Lord of the Deep: TechNick ~ Willow Willers

Willow continues to share her experience at the Lord of the Deep weekend:

It was after the second ritual and before Jan’s exploration that I ran into our technician.He was half way up the corridor between the temple and the dining room. To be honest he was as surprised as I was that he had got so far… Mind you he is a very strong willed young man.

He asked if I had seen his mum , I hadn’t, could I help, yup a glass of water would be great.

So I got us both one, he sat down at a convenient chair and table and I asked where his wheelchair was, back in the temple! I told him to stay put and I would get it. He started protesting about me not being strong enough..

For once I was at an advantage and said I’d manage and scooted off before he could say more.

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Lord of the Deep: “Why is there such grief..?”

Preparing the temple for the final ritual drama of the weekend is always bittersweet. It is the last stage of a journey that has been years in the making. This story, the tale of Gilgamesh, is older than any other we have used; the three years we have worked with it are but a drop in the ocean compared to the thousands of years it has been in existence.

The stories that we use, whether based on ancient texts or written specifically for the workshops, illustrate aspects of the human journey to awareness, which is the spiritual journey by another name. Not all stories have happy endings, but it is our job, when preparing the rituals, to end on a note of hope, and although the character of Gilgamesh seems to leave little scope for anything other than continuing disaster, there is always hope.

The character of the King, Gilgamesh, is so exaggerated that it is almost a caricature of the worst excesses of the human ego, but, like all good caricatures, elements of the depiction are recognisable and, to greater or lesser degree, present in every one of us. The incredulous horror with which we watch the King fall into every trap the ego presents, is made all the more poignant when we realise that we might all do the same, in essence if not in scale. We are left with the hope that whatever light he finds at the end of his personal tunnel will be bright enough to shine for us all.

Steve had done a magnificent job of embodying the difficult character of Gilgamesh. It is not easy to portray such a gamut of emotion. He cannot be played as a pantomime villain, gleefully indulging in evil machinations… he is, rather, a man who has an absolute belief in his own rightness and in the divine right of his kingship. As such, in spite of his Machiavellian manipulation of others and his rewriting of events to cast glory upon himself, he is, in an odd way, as innocent as a babe. He has no experience of being less than the best… in his own eyes at least. The very traits that have made him a strong warrior-king have prevented him from growing as a man. He simply knows no other way to be.

As the story has unfolded, we have watched Gilgamesh begin to learn that there is another way… beginning to see the consequences of his actions and, at least for a moment, accept them as his responsibility. But, whenever he takes a step towards awareness, he is drawn back as soon as the ego reasserts its hold.

At the start of the final ritual drama, we find Gilgamesh roaming the wilderness on his quest to find Utnapishtim, the immortal. Gilgamesh wishes to conquer death itself, and truly believes in his own affirmation that he does this only for his people. It will not be long, however, before that fallacy is exposed…

In spite of his preparations, his crown and the fine robes he donned when he set out upon his quest, by the time we meet the King, his travels have rendered him unkempt and the burden of grief weighs heavily upon him. He seems almost a ‘wild man’, like Enkidu… his Other Self, twice-slain as a result of Gilgamesh’s own actions.

As he wanders, Gilgamesh is seen by Shiduri, the ale-wife, who watches over her golden brewing pot. There is that in his demeanour that makes her think him a murderer, but she does not flee. Instead, she locks the golden lid of her vat and awaits his coming.

She asks his purpose; Gilgamesh gives her his name and titles, telling her that he seeks Utnapishtim and the Herb of Immortality. Shiduri, looking beyond his words to the core of his being, responds with a question,

“Why is there so much grief in your heart?”

Gilgamesh says that his beloved friend, Enkidu, is ‘turned to clay’. “Won’t I too, one day, lay down in the dirt like him and never rise again?”

The words are telling. In spite of his avowal that he seeks the Herb only for his people, he is revealing his own fear, both of dying and the condemnation of his body to ‘lay down in the dirt’, rather than of its natural return to earth as part of the great cycle of life.

Almost as if he seeks to counter this revelation, when Shiduri tells him that none but Shamash, the god of the Sun, can cross the Great Ocean to where Utnapishtim resides, Gilgamesh draws his sword and tells her how he slew ‘the demon’, Humbaba, and tore the Bull of Heaven limb from limb.

Shiduri considers for a moment then tells him that there may be a way ‘for one such as you’… Urshanabi, the boatman of Utnapishtim, is nearby… but he is with the fearsome Stone Men…

Lord of the Deep. Saturday Morning ~ Willow Willers

Willow continues her journey with the Lord of the Deep:

After breakfast we met in the the temple to first to discuss and then to perform Ritual Drama Two. A second self.

“Aruru moistened her hands
She pinched off clay
She kneaded it…
She shaped her idea into it
Then she threw it into the wilderness…”

Does that remind you of anything, it does me. Yes it truly reminds me of how “God” made Adam. ..

Steve read the above verse to us before we entered the temple. It was only the second time I had entered the temple as Limma but somehow I didn’t need the script I was guided in. First in line with Fate Ia to my left with the other four fates behind us, we followed Gilgamesh in, bowing to the temple guardian on entering. We walk towards the throne bow, to the king of Urk and the East and peel off to our spheres.

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Writings from the Temple ~ Briony

Briony, attending her first workshop with the Silent Eye, graciously and gracefully changed roles at the last minute to fill one of the gaps left by illness. She writes of what came to her after the workshop:

So, what will become of you my child, my mewling infant?

Born of my womb, resting here, blindly knowing your vulnerability, strong with desire, weak in your newly-formed vehicle of consciousness.

The wheels of Time in Mind grind inexorably, twisting your fate, that fragile, tenuous link to your Father.

We made you. The Light entered the Darkness, placing a glimpse of Immortality into the fertile womb of potentiality. That seed found its resting place. Such love! Such joy! The moment of conception.
We loved you!

Your thirst for power, for glory. The fearless invincibility of the Child, revelling in it’s new-found unexplored sensuality. We watched with love as you blindly emptied the coffers of plenty, tore through the gossamer veils of mortality, feasting on the blood of sacrifice, drinking the waters of desire. How we loved you!

The progeny of our astral loins experiencing the abundance of sensual awareness.

And so my child, my mewling infant?

What has become of your light, split into a myriad of colours? Your divinity – born into this world of substance and form?

The seed within lies dormant, millennia pass. Is it destined to return unfulfilled? Relinquishing it’s God given right to unfold, to flourish, to accept the abundant teachings of this Earthly existence?

Our love waits, the wheels of Time in Mind grind ever onwards, Fate and Destiny weave the paths of the Unconscious Soul.

 

Lord of the Deep: Surfing the Web

Saturday is always a heavy day, with three rituals and attendant prep sessions, as well as two explorations, led this time by Lorraine and Jan, both of whom are ordained ministers, but who follow rather different personal paths. You can find the basis of Jan’s exploration here, while Lorraine took an informal approach to engage us in a discussion exploring the relationship between Spirit, Humankind and Nature from a Druidic perspective.

Many Paths are represented on these weekends; beliefs wear many faces and Names, but the more you learn and the more you get to know the people who walk these paths, the more you realise that, although the outer form may differ, at the heart of each is the same Light.

Every year, we try to build in time to just spend getting to know each other, but there is always just so much to do… But, in spite of a day so full we learned of an ‘in’ joke saying you have to diarise time for flatulence on a Silent Eye weekend, and there was much laughter in the pub on Saturday night. We occupied the tiny snug of the four-hundred-year-old inn and set about the serious business of learning more about each other. It is one of the joys of these weekends that we get to spend time with people we only usually get to speak with online or on the phone.

There are inevitable and invisible barriers around us all, created to protect us in a world full of strangers and possible dangers. By the time we have worked through the first ritual on Friday, most barriers are down… and by Saturday evening, you would never know they had been there at all. The shared experience of something so far outside our ‘normal’ lives brings us together in friendship and companionship. The release of the tensions built up by the story we have been exploring opens the doors of the heart and it is a lively, laughing band that occupies the little bar, talking long and late.

So, Sunday morning, we did not officially greet the dawn, though some of us were already up to prepare the temple, which we had opened early for private meditation. It did not escape notice that, after two days of torrential rain, during which time the Fates had told the pre-biblical, Sumerian story of the Flood, Sunday began with clear and sunny skies.

Photo: Willow Willers

It was tempting to throw open the curtains and flood the temple with light, but shadows too have their place and the illusion we had created within that room would have been destroyed. Even so, the sun seemed intent on finding every chink in the curtains as we gathered for the Triad ritual after breakfast, as if the light itself wanted to join with us for what we were about to do.

The Triad ritual, shared by Steve, Stuart and I, is a yearly reaffirmation and celebration of our shared intent and purpose within, and as, a School. It is usually followed by the ceremonial ratification of those initiations that have taken place that year, but for the first time, none of our candidates had been able to attend.  Instead, we asked them to add their voices to our own as we, and all the Companions, joined together in the Web of Light meditation.

This is not a one-time meditation; it can be used at any time, by anyone, adding their light to the Web of Light that is growing across this world. But there is something truly magical in the augmented strength that comes from working together as we do within the temple. Nor were we alone in that temple hallowed by the loving hearts of the Companions, as we felt the presence of countless others, from across the world, who joined us with a shared intent.

I am notoriously useless during these moments, when hearts open to speak with one voice of Love, and was in tears before we had even read the words of our absent friends out loud. Both laughter and tears have their place in the temple,  especially when both may be born of joy or spring from a vision of beauty. Even so, I had a hard time holding it together as, one after the other, the Companions held the flame to their hearts and spoke for the voiceless of this world. It was a ritual I shall not easily forget.

Although we had been sharing the pre-biblical story of the Flood during the rituals that weekend, it was of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah that I was thinking as we left the temple, when the Old Testament God had agreed to spare the cities for the sake of ten just men. We were more than ten within the temple, and many more minds and hearts were joining with us as we spoke for the earth and its creatures. What we have chosen to call the Web of Light grows, nurtured by many people worldwide, following myriad Paths and of all shades of faith, religion and belief, each in their own way.

In that, I see hope.

Lord of the Deep: Rebuilding the citadel

Once more the fates move. Now, while Gilgamesh steps beyond himself, he and Enkidu, Life and Death, Man and Nature, become the portal that guards the Veil of the Beyond. Each offers their gifts as the Companions, one by one, pass through the Veil. What each may find there is for them alone.

For three days, Gilgamesh wanders, lost in the labyrinth, until, by chance…if chance it be… he stumbles through the door that leads to the Holy of Holies. The room is empty, but ‘to breach that space and breathe in its silence is always to summon forth that which is most needful to the soul.’

The gods appear to Gilgamesh and Utu, the god of the Sun, requires the King to attend and to contemplate the vanities of his heart. In turn they speak, echoing the words of Shamhat when she had asked Gilgamesh why he had refused all the priestesses when they had offered their bodies as a portal to the gods. He had found them unworthy of himself. But now, the gods reveal what might have been had he had the courage to accept their gifts.

Nanna tells him that the dreams they offered might have saved Enkidu…and throws down the white Veil of the Moon. Ninurta tells him that the strengths of his priestesses might have taught Gilgamesh when to apply them…and when to withhold his hand. He throws down the black Veil of Saturn. Gugalanna speaks of the arts of resolving conflict…and throws down the red veil of Mars.  Inanna, speaking of subtlety and understanding, throws down the green Veil of Venus. Enki speaks of the wisdom to see true and casts down the grey Veil of Mercury. Enlil speaks of seeing the divine through joy and throws the orange veil of Saturn at his feet.

“Thus,” says Utu, “do the lights of your soul speak, O King.”

Gilgamesh is distraught, seeing at last where his actions and attitudes have brought him. He looks for a way to make reparation… and decides that, as he cannot recall Enkidu from the dead, no other in his kingdom will ever die again!

The gods withdraw, knowing and seeing more than they will say. The Fates once more turn the wheels of destiny. Gilgamesh regains the sunlight and goes straight to his mother, the goddess Ninsun, seeking her blessing on a new quest, which, says Gilgamesh, he and he alone can encompass. His ego, so lately laid bare and humbled, has already begun to reassert itself.

“So soon?” asks Ninsun. Had he not slain the ‘demon, Humbaba’? Gilgamesh, rewriting events in his mind, to reflect glory upon himself, tells her that the Forest Demon is indeed dead, as is the Bull of Heaven whom he had found ‘skulking beneath the Temple’…

Should he and Enkidu not be at a victory parade? No, says Gilgamesh, holding out the amulet she had bestowed upon Enkidu and telling Ninsun that he is dead. Ninsun asks if the fallen should not then be honoured, but Gilgamesh replies that there can be no honour until he has banished death from his kingdom.

“But my dear child, all things are brought to birth, all things live, and all things must die. It is the natural order. Why even the Divine Council themselves will die, one day, in their turn.”

“There was one, who… defeated death… and gained immortality. The Old Tales tell of it. The tales that I read and re-read in my youth honour the name of Utnapishtim. He stole the Herb of Immortality from the denizens of the Underworld and he still lives to this day in a paradise beyond the mortal realms.”

“My dear boy, even if Utnapishtim is not some story-tellers whim, do you suppose you can find him?”

“I,” says Gilgamesh, drawing himself up to his full height “and no other!”

Ninsun is dubious about his motives, but grants her blessing…if he can assure her that he does this only for the people of Uruk, and has relinquished all thought of self-aggrandisement and his own glory. Gilgamesh, blinded once more by the walls of his own ego, assures her that it is so… and again the Fates move.

Gilgamesh prepares himself for his journey, bathing in the Great River, arraying himself in rich and gorgeous robes and placing his crown upon his head.

“Who,” says the man who has abandoned all thought of self-glory,  “is the handsomest of men? Who is the bravest of heroes? Who slaughtered the Bull of Heaven? Who obliterated the Forest Demon? And who shall discover the whereabouts of Utnapishtim and bring back The Herb of Immortality for his people?”

Who indeed? The man that Gilgamesh, once again looking through the eyes of the ego, believes himself to be?

Lord of the Deep: Stepping beyond…

When Lord of the Deep was being written, decisions had to be made about which elements of the ancient Epic of Gilgamesh to include, which to leave out altogether and which to adapt to aid the flow of our story. We do not slavishly follow historic texts, as, on a spiritual workshop, it is not the story that matters, so much as the deeper meaning and symbolism it contains.

As Gilgamesh descends, ever-deeper into the dark maze of his own ego, he is guided only by reactions. Believing himself superior to all other men…and possibly the gods too… he cannot see the consequences of his actions, as he has no access to empathy. Can we blame him for this? That is a sticky question. We do not blame water for being wet or the blade for being sharp. Neither can we blame the ego for striving, with every weapon in its arsenal, to protect itself. But that does not make its choices right.

The ego is created from our reactions to everything we have ever experienced. It consists of what we might call useful illusions that allow us to face the world as who we think we are. Gilgamesh is the king of a mighty city-state, a fearsome warrior, incalculably rich and powerful. Why would he question what has brought him such success?

But, just as water can drown and the blade can maim or slay, the ego, when allowed to rule our being, can bring us to ruin…

***

Gilgamesh rages. He is lost in the labyrinthine passages beneath the temple, following the goddess Ishtar, whom he still believes to be Shamhat, the High Priestess who rejected his advances.

Ishtar calls down the Bull of Heaven, crying that when he bellows, the earth will shake. Gilgamesh follows, maddened by anger. The goddess flees, crying that when the Bull of Heaven snorts the earth will open, swallowing all the men-folk… all the women-folk… and all the children. Gilgamesh follows, blind to all but anger. But the goddess has gone… and in her place stands the Bull of Heaven.

“Gilgamesh…” As the Bull of Heaven speaks his name, Gilgamesh brandishes his axe and begins to curse and threaten.  “You have offended the Divine Council., the watchman of the Cedar Forest.” Gilgamesh snarls and advances on the Bull,

“You dare to accuse me?” Hefting the axe, the King attacks the Bull as if cutting through Time itself. The fearsome Bull of Heaven does nothing to defend itself.

“You have slaughtered Huwawa…” it whispers, as it sinks, dying, to its knees. But, as Gilgamesh takes the mask from the face of the Bull, he recognises his brother in arms. He cries out his name…Enkidu!… then buries his head in his hands and sobs.

He has killed the one thing he loved… his own Second Self. Now, at last, Gilgamesh can see where his arrogance and manipulation have led and what his kingship has truly wrought in wall-girt Uruk, where riches and plenty abound…and where, ‘in their beds at night, the young people cry themselves to sleep’.

Colin as the Bull of Heaven… before the unmasking.

 

Lord of the Deep: Getting under the skin…

In any drama, be it ritual or otherwise, there is a fine line over which you must hover as an ‘actor’. You are not your character. Lines and scenarios that make you look amazing or, alternatively, portray you as evil, twisted or psychopathic, were not written for you at all; the words the writer puts in the character’s mouth belong to the character alone. The actions of the character are not yours. None of it is personal and you have to keep a mental and emotional distance from the role you portray. And yet…

In order for an actor to truly embody a role, he or she will give themselves over to it wholly. For the duration of the performance, they will see through their character’s eyes, speak with their voice and experience events through their emotions. That is what makes the difference between just acting and great acting. It comes down to believability, for both actor and audience.

Somewhere between the two is a place where the actor can observe both the role and the player. Because all human beings, at every end of the moral and emotional scale, share some characteristics, the observer will generally find moments where they can empathise with the character, motivations they understand, both good and not so good, points of commonality that, in spite of the ‘extremis’ of the events portrayed in drama, have the possibility of teaching them something about themselves. This is one of the reasons that we use drama in these weekends. As imaginative play allows children to ‘test-drive’ scenarios and reading fiction allows the mind to explore the impact of situations they would otherwise not encounter, so does drama allow us to explore our innermost selves.

On these workshop weekends, there are seldom any who have acting experience. Sometimes we get lucky. Some Companions have real talent… many do not know it until they try. But the ability to act is not a requirement and could, as Alethea wrote, even be an inhibiting factor rather than the reverse.

Nor do we have an audience… everyone joins in, script in hand, and everyone is in the same proverbial boat. Sometimes, if we are lucky, we may have a Seer who gets to watch most of what unfolds. Sometimes we have a Technician who takes care of the music and, apart from following the script for cues, they are as close to an audience as we get and may have a pretty good view.  This year, my son offered to Tech for us and, if he had requested a blindfold for when I Danced the Seven Veils, he was going to be glad I’d packed his earplugs for the fourth ritual drama…

The Fates move. Gilgamesh spends the night in mourning for his dead brother in arms, Enkidu, whose life was so closely tied to that of the Spirit of Nature, that, when they had, together, slain the Forest Lord, his own life had ended. In grief, Gilgamesh, the King, takes the amulet that was gifted to Enkidu by the goddess Ninsun and places it around his own neck and over his heart.

Wracked by loss, he makes his way back to the great walled city of Uruk, but when he comes there, no-one recognises him. At the Temple of the Goddess, he cries out, proclaiming his grief at the death of Enkidu. Hearing the news, the High Priestess Shamhat comes forth… she who loved Enkidu as a woman loves a man and as a priestess loves with the heart of her goddess. She stands within the portal, head bowed and heart closed in mourning. When Gilgamesh sees Shamhat, he is overcome by emotion and, with a great cry, falls to the floor.

The Fates turn the wheels of destiny. Maddened by his grief, Gilgamesh sobs before the altar, until a voice breaks the silence.

“Rise and bed me, O mighty Gilgamesh. Give me of your luscious fruits. Be my sweet man. I will grant you boons beyond your wildest dreams. I will bless everything that you own. When you enter my temple with its cedar fragrance, high priests will bow down and kiss your feet. Come, Mighty King, be my sweet man!”

The goddess Ishtar looks down upon the kneeling king, but blind to all but his own emotions, he believes her to be the High Priestess, Shamhat. She, who had refused his advances and commands, but who had yet given herself in joy to Enkidu, now offers her body when he is at his lowest ebb.

Ishtar repeats her words, though now they carry other undertones. Gilgamesh is angered and curses ‘Shamhat’ to suffer every rejection and despair that his concept of love can bring. She is the cause of his grief! She is to blame for the death of Enkidu! And now, in his grief, she offers herself to him…or so he believes.

Ishtar repeats her litany. This time the mockery is clear… and yet, there is an invitation in her voice…but to what? Laughing, the goddess departs, running high and low through the maze of corridors beneath the temple. Gilgamesh, angered beyond bearing, curses ‘Shamhat’ and her ‘temple of harlots’… and follows the fleeing goddess. But Ishtar runs swift and soon the king is hopelessly lost in the labyrinth…

Lord of the Deep: Dawn and Seven Radiances ~ Willow Willers

Willow continues her personal account of the Lord of the Deep weekend:

The morning of the first full day of The Silent Eye Workshop had not yet dawned. I had slept well, “If I had dreamt I did not recall” words I would hear more than once that day.

I rose quickly, really looking forward to going into the hills to greet the dawn. We had done this in Cumbria and I had really loved it.

I went downstairs early enough to have a coffee before leaving. After a while the others arrived. Stuart was in the conservatory and announced it was too wet and windy to go up to the hills. I have to admit I was disappointed but Stuart asked us to keep our outdoor clothing on and so recreate being outside. Another lesson in mind over matter.

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