In the House of the Spirits – Offering, Exchange and Sacrifice27 November 2012
NOTE: This essay is underscored by my experiences as a Wild(Wood) Witch, possessed of the Cunning and Shamanic Charge, and as a Spirit-Worker and Vessel (possessory and oracular) in the Worlds.
This essay is dedicated to Pipaluk – my dear friend, student and teacher.
A few months ago I had a discussion inside the context of a Shamanic Craft Apprenticeship session (via skype) with my long-distance student Pipaluk, who resides in the Netherlands. We were speaking on the broader shamanic concepts related to experiential understandings of Deity, the Gods, the Spirits and our connection as Shamanic and Wild Witches with them. We are traditionally spirit-workers after all. Everything is a Spirit; Everything is a God. This is a key concept in a variety of contemporary Craft traditions, including WildWood and Anderson Feri. As Victor Anderson, one of the late Grandmasters of the tradition, would say, we Witches have a lot more in common with the Shinto and Ainu of Japan than the medieval or Renaissance ceremonial magicians. We work with dynamic momentum and reside in the Chaotic Still Centre of the Living Cosmos as present, aligned and holy beings (aware of this and practised in this awareness) rather than as dictators of an ordered, mechanistic machine. I acknowledge that the latter is an extreme representation of ceremonial magical traditions as a whole, but I am referring to a populist and perhaps misled understanding and practice of Western Occult/Esoteric systems, versus the true adepts that I have met and respected.
Before I can speak on the nature of Offering, Exchange and Sacrifice in the context of Relationships with the Spirits, I have to first define what I mean by Spirit, and indeed ‘Deity’, or a God.
A Spirit is an Embodied (Everything is Physical, Everything Possesses [a] Body) Potency/Force; a sense of self-awareness resides within the Spirit, and is the animating quality. This may not necessarily be measured or quantified by the rationalistic-scientific concepts of ‘sentience’, i.e. a Stone is a Spirit because it is expressed as possessing form and body and knows itself as a Stone and presents this (in) Nature.
A Deity (God/dess) is a Spirit that is so self-aware of Its Self-Caused Origins that It, like the First Mother/Great Goddess, is so intoxicated by Its own Image and Reflection caused by the Dance of Light (the Stuff of Stars) that the Phenomenal Edges of ‘Personhood’ dissolve and settle in such a way that the God becomes (Pro)Active Story; an Altar of Myth. All of this is Most Profoundly Real.
All Deities, in these Experiential, Ontological and Theological understandings and relationships, are therefore ‘Christ-like’ (of the teachings of the nature of God in the Mystic) in the sense that there is a conscious sacrifice of the ‘phenomenal edges’ of human-like being-ness for the service and celebration of Conscious Peoples. I often feel that some deities, some Gods (I use this in a completely genderful and genderless way), are closer to our humanity than others. In fact, some of these Great Spirits (Hidden Potencies) were, according to traditional legend and oral teachings, once human themselves. We are all Gods-in-Process; after all we take after God Herself, and as T. Thorn Coyle would say: “God Herself is in process.”
This is, in a sense, a mystical-initiatory and Mystery-oriented perspective; however, it derives from my own experiences as a Shamanic Witch and traditional spirit-worker. In understanding the above how could I not offer to the Gods, to the Great Spirits, to All the Spirits; for when I enter Their Houses I have access to the Timeless, to the Mythic, to the Stuff of Story. Perhaps each Individual Deity – Kali, Odin, Lugh, Yemaya, et al – draws upon certain Eternal Qualities and Emanations of God Herself and thus becomes possessed of what the late Carl G. Jung named ‘Archetypes’ which do not just dwell in our Personal Minds, but in the ‘Collective Unconscious’ inter-penetrating each of us – we arise from the Unconscious Darkness that is God Herself’s Breathless Space. However, taking this into consideration, it is also true for me that God Herself, the Divine All, is Plural and Infinite in Myriad Expressions and therefore All Spirits (All of Us) are possessed of a very unique, sacred and potent Story of Own Holy Self. Many Rivers, flowing from and returning to the Great Ocean.
When I enter the House of the Spirit(s), and enter the Temple of Aphrodite (perhaps, as I do often), I bring an offering of Form and therefore Force, to simply express my love and adoration of the Potency, Story and Mythic Deep Well that is Aphrodite. This is the first ‘kind’ of Offering – a simple proffering of gratitude for sharing sacred space and time, and an adoration of the Holy Spirit of the God. It comes from My God (my Star Soul – my Higher-Deeper Self) and therefore is a consolidation of the bridge that connects our Spirits. It is, as they say, polite, but not done out of obligation or even necessity. When we visit each others’ homes in the human realm many of us will bring gifts of food, drink, art and even stories to tell. All of these are wonderful offerings to share.
There are offerings to seal a ‘bargain’ or work of Exchange to be crossed between Spirits. These offerings come out of a sense of the ‘rightness’ of the ‘exchange of energy’ between Spirits. Now a Pagan who is not a Witch, Cunning Person or Shaman may feel that they are appeasing the Spirits by doing this and securing the benevolence of the indwelling Spirits for another cycle onward. A Witch knows that the Spirits (not all of them) actually wish to be in relationship with the People and thus the exchange is sorcerous in the context of workings and prayers/propitiations. The kind of offering depends also on whether one is relying on custom and tradition (what the People know that Spirit likes as offering/exchange because of continued and observed relationship) or on personal dialogue and conversation with the Spirit(s). For instance, I am a priest-lover of the God Hermes and while I know from eight years of offering and sacrificing to Hermes in the spirit of gratitude, adoration and sorcerous exchange what He adores and prefers, Hermes is also a Trickster and rather comical and lustful, therefore in recent times when I have asked the God what He would like in exchange for fulfilled prayers and aid in workings He has expressed that He would very much like to make love with me directly. In fact this has been arranged for tomorrow evening (on a Wednesday); and has happened spontaneously several times before. He also recently, after securing my friend’s unlocked car in a dangerous location and ensuring it remained stationary for that time, decided that He would like me to, in exchange, approach the next parrot with red and green plumage (and a little bit of blue) and whisper to it, “Disaster is funny.” I took on the challenge! The next night I was watching a random episode of Family Guy on a free-to-air channel and Peter decided to become a pirate because of a rather awesome parrot he met at the vet’s surgery. This parrot was red and green (with a little bit of blue) and I immediately recognised the trickster and hilarious nature of this synchronicity, so I crawled up to the television and whispered “Disaster is funny” to the on-screen parrot. Working with the Spirits is not without its laughter and bizarre happenings.
What of Sacrifice? To make sacred? This is a mystery. The true nature of sacrifice concerns being willing to be open, vulnerable and to trust and surrender to the Mystery, under the auspices of one’s Sovereignty; if we do not have our Sovereignty then what is the Sacrifice worth? I will not make sacrifice, as mentioned above, to appease or placate anything necessarily, as the concept of anthropomorphising the Cosmic Forces, many of which are Gods and Great Spirits, is ridiculous in its obvious anthropocentrism; not everything is standardised or qualified, in the cosmic, by its relationship to our species. So therefore sacrifice is a willingness to be in Chaos and Uncertainty (Infinite Possibility) with Each Other. To sacrifice is to pause for a sacred moment, become still, and consciously observe and listen. Here we learn and the Mystery flows through and we receive initiation again and again, as a Gift of Grace. We give Sacrifice to mark the deep and powerful meaning of these epiphanies and great potency is released to feed Our Own and All the Gods. To make sacred means exactly that – to make the Sacred with the Mystery.
“I reside in the House of the Spirits – always and forever.
First I pray to My Own Holy Self, and to the God Who Crowns My Souls – May I know my Mystery and drink Deep of my Well.
I pray also to the Great Spirits who Circle Me in Allyship – May we work in and from Love, Truth and Wisdom to reveal and revel in the Beauty of Paradise together.
I pray to the Infinite God Herself, the Grandmother of Breathless Space and the Midnight Hour, I pray to the Weaver that the Wyrd is Well and may I be well with the Wyrd.”