New Edition of the ECE

The new, 3rd edition of the ECE is now available. This edition makes some minor improvements to the accuracy of the critical text, but most notably adds six additional verses discovered in quotations from Madrian sources to “Fragments of Lost Sutras”, completely reformats the apparatus for ease of use, thoroughly rewrites the proposed model of the text’s transmission history to account for new insights gained from the study of Madrian records, and revises page layout to illustrate the text entirely from original Madrian artwork (thanks to the graphic editing efforts of Jules Morrison). Enjoy!

Happy Tamala! + Reflections on the Rosary Month

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Happy Tamala, sisters! Just in time for our observances, Sister Sophia Ruth has kindly scanned the eighth issue of The Coming Age, which is now available in PDF form on the Archive, chock-full of meditations for the season and a great quantity of Madrian teaching on the passage of souls into the various states of the afterlife, which is very precious for informing us as we make ready this evening to help them on their way with cakes and lanterns.

Issue 8 also has an extensive article on the Rosary and, as the Rosary Month ended yesterday, it seems fitting now to offer some reflections on my experience with it. This was my first year observing the Rosary Month, and I made it a point to learn the eidetic method described by Sister Angelina in “Three Paths into the Sacred Garden” (TCA 2:11–14). She notes there that the image-based eidetic method cannot be fully utilized for the first decade, but suggests that it would be appropriate to draw images from the first seven verses of the Creation. Accordingly, I have been working the first decade focusing on 1) Dea alone at the beginning of all things, 2) Dea dancing upon the primordial waters, 3) the cresting of the waves, 4) the Divine laughter, 5) the precipitation of the Divine laughter into Creation, 6) the shaping of the Creation, 7) the separation of the waters and the placing of all that was created, 8–10) general reflection on the Mystery of Creation (paralleling the three-bead meditations at the end of the second decade and the end of the fifth in the form in which I describe it below).

For the fifth decade, Sister Angelina suggests making the Pentacle and performing the Rose-and-Pentacle meditation. In the absence of more specific details, I ended up fusing these two operations, such that I place my hand holding each of the first six beads at that point of the Pentacle (i.e., recite the first bead with my hand to my forehead, second with my hand to my left hip, third with my hand to my right shoulder, etc.). With each one, I visualize the flame being kindled at that point of my body. I then bring my hand to my heart for the seventh bead, using that to perform the visualization of the flames expanding until they meet in the middle. My hand remains there for the final three beads, used to hold the visualization of the flaming rose.

I found that making the fifth decade more kinesthetic in that way helped me to connect with it more strongly than I might have otherwise, especially given that it has no suggested eidetic images. More generally, I also found that my focus and emotional connection with the Rosary seems to be deeper performing it as a walking meditation rather than while stationary. I have wondered if this is connected with the Madrian observation that, “men, even more than maids, often need to feel their mystery in their very blood and bones and muscles in order to truly realise it” (TCA 14:7). I don’t doubt that there are also many women who work better with moving meditations, but that quote came to me vividly in my long pacings.

The other experiment I have made this month is to apply the full Rosary as a penance. This is not a part of our tradition that we seem to talk about much at present, as it has become largely a matter of personal conscience in the absence of a lineaged priestesshood empowered to hear confessions and prescribe penances, but I certainly feel, from time to time, the need of something more cathartic than simply feeling bad and hoping to do better next time. A couple of times this month, when I have felt guilty of some great enormity, I have therefore taken it upon myself to assume the only specific penance that I know to have been given in published Madrian literature*—the saying of three full (i.e. fifteen-decade) Rosaries within a week (MLC, “Temples of the World”, p. 7). For simplicity, I assigned them to myself as stints of three consecutive days. I found this practice quite restorative, completing it on each occasion with a genuine feeling of being lightened by our Mother’s forgiveness (not that She demands a penance to give it, but that the ritual act may help us to more fully feel it). There does not appear to be anyone left (save our Lady) able to impose a penance, but I would recommend the practice quite heartily to any who feel the need of lightening their hearts.

For the next three nights, however, our thoughts are not primarily upon lightening our own burdens, but on easing the journey of those who have gone before us. I wish for all of you joy by your fires, a deep sense of connection at your empty-seated suppers, and, above all, a rich and beauteous peace for you and for all those who are in your thoughts at Tamala.

*Some of you had direct experience of Madrian households. I would be very curious to known what other penances you might know of priestesses having given, and to what transgressions (at least in general) they corresponded.

The Rosary Month and the Handmaidens of the Sacred Rose

For the last couple of days, there has been a great deal of consternation throughout the Filianosphere about the recent announcements coming from the Janite Order of Priestesses. It is not clear to me, at this time, whether the whole organization is redefining itself in a non-Filianic direction, or whether only key members of their leadership are doing so, but they have provided a great deal of support to many Filianists over the last couple of years, and I know there are many who feel somewhat bewildered, not to say rattled, by this change in direction.

And so at this time, as we emerge from the season of the Festival of Divine Life which urged us to contemplate the mysteries of the cycles by which all things are born, grow, and die, only to be reborn again, I find it fitting to reflect a little bit on the nature of our Ekklesia. It goes without saying, of course, that the Ekklesia in its fullest sense is a thing eternal—a sororal order of all souls united in their love of Her, which encompasses the very Janyati of Heaven. We sometimes need reminding, however, that the Ekklesia’s instantiations on the earth are, like all things of the earth, merely temporal, and that they, too, have their births, flourishings, deaths, and rebirths. So it was that the Madrians could speak of the whole current of feminine monotheism—from deepest prehistory through the Isiac cult, the cult of the Blessed Virgin, and then themselves—as a single inheritance under the unitary name of Madrianism. All were, from their perspective, fluctuating manifestations of the same eternal teaching.

Modern Filianism can thus be seen as one wave upon this rolling tide, but can also be seen within itself to contain a multitude of projects and efforts that have come and gone, though not without lasting contribution. Lux Madriana itself flourished and then passed away, as did the Aristasian Experiment after it. Their legacy is continued both by Chelouranya and by the Independent community, which has been a kaleidoscope of groups and individuals which, despite their ephemerality, have collectively managed an enduring presence over more than a decade. What matters, ultimately, is not any particular one of our enterprises, but the cause of the faith which all those enterprises have been intended to serve.

New efforts at organizing and building on the worldly level will be needed. A 501(c)3 organization to represent our interests and qualify us for the common considerations given to other religious groups is certainly a missing piece of the puzzle to how we “go out among maids and teach them the Good Doctrine” (2 Teachings 1:17) in today’s world. Though there are some important discussions to be had about the nature of priestesshood and the apparent end of the Madrian lineages with Madria Olga’s passing, it is certain that our community will need a mechanism for designating leaders, whether lay or ordained. All of us, I think, dream of seeing some kind of beautiful and well-appointed public space for Filianic worship in our communities, however simple and small in scale.

For now, however, as we take a moment to respectfully acknowledge the passing of one significant worldly effort at building the Ekklesia in Telluria, I find it comforting to turn eyes again to the essential Ekklesia’s eternal nature, and to revisit one of the enduring legacies which our Madrian foremothers left us. (I quote directly from TCA 3:15.)

After several requests to accept lay sisters, the Order of the Silver Star have founded a new group called the Handmaidens of the Sacred Rose: ‘It is completely uncentralised — anyone can become a handmaid without notifying us — there is only one rule which all must follow: a commitment to say the Rosary each day. Beyond this, we hope members will construct a special Rule of life for themselves; this can be as great or as little as each individual feels right. We will be pleased if you would submit your Rule to us via Lux Madriana, but it is not necessary. We would like handmaids to help each other, to come together in groups, to form bonds of love and obedience — to become a real lay Order from the ground upwards. We will advise, but feel that we may not direct. Go forward, children.’

I cannot express my joy at discovering this little announcement, which was tucked away in the “Works in Progress” section of the magazine. The Madrian orders are all defunct or occulted, and their lineages of ordination appear, at least publicly, to be extinct (someone please correct me if I am wrong!), but the order of the Handmaidens of the Sacred Rose remains open, with the perpetual blessing of the Madrian priestesshood. To the eternal Ekklesia in its broadest and grandest sense, our foremothers added a practical order which, if eternal seems too strong a word, we might regard at least as enduring until the end of the Age—open perpetually to any and all who will accept its rule.

And if there were ever a time to bring this little notice again to the attention of our community, it is now, for 3 October will also be the first day of Vois, which the Madrians celebrated as the “Rosary Month”, in which all were encouraged to take up a daily practice with the Rosary or, if they were already in that habit, to supplement it by the practice of a full (fifteen decade) Rosary weekly for the duration of the month, renewed dedication to mindfulness in the accompanying meditations, or any other such intensification of their Rosary work as they might find practicable and beneficial. This year, I will be taking advantage of the occasion to convert my sporadic making of the Rosary into a daily practice, which I hope, Dea volente, to continue after the month’s end in order to maintain good standing as a Handmaiden of the Sacred Rose. I would cordially invite any of you who may wish to do so to join me in the endeavour.

You need not, of course, let me know that you are doing so, but it might be a charming way of lending support to one another in the keeping of a discipline if those of you who felt comfortable doing so did let me know. Indeed, for those willing to announce themselves one step further, I would be happy to make a page here to list the names (and blog links, of course) of participants, so that we might all take some small strength and encouragement, when it becomes difficult to make the time for the Rosary (though it is only 15–20 minutes), of knowing that we are not alone, and that the words of our recitation mingle through the long arcs of the earth’s atmosphere with many others each day.

For those of you new to the practice, I reproduce below the Madrians’ basic instructions for the Rosary, with bracketed notes giving links to additional, more detailed material in the Archive and some of my own comments.


Appendix 2: The Rosary [transcribed from Philip Jackson’s text in The Sacred Myths and Rites of the Madrians, pp. 84–5, which reproduces the catechetical booklet issued by Lux Madriana]

The Rosary is usually a looped string of beads (though it may also be a cord containing knots). The beads are arranged in five decades or groups of ten. There is a single bead at the beginning and end, and one between each decade. [It is relatively easy to modify a common Catholic Rosary for Filianic use, as I did. One must simply be mindful that one will be lacking the “single bead at the beginning and end”, and so must make use of the Rosary “centre” twice, both to open and to close the recitation of the prayers.] The closed loop represents both the walled rose-garden and eternity.

For each bead of the decades we say the Silver Star [see below], and for each single bead we say the Prayer of Eternity [see below].

Begin by composing yourself in quietness, then make the Pentacle upon yourself  [see below] and say the Rosary Prayer [see below] before starting.

Each decade represents a point of the Pentacle. Beginning at Earth and Autumn, we move sunwise, meditating on the Mysteries of each as we pray.

Earth; Autumn; the Golden Apple; the Mystery of Divine Life; our Lady the Mother as Ground of all Being.

Air; Winter; the Star; the Mystery of the Nativity.

Spirit; Moura; the Cross (or Labrys); the Mystery of the death of our Lady.

Water; Spring; the Dove; the Mystery of the Resurrection of our Lady.

Fire; Summer; the Rose; the Mystery of the Rose of the World; complete personal assumption in the Mother.

Although a child can say the Rosary, a lifetime cannot exhaust its depth. Frequent Rosary devotion will lead the soul ever deeper into the fivefold structure of the Universal Mystery.

In the full Rosary, the process is repeated three times, meditating upon the Mysteries in the Life aspect, the Light aspect and the Love aspect. But this is a rather advanced exercise.

The Rosary is a powerful generator of spiritual energy as well as a purifying force. Each completed Rosary not only confers great spiritual benefit on the individual, but is a real force for good in this world. Regarded as a personal sacrifice, the Rosary is a small but beautiful gift to our Lady. For each Rosary is not only a thing said and a thing done, but a thing created – it is a shining Pentacle of spiritual force.

[This treatment is greatly expanded by two articles in TCA 2. “An Introduction to the Rosary” (pp. 6–8) offer some general reflections on the history and nature of the practice, while “Three Paths Into the Secret Garden” (pp. 11–14) is an absolutely indispensable guide to the meditative practices undergone while reciting the prayers, including very helpful suggestions of individual images for focus on each bead.]

The Rosary Prayer [Jackson, p. 89]

Beloved Kyria, Who have suffered in a way I cannot understand that You might come to me, I offer You my hand; lead my soul into the garden of the Rosary, that she may rest among the mystic roses of Your love.

The Prayer of Eternity [Jackson, p. 89]

Eternal is the Light of the Mother,
Eternal is the Love of the Daughter,
Eternal is their completion in the wholeness of the Absolute;
And glorious is Eternity.

The Silver Star [Jackson, p. 87]

Silver Star of the waters
that have laughed all the world into being,
beyond all knowing is the splendour of Your light.
Enfold my spirit in Your mighty hand
that the pure stream of Your force may flow within me
in this world and in all the worlds to come.

Appendix 1: Making the Pentacle [Jackson, [pp. 81–2]

The Pentacle is a powerful protective symbol. It is a variant of the five-pointed star of the Goddess (the Madrian Rosary, the archetype of the rosaries used in all the masculist world religions, has one decade for each point of the Pentacle, or for each petal of the Rose – hence its name). To form the Pentacle, one should first touch the forehead, then, visualising a line of silver etheric light, bring the hand diagonally to touch the left hip, then draw another line to touch the right shoulder; then the left shoulder; the right hip and finally the forehead again.

One of the important symbolisms of the Pentacle is that of the elements or seasons. The uppermost point represents the fifth element: Spirit, and the fifth season Moura. The other elements are arranged sunwise (clockwise) around the remaining points in order of the seasons: Water (Spring), Fire (Summer), Earth (Autumn) and Air (Winter).

The forming of the Pentacle symbolises the Cosmic Drama. We touch first Spirit, which represents the purity of the first creation; then Earth – the descent into matter; then Water (the Easter element) – the sacrifice of our Lady in coming to us; then Air – the star of Her coming and the bringing of Her Light; she brings us to the consuming fire of Her Mother’s love – to “The Rose that is a Flame and the Flame that is a Rose”; through the Divine Fire, we are purged of imperfection and return to our first purity, touching Spirit again.

As well as its devotional value, the Pentacle can form a barrier against harmful spiritual and psychological influences.

One very effective visualisation, having made the Pentacle, is to envision a small flame at the tip of each point. Allow these to grow in size until their bases meet at the centre of the Pentacle. Thus each is a fiery petal of one great Rose of flame. This is particularly apt for the final decade of the Rosary, when completing the Great Pentacle and contemplating the Mystery of the Rose of the World.

[A handwritten copy of this text from Mr. David Kay omits the last two paragraphs and in their place supplies the following, not included in Mr. Jackon’s copy:]

The Pentacle should be made before prayer in order to banish evil influences and to attune oneself to the Goddess, and after prayer in order to ‘seal’ one’s devotion. At other times, the making of the Pentacle can form a barrier against harmful spiritual psychological influences, and can be a means of drawing to oneself spiritual energy.

A Brief Thought for Cuivanya

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In reviewing the Chapel’s Cuivanya article this morning, a small passage leapt out at me:

The transition to agriculture was fundamentally a spiritual phenomenon. It was a part of the increasing materialization of maid: her becoming more and more a creature living on the physical plane.

But this in itself was spiritual: part of the process of cosmic manifestation. The rituals of agriculture were rituals first and practicalities second. They represented a new spiritual orientation for earthly life which remains with us to this day.

Back in the 1960s, an anthropologist named Marshall Sahlins delivered a paper in which he argued that “primitive” societies, such as the Bushmen of Africa or the Australian Aborigines, should not be understood as economically underdeveloped. Drawing on extensive fieldwork studies, he showed that such peoples do not, as had been commonly assumed, live always on the brink of starvation fearing for their livelihood, but that they instead follow what he called the “Zen road to affluence, which states that human material wants are finite and few, and technical means unchanging but on the whole adequate”. Whereas Western societies understand human material needs to be vast, if not infinite, and productive capacity to be limited, “primitive” societies, Sahlins claimed, understand human material needs to be relatively small and well provided for by the environment. By desiring little, they satisfy their desires easily and manage to provide their basic needs in between fifteen and twenty hours of work a week, leaving a far greater percentage of their time to “leisure” (though this includes communal food preparation and similar activities, since these cultures have no strict work/leisure distinction).

Sahlins’ theory is not uncontested, but it is strongly argued and remains a viable viewpoint in anthropology today. One of its great difficulties, however, has been the need to reimagine the transition to agriculture. Before Sahlins, it was commonly assumed that agriculture had been widely embraced because it lessened the amount of time people had to spend looking for food and made their supplies more reliable. It is now entirely possible that this is not only untrue, but actually inverted—that agriculture requires many more hours of labor to supply the community’s needs.

So why did people all over the world come to embrace (or develop independently, as appears to have happened in Papua New Guinea) a markedly less “efficient” means of food production? There are several good theories, including the relatively compelling argument that it allows greater concentrations of population than are possible for nomadic hunter-gatherers. In all likelihood, there were a variety of factors involved, which may have varied slightly from place to place.

Perhaps one of them, however, is indeed that agriculture was a ritual craft suited to the needs of the age and which had, of necessity, to involve all the surface of the earth that was capable of it. Perhaps the appeal of agriculture was not that it made life easier, but that it made life more meaningful within the conditions in which human beings had come to live, and that was worth making life harder.

Cuivanya rituals are somewhat less defined than the customs for many of our other holidays, but they often involve doing something quite ordinary in a harder way: baking our own bread instead of picking it up at the bakery, or harvesting from our fading summer gardens the produce we could have bought at the store. In many ways, the grocery market is the basis of a new hunter-gatherer culture, in which cash and credit cards have replaced slings and arrows. Yet on Cuivanya, we too turn away, if only for a moment, from efficiency for the sake of meaning—for the sake of understanding, however dimly, the ways of the first sower and the final reaper (as the Chapel’s article describes the Dark Mother). We commit ourselves to honoring a whole cycle of life and death with our own hands, even if it is figured only in flour-covered fingers at last pulling the risen loaf from the coals.

And perhaps it is in the sweat of our brows that we, like our ancestors before us, can taste the Divine Life.

Happy Cuivanya, everyone!

Of Commandments and Condemnation

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Over on Déanic Tumblr, there have been quite a few questions posed lately on what is permissible or impermissible in our religion. There has been a general reticence to give very definite replies, which is understandable and appropriate. The Chapel and the Daughters both routinely recuse themselves in such cases, noting that they are not ecclesiastical authorities and thus not empowered to formally set rules or interpretations for faith communities. The same could be said, at this time, about most (probably all) of us. Certainly, no one should represent themselves as some kind of Filianic pope whose word is law for Filianists. Discretion is here, more often than not, the better part of valour.

There is, however, a practical sense in which it can help others and ourselves to clarify which acts are broadly consonant with the teachings of our faith and which are not. It has been rightly pointed out that Filianism is not a legalistic religion, and instead promotes a virtue ethics; still, both the faithful and outsiders will invariably have doubts about which actions are aligned with those virtues and which are not. If that were not so, our foremothers would not have written hundreds of pages over more than forty years addressing a wide range of cultural, psychological, political, economic, and other issues from a Filianic perspective. This is especially important now that most of us, in addition to being generally “modern”, were actually born in the decades of darkness, and so are even less able to rely on many of our reflexive ways of reasoning than were our foremothers’ contemporaries.

I am known to be an advocate for a rigorous discipline of Matristics—study of the writings of our Madrian, Aristasian, and Chelouranyan foremothers and reliance upon their teaching as a guide for the practice of the faith. They did not always agree on all issues, and they certainly did not address all issues, and this leaves wide spaces open where contemporary Filianists may engage in the liberty of courteous and informed discussion, and even dispute. Even regarding issues about which I have strong personal opinions, I have affirmed the principle that, where our foremothers left us no clear direction or teaching on a given topic, any position which can argue a sound case from the Scriptures and the Matristic record may be considered perfectly orthodox.

Lately, however, I notice that there is a reticence to make statements of a definite Filianic “position” even on issues where our foremothers appear to have established clear precedent, apparently for fear of being exclusionary. When it is suggested that our tradition prohibits or discourages X, it seems to be treated as a counterargument to say that a person who does X can still be a Filianist.

These statements, however, are not opposed. To say that X is discouraged, or even outright condemned, by Filianic teaching does not imply that someone who does X cannot be a Filianist. I scratched my head a long while over why people kept seeming to leap to this conclusion, until it occurred to me that a majority of Filianists come from cultures in which Protestantism is the dominant religion, especially Anglicanism and its historical derivatives. At crucial moments in its history, the Anglican tradition was heavily influenced by the teachings of John Calvin, most famous for his theory of predestination—in simple form, that all human beings had been assigned by God either to heaven or hell before the world even began. Calvinists were very conscious of themselves as the “elect” whom God had chosen, and so were quickly faced with the difficulty of explaining those who had returned to Catholicism or otherwise rejected Calvinist practice (this was an especial issue in England, since the Anglican church never fully embraced Calvinism and continued to harbor large numbers of people sympathetic to Roman Catholic teaching). Their solution was the doctrine of the “Perseverance of the Saints”, which held that those whom God had called would endure to the end, and that if someone did not, this was proof that they had never truly been elect in the first place.

The theology behind this has some subtlety, but the popular understanding of the doctrine quickly descended into a hyperjudgementalism in which people assumed that they could determine someone’s salvation (or lack thereof) by the blamelessness (or lack thereof) of their life. Where Calvinism was strong (as among certain factions in England) it was often de facto the case that someone committing a sin was revealed as unelect, and thus beyond the purview of God’s love.

This idea has powerfully influenced Anglo-Saxon culture (particularly in the United States). I hope it goes without saying that there is no comparable concept in Filianism, but it must be mentioned that there isn’t a comparable one in Catholic/Orthodox Christianity, either. Back in the fourth century, there arose the Donatist controversy, in which some Christians (the Donatists) argued that those who had denied being Christians during the Roman persecutions were sinners who had placed themselves outside the salvific protection of the Church. St. Augustine, in response, reminded them that St. Peter himself had denied Christ three times, and argued that the Church was not meant for saints, but for sinners. The Church, in Augustine’s view, meant nothing if it was not a path of reunion for those who had alienated themselves from God.

We may never know for certain why the Madrians thought so highly of “Sai Paul” as to bestow that high honorific title upon him, but one does wonder if it didn’t have to do with his rigorous defence of the idea that, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This is certainly Filianic teaching. Just as “all sweetness is the far-blown scent of Her Sweetness” (1 Teachings 10:15), so too all our transgressions are the reverberation of our first turning from the Mother. In contrast to some other doctrines, Filianism does not hold that we fell away by accident, or descended on a mission, but that we turned “in the infirmity of [our] sovereign will” (Filianic Creed) and “frowned also on the laughter of [the] Mother’s heart” (1 Teachings 8:11)—an action identified with kear itself (v. 8). It was after having committed this ultimate sin that the Daughter gave Her life for us. She did not die to rescue those who were perfect, or even those who were earnestly striving toward perfection, but those who had deliberately turned away from perfection and had spurned the Mother’s joy.

If it is for such as these that our Lady suffered Herself to be slain upon the Pillar of the World, how could any of us imagine to reject them? How could any of us look down upon them while recalling that they are we? Every day, I do a thousand things that are opposed to Filianic teaching—thinking uncharitable thoughts, cutting corners on tasks, engaging in fruitless disputes, and much worse. I am still a Filianist, and God be praised, no one has moved to expel me yet.

Of course those who transgress Filianic teaching are still Filianists. Of course they are still children of Dea. Of course our Mother loves them. If it were not so, the Janyati would be the whole of the Ekklesia. To say that Filianism teaches against X, or even forbids X, does not, and indeed cannot possibly, mean that those who do X are banned by the faith or shunned by the faithful. Even in the strictest interpretations of Aristasian thought, there has never been a caste of untouchables.

It remains important, however, to be clear about our teachings and about their implications when applied to the practical questions of people’s daily lives. It is important for ourselves, so that we may always be spurred toward greater perfection in following our Lady. It is important for outsiders, so that their idea of our faith may be accurate, founded upon our understanding instead of their own imaginings. It is important for those seeking and struggling, so that they are given the clarity that will strengthen them in their resolve for self-improvement and the overcoming of kear. It is important for the whole world, so that whatever small, practical steps may be taken for the restoration of thamë can be taken.

We need not be draconian about any of it. I have always appreciated the approach of the Hassidim to the keeping of the Law. They did not deny any of the 613 mitzvot—the commandments that God gave to Moses. They did not rationalize any of them away, or sublimate their plain meaning to esoteric interpretations (though they certainly appreciated the value of esoteric layers of meaning on top of literal observance). They never for a moment suggested that God’s expectation was anything less than perfect obedience to the whole of the Law, for how could the One Who is Perfect demand anything less? What they did do was to keep firmly in mind that (as the Hebrew Bible so thoroughly and repeatedly attests) God did not love Israel because Israel kept the commandments; rather, the commandments were given because God loved Israel.

Hence, the Hassidim held that the full strictness of the Law in all its multifarious outworkings in daily life could be robustly affirmed without condemning any given Jew to perpetual inadequacy. God demands a perfect obedience, but does not expect us to achieve it completely today. They encouraged their followers to start small, and to choose which and how many mitzvot to keep according to the dictates of their own consciences, between themselves and God, and to grow in their observance as they felt ready. Some would keep hundreds of mitzvot quite scrupulously, while some might keep only a few, and then with far from perfect thoroughness. None was to judge another, for being Jewish was not understood as a destination at which only the tzadikkim (righteous teachers) had arrived, but as a journey with God through the wilderness, in which the steps of all are halting, no matter how wide or narrow the length of their strides.

It seems to me that the Madrians followed a very similar principle. They spurned synthetic fibers. They declared electric lights athamic. Sister Angelina described a television in a house as a “shrine to Irkalla”. They urged Filianists to stop reading the news and to rid their homes of plastic. This, remember, was in the 1970s—the age of polyester and disco lights. As often as these admonitions came, however, there came also qualifiers. If a maid could not cut off popular media entirely, she might reduce it as she could. If she could not rid her home wholly of plastic, she might still remove it where it was practicable. No one, the readers of The Coming Age were assured, was going to be damned for flipping their light switch. The Madrians never saw the Ekklesia as an encampment on the summit of the Holy Mountain, but instead seemed to view it as the safety rope binding those with the least sure footing to the ablest climbers. There was nowhere, not even in the deepest cave at the mountain’s base, where one could not grasp hold of a rope tied, somewhere in the high clouds swirling at the lofty peak, about the waist of all the Heras and Janyati.

Let us not fear, then, to address the concerns with which we and others live in a broken world, or to seek clarity regarding the application of Filianic teaching, for it is not the teaching that is the fiery rose at the heart of the labyrinth, but our Mother, to Whom the teaching but prepares the way. It can condemn an act, but it does not judge the actor, who passes on instead to the final bar where our Lady sits, saying, “Take heart, though you have turned from Her. For She has not forsaken you, neither are Her eyes filled with anger.” (1 Teachings 4:4)

A Gratitude for Chelanya

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“Eternity” is a very misunderstood word. For many, it has been debased to a mere synonym of “forever”—time without cessation. In truth, it is not time at all, but being beyond time. Eternity has no duration, but hangs timeless upon the coronet of our Lady. To realize this is in many ways—in most ways—a great comfort. It is to realize that Eternity is not something we wait for, but something that already is. It is to realize that Eternity is not elsewhere, but is wherever we put forth our hand and, by Her grace, draw aside the veil of matter. It is to realize that there will never be monotony in Eternity, for all things there are always new in the moment that is not time, but is “the timeless spring wherein time’s mighty river hath its rise” (1 Teachings 2:5).

Yet there is foreboding that must attend this timelessness for all of us who are not yet whom we would be. We must fear to apprehend a plane with neither motion nor yet change when we apprehend the kear within ourselves and wonder whether timelessness should mean that we have no time to bridge it. It is in this reflection that I have lately sat, as the festival of rebirth and regeneration has come upon me and again passed away—a thing unthinkable in Eternity. Unthinkable there also, however, is that it should come again.

It can be hard, amidst the sufferings of the world, to understand the wisdom and the grace of our Lady as Sai Maia, but I feel I understand it better when I recall that the illusion of time has given me many chances at something that comes, in truth, less than once—many points at which to touch something that, in truth, is never touched nor let go of, but which has ever been and ever shall be enfolded in our Lady’s hand, which is the only hand there truly is.

Eternity knows no coming and no going, yet the gift of time’s illusion has given all of us, who have gone out from our Mother’s heavenly embrace, the chance to come to it as well—again and again if need be, and the need often is. As we contemplate the ear of corn, how painfully aware we must all be of the many times that we have had to die and be reborn—a death, one might well think, for every single thorn that has grown round our hearts (1 Teachings 10:9–10); a thousand deaths to prune away but one tendril of that wicked vine. It is a thing that takes time.

So I am grateful for these passing hours that weigh, at times, so heavily upon me. I am grateful for the fleeting seconds that whisper of my death. I am grateful for the Sisyphean round that brings me always to the same points upon the wheel’s rim to face their burrs, which are but slowly worn away. For all these turnings I am grateful, though like John Barleycorn I am milled down in them and scattered to my grave (cf. Mythos 7:20), for I know there is a silence waiting somewhere in which even now, though lifetimes pass before I know it, my Mother’s hand reaps in full my harvest (cf. Mythos 7:19).

Working with the Siani

In a recent Tumblr conversation, it was mentioned that it is a great shame that so little is said in our teaching about fairies. Indeed, if we exclude mentions of the Star Fairy, I think I can count on one hand the number of Madrian and Aristasian documents that mention them, and the only distinctive point of information of which I am aware is that the Filianic term for them is siani. That they are little acknowledged, however, does not make them unimportant.

Today, on our way home from the park, my three-year-old son asked to stop and pick a flower for his mother, which has become a common occurrence in the last couple of weeks. On this occasion, however, I told him to go choose one from the meadow and then wait until I told him what to do next. He bravely charged into the tall grass, placed his hand on the stem of a bright purple bloom, and then dutifully held his position.

“Now,” I said, “you need to ask the fairies if it is okay for you to take it.”

“Okay I take it?” he repeated, and then, without a moment’s hesitation, he grinned and nodded, “Oh, yes!”

At this stage, the ritual is mere formality. As he gets older, however, and grows in awareness and patience, my hope is that this little acknowledgement will teach him how to listen. I was an adult undertaking the study of Druidry before I learned that one can, indeed, slow down enough to hear the response of a tree, or a flower, or a stone—that there is an awareness that most modern people (at least in Europe and North America) have never cultivated, but which can still hear our Mother’s echoed laughter, bright and conscious and alive, in the being of each thing that exists. I have had trees offer their leaves or fruits for some good work, or refuse a request for good reasons; I have even had them offer unsolicited advice.

One can say one is talking to trees, or perhaps one prefers to think of it simply as making silence and stillness for the still, small voice within to speak. It really makes little difference to the grander point, which is that the effort at this awareness—this ability to simultaneously turn deeply within and open oneself wholly without—builds one’s capacity to discern. At three years old, my son can listen for the wishes of the fairies who tend a flower and it may seem a small thing, but that same skill, well-honed when he is thirty, will hear the wishes of his own heart. Fortunate indeed is the maid who can do this deceptively unsimple thing.

Thus may it seem that a small matter prepares for a greater, but I do not really believe that to be true. Our Lady assures us that “not a … grain of sand shifts in the desert reflecting not some spiritual truth; neither does a star fall in the farthest corner of the cosmos without an inward meaning.” (1 Teachings 11:28–9) What, then, can it mean to pluck a flower that has not greeted springtime with austerity (3:8)? There is a world of gravity in the plucking of a flower—the death of what is beautiful and visible in order to reveal what is invisible and still more beautiful—that I can only truly conceive in the sadness of the little fairy who grieves the blossom she has tended, but who gives it freely that the heartbeat of a child may be completed in expression.

When we get home, I watch my wife’s face as she receives the gift, and it seems to me that she is a flower, or is, perhaps, revealed as a far-strewn petal of that rose we lately honoured at the summer’s height. She takes the tiny stem from a tiny hand and leaves it on the altar at our Lady’s feet, where it lies dead at the very fount of Life. Yet I perceive it now alive as I cannot imagine, and all worldly life seems death beside what has been thrice-offered in this way.

I have no clever flourish to conclude this—no subtle turn or clinching argument. I have only the image of a fairy, sparkling in tears that run in sorrow and in joy as she yields up her treasure to a giant hand that is yet small by any other measure, but which will yield it in turn to a greater, and thence the Greatest still, that it may be placed again at the very centre of that fairy’s being—the place within herself that she had always longed to take it, but could not while it yet lived.

I have only this image to which my words can do no justice, and that is exactly why the siani are important.

 

Edit (22 July 2017): Thanks to @hearthshrine for digging up the reference for the term “siani”.

Of Rosa Mundi and Mascûls

I find myself coming somewhat late to engage with the Janites’ “Humble Admission”, which sufficiently incensed Glenn King to prompt his withdrawal from the Déanic community altogether. My delay in addressing it has had to do with many other demands on my time, including locating previously unavailable Madrian documents for upcoming addition to the Archive, as well as two major projects which it is to be hoped will bring some positive academic attention to the legacy of Madrian/Aristasian thought and, in the process, spread awareness of Déanism/Filianism. In looking up from this work on behalf of the community to find that certain major representatives of that community now regard me as outside the scope of its revelational grace is both disconcerting and hurtful.

I wish to be very, very clear about two things. First, I am on record for my affirmation of the importance of both Feminine Essentialist philosophy in the abstract, with its insistence on the primacy of the feminine in the nature of both divinity and the cosmos, as well as my affirmation of the practical corollary that positions of formal spiritual leadership in the Déanic community should be restricted to women. (I endeavor, as an act of service to Dea and to the community, to be a proficient and useful scholar of the faith, but I would never dream of setting myself up as someone’s ranya, or styling myself as a “Déanic priest” or any similar nonsense.) Second, I unequivocally affirm the right of women to establish groups open to women alone, and do not countenance any effort on the part of men to label such a practice as exclusivist or sexist, or to demand admission to such groups. The Daughters of Shining Harmony, whom I hold in the highest regard, maintain such an all-feminine group, and I am grateful that they do for the work which has come out of it. If the Janites wish to restrict membership or participation in their order to women only, I respect that decision entirely and say ‘more power to them’. As I have never been formally involved with the Janites anyway, I can see no reason why such a move on their part should trouble me.

The statement they released, however, is not simply such a declaration about their order. It presumes, rather, to speak to Dea’s own intentions in the giving of the Scriptures and to authoritatively interpret them with respect to the matter of their intended audience. To declare, as their statement appears to do, that God has not given the Scriptures to Tellurian maidkind as a whole, but only properly to half of us, is exclusivist and sexist.

It is also historically untenable. It is unquestionably true that the Madrians restricted the priestesshood and all other positions of religious leadership to women. It is also perfectly clear from their writings on both the ancient matriarchal past and on present conditions, however, that the Madrians always regarded Déanism as a religion for men as well as women (at least, from that point in history when men were supposed to have originated). Numerous accounts bear witness to the involvement of men in non-leadership rôles from very early on, and more than one of the earliest attested congregations were mixed. Sister Angelina was a regular contributor to a variety of countercultural magazines, appeared on local radio on a number of occasions, and gave the closing address for the 1979 “Re-Emergence of the Goddess” convention in Kensington; none of her published letters or recorded statements that I have found suggest a restriction of Déanic teaching’s relevance to women, and her statements in fact often suggest that Dea’s renewed self-revelation in Her original feminine form is a mercy to the whole world—men as much as women.

Aristasian thinkers, for their part, always held firmly to Aristasia’s women-only character, but they were broadly supportive of related movements that attempted to include men in the same intellectual currents (such as the Romantians). In more recent times, the Chapel has not only clearly stated its belief that mixed congregations are permissible, but it has gone so far as to wish well to such endeavors. The assertion of the Janite statement—that the Scriptures’ speaking of maid is not meant to apply to men at all and that the religion is irrelevant to them—has no precedent of which I am aware in Orthodox teaching.

It saddens me to have to take up the bulk of a Rosa Mundi post merely defending the idea that God has spoken in the Scriptures to me as much as to my co-religionists. I know the movement of my own heart, however, and I know the feeling of our Lady’s hand when it rests upon it. She speaks, saying: “For the Spirit is One, and I am the Spirit, and you are the Spirit also, in the innermost temple of your heart. And She who is the Spirit, My Mother, holds out Her hands to you in happiness beyond all knowing and joy beyond expression of all words,” (1 Teachings 10:12–14) and I know that She speaks to me.

I am not an eavesdropper. I am not an uninvited guest. I am a child of my Mother, and my soul is a princess making her way home. Perhaps she has farther to go than many others. Perhaps her face and body have been marred by the thorns of khear in especial measure. Yet still my Mother calls my name in the night, and I will not be told that I have but misheard the similar name of another child. I will not be told that I have braved the forest by mistake.

So on this Rosa Mundi, when my little son (who will turn three on Sunday) helped me pick a rose for the shrine, and yelled out “Haya Annya!” while I lit the first fireworks he has ever seen, I will give thanks and praise to my Mother that She has remembered me and others like me, that She has sent a mercy of comfort and of guidance down upon the whole Earth, and that She has wrought a temple from even my stony heart, and hewn it in the shape of a rose (v. 27).


Update (12 July 2017): More recent statements by the Janites have changed their wording and now, “affirm that the scriptures were written for a matriarchal society. Of course, they may be used and read by everyone who loves Our Lady. It is only when they are taken out of their matriarchal context, that they are being misunderstood.

“The Filianic/Madrian religion is a feminine religion and Madrian men understood and accepted this. They understood that the Madrian religion was a matriarchal, feminine religion presided over by females.”

This formulation, of course, is wholly accurate. The earliest Déanic/Filianic communities were indeed matriarchal, and held matriarchy to be the primordial condition of humanity. To remove them from a matriarchal context (as opposed to an all-female context) would be a gross distortion, and render an understanding that, whatever else it might be, would not be Déanic/Filianic. My objections given above to the previous Janite statement no longer apply to this more refined wording, and I am very glad to see a consensus apparently reached that acknowledges the legitimacy of men’s participation in the faith and the applicability of Scripture to them, while uncompromisingly affirming the matriarchal nature of the Ekklesia and the restriction of formal leadership rôles to women.

The Year of Sai Vikhë

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With the approach of Rosa Mundi, we are also approaching the one-quarter mark of the Year of Sai Vikhë. Of all the Janyati, Sai Vikhë may be the one whom I have had the most difficulty relating to, as I was raised in a military family and anything redolent of that ethos has a strongly off-putting effect on me. It is said, of course, that the militaries of the Motherland are quite different to those of our own time and plane, and certainly nothing of the savagery and inhumanity of modern Tellurian warfare should be ascribed to Sai Vikhë, but even being aware of this on a conscious level, the imagery and metaphor of armed conflict have posed a significant barrier to me in approaching Dea by this face.

Partly because I think it important to work on my own limitations, and partly because I began this year (and continue) facing many personal and professional challenges that require courage, focused will, and (courteous) assertiveness to overcome, I made it a point to take advantage of Sai Vikhë’s patronage of this year to try to forge a relationship with her. This has involved nothing grandiose, but simply a deliberate effort to remember her during my prayers and to meditate upon her symbols. The results of this already have astounded me, and I wish to share them with all of you for your encouragement.

All my life, I have a had a dreadful fear of heights—not paralyzing, but enough to be deeply uncomfortable in a variety of mundane situations. One of these, which I managed only with considerable effort, was taking my son on the amusement park rides at the Mall of America—most particularly the innocuously-named Guppy Bubbler, which rises about forty feet while spinning its occupants around in seashells. To my two-year-old, this is tremendous fun. To me, it was a white-knuckling brush with infinity.

Back in April, as the sweat started to build on my palms at the top of the ride, I prayed, asking Sai Vikhë for courage so that I might be freed from my fear and not model it to my son. Instantly, my fear vanished. Still swirling around forty feet in the air, I was completely at ease. I have taken my son many more times since—and even taken him on the three-story-tall Ferris wheel—without the slightest anxiety or discomfort. After nearly thirty years of serious acrophobia, I can only regard this as a miraculous cure in the finest medieval tradition.

I gave thanks for this over the following weeks and, during a meditation back in May, received what might be termed a vision of Sai Vikhë—not that she came and stood in my living room, but more in the sense of having an icon communicated directly to my mind. I wish that I had the talent as a visual artist to produce it—the great winged figure aloft in a mass of cloud, her body perfect motion and her crimson robes perfect stillness, her outstretched arms bearing the flaming sword before her as though she were about to strike and to hold up the sky at the same moment and by the same blade, her knees swept forward like the talons of a falcon though her bare feet hang gently as drooping roses beneath, her blazing tiered crown of gold an image of perfect order atop a maelstrom of onyx hair, her face in unrelenting focus even as the kohl around her almond eyes seems swept back to a point by the force of the wind and her unfathomable speed. It was an image that, like the best Hindu depictions of Kali, made her ferocity beautiful and her power somehow touching. Even many weeks on, I can see it again perfectly within my mind, with all the detail of a pre-Raphaelite painting. It has been a tremendously heartening gift.

Then, last week, the third sign. I have been contemplating for some time getting a physical rosary on which to pray, rather than simply counting through the repetitions as I have hitherto been doing. On Friday, I found myself teaching at a Catholic school on the last day of their school year, only to discover at the end of the day three rosaries (which had been distributed to students earlier) abandoned on the playground after everyone had gone home. They were not fancy affairs in the least—just simple knotted strings strung with plastic beads—but one was a brilliant red, with a medallion of Our Mother holding what the Catholics call the “Immaculate Heart of Mary” (Her flaming heart pierced by a sword). In Sai Vikhë’s color, and bearing her sacred weapon, I knew straightaway that this had come to me by providence. I returned the other two to the church supply and kept the red rosary, adapting it to Déanic use by trimming off the Crucifix and the other beads below the medallion save one (for reciting the Rosary Prayer before beginning the rosary proper).

I cannot put into words how touched I have been to have my humble efforts thus responded to. Sisters and brothers, take heart to call upon the commander of the hosts of heaven if you have need of her strength or her courage. She is always present with and for us, of course, but her year is such a blessed opportunity to know her and to seek her aid. All of us have demons that we must face, but at this time most of all have faith in the promise of the Scriptures, that “the radiant Janyati of heaven stand ready to defend the soul when she shall cry upon them.” (1 Teachings 11:26)