News of the Past

August 2014
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Holding Spaces, Sacred and Otherwise

By Nimue Brown

In formal ritual, we’re automatically conscious of the making and holding of sacred space. We think we craft a deliberate space, with intent, and we usually work together as a circle to make that happen. However, in every aspect of our lives we are holding space for people in less conscious ways.

What we’re able to do can be shaped by what the people around us hold space for. At the most basic level, things like whether we are allowed to help, allowed to speak, allowed to act, informs who we can be in a situation. In highly constructed environments – schools, workplaces, more organised social groupings – the boundaries around who can do what can be tightly held.

Where we have consensus about the holding of space, we get a culture. Most of us are significantly shaped by what our cultures consider acceptable. How we dress, speak and move, what we aspire to be and feel the need to own and how we spend much of our time is culturally informed. That culture is made up of each one of us helping hold the space in a certain way. Encouraging some things, discouraging others, making some actions easy and others impossible. Most of the time, most of us do that entirely without thought.

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What Sort of Training Should a Diviner Have?

By Galina Krasskova

Training in a word should be extensive. Firstly, I would want to make sure that the would-be diviner knows thoroughly how to ground, center, shield, and cleanse, that he or she does these things regularly, and can do them under pressure. When I teach my students, they spend at least a year on these techniques, which I consider absolutely fundamental. It’s also helpful if there’s an understanding of basic conjure. It helps with keeping clean and cleansing an area and sometimes a client.

After that, a diviner needs to have a good, solid, consistent relationship with hir ancestors. This too is fundamental and one of the best protections a diviner can have. Before I sit down to divine, I do extensive prayers, not just to my Gods and holy Powers but to my ancestors first and foremost. There’s a Lithuanian saying that notes “the spirits of the dead are the protection of the living” and this is so, so very true, all the more so because clients are not generally coming to you because they’re having a good time. They’re coming to you in the midst of emotional difficulties, trauma, confusion, or struggles, or spiritual miasma. They can bring shit in with them. One’s ancestors are the first line of defense (and the second, and the third) not only in warding away the crap clients can bring with them, but in helping the diviner maintain good signal clarity. I pray to my blood ancestors, those chosen by spirit, and to the ancestors of my spiritual lineage before the client comes through the door, and often when the client is seated in front of me – always.

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Living Kemeticism

By Devo

Living Kemeticism: What does living your faith mean to you? How can others bring their religion into their day to day life or live their religion?

It is my personal belief that religion is something that you live. It is a way of life or a way of being and approaching the world. It is a lens that you see the world through and when you are completely immersed in the religion, it will inform and influence just about every decision that you make, for better or worse. And for all of the guides out there about how to become Kemetic, I feel like there are very few guides out there that teach you how to live the religion. Sure, we’ve got guides for approaching gods and offering to gods and how to build shrines and what books to read. But none of these things really teach you how to live the religion.

So for this post, I’m going to discuss how I view living Kemeticism and hopefully some things that you can attempt to do to live the religion as well.

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How to Work With Your Muse

By Deborah Castellano

“There is no room for grief in a house which serves the muse.” – Sappho

Step One: You Have One
For some, this seems to be the most difficult step. Maybe you’re not an artist/musician/writer so you think you don’t have a Muse. Wrong. Everyone does. Just because yours is different than the media portrayal of the Muse, doesn’t mean that she doesn’t exist. What media portrayal currently describes your struggles and your life right now? What, none? Exactly.

My mom’s muse couldn’t be bothered with airy-fairy art junk. She’s got snarled balls of yarn being delicately barfed up onto her desk by management, full of knotted and tangled tax codes. It’s up to my mom (and her muse) to wrangle that hot mess into order. My mom’s muse answers to the name Mrs. Emma Peel and dreams in numbers.

Don Draper is frequently seen as The Establishment in Mad Men. He’s full of hetero white guy privilege during a time where it was extra tasty and delicious to be a hetero white guy due to the constant buckets of money, ease of middle class life and all the under paid female labor there to help you at the office and at home. He’s a brilliant ad man, which even then was seen as being in league with the devil. But he’s excellent at it and his words and images evoke beauty and longing, which is super useful when you’re in advertising. His muse creates artistic advertising with him, which was like saying your muse likes to create meth in a lab, but muses do what muses do.

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The High Magic of Talismans and Amulets, by Claude Lecouteux

Reviewed by Freeman Presson

The first part of The High Magic of Talismans and Amulets goes into the traditions related to amulets and the natural magic thereof, and also examines the tension between established Christianity and the long-standing tradition of magick, especially of the apotropaic (evil averting) sort. One is strongly reminded of the generations of priestly execrations of goddess worship in the Bible, which similarly told us how long the practices persisted, and some details of them which we would not otherwise have had.

The priests inveighing against these charms were particularly intent on discouraging the use of magical characters (alphabetic or sigilic writing that conveys spiritual power). They sometimes waxed poetic: “The demon slithers in the characters like the serpent beneath the flowers.” This ties nicely into his statement that “the unknown always inspires the Church with fear.”

Lecouteux summarizes part of this history thus: “Implicit in the background are notions of natural, licit magic and illicit black magic,” ((p. 30)) after giving one of many examples of a churchman condemning the talismanic art as being an implicit pact with a demon, a pattern which, as he points out, is “commonly repeated throughout the sixteenth century.” What this means to me is that the Faustian current which arose in early modern magick didn’t just appear without help. Apparently, it is as possible to call an egregore into being by constant execration as by constant evocation!

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High Magick and Initiatic Orders

By Jean-Louis de Biasi

For centuries, the ancient Western Mysteries have been transmitted through rituals called “initiations.” Everyone can learn from books how to perform rituals, visualization, and self-empowerment, but nobody can seriously initiate himself. To do so, you need one or more persons who will perform a special ritual for you. We know the existence of such ceremonies of initiations from a very early period, 1700 BCE if we consider the Mysteries of Eleusis in Greece. Later, other closed groups such as the Pythagorean, Neoplatonists, Hermetists, and Theurgists practiced initiatic secret rituals. My goal is not here to write an historical study, but it is worth noting that such initiatic societies have existed for a very long time, and are still present today in the world.

Anyone interested in Western Traditions has heard something about initiatic Orders, but they don’t speak much about what they are and what goals they have. In my book, Rediscover the Magick of Gods and Goddesses, I follow the Hermetic and Theurgic Traditions that eventually gave birth to the Ogdoadic Tradition, today known as Aurum Solis. This international organization provides initiations and serious magical training. A large part of the book is devoted to the practice of original rituals and exercises. The practice is very important when we really want to experiment with the elements provided in the book. However, sometimes you can be eager to use a book as an occasion to go further in your spiritual journey. Then knowing about the definition and goals of these ancient initiatic Orders can become essential.

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The Theban Oracle, by Greg Jenkins

Reviewed by Freeman Presson

There are effectively three books within The Theban Oracle: an introduction to what the author calls “Medieval Metaphysics,” including the few references to the Theban alphabet; a method for divination using the alphabet and correspondences created by the author, which requires the reader to make a casting set using the instructions included; and examples of spell-casting with the support of the Theban letters.

The divination material occupies about two thirds of the book, so I will address it first. The 24 letter-stones (for which I now coin the term grammatoliths) of the Theban alphabet, plus a blank, are associated with various figures from the history of magick and spirituality. The divinatory meanings of each grammatolith are drawn from major aspects of the corresponding personality, whether from the importance of their known work or their place in history. To name a few, we have Trithemius, Agrippa, Dee, Paracelsus, Hypatia, and Imhotep, along with others in the Western Esoteric Tradition, and then Lao Tzu as the sole Far Eastern figure. One might be able to suggest a pre-Socratic philosopher to use instead (Empedocles leaps to mind), but I suppose they are not well-known enough today, and it’s important that the diviner be able to relate to the given figures.

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“The Old Religion” or a “New Creative Synthesis?”

By Carol P. Christ

Is Goddess feminism an old religion or a new creative synthesis? Can it be both? Goddess feminism draws on the feminist affirmation of women’s experiences, women’s bodies, and women’s connection to nature; the feminist critique of transcendent male monotheism as the symbolic expression of male domination of women and nature; and 19th and early 20th century discussions of Goddesses and matriarchy.

Most Goddess and other spiritual feminists have experienced Wiccan rituals, which are often simply called Goddess rituals. For many of us, elements of Wiccan practice strike a chord of knowing, while other aspects seem odd or strange or even just plain weird. What are the origins of Wiccan ritual? Are some its roots to be found in male secret societies that in no way promoted “the full humanity of women”?

In their syntheses of women’s experiences, ancient Goddess religions, and feminism, Z Budapest and Starhawk drew upon the earlier creative synthesis of the Englishman Gerald Gardner which he variously called “the Old Religion,” “Witchcraft,” and “Wicca.”

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Snakes and Serpents in the Ancient Hellenic Religion

By Elani Temperance

[Snip] The ancient Hellenes were not fearful of snakes. They might have been cautious of poisonous ones, but in general, happening across a snake was a good omen. Unlike in Jewish and Christian mythology, where the Devil working though a snake got Eve to eat the apple, Hellenic mythology usually reserves a very positive place for snakes. Today, I’m giving some examples of the positive images surrounding serpents and snakes, although there are, surely, also negative ones to take into account.

Asklēpiós was, and is, a much beloved Theos. He started out being honored as a hero–the son of Apollon and Koronis–but became a God in His own right because of his healing skill. Worship places of Asklēpiós were called ‘asklepieia’ (Ἀσκληπίεια). An asklepieion (Ἀσκληπιεῖον) served as a temple, a hospital, and as a training-institute of the healing arts. In ancient Hellas, the sick would come to an asklepieion and offer a sacrifice to Asklēpiós–amongst the recorded sacrifices are black goats or sheep, gold, silver, or marble sculptures of the body part that required healing, and coins–in hopes of healing. They would then settle into the abaton (άβατον) or enkoimeterion (εγκοιμητήριοn), a restricted sleeping hall, which was occupied by the sick alone, or sometimes by a group of them, as well as a good few snakes, which are considered sacred animals of Asklēpiós.

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The Earth Mother of All Neolithic Discoveries

By John Lichfield

French archaeologists have discovered an extremely rare example of a neolithic “earth mother” figurine on the banks of the river Somme.

The 6,000-year-old statuette is 8in high, with imposing buttocks and hips but stubby arms and a cone-like head. Similar figures have been found before in Europe but rarely so far north and seldom in such a complete and well-preserved condition.

The “lady of Villers-Carbonnel”, as she has been named, can make two claims to be an “earth mother”. She was fired from local earth or clay and closely resembles figurines with similar, stylised female bodies found around the Mediterranean.

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