Thursday, April 29, 2010

The mythology of Taurus (II): The Hierophant

(Aries here and here ). The Bull had its first installment here This letter speaks of doctrines and educationIt can indicates orthodoxy, comformity to established ideas and codes of social behavior: "The Emperor" of Aries symbolizes the rules and institutions that enforce them, "The Hierophant" reflects our sense of obedience.

Taurus does not want complications in his life of leisure. They conform to a group, they adapt to the system and are committed to its causes. Far from imposing its dominance as the rams the Bulls are more subtle: they put in others a sense of obedience. That makes the "Hierophant" perfect to represent the Taurus. But who is this guy?

The Hierophant

"Hierophant" was the priest of the mysteries of the Eleusis, in ancient GreeceCalling it "the" Eleusis is an unfortunate legacy of poets like those who speak of "the" America: Eleusis is a Greek city.

The data we know: the ritual in Eleusis began around 1600 BC (the year it's not a sure thing at all, but having so little data it would be a shame to remove it) in honor of the goddesses Demeter and Persephone; each year were held the Lesser Mysteries and every five years the Greater Mysteries and there was a basket and a sacred chest. To enter the brotherhood it was enough not have been convicted of murder and "not be a barbarian", ie to speak Greek fluently.

Period and that’s it, anything else is speculation. Nothing, absolutely nothing was written about the mysteries of Eleusis by original participants or sources. Comments of Plato and other philosophers allow thinking the mysteries were about linking the man with the gods but that’s guessing.

That has been enough for "researchers" review "real" mysteries of Eleusis, invoking a scroll that only they have and have linked to the Gnostics. The truth is that the knowledge compiled in Eleusis, effective or not, is lost forever. With the rise of Christianity the mysteries gradually lost importance until Emperor Theodosius I declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire and the Eleusis temples were razed in 396 AD Until this day nobody has proven that neither the Gnostics, or the Copts, or Arians, or the Cathars, or anyone retained this knowledge but "Brotherhoods" are invoked now and then, which apparently have occasional hard times which force them to publish their secret books to raise funds.

The Pontifex Maximus and the episode of Canossa

The title of Pontifex Maximus is not Christian nor Catholic: Pontíficex Maximus was the head of the Roman religion. Julius Caesar himself occupied the office when he designed the basis of our present calendar. Then the emperor took the title for himself; today is not clear whether the first pope who used the title was Damasus I (336-384) or Leo I (440-461). Anyway, for nearly four centuries the popes were not pontifex.

When the seat of empire was moved from Rome to Byzantium the pope was left without protection and Leo III called for help which he got but brought a very complicated problem: was the Emperor, representing the civil authority, subject to the pope, representative of God? The problem remained unsolved for centuries creating a crisis which finally bursted out at Canossa. The story is convoluted, but since is the turning point in the relations between the papacy and the empire (with its interesting metaphor of the Aries-Taurus relationship) I will try to summarize it.

Pope Gregory VII was one of the great reformers of the church, he confronted shames as the vacant sees (abbeys that were given to nobles who didn’t pay one visit but had all the privileges of the nobility) or priests living with their mistresses. And he decided to get back the appointment of bishops for the papacy.

At that time the Holy Roman Emperor virtually appointed all bishops and even the pope, but taking advantage from the fact that Henry IV was still a child, church officials announced "in the Name of God" that the pope would be elected onwards by the cardinals, a practice that is dogma now but is not foundational of the church.

In that context, when pope try to take one further step and sought to recover the appointment of bishops, the Emperor Henry, who though young was no longer a child, said he didn’t recognize the authority of the pope and was excommunicated. Big mistake. Huge: Henry lacked experience and above all, his nobles had desires to know how that of being emperor felt, so they seize the ocassion and rebelled against the emperor Henry, backed by the bishops. Uh-oh, said Henry, who had to ask an audience with the pope.

Gregory chose not to have the audience in Rome, out of fear that Henry will take his army to the city, so Matilda of Tuscany lent Gregory her fortress of Canossa. There they met in January 1077.

As the great books of demonology had not begun to be written, nobody had told the pope that pride and rejoice in humilliation is a deadly sin. Gregory forced Henry to stay three days before the gates of the fortress, wearing only a shirt, kneeling in the snow, on bread and water for fasting to give him Christian penance. Then he accepted the Emperor back into the church.

But the rebel german nobles would not lose their chance and continued in arms. When the rebels chose a king to replace Henry and civil war broke out Gregory remained neutral for years, hoping that both sides would weaken each other and thus strengthening the position of the papacy. As a result of that move he lost the trust of both parties made a fatal error and allied with the rebels after an important victory.

It turned out that Henry lost the next battle from a strategic point of view ... but the head of the rebels died. Gregory, anticipating a serious problem, made his third mistake in line upon which he would have time to reflect in prayer: he rushed to excommunicate Henry again, neglecting to see that he was no longer a boy but a general.

For Germans, this excommunication was pointless except within the secular agenda of the Pope, who was acting as a hostile power. So the people surrounded Henry who took up arms, settled scores with Matilda of Tuscany and besieged Rome, where he tried to impose another pope.

Gregory witnessed the looting of the city until he was rescued and was taken to Salerno where he died the following year, reflecting on the holy virtue of prudence. Henry faced another civil war nearly 15 years later and was forced to abdicate, accusing him of appointing an antipope. Yet even today is considered a hero by his people as the figure who held the national dignity.

I'm not saying that Henry was a native of Aries and Gregorio of Taurus, but from an archetypal point of view, Henry was synchronized with the strengths of the Aries "Emperor" while Gregorio lost sight of the Taurus "Hierophant": if Gregory had not been so volatile in their decisions, had not tried to play the game of power without an army, had proclaimed a clear opinion and had not counted on the weakness of a young king whom he had humbled, things had been different. As arcane also illustrates what happens when bulls commited themselves to a cause, in this case the Investiture Controversy, in which Gregory probably had the reason, but he allowed that reason to blind him.

The archetype.

Anthony Hopkins as James Stevens in "The Remains of the Day"on novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. This steward represents the essence of an England that disappears quickly. His strength and his tragedy is that everything (including his feelings, which remains tightly repressed) should be made according to the rules of that national tradition which was disappearing before the eyes of everybody.

Alec Guinness as Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: A New Hope. This character experiences a curious metamorphosis over the entire series. In the first installment though presented as a "Hermit", its role and its meaning is to initiate the formation of Luke in the ways of the Force and jedism is ultimately a religion.

Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen in The Godfather. The Corleone family consigliere is usually the one trying to stop wars (especially those who crave the brutal Sonny, the eldest son of Don Vito) remembering that this is business and the rules of the mafia.

Gary Sinise as Mac Taylor in CSI: New York. Rare is the chapter where you don’t hear him trying to stop the impulses of one of his subordinates to achieve results at all costs: only following the book, slowly but surely

Monday, April 26, 2010

A course in magic rituals: prepare your body

Before we begin let’s remember: tarot is not a magical activity (lesson 1). As much as some readers pretend to wear a supernatural aura, tarot is a discipline with methods that require study and therefore is available to everybody. Some people, indeed, have an extraordinary ability to read the cards without having studied them formally or informally but that is a hyper developed intuition which for some reason, unknown as is the case in most intuitions, is triggered by a deck. It is a special gift, but not magic.

Curiously, those who having that gift use it unscrupulously begin to lose it. I would like to say that is a divine punishment for acting improperly, but the truth is more prosaic: intuition requires concentration. When the magician diverts his energies to the farce, intuition doesn’t have enough fuel. If they do this long enough they’ll lose contact with their gift as the brain adapt to new requirements, such as making money and pose as the reincarnation of Merlin.

Magic is a discipline like a sporting event, is the celebration of human capacities, the most extreme ones, the least used, but available to everybody since the main instrument is the body and everybody has one. And just like a tennis player can get a boost from hi-tech shoes, racket and even steroids if he wants to cheat, that will only give advantage over a similar opponent: if that opponent is an Olympic champion and the owner of the NASA racket is a weekend player then hi-tech is not a safe bet at all. So it doesn’t matter if you buy expensive oils by catalog, bring your candles from the Basilica of Lourdes and buy the robe wear by the hierophant of the Orphic mysteries three thousand years ago; if you don’t treat your body properly and prepare yourself for a major effort, which can lead you to exhaustion, I strongly advise you not to waste time or money in rituals.

To produce energy we need to be in the right physical condition. I don’t mean you have to join a gym (although in extreme cases it might be necessary) but watch your diet before and during the ritual.

There’s no special scheme, all religions have been concerned about the food. Personally I have always wondered, why the same God who gives us the recipes needed to reach a happy eternal life also created animals which he put out out reach afterwards in spite being delicious meat rich in protein? It would be a lame and mean joke. Behind alimentary approvals and taboos there are historical and public health considerations (rather than divine, which enhance them in my eyes, because they give meaning to the prohibition different from to see if we can resist temptation) and a fundamental message: "Eat healthy."

It is advisable to start preparing yourself a week before the ritual. No junk food, no alcohol and reduce the consumption of red meat without removing it completely form your diet (unless you are vegetarian), eating natural fruits and waive any drug unless it is included in a medical treatment: only if the pain prevents you from acting prefer these days tolerate a headache or use naturist substitutes instead of taking an aspirin. I'm not encouraging you to abandon modern medicine nor am I implying that there is something wrong with synthetic medicines, I’m simply saying the fewer foreign substances in your body the better. Now, psychotropic substances, synthetic or natural, must be banished these days unless there are medical or religious reasons and you are not using them as recreational substances. If you want to dodge this point invoking precedents like the Sibyl of Delphi and the priestesses of Kali be my guest but I kindly suggest you go to have these learned discussions elsewhere, with an opium pipe if you want to honor the shaolin deities, but you shouldn’t engage in a ritual.

During the twelve hours before the ritual do not eat refined sugar or refined flour; prefer whole wheat bread and honey. Do not smoke. Do not have sexual activity, including masturbation. A clarification is necessary here: this is not a moral prohibition and I am not implying that sex is bad in any way or that masturbation is sinful. Sex just release a major amount of physical energy you will need, so if you can refrain from sexual activity throughout the whole previous week, the better.

Your ritual begins with the bath the night before (or at dawn, unless otherwise specified) At that very moment your body, with all that it contains, becomes the instrument of your work. This bath is not a soap and water one; if you need a bath like that take it before. You will need some salts and herbs but sea salt suffice if you don’t have anything else. If possible use a tub where you can dip, if you do not have one do your preparations in a container that can be easily pulled over your head to pour the water.

If using a tub: as unpleasant as it seems, prefer cold water. Pour the sea salt into the tub and put the herbs and salts in thin cloth bags as an infusion (a bag for salts, another for herbs) and put them in hot water not boiling. When the vapors are released, pour the still hot water in the bathtub. If standing in the absence of a tub, you pour the contents of the container where you put the salts and herbs over yourself. While doing this think all the time about the objective you want to achieve with the work you’re starting.

Does the bath have some mystical power? Is the spirit of the sirens living in the sea salt? Well ... no. But is not less useful for that. The bath, the candles and oil and the whole preparations will notify your body, mind and brain that the next days there will be some minutes radically different from usual and they’re exempt from ordinary logic. It’s not enough that you believe it: you need to do things. In fact, it is easier to get results from the ritual by performing small acts with discipline even if you have doubts (there’s a difference between having doubts and being incredulous; if you’re are in the second type and are doing this to demonstrate it doesn’t work spare your time and money: it won’t, I’ll concede the point) than if you believe blindly but only do meditation, for as though your mind produce energy, and I use the term knowing it is inaccurate for lack of a better one, it needs the body to conduct it.
In the next post we will discuss general accessories, if the series keeps interest. Then we’ll discuss time of day or times of the month or year more appropriate. And then we’ll be ready for some examples of rituals