So, I have been doing some work with this ritual, a part of my Apotheosis Series, and thought I’d share some of my results, for those of you following that thread on my blog.
For those of you joining the thread late, most of what we see on the astral is a mix of divine beings speaking to us, and our unconscious mind using those divine beings as a proxy to communicate things to our conscious mind.
This ritual sets up a context where you can be certain that nothing you see is actually an outside deity. This, in turn, lets you see your filter, recognize it when you see it in other contexts, and learn about who you are on a symbolic level.
My hope is that seeing these astral experiences interpreted will be helpful to others engaging in this work.
Rather than trying to prove or disprove the stories, viewing them as true or false, I am interpreting them as one might a dream. Rather than seeing the deities who appear in these journeys as meaning to establish a relationship with me, or making demands of me, I am interpreting them as representing parts of myself, or as representing certain principles that I am responding to. The Purpose is self-knowledge.
First Session: Utter Darkness
I had expected more resistance. I had expected that the gods were communicating with me through inner reflections that would stick with me when I drew the curtain closed. I expected that the work ahead of me would be talking to these false images to suss out my filter.
Instead, I was enveloped by darkness. Usually, my head is like Grand Central Station. For a moment, the darkness was an immense relief. Then, it started to disturb me.
It wasn’t simply a darkness of sense, but also of soul. I felt smaller, somehow. I was shrinking. The tendrils of my consciousness which connected me to the outer astral were spiraling inward, as they were not needed. There was nothing here to connect to. Except me.
I felt something which I have not felt in a very long time. I felt fear.
At last, my unconscious mind got the message that outward was no longer the direction it needed to be looking. Just as physical sensory deprivation will tend to make one hallucinate, so, too, here. At last, my mind began to show images again.
I looked in the mirror, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. I’m a shape-shifter on the astral, and I occupied myself for a few minutes changing from human, to cat, to crow, to bear, to wolf, and then back to human again. My reflection in the mirror did nothing exotic. It simply reflected these changes.
Then, a small man with a skeletal face jumped on me. He was perhaps 18 inches tall, and weighed what you might expect him to weigh if he was made of a drift-wood skeleton with cloth around it.
“Die tugend!” He yelled in a creepy voice.
I wrestled with myself. My first inclination was to get rid of whatever it was. Then I recalled that the only thing in here was me, and that this must be some reflection of myself.
“What part of me do you represent?”
“Tu-gend!” He said directly in my face with his creepy, puppet-like mouth.
“I don’t know what that means. Can you say it in English?”
I sighed. “What are you called?”
“Poppet,” he replied. “Poppety Poppety Poppet.”
“Ok, creepy little man. What is your job?”
I gave up. No sensible answer was going to be had on this front. “I see, and is that all you do?”
He shook his head.
“Do you ever impersonate deities?”
He nodded vigorously.
“Please don’t do that unless I directly tell you to.”
“Tugend…” he sad sadly.
After my meditation, I had to hit up google translate. It turned out that the little man was speaking in German. A quick trip to an external German dictionary (because Tugendstoltz wasn’t completely translating), revealed that what the little guy represented was Virtue, and Pride taken in that Virtue.
Apparently, my unconscious mind speaks German?
I can actually see how some of my encounters with deities have been colored by this. My desire to see myself a certain way has, on occasion, conjured up scenarios in my head that facilitated me indulging that aspect of myself. Thankfully, most of these vignettes jumped the shark in some way, and wound up on the discard pile.
Interesting to me was this fear of being alone inside of my head. That is probably not an uncommon motive for using the astral.
My Tugend shows up as an emblem of Death. Death is what animates my sense of goodness and virtue.
Second Session: Sacred Suicide
As darkness drew around me again, I called out to Poppet.
He clambers over something I can’t see, and makes his way over, twitchy and unnatural, a grin frozen on his wood-carved skeleton face.
“Poppet. I am always a little sad, and I don’t quite know why. And I’m saddest when I’m around Dionysos. I don’t understand it.”
“Must show.” He replies, and I nod.
I am hovering over Athens, and Dionysos is holding me. Whether to restrain me or comfort me, it is unclear. His pale, wiry arm is held tightly over my chest.
In the distance, I see fires on the Acropolis. They are not the sacred fires of offerings or incenses. These are the fires of war. The temples are burning, their wooden doors are ablaze. The city of Athens echoes with screams of pain, raw and pure and primal.
In my heart, there is peace and acceptance.
“Our time is done,” I say.
“There have been wars before,” Dionysos answers. “They come, they conquer, and then another conquerer comes. Our people will be free again, and they’ll restore our temples and our cults. You’ll see. You just need to be patient.”
I shake my head. “I’m done here. I want to leave.”
I stretch my consciousness out to the world, and find a place, cozy and warm. He pulls me back, and, more in my heart than in spoken words, he pleads with me, stay.
I look at him, and I think of staying. A feeling washes over me, thick and awful. Caged. Confined. Suffocating. Mournful.
“I can’t lose my people and my wife in the same day,” he says. “All I am is my heart. Break it, and you’ve broken me.”
“I will wait,” I say, “For a time.”
Then I feel something else. I feel resigned. Resigned and caged. And a little piece of me dies.
I repeat the words. “I’m only going to wait for a time.”
But I am still waiting. I am still waiting.
Historical note: There was no big war during which Christians destroyed the temples of Athens. Rather, the indigenous Hellenic religion was systematically persecuted over a few hundred years, starting with Constantine, with a few breaks during the reigns of more liberal folks. The war against indigenous Hellenic religion was not fought with the sword so much as it was fought with legislation and institutionalized persecution. During this the final decline of Hellenic Polytheism, people of higher status could lose that status for practicing pagan religion, and people of lower status would be physically tortured. The temples weren’t destroyed, but rather closed, and left unattended and empty.
As for what all of this means about my mythic self, much of it is baffling. That feeling, though, of being caged, confined and overall miserably resigned is what I feel when I look at Dionysos, and the context here makes sense for why someone might feel that.
I think I may have been a Hellenic Pagan in the ancient world, and that with the rise of Christianity, I wanted to put it behind me. My inner-Dionysos was right: nations rose and fall, religions wax and wane in power. For someone whose path is reincarnation, the idea that we may belong to many cultures over our spiritual history, and many religions, makes sense. By experiencing the world through many sets of eyes and from many cultural perspectives, we work toward a more universal empathy, on a deep unconscious level.
Stagnation, to me, or not being allowed to move on (or, putting a much finer point of it, not being allowed to die), is a fairly horrible fate. Becoming immortal would be impossible for my Psyche to swallow. I could only digest it as, I’ll wait here, I guess, for now. The whole time, I’d just be waiting for an excuse to move on to the next transmigration, the next adventure.
In this vignette, I was a goddess, choosing to die. Dionysos, a god of life, is holding me back, preventing me from essentially committing suicide.
The burning of the temples represents the desecration of what I hold to be sacred. It is the desecration of Death, through prolonging a life past its time.
I am Death, and in order to be what I am, I must cleave to Life. The two cannot exist without each other. They are like husband and wife.
Third Session: Mama Earth, Rot, Blood and Paperwork
I am joyously romping over the muddy Earth, singing love songs to her.
I am a massive, shaggy black hound. My fur is matted around my legs, and my maw is grizzled from a recent meal. Yellow eyes gleam in the darkness.
Now it is day. A man is planting.
Mama Earth says: “No, it is not time. The field must lie fallow. I do not give permission.”
I nod, and approach. I wait. I watch. The shoots sprout up, and grow a little. This is important. I howl and swarms of insects come at my call. They gnaw and shit on the plants. Birds come and eat the bugs. Cats come and eat the birds, and their corpses rot in the field. Then Blight comes, at last, and nothing of the shoots are left. The dead things break down and renew the soil.
Mama Earth is happy.
I am a prowling black panther, huge and sleek. My footfall makes no sound.
A man is taking a woman against her will. Mama Earth screams in fury: “This is not the time for ploughing! I do not give consent!”
I lunge, and there is a spray of blood. The woman escapes.
Mama Earth is appeased.
I am a black horse, ill-kept and stout with tangled mane.
A man is standing with papers. “This is mine,” he says. And everyone nods, afraid and unsure of what to do. “And this is mine,” he says, pointing to something else. Again, everyone is nodding, unhappy but saying nothing. “And you are mine,” he says, shaking his contract at the people.
I stand beside him.
“And you are mine,” he says to me.
Mama Earth is disgusted. “Foolish young creature,” she says. “He does not own me.”
I lean over his shoulder, and eat his contracts. He screams. The people rejoice.
So. This explains why I love Hermes so. Apparently, he and I share a conviction that you owning stuff is basically all in your head.
What interests me is the Earth conflating herself with the humans that are on the Earth. We see humans as being distinct from the ecosystem, and often disobeying the laws of nature, but here, the people, the land, the women, and I are all her. Of course, it is not any Earth deity appearing to me. This is purely internal, and rather, represents how I think about the Earth.
All three scenes are unified by a common idea: that people think of themselves as being entitled to whatever they can take by force, and that this is wrong. My mythic self, in particular, stands vehemently opposed to this bullshit.
TLDR: I was able to identify my reasons for seeking out the astral to begin with, learned a bit about my Death-related aspects, and discovered that I have a relationship strong feelings about Mama Earth that I probably ought to explore further. I am a dark critter. Death, rot, and decay feature prominently in my inner symbology. They are, in the end, what motivate my sense of justice and goodness. If I were a deity, I’d be a chthonic deity.
Re: the German word, our subconscious can reveal things we’d have never thought of consciously, other languages being one aspect. In one scrying session, for example, a spirit told me the word,”Avast.” It turns out it was a nautical command to stop or cease. In real life, I could’ve sworn I’d never heard of that word.
:: nods ::
I did visit Germany when I was a young teen. It’s possible that my unconscious mind just… absorbed the conversation around it, and regurgitated it like 25 years later.
One thing that I found puzzling was Poppet’s refusal to repeat itself in English, and the absolute insistence on using German.
The German must have had some significance, maybe on a cultural or personal level. Interesting stuff!
Re: the persecution of the Greek pagans. I read somewhere that another method was by convincing them their gods and the Christian God were equivalent, so the pagans would include God in their pantheon and their places of worship were friendly to Christians. Considering the Bible says,”Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” implying the realness of other gods, I wonder how many truly believed pagan ones were just false idols.
During the Constantinian era, civilian Christian Greeks would vandalize the sacred objects and temples… One of the things that I commonly consider is that, late in the history of Hellenic religion, state religion portrayed the gods as angry, terrifying, and being in absolute agreement with the institutional machine. I wonder if desecrating sacred things is an act of bravery against terrifying gods you no longer worship, or maybe a way of proving to yourself that you aren’t going to be punished for rejecting them.
This also bangs around in my head when people go on about how rejecting the gods is going to destroy a part of your soul, or about how pagans have no choice about serving their gods.
You guys. That didn’t save ancient paganism. It actually accelerated its decline. Maybe that’s not such a great theological idea to bring back.
That’s opening a can of worms 🙂 Christians are known for rebelling in situations where they (or their specific sect) don’t have political power, so that’s not surprising.
Hmmm. True. No one is happier than an early Christian facing death for their faith.
These visions are amazing, but I wonder how much was just you showing yourself things and how much was from outside influences, like the Gods? I recently had strange dream of the history of the land around me being engulfed in a flood, and some indians and dogs dying only to haunt the land. One of the dogs was small and white with brown eyes and he stood in front of me staring at me as I stood above the flood on a white marbled porch to a big building. I also had to surf a big wave of the flood to get to safety. Whether literal or metaphorical, I don’t know. My first impression was the spirits of the land were telling me what happened to them.
The ritual context was asking, very politely, for the gods to not contact me during these meditations. I feel pretty confident that these are just me showing things to myself, and they are interpreted accordingly. All of the gods who showed up during these visions are assumed to be either facets of myself, or symbols for facets of reality that I’m reacting to.
In the case of your dream, it’s hard to say. I might try interpreting it both ways, and see which makes more sense.
It’s also possible that the gods in the vision express something of how you understand those gods.
Oh. definitely! Dionysos, I think I noted, represents Life in that particular vignette, which correspondingly tells me that, more than any of his other aspects, I see him as a deity of Life Indomitable.
And Mama Earth (Dana/Danu, I think, rather than Gaia, weirdly enough) is somehow, in my head, tangled up with Woman/Land/Crop/Proletariat