Austin Lawrence, July 2013
At the Kaleidoscope Gathering 2013 the theme is “Heroes.” In our modern times the mass media makes people who are successful at professional sports into “sports heroes” and “legends.” But, what have they really done? Has their strength or agility saved lives, like warriors of old? Has their achieved fame given momentum to honorable causes or are their lives examples of virtues to live by? In Pagan Ancient Greece and Rome, sport was raised to a religious ideal vaunted in rituals such as the Olympics, the Arena, and the Hippodrome. These communal events were originally religious rituals, but became ceremonial spectacles that could also vault mere mortals into the stratosphere of fame inhabited by the demigods, much like modern sporting ‘heroes.’
In Ancient Rome and in the late Roman Empire, in Byzantium, the chariot races that took place at the Hippodrome were particularly known for their raucous nature and the extreme fame of the drivers who risked life and limb for their adoring fans, or ‘factions.’ These factions became something of a cross-between political parties, sports clubs, and hooligan street gangs. After Christianity arrived, the faction teams – called by their colours, the Greens or the Blues – would ride in support of political movements that endorsed rather esoteric theological positions, such as to what degree Christos was human or divine, for instance.
At the Kaleidoscope Gathering 2013, our chariots will be pulled by Unicorns! Since we are a modern magickal folk unicorns seemed much more appropriate.
The Ancient Greeks identified unicorns as being part of the natural world, calling them Monoceros, or one horned. The beasts were mythologized during the Middle Ages where they gained magical properties and became the stuff of legend; where only pure maidens could tame them and their horns could neutralize poisons.
In our modern times unicorns are used as fun symbols of magical thinking suitable for children, particularly marketed to girls. There are cute unicorn My Little Pony(tm) dolls and the atheist movement has taken on ‘The Invisible Pink Unicorn‘ as a meme to represent the illogic of deism. Unicorns are happy, non-threatening, sparkly, awesomeness rolled-up in a rainbow-wrapped bundle.
Britain and the United States have a number of atheist summer camps established as an antidote to the explosion of evangelical church camps. They seek to open up children’s minds to free thinking, rather than program them into the faith-fear dichotomy of the heaven-hell paradigm. One way they do this is have children search for the Invisible Pink Unicorn in the woods. Now, of course, small children do see the Unicorn (and sometimes even step in its poop), but older children learn a lesson about using sensory observation and logic in preference to emotions and magical thinking. Well … many Pagans say: ‘Why loose the innocence of youth? Why not enchant our universe with a magical world view? By truly being open to all emotional experiences of the world, not just cold logic, we can engage with the full breath of reality.’ So, some of us adults do see the Unicorns when we dare to look, be Unicorn metaphoric or not.
The symbol of the unicorn is not all shiny horns and prancing on rainbows. There is also an occult side to unicorns. In medieval occult and later hermetic lore unicorns are featured, too. The unicorn is either a billy goat or a stallion with a single horn, or some combination of the two. The billy goat perfumes his beard with his own ejaculate and the stallion mounts a herd of fillies or serves as a traveling companion by being a vehicle of hot, tensioned muscle rubbing between one’s thighs while riding (or ‘getting you there’). The meaning of the single phallic horn is quite obvious even to someone who isn’t a Freudian or Jungian psychologist. This clear symbol of masculine sexuality and male power is what is tamed by the virtuous maiden in medieval myth. It is by her extreme virtue – modesty and virginity – that the male sexual energy is tamed. Conversely, the symbol of the chivalric knight vanquishing the lion is a similar symbol of virtue – restraint and chastity – taming the female sexual energy, represented by the vagina dentata of the maned lion’s maw. This is why in hermetic alchemical symbolism the matched unicorn and lion can represent the heirogamos, the divine union of opposing forces, a ying-yang of life forces expressed through an oblique sexual metaphor. Now as modern Pagans we shed the patriarchal repressive sexual morality of the anti-body, medieval Christian ethos. (And, really, a maiden goes off into the woods by herself and meets up with her repressed image of sexual energy?! We know what is really going on!) So, people, reclaim the Unicorn!
These threads and strands of lore get all mashed up together in the Monocerosdrome, because that is what a kaleidoscope does with all of those wonderful shards of light. However, there is still one element to add … what the factions need to cheer for. There are two dominant strands to theological debate amongst Pagans, Heathens and other Magickal folks; whether or not the divine – gods, spirits, ghosts, mythological beings, what have you – are creations of the human mind or exist apart from it, if they are transcendent ideals and individual personalities or immanent symbols in nature and overlapping archetypal patterns. These are our esoteric factional debates. So cheer for your team (or both):
The Blues: The gods are transcendent personalities that exist independent of human consciousness. Transcendent! Transcendent! Transcendent!
The Greens: The gods are immanent archetypes that exist as extensions of human consciousness. Immanent! Immanent! Immanent!
See you at the Monocerosdrome!