Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Druidry: a Somewhat Subjective Account

Text of a talk given to a women's 'Sharing Group' at their request. There was question time afterwards; also much material can be found online, so I didn't include some of the very basic details, e.g. names of the Sabbats, animals associated with the directions, etc.

Thank you for inviting me to tell you about Druidry. The first thing to say is that it’s also known as Druidism. Both terms are correct; they are interchangeable, and which one you use is a matter of personal preference. Some people might prefer ‘Druidism’ because it goes with Buddhism, Hinduism, Atheism and so on. I’m a poet, and I like ‘Druidry’ because I think it’s a more aesthetically pleasing word. So that’s how I’ll be referring to it throughout this talk.

The next thing to say is that I’m here under false pretences. For various reasons it’s impossible for me to give you the definitive explanation of Druidry. For one thing, I’ve only formally studied the first of three grades, the Bardic Grade. Secondly, even in that grade some of the material is confidential, not to be shared with non-students. Druidry is a mystery religion, which means that some of the teachings are secret. And thirdly, there are many gaps in the historical records of ancient Druidry – so much so that some people think modern Druidry is just made up.

However, don’t panic – there are things I can tell you, both quoting from scholars, and from my own experience. I have done a lot of private reading beyond my Bardic studies; there is plenty I can share without breaching the mysteries; and the knowledge of ancient Druidry is by no means so incomplete as many people imagine. New fragments of ancient records are constantly being translated, adding to our knowledge. Also, the old ways went underground in full sight – coopted by Christianity, as in the Goddess Brighid becoming Saint Bridget, for instance.  The old stories and rituals continued as folk practices and folk tales. Some of those tales were even written down by Christian clerics. And the Bardic schools survived into the 17th Century.

But a deeper reason why I can’t give you a definitive account is that Druidry is not just one thing on which all Druids agree – except, in the very broadest terms, to say that Druidry is one form of Celtic Paganism.

Within that definition, there are different branches, or orders, of modern Druidry – a little like the different Christian churches. I learned from the largest and best-known, the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) with headquarters in the UK and membership world-wide.

Even within any of the branches, individuals may hold Druidry in different ways. To some it is their religion, to others a philosophy. To still others (such as me) it is not a religion as such, but a personal spiritual path. I choose to express my spirituality via Pagan ideas and practices, because I have an affinity with them; I don’t see this as the one and only right way. 

Druidry has no dogma: no sacred texts, no rules that must be followed, no written principles that must be espoused. This is what differentiates the Pagan paths, which are nature-based, from what we call the Book Religions.

In fact it is possible to combine it with any of the Book Religions. There are Christian Druids, Buddhist Druids, and so forth, even Agnostic Druids, all of whom manage to reconcile both their paths without any trouble.

Then, however one holds it, there are different ways of living it – some of which might apply to any system of religious thought.

A Druid known as The Kite lists them, rather flippantly at times, at his website (I have abbreviated): 

THE CONTEMPLATIVE DRUID
who tends to favour stillness and connection to The Great Unknown, the numinous, and to roam the astral.

Within this category he lists three sub-sets:

The Nature mystic who follows in the tradition of the Romanticist nature poets like Coleridge and Wordsworth, and seeks ultimate meaning in the presence of the Wild Green.

The monk, who takes a more overtly religious stance, fashioning a mystical Druidry out of Zen or Theravada Buddhism, or modelling the Vedic sannyasi, or perhaps following in the footsteps of occultists.

and

The ‘shamanic’ Druid, who may sink deep into trance to commune with the spirits of Nature and of Otherworld.

Then there’s THE ACTIVIST DRUID
The Kite sees Activism as a balancer. He says that the eco-warrior, for example, reminds the contemplative that the future of life on earth and the well-being of the Web of Nature is not simply in the hands of ‘the Divine’ but in the hands of those who care to do something about it, on the understanding that we are not on this earth to escape from it but to engage with it. Others may work with authorities in curating sacred sites, perhaps. Activists protest, lobby, debate, provide practical assistance and perform direct action, all arising from passion.

There’s THE CEREMONIAL DRUID
who looks rather like the Contemplative, but the theurgy is more elaborately ritualistic.

THE MAGICIAN DRUID
draws on the literature of medieval Wales, for example, to find many role-models, including those who style themselves after the cunning men and women of the 17th century onwards, and engage actively with these powers.

THE INTELLECTUAL DRUID
This family tree has many branches. It began with the antiquarians, who seemed to like the aura of musty wisdom and the semi-divine air of Classical antiquity. To this day, says the Kite, most Druids he knows are geeks, especially about history.

Reconstructionists might go so far as to try to live like they imagine Iron Age Druids may have lived. They’re big on archeology.

Philosophical Druids are still debating questions arising from the Enlightenment about God, mind and body, and so forth.

Modern Intellectual Druids will have moved on to incorporate New Age thought or pop culture references or modes or some such, which can be said to be keeping the tradition up to date.

The Urban Druid is trying to relate the experience of Druidry to the fact of living in town.

And many many more.

So what have we done? the Kite asks. And answers himself: We’ve distinguished the family tree of Druidry according to type of activity. It will already have dawned on you, he adds, that any given Druid is capable of more than one kind of activity.

The other thing this writer has done, of course, is to identify the various reasons people are attracted to Druidry. Love of nature is a big one. Most Pagans are also pantheists or nature mystics, believing that every form of life carries a spark of Divinity. Hence we not only love but revere the natural world.

That certainly applies to me. I’ve apprehended the world that way since earliest childhood, so it simply seems natural and self-evident to me, though I realise there are other points of view. I grew up thinking of myself as having no religion – not that I dismissed the numinous; more that I couldn’t fit it into any of the orthodoxies I came across.

But I didn’t seek out Druidry, I stumbled across it. I saw an advertisement in a New Age journal, to study with OBOD by correspondence. It also involved becoming a member of the Order, enrolling to study at the level of the Bardic Grade, which is where everyone begins. I received booklets at intervals, taking me through the history of Druidry, acquainting me with the mystical background, and giving me instructions for various rituals and meditative practices. The Bardic Grade has a focus on creativity and artistic expression, which, as a poet, suited me very nicely. We were encouraged in all forms of artistry; in particular to write verse.

This must have been in 1995. Soon after, I read in their newsletter that Australian members of OBOD were soon to have their first national gathering, or Grove, over a long weekend, in a big bush camping ground just outside Sydney.

It was very exciting to meet each other. People came from all over the country; one young man hitch-hiked all the way from Perth. To the best of my recollection there must have been about 20 of us. We shared our expertise in such fields as herbal lore, psychic readings, astrology, etc.; we gave each other healing treatments, from Reiki to flower essences; we sang and told stories into the night around a fire; and we held sacred rituals within circles of trees.

Two years later the current Chosen Chief of the Order, Philip Carr-Gomm, decided to visit OBOD communities around the world, which were growing rapidly; and when he came to Australia we did it all over again. Many of the same people turned up, and many new ones. The number of Druids in Australia had grown and they had become better organised, groups meeting regularly in Groves all over the country; although there weren’t any near enough for me to attend. 

Again, it was a lovely event. Meeting Philip was great; a lovely man with much gentle wisdom and deep scholarship. By now he has authored several books on Druidry as well as the Druid Animal Oracle (co-authored with his wife, Stephanie); he is also a psychotherapist.

He says on his website:

Although my spiritual practice is rooted in Druidry, I believe we have entered an era in which we can move beyond attachments to labels, drawing instead upon the Perennial Tradition, being inspired by the wisdom in all spiritual paths and teachings – following the Way of the Universal Mystic.

Something magical happens when the worlds of mysticism and psychology are brought together. Every discipline in psychology helps to reveal the extraordinary nature of the human being, but add the insights of the Perennial Wisdom Tradition – the ancient knowledge and esoteric teachings passed down through the ages – and we enter awe-inspiring territory that has the power to transform us.

I think that quote gives you something of the measure of the man. 

For this second gathering, we were invited to choose a character from Druid lore whom we could dress up as on party night around the bonfire. We would be asked to guess who everyone was portraying, and then we’d each tell the stories of who we were. I decided to be Merlin, with the help of a white cottonwool beard, a long cloak, a staff and a pointy hat. Then, as the dates of the gathering drew closer,  I started worrying that maybe this would be disrespectful. Merlin was a real being to me, with whom I had had extensive communication.

I was still in this dilemma when I went for a walk one day through the bush near my home, and heard a bird giving a repeated cry somewhere close by, as if trying to attract my attention. Finally it flew across the road in front of me, slowly, so that I got a good look at it. I saw that it was a small hawk.

It dawned on me a little while later that in Celtic terms merlin is a word meaning small hawk. So I took it as a sign that I had his approval for my costume. Then, on the first day of the gathering, in our opening session, Philip had each of us draw a card from the Druid Animal Oracle, to indicate the energy that would be with us during our three days together. I drew the Hawk. The opening words on that page of the oracle say: ‘This card shows a merlin, the smallest of the hawks’.

At home I have a picture of Goddess Brighid over my desk – though this is more to do with my witchy than Druid persona – because among other things she is a patron of writers. Today, before coming here, I did a ritual for the success of this talk, in another room. When I came back to my desk, a blue feather which had been in front of the picture was lying on the floor – in a place that it was inconceivable it could have got to without some agency. So I took it as a sign that she was blessing my talk today.

So you see, there is both magic and mysticism to be found in Druidry.

I found in it, also, a sweetness which I had previously found only in Reiki. However I didn’t continue beyond the Bardic Grade, although I thought for some time that I would. I became diverted onto the other great Pagan path: Witchcraft. All my life people had said to me, only half-jokingly, ‘Oh you’re a witch!’ and I always had a huge knee-jerk reaction: ‘Don’t call me that!’ (I believe I must have suffered for it in other lifetimes.) But then one day, out of the blue and quite quietly, I had the realisation, ‘Of course you’re a witch. You’ve always been a witch.’ And suddenly I wasn’t scared of it any more. So then I explored Wicca – which IS a religion, albeit one without dogma – and that exploration took up years of time and attention. Eventually I reached a broader position, and now don’t call myself Wiccan but simply a Pagan witch, again holding this not as a religion but a spiritual path.

I also call myself a Druid, if the subject comes up with members of the general public. I use it as a blanket term which people will, hopefully, understand. If I were in a company of other Druids, I would refer to myself as a Bard, the only Grade I completed – a term less readily understood by non-Druids.

In fact, although I completed the course, I never got around to sitting the exam for the Bardic grade. If I were to resume my studies now, after so long, I’d need to repeat that first year all over again – which would be a pleasure actually, as it’s a lovely course of study. I haven’t ruled it out, but at this stage it seems unlikely.

Not that there’s any difficulty in being both Druid and witch, or even Wiccan. Quite a lot of people are. Philip Carr-Gomm has even written a book called DruidCraft in which he argues that, far from being different Pagan traditions, they are two branches from a single root.

They certainly have many similarities. For instance, in ritual they both work with the four directions and the elements; and they both observe the eight seasonal festivals known as Sabbats (not to be confused with the Christian Sabbath). There is even some similarity in the fact that formal training officially lasts three years. In Wicca there are three Degrees, in Druidry there are the three Grades of Bard, Ovate and Druid. 

The Druid Grades, however, are very specifically Druidic, and are the same that pertained in ancient times.  The Bardic Grade I’ve spoken about already, as being about creative and artistic expression. The Bards were traditionally the poets, musicians, entertainers, inspirers, and keepers of the lore.

In fact, although there are many tales of Celtic deities which form part of Druidic lore, the supreme power that we call on is the Awen. A Welsh word, sometimes translated as ‘flowing inspiration’, the Awen has been defined as ‘describing the spark of creative or divine inspiration or illumination. Awen is what sparks an idea and gives it form’.  We are told that it’s what the ancient bards drew on to compose their stories and music. Its symbol is three rays of light.



(It doesn’t have to be drawn within a circle, and often isn’t.)

The Ovate Grade focuses on healing and divination. The OBOD website says, regarding 'The Druid Way':

In ancient times an Ovate was a prophet, seer, healer and diviner. In modern times, an Ovate is one who studies or practices herbalism, healing and divination within a Druidic context, or who has entered the Ovate level of training within a Druid Order.

The Druid Grade was traditionally concerned with philosophy, teaching, and counselling and judicial tasks. In ancient times this included being a magician, giving advice to rulers, and presiding over ritual. They were the wise elders of the community.

The OBOD website says:

We tend to think of the Druid as a sort of priest – but this is not borne out by the evidence. The classical texts refer to them more as philosophers than priests. At first this appears confusing since we know they presided at ceremonies, but if we understand that Druidry was a natural, earth religion as opposed to a revealed religion, such as Christianity or Islam, we can see that the Druids probably acted not as mediators of Divinity, but as directors of ritual, guiding and containing the rites.

In addition to this, we know that they fulfilled a number of other functions … as astronomers and mathematicians, as philosophers discussing the powers of the gods, and as teachers passing on their wisdom.

Modern Druidry, in its search for wisdom, has been influenced by psychology, and by the holistic and environmental movements.

To quote the OBOD website again:

The Bard in their training has opened to the artist, the creative Self, that lives within them, the Ovate in their training has opened to the shaman who lives within – the one who can travel in the inner realms to explore the fluid nature of time, and the inner power of trees, herbs and animals. The Druid, in their training, opens to their inner Wise Person, the inner Sage who is Philosopher and Counsellor, who judges and discriminates and who teaches perhaps too.

Although the training progresses through these three levels, it is not seen as hierarchical but as explorations of Art, Nature and Philosophy, three aspects of a whole person. We can unite them, and/or we can start over and move again from Druid back to the playful Bardic Grade.

In his book Druid Mysteries, Philip makes the point that we urgently need spiritualities which can help us get back in touch with nature, as our separation from it has created the risk that we may not survive as a species.

He says that modern Druidry’s reinterpretation of the Old Ways brings us seven gifts (which I’m paraphrasing rather than quoting in full):

1. A philosophy which emphasises the sacredness of all life, and our own part in the great web of creation.

2. Putting us back in touch with nature with a set of practices that help us feel at one again with nature, our ancestors,  our own bodies and our sense of spirit.

3. Healing, with practices that promote healing and rejuvenation, using spiritual and physical methods.

4. Affirming our life as a journey with rites of passage for blessing and naming children, and for marriage, death, etc.

5. Opening to other realities, with techniques for exploring other states of consciousness, other realities, the Otherworld .

6. Developing our potential, offering a path of self-development that encourages creative, psychological and intuitive abilities, intellectual and spiritual growth.

7. Magic – opening to the magic of being alive, how to bring ideas into manifestation, and the art of Journeying in quest of wisdom, healing and inspiration.

He also states that a central aim of Druidry today, via OBOD, is ‘to encourage us to broaden our understanding of love – so that we love widely and deeply.’ OBOD sees Druidry fostering, through its teachings and practices – and here I’m quoting directly –

·    Love of the Land, the Earth, the Wild – with a reverence for Nature.
·    Love of Peace – Druids were traditionally peace-makers and still are: each ceremony begins with Peace to the Quarters, there is a Druid’s Peace Prayer, and Druids plant peace groves.
·    Love of Beauty – The Druid path cultivates the Bard, the artist within, and fosters creativity.
·    Love of Justice – Druids were judges, and law-makers, Traditionally Druids were interested in restorative, not punitive justice.
·    Love of Story and Myth – Druidry recognizes the power of mythology and stories.
·    Love of History and Reverence for the Ancestors  Druidry recognises the forming power of the past.
·      Love of Trees – Druids today plant trees and study tree lore.
·    Love of Stones – Druids today build stone circles, collect stones and work with crystals.
·    Love of Truth – Druid philosophy is a quest for wisdom.
·    Love of Animals – Druidry sees animals as sacred, and teaches sacred animal lore.
·    Love of the Body – Druidry sees the body and sexuality as sacred.
·    Love of the Sun, Moon, Stars and Sky – Druid star lore, embodied in the old stories and in  the stone circles, teaches love for the Universe.
·    Love of Each Other – Druidry fosters the magic of relationship, of community.
·    Love of Life – Druidry encourages celebration and full commitment to life – it is not a spirituality that wants us to escape from life.


In conclusion, the final reason I can’t tell you definitively what Druidry is, is because it is not static.  It existed in ancient times, went underground, was revived  in the 17th and then again in the 20th centuries,  keeps its ties to the past and also builds on the Old Ways to bring them into the present. It doesn’t change so much as evolve; while it keeps its essential character, it continues to grow – though perhaps not away from so much as more into itself.


Note: For this talk, in addition to texts mentioned above, I consulted The Druid's Primer by Luke Eastwood.

(Picture: Fair use)




Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Goddess Sekhmet

A Talk to the Wisdom Circle




My talk on Sekhmet was a more informal presentation than the recent one I gave on Bast. I am a practitioner and teacher of a healing system called, variously, Seichim, Sekhem, SKHM, which is a blend of Reiki and Sufi energy. Some versions also emphasise connections to Sekhmet. So I already had information on her in my notes on that healing modality (original author unknown). I realised I could also consult my copy of Invocations of the Gods by Ellen Canon Reed, which has a section on Bast as well. I referred to both sources while discussing Sekhmet.

Reed names both Bast and Sekhmet as 'dark ladies' (albeit they are solar Goddesses). Dark lords and ladies are, in Qabalistic terms, Geburic forces, Geburah being the Sphere of Severity. Bast is perhaps more jungle cat than domestic pet!

Sekhmet is a lioness, usually portrayed as a woman with a lion's head – though some people believe she is also represented by the Sphinx, with its leonine body and human head. Lionesses are the hunters of the pride. They make good mothers, and can be fiercely protective. The name Sekhmet is a feminine version of Sekhem, which means strength or power; so her name is Lady of Strength or Lady of Power.

She is a primordial goddess, and is said to have been present at the creation of our universe. She has a string of other names which reflect this, such as She who was before the Gods, The Mother of the Gods, and The Lady of the Lamp. My SKHM notes say, 'She has strong associations with the star Sirius and is thought to be the Atlantean deity Khiet-Sin. Legend has it that she always appears when a catastrophe is approaching or our planet is due for a quantum leap. The Ammonite Foundation of Egypt believe she is the Nether (God) entrusted by her father Ra with the task of destroying the evils created by mankind.'

Egyptian deities and their relationships are complex. Sekhmet was regarded as the wife of Ptah of Memphis and mother of the Lotus-God, Nefertum. Hathor, the cow goddess, is perceived as her alter ego, her gentler side, though some stories tell of them both being 'the vengeful left and right eyes of Ra'. She is sometimes equated with Tefnut, the lion-headed daughter of Ra. It has been suggested that there was a strong link with Tutankhamen and his love of lions. Maat, the Goddess of Truth, is sometimes perceived as an aspect of Sekhmet – hence, some authorities see a strong connection between Sekhmet and Thoth, the husband of Maat. She has also been seen as an early version of Isis. Although she is sometimes linked to Bast, I don't see them as versions or aspects of each other, but as very distinct deities even if somewhat alike. 

She is both a destructive force and a goddess of healing.  As a destroyer, she gets rid of things we need to be rid of, so as to rebuild on a better foundation. Her healings can be drastic, or the kind which involve a 'healing crisis'. But she breaks down only the temporal, never the eternal. As a Sun Goddess, she burns away excess. We are told, 'Her priests were skilled in anatomy, surgery, herbs, metals associated with homeopathy, sonics and the vibrational healing arts at all levels of the physical and subtle bodies.'

SKHM is a form of energy healing, aka vibrational healing. I learned Reiki first, and though I have trained in a number of other modalities since, many to Master level, I always tend to come back to Reiki because it's so easy, powerful and beautiful. When I do want to add something, it is usually SKHM I choose. It blends very well with Reiki. 

The Goddess may noticeably come present at such times – and if so, she is liable to emit disapproval if there are any dogs in the vicinity. If there are, they tend to look scared and absent themselves very quickly! She can be frightening, but Reed reminds us that 'the power of the gods is always on our side'.

***********************

I subscribe to the theory that 'there are no accidents' – or at least very few. It's interesting that, even before I started my talk, someone mentioned a family member who, after severe illness, appeared to be having a dramatic healing crisis – a very Sekhmet-like situation.

After I finished my talk, we had a discussion in which, describing Sekhmet's fierce protectiveness as a Mother-Goddess quality, I said, 'Anyone who's ever been a mother knows, there are times when you go into lioness mode in defence of your young.' The other mothers present nodded. One person asked in surprise, 'Do you have a child, Rosemary? I thought you said you married Andrew late in life?'

I explained, 'I've been married three times. I have two birth children, two foster-sons, three stepchildren, and seven god-children. Not bad for a woman who doesn't consider herself very maternal.' That led to further questions, such as how Andrew and I had met, and I found myself, in that trusted company, telling a lot about my life. 

Someone opined that I seemed to have had a very pleasant life, which prompted me to detail my parents' divorce when I was 15; being uprooted from where I'd grown up, and scoring the archetypal wicked stepmother into the bargain; spending my late teens and early twenties impoverished and studying rather than going out and partying; marrying a compulsive gambler the first time around, when I was only 22; having a full-scale nervous breakdown at 25; two marriages ending in divorce; going bankrupt at the end of my second marriage.... (I could have added, being widowed at the end of my long and happy third.) It's true there have been many very good times too, and I've arrived at a place of contentment, but it has been an eventful life rather than an easy one. And though Andrew and I had a great time together, even that wasn't Paradise: we always had financial struggles, and he had a lot of illness towards the end.

Afterwards I felt a bit embarrassed at having spent so much time talking about me, even though people had asked and everyone said they were wonderful stories. Then I realised, my life is very much an example of Sekhmet-type energy (no wonder I am drawn to her!) in which many dramatic, challenging, and at the time disastrous experiences have turned out to be agents that moved me forward on my path. So that conversation was no accident either!

Sekhmet energy is rather like that of the Tower card in the Tarot, in which the rigid structures one has built up are broken down dramatically, in apparent catastrophe, in order to let in new and better energy for the purposes of transformation.

We didn't consciously evoke Sekhmet's presence at this talk about her, but she is a powerful Goddess; perhaps any focus on her is sufficient to bring her closer. Or, thinking of her as an archetype, it seems our conscious attention to her on this occasion brought to mind relevant illustrations of how that kind of energy works in our lives. The apparently extraneous conversation was right on topic after all. (In my experience, apparently extraneous conversations usually are.)

Notes:

This photo of Sekhmet is of the small statue I have. The photo is a little larger than the actual size.

If anyone cares to know more details about my eventful life, first drafts of a memoir in progress are at my blog, Blowing My Own Trumpet. This memoir focuses on magical aspects of my life; it does not so far include everything mentioned above, and it does include some things not mentioned above.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Bast, the Egyptian Cat Goddess

Text of my talk to the Wisdom Circle of the Goddesses of Shining Light, Murwillumbah NSW (Australia) 14 March 2017



Image from the public domain


First, a bit of background about me. 

My personal spiritual path is Pagan, which many people think of as being specifically Celtic, and indeed it is. But it’s wider than that, too, and I’m eclectic in my practices. Some people think we should stick to just one pantheon to avoid confusion, and I can see what they mean, but eclectic works for me. I have both Celtic and Hindu ancestry, I have been contacted by both Australian Indigenous and Native American beings in spirit, for various kinds of energy work, and I have strong, apparently past-life connections with Egypt. So today I’m focusing on the Egyptian connection.

[I would just like to note that there are many variations of the names we assign to Ancient Egyptian deities, places, etc. I’m going to use the ones I know best, which are usually the most widely-used today, even if they might not be the most strictly correct.]

Bast is the Egyptian cat goddess, also widely known as Bastet. She originated in a city known as Bubastis (which is the best-known variant of the name) in Lower Egypt, which was the northern half of the country. (The terms Upper and Lower referred to the direction of the Nile, which begins in the south and flows northward.) However she was worshipped throughout the whole country.

She was a warrior goddess – a protector – and was first depicted with the head of a lioness, which is how the Goddess Sekhmet is also portrayed. However Bast is not a version of Sekhmet; they are sisters, both daughters of the supreme God in the Egyptian pantheon, whom we call Ra. Sekhmet was a goddess of Upper (or southern) Egypt.

As well as a daughter of Ra, Bast was also his consort. We would regard that as shockingly incestuous, but the Egyptian deities were credited with complex family lives, due to the many functions each one acquired over time, which then needed to be added into the story. The Pharaohs also accepted such arrangements, for dynastic reasons. (As for cats, they are a different species, unaffected by human morality.)

After Lower Egypt was conquered by Upper Egypt, Bast began being portrayed with the head of a domestic cat, and her nurturing qualities were more emphasised. That's also when the name Bastet became used. Both are well-known, but I originally encountered the older form, Bast, and so that’s the name I call her.

As a protector, she was originally considered the warrior-protector of her father, Ra, and hence of every Pharaoh (who represented him on earth). This then extended to protecting everyone. For instance, people would keep statues of her in their homes as protection against thieves. We are told that she also protected houses against rats and snakes – a thing ordinary cats do too – and so ensured the health of the occupants. 

She became seen in the role of mother-protector, like a mother cat defending her kittens.

And she became the patron goddess of fire-fighters, due to the Ancient Egyptian belief that a cat running through a burning building would draw the flames out behind her.

She also became a goddess of sensual pleasure, and of fertility. Young women wanting children would buy amulets with figures of Bast and her kittens – the number of kittens showing how many children they hoped for.

She was associated with perfumes, because of similarities in the respective hieroglyphs, and she carried a special rattle called a sistrum, which linked her with music and dance. She also carried the ankh, symbol of life. In common with Sekhmet, she was considered to embody the all-seeing eye of Ra.

The Greeks likened her to Artemis, and so connected her with the moon and with children. In Egypt she was a goddess of sunrise, too.

Her worshippers gave her offerings of jewellery and other precious objects. Also they offered her, in huge numbers, the mummified bodies of cats who had died. I want to make it clear they did not sacrifice these cats. Egypt, as we know, was a society which esteemed cats very highly. There were severe penalties for injuring or killing one. They were given to Bast after they had died of natural causes. In addition to her protective role with humans, Bast was also, of course, the protector of cats.

It is said that her strengths were: as a protector; in her sensuality; and in being a caring mother figure. Her weaknesses are said to be that she was chameleon-like, and fierce when threatened. Personally, I’m unable to perceive those qualities as weaknesses!

It may be more useful to consider her aspects from the point of view of archetypes: Warrior and Lover. Warrior qualities are physical strength, and the protectiveness which enables you to fight for your rights and those of others. The shadow side includes the need to win at all costs, and abandoning your ethics for the sake of victory. The Lover shows both passion and selfless devotion, and includes what makes our hearts sing, e.g. music, art, nature. The shadow is obsessive, unhealthy passion. It is said that Bast had many lovers, but there is no record of unhealthy obsession – which I think might be un-catlike in any case.

I have two statues of Bast in my house: a traditional one on an altar, and a big black plaster cat presiding over my oracles and Tarot decks – which is a depiction of Bast because I say it is and hold it as being so. She was in fact sometimes portrayed as an actual cat rather than a cat-headed woman. (The one on my altar is that too, as you see; but in that case the maker also intended it as a representation of Bast.)







It was in her protector role that I first met Bast. At a time in my life when I thought I had some reason to be afraid, my friend Ridge who was a powerful magician, introduced her to me as someone to call on for magical protection. We can do that by calling her name, either aloud or mentally, or we can visualise the Hebrew letter Bet, the letter with which her name begins. If you’ve studied QBL, you’ll know it, but otherwise it looks like this:



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Of course, the language of Ancient Egypt was not Hebrew, but we understand that the Semitic languages are closely related; and Ridge was a Hermetic magician, which meant his training was Cabalistic.  

The meaning of the name of the letter, Bet, means House. If you forget what the letter looks like, you can visualise a child’s outline sketch of a house instead, and that'll work. You can use her name and the visualisation together, or either one on its own. It’s handy when you need to call on protection quickly, in the moment.

Whenever I have done that, the dangers I feared did not come to pass; also I experienced a beautiful sense of reassurance, which felt motherly. 

I also felt empowered. This cat-mother goddess expects that her children will mature into strength and competence, able to take care of themselves. But, like all mothers, she will never regard us as too old to help if we call on her.

To sum up: as a role-model, she is both soft and strong; protector and nurturer. She knows how to enjoy the sensual pleasures of being alive; and she is practical and efficient in looking after the health and safety of those in her charge. She is a worthy representative of Great Mother.


I refreshed my memory of details with these online sources:
'Bast the Egyptian Cat Goddess’ at Goddess-Guide.com
and the article on Bast in the ‘simple English Wikipedia’



Thursday, January 19, 2017

Joy and Healing via My New Magic Wands

My friend Letitia Lee, of Esoteric Pure Magic, crafts extraordinary wands. My understanding of other wands I have used until now is that – while they often contain aspects which enhance the energy, such as particular crystals or a specific kind of wood – the magic is in the witch or magician using them; the wand amplifies and extends that. 

Letitia's wands themselves have the magic. (The user can add any of their own, e.g. as a Reiki Master I am able to add Reiki to the powers of the wands I have from Letitia.)

I had got used to the way that wands which are an extension of the user are made, with much focus on the crystal at the tip (the pointing end). Letitia's wands taper to fine points, and have wider handles where most of the power is concentrated (like a reservoir of power waiting to be activated). 

'The Hogwarts prototype!' I said to her. She assures me she invented this design long before J.K. Rowling and/or the film-makers came up with it. And in fact her wands are not all that much like the Hogwarts ones except in that respect. 

It is certainly a new and interesting experience to use a wand made in this way. I have grown to love the feeling. I don't feel in any way disempowered, quite the reverse. It's empowering to hold and use a more advanced tool. Just as I would with an up-to-the-minute new kitchen appliance or a state-of-the-art electronic device, I keep being delighted by how much more I can do. 

They are all made from natural materials, even the glue. That, of course, is the case with many other types of wands; still it's nice to note that it's so for these also. And they contain some powerful but invisible ingredients – which may be the case with others as well, but again it's nice to know.

A more unusual property is that Letitia's wands are telepathic. They can and do communicate with the user. I initiate conversations with mine, often in the form of requests; also there are times when they speak to me first. This might be to tell me how and where to apply the tip to my body for healing. Recently my healing wand volunteered the advice that, as well as using it, I could still give myself hands-on Reiki of an evening while watching television! (I am used to this with energy healing. Reiki itself will sometimes lead one to another form of healing to add to the mix for optimum results.)

I am very blessed to have two of Letitia's wondrous wands. As we are close personal friends, she designed and made one specially for me as a xmas present. It's long, intricate and beautiful, and contains some symbols very personal to me. (She herself had no conscious knowledge of the depths of those personal connections when she included them; but as she is highly psychic I'm not all that surprised.) It was created with various functions, an important one of which is to bring me joy.

The other was not created for me, but as part of her stock for sale. I saw it when I last visited her, and was very drawn to it. It turned out to be primarily a healing wand, though like the rest it has more than one power. With Letitia's permission, I picked it up. The handle fitted my hand perfectly. Then it spontaneously directed me where to touch it to my body! And guess what? I just happened to have in my wallet, and was able to spare, enough money to make a down payment. (It is fairly unusual for me to be carrying such a sum, I might add, and I had no expectation of spending it there.) Seeing it was me, she let me take the wand home straight away, and I'll pay her the balance next time I see her. This wand is much plainer than the other, but it too happens to include something with personal meaning for me.



Already I have stories to tell about the efficacy of both these wands. 

A Practical Path to Joy

Would you use magic to fix your plumbing? I just did – though it did also involve some physical work by men and machines.

My toilet has tended to get blocked if we’ve had a lot of rain – either very heavy, prolonged, or both. 

Usually it was only partly blocked. The contents would rise in the pan alarmingly when flushed, but would eventually drain away over a period of several hours. Sometimes it was completely blocked and couldn't be flushed at all. I don't live very close to any public toilets, so occasionally have had the embarrassment of knocking on a neighbour's door to ask, 'Please can I use your loo?' 

I am in a Housing Department unit, so I would phone Maintenance and someone would arrive within 24 hours to fix it by clearing tree roots from cracked pipes. 'We'll need to replace a section of pipe,' I was told. Access to the pipes is from the yard of the adjoining unit, not mine, so I couldn't be certain whether the pipes were indeed replaced, but it seems pretty obvious that didn't happen as the problem kept recurring. I got to know, as soon as I heard sudden gurgling, gulping noises from the loo even when it was not in use, that it was time to phone Maintenance. 

I lived in dread of this highly inconvenient situation. I even bought a second-hand plastic commode chair from the Palliative Care op-shop. Then I realised that would not solve the problem. Were I to use it, how would I then dispose of any – er – non-liquid contents? So it has never been used and I guess I'll remove it from storage in my garage and donate it back to Palliative Care one day.

Recently, when I heard the dreaded loo noises after some rain, I spoke to my personal wand and suggested that this situation was not conducive to my being joyful! I requested that the matter be fixed properly, long-term. Only then did I phone Maintenance. 

A very nice plumber I had not met before turned up. He found the usual roots in the pipe, which he removed. He said some of the problem was at a junction with Council pipes. He would notify them to come and fix their side of it. He would also have to replace the pipe on the Housing Dept side, and would need some time to organise that, as it would be quite a job; meanwhile my toilet should work OK for the time being.

This bloke inspired more confidence than others I'd encountered. And sure enough some Council workers arrived a couple of days later and cleared their side of things. 'Put something heavy on your toilet lid,' they said. 'We're going to whoosh a whole lot of water through the pipes and you don’t want it flooding your floor.’ They reported back when it was all done; though I kinda knew, when the heavy machinery noises stopped.

A few days later they returned. 'We've been instructed to replace the junction.' Which they duly did. They said, 'Yes, let the Housing Department plumber come back as arranged, in case he needs to do anything more.' I wouldn't have known where to contact him anyway, except through Maintenance. Which I tried, but they said, 'Talk to him about it when he comes to do the job.'

So this morning that is what happened. He was pleased to hear what had taken place, and even more pleased when he inspected the site and found that there was nothing left for him to do. I am extremely pleased myself that, after several years of pleading with the Housing Dept for a permanent solution instead of a quick, temporary fix, I have finally got one.

Yes yes – to the sceptics who like to explain things away – I know, the thing with the wand could, theoretically, have been mere coincidence. Hey, I don't think so!

Un-Crippling Myself

I have had osteo-arthritis for years. Usually it is well controlled and doesn't bother me much. A few weeks ago it began flaring up painfully in my right hip and leg (no, not sciatica; that's been investigated) and sometimes lower and centre back. I started having to use a walking-stick. Luckily I could still drive; it was walking that was the problem. At my worst, I was hobbling around bent over like an old woman.

I did all the things recommended and a few more – consulted my doctor; kept up my regular chiropractic and massage treatments; used the hydrotherapy pool; kept moving as best I could; took prescribed medications for it, plus relevant supplements including turmeric; did specific exercises to help, as instructed; etc etc etc. Everything helped a bit, for a short while; nothing helped much. Finally, getting desperate, I mentioned it to Letitia. At that point I was having gall bladder pains as well; too much fatty food over the holidays.

'Use your healing wand, silly!' she said. Oh yes! Funny how pain interferes with the ability to think. 'Give yourself a good hour's healing,' she added. So I picked up the wand. It immediately instructed me to get naked. (No problem. We're in the middle of a heat wave here.) Then I just let it move where it would over my body, not guiding it but being guided by it. After a little while it told me to lie down, and then concentrated on my gall bladder. It completely got rid of that pain in about 20 minutes. That was on December 30th and that pain has not returned. Of course I did start eating more intelligently, which would have something to do with why it hasn't recurred, but doesn't explain the quick relief on the day.

The same session considerably eased the arthritis, however that did not clear up and did increase again over the following days. 'There must be something I still need to learn from it,' I thought. I kept working with the wand daily as guided, more or less half an hour at a time, as well as doing all the other things I was doing. Finally the wand gave me the above-mentioned advice to use Reiki on myself as well, when watching telly. (You would think I wouldn’t need telling, but as I said, I wasn't thinking straight.) Then it got me to finally put out a call for help to some of my healer friends, and at that point I began turning the corner.

It was a great reminder of the power of asking for help! Two people who live near came and gave me some lovely hands-on work; others sent me loving energy. 'You have many good friends, Rosemary,' one reminded me. I went back to my doctor, consulted with the pharmacist about the most efficient use of my prescription meds, called on my personal  team of angels (which btw we all have) and even explored possible support services in case of need. And I continued to use the wand.

Today I am almost pain-free, am not needing to use my walking-stick, and I can tell you I am in much better spirits! During the worst times I did have moments of self-pity, thinking of all I did as my late husband's carer – contrasting that with being on my own, no-one to support me in the same way, boo-hoo. The amount of support that came when I asked was a revelation! That must be one thing I needed to learn from the whole exercise. Another would be the many techniques and options I have for use in healing. 

In the end I suppose a number of things contributed to the healing – but it was not until I began using the wand that anything shifted. After that it was a gradual but accelerating journey.

I am grateful to the wand which set the healing in motion and helped it along, as well as to Letitia for making her magic wands available.

Yes, I am going to give her, and them, a plug now. You bet I am! 

Here it is. You can find some of her other wands at her website.