… a thought making crooked all that is straight.

Goddess

The Black Madonna

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!

Black Madonna of Einsiedeln

Black Madonna of Einsiedeln

©StarofSeshat 2009

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Chakras: Visuddha

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.

The Visuddha is located opposite the throat in the neck. The lotus is grey or silver (sometimes a smoky-purple) and has 16 petals. These petals contain seven musical notes, poison and nectar and seven “calls” for the purposes of exorcism, sacrifice, fire ceremonies, self-determination, blessings and exaltations. This suggests the beginning of priestly or occult power.

The chakra is associated with the conquest of the ethereal state of matter and is commonly equated with the expression of creative activity and inspiration, as well as the capacity to receive nurturing, specifically the contact with the inner unlimited source of “grace”.

Energising this chakra may involve devotional practices such as ritual, prayer, chanting,  sound vibration and creative expression.

The god of this chakra is Siva in half-male, half-female form (Adrhanariswara) sitting on a white elephant accompanied by the yellow-coloured goddess Sakini Sakti with four hands. He is master of diverse knowledge; she reigns in the lunar region.

Meditating on this chakra reportedly brings one to the threshold of great liberation.

Visuddha Chakra

Visuddha Chakra

See also

Chakras: Muladhara

Chakras: Svadhisthana

Chakras: Manipura

Chakras: Anahata

Sat Nam

Seshat

Information source: Energies of Transformation, A Guide to the Kundalini Process, by Bonnie Greenwell PhD.


Chakras: Anahata

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.

The Anahata is located between the two nipples, but sometimes slightly to the right of the sternum rather than directly over the heart.

It is associated with the conquest of the element of air and the sound of cosmic consciousness.

Many spiritual traditions identify Anahata as the primary chakra to be awakened in order to experience spiritual enlightenment: this is the place where upper and lower levels of consciousness energy merge, symbolised by two intersecting triangles. It also links the left and right sides of the body, Yin and Yang characteristics. These two interlinking forms create a cross which symbolically represents integration of these polarities.

Isha is the god of this chakra, seated on a black antelope or gazelle, a symbol of swiftness and air. Isha is endowed with complete yogic power, is omniscient  and omnipresent. He is white symbolising purity. He has three eyes, the third representing samadhi knowledge (right concentration). Meditation on his form banishes fear and strengthens concentration.

The lightning-coloured goddess Kakini Sakti, also with three eyes, is depicted in yellow holding a noose and a skull.  Concentration on her stabilises prana and removes all obstacles to Isha. When Kakini is red, it indicates that her power is being used to control pranic energy; when she is white, she is Isha-consciousness.

Anahata is the 12 petalled vermilion coloured lotus, representing: expectation, anxiety, endeavour, attachment, hypocrisy, infirmity, egoism, discretion, covetousness, fraudulence, indecision and regret. Meditation on this chakra releases attachment to all things the “heart” desires; by withdrawing the senses from worldly things. One is thus able to connect with the experience of bliss. Desires, attachments, expectations and emotions of the heart shut off the natural flow of bliss once it has awakened, and the emotional ups and downs which often accompany the experience of kundalini awakening may be related to the issues of this chakra.

This chakra has been associated with arthritis and respiratory problems as well as cardiovascular and hypertensive illnesses.

Balance in this chakra is manifested through the qualities of compassion, acceptance and unconditional love; imbalance is indicated by insensitivity, passivity and sorrow.

Anahata Chakra

Anahata Chakra

See also

Chakras: Muladhara

Chakras: Svadhisthana

Chakras: Manipura

Sat Nam

Seshat

Information source: Energies of Transformation, A Guide to the Kundalini Process, by Bonnie Greenwell PhD.


Chakras: Manipura

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.

The Manipura is located above the Svadhisthana opposite the navel.

This chakra is associated with Rudra, a god who represents the destructive principle of the universe (the world of mind). He grants favours and generates fear. The goddess associated with Manipura is Lakini Sakti. She is clothed in yellow and is described as loving the flesh of animals, having a breast covered with blood and fat dripping from her mouth.

The animal symbol is the ram, a sacrificial animal, implying the need to sacrifice passions and other strong emotions. It controls the element of heat and governs the digestive system. It rules the abdominal organs, especially the functioning of stomach, liver and large intestine. It is related to the nervous system above the lumbar region. Meditating on this chakra, in particular on the colour red within it, can help cure abdominal disease.

This chakra is the ten petalled lotus representing: shame, treachery, jealousy, desire, drowsiness, despondency, worldliness, delusion, aversion and fear. Concentration on this chakra engenders a sense of stability and centredness in the being, where the above qualities are acknowledged, mastered and transcended.

Manipura chakra - Lakini

Manipura chakra - Lakini

See also

Chakras: Muladhara

Chakras: Svadhisthana

Sat Nam

Seshat

Information source: Energies of Transformation, A Guide to the Kundalini Process, by Bonnie Greenwell PhD.


Chakras: Svadhisthana

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.

The Svadhistana is located above the Muladhara, at the base of the genital organ or in the centre of the lumbar region.

This chakra is associated with water, symbolised by a half moon and the god Vishnu, sustaining principle of the universe. It is usually red, sometimes white.

It is governed by the goddess Rakini Shakti (or Sakti); she is dark blue, with three red eyes, a bleeding nostril and four arms. She holds a trident, lotus, drum and chisel.

The animal symbol of Svadhistana is a green sea-monster, similar to a crocodile, representing dominion over the sea and hence the unconscious.

It has six petals representing the mental conditions of: neglect, insensitivity, credulity, suspicion, destructiveness and cruelty, as well as frustration, attachment and anxiety. Physically it governs the large intestines, rectum, kidney, bladder, sexual organ and testes. Imbalance in this chakra can be the cause of sexual problems, diabetes, kidney and bladder problems.

Meditation on this chakra will bring mastery of the elements, and relieve a person of egotistic feelings, petty impulses and desires. It helps to develop the qualities of equanimity and placidity of mind, as well as self-confidence and well-being.

Svadhisthana chakra - Rakini

Svadhisthana chakra - Rakini

See also Chakras: Muladhara

Sat Nam

Seshat

Information source: Energies of Transformation, A Guide to the Kundalini Process, by Bonnie Greenwell PhD.


Chakras: Muladhara

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.

The Muladhara is located at the bottom of the backbone between the anus and the testicles or cervix. It is identified with the four-petalled lotus, representing: supreme happiness, innate bliss, the bliss of union and the bliss of bravery, strength or power. It is said to reflect the crown chakra which is why it also conveys an element of bliss.

The Muladhara is associated with Brahman, the creative principle of the universe. It holds the body in its physical form and hence in creation. It is the foundation and support of the chakra system. When functioning correctly, it is associated with security and self-preservation, the element of earth, the colours of orange-red and the sense of smell.

It is symbolised by an elephant with a black stripe around its neck, representing the earthly qualities of strength, firmness, balance and support. Its mandala symbol is a yellow square contained within a circle, and within the square is a blood red triangle expressing sexual excitement.

The Muladhara influences  the rectum, kidneys, accumulation of sperm and the sexual organs, as well as bones, skin, flesh, nerves and hair.

Anger, lust and greed are controlled by meditating on the Muladhara. Grief and depression are signs of this chakra’s imbalance. Meditation on Muladhara also controls attachment to luxury, deception, pride, envy, selfishness. Release of energy in this chakra is often explosive and can lead to feelings of irritability, psychological instability, erratic sleeping patterns, or extreme passion, being overly talkative and easily enraged.

The goddess of this chakra is Dakini Shakti (or Sakti) – the energy of creation. And the kundalini energy is said to lie coiled three times around Muladhara.

dakiniDakini Shakti

See also: Chakras: Svadhisthana

Sat Nam

Seshat

Information source: Energies of Transformation, A Guide to the Kundalini Process, by Bonnie Greenwell PhD.


Lilith

[A brief introduction to Lilith]

Lilith is a predominant demon and goddess figure in the LHP tradition, although she inhabits the darker corners of the RHP tradition as well.

Semitic mythology describes her as the first wife of Adam. She asserted her equality with him, whereas he tried to assert his dominance over her. This was famously expressed in an argument over who was to take the top position during sex. Once Lilith saw that discussion with Adam was hopeless, she flew into the air and fled. The Abrahamic god sent angels to call her back by force if necessary. She refused to return stating that she was created to afflict male babies up to 8 days old and female babies up to 12 days old with fatal disease. Some myths leave it at this with an open question as to why she wasn’t forced to return as god demanded. However, other myths have Lilith citing Torah, that a woman who has left her husband and been defiled may not return to her husband (one can almost see the smirk on her face as she quotes scripture to confound god’s own commands). The defiler in this instance was named The Great Demon who went on to be known as Samael. Indeed the pairing of Lilith and Samael was seen as a dark reflection of that other pairing Adam and Eve.

In this Semitic myth we see traces of the Mesopotamian and Assyrian Lilith (although she is found in other cultures too). Earliest reference show her as a storm demon associated with wind and air (illustrated by the Semitic Lilith flying into the air). And her role as bringer of disease and death, especially to women and children, is confirmed in all myths alluding to her.

She is also described as being sexually predatory. In my mind, there is a certain patriarchal morality clothing her nakedness in some myths: her sexual voraciousness is described in conjunction with her inability ‘to copulate normally’ (although exactly how she did copulate is left to our imaginations), to lactate or to bear children. I think the concept of a female deity who is sexually confident and powerful would have to have her feminine wings clipped in what is essentially patriarchal mythology by denying her any expression of full, ‘normal’ womanliness. On the other hand, her barrenness ties together conceptually with her role as bringer of plague and death. Alternatively, other traditions describe her great fecundity in birthing demons. Indeed to stop these demons from swamping the world, the Abrahamic god castrated Samael. This would have not stopped Lilith in her role as succubus visiting men at night with her lusty sexual appetite with the intention of getting herself pregnant. Men were encouraged to recite incantations to prevent the offspring from becoming demons. And one charming myth says that Lilith laughs whenever a pious Christian man has a wet dream (a woman with my sense of humour!).

Apart from being associated with storms, air, plague, death and prostitution, she is also linked to birds of prey (the Anzu bird, variously translated as eagle, vulture or owl), lions and serpents. She herself is sometimes depicted as a serpent, a lion-headed creature or a sphinx.

In Luciferianism, Lilith is considered the consort of Lucifer. The fruit of their union is the androgynous Baphomet. Lilith is one of the highest goddess forms, often shown as forming an infernal trinity with Samael and Cain.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Poem “Lilith,” Later Published as “Body’s Beauty”(1868)

Of Adam’s first wife, Lilith, it is told
(The witch he loved before the gift of Eve,)
That, ere the snake’s, her sweet tongue could deceive,
And her enchanted hair was the first gold.
And still she sits, young while the earth is old,
And, subtly of herself contemplative,
Draws men to watch the bright web she can weave,
Till heart and body and life are in its hold.

The rose and poppy are her flower; for where
Is he not found, O Lilith, whom shed scent
And soft-shed kisses and soft sleep shall snare?
Lo! as that youth’s eyes burned at thine, so went
Thy spell through him, and left his straight neck bent
And round his heart one strangling golden hair. (Collected Works, 216).

©BatShedim 2008


Ma’at

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


Rosh Chodesh thoughts

Yesterday was Rosh Chodesh, the head of the month, the New Moon. I usually mark full and new moon in someway – a ritual, a meditation – something that connects me to the Source.

I have a shrine to Karni-Mata/Durga in the living room. As rat Goddess, Karni-Mata looks after my pet rat and keeps him healthy and happy. I have a shrine to Seshat in the office. She supports me in my work. And I have a shrine to Isis in my prayer corner. So it may surprise you to know that I consider myself a monotheist. For me each God- and Goddess-face is a cypher for something entirely unknowable and inconceivable. How can we, as limited beings, comprehend the Limitless? But the New Moon, the dark, hidden face of the Goddess is for me a time to focus momentarily on that Nameless, Faceless One. This is when I open myself up to something so immense, it cannot be expressed in words.

When I turn to individual God and Goddess aspects, I am calling on an aspect of the Source in a way that facilitates a working relationship. To really be aware of that limitless expanse of Nothing-Everything at all times is surely something only accessible to the great mystic or the madman. In trying to address this Immenseness with my petty needs and fears, I would become voiceless and lost in awe. By focusing on aspects of the Source, such as Isis, Seshat, Atum, I can connect in my limited human way and bring the spiritual help, power and magic through them into my life. But I never lose sight of the Ein Soph Aur, the formless void – that we perhaps only perceive as void, because our limited perceptions prevent us from seeing what we are not yet fit to see. I can talk to you about my experiences and work with Karni-Mata, Isis and various archangels. But I cannot talk to you about touching Ein Soph Aur in the very depths of myself – THAT is the true secret of the Craft, not how many coven members does it take to change a light bulb, and what grade should the person be who actually unscrews the bulb … Don’t let anyone tell you that any kind of hierarchy will bring you closer to the Secret.

The Secret is ultimately between you and the Source.

© starofseshat 2008

See also The Green Witch with an interesting set of comments too!