Sacristy painting commissioned by the Observant Franciscans. The catalogue description did not give many details, but I would guess by the costumes that this was made somewhere between 1560’s to 1580’s. The theme of the Dance of Death was hugely popular throughout multiple periods of European history, and saw a particular revival after the 1538 series by Master Holbein the Younger, whose works were widely distributed with the advent of the printing press.
Credit: The dance of death. Oil painting.. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY
Last night was my first Ritual with Ghost–front and center! Devilish joy filled the air, and even though it was the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, the energy was high! The Nameless Ghouls are so very talented and animated, and Cardinal Copia is a gosh darn good fellow. And of course, singing all the good old Satanic hymns at the top of my lungs while the Clergy are mere feet away was a religious experience for me. It was also very nice to have like minded people around. Ghost fans are good folk. I had such a perfect time 🙂
Master herbalist and historian of magic, Sarah Anne Lawless, has written a detailed article about the false origins and current state of Neopaganism (including modern areligious magicians) in the world today. From the failure of the American Council of Witches and the money-grabbing tactics of Llewellyn, to the crime of spiritual/cultural appropriations so many magical practitioners are guilty of in these times. Most important to me is her expert distinction between actual tradition and “fakelore”–shit that is made up by witches and passed on as if it were ancient! This ties into another theme she’s written about here and what I have also touched on in the BoF, escapism. Neopaganism today is not the fairy tale “religion” many wish it was. Go read this article yourself because it is something that needs to be said!
For the past six years I’ve been attending an annual Grand Sabbat with the local pagan gathering at the time of Samhain. It has become a cherished tradition with me and my friends. Unfortunately for us, each year the attendance seems to basically fall by around 50%. I won’t name them here but sadly I realized this year that it is a group of pagans in decline. Each year not only has the attendance dwindled, but the quality and size of the group ritual has gone downhill every time.
This year I brought seven of my friends (who were all dressed to the Nines in their witchy attire, ugh such queens!) to the Sabbat, and we were approached like total outsiders (which I guess we were since this is a tight-knit “community”). One very nice Druid welcomed us and recognized me, but there were just so many people with absolutely no social skills whatever. We were basically threatened with violence by this crone who ended up being the High Priestess that night, just for sitting somewhere she didn’t want us. And the thing is…I sense this socially awkward vibe at every pagan group I’ve attended from the cypress domes of the Everglades to the high-towered streets of Manhattan. And I get it. I get it. Modern day paganism represents a separation from mainstream culture, so there are many rebels and free spirits among the meadows. My hope is that this is just part of American neuroticism, you know? Maybe these people are the gatekeepers of their particular “nerd culture”, and so they react to an outsider with cringe-worthy antics lacking all social grace. I suspect that the internal society of pagan practitioners, so liberal in their embrace of the weird and outré, have a hard time saying “No” to their neighbors or correcting each other fraternally when there are faux pas afoot. Like I said though, this is an outsider’s perspective.
Which brings me to my second point. This “Grand Sabbat” was the smallest I had ever seen. It was also as socially awkward as the rest of the evening. Three years ago at this same event, 100 of us were entranced in a spiral dance around the great fire, whizzing with the beating of drums and flutes into a frenzy under the stars and planets, in a wide open meadow encircled with the glow of torchlight. Six years ago, we processed down a hill to the gathering place where we lifted the Veil and burned the effigy of a fallen warrior, then shared food and drink with the spirits of our ancestors. This year it was like drinking flat market-brand room temperature soda. So disappointing.
Human beings are built for ritual. Ritual is so deeply entrenched in our species that it predates civilization, even language itself! When we participate in group rituals, especially one such as this which is Nature-oriented, we need to let go of our inhibitions and join Her. It should be a communal and mystical experience. Ritual should lift our spirits to higher awareness and dissolve our egos. That is why I never half-ass any ritual. I go full in with the smells, the bells, the thunder of drums and the clashing cymbals, the harp and flute, the light and the darkness all mingling together. And most of all, I pour my goddamn heart and soul into the work I am doing because I BELIEVE what I am doing has merit.
That’s why I will no longer be attending the Grand Sabbat at this grove. Next year we will have a more intimate gathering on our own, and we will leave the ritual space changed and energized.
And I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication. And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. – Apocalypse, Ch. 17
Persephone, Daughter of Zeus, blessed
Only begotten, gracious Goddess, receive this good offering,
Much honoured, you, overpowered by Pluto, you are beloved and lifegiving,
You hold the doors of Hades under the depths of the earth;
Transactor of Justice, your beloved hair the sacred olive branch of the enemy
Mother of the Eumenides, Queen of the Underworld, You, maiden from Zeus through secret begetting.
Mother of loud-shouting, many-shaped Bacchus.
Playmate of the moving seasons, lightbringing, of beautiful form,
Holy, ruler of all, maiden, showering fruits,
Radiant, horned, you alone are longed for by mortals.
You are Spring, delighting in fragrant meadows
Your sacred body appears to us in growing fruits and branches.
Raped into your marriage bed in the late autumn
You alone are life and death to distressed mortals.
Persephone. You are forever the nourisher and the death bringer.
Listen, blessed Goddess and send up fruits from the earth
In peace, flourishing in health from your soothing hand;
And, in life abundance, leading to richness of old age
Then to your realm O Sovereign, and to powerful Pluto.
With the current events surrounding the 300 priests in Pennsylvania who sexually abused more than 1,000 children, talk of priestly celibacy has the internet all abuzz again, as well as people like the Catholic League, The Church Militant, and more than one archbishop trying to shove the blame back onto this “gay cabal” that has taken over the church. Gee it’s almost as if no change has been made between today and 2002, when clerical sexual abuse cover-ups first became widely known.
Fear not, you faggoty confrères, for I have found for you some fascinating, fitting and fortuitous magical formulae to help fulfill the fondness you feel for fornication with the fledgling young fellows in your flock!
Yes, while flagellation, castration and public denial are some of the oldest tricks in your book, I went digging and found older tricks from older books. Let’s look at some!
Petrus Hispanus, who may have also been known as Pope John XXI, wrote in his Thesaurus pauperum about an ointment made of hemlock and mandrake that could be slathered on your testicles to take away sexual desire (Here translated into English by Humfrey Lloyd in the 1500’s):
13th Century Remedy Against Male Desire
“Hemlockes bound to a mans stones, take vtterly away all desyre of copulacion. If Opium, Henbane sede, & mā∣drage be mynglid wyth wax & oyle, in the whyche they haue soden, and the members therwith be anoynted and a plaster therof beyng made, & bound vnto the coddes, it taketh a∣waye the desyer of copulacion. Anoynte oftentymes the mem∣bres, with the ioyce of Nyght shade Singrene, and vyneger. Al men and inespecially Diosco∣rides sayeth that P•per, Rue, Tut∣sayne, Calamint, Castoreum, waste the s•de of generacyon, (by driuing it vp) of there p•opretie and stronge heate. Item let the yarde be anoyntyd wt oyle, wherin Camfore hath ben re∣solued, and he shall haue no feruent desyre to it. I a man eate the flowers of a sal∣low or wyllowe tree, or of a Poplet tree, they wyl make cold al the heate of carnall lust in hym. Bene flouer made in forme of a plaster and bound vnto the pryuye members of a boy, quenchith al con¦cupiscence and sufferth not heares to growe ther. Lettys sede dryethe vp the seede, & quenchith the desyer of copulacon. Anonte the priuie members wyth •he ioyce of Hēbane, and the carnal concupiscence shalbe quenchid ther¦by.”
FYI this book also includes instructions and remedies on contraception and menstruation as well—a lot to ask from a pope!
This may be a case of fighting fire with fire, as the 12th century abbess and polymath Hildegard of Bingen writes that the mandrake is a lusty plant which… “because of its similarity with Man’s image, lies in wait with the Devil’s temptations more than other plants. Whence, according to his pleasures, whether it be good or bad, Man is aroused, just as once he romped with pagan gods.”
Elsewhere in her book Liber subtilitatum diversarum natuarum creaturarum (I-56), she gives us a counter spell for those men who, because of magical influence, couldn’t keep their cocks in their pants. They should wash a FEMALE (or male if he liked boys) mandrake root and tie it to their abdomen for three days and three nights, then remove the root, split it in two, and tie it then to his thighs for three more days. He would then pulverize the right arm of the root and swallow the powder.
A small sample of early Christian Shamanism can be found in the story of the mandrake, which was also used by lay folk for insomnia as well as invigoration, but which could easily be taken too much resulting in death. The sexual powers of mandrake were not unknown during the Middle Ages, as even Agrippa noted its use among pagan and early Christian potioneers as a potent aphrodisiac, and an offering by Grecian whores to the goddess Venus (De incertitudine et vanitate scientiarum liber, 203)
Agrippa, Heinrichus Cornelius. (XVI century). De incertitudine et vanitate scientiarum liber. Retrieved from Google Books
Hatsis, T. (2015). Witches ointment – the secret history of psychedelic magic. Inner Traditions Bear And Comp.
Lloyde, Humphrey. (XVI century) [Manuscript]. The treasury of healthe conteynyng many profitable medycines gathered out of Hypocrates, Galen and Auycen, by one Petrus Hyspanus [and] translated into Englysh by Hymfre Lloyde who hath added thereunto the causes and sygnes of every disease, wyth the Aphorismes of Hypocrates and Iacobus de Partybus redacted to a certayne order according to the membres of mans body, and a compendiouse table conteynyng the purginge and confortatyue medycynes, wyth the exposicyo[n] of certayne names [and] weyghtes in this boke contayned wyth an epystle of Diocles vnto kyng Antigonus. Retrieved from Early English Books Online
von Bingen, Hildegard. (XII century). Physica: Liber subtilitatum diversarum naturarum creaturarum. Retrieved from Google Books
As promised, and thanks to my fellow supporters who donated to their cause, the Satanic Temple has brought the infamous statue of Baphomet to the grounds of the Arkansas Capitol to confront the primacy of place usurped by the Christians and their precious 10 Commandments statue. Dear Arkansas would-be theocrats, this is what you get when you ignore the Establishment Clause of the United States constitution. The Christians will see this and flip their wigs, cry “persecution” and call this the End of Days. All we want is to keep our government free from religious influence of any kind. There has been a recent internal drama within the leadership of TST but I hope they will continue their work around the country with the same zeal and ardor as always.
The Limbourg brothers (who likely died of plague) were famous for their inventive use of bold colors, including the blue featured in this folio, which was actually made from dust of lapis lazuli in gum arabic.
“Him the Almighty Power
Hurled headlong flaming from th’ ethereal sky
With hideous ruin and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire,
Who durst defy th’ Omnipotent to arms.” – John Milton, Paradise Lost