Category Archives: Pagan Philosophy

A walk in the forest

As I have mentioned many times before, I’m sure, it is very healing and re-newing to spend some time in nature. Today I went for a long walk in the forest. At the start of the walk, I was feeling quite down in the dumps – with all the stresses of the modern world weighing heavily upon me. Bills piling up, work stresses, feelings of disconnection and isolation, and worst of all, feeling a long way away from my true nature. Usually I can spring myself into a more positive frame of mind, but today I just wasn’t in the mood for any inner work. It seemed like such a chore! So after a few yoga stretches, and a spot of breakfast, and toying with some meditative exercises, I decided to go for a walk in the forest.
As soon as I got amongst the trees, I started to feel better. At the beginning of the track was a lovely grove of Sydney Blue Gums, with their cool slate grey trunks marked by wavy darker insect lines. I felt their calmness and un-ruffled presence begin to wash over me, and my poise and equilibrium began to return. As the forestry track wound down the hillside, the Sydney Blue Gums gave way to a mix of Tallow-woods, Grey Gums and Ironbarks, and the feeling of the forest became less lofty or dreamy, to my perceptions, anyway.
As I continued to walk, my worries and cares literally drained away from me, and I became calm, and for the first time in several days, it seemed like I had some space around me, in which I could connect with myself again. It was a lovely autumn day – sunshine in a cloudless sky, just cool enough for comfortable walking, and the sun low enough in the sky to give plenty of shade from the trees on the side of the track.
As the elevation got lower, and the soil became rockier and lighter in colour, the spotted gums came into preponderance, with the odd White Mahogany scattered around. Ironbarks of course, still in evidence. I always like to be in the company of Spotted Gums, with their many different hues from blue to reds and orange, and their dimples which remind me of boiling water swirling around, then snap frozen. Further down the slope, I came to an area of stunted Queensland Blue Gums, getting ready to flower and in amongst them, I was delighted to come upon three Kurrajongs growing in a clump. I am particularly fond of Kurrajongs, which in my system of magic, assist with the telling of stories which touch and/or express the emotional depths. In my experience, I have usually come across Kurrajongs as single isolated trees, so it was very unusual to see the three of them there. Perhaps under the ground, there was only the one trunk. In any case, I christened them the three sisters, and spent quite some time in their gentle embrace. As I said, I feel an affinity with the Kurrajong, perhaps because I have always felt a bit different from the people around me, like the Kurrajong, the only one of my kind, surrounded by other species of people: you know the types – those who are interested in corporate ladder climbing, the latest fashions, making large amounts of money, with little sense of the spiritual, or the artistic, and whose sensitivities have been dulled by food, drink, and immersion in a heavy materiality. Not that I am opposed to a nice meal or a glass of wine on occasion, or earning a living by honest means, mind you. Just that, like the Kurrajong, I have always felt I was the only one, surrounded by other types of people who didn’t appreciate or understand me. Or perhaps more simply, surrounded by people who didn’t resonate with me.

Kurrajong tree
Kurrajong tree

So it was nice to spend time with the three sisters, and draw on their strength and ability to calmly and self-assuredly be themselves, even though surrounded by other types of tree. And as I write now it comes to me that indeed the Kurrajong fulfills an esoteric purpose in its aloneness, within the widespread range in which it is found. For it is like the leaven that makes the bread rise. A small amount goes a long way. I heard a fellow taking about the orders of Hermetic magic this way once – that they were like the leaven that helped the dough to rise – the dough being western society. I think the same is true for all people who serve the Ancient Ones – in whatever way, whether Hermetic, Pagan, Wiccan or any path with heart. There are precious few of us, and sometimes it seems that we are working in isolation. However, together, we help to make the dough of life rise into a shapely loaf – whether through channeling energy, or helping others to recover their true nature, healing or magical works, or perhaps most importantly, having the courage and knowledge to be one’s true self. Most of the people out there don’t appreciate it, or even recognise it. And that is the way it should be!

Kurrajong Flowers
Kurrajong Flowers

Kurrajong Fruits and Leaves
Kurrajong Fruits and Leaves

However it sometimes takes its toll when one marches to a different drum beat to that of one’s colleagues and peers. People’s suspicions and ill feeling are easily stirred by someone they sense as being vaguely different, or motivated by unfathomables. In the old days, it was the teaching amongst the wise that those who followed the path should make every effort to appear no different to a typical person. Their dress should be unexceptional, and as befits their trade. Their demeanour should be temperate, and their behaviour moderate. They should engage in the customs of their village, town or country as befits any respectable person. They should have friendly relations with all, and if such were not possible with a particular person, such a person should be avoided. If one was brought into conflict, in spite of one’s efforts to avoid it, one should give every opportunity to have the conflict resolved fairly. If this proved impossible, due to a person’s ill will, then the conflict should be engaged impeccably if it was possible to win. If, however, one’s opponent was so superior in resources or social position as to make victory impossible, then this should be recognised, and one should allow them the victory, and move on. As tempting as it may seem, one’s esoteric knowledge should not be used in order to revenge oneself on such people. Typically, they lack the knowledge and skills to defend themselves, and the grief or harm that you may cause will undoubtedly spill over to effect others who are harmless and undeserving of ill. Thus the wise teach of old that the power is not to be used in this way, except that those who continually do serious harm, and where efforts by ordinary means to address the situation have failed, then a binding may be conducted to prevent further harm. The web of life will reverberate with their actions, and in time they will reap the rewards due to them, good or ill, as will we all. This guidance is no less true today as it was in days gone by.
The chance to connect with and work with spiritual brothers and sisters is priceless, a treasure without price. In those times when one’s brothers and sisters are far away, or yet to be discovered, one may draw strength from the Kurrajong, who is used to being different, and knows the way of it.
As I walked back up the hill, feeling refreshed and re-newed, I noticed many birds, which had seemed absent on the way down. At one point, two pretty little finches came and sat on a tree branch only a few feet from me, and enjoyed my company as I stood watching them for several minutes. I fancy that they could sense the clear and open energy that I carried, as I walked back, a far cry from the dense and unhappy energy as I started my walk.
So get out into the forest, and amongst the trees! You will feel better – I’m sure of it!

Originally Published April 2008

A Finer Division of Energy

One of the fundamental guiding principles of many Neopagan paths, and indeed the Western Hermetic tradition, is the characterisation of all phenomena into the system of the four elements, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Many add a fifth element – Spirit, which combines, centres, and harmonizes the other four. In my own work, I use the four elements to characterise the energetic essence of all phenomena that interest me. Books and lists of elemental correspondences are an important step in learning the craft, learning to recognise the common energetic signatures of phenomena and entities from the different dimensions of existence. For example, an elemental association can be found for herbs, gems, metals, minerals and trees by consulting various sources of traditional lore.
However the division into just four energetic types is too gross a division to account for all the fine differentiations one finds in the world of nature. For example, there are thousands of different herbs in use, and their characters and properties are all unique. In order to begin characterising energies on a finer division, one system that can be employed is the sixteen fold division of energetic movement. This subdivides each element into four aspects, themselves corresponding to the four elements. Thus we have Air of Air, Fire of Air, Water of Air, and Earth of Air. Where as Air as an element corresponds to beginnings, thoughts, communication, the mental realm, and changeability, Air of Air corresponds to the quintessence of Air, the beginnings of thought processes, the conceptions behind planning, the guiding principals, the rules of logic, the very beginning of any enterprise, etc.
Fire of Air is the next stage, corresponding to the action stage of mental endeavour, such as fleshing out a novel once the plot and characters have been defined, talking about plans with others, developing ideas with others, allowing a touch of inspiration into one’s plans. Water of Air is the next stage of the process. It may correspond to getting feedback about one’s plans, it may symbolise the beginnings of emotional attachment to one’s goals and plans, it may correspond to sharing, or the desire to share one’s plans with others, perhaps to gain their support, or admiration. It may symbolise the contribution that the unconscious impulses may make to beginnings and plans, or which may unsettle the mind and cause changeability, or lack of confidence. Earth of Air then corresponds to the process of bedding down, locking in, and making a commitment to the proposed course of action, which prepares us to move onto the element of Fire, which symbolises action.
First is Air of Fire, which symbolises the initial steps, the beginnings, the first testings of action. It may also symbolise actions which are achieved or take their form through mental processes, such as writing letters, creating works of literature, or other mental activities that are themselves acts which affect others. Fire of Fire is the essence of movement and action, enthusiasm and inspiration. Water of Fire represents responsive action, guided and directed by feedback from its environment, or the things upon which the action is directed. Earth of Fire represents habitual action, action that has been locked into place through habit and repetition, or action that is practical in nature, or actions that build over time and repetition to achieve their constructive purpose. Whereas Air of Fire is changeable, Earth of Fire is solid action, and almost impervious to influence.
After Fire in the sun cycle of manifestation, is the element of Water, generally taken to be associated with the harvest, the rewards of action. Also associated with compassion, intuition and the subconscious, and the womb of the great mother. So we might take Air of water to represent the beginnings of the harvest or the rewards, with more still to come. We might also take Air of Water to symbolise intellectual expressions of compassion, or intellectual descriptions of the psyche – such as various forms of psychology and psychotherapy. Indeed any intellectual description or categorisation of intuitive, unconscious, dream or other non-waking realities, could be described as Air of Water. Fire of Water moves us into the active phase of reaping our harvest, and the activity of compassion, intuition, and delving into the greater self in some way. Water of Water, brings to mind the quintessence of Water, of compassion, intuition, the inner life. It is the returning current, and it is the mystery of connection. Earth of Water brings to mind the practical expression of intuition, compassion, and inner development, inner connection with the Great Mother: the habit of openness, the habit of compassion.
The Earth element then takes us through a period of stasis, of breaking apart, of composting to form the substrate for the next cycle of manifestation, the time of digesting experience. So Air of Earth is the intellectual expression of deconstructing one’s experience in order to do something better next time, a conscious reflection on events. Fire of Earth brings to mind a cheerful reflection on how things went, bringing to bear humour on a situation. It is also the active step in decomposition, perhaps symbolised by a wriggling mass of worms turning vegetable scraps into compost. Water of Earth is the final return, the reward of one’s reflection, and the processing of one’s subconscious mind, and of the group mind, below the level of awareness. Earth of Earth, is the final stasis after deconstruction and reflection and intuitive insights have been digested, leading to a stable foundation for a new cycle of manifestation.
Further insight into this division of energy may be gained by considering the court cards of the tarot deck. For example, the Pages represent Air, the Knights Fire, the Queens water, the Kings Earth. So Page of Coins is Air of Earth, Queen of wands is Water of Fire, etc.
This illustration of the four fold division of each of the elements is just one means of further characterising energies, and refining correspondences. We may apply further dimensions of characterisation. For example, we may characterise people physically, emotionally, intellectually and according to personality, each according to the 16 elemental divisions described, which gives approximately 64,000 different characterisations of a person. While every individual is unique, the richness of such a characterisation is sufficient for most purposes!
If you want to play with this system of characterisation, starting with people is reasonable, as people are something everyone has experience with. You might also like to consider dog breeds, birds, flowers, herbs, trees, classical music or motor-cycles – whatever your area of interest is. Select one example a day. For your example, decide first which element to place it in. Then within that element, which division. Consider everything you know about the item. Consider also how you feel about it, what you sense about it, and your perception of its energy.
Be prepared to revise your assessments as you go!
I am sure you will find this a rewarding experience that deepens your relationship with the elemental energies.
In Her Service,

Piercing the veil

To truly grasp the message and actualize the teaching of any religion or spiritual path, one must go beyond the doctrines to the reality behind them. The esoteric position is that it is as if there is a veil between us and the ultimate reality. Upon that veil are the symbols of our religion or spiritual tradition. When we look towards the ultimate reality, we see the veil, and the symbols placed upon it by ourselves, or by our traditions or cultures. Many people are happy enough with the symbols on the veil. A large number however come to believe that those human created symbols are the reality, rather than the decoration.

Any path worth it’s salt will encourage you take up the sword of truth, and pierce the veil, and thus come face to face with the reality behind all appearances. From which time, you will be one of the few who have pierced the veil, and will see all human activities from a very different perspective, and you won’t really be too concerned about a persons religion or worldview, which are but illustrations upon the veil and of little ultimate consequence.


The Sword

In this essay, I would like to explore why the sword is used to esoterically represent the mind. My understanding is that the tradition likens the action of the mind to a sword or a knife, cutting something into separate pieces. The mind establishes categories, labels and names, so that we can understand the world we experience around us, and remember our experiences and learn from them. Ideally, our system of categories and names corresponds reasonably usefully with the reality that they try to represent. For example, if we can recognise, name and remember a useful food plant, we can seek it out again, talk about it to others, and remember when it is in season. If our main interest is in recognising useful plants, we are likely to have a different system of classification to someone who is mainly interested in how plants evolved.

If we get our food from the supermarket, and have no interest in botany, our personal classification system for plants is likely to be very simple. Trees, shrubs, flowers (perhaps a few named varieties), weeds, some vegetables, maybe a couple of different types of trees. For example, when one person sees a Gum tree, someone else might see a Mountain Gum, and a third person might see Eucalyptus Dalrympleana.

Take another example. Someone who is interested in Astrology might categorise people as Cancers, Gemini, Libra etc. When meeting a person, they may enquire as to their birth date, and they might be careful to get compatible star signs when putting together a group for some purpose. Or they may meet a person, and decide that they fit the profile for a certain sign, and then use that information in order to conduct their relationship in the most harmonious way possible.

Another person might think star signs are a bunch of baloney, and categorise people according to Meyers-Briggs personality types, or Jungian types, or even in simple terms such as friend or foe. All these ways of classifying the world, and our experience are represented by the esoteric symbol of the sword.

The Ace of swords tarot card in the Rider-Waite tarot deck depicts a sword piercing a golden crown, from which hang two boughs of wood. On the right, appears to be a palm branch, on the left is what appears to be a laurel, with red berries, or perhaps an Olive branch. According to Paul Fenton-Smith in “The Tarot Revealed”, the crown represents the material world. The symbolism may be deepened by noting that the arrangement of the sword and crown is representative of the union of male and female. Traditionally (in Western Anglo-Celtic Esotericism), the material world is seen as feminine, as in Mother Nature, and the Goddess of the Spring, the Goddess of the Flowers.

This union of the material ground of being (feminine) with the mental perceptive apparatus (masculine) gives rise to the phenomena of existence, just as a mother and a father give rise to their children. The symbolism reminds us that our experience has two sources – raw undifferentiated nature, and the mind’s categorising and sense-making efforts. The mind is nothing without something to work on, and raw experience is unintelligible without a mind to categorise it and find commonalities and regulaities.

This symbolism is also expressed neatly in the phrase “Necessity is the mother of invention”.

In meditating on the symbol of the sword, hold the intention of becoming aware of how your experience of the world has two parents – the external undifferentiated reality, and the internal categorisation you place upon it. Every name becomes a symbol that holds both a cultural and collective experience, and a personal resonance of lived experience. As useful as the mind is, it brings this baggage to everything we experience. This can be incredibly useful, and also a mechanism for holding us in bondage to our past. The symbol of the sword reminds us of this, and reminds us that we can turn our perceptive powers on to ourselves, and free our selves from the bondage of mental constructs that have outlived their usefulness.

To meditate upon the symbol of the sword, a useful practice is to place the Ace of Swords from the Tarot at eye level. Establish sacred space in your usual manner, and invite the presence of your spirit helpers and Deities, and become relaxed. A useful method is to focus your attention in turn on the right palm, the left palm, the sole of the right foot, and then the sole of the left foot, and then the third eye. One can also move the attention in the manner of a pentagram. The third eye represents the point of spirit. The right hand represent the point of Air, the left hand the point of Fire, the left foot the point of Water, and the right foot represents the point of Earth. Different paths may use different attributions, this is the attribution used by the Fellowship in the Southern Hemisphere. Move the attention from Spirit to Water to Air to Fire to Earth and back to Spirit again – Brow, Left foot, Right Hand, Left Hand, Right Foot, Spirit. This movement represents the the divine impulse working in the life of the Adept. The spark of spirit causes the intuition Water) to deliver images, feelings, or knowingness to the self. These inputs are then processed by the mind (air), and appropriate action is decided upon. Action is then taken (Fire), with the intention of honouring the Divine impulse. The action is grounded (Earth), drawn to completion, and the ground of being responds. The cycle then begins anew.

Once you have become relaxed and have harnessed your attention, then begin to move your attention between the tarot card and your third eye. Move it out to the card as you breathe out, and back to the brow as you breathe in. Visualise a thread connecting the third eye to the card. Do the first few with eyes open, then with eyes closed, visualising the card in as much detail as possible. Continue this exercise for at least four or five breaths, more if you feel that would be useful. Open your eyes and look at the card if you need to refresh your visualisation. When you feel it is right, begin the next part of the practice, which is to be receptive, and to allow whatever insights and inspiration you may be priveeged to receive to arise. Gently note them mentally as they arise, so that you can write them down afterwards.

And of course conclude by thanking your Spirit Helpers and/or Deities, and returning the space to normal.

I am sure that you will find this exercise beneficial!

Blessed Be


Every Act an Act of Magic

Magic, to me, is as much about a state of conscious awareness as it is about working some spell to influence events in the mundane or spiritual worlds. It is about being aware and awake and noticing the openings in the fabric of space and time. These openings occur frequently throughout your average day, but most people never notice them, because they are fixated on their problems or their busy schedules, or have insufficient sensitivity.
However magical training of any description acts to increase one’s sensitivity to the energetic quality of every moment, and to begin perceiving the interweaving of different levels of consciousness in others and one self, and with the fabric of life. This provides an avenue for magical intention to be instantaneously brought to bear in the course of an ordinary day, to influence things according to the Will, or higher purpose, of the practitioner. While some mystical path ways adopt an approach of steeping aside to allow the higher consciousness, conceived as other, to work through the practitioner, the western approach, according to my understanding, is to develop the conscious awareness and volition to the point where it is unified with the Will. One’s purpose then becomes indistinguishable from the Greater Purpose, and indeed, an agent of the Greater Purpose.
Each day presents a multitude of opportunities to exercise the magical will. Each interaction with the world, whether it be a conversation, a chore, a task, a pastime, even watching the television, is an opportunity for the Will to operate. In each such theatre of engagement, there is a moment of opportunity, when the energies are aligned, and the exercise of magical intention can tip things towards the manifestation of the Greater Purpose.
Yesterday, for example, I was sweeping the floor. Yet at the same time, I was channelling light energy through the broom, and cleansing the floor and environment on an energetic level, as well as a physical level. Such cleansing is an act of magical intention, leaving an energetic mould for love and inspiration in the domestic environment. As I walked to work, I intended the movement of beautiful red brown earth energy up through my feet with each step, filling my aura, and overflowing into the surrounding space.
Then I got carried away with my job, and didn’t magical intend anything specific for awhile, but hey – I am working on it! Talking to people is a great opportunity for allowing one’s magical intention to operate. For example, when listening to someone speak, I will sometimes focus my awareness on my heart chakra, and intend that an atmosphere of loving acceptance surround us, speaker and listener.
So this is my motto– “Every Act an Act of Magic”. In Latin, Sulus factum magus, with apologies to any Latin scholars! In honour of the importance of this principle, and to remind me to endeavour to always live up to it, I have named this site “Sulus Factum Magus”. With the help of the Gods, may it be ever so.