Divinity, Identity, Grace
I’m writing this on the historic “Twelfth Night,” going in to the day of the Epiphany. We associate this with the Magi, with Magick, with the sort of thing of which T.S. Eliot wrote:
At the end we preferred to travel all night Sleeping in snatches, With the voices singing in our ears, saying That this was all folly.
Sometimes it seems that way, doesn’t it? No matter what we do, we’re often confronted with more “reality” than we would necessarily care to know.
Going into the Christmastide season, sometime around what the United States calls “Thanksgiving,” I received a few texts from a friend. She and I had chanted to Green Tara (among other deities) at a Vajrayana center, and we had also chanted many Kirtan songs over a year or more at her house. Mary sent me the following text:
“I’ve been thinking of you. I pray it gets better day by day. May you Know the Light within yourself: the living compassion of the Divine Mother, and be comforted there.”
Tomorrow, January 6th, I’ll be Celebrating the Epiphany at 9:00 PM CST by Reading My 14 Sonnet Corona,
in Thanks to those who have supported me, especially after my car crash.
The story of the coming of the Magi is often associated with the Epiphany. The myth goes that these “Wise Men” from “the East” had brought vibrant, aromatic, alchemical, demon-chasing gifts. In the conventional representation of the visit, in a cave (can you see Vajrayana practitioners chanting in just such a space?), it was uncertain whether they were there to bless and protect the mother, or to bless and protect the child. At such an age, in such an era, the two would’ve been inseparable — no human infant lasts without parental protection, and all we know of primates indicates that physical bonding with the parent (long before the child has developed a sense of personal identity or object permanence) is crucial (pun intended) to whether that child will survive and thrive.
2022 was the year I began to pray the Rosary regularly. Composed of five “Decades” of prayers to the Holy Mother Mary, the practice is punctuated by context. Depending on what day of the week you’re praying (and in what Liturgical season), there are five times when the practitioner visualizes “Mysteries” linking the prayer to the Mother with the life of the Child, who is often called Jesus.
This linkage of form and idea is not unlike the Astrology which the Magi would have practiced. Far from a facile attribution of prognostication, their practice would have been much more like an early version of an infant Astronomy — traveling with great precision by the navigation of stars. The darkness on Earth which accompanies this voyage is akin to the word “Myth” which means “to quiet one’s mouth and shut one’s eyes, and begin to intuit deeper patterns.”
This story, and this time of year, are very important to me not least because they focus on the importance of the Motherhood of the Faith, a faith which I have oft despaired has become needlessly (and destructively) Patriarchal. To get a sense of what the faith looked like in earlier times, consider this selection from the Gnostic Gospel of the Mary Magdalene:
At the end of an aeon, will all matter be destroyed? Jesus answered, "All of nature, its forms and creatures are interrelated; all will be returned to their original source. The essence of matter also returns to the source of its own nature."
T.S. Eliot also said, in that same poem, “The Journey of the Magi”
All this was a long time ago, I remember And I would do it again, but set down This set down This: were we led all that way for Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly, We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death, But had thought they were different; this Birth was Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death. We returned to our places, these Kingdoms But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation With an alien people clutching their gods. I should be glad of another death.
“The Journey of the Magi” T.S. Eliot http://mason.gmu.edu/~rnanian/Eliot-Magi.html
“The Gospel of Mary Magdalene.” The Gnostic Gospels. Watkins. London. 2006.