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Tony Grist

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Ghostes on postes [Oct. 24th, 2005|11:04 am]
Tony Grist
One of my party pieces when I was a Wiccan was, "Look, Halloween ain't that special. We celebrate eight festivals and they're all of equal importance."

It irritated me when journalists came a-calling and all they wanted to talk about were spooks and skeletons and magic pumpkins. "No," I said, "Wicca is just as much about spring flowers and high summer and icicles hanging on the wall...."

But I was always an awkward cuss. Show me an orthodoxy and my instinct is to start doing some spadework round its foundations.

For example, our temple was dedicated to the Sun.

Hermes, Aphrodite and the Unconquered Sun- those were our patrons- and as often as not we worked in daylight.

I was impatient with the mystification, with the smoke and mirrors, the mind games. I cut that stuff back and cut it back until finally I was standing in an open meadow with the sun directly over head and a clear view in all directions.

Then I shouldered my scythe and left the field, shutting the gate behind me.

Clink!
linkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: dadi
2005-10-24 03:45 am (UTC)
My preferred festival has always been, and will always be, Beltaine. Yess.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-10-24 05:54 am (UTC)
I think my favourites are the two solstices.
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[User Picture]From: thewayupward
2005-10-24 04:16 am (UTC)
Why was Hermes one of the patrons? I mean - which aspect of Hermes, in particular? Messenger of the gods? Travellers, thieves? Alphabet? Caduceus? Trickery? Doesn't he spend rather a lot of time pissing Apollo off? HELP the puzzlement is killing me! (Actually, also, why Aphrodite?)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-10-24 06:08 am (UTC)
Every aspect of Hermes. That's what so much fun about him- he's so complex. I see him as the God of civilisation.

We were working to a Cabalistic model. The worlds of Hermes (Mercury), Aphrodite (Venus) and the Sun form a triangle in the bottom half of the Cabalistic Tree of Life. We started off with just Hermes and Aphrodite (representing the two sexes, also Civilisation and Nature) and found that what we got was a sort of ding-dong backwards and forwards energy that never went anywhere, so we added the Sun, at the apex of the triangle, to achieve some upwards lift.
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[User Picture]From: karenkay
2005-10-24 05:54 am (UTC)
Yes, once you're standing in the open meadow with a clear view in all directions, most people are no longer interested, and you, yourself, have no choice but to leave the field. Makes sense.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-10-24 06:08 am (UTC)
I worked myself out of a "job"....
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From: sunfell
2005-10-24 06:03 am (UTC)
I tired of all the skulking in the shadows myself. Like you, I wielded my own sort of scythe, and cut back the nonsense. I guess most people prefer the murky shadows and all the hardware.

My own "Posse" is solar in orientation. They like moonlight too, but only occasionally. As one of them wittily put it: "Flashlights cannot be consecrated."
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-10-24 06:16 am (UTC)
Moonlight is tricky. The sphere of the Moon is the sphere of illusion. Living only by the Moon can lead you into all sorts of trouble and confusion

My interest in Wicca was always about getting to the Truth. I'm not going to rubbish what I found in the Craft. I did a great deal of learning and growing. But eventually the search for Truth led me back out into the everyday world.
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From: sunfell
2005-10-24 06:50 am (UTC)
Same here, and I think that is what is supposed to happen to Seekers on the Path. It isn't a butterfly thing- flitting from faith to faith, instead, it is a progressive thing: sifting the kernels of truth and insight from a practice, and integrating it into your life experience. The critical part is knowing when to move on.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-10-24 09:23 am (UTC)
That's what I feel too.

I stayed with Wicca for a long time after it ceased to engage me because I had obligations to oyhers. It wasn't altogether a chore- I enjoyed doing circles and talking about the gods- but it was getting to be like watching repeats of a favourite TV show- I wasn't learning anything new.
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From: sunfell
2005-10-24 09:47 am (UTC)
That is an excellent analogy- TV repeats. I need to learn new things- I am not content to run in place. Sometimes I take breaks from my studies in order to absorb what I've learned, but as soon as I do, it's time to learn more.

From time to time, though, it is helpful to take a 'refresher' course- to review things you've learned. It is interesting to see how your progress changes your perceptions of different concepts. I plan to do that with my Rosicrucian material- it'll allow me to revisit the concepts, as well as index and file my monographs in preparation to continuing my studies.

Life is a learning process. That's what makes it interesting.
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[User Picture]From: solar_diablo
2005-10-24 07:15 am (UTC)
It's not surprising to me that the only time journalists approached you was this time of year. The public has an ingrained image of witchcraft as crones hunched over bubbling cauldrons with black cats and attendant spooks cavorting around them, so of course that's what the media will sell to them. There's nothing terribly sexy about, say, Imbolc to the public's mind. They want sex and death, and as participants in the public mindset so do Wiccans, which may explain why Beltaine and Samhain get the lion's share of attention from everyone.

On another note - your impatience with mystification sounds Protestant to the nth degree. While I haven't made any serious move to join the Catholic or Orthodox church (and probably never will) I'm utterly fascinated by the blood and magic in their rites. Part of the reason Protestantism leaves me cold is that the sermons come off more as sewing circles than anything else - say a prayer, sing a hymn, hear a nice sermon and then have coffee. There was no magic, nothing otherworldly about them that let's you feel you might actually brush up against divinity. Aren't mysticism, ritual, and theatricality useful tools to step outside the rational mind and tap into energies we couldn't otherwise reach? Or was your particular group using ritual/theatrics to compensate for other deficiencies?

Sorry to give you the third degree here. It's an academic hazard for me everytime someone brings up religion. ;)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-10-24 09:37 am (UTC)
I got into Wicca precisely because I wanted the blood and magic that was missing from any form of Christianity I'd practised. But then my inner-protestant got to work on my new religion and found it intellectually unsatisfying. This is the story of my life- a never-ending tug-of-war between romanticism and rationalism.

These days if I want magic I do some writing, or else I watch a movie or go for a walk....

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From: sunfell
2005-10-24 10:00 am (UTC)
I see mysteries and rites as icing on the cake- a way to emotionally engage a person in order to impart a lesson. This works- at least in the beginning. What is required next is seldom discussed- but is something that I think requires addressing in the greater sense of the Craft.

The real purpose of the Mysteries is to build another "supernatural" mode of perception. Mysteries contain 'metadata' in the form of stories, myths, etc. When one is learning these mysteries and rituals properly, there should be a 'database' building in the subconscious that permits 'tunneling' to the concept presented. Early use of the mysteries in their long form 'imprints' this important metadata into the subconscious, preparing it for the later, mature use and interpretation of the material.

This is the point at which most people fall away and lose interest. They get bored with the mysteries and walk away from them. Instead, the Seeker should continue with their studies, wean themselves off the theatrics, and permit the 'database' to take over. The information runs in the background, adding to the intuitive capacities of the student, 'tunneling' through the rational mind to run things in parallel on the subconscious. The result should be the ability to grasp both the rational and the mystical intent of a symbol, word, sound, or other 'mysterious' thing. They are no longer 'mysteries', they become words and symbols of a language that spans both rational and mystical perceptions.

This was the meaning of Christ's repeated phrase 'those with eyes to see and ears to hear'- it was a signal that the teaching to follow was dual-layered, having roots in both the mundane and the mystical world. Those who had properly processed the mysteries in their early training would be able to 'read' the dual-layer message, and extract all the information from it. Those who did not would get a parable that might lead them to learning the underlying mystery.

I hope this makes sense. Sorry about the physics/computer talk- it is my way of describing things.
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[User Picture]From: solar_diablo
2005-10-24 10:48 am (UTC)
No need to apologize, this is the kind of thing that gets me going. :P

We're basically in the same boat here, theory-wise. Truth is dual-layered, requiring both theoretical understanding and first hand, intutive knowledge for complete comprehension. As one theorist posited, it's the difference between knowing the causes and symptoms of drunkenness, and being drunk.

Like Tony, I often find myself in that tug of war between reason and intuition. We're programmed in the West to trust the former more than the latter, but we lose out on a legitimate source of truth by shying away from intuition. It's why, more than any other reason, I've lost interest in Protestantism as an organized religious expression. There's no room for mystery in most of the denominations, and it's akin to trying to reach your destination with only half the road map. Too few people appreciate the need for both halves, and are content to try and muddle their way through with one or the other.
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From: sunfell
2005-10-24 11:14 am (UTC)
I tend to prefer the scientific, rational side of perception simply because it's a way to quell fear. Knowledge is power, and knowledge dispells fear.

But I like balance, too- that 'third way' that is not all light or all shadow, or all science or all intuition- but rather, an integrated interlacing of the two.

I know fluffy whitelighter newage sorts who would not go near anything they perceive as 'dark', and I pity them because they will not see the extra dimensions that shadow lends to something. And I've known crunchy-granola earth lover types who are horrified that I could describe the earth remaking her crust as 'defragging'. Or that I would dare use a mathematical or chemical equation to illustrate a mystery. How dare I use my marquee screensaver as a prayer wheel!

I dare. It works, and there's a cheeky bit of humor in there, too. I think that last is probably the most important part.

I like poking holes in the wall between modes of perception. Like my friend's 'smoke theory' of electrons, it's just enough cognitive dissonance to move the little self aside and permit the actual Current to flow.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-10-24 11:48 am (UTC)
Seems like we talked before about the institutionalization of something beautiful--I guess it can't be avoided--like Peter wanting to build tents at the place of the Transfiguration.

But when one peels away all the wrappings, the numinous is hopefully still there.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-10-24 01:30 pm (UTC)
The universe remains mysterious. "Not only stranger than we know, but stranger than we can know."
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[User Picture]From: sommeilbienivre
2005-10-24 12:29 pm (UTC)
You know, I've been thinking about this for a while... I've been considering a switch to a more pagan-based religion, but I realised that I would still be looking for a way to stubbornly question the rules.

Am I too pig-headed to believe?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-10-24 01:32 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't say "pig-headed".

Not to believe is a great gift. I spent 50 years driven by th need to believe in something or other and then, quite unexpectedly, the need dropped away and I find I'm a whole lot happier without it.
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