Entering the Mythic Mind

As a part of Polytheistic devotions, the myths need to be read and pondered. Since they are taught as simply stories, myths have lost their sacredness for the everyday person. To counter that, a reader can recall William Butler Yeats placing the poet at the meeting point between heaven and earth. To Yeats, a poet’s calling was to be the oracle connecting two realms. Therefore, a myth can be regarded in this manner.

Myths shape the meaning of human existence within the cosmos. They connect the ordinary with the numinous, by offering symbols to ponder. Understanding them is critical in developing the right way of living. By sharing a gnosis of the various Gods, a myth unlocks the sacred.

Entering the myth means leaving behind the concept of Materialism. This philosophy insists that physical matter is the fundamental reality. It can be regarded by the religious as the denial of the Spirit in all things. Materialism is reflected in the belief that the Gods are only figments of the imagination. The corollary to this is the dogma of Mechanism. That says that everything that happens is the result of predictable cause and effect. In contrast, mythic words are magic, for they weave the world into being.

The mythic mind perceives the world not as an object of thought but as a subject of feeling. While the intellectual tradition of the West emphasizes logic and rationality, the mythic mind moves through perceptions. That means polygenesis is expected and welcomed. Multiple creation stories, which contradict each other, fit together as a whole. For example, in Egyptian mythology, Hathor showed that the fruitfulness of the world is sacred. Meanwhile, Ptah spoke the world, and wisdom was recognized. The world became a living being who “involved a simultaneity of opposite states.”

In “A Secret History of Consciousness,” Gary Lachman writes “The mythic structure existed in a kind of sacred circle (temenos) a self-enclosed sphere containing the polarities of Heaven and Earth, a kind of Cosmic Egg whose protective shell housed human consciousness.” Things are neither this nor that, but before or beyond or both. Time is not linear moving from a past to a present to a future. Past and future are meaningless because time holds all at once. The past is in the present, the future in the past, since events move from a beginning and return.

Reading a myth entails many levels of “seeing.” Myths both make the world and redefine it. To understand a myth deeply is to be transformed by the sacred. It presents the truth that illuminates the reality that everyone is a part of.

(I am planning to blog further on reading myths.)

Levels of reading a myth:
Time:
What is the temporal relation between the teller and listener? Between the various relationships within the myth?

Space:
What is the chronotope (how time relates to space)? What is the structure of the cosmos? What is featured in the myth as landscape?

Quantity (Number):
What numbers have special associations?

Quality (Kind):
What is being described and how? Are there genealogies or a unity of opposites?

Relations/Cause:
The entities in the myth are linked in multiple ways. How do they interact and influence the world? Are things created out of nothing?

Astrology: The 12 Houses

The First House: Self
Angular, Positive, Cardinal, Fire. Ruler: Mars-Aries
The First House is the House of the Self. It can be thought of as the front door to the individual. As the contact point between of the Self and the World, this House focuses on the reason why the Self is here.

The Second House: Resources
Succedent, Negative, Fixed, Earth. Ruler: Venus-Taurus
The Second House focuses on the native material sources of the person such as assets and possessions. It also indicates what the natural talents of a person is. Moreover, the Second House shows what type of security that the Self desires.

The Third House: Communication
Cadent, Negative, Fixed, Earth. Ruler: Mercury-Gemini
The Third House can be thought of as the “childhood of the Self,” since is the beginning of self- exploration. Through the dailyness of the life, the Self receives information for development into an individual. This House indicates how the person explores their environment and expresses themselves.

The Fourth House: Home and Family
Angular, Negative, Cardinal, Water. Ruler: Moon-Cancer
The Four House holds the roots of the Self’s being. This House acts as the home base from where the person enters the world. It can be thought of as the psychic heart of the Self.

The Fifth House: Creativity
Succedent, Positive, Fixed, Fire. Ruler: Sun-Leo
The Fifth House can be considered the “adolescence of the Self.” At this House, the person is ready to go out into the world. Through their expressions via various passions, the person shines their light into the world.

The Sixth House: Sacrifice
Cadent, Negative, Mutable, Earth. Ruler: Mercury-Virgo
Another name for the Sixth House is “Service and Work.” At this time, the Self realizes that they need to be useful in the world. In this House, the person recognizes that others exist. Not only that, but these others are going to be a part of their life. This House indicates how the person will work with others.

The Seventh House: Partnership
Angular, Positive, Cardinal, Air. Ruler: Venus-Libra
At the Seventh House, the Self meets the Other. In this House, the Self is reflected back by the Other. This Partnership of the Self and Other could either be beneficial or acrimonious. For example, the Shadow Self is reflected by their relationship with the enemy.

The Eighth House: Transformation
Succedent, Negative, Fixed, Water. Ruler: Pluto-Scorpio
The Eight House is also known as “Sex, Death, and Regeneration.” These three actions encourage the Self into expanding their consciousness The Self is now an open portal to the higher realms. Meanwhile, things bubble below the surface giving the Self greater understanding of various family legacies.

The Ninth House: Philosophy
Cadent, Positive, Mutable, Fire. Ruler: Jupiter-Sagittarius
In the Ninth House, the person becomes conscious of being a part of something that is greater than they are. To seek the meaning of life, the person pursues deeper knowledge through education and travel. The Soul is now ready to expand in the Universe.

The Tenth House: Career
Angular, Negative, Cardinal, Earth. Ruler: Saturn-Capricorn
The Tenth House gives the Macroscopic point of the Self, which is the Self as a part of the world. This House is where the Self integrates with the greater society by engaging in public work. The House shows what honors and recognitions that a person will earn.

The Eleventh House: Community
Succedent, Positive, Fixed, Air. Ruler: Uranus-Aquarius
Moving beyond work, the person seeks their vocation in the Eleventh House. This is where the Self is reflected by the community. Now, the person is aware of the inter-connectedness of all.

The Twelfth House: Enlightenment
Cadent, Negative, Mutable, Water. Ruler: Neptune-Pisces
Also called the House of the “Unconscious Mind and Healing,” the Twelfth House straddles the inner and outer worlds. This is the House of past lives and preparations for future lives. The Self focuses on the hidden numinous found both in the shadows and in luminous mystical places.

An Assessment of “Paganism in Depth” by John Beckett

John Beckett, in “Paganism in Depth: A Polytheist Approach,” covers topics ranging from mystical experiences to community building. He is a blogger at Patheos Pagan – “Under the Ancient Oaks. As a Roman Polytheist, I decided to read his book to see how I could deepen my practice.

According to Beckett, Paganism (Note 1) is a movement, not an institution. It is a “Big Tent with Four Poles (Centers or Pillars).” (Note 2) Beckett explains, “These are poles you’re closer to or farther away from. Some Pagans are so close to one Pole, they’re hugging them – they don’t care about the other three Centers. Others are close to two to three or even all Four Centers.” The Four Pillars are – Earth (Nature)-centric, Self-centric, Deity-centric and Community-centric.

The Earth-centric Pagan seeks divinity in Nature. Beckett writes “I’m a Pagan because I have a commitment to Nature.” (Note 3) A Deity-centric Pagan defines their Paganism by their relationship with the Gods. Beckett continues, “my polytheism is informed by experiences of the Gods.” The Self-centric Pagan seeks the Divine within the Self. Beckett says, “I am a Self-centered Pagan because I can’t do justice to Nature and the Gods without a commitment to excellence in spiritual life. Community-centric Pagans find “the Divine within the family and the tribe — however they choose to define those groups.”

Beckett states that he is “looking to build a contemporary religion, for this place and time…It requires being open to spiritual experience that the mainstream tries to rationalize away and then examining them to see what we can learn and what we can do to build robust religious and spiritual traditions from them.” His goal is to “build a collection of ancestral, devotional, ecstatic, oracular, magical, public Pagan Polytheism worthy of our Gods and ancestors.”

Beckett’s stated aims are an example of what Tara Isabella Burton has observed about Neo-Pagans. In her book, “Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World,” Burton writes “modern religious movements focus on the religious search for meaning, purpose, and identity on the individual disembedded from and often in active opposition in institutional infrastructure.” She continues “the roots of these new religions are from New Thought which treats the self as the ultimate source of authority and divinity.” People of these new religions follow the Doctrine of Emotional Authenticity: What matters the most is the personal experience. According to Burton, “the world view of Paganism is the promise of personal and political empowerment through untraditional and literally unorthodox avenues.”

Beckett, himself, has followed this pattern. He blogs of “escaping fundamentalism” and details his journey in his first book. Raised a Fundamentalist Baptist, he rejected that religion to become a United Methodist. He wanted a “kinder, gentler church” than the hellfire and brimstone of his original faith. He left Methodism to embrace as he describes it, “a vague deistic universalism.” Encountering Wicca, he dabbled first with that and then later Paganism. After he experienced the Gods first hand as a Pagan, he became a Druid Priest.

Beckett’s journey was of crafting his own faith by rejecting institutional structures. Beckett writes for the post-modern individual who is spiritual but not religious. Many of these individuals are refugees from various forms of authorities. They, like Beckett, stress self-sovereignty in all of their religious workings. Beckett writes in his book, “We can be faithful to the callings of our gods and ancestors and trust that doing something will be good and helpful, even if it may not be everything we wish it was.”

As for me, I could not reconcile his theology with the Roman Religion. I already do much of what he writes but with a different view of humans and Gods. The Roman values which stress piety and right relations are what I follow.

Notes:
Note 1: Beckett refers to Neo-Paganism as Paganism and what he does as Pagan Polytheism.

Note 2: In 2012, John Halstead at “Allergic Pagan” (Patheos Pagan) attempted to develop a theology for Neo-Pagans. John Beckett expanded on his ideas and further fleshed them. His book, “The Path of Paganism: An Experience-Based Guide to Modern Pagan Practice” details more fully this theology. However, in 2020 Beckett doesn’t see much hope for the Big Tent to continue.

Note 3. Beckett identifies himself as a “Pagan, Druid, and Unitarian Universalist.”

The Babylonian Month: November/December

In Mesopotamia, the ninth month was a time of storms. In Sumer, it was called Gan-gan-e, “the month of clouds coming out.” This month is dedicated to Ninurta, the Storm God. (Storm Gods are protectors of the order of the universe.) During this month of storms, people hold footraces in honor of Ninurta. These races commemorate his victory over the Anzu Bird, which had stolen the Tablets of Fate. At the start of the races, people shout, “The Anzu is vanquished! Go and inform all the Gods!”

In Babylon, the month was called Kissilimu, and dedicated to the God of War, Nergal. As the fourth husband of Ereshkigal, the Queen of the Underworld, Nergal stays with Her for half the year. The war season begins upon his return during Kissilimu. At that time, a festival is held to honor his war chariot. People chant, “May the month Kissilimu, of the great warrior Nergal, absolve! The month Kissilimu, an abundant yield will be heaped up, the mighty hero, Nergal who has arisen from the Underworld!”

Astrology: Introduction to the Houses

The Houses of an Astrological Chart delineate the Wheel of Life from birth to death. The Self progresses from being an individual to being in a partnership. Then they become a part of community, and later the Cosmos. Howard Sasportas in “The Twelve Houses” writes “The planets show what is happening, the Signs how it is happening, and the Houses where it is happening.” The various activities of life are grouped into categories, which are represented by a House. Judy Hall, in “The Astrology Bible” says that the House indicates the area of life where the planetary energies operate.

The Houses are divided into four quadrants, each ruled by one of the Four Angles. Howard Sasportas assigns the Houses into two groupings. The first is divided into Personal (1-6) and Collective (7-12) The second separates the Houses into four categories – Self-Development (1-3), Self-Expression (4-6), Self-Expansion (7-9) and Self-Transcendence (10-12).

At the beginning of the Houses is the Ascendant (the Rising Sign), which lies on the cusp of the First House. The first three Houses act as the Threshold for the individual self. On the cusp of the Fourth House is the Imum Coeli, which is the root of the Self. The next three Houses deal with the home and environment that the Self is a part of. The Descendant, which lies opposite of the Ascendant, rules the Seventh House. As the Ascendant is the Threshold of the Self, the Descendant is the Threshold of Others. The next three Houses reflect the first three but include their opposites – the Other. “I am” becomes “we are,” “I have” – “we have,” and “I think” – “we think.” At the Tenth House is the Midheaven, which forms the Axis of the Meridian with the Imum Coeli. The final three Houses move into the inner world, and finally transcending to unification with the Cosmos.

The Houses, themselves, are divided according to various systems either by time or space. The most popular system is the Equal House, which simply reflects the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac. This is an example of the Space system, which takes the Great Circle and divides it into equal parts. The Equal House System is based on the Ecliptic (the Sun’s path).

The Time systems are based on equally dividing the time it takes for a chosen point to travel an arc of the sphere (usually the Ascendant). A well-known system is the Placidus House, which can be thought of as building on time curves. However, the flaw in the Time systems is in the latitudes over 66 degrees. Above that, the Houses are bunched together. At higher latitudes, there are degrees of the Ecliptic that cannot become the Ascendant because of this bunching.