Today I received quite a blow. A letter via electronic mail from the daughter of a close friend saying that she had passed away on Nov. 4th, the very same day I celebrated Samhuinn with my druid grove. I arrived at the celebration angry at having gotten lost on the way, and now I may understand why.
Chalci was a woman and a druid of exemplary character. Strong, stubborn, frank, witty, charming, and self-sacrificing to a fault. She encouraged me years ago to found Avalon Center and she, above everyone, believed in its success. As I wrote earlier in this log, the chancellorship was something I steeled myself to relinquish this Samhuinn, not because I was abandoning the dream of a druid college, but because of my own health issues.
That Chalci should choose this time to pass on through the veil is remarkable and I am left grieving and saddened, yet confident that she has gone on to a better life — or at least a healthy new body — and is applying her forceful energies to the eternal druid order to which we all aspire.
I feel the need to write her a poem but that will take me some time and thought.
For now let me say only that she remains my friend and druid sister and that I will always cherish our correspondence. With deepest affection as well as deep sadness,
Last night was my first meeting with a group of brothers who are working to found a new research lodge. In masonic parlay, that means a lodge that will not have to own its own building, collect dues and so forth, but will operate on a more limited basis directed at specific goals, in this case the study and practice of the British ritual forms and etiquette for festive boards. So, last night 14 of us met to practice a festive board based on the research of our esteemed Secretary and others. Music, toasts, prayers, wine-takings and splendid food served family style. All very reminiscent of the captain’s table on board a British Navy ship of the early 1900’s. I was put in mind of the Aubrey-Maturin novels of Patrick O’Brien.
The chef obligingly prepared special gluten and dairy-free dishes for yours truly, but even so today I am feeling weak again. I was feeling quite bad all day yesterday, however, so I cannot attribute it to the dinner. I’m walking around like an octegenarian and feel like people are staring at me. Of course, that might be the bowler hat.
The Research Lodge has been dubbed the Sir Winston Churchill Research Lodge and aims at British emulation degrees. The name, and the lively Churchillian jokes and stories made me wish that I had a biography of Churchill and some of his own writings. Another diversion.
Today I took the bus to the bank to straighten out the problem with my credit card, then to the post office for stamps. It was closed for veteran’s day but I could get stamps out of the machine. Then I took the bus back but rode downtown to look for Churchill at the main library. However, due to the appalling lack of support for our public libraries in Minnesota, which I can only contribute to the growing number of right-wing citizens who do not want to pay their taxes and use ideology as a cover for their own selfishness and greed (and ignorance), the library was closed. Monday. No learning on mondays, say the Rebubblicans and the other anti-socialists who would rather not spend money on books and learning, and certainly not on enabling others without sufficient funds to have a first rate public library system.
We just spend millions building this new and improved main library in Minneapolis, and the taxpayers can’t manage to keep it open on Mondays. Well, of course, I should have remembered that this was the case, and my complaint rings rather hollow when I’ve just spent a lavish sum on a festive board with brother masons. But I am trying not to spend more money on books. Use the library! Use the Scottish Rite Temple’s library for more obscure things. I have more than enough books on my shelves to keep me reading for the remainder of this life and I would feel better about myself and help my family more if I did read the books I already own, rather than acquiring more.
But I also must work to publish something of my own. Not because I want there to be more books on the store shelves and not because I think my own thoughts are so marvelous that others must hear them. No, it is because I need the money. Or my household does. Not me so much. I will feel better if I know I am contributing something substantial to our household income and contributing to my daughter’s future education.
I’ve been reading the poems of Emily Brontë today. They are so lovely and often so sad. Everyone she loved died, it seems. That period when tuberculosis was sweeping the world. What a passionate heart and mind comes across to me. How I long to know her better, to sit with her and make up fantasy worlds as her brother and sisters did, to write poetry and listen under the trees to her reading hers.
Well, Samhuinn with Geal-Darach Grove was splendid even if I did get off on the wrong foot by getting lost on the way there and arriving all angry so I had to calm down. That’s okay. If they think I’m a tyrant, they will have more incentive to complete the three grades and oust me as chief druid. I look forward to that. I’m afraid, though, I have at least three years.
Meanwhile, on Friday after giving my presentation on Oghams I chipped a tooth. The dentist told me it was my oldest tooth, my first six-year molar. He had redone the filling some years ago and now it gave up, so I have a temporary crown and will get the permanent one before we are off to Arizona for Thanksgiving. I am looking forward to the feat with my mum and my sister and her family and then seeing the Grand Canyon again. It has been many years and I have fond memories of the canyon. It is one of the truly sublime places.
Last night was Scottish Rite. I am not officially a 26° Mason or “Prince of Mercy.” In the 25th degree we were asked to write down a fault we wished to commit ourselves to vanquish and a neglected duty we wished to better perform. Coincidentally, these slips of paper were treated just as we treated those things at Samhuinn which we wrote down and placed into the fire and the cauldron. It was almost the same ritual! A good one in both cases.
Dedicating solemnly to overcome a fault is scary business. It is taken on “with the help of God” which causes one to think about one’s God and trust in that entity to help. As for neglected duties, I feel like my whole life is a patchwork quilt of neglected duties, unfinished projects, and false turns in the maze. However, I often feel that writing is still my calling and that I will only feel truly better about myself if I can contribute more financially to my family. And publishing something is about the only way, at present, I can think of to do that.
So, I’ve procrastinated with emailings all morning, but am going to try to turn to that after lunch.
Wish me luck!
Friday today. Freya’s Day. Goddess of light and life, fecundity, brightness. Last night was Scottish Rite. I am privileged to live in Minneapolis (called the Valley of Minneapolis in S.R. terms), where our Temple still manages to put on all 29 S.R. degrees and does a spectacular job. Some of the actors could use a little more coaching, and occasionally the sound or light team is a bit off their cues, but the costumes are truly remarkable and the props delightful. And many of the principal actors are excellent in their delivery. I hope that I will have energy to contribute as a performer. Amateur theatricals are about my speed and it is a quite forgiving audience. I look forward to it.
Last night we had a brief Red Room presentation by the director of ritual at the Temple. There’s a neat job. Maybe some day I can aspire to that one. I’m fascinated with the ritual process and it is so delightful to work with a group and in an historical facility that is all equipped for the work. It’s a specialized theater with a limited repertoire of 29 plays, mostly one-acts, which are highly symbolical and generally depict episodes from the Bible and from world mythology put into a Masonic context. That means that they are altered to resonate with the Masonic legends of Hiram Abiff and Solomon’s Temple and the symbolic working tools of the stonemason. It also means that they are written for a cast consisting solely of men.
This point particularly struck me last night as the degree dramas branched out from the Biblical to the Egyptian and the story of the death and resurrection of Osiris was dramatized without the character of Isis. I thought to myself how odd this was for anyone who knows the myth and also wondered how many of the candidates in my class do know it. Retelling that myth in its actual form might make an interesting Red Room talk. I should volunteer.
All of the evening’s drama presented the idea of the Mysteries, the mystery schools as they are called. The lectures (reading) accompanying the presentation of the degree, talk about the Mysteries of Eleusis and their importance. Freemasonry is designed to emulate the mystery schools, teaching by symbols and, in its original intent, by each candidate participating in ritual dramas. It seems to me that a good deal of the authenticity and power of the degree rituals is lost when each candidate is not allowed to take part in the drama. In the first three degrees of masonry, given in the blue lodge, one participates more in the drama, though even so, with classes of several candidates, only one is chosen to be the principal candidate and go through the long version of the drama.
I wonder if Druidry has the potential right now, because new members come in at a slower rate and we are not dependent upon dues for paying the rent on our building, as a lodge is — if we druids could offer a deeper experience of the mystery tradition. Druid orders that grew out of and emulated Freemasonry must have initially been seeking the sort of initiatic mystery school experience for their members. OBOD however, downplays the ceremony. I think that even so, it is a stronger and more personal inward experience than sitting on the sidelines watching a Scottish Rite degree, but it does lack a little of the drama because it is not written to dramatize much except death and rebirth. It does not, for example, dramatize a particular myth or legend from the Celtic traditions, which it seems to me, with a little thought, it could.
I wonder if other druid orders do do this. That is one of the problems with mystery schools of any sort. Unless you join several of them and experience their degrees, you don’t know what the others are doing. In the case of Freemasonry, the fact that presumably almost no witches are Freemasons (obviously not the female witches), those practicing Wicca have no way of knowing that the symbol of the pentagram is widely used in Freemasonry, and that the use of the four elements, black hooded robes, and even some of the hand signs one sees in Wicca or Thelema, come from Freemasonry. Which is only to say that they come also from more distant sources where the Masons got them — through the general cauldron of creativity and study of comparative mythology and Eastern Mysteries, such as those of the Egyptians.
In the Scottish Rite degrees and lectures, I can detect the Victorian fascination with these other traditions, which were then newly revealed. The Egyptian mysteries were completely hidden until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, IIRC. But the Victorian comparative religion scholars were fascinated by the idea that Moses or Jacob might have been initiated into the Egyptian mysteries and adapted some of their material for their Jewish religion, which subsequently percolates through the Bible. Freke and Gandy, in their book The Jesus Mysteries, make a similar argument for the New Testament material. They seek to demonstrate that the whole story of Jesus and his disciples was based upon prior stories of god-men who died and were resurrected, such as Osiris and Tammuz and so on.
Well, I had better close off for the day. Tonight I go to St. Paul to deliver a presentation on the Irish Oghams to the brothers there. I am flattered to have been invited and hope that the brothers find it interesting and not boring. After dinner presentations are always somewhat risky, since the audience is bound to be a bit sleepy. At least there is no alcohol in the lodge, so they won’t be woozy-headed as well.
At breakfast this morning I told Linnea I was nervous about it and she said to me, “You did fine at Pagan Pride,” which really touched me. She had watched my presentations there and knew I was nervous then. It will go fine. I am just always nervous to speak in public beforehand. Once I get started, I’ll just go through my slides and talk. My only worry is that it might be longer than they really want.
C’est la vie.
James, by Grace of †God† Doctor of Philosophy
Druid & Knight of the Rose Cross 18°
Eques ab Ivsticia et Veritas