Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Workshops offered by Dr Caroline Tully



Thelemic Witchcraft for Beginners    
Thelema is a Greek word meaning ‘will’ or ‘desire’. Join Caroline Tully in a beginner’s workshop on Thelemic Witchcraft, a form of New Aeon Witchcraft that focuses on methods for causing change in accordance with your will. Through practical ritual and discussion this old-but-new approach to Magick will be illuminated. Caroline has a background in various traditions of Witchcraft and Magick and is also an academic who studies ancient Mediterranean Pagan religions and their manifestation in the modern world. 

Ancient Mediterranean Witchcraft    
Ancient Greek mythology provides stories of princely heroes who seek out legendary sorceresses and their magical power. Witches acted as guides for figures such as Odysseus and Jason; men required to enter the feminine, womb-like space of the Underworld or to journey to the ends of the Earth. In later Roman literature, witches degenerated into cemetery-scouring hags; no longer sending the hero down to the Underworld, but instead bringing the realm of the dead up by performing necromantic rites.
Join Dr Caroline Tully in a workshop on Ancient Mediterranean Witchcraft that focuses on mythological witches, ancient magical techniques, and the inheritance of Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman magic evident in Wicca today. Through discussion and practical ritual, ancient approaches to magic will be revealed. Caroline has a background in various traditions of witchcraft and magic/k and is also an academic who studies ancient Mediterranean Pagan religions and their manifestation in the modern world.

Minoan Snake Goddess     
The Great Goddess was the original, and only, deity of humankind from the dawn of time up until around 3000 BCE, when Goddess-oriented cultures were conquered by patriarchal, warlike worshippers of a sky god. Late Bronze Age Minoan Crete (1750–1490 BCE) is considered to be the Goddess culture’s final flowering. According to Goddess History, Crete exhibits the last gasp of the feminine values associated with Goddess culture before it was wiped out by warlike, patriarchal Mycenaean Greeks. Before this time Minoan Crete was peaceful, worshipped the Great Goddess and her Dying and Rising Consort (who was also her son), and women and nature were respected.  
Join Dr Caroline Tully in a workshop on ancient Minoan religion, focussing on the Snake Goddess. On the island of Crete the snake appears in the worship of the female deity more repeatedly than anywhere else in the Mediterranean. Ancient artifacts have been unearthed that portray the Goddess or Her priestesses holding snakes in their hands or with them coiled about their bodies, revealing that they were an integral part of the religious rituals. Through discussion and practical ritual, contemporary approaches to Minoan religion will be revealed.
Caroline has a background in various traditions of witchcraft and magic/k and is also an academic who studies ancient Mediterranean Pagan religions and their manifestation in the modern world.

Death in Ancient Mythology     
The cycle of birth, death and rebirth is at the core of Pagan mythology. Many myths deal with journeys into the land of the dead. Often these are stories of descent and return. These myths show us how the cycle of birth, growth, death, and rebirth plays itself out in the seasons. Working with these myths, retelling the tales, and exploring them in guided journeys and meditations can help us deeply integrate our understanding of the circle of rebirth. Initiation rites found in most Pagan mystery religions, both ancient and modern, re-enact or are inspired by myths of descent into the Underworld and approach death through metaphor and ritual. This workshop explores Underworld myths of Inanna’s Descent, Demeter and Persephone, Orpheus and Eurydice, Circe and Odysseus, Aeneas and the Sybil, and others. We will explore ancient mythologies and practices around death, as well as Pagan ways of celebrating and mourning loved ones including funerary rites and ancestor reverence.
Dr Caroline Tully has a background in various traditions of witchcraft and magic/k and is also an academic who studies ancient Mediterranean Pagan religions and their manifestation in the modern world. 

Magical Gems and Jewellery, Healing, and the Stars      
Witches regularly wear occult jewellery: pentagram pendants, amber, jet, moonstone, coral, or even acorn necklaces; magical rings with special stones or symbolic designs; and lots of silver, the metal of the moon. Wearing jewellery is a form of communication: to the wearer to other people, and to hidden forces attracted by certain colours, substances and patterns.
Join Dr Caroline Tully in a workshop about magical gems and jewellery from ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt; ancient healing modalities and gods; and healing astrology. Learn about the stone amulets, empowering talismans, and protective jewellery of the Ancient World, and the spells used to activate them. Through discussion and practical ritual, contemporary approaches to healing magic will be revealed. Bring a piece of your own jewellery and through ritual we will draw down the stars to consecrate it to a healing deity. Participants will also take home their own moonstone amulet.

The Goddess Asherah, Ecopaganism, and the Anthropocene        
Biblical bad girl, Queen Jezebel, worshipped a tree goddess called Asherah, mentioned forty times in the Hebrew Bible. Ancient Israelites performed ritual “on every high hill and under every green tree” — an expression that occurs in the Bible fifteen times. Trees feature in the narratives about Abraham, who set up altars under sacred trees, and Moses, who spoke to Yahweh in the form of a burning bush. The most famous trees of the Bible are the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.
With all this tree worship, how did humanity became so divorced from nature that it caused its own geological epoch called the Anthropocene? Join Dr Caroline Tully in a workshop that looks at the environmental aspects of ancient Mediterranean religion, and ways that we can realign with the natural world today. We will also look at the tree as a conceptual map in Kabbalah, the relationship of the Tarot to the Tree of Life, and how we can return to Eden through scrying the Tarot trumps or pathworking. Participants are encouraged to bring their own Tarot cards (but it’s not essential).



Monday, March 16, 2020

Orphic Hymn to Hygeia


Charming queen of all, lovely and blooming, blessed Hygeia, mother of all, bringer of bliss, hear me. Through you vanish the illnesses that afflict man, through you every house blossoms to the fullness of joy. The arts thrive when the world desires you, O queen, loathed by Hades, the destroyer of souls. Apart from you all is without profit for men: wealth, the sweet giver of abundance for those who feast, fails, and man never reaches the many pains of old age. Goddess, come, ever-helpful to the initiates, keep away the evil, distress of unbearable diseases.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Workshop: The Goddess Asherah, Ecopaganism, and the Anthropocene, 28 March 2020, at Muses of Mystery


Biblical bad girl, Queen Jezebel, worshipped a tree goddess called Asherah, mentioned forty times in the Hebrew Bible. Ancient Israelites performed ritual “on every high hill and under every green tree” — an expression that occurs in the Bible fifteen times. Trees feature in the narratives about Abraham, who set up altars under sacred trees, and Moses, who spoke to Yahweh in the form of a burning bush. The most famous trees of the Bible are the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.
With all this tree worship, how did humanity became so divorced from nature that it caused its own geological epoch called the Anthropocene? Join Dr Caroline Tully in a workshop that looks at the environmental aspects of ancient Mediterranean religion, and ways that we can realign with the natural world today. We will also look at the tree as a conceptual map in Kabbalah, the relationship of the Tarot to the Tree of Life, and how we can return to Eden through scrying the Tarot trumps or pathworking. Participants are encouraged to bring their own Tarot cards (but it’s not essential).
Caroline has a background in various traditions of witchcraft and magic/k and is also an academic who studies ancient Mediterranean Pagan religions and their manifestation in the modern world.

28 March 2020
11 am to 2 pm at Muses of Mystery


Sunday, February 9, 2020

Workshop: Magical Gems and Jewellery, Healing, and the Stars, 7 March 2020, at Muses of Mystery


Witches regularly wear occult jewellery: pentagram pendants, amber, jet, moonstone, coral, or even acorn necklaces; magical rings with special stones or symbolic designs; and lots of silver, the metal of the moon. Wearing jewellery is a form of communication: to the wearer to other people, and to hidden forces attracted by certain colours, substances and patterns.
Join Dr Caroline Tully in a workshop about magical gems and jewellery from ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt; ancient healing modalities and gods; and healing astrology. Learn about the stone amulets, empowering talismans, and protective jewellery of the Ancient World, and the spells used to activate them. Through discussion and practical ritual, contemporary approaches to healing magic will be revealed. Bring a piece of your own jewellery and through ritual we will draw down the stars to consecrate it to a healing deity. Participants will also take home their own moonstone amulet.
Caroline has a background in various traditions of witchcraft and magic/k and is also an academic who studies ancient Mediterranean Pagan religions and their manifestation in the modern world.
11 am to 2 pm



Thursday, January 30, 2020

Minoan Fairies? Hovering human figures in the glyptic art of Late Bronze Age Crete


This is an interview I did with Simon Young which appeared in the Fairy Investigation Society Newsletter 2, New Series, Jul 2015.

SY: Caroline, first of all thanks so much for talking to us. Could you start by telling us something about what you are studying and how you got there?

CT: I did a PhD at the University of Melbourne, Australia, on what can be generally termed ‘nature worship’ in Late Bronze Age or ‘Minoan’ Crete. It involved looking at images and sites in Crete and Greece and at comparative material from Cyprus, the Levant and Egypt. I focused on miniature images engraved upon gold rings and stone seals dating to the Cretan Neopalatial Period (ca.1750–1430 BCE) that depict human figures interacting with the landscape through religious activity focused upon trees, stones and mountains, as seen in Figure 1, as well as the actual sites where such activity may have occurred.

 

Figure 1. Minoan style gold ring from Mycenae, Greece.

I came to this topic through a lifelong interest in religion – specifically ancient religion – and art. I have a background in art and craft and worked as a medieval style tapestry weaver at the Australian Tapestry Workshop for fourteen years, before going back to university in 2004 and starting my PhD in 2009. I also have a background in nature religion, having been involved in Contemporary Paganism since 1985, before which I was a rather disinterested Catholic. In the case of Minoan religion I am interested in what appears to be a communicative relationship between humans and the landscape, expressed through ritual, which suggests that the Minoans perceived the landscape as animate.

Many images on the gold rings feature full-sized human figures apparently communicating with tiny hovering human figures that seem to emerge from the sky or in the vicinity of trees and rocks, as can be seen in Figures 2, 3 and 4. In Minoan archaeology these have traditionally been interpreted as ‘envisioned epiphany’ scenes, meaning that they are thought to depict a vision of a deity or spirit that the human figure in the image is experiencing.


 Figure 2. Drawing of the bezel of a Minoan gold ring (Ashmolean Museum).

Figure 3. Drawing of the bezel of a gold ring from Elateia, Greece.


 Figure 4. Drawing of the bezel of a Bronze ring from Khania, Crete.

SY: Now many people reading this will be saying what has this to do with fairies? Well, I’m presenting here Figure 5 from a recent article of yours. Can you explain what the image we are looking at shows and why it might be argued that this is a particularly early depiction of a fairy?

Figure 5. Drawing of the bezel of a gold ring from Isopata, Crete.

CT: As you can see in Figure 5, a tiny female figure hovers in the upper right of the image while four larger human figures appear to be in an ecstatic state, possibly dancing. Other objects hover in the sky as well, such as an eye, a snake, and a possible shooting star or bean pod (we don’t really know what it is, some think it might be a sprig of wheat) and perhaps a small container, but it is the tiny human figure that I’m suggesting is akin to what we might term a fairy. I’m not the first one to suggest this; Lucy Goodison proposed the same thing in her book Holy Trees and Other Ecological Surprises (Just Press, 2010).

In examples where hovering human figures seem to emerge from trees, as in Figure 6, I tend to think that what we might be looking at are what were termed in ancient Greece ‘Tree Nymphs’, which were long-lived – but not necessarily immortal – numina of trees. There are other types of nymphs as well, but generally they tend to live in natural places such as in forests and on mountains rather than cities. Although Crete is part of the Greek Islands today, the ancient Minoans were not Greek, but I think that such figures emerging from trees express the same idea as the Greek nymph.


 Figure 6. Drawing of a clay sealing from Haghia Triada, Crete.

Not all Minoan examples are associated with trees; some appear in conjunction with architectural structures such as buildings, stone altars or boats, as can be seen in Figures 7 and 8.

Figure 7. Drawing of a clay sealing from Zakros.


 Figure 8. Drawing of the bezel of a gold ring from Amnissos, Crete.


SY: So these would be boat or building spirits?

CT: Well, in Figure 7 the hovering figure seems to emerge from what might be either a building rendered in small scale or an altar structure that has what are termed in Minoan archaeology ‘Horns of Consecration’(stylized bull’s horns and/or possibly the Egyptian sign for the horizon consisting of two stylized mountain peaks with a valley in between them) on top of it. Whether it is a building or an altar, the Horns of Consecration suggest that it is a sacred structure, so this hovering figure is probably indicating some sort of numen of the structure. There is also a small altar on the right with a plant on top of it which a full-sized male figure is leaning over. In Figure 8 the hovering figure, while above a boat, actually emerges from a tree or branch that is also hovering above the boat, so I think this is some sort of numen of the wood that the boat is made from. Boats were considered to be alive in the Bronze and Iron Age Mediterranean, as evidenced by texts from the Levantine city of Ugarit (on the Syrian coast opposite Cyprus) that speak of a boat being ‘killed’ by a storm. Maritime archaeologist, Sara A. Rich, has suggested that Levantine cedar wood ship masts were considered to be manifestations of the tree goddess, Asherah. It may have been the case in Crete as well that the animate tree continued being inhabited by its numen after it was turned into a boat.  

Whatever the location of the tiny hovering figures in the Minoan images, I think they represent a communicative relationship between a human being and a spirit of the environment. In Greek literature, only heroes and heroines (think Achilles or Helen in the Iliad) saw supernatural beings in anthropomorphic form, often because they were half-divine themselves or especially favoured by the gods. Other people had to settle for seeing such beings in their natural forms for example, the god Zeus as a thunder storm or Athena as a shooting star. This might be what we are looking at in Figure 9.

In the examples on the Minoan rings the human figures who see the tiny hovering figures may be claiming to have a more intimate relationship with the animate environment ‒ which manifests to them in anthropomorphic form ‒ than those who see shooting stars, birds, insects, or symbols, as seen in Figure 9. A spirit that takes a human form is easier for an actual human being to relate to and may suggest a particular type of skill or special quality of the human that gives them the ability to see the supernatural being in human form. Of course ‘supernatural’ isn’t really the right word here, as this is not occurring outside of or beyond nature. I should say ‘numen’, meaning the spirit or divine power presiding over a thing or place.   

Figure 9. Drawing of the bezel of a gold ring from Vapheio, Greece.

In these particular examples, being on gold rings owned by elite Minoan administrators and perhaps rulers, it is these types of people who are claiming to have an intimate relationship with the animate world around them and who may also have had priestly roles within their society. This does not preclude the regular people of ancient Crete also having a relationship with the numina of the environment, and they probably did, but the artwork that depicts these images was commissioned by and belonged to the palatial elites.

SY: You rightly point out that there is a lot of uncertainty here. This is, after all, a civilization with no usable written records: that is we can’t yet read their writing. The images are open to many different interpretations. But if we accept that there are ‘spirits’ of some kind here what kind of spirits are they likely to be? Some talk of spirits of the dead, others nature spirits? Are these, thinking of arguments about fairies in Britain and Ireland, perhaps the same thing in the end?   

CT: That’s right, the scripts of Minoan Crete (Cretan Hieroglyphic and Linear A) are not translated so in deciphering Minoan religion we have to rely on images and archaeological sites, as well making comparative analogies with other societies. Yes, the Minoan examples may have been both spirits of the human dead and animate aspects of the natural world at the same time. We don’t really know what the Minoans thought about where the dead went when they left their human bodies, but in some cultures ritual offerings are given to the dead for a certain amount of time, or the remains of the dead are treated in a particular way for a specific period, until it is deemed that they have moved from the realm of the human dead (which could be earthbound or in an otherworld) to the realm of the ancestors.

The ancestors may not be so much in an ‘other’ place, as in another state of being, and may return to, or manifest in, familiar earthly locales. In some cultures ancestors are associated with the chthonic, earthly gods, or with the celestial deities and the stars. Sometimes more elite ancestors have a more comfortable afterlife while regular people have a correspondingly ordinary afterlife. The Minoan hovering figures could certainly be ancestors and of course, as you say, British and Irish fairies are associated with the dead. I still think, however, that they emerge from within the real world rather than come from some remote unknowable place outside the world.   
  
SY: So if we can just back up for a minute: Let’s take this argument on trust for a moment and call these being ‘fairies’. Is this perhaps the oldest depiction of a fairy in the world?

CT: Well, it depends on what you think a fairy is. In British and Irish fairy lore and in Scottish Witch Trial confessions, fairies are not really always small, some are human sized but are recognised as fairies by their clothes – either green or very old fashioned – again crossing over with ghosts of the dead (old clothes) and spirits of nature (green clothes). If fairies are actually signs of communication between human beings and their environment, which I think they are, then they can be classified as a category of deity – if you think that deities are anthropomorphized aspects of the natural and cultural world, which I do. In that case, these Minoan images would not be the oldest images of fairies, as they only date to the Late Bronze Age, which really isn’t that old.  

SY: I’ve spent quite a lot of the afternoon looking at these images and it strikes me that many of the ‘fairies’ we are seeing are ‘winged’: what is it with ‘fairies’ (and other spirits) and wings?

CT: Well, actually, what you’re looking at is traditionally interpreted in Minoan archaeology as their hair which is rendered as a series of dots (Figures 2, 3, 4, 5). It is thought that the rows of upwards curving dots behind the tiny figures is their hair being blown upwards as they descend from the air. Some scholars have suggested than rather than hovering, the figures are just really far away and that is why they appear so small. Their billowing hair, along with their pointed feet suggest that they are not standing on the ground however but are floating, rather than being located in the distance of the image. But, the hair could be interpreted as wings – some of them don’t have any noticeable hair at all though (Figures 6, 7, 8).You can also see dots in the sky in Figure 10. These have been interpreted as either the horizon or as bees heading for a beehive situated in the far left of the image.

As for fairies and wings, I’m not sure how old the image of the winged fairy is. Certainly the cute butterfly-like fairy is a Victorian construct, but I’m not sure about other periods. The fairies that the Scottish witches dealt with were human sized and not winged as far as I know. Different cultures will have different looking fairies, but I suspect the wings are related to their ability to fly as well as their non-human, rather insect-like natures – they don’t usually have bird’s wings, do they? Although many ancient deities certainly took on the forms of birds and some of the Minoan rings depict birds swooping down toward human figures in some sort of swoon, as can be seen in Figure 10.


Figure 10. Drawing of the bezel of a gold ring from Kalyvia, Crete.

SY: Let’s leave these fascinating images behind for a moment. We know that in other parts of the world and throughout history shamans, witches and magicians had spirit assistants, which they sometimes called fairies. Is this relationship between a man and woman of power and a, let’s call it, ‘familiar’, pretty much universal in human societies?

CT: I suspect so, but not for everyone. Some people are simply not the slightest bit interested in dealing with the hidden or ‘occult’ realms. And sometimes the person who does deal with what we may call for convenience the Otherworld is accepted and revered by their society and has a high status, and other times they are disapproved of, shunned and even persecuted. In the Minoan examples elites were showing that they had a special communicative relationship with the animate landscape, so in this society it must have had a positive – even prestigious – value. In other cultures, especially when not part of official religion, interaction with spirits can have a very low, even criminal, status as we see in the European Witch trials.  

SY: If an Isobel Gowdie, the Scottish witch condemned for trafficking with fairies in 1662, was to come back today and meet our modern fairy shamans and fairy seers would she feel kinship? Is there continuity between the men and woman of power who see fairies in 2015 and those who were the brokers between the spirit world and this world three or four hundred years ago?

CT: I think that people from the past such as Isobel Gowdie who believed in and had converse with fairies – by whatever name they called them, elves, brownies, piskies, lords and ladies –would find common ground with people who do this today. There may be cultural differences, the fairies may have different names or look different, the reasons why people converse with them today may be different to those in say, mid-seventeenth century Scotland when Isobel Gowdie was around, but the general idea is the same. I think fairies are a way to speak to nature. I know that sounds rather naive and romantic in this post-industrial world, but I don’t mean it in an escapist way, but rather as an actual method by which one can intuit information about our world. Does that mean that I think fairies are metaphors? No, but I don’t think they – or gods for that matter – really have human forms. I think that is a disguise they wear so they don’t confuse or even frighten us by their real forms. I think we find it easier to relate to them when they are in anthropomorphic form. If fairies are a way by which human beings can relate to the world around them, attempt to gain access to knowledge that may otherwise be unobtainable, bring good fortune upon ourselves, and avert illness and bad luck, then I do think that we have continuity with historical figures who interacted with fairies. But, I don’t think that in 2015 we can unlearn the advances in science of the last three hundred and fifty-plus years that separate us from a fairy witch such as Isobel Gowdie, which might make some of us more self-conscious and less spontaneous in our adventures into the realm of fairy.  

SY: Caroline, Thanks so much!

Thanks to Professor Ingo Pini and the Corpus der Minoischen und Mykenischen Siegel for permission to reproduce these images.  



Thursday, December 5, 2019

Theion Publishing



I’m honoured and excited to be working with David Beth and Jessica Grote of Theion Publishing on a new creative project. Stay tuned for updates on that.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Isis Priests of the Lineage of Scota


Today Bloomsbury publishers announced that they had advance copies of the book, Ancient Egypt in the Modern Imagination: Art Literature and Culture, edited by Eleanor Dobson and Nichola Tonks, in which I have a chapter, and that they were sending them out to contributors – Wooo!

My chapter is called “Celtic Egyptians: Isis Priests of the Lineage of Scota”. Here’s the Abstract:

This paper analyses and critiques the uses of ancient Egyptian religion by the founders of two modern manifestations of the worship of the goddess Isis. Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, the primary creative genius behind the famous British occult group, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and his wife Moina Mathers established a mystery religion of Isis in fin de si├Ęcle Paris. Lawrence Durdin-Robertson, his wife Pamela and his sister Olivia created the Fellowship of Isis in Ireland in the early 1970s. Although separated by over half a century and not directly associated with each other, both groups have several characteristics in common. Each combined their worship of an ancient Egyptian goddess with an interest in the Celtic Revival; both claimed that their priestly lineages derived directly from the Egyptian princess Scota, foundress of Ireland and Scotland according to Irish and Scottish mythology and pseudohistory; and both groups used dramatic ritual and theatrical events as avenues for the promulgation of their Isis cults.

It is argued here that while both the Parisian mysteries of Isis and the Fellowship of Isis are historically-inaccurate syncretic constructions, they exemplify the enduring popularity of the Egyptian goddess Isis who since antiquity has been appropriated and re-fashioned in order to serve as a symbol of the zeitgeist. Already in Pharaonic and Roman Egypt, Isis was a universal goddess within whom other goddesses were subsumed. In subsequent centuries, so flexible was the figure of Isis that she was even claimed to have been a goddess of the Druids.

The tradition of an Egyptian origin of the peoples of Scotland and Ireland, as espoused in the medieval myth of the Egyptian princess Scota, legitimised the Mathers’s and the Durdin-Robertson’s claims of their ancient Egyptian priesthood. In addition to asserting that the Isis cult was brought by Scota, Pharaonic Egyptian, Graeco-Roman, Medieval, Hermetic, and Romantic literary and archaeological sources were utilised in order to construct their understanding of Isis. That Isis was recreated according to the abilities and concerns of the founders of the Parisian mysteries and the Fellowship of Isis is evident from examination of eye-witness reports of ritual performances, occult theatre, personal interviews, missives, and explanatory texts. It is determined that both groups favoured an ahistorical construction of the goddess as an eternal, mysterious, magical figure representative of universal harmony, unity and nature, which appealed to late-nineteenth and twentieth century Pagan sensibilities.

Neither the Parisian mysteries of Isis nor the Fellowship of Isis has been the focus of much critical scholarship to date, and the use of the medieval myth of Scota by these figures has never been analysed. This paper builds upon previous research on the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and contemporary Pagan religions, particularly the author’s examination of its prime movers; Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, Florence Farr, and Aleister Crowley; the Order’s utilisation of ancient Egyptian religion; and its influence on the emergence of the modern Pagan movement in the mid-twentieth century.

Keywords: Isis, Scota, Celts, occult theatre