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Mystery School and Oghams

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November 2007
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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.

Oh well.

C’est la vie.

James, by Grace of †God† Doctor of Philosophy
Druid & Knight of the Rose Cross 18°
Eques ab Ivsticia et Veritas

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