Archive for the ‘The Mysteries’ Category

The Hermit

It was around 1990 that I discovered Mary K. Greer‘s books on Tarot. I had been vaguely interested in the topic for years, thanks to my discovering a book on the Marseilles deck in the light booth of the amateur theatre where I was acting in a play called Tomorrow the World; my mother also owned a couple of decks, if I remember correctly, or perhaps I bought that Barbara Walker Tarot myself.

In any case, Greer had published a trio of oversized books on Tarot, laying out not just methods of divination and fortune-telling but schemes of using the Tarot for meditation, self-understanding, and getting the cosmic picture. Their titles were Tarot for Your Self, Tarot Constellations, and Tarot Mirrors. I am delighted that Greer now has a blog and that the first two of those are available in revised editions as Tarot for Your Self and Who Are You in the Tarot?

In Tarot Constellations (revised as Who Are You in the Tarot?) Greer unfolds a numerological approach to the Tarot based on reducing one’s name and birthdate to a number under 22. She identifies nine constellations of meaning:

  • the Principle of Will and Focused Consciousness, embodied in the Magician, the Wheel of Fortune, and the Sun
  • the Principle of Balanced Judgment through Intuitive Awareness, embodied in the High Priestess, Justice, and Judgment
  • the Principle of Love and Creative Imagination, embodied in the Empress, the Hanged Man, and the World
  • the Principle of Life Force and Realization of Power, embodied in the Emperor, Death, and the Fool (counted as trump 22)
  • the Principle of Teaching and Learning, embodied in the Hierophant and Temperance
  • the Principle of Relatedness and Choice, embodied in the Lovers and the Devil
  • the Principle of Mastery through Change, embodied in the Chariot and the Tower
  • the Principle of Courage and Self-Esteem. embodied in Strength and the Star
  • and the Principle of Introspection and Personal Integrity, embodied in the Hermit and the Moon

Any calculation of one’s name or birthdate number will result in a two-digit or single-digit number, yielding a Personality Card (the two-digit number) and a Soul Card (the single-digit number to which it reduces). My birth name, which I have never changed, yields the numbers eighteen and nine, giving me the Personality Card of the Moon and the Soul Card of the Hermit.

Here is some of what Greer has to say about the Moon-Hermit:

… You are fascinated by the unseen and the unknown, the strange, and even the macabre. The Moon relates to past lives, to magic and mystery….. Your life as an 18-9 tends to revolve in cycles like the phases of the moon…. The confusion, illusion, and delusion of The Moon [Trump] comes in part from trying to do something when it is not the right time in the cycle….. You are here to deal with specific karmic responsibilities…. It is through the imagination that you can make subjective experience objective…. “Showing the way” is your characteristic action, and you will eventually serve as some kind of a teacher or role model for others….. Since you think for yourself, you may actually be quite unconventional, but you are quietly so, preferring to act circumspectly…. You project your high ideals into works that will benefit everyone. It is only through such service that you as a Hermit can realize yourself fully. You cannot work successfully for self alone, but must act for the benefit of humanity.

I know those words sound pretty high-falutin’ coming from a middle-aged woman who works in a library and writes a blog and fanfic in her spare time, but they do help me understand better what I’m trying to do here in this forum, and in my fanfic, too, for that matter (since spiritual and magical themes have a way of creeping in when I think I’m just trying to write some guy-on-guy porn). What keeps me humble is remembering that a lot of depictions of the Hermit card show the Hermit going forward in the dark with his lantern held behind him. The Hermit doesn’t always have a clear path ahead or a clear idea of where he’s going; he may not have any idea where he’s going. Yet in going forward, regardless, he sheds light for those who follow after.

That is what I hope I am doing here.


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I’ve borrowed my title from a post by Nimue at Druid Life in which she writes feelingly of this sense of belonging as a distinctly Druid idea and as a basis for ethics and practice. “If we belong first and foremost to the land,” she writes,

… then we do not belong to our human communities above all else. We are not the property of the state, or owned by our employers. This affects how we perceive ourselves and our human relationships. We are not owned by the job, or by the demands of human expectations. We belong instead to the land, and consciousness of that allows us not to be ruled so easily by misguided cultural norms, or social pressures. We are also less inclined to see the land itself or anything that lives upon it as property to be owned by humans. We belong to it, it does not belong to us.

I’m not sure I would agree that the sense of belonging is the defining characteristic of Druidry, but I certainly agree that it’s an important one. What I want to point out here is that Nimue lives in Gloucestershire, in southwest England, and I live in Maryland, in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., in North America. The land to which Nimue belongs is not the land to which I belong. The United States of America is an enormous land compared to the island of Britain, but while I have travelled some, I have never lived anywhere but this one city, in this state, not too far from the western edge of the Atlantic.

I think there is a challenge for those of us who are Druids in North America, Australia, South America, or indeed any place but Northern Europe and the U.K. to belong to the land we live in and not imagine we belong to the land our traditions come from. At least, I know it’s a challenge for me, and I imagine I’m not alone. Many of the trees of the Ogham grow in North America as well as Europe, but they are not the same species. The British holly and the local holly are not identical; the British robin and the American robin are two entirely different birds, alike only in their orange bosoms.

I dream of visiting England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales. I imagine that I might feel more at home there than I do here, in the only place I’ve ever lived. But unless I actually move to the U.K. (not bloody likely), the land to which I belong is the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and my Druidry has to work with that fact. So I’m working on it.

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The Orthodox icon of Christ harrowing hell.If you look at other religions, including Buddhism, from a traditional Christian perspective, they can look incoherent, inadequate, even demonic, depending on your starting point.  Some of the early Church Fathers thought that the myths of dying and rising gods were intuitions of ultimate truth, a preparation for the truth of Resurrection; others thought they were deceptions crafted by demons to lead human minds away from the truth.  But if you look at Christianity from a Buddhist perspective, it makes sense.  Jesus is obviously a bodhisattva, one who aspires to enlightenment in order to save all beings.  He is a fairly advanced bodhisattva, at that, manifesting siddhis (magical/miraculous powers), teaching Dharma in koan-like stories that yield their meaning to meditation rather than analysis.  He is cruelly executed by the civil authorities, but he enters his own pure land or Buddhafield after death and manifests his sambhogakaya, his enjoyment body of bliss and light, to his closest students.  Like Amitabha Buddha, he has vowed to bring all who invoke his name to his buddhafield where they will have the opportunity to practice Dharma unhindered.

Some–though I hope no one amongst my readers–might consider that heresy or even blasphemy.  For me, it’s a way of relating the religion I grew up with to the path that I have found of most help to me and come to believe is ultimate truth.

Happy Easter, friends.

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I no longer call myself a druid, but I feel more druidic than ever as I absorb the morning sunlight on my walk to work.  I have finally realized how much my well-being depends on exposure to the light.

I haven’t thought of myself as a Christian in a while, but I feel more Anglican than ever as I say the Daily Office and find strength and stability in the practice, and new meaning in the familiar texts.

I am not really practicing as a Buddhist, even though I formally took refuge and the bodhisattva vow, but the perspectives of Mahayana and Vajrayana have illuminated and revived my Western religious and magical practice.

I don’t know what to call myself or my path, except to say that I am a magician, and I work in the Western magical tradition or with the Western Mysteries; I have no convenient labels or fancy poetic phrases.  I do know that if, as many systems say, there are three chief stages to the Path, then I am at last firmly in stage two: No longer a beginner, no longer uncertain of my commitment, purified and being illuminated, a Proficient (in the Christian sense, as used by Anglican writer Martin Thornton), an Adept (in the Hermetic sense, if only a fledgling), an aspiring bodhisattva.

More and more, I seek to expose myself to the Light.

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This mystery and the pathway to it [are] revealed every day at the Christian Eucharist, chanted every second by nuns and monks with the Mani Mantra and rehearsed continually by G[olden] D[awn] magicians in the Qabalistic Cross.

–from Peregrin at Magic of the Ordinary

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