Thought I would share this because I think it’s interesting.
Dreamed I was helping renovate this house which had a secret door down to the underworld in it and they needed to be kept shut to keep the goblins from sneaking out. I put a lot of spells on it to prevent them from getting out and to curse any that did. A couple tried it but went back when they realized they had gotten cursed. One though was apparently also a magician because he was able to negate my magick and escape. I grabbed two swords, one ornate ritualistic looking one, and one mundane looking one, and I ran outside. I hopped on my skateboard and started following the trail of mayhem to get to the goblin. When I caught up with him he tried to knock me off my skateboard but I saw it coming and managed to land on my feet and keep running after him out near a beach. When I caught up to him we grappled a bit and I dragged him out into the water and I kept dunking him under and then holding him in the full sunlight and calling on Utu to bind him. After about 4 times of this he went under and didn’t come back up. He had been bound and turned into a very shoddy looking metal ring on my finger covered in Solomonic symbols like those made with planetary kemas. I headed back to the house and to the entrance of the passage. I pointed to my finger and said to the other goblins that’s what happens when they try to escape. Then I went into the caves and when I felt I was sufficiently down I threw the ring down there. I went back up and out of the doorway. I saw one of the construction workers with his phone out. He told me he had filmed the whole thing. I had him email me a copy. Then I went outside and started trying to find a restaurant to eat at because I was hungry. I ran into my godmom who asked me what I’d been up to so I showed her the video. After she had watched it she recommended a hole in the wall restaurant and we went there. My sister was already there eating so we all joined to have dinner together. My sister wondered why I had been hanging out with my godmom and I explained I had just run into her on the street looking for a place to eat at. Woke up kinda hungry.
Originally published in Peacock Goat Review Vol. 1 No. 9
This article is going to be a little different than my previous ones; it details my initiation in to the planetary sphere of Mercury and was written over the course of a vacation trip so rather than write it in one go, I’ve decided, in a kind of mercurial spirit, to write it as a journal of my trip, broken up into entries on each day.
This is the way to travel! I am writing this while on a train, taking a much needed vacation. This is the first time I’ve ever ridden a popper passenger train and I have to say I like it much more than flying or driving. In a lot of ways, this journey feels like it is a manifestation of my Ninurta initiation which I did a couple weeks ago. (Ninurta being the Sumerian god associated with the planetary sphere of Mercury.) While waiting in the station for the train, which was over an hour late pushing it’s arrival to about 4:30 am, I decided to get out my Thoth tarot deck and do a one-card reading regarding the trip. The card I drew was The Magus – the card I think of as being the quintessential mercurial card. The synchronicity have been ramping up; seeing things repeating all over the place, especially numbers.
Early on starting shortly before my initiation I had a dream about joining the Freemasons. Since the initiation I’ve had two more dreams on the topic plus one of the most obvious synchronicity I’ve seen yet. I saw somewhere between five and eight cars in a row on the highway driving home from work who’s license plate started with 33; a significant number in Freemasonry representing the 33 degrees of initiation. I’m seriously considering joining the nearby Le Droit Humane lodge after I move so I’m closer to it. I feel like it’s the right step to take and what Ninurta is pushing me towards.
On this vacation, we’re going to Massachusetts to visit my partner Zoey’s family and do a lot of fun stuff while there. I’m planning on visiting Salem to see all the witchy museums and Plymouth, where my great great great…grandparents settled when they moved to America from England all those years ago. The record of their lives there was unfortunately destroyed when the local parish caught fire but I have a pretty god idea what cemetery they are likely buried in so hopefully I can find their graves and fill in at least a few of the gaps in the record of my family history I’ve been slowly building.
I’ve found it hard to stay asleep on the train for long. There’s so many stops and things that happen that I tend to wake up every hour or so. Part of it, I imagine, is simply the novelty of riding a train and the fun of watching all these places I’ll probably never get to visit but can imagine exploring go whizzing past me. Seeing these places through witch eyes really gives it a feel and a pleasure I never really had going on trips as a child. Seeing all the different plant and animal species cohabiting with humanity, seeing all those little nooks and crannies that just scream faeries, and picking out places that would make excellent places for ritual…it seems so much more imminent and alive. It’s almost like each place tells me a bit of its story as I watch it drift past.
So much of this trip seems tied into my Mercury initiation somehow. So many things that didn’t quite go according to plan but landed me in places that gave me a lot to think about. I’ve been to a lot of historic places lately, especially related to my ancestors who moved to America all those years ago in the Recovery of London to be Puritans. It feels like a kind of ancestral reckoning in a way.
At Plymouth plantation there’s a section dedicated to the native tribe of the area where they had some people from the tribe who worked there to teach people about their history and continue to live a bit of the traditional lifestyle so people could see it. It was an interesting experience seeing it through my witch eyes. Very sad to say the least. When our group came up he was talking about the process of making a canoe and that led into a discussion of what the forest used to be before the settlers came. Something he said really struck me. He said when the white people came over from England they started turning it into England. Then someone asked about trying to get things back to how they were and he simply said “You can’t”. I haven’t been able to get that out of my head.
One thing I thought was interesting was in the Nathaniel Hawthorne house there was a number of very beautiful drawings by his wife? Sister? Daughter? I’m not sure the relation, of the Greek myth of Persephone. It struck me as significant in a way probably nobody else has considered: even in the depths of the most strict and isolated sect of Protestantism humanity has ever seen, who ran away from home because they couldn’t be fundamentalist enough; even they couldn’t help but look longingly at the paganism they lost. Of course Salem being what it is and that whole history of the witch trials…when faced with the inevitable return to the ways of old, they only knew how to respond with murder. Worse, many still haven’t learned from the mistakes of the past; so many eyes full of murder because how dare we be the living embodiment of the wrongness of their beliefs.
Still, I find it kinda beautiful that the pagan community has taken a place with such a tainted past as Salem and turned it into the witch capital of the country. It was an absolutely wonderful experience. This must be what going to the mall is like for normal girls who’s biggest delight is a pretty pair of shoes. I’ve never seen so many metaphysical shops in one place! I must have gone to at least 20 of them or so. Most of the stores had the kind of stuff you see at any typical metaphysical shop. Some with a more new age bend. Some with a more Wiccan bend. Some more general. My favorite one was the one on the end of the wharf next to the water where I bought the Cunning Man’s Grimoire, the Book of Thoth, an extra Thoth deck and a couple Tarot bags. It was full of Solomonic, Enochian and Thelemic stuff. It was wonderful!
We took a day to relax due to the weather and by this point I was starting to feel homesick. The next day though, we visited someone who I found very interesting. She was a classically trained priestess in an indigenous African tradition who not only was able to tell me things about myself I never shared but also was able to answer a lot of the questions I had been left with from previous initiations. It was very personal and out of respect for her I am being intentionally vague, but without giving too much away it alone made the whole trip worth it. I may finally get closure on the hungry ghost problem I’ve been having with my ancestors which I talked about in previous editions of this magazine. After that we spent the rest of our last day there at the mall and at the theater. We watched the new Men In Black movie which I enjoyed.
The day of our travel home, which I’m writing this part mid-way through, was absolutely horrible. Unlike the trip down, the trip back was a flight on American Airlines. What a horrible way to travel. Getting to the plane was an anxiety-riddled nightmare, especially getting through security. Worse, our group was the last to get on the plane, and by the time it was our turn to board, they had over-filled the plane and thus made us check our baggage, which was meant to be carry-on, as checked baggage. They didn’t charge us for it at least, but it was an inconvenience which only got worse as the trip progressed. The plane took 3 tries before we finally landed and all the elevation changes about made me ill. After we landed, things got still worse. We were supposed to take a connecting flight which would take us the rest of the way home, however between the plane being late to take off and late to land, plus having to take a shuttle across to the other side of the airport to get to the terminal (which they had changed from the one on the ticket by the time we got there, of course). By the time we got there, the airplane was already leaving. It had stopped boarding early, 20 minutes before the time on the ticket, so they sent us to the customer service desk who told us the moment we landed they knew we weren’t going to make it so they had already printed us tickets for the next flight out to our destination, but flat out refused to give us any kind of compensation for all their screw ups and tried to act like it was our fault, even going so far as to call the wait for the airport’s shuttle “traffic”. (Which we had no option but to take because it was the only way to get across between the buildings). They told us to contact their corporate customer service. During the wait for our new flight, we tried calling their customer service line and they told us they couldn’t do anything either, that we would instead have to email their customer service email address and they had no idea whether our baggage made it or not or if it will even be there when we finally arrive. It felt like absolute amateurish behavior you would expect of a newly started local shipping company, not a national corporate airline service. It was completely absurd.
In a way, this seems like a kind of book-end to this trip. I started this article gushing about how much I was enjoying traveling by train, and am now complaining about how horrific traveling by airline was. Seeing both sides of that aspect of the sphere of Mercury – the good travel and the bad. Mercury is after all a sphere of opposites and constant change. It’s the most fluid sphere and it seems perfectly consistent with its nature to have an absolutely wonderful trip down and a horrible one back. At least with the plane, even with the delays, we will be home today. I miss my home state and I’m ready to get back to it. We have plans after we return; we’re going to start looking for a house to move closer to my work – something else which I suspect will tie into my Mercurial initiation as well. Only time will say for sure.
Originally published in Peacock Goat Review Vol. 1 No. 8
Enki, Lord of the Abzu, god of wisdom. He created the order of the world in his most famous myth and the me of the gods. His symbols are the fish and the goat and the bird. He is called upon when creating holy water used in purification rites. He is the Sumerian god associated with Saturn.
Continuing my Trithemian work in my typical Sumerist way, I performed a Saturn initiation following my Mars one (written about in previous issues). My saturn initiation on March 9th went the same as the previous ones; the ritual was performed and the deity appeared. Enki, showed himself in my scrying surface like Nergal and Nanna had done before. I sketched his image as I had seen it just as I had done the others. Just like as with Nergal/Mars; the lesson was not what I expected.
Saturn is the chthonic sphere; the sphere of darkness and the line between life and death. The lesson I expected to learn was acceptance of death, and acceptance of the inevitability of evil. However the lesson I got was more related to order, truth and justice. In retrospect this makes sense given who Enki is but my misconceptions made my lesson in this sphere take awhile to grasp.
Soon after my initiation, I started thinking about my childhood trip to Ohio Caverns. I couldn’t seem to get it out of my head, I kept thinking about it over and over. I would try to distract myself and would come back into my mind. Eventually I gave up and asked my partner “Hey hon, do you wanna take a trip to visit Ohio Caverns?” She was onboard and so we made plans to do just that.
The place was wonderful and more beautiful than I remembered. The feeling of being deep underground and seeing the amazing formations was something wondrous. When you think of a cavern, you think of something musty, creepy and foreboding but this place was calm, vibrant and inviting. The walls were of a porous stone that meant the place was constantly dripping wet. It had a feeling like being in some kind of natural bath house full of flowing underground freshwater waterfalls and creeks.
I very much enjoyed the trip and when I was finished I couldn’t help but buy some things from the gift shop. I immediately felt drawn to a stone chalice. I purchased it, and a photo. The chalice turned out to come in a set of two. I have since started using the chalice in place of the one I had been using as an offering cup for my alter.
That trip in many ways set the stage for what was to come. Not long after, I had a series of nights where I woke up from nightmares with a horrible buzzing feeling that made me feel dizzy. What follows is the dream journal entries of the first nightmares. The imagery is somewhat horrific so be warned.
Started off with this dream of eating expensive cheese with friends then things started getting weird. The cheese turned moldy then the dream shifted and it turned into this narrative about this janitor who started going insane but I could tell this dream wasn’t really mind it was being inflicted on me so I kept trying to change the dream or break it’s boundaries. Eventually the dream reached a crescendo and there were all these dead creatures and stuff and it looked like a really bad B or C movie. Then the room started spinning and trying to do this effect like 2001 A Space Odyssey but it was like I could see through the noise and it was really just the inside of a car. I had this intense buzzing and tinnitus, and feeling of pressure like some kind of been of energy was on me. I immediately started calling on deities to cast it away. Then I realized what the clay sigil is for; it’s an anti-grey/anti-remote viewing sigil so I charged the sigil and put it under my pillow and it was like the pressure was pulled away from me and towards it. After talking about it with my girlfriend and some grounding techniques I felt satisfied it was thwarted and went back to sleep. Had more normal dreams that didn’t even stand out enough to remember. Woke up by alarm wishing I’d had more time to sleep.
I didn’t write about the details of the dream at the time because I was pretty upset by them and did not want to deal with the darkness of the imagery and what was happening. The janitor was luring girls up into the staff-only area in upper level of the skyscraper he worked in and murdering them. It happened over and over such that the walls and floors started getting covered in blood. It was an absolutely horrific sight. I couldn’t accept the dream which is why I fought it so adamantly. I didn’t want to deal with the concept, even on an intellectual level.
The next night, I had a dream relating to Enki, but I was so tired from my lack of sleep from the night before, that I couldn’t retain the details. Here is that dream journal entry:
My dreams were just a series of disjointed images and short narratives, many of which centered on Enki but none of which stood out enough to remember.
The next few nights after were filled with saturnine imagery:
Dreamed of being at some kind of family gathering for a family member on dad’s side. my girlfriend and I were looking at old pictures of us on her phone and we realized that a year and a week from the previous year we had gone on a trip as well. Then for whatever reason they wanted us to stand up and read this prayer from the table. I made it very clear I would stand but I wouldn’t be reading it unless I was allowed to adapt it to the Mesopotamian Pantheon. It was written on a series of tiles on the table. A white tile with black writing of some kind of white stone that looked like onyx. Then a black tile with white writing which looked like obsidian. Then a blue tile with goldish writing that was definitely lapis lazuli. My dad took my refusal to read it as his queue to be more obnoxious about it. Aunt my aunt came over to read from our table because hers was still covered in plates and cutlery from the dinner but ours had already been cleared. After they finished reading the prayer, my uncle started putting his feet on our table trying to be annoying for a laugh. my aunt mentioned it out loud like she expected me to get on to him for it or something but I said he could do whatever he liked because we had already finished eating so we were done using the table. I went out into the lobby of the place we were at to make some kind of phone call and there was a businessman in a suit also making a phone call. He gave me a weird look as if I was out of place and annoying him by being there but I started making my phone call and made a point to show I didn’t care what he thought.
Dreamed I decided I was too smart so I cut my skull cap off with a knife to scoop out some of my brain but then thought better of it and put it back on. Then woke up freezing so put more blankets on. Then dreamed I went with Dad and my sister my sister to my cousin’s to help her move because her and her partner had two daughters and they needed a bigger place. In the backyard of the place there was this old dilapidated Apple tree that had dropped rotten apples all over the yard and it smelled really strongly and I was worried it was releasing some kind of poisonous gas. We moved all her stuff out and then the dream shifted to her new house with was on the property of my maternal grandma’s old house but they had built a two story (which I was later told was a two and a half story) house in place of the old one and put a big privacy fence around the yard. We had to wait for some reason and couldn’t go inside yet so I decided to walk around town. The part of Mumford street that used to go out into the farm land had been blocked off by a large privacy fence because some company had bought all that land and turned it into massive farm. After I was most of the way around the block I passed two cowboys on horseback carrying a gun. They told me good morning which I thought was odd because it was the evening and said they were going hunting. I told them hello back and they passed me. I got back to the front gate of the property and they got the gate open. I woke up cold and needing to pee.
Dreamed of helping a teacher prepare a lesson plan for an ESL foreign language class on money. I was helping her setup a surface pro tablet. She was particularly worried she wasn’t going to be able to use it and that her district would be upset with her for ordering it because she had done so without even considering it or really knowing what it was or what it could do. I helped her transfer her power point presentation to it and get it working on her projector. She was unhappy with the brightness of the screen so I helped her adjust it to be brighter. Then I was going to visit a friend and somehow ended up falling in the middle of the road. A nearby police officer came over and looked me over and I was pretty scraped up but nothing was broken. I was unable to walk well though because of the soreness so I called my friend to come pick me up. When she arrived she started asking me how I managed to get myself so banged up but I didn’t have an answer.
Woke up from a nightmare. Then had some kind of dream related to Enki but the details faded.
Dreamed I worked with a bunch of various Egyptian deities to try to heal the world ruined this robot attack.
Around this point the nightmares had become a regular occurance and my sleep deprivation got to the point where I couldn’t really handle dealing with them anymore.
Had a nightmare about this organization that was abusing kids. Woke up but decided I was going to just let the dream play out this time. Fell back asleep into the same dream. The dream shifted to being about Utu coming down and using magic to bring this organization to justice for their crimes using a saw and sympathetic magic; cutting their heads off without even being there in person with his saw which took the form of a bone saw. The organization started trying to frame him for various crimes after they figured out what was going on but they failed at it and ended up getting arrested for their crimes instead.
I stopped trying to avoid dealing with the subject because it was uncomfortable. I decided instead to face it head on and see how the story played out, and in so doing the dream was transmuted – from a nightmare about watching horrible things happening and being able to do nothing about it, to the triumph of the god of justice by literally letting heads roll.
I have since learned that in ancient Mesopotamia, Saturn was called the Star of Truth and Justice. This was the moment I finally figured out the lesson that Enki was trying to teach me – discipline is a great thing and one must choose one’s battles to avoid becoming overextended, but choosing pacifism can be as exhausting and harmful as choosing to always attack – if you let those who have done wrong get away with it, the wrong continues. Looking away from injustice because it is uncomfortable doesn’t help. You know it’s there, and it eats at you. Worse, you, by doing nothing, are playing into it; you’ve become a de facto accomplice by virtue of your complacency, your unwillingness to act. Magick is all well and good to bring about good things, but it is useless unless you can also use it to halt that which is bad. Curse your enemies. Hold nothing back. If they are just, what do they have to fear from justice?
“Beware therefore! Love all, lest perchance is a King concealed! Say you so? Fool! If he be a King, thou canst not hurt him. Therefore strike hard & low, and to hell with them, master!” (Al II:59-60)
Complacency is death. Ambition is not just ambition to raise one’s status – ambition is also the willingness to crush those who have done wrong. To use one’s power when they have it. To raise up more than a complaining voice – raise a saw and cut the head off those who do evil. It’s a twisted world where seeking to stand up against that which is wrong is seen as more wrong than doing nothing. Complacency kills. Looking the other way is a death sentence to the innocent. If they be cruel, you must be as cruel in retaliation or you shall stand no chance against them; but where they are cruel for cruelty’s sake, devoid of compassion for the least – you must be cruel for justice’s sake – only to right wrongs. To stop violence being done to the innocents who have no voice.
This lesson has been one hard for me to parse – so much is western society permeated with the supposed virtue of cowardice. Between Jesus the martyr who died for his unwillingness to use his power when he had it, to the endless Buddhas who sit around in pointless enlightenment and do nothing to heal the hurt in the world. (Though of course not all are so.) But what of the example of great men of renown who used their resources to end the fighting? What of the great heroes of old who were unafraid to take up the blade and cut off the head of the corrupt king without remorse – for he had shown none in his reign?
This lesson wasn’t the only one saturn had to teach; the other was how to plunge into the depths – one that I am still learning, but one that will be an invaluable resource in the future I am sure. This lesson started as with the other; with a series of dreams full of powerful imagery.
Dreamed I was staying at my godparents place and was helping out with an animal and plant habitat conservation project. While working I discovered I was a waterbender. I was able to use that ability to pull water into plants to help them turn green if they were starting to look brown. In one of the habitats were these armored elephants that got perturbed by my being too close and one of them rolled up like a pill bug and rolled into the fence giving everyone a scare. In the background in the enclosure beyond them I saw some kind of huge dinosaur like crocodile thing with a big fin sticking out of the water swim by. Then these two really fluffy cats followed me back to the house. It was dinner time so I sat down at the table to have food but there was some kind of confusion about dinner.
I have since learned that the elephant creature and the dinosaur like crocodile thing I described matched the depiction of Behemoth from a well known painting and the image of the Leviathan was the same as the one from Carl Jung’s The Red Book. The cats are Norwegian Forest cats; the same breed of cats which pull Freyja’s sled in the Norse myths.
The next dream I had ended up being the most significant;
Dreamed I was helping renovate this house which had a secret door down to the underworld in it and they needed be to keep the goblins from sneaking out. I put a lot of spells on it to prevent them from getting out and to curse any that did. A couple tried it but went back when they realized they had gotten cursed. One though was apparently also a magician because he was able to negate my magick and escape. I grabbed two swords, one ornate ritualistic looking one, and one mundane looking one, and I ran outside. I hopped on my skateboard and started following the trail of mayhem to get to the goblin. When I caught up with him he tried to knock me off my skateboard but I saw it coming and managed to land on me feet and keep running after him out near a beach. When I caught up to him we grappled a bit and I dragged him out into the water and I kept dunking him under and then holding him in the full sunlight and calling on Utu to bind him. After about 4 times of this he went under and didn’t come back up. He had been bound and turned into a very shoddy looking metal ring on my finger covered in magical symbols. I headed back to the house and to the entrance of the passage. I pointed to my finger and said to the other goblins that’s what happens when they try to escape. Then I went into the caves and when I felt I was sufficiently down I threw the ring down there. I went back up and out of the doorway. I saw one of the construction workers with his phone out. He told me he had filled the whole thing. I had him email me a copy. Then I went outside and started trying to find a restaurant to eat at because I was hungry. I ran into my godmother who asked me what I’d been up to so I showed her the video. After she had watched it she recommended a hole in the wall restaurant and we went there. My sister was already there eating so we all joined to have dinner together. My sister wondered why I had been hanging out with my godmother and I explained I had just run into her on the street looking for a place to eat at. Woke up kinda hungry.
This dream not only connected back to my descent into the cavern at the start of this sphere, but also became the catalyst for the work I’m still doing in my path – shamanic journeying. The cave from this dream inside this witch’s house is where I begin my journeying sessions using the methods detailed in Michael Harner’s The Way of The Shaman. Here is what I wrote concerning the experience immediately after it happened:
After I got down deeper than my dream went I hit a passage that seemed to go on forever but I couldn’t go any further. I kept trying but I couldn’t. Then I realized it was a glass wall and I found a latch in it and opened a door but behind the door wasn’t more cave, it was a passage to another place entirely and an ornate dressed Man who looked like he was from the Renaissance stepped out. He introduced himself as William then said he must be on his way and left up the passage I had come down. I went through the doorway and inside was a forest at dusk with a red moon hue to the place. I started down the path and the door behind me slammed shut. I turned around to look but the door was gone and instead was more forest path. I decided to keep going in the forest. It had a lot of furs at first but then turned to Maple, oak and some apple. Then the passage was blocked and before me was this…. Man… Thing with a donkey’s head. He told me “You can not pass”. I told him “By Utu’s light you will let me through” as I did the trees parted a little and let some sunlight through down on him. His face looked even more grotesque and his eyes started glowing red and he chuckled at me. It freaked me out so much I threw off the eyemask and took off the headphones.
I have since come to the conclusion that the entity that I met in the forest was the Egyptian God Set. After doing some searching one of the first images of him I came across looked like how he appeared almost exactly. For copyright reasons I have not included that image here, however at the time of this writing it is among the first results on Google Images using the search term “egyptian god set”. I am still trying to figure out what to do next in this practice, but I have been told that the first journeying experience usually has some kind of trial that you must pass.
I can already feel the spirits shifting me towards my next initiation…
Had a dream I was collecting correspondences for some planet with this British girl.
Captivating History. Sumerians: A Captivating Guide to Ancient Sumerian History, Sumerian Mythology and the Mesopotamian Empire of the Sumer Civilization. Narrated by Duke Holm, Audible, 2018. Audiobook.
Black, Jeremy Alan. The Literature of Ancient Sumer. Oxford University Press, 2006.
Finkel, Irving L. The Ark before Noah: Decoding the Story of the Flood. Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2014.
Originally published in Peacock Goat Review Vol. 1 No. 7
In our stressing modern lives and with the ever-present sludge that is the materialist paradigm we’re forced to at least pretend to pay homage to, it’s easy to forget how much of our lives are sustained on the work of others. How often when chowing down on a delicious black bean burger do you stop and thank the bean plant for providing you with its nourishment? How often do you thank the plant spirits for providing their oxygen? When you have biodegradable food waste do you throw it in the garbage or do you attempt to give back what you do not use? I would be lying if I said I remembered it even as often as once a week.
We are socialized from a young age to assume the trappings of the empire; the dominant force that takes without respect. Reap, kill, pillage, destroy, take everything and leave nothing, and never so much as ask permission or give thanks. It’s an easy habit to fall back into but it’s one that can leave the spirits a little cold to our reception. For that matter can you blame them? If there was a beast regularly smashing into your town and eating some of the inhabitants and showing them no respect would you feel very happy to receive its company? I know I wouldn’t. But if it at least thanked you for it and gave you offerings in return, saying that it cannot help that it must consume but if it has to it wants to do it respectfully, I imagine the situation would at least be somewhat less horrible.
We’re raised to think of the environment as being separate, out there, outside, in the wilderness, but we’re as much a part of it as the bees and flowers. Our interactions are a part of it and play into the whole thing. We are gifted the unique gift of embodied consciousness but we so often forget that. We indulge in ego and ignore our impact. We could be the kindly shepherds of life on the planet but instead we are its dominator.
Plants rely on us as much as we rely on them. They rely on us to spread their seeds. They rely on us to fertilize their dirt. They rely on us to respire so they have something to breathe. In a lot of ways, they are eating us as much as we are eating them. We are in a symbiotic relationship with pants. But we have grown cold. We have stopped showing them respect. We cut down whole forests. We take without showing gratitude. We poison the atmosphere with toxins and spray herbicides all over the land. We are becoming monsters.
But while we may not be able to change the way our society functions on a grand scale, we can certainly change how we behave in it. Simple things can go a long way to helping to show the plant spirits we haven’t forgotten them. That not all of us are as callous as some. Thanking the plant spirits for their nourishment before a meal. Showing the forest respect when we go hiking. Picking up litter. All the sort of cheesy things we were taught to do as kids to help care for the earth can help undo at least some of the damage the empire does to the land and at the very least lets the plant spirits know that we’re among the good ones.
This doesn’t just go for plants either, this attitude can be extended to the animals in our local ecosystem too. Thank the bees for what they do to keep things green. Maybe leave out a small offering of sugar water for them? Thank the birds for spreading the seeds of the plants and for making the skies so colorful. It may seem silly and new-agey but I’m sure the spirits appreciate it even if the animals themselves do not understand our language. What about the bacteria that breakdown our waste and make it into plant food? Even if we remember the apple tree, it’s easy to forget the ones who feed it. After all, magic is all about our interaction with the spirits and embodiment too.
And yet even beyond that there are minerals too. They may not live in the way we think of, yet they are as much a part of the ecosystem we live inasmuch as anything else. We rely on them as well for nourishment, for important components our bodies need to survive, and for the filtration they provide in keeping us supplied with tasty spring water to drink. How often do you think to thank the salt rock for its contributions to your salty meal?
To quote Wiccan lore, ‘ye may not be a witch alone’. We are not islands. No human being on this planet can possibly be alive without the assistance not only of our peers among each other, but also with the assistance of an entire army of other living beings living all manner of existence. It’s important we not forget them. Wealth and spiritual attainment means nothing if you have no food to eat, no clean water to drink and no air to breathe. To forget that is to forget who we are. I don’t remember who it was but I’ve once heard it said “If you get right with the spirits first, everything else will follow.” This is very much the truth.
Live authentically. Live embodied in the here and now. Remember the world around us. Lofty concepts are all well and good but things happening far away from us do not affect us nearly as much as those things directly around us. What some politician said in another country should never become more important than the oil company that just left a line of destruction through the local nature preserve because they didn’t want to spend the extra money to go around. Never let them shame you into not standing up for those that you rely on. Never let them shame you into forgetting you are here for the spirits, not for the institutions or the lofty ideals of the print-created world.
Inspired by Standing and Not Falling by Lee Morgan
Originally published in Peacock Goat Review Vol. 1 No. 6
A Mesopotamian Method for Summoning Spirits
Necromancy, exorcism and spirit summoning were well known arts in the ancient world. In some cultures they were the domain of kings, in others priests, and in yet others they were the domain of highly skilled magicians. In ancient Mesopotamia they seemed to be the domain of all of the above. I have done my best using the available resources to reconstruct the most common method for summoning spirits in the method likely used in ancient Mesopotamia. It has been informed by some more recent magical literature of the sort as well. A full bibliography has been included.
Scepter of Kingship – I have included two versions of the scepter; one of my own design inspired by the Solomonic blasting wand and the historical scepter of kingship from the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur, used to command respect from unruly spirits with a symbol of divine authority
Dagger – Traditionally made of bronze but any ritual dagger or athame should do, used to draw astral symbols
Chalice – Terracotta or carved stone recommended but any kind of glass or chalice will do, used to hold drink offerings, in this case use wheat beer
Scrying Surface – A bronze mirror is ideal, you can also use polished obsidian, a reflective pool of water, a black mirror or a crystal ball, used to see the spirits
Alter Tile – Ideally you should create this from carved stone or terracotta in the shape of the Star of Shamash, used as the center platform of the ritual space
Light Source – Traditionally an oil lamp would be used, but wax or even LED candles with flicker will do, used for lighting and a source of energy for the spirits
Ghost anointing oil composed of some combination of the following ingredients:
Fresh Poplar Leaves
Milk of Magnesia
Dirt from an area where crickets live
Dirt from a crossroads
Mix together and leave overnight
You will need a piece of clay that you have written the name in cuneiform of the spirit you wish to conjure on your alter
You will also need a wood or clay figure as a vessel for the spirit to incarnate into
Perform during dusk on a Sunday.
Prepare your ritual space by performing the four winds invocation ritual included in last month’s issue as part of the Ritual of Weila. It can also be found here: http://gnostictempleofinanna.org/en2-e2-nu-ru-su4-luh/
Light candles, pour out libations to Shamash from the cup and recite the following hymn to Shamash seven times while making the sign of respect over the oil (both arms out before you, elbows bent at an acute angle and palms forward)
O Shamash, judge of Heaven and Underworld, foremost one of the Annunaki!
O Shamash, judge of all the lands, Shamash, foremost and resplendent one!
You keep them in check, O Shamash, the judge.
You carry those from Above down to Below.
Those from Below up to Above.
May he bring up a ghost from the darkness for me!
May he put life back into the dead man’s limbs!
May he bring up the ghost of [spirit] to be put inside the figure!
I call upon you, O figure of figures!
May he who is within the figure answer me!
O Shamash, who opens the darkness!
Anoint both your eyelids and the figure using the ghost oil
Scry into the scrying surface, hold your scepter before you, wait for an image or voice the spirit to appear while you recite the following
Originally published in Peacock Goat Review Vol. 1 No. 5
The energies of Mars are peculiar. On the surface they seem violent, aggressive and warlike, but beneath all that externalized vitriol is a core of control. An unfocused burst of energy rarely does any lasting damage but a directed strike carried out with pinpoint accuracy can be devastating with little effort.
On November 6th of last year, I performed a Mars initiation. Leading into the initiation I had a series of synchronicities surrounding Gevurah and the sphere of Mars. I became obsessed with the formula V.V.V.V.V. and everything it symbolized. I had a dream where I was pulled over by the police for some kind of headlight issue and then the next day I had a headlight issue while driving into work, which thanks to the dream I noticed before any police saw it. I also had a dream about being attacked by a Lynx. I also looked more deeply into my natal chart and realized my natal moon is in Scorpio, a sign heavily associated with the ancient Mesopotamian god Nergal. I also picked up a pair of pentacle earrings with little witch hat, athame and broom charms that hang from them.
I performed the initiation largely in my usual style; I took the rites proscribed in Rufus Opus’ Seven Spheres and added my layer of Sumerian flavour. I crafted a Layman centered around the Sumerian god of the planetary sphere of Mars, Nergal, and covered in Cuneiform. I invoked Nergal with a hymn in my best attempt at Sumerian while the soundtrack from the recent Doom remake blared in the background. (I’ve posted a set of instructions to perform the one I performed on my website for those interested. http://gnostictempleofinanna.org/nergal-initiation/)
Usually when I perform planetary initiations I don’t ask for anything specific, preferring to let the spirits give me whatever lesson they see fit, but this time was different. This time I asked for something specific; discipline. It was a very energizing experience and one which ended with Nergal appearing in my scrying surface (an obsidian crystal ball) which I drew afterward.
When I first told Aaron I was planning on performing a martial initiation I remember it was in the context of a conversation about my Scorpio Moon and he told me “This may be pretty intense for you.” Nergal is the ancient Mesopotamian god war, plague, death, and disease. He is also lord of the underworld second only to the goddess Ereshkigal, his consort. When I made this request, I expected this would play out in taking some kind of martial art course or having to face off with some kind of violent, destructive force. However, what came was more or less the opposite.
On the first day immediately following the initiation, I had my most productive day in months. I got so much done that I had been putting off doing. I felt compelled to accomplish everything I had been avoiding like I was being driven to the beat of a war drum. It was intense but not in the way I was expecting. It was like all the motivation that had been drained from me had been returned tenfold. Exactly five days after the initiation while driving home from work, I started smelling tobacco and at the same time a car started tailgating me with the right headlight missing. I started swearing at them and reciting a banishing ritual to get them to go away, then something hit me like a ton of bricks; this is the energies of Mars manifesting in my life and I was the one who summoned them; to struggle against them is stupid. I felt the need to apologise to Nergal for trying to banish him. Almost immediately afterward, the smell vanished and the car went around me and on its way.
Shortly after I became obsessed with Taoist magic and the I Ching. I felt driven to try to syncretize it with western modes of magick. It never really fit the way I was hoping it would but the experience led me to better understanding the elements in western modes of magic and especially geomancy which led to my article from the second issue of Peacock Goat Review entitled “Interrogating Geomancy”. Leading from this I picked up a copy of the Zohar and was immediately drawn to the section that covered the elemental correspondences behind the Binding of Isaac; water versus fire.
So how did all these components come together? A synthesis of elements. I slowly learned that these elements weren’t only external but internal and that most of my externalized struggles were but reflections of the internal struggle I was facing within. My childhood expectations of how I should be raised seemed to come from an innate sense of the practices of historical Celtic Druidry but my lived life experience of the western protestantism my parents practiced flew in the face of that. My childhood self was anticipating the arrival of some Merlin, some Gandalf, some wise old Druid that would take me under his wing and show me the ancient forgotten tome of wisdom teaching me the secrets behind everything Christianity had taught me. I was expecting the equivalent of the reveal that Santa Claus isn’t real but I never got it and this continued disappointment turned into bitterness and then anger and resentment. Worse, add to the mix the discrimination I faced for being queer and things came to a disgusting boil.
Then the point was driven home in a form I wasn’t ready to handle and my need to finally face my internal battle was brought to bear; my paternal grandfather died. This is something I expounded upon in greater detail in my article in the previous edition of the Peacock Goat Review entitled “Don’t You Forget About Your Friend Death” so I won’t retread that ground here.
This working through my internal struggle came to a head when I purchased a copy of Thích Nhất Hạnh’s How to Live collection of books. His book on How to Fight stood out to me and I was drawn to it. It features a pair of boxing gloves on the cover and a red spine; it practically screamed Martial energy. I was expecting a book on activism, but despite the cover the book actually centers around finding the seeds of anger within and caring for them so that they turn into seeds of peace. There was one particular passage that hit me like a ton of bricks
“Your anger is the wounded child in you.”
When I read that, it was like the secrets of my lifelong struggle with my upbringing was revealed to me and I finally figured out how to loosen my grip and let go of all the hurt I had been holding onto. It broke me and I cried for over an hour. It was the most cathartic cry I think I have ever experienced and it felt wonderful. It was like I had been holding onto the end of a dagger of ice since I was a child and when I finally let go it melted in my hands taking all the pain away with a cool stream of water.
Since then I’ve been slowly sorting through all the pieces of myself and my ideas through a new lense. I’ve slowly come to realize that all the problems I had with Christianity had less to do with its teachings and more to do with the arrogance with which I was beat over the head with them as a child. At the core of their motivation was a number of mistranslations and misunderstandings of the source text. They didn’t harm me out of malice, they harmed me out of ignorance. Why should I hold onto that wound and allow it to continuously cause me pain when everything that caused it hasn’t been a part of my life in decades? Why should I allow the past to keep me from being able to have a relationship with my living relatives now?
Beyond that, I’ve finally let go of my struggles to find my identity. I no longer feel the need to cloak myself in a guise of beliefs imposed by this or that system in rebellion of the one I was raised in. I’m no longer fighting that system. It’s a part of who I am but it doesn’t define me. Everything is but a piece of the puzzle and if the pieces are busy fighting each other the picture will never be built. I am simply a witch; I don’t need to further define that to shove labels on it or rearrange things to fit some paradigm. The world itself is a paradigm. Nature is a paradigm. My own personality is a paradigm. It is enough on its own. It’s okay to simply be. I already have all of the conditions I need to be happy. I no longer feel the need to shove who I am into other people’s faces or wear it like a cloak to show the world who I am. I know who I am. I know what I’m doing and why. I no longer have to pretend not to care what they think as a defense mechanism, I simply have grown disinterested in it. I know my path and I’m going to walk it because it is compelling to me. I don’t need to define it in opposition to another one, their path may well coincide with mine and that’s fine too. I go this way because it’s the way I want to go. I have given up my scorpionic need for defiance and attack; my scorpion has transformed into an eagle.
Yesterday I finally took the final step in my healing process; I sent my dad an olive branch in the form of a translation of the New Testament which as been translated to be as close to the original text as possible. On the one hand it’s a symbol of my having finally let the pain and anger of my past go; I’ve stopped hating the Christianity I was raised on. On another hand it’s an effort of giving my dad a gift I think he will actually appreciate and use. Finally though, it’s an attempt at trying to rebuild the bridges that were burned in the past and attempt at rekindling the close relationship we had when I was young by giving us something to connect over.
I expect it to be delivered tomorrow. Tonight I intend on performing a Uranus initiation. To me, Uranus represents the wizard-mentor archetype I so desperately sought as a child and it feels like the next step in this journey. Time will tell where this leads but for now I am happy with where I a
Face the North, put on the shugurra crown, make the orans sign and recite:
I invoke you, Weila, God with intelligence; You who’s flesh formed the world; You who’s blood gave life to the earth;
I call upon you oh awesome and invisible god who’s gidim2 is Ala;
Hear me, dab-zu dengir dnamma dan dki dgeshtu-e daw-ilu dweila Subject to me all gidim2, so that every gidim2, whether líl or dug4, of ki or of kur, on bar-rim4 or in ab, and every nam-šub and uš11 might be obedient to me.
With you I have called upon Night, the Veiled Bride I have called on Twilight, Midnight and Dawn;
Hear me, dab-zu dengir dnamma dan dki dgeshtu-e daw-ilu dweila Subject to me all gidim2, so that every gidim2, whether líl or dug4, of ki or of kur, on bar-rim4 or in ab, and every nam-šub and uš11 might be obedient to me.
Deliver me from all restraining gidim2 and uš11.
Hear me, dea dnusku dasri-lú-du10den-ki dgira dšamaš dištar-šu dmarduk
O Asari, bestower of planting, founder of sowing, Creator of grain and plants, who caused the green herb to spring up! O Asaru-alim, who is revered in the house of counsel, who abounds in counsel, The gods paid homage, fear took hold upon them! O Asaru-alim-nuna, the mighty one, the light of the father who begat him, Who directs the decrees of An, Ninurta, and Enki! He was their patron, he ordained their offices; He, whose provision is abundance, goes forth! Tutu is he who created them anew;
I am your prophet to whom you have transmitted your mysteries;
the whole quintessence of sorcery!
Hear me, dab-zu dengir dnamma dan dki dgeshtu-e daw-ilu dweila Subject to me all gidim2, so that every gidim2, whether líl or dug4, of ki or of kur, on bar-rim4 or in ab, and every nam-šub and uš11 might be obedient to me.
Deliver me from all restraining gidim2 and uš11.
O dki, dki, yes dki!
dgiš-gim2-maš master of your curses, to whom zi-ud-su3-ra2 revealed his wisdom;
What you have ensourced, I know it!
What I have ensourced; you do not know it!
Hear me, for I am the messenger of King dbil-ga-maš, which is your true name, handed down to the en of uruunug. Hear me, dab-zu dengir dnamma dan dki dgeshtu-e daw-ilu dweila Subject to me all gidim2, so that every gidim2, whether líl or dug4, of ki or of kur, on bar-rim4 or in ab, and every nam-šub and uš11 might be obedient to me.
Deliver me from all restraining gidim2 and uš11.
Hear me, dnin-din-ug-ga dnin-a-ha-qud-du mulkak-si-šá dgibil dsȋn I am headless Weila, with sight in my feet; I am Gibil, the mighty one who possesses primeval fire; I am Utu, who hates the fact that unjust deeds are done in the world; I am Ninurta, who holds the mighty thunderbolt; I am Enlil, who’s sweat falls upon the earth as rain so that life can begin; I am Enki, who’s mouth speaks great wisdom; I am Inanna, who begets and destroys; I am Dumuzid, the consort of the queen of heaven; I am Ningizada, the entwining of serpents;
God, King, Master, Prince, empower my soul!
Quickly, quickly, o su-kal of dan! Come forth and follow.
*A note on pronunciation: the superscripts represents honorifics which are written to denote specific kinds of proper nouns, and should not be pronounced. The subscript numbers denote which variant of the sign is used and is added for scribal purposes and also should not be pronounced.
“Sumerian Language.” The Language Gulper, languagesgulper.com/eng/Sumerian_language.html.
Originally published in Peacock Goat Review Vol. 1 No. 4
This is likely going to be the hardest article I’ll ever write. I chose the topic at the beginning of the month. Neptune began its transit into Sextile Natal Uranus in my chart and I suddenly found myself profoundly interested in unordinary states of consciousness. This isn’t the first time I’ve found myself looking into this topic but this time it took a turn I wasn’t expecting. For a good week or so I listened to nothing but Terence McKenna lectures. There are two which really stood out to me; one where he talked about sharing DMT with shamans and their reaction to it and the beings which Terrence named the machine elves, and also one concerning the topic of insanity. These two lectures became the catalyst for the line of thinking that ultimately ballooned out into this article. I realized that his description of the DMT experience has some interesting parallels with Gilgamesh’s descent into the netherworld from Mesopotamian mythology and I decided I was going to make this the topic of my article. However, I had no idea just how personal this topic was about to become.
The title of this article comes from a song by the band Ghost entitled Pro Memoria. In many ways, death has become a near constant companion in my life over the past 3 years and in a lot of ways my magical path has been created and shaped by it. April 1st, 2015; that date will forever be stained with the emotional scars it left on my life. That was the day my mother died and my world was changed forever. My mother and I never had an ideal relationship. She was a Christian fundamentalist and I was born a rebel. We were both equally stubborn and single-minded and this meant we often argued. It isn’t incorrect to say that a large portion of my childhood was shaped primarily by this adversarial relationship. I saw myself as being a catalyst for everything she was against. In some ways that proved more true that either of us could know. Still; despite all this she was also my anchor. When I needed advice, she was there. When I needed help, she was there. When I just needed a shoulder to cry on; she was there…until she wasn’t. It was a long, slow path down that road.
She had been battling cancer for something around seven years before she finally met the hooded skeleton in the road and that time was like a slow rollercoaster ride into hell. Every time it seemed like she was almost cured and the cancer stopped showing up on screenings; it would come back and shatter our hopes and dreams again. It was like it was taking some kind of sick pleasure in messing with our expectations. Then one day I visited my mother in the hospital. I generally tried to avoid going to the hospital; seeing my mother all hooked up to machines and such was something I had a hard time handling. Partially because I’ve always been incredibly squeamish, and partially because I wasn’t ready to face the cold reality of my mother’s mortality. For whatever reason I made a point of going and I’m glad I did because the conversation we had is something that I will forever hold in my heart and all the sour and bitter notes it carries with it.
That day my mother had had another surgery. She’d had many by this point and every time they told us it was life or death but every time she had pulled through so it had become rather routine. I came into the hospital room and found my childhood friend there visiting with her too. We talked a bit and caught up some and after awhile she went home and it was just my mother and I in that room. I still remember all the details like it was yesterday. The horrible beeping of the heart monitor. The wind on the huge glass windows at the side of the room. The cars that passed on the street below as you looked out it, the disquieting dull panic from the hallway outside as nurses rushed from one patient to the next.
I still remember the voice of the nurse that brought my mom her last real meal. I didn’t see her face as I was busy staring out the window. I don’t like looking into people’s faces under good circumstances but she was also there to tend to the equipment that was hooked to the machine. She had a cheerful attitude and tried to mask her emotions but something in the waver in her voice told me what I and I think my mother already knew; the surgery had failed and this was it, cancer had won.
We didn’t know right away and in that time while my mom was eating that crummy hospital food that would ultimately be the last thing she ever tasted (Why do they make hospital food so horrible? Shouldn’t people’s last meals be something pleasant?) we had a conversation that would serve as a kind of bookend to this chapter of my life. She told me she wasn’t afraid to die but that she didn’t want to leave my sister and I behind. It was a hard conversation to have and I wanted to ask so much more; I wanted to know so much more but it broke me and I left somewhat prematurely soon after.
While this wasn’t the last time I spoke with her, it was the last time I really felt like she was my mother. After that, she was there but fading and it was like she wasn’t the same person anymore; like her soul was slowly leaking out of her body until there was nothing left and she lost consciousness. Then like the slow changeover of fall into winter which only becomes obvious at the first snowfall I didn’t have a mother anymore.
Since then I’ve lost both of my maternal grandparents, I’ve lost my great uncle who in many ways was like a third grandfather to me, another uncle and I’ve lost both of my paternal grandparents. My grandfather’s funeral was six days ago as of the writing of this article.
I took up the mantle of writing about death and like clockwork death raised her ugly hand and took another one. At my grandfather’s funeral my uncle-in-law told me something that’s echoed in my mind ever since he told me.
“He chose this, in a way.”
In ways I can’t even begin to describe coherently this one seemingly simple statement has turned into both the biggest weight on my recovery from this grief and also the catalyst for everything I’ve slowly come to realize over these past two weeks:
I’m slowly becoming a faceless ghost in reverse; and it’s making me wise.
In the Sumerian religion, one way someone becomes a faceless ghost is for them to be buried improperly and their living relatives forget them. Sumer was a society that placed a great deal of importance on ancestor worship. Giving food and drink offerings to your dead ancestors was seen as a way to honor them and give them a more pleasant time in the netherworld. The city of the dead was a rather unpleasant place where they are given “clay for food and dust for drink”, a description given often in myths concerning the land of the dead. In the Sumerian version of the Epic of Gilgamesh, Enkidu, Gilgamesh’s constant companion, enters the underworld on his behalf in order to retrieve something that was lost. When he returns Gilgamesh asks him about the fates of the various people who live there.
“Did you see him who had seven sons?”
“I saw him.”
“How does he fare?”
“As a companion of the gods, he sits on a throne and listens to judgements.”
“Did you see the spirit of him who has no funerary offerings?”
“I saw him.”
“How does he fare?”
“He eats the scraps and the crumbs…tossed out in the street.”
By this account my grandfather is like him who had seven sons and he is likely sitting on a throne right now listening to judgements as a companion of the gods.
In any case, I find myself slowly becoming like him who has no funerary offerings; one by one I’m finding myself all alone in this world. I’m becoming faceless. I am becoming no face. I am slowly becoming like a forgotten ancestor in reverse; not as one of the dead but as one of the living. In many ways this has been the realization of my greatest fear, but it has given me the gift of perspective. If there’s one solace in becoming death’s friend, it is that you stop fearing her. I know now that when she arrives to cart me off into the land of the dead I can go with her gladly.
Still beyond that, it has given me the gift of being able to stare at her face as my own. Early in my magical path I had an experience. I gazed into a darkened bathroom mirror and like a scrying surface it showed me what was hidden only instead of seeing a spirit or some hidden phantom I saw myself as a corpse; as the undead visage of death herself. It is an image forever burned into my memory like some kind of intellectual retinal scarring. It is something I’ve had to integrate into myself in order to move passed. I have become like death. I have destroyed worlds and shattered dreams.
This perspective has emboldened me to probe the depths of the underworld as one who calls it my home and as such I have dug up some very interesting parallels not just between the image of the underworld in the mesopotamian sources and the DMT experience, but also in the image within so many paths throughout the world.
When a person dies, the sumerian sources say that their soul is split into three pieces; the breath of life, the water of life, and the gidim. The breath of life returns to the sky under the domain of the god Enlil and the goddess Ninlil as one of the Lil; wind spirits which are often depicted as birds and can be thought of as sylphs; the spirits of the air.
The water of life…we don’t really know. Unfortunately this part of the text has been lost. Presumably it returns the the Abzu, the underground freshwater spring which also serves as the well of souls. This is my best guess based on the available information.
The gidim is the egoic part of the personality. It could be called the shadow or the shade. It is carried off into the netherworld by the galla demons. Their name literally means “seizer” and they are described as having claws that one can’t easily escape from. For whatever reason I’ve pictured them as looking like the Hopkinsville Goblins though they function not unlike dwarves; the spirits of the deep earth. This is the part of the soul where your consciousness resides and this is the one the Sumerians concerned themselves with when it came to their ideas of the afterlife. They drag your gidim into the underworld through the passage of a giant tunnel which runs so deep you can’t see a light at its end until you are most of the way through it. Gilgamesh only makes it through by passing without stopping so he knows he’s still going the right direction. Once they enter the underworld they must cross a river called the Hubur by catching the ferry which is manned by Si-lu-igi. In the Babylonian version of the Epic of Gilgamesh, he is called Urshanabi and he spends his free time collecting an as-of-yet untranslated type of snakes in the forest. This has an interesting parallel within Greek mythology in the river Styx and Kharon, its ferryman. Once across, one enters a kind of waiting area before the gates of the city of the dead. It is here that Gilgamesh meets Utnapishtim, the hero of the Babylonian flood myth, who tells him he can’t go any further as one of the living and tells him his story as a sort of consolation prize to bring back to the world of the living.
This is where Gilgamesh’s descent ends however other mesopotamian myths take this concept further. In the story of Inanna’s descent this is precisely where it picks up. At the gates of the city she meets Neti, the gatekeeper, who she beseeches to allow her entry. He warns her that this is a path from which she cannot return. He is instructed by Ereshkigal, the queen of the underworld, to let her through but to deal with her according to the ancient decree and so he does. At each gate he strips her of one item of clothing and lets her pass. She goes through seven gates and is then presented before Ereshkigal completely naked and she is judged.
This has some very important symbolism with direct parallels in both the DMT experience, in various magical traditions and in occult initiation.
Firstly, Taoism too teaches that at death the 3 parts of the soul separate and go their separate ways. In Taoism it is the Hun “cloud soul”, the Po “white soul” (the ghost) and the yang energy. The Yang energy disperses into the world around. The Hun returns to the heavens. The Po must descend into the underworld and release all of the yin energy it has penned up before it can ascend again and the cycle of life renew.
Beyond that, in Tibetan buddhism, it is taught that at death the soul must face a series of lights and depending on their karma will either be allowed to pass into Buddahood or be reincarnated into one of the six realms or “bardos”. Each stage represents a layer of stripping away of one’s egoic personality.
In the DMT experience as described by Terence McKenna, the experiencer first must breach the threshold of DMT needed to obtain a state called “breakthrough”. Once achieved, they find themselves traveling as if sucked violently through a long tunnel dumping them into a room full of bouncing spirits which has been nicknamed the “waiting room” who are excited to see them and happy to interact and show of neat tricks which Terrence called “machine elves”. For those who’ve followed up to this point you should already start to see strikingly similar geography to Gilgamesh’s descent though in a slightly different order; traveling across a threshold, passing through a tunnel and arriving in a waiting area. Where things get really interesting is when you consider what the shamen told Terence McKenna what they thought the spirits where; ancestors. Where Gilgamesh met Utnapishtim, the ancestor of his people, they met spirits they identified as their ancestors.
So now onto the occult significance. Firstly, Gilgamesh must first descend into the underworld by way of the tunnel. It takes him twelve leagues of walking before he reaches the other side. By the time this version of the story was written, the twelve signs of the zodiac had been settled upon by the Babylonian astrologers. Twelve was a sacred number in Mesopotamian culture at the time. They used a base 60 number system and 12 is one fifth of sixty which was a convenient fraction which is actually the reason our clocks have 12 hours but 60 seconds and 60 minutes. In any case, if we think of this in occult terms then we can think of it as the first astrological year of our initiation. In my case it represented slowly going through a dark night of the soul which only seemed to get darker and more despairing the further I went until I was back in the same sign I started in; Cancer, the most horribly named of the signs, where I met a girl I fell in love with.
Next, when Gilgamesh crossed the Hubur, he had smashed Utnapishtim’s typical mode of transportation so he made Gilgamesh create twelve poles to use to push him across. and think of using the twelve signs of the zodiac to push us along in our journey this starts to make a certain level of symbolic sense. Double this by the idea that we must face the twelve again then this sees a kind of secondary significance as the second year of initiation. We make tools, we use those tools to help us cross to the other side, but ultimately we must leave those tools behind. In my case, it wasn’t a tool I left behind but a person; It meant breaking up with that girl I had fallen in love with because I came to realize the relationship was destroying both of us.
Then we reach the shore and we are met with our ancestors. For me this came in the form of understanding my past and how all these various pieces came together to make me who I am. The circumstances of my birth, my parentage, my family, my heritage, my culture, my upbringing, my natural ideas about the world, my experiences, who I fell in love with, what I was interested in; all of everything that makes up the parts of my identity.
But facing it isn’t enough; we have to let it die. We have to let our ego die in order to pass. You can’t enter the land of the dead as one of the living. For me, it meant giving up everything I had built up around me defining who I was. I had to question everything and everyone I held dear. This ultimately meant leaving that relationship behind. One by one, gate by gate, sphere of initiation after sphere of initiation, I left the pieces of my ego behind me. It’s at these gates, at these spheres, that most people mistakenly think their initiation began, but the process started way before you perform your first ritual. The ritual comes more as an inevitable conclusion of where you’ve been than an actual conscious decision, though you might convince yourself otherwise. At the bottom of this cycle, I found myself naked, without form, faceless, before the incarnation of both death and birth herself, as a formless consciousness at the bottom of a vast abyss.
But death isn’t the end of the book, it’s only the end of the chapter. The next part of the descent of Inanna is that the spirits came, sent by Enki, the goat, lord of the waters of life, (which is also a Sumerian euphamism for semen) and revived her. She was given the tablet of the knowledge of the land of the dead. She understood death, she understood the spirit world. Then she ascended once more and was given her items of clothing back one by one until she emerges fully clothed but with a newfound wisdom gained by her experiences. In the same way, we must reconstruct our egoic consciousness one piece at a time from the inside-out in order to rebuild ourselves into the fully actualized spiritual being we are meant to become.
But like everything that still isn’t the end. Inanna’s story is part of what’s called in mythology a “cycle”. It was represented ritualistically in mesopotamia as a part of the rites for the coming of the seasons. It was repeated in public performances every year as the seasons changed. In the same way too, our cycle continues. One initiation isn’t the end, it’s only the first step on to the next, over and over, climbing the ladder of initiation, of epiphany, of seeing further and further into the heavens, seeing out into eternity. The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, but you have to keep walking to go on and when you get to the end, you come back home and start preparations for your next. Stagnation is a fate worse than death. Change is the lingua franca of life itself; perpetual dance.
I’ll end this the same way it began; with the lyrics of a song.
And just consider what we do everyday. Dances. The human dance. The flower dance. The bee dance. The giraffe dance. Do something rhythmic. Dance, sing, play games. There’s a sudden wonderful rhythm. Some people like to knit. Others just like to breathe! Now you see, our very existence is a rhythm. Waking, sleeping, eating, and moving. And that’s all we’re doing! And just consider what we do everyday. What’s it all about? Does it really mean anything, Does it go anywhere? Dances.
~from “Do Something Rhythmic”by Pogo
Black, Jeremy, et al. The Literature of Ancient Sumer. Oxford University Press, 2004. Dalley, Stephanie. Myths from Mesopotamia Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others. Oxford University Press, 2008.