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Something wrong

In every horror movie
there is this moment
when one of the protagonists proclaims
"Something is wrong here"

Something is odd
Sort of not the way it seems to be
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark
and "State is me"

My English poetry

My dear spiritual fellows. I don´t post here very often now, having completed my DP with no time for the Initiate training yet. I though some of you might enjoy reading my occasional English poetry, or better to say notices of emotional state in plain English. So far I have published two and both have spiritual contexts.

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Personal Religion

I joined ADF two years ago because out of all the Pagan traditions I encountered it seemed to offer a framework closest to my heart and an intriguing study system. ADF theology resonated with my own and the Indoeuropean focus guaranteed enough room to for me fit in. At that time I had vague ideas about most key areas of Pagan religious practice: I didn't have a particularly deep relationship with any deity. I actually had very little experience with meaningful Pagan ritual. I didn't have a proper home shrine. I felt uneasy about prayer and devotional work. I haven't done any meditative divination for some time.

This was about to change. One of the first things I did on my Dedicant Path was setting up a home shrine, back in the flat where lived (we have moved two times since). I started studying ADF liturgy and acquired a new divination set and work with it regularly, taking note of my insights. I visited all Pagan rituals I cold get invitation to, as required, and read a lot; Ceisiwr Serith's Pagan Book of Prayer, books by Isaac Bonewits, I even went to Germany to attend a seminar he was giving to Western European Pagan clergy with his wife.

Perhaps the greatest mistake (or was it one) I did was that I put most of my hopes into the Protogrove I have been organizing, and failed. Even though a healthy community of believers is incredibly supporting to one's own spirituality, it's not the spirituality and sometimes there is no such community. In my case this was a painful thing to realize. Although I am still engaged in local Pagan community at leadership positions, as a board member of Davny obycej1, I have turned my focus completely to personal spiritual work. I pray to my Patrons and other deities, explore the Hellenic pantheon and perform regular meditatory divination.

Regarding Hearth Cultures, I have to say I had huge problem with this concept from the beginning. It seemed flawed to me on the whole and rather discriminatory. Interesting development followed. I observed that some rituals, even though excellently performed,2 brought me little spiritual satisfaction and, most remarkably, I could not hear or see those deities, often at all, contrary to other attendants. As if those Gods were completely foreign for me and were about to stay that way. This was two Celtic ADF rituals. On one ritual I became observably unquiet and felt what is happening is “wrong” (a dark Norse mystery cult ritual). So I came to conclusion that there must be something like spiritual family or ancestry, a particular path one is called to. I have repeatedly received subtle messages, and one time a regular prophecy, from beings of Hellenic origin. I knew I had two patrons, Athene and Hekate, for some time already, but I still uncomfortable with Heart Cultures. Finishing my DP took me almost a year longer than I had planned, because I waited for this important issue to settle down. Then one day this summer, I was just getting out of the bus when I realize I know it now that I have a Hellenic Hearth.

I have been successfully working with Deities such as Hera or Aphrodite, and several minor ones like Hygeia or Nyx. I know Hermes has been always in favour of me, especially since I became a retailer, but he is not my patron. Other interesting outcome is that I have moved far more to the inspirationist side of the reconstruction vs. inspiration argument. I came to the conclusion I have Hellenic Hearth by pure personal gnosis and prophecy, without any ideological input, and I am quite sure now that direct personal communion with the Powers is the only solid foundation one can have. (Or at least an intellectual like me.) I have found much inspiration in writings of Raven Kaldera, a Pagan priest and leader of a small Norse community whose take on Paganism is inspirationist, apolitical and devotional. He derives his practice from shamanism and voudon and, interestingly enough, I have been drawn to voudon too. I will undergo an initiation from the hands of my good friend, a Norse-Voudon priestess, and continue towards this direction with a group of Kaldera's readers that has been forming here. My other spiritual endeavours include “Gothic” Paganism and vampiric lore, a Wiccan training I will probably resume once it is time, and hoodoo, American folk witchcraft.

In ADF I wish to pursue Initiate status and serve as Dedicant Program reviewer.

1Czech Pan-Pagan umbrella organization, founded in late 2008. Registered as citizen's association.

2Some rituals felt obviously dull, because I had no background in those ritual forms and traditions (Wiccan, Satanic).

Dedicant Oath Rite

I have performed my dedication at my home shrine, August 9th at dusk. I spent the days preceding the ritual in preparations, furnishing the altar, preparing a rich sacrifice and cleaning ritual dishes. I also meditated on the contents of the liturgy and did research on the powers I wanted to call upon. I felt uplifted and spiritual, and my room was already hallowed and full of serene peace when I begun the ritual. Only my flatmate, a good friend of mine, attended as silent guest.

I begun by calling on Horae, the spirits who govern each period of the day, and asked Hora Spondae (Hour of libation) co come. Even before, I circled the room clockwise carrying a bowl with purifying incense, even though this showed unnecessary. Shortly before initiating the rite I also decided to include an appeal for inspiration to Apollo in the opening prayers and give him a bowl of laurel, which was accepted graciously. (This was only the second time I have called unto Apollo, so I was hesitant.) I gave Mother Earth an offering of stone shaped candle and aid in on the floor. Then, stating the purpose of my ritual (“to give a sacred oath”) I continued to blessing the three realms – Underworld (Hades), Middleworld and the Heavens (Olympos). I lit the sacred fire, an oil lamp, and touched the bowl of holy water. A sacrifice of incense was made to Ianus Patulcius, the Opener of Door along with Ianus Bifons, the mysterious Two-faced God of new beginnings. I could not feel the opening of the gate as I was used to; it seemed to be half-way opened already. I had a rich sacrifice for the Kindred – a bowl of herbal incense for Nature Spirits, a scented candle sprinkled with herbs for Ancestors and a bowl of exquisite incense for the Gods.

Somewhere during the offering section, I paused, confused and had to regain my mind, because the amount of the mana from sacrifice begun to overwhelm me and also the air in the room got unbreathable, filled with smoke as thick mist. I felt incapacitated to feel the full presence of the High Gods when I got to this point of ritual. Luckily, my friend started opening all the windows and door. I panicked slightly, because I was unsure about my skill to transform so much mana properly into the blessing cup. I performed a piacular offering before stating the prayer of sacrifice and asked for an omen to be given to me. A spiral of smoke rose violently from the offering bowl and I pronounced the sacrifice to be accepted. I was choking slightly, but proceeded to the final sacrifice – giving my oath. I took the first paper into my hand, on which was written the oath I gave at age thirteen:

Let my mind be open to your truth.
Let my mouth be silent among the unbelievers.
Let my heart seek you always.
Let my hands lift in praise of you.
Let my feet always walk your secret paths.

“Nine years ago, I gave this oath to the Old Gods, I have used it as a roadmap. Now I call unto Mnemosyne (Memory) and dispose it in the waters of (Lethe). Let it be a thing of the past and may it count as my good deed at the Underworld court.” I put the paper into the Well. “I give this new oath to Diké (Justice)”, I said, lightning a blue candle, “because you will be the last to depart when the Earth becomes inhabitable. Until Justice rules this Earth, I shall be bound to this Oath.” Then I read my oath and lit a violet candle in sacrifice to Horkos (Oath).

I seek the threefold path of Virtue, Piety and Study. To behave right unto myself, other people and the Powers. May my time on this path be long and prosperous. This I swear.” (approximate translation)

I chose this key concept of Our Druidry, because I wanted to give an oath so basic I could live by it for the rest of my life, independent on spiritual tradition and specific Gods which may change. This core teaching about our duty to the Powers, society and ourselves holds true for me. I pronounced the pendant that was lying next to the Oath candle to become a sign of my dedication and proceeded to call for the blessing, hallow the cup of wine and share it with my friend. Because of the dramatic course of the ritual I decided to skip the prayers to patrons and do them as a devotional tomorrow. After sharing the feast I unwinded the ritual quickly by closing the gates, forgot to thank the beings and rang the chime three times to tell Horai the time of sacrifice was over.

Then I looked on the room behind me and it was absolutely full of mist, even though all the windows were already open, my eyes hurt (they still do) and I felt like fainting. I quickly assembled my luggage and went outside the house to take a walk, while my friend would bring the burning offering bowl to the balcony. It took me another couple of hours to regain my sense of self, and writing this the morning after, I can still feel something profound has happened inside of me which I am not fully able to seize at this moment. From the liturgical aspect, I really felt that 1. it was incredibly hard to concentrate on performing such a complex liturgy on my own, unaided, while falling into deep trance and 2. I would rather prefer simpler devotional framework or different type of ritual for my future personal mystical / magical practice. From the safety side of things, I was really happy I didn't do this alone, because I would be unable to spot the amount of smoke and probably faint. But in overall I would judge my performance of the rite as good and I feel accomplished about what I have done.

  1. Written discussion of the Dedicant's understanding of each of the following nine virtues: wisdom, piety, vision, courage, integrity, perseverance, hospitality, moderation and fertility. The Dedicant may also include other virtues, if desired, and compare them to these nine. (125 words min. each)
  2. Short essays on each of the eight ADF High Days including a discussion of the meaning of each feast (125 words min. each)
  3. Short book reviews on at least: 1 Indo-European studies title, 1 preferred ethnic study title and 1 modern Paganism title. These titles can be selected from the recommended reading list in the Dedicant Program manual or the ADF web site, or chosen by the student, with prior approval of the Preceptor. (325 words min. each)
  4. A brief description, with photos if possible, of the Dedicant's home shrine and plans for future improvements. (150 words min.) (Long done.)
  5. An essay focusing on the Dedicants understanding of the meaning of the "Two Powers" meditation or other form of ‘grounding and centering', as used in meditation and ritual. This account should include impressions and insights that the Dedicant gained from practical experience. (300 words min.)
  6. An essay or journal covering the Dedicant's personal experience of building mental discipline, through the use of meditation, trance, or other systematic techniques on a regular basis. The experiences in the essay or journal should cover at least a five months period. (800 words min.)
  7. An account of the Dedicant's efforts to work with nature, honor the Earth, and understand the impacts and effects of the Dedicant's lifestyle choices on the environment and/or the local ecosystem and how she or he could make a difference to the environment on a local level. (500 words min.)
  8. A brief account of each High Day ritual attended or performed by the Dedicant in a twelve month period. High Days attended/performed might be celebrated with a local grove, privately, or with another Neopagan group. At least 4 of the rituals attended/performed during the training period must be ADF-style. (100 words min. each)
  9. ONE essay describing the Dedicants understanding of and relationship to EACH of the Three Kindred: the Spirits of Nature, the Ancestors and the Gods. (300 words min. for each Kindred and 1000 words total)
  10. A brief account of the efforts of the Dedicant to develop and explore a personal (or Grovecentered) spiritual practice, drawn from a specific culture or combination of cultures. (600 words min.)
  11. The text of the Dedicant's Oath Rite and a self-evaluation of the Dedicant's performance of the rite. (500 words min.)

Mental Discipline reloaded

Mental Discipline

An essay or journal covering the Dedicant's personal experience of building mental discipline, through the use of meditation, trance, or other systematic techniques on a regular basis. The experiences in the essay or journal should cover at least a five months period. (800 words min.)

At the present (August 2009) I don´t have considerable problem inducing trance unto myself or finding that special constellation of my mind in order to reach to the Otherworld. During my Dedicant time (since August 2007), I have continued to practice my old ways of mental discipline and tried some new ones, with moderate to great results. The real breakthrough though only came recently (July 2009), I think, as a result of my intensified spiritual practice with my best friend and also as a side effect of my spiritual crisis.

Speaking about the type of mental discipline I practice on a regular basis, most prominent is divination. Once in a week at the very least I sit for a session of trance and communion with the spirits, trying to attune directly to the web of fate and gain a better understanding of my life´s position in order to make wiser decisions and find a solid ground in this shaky world. Since I have been doing this type of trance work for so long (I got my first Tarot at 11), it´s quite difficult to assess how it all started. When I intend to reach trance I just sit in quiet, make some free space in front of me and for some time I just meditate, clearing my mind of anything disruptive. I can sense when I am there and it has observable physiological effects, most prominently lowered blood pressure and slower heartbeat. I can sense as if there was something opening all around me and this feeling is felt most intensely at in the middle of my forehead and chest. The whole session can take up quite some time, because I meditate the images I receive, let them enter my mind and soul and come alive. Frankly, I have few words to describe what exactly am I doing, I just know it´s right and it has become such a fundamental part of my life that I go nervous and groundless when I miss my weekly session. In the end I often take notes of the images I drew and link them with the results of previous divinatory sessions and also mark my own feelings. This way I have a solid spiritual chronicle of my life and the more I read backwards the more sense it makes. This is why it´s so unfortunate to miss a session, because the links with past are weakened and I have to catch another link.

Another type of mental discipline / trance work I perform on irregular basis relates to my poor health. I have developed these techniques partly from what they taught me at spa and in therapy sessions and also from my own intuition. It consist of repeating positive affirmations about my body to myself and finding overall calm. This being said, I have found it almost impossible for me to master any type of meditation grounded in body awareness, especially the more formalized Buddhist sessions. I felt downright miserable. I was able to trace my discomfort down to anger to sense of failure that my body is filled with pain. I was hardly ever able to find that compassion we were asked for and heal my body. (Diary entries from spring 2009) Make me sit in zazen with my common back ache and I will most probably either cry or leave hastily, with a sense of embarrassment in both cases. This was a huge mental block for me before I realized there are other types of mental discipline I can be proficient in which don´t require formalized body postures or being at peace with one´s own body.

I have found it increasingly efficient to use words and even spoken word in all kinds of spiritual work. Hence I often repeat out loud to myself the questions I ask the Oracle or when I am trying to relax my body I repeat „My left leg is getting heavier and heavier...“ I obviously use words, uttered or just said in spirit, when I pray which is another regular spiritual practice I perform almost daily. The effect on my mind is more short-lived, but it helps anyway, and I have found it efficient to pray right before I go to sleep. I took up a regular prayer practice notably after reading Cei Serith´s Pagan Book of Prayer in summer 2008.

To mention some other growing pains I had, I had a nasty problem with guided visualisations (pathworkings) which is a type of meditation most Pagans seem to enjoy and it´s commonly practised in rituals. I feel incapable of following somebody else´s tempo and imagery, and a bit stupid. I felt bad and incompetent for the first couple of months (08-12/2007), because I was tricked into thinking pathworkings, i.e. meditations, are a group thing to do – whereas mental discipline is really among the most solitary practices on the Dedicant Path!

I need to mention also another problem I still experience which is related to Harnerian type of shamanic drumming (meditation), also commonly practised among Neopagans. The „problem“ I have encountered first in September 2007 which propelled me not to practice again this type of spiritual work is that, heck yeah, it works. I could feel not only slight changes in my blood pressure and heartbeat, but my body going completely cold and drifting upwards to different realms. It was a cleansing, very healing experience twice for me, and utterly frightening at least once. I recognize a need for experienced mentorship for this type of work which I cannot find on New Age workshops.

Somewhat different were my recent (July 2009) trance possessions which lasted for several days when I could not feel pain, exhaustion or sense my normal time rhythms. One day I walked through our household, seeing things as they are in the spiritual realm, that is in future. But that´s beyond the scope of this essay, I think, spirit possessions and deep trances that are just cast upon us by the Powers when time is right and we can only hope to manage the best we can.

In the future I would like to deepen my understanding of various types or levels of meditation / trancework and how do they relate to one another. I can reach trance easily in ritual work with my friend or when praying / doing divination alone whereas group practices are usually a faux pas for me. I feel I have a good basic mental discipline and awareness of my own weaknesses.
I am packing my stuff for today's opening of another one week ecumenical training which is taking place in my own city. The venue is a reconstructed old farmhouse turned into an eco center, which I look forward to very much.

The last seminar took place in Albania and the country was a bit of an adventure. I wrote about my life-changing experince for the campaign's journal, Fundamental Issues, and won at Oak Awards, a competition of several Druidic orders. By the way, Mike from RDNA was about to return from Laos in May and send me the award, and I'm still waiting. (As fast as.... ).

I will also be writing a scholarly article - for a reviewed monography! - about new religious movements in Czech Republic, and perhaps even speak at a conference next year. I got this job through one of my Ecumenical council contacts, from a guy who stdies theology and law (in order to have someting to eat).

I hope this time I will come better preared and less anxious and represent our movement well. Although recently my university mentor wrote to me, after reading my essay, that he can see I have a "Christian spiritual core" (he actually used a word denoting a very small seed). Unfotunately, I quite agree. There is no other tradition of Western thought, philosophy and theology, and in intellectual Catholicism I feel much more at home with my reflections about faith, than among radicalized, confused teens and tweens who profoundly despise science, "the establishment" and rational criticism of just about anything. I've never been a "feel" person and this aspect of new religious movements, this focus on (intense) experiece, has made me uncomfortable.

I don't mind intense spiritual experience as long as I am left a place for critical judgement. When I am pushed to neglect it and given black and white explanations, I get stuck. Like a genuine Taurus, I don't move an inch.

I'm in my 2nd month (no, not that, my business) and so far everything is going according to long-term predictions.





Hopeless

Running a business all on my own is very time consuming, though it has been a fulfilling work to do. Yesterday I went to bank to deposit some money and my debt is now only 8,000 CZK which means in a few weeks I'll be fine again, yikes!

I did something crucial regarding ADF which was shutting down the Czech Protogrove. Reasons are known  and explained in Czech, and I also told a few ADF officers I trust.

I hope to get back to LiveJournal and my DP materials suring the summer which is usually more relaxed time of the year, though not necessarily when I have to keep up working on the shop.

Tags:

You may remember back then I wrote how I got a strange divination result when asking "When should I my Dedicant Oath." The response was after I have received a particular Pagan store catalog and ordered a pendant from it. When the catalog arrived, most surprisingly 2 months after I had ordered it, I was cheered.

I dropped a note somewhere I am waiting for the spirits to send me some money to buy a Dedicant pendant and, with the intervention of PayPal I got 666 CZK today. Which is not surprising, at all, considering the identified donator has something to do with Discordia. To make things even more conspicous, the same minute I got another two emails, which were "back in stock" alerts, showing me two of the pendants I have been considering are back in stock now. The spirits gave me two options and out of them I chose this beautiful amber drop with peridot:



 

This is my three months old draft of the Mental Discipline requirement. I've had clergy read it and I am perfectly aware by now that it has to be reworked to pass. I appreciate your input though, because some told me the essay is very good as it is, it's just not what the Dedicant Program asks for. So, here it is, a somewhat intimate piece of mine.

In the following paragraphs, I would like to introduce the findings I have made during my Pagan years about various methods of mental discipline.

Since I´ve been practising some form of mental discipline for a long time, I have tried to come up with a more complex, specifically Pagan view of my experience during my Dedicant year and sum up the types of mental discipline I have been exposed to and my development.

Divination

I think the mental training method I am most familiar with, and have practised it for years now, is the trance that goes along with divination. I say some type of trance is a must-need for successful divination. The funny thing is even though I value this skill of mine very much, I don´t remember when did I learn it. I suspect it was when I got my pack of Crowley´s Thoth Tarot with a book when I was eleven. I suppose at that age my mind was open to unusual ideas and I was eager to learn.

It came to pass that last summer, at the same time I joined ADF, I felt the need to buy a different pack of Tarot, for the first time in my life. I listened to the call and picked up Psycards, a sort of Jungian archetypal pack done in medieval-like style. Exactly what I needed, it resonated with me.

Today I sit for divination once a week if not more often, and I write down the results and my thoughts on that. It´s an invaluable tool to track the patterns of one´s life and attune more to the net we are all a part of. I can´t imagine my life without divination.

Prayer

Prayer was a totally different topic for me, as I felt very hesitant to pray after I became an apostate from Catholicism. I can remember reading The Mysteries of Isis, reciting the prayer and – phew! – it actually worked. I have prayed to the Dark Mother at time of greatest need, but that was like the limit where I could take it.
Reviving the practice has been one of the major changes the Dedicant year has brought to my spiritual life.1 I now pray sometimes every evening before I go to sleep and I can see the amazing results. I would never have thought that regular prayer to a Deity brings such a visible presence of Their blessing into one´s life. It´s still sort of new for me and I wish to continue exploring.

Yoga

I started doing exercise self-taught from a book some years ago. What yoga has given to me is a much greater sense of bodily connection. Awareness of my body´s cycles such as digestion. One interesting outcome of this new awareness is that my body started to reject meat.

I try to practice several asanas at least once a week. I have to be mindful, because my back condition is fragile.
Autogenous Training (Self-hypnosis)

I was re-introduced to autogenous training this year in spa, where we had regular training sessions to master this type of meditation that is proven to relieve all sorts of health conditions. While the proponents seem to avoid calling it self-hypnosis, I really see no difference. In the basic exercise you concentrate on the feelings of heaviness, then “charge” your body with warmth (energy). Additional sentences can be sensitively tailored to your actual problem (e.g. a steady, calm heartbeat for panic attacks, a calm, cool forehead for migraines). In the closing section you take the raised energy and send it to the weakest point of your body. (It´s funny anyway how mental health professionals write tomes about and cherish the most basic Pagan mental training/healing techniques.2 )

The Attunement


Occultists often spend good amount of time and energy classifying psychic phenomena. My personal understanding is much more holistic and less exact. It encompasses nature awareness, communion with the spirits, healing and even some more obscure stuff, like distant sight and reading the past of a place or thing.

One thing I can tell for sure is that the lines between theological categories get extremely blurry once you get into the right state of mind. Our ancestors were much more immersed in the magical world-view and exercises like sitting behind a tree, trying to feel it, would seem absurd to them.

To me there is just a single attunement (awareness),3 which yields various results depending on the subject of your concentration and the environment. It may come as a vision of the past of the place, a notion of the local spirits, the health of the plants or feeling of presence of other animals. It may concern the emotions of other people, their health and whereabouts. We classify attunement under psychic phenomena, because it brings information and knowledge that would otherwise not be accessible to us, using only the five senses. This knowledge can, for example, concern a distant person or a past event.

I haven´t mastered these skills to the point of beings able to attune when the order is given. (Professional healers and witches can do that.) It comes spontaneously. One important notion I´ve made is that to some people this psychic skill feels like a real curse, because they tend to catch whatever information there is around, typically pain and sense of imminent danger, in such an intensity that they can´t refuse it. I am blessed to have some built-in protection that prevents me from getting this. Which brings me to the topic of possession.

Possession and Inspiration

Possession can be seen a special, more advanced derivative of this attunement skill, when you open the boundaries of your psyche and surrender the sense of self-awareness in order to fully channel a Deity (or some other numinous being). The difference between simple attunement and possession is that you approach the subject of your effort as a being with own personality and will, that will interfere with or take over your own.

If there is one thing we modern people fear, in religious and other context, it´s loosing your will and sense of Self. So, unlike other methods of mental discipline, possession has acquired a controversial reputation among Neopagans. Luckily for us, the state of possession can be described as a continuum.

If the self-awareness of the subject is full, we talk about the state of inspiration. I personally write liturgies in the state of inspiration. Druids see this skill as important to our rites where we perform the sacred arts, since the Call for Inspiration which can be found in many of our liturgies.

When there is a perceivable lose in the sense of Self, we talk about partial possession. I have a reason to believe Bonewits when he writes that “complete possession is relatively rare”.4 On the other hand I have talked to Catholic exorcists and Afro-Caribbean Pagans who consider the phenomenon more spread than we wish to acknowledge.5 It came to pass that when I was recently praying to my patron (Hecaté), I became partially possessed. Unfamiliar with an experience of such intensity, I didn´t know what to do and eventually frightened my flat mate.

So, perhaps it would be beneficial if we shattered some of the lurid connotations the word has acquired and explored the practices of our Pagan ancestors without prejudice. I have once witnessed a young Neopagan shaman to channel sacred poetry and songs and it was pretty much unforgettable.6 On the Lughnasadh ritual I´ve seen that getting immersed into the sacred drama to the point of possession can indeed be a powerful religious experience. On the other hand, I´ve also seen people whom I believe to be partially possessed by powers I would address as Outdwellers. In any case, we as Pagans should definitely deepen our understanding of various mental training methods, their nature and boundaries and always seek them in a pious attitude.

Prophecy


I perceive precognition and prophecy to be the most advanced variety of the attunement skill. It is, in a sense, attuning directly to the world Order (Fate) itself.7 (Known by whatever names in various ethnic Paganisms.) Although common to the world of the ancients, we don´t see many prophets in the Neopagan movement. (Or we just shun the word because of its Judeo-Christian connotations?) I have glimpses of the future, sometimes, but I am no way gifted with prophecy. I rather stick to the routine divination and consulting the Owl-Eyed Lady who knows better.

Ecstatic Dance


Another area relatively unexplored by me is the realm of ecstatic dance, perhaps because I lack possibilities to practice it in a Pagan context. We don´t have Pagan musicians and festivals. The capital city is full of bars and clubs, but the environment is too secular for me, I´m uncomfortable with all the alcohol, drugs and flirting.

I used to do belly dance, but then I left because I felt nauseated by the direction the more advanced students were heading – I felt it has strayed too far from the original intent, which was for me to dance the joy of life and my womanhood, not to perform artificial casino-like shows for the crowd almost naked. I had some deeply odd experiences when dancing, as if I have recalled an experience of me dancing, but more ancient and powerful. I suddenly understood what do Pagans mean when they say they feel they have done this before. I also understood that Bast, my patron, wants me to dance in her honor, but not in secular context. Hopefully I will get the chance to explore this path in the future.

The Ordeal Path


The Ordeal Path, as described by Pagan author Raven Kaldera, is essentially BDSM approached from a spiritual, Pagan perspective.8 I am aware that listing this under mental training techniques might shock some – especially in comparison to the largely accepted methods of meditation, praised even by our mental health professionals and general public, given in the DP manual – but as Kaldera writes “Primitive cultures have used physical and emotional and sexual ordeals in order to achieve altered states a lot more often than we westerners would like to admit. We can utilize some of their techniques, but their contexts are often opaque to us, as we weren´t raised in their cultures. We need to create our own set of ordeal rituals that resound with our experiences...”9

I´ve never been able to induce such state of complete bodily consciousness and relaxation by any other means, and this notion disturbs me. (Should it?) Regular divination, prayer and nature attunement have brought me a great lot of good and as I imagine a lot of deepening of the work lies ahead of me... but I won´t be able to put this topic aside for a much longer time. It has started to call.

Somewhat similar to prayer, I´ve been regular to try entering a regular practice, in this case not because of former stigma, but because of fear where would it lead.

Mental Training and the Path Ahead

Wherever the path will lead me, I know for sure that it will be a full-contact, skin-close experience once I immerse myself fully. Mental training never was, especially in the times of our Druid ancestors, a nicely polished, well-arranged set of exercises to perform and record in a diary.10 Also I doubt the mind was seen as something to be trained separately from the rest. I can see the unfortunate influence of the image of the traditional western occultist and, to a lesser extent, the recent boom of Buddhist-type meditation practices. (I couldn´t think of a Neopagan at the moment who doesn´t have that romantic admire for Buddhism.)
In my overview of various techniques I have noted that while we (I) are skilled in some aspects of Pagan mental training (divination trance, inspiration in ritual context, prayer), some of the more advanced techniques stay foreign to us (prophecy), other are flat out rejected as politically-incorrect (possession, the ordeal path). We are loosing much by separating the mental and the physical realm when talking about mental training (the DP manual talks on several places about “training the mind”). Techniques that are inherently body engaging, like ecstatic dance, are somewhat left aside.11

There is yet much we can reclaim from our Pagan ancestors, but for the start I agree that learning to quieten oneself in the daily havoc is the point from which the more “wildening” techniques can be approached.
  1. And I am happy to have The Pagan Book of Prayer proudly standing on my shelf. I needed a good apologetics read to dust off the practice as a Pagan.
  2. Take psychoanalysis, for example, where you have to study many years to be “initiated” into a technique that seems to me basically as guided meditations reconnecting you to powerful archetypal images (catatymic imagery).
  3. The Greek verb “pathein” as in “sympathy”, or “telepathy” has many meanings, including “to feel” and “to suffer”. I base my personal terminology on this root word. In this essay I use attunement or awareness.
  4. Isaac Bonewits, Neopagan Rites, Llewellyn, 2007
  5. Naturally, the exorcists take a vastly different perspective of why it´s happening and attribute all evil to “the rise of occult”.
  6. Just like many others, I recognized that these things often cannot be taped.
  7. This notion was brought to me by Rev. Hyperion in his series on The Unnamed Path, Though it could be argued that BDSM in whole is a pseudo-religious phenomena.
  8. Raven Kaldera, Dark Moon Rising: Pagan BDSM and the Ordeal Path, Hubbardson, Massachussets: Asphodel Press, 2006, p. 1
  9. That is not to be taken as belittling any teachings of Our Druidry.
  10. Perhaps this is where the lack of festivals and personal communion with people of Our Druidry is missed most painfully. I assume this side of mental training is commonly practised on the festivals where drumming, dancing, etc. are common.

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