A Magician in Residence at The Museum of Witchcraft & Magic

For a while, before the office opens, I’m sitting in a hollow on the cliffs, overlooking the sea. I plan to meditate and sing and do some yoga for an hour or so. This will ensure that I’ll be in the right frame of mind for work. Below me is Boscastle harbour. I am sitting on the eastern side of that long inlet, a snaking chasm of rock, half barred by two gently curving sea walls (built in the 16th century). Behind this there are a few boats, some sand and seaweed. On the seaward side there are great cliffs. In undercut hollows, carved by the restless waves, blow-holes form, squirting jets of spray back over the rising tide. This is a deeply magical place, for me and many others. Boscastle is the beautiful, sometimes dangerous confluence of the River Valency and River Jordan. It is one of those deep wooded valleys (‘coombes’ we calls ’em in Devon) that are typical of the north Atlantic coastline. It is also the setting for the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic, where for one week in June I was the ‘Magician in Residence‘.

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Beautiful Boscastle

The Museum of Witchcraft & Magic (MWM) is a collection that is locally adored and internationally recognized. If you’re not already familiar with the amazing range of things they do (from supporting international academic research, to commissioning new artworks) then please take some time to look around their online presence.

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Lurid old skool Baphomet

I’d been aware of the Museum for many years (if nothing else through those brilliantly lurid photos of Baphomet in occult coffee table books of the 1970s). But it wasn’t until fifteen or so years ago I went there for the first time. These days I’m closely involved with the Museum, including as Chair of The Friends of the Boscastle Museum of Witchcraft, a registered charity that supports the museum, in particular with its mission to educate and engage people. One aspect of engagement is to encouraging people to visit spaces like MWM. Visiting museums, especially places of the quality of MWM, can be a powerful, authentic, moving experience. Sure you can see many items from the MWM collection using their online database. However the physical experience of walking down the path, towards the wild Cornish sea, turning right and there, nestled against the rock, is the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic – that embodied experience takes some beating!

MWM’s work includes supporting the increasing appreciation, in academia and wider culture, of the influence of occultism (as I mentioned here). They’ve recently loaned objects to some internationally important shows, such as Victoria and Albert Museum’s exhibition, You Say You Want a Revolution. There are the many ways in which the MWM collection is relevant to wider culture. One of my own interests in this field is in the social phenomena of witch hunting as a form of scapegoating. The way in which communities, of many different sorts, go about hunting and killing ‘witches’ says something very important to all of us. In order to understand, mitigate and perhaps transform our scapegoating behaviour, we have to understand how it happens. Collections such as that at MWM can directly help us do this by bringing us up close and personal with objects that are the anchors for stories of prejudice, misunderstanding and punishment. (You can see some examples of the educational resources I helped to create, enabling young people to explore these issues on the MWM website.  If you’re a teacher, especially of teenagers, you may like to check these out).

Inside MWM there are many wonderful things; the material traces of many expression of occulture. The galleries themselves are a cunning interplay of dark and secret with bold and well-lit spaces. The standard of presentation is second to none (and I’ve worked in many museums over the past 15 years). This excellent curation isn’t surprising given that museum director Simon Costin is something of a creative genius.

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Tasteful modern Baphomet

(Talking of Baphomets, it was also during this week that I helped transport a rather famous Baphomet mask from London to its new home at the Museum. But more of that later…)

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Baphomet, last seen in public on The Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square

For my week in residency I got to hang out in the library. This is, as you might imagine, another wonderful space. There are wooden desks, a gigantic witches ball in the window to repel the evil eye, and many, many books. I set up my office here; runes, two decks of tarot cards, crystal ball, special magic A4 white paper for sigils, sage smudge, some magical pointy things from the Himalayas – and we are good to go!

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In residence

I’d imagined that I could spend much of the week writing and maybe doing a spot of research. In addition to an amazing range of books in the MWM library it houses hundreds of files containing everything from facsimile editions of Gerald Gardner’s original Book of Shadows, through to collections of obscure short-run occult ‘zines from the 1980s. However my research plan was not to be. Rather than reading the books I spent most of my time that week doing tarot readings for visitors.

This was both enjoyable and an honour. People often open up in a divination session and place their trust, to some degree, in the diviner. I encourage this, as an important benefit of having a reading is the confidential, candid, even confessional opportunity that this setting provides.

When people come to me for a reading I explain that I can’t divine the future with any great certainty. I usually joke that were this one of my special powers I’d divine six numbers, win the lottery and spend all my time on holiday. (Actually the problem with this analogy is I do generally to get to spend my time doing what I love, but anyhow…). Instead I explain that my role is primarily to work with clients to explore how things are for them, and to look at what possible futures and courses of action might emerge from their present circumstances. This makes the whole process about discovery; the reading becomes a space for mutual investigation and reflection. The querent is not the passive recipient of advice, but an active agent in their own narrative. For while there may be some circumstances where our options are limited. we do usually possess some degree of freedom; this realization is often a key outcome. Cultivating this awareness of freedom, in a realistic way, and exploring the options for change, are for me what tarot readings are all about.

Now I won’t lie, even within this broadly psychological paradigm of divination things with a distinctly parapsychological flavor do happen. For example, my usual practice is ask the querent to draw three cards. On the basis of these I begin a story, then together we explore how this might relate to their situation. Sometimes, especially when I’m on a roll and have been doing lots of readings over a short period of time, I say things in this opening section that the client responds to with surprise. ‘How could you have known that?’ they say. Then there are moments, perhaps halfway through reading (sometimes accompanied by a sense of having something speak through me, or some sense of ‘absence’) where a rush of words comes out. Again the querent may be impressed; I’ve perhaps articulated the problem we’ve been discussing in a radically new way that helps them see a totally new picture, or perhaps I’ve revealed how one character may be acting and what can be done to make things better. These intuitive insights may be surprising, including to me. But however spot on my words are I always bracket what I say. I explain that one reason we call this stuff ‘magic’ is because none of us (perhaps least of all magicians) really known how any of it works. I acknowledge that this is how things may appear in this moment, in this reading, but that the future is uncertain and new information and possibilities may well arise. I may be ‘inspired’ but I’m also quite clear that my impressions may be wrong or incomplete in any number of ways. Sure listen to the oracle, but take it all with a pinch of salt.

I’m pleased to say that I got really nice feedback from some of the folk I read for during my residency and I’m glad they found the sessions useful. For me whether a reading is heavy on the psychological exploration, or has significant parapsychological moments, isn’t what matters. What is important is that the consultation provides an opportunity to empower the querent; allowing them to find their own way in the world. This is the magic of it.

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In the magicians chair

An additional delight of this week was to be able to spend time with many of the members of my extended family, enjoying this magical landscape and each other’s company. (Which is why each morning on those rocks I gave thanks to the Great Spirit – whom I call Baphomet – for those lovely people and the magic in my life.)

I’ve  recorded a few thoughts towards the end of my residency about the role of the proverbial village witch on my Youtube channel too.

Many thanks to the wonderful people at the Museum for welcoming and supporting me during that week, and to all those people who came to see me over those days; may the royal road rise to meet you!

Blessed Be

Julian Vayne

PS Our next Deep Magic Retreat at St.Nectan’s Glen will take place from 27th September-1st October For more details please visit our Facebook page.

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Labyrinth at Rocky Valley, where the river that runs through St.Nectan’s Glen meets the sea.

 

 

 

 

Spiritual Freethinking

Being a human often involves the construction of stories. In trying to make sense of our own lives, those of other beings on the planet and the Universe more generally, we create narratives to help us order what might be going on. We respond to the information we receive and fuse it with our existing perspectives in order to make decisions about how we wish to live and the potential risk things pose to our current experience of being alive. Most of this time we do this amazing work without even knowing that it is going on, but sometimes we have moments when we realise that we are doing it, and that we might want to make conscious changes to our method and style.

Most religious movements and schools of philosophy lay claim to providing tools for waking us up from the automatic reliance on assumptions. The process of becoming aware of the lenses we rely on for viewing the world can be both shocking and disorientating as we try to incorporate any new insights gained. The problems for most religions come when the incoming of new, enlightening knowledge (Gnosis) begins to disrupt the presuppositions that they themselves rely on e.g. that God either doesn’t exist or is radically different from how they were initially understood to be.

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Sapere aude!

Many of the posts on this blog are penned with a view to promoting a process where we begin thinking about how we think and consider the risks involved in stepping outside the lines of received orthodoxy. If we start to question “received truths” and embrace the heretic’s path of choosing our own way, then we must realise that we will increase discomfort for both ourselves and those around us. For the freethinker, to refuse to question is often an even less desirable, stultifying path, but we would be naïve if we underestimate the disruptive force of heretical thoughts and behaviour.

Part of the creative, disruptive power of the heretic, is that they take existing received truths and they bend them. It would be bad enough if we adopted an antithetical position, but the fact that we take an image or language and inject it with a new, nuanced or odd meaning, truly infuriates those seeking to maintain their monopoly on perceived truth. The gnosis of the heretic triggers a creative process in which their artistry reveals strange variants of reality. While on one level we reject the easier answers of Faith, we often retain a symbiotic relationship with those beliefs and images. In our heresy we internalise these ordered creeds and transform them in to something both far stranger and more interesting.

For me, the adoption of such bold new readings allows the possibility of inhabiting a place of greater spaciousness that often feels more congruent with the lives we wish to live. Such territory is often at the outer edges of familiar maps and requires a level of wit and will that many of us experience as demanding and exhilarating in equal measure.

While each of us need to discover our own optimum means for accessing spaces of cognitive liberty, I have noticed that my own is often facilitated by allowing apparently disparate sources to sit alongside each other. I have been aware of my own journey in allowing the different aspects of my personal religious history to dialogue with each other. The Witch and the Cleric have been sitting down together for a beverage and conversation in the hope that new meaning might be discovered. All too often I have tried to rush them in the hope of a tidy resolution, but thankfully they have resisted my efforts!

In seeking to allow the unique parts of my own story to have a voice, I have often found more help in dreams and art than I have in theological concepts and reformulations. Of course I find great value in thinking and writing, but they often face the danger of overly concretising those states that are more subtle, subjective and sensed. In seeking to resist the urge to prematurely reconcile, synthesise or harmonise this multiplicity of voices and ideas, I have often found that artistic experimentation within a ritual context is a powerful tool.

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Occult art experiment

While others may gain greater stimulus via extended textual analysis and linear debate, on their own these have not been enough to allow me to access the type of psychological integration that I long for. The Queer and transformative states that I need in order to challenge the bulwarks of orthodoxy in my own life, have been found more readily in the images of Abraxas, Baphomet and N’Aton than in attempts at systematic theology. For me these part-made gods embody the ongoing dialogue between idealised androgyny and the complexity of Queer experience. The Queer aspirations of “Postdrogyny” and “Pandrogyne” are the first fruits of an artistic exploration of the possibility of identity. This is an Aquarian age in which our neat categories are troubled and disrupted by the bold lives of those seeking a more authentic way.

The use of sigils, collage, and altar sculpts can all be means of allowing us to inhabit a type of magical space that allows for a personal alchemy that I hope will catalyse change on a wider, societal level. This zone is the place of the crossroads, and as I have observed elsewhere:

If we journey to the crossroads in our attempt to rediscover our magic, we are inevitably entering a realm of liminal possibility. The crossroads is a meeting place of apparent opposites and seeming contradictions. The dynamic tension generated by the friction between these polarities makes it the place of initiation.
A Gnostic’s Progress p. 155

The crossroads is a place of incarnation and inspiration, and the word must become flesh (John, 1:14) in order for us to experience its fullness. May our art, inspiration and willingness to explore, allow access to such fullness! This is rarely an easy peace, but as we allow ourselves to tune into the complexity and mystery of our lives, may all of us experience greater authenticity and freedom.

So Mote it Be!

SD

Retreating to the future, in an ancient British valley; BOOM!

Over the last few weeks, I went travelling, to two mountainous places. To Portugal, to attend a psytrance festival, and to Wales, to help run a weekend retreat. A thought provoking pair of experiences, with similarities and contrasts worth exploring.

Chronologically paired, here are some parts of my tales…

Armed with a guest pass, courtesy of my involvement with Breaking Convention (we did a ticket swap with BOOM!), I set off to the mainland. Filled with trepidation (I speak no Portuguese, had no idea how to get to the festival site, and had very little money), the journey began with many unknowns, not least exactly what part I would find to play. Unaccustomed as I am to being a punter, I planned out a couple of quests for myself; investigate the signage, and, see if interesting people there could be persuaded of the opportunities of BC. Fortunately my travelling companion Rob Dickins, of Psychedelic Press UK, proved excellent company throughout our eight days together. The weather forecast was hot, sunny and dry.

My journey to Wales was preceded by contrasting feels. Invited along as a workshop facilitator by the organiser of Neuro-Magica, Dr David Luke, I had a clear sense of my role to play in this venture (and do know a few words of Welsh!). My emotional approach was therefore one of happiness, confidence, and joyful anticipation at the prospect of seeing several familiar faces amongst those attending, as well as wondering who the new friends I would make could be! The retreat centre, Cae Mabon, looked unbelievably beautiful from the website, and I had heard only good things about it. The weather forecast was cool, cloudy and wet.

 

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Earth & Fire

BOOM! was spread out over a mile along the lakeside. Dusty ground, with small trees dotted around providing much needed shade from the relentless sun. Taps were ample, and so refilling the bottles so necessary for pouring over one’s head every few minutes was not too hard. The pounding rhythms were continuous, and by the end of the week had all mutated (in my head) into the chorus of “No Limit”.

 

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Water & Air

The tiny valley of Cae Mabon is carpeted with soft green grass, and the light birch trees of the space stand in contrast to the sessile oak forest of the surrounding mountain slopes. Only one tap can be used for drinking water, as this comes direct from the river (Afon Fachwen) and so to comply with regulation needs filtration. The sounds here were of the wind in the trees, and the rush of the river over rocks; often indistinguishable from each other. Flurries of strong winds on a couple of the days shook the leaves and branches, energising and clearing minds.

Having set the scenes, rather than relate all I could about these retreats, I shall instead give a few remarks, comparing and contrasting…

BOOM! gave me a week long sauna, temperatures around 40°C, reduced food intake, constant thoughts of water, gentle exercise and a 24 hour choice of pleasant, immersive diversions (talks, dancing, listening, looking). I swam in the lake twice. I will never feel so hot in usual conditions in comparison with this; yet the intense heat was most enjoyable. I saw thousands of people, the effort of the festival organisers to provide shelters and artworks over the previous months, evoked a state of presence in the place and time where I drifted from one enjoyable existence to another, moving as the moment presented itself. Doing this for over a week, with no particular need to go anywhere at any time, yet still moving effectively between places and events, provoked a state of internal silence which stayed with me for three days after my return home. Zero internal dialogue. I functioned as normal, did work, bought food, performed adequate self-care, and entertained myself, etc, all without any narrative.

Neuro-Magica was watery. Rain at times, but even when the sun came out and flooded us all with its warmth and revealed the stunning beauty of the mountains around, the fluid theme was carried by the river and the lake. And the hot tub. I swam in the lake two times, once as the sun was setting and the moon hung above Snowdon’s slopes in the distance. The hot tub (wood fired) is placed beside the Little White river, with large smooth rounded slate steps allowing safe access to the water as it speeds past at a rate of knots. The river water was cold, very cold; screams of raw existence filled the air each time someone clambered into it. This was at night, as I was occupied in the daytime. Submerging my body, feeling the power of this flow, I pictured myself growing cold in death, the cells ceasing to make the heat, growing still and solid before their next phase, relaxation into a more fluid state. Then hauling my flesh away, and back to the (now) ever-so-hot tub. I will never feel so cold in usual conditions in comparison with this; yet the intense cold was comfortable, non-threatening. With seven dwellings representing styles of building (e.g. cob, reticulated roofs, logs), the rooms were cosy and small (compared to the giant open canvas spaces of the festival!) and had enormous character. The days were a barrage of words, as ideas and playful conversations jumped amongst us all. Talkings, listenings, and a breathwork session of astounding effect, filled my storytelling brain to overflowing.

The crowds of BOOM! (33,333) meant my quest to find interesting people was thwarted by sheer numbers; I could hardly approach each of them, but selecting any one was equally impossible, so I spoke with only a small handful. Meanwhile those few who were fortunate enough to attend Neuro-Magica (26) were all unbelievably fascinating, and I had conversations with each person there.

It turned out, in that small world way of things, that more than one person had attended both of these gatherings. Notably Eric Maddern, who had been the Wisdom Keeper representing the European traditions amongst the indigenous cultures from around the planet, and who (coincidentally) owns Cae Mabon. His telling of the chase of Taliesin, which I heard him tell in both locations, took very different forms; a large, lightly covered sunlit space big enough for several hundred people contrasted with the dark, intimate, firelit roundhouse. The Saturday evening party included him giving a spirited rendition of his version of the traditional tale about the search for Mabon (from the fourth branch of the Mabinogian); this will stay with me for years as a particular highlight.

So what did I learn? In what ways did I change?

I grew as a person, after the atmosphere of kindness and co-creative spaces flowed inexorably into my heart. I felt surrounded by fellow creatures, each one unique yet recognisably the same as myself. The structures and the activities filled me with delight at their aesthetics and their functionality, and at the knowledge they had been built by people’s hands with willing co-operation. My appetite has reset itself, to less food less often, and a change of taste towards mostly minimally processed produce (e.g. vegetables). Weather now feels less of an issue when planning what to do. Emotionally I feel rested, ready to get my head down to all the work which has been piling up over the last weeks! Resting in itself is all very well but nothing works quite so effectively as being somewhere which means you cannot work.

The things and people I have interacted with, from all over the world, have left their fingerprints on me (metaphorically speaking!). Phrases, expressions, bits of knowledge, ways of moving; all spread through groups of people as they meet and part, meet again. I truly feel part of the global population, one spark of awareness amongst so many. Part of this has been recognising the wisdom I carry (in my own way), and seeing effects it can have for others. I feel valued, and cared for.

To finish by returning to the beginning; retreating to the future. Once upon a time, there was a list of products you could buy via mail order, called The Whole Earth Catalogue. Those who bought in to this paradigm dreamed of a world where we live in mud huts with computers (to grossly oversimplify). Fast forward to now, nearly fifty years later, and technology is starting to allow this on a widespread scale. Even if only temporarily at festival sites, many young people are growing up with the knowledge that they can make their own places in the world, creating and building for themselves. This awareness is leaking out to all systems, to food growing, mutually beneficial economic systems (especially local based exchange systems), reusing and repairing even making clothes, we are re-capturing those skills industrial production robbed from us. Moreover, these communities offer a step change in how human animals live, and could well usher in new patterns of behavior which will alter the face of the Earth rapidly; towards one with the right amount of trees, sane resource usage, and a co-created ecology.

NW

(Further blogposts on various experiences at these events to follow! Baphomet showed another side to me during these adventures, and I feel the need to share.)

It’s All About Me

As heavy showers and hot bursts of sun turn the green into the gold of high summer here’s a little round up of some of the things the theblogofbaphomet team and our friends are up to at the moment…

In blog news we’re really pleased to have exceeded a quarter of a million page views of the blog itself, and over 3,000 likes on our Facebook page. We’re really pleased that, without using clickbait headlines or click farm antics, we’ve become one of the most popular chaos magic blogs on teh internetz, part of the ‘fourth wave’ of chaos magic (for more of which see below…).

In his professional life, Julian has been doing loads of work with big historical country houses (and hobnobbing with the landed gentry) helping them to develop new ways of engaging their visitors. Perhaps more significantly, Julian has also been the artistic muse of Nicola Claire-Lydon in her painting of Pan. Julian writes: “It’s always a delight and indeed an honour to inspire others. I’ve been fortune to be a model for Victoria Gugenheim, Matt Kaybryn (as Mercury in The Portals of Chaos) and more recently Nicola. Being painted in oils is a really powerful process, especially as Nicola is a close friend and we developed some ideas about the image (notably the way Pan’s horns are represented) together. I’m also especially pleased that Pan is available as a limited edition Giclée print, art card and, most wonderfully, emblazoned on a tea towel. My new mantra is ‘Lint Free, Scratch Free, Absorbent, Hygienic’.  😉 ”

Io Sauce Pan!

Io Sauce Pan!

Copies of Pan in all his many manifestations are available in the Another Green World gallery, Tintagel, Cornwall, contact details HERE.

Steve Dee continues his spiritual quest following the publication of his first solo work A Gnostic’s Progress – Magic and the Path of Awakening. Following the release of Steve’s heady fusion of Left-hand path queer-witchcraft sorcery, chaos magic and post-Christian (but not post-Christic) Gnosticism Steve was invited for a follow up interview (the first one is HERE) with Miguel Conner. Steve will also appear in a forthcoming interview with Morgana Sythove; check out Wiccan Rede (There’s a review of Chaos Craft there too).

 

Meanwhile Nikki has been diligently working on various publishing ventures. A Gnostic’s Progress was the second book from Ms Wyrd’s imprint The Universe Machine. As well as being sub-editor for Psypress UK Journal she has also been honoured to assist with assembling the references, proofing and copyediting the magnum opus of Infinity Foods founder and Chinese medicine man Peter Deadman. The book Live Well, Live Long looks set to become a seminal text on Chinese Traditional Medicine.

 

Up country (as we say in Devon) various festive fnords have been manifesting at Festival 23. None of the Blog of Baphomet crew were able to attend this year, alas, but Dave Lee and others were there representin’ for Current 23 in what turned out to be a sell-out and, from early reports, a deliciously Discordian event, which will hopefully manifest once again in 2018. Dave has also penned an important essay about the history of chaos magic (we’re currently enjoying the fourth wave of this esoteric approach). We’re hoping to include this in a forthcoming publication written (and illustrated) by current members of The Illuminates of Thanateros. Stay tuned to this channel for updates.

May you be free of The Curse of Greyface. May the Goddess put twinkles in your eyes. May you have the knowledge of a sage, and the wisdom of a child.

May you be free of The Curse of Greyface.
May the Goddess put twinkles in your eyes.
May you have the knowledge of a sage,
and the wisdom of a child.

There’s more excitement to come this autumn, with several other publications, and plans to develop some public workshops and even a chaos retreat for 2017, plus of course next year will see another Breaking Convention Conference. (And thinking about the power of psychedelics, readers of this blog may enjoy this presentation by Breaking Convention founding member and all round wonderful chap Ben Sessa, entitled Is MDMA psychiatry’s antibiotic?)

Thanks again for engaging with our work and for all the lovely feedback.

Blessed Be, 93 and Choyofaque!

NW, SD, JV

Start your day the Baphomet Way

It’s rare these days that I get a lazy Sunday at home but sometimes it happens.

On these occasions I like to start the day with a little ritual activity. At around 10am, as the Church bells ring on the far side of the river, I like to perform my own Sunday morning service.

Typically this consists of around a few tai chi stretches followed by some mindfulness meditation. After this, a brief sojourn into an altered state of awareness is, I find, the perfect way to start the day. Techniques that one might use to attain such a state include (where it’s safe and legal to do so) the use of short-duration entheogens (eg frankicense, cannabis, nitrous oxide, smoked Salvia divinoirum or the DMT family of spirits).

Rise and shine

Rise and shine

The audio recording here is suitable for use with this kind of approach or could be included as part of another perhaps longer practice. If you don’t fancy the use of chemognosis (which of course could also simply mean a really nice cup of tea) then dancing, shaking trance or other freeform bodywork would also be suitable during the section of chanting and drumming (the style of the chant used is derived from The Circle of Baphomet ritual described in The Book of Baphomet).

The first section of this recording includes the Ouranian Barbaric invocation and The Charge of Baphomet, both of which are described in more detail in Chaos Craft (book and Kindle formats available). Occult nerds will spot that this Charge is, like the Wiccan Charge of the Goddess, a mash-up text. You get extra majix points if you can figure out the names of all the authors.

No need to wait until Sunday! Have an initial listen and see if this approach floats your esoteric boat, and if it does, gather your ritual paraphernalia, press play, and enjoy!

PS. The Baphomet image used here was created by Luke Brown, check out his amazing artwork.

In Praise of Part-Made Gods

I think it’s fair to observe that I spend a lot of time thinking about God. This has been going on for some time (probably the last 35 years) and I don’t imagine it’s going to stop anytime soon.

A friend of mine who I play lots of music with asked me whether I “believed” in God, and while I’ve made some valiant attempts at doing so in the past, I felt unable to answer conclusively. Famously when asked this question, Carl Jung answered that he didn’t believe that there was a God rather he “knew” there was. Familiarity with his biography enables us to know that Jung was a fairly seasoned Gnostic explorer at the point he made that comment, and based on his reception of “The Seven Sermons to the Dead”; it is unlikely that his deity of choice was of an orthodox variety.

In contrast to either creedal formulations or some distant “unmoved mover”, for Jung the God that seemed to encapsulate the endeavour of the Gnostic explorer, was that strange bird Abraxas. Abraxas like Baphomet is one of those Gods whose queer visage keeps popping up in esoteric lore, while at the same time being very difficult to categorise. Research will provide some insights into the roles that he played/plays within a whole host of occult traditions-this strange cockerel (and sometimes lion) headed being with its serpentine “legs” is viewed as an Aeon by some and as an Archon or the Demiurge by others. Both his number (using Greek Gematria) being 365 and his association with the seven classical planets, connect him to both the round of the year and the physical cosmos.

For Jung, Abraxas represented a movement beyond dualism. No longer is the divine image split into a good Lord and an evil Devil; rather the mysteries of godhead are held within the complex iconography of Abraxas:

“Abraxas speaketh that hallowed and accursed word which is life and death at the same time. Abraxas begetteth truth and lying, good and evil, light and darkness in the same word and in the same act. Therefore is Abraxas terrible.”  The Seven Sermons to the Dead

Terrible Cock God

Terrible Cock God

When one meditates on the more common cockerel headed form of Abraxas, we cannot but be struck by the bizarre chimera-like quality of the image. The body of a man is topped by the head of a solar cockerel (possibly symbolizing foresight and vigilance), while from under “his” concealing skirts; strange chthonic serpents come wriggling forth. This cosmic hybrid seems to be holding together the transcendent and immanent, solar and night side. Viewed through my late-Modern lens I am both awed and unsettled by the sense of internal tension that this God seems to embody.

My own attraction to strange gods is hardly new territory-that monstrous hybrid Baphomet has long been jabbing at my consciousness as I’ve sought to make sense of life’s dissolving and coming back together. For me both Abraxas and Baphomet represent something of the core paradox that many of us experience in trying to make sense of the world.

Most attempts at constructing “big theories” (metanarratives if you like) are designed to make sense of the universe that we live within. The success or failure of any such world views seems to largely determined either by their ability to manage nuance and complexity or conversely the naivety of those willing to block out new information. For those of us however who are seeking to promote some form of cognitive liberty, it seems inevitable that at some point we are going to have to develop deeper strategies for managing complexity, paradox and the types of uncertainty that such realities often give birth to. (See also this.)

In previous posts we have considered the way in which the duality and tension that exists within many Gnostic myths potentially trigger the awakening of consciousness and in many ways these iconic images of Abraxas and Baphomet are little different. The juxtaposition of apparent opposites and the sense of movement that they contain speak to us of dynamism and process rather than fixed Platonic certainties. Whether via weird cosmologies or shape-shifting iconography, these gnostic riddles push us to the edges of comprehension and certainty. In seeking to engage with such material we often experience a profound unease and yet for the intrepid explorer such discomfort can trigger the types of “strange loops” that arguably enable the evolution of consciousness (for more on this check out this great article by my friend BK).

Cocky movements

Cocky movements

This circular, iterative use of myth and paradox leads us away from certainties that cannot bear the weight of new insight, rather we are asked to engage in an unfolding process of becoming of both ourselves and our perception of the numinous.

I will conclude with the brilliant aeonic litany contained within the Mass of Chaos B, which provides us with a vivid example of how such evolution continues to occur:

“In the first aeon, I was the Great Spirit.
In the second aeon, Men knew me as the Horned God, Pangenitor Panphage.
In the third aeon, I was the Dark One, the Devil.
In the fourth aeon, Men know me not, for I am the Hidden One.
In this new aeon, I appear before you as Baphomet.
The God before all gods who shall endure to the end of the Earth!”

SD

108 Breaths for Baphomet

The following technique is one I developed (or was taught by the spirits, or made up in me own head – you pays your money, as they say…) following some mindfulness meditation in my garden. (Which at this time of year is a riot of flowers and vines and burgeoning fruit.) The method uses an asana which is held for a few minutes. In this sense it is similar to the techniques I’ve encountered in Kundalini yoga (specifically in the Longevity Kriya). Kundalini yoga is a fascinating form of practice which I was introduced to by the awesome Kwali, and one that is well worth exploring.

As well as being a physical exercise this method, which I call the ‘108 Breaths for Baphomet’ (108 BB), provides an opportunity to connect deeply with our somatic experience, our bodies, the biosphere aspect of who we are. While it’s possible for attention to drift, the effect of being in what amounts to a stress position helps keep the mind concentrated on the body. This technique deeply connects the conscious, linguistic awareness to the physical self. In this way it provides an opportunity for the body to ‘speak’ to us. Often the body may only may appear to communicate to us when something is wrong, when we feel pain because of an injury or other problem. This simple method allows the body to establish a close relationship with the conscious mind (taking aside for the moment the perspective that the mind arises from the body itself) and in doing so it (the body) can alert the mind (the self that imagines the body as a vehicle) to needs that may not be being addressed. Flashes of insight can come in the moments after the technique ends about changes that the body would like to see in terms of diet, exercise, light levels, supplements required and so on. This technique can also be imagined as bhakti yoga with the practice being dedicated to Baphomet and/or offered to some particular intention.

108 BB works nicely when deployed after some free-form movement work, yoga, tai chi or other similar practice.

Begin by sitting in a cross-legged position. This can be done on a chair but sitting on a cushion or the floor is what I generally do.

Breathe deeply and relax.

With a deep, slow inhalation raise your hands. Now gently move into the classic Eliphas Levi Baphomet asana. Left hand down, showing the mudra with three fingers extended, right hand pointing up with two fingers extended.

Become a Living God!

Become a Living God!

Hold this position for 108 breaths.

Keep counting the numbers in your head. This is partly so you know when you’re done but mostly so that you give your conscious monkey mind something to do. If you like a spot of gematria you can also enjoy the various groovy numbers as they float by – 11, 13, 15, 23, 27, 31, 56, 72,  81, 93 etc etc.

Soften the face, keep a gentle smile on the lips. Relax the shoulders, don’t lock the arms. Relax and open the body as you hold the asana. As tension arises notice and focus on breathing into it, keep the limbs in place. Breath as slowly as is comfortable. Play with the practice and explore it for yourself.

As you reach 100 begin to visualise a chaosphere. Use the arrows of the sphere to help you count off the final eight breaths. Here you can switch from silently saying the numbers to simply following the eight arrows around (or in whatever pattern works for you) until the final breath is taken. (Personally I imagine a chaosphere with the arrows coloured in the directions given in the Chaos Craft model, starting my first of the final eight breaths with the point nearest to the season I’m in when doing the practice.)

Crafty chaos star

Crafty chaos star

As you breathe out the final 108th breath bring your hands down to your dan tien (or across your body in the ‘Osiris Risen’ position and then down to rest on your belly).

Keep still; deploy your motionless, no-mind technique. See if anything bubbles up into attention from the somatic level. Often this will appear as a linguistic flash (you might for example get a word suggesting what food or other attention your body would like).

Relax, stretch and go and do something else.

JV