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Posts Tagged ‘new hermetics’

“The holidays are upon us,” I keep hearing, meaning Thanksgiving-and-Christmas, the season of spending large amounts of money on friends and family to prove our love for them and eating large amounts of food which we will be called upon to ritually repent in January.

“The holidays” are upon us, if I believe the advertising I see and hear, the jolly red-and-white covers of December issues of magazines that I check in at work, splashed with candy canes and cake recipes, and we are expected to rejoice. As for me, I’m always grumpy and refractory, this time of year. It’s still November and I’m thinking about the dead–my Aunt Margaret, whose birthday was yesterday; my father-in-law, whom I ought to pray to and for more often; my mother, dead 26 years on the 22d, who still in many ways haunts my life.

And I’m thinking about Advent, about apocalypse stories, about the Rapture and the great zombie takeover and what the Mayans did or did not predict. Just for the record, I don’t think they or anyone else predicted the End of the World on 21 December 2012. I definitely don’t think Jesus is coming at any minute to waft away all the True Believers and punish the rest of us with gruesome special effects. As for the zombies, well, we are the zombies, aren’t we? Mindless consumers who will eat everything in sight until there is nothing left, and we eat one another, and die off.

Well.

But it might just be the late-afternoon, early winter light making me feel this way, right at the moment. Remembering the beloved dead is not necessarily a sad thing. It’s remembering the not-so-beloved dead, like my mother and our problematic relationship, that is hard. And for an introvert like myself, the over-cultural exhortations to cook, eat, buy presents, spend money, drink egg nog, ho ho ho, ha ha ha, always make me want to lock myself in a dim room and listen to austere Gregorian chant until it all goes away. That doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to the Thanksgiving meal with family, or to exchanging gifts with those I love. It just means I want to do so in my time, not at the corporate world’s demand.

Long-term readers of this blog (if there are any–one or two) are no doubt used to my vacillating between religious labels: Am I a Druid, an Anglican, a Buddhist, or something else? Is there anything I haven’t tried and found wanting? Maybe I, myself, have been tried and found wanting, by the gods or the egregores of a tradition or at least by my readers. I was raised an Episcopalian, and I will probably always be able to quote the Prayerbook and sing hymns from the Hymnal 1940 with gusto. But the Christian tradition that in large measure formed my spirituality has done a lot in the past ten years or so to kill my love and admiration for it. Granted, it’s been helped along by the atrocities of a number of other Christian traditions–the Roman Catholic hierarchy protecting its pedophile priests, the right-wing Evangelical Protestants in the U.S. doing their best to control female sexuality and reproduction throughout the population–but I cannot hold the Anglican Communion blameless any more.

Nor can I ignore the fact that I just don’t believe any more. I don’t believe or accept many points of Christian doctrine, as a description of reality. I don’t believe in, trust, have any significant relationship with Jesus. Jesus makes most sense to me now as a buddha or bodhisattva, a fully enlightened human being, a teacher of wisdom and compassion who, like Amitabha or Padmasambhava, has his own pure land, the heaven he offers his followers.

I have failed to find a place in Druidry, or to make a druidry for myself. Nobody can say that I haven’t tried, but Druidry has been for me a very beautiful, very attractive garment, in all my favorite colors, that just Does. Not. Fit, no matter how much I squirm or fuss. It is a cloak I cannot wear, a house I cannot live in, no matter how much I like and admire those who can wear the druid cloak and live in the druid grove.

Buddhism continues to provide me with invaluable perspective on managing my mind, on the purpose of spiritual work, on ethical questions, on how the scattered branches of the Western tradition, like the scattered limbs of Osiris, might fit together again into a living whole. Yet it remains a school of practice that is not for me, perhaps because of its cultural contexts, perhaps for more individual reasons. I’m not certain I agree with Dion Fortune‘s dictum that Western people must follow Western paths, but it does seem to me that Westerners who genuinely “convert” to Buddhism, for lack of a better word than “convert”, often come from a background in which there was no significant religious commitment, a secular Jewishness, for example, or a twice-a-year mainstream Protestantism, not from deeply committed practice in a Western tradition.

So where does that leave me? Actually, despite my gloomy start to this entry, I am not left alone in the cold, dark winter night of an atheistic existence. (Getting dark where I am, at the moment, but not terribly cold or wintry.) I still have my training in the New Hermetics, otherwise known as That Thing I Tried And I Finished The Whole Course And It Worked Really Well For Me. I also have, unexpectedly, a new devotion–to Antinous, the Bithynian Boy, the beloved of the Roman Emperor Hadrian who was deified, in accordance with ancient Egyptian tradition, when he drowned in the Nile.

There are a lot of interesting connections between Antinous, Hermetic magic, and stuff in my life, which I think I should save for another post. As I contemplate that, I’ll also be contemplating whether to change the name of this blog, or start a new one, or just muddle on with the name recognition of “Confessions of an Urban Druid” while I blog about magic, Antinous, and my media intake. Cheers.

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Two months ago, I wrote about coming back to druidry after a long hiatus. Since then I have experienced a number of twists and turns on the path that I was very much not expecting. I went through several detours on which I thought I might settle down with Zen Buddhism, or with some kind of Egyptian paganism. Eventually I turned back to something that hadn’t let me down yet: The tools of the New Hermetics magical system.

Every day for a couple of weeks, I have performed the New Hermetics Grounding and Centering, our equivalent to the standard Pentagram Rituals. I have intoned the Middle Pillar into my aura. I have sat down to do the threefold meditation of the Synergistic Meditative Flows: breath awareness, energy work, and visionary scrying.

Last Sunday, I called my magical mentor, Jason, to talk to him about my daily practice and how it was going and to catch up on life in general. I said, among other things, that I just did not think druidry was going to work for me any more, but that I very much wished it would.

He asked me the same question I’ve asked myself over and over: Why druidry? why this path and no other? And the ancillary question, though he did not ask it: Why has finding a place in druidry been so damned difficult for me?

I didn’t really have an answer for him, except that nature spirituality is important to me. I don’t live on a farm, I don’t grow my own food, I don’t keep chickens (I’d rather like to), but I am absolutely certain that my urban trees, my courtyard birds, the wind and clouds, the drenching rains of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, the movements of sun and moon, are just as much Nature as the daily life of a farmer living off the grid. And to build cities seems to me to be part of human nature; I want us to build them more greenly, more sustainably, more humanely, not to stop building them.

Sometimes you ask a question and don’t get an answer. Sometimes you ask a question and don’t get an answer at the time you expect it. The answer to “Why druidry?” came to me in the shower this morning, unexpected but welcome, as shower-borne inspirations usually are. When it popped into my head, I knew that I wanted to share it and that I was ready to start blogging as a druid again.

  • Why druidry? Because the druid is a magician, a priest or priestess, and an artist, and I am all of those  things.
  • Why druidry? Because nature spirituality, in the midst of the city, is an integral aspect of my personal spirituality.
  • Why druidry? Because druidry was imprinted on me as an ideal in a formative period of my life, and connected with stories of deep significance to me.

I’ve often talked about my background as an Episcopalian and how it taught me the importance of song, poetry, and story in religious life, religious meaning. At the same time that I was imbibing the Hymnal and the Prayerbook, I was reading works of fiction that would influence me permanently, and not just Rumer Godden’s In This House of Brede. The “druidic” books that took root in me were children’s retellings of the stories of King Arthur (principally Pyle and Lanier), the Prydain books of Lloyd Alexander, inspired by the Arthurian romances of the Mabinogion, and the Mabinogion Quartet of Evangeline Walton, adult retellings of the Four Branches (very adult–a bit sexy for a young reader, at times, but I didn’t tell anyone).

Those books were crowned, in my teen years, by the publication of The Spiral Dance and The Mists of Avalon. It’s fashionable now in some quarters to sneer at both those books, but as to the first, there were very few other books like it when it was new, and as to the second, it was so damned convincing. I have a lot of issues with Mists when I reread it, as I also do with The Lord of the Rings and other staples of my childhood reading, but Bradley made sense of Malory in a compelling way. And while the druidic magic of the Avalon universe has very little to do with historic druidic practice as we currently understand it, it has everything to do with the Western Mystery Tradition and the work of Dion Fortune and her successors.

It may sound strange–or childish or quixotic or foolish–to settle on a spiritual path because you read about it in a book as a kid. But not only is that what a lot of pagans do, it’s very much what most Christians do, and what anybody does who simply adopts the mainstream religion of their culture. They accept what others tell them as children, go along with the stories they’re given, unless and until they think it over for themselves and change church, or change religion, or reject religion, for their own reasons.

I think I have made druidry hard for myself by not seeing and accepting those simple answers to the question “why druidry” and thinking instead that my druidry had to look like someone else’s, had to conform to external standards. I’m the sort of person who usually works well with clear and specific requirements, as I did in my New Hermetics training, as I do on the job. But in this case, I think I need to strike out on my own, make my own path through the forest, carrying with me the tools that have served me best so far: Song and story, meditation and magic, the ideas of the Sword and the Grail and the Table Round, Merlin the mage and Morgaine the priestess, and a great deal of Capricorn determination.

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Well, apparently I am not a druid.  Again.

My attempts back in November to fulfill the requirements for NaBloPoMo and to make Druid spirituality my primary path both failed.  Since then I have wrestled repeatedly with the angelic conundrum of being attracted to a number of religious paths that I simply can not practice, or can not practice simply.

I’ve been attracted to Druidry since the early 1990s.  Back then I longed to join OBOD, but the cost was prohibitive; while my income has increased since those days, so has the cost of OBOD’s famous correspondence course.  Whatever the exchange rates between the pound and the U.S. dollar might be, the Atlantic has not gotten any smaller, and packets from OBOD will always have to cross it to get to prospective druids in the States.

I discovered the Ancient Order of Druids in America at the end of 2004, and I managed to achieve the first degree, Apprentice Druid, within a couple of years.  I’ve tried repeatedly to advance to second degree, but no matter my intentions, I repeatedly found myself not doing the work.  I am still a First Degree member in good standing, but the work for further degrees is not, I think, going to get done.

I learned today that there has been a big blow-up in another pagan tradition to which I’ve been attracted for years, the Feri or Faery tradition stemming from Victor and Cora Anderson.  Like many people, I think, I first heard of it through Starhawk’s mentions in The Spiral Dance, which I first read when I was thirteen and the book was brand new.  I was thrilled to discover that people actually worshipped the old gods whose stories I’d read throughout my childhood, and practiced a kind of magic, another topic I’d read about precociously.  I was enchanted, and I use the word in the fullest sense, with her descriptions of Victor’s Faery teachings, though that enchantment translated into lots of bad poetry rather than into trying the magical exercises or even performing rituals.

I still rather miss being an Anglican, particularly around Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.  The Incarnation was and is far more important to me as a doctrine than the Atonement; the Atonement, for me, makes little sense without a stress on the Incarnation and has everything to do with Divine Love revealing itself in extremity and nothing to do with a wrathful Deity being bought off somehow by the torture of his Son.

Buddhism, especially the Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism of Tibet, is the thing that has been the most helpful and illuminating for me over the past five years or so.  Its philosophy explained so much of Western magic and religion in a newly coherent way, and the practices and community I found helped me deal with stress, train my mind, look at the big picture.  But I don’t live in circumstances where I have regular access to a Tibetan Buddhist teacher, and I’m not willing to make huge changes in my life–such as relocating to another city or learning to drive and buying a car for the first time–in order to do so.  I can’t help but feel that makes me a bad Buddhist, a half-assed practitioner, but I’m insistent that my spiritual practice reduce chaos and stress in my life (give or take a few necessary crises) rather than increase it, and moving or buying a car would definitely count as an increase in stress.  I can’t even switch tracks and practice with a Zen lineage, which might not be a bad thing; again, there’s no sangha with a teacher that’s accessible to me in time and place.

There’s a saying that is often useful even though it sounds ditzy: “Bloom where you’re planted.”  I prefer metaphors like, “Go through the door that’s open, or out the window if the door is locked.”  Or, “Deal with what lands in your lap.”  Recently two things have opened up for me or landed in my lap: The chance to take yoga classes and develop a practice, and the chance to study further with Jason Augustus Newcomb in the New Hermetics system.

I’ve been interested in yoga since I was a teenager (hm, along with Witchcraft and Druidry and what not else), and right before Christmas I discovered I was living a few blocks away from a thriving yoga studio.  I registered for their five-class beginners’ workshop, which started anew on December 23rd, and started attending regular beginner-level classes alongside my equally interested husband. The improvement we have both felt in strength, flexibility, pain relief, and overall well-being has been enormous, in a relatively short time. I can do things with my body that six weeks ago I would have sworn were impossible for me, and that’s after little more than a month of classes.  Those really terrifying postures you see on yoga calendars now look to me like a difference of quality, not of kind–like the difference between my own fiction and [insert Great Novel here] rather than like the difference between my body and an invertebrate’s.  Even now I’m looking forward to sweating through tomorrow night’s class and hoping that the mix of snow, sleet, and rain we’re predicted to get won’t cause a cancellation or make walking too treacherous.

Back in 2005, I was one of the first students to take the course that Jason based on his then-new book, The New Hermetics, and one of a few to make it through the whole program and go on to take the Advanced work two years later.  Jason’s system of mental and magical training worked better for me, in terms of both daily life management and of working big changes in my life, than any other spiritual practice had worked before.  It also led me to the Mahayana ideals of bodhichitta and dedicating the merit of one’s practice to the benefit of all beings, and thus to investigating Buddhism afresh and finding new answers and inspiration there.  When Jason recently announced that he was going to teach a beta version of a revised course, available to previous students at a hefty discount, I was right there like all the bad metaphors for being right there that you can think of–white on rice, ugly date, cheap suit, the works.

Actual work with the new program is starting in February, at Imbolc.  I’ll be lighting some candles for the Star Goddess again and asking for a blessing on the work.  My overriding goal for this re-training is to bring everything that I’ve learned, from Feri, Druidry, the Church, Buddhism, and wherever, and use the New Hermetics to contain it.  To put it another way, my goal is to cross-fertilize the New Hermetics, which comes out of a specific tradition of Western magic, with everything else that has worked for me.  I have, after all, spent over twenty years seeking, studying, learning, in a variety of traditions; perhaps it’s time for me to stop envying people who have spent as many years identifying by one name, one tradition (whilst no doubt studying many things), and start taking seriously what I’ve learned and bringing it to bear on the practice that I know I can work, and that will work for me.

To that end, I would like to stop posting here and renew posting at A Comfortable Oxymoron, to give myself a wider context in which to talk about walking the Path and undertaking the Great Work.  I will likely be cross-posting a version of this entry to that blog.  See you at the new URL, I hope.

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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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… in a magical working for the Winter Solstice.

This effort comes from writer and mage Jason Augustus Newcomb, author of The New Hermetics and 21st Century Mage.  I have studied and worked with Jason for five years and owe a lot of my direction on the Path to his books and his mentoring.  Please consider carrying out the following working between Monday, the Solstice proper, and Christmas Day:

Creating a Universal Solar-Hermetic Egregore

This Solstice, I want your help in creating a giant battery of magical power, love, wisdom, peace, prosperity and strength. I want to create a universal egregore that magically links all participants with a huge source of communal magical strength and vitality for the coming year.

The solstice is traditionally a time for solar rebirth, and this year I want to birth a Solar-Hermetic “Sunchild” with the help of magicians all over the world all working together in love to create something beautiful in unity. If we all work together we could have hundreds or even thousands of people contributing energy to a huge magical battery that will only become more powerful each time it is used.

The “Sunchild” is an androgynous godling that will contain the collective love, wisdom and power of every participant. The power of the egregore will constantly expand as contributors will become more powerful as they become harmonized with the forces invoked, so that the power within the egregore will constantly grow. This will also coincide with the solar force increasing in the coming year.

The working will be extremely simple and fairly short to conduct (about 20 minutes), and yet highly powerful as well as healing to the world. There will be no particular temple set up, and no tools needed. I have created a guided audio recording that will completely direct you through the simple inner magical procedure.

Click here to download this free recording:

http://jasonaugustusnewcomb.com/store/initsec.html

All you need to do is face the setting sun right as it is descending below the horizon on the day of the Solstice, or any day after that up until Christmas, then play the recording and follow along as you give and receive various magical energies to birth the “Sunchild.”

Please participate in this, and spread the word to help get magick users and esotericists all over the world to participate. Tell everyone in your lodges, covens, meetup groups, your massage therapists, reiki practitioners, everyone who might like to have a battery of loving power this year. Everyone is welcome, and everyone’s contribution will add more power and beauty to the “Sunchild.” I want to see hundreds or even thousands of people participating in this united working. I want us to create a truly Universal Solar-Hermetic Egregore that any and every esoteric practitioner can give to and draw upon.

If you cannot participate at sunset on the Solstice itself, please participate at sunset in the days following. There will be a constant rolling creation as people all over the planet send their energy up at their unique sunsets. This is a big revolutionary spell that circles the globe with the sunset for several days, involving hundreds or perhaps even thousands of magic users. Let’s make an amazing egregore of Love, Beauty and Power together.

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I stayed home from work today after sitting up half the night with spasms of back pain.  My back has been a recurring problem since a really bad incident in 1994, when I had pain that made last night’s aches seem mild and had to be extracted from my fourth-floor apartment on a back board, through the window, by a cherry-picker.  I woke briefly around seven a.m. to call in sick, speak to my pet birds, and see my husband out the door; then, I went back to sleep solidly until almost noon.

This afternoon, I received a phone call from my doctor’s office, saying that the culture they took on Monday evening showed I do have a bacterial infection.  There’s a prescription waiting for me at my pharmacy.

Today’s Tarot card was Lust, Crowley’s re-imagining of the Strength card.  I don’t physically reverse the Thoth cards because the Rose Cross design on the back is not conducive to it, but in this case I think it’s fairly obvious that the reversed or ill-dignified meaning is the appropriate one: Not strength but weakness, not energy but burnout.

How do you tell when your spiritual practice is working?  Step one is that everything goes wrong.

Christianity has traditionally described the spiritual path as consisting of the three stages of purgation or purification, illumination, and union.  What they don’t tell you in so many words is that purification means it gets worse before it gets better.  Imagine a major housecleaning event.  Doesn’t everything look dirtier and more disorganized, worse and not better, in the early stages?

For several months, I have been following the program which the Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn recommends to those who have achieved the Portal grade in their order.  It begins very simply with a month of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram followed by a month of the Middle Pillar.  Since I began doing these practices regularly, I’ve had stomach upsets, headaches, the return of my back pain, this infection.  I’ve also started this new blog, experimented with poetry and with original fiction again, and gotten a lead on a beautiful house my husband and I will be able to rent next summer when our current lease expires.

The New Hermetics, the tradition in which I’ve trained to Advanced Adept, emphasizes setting goals for one’s magical work, concrete goals in the areas of work, sexuality, creativity, spirituality, health and finance, emotions and relationships.  I’ve affirmed over and over that I want to lose weight, to get more fit, to eat a healthier diet–but I haven’t done much about it.  So instead I’ve been given ailments that have forced me to eat smaller portions, stop drinking gallons of cola, carry less baggage on my daily walk to work, and, in short, make changes that will lead to fulfillment of my goals.

How do you know when your spiritual practice is working?  When it changes you, with or without your cooperation.

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