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 …
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.
This afternoon I watched a talk on “the art of seduction” by a tall, slim, beautiful Hispanic American female dancer. She travelled between the US and Cuba to study with the best dance teachers and she had a message to convey, namely that we should all be playing at the art of seduction to get what we want and it was all about desire, confidence and arousal.
She began her talk by twisting and grinding a lap dance on a male talk host who stood there looking faintly mortified, not knowing where to put his hands or eyes which eventually settled somewhere above her head staring out into the distance at the audience.
She said that seduction was not about being sexual, so why begin her talk with a lap dance which she said was intended to get us thinking about seduction “in our guts”? She said it wasn’t about women sleeping their way to the top either; and her focus was predominantly on women doing the seducing although men got a brief mention too. So if it’s not about sex why did she enact the Rumba as a conversation between a man and a woman with the woman saying, “You want it? You want it? Come and get it!” and the man thrusting his hips towards the woman with “the intention of getting her pregnant”?
She held up Cuban society as a paragon of the art of seduction saying to start with that no woman had body issues in Cuba because there is no advertising (and therefore no negative media influence) since Cuba is a communist country; consequently women of all sizes used their bodies seductively and freely. She emphasized that seduction should start “as young as possible”, describing adults dancing at a social gathering and tiny children “grinding” (her word) next to them and being complimented for how beautiful they looked doing their seductive thang. She neglected to mention the high rates of child prostitution in Cuba …
This latter example reminds me of the hoo-ha surrounding the TV show My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding where viewers were horrified to see how children as young as 6 were up on the dance floor wiggling their hips and grinding their genitals while drawing attention to their little, flat chests. If this is an example of seduction at work in a sociological group, then one should also look at the lack of education amongst women in those particular gypsy communities because getting married and breeding carries more social standing and kudos than leaving school being able to read and write. But hey, if this dancer lady is right, why do they need an education when the art of seduction can get them what they want?
But at what price? She coquettishly described how Cuban men pursued women, seducing and seducing them over and over until “the desire began to burn”. She said that “A no turns into a maybe turns into a yes, and that’s so sexy!” … but what if a no is a no? Sexual harassment is not sexy in any country.
She claimed that any woman could play the art of seduction and be sexy … she looked down at herself and said, “I choose to be classy.” And I thought, “Just because you’re wearing trousers doesn’t make you classy.” She was undoubtedly a beautiful woman and I think she has just been brainwashed into thinking that because she has got a lot of what she wanted from men by using her looks, that she is somehow in a position of power and control. She’s not. The flirting seduction game will work until the guy wants you to follow through and calls you a cock-tease (at best) for not giving him what all your actions have promised him. The seduction game works as long as you are attractive – is she really naive enough to think that a dumpy woman with average looks stands as much chance of seducing her way through life as an exotic, standard-beautiful dancer?
And why should I have to lap dance a guy to get what I want? Why can’t I ask him as an equal and lay down the intellectual reasoning for why I should have what I want? Working for what you want need not be drudgery; getting what you want need not involve semi-prostitution of your self.
I’m not going to cite the source of the talk because frankly I don’t want to send any more attention her way. I found her talk to be naive and irresponsible. Sex is not a tool for bartering, not necessarily for any moral reason, but because in our society we are not bartering from positions of equal standing. Encouraging all men and women to seduce each other as a means of communication is ridiculous … how many men think with their heads once their cock is engaged for a start? The last thing we as women want is to encourage men into thinking that our “no” is merely a segue to us saying “yes”. And her suggestion to teach girls “as young as possible” to communicate through seduction is frightening and sickening.
There’s nothing wrong with flirting. There’s nothing wrong with being sexually active. But seduction cannot and should not become the predominant language because we have fought too long to be viewed as more than the sum of our tits and slits. At university I was probably the most vocal woman on my course which intimidated my male peers who used to flinch when I spoke and one even said, “I thought you were going to hit me then.” Why? Because an intellectually passionate woman can be scary as hell to men who are used to a simpering, flirtatious “yes-girl”.
So I do not advocate “the art of seduction” as a means to “get what you want” … you may get more than you bargained for… verbal abuse, sexual harassment, rape, to name but a few things. Instead learn to say “no” and mean it. Learn to stand on an equal (or higher!) intellectual platform than the men you engage with. Don’t treat him like a walking dick – he deserves more than that too! And don’t act like you were made from Adam’s rib – your bone to his boner. You are more than that and if you associate with the right kind of man, he will treat you as if you are more than that and not expect you to manipulate your breasts and vagina before he pays you any attention.
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.
Chakras are centres of energy which govern certain zones of the body; they convey energy between dimensions (or planes of existence) and are centres of subtle forces, the generation of prana (energy) and higher consciousness.
Sahasrara is located at the crown of the head or is sometimes considered to be above the physical body. Its lotus contains a thousand petals, of which five represent all the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet. Through this chakra, universal existence, with no boundaries of “I” consciousness in the body, is realised.
Parambrahma rules this chakra, symbolised by the triangle of consciousness (called Veeja). This centre represents the overcoming of obstacles, and merging into the void, or the supreme light beyond form, an experience beyond description, according to most yogic scriptures and saints.
Meditating here enables one to cross the boundaries of creation, preservation and destruction so you can taste the sweet nectar (amrita) that flows in a constant stream from Sahasrara. One is no longer subjected to birth or death. At this state of awakening, individual identity disappears forever and one identifies with supreme consciousness. Remember that the deathless state does not mean one will never leave the body, but rather that the conscious mind merging with the infinite is achieved as a permanent state which will not be disrupted by the body dying.
Information source: Energies of Transformation, A Guide to the Kundalini Process, by Bonnie Greenwell PhD.
I’m tamping furious that the bastard council didn’t even let the Guerrilla art stand for a week before they removed it (see this link -> HERE). The area looked sanitised and wiped clean, the presence of the two stags still hanging somewhere in the air.
I have been slowly digesting yesterday which was a pretty dire day. Woman wasn’t at art group. She has injured herself. I was surprised/not-surprised at the lack of emotion in me at that news. I found it interesting that Alpha Psych who so patently has a thing for her, gravitated to her seat and spoke about her art with the postscript, “Although we shouldn’t talk about her when she’s not here.” Preferably not at all, I thought. I find her simpering, weak-woman ways irritating. She is one of those women who plays the helpless female, batting her eyelashes like she’s in a sand storm. I look to the men and see with horror that they fall for this manipulation. It may look endearing in a woman under thirty, but post-50 you really need to chuck the hormone replacement and grow a pair.
As I walked past the copse cleared of stag-art, I thought about how nearly every female friend has confessed to me that they have hairs on their toes … as if it is an admission of something grotesque, anti-social and, even, inhuman. We are primates. We have hair, we have odours, we need food and sex. We are not hairless, odourless, silicone sculpted, poison-injected doll substitutes but creatures with lumps and bumps, blemishes and squidgy bits. We are not sanitised areas cultivated with weed killer, we are living Guerrilla art… and we too are subject to removal.
Sometimes we remove ourselves, sometimes others remove us. In my own case, one indicator of my Presence is an acknowledgement of my needs and the subsequent follow-through. Plastic dolls have no needs. Guerilla art demands your attention and emotional response.
Recently, people keep asking me, “What can I do for you? Is there something I can do for you?” and the question surprises me each time, baffles me, leaving my mind to scrabble for something, the multiple censors hacking at thoughts like a series of slicing blades, trying to find something to say, something doable, something that isn’t “too much”. Asking for anything is a HUGE force of will for me. The double edge of this being that if I do ask for something (and usually I will start with something very, very little like “message me”) and for some reason it is not possible, or life gets in the way for no other reason than life throws a curve ball, then I take that as proof that I am plastic to that person; I withdraw and shut down.
In my five-year relationship with my abusive ex I asked for something once. We lived in a small flat. I was in the living room, he was in the kitchen, and I asked him to please bring me a glass. He was so enraged that he grabbed the dirtiest glass and tossed it at me on the sofa. Serves me right for relaxing enough to think I could ask for something… except of course, now I think, what a tosser (literally and metaphorically)!
But things are very different these days. I am a different person, changing rapidly, although I still really struggle with asking for things. Fantasy is one thing, reality is another.
After my massage which has left me feeling marvelous and fully anchored in my squidgy femaleness, I went for a coffee at my favourite cafe. I saw an interestingly lopsided coffee and walnut cake and asked for a slice (that was always my favourite as a child … the thrill of surreptitiously sneaking in a hit of caffeine as I wasn’t allowed coffee or tea until older, the same justification saw me develop a love of rum and raisin ice cream … !). As the manager cut me a slice, she nodded to the new cook, a young girl, and said, “Cake looks lovely, K.” And it was, so I took the time to scare the bejeezes out of K. by sneaking up on her and growling “Gorgeous cake” in her ear … She blushed and looked chuffed to bits, nervous because cake-making is her new endeavour in the kitchen.
I hate it when women diss other women, when they sit in a public place, point and list the faults. “Look at her extensions! Look at her belly! Look at the way she’s dressed.” It used to be easier to mumble agreement, but actually, no: the girl with the bad extensions has a pretty face, the woman with the big belly looks like she would be a real laugh and great to cuddle, and the woman with the odd clothes looks like she doesn’t give a shit, so yay for her!
I always make the effort to acknowledge the good things about women (I don’t say anything to men because the usual assumption then is that you are cracking onto them … booooring!). When I worked in the bookshop, a woman came in with her 80+ year old mother in a wheelchair. The old woman had fancy nails, and I said how lovely her nails looked. Her face lit up like a beacon, “Really?! I’ve never had a manicure before, my daughter just took me this morning!” and she beamed with pride. I was so pleased I said something, kicking aside that cruddy English reserve that means you “shouldn’t” engage on a personal level with strangers (I only engage personally, incapable of doing otherwise).
The thing is, women need that positive feedback. And I hate women who enforce the negative cycle of synthetic moulding, the belief that anyone else should conform to anyone else’s ideas. Yes, men play a huge role in this; whatever the pundits say, this is still a patriarchal society. And as a friend and I joked recently when discussing weight, the last thing you want from a man is a bloody solution (have you tried such-and-such, why don’t you go on a diet)! No, what you need then is for him to say you are gorgeous and perfect, because to be honest, you probably are: note how I slip easily into pointing the finger away from myself to you – I can dish the compliments, although I struggle to take them. But I do love those friends who have actually said they are willing to invest “years” into complimenting me until it finally sinks in … drip, drip, drip – it feeds my parched soul and yes, I do feel the desert in me starting to bloom, for which I thank you.
So, embrace the gorilla [sic] in yourself! Be hairy and smelly. Eat and have sex. Be beautiful, because you just are.
I’m as tall as a cow. I found this out as I walked through the cow fields and one came up and eye-balled me. Cows today must be GM-cows because I’m sure they never used to be that tall, and at 1.75m I’m not short either.
Short. I wish that was the excuse for why I struggle so much with the stiles. Predominantly a British phenomenon:
Doesn’t look too tricky to clamber over, does it? But is it left foot first or right? Which leg do I swing over and when? Usually I get stuck half-way across and sit with a blasé expression, pretending to admire the view while I consider whether to just throw myself off the thing or tackle it limb by limb.
I encountered similar difficulties when getting into the jeeps and pick-up trucks of my family in New Mexico. They live in the mountain desert so it’s high off-roaders only for them. I tried reversing in, but my legs are two short. I tried launching myself in front first and army-crawling my way on elbows over the back seat. Nothing but nothing was elegant. My family found it hilarious. I pursued different options like an alchemist seeking a way to transmute base metal into gold; but my elegance remained tin.
This evening I sat down by the river, watching fish jumping for the evening flies. Four swans floated past, each raising up out of the water to stretch and flap their wings, not together or randomly but one after the other. I saw flowers floating past and thought about garlands of flowers offered on the Ganges. A flock of ravens hiding in a tree was disturbed and raised a great racket as they flew off – I have never seen so many in one group. The pinky-orange sun slipped behind a cloud and I headed home.
On my walk I thought about art group today. There was only me, Woman and Beta Psych, so we just sat and talked. Woman narrowly avoided having her eyes jabbed out with paintbrushes when she TOLD me that I wouldn’t self-harm if I had a boyfriend. I coughed up a fur ball and said, “Cutting is not about being single.” She said other stupid, facile things and contradicted herself, or damned me to hell as irredeemable, by saying that men would be scared off by the intensity of my scars. I’m fucked either way, or not as the case may be. I said, that such people could “jog on” as far as I was concerned, that I didn’t need namby-pamby people who cringed at the sight of my scars around me. Life is too short and there are plenty of people who accept all aspects of me, or who have indeed been there themselves. As an LHP-er I don’t think that I have to surround myself with the twee people to feel good. No I don’t have to be nice about people’s beliefs in angels because that will make me a good person. Angelly-Wangelly stuff does my head in as much as therapy-werapy stuff dressed up under the abhorrent term “life coaching” – both run the triple knife edge of doing nothing, being childish make-believe or doing harm to fragile psyches. In any case you might as well imagine a smurf on your shoulder and listen to what the smurfing hell it has to say to you … you will make just as much progress by channeling your own subconscious that way. You do not invoke an archangel for a cuddle, FFS.
I said, I missed TMIWTM. Woman asked, “What does he give you that you can’t get from us?” I replied, “Everything! I have told him things I haven’t said here, and he knows things about me that no one else here knows or will ever know.” She looked shocked. Beta Psych appeased her with, “One-to-one is very different to a group working environment.” You bet your bejeezes it is. I said that I had never been so emotionally close to a man before. I heard her jaw hit the floor. She doesn’t like TMIWTM. She saw him for a couple of sessions 15 years ago and he told her she needed marriage counselling. 15 years later, she still needs marriage counselling… today she admitted to violence in the marriage on both parts.
Nobody’s perfect. But I do get tired of people trying to heal others when their own lives are fucked; or people in bad relationships telling you that a relationship will sort all your problems; or when people pretend to be open-minded but have surprisingly narrow and sudden limitations. I’m fucked in the head. I know that and admit it freely. You literally read my heart on my sleeve and the state of mind in the scars on my arms; but at least I am honest about it. I don’t bullshit and I don’t play around with other people, pretending to be something I’m not.
If I’m tin, then I’m tin but I keep trying to be gold. And somethings will never change: I will always be as tall as a cow.
I am currently reading Bodies Under Siege: Self-Mutilation and Body Modification in Culture and Psychiatry by Armando R. Favazza, M.D. It is the first comprehensive attempt at dealing with the subject of self-mutilation from a cultural psychiatric perspective. I am only about 20 pages in, but I already feel that this man has understood the concept of self-mutilation not only from a cultural and ritual perspective but from the perspective of a mentally ill person.
Many people, knowing either vaguely or intimately my personal belief systems and practices as a witch, question and frown upon my use of a crucifix in my practices, and the fact that I often wear one when I am in a particularly bad “demonic” phase. The fact is I take great comfort in aligning myself with the voluntary self-mutilation that the mythic image of Christ allowed to be imposed upon himself. The crux of Christian myth is based around this voluntary sacrifice, but the issue for me is not sacrifice for another but identification with excruciating internal and external pain.
The images of Christ on the cross have been graced over the centuries with a virtual delight in the gore and excruciating agonies of this man-God. As such he can become the epitome and symbol of a self-harmer’s attempt to make peace with the forces inside and to say yes to life; because self-harming is not a suicide attempt but an attempt to avert suicide.
Quoting a discussion about Fakir Mustafa by Graver, Favazza says:
[Fakir] feels [the pain] not as a foreign invasion of the body but as a sensation of the body that separates the body from the mind.
And this is certainly one of the prime motivations for my own self-harming urges – to demarcate boundaries between mind, body, and I would add, soul, to separate out the mix and to ease the pain of their co-existence.
Suppression is a beautiful tool which can facilitate the survival of someone who has lived through the unspeakable; but it can too easily become a means of self-destruction, where the emotions that should be focused on “enemies” is turned inwards, thus indeed creating a form of social self-sacrifice. Favazza elucidates this point:
Blood has awesome symbolic and physiologic powers, as evidenced by its role in religious sacrifice, healing, the formation of brotherhoods, and blood feuds. When harvested properly, it can alter the course of personal and communal history. It is my contention that some mentally ill persons mutilate themselves as a primitive method of drawing upon their blood’s ability to foster bonds of loyalty and union among members of their social network, to demonstrate their hatred of and conquest over real and imaginary enemies, to heal their afflictions, and … to set right their relationship with God.
Favazza discusses the subject of self-mutilation within Christianity extensively, identifying possible schizophrenics, anorectics and self-harmers amongst the martyr crew. He writes:
It is clear that the individual human body mirrors the collective social body, and each continually creates and sustains the other. Misperceptions of reality, feelings of guilt, negative self images, antisocial acts, and all the other symptoms we associate with personal mental illness defy understanding without reference to the psychological, social, cultural, and physical integrity of the communal “body.”
Which leads me on to the disgust, bewilderment and rejection that self-harmers continually face from the “communal body”. Favazza’s statements support my own experience of the anger, disgust and fear that self-harmers illicit not only amongst passers-by but even amongst their so-called “caretakers”. Nobody truly understands the self-harmer from a psychiatric perspective and instead dismisses the person saying, e.g. it must be a chemical imbalance, or part of borderline syndrome, or a way of getting attention. Favazza summarises self-mutilation amongst the mentally ill as a morbid form of self-help, but warns that it is nothing to trifle with and that for those individuals who cannot control the behaviour it may end in unsightly scars or even “the loss of an eye”.
Personally, I wear my scars as a warrior would those won in battle. When your insides resemble the direst of Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings, and your outside is that of an amicable, sweet and smiling Englishwoman, there is a sense of relief when your external appearance begins to resemble the internal reality. Naturally this comes with extreme forms of social and familial rejection. Nobody likes to see pain, nobody likes to be forced to imagine what’s inside the person wearing the scars. There are very few who would reach out and kiss the scars, saying, “There is beauty in such life-affirming pain.”
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.
Last night before sleeping (or not!) I was reading Ean Begg’s book, The Cult of the Black Virgin. I have had a soft spot for the Black Madonna since my teens. In the transition point from Catholicism to Witchcraft she was a safe intermediary that hid my true desires under a barely acceptable semblance of Catholic doctrine.
Even today the Black Madonna is a hushed figure in the Catholic Church, most often passed off as a pagan hangover and fertility image, or at worst an accident of too much candle smoke, or a painting mistake. I am repeatedly astounded at how people put so much effort into hiding the truth.
When I lived in Germany I spent most of my time in the woods, sometimes whole days. One day I came to the edge of the wood and found a village. I wandered in and found a small chapel. It was barely big enough to seat 10 people. I walked in expecting to see one of the normal shrines dotted around the area and suddenly felt as if someone had taken all the breath out of my lungs: there was a Black Madonna. A moment I shall never forget.
In Begg’s book he wrote that in 1838 a new Catholic religious order, the Brothers of Christian Doctrine (located on two mountains in the Alsace and Lorraine in France) “fell under the spell” of a magus and mystagogue (love that word! I want to be a mystagogue!) known variously as Michel Vintras, the French Jeremiah, Elias the Artist and the Organ. Begg goes on to say:
Vintras preached the advent of the Age of the Holy Spirit, long prophesied by Joachim of Flora, which would coincide with a redemption wrought by the Virgin Mediatrix, and her predestined priestesses. In this new dispensation the greatest sacrament was the sexual act, through which the original androgyny would be restored. Thus on the mountain of Rosmerta, the love-goddess, the sacred prostitution of the old high places and the orgiastic communion of licentious Gnostics [ 🙂 Seshat falls over laughing] were celebrated anew.
Apparently there was “international support and interest” even from the House of Habsburg, but the police and bishops had their way (don’t they always) and the establishment was suppressed in 1852.
I am reminded of a religious peace conference I attended when I was 17. The days were split into small workshops and groups with a final joint meeting at the end where representatives spoke about the thoughts and findings of their particular group. I had attended a discussion on pantheism, panentheism and theism in nature generally. The discussion had wandered onto the lack of goddess imagery in Christianity. I remember being riled at only having a Virgin to look up to…
I was chosen as a representative for the group to put together a talk on our findings. I stood in front of 300+ people with arch-bishops, bishops, priests and clergy all around me. And I told them that Christianity was lacking the feminine, and that they needed to rediscover the goddess, and what was wrong with a bit of tree-loving… where was Nature in Christianity? How could it be a true faith and ignore the majority of creation when the divine was in every aspect of nature and could be found just as easily (if not more easily) in the fields as in a church. I was seventeen. When I finished, there was loud applause (particularly from the women), but afterwards a student priest from the group came up to me and said, “That’s not what we meant at all!” I replied, “Oh, but that’s what I meant…” See? Big gob even then 🙂
This dark goddess has appeared at various stages throughout my life, and I feel a deeper encounter with her awakening within me. In my mind she transforms from beautiful black to breath-taking skeleton … the Queen of the Dark and of the Dead. Through her there is Life. Blessed be her Hidden Names in the Hidden Places. All glory to the Black Madonna!