Ecyclopedia Hermetica: A Big History (Parts 40-41)

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Book Launch: Shamanism and the Mysteries: A Brief History of the Cult of Ecstasy

Dear friends, I am proud to announce the launch of my very first official full-length book via Amazon!  This work was written over the span of two years, between 2011-2013, and has undergone significant revisions since I decided to publish it for a wider audience – as of recently, it’s been made available in paperback form through amazon’s print-on-demand service.  The following link is an affiliate link, so if you’re looking to purchase the book, do it through here and I get a little extra bonus from Amazon:

Shamanism and the Mysteries: A Brief History of the Cult of Ecstasy (or here E-book Version)

Summary: The administration of initiation rites by an ecstatic specialist, now known to western scholarship by the general designation of ‘shaman’, has proven to be one of humanity’s oldest, most widespread, and continuous magico-religious traditions. At the heart of their initiatory rituals lay an ordeal – a metaphysical journey – almost ubiquitously brought on by the effects of a life-changing hallucinogenic drug experience.

To guide their initiates, these shaman worked with a repertoire of locally acquired instruments, costumes, dances, and ecstasy-inducing substances. Among past Mediterranean cultures, Semitic and Indo-European, these sorts of initiation rites were vital to society’s spiritual well-being. It was, however, the mystery schools of antiquity – organizations founded upon conserving the secrets of plant-lore, astrology, theurgy and mystical philosophy – which satisfied the role of the shaman in Greco-Roman society. The rites they delivered to the common individual were a form of ritualized ecstasy and they provided an orderly context for religiously-oriented intoxication.

mushroom.jpg

In the eastern Mediterranean, these ecstatic cults were most often held in honour of a great mother goddess and her perennially dying-and-rising consort. The goddess’ religious dramas enacted in cultic ritual stressed the importance of fasting, drumming, trance-inducing music, self-mutilation, and a non-alcoholic ritual intoxication. Far and wide the dying consort worshiped by these cults was a god of vegetation, ecstasy, revelation, and salvation; by ingesting his body initiates underwent a profound mystical experience. From what limited information has survived from antiquity, it appears that the rites practiced in the eastern mystery cults were in essence traditional shamanic ordeals remodeled to suit the psychological needs of Mediterranean civilization’s marginalized people.

This book argues that the myths of this vegetable god, so-called ‘the Divine Bridegroom,’ particularly in manifestation of the Phrygian Attis and the Greek Dionysus, is deeply rooted in the life-cycle, cultivation, treatment, consumption of a tree-born hallucinogenic mushroom, Amanita muscaria. The use of this mushroom is alive and well today among Finno-Ugric shaman and this paper explores their practices as one branch of Eurasian shamanism running parallel to, albeit in a different time, the rites of the Phrygian goddess. Using extant literary and linguistic evidence, I compare the initiatory cults long-assimilated into post-agricultural Mediterranean civilization with the hallucinogen-wielding shaman of the Russian steppe, emphasizing them both as facets of a prehistoric and pan-human magico-religious archetype.

People Don’t Read Much Anymore… So I’m Going To Tell Them How It Is

Encyclopedia Hermetica: A Big History

with Dan Attrell

In this new podcast-style series presented by The Modern Hermeticist, historian Dan Attrell cruises through the centuries and millennia, starting around the year 5000 BC and working his way down to our times, in order to provide listeners with a ‘big picture’ of history.  The ‘exoteric’ portions of the Encyclopedia Hermetica cover major events and trends in politics, art, philosophy, religion, science, and more, in order to provide listeners with a more ‘traditional’ historical framework.

This romp through the ages, however, serves a dual-function as a vehicle for imparting teachings vis-a-vis the ‘esoteric’ dimensions of history which one cannot learn in school.  The discussions are punctuated by an honest and ‘alternative’, no-holds barred commentary that delves off into subjects such as the occult, mysticism, and mind control, and how these topics stand in connection with the way the past has unfurled, and the way we continue to interpret those events to this day.  This is done to provide listeners not only with a basic chronology of events, but with a veritable ‘cosmology’ in the spirit of a liberal education.

Future episodes will discuss the topics as diverse as magic[k] and mystery traditions, prophets and their mystical experiences, science and alchemy, astrology and astronomy, entheogenic plants and psychedelic drugs, freedom and slavery, truth and illusion, and much more in relation to the broader framework of world history.

Sympathetic Magic, Human Sacrifice, and Dido’s Rituals in Book IV of the Aeneid

Here’s a brief talk entitled “Regina Magica: ‘Sympathetic Magic,’ the φαρμακός motif, and Dido’s Rituals in Book IV of the Aeneid” in defense of the ‘magical’ character of Dido’s suicide.

Bibliography

Burkert, Walter. Greek Religion. London: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

DeWitt, Norman Wentworth. The Dido Episode in the Aeneid of Vergil. Toronto: William Briggs, 1907.

Dubois, Page. “The φαρμακός of Vergil: Dido as Scapegoat.” Vergilius, 1976: 14-23.

Frazer, James G. Adonis Attis Osiris: Studies in the History of Oriental Religion. New York: MacMillan and Co., 1906.

Frazer, James George. The Golden Bough. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Goud, T. E., and J. C. Yardley. “Dido’s Burning Effigy: Aeneid 4.508.” Rheinisches Museum für Philologie, Neue Folge, 131, 1988: 386-388.

Knight, W. F. J. Roman Vergil, 2nd Edition. London: Faber and Faber, 1944.

Pharr, Clyde. Vergil’s Aeneid Books I-VI. Wauconda: Bolchazy-Carducci, 1998.

Segal, Charles. Dionysiac Poetics and Euripides’ Bacchae. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982.

Stoicism and Lucan’s Civil War

Erichtho, the Necromancer Witch awaiting the slaughter at Pharsalus...

Are you into Silver Age Latin Epic?  My guess is probably not – but for the few of you who are (or who simply have an interest in that old crotchety philosophy called Stoicism), I’ve here posted a lecture about how the epic poet Lucan used some of the tenets of Stoic philosophy to get rid his poem of traditional gods, but still have an epic on par with Virgil or Homer (…well, OK, maybe not on par, but you get the idea).

Warning:  I have a couple untranslated Latin passages in this lecture, so if you’re not a Latin reader, bare with me – it won’t hurt you (much).