Ancestry and lineage are hot topics in magical circles these days, but in talking about these things we often fall into vague and romantic notions about how kinship is constituted and defined. Having talked about the very concrete connections between kinship and kalunga recently, Lucien Scubla’s Giving Life, Giving Death: Psychoanalysis, Anthropology, Philosophy has been a timely read. The way in which Scubla repositions kinship studies to emphasize the central fact of maternity (and highlight how it is often overlooked) resonates with much of my own thinking.
I am just trying to pull together a little constellation of thoughts and conversations. This post spins at the crossroads of Wole Soyinka’s Myth, Literature, and the African World (ergo a little of Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy by way of Soyinka’s dialogue with it), Zdenka Volavka’s Crown and Ritual, Margaret Thompson and Henry John Drewal’s Gẹlẹdẹ, some household conversations about Dionysos, a smidge of Károly Kerényi’s Dionysos, and a friend’s offhanded observation that the so-called ‘Artemis’ of Ephesus’s so-called ‘breasts’ looked a lot like the nests of bumble bees (having to use ‘so-called’ twice says something, doesn’t it?).
This may also be brought to you by the letter ‘M’ and the number 8. This isn’t intended to be a mash-up of all these elements, but deep-rooted mysteries tend to have many branches and sometimes they intertwine. This is gestural, pointing out how what is disparate in proximity might converge if we trace the outline of their trajectory.
I don’t want to leave this place quiet too long, so how about a smattering of what I have been reading and thinking about ?
In what follows, I am going to engage in numerous comparisons that crisscross well-defined cultural and geographic milieus. I want to talk a little about that before we get going, because the comparative modality can both nourish and starve our spiritual wellsprings. In order to nourish our wellsprings, we need to preserve their singularity, their distinctive character in place and time. Think of the network of comparisons like a net of lights lifted up over the spiritual work in which we are engaged. That net of lights isn’t intended to catch hold of anything. If you take away the net, the mysteries they illumine are still there, invisible in the dark.
Don’t get caught up in these comparisons in order to put a name on something. As soon as the comparisons become a tool for pinning down a commonality between spiritual manifestations, we’re starting to head down a dangerous road that will have us worshiping the words on our tongues and the images in our minds rather than the mystery that stimulates both. If you don’t have a spiritual presence with which you are contemplating these comparisons, well, I guess this will at most be a list of historical curiosities.
A few things that might make their way into posts of their own, but which might not, and then a few links to things that are resonating with all this. Proper notebooking.
I’m grooving on Frater Acher’s recent post on closing down his current temple work and releasing it into the earth (thanks, Simon, for linking to it). It reminds me of something quite important that I don’t often see discussed in the current lovefest around necromancy. While there has been a good bit of talk about cultivating your ancestors, it doesn’t seem to have blossomed into a full ancestral reverence. More often than not, that care for the ancestors is put in quite practical terms like “having your ancestors happy means you can call on them more readily for help” or “if your ancestors are unhappy, they can interfere with what you want.”
While Orlov is talking through the broader Gnostic and Hermetic horizon that the Slavonic both informs and is informed by, he makes an off-hand observation that I want to highlight here. 2 Enoch contains an account of God setting the planets that runs counter to most classical forms. Beginning with Kronos (Saturn), 2 Enoch proceeds inward to Aphrodite (Venus), Ares (Mars), the Sun, Zeus (Jupiter), Hermes (Mercury), and concludes with the Moon.
I have been reading the Saadian version of the Sefer Yetzirah quite a bit. It isn’t long at all so it is easy to read it once before bed or sometime in the evening. Not quite every night, I sit down to contemplate through some piece of it. If I want to look at just one section and absorb it, I tend to read either Chapter 1 and Chapter 4.
I just thought I would share this story. It is a thing of beauty, packed tight:
“But in Oturupon Meji Maupoil stumbled upon a most extraordinary myth: Orunmila, beset with melancholia, consulted Ifa for himself. How to renew his zest? He was told to bring a sacrifice to his mother, upon whom all joy in his life depended. She was far away. It was Eshu who volunteered to go find her. When he got there he told the woman that her son was dead and that he would lead her back to perform the funeral if she would give him a certain he-goat, which had been entrusted to her care by Oduduwa—life itself. Reluctantly she agreed to give the animal up. Eshu-Elegba promptly slaughtered it, and the blood that flowed forth, covering Eshu’s body, was fire. Having at that time none of his own, Eshu took he-goat’s indestructible head and placed it in a jar turned upside down upon his shoulders. And worn by Eshu, that jar was discovered to contain the sun. (To the king of death Orunmila’s mother gave a ripe fruit; this became his head.)”—Judith Gleason, A Recitation of Ifa (149; emphasis Gleason’s)
The tlazolli (‘trash’) compex that Sigal describes in The Flower and the Scorpion sits in my head with the dynamics of Populus, with its dark mysteries and potencies. Here, in brief, is Sigal’s sense of the tlazolli complex:
“Tlazolli first relates to trash. Second, it forms excrement, waste. Third, it creates life through its use in fertility (fertilizing the crops). Fourth, it takes life, allowing a gateway to death. Fifth, it is specifically gendered: the Nahuas link tlazolli to women and femininity, but also to an indeterminate, in-between notion, perhaps moving femininity beyond gender. Finally, as Burkhart points out, tlazolli signifies chaos.” (24)
That the tlazolli acquires ties to the moon through some of the goddesses associated with it is also of interest on this point.
The fertility of the trash puts us back in Philip K. Dick territory, too.
The association between tlazolli, dead mothers, and infant souls also provides one more way in which the mysteries of the lunar Populus and Saturnian Carcer entangle.
Following on the last post, it seems as good a time as any to pull some quotations from Sigal’s The Flower and the Scorpion. The first set of quotes follow on the discussion of the dead mother, focusing on the cihuateteo.