Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Dark Moon Rising" A book review and my thoughts on the work

Clicking to look inside won't help anything.

      Dark Moon Rising, written by Raven Kaldera, is a really good book.  However, it's not a great book.  The main reason why it's not a great book is because Raven Kaldera invited his friends and associates to contribute chapters, essays, rituals, and poems to his book.  Many of these contributions weakened his original work, especially the essays contributed by the famed Morning Glory Zell (she's still white bread).  It would have been better if these contributions had been collected into a slimmer companion volume or into an appendix section.   There are also some line editing issues that seem to be the hallmark of cottage and vanity presses (of which Asphodel Press is one).
      These issues aside, there is a lot of good information in this book that will be genuinely helpful to folks. [I've had several readers tell me what an invaluable resource this book has been to them.]  If you are new to either or both S&M or Paganism, I would recommend reading a general how-to book for both subjects before reading this book.  Kaldera does his best to provide definitions, but being unsure of what the jargon means will definitely diminish the full effect of the material.  For a short suggested reading list, please check out my blog entry entitled "Sadomasochism, Pain, and Wicca/Paganism". 
     While almost everything presented in the book can apply or be altered to fit any tradition, Kaldera is of the Northern  Tradition Shamanistic path, which should be remembered when reading his anecdotes.  To be honest, I don't have a firm understanding of what the tenets of that path are, but it seems like it's similar to Asatru, but not really.
       The title of the book comes from the Mabon Wild Hunt ritual that he has included in the book.  I have to say that out of all the rituals that are in the book, the Mabon ritual is the only one that really intrigued me and made me wet to enact it.  It was the only one that seemed like it would fulfill my personal needs and desires.  That's not to say that the other rituals aren't good; they're just not what I'm looking for. [As you may remember, I'm not really into heavily scripted rituals, and a lot of his rituals are heavily scripted.]

     To give you a better idea of whether this book would be a good buy for you, I'm going to outline the chapters.  The book is broken up into six parts, multiple chapters and sections, and interspersed with photos from Shibari-Do practitioner Bridgett Harrington.  Some of the photos were nice, a few were stimulating, but most I would have traded out for others.  I'm also not really taken with the poems included in the book.  Perhaps they should have been in an appendix.  They kind of just left me cold, and not in a fun way.
Part I: Introduction and Definitions
"The Ordeal Path"  This is the intro.  You should always read intros unless it's to The Scarlet Letter.  The intro to that book can be summed up in a paragraph.  And in case you haven't read The Scarlet Letter, it's got some great masochistic elements.
"Words of Power"  Read this if you're new to things.  Skim this if you're not.
Part II: Sacred Pain
"Sacred Pain"  This is more background information on using pain in ritual.  It has some nice anecdotes in it that almost verge on being strokable.  If you're new, read it completely, some sections twice; if you're experienced, just read the stuff in italics.
"An Intimate Look at Ritual Pain"  This is a section written by a "friend" and not Kaldera himself.  It's not a great section, but the anecdotes in it are worth a read.
"Dark Ecstasy"  Skip it.  It's not a Kaldera chapter.
"The Many Paths of Earthly Bondage"  Even though this chapter isn't written by Kaldera, it did have some interesting thoughts on bondage that were interesting to me, and I'm sure very helpful to new folks.
"Between Earth and Sky"  This chapter is all about hook suspension and is written by Kaldera but with many anecdotes from others.  I have to admit that while rope suspension is absolutely lovely, hook suspension for many years completely terrified me and to some extent I viewed it with disgust.  It wasn't anything personal to the folks who practice it; it just was so not for me or in my realm of thinking.  However, after reading this chapter and some work that I've done this year with the Descent of the Goddess, I think I'm almost ready to don lapis beads and hang for a bit.  It still terrifies me, but that's part of the allure.
"Chain of Command Part I"  This section is not by Kaldera, and it did nothing for me.  It should have been in an appendix.  It kind of pissed me off to have to read it in amongst the other chapters.
"Silence" is also not a Kaldera chapter, but it's skim worthy.
"Sacred Toys, Holy Tools"  This chapter is by Kaldera.  In it he offers a refreshing perspective on how the things that most people consider sex toys can be transformed into consecrated ritual tools.
Most BDSM folk refer to their tools as "toys", just as they refer to some serious sensation work as "play", largely because they want to minimize the "scary" aspect of these practices, and make them seem light and fun, so that outsiders will not be frightened.  Most Neo-Pagans refer to their various magical tchotchkas as "tools", even when they don't actually use them for any purpose except decoration and showing off.  Personally, I'd like to see people in both communities being a lot more clear about what's a toy and what's a tool.  Certainly those of us who cross both have no excuse.
Page 97
"The Invisible Toybox"  The chapter by Kaldera has a lot of really neat ideas in it.  Yes, I read it twice!  I've also tried out some of the suggestions, and they work pretty well.  Read it a time or two and adapt the suggestions into your own practice.
"Opening Up"  This chapter may be something you find useful and then again you may not find it useful.  It really depends on what your kink is and how "open" you already feel and want to be.  Definitely read it and decide for yourself.
Part III: Journey to the Underworld
"Journey to the Underworld"  This chapter is a good chapter, but not a great chapter.  I'd describe it as a piece meal chapter.  Some stuff you may want to slow down to read, while you may skim through other sections.
"Staging Sacredness"  This chapter is a good introduction to constructing a BDSM ritual for beginners and it's a good review for veterns.  It contains some helpful check lists and things to consider, like children and AIDS.
"Master of the Underworld"  In this chapter Kaldera discusses more in depth his own experiences on the Ordeal Path, but he also touches on some truths about being a Dom that would be insightful for Dom/mes and Subs alike.
"Divine Intervention"  I'm not sure who wrote this chapter, but I would either skip it, skim it, or jerk off to it.
"The Way of the Ordeal Master"  This chapter is a good read for folks who are thinking about being a dominant in a Pagan setting or for folks who are just curious about what their Dom is thinking.
"Dark Tantra"  Skip this chapter.  It's a waste.
"Q-Moon's Ordeal Path Ritual"  I'm not even sure why the pages for this section where expended.
"The Dark Moon Rising Mabon Ritual"  As you may remember from above, I really enjoyed this ritual.  A definite read.
"Baphomet and Babalon Rite" -"Ordeal-Ritual of Dedication to Lilith"  These chapters did nothing for me, but they're worth skimming.
"The Descent of Inanna Ritual"  This was an interesting read.  I have trouble visualizing how this ritual could possibly work in reality since it's so complicated, but it got points for being graphic.
"John Barleycorn"  I like my "Threshing the Corn Mother" ritual better.

"Shadow Play"  This section sounds like it was written by somebody in the Reclaiming Tradition, although I assume it was written by Kaldera.  I would skim it.  I would only spend serious time on it if you're all about your inner demons and doing therapy and stuff.  Personally, I'd prefer thirty minutes under a stout flogger to talking to a therapist.
"Chaining Fenris" This ritual goes with the above chapter.  Again, flog me please and get it over with.
Part IV: The Path of Service and Mastery
"The Path of Service and Mastery"  This chapter discusses some serious ethical and personal points.  It's a definite read.
"Sacred Masks"  This chapter explores the different archetypes that are encountered in most people's BDSM experience.  I really liked it.  It deconstructed things in a way I had not previously considered, and the ways that the archetypes are arranged make it easy to evaluate your BDSM preferences and experiences.
"Being the Mirror"  This chapter is written by Kaldera's boy, Joshua, and offers insight into Kaldera's personal BDSM spiritual life and gives tips for Spiritual subs.  I really like the prayer at the end.
"Don't Break the Spirit"  This chapter may appeal to Dom/mes more than subs.  It's at least skim worthy.  I would skip to the section that discusses words of power, touch, and ritual.
"Shaman's Boy"  This chapter is also written by Joshua and offers another glimpse into Kaldera's personal life.
"Dedication to Sacred Service"-"Oath of Service"  These are some self dedication rituals.  I would personally only use them as a source for ideas, not verbatim.
Part V:  Guardians of the Gate
This whole section, that is made of chapters of varying degrees of great writing and annoying chatter.  It can be summed up with this phrase:  You are your deity's bitch.  Deal with it.
Part IV:  This Leather Pagan Tribe
This section is just a long poem, that after I read the first stanza, I put the book down.  I would have left it out.

As I said before, I did like the book and I found some sections extremely interesting and helpful.  Other sections I wish had not been included.  I was surprised by what wasn't included in the book.  I can only assume that things like fire and electrical play were not included because Kaldera doesn't work with those techniques and doesn't know anyone else who does either. 
So, in conclusion, there's enough good stuff in the book to make it worth the purchase price.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Ardanes: a supplemental reference

In my previous blog, one of the people interview referenced the "Ardanes", an ungodly long list of rules that some Wiccan covens use as a basis for their practices.  Gardner claimed that they came to him, unbroken of course, from knowledge passed down from Medieval covens.  I highly doubt that, and so do many other people, even folks who were in Gardner's inner circle.  I think that they were a Gardnerian concoction pieced together from fragments from witch trail transcripts, rules that fin de siecle covens had in place (such as the New Forest Coven), and his own fancy.  Like everything in Wicca, Gardner's original list was taken and "improved" upon by others along the way.  There are several versions of the Ardanes out there.  This is Lady Sheba's version.  Because of the extreme length of the text, I've highlighted in red the section that pertains to the previous blog.  Feel free to skip the stuff in white.  I certainly would.

1. The Law was made and ardane of old by those whom art called, The Old Ones.
2. The Law was made for the Wicce, to advise and help comfort in their  troubles.
3. The Wicca should give due worship to the Gods and obey Their will, which they ardane, for it was made for the good of Wicce, as the worship of the Wicce is good for the gods. For the Gods love the brethren of the Wicce, and it is from this love that cometh the Power.
4. As a man loveth a woman by mastering her,
5.  So should the Wicce love the Gods by mastering them.
6. And it  is necessary that the Magick Circle, which is the temple of the Gods, should be duly cast and purified that it may be a fit place for the Gods to enter and dwell.
7. And the Wicce should be properly purified and prepared in heart to enter into the presence of the Gods.
8. With love and  worship in their hearts, they shall raise power from their bodies to give power to the Gods.  And in so doing the complete Circle is formed.
9. As has been taught of old.
10. For in this  way only may man have communication with the Gods, for the gods cannot  help men without the help of man.

11. And the High Priestess shall rule Her Coven as the representative of the Goddess.
12. And the High Priest shall support and protect Her as the representative of the God.
13. And the High Priestess shall choose whom She will, if he have sufficient rank, to be Her High Priest.
14. For, as the God Himself kissed Her feet in the Five-fold salute, laying His power at the feet of the Goddess, because of Her youth and beauty, Her sweetness and kindness, Her wisdom and Her justice, Her humility and gentleness and generosity,
15. So He resigned all His power to Her.
16. But the High Priestess should ever mind that the power comes from Him.
17. It is only lent, to be used wisely and justly.
18. And the greatest virtue of a High Priestess be that She recognizes that youth is necessary to the representative of the eternal Goddess.
19. So she will gracefully retire in favour of a younger woman should the Coven so decide in council.
20. For the true High Priestess realizes that gracefully and humbly surrendering pride of place is one of the greatest virtues.
21. And it shal be that She thereby return to that pride of place in another life, with greater power and beauty.

22. In the old days, when Witches extended far, we were truly free and joyfully worshipped in all the greatest temples.
23. But, in these unhappy times of woe, we must celebrate our Sacred Mysteries in secret.
24. So be it ardane, that none but the Wicce may see our Mysteries, for our enemies are many and torture loosens the tongue of men.
25. So be it ardane, that no Coven may know where the next Coven bide.
26. Or who its members be, save only the Priest and Priestess and Messenger.
27. And there shall be no communication between them, save only by the Messenger of the Gods, or the Summoner.
28. And only if it be safe may the Covens meet in some safe and secret place for the Great Festivals.
29. And while there, none shall say whence they came, nor give their true names.
30. To this end, that if any be tortured, in their agony, they may not tell if they do not know.
31. So be it ardane, that no one shall tell anyone, not of the Craft, who be of the Wicce, nor give any names, or where any abide, or in any way tell anything which can betray any of us to our foes.
32. Nor may he tell where the Covendom be.
33. Nor the Covenstead.
34. Nor where the meetings be.
35. And if any break these Laws, without express permission, even under torture, the curse of the Goddess shall be upon them, so they may never be reborn on earth, and may remain where they belong, in the hell of the christians.

36. Let each High Priestess govern Her Coven with justice and love, and with the help and advice of the High Priest and the Elders, always heeding the advice of the Messenger of the Gods, if he cometh.
37. She  will heed all complaints of all Brothers and strive to settle all differences among them in reason and justice.
38. But it must be recognized that there will  always be people who will ever strive to force others to do as they  will.
39. These are not necessarily evil.
40. And they oft have good ideas, and such ideas should be talked over and decided in council.
41. But, if they  will not agree with their Brothers, or if they say,
42. "I will not work under this High Priestess,"
43. It hath ever been the Old Law, to  be convenient to the Brethren, and to avoid disputes.
44. Any of the third may claim to found a new Coven, because they live over a league away from the Covenstead or are about to do so.
45. Anyone living within the Covendom and wishing to form a new Coven shall tell the Elders of their intentions and on the instant avoid their dwelling and remove to the new Covendom.
46. Members of the old  Coven may join the new one when it is formed, but if they do so, they  must utterly, unless otherwise so bidden, avoid the old Coven.
47. The Elders of the new and old Covens shall meet in peace and brotherly love to decide the new  boundaries.
48. Those of the craft who live outside both Covens may join either indifferently, but certainly not both.
49. Though all may, if the Elders be in agreement, meet for the Great Festivals, if it be truly in peace and brotherly love,
50. But it is known that the splitting the Coven often means strife, so for this reason these Laws were made of old, and may the Curse of the Goddess be on any who disregard or take these Laws lightly!!

51. If ye would keep a Black Book, let it be in your own hand of write, let all Brothers and Sisters copy what they will, but never shall ye let the book out of your hands, and ys shall never keep the writings of another.
52. For if it be found in their hand of write, they may be taken and engained.
53. And let each guard his own writings, and destroy them whenever danger threatens.
54. Learn as much as you may by heart, and when danger is past, rewrite your book an it be safe.
55. For this reason, if any die, destroy their book, an they have not been able to.
56. For an it be found, 'tis clear proof against them.
57. And our oppressors know well "Ye may not be a Witch alone".
58. So all their kin and friends be in danger of torture.
59. So destroy everything not necessary.
60. If your book be found on you, 'tis clear proof against you alone.  You may be engained. 

61. Under torture keep all thoughts of the Craft from your mind.
62. If the torture be too great to bear, say "I will confess.  I cannot bear this torture.  What would you have me to say?"
63. If they try to make you talk of the Brotherhood, do not.
64. But if they try to make you speak of impossibilities such as flying through the air, consorting with the christian devil, or sacrificing children or eating men's flesh,
65. To obtain relief from the torture, say, "I hold an evil dream, I was beside myself, I was crazed."
66. Not all the magistrates are cruel;  if there be any excuse, they may show mercy.
67. If you have confessed ought, deny it afterwards.  Say you babbled under the torture, say you know not what you said.
68. If you are condemned, fear not.
69. Fear not, the Brotherhood is powerful, they will help you to escape if you, but stand steadfast in trust.
70. But if you betray any Secrets, and Bretheren, there is no hope for you in this life or any that is to come.
71. Be sure, if steadfast you go to the pyre, drugs will reach you, you will feel naught. You go but to death and that peace which lies beyond.

72. To avoid discovery, let the working tools be as ordinary things that any may have in their houses.
73. Let the Pentacles be of wax so that they may be broken at once or melted should danger threaten.
74. Have no sword, unless your rank allows you one.
75. Have no names or signs on anything.
76. Write the names or signs on them in ink immediately before consecrating them and wash it off immediately after all rites have ended.
77. Do not engrave them lest they cause discovery.
78. Let the color of the hilts tell which is which.
79. Ever remember, ye are the "Hidden Children of the Goddess", so never do anything to disgrace them or Her.
80. Never threaten, never boast, never say you would wish ill of anyone.
81. If any person, not in the Magick Circle, speak of the Craft, say, "Speak not to me of such, it frightens me.  'Tis evil luck speak of it."

82. For this reason:  the christians have their spies everywhere. These speak as if they were well affected to us, as if they would come to our meetings saying, "My mother used to go to worship the Old Ones.  I would I could go myself."
83. To such as these, ever deny all knowledge.
84. But to any others, ever say, "'Tis foolish talk of Witches flying through the air. To do so they must be light as thistle-down.  And men say that Witches all be so blear-eyed, old crones, so what pleasure can there be at a Witch meeting such as folks talk on ?"
85. And say, "Many wise men now say there be no such creatures."
86. Ever make it a jest and in some future time, perhaps the persecution may die and we may worship our Gods in peace and safety again.
87. Let us all pray for that happy day.
88. May the blessings of the Goddess and God be on all those who keep these Laws which are ardane.
89. If the craft have any Appenage, let all guard it, and help to keep it clear and good for the Craft.
90. And let all justly guard all monies of the Craft.
91. But if any Brother truly wrought it, 'tis right they have their pay, and it be just.  And this be not taking of monies for the Art, but for good and honest work.  For money cheapens the Arts.
92. And even the christians say, "The laborer is worthy of his hire," but if any Brother work willingly for the good of the Craft without pay, 'tis to their greatest honor.

93.   If there be any dispute or quarrel among the Brethren, the High Priestess shall straightly convene the Elders and inquire into the matter and they shall hear both sides, first alone, then together.
94.   And they shall decide justly, not favouring the one side or the other.
95.   Ever recognizing there be always people who can never agree to work under any others.
96.   But at the same time, there be some people who cannot rule justly.
97.   To those who ever must be chief, there is but one answer.
98.   "'Void the Coven, or seek another one, or make a Coven of your own, if ye be of the third, taking with you those who will go."
99.   To those who cannot rule justly, the answer shall be, "Those who cannot bear your rule will leave you."
100.   For none may come to meetings with those with whom they are at variance.  For to so so angers the Gods and hinders the Brotherhood.
101.  So, an either cannot agree, "Both get hence, for the Craft must ever survive."

102.  In the olden days, when the Old Ones walked amoungst us and we were blessed with full powers, we could use the art against wind and fire and any of those who ill-treated the Brotherhood.  But in these evil days, we must not do so!  For our enemies have devised a burning pit of everlasting fire, into which they say their God casteth all the people who worship Him, except it be the very few who are released by their priest's spells and masses.  And this be chiefly by giving monies and rich gifts to receive his favor, for their God is ever in need of money.
103.  But as our Gods need our aid to make fertility for man and crops, so it is the God of the christians that is ever in need of man's help to search out and destroy us. Their priests ever tell them that any who get our help are damned to this hell forever, so men be mad with the terror of it.
104.  But they make men believe that they may escape this hell if they give up Witches to the tormentors.  So for this reason, all be forever spying, thinking, "An I catch but one of the Wicce, I will escape this fiery pit."
105.  So for this reason, we have our hidels, and men searching long and not finding us say: "There be none, or if there be, they be in a far country."
106.  But when one of our oppressors dies, or even be sick, ever is the cry, "This be Witches' malice", and the hunt is up again and though they slay ten of their own to one of ours, still they care not. They have countless thousands.
107.  While we are few indeed. 

108.  That none shall use the art in any way to do ill to any.
109.  However much they may injure us, HARM NONE  and now times there are many that believe we exist not.

110.  That this Law shall ever continue to help us in our plight, no one, however great an injury or injustice they receive, may use the art in any way to do ill or harm any.  But they may, after great consultations with all, use the art to restrain christians from harming us or tax others, but only to dismiss or to constrain them and never to punish.
111.  To this end, men will say: "Such an one is a mighty searcher out and a persecutor of old women whom they deemeth to be Witches, and none hath done him skith, so they be proof that they cannot, or more truly where be none."
112.  For all know full well that so many folk have died because someone had a grudge against them, or were persecuted because they had money or goods to sieze or because they had none to bribe the searchers.  And many have died because they were scolding old women.  So much that men say "only old women are Witches."
113.  And this be to our advantage, and turns suspicions away from us.
114.  In England and Scotland, 'tis now many a year since a Witch hath died the death. But misuse of the power might raise the persecution again.
115.  So never break this Law, however much you are tempted, and never consent to it being broken in the least.
116.  If you know it is being broken, you must work strongly against it.
117.  And any High Priestess who consents to its breach must immediately be deposed.  "For 'tis the blood of the Brethren they endanger."
118.  Do good, an it be safe, and only if it be safe.
119.  And strictly keep to the Old Law.

120.  Never accept money for the use of the Art.  For money ever smeareth the taker.  " 'Tis sorcerors and conjurers and the priests of the christians who ever accept money for the use of their Arts.  And they sell dwale, and evil love spells and pardons, so letting men escape from their sins.
121.  Be not as these.   If you accept no money, you will be free from temptation to use the Art for evil causes.
122.  All may use the art for their own advantage, or for the advantage of the Craft, only if you are sure you harm none.
123.  But ever let the Coven debate this at length.  Only if all be satisfied and none be harmed in any way, may the Art be used.
124.  If it is not possible to achieve your ends one way, perchance the aim may be achieved by acting in a different way, so as to harm none.  May the Curse of the Goddess be on any who breaketh this law.

125.  'Tis judged lawful an any of the Craft need a house or land and none will sell, to incline the owners mind so as to  be willing to sell, provided it harmeth it not in any way and the full price is paid, without haggling.
126. Never bargain or cheapen anything whilst you live by the Art. 

127. "Tis the Old Law and the most important of all Laws that no one may do anything which will endanger any of the Craft, or bring them into contact with the law of the land, or any of our persecutors.
128. In any disputes between Brethren, no one may invoke any Laws but those of the Craft.
129. Or any tribunal but that of the Priestess, Priest and Elders.  And may the Curse of the Goddess be on any who do so.

130.  It is not forbidden to say as christians do: "There be Witchcraft in the land,"  because our oppressors of old make it heresy not to believe in Witchcraft, and so a crime to deny it, which thereby puts you under suspicion.
131. But ever say, "I know not of it here, perchance there may be, but afar off-- I know not where."
132. But ever speak of them as old crones, consorting with the devil and riding through the air.
133. And ever say: "But how may men may ride through the air an they be not as light as thistledown?"
134. But the Curse of the Goddess be on any who cast suspicion on any of the Brotherhood.
135. Or speaks of any real meeting place where any abide.

136. Let the Craft keep books with the names of all herbs which are good for men, and all cures, so all may learn.
137. But keep another book with all the Bales and Apies and let only the Elders and other trustworthy people have this  knowledge. 

138. Remember the Art is the secret of the Gods and may only be used in earnest and never for show or pride, or vainglory.
139. Magicians and christians may taunt us saying, "You have no power.  Do magick before our eyes. Then only will we believe."  seeking to cause us to betray our Art before them.
140. Heed them not.  For the Art is a Holy Gift, and may only be used in need.  And the Curse of the Gods be on any who break this Law.

141. It ever be the way with women, and with men also that they ever seek new love.
142. Nor should we reprove them for this.
143. But it may be found to the disadvantage of the Craft.
144. And so many a time it has happened that a High Priest or a High Priestess impelled by love, hath departed with their love, that is they have left the Coven.
145. Now if a High Priestess wishes to resign, they may do so in full Coven.
146. And this resignation is valid.
147. But if they should run off without resigning, who may know if they may not return within a few months time?
148. So the Law is:  If a High Priestess leaves her Coven, but returns within the space of a year and a day, then she shall be taken back and all shall be as before.
149. Meanwhile, if she has a deputy, that deputy shall act as High Priestess for as long as the High Priestess is away.
150. If she returns not at the end of a year and a day, then shall the Coven elect a new High Priestess,
151. Unless there is a good reason to the contrary, the person who has done the work of the High Priestess should reap the benefit of the reward.
152. If somebody else is elected, the deputy is made maiden and deputy of the High Priestess.

153. It hath been found that practicing the Art doth cause a fondness between aspirant and tutor, and it is the cause of better results if this be so.
154. But if for any reason this be undesireable, it can easily be avoided by both persons from the outset firmly resolving in their minds that if any such ensure, it shall be that of brother and sister, or parent and child.
155. And it is for this reason that a man may be taught by a woman and a woman by a man and that woman and woman and man and man should never attempt these practices together.
156.  And may the Curses of the Mighty Ones be on any who make such an attempt.

157. Order and discipline must be kept.
158. A High Priestess or a High Priest may and should punish all faults.
159. To this end:  all the Craft must receive their correction willingly.  If not from the hands of the Representative of the  God and Goddess, how then from the Gods Themselves if you are so blessed with Their presence?
160. All properly prepared, the culprit kneeling, should be told his fault, and his sentence pronounced.
161. Punishment should be the $  followed by something amusing such as several SSSS, or something of this nature.
162. The culprit must acknowledge the justice of the punishment by kissing the hand of the Priestess and by kissing the $ on receiving sentence; and again thanking for punishment received.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Scourge: Part 4--How does it strike modern groups?

The scourge of a British Traditional Wicca coven in Georgia, made by Black Wing Arts.
The Lupercalia Tradition: a Strega vignette

     The fire flickers off of the participants' faces as they wait in a silent line.  One by one they step up, most in a light trance from the setting and the previous events in the ritual.  The silence and wait add to the anticipation of the ritual's end:  the scourging.  The female participants are anointed and scourged by a priest in the aspect of Lupercus and the males by a priestess in the aspect of Juno.
     The participants contemplate the things they want to purge from their lives, the things they regret from the previous year from which they want purification.  Earlier, the high priestess extolled the participants to be mindful that even loving deities punish their children when they step out of bounds.
     The scourge itself looks like many other scourges, made of suede with a stiff handle and flat falls.  A chain mail scourge that was made visible earlier in the ritual added a bit of unease to the proceedings and heightened everyone's awareness.  The next participant removes her coat to receive the lash.  She takes a deep breath of acceptance in the chill night air.  She stands facing the priest with her arms outstretched, welcoming the lash.  He swings and brings the scourge lightly across her breast to purify her soul and heart.  He brings it down again gently across her lower stomach to impart fertility.  The priest places the third and final stroke across her back as a proxy punishment for perceived misdeeds known only to her and her gods.  The stronger stroke makes her gasp softly.  She bows slightly to Lupercus and Juno and moves out of the circle.  The ritual ends as the priest and priestess scourge each other and the participants howl at the moon with lupine enthusiasm.

The participants of the above ritual that I spoke to said that they enjoy this level of scourging.  It's an annual event and is the only time that all the participants (who choose so) are scourged. [A representative of the Goddess is symbolically scourged during "The Descent" at Shadowfest.]  The participants said that this level of scourging is a level that is more comfortable than what some groups practice.  One participant said that the Lupercalia scourging seems sweet compared to the random punitive scourgings that a previous high priestess of his would dole out.

For this section I emailed 25 groups of all manner of traditions, paths, and nature religions in North Carolina, Georgia, and New Jersey.  Many groups did not respond. (Perhaps they don't scourge or perhaps my email disgusted them.)  However, 13 groups responded, enough to get a snap shot of what's currently being practiced with the scourge.  Five groups responded that they do not use the scourge in ritual.  Out of these five, one was a Heathen/Asatru group, one was a Reclaiming group, and the other three were Wiccan groups of various traditions.  One Wiccan group, who says that they practice Congregational Wicca, said that they use the scourge in initiation, but that they don't strike folks.  Instead, they swish it around in the dark for sound effect and to set a tone of dread before the initiates set out for their rebirth.

Seven groups responded that they do indeed use the scourge in their rituals.  The Strega group above and another group that describes themselves as Scoriada (another Italian Witchcraft tradition) only use the scourge for purification rites.  One Wiccan coven, that describes themselves as "closed," confirmed that they scourge, but declined to say for what reasons because of their vows of secrecy (I guess it's like spies and the Mafia!)  The Alexandrian group that responded said that they mainly scourge in ritual to raise energy.  However, they added, "The scourge is meant as a tool of purification, but most people see purification as a sort of cleansing and that's not how we use it. In ceremony where we'd want to purify or "scourge" something, meaning cleanse it, my clan most often uses an alternate purification substance, salt, instead. In fact our actual ritual scourge is rarely even present on the altar because of that fact."  It's interesting to note how similar the word "scour", what one would do with salt, is to "scourge".
     Their priestess continued,"In the ceremonies where our actual scourge is used, it is used basically to "excite" the energy of the physical body, snap the person firmly into the physical by awakening their physical energy. This is its capacity as the magical tool of the sephiroth Geburah on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. So basically its a tool which purifies the body of its sluggishness, not something we use to "punish" or "cleanse" incorrect ways or thoughts."

 The British Traditional Witch Coven that said they follow the New Forest tradition, said that they scourge during initiations and for purification and to raise energy. "There is a good portion of the Mysteries we interact with and experience whose symbolism finds a strong home in the scourge - in my opinion, those who practice the Craft as derived from the New Forest Wicca could never eliminate it and still be practicing that same Craft."

  The Golden Dawn group said that they scourge for the same reasons, but that they also scourge to help with "Godform assumption."  They use what would be considered a flail instead of a scourge.  There are many pictures of these in the BDSM Rituals section.

The Gardnerian coven that responded to my email offered a wealth of anecdotal evidence for my study.  They use the scourge to:
  • "To purify ritual participants prior to ritual
  • To raise physical energy, and
  • To administer discipline if a student or Initiate makes a magical mistake *during* circle" 
The priestess clarified, "Beyond raising "physical" energy prior to rites, it can and typically *does* induce trance helpful during immanent rites.  The scourge equates with "severity" as manifested in the athame' — one of each side of the double-sided blade connoting "mercy", the other, "severity", which represents the fact that Witches don't *start* trouble, but if met with it, WILL finish it. ;-)
Yes, I know the concept of using the scourge to discipline students is "controversial", but it need not be, as it's akin to "beating the bounds" of one's property to ward off negativity, or doing other things to impress an idea or point on someone.
Using the scourge in this way is specifically allowed in The Ardanes. I'd rather impress someone so they don't forget and repeat magical mistakes, than risk Initiates becoming "slack"" about sacred matters ;-) Mostly the discipline is good-natured, even funny — but my Initiates know that I can and will wield the scourge in this way if I choose to.
Scourges are also sometimes used to "whip" dancers during a Cone of Power, so they'll dance faster and faster. And it may be used during certain bawdy Craft games as well.
Of course, we're precise about how many strokes everyone gets. We use a Witch's Ladder to count them so we don't exceed the traditional limits (40, 80, or 160 tops), and note when 3, 7, 9, 21, and 40 strokes have been meted out.
My Initiates "bow" at each Quarter when calling the Guardians of the Watchtowers, and when we bid them adieu when our ritual is done (i.e., when dismissing the Guardians at circle's end)."
Thank you to everyone who bravely responded to my emails and questions about scourging.  You helped keep the old ways alive.
Just to recap about scourging:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Velvet Underground Interlude

If you don't love the Velvet Underground, I may not want to speak to you.  Plus, Nico, back in the day, had that blonde Domme look going on--like a Valkyrie ready to put you in your place.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Scourge Part 3: Gardner and the scourge's falls

Gerald Gardner

In case you didn't know, Gerald Gardner created the religion of Wicca based on other world religions, his travels in the East, Victorian ceremonial magic, the scholarship and pseudo-scholarship of others, and the knowledge of English witches.  I'm sorry to burst your bubble if you think Wicca is an unbroken lineage from ancient times until now. 
In the Gardnerian tradition, and in many other traditions, the scourge is number 7 in the list of the Eightfold Path that leads one in the ways of worship and magic.  In his books "Witchcraft Today" and "Meaning of Witchcraft", Gardner mentions using a scourge in ritual, primarily in initiations as an ordeal and for purification and energy raising. In "The Gardnerian Book of Shadows" he discusses scourging a magical partner to bind a spell and using scourging for maintain coven discipline.  He also goes on in great detail about using number magic and scourging as a way of giving an offering to the Goddess.  According to Gardner, "It is not meet to make offerings [scourgings] of less than two score to the Goddess, for here be a mystery."  3, 2, 5, 7, 9, and 21 are also acceptable numbers and number multiples to use in a scourging ritual.
Since Gardner created Wicca, why would the use of a scourge be included in ritual?  From what we know, Gardner possessed a vast knowledge of myth, so we can assume that he knew about the Greeks and Romans using the scourge in their various rites.  He would have also known about various Hindu sects using scourging and other methods of pain to cause enlightenment from his time in India (the tradition of sky clad and indeed the term itself was something that Gardner borrowed from the Hindus).  Gardner was also a product of his times.  He was most likely influenced by different Victorian flagellant clubs as well as different scourging rituals that occult societies like Crowley's OTO practiced.  Gardner also borrowed heavily from, and sometimes outright plagiarized, Charles Leland's books about Strega and Italian witchcraft.  It is also believed that the Traditional British Coven that Gardner studied with used the scourge as a way to maintain discipline and secrecy, although there are some sources that dispute this.  The most compelling reason why Gardner included scourging as a tradition in Wicca is that people went along with his addition of the practice.  If his original coven had balked at the practice, it would have fallen by the wayside, as we'll see later.

Alex Sanders and scourging during an initiation
                                      As time went on, Gerald Gardner taught others about Wicca and the "secrets" of the faith.  These other folks went on to start their own covens, and in some cases Pagan traditions.  One such person was Alex Sanders, who started Alexandrian Wicca.  Although he eventually broke from Gardner and claimed to come from a family tradition, a good many of his practices mirror Gardnerian Wicca, including the use of the scourge in initiations and other rituals and magic.  Raymond Buckland, another student of Gardner's, discusses initiatory bondage (another Gardnerian practice), sensory deprivation, and scourging in his "Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft."  Doreen Valiente and Janet and Stewart Farrar all discuss the ritual use of scourging in their writings.  Of course, Valiente had direct dealings with Gardner and the Farrars were students of Alex Sanders.
So when did the scourge fall out of favor?  The easy answer is "when folks started to object".  More seriously, however, I suspect it started to happen when Wicca came to America.  Americans have always been into eclectic modes of worship, and the practice of Wicca by Americans has been no different.  The further Wicca got away from the strict rules of Gardnerian Wicca and its offshoots, the less you see "unpleasant" things like scourges and secrecy.  If you look at the books published by American authors, most of them don't mention the use of the scourge, even in initiations.  In fact, in most "beginner" books, you're lucky if the scourge is even mentioned as a ritual tool.  Gavin and Yvonne Frost, well known for their views on sex magic, don't even mention the scourge in their writings.
Another reason why scourging is no longer widely practiced in Wicca is Starhawk and the feminist/Dianic Pagan movement.  If you're advocating for women's rights and women's mysteries, chances are you are not going to take the time to reconcile a religious practice that could be perceived by the outside world as physical abuse and patriarchy with your political views.   From the 1970's onward there is a marked decline in the use and mention of the scourge.  Many groups today either don't own a scourge, or have one that is only used as a witch prop.

Part 4 will be a survey of current groups and their use of the scourge.

Enjoy the Descent of the Goddess

This is traditionally the time when the Descent of the Goddess is observed, celebrated, enacted, and mourned.  So, Happy Descent!  May you find the truths that Inanna did.

Ereshkigal and Inanna by cordian.

The Scourging at the Pillar by jeanadelute