The Scarlet Letter
Volume III, Number 3 | June 1996
by Sr. Lillith
The Electoral College, Pooh-bahs and Dinosaurs in Austin
Scarlet Woman Oasis had the honor of providing meeting space and hospitality to the members of the Electoral College and other assorted O.T.O. personalities, and self-proclaimed Pooh-bahs and Dinosaurs who came to Austin for their bi-annual gathering in late March. While we could not participate directly in the business goings on, we did our best to entertain and distract them with parties, drumming, and food, as well as facilitate their work by housing and chauffeuring, and staying out of the way.
We had a gathering at Sr. Continuity's on Friday night for conversation and drinks. Saturday night was a drum and dance bash at Fr. Sar Shalom's. Lon Duquette had a book signing at the local Book People on Sunday at lunch time. We had the rare and wonderful opportunity to attend Fr. Sabazius' Rite of Ascension Ceremony on Sunday morning, which was followed by a beautiful Gnostic Mass performed by the new Grand Master and Sr. Helena.
While I coordinated phone calls, contacts, and information, everybody in the Oasis worked and contributed to make our guests comfortable by opening their households, driving and touring folks around, and attending the weekend social events. Turns out Austin isn't the backwater town some of the visitors were expecting and everybody had a good time mingling and mixing with Thelemites from all over the country. In fact they had such a good time, they are threatening to come back again some time. I hope they do!
Feast of the Stars Thelemic Retreat
Would you believe a cold and icy weekend in the fair state of Texas? We actually had snow and many roads were closed or hazardous due to ice. This didn't stop some thirtyfive Thelemites from four different Camps and Oases from gathering for a Feast of the Stars retreat held at a resort/ranch the first weekend in February.
During our brief escape from Malkuth we filled three town houses designated as Netzach, Hod, and Yesod for the weekend. A meeting room across the driveway (Tiphereth of course) was the scene of an original Feast of the Stars ritual put on for us by Fr. Titvs with additional parts played by Fr. Xephyr of Scarlet Woman, Sr. Ixel Balamke and Fr. Hunahpu from Sekhet Bast Ra in Oklahoma on Friday night. That ritual appears elsewhere in this issue of the Scarlet Letter.
After a terrific party on Saturday night, we went to “church” Sunday morning for a Gnostic Mass with a team made up of Br. Dionysos Soter and Sis. Athene Ariagne from Scarlet Woman and Br. Kairete Nikomen from Saladin Camp in San Antonio. The team was rounded out by children who hailed from Apotheosis Camp in Houston.
The centerpiece of the weekend was a Saturday afternoon colloquium where six original papers were presented around the topic of Thelema as a Social Experiment. A bound copy of the papers was distributed to attending Thelemites and then fifteen-minute verbal presentations were made by each of the authors. Lively and interesting discussion ensued both at the formal forum and during subsequent social gatherings. Intention is to continue the project of gathering papers on this topic for a more expansive collection of ideas and presentations which will be published by Scarlet Woman for eventual sale to interested parties everywhere (available fall 1996 perhaps).
Sr. Lillith organized and hosted the event, but everybody contributed food and ideas and had a wonderful time. Special note and thanks to Fr. Kestrel for overall logistical assistance and dessert, and Sr. Breanna Ashtara for working on Saturday night's traveling feast (one course in each of the three occupied Sephiroth) both in planning and preparation.
The accommodations were very nice, the meeting room quiet and private, and we all agreed that it would be a great place to go back to again sometime... maybe next year. It was a bit expensive but we had more than our share of fun, ate really well the whole weekend, and still broke even overall. Hope you can join us for our next big retreat event. Watch for registration information here in the Scarlet Letter.
In March, our esteemed Fr. Pnesomauma stepped down as the Oasis Secretary to serve the Order in another capacity working for International Headquarters. He hands off a well organized and complete record to our new Secretary, Fr. Sar Shalom. In addition, a new position of Logistrix has been created, and filled by Sr. Lillith, with the charter to organize group events (like retreats and conferences) for the Oasis. There is a lot more information in this column about this kind of event past and planned.
Sr. Continuity hosted a party on March 20 for the Feast for the Supreme Ritual. In early April we observed the Three Days of the Writing of The Book of the Law. The 1st day was hosted by Fr. Sar Shalom and consisted of live music and a simple and beautiful reading of the chapter by Fr. Sar Shalom and Sr. Continuity.
For the 2nd day, Sr. Lillith and Fr. Kestrel set up an elaborate maze in the their back yard with verses from the second chapter hung all through to lead you to Hadit (Fr. Sharash) at the center. Other parts were the Beggar (Fr. Determined), the King (Sr. Ahitha), and the Deacon (Fr. Kestrel).
On the 3rd day, Sr. Breanna Ashtara hosted a ritual organized by Fr. Pnesomauma where weapons were consecrated with blood and the Third Chapter was read as part of a fire-lit ritual. At the close of the ritual a once-read copy of Liber AL was burned.
In early May the Feast of Cattle Little and Big was written and presented by Fr. Titvs with performance assistance from Sr. Ahitha, Fr. Kestrel, and Fr. Sar Shalom. This holiday celebration was well attended and most folks agreed to become “Kings of the Earth” at the conclusion of the ceremony. A full accounting of this event and a copy of the ritual appears elsewhere in this issue of the Letter.
The Thelema Study Group has been meeting regularly at Sr. Breanna Ashtara's. Recent presentations have included a meditation by Br. Paul from Saladin Camp in San Antonio, a presentation on infinity by Fr. Omega Baphomet, and a sharing of information brought back from the Thelemic Women's Retreat.
Smoking Dogs have been meeting regularly and are about to enter the second phase of their project. A report on this group's activities appears elsewhere in this issue. The Playing Cards group has been moving slowly forward with long breaks between meetings. Results of the experiments have been inconclusive so far and so we have not yet compiled a report for publication.
Our third weekend business meetings and work parties at the Bodhi center go on every month. We have a new shed built lovingly and by hand to house our larger ritual equipment now. The work parties are one way we “pay rent” at the Bodhi Yoga Center and thereby earn the privilege and use of the temple space. Please come and help pay your dues with sweat—as well as $5.oo a month—so we can keep up and improve this valuable Oasis resource.
This quarter Scarlet Woman held initiations at all the levels of Man of Earth. Welcome to new Minerval guests Br. Paul, Sr. Ahitha, and Fr. Determined. First degrees were taken by our new siblings Fr. Tes, Sr. Ahitha, Sr. Nephthys, Fr. H.S.N.S.S.EL., Sr. Perilous, and Fr. Saint Mail Zendik.
Congratulations to newly made Magicians Fr. Maitreya, Fr. Leo Serpens, Sr. Sulis, Sr. Breanna Ashtara, Fr. Kairete Nikomen, and Sr. Aryani. We grieve for Sr. Blut ist Leben and Fr. Chris Piss who became Master Magicians and “died” very recently.
In addition to our regular Gnostic Masses, Sr. Zuleica was ordained a Deacon at Circle of Stars Sanctuary.
On March 28, Scarlet Woman held an E.G.C. Symposium at which several folks made brief presentations related to the Mass and the Gnostic Church. I heard it was very interesting.
Fr. Xephyr and Sr. Nephthys are about to depart our good company and go walk about the U.S.A. visiting O.T.O. bodies wherever they may find them and generally having a relaxed and wonderful time. We will miss them and are gratified to hear that they plan to write to us and stay in touch and even possibly return some day.
Some of our Scarlet Women went abroad on a briefer trip. Sorors Oalimn, Breanna Ashtara, and Qadisha attended the Thelemic Women's Conference in Bloomington, IN. I understand they brought home some interesting exercises and technology that was shared at a Thelemic Study group night. For those of you who missed that, you might approach one of them to hear more details about the event.
Fr. Sar Shalom and Sr. Ananda have moved to a new address in the north of Austin. They still have a swimming pool and we look forward to their house-warming party as the drumming and company is always excellent at their abode. Also congratulations to them on their Union in Love under Will, as they recently married.
Rumor has it that Fr. Gemmatia and his wife are expecting a second child this spring, but we have not heard from him yet about the actual event. I think of them often and send energy their way as I know how challenging it is to have two little people at home.
Fr. Pnesomauma is organizing a choral group called Unknown Rivers to sing Thelemic hymns. The rehearsal schedule will be fairly rigorous but the results are bound to be spectacular.
Scarlet Woman plans to put on a full cycle of the Rites of Eleusis again this fall. Performances are tentatively planned to begin in late October. Directors are making commitments and auditions for casting will probably be held late summer. Get in touch with Sr. Continuity for more information on this project.
Four Powers of the Sphinx Retreat
This event was conceived of and hosted by Sr. Lillith and Fm. Omega Baphomet. During the first weekend in May, a small group gathered at the Bodhi Center for an experimental weekend retreat. After a brief logistical meeting on Friday night we conducted a ritual to attune ourselves to the Four Powers of the Sphinx. At the conclusion of the ritual we ceased to speak aloud until Sunday lunch time, thus actively practicing the important fourth power. There were six of us at the ritual, but a seventh and welcome Thelemite joined us by chance on Saturday morning and decided to stay the rest of the weekend. (Apparently the silence sucked her in...).
We all seemed long on patience, tolerance, and good humor for the weekend.We did watch each other and attempt to interpret body language or stares and guess what they might mean, but it seemed that the assumption was usually of a positive, or at very least, a neutral message. Negative communication content seemed to have been minimized by eliminating choice of vocabulary and tone of voice.
It was restful to be quiet and pleasant and to be in good company at the same time. We worked on a jigsaw puzzle, played scrabble, and did a silent yoga class together, but most of the weekend was spent on individual pursuits including reading, sleeping, meditation, needlework and journaling.
Interesting patterns of physical proximity developed which were typified by gathering together in a small space while doing three or four different activities, followed by scattering to all parts of the available space. We even seemed inclined to bed down and arise at fairly close intervals despite no need to worry about light or noise. Fr. Kestrel cooked all our meals and we ate his delicious food buffet-style together.
Since we had no television or stereo running, it was really quiet except for a little street noise outside the center. Several participants reported problems with unwelcome musical memories getting stuck in their heads and running over and over since there was no other noise to distract or fill the space. Kestrel complained of being hyper-conscious of the noise he made in the kitchen, but the rest of us did not seem to be disturbed by it since it was non-specific, familiar, and did not require engaging our conscious involvement or a response. Nevertheless we plan to do more pre-prep work on the food to further minimize the noise pollution in future.
Most all of us had a “break” at some point where we spoke aloud before we caught ourselves, but for the most part the discipline seemed to hold up well. Morning just after rising seemed to be a time when discipline was more likely to slip. Overall we seemed more tempted to use invectives and make apologies aloud than any other kind of communication.
Some conversations were held in writing and various opinions were expressed on whether this added or detracted from the experience of the weekend. Some of us would rather have avoided the written interchange and others enjoyed it very much. It was most difficult to resist these written conversations and the related charade pantomiming to communicate when something funny occurred to us. It seemed to be very important to share and communicate humor and we spent quite a bit of time laughing (silently of course).
Several ideas have come up on ways to work with this aspect of the experiment. I will mention my two favorites here.The first is to provide a centralized writing pad where all such written conversation takes place so that anyone can read it if they choose and also so that we have a record of what became so important to talk about that it was worth writing out long-hand.
The second notion is to create three classes of discipline for the weekend that individuals could choose to adhere to. All three would be silent but one would leave all other communication avenues open, the second would not be willing to participate in written communication so therefore they should not be approached with it, the third would be silent and as removed as possible from interaction with others including eye contact. Each class would be denoted by an arm band (or ribbon or something) so that you would know whether that person was willing to participate in various levels of communication or not.
Friday evening to Sunday afternoon seemed to be an adequate amount of time to gain some benefit and insight from the practice of keeping silent, although we mostly would have liked it to continue longer. This gathering benefited the Bodhi Center (our beloved Scarlet Woman temple space) and was relatively easy to organize and run. Since we agreed that we would want to try it again, we plan to conduct another Sphinx retreat this fall with some improvements, but the same basic concept. The date of this event is to be announced later and registration will be limited in size but we hope to attract a slightly larger group to see what new challenges and rewards it will yield.