May 2nd, 2011

stabat mater dolorosa

Seven Rays of the Archangels rosary; on inspiration and partial possession

Today's mantra: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  I'm going to repeat it until I am over having my designs and ideas ripped off, or until my tongue goes numb, whichever comes first.

New auction: One of a kind Rosary of the Seven Rays: this one is a 7 Rays of the Archangels rosary.

Description below the cut. First, a bit about ritual creation and esoteric prayer.

When I started making voodoo loa and hoodoo/medium's rosaries (back in 2003 - when they weren't to be had anywhere else online nor in any shop I ever set foot in; I had never seen them before and they didn't exist as far as I knew, but I wanted an Erzulie Dantor rosary, so I taught myself to make rosaries... but I guess I'll leave that alone what with my mantra working and all (sigh) ), I had a bit more time on my hands, and I'd usually make a few every month, and usually had a few for sale at any given time.  In looking over my old listings this weekend, I realized I hadn't made any new ones in about six months - or more.  I have a list of requests from folks who've written about various custom things, and I try to make them as I have time, going down the list but sometimes skipping things if I'm not in the mood to make a piece on the list or don't have the materials on hand, but time has been really scarce the last year or so.  But I really *miss* making rosaries, and I especially miss making the loa rosaries and the esoteric prayer rosaries - every one is a unique piece of folk art and I really like to see how they unfold, or bloom, or whatever the metaphor is, as I make them.

I don't usually have a strict plan going in when I sit down - usually I'll start with an individual spirit or saint or loa, or at least a family of loa, and I'll fuss with the altar for a while - cleaning, dusting, setting out fresh water or flowers or whatever, depending on the spirit or saint, etc. And then I sit down with my bead box and my tools and I start working, letting the loa or spirits guide me.  This often isn't a very different process from what any writer or artist or craftsperson might call "inspiration" - the next object or line or shadow or phrase or chord just comes to you when you're "in the zone."  Sometimes you get stuck or blocked, sometimes you hit a snag, back up, and reroute (much easier with beading than with knitting, let me tell you). Sometimes there's on-the-go consideration and revision, choices between one shade or another, a decision about one metal or another.  Sometimes the loa chime in loudly and specifically; sometimes they do not (Simbi never seems to yell; Freda I don't even have to be in the same room with to know what she wants.)

And then sometimes there's no on the spot consideration or revision at all - it's like a tidal wave.  Sometimes writing comes like that to writers, or an image to painters, where it all pours out instead of the usual work work work of such projects.  It's like suddenly plugging in to some source, or tapping into some wellspring, that you don't have access to all the time.  When this occurs in a certain context, this is what I call "partial possession" - it's not the same as being completely ridden by a loa, where your consciousness is entirely displaced, but there is definitely a "flow" to it that is not your regular sitting-down-to-make-something flow.  It's the same thing that happens a lot when I'm doing one of those all-day-into-the-night marathon ceremonies or spiritual bath events - I am moving stuff and making stuff and mixing stuff and handling stuff and saying stuff, but if you ask me later, I'm not always going to have any idea what I told you or what I put in that herbal mixture or what I wrote down for you (granted, some of that is sometimes sheer exhaustion.  But then again, that kind of full-on-body-mind-and-spirit exhaustion also makes possession much easier to slip into).  The spirits don't always just hop in and take over, though - sometimes they sit on your shoulder, or talk in your ear, or seize your hands (in the case of work like making baths or making jewelry or pakets), or seize your eyes, as the saying goes, where your consciousness is not fully displaced, but a spirit is involved at some more narrow or circumscribed level, often involving one faculty or sense, or one set of appendages (so partial possession of the hands is common, if for instance La Sirene comes by when I'm giving a spiritual bath to someone, and she might come mix the bath herself, through my hands. It's not a full possession but she is nevertheless involved in the action through me as a medium for that action).

The Rev. Docteur Tau Michael Bertiaux refers to partial possession of this type, when a spirit is involved in "your" faculty of vision, as "la prise des yeaux," the possession (or holding or taking or seizing) of the eyes.  Now, it's a lot more complex in Bertiaux's scheme, and what I'm giving here is the "exoteric" interpretation of partial possession, but in all cases it's describing a type of sight that's akin to clairvoyance in a certain sense, but with a key difference: it's a faculty that is absolutely based within the human being, the psychosomatic body/mind/spirit unity of the person plus his or her interaction with the spirit, with the human being as nexus or "container" (or depending on your vocabulary, battery or lodging place or even point-chaud, or the material "half" of the point chaud or pwen), and so the faculty of vision, the change that enables this to happen, is internal to the serviteur.  This is often different from, say, someone scrying, where he or she "sees" in a triangle or mirror or gazing ball or any external "screen".  In prise-des-yeaux, the "other world" doesn't get projected onto something you can see in your field of vision, like a crystal ball or a candle glass you might "read" the signs from.  Rather, the intersection, if you will, of the visible and invisible worlds is *inside* the practitioner.  Bertiaux calls it Esoteric Vision, and he also calls it a sacrament (VGW p. 254), and discusses it in terms that suggest he would not equate "exoteric" vodoun's "partial possession" necessarily with the type of interactive relationship he's discussing in the VGW.  But there are enough similarities in terms of how it works "on the ground' to make it worth mentioning.

I am out of time to keep trying to sort my thoughts out on partial possession, but I want to get in writing some of what I see as the implications of possession and partial possession in my religion, how it differs from what that means and how it works in other traditions and vocabularies, and what the implications are for points-chauds or pwen work; they are significant, and even though I'll likely make a mess of it, I can definitely still see some connections to some of the principles Bertiaux outlined back when he wrote the VGW, even though the Great Arabia Working participants and our current points chauds working group folks are working pretty far away from the original Bertiaux-inspired core set of points and articulation of their workings and ontology.  So, maybe I"ll get to it soon.

In the meanwhile,  this weekend I sat down to make a Seven Rays of the Archangels rosary.  These are esoteric prayer beads, a little more complex than a traditional Marian rosary.  Description (and a rant about people fundamentally misunderstanding angels) below the cut:
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