I recently had the good fortune to work with a group of magicians exploring the Sethian current and our experience of the turning year. These practitioners are seeking to experiment with the techniques of music, movement and trance as a way to cultivate a more receptive understanding magic and the pursuit of gnosis. Basing the focus of ritual on the Egyptian calendar as envisaged by Mogg Morgan in “The Wheel of the Year in Ancient Egypt”, we found ourselves working with the serpent goddess Renentutet, whose festival coincided for us with the festival of Imbolc within the Celtic year.
Following a ritual opening and a number of exercises designed to raise energy and engage the bodymind, we prepared for the burial of our beautifully constructed corn mummies and the release of serpent energy back into the earth:
“Awake in Peace! Great Queen, awake in peace;
Thine awakening is peaceful.
Awake in peace! Snake that is on the brow of a king
Awake in peace; thine awakening is peaceful.” Pg. 91
Such a burial spoke powerfully to us both of our own honoured dead and the impermanence of our own physicality. However enlightened we may or may not be, these realisations are born in and through the flesh. None of us is younger than 40, and our magic is mapped on a canvas that inevitably is woven with loss and significant health challenges.
From a Sethian perspective, this burial echoes that of Osiris and the triumph of Seth’s consciousness over the Osirian rule of law. In his murder of Osiris, Seth symbolises the magician’s antinomian need to revel in our awakening and non-conformity. Like the return of spring, the societal needs for law will invariably re-emerge, but the magician is the one awake to the tensions and dance that get played out as we seek to push forward the dialectic between protection and liberty.
When something becomes as all-consuming as the pursuit of awakening, it can be hard to let go. When the internal fires are ignited, the pursuit of gnosis fuels our both our waking hours and dreamscape. The gift of consciousness pushes us to expand and transcend the parameters of nature, and yet we are bodies still! As much as we may lust to the see the fruition of our own Great Work, wisdom seems to ask that we seek times when we surrender the work back to the earth.
This concept of a necessary pause/burial first came to my attention via the work of Edred Thorsson. In his “Nine Doors of Midgard” he provides the seeker of mystery with a magical syllabus that can easily involve between 5 to 10 years of sustained engagement. In the course of pursuing such a heroic undertaking, the need to step back from the work-to pause, to rest, to take stock becomes critical. The depth of work set out in the Nine Doors is both awe inspiring and daunting. Initially my own failure to complete it in a sustained burst felt like an affront to my success driven ego, but seeking to follow the God of consciousness often drives us to these places of necessary deconstruction!
The disposability of western culture often does little to cultivate a sense of commitment and longevity of focus, especially while struggling with boredom or a sense of burn-out. If things get tough and we feel unable to sustain our initial sense of intensity and interest, we move on and seek yet another glittering bauble to distract us from our core pain (at least that’s how it works for me!) Perhaps the wisdom of the wheel of the year and other cyclical schemas is that they build into our experience an enhanced appreciation of ebb and flow. Nature oscillates; it advances and retreats-there are seasons for surging forward and times of rest and lying fallow. When our inspiration or energy levels run dry, rather than going shopping, perhaps we just have to wait.
The Gnostic in us rightly desires to push-on and expand in pursuit of the transcendent and the cosmic, but to do so without reference to the wisdom of natural cycles is folly. As we reach-out in pursuit of the Dog-star of Seth’s awakening we need to stay connected to our bodies and our planet with all their messy, irrational longings. We need to remain rooted to ensure that our magical mutations lead to sustainable evolution.