Hills of the Horizon: A Defense of Sacred Kingship

Several years ago, I took a trip out into the sticks for a Beltane ritual. Some folks out there needed a May Queen, and through a sequence of coincidences I happened to be both available and qualified. It was a short-term gig in sacral rulership, with my blessing sought to help with the fertility and health of the land. It’s one of the things that I think about when I poke my nose into debates and discussions about sacred kings.

Source: Hills of the Horizon: A Defense of Sacred Kingship

Go and read this.  Seriously.

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Gyromancy

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite things to do was spin around in a circle until I fell over dizzy.  I’d go outdoors on a sunny day, find a spot in my yard, and spin and spin until I couldn’t stay standing and toppled over into the grass.

(I also used to roll down the hill in our front yard, but that’s a topic for another time.)

Anyway, the idea of doing such a thing now makes me nauseous – in addition to my equilibrium changing after I had my son, I also have benign positional vertigo (BPV) which means I sometimes get dizzy and fall over for no reason at all.  Spinning in a circle until I fall over is now off the table, as is going on any amusement ride that spins and watching any movie that uses shaky cam as a thing.  But, I was amused to discover that my childhood spinning actually had a use that I didn’t know about – divination.  I’m referring to gyromancy.

Gyromancy is the practice of divination by circles or rounds, and there are a couple of well-known methods:

  • A person, or a group of people, spin or dance in circles until they become dizzy enough to fall on the ground.  At that point, everything that is said by the ones on the ground is recorded, and then those recorded words are interpreted for potential meaning.
  • A person, or a group of people, stand within a circle that is bordered by letters or symbols.  At the appropriate time, the person or group walks around the inside of the circle repeatedly until they grow dizzy enough to fall on the ground.  At that point, the position of the people on the ground in relation to the letters/symbols is noted and interpreted for meaning.

Both of the methods above sometimes involved the person or group of people getting up once they fell and repeating their actions until they couldn’t stand again or, as reported in Occult Sciences: A Compendium of Transcendental Doctrine and Experiment: “…till he evolved an intelligible sentence, or till death or madness intervened.”

Ummm, yeah.

Another method, and one I hadn’t heard of before researching for this post, uses a nicked or marked coin – the coin is spun within a circle of letters, and words are spelt out by where the nick or mark lands when the coin falls over.  I think I like this method best as it doesn’t involve me spinning in circles and then spewing.  Although, that might be another method – spin the person and interpret meaning based on where the discharge lands?

(Okay, forget I suggested that.  EW.)

Since I started pondering gyromancy, I’ve had a picture in my head of someone practicing it at a day care facility, at random, based on spinning pre-schoolers.  I mean, they will spin on their own – why not make some use of it by giving them soft mats marked with letters to use as a base?  I don’t know how accurate it would be, but it might make for a good experiment provided that no one actually spun the children; the children would need to spin on their own, of course.

Clearly, I am getting silly.  Sillier than usual, anyway.

I don’t currently know anyone who practices gyromancy, much like I didn’t (and still don’t!) know anyone who practices tyromancy.  If you do either, I’d be really interested to know your how and your why, and whether you think harnessing the power of small children is worthwhile.  After all, a day when I learn something new is a good day!

Today is a good day.

Tyromancy

If I made a list of all the things I do not know, assuming I knew all the things I do not know, that list would likely stretch around the world at least once, and it would include tyromancy.  That is to say, I’ve never, ever, done divination using cheese, and I wouldn’t even know where to begin if I suddenly got the notion to try it out.

Why tyromancy in particular, you ask?  Well, I often peruse The Phrontistery when trying to come up with titles for posts for the Pagan Blog Project, and the word (and its brief definition) jumped out at me.  I wanted to know more about what seemed to me to be a fairly obscure practice, and what I was able to find online solidified that position.  While several people have referred to it in blog posts, or online word compendia (compendiums?  See, here’s another thing I don’t know – what is the appropriate plural for compendium?), I am unable to find anything that indicates it is practiced now.

(If anyone knows differently, please let me know!)

So, what did I find when I went a-looking?  Well, most of the mentions appear to be derived (some word for word!) from an entry on Occultopedia:

“Derived from the Greek tūros (“cheese”) and manteia (“divination”), it (tyromancy) is the art and practice of divining the past, the present and the future by interpreting omens found in cheese…”

The entry goes on to describe the characteristics that were used for interpretation (among them: shape, number of holes, mold patterns) and to note what types of predictions were made (love, money, death).  I have to say, my favorite recreation of Occultopedia’s entry can be found on a blog with an amazing name – Medieval Cheese Forum.

(The name of the blog is why the entry is my favorite!)

So, by looking into tyromancy, I’ve learned some new facts to be filed away in one of the many bins in my brain (probably Miscellanea, under the heading Divination).  I’ve also been hit in the face (again!) with the fact that the more I learn, the more things there are that I haven’t learned.  That’s actually one of the more interesting things about life, I think – no matter how much I learn, there will always be more things to learn.  No matter how much I know, there will always be more things that I don’t know.  And, in fact, I will never know ALL THE THINGS.

I am human, and I cannot know everything – the amount of time and space I have will not allow for it.  To realize this, and the attendant fact that there is no way I can possibly know everything, is very freeing; it makes stating that I don’t know something a necessity, and therefore easier to do.  It makes asking questions about things I want to know a requirement.   It means, if someone acts surprised that I don’t know about watchtowers, or chakras, or whatever thing all pagans do, I can remind them that asking questions is how humans learn, and that no one knows everything.

And, I can do it with a smile.

Space

Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

This is a post about space, but not the kind of space you might be expecting. I suppose outer space could be included in the overall theme, but what I really want to talk about is space for. You know; space for being; space for action; space for recognizing yourself in the context of the universe.

Space for can be as nebulous and difficult to grasp as time for, and I think more people worry about the latter with the idea that finding the time for will open up space for…but I’ve never really been able to do it that way. I have to seek out both at the same time or put space for in the priority position in order to get what I need.

Here’s an example: If I go into my backyard after the sun has gone down and the neighborhood is quiet, I can find space for any number of religious or spiritual things. The fact that I’ve gone out to investigate at a time when distractions are minimized means that I also have some time for any number of religious or spiritual things. They may not match up symmetrically – space for a lengthy ritual may not always match up with time for the same ritual, but there’s always something that can be done with the available space and time. Perhaps I shift gears and act in a way that matches both space and time, or I go back to the space when I have the time to complete what I want to do.

(At this point, I feel like I might be writing in circles. There is a point to this, I swear.)

The largest space for you can imagine will not work for you without the right amount of time for. The largest time for you can imagine will not work for you without the right amount of space for. The two concepts are connected and intertwined just as you and I are intertwined with each other, and the tree, and the rock, and my left shoe (especially my left shoe!). We are all Divine, and thus we are all part of each other’s being.

Look up at the night sky, into what we call outer space, and remember that such vastness of space is not possible without vastness of time. Now, look into yourself and remember the things you want to do, and then seek out the space for along with the time for. When those two things are solidly in your pocket, the possibilities are endless.

Ebb and Flow

When I first became a pagan (of the Wiccanoid variety), I believed any number of things that I now look back on and, well, cringe.  I am sure that I drove the other pagans around me crazy – I was full of light and love (despite not being that variety of human in any other circumstance), and blessings, and merry meetings, and ancient matriarchies, and Joseph Campbell, and Margaret Mead and…and…and

I was, in a word, better.  Better than those hapless Christians who knew not what they stole from us; better than monotheists who refused to believe in more than one god; better than the random people walking 0n the Earth who couldn’t feel the incredible connection between themselves and Mother Earth.

And then, I woke up.  Or, rather, then I was smacked across the head repeatedly by a clawed hand and told to listen and that, until I was able to sort things deftly, I wasn’t permitted to do anything but watch and learn.  And I nearly keened with frustration because I needed to do ALL THE THINGS and I KNEW WHAT I WAS DOING!!!!  But I listened, and I watched, and I read, and began to learn what was based in fact and what wasn’t, and where to apply salt liberally, and what made sense and what didn’t in my own brain.

(I was also spared participation in a circle gone horribly wrong, but that’s a story for another time.)

Eventually, I started to put together a rudimentary practice based Ancient Egypt.  It resonated for me and the fact that the goddess I worshiped (Sekhmet) wanted it so…and Mother Earth became Geb (a god), and the sky became Nut (a goddess), and the MOON WAS MALE.  The more I dug into it, the more it resonated and the more it turned everything I’d ever learned about being pagan on its head.  The Wheel of the Year?  Gone.  Casting a circle?  Gone.  Earth-centered religion?  GONE.  Group practice?  Not possible within the local community.

And even as my head was spinning and I was trying to refuse to acknowledge the changes, it felt right.  I fought it tooth and nail because it went against all those things that everyone knows…and that’s when I learned that many of the things everyone knows are inaccurate because people are different and there’s no one truth for everyone except that we all, eventually, stop functioning.  Cardiopulmonary failure?  This is a thing that affects everyone.  Other things?  Not so much.

There is no overwhelming pagan truth, a thing that we all do, or believe, or know.  If you use the definition of pagan that makes the most sense to me, the only thing pagans as a whole have in common (besides the cardiopulmonary failure thing) is that we’re all non-Abrahamic and self-identify as pagan…and really, with the advent of the Christopagan movement, that first bit may soon become irrelevant.  It’s not up to me, though, to define what other people are.  I am responsible only for defining myself, and telling others what they are and what they should be doing (unless they ask me for advice) is presumptive and just plain rude.

And so, I ebb and I flow, and I move toward my own understanding of how things work, and I do my work so that I will, one day, have a completely cohesive practice and be perfect in my roles as Priest, and Dark Flame Wayfinder, and Mystic, and God-Slave, and Filler of Holes.

May I gain more epithets in the future.  Kheperu.

Absolutism

There was a recurring theme during 2013, and it appeared in numerous blog posts and statements by Big Name Pagans (BNPs).  That theme was one of absolutism in paganism.  In other words, this thing is correct; everyone who is pagan must do this thing, regardless of the path you follow.

For those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a bit, you likely know I do not fall into this camp.  Oh, I’ve been known to dip into it once or twice (or a hundred times) when writing SOPs, or creating tip sheets, or training someone to do something specific within a system or when there are regulations that, if not followed, might land someone in prison for a very long time.  However, my religious practices don’t fall into this category.  I do what I do, when I do it, because it works for me and for my gods.  I’ve been known to add things, or delete things, from my practice based on ideas from others but, ultimately, I don’t do things just because other people think I should.

Some of my firm position on this issue comes from my beliefs about the fluidity of morality and the “situationality” of ethics.  For me, there are no hard and fast actions that can be ruled out as never-to-be-done-under-any-circumstances.  There are things I choose not to do because they repulse me, or they make me uncomfortable, but that’s both a personal thing and a situational thing.   There are things I choose to do that others might find repulsive or creepy, and so be it.  My life isn’t lived for their pleasure, and I don’t expect everyone to agree with me.

Although, really, they should.  All the time.  Seriously.  No, I’m not joking.  Well, okay.  I guess I am, but I hope you see where I’m going.

There is no one-size-fits-all in religion; hell, there’s no one-size-fits-all in clothing (no matter what anyone claims) so why would religious practice be any different?  It is too nebulous and personal a thing – there’s no prayer that works for everyone, no position in which everyone should be when approaching deity, no offerings everyone should give.  Those who stand on a box, or in a pulpit, or naked in the middle of a forest clearing and spout such nonsense are doing themselves a disservice, not to mention the people who have genuine questions.  Is it so hard to add “this is how I do it” to a statement without saying everyone else should do it too?

Given the number of people who do just that, apparently so.

Zero Hour

What am I waiting for?

The more I grow in my religious practice, the further I walk along this path, the more I realize that there’s a time to consider carefully and a time to jump off the cliff.  I wrote about it in another post: overcoming my caution enough to be able to leap into the abyss and know I’ll be caught is not an easy thing.  I’ve been able to do it from time to time; I’ve allowed myself to be broken down so I could be rebuilt.  Hell, I’ve even helped with the rebuilding in the past and not just because Neb.y Set required it, but because I needed to see where the pieces went.  I made that decision, and I jumped in without testing the waters.

But this latest work…these latest tasks are strange to me.  I know they fit the whole, and I know once all of the pieces are together I’ll probably have an “a-ha!” moment but now…now?  Now I am hesitant and terrified, and I need to get past it.

So, what am I waiting for?

The Sow Who Eats Her Piglets has been immensely patient with me as I dip my foot into the space between the stars and try to get used to it before submerging my whole self.  She knew, she knew this would be difficult, and she’s as encouraging as she can be…which means encouragement in a way I can’t quite fathom and the feeling of “YOU have things you’re not doing.  I can wait.”

She Who Spins has been showing me a way forward that I cannot comprehend.  I ask questions, and she shows me again.  “There are holes,” she says.  And I know there are holes, and I can see them and feel them, and I think I’m supposed to go through them but my gatekeeper god isn’t helping because it isn’t his work, and I know I have to fix them but I don’t know how, and I cannot figure it out.  AUGH!

(Anyone feel like making a call on my behalf?)

So.  I have difficult things in front of me.  Some I know, and some I don’t.  I can’t see what will happen when I jump, but I know I need to.  Dithering and twittering and running in circles isn’t helping anything at all.  I need to do this.  So, what am I waiting for?  No one is going to tell me when to start.  No one is going to say, “Follow these steps and all will be well.”  No one is going to talk about team efforts in this case, or synchronizing watches, or rendezvous points.  It’s just me, and my two deities, and endless patience and repetition until I leap.

Now is the time.  Time to move.

Now is my zero hour.