The Blue Equinox

As previous articles HERE at theblogofbaphomet have described, one of the on-going projects I’m involved with is ‘Chaos Craft’. This involves using the Pagan Wheel of the Year and the eight colours of magick as the container within which a ‘bring and share’ model of running a magickal meeting is deployed. Using this approach individuals get the opportunity to bring their own practice or ritual work to explore with others. They lead that section of the meeting, acting as ‘Master/Mistress of the Temple’ or ‘High Priest/Priestess’.

Each ritual segment averages 30 minutes in length, with some practices being longer or shorter. Generally the arc of a meeting moves from creating sacred space or banishing, through a formal round of introductions, then into bodywork or spellcraft/results magick, slowly building towards a final main ceremony which is sacramental or celebratory in nature. Typically breaks can be programmed into this running order to allow periods for practices to settle, visits to the loo and cups of tea to be had. This modular structure also means that members of the group can opt in or out of certain practices, leave the session when they need to, and others can arrive later and be included in the narrative of that meeting’s process.

So here’s a little sample of what we got up to at our recent Equinox meeting. The italicised text is from the notes presented by some of the contributors.

Into the labyrinth...

Into the labyrinth…

Hail the September Equinox! Time of balance all across the earth! The clear skies of early autumn provoke the steel-sharp points of stars. The rivers are in full flood, the ocean rises high and drops away.

In the blue there are no boundaries, we recognise this time of balance in the sign of the scales, and we slip, in the northern hemisphere, into the dark.

Together we meet in the garden temple, greeting each other, toasting our company and the spirits of the land and the time. We propitiate Neptune, God of the deep blue sea, asking for riches from his Kingdom. We drum and chant barbarous words. We seal the spell with blue magicians’ flash paper.

We recognise the blue of our Buddha nature and of action and reaction. The intent behind this ritual is to celebrate and to reaffirm our connections to each other which are the real source of wealth, to the world, and to the cosmos. The pathway is visualisation – generating blue chaospheres from the throat chakra into the centre…”

Cut up excerpt from Derek Jarman’s “Blue” (used as a reading to support a tantric practice)
Blue come forth
Blue arise
Blue ascend
Blue come in
Blue protects white from innocence
Blue drags black with it
Blue is darkness made visible
Blue protects white from innocence
Blue drags black with it
Blue is darkness made visible
I have walked behind the sky.
For what are you seeking?

The fathomless blue of Bliss.

We honour the goddess Metis, Goddess of practical wisdom and magical craft. We speak with her in tongues, finding a way between the deep bass rumble of language and the shrill staccato of speech.

Next up is the, “arachnoid apophenia genogram rite”. Using the genogram to map our personal family systems so as to more fully appreciate meaningful connection – by adding in other factors -hobbies, pets, fetishes, gods etc, we sought to map our own personal tree of life. Once we had done this we identified one relationship that we wished to transform and sought to use colour, rune staves etc to help focus our intent. We used some trance drumming to aid this process!

A turquoise magick fills us during the next ceremony. Blue magick filtered through Green, helping us to gain wealth through doing what we love. Making good gold. We pray to Ganesh to break down the obstacles which keep our hearts closed, and to let our love call forth the wealth from our lives.

As night falls another witch woman leads a ritual; We can follow the descent of the goddess, of Ishtar and Persephone, we can make the quest of the hero with Orpheus, Theseus and Arthur. If we journey into the labyrinth, we can connect to our subconscious, and embrace the coming dark, instead of fighting it.

All who are willing to explore the spiral path, know this, it is full of mysteries, the labyrinthine ways are shifting, and unsettling, and not for the faint hearted. So we will take the witches’ cords with us for protection – the symbol of Ariadne the Goddess of the red thread, which ties us to life, to this world, to reality and sanity.

This thread was enchanted by She who Spins, by She who Measures and by She who Cuts. When I give it to you DO NOT LET GO. Form up the gates, and begin the chant into the labyrinth. Feel the walls growing around you, feel the thread which will lead us home, feel the narrow spiral path leading us down, into the spiral, into the silence, into the shadows. Sink Down, Sink Down, deeper and ever more deep, into eternal and primordial sleep Sink Down, be still, forget and draw apart, into the earth’s most secret heart.

Round one spiral, into the core, and out again, we return from this iteration of our descent into the labyrinth.

We move for the final ritual down into the subterranean temple and into The Blue Room.

In the underground circle we give our attention, beginning at the East, to the eight directions and the eight colours. Asking for the wealth of all these forces, we bid them hail and welcome.

Through the gentle equipoise yoga we find our own centre, our point of balance. Poised between the in-breath and the out, between dark and light, heaven and earth.

Blue cords are prepared, and in the centre of the temple a cauldron of rich soil. Cornucopias rest within it, spraying out flowers and seeded stems of the season. A blue ribbon encircles the cauldron and a spiral light of electric blue coils inwards. At its heart is a blue clay vessel containing a sacrament; blue coloured, peach tasting, effervescent water, upon which float delicate slivers of pure gold.

Bringing our attention to the throat chakra we chant the bija mantra of that powerzone, ‘Ham’. And knot our cords, bringing awareness to our wealth and to those things which we would take with us into the dark time to come. The witches’ cone of power is raised, majestic, strong and gentle. We relax, body armour coming off, singing and swaying, knotting and pulling the cords until the High Priest cries ‘down!’, and we drop the power into the cauldron, into the sacrament.

Azure liquid fizzes at our lips, we drink in the gold.

There is laughter and feasting (and a little more magick later that night and indeed the morning, but that, as they say is another story…).

The seeds begin to come, the fruits of the year, swollen with the light, the early signs of browning decay are everywhere. Spiders spin their dew spangled webs across improbably wide gulfs. We conjure for wealth and recognition of our wealth, that we may take this gold from the light half of the year into the west, beneath the dark blue waters. We harvest the experience of the light and wrap it in darkness so it may germinate there as ideas, new possibilities, future magick.

The autumn morning; heavy rain drops from indigo swollen clouds.

Golden leaves spiral through the air, to earth.

Blue Magick Spirit Jar

Blue Magick Spirit Jar

JV

The Red Magic of Lammas

The British archipelago, that cluster of islands off the European mainland on which I live, is changing colour. The sky, while still sometimes blessed with the bright blue of summer, now fills with the grey of anvil headed thunder clouds, gravid with rain. The green of the land, with trees magnificent in their full leaf, tips over into the gold of harvest time. Rolls, bales, and here in North Devon even stooks of grain, stand sculptural in the fields. This is the time of Lammas, a time associated with Red Magic in the Chaos Craft interpretation of The Wheel of the Year.

In Liber Kaos Peter J. Carroll describes Red Magic as ‘war magic’. Inspired perhaps by his father’s military experiences Carroll often uses combative metaphors in his work. However, there are many other approaches to understanding Red Magic. My perception of this ‘ray’ or ‘sephira’, to use older nomenclature, is similarly influenced by my father. When my Dad did his National Service, or more accurately was conscripted, he did so as a medic. Perhaps this is a reason why my perception of Red Magic is, in part, refracted through the lens not of war but of medicine. Healing and war do of course have much in common. For instance, it can sometimes be useful to describe biological processes in martial terms: a virus can ‘invade’ the body and ‘attack’ our cells whereupon ‘guard’ cells and other ‘defenders’ begin the ‘counter-attack’ etc etc. However the essence of chaos magic, as a philosophical practice, is to recognize that this vocabulary, like any series of metaphorical statements, inevitably reveals certain truths while concealing others. For example, the military narrative of ‘viral attack’ if taken literally would seem to be quite incompatible with the processes by which viruses become part of our genome

On both the battlefield and in the context of healing one of the virtues of Red Magic is that of courage. This courage is the bravery of the child resolving to rip off a sticking plaster in one swift movement, or the courage to face a devastating diagnosis and find ways to live as well as one can, not only to ‘fight’ an illness, but also to open to the experience and to learn from it. This courage can be quiet and unassuming, such as the social courage to live with illnesses that cannot be seen as signs by others, but only reported as symptoms. There is the courage to face rehabilitative exercises and surgical procedures, the courage of seeking to heal our trauma, and the courage of reaching out for help. 

magnetic hematite ally

There’s also the courage to wait before we act; to be patient until the time is right before we scythe the crop or the determination to endure the swelling boil until it is ripe for the lancet. In combative terms – for indeed one important aspect of Red Magic is how we deal with adversaries as well as adversity – we bide our time so that when make our move there is a swift and comprehensive effect.

When we work with Red Magic the emphasis on cultivating virtues, such as courage, can be helpful to stop us battling with monsters and thereby becoming monsters ourselves. It is also important to remember that while violent conflict (war) is part of the human repertoire – and arguably that of some other species too – the realist knows that beneath the thin veneer of civilization (with all its exploitative characteristics) human nature is fundamentally kind and collaborative (check out the excellent Humankind; A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman for more on this).

These processes of endurance, of breaking, of cutting, of drawing lines in the sand, are central to the iconography of Lammas. This is the time of the dying god, the cutting of the Corn King who gives us our daily bread and becomes, in the words of the Wiccan ceremony of Cakes & Wine ‘The Body of our Harvest Lord’. The agricultural tools of this time of the year are the blade, the flail, and the grindstone. The Red Magic gods are deities of warfare as well as gods of agriculture and self-sacrifice. Týr, for example, from the Norse pantheon, who gives us our day-name ‘Tuesday’ , bravely gives up his hand in the process of binding the wolf Fenrir. Týr is a deity suitably invoked by Pagan practitioners who are serving members of the armed forces and emergency services in these difficult times, and by those seeking justice.

The mythology of Lammas, that speaks of the courage to cut and be transformed, to fall and rise again, to give up power and so find it, is deliciously captured in the folk ballad John Barleycorn:

There were three men came out of the West

Their fortunes for to try,

And these three men made a solemn vow

John Barleycorn must die.

They ploughed, they sowed, they harrowed him in

Throwing clods upon his head,

And these three men made a solemn vow

John Barleycorn was dead.

They let him lie for a very long time

Till the rains from heaven did fall,

Then little Sir John’s sprung up his head

And so amazed them all!

They let him stand till the Midsummer Day

Till he grew both pale and wan,

Then little Sir John’s grew a great long beard

And so become a man.

They hire’d men with scythes so sharp

To cut him off at the knee.

They bound and tied him around the waist

Serving him most barb’rously.

They hire’d men with their sharp pitch-forks

To prick him to the heart

But the drover served him worse than that

For he bound him to a cart.

They drove him around and around the field

Till they came unto a barn

And these three men made a solemn vow

On poor John Barleycorn

They hire’d men with crab-tree sticks

To strip him skin from bone,

But the miller, he served him worse than that,

For he ground him between two stones.

There’s Little Sir John in the nut-brown bowl

And brandy in the glass

But Little Sir John in the nut-brown bowl

Proved the stronger man at last.

For the huntsman he can’t hunt the fox

Nor loudly blow his horn

And the tinker, he can’t mend kettle or pot

Without a little Barleycorn.

(I recommend Damh the Bard’s version of this tune as well as his seasonal celebratory Lughnasadh and the dialogue ballad of Green and Grey.)

In this season of Red Magic it is time to take aim, to swing, and cut with skill and clear intention. This is the time to take control of processes, to consider how and what we might need to change in our lives. What needs to be harvested, what cut down and, if necessary, incinerated to make fertile ash and space for new growth.

Along with Samhain, Lammas is a time when we consider endings and death, including our own mortality. What have we achieved in our lives, what nourishment for the future will be left by our ashes? What are the fruits of our labours? As the Norse folk would ask; what will be our renown? What stories, if any, will be told of us by future generations?

As ye sow…

As we age, and enter our golden years, we are drawn by necessity to focus attention on our own mortality, our health and our vigour. In my case, aged 52, I find myself in what Victor Hugo calls ‘the youth of old age’. I’m aware that I need to actively invest more energy in caring for my bodymind. There are only so many times you can copy a file before glitches inevitably start to happen and – until one gets to re-spawn (to continue the gaming metaphor) – it makes sense to aim for compression of morbidity. This means actively working to be as well as we can be so that, when our death process arrives, it is as easy as possible. My tai chi teacher puts this brilliantly, quipping; “the purpose of tai chi is to live a long, happy and productive life and then die quickly and easily so as not to be a burden on your family and friends’. Tai chi chuan is a great example of the multivalent nature of Red Magic. With the Chinese name of this ‘martial art’ being commonly translated as ‘supreme ultimate boxing’, in one sense tai chi is clearly a species of ‘war magic’. But to see it only in those terms would be to ignore its many other aspects, such as its value as a means to cultivate good health, and as an approach to spiritual illumination.

The daylight draws in, and as the apples swell on the trees, the temperature drops while swifts circle frantically overhead before beginning their long migration to Africa. For my friends in the Southern Hemisphere the spring rises and the light grows. But for all of us on the planet, as we move through this shared experience of pandemic together, may we find skilful ways to connect with the spirit of these times, the courage to face our fears, and the opportunity to be transformed.

Julian Vayne


Coming up next…

Breaking Convention

– The Intermission –

14th August

You are invited to join other psychedelic-curious people at this unique day of talks. Our focus this year is very much on ethics, especially in relation to indigenous reciprocity and psychedelic capitalism. News of scientific research comes direct from the source, courtesy of a couple of luminaries from Imperial College London. We are honoured to host a lecture from Robin Carhart-Harris, Founder and Visiting Professor of Imperial’s Centre for Psychedelic Research, in his last public appearance before moving to America, and we are very pleased to welcome David Erritzoe, their Clinical Director, who will be telling us of their current and future research.

We start the day with the words and powerful presence of Don Eugenio Lopez Carilloo (Uru Muile), a Mara’akame in the Wixarika Laguna community, accompanied by Eusebio Lopez and Rodrigo Rurawe. We at Breaking Convention acknowledge the gratitude we owe to all those people who have kept the knowledge and practices of plant medicines alive for so long, in incredibly difficult circumstances.

Also on our stage will be several people with expertise and experience in the field of ethical engagement with psychedelics; from Canada, Andrea Langlois (activism and indigenous rights), and from closer to home our own Alexander Beiner (psychedelic capitalism) and Ashleigh Murphy-Beiner (ethics of the therapeutic process). Timmy Davis, of CDPRG, speaks about their current campaign for rescheduling psilocybin. There will be an in-depth panel discussion around these areas of ethical consideration.

https://www.breakingconvention.co.uk/events.html