The World as Lover Working
a record by Sam Webster
by Sam Webster ©1993
When does an archetype outlive its usefulness and what can you do about it when it does? This was the question facing us when we began planning the World as Lover Working. In January of ’92, my wife Tara and I came to the realization on the basis of our personal growth, studies and the ritual practices we had engaged in that the way we relate to our world as our ‘Mother’ had several distinct disadvantages. One may unconsciously expect Our Mother to have unlimited abundance while the world in fact is finite and damageable. Also, that the relationship is one way, just Her giving and we just receiving and thus not reciprocal. It may also be tied to unresolved psychological material with our biological or social mothers who may have been less than ideal, even abusive. Working with material from Joanna Macy and Julie Henderson we saw that the appropriate alternative is to treat our world as our Lover, with all the mutuality, co-operation and respect that kind of relationship entails.
As ritualists, Tara and I sought to embody this new relationship in ritual form and since it was such a major shift we felt we needed to bring together a group of the very best ritualists to create and enact the change. Teaming up with Roland, who was to handle the logistics, we sent out invitations to a hand picked group of skilled practitioners who would be able to work well together. In such an incestuous community as the Pagans, this was no small task. In the end we gathered a total of six ritualists to work the process that came to be known as the World as Lover Working.
During the months between February 3rd, when the invitations went out, and June 10th through 16th, the days of the actual working, four major rounds of communication went out. Each of the people involved began a process of study, prayer and reflection. They each wrote an essay-letter, sometimes several, often quite lengthy, on the subject and the ritual preparations and sent them out to the other participants. The original letter of invitation had suggested a ritual pattern but in very much of a sketch form. We needed to fill it out and develop it. As a group of very competent ritualists we used consensus form to create our rituals. Besides letters many long phone calls amongst the participants continued the process of development. Altogether this literature is quite extensive and too long to include here. It formed the background for our actions and when we all came together at last we were all moving in the same direction. This process enabled everyone to have a hand in on the ritual planning and theory formulation.
Meanwhile, Roland, Tara and I searched for and found a lovely house for rent on the Mendocino Coast with a private beach where we could do our ritual work. Roland spearheaded the meal coordination, no easy task with the many allergies and other food restrictions among us. The end result however was a gourmet spread including lamb stew, venison, abalone, fresh vegetables and salads, and good drink. Our desire here was not so much to be extravagant, but rather to create an ideal setting for a richly sensual experience of living well in the world, dwelling in its abundance, and awakening to its profound value. An important factor in this kind of working to ‘walk the talk’. Every factor about the experience should embody the purpose of the ritual process. Every action should bring us back to feeling that Our World is Our Lover. As a loverly relationship is ideally joyous and sensual we sought to embody this in the very logistics of the Working.
The actual working involved four days of ritual work and a day before and after for preparation and relaxation. On Wednesday midday we caravaned up to Mendocino stopping at Stump Beach, a half hour short of our destination. This was our first threshold. We walked out to the wind and surf carved rocks, shaped like something from a science fiction movie, pocked, grooved and our first direct contact with the magick of the Land and Sea. Here we purified ourselves with salt water and poured toasts of local-made brandy to the spirits of the place and prayed for the success of our work. This also gave us time to recuperate from the long drive and begin making our way from traveling and preparation consciousness into ritual space. On our way to the house from the Stump Beach, we discovered a small freshly killed fawn on the road, it was so fresh that rigor mortus had not set in and so we collected it to bring along. Very quickly Oz, a Priestess of Inanna, (writer, lecturer, investor) recognized that Inanna had sent this fawn to us, as an offering to aid us in connecting with Her. When we arrived at the house we settled into a meal of lamb stew. Roland had previously slaughtered the lamb in honor of , i.e. as sacrifice to Hekate, who was one of the main sponsors of this ritual cycle. Part of the purpose of this action was the technical purpose of providing real offering to the deities we are working with and thus as communion, something rarely done in the Pagan community today. As such it also served as a breaking of the old taboo against animal sacrifice. Reclaiming this and the use of statuary, i.e. idols, in worship are among those old practices contemporary Pagans are slowly reclaiming. In this context the fawn, which it was determined from its stomach contents was unweaned, was seen as an offering for connection to Inanna. It’s spirit however was very confused from its violent death by automobile and so Cernunos was summoned to take it home. The meat, bones and pelt was seen as sacrament embodying the presence of Inanna and so we each ate some of the meat later in the working and the remains were distributed for ritual purposes.
Thursday morning we formally purified and consecrated the house and the grounds so that they would be ready for our ritual work. We used a simple five elements running-around-in-circles approach. Each one of us took up an emblem of one the elements and called the associated cardinal point or center. This done each of the elemental emblems, born by the invoker was walked around the periphery of each room in the house including the bathrooms and closets, and then around the outside of the building. Thus we took possession of the space. The rest of the day was spent mostly reconnecting and wandering around on the beach. Most of us knew most everyone else but not everyone and so it was an important time to establish enough intimacy so that the work would go well. We also discussed the exact locations for the rites and other details. As our last member, Orion, had not arrived there was a tentativeness in the air that we could not dispel. That evening I drove back to Oakland to get her and drive her to the site. Upon her arrival she was purified and consecrated to integrate her into the ritual space. When we were done we all noticed the feeling of wholeness and expectation that pervaded the space.
Friday morning was spent reviewing our correspondence and deciding upon the day’s ritual activities. My job was to facilitate this discussion as I would the entire weekend. This was tactically a mistake as I am good at this and so every one was willing to have me do it, but with such a high powered group of people the task should have been rotated as it burned me out. The first rite of the day planned was the Rite of the Qadesha, which was Tara’s main inspiration for the working. Originally performed at Lumin’s Gate, a pagan festival in New York, it embodied the reuniting of the split and dualized archetypes of the Virgin and the Whore. This rite in the new context was seen as an initiatory rite into the ‘current’ of the ‘Qadesha’, the old word that united both of these archetypes. As most of those present had not been at Lumin’s Gate it was felt necessary to begin the rite with this initiation. I am including an article on the ritual written by Tara as an appendix to this paper. Tara had the original inspiration for the Qadesha Rite and I designed the actual rubric. This was our third threshold. On this special occasion before the ritual we all made pilgrimage to and offerings in a sea-cave where we read the text called Thunder: Perfect Mind from the Naghamadi Corpus. This text is a verbal revelation of the voice of Qadesha.
That evening we began our first major ritual. Since it was very cold that night outside we used the indoor hearth as our focus. The basis for this ritual was to build a consecrated fire, one assimilated to the primal fire of creation and the energy out of which all things are made. Then into this fire place all of our notions of Lover and all of notions of World and then refined by the flames draw out a new united form ‘World as Lover’. This ritual is called the Rite of the Lover Within.
After a simple circle casting by dancing three times widdershins and three times deosil each of us called a cardinal direction including above and below. At this point the fire in the hearth was lit. Then Orion invoked Hekate, Oz called Inanna, Tara called Ishtar, Moon called Pan, I called the Dragonkind (as the planet’s telluric currents) and Roland called the aspect of Krishna called Gopi-Nath. Each of these deities (and the Dragons here function similarly) were called for support and connection that our work would be successful.
Roland next lead us through a Chakra purifying exercise to prepare ourselves. Then we threw into the fire old charms and magickal implementalia to reduce them to their constituents. This was the process of assimilating the fire to primal fire as mentioned above. By throwing into the fire those things to be released the fire was also assimilated to all the other bond fires in which this is also done. It further served to release us from old bonds to free us up for the coming new mode of relationship. Next we threw into the fire pinecones, driftwood, seaweed, and popcorn while naming the many ways we relate to our world. This was done rapid fire with increasing energy in a cacophony of words and images and crackling, leaping flame as the fire consumed the items. Then, when finished with ‘World’, we continued the process now with ‘Lover’ as the archetype we were putting back into the flames. This naturally had even more energy as the content was much more personal. Tears and much moaning and wailing accompanied the names of lovers, old and current, as they went into the flames.
When we were exhausted we placed into the fire a iron cauldron with some oil in it. When the oil began to crackle we began throwing fistfuls of herbs collected from the land about the house (Oz, Moon and Roland are knowledgeable in herbs). With each handful we invoked the united form of ‘World as Lover’ drawing back out of the flames through the cauldron and up with the smoke of the herbs which we inhaled and wafted about our bodies, taking in and taking on the new form. This completed, we closed the ritual and rested for the evening.
Simple in form the rite was most effective in getting us into connection with the form we wished to strengthen and develop both individually and collectively. The oil in cauldron technique was workable but more aromatic herbs in boiling water-steam I think would have worked better.
The initial plans for the various rituals were often elaborate and then when it came time to actually do the ritual we pared them down to something more manageable. If we had elected to work with more people or had more time they may have been more elaborate however they were adequate in their actual form. For example, there had been the hope of building a working space on the beach, a series of concentric circles later to be elaborated into a labyrinth. This proved impossible due to the tide’s washing up the beach. For the next ritual the elaborate set up was replaced with simple ritual constructs. This was perhaps a loss but as will be noted the problems with the ritual design came from not understanding the constraints of working on a beach; lots of noise and uncertain footing.
The next ritual is called the Rite of the Lover to the World. Here the focus was to direct our attention outward to the Cosmos in which we live. After the usual opening gestures we began a series of invocations to the seven classical planets which comprise a model of the human psyche. Each of the six of us invoked the planet nearest to our constitution. Ordinarily this would have been unwise as imbalancing however for this type of ritual typecasting is appropriate. The seventh, the sun was invoked into the central bonfire. We stabilized this structure by working our body energy, now qualified be the planetary energies invoked, around the circle. We had spent the afternoon before the ritual, after finishing its design, doing energy passing and shaping exercises. Then several of us invoked the Heliocosm as a whole, the Galactic Center, and various mythologically important fixed stars such as the Pleiades to make connections with them and bring them into the weave of energies we were formulating.
Much of the inspiration for this rite came from a book Orion had suggested called “Hamlet’s Mill” by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend (1969). It deals with a unifying principle in the world’s mythology centered on the precession of the equinoxes and the change of dynasties or pantheons that come with the precession. Since we are at one of the change points with the shift of the sidereal reckoning of the vernal equinox from Pisces to Aquarius it is appropriate to use this opportunity to load on to this shift our particular intention, the move from World as Mother to World as Lover.
Thus, at this point in the ritual we again began to call upon the World as Lover archetype we had potentiated the night before. This was a series of spontaneous prayers and petitions for the manifestation of this form. When peaked, we danced the fire ’round until ready and then sent the charge off to the North Star, Polaris, the lynch pin in the wheel of the sky to receive and distribute our prayer. We then closed.
It became obvious that it was very hard to dance or even walk on the shifting sands, thus it was hard to get the energy to fire off cleanly. Also, the sound of the surf made us shout to invoke which further made the energy strained. We would have been better off sitting quietly around a very small fire working the energy, or on the cliff above the beach.
Sunday night’s ritual was the least able to be planned in advance because it was so dependant on the outcome of the previous ones. It is called the Rite of the Lover of Life. Its main focus was to unite the processes we had started in the previous rituals together into a personal commitment to treating the world in general and all of Life in particular, including each other, in the manner of lovers. The core of this rite was a vow of commitment that has come to be called the Qadesha Vow. After the usual opening actions to get us started, and some gazing at the partial lunar eclipse that occurred during the rite, we each took a turn sitting in the center of the space before the altar we had constructed. This altar was dominated by the statue of the Qadesha and which was at eye level to someone sitting on the floor. The seated person was blind-folded. Then one by one they were approached by the other persons present who’s job was to stimulate one of the senses. One person bore soft silks, wool, fur and a feather to stroke across skin. Another played bells and a flute, and once strummed the teeth of a comb. Essential oils, aromatic gums and woods, foods and drinks were used for smell and taste. Then, with all the senses enflamed, the blindfold was removed and the image of the Qadesha filled the view. Behind the person a voice whispered each line of the vow to be repeated:
Lover divine and Perfect Comrade
Waiting Content, invisible yet,
Be Thou my God.
Thou, Thou the ideal other
Fair, able, content, beautiful, loving
complete in body and dilate in Spirit
Be thou My God
I vow to be a responsive and responsible lover
I vow to accept my world as my lover,
to touch and be touched by the World
to enter the dance of life,
every movement a response to the breath of my lover the world.
For I believe in the flesh and the appetites
seeing, hearing and feeling are miracles
and each part of me and my world is a miracle.
This vow was constructed on site by consensus using the experiences and reflections of the working and several verses taken from Walt Whitman. The rest of the evening was spent in ritual space, feasting and in play.
The next morning we closed the working bringing downing the energetic enclosure about the space and saying goodbye to the various protectors and tutelary deities invoked. Then we scattered back across the continent.
In the months that followed each of us deepened our relationship to the deities invoked. A major result of this was Tara’s dedication as a priestess of Ishtar and from this sprung the First Crescent rite we now do monthly and which is detailed in the paper on ritual commitments. Part of this is also based on the relationship I established with Inanna also during these rites. Each of us has taken this notion of World as Lover back into our respective communities in New Mexico, Northern California, North Carolina, and NY. The notion of world as our mother has taken on a repugnant tone and often we find ourselves spreading this new form in the face of resistance. The real effect will not be truly noticeable in the world for sometime but in my life it has become a daily commitment and it has deeply renewed the way I live in the world.
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