TWO MILESTONES in my life happened this November. Although I am thinking about the vast world issues going on beyond the horizon of my small life, these milestones of a personal nature have given me great satisfaction.
The first is that I am celebrating my 8th anniversary of wandmaking and Bard Woodcrafts Wandry. Today, I went through all the old e-mails from clients and the many people who sent me queries and questions about wands, wandmaking, and trees. It was a delightful experience to re-read some of these notes. So many of them begin with something like: “I just came upon your site…” The serendipity involved in finding Bardwood is something to consider, for I do not spend money and time seducing the search engines into putting me at the top of the search terms. You have to look past four or five more commercial wandmakers who sell much cheaper wands, and links to the band The Magic Wands, and other stories that include the term in a different sense.
So, those who have found Bardwood Wandry are among an elite of persevering seekers not deterred by the whims of Google and Bing. I believe part of the reason my site doesn’t appear easily in search engines is because I have not updated it in quite a while. I understand that is one of the criteria the robots use. That I do not cater to the preferences of robots gives me some gratification, even if it deprives me of much business.
Yet, even among those who do find my Wandry, many turn away from the windows longingly unable to afford my prices. I do really sympathize with this dilemma. I couldn’t afford my own prices either. I wish that there was a way to do the kind of work I do faster, but it just is not an art that can be easily subjected to scientific management. Of course the big Harry Potter wandmakers like Alivans, spend a lot on marketing and they utilize an army of wood turners to produce their designs. It may not be mass-production exactly. As I understand it, the system is a sort of de-centralized factory where Alivans supplies the templates and the turners crank out the beautiful finished product. I am sure someone at Alivans (Mr. Alivan?) does quality control on the finishes and the turning work itself.
However, in an effort to serve those magical folk who might want a top-line wand, I have put out an e-mail notice to past clients and correspondents about an End of the Year, 8th anniversary sale. 15% off the usual prices, plus FREE SHIPPING. Huzzah!
It will be interesting to see if it draws in some business.
The second milestone this November is that I was elevated to the “most sublime” degree of Royal Arch Mason in the York Rite of Freemasonry. There is a certain amount of competition between the hardcore York Rite Masons and the hardcore Scottish Rite Masons. I don’t wish to pick sides in that argument about which is “better” or more “authentic” or whatever.
Taking the degree of the Holy Royal Arch makes me a full member of my local Royal Arch Chapter, St. John’s-Lake Harriet Chapter No. 9. As with many of the Scottish Rite degrees, the Royal Arch degree purports to convey the true Master’s Word. As in the Scottish Rite, this revealing of the Lost Word is a recurring theme and my feeling is that it must be taken as symbolic. The whole degree ritual was highly symbolic and, as in the case of other Masonic rituals, it can be taken at face value as an exercise in storytelling creating stories that re-enact in ritual drama parts of the Biblical story of the Temple at Jerusalem. This piece of the story addresses the destruction of Solomon’s temple, the Babylonian captivity of the people of Judah, and the ultimate return of some of them from Babylon to create a client principality under the Babylonians.
But, I need to study this story to internalize the facts, such as they are in history and such as they are presented in the story. After that, or at the same time maybe, I want to tease out the symbolism. Clearly, this is the ritual that Mozart used in his opera The Magic Flute. It involves a symbolic journey through the trials of the four alchemical elements. The journey from Bablylon to Jerusalem is presented as an alchemical journey of the soul – a transformation of the soul, and probably also points to a major transformation in the Jewish people.
Many druids and other pagans today turn away from the stories of the Bible, the mythic history of the Jews in the books of what the Christians call “The Old Testament.” This has been the creation myth of the West for 2000 years. Modern pagans tend to gaze past the Bible and be more interested in Babylon, Sumer, Egypt – those ancient cultures and their ancient religions based in polytheism. There is a certain opinion among pagans today that monotheism was a big mistake. I am not personally willing to make such a sweeping statement. I see the wisdom and appeal in polytheism and the wisdom and appeal of monotheism, or Platonism with its monism. I do not see religion as a matter of figuring out which approach or which culture is more “right.” It is to learn as much as possible and to strive to see through all the different lenses at the cosmos (inner and outer).
It is a feeling of accomplishment to receive a Masonic degree. But the feeling of excitement and accomplishment dissolves quickly into the realization that you have been given a charge to study and find the secrets of the degree. You receive the “title” Royal Arch Mason or Master of the Royal Secret, but these titles mean nothing in themselves. Their significance lies in the actions of the Mason who takes those degrees – afterwards. Does he engage with the mysterious, symbolic material he has received in an attempt to learn from it?
So, now I sit before and contemplate those treasures brought forth from the hidden recesses of the Royal Arch. I will mention that one of those treasures was of particular significance to me as a wandmaker, but I won’t tell you more than that.