Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The Abbey must be built

The Abbey of Thelema remains an inspiration, regardless of whether you are a card carrying member of the Crowley cult. Cefalu has by all accounts sprawled and dwarfed the Abbey which continues to fall into decay. 2012 seems an appropriate time to reassess, and once more attempts are being made to save the Abbey before it is too late.

Peter Grey will be speaking at an event entitled: ALEISTER CROWLEY: THE PROPHET OF THE NEW AEON on Monday April 9 in support of this with a new piece entitled The Abbey must be built and giving a reading of Book III of Liber Al Vel Legis.

Pleased to be sharing the stage with Michael Staley, Mogg Morgan, Caroline Wise, Paul Feazey and Anno Apostolidou of Entelechy and Katerina Kerasoti-Kay in what promises to be a significant event.

Part I
11:00 Welcome

11:10 am - 11:35 am
The "Save the Abbey of Thelema" project by Anna Apostolidou, chairperson of the c.n.p.o. "Entelechy"

11:40 am - 12:05 pm
"Law, Truth & Desire: Crowley, Badiou & Lacan" by Katerina Kerasoti-Kay, D.Phil.

12:05 pm - 12:25 pm
Reading Liber Al, Chapter I by Caroline Wise

12:25 pm - 13:30 pm

Part II
13:30 pm - 13:50 pm
"The Abbey must be built" by Peter Grey, owner of Scarlet Imprint Publications

13:50 pm - 14:10 pm
Reading Liber Al, Chapter II
by Paul Feazey

14:10 pm - 14:30 pm
"The Cult of Nuit: the star goddess of ancient Egypt, mother of Seth and all the gods." by Mogg Morgan, owner of Mandrake of Oxford Publishing

14:30 pm - 14:40 pm
"Thelemic Geographica"
by Anna Apostolidou

14:40 pm - 15:00 pm

Part III
15:00 pm - 15:20 pm
"Aleister Crowley: Prophet of a New Aeon, priest of Ancient Gods" by Paul Feazey, owner & editor of LAShTAL.COM

15:20 pm - 15:40 pm
Reading Liber Al, Chapter III by Peter Grey

15:40 pm - 16:10 pm
"Flashings of the Fire: Transmission of a Magical Current" by Michael Staley, Head of Ordo Typhonis (The Typhonian Order), and Founder of Starfire Publishing

16:10 pm - 16:30 pm

Event hosted at treadwells.

Full details can be found on the event website here: http://www.wix.com/aleistercrowley/acevent#!the-event

Sunday, 12 February 2012

The Mirror of Sacrifice

Alkistis Dimech's talk, The Mirror of Sacrifice from our 2011 Summer of Love event.
This extensive talk deals with butoh, possession work, dance, the witches' sabbath, mirror neurons and a mass of other material.

Here Alkistis Dimech articulates the occult anatomy of the dancer, exploring the mysteries of concealment and revelation through the body. Physical praxis, cross-tradition research and an appetite for the carnal, trangressive and irrational have led her to reorient the body as the primal present and archaic source of knowing. In  'The Mirror of Sacrifice' the dancer encounters self as sacrifice, the act as divine epiphany, and the manifestation of Life in Death. Among the themes covered may be: imitation and doubling; witnessing & the dynamic of an audience; and a disclosure of some techniques to create what she calls 'the lucid body'.

The talk was accompanied by an evening performance, which was intentionally not filmed.

Further stills from the performance can be seen on our flickr pages here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/babalon

Alkistis Dimech has essays exploring some of these themes in both Devoted and XVI with further work in progress.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Question 13 - The Future of Paganism

Witchcraft is bound to ecology. Without this connection any talk of the craft is meaningless.
But can we find living examples of these ideals in paganism and witchcraft?

Paganism and witchcraft should be seething with green fire in the face of the ecological collapse, the extinction crisis and rape of the remaining resources. This is something we have been explicit about, see our previous interview with the Eyeless Owl.

We need to embrace a Deep Paganism, a Deep Witchcraft in the same way that we need to embrace a Deep Ecology

This is something that we need to be united about, regardless of the other petty struggles that can dominate the Craft. It does not matter a damn who owns the real estate of what is or isn't traditional, or who initiated who, or what survived, if the planet itself is dead. We are in an ecological end game and it is time to take sides on this greater issue. 

Witchcraft needs to rediscover its radical heritage and with urgency. 

Our friend Nemeton was invited to talk about the future of the modern pagan movement in respected journal The Cauldron in an extensive interview for the February 2012 edition. 

He covers the sexual revolution, radical thinkers and writers, Babalon, anarchism and ecology. It makes for a provocative and inspiring read, with enough jumping off points to create a social and ecological witchcraft reading list. As a veteran with over forty years experience, his is a critical perspective. 

He chose to write to us to voice his concerns at the way in which the piece had been edited, or more particularly Question 13, the crux of the matter. 

Of course we expect any piece to be edited for publication, after all that is our own profession. We also know that there is always going to be some creative tension between copy editor and writer.

What Nemeton was concerned about as he discussed the future of paganism was in particular that The Cauldron removed all four  mentions of XVI and both quotes from us (Peter Grey and Alkistis Dimech).

It could simply be a coincidence that we were excised from the pages. 
Yet, no other sections were cut. 

We have highlighted the redacted text in RED to correctly reflect the views of the writer.  

To us they seem integral to the argument, we present them so that you can make your own decision. 

Though the writer has been assured that the uncensored version will eventually make its way online, we wanted to put the record straight ourselves right here, right now and in doing so raise once more these issues of the future of Witchcraft and the earth itself.

Question 13

Finally, how do you see the modern pagan movement developing in [the] future?

Before I write about the future of paganism let me consider how it came down to us through the ages.
Professor Hutton has done us a great service exposing, if not particular individuals or charlatans, the spurious claims to craft continuity in some quarters.

I am enough of a romantic to hold open the possibility of some family strands of craft tradition surviving, realising that Historians, limited by the written record could still, just as we archaeologists with our potsherds must as Sir Mortimer Wheeler wrote, 'sometimes discover the tub, yet miss Diogenes'. So much life, especially perforce secret life, must escape our methodologies.
Personally, I really like Prudence James’ views as expressed by Hutton in his acknowledgments to her in The Pagan Religions of the AncientBritish Isles. Jones talks of the re-establishment of concepts and values which had existed in the Ancient World and had survived vestigially in a form which is appropriate for the present day. Principally, a female aspect of Divinity, the Sacrality of Nature and the passing of the Seasons. She further points out that this continuity of experience in folk custom, though often coloured by Christianity, was just as important as any conscious re-creation.
Hutton accepts this as an alternative definition, which permits those of us who see it that way the 'freedom to dream.'

As to the revival, I shall repeat here part of what I wrote in a letter to the anthropologist Dr Helen Cornish in February 2006.

My view of Gardner … is that he took all the pagan elements which he found in folk custom, in myths, even material from the Graeco-Roman Mystery cults, and High Magical sources such as the Key of Solomon, Freemasonry and A. Crowley, and put these things together under the controversial label of Witchcraft. Gardner’s role, aided by Doreen Valiente, was to bring a Pagan religion once more into public consciousness, and to give it some form and method. Of course he exaggerated the extent of the inherited material, (the New Forest coven), some of which in any case probably only dated back a few generations. Yet without G. Leyland, M. Murray, G. Gardner and D. Valiente would we see this great resurgence of Paganism? Perhaps not; though if my theory of spontaneous blossoming (of Earth Religions) is true, then others would have arose to initiate a revival.

So then, for all their personal or scholarly flaws, they pioneered the revival, and for this we should be most grateful.

I was moving towards the practice of paganism through the 60s within the exciting mélange of radical and anti-establishment ideas and philosophies which [permeated?] Britain at that time, though my full commitment was only made at Samhain 1970.

The sexual revolution, the revival of the anarchist theories of Prince Kropotkin, of Proudhon, the CND and peace movement with which I was involved. What a mix of people we were. Even some Catholic clergy marched through the streets with us. A Dominican monk, Simon Blake, Fr. Bruce Kent and the ex Archbishop of Bombay called Roberts, a Jesuit.
There were the pioneering ecological ideas of Henry David Thoreau which resurfaced, we read the great American naturalist Aldo Leopold and our own Rachel Carson.

Many of us read the works of the Neo Marxist Herbert Marcuse and the more Dionysian Norman O. Brown. The Buddhist inspired Gary Snyder’s writings were valued as were those of Alan Watts and Theodore Roszak.

Even the revival of folk clubs for traditional folk music and song with their pagan undertones all played their part in directing my mind and emotions. And as we came into the 70s I became ever more aware of the women’s, though especially the goddess, movement, which infiltrated the somewhat conservative Wicca I was studying. All this enriched my own understanding, and brought a greater depth and relevance to paganism and the craft.

So, where are we now, as we move forward in this 21stcentury?

Capitalism and market forces always find ways of infiltrating radical movements and corrupting them, and that courageous woman Monica Sjöö revealed to us how much the New Age movement has done exactly that; so that would-be witches feel thay cannot work without the expensive tools that come from very commercialised sources.

Of course, it is only right that true genuine handcrafted work should cost a fair rate, so that real craftsmanship will survive. That is, work such as that of Bell Bucca and Steve Patterson.
But it is not only the cost of factory made equipment which bothers me, it is the easy acceptance of a materialistic way of life, and the bland acceptance of the status quo which it implies.

Paganism and especially the Craft should be like ecology, a subversive force. Subversive of our exploitative societies which detract from our spirituality and is destroying natural world.

The future of Paganism?

Firstly, we need to understand that there are different Paganisms and for me the important distinction is not whether we are traditional, Wicca, Druidic or Northern etc but whether we are into what Michael York describes in The Pomegranate vol 6.1 as deep or natural paganism, or what he describes as nominal or blind Paganism in which he is happy to include Humanists and Atheists.

Deep paganism he describes as:

Humanity’s spontaneous response to Nature, the world around us and our unaffected sense of the animistic or numinous.”

He adds that,

“this primordial paganism is atavistic and as such I am calling it root religion, the root of religion, the root of all religions.”

I think it must be clear from the forgoing that I must see myself within the deep or natural form of Paganism. That form of Paganism which as Michael York says:

reaches into the earth to draw its fundamental nourishment … interconnecting with the natural and sensuous world.

Now, in recent years, through books like Harry Potter and TV shows like ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’, many children and young people have been attracted into Witchcraft, and the PaganFederation have had greatly increased enquiries. Am I wrong in thinking that there is now even more recently a falling off in youthful enthusiasm?
This shows perhaps that such popular crazes rarely seem to stand the test of time.
To be sure, there are young people who were swept up in this magical re-awakening who have gone on to deepen their interest and knowledge, and who will go on to form our priesthood of the future. It warms my heart to know that we have them with us, in an increasingly secularised Europe.
My hope is that most of these as deep Pagans will use their faith and magical workings and lifestyle to heal our Mother Earth from the terrible abuse we are still inflicting upon her body.

We have to decide what kind of world we wish to live in:
Will technology be our servant or our master?
Are we commited to the beauty an dintegrity of the whole biotic enterprise?
Do our lifestyles and our spiritual and political activitiesreflect this commitment, and how best is all this achieved?
Some of my guides in recent years have been some of the brave and far-seeing women such as Nawak El Saadawi of Egypt, Vandana Shiva and Arundhati Roy, both of India. Edward Goldsmith’s magnum opus ‘The Way’ is possibly the most challenging work which tackles the problems of industrial and technological “progress”, and endorses chthonic Religion.

Our lifestyle, which we have exported round the world, is decimating myriad of Earth’s species. Try our Prof. John Spicer’s new book, Biodiversity, to see how serious it all is. The truth of world politics is detailed by Noam Chomsky, devastating stuff!

And what then of magic and paganism?

Well, in the practical magical sphere, Starhawk continues to inspire groups of activists, currently occupying Washington, where her experience of raising power in groups is used to great effect.
Here, in the South West, we now have ‘Pagan Pride.’ We are fortunate in having some very long-standing journals like The Cauldron, Pagan Dawn and our local Meyn Mamvro. In more recent years with the demise of Talking Stick, we have academic publications like Pomegranate and JSM Journal for the Study of Magic. I only wish I could afford their subscriptions!

The most radical pagan writings I have come across recently are in a volume called XVI from Scarlet Imprint, eds. P. Grey and A. Dimech. Some of theis stuff may indeed be too radical and on the edge for many; I find that it speaks to my deep soul and stimulates my instinctive radicalism. I’m so pleased to find for once someone has a good word to say for Jules  Michelet’s intuitive writing on the Craft. Michelet could feel what it was like to live in the Middle Ages, when you were poor.

So I suppose if I am to attempt to look into the future for Paganism and especially the Craft, I would hope yes that our numbers would continue to grow, but more importantly, that enough deep pagans will achieve what is called ‘critical mass’ and thereby act as a healing organism together with all genuine folk of other faiths or none but who love and care for Gaia. From a university source I’ve heard rumour of a forthcoming volume called ‘Soldiers of  Gaia,’ which sounds active enough perhaps, like the ‘Earth First’ movement, but make no mistake the task we face is huge. As Alkistis Dimech in XVI reminds us,

“The witch has always been on the threshold, in the liminal spaces, at twilight. And this is where precisely we find ourselves now, driven into the margins of life. The collapse of the oil economy [and I must now add, the whole economy], the poisoning of the waters and the catastrophic pillaging of the world’s remaining resources are plunging our present civilisation into meltdown … Recognising that we are all in this together, our arms linked in the great dance, because we face a common fate and a common adversary.”

Sex too has always been part of the Revolution, and so although we have the ordinary love of female and male which is a wonderful and noble thing, we also have the sacred whore of REVELATIONS, Babalon as P Grey in XVI says of her “the oracular spectacular Goddess of love and sex come to engulph the world, not a black or a white Goddess but a red Goddess,” and as Jack parsons wrote in ‘Freedom is a Two-Edged Sword’ (Parsons the outcast Pagan featured in XVI)

“She will come as a perilous flame … a voice in the judgment halls … She will come girt with the sword of freedom, and before her kings and priests will tremble and cities and empires will fall, and she will be called BABALON, the Scarlet Woman, for she will be lustful and proud; she will be subtle and deadly, she will be forthright and invincible as a naked blade. And women will respond to her war cry and throw off their shackles and chains, and men will respond to her challenge, forsaking the foolish ways…” (From The Woman Girt with a Sword.)

The plight of women throughout the world is like the plight of the Earth which longs for wholeness and freedom. We know from antiquity of the lusty Horned God PAN, the love of Sappho for her women, the worship of Ganymede by the God Zeus. Yet, all the varied sacred sexualities in our times so often seem reduced to commercialised violent vicious and degrading pornography.
What a demise of Pagan Gods and people. What a loss of sacred sexuality, sensuality and magic. Where is the respect, the compassion, the generosity of spirit, which lifts eroticism into a divine experience?
This commercialised degradation of sex reduces its potential to do its revolutionary work to redeem the world. And so as we look to the future let this heretic Jack Parsons take us to our roots.

“ We are the witchcraft. We are the oldest organisation in the world. When man was first born, we were. We sang the first cradle song. We healed the first wound, we comforted the first terror. We were the Guardians against the darkness, the helpers on the left hand side.”

And as our good Damh the Bard sings, “These are the things that I believe!”

Jo O’Cleirigh
Sometimes Magister of Cuilna Sidhe

Kernow Nov 2011

We were pleased to meet with Nemeton when we spoke for the Pagan Federation South West Conference and found that we shared many ideas and reference points, including a shared delight in Jules Michelet and Jack Parsons. His enthusiasm was greatly appreciated, as has been the friendship and support of those in Initiated Wicca, Traditional Craft, Hedgewitches, Druids, solitaries et al to us over the years. We hope that this generation will birth a new and revolutionary spirit, that still burns in the hearts of people like Jo. 

As radicals we expect opposition from the 'establishment', and take it as a sign that we going in the right direction. But our fight is not with them. What we desire above all is that we put aside our differences and look for what we share as a community. The earth and everything on her is not simply dying, but being murdered. The fight back must start here, with Witchcraft.
We have precious little time.