CAMEOS: Celebrating the Beauty of Goddesses

By Morgana RavenTree

A couple of decades ago, more or less, my best friend gave me a cameo of the goddess Diana, her bow and quiver over her shoulders, a crescent moon on her head.  That was the beginning of my obsession with collecting cameos.  Over the years, whenever my friends find out I collect something (fans, Elizabeth Arden porcelain, cameos) they start gifting me with those items.  Many of my cameos were gifts, though I did buy some at antique or thrift stores and two were purchased on Ebay.

What is a “cameo”?  It isn’t what most people think.  “Cameo” refers to the method of carving used to produce a piece of jewelry.  Basically the surface of a cameo is carved away from the deeper layers, creating a relief, as opposed to being cut into the gem as an intaglio.  Signet rings were carved this way since ancient times, as were many amulets.  Cameos were used as military decorations, too.  For most of its history, cameos were carved from agates or other stones and were worn by both men and women.  In the Renaissance, cameos of mythological figures became very popular.  In addition to figures, they portrayed scenes from Greek and Roman mythology (Miller 2008, 1-3pp.).  Sometimes cameos were carved from alternate materials, like lava, or coral (Comer 2017, 4).

Most people are more familiar with cameos carved from shell.  These cameos became common in the Victorian era and were once considered a “cheap” version of the more prized stone cameos.  Also, since Queen Victoria’s era, people began to associate cameos with “feminine” jewelry, though even in the 19th century, some men still wore them (Miller 2008, 40).  There are also many imitation cameos today.  Any cameo that is molded or assembled rather than carved is considered an imitation, though many of them are still quite beautiful and have even become very collectible, like the imitation cameos manufactured by Avon cosmetics in the 1970’s.  There are very many cameos that feature profiles or faces of women or girls, but I collect only cameos with goddess/mythological themes.  Cameos featuring male figures are less common, though if I found any with mythological themes I would probably get them anyway.

cam 1 cam 2
My first cameo, set in gold, and still the best version of the popular “Diana” image I have ever seen.  Amazing details. My second “Diana” set in silver.

 

My first Diana cameo (left) is amazingly detailed.  On top of her head, we see a crescent moon.  Over her right shoulder is a quiver to hold arrows, and over her left is the end of a bow and a bow string.  Note the detail on her gorgeous hair.  This piece was found at the old flea market (now gone) in Covent Garden, London.  Some years later I found another Diana cameo in an antique shop in Burbank, California (right).  This one is smaller and a bit less detailed, but still a lovely piece.  It is more common to find quality cameos set in gold, but this one is set in silver.  The bow behind her left shoulder can be seen more clearly than in the earlier cameo.  Over the years I have found other “Diana” cameos of modern, less expensive materials, usually paste or even plastic.  Several of my friends have Diana cameos, some shell, some imitation and I sometimes refer to us as the “Diana” club.

cam-3.jpg cam 4
Imitation cameo, or carved from coral? Authentic carved shell cameo

Above on the left is a “Demeter/Ceres” cameo of unknown date, but judging by the setting, probably early Edwardian.  The backing may be white coral.  Coloring has been added to the profile.  This one came from a small shop in Burbank.  Fruits and flowers decorate the Goddess’s hair and in front of her forehead we see the horn of plenty or “cornucopia”.  The cameo on the right is also Demeter/Ceres but obviously less detailed.  It does appear to be carved shell, but perhaps the artist was less skilled.  There is only a suggestion of a horn in front and fruits/plants in her hair.

cam 5 cam 6
A woman playing a lute-like musical instrument. Diana the huntress, bow in hand, her hound by her side.

These pieces are definitely modern – they were produced by Avon!  For a brief time in the 1970’s, cameos became popular again.  Both of these pieces were found in thrift stores.  They are not “real” cameos, being made of some kind of paste or resin, but still quite beautiful. The locket on the left contained a solid perfume (which I had to remove because it smelled really bad) and is not of a goddess.  The figure of the woman is playing a lute-like instrument and is dressed in “romantic” style clothing.  I’m not sure what historical period if any it is supposed to represent.  The locket on the right depicts Diana the huntress.  Diana is seen with her bow drawn and her faithful hound by her side.  The crescent moon detail is on her head.  This locket still contains pressed face powder.

cam 7  

 

This piece is also an Edwardian shell cameo and nicely detailed.  The woman in the center holds a basket of fruit or flowers in each hand, while the other two women hold something above her head, perhaps a wreath of some kind.  This one was also found in an antique shop.

The Three Graces, dancing.   

 

cam 8 cam 9

Carved from shell, I found these two cameos in an antique shop in Salem, MA.  On the right we see two figures.  Arthur Comer’s book has a similar cameo and identifies the figures as a solder and a woman.  When I first saw it I thought it was Athena and another goddess, but now that I look more closely, I can see the identification of a solder and a woman.  Does anyone have an alternate interpretation of this one?  On the left we see “Leda and the Swan”.   The story goes that Zeus was so enamored of the maiden Leda that he changed into a swan and “seduced” her.  Of course, today we would use a different word.  Both pieces are probably late Victorian.

I purchased the pieces below on Ebay from a shop in Italy that still carves cameos the old way.  Both pieces are contemporary, but were accompanied by certificates of authenticity, because they are both carved from shell.  The first piece is another Demeter/Ceres.  One can see fronds of plants or sheaves of wheat in her hair and there is a suggestion of a “horn” dangling in front of her forehead.

cam 10 cam-11.jpg

I’m not sure what character or scene the other cameo is supposed to depict.  The figure (possibly a woman, but with cameos you can’t always assume) holds the hands up as if in prayer or supplication.  There are no other symbols, except that the figure is resting on something.  Clouds?  Any guesses?


cam 12

This is the piece I acquired most recently, from a thrift store in Burbank.  The proprietor most likely had no idea what she had considering the price of the cameo.  She even apologized for the crack at the top!  It is not a crack, but a natural flaw in the shell.  In this scene a woman is holding up an infant as if offering it to a small figure in a shrine-like structure, a font down below.  Everyone that sees this piece has a different interpretation.  Is she offering her child to the Virgin Mary?  Is she giving her baby to an Anchoress?  (In medieval times, an “Anchorite” or “Anchoress” was a person walled up inside a cell in the church with only a small window through which he or she received food and water.  Sometimes a child would move in to provide the Anchoress with companionship.  Some became quite famous and eventually the cells might develop into a convent.  The famous Hildegard von Bingen started as an Anchoress) What is your guess, or have you seen this image before?

cam 13I have other cameos, but these are the stars of my collection.  I am not interested in collecting cameos not portraying goddesses or mythological scenes, though once in a while I see an “ordinary” cameo that still attracts my interest, such as this example made of black glass.

 

From time to time, people rediscover cameos and their prices begin to escalate.  On the other hand, there are many thrift shop owners that don’t realize their value, so you can still acquire them for a reasonable price.

Cameos are a luxury, to be sure.  You can’t eat them or build a house with them, but they do bring beauty into our lives.

References.

Miller, Anna M.  Cameos Old & New.  GemStone Press, 4th Edition: 2008.

Comer, Jr., Arthur L.  Cameos: Timeless Masterpieces of Glyptic Art.  Alcjr Enterprises; Revised and Expanded 2nd ed.: 2017.

Morgana RavenTree is the current President of Pagan Pride LA/OC and a past contributor to Southland Pagan Press newsletter.

Advertisements

Dive into Divination

by Jeanne McLaughlin

Ah, Divination!  Who among us can’t use a little extra help these days?  We live in some pretty intense times, after all.  Thank the Gods for divination in all it’s glorious forms!

Whether you prefer Tarot, Pendulums, Crystal Gazing or any of the other varieties, please do your community the following favors:

  • Continue to practice and hone your own form of divination. Getting those helpful answers when you need them most.
  • Share techniques with others, so that they may be better enabled.
  • Be open to learning new practices yourself; you never know when something new might enhance your own mystical toolkit.

Are you interested in divination but unsure where to start?  BTDT!  I encourage you to have fun with the learning of your new craft!  Explore!  Try different things and see which fits you best.  Do you like tarot?  Great!  There are countless decks you can use, each adding its own flavor.  The same thing with any of the other forms of divination – there are many varieties within each practice for you to try.  If something doesn’t work for you?  Move on.  When something does?  Own it.  You were born this way, baby.  Didn’t you hear Gaga tell you???

Divination SamplesI added a picture of my own collection of divination tools to inspire you, and to demonstrate a small percentage of the choices available to you.

How to get a useful reading                  

by Linda Fox, Intuitive Tarot

 I’m so excited, I’m going to get a reading, and the reader will know my deepest thoughts, and tell me all about when I will meet the love of my life and live happily ever after.

Nah, if a reader tells you all those things, chances are they are just trying to make you happy by telling you what you want to hear.  Some people actually want to hear those things whether it’s true or not.  I have been reading tarot and using other forms of divination for many years, and I tell the querant the truth of what divination tells me.  If they ask about meeting the love of their life, and I draw cards that say they’re still putting a lot of energy into their ex, I tell them.

If you want to be told that all your dreams will come true with no effort on your part, I’m sure there are readers out there who will tell your that.  If you want a truly helpful reading, I have some pointers for you.

Be open to being read:

If you show up with your arms crossed and a look that says I dare you to read me, you are refusing the reading before it begins.  Be open to the reader.

Listen to what the reader is saying:

The reader may not be telling you what you expect to hear.  I have done rune readings, where I gave much useful information to the querent, but they just weren’t listening.  Next I used the tarot cards and got nearly the exact same information.  She understood the second time I told her.  Perhaps she just needed to see pictures.

Think about what you want to know before you meet with your reader:

Do you want to know about relationships, work, health or money?  Pick the most important one for now and then ask for information on the others as time permits. If you’re thinking of too many things, you may not get any helpful answers.  I usually do a subject overview reading and then ask direct questions on the subject to the divination tool.

Phrase your questions carefully:

Instead of asking where will I work next, be specific:  Will I continue to work in this same field? Will I like a job in the medical field?  Do I have a chance to be hired at a specific company?  Answers to questions like this will give you much more useful information.

Instead of where will I meet my next partner, ask what will my next partner be like? They may look different than you expect and the reader may pick up on their personality or other information to help you recognize them.  Ask will I meet this person online or through an app?  At work?  Through friends?  This information will help you be on the lookout.

Don’t expect accurate readings about the distant future:

Most readers are going to tell you mainly what is going on now, in the past or in the near future.  It’s difficult for many to read years and years into the future.  Why?  Because there are so many everyday choices that you make that could change the future.  A reader can tell what is likely based on the energy you’re putting out now but you could go through a drastic change in a few years and it would all change.

What if a reader tells you something bad?

If a reader tells you of possible problems or unfortunate life changes you are getting that information so you’re aware that you may face problems related to your question.  A reading will tell you where you are most likely headed right now.  You are in control of your own life.  You can choose to make an effort to change the situation before a problem occurs.  A reading is not set in stone.  A good reason to get a reading is to foresee possible problems and be forewarned and forearmed with information, knowledge and a plan for when the time comes.  Beware however if somebody tells you have a curse, or they can change your future for a high price, it’s a scam.

So enjoy your reading, be open, have a question and don’t freak out if you are told something challenging.

Linda Fox

Linda provides Tarot, Oracle and Rune Intuitive Readings, House Blessings, Energetic Space Clearings and Seances. She reads by appointment and at the Learning Light Psychic Faire. Linda’s readings specialize in questions of practical matters and life choices. Find her on Facebook. 

Include or Exclude?

by Jeanne McLaughlin

Inclusivity.  What a powerful, important concept, made from the two-edged sword of “Include or Exclude”.  How many times have we all been on either side, being either welcomed into a group or shunned from it simply because of who we *are*? Because of how we were physically born? Equally sad is being excluded from society for our sexual orientation, religious beliefs, spiritual practices, etc.

Our ancestors lived a much more primal life, and in their case, strangers could indeed be dangerous.  Deadly.  Travelers from distant lands could be merchants that wanted to trade or invading hordes, with intent to kill & destroy.  Small wonder they carried the fear of “different” and passed it on to us.

These days that belief is ridiculous.  Many of us try to judge other humans *only* for who they are as individuals.  Yet our ancestral instinct is strong and society doesn’t always show good examples.  Therefore, I ask you to please consider this idea:  *watch* for people who don’t feel included and make a difference whenever you can.

Do Special Needs People make you uncomfortable?  Want to shy away?  Imagine what life must be like for them… just getting thru every day.  How about people of a different faith or sexual orientation?  Do they make you nervous?  Would you be willing to accept them as individuals, who may have many other things in common with you?

Overall, I like the motto of the LA County General Relief Office: “When in doubt, screen IN, not OUT!”   Words to live by.

Jeanne McLaughlin is a Medicine Woman who spends her life studying and teaching Shamanic ways. Jeanne’s personal practice is Animal Medicine; working with animal spirits when they pass, and making Medicine Art from the feathers & bones she finds in the wild. Jeanne can be contacted at TheFeatherLady@earthlink.net and you can find her beautiful work for sale at Shaman Art from my Heart.

 

Langar: Let’s Feast Together

By Morgana RavenTree

​At the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions held in Toronto, Canada last November, I was privileged to take part in a Langar (rhymes with “hunger”) hosted by the Local Sikh community.  

Several Sikh (pronounced “sick” not “seek”) Gurdwara (temples) in the Toronto area took turns hosting a daily “free lunch” for anyone at the parliament.  In addition, I attended a workshop about the Langar and spoke with several members of the local  Sikh community (oh and I also heard some performances of Sikh music which were fabulous).

If you’re wondering why I would write an article about a Sikh practice for a Pagan newsletter, it’s because I believe there is a great deal Pagans can learn from this custom and practice.

Langar (kitchen) is the term used by Sikhs for the community kitchen or meal served in their Gurdwara Each day a free meal is served to all the visitors without distinction of religion, caste, gender, economic status or ethnicity.  To accommodate many different dietary needs the daily free meal is always vegetarian, but there are certain special occasions when an additional meal, including meat, might be served as Sikhs are not vegetarians

Langar 1The first time I attended the Langar, there was a large room set aside (later moved into a section of the Exhibition Hall).  Everyone was asked to remove our shoes and leave anything we didn’t need with us outside the meal area.  Next, we were asked to cover our heads (men and women both).  As most people didn’t have headscarves, the community provided orange scarves and helped tie them around people’s heads.  Those who had headscarves could skip that part.  

Next, we stood in line for hand-washing stations (cleanliness being an important principle of Sikhism), then we lined up for the food stations.  

The foods were simple and basic: rice, chapatti (bread), dal (lentils or yellow split peas), red beans (though I understand sometimes they serve vegetables).  Once we had our plates and cups of water, we sat down on the floor in rows (there were also a few tables along the wall for people unable to sit on the floor).   The practice of sitting on the floor is to emphasize there is no rank within the temple. Everyone sits together, all are equal.

 

As most people didn’t know each other, it was an ideal time to strike up conversations with other diners.  I met a woman who works with Pagan Pride Philadelphia, a couple from Africa, another couple from Northern California and many others.

Langar 3

After the meal, we could line up again for dessert and spiced tea (chai).  I’m not really sure what the desserts were, but they had the consistency of fudge, though they were made of pistachios and milk or chickpeas.  One day there were also some very delicious savory “crackers” made from chickpeas.  Afterwards diners would return to parliament activities.  So, at first it seemed like just a free meal, but as I learned in the workshop there is so much more to it than that.

For those unfamiliar with Sikhism, it is a monotheistic religion that originated in the Punjab region of India around the end of the 15th century.  It is the world’s ninth-largest organized religion.  It is not an Abrahamic religion, rather following the teachings of 10 gurus (teachers), the first of whom, Guru Nanak, supposedly started the Langar tradition.

As we were told in the workshop, Guru Nanak’s father gave him a sum of money to go seek his fortune in the world.  Guru Nanak came upon a village where people were poor and hungry.  He used the money to buy food for everyone, believing nourishing the body was necessary for nourishing the soul.  Thus the tradition began.  However, I later found a different origin story, that the Langar was actually started by Sufi (Muslim) mystics a couple of centuries earlier.  Nevertheless, with the establishment of Sikh temples in North America and Europe, the Sikh version of the Langar is better known.

During the meal, there are no readings, no efforts to proselytize.  Although not Abrahamic, Sikhs nonetheless believe in one creator.  They also believe in divine unity and equality of all humankind, selfless service, striving for justice for the benefit and prosperity of all.  Sikhs reject the idea that any particular religion possesses Absolute Truth.  Equality of all people is one of the most important precepts of this religion.

Langar 6

So what can Pagans learn from the Langar?  Too often the “feast” that is typically served after Pagan gatherings is sort of an afterthought.  An “oh yeah, we need to bring some food” and a quick trip to Trader Joe’s.  In contrast, Sikhs consider the food preparation to be a devotional exercise, putting great care and thought into the process.  Sharing the food brings as much blessing to them as to the people they feed.  Pagans should consider this when planning their own feasts.  The food doesn’t need to be complicated or exotic.  Simple, healthy, natural foods served in a simple way should be sufficient, fueling the body as well as the mind.  Sikhs make the food vegetarian to accommodate many different diets, something Pagans should consider before bringing a bag of Doritos or bottle of Coke to feast.  Put some thought and care into your feast dishes.  If you don’t cook, there’s nothing wrong with bringing fruits or healthy veggies, so long as you properly clean and prep them.  If you do like to cook but don’t have time on ritual days, there’s this machine in most kitchens called a “refrigerator” that usually has a “freezer” you can use to prepare foods ahead of time.

The feast is an opportunity to build community within your group, to share the bounty of the Goddess. It is also a moment when “rank” disappears and we are just a family sitting down together enjoying each other’s company.  It is as important to the group as the actual ritual and an opportunity to strengthen our bonds to each other.

If you are interested in experiencing a Langar check your local Sikh temple for their Langar schedule.  All are welcome.

Morgana RavenTree is the current President of Pagan Pride LA/OC and a former National Board member of Covenant of the Goddess.  As an anthropologist by training, she has always had a strong interest in world cultures.  She performs Persian and Central Asian dance with Tandemonium and sings with Te Mau Marite Tahitian Folk Music.  She is a former member of Avaz International Dance Theatre, Zhena Folk Chorus (Balkan Music) and Polsie Iskrie (Polish dance).  Because everything is connected.

Pagan Pride So White

by J. Emmi

#paganpridelaocsowhite

Just like the Oscars and big events in mass majority of first world countries, Pagan Pride LA/OC is so white. Last year at Pagan Pride there was two, maybe three pagans of color vendors, no pagans of color lecturers, workshop presenters or ritual facilitators that were people of color(POC). This is wrong and unacceptable and NOT a reflection of the pagans of color in LA/OC. There has been so much discussion about the disgusting and narrow minded white supremacy in the pagan community and Pagan Pride should actively work against white supremacy. It can actively do so by having full representations of pagans, and realistic representations at that. California and Los Angeles are the melting pot of the melting pot and while Orange County (OC) seems like they have less diversity and less POC than LA, they still have a lot, should not ignore them and LA/OC has many POC to realistically represent.

What about the The Hood Botanica? supplying the best spiritual tools with its founder answering your questions and supplying powerful wisdom through instagram live every week https://www.instagram.com/thehoodbotanica/

or the Bruja’s Botanica ? providing the best spell work, spiritual supplies and guidance https://www.instagram.com/brujasbotanica/

or Daizy October “LA’s Hoodoo Woman, Ancestral Astrologer, Diviner and Black Spirituality Columnist/Historian” https://www.instagram.com/thatafromystic/

or the Hype Priestess aka Lacey Conine who put on the first Witch Walk in Santa Ana last week? https://www.instagram.com/hypepriestess/

or the Hood Bruja? with her wisdom and creator of some of the most delicious vegan food in LA https://www.instagram.com/thehoodbruja/ https://www.instagram.com/HoodBrujasKitchen/

or Jazz the Doula Jewla aka Jazmine Danielle with her magical jewelry, alchemy and wisdom https://www.instagram.com/chakrabuntu

or WitchDoctor Alex with his amazing podcast, vast astrology knowledge, talent in tarot and more https://www.instagram.com/witchdoctoralex

or Black Magic Botanicals ? LA’s place for candles, oils, tarot, spiritual consultations and more https://www.instagram.com/blackmagicbotanicals/

or Leach Garza and Jaison Perez in their informative metaphysical podcast, oils, metaphysical items,”Akashic Records knowledge, Intuition Development for Women of Color”,etc https://www.instagram.com/wearepowercrystals/ https://www.instagram.com/crystalsofaltamira  https://www.instagram.com/bluerosebotanics/

and of course the successful, LA native now living in Seattle the Hood Witch with her powerful art installations and knowledge https://www.instagram.com/thehoodwitch/ and MORE.

As you can see there are MANY pagans of color in LA/OC that are talented, powerful and have so so much to offer. It would be an tragedy to ignore all these beautiful pagans of color. I have an even longer list of pagans of color that are LA locals, Califorinan’s and some of the best witches of color around to suggest to be invited to speak, vend and facilitate activities at Pagan Pride LA/OC. Like this month’s theme of inclusivity, Pagan Pride LA/OC can you please please invite, make feel welcome, create safe spaces and honor these pagans of color and more, at Pagan Pride LA/OC?

DeS7YzJg

J. Emmi is a Visual Artist, Strega and Nature Lover. Follow her on Instagram @j_emmi_fineart

Introducing a new Tarot project!

by Thea Wirsching

Some of you know me as Thea Wirsching, Evolutionary Astrologer, but I’m also an academic with a research background in American esotericism.  That research is the subject of a forthcoming Tarot deck, The American Renaissance Tarot.  This Tarot celebrates the Transcendentalists and other nineteenth-century American writers who transformed the landscape of American spiritual life.  The careers of many of these writers naturally fit Tarot archetypes. Margaret Fuller, editor of the Transcendentalist magazine The Dial and author of a book called Woman in the Nineteenth Century, could only be the Empress.  Emily Dickinson’s sibylline meditations on nature elect her as the High Priestess.  Walt Whitman’s ecstatic love for America and all its inhabitants – black and white, rich and poor, male and female – made him perfect for the World card.  Ralph Waldo Emerson’s lectures on the power of the mind and the majesty of the individual soul resonate with the Tarot’s Magician archetype.

Hermit Image@2xBut perhaps the most natural fit of all for an American literary Tarot was Henry David Thoreau as the Hermit.  Thoreau made a two-year, two-month, and two-day experiment in simple living. He left American society to live in the woods at Walden Pond, to discover truths that can only be gained in solitude.  We depicted Thoreau on the water in the card image, to emphasize the reflective power of nature; Thoreau described Walden Pond as a “perfect forest mirror.” Importantly, Thoreau returned to society after his sojourn in the wilderness.  The Hermit archetype can also represent someone with highly individual views. For Thoreau, these were his anarchistic ideas that appear in essays like “Civil Disobedience.” Thoreau was also fiercely anti-slavery, and the card illustrates the white water-lily that Thoreau discussed in the lecture, “Slavery in Massachusetts,” which gave him hope that one day “man’s deeds will smell as sweet.”

Keep an eye on www.americanrenaissancetarot.com and follow @americantarot on Instagram, for updates on when this exciting project will be available for purchase!

The World’s Wisdom of Manly P. Hall

By Tammye McDuff

“Education at any age is a lifelong dedication to the improvement of character, and the enlargement of understanding. We are here to learn and grow and share…
– Manly P. Hall –

It has been called the Alexandria Library for modern times.  Whether you are new to metaphysics or a mage of many years, there is no doubt you have heard of Manly P. Hall and the Philosophical Research Society [PRS] located in Los Angeles.

PRS 01For eight years the library was open only on special occasions and with certain permissions, however due to the generosity of the Virginia S. Warner Foundation, the library has been reopened and all of Halls’ information transferred into a digital catalogue.

Dr. Greg Salyer, President and CEO of the University of Philosophical Research introduced the woman behind the foundation, “Virginia Warner has long been a friend of the Society, because she shares the desire to bring wisdom to all seekers.”  For the past several years, her foundation has supported a significant part of the large undertaking of organizing and creating a digital catalogue of Halls’ unique esoteric library.

In a quote by Hall, upon the original opening of the library, he stated, “There is no reason why PRS should not be remembered like Plato’s Academy, but if it is to continue, the society must make use of the most advanced technology available. I now envision a university of the mind, and think that through proper organization we can bring this message of enlightened living to a much greater audience throughout the world.”

For years, students and seekers would scour through black binders filled with Hall’s writings and notes. The catalogue system was neither dewy decimal nor library of congress, “Rather it was a list of books with its own unique formatting including penciled in notes and corrections,” said Salyer. The library fell behind in technology and organization, not knowing what hidden gems might have lost in stacks of books and bins of notes.

“Many years ago in my practice of meditation,” Says Warner, “A very unusual message came to me. I was told you must meet Obadiah. So I turned to the book of Obadiah in the bible. Coincidently I had purchased a book entitled The Secret Teachings of All Ages. I thought I might find an answer to my message in this book.” Warner goes on to say she was awestruck by the remarkable range of wisdom that Hall had compiled, “Never before had I seen a compilation of the ancient truths offered to this world.” As it turns out later that same year Warner was introduced to PRS President, Dr. Obadiah Harris, thus beginning her mission to create a complete catalogue of Halls works and his vision to make these teachings available to everyone around the world.

Manly Hall was a Canadian-born scholar and philosopher. He is perhaps most famous for his 1928 book The Secret Teachings of All Ages. Hall was the first president for the Philosophical Research Society’s and was a seeker and lover of wisdom. He had the courage and the raw intellectual energy to look for wisdom in places most would have long since forgotten. He lived in an era when most Americans did not look toward other cultures and traditions, without looking down.

Manly P. Hall began his public career in the related fields of philosophy and comparative religion at the age of nineteen, was ordained to the ministry at 22 and devoted his life to teaching, writing, and lecturing without interruption for over half a century. Hall gave nearly seven thousand lectures and talks, appearing on numerous radio and television stations throughout the Unites States.

Hall traveled extensively in Europe, Asia, and Central America, and assembled a magnificent library which he presented to the Society. On October 17, 1935, nearly one hundred people assembled on the site for the purpose of breaking ground for the headquarters, which included a front office, print shop, bindery, and library. Prior to the construction of the library, Hall attracted the attention of wisdom seekers from across the world. Donations from philanthropists and supporters enabled him to visit great auction houses of Europe, purchasing rare manuscripts that pre date the 1800’s.  His collection was so impressive that during World War II, The Library of Congress requested permission to make microfilm copies of unique items for permanent record, in case the Library should be damaged by bombardment.

The Library collection grew book by book, building on the great truths of illuminated thinkers such as Pythagoras, Plato, Buddha, Confucius, Hermes, Aristotle, Jesus and Mohammed; along with other prophets and sages.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In 1998, the Society’s many educational offerings became an accredited formal University.  In July of 2000, the State of California approved the University of Philosophical Research to issue a Master of Arts Degree in Consciousness Studies.  Since that time the Philosophical Research Society has been doing business as The University of Philosophical Research. In January 2003, the State of California approved the UPR’s second Master of Arts Degree Program, in Transformational Psychology.

The University of Philosophical Research is now open Tuesday to Fridays 10:00 am to 4:00 pm and is located at 3910 Los Feliz Blvd., Los Angeles, California. For more information call 323.663.2167 or visit http://www.uprs.edu

Celebrating Your Role: Leader, Hermit or Soldier

by Jeanne McLaughlin

What’s your role in our Pagan community? Or in any other?

Are you a Leader?  One who leads a coven or group?  One who initiates gatherings or projects?  One who inspires others? Wonderful!  Thank you!  A group without direction can’t achieve much.

Without Leaders, no changes are likely to happen.  The Collective would likely sit and continue as is indefinitely.  Leaders are the ones who see the big picture, long term goals for the better, and how to achieve them.  Without Leaders, the Collective doesn’t have a focus.  It takes tremendous courage to be a Leader; to believe you have the right solution for many and have the courage to execute your plans.

Are you more the Hermit, preferring to work as a solitary?  Doing good for the Collective from behind the front lines, often unseen or unknown.  Great!  Thank you!  Good energies and positive change helps, no matter the source.  Imagine for a moment, how many solitary lightworkers exist right now in the world… and if all of them keep working for a common goal of greater good, how much positive energy that provides!

Being a Hermit you have the luxury of doing your spiritual work at will; when and where you wish.  Yet it can also be challenging because you’re always on your own; no other energies to support yours.  It takes great courage to be a Hermit – to have the strength to work alone, and know that’s what you do best.

Or are you a Soldier, preferring to be the strength of the group, yet neither leading nor being solitary?  Lovely!  Thank you!  After all, what good are leaders without someone to lead?

Without Soldiers (the Collective) the Leaders have no one to lead, and the Hermits have no one to help.  You who are Soldiers are the strength of us all – the heartbeat, the soul… the reason the Leaders and Hermits exist at all.  It takes courage to be a Soldier, to have the confidence of knowing yourself and understanding you simply want to be part of the group.  To belong. To be part of something much greater than yourself.

How about a combination?  (Oh, do we dare?  Yes!)  Perhaps you act as each of those roles in different aspects of your life.  Perfect!  Maybe you enjoy leading a ritual but prefer to do healing work alone?  Do you like to participate sometimes as part of the crowd and other times leading them?  Awesome!  Sometimes do you just want to be alone?  Nothing whatsoever wrong with that.  Personally, I live all three roles at different times; I teach workshops at Pagan gatherings for hundreds of people, I’m part of big groups doing energy work, and I do much work alone.

No matter which role suits you best, celebrate it!  Own it!  See all the good points therein and savor them. See any drawbacks and handle them as best you can.

The point is ALL are needed, Leader, Hermit and Soldier.  Whichever one(s) you are, you are an important part of the collective.  Please don’t ever doubt that.  You are here for a reason, exactly as you are… perfect and beautiful.

 

The Red Bones

By Jesper Toad

57678082_311499279522193_1173713170703843328_nNigel Jackson’s book Masks of Misrule contains a piece entitled the Ceremony of the Red Bones (1996, pp. 93-106)..  It is prefaced by material revolving around the ordeal of initiation.  The experience of initiation invokes a shift in relationships and the individual’s way of being in the world, regardless of whether this experience is earned through the process of study and achievement and enacted in ritual, or occurs spontaneously through dreams or other liminal experiences (Eliade, p. 33 1964).  The follow account documents a transformational dream experienced by the author:

I am a soldier on patrol on the edge of the village, in that place where the cultivated fields give way to the wild.  A shallow ditch separates new wheat from a wall of trees.  A small grave yard is placed here, by the green fields, at the edge of human habitation.  I pace my patrol at dusk, and as I walk the perimeter I peer into the gloom beneath the eaves of the ancient forest. I can sense a threat, the eyes of the predator upon me, but I cannot tell from what direction the attack may come.

Suddenly, and before I can react, a great she-wolf, eyes blazing yellow, leaps from the underbrush.  Her teeth catch me in the throat, and with a great heaving snap of her jaws and a gout of blood, my head is severed from my body.  My body is merely meat, and the she-wolf settles into her meal.

But the head rolls across the ground, toward the grave yard, and the ground gives way to a great sloping decline descending into the underworld.  As the head rolls it sheds it mortality: hair scatters in all directions, the eyes roll from their sockets, and skin and muscle peel away, all lost on the journey downward.  The skull, now white and shining, rolls through the shadows until it comes to a flat place: here a circular labyrinth winds in great loops, the paths demarcated by a multitude of skulls, each gazing inwards toward the center.  My skull rolls inward, upon the meandering paths, rolling, rolling inward, until it comes to rest in the heart of the labyrinth.  I have come to the center, to the place where all the ancestors watch and witness.

The dream shifts.  I am myself now, no longer a soldier, and I am wandering through the avenues of an old style carnival with tents and side show attractions.  I stop at a puppet show, located to the left of me.  Before the curtain appear three poorly crafted puppets, each a skull with a hinged jaw and comically overemphasized eyes and teeth.  These three disembodied heads begin to sing a song about a soldier who met a grisly fate at the maw of a she-wolf.  The curtain opens and other puppets take the stage and act out the story.  After the curtain closes on the puppet narrative I resume my wandering through the carnival.

A short ways on and to my right fortune teller’s tent presents itself.  In front of the tent is a small table, with a tall brass candle in a holder and an eyeless skull perched atop a book.  As I begin to pass by the skull turns to me and begins to speak, relating the now familiar story of the soldier who lost his head to the she-wolf.  At the end of the skull’s narrative I awake.  The illuminated numbers on the clock read exactly 12:00.

Although I realized the importance of this dream, it wasn’t until later in my life that I could more completely acknowledge power and implications contained by the images.  Working with the text of this dream, I realized that the liminal elements–the motifs of death, transformation, transition, and rebirth in the underworld—all suggest an initiatory significance.

According to Jung, when we fall into a dream the first element presented to our dream senses is a sense or idea of place.  In this dream, the domestic, signified by the cultivated fields and the distant township, juxtaposes the wildness of the impenetrable dark and sinister forest, far from the safely locked doors and shuttered windows of the town.  In the opinion of the author, initiation into the mysterium pulls us into the space between the domestic, cultivated, safe folds and fields, and the untamed, unpredictable, and perilous wilds.  To be an initiate of the mysteries is to walk widdershins on the edge of things, eyes askew in both directions, within the perimeter of the shadows cast by the central fire burning in the heart of the community, but not so deep in the dark that our belonging to the community is obscured.  This is, I think, the nature of the esoteric practitioner, to hover near the margin of social norms, tight against the invisible membrane that divides the cultivated from the wild, the concrete from the imaginal, the manifest from the un-manifest, the wake from dream, and that which is seen from that which is unseen.

The initial statement of place that begins a dream is coupled with in introduction of the dream figures, or dream protagonists.  The apposition between the edicts and structures valued by society and the laws of the wild are further reflected in the dream figures of the soldier and the she-wolf.  Not unlike an officer of the law, the soldier patrols the margins of the village, protecting and upholding the social and cultural structures that hold the community together.  He holds back the seemingly unpredictable and savage wild, lest it ravages and destroys the elements that comprise the structured civilization contained within the safety perimeter.  The soldier cannot breach the boundary without taking with him the elements that create the very domesticity and culture that he so zealously guards.

It is the she-wolf that unexpectedly breaches the barrier, initiating the exposition of the dream, tearing apart the static relationship between the wild and domestic, the beast and the soldier. She leaps and snuffs out the human life, bringing with her action the terror of the unknown, a red flush of murder, and the taste of fear.  However, she is only following the demands of her own nature: she must feed, hunts for her pack or her offspring, or defends her own territory from the encroachment of a perceived enemy. Her wildness, her savagery, and the in-human laws she follows leads her to disregard the boundary that separates the domesticated from the feral. Depth psychologist James Hillman might suggest that this dream beast is a manifestation of a familiaris, a soul-brother or soul-doctor that has an understanding of the laws that govern the night, the pale, the wild, and the underworld (Hillman, 1979, p. 105).  This spirit animal in this dream is the guardian of the wild, walking on the margin of the forest, just as the soldier is a guardian of his domestic world.  She is the feral initiatrix, and the soldier the initiand.  Her attack initiates a change in status of the soldier and serves as a transformational passage between the worlds of the wild and the town.

However, the attack upon the soldier is not the climax of this story.  As initiatrix, the she-wolf opens wide the life to new possibilities and the culmination of this dream, the peripeteia, is the rolling descent into the labyrinth and the confrontation with the ancestors.  This boundary crossing, and the power of the hot red fountain of sacrifice, activates the liminality of the space between.  The ditch between the cultivated fields and the dangerous gloom beneath the trees gives way, and a portal to the underworld yawns wide, swallowing down the soldier’s noggin.  As the head rolls down into the underworld it experiences a further dissolution: the fleshy bits wear away until all that is left is the immortal, enduring skull.  The lasting image in this dream is of the soldier’s skull in the center of a great labyrinth of skulls, the focus of the empty gaze of many ancestors.  The mythologems of death, dismemberment, the descent into the underworld, and communion with the spirits or souls of the mighty dead are all a part of the cannon of shamanistic initiatory experiences (Eliade, pp. 33-34, 1964).  In such an initiation the individual has made the ultimate sacrifice of the self.  This notion of the self, this persona or mask, tears asunder, exposing to the initiate the truth of who they are, and who they are not, beneath the narrative of personality they have woven for themselves.  Once revealed in this manner to themselves, they must endure the scrutiny of those that have gone before.  This is ecstasy in a very literal sense of the word—to exist or be removed outside of oneself—is a transcendent experience that fulfills one of the ultimate aspirations of our magical and esoteric practices.

This shift into a second locale is significant.  The labyrinth occurring in this dream is a circular unicursal figure based on a seed pattern that consists of a central equal-armed cross-shaped component with four seed points: seven circuits or pathways are formed by connecting the terminal ends of the cross and the points, creating a mandala-like figure with a hidden fourfold demarcation.  The labyrinth’s path leads both to and from the center where the soldier’s skull sits enthroned.  These meanderings of path can be viewed as a metaphor for the digestive process, like the coiling serpentine path of the intestines.

The soldier’s circumambulations of the labyrinth lead him closer to the goal of psychic development of the self (Jung, 1961, p. 96).  The soldier in the dream narrative has died, the she-wolf has devoured the meaty physical part of his being, his identity has been obliterated with his face, and he finds himself interred in the spiraling bowels of the underworld; these are the transformational elements of an initiation—the destruction of the old body and way of being and the resurrection of the individual within a new, previously unrealized center of power (Moore, 1990, p. 6).  The latter part of the soldier’s journey, within the curves of the labyrinth, is witnessed by the empty gaze of the ancestors. Eventually he take his place among them, in the center of the circle.

The final stage of the dream narrative, the lysis, concerns itself with the resolution or result of the dream story (Jung, 1960/1974, P. 81).  The third shift of location occurs, and the dream self is strolling along the un-natural sights and sounds of a carnival.  The atmosphere of this location is full of the strange and bizarre; a liminal, between-place civilized people sometimes dare to stray  into in an effort to catch sight of the macabre, titillating, and frightening.  English gains the word carnival from a circuitous route from the Latin caro, or flesh, and is related to the word incarnate—and, appropriate to this dream narrative, disincarnate.  Carnival once was a time that the community came together to eat quantities of meat.  During Christian times this occurred as a preparation of fasting before Lent; in pre-Christian times carnival may have been celebrated with a sacrifice, and a sharing of meat with the divine (Walter, 2014, p. 26).  Within this liminal place related to the eating of flesh, the main narrative arc of the dream is twice repeated, as if to emphasize the importance of the dream, each time with fewer images involved.  The initial dream presents itself with a cinematic quality, like most visual dreams.  The first of the subsequent retellings uses visual puppets and a chorus of macabre puppet skulls, and is told to amuse an audience of children.  This retelling is amusing, theatrical, and the blood and gore of the wolf attack is artistically buffered and minimalized.  The second retelling is completely oral, relying only on words to convey the narrative, and all the while the animated skull relating the story is supported by a book, a thing of paper and words that long outlives the author.  There seems to be a process here relating to the action of the dream, and how the story will be remembered in the context of time as the narrative of transformation to be related at the time of carnival.

Storytelling, in either waking or dreaming life, reflects the soul’s deepening of experience and revealing of unconscious elements to the conscious mind, all in the service of creating an increasingly structured and consolidated identity (Moore, 1990, p. 5).  Part of my process of working with the material and text of a dream is to write it into a specific poetic form.  I find the restrictive meter and rhyme required for some styles of poetry often condenses the dream to its figurative and argumentative core and clarifies the central archetypes, constructs, and constellations of the dream narrative.  The narrative style of this dream text appeared most suited to a ballad form, including alternating lines of iambic tetrameter and trimeter, and an alternating A-B-A-B rhyme scheme. The last stanza of the ballad the soldier’s skull imparts a vital message, encouraging us to engage the world not as a collection of end products, but by experiencing, submitting, and being aware of the transformative journeys of the soul.

The Soldier’s Tale

 The soldier with his sword unsheathed

Upon the field of green,

His death he knew would be ungrieved,

That much had been foreseen.

 

But plowed he forward through the field,

‘Tween bone yard and the chase,

Not knowing that the trees concealed

A beast both vile and base.

 

Ancient and grizzled, rolling eyes,

Great chops of yellow’d gnash,

No sooner soldier did it spy

From the shadows did it lash.

 

It lept at him from out the dark,

The howling hulk a blur.

Dire fanged death it struck its mark,

In throat its teeth interred.

 

The soldier’s cry a crimson flood,

His beating heart it ceased;

The horrid beast engorged by blood

Plied red jaws to the feast.

 

It gobbled flesh and snap’d the bones—

Consuming all it could—

It left the head to roll alone

And slunk into the wood.

 

His grinning face it peeled away,

All aptitude had fled.

Toward the near necropolis

The soldier’s noggin sped.

 

With each turn the flesh unknotted:

A corps perdu!  Atone!

Eyes, brains, lips, and tongue outwitted,

‘Til all that’s left was bone.

 

He rolled into the charnel home

Between the mourning stones,

A whitened skull with polished dome

Bereft of cries or moans.

 

Into the catacombs he fell:

His ancestors await,

That he might find a place to dwell

In honor of his fate.

 

The labyrinth, it welcomed him:

Of kindred skulls built round,

In seven circuits twisting grim,

Within the core path wound.

 

He took his place within their rank,

The center occupied,

His truth amid the dim and damn’d

Enshrined and beautified.

 

O traveler, the secret seek,

The mizmaze walk and hear

The dogged lipless soldier speak:

“Engage your path and never fear!”

 

The experience of initiation invokes a shift in the relationship with the world.  In this dream the soldier has thrown off life, been thrown out of time and space, and rolls into a moment of eternity.  Like the Buddha, he has transcended life.  However, in the lysis of the dream, his lives on in the world in the story told at carnival.  As Campbell remarks in the Power of Myth, the Bodhisattva, an individual whose being is illumination, and maintains an awareness of his or her relationship with eternity, does not withdraw from the world, regardless of the horrors that it might hold, but instead regards the horrors as a manifestation of the spirit of the world, the animus mundi (Campbell, Moyers, & Flowers, Ep. 2, 1988).   Engaged in the game of life, these theophanies are experienced as aesthetic, beautiful, wondrous things, regardless of all life being filled with hate, sorrow, and greed.

 

References

 

Campbell, J, Moyers, & B. Flowers, B. S (Ed). (1988).  Joseph Campbell and the power of myth: Ep.2 The Message of the myth.  Initial broadcast June 21, 1988 on PBS.

 

Eliade, M. (1964).  Shamanism: Archaic techniques of ecstasy (W, R. Trask, Trans.). Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.

 

Hillman, JH. (1979).  The dream and the underworld.  New York, NY: Harper and Row.

Jackson, N. (1996).  Masks of misrule.  Freshfield, UK: Capall Bann Publishing.

 

Jung, C. G.  (1961).  Memories, dreams, reflections.  New York, NY: Random House.

 

Moore, R., Gilette, D.  (1990).  King, warrior, magician, lover: Rediscovering the archetypes of the mature masculine.  San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins.

 

Walter, P. (2014). Christian mythology: Revelations of pagan origins (J. E. Graham, Trans.).  Rochester, VT.: Inner Traditions.  Original material published 2004.