Saturday, October 11, 2008

Arianrhod A Journey to Spiral Castle (review)

Arianrhod A Journey to Spiral Castle
By Levannah Morgan (review)

obtainable from Levannah Morgan (Arianrhod), PO Box 314, Exeter EX4 6YR. It costs £3.95, including UK postage; cheques should be made payable to "J. Higginbottom".

This booklet explores the complex evolution of the Welsh goddess Arianrhod, from the earliest references to her in Welsh literature through to modern visions of her as a powerful stellar goddess of inspiration and magick. It traces the author's own experiential journey as a priestess of Arianrhod and suggests some ways of working with this goddess."

I’ve heard Levannah Morgan speak on a number of occasions, and I’ve always enjoyed what she had to say, how she said it and by and large have come away enriched by the experience.

She has also, in my eyes been one of the few woman whom I have heard talk of the Goddess forms in experiential, no holds barred, and dare I say I ‘real’ terms, and I’ve a lot of respect for what she has to say.

Thus I was more than willing to read and review this booklet, at that point sight unseen and subject relatively unknown.

A section of one of my bookcase holds some of my most valued magical literature. Not a hard cover amongst them, they are all magazines or all self-published booklets, oft printed in small numbers but containing more information that many of my glossy and expensive tomes do.

Bearing the above in mind it is really no surprise I find it as easy to write a review for ‘Arianrhod- A Journey to Spiral Castle’ as I would for a more traditionally formatted book.

‘Arianrhod’ is a great booklet; it is nicely written and in a relatively few pages (which includes a bibliography and all online sources used) she explores the roots of the Welsh Goddess Arianrhod in historical terms, as well as looking at the process in which Robert Graves fleshed out a very rudimentary amount of information to animate the Arianrhod who became so well known amongst the contemporary Pagan community.

Then Levannah goes back to source, so to speak, and presents her own research, and historical and experientially realised interpretations and perceptions of Arianrhod.

This results in an easy to read balance of the proverbial art and science that could be seen as being the backbone of true magic.

I think this booklet will be enjoyed and appreciated by practitioners of many diverse paths as well as being appreciated in general by those of both an academic and a creative bent.

‘Arianrhod- The Spiral Castle’ is of interest not just for the process, both academic and creative, of giving life, substance and character to a god/dess form but also for Levannah’s relating of more personal aspects of her journey, which creates an accessibility that endears the reader further.

Her suggested practical work is well done too; written in intensely ocular and evocative language, the visualisation is near automatic as one reads the text.

Call me a shallow, but aesthetics are of great importance to me, and the pleasing presentation only adds to something that at three pounds is more than a bargain.

Julian Vayne (author of Now That's What I Call Chaos Magick) writes:
So we all know Arianrhod right? Goddess of the Silver Wheel and Spiral Castle. Sister (or reflection) of Ariadne, the spider queen; haughty lady of the strange legend of Llew Llaw Gyffes and Blodeuwedd. Well yes and no. These things are part of the story but the tale of Arianrhod is much subtler as Levannah Morgan shows. This slim, well-produced volume traces the evolution (or creation) of this goddess from the earliest Welsh legends into contemporary paganism and directly into Levannah’s own story. As a Welsh speaker Levannah is able to shed light on the first traces of the goddess in both text and the Welsh landscape. She shows how the modern perception of her myth was woven according to the ‘poetic truth’ of Robert Graves and later stitched into the fabric of twentieth century Wicca. But this book is far from a hatchet job on an esteemed member of the modern pagan pantheon. Instead Levannah demonstrates how the goddess herself has been woven, and celebrates the creativity of this process. Levannah provides some evocative glimpses into how she has contributed to this divine fabric herself through her work in 1970s goddess feminism, witchcraft and the Fellowship of Isis. An excellent marriage of well researched cold hard facts and poetic, inspired magick, this book is a essential reading for anyone who wishes to walk the spiral road to the castle of the Otherworld. Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Oxford Golden Dawn Thelemic Symposium 2008 (Review)

draft (has a few typos)

Conversation overheard in bar . . . "I haven't had a good sh*g for ages . . . maybe I'll go to the orgy . .. " Not that there was an orgy - not in the common understanding of the word at least - but you know how folk are. Later during the Gnostic Mass there was a forced entry via the security door - luckily not too disruptive but I suppose in such a packed day the sort of thing you might expect. The culprit, later expelled returned in the early hours to burgle the place and is currently, so they say, awaiting her majesty's pleasure. It was the only cloud on an otherwise great day.

There was much harrumphing about the change of venue from the grand but tiny Oxford Town Hall, where if I remember rightly, the porters at the last event bumbled into the late Andrew Chumbley's workshop and told everyone to wind it up. Well it was the fourth hour and they'd only just cast the circle - again all hearsay. So a new slightly larger venue was in order, with en suite bar, car park and indeed nature just a step away.

Peter Grey, took the stage together with his partner and delivered a paean to the goddess Babalon as reviewed elsewhere in this august newsletter and that really got us going. A good start, followed by Mike Magee of AMOOKOS, or perhaps formerly, as he filled us in on how he was expelled from the order his help found. Coincidently, the last time Mike spoke in Oxford was at the first Symposium back in 1986? The topic of his talk was "Factions, Fictions and Functions" which was all about the negative side of magical orders. (There's more background to this in my own "Tantra Sadhana" a chapter called "When your guru goes gaga") . This time he gave a short but informative discussion of the main elements of the Kaula magick so beloved in AMOOKOS. In the flood of correspondence I've had since the effect - not sure why me - I was just making the tea afterall - someone remarked how happy they were to see Mike again, being as what he is so charismatic.

By this time, Melissa Harrington's transport has screeched into the grassy carpark and after a suitable interval, reinforced with tea and one of Kym's inch thick sandwiches - she took the stage to reprise a talk of ten years ago on Thelema and the feminine. It was a masterly performance. The intervening years have seen many changes, marriage and parenthood - estrangement from the Caliphate OTO (bit of a pattern) and a serious reframing of her attitude to Thelema, Babalon and what to her eyes now is its first, totally flawed prophet. Her talk was a counterpoint to Peter Grey, whose book she both roundly praised but also cast at least one jaundiced eye - wondering whether the image of a whore was every really anything more than a male sexual fantasy. She highlighted the huge caesura between Crowley's devotion to his goddess and the complete contempt his held for her earthly incarnations. It's difficult to imagine Crowley cutting the toenails of the mother of his children - when she was too pregnant to do it for herself.

Another break, more tea and food, more buzz and camaraderie. Now Charlotte from Bath Omphalos, accompanied by a film show from defibulator images, spoke of here own work with dangerous, blood thirsty spirits. Which all prompted a rather interesting discussion on the theme of self harm and the strange dialectic in which it stands with some extreme forms of magical consciousness. Her spooky slide film show was full of images from oxford Pitt river Museum, which is soon to close for a twelve month refit along with the stupendous Ashmolean Museum - so get your fix now.

Next up was Jake Stratton Kent who regaled us with an investigation into the Grimoire Verum and other necrotic texts that have come down to us in our long and noble history. His emphasis was on matters practical - and he fielded many interesting questions from the floor such as "is it dangerous"; "do you deal with the boss" etc. (As in all walks of life, one tends to have more dealings with the foot soldiers than the managing director.

Finally, we came to David Beth on the topic of Voodoo Gnosis, the syncretized synthesis of voodoo put together by Michael Bertieux and the Couloir Noir and published in various editions of The Voodoo Gnostic Workbook.. He spoke well but it was complex stuff and in the end it did rather boil down to whether one either understood or related to the ideas of Michael Bertieux, which many their obviously did. My ears pricked up at the mention of occult technology, I'd heard of those wyrd machines made from twisted wire and cardboard tubes with which these practitioners commune with denizens of others dimensions. So more of a post modern view of Voodoo than strictly revivalist.

So on the whole a good day - several times I wondered at the failure to mention the elephant in the room, which for me is the authentic voice of the ancient Egyptians who sometimes seems as silenced in modern occult discourse now as it was at the at the beginning of the Christian ice age. But our day was not yet done - still to come was a Gnostic Mass. I finally found out what the strange man with swivelling eyes and Sherlock Holmes costume was up to. Actually I missed the mass, but someone who was there said it was "both the most ridiculous and coolest thing he had ever seen". There was much knob twiddling after the mass and many people left before the social really got into its swing - which was a shame as it was good fun. My correspondent says: "thank you for facilitating my public dancing debut at the Canal Club. Was it the congenial atmosphere engendered by an alliance of like-minded people? Perhaps the sun in Libra, moon in Sagittarius configuration astrologically? Maybe the unknown ingredients of the EGA Eucharist - extolling the raised glass, the presence of a naked lady or just that the world was ready for such a spectacle "...
Roll on next year - [Mogg]