Volume I, Edition 1
Landscapes and Avatars in the Western Mystery Tradition by Frater L. “The woman from unknown lands sang fifty quatrains on the floor of the Royal House, full of chiefs of the land ; they knew not from whence she had come, since the ramparts wereclosed. And she sang : the Hero went about alone, and heard music behind him, and he slept for such was its sweetness. And he woke, and saw a branch of silver with white blossom and here is the branch for him, a branch of the tree of crystal blossoms. There is a distant land, and four Pillars are on it ; a glorious range, a plain for games, the great plain of white silver. Pillars of bronze, glittering through ages, throughout the world’s ages, the many blossoms drop. High Pillars, of many fights, withered into many mists and red of the blood poured around the Bowed Ones of the Mounds, and the ranks are four times three stone Pillars to beguile the hosts and offer the firstlings, and swear by the gods of the people. The silvery land of dragonstone and crystal, listen to sweet music and drink the best of wine; at sunrise comes the Fair Man of the Raid riding on the plain; a host will come to the far-seen Stones, singing to them through long ages, choruses of hundreds. A pure white cliff as the host race along the plain going into the mountain land where the white cloud lies. He made the heavens, he has the white heart, purifying the hosts under pure water, beginning the voyage across the plain to reach the land of women. And the branch sprang from the Hero to the woman and was lost to him.”
He made the heavens, he has the white heart, purifying the hosts under pure water, beginning the voyage across the plain ….
The "mechanics" of working in the Golden Dawn tradition are widely available and comments and extrapolations abound. It's not quite the same thing for the "landscapes" of progression through the Sephiroth, or for particular workings in a grade. This text from the Old Irish legends illustrates how I propose to examine some of the traditional landscapes which appear in these workings, and the figures associated with them and indicate their links with some specific regions and historically-attested beliefs, common to the north of the Eurasian landmass and thus in contrast with the landscapes of the Middle East or Egypt traditionally associated with Golden Dawn workings. Here is our first example: Crowley, in the Book of Thoth, paints a picture associated with the Atu of the Universe (XXIst), which we use as the Key to the 32nd Path. Quote, page 144 of the Weiser 1971 edition: "Will bends like a reed in the tempests that sweep the borders of her kingdom, and imagination cannot figure so much as one petal of the lilies whereon she standeth in the lake of crystal, in the sea of glass. This is she that hath bedecked her hair with seven stars... whereon are written the seven secret names of God that are not known even of the Angels, or of the Archangels, or of the Leader of the armies of the Lord... and blessed be thy name for ever, unto whom the Aeons are but the pulsings of thy blood".
Landscapes and Avatars in the WMT (continued) Here we have a picture, a "landscape" and an avatar. The elements provided are these: Landscape: Avatar:
reeds, tempest on the borders, lilies, lake of crystal, sea of glass. seven stars, seven secret names, Aeons of blood.
Using these elements as a point of departure, let's see what additional touches we can bring to the avatar in the landscape, both to enrich and to widen our comprehension of their origin. The lake of crystal is met with in Celtic legend. It is commonly attributed to Arianrhod, of whom my encyclopaedia of "Celtic Myth and Legend" (Charles Squire, Gresham, London, 1937) has this to say: "Here are the Children of D么n (the river goddess; Danube, Don, Dniepr, etc. etc.): Gwydion the Druid (equated to Odinn), Amaethon of the Kine (the Herder), and Gobannon of the Fires (the Smith); and their sister is Arianrhod (meaning "Silver Wheel"); she is not only the sister of Gwydion but also his wife". Their sons are Dylan of the Waves and Lleu the Long-Handed of the Skies. Arianrhod's castle is only accessible by boat, whereas Lleu lives in the oak forest.
These few references enable us to now make a connection to history, over and above the obvious one of the transition from late Antiquity to the high Middle Ages in Britain, commonly called the "Arthurian" epoch.
The later legends from the Arthurian epoch recorded in the Welsh Triads (Rachel Bromwich, "Trioedd Ynys Prydein", Cardiff, 1961), replace Gwydion the Druid with Arthur himself; with many references to Arianrhod, such as that of Taliesin saying that she "lives among the constellations"; she becomes Arthur's sister Morgawse, who is directly associated with leadership in war. Her son with her brother Arthur is Medrawt (who was Dylan of the Waves). Rachel Bromwich's Note on Arianrhod (page 277) gives this further information : "She is famous for her beauty beyond the dawn; she has a Silver Host to lead, the whitearmed wise one". Under Gwydion, we find: "He that makes women from flowers, by the magic powers ; he brings swine from the south (by raiding); he has the best learning, the brave one of the world, interweaver of battles, bringer of horses, saddled with gold". These few references enable us to now make a connection to history, over and above the obvious one of the transition from late Antiquity to the high Middle Ages in Britain, commonly called the "Arthurian" epoch. Herding of kine, raiding for swine (the boar is sacred to the Celts), smithying the metals of the stars; bringing of horses, in gold ornamented; battle and magic, forest and lake, brother and sister, husband and wife, leaders of warriors, parents of the sea and of the sky, magicians of the stars, both. These characteristics recall irresistably the culture of the Altai of Semirechiye (the "Seven White Rivers"), the Heavenly Mountains ("Tien-Shan") of the Uighur on the edge of the forest, the home of the Scythians who rode westward leaving their rich burial barrows ("kurgans") as so many pages to be read.
Volume I, Edition 1
Landscapes and Avatars in the WMT (continued)
The massif of the Altai represents all the characteristics we have so far identified for our landscape; and its aboriginal cultures contain the attributes of our avatar. To the Scandinavian Varangians, it was the land of the Seven White Rivers, Belovodya (the "Seven Stars" of Arianrhod and the Atu? Are these the Pleiades, with the "seventh dark sister", the imploded dwarf star whose super nova was observed by the Chinese?). This land carries a weight of fable and legend - especially for the Old Believers who split from the Orthodox Church in the 17th century, and emigrated eastwards to this land of the White Rivers. The famous monk Rasputin was a "raskolnik" or "refuser" of the new ceremonies, a "starets", a wandering prophet, who constantly referred to Belovodya, Semirechiye. Semirechiye was earlier the goal of the travelling visionary Nicholas Roerich; and before him, that of Emanuel Swedenborg. It was reputed to be the place of retirement of the Brethren of the Rosy Cross, after the fatal dénouement of the Thirty Years War, at the Peace of Westphalia and before the coming of Sabbatai Zvi – this episode will make up our second example, concerning the landscapes and avatars of the Vault of the Adepti. The richest archaeological site of this complex of cultures is known as the "Kurgan of the Ice Queen of the Lake of Issyk Kul". The site is 100 metres from the border with China and could only be investigated after the fall of the Soviet régime. It consists of an immense kurgan, of several rings and of several levels. Built in stone and wooden shoring and planking, capped with earth, this "long barrow" was perfectly preserved because of the water which invaded it then froze, conserving
Semirechiye was earlier the goal of the travelling visionary Nicholas Roerich; and before him, that of Emanuel Swedenborg. It was reputed to be the place of retirement of the Brethren of the Rosy Cross, after the fatal dénouement of the Thirty Years War
Landscapes and Avatars in the WMT (continued) not only the ornaments, trappings, clothing and perishable furnishings but also, and most preciously, the fragments of silver birch bark on which are writings and drawings. The drawings are reminiscent of the more modern work of the Samoyede shamans, depicting the World Tree, the stars, the horses, the kine, the serpents.... The writing is in a runic system, of which the earliest examples belong to the Cimmerian culture, proto-Scythian, around 1000 bpe; these runes are further elaborated by the successive cultures of the Altai until the advent of Chinese, then Arabic, then Russian, writing, from the high middle ages onwards. It cannot yet be fully deciphered but some examples are now satisfactorily interpreted. For a full account, see (in French) Iaroslav Lebedynsky, “Les Saces”, Paris, 2006.
So here we have a totemic figure, safeguarded in an unusually rich kurgan environment,
The outer and lower levels of the kurgan contain a series of horse burials ; they were sacrificed on the spot. The horses are buried in radial fashion, like rays from the centre. Within this circle are furnishings and utensils, notably some fine examples of hashish-burning cauldrons, set on tripods. Over this layer, and smaller in circumference, are attendants, buried similarly to the horses and accompanied by their jewels, of silver and gold, and their arms.
performing a vital role in the equilibrium of the landscape and whose attributes and location equate perfectly with our evidence from the Atu XXI.
The innermost burial in the kurgan is that of the Ice Queen. Most kurgans are burials of male chieftains; this one is a female and richly accoutered and armed and accompanied by birch-bark runes and drawings. The ice that had preserved her was a hindrance to excavation; a huge logistical effort had to be accomplished by the Russian team in order to evacuate the organic remains intact. She was transported to Novosibirsk, where she is kept in a museum's reserves ; her absence from her home is keenly felt by the Altai tribes, who say that since she was taken away, "the land does not sleep"…. and they are pressing for her return.
So here we have a totemic figure, safeguarded in an unusually rich kurgan environment, performing a vital role in the equilibrium of the landscape and whose attributes and location equate perfectly with our evidence from the Atu XXI. Let's see if we can reconstruct more "happenings" from her past; the evidence we shall use comes from the Mount Bego, in the southern Alps, where rock drawings and paintings have been executed since the Bronze Age. The landscape we shall discover here will lead us directly to our second example, the Vault of the Adepti. The site is fully described by prominent researcher Emilia Masson in “Vallée des Merveilles, Cimes et Abîmes d’une recherche”, Château-Gontier, 2002.
Volume I, Edition 1
Landscapes and Avatars in the WMT (continued) The legend of Mount Bego, a windswept deserted sweep of mountains in the hills behind Nice, frequented only by swarthy shepherds and, nowadays, visitors to the rock carvings and paintings which cover the hillside, recounts that the “goatsfoot” peoples of this area mined the precious metals, gold and silver and copper, here; recent archaeological findings corroborate the inception of these workings to the late neolithic and throughout the Bronze Age. Etruscan influences have been identified in the artwork but the most telling resemblances are to similar sites in the Caucasus, left by the Vajnakh (or “original ones”), represented today by the Chechen and the Ingush, but formerly widespread on both sides of the chain. For here is situated the story of the “Golden Fleece”, which represents the traditional method of separating out the gold particles once the ore is crushed, by running the slurry over sheepskins spread in bark runnels. Sheep, “goatsfoot”, mining for gold, mountains, the link between the Altai, the Caucasus, and the Alps is deep and strong, whether it be by “surface” historical observation or by more intuitive “feng shui” links. We may add the Carpathians to the list, where the same set of symbology applies (the Dacians). The crowning link of our story comes from the domiciliation of the eponymous “Ice Queen” to these regions, whose name “Is-holde” has passed into Arthurian legend as Iseult. She “descends” on Mount Bego (or the Caucasus, or the Altai) from the “Seven Stars”, to accomplish what is known as the “fairy marriage”. Seven Stars to Seven Rivers, Ice to Crystal, the syllable “Is” (remember Issyk-Kul).... Jean-Louis Bernard, in “Archives de l’Insolite” has gathered up the materials of the Legenda but we’ll keep these elements “on hold” while we approach the Sacred Mountain from another quarter and enter, in trepidation, the Vault in its heart. It’s a formidable task to peruse the majestic Victorian prose tapestry of the industrious Albert C. Mackey: "The Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry and Kindred Sciences". The whole immense mountain of labour can be found here : http://www.mastermason.com/bridgeportlodge181/MacEnc01.HTM As one notes the various strands of information contained therein, one particular “landscape” catches the attention, as illustrating the core Legenda of what is known as “Scottish Rite” masonry. This is not the place to go into the particular history of this multifarious assemblage but rapidly, the original Jacobite impulse of these Rites enabled Continental European masonry to take a different path from that of what would become the United Grand Lodge of England, despite various efforts to mingle the two. The “Royal Arch” grade is perhaps the only “regular” body to approach the Scottish Rite in its corpus of lore; what concerns us here is the fundamental “landscape” of these Rites as it gradually appears in the scattered notes of Mackey’s opus. The ingredients mesh insensibly with, on the one hand, the working of the Vault of the Adepti, in RR & AC practice, and on the other, with the “avatars” we have already identified.
The ingredients mesh insensibly with, on the one hand, the working of the Vault of the Adepti, in RR & AC practice, and on the other, with the “avatars” we have already identified.
Landscapes and Avatars in the WMT (continued) First, let’s identify the ingredients of the Scottish Rite landscape. A Sacred Mountain – “Moria”, Sion, the Temple Mount, the Crystal Castle; an Outer Court, which we can equate with the lake and forested island surrounding the mount of crystal; a Middle Court, with the Weapons or Tools, and a Winding Stair, to the Inner Court, or Vault, where the Working takes place. The Outer Court is the realm of the Smith and by extension, the Chard Coal Burner. Hammering and forging, Lugh of the Long Arm, the “goatsfoot” people. The Royal Arch working leads us by a staircase to the Portal of the Middle Court which is the Arch of VenusUrania, passing the pillars (Jakin-Boaz) of the Lion of St. Mark (the “patron” of Ormus...) holding the Key with its paw ; here is the first “grasping”. The Middle Court holds, to the left, the Seven Branched Candlestick and to the right, the Table of Shewbread; before us lies the Altar of Incense, on the Breastplate of the 72 Jewels. This is the Court of Melchizedek, the 72 Sanhedrin, the Elect Knights, we must walk the “winding Stair”, the Labyrinth traced on the black and white squared floor, the Twelve Stepping Stones... does this not remind of the 32nd Path, examined above? With the second “grasping”, of the altar Sword. Fire, all is Fire.
We have tried to show that our motions and phrases in ritual working take place in a “landscape” peopled with
The Portal to the Inner Court, or Vault, is masked by the Veil, blue, indigo, red; these colours test the mettle of the Sword’s forging, by the smoke of the chard coal and its fire; the Veil of the Cherubim. As we pass through from the Tabernacle of the Lesser Mysteries, the four elemental crosses of St. Andrew in its four angles identify us with Elias Artist, El Khidr of the Sufi tradition, the Green Man we shall “become” in the Vault. The Vault of Enoch, the Adytum; a Forest of Ogives, tree become stone, seat of the Seven Brothers of the Light; before we discover the Working and set in motion the Descent of Iseult, let’s examine the centre of the Vault, where what could be described as a “kurgan” lies.
“avatars” and that the two are as important to the “raising of the world egg” as our “graspings” of them.
A Stone covers the Well, that of the Black Is-is. On the Stone lies the Plate of Schemhamphoresh, that is the Ark of the Covenant; upon which rises the Brazen Serpent entwined on the Tau staff of Cagliostro, with the World Egg in its mouth. Above, the “capstone” of the Vault is not yet open to the heavens but we can devine that it is aligned with the Seven Stars and that we are confronted with the World Tree, the Axis Mundi. As Elias Artist, firstly we shall Listen for the Word, the Logos, the third “grasping”; the word is “Tubalcain”, the First Forger, of the World Egg. With the Word we “become” the Stone, we hold the balance between the Well of Samael and the Star of Metatron, we are Crystal, we raise the Brazen Serpent, here is Iseult, who is Sekhmet, the “fairy marriage” joins the Well to the Star. After the “graspings”, it only remains to “let go” ; the word is Sic Itur Astra.... The ramifications of this Legenda are endless; but enough is immediately recognisable to connect us to the Redemption of the Tree and to remember Enoch and the Nephilim; though we only hear of the “Sons of Heaven” who lay with the “Daughters of Men”, would not Inanna entwine with Elias?
Volume I, Edition 1
Landscapes and Avatars in the WMT (continued) Psalm 77,2: “I shall utter phrases offering the enigmas of the older times”; René Guénon, in “Le Roi du Monde”: “The body in a space qualifies that space, and the space endows the body with properties and qualities”. We have tried to show that our motions and phrases in ritual working take place in a “landscape” peopled with “avatars” and that the two are as important to the “raising of the world egg” as our “graspings” of them. After having made our Apprenticeship by the Fiery Furnace (woodcraft, stonecraft, metalcraft), we climbed the Stairs and Passed the Waters, by the Twelve Stepping Stones. We were Elias, Melchizedek, we tasted the Dew of the Rose and under the Forest of Ogives, in the Perfect Silence, we Spoke the Word, and “let ourselves go”; with Don Juan, cited by Carlos Castaneda, we can now proclaim : “I am already given to the power that rules
my fate. And I cling to nothing, so I will have nothing to defend. I have no thoughts, so I will see. I fear nothing, so I will remember myself. Detached and at ease, I will dart past the Eagle to be free." (Note: the specific ritual suggested in the last part of this article will be detailed in my contribution to the Autumnal Equinox edition of the “Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition”, here: http://www.jwmt.org/) Special thanks to Kevin Walsh of the University of York for the Alpine photograph. The Altai picturess are from the author’s collection.
“I am already given
to the power that rules my fate. And I cling to nothing, so I will have nothing to defend. I have no thoughts, so I will see. I fear nothing, so I will remember myself. Detached and at ease, I will dart past the Eagle to be free."