A spiritual path is, among other things, a way of seeing the world. That is to say, a spiritual path is a way of understanding or interpreting our relationships with the many things, events, people, and places in the world. In most cases, the path will be expressed or configured by a logic of correspondences. In accord with this logic, the appearance of a certain animal, or plant, or weather event, or whatever, signifies realities beyond itself. Similarly, every spiritual path will have meditations, rituals, techniques, practices, and so on, designed to help the practitioner recognise those signs and read the messages they convey.
The co-ordinates of the correspondences will vary in accord with language, culture, climate, geography, and other factors. They can grow ever more complicated and intricate, in order to accommodate an ever growing range of things and events in an ever-changing world. The associations of the four classical elements to cardinal directions, colours, ritual objects, seasons of the year, times of day, and so on, are well known examples. Yet the logic of correspondence can appear in things as simple as children’s rhymes. The game of counting crows: “One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy,” and so on, is also a logic of magical correspondences. Continue reading
I was putting together a time-line for another essay when something occurred to me. Various religions that started as fringe have grown and expanded over the years, many becoming legitimate in the eyes of the mainstream (or at least, approaching legitimacy), but somewhere along the line we seem to have run out of steam.
Early into the twentieth century Aleister Crowley received Liber AL vel Legis or The Book of the Law, the central text of Thelema, a new religion or spiritual technology (I’ll leave it to those more invested to argue which description suits it best). Crowley joined the OTO and shortly afterwards assumed the role of the OHO, subsequently reworking its rites and rituals to integrate the principles of Thelema, effectively setting it up as a Thelemic organization, which it remains today.
In the late 1950s Malaclypse the Younger and Omar K. Ravenhurst received a divine revelation from a chimpanzee in a bowling alley. There they learned of Our Lady of Chaos, Eris. The Goddess of Discord was alive and well and continues to merrily wreak havoc on mortals, who don’t always seem to get the joke. Indeed, Kerry Thornley (Omar K. Ravenhurst) described it as a religion disguised as a joke disguised as a religion… Even so, Discordianism’s still around and stronger than ever, even if it’s not always taken as seriously as some of its more greyfaced adherents would like. Continue reading
Pagan Christmas: The Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origins of Yuletide, by Christian Rätsch and Claudia Muller-Ebeling
Inner Traditions, 9781594770920, 213 pp, 2006
The subtitle of this book, “The Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origins of Yuletide,” helps to explain why I wanted to review it. Far too often people focus of the most visible of Yuletide symbols (the tree, the presents, the mistletoe and the decorations) and ignore the myriad of other details which surround this time of year. So I felt drawn to investigate these background items.
The authors focus on the ethnobotany (the study of plants) associated with the season. I had read and reviewed an earlier book by them and knew that the research and writing of this book would be first rate as well. I was not disappointed in that respect, nor in any other. The book is profusely illustrated with beautiful drawings and photographs. Continue reading
Thoth: The History of the Ancient Egyptian God of Wisdom, by Lesley Jackson
Avalonia Books, 9781905297474, 225 pp., 2012
This is a rather unique book in that it does not attempt to be anything other than an attempt to show how Egyptians through the millennia related to Thoth. It isn’t designed to detail the hymns and rituals associated with Thoth, although they do figure into the account. It isn’t about his priesthood or his temples, although they also enter into the account
There are numerous books which relate how the dynastic families of ancient Egypt related to Thoth, but very few which give any indication how commoners saw their interaction with the God of Wisdom in his various functions of scribe, messenger of the gods, protector, and psychopomp . While the average Egyptian might expect that they would never encounter the majority of their gods, Thoth was their guide in the afterlife, and everyone – no matter how high or low their status – would meet him during their transition between life and afterlife. Continue reading
Advanced Sex Magic: The Hanging Mystery Initiation, by Maria de Naglowska, translated by Donald Traxler
Inner Traditions, 9781594774164, 119 pp. (incl. appendices, notes, bibliography and index), 2011
Originally published in French in a limited edition of 500, this is the second in a four book series translated, introduced and annotated by Donald Traxler. These texts outline the mysteries and initiation system of the order founded by Maria de Naglowska (1883 – 1936), the Brotherhood of the Golden Arrow.
The “divine mission” of the Brotherhood was nothing less than the redemption of Satan, which Naglowska saw as the redirection of “the Spirit of Evil onto the good path.” Her spiritual formula viewed Satan not as an external being, but as an indwelling nature to be managed or conquered. Jesus and Judas are seen as equal, and both necessary for the crucifixion to occur. The hanging of Judas is central to the philosophy behind Hanging Mystery employed in her spiritual system. Naglowska prophesized a new age, which she called the Third Term of the Trinity, overseen by the work of the Magnificent Invisible Heroes, sometimes called the Magnificent Invisible Knights, for which the Hanging Mystery serves as an initiatory test. Continue reading
A Circle of Stones: Journeys and Meditations for Modern Celts, Second Edition, by Erynn Rowan Laurie
Megalithica Books, 9781905713776, 124 pp., 2012
It may be showing its age a bit, even the author admits that there have been advances in the archaeological underpinnings of the work, and increased knowledge of the language and culture of the Irish Celtic people. In spite of that, or perhaps because of it, this remains an easily understandable book, and a good source for those who wish to walk the Celtic Reconstructionist path of Paganism.
There haven’t been a lot of changes made since it was originally issued. There have been a few improvements in the translation of Irish words, and the illustrations have been redone, but the information is essentially unchanged.
There are numerous suggestions for several rituals, as well as guidelines for the creation and maintenance of altars – including suggestions for turning your entire living space into a sacred environment. One of the great things is that she emphasizes the need for the altar to work for you: it doesn’t have to be a certain size or shape, it doesn’t have to be kept overly neat and tidy, and it doesn’t need to be particularly artistic in its arrangement. It should, however, be a place which you visit frequently, thus alleviating the necessity for dusting it. After all, if you are interacting with the altar constantly, things will not remain static for very long. Continue reading