Opiate of the masses.

How to build an ancestor altar

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Candle, photo by ZeHawkI stood before my unused sewing table, where I was to build my first ancestor altar. I thought of what I might put there: a photo of my birth parents, certainly, and two metal Peruvian figurines, a man and a woman, to honour my karmic roots to Peru. What else held meaning for my ancestors; what might make them feel at home? For my birth parents, two treasured old compasses that belonged to my father and a favourite hamsa necklace of my mother’s. For the Peruvian folk, an offering of corn meal and tobacco, and palo santo, a Peruvian wood incense. To symbolize the ancestral wisdom I wanted to access, two small plastic skulls; and to honour my shamanic path, pieces of wood from a tree struck by lightning on the property of one of my shaman-sisters (being struck by lightning three times is believed to be a call to that path).In shamanism you learn fairly quickly about the constant presence and influence of the ancestors, their legacies — both gifts and wounds — and why it behoves you to pay your respects and enlist their help. Yet no matter what path you’re on, a relationship with your ancestors can benefit you. Read More

How to plan a pilgrimage

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Hiking, photo by True New Zealand Adventure A pilgrimage is a journey to a sacred site. It can demonstrate the depth of your devotion, be it to your deity, your community or to yourself and your practice. It is a key feature in many religions, such as Islam, which mandates that everyone of able body conduct a pilgrimage to Mecca.In this technological age, there are few places that cannot be reached in relative ease and comfort. For a pilgrimage, however, the journey is as important as the destination. Read More

Of course Thelema is satanic

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Demon, photo by Orin ZebestLet’s get something straight. Thelema is most certainly satanic, but it is not in any way, whatsoever, Satanism. Now, I am sure many reading this statement will ask, what’s the difference? The answer lies in the role Satan plays. Read More

Mysticism: Nature or Nurture?

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Subaquabus, by Kennington Fox"No spiritual development begins without that person having a mystical experience," claimed my friend Hans in recent conversation. We had been discussing mysticism and he made a few points that made me pause. He continued, "Mystical experience connects a person to the higher states of being. Without this, no one make any serious progress on the spiritual path." I thought this was a rather provocative statement and asked him to clarify. He said that only once someone has tasted the ultimate can they really begin to direct themselves and their actions towards it. Until then it is like trying to create a trail with no guide or point of reference in sight.I must admit I was taken aback by such a frank assertion, one he was quite adamant was universal. Additionally, I take seriously Aleister Crowley’s warning about the ways mysticism can delude a person and have thus always been suspicious of it. I pointed out how Crowley noted that mysticism was all subjective and lacked any kind of objectivity. Hans countered that this is wrong and that all true mysticism connects to a universal higher reality to which all humans share access. Humans, he claimed, were "wired" for these mystical states. He then pointed to all the great religions and mystics and said they all went up different paths to the same mountain peak.I asked then, why did each of these mystics have such different responses to the same experience. Why did Jesus appear as the sole son of God after his time in the desert while the Buddha, Mohammed, Theresa Avilla, and so many others had different responses? Read More

Embracing questions

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Portrait of Aleister Crowley, by Thierry Ehrmann I have always liked the motto Aleister Crowley gave to his journal The Equinox: The Method of Science—The Aim of Religion. The first part in particular. Today science is something that many people connect with technology. In some sense, science and technology are inseparable. The beginning of the twentieth century was not without its technologies either. The Equinox began to be published in 1909 and by then, early versions of today’s ubiquitous technologies were emerging. The escalator, air conditioner, neon lights, gas-motor powered airplanes, vacuum diode, sonar, instant coffee, and even the theory of relativity all came to life in the first decade of the twentieth century. But when Crowley stated “The Method of Science…,” he was not talking about any of these technologies, nor ones to come. Instead he was referring to the way science is approached and practiced. Science has a method and at the centre of that method are questions.When Crowley advanced the method of science it was, more than anything else, an attitude or an approach to reality. It is one of curiosity, open mindedness, and discovery. It was a method that elevates the question and only sees answers as doorways to other questions. Read More

Robert Graves’ fabrication of the Celtic tree calendar

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Tree, photo by Romain ValletFor many people, their first introduction to the Song of Amergin came through Robert Graves' The White Goddess.  Graves states that, "English poetic education should, really, begin not with Canterbury Tales, not with the Odyssey, not even with Genesis, but with the Song of Amergin."However, despite this apparently reverential beginning; Graves does not actually put forward the Song of Amergin as we have it; rather he begins by utterly changing this ancient poem to better fit his own pet theory, connecting the lines from this poem to the Ogham alphabet and the "months" of the year.  This creates a vague pattern, unprecedented in either nature or the Gaelic source culture he purports to respect.Graves provides neither the original Irish poem, nor anyone else's English translation. Instead he just sets off on his own imaginative journey. Read More

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