Let me start this by plainly stating something. This is in no way a review of the lovely book that arrived in the post the other morning. It is not a judgement of the validity or otherwise of any of its contents.
Hell, the foregoing isn’t a disclaimer either – merely a statement of fact. The reason it’s there is because I don’t think you can review a book like this. Trying to maintain critical distance in order to present an opinion of a book like this is frankly silly. That means that this whole post is going to be about my impressions of the work, and where it led me. If you’re not interested in where my soul and psyche was taken while embracing and discovering the current behind the words, then please, stop reading and go do something else – it’s not for you, seriously.
Now, hopefully, all the dry and boring people will have taken the hint and sodded off. Which leaves you, dear reader, with me. First published in 2011 by Fulgur, my copy arrived from the newly born Theion Publishing, complete with sigilized inscription of Les Trois Soeurs. That’s important, by the way, so I’ll ask you to bear that in mind for later.
If you’ve been reading CA for a bit, you’ll note that I have more time than some for the Voudon Gnostic Workbook and Gnostic Voudon in generally. I’ve attended two talks by David Beth in Manchester, and once again, was heavily impressed by both. So I’m coming at this whole thing from a position of respect for a group of people who quite obviously do the Work, rather than simply being an “occult social club.”
(This may be also because in order to get to said talks I’ve had to be hauled up the 2 narrow flights of stairs in a 206 year old pub to get there. Trust me, I wouldn’t have done it twice if I thought David didn’t have the goods. He does.)
ATUA is an anthology of individual praxis, so as such, there is a variety of stuff here. Just reading the contents page intrigued me greatly, so I was excited to sit down the other afternoon and immerse myself in such interesting material. I have a bit of a history with Gnostic Voudon, so in a certain sense it was like revisiting my roots, or going back to where I began this oddly crooked path to say hello to some old friends.
This was made even more so by the fact that the book fell open to the section on Legbha-Guedhe in one of Hagen Von Tulien’s pieces, particularly the section on Close Encounters With Saturnian Lwa. In my case it was the twin energies of Leghba and Ghuedhe which accelerated my rediscovery of the ancestors who have since become an integral part of my life. Without the intervention of these lwa, who knows where I’d be!
(Quiet in the peanut gallery there!)
“Many spirits of Lucky Hoodoo like to indwell a painted wooden box with a lid, called an ATUA or A TOO A. All spirits dwell in those invisible Atuas that are made of spirit-matter in the world of the spirits.” Voudon Gnostic Workbook
It’s obvious, having internalised the above quote, why this book has been named such. It is a dwelling place for the Gnostic spirits which each of the contributors work with. In a sense, opening it and reading it can be seen as answering an invitation, creating a meeting point between the mind/soul complex of the reader and the spirits within. If the reader chooses to allow this meeting, this congress and communication which takes place within the world of primal images, one literally resides at a crossroads. Here then, is where the notion of Leghba-Ghuedhe is so important, for Von Tulien’s piece makes it explicitly clear that the opening rite to the lwa may be performed alone or as precursor to other work within the VG continuum.
Embracing the timeless furious character of such an Opener Of The Ways, what occurs next is beyond nature; walking the road beneath freezing stars without moving from one’s origin leads inexorably to the next stage of the journey. Long ago, and many times since, have the words “The Master Comes From The North.” resounded in my being. So it’s unsurprising that the next stage of my journey within this house of spirits was David Beth’s Gnostic Isolation and Journey to the Centre of The World. This combined with Craig Williams Shadow Shaman to engender a terrific sense of resonance with my own praxis.
Standing alone at the centre of the soul there stands that which might be considered the central Mystery that sings to me – that most terrible gallows which is axis mundi and horse of the Terrrible One. Accessible by walking inward and down to the secret centre of the self. So now we entertain the notion that it stands there alone storm-tossed and blasted by the kosmic winds within an Earth which is not merely hollow but is curved abyss itself. It rises to primacy like some mighty poteau-mitan – its transportational power being the unintelligible voidness which exists within and behind the manifest worlds.
Nor is this the end of the Saturnian resonance – for it is Saturn-Kronos who separated Ouranos from Gaia, and cut off his father’s member. The resulting frothing mix of semen provides the gate of manifestation for Aphrodite, and that seems fitting given the prevalence of the erotognosis which is so vital within such work. Irrespective of that, it is Saturn-Kronos who becomes the axis mundi, the daimonic central connection between heaven and earth. It is Saturn-Kronos who devours his children and vomits forth the stone which serves as ersatz-Zeus; that stone which is the Omphalos or navel of the world.
It is Saturn-Kronos who is imprisoned by Zeus, then later released to rule of over the Isles of the Blessed.
“Etherial father, mighty Titan, hear, great fire of Gods and men, whom all revere:
Endu’d with various council, pure and strong, to whom perfection and decrease belong.
Consum’d by thee all forms that hourly die, by thee restor’d, their former place supply;
The world immense in everlasting chains, strong and ineffable thy pow’r contains
Father of vast eternity, divine, O mighty Saturn [Kronos], various speech is thine:
Blossom of earth and of the starry skies, husband of Rhea, and Prometheus wife.
Obstetric Nature, venerable root, from which the various forms of being shoot;
No parts peculiar can thy pow’r enclose, diffus’d thro’ all, from which the world arose,
O, best of beings, of a subtle mind, propitious hear to holy pray’rs inclin’d;
The sacred rites benevolent attend, and grant a blameless life, a blessed end.” – Orphic Hymn XII
Small wonder then, that the Maitre Grand Bois D’Islet has Saturnian connexions, for, as von Tulien says:
“[He] is a Neptune an Pluto type of deity, he is the twin and companion of Ghuedhe-Nibbho. As there exist certain secret relations between Moon, Sun and Saturn within the inner Saturnian Sphere and some very special connections between Saturn and those trans-Saturnian planets can be made.”
There, residing in his realm beneath the crystal waters, with the leaves of the underwater forest shifting with ancient currents, lies that lwa. Diffused and suffusing that place, the great wood suffused with kosmic blue, he resides in quietness. The omnipresence of that spirit is the omnipresence of the deeps to which we must descend to greet our heroic ancestors. The blood in our veins quickens, turning to ichor as we follow the blood-path and exult in the ferocity of the Mighty Dead, those who have returned to their primal atavisms and gifted us with the means of revealing our heritages.
Nor is this something that can be accomplished without merciless dedication, without what Craig Williams mentions as kaivalya – or “the condition of the isolated Self…obtainable by Gnosis (Jnana) alone.”
Now, I’ve talked many times before about that notion of isolation; the principle of operating coldly, or at the very least more coolly. This cooling is a notion which is against reactivity – against blind automatism which renders us nought but beasts. Unsurpisingly, the notion of Saturn being related to Prajapati, or the “Lord of All Creatures” evokes subtle notions of Shiva, Rudra and Agni – for it is by willingly sacrificing onself on the cosmic pyre that one gives up the notions of control, status and social ego. In understanding that one is burned to ones bones, one emerges clothed in ashes, much like Shiva – and thus, on a physical level, one becomes as Pashupati, or the Lord Of Beasts. No longer mastered, but Master.
One does not return from death. One emerges as beyond-death, fierce and terrible. The pyre of the weltfeuer when wilfully embraced enables us to break the power of Spirit and ignite the Soul. Those same Saturnine chains which bind us may be used to set us free. Just ask anyone with experience of the erotognosis of bondage and they will confirm this for you most clearly!
Within the Cremation Ground of the Soul, one becomes a dread-locked aesetic, drinking from the cup of one’s own skull; a tantrik form par excellence – perhaps a cannibalistic ghul would serve as a useful meditative image for those of a Lovecraftian persuasion?
In a Zoetic Universe, that is to say a universe which may perhaps also be described as Animist in nature, the Zoetic principle is omnipresent. This does not contradict the philosophy of Gnostic Agnosticism because all that is known is mediated throu the sensorium which is itself a crystalisation of the Zoetic principle. Or to state it more clearly, perhaps one can say that the universe is alive because we are alive, and the universe is a contigent system. Suffice to say, one might argue that the constant combustion as spoken of by Heraclitus is well suited to the reference in the above Orphic Hymn.
Part of the cooling notion is that the constant change is a constant immolation – we are every sacrifced, ever participating in the universe. However, the colder we become, the more we learn to replace reaction with action. We are no longer burning indiscriminately – in essence we are answering it with a level of ferocity which renders us as a dance partner in the charnel ground, rather than simple fuel.
Here we see a resonance with Oryelle Defenestrate-Bascule’s piece on Mahakala-Ghuedhe. This fierce deity also survives as a wrathful deity in Tibetan Buddhism – the devouring, burning embodiment of Great Black Time itself. Many years ago, I found myself drawn to such a depiction, and a statue of Mahakalha has long sat upon my altar. All things fall before Mahakala, just as Maha-Kali is the Great Black Mother – the all-comsuming one who dances endlessly on, the womb from which we all emerge and return.
In Binah, we see the Black Sea of Understanding; a watery parallel that matches the conflagration which we have spoken of; an abyssal gulf in which one may plunge to infinite depth. Within those waters one may perhaps dvine the weave of inescapable Fate – the cold doom which snares us the moment we are born. In that ocean we may find figures limned with kosmic light – guides to draw us along the corridors of the birthing ossuries, moving at sidereal angles across the lattice of crystal interstices which lead us further on. In those in-between spaces, one may watch the four limbs of the crossroads shift and double. Perhaps what was once human in form now becomes arachnoid? The absurdity of the call towards were-tarantulahood now loses its schlock-horror aspect and becomes awfullyunmistakeable.
Suddenly the web of time emerges – the wyrd shrieking now resolving into laughter and the thrust of hips as Barons and Maitres teach the wisdom of brewing strange liqours. And yet there, beneath that Black Sun, deep within that Hollow Earth already spoken of, one also notes the eight legs and the ferocity of speed as the best of all horses canters down to Hel. The Gallows Lord thunders on, with his Furious Host about him.
Les Trois Soeurs, all full of secrets and potions in their alchemical erotognosis, which are bearing secret kinships to the venoms of the Elivagar. Les Trois Soeurs with their faces in ink that stare out of the page – relevantly sigilised for this copy that found its way to me. Les Trois Soeurs who annoint and salve the body of the initiate, engineering and engendering the Atua to produce such poisons as will transmute the flesh and bone into a creature of unavoidable daimonic presence.
With their intercessions, emissions and fluids tatooed into amorphous writhing script upon the skin and bones of the initiate, so the darkly gleaming mandalas of monstrous primordial machinery hidden within the cellars of imaterial citadels begin to spin up to life. Only then can the initiate face the fanged noumena found in the realm termed by David Beth as the Meon. Only with the anointing of the seeker’s body with the clays of the three wells that lie on Yggdrasil, only by seeking the giant maids who mark the fates of men, can one feel the cold blood course through the bindrune of your existence. Only by taking that venomous draught, by embracing your monstrous end as food for the wolf and fuel for Surtur’s fire, can you be reconstituted to journey further on, in to the realms of metacosmic darkness. Only through the intercession of the Giant Maids can you embrace and become your wyrd such that none can harm you.
Or so the whisperings from the dreamings inform me – and it it is any wonder that All-Father Wotan, that mightiest of ceaseless hunters may seize you by the neck and carry you away? Is there any wonder that there is no rest for the wicked, that the kosmic gnosis surfaces in multiple streams, or that the dancing, whirling form of Mahakala meets fierce cannibalistic Saturn; that ash-daubed Siva and the ruddy gleam of Rudra meets the mighty howling of Set? That the genius of Leghba-Ghuedhe rises again from beneath and behind the cross to stand with Hermes and Carrefour and Cimitere?
There is wonder, in abundance, and we must thank the contributors of Atua; thank Fulgur and Theion Publishing; thank the Master of your Soul for shattering the chains of Spirit.