Chassidic parable: There was once a man who asked his Rabbi why there were examples of miracles and prophecy in Hebrew mythology, and why, if God was capable of such things, it no longer occurred. And the Rabbi replied simply, “Because we are no longer capable of looking that low.”
There’s a game of hyperbole that certain practitioners play. A disingenuous sort of reverence that aims to push the gods as far away as possible. A god is like a hurricane…no, no, like a supernova… WAIT NO, a god is like a mega black hole in the center of the galaxy! And so you take your anthropomorphic deities that were of a particular culture, that ancient people prayed to expecting a response, because life was f’n hard, and you turn them into something vast, alien, and unrelatable. You no longer look ‘that low’ for the divine, and so miracles, or omens, or the gods actually helping you in your day to day life probably isn’t a thing.
And that’s fine. Some people need a master to make them feel smaller. Some need a master that is inconceivably high, to give themselves headroom for spiritual development. I cannot personally relate to either type of person, because I don’t decide what to do based on the words of any kind of authority figure, divine or otherwise, but rather, am compelled by my inner nature to reason about logical and ethical implications on my own, or through discourse with peers.
And then there are the practitioners who cut their gods into hundreds of tiny pieces, because they don’t like the idea of not being able to utterly control how a deity manifests. Or, perhaps, as a way of solving disputes. By this, I am referring to the, “My-Diana, Your-Diana,” way of thinking (as opposed to acknowledging that eyewitness testimony is unreliable, or that even humans modulate their behavior or “mask” to get along, and deities probably do, too), or the supposition that your deity is not a person, but 270 dead people in a trench coat. I do not engage in either of these types of thinking. Would not, could not, for all the honor and gold in the world, or to avoid the scorn of others.
If you are any of these types of people, I really doubt anything I’m about to say is going to hold true for you, so you may as well stop reading. This post, indeed, most of what I write, will not be applicable to your practice.
I’m also going to flag this with a content warning for sex and consent issues.
Still here? Ok. *Deep inhale*
There are some people who have sex with deities as a magical act, or an act of devotion. I recall, some years ago, having a conversation with someone who was like, “oh, yeah, I forget to have sex with my deities.”
And my mind was blown.
You mean… they don’t just erupt all over you spontaneously? You don’t just stare longingly into their eyes and then accidentally get carried away and realize what you are doing like six orgasms later? Have you literally never had a deity steal your shoes because they wanted your attention?
Cut me some slack, I was in my 20s and didn’t know the ways of the world.
But with a more mature lens, I realize that what was going on there was sex work. This was sex, quid pro quo. It was not an expression of passionate romantic love. It was the practitioner providing a sexual service to a deity. The deity was not a spouse or a romantic partner, around which some lion’s share of the practitioner’s heart revolved.
Which, of course, begs two questions.
- Why did the deities want that?
- What was the currency with which the practitioner was paid?
If you view deities as alien, malevolent beings, or quasars beyond human understanding, there is no way to make this shirt hang in the proverbial closet. But if you posit that deities, as we know them and name them, are spirits of humanity just as there are tutelary spirits of lakes and mountains, and if you posit that they do what they do because they are passionately in love with humanity as a natural phenomenon, then you can well understand why they would crave a connection with this oft-hidden part of our nature.
And to the second point, the currency, I believe, is notice and connection. That is, having touched your physical body in that particularly intimate way, they’re better able to see and influence you. Then, when you make an offering an ask for help, they’re better able to answer.
And on the matter of sex with deities, I recall something Hermes, in particular said to me, in fact keeps saying to me.
“You need to know that this is not without consequence.”
As in, we couldn’t just do the do like it was cooking dinner or doing the laundry together. It wasn’t like having sex with a mortal partner, where maybe it impacted your relationship, but hardly had any implications for anything such as your metaphysical destiny, or your immortal soul.
I’m still not sure I buy consequences for my immortal soul (not that it would change anything if I did), but it sure as hell does change the way magic flows around me. That, I will certainly grant you. I know so because when you have a tiny baby and are up at all hours of the day and night, you might not want sex for a while, because you are dog-tired. I think that’s pretty normal. And then you do want sex, so you have it, and damn the differences were really noticeable.
This is a different way that a deity can interact with your physical body. While this is a facet of priestcraft that we most often think about in connection with bringing down a deity for a community, it’s equally valid to do this in private.
And this is a practice you just sort of DON’T tell your friends who live in a state of fear and distrust of the gods. Because yes, if it were true that the deities you worked with were selfish, ignorant, malevolent, astral colonizers, this would be extremely dangerous! If your deities don’t know how not to injure humans, if they don’t know how to work with humans, if they can’t compute the negative consequences of harming a medium for their cultus and community, and need a priest-nanny to put them on time out and hand them a binkie when they’re done, then you absolutely should not do trance with them in private.
Also, if you have unresolved trauma around immature parent and/or clergy figures, or are still processing abuse and neglect from your childhood, maybe don’t do this kind of work. If the priests that trained you were still processing trauma surrounding immature/incompetent/abusive/neglectful parent or clergy figures, maybe take some time to work through that before you do this kind of work. If you find yourself engaging in power fantasies that look an awful lot like you being nasty-god shaped, don’t do this work because it’s your shadow self that needs the priest-nanny.
If you don’t have any of the above-enumerated issues, if you remove the burden of accurately delivering a message from this kind of work, and if you simply focus on aligning the deity’s energy body with your own, it can be the orderly, meditative counterpart to the wild ecstasy that is out and out fucking a deity.
Post Baby-Covid-Non-Prof-Leadership-Hell which I’m just going to term, “The Depressening,” my partner and I made a promise to get back into trance mediumship, just with one another as an audience (not sure you could pay either of us enough to do it in public ever again), and noted, similarly, that even though the conversation was light and fluffy, the manifestations and synchronicities following were dramatic. Not just positive omens, but ones that were clearly attributable to the deities we connected with.
And somewhere at the very back of my brain, I’m recalling someone telling me about a Hindu practice of touching each part of the body and inviting the deity into it, which they brought up because it sounded an awful lot like our particular method of mediumship, so if you’re somehow reading this, please comment with a link to what it is called.
[Edit: Silence, and another friend on Tumblr who probably wants to remain unmentioned, say this is Nyasa, and the latter person said that they learned it as a part of Tantra.]
The Middle Pillar Ritual
I fully acknowledge that almost no Golden Dawn practitioner sees the MPR in the way I do. In fairness, I’m coming from the perspective of a Jewish polytheist who sees Kabalah as Jewish, and the names of God as epithets or titles for the Hebrew deity.
If you DO have this paradigm, it could likewise be seen as inviting the Hebrew deity, in their various aspects, into various parts of your physical body.
The reason to NOT believe so is mainly that such a belief is highly inconvenient to someone who hates the Hebrew deity and thinks that the Golden Dawn (in all it’s multifarious Thelemic and Hermetic forms) is THE only way to practice “high magic.”
That’s cool. You go on hating that deity and calling their names (the same ones their devout pray to) into your body. I’m sure nothing will come of it.
But if you DO work with this deity, if you DO like them, then this is yet another practice of self-consecration and divine-physical alignment.
And if you DON’T work with or like that deity, you can absolutely gank the formula — not of the Q-Cross, because that’s from the Lord’s Prayer, and maybe not even of the LBRP, because that ritual’s deep formula is more complicated than it looks — but of the simple act of calling the names or epithets of a deity into energy centers of your body, imagining them as bright spheres of light, and then circulating the energy with your breath.
The overall goal is the same: to invite the deity not simply into your mind, but into your physical reality as well.
That ritual is called nyasa.
As always, I am delighted to see an email from you. There is definite food for thought in here….
Thank you for writing this, it really rounded out some things I’ve been pondering the last few months. I think it might have been P*xson’s local influence in the area here, but the idea that people trance possessed might need forceful de-possession (“We might need to call in X deity to kick Y deity out of this person,”) need a minder to pacify them so they don’t hurt people or start shit (“We need a warden to stand by with tasty treats in case this deity gets grumpy,”) etc. has me question if that entity is truly the one possessing. If a deity can’t figure out basic hospitality, ESPECIALLY if coming from a culture that held hospitality to be sacred, and seems to be acting out? Probably not a deity.
I ask myself, “Does this seem like a god, or like a traumatized person who can do whatever they want right now and have someone else take the credit/blame?” and when I know the horse better, I also ask myself, “Does this seem like a god, or like who this person wishes they could be if they felt safe enough to be this way?” And while there’s a bit of blurriness there… my experiences with the trance-possessed have, long-term, not yielded any feeling of depth or impact.
I really appreciate that the ATR group I’ve been engaging with these last few months has given me a contrasting experience to all this. (I haven’t witnessed any trance-possession from these folks tbc.) The priest speaks, the congregants speak, and it often feels like what they say makes a sound that carries all the way through me, instead of dying out a few inches past their mouths. I’d hope that one really and truly trance-possessed by a deity, even if engaging in casual conversation, would also be so internally aligned with themselves that they, too, speak in such a way, and that their presence continues to quietly resonate even after departing, having set the local atmosphere in motion, so to speak.
Well, I mean, sometimes religion is just like that. I can think of another religion where a priest needs to be on hand because the deity is short-tempered and will eternally punish you for the natural human things that humans naturally do. You need their special rituals, and their secret sacraments, and their sanctified deity-cookies and special waters, or else their deity might hurt you. There might be demons, or something.
Deities that are dangerous and childish and scary make their priests more powerful, don’t they?
And you especially know that’s what the priests are on about when they get BIG MAD about any tools practitioners give each other to empower them to deal with spiritual issues on their own, or they EXTRA HATE anyone saying that gods SHOULD have greater spiritual mastery than an average human, and if they don’t maybe don’t have rituals to invoke them. That they should have more empathy and compassion, and should understand humans. And they’ll say, “but there are nuances!” Bullshit! There are no nuances to “don’t put salt in your fucking eye!” Or “don’t invoke things that might harm you.” Or, “don’t go to rituals where the priests outright tell you that their deities harm people.”
But then, as you well know, if that sort of “gee, we become like what we invoke, so maybe don’t invoke shitheads” kind of thinking caught on, those priests would have a lot fewer people in some excited emotional state buzzing around them needing their attention on a constant basis.
This is a cheap, harmful power grab on the part of a certain few. Others simply perpetuate it unknowingly. And I absolutely know how those manifestations are being generated — and why Trance is such a big part of it.
Trance states are hypnotic states. It’s the same brain state. We pass in and out of them all the time. But the thing that most people miss is that there aren’t just post-hypnotic suggestions, there are pre-hypnotic suggestions as well. If you tell a room full of people who have never been hypnotized before that “most people tense up their right hand when they are hypnotized,” then that is what will happen. So if you make super-duper sure that every medium takes your trance class where you tell them how bad your gods are, and how they do this and thus during trance, and how you therefore need all of these special rituals and techniques to stay safe, it’s a pre-hypnotic suggestion which then manifests when they next enter a hypnotic state. Worse, if you teach people to fear their own natural trance states (which we enter and exit naturally — like during ‘highway hypnosis’ or whenever we space out) then when a person dissociates for too long, they might imagine they’re being possessed, and then you have a person in crisis, and there are so many of them at this point that — hell, may as well charge money for a ritual cure, or books about how to deal with this now-common problem, or classes about trance safety and warding, which only serves to reinforce the fear, which in turn generates more problems.
It was eye-opening to read the case studies of Milton Erickson. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone interested in mediumship.
Glad you found people that are giving you a contrasting experience. I hope your experiences of their mediumship are excellent and fulfilling.
Oof, yes to all that. There seems to be a Norse recruitment squad basically where “0din” gets involved and “claims” you, you don’t have a choice, and he will harm you, your family, your coworkers, your pets—whoever— if you don’t acquiesce to his demands. Maybe you can get Freyja or Frigga to deal with him, possibly Loki (but not really), but maybe all the Norse-affiliated people you can find shrug and go, “That’s just how it is” or they don’t have the time, interest, or bandwidth to deal with it. (See also the escalation: 0din is interested in me, 0din likes me, 0din wants me to work with him, 0din says I have to work with him, 0din says I belong to him, 0din says I’ve always belonged to him, 0din says he owns me, 0din says I have been promised to him since before birth, I have always belonged to 0din in all my incarnations, there are five lights…)
There was an extended ring of us newbies dealing with people we knew (friends, family) mentioning that they had just started having random (single) eye pain after we rejected working with “0din”, and ending up feeling unsupported in our communities in attempting to deal with the situation. (As well as the usual, “Well, the Gods know best, whatever it takes I suppose,” “I guess the Gods are bringing you together for a purpose,” “0din will attack you to get you to figure out how to defend yourselves, that’s just how he is,” “You should feel honored that he wants you so badly!” Hitting me is a sign gods like me, I should lie back and think of Asgard—got it, thanks!) Outside of that group of folks, I’ve seen this be repeated in various occult discord servers, and on a certain nsfw social website, and it’s always “0din.”
Spending weekly time with the folks in a local ATR temple since last September has really put my previous experiences in a new light. I like to say that each time I go, I come out loving better than I did going in. I have begun to love and be in love with the-totality-of-everything-that-is-God. I feel a greater ability to be myself, and to be in better relation to everything (God). I credit this path in part with guiding me to end a 6-year estrangement with a family member that resulted in a profound and massively healing reconciliation. Like, this is the beginning of a profound transformation that has already resulted in enormous personal good, and even if I stopped walking this path right now, I’d already be miles ahead of what I even considered possible a few months ago. I did not get these feelings, insights, improvements from the various pagan, witch, Thelemic, etc. services/rituals I’ve attended.
My interactions with the babalawo, well, it is a blessing just to be around him. You feel it. And you feel him blessed by those around him in return, how there is this effortless giving flowing back and forth. As he pours out, so it is poured out back to him. He’s not drained by his work, long-term, he is blessed and fed by it. His community, including his spirits, takes care of him, and he’s in his late 70’s, still going incredibly strong, in great health, and in a stable material position.
On a more magical level, since beginning to attend services there, I’ve begun to get actual synchronicities and omen-responses. leading to a LOT of interesting data considering I’ve been a magical/spiritual practitioner for three years now, and am only getting these after certain changes (with the exception of that one time Hermes managed to get the PGM tarot he is a patron of to me on 4/4 last year, that was my 1 [one] synchronicity previously). There’s also this more nebulous, but dead useful radar I’m getting for being able to detect when people are and aren’t flowing in their dao, that has helped me navigate my own—and also sense how turbulence in the dao can be… not contagious, exactly, but sort of? Idk, getting into the weeds here. Too much to say about illusion, denial, etc.
TL;DR These people in the Orisha temple are great, I’m blessed to have met them.