Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Danger, Protection and Poppies

During my interview on the H2O Network, we discussed how the War on Drugs has led to all sorts of restrictions being implemented in the name of saving us from making bad choices. Omo Yemaya asked about what I had learned while writing and researching Power of the Poppy and what lessons I would like my readers to take away from the book.

One of the big ones was this: if we give our legislators the ability to regulate heroin, we also give them the ability to regulate aloe vera and other natural supplements. If we trust them to protect us from the terrorists who want to fly planes into our buildings, we shouldn't be surprised when they try to protect us from the "terrorists" who expose unsafe, inhumane and unsanitary factory farming practices.  Like any ally (spiritual or otherwise) our leaders need to be watched closely and treated with caution.  We all know that oxycodone or morphine use can quickly spin out of control. We need to remember that the same is true of government.

Another is this: all the laws in the world cannot triumph over the law of supply and demand, or over the Darwinian laws of natural selection. There will always be people who use mind-altering substances, and there will always be people who abuse them. Our efforts to discourage them through punitive means are doomed. From 1914's Harrison Narcotics Act to the present day, we have tried to criminalize drug abuse out of existence. We have succeeded only in creating powerful organized crime cartels, persecuting doctors, and feeding a prison/law enforcement complex that seeks ever-greater power in the name of "protecting our children."

Perhaps someday we will see a politician honest enough to say "Some day, somewhere, some lone zealot will succeed in blowing himself up on a crowded subway or on an airplane.  Our present trend of virtual strip-searches and toddler pat-downs cannot take away that risk: it can only take away our dignity. We are not even sacrificing our liberty for safety: we are giving it up for the illusion of safety. We cannot protect ourselves from Black Swans and anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you something." The folks who are leading the war on drugs are also leading the war on terror. Ask yourself what they gain from your acquiescence in their schemes and what their "protection" is costing you.  Because that is another lesson which Poppy teaches: everything has a price and every action has a consequence.  No ally works for free and any ally will promote its interests over yours.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Recent Kenaz Filan Interviews

I have been away from the Blogosphere for a bit whilst working on various magical, literary and personal projects: more on those as they develop.  Those of you who can't get enough Kenaz Filan can catch me live on tomorrow's show on the H2O Network at 7pm Eastern time.

I have also recorded a podcast with the fine folks at Thelema Now!  (which should be available soon) and with Heather Tobin at Into the Mystic (which is already available).

Hopefully I will be updating this blog more regularly in the near future: in the meantime, hope you enjoy!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

More on Ehwaz: a conversation with Jalkr Templekeeper

In response to my earlier post on Ehwaz, here are some comments from Jalkr Templekeeper of Breiðablik Temple, a sacred space dedicated to Odin and other Northern Tradition gods. In that capacity Jalkr cares for old, abused, aggressive or otherwise discarded horses.  His words bear careful thought - and if you find them worthwhile, please do send along a donation.  As anyone who has ever kept an equine companion knows, maintenance and care of horses isn't cheap.


On bits, with regard to control of a horse, a bit isn't the key thing. A horse's innate response to pressure, any pressure, is the key. So, something as simple as a noseband, or leg pressure, or even just energetic pressure will cause a horse to respond. A bit is a coarse instrument, in actuality. Directing or trying to control a spooked horse will intensify their need to escape; they are prey animals and keeping them still when they want to move doesn't work--trust me on this.

As for tamer/tamed/domination...uh, no, not really. It's a partnership, through and through. The horse's physical might and grace, the rider's desire to attain a specific goal. Very few horses tolerate an attempt to dominate them. They'll just blow right through that with their superior strength and either flee or lose respect for the one who tries to outwit them in this fashion.

Ehwaz is about trust, merging, complimentary beings moving as one. I wrote about it at the Temple blog, with respect to one special horse, Maple. The entry is two pages with images, but I think you'll get what I'm trying to say if you have a look. Force and domination only made this animal more unwilling. Listening and asking, respecting her, is what allowed us to be united. while we have intellect on our side, harshly or heavily applied you will either crush the spirit of the horse and render him unfit to give 100% or drive him away and make him wary of ever joining up with a human. It is a very delicate dance.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Yep, Still MORE on The Vodoun Gnostic Workbook

First: it appears that my blog was busily engaged in comment-swallowing for a bit. Apologies to Gordon and others whose words may have been lost in the aethyr.

Seshat's last comment: my reply follows.
Hi Kenaz,

Thanks for posting a reply to the reply

There are high priests in Benin Voudon, which of course is the cradle of all Voudon.

And as to accusing Bertiaux/VGs of being racist you then say you didn’t know CW was black because he didn’t have a “black name” LOL Now who’s the racist?

As a bisexual woman, I have no problem with nude gay wrestling, do you? …

I think enough has been said and normal service will be resuming on my blog.

Best wishes
I had always heard the heads of Beninois temples called “Chiefs” rather than High Priests. But I’d also caution you that there are many major differences between Beninois and Haitian practices. (One friend of mine, a Houngan Asogwe who is currently doing field work in Benin, has noted that Benin Vodoun shares some spirit-names with Haitian Vodou but that Haitian practices have a much stronger Kongo slant than Beninois).

I never said Courtney Willis didn’t have a “black” name – I said that his name didn’t sound Haitian. (i.e. French – although you do have some Haitians with Polish and German last names thanks to interesting accidents of history). As I said, the question would not be “is CW black?” but “is CW Haitian?” If Mr. Willis is indeed Haitian, then my apologies.

As far as nude gay oil wrestling goes, I have no problems with it at all: I might even be inclined to participate if the participants were sufficiently attractive and all parties were using a water-based lubricant that didn’t break down latex But I have not yet run into any Haitian Vodou rituals that involve nude gay oil wrestling: neither have I seen any Afro-Atlantean time travel performed.

Again, I actually rather liked Bertiaux’s work as a Surrealist text and have found quite a few of his magical ideas to be profound and effective. I believe he had some experience with Haitian practices, and that he was a polymath who did extensive research in several fields (his comments on logical philosophy are excellent and suggest he is a very erudite man, for example). But I remain unconvinced that his OTOA/LCN has any kind of a direct, unbroken lineage to current or historical Haitian practices.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Still More on the Voudon Gnostic Workbook

My earlier post on Michael Bertiaux's Voudon Gnostic Workbook provoked a rather heated response from Star of Seshat.  I thought I would address some of her concerns here:
Kenaz, I have rarely read such an ill-informed polemic piece which can only be sparked by someone, desperately trying to sell mediocre books like Vodou love magic to a naive audience, while posing like a Voudon High priest while knowing obviously very little.
I'm not a "Voudon High Priest," nor have I ever heard that term used by any Haitian or Haitian-American. I am a Houngan Si Pwen, initiated in March 2003 at Société la Belle Venus #2 in Brooklyn New York by Mambo Azan Taye (Edeline St.-Amand) and Houngan Si Gan Temps (Hugue Pierre).  I leave judgment on Vodou Love Magic to my readers.  I will, however, note that commentary on Bertiaux and his lineage is a singularly inefficient way to drum up sales for a book on love spells.
You clearly have no idea of Haitian secret societies and their incorporation of martinist and other concepts which are clearly and strongly present in various lineages of zobop, bizango etc. Even a read of Milo Rigaud’s books, an authority on Voudon, would have explained a lot.
I know enough about the Secret Societies of Haiti to know that some of the words which Bertiaux, Beth, etc. toss around as synonyms describe different - and frequently mutually hostile - societies.  "Zobop" is not "Sect Rouge" is not "Bizango" is not "Vingblingding" is not "Sanpwel" etc.  The fact that these groups are often conflated in OTOA/LCN work raises a red flag for me - as does Bertiaux's conflation of Haitian Vodou (Voudon) and African-American "Lucky Hoodoo."  I do have some knowledge of Martinism, since my Mama Kanzo is a Martinist and since I've read a fair bit of Martinist literature in both English and French.  I stand by my original statement that I find little Martinism in Bertiaux's work.

All this being said, I am not an initiate in any Haitian secret society, nor am I an initiated Martinist. So it could well be that I have missed the parts which describe naked homosexual Guede oil wrestling or Afro-Atlantean time travel techniques. If this is indeed the case, my apologies to you, Messrs. Bertiaux, Beth and Willis and the OTOA/LCN.

Regarding Rigaud, take a look at his Secrets of Vodou, particularly the part where he describes the various spirits.  You'll see among his list "Erzulie La Belle Venus:" Rigaud encountered this lwa at the home of Mambo Edeline's grandfather.  And I have no doubt that Bertiaux was heavily influenced by Rigaud's work. (I also provided a link to another possible source in my original post: if you read French, you should definitely check out Her-Ma-Ra-El's book).
To accuse Bertiaux and his school of trying to remove Voudon from the hands of black people is similarly strange as the current head of the OTOA\LCN, C. Willis is black (while you on the other hand are very white :) – also the VGW is full of glowing excitement for African and Haitian Gnosis in various forms and Bertiaux tirelessly attributes all his knowledge to Mstr. Jean Maine, a black Haitian.
The comment about "removing Voudon from the hands of black people" came from Adam McGee, not yours truly.  I thought he raised many interesting points which deserved further discussion, but those were his words, not mine.

As far as Courtney Willis goes, I have never met the man nor have I seen a picture of him so I have no way of knowing his race.  From his name, I'm guessing that he is no more Haitian than I am.  If that is the case, his skin color is irrelevant: while the vast majority of Haitians are black, the vast majority of blacks are not Haitian.  And as far as Lucien-François Jean-Maine, how do you answer Peter Koenig's essay which discusses the difficulties in confirming the account of the OTOA's lineage?

As I said before, I think Bertiaux's work is an interesting piece of contemporary Surrealism and one which has had a great influence on many contemporary magical practitioners.  Like many writers before him, I believe Bertiaux threw in a creation mythos to give his ideas more historical heft.  (Would anyone have taken Gurdjieff seriously if he skipped the whole Meetings With Remarkable Men schtick and said "I came up with this stuff while I was selling carpets in some obscure Armenian market?")  But I think the evidence for the OTOA/LCN's Haitian lineage is shaky to non-existent, creation myths notwithstanding.