Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Forgetting Human, pt 2 (guest post by Robin Artisson)

Forgetting Human:
A Treatise on Finding the Soul, the Witch-Flight,
And the Language of the Spirit-World

Copyright © 2011 By Robin Artisson

I. Non-Euclidean Introduction
II: Forgetting Human: The Wind of the Soul and the Loss of Ancestral Wisdom
III: The Amnesia Ploy and the Game of Power
IV: The Spirit-Language and the Sorcery of Sense
V: Well of Bone and Pool of Blood: The Real Treasure of the Ancestors

This work is kindly dedicated to Laurelei and Glaux,
To anyone who’s ever dreamed of flying,
And to David Abram, in gratitude.

* * *

Part II.
Forgetting Human: The Wind of the Soul and the Loss of Ancestral Wisdom
-A Great Sorcerer Known to Me
-Tearing Apart the False Gods
-The Deathless Wind
-The Deadly Change
-The High Priests of Hallucinations
-Home Again Where We Always Were

A Great Sorcerer Known to Me

Let me start this next part by telling you about my greatest human teacher. His name is David Abram, and let me start by saying that if you've not read his books and if you happen to have twenty extra dollars at this moment, stop reading, go to, and order his two books. The first is called "The Spell of the Sensuous", and the second is called "Becoming Animal: An Earthy Cosmology." Mr. Abram doesn't know me; he didn't put me up to this to market his books. I've only learned from him by reading his words.

But his words have done more for me in 18 years to awaken the sorcerous power in me and in this world around me, than any other written words. Without his books, I really, really feel like I would be not as deeply involved in sorcerous mysteries as I am now- and trust me, I'm arse deep. I'm deep in something so amazing, no words can ever encapsulate it- but it was Mr. Abram, along with a few select others, who put the seeds in my mind that bloomed into a forest of mystery and wonder.

Abram's books are about so many important things to us, I can't even begin to do it justice; but needless to say, if you are a lover of the modern revival of Pagan religion or mysticism, or of sorcery, you will discover from his books why we live in a world where the old tales of Gods, of Faeries, of Elves and Trolls, of Heroes and Monsters, seem so absent of meaning, and why this world seems so empty of anything but human intelligences (if I can call them that) and some animals wandering here and there.

More importantly, Abram, a real sorcerer himself, can plant the seeds of real magic in you that may tear your soul out of your body and cast you into the cauldron of initiation- a cauldron that looks, outwardly, a lot like the stand of trees behind your home, or at the local park, and a lot like the river near you, or that river in your dreams.

I say, with no reservations whatsoever, that Abram's two books are the most powerful grimoires of Art that I have ever had the Fateful privilege of reading and learning from. So please, take my advice, and let these books enter you, at the soonest possible date.

Following the guiding thoughts of Abram, I will begin by talking briefly about why we can't find our souls, and why most of us live without them every day. If you want sorcery, the power to talk to entities that other people can't see, the power to know the Truth about people and places and to drive away illnesses and wicked other-than-human powers, and speak to the wind itself, you need your soul. Many talk about "working tools"- even me in the past; but the real, most fundamental tool is not a blade or a cup, not a book nor a candle, but a soul.

Tearing Apart the False Gods

A lot of people tell me that they have gained a lot of insight from previous books that I've written. I talk about soul in those books, in many ways. But I wish- like all writers- that I could go back and change a lot of what I said in my books. I have evolved in my understanding and practice since those books were written. A lot of what is in them is still just as true as rain or sunset, but a few things, to me, are clumsily worded or too over-complicated. And that reflects my insight and skill all those years ago. You are a work in progress, just like I am. What I'm going to talk about briefly here (and what people like Abram greatly can expand upon for you) is some of the stuff I wish I had said before.

Let me now proceed to tear apart so many things that so many people believe today, and which they allow to inform their deepest thinking. Souls are real, and we all "have" one, or should I say, we can all experience something that I am calling "soul"- we can leave flimsy social constructs like "ownership" or "possession" out of this. And we humans aren't alone in this soul experience; animals, plants, rocks, winds, storms, rivers- they experience something I am calling "soul", too. And they each do it just as intelligently and consciously as humans sometimes can.

And this "soul" I'm talking about is not an "immaterial" thing; it is not invisible, transcendent, "above the world", non-material, beyond conception, none of that crap. Because that kind of thinking really is crap; or, to use the term I've become fond of, that kind of thinking is a hallucination. It is a very old hallucination that has been with humans for a very long time. And we lean so much on it- every Christian or Muslim you may know who believes that the body is “poor fleshy” material that dies, but the soul is an eternal, timeless, immaterial "thing" that somehow drifts on to a heaven or a reality "apart" from the natural world of stones and rivers and fires, is hallucinating.

These people- our idealists, our “transcendental” thinkers- are living a life of abstractions and ideas in their heads. They are not using or experiencing the soul, nor are they tapping into immediate reality, the true and real world of soul and experience. They are drifting through this world without really experiencing it fundamentally and fully. They are living in a delusion, a hazy hallucination. They always have been, for thousands of years.

The isolation and separation they feel from this beautiful and powerful natural world, full of spirits and Gods and souls, and their impoverished, maniac desire for a "transcendent" God, who is far above all these "mortal" things, is the result of a hallucination- ironically, these desires and hallucinations are the true "false gods" that people waste their lives devoting themselves to.

Not one of us is going to die and suddenly "rise above" the material world, or the senses, nor will any of us plunge into "eternal" torment. The sensual world, what you are experiencing this very moment, though possibly dimly, is what is real, what was always real, and the only thing that will ever be real. And "your" soul is part of it; it was always part of it, and will always be part of it.

The Deathless Wind

Your soul isn't immaterial; it is actually a wind, a breath, an airy-seeming process of power. It infused you from the time of your development in the bloody cavern of the sacred womb; it surged into you through the open communion of your new mouth when you took your first breath (though it was there before, too) and it will gently or harshly slip from you when the time has come to die, to return to the world that it was drawn from in the first place.

As I have said before, and will die saying- you didn't come "into" this world from somewhere else; you are something that came from within the depths of this world, and when you die, you don't leave this world- you go back into this world in a new way.

You aren't going to be whisked away to a heaven high above the clouds, though the aerial, breath-like soul may in fact fly the winds of the sky in freedom when you die- just as it does now, and can do now with your full consciousness, if you are cunning. Your soul is a traveler, like the winds. It isn't still, quiet, and passive. And here is something else you need to know: the world itself has a breath, a soul. And your soul came into you from it, and goes back into it, all the time, in life and in death. Every time you breathe in, the world enters you, as breath. And when you breathe out, you pay the toll back.

Your process of respiration is a living, sorcerous connection between you and not just the sky, winds, and storms, but the breath in the ants or owls or cats that might be in your back yard, along with every animal everywhere in the world. And spirits unseen? Yes, your breath and they are moving in the same massive medium of world-wind- you are connected to them, whether you see it or feel it or not. Your soul and your breath, which are very, very similar, are already flowing in and out of every other thing that exists.

The ancient languages tell us all we need to know- the Greek word for soul was "psyche", which means (you guessed it) "breath". It is related to the word "psychein", which means "to breathe" or "to blow". Even among the ancient Hebrews, the word for soul or spirit was "ruach"- which means breath. It was the breath that their God "breathed" into Adam and Eve to make them conscious, living humans. Even one Latin word for soul- "anima"- which is where we get the words "animal", "animation", and "animism", comes from the Greek root "anemos", meaning "wind". In ancient India, the term for soul, "atman" (which is related to our word "atmosphere") means "breath". The Latin word for "spirit"- spiritus- means "breath".

So how in the hell did we get from a worldwide and ancient understanding of the soul as something that was an extreme, tangible part of this world, into an understanding of the "soul" as something transcendent, not part of the world, immaterial, or just "mind"? Today, when we say "psyche", we think "mind"- and psychology, the science or study of the mind, is well known. But the term "psychology" literally means "science or study of the soul", if you go back to the origins of the words.

Good luck finding many psychologists who think of themselves as soul-scientists! Most of them are materialists who think that the mind has nothing to do with an old, superstitious term like "soul". They don't think that the mind is a "wind" or a breath or a tangible entity; to most, mind is believed to be an invisible epiphenomenon of the brain, which vanishes forever at death- coming from nothing, and going to nothing (as if such a thing could ever be possible). It is true, as true as the roaring of the ocean: when you forget the air, when you forget the soul, you forget the human, the very thing that endows us with what we fondly call "our humanity".

The Deadly Change

Why are we so ignorant of the wind and soul? How did the most obvious thing get lost? How was such a tangible and ancient connection washed away? Abram's explanation, which is incontrovertible, is that written language screwed us all out of the magic that was our birthright- and which still may be again.

Written language? What? The very thing I'm using now? Yes. And I tried to warn you about it earlier, and I can repeat that warning now. Why should written language- specifically phonetic language- be such an issue? Start to understand this by recalling that the first human cultures, including those of our own Ancestors, were oral cultures, not alphabetic or written-word cultures. They passed their lore and wisdom and culture down through the generations via repeated stories, sacred stories, all memorized and preserved. They lived, as Abrams puts it, in a “storied world”, a world that was rendered understandable by stories and words that referred to the things and entities of this world and human experience- but the introduction of writing created a new possibility, a radical new possibility, of a new sort of perception.

Our Ancestors lived in the mind of the senses, which is another way of saying they lived in their souls. They were each fully a part of this sensory world, and fully utilized those senses we all have, but so few of us really use anymore. The sensual absorption with places, smells, feelings, emotions, tastes- all these things the Ancestors experienced with nothing between them and the experience- were real portals of communion with real powers that are tangible- and still with us.

The senses are not "flawed, limited" things as we have been taught to see them by Platonists, and later by Christians who doubt and look down on the body and sensuality- the senses are, in fact, sorcerous powers that connect us to this world, to one another, and to spirits, and to everything. Used properly, the senses are the gateway to every sorcerous capacity you could dream of, or which legends have been told about. And the senses don’t just vanish with death; they deepen, in much the same way they don’t vanish when the body is in deep sleep, but exist on in shadowy or strange dream states.

When a traditional storyteller told his people a story, he said where it happened- and those people knew the place. They had been there, lived there, smelled there, seen there, tasted and touched there. They knew about the animals in his story, the people in his story. Storytelling magic is always local, at least in the old days. Even Homer told of places and people and things that his listeners understood perfectly well- they knew what the salty wind of the Aegean Sea felt like; they all knew what the funeral pyres told of in the Trojan War looked like. There were no "placeless" stories, no purely abstract stories in the ancient bard’s repertoire. We have plenty of those now, though!

The stories of the ancients, told in ancient times, always came to you from the senses of another, from a living body, mind, and voice, and through your senses, directly to the soul. The words of the story are given life from what? Breath.  And breath and sound and wind was the transmission-medium that brought it to you. The stories of a people actually evolve over time- as a people change, grow wiser, more wary, bolder, or change where they live on the land. Stories had souls- were soul, were power.

But what do written words do? Sit on paper, and never change. The voiceless story of paper speaks in what appears to be a timeless way from the paper. The ideas you get from the story on paper don't come to you on the wind of soul; they appear, abstractly, in your mind from the invisible speaker who may have written it. That speaker never changes; he always says the same thing. And this creates something that never existed before: an alphabetic, abstract mind or alphabetic intellect.

With the ancient Hebrews, their decision to begin using written, phonetic language caused a disastrous change- the words on paper, in "sacred books", became the new source of Ancestral wisdom, not the Land. Not the living powers of animals and winds and hills and rivers, but a book- and to go to anything but the book was to engage in "idolatry." People didn’t go to the oak tree to listen to its voice; but they read about oak trees and think about them in their heads. They began to read about how nature was just a crust created by some greater, more unknowable and transcendent being, and how nature was just here for man.

Christianity and Judaism and Islam are based on the written word. Their religions spread alongside "literacy", just as monks in Medieval Europe were the only literate persons in most areas, for a long time. People must accept the new technology of the written word, and all the abstractions in the mind it makes possible, before they can accept these religions.  They are literally the "People of the Book"- just as they call themselves.

And where they go, and convert, and teach, the Land itself appears to fall silent, and the wind becomes just empty air, no longer a medium of ghosts and spirits; the Land becomes barren and cut off from people who once went to it for all power and wisdom. This is very much why our Heathen Ancestors believed that the land-spirits, the land-wights, fled from Christian churches and the presence of Christianity.

The Heathens were the people of the land- precisely the meaning of the word “heathen”- and they were overrun by the people of the book.  The people of the book, no longer having access to the mind and soul that can directly experience Gods, spirits, and Ancestral powers, just scoff at the empty-seeming world that they are trapped into seeing, and state, with haughty assurance, that the “heathens” were delusional to believe in so many Gods, or to pray to their Ancestors.

Pagans had the written word before Christians or Muslims had it. And in some places, it had started to destroy even their connection with the fundamental and organic truths of life. So long as a language uses letters or symbols that refer to real things in this world, all is safe- ideographic or pictographic writing is safe (like modern Chinese, or ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs!) because the word for "blue" in languages like that is almost always a depiction of something in the real world that is itself blue. But phonetic writing is different- only letters, which have no reference to things in the real world, and only exist as ideas.

English is a great example of a phonetic alphabet- so, go find me an "A" out there in nature! Or an "L"! "A" is only an idea that links to a sound in your memory and a shape, and if you get enough of these sounds together, they sound like whole words. But neither the letters nor the words "exist" outside our minds, or in some written form.

To have such a technology around- and the ancient Greeks, after a point, got it, as did the ancient Hebrews- is an interruption of millennia of Ancestral oral culture, and it disrupts more than you can imagine, by making a dangerous new sort of "mind" possible. I'm not suggesting that written language is itself evil; but what can come of it, of its strange mind-sorcery- can do evil things. We never used it carefully; we were unwise, and it stole our souls, as many magical technologies can if those who wield them are not careful.

The High Priests of Hallucinations

And now you have just a taste of what "really happened"- how the soul, the psyche, went from being a wind, to an abstraction of mind, a concept. Now you have a taste of how and why the "mind of the senses" got covered up by a new kind of mind- the "mind of concepts". You know now why people began to imagine that they were "more" than this body, which they felt abstracted from, more than this "world" which they felt "apart from"- written words, a powerful and magical technology with many dangers, made this possible.

Truly, for us Westerners, the original death-blow wasn’t struck until Socrates and Plato made it possible. Using the new mind made possible through the new technology of the written word, Socrates began a deadly new way of thinking and seeing. He wasn't content, when he asked someone to describe what "virtue" was, or "bravery" was, to hear them give a real-world example of those things- which is what his audiences all tried to do. He demanded that they tell him what VIRTUE was or what BRAVERY was- he demanded that they rise above the tangible, lived examples of those things and tell him what they "purely" were. All of the examples given of bravery, he reasoned, were not bravery, but isolated manifestations of something that must unify and transcend them all.

I hope you can see how deadly and disastrously unwise this is- Socrates, like the later Plato, was convinced that "true knowledge" was not of experiences in this world, but of abstractions; "true knowledge" was about the "pure" ideal of “virtue” that existed out there, on some transcendent plane, and only manifested itself in this world as examples of virtuous behavior.

To be brave in war was an example (they said) of the ideal of true "bravery", the pure concept of immortal "bravery" which existed in some other world, and only "appeared" here in a temporary, unsatisfying way, anytime someone was brave. "Genuine knowledge", they said, was about "eternal" things, not temporal things. The "soul"- which he and Plato carefully stole from this world and lifted into a hallucinatory "transcendent" world- was likewise taught to be an "eternal form" beyond the poverty of lived experience, far beyond the land, the rivers, the sky, the crackling fire in the hearth.

All of this, which sadly is the basis of Western philosophy since their time, and the very thing that gave Christianity its entire philosophical basis, was based on hallucinations, the many hallucinations of the mind of concepts, born in the abstracting force of written language. None of it has ever been real. There are no "Platonic forms"- there is no "ideal world" out there, which this world is just a flawed shadow of, and the senses of our bodies are not unreliable, flawed things.

The so-called "philosophers" were wrong. They were confused by a new sort of mind that gave them abstract toys to play with, but it was all just mind noise and empty discussion, which divorced people from this world of reality. Bravery is precisely what you experience when someone is brave- and that is all. It doesn't exist in some intangible way "beyond" brave actions. Love is what you feel and experience when you interact with those you love, or with your own soul and other souls; it does not exist beyond that. It doesn't need to exist beyond that, to be an ongoing aspect of our experience, or of nature, which will exist in every situation of interaction, ever.

Plato and Socrates said the senses couldn't be trusted, as they were mortal and limited. In truth, our Senses are divine gifts of the Gods, and sacred, and can be the only vessels of "truth" that we can have, or will ever need. We only need to return ourselves gently to the sacred sensual world- the real world- and stop being lured off to the la-la-land of abstractions posed by these early hallucinating philosophers- men (like Plato) who broke with their traditional religions and cultures, and distanced themselves from Gods and spirits, calling them "superstitions", and drifted away from their own Ancestors- and from all the Ancestral wisdom that we today thirst for.

Home Again Where We Always Were

When we rediscover the world of the senses, and escape the mind of abstractions, get away from the concepts that trap us, we rediscover the soul. The soul has always been here; you've been breathing it in and out all your life, without understanding that you had your treasure, your power, with you always. You were probably taught in school that air was "just air", just a simple gas, an invisible but important substance for us- but nothing sacred. It was just what it appeared to be; it was nothing packed with spiritual powers, and certainly not a really tangible medium connecting you to both the world of stones and fires and water, and to the spirit world!

Take some time, if you can, to understand what I came to understand years ago, even before Abram- that you have been trapped, since your formal education, in the mind of concepts which was engineered in you by our schools and our alphabetic culture. Your soul was taught right away from you, without people even meaning to- because the people who taught you, if they believed in souls at all, thought that your soul was "apart" from your body, and ultimately, that what happened to your body didn't matter, compared to what happened to your "eternal soul". Welcome to alphabetized culture!

Written language, and the sort of mind of abstractions it causes to us now, is what stands between you and the truth behind the legends, folktales, Gods, myths, and magic of the true ancient times. Literacy and language literally stands between you and the direct experience of your world. This is why you can't see those “mythical” things, why you can't go among the Faery-rade (itself a thing that the legends say rode on winds through the sky) and why you can't come to the feet of the Gods or Goddesses. The “mind of concepts”, which has many uses today, and which we are forced to live “primarily” in, covers your mind of senses and the soul like a crust, blocking it.

Luckily, it can be cracked and you slip through that hedge, through that crack, and can engage the mind of senses, the soul beneath it- without having to do away with it completely. Thus, you can live in two worlds at once, the hallucinatory world created by abstraction-mongers, and the real world of power. You’ll discover there that the beings of myth and legend are as real as the wind you felt on your skin the other day, or the heat of the sun, or the sound of rain. They aren’t just “archetypes” or “visualizations” or “aspects of one mysterious divinity”, nothing like that. They are persons, like we are. They can be experienced, too, like another human person can be, or an animal person can be.

Language and abstraction now stands between you and the world that you're a part of, and now, I'm going to show you a tactic for beating that little illusion in the mind. Pay attention. You might win a soul out of the deal. After all, we have quite literally, thanks to the mind of abstract concepts that rules us, "lost our senses"- and more to the point, lost our souls. And some of us can feel that, feel the pain of that. We thirst; we want to find what was lost so long ago. And I'm happy to report that we can, if we are strong and clever.

Coming next:
Part III: The Amnesia Ploy and the Game of Power

Monday, September 26, 2011

Forgetting Human, Pt 1 (guest post by Robin Artisson)

Forgetting Human:
A Treatise on Finding the Soul, the Witch-Flight,
And the Language of the Spirit-World

Copyright © 2011 By Robin Artisson

I. Non-Euclidean Introduction
II: Forgetting Human: The Wind of the Soul and the Loss of Ancestral Wisdom
III: The Amnesia Ploy and the Game of Power
IV: The Spirit-Language and the Sorcery of Sense
V: Well of Bone and Pool of Blood: The Real Treasure of the Ancestors

This work is kindly dedicated to Laurelei and Glaux,
To anyone who’s ever dreamed of flying,
And to David Abram, in gratitude.

* * *

Part I.
Non-Euclidean Introduction
-Not Another Teacher...
-Not Quite Robin Redbreast
-The Egotist and What Might Matter

Not Another Teacher...

Greetings to the readership of the American Folkloric Witchcraft organization! I am Robin Artisson, hedge-crosser, renegade mystic and troublemaker, and author of note in a few out-of-the-way places, and to a few out-of-the-way people- which is my favorite kind of place and my favorite kind of person.

Today I'm sitting down to write a pretty substantial treatise about extraordinary matters, for whoever wants to invest time in reading it. As with all genuine bits of writing, this writing will be a journey of a type, in which I will (attempt) to lead the minds of my readers to various verbal junctures in the road of mind, and to new "locations of idea" that might help them to deepen their connection or understanding regarding the very old Art of sorcery and the practices of mystical awareness.

I don't know how good of a guide I am at this; I'll say why in a moment, but let me start by saying that I believe my power to really help other people understand anything new is limited by my own understanding.

And that's true for everyone who presumes to "teach" or "guide" another. In our strange world of revivalist mysticism and revivalist "old ways", at first glance, it seems we have precious little from the past to inform us in our sacred task. That puts the onus on people to really activate deeper layers of themselves to make up for the ominous and huge gulfs that appear to exist between us and what we conceive of as the mystically-active but faded past.

And the power any person has to "teach" or "guide" is directly proportional to the extent that they have activated "the deeper layers" of themselves. This is why I was always very unsure about the various people I've met over the years that tried to "teach" others, or even me. I stared at them and tried to look deep, to see and hear more than what they said and did, but how they lived, how they handled life's challenges, and most importantly, what peace they seemed to have with themselves and this world. Who could teach me or you or anyone anything of value, if they weren't first "attained" somehow?

Maybe you're wondering if I doubt my own attainments. I'm a guy who has, through enormous effort, managed to have precious tastes of the soul and the unseen world- that much is true, and will remain true. So, I have some basis to claim some "attainment". But is it enough for you, whoever you may be? Can I meet your needs? Do I have one missing piece of the puzzle that you might not have, such that we can have a successful sharing? Even if I do, chances are, you have some piece I'm missing. And I'd like to have it!

Problem is, we can’t know; aren't directly and consciously together; we are meeting in a distant, hollow echo of written words. I'm a writer who really distrusts written words- and that, friends, is a terrible curse. I know, thanks to my greatest human teacher, how dangerous words are, and how deceptive they are. Using words to gain some spiritual insight is really akin to using chemotherapy to gain some freedom from cancerous growths- there's a good chance it'll work, but it will exact a terrible cost from you.

At least with chemotherapy, you can feel the damage being done; with written words and the ghostly concepts they engender in us, there's a great chance you won't realize that you've actually become more alienated from the things the words are describing, rather than closer. That, we will discuss soon.

So consider this my fair warning about these words I'm typing right this instant. No matter what I say from here on out, please, please, hop on these words lightly, like a dragonfly touching for just a moment on a blade of grass, before lifting off again to fly. I want you to fly, and when it comes to flying, that is something I can teach with certainty, because I can fly.

Not Quite Robin Redbreast

Now, don't rush out to buy plane tickets to see me and demand a levitation show. I didn't say I could levitate; I said I could fly- I can, after quite a few years of the most extraordinary efforts, experience directly the aerial liberation of the soul. I never feel trapped in a heavy body of flesh; like the legendary witch on her flying-besom or flying-pole, I have discovered a sorcerous secret which liberates the awareness from what appears to be a body-centered fetter.

The world is spread out before me and in me; I am free. I belong to all of it, and it to me, and there's nothing in it that I can't have or know. And I never imagined that, 18 years after I began my quest for the "Old Way", that I'd be here now, able to grasp things that would have been inconceivable to me before.

And I didn't achieve this by "escaping" from my body; I did it by letting my body be what it is, and instead discovering what my senses really were, and what my soul really was. In this Art, a person never achieves anything by learning to hate what is there, what is apparent, what they feel every day; they achieve by learning to deepen their experience of what is there, what is apparent, what they feel every day. The way to sorcery isn't away from the world, body, or senses, but through it. Please remember this always.

Now, we hit the first quandary of my writing here today- and please be patient, because we'll likely hit several of these. I didn't plan what I'm writing here today. I never plan out things I write, nor things I say when I talk about these matters. To plan it out would make it sound contrived and fake; I am doing the only thing that my heart says matters- writing directly from the inspiration of the moment, from what is before me now, from what I'm feeling now.

This is an important exercise for me; I do this not just to edify and even entertain you with some good perspectives on sorcery that I might have; I do it to make my connection with my own present mind and feelings stronger. This is one of the sources of the power that I have attained- this attention to my moment, and this world's moment.

I am actually writing here as I am today (I didn't know which day I'd start this stream of written thinking and feeling) because the wind outside told me that today was the day. This morning, I was outside, and I had a conversation with the other-than-human being that we ordinarily experience as the wind. Maybe it was just that wind; I'm never sure, because there is more than one. But I took it seriously.

And the quandary is that I don't really know where to go from here. I feel a lot to say in me, but don't know quite how to deal it out to you, or how to deal it out to me. So, I feel like telling you what's coming in this treatise, as a way of (hopefully) keeping your attention. This stream-of-consciousness type writing is sometimes hard for people to bear, and I know that, and I apologize beforehand.

In my long letter/treatise today, I will write about how much we really do have, when it comes to the Old Ways, and I will try to defeat (I hope) the idea that we really lack a lot from the Ancestral past. I will write about how the wind matters, and always mattered to the Pagans of old, and to the Witches of old, and of late- how the wind is far, far more than we imagine it to be. I will write about the soul, chiefly, and how I discovered mine, and how people can discover theirs in a vivid new way. I'll write about what that soul can do for you, citing examples from my own recent life.

I'm also going to talk briefly about why we have to "rediscover" things at all- either our Ancestral gifts, or the soul. I'll tie all this together with some examples from the Ancestral past, and tie it up in a ribbon of eldritch sorcerous aesthetic that can enflame your imagination enough to help you digest this all!

Truly, it will be a witch's banquet for the discerning, and a mass of empty vomit for the masses that have lost their senses. I can't say that my before-mentioned topics will come in that order, or in a very neat way at all; nothing in nature is neat and orderly, despite what you might have heard or thought you saw. Organic life is always a great haphazard-seeming mixture of countless forces- and the mind, partaking of organicism at the most fundamental level, is the same.

So let yourself be a serpent in the flow of these water-words, and coil and slide through without effort. Don't hurt your mind trying to make this be something other than what it is.

The Egotist and What Might Matter

Now, all of this writing is intended to do two things: deepen me, and maybe kick an idea or two into your heads- one or two seeds- that you might discover, to your delight, grows into something amazing, like these seeds did for me. There is always the off chance that you'll think I'm just boring or nuts, or just hate my writing style enough to say "thank you very much Mr. Artisson *CLICK*." I want you to know beforehand that whatever happens to you, I'm okay with it, and not offended.

I'm not for everyone. No one is for everyone. I'm not special, despite the fact that I do love to act special from time to time, or think of myself in that way- and I have a shadow side, full of goblin mayhem and egoistic nonsense that can suffocate even beings that don't breathe air. I own those things about myself. Actually, I find that I'm smiling at this moment, enjoying talking about myself even now!

I think that half the people that say they really like me are either just responding to a fellow egotist (which is okay!), or trying to make me feel better, because I try so hard to be likeable. Whatever the case, I am honored that they either really like me, or care just enough to act nice. Because in the end, I will be swept away by the same great wind that blew me here, just like you will be, and the earth will eat our bodies- or the devouring power of flame will- and nearly none of the things we've learned to be concerned about, or distract ourselves with, will really matter.

Please note that I said "nearly none" of the things. A few things we gain in our lives will matter, and they'll make all the difference in the world when you are going among the Unseen. And it is my heartfelt belief that some of the things the wind is about to draw from my body and mind here will be some of the things that do matter.

So give me a chance, and give me your attention, and I promise to do my best. You can always turn back or turn away and forget you ever read a thing I said, and all will still be well. That's what Fate really means, dear readers: that come what may, all is well, even if we find ourselves spitting in distaste or sadness.

* * *

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Autumn Equinox

The peak of Autumn is celebrated at the Autumnal Equinox, a time when the days and nights are of equal length and nature puts on her most spectacular show. Here in the midwest we are deep within a deciduous forest that erupts with color at this time of year.  In addition to the riot of fall color we are enjoying the second harvest of the year.  Apples and grapes, melons and tubers, and, of course, the harvest of the corn all take place during this time. In Indiana we are surrounded by vast fields of maize that will be harvested for sweet corn, popcorn, animal feed, and even new bio-fuels.  It is truly a time to celebrate.

The Autumnal Equinox is commonly celebrated as the solar Sabbat of Mabon, but we reject this nomenclature as an anachronism.  Aiden Kelly was the first to use the term Mabon for this holiday around 1970.  Other names for the Autumnal Equinox Sabbat are Harvest Home, the Feast of the Ingathering, Second Harvest, the Feast of Avalon, Wine Harvest, Cornucopia, Winter Finding, and Alban Elfed.

In his book Stations of the Sun the scholar Ronald Hutton makes clear that there was no anciently celebrated festival for the Autumn Equinox in Britain.  Rather, this was a time of hard working to get the corn harvest in before the first frost.  Each community would hold a small celebration after the harvest was completed, though naturally the date for this event would vary.  This time of year is commonly thought of as the Witches Thanksgiving, a fitting tribute to the glorious harvest that this Sabbat represents.

The spirit of the corn harvest is represented by a corn man, or scarecrow.  This figure is constructed of stalks of grain from the local fields and is in the rough shape of a man.  John Barleycorn, as he is often called, is set to watch over the fields during harvest, and may be burned at the celebration of harvest's end.  His ashes are scattered on the fields to spread his powerful fertilizing influence to next year's crop.

Another common feature of these celebrations is the construction of a Kern baby or Carlin.  The Carlin is a bundle of the last sheaf of grain from a communities' fields.  It represents the spirit of the corn, and is given to the last harvester to finish his field as a "wife".  Sometimes the Carlin is dressed and displayed on a phallic wand.  This then is paraded through the community to bestow blessings of abundance and fertility.

A powerful symbol of this season is the the Cornucopia, or Horn of Plenty.  This is the horn of the goat-mother Amalthea the "Nourishing Goddess" that fed the god Zeus as a fosterling.  From this horn flow all of the riches of the earth: crops, wealth, and livestock.  Pluto, ruler of the wealth of the earth was often depicted bearing the cornucopia. It has a parallel in the cauldron of the Dagda of Celtic myth.  This cauldron was ever-full of nourishment. It could not be emptied.

At the Autumnal Equinox we of the AFW tradition honor the cauldron in its many symbolic forms, including the Holy Grail which heals the wounded king and restores the land.  As the trees turn from verdant green to blood red and shining gold so do we turn inward, and begin the vigil of the ancestors that this time represents.  This is a wonderful time to prepare an ancestral shrine in anticipation of the coming blood harvest of Samhain when the veil is thinnest.

May you have an abundance of blessings as you harvest that which you have sown.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Castle Perilous

Bloody Castle; Grail Chapel
Cauldron of Cerridwen = Grail = Silver Quaich

The Spiral Castle Tradition situates the Castle Perilous in the Southwest, as the compass is laid. In Arthurian legend, the knight who finds the grail (sometimes identified as Percival, sometimes Galahad, sometimes Lancelot) discovers the sacred cup in castle surrounded by water. This is proper, as the cup’s elemental association is indeed water.

The power of the grail is its association with blood and, therefore, life – and death. Whether we see it as the cup that caught Christ’s blood, the cauldron of transformative Goddess Cerridwen, or the chalice of the great whore Babalon makes no difference. The treasure of Castle Perilous is the same cup, and we drink the same death and rebirth – the same transformations – by whichever name or image we use.

This castle and its images are associated with Chalice Well in Glastonbury. Chalice Well has a long-standing association with grail-lore, and the iron content of the water lends both the flavor and colored tinge of blood as well as the healing properties attributed to the cup/cauldron. Note the similarity in the Chalice Well symbol and our simple symbol for this castle’s treasure (the silver – bloody – cup).

We envision the cup filled with life-giving blood, just as the fertile womb fills each month with blood. So it is that at the Housle (the Red Meal), we fill the two-handled Quaich with red wine. When we cut the throat of the cup and spill its “blood,” and likewise stab and rend the flesh of the dark bread, we more aptly feel the sacrifice that we associate with this castle and cross-quarter.

Both sacrifices are made with the shelg, the red knife. This is the blade of Castle Perilous, the blade of blood and of sacrifice.

Blood and red wine are a potent mixture. They remind us of the Mithraic Mysteries, in which a bull was sacrificed in a subterranean vault. Killing the bull wasn’t the point of the rite, though – collecting its blood was. The blood was mixed with wine and drunk by the initiates. Later, only the wine was drunk, as a representation of the blood of Mithras himself. We see in this blood-letting ritual the foundational element of many sacrificial meals, including our own Housle.

Cerridwen, the keeper and queen of the Castle Perilous, is an appropriate mistress for the mysteries of sacrifice and transformation. Her myth tells how she set the young Gwion to the task of stirring a cauldron of knowledge and wisdom. The brew within was intended for her son, but when three scalding drops landed on Gwion’s hand, he instinctively sucked away the pain – and wisdom. Enraged, a pursuit ensues in which Gwion shapeshifts to escape Cerridwen’s wrath, but she transforms to capture him. When he was a hare, she was a greyhound. Then he was a fish and she an otter. Next, he was a bird, and she was a hawk. Fourth, he changed into a grain of corn, and she transformed into a hen, pecking every grain until she had consumed him. Once she had him, she transformed again to the shape of a woman, and gave birth in nine months’ time to the great bard Taliesin. This last is their fifth and final transformation.

Women’s blood mysteries are best understood within the Castle Perilous, and the rites of passage associated with them have an obvious home here.

The Mystery of the Cauldron mentioned by Robert Cochrane in his letters is also well contemplated in this cross-quarter. Cochrane asks, “What two words will not fit in the cauldron?” In a later letter he answers his own question with the words, “Be still.” (We’ll talk more about this and other Mysteries mentioned in the Letters later.)

Castle Perilous is the entry point into the compass at the time surrounding the Fall Equinox.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Meditation: Visiting the Silver Queen, Cerridwen

Our tradition uses guided meditation to help impress certain symbols on our member's consciousness. Below is our Autumn Equinox meditation. It takes place in the Castle Perilous, which is the southwest area of our compass.  It is the home of the Silver Queen, who we honor as Cerridwen.  To use this meditation let yourself relax comfortably and picture yourself drifting downward and inward to the third realm, the lower realm. The third realm is a place of darkness and mystery.  Let yourself sink down into the third realm and rest there peacefully.

Meditation: Visiting the Silver Queen, Cerridwen
Artwork by Thalia Took

You awake in a cool thicket at twilight.  You notice that beneath you is a thick clump of ivy, which you haven been using as a bed.  The trees of the thicket are in autumn array.  Their leaves are scarlet, golden, russet, and brown, but seem gray, violet, and black in the fading light of sunset.

You notice that the thicket borders a field of grapes to the west.  In the western sky is a reddish violet glow.  You hear the keen of a hawk cut clearly through the dusk.

You walk into the vineyard, plucking ripe grapes from the vines and eating them.  Although the evening is cool, the grapes have held the warmth of day and their warm tart juice seems like blood in your mouth.

You hear a rough noise from within a stand of grapevine.  Suddenly an enormous boar leaps in front of you.  It snorts violently and bears its tusks.  You turn in fear and try to escape the beast, but you are hedged in by twisted vines and tangling ivy.

The boar charges at you, flinging spittle and rolling its eyes wildly.  Its tusk catches your ankle just above the heel. Your ankle throbs in pain at the gash. The boar flails its head around, tossing you into the air.  You land astride the massive boar and in a panic grab its tusks with your fists.  The boar bucks attempting to toss you from its back, but you are firmly planted.

The boar runs westward with you upon it still clinging to its tusks.  The scent of the beast assaults your nose.  The wound in your ankle is deep.  Blood runs down the side of the boar as it rushes onward towards the setting sun.  The jostling movement of the boar, the pain of your wound, and rapid blood loss make you feel disoriented.

On the horizon you see a dark lake.  The boar continues its frenzied charge into the dark lake.  You are now riding through the lake on the back of the swimming boar.  The lake is warm and dark, like the warm dark blood that flows from your ankle.  It reflects the violet-red of the setting sky above, making it appear to be made of blood.  You realize then that this is no illusion of light. The lake itself is a lake of blood.

The bitter metallic scent of blood fills your nostrils as the boar charges onward towards an island.  On the island is a castle of dark stone.  The castle is embellished with silver and rubies, and from its turrets fly banners of crimson.  As you reach the shore of black sand, you can hear wailing from within the walls of the castle.

The boar stops at the shoreline and gives a loud snort.  You climb off of the boar carefully, nursing your wounded ankle.  The boar regards you for a moment and then rushes back into the lake of blood, leaving you behind on the dark island.  You wonder aloud what place this is, and from the shoreline comes a low and melancholy reply, “This is a place with many names.  Some call it the Grail Chapel. Others call it the Well of Souls.  I call it the Castle Perilous.  It is the home of Queen Cerridwen and her silver cup.”

You turn to see a darkly robed and hooded figure standing in a boat at the shoreline.  The boatman's face is hidden in the shadows of his hood, but he stretches forth a pale bony finger to point at the great doors of the castle.  The doors open slowly with a creaking noise, and the smell of myrrh and moss meets your nose.  You enter the castle and the doors slam shut behind you.

Sounds of dripping cave water and distant wailing fill the air.  You shudder to find that what you thought were rubies studding the walls are actually drops of blood, so that the walls appear to be bleeding.  It is damp and cold here, and the sound of your shuffling feet echo through the dark halls.  Your ankle throbs in pain from the boar's wound.  You are filled with dull and nameless despair, yet you shuffle forward.

At the end of a long dark hall are two large silver doors covered in countless finely sculpted symbols.  Among these you notice a sow and a cauldron.  You move to touch the doors and they swing open at your gesture.

The room inside is bathed in soft silver moon light.  In it you see an aged and beautiful woman with long gray hair.  She is seated on throne of silver and she wears a dress of black.  Her eyes are the color of the stormy sea and she offers you a knowing smile.  To her right is a table with glowing silver cup upon it. The light of the room seems to be coming from this cup.  To her left is a large iron cauldron adorned with a silver ivy and vine design.  “I am called Cerridwen” she says.  Her voice is a deep and rhythmic like the pounding of waves against the shore.  You can taste salt in your mouth when she speaks.  The scent of myrrh and cypress fills your nostrils.  Your entire being is infused with rushing coolness and you feel slightly dizzy.

She nods at you and gestures to the silver cup to her right.  “This is the treasure of Castle Perilous.”  At her words the cup floats from the altar towards you.   It rests against your lips and tips its vintage into your mouth.  You drink deep of its contents.  You can feel the wound in your ankle knitting closed, and all other pains and illnesses being cured and healed within you.  Power seems to vibrate from the base of your spine up through the crown of your head.  You tremble at the sensation of vitality and power that has infused your being.

Cerridwen fixes her gaze upon you and leans forward from her throne.  Her eyes are like sacred wells.  You feel that you may faint from the overwhelming flood of power in and around you. “I have a message for you,” she says.  She takes the cup from your lips and whispers her secret message in your ear. [long pause]

Cerridwen bids you farewell and touches your forehead.  You shiver at the cool dampness of her touch.  The cauldron beside her begins to boil.  You take your leave of the room hastily, disoriented by the power still coursing through you.

The hall is dank and still filled with distant wailing, but you understand now that it is not just the wailing of despair and sacrifice, but also of labor and infancy.  On the black shore the boatman waits with an outstretched bony hand.  You reach into your crane skin bag and retrieve a silver coin.  On its face is the profile of Cerridwen.  On its reverse is a boar leaping from a cauldron.  You place the coin into the boatman's skeletal hand and climb into the boat.

The boatman pushes off and begins to row you back through the dark lake of blood.  A hawk cries out as it circles over the barge. At the shore you can easily find the path that the boar created when it violently carried you off earlier.  You trace the path back through the vineyard and into the autumn thicket where you began.  There in the thicket is the patch of ivy you had made into your bed.  You lay down on the ivy and rest.
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