Black leather jacket? Check. Silver Chaos Star ring? Check. Right I’m ready to go for the Book of Baphomet launch party. As I stride up the high street in the hope of quickly scanning the shelves of the Courtyard and Labyrinth book stores, I am confronted a less than usual sight (even by your “normal” Glastonbury standards!)-a whole fleet of yellow clad Goddess worshippers are pouring out of the town hall. Hair bedecked with flowers, willow baskets full of offerings they provide a vibrant counter-point to the more Stygian Nu-thelemic realm that I am about to enter!
OK enough of the heavy metal build-up already! The launch party was fab, a fun and vibrant celebration of Nikki and Julian’s vision and hard work. Set in the fantastic Grail Chapel, a gallery full of fantastically vivid occult art, the 60 or so attendees were treated to the books video trailers and three beautifully succinct presentations by the authors and one Peter J Carroll. Amongst the wine and nibbles (Hail Satan!) and catching up with friends I had a couple of conversations that stayed with me and raised some interesting questions.
At one point during the proceedings a fellow attendee was explaining to a friend that with us at one end of the town and the Goddess Conference at the other you had the whole spectrum of difference in the pagan/occult community represented. Now while I could appreciate perhaps the highlighting of a different aesthetic sensibility, it got me to wondering whether we were actually that far apart.
While chatting with a dear magickal sister about the current personnel attending our respective working groups, we got to discussing the different expectations that people bring when they are thinking about getting involved in traditions that are deemed as being more “hardcore” or intense. Labels like “chaotic”, “thelemic” or “left-hand path” carry a certain connotation that either attract or repel (or both simultaneously!) depending on personal disposition. Both of us had spent considerable amounts of time in more mainstream forms of paganism and both of us were keen to question whether the ultimate outcome and demands of these approaches were that different.
Taking for example Druidry-a path which I love and continue to respect greatly, whilst it might conjure images of polite ceremonies at sacred sites and a sense of Blakeian whimsy, its pantheon and underworld technology is potentially as “Git hard” as anything my black clothed brethren have on offer. Cerridwen-what a dark Mother of a goddess, pursuing that poor Taliesin to the limit, forcing him to bring change upon change and so bringing his poetic inspiration to the boil! Power animals, underworld journeys and the potency of the land-mostly done outdoors and watched by bewildered tourists! A lifetime of study to cultivate the poet, healer and leadership aspects of the
magician, that’s intense by anyone’s measure.
If we employ the somewhat overused metaphor of the spiritual journey being like the ascent of a mountain, certain magickal paths seem to have varying gradients. Potentially both thrills and dangers are connected to a left-hand path style “lightning” approach, but there may also be wisdom in opting for a more gradual, gentler approach. Personally I find myself moving between approaches depending on desire, other life demands and the general state of my mental health.
Whichever style we find ourselves adopting at a given point, it’s probable that if you work with a path for long enough, you’ll eventually find yourself in deep water. If our magick or sadhana is doing its job, we are going to have to deal with the polarity that balances the starting point of our journey.
If we started a gentle, white clad druid-we are going to have to confront dark mother Cerridwen within the underworld caverns of the Tor. If we Satanist bathed in the black flame, the horrors of glitter and kittens must be confronted as we face the possibility of joy!
One of the great insights contained within Pete Carroll’s “Liber Null” was that for those working towards initiate status within the IOT, the neophyte needed to undertake the work of “Liber Lux” (the upright pentagram) and “Liber Nox” (the inverse pentagram). To be an effective magician, the polarities of light and dark, sex and death need to be maintained-dancing like Shiva Nataraja between creation and destruction.
You may not see me attending the Goddess Conference in the near future (I look dreadful in yellow!) but frankly I’m really pleased that their doing their thing. If ever I’m in danger of taking my own heavy metal styling’s too seriously, I’ll need the sun on my face at the mid-point of the year reminding me to stay balanced!