The Three flames of Lady Brighid

One of the Deities that I work with is Lady Brighid, a Celtic Goddess of great antiquity, whose practices and lore passed into Irish Catholicism, and who is a much loved Goddess of many modern pagans, especially those with connections to things Celtic. She is of course the Lady of the blessed flame, and the holy well. According to the Fellowship of the Stag and Flame, the Flame may be expressed in triple form, as the flame in the belly, the flame in the heart, and the flame in the brow.

The flame in the belly is the flame of health and vitality. A strong flame in the belly gives one the power to digest food and absorb nutrients. In the olden days, the process of digestion was seen by some as “cooking” the food by the stomach. Today, in Chinese medicine and naturopathy, cooked food is regarded as easier to assimilate than raw food. You may have noticed when laughing a jolly belly laugh, that heat is generated in the lower abdomen around the naval area. This is also the flame in the belly, the energy of mirth and merriment, which is healing and restorative in so many ways. In Shiatsu, Japanes finger pressure massage, the hara, the region around the naval, is considered to be the key to healing transformation, and the energy is felt as heat moving in this region. In Tai Chi, and Chi Gung, the life energy is cultivated in the lower abdomen, at a point just below the naval, called the tien ten. In our own Australian English vernacular, people speak of the fire-in-the-belly possessed by certain go-getters who live with energy and passion, and who won’t countenance defeat or set-back. Behind these different expressions is an energetic secret of health and longevity, which I regard as the cultivation of the first of the three flames of Brighid.

This is the place to begin with cultivating the flame, as health and humour are the foundations upon which all else must build.

The flame in the heart is a symbol of western mysticism that goes back many years, perhaps most conspicuous as the symbol of the sacred heart of Jesus in the Catholic religion, which is depicted as a heart merged with a candle flame. While I don’t myself work specifically with the sacred heart of Jesus, as a pagan, the symbol is not out of place as Brighid is regarded in Ireland as the foster mother of Jesus. However the symbol of the flame in the heart transcends the Christian religion. It represents the flame of alchemical transformation. Just as the flame applied to the alchemical vessel results in transformation and change, hopefully in a positive direction towards the philosopher’s stone, so does the application of love to any situation result in positive transformation and change towards enlightenment.

But the flame in the heart is more than just a metaphor. It is an effective transformative symbol, a switch, which can be applied through visualisation, in order to bring love into a situation. The visualisation is the flame burning in the heart. The feeling is the opening of the heart chakra. The effect is the creation of loving energy which emerges into the energy field of the interaction, and which transforms negative energy in that same energy field. The effect is subtle, but powerful. It should be noted that the potential exists to misuse such loving energy in order to manipulate people. Needless to say, operating in this way is unethical, and will sooner or later re-bound upon the practitioner.

The fire in the brow represents the energy of creativity, and direct connection with divine creative energy. It is expressed through extemporisation in music and poetry, in which the greater consciousness has its opportunity to manifest its expression through the poet or musician, artist or writer. It is also associated with seeing through the inner window, or opening of the third eye. A basic technique in Yoga is to visualize a candle flame, while holding the attention lightly on the brow chakra. In druidic lore, the Awen is the stream of divine inspiration which moves the poet.

The three flames of Brighid are both a symbol of the threefold way of wisdom – a healthy body, a healthy heart, and a healthy mind, and an energetic presence that one can work with esoterically. In these days, in which individualism is taken as a matter of course, it is easy to forget that we are part of something greater than ourselves. The flame of Brighid is both a symbolic reminder and an esoteric technique for linking with and experiencing ourselves as part of a greater existence.

All who work with the healing energy of Brighid are linked by the matrix of the Goddess as she transmits and transmutes the healing energy. To meditate upon the flame of the heart is to invite an opening into the oneness of love. To work with the fire of the brow, the flow of the Divine inspiration, is to transmit and mediate the creative conscious expression of the spirit realms. In each case, these practices and experiences transcend the everyday conscious mind, and one becomes a part of something greater and all-embracing.

The up-side of such experiences is plain. These transcendental experiences are generally a peak experience for people, in which feelings of happiness and upliftment replace the habitual modes of being, and in which the usual mind chatter focussed on the efforts of the rational conscious identity to confirm its own existence, is swept aside by an experience of being that is deeper, wider, and more mysterious.

The down-side of these experiences is often over-looked. To taste the nectar of the Gods makes other food taste like cardboard. Things that ordinarily one would enjoy and find satisfying may pale by comparison into empty and hollow experiences. Activities where the individual rational consciousness is running the show seem to be devoid of the luminous depth and intensity of transcendental contact. One pines for these experiences once one has had the taste of them, yet mysteriously, or frustratingly, life seems to require one to put them aside – in order to carry out one’s mundane duties.

Thus commences the dark night of the soul. The knowledge of the darkness of one’s life is manifest, where perhaps it wasn’t before. With an experience of light, comes a knowledge of darkness. Living in this darkness is almost unbearable, when one has yet to find a way to structure one’s life around regular transcendental experience. The problem with our current society, is that there are so few ways in which transcendental experience can be expressed or encouraged on a regular daily basis. When people are working 50 and 60 hours a week, commuting a couple of hours a day, and doing their best to raise a family in the time that’s left, there is precious little time available for the cultivation of the transcendental connection. Yet once tasted, this transcendental contact is a necessity of life.

Perhaps one answer is to find a way to have that transcendental connection within one’s normal activities. This is not easy, but is the way of Zen – chopping wood, carrying water, with mindfulness. The problem for many people is that many of us are having to spend our day concentrating, focussing, thinking, planning, decision-making, and other forms of intellectual and rational activity – activities that require us to be in the seat of rational self-identity. With this necessity, the transcendental experience recedes. But perhaps there is a way to incorporate the transcendental awareness into these kinds of activities. The flame of Brighid need not be extinguished, but may burn steadily throughout each day – it is just a matter of holding an awareness of the flame, lightly in the background. In this way an element of numinous awareness may be present in the most mundane of activities.

Blessed Be

Rob

Lady Arianerhod

One of the deities that I work with is the Lady Arianerhod. She appears in the Welsh tales of the Mabinogion, where she plays the part of an independent noble woman, who lays a Geas on her son, that he won’t have a name until she herself gives it to him, nor will he have arms till she herself gives them to him, nor will he have a mortal wife. A geas is a bit like a curse, but is not necessarily a bad thing. More like a fateful obligation or necessary observance to keep the favour of the Gods. In some ways, a geas is also like a prophecy, as the geas usually indicates that some disaster will befall when the geas is broken. A Geas is typically pronounced at birth, or some other important occasion by a druid or sorceress.

Arianerhod’s son is being brought up by his uncle. In my reading of the story it represents at one level the historical struggle between the patriarchal new order and the matriarchal old order, with the crafty Gwydion, the main character in the story, outwitting his Sister Arianerhod, representing the old matriarchal order. In this reading, Arianerhod appears (from Gwydion’s point of view) as ungracious and ill-wishing, thinking first and foremost of her own social standing instead of the child’s welfare. However digging a little deeper, we may see on a personal level that Gwydion wants to hurry the natural order and processes of growth, and in his haste and pride deprives the Goddess of her rightful influence in the development of the child, and later young man. The consequence is tragic. Thus the story may be read as a warning against human pride and hubris that seeks to outwit fate, or the Gods.

In any case, we can use this story as a signpost to the qualities and attributes of the Goddess, even though in the story, those attributes are given a negative expression by Gwydion. For example, when first Gwydion and the boy encounter the Lady Arianerhod, she doesn’t recognise the boy as her own. When Gwydion insists that she is his mother, she declares that he will never get a name until she herself gives it to him.

While Gwydion interprets this as a denial, it is no more than Arianerhod’s insistence on her right to name the boy – in her own time, a right that both Gwydion and Arianerhod accept without question. So rather than naming the boy himself, Gwydion asserts his power and independence by resorting to trickery to extract a name out of the Goddess. He and the boy visit her keep in the guise of shoe makers. By a series of ruses, Gwydion causes Arianerhod to board their boat. There she sees the boy shoot a wren, so that the arrow pierces between the sinew and the bone of the leg. The shooting of the wren is a symbol of divine kingship, associated with yearly battle between the dark and bright lords, an association further underlined by the wound being to the leg, a symbol also associated with Kingship. Indeed, the resonance here is with the wounded king, and this is a clue that the boy is destined to become the wounded king, around which develops the wasteland. Arianerhod remarks that the boy is possessed of a skilful hand, and this becomes his name, Llew Law Gyffes. When Gwydion reveals the deception, Arianerhod is annoyed, and angrily pronounces a Geas that the boy shall have no arms, until she herself grants them to him.

The story, as recorded from Gwydion’s point of view, appears to be the story of a proud and curmudgeonly women who refuses to acknowledge her offspring, and Gwydion’s attempts to outwit her. However we may equally read it as the story of a proud and treacherous man who refuses to acknowledge the prerogative of the Goddess, and tries to rush the natural order of things through his trickery and devices, thinking he knows better than the Goddess. The angry Goddess, on a superficial reading appears to curse the newly named boy, however, on a deeper reading she is but asserting her prerogative once again. In spite of having been tricked out of her rightful name-giving, she now asserts her right of arms-giving, or presiding over the boys coming of age.

Once again, we are invited to interpret this, with Gwydion, as a curse by the Lady, with the expected outcome that no arms will be granted. But if this was the intended effect, why not deliver the curse directly? A similar episode follows, where Gwydion and Llew Law Gyffes go disguised to Arianerhod’s castle, and Gwydion conjures a fleet of invaders to appear in the harbour. Gwydion and Llew Law Gyffes promise to help defend the castle, and to do so, Arianerhod provides them both with arms. At this point the enchantment is lifted, and Gwydion declares that the boy has been armed, in spite of Arianerhod’s ill disposition towards him.

Arianerhod is furious. In the story, we are invited to suppose it is because she wished the boy to remain un-armed. However another possible reading is that she is furious because the arms were given inappropriately, without due ceremony, and therefore the occasion has been robbed of its numinous potential for conferring both power and wisdom, and deepening the connection with the spiritual source. The power of wielding arms, the personal power associated with personal combat, was once, at least in the old tales, taught by sorceress/priestesses, and the arms giving was an initiation into personal power. By tricking Arianerhod into giving arms, Gwydion actually robbed Llew Law Gyffes of this experience, which is not valued by the emerging patriarchal order. The story is one in which the role of the numinous, and the Goddess, is devalued, and replaced by man’s hubris, pride, and confidence in his own power and abilities.

In her anger, Arianerhod, pronounces that the boy shall now never have a women from the races who now inhabit the world, for a wife. In the story, we are invited to read this as an angry curse by a vindictive women. However a deeper reading is possible. Rather than a curse, it is a lament. It acknowledges that in bypassing his initiation at the hands of the matriarchy, hence foregoing his connection with the numinous, but claiming his adult role regardless, he is not a fit husband for any women. Women will see and know his shallowness, his hollowness, and turn him down. He is a man of violence and force, untamed and un-mastered by feminine guidance, and so can’t be trusted.

In spite of this final Geas, Gwydion and his Uncle contrive to create a wife, Bloduwedd, for Llew Law Gyffes by the enchantment of spring flowers – oak blossoms, broom, and meadowsweet. This however turns to tragedy, as we will see. Reading more deeply, we see a symmetry in this part of the story. As Bloduwedd is a contrived women, so also is Llew Law Gyffes a contrived man – both taking their form, in different ways, from the contrivances of Gwydion. Just as the wren was a mirror showing Llew Law Gyffe’s destiny, Bloduwedd is also a mirror for Llew Law Gyffes. As both are contrived, the match between these two beings is doomed to failure. Neither has the skill or maturity to allow love to flower. While Llew Law is away at the masculine court, occupying his mind with manly affairs unbalanced by the numinous, his beautiful wife is left at home, untended, and uncared for. She has an affair with a noble who ventures passed on a stag hunt. Once again, we have a resonance with Llew Law Gyffes, as the Stag represents the sacred King, and to kill him is to take his place. Thus the killing of the stag resonates with the illicit love that follows, and the plot to kill Llew Law Gyffes himself. Through trickery, Bloduwedd discovers how Llew may be killed, and passes the information on to her lover, who carries it out. Llew, grievously wounded, flies off as an eagle, and is discovered by Gwydion, roosting in a tree, where rotting flesh drops away from him, and is being eaten by a sow.

The sow is symbolic of the Goddess, and we may read this as the initiation of the Goddess – the dead flesh dripping away being the pride, arrogance and hubris which is devoured by the Sow, the Goddess, in this devouring form. Thus the initiation into the numinous that was ignored in Llew’s boy hood and youth, cannot be over-looked forever. It is a necessary transformation. In the end, the bitter circumstances of life will contrive to bring him to a numinous understanding of himself, or he will find death and/or despair.

Bloduwedd is banished to become an owl, a creature of the night, to be picked upon by the other birds.

So we can read this story in the Mabinogion as a tale that warns against the pride and hubris that causes men to usurp the rights and perogatives of the Goddess, and the old ways. It shows the consequence of such hubris – failed relationships, war, and bloodshed. And it is a pointer to the role of the Lady Arianerhod – as name giver, arms giver, and initiator. Three initiations are mentioned specifically – the giving of a name, the giving of arms, and the taking of a wife. A fourth initiation, that of bitter circumstances is a result of arrogantly refusing the first three. The Goddess cannot be refused. She is the mentor, the judge, she who bears the gift of contact with the numinous feminine. These pointers show how we may work with the Lady Arianerhod today. She may help with the seeking of the true name. She will mentor someone in the bearing of arms for a just cause. She will provide guidance in the conduct of love relationships, which respect the individuality and personal integrity of each party. She is concerned with coming of age ceremonies and life transitions, and may be invoked for her help in these matters. She may preside over such ceremonies, and provide the means for numinous contact with the true self.

While the story in the Mabinogion revolves the central character of Llew Law Gyffes, it provides a skeleton for contemplating on the spiritual journey, and the ever present danger of thinking that we know better than the Goddess. To put it in more psycho-spriritual terms, The rationo-centric sense of self, believing itself superior to the numinous collective consciousness, repudiates the role of the greater organism in the nurturing of the child of promise. Instead, it seeks to assert its own cleverness, its own agenda, forgetting that it is a servant of the whole. However this results in a person who is cut off from the numinous, the greater organism, and the best part of themselves. Their relationships and whatever they manifest must suffer. The wasteland grows around them. They trust the wrong people. They may suffer and be betrayed, or betray others. If they are to rise to their destiny, then life must intervene to bring them back in touch with the numinous – often this is through bitter circumstances which may as likely bring someone to personal and psychological ruin.

In the end, the rationcentric and the greater sense of the numinous must work together in a balance and harmony. Just as reason alone is barren, intuition can’t work in a vacuum. Both are needed in order to be whole. The balance of the individual and the greater consciousness. This is my reading of the tale, and I trust that it will make your reading deeper and more rewarding – though I don’t expect that all will agree with me! Whether it’s the intention of the original authors, I cannot say – however what we make of the story today is as important for us as what was originally meant. In the end, there is a sacred marriage here as well. The authors of antiquity have created a matrix, into which we project our our meaning, guided, however, by the symbols and narrative that have come down to us, and our own touch of the numinous.

The story of Math, son of Mathonwy, which contains the tale of Gwdion, Arianerhod, and Llew Law Gyffes, is one of the four branches of the Mabinogi. Links to online texts are available from the wikipedia entry.

Getting to know the Tarot Minor Arcana

A lot of people work with the Tarot as a means of gaining insight into their lives and the lives of friends and family. To do so, it is not necessary to know all the meanings of the cards off by heart. However once one begins to know intimately the meanings and symbology of the cards, they will begin to open up in a new and much more powerful way. Here are a couple of ways of working to improve your understanding and memory of the card meanings. First an exercise for the minor arcana.

Take a large sheet of paper, and rule it into six equal columns. Then rule across to make a table with 12 rows. Leave the first row blank for now. In the second row, leave the first two cells blank, then write “swords” in the third cell, “wands” in the fourth, “cups” in the fifth, and “pentacles” in the sixth.

In the second column, starting in the third row, write the numbers from 1 to 10. In the cell above “swords”, now write down the attributes of the swords suit. For example, you may write “conflict”, “intellect”, “air”. In the cell above “wands”, write down the attributes of the wands suit. For example, you may write “creativity”, “action”, and “fire”. Carry on with filling the cells above “cups” and “pentacles”. Of course, use your own understanding of the suits, but if you are just starting out, and are unsure about the attributes of the suits, do some investigating first, in your favourite Tarot books, on the net, and in your own mediations. Of course, the suits correspond to the four elements of Air, Fire, Water and Earth, so the attributes of these elements may also be used as the attributes of the corresponding suits.

In the cells to the left of each number, write down the meaning of each number. Use your own knowledge of numerology, or knowledge of the cards. However if you are just starting, it may be difficult to find the meaning of each number, apart from in combination with a particular suit. The basic meanings I work with are as follows:
1: beginnings
2: relationship
3: creative offspring
4: Materiality
5: Limitation
6: Harmony – as above, so below
7: Underworld – dreams, shadow
8: Abundance
9: Completion
10: New beginnings

If you have been a previous reader of these pages, you will see that these meanings resonate with previous explanations of the numerology system that I work with, and correspond reasonably well with the standard meanings given in the tarot. You may care to work with these meanings, or to work with your own, based on your own studies and insights.

Having reached this point, now go through each card, looking at the meaning attached to the number, and the meaning attached to the suit. How do these two qualities interact to create a new and specific meaning? When the answer suggests itself to you, write it in the corresponding cell, and go on to the next card, until all the cards have been done.

This may be done in one sitting, or over several days, according to how easily the answers flow for you. In either case, it doesn’t matter, because it is simply the way that you are working in this moment.

When all the cells have been filled with a meaning or key, pick up your favourite tarot book, and read the meaning giving for the first card. Compare it to your meaning, and look for the similarities and differences between what you have written, and what you found in the book. Resolve any differences between the two meanings by adding to your understanding or deepening your interpretation, or perhaps re-thinking your viewpoint. When you are satisfied any differences are resolved, do the same with the next card.

Once again, you may do this in one sitting, or over many days – it doesn’t matter – just work at the pace that is right for you at this time.

At the end of this exercise, you will have a much deeper appreciation of the meanings of the minor arcana, and will find that the juxtaposition of number and suit leads you directly to the cards meaning, without having to memorise anything at all.

Blessings
Robyn Wood

Getting to know the Tarot Trumps

Here is an exercise that you might find useful with your work in the Tarot. Indeed, the following method can be used with almost any symbolic representation, in order to contact the astral and spiritual energies and forms behind the appearance. I will describe the exercise in terms of using a tarot card, but you can adapt it as you see fit. To gain the full benefit from this exercise, you should have some ability to move the attention, to visualise, and some experience with activating the third eye chakra. Here is what I do:

Select a card from the major arcana that you wish to work with. Many authors recommend starting with the fool, and working through in sequence. Sit in a comfortable and warm position. Sitting up in bed just before lying down to sleep for the night can be very effective, as the exercise will also then create an impetus to dream on the same subject. Hold the selected card in front of you, and stare at a focal point of the card. For the cards with human figures, stare at their third eye chakra, just above and between the eyebrows. After awhile, your vision will begin to play strange tricks, as the cells of your retina become habituated to the image. Keep staring at the same point, and allow your vision to do what it will. You may find yourself involuntarily moving your focus, which resets your vision to normal. Don’t worry, just keep staring at the same fixed focal point.

When the vision has started to shift due to the phenomena above, begin the following breathing sequence, keeping the eyes focussed on the focal point you have chosen in the card. As you breathe in, place your attention between your own eyebrows, on your own third eye chakra. As you breathe out, place your attention on the third eye chakra (or focal point you have selected) of the figure in the card. Keep breathing slowly, deeply and smoothly, in a relaxed manner, alternating the attention as described. It may help to visualise a white thread linking your third eye to the third eye of the figure in the card, with your attention moving between the two ends like a bead on a string.

Continue the breathing, with the alternating of the attention for up to ten minutes, all the while keeping the eyes focussed on the third eye (or chosen focal point) of the figure in the card. Now allow your eyes to close, and try to see the card in your mind’s eye, and continue the breathing and alternation of attention. However, now your attention moves to the card you see in your mind’s eye, rather than the physical card. If you can’t see the card with your mind’s eye, no matter – just visualise the card as best you can with your imagination. As you visualise, sooner or later, you will begin to catch glimpses of the card with the inner sight, which will seem to poke through your visualized imagery. If it doesn’t happen on one occasion, it will certainly happen at some stage as you continue working with the attention, visualisation, and the third eye chakra.

After another five minutes or so, or the length of time which feels right for you, transfer your attention to the personage in the card, and leave it there. Allow the experience to unfold in the way that is right for you. You may find yourself receiving impressions, images, or communications from the personage. You may find yourself viewing things from the perspective of the personage. You may find yourself “inside” the Tarot card, looking at the card from the inside. Each person will be able to carry on the experience in their own unique way.

When I have done this exercise, I have found that the subsequent day or two becomes powerfully influenced by the energy and archetype of the card, and the resulting experiences have provided profound insight into the corresponding aspects of life. I hope that you will find the same, and that this method helps you to grow towards your true nature and its full and ecstatic expression.

Blessings
Robyn Wood

Origins of The Tarot

When I first started studying the Tarot, I worked with the Aleister Crowley “Thoth” deck. His explanation for the origin of the Tarot was that it emerged from the Egyptian mysteries. Indeed, Thoth was the Egyptian God, cognate with Hermes, the messenger of the Gods, and the conveyor of wisdom and esoteric knowledge to mankind. Thoth’s title “thrice great” was carried over into the name “Hermes Trismegistus.”

 

The name “Book of Thoth” is thus singularly suitable for the Tarot, which is regarded as conveying, especially in its major arcana, the concentrated wisdom of the pathway to illumination. Indeed, Antoine Court de Gébelin, a Swiss clergyman and Freemason, first published, in 1781, the claim that the major arcana of the Tarot represented the mysteries of Thoth and Isis. However the Egyptian origin he claimed, and following him, the occultists of the Golden Dawn, and French occultists such as Eliphas Lévi, is now considered by mainstream historians to be without foundation.

 

Playing cards are known to have been brought to Europe, around the time of the 14th century, and were in wide use by the end of that century. One theory is that they came via Persia and Egypt from China or India. Certainly the original Italian decks shared with the Egyptian Mameluke deck the suits of sticks, coins, swords and cups. These are the same suits as appear in most Tarot decks today, which are first recorded in northern Italy in the early 15th century. However the fact remains that the sequence of trump cards does not appear to be found in decks of playing cards outside Europe. We may therefore assume them to be graphical representations of archetypal images, seemingly associated with a European spiritual tradition.

 

It is now accepted by mainstream scholars that a series of images given in Dante’s “Divine Comedy” correspond closely to the images of the major arcana. Dante was also reputed to be a member of the Rosicrucian fraternity, at least according to some Rosicrucians. Be that as it may, he was certainly influenced by the troubadours, if not more intimately involved with them. The troubadours were the poets of southern France, and related linguistic areas of northern Italy and Spain, who flourished in the 12th to 14th centuries. They adapted and expanded upon the corpus of Arthurian romance, which originated in the bardic traditions of Celtic Wales. R.J Stewart, in his discussion on the life of Merlin makes the argument that many of the archetypal images contained in the “Vita Merlini,” represent the oral teachings of a Celtic mystery tradition, and are identical with the images in a number of the Tarot trumps.

 

The Cathars and Templars were Christian groups that some say were responsible for introducing the Grail mysteries into European literature and public consciousness. There is a school of thought that the Templars transmitted a body of esoteric lore emanating from Jewish mysticism (The Essenes), based on the teachings of King Solomon, and through him, on the mysteries of ancient Egypt. The Templars gave rise in their turn to Freemasonry, according to some speculators. The Cathars are thought to have espoused Gnostic doctrines, with their emphasis on personal gnosis, or experience of the Divine. The Gnostic tradition has also been linked to the Egyptian and Judaic mysteries, and Christian sects who venerate John the Baptist. Both the Cathars and the Templars were active in the centuries just prior to the life of Dante, and both were being viciously suppressed by papal decree in the early years of the 14th century, when Dante was writing the Divine Comedy. Certainly Dante was no lover of the contemporary popes, reserving a spot for them in Hell, stuffed upside down in holes, with burning flames applied to the soles of their feet! While this may indicate some sympathy, at least, with the Cathars and Templars, Dante belonged to an anti Papal political faction of Florentine nobles, which is usually considered sufficient explanation of his willingness to publicly mock and denounce the papacy.

 

The Tarot cards may represent in pictorial expression the merging and fertilisation of classical and medieval Christian symbolism with one or more of these esoteric traditions – the Templar/Masonic stream, the Cathar/Gnostic stream, the Egyptian/Rosicrucian/Hermetic stream, and the Celtic/Bardic stream, perhaps through the Troubadours, the story tellers of Europe. In particular, the Troubadours and Cathars both flourished in the south of France, which is famous for its black Madonnas, which some have linked to the cult of Isis.

 

So it may be that Anntoine Court de Gébelin was actually not far off the mark when he declared that the Tarot was the “Royal Road” of the Egyptian mysteries of Thoth and Isis, when one considers the influences bearing on the imagery. Practically speaking, if this wasn’t the case originally, it may as well be the case now, through the influence of people such as Eliphas Levi and Arthur Edward Waite, who both were firmly rooted in the Hermetic and Masonic traditions, and whose influence has set the mold for the Tarot of today.

 

Dragon Walking

Note: Some of the links to previous posts are not there yet…will get these repaired as time goes on!

I have previously written about a walking meditation that you can do, which is designed for people following a Pagan path in the western tradition. In this article, I give another version of this exercise, which is also related to the caduceus meditation, which I have talked about previously. The red and white currents, personified by red and white dragons are discussed in a post on the background to the Caduceus Meditation.

There are two forms of dragon walking. First I will describe Red Dragon Walking. Red Dragon Walking is designed to build up the charge of Earth energy in the auric field. It may be done marching on the spot, or walking along. If you are walking in a place where you won’t be embarrassed by others looking at you, then walk in the way I describe. Otherwise you may walk with your ordinary movements so that you appear to be walking normally.

First of all, squat a little, as if you are riding a horse, with your legs slightly more apart and open than normal. Feel the energy flowing around from leg to leg through the groin area. When most people walk, this energy movement is restricted and restrained, part of the the normal training of repression of the movement of sexual energy that westerners undergo without even knowing it. When you put your feet down on the ground, place your sole on the ground before you place the heel on the ground, as you would if you were running. This cushions the leg and joints, and assists with contacting the Earth energy, and transmitting it from the ground to the body. Take smaller steps than you normally would. Lift your legs higher than your normally would, and as you do so, dangle your foot in a relaxed way from your ankle. Most people need to learn how to relax and dangle there foot during this kind of walking, as most people maintain a lot of tension and constriction in their walking movements. The dangling and consequent relaxation assists the movement of earth energy up through the legs. When you place your feet on the ground, do so positively and firmly, with a slight but definite stamping motion. This causes a pulse of earth energy to be transmitted up your leg from the earth, with sufficient energy to move up into your body.

As you walk this way, breathe in for four steps on each foot, visualising all the while, a glowing red ball of earth energy under the earth, sending up three rays of red energy. Two strike the ground where your feet come stamping down, upon which balls of energy break off and travel up your legs to your belly, and the third, middle beam, comes up out of the Earth between your legs, striking your perineum, the point roughly where an extension of your spine would touch the skin in front of your rectum. The beam carries on to strike and energize the red ball of energy gathering in your belly.

Breathe out for four steps on each foot, and as you breathe out, visualize the ball of Earth energy at your belly glowing and shining like a miniature red sun, filling up your auric field with its energy. Visualize clearly where your energy field stops, and fill it up like a balloon. Do not allow the energy to radiate away, but contain it within your auric field by consciously being aware of an astral membrane that surrounds your auric field, between 30cm to 100cm from the skin in all directions, and intending it to contain the energy. As you breathe out, make a sound like a drawn out “H” sound in the back of your throat. The sound is made without using the voice, just the flow of air, and should rhyme with the “oor” of “door”.

Then as you breathe in again, repeat the first visualisation, with the three rays charging the red ball of energy at your belly. Alternate between these visualisations, building the intensity of energy at your belly, and within the auric field.

The walking can be slowed down to the point where the in breath takes place as you lift up your leg to take a step, and the out breath takes place as you put you leg down and step forward.

After several rounds of breathing in and out, breathe in, and this time hold your breath, and stand still. Constrict your anal sphincter seven times, and on the seventh time hold it constricted, then rapidly suck in your abdomen seven times, holding it in on the seventh time, finally push down rapidly seven times with the diaphragm. As these moves are made, visualise the red earth energy collected in the belly being packed down and compressed into a shining red pearl at the centre of the belly, at a place just below and behind the naval.

Then breathe out, and begin walking again, building up more earth energy in the belly. After several rounds of breathing in and out, repeat the compression process, building up the concentrated red pearl in the belly. After three rounds of concentrating the red pearl energy, switch to White Dragon Walking.

White Dragon Walking is very similar, but there is no need for the slight stamping of the foot. It can be done slower, with a cycle of breathing in and out on each step. White Dragon Walking may be combined with the basic walking movements of Tai Chi, if you are familiar with that art. Otherwise, begin by visualising the white energy current associated with the spiritual source, sending down a white ray from a white glowing orb overhead, through the crown chakra, and thence through the centre of the body to the point just below the naval chakra,  sinking into the belly where a glowing ball of white energy takes shape. Breathe in slowly and deeply as you establish this visualisation, and continuing to breathe in, extend a foot slowly forward, place it deliberately on the ground, without putting any weight upon it. As the foot touches the ground, begin to breath out, and gradually shift your weight forward onto the foot. As you do so, visualise the white orb of energy filling your body with energy, which moves your limbs for you, slowly, gracefully, and smoothly. Allow the white solar energy to radiate into your auric field, containing it as you did with the Earth energy. The forward movement is slow and steady, timed to last for an entire out breath. Then, when your weight is over your front foot, begin to breathe in again, visualising the energy current from overhead shining down through the crown chakra and charging the ball of energy in the belly, and move your rear foot forward to a level with your front foot. Continue to move the foot forward as you breathe in, and place it down as you complete the in breath. Then as you breathe out, visualise again the white ball of energy at the belly radiating out to fill your body and aura, as you slowly shift your weight forward onto the new front foot. Continue this graceful slow walking, combined with visualisations on each breath for a number of steps. Time the steps so that our breathing should be deep, relaxed and unforced.

After several steps, use the movements of anal sphincter, abdomen and diaphragm to concentrate the white solar energy at the naval centre into a white pearl, just as before, but now use eight contractions of each instead of seven. After three rounds of concentrating the white pearl, one may switch back to Red Dragon Walking. Continue to alternate in this way between Red Dragon Walking and White Dragon Walking, with the same time roughly spent on each.

To conclude the practice, allow the red and white pearls to start orbiting each other in the belly, then move them with the attention to the heart centre, allowing them to merge together into a single pink pearl, which radiates a beautiful pink glow throughout the auric field. Alternatively, the practice may be concluded with the Caduceus meditation, beginning from step (8), where the red and white energies emerge from the concentrated red and white pearls at the belly.

This final part of the practice is, of course, an octave of the sacred marriage. The Red and White Dragons represent the primordial energies of Earth and procreation, resonating with the female menstrual blood, and the spiritual seed and enlivening principle, resonating with the male semen. Their dance of union is the creative powerhouse behind all life and manifestation.

May you be blessed by the energies of the Red and White Dragons!

Blessed be,
Rob

Here there be dragons.

August 2nd, 2008
Recently, I was lucky enough to attend a weekend with like minded pagans, during which a number of rituals and exercises were conducted. The highlight for me, curiously, was a ritual that involved but one person – myself. As regular readers will know, I have become interested in dragon energy lately, in fact, since visiting an ancient megalithic site in Denmark at the end of last year. The site was known to locals as the Troll Church (translated into English), and I found out about it chatting to the owner of a small esoteric bookshop in the town where I was staying. You can read the full story of my encounter with dragon energy and see a couple of photos in a previous posting.
 
Since then, I have been researching dragon energy, particularly in the Celtic tradition. One story which holds a lot of meaning for me is the story of Merlin’s prophecies to King Vortigern. The story appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s “History of the Kings of Brittain”, but I read it in “Merlin: The Prophetic Vision and The Mystic Life” by R.J. Stewart, available on the web at http://www.dreampower.com/ProphMerlin.html. I have briefly mentioned this story previously in my description of the “Caduceus Meditation”.
 
The story goes that Vortigern was trying to build a tower on top of a hill, and each night it would be turned to a pile of rubble, so that the next morning work would have to start all over again. Vortigern consulted all his priests and soothsayers who advised that only the sacrifice of a boy with no known father could prevent the collapse of the tower. Eventually Merlin, having been born of an ethereal spirit and a mortal women, was found and brought to the king. However, before he could be sacrificed, he declared to the king that the true reason for the tower’s collapse was known to him: If he was to dig under the tower, he would find a pond, and if he were to drain the pond he would find two hollow stone eggs, and if he were to observe the eggs, two dragons would emerge and fly into the sky, one red and one white, and grapple with each other. The appearance of these grappling dragons is the trigger for Merlin’s prophetic utterances.
 
Superficially the dagons represent the conflict between the saxons (the white dragon) and Celtic Brittain (the red dragon). However on a deeper level, the resonance is with the female (red) and male (white) quintessential energies, which when awakened coil around the caduceus of Hermes, bringing through their interplay and union, exalted states of consciousness.
 
I have previously described “Dragon Walking”, a walking meditation that accesses and activates the energies of the red and white dragons. In this post I give a variation of this practice, which adds a couple of aspects, and finishes with a version of the Caduceus Meditation.
 
1. Breathe in, visualising red earth energy from a glowing ball of energy beneath your feet streaming up in a red ray to strike the centre of your belly, where a red pearl takes shape.
2. Breathe out, visualizing the glow from the pearl first filling your body with a red glow, then projecting the energy out of your mouth to fill up and be contained by an egg shaped aura around your body.
3. Repeat this visualisation with breathing. Breath in through your nose. Breath out through your mouth, making an unvocalised sound deep in the back of your throat. The sound should be like long drawn out “h”, followed by the vowel sound in “door”.
4. Walk along slowly and deliberately, lifting one leg as your breath in, and placing it down slowly and deliberately, heel level with toe of the other foot, as you breathe out.
5. After a five minutes or so, when you are well aware of the charged auric egg, compress that energy down into the red pearl in the centre of your belly with the following procedure: (i) After a full breath in, squeeze the sphincter and pelvic floor muscles (as if to prevent yourself from passing stools or urine) tightly seven times in succession. On the seventh squeeze, hold the squeeze tightly. (ii) Pull in the stomach sharply seven times in succession, with each pump of the stomach muscles visualising the auric egg compressed down till it is contained within your body; on the last pump, hold the stomach muscles in; (iii) push sharply down with the diaphragm seven times, each time compressing the ball of energy down further until it is completely within the now highly charged red pearl at the centre of your belly.
6. Now commence white dragon walking as follows. Breathe in, visualising white spiritual source energy from a glowing ball of energy above your head streaming down in a white ray to strike the centre of your belly, where a white pearl takes shape.
7. Breathe out, visualizing the glow from the pearl first filling your body with a white glow, then projecting the energy out of your mouth to fill up and be contained by an egg shaped aura around your body.
8. Repeat this visualisation with breathing. Breath in through your nose. Breath out through your mouth, making an unvocalised sound by touching the back of your tongue against the roof of your mouth as you would in the Scottish pronunciation of the “ch” in Loch Ness. The sound should be like a long drawn out and extended “k”, followed by the vowel sound in “tea”. Really stretch your lips out in a smile to get the right sound.
9. The walk is hard to explain, but walk as if you are a white dragon! The exact steps aren’t essential, but try and do it the same way each time, and different to the red dragon walking.
10. After a five minutes or so, when you are well aware of the charged auric egg, compress that energy down into the white pearl in the centre of your belly with the same procedure as in (5) above.
11. After several rounds of red dragon walking and white dragon walking, do the following meditation, which is best done standing upright. (i) Move the red and white pearls to the belly chakra. (ii) Each time you breath in, visualize energy from spiritual source and from Earth meeting at the belly chakra. This should be repeated on the in breath throughout all the subsequent steps. (iii) As you breath out, visualise red and white energy currents emerge from the red and white pearls, and move up to the solar plexus chakra. For me, the white energy comes up the left side of the body axis, and the red energy up the right side, like the intertwined serpents around the caduceus of Hermes. (iv) After several breaths, extend the visualisation on the out breath to send the white and red energy up the the heart chakra. The energy currents cross at each chakra, so between the solar chakra and the heart chakra, the white energy current is on the right, and the red energy current is on the left. (v) After several more breaths, send the energy up to the throat chakra. Once again, the currents cross at the heart chakra. (vi) After several more breaths, send the currents up to the brow chakra. As before, the currents cross at the throat chakra. (vii) After several more breaths, send the currents from belly chakra, through the solar and heart chakras, to the throat chakra and down to each palm, so that the white energy current charges a white ball of energy in the right palm, and the red current charges a red ball of energy in the left palm. (viii) After several breaths to establish this, begin to bring your hands together, with the intention of performing the sacred marriage of the red and white dragons. As your hands come together, allow the balls of energy to merge, producing a pink ball of energy. Slowly bring your hands up to your heart, and press the merged energy into your heart centre, and feel it expanding to fill your auric field with beautiful pink light, flecked with red and white.
12. Sit with the aftermath of this visualisation for several minutes. It is likely you will be in a deeply meditative state, and will be open to rich magical experiences. You may feel or see with your inner vision the presence of dragons. They will feel intensely playful and joyful. If you feel such presences, welcome them. The dragons may assist you in various ways with healing energy work, balancing bodily energies, and working with the transformation of consciousness. The may also ask your wishes, so that they may work on granting them. So make sure that you know what your true desire is – that which brings about your true work and highest good. You may also encounter one of the hooded ones, a magical order who it appears works closely with dragon energy. They may be recognised by their hooded tan coloured robes.
13. It may take some weeks of working with these techniques to begin experiencing their magic. The best time, I believe, to work with dragon energies is at dawn, before eating, and with bare feet. Dragon magic is a wonderful blessing and gift, and will not, I believe, come to those who have not done something to deserve it, or at least ready themselves for it.
 
At the gathering I mentioned, a handful of us got up at dawn on the Saturday morning, and worked through the dragon walking exercise described above. It was a great joy to me to be able to share this aspect of my work with my fellow travellers, and see its positive effect on others. However the following morning, Sunday morning, I found myself up at dawn, this time doing the dragon walking on my own, after calling in the energies of the four quarters. It was as if the practice had been energised by sharing with skilled practitioners the day before. I had been opened and lifted by a day of ritual and magical interactions. I was deeply moved by the practice, and became even more convinced that here is a way of deep and powerful contact which I am sure will leave you changed for the better. All it requires is a few weeks of diligent effort and a lifetime of preparation.
 
Here, there be dragons.
 
Blessed Be,
Rob

The Caduceus Meditation

This is a practice focused on bringing a profound healing emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. It is based on the chakra system, and the symbolism of the staff of Hermes – the caduceus. It is intimately connected, as you might expect, with the sacred marriage. There are many ways that the sacred marriage may be performed, and in these pages you will come across some of these practices. In this series of visualisations, the sacred marriage is conducted in an abstract and energetic form, without a specific Deity focus.

As one goes through the various exercises presented here, one begins to build up a depth and luminosity to every performance of the sacred marriage, whether abstract, energetic or Deified. Each performance echoes and resonates across the dimensions of practice and concentrates within the timeless zone an ever increasing degree of connection and union, approaching from these three directions the mysterious essence behind all manifestations of the sacred marriage.

The caduceus meditation is something that must be worked with and built over several months, at least, and possibly longer. It is something that can be returned to again and again during the course of one’s life, whenever necessary or desired. It is something that will profoundly affect one’s sense of well-being, and contact with the transcendent energies of Earth and Heaven.

The caduceus meditation is particularly useful for people involved in any kind of healing work. Wholeness is its aim and objective, and wholeness means being connected intimately and knowingly with the transcendent energies of the universe. There are two strands of Divine Energy that unite to form all the manifestations of the universe. These are the White Current and the Red Current, locked in eternal mutual embrace and an endless dance. These may be spoken of metaphorically as the Red and White dragons. In Eastern Philosophy, they are spoken of as Yang and Yin. They correspond to the primal Deities of the Great Mother – the Red Current – and the All Father – The White Current. The Red Current is manifested in the power of blood, and appears in a woman’s monthly cycle, and is associated with the Earth and its ability to generate and bring forth life. The White Current is manifested in the power of semen, and is associated with a man’s ability to sew the seed of new life within a woman’s fertile womb.

Energetically, the Red Current manifests as a dull red light or wash of colour, which may intensify and concentrate to a red that is almost scarlet, and which has a pearlescent quality to it. This energy is concentrated in the centre of the Earth, and may be contacted through the visualisation of a ball of this red light at the centre of the Earth.

Energetically, the White Current manifests as a white light or wash of colour which may intensify and concentrate to a diamond like clarity and luminescence. This energy is concentrated in the Sun, not so much in its physical, but in its Astral form. This energy may be contacted through the visualisation of a ball of white light over head.

In order to achieve balance and wholeness, one must not only manifest and contact both of these energy currents in the quantity and balance that’s right for you, but must allow them to combine within oneself. For it is the combination of these two energies that gives rise to the sacred child of promise, who has knowledge of his or her mother and father, and so works through life supported and never alone. It is the child of promise that may grow to greatness as an organ of the collective consciousness of all life and creation. However, the promise is just that, a promise. To realize the promise is a journey of countless steps. However, the journey cannot be started until the child of promise is born.

The caduceus meditation is one way to give birth to the child of promise. It is a rather impersonal way, in that it works with energies directly, rather than with Deity forms. Thus it will suit some more than others. Personally speaking, I like to work with both methods, as I find them very complimentary. Elsewhere, you may read about my work with the sacred marriage through Deity Cultivation and Projection. The approach here is perfectly complimentary to such an approach. However each approach may also stand on its own. The important thing is to pursue one approach at a time. That is, to have a particular focus to the rhythm of your inward development, in any one period of time. The caduceus meditation will require at a minimum, one to three months in order to provide its benefit to you. During this time, it should be the principal practice, though not necessarily the only practice.

Changes that you might expect to see within yourself as you do this practice:
(1) You may find yourself bursting into tears at the drop of a hat
(2) You may find yourself feeling extraordinarily happy and hopeful for no apparent reason
(3) You may find that you suddenly know exactly what you need to do to improve some situation in your life
(4) You may find yourself with feelings of courage and determination to do something that you have been putting off.
(5) You may find yourself saying things to people that you never thought you had the courage to say, and seeing things change for the better as a result
(6) You may find yourself having vivid or memorable dreams that seem to help you substantially in some way.
(7) You may find that you less often feel lost, lonely, and isolated, and more often feel inexplicably loved.
(8) You may find yourself more inclined to express your love to others in your life – friends, partners and family, verbally, or in little helpful ways around the house.
(9) You may find that tension or pain in certain parts of the body lessens, or even disappears.
(10) You may find that your sex life and sexual functioning improves.

Each person will be different of course, and the practice will work differently in each person. However, one thing that you can be sure of, is that there will be positive changes towards wholeness in your life. These changes may be so subtle that you don’t notice them at first. However if you compare before and after emotional and physical inventories, you will begin to see that changes are taking place.

A month is a very short length of time in which to bed down and make deep seated changes. It is really the minimum time that this practice should be done in order to begin receiving benefits. But once you begin to receive these benefits, why would you want to stop? Continue on for a further couple of months, to give those changes time to take hold, and work their way throughout your being.

In the end, you must be the judge of how long to pursue this practice at any particular time. However you must give yourself a month to give it a fair trial, and then you can make your decision.

It is not a question of just launching into the practice, and doing it each day. The practice must be built, bit by bit, starting on a solid foundation. That is why a month is required. This is the time needed to work up to the full practice. You will need to set aside a period each day to work on the practice. The absolute minimum time for this is ten to fifteen minutes. The best time is at the beginning of the day, at about sunrise. This time is the time when the energies of Sun and Earth, Day and Night are at a point of balance. At this time, it is easiest to work in a balanced way with the Red and White Currents. Sunset is the second best time. It is also a time of balance, but there is a lot of activity and business going on in the psychic atmosphere at sunset, people rushing about and being caught in traffic etc. It’s not easy for most people to find a quiet space at this time. The third best time is in the evening after nine pm. Here the Red Current is waxing, and the white current is waning. However because most of us are used to working with the white current, at least unconsciously, as this is the focal point of western culture, we usually need more help contacting the red current, and find the white current easy. So a quiet time before bed will also work for most people.

Background
This practice arises out of the interweaving of four wisdom strands that have been important and influential in my life. These are the Western Mysteries, the chakra system of the Hindu mysteries, the sacred marriage of the pagan mysteries, and Tibetan tantric Buddhist practices focussing on the sacred marriage. The complete detail however wont be found in any of these traditions, as it has emerged from my own inner work.

Practice
Background
Light exercise – call elements – honour Deities or call guides – practice.
Breathing in the red dragon current.
Visualise a ball of red light at the centre of the earth. As you breathe in, draw the energy up and into the a red pearl at the centre of your belly. Allow your auric field to fill with the red dragon current. As you breathe out, concentrate the energy into the red pearl at the centre of your belly.

(2) Breathing in the white dragon current.
Similarly visualise a ball of intense white light overhead, and as you breathe in draw down the white dragon current from the centre of all creation, through the crown chakra, filling the auric field, and energising a white perl at the centre of the belly. As you breathe out concentrate the white dragon energy in the white pearl.

You may alternate between steps one and two until the red and white pearls are sufficiently charged.

(3) Sacred marriage at the Naval.
When the pearls are well energised, allow the energy from the pearls to combine and merge. I visualise the pearls orbiting around each other and then merging together, before separating again. Pay attention to the resulting feelings and energy of this merger.

(4) Lifting the currents to the Solar Plexus – sacred marriage at the solar plexus.
On the in-breath, visualise both currents energising their pearls. On the out-breath, visualise a red current emerge from the red pearl, and rise up the right side of the body and enter the solar plexus chakra. At the same time the white current emerges from the white pearl and rises up the left side of the body to enter the solar plexus chakra. Allow the energies to mix and energise the solar plexus chakra.

(6) Lifting the currents to the heart – sacred marriage at the heart.
Allow the currents to continue up, on opposite sides of the body, so now the red current will be on the left, and the white current will be on the right. Like the image of the caduceus, the twin energies cross at each of the chakras. Allow the currents to energise the heart chakra.

(7) Lifting the currents to the throat – sacred marriage at the throat.
Allow the currents to continue rising up, this time red on the right, white on the left, to energise the throat chakra.

(8) Lifting the currents to the brow – sacred marriage at the brow
Allow the currents to continue to rise up, again swapping sides, to unite at the brow chakra.

(9) The transport of the sacred spheres within. In which the energy sources of the red and white currents themselves are visualized as glowing spheres entering the body at crown and root, and proceeding to the naval, then upward on the caduceus to the solar plexus and through all the chakras to the brow.

Start with steps one and two, which should take no less than ten minutes, but you can sit with it for up to half an hour. After about a week, or when you feel that the pearls are sufficiently energised, proceed to add step 3. After a further week, add step four, and at intervals of approximately a week add the subsequent steps. However, the total time for the practice should not increase, as you will be able to do the earlier steps more and more quickly, with just as much or even more effectiveness as time goes by.

After you have completed the nine steps, you will find then that the practice begins to instruct you in how to work with it further. Allow yourself to be taught by the practice, and carry it further as it directs. You will then feel when the time is right to move on to another practice. Once you have performed this process, the complete meditation can be revisited very quickly when you feel it beneficial.