I have never called myself a necromancer. My doings with the dead as an adult I have taken in my stride as a witch, although my dealings with the dead stretch back into childhood. I have had no initiation and no training and so often my encounters with spirits have been cackhanded and unsatisfactory. Over the past 15 years I have developed a devotion to the dead and relationships with Egyptian deities who guide, protect and smooth the path of calling on the Aakhu, the blessed and beautified dead. I have listened, learned and experimented on my own. So it has been fascinating, instructive and gratifying to read Underworld from Theion Publishing and to find that what I do and what I have experienced so far is confirmed by the author, who is very obviously not only exceptionally knowledgeable in this field but is an adept in the doing. I wish I had encountered this book 30 odd years ago, but hey, things come to us when we are ready.
The author depicts the Underworld and death deities from different cultural models/mythologies, drawing a thread through them all without falling foul of New Age hodgepodgery. I have attended rituals where mythologies, deities and sacred symbols are thrown together like fusion cookery that ends up tasting vile and setting my teeth on edge. Not so this book which instructs through mythologies, shrine building, offerings and rituals how best to approach the particular deity and which deities require extra care and forethought. The author leans heavily on tradition without being anachronistic, and he/she also allows for sensitive developments and responses to the present-day world.
I have read before of soul-travelling to the Underworld, and how important it is to 1. seek protection of the relevant ruling deity and 2. to know the way (maps, passwords, monsters, traps, symbols, etc.). The latter in itself is daunting and also antithetical to my own experiences. For as long as I can remember, the worlds of Here, There, The Liminal etc. have been fluid; The Other slips through to Here, in Dream I am carried to There, in my mind’s eye I can turn to The Liminal … and the Shadows do not always remain shadows. There is nothing linear in my world for me to follow a path down from Here to The Underworld as dictated by some magickal traditions. However, Underworld (the book) suggests a much more accessible and practicable method for entering the Underworld through meditation and/or dream – read the book if you wish to know what and how … As a side note, the book may give solid instructions on necromantic practice and tradition, yet it is not dictatorial, instead it allows for people’s personal proclivities to guide them … if you want to leap in and learn that way, go ahead, but the author gives his/her experience-based recommendations that are absolutely worth bearing in mind.
A word on protection: you will need it. Underworld gives practical instructions on how to protect your space (think poltergeists, for example) and where to set up your space for best effect. Great emphasis is placed on gaining the protection of the underworld ruler you choose to work with and I would heartily agree with this. It’s something that should be undertaken for a lengthy period of time, in my eyes, so that you utterly integrate the underworld ruler and its essence into your psyche and thus instinctively call upon it even in your dream world. Sleep is a vulnerable time for anyone open to spirits; throughout my life, since I was very little, I have had times of being “attacked” by amorphous, roaming spirits that barely have any sense of consciousness except for a will to enter a living body. As any magickal person knows, the boundaries between dream and “real” are tenuous and permeable. But I would also say that some encounters with spirits are horrendous and terrifying and that’s okay… I read a comment in a forum recently where a woman was struggling to abandon the good/bad, angels/demons of her Christian upbringing. She essentially didn’t want to carry across the idea of evil to her new pagan beliefs. She asked if instead she could just approach “all spirit beings and deities” as neutral. She’s allowed to approach them however she wishes, but the responses she gets may not fit into such a beige remit! Some of the most glorious encounters I have had have been terrifying, and yet I was left afterwards with a longing for that entity/entities to return – ecstasy can be found in dread! I have received visitations from two different entities to whom I gave a lot of attention over a long period of time (in one case years). They began to manifest more and more tangibly until I could hear the one with my physical ears and touch the other with my hands, like holding onto hard air. And then on each occasion I freaked, I gave in to fear, and banished them because I didn’t know what to do or how to control things, even though in those two cases each entity seemed well-disposed towards me. And how I have regretted those banishments. Protection is vital, but don’t expect “perfect protection” to circumvent a natural sense of fear. Only the reckless and foolish feel nothing and rush in with a sense of entitlement. The rational mind is good at quelling fear, but it is also excellent at banishing, at erecting walls between Here and There. And this is why I would encourage readers of Underworld not to stop at reading the words but to dwell on them awake and as you fall asleep to encourage and open up a dialogue between you and the dead/deity as to how you should proceed further. The more you align yourself through the practices in the book, the more you will know how to hone that practice. I have certainly felt nudges to apply more effort, beginning with thoroughly cleaning and re-laying one of my altars that I had let go to dust and being more generous in my offerings …
But what are the dead for? Honestly, I struggle with this. The question itself implies that they are a means to an end, which feels reductive to me. Underworld speaks of the wealth of knowledge that the dead have and naturally points to divination as a way to access this information. As a teenager I engaged with a male spirit through bibliomancy. He gave me very accurate predictions and advice to all my teenage angsts and petty concerns. If only I had taken account of his advice in my actions, it would have saved me a lot of trouble. But hey, I was a teenager, who DID I listen to at that age?!
Underworld gives examples of rituals that ask for certain things from the death deities, certain very tangible, this-world things. I have done the same, petitioning the Neteru and the Aakhu. Some death deities, as the book says, are naturally inclined to help with particular things, others really couldn’t give a toss and you’d be hard pushed to make them take an interest (the same could be said of all deities – pick your allies carefully). Some say the dead themselves understand better the needs of a human living this life and if you treat them well, they will lend their bony hand. But it would be a waste to get stuck on merely what materialistic things can be attained, although to everything there is a time. The majority of my dead-time is spent in devotional work to the Neteru and the dead. Through that devotion (prayer, meditation, offerings, contemplation, art) they guide, they teach, they open my eyes to the possibilities of More.
“Through me shall you live, through you shall I live.”
Underworld is a fantastic book for anyone walking the path of the dead. It’s not a self-contained book, by which I mean that the copious information contained therein will spur you on, hungry to know more in both the cerebral and experiential sense of gnowing. If you read the words and feel the call of the dead, you will not be able to help yourself but to reach out and answer that call.
Underworld is available for purchase from Theion Publishing at THIS LINK! (This is not a sponsored post, I just really recommend the book!)
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 …
On Saturday I met a neo-Nazi. And I don’t think anyone else around him even realised. I was at a warehouse buying a bike. He manages the warehouse. He was covered in tattoos … even more than me. His head was covered in militaristic symbols (German) and emblazoned across his scalp were the English words, “Blood and Honour”. Now the phrase “Blut und Ehre”, as it is in the original German, was the motto etched onto the knife blades of the Nazi Youth Movement. These days “Blood and Honour” is the name of a neo-Nazi music group and political movement, white supremacists, blah, blah, blah. Unless you know this stuff, you just don’t know, and you don’t “see” the neo-Nazi in front of you, you just see a surly tattooed guy.
Ironically he showed an especially gruff demeanour when I gave him my obviously foreign name, because the dullard didn’t realise that my name was German. And what I would never have told him, for my own safety, is that my origins are German-Jewish, and that I lost most of my family in the Shoah (the Holocaust). A long time ago now I did a year of research in Germany on the Shoah and wrote my Masters dissertation on the portrayal of the Holocaust in German fiction, specifically by a man called Edgar Hilsenrath. So I know my history. Let me rephrase that: I know MY history. I know my origins.
My German family (the ones who survived) ultimately fled Russian occupied Berlin because they were blacklisted by the Russians due to a book my uncle had written about 10 Catholic men who had been assassinated by the Russian government. My family fled to America, leaving only my great-grandfather behind. He took refuge in a convent in West Germany and spent his final days with the nuns. When I was 9, I visited this convent for the first of many, many times.
Once I reached adulthood, one of the oldest nuns took me aside and told me the story of my Jewish family and their time in Berlin under the Nazis. She took my hands in hers and said, “Blut zeigt sich!” which means, “You can’t hide from your blood” or “Blood will always show itself!” I think in her wise old heart she knew that I was never going to be a Catholic like the rest of my family (who converted). For some reason, she marked me out to carry on the history of my family and importantly to carry the heritage of those who died.
This was in part why I chose the Masters’ subject that I did and why I worked so damn hard to learn German (I was not brought up bilingually – my mother married an Englishman and I was brought up in England; in fact, German was forbidden at home until my father left). I have always felt that I have had to make up for the diaspora of my family, the immigrants who settled in America and abandoned everything German.
My grandmother joined my uncle (her brother) when they fled Berlin from the Russians. My uncle never lost his accent but he became an AMERICAN with a German background; my grandmother, on the other hand, always remained displaced – a GERMAN living in America. Last year my grandmother died. She asked for her ashes to be scattered in the New Mexican desert where she lived. My Catholic family riotously objected and so she was ultimately buried in England – a country she had no ties to in any respect. It still makes me sad (read: furious) to this day.
You would think with this heritage running strongly in me, perhaps more than anyone else in the family, I would have a strong spirit connection with my blood ancestors. But I don’t. In fact I can’t. I’ve tried. I have tried four times to establish ancestor shrines and to welcome and engage with the spirits of my dead family, and each time my life was blighted with so much bad luck that it belied coincidence. Within a day of me dismantling the shrine/altar each time, the bad luck dissipated and peace would return to my life.
Even at my grandmother’s funeral I sought to connect with her (too soon perhaps) and a piece of ceramic fell from the earth over her grave at my feet. On the ceramic piece was the word “malade”, which is French for sickness or madwoman. Of course it was the broken off piece from a MARmalade jar, but the message to me was clear. My grandmother and I communicated in German but she always signed off her letters in French. I felt her disapproval of my spiritualist ways in relation to her and so I left her in peace.
The fact is that my family have undergone horrific times during life and I fear they carry it with them in death. Relatives were killed in Auschwitz or died under dreadful conditions. Those who survived had to flee their home country for their lives and all have lived under the shadow of the past. My grandmother would hide under tables when planes went overhead; she wielded an enormous gun at strangers on her property; she trusted no one, least of all authorities because she knew that an apathetic nation could allow tyrants to rule and neighbours are ready to betray you if the price is right.
So in connecting with spirits I leave my ancestors alone. I wish that one day I could bring them some semblance of peace, but I don’t know how. For now I connect to the nameless ones, the forgotten ones, the faceless ones; the blessed Aakhu who have passed the test of Ma’at and have her feather of truth tattooed on their tongues. Blessed are the Doo spirits who are good to me always.
But my encounter with the Nazi made my blood stir. I love Germany and I love the Germanic past, before it was distorted and misappropriated. I feel a calling but it is soft and indistinct. Maybe I am not yet ready to hear it. Maybe I need someone to spell it out for me. My shyness often converts into reticence and gives me cloth ears to my own destiny. For now I shall set it before the spirits, and quietly pray that my ancestors rest in peace.
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.
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.
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I was asked for my personal response on the following well-researched essay: The Symbolic Meaning of the Scene of Geb, Nut and Shu by Joost Kramer
My first response to the text is to question why the author hasn’t tried to determine what is meant by sky and earth. He has assumed that Geb and Nut represent the profane elements and that the separation or upholding of Nut is a cosmological scene, “merely” a creation scene. Even though he queries this, he still does not question what else Geb/earth/underworld and Nut/sky/the stars might represent.
The arching figure of Nut, as he says, ranges from east to west; he identifies the east, her “backside” as he so quaintly puts it, as the origin of birth, the place where the sun rises – the west is the place of the setting sun (where the sun is eaten by Nut – conception was often depicted by ingestion in Egyptian myth) and the entry point to the underworld where the night barge travels, battling Apophis in an eternal fight to resurrect the sun each day. Nut in this sense can be seen as the daytime pathway, or the pathway of conscious awareness.
The fact that Geb is indicated to have Osirian overtones in his title as Lord of the Netherworld is interesting and ties in with my hypothesis above. Geb may be the father of Osiris, but there is a school of thought that all gods are emanations of the gods before them leading back to Atum or to Nun (the primordial watery abyss from which all things came); so I do not see a contradiction in one deity being another and yet being separate. As such I would suggest that Geb represents not only the Underworld and the world of the dead but the deep unconscious, the primordial being within each of us, The Hidden.
The author, in his attempt to explain the separation scene, has concluded it is not a separation scene (although he continues to refer to it as “the separation scene”) but simultaneously has, I think, neglected to consider the symbolism of Shu standing on Geb and supporting Nut. I think the author is correct in seeing a sense of movement in the scene, a cycle of life, the cycle of the day; and naturally within a funerary context it would be easy to conclude that it is merely a representation of the death and resurrection of the corpse concerned.
But what about the meaning for the living. Who is Shu? Interestingly, Shu means “emptiness” or “he who rises up”. I would posit that Shu is us, that we are Shu and only by standing with our feet in the underworld, while supporting the stars (cf Aleister Crowley – Every man and every woman is a star) can we engage ourselves with the cosmic movement of deity, really align ourselves with the daily triumph of Atum over his enemies and the nightly battle with the primordial demons of our inner, hidden selves. Shu is also identified with “air”, an amorphous thing that can only be sensed by the external movement of say the wind, but without which we cannot survive.
Within this scene, I would not see separation, but an absolute necessity of joining; an emergence of the Übermench, the human being that takes an active role in the spiritual cycle: a person who becomes empty and whose spirit is raised up – but just as a living person cannot progress by solely burying their head in the ground of the dead, neither can they progress if they give into the purely conscious, profane world with its beautiful distractions. It would be so easy to spend a life just watching the sun moving across the sky and to watch the twinkling stars without seeking beyond the light reflecting off our own retinas.
Tip No. 1: Don’t try to write a blog post on the Egyptian continuum whilst simultaneously listening to Eddie Izzard doing a gig in French and English. Zut alors, ma tête est fucked.
I have been working with the Spirits of Lucky Hoodoo. The basic system is surprisingly simple, although I would personally say it is demanding in that it requires daily input and is not something you drag out of the cupboard at full moons and high holidays. I am not an expert, so can only speak from my experience which is that the spirits require, and deserve, a continuous relationship.
My path has always pushed towards a life focus, not a cherry on top of the cake approach to spirituality. It is not something I want to put to the side or commercialise. I don’t want it to be a high days and holy days affair; I want a daily, hourly love affair.
I have read David Beth’s book Voudon Gnosis (the first edition twice, the second edition – which is an entirely different book – twice), and done (done? is that the right word? practised… followed… ) two of the rituals in the back of his second edition book.
Firstly I read the rituals through and as happens each time I have read a VG text by David, every fibre in me says, “Yes! That’s right!” Whereas, for example, when I read Ford, I think, “What a prat.”
But when it came to following (!) the rituals I hit against an internal wall.
I read somewhere about how occult groups, when working together, build up and acquaint themselves with a particular continuum. They essentially learn (or create) a language which they use to communicate with, to command and bind themselves to that particular continuum.
I am not part of any group, but I have spent nearly the last ten years working with Egyptian deities. They are Home for me. They are the Dark and the Light. When I go off my path and start losing myself, I know because when I return to Them, I become whole and centred, at peace and focused – the feeling is physical and intense.
So I have spent a couple of weeks rewriting David’s rituals (still in progress); listening to the Neter/Neteru, incorporating my understanding of the Duat and the role of Osiris, Anubis, Maat, Apophis, Seth and aakhu. The fact is it fits! Nothing essential was changed, and it fits. It works perfectly.
Gnosis before Logos. The word must never be made from steel, but must bend to experience, and experience must bend again to further experience, ad infinitum.
One of the main issues regarding my interest in LHP has been that the fundamental objective of the Ancient Egyptian religion was/is to maintain Ma’at and avert chaos. There are complex rituals to empower Osiris in his battle so as to enable the rising of Ra again each morning – this was not a given, not predictable, but a battle on a knife’s edge each night. That dark realm of chaos and serpents which threatened Ra and life itself was something to be feared; even Osiris was not a sure bet to bring back the sun from the Duat, hence the rituals to aid him. So to attempt to work directly with those spirits that moved through the realms of “chaos” went contrary to everything I believed, and yet the compulsion would not cease.
But now I know the Duat slightly better and that there is a thin path there to be trod. The other day I walked up to town and saw everything resplendent around me in full summer glory – lush greens, blue skies, the light glancing off the river – and I saw death in it all, because without death life could not survive. Death is the base and the foundation from which life comes. There is indeed still a nightly battle to draw Ra up into the sky, but life is a battle and never comes without pain, screaming and crying; does that make pre-birth a bad thing, that to manifest birth there has to be pain? I know pain.
Today I wrote to a friend and said, “It may sound like a contradiction, but I have been considering suicide and also feel optimistic.” Although maybe my optimism is more concerned with the direction of my spiritual path than with Life per se. Synchronicities are like petals on a path leading me through it all.
I am aware that I, as a person with bipolar, am a liability and that most if not all magicians would run for the hills before working with me, which is fine. I have heard magicians and sorcerers say either in general or to me specifically: if you are ill it means you are a crap magician (I’m a witch anyway, so suck and swivel); and if you have mental health issues you must never deal with spirits (why? it just makes it harder not impossible, and in some ways I have the edge on someone who is sane and limited by the boundaries of their sanity).
It’s not about being gung-ho, as in my mind that is also a disrespectful attitude to the spirits and Neter you wish to work with, but I refuse absolutely and categorically to be told I should not work my Path as I do.
Who should I listen to? Magicians with a body-fascist tick? Or the spirits themselves who (so far) through answering and granting what I have asked for, give their blessing to the relationship I strive to establish with them?
Blessed are the Neter for their gifts of Heka and Akau. Blessed are the Aakhu. And blessed are the Spirits of Lucky Hoodoo.
p.s. Please refer to my Who am I? page if you have any questions regarding my personal affiliations, just so there are no misunderstandings.
There is a well-known morning prayer to Isis around the web which has been translated incorrectly. The incorrect translation is still poetic and lovely, but I thought I would attempt a more accurate translation. If you can improve further on the accuracy, let me know 🙂
|Nehes, nehes, nehes||Awake awake, awake,|
|Nehes em hotep,||Awake in peace,|
|Nehes em neferu,||Awake in beauty|
|Nebet hotepet||Lady of Offerings|
|Weben em hotep,||Rise in peace,|
|Weben em neferu,||Rise in beauty,|
|Nutjert en Ankh,||Daughter of life,|
|Nefer em Pet!||Beauteous one of the skies!|
|Pet em hotep,||The sky is at peace|
|Ta em hotep,||Earth is at peace,|
|Nutjert sat Nut,||Daughter of Nut,|
|Sat Geb, Merit Auser,||Daughter of Geb, Beloved of Osiris|
|Nutjert Asha-renu!||Rich in names!|
|Anekh hrak||Your face is hidden|
|Anekh hrak||Your face is hidden|
|Tua atu, Tua atu||I am rested and composed,|
|Nebet Aset!||Lady Isis!|
This morning I finally finished Murry Hope’s book on Egyptian Magic. It is too obscure for beginners and doesn’t provide any new information for the more experienced. I disagree with her correspondences and attributes to nearly every deity, and she limited her pantheon to only 9. She is very right-hand path, which is not her fault, but the book needs to be read in those terms, i.e. never, ever, ever ask for anything for yourself, except protection (too Catholic for my tastes).
In the first three-quarters of the book she bangs on quite vocally about aliens and Sirius B as the source of all things Egyptian. Then she suddenly goes quiet, just barely mentioning aliens. It felt like I was being brow-beaten with heavy-handed subliminal advertising and that in response to her later hints at aliens my arms would involuntarily rise to shoulder length in front of me and I would start chanting, “It’s the aliens. It’s the aliens.”
Oh, and did you know she’d written a book on psychic self-defence … because she mentions it on average every 5 pages. It got to the point where I could predict an upcoming mention of her other book. I wish I had worked out a vodka-based scoring system – a shot for each mention.
That’s one thing that does always grate about authors, especially pagan authors (who I guess have less access to the advertising of general publishing houses). Did you know I’d written this? Did you know I’d written that? Oh, you have a question? Well, instead of talking to you like another human being, I refer you to my publication that is coming out later this year, Dear Paying Reader… gah!
I wouldn’t recommend Hope’s book. I read it for completeness’ sake. I looked at her 2 page bibliography and found that I had read every book in it, which made me very smug … apart from The Sirius Mystery … which I was even more smug about not having read. So at least my ego was polished a bit. So often I find myself scrabbling with higher magic and occult books – so many things to learn – that it is nice to read a book and realise that yes, I am learning, and these things I didn’t know x amount of years ago are now as familiar to me as my own hands. Progress is being made, however slow.
This morning I cleansed and rededicated my Egyptian statues in the morning, completing the ritual at midday. It was good to gather them at the end and feel them hot from the sun.
I need alone-time this evening. I may just find a couple of coconut halves to hide in.
I went for a walk this evening in the dark. Everything is icy and frozen. I stood on the bridge and watched sheets of ice float in the black river, gathering on the one side at the roots of a willow. Last year when the river froze over there was a large trout lying at that spot. It had come up for air and been trapped in this alien world and died.
First I walked down one side of the river, matching my slow footsteps to the beat of the music I was listening to. I turned to walk back and saw the nearly full moon peering around a cloud.
I walked down the other side of the river. It was so tempting to slide down the banks and tap at the ice floes. How hard are they? How thick? Would I fall in? Would I die if I fell in?
I found a safe path down to the water’s edge and sat in the crook of a willow tree. Looking up I saw the stripped branches of the tree and then the moon unveiled herself and shone. I prayed to my Lords Osiris, Sobek and Khonsu and the ever-present Isis. There were the footprints of gulls in the snow. The ducks floated in the water at the edge of the ice. Occasionally one started grumbling and gacking, a vocal ripple taken up by the others until they once again fell silent.
I found a new path, one that took me further along the water’s edge. I only stopped when I couldn’t see any more, the branches too close overhead and blocking out the sporadic lunar appearances behind the clouds. There was no way except either back or up, so I chose up and promptly slipped down the bank falling into the snowy grass. As I looked up I saw the masts of a sailing ship. A new path and a ship? It hadn’t been that long since my last visit to this stretch of the river. I grabbed at the grass and hauled my twisted toe and wrenched back up onto the walkway.
The ship is composed of three masts (two with look-out baskets) and a prow. The appearance is of a buried ship, submerged: a representation and reminder of the past and things buried (I read on the sign). How appropriate. As I stood there on what would have been the deck I looked up at the main mast and saw the moon; I looked to the bow and saw a star. The clouds in the dark sky, backlit by the moon, looked like gods and I inhaled the air they sent into my lungs.
Some things became clear to me this evening. As ever my blessed Egyptian gods are kind to me and guide me… by moon and by star.
Abdur Rahman asked recently about the meaning of my Avatar symbol. I started to write a reply to his comment, but then it ran away with me, so I thought I would answer in a separate post.
The symbol is representative of the Egyptian goddess, Seshat. There are differing opinions over the exact meaning of the symbol, which is made up of two elements: the star form and the over-arching “bow”. The star is unusual in having seven points, whereas the stars painted on walls in Egyptian art are five-pointed. So it is unlikely that it is just a star. Sometimes it is said to represent the papyrus flower, as the papyrus plant was used for making scrolls which are one of the materials used in record keeping and Seshat is goddess of record-keeping and scribal arts. She is often depicted marking off the years on a palm leaf stalk:
Others say it is representative of the hemp leaf, as hemp was used to make rope and ropes were used as measuring cords. Seshat is one of the few goddesses to have never had a temple dedicated specifically to her and yet, she is at the core of each temple as it was her powers of mathematics and geometry that were called upon to measure out the ground plans for every stone building. This was expressed in a ritual “pedj shes” (stretching the cord) which was conducted during the laying of foundations. Apart from her association with scribal arts, it was this aspect that appealed to me in taking her name. In my profession as translator, we are the invisible workers integral to communication and industry and yet we never get the recognition we deserve. We are invisible tongues, shadow speakers clothing other people’s words, just as Seshat was hidden in the foundations of every temple and her skills were used to the glory of the other gods. Some people say that the symbol actually represents the tools of geometry, and that the over-arching bow is not a bow, or horns or feathers (as has been suggested) but that it represents the number 10. I like the idea of that, but don’t quite understand how they came to that conclusion.
Seshat was identified variously as daughter, sister and wife of Thoth, or even as the female aspect of Thoth. In this context she was said to wear a crescent moon (as representative of Thoth). Typically the crescent moon was shown with the tips pointing up, so this is unusual in Egyptian art for the tips to point down. Some suggest that this is just the way that symbols change and morph from their original meanings over time. She was sometimes known as Safekh-Abwy, which means She Who Wears the Two Horns. In some images the horns resemble cobras. There is no evidence to suggest that the interpretation of the arch as a bow is correct. Horns were often associated with the crescent moon, and so there would be no contradiction in seeing the “arch” as representative of both of these.
Yesterday’s post on revenge, love and indifference gathered a lot more interest than I thought, so I wanted to continue today on that theme.
On the left-hand path we work with the darker forces, the fallen goddesses and the demons. In my dedication to the Egyptian pantheon this is fairly easy as each god or goddess has a darker aspect, so (apart from beings like Apep/Apophis, etc.) I am dealing with harlequin beings where it is just as easy for me to touch on the dark as on the light.
We may call on the Light to guide us in our lives, to protect us and shower us with blessings (an over-simplification, but I’m trying to make a point here); so what do we call on the Dark for? Once again I have seen people get stuck in using the dark gods like some kind of boyish gang to wreak revenge on anyone who has ever slighted them. The question is, will the score ever be settled or will the gunslinger keep firing shots at the shadows? Perhaps the aim here, or rather the hope, is to achieve a level of internal justification and clarity, to release the past through “righting the balance” – an eye for an eye (except many LHP-ers scoff at the idea of balance, so again, I question the motivation for focusing on revenge). It’s almost as if once the decks are clear of all the dross that has hurt and betrayed them, THEN they will move onto the next stage. I am minded of Aleister Crowley’s comment of those brothers who did not achieve the leap over the void (the relinquishing of ego), that they were brothers of the left-hand path. Yes, we do not reliquish ego in the same way as RHP-ers; but I think the abyss is just as much of a risk and failure to LHP-ers and in that sense he was right. Is not the point to become mistress even of our own egos? So where is the mastery when we indulge in rolling around in the mud of egotistical revenge. As I said yesterday, revenge can get us well and truly stuck in a prolonged, eternal relationship with the person we hate. I would rather cut the bonds, be free and fly off to the stars. From that celestial position I look down at the earth and see a muddy battle field of flailing arms and fists; a Hieronymus Bosch scene of humans convinced they are free because they fight, but unaware of the mud that sucks at their feet.
So, that is one reason to call on the darker forces, to get your own back. But how disrespectful would it be to those gods and demons to just use them for that purpose (like using a car as an outdoor seating arrangement). This is where it becomes tricky because by starting to discuss the concrete specifics of why we might call on a darker force, I could betray my own motivations, and frankly, that’s nobody’s business but my own. So forgive me for flipping to a certain vagueness…
The LHP is about pushing your boundaries, pinging that internal censor that says run, and standing your ground in the face of the worst. Through my years of illness, I faced the concrete possibility of death three times. It was indeed my very own personal initiation, and Death became a reality to me not just a concept. It’s not that I have completely lost my fear of Death, I know Him and He knows me; we are already acquainted. That was a major boundary to break and one that has freed me to undertake an awful lot more in my pagan life. It takes energy to hate, it takes energy to fear. Our limited, human frames (though not the internal, eternal spirit) can only supply us with so much energy; once we release a fear we have an energy supply available to us that we didn’t have before. This can then become a driving force to move us onto the next stage of Becoming.
Now, I know that some of you who would put yourselves in the RHP camp would say, we do the same thing; we face our fears and grow, we Become, so what’s the difference? The difference is in the method and this is what gives the LHP its reputation for being dangerous. I have used the analogy before that the RHP may be about expanding boundaries, but it is like expanding a bowler hat, it is gentle, takes time and does not push the person … erm… or the hat… beyond its limits. In my brief time as a Catholic I was told, “God will never present you with a challenge you are not capable of mastering.” Jolly good. That’s the RHP. The LHP WILL present you with unmasterable challenges, the LHP will break you apart and crush you back to dust for you to reform yourself with spit and mud as in the First Days. This is a faster path, and one that is fraught with more possibilities for mental, physical and emotional breakdown. I’m not going to cite pathetic Hollywood images of the demon hord tearing the flesh from your bones, or possession or what-not. The danger as ever lies with your Self and in your Self; it will just FEEL like the demon hords are tearing at your flesh… ah, but what beautiful white bones lie beneath. And perhaps here lies the first boundary to ping for those intent on revenge; while we wreak revenge we are in control and that need for control screams of a fear to lose control. That fear is one of the biggest fetters we must learn to break; to learn to be strong when we are in control and when we have NO control.
I am laughing now because surely you must think that LHP-ers are a complete bunch of nutters, either childishly stuck in gunslinging fantasies of revenge, or laying themselves open to mental disturbance and demon buffets. There is more than just this, it’s up to you to read between the lines.
I have been pondering over this post for a few days. I am in the middle of reading Arthur Versluis’ Egyptian Mysteries. I thoroughly enjoyed his book The Philosophy of Magic and so was very hopeful when I started reading the Egyptian Mysteries. However, I have continually come up against his very strong Gnostic twist on everything Egyptian which I find inappropriate and misleading. My notes on his book have turned into a private rant and have taken my thoughts off in philosophical directions far from the original text (in that sense, a good book because it has got me thinking). My greatest bugbear so far with the book is his interpretation of Ma’at as Order and Harmony. This is a common interpretation and I am sticking my neck on the line by disagreeing with it.
[Briefly: Gnostics believe that we are emanations from a divine source, that the further away from the divine we are, the more lost and in darkness we are. The aim is to journey back to the source, to achieve that original unity with the divine which is a remote and distant figure. Dualist Gnostics believe that the material world is the furthest emanation away from the divine and is therefore innately bad. They strive away from the material (e.g. through sexual abstinence, fasting and denial of the ‘worldly’) in an attempt to bring themselves back to the divine, which is innately good. For more information, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnosticism%5D
I agree that the main focus of Egyptian belief centres around Ma’at. Ma’at is Order in the face of the chaos demons Apophis and Typhon (for example) – although not forgetting that the chaos demons are also integral to the Order of the worlds. She restrains the unrestrained and focuses energy and power that would otherwise wreak pure destruction. She is the outcome and the tool for harnessing our inner anger and self-destructiveness, for controlling (though not taming) the inner demons to become a driving force behind our own creative and destructive powers. In this sense you could perhaps view Ma’at as harmony: a balance between two extremes to enable us to control both the left-hand and right-hand energies to move powerfully forwards (although I would say that at times we need to lean more in one direction or another to progress; after all, pure balance of two points can also describe stagnation).
From an academic point of view, I find Versluis’ interpretation of Egyptian culture suspect to say the least. He posits that Egyptian culture derived from an earlier, ‘purer’ [sic] culture out of which both Oriental and Occidental traditions arose. Consequently, due to the lack of empirical evidence in respect of an Egyptian understanding of the world, he continually draws on the Vedanta in the Upanishads and the Tao Te Ching. He will start with an Egyptian concept and without any reference to Egyptian sources, interpret it based solely on a comment in the Tao Te Ching (for example). And naturally all interpretations are heavily slanted in support of a dualistic Gnostic perspective. I understand the principle of drawing parallels between religious traditions to understand archetypal concepts, but Ma’at (in my mind) is peculiarly Egyptian. His book would more accurately be described as a Gnostic perspective of Egyptian mysteries, rather than a book elucidating Egyptian mysteries per se.
I see his emphasis of the harmonisation aspect of Ma’at as a direct moral bias betraying his own starting point. BUT, in putting forth my own interpretation below, I am fully aware that I am doing exactly the same thing, and betraying my own left-hand leaning. So be it.
Firstly let me say what I do agree with, namely that to truly understand the origins of the Western spiritual tradition, we need to understand the Egyptian mysteries and tradition. I also agree that there are numerous parallels and influences between traditions old and new.
Secondly, there are some points made by Versluis that I like the sound of, although I have no credible proof or experience to back up his ideas. These are thoughts I would like to ponder further: He says that Egyptian religion and culture were marked by the personal responsibility of each person to unite any breach of Heaven and Earth. In this respect he implies that it is not just about maintaining the status quo and adhering to the laws of society, although by definition, the laws of Ancient Egyptian society would have been (even if only nominally) focused entirely on sustaining and restoring Ma’at. As many of you will know from my blog, I very much support the concept of personal responsibility; and in fact I see established religions, groups, covens and temples as being a sore testing ground for personal responsibility as in such contexts it is far easier for the spiritually lazy to be carried along by the majority (before anyone gets their knickers in a serious twist, I know that this is not always the case, but it is a relevant point).
Versluis also speaks of “…the strength of a traditional culture [lying] in its irradiative power, involving and unifying all people towards the realisation of their true nature [Will?] of the Divine.” I think this is a nice, if slightly naïve idea, although I think it is also a rather hagiographic portrayal of Egyptian society – again, on what basis (apart from wishful thinking) does he make such a statement?
Versluis’ writing is here very much coloured by the belief in that primeval Golden Age where Heaven and Earth were united. Through ritual and the enforcement of Ma’at the bridge between celestial and terrestrial is maintained. According to Versluis, “Only when this power is thwarted, when disorder and the anti-traditional behaviours begin to gain sway, ignoring and defiling the teachings of antiquity, does such a culture break down, fragment and disappear…” He goes on to cite the rise of Judaism and Christianity as pivotal factors in exacerbating this decline… I am highly suspicious of any attempt to raise any one culture or religion above others, and to claim that salvation of the world (no less) can be found in one direction alone.
However, the idea of bridging the gap between celestial and terrestrial struck me as a more meaningful interpretation of Ma’at, and something that tallies with my own experience of the Egyptian religion.
The concept of harmony carries with it a moral interpretation that I do not share. Ma’at as Order – yes. But what if perfect Order between the earthly and celestial realms does not necessarily involve harmony (in terms of balancing opposing forces). Indeed Versluis’ seems to contradict himself by citing the example of the myth of Typhon scattering pieces of Osiris’ body; at each place a temple was raised, a holy site where a Divine ladder extended upward between heaven and earth. These places (says Versluis) retained some of the primordial spiritual unity of the temporal and divine (the essence of that Golden Era of perfect unity with the divine that Gnostics are so fond of). To quote: “And in this vein, there can be little doubt that to this day certain areas resonate with primordial power – sometimes for good and sometimes not.” Ignoring his almost coy avoidance of the word ‘bad’ or ‘evil’, the question arises of how an area that retains the primordial unity can be ‘not good’ and yet harmonious and an expression of Ma’at by his own definition. I would say that ‘good’ and ‘not good’ (!) are just extreme aspects on a graded (possibly circular) scale from good to evil. There is no black and white dualism in my opinion (such desperation to split the world neatly into two categories of right and wrong, to me is a cry of fear from someone overwhelmed by the chaos and general muckiness that is life). It is not always so easy to assign a shade to an action or manifestation. Sometimes a thing just ‘is’: perhaps the essence of existing is in being connected both with the celestial and the earthly planes, that this is the actual manifestation of Maat. Hence, Ma’at would be not the balance of two realms, but the connection. Ma’at is (for me) the expression of True Existence when we are not just surviving in the world, but living and manifesting our true Will by the connection of both the celestial and the terrestrial within and without ourselves. What else is the magician but the creator and manifestor of such connections? The magician in her work with the nominally good and evil is the ultimate sustainer and embodiment of Ma’at; who else connects the celestial and terrestrial realms better than a magician who invokes and evokes the Other, the celestial, and manifests it on the terrestrial plane?
So, in my own biased and left-hand shaded interpretation, Ma’at is Order and Connection, and has little to do with the morally biased term of Harmony.
In this sense, may Ma’at be on your tongues, in your heart and manifest in your lives.
© starofseshat 2008
In the Beginning there was Nothing; and the Nothing had a Voice and spoke my Name.
My Ren (name) came into being and dwelt with Nothing, until Nothing spat and breathed upon the void and I was not alone.
The water moved and a serpent arose. Typhon, the chaos demon, swam and split the waters.
Then I knew fear, and fear was my Sekhem (immortal power).
The waters shifted and there arose the primeval hill: my Khu (immortal light of the mind) flew from the darkness and was a Light resting upon the hill.
I was before Atum, but Atum knew me.
I was before Atum, and I proceed through him.
I hold the darkness in my mortal Ba (heart) and Typhon protects my mortality so that my Khu may fly freely over the waters and rest at will in the hands of Atum; there, my immortal parts shall merge: my Ren, my Sekhem, my Khu, and I shall become the first Sunrise.
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