Tuesday 19 February 2013

Gate 12: Aleth-Mem (אם)

א - Aleph - Air, Strength, Silence, Separation, Mirror, and Union.

מ - Mem - Water, Wisdom, Womb, Love, One, and Pregnancy.

אֵם - 'em - Mother of humans, figurative mother of the people (Deborah), mother of animals, point of departure or division
אִם - 'im - if (conditional), no or not in oaths, if, whether, when, whenever, since, but rather
לְאֹם - leom - a people, nation (Lamed as a prefix is to/for; for the mother, people or nation)
אָמָה - 'amah - maid-servant, female slave, maid, handmaid, concubine. (Heh as a suffix makes a pronoun; pronoun of mother rather than the mother herself)
אַמָּה - 'ammah - cubit, distance the length of the forearm, 18 inches.  Metaphorically beginning, head, foundation of a thing.  "Mother of the Arm", forearm.
אֻמָּה - 'ummah - people, tribe, nation
אֲמָם - 'Amam - their mother
נָאַם - na'am - to prophecy, utter a prophecy, speak as prophet, say
נְאֻם - neum - utterance, declaration, revelation
אָמַן - 'aman - to support, confirm, be faithful, uphold, nourish, foster-father, foster-mother, nurse, pillars, supporters of the door, to be established, be carried, make firm, sure, lasting, verified, to trust, to believe in.
אָמַן - 'aman - to take the right hand, to turn right, choose to the right, go to the right, use the right hand
אָמָן - 'aman - master-workman, artist, steady-handed one, artisan
אָמֵן - 'amen - verily, truly, amen, so be it
אֹמֶן - 'omen - faithfulness
אֱמֶת - 'emeth - firmness, faithfulness, truth, sureness, reliability, stability, continuance, true testimony, true judgement, divine instruction, truth as a body of ethical or religious knowledge, true doctrine.
אָיֹם - 'ayom - terrible, dreadful
אָמִי - 'Amiy - bond-servant, descendant of Amon, Solomon's servant.
מָא - ma' - (Aramaic of Hebrew מָה, mah) what, how, of what king, whatsoever, whatever, how now, why, wherein, whereby, wherewith, by what means, because of what, the like of what, how much, how many, how often, for how long, for what reason, to what purpose, until when, how long, upon what, wherefore, anything, aught, what may
שַׁמָּא - Shamma' - desert
מֵאָה - me'ah - hundred, 1/100th
מְאָה - ma'ah - hundred, one hundred
מָאן - ma'n - vessel, utensil
מָאֵן - ma'en - to refuse
מָאֵן - ma'en - refusing, unwilling to obey
מֵאֵן - me'en - refusing

The core of the gate is אֵם, 'em, mother.  Aleph-Mem, is like Gate 1, Aleph-Beit, Ab, Father, ox-house, strength of the house.  'em, Mother, ox-womb, is strength of the womb.  The point of departure or division is the lips parting to reveal the womb, strength of the womb shown in childbirth.  Mother.  Or, looking differently, Aleph is separation, and Mem the womb, bringing the idea of the point of departure or division.  A people or tribe or nation, leom and 'ummah, is the fruit of the womb and the mother, those that come from her.  The use of Aleph-Mem as metaphorical mother, the mother of a thing, is important.  We see this in the vocal words, na'am and neum, prophecy and utterance.  Speech is the beginning, the mother, of action.  "God said...and it was so."  In 'aman, we find meanings of nourishment, commonly seen as part of what it is to be a mother.  A craftsman, 'aman, can be seen as the mother of his or her art.  In 'amen, so be it, we see the commitment to something, and that commitment is the mother of it.  Reversed, the core is מָא, ma', though this is the Aramaic form.  Ma' is questions and exclamations.  This links well with mother, for questions are the mother of discovery, and exclamations bring forth.  In a way, ma'en/me'en, to refuse, refusing, unwilling to obey, are the opposite of their anagram, na'am/neum, prophecy, and the opposite of the point of departure/division of 'em.  But this isn't quite true.  Refusal and unwillingness to obey is it's own departure and division from the authority that is refused, and this act is the mother of what comes of it.  Ma'n, vessel or utensil, relates well make to the womb, for the womb is a vessel.  Mystically, Nun is a servant or vessel of the divine.  Ma'n can be seen as "Who is the vessel of the divine?"  The vessel of the divine is filled with the divine in the same way the womb is filled with the unborn baby.  Or ma'n with the anagramic meaning, 'em, could be the mother of the vessel, or the vessel that is of the mother, the womb.  Shamma', desert, is a bit harder. Shin is the tooth, and symbolically, this is nourishment.  But desert?  The desert by definition isn't nourishing.  But Shin as a prefix changes a verb into the doer, so Shin-Mem-Aleph, Shamma', would be One Who Mem-Alephs.  One Who Questions?  That Which Questions?  Does this imply the desert is that which brings questions?  I'm not sure.  It is interesting that the word is made from the Three Mothers, from Shin, Fire, Mem, Water, and Aleph, Air.  Me'ah/ma'ah, hundred/hundredth, is problematic as well.

Aleph (1) + Mem (40) = 41.  Or, with the final Mem, Mem is 600, so 601.  In addition to 'em, 41 is fecundity, ram, force, hart, My God, to fail or cease, Divine Majesty, terminus, to burn, terror, to go round in a circle.  601 isn't anything by 'em.  41 reduces to 5, Heh, and 601 reduces to 7, Zayin.  Heh is the window, and mystically the first breath.  Zayin is a weapon, and mystically marriage.  5 is also mist, vapour, back, food, elevation, top, pit, water-hole.  7 is also lost, ruined, desire, good fortune, was weary, riches, power, fish.  Fecundity fits well, productiveness in offspring, vegetation, intellectual pursuits, basically to be good at giving birth.  The others are harder.  The destructive and ending words from 41 seem to be the opposite of birth and motherhood.  Same with many from 7.  But marriage fits well.  And a water-hole could easily be seen as a womb.

The 12th Gate is definitely the Gate of the Mother.  It is akin to the 1st Gate, the Gate of the Father, but a different type of strength.  The 1st Gate is about protecting, the 12th about nourishing.  While not every male is a protector and not every female is a nourisher (and in fact the reverse can be true), the role of the Father is as protector and the role of the Mother is as nourisher.  The Gate of the Mother is the Gate of Nourishment.  The lesson to learn, to cross the gate, is how to nourish those things we create, those things we give birth to, in our lives.

~Muninn's Kiss

On Planets and Wandering Stars...

There are few people today that don't know the planets are not stars, that they are solid or gas bodies  that circle the same star as we do, that their light is the reflection of the sun's light, not light of their own.  But in ancient times, this wasn't known.  They looked like very bright stars, but they didn't move like stars, they changed location against the backdrop over time, giving them the name planetes in Greek, Wanderers.

There were five Wanderers, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.  Neptune and Uranus and the other bodies beyond Saturn are not easy to find if you don't know they're there, as they move against the stars so slowly and are so dim.  The sky was populated by the myriad stars, the Five Wanderers, the Moon, and the Sun.  Seven bodies that wander against a backdrop of stars.

There is a god in Greek mythology worth noting here, Astraeus.  He is the Dusk, and his wife is Eos (or, Aurora), the Dawn.  Their children are what is to note here.  The stars, the Wanderers, and the Winds.  And Eos' brother, Helios, is the Sun, and sister, Selena, is the Moon.  The connection of the winds to the Wanderers and stars is significant, but I won't address that here.

Astraeus was a Titan, god of astronomy and all things in the sky.  His either sun of Krios (the Ram, Aries, and the Pillar of the South, Aries rising in the South in Summer, beginning of the Greek year) and Eurybia (mastery of the sea, sailing, navigation), or of Tartaros (underworld) and Gaea (earth), depending on the source.

The Wanderers are often used in magic and workings in many traditions.  Anyone who has studied anything about Western Astrology will find quickly that the location of the planets against the backdrop of the Zodiac is very important in Western Astrology, both their current position and their position at the time you were born.  Ceremonial magic and much of modern witchcraft (heavily influenced by ceremonial magic and by the grimoire tradition) work with not just the location against the stars and the time of rising and setting, but with the days and hours they are said to rule.  This is the main discussion I'd like to address in this article.

Now, Grimr is founded on personal observation more than anything, so the position against the stars, and the position in the sky and rising and setting are of importance to me, but the days and hours they rule less so.  I will come back to this after we look at the details of the ruling planet system below.  Do note this is a brief summary, not exhaustive, and that I don't necessary know all the details so may misrepresent or misstate details.  So, as always, do your own research if this speaks to you, figure it out yourself and how to use it, and experiment to see how it works for you.  The below is a summary of concepts, not a reference for workings.

As I discussed above, there are seven moving objects against the backdrop of the stars, the Wanderers, the Moon, and the Sun.

The sun and moon are often focused on when looking back at ancient religions and traditions.  We often look at them as Solar Cults or Lunar Cults, and talk of the struggle between matriarchal Lunar cults and patriarchal Solar cults.  This of course breaks down, as there are plenty of cultures with solar goddesses and lunar gods.  It also breaks down as you begin to analyze the stellar elements of the "Solar" and "Lunar" cults.  But we won't go there now.

The remaining five objects, the Wanderers, are of course our subject.  We have what are today named Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.  These names are of course the Roman names, but the choices are a bit odd, as patterns between them are missing.  Saturn was the head of the Roman Titans, Kronos of the Greeks.  He was overthrown by the Olympians, led by Jupiter, Zeus of the Greeks.  But Venus and Mars, the goddess of beauty and love and the god of war are a different pattern from the first.  And finally, Mercury, Hermes of the Greeks, the messenger of the gods.

The above description of Saturn and Jupiter was translated onto the two from Greek myth.  Jupiter was Saturn's son, but the overthrow was missing in Etruscan and Roman myth before the bringing in of Greek myth.  There are two versions, one of Saturn ruling Rome or Italy and being overthrown by Janus, the other of Janus ruling and Saturn being overthrown by Jupiter in Greece and coming to Italy as a fugitive.  In the latter, he brought agriculture with him, introducing it to Italy.  He is a god of agriculture, and a law giver, bringing order to the fauns and nymphs of the hills of Italy.  Saturn had two consorts, Ops, Greek Rhea, goddess of wealth, abundance, and resources, and Lua, goddess of destruction, dissolution, and loosening.  These show Saturn's two sides, on one side, as god of agriculture, he creates and provides, on the other, he destroys.

Jupiter is also Jove.  He was the twin of Juno, his wife, Hera of the Greeks.  He was the god of the sky, or specifically of storms.  Numa Pompilius, born on the day of Rome's founding and elected King after Romulus' death, when bad weather threatened to ruin the harvest, got Picus and Faunus to assist him and evoked Jupiter.  He made a deal with Jupiter for a shield to protect from lightening, in exchange for sacrifices.  This is a basis for the sacrificial laws in Rome.  The Ides of each month, the midpoint, were sacred to him.  This is important, as the month was a lunar month originally, and the Ides are the Full Moons.  His consort, Juno, is protector and councilor of the Roman state.  The symbolism and a shield and of protector of Rome should not be ignored.

Mars, the god of war, does have a connection with Jupiter.  The earliest triad was Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus, later changed to Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva.  Quirinus is the Wielder of the Spear, and was later used as an epithet for Janus.  Quirinus was probably the god of war of the Sabines, the people Numa was of, who joined with Romulus and Remes' people for the Roman state.  The month of March is named for Mars.  Minerva was born of Jupiter alone, from his forehead, but Mars was born of Juno alone, using a magic flower.  March was the first month in the Roman calendar, the the first of March, Mars' birthday, was the day for honouring childbirth.  Mars is not the destructive masculine force Ares is usually seen as, but a god of military strategy, of defending of agriculture, and of plant life.  Ares is said to be the father of Romulus and Remus.

Venus is not quite the same as Greek Aphrodite.  She is, as Aphrodite, the goddess of love, beauty, sex, and fertility, but also of prosperity and victory.  There's a martial aspect to her, as with all of the above.  The connection to Roman is interesting, as myth says her son was Aeneas, who survived the fall of Troy and came to Italy.  Romulus and Remus claim descent from him, through their human mother.  She was born of sea foam, so had no parents, unless you argue Neptune to be the sea itself. Her month is April, and her day is April 1.  She is a goddess of vegetation, also a common thread above, in relation to fertility.  In some myths, Ares is her consort, in others Vulcan.  But it's interesting to note that early myths describe the planet Venus, the Morning and Evening Star, as Lucifer and Vesper.  But Lucifer was said to be as beautiful as Venus, and later, Venus is used for the Wanderer.

Mercury, the messenger of the gods, the god of travelers, boundaries, commerce, financial gain, poetry, eloquence, communication, divination, luck, trickery, and thieves.  He is the son of Jupiter and Maia.  He was mediator between man and the gods.  His feast was May 15th, the Ides of May.  The progression of March for Mars, April for Venus, and Mercury's day in May is interesting. It's easy to see his importance in Roman, as mediator.

Most of the world has a seven day week.  This becomes fairly logical when you look at older cultures.  Each Moon cycle is about 28 days.  If you measure from the Dark Moon to the First Half Moon, from the Half to the Full Moon, from the Full to the Second Half Moon, and from the Half to the Dark Moon, you find four periods of approximately seven days.  Seven becomes a natural division point within each Moon, each Month, four seven-day weeks.  There's no proof this is the origin, but there's logic to it based on observation.  Other cultures used five-day and ten-day weeks, but these have faded from use in most places.  But Western Astrology, and most Western Mystery, Esoteric, and Occult traditions, and most Western religions (including Middle Eastern) grew up in or evolved into a seven day week.  The correspondences we are discussing are within that system.

The number seven for the number of days in the week and the number seven for the seven moving objects is an easy connection. Each day became dedicated to one of these, or more accurately, named for the god behind it.  Sunday is dies Solis, day of the Sun.  Monday is dies Lunae, day of the Moon.  Tuesday is dies Martis, day of Mars.  Wednesday is dies Mercurii, day of Mercury.  Thursday is dies Jovis, day of Jove, or day of Jupiter.  Friday is dies Veneris, day of Venus.  And Saturday is dies Saturni, day of Saturn.

But our English names are based on the Northern gods, not the Southern.  Sunday is Sunnandaeg, Sunna's Day.  Monday is Monandaeg, Mani's Day.  Tuesday is Tiwesdaeg, Tiw's Day, Tyr's Day.  Wednesday is Wodnesdaeg, Woden's Day, Odin's Day.  Thurday is Thunresdaeg, Thunos's Day, Thor's Day.  Friday is Frigedaeg, Frige's Day, Frigg's Day.  Saturday retains its Roman name.  It was Saeturnesdaeg to the Anglo-Saxons.  It was Laugardagr, washing-day.

The connection is quite obvious, as the Romans looked at all cultures around them and said, this god is this one, and this god is this one.  Helios is Sunna, the goddess who pulls the sun.  Selena is Mani, Sunna's brother who pulls the moon.  Mars is Tyr, who isn't necessarily the god of war, but was seen by the Romans as Mars.  Mercury is Odin, because Odin is a god of boundaries and crossroads and passing between, of wisdom and knowledge, of poetry and speech.  He's the closest parallel to Mercury.  Jupiter is Thor, because Jupiter is the sky and storm and the wielder of the thunderbolt, and Thor is the storm and thunder.  And Frigg, we have a direct connection to the planet, as Venus was Friggjarstjarna, Frigg's Star.

Classic Astrology attributes certain aspects to the moving objects and the days they rule.

Mercury is easy.  Commerce and communication, thinking and reasoning, knowledge and wisdom.  As the god rules these things, so does the planet.  As the god moves swiftly, so does the planet.  And so Wednesday becomes the day for such activities, both in a mundane sense and a magical sense.  In relation to commerce, if we associate Wednesday with a vice, it would be Greed.

Venus is easy as well.  Love, sex, fertility, romance, relationships, beauty, pleasure.  Once again, as the goddess rules these things, so does the planet, and this translates in classic thought and much of Western magic to Friday.  Of the "Seven Vices", Friday is Lust in this way.

Mars is a bit less obvious.  It's seen as a day for force and protection, courage and aggression, productivity and determination, and the like.  The aspects related to war, not normally war itself.  The connection from god to planet to seeing Tuesday as this is obvious.  Tuesday is Wrath.

Jupiter diverges a more from what's seen as the realm of the god.  It is related to big undertakings.  Looking carefully, we can see this.  Jupiter never did anything half way.  He was showy and extravagant.  Any action was a big action.  The planet fits this well, being the largest planet.  Thursday is the day ascribed to this, and is Pride.

Saturn is seen as the start of slower, long-term things, things requiring patience and perseverance, things you can't rush.  From the planet, this is easy to see, as it is the slowest moving of the seven.  For the god, this is seen in imagery of him with his legs bound except during the festival of Saturnalia. He bides his time throughout the year until the time for his release.  We also see his consorts.  Ops, as the building of wealth takes time.  Lua, as time and waiting wears things down, leading to destruction. This is then ascribed to Saturday.  It's interesting that in much of the Western world, Saturday is a day of no work, and that it is the Sabbath in Jewish practice, a day of rest.  Saturday would be Sloth if it was one of the Seven Vices.

The Moon is seen in relation to emotions and dreams, female cycles and changes, and to domestic activities.  This is of course related to the tides that change with the moon, the change of the moon itself through its cycle, and the menstrual cycle, which is typically 28 days just as the moon's is.  This of course is the reason for the association of matriarchy and the feminine with lunar cults.  Because of the similar cycle, the association between the moon and these areas is common through much of the world.  Most moon goddesses have direct connection to these same areas, and Monday is seen as connected to them.

The Sun is seen as anything involving gaining influence over things.  The sun brings forth life from the ground in the form of plants, and is the main influence on life on earth.  Helios was very handsome and had a lot of influence on everyone because of his looks.  Sunday is seen as this day.  It's interesting to observe that Christianity sees Christ rising on Sunday, and that that is the day many dress up, as though they are attempting to impress God/Christ. I would associate it with envy, for it's a day to gain influence to get something we don't have.

I included the Seven Vices because they stuck out to me on several of the descriptions I was writing.  Moon and Gluttony are left, but I don't think they relate.  The Vices are a side point anyway.

The idea the planets could be associated with the seven days, gave rise to further division.  The day is seen as divided into two parts, the day and the night, Dawn to Dusk and Dusk to Dawn.  Remember that the planets are children of the Dusk and the Dawn.  The year is divided into twelve months (twelve moons, but the year is really closer to thirteen moons), relating to the twelve signs of the Zodiac.  Likewise the day and the night were divided into twelve hours.  The planets are mapped onto these, progressing from Saturn to Jupiter to Mars to the Sun to Venus to Mercury to the Moon.  This was seen as the distance from earth, with Saturn farthest and the Moon closest.  This rotates though, using the day as the first.  It could be seen in reverse, of the hours giving the order of the days.

So, Sunday starts at Dawn with the hour of the sun, progressing to the end of the hour of Saturn at Dusk, then the night starting with the hour of Jupiter and progressing to the hour of Mercury ending at Dawn.

Monday starts at Dawn with the hour of the moon, progressing to the end of the hour of the sun at Dusk, then the night starting with the hour of Venus and progressing to the hour of Jupiter ending at Dawn.

And so on.

These hours are seen as having the same aspects I described above for the days.  Each day (dawn to dusk) ends with the hour of the day before.

As I said, many people use these in magical workings, beginning workings or rituals or rites on an hour that relates to the purpose of the working, and on a day that relates.  These are combined when possible, either using the same planet's day and hour, or a different planet for the day and the year to combine the aspects.  This is likewise, when possible, combined with Zodiac signs, and the planets that rule them.

This has of course been used this way for a long time, and there is obviously power in it, or it would have been dropped.  Magic workers tend to be very pragmatic.  If it doesn't work, it doesn't survive.  Add to this that repetition adds power, so the more they are used, the more effective they will become.  The question, of course, is why were the days laid out in that order to begin with, an order that works perfectly with the progression of the hours.  The answer to that will give the origin of the power found in the practice.  I don't know the answer.

Back to Grimr, the main principle is observation.  I can observe that the system described above works, but I can't see the layout of it from observation at this point.  The planets don't rise and set based on that layout.  As such, I don't use this system in my practice.

But I can observe the visibility of the planets, and I've found that which planets are visible do change the flavour of the energy I work with.  Their effects are weaker than the sun and moon, and less constant than the stars.  They create tides, both physically due to gravity, and spiritually in the energies around us.  The Sun is large and pulls strong.  The Moon is close and has more direct effect.  But the Wanderers do pull, and they change the energy tides as they move.  They should not be ignored.  The stars are even weaker, but they are more constant, progressing slower, over millennia.

And these tides, the solar and lunar tides, the tides of the Wanderers, the stellar tides, all these tides and the Winds they bring, effect our lives in very real ways, they bind and loose the Threads of Fate, weaving as they go.  This can be used to create change, to step out of the direct effects of their tides.  The momentum they create can be used to strengthen and increase the effect of small changes we create. An object in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.  It's easier to create change if you work with the tides than against them.

This is a principle that can be observed.  And can be applied.

~Muninn's Kiss

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Of Simple Rites of Water

The family I'm currently staying with has an autistic son.  He's grown now, but one of his favourite activities is his water play, a love for his whole life.  He has many containers, which he fills and pours out, fills and pours out.  He used both the sink and bathtub, often filling the bathtub as well.  When he was younger, he flooded the bathroom enough times that they had to remodel the bathroom to fix the water damage.  He now knows what it okay and what isn't, water wise, so no longer floods anything.  In the remodel process, they replaced the spout in the sink with one that is wide, creating a waterfall-like effect.

Another of his loves in mirrors.  He can't pass a mirror without stopping to look in it, and loves staring into them, watching himself.  He has a ball, the type used for exercise and as office chairs sometimes.  He sits for hours in the hall, bouncing in front of the hall mirror.

He also loves photos, loves looking at them, loves pointing out people.  He uses them, along with speech, and along with printing out names or words if he thinks you don't get it, to tell people he wants someone, or wants something.  He likes to have Velcro on the back and stick them to things, arranging them.

What do all these things have in common?  Among many things, water reflects, creating images of things.  Mirrors reflect, creating images of things.  Photos are images of things.  Images.

This is of course why I find a mirror to be the best tool in relation to elemental water.  If there is light as all, water reflects, looked at from the right angle.  The surface is a mirror.  It's interesting to note that a mirror is a single surface, whether is be metal or glass or stone.  It's a smooth continuous surface that reflects light.  Water is the same.  Water forms surface tension because of the hydrogen bonds, creating a complete smooth continuous surface between its edges, unless some outside force or object breaks that surface.  In very real ways, water is a mirror.  And there evidence that wells and other pools formed the first mirrors used in ritual, the inspiration of copper mirrors once copper could be worked.

We can note the importance of mirrors and images in religions around the world.  Judaism, for instance, contains a verse in the Torah, the first mention of man:

 וַיִּבְרָא אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאָדָם בְּצַלְמוֹ בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים בָּרָא אֹתו זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה בָּרָא אֹתָם

And God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.

In Christianity, we have a verse in First Corinthians:

βλεπομεν γαρ αρτι δι εσοπτρου εν αινιγματι τοτε δε προσωπον προς προσωπον αρτι γινωσκω εκ μερους τοτε δε επιγνωσομαι καθως και επεγνωσθην

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

In Greek myth, we have the story of Narcissus, who was cursed to gaze at his own reflection in a pool, and withered away staring at his reflection.  We also see Perseus using a shield as a mirror to kill Medusa without meeting her direct gaze, and the story of Archimedes designing an array of mirrors to set ships on fire to protect Syracuse from the Romans.

In Egypt, Qetesh, a goddess of love and beauty, is usually shown with a mirror.

Buddhist contains a myth of Prabhavati, the dakini of light, giving a prefect, clear mirror to the Buddha.  Mirrors are the tool of choice in Tibet, Mongolia, and Siberia for divination, usually metal mirrors, copper, bronze, or silver.

Mirrors of course show up later as well.  There's story in Medieval Europe of a knight using a mirror to turn the gaze of a basilisk back on itself to turn it to stone instead of being turned into stone, a motif stemming from the Medusa myth and appearing in a lot of later literature.  There's Alice in Through the Looking Glass passing through a mirror to the mirror world where everything is backwards, and is different from ours once you get beyond the view of the mirror.  We have the belief that a mirror (or a painting or camera) captures the soul of a person, stemming from the Narcissus myth and appearing in the superstition about breaking a mirror, and in the Portrait of Dorian Grey.  To name a few.

Three main motifs show up in myth, in superstition, and also in magical practices.  First we have the basic reflection, that a mirror send back, used for Archimedes' flames and used in mirror spells to send an attack or curse back at the sender.  Second, we have the portal or gateway, appearing in Alice's story, and in divination by scrying, whether through a mirror or on water.  Third, we have the trap ala Narcissus and the seven years' bad luck from breaking a mirror, and in spells where a mirror once gazed into is used to trap the person, and doing things to the mirror translating to them, and to spells done with the picture of someone.

All three of these apply equally to mirrors and to water.  Water reflects.  Water is a gateway (remember that there are many stories of journeys beneath the waves, not to mention the very physical journeys across them, often to fantastic lands; also remember that wells and springs are often sacred, and often connected with pathways to the underworld, from they flow up from there; and also remember that mirrors and water are used similarly in scrying).  Water is a trap (most obvious in the Narcissus tale, but appearing other places as well, where people are drug down or sink and are trapped in the water).

Back to the water play at the beginning, the autistic boy, now autistic man, interacts with water on a very physical and basic level.  His pouring of water and watching it run, watching the light reflect, and his gazing at his reflection in a mirror or at an image in a photo are also very physical and basic interactions.  He doesn't need theory and symbols and complex rituals, he understands elemental water on an initiative level.

As we can, if we pause and step back from the texts and theories and symbols for a moment and just experience water itself at it's most basic level.  If we stop trying to be mystical and mysterious for a short time, and jut observe and play, as we did as children, we may just learn something mystical and mysterious.  We don't need complex formulas and ceremonies and exercises, we just need simple rites of water.

~Muninn's Kiss

Monday 4 February 2013

The Fire Festivals: Stellar movements and the cross-quarter days

As we're now in the time of the year of the Bride, having just passed her day and Candlemas, it's interesting to take a look at the days modern pagans and many witches consider holy days, especially the cross-quarters, Samhain, Bride's Day, Beltaine, and Lugh's Day.  Much is made of Samhain and Beltaine, less of Bride's Day and Lugh's Day, as many modern pagans aren't quite sure what to do with them.

I'd like to go back to a discussion I started in my Year in Review post, about the timing of these four days.  These days fall roughly half way between the solstices and equinoxes, and while those are fairly easily observed, based on the length of the day and year, the cross quarters are not as easy, as they don't fall at a time the solar cycle would lend easy measurements, and the lunar cycles don't line up right to designate them every year.  Yet they seem to have been more important among what care called Celtic people than the ones easily measured by the sun.  This would imply something significant marking them, not a measuring from the solar points.  So, if not solar, and not lunar, yet marked by a sign, where do we look?

The answer lies in part of my discussion in the fore-mentioned post.  "Aldebaran is the brightest star in Taurus, the Bull, and becomes visible in the Northern Hemisphere around Samhain, sinking again around Beltaine, being highest around Bride's Day."  "Regulus is the brightest star in Leo, the Lion, and becomes most visible in the Northern Hemisphere around Bride's Day, and disappears around Lugh's Day, being highest around Beltaine."

So, Samhain comes when Aldebaran and Taurus rise.  Bride's Day comes when Regulus and Leo rise, and Aldebaran and Taurus are at their height.  Beltaine comes when Regulus and Leo hits it's height, and Aldebaran and Taurus sink.  Lugh's Day comes when Regulus and Leo sink.

We can look further.  Just before Leo is at it's height and Taurus is sinking, Scorpio is rising.  Antares is the bright star, and can be considered as opposite Taurus' Aldebaran.  It doesn't rise as high as the others, but is significant.  It sets after Lugh's Day.  When Leo is sinking around Lugh's Day, Aquarius and its neighbours are rising.  Though not in Aquarius, the brightest star in the area of the sky is Fomalhaut, in Piscis Austrinus.

Not exact, but we see the rise of Aldebaran and Taurus at Samhain, the rise of Regulus and Leo at Bride's Day, the rise of Antares and Scorpio at Beltaine, and the rise of Fomalhaut and Aquarius at Lugh's Day.  It's important to note that these four stars were considered the Royal Stars in Persia, the Watchers, Regulus watching in the North, Aldebaran in the East, Fomalhaut in the South, and Antares in the West.

These four holy days are seen as sun festivals, but they seem to be more stellar than solar.  Unless, of course, their celebration started far enough back to show a large enough shift to account for this.  The Zodiac, and these four star with them, move completely around in relation to earth every 25,920 years or so, the Platonic Year, or the Great Year.  Considering the current twelve signs, this means it shifts a complete constellation about every 2200 years give or take 100.  It wobbles in relation to the stars over this, which accounts for the Antares and Fomalhaut anomalies from the four holy days.  As the wobble occurs, some constellations are lower, so rising and sinking points change.

The cycle moves backwards from the annual seasons, so the Spring Equinox occurs a bit earlier in the zodiac each year, and every 2000 years or so, a full sign.  It currently sits in Pisces, almost to Aquarius when compared to the stars (at the border between Ares and Pisces in traditional Western astrology, for most western Astrology cares about the position of the sun in the sky rather than the exact location against the stars).  This is where the discussion of the Age of Pisces and the upcoming Age of Aquarius come from.

The Winter Solstice, which is more interesting for this discussion, occurs in Sagittarius currently, not on the border of Sagittarius and Capricorn. Over time, it will move further, into Scorpio.  This means that Antares is moving toward the Winter Solstice, and was once at the Autumn Equinox.  And before that at Lugh's Day, and before that as the Summer Solstice.  In the last 25,920 days, it's moved full circle back through the year.

This begs the question, when these four days were first observed but the people who would become called as Celts, where were these four stars, and what part of the year did they celebrate?  Samhain was a time of death and ending, Beltaine a time of birth and beginning.  It seems likely Samhain started out as a Winter Solstice celebration and Beltaine as a Summer Solstice celebration, just as Midsummer and Yule were celebrated by the Germanic people.  If this is so, the Germanic people marked it solarly, so it stayed at the Solstice, but the Celtic people marked it stellarly, causing a shift.  This would imply a beginning of the celebration around 23,000 years ago, or 48,000, or so on.

It also points to a stellar basis for religious and ritual use, something many archaeological investigations of things like the stone circles in the British Isles, the recent find up in the Orkneys, and other sites are also pointing to.

~Muninn's Kiss

Sunday 3 February 2013

All knowledge is not taught in one shed: My thoughts on books, oral teaching, and experience

I'm a firm believer that there is truth and things to learn in everything, even crap.  And by crap, I mean many "occult" books that which are being published lately.  And my "occult" (verses, say, occult), I mean things that claim to be secret or new but are just rewording of a thousand books mass produced before them.  Even in the shallowest, fluffiest, most full of plagiarism and dribble book, there is still truth and still things to learn, because even the most unoriginal and unimaginative person in the world is still led by the Muses once in a while, and will hit on truth and "secrets" and things worth learning unintentionally and often unaware.  I would of course rather read an author for whom that is the norm than the exception, but no book is without a nugget of truth for those that have eyes to see and ears to hear.  Though, that doesn't mean it's often worth the time to read the dribble to find it.

Point being, learning from a book, or a teacher, or the spirits, or anything, relies on the one learning more than anything.  You can't teach a rock to fly, you can just throw it and see if it can avoid hitting the ground.  The author may only produce dribble, but the right reader could find the secrets of the universe in the book (to quote Men in Black, "I promised you the secrets of the universe, nothing more.").  An author could be inspired and breathe the most profound truths into every sentence and the wrong reader might throw it away as nonsense.

Of course, on the other hand, it was fairly recent that the verb that is now our English "to learn" became the action of the student.  Even into the early 19th century, the usage was "He learned me to do it", not "I learned it from him."  A teacher, or author, imparts truth to the student, or reader, breathing that truth into them.  The teacher, or author, does the action, the student, or reader, only receives.  Receiving that truth is passive, teaching or writing it is active.  But, to passively receive something, you must be open to it.  Holding a fist in the air does not allow someone to give you a cup of water, but holding an open hand out in the air does.

This is what I mean above.  When I read, I read in a way that's open to receive whatever truth was breathed into it, intentionally and consciously or unintentionally and unconsciously.  I experience the truth in the book.  Same thing when I go out into the world.  When I stand on the top of a mountain 10,000 feet above sea level with the wind whipping through my hair, the solid rock under my feet, I'm open to receive what the spirits of that place want to teach me.  When I draw a circle, call to the spirits I work with and invite them, and perform a rite, I'm open to what the spirits and the rite has to teach me.  Reading a book really isn't different from learning from experience, it's just a different medium.

The key is to be open to it, and not make it your only source of truth.  There's a saying in Hawai'ian, "a'ohe pau ka 'ike i ka ha lau ho'okahi", basically "all knowledge is not taught in one shed."  This stems from a period when spiritual teachers in Hawai'i would teach in the three sided sheds that were common, to anyone who came to them.  The point being, each teacher teaches differently, and teaches different things.  The same is true here.  There are things best learned from a book, but things you can never learn from a book.  There are things best taught orally, teacher to student, and things that can never be passed through oral language.  There are things best taught only by experience, and things you can't learn from experience alone.  The moment you limit yourself to one source of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom is the moment you limit your knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

A'ohe pau ka 'ike i ka ha lau ho'okahi.

~ Muninn's Kiss

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