Friday, April 16, 2021

Lady of Crossroads


As I drifted in the liminal state between sleep and awake, I imagned myself entering the great temple at Eleusis. I was received by a priestess wearing a gold bee with outspread wings at her throat.

I asked to meet the deity who would appear to me at the climax of the Mysteries. She was scary to begin with. There was something like an immense cobweb that parted, and snakes, and a dark bird rushed from her eyes. She seemed to have owl eyes in the lined and craggy face of a crone.

Then the old woman’s face rippled like muslin curtain, and I saw her three-formed, all three bodies and faces beautiful. The central one facing me was that of a mature woman, the ones on either side looked younger. They were conjoined, not stuck together, vibrating in constant movement, capable of taking other forms but content to present themselves in the most lovely shapes for now. A reward for the initiate who finds the courage to part the veil, to come and go from the Underworld at will. No doubt about it: This is Hekate time. 

I reflected on offerings made to Hekate in ancient times. Food for sure: raw eggs, olive oil, honey, bread and cakes, beer. Since juniper is one of her special trees (small figures of Hekate were often carved from juniper) gin would be a modern addition.Neo pagans offer food from the meal they prepare each month at the dark of the moon, before or after the mortals eat.     

Hekate is Lady of Crossroads. She is also called Apotropaia (The One Who Turns Away Evil) and Enodia (In the Road) and the Key Holder.She is not only the Lady of Crossroads to be invoked when you are traveling this world or between the worlds. She is threshold guardian. The Greeks put little statues or emblems of Hekate at their doors. In Miletus these were small stone cubes,or wreaths. Larger temples might have little shrines to Hekate just inside their gates. 

Pausanias in his Description of Greece (5th century bce) wrote that "Of the gods, the Aeginetans worship most Hecate, in whose honor every year they celebrate mystic rites which, they say, Orpheus the Thracian established among them. Within the enclosure is a temple; its wooden image is the work of Myron, and it has one face and one body. It was Alcamenes, in my opinion, who first made three images of Hecate attached to one another, a figure called by the Athenians Epipurgidia (on the Tower); it stands beside the temple of the Wingless Victory." [2.30.2] 

Her reputation was darkened and demonized especially after the Church took on the old gods. But the darkening is also the work of dark sorcerers who called on her for low goetic workings  I think of the horrid bestial sculptures of Hekate I saw during a visit to the dusty old archaeology museum in Constanța on the Black Sea coast of Romania. Then known as Tomis, this was the place of exile of the Roman poetyOvid, the great scholar of shapeshifting.

Among Hekate's animals and avatars: 

Screech Owl (she sees better at night)

Raven and dark birds

Wolf

Goat 

Fox (I am sure though I do not see it in the references)

Black dog. One of her Greek titles is Black Bitch, something we would be prudent not to say in English. Cautious translators sometimes call her the autiously render this as Black She Dog. Since I have lived with black dogs most of my life, Hekate is no stranger.

Her role in the Persephone story: she is the one who hears Kore’s cry and helps Demeter in her search. In some of the ancient art, Hekate is with Hermes when he guides Persephone up from the Underworld, holding torches. 

Let us note that Hekate enters literature, around 700 bce in Hesiod's Theogony, as a Great Goddess who is not yet deparmentalized. Hesiod speaks of "Hecate whom Zeus the son of Cronos honored above all. He gave her splendid gifts, to have a share of the earth and the unfruitful sea. She received honor also in starry heaven, and is honored exceedingly by the deathless gods. For to this day, whenever any one of men on earth offers rich sacrifices and prays for favor according to custom, he calls upon Hecate. Great honor comes full easily to him whose prayers the goddess receives favorably, and she bestows wealth upon him; for the power surely is with her.

She was worshipped in this way into much later times in Caria in what is now southwest Turkey.Around 125 bce the people of Lagina built a monumentak temple for her where she was honored with lavish animal sacrifices.She was revered not only as a cthonic deity but as city protector, rather like Athena in Athens. The Carians put her image on their coins, just as Athenians put their goddess and her owl on their silver tetradrachmas. Rites of Hekate in Caria included the Procession of the Key. The daughter of the priest of Hecate carried the key from Lagina to the larger city of Stratonikeia,10 km away, where the goddess was honored with animal sacrifice. Then the key-bearer and her retinue traveled back to the temple. [*] 

* Amanda Herring, “Reconstructing the Sacred Experience at the Sanctuary of Hekate at Lagina”in Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (2020) 79 (3): 247–263.


On the Trail of My Bookish Dream Double


I am constantly tryng to keep up with my traveling dream self. A friend in Europe recently reported a dream in which he visited a Paris bookshop and leafed through an interesting novel about dreams and reality titled L'agent de change. He left the bookstore without purchasing the book. When he mentioned this to my double, in his dream, Dream Robert reprimanded him for not buying the book.

After waking, he went online and discovered that there is a novel called L'agent de change with similar content to the one he looked over in his dream. The author is a veteran French writer with an interesting name, Jacques Bellefroid ("Beautiful Cold").

Well, of course I could not refuse a book recommendation from my dream self. I ordered the novel and it arrived today. There is a mystery involving a tiny picture of a schooner (goélette) on a postage stamp that starts sailing on a lively sea when the narrator looks at it. The writing is spare and crisp and doesn't make me go to the dictionary often. So I'll add it to my current reading. I smiled when I came to these lines:
On me dit que les écrivains ont peur de la page blanche. Grâce à Dieu, je ne suis pas écrivain
"I am told that writers are scared of the blank page. Thank God I am not a writer."
Agent de change means "stockbroker" in French, and that is the narrator's profession. He thinks his job requires him to "trust in only quantifiable things that keep him at a distance from dreams and surprises ". We can be sure the author was conscious of the double entendre in his title.
Everything changes in the stockbroker's perception of reality when he sees and feels the spray bursting over the stem of the two-masted schooner in the ocean of a postage stamp he was given by his wife, who sees nothing except a pretty picture.


Reading in Dreams: Don't trust any of those dream researchers who tell you that you can't read in dreams. Nonsense. I read as much in my dreams as in regular life, that is to say, enormously. While I may sometimes bring back only a few lines or just a title (of books that may or may not exist in regular life) I can sometimes bring through several pages. My friend was reading, too, in that Paris bookshop,and brought back a title and a summary of content.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Ariadne and the Moon Bull that Came to My Town

 


A dream shows me how to craft a new group shamanic journey into mythic territory in quest of the Minotaur. Then the Minotaur turns up, thirty feet tall, on a building haf a mile from my house in a little rustbelt city in the Northeast United States.

Like the Great Goddess,a myth we can live by may turn any one of a thousand faces to us. Sometimes they shine on us in dreams, as in  a dream I recorded on May 13,2018. Here is my unedited journal report:
Ariadne's Magic Ball
Overnight I led a workshop in which I guided eager participants on a new group journey modeled on the story of Ariadne's thread. The assignment was to find your way through a confusing maze to confront your own version of the Minotaur: the shape of the fear that prevents you from claiming your full creative gifts. I instructed the journeyers to take with them a magic ball of luminous thread. They would tie one end of the thread to the lintel at the entrance to the maze and then let the ball roll before them, guiding them to the place of encounter with the Beast. They would then follow the thread back, like Theseus the Minotaur-slayer.
Feelings: I came out of this dream cheerful and satisfied, also curious about the variation from the familiar story of Ariadne's thread,
Reality check and research: Ariadne's thread is usually described as something that will get you out of a hairy situation, rather than into it. I was excited to find that Robert Graves reports (in The Greek Myths) that Daedalus, the builder of the Cretan Labyrinth (actually more like a maze) gave Ariadne "a magic ball of thread" that would roll along winding ways to the place of the Minotaur. This is what she loaned to Theseus to get him to the "innermost room" of the Minotaur and back.
Dreaming with a myth: What was actually going on here? Is it possible the original reason for braving the labyrinth was not that you had been condemned as a blood offering to a monster,or called to a hero's quest to slay the monster,but invited to a place of initiation and union with the sacred?
Revisiting old sources, I was reminded that Minoan culture was Goddess-centered and that the hieros gamos (sacred marriage) between the Goddess and her Moon Bull consort was an essential rite. It has been suggested that the Goddess, embodied by her priestess, wore a cow mask and horns and that the King wore a bull mask and horns.
Was the place of the Minotaur (literally "Bull of Minos"; Minos means "Moon-being") a place of enactment of the sacred rite? Or an ordeal that must be survived to earn the right to enter the divine embrace? Was passage through the labyrinth (not the neat unicursal labyrinth of later churches but a wilderness of wandering ways) initiation in the deep womb of the Great Mother?
Has the simplified and familiar story of the hero killing the monster been overlaid on the more ancient Goddess story, and the Goddess reduced to a crazy queen and a girl with a crush on a strapping Greek?
"Without the names, the meaning of things is lost," wrote the great lexicographer Isadore of Seville,and that is especially true in threading this myth. When you know that the name Ariadne may be related to a Greek title of the Queen of the Underworld and may originally derive from a Sumerian name (Ariande) meaning “High Fruitful Mother of the Barley" you'll be freed from the notion that she is just a romantic girl with a useful ball of thread. 
When you learn that the name of Queen Pasiphae, mother of the Minoteur and his half-sister Ariadne, means "Shines on All" you might doubt those versions in which she is a cracked tauromaniac who has a wooden frame constructed so she can have sex with a very special bull by tricking him into thinking she was a cow  You may then be able to visualize ancient Minoans and Hellenes chortling over the rubes who bought an exoteric, literalistic telling of the Goddess's relations with the bull.
You'll find that boughs heavy with fruit were carried in rituals in her honor. She was worshipped as a goddess of the fertile earth, as well as the Underworld and the Moon, and was attributed the power to bring men inside the experience of women. In Cypriot rituals devoted to her, men simulated the pain of childbirth.
A ball of yarn is also called a clew. This, from Middle English, is the origin of our word "clue". Ariadne's clue can take you to a place of creative discovery,where you step beyond fear and blockage into the embrace of a greater power.
Let's hear from Joseph Campbell. Still writing in hero more than Goddess mode in The Power of Myth, he gives us further valid perspective:
“The labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path, and where we thought to find an abomination we shall find a god. And where we had thought to slay another we shall shay ourselves. Where we had thought to travel outward, we will come to the center of our own existence."
If we find that we have to face a monster at the heart of the labyrinth, we may discover that the monster is no stranger, but a shadow self that must be recognized and integrated or overcome.
Men and women may have differing experiences of the Minotaur. A man man may be more inclined to fight,a woman more poised to gentle and heal and embrace. In his extraordinary short story "The House of Asterion", Jorge Luis Borges speaks in the voice of the Minotaur (one of whose Cretain names is Asterion) expressing his longing to be released from self-imposed isolation by the bronze sword of the hero.
Whatever we find at the heart of the labyrinth, let's be ready to recognize that what we feared as a monster may prove to be a teacher, as promised in the derivation of the word. Our word "monster" comes from the Latin monstrum, which means "portent" or "oracle" and is related to monstrator,or "teacher" and demonstrator, one who shows what we need to see. Threading the maze brings us to the center of the self, to what we need to confromt in order to release our full creative and erotic power, marry separated aspects of our energies, and embody the god/goddess of our greater nature.
Last week in my current online course Dreaming Your Mythic Life I invited participants to go on a group shamanic journey to thread the Labyrinth and meet the Minotaur. This went very deep and the journey reports shared later were amazing, turning the face of the myth in hundreds of fresh and original ways.


Then the Minotaur appeared, 30 feet tall, on the wall of a building half a mile from my home. We learned from a local news report that a downtown meadery called The Bull and Bee commissioned an artist to paint him. Unknown to me, this was accomplished in the dark the night before my class. The message, for me, is clear: when a mythic power comes after you, invoked or uninvoked, be ready for it to show up in the street.

Top image
The National Archaeological Museum of Spain in Madrid houses an Attic black-figure cup from around 515 bc with this painting ofthe Minotaur iniside. There are letters around the edge. start just before the Minotaur’s left foot and ead in a counter-clockwise direction and you will the Greek phrase, χω παις καλώς ho pais kalos, which translates as “I play well”. Maybe not would expect and a clue tyhat a sacred game is afoot. It may be a sexual come-on. Such cups were used in symposia where older and younger men and boys partied together.

Dreaming with the Bee Goddess in the Baltic


Safe in Honey

Warmed by the sun, amber quickens and streams,
remembering a golden world within wood.
A honey bee wakes in the dream of amber
and bursts from the yellow dome in its silver mount.

I track the bee to the old barn, paint-less and forgotten,
we had thought an abandoned wreck.
Something has been working here, unseen.
The barn is filled with sweetness. Honey drips from the rafters.
Soon I am drunk with abundance, giddy with joy.

The drone of the bees is a song, the chant of melissai.
I remember priestesses who bring the honey of the invisible
and always lead home to the bosom of the Great Mother.
With the song, a power is rising in the dark amber shadows.

I feel the heat of its quivering flanks.
Earth heaves with the stamping hooves;
its great windy mane drives a breeze through the still air.
It comes to me now, and I mount it with joy, safe in honey.


I rediscovered the text of this poem, composed in 2006. It revives my desire to learn more about the mysteries of the ancient Bee Goddess, the honeybee priestesses, and the connection between honey and amber. I look to the Baltic for the most reliable access to these things, because  the Bee Goddess (whose Lithuanian name is Austeja) is still known and revered there, and this is the source of the most precious amber, and because ancient and contemporary priestesses of this tradition have communicated with me directly when I have been in the Baltic lands. 

Austeja is a woman and a bee in one person. Her name melds the Lthuanian word for weave (austi, as in weaving linen) and for flying swiftly, or repeatedly closing and opening doors (austyi)

When you make offering to Austeja, you toss your drink up into the air.Mead is best, offered to Austeja at ceremonies related to marriage, pregnancy and christening – she is the protector of brides and pregnant women. Her holiday [Zoline] is in mid-August, when bees are very active in bringing in honey. At this time, honey is offered to Austeja, a gift of the goddess to the goddess.

Before honey is gathered from the hives, the beekeepers pray and make offerings, Such a gathering is called biciuliai (“fellow beekeepers”). The use of the word has been  broadened to mean "close friends".

Bees are not ordinary. The death of a human and the death of a bee is described with the same word – there is a different term for death in all other species.A dead bee is to be buried in the earth. You are supposed to watch your manners around bees; they understand human speech.

In The Civilization of the Goddess, Marija Gimbutas,the great Lithuanian-born scholar of the religions of Old Europe, wrote that bees are symbols of the Goddess as the power of regeneration. They "may represent the Goddess herself, or souls that leave the body at death or during dreams.” 


Art: "Path of Honey" by Robert Moss

Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Way and the Changes

 


We find in China a word and a way of understanding synchronicity that are simple and profound. The word is Tao (also transliterated as Dao). It is sometimes translated as “way”, or the Way, which is good enough for me. If we are attuned to the Tao, then our ways are open.

    The Tao of Psychology, Jean Shinoda Bolen’s lively little book from 1979 is one of the very best expositions of the theory of synchronicity. She goes looking for an easier and more elegant way to explain the phenomenon Jung struggled to define. She found it waiting where it has been for thousands of years, in the Chinese understanding of the Tao, the Way that had no name but generates the ten thousand names. 

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth
The named is the mother of the ten thousand things.[1]

     As Bolen observed, “the Eastern mind has considered the underlying connection between ourselves and others, between ourselves and the universe, the essential reality and called in Tao.” [2]  The I Ching is a way of invoking the Tao; its first successful Western translator, Richard Wilhelm, decided that the best one-word translation of Tao is “meaning.”
     Jung’s thinking about synchronicity flowered when Richard Wilhelm sent him the text of an ancient Taoist treatise, The Secret of the Golden Flower, for which Jung wrote a preface. Wilhelm also introduced Jung to the Book of Changes, or I Ching, for which he provided the first translation that made the Chinese oracle accessible for Western readers as a divination system. Jung studied I Ching closely, and realized he was entering the mind of a culture for which synchronicity — as the Way and its Changes — was the fundamental law of life, and the preferred way of understanding what wants to happen in life.
     The dynamic interplay between yin and yang is at the heart of I Ching. It is the interplay between the receiving and the creating forces, between dark and light, between cool and warm, forever intermingled and turning into each other.
    The emergence of the I Ching is wrapped in legend and mystery. By tradition, it was the ancient Dragon Emperor, Fu Tsi, who “noticed” patterns in the cracks of turtle shells, and distinguished these patterns as the eight trigrams (pa kua) that are the root of I Ching. Then later the “King of Writing”, Wu Wen amplified the system into the 64 hexagrams and the Confucius ordered and numbered the arrangement.
     Archaeology suggests an evolution over some 4,000 years. Under the Shang dynasty, shamans read auguries in the cracks that appeared in the bones of animals offered as burned offerings. It was believed that as the appeals of humans traveled upward in the smoke, messages and warnings from higher powers came down. The relation between patterns of cracks and subsequent events was noted, and cracked bones were kept in pre-literate “archives”. Later turtle shells were substituted. They provided a larger surface, and their shape was thought to resemble the dome of heaven above and the square fields of earth below. With the coming of the bronze age, turtle shells were cracked with bronze pokers. Patterns corresponding to later events began to be marked with simple symbols, suggesting fire or flood. From these symbols, Chinese writing emerged. Under the Chou dynasty — before the supply of turtles was exhausted — shamans and diviners began to record the code of the I Ching on strips of bamboo, tied together with silk ribbons. And the first books of China emerged.
    The ancient method for casting the I Ching involves a fistful of dried yarrow stalks. The yarrow most valued for early divination as found growing on the graves of past teachers and masters of I Ching, including Confucius. Early translator James Legge reported seeing yarrow growing on the grave of Confucius. The Chinese still believe that when a good diviner in the right state of mind is doing his/her stuff, there is communication with the spirits, whether you are using yarrow stalks or coins or grains of rice, which my first teacher recommended, after lighting some incense.
    The Great Treatise (one of the earliest long commentaries on the I Ching) maintains that the I Ching contains "the measure of heaven and earth" — ie, it is a microcosm of the whole cosmic game — and that if we place ourselves in exactly the right point in its revolutions, we move in synchrony with the workings of the universe and can help to shape events on every scale through our conscious participation. The Great Treatise suggests that you not only learn to meet every event in the right way but may be privileged “to aid the gods in governing the world.”
    The I Ching hexagrams are stacks of six lines, broken or unbroken. Variations on a single binary code. The unbroken lines are yang, the broken ones are yin. One way to understand them is to see an unbroken line as a portal that is opening, and a broken one as a portal that is closing. Through this binary code, the Book of Changes reveals the interplay of three realms: the earthly, the human and the heavenly. The two lowest lines of the hexagram relate to the Earth realm, the middle lines to the human, and the upper pair to Heaven.
    You don’t use I Ching for fortune-telling. It’s not about seeing the future; it’s about seeing when and how to manifest your hopes and plans for the future, which is actually much more interesting. This is a tool for helping you to create the future you choose. You bring your clear intention — your project — and you ask for guidance on current conditions and the strategy to be followed. The I Ching does not bind you to any determinist scheme of things. It gives you a diagnosis of how things are, with the world and with you now, whether this is the right time to pursue a goal and what strategy you should follow.
     Since Jung’s death, we have had access to a manuscript of the Book of Changes that is more ancient than those available in his lifetime. It is a broken text, and therefore not useable — without creative addition or fabrication — as a full oracle. Nonetheless, it makes very exciting reading for those interested in the shamanic origins of the oracle and the different levels on which it registers and provokes synchronicity.
      The text dates from about 175 BCE. It was discovered in the tomb of a duke of the Han dynasty at Mawangdui that also contained the text of the Tao Te Ching, clearly placing this version of the Changes in the ancient Way. The ordering of the hexagrams in the Mawangdui version is quite different from that of the familiar Duke Wen arrangement used by Wilhelm and other translators. The two primal hexagrams have different and sexier names. Among the “appended statements” to the text, in Edward Shaughnessy’s translation, we find this: 

The sage…takes the real characteristics of all under heaven to their extremes and causes them to reside in the hexagrams; drums [emphasis added] the movements of all under heaven and causes them to reside in the statements; transforms and regulates them and causes them to reside in the alternations; pushes and puts them into motion and causes them to reside in the unity; makes them spiritual and transforms them and causes them to reside in his person; and plans and completes them…and causes them to reside in virtuous action.[3] 

     Inspired by this, when I led a course in I Ching, we drummed the binary code of the lines, changing and constant, yin and yang, on our single-headed frame drums, and pictured early diviners doing something similar.
     We drummed the six lines of the twentieth hexagram, which is called Watching and whose shape is that of a watchtower, the kind that Chinese armies placed along the borders. We saw how rising up through the lines of the hexagram is like climbing steps from the lowest level of an observation tower to the very top, from a place of limited or impeded vision to a space from which we could see, without restriction, across time and space.
     A great revelation came when we worked, with drumming and also with body movements, with the 61st hexagram, Wind on the Lake, called Zhong Fu, or Inner Truth. The hole in the center of the hexagram can be seen as the opening of the heart, and also as the unveiling of a window between worlds.
      In Philip K. Dick’s fascinating novel of alternate realities, The Man in the High Castle, the casting of this hexagram brings a shift between parallel worlds. In the main narrative, we are in a world where the Axis powers were the victors in World War II, and North America is divided between Japanese and German occupation armies and other entities. Yet a subversive work of fantasy is circulating, a story in which the Allies won the war and everything is different. When Juliana casts Zhong Fu for Abendsen in the last pages of The Man in the High Castle, he understands (if only for a moment) that the alternate reality he thought was fiction is true, the real world. We see the observer effect working on a human, and even global scale. If only for a shimmering moment, as the coins roll and settle, we glimpse how it may be possible to switch worlds.
     The way we see reality generates our experience of reality. A method of seeing like the I Ching can make us co-creators of our worlds. The Great Treatise suggests that through deep study of the Book of Changes we not only learn to meet every event in the right way but may be privileged “to aid the gods in governing the world.” [4] The Mawangdui text asserts that the Book of Changes “knows the reasons for light and dark” [5]. It “strengthens beings and fixes fate, taking pleasure in the way of all under heaven…This is why the sage uses it to penetrate the will of all under heaven.” [6]

References

1. Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching trans. Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English.
2. Jean Shinoda Bolen, The Tao of Psychology: Synchronicity and the Self  (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982) xi 
3. 
Edward L. Shaughnessy (trans and ed) I Ching: The Classic of Changes. (New York: Ballantine Books, 1997) 203
4. Richard Wilhelm and Cary F. Baynes, trans., The I Ching or Book of Changes (Princeton N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990) 294.
5. ibid, 191
6. ibid, 199



Text adapted from Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols and Synchronicity in Everyday Life by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Graphic: The precursor to I Ching as China's main system of divination (besides dream interpretation) was the Shang dynasty system for reading the "oracle bones": shoulder bones of animals and the plastrons from turtle shells.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Whatever you think or feel, the universe says, "Yes."

 

 
  

Whatever you think or feel, the universe says, "Yes." Perhaps you have noticed this. Yes, we are talking about the law of attraction.  It is indeed an ancient law, never a secret to those who live consciously. “All things which are similar and therefore connected, are drawn to each other's power,” according to the medieval magus, Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim. It is a rule of reality that we attract or repel different things according to the emotions, the attitudes, the feelings, the agendas that we carry.

Before you walk into a room or turn a corner, your attitude is there already. It is engaged in creating the situation you are about to encounter. Whether you are remotely conscious of this or not, you are constantly setting yourself up for what the world is going to give you. If you go about your day filled with doom and gloom, the world will give you plenty of reasons to support that attitude. You’ll start looking like that cartoon character who goes about with a personal black cloud over his head that rains only on his parade. Conversely, if your attitude is bright and open to happy surprises, you may be rewarded by a bright day, even when the sky is leaden overhead, and surprisingly happy encounters.

Through energetic magnetism, we attract or repel people, events and even physical circumstances according to the attitudes we embody. This process begins before we speak or act because thoughts and feelings are already actions and our attitudes are out there ahead of us. This requires us to do a regular attitude check, asking, What attitude am I carrying? What am I projecting?

It is not sufficient to do this on a head level. We want to check what we are carrying in our body and our energy field. If you go around carrying a repertoire of doom and gloom, you may not say what’s on your mind, but the universe will hear you and support you. Attitude adjustment requires more than reciting the kind of New Age affirmation you see in cute boxes with flowers and sunsets on Facebook. It requires deeper self-examination and self-mobilization.

What are you doing? A woman in one of my workshops told me she hears this question, put by an inner voice, many times a day. Sometimes it rattles her and saps her confidence. But she is grateful for the inner questioner that provokes her to look at herself. It’s a question worth putting to yourself any day. As you do that, remember that thinking and feeling are also doing. 

“The passions of the soul work magic.” I borrowed that from a medieval alchemist also beloved by Jung. It conveys something fundamental about our experience of how things manifest in the world around us. High emotions, high passions generate results. When raw energy is loose, it has effects in the world. It can blow things up or bring them together. 

There is an art in learning to operate when your passions are riding high and recognize that is a moment when you can make magic. Even when you are in the throes of what people would call negative emotions; rage, anger, pain, grief, even fear, if you can take the force of such emotions and choose to harness and direct them in a certain creative or healing way, you can work wonders, and you can change the world around you.

How? Because there is no impermeable barrier between mind and matter. Jung and Pauli in concert, the great psychologist and the great physicist, came round to the idea that the old medieval phrase applies, unus mundus, one world. Psyche and physis, mind and matter are one reality. They interweave at every level of the universe. They are not separate. As Wolfgang Pauli wrote in his essay on Kepler, “Mind and body could be interpreted as complementary aspects of the same reality.”  I think this is fundamental truth, and it becomes part of fundamental life operation when you wake up to it.

The stronger our emotions, the stronger their effects on our psychic and physical environment. And the effects of our emotions may reach much further than we can initially understand. They can generate a convergence of incidents and energies, for good or bad, in ways that change everything in our lives and can affect the lives of many others.

When we think or feel strongly about another person, we will touch that person and affect their mind and body — even across great distances — unless that person has found a way to block that transmission. The great French novelist Honoré de Balzac wrote in Louis Lambert that “ideas are projected as a direct result of the force by which they are conceived and they strike wherever the brain sends them by a mathematical law comparable to that which directs the firing of shells from their mortars.” 

Scientific experiments have shown the ability of the human mind and emotions to change physical matter: studies by Masuru Emoto have shown that human emotions can change the nature and composition of water, and the Findhorn experiments have taught us that good thoughts positively affect the growth of plants. Conversely, rage or grief can produce disturbing and sometimes terrifying effects in the physical environment.

"We are magnets in an iron globe," declared Emerson in his essay "Resources". If we are upbeat and positive, "We have keys to all doors. ..The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck." Conversely, "A low, hopeless spirit puts out the eyes; skepticism is slow suicide. A philosophy which sees only the worst... dispirits us; the sky shuts down before us." 

Whatever our circumstances, we always have the power to choose our attitude, and that this can change everything.



Text adapted from Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols and Synchronicity in Everyday Life by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

 

 Art: René Magritte, "The Portrait"

Friday, April 2, 2021

Risen God, Goddess Rising

  


I give thanks for the risen god
The one whose blood became poppies
The one torn apart by the boar
The one who hung himself in the world tree
   sacrificing himself to himself
The one dismembered by his women
    in the ecstasy of their love
The wild bull called to the goddess
    who faces his killer in the arena
The ones who die when the seed corn
     goes into Earth, to sprout again
The deer king who is willing sacrifice
The one whose dark twin boxed him in
     and scattered his parts
     and rose under beating wings
The beautiful shepherd sent down
     to the Underworld by his consort
     to learn all that women endure    
The one who rose from the dark cave
     in a shining body but still wears
     a crown of thorns because of all
    the wrongs that are done in his name

 

I give thanks for the goddess rising
The one who chose to go down
    to the Great Below to meet her dark sister
The one who was ripped from the daylight world
    to bring treasures out of darkness as
    Queen of the Underworld and of herself
The one who fell through a hole
    in the Earth in the Sky and danced
    a new world into being on turtle’s back
The one who is always three
    maiden, mother, crone
    endlessly recreating herself
The ones who raise their lovers as sons
   and heal the wounded warrior in man
The one who raises the dead to give birth
    to the golden child
The Great Mother of a thousand faces
   whose bounty streams like milk
The Lady of Beasts
The deep mind of Earth
The bright intelligence of stars
The Divine Feminine we need
    to repair our world
    and redeem our kind

 

I give thanks for the power to die
    and come back on any day.




Drawing "Willing Sacrifice" by RM




Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Honor the Gatekeeper, Dance with the Trickster

 


The Gatekeeper is one of the most important archetypes that is active in our lives. He or she is that power that opens and closes our doors and roads. The Gatekeeper is personified in many traditions: as the elephant-headed Ganesha in India; as Eshu/Eleggua in West Africa; as Anubis in ancient Egypt; as Hermes or Hecate in ancient Greece. I open my classes and gatherings by invoking the Gatekeeper in a universal way, with the request:

May our doors and gates and paths be open 

They say in Spanish, “Tiene que pagar el derecho” (You have to pay for the right to enter). In many traditions, it is customary to make an offering to the Gatekeeper when embarking on a project or a journey. The offering required of us may simply be to check in and show a little respect.

There is a close affinity between the Gatekeeper and the Trickster. A being like Hermes or Eshu may play either role. One of Hermes’ appellatives, stropheos literally means “socket,” as in the socket of a hinge that enables the pin to turn, and the door to open and close. So we can think of him as a Hinge guy — as in “hinge of fate” — or a Pivot. As he swings, so do our fortunes. Hermes steps through the doors between worlds with a hard-on, as men often transit from the dream world to the waking world and as hanged men enter the afterlife. Hermes is penetrating, and this is the effect of synchronicity. It pushes through, it opens up, and it inseminates.

Trickster is the mode the Gatekeeper — that power that opens doors in your life — adopts when you need to change and adapt and recover your sense of humorIf you are set in your ways and wedded to a linear agenda, the Trickster can be your devil. If you are open to the unexpected, and willing to turn on a dime (or something smaller), the Trickster can be a very good friend.

The Trickster will find ways to correct unbalanced and overcontrolling or ego-driven agendas, just as spontaneous night dreams can explode waking fantasies and delusions. Our thoughts shape our realities, but sometimes they produce a boomerang effect. The Trickster wears animal guise in folklore and mythology, appearing as the fox or the squirrel, as spider or coyote or raven.

Anansi, a Trickster god of the Ashanti of Ghana, brilliantly and hilariously evoked in Neil Gaiman’s novel Anansi Boys, is a spider and also a man. “It is not hard to keep two things in your head at the same time. Even a child could do it.” He makes out that he is the owner of stories. Indeed, to make friends with the Trickster, we want to be ready to make a story out of whatever happens in life and to recognize the bigger, never-ending story that may be playing through our everyday dramas. If nothing goes wrong, it has been said, you do not have much of a story. The Trickster knows all about that.

We are most likely to meet the Trickster at liminal times and in liminal places, because his preferred realm is the borderlands between the tame and the wild. He invites us to live a little more on the wild side. He approves when we make a game or a story out of it when our plans get upset, our certainties scrambled.

He insists on a sense of humor.

The well-known psychic and paranormal investigator Alan Vaughan tells a great story against himself about the peril of taking signs too seriously. He read that Jung had noted a perfect correspondence between the number of his tram ticket, the number of a theater ticket he bought the same day, and a telephone number that someone gave him that evening.

Vaughan decided to make his own experiment with numbers that day in Freiburg, where he was taking a course. He boarded a tram and carefully noted the ticket number, 096960. The number of the tram car itself was 111. He noticed that if you turned the numbers upside down, they still read the same. He was now alert for the appearance of more reversible numbers. Still focused on his theme of upside-down numbers, he banged into a trash can during his walk home. He observed ruefully, “I nearly ended by being upside down myself.” When he inspected the trash can, he saw that it bore a painted name: JUNG.

It was impossible not to feel the Trickster in play. Alan felt he had been reminded — in an entirely personal way — that the further we go with this stuff, the more important it is to keep our sense of humor.

A title of Eshu, who is both Trickster and Gatekeeper in the Yoruba tradition of West Africa, is Enforcer of Sacrifice. He is the one who makes sure that the gods receive their offerings. The price of entry may be a story, told with humor.


Text adapted from 
Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols and Synchronicity in Everyday Life by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Photo: This is my favorite image of Ganesha, and the one most likely to appeal to any writer. In one of his hands he is holding the tusk he broke off when all other writing tools were exhausted, so he could fulfill his bargain to record the whole of the immense Mahabharata on condition that the sage Vyasa never paused in his dictation.




 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Shimmers of synchronicity


Powers of the deeper world move among us. Call them gods or daimons, ancestors or archetypes. Most of the time we are unaware of their presence. When they are in the field - noticed or invisible, invoked or uninvoked - their presence has a shimmer effect on the ordinary world.  The fabric of physical reality in their vicinity becomes fluid and unstable. We experience the shift as synchronicity or anomaly. If we become alert to the shimmer effect, and make the right moves in that moment, we can help manifest extraordinary things.
    Synchronicity is when the universe gets personal. Though the word “synchronicity” is a modern invention — Jung made it up because he noticed that people have a hard time talking about coincidence — the phenomenon has been recognized, and highly valued, from the most ancient times. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus maintained that the deepest order in our experienced universe is the effect of “a child playing with game pieces” in another reality. As the game pieces fall, we notice the reverberations, in the play of coincidence.
    When we pay attention, we find that we are given signs by the world around us every day. Like a street sign, a synchronistic event may seem to say Stop or Go, Dead End or Fast Lane.  Beyond these signs, we find ourselves moving in a field of symbolic resonance which not only reflects back our inner themes and preoccupations, but provides confirmation or course correction. A symbol is more than a sign: it brings together what we know with what we do not yet know.
    Through the weaving of synchronicity, we are brought awake and alive to a hidden order of events, to the understory of our world and our lives. You do not need to travel far to encounter powers of the deeper world or hear oracles speak. You are at the center of the multidimensional universe right now. The extraordinary lies in plain sight, in the midst of the ordinary, if only you pay attention. The doors to the Otherworld open from wherever you are, and the traffic moves both ways. 
    Grow your poetic health - learn to read what rhymes in a day, or a life - dream with your eyes wide open and all your senses aquiver, and you may become a kairomancer. I invented this word to describe someone who is forever poised to notice and act in those special moments of synchronicity when the universe gets personal and opportunity strikes. It incorporates the name of Kairos, a Greek god who personifies a kind of time that is altogether different from tedious tick-tock time: that special moment of jump time when more is possible than you imagined before. Kairos is the time you must seize by the forelock before it is gone.
     In my book Sidewalk Oracles, I offer the
OATH of the Kairomancer. It is not a vow but a mnemonic. To be a kairomancer you must be

Open to the play of signs and symbols around you
Available to the special moment and willing to say
Thank you to the powers in play and take action to
Honor the magic moment 




Photos: "The Houses Have Eyes in Sibiu" by Robert Moss

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Dreams, death and second burial among the Wayuu

 
The screen is black for a long time.Then a spectral gray landscape emerges,followed by the leathery face and sticklike arm of an old woman sleeping in a hammock. Now we see the face of a pretty young native woman in a hammock nearby. As they lie in their hammocks, the young woman starts telling her dream. Her voice is full of strange squeaks and sawing noises. We follow the subtitles. She says that in her dream she became lost.Then she found herself among the dead. Her grandfather was there and said he would protect her. On her way back she saw her cousin but her cousin coud not see or hear her. This caused great pain. We begin to understand that the cousin is dead.
     The grandmother asks whether the grandfather gave the dreamer a hammock. No? That means she is not going to die soon. Getting lost in a dream is very bad, however. It means that when you die no one will visit you.The young woman - we learn her name is Doris - says she was happy to see her grandfather, and her cousin. She also knows what the dream requires.She must travel across the dry peninsula to her cousin's gravesite, and dig up her body, and rebury the bones.
    The two women discuss this in matter-of-fact tones. There are food tabos that must be respected, the grandmother says. Eat only dried meat the day of the disinternment. Absolutely no cheese, After the second burial, drink some firewater - not enought to get drunk, though - and rest in a hammock but stay awake all day and night until you get home, because this is a dangerous time when you must keep vigil.
    We see Doris' head bobbing in the back of a truck as she makes the journey.We see a laborer chipping away at cement, under a stone cross, at the cousin's gravesite. We may have gleaned by now that the cousin killed herself and has been among the restless dead. The ritual about to be perfomed seems to be designed to stop her ghost from wandering. But nothing is explained to the viewer.
    We see Doris seated over the open coffin, twisting her cousin's skull loose until she can pull it off the bones, gathering and cleaning all the remains, putting them in cloth bags. We hear voices raised shrill in grief as mourners stage a wake around the hammock where the bags of bones are laid, pending second burial 
    Finally, we follow Doris home and see a old, old shaman woman shaking a rattle and spitting tobacco juice and blowing firewater over her in a cleansing ritual. We hear Doris speaking to the unseen spirit of her cousin. She recalls how, when they were children, they loved to visit the cemetery and pretend they were going to bed there.
    This is a summary of a remarkable 2019 Colombian documentary film called "Lapü", which means "dream" in Wayuunaiki, the language of the Wayuu people, and the only language recorded in the screen version. Often dark and disturbing, the film really requires some background in the traditional beliefs and practices of the Wayuu. They are an indigenous people of northern Colombia and Venezuela, cattle herders who live in a harsh lanscape of candelabra cactus subject to drought for nine months of the year and flood for the remaining three.


     I discovered the film in the midst of rereading Michel Perrin, a French ethnographer who lived with the Wayuu and gave us valuable reports on their shamanic dreaming practices and their beliefs about the soul and its itinerary after death. He uses the older word for the Wayuu, Guajiro, in most of his books. His most accessible work, Les praticiens du rêve - a condennsation of a 1,000 page PhD thesis - is distinguished by its clear recognition that the true shaman is , first and last, a "dream practitioner". He explains with great clarity how and why dreaming is central to the practice of real shamans, and to how they model and navigate reality.
      Perrin informs us that lapü is not only the Wayuu word for "dream" but the name of a "divinized personality", a "god " of dreaming whose functions extend to the reception of souls after death and to bringing a "little soul" to newborn babies. "Lapü gathers the souls of the dying and brings little bits of soul (petits bouts de l'âme) to little children. He gives dreams to the living, prescriptive dreams, premonitory dreams...from him emanate the auxiliary souls of shamans and, according to a great origin myth, he delivers the keys to dream to humans.” [1]
     As in so many ancient and indigenous traditions, dreams are understood to be excursions of the soul. “The dream is often conceived as nocturnal wandering [by the soul], illness as a long walkabout, death as a definitive departure.” [2]
     Another Wayuu word for dream, ei’pahaa, could be rendered as “an experience of the double”. Perrin calls it an “encounter with the double” after noting that the root of the word,  e’piha, means part of something or its complement. “Every being has its double and every event is anticipated in the form of reflections or shadows out of reach of ordinary conditions.” [3]
    “Many say it: the dream is inspired by the Otherworld (monde-autre)...The truth of this world is found in the Otherworld, to which it is subject. Everything happens as if there is a temporal shift between the two worlds. The Otherworld anticipates this world, of which it is the double – 'the soul', I was told one day.” [4] 

Perrin's informants explain second burial to him like this:

We die twice
and twice we bury our dead
one time their flesh and body
one time their bones, several years later
this puts things in order  [5]

Second burial may lay to rest the yoluha, the spectral form in which the dead continue after death. It has its own land, Hepira., where the dead indulge their appetites – especially for sex – voraciously.

In another of his books,  The Way of the Dead Indians Perrin brings together the insights of five Wayuu elders on the nature of soul, dreaming and death  

To each of us is attached a soul.
it is like a bit of white cotton fluff,
like smoke.
But no one can see it.

Everywhere our soul follows us
like our shadow…

Everything that happens in our dreams
is what happens to our soul.
If a Guajiro starts dreaming that he is elsewhere,
near a well or in a house,
or if he sees birds,
this means that his soul has left his heart…
by way of his mouth
to fly over yonder.
But his heart continues to work…

When a Guajro is sick,
it’s as though his soul were a prisoner in Dream’s abode.
It’s there that the spirit of a shaman
can find it and bring it back to the sick man… 

It is the souls of the dead who come back to earth
by way of our dreams.
They are the ones that are met by our souls
when we dream of the dead. [6]

A cautionary theme running through the narratives collected by Perrin echoes what I have heard in other idnigenous traditions: when you lose your dreams, it is because you have lost a vital part of your soul. This can bring illness, even death.
     The Wayuu say that “when you no longer dream, malapuinwaa, that is a sign or consequence of grave illness. You are almost dead because when your dreams vanish so do all traces of the soul.”
    An elderly, sad Wayuu man, said this:

I just sleep because of my illness
I have been without dreams for a long time
I can’t dream any more, I don’t know how to dream,
because now I am close to death. [7]


References

1. Michel Perrin,  Les praticiens du rêve: Un example du chamanisme (Paris: Quadrage/PUF, 2011) p.11

2. ibid, p.43

3. ibid, pp 44-5

4. ibid, pp. 53, 78

5. ibid, p.47

-    6. “Guajiro Death”, recounted by five elders  in Michel Perrin, The Way of the Dead Indians: Guajiro Myths and Symbols trans. Michael Fineberg (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1987) pp. 7-9  

7.  7. Les praticiens du rêve p.46

7