On Initiation, Fate, and Law

The following is adapted from an answer I gave to a post on a list.  I’ve edited it to only include my one words and ideas and for clarity now that the context is removed, and to remove things that shouldn’t be said publicly.  I’m going to ramble a bit, touching on a large number of subjects.  Just remember, I don’t know anything, just like everyone else.  😉  So take it with a grain of salt and your mileage may vary.

Sir Galahad as conceived
by George Frederick
Watts (1817–1904).

So, first, Initiation.  Though Feri initiation is unique to Feri, as Victor developed some key parts of it after his own initiation, at its core, it’s the same as Initiation found the world over, from the shamans of Northern Asia to the Greek Mystery Religions to the native tribes of Australia, North America, and South America.  And everywhere in between.  It’s the Welsh vigil on a hill in the dark of night in a storm alone with the spirits.  It’s the spirit journey to find yourself in the smoke in the forests of the Amazon.  It’s the Christian baptism.  It’s Odin cutting out his eye for wisdom, or him hanging upside down from the world tree for nine days, a spear in his side, a sacrifice of himself to himself.  It’s the ordeal of the Graal Knight, alone seeking the Castle Perilous, having to answer the question, “What is the secret of the Graal (or what is the meaning of these things), and whom does it serve?”, which is the same question as, “Who is this flower above me?  What is the work of this god?  I would know myself in all my parts.”1  Ultimately, in whatever form, Initiation is two things that are really one.  First, it is death and rebirth, torn apart by the spirits and put back together, the same person but changed, never to return.  Second, marriage to the gods and spirits, the becoming a Priest/ess.  As Cora says in Fifty Years:

“Initiation does not make you a full-blown highly trained Witch. In initiation you literally marry the Goddess, her dual consort and the Gods, whether you are male or female. In speaking to her priest the Goddess says, “I love you with the same love with which a mortal woman loves you, but raised to the power of divinity.” To her priestess she says, “I love you with the love with which a man or woman loves you, but raised to the power of divinity.” Always remember that in the deepest sense the man you love as life companion or in passing is your son, brother and lover and should be treated with love and respect as yourself and other half.”2

This, of course, begs the question of what is a Priest/ess.  Rather than make this too long, here’s my post about the subject, my own experience and ideas, of course, not “Orthodox Feri”, and almost a year ago now, so my thoughts may have changed some:

http://muninnskiss.grimr.org/2011/06/on-priests-priestesses-bridges-and.html 

Back to my list above, the idea of Initiation as the ordeal of the Graal Knight leads me to the next discussion, Karma.

Lady Justice

First off, before I explain that, I’ll say this, personally, I don’t believe in Karma, the Western broken version or the Eastern version.  The Western version is really an attempt to take the modern Christian idea of justice verses grace, or more accurately, the Medieval ideas of Lady Justice and Lady Liberty which forms much of the modern Western mythology of Government (Lady Fate got lost somewhere, as un-Christian), and make it less “Christian” by rebaptising it as Karma.  It is personified as that which spanks us if he do bad and rewards us when we do good, basically the way many modern people view the Christian god.  Though even the Medieval concept was different from that.  Lady Justice is blind.  She weighs the deeds but has no personal stake in it, no personal connection to the individual or their actions.  This is much closer to the Eastern (original) version of Karma, which is impersonal and very much a cause and effect, just on a level that’s both physical (Yin) and spiritual (Yang).  Remember, Yin and Yang in China are not two opposing forces but are two side of the same thing, connected, impossible to separate, and the Yin side can be further divided in Yin and Yang, and likewise the Yang side, a continuum, rather than duality.  Same thing in Karma, which originated in the Indian Subcontinent.  Science sees physical cause and effect.  Karma includes those, but allows for spiritual and non-linear effects.  But Karma is a principle in the world, not a god or spirit or entity like Western Karma tends to be seen.  Karma is more like Fate, but doesn’t really fully describe the way I see Fate.  Which brings me back to the Graal.

Robert Cochrane said:

Some groups seek fulfillment in mystic experience – this is correct if one does not forget the duty of ‘involvement’ – the prime duty of the wise. It is not enough to see The Lady, it is better to serve Her and Her will by being involved in humanity, and the process of Fate (The single name of all God’s is ‘Fate’). In fate, and the overcoming of fate is the true Graal, for from this inspiration comes, and death is defeated. There is no fate so terrible that it cannot be overcome – whether by a literal victory gained by action and in time, or the deeper victory of spirit in the lonely battle of the self, Fate is the trial, the Castle Perilous in which we all meet to win or to die – Therefore, the People are concerned with Fate –for humanity is greater than the Gods’, although not as great as the Goddess. When Man triumphs, fate stops and the Gods are defeated – so you understand the meaning of magic now. Magic and religion are aids to overcome Fate, and Fate is a cradle that rocks the infant spirit.

Now you know what ‘witches’ are.3

To me, this is the heart of witchcraft, of magic, of Feri (though it’s from a different stream).  “In fate, and the overcoming of fate is the true Graal, for from this inspiration comes, and death is defeated.”  How is death defeated?  In surviving it.  That’s what initiation is.  But, on to Fate.  What is Fate?  “The single name of all Gods”.  Elsewhere, Cochrane talks about cords and their use in witchcraft (which I’ll get back to).  There, he says, “They appear to have originated from the woven strands of Old Fate, the major deity of all true witches.”4  “The major deity of all true witches.”  This is important I think.

I don’t see Fate much in Feri writing or teaching, but She’s there, both as the Star Goddess, and as the Three Mothers (the term used in Clan of Tubal Cain, a British witchcraft tradition), the Three Hooded Ones.  I’ve only seen Feri references to the Hooded ones (often called the Cowled Ones in British traditions) in two Feri poems, so I won’t dwell heavily on the Feri lore, but I will look at some other places.

There’s a Greek creation with that tells of Chronos and Ananke, serpentine with three heads each (Chronos’, Time’s, heads are obviously the past, the present, and the future; Ananke’s are Fate, Destiny, and Necessity) curled around an egg.  Their movement around each other broke open the egg and Eros was born, along with the mud that solidified into Gaia, and the water that became Oceanus.  From Eros came Nyx and Erubus, Night and Darkness, who gave birth to Day and Light.  Chronos and Ananke came from Chaos, but those three seem to always have been there.  The movement of Chronos and Ananke’s coils keep the heavens and earth turning, the stars and planets (including moon and sun) moving, the seasons changing, the tides turning, the lives of gods and men moving forward.  Time and Fate are the two moving forces of the universe that even the gods are subject to.

The Moirae

But closer to the topic, with Zeus, Ananke had three daughters (or Chronos with Nyx, depending on the story), the Moirae, the Fates.  Clotho spins the thread of our life, setting the initial path. Lachesis measures the thread, determines what will happen during the lifetime.  Atropos cuts the thread, determines the death of the person.  Even the gods are subject to these three (except Zeus in some versions, as their father).  But man can overcome their Fate, hence why the demigods like Perseus and Hercules are so important, with the power and strength of the gods but the ability to overcome Fate like men.  (The Three Mothers are also seen in the Furies and the Graces.)

The Norns

In Norse belief, we find the Norns (there are many norns, but there are three main ones), very similar to the Fates of Greece, three daughters of giant-kin who control the Threads of Wyrd, with power over gods and men.

They appear many other places in Indo-European myth, from Ireland to India, and other places as well.  Even in Jewish Kabbalah with the Three Mothers, Shin, Alpha, and Mem, Fire, Air, and Water.  You even find them in Taoism if you know where to look.

But where I was going with this is Wyrd.  In my belief, Wyrd is the Threads of Fate that bind us together and determine each of our paths, and the paths of the universe.  It is the Chinese web that has no weaver, it is Buddhist and Hindu Karma, it is Greek Fate, it is the Soul Spark of Kabbalah.  Imagine a huge web, stretching forever in all directions in space and time.  There are an infinite number of threads, an infinite number of paths, an infinite number of possibilities.  But there are knots tied in this web, in these threads.  These knots limit the options, direct where things can go, control the past and the future.  Withing each of our Godselfs, there is a bundle of Threads at the middle.  These are our Wyrd, our Fate.  These Threads connect to the rest of the web.  These Threads determine our options, our choices, our future.  We received them from our (physical and spiritual) ancestors, and they came tied in knots to other threads, limiting us.  But each action we take, each world spoken, each choice we make, binds new knots or looses old knots, limits or expands our options.  Cause and effect.

I talked more on Wyrd and webs in this blog post, if you’re interested:

http://muninnskiss.grimr.org/2011/10/on-centres-actions-webs-and-spiders.html

Getting back to “In fate, and the overcoming of fate is the true Graal, for from this inspiration comes, and death is defeated.”  Most people go through life on autopilot, essentially.  They let Fate dictate to them their choices.  They think they are deciding, but they’re really just following the Threads, letting the existing knots determine the outcome.  Eastern Enlightenment, Western Gnosis, is the realization of those Threads and our ability to change them.  To step back from the web and look at it and consciously change it, to untie a knot here, tie a knot there, and change the course of history.  To write your own Fate.  This is truly what witchcraft is, the binding and loosing of the Threads of Fate.  Once you move past letting Fate dictate, you enter the realms of Destiny and Necessity.  Destiny is what Crowley was talking about when he talked about True Will.  “Love is the Law, Love under Will.”5  It’s what we can truly be if we take the reigns of our life instead of submitting them to Fate.  As the Feri Maxim goes, “never submit your life force to another.”  Necessity is what Cochrane talks about when he says in his witch ‘Law’, “Do not do what you desire – do what is necessary.”6  Once we can see the web and know we can make the decisions, that we can create Change, we can see clearly what is necessary to accomplish what needs to be done.  This is fully integrated, of course.  It takes Fetch, Talker, and Godself to truly see the web, and see the Necessity.

And, the mention of Love being the whole Law brings me to the next subject.  Love and Law are of course both part of the Pearl Pentacle in Feri.  But they can’t exist without Knowledge, Wisdom, and Liberty/Power, either.  To just act without thought means there is no Knowledge involved.  No Point can be left out, or you are out of balance and can’t act rightly.

Sophia

Going back to the discussion of Lady Liberty and Lady Justice, ultimately Dame Justice in Medieval thought is Law in the Pearl.  Dame Liberty is Liberty/Power, of course.  But Dame Wisdom, Sophia of the Greeks and Gnostics, got lost along the way.  The White Goddess of Robert Graves fame has become an integral part of modern paganism and witchcraft (both trad craft and Wicca), but the Black Goddess, Sophia, the deeper mysteries, has been ignored by most.  The White Goddess really stands as Fate and the Three Mothers, modernly seen as the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone, though this misses a lot.  But I’m on a tangent that I can’t pull back, so I’ll leave this one for now.

Law, Dame Justice, as relating to Dharma, the Laws that define how the universe work, is not really separate from Fate.  It is the workings of Chronos and Ananke, of Time and Fate/Destiny/Necessity that govern the things of the universe.  None of the Points function in isolation, they are really one and the same, just as they are in the Iron Pentacle.  Fate, Karma, is the movement, the Yin.  Law, Dharma, is the stillness, Yang.  Both come from the Tao but aren’t the Tao, they are part of the Te of the Tao, the virtue, the properties if you will.

The Tao begot one.
One begot two.
Two begot three.
And three begot the ten thousand things.7

The Tao and the One, are God Herself, the Star Goddess, the Uncreated, the Fountain of All, the Nagara.

The Two of course, are Yin and Yang, the Divine Twins, the Tvennr, their constant Dance as Lovers and Fighters being the constant change in the world, Chaos, from which Chronos and Ananke proceed.

The Three are the Three Mothers, the Three Cowled Ones that proceeded the gods, the Grimr.  They are seen are the three heads of Chronos and the three heads of Ananke.  They brought Order to the Chaos, though not stability, for they are always in movement.  In Kabbalah, the Three Fathers come from the Three Mothers, though they are really the same.

The Ten Thousand Things is the Chinese poetic description of all that is.

Of these Ten Thousand Things, we find seven, the Guardians, the Watchers, the Seven Stars in the Sky, the Vordr.  They are stillness and the foundation.  The static forces that hold the universe together if you will.  The ultimate teachers.  If the Three Mothers are Fate and Karma, the Guardians are Law and Darma.

To the next subject.  As I said above, to act in a deliberate way, a way that creates Change rather than lets Fate determine the course, requires all parts of us (“I would know myself in all my parts”).  There tends to be an emphasis in Feri to steer away from Talker, seeing Talker as bad, but this is mostly reactionary to a culture where Talker rules.  Talker has a purpose and is necessary.  Fetch cannot plan, as Fetch has no concept of Time.  Fetch only wants what she wants and wants it now, has no ability to abstain or say no to desires.  Talker is needed for these.  But Talker isn’t always right, either.  There is a time to plan and a time to act without thought or planning.  There is a time to abstain and a time to feed your desires.  Both are necessary and shouldn’t be ignored.  And Godself understands the big picture of the universe, but has little ability to understand the little things that make up life.  Godself without Fetch can’t meet the needs of the body and souls.  Godself without Talker can’t make the little discussions that can get us to the ultimate Goal, the Graal.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time of war, and a time of peace.8

Hmmm, I said I’d come back to Cochrane’s discussion on cords.

He starts out with:

Mrs. Basford has raised an interesting point about the real purpose of cords, harvest twine, string dolls, etc. They appear to have originated from the woven strands of Old Fate, the major deity of all true witches. They are, of course, the origin of such descriptive terms as “spellbinders.” When worked up properly they should contain many different parts–herbs, feathers and impedimenta of the particular charm. They are generally referred to in the trade as “ladders,” or in some cases as “garlands,” and have much the same meaning as the three crosses. That is they can contain three blessings, three curses, or three wishes. A witch also possesses a devotional ladder, by which she may climb to meditational heights, knotted to similar pattern as the Catholic rosary.

I began a blog post on the subject of roots that included a discussion of blessings and curses, binding and loosing, but it expanded into an article I’m going to submit to a magazine so was never posted, so I’ll include an excerpt here:

There are basically two ways to do magic.  You can bind or you can loose.  You can curse or you can bless.  Both ways can be used to do the same thing, if you’re clever and cunning.  In healing, you can either bless (improve the patient’s ability to fight off the infection or to heal the damage) and loose (release the patient from the illness), or you can curse (kill the infection) and bind (hold back the infection or attacker to give room to heal).  It is hard to bless and loose from darkness, and hard to heal and bind from light.  But we both have both in us, as do all things, the Twins in the Great Dance, Shining Bright One and Shadowy Darkling.  We can use our darkness, our impurities, our demons to heal, just as much as we can use our light, our purity, our innocence, our angels.  While plants and woods like aspen or apple might be used in the loosing and blessing way, blackthorn, and the poisons I listed above, usually comes from the other side, killing the infection, removing the cause.

The wording Cochrane uses is important here, I think.  “They appear to have originated from the woven strands of Old Fate, the major deity of all true witches.”  The web of the Threads of Fate isn’t just pathways, it is Herself.  The web isn’t just a metaphor, it is the Truth behind what we see, the Brahma behind Maya.  When a witch takes objects and ties them into a cord, s/he is taking the physical “reality” and binding the Threads of Fate, the “stuff” of God Herself, around that reality, forcing a change.

Cochrane says later:

Basically the cords of binding, as used today, are worked upon with mistaken enthusiasm. Originally they were cords of Fate, woven and bound into a charm for a defined purpose. Sometimes shaped into a semblance of the object or person to be influenced, they were also hung on a gatepost or nailed near to the object or person, preferably in a public place, as an indication of intent. In an Italian spell, the ladder is actually placed in the bed of the person to be enchanted. A beautiful witch ladder, incidentally, was once found in a church belfry: presumably one of the Old Craft could not sleep late on Sunday mornings because of the racket of the bells!

Charms made this way have interesting ramification in understanding Wyrd and Fate.  You can read the whole article (originally published in 1965 in Pentagram)  here:

http://www.1734-witchcraft.org/cords.html

Anyway, I’ve rambled enough.  Hopefully you find some kernels of grain among these tares.

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

1 Flower Prayer found in Feri, originally from KaHuna
2 Fifty Years in the Feri Tradition by Cora Anderson, available from Harpy Books at http://www.harpybooks.com/Catalog/Fifty-Years-in-the-Feri-Tradition.shtml or Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0006RMANM/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=grimr-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0006RMANM
3 From Robert Cochrane’s second letter to Joe Wilson, written in 1966, found here: http://www.1734-witchcraft.org/lettertwo.html
4 From On Cords by Robert Cochrane, originally published in 1965 in Pentagram, available here: http://www.1734-witchcraft.org/cords.html
5 From Liber AL vel Legis, the Book of the Law, by Aleister Crowley, found here: http://www.sacred-texts.com/oto/engccxx.htm
6 From Robert Cochrane’s sixth letter to Joe Wilson, written in 1966, found here: http://www.1734-witchcraft.org/lettersix.html
7 From section 42 of the Tao Te Ching, originally written by Lao Tzu.  This translation is by Jonathan Star.  A copy with his translation can be found at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1585426180/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=grimr-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1585426180
8 Ecclesiates 3:1-8, King James Version of the Bible, formatting mine.  In context, see http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ecclesiastes+3&version=KJV