Third Time is the Charm

I’ve tried to keep my mouth shut, but I can no longer let certain things go by without comment. I am quite sure I will offend some of the True Faithful, but that cannot be helped.

I am here today to speak aloud these words: J K Rowling is wrong. In fact, not only is she wrong about two things she thinks that she got wrong, but actually got right; Rowling is also wrong about something she thinks she got right, but actually got completely wrong.

Many would have you believe that the wrongs J K Rowling has unleashed on the world are something along the lines of an inappropriately out of the closet Dumbledore, the traumatic death of Dumbledore (for entirely unrelated reasons to his homosexuality), rampant incipient Satanism and Witchcraft, and any number of those sorts of things. But, no. I’m fine will all that, as should you be as well. I’m talking about more important issues here!

Three strikes and you’re out, right? You know that thing where you write something the first time and then try to re-write it but nothing is better than the first thing you wrote, only now you’ve lost that because of your subsequent changes? Yeah. That. Someone needs to take the pen out of J K Rowling’s hand. She’s drunk and should go home. Let me demonstrate:

The First Wrong of J K Rowling

Oh, so many moons ago, I read that J K Rowling no longer liked the opening to the first book. I can’t quite just now find a reference. But, what I remember is that she wished she had re-written the opening of the first book to be more obvious in genre setting and quicker into the story, instead of the way it appears in print.

She is wrong.

The opening is delightful in how it starts out normal and slowly the increasing number of owls reveals to the reader and the character of Mr Dursley just how abnormal the world really is. I know that there is advice out there, I forget from whom, about making clear in the very first sentence what genre one is in, but I absolutely adore the way normality melts away in the opening of the first book. Moreover, we get to be present at the very moment when Mr Dursley’s sanity dissolves and he becomes unhinged. And, I will abide no loose talk about changing that feature.

The Second Wrong of J K Rowling

Recently, J K Rowling has publicly stated that Harry and Hermione should have gotten together, and she regretted that they didn’t. This is an idea which should be killed in its crib … but, um, successfully this time.

She is wrong.

First off, even if Hermione wanted to end up with Harry at any point, there is no way that Hermione would have stabbed her friend Ginny in the back like that. In order to double-cross Ginny like that Hermione would have to become a selfish narcissist instead of who she was, and that would have been against her very character, and if allowed would have been the beginning of the end for everyone, because without a good-at-heart Hermione everything would have fallen apart and fizzled into infinite darkness under the real Dark Lord.

But, I’d argue that the fact that Harry and Hermione didn’t end up together is part of what helped Harry not turn into his father, and merely repeat the same story as the previous generation acted out. And, all the other characters would have fallen into enacting the same systemic failures demonstrated in the flashbacks and revelations about how completely shitty the Marauders really were to everyone else. Ginny saved Harry, not the other way around; because it was in Harry’s relationship with Ginny that he became a fully functioning and feeling adult; and it was always in Hermione’s hands how this entire story unfolded.

You think I’m overstating that? Let me put it this way: Harry had absolutely no apparent talent of his own until he discovered he was a natural at Quidditch. And, there is no way that Harry would have ever been discovered and joined the team if Hermione hadn’t used a fully functional and useful spell to repair Harry’s glasses in the very first book so Harry could actually see anything at all.

And, there’s no way Hermoine would have ended up with someone with a complete absence of actual magical aptitude … um, okay, at least Ron could play chess and throw gnomes like nobody’s business! And, red hair! They made beautiful babies, so shut up!

In fact, I bet, by the end, Hermione full and well realized that without the Horcrux in his head, Harry Potter was nothing more than a magically inept, whiney rich jock who liked to beat up on goth kids. There’s no way she would have gone for someone like that … well, you know, after she learned her lesson from how it didn’t work out with Victor Krum, anyway.

The Third Wrong of J K Rowling

J K Rowling lost the plot in the end. Yes, the entire end of the series was screwed up. Harry was no hero, for reasons I think I’ve already detailed. So, the only other kid left, and someone mentioned specifically in the books as fulfilling the same prophecy as Harry supposedly did: Neville Longbottom.

Rowling would have you believe that Harry was the hero and saved the day after coming back to life, a pathetic attempt to twist the actual truth and instead turn Harry into a risen Christ figure.

She is wrong.

In fact, without the stolen power of the Horcrux in his head and the overly patient coddling of whiz kid Hermione and the army of people around him doing all the actual work, Harry Potter would have been nothing better than how Neville Longbottom is portrayed throughout most of the series. But even still, the truth will out. You cannot deny that Neville Longbottom steps up, grows a pair, and stands up to Voldemort, and if he had half as much preparation as Harry did there’s no telling what he could have done. Probably have sealed things up behind the scenes of book three while Harry was busy being freaked out about what turns out to be his escaped petting zoo godfather.

In fact, even still, Harry died. That Harry died killed Voldemort’s horcrux in his head and left both Voldemort and Harry relatively powerless, there’s sympathy and contagion between these two that people only vaguely realize, after all. As the inaccurate Rowling version of events unfolded, unless Voldemort went completely off the rails and challenged Harry to a Quidditch match … (Hey, dumber things have been known to happen, people!) there really was no longer any chance for Voldemort at all, really just a matter of time, if he didn’t simply die at that moment the last Horcrux was broken, by Voldemort killing Harry, who is merely a functional and folkloric double of himself. And Harry should have stayed dead, or transformed into the Dark Lord he was always incipiently to become, which would have left Neville Longbottom to fulfill his destiny as the person referenced in the prophecy as the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord, i.e., to kill Zombie Harry, back from the dead to assume his rightful rôle in the succession scheme of evil! And, in a beautiful Delphic-style twist, the assumption that the Dark Lord mentioned in the prophecy refers to Voldemort is simply a mistake only revealed in hindsight: the one who lives is Neville and the Dark Lord is actually what snivelly rich jock Harry of the future cycle of the generational system would become! And, there was some guy named Voldemort who died too, but no one really remembers what he had to do with anything.

And, shit, people, just look at pictures of Neville nowadays and just try to tell me that guy doesn’t look like a real Big Goddamned Hero who pretty much towers over Harry, who went off to become some kind of Auror, like, pshaw, whatever, prance around like a naked pony on stage, and write Beat poetry.

Secret societies, societies with secrets, and societies with spoilers

When thinking about secrets and mysteries in practice, I’ve long tossed about the idea of a difference between secret societies, societies with secrets and a society without spoilers. Especially in this day when so much is being made available online, but that really is just a matter of scale when there are plenty of historical examples of similar things, such as Aleister Crowley revealing the initiatory rituals of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn as serialized in the pages of the Equinox, the varied publication and exposé of so much Freemasonic ritual, and so forth.

There are still some pretty legitimately secret societies, which while well-known to exist are not revealed, such as the Skull and Bones society, and recently breaking the Copiale cipher seemed to tantalizingly promise that there might be still some complex and completely unknown societies, at least until it was revealed the material was pretty clearly Freemasonic in nature. But for the most part, I object that when people talk about secret societies they are engaged in flights of fancy about group about which not only their existence but much of their particulars are known. Quite often, of course, such wild imaginings are part and parcel with an agenda of fear mongering, but even still there are otherwise sane and rational people talking about certain societies as if they were actually not completely or almost completely public. Certainly Freemasonic tradition and ritual cannot rationally be called secret anymore, and the membership is in the habit of parading around, not to mention things like having decals on their cars and fobs on their keychains, and thus it cannot be called a secret society. Even traditional boogeymen like Aleister Crowley and Ordo Templi Orientis can only by the slimmest margin come anywhere near being called a secret society, with websites, public spaces, public event calendars, and so forth. There may indeed be legitimately unavailable secrets still, for example within A∴A∴, but that’s not enough to call these fraternal orders by the name of a secret society. In these cases there’s perhaps some legitimate secrets, but there must also be a practical recognition that most material related to these groups is available, outside the structured system of the society itself, somewhere, if one wants to find it.

Of course, just as much as one can avoid spoilers for movies and books and other things sequentially revealed, it is possible to avoid, for the most part, much of that material. It is not that there are no spoilers. Rather that spoilers do very much exist. Which is to say, the existence of spoilers requires one to decide to avoid the spoilers in order to fully enjoy the reveal. This is quite different from a society that pretends it doesn’t exist to outsiders, or a known society with things that it keeps secret.


There are modern examples of working with secrets within esoteric systems, and there’s clearly something interesting going on around secrets. There is smoke pointing to something important and useful at the source. There’s a tension, perhaps much as it ever was, between the urge to make information available and the various efficacies of secrets. T Thorn Coyle wrote a bit about the division in Feri between what had been called the “Mystery tradition” and the “public religion” factions, at “The Sundering of Feri“. Thorn, of course, also runs an online Mystery School. I was trying to find a quote where I recall her saying something about how paganism needed to have a Mystery tradition as part of it, but can’t find that right now.

Generally, when I talk about such things to people who ask, I suggest that initiation ritual, especially, is like a good book or movie with a savoury plot twist or two. You will only ever get a single chance to experience the participatory drama without knowing how it develops; that’s if one goes through it the first time not having read the materials. One and only one chance. Ever. So why throw that away by reading ahead? One can always read the materials afterward, as many times as one likes; but to read the spoilers is to waste a wonderful opportunity that cannot ever, barring soap opera amnesia tropes, be experienced once the reveal has been spoiled.

Whether one “gets” it or not (either initially or on subsequent viewings of a ritual or readings, of material) is another question entirely. And, it seems to me, in my experience, what constitutes “getting it” will likely evolve and change over time no matter what else is a consideration. When given the opportunity, I like to point out that one can go to many stagings of a play by Shakespeare and get new things, new depth of understanding and new enjoyment, as well as savour slightly different interpretations, so to me the re-play value depth of meaning of a work or body of work is something that is a different question to the idea of seeing something for the first time without spoilers.

But, still, people freak about things unknown, and try to minimize and control things by figuring things out ahead instead of being comfortable with being uncomfortable as a thing itself. Seems to me the still prevalent modern desire to conquer Nature and the pervaisive post-modern existential nausea about information overload and slavish ‘inbox zero’ mania are examples, perhaps symptoms, of where the ability to just relax about not knowing, not being in control, would be useful for people to practice in specific so they can have skill in applying it in general.


Another aspect that always comes up around secrets is the idea that somehow no matter what is revealed, the real secrets are impervious to such petty concerns. Seems to me blather about mystery being unspoilable is semantically empty jazz hands (or worse self deception (or worse-worse deception of others) about “spiritual” exceptionalism), and misses the point of initiation as orchestrated stressful situation intended to create a kind of imprint vulnerability, an altered state, in the initiate, and attempts to diffuse that stress and that experience before experiencing it is an attempt mitigate and in some form to not have the experience at all. The efficacy of secrets in a system are not just about the information, true, but the information is interwoven into an experience, and the experience is changed by the quality and obscurity of the information on which the experience is built. If one knows the rollercoaster has a blind drop at the end, one still experiences the drop in and of itself, but the surprise in and of itself is changed into anticipation, and that’s a different thing entirely which not only changes the experience of the drop but distracts from the experience of what occurs before.

For me, when I talk about “reading ahead” (spoiling) I mean that as a placeholder for activity the diffuses the effectiveness of initiation and mystery, whether written down and read or spoken and heard or whatever and whatevered. For me, being a candidate in initiation and mystery is to be an improv actor stumbling into a rehearsed stage play, and both savoury and exciting. One tends to think all kinds of things about structure and likely scenarios, if nothing else than a rite of passage (exit normal, experience liminal, re-enter normal changed) but it is the actuality, specifics and plot twists, the things that can be spoiled, which I think should be avoided and, yes, allowed as a personal experience.


To bring it around, my point of wondering about classification of societies is that there is a kind of society which is not itself attempting to pretend it doesn’t exist, and which has essentially much of its material revealed or potentially could be in future somewhere, but that points out there is a reason not to “read” ahead as a practice of discipline in and of itself; that there is a place for not knowing as a thing, and experience, to be embodied through ritual, especially dramatic ritual like initiation.

The trick of improv is to have characters and bits of business prepared and figure out ways to fit those into any circumstances, so perhaps the corollary is to become good at mystery and a good initiate prepared by building the foundation of skills, whatever those are in one’s tradition, that make the personal experience of the unknown richer.

If an initiatory working is in some form or another purely ecstatic, then perhaps more than one person will have no prior exposure. That seems quite different than a mystery tradition where something is being revealed. But, whether there is an actual script or not, a mystery tradition will have participants who have experienced or developed a relationship with the mystery who are inducting others. If those others have exposed themselves or been exposed prior to some element meant to be revealed, then they have failed to avoid spoilers, they have whatevered the whatever.

Maps certainly won’t always apply, especial when applied outside their intended scope. Just add as given to any structural approach “except where this doesn’t apply”. But, to be clear, there are other structures, but I’m primarily talking about a mystery tradition where something is being revealed. But, whether there is an actual script or not, a mystery tradition will have participants who have experienced or developed a relationship with the mystery who are inducting others. Here the word ‘mystery’ in a religious sense comes from Greek mysterion “secret rite or doctrine,” as in a thing to be revealed to initiates, whether, additionally as previously stated, those are “written down and read or spoken and heard or whatever and whatevered”, a secret doctrine passed on or a secret rite enacted.

Which begs the question: without a mystery (neither secret rite or secret doctrine) to be revealed, whither the mystery cult? Further, without a mystery, one might even be tempted to ask how can there actually be an initiation at all?


Perhaps, one might say of a modern non-mystery that an “impromptu ecstatic divinatory rite” took place which offered UPG, such that a previously unknown rite is enacted or previously unknown doctrine is developed. But without the secret rite or secret doctrine, which would have to have previously existed to those initiated few inducting others, there’s nothing to pass on that was previously held sacred, no previously held in secret doctrine or rite, tautologically.

“Nothing to pass on that was previously held sacred” may offer another name, perhaps more tripping, instead of “society without spoilers”: a “sacred society”, a society with things held sacred as in separate, something bound, enclosed and protected.

Unfortunately, one can follow the etymology of ‘secret’ to essentially the same place, the difference being one implies holiness and the other does not, I suppose, which “holiness” seems, to my mind, just a special case of any of the others three terms I suggested.


I suspect the apparent failure of the modality of a “mystery cult” in the modern world has to do with modernity, modernism and existentialism, and the lack of acceptance of shared concrete and coherent gnosis, thus the ground on which a modern mystery cult would be built is unsuitable for lavish neo-romantic structures, except for those already conditioned to such things, such as lapsed Catholics and such. Which is to say, perhaps any mystery cult would seem too superficial to a modern person to have the same religious and social impacts, simply because the assumed rich foundation is missing.

So, the feeling one might have that a mystery cult or tradition in the modern age has lost its luster is due not to the mystery cult but rather due to the overall modern age. There is still a lingering notion that something may be missing for rootless moderns which a mystery cult can offer by way of a more structured ritual, initiations, and a focused mythic basis for ritual; more robust spiritual meaning which then, in turn, offers deeper experience of life in general. But, I find myself wondering if the project of modern mystery traditions is undermined by a general lack of cultural foundation, those foundations of community and cohesion being so efficiently eroded in our public, political and even private lives. Not to mention the lack of what is still called a “classical education” with the broad base of and relationship of familiarity with languages, myths, archetypes and so on. This, then becomes a chicken and egg, which can only be resolved by realizing the false dichotomy that one must be completed before the other, and that the development in general is aided by development in specific, and visa versa, synergistically.

One possible route out of the morass, for moderns and post-moderns, I sometimes come to is the suggestion that situational certainty is a tool for meta-cognition. By this I mean, that the ground on which a mystery cult could be built, the solid ground of structured ritual, initiations, and a focused mythic basis for ritual is sufficient when internally consistent for its purpose and held to be true for the time that it is necessary. But, that threatens what is perhaps an entirely different discussion.


But, to bring it back around again, a ‘mystery cult’ is a cult with a mystery. A ‘cult’ is the external activity enacting a religious metaphor, a ritual behaviour. A ‘mystery’ is a secret rite or secret doctrine (to be revealed). Therefore, a ‘mystery cult’ is specifically ritual behaviour that involves a secret rite or secret doctrine. ‘Tradition’ is shared belief or behaviour through time. Therefore, ‘mystery tradition’ is belief and ritual behaviour that involves a secret rite or secret doctrine shared through time.

I’m so strongly reminded by this of something. I believe it was something by Karl Kereny (but it might be form Van Gennep or Turner, I can’t recall right now) which I paraphrase: “Ritual enacts Myth and Myth explains Ritual.”


It seems possible to conflate a general meaning of “mystery” as more of a kind of ‘gnosis’ or noetic experience with how I understand it is used in the specific sense within the term “mystery cult” which is more what I am talking about here. When speaking of the idea of whether a ‘mystery cult’ within modern systems would be useful in order to ground the work in structured behaviour, I’m assuming that we’re actually talking about ‘mystery cult’ not general unspecific noetic experience or so forth. This of course somewhat ironically points out a possible initial critique of paganism as a generalized, syncretic, eclectic system which lacks the benefit of what a mystery cult offers and hence the possible utility of that structured influence, offering specific external ritual behaviour around a secret rite or secret doctrine.

If you want mystery without mystery cult, that already exists in various forms of wild and wishy-washy moments of gnosis within the ecstatic traditions of modern life; but, why not try adding an actual ‘mystery cult’ back into the cultural mix? In fact, I could easily argue that there already is ‘mystery cult’ in various places within neopaganism, with a facile example being initiatory orders like OTO and others, which are perfect examples of mysteries for which spoilers exist and which spoilers therefore can be intentionally avoided.

A very salient point for this modern information age is the value an experience of not knowing, so that one can and must do less thinking prior to events, not more. Perhaps the suggestion contained within the experience of not knowing is that one should do one’s thinking after: praxis before theory, so that theory is informed by praxis without prejudice. If this is the case, why not work toward maximizing the possible experience instead of minimizing the probable damage of knowing by seeking after spoilers of any kind, even the mundane accidents surrounding specific quanta and quality?

Indeed, I would suggest that one approach an initiatory experience within an mystery tradition not as a result of successful prior thinking or a seal on attainment, like we are so often familiar with from diplomas, certificates and honors; but an invitation to view the world through a particular lens for a particular period of time, determined by the particulars of the ritual and tradition in which the initiation takes place. In other words, the initiation is really the beginning, suggested by the word itself, of an pervasive life experience.

The full experience of a mystery event intended to involve surprises, plot twists or situations unknown can be self-evidently spoiled by prior knowledge of those circumstances. Especially if part of the trigger for the full experience is the stress of not knowing. Certainly, I don’t mean that these things are binary (and it may be possible to salvage some part of the experience even if spoiled, but why not go for the whole thing instead of the tatters?), but that avoiding spoilers is a discipline that seems worthy if one is serious about that experience, and looking to have it be as rich as possible.

And, that this, in specific, will inform one’s general life as well.


And yes, one can point out that for completely ecstatic visceral events and such that are not within a mystery tradition, there’s mostly nothing to spoil by prior knowledge, per se. Except that maybe even still, for example, having that ecstatic visceral experience is based on a not knowing, in some fashion; for example, there’s only one time for the first such experience. All subsequent such experiences are informed by prior such similar events; but also, there may be circumstances around how the experience is induced that involve some fashion of not-knowing the mechanisms being used, which after the initial experience become less effective in themselves and experienced practitioners then rely on other means more, such as anchoring past experience to ease induction subsequently.

Also, for purely personal experience based on involvement in a mystery cultic practice, the former requires the latter, so saying the former can’t be spoiled is only true on the former level but it’s a logical typing fallacy to presume that spoiling the more primary function of mystery cultic practice can’t spoil the dependent personal experience of it. Mystery rituals are built around some kind of surprise, a revealing of the secret practice or doctrine at least. One could try to criticize the practices of mystery traditions by bringing up features of non-surprise ritual is not a feature of surprise ritual merely because they participate in the prior category of ritual. But, still the one is not the other. Noetic mystery is not mystery cult merely because the English word mystery is in both. But these are mostly different topics than suggesting the efficacy a mystery cult with structured ritual behaviour involving a secret doctrine or secret rite to a previous practice of generalized, syncretic, eclectic practice.


So, for my own part, I have come to prefer the discipline of having structured ritual events with their reveals unspoiled so that I can experience them with as little prior knowledge as possible, because it’s the only time I will ever get that experience in that way, ever. Of course, you go about your experiences however you like, but I suspect if the initial spoiler free experience is not preserved you’re not actually experiencing ‘mystery cult’ anymore, but rather just, one might say, an extended re-enactment of a transcript of someone else’s dramatized experience. And, if you want that, just watch reruns of some reality television program, or another, instead.

no cures

“no cures.”

No tears in the eyes of the youth
Patriotism is the new faith
“I am no criminal”
Blind masses of youth marching
Civil disobedience
“It’s not the ideology, it’s the people”
“It’s not the guns, it’s those damn bullets”
Not to question patriotism is to stagnate
and become blind followers to the new union
of the personality and power
Teflon coated politicians are a function
of the worshipping masses in Nike Air
shoes and
pictures of Amish farmers advertising
the new microwave dinners
The impressionable youth has
been emblazoned with the
distant distrust of life and the
trust of death
The disillusioned generation has
become the materialist image of the
thing they hated
The disillusioned legacy to the
unborn is bearing the fruit of discord
The secret becomes the top secret
the nixon doctrine becomes the
new amendment to the Constitution
and the Cambodian is now the
Involvement becomes a pact of
decimals and the Tuesday lunch group is the NSA
The sergeant-at-arms (and
legs and dismembering and shouting and fits
and bits and snarling …) forcing out the
dissenter to the group view
Why can’t my kids be conditioned?
My kids are suffering because the
others are Wrong. Let’s go back to
the good old days when we were
so confident in the country that we
end up in Vietnam …
Let’s fight for hope … with guns
and knives and grenades and tooth and
The war is over. long live the
I can’t make a difference is the
war cry of
America the beautiful even though
I don’t know why
American arrogance of the blue-eye
big-nosed Johnny Appleseed spreading the
seed of the golden apple
The victors write the history – the
youth of Vietnam and the American youth in
Vietnam are the history
The government didn’t win the war and
the hindsight condemnation of the
leaders is the pen and
cry of the lost innocence of the
lost lives of the lost youth
Political motivation is the numbness
of the new lost youth
I don’t know about that so don’t
tell me what I don’t want to deal with
Knowledge of is not power over:
knowledge is burden
The people of the world are going about
their business just tell them you’re in
power they won’t mind …
because they don’t care … they don’t
want to know
Can this country open its eyes and
wipe the rummy haze from
a dream of advisors in Panama
and the Vietnam legacy of advisor-
One person is not enough unless
you’re Hitler or
the wide-awake young prefect who
sleeps thru it all
I’m anti war, anti-calories, anti-red
meat, anti-anchovies, anti-gothic …
(what are you for?)
There must be another way (anti-status quo)
I’d die for this country no matter
what … (is that what you’re for?)
I’m here for the wrong reasons
I’m a naive uninformed
… American …
We’re all Americans
but we can kill ourselves …
(is that what you are for?)
We have a new youth, but who
is going to be the new Them?
The tiger’s back isn’t a strong enough
metaphor – we were Hoovered into
the filter bag (the Scylia and Charybdis
of American Myth)
The self-destructed Lincoln Log country
has to be put away
Rebuild the Lincoln Log Lego walls
(do we isolate ourselves again?
Let’s go back to the wilderness and
skip the walls (maybe we’ll find ewoks
hiding behind the trees)
The walls of orange yellow blue
white and red Lego blocks may be
safe but they’re ugly. They are the
monuments to the Glorious War dead
from the double-super-duper-new-and
improved American Jihad of those who
Islam the Walt Disney constructed teflon
Can we afford to draw lines anymore
between Us and Them
Is that what we
believe in? The amputation of our humanity
“You can tear the skin off but you’ll scream.”
I need to learn more … not only can I
not condemn what I understand …
Can I understand what comes after me?

copyright 1990 j.g.bell
originally appearing in ‘The Nascent’ literary and arts magazine 1990

Oregon Friends of Jung Red Book Program on April 16-17th

A presentation, a lecture and a party in April around Jung’s Red Book are being organized by the Oregon Friends of Jung as a full program of events.

C.G Jung’s Red Book: A Presentation by Sonu Shamdasani with introduction by Daniel Baumann, President of the Zurich Jung Institute and great-grandson of C.G. Jung
Friday, April 16th 7:30 to 9:30 pm
First Congregational Church Sanctuary
OFCGJ Members: $15; General Admission: $25

C.G. Jung’s Red Book: A Seminar by Sonu Shamdasani
Saturday, April 17th 9:30 to 4 pm
First Congregational Church Sanctuary
OFCGJ Member: $75; General Admission: $125

Jung Anew! Let’s Celebrate: Dinner and Fundraiser with Daniel Baumann
Saturday, April 17th 6:30 to 11 pm
RiverPlace Hotel
All Tickets: $85
Price includes hors d’oeuvres, sit-down dinner, talk by Daniel Baumann, and dancing to live music. A portion of each ticket sold will be donated to the Jung Picture Archives in Zurich

In name only

Well, how interesting that the topic of Magdalene and the Reclaiming approach to story came up over the weekend as a way to explore what I see as paradigmatic difference between my relationship with Reclaiming and my experience in O.T.O. [also]. Interesting because when I got back from an extended weekend away, at an O.T.O. conference on the Divine Feminine, I had a message in my inbox that the theme for BC Witchcamp 2009 is Magdalene.

Below are two selected bits from a message, which isn’t up on the site yet so I can’t link to, that BC Witchcamp actually did manage to select Magdalene, which I really didn’t think they’d manage to do, but also did exactly the thing I was afraid they would do to the story if they did select it:

“The Story:
Mary Magdalene
Activist, Lover, Priestess of Isis
Witness to Change”


“Story of Mary Magdalene: Request that teaching team assure a strong presence of Deity/Isis
Reclaiming Mary’s story, correcting the bad PR, like the witches, like so many strong and powerful women
Not focusing on Jesus story
Mary as high priestess of the Goddess
Tie into history, tie into current politics, age of Aquarius, group consciousness, feminism, social justice”

I’m trying really hard not to be a manic ex-pat, but I feel like snidely suggesting that next year’s theme be St. Patrick.

Only, without all that noise about christianity.

And, let’s explore the fact that St. Patrick was a Priest of Serapis and his relationship with snake worship. That whole bit about St. Partick converting people to christianity was just bad PR … we should set the record straight.

And, you know, not so much with the Irish either … so, let’s talk about his history as an enslaved Roman from Wales instead and just skip the part where he’s in Ireland. You know, because what the hell good is cultural context when it gets in the way of a good week of appropriation to a self-consciously politically aware tradition such as Reclaiming? And, you know, the source culture is historically oppressed so the less said about where we appropriate … er, respectfully honor and celebrate … it from the better.

Oh, and St. Patrick will now be St. Patricia [contra], because any male role that’s more dangerous than or different than sex toy or buffoon threatens an welcome level of self-examination. After all, it’s easier to stay in control of the bloody mess of revolution if instead of changing the system one simply exchanges dictators. The history of actual revolutions [see] not withstanding, of course; but, we’ve already established the inconvenience of research.

Oh, man, I’ve got to stop before I go on a rant. Ugh. Too late.

I get it; I do. But, what a horrid disservice to the richness of the source material to do Magdalene in name only. It’s like the worst example of a Hollywood translation from book to screen [also, et] … but, I offer the selected quotes from the announcement e-mail above as an example of the looseness with which such things are treated, which honestly surprises me at least as much as I understand it as an act of reclaiming and Reclaiming.

I mean, really, Magdalene as a priestess, sure, but of friggin’ Isis?! A woman in a self-consciously pro-Jewish, anti-Roman faction was the priestess of what by that time was a syncretic Hellenistic-Egyptian goddess?! Asherah will be pissed when she hears about this. Asherah gets stood up on Prom night … again!? And, I can really see in my mind’s and heart’s eye Magdalene going medieval on someone if they said to her face that Jesus had nothing to do with her story. She’s the real first disciple, to my own mind … and disciples tend to be focused on, oh, I don’t know … something other than themselves.

Don’t get me started on the irony of a retelling of a story about the loss of the Beloved that self-consciously scrubs out the Beloved. Don’t get me started on the irony of Reclaiming selecting a story and modifying an authentic Herstory in such a way that it silences the voice of the central female out of expediency and convenience because of a political and religious agenda.

I really do get the deep and dire need to take control of social, religious and political narrative because of the magical sympathy and contagion between consciousness and reality mediated and changed through narrative. I also get that the story doesn’t really matter in the end because the real work is about coming together in a religious and political collective to do community sustaining ritual and organizing. But, how sad that to achieve these goals means sanitizing a story to the point of denaturing it.

I think Magdalene, by which I mean that aspect of her fullness with which I have a relationship, and I will both sit this one out. While others are off at camp, we’ll commiserate over the loss of our Beloveds, dear Magda for what’s-his-name and I for Reclaiming. And, when camp is over, maybe we could get together over tea for a post-mortem on our various experiences. Let’s be sure to do that and remember to invite the gardener. Maybe some time around Ostara?

Rowling’s new hero is Orpheus

This is both interesting and exciting news. I’ve enjoyed Canongate’s Myth series so far, although I admit to not having read the most recent releases. Now, it appears that maybe a bit classic hero is in store for J. K. Rowling, via “Rowling to work her magic on Greek hero Orpheus?“:

London, July 23 (ANI): Now that the final Harry Potter book is out, publishing firm Canongate is hoping to get its hands on author JK Rowling, and persuade her to tell the tale of legendary Greek hero Orpheus.

Rowling, who studied Greek and Roman mythology at Exeter University in the 1980s, has already expressed a wish to cover the classics, and now Canongate wants to make her wish come true.

If Rowling does agree, then it will also be a coup for the Edinburgh-based publishers, who will be able to boast of having her amongst its ranks of celebrity writers who have contributed to its best-selling Myths series.

Update 28jul07 @ 7:47am:

Via Wizard News, CBC News reports:

Author J.K. Rowling has revealed she’s already working on two new books, just days after her final Harry Potter book was released to the world.

“One is for children and the other is not for children,” was all she divulged in an interview with USA Today.

So, that’s two others likely not including the one that Canongate wishes Rowling would write for them?

Waiting for The Tin Man

No, not “thin” but “tin” …

Apparently, there’s a retelling of Oz in miniseries form coming in December to the Sci Fi channel. Staring Zooey Dechanel as DG and Alan Cummings as the title role. I hope it’s a good one. Check out more at Slice of Scifi.

I could see someone like Peter Jackson taking on the whole series of books, especially the first 6 of them, as a whole series of movies or shows. That sure would be something to see.

The Actantial model

Via “Greimas – Actantial model“:

“The actantial model, developed by A.J. Greimas, allows us to break an action down into six facets, or actants … In the actantial model, an action may be broken down into six components, called actants. Actantial analysis consists of assigning each element of the action being described to the various actantial classes. … The six actants are divided into three oppositions, each of which forms an axis of the description …”

For example, in Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) one could interpret the disappearance of the Wicked Witch of the East under Dorothy’s house, and Dorothy’s simultaneous appearance in Oz as a form of continuity. Dorothy fills the actant role of the Wicked Witch of the East, and even takes on the silver shoes to reinforce this identity. It is not Dorothy’s arrival, but rather the Wicked Witch of the East’s death that makes Dorothy substantivate – both real and important in Oz.

In fact, Dorothy goes on to defeat not only the Wicked Witch of the West, but also to banish the Wizard from Oz entirely and then installs her own puppet (Scarecrow) on the throne in the Emerald City. All of these actions could easily have been on the Wicked Witch of the East’s to-do list and completed by Dorothy.

Dorothy ends up, herself, banished from Oz and loses the silver slippers. This ending may have been the ultimate fate of the Wicked Witch of the East, if she had lived – to be banished to a mundane world without her magic powers.

Of course, Dorothy returns later for more mischief … but, by taking the actantial place of the Wicked Witch of the East, Dorothy appears to have both changed the story and made sure that it stayed the same.

Livin’ at a loggin’ camp, dreamin’ of owls with dynamite

I don’t know about you, but where I am, there’s been the sound of chainsaws all day for pretty much the entire week, and even today on Saturday there’s no respite. Sure, it’s all about recovering from the crazy wind storm that blew in and killed the power here for several days, but it’s feeling like I’m living at a logging camp.

It’s a little bit like torture. I had a dream last night that I woke up to find that all the trees, as far as my eye could see, had been “cut down for public safety.” And, every time one of those chainsaws revs up, I have this fantasy about spotted owls swooping in with dynamite to save the forests.

Come to think about it, I can’t get the image of the animal rights terrorists out of my head. See, this image makes the clear connection between the activists as terrorists and the fear of a living planet to which the activists are allied. The meaning of this image is that if spotted owls could carry dynamite, the gun-tottin’ environment-rapin’ people in the world would be in serious trouble. Not only are the activists the enemy, but the entire environment is the enemy.

This is interesting to me because of all the folklore and myth about dangerous nature across cultures, but especially in the human versus nature story embedded in western culture. The myth is that the scary natural world is out to get humans, and humans have to fight back for their lives. The wild forest as a place of serious danger, and of magic, is a place to be feared. This is that place past the borderland, where the old woman of the forest, the Baba Yaga, lives.

So, apparently animal rights and environmental terrorists are the new druids, allied with the natural world and fighting along side the animals. The more I think about that image, of the animal rights terrorists marching with the animals, the more I love it.

Anyhow, over at Daily Kos, Wonkette is being called out for that post. But, you know, this is a post-modern world … so what if it’s not real? I’m sure I’ve seen the evil TV image before somewhere, but where?

And, in a way, apparently, Nature really is rising up. [ via ]

“Ride the snake. He’s old. And his skin is cold.”

Via – Startling Discovery: The First Human Ritual:

A startling discovery of 70,000-year-old artifacts and a python’s head carved of stone appears to represent the first known human rituals.

Maybe you have to be there, but the image is about as snake-like as the face on Mars is a face. However, this place of ancient ritual with a carved python reminds me of the Indo-European poetic formula, from Watkins’ How to Slay a Dragon, that the hero slays the serpent. The fact that the red spears were burned reminds me of the premise that mythic images of snake have to do with menstruation from Grahn’s Blood, Bread and Roses. It is the male sky god Marduk that slays the watery snake mother Tiamat. Everything went down hill from there.

I am also reminded that Baba Yaga has been linked quite strongly to the snake and snake imagery. Baba Yaga’s daughters are snakes and she is sometimes described as having a single leg, thus being like a snake. I’ve been amazed by the quality of Baba Yaga by Andreas Johns.

Of course, the Jim Morrison lyric / poetry from The End came to mind as well, which I used in the post title.

Depressing essay, surface the myth-masked system

Via Clusterfuck Nation by Jim Kunstler : Oh Six

You can only introduce so much perversity into an economic system before distortions cripple it. From 2001 through 2005, consumer spending and residential construction had together accounted for 90 percent of the total growth in GDP, while over two-fifths of all private sector jobs created since 2001 were in housing-related sectors, such as construction, real estate and mortgage brokering. Much of the money spent did not really exist except as credit — incomes as yet unearned, hallucinated liquidity, wished-for wealth, all based on the expectation that house values would continue to rise at 10 to 20 percent a year forever.

Pretty depressing, but very interesting, especially in the comments about how the economic / energy crisis links to an American cultural mythic pattern:

This housing bubble economy represented, holistically speaking, the wish to maintain a sense of normality in American life, under conditions of disintegrating normality, and it is no symbolic accident that it centered on the images of hearth and home, because fundamental comforts were what many Americans actually stand to lose in a reality-based future.

Canongate’s Myths series gets two new titles.

Quite some time ago, I ran across something about a series of books that would be re-interpretations of classical myths by modern authors. The first of these books would be Margaret Atwood re-interpreting the Homer’s Odyssey from the viewpoint of Penelope. Turns out, while I wasn’t paying attention, The Penelopiad was published.

Not only that, but the second in the series was published and I’m even more excited about this entry into the series. Jeanette Winterson is the author of Weight which is about Hercules and Atlas. Atlas appears in some of her other works, so that’s interesting.

I had not heard of Winterson before I saw a stage adaptation of some of her work done by a former PALOD colleague done at a series of plays by students at Evergreen. It was very moving and well done, and so I was interested in finding out more about Winterson’s work. Now, I have even more reason.

The publisher has a page about the series. Apparently the next two are about Theseus and Sampson. I hope these live up to the excitement I get when thinking about them. This series is a great opportunity to re-connect with the massive store of metaphor and theme that exist in the world’s cultural heritage, and of which the post-modern world seems only marginally conscious.

Authors take on Herculean task of retelling the world’s ancient myths – Britain – Times Online

There is a new project to retell myths, a project from many authors, in a series of works. The first will be Margaret Atwood retelling the story of Penelope.

[source] Authors take on Herculean task of retelling the world’s ancient myths – Britain – Times Online

The venture will involve 35 publishers worldwide and some of their best-known authors are rewriting the ancient myths, whether Greek, Aztec, Hindu, Norse, biblical or African, to show how the stories remain as relevant as ever.

The authors have been given no brief, beyond taking a myth of their choice and writing a 30,000-word story based on its gods, superhumans and larger-than-life characters.