We had a lovely Lammas on 1st August, did it our way, very simply in the evening, which turned into a really nice, warm night.
In the garden, at the garden table, we did a blot. Little gargoyle incense holder, drinking horn, wooden bowl, a tea light lamp with purple glass, and a can of Bud. I pride myself on finding the essentials that fit our life.
Multiple toasts to our gods, and things expressed from the heart, it was perfect and it felt really good. I felt particularly happy and gratified at Phil’s thanking our newest addition to the deities that grace our household. Afterwards I refreshed the offering bowl at the corner shrine before settling down outside with my husband in the afterglow of the evening. I did indeed feel that our household was great and loving in spirit.
Relaxing there I thought about a few things and jotted them in my diary. Looking at them yesterday I could tell what I meant, but they had that characteristic “come down” phenomena of being a sum of parts that didn’t capture the whole that I had seen. Magic isn’t a literal, “objective” phenomenon any more than poetry is, which is why magicians have often been characterized as tricksters and borderline charlatans, because the only way to communicate some things is through the oblique language of poetry and pretend. That some of the best poetry is purely descriptive says something about our reduction of description and fact to the literal. It need not be so, and sometimes it can’t be.
The first thing that came to mind though was a simple plea for our own happiness and gratification. We have inherited a world full of denials and moralism, even if those moralisms have sometimes migrated from religion to politics. I believe however that if we gain deep gratification then we add to the peace of the world (so to speak). There’s one less focus of trouble and irrationality, where there is one more profoundly happy person. My philosophy has become that you help where you can, but above all you help yourself. Being intensely relational creatures that also involves a lot of relationship, but I think it’s a good policy for honesty all the same. I am sometimes reminded of what I was once told was a Nath saying which went: “don’t try to change the world, just make sure the world doesn’t change you”. Of course, the world will change around you if you ensure that you are not changed by it, but it puts a quite different (and very unfashionable) slant on things. Too many times organizations and ideologies sign people up for change on their behalf, but what is the use of change if there is no one there to enjoy it? And I would like to emphasize enjoyment and pleasure here, and actually having a whale of a time, which will be a different thing for everybody, if they are really being themselves. Sometimes you do need to fight of course, but you should choose with your own authentic consciousness.
Another thing that drifted in on that warm night was something about selfhood. In a lot of spiritualities there is mention of the “Higher Self”, or the “Self”, or the Holy Guardian Angel etc. The “lower self” or ego is sacrificed to this, and ultimately there is union with the Absolute, God etc, annihilation in That. Years ago I read David Conway write that we shouldn’t get too carried away with this lower and higher self split, and I certainly see what he means now. I have also learned to accept my own disinterest in being annihilated in the absolute. It’s not that I think this life is so great (though it can be), and I don’t subscribe to the “put me on wash and repeat cycle” philosophy. But of everything that I do love and value, I don’t plan on putting that in the ultimate garbage chute for the sake of union with God (or Goddess if you prefer). In fact, while I’m an experiencing, happy and grateful polytheist, I don’t actually believe in the Big One, except as a scientific and para-scientific proposition, which isn’t the stuff of religion really. But back to selfhood, and I do mean with a small “s”.
Our selfhood, which is what we deal with in any kind of realization, includes our ego, just as our being includes our carnal nature. Not limited to, but inclusive of. And I think it’s worth saying this, because our culture (and many others) have been infected for so long with a false, polarizing duality between a greater (spiritual) whole and a vitally experienced (but condemned) self, and that only perpetuates judgement and violence in my view. The deep, rich bond between our selves as they actually are, and our greater spiritual realities, is what is actually there. And contrary to what we are so often taught, in that bond can be found the capacity for real responsibility.
Thirdly there was a reflection on magic, which over and again I have seen and experienced as being connected with relationship and love. A great deal is actually similar to prayer, and this can be a complete form of magic. There is also a lot which can be found well expressed by some “New Age” authors, who I entirely commend for their clarity and lack of mystery mongering. But there is truthfully something else, and I suppose it is most easily summed up by the word “individuality”, though there is also a connection to the capacity for will and creativity. Actually an amount of magic does have to be “for the hell of it” and “just because”, because that’s part of what individual selfhood feels like.
One sees so much striving to find the magic or the tradition that someone might fit themselves into. It is almost unavoidable given the way we think and learn in a mundane sense, but in spite of that, we do often intuit differently. Magic need not be complicated or traditional, but it must include individual selfhood as part of its method, and the enquiry of magic does inevitably need to be engaged with one’s whole life and being, to the best of one’s ability. Thus it will be emotional, mental and instinctive all at once. I don’t think you can even prescribe how this is to be done, as the person has to get the scent of it and follow it, respond to it, with whatever they actually have. But I do want to stress, it’s your thing, not some kind of self sacrifice in magical drag, and what you learn and become is unique to you.
No amount of subsuming of self to tradition or system or collective can do this. Nearer to it is the sense of a romantic or artistic quest, of the individual inquiry into personal creativity and deeper identity. Find what you want to be and do, you as the unique individual that you are, and do it. Art is just a metaphor of course. There is little law or method finally, but the black and sparkling bliss of selfhood, with everything that it and unique, embodied circumstance may teach you.
When I was in my early twenties and much enamoured of Austin Osman Spare, I was sitting in Kensington Gardens one summer, feeling very oppressed and listless, constrained by who knows what. I had wandered and came to rest under a tree to the north of the Round Pond. There I rested, gazing at the great, leafy trees on the other side of the pond, lit by the heavy Sun, dark leafed, shimmering. And then everything changed. I couldn’t describe physically what I saw, but I saw that through everything, behind everything, there was a blissful, lawless, sparkling blackness, which at the time I called the “chaos in creation”. It set me free from what ailed me at that time, and did so since then also. I looked into a seemingly oppressive Nature and found a free and seemingly “lawless” agent that reflected something in the creative well springs of my self. Such things inspired my painting when I used to paint. But painting was never really the point, because even then I felt that life should be our art and our magic. And indeed I believe it is.
And I would ask you to be free and fulfilled and creative, if you have the courage.
Below is an image of the Egyptian god Bes, who I am quite fond of. I was looking for lion imagery originally, as Lammas is pretty well in the middle of the sign of Leo. Bes is often depicted with a lion’s ears, mane and tail. He is a dwarf god, and there is that possible poetic allusion to the “hidden god”, our “little god” within, our true individuality. He is often shown protecting the child Horus (which could be taken as a similar allusion). Some think that Bes was at one time considered a benevolent demon. In any case, he is a very protective, life affirming figure who was seen to help out a lot of people in very tight spots (like childbirth), yet also light hearted, a lifter of spirits, a giver of the blessings of pleasure. One of my favourite images of him is here. He was an understandably popular regular folks’ all rounder.
Maybe we can learn something from the gorgeous little guy’s tambourine shake.
Post edited at 18.37, 6th August 2013.