Saturday, May 22, 2010

Road maps to Epiphany

We want to share some thoughts, probably in four blogs, on "Paths to Epiphany" or "Spiritual Development".
On any journey, whether temporal or spiritual, you need a road map. There are many road maps to help you with your spiritual development. Most spiritual journeys require an ability to go into deep meditation. Several of our books give detailed step-by-step instructions. All of our guidance calls for only a comfortable chair, a safe place, and fifteen minutes a day of uninterrupted personal time. It is not sitting on a mountaintop and learning to disregard the cold, or sitting cross-legged on a bed of nails. It is inner meditation, not outward meditation looking for guidance, not outward meditation leading to astral travel. If you drift into either of those other modes, you need to constantly come back into yourself
The oldest road map to spiritual epiphany, then, is probably ancient Tantra; that is, Tantra before the Axial Age, that 500-year spasm when male gods supplanted the earlier goddesses. After the Axial Age, Tantra became chauvinistic, as can easily be seen by anyone reading the Kama Sutra.
Gavin was privileged to live in a Tantric house that was trying to recover the old pre-Axial ways. This was in India, under the auspices of Indira Gandhi. The procedure they used would have been easily understood by anyone who comprehends the ideas of the chakras (psychic centers).
In order to meditate on the classic concept on each successive day of the cycle, one's endorphine level is adjusted with orgasm.
You start at new moon in the base chakra. You spend two days understanding and comprehending everything about the base, your shadow-self, and the negativity involved, as well as the fact that the most beautiful lotus grows in the most malodorous muck.
Pictorial representation of the base is the goddess Dakini, a violent, primitive woman born out of the swamp. She is a typical multi-armed Hindu goddess who holds in her respective hands a skull, a bloody knife, a whip, and a fractured cube representing the World. Her animal is the berserk elephant, the most feared and dangerous creature in India. A pictorial representation of Dakini is shown on page 156 of our own "Tantric Yoga". The same book offers illustrations of all the goddesses and gods in the Tantric system. Page 250 illustrates the progression through the goddesses toward Nirvana and back through the gods toward the new moon. The book contains detailed mind keys for each goddess and each god, as well as dietary practices and the progression of sound mantras (page 256) and symbols (page 257).
As you progress upward with the waxing moon, spending two days in each successive chakra, you begin to understand yourself in more and more detail. Only when you pass the heart chakra with the goddess Kakini or Kali do you begin to move into more spiritual and intellectual levels.
Eventually you go through the final non-physical chakra at the top of the head (represented by the thousand-petaled lotus) and move out, trying to imagine what it is that you wish to become. Reaching this point requires the entire cycle between new moon and full moon.
Notice that all the ascending chakras are active and represented by goddesses. After the full moon, you descend the chakras; in this stage of the Journey they are represented by gods who are all contemplative. You contemplate what you learned as you ascended the chakras, again spending two days in each area, until in the base chakra you finally arrive at the most contemplative god of all, Brahma.
Then after the new moon has passed, you go through the cycle again. Each successive month for at least six months you continue the process. When you imagine an overview of it all, you realize that it is not a repeating loop but an upward Spiral.
The task is quite an onerous one, requiring a deep commitment; but even in the first cycle it is very rewarding. You learn things about yourself and about your place in the world, about your desires and needs, that sometimes cause a complete revision of your lifestyle and your attitudes.
We encourage you to try it, even if you can make it through only the first month.

Next time we will examine the Sephirothic Tree as another road map.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pride and Self Esteem

Two years ago we Frosts attended the Festival Interceltique* in l'Orient, Bretagne, France. Among the marchers in the traditional parade of Sunday morning, a woman who was clearly the village Witch and Wise Woman walked tall and proud between the Avocat (the lawyer) and Monsieur le Maire. She was a handsome young woman clad in the traditional hooded cloak.
One thing that we have always noticed at the several annual Festivals we have attended in Brittany is the pride of the people, whether marchers, dancers, pipers and drummers--or the cheering attendees who line the sidewalks eight and ten deep and hang from every window. Everyone has an important role to play in the honoring of their Breton/Celtic heritage. The elders checking on the costumes distinctive to their village and on the produce or artifact that is their signature product; the participating marchers; others helping tune the pipes (bagadou); and in the parade itself the gentlemen heads of households in their black waistcoats, on their arm their ladies in their long skirts of heavy black wool with gold embroideries. Again, each village has distinctive coifs (a white cap or bonnet, starched into something that could serve as a weapon). Many of the woman marching in such family clusters bear small children in their arms; others carry the wicker basket in which prudent homemakers bear homeward the items they buy on market day. Whatever their age, the women wear gloves or mitts of ecru lace that they have themselves knitted or tatted.
It doesn't matter whether the group is from an upscale city or from the smallest farm village; all have that same pride and knowledge of their place in the scheme of things. In other words, no matter what their job or status, they all have tremendous self-esteem.
Recently we watched as our daughter offered a presentation on self-esteem and faith. As a math teacher, she talked about the self-esteem the kids required if they were ever to become able to complete the math problems successfully. She felt that one of her primary jobs as a teacher was building self-esteem : a genuine sense of self, not something candy-coated and spread all around whether earned or not. She was asking the questions : Does faith--any faith--increase self-esteem? How much do certain faiths tear down the self-esteem of their adherents?
When we attend pagan/Wiccan festivals in the States, we don't find that pride and self-esteem that we saw in Brittany. It seems to us that the community had it in the past; but today it seems to have gotten lost.
How can we get it back? We think it is time for more serious competitions, perhaps for costumes, perhaps for dance, perhaps for drumming or story-telling ... you name it. It's all very well to enjoy party time; but surely we might as individuals or small groups invest some effort and set new--higher--standards.
During one Festival Interceltique we watched the dance-off. Michael Flatley's Irish Riverdance didn't place! The group that won had documented their dance back to 1270 CE. They grew the flax and wove the linen for their costumes. They made their own musical instruments and their sabots (the wooden shoes traditionally worn by workers in fields).
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* Now nearing its 30th anniversary, the Festival is held during the first two full weeks of each August in l'Orient on the Gulf of Morbihan and (we can vouch) is a life-changing experience. See If the site comes up in French, look across the top of the screen and click on the tiny Union Jack. That will put you into the English-language pages.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Travel Plans 2010

Hi, troops.
Many of you have asked about where we will be during this summer season and when. We post this blog to answer those questions. Here's what we know today. See individual sites for really firm dates of beginning and end of each event. ... and life being what it is, we reserve the right to add and to amend. Heck. If it were all predictable, wouldn't life be dull?

07 12 - 07 18 Sirius Rising Sherman NY
07 19 - 07 25 SummerFest Sherman NY
07 28 Kaleidoscope Gathering north of Ottawa
09 11 Pagan Pride Day Little Rock AR
09 18 Pagan Pride Day Conway AR
10 09 Nature Spiritual Princeton WV
Alliance Day
10 31 Witches' Ball Radford VA

Watch carefully for updates; some of this stuff is still in the process of coalescing.
Blessed be those who live an examined life. Gavin and Yvonne

Friday, May 7, 2010

Pagan/Wiccan Fundamentalism

Okay, we're back. We had a wonderful trip to Florida, speaking to several groups around Tampa, including the very active Tampa U-U with its CUUPS group. Then we went on to the Florida Pagan Gathering, which lived up to its reputation as being the highlight of our Spring travels. There we enjoyed sharing time with Judy Harrow and with the Grimassis.
We formed the impression that people are finally getting past our own fangs and our hairy palms and are even listening to some of our ideas. Of course teaching dance in 94-degree weather and high humidity was not a lot of fun, but everyone seemed to enjoy it. Further, we were delighted to sense a lot less inter-group friction this year. Maybe--we hope--the fundamentalist pagan movement is losing momentum.
We've had a huge response to our earlier blog on that subject. Everyone agrees, there's got to be some way to get back to freedom and to honest debate and discussion without the ad hominem attacks. We who think "alternative" thoughts are beginning efforts to stop the witch wars, efforts to get people to do more than fight each other. Why? Because we can envision those fundamentalist Christians laughing and doing high-fives when we get into that sort of family bickering.
Years ago some self-appointed inquisitors put us Frosts "on trial' in Minneapolis (here Yvonne is chortling while she dances on graves). As that caper wrapped up, everyone ostensibly agreed to subscribe to the precept, "I have the one and only right and true path ... for me." Would we could get back to that, because there are lot of people out there whom we would enjoy counting as friends but apparently have lost the idea that spiritual development requires freedom. "You run your path and I'll run mine" belongs on the wall of every pagan living room in cross-stitch. To become more spiritual, then, you must be free, not subject to a dominator paradigm.
The idea is not a new one. The 18th century philosopher Hegel wrote,
The nature of Spirit may be understood by a glance at its direct opposite--Matter. As the essence of Matter is gravity, so, on the other hand, we may affirm that the substance, the essence, of Spirit is freedom.
Decades ago the Guides gave to Yvonne three verses of a song. Here is a clip from that.
" ... Gather we friends together and dance all in a ring.
Glad Witches, come gather, to the old true ways returning :
To freedom and to truth and light, and ne'er again the burning."
Call us biased, but it looks to us as if every time some new writer wants to sell a book, they can find no better way to get onto some Top Ten list than to attack us Frosts or other prominent people in the community. These are just shabby cheap shots, of course; but they sell books. All we can do is refuse to buy the (frequently crap) stuff they put out. It's a sad thing when trees die for such purposes.

That's all for now. We're trying to catch up on hundreds of e-mails and even find time to cut the lawn. A la prochaine, blessed be. Gavin and Yvonne