Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Using the FOI Mystery Dramas

The next question many people have is, "How do I use the mystery dramas?" This can especially be a problem for those who are solitary and not part of a group, since most of the dramas call for a substantial cast of people. The answer is, "You can use them any way that you want, but with caution."

The mystery dramas create a psychic altered state for those who participate, such that in the meditation segment you are more open to receiving spiritual guidance from the Gods, or from guides, to seeing visions or hearing things that are important to your spiritual development. This is called, "Receiving the Mystery." Each drama acts as a form of initiation, turning your consciousness inward to contemplating the mystery the individual received. No two individuals will likely receive the same message, which is why many dramas include a session of sharing information at the end.

So again, if you're solitary, what are you to do? One thing is to do the drama by yourself, doing all the parts. You can create the space to achieve the mystery yourself, especially if you do your homework on the drama and create the sacred space to suit the drama. Another is to do the ritual by attunement with others; various groups frequently do the dramas and invite others to work with them on the astral plane. Surprisingly, it works rather well.

If you have a group, it's easier to do the dramas as written, but it still pays to do your homework. What do I mean by that? Essentially, you should spend some time studying the symbolism, myths, and other elements of the drama to understand where they come from and what they mean. That tends to make your chances of receiving a powerful spiritual insight greater, and that it will be more likely something that you will understand.

You can do the dramas at any time of the year that you want; the times associated with the rays and the dramas is a suggestion based on the resonance the drama has with a particular energy. The dramas may be more powerful if done when they are designated, but not necessarily. I've done them at various times and had similar experiences throughout. But I've also had a lot of practice doing them.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the dramas on the physical plane of the Cosmic Web diagram are intentionally easier to access and understand than the dramas as you go inward on the spiral. That being said, Lady Olivia recommends that you study the dramas and decide which ones are calling out to you. You can, for instance, choose to study the dramas along a single ray because the psychic energy appeals to you; all the dramas on a given ray are linked energetically. You can move around the spiral inward toward the center or outward toward the physical plane, if you choose. The whole point of the FOI system is non-hierarchical flexibility to suit your own spiritual growth.

Priests and priestesses have some experience of the dramas, and can help those who choose to participate get in tune with the energy; however, assisting people to achieve the mystery of the dramas is the particular job of the hierophants. The word, "hierophant," means, "one who shows forth." The hierophant has been specifically called to work with the mystery dramas, and to act as a spiritual guide or psychopompos to assist individuals in achieving the altered state that the drama creates. They're also there to help you if you get into a difficult space or need assistance getting grounded again afterward.

So if you really want to work with the dramas, contact one of the lyceums (which are run by a hierophant) and ask them for assistance. They can help you determine how to accomplish the job and give you advice and pointers on where to go with it.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Spiraling into the Zodiacal Ritual

Now we're moving onto the mental and spiritual planes of the Cosmic web diagram, the inner core ritual.We are at ritual #21 on the White Ray, which corresponds to Yule (Winter Solstice) for the first of the Zodiacal rituals from Sophia. These rituals are complex and require a good bit of research and preparation to be performed successfully.
I have participated in most of the Magi rituals up to this point, except for "The Labyrith" (#8), but not all of the Zodiacal ones in Sophia. The ones I have been in have been profound experiences, but required a lot of work to prepare for doing them well.  One other word: Although these rituals do call for a "cast of thousands" it is quite possible to do them solo—you just read all the parts yourself!

First of the Zodiacal Rituals, Pisces and Cerridwen (#21) lies on the White Ray, signifying North. The FOI considers the Piscean age to be passing away, and that the FOI belongs to the Aquarian Age that is beginnning, so it runs through the Zodiac from Pisces to Aquarius at #32. We continue through the Zodiac with Aries and Durga (#22) on the Red Ray at Imbolc, then Taurus and Isis (#23) on the Orange Ray at Oestre. Lastly, Gemini, Artemis, and Apollo (#24) marks the end of our travels on the Mental plane.

Moving onto the Spiritual plane at #25, we find Cancer and Tiamat on the Green Ray and Summer Solstice. Next, on the Blue Ray at Lughnassadh, we find Leo and Sekhmet (#26), then Virgo and Dana (#27) on the Indigo Ray at Mabon.

(I had an intense experience with Virgo and Dana a few years ago when we performed it at a pagan festival up in the Rockies. The ritual begins with the gods of Ireland, but ends up with the gods of the Aztecs, a rather startling change of venue unless you do the back work to see why such pairing made sense to Lady Olivia and Lord Lawrence. In any case, coming away from the site where we'd done the ritual, I saw a vision of Quetzalcoatl looking down at us through the clouds. Sometimes the "mystery" you receive is pretty obvious.)

At #28, we find Libra and Quan Yin on the Violet ray and Sahmain, and then back to the White ray for Scorpio and Kundalini (#29). We have one more half-turn of the Coils of Tiamat to traverse.

Back on the Red Ray (#30), we have Sagittarius and Brynhild.  Then we have Capricorn and Terra (#31) on the Orange Ray, and finally Aquarius and Juno (#32) on the Yellow Ray where the spiral moves into the center sphere with the Ankh.

The Ankh represents a 33rd degree that may only be granted directly from deity to the individual.

That concludes our look at the Magi degrees. Next, I will go through the degrees on the Spiral of Adepti to show how their correspondences work. Lyceums primarily work with the Magi degrees, but should be familiar with the other parts of the liturgy to ensure that they use them well when they do.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Moving on to the Etheric/Astral Plane of the Cosmic Web

At the end of the rituals in Dea, we completed a revolution around the spiral of Tiamat that completes our journey on the Physical plane. Next we step into the book, Urania, to begin to explore onto the Etheric/Astral or second plane inward. First we need a break point to shift gears from the physical to the next higher level of frequency here. So there are two Cosmic rituals provided, #9 is Space Magic on the Green Ray, then #10 is Time Magic on the Blue ray. These lead into the planetary mysteries that comprise the remainder of the Urania book.

So first we starts with the Sun Magic of the Life Force, #11, on the Indigo Ray. Paralleling #11 is #12, Lunar Magic of the Tides on the Violet ray. Third, we have #13 Earth Magic of Transformation on the White Ray associated with Yule and North. Note that each of these "planets" is associated with a particular Ray: Inner Sun with Indigo, Moon with Violet, and Earth with White. This pattern gets carried forward into the next set of planetary rituals that proceed inward along the cosmic web diagram.

Now we begin to move further into the planets with #14, Magic of Mars and the Morrigan on the Red Ray. So Red is associated with Mars. The next one is #15, Magic of Venus and Vishnu on the Orange Ray. So Orange is associated with Venus. Number 16 is on the Yellow Ray, and is the Magic of Mercury and Sophia. Thus Yellow is associated with Mercury.

These color associations are not an accident. More aggressive energies fall onto the Red Ray, the energies of Love fall onto the Orange Ray, and the energies of knowledge and though fall onto the Yellow Ray, in line with the character of the planets assigned there.

Moving back to the Green Ray (Expansiveness & Fertility), we meet the Magic of Jupiter and Hathor at #17. We've now come around to where we start onto the Mental plane of the spiral of Tiamat. And the first planetary ritual there is #18, on the Blue Ray (Limitation, Peace), the Magic of Saturn and Astarte. Indigo amps Blue up a notch in Spiritual power, and so we have #19, the Magic of Uranus and Sarasvati. Finally, we reach #20, on the Violet Ray (High Spirituality), the Magic of Neptune and Ngame.

This completes the planetary rituals and gets us around to the White Ray at the top again to start the Zodiacal rituals in Sophia. We will cover those next time.

The planetary rituals are harder in the sense that they take more preparation than the physical plane dramas and require more of the student's focus to do well. It's important to be familiar with the colors, symbols, myths, and other elements of these rituals to get the full mystery out of them. They tie the planets to the rays as follows:

White Ray:   Earth and Pluto
Red Ray:      Mars
Orange Ray: Venus
Yellow Ray:  Mercury
Green Ray:   Jupiter
Blue Ray:     Saturn
Indigo Ray:  Inner Sun and Uranus
Violet Ray:  Moon and Neptune

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Cosmic Web Diagram and the Magi Degrees

The central symbol of the Fellowship of Isis is the Cosmic Web diagram, seen
here from the COI website. It is composed of two secondary parts, the coils of Tiamat, and the star of Ishtar. Where the coils of Tiamat are overlain by the 8 rays of the star of Ishtar, 32 points appear, which are associated with the magi ritual dramas in Dea, Urania, and Sophia. These are the essential dramas the hierophancy works with through the College of Isis. The center is the mystic 33rd degree which can only be received by direct intervention of the gods.

The 4 coils of Tiamat progress from the physical plane outermost clockwise into the etheric/astral, then the mental, and finally the spiritual innermost. You can travel either direction around the spiral, clockwise or counter-clockwise depending on the kind of experiences you are after, although the progression clockwise does run from easier to harder.

Similarly, the 8 rays of the star of Ishtar cross the 4 levels or coils, and mysteries get more complex as you move inward on each ray. Starting with the white ray at the top (North) and going clockwise, you get the Red ray at Northeast, the Orange ray at East, the Yellow ray at Southeast, the Green ray at South, the Blue ray at Southwest, the Indigo ray at West, and the Violet ray at Northwest. These also correspond to times of the year according to the 8-point solar calendar with Yule at the top around to Sahmain at violet in the northwest. There are also associations with the Sun, Moon, and planets attached to each of the rays, as will become apparent as we study the rituals associated with the diagram.

Let's look at the first set of rituals from Dea, which comprise those on the outermost or physical spiral of Tiamat. Ritual #1 is the Rite of Rebirth, which is the ritual intended for initiating a person into studying for the FOI priesthood. It turns the individual inward for spiritual growth along the lines of listening for which goddesses want the initiate to serve them and how. It is located at point 1 on outer edge of the Green ray at South.

Ritual #2 is the Ordination of Priestesses and Priests, which confirms the initiate's work is done and they are now a servant of the goddess. It lies on the Blue ray at point #2 Southwest.  Ritual #3 is the Isis Wedding Rite, which is the third transitional rite I mentioned last time, and which lies on the Indigo ray at West.

Ritual #4 is the first one that comes from Dea, "The Awakening of Osiris." It lies on the violet ray at Sahmain. Ritual #5 then occupies the white ray at Yule, and is "The Mystery of the Spheres." Ritual #6 is on the Red Ray at Imbolc and is "Mystery of Demeter and Persephone."Ritual #7 is on the Orange Ray at Oestre (Spring Equinox), and is "The Mystery of Eros and Psyche."Ritual #8 is on the Yellow Ray at Beltane, and is the "The Mystery of the Labyrinth."

Notice that all of these outer, physical mysteries are related to major mythic stories that are easy to grasp. That's what the physical plane aspect gives you. Each of the Rays has a certain character according to its color, for example, the Orange Ray has to do with love relationships at different levels. This is the first round, and I will continue with the next, astral/emotional rituals next time.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Transitional Rituals in the Fellowship of Isis

Transitional Rituals in the Fellowship of Isis

We tend to forget that the Fellowship of Isis (FOI) is a religious organization, and like most others, it has rituals appropriate to various life transitions. These are generally presided over by the priesthood, as it is part of their duty as clerics serving the Gods that they do so. But they can also be performed generally by members who are not in the priesthood, when needed for a certain transition.

Perhaps the easiest to visualize are the Dawn and Evening rites from Dea/Maya. These are solo rituals that any member can perform. The transitions they celebrate are those from the beginning and ending of your day. It can be very empowering to try and celebrate these two rites at the appropriate times for a week as a mini-retreat, as they enhance one's spiritual receptivity.

More advanced transition rituals start with the Rite of Rebirth, which is the ritual used to initiate a candidate for the priesthood in the FOI. An initiation specifically creates a psychic space where the individual turns inward for reflection and self-examination, open to the input of spirits and gods alike. It represents a choice to serve the gods, and for that purpose to open oneself to hearing what the gods have to say to the initiate. Typically, an initiate will work in this altered, inward-directed space for close to a year learning what the gods want from his or her service to them.

Following closely the Rite of Rebirth is the Ordination rite, which recognizes the readiness of the initiate candidate to serve the gods as a full priest or priestess. It acknowledges their growth through the initiatory process, and codifies their service to the gods as expressed through their gifts given to the gods. Consecration as a priest or priestess marks the transition in this ritual.

A priest or priestess serves as clergy for the FOI, but their actions are not legal unless they are associated with a group such as the Temple of Isis, which has established a legal clerical center in the United States. So care must be taken with the next transitional ritual, the FOI Wedding Rite. Any priest or priestess can perform the rite, but you must have a legal clerical certification for it to stand as a legal marriage.

The next transitional rite comes from Panthea, and is designed to welcome a new child into the family. It is called Alma Mater: The Homing of Children. Here, the priest or priestess welcomes the child as part of the family, and the family gives the child gifts that signify the help they will receive growing up there. If we were speaking of Christian rituals, Alma Mater takes the place of Baptism of the child. One note: I have used Alma Mater as a vehicle for recovering my inner, wounded child after a long period of abuse, using my adult self as the one welcoming the child. It was a very healing process.

Another ritual from Panthea is used when an individual chooses to become an official member of an open Iseum or Lyceum. It is called Flamma Vestae: Initiation into a FOI Center. People can be associated with and Iseum or Lyceum without being a member as long as they like; however, if they wish to explore the inner mysteries of the FOI, especially the priesthood, they are encouraged to undergo Flamma Vestae as a sign of their dedication.

Porta Mystica: The Soul Enters New Spheres in Panthea acts as another initiatory ritual to place the candidate into an inward-focused, exploratory mode of being. It uses several guided meditations to expose the initiate to different spirituals "spheres" of learning, and teaches them how to regain those spheres with practice. It is for spiritual growth, when someone chooses to do so without committing to the priesthood. (Although it can practically be used as a substitute rite to the Rite of Rebirth if that ritual does not fit the candidate sufficiently. The end result always follows the intent of performing the ritual.)

Finally, Dulce Domum: The Soul Returns Home from Panthea is the Isian funeral rite, to be performed for those who have passed through the veil and whose lives are to be celebrated. It is a very powerful rite to perform and participate in, as it moves the soul through the afterlife for rebirth as an Isis or an Osiris. I have performed it a number of times, for many people and also for animal members of the animal family of Isis.

As to that, the animal family of Isis also has a transitional ritual, The Litany of the Earth from Dea. Anyone can use this rite to honor a pet or significant animal friend and induct them in to the animal family of Isis in which they are considered members of the FOI like everyone else. Much is currently being worked out on how to acknowledge these new members, but basically, you notify the editor of Isian News that your animal is now a member of the family, and it gets published there.

The other ritual mystery dramas are also transitional in that they are initiatory in nature, and place the candidate in the reflective, inward-directed state for spiritual growth, but they're different from these specific rituals in that they don't mark specific transitions in one's religious life.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Early human evolution is an interesting subject to many of us who are curious about where we came from and how we got to be the only species left on the planet. I recently read Ian Tattersall's Masters of the Planet , a tour de force on the latest paleontological information on the subject. Tattersall's books have, in the past, been well written, opinionated, and extremely interesting, and I have read his ongoing works with relish. Masters of the Planet is an updating of a more introductory book on the same subject that Tattersall and Jefferey Schwartz wrote in 2001 called Extinct Humans, a lavishly illustrated book. I can put up with opinionated writing when he's been proven right over and over!

Having just completed Tattersall's book, I took up Chip Walter's Last Ape Standing, a new (2013) book on the same subject just to see what else had been discovered. However, Walter's book was written for a more basic audience who is completely unfamiliar with human evolution, and was very poorly written for someone with more than a basic knowledge of the subject. I found after a couple of chapters that I was simply tired of the book, and deleted it from my Kindle. I can always go back and try again with a greater break from Tattersall's books, but I suspect that my reaction to Last Ape Standing will likely remain the same.

I like good science writing on many subjects, and have been fascinated by geology and paleontology for many years. If you want to learn more about the subject, try Extinct Humans as a good starting point, by my recommendation.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Prejudice, feminism, equality

This past weekend, I ended up doing an exercise my therapist had recommended because I was having a panic attack over a final paper I had to write for one of my classes. I'm smart, and I knew the material, and I had a high grade in the class; however, I was completely freaked out feeling inadequate to the task, as though anything at all I did would cause me to fail. I've experienced this panicky paralysis before, many times, and my therapist suggested that this time, I sit with it and ask what was making me feel that way.

I shouldn't feel inadequate, but I do. It comes from a long history of being treated with prejudice and with ugly assumptions based on stereotypes that were quite hurtful. It started with my mother, who could not allow me to enjoy feeling good about anything I did academically because to her it wasn't sufficiently feminine. Of course, her ideas of what was feminine were sunk in the Deep South of the early 20th century, not the 1970s, but I was the target of comments like, "Why can't you study something more feminine?" and "Enough about your master's degree. When are you going to settle down and get your Mrs. degree?" Since I was focused on physics and mathematics as my main subjects, that simply wasn't going to work. And since I'm very intelligent and hadn't really met a man who could keep up with me at that point, the Mrs. degree wasn't even on the radar.

Add to that a profound sense of gender dysphoria—I never really felt that I was male, but I couldn't stand being female. Everything about my body's changes as I had matured in my teens horrified me, and people's reactions to me simply because of the shape of my body aggravated me no end. I wasn't interested in the kinds of things that other girls talked about, and they generally didn't or couldn't talk to me about things that interested me. I felt extremely alienated from everyone around me, to the point that I wrote a column for the student newspaper in college from the point of view of an alien viewing college culture of the time.

Moving from college to work was a mistake, one pushed onto me by my mother and aunt, and one that I knew I shouldn't have done even as I allowed myself to be forced into it. I became an engineer for the phone company, in a group of male engineers who really didn't want a female peer in their group. My boss, in particular, made every effort he could to drive me off of my job, giving me assignments he would never have given to one of the male engineers, and then laughing when I got into trouble. There was a lot more, and I fought it, but eventually I left Mobile for other reasons as well.

My next boss asked me in the interview if I was a feminist, which at the time was a radical notion with the bra burners and Gloria Steinhem holding forth. I said that I wasn't, but the truth was that my treatment among my colleagues was pushing me that way fast. And working as an engineer was making me feel even more inadequate because there were so many things for which I was unprepared; my background in physics and math was enough to get in the door, but I knew nothing about wiring circuits or testing electronics. I was expected to do so as part of my job, but no one offered to teach me. So I went back to school to begin trying to learn how to be adequate as an engineer.

I got married around this time to an intelligent man who worked for the space program up at Cape Canaveral, and who persuaded me to come work there, too. It was a job as a computer programmer; again, I was hired based on my background in physics and math, not any particular computer skills I might have. Again, I was placed in a situation where I felt inadequate—and my husband fed off of it, "helping" me, so that he could feel more adequate himself. He had a desperate need to not just prove he was the smartest person in the room, but to rub anyone else's nose he could in the fact. It was the beginning of 15 years of hell for me.

We moved back up to northwest Florida, an area enough like Mobile, AL, that I was concerned about how people would treat me as a fellow engineer. I was right to be concerned. The men on the job we'd been hired to fill immediately tried to shuffle me off to a minor programming position, then I moved to a job that supposedly would have used my skills in math and physics, but which turned out to be a continual fight with the technicians and my peers over competence, and the mere fact that I was female in their environs.

I've heard African Americans describe being badly treated because of the color of their skins, and I empathize because I know bad treatment simply because of the shape of my body. I've had people put me down, play pranks on me, and at its worst, throw a cup of liquid nitrogen at me simply to see me jump. I've been told that I was inadequate to do my job (when that was not actually the case), and eventually pushed off on another job I didn't want because the people I worked with didn't want me. My husband was silent through all of this torture, except to complain that it was my problem, something I was doing wrong. He continued to do so until the company did something that ticked him off, then suddenly he was looking for another job.

I was becoming radicalized as a feminist simply because of the mass of bad treatment I had been receiving simply because of my shape and the areas in which my brain worked. I also had gone back to school again because my husband and the other programmers around me often made me feel inadequate because I didn't know the same things they did. I kept at it until I got my master's degree, and suddenly knew more than they did. It didn't always help the feelings of inadequacy, but I could put the degree up in my workspace to show them that, yes, I did know what I was doing.

I became very aggressive in protecting myself from slights and slurs on my being female. I didn't put up with anyone (except my husband, who I couldn't avoid), but my attitude didn't win me a lot of friends either. I had reached the point some feminists did back then of having a real chip on my shoulder, and underneath it all was a growing exhaustion of having to deal with this at all, since I never felt like I was feminine to start with. Or, at least, that being feminine had anything to do with the person I felt myself to be.

About that time, I found about about the possibility of being transgendered. It struck me that it felt right—I didn't feel female, and here was an alternative. But most of the female-to-male (FTM) transsexuals I met said they knew they'd been male all along, which had not been my experience. I hadn't known I was male; I'd simply been uncomfortable with the idea of being female. So I went through years of therapy trying to sort out whether I really was transgendered or not. It didn't help that I was really short—5'2"—and didn't want to trade one set of prejudices for another.

This was also the time when I went through priestess training, and became a hierophant in the Fellowship of Isis. At the time, I didn't think too much about the fact that the group I was in was strongly dominated by women, such that the main group meeting every full Moon was limited to women only. The guys were only welcome on the solar festivals, which now seems strange. Moreover, while I was told to open myself to being called by the Goddess for the priesthood and did so, nothing prepared me for the fact that I was called by more than Goddesses. One of the beings who made it clear that I was his priestess at the time was Odin, and I couldn't even discuss it with my mentor because we weren't dealing with the Gods.

As I continued to learn and grow on the pagan path, I found myself more frequently in contact with specific Gods and Goddesses from different pantheons than with a generic Goddess and God as in Wicca. So I never went down that specific path, but felt I was working a more shamanic path being open to the gods who needed my services at a given point. I'm a strong channel, and have been the body or horse for many different beings, gods, goddesses, and other. My lack of investment in my gender, and in my body in general, has made it easy for me to slip aside and let them speak through me without having to be present.

Finally, when I was almost 50, after years of therapy and consideration, I chose to transition to male. Again, I did it more for comfort than out of a strong feeling of masculinity; I simply was miserable being female and being perceived as female. It didn't change a thing about who I am inside, but it did change how people react to me and interact with me. For one thing, I rarely encounter the projection of inadequacy anymore because people assume that as male, I must know what I'm doing. It freaks me out—I'm still me. But there is a sharp change to how people react to me.

And I find that I'm more aware of the ways in which people in the pagan movement—the one place where we'd think we'd all be safe from prejudice and rejection—treat one another. I certainly have no problem with a group who wants to meet along gender lines, as long as they don't force that onto others at a large public gathering. Moreover, I would like to see a lot more sensitivity to gender variant and sexually variant people in paganism, as was the case in the old pagan world. We certainly don't "choose" to be different; it's a function of being different and eventually choosing to express who we really are rather than hiding behind some mask.

If a male-to-female (MTF) transsexual tells you that she is female identified, please respect that. She's not trying to steal your genetic female magic thunder, she is truly struggling to cope with having been born in the wrong shaped body. She identifies as female because that's what she is, regardless of the secondary sexual characteristics that she loathes and find confusing. Similarly, if an FTM tells you he identifies as male, respect that because he genuinely feels he's not female no matter what his body may have looked like most of his life.

Transitioning doesn't change out experiences, though, and I remain an ardent feminist. But I've also grown beyond that, toward seeking equality for all people. I find it incomprehensible when people reject my help or fellowship because I'm not the same color, or religion, or sex, or ethnic group, or whatever that they are. It is especially ugly when they try to tell me I cannot comprehend their experience of being treated with prejudice. Really? They should walk a mile in my shoes and then revisit that statement.

I know from my own experience that other women have been hurt by the long struggle for equality and consideration in our Western culture. Some need to work only with other women because the damage runs deep. But we need to open our hearts a bit and realize we're not the only people who have been hurt, and begin to reach across the artificial lines we've drawn to others who are hurting too. Only then can we begin to heal.