… a thought making crooked all that is straight.

Healing

LHP – living without morals

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

I was caught in the grip of adversarial paralysis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©StarofSeshat 2016


Knot magic: get knotted!

Many moons ago I heard the old wives’ tale that when a woman is in labour all the doors in the house should be kept open to facilitate any easy birth; a closed door equals a block or obstacle. I pondered on this and subsequent study has shown that creating or releasing a blockage sympathetically can have powerful repercussions psychically and magickally: when we feel defensive we cross our arms and/or our legs, which is implied to mean creating a psychological barrier, but which also creates a psychic/energetic block and protects us. Consider also the superstition of crossing one’s fingers for luck; this is another way of creating protection by sealing ourselves off psychically. I have studied healing methods that require one to touch feet and hands together, expressly to create a self-contained energy circuit for the purposes of harnessing and directing healing energy.

So from all this, it was not much of a leap for me to dive into knot magic in my late teens. [As an aside, in Britain there is the tame yet still rude alternative to telling someone to “Fuck off!” which is to tell them to “Get knotted!”]

In fact, my first dalliance with knot magic began with a severe cold. I woke in the night virtually unable to breathe. I was suffering greatly and sleep eluded me because my sinuses were entirely blocked up. Instinctively I took a cord that I had lying on my altar and I began to knot. I knotted everything into the cord that I felt had contributed to my ill-health. Each knot represented a thing/person/event/feeling. It was important to vocalise each thing and … unlike much magick … I had to REMEMBER every thing that I knotted into the cord. Once the cord was a bundle of knots, I knotted it in on itself until it was like a fist in my hand (the fist is yet another expression of self-protection – a “hand knot”). Then I meditated upon pushing everything I felt and thought about each knot into the scrambled tangle in my hands. After a significant amount of “charging” came the reason for needing to remember each knot; I began to UNknot the cord, again vocalising that I was releasing/unknotting each thing/person/event/feeling. It did not matter if I got the order wrong, but I did have to remember each thing in order to release it. If I forgot something, then the blockage/knot would remain even if the cord was untangled. Once I had finished I lay the cord smoothly and in an open fashion, i.e. not a single overlap or crossing of the cord, on my altar. By the end of the unknotting I was already able to breathe freely and, by the morning, the virus which had plagued me for several days was completely gone.

This is how I came to begin using knot magic. It is great for releasing blockages and healing, but naturally, it can be good for cursing and binding and creating blockages – you just leave the cord tangled, bury it … hide it … whatever.

I am a textile crafter and much of my spellwork/magic involves making things (poppets, spirit receptacles, etc.). Now, some of the crafted stuff takes several hours to create (sewing, embroidering sigils, etc.); it would be more convenient to make up the things beforehand, and only consecrate and charge it in Circle. But, I do find that the distractions outside of Circle dilute the crafted item considerably. How much more can be imbued in a magickal item if you have the staying power to make it from start to finish IN Circle where your intent is focused solely and exclusively on what you wish to manifest!

I remember that my most potent servitor was created in just such a way. (I understand that not everyone creates servitors in a Circle, but I do and it works for me.) I gathered everything I needed, cast the Circle and sat for three and a half hours making “his” home. The result was a thing of power.

Recently I have been doing French Knitting (or spool knitting as I think the Americans call it). I have been using a 4-pin and an 8-pin spool. The project is just for fun and not interesting to you folks, I’m sure. While knitting I pondered the process which is essentially creating one tiny knot after another, all linked together to create a cord. I began to fantasize about spool knitting in Circle, adding feathers, teeth, bones, herbs, hair … Then, by chance I was researching something when I came across 2-pin French knitting, which is called “Lucet weaving”. This is a technique dating back to Viking times and was used to make thin cords. The design of the Lucet (look HERE) just spoke to me … nay, shouted at me … the Devil horns screamed, “Use me!” and all my pondering and fantasising coalesced into a plan! So I have ordered myself a hand-carved, cherry wood Lucet. Sadly it must come all the way from Canada so I have to wait for it. But whoop! When it arrives I shall happily “get knotted”!

©StarofSeshat 2016


Authenticity and power

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©StarofSeshat 2013


Who is my enemy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©StarofSeshat 2013


A healing start to the year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©StarofSeshat 2013


Death and morality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©StarofSeshat 2012


Self and Other …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©StarofSeshat 2011


Woman as Guerrilla Art

I’m tamping furious that the bastard council didn’t even let the Guerrilla art stand for a week before they removed it (see this link -> HERE). The area looked sanitised and wiped clean, the presence of the two stags still hanging somewhere in the air.

I have been slowly digesting yesterday which was a pretty dire day. Woman wasn’t at art group. She has injured herself. I was surprised/not-surprised at the lack of emotion in me at that news. I found it interesting that Alpha Psych who so patently has a thing for her, gravitated to her seat and spoke about her art with the postscript, “Although we shouldn’t talk about her when she’s not here.” Preferably not at all, I thought. I find her simpering, weak-woman ways irritating. She is one of those women who plays the helpless female, batting her eyelashes like she’s in a sand storm. I look to the men and see with horror that they fall for this manipulation. It may look endearing in a woman under thirty, but post-50 you really need to chuck the hormone replacement and grow a pair.

As I walked past the copse cleared of stag-art, I thought about how nearly every female friend has confessed to me that they have hairs on their toes … as if it is an admission of something grotesque, anti-social and, even, inhuman. We are primates. We have hair, we have odours, we need food and sex. We are not hairless, odourless, silicone sculpted, poison-injected doll substitutes but creatures with lumps and bumps, blemishes and squidgy bits. We are not sanitised areas cultivated with weed killer, we are living Guerrilla art… and we too are subject to removal.

Sometimes we remove ourselves, sometimes others remove us. In my own case, one indicator of my Presence is an acknowledgement of my needs and the subsequent follow-through. Plastic dolls have no needs. Guerilla art demands your attention and emotional response.

Recently, people keep asking me, “What can I do for you? Is there something I can do for you?” and the question surprises me each time, baffles me, leaving my mind to scrabble for something, the multiple censors hacking at thoughts like a series of slicing blades, trying to find something to say, something doable, something that isn’t “too much”. Asking for anything is a HUGE force of will for me. The double edge of this being that if I do ask for something (and usually I will start with something very, very little like “message me”) and for some reason it is not possible, or life gets in the way for no other reason than life throws a curve ball, then I take that as proof that I am plastic to that person; I withdraw and shut down.

In my five-year relationship with my abusive ex I asked for something once. We lived in a small flat. I was in the living room, he was in the kitchen, and I asked him to please bring me a glass. He was so enraged that he grabbed the dirtiest glass and tossed it at me on the sofa. Serves me right for relaxing enough to think I could ask for something… except of course, now I think, what a tosser (literally and metaphorically)!

But things are very different these days. I am a different person, changing rapidly, although I still really struggle with asking for things. Fantasy is one thing, reality is another.

After my massage which has left me feeling marvelous and fully anchored in my squidgy femaleness, I went for a coffee at my favourite cafe. I saw an interestingly lopsided coffee and walnut cake and asked for a slice (that was always my favourite as a child … the thrill of surreptitiously sneaking in a hit of caffeine as I wasn’t allowed coffee or tea until older, the same justification saw me develop a love of rum and raisin ice cream … !). As the manager cut me a slice, she nodded to the new cook, a young girl, and said, “Cake looks lovely, K.” And it was, so I took the time to scare the bejeezes out of K. by sneaking up on her and growling “Gorgeous cake” in her ear … She blushed and looked chuffed to bits, nervous because cake-making is her new endeavour in the kitchen.

I hate it when women diss other women, when they sit in a public place, point and list the faults. “Look at her extensions! Look at her belly! Look at the way she’s dressed.” It used to be easier to mumble agreement, but actually, no: the girl with the bad extensions has a pretty face, the woman with the big belly looks like she would be a real laugh and great to cuddle, and the woman with the odd clothes looks like she doesn’t give a shit, so yay for her!

I always make the effort to acknowledge the good things about women (I don’t say anything to men because the usual assumption then is that you are cracking onto them … booooring!). When I worked in the bookshop, a woman came in with her 80+ year old mother in a wheelchair. The old woman had fancy nails, and I said how lovely her nails looked. Her face lit up like a beacon, “Really?! I’ve never had a manicure before, my daughter just took me this morning!” and she beamed with pride. I was so pleased I said something, kicking aside that cruddy English reserve that means you “shouldn’t” engage on a personal level with strangers (I only engage personally, incapable of doing otherwise).

The thing is, women need that positive feedback. And I hate women who enforce the negative cycle of synthetic moulding, the belief that anyone else should conform to anyone else’s ideas. Yes, men play a huge role in this; whatever the pundits say, this is still a patriarchal society. And as a friend and I joked recently when discussing weight, the last thing you want from a man is a bloody solution (have you tried such-and-such, why don’t you go on a diet)! No, what you need then is for him to say you are gorgeous and perfect, because to be honest, you probably are: note how I slip easily into pointing the finger away from myself to you – I can dish the compliments, although I struggle to take them. But I do love those friends who have actually said they are willing to invest “years” into complimenting me until it finally sinks in … drip, drip, drip – it feeds my parched soul and yes, I do feel the desert in me starting to bloom, for which I thank you.

So, embrace the gorilla [sic] in yourself! Be hairy and smelly. Eat and have sex. Be beautiful, because you just are.

©StarofSeshat 2011


Scarlet Imprint on The Tower & Armageddon – Seshat on a microcosmic response

Thrilled today to find that Scarlet Imprint had posted a new blog entry with a field recording of Peter (one of my favourite magickians in “the public eye”) giving a talk on Armageddon, Babalon and the challenge facing us as individuals and as humanity.

Here is the blog post:

Woodsmoke and Wormwood

… do take the time to listen to the entire talk, unlike many speakers, Peter is very easy to listen to and the time flies by. I know that we are all attuned to 5 minute focus these days, but push yourself a bit!

The talk was interesting for me on a personal level for several reasons. Babalon entered my life in 2008; during that time she stripped me bare, turned my life upside down and threw me into a period of extreme turmoil and terror. After my last (and hopefully last) suicide attempt, I awoke initially peeved at the world, that it was still there and I still had to engage with it. A month later, Pomba Gira came down on me and I became her devotee. In turn, she has also stormed through my life, but in a gentle-raucous way, the way that extreme laughter can make you hurt but feel so good. So much has changed both in my head and heart since she came to me (and by coincidence Scarlet Imprint have recently released a book on Pomba Gira: Pomba Gira and the Quimbanda of Mbumba Nzila by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold – I will be reading that after my current study book, Holy Harlots, Femininity, Sexuality, & Black Magic in Brazil by Kelly E. Hayes).

In the talk, Peter spoke about Armageddon and the need for magickians to respond (I won’t detail his talk here, because I really think you should listen to it yourself). All of what he said reflected my own thoughts over the last couple of years, and my own personal revelations – yes, on a macrocosmic level, but more specifically on a microcosmic level. And just as I have struggled with the concept of my own life being something I wished to preserve, so part of me listened and thought, “Is humanity worth saving?” Through my own studies in paleontology I have seen a distinct pattern in the life of the earth and its animals, and our own destruction, in which ever form, seems inevitable and justified. In my own mind, I do not see that Armageddon is coming, but that it has come, it is too late for mankind [sic], but not for individuals – as contradictory as that may sound.

I agree that there is huge benefit in learning a martial art, connecting with like-minded communities (specifically within the magickal subculture), learning how to glean our needs directly from nature rather than relying on oil-driven industries: yes, all of that is right and rather along the lines of “good advice will never harm you, even if it won’t directly cure the situation” (not that Peter was suggesting a “cure”).

But I am drawn once again to reiterating things I have been saying for years and experiencing for years. There is a need for us to drastically dispense with the trappings of our “social selves”, to realise that the persona we project is usually not who we truly are. Mental health is a case in point: where else do you see such a dramatic and often violent stripping of the social niceties to reveal the true bones of a psyche, often damaged by the demands and experiences of a sick world. We become the earth, walking examples of excessive stress, tired hypocampi, exhausted adrenal systems. We are ravaged and pile-driven, raped in the head, raped in the body – literally and figuratively. And like some inverse homeopathy we continue to feed the disease with more disease: as pagans filling our heads with fluff and saleable shit, buying our spirituality with the “must-have wand”, the matching cloak … all the while we are layering more and more plastic turf over polluted ground, allowing the pollution to sink deeper and deeper into our souls.

There is something in experiencing the head-smack of mental health WHILE practising consciousness and awareness, because you can bypass years of deconstruction and experience the polluted soul much more quickly than, say, someone who is stuck at the material level of life consumption and believes themselves to be  “well”.

My last suicide attempt shook something within me and my health in very many ways has started to climb since then. It felt like a final purge of soul pollution, and even though I experience the dregs occasionally, I am in a place of construction and re-formation, aided by by the spirits of Lucky Hoodoo and my devotion to Pomba Gira.

I doubt I am expressing myself half as eloquently as Peter, but the point I want to make is that we, as magickians and witches, should not get stuck at stock-piling cans of peaches because I personally believe that nothing will save our world, and this is a natural cycle on this particular planet. But there is a microcosmic Armageddon playing itself out within each of us, and it is up to us individually as to whether we respond to it or die face down in the poisoned earth. There is more than this planet, and the transmutation of our Selves has to go hand-in-hand, or even take priority, over what we can change in the visible, mundane world. What we see is merely an echo of a greater reality; our microcosmic experience broadcasts a macrocosmic echo.

One night I was walking and saw a tree. Then I saw through the tree and experienced the essence that was expressing itself as a tree in this world. There is a dire need for us to find our own essence, the point of being that is represented as us on this plane of existence: because who we think we are, is not who we truly are. And if we continue not-knowing, that will be our own personal, inevitable Armageddon.

©StarofSeshat 2011


My face in a tea-cup

Today I went to my private spot at the cathedral, had a cup of tea and a smoke. Like a true English person I braved the rain, thinking “It will just refill my tea-cup,” and then I experienced that sense of justification when the sun finally broke through, “I knew you would! You bastard!” as I sat there steaming slightly in the sun, buffeted by the wind.

I looked into my tea-cup and fished out the leaves that had blown in. My hair was all over the place, my fringe now long enough to cover my eyes, so I felt like I was a teenager hiding from the world. Face in a tea-cup. Amber Leaf drifting around me in swirls on the wind. An old man across the courtyard stared at me. I glanced occasionally at him and each time I saw him staring I felt like I wanted to cry. It was the human contact. I think I must have looked a sorry sight, because he didn’t look unkindly at me, rather curious and sympathetic.

So, as is my wont when I feel emotional, it’s time to start distracting you from my vulnerable state – look at the shiny-shiny, don’t look at me!!

On my way back I discovered some Guerrilla art, a declaration about recycling, hidden in a copse of bushes. Everyone who saw it was grinning, including me… I LOVE Guerrilla art. Photos are a bit blurred because they were all taken with my mobile phone:


… and a bush I happened to like:

©StarofSeshat 2011


Cut the cow shit!

I’m as tall as a cow. I found this out as I walked through the cow fields and one came up and eye-balled me. Cows today must be GM-cows because I’m sure they never used to be that tall, and at 1.75m I’m not short either.

Short. I wish that was the excuse for why I struggle so much with the stiles. Predominantly a British phenomenon:

Doesn’t look too tricky to clamber over, does it? But is it left foot first or right? Which leg do I swing over and when? Usually I get stuck half-way across and sit with a blasé expression, pretending to admire the view while I consider whether to just throw myself off the thing or tackle it limb by limb.

I encountered similar difficulties when getting into the jeeps and pick-up trucks of my family in New Mexico. They live in the mountain desert so it’s high off-roaders only for them. I tried reversing in, but my legs are two short. I tried launching myself in front first and army-crawling my way on elbows over the back seat. Nothing but nothing was elegant. My family found it hilarious. I pursued different options like an alchemist seeking a way to transmute base metal into gold; but my elegance remained tin.

This evening I sat down by the river, watching fish jumping for the evening flies. Four swans floated past, each raising up out of the water to stretch and flap their wings, not together or randomly but one after the other. I saw flowers floating past and thought about garlands of flowers offered on the Ganges. A flock of ravens hiding in a tree was disturbed and raised a great racket as they flew off – I have never seen so many in one group. The pinky-orange sun slipped behind a cloud and I headed home.

On my walk I thought about art group today. There was only me, Woman and Beta Psych, so we just sat and talked. Woman narrowly avoided having her eyes jabbed out with paintbrushes when she TOLD me that I wouldn’t self-harm if I had a boyfriend. I coughed up a fur ball and said, “Cutting is not about being single.” She said other stupid, facile things and contradicted herself, or damned me to hell as irredeemable, by saying that men would be scared off by the intensity of my scars. I’m fucked either way, or not as the case may be. I said, that such people could “jog on” as far as I was concerned, that I didn’t need namby-pamby people who cringed at the sight of my scars around me. Life is too short and there are plenty of people who accept all aspects of me, or who have indeed been there themselves. As an LHP-er I don’t think that I have to surround myself with the twee people to feel good. No I don’t have to be nice about people’s beliefs in angels because that will make me a good person. Angelly-Wangelly stuff does my head in as much as therapy-werapy stuff dressed up under the abhorrent term “life coaching” – both run the triple knife edge of doing nothing, being childish make-believe or doing harm to fragile psyches. In any case you might as well imagine a smurf on your shoulder and listen to what the smurfing hell it has to say to you … you will make just as much progress by channeling your own subconscious that way. You do not invoke an archangel for a cuddle, FFS.

I said, I missed TMIWTM. Woman asked, “What does he give you that you can’t get from us?” I replied, “Everything! I have told him things I haven’t said here, and he knows things about me that no one else here knows or will ever know.” She looked shocked. Beta Psych appeased her with, “One-to-one is very different to a group working environment.” You bet your bejeezes it is. I said that I had never been so emotionally close to a man before. I heard her jaw hit the floor. She doesn’t like TMIWTM. She saw him for a couple of sessions 15 years ago and he told her she needed marriage counselling. 15 years later, she still needs marriage counselling… today she admitted to violence in the marriage on both parts.

Nobody’s perfect. But I do get tired of people trying to heal others when their own lives are fucked; or people in bad relationships telling you that a relationship will sort all your problems; or when people pretend to be open-minded but have surprisingly narrow and sudden limitations. I’m fucked in the head. I know that and admit it freely. You literally read my heart on my sleeve and the state of mind in the scars on my arms; but at least I am honest about it. I don’t bullshit and I don’t play around with other people, pretending to be something I’m not.

If I’m tin, then I’m tin but I keep trying to be gold. And somethings will never change: I will always be as tall as a cow.

©StarofSeshat 2011


Bodies Under Siege: Christ as symbol & beauty in the pain

I am currently reading Bodies Under Siege: Self-Mutilation and Body Modification in Culture and Psychiatry by Armando R. Favazza, M.D. It is the first comprehensive attempt at dealing with the subject of self-mutilation from a cultural psychiatric perspective. I am only about 20 pages in, but I already feel that this man has understood the concept of self-mutilation not only from a cultural and ritual perspective but from the perspective of a mentally ill person.

Many people, knowing either vaguely or intimately my personal belief systems and practices as a witch, question and frown upon my use of a crucifix in my practices, and the fact that I often wear one when I am in a particularly bad “demonic” phase. The fact is I take great comfort in aligning myself with the voluntary self-mutilation that the mythic image of Christ allowed to be imposed upon himself. The crux of Christian myth is based around this voluntary sacrifice, but the issue for me is not sacrifice for another but identification with excruciating internal and external pain.

The images of Christ on the cross have been graced over the centuries with a virtual delight in the gore and excruciating agonies of this man-God. As such he can become the epitome and symbol of a self-harmer’s attempt to make peace with the forces inside and to say yes to life; because self-harming is not a suicide attempt but an attempt to avert suicide.

Quoting a discussion about Fakir Mustafa by Graver, Favazza says:

[Fakir] feels [the pain] not as a foreign invasion of the body but as a sensation of the body that separates the body from the mind.

And this is certainly one of the prime motivations for my own self-harming urges – to demarcate boundaries between mind, body, and I would add, soul, to separate out the mix and to ease the pain of their co-existence.

Suppression is a beautiful tool which can facilitate the survival of someone who has lived through the unspeakable; but it can too easily become a means of self-destruction, where the emotions that should be focused on “enemies” is turned inwards, thus indeed creating a form of social self-sacrifice. Favazza elucidates this point:

Blood has awesome symbolic and physiologic powers, as evidenced by its role in religious sacrifice, healing, the formation of brotherhoods, and blood feuds. When harvested properly, it can alter the course of personal and communal history. It is my contention that some mentally ill persons mutilate themselves as a primitive method of drawing upon their blood’s ability to foster bonds of loyalty and union among members of their social network, to demonstrate their hatred of and conquest over real and imaginary enemies, to heal their afflictions, and … to set right their relationship with God.

Favazza discusses the subject of self-mutilation within Christianity extensively, identifying possible schizophrenics, anorectics and self-harmers amongst the martyr crew. He writes:

It is clear that the individual human body mirrors the collective social body, and each continually creates and sustains the other. Misperceptions of reality, feelings of guilt, negative self images, antisocial acts, and all the other symptoms we associate with personal mental illness defy understanding without reference to the psychological, social, cultural, and physical integrity of the communal “body.”

Which leads me on to the disgust, bewilderment and rejection that self-harmers continually face from the “communal body”. Favazza’s statements support my own experience of the anger, disgust and fear that self-harmers illicit not only amongst passers-by but even amongst their so-called “caretakers”. Nobody truly understands the self-harmer from a psychiatric perspective and instead dismisses the person saying, e.g. it must be a chemical imbalance, or part of borderline syndrome, or a way of getting attention. Favazza summarises self-mutilation amongst the mentally ill as a morbid form of self-help, but warns that it is nothing to trifle with and that for those individuals who cannot control the behaviour it may end in unsightly scars or even “the loss of an eye”.

Personally, I wear my scars as a warrior would those won in battle. When your insides resemble the direst of Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings, and your outside is that of an amicable, sweet and smiling Englishwoman, there is a sense of relief when your external appearance begins to resemble the internal reality. Naturally this comes with extreme forms of social and familial rejection. Nobody likes to see pain, nobody likes to be forced to imagine what’s inside the person wearing the scars. There are very few who would reach out and kiss the scars, saying, “There is beauty in such life-affirming pain.”

©StarofSeshat 2011


An occult truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©StarofSeshat 2011


A star to guide me by

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.

Frozen river near where my brother lives

©StarofSeshat 2010


Maggots Part II: A sense of the ridiculous

Ok, ok, so know your maggots but for goddess’ sake don’t go around dissecting everything that just LOOKS like a maggot … some things just are, some things are not in your control, some things do not respond to the rationalist analysis.

I’m sitting on a chair. Why am I sitting on this chair? It’s a bit uncomfortable. Ah, I must be punishing myself and this stems from my Catholic upbringing and the inherent guilt. It wasn’t my fault. I was brought up Catholic it was my mother’s fault. Ergo. It is my mother’s fault I am sitting on this chair.

I’m eating breakfast in the kitchen and not in the living room. Why is this? A living room is for relaxing in, therefore I am not giving myself permission often enough in my life to relax. This is because of the work ethic I was brought up with. It wasn’t my fault. My mother is German. Ergo. It’s my mother’s fault that I sit in the kitchen to eat breakfast.

It’s raining today. The weather report yesterday said it would be sunny. I feel disappointed that it’s raining. Why is this? I thought it would be sunny but it is raining; the meteorologist lied. This supports my belief that everybody lies to me. It’s not my fault. My mother never warned me that life is unpredictable. Ergo. It’s my mother’s fault that it’s raining.

Do you see what I mean?? And do NOT come back and congratulate me for this blinding psychological discovery that it’s all my mother’s fault! I am J.O.K.I.N.G. Geddit?

I can be as intense as the next person, but I sprinkle it with humour and the ability to laugh at myself. While writing this I am giggling away. The RH came into the office and said, “Are you laughing at yourself again?” He says that I find myself the most amusing subject matter, more so than anybody or anything else. It is true. I see the ridiculous in myself and it makes me laugh. My humour helps me climb mountains, and even when my feet are bleeding I am chuckling because I have wide feet that look like duck’s feet and my mind will start to envisage a duck quacking up a mountainside. When my ex turned up on the scene recently I was terrified, but I could still laugh about it at moments because it felt like I was Penelope Pitstock legging it in thigh-high pink boots from my adversary who loped behind me in a black cloak while twiddling his moustache …

Life is ridiculous. It is not always (or ever!) to be controlled. Other people cannot be controlled … So another person needs therapy and they won’t go for it? So what? Let them stew in their own complexes and when their life self-combusts maybe they will reconsider. Harsh? Pragmatic. If someone is ill and then refuses to take care of him-/herself but expects copious amounts of sympathy and emotional balm; leave them crippled. How else will they learn the simple lesson of cause and effect if you keep leaping in like some divine abrogator who deflects the consequences of their actions, sooths, calms and sacrifices your self on the altar of their ego (this does not preclude helping people with everything you have when they truly want to be helped – but believe me, not everyone does want help – some people actually like their life a bit shitty – apparent victims often hold all the power!).

I am right royally sick of it. And there I was yesterday saying I would control my urge to use the blog as an outlet for my vitriol. Oh no. Did you believe me? Do you feel betrayed and hurt? Have I just confirmed the ‘fact’ in your life that everyone lets you down? Glad to be of service.

Have you heard the one about the Jew who every time he dropped his buttered toast it fell on the buttered side. One day it fell butter side up. He was elated. Was this to be a change of fortune for him? He ran to the rabbi and said, “Rabbi, whenever I drop my buttered toast it always lands on the buttered side, but this morning I dropped it and it landed butter side up. Is this a sign from G-d that my fortunes are changing?” The rabbi pondered, and hummed and ha-ed and consulted various Talmudic reference books. Finally he came back to the man and said, “You buttered the wrong side of the bread.” Oy vey!

©StarofSeshat 2009


Maggots Part I: Know your maggots

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

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

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

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

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

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

©StarofSeshat 2009


Introduction to Kundalini Yoga

Yoga is essentially an Indian tradition that can be traced back to the third millennium BCE. Tantrism is a religious and philosophical movement that came about from the fourth century BCE. Tantrism differed from other Hindu and Buddhist teachings in that it represented an anti-ascetic countercurrent to the mainstream. It rejected the caste system and reassessed established values. Tantrism is a celebration of the body which is viewed as the microcosm of the universe. According to Eliade (Yoga, Immortality and Freedom) “for the first time in the spiritual history of Aryan India, the Great Goddess acquires a predominant position … We also recognize a sort of religious rediscovery of the mystery of woman.” Tantrism insists on the holiness and purity of all things, so the “five forbidden things” of Indian philosophy were integral to tantric rites: wine, meat, fish, parched grain and sexual intercourse. In so-called “right-handed” schools these are used symbolically in rituals; in the “left-handed” schools they are used literally. Naturally the West with its prurient attitude to sex has leapt astride this idea and imagines sexual acrobatics and pornographic orgies. In spite of Tantra gaining interest in the 1960s on the wave of sexual liberation, it is not used for the liberation of sexuality per se, but for liberation from the cycle of rebirth.
Tantric yoga, also know as Kundalini yoga, presented something new to the West: a technique for the development of higher consciousness. According to tantric philosophy, the body is made up of a series of chakras linked by channels. This is meant less as a literal description of the physical body, than as an idealisation of the subtle body to guide the yogin’s contemplation. In conformity with the tantric idea that the body is the microcosm of the universe, physical aspects such as the sun, moon, mountains were connected with the chakras, which then were to represent these subtle elements. Deities reside within the body and the spiritual student must connect with this deity within. The Kundalini power itself is represented in the form of a serpent coiled around the spine. Kundalini is the primordial energy or Shakti. The aim is to awaken Kundalini through ritual practices and enable her ascent through the chakra system. Blissful union follows the ascent and far-reaching transformation of the personality.

Bibliography:
The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga, Notes of the Seminar Given in 1932 by C.G. Jung, Edited by Sonu Shamdasani.
© starofseshat 2008


The demonic in me

In Arthur Versluis’ The Philosophy of Magic he writes:

 

“There is one aspect of invocation that must be reiterated: the difference between expulsion of the demonic and invocation of the daimonic… the invocation of devic or celestial influences implies the expulsion of the lower, bestial or demonic creatures which ordinarily inhabit the mind of man – the demons of desire and hatred… Each time we manifest desire or aversion, we are bringing to life, signing a pact with, one of the demons of ego.

The reason the true magus – in the vernacular – ‘consorts with demons’ is to expulse those inner forms of ego. Every instant, every day that one lives without having expulsed those demons is a day lived in a tacit pact with them…For these reasons, the popular image of the magician as one who ‘consorts with demons’ is at once ironic … and accurate…”

This passage struck a chord with me, not least because it was a topic I was discussing with a friend not too long ago. He said that anything in your life which controls you instead of you controlling it, is demonic and calls for some kind of exorcism. That in itself resonated as I feel that I am undergoing an exorcism of my past at the moment which is freeing me physically and mentally. I know a couple of people who have confided in me that they are scared of their own alcohol intake that it is potentially problematic and yet they do nothing to change the situation – this could be classed (according to the above definition) as a form of demonic possession. Compulsive eating is demonic as the sufferer of this condition is most definitely under the control of the disorder, not the other way around. The uniting thread seems to be compulsion, a forcing of our will away from the middle path, often away from what we know is good for us: a compulsion to self-harm through excessive food, excessive alcohol, dangerous relationships or >insert your chosen ‘sin’ here<. Although I know that some people may get their knickers in a twist about me suggesting even indirectly that their ‘weaknesses’ are demonic and they are in need of an exorcism, I hope that they can overcome the knee-jerk response (which may indeed be the inner demon recoiling at being uncovered!) and consider the concept. I find the idea of almost personalizing the compulsions within very interesting. We can often recognise the compulsion, the end-product as it were, but not know the origins which is why we throw ourselves into therapy or compulsive repetition of our errors – so easily one demon can become legion within us if we don’t deal with the original intruder; after all, once demon number one has settled into the comfort of an entrenched ego, why wouldn’t he send out a general invite to his mates?
Yes, I am being flippant, but the concept still holds and it is helping me compartmentalise a mess of feelings inside me. So once the demon is identified, the question is, what to do? I think that is a personal decision, and I would not give a generalised answer to that when someone may take it as law and run with the idea right over a cliff (metaphorically speaking … although isn’t that what Jesus did with the devil whose name was ‘Legion’?). I am still pondering the nature of my demons, and bizarrely the thought of them doesn’t scare me. Colin Wilson wrote a fantastically interesting novel called The Mind Parasites – creatures that have colonised the minds of all men [sic] and who control the fate of mankind by remaining hidden in the depths of the unconscious. After reading that book you never look at the dark, quiet corners of your own mind in the same way again! But where as these parasites frightened me, the concept of the demonic doesn’t. I am keen to know them, because once known, once I have their name, I will be able to oust them from my being and I find that a very positive thought; just as once I admitted that my illness was psychosomatic, rather than clasping a sweaty hand to my forehead and curling up in victim mode at the wasted years and torments of my own mind (!) I felt hugely rejuvenated and empowered. Real chronic physical ailments are sometimes manageable but never curable. By admitting the potential psychosomatic origins of my illness, I have unleashed a flood of energy and uncovered some dark corners with the light optimism: if it is in my mind, then I can conquer it and be well. If the compulsions are demonic, I can know them and expel them. Of this I have no doubt.

The other aspect to this concept is that ego and habit energy is the resting place and breeding ground for such demonic energies. So logically, a two-pronged attack both on ‘knowing your demons’ and on breaking down ego and habit energy would be the most successful. I feel that the last month when I was riding on an artificial high (as genuine as it felt at the time, it was un-real), I was actually surfacing the wave of my ego. It felt good, it felt great, if felt compulsively, addictively wonderful – like too much chocolate, too much coffee, too much sex. And ultimately it was ‘too much’ of everything, it took me away from the middle path and I lost myself in ‘feeling’. I brought a lot back from the journey – there are things I learned – but it showed me once again how deceptive the path of ego can be. We think we are being true to ourselves, when actually we are living a fantasy.

So there are a few essentials for me that come from the concept of the demonic: as Dion Fortune indicates in her book Psychic Self-Defence, the greatest protection is being very grounded in this life, being grounded enough to give a belly laugh at a good film. I am finding my Kundalini yoga supremely grounding; it is what broke the cycle of flying high-higher-highest and brought me gently back to earth. I am now incorporating a minimum of two meditation sessions a day, where I can tune back into myself and check how far I have strayed off the Beauty Path. And this new moon I shall be beginning some ritual work to face my demons. I have Sobek to my left and Anubis to my right, and I am more than ready to stare into the mouth of Apophis. May Osiris bless me and my path. It’s time to know the demons, and really know my Self.

© starofseshat 2008


Hieros Gamos

There is a difference between feeling sexual and being sexual. We all know this. We have all felt sexual without having sex, and (dare I say especially women) have had sex without feeling sexual. And yet the ‘feeling sexual’ part of ourselves is always driven to completing the act. The goal is always physical union.

What if the actual goal is to feel sexual? To hold onto the buzzing energy that we get when we feel in tune. This feeling, I think, comes when we unite body and soul in ourselves. The spark for this internal union may be someone else, in fact is often sparked by the mutual (or one-sided!) affection for another person. We learn to love ourselves through the love we feel from another (imagined or real, and whatever the “quality”/sincerity of that love). We forget for a moment the imperfections of our body and stop beating ourselves up for not being this, or that. For a moment we just ARE, and bask in the affection of another, and revel in the union of our Selves.

The danger here is in thinking that physical union with the other is inevitable or necessary. We all know how the initial frisson fades after years or days (!) or a one-off sexual encounter (!). Suddenly we start seeing the imperfections of the other, and by logical deduction we believe our own clay feet to be revealed. Of all the women who have spoken to me about their sex lives over the years, not a single one has hoped that the actual sexual physical union would continue. Most are relieved when it fades out of the relationship and is replaced by a comfortable friendship (if they are lucky), and others suffer because they force themselves emotionally to give up their bodies for use on a regular basis, just “to get it over with” or just “so he stops pestering”.

Maybe it is not surprising (although I’ve only just realised this while writing), that those women who have spoken to me about the wish to remove physical sex from their lives (bearing in mind I have friends who have NOT spoken about their sex lives!), these women have all had affairs. You might then think that in fact they did want sex, they were just bored with their partners or in unhappy relationships. But I don’t think this is the case. Again, without exception, all the women have remained with their original partners who they love with all their hearts. I think that what they were chasing after was the non-substantial feeling of being whole. Someone walks into their life and makes them er was the non-substantial feeling of being whole. th their original partners who they lFEEL sexual. The hum-drum split between employee and woman, between friend and mother, between all the roles that women have to play, becomes one. They are Goddess. They are sexual, whole and admired. This is the Hieros Gamos (the sacred/holy wedding) of the Self. But chasing after this feeling through another person, even if that person is the spark, will only take you away from the unity with self. The grass is hardly ever greener on the other side. The man (or woman) you fall in love with is just a man (or woman). They are ultimately not the source for the sexual feeling; they are the spark, you are the kindling. Without a spark, the kindling stays unlit. Without kindling the spark extinguishes.

How amazing to maintain the sexual feeling, this Hieros Gamos with self, and to then use it in ritual! Remember what I have just written. I am not talking about a rite involving sex or some great orgy. I’m talking about harnessing a beautiful energy to bring us closer to deity. The physical and spiritual union with ourselves, surely has to precede any union with another, and more importantly with deity. Actual physical union in a ritual context would I think tie us more to this world and ultimately blind us to the real potential of sexual energy. I think it was David Conway who said that when sex enters ritual, any serious spirituality flies out the window. But to be in a state of Hieros Gamos with self, to share that feeling with others, to harness it to move closer to deity – could there be anything better?

Life is an initiation, a process of polishing our souls for ultimate union with God. I long for this union, and it is reflected as a speck in the feelings of wholeness I get from feeling sexual. My mind cannot conceive of the ultimate Hieros Gamos – but this is what I want, no less than total union with God.

© starofseshat 2008


A synchronous blessing

Today a piece of synchronicity dropped into my inbox, an email from chabad.org. In it was an article entitled “Breaking Walls, The Three Weeks” by Sara Esther Crispe. She spoke about the three weeks of mourning mandated by Jewish law to commemorate the smashing of the ten commandment tablets, the destruction of the first temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 423 BCE and then of the second temple by the Romans in 69 CE.

During this period of three weeks which started on Sunday (17 Tammuz), Jewish people do not hold weddings but carry out traditional mourning practices such as not cutting their hair, not eating meat or drinking wine, not listening to music, not purchasing new clothes or bathing for pleasure, and generally refraining from anything where the sole purpose is enjoyment and pleasure.

What struck me was her mention that in the Qabbalistic work Zohar these three weeks are characterised as the seed for what will become. The Three Weeks (Bein HaMetzarim) begin on 17 Tammuz. The number 17 in gematria is equivalent to ‘tov’, the Hebrew word for ‘good’ although the good is still hidden in darkness. The final day of mourning, the 9 Av (10 August) was prophesied to become the most joyous day of the year. It isn’t yet but it will be as the sages teach that Moshiach (the Messiah) will be born either spiritually or physically on that day.

Now I have no time for talk of Messiahs. But what interested me was this:

Along with the 21 days of mourning, there are 21 days of celebration in the Hebrew calendar: Shabbat (1), Rosh Chodesh (1), Passover (7), Shavuot (1), Rosh Hashanah (2), Yom Kippur (1), Sukkot (7) and Simchat Torah (1) [the counting may seem off as Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh are actually celebrated each week/month respectively, but this is the official way of counting them]. The 21 days of the Three Weeks correspond to a vision the prophet Jeremiah had about the destruction of the temple, where he saw a staff of almond wood and heard G-d’s warning [out of respect for the author of the article, I’m not writing the word G-d in full as is usual amongst Orthodox Jews]. The Talmud says, “The almond takes 21 days from when it blossoms until it ripens. This corresponds to the 21 days between the 17 Tammuz, when the walls of Jerusalem fell, and the ninth of Av, when the Holy Temple was burned.” Rabbi Joseph Rozen (the Gaon of Rogatchov – 1858-1936) wrote that G-d’s warning contained a consolation through the symbol of almonds; almonds start off bitter and become sweet as they develop. This is why the 21 days of Bein HaMetzarim are symbolised by the 21 day ‘staff of almond wood’. Crispe writes, “…not only are we able to negate the bitterness of these days, but we are capable of turning their bitterness to sweetness, of transforming these days of mourning into days of rejoicing and gladness.”

What better message could I receive after having had such a painful emotional breakthrough with my doctor yesterday the 21 July on what is essentially the first day of Bein HaMetzarim (as days are measured from evening to evening)? The mourning time may be beginning for Orthodox Jews, but I think it is time for me to think of joyous things and to take the almond blossom as a symbol of my own rebirth.

© starofseshat 2008