Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Put ALL the Gods...

A magician friend is going through the painstaking process of putting the gods of a particular pantheon onto the Golden Dawn Tree of Life, correlating the deities from the myths to the sephira. I couldn't resist giving her some good natured shit over the process, but it was all in fun.

I'm opposed in principle to the idea that you can take all the gods of any pantheon and plug them into the Tree of Life and come up with a one-for-one match up that is, on its own, a standalone meaningful thing. I don't like that kind of solipsistic eclecticism. You end up with stupid shit like "Celtic Thelema" when you try to do that kind of thing.

Back in the 80s and 90s, there was a boom in the pulp fiction occult publishing industry that was made up of basically taking one nationality's approach to divinity and plugging it into the GD-Ceremonial Magick-based template of Wicca. Crafting a Wiccan Tradition by Raven Grimassi comes instantly to mind, a "how to rip off a culture and still get mediocre results" handbook. We got his Book of the Holy Stregha (Italians gots Wicca!) that way, which stands right up there in my esteem with Dancing with Dragons (Dragons gots Wicca!) and Faery Wicca (Faeries gots Wicca!).

Now I'm sure some people have gotten great and incredible life changing awesome results using Faery Wicca or Dragon Wicca. Sweet! Good on ya!

But I think the traditions and lore would provide a more meaningful experience with the divine and its manifestations if it were approached from within its original context, or as close to it as you can get. I think the fey in particular are a tribe of spirits that need to be handled with a great deal more respect and protective eyewear than is generally recommended. And dragons... I mean, come on. There are no "dragons of the quarters".

That said, there is still a great deal of value in mapping out pantheons on the Tree of Life. I make fun of the GD a lot because most of it is shit, but there are things in the system that are marvelous. Take this post by Nick Farrell for example. I read through the first few paragraphs with my usual meh, more GD blah blah blah, but it's Nick, so at least it will be said well, and then about halfway through I'm sitting back going, "Oooooo, pretty!"

The Tree becomes your sorting system, a set of fixed definitions that you can compare to the deities of a culture to get insight into your own interpretation of them. As long as you remember that the correspondences you're mapping out are your interpretations based on your understanding, it's useful If you start saying "Cthulhu IS the Intelligence of Netzach!" you're in for some cognitive dissonance.

But the exercise itself makes you think about the entities you're mapping out, makes you consider them, contemplate them, and probably research them a lot more. You find things that reveal aspects of both the entities AND the Tree of Life that you might not have considered before. Aspects of deities that don't fit the apparent standard definitions of the sphere may be giving you clues to look for in other entities associated with the sphere. Cthulhu's propensity to eat cultists, for example, can give you insight into those aspects of Venus that relate to death and decay that get missed when you're focusing on the procreation aspects.

As a technique to get more information, more thought about the relationships between the gods and your own understanding, it's beautiful. It's like reading the Orphic Hymns to get an insight into the Planetary Intelligences. It doesn't mean the gods of the planets are the same thing as the Intelligences, but it grants you nuance in your own relationships with them that you might otherwise miss.
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