… a thought making crooked all that is straight.

Masks

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

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The insider and the out-outsider

Once again my mind returns to thoughts of the individual and her/his relationship to community. I blame my university background in social anthropology.

Tomorrow I am going to a fetish market and the fetish party thereafter. Yes, whips, chains, spankings, dungeon equipment and all. The last time I attended I had a wardrobe malfunction just before leaving, and so opted for the most comfortable and smartest outfit I had. Unfortunately the outfit was totally unsuitable for a fetish venue: unless you are wearing rubber corsets, PVC outfits, Steampunk or transgender clothing, the acceptable alternative is black. How ironic that I virtually always wear black but ended up choosing a psychedelic mixture of patterns and colours instead. As a result I felt out of place and people didn’t know how to pigeon-hole me. I felt like a Sunday school teacher taking a walk through an opium den. Clothes identified people’s proclivities; they identified whether a person was Dom/me or sub. Dom/mes will not talk to submissive people because they might belong to another Master or Mistress, and it is a transgression of unspoken rules to play with somebody else’s submissive.

Years ago I had a social networking account. I was connected with many occult people, mainly of the LHP persuasion. I was new to the path and felt a bit out of my depth although I was making strides in my learning. But I never felt fully a part of the community because I didn’t ever “play” the darker-than-the-darkiest-darkness dude, so black my own mother couldn’t find me in a coal shed shebang. One day I looked at all the status lines:

Hail the chthonic forces!
My soul is travelling the reverse of the tree of life
Hell’s gates open and I embrace the fury!
Today I honour Baron Samedi!
Only those initiated into true gnosis will pass the doors of Death

And my status line?

I’m just about to have a cup of tea and put a chicken in the oven

Sigh. No. Somehow I just wasn’t wearing the right online “uniform”. I remained on the fringes, my hyperbole too soft, too friendly, too this-is-how-I-am. I didn’t wear a mask, and masks were de rigeur!

Groups have rules and etiquette that distinguish them from other groups, otherwise what would make them different? Isn’t it enough to have a different way of thinking, without having to fall into the trap of becoming a fashion clique: got the book, got the T-shirt, got the hand gesture to use on every photo to show that I rock! But humans are base creatures and we find comfort in such binding actions – the “in” vocabulary that leaves all others bewildered, the “in” jokes that no one else understands. Being “in” is so much more preferable as a social primate than being “out”. The outsider has no place in this jungle, she is rogue and looked upon suspiciously. She is the hedge-rider, the traditional witch straddling boundaries between village and … the wild, forbidding “world out there”/the “world beyond life”; she straddles social customs and acts as an intermediary between our so-called civilised, social self and our animal, degenerate self – the latter dragging us down, the former supposedly raising us up.

So even in fringe groups, such as occultists and fetishists, who may define themselves as outsiders because they dwell outside of the mainstream, there is a focus on social integration and rules of belonging … if you transgress them, you are out of the outsiders – a twist on Micky Flanagan’s brilliant skit on going out-out. Suddenly you are the out-outsider.

But if you play by the rules, learn the group language and wear the group mask, then you too can belong! It’s a toss-up between being true to your authentic self and finally bridging that yawning gap of loneliness and isolation. For those who have truly experienced loneliness, what wouldn’t they do to connect and belong?

However, sacrificing your self to the group mores can mean that you lose the outsider edge; you lose the ability to straddle more than one world. You are subsumed within an all-encompassing whole, rather than striding forth on your personal path, however weird or humdrum that may be. Not everybody’s authentic self is eccentric and quirky. Mine is, but that doesn’t make it better or worse than somebody who raises their hands in horror at what I do or don’t do.

The real question is the motivation behind our actions. Are we ACTing or RE-acting? Are we following the herd from a need to belong, or are we driven forward by an internal motivation, a lust for self-manifestation?

So, tomorrow I shall wear the right uniform. I shall behave in a way that people know I am Domme. I shall speak the group language and enjoy a day of belonging. But when I return home, I shall undress, light candles on my altar, pet my rat and continue reading about Pomba Gira. My happy medium is to continue straddling several worlds; to dabble my toes in the “in” puddle, before drying my feet and walking off alone into the woods. I am a hedge-rider, a witch, and I always shall be. I am an outsider, an out-outsider even, and that’s fine by me. The questions I leave you with are: how much of your own behaviour is an action originating from an urge for true manifestation of self, the expression of your unique will? And how much is it a RE-action to a need for belonging, a desire to be “in”, a longing to bridge the loneliness within? Are you straddling the hedge demarcating village life and the wilds? Or are you holding hands with your fellow group members, backs turned to the darkness, eyes firmly shut for fear of looking over your own shoulders?

©StarofSeshat 2012


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