This past weekend I attended Pantheacon where I presented an original Feri offering, The Rite of the Seven Jars. This was a ritualized trance-journey involving the Blue God, Melek Ta'us, in his aspect of redeemer, savior, and extinguisher of the fires of Hell. I wrote about this in the latest Witch Eye, excerpted here:
Hell is not usually something that many Pagans talk about. Often we will deny the existence of that infernal realm, erroneously citing it as a particularly Christian belief that –like the Devil– has no place in our spiritual understanding of the Universe.
We do, however, tend to believe in magical principals, especially those as put forward in the various Western Magical traditions. Once such principal is that of the egregore, or “thought-form” which is a type of artificially created entity or energetic form that is given its astral existence by the belief, will, and life-force of an individual or group. Usually this is done with concentrated effort, often with ritual focus, but also can these forms be created by the will of those who are particularly strong, or through the communal belief of a large group. With this in mind is it so far off to assume that by the collective belief of so many in a largely Christian dominated society that Hell itself would exist in this manner as well?
We all have our own vision of Hell, whether that be an otherworldy dimension of torment and pain, or as an understanding of what can happen when our own addictions and egos turn against our greatest good. Whatever the vision, we can utilize our magic to help us heal whatever stands in our way from our own divinity, be that our anger, fear, shame, wounding... or even righteousness.
Melek Ta'us is said to have wept for 7000 years, collecting his tears in 7 jars which he then used to extinguish the fires of Hell. In another myth, attributed to the Yezidi, our Peacock Lord appeared as a wounded peacock which a simple farmer nursed back to health only to be then told that the bird was the spirit of evil, who then rewards the farmer by blessing him and his family. This last myth begs us to take a closer look at the terms used. When we use the word "evil" it is generally to dismiss or to "demonize" another or their ideas. If I can simply discount it as "evil" then I really no longer need to listen; I can stand firmly against it without having first come to a space of understanding. But if we were to look at "evil" in another way... perhaps closer to that view that the late Victor Anderson reportedly held about the concept, namely that evil is a state of life-force being twisted and turned upon itself... Only then we can begin to see evil not as a moralistic absolute, but as a state of weakness or sickness that can itself be healed, if only we have the strength to hold compassion fierce enough to do so.
From these myths we can invoke Melek Ta'us to help us soothe that which burns and consumes us from within... and then --in his ultimate compassion-- he can take it upon himself giving us the healing that we need.
The rite was well attended (too well attended, actually; people had to be turned away as the double room we used was quickly filled to capacity). We began with story telling; a couple of myths of our beloved Blue God and then we got to work, invoking our shadow that lives within fetch and then taking the time to really explore the secret of our fear and pain that we keep inside. Some might roll their eyes in hearing this, "How is this not just another feel good new agey self-help bit?" I often find that those who stand so firmly against the idea of healing and "self-improvement" are generally those who need it the most. None of us are so perfect that we cannot work toward getting better. I have a pretty damned good life, and I would never think that I have it so together that I could not benefit from improvement. That having been said, this particular ritual is far from a "feel good" one, at least not during... in the several times that I have led it there have been many tears shed, as we add our own to Melek's powerful cleansing, casting away those things that are not our own, and transforming those things that are, but have been holding us back.
So far this resembles a type of Kala Rite, the core purification rite of the F(a)eri(e) tradition... but this is only the beginning of the work that we are doing in this ritual. For once we have identified and transformed our own "hell", it is time to travel into the realm of the Dead to assist those souls trapped in the trans-personal Hell. Consider for a moment that egregore... with many people who have crossed over believing that they were damaged... impure... unworthy... So many of the mainstream religions have really done a number on us so that while in talker we might be able to easily see how we are worthy of divine love, sometimes fetch is so damaged by our upbringing that it secretly beleives that we are worthy only of those flames that hell promises. For some, at the moment of death, if this is not resolved then it can cause a split --the souls split and become trapped in a hell of their own making. This is where Melek Ta'us comes in.
Once we have cleared our own way, we can open the Western Gate and travel into the land of the dead with the same intention. We can hold that space of ultimate compassion and allow that to shine through ourselves and into this collective space of torment to allow those trapped there the opportunity to see to their own healing. Those who wish to join the dance of Melek Ta'us then rise up from the now extinguished flames and into their own freedom, to cross the river and move on to whatever the next phase may bring. We then return and remind ourselves of our physicality, hopefully to remember that even when confronted with evil we can respond with compassion.
I am especially interested to hear from those who may have attended this rite at Pantheacon, or those who may attempt it on their own from the writings in Witch Eye. I look forward to hearing from you!