Diviner’s Syndromes: Prometheus, Tithonos, Teireisias

Recently in the Geomantic Study-Group on Facebook, there were a few discussions about how long one should study and practice before charging for their services.  As always, these conversations are enlightening, and occasionally entertaining; I’m also pleased to note that such conversations never seem to get overheated or rage-inducing anymore, neither for myself nor others.  This conversation did take an interesting turn, however; someone brought up an interesting view, apparently common in some Asian worldviews, which is another argument for why diviners ought to charge at all:

…diviners tend to have “shortened” lifespans due to their profession of revealing the heavenly secrets to others. Therefore, it’s only right to charge a fee, in return for revealing the heavenly secrets. This resulted in people charging, regardless in the level of skills…

…There’s often a belief that diviners often suffer some sort of disability or misfortune, as a result of being in a profession that goes against the Will of the Heavens.

It’s a fascinating viewpoint, and I immediately chimed in with two points from ancient Greece as a sort of circumlocuitous approach to my answers and thoughts:

  1. There’s a division of these arts between the gods Apollo and Hermes, according to that fun classical read the Homeric Hymn to Hermes. They both deal with foresight, sure, but they do so in different ways: Apollo is, properly speaking, the divinity of prophecy, while Hermes is the god of divination. The two are not the same. Prophecy is actually knowing the mind and will of Zeus (i.e. true and unadulterated knowledge of fate), while divination is simply reading and extrapolating from patterns in natural things or randomly generated patterns aided and assisted by the gods, which may or may not necessarily match up with the will of Zeus. Only Apollo could grant prophecy, but Hermes was given divination because Apollo (the previous “owner” of the art) had no need for it once he had prophecy as his Thing. Going to Apollo was a hard time indeed, but anyone could easily approach Hermes.
  2. It was commonly known that the Pythia, the sacred oracle and prophetess of Delphi under Apollo, would tend to lead shorter lives than other women of the same area due to her sacred work. Whether this can be attributed to the potentially psychotropic gases that inhabited her sacred cave or to the nature of her spiritual work is unknown, but it was believed to be the latter, not as retribution for speaking the will of heaven but because of how hard it is on a mortal body to contain the spirit of an immortal, especially repeatedly as a kind of career.

Eventually, after a bunch of other people put in their excellent points and I had some time to actually think and write out my thoughts, this is what I replied with:

… [regarding how money is passed from client to diviner in] divination in Santeria, there’s a lot more going on than just an exchange of money for getting the tools familiarized with the energy of the client; there’s a whole process to sanctify the area for the divination, and there are protocols involved for if the reading gets too “hot”, or energetically excited to the point of danger, or just to ward off negative omens so that they can be more effectively dealt with and so that nothing “sticks” to the diviner. Plus, for some priests, they need to undergo a light purification ahead of the reading to make sure they’re clean and focused enough to do the reading properly, and it’s almost always considered good practice to do a cleansing afterwards of the space and reader themselves to make sure no “ick” was left behind. In other words, we clean up after ourselves.

Plus, in the first year of being initiated in Santeria, there’s generally a blanket ban on…quite a lot, but that also includes spiritual works such as divination for oneself or others. This is because the new initiate requires a year of isolation from anything that could pose physical or spiritual danger, and this includes tapping into the energies, lives, and minds of others, which may not be always so pure or kind as we’d otherwise like them to be. When we perform divination for someone, we get at least a little mixed up in their life, a little entangled in their energies, which can rub off on us or leave us “stained” with their spiritual activities. If other spiritual hygiene isn’t implemented, those effects build up over time into a spiritual miasma that can really put us under.

There’s also the idea that, when we do divination, we’re using a little of our own spiritual power to fuel the act, even if it’s not “us” doing the real Talking. Just how a day of investigating papers and books to do research can leave us with a headache and eyesores, prolonged divination or doing lots of successive divinations in short order can leave us drained, which is a state of weakness, which can make us more vulnerable to spiritual miasma or other negative afflictions, which can lead very well to encountering physical dangers.

Do I think we’re revealing some cosmic secrets which are not to be known by mere mortals and which which the gods jealously guard? Not necessarily. Do I think there are other risks and dangers inherent to the act of divination? Absolutely! Having an active spiritual practice that includes proper rest, recharging, cleansing, hygiene, and spiritual upkeep is important for everyone, but especially so for diviners, who can often end up facing some real pieces of work out there which can really leave us a mess as we try to help others with theirs.

For the supplies we consume and the time we take preparing and maintaining our own well-being, I think that alone deserves compensation, for sure! And that’s not including the cost of tapping into and expending our spiritual power for the reading, the years of training and expertise we’re calling on, travel expenses, and so on, all of which deserve at least an attempt to pay for.

This led me to think of three “diviner’s syndromes” to tack onto my older notions of divinaddiction and divinaversion, the latter two affecting the person receiving divination and the new three affecting the person doing divination.  For the sake of art and whimsy, I’m naming these three diviner’s syndromes after three figures from Greek mythology:

  • Prometheus (Προμηθεύς) was the Titan god of forethought who, after sculpting humanity out of clay, wanted to make their lives better and thus tricked the gods out of meat for their sacrifices and stole the secret of fire from the gods, both for the sake of humanity.  As punishment for this, the theoi bound him to Mount Kaukasos, condemned to have his ever-regenerating liver plucked out by an eagle for the rest of time…at least until Herakles rescued him.
  • Tithonos (Τιθωνός) was a prince of Troy, and beloved of the goddess of dawn Eos.  Eos wanted to take Tithonos as her lover, and wanted to make him immortal.  However, she could not do this herself, and so asked Zeus to do this.  Zeus did so, but it only became apparent later that Eos made a critical misstep and forgot to ask for eternal youth along with immortality.  Tithonos grew old and older, never dying, but losing all his strength and sense and sanity.
  • Teireisias (Τειρεσίας) was one of the most famous seers in ancient Greece.  Having lived life as both a man and woman due to some incidents involving snakes, Zeus and Hera decided to use him as a judge in one of their debates regarding who had more pleasure during sex, the man or the woman; Zeus said that the woman did, and Hera argued that the man did.  Teireisias agreed with Zeus, giving him victory; Hera, in her rage, blinded Teireisias.  Zeus, unable to undo another god’s actions, gave Teireisias the power of perfect foresight to make up for his being deprived of eyesight.

I think you can see where I’m going with this, dear reader, if you’re at all familiar with how adopting the signs and symbols of myth can play out in our real lived lives.

  • Prometheus syndrome is an affliction of the diviner that comes about as an honest-to-god theft of secrets and revealing of information that cannot be known, causing offense to the gods or other spirits and which causes them to act upon you offensively.
  • Tithonos syndrome is an affliction of the diviner that results in decreased vitality, strength, intellect, health, and overall well-being due to being neglectful of one’s own physical and spiritual hygiene and maintenance.
  • Teireisias syndrome doesn’t really fit in with either of the two above; it indicates that a physical handicap of some sort allows for a greater spiritual strength, sort of how like those who are blind often have increased senses of hearing.  Like Teireisias, who gave up physical sight for spiritual foresight, those who are often outcast make the best of their situation and rise above their mundane problems through spiritual development.

Of these three, I think Tithonos syndrome is probably the most hazardous, and also the most likely we as diviners encounter.  I know that from my own experience and from the reported experience of others, doing a string of divination readings in a row can often tire me out and wear me down, causing me headaches, fatigue, light-headedness, or just making me more predisposed to being hangry.  And that’s the ideal case, too; if I do readings for people who have some really heavy shit going on, or who are being meddled with on a spiritual level by people throwing curses at them or by spirits obsessing over them, or if mental illness comes out in the reading or in their behaviors that play out on a spiritual level, then the problems ramp up real quickly.  And that’s all on top of the actual personal interactions I have to work with to act, not just as seer, but as counselor to make sure the person can integrate my advice in a healthy, productive way that isn’t threatened by fear, jealousy, anxiety, mental illness, or the like.  Between the energy I’m putting out, the energy I have to put up with, and the constant personal investment I have to make to accomplish the reading, it’s truly no small matter.

So, to prepare myself for a divination (and especially any string of divinations, like for a psychic fair or if I have multiple appointments lined up on the same day), I’ll be sure to take a special bath to protect myself while enhancing my sight and quickening my tongue, warding the reading space to make sure the information comes out clear without spiritual interference, and wear my preferred diviner’s charms and recite my prayers to make sure all goes well; to wrap things up, even if I’m dead tired from doing everything above, I’ll make myself cleanse the area of the divinations along with myself, lock everything down, cut all loose threads that didn’t want to be tied up earlier, and then get a good meal and a good night’s rest.  It’s a lot to handle, but it’s absolutely necessary, because without such precautions and postactions, it’s almost laughably easy to get so tired you get vertigo, faint, pass out, fall sick, or come to some other bad end that results in physical illness or injury.  It’s not worth it to ignore these ameliorating actions, because the cost will always be higher in the end.  Over time, with practice, your spiritual stamina can be lengthened, your focus sharpened, your defenses strengthened, and so forth through routine meditation, warding, energy work, prayer, and so forth, but this only lessens the harm because you can deflect more of it at a time; it doesn’t eliminate the threat or effects of it entirely.  Tithonos syndrome is no joke, dear reader; if you engage with divination, this is a real risk you bring upon yourself.  Take care of yourself.

Then there’s Prometheus syndrome, which…I’ll be honest, I don’t think it plays out like this.  If the gods didn’t want us to speak about the future, they wouldn’t let us know it to begin with.  Consider what Apollo says in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, where Hermes tries to strike a bargain with Apollo so that he could get in on the sweet, sweet gift of prophecy (emphasis mine):

But as for sooth-saying, noble, heaven-born child, of which you ask, it is not lawful for you to learn it, nor for any other of the deathless gods: only the mind of Zeus knows that. I am pledged and have vowed and sworn a strong oath that no other of the eternal gods save I should know the wise-hearted counsel of Zeus. And do not you, my brother, bearer of the golden wand, bid me tell those decrees which all-seeing Zeus intends. As for men, I will harm one and profit another, sorely perplexing the tribes of unenviable men. Whosoever shall come guided by the call and flight of birds of sure omen, that man shall have advantage through my voice, and I will not deceive him. But whoso shall trust to idly-chattering birds and shall seek to invoke my prophetic art contrary to my will, and to understand more than the eternal gods, I declare that he shall come on an idle journey; yet his gifts I would take.

In other words, Apollo cannot give prophecy to Hermes because Zeus has ordained that prophecy belongs only to Apollo, and that all those who seek to trespass on prophetic powers or augury or other omens without the proper license do so in vain, no matter what they try to bribe or tempt Apollo with.  Only those who are true and truly guided by the proper channels can obtain such truth from Apollo; all others will fail in the attempt.  In this light, I find it less likely that one suffers the fate of Prometheus in stealing fire from the gods for speaking what ought not be spoken, and more likely that one just says wrong things; at best, such a bad prediction is useless and without effect, but at worst, it can truly mislead someone into ruin of their own doing for paying heed to the wrong people.

That said, I think that there are three cases where Prometheus syndrome could actually take place:

  1. One has a pact with a particular spirit who acts as a familiar or tutelary divinity of divination, and that pact allows the diviner to rely on that entity for divination in exchange for honoring that spirit through sacrifice and payment, and relying on that entity only as much as that entity agrees to share.  To press that entity further than what they agree to can end up angering that spirit to the point of causing punishment, just as neglecting one’s own end of the deal by ignoring or foregoing sacrifice and payment to them.  Still, this would less be a case of “speaking what ought not be spoken” and more a matter of “violating spiritual vows”.  If you rely on such a spirit for aid in divination, work such boundaries out for yourself, then stick to them; if you have a taboo or prohibition on divining for a particular topic (e.g. one’s eventual date of death), don’t try to pry into those secrets.
  2. While all the above makes sense to me from my Western perspective, I can’t discount that there may very well be cultures and traditions where divination is truly seen as a means of theft from the gods, and the methods they use actually work out in that way.  I can’t speak to this, but it may well be that any such form of divination is truly like Prometheus stealing fire from Olympos, which would them open them up to punishment.  I can’t say for sure, but it’s not something I can discount.  To avoid this, try a different system of divination and cosmological worldview that doesn’t see it this way, I guess?
  3. The last case would technically be considered an inverted Prometheus syndrome; rather than suffering punishment for speaking what ought not be spoken, I find it a very real threat to not speak what ought to be spoken.  In other words, if you see something in a divination, you as the diviner are obliged to inform the client about it, especially if it’s about a danger or risk to their well-being.  The idea goes that whatever you don’t inform the client of comes back to hurt you instead; it’s thus in your best interest to speak everything that you see and can correlate into a cohesive story (and the once-off “just popped into my mind” bits, too) to the client.  That way, the client has as complete and thorough understanding as can be given to them at the time, and the diviner can say that they did their best to help the client.  After all, knowing is half the battle, but if the diviner withholds knowledge that they’re privy to from a client that the client is paying for, not only is it dishonest, it also opens up the diviner to either punishment or “taking the hit” for the client simply from whatever is coming for the client.  Of these three cases, it’s this inverted Prometheus syndrome I’m most concerned about, but that can be resolved pretty easily: don’t lie in divination, don’t hide in divination, don’t mislead in divination.  If you speak what you see and all that you see as best as you can, then not only do you uphold your own professionalism in divination, you also hold yourself clean and free from the repercussions of problems that you’d otherwise stand in the way of.

So much for Prometheus syndrome and Tithonos syndrome.  Then there’s Teireisias syndrome, which…I dunno.  Like, I know plenty of diviners of all kinds: male, female, trans, nonbinary, straight, gay, queer, old, young, abled, disabled, of every race and every socioeconomic class and every attractive quality (or lack thereof).  I haven’t really noticed much of a pattern in seeing whether “disabled people make better diviners” or “gay men make better prophets” or whatnot, so for me, I’d probably chalk Teireisias syndrome up to more of a myth than something to actually consider as a thing.  I suppose it’s more like self-selection or selection bias; consider, after all, that many people who get involved in the occult arts and sciences tend to already be outcasts, and being different in some way (queer, nonbinary, disabled, poor, neuro-atypical, etc.) is a big cause of being considered outcasts.  I guess it’s like how many men think women talk more than they do; if they see queer/nonbinary/otherwise-different people doing divination, then it’d be a matter of overrepresentation becoming rumour becoming fable rather than something mystically inherent in different people.  But, hey, if it helps us with getting more business, you can bet I’ll play my asthma, bad knee, and gayness up for as much as it’d be worth, and I’d encourage everyone else to do the same with whatever makes them different (so long as they’re also, yanno, competent enough to be worth it).

Those are my thoughts on diviner’s syndromes that we might encounter, along with some of the dangers and problems we face and how we might begin to rectify them.  What about you, dear reader?  If you’re a diviner yourself, have you noticed any problems that you encounter with divination that affect you on a spiritual or physical level?  Do you know of any tales, cultures, or myths where divination is taken as a last resort out of fear of divine punishment (besides the whole Witch of Endor thing from the Book of Samuel)?  How do you try to keep yourself in as good a condition as you can before, during, and after divination?  Let us know down in the comments!

Recollection in its Proper Time

Tonight begins the third Mercury retrograde period of 2016.  It entered its shadow on August 10, and entered into retrograde tonight on August 30; it will pause again to go direct on September 22, and will be back to its proper speed on October 6.  All this happens within its own domicile sign of Virgo.  The next time Mercury goes retrograde is after entering into its shadow on December 1, then hitting its retrograde station on December 19, going direct again on January 8, 2017, and getting out of its shadow on January 27; this begins when Mercury is in Capricorn, and ends when Mercury is back in Sagittarius.  As many of my readers already know, when a planet goes into retrograde motion, the things associated with that planet tend to go backwards, awry, or wonky in some way.  Given that Mercury governs all things associated with travel, commuting, divination, communication, study, memory, speech, trade, technology, and planning, expect difficulties, delays, repeats, and do-overs aplenty during this time.  Because this specific Mercury retrograde period is all within the mercurial sign of Virgo, expect this to be a double whammy for many people.  It’s not all that bad; for most people, you just need to do your three-point tap before you leave the house, leave ample time to get to work, and always read through any and all documentation twice before making a decision and you’ll be fine.  For Hermetic magicians and those who work closely with Hermes, or for those who have Mercury as a particular strong planet in their natal horoscope, you may want to step more carefully, given our strong connections to this kind of energy.  Take this time to review your life, trace your steps, and reflect on all the things that compose you and your life before the retrograde period is over; use this time well, and don’t freak out about it.

For the nights that Mercury goes retrograde, I prescribe an offering to Hermes much as the usual: candles, incense, libation, and prayer, preceded by the usual honors to Hestia and Zeus.  I do this because I recognize the physical planet of Mercury, or Stilb­­­­­ōn, as the body of the god, however distinct or connected as it may be from his divine presence, and because I recognize the change in motion of the planet as a change in energy and action of the god.  However, I do things a little differently for these particular nights to mark the occasion.  For this, instead of using the usual Orphic Hymn for Hermes (number 27), I recite the one for Hermes Chthonios, the terrestrial and underworld aspect (number 56), which goes like this:

Hermes I call, whom Fate decrees to dwell
In the dire path which leads to deepest hell;
O Bacchic Hermes, progeny divine
Of Dionysius, parent of the vine
And of celestial Venus, Paphian queen,
Dark eye-lashed Goddess of a lovely mien;
Who constant wanderest through the sacred feats
Where hell’s dread empress, Proserpine, retreats;
To wretched souls the leader of the way
When Fate decrees to regions void of day;
Thine is the wand which causes sleep to fly,
Or lulls to slumberous rest the weary eye;
For Proserpine through Tartarus dark and wide
Gave thee forever flowing souls to guide.
Come, blessed power, the sacrifice attend,
And grant our mystic works a happy end.

For the libation, instead of my usual wine mixed with olive oil, I only offer clean, pure water, and that only after thoroughly cleaning and polishing out his offering vessel.  Normally, I’d give it a good rinse to get any of the remains from the previous offering and wipe out any remaining residue, but I take this opportunity to thoroughly clean and polish the whole thing until it shines like new.  Similarly, I also remove all old offerings and clean his shrine.

Additionally, and most distinctly, I wrap my image of Hermes in a black shroud, so that the entire body and form is occluded.  The shroud remains until the planet leaves retrograde, at which point I remove the shroud and make the usual offerings of wine and ouranic prayer.  Between these two dates, however, I make no further offerings or direct interaction with the god.

20160830_225921(0)

Why the unusual ritual offering of water, chthonic prayers, and the shroud?  This is all because Mercury goes into retrograde.  In a sense, this is the unusual time where Hermes is a little more trickstery, a little more baneful than at other times, and…honestly, while it’s not a bad thing, I don’t want that influence in my life more than is absolutely necessary.  To that end, I cover Hermes in a shroud to insulate him from the outside world so that he can focus on his own work, and in a way, insulate me from him so that I’m not affected by his backwards-looking gaze.  This ritual period is where I work with Hermes in an apotropaic manner only, turning away the difficulties posed by Mercury retrograde and keeping me insulated and blocked off from them.  For a similar reason, I only offer water that is clean and pure, rather than dark wine.  I want to give Hermes that which is clean and clear so that I can obtain the same, keeping my eyes and my ears clean and clear from confusion, my path and my travels from obstacles, my mind and my heart from illusion, my hands and my feet from difficulty.  Offering only water to clean the ways helps me and helps Hermes to help me keep my life open and free during the retrograde; wine would obscure it in too dark a way during too dark a time, oil beslickens it in too unpredictable a way during too unpredictable a time.  To me and for my work with the god, when Mercury goes retrograde, Hermes stops flying across the skies and seas and travels primarily between our world and the underworld.  Previously, Hermes instructed me to only recite his chthonic hymn during nighttime, while the ouranic one could be done at any time; during retrograde periods, if I ever feel a need to use a hymn, it will only ever be the chthonic one.

When a planet goes retrograde, it is only an apparent illusion that the planet goes backwards through the skies and the stars.  In reality, due to the mechanics of our heliocentric solar system, retrograde periods are caused when the planet in question is closest to our own planet.  In a sense, that’s what causes all these weird happenings involving the things that planet governs; rather than being at a healthy objective distance for us to interact with, the energies of that planet suddenly become too close for comfort, hidden right under our nose, and befuddled all up in our mind as subjective rather than objective and distant.  Mercury is no exception, and in fact is the poster child for retrograde energies, even if only because it’s the planet that goes into retrograde motion the most often.  It’s the time when all these energies and influences turn inward instead of outward, which would be fine if we didn’t have all these pesky civilized things we have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, like jobs and commuting and business and whatnot.  Rather than posting melodramatic memes on Facebook fuming about Mercury retrograde, I try to go with the flow, respecting it and accepting it in a way that helps me deal with the resulting chaos, and changing my habits and works accordingly.

So, for someone like me who’s so entrenched in mercurial energies in both the religious sense (priest of Hermes), the magical sense (Hermetic magician), and the career sense (software engineer), and for someone whose own natal Mercury is already retrograde and dignified, what’s the best way for me to spend this retrograde period?  For that matter, what’s the best way we can all spend this time?  Mercury, the planet of thought and memory and learning, is going backwards, so it behooves us all to go backwards in the same way: spend this month in a time of reflection, reminding, recollection, and remembrance.  Think of your whole life and how you got here, even to the physical place you are.  Think of all the people, from teachers and parents to friends and enemies, who had even the smallest influence on your character.  Think of all the lessons you’ve learned, sitting down at a desk or running around in your life, which helped shape how you think and how you act.  Think of all your ancestors, from those who passed away in your lifetime to the countless generations back before you, who lived and fought and rejoiced and died so that you too can share in this incarnation of flesh and blood and breath and bone.

Reflect on yourself, and see who you are both inside and out.  Remind yourself, and re-mind yourself. Recollect yourself, and re-collect yourself.  Remember yourself, and re-member yourself.  By these, you will come to know yourself, and that’s really the whole goal here for any of us, isn’t it?

For myself…gods, how did I get here?  Back in middle school, I dabbled with my brother’s hand-me-downs from his short voyage into neopaganism, and learned the basics of divination from my Tarot-reading sister.  In high school, I kept alive a healthy imagination for new worlds and poetry and the power of the written word in personal journals to explore my own internal landscape.  In college, I began my studies of geomancy and medieval astrology, and started this blog on Blogspot as a devotional for XaTuring, the Great Worm of the Internet.  I met so many people, so few of whom I have in my life anymore because I was only barely developing a social life after intense bullying in elementary school, and I recently turned down the invitation for my high school’s ten-year reunion because screw those people and the awkwardness and the lack of connections I never care to suffer through again.  I dated and fucked up and made it better and repeated the process so many times, and showed me my own capabilities, my own culpabilities, and my own tendencies to virtue and to vice.

After college, I pined and loathed and laughed and fucked around and fucked with others and fucked others and been fucked by others.  I began my own Great Work, and built up my own geomantic practice and social presence both online and offline.  I developed my own style of working under Fr. Rufus Opus, and met people of varying paths both light and dark, both right-handed and left-handed, both brilliantly alive and gloriously dead.  I met the love of my life through magic on both our ends, and we began to build ourselves together, only to get cut down together by misplaced trust and found it again with allies and colleagues.  We married, on accident for us and by divine provenance from the gods.  We bought a house.  I changed jobs to one that I was encouraged by multiple spirits to take, only to suffer and discover my own limits but which allowed me the means to grow privately even more.  I changed jobs back once more, solidifying my career path into one that I am fundamentally comfortable and safe within among colleagues and coworkers I know and trust and love.

I have gone from having neither shrines nor altars to one, then two, then four, all the way to having a house full of them and beginning what is truly a temple to recognize all the powers, and moreover, all our powers and deities.  I have gone from having a journal to a notebook to a blog to several ebooks and a full book on the way.  I have gone from school to college to federal job, within each from hell to heaven and back and again.  I have gone from single to committed to broken down to broken up and back again, and now to marriage and partnership on all levels of human existence.  I have gone from having friends to enemies, and enemies to friends.  I have gone from one computer to the next, one operating system to the next, shifting data and programs around and finding new and better ways to do what I need to do.  I have gone from no debt to student debt to low debt to car debt to credit debt to mortgage.  I have gone from hair to skinhead and back.  I have gone from pristine to consecrated tattoos, from whole to pierced to whole again.  I have gone from spiritually fearful to excited to exasperated, both towards people and to spirit alike.  I have gone from repulsed by even the notion of rot to almost enjoying the smell as it passes by me in the forest or in the basement.  I have gone from despising emotion to recognizing it to manifesting it to using it and being used by it.  I have gone from one place to another in every way and in every sense.  Just as all motion is change, then truly, in so many ways, as I have gone, so have I changed.

And yet, underlying all that, there’s so much that has never changed.  I still hunger, like a crazed man starved for years, for knowledge and power and glory and wisdom.  I still rejoice with friends around me.  I still love, and I still love to create and to build and to fortify and to defend.  I still make mistakes.  I still make successes.  I still write, privately for myself and publicly for others, sometimes for free and sometimes for pay.  I still code and woodburn and bead and craft and cook.  I still love the wind through my hair and the rain on my palms.  No matter how much I change from past-me to present-me, I am still me.  I still move with the world, and that when I move the world, the world moves me.  No matter how much I move, I am still.  Just as all motion is change, then truly, in so many ways, as I have remained still, so have I remained the same.

I see my hands, and how they have maintained the same bone structure, and yet have grown and have touched and used so many things.  I see my eyes, and how the irises still have their intricate patterns, and yet gleam differently than they ever did, both brighter and dimmer than ever before.  I see my body, and how the flesh is still recognizably mine, and yet have so many scars and additions and subtractions.  By remembering all the things I have done, I re-member myself, and make my body whole from parts.  By reflecting my emotions I have felt, I re-flex myself, and make my soul whole from parts.  By recollecting all the things I have said, I re-collect myself, and make my spirit whole from parts.  By reminding all my thoughts I have thought, I re-mind myself, and make my mind whole from parts.  And, in doing so, by remembering and reflecting and recollecting and reminding, I am become a sum of the parts, and become a whole, and become greater than the sum of the parts.  There is no one thing of, in, or about me that is me, and yet it all comes together to make me.

Retrogression is for retrospection; we go backwards to look backwards.  Use this time well; as Hermes descends among us and below us, he goes to find the lost and bring them to their proper place.  Whether these are lost items, lost tasks, lost souls, or lost goals, it serves us well to go back and find ourselves in this chaos so that we can once more bring order to ourselves and, thus, to our worlds.  This is not a time for tools, except for the pen and paper in the study; this is not a time for communication, except for our own thoughts echoing in our heads; this is not a time for action, except for acting within ourselves in our own internal spaces; this is not a time for learning, except to relearn what we already forgot.  Turn back, dear reader, not for fear for your life to stop, but for faith for your life to continue.

Mathetic Ritual of the Sun’s Ingresses

I was settling down this past Monday thinking of how to better explore the paths of the Tetractys.  Pathworking is fine and all, and I will never swear against it; it’s a powerful method in its own right, and when tweaked for the purposes of mathesis, will provide valuable experience in developing oneself theurgically.  The thing is that…well, I hate pathworking.  It’s a personal opinion of mine that physical, enacted ritual is superior for initiations and transformation compared to pathworking, which is more meditative and exploratory but also too mental and ungrounded to achieve the same ends.  Any physical addition to pathworking, such as using gestures or chanting, can definitely help empower the pathworking, but in the end it’s still primarily pathworking.  I tried coming up with different kinds of chants or seed syllable-type intonations to focus oneself on a manifesting or manifested version of a path to little result (I’ll keep those notes as a draft post for future reference just in case), but something kept nagging at me to think of something better.

Looking through my old drafts I had saved, I noticed that I started an idea a while back but never really fleshed it out any.  The idea was to have a stellar type of ritual, not focused on the planets or elements themselves but on the passage of the Sun as it travels from one sign of the Zodiac to the next.  After all, the whole point of the Gnosis Schema is to develop the self theurgically by using a set of twelve paths to traverse the ten sphairai of the Tetractys, and these twelve paths are given to the signs of the Zodiac.  If we consider ourselves as Suns, then the passage of the Sun through the Zodiac represents our own passage through Gnosis.  By celebrating the ingress of the Sun into each sign of the Zodiac, we celebrate and open ourselves up to a whole new stage of our development, formally opening up new gates and roads for us to travel.  This is an idea I wanted to develop, but I had little idea back then of how to actually go about building or thinking about such a ritual.  I think it’s time now to do just that.  Thus, at the beginning of Cancer 2017 and close to the start of a new mathetic year, let us now discuss αι Τελεται των Ηλιεισοδων (hai Teletai tōn Hēlieisodōn), the Rituals of the Solar Ingresses.

tetractys_paths_gnosis_signs

So, first, just because we like things in Greek, let’s list what the names of the Zodiac signs are in Greek for reference’s sake:

  1. Aries: Κριος (Krios)
  2. Taurus: Ταυρος (Tauros)
  3. Gemini: Διδυμοι (Didymoi)
  4. Cancer: Καρκινος (Karkinos)
  5. Leo: Λεων (Leōn)
  6. Virgo: Παρθενος (Parthenos)
  7. Libra: Ζυγος (Zygos)
  8. Scorpio: Σκορπιος (Skorpios)
  9. Sagittarius: Τοχοτης (Tokhotēs)
  10. Capricorn: Αιγοκερως (Aigokerōs)
  11. Aquarius: Υδροχοος (Hydrokhoos)
  12. Pisces: Ιχθυες (Ikhthyes)

When might we celebrate this kind of event?  As I reckon it, there are three options for us, each with their own pros and cons:

  • The first day after the Sun has astrologically entered the sign proper.  This is probably the most straightforward and obvious option, but we’d be careful to note that we’d mark this as the first sunrise coinciding with or falling immediately after the Sun’s entry to the sign.  Thus, if the Sun enters Taurus sometime on a Monday night after sunset, even though Monday is the first day of Taurus according to the modern Western sense, we’d only celebrate this starting at Tuesday morning, at the start of the first full day of Taurus.  The drawback is that such an ingress could occur at any time of the lunar month, which much of the rest of mathesis relies upon for its ritual timing.  After all, the solar year and lunar year are not easily synced and need constant corrections to keep roughly together.
  • The first Noumenia (start of the lunar month) while the Sun is in the sign.  This makes sense from a grammatomantic calendar standpoint, as we could then dedicate the whole rest of the month to works relating to the specific sign that the Sun has entered into.  However, this has a bit of a problem; the Noumenia could occur several weeks into the solar month of the zodiac sign, so we’d lose the “freshness” of the previous option.  Additionally, with lunar months being shorter than a solar month, there is the possibility of having two Noumenias within a single solar month.  In such a case, we’d only use the first one for our ingress ritual, but we’d know then that, if there’s another Noumenia just before the Sun changes sign, then the next one after the Sun enters the next sign would be late indeed.
  • The day of the letter of the sign while the Sun is in the sign.  For instance, if we’re celebrating the entry of the Sun into the sign of Taurus, we’d wait until the day of Γ, the letter associated with Taurus.  Just as with the Noumenia, there is the possibility that there might be two such days with the same letter while the Sun is in the same sign due to the fact that the lunar month is shorter than a solar twelfth of a year.  Further, just as with the Noumenia, this might position the day of the ritual rather late into the Sun’s travel into the sign.  However, this has the benefit of associating the natural power of the lunar day of the month with the sign of the Sun itself, and with the “offset” this would introduce since each sign has a different letter, and thus a different day of the month, we could sidestep some of the issues introduced by using a fixed date of the lunar month viz. the Noumenia.

To compare these options, here are the dates of the first sunrise of the solar ingresses into the signs of the Zodiac starting with Aries 2017, and the corresponding dates of celebration according to each of the three methods above, along with a comparison of how much of the lunar month has elapsed since it last began or how much of the Zodiac sign has already been traveled through by the Sun:

Ingress Day of
Ingress
First
Noumenia
First Lettered
Day
Sign Date
Aries
Κριος
March 21, 2017  3/21
Day of Υ
3/28
24%
3/29
26%
Taurus
Ταυρος
April 19  4/19
Day of Τ
4/26
23%
4/28
29%
Gemini
Διδυμοι
May 20  5/20
Day of Φ
5/26
19%
5/29
28%
Cancer
Καρκινος
June 21  6/21
Day of Ψ
6/24
10%
6/30
29%
Leo
Λεων
July 22  7/22
Day of ϡ
7/24
6%
8/4
42%
Virgo
Παρθενος
August 22  8/22
Day of Α
8/22
0%
9/3
39%
Libra
Ζυγος
September 22  9/22
Day of Β
10/20
90%
10/4
39%
Scorpio
Σκορπιος
October 23  10/23
Day of Δ
11/19
90%
11/3
37%
Sagittarius
Τοχοτης
November 22  11/22
Day of Δ
12/18
90%
12/6
48%
Capricorn
Αιγοκερως
December 21  12/21
Day of Δ
 1/17
90%
1/7
57%
Aquarius
Υδροχοος
January 20, 2018  1/20
Day of Δ
2/16
93%
2/7
62%
Pisces
Ιχθυες
February 18  2/18
Day of Γ
 3/17
90%
3/10
69%

This is just a small sample, but indicative of how close or far these lunar methods of reckoning a ritual date for the Sun’s ingress can vary compared to the exact solar date.  Given these three methods, I’m most inclined to go with the first option, with the third a close contender.  It would be nice to have this set of rituals synced to our already-established lunar calendar, but there’s too much variance with the lunar calendar to make it stick right.  Plus, according to even the most basic of principles of astrological magic, the most powerful time for a zodiacal-solar ritual is (barring a proper solar election) at the first degree of the sign, considered its strongest, with its last few degrees considered its weakest.  On these days of ingress, the ritual should be performed at sunrise, or as early in the day as possible; barring that, as close to the day of ingress as possible.  I’d suppose that, so long as the ritual is performed sometime in the first ten or so days of the Sun’s ingress into the sign, the ritual can be considered valid, though it is best to do it ASAP.

So, we have a set of twelve “holidays”, as it were, or high ritual days for those on the Gnosis schema.  It would be excellent, then, to celebrate all twelve, but if we were constrained for time or resources, could we rank them or group them together in terms of importance?  Absolutely, and this is based all on how we think about the groups of paths on the Gnosis Schema:

  • Of all these twelve days, it’s the day of the Ingress into Aries that is the most important.  This day celebrates the Sun’s rebirth, and our own renewal into a new cycle of the Gnosis Schema from an old one.  If only one ingress could be celebrated, it is this one.
  • With a little more resources and time, the days of the Ingress into Aries, into Leo, and into Sagittarius are as important as each other and should be celebrated if all twelve cannot.  Each of these ingresses marks the departure of the Sun from one set of four signs of the Zodiac into the next four after completing a whole elemental cycle; for us on the Gnosis schema, these ingresses mark our transition from one cycle to the next (Hot to Cold, Cold to Cosmic, Cosmic to Hot).
  • With enough resources and time, each ingress day could be celebrated on its own as they arrive, each ingress marking the transition of the Sun from one sign to the next, and our own transition from one path to the next on the Gnosis Schema.

Thus, to offer a kind of neopagany parallel, the Ingress into Aries would be as important to mathesis as Samhain is to neopagans, the ingress into fire signs as a group as important as the cross-quarter days including Samhain, and the ingress into all twelve signs as a group as important as monthly sabbaths of the cross-quarter days, solstices, and equinoxes.  (I can’t believe I just used that sort of reference, since I’m about as far from neopagan as you can get, but I suppose it works for getting the point across.)

Like with my self-initiation ritual into mathesis I discussed a while back, I’ll refrain from posting the specifics of what the ritual of solar ingress would specifically contain.  I’ve got my reasons for doing so: this is all still highly experimental, this is still a mystery path, and…well, I’m far from done designing a complete ritual for such an event.  However, I’ve got my ideas, and I’ll definitely detail those at a high level for the sake of discussion and thinking out things aloud.  Unlike the solar rituals of the Egyptian priests who guided the Sun through the underworld, and unlike the harvest festivals of the old pagans and heathens, and unlike the celebration of neopagans who reflect on the story of the God and Goddess throughout the year, these rituals of solar ingress use the outer world as a symbol for internal development, and will be used to link one’s self to the cosmic forces at play as the Sun travels through the skies.  In other words, by bringing ourselves into stronger alignment with the natural flow and rhythm of the cosmos, we take on the same development and live in a spiritually natural, balanced way that follows the course the gods themselves take.  We do this by, yes, celebrating the entry of the Sun into a new zodiac sign every month to mark the passage of time, but this is just the external aspect of it; we emulate and, eventually, become the Sun itself as it opens each new gate and takes its first steps along each new path.  By sharing in the work of the gods, new possibilities are opened unto us, granting us new power and responsibilities each step of the way.

As the Sun ages through one sign of the Zodiac, the power of the Sun is generally seen to decrease slightly; the final degrees of a sign are the weakest and darkest, and generally bode no good things.  As the Sun enters a new sign, the Sun’s light is strengthened and renewed each and every time; further, this whole process is repeated on a grander scale of the whole year as the Sun shines brightest in summer, diminishes in autumn, becomes darkest and feeblest in winter, and becomes renewed in the spring.  Just as Apollo is pulled ahead by the horses of his chariot, so too are we pulled forward by the powers of time and growth; just as Apollo is led by Hermes to his destinations hither and fro, so too are we pulled ahead by Hermes as guide and protector.  It is these two gods that mathesis works intensely with, and we can already see roles for them appearing in these rituals of solar ingress: Apollo to cleanse and renew us for entering a new gate, and Hermes to guide and lead us as we take our first steps on a new path.  Thus, each ritual of solar ingress must be preceded by a purification, either by khernimma or katharmos, so that we can enter a new stage of our lives clean and proper.  We must then call on Hermes to open the gate itself and set us on the right path so that we do not get waylaid, lost, or trapped by the darkness that surrounds us.

What I don’t yet know about including, and this is where pathworking will come in help, is the notion of a guardian or gatekeeper for each of these gates.  After all, all gates have some sort of protection for themselves, and the notion of a being or god dwelling within each path against which one must pass a test is not precisely new; yes, the idea is common in Golden Dawn practices, but the idea of a Sphinx posing riddles is old.  We do know that each of the twelve signs of the Zodiac is given to one of the twelve gods of Olympus, saith Cornelius Agrippa in his Orphic Scale of Twelve, but I’m not sure if these would be the same thing.  Additionally, I’m uncertain of what specific offerings should be made as part of the ritual besides the usual ones.  This is all for future development, planning, and pathworking to see what I can see and find out what can be found out and pieced together.  After all, while I may experiment with different ritual layouts, I’d like to start doing these in earnest starting at the spring equinox next year for Aries.  This gives me more than half a year’s time to try things out, which sounds like a lot of time, but…we’ll see.

These rituals of solar ingress are intended to open the gates and let flow the power along the channels indicated by the paths on the Tetractys.  What they allow us to do is to help guide us along the Gnosis Schema around the Tetractys, but they do not open up each of the sphairai to us.  These rituals can open the gate to a new path, and can bring us to the gate at the end of the path to a new sphaira, but without us unlocking that final gate, we are not able to continue along the Gnosis Schema.  Merely celebrating the rituals of solar ingress is not enough to deliver us to gnosis; these rituals are monthly rites of passage, but like any rite of passage, they only give us license to do more things without specifying how or in what timeframe.  Anyone in a culture who undergoes the rite of passage into adulthood does not have their entire lives mapped out for them from that moment on; it only gives them the ability and recognition of adulthood, with all its privileges and responsibilities.  Over the course of the year, as we celebrate the rituals of solar ingress, we open the ways for us to travel to each sphaira in turn, but we must still walk the path and, moreover, undergo the process of unlocking and experiencing each sphaira on the Tetractys, each of these ten stages of life and development.  This would be a separate ritual, which I’ve not quite yet had plans for, but it makes sense.

In addition to the usual pathworking and astral crap that goes along with all of this, of course.

 

When the lights go dark, look to the Sun.

As you might be aware, dear reader, the planet Mercury went retrograde a few days ago on September 17, and will be in retrograde until October 9.  It’s cute how this retrograde ties in oh-so-well with commuting issues (the Pope is coming to visit my area, causing huge traffic and building closures) as well as other large-scale events (e.g. upcoming government shutdown), but it also means I have some insulation and introspection to do in the meantime.  Mercury retrograde periods are good for review; as the planet goes backwards, it behooves us to look back and take stock of what we’ve done, what we’ve accomplished, and the like.  Conjuration and some divination of mine can get a little hairy during these periods, but it’s not insurmountable with a bit more dedication and practice; Hermetic magic, though based on Hermes-Mercury-Thoth, provides many tools to get around the currents and ebbs and flows inherent to the tradition when they on their own don’t go your way.

One of the things I do during Mercury retrograde periods is wrap my Hermes statue in fine black cloth, although loosely.  It’s not that I want to completely cut myself off from him or his effects, but doing this keeps some of the worst of retrograde issues at bay, like a layer of sunscreen on a hot and bright summer day.  Meanwhile, I restrict my offerings to him to silent and short ones done only at night, and when I do make a prayer aloud to him, I switch from using the usual Orphic Hymn to Mercury to the one for Terrestrial Hermes, as befitting his complete change in the heavens above.  I keep my explicitly Hermaic things to a minimum during these times, which can be a little awkward, given how big he is in my life.

Earlier this week, though, even before Mercury went retrograde, I was making an offering to him, and we had a bit of a chat.  He reminded me of the other gods I have in my temple, some of whom haven’t gotten an offering made to them in quite a while due to my eight-month hiatus from Work, and most notable among these was Apollo, the son of Zeus and Leto.  Hermes told me that, in the future, I should keep Hermes primary in my devotional work when it comes to the θεοι and with mathesis, and I should definitely involve Apollo more in my life and Work.  However, when Hermes is “retired” into retrograde, he told me that I should then shift my gears into working explicitly and primarily with Apollo—not as a substitute patron, mind you, but as a substitute guide and teacher.  Divination with knucklebones confirmed this explicitly, and since Apollo hadn’t gotten an offering in…well, too long, I decided to make an offering to him last night and call him down.

I forgot how much of a douche he can be.  He’s truly awesome, of course, as only a god can, but goddamn is he ever the frattiest and most brotastic of gods I’ve had the privilege of working with.

Still, after the jokes and haughtiness of the god were worked through, it hit me how badly I’ve fucked up by not incorporating him into my regular worship and Work for so long, even before the end of last year.  He’s instructed me in a way to approach him and, after more divination to confirm a few things, will continue to do so by my regular honor of him.  It’s not exactly what I’m used to, but it’s something that I really do need.  This is especially true with mathesis, that art I’ve procrastinated on developing for so long, since Apollo is truly supposed to be a part of it; this is something confirmed by both the god himself and Hermes, and in a way far greater than thorough purification.  I’ve become stagnant with mathesis, and after my own self-initiation under Hermes, I was looking forward to exploring the roads of the central six-way crossroads of the Tetractys I developed, but instead, I got stuck on an island with no way out.

alchemical_planetary_tetractys_paths

Part of this was the set of tools I’ve developed to work in mathesis.  They’re not much, but they’re something I had designs to use and…never got around to using them, partially because I knew I needed to have them but had no idea how to do so.  In my offering to Apollo, I was given a first glimpse and some very basic practice in using them; they felt a little awkward-yet-right, if that makes sense, and in getting more used to them, I can finally get off my ass and get back to mathetic exploration.  This is good, since Hermes is directing me to do a full mathetic ritual later on in October and I’m still stuck as to how to set that up.  With Apollo’s guidance, I may just be able to figure that out in time, at least in a preliminary and exploratory way so as to get started with other types of mathetic ritual and development.

So, why Apollo?  Well, he is Hermes’ half-brother by Zeus, and shares in the arts of divination and prophecy, that much is obvious.  Still, with Apollo’s connection to the Sun, especially as a rational force that drives the Sun’s light as opposed to Helios who is the Sun, we have a great wellspring of power and direction that can illumine much in our lives.  This is different from Hermes who guides, who walks along with us on a road and leads us hither and thither; Hermes guides, but Apollo directs.  There’s a subtle difference between the two in terms of scale and scope.  Besides, going by planets, both Hermes and Apollo could be recognized in the Triad.  But…this would mean a third deity, linked to the Moon, would be called upon as well for another purpose.  Can’t get the Tetractys all unbalanced, after all, but I’m unsure whether this would be Artemis or another deity, especially as I have no experience with the Lady Huntress.

For now, one thing at a time.  Take this time of Mercury retrograde and call upon the forces of the Sun in your life, and honor Apollo and his progeny and allies.  You may be pleasantly surprised to see where it leads you, as well!