Monday, May 28, 2018

The Suckling Tree /The Borders Crossed Us

The Suckling Tree in the Land of Mists, from the Codex Vaticanus 3738 

There is a tree called Chichihuacuauhco. Some say it is a whole orchard. It is in the Land of Mists, in Tlalocan-Tamoanchan, the place where humanity was born in Mexica cosmology.

It is a place where children go when they die. The old stories speak of dead infants that had not tasted food yet being those who gathered under the Suckling Tree, the Wet Nurse Tree, the Succor of Innocence, which nourished them with milk that flowed from the many breasts which were its fruits. Having never taken life, they owed the gods nothing, and would be taken care of. They wait there, for the world to be destroyed and the next cycle of life to begin, when they will be given new bodies to inhabit.

For many, this clinging to innocence is a comfort. For others, it is the bare minimum those children who have been lost early demand.

The Queen of that Realm, of that Heaven, is a powerful star-demoness named Itzpapalotl, Obsidian Butterfly. She of the Claws on her Hands and Talons on her Feet, a fearsome Battle Queen. Some believe she avenges those whose innocence is stolen. She leads one fifth of the Divine Women, the Cihuateteo, those mothers who died in childbirth, who carry the Sun from noon to sunset, when they roam the crossroads looking for those who need some reminder of Divine Justice. Wrapped in her invisible cloak, or dressing like powerful women of the court, she moves among us, a force from the Outer World, whose agenda is not our own.

All these forces are in my mind with the reports of lost children. Who have been swept from their families for myriad of reasons and still crossed the border alone, by a system claiming no responsibility in a land whose borders have crossed peoples and civilizations without regards to anything other than profit and resource mongering. This is not new. This is not just under Trump. This is an OLD mismanagement stemming from a border that crossed a people arbitrarily then supported by complacence and convenience and bread and circus.

May the Land answer, may the Dead cause unrest. 
May we work to heal both.

Perhaps the Earth Monster should swallow us all and the Powers from the Outer Worlds can grind our bones and try again.

A prayer for the Lost, a call to action for the Rest.
This is not new, and yes, we should be angry.

Young boys sleep in a holding cell at a Customs and Border Protection facility
in Nogales, Ariz., in 2014. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)
Posted with this Amy B. Wang article at the Washington Post 

Addendum: Correcting information is so damn important, and I appreciate the twitter posts of Josie Duffy Rice who is seeking to correct information: 

You can read the whole thread with some needed information here.

In a less poetic universe, where my flower song is still being stirred by early morning coffee, this is a complex issue. A concern I have is that it took misinterpreting missing children (which anyone looking at facts can see that the children aren't missing, but outside the system, were not ripped from families, but crossed the border alone- one of the reasons I share the particular article I did in this blogpiece was for the factual information rather than sensationalized reaction) - the facts were always there to look at and the media and many friends quoted things that were not true because it finally fit their agenda to care. Issues of migration and the politics of la linea are so damn a part of a daily fabric for Mexicans and Mexican Americans. Hell, culturally we have whole saint cults that have developed because of it. Bias confirmation and 'now that I know of an issue' its hugely important side of modern social justice. Not condemning awareness, just the sudden caring as the next #thingtobeupsetabout. We should be upset. La Migra is upsetting in its tactics and existence. But it will soon most likely go back to the communities it affects directly, and yes, hampered by misinformation and spin by the media trying to take out Trump again, despite the policies coming from pre-Trump era. Not like Trump era policies make it *any* better.

It is a hopeful perspective and a needed correction of misinformation. Still grossly mismanaged and no accountability by a system even more discouraged by current political climate.

I'm probably cranky. Info is good. The circus is terrifying.

And still the always-awareness of the deity depicted in the image of the Suckling Tree above–Tezcatlipoca–the Smoking Mirror, creeps in between the cracks where he lives in constant observation, an entropy that keeps the Universe lubricated: he is the Enemy on Both Sides, after all. Trickster isn't on our side, and just like the Tzitzimime, his agenda is outside out own.

Still, I invoke the Suckling Tree, and hope that anyone 'lost', or outside the system, is getting what they need, and the Obsidian Butterfly still rules that Land where the Tree nurtures the Innocent. It is a call that we continue to not be complacent or turn our heads as the dust settles. Let the innocent be preserved, and may we fight for all. The pairing is even more intensely interesting in that juxtaposition. What is innocent is defended by claws and talons and wings made of blades.

I repeat:

A prayer for the Lost, a call to action for the Rest.
This is not new, and yes, we should be angry.

It is a Slippery Earth. Hang on tight. And fight.

Necoc Yaotl, te veo. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Proof of Kingship is Never the Crown (except when it is), or, Better to Reign in Hell, or, Heavy is the Head, or, RHIP

'The King in Yellow' by Santiago Caruso

“I tell you the truth, a man may not make himself king; only the blessing of him who holds the kingship can elevate a man to that high place. For sovereignty is a sacred trust that may not be bartered or sold; still less may it be stolen or taken by force.” 
― Stephen R. Lawhead, The Paradise War

A King never has to prove his King-ness. He is simply, a King. A Queen never has to boast her Queen-ness, everything she does, she does as a Queen. These are true Crowns. Quimbanda has many Kingdoms, and even more Kings and Queens. This notion of sovereignty is complex and mutable, yet necessary when understanding the relationships we all must have as we walk, sulphur-footed, into the Crossroads of Hell. Every prophet in his house, every King in their Kingdom. All under the vigilant Eyes of the Maioral.

There is a reflexivity between one's personality and one's core spirits: in working with them, truly working with them, you will be working with yourself. Here in is a great secret, and no matter what we think we know, there is always more to be revealed. What do we ask our spirits for and how? Someone at work gives you problems. Do you feed her name to your Exu and ask him to make her fall and hurt herself? Do you tell your Pomba Gira you need to find a way to work together, to sweeten her to you so that you can do your work? Do you pour burning palm oil over your Exu and demand her death and the leveling of her house? Do you ask for a transfer? Do you ask for a new job? Do you ask to be assigned to a different project? Do you make controllin
g mirongas (powders)? Sweetening? 'Hotfoot' them out? Do you ask that you learn to not be bothered by it? What are your options, how do you interact with your spirits for the needs of your day to day life? You never have to do a certain anything- but it does reveal where the head is at. Where the 'crown' may be, or not.

To take revenge halfheartedly is to court disaster;
either condemn or crown your hatred. 
- Pierre Corneille

In describing the Kingdom das Matas in an article I wrote for the first Verdant Gnosis, I referred to the pagão (pagan) spirits, as they are called in Quimbanda, in this way:
Pagão as a label can be applied to many things in Quimbanda... Related on one level to the progression of an individual Quimbandeiro’s relationship with any specific spirit, pagão can describe this first manifestation of a spirit’s power in the sorcerer’s life: an unbroken horse, a lightning strike, the first flirtations of a new love interest; it is unpredictable, unstable, yet a source of tremendous power, of great force. 
Interacting with others on this or similar paths, there can be a glorification of the 'freedom' found in the pagão phase, where a crown may be worn, but it is an aping, a masquerade, something stolen and worn like a trophy. If this is where we are, this is where we start, and it is good and fine, but not sustainable. The depletion outweighs the nurture and we must spend more and more time feeding the wild demon that is insatiable. The tether gives the illusion of power and agency, but we are still there chained, like the servants of the Devil card in the Tarot.

Perhaps it is that we are baptized, the next phase in this progression,  and the shackles of procedure and specificity of knowledge, of expectation and performance of what is expected- here chains feel freshly forged. There is less joy here- but there is much learning. Should we enter the Work here, this too is good and fine. But your work is yours, and do not let others pull the pagão out of you. You are in control. Should you return to the wild woods of the pagão phase, remember the work you did to become baptized. It is not enough to remember that you are, but that you, in some form, go through all the steps each time. Speed does not matter so much as thoroughness. 

When the true crown is won, there is a new Freedom. One that walks on its own, where agency becomes opportunity. But similarly, should some one whose spirit is in the pagão or the baptized phase not see your crown, this is not a worry. Your crown is proven by your actions, not the actions of others. Your crown is beyond reproach. 

Not all the water in the rough rude sea
Can wash the balm off from an anointed king.
-William Shakespeare, Richard II, III:2

It is not a value system. It should not be thought of as so. We are where we are. But the problem is in mistaking one for the other. Should we believe ourselves in one place and rest there in the complacency of self-deception, the vacuum we leave in ascending without supporting will pull us down the ladder, always. Again, it is not enough to remember that you are on a different rung, but that you, in some form, go through all the steps each time, as we climb the process and agency of each decision. One way of helping to remember all the steps- involve others. Remember there are many paths through the woods, and students also show their teachers new pathways, in addition to echoing old ones. The mirror of a group can support better reflection. Building new hierarchies within the spirit halls of one's firmeza will grant exactly that- foundation. But the Eye of the Warrior must be vigilant, for a King has many enemies, not the least of which is the army of traitorous I's.

Those trees in whose dim shadow
The ghastly priest doth reign
The priest who slew the slayer,
And shall himself be slain.
-Thomas Babbington Macaulay, The Battle of the Lake Regillus (X)

A great majority of people's spirits are 'pagan' at first interaction. Even with the formalities of licença. Many stay that way. You can tell from how the person works their Quimabanda, and especially by the manner of possession should that occur. The advices a person's Exu or Pomba Gira whispers reveals where they both are at. As said, there is tremendous power here, but a question of who-rides-whom, who is the Master and who is bound can be asked. Should be asked.

Yet to complicate things further- one can have a 'Queen' Pomba Gira that is pagão, but she is by nature a Queen in rank. What does this mean? For a while my godchildren and I were looking at fictional characters for references to Pomba Giras and Exus. Cersei from Game of Thrones- a very Rainha das Sete Encruzilhadas character- albeit through a more English cultural lens. However- her actions do tend show her as 'pagão' more than 'coroado'. (I like 'coronado' from the Spanish better, which yes means crowned in Spanish, but it means 'horned' in Portuguese. not unlike the whole Moses' horns after Sinai... But, back to the Queen.

Pombagira Rainha das Sete Encruzilhadas 
by O.Waldo
These terms of Queen and King need to be expounded upon to fully explore this nature of the crown itself.

Queen, or King, can mean:
• a rank of hierarchy amongst a Kingdom of Spirits that denotes a certain way of interacting with other spirits, through command and allegiance
• a rank of seniority in one's personal court
• a praise title to show adulation and respect
• a 'quality' of a given Pomba Gira or Exu (pagão, batizado, coroado)

And there could be another considered- a Queen or King of a moment or situation, where a certain known speciality of força and axé with a particular situation makes a spirit the go-to, in essence, the Sovereign of your particular working.

The use of the term Queen like this is not unique to Quimbanda, or King for that matter. We all do it, and understand it by context:
• We call our lovers and mothers "my Queen", half-jokingly or sincerely.
• We note someone who has their shit together and say they are a Queen of themselves, or 'she wears her crown well', etc.
• We refer to monarchs of rank as Queen.
• We temporarily call someone a Queen when in a recognized costume or mask.
• We may refer to someone on their birthday as Queen for a Day.
• We may act 'queeny' which usually implies aggressively demanding and high maintenance, as opposed to 'acting a queen' is in command of oneself.
All these nuances are part of our language. And also, that of Quimbanda.

Each bud flowers but once and each flower has but its minute of perfect beauty; 
so, in the garden of the soul each feeling has, as it were, its flowering instant, 
its one and only moment of expansive grace and radiant kingship. 
-Henri Frederic Amiel

Calling a Pomba Gira a Queen in a ponto cantado (song of invocation) does not mean she is all these things. It is a praise title many times. Maria Mulambo, for instance, is called Queen all the time, but as my Tatá and I have discussed many times, it is strange to counter her nature with that role amongst spirits. Doesn't mean that she can't be crowned vs. pagan, or someone's personal PG (and therefore their Queen), or called such to praise her in a ponto (You're my Queen!). Similarly, the Queen of the Seven Crossroads in my lineage is always honored as the first, not second or fourth, but she maintains primacy as a Queen. She is always recognized as a Queen in song though, regardless of her position in a lineage or a personal court of spirits. Rosa Caveira, on the other hand, to be who she is, must necesssarily reject the office of 'Queenship' as rulership over other spirits. It is antithetical to her nature as assassin in the shadows and witch of the Boneyard. But she can manifest as a Queen in the sense of the last three points above. This is important too- Queen can mean any and all of these points.

For a Quimbandeiro, your Personal Pomba Gira is a Queen. Some may even have a 'Queen' Pomba Giras as their (personal) Queens. Some may even have Queens who are Queens who are Queens that we also call Queen. With me, still?

The Personal Exu is the King of each individual in their court as well. And still, each (personal) King has their own King. This is often expounded as the King that is the leader of the Kingdom your Exu is predominantly found in. If you have Exu Pemba, it would ultimately be 'upline' to Rei Omolu. And here King is also the Exu that you are 'born' from- the Exu of your Tatá or Yayá. And still, the King of your Tronco is your personal Exu, as that is his Kingdom, no matter where he is on the totem poles of a given kingdom or working or lineage. At all times, rank hath its privileges. No Exu will come to your tronco without your personal Exu's permission, for he is the King of your Tronco. Another signpost, another road, and another King would arise. We're all mad here, after all.

My crown is called content, a crown that seldom kings enjoy. 
- William Shakespeare, Henry VI, III:1

All is nurture because we treat it as such. The war is internal but is often neglected that we may wage war externally. The prongs of the pitch-fork where both must be weighed–this is our scepter. It is by acting the Crown that we polish the Crown that we lay loose the shackles and find our feet and our path, again. Sulphurous and sweet. 

I am, indeed, a king, because I know how to rule myself. - Pietro Aretino

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

St. Peter: Lord of the Key, Lord of the Gate

“Oh Holy St. Peter, Lord of the Key, Lord of the Gate, The Stone of Wisdom; Grant me the key and open the door. Follow me on the Dragon’s Road. So mote it be. Amen!”
Photo: Statue of the Horned Saint Peter made by Troy Chambers of Wolf & Goat and draped with my Crossroads Rosary and other tokens of spirit, used in my private practice.
Text: Excerpt from 'A Call to the Powers of the Crossroad' by Nicholaj De Mattos Frisvold, and published in Craft of the Untamed.

"I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church” -Matthew 16:18

Another June finds me staring at the feet of Peter, another year at the intersection of myself with myself. I freely admit- this Saint irritates me. He is a journey with promises, failures, and authority, and he reflects my own stubbornness and self-righteousness back to me to wrestle into acceptance and transformation. My witchcraft is not protestant-informed like the general-inherited cultures of England and North America that coat most modern expressions of the Craft. My witchcraft has always existed in the Catholic world, a world of miracles and devils, Saints and blood.* And here, here is where Peter emerges for me, not as the orthodox first Pope, but as man, devil and Saint. 

Here the Lord of the Crossroad comes forth, this Horned Saint Peter, the stang of the witch pounded into the crossroads of every moment, walking upright on serpent feet. Here is choice and necessity, desire and repulsion; somewhere between the in breath and the out breath there is a power of observation that both includes and excludes our spirit – the Rock of Faith and the Devil of the Crossroads both. What clothes the man in miracle? Is the proximity to the Christ all that is needed? For many, yes. But I am attracted to two human qualities that bring this Lord of the Key and Gate closer to my heart: stubbornness and betrayal. On this twain rock, an intersection of baser qualities, the Church is built. At this crossroads, a witch can find familiar ground. 

Look down the roads our key qualities lead- a Dragon waits there, every moment heaven or hell. Stubbornness or perseverance depends on outcome, how we wrestle with the Dragon, how we meet the Devil at the Crossroads. 

Claims of authority and direct lineal descent are important for the plays of politic and power, but for the mystic? For the witch? It is in this hard-headed Saint, whose epithet Petras is felt by many scholars to be as much a humorous pun as anything – Simon Peter the man was, if nothing, rock-headed. Devotion to the ideal of himself, the man he wanted to be: always true, always steady. This devotion to a projected mirage tumbles quickly for our Saint – and when put to the test, he fails. He cannot predict this, for he is masked in clothes of self-deceit, he believes himself to be other than what he is, serving the false-idol of himself rather than the reality of his being. He serves the upright cross, and this illusion is shattered in the face of threat. 

Jesus said to him, "Truly I say to you that this very night,
before the cock crows, three times will you will deny Me.” - Matthew 26:34

It is in the small betrayals, not the treason planned and strategized, but in the tiny broken promises of our failed resolve that we find sympathy with Peter. Well-intentioned promises that when put to the test fail, even beyond our wish to keep them. What makes us fail? Were we wrong about ourselves? What we desired? If we hold the straw-man of our idealized self to the flame, will it survive? The cock crows either way. 

We strive to keep our word. (There’s a word of the Word pun somewhere in there…) But when we fail, do we become failure instead? How do we react to this failure? Do we now transform from false promises to failure? Peter provides hope. It seems if we remain open, the opportunity to take the test even deeper comes. Its not in just keeping word, its in how we handle the small failures, the weakness of the flesh and our concupiscence. 

Deny three times, and remain open. Remorse lays a road for transformation if allowed, and Peter fills this with his answer to the Resurrected Jesus’ “Peter, do you love me?”– to which Peter responds “Yes.” Three times Jesus asks our Saint this question. Is it a way of making up for the three denials? The burden of the herald of dawn? Is all forgiven? It seems true forgiveness is not in forgetting, but in remembering our failures, and building upon them. A humility won through pride's fall- and here Peter takes the averse cross. So is it the Cross of Denial? Denial as a first step, perhaps, but it is the self-deception of pride, and the Fall that will come that shakes us, calls us back to ourselves (if we remain open- "Let those with ears, hear!"). Here we too take up the averse Cross. This is the Rock upon which we shall build our Church. Take flight, then, witches! The Lord of the Key and Gate will follow us down the road of our Becoming.

My friend and Brother-in-Arte many times over, Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold, has written a rite entitled “A Call to the Powers of the Crossroad”, which has appeared in The Cauldron Brazil and in his Craft of the Untamed, published through Mandrake of Oxford. I offer it here as a meditation on the Role of our Saint in the Witches’ Arsenal- for many journeys start here with our Saint. May he follow us all in our wanderings, silent witness to the Freedom of the Witch…

A Call to the Powers of the Crossroad 
(published here with the author’s permission)

He stands at the crossroad, with horn and stang, awaiting the toll of the bell and the foot of those sworn to the exile that ends in the grave and tears. By many names he has been called and to retain the mask we shall refer to him as Dev or he who carries the horns. The horns of Selene, the horns of juxtaposition, the horns of one and the other, the horns that mark transition - the sanctity of murder and rebellion. 

He is the glory of the Light and the path of the ascending power. Be no fool as you seek to take the power, in the blink of an eye, the power that turns, turns. Towards and against, like the tide, amongst his own. Simple is the power. And for this purpose this ritual is presented as a diminutive beacon illuminating the points of the crossroad, a breach in the texture of night, a whisper amongst the forgotten legions. 

So take thy candle, be it red, black or green and place upon thy shrine the icon of the Devil. Take the garland of roses and number thy prayers seven and seventy for the perfection of the prophets. 

Know that black holds the riddle of night, red the riddle of blood and green the riddle of land. 

And for the beads, take wood, pearl or bone. Pilgrim, walk across the ladder and stray not on thy journey. For a lovelorn stranger falls into the siren's embrace and seduction and misery will be the crossroad's gift. With secure step and thy hand fast, thy heart should be fast and secure on the path of faith. So, in front of the candle pray as follows: 
Intercessor at the Crossroad of the Earth
Lover of the Toad-faced obsessors in the gardens of Night
Lord of the many cities of Exile
Master of the Horse and Stang
Oath-taker, oath-breaker
Master of opportunity
The hand that turns the wheel
Instigator of the screams heard through the adamantine desert of our all aloneness
Flaming Lord of Earth and Forge
You who art iron and gold
You who art Devil and Saint
Meet us at the crossroad of rebellion
Meet us at the port of besiegement
Hand down the key to the tower of our enemies’ destruction
And lend they tongue to the sweetness of Fortune
We call thee from the heart of the True Cross
As the children of Exile
Thy brood and bane be upon our brow
Lend us thy helping hand as we search the secrets of murder
Help us in the pursuit of understanding
Help us as you unleash the Secret Powers
Against our oppressors, strike hard
Against our oppressing fall, strike hard
May my heart be cleansed by thy fire
Strike me without mercy
Leave only the pure soul back to walk the serene path of the Master
And if I have been found wanting in my demand
May the curse set aflame all corners of my life
Until cunning descends
For the sake of my soul there is no thing or no one
I will not forswear
For the pursuit of wisdom there is no path I will leave un-tread
For you holds the key to the kingdoms of high and low
You are the man robed in gold and night at the ladders of Light
You are the naked youth at the Ladders of Hell
You are the height and depth and the point between
Father, Saint, Devil and Master
Such is our petition
So mote it be, now and forever more
From height to depth, from dextral to sinister
We call upon thee to meet us in the Crossroad of Power
Take now thy rose garland in thy hand and solemnly pray by each step taken:
Oh Holy St. Peter, Lord of the Key, Lord of the Gate, The Stone of Wisdom
Grant me the key and open the door. Follow me on the Dragon’ Road.
So mote it be. Amen
By the 77th prayer said to the praise of the crossroad you will kiss the cross and say:
Father, Saint, Devil and Master
From the True Cross
May Our prayers be heard
To the True Cross
All Powers will descend
For such is my petition
And such is my prayer
As good St, Peter is my fellow journeyman

* I’ve written less about my own journey with witchcraft on this blog, and largely because I am uncertain the audience for it. I am not interested in defending the Catholic worldview of the Iberian and Pyrenean traditional crafts I adore at the cost of actual discussion. Perhaps such is the cost in finding dialog. Perhaps there are commonalities that lead to a fellow heretic's embrace of Power that can inspire further discussions. It is still an uphill battle for non-Anglo traditions of Traditional Witchcraft, and if the revisionist and fantastic histories propagated by the more mainstream expressions of witchcraft are allowed to go unchecked, then they will successfully colonize the rest of witchcraft through ignorance, even if well intended. There seem to be a fair amount of people that wish to defend their fantasies at the cost of known context and history. There are many beautiful genuine expressions of witchcraft, many not found in books as of yet (especially in English), and many that are far different from the ideals and public manifestations of modern neo-Pagan movements (themselves inheritors of British/ American protestant egalitarian ethic and notions of 'right belief'). If nothing else, perhaps Peter, Stubborn Saint of Perseverance and Lord of the Sabbat, Protector of the Devout and Heretic alike, is as good a place to start as anywhere. To Heaven or Hell, the Gates are open...