Workshop: Glamour, by Gwendolyn Reece
Gwendolyn Reece is Hellenic Revivalist priestess of Athena and Apollon and a member of the Wiccan Assembly of the Sacred Wheel who lives in DC, where she has founded a temple to her patrons, called Theophania. She has always been politically involved, but recent events have kicked her up a notch, and she believes that humanity, as a group and oversoul, is on the cusp of an initiatory challenge. In order to succeed, she believes we need to clear out what is preventing our spiritual evolution, and one of the largest obstacles is what she refers to as glamour, inspired in no small part by the book Glamour, a World Problem, by Alice Bailey. This echoes thoughts about the change from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius, and Gwendolyn emphasized that we really need to look at trends in terms of 200 years, not 20 years, in order to really see the patterns she’s talking about. Part of the initiatory challenge, she said, comes from several different crises: crises of government are obvious (remember, modern democracy is only a little over 200 years old!), but she is especially concerned with the crisis of climate change. She believes that most of these crises and movements toward spiritual evolution can be boiled down into a move towards the self governance of adulthood. Previously, most forms of government revolved around the idea of sacred kingship. Now, most world governments give at least lip service to democratic elections. But a lot of glamour needs to be dispelled if we are going to succeed at this initiatory challenge.
Gwendolyn defines “glamour” as: a delusion that occurs at the level of consciousness in which cognition is mixed with emotion. She adds that most humans are functioning at that level most of the time. Academics and occultists frequently work at higher levels but tend to return there; some people may spend time below there but tend to return there when they are more clear-headed. She spent a while explaining the different planes/vibrations and how, for the most part, humans are aware of only the center, but if we shift our perceptions (via trance, etc), we can access different parts. It is the work of the occultist to go higher, and in doing so, we can get above the cloud of glamour in order to see it more clearly – and hopefully dispel it. She emphasized the need to start with the glamours we are carrying, ourselves, and then working up to small groups and larger groups that we are a part of, potentially all the way up to the human oversoul (though that’s probably best done in a group effort, she says).
She gave one pretty detailed functional example that I’ll share here: Cynicism. This one raises three very important glamour red flags: 1) it is a cognitive pattern that evokes an emotive pattern that allows them to feel superior, 2) it is a cognitive pattern that deprives them of power while giving them the illusion of power, and 3) it functions as a self-reinforcing loop. Cynicism has become a marker for intelligence, which then allows those who are cynical to feel superior to those who are not, because they’re smarter and not hiding from “harsh truths”. Cynicism removes swathes of intelligent people from being invested in their communities because “there’s no point”, and they feel self-righteous and correct when things then fail – but their refusal to engage is actually one of the causes of failure. As Gwendolyn says, if she was Sauron, contemplating how to enslave Humanity with a really good spell, she couldn’t do better than that!
To dispel glamours in yourself, Gwendolyn says the best thing you can do is to strengthen your intuition and practice mindfulness. At a higher level, she recommends rising through the planes above the cloud of glamour, and contemplating it until you truly understand it in a mystical way – what is the core of the glamour itself? And once you know, find the light within you or ask for assistance from a being of light (like Apollon), target the center of it, and blow it away as best you can. This will require repetition. And the larger the group that you’re trying to remove the glamour from, the larger a group of practitioners you’re likely to need to make a dent. She emphasizes, however, that dispelling from above is a lot more effective than dispelling from the same level, and you probably only need about 20% to hit a real tipping point where it will steadily get clearer and clearer.
Ritual: Tea with Your Dweller, by Holli Shan
This was a guided meditation to help with shadow work, where we were guided to have a talk with our Dweller on the Threshold, our shadow self. We discussed the concept first, and then did two short pathworkings, which I found immensely useful. There was actual tea provided, a warm and calming blend made by Tintalle Foxwood (but alas I failed to write down the ingredients).
The guidance was more or less as follows: Take our cup of tea, take a large sip and hold it in our mouths, really tasting it. Then, focus on breathing for four breaths as we sink into trance. Holli led us down a spiral staircase, and into a room in a palace deep in the ground where there was a small table, with a single candle, and a single cup of tea. We were to sit down at the table, and then call to our Dweller, who would take the chair opposite us. Then, we shared the tea – three sips each, back and forth and back and forth. Once the tea was gone, we were told to ask our Dweller what they had for us, be it message or object. Many of us were given gem-like objects (which Holli had previously said was how she often pictured the exchange) which we were then told to identify, and release, destroy, or re-integrate according to what it was that we had been given.
Some people were given childhood memories that they had to reintegrate after releasing negative emotions. Some were given more overt messages, like “You need to make time for self care so you can love yourself again”. I was given two objects in the first pathworking that I could not identify, but the first one I knew I needed to release, and the second one needed to be cleansed and then re-integrated. In the second pathworking, I was given more information to better understand what the two things had been, and was given an additional two gems. It was very healing, and reminded me somewhat of soul retrieval. I will definitely do it again on my own.
Workshop: Magick for the Good of the Polis, by Gwendolyn Reece
This was Gwendolyn’s second and more overtly political worskshop. She said that before she does any large workings aimed at a group (because that is what a polis is – a body of which an individual human is a part), she starts with an ethical reasoning process, borrowed from academia. This is a six-part process of ethics questions:
- Self-Assessment: Is it really about service? What is it feeding in me? Am I doing this for myself?
- Self-Assessment: Do I know enough about the topic to properly identify the risks?
- Risk/Benefit Calculation: What is the probability of harm? What is the magnitude of the possible harm? What is the probability of benefit? Magnitude of possible benefit?
- Comprehensive Identification of Risks: What is the risk to the individual practitioner? To the community of practitioners? To the community targeted? To any institutions? What is the risk of attracting unwanted spirit attention? Etc, etc.
- Risk Mitigation: How can you mitigate the above risks? How many of them can you mitigate at once?
- Consult Others: Ask your fellow practioners for advice, and also consult your personal guides and guardians, deities, etc.
She did say that in the case of enviromental collapse, the risk/benefit calculation gives her more leeway than on most things, because the risk of not doing anything is total disaster.
Gwendolyn discussed various types of Ancient Hellenic practices, starting with the religion of the polis, then personal and household devotions, the Mysteries, and lastly the different types of magic: Magika, Goetia, and Pharmakon. She said generally, magic on behalf of the polis was attempted after the following steps were taken: 1) recognize the miasma of the polis (miasma, in her definition, is what occurs when humans are out of right relationship with the gods and with each other, ie, when social contracts have been broken), 2) look for the causes of miasma (this was often done by consulting oracles or taking omens, etc), 3) appease or remove the causes of miasma and bind what cannot be removed (this is usually the majority of the magical workings), and then 4) strengthen the beneficial (by making sacrifices to the patron of the polis, for example). It’s a decent pathway for modern practitioners to follow before doing workings, as well. She then discussed various kinds of magic, including Apompe, Katadesmoi, Judicial spells, and Baityloi, before discussing a couple of workings she’s done recently.
Ritual: The Healing Labyrinth, by Irene Glasse
This was a labyrinth walk, on a labyrinth Irene brought with her rolled up on a huge sheet. Irene is a yoga teacher and a trained labyrinth facilitator. Her spiritual home is Frederick Unitarian Universalist Church, which has a large labyrinth in its courtyard. Labyrinth walking is a somewhat unique form of mediation, because of the movement required. She also said that everything on a labyrinth walk is an allegory, so make note of times you get lost, get distracted, or stumble. It is also a very personal journey that sometimes must take place with others around, giving it a sense of community not unlike a meditative yoga class.
On our first walk, she wanted us to focus on what was stuck in our lives on our way in, what our blockages were, and what we must release. On the way out, we were to focus on what needed to be received, what needed to come in to fill the space instead. Before the second walk, she placed rattles and bells at various points around the labyrinth.
on that second walk, we were to stop at each station on the way in and pick up a rattle. Then, through the sound of the rattle and the sound of our own voice, we were supposed to name a blockage and release it. On the way out, our blockages cleared, we were to use the bells, and with their sound and our voice, welcome in those things we needed to receive. As more and more people entered the labyrinth, it became a symphony of sound, and while it might sound cacophonous, it instead was a very healing sound overall, and many of us found that the things we were struggling with were also things others needed to release.
Like the Opening Ritual, this one is scripted almost the same every year, and yet it feels important to go, to get that closure. The patrons are thanked and released, the egregore is put back to sleep as a chrysalis, and the wards are dropped as we return to the mundane world, with a parting gift. The gift this year was a blessed Constitution, and since I already had one from a friend who attended one of Gwendolyn’s Theophania Temple rituals, Glasreo and I passed ours on to vendor friends who hadn’t been able to attend.
As always, after four days at Sacred Space, it was a little bit difficult to move fully back into our mundane lives!