Sunday, 13 August 2017

Some thoughts on the month of August

Song for Lughnasadh

                   [He:]    O beauty's blossom, most cruel maid,
                             A grievous foe have you been to me:
                             My heart you took and my trust betrayed
                                       And smiled as I sank in the dark sea.
                             But why, why did you turn away
                             And why so faithless when I was true?
                             O, summer love has its shining day,
                                       But winter love watches the night through!

                   [She:]   'Twas you, O golden my lord, confessed
                             To my loving ear your immortal race,
                             And if I tricked you I did but jest
                                       Yet perish now lacking your kind grace.
                             O, blame be to the wind that drives
                             My fainting steps where the first leaves fly!
                             For winter love with the pine-tree thrives
                                       But summer love will with its bloom die.

                   [He:]    My sweet and fairest one, live to seal
                             Our bond of love in my light anew!
                             O turn to me as the heavens wheel,
                                       For I am returned to seek you:
                             So turn again to me now at last
                             And we shall fear for no wind that blows:
                             For winter love through the storm holds fast,
                                       And summer love laughs with the red rose!

                  [Both:]    The year declines from its summer height
                             In burning glory of autumn gold,
                             Yet pales already the early light
                                       And stubble stands in the mists cold:
                             But leads winter to spring's new birth
                             While love and wonder their treasures pour,
                             Still bringing down to this mortal earth
                                                 The beams of a deathless splendour.

-         Vivian Godfrey

I fondly remember as a child magical and seemingly endless summer holidays through the months of July and August. Irish troubadour Van Morrison nicely captures many of the related sentiments of endless summers in two of his wonderful songs, “On Hyndford Street” and “These are the days.”

Now each summer we always spent a fortnight to a month out of the city, up on the Antrim coast, where some of our extended family lived. Inevitably this took us on tours of the Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle and “the auld Lammas fair” in Ballycastle. All generations to this day are still able to sing along to the old song about the fair of the same name.  

The fair was a wondrous experience as a child – fun fair games, livestock, people watching, dulse, and Yellow Man to eat and rot your teeth. Typically happening on the last Monday and Tuesday in August, it remains one of the oldest fairs in Ireland, held continuously for at least three centuries.

Lammas is the name given to the August festival on the Wheel of the Year. The word may derive from the Celtic name Lughnasadh, which meant “the commemoration of Luqh”. Lugh is of course the name for the Irish sun god, known variously as Lugh of the Long Arm, the Shining One, the Fierce Striker and the Lightning Flash. Another explanation on the etymology is that the word is obtained from the Anglo-Saxon “hlaf-mass” or “loaf-mass”, for this festival marks the beginning of the grain harvest.

At this point on the Wheel of the Year it is plain for most of us in the Northern Hemisphere to see that the Sun god is indeed losing the battle; the days are beginning to get shorter and the light receding. Lugh uses his remaining power to ripen the golden wheat before the long and barren winter months. This was often seen by many as Lugh’s sacrifice to humanity who in turn “served” him.

At this time in Celtic lands, corn dollies are still traditionally made. These are rough female figures made from sheaves of wheat. These represent the Goddess, the Earth Mother, keeping the seed safe until the Spring. Families keep a corn dolly in the house, near the hearth, throughout the winter. When the spring finally comes, the grain incorporated in this figure can be mixed with the other seed just before it is sown in the fields, to symbolically increase fertility.

 Again, emphasizing the perennial nature of many of the old ways, in parts of modern day Ireland, environmental education officers are paid to teach school children how to make corn dollies. One of my old friends who is employed in such as role says that the children are clearly fascinated by their experience, no doubt finding themselves connected to something of a deeper and more enduring nature than much of the rest of their modern-day childhood.

At a time of global troubles, ecological disaster and strife, it is one of my deepest wishes that more of these old ways continue to find their ways back into schools, families and wider community life. The world would be a far better place for it. Our personal and global harvests would be healthier for it!

This August we were truly honoured to be invited by OBOD’s Cornovii Grove to participate in a beautiful Lughnasadh ceremony on the edge the Wyre Forest. The ceremony’s purpose was to celebrate Lughnasadh and bless a friend’s apple orchard. What an event it was too. The ceremony was beautifully crafted with richly poetic and symbolic language which really resonated with both my Aurum Solis and Dion Fortune initiatic heritage. Perhaps most interesting was the wide attendance -- families with their children, neighbours, druids, wiccans, rune devotees, qabalists and ceremonial magicians – all coming together in harmony to honour the spirit of life which is Lughnasadh and the start of the harvest season.

We need more common ground like this if we are to make the world a better place.

All hail!

Friday, 19 May 2017

Knowledge is not wisdom; wisdom is a product of life

At the end of each day when he goes to bed a would-be magus, as a symbolic action, should wipe his brow with the back of his hand and say to himself: "Has my brow this day been wet with mental sweat?" This little rite has value not only as a reminder of the Great Work that has been undertaken, but also as a mental and emotional catharsis, for it has been truly said that the chief temptation of any would-be magus is creation without mental toil."

 - The Elemental Ray, Charles Richard Foster Seymour

In my Lesser Mysteries training I was taught to apply Colonel Seymour's approach to the mundane life. It came with the turf and was non-negotiable. However, few occultists I’ve met seem either capable or inclined to do so. I think that’s a shame. Hard work in any field of endeavour brings its own wonderful blessings.

Sadly there is often a menial attitude toward the world and its fruits in occult circles, and this is not a virtue.

Why do some people maintain poverty of mind, emotions, body and estate instead of widening worldly contacts so that Life’s rich and varied resources can flow through? 

Those seeking the Path should look for life and more life and leadership to achieve this, not endless words and “facts” with a dank and musty library to house them all in. 

Why are so many occultists who claim to be way-showers still hiding in the graveyards of their own making, instead of leading in the field of art or science?

Why are they not striving to be the best teachers, artists, healers and healthcare professionals, ethical business leaders and truly revolutionary politicians? 

Why are so many occultists seemingly more capable of starting a fight in a graveyard with their own shadows and those of others, than applying themselves to bringing peace and healing within?

Many people seem to “take up occultism” as a hobby to provide an escape from the challenges or aridity of their everyday living. They may do this quite unconsciously. Not finding it easy to get on with family or colleagues, frustrated about some aspect of living and repelled by the sweat, toil, dirt and tears of an imperfect world, they seek an apparently readily available escape route. Such people often have a feeling that things are not as they should be and that the world could be a far better place. Indeed, I suspect few people would be able to reasonably deny this. Reacting to the often unpleasant realities of earth, they turn away and try their luck on the “higher planes” instead. Such escapism, though very easy to understand, is ultimately useless and is effective only in further reducing the ability to cope with life's problems.

Knowledge without life breeds stagnation and decay. 

Knowledge is not wisdom; wisdom is a product of life.

*           *          * 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” 

- Theodore Roosevelt in Citizenship In A Republic
delivered at the Sorbonne, 
Paris, France 
on 23 April, 1910

The Springtime of Dion Fortune

There she is staring out at you...or maybe that should be "in to you"! Whether writing as Violet Firth, Violet M Steele...