Sometimes I eat books in my sleep. It’s a side effect from frequent visits to the Great Inner Library. During a weekend nap in late April I was browsing the Three Hands Press website. In my dream I found a book that isn’t a part of their physical catalog. It was called Healing Techniques of Ancient Ireland. I put this book into my stomach. Non-physical books have a different gestation rate than the ones we read with our eyes, but the thing about them is the whole body & soul ends up absorbing this knowledge, which later trickles, or floods as the case may be, into waking life.
The next week at my day job in the library I felt an intuitive nudge to have a look at some of the works of Rosalie K. Fry, most famous for her book The Secret of Ron Mor Skerry, later adapted for the screen by John Sayles into the charming and magical The Secret of Roan Inish. I’d always wanted to read it, but as it turned out the institution I work for didn’t have a copy. Yet it still pays to go digging in the stacks for Children’s books & novels which are no longer popular. The book I ended up borrowing from the stacks by Fry was Whistler In the Mist, first published in 1968. The language is simple. The story is set in Wales, in the valleys and hills around the Black Mountain. It takes us deep into the folklore surrounding faery contacts, their interaction with humans, and the founding of an ancestral line who become the guardians of a body of herbal lore, some eventually to become doctors.
Such a story has put me to ponder on the ways humans have often received knowledge and guidance from Otherworld beings, how certain arts and sciences seem to be bestowed on humanity, and into certain family lineages and traditions. It also makes me think about how many people in the world have strains of Otherworld blood in them? How many people have that streak of the fey coursing through their veins?
Of course in asking such a question, I would in no way be promoting any of the racist shenanigans perpetrated by some esoteric groups who are better left unnamed. Besides, the role of herbs in healing was greater for all of our ancestors, no matter an individuals specific genetic descent. It’s only been since the advent of industrial culture that medicines have moved further away from their original sources, from ns, forests, glens, and gardens to become chemical composites of strange unpronounceable names manufactured in factories.
Part of the back story in Whistler In the Mist is that the young heroines ancient ancestor on her mom’s side was actually the Lady in the Lake. This story is based on a traditional tale associated with the Llyn y Fan Fach, one of two lakes folded into the Black Mountain. The son of a widow from the nearby town of Blaen Sawdde agreed to marry a beautiful girl who arose from the lake. As is typical of Faery stories a stipulation is laid upon him, that if he hits the lady three times she will return to the lake. This eventually happens, as he strikes her in admonishment for things such as laughing at a funeral and crying at a wedding. The faery’s think and feel differently than us and the Lady of the Lake was not accustomed to our learned social behaviors. By the time the widows son had hit her three times she had already born him children. So it is with sadness she returns to the lake. From time to time her kids to go to the lake and she instructs them in herbal lore (among other things), and one son in particular, Rhiwallon. He, with his brothers, eventually went on to the court of Rhys Gryg where they became the famous Physicians of Myddfai beginning a tradition of handing down this knowledge from one generation to another. A number of their herbal recipes and medical formulas were preserved in The Red Book of Hergest.
I knew about none of this before reading The Whistler in the Mist. With regards to my dream about Healing Techniques of Ancient Ireland, I had begun searching around on the internets and in library search engines for material on this subject. In doing so I came across a fascinating article by Rosari Kingston, An Overview of the Irish Herbal Tradition: The Thread That Could Not Be Broken. One section of Rosari’s essay is devoted to Irish Medical Families. The passing on of skills in doctoring was hereditary in nature. Each of the four counties of Ireland had a number of doctoring families. She writes, “Ó hÍceadha (Hickey) and Ó Leighin (Lane) mean literally healer and leech respectively. [A "leech" was a traditional title given to some Irish doctors -from their practice of using leeches to bleed patients.] How many people with the above names today, realize that they are descendants of the great Irish hereditary medical families?” And it makes me wonder in particular if the Irish medical families have any surviving stories involving the impartation of knowledge from the Otherworld? Specifically stories of the intermarriage of Faery and Human, as in the Welsh example?
Whatever the case may be, there is one thing we can be certain of. Stories have the power to preserve in memory the vital knowledge of healing with plants. In connecting with the plant powers we may also deepen our relationship to the Land in general, and by connecting further to the Land I believe it is possible to make contact with some of the Faery beings who also make a home here -partially in this world, partially in the Other. In remedying ourselves with herbal treatments we can also remedy our relationship to the wide world of plants and begin to explore those spectrum’s of consciousness existing beyond the human.
One of the books I’ve been reading is Nigel Pennick‘s The Celtic Sacred Landscape. Near the beginning it had this quote from the British Triads that struck me and stuck me about the three principle endeavours of a Bard:
“The Three Principle Endeavours of a A Bard: One is to learn and collect sciences; the second is to teach; and the third is to make peace and put an end to all injury; for to do contrary to these things is usual or becoming to a Bard.”
I feel this is such a powerful statement of what a Bard should do and be, and what a person setting out to embody the way of the Bard should aspire to, that it would make a good subject for meditation. So I meditated on each in turn, using the discursive method of meditation.
A Bard is to learn and collect sciences. I started by contemplating some of the sciences I am collecting myself. I thought about each of the seven liberal arts and how they are useful not only to a Bard, but to the community a Bard is in service to. I also felt, while meditating, that learning discursive meditation will help my public speaking skills -public speaking in turn being affected by knowledge of rhetoric and grammar. Ecology, permaculture, and design-science will also be useful in my Bardic toolkit. I thought of Magic as one of the main sciences of the Bard.
A Bard is a teacher. In my meditation on the Bard as a teacher, I mused on how a Bard must not only be a keeper of sacred memory and lore, but a transmitter of it as well. Knowledge is not to be hoarded, but used and shared. Stories, songs and poems all can be used as containers for sacred knowledge, and can affect a person on many levels. They are also one of the best ways to teach people, because a good story, song, or poem engages a person on all levels of being. It can effect them emotionally, intellectually, spiritually which in turn can have physical effects on the body. By encoding the keys to the Inner worlds in the artifacts of culture, these keys will be preserved forever, opening the doorways to those worlds for successive generations. It’s strange to think of SF author and digital activist Cory Doctorow in terms of Bardism, but I do love his storytelling. One of the things I enjoy the most about reading Cory’s fiction books, is how much I learn about a whole plethora of subjects by reading a wonderful story. Those of us storytellers who are also occultists and practitioners of magic can do the same thing: teach people about magic in the guise of a grand story.
A Bard makes peace and puts an end to all injury. One of the thing Bard’s used to do -in societies and cultures that still upheld this role- was to commemorate the good deeds of leaders and satirize the failings of those who did wrong to clan and troth. We see the satirists at work today as comedians who often have some of the most insightful views on politics. I don’t keep up too much with stand up comedy, but the late George Carlin and Bill Hicks are prime examples of this in action. I’m not sure if they created peace per se, but with precision they pointed out the glaring hypocrisies at work in our industrial culture. This needs to be done, and humor is one tool to combat the darkness. By bringing levity in to ourselves, and sharing it with others, we give ourselves strength to face the many injustices of the world. A Bard, through her or his eloquence, can also be a peacekeeper through the magical act of goodly speech. Through words they can act as mediators between two hostile camps -whether they be political parties, fundamentalist religious groups, gangs, or a married couple in the heat of a dispute. These are some of the areas a contemporary may be called upon to work in as a peace maker and mediator.
A Bard is very much a mediator in many ways, transferring energy from the Innerworlds to this Worlds-Realm as needed, working in unconditional service.
March 4 2013Singing with the Old Oak
Yesterday I was able to go visit the 350-year old oak tree in Spring Grove cemetery. It is a very beautiful, gnarly tree. I brought it a gift of honey, poured it in at its roots, and sang a song to the tree. I asked the tree if I could approach it before I even walked all the way to it… and at the same time, I heard a crow caw above me. I took the caw as a yes. As I sang -free form vocal sound vibrations- a bunch of crows came to the area, and it seemed as if maybe they were challenging me. …But that we were also singing together. I think they were eventually satisfied. One crow was extremely loud. I sat with the tree for a good twenty minutes and it felt like we were feeding each other. It was a cold gray day, with large flakes of snow flurries that melted the instant they hit the ground. I felt as if the powers of the cemetery -and the trees- still being late winter, were just beginning the process of waking up for the coming spring.
March 7Jealousy Meditation I meditated on the Three of Arrow today, whose card title is Jealousy. It was a good meditation. I was initially scared to meditate on this card, as if it might make me more jealous somehow. It did quite the opposite. And by casting light on the ways I’ve been jealous, envious, of other people and what they have in the areas of: relationship, signs of success, material goods, homes, or artistic prowess and achievement, I realized that the energy of jealousy is very destructive and holds me back from developing myself and pursuing my own desires in a more balanced way. By letting go of jealousies, by being happy for others instead, I free myself up to do my own work.
When I faced North during the Invocation of Earth part of my daily ritual I saw the (imaginal) Land blooming, and a butterfly in the landscape. This is interesting for a number of reasons. Besides being a symbol of transformation, the butterfly figures in the next card in the suit of Air: Rest, Four of Arrows.
March 8Stuck In My Head
I’m still having a difficult time in relating to the Element of Air. I meditated with the sword -though I still have not attuned it yet to the Element and Direction. It seemed to produce an additional “steadying of the mind” effect. I realized last night -or re-realized- that I’ve always had troubled “being stuck in my head”. One of my therapists observed this. I wonder how this might relate to my natal chart: I have a Moon in Aquarius (opposite Sun in Leo). Aquarius being an Air sign, this suggests to me (again!) that I look at all my emotions from a slightly removed intellectual position. I process my emotions through my head. My mind/thoughts have been erratic. I hope the meditations and work with air balances this out.
March 11Invoking Fire with Hephaestus
This morning I dreamed of Hephaestus and invoking Fire as part of the morning ritual (I’ve been adding each element in turn). It seems that though I intended to work exclusively with each element for a set period, the magic has different plans for me. I can still focus on one element, and do work for that. But I feel it is less important for me to dictate where to go next, than it is to follow where I am being led to go.
March 17The Cloutie at the Mound
I went to one of my favorite parks today and did my rite there outside with Nula (our dog) beside me. I then went to a nearby Indian Mound that sits in another small park in the middle of a residential neighborhood. I made offerings, this time including tobacco. I sang again, as I did at the oak tree. Again, crows came by and sang -when there didn’t seem to be any around before. I then noticed a cloutie tied to a root of a tree growing from the mound. I removed the cloutie, untied it, and said “your magic is undone”, not that it was big magic. But being made of some unnatural felt I felt it was disrespectful to the spirits there. I then proceeded to clean up the trash off the mound. I also cleaned up some egregious litter at the other park, a big old sheet of plastic bubble wrap in the middle of the creek. It wasn’t glamourous, but it was what needed to be done.
March 18Stilling the Mind I meditated and continued to practice the Vision of the Void from Josephine McCarthy‘s Magical Knowledge I Foundations book. Ritual & vision come easier to me: combining words, movement & imagination. Even just journeying in vision. Discursive meditation, or meditation on a theme is also quite fruitful and seems to come a bit more naturally. Stilling the mind, quieting it, have not been quite as easy. I’m learning some techniques that are making it easier. Practice is the thing.
March 25Discernment & The Elemental Cross
The previous week was spent doing some cleansings, deep thinking and rearranging my practice. Sometimes, the direction I think I think I need to be going in, turns out to be not so good after all. It wasn’t about wiping the slate totally clean, but setting certain types of magical work aside until I am stronger, more discerning, and when it really is something I should be doing. I learned a lot from this failure though, through my disappointment with myself. Yet I can see how it was also a necessary step in that it has taught me how to spot some things that go on in the astral. Discernment is one of the things I’m learning in my work with the Air element. In meditating on the image of the sword,I’m learning how those sharp edges can be used to cleave through spiritual bullshit. It’s time for me to let my hand off the tiller a bit and not try and take the lead as much in this work, but to open myself up to the magic and see where it will instead lead me.
In making changes to my general practice I am now using the following words in the Elemental Cross, a variation on the Qabbalistic Cross:
Above me the soft swiftness of Sky
Below me the strong stability of Earth
To my right hand the bright splendor of Fire
to my left hand the reflective depths of Water.
This harmonizes more with the work I am doing in learning about the elements, the directions and the land. I kind of lifted some of these words from a poem that appears in Arthur by Stephen R. Lawhead. I changed them a bit though, to suit my purpose. (Arthur is another book very much about the Sword -this time Caliburn itself. I highly recommend the Pendragon Cycle.) The other book I read about swords in March was the awesome occult novel The Last Scabbard by Josephine McCarthy. Also highly recommended, a quick, inspiring, delightful read.
I made an imaginal journey into the East gate today as well. The things I encountered there are teaching me a lot.
March 27Frustration at the Crossroads The Five of Arrows, Frustration, was in my tarot spread yesterday, in the place of Kether. It makes sense as to what I’ve been experiencing lately. I’m at a crossroads on my magical path. I’m sure magicians of many stripes go through various crossroads at various times -kind of octaves of experience maybe? But the frustration I feel with myself in discontinuing what I hoped would be a fruitful path is part and parcel of traveling through the crossroad.
March 28Cleansing Salt Water Air
This morning I was standing at the gate of the west, having invoked the element of Water. I stood by the ocean and bathed in the waters. I really felt the cold of the water and the strong smell of the salt air, the way that the sea-salt air cleanses and regenerates. I saw how the ocean regenerates everything!
Franz Bardon & The Sword I read a section from Franz Bardon‘s The Practice of Magical Evocation on The Sword today. It contained some information I really needed to know and came to me in the form of a link when I needed it most. Just as the sword of discernment can help cut through spiritual bullshit, it can also be used to dispatch certain energy sucking things on the astral. Now I need to make the time to do the attunement.
I also took a look at Initiation into Hermetics by Bardon. This book is going to come in very handy in moving forward and deeper with the elemental work.
Statue of Cain by Henri Vidal from Tuieries Garden, Paris
Cain and Tubal-Cain (תובל־קין )have been haunting me this year. Maybe it’s the Year of the Witch thing? After a number of synchron-cities surrounding Cain and his Grandson Tubal, a poem came through… and I revised it today.
For those of us marked by Cain
there may be no outward sign
just an awakening of the blood
a tingling of the brain
as once silent voices whisper memories
of the violent choices made by the founder of our line.
For such whose eyes have been swaddled
for those who now dwell in the dark
from the recesses of an ancient cave
comes the shower of anvil sparks!
The hammer cries out resplendent
on the steel forged in fire & ice
the swords sting is unrepentant
till turned into a plowshare to furrow fields
as the first farmers sow the grain of life.
For such as you who are bread makers
or know the ways of the horse
stirrers of the cauldron & keepers of the hearth
who despise the wealth of tyrant kings
and their minions who tear down woods
be firm in your knowledge, in your second sight
even as you become soil, food for the growing worms.
You have known toil and trouble
watching as boughs break, as hunters make spoil
only to find yourself in the kitchen, dough in your hand
wandering when the soldiers will depart the Land
and leave these Seven Hills in peace.
Or will they continue to plunder until all is asunder,
until the fields are barren with grief?
This is the mark of care on our shoulder
the burden and exaltation we take from life to life
we sow plants in the garden under new moonlight;
as cast outs from Eden we saved seeds from the first
a song of serpents is on our tongue, as cloven as our feet.
Ours is the gnosis transmitted in dream
from the origin of fire to this waning age of steam,
marked out, the Flaming Sword setting us aside
we Zig-Zag back and forth on our lightning trail to the Grail,
in shadows we grow, and in shadows we stride!
My occassional journal of hypnagogic revelations, flotsam, jetsam & recalcitrant debris is just about ready to go to print. To be issued in three versions: Dysluxe edition of 88 copies with embellishments & supplemental material. Standard edition of 200 copies, and a free unlimited ebook version to be released when the rest are gone. Besides the supplemental materials to be included in the Dysluxe edition (marbled end-papers, post card surprises, pages from mangled dream dictionaries & more) all copies will have the same contents, but each edition will be arranged differently according to the whimsy of chance operations. Stay tuned for further details, and some exciting radio broadcasts to coincide with the release.
The standard “Booklung” edition will be the first to ship this April, as these will be ready to go off the press. For more information email sothismedias [at]gmail[dot]com for further inquiries or sign up for the mailing list -on right of webpage.
“The magic alphabet, the mysterious hieroglyphics, reach us only in a defective form, corrupted form, altered and falsified, either by time or by those beings who have a vested interest in keeping us ignorant” –Gerard de Nerval, Aurelia
Seventeen Years on Baybel by Justin Patrick Moore Tangled by Veronica Sorcher Louis Martine’s Irish Journal They Walked the Tracks Without Complaint by Mark Flannigan Eight Enigmatic Tarantula Postcards (Mexican Figuritas) from Elliot Beal Dream Number 8 by Nemus Irradiatusnath Roman Holiday by B. Clifton Burke Rules of the Road by Christopher Maier My Encounters With the Spider-Queen of Time by Taylor Ellwood Current 13 by Oryelle Defenestrate-Bascule Being the Dreamer, No Rest for the Wicked by Soror Iris E. Appendix 1: Notes Towards A Web Net of the Adepts by Justin Patrick Moore The Lysdexicodex (various contributors) Secretions from A Spiders Sac by Justin Patrick Moore The Purple Hills by Mark Flanigan Liberte Extract by Dr. David Luke Of Spiders and Spinning by Chakra 37 Lyrical Trilogy by Betsy Young
by Justin Patrick Moore Between Grandma Spiders Legs by Dharma Buford Stranded Is The Road by Adama Smietana Pan Magick of Dream by Aion 131 A Nightmare by Chuck Byrd
+ A Small Chapbook of 8 Poems: Poexic Dysletry Cronoslogos by Oryelle Defenestrate-Bascule Spider, Spider ,Dionysian Wine & Blazes In the Bone by Justin Patrick Moore Discordial Babel by Lavid Duke Dead Crow Rotting In a Green Field by Owen Knight
and The Secret Place by Nemus Irradiatusnath
& one more awaiting realization.
February 3rd, 2013 Retuning my room left me exhausted. I had set up my ancestral shrine initially, for convenience, on the mantelpiece above the fireplace. But I was getting the feeling from my Grandpa, and a dream I had about him, that it should be moved. His picture hangs above the mantelpiece and I didn’t think he wanted so much attention. Besides the direction it was facing was to the south…and I realized things would work out much better if I set up the shrine to the north. Having done so, the directions feel “right”.
Maybe part of the reason I was so exhausted was from the dream I had in the morning. I am with my grandson and I am taking him on a steep trail in a National Park. A guy I know who is a member of the A.O.D.A. is there, and he and someone else are moving huge stones. This might have something to do with his work in the druid order. My grandson and I go up further, on a higher switchback of the trail. I look down into the woods and see a circle made of stones. A ritual circle. I NEED to get down there. I am supposed to moving stones along with the guys down the trail. As I start down the trail to the circle, my feet are getting covered in quartz powder. There is white dust from the rocks all over the ground. I see the trails that go to the stone circle, yet it is difficult for me to get to them. In fact, they are watched by a guardian. It moves past the trail, across a trail I am on. I see it as the shadow of a large mountain lion -which alerts me, but with excitement. Then the guardian comes up to me, as wild but wise dog. It seems to be checking me out more than threatening me.
February 11, 2013 Greek & Roman Deities are very compatible with the Land in Cincinnati On Saturday night I had the insight that Greek & Roman deities are very compatible with the Land in the Cincinnati region, for at least two reasons. One, the city is named after Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, a Roman aristocrat who worked as a farmer until an invasion caused him to have to work as a dictator, going to war against several opposing tribes. When the enemies were defeated, sixteen days later, he resigned immediately and returned to his farm to once again work the Land. This makes me think that Cincinnati may also have a stake in becoming a city of urban farms as Detroit is continuing to become. Two, like Rome, Cincinnati has the moniker of “The City of Seven Hills”. A third reason might be all the Chili Parlors…Cincinnati style chili being of Greek orgin and all. It makes me hungry for a lentil 3-way just thinking about it.
February 12, 2013 The Winds of Change came in yesterday… and I think that is one of the heralds of an early spring. It was real windy, and still is. I’ve started feeling weighed down by so much focus on the Earth element. Several synchronicities have led me to start going ahead and transitioning to work with the element of Air. I need to develop better control of my thoughts, and working with the Air element can help me clarify my mind.
February 14, 2013 Valentines Day OMPHIAL was a word I dreamed up last night. It was in a chapbook that came with a CD that I bought in a record store. I looked up Omphial on the internet, and then an alternate spelling Omphiel. It led me to a book called “The Worship of the Serpent Traced Throughout the World and Its Traditions” by John Bathurst Deane. According to this book Omphalos, or the stones associated with the navel of the world, especially at Delphi, where Apollo conqured the Python, derives from Omphiel, or “the oracle of the sun.” It makes sense that this would come to me in a dream, as Apollo is one of the deities I’ve been working with.
I’d also dreamed I was being bitten by a coyote on the hand.
February 17, 2013 Eight ofStones: Skill
I meditated on the Eight of Stones today. I thought of all the time it takes to develop a skill in any given art, science or craft. And this had me thinking again of a budget for life. I’m putting time in daily on a number of skills. Exercise every morning, with an addition 3 1/2 hours a week of dedicated exercise between the Roller Derby class and Pilates. I’m putting 40 minutes in daily on magick and meditation at this time, for my basic daily practice not considering time I spend reading about related subjects, or additional time I put in for other rituals or whatnot. While the exercise habit and the daily ritual/meditation practice have been tremendous boons, they’ve also caused me to ease back on my writing to some degree. However, now that I started waking up around 5:15 AM everyday, and have these “foundation stones” in place, it will be beneficial to other habits I want to create down the road. I am dedicating one hour a month to poetry discussion, plus the time it takes to read the poems. And in the past year I’ve written a lot more poetry as a result. Definitely a good thing in my opinion. I hope to dedicate more time daily to writing, and more to doing work around the house, outside of the regular chores.
In my work I also noted an “inner cemetery” whose gates open in the North. When I sat in meditation with this image I opened the gates and held it in my mind as I talked aloud to my ancestors. It felt very good to speak to them this way.
February 19, 2013 Cincinnatus has qualities that are similar to Tubal-Cain. He was a farmer, than a warrior/office holder. After the battle was fought he returned home to be a farmer again. This whole idea gives me the chills, as I think of Tubal-Cain first forging a sword, than thinking of all the grief and sorrow this weapon would cause, and then forging a plowshare. I think of all the vets coming back after war, trying to reintegrate into daily life. A lot of work needs to be done in this area. Odysseus also had similar qualities… leaving his home in Ithaca to fight in Troy, and after battle and years and years at sea, comes home to fend off the suitors, and once again be a keeper and tiller of the Land. It reminds me of a dream I had about four years ago, where a cousin of mine said, “In the future we’ll all be farmers.”
February 22, 2013 As I transition from Earth to Air my focus is improving. I am better able to handle multiple details. Having cut way back on my alcohol consumption, to where I am only allowing myself a few beers or glasses of wine on Saturday nights for the time being, has also quickened this clarity. Not that I’d drink heavily every night, but I was for a number of years having at least two beers every evening and more on festive occasions. I realize I’d written μηδὲν ἄγαν – ‘Nothing in excess’ on the top of my pocket Moleskine a few weeks back. This was inscribed above the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Apollo is one of the deities I’ve been working with…hence, even writing it, seems to have triggered events to lead to its enactment. It also seems to have flowed out of one of the keystone habits I set up as a New Years resolution. Waking up around 5:15 Am with my wife Monday through Thursday. I allow myself to sleep till 7Am on Friday as I get home late after the radio show. Exercising, doing ritual and meditation in the early morning is having a beneficial effect, even as I’m still adjusting to this new routine.
I’m also realizing Air is one of the elements I’ve had a hard time relating to in general. The clarity and calmness I’m feeling on a regular basis now has been humbling. While manic flights of thought seemed to perhaps aid my writing, coming to the page with a sense of calm focus has been less exhausting.
February 28, 2013 Today I meditated on the Ace of Arrows, Aim. My concentration was off. And so I wonder if the correlation is: a concentrated mind has better aim -flitting from place to place in a drifting mind I might not hit the target I’m going for.
“Education in the true sense, of course, is an enablement to serve-both the living human community in its natural household or neighborhood and the precious cultural possessions that the living community inherits or should inherit. To educate is, literally, to ‘bring up,’ to bring young people to a responsible maturity, to help them to be charitable toward fellow creatures. Such an education is obviously pleasant and useful to have; that a sizable number of humans should have it is probably also one of the necessities of human life in this world. And if this education is to be used well, it is obvious that it must be used some where; it must be used where one lives, where one intends to continue to live; it must be brought home.” –Wendell Berry, Higher Education and Home Defense, in Home Economics
Begin from the Hearth Stone
The idea of developing the seven liberal arts within myself has come about in a response to a need to correct imbalances within the development of my intellect and skill set. It has arisen as a keen need to create a greater sense of harmonious proportion within me, and from a desire to develop myself more fully as an individual. In doing so I can play on my strengths and use them to firm up my weaknesses. In a traditional classical education the idea was to create a well-rounded life. Immense personal satisfaction can be enjoyed by bringing forth the abilities that lie dormant within all of us. If doing this is in turn approached from a sense of making yourself more available to give back and be of service to the world, all the better. The planet is in need of individuals and groups of individuals who are engaged with the arts and sciences to help re-enchant the world. Pursuing this goal should not be looked at as a task separate from the rest of life. Often times in our divided world it does feel this way. These splits between work life, home life, hobbies, and other “extra-curricular” activities are part of what needs to be healed. The fine lines humans make between our pursuits do not exist as such in the greater world of nature, but are rather part of an ecological web. Personal development in the seven liberal arts or any other system can be approached first by centering them in the home economy. Home Economics is the foundation stone from which the seven liberal arts will emerge. The home also provides a reason to learn the seven liberal arts in the first place. They can be employed to defend this earth home, and to enrich the experience of life.
To learn the seven liberal arts it has become necessary to make them a part of my household budget.
An Ecological Budget
The thing about making a budget is you work to keep it balanced and out of the red. Just as the planet is a whole system built up out of finite resources, a person exists within a web of relationships, responsibilities, and resources. As humans our bodies are systems of cells and organs. The body lives in the system of a home, itself a made up of multiple people, whether a nuclear or blended and extended family. The family draws on resources and energy inputs from both near and abroad. In the contemporary American setting the majority of households act like leaches, sponging off the planet around them, while outputting little of value. The scales are out of balance. This can be redressed by relearning the traditional skills associated with husbandry and homemaking –or the more romantic appellation, hearthkeeping. We can began to produce things at home for own immediate benefit once again. When the household ecology is strong and bountiful enough we may find we even have a surplus to share, barter or sell within the circle of community. Homes that do so will become nodes of resilience, strong points in the web, patches that have been rebuilt and restored. A regenerative home will be able to help strengthen connections throughout the web of life.
The model of a regenerative household, based on ecological thinking and informed by the principles of permaculture or other systems-based natural philosophies is a microcosm for learning about the larger universe. The front door of a house opens inwards and outwards on the world. A comfortable home invites guests, but also from time to time requires departures, pilgrimages to learn in the greater collegium of the bioregion, country and world. On the return from the voyage the home is replenished by gifts, whether goods from abroad or the enrichment of a soul broadened by exposure to foreign lands and culture.
Yet I can think of no other place as neglected in these times as the home. It can be argued that a culture that embraces the pleasures and politics of place is reemerging, as much from dissatisfaction with the status quo as from the increasing ecological and economic necessity. They remain on the fringe and in the minority. That minority will expand as the pressures of survival in a crumbling American empire build, as jobs in the so-called service industry disappear (what service are fast food restaurants and big box stores doing except creating a populace afraid to use their own minds and hands?). At the same time there are still many people who believe in the myth of American progress and a national dream whose realization has depended on slavery, sweat shops, the exploitation of animals, non-renewable resources, and the desecration of life in general.
I don’t believe in the efficacy of mass movements, of protesting what the corporations and centralized government are doing wrong when we aren’t willing to change ourselves. They have their place as a tool among an engaged citizenship. Protest movements such as the recent Occupy hullaballoo fall flat when the so-called resistors of hegemony continue to embrace a lifestyle predicated on imperial tribute. They can do much better by taking visible steps to commit to the values they espouse. Furthermore a positive self-reliance has long been an American value. It has seen much neglect in our willingness to outsource jobs and tasks once done inside the comforting walls of a home. By reengaging the home economy, people can begin the process detaching our fangs from the bloating corpse of the Earth. Instead of living purely as predators, parasite and competitors, we can shift towards cultivating a personal strength that will then branch outwards to mutualism.
Any meaningful change must begin with ourselves in the place where we find ourselves now. This is why I am distrustful of the upward mobility encouraged by careerist universities and the businesses and corporations they cater to who would shuffle people around the country and across the planet in a way that discourages them from ever putting down roots. Rootlessness destroys the soil and leads to stem rot. When you don’t have a stake in the long term well-being of a plot of land, whether it be a house on a street in a neighborhood of a city, or a farm bounded by hedges, fences, and stone walls in a large watershed, it won’t hurt you personally to see a stand of trees chopped down to make room for another Walmart. It is upsetting to hear so many talented people leave a place to seek out real or imagined opportunities elsewhere. This has been referred to as “the great American brain drain” where the educated classes move from their places of origin to cities where jobs in the information economy exist, for the time being. When a person is unsettled they are more unwilling to make strong connections to people, because it is harder to drift away to the next place when heart strings have formed attachments. By contrast, when a person commits to living in one place for life they develop a sense of protection and identity that fuses with the land. From this they may be called to do work to heal imbalances and damage to the land and to do service work in family and community.
This negligent rootlessness is mirrored in the way people treat marriage and relationships. People, like places, become mere products. If they do not give a suitable return, or if our pleasure in them goes through a difficult phase, they are discarded. Products are replaceable. The unfortunate side effect is that we never develop the enduring love which can be built from working, living and being in a place with the people who are already there.
This is not to denigrate respectful travel and pilgrimage across the Earth, or to belittle the needful development of friendships in fields of interest where those who could learn and share much with each other are distant geographically. Rather it is to approach life and what we pursue in it from a home base, restored both in honor and in function.
…this rant will be continued…
On a related note “the School of Open is launching its first set of courses during Open Education Week, March 11-15, 2013. This means that all facilitated courses will open for sign-up that week, and all stand-alone courses will be ready to take then or anytime thereafter. The School of Open is a community of volunteers developing and running online courses on the meaning and impact of “openness” in the digital age and its benefit to creative endeavors, education, research, and beyond. To be notified when courses launch, sign up for School of Open announcements.”
I just finished listening to Hood by Stephen R. Lawhead today. I feel it was important for me to listen to this first installment of the King Raven trilogy to fully absorb through the ears the bardic transmission it embodies. Lawhead is a true bard, and in this retelling of the classic tale, he peels back through layers of historical accumulation to reveal the mighty power at the heart of the greenwood.
One of the things that I love about Lawhead’s Pendragon Cycle was that he was adept at mixing in tales from the Mabinogion, as told by a bard in the story as often as not, into the larger tale he was telling. It’s a great way to encounter the stories for the first time or again if you are already familiar with them. It is also simply an excellent practice in storytelling, to weave the tale-within-a-tale. Embroidering his novels with these tales of the Otherworld gives the retelling of the stories, whether of Taliesin, Merlin and King Arthur, or Robin Hood added heft.
The main character of Hood, Bran ap Brychan, heir to the throne of Elfael, becomes something of an avatar of Bran the Blessed, swooping down on unsuspecting Norman invaders in his cloak of raven black feathers after he is driven into hiding, taken for dead. The first volume of the series shows his transformation from a king unwilling to take on
the responsibility of ruling his Land, of someone who wants to flee because the invaders are out for his life, into a person who ultimately gives himself over to being of service to the people of the cantref he was heir to. This transformation begins within himself but is brought to fruition through the sometimes gentle, sometimes stern and blunt ministrations of Angharad, an old crone of the forest whom we later learn is the Banfaith of Elfael or True Bard of Britain. It is when she sings to him the story of Bran the Blessed, while he recovers from a serious injury in her cave, that the stirrings in his soul eventually make the lead of his unformed nature into a torc of gold fit to inspire and uphold the people so that they may work together to reclaim their usurped land. And for the person who is open to the power of this book it can exact a change in them as well. Not only do I feel a renewed connection to the wonder and beauty of Welsh lore, but a deepening sense of commitment in connecting to the Land and kindred.
The next book in the trilogy, Scarlet, seems like it will up the ante of long bow guerilla warfare action, and I can’t wait to get into it. There is a lot of good information about archery and the long bow encoded into this book. It speaks to me now on many levels as I’ve been working with the images of the Wildwood Tarot. (The suits of Swords and Wands have been replaced with Bows and Arrows.)
While listening to this book I couldn’t help but recall with fondness a recent post by Gordon about the Folk Saint Dwynwen. She isn’t mentioned in the book, but the story does unfold in a time when as Gordon wrote in his post describing this period in Wales, “stories of elves and sunken cities, pagan pantheism and otherworlds mixed with the pre-hellfire civilising mission of early Christianity like milk into coffee… when Jesus’s mission was still radical and civilising on an individual level, when it slipped into an indigenous cosmology of magic, reincarnation and wandering rune masters.”
Over the course of listening to this while at work for a week and a half, an hour or two here, an hour or two there, I had a dream visitation from an ancient Welsh monk. It got me thinking about the concept of an Ecostery again. Two quotes from the website of The Ecostery Foundation suggest what this form of monastic life might become. “Ecosteries are loved places where ecological values, knowledge and wisdom are learned, practiced and shared. They are sacred, respected and honored dwelling places.” & “The ecostery and land trust are two examples of social organizations worth investments of time, energy and contributions. Both…empower participants in their daily lives…. The ecostery concept derives its origin from monastic forms of land based communities…. Monastic form has possibilities for decentralized, more or less self-sustaining communities, committed to work on bioregional restoration over long periods of time, without demand for profits or centralized power.”
Having read of Welsh monks in the work of Lawhead -as well as in the lovable Brother Cadfael series of whodunnits- I can foresee the development of Ecosteries working to rebuild distraught bioregions -informed by the magic of the Druid Revival, the awakening of Witchblood, and other esoteric knowledge. The work of the Bard is to help quicken us into action, inspire noble deeds, and heal severed connections through the power of story.
First, go to the library and check out 23 books
on 23 different subjects.
Make sure a few of them are about political intrigue,
a couple about the mafia, and a few about the Roman Catholic Church.
Still others are going to be about Nikola Tesla, Wilhelm Reich
or other neglected renegades of science.
Don’t forget the tomes about undercover aliens, the Roswell cover-up,
and the secret Grail bloodline of the Knights Templar.
And it wouldn’t be an exemplar theory of conspiracy
if you didn’t have at least one pedophile priest on the lam as a Freemason.
So much for the basic list of ingredients.
If you’re really determined to become a conspiracy theorist,
(it takes balls of sweaty steel, and more than a quarter ounce bag of determination)
then you’re going to have to find a way to get yourself abducted,
have a chip implanted in your head, or better yet, your prostate.
That’s where they stick the butt plug probe after all.
You’ll know you are being gang stalked when your ass starts to jiggle and twitch.
You absolutely cannot be a conspiracy theorist
without at least one, preferably two dozen minus one,
obsessive compulsive delusions.
Something that will drive you to research declassified documents
files where all the names have been blacked out,
a need as strong as the CIA-Mobs when they drove a bullet into JFK
(it’s not a conspiracy theory unless he is mentioned at least three times).
Assassinations galore, and hostile Central (intelligence) American takeovers
covert operations where Hitler’s inglorious clones hit the street in drag,
will form the bedrock of your paranoid speculation.
These are the bread and butter of any bona fide conspiracy, make no mistake
because the government has a stake in making sure your book never sees print.
That’s why your chronicles of the time-traveling misadventures
of Elvis and Jimmy Hoffa, including the time they pulled the plug on JFK,
making sure to wipe him off their bucket list and the face of the Earth,
have to be published on an obscure blog
with images you got from the random button on 4chan.
But you can’t write using your own computer, not that you have one.
So you hang out in the tech center at the library hoping not leave no trace.
Either way you get the feeling the feds are shoulder surfing,
locking on to you, their main target and threat, for the dastardly deeds you uncovered.
They’ve got keystroke recognition, and your apartment is under 24/7 surveillance.
You’re starting to think the evil landlord is taking a cut,
reporting your every move.
It’s unfortunate but now might be the time
to dump the underage girlfriend. You are sure she is a snitch.
Besides, you didn’t like the results she got on her last pregnancy test.
Leaving the library you go to the diner with a box full of scribbled notes,
hoping you might get a chance to meet Agent X.
No dice. He doesn’t show up, so over two pots of coffee
you ask yourself what JFK would have done in such a situation.
That’s when you have the penultimate realization
that you don’t have Marilyn Monroe’s phone number anyway
and your cell phones been hacked.
After the first cup from the third pot
your rectum starts to twitch. As you squeeze your sphincter
you know the man across the room is tracking your every move.
It’s a GPS thing. They can make you
take a crap on yourself, anywhere, anytime. A ticking fecal time bomb.
Because you’re wired in. One push on the button
and your electrode starts to ditch whatever is in your bowels.
You squeeze again and hope they don’t push that button,
so you do your surreptitiously ignore
the man in black ordering cherry pie to go.
The waitress Claire really wants you to go.
You’ve taken up a four top all through the lunch rush
and you only ate a bagel.
But if you want to be a conspiracy theorist
it’s a no-no to ever leave a decent tip.
Fuck man, don’t the corporations owe you enough?
Just focus on cutting up miscellaneous passages from your notes.
Shuffle them around in your Rastafarian hat.
For a honkey with dreadlocks it doesn’t look bad on you.
Claire must be on the “inside”. Why else would she be glaring at you like that?
Or maybe she has the hots for you and wants to take you home, get into your pants.
Reassembling the text you have found impossible connections.
And now that your spider senses are tingling
you know it won’t be long before the reptilians unveil themselves
with their decrepit hunger for fermented milk and domestic cats.
They are at the top of the Pyramid of Power.
No, your brains are not old and scrambled.
Yes, you would like another refill.
You’ve still got an hour to kill
before you can catch the bus to Joe’s to score some weed.
As a former student of Antioch, and as an initiate into the mysteries of Thelema, I had always been struck by the name of Antioch’s first president, Horace Mann, as if it were prescient about the influx of energies represented by the Thelemic concept of the Aeon of Horus. The names Horus and Horace have the same phonetic sound, a rather flimsy board to build a proposition on, and yet to me it seemed like a clue to a deeper relationship.
In Egyptian mythology Horus is the Child God and in the religious philosophy of Thelema the Aeon of Horus is seen to be a time when humanity will reach a stage of self-actualization. Self-actualization depends on self-realization, or the inner understanding of an authentic self, to a large degree. A well designed education enables a person to draw out this authentic self, and can perhaps even assist an individual to discover their True Will. It’s about growing up to our true potential.
The Aeon of Horus represents that time when humanity begins the process of growing up, en masse. Awakening human potential is the task of all great teachers. Aleister Crowley’s dream, despite what else one might think of his personality, was to see humanity embrace the potential each of us had when born as a child. Horace Mann shared a similar dream and his life as a teacher was dedicated to the cause of education reform. It was his hope to bring children of all social classes together in the classroom. Through his work in establishing the Common School movement, he helped America build one of the finest public school systems in the world. In 1838 he founded The Common School Journal in which he critiqued the than extant public schools and the issues they had. To bring about the reforms he had in mind Horace laid out six main principles to guide schools, teachers and public opinion in this regard. He argued, “(1) the public should no longer remain ignorant; (2) that such education should be paid for, controlled, and sustained by an interested public; (3) that this education will be best provided in schools that embrace children from a variety of backgrounds; (4) that this education must be non-sectarian; (5) that this education must be taught by the spirit, methods, and discipline of a free society; and (6) that education should be provided by well-trained, professional teachers.” Mann also worked for more numerous and better equipped school houses, longer years of schooling (until 16 years old), a higher pay for teachers, and a wider curriculum.
If a person looks at the process of education as a practice of gardening, with human potential as the cultivar, I wonder what Horace Mann would think of the beds he planted in their current state? The school system he helped put into place is now overgrown and in shambles, sprouting only the occasional flower. Higher education is in a situation just as bad, merely providing training for jobs that no longer exist, or that will cease to exist in the process of energy descent. With few exceptions, neither public schools or college and university are doing the work of helping people learn how to think. Meanwhile practical training in trades that will serve humanity down the long slope of empire fall and industrial decline have been scrapped in favor of courses whose abstract ruminations will do nothing to feed a cold and starving humanity. Furthermore the discontinuation of teaching Home Economics, either at school, or at home where it begins by example, is going to leave a lot of folks scrambling, as piece by piece, disaster by disaster, the empire crumbles. And isn’t rebuilt.
In this environment self-directed education is a practical alternative. Where viable, the path of solitary learning can be augmented with one-on-one student/teacher and mentoring relationships (where some of the best learning takes place in both student and teacher), weekend workshops, correspondence courses, study groups, and when necessary single courses at existing schools. But why do any of this? In a world that has conjured up a unique shit storm of endemic crises, it remains much easier to numb oneself with the multiple diversions available, whether of the drug addled chemical variety, or non-stop commercial infotainment (but for how long?). Eventually the program will be over and as the buzz begins to wear off America is going to find itself with a massive hangover, the many signs of which have already appeared. We should have switched to water a couple of drinks back to save us from half a day of agony. There will still be painful situations to confront no matter what we do. The choice we have now is whether or not to face them with a clear head and with an armful of skills to stand us in good stead when a crisis erupts, as it will, or to keep on staring down the barrel of a gun, all the while pretending it is not loaded.
We should work not only to awaken our human potential and learn skills that will serve us and our our own satisfaction when executed, but will be of service to our fellows and to the planet. As the American empire continues to fall, and as industrial culture worldwide goes down the jagged steps of decline, many of our present achievements are in danger of being lost. In order to take the best of what American and industrial culture in general, has done that is of positive value, forward into future generations requires individuals to take up the responsibility of becoming conscious vessels of memory and bearers of culture. At a time when generational thinking has been shunned in favor of instant gratification it will be necessary to shed the short sighted behaviors which have made a long term mess for the planet and its future inhabitants. This sense of accountability can be roused when we become aware of the spiritual aspects of our selves, and of the multidimensional ecology our world is a part of.
The Downside of the Age of the Child
In his Baccalaureate Address of 1857 Horace Mann wrote, “Every man has an animal nature, a lower tier of endowments, adapted to subordinate uses and gratifications. But all gratifications of this class are limited in their extent and short in their duration, and the universal law by which they are governed is that over-indulgence produces under-enjoyment. As we rise to the second order of faculties –the intellectual- the circuit or amplitude of gratifications is enlarged, their duration is prolonged, and the exquisiteness of enjoyment is enhanced. But it is only when a man becomes conscious of his divine capabilities; it is only when his moral and religious nature awakens or is awakened into activity that the area of his delights expands into boundlessness, that those delights become coextensive with eternity and brim to overflowing his ever-increasing capacities of rapture and ecstasy.”
Horace Mann’s three orders of natural endowment have a rough parallel in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Mann’s first tier corresponds to the first two levels on Maslow’s pyramid, the physiological needs for food, sex, sleep and excretion as well as the safety of body, health, property, the family, and employment. Because of the hyper affluence of industrial societies, the pervasive influences of media and advertising, and the ready availability for most of physiological and safety needs, we have come to be ruled by exacerbated passions. This plays out as over indulgence in food, drink, sex and entertainment; the last item mentioned so much so that many adults no longer have time to devote to hobbies, community service, personal development and continuing education, the second order of faculties represented by intellectual development or mastery of a trade. In Maslow’s hierarchy I would find parallels here with the need for love and belonging and the need for esteem. When so much of a life is devoted to gratification and passive consumption the activities which strengthen relationships and maintain community fall apart, especially in cases of extreme addiction. And while it is not popular to say so, many of the behaviors of an industrial society, both individual and collective can be characterized as addictions [See David Holmgren, Permaculture Principle#4: Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback]. Devotion to continual education, refinement of skill in the sciences and arts, whether on an amateur or professional level, outside of what is necessary to hold on to a bill paying job falls by the wayside. Confidence wanes and dissipates. The higher faculties of man may never be developed. The pyramid has stopped being built because the base needs are satisfied, albeit in a dysfunctional holding pattern. It is like vast swathes of my generation stopped growing at a teenage level that has since extended into their twenties, thirties and beyond.
What makes it all worse is the fact that these behaviors and addictions, when driven to the abnormal extremes made possible by the unprecedented access of energy characterized by this age of oil, have caused systemic pollution and perversion of the natural order. We need to relearn the words of Apollo, pan mestron aristron, or everything in moderation. For some of our vices moderation may not be enough, and quitting cold turkey is a better alternative. These are first steps towards a recovery marked by collective soul loss.
Life experiences in this culture do take their toll. Set-backs, delays, and frustrations, if not walked past with determination and fortitude, may often leave a person feeling fragile and disheartened. When immense challenges are posed it may seem easier to back down into the self we have become comfortable with in fear of having those comforts stripped away. As energy descent unfolds many of our comforts will be stripped away. Resilence begins with the self. One way of becoming resilient, and of rebuilding self-confidence, of restoring soul, is to develop a system of self-education and practical work training, so we will be able to preserve those elements of culture we wish to see live on into the future.
In the collection of essays, speeches and papers that make up the book Horace Mann at Antioch there was an article by Arthur Morgan, a later president of the school, entitled, “A Budget for Your Life”. In it Arthur gives an outline for continued education beyond college, looking to create a budget for a well-rounded life in the same way a household operates from a financial budget. To Arthur Morgan this included, “physical health; training for work; actual experience in work; a trained appreciation of social, religious, economic, and esthetic values; a sense of proportion; a well-grounded knowledge of history, literature, philosophy and science; and finally a life purpose.” He then goes on to detail in each one of these sections how further education and engagement with these areas can be incorporated into the daily living of an individual.
My interest is not only in developing a well rounded life –and using my own personal path as an example of my own attempt to do so- but to think about how people might approach the acquisition of knowledge in a world with scarce resources. And while I have no doubt that centers of higher education will continue to exist in some form, at present they come with a hefty price tag and bill attached. The cost of college stops many young people from ever considering buying a home, as the debt incurred is often heftier than a small mortgage, let alone being able to pay off a mortgage and own a home outright. During the long emergency, as the existing social order collapses, other strategies for education must be pursued. The existing education system is already broke. However, within it there has been some good, and those scraps can be used to kindle the fires of future learning. In further posts I will be looking at how education begins in the home, as well as the trivium and quadrivium of the classical seven liberal arts, and the categories mentioned by Arthur Morgan in developing a budget for life.