the Development of Wicca.  Let me quote his reply here:

Hi Aaron,
thanks for this 🙂

Yes, I read your very interesting article…and politely disagreed with its central thesis in another recent lecture 🙂  Would love a counter argument if you wish 🙂

That certainly piqued my interest.  I doubted he disagreed with my premise of a Thelemic influence upon the development of Wicca.  So I read his essay to find his specific point of dissent.  I discovered a quote from my essay in a section entitled Myth Number 3 – Wicca as an Outer Court to the OTO or a Thelemic Vehicle:

“I’ve come to understand that Gerald Gardner intended from the very beginning for Wicca to be a largely Thelemic system.”

Having read the entire article, I think I understand where Preegrin disagrees with my statement.  The above quote could be taken in one of two ways:  Either I understand Wicca was intended as an organizational Thelemeic  (that is, OTO) vehicle, or that it was a philosophical Thelemic vehicle.

In fact, I meant the latter.  I am not among those who have suspected Wicca was intended as an outer court to the OTO, or even an “OTO for the masses.”  Instead, my view is that Wicca was (to an extent) built upon Thelemic philosophy.

Of course, Peregrin also disagrees with that premise – and to prove it he cites several departures from (or in some cases the absence of) Thelemic philosophy in the Wiccan religion.  And he is correct – such departures and absences do exist, and he does a fine job of pointing them out.

However, to play devil’s advocate, I would also point out that Thelema was intended to be a highly individualized philosophy.  Are not those who dissect the Book of the Law and nit-pick specific points of Thelemic philosophy supposed to be “centers of pestilence”?  Is it not the one cardinal rule of Thelema that one should follow his own True Will no matter what?  Given this nature of the system, I don’t find it so hard to believe that Gerald Gardner felt at liberty to take Wicca in directions that might conflict with any of Crowley’s writings.

Still, I will admit my statement that Wicca was intended as “a Thelemic system” might have been over-stating the case to some extent.  (That essay was one of my earliest pieces, and not an example of my best writing.)  I certainly don’t view Wicca as just Thelema with Neo-pagan overlay.

However, the influence of Thelema and its philosophies upon Gardner cannot be denied.  (Nor, to be fair, does Peregrin attempt to deny them in his essay.)  I see more of Thelema in Wicca than the mere “fleshing out of sparse material” that Gardner claimed it to be.  I believe Gardner’s occultism was heavily Crowley-influenced – first through Crowley’s published writings, then during Gardner’s time with the OTO – and that this formed the foundation upon which Wicca was ultimately constructed. (Much in the manner that Thelema is founded upon Golden Dawn principles, while it is not “Golden Dawn” in and of itself.)

Though, it is true that Gardner was taking Wicca in directions that often left the greater Thelemic system behind, and that Doreen Valiente took it even further afield.  I suspect the apparent disagreement between me and Peregrim Wildoak on this issue is largely one of semantics.

LVX
Aaron

Posted April 3, 2013 by kheph777 in paganism

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