… a thought making crooked all that is straight.

Awareness

The crooked path

Grief has wrong-footed me twice this year. And today continues the theme. It is the death day of my Seelenopa, my “soul grandpa”. His death several years ago now, like the other deaths this year, came as a shock, out of the blue. “I’ll write to you as soon as I come around from the operation!” he promised. It was a routine operation on his foot. He wrote to me as promised having begged paper off the nurse, his spidery writing even more inscrutable than ever due to the anaesthetic. A couple of days letter I received another letter – this one bordered in black. I had never received such a letter before. I saw that it was from his wife. I remember the bright curiosity that turned so rapidly into shock – dead “due to unexpected complications” – and then a wailing caw of grief. Grief is so dramatic. Like love it calls for big gestures and words that reach down into the soul, that grab the heart, cry tears of blood and wrench one from the ordinary, from the doldrums of living life one foot in front of the other. Suddenly the path is crooked – in love or in grief – and everything is questioned.

My tagline for this blog right from the start has been “A thought making crooked all that is straight”. It expresses the way I see the world – crooked, twisted, inside-out. I am not an academic thinker in spite of my academic background. I can’t quote you book, chapter and verse but once I get the scent of a thing, I can describe the essence of it in such a way that others lift their snouts to the wind and can smell it too. Not everyone. But enough people.

There was a time when I wrote out of a place of love, not just profane, although often enough that, but these days I seem stuck in a rut of grief. It catches in my throat because I like to write things that uplift others and so I censor myself and resort to silence. Absence. Which is what grief feels like – lack and loss, a negative space, an emptiness that hurts physically. Just as love flips the stomach and sight of one’s beloved clenches the heart in sweet pain, so grief cuts and grinds but without that sweetness. Lovers are happy masochists; those who grieve merely suffer.

I saw an interview the other day with a woman in her late nineties. She described how she spoke to her dead children every day. They were not absent but present. She smiled and said that others must think her “crackers”, but, she said, “I’m not. I know what I’m doing.” Yet the pain of grief still crumpled up her wrinkled face, the loss of her infant children 7 decades ago. She took obvious pleasure in her daily conversations but the pain was still there.

And perhaps that’s the point: life is not without pain. We are swamped by entertainment media that tells us life should be all hearts and flowers; anything less is failure or flawed. Can you Instagram your pain? There must be a filter for that … And so our tolerance for the hard times is worn away by an impossible expectation that turns the circuitous motions of life’s natural ups and downs into a plastic-fantastic treadmill. Worse than the straight path is the life that purports to move you forwards while tricking you into never moving from the same spot.

However, I am not glorifying pain, not saying that you are not living a true and fulsome life without a rock in your stomach, but I am suggesting that grief is to be embraced like love. Both are dramatic in their expression, and both NEED to be in order for us to bear the weight of them. A quiet, discrete love hidden under a bushel is no love at all – at most that is the scratching of an itch, the containment of a neurosis. Likewise, grief should not be shamed into silence – that cultural demand to keep a stiff upper lip, to not dwell on things or, god forbid, be a “whinger”.

And by placing love and grief side by side I do not mean to put them at opposite ends of a spectrum, just because one may appear more pleasant and desirable than the other. No. In grieving fully I give myself permission to love fully. Love in death. Death in love.

The path is never straight, it is forever crooked.

©StarofSeshat 2017


LHP – living without morals

At a certain point in my exploration of and attempted living of a Left-Hand Path esoteric life, my morality was suspended, but this was not a liberated state where I moved unencumbered by external strictures. It was a place without life meaning or significance.

I was caught in the grip of adversarial paralysis.

Some LHP-ers live hedonistic, countercultural lifestyles, turning their upbringing, the norms of the culture they live in and the dominant religion on their heads. They take the above as a guide and do the opposite or a diametrical offshoot of it … but then consider themselves “free” in that adversarial state, without realising that they may have struck off the path and written their own map but their True North is still the things they often despise so vehemently, namely mainstream culture and established religion. If you define yourself in opposition to A Thing you are not free as you still require The Thing to determine your opposition.

If the majority stand BY a wall but you decide to lean AGAINST the wall, you are still in a position relative to the wall. In my mind, the point was to negate the wall entirely and see how freely I could move without any self-imposed limitation (bearing in mind that I live within a world of limits, perceptively anyhow).

If you live in a culture where drinking is “the norm” then choosing to drink absinthe (a common LHP-er’s tipple) is neither original nor daring, it is merely imbibing another alcoholic liquid, albeit one with a romantic backstory. In addition to a pleasant high, the best you might get out of it is to live the lives vicariously of all the poets and social fringe dwellers known to imbibe in the stuff.

In a society where everything is sexualised, down to the social experience and expression of children/childhood to the selling of commodities, then merely having sex a lot, even with multiple partners, even with multiple genders, is not that daring or enlightening per se.

In a society where drugs are the norm from the socially acceptable stimulants and depressants like sugar, coffee and alcohol to the medically widely prescribed opiates and amphetamines, then going to “the man on the corner” for your drug supply makes you neither a maverick nor particularly savvy – play the system better and get your drugs on repeat for free (at least if you live in the UK)!

So in contemplating the above I experimented subsequently with the nominal counter-counter norms of abstinence and celibacy – if you want to live an adversarial position to mainstream culture you might want to announce that you are a celibate, teetotal vegan! … then learn what it is to live in opposition to the norm.

But yet again, this state of opposition merely helped me to shake up my assumptions, I was not liberated from being defined by the things I rejected. I fell into a pit of meaninglessness, a place where neither The Thing nor The Opposite of the Thing had significance or meaning to me. And without meaning I spiraled into depression as I was caught in the grip of adversarial paralysis.

The only way out of this was to admit that what I was doing wasn’t working for me. I began to observe others who appeared happier, more focused and more creative (in their artistic, professional, spiritual and/or emotional lives) than me. And this included the “hippie-dippy-shitty-airy-fairy brigade” – a group of people I was used to criticising and (yet again) defining myself in opposition to. My ego protested, but I remonstrated with it that, up till now, its decisions had been isolating, deflating and unhealthy – in fact un-inspiring (inspire: to fill with an animating, quickening, or exalting influence).

I did a lot of “fake it till you make it” which ironically is a state of aligning yourself against someone else’s norm, hardly an adversarial stance; the difference being that I had to still my shrieking ego. Over time I found my own meaning and significance. The key? To lay aside ego. My meaning? That is not relevant to you as it is my path and my journey, my baggage, history and personal make-up. Your meaning will be uniquely your own.

In freeing myself from defining myself “as X” and “as NOT X” I have managed to step over the fundamentals of right/wrong, which as a social anthropologist I know to be severely culturally determined – no absolutes! (Cf. postmodern relativism) Instead of acting one way or the other in re-action to a moral duality, I now choose to act in accordance with my personal meaning; a meaning that is continuously fed by an indefinable thing that can only be know experientially through practice, study, integration and in-corporation (in corpore – in the body) of both and through putting aside egoic desires to be the same as/better than/different to XXX.

I guess you might define it as a life study in Becoming; I hesitate to say of “Being” – that potentially stagnant and anti-cosmic state of “I am that I am”. Instead I become Atum, self-engenderer from the primal chaos, bridge between what is “not” and what “comes forth” in a process of continuous unfolding.

And that’s another point: the path unfolds as I Become. Defining myself against the moral landscape around me at any particular moment belies the truth of existence. It places a premature and deceptive full-stop against a life that should at any point em-body the pregnant sentiment of dot-dot-dot … to be continued …

©StarofSeshat 2016


Sensing spirits with impossible credulity

Star of Seshat

Sensing Spirits with Impossible Credulity

My acquaintanceship with spirits began at a very young age. I saw and heard things that others didn’t and I was told to keep quiet about it because people would think I was mad; so I withdrew further from the mainstream world and inhabited my own world of imagination and spirit.

…one must be cautious not to chuck the imaginative baby out with the imagined bathwater!

I am often asked, “How will I know when something spirit-based happens? How will I know it’s not just my imagination?” To which I reply, “You won’t know and you will know, and imagination is the key to knowing.” “Imagination” is given a hard time in every arena except the creative. “It’s just your imagination!” is a dismissive comment we bring out when people try to describe things outside the norm. Whereas it is indeed irritating when you get people who claim that every creaking floorboard is a ghost, and every feather floating to the ground is a sign of an angel passing by, one must be cautious not to chuck the imaginative baby out with the imagined bathwater!

The imagination works with symbols and signs and all the senses. When asked to imagine a scene most vividly, we are encouraged to draw upon our sensory memory to recreate the scene in our minds. This creates a connecting language between our internal world and our external world. This language is the stuff that spirit encounters are made of. When a spirit makes its presence known in this world, it is partly here, partly there; it is both wave and particle. Our minds have the same capacity to occupy more than just the visible, material world … some might say it is our spirits or souls that stand with a foot in each realm. If that is so, most people spend the majority of their life unaware of the half of their “body” that stands in the Other. How would one go about rediscovering this Other half? The first step must surely be to imagine it, to conceive of the possibility that it exists, to bring the image of it into consciousness. As I said, imagination is the connecting language between here and there, between this world and Other. Without it we are merely flesh sacks excreting, eating and fucking.

The fact that I withdrew into my internal world as a child was a great boon to me in that it allowed me to become fluent in “Imagination” so that my mind was all ears and eyes, open to receiving the Other when it came. Some things I have seen with my physical eyes, which, for me, is a very frightening way of perceiving things. Likewise I was majorly disturbed by a ghost cat as a child that would jump on my bed and settle in amongst my blankets (that was fine); but when he began to claw at my carpet I was frightened and told him to stop scaring me, and he did. Sadly, my ghost cat disappeared entirely. This is another factor that I have experienced repeatedly: apparitions, the ones that truly want to connect with you, come through gradually. They appear at first like imagined moments – noises, smells, tactile sensations – and become more concrete and perceptual over time (in one case, a being took about 3 years until it manifested nearly completely – I was able to touch him and it was like touching hard air. Not all take quite this long though …). BUT once I queried the experience or applied some logical understanding to it, even if the logic was based in pseudo-magickal psychology (e.g. my desire for XX has manifested in the physical expression of YY), then the apparitions disappeared never to return again. In each case, it was vital for me to maintain a state of mind anchored in imagination and credulity – believing the impossible and allowing it to remain an impossible belief made manifest exactly because it was impossible. This may sound like gibberish to some, but I think to others it will make perfect sense.

As far as advice goes, when wishing to open yourself up to the spirit world, do not be afraid of a little imagination. Believing that a knock COULD be a spirit, opens up the impossible possibility that a future knock IS a spirit. It is difficult to maintain that fine line between megalomaniacal fantasies and true spirit experiences, but this is where you need to develop your self, including unrelenting self-honesty. Experiencing spirits in isolation will bring you nothing; this is a path of full and comprehensive self-development/self-loss/self-transformation. If you are looking for kicks or a good story, you will find neither or possibly be so shit scared by something that you wish you’d never dabbled in the first place (I have met people like this).

Begin with a meditation discipline … something appropriate, not “I meditate while I do the gardening/chores etc.” That’s not meditation, that’s mindfulness. And use meditation to expand the sensory capacity of your mind. If you can think it with all your senses, it can be; if you can conceive it, it can manifest. But when it does, be reserved with your questioning and logic, or risk chasing away the very thing that you seek.

Edit: I found this rather appropriate quote by Kenneth Grant, so am adding this after the fact:

In all forms of magick, the imagination or image-making faculty is the most important factor.

©StarofSeshat 2016


When the shit hits the fan, what do you believe?

In times of stress and fear, we generally default to those beliefs and ideas that we feel in our heart of hearts are most protective and empowering – what you might call our “original” or fundamental beliefs. The agnostic in battle flings up a prayer to god; the lapsed Catholic makes the sign of the cross at a near-miss car crash; and the child seeks out mum or dad … presuming that those parental figures are safe and protective. Mine weren’t, so in times of stress as a child I fled inward and to the spirits.

I had an intense introduction to Roman Catholicism after my father left us. Before his departure there had been absolutely no religion in the family so I had had no boundaries around my psychic adventures, astral journeys and ghostly friends (nor did I have help when entities were not so friendly). I was able to unfold in as natural a way as was possible for me, up till the age of 9.

It was not at all a conventional Catholic upbringing as my mother immersed herself into Benedictine monasticism and so throughout my formative teenage years our family friends and visitors were ALL (no exception) priests, monks and nuns. My baptism in Germany, at the age of 9, was a beautiful affair: I was surrounded by a large circle of nuns between the ages of 25 and 90. I walked around and stopped in front of each woman to receive a cross drawn on my forehead with their fingers. It was magical. I had flowers in my hair. And frankly, it was all very pagan. My catechism was given either in the large gardens as we tended the flowers (all godly symbols explained through symbols in nature) or in a red boat as my sister instructor rowed us around the moat of this old German castle, which now served as the abbey home.

My devotion to Catholicism was intense (not least because I found safety amongst the nuns and everything about the castle and my lessons in nature appealed to the romantic in me), although (and this was a major problem) I had no place for Jesus in my pantheon, and I never understood the concept of original sin (helped by my confessional priest who refused to hear my “sins” as he said I was too young to sin and we should just pray together). However, my belief in Christianity crumbled in my teens for two reasons: one, I started to read about witchcraft and paganism and realised that this is who and what I was; and two, I began to study the gospels and Pauline letters in the original Greek. The latter was an issue because so much of the gospels has been redacted in English, changing female disciples’ names into male names, for example, because the established Church finds it too threatening to consider that women were equals in the early Church! If I had been lied to about something as fundamental as this, what else was poppycock?

But even though I abandoned Christianity (not acrimoniously because I respect Christian mysticism), and although I went on to explore and devote myself to witchcraft, I found myself still, in times of spiritual distress, calling on the Abrahamic image of deity as I had experienced him through those formative years. This puzzled me and frustrated me. But it need not have. Archetypes come in many forms, and the cipher with which our mind envisages the archetype is not always within our conscious control. Ultimately we have to explore and examine our beliefs and be totally honest about them. If I am cavorting with spirits and things go tits up, then it really matters what deity or entity I call upon because it may be cool to call on Sekhmet, but if your inner belief is still stuck on the Virgin Mary then you’re going to get an ‘up side the head’ because your inner spiritual integrity is split, which presents a weak face to the spirits you’re trying to work with. Some “beliefs” have deeper roots than others. Like gardening, our spiritual landscape needs constant tending. And this is also why so often in LHP literature, a lot of time is spent on deconstructing and challenging a person’s, generally, Christian faith. If you are going to choose instead to work with Lucifer, then you need to relinquish any guilt you might feel about that, because that guilt will bite you on the bum.

So, I’ve been thinking about all this recently because I am going through a really difficult and stressful time. Everything is in flux, including my accommodation. I am moving to a temporary place and my future is totally unclear right now. In fact, every area of my life is undergoing some kind of transitional phase. And guess what! I hate change. I loathe it. I am a fan of routine and predictability. I like a quiet life because my emotions are on my sleeve and I FEEL so intensely that it hurts. The only way to dull the pain is to maintain a staid and stable life. So I’m hurting right now. My body feels it. My mind feels it. And I’m noticing what I’m doing with all that stress … I am taking it to the spirits. I feel like I have come full circle to the little girl taking her astral journeys “back home” for granted and placing more confidence in the protection of spirits than the humans in her life.

My altar is like an eternal flame right now. As soon as one set of candles burns out, I light the next, muttering my prayers and invocations … ‘Let me feel the joy of your presence … come forth …’ Clouds of incense. Cups of coffee. Glass of water. And love, love, love and gratitude pouring out from my hands to the spirits.

Half my furniture and a large proportion of my stuff has been given to charity. A third of my remaining stuff is in storage, and the rest is predominantly in boxes. But my altar remains standing till the last minute and will only be packed on the morning of my move.

In times of stress, we default to what we believe in, to where our hearts lie and our foundation is strong … at least I do. I wonder if others can identify. Can you? And is your answer coherent with your projected identity? Or is there a split between your inner world and your outer persona?

©StarofSeshat 2016


Magickal Attunement – Be the Light!

Recently I have felt my spiritual ship turning in a different direction. I am incorporating aspects to my approach very different from those of the past. My Rosicrucian studies are coming along fine; after a year of commitment to this path I am now beginning First Degree studies. This has been my first opportunity to work with an established egregore from an initiate perspective. In addition I am preparing for Mussar studies (Mussar is essentially Jewish ethics, a form of self-examination and purification of character traits in preparation for the study of Kabbalah), and I am reading about Modern Kabbalah.

So what does all this have to do with being a witch? From the first day I began blogging, six years ago, the subject of “What is a witch?” and “What kind of witch am I?” has been a recurring theme. My pendulum has swung from one extreme to another as I have explored multiple paths. As I said to a friend, in order to define the middle path, one must traverse the boundaries of the extremes. One thing I have learned is that the middle path is not synonymous with following the herd, or joining the crowd, or doing what everyone else does. For a start, my middle path may not be yours. I have opened myself up to the spiritual paths of others – Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Vodouisants, Gnostics, Satanists, Sorcerers, Necromancers, et al – and I have learned something from each lively discourse.

But I remain a witch. I am anchored within the cycles of the natural world, the seasons, lunar phases and astrological movements. I still address the Egyptian Aakhu, the spirits of the dead, the elevated and blessed souls who have passed the test of Ma’at and walk the Duat, ready to assist us here on this material plane. And crucially, I still practise magick.

However, my definition of magick or more specifically my magickal construct has changed, become more and better than it was. When I say “better” I am not making a judgement regarding the way others practise magick, I am referring solely to how I experience it and benefit from it.

Now I would describe my magick as “attunement”. My focus is on attuning my soul with the divine to allow divine influx to radiate through me, by means of continued purification. Encounters with the divine, especially within Kabbalah, are often described in terms of light and fire: a burning face during prayer, the halo of divine light around the head of a student, the words of Torah as flame issued from the tongue, the bright light of a Tzaddiq …

I have never been much interested in results magick. Occasionally it has been useful, and with the contractual aide of the Hoodoo spirits, the efficacy of my results magick doubled. But the question to me was always, what do I want? What do I need? And there is a gaping crevasse between wants and needs. Over the past year I “discovered” Minimalism and realised that it has always been part of my make-up. I want very little and my needs are basic.

While studying Social Anthropology at university many moons ago, I was taught about Maslow’s triangle.

Maslow's Triangle

Maslow’s Triangle

This was a revelation to me and again reflected what I instinctively knew. The key to Maslow’s triangle is that each of the needs of the lower layers must be met first before being able to achieve the higher layers. E.g. if you suffer prolonged periods without food or water, then a job is not going to be on your list of priorities, unless it is an immediate means to attain food and water. Likewise if your living conditions are at threat due to war or personal catastrophe, then you are less likely to focus on spiritual development; indeed spiritual movements rarely evolve during war-time.

So our aim as spiritual beings is to meet the lower needs in order to be in the best place possible to receive and engage with a spiritual life, i.e. self-actualisation. Now, our personal definitions of the lower level needs will vary. Some may get stuck on believing that having a car (or two!), a large house, a wardrobe of fancy shoes and money to go out on the town forms part of “security of resources or property”; if you are such a magickian, then no doubt you could expend months or years of energy trying to call so much STUFF into your life. If you define yourself by STUFF the STUFF becomes vital. But this is a skewed perspective because THINGS do not ultimately contribute to your existence, nor do they elevate your soul or polish your personality.

Likewise, note the two references to sex and sexual intimacy. So does that mean that if you’re not getting sex, you can’t work towards self-actualisation? Absolutely not. The fact is that I have seen many people (mostly men) who pursue sex as an unquestionable need, with multiple partners, with a drive bordering on addiction, and yet they lack the commitment of real friends, they have a yawning hole in their emotional lives and an aching emptiness which they don’t know how to fill. Over and above the physical act of sex I would emphasize sexual intimacy, expressed best by the German word “Geborgenheit” (a feeling of safety, emotional security, comfort, freedom from danger). This is a level of deep trust, an intertwining of souls and minds, an intimacy with another human being where your hearts make love because you experience expansive belonging with that person or persons, because there is no social morality at this level of sexual intimacy, of “Geborgenheit”, that would limit you to being sexually intimate with only one person. It is THIS side of sex that leads to self-actualisation, not the mere pumping and wet thrusting of genitalia, however distractingly pleasant that may be (and of course physical sex with someone with whom you experience Geborgenheit is a joyous meeting of soul-mates – without Geborgenheit you might as well ejaculate into a toilet or use a battery-powered gadget to stimulate your clitoral nerves).

As you see, Maslow’s triangle is not necessarily as straightforward as it might appear. It deserves some thought and consideration as to what really is a NEED for you. What do you need as a foundation from which you can then free your soul to pursue attunement with the divine? The less you need, the quicker you can get on with the real business of living; and for me, the fulcrum of life is to be filled with the divine, to radiate the bliss of Light, by whatever name you wish to call it … God, Yahweh, Lucifer, Ra. I am a moth drawn to the divine light and dying by such fire is a step towards the ultimate fulfilment of all my existential needs, because then I shall BE the Light.

Moth to a flame

©StarofSeshat 2014


Authenticity and power

I feel like I’m in a strange place in my life at the moment. This year has been one of extreme change – all internal. My external world putters along pretty much unchanged.

Sancho Panza has been ramping up the pressure on me to be my authentic self. Firstly I had to learn what my authentic self was; then I had to learn not to fear it but accept it; and finally I am learning to express it. This engagement with the authentic self carries with it power. Some might call it “being self-empowered” but I would extend it further than that to a sense of power in general.

Often in the pagan community we have quite an ambiguous relationship with the concept of power. After all, power can be abused and misused. Power implies a hierarchy – the empowered “above” the powerless. Hierarchies, to many people, involve implicit abuse because we don’t like to compare or judge others as less than … God forbid that we would put ourselves ABOVE other people or be made to feel that we are LOWER than other people. But we are primates, it is part of our genetic biology to exist in social groups made up of hierarchies, so I dismiss any faintheartedness over who’s better and who’s worse. It’s like attractiveness – there will always be someone uglier than you and there will always be someone prettier than you. The same goes for character, power and influence. Get used to it.

So let’s just take hierarchy as a fact of life and return to the idea of “power”. It would be extremely easy to mistake power for something that we generate inside ourselves, that we CREATE power and direct it by our wills. This is an ego-driven misrepresentation of power. In my experience, the best and purest form of power is when you step out of your own way and allow the power to flow through you. If you can learn to call down the power, it will flow through you and like a funnel you can direct it towards certain areas of your life and invoke change.

That is, I think, a key point to remember with power, and by extension magick: it is most effective in affecting change. Life is in a continual state of flux. Our purpose is to develop and grow, to evolve towards the divine (either to be consumed by divinity, or to become divine); any attempt to put the brakes on a situation subverts the natural flow of life.

So the power that I am referring to is an external force, channelled by myself, which I can direct and apply at will (or more accurately BY my will). In knowing my authentic self, I remove blockages to the flow of that power; I can approach the source of my power (in my case, the spirits) with a truly honest heart. Know Thyself, was the maxim at the Temple of Delphi, and this goes deeper than any ego-centric, superficial knowledge of who you are, the mundane face that you show to the world. In my relationship with the spirits, the first thing I learned was “honesty”. If I want something, I need to be honest about it without guilt, without reticence or excuses.

Often we are taught that we should only desire “good” things because we are good people, or worse, we should have no desires at all. So we sublimate our desires and displace our need for A by giving ourselves the more readily available and perhaps more socially acceptable B. If you go to the spirits asking for B, when your heart is longing for A, either nothing will happen, or you will get B and feel dissatisfied or you will get a slap upside the head for being dishonest with the spirits. You can’t approach them with your neuroses and complexes and expect them to weed through the shit in your head to understand the poor little flower you are inside. No. YOU have to work through the shit. YOU have to learn radical honesty with yourself.

Sometimes I can’t always express the honest desire. I am aware of it, and I feel it, but I cannot adequately verbalise it. That is something different. In such cases, I can still sit before the spirits, explain what I can, then I open my heart and allow them to see the true desire, while I take full responsibility for the outcome of asking for my true will to become manifest.

If you want “something bad” to happen to another person, really want it with no scruples or hang-ups, then it will happen when you apply your own power: “your own power” being your relationship with the spirits and your skills in magick.

So I have learned to know my authentic self and I am applying my authenticity to my relationships by admitting my vulnerability AND not hiding my strength. Sometimes it is not always about hiding your vulnerabilities but also about down-playing your strength so you don’t intimidate or scare other people off. Humans can be very deceptive; the key is not to lose awareness of the masks you wear – always remember the true face under the mask less you one day wake up and believe that a mask is the true you … then, frankly, you’re fucked, and your magick won’t work and a whole host of other things in your life won’t work either.

Authenticity leads to greater power; greater power is a better relationship with spirits and a more effective magickal life. For me, these things combined together dampen the ever-present fear I have lived with throughout my life. Sancho Panza calls it my Lizard Brain: this is the Amygdala, that part of the brain which has been evolving for nearly 300 million years; the part of the brain that controls our fight or flight reactions; the animal part within us that responds to stress not as a civilised human but as an animal (you hurt me, I hurt you OR you hurt me, I keel over and play dead). An over-stimulated Lizard Brain leads to paranoia, aggressiveness or, like in my case, a constant state of frozen fear that has gradually exhausted me mentally and physically leading to chronic illness. My Lizard Brain is knackered from having been exposed to too many life-threatening situations. My Lizard was flat on his back, legs in the air; he had given up and was playing dead.

By expressing your authentic self you can calm the Lizard Brain. If the Lizard is calmer, he can rest and recover. My ever-growing power makes me courageous and counter-acts the habit of fear. This too will calm my injured Lizard Brain, giving me room and space for healing.

I am hopeful that through authenticity, my magickal practice and my developing relationship with the Akhu, the Beautified Spirits, who are always generous, I can look towards a future of health and wholeness. So mote it be.

©StarofSeshat 2013


Who is my enemy?

Over the last few months I have discovered the joys and travesties of Facebook Groups (not an option I had explored before). I have encountered trolls (not directly at me, just generally wandering the cyberscape) as well as overly egotistical admins who ban posts, responses and people willy-nilly in an attempt to keep some kind of Aryan purity of group intent and clique integrity, instead of which they turn the group into a vocal platform for a bolshy few and a minefield of vitriolic filled eggshells for those on the outside of the elected minority.

In spite of these online shenanigans, which I’m sure you are all familiar with, the thing that has struck me recently amongst Hoodoo and Vodou groups is the prevalence of talk about enemies:

I need to bind my enemies…
Have you put up protections against your enemies?
Have you done an uncrossing spell?
You need an uncrossing spell …
How can I stop people from talking about me?
How do I bind someone’s tongue?
How do I find out who is working bad stuff against me?

… and on and on it goes. At first I was interested in the answers and the stories, before I stopped: Who are all these enemies? How does one get one? And for that matter, how does one get so many?!

Enemy: A person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone. That’s the dictionary definition, but for me that is not enough. In my life, according to this definition, I will have made enemies; people opposed to me and what I do. But do I care? I believe this enemy relationship works two ways and if I refuse to “enemize” you by opposing you, well, then your opposition just kind of dribbles off into an ineffective, directionless waste of energy.

I have experienced bad things in life that have gone beyond gossip or people just disliking me; I have been raped, strangled, threatened verbally and physically abused. I have been in fear of my life. Once out of those situations, pagan friends have jumped on their boxes of judgement and out of a sense of outrage by proxy have insisted that I blast them with “my witchy thang”. But I have always had a sense of the precious nature of magick – it takes time, concentration, energy, and a little piece of me to work magick and frankly I don’t think the people who hurt me deserve any of those things which I could just as well put to good use (thereby actively benefiting me instead of just harming them) by spending time with friends, concentrating on my own wellness, turning energy to those who deserve it and save me for me and those who deserve to share the preciousness of my self.

So what I did was banish these people from my life. They no longer exist for me and I no longer encounter them. It is one thing to make someone suffer, but another to symbolically kill them and make their existence in your world cease. They are dead to me. Their physical death is irrelevant.

But if I met my so-called enemies with hate and spells to jinx and hex them, my focus on them would strengthen the connection between us. Hate pulls people as closely together on an energetic level as does love. If I really hate someone, then I don’t want them anywhere near me; and I don’t want to be joined with them etherically through my emotions which call them back again and again.

This is why in a banishing it is so important to rid yourself of anything associated with that person. If you do a banishing but keep a photo of them because it was “from the good times” and you are sentimental, then you don’t really want them to go; what you want is for them to change back to being lovely and that your relationship will continue. Banishment? Fail!

So I look at all these petitions and declarations about enemies and I wonder, “Why do you care? Why do you strengthen your attachment to that person, and therefore their influence over you by caring?” Protect yourself. Yes. Banish them. Yes. Freeze them out of your life. Yes. There are many ways to cut the astral cord that binds you, and that requires singleminded focus and belief that you really do want them out of your life. Or are you actually thriving on the drama? Do you like to play the victim as a sympathetic response can sometimes feel like being loved, and if you are lonely you will undergo many a masochistic thing to scavenge love-scraps from other people’s tables?

There may indeed be people who consider themselves my enemy. Cute. I consider them nothing … a breath on the wind. However, don’t think that I am forgiving, nor that I am a pushover. The fact is that I am a warrior, and I pick and choose my own battles; I have survived a lot and I will survive petty gossips and people whose tongues should rot in their heads. But if someone should turn against an innocent, against someone I love, then all bets are off. Once my anger is on, it is an anger with deep, deep roots and it comes in the form of Kali. I know how to be an enemy, but I choose not to be one. And those who would jump at my ankles and yap that they dislike me – shoo! You are nothing to me. You are dead to me.

I wonder if some of the Hoodoo and Vodou practitioners (especially the former) would learn to focus on more edifying things if they really considered the word “enemy” that they bandy around so freely.

Ultimately, as my aunt said to me once: If people keep treating you like shit, associate with a better class of person.

Sometimes spells, hexing and crossing work feels like putting a sticking plaster over a pus filled wound. You do it, it contains it momentarily, but the root cause is unaffected and you will keep having to cast your spells which will appeal to your ego on many levels: look at me, doing all this hexing! Look at me with all these enemies, I must be doing something right as even Jesus was rejected by those who knew him. And even Winston Churchill said, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” … But maybe you’re just a prick. Maybe your conduct encourages gossip. But do you really care what other people say? A confident person, content in their own skin, will walk the earth and be at peace with compliments and criticism because they say nothing (whether the good or the bad) about the essential essence – the divine spark within.

It seems to me that with all this talk of “my enemies”, hexin’ and flexin’ your mojo muscles, that perspective has been lost for the edification of your soul and spirit, for the purification and elevation of mind and heart. And none of this is so that you too can be the twinkliest fairy in the forest, it is so that you can begin to attune yourself in this life with the energies of truth and knowledge that will see you pass the crossroads without being challenged by Papa Legba himself; instead your heart will be weighed against the feather of Ma’at and it will be unencumbered by residual attachments to petty, human arguments and ego-fights.

So hate me if you like because I will cut you off at the knees and forget about you. Love me if your heart is big enough, because my love in return is more rewarding.

Enemies? What enemies? I choose not to acknowledge, and therefore empower, my enemies.

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” Sun Tzu

©StarofSeshat 2013


“Friends” for life? … fuck you.

The Tower

When The Tower appears in your Tarot spread expect the fall of old structures; things that you have contributed towards creating but which are no longer relevant in your life. As the structures crumble, it may be painful, you might get hit on the head by the odd brick or two. But ultimately for new edifices to be built, the ground must be razed and that takes effort as well as the commitment to letting go of the old in order to embrace the new.

Recently I have been mulling over friendships and relationships. Some have died a death and I don’t know why. I have also received contact from a couple of old “friends” and I wonder if I should pursue the friendships again after all these years. Yet, on the other hand, there is only so often you can write to a “friend” before you accept their continued lack of reply as the “Fuck you” they obviously intend it to be. Some people seem to be very laissez-faire about friendships; they throw themselves into it wholeheartedly like a kid with a new toy, only to get bored after a year or two when they decide you’re too much effort and move on.

I’m not perfect. I carry my own demons and issues that create challenges in relationships and friendships. I am phone-phobic … I hate to use the phone as all my friends know, so we work around that by texting, emailing and Skyping. Sometimes I can withdraw into myself because of my depression, but again, friends know that these are the times when I need them to reach out to me even more and pull me back into the land of the living. Just as they know my foibles, I know theirs. It becomes a mutual dance around our vulnerabilities, allowing each other just to be.

But paranoia is an ugly beast and some people misinterpret things and run with it. Suddenly there is bitching behind your back and you find that mutual “friends” have listened to the lazy bitching and have unfriended or blocked you on those dumb social networking sites. Again, the cowardly “Fuck you”… I hear it.

Others’ lives change and I become no longer useful to them. They marry and have children and suddenly I don’t “fit” their lifestyle as a single, non-conservative woman who doesn’t go dappy over babies, so I’m dropped. Or they marry into money and I am too poor and bedraggled to fit into their glamourous lifestyle, so I’m dropped. Or their fad for all things pagan, which made me so useful at one time, is passé so again I’m dropped.

I’m just really feeling it at the moment and I’m angry. I’m angry because people think they can pick me up and drop me whenever it suits them. I’m angry because people don’t care enough to say “Hey, I’ve been hurt, let’s talk …” and instead resort to bitching and turning others against me rather than having an adult conversation between them and me. And I’m fed up of always being the one to reach out and reassure, of not having emails answered or having someone really ask about me. I’ve had conversations with so-called friends where the entire time is spent with them wittering on about themselves and their lives without me hardly saying a word about myself … do they notice? Do they care?

The fact is that I just don’t have the energy to keep restarting friendships that are obviously dead engines. If you don’t want to be my friend, fine – fuck off. Seriously. Unfriend me. Disappear. Have a nice life. Because there ARE people in my life who are worth my time and don’t treat me like a timeshare holiday or Yuletide toy. Oh, and don’t forget to unsubscribe from my blog as well. I’d rather you didn’t clutter my statistics.

A line has to be drawn in the sand. I know who my friends are because they keep a dialogue going. Friends remember my birthday because they know it’s a tough day for me (and by the way, I had a great birthday recently, thanks to the effort and engagement of dear friends who cared – to them I say a huge thank you and I love you).

You may have been a fabulous friend in the past, but somehow I fell out of fashion and you’ve moved on. Time for me to move on too. Thanks for the memories but now I raze the ground and clear away the scrub to build a new edifice, a temple to lasting friendships and relationships – ones that I can rely on.

©StarofSeshat 2013


A healing start to the year

It’s easy after months of not blogging to develop something like a phobia against tapping at the keyboard again. Much has been happening in my private/spiritual life that is not for public consumption; not everything has to be announced to the world. And as I practice my reserve, I find it becomes more and more natural just to remain quiet. So why break the silence? It’s not because I have something to declare or important things to share, it is merely an inner urge to write – and this is my forum.

The year has begun with a huge focus on the physical body and health. As many of you know, my health is not the best and hasn’t been for the last 9 years. I had been looking forward to my 30s, but instead I fell ill when I was 29 and have spent nearly a decade reeling from one health crisis to another.

In January I had a hysterectomy to get rid of fibroid tumours in my womb. I am still in recovery having to take things a little easier than normal … initially a lot easier as I wasn’t allowed to lift anything heavier than a large glass of water.

New Year’s passed me by because in my head this operation was my “New Year”. It is major surgery and entailed risky complications at the very least. If I survived … if I didn’t succumb to infection or complications … then it would be a new beginning, a new relationship with my body – this is what I thought to myself.

I spent 2 months prior to the operation researching the effect of hysterectomies on gender identity and the essence of what it is to be a woman. I read medical texts and feminist literature. I read about bodies, hearts, minds and social roles. The only conclusion I came to from all the personal interviews was that I could not in any way predict how I would feel after the hysterectomy: some women who never wanted children, suddenly found that they grieved their childlessness, other women who were secure in their womanliness felt threatened and “less” of a woman.

My own response has been balanced and undramatic. I think I did all my grieving, questioning, worrying and oscillating in the months before so that after the operation I could just focus on my body. And that is what I have done.

Recently I have changed my diet to a low fat rawfood vegan diet (no more cooking!). According to the Mayo Clinic (the leading body for scientific research into Fibromyalgia), this is the best diet in terms of reducing symptoms of Fibromyalgia. Would I recommend this diet to other people? Am I going to become a vehement advocate preaching the benefits to non-Vegan cooks? Nope. In fact I would go so far as to advise people not to do this diet unless they absolutely, definitely wanted to. It’s a tough diet and not for anyone who is half-hearted about their health or looking for a quick fix. I hope I can stick at it. I already see the benefits for me personally, and that’s the most important thing. If you’re interested in learning more about the raw vegan diet, see my Minimalist blog: HERE

Since losing my womb I have made a conscious effort to connect with the cycles of the moon. I am once again doing regular ritual work at the new and full moon. It’s been a busy time since my operation what with Imbolc, the moon cycles and the upcoming Spring Equinox. It’s good to exercise my ritual finger after it being so long dormant. Ritual connects me with the seasonal cycles, the astrological movements, my own body’s rhythms and the spirit world. It is healing and empowering on so many levels.

In addition to ritual I am meditating more often, having found meditative approaches that work for me – sometimes mantra based, sometimes visualisation based, object focused or “blank mind”.

Every day I am making an effort to connect positively with my physical self. I am working hard at my own healing process, focused on the future and the will I wish to make manifest. Consequently I am feeling for the most part strong, content, positive, hopeful and physically connected. Yes, I still have wobbly moments and down days, but I am moving forwards and beyond that.

The key for me is a multi-directional approach: I do not work just with my body, but with my mind, heart and soul as well. No part of the self should remain untouched when striving for healing. We cannot compartmentalise our existence and focus on one part to the exclusion of the whole. Healing is a holistic experience, if not, then most likely we are just putting plasters over broken bones.

©StarofSeshat 2013


Death and morality

Precisely a year ago today I tried to kill myself. My best laid plans were only thwarted by me passing out due to the high dose of pills in my system. However, before going unconscious I did various things of which I have no memory … things that only came to light through hints and clues on the following morning: food left half-prepared in the kitchen, pastel marks all over the floor from the one exceedingly creepy and disturbing drawing I did while “under” and bruises down the one side of my body congruent with having fallen downstairs. I have no memory from the 20th or so pill (I took over 70) until the time I woke and thought, “Shit. I’m still alive.”

So whereas the blogosphere is probably full of annual retrospectives, I can truly say, looking back at my year, that I started it at rock bottom.

Up to that point, my life had been very much focused on the past and the present. The latter merely being a hamster’s wheel sprint from the former. This year I have discovered the joys of looking towards a future.

Things that have helped me this year: new friends, the continued support of Sancho Panza, my rats, my devotion to Pomba Gira and my relationship with the Hoodoo spirits. All variations of inter-personal relationships of one kind or another. The key has been to establish and maintain connection – something that is diametrically opposed to my intrinsic nature, which is solitary and self-sufficient.

Part of LHP philosophy is to separate yourself from the crowd (or “herd” if you are being particularly Thelemic). LHP practices are greatly focused on challenging your preconceptions and assumptions, shocking you out of ambivalence and throwing you out of your comfort zone. The reason for some people (e.g. Luciferians) reciting the Lord’s Prayer backwards is not for some Hollywood-esque drama, but in order to shock and challenge what may be a deeply held belief for you; the only way to truly be free of a former belief is to act counter to it, if you find you can’t or you experience internal resistance, then the belief still holds sway over you. Freedom is the aim! Hence the reputation of LHP practitioners for being hedonistic, sex-mad, drug fiends – they deliberately move against the set morals of society to free themselves of the moralistic hold of the masses. Germaine Greer suggested that women would never be entirely free from the constraints of a patriarchal society until they tasted their own menstrual blood – same principle: to be free, you need to overcome the “ugh” impulse that we have for so many things, those invisible bars of our invisible prisons.

This is all well and good. But if you spend your time solely with the sex-mad, drug fiends then sex and drugs become the norm; they morph into the standard of that particular social group and, in my opinion, you are bound and beholden to break those standards as well. Consequently being a celibate in a sex-focused world can be just as much of a revolutionary act as being a nymphomaniac. Ultimately it’s about being honest with yourself and finding out where your own boundaries are and where you stand in relation to society. For example, I have done Ford’s Lord’s Prayer backwards ritual and felt no shock or fear of retribution from a god who didn’t like to be referred to as dog.

Society at large is comprised of smaller social groups – a fractal of human enclaves. The first step in freeing yourself is to become aware of the groups you belong to, and there will be several: your own family will carry its own set of assumed standards; you will have ingested another set at school or in some other institution like the army; then there are the wider norms of society, those things that are generally accepted as right and wrong. By allying yourself with other groups in adult life you take on further sets of memes. And amongst all this there will be overlaps – consider those overlaps as stronger directives, ones that “everyone” agrees with, or do they? As individuals, I rarely meet anyone who seriously suggests contravening the general social ethic “Do not kill”, and yet societies condone mass killing for reasons of politics, oil, wealth and geographical boundaries … strange that we bother to teach our children that it is wrong to kill at all when each generation must see its country head to at least one war “for the sake of xyz”. Some people actively agree with a “just war” [sic] – are they then not agreeing for that moment to kill? And what about those who are anti-war armchair activists, people who shout in the pub about the injustices in the world, but who don’t even vote? Aren’t they at least complicit through non-action with killing? And does “Do not kill” even limit itself to humans? So, I would say that on some level we are all contravening the rule of not killing, even though for most it is an implicit contravention.

The same applies to other major or minor “rules”, there is connivance on some level with everything we, as a society, deplore … even something as extreme as child abuse is given the nod through the sexualisation of children – look at the consumer products aimed at our children who are so often dressed as little whores, forced to parade themselves in skimpy clothing, tiny hands reaching out for the outsized bosomed dolls with boyfriend-accessory. Yes, everything we condemn is at some level condoned in today’s Western society.

So our world has become a greyscale of morality, neither black nor white; everything is permitted, if you just market it the right way. And if you’re doing what everyone else is doing then what social or moral boundary will you challenge? How are you freeing yourself from the masses when you swallow the Consumerist Philosophy LHP™ ©Seriously Dark? Turning to the Left-Hand Path ends up being a mere fashion statement, a shopping list of so-called depravities, a pseudo-spiritual bush tucker trial of things that make you go hmmm. The more you try to be different, the more you become the same.

By trying to commit suicide I committed a socially accepted taboo. Just me speaking openly about it, probably makes some of you feel uncomfortable. Was I right or was I wrong to try to take my own life? As far as embracing taboos and pushing boundaries go, it’s not something I would recommend to everyone. In that moment, I embraced death completely. In fact I had spent my entire life flirting with death, allowing him to cop a feel every now and then until that moment when I gave myself up physically to him. But either he turned me away or life pulled me back and for the first time ever I have learned this year what it is to want to live and see a tomorrow, to long for a future.

I don’t have any answers from the grave concerning social morality, partly because I find the concept of morality to be such a subjective thing, shaped by time, geography, culture, religion, etc. Who can really say what is right or wrong, except the individual who must create her or his own morality to live by? In creating our own morality, we must also accept that it will clash with another person’s self-created meme. I levy equal criticism against the person who never questions their moral framework as I do against the person who rebels against social norms for the sake of rebelling as if purely the action will transform them spiritually, or worse make them “cool”. But in either case the needs and beliefs of the individual cannot and must not be viewed separate from the communal whole. Quoting Dion Fortune:

In the Aquarian Age, or so I believe, there will be a high degree of individualisation combined with a high degree of social integration. This can only be achieved if each individual has a strong sense of social duty; if each citizen says in the true sense, “L’etat c’est moi” [I am the state]. We can judge the rightness or wrongness of any action by extending it in a straight line and asking ourselves what would happen if everyone did that?”

This Kantian idea of universal morality makes good sense but is rarely, if ever employed, and certainly never employed on a wider social level (cf my point above about “do not kill”). And LHP philosophy, as much as I have gleaned, rarely speaks for society but instead for the individual. Some criticise LHP ideas as a source for breeding anarchy and the downfall of society … maybe, IF anyone ever thought that everyone would attempt to follow the Left-Hand Path, which nobody does. It is a path for a few brave/deluded/inspired/depraved [delete as applicable] individuals. So should society carry the burden of these rebelling few? Why not? Both society and the LHP individual move along a greyscale of morality, as shown above, but it is the LHP-er who walks (or should walk!) with awareness of what she or he is doing, and it is awareness that distinguishes the artist who applies paint with discrimination and focus from the ape who trips over a few tins of paint creating an abstract mess on the floor.

And this is the point: whatever you believe, however you create your morality, do it with awareness and with an artist’s eye to your creation. Be true and honest with yourself and your role in relation to those around you and society in general. Paint the full picture, not just part of it; become aware of all the colours in your moral palette, not just the polar shades of black and white. Don’t paint only blue because you see that your neighbour is painting with blue; and don’t stick solely with yellow for the same reason. Don’t be complacent with your artwork because a slight change in the ambient light (a change in circumstances, relationships, health …) could alter your masterpiece completely.

A year ago I tried to kill myself. Tonight I sit here, writing to you, I am connecting with you. The same night, a year apart, different colours, different light. Black is the hardest colour to paint over; if you’re not careful it shows through every other colour, adding a darker tinge to the brightest shade. It’s difficult not allowing the dark of last year to tint my experience of tonight. It takes merely an inward glance for me to return to that spot on the floor with packets of pills all around me. But these days I am painting with colours – my subjective moral universe has expanded from “I” to “thou”. I am connected to and aware of those I consider part of my community. I am in relation to various people who are important to me. Malkin speaking of Martin Buber’s concept of “I” and “thou”:

I-thou relationships … are our paramount source of spirituality. Each relationship is unique. Each partner to it discovers the “thou” in the other, his or her unique personhood. Moreover, as the relationship unfolds, each one discovers his or her own “I”, just as every child discovers his or her “I”, as a result of the developing bond to parents. This is the relationship that takes people out of the solitude into which every human being is born.

I am no longer entirely alone, although I continue to strive for self-sufficiency. I am growing in awareness of my fellow creatures – human and non-human. And as such, my moral horizons are broadening to encompass more than myself and more than a reaction to Other. Awareness and connection form the needle of my moral compass, and tonight they are both pointing towards an acceptance of life. I don’t reject death (we are too well acquainted for that), but I do hope he stays his hand for another year while I enjoy the full range of colours on my palette.

©StarofSeshat 2012


Self and Other …

Whoremoans [sic]… Yesterday was a day when things flipped on the edge of a coin. Great one minute, in tears the next; everything feeling poignant. Months ago in such a hormonally driven state I cried when I saw a dancing dog. Really? It’s just a dog. But it’s dancing! Sob!

The brilliant biting sun of yesterday replaced today by clouds and a deeper chill. The ground is still too warm, throwing up crocuses and spring flowers which will all be killed with the first frost. So much death on the horizon – winter creeping up and taking us by surprise. The reasoning mind noting the excess of berries on the tree; people drawing on old folklore about heavy berry harvests meaning a harsh winter. Geese flying in Vs, unsure which direction they should head in. Robins happy but not looking fat enough to survive, as the instinct to overeat and build a fat reserve is inhibited by the plethora of insects still buzzing on warm days … even the odd wasp and bee. Bees should be sleeping deeply and dreaming of flowers by now.

I sat in the garden yesterday writing A Plan, saw Other (the local stray cat – named Other by me and my neighbour as he is the “other cat” who doesn’t belong round here). I called to him. The look of recognition and joy touched me as he scampered down the wall and pegged it down the long garden to see me (good job he didn’t start dancing). Normally he is such a reticent cat. Our first moment of contact was during a session of yoga in the garden. I settled into lotus for meditation and when I opened my eyes there he was sitting in front of me just staring – from awareness of Self to Other. That was the first time he let me touch him. Since then he can be approached cautiously. The last time his lip caught on a fang and I saw the beautiful skull underneath his black and white fur: “When you die, will you rot in my garden? Will you? Hmm? Will you? Purrrr. Do that for me!”

I’m in skull withdrawal and the paltry offerings of commercial Halloween do nothing to satiate my need for bone or decorative skullwork. Samhain fast approaching. Some acquaintances off doing their own thing – apparently I’m too “dark” for them. I think they are right. I have something else planned with Others: part of three days of ritual – one day for me, one day for a man I care deeply about, one for me and my friends. And so my own awareness expands from Self to Other.

Last night I finally finished Leonora Carrington’s book, Down Below. This is the problem with reading 20+ books at the same time, I am a water-book-boatman, skimming over the waters, drawing lines between ideas and reading deeper meanings into connections between multiple sources. I believe each moment to be an opportunity to experience a greater lesson than just the words on one piece of paper or the words from one person’s mouth. Rarely do I dive into just a single book, but that too is a refreshing and different lesson, necessary at times.

Her final words describe how she slipped from madness to lucidity through the words of a “reasonable man”. The world in which she had guided the planets and seen the true nature (or warped nature) of those around her dissipated like mist on the river. “He ‘deoccultized’ the mystery with which I was surrounded…” She realised that medication was just medication not a form of hypnotism, and that her obsessions with one man (who patently took advantage of her vulnerable state) could be broken by having sex with another.

All in all a most unsatisfactory ending; but such are endings in life. Encounters, situations and people are rarely cut clean and tied up with a nice bow. It’s a blood and guts affair that hurts, but with awareness it is a pain of purging not festering.

An awareness of Self and an awareness of Other – at times an inseparable dance or a balderdashing bashing of heads. But My time is currently one not of moulding Myself to anOther’s needs and feelings but of re-creating My sense of Self and Being. If Other fits My “occult” world, it may stay; if not, it may be deoccultized, as I continue to defy that thing called a “reasoning and reasonable mind”.

©StarofSeshat 2011


What is a pagan?

If you wish to copy this text, please link back to this blog and accredit me, the author. Thank you.

Nb: If you find two pagans who agree, you haven’t found two pagans! 😉

What is a Pagan?

A pagan is person who practises a spiritual path; he or she follows either an established tradition under the “Pagan” umbrella or takes aspects of paganism, which are meaningful to him or her, and creates a way of living. A pagan is not somebody who only worships once a week or at special times in the year; a pagan path embraces all aspects of living and is a philosophy as well as a spirituality.

So what comes under the “Pagan” umbrella?
There are innumerable pagan paths: some draw on native religions such as the traditions and beliefs of Native Americans; some look to history and “re-kindle” Greek, Roman or Egyptian mythologies; then there are the neo-pagan religions of Wicca and the eclectic lifestyles and approaches of Green Witches, Hedgewitches and Kitchen Witches. There are Discordians and the followers of the Feri tradition, modern-day neo-shamans, magickians, wizards and witches. But not every pagan is a witch!

Pagans can be monotheists (believing in one god or goddess), polytheists (believing in two or more gods/goddesses), polyentheists (believing that god/goddess exists in all things) or even atheists (no belief in a god/goddess).

Paganism can (although does not have to) incorporate occult studies, and indeed some occultists would not describe themselves as pagan, although some definitely would. The occult world includes Thelemites (who follow the religion/philosophy of Aleister Crowley), Satanists (Satanism as created by Anton LeVey in the 1960s), Luciferians, Gnostics, Qabbalists … the list is virtually endless.

Isn’t it a bit vague having so many different paths under one word?
Yes and no. It can appear vague and confusing when you first approach paganism, but once you start learning, studying and exploring you will be overwhelmed with the richness both of paganism and the diversity of the people attracted to it. One thing is key amongst pagans: to accept the path that the other person walks. There is no preaching and there are no attempts to convert people. We are happy to be who we are, and we rejoice in seeing other people be who they truly are. Human diversity is celebrated within paganism!

Is paganism a cult?
No, paganism is not a cult. There is no one figure who commands all pagans. Even though there are occasionally oddballs proclaiming that they are, for example, King or Queen of the Witches, this is something rejected by pagans and usually cause for much hilarity.

We abhor bullying and coercion in any area of life and this is something that goes very much against the Pagan Path. To reiterate the previous answer: There is no preaching and there are no attempts to convert people. We are happy to be who we are, and we rejoice in seeing other people be who they truly are. Human diversity is celebrated within paganism!

The word “cult” is often used as a slur word to disparage someone else’s religious or spiritual beliefs. Often people using the word “cult” have their own agenda of conflict and negativity, rather than a true desire to promote spirituality and personal growth.

Are pagans devil worshippers?
The majority of pagans do not believe in the devil; Satan or the devil for them is a construct of Judeo-Christian religions and mythology. There is a lot of confusion in this area as the pagan image of, for example, Pan (who is the god of nature, hunting and revelry) has been subsumed into Christian culture as the epitome of “what the devil looks like”. Pan is by no means an evil god, and many pagans would even dispute the existence of evil itself, but would say that “evil” is energy just as “good” is energy: a gun is only a piece of metal until the gun-holder decides how to use it. This is a key point within paganism: there is no doctrine telling us what is wrong or right. We each carry a heavy responsibility as to how we use this “moral energy”. It would be easier if we were told what to do, but instead we have to cultivate self-awareness, respect of others, sensitivity to the environment, a knowledge of cause and effect and make our decisions bearing all this in mind within our spiritual framework.

Are pagans witches?
Some pagans are witches, but the majority are not. Many pagans do not practise witchcraft or spellwork. Witches can come in many guises: some are Wiccans, some Dianic witches, Green Witches, Hedgewitches, Kitchen witches, etc. Traditional witchcraft and Voodoo even draw on the spellcraft of Pennsylvanian Christian pow wow magic. Witchcraft is like a river with many tributaries feeding it – some of which lead to surprising sources.

What is a pagan ritual?
The answer to this will depend very much on which tradition you choose to work with. A pagan ritual in general will aim at focusing the energy of the person or participants (if it is group work); this energy can be drawn from themselves or from any of the Five Elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Ether/Spirit, for example. Sometimes the energy is focused on sending healing to people, or on blessing the group, reconnecting with deity or many other things.

Rituals can be either in a group or worked individually. Rituals can be as elaborate or as simple as you wish. The main point, however, is to learn the basics and for that there are many good books and (through the Herefordshire Moot) willing people to teach and advise you.

Do pagans believe in Jesus?
Some do and some do not. Many pagans believe in a wide variety of higher beings. Jesus is one of these beings for some pagans. Some believe he was a great spiritual teacher, but not a god. Some have no feelings about him at all.

Who is the pagan god?
There is no single pagan god. As mentioned before, some pagans believe in one god or goddess, some believe in two or more and some believe in none. It depends on the tradition you are called to work with.

What do pagans do?
Pagans are just like anybody else. You will find pagans working in industry, in the military, employed, unemployed, well, sick, happy, sad, divorced, married, hand-fasted (pagan marriage) and other. Most pagans will work around the pagan year honouring the equinoxes and solstices, marking the new moon and full moon. Some will do elaborate rituals in groups or on their own, some will do nothing more than light a candle and internally connect with what is important to them.

Do pagans pray?
Some pagans pray in what would be recognised as a “traditional way”, others use forms of meditation, drumming, chanting or dancing. There are many ways of connecting with deity and pagans are pragmatic in that, if it works, they’ll try it!

Where are the pagan churches?
Most pagans would say that their church is Nature and that She is where they worship. Others might say that when they cast a circle (create a sacred space), that is their church. Since pagans believe that deity is everywhere, however deity is conceived, the idea of a fixed building in which to worship is unnecessary.

How do you become a pagan?
Try firstly to read as much as you can about paganism and its different offshoots. Meet up with pagans. Ask lots of questions! When you feel the time is right, you will know how best to dedicate yourself to your chosen path and deity or deities. Most people begin with a personal, individual dedication. Groups, such as covens (not all groups of pagans are covens), do not usually allow people to join them until they have shown a commitment to studying and learning about that particular path. A moot, however, is a social environment for meeting pagans: you don’t even have to be pagan to come along, just bring your interest and respect for others.

What do I need to be a pagan?
You only need yourself and a sincere interest to learn, a yearning in your belly that this is where you belong, combined with an open heart and mind for your fellow pagans. No one is going to judge you if you step on this Path and decide at a later date it is not for you. Our Paths can be winding ones, and each step teaches us something valuable.

Why do people say bad things about pagans?
People often ridicule what they do not understand. Hollywood has also created many damaging and untrue stereotypes. This is why it is important for people genuinely interested in paganism to inform themselves from reputable authors and to meet up with real pagans. You cannot teach your paganism by watching “Charmed” or “The Craft” or any other light entertainment. Paganism is a spiritual way of living that requires commitment, soul-searching, self-awareness and hard work. Nothing worth having comes easily, but the joy of finding yourself on the right Path with like-minded others can’t be overestimated.

©StarofSeshat 2011


An occult truth

Having read David Starr Jordan’s essay The Philosophy of Despair (which was surprisingly optimistic), I am now reading A Series of Lessons in Raja Yoga by William Walker Atkinson. In a description of the occult awareness of “I”, the author talks of the initiate’s arising sense of self through the Instinctive Mind which is based in certain feelings, wants and desires of the body, representing form and substance; such people use their thinking power purely for the gratification of their bodily desires and cravings. Their “I” is bound up with the senses and with those things that come to them through their senses.

The next stage is when the initiate advances to a higher conception of the “I”, she begins to use mind and reason, passing on to the Mental Plane, where the mind begins to manifest through Intellect. The mind seems more real than the physical self, and at times she is able almost to forget the existence of body.

However, in this stage the initiate is continually confronted with the Unknown. The higher the level of “book learning” the greater this disturbs her.

The tortures of the man [sic] who has attained the mental growth that enables him to see the new problems and the impossibility of their answer, cannot be imagined by one who has not advanced to that stage.

In this stage the mental self is considered a higher partner to the lower companion, the body. There are more riddles than answers. She becomes unhappy.

Such men [sic] often develop into Pessimists, and consider the whole of life as utterly evil and disappointing – a curse rather than a blessing. Pessimism belongs to this plane…

This is where I am at the moment. I am reassured by the encouragement that there is no going back, that once on the Path there is only stagnation or forward movement.

In a suggested meditation on “The Realisation of the I”, the author describes a meditation where the initiate is to focus on the Ego being the Centre of Thought, Influence and Power – once recognised, these qualities will become manifest. This is not about comparing yourself to others or denying the centredness of other people: it is an endeavour to realise that

…YOU are a great Centre of Consciousness – a Centre of Power – a Centre of Influence – a Centre of Thought. And that like the planets circling around the sun, so does your world revolve around YOU who are its centre.

Such realisation is not a mental or intellectual exercise, but a gradual expanding of consciousness through meditation and concentration. This is an occult truth.

©StarofSeshat 2011


Maggots Part I: Know your maggots

I am just recovering from one of my sugar crashes. It hit me rather quickly following emails I was writing. I lay down to read Aghora Vol. I, thinking I was tired, and found myself spiralling into the awful in-between state of unconscious-but-conscious, incapable of doing anything except feeling the extreme cold in my body. When I enter such crashes (as I call them), my thoughts get stuck circulating around the last few things I was considering; like water draining down a plug, the thoughts turn high-speed in a vortex deeper into my subconscious. Most often I am caught in conversations with work colleagues, or about household concerns, but today I was stuck on something I had written and the last few words of Aghora that I had read.

I had written to a friend about how I am struggling with the concept that some people just do not have the capacity to understand and embrace certain esoteric knowledge and concepts. In a world that tries to ensure equality on all levels for everyone and where any difference is laden with sub-clauses of how the difference makes them equally valid, equally ‘good’, equally … well, equal, it is a difficult subject area to discuss without sounding like a fascist. As in my post Fill the void with sensual pleasure I compared certain people to rats, that the level of their being was firmly entrenched in survival and distraction: food, sex, food, sex, entertainment. Firstly my comparison must be understood against the fact that I have a very great love of rats. My own rat is my cherished friend, and I have already spoken about how I tend his shrine to Karni-Mata in his role as her kabbas. His being may focus on animal urges, but his value as a spiritual being is evident. Also, I call to mind another comparison I made (in a post I can’t find!) about this path we walk and that sometimes we walk parallel paths and have company; sometimes we shout to the people behind (encouragement, directions or a plain ole Hallooo) and at other times we look to those ahead of us and gain our support and focus from them. But there are others even further back on the path who would not hear us if we shouted, and people much further ahead of us who are not even aware of our existence. This is not a value judgement, but a description of the different passages that sparks from a fire take as they ascend into the sky to join with the stars. Some extinguish as soon as they separate from the fire, othes make a valiant effort but are lost in the dark, while others take the solo flight holding the upper lights firmly in their sight.

And then my spiralling thoughts caught the energy of why I get so frustrated when I brush up against another’s fantasy … This is not because I am a Creature of Truth, somehow less susceptible to weaving a more palatable chimera around the unpalatable fact of my weaknesses that I face each day. This is personal to me: I have been the victim of certain people’s recreated ‘truths’, a mere player in their fictional story and as such I have a knee-jerk reaction to anything that exaggerates or belittles the way things really are. I have seen people recreate the past in a way that makes it bearable for them (thus denying admission of their role in their own and other people’s downfall – a bucking of responsibility, sugar-coating and icing over a mouldy, rotten, maggot-ridden cake); and I have seen people just plain lie to make themselves out to be more important, more connected, more more more … because they feel less less less. I understand the motivation. I have a certain compassion. But my own experience as a victim of others’ chimeras makes me hate untruth with a passion … imagine someone painting a chameleon neon-yellow, smothering its own natural ability to adapt and change colour because neon-yellow suits their tastes, desires and projected wants … I have washed off most of the paint, but I still get palpitations when I come too close to a paint pot …

So I understand the cause and the effect, and I know that in my practice there are certain chakra meditations that would be beneficial to me, to soften the jumped-up, shout-about-it, get-my-knickers-in-a-twist reaction that I have to seeing sugar-coated maggot cake. Sometimes blogging doesn’t help as I have an outlet and an audience for such vitriol. And here, in my sugar-addled state of mind I decided, Right, I must stop blogging then. But that’s just running away; and I don’t do that. This aspect of me is both a weakness (leading me to judge others too harshly and too quickly) and a strength, because it generates an intense passion and enthusiasm – I CARE about the truth. I see and understand the fear and panic that makes a person reach for more icing when they see yet another maggot wriggling through to the surface. And don’t think for a minute that I don’t have my own colony of maggots, I do, but I wear them honestly about my neck and in my hair. Occasionally they get in my eyes and I see wrong; in my ears and I hear wrong; in my mouth and I speak wrong. But I try, try, try to be aware of every goddamn maggot on me, to know them by name, as it were …

This is a weekend of uncovering for me. Yesterday as I mentioned in a previous post, I was told very nice but very challenging things about myself. This chipped a hole in my own self-perception. Later that evening I was looking through some old photos and I came across a card from a friend. The words she had written (maybe 4 years ago … perhaps longer) drove a wedge into the hole and split me apart releasing a dam of grief, recognition and understanding.

It’s exhausting at times continually brushing the maggots out of my face, seeing when an egg-sack births yet another maggot for me to name and acquaint myself with. But I would rather this than fake it. We are living corpses. The fact of our death is inevitable … more inevitable than our birth ever was. Eat or be eaten? Allow the maggots to consume you or be consumed? Isn’t there a third option? Know your maggots by name and maybe they will whisper it to you…

©StarofSeshat 2009


The merciless path through the tended garden

I was interested to hear in David Beth’s podcast about the concept of the Merciless Path. How willing are we to sacrifice the comfort of living like others to pursue our spirituality? What are our priorities? Is our spirituality a mere hobby, an addendum to the rest of our life? Or is it our life, prioritised above all others and above all things? Is our passion for the divine compulsive or merely permitted at convenient moments?

In separating from my partner last year, I made a very conscious step to follow the Merciless Path. From then on, everything was to move me along that path; even my translation work I view as a means to an end, a means to fund my study. I am also lucky enough to work from home, which means I can break from work to do whatever ritual is required at whatever time of day; a luxury that not many people have.

So a commitment has been made. Sometimes that feels enough. Most of the time it isn’t. In listening to David’s podcast I became very aware of how little I know, and how far I still have to go. A tiny part of me (the child) sighed and wanted to sit and sulk. The greater part of me felt inspired and eager to ‘get on with it then’.

There is a quote in Aghora Vol. I (Svoboda) that describes it well:

To be a guru you have to say, “I know and I can teach you.” But if I say that, well, I’m finished. I can never learn anything else. I have shut myself off from anything new. If I remain a student all my life, though. I will always be ready to learn new things.

Although the least of my aims is to be guru to anybody (I have been asked and always respond with a gentle ‘no’ – I am willing to be a friend and exchange mutual discoveries and learn alongside a person, but I am no teacher), I am still conscious of how easy it is to rest for too long in the limited knowledge we possess. There is always more. To be reminded of and excited by another’s passion for More is a great inspiration to study and practice. It is like being reminded of the horizon when we have spent too long looking at the path directly in front of our feet; we have to be aware of the path directly in front to avoid stumbling and falling, but the horizon is the inspiration and reason for walking.

Another interesting point in David’s podcast was the questioning of our motivations in learning magick and in practising our spirituality. To really develop there needs to be a sharp blade of honesty applied to the fruit of our being – peel off the skin and see if the fruit beneath is truly edible, unripe or rotten. The pursuit of spirituality has been a priority for me since childhood, even before my introduction to monasticism, I knew that the relationship with god was the backbone to my life and always would be – I couldn’t conceive of a life that wasn’t focused around working towards divine union (something my dreams showed me at the time). And yet, even with such a focus it is easy to allow ego-motivated needs and weaknesses to infect our direction. I am starting to slowly uncover motivations that at times may drive me, but which ultimately steer me away from true divine union. This is a continual process of self-examination; a garden will always attract weeds, so the gardener must work at the soil while enjoying the fruits of her labours.

I have seen the level of work required in my spiritual garden, and I dare to see the potential there for growth. Time to get to work and get my hands very dirty.

© StarofSeshat 2009