Sunday, January 30, 2011

Australian Lughnasad

Australian Lughnasad falls on the 1st of February (or, to be strict according to the stars, the 4th February). Gemini is high in the eastern night sky, followed subsequently by Cancer, and Leo's brightest star appears low on the horizon. In the south of Australia, this is late summer, often much hotter than Litha itself, and bushfire danger is high. Some birds begin to fly north, bogong moths emerge and are preyed upon by kestrels, the beautiful gum emperor caterpillars inhabit eucalypts, native trout spawn, and Tasmanian devils begin mating.

In northern Australia it is the time of the late monsoon. In January, February and March, the weather can manifest in furious cyclones that may last for several days, bringing torrential rains. Forests can be devastated, large trees uprooted or stripped of nearly all their foliage, and animals have difficulty finding food. The heavy thunderstorms mean that the land is readily flooded. It is the maximum growth period for native vegetables although they are not ready to harvest, magpie geese and brolgas lay their eggs, estuarine crocodiles hatch, and platypus juveniles venture out of their burows for the first time.

Lughnasad. The drums beat out a steady pulse as we move deosil within the circle's boundary, round and round we dance. Hands rise, clash the cymbals, shake the tambourine. Arms outstretched, whirl on the spot, hair streaming. Oscillating between two poles of consciousness: the drums a lulling heartbeat, the percussion a harsh awakening. Drum--clash, step--whirl, rise--plunge, relax--tense, calm--storm.

Into the circle spin Bushfire and Cyclone, volatile deities of the season. One clad in raggedy red, the other in tattered dark blue, costumes trailing behind them like two Chinese dragons. Travelling widdershins, dancing separately and then together, they rush the perimeter, circling the edge and returning to the centre, creating a chaotic vortex of energy.

Arms linked, we dance back-to-back, the ground tilts, the sky is inverted, and the elements mix in the topsy-turvy world of the sabbat.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

It's confirmed that I'm Confirmed

Well, yesterday I went before the Chambre Ardente (I just cannot resist mentioning one of my favourite, unrelated in any way, pieces of witchcraft history here: the Affair of the Poisons, it has absolutely nothing to do with this post except for the evocative name of the chamber! I guess I just have to romanticise and Gothicise everything out of all proportion, all of the time!). This 'chambre' consisted of two archaeologists and a historian and I was in there in order to be assessed in regards to my first year of PhD research. In the US it's called 'Defending your Dissertation' I think. We call it 'Confirmation' as it means you become a confirmed PhD candidate rather than a probationer. The exprience was a bit like an initiation, but only really in regards to waiting outside the 'temple', entering it, being grilled, going out to the Chamber of Reflection while further mysteries occurred within the chambre, coming back into the temple, some further grilling, and then success! Now I understand what Ronald Hutton was saying in one of his books - I think it was 'Witches, Druids and King Arthur' - about academia being a kind of secret society into which one penetrates through ascending grades, and I'm paraphrasing of course, as I'm too lazy to look up the reference, even though the book is not 2 meters away. Anyway, I'm decorating this post with a Mark Ryden animated tree, as that's what my PhD topic is on, but in the prehistoric Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Fire and Water

Well, if the news reports are anything to go by - and they definately are - Australia at this time of the year is certainly living up to the seasons according to my southern hemisphere sabbat calendar [pictured]. While it's a bit early for Lughnasad here - only two weeks early - a large amount of Australia is being severely flooded, primarily in the north, but also in the south. Only two summers ago it was being severely burned. Both extremes, I suggest in my chapter on the southern hemisphere sabbats in 'Practising the Witch's Craft', are aspects of our Lughnasad.

It is a season of extremes and contradictions. Bushfires in the south and cyclones in the north threaten to engulf the land, and yet, the water regenerates the indigenous plant life and so too does the bushfire: many native seeds require burning before germination. Life and death dance upon the same ground. This is a time to appreciate the inscrutable wisdom and power of nature. Earth is the cauldron and all beings are transmuted by her alchemy.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Crowley and Liber AL article

Huzzah! My article, 'Walk Like an Egyptian: Egypt as Authority in Aleister Crowley's Reception of The Book of the Law ' that I've been talking about for quite a while is now available in electronic version. (You need a subscription or a university or other library that can get it for you). So, please do read it and tell me what you think.