[DEDICATED TO THE DEATH DAY OF ANDI D.]
Do birds sing at night in the cities
While darkness reigns on the land?
Lights imbue the air with iridescent glow
That tarnishes midnight creating
A subterfuge of sleep.
I lay awake three nights in a row
Listening to a lone blackbird sing
Even though dawn was a dream away,
Fantasy in the mind of Nut;
The morning star still hidden in her belly.
My world upturned while he sang a song
Of dawn, pressed into night’s breast;
His throat trilled vibrations of the sun
Into the bosom of Night, pricking her skin
So she bled into my mouth: I could not breathe.
Nature was inverted during those nights;
The spirit of day had invaded the Du’at,
The bark of Ra dragged screaming
Through the underworld where the dead
Heard the song of the thrice-black bird.
Cadavers quaked at the sound with longing
Remembering dawns when the blood
Pulsed, throbbed and rose in their veins –
A bloody dawn inside their own bodies
That now rotted in the earth.
I heard the dead groan at the agony
Of Beauty – Cosmic Shivers – that ululated
From that bird. As I lay listening,
Breath stilled under the Midnight Sun
I pondered my own death that surely must come.
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!
O Atum! When you came into being you rose up as a High Hill,
You shone as the ben-ben stone in the Temple of the Phoenix in Heliopolis.
Hail to you, O Atum!
Hail to you, O Becoming One
who came into being of himself!
You rose up in this your name of High Hill,
You came into being in this your name of “Becoming One”.
In Egyptian [Ennead] cosmogony, the world is depicted as coming into being out of the primeval waters of chaos (the abyss). The first thing to appear was the world-mound, the ‘mound of the first time’ (the High Hill alluded to in the passages above). Atum is the primeval hill itself. He is the creative principle that called the world into being from the original chaos.
The root of his name is in the word ‘tem’ which means ‘complete’ or ‘finish’ in both the constructive and destructive senses. He is the uncreator as well as the creator. At the end of the world he will destroy everything and return to the form of the primeval serpent.
He is also known as the Lord of Totality. Everything originates from him. Our kas (ka = the life force or double of a person that is released from the body seventy days after embalming) come from him.
He is Father of the Gods, he is the ‘self-engendered one’. By copulating with himself, he essentially masturbated the gods into creation. His hand thus represents the female principle inherent in himself. He was the father of Shu and Tefnut, the first divine couple through whom the other gods proceed.
He is the primal mound, the original creation. This was represented at Heliopolis (the main theological centre that established a form of orthodox belief around Atum) in the form of the ben-ben stone, which may have actually been a meteorite.
He is the Sun which is considered the primary factor in the process of creation. As such he is linked to the ‘self-developing scarab’ (the scarab was also believed to be self-engendering). Atum in his solar form was often fused with Re (or Ra) to become Re-Atum. The Coffin texts say that Atum emerges in the east and rests in the west – here he is the complete manifestation of the sun. But in funerary contexts he is shown as an aged ram-headed man travelling to the underworld each evening to be reborn the next day; consequently he played an important role in mortuary books. At other times Re is seen as the rising sun and Atum as the setting sun.
He is a chthonic god (i.e. pertaining to the underworld). As a primeval god and the Evening Sun he has strong associations with the underworld, as such his power is invoked in netherworld contexts. Atum is depicted in the Valley of the Kings as an aged, ram-headed figure supervising punishment of evildoers and enemies of the sun god, and as subduer of netherworld forces such as the serpents Apophis and Nehebu-Kau.
Atum is frequently depicted in anthropomorphic form wearing the dual crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. The main focus of worship was in Heliopolis before his cult was eclipsed by that of Ra, but his influence was widespread. In his underworld aspects he is shown with the head of a ram; in his chthonic form he is symbolised as a serpent. He can also appear as a scarab, mongoose, lion, bull or lizard.
“All manifestations came into being after I developed…no sky existed no earth existed…I created on my own every being…my fist became my spouse…I copulated with my hand…I sneezed out Shu…I spat out Tefnut…Next Shu and Tefnut produced Geb and Nut…Geb and Nut then gave birth to Osiris… Seth, Isis and Nephthys… ultimately they produced the population of this land.”
Hail and honour to Atum.
The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, Richard H. Wilkinson
Egyptian Religion, Siegfried Morenz