Samhain and the Stars of Secret Knowledge

Image by Annelie Solis

October is a time when the veils between the worlds are thinnest, gifting us an opportunity to merge the world of matter and spirit, life and death. At the threshold of Samhain, we may transition more easily beyond the usual restrictions of duality.

For the ancient Celts, Samhain marked the end of the old year and the beginning of the new year, holding for a moment the past and present in one eternal continuum.

It is traditionally a time to honour our ancestors, the ones who walked before us, and all our relations in the cycle of life. As embodied expressions of our lineage, we walk with, and sow the seeds of their consciousness.

This year, the October new moon happens on 28th, 3 days before Samhain. This adds double availability in accessing liminal states as dark of the moon is also a time when the veils are thin… a time when the workings of the goddess are being woven within the mystery of Her darkness. At the balsamic moon, in the void of creation, the old is being released, returned to the womb of creation while the new, not yet known, is being dreamed, or birthed, into being.

At this time we also have an opportunity to release that which has served its purpose and dream ourselves into being.

At the end of October, we stand before the threshold of the old and the new not just as a spiritual ideal but also as a natural phenomenon. All around nature is retreating into herself, into her centre, deep within the earth, releasing the harvest of the old year, composting the energy in order to fertilize the seeds of the new… seeds that are not yet realised on the physical level for they are transiting from the world of spirit to the world of matter.

And this is the secret of Samhain.

What is it that we need to compost from our past to fertilise our future? As a sacred substance compost cannot just be disregarded, forgotten or disposed of in a vacuum, for it contains the essence and power of all that has gone before. This is our lessons learned, our wisdom gained, and our evolving consciousness.

We cannot forget our ancestors; they have learned much and have much to teach us. They have a seed intention and in spite of the wounds that may have afflicted them, the essence of that intention wants to be realised.

The process of transformation is not only witnessed in the world of matter it is also reflected in the dance of the cosmos in the stars… ‘As above so below’.

On October 27th, just before Samhain the fixed star Symra joins the Sun at 4 degrees of Scorpio, one day before the sun/moon conjunction of the new moon on the 28th. Three days later, and one day before Samhain, fixed star Khambalia joins the Sun.

Both stars are within the constellation of Virgo, the Virgin, whose esoteric knowledge has to do with the mysterious secrets of life-death, and renewal, and spirit in matter.

The configuration of Symra and Khambalia conjunct the sun and moon just before the threshold of Samhain reflects the occult workings that take place behind the scenes- ‘beneath the skirts of the virgin’, or the mysterious processes of nature that the alchemists have long attempted to know and master.

Symra, which means the ‘train of the skirt of the goddess’ relates to the 3rd tarot, the Empress who is the gateway to source, and keeper of a secret knowledge, available to us if we know how to access it.

Other archetypes that hold the key to this wisdom are the Virgin Mary, Inanna, Ishtar, Demeter, Persephone, Kali/Shakti and Gaia.

While Symra is located at the left shine of the Virgo constellation, Khambalia is located on the left foot and is an old Coptic word meaning ‘crooked claw’.

Khambalia has connections with the swastika, which far from the corrupted meaning imposed upon it by the Third Reich, is in truth an ancient symbol of life, power and the sun. It is a visual depiction of the harmony and equilibrium of the changing seasons and the innate wisdom of nature.

The word ‘Shambala’ has a similar root to Khambalia, as has the pentagram and the Arabic word for five, ‘Khamsa’. For the ancient Arabs these were the most auspicious of stars.

The pentagram has associations with Venus and again points to the mysteries of merging spirit and matter. It is no coincidence that ‘crossing into the dark’ time of year is presided over by the goddess, the crone and her feminine mysteries of renewal.

This myth is an analogy of the cycle of Venus in the sky from Morning Star to Evening Star.

The solar gods having expressed their energy and brought forth the harvest, like Dumuzi, now descent into the underworld for 6 months of the year where he will be transformed ready to take up his sovereignty again with the return of the light.

While the Empress wears a starry crown her throne is placed firmly in the material world- in a field of corn. Traditionally associated with matter, the Empress has dominion over all growing things. Manifesting spirit in the material world is the deep mystery known to the Empress, Virgo, the Virgin Mary, and many of the feminine archetypes who operate in the occult knowledge of renewal.

The birth of Christ, birthing Christ consciousness is the processes that happen in the mystery of the goddess. It is She who births solar consciousness by an occult process that is beyond the bounds of rationality. It is magic.

Women have the capacity to experience something of this wisdom every lunar cycle in the process of menstruation.

As women we can connect to this wisdom through our womb, the alembic from which we create our lives, and affect the lives of those around us, and in the world. The womb is the living chalice that when cleared and opened has the potential to connect us with the  divine and empower us to be creators and leaders of our world.

If we are cut off from our womb – the seat of our power- the portal, or doorway, to source is blocked and our ability to create and manifest is lost or weakened.

Samhain, the teachings of the dark moon, the secret wisdom of the goddess, the bio-mystical experience of menstruation and birthing, and the womb as cosmic portal between spirit and matter are the teaching that are open us- as men and women- as we enter into the dark of the year.

The teachings are below our feet in the earth and above our heads in the stars, and we, conduits of spirit and matter are creators far beyond what many of us have been led to believe.

We are part of the same cycle of renewal and in this process we have potential to grow and evolve, carrying the most sacred seed of our ancestors forward so that it flowers and blooms in us.

Samhain teaches us that while everything changes, everything is circulated in the great cosmic womb, returned to the earth as primordial matter and recycled as energy to rebirth the new. By honouring and accepting the past, and by understanding that it is all part of one eternal continuum, we too free ourselves to be renewed in the cycle of life.

October Full Moon: The Mother’s Body

 

Sacred-Relationship Inner Ecology

As the moon reaches her fullness at 20° Aries, somewhere in the region of 30 000 people are actively protesting what many feel is our extinction crisis.

Extinction rebellion, or XR as it is known is a socio-political movement actively engaged in civil disobedience, and non- violent disruption to confront the potential, if not likely, social and ecological collapse.

An article in last Thursday’s Guardian revealed the 20 firms behind a third of all global carbon emissions. Not surprisingly they were oil, petroleum, gas, energy and other mining companies. Some were listed as ‘state owned’, while most are shareholder owned with CEOs reaping yearly salaries in the region of $20 million plus.

Mining deep into the earth’s body the mantra of corporate growth is “more” and, not content with trawling the depths of her flesh we have created ever more sophisticated technologies to suck the marrow from her bones.

And what is it for? A breakdown of world spending reveals total military expenditure by all 29 NATO members was $963 billion in 2018, accounting for 53 percent of world spending, while the global market for pharmaceuticals reached $1.2 trillion in 2018. These figures were taken from a quick google search and may not be entirely accurate, however it is clear that many of the earth resources are fueling these giants.

In the full moon chart, the sun- what is conscious- is at 20° Libra. The sabian symbol for this degree is:

“A revivifying contact with the Mother-force of nature and of social togetherness”

It continues:

“It is very good and healthful to become revitalized by collective experiences and deep feelings of undifferentiated unity as they merge in the vast refreshment of the planetary “Mother” where “she” is most dynamic, unlimited and unconfined by boundaries.”

This is the deep longing of the soul, to merge with the Mother, and yet, in the age of shareholder led corporatocracy, military-pharma-culture, and the unlimited harvesting of the earth’s resources where do we witness the “Mother” in her unlimited and unconfined boundaries?

It seems that every part of her body is cut up, fenced off, mined, or built upon.

As the hermetic principle states: “As within, so without; as without, so within”. We might ask ourselves where can we witness the Mother in ourselves? Where can we merge with the vast refreshment of our inner planet? And are not the two inextricably linked so as to be one in the same?

With asteroid Bacchus exactly conjunct the Sun, we may find illuminated pathways to the wild places within ourselves.

A T-square with Pluto at 20° Capricorn, moon at 20° Aries, and sun at 20° Libra- points to the great transformation underway reflected in the Saturn/Pluto conjunction culminating in January 2020.

Pluto, the great revealer has left his calling card, Saturn lord of karma, time and structure is ready to do his books- the collective checks and balances, and an appraisal of how on or off track we are for the next step of our evolution.

It might be said that the Pluto Saturn conjunction is a collective Saturn return.

Pluto associated with the resources and riches of the earth, squaring the sun and moon reveals a truth about both our conscious reality- the story we tell ourselves- and the unseen workings of the situation.

Asteroid Gaea in a trine with expansive Jupiter and the full moon illuminates the bigger picture coming into focus, binging us a step closer to genuine insight beyond the polarisation and splintering of surface level distraction, inward to the divine cells of our body and the wise guidance of the heart.

Dionysus and the Undivided Self

 

The Maenad by John Collier

How do we contact the parts of ourselves that have become split off, exiled, or buried beneath layers of social control- either our own or imposed by others?

What lurks beneath the masks that we wear and how do we find ways to connect with and release those hidden parts of ourselves? Would we even want to?

Dionysus as ‘The Undivided’ god (or archetype) can lead us to the wilder, untamed parts of ourselves so that they may be reclaimed. His method of doing this is not necessarily talking things over in a rational way, he is more likely to lead us through the portals of ecstasy, dance, spiritual intoxication, passion, sensuality, sexuality, and the pulsating blood and flesh of our own body.

Dionysus is all about bringing spirit into the material world. He is after all one who can descend into the pit of Hades, come back to tell the tale, and then take his place in the abode of the gods. He is the quintessential walker of the worlds, or Shaman.

The ecstatic methods of Dionysus differ from what we have come to recognise as mainstream western analysis, or ‘talking therapies’ practiced in many a treatment room. Traditional psychotherapy tends to engage the ego- mind in a bid to reason with our scattered fragments and have them return home. This is the main aim of therapy and in psychological parlance is known as integration. Therapy like this works when feelings attached to suppressed material are finally acknowledged and felt. There may be tears, screams, anger… a whole host of strong expressions in the releasing of bottled-up emotions.

But what if we can’t coax our exiled parts back home? What if the structures of the ego are simply too hard? Or too clever?  What if despite our best efforts to heal we are in fact a tough nut to crack, or we have too much conditioning for words alone to dismantle?

 And what if we just sense that to reclaim all of ourselves in the most authentic and liberated way… to allow our bigness… we need more than western-style analysis… more than to be fixed so that we can operate in society even while we have an uneasy feeling that we have not brought all of ourselves to the party?

Outside the parameters of mainstream psychotherapy shamanism – which is itself a largely Dionysian practice – describes the process of becoming whole in terms of ‘soul retrieval’. Dionysus and shamanic practice are less about analysis and more about a direct route into the trapped or lost parts of ourselves. Amnesia, illness, mental disease, psychological complexes, physical illness, neurosis are all ways of describing what for the shaman is loss of soul. Dionysus can deal with collective soul loss.

In his book, ‘The Myth of Analysis: Three Essays in Archetypal Psychology, James Hillman exposes the limitations of analytical psychology when he says: “The analytical viewpoint tends towards divisions: consciousness from unconsciousness, cure form neurosis, individuation from collectively, even eros from psyche. The main aim may be a synthesis, but the means and methods are division. Dionysian consciousness proceeds otherwise. One of the names for Dionysus was The Undivided.”

Over and beyond analysis there are other ways to unblock psychic energy, reclaim libido and connect with the ‘Prima Materia’. There are other ways to release the ‘demons’ so that they might, in the end, become as William Blake suspects, ‘our greatest gods’. For Blake, who it could be argued was himself a Dionysian character, sexual energy is not an inherent evil, but the repression of that energy is. He says, “The preachers of morality fail to understand that God is in all things, including the sexual nature of men and women.”

But Dionysus is not only about the expression of sexual energy he is ultimately concerned with liberation of the soul… liberation from the tyranny of the ‘oughts’ and ‘shoulds’ that weigh down the human heart. And freedom from the safe-playing- small-self that would rather reject unpalatable feelings and emotions than face them. This is the same small self who, terrified to reveal his or her true nature, judges in others what it cannot tolerate in itself.

The ego fears rejection and separation from our culture and kin but with Dionysus who leads us to the group, and to the like- minded, we are not alone.

And here is the power of Dionysus- he is ultimately involved with group processes and the collective. Collective enthusiasm – some may say madness or hysteria – initiates a phenomenon much larger than the sum of its parts- you only have to watch a big football match, or the aftermath of a sports or political victory to witness this. I am thinking of the collective energy released in Paris last year after France won the world cup. I was so overwhelmed by the intensity of the celebrating, verging on frenzied crowds that I needed three days to recover (see blog post Paris, Mars, Football and Intrigue).

In ancient Greece, many indigenous cultures, and in cultures where initiation and ritual were a part of life, people bonded together in a purpose larger than themselves through the sharing of divine experience. Transformation induced in the initiates was witnessed, acknowledged and sanctioned by the wider community for the benefit of all. There was a ritualistic container to hold and transmute the strong spiritual energies that were being evoked and passed through the people, and in this way, change was affected.

When Dionysian energy is not contained within a ritualistic context there is propensity toward chaos. Examples of Dionysian energy in our modern world can be seen in the casualties of the rock world… sex, drugs and rock & roll; the acid and other casualties of the tune-in -drop-out of the 60’s; in the burgeoning pornography industry; the sex and sex trafficking industry; and in the young women who are swallowed up by unrealistic ideals of glamour and feminine allure. It can be witnessed in protests and political movements that degenerate into violence with the unspecific venting of primal rage.

Sometimes movements that start out with good intentions can quickly descend into mob mentality and stupidity… or are co-opted to do so.

The rave scene of the late 80’s and early 90’s was Dionysian in its expression, though again there was no ritual context in which to meet and hold the gods , and like many openings in human consciousness it was quickly exploited by the cold hand of capitalist economics, misuse of power, and personal interest.

Dionysian energy as wild as it is also needs containment- it is a bringing of the so called sacred and profane together – which is just a Christian way of saying heaven and earth, or body and spirit.

Today in the UK sees the beginning of this year’s Extinction Rebellion protests, to ‘shut down the heart of the government’ for the next 14 days unless demands are met. Here is an upsurge of collective energy that challenges the social order, not with remote ideas and manifestos but with active participation, group solidarity, music, celebration, and at times human bodies… I am thinking of the people who last year glued their hands to the trains in London’s financial district, Canary Wharf.

Dionysian collective uprising is often feared and maligned as mob rule – a remnant from some of the darker aspects of Europe’s past – it can instill fear into the rational order of Apollonic consciousness and therefore be subjected to further control and suppression. But the Dionysian outburst whether it be moral, or ecstatic is essentially ritualistic in its enthusiasm, it is ultimately for the higher purpose of breaking down stagnation and outmoded attitudes either in the individual or in the collective psyche.

This ‘ritualistic enthusiasm’ is a healthy expression of the human being and is not to be pathologized by an overly rigid, overly rational society imposed by those with a vested interest in maintaining a passive and docile populace.

While Dionysus may be an archetype of bottom up power, he is also a champion of the feminine… it is no coincidence that his followers were women who existed outside societal bounds of patriarchal control- women in Greece at that time were largely oppressed and controlled. The followers of Dionysus, the ‘maenads’ enjoyed rites that included wild dancing, music and ecstasy in the remote mountains, and unashamed divine intoxication … barefoot with untied hair, and wearing animal skins the women were free to unleash pent up emotions, trapped libido, psychic and sexual energy, and connect their bodies with the spirit without imposition.

It could be said that Dionysus is a bit like Lilith, the exiled shadow feminine who, repulsed with the oppressive laws of society, willingly banishes herself to the wild places to cavort with demons. But while Lilith is very much alone in her exile, the strength of Dionysus comes from the collective.  It is one thing to assert and release our untamed selves in the privacy of our own fantasies and it is quite another to reveal those selves to others.

How do we meet the wild gods? How do we invite Dionysus into our lives and our collective experience in a sacred way untainted by the corruption of our post capitalist world, a world that has long separated body from spirit, and that deems mad, bad or dangerous, anything beyond the rational mind?