One of the most important magical practices I do is something called tracing the thread. Basically how it works is I begin by putting myself in an open, receptive state and then I just start clicking on shit at random. That may not seem like a whole lot to you, dear readers, but it reliably turns up results such as these.
Today’s adventure began with Ai Apaec, who I first learned about when Spider started bringing up the severed head stuff that eventually led to my adopting the fool persona and developing an interest in folk Catholicism.
The most feared and adored god of the Moche was Ai Apaec, nicknamed the ‘decapitator’ by scholars for the good reason that he is often holding a head in one hand and a knife in the other. In Moche artwork, his anthropomorphized image has the eyes of an owl, the fangs of a feline, sea wave hair, a spider body, and is usually surrounded by snakes and/or condors. It is thought that after natural disasters such as earthquakes or heavy El Nino rains, the Moche would hold extensive ceremonies that involved ritual combat, human sacrifice, and blood consumption, as an offering to Ai Apaec, in an appeal for stable weather, ancestral renewal, and agricultural fertility. During the ceremony, each Moche family put forth a warrior that represented it, and the warriors would fight each other, one-on-one, until one of the warrior’s headdresses was knocked off. After the battles, all the hatless loser warriors were made prisoner, stripped of their clothing, and taken to the sacred temple. Yoked together, the naked prisoners walked up the temple path until they reached the priest’s altar, located about half way up, where they then imbibed a special tea made of San Pedro cactus, an anti-coagulent and a mix of aphrodisiacs. The idea was to get them in the right frame of mind for the ceremony. Apparently, hallucinating with a stiffy was the mood of choice when being sacrificed. The prisoners then continued up the temple path until they reached the top, where our Lady of Cao was waiting for them. Mercifully, their throats were cut with a sharp hatchet, and a few drops of their blood were drained into a goblet. When all the sacrifices were done, the Lady of Cao drank the blood as an offering to Ai Apaec.
I haven’t really been following comics for a while, but it turns out that Ai Apaec was recently brought into the Marvel Universe as a totally badass villain.
He is first encountered in an underwater prison.
In an attempt to learn more about this character I was eventually led to a page on cultural depictions of spiders which introduced me to Saint Conrad of Constance, whose feast day is November 26.
Died 975; canonized in 1123. Of the famous Guelph family and son of Count Henry of Altdorf, he was educated at the cathedral school of Constance, Switzerland, and was ordained. He was made provost of the cathedral and in 934 was elected bishop of Constance. He gave his share of his inheritance to the Church and to the poor and built and renovated many churches in his see.
Three times he made the pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and in an age when most prelates were continually involved in secular politics, he succeeded in attending exclusively to ecclesiastical interests during the 42 years of his episcopacy. Nevertheless, he accompanied Emperor Otto I to Italy in 962.
Saint Conrad is pictured as a bishop holding a chalice with a spider above or in it. This depiction relates to the story that a spider once dropped into the chalice as he celebrated Mass. Although it was believed then that all spiders were deadly poisonous, Conrad nevertheless swallowed the Blood of Christ, out of respect and a demonstration of his faith. Sometimes images of Saint Conrad contain (1) a serpent and chalice (not to be confused with Saint John); (2) asperges; or exorcising.
This also led me to a discussion by Aleister Crowley on spider symbolism in the Tarot:
The Spider is particularly sacred to Tiphereth. It is written that she “taketh hold with her hands and is in king’s palaces.” (The most characteristic title of Tiphereth is “Palace of the King.”) She has six legs and is in the centre of her web exactly as Tiphereth is in the centre of the Sephiroth of Ruach. (Liber 777, Column XXXVIII)
This was particularly interesting to me since the Temperance or Art card is governed by Libra in some systems and is my personal indicator when I do readings for myself. It’s symbolism is quite appropriate.
Quoth the Wikipedia:
In most modern tarot decks, Temperance stands between Death and The Devil. He or she (traditions vary) guides the souls of the dead to judgment. In other traditions, Temperance is the remixing of life, accepting the dead into the underworld, into the blessed lands, and deciding what to send back into the fray. Every atom in our bodies has passed through thousands of forms, and will pass through thousands more. Temperance reminds us of our connection to the greater forces. Others say that the vessels in the Angel’s hands represent the Golden Crucible of Taoism; the vessel that contains eternal life. Others say it is representative of the head feeding the stomach; unification of the physical and spiritual needs. Temperance is associated through its cross sum (the sum of the digits) with The Hierophant. The Hierophant (ideally) brings the lessons of the other world into this one in an understandable form; Temperance (among other things) judges how well we have mastered the wisdom of the other worlds. Even though this card is well lit by a setting sun, it is an underworld card. Observe, for example, the lilies in the background. Lilies grow in Hades, and the lily represents the goddess Iris, another messenger goddess who transcends the individual realms. The Easter Lily sometimes represents the death of Christ on the Cross, and the three days He spent in the underworld before the Resurrection. The red wings of the Angel represent blood, life, and that which transcends the death of the individual. In the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the Sun in the background conceals a crown. That crown is the ego, who has died and is at the cusp of the adventures of the night. Some Jungians say that Temperance represents the unconscious, which can guide us, they contend, to a deeper understanding of ourselves. The one foot on the land, the other in the water, represents the unification of the external and internal, conscious and unconscious, realms. Under these approaches, when Temperance appears, it is a warning or invitation to be prepared for a confrontation with the deepest questions of who we are, who we think we are, and who we will become.
On the page where I found the Crowley quote I also came across this:
The spider spins webs, making connections:
All things are held together by correspondence, image with image, movement with movement: without that there could be no relation and therefore no truth. It is our business – especially yours and mine – to take up the power of relation.
The Greater Trumps, Charles Williams
Williams explains the essence of the Great Dance:
“Tell me first,” she said, “now we’re alone, tell me more of this dance. It’s more than fortune-telling, isn’t it?”… “O, how shall I explain,” he cried out, “what we can only be taught to imagine?”… “Imagine, then, if you can,” he said, “imagine that everything which exists takes part in the movement of a great dance – everything, the electrons, all growing and decaying things, all that seems alive and all that doesn’t seem alive, men and beasts, trees and stones, everything that changes, and there is nothing that does not change. That change – that’s what we know of the immortal dance; the law in the nature of things – that’s the measure of the dance.”
On another site I found this lovely parable:
Recovering from feelings of loss at last, the Fool begins to wonder if he will finally find the new spirituality he’s after. It occurs to him that so far, he’s been dealing with opposites: the two opposing sides of the scales (Justice), the material and spiritual (which he hung between as the Hanged man), death and birth (the one leading into the other in the Death card). Does one always have to be surrendered to get the other? he wonders.
It is at this point that he comes upon a winged figure standing with one foot in a brook, the other on a rock. The radiant creature pours something from one flask into another. Drawing closer, the Fool sees that what is being poured from one flask is fire, while water flows from the other. The two are being blended together into a completely different substance!
“How can you mix fire and water?” the Fool finally whispers. Never pausing the Angel answers, “You must have the right vessels and use the right proportions.”
The Fool watches with wonder. “Can this be done with all opposites?” he asks. “Indeed,” the Angel replies, “Any oppositions, fire and water, man and woman, thesis and anti-thesis, can be made into a unified third. It is only a lack of will and a disbelief in the possibility that keeps opposites, opposite.” And that is when the Fool begins to understand that he is the one who is keeping his universe in twain, holding life/death, material world and spiritual world separate. In him the two could merge. All it takes, the Fool realizes, is the right proportions, the right vessel and enough faith that the two can be unified.
Crowley’s connection of Tiphereth with Spider is interesting as that is a densely symbolic sefira.
Quoth the Wikipedia:
In the Bahir it states: “Sixth is the adorned, glorious, delightful throne of glory, the house of the world to come. Its place is engraved in wisdom as it says ‘God said: Let there be light, and there was light.’” Tiferet is the force that integrates the Sefira of Chesed (“compassion”) and Gevurah (“Strength, or Judgement (din)”). These two forces are, respectively, expansive (giving) and restrictive (receiving). Either of them without the other could not manifest the flow of Divine energy; they must be balanced in perfect proportion by balancing compassion with discipline. This balance can be seen in the role of Tiferet, wherein the conflicting forces are harmonized, and creation flowers forth. Tiferet also balances Netzach and Hod in a similar manner. In that case Hod can be seen as the intellect where Netzach is seen as emotion. Tiferet also occupies a place on the middle pillar, and can be seen as a lower reflection of Kether, as well as a higher reflection of Yesod and Malkuth. Tiferet relates to the sun, and as such, it takes a central place in the lower face of the Tree of Life, much in the same manner that the sun is at the center of the solar system. It is not the center of the universe, as one could perhaps argue Kether to be, but rather it is the center of our local astronomical system. Nonetheless, it is the sun that gives light and life, even though it did not create itself. Tiferet can be seen as a metaphor for these same attributes. Tiferet is unique amongst the Sephirot as it is connected to all the other Sephirot (except Malkuth) via the subjective paths of the unconscious. Its position down the center between Keter and Yesod indicates to many Kabbalists that it is somewhat of a “converting” Sephirot between form (Yesod) and force (Keter). In other words, all crossing over the middle path via Tiferet results in a reversed polarity. The law of conservation of energy and mass tends to corroborate this – in all cases of energy transmutation, a sacrifice is necessary so a new form may be born. Tiferet is the middle of the tree. Five Sefirot surround it: above are Chesed at the right (south) and Gevurah at the left (north), and below are Netzach at the right, Hod at the left, and Yesod directly below. Together these six are a single entity, Zer Anpin, which is the masculine counterpart of the feminine sefira Malkuth. In certain contexts, Tiferet alone represents all the sefirot of Zer Anpin, so that the entire tree appears with only five sefirot: Keter, Chochmah, Binah, Tiferet, and Malkhut.
In Christian Cabala, Tiphereth is especially associated with Jesus Christ, ‘God the Son’ (as opposed to Kether, which is God the father, and Yesod, the Holy Spirit). This is because this is the Sephirah in which the divine force ‘sacrifices’ itself, transmutating into the forces of energy and matter, in order that creation might come to be. It is the sephirah in which ‘God becomes a mortal man’. Illustrative of the process of Tipharet is Jesus’ teaching in the Book of John, “No one comes to the Father except through me”. Kether is raw energy as the Godhead and is as such unknowable by the conscious mind; Tiphareth (the son) balances the force and form of Kether and Yesod respectively allowing Kether to assume a knowable form. A Christian mystic, in relating to Jesus, repeats the process in the other direction, by transmutating that which is lower, in order to achieve the divine. In terms of the Kabbalah, Tipharet encompasses not only “God the Son” but also the related myths of Osiris and other sacrificial gods.
So, yeah. Interesting. I assume you caught the numerous recurring themes and also were struck with déjà vu as this is pretty much what I’ve been talking about here for a while now.
Circles, man. Fucking circles.