FEASTS OF THE CROSS-QUARTERS
by T Polyphilus
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Thelema traditionally provides symbolic acknowledgement of the solar maxima (solstices and equinoxes). The number of annual solar feasts can be doubled by including the midpoints between those dates, when the Sun is is the second decan of each of the fixed signs of the Zodiac. These holidays have long been recognized by Christianity as a way of preempting their celebration by more naturally-observant pagan predecessors. What once were (and for neo-pagans have again become) Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasad, and Samhain, became holidays recognized by the Roman Church as Candlemas, Roodmas, Lammas, and Hallowmas.
Beginning in A.L. IV ii (1995 e.v.), the Smoking Dog Project of Scarlet Woman Oasis began a four-year series of experimental dramatic rituals in an effort to clothe the cross-quarters holidays in the vestments of the Law of Thelema. The rituals published here are my effort to synthesize some of the most successful features of the various experiments in that period, as well as to integrate the liturgies for all four holidays through a shared formula. Additionally, these ceremonies serve as examples of original eucharistic ritual in a Thelemic mode. The ceremonies are relatively short, taking only about a half-hour in most cases. For a full evening of ritual, it may be desirable to preface them with the Liturgy of the Word of the Law.
The ceremonies were first oriented around the fixed signs of the zodiac, through which the sun is passing on the dates of their celebration. These signs were then drawn into correspondence with the classical elements. The elements were synthesized through the formula of AIQHR, a New Aeon Gnostic replacement for ALHIM, as described by Crowley in Chapter 86 of The Book of Lies.
- The Feast of the Stars (February 2) is assigned to the letter alpha, the pentagram. The sun is passing through Aquarius, corresponding to the element of Air. The pertinent god-form is that of Nuit-Isis, represented by the presiding officer, Mater Coeli.
- The Feast of Cattle (May 1) is assigned to the letter iota, a rod or phallus. The sun is passing through Taurus, corresponding to the element of Earth. The pertinent god-form is that of Osiris, represented by the presiding officer, the Heirophant.
- The entire year is assigned to the letter theta, which represents the Sun itself, circling the heavens. This letter refers to the element of Spirit binding the other four together. The pertinent god-form is that of Horus, represented by every participant in the ceremonies.
- The Feast of the Dragon (November 1) is assigned to the letter eta. The sun is passing through Scorpio, corresponding to the element of Water. The pertinent god-form is that of Apophis, represented by the presiding officer, the Magister Templi.
- The Feast of the Lion-Serpent (August 1) is assigned to the letter rho, which looks like a rearing lion-serpent or spermatazoon. The sun is passing through Leo, corresponding to the element of Fire. The pertinent god-form is that of Mau or Hathoor-Sekhmet, who is represented by the presiding officer, the Empress.
The assisting officers may be included in the formula, by assigning them as follows:
- The Virgin is alpha (Aquarius).
- The Bull is iota (Taurus).
- All the presiding officers are theta (the Sun).
- The Eagle is eta (Scorpio).
- The Lion is rho (Leo).
In addition to the orientation to the formula of AIQHR, some other features were employed to create an integrated cycle of ceremonies.
Temple Layout: The Temple is oriented once towards each of the points of the solar compass. It is “in the round” twice, and twice in the shape of a corridor. The corridor runs North-South for the Feast of the Stars, and East-West for the Feast of the Dragon. Thus, the four ceremonies in combination draw a cross and a circle conjoined on the floor of the Temple space.
Group Incantations: The ceremonies share a general structure that always includes an incantation to be recited or read by all present. This procedure is in keeping with Crowley's admonition regarding dramatic ritual.
One of the great advantages of [dramatic ritual] is that a large number of persons may take part, so that there is consequently more force available; but it is important that they should all be initiates of the same mysteries, bound by the same oaths, and filled with the same aspirations.
Magick in Theory and Practice, p. 177
In terms of ritual mechanism, the group incantation serves to create a sympathy of participation and a resonance of attention among those in attendance. Two of the four feasts use nursery rhymes for this purpose–these incantations have the benefit of being widely-known, and of recalling the magick of childhood. Those are used for the cross-quarters in which the days are growing longer. In the other half of the year, one incantation is original, and the other is an ancient religious text.
Hocus Pocus: The term “hocus pocus” is derived from the magic words used by Roman priests to turn bread into flesh: hoc est enim corpus meum. (“For this is my body.”) I use the phrase as a technical term to indicate the employment of an uncommon and/or incomprehensible language in order to add mystery and resonance to a magick act of consecration or transformation. Each of these ceremonies includes a straightforward hocus pocus, and each is in a different language: Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Angelic (“Enochian”).
Averse Pentagrams: The consecratory act in each of the ceremonies involves an averse pentagram suited to the element associated with the feast. The Hermetic Order of the Golded Dawn claimed that the averse pentagram was evil, and their initiates were strictly discouraged against its use. They probably got this doctrine from Eliphas Levi, who may have been the first to distinguish between upright and averse forms of the pentagram in our traditions of ceremonial magic. But Golden Dawn graduate Crowley didn't hesitate to include it in one of his most important (and effective) ceremonies, the Ritual of the Mark of the Beast, described in the Book of the Princes (Liber V vel Reguli).
The upright pentagram is associated with the Tragedy of Man, and the LVX (Light) which is the first goal of the initiate. The averse pentagram is a sign of the Comedy of Pan, and the NOX (Night) under which the Masters inhabit the City of the Pyramids. For practical purposes, I use the upright pentagram to indicate aspiration to the spiritual source, and I use the averse pentagram to reflect creative inspiration and power over matter.
Love is the law, love under will.
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