Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Commentary on the Charge of the Goddess 23: Mine is ecstasy of the spirit

For mine is the ecstasy of the Spirit, and mine is also joy on earth, For my Law is Love unto all beings. 

Sources and Influences

Ye Bok of Ye Arte Magickal: For ecstasy is mine, and joy on earth. For love is my law.

Crowley: Law of Liberty: But ecstasy be mine and joy on earth; ever To me! To me! (2)

Crowley: Law of Liberty: Again She speaks: “Love is the law, love under will.”

Crowley: Liber AL vel Legis: Love is the law, love under will (1.57)


Here the literary source of the Charge changes from Aradia to Crowley and also the feel slightly changes. Up until now it has been really about ‘what witches do’. From here until the end it is much more about the nature of the Goddess, and how she may be found, than about what the witches do in her worship. This means that the Charge, as a central religious text of Wicca, has started by describing the nature of our religion for its adherents: we gather in secret, learn magic from the Goddess, dance, sing, feast, to the end that we may be free from slavery. The Charge only then goes on to describe the nature of this Goddess.
This makes the Charge somewhat unusual in its place as the central text of a religion, which marks the difference in nature of both Wicca as a religion and our Goddess as a Goddess, compared to other religions and their divinities.  Most religions’ key texts contain a far greater emphasis on the nature of the divinity, which tends to come first. I am thinking of such works as creeds, hymns, prayers, which begin with the divinity and then move on to the position of the believer, for example, ‘Our Father...’
I believe that this differing emphasis in the Charge indicates a differing emphasis in Wicca: the seeker after the Goddess is far closer to the centre of Wicca’s cosmology than the believer in most other religions. Again this is a Crowleyan idea given a new twist: it is essentially the idea that ‘every man and every woman is a star’ but in Wicca the emphasis is changed by the emphasis on the immanence of the Goddess in everyone and everything, balanced by the monistic understanding that all things are connected, and the Goddess can be sought, but she can only be found within.
This is why the Goddess’s law is love to all beings, because all beings are connected, which is another change of emphasis on Crowley’s dictum that ‘love is the law, love under will.’
The Goddess is both the route and the goal, because the ecstasy mentioned here belongs to her, a change of the original passage quoted, in which she says that she gives ecstasy. Ecstasy comes from two root words giving a combined meaning of ‘to be placed outside’. In religious terms it usually means the seizure of a person by a spirit or divinity (Arvind Sharma: Article ‘Ecstasy’ in Mircea Eliade (Editor in Chief): The Encyclopedia of Religion. Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1987.). Sharma identifies a spectrum, ‘with the magician standing at one end of the spectrum and the psychiatrist at the other’ (vol. 5, p. 11), and also several different sorts of ecstasy and also several problems with the concept (anyone who has read his article will notice that I am completely avoiding the use of the much-abused word ‘shaman’ here). Suffice to say that despite the difficulties of delineating and authenticating ecstatic states, religiously and socially it usually serves a function. It is found also in many magical traditions, illustrating one of ecstasy’s problematic roles, since people will insist on trying to find ecstasy through the use of substances, tending to – ridiculous phrase, since if we’re reputable we’re not witches – ‘bring the craft into disrepute’.
Although Gardner gives drugs as one of his eight ways, he comments that he has not had much experience of it. In fact both in Crowley’s text which was the source of this passage and the twist given on it in the Charge, ecstasy is not portrayed as a ‘tool’ but as a state. This is Crowley’s own commentary on the passage, a commentary I shall be returning to again since it is illustrative of this whole passage of Liber AL:
‘These joys are principally (1) the Beatific Vision, in which Beauty is constantly present to the recipient of Her grace, together with a calm and unutterable joy; (2) the Vision of Wonder, in which the whole mystery of the universe is constantly understood and admired for its ingenium and wisdom. ...
‘The certainty concerning death is conferred by the magical memory, and various experiences without which life is unintelligible. “Peace unutterable” is given by the trance in which matter is destroyed; “rest” by that which finally equilibrates motion. “Ecstasy” refers to a trance which combines these.
‘”Nor do I demand aught in sacrifice”: the ritual of worship is Samadhi. ...’ (Aleister Crowley (edited by Israel Regardie): The Law is for All. Llewellyn Publications, St Paul, MN, 1975, pp. 142-143.)
Despite a more recent opposition between what may be called ‘ritual’ witchcraft, i.e. Wicca proper, and what is often called ‘ecstatic’ witchcraft – a division which almost perfectly equates to Catholic and Protestant witches, just without having a holy revealed book – it is clear to anyone reading Gardner’s writings and those of the early Wiccans such as Valiente and Lamond, that early Wicca was totally ecstatic. It seems that it is in the decades since the early days that the rituals have become liturgies, things have become more fixed and laid down in stone. The concept of ‘hedge’, that I am so fond of, similarly equates to the ecstatic journeying into strange realms and returning transformed. I personally – speaking as a Protestant witch – would urge Wiccans to bear this in mind. The early witnesses make it plain that Gardner gave his initiates the Book of Shadows as only something to get them started, that such things as the Charge were not a fixed liturgical item but only for when the High Priestess did not feel inspired to speak by the Goddess, ironically hedgewitches do almost exactly what Gardner did: take whatever they have around them and run with it. It is ironic that I feel the original spirit of Wicca is actually continued by solitaries and less formal groupings of witches, than in the Traditions which have become fixed as heirlooms to be passed on and their ‘authenticity’ argued over. This could also be contrary to the spirit of our Goddess, since the movement of emphasis within the Charge begins with the external aspects of witches’ religious observance, here moves to the nature of the Goddess, and towards the end of the Charge unites the understanding of the nature of the Goddess and the significance of her worship for the witch, in the revelation that she is found by an inner journey towards wholeness.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My inability & wanderings

This morning I opened my wardrobe & noticed for the first time something that was clearly Wrong. I don't know how I can have not noticed it for so long. It has been corrected in the second picture.
I sat down today to finish the next instalment of my commentary on the Charge, which is the part which talks about ecstasy of the spirit being hers. I have been putting this off, for something in the order of four years, because when I came to write my commentary on that section originally I found that for some reason I could not write about the role of ecstasy in religion & magic. It irks me, even now, because I ought to be able to do it. I have actually got that section finished as much as I can, although I'm still not really happy with it (I will post it in the week). When I decided to publish the commentary as blog posts I disciplined myself to post them in the order the relevant sections come in the Charge, knowing that this would force me, as it has, to finish the sections I was having trouble with.
When I'd done that I got the bus to town and spent the day in Lichfield. I don't know how I managed to, I've certainly never done it before. I found a black tie & black bow tie (if I've got these things, I won't need them) in a charity shop. I made the mistake of buying a sandwich for lunch in a shop called Hindley's (didn't know Myra was at liberty), where I could feel my IQ plummeting as I waited in the queue of old people commenting on what a lot of cakes there were (it's a cake shop), & waiting for the staff who were moving at a snail's pace in a workspace clearly designed to prevent any fast service.
I bought a DVD about the Krays (more about them anon) in The Works, where another old man said 'aren't there a lot of books!' You've got it - it's a book shop.
I bought some trackies in a sports shop. I simply had to have them, since I saw a black kid wearing them on a bus the other day & coveted them. Unfortunately the shop had builders in otherwise I think I would have got somewhere with the man behind the counter - oh well, next time.
Then I went round the cathedral. I feel Lichfield to be extremely genteel, refined, & most of all, moneyed. This has clearly always been the case, since the cathedral has had the most ruthless Victorian going-over that I know of. I love Giles Gilbert Scott's work dearly, but his work on the choir at Lichfield clearly makes it a Victorian choir rather than what it would have been. Don't get me wrong - I don't dislike it, judging by the few that are left of the previous stalls it would have felt much more claustrophobic, it's just so heavy.
Home and there's some artwork up at New Street by school kids, depicting the Buildings of Birmingham, which I shall no doubt find pictures of & post at some point.
Oh, there was a gorgeous man with a beard in the cathedral, who ultimately I saw sitting in the chapel reserved for prayer (and the rest of it is for...?). Why is it the best men are not only straight but quite frequently evangelical Christians?

Monday, January 28, 2013

The blindingly obvious

Oh my G*ddess, how can anyone who isn't actually deaf and blind not notice that I am one of the more obviously homosexual men you could ever meet? I just don't get how some women seem to crack on to gay men in a big way. Now I know you're probably thinking, 'Hound, you're always slobbering over some huge hunk of a straight man,' but that's different, that's fantasy.
A woman at work has been developing a crush over me for some time. I thought she'd got out of it and had realised that I wasn't interested. Then last week I came in to work and she glared at me. I asked one of my colleagues what was biting her, and she said that she had been funny with her all day. So we came to the conclusion that not only did she fancy me, but  she thought I was humping another woman! Then today I came in to work and found I was actually rostered with both of them, and I just thought I can't face a day of someone looking daggers at me because she's not going out with me, and looking daggers at the woman she thinks I am going out with. So in my usual subtle way I made a point of telling her how much I fancied the maintenance man (he is hot, actually), and she had to ask me twice if I was gay and was I being serious.
That's me. Point out the blindingly obvious and just keep spelling it out until people can't avoid it any more.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Knowing what we're about

One of the crucial things for a solitary witch is to be resourced. Unless you are following a clearly-defined tradition it is easy to lose your way. One of the major ways we resource ourselves is reading, something which can provide difficulties beyond the how-to books. As we advance I believe reading serves a different purpose: I know I've illustrated this with a Buddhist monk, although I think witches can partake of the monastic idea of lectio divina, although we would probably call its intended outcome grounding. At the moment my lectio is the Hagakure, a mediaeval Japanese samurai manual. This passage comes from the very beginning:

Although it stands to reason that a samurai should be mindful of the Way of the Samurai, it would seem that we are
all negligent. Consequently, if someone were to ask, "What is the true meaning of the Way of the Samurai?" the
person who would be able to answer promptly is rare. This is because it has not been established in one's mind
beforehand. From this, one's unmindfulness of the Way can be known.
Negligence is an extreme

This has caused me to ask myself, 'what is the true nature of the way of the witch?' And I've surprised myself with my answers. 'Seeing, acknowledging & going with the tides of time & life' - unexpectedly fluffy-sounding for me! 'Being the one who will do what has to be done.' 'A way of seeing which isn't shared by everyone.' Perhaps it is impossible to give a simple answer to this one, & I'm sure I'll be returning to it, but I've discovered a new meaning: 'Surprising even myself at times.'

Sunday, January 20, 2013

5 of Pentacles

The present weather here (I'm aware most of the hits on my blog aren't from Britain, suffice to say it's snowing) puts me in mind of one of my favourite tarot cards. Favourite because 5P is open to endless interpretations & is actually a much more amenable card than just 'out in the cold'. Have the people had a row? Who is wearing the trousers? In some cards there is a door visible. Have they been sent away or chosen their exile? What is actually going on in the building? - is it a church or something else? Is the woman comforting the man (as in Morgan Greer)? Is the man injured? Do both of them even want to be going where they are going?
Whatever the interpretation of this card it represents the stagnation of the holding on energy of 4P, before things start moving again in 6P. In 5P you have to stop & wait for something, a benefactor, opportunity, etc, to resolve the situation you have yourself created in 4P. This is why this card usually shows a snowy picture in RWS-tradition decks. Snow literally brings things to a temporary halt & forces us to look within & take stock. Personally I moved the furniture round in my house yesterday. I've been wanting the sofa in the back room for ages, but it meant I discovered this little patch of cat sick that I didn't know was there. While I was doing this the cat was asleep in my bed: he got in at 8am-ish & slept until 5pm, and was very cross to find everything had moved around! I also set up my new laptop with an audio-in wire to play through my stereo, which has dramatically improved its sound. The picture is a somewhat arbitrary one, since my 3G connection for the internet has been knocked out by the snow, showing a remarkably 60s scene of people buying old military uniform. I am myself wearing some ex-army parade shoes which I bought for work & are surprisingly comfortable, just without the Beatles 60s chich of tasselles jackets and so on!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Turned out alright

When I got into work today, dreading the meeting I posted about yesterday I bumped into the one person I didn't want to be there; she was barely able to speak & told me she was going home. Yippee, I thought, one down, it'll go better than I thought. As it happened there were only going to be four people there anyway, & then I found my manager was off sick, so with half the people not present I made an executive decision and told the fourth person we'd scratch it.
When I got to my own in tray I found that a colleague to whom I had lent Z Budapest's The Goddess in the Office had returned it, which was strangely suitable. I solemnly swear I had no hand at all in these people's illnesses, it just happened to work out exactly how I wanted it for today!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Hammer or Anvil

I am re-watching The Prisoner: this with The Avengers sparked my 60s thing years ago. I have never really been as fanatical about it as some people, although obviously I can see how the plots can be read on all sorts of levels & this time round am making an effort to find out what other people think, and am getting to know different interpretations and so on. Incidentally reading about the different fanclubs is interesting in itelf: Prisoner fandom seems to be wreathed in controversy! Anyway, a whacking great cledon came along for me in the middle of 'Hammer into Anvil'. This is the episode where No 2, brilliantly played by the wonderful Patrick Cargill, has the expressed purpose of breaking No 6, who turns the tables on him completely, leaving No 2 a gibbering wreck, ringing his superiors to say he must be replaced. No 2 tells No 6 that you must either be a hammer or an anvil, that the hammer will break the anvil (I think not, myself) & he intends to hammer No 6, using part of a Goethe quote: "You must either conquer and rule or serve and lose, suffer or triumph, be the anvil or the hammer" ("Du mußt steigen oder sinken/Du mußt herrschen und gewinnen,/Oder dienen und verlieren,/Leiden oder triumphieren,/Amboß oder Hammer sein.")
This is exactly what I needed to hear. I have a meeting that I'm dreading tomorrow: my manager is on my side in this one but is doing some subtle management thing to manoeuvre others where we need them. It'll probably be the first time in history the anvil's taken the hammer off the smith & hit him with it!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Going round in circles

The most popular entry on this blog is the one about the Circle. This is a subject that i find myself returning to over and over again in my meditations and it seems that the subject is truly inexhaustible. I have had another synchronicity this week; I was looking at some films on ubuweb by Guy Debord, and found that one of them is called In girum imus nocte. Well, we know how go in circles by night, that'll be witches, right? It wasn't a phrase I'd come across so I googled it. This is what wikipedia has to say about it:

Another Latin palindrome, "In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni" ("We go wandering at night and are consumed by fire", in which "In girum ire" is translated as "go wandering" instead of the literal "go in a circle", cf. Italian "andare in giro", "go strolling or wandering around"), was said to describe the behavior of moths. It is likely that this palindrome is from medieval rather than ancient times. (Source:

Perhaps we have some kind of biological imperative to go in circles, after all there are no straight lines in nature, when we walk without anything to prompt us in a particular direction we end up going in a circle. Perhaps the difference between us and moths in that you can see the light they are circling round: perhaps ours is the invisible dark light of the mother.
I was also intrigued to discover that circumambulation (perhaps best known to us as the jargon phrase for a circling of something in ritual magic) is a rite of many world religions, with the notable exception of Christianity. In Buddhism there is actually a sort of meditation that is done going round in circles, which has the endearing name of kinhin. And the point of all this for the witch? If you don't know where you are going, don't strain because that would be trying too hard. Try going round in circles, i.e. of necessity returning to where you are, because after all she is attained at the end of desire.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Coming up for air

Once again I have found myself in the middle of too much 'stuff'. And once again I have dealt with it by centering myself back at the altar. She wanted the scarf in which my skull was wrapped as an altar cloth, so Mabel is now wrapped up in a shemagh. It's not black, so I don't reckon I'm now going to wear it. I ironed it last night & sat in front of the altar for some time, letting everything settle in the quiet of the night.
For me time alone is essential. Years ago I did the Myers-Briggs Jungian personality test & came out as INFP. I have recently done it again & came out on the cusp of INFP & INFJ, although INFJ does sound more like me now. This not only means that I have obviously matured a little in those 20 years, but also that I am Special and Rare, Bright & Gifted.
Not to say conceited. I also found a wonderful website with various psychological tests & DIY screenings for psychiatric disorders. It seems I may have ADHD: I'll probably never know, because I never finished the test.
This may, however, refer to a certain genuine inability to stay focussed for too long. Restless & easily bored, my Specialness is definitely more geared to the sprint than the marathon. This year my year card is Strength, as I said before, & I would hope this comes out in a focus on my actual objectives. I have a few at work (not the sort that would appear in an appraisal), I want to continue getting fitter (I've not been exercising because an old elbow injury has been playing up, but I got back to it yesterday & so today am having a thin day & feel fit as a fiddle), Abbot Laurence Soper has rather been on the back burner while my mind has been scattered on different things, & Jyoti Singh Pandey's rapists are overdue for the cursing they so thoroughly deserve.
By returning to the centre, I return to myself & actually find everything right there.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Red Thread

'You cannot be a witch alone,' that's what it is thought the witch hunters thought. It is taken to mean that when one witch was found in a a community there would be others. That is no doubt true: witches attract witches, witches recognise each other, when someone is thinking of taking a step into the hedge a witch will appear to help them through. However my experience is that it is more like 'you are never alone as a witch.' Often on the journey the resources, including people, just appear when we need them most. Suddenly we can find ourselves travelling with the most unexpected people: deceased significant others, animals, legendary characters. This is what being a witch is all about: a broader and less visible community, found only through the hedge.