Thoughts on Leaving the Esoteric Spiritual Path

Esotericist Mark Stavish writes:

The esoteric path stairway to heaven Jacob's LadderLeaving the Path

As a young member in several esoteric orders I often wondered how people could belong to something for twenty or more years and then leave.  How is it that they could not only drop [out by cancelling their] membership, but also [drop] any or all relations[hips], [and in some cases] even appear to abandon spirituality altogether?  In those days of bright-eyed idealism it was easy to confuse the work of spirituality with the vehicle of teachings, and in some instances, even the people who provided them.  Such confusion is not uncommon, but also encouraged in many circumstances.

I am sure that each of you has asked yourself the same or similar questions, and maybe you have even come to some of the same conclusions.  In Light on the Path – A Study Guide for Qabala, Alchemy & Astrology, some guidelines were provided for those running or wishing to run a study group or formal lodge.    The primary focus of those guidelines can be understood in the following statements:

  • Spiritual practice must encourage personal responsibility
  • Spiritual practice must encourage healthy interpersonal relationships
  • Spiritual practice must build upon the previous two points and encourage independence and autonomy

It is clear from many of the experiences each of us has had on the Path of Return, particularly when we walk it with others formally as  “Brothers” and “Sisters” or informally, that unless the first two points are achieved, the third — that of autonomy — cannot be fully realized.  True autonomy is not leaving your order or group in a snit, or waging flame wars against it or others. True autonomy is accepting things for what they are and recognizing your role in them, and what you want to and can do about it – if anything.  Separation is often a part of autonomy as the group mind of an organization or movement may force you out if you are not in a high degree of conformity with it.  However, how we respond to this new direction is a matter of how well we have mastered the first two points of personal responsibility and healthy relationships.  This is why in the guidelines in Light on the Path we actually encourage creating distance between one’s self and the group after a period of seven to twelve years. This starts with taking on less responsibility and concludes with an actual year off or “sabbatical” to relax and regroup before returning.

If you are wondering what kind of influence your esoteric practices may have on you, influences that are actually detrimental to your achieving personal responsibility and goals (the reason you started the Path to begin with), and healthy relationships with those outside of the group or movements, try this for forty days.  Remove all reminders of your spiritual practice from visible daily sight. Place them in storage, or if you have a set-aside chamber or oratory, leave everything there, but strip it to bare minimum. Place all initiation certificates, images, charters, special robes, into boxes, and leave nothing esoteric visible in the common areas of your dwelling – box your books as well.

Then notice what your mind gravitates towards.  What areas of your life have you left undone? These will be the areas of your life that you need to apply your attention to so that you may better express your SELF as an autonomous being.

After forty days bring everything back out and pay attention to your feelings and responses to your collection of artifacts.  Now, please be clear. During this time you may continue your periods of self-reflection, meditation, and inner work.  Simply notice what and how it changes when you truly open up the mystery that is your SELF, rather than the Lesser or Greater Mysteries of this or that tradition, order, lodge, or group.  This will help a great deal in understanding the immense power of the group mind as well as the power of suggestion.

Sometimes leaving the Path for a little while is the best way we can come to realize just how well we have mastered it and applied it to our daily life, or if it has mastered us and made us a servant of the dream.

Light on the Path – A Study Guide for Qabala, Alchemy and Astrology

Female Druids, the Forgotten Priestesses of the Celts

Female Druids, the Forgotten Priestesses of the Celts

From Ancient Origins awesome website (link at end of article below)
In medieval Irish legends they were called Banduri or Bandorai. Their existence was confirmed by ancient Greek and Roman writers. But who were the legendary female Druids?
The Druids were the ancient religious leaders, scientists and researchers of the Celtic society. For centuries, there was a common misconception that Druids were only male. However, numerous historical records attest to the fact that there were in fact women among their ranks.

The Wise Ones of Celtic society

The term ”Druid” comes from the Indo-European word ”deru”, which means ”the truth” or ”true”. This word has evolved into the Greek term ”drus”, meaning ”oak”.
The Druids were the intellectual elite. Being a Druid was a tribal function, but they were also poets, astronomers, magicians, and astrologers. It took them 19 years to gain the necessary knowledge and skills in alchemy, medicine, law, the sciences, and more. They organized intellectual life, judicial processes, had skills to heal people, and were involved in developing strategies for war. They were an oasis of wisdom and highly respected in their society
"The Druidess", oil on canvas, by French painter Alexandre Cabanel (1823–1890)
“The Druidess”, oil on canvas, by French painter Alexandre Cabanel (1823–1890) (Public Domain)

Roman Accounts of the Druidesses

Gaius Julius Caesar was fascinated with the Druids. He wrote that they were scientists, theologians, and philosophers, and acquired knowledge that was extraordinary. According to experts in Caesar’s writings, the great Roman leader was well aware of the female Druids. Unfortunately, most of the Roman writers ignored women in general, so it is not easy to find reference to them in historical texts. However, Strabo wrote about a group of religious women who lived on an island near the Loir River. In ‘Historia’, Augusta is a description of Diocletian, Alexander Severus and Aurelian, who discussed their problems with the female Druids.
Strabo as depicted in a 16th-century engraving.
Strabo as depicted in a 16th-century engraving. (Public Domain)
Tacitus mentioned female Druids describing the slaughter of the Druids by Romans on the island of Mona in Wales. According to his description there were women known as Banduri (female Druids), who defended the island and cursed the black clad. Tacitus also observed that there was no distinction between the male and female rulers, and that the female Celts were very powerful.
Map  of the island of Mona, 1607.
Map  of the island of Mona, 1607. (Public Domain)
According to Plutarch, female Celts were nothing like Roman or Greek women. They were active in negotiating treaties and wars, and they participated in assemblies and mediated quarrels. According to the ‘Pomponius Mela’, virgin priestesses who could predict the future lived on the island of Sena, in Brittany.
Cassius Dio mentioned a Druidess named Ganna. She went on an official trip to Rome and was received by Domitian, the son of Vespasian. According to the description of the Battle of Moytura, two Druidesses enchanted the rocks and the trees, in order to support the Celtic army.

Famous Druidesses

According to the Irish traditions, there were two main names of the Druid women: baduri and the banfilid, meaning female poets. Most of the names of the female Druids stay forgotten. The name Fedelma was recorded in ancient texts, as a woman in the court of Queen Medb of Connacht, who was a “banfili”. She lived in the 10th century AD in Ireland.
Queen Maev by J. C. Leyendecker.
Queen Maev by J. C. Leyendecker. (Public Domain)
The most famous descendant of a Druid woman was Queen Boudicca, whose mother was a banduri.  Boudicca was a queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe. She led an uprising against the Romans in the 1st century AD. Researchers still argue whether Boudicca was a Druid too.

The Worship of Goddesses

The Druidesses worshipped goddesses, and celebrated with feasts in different months and seasons.  One of the deities they worshipped, the goddess Brighid, was later adopted by Christian nuns as ‘Saint Brigid’.
Saint Brigid.
Saint Brigid. (Public Domain)

The Archeological Footsteps of the Druidesses

Archeologists have discovered several proofs for the existence of the female Druids. Many female burials have been discovered in Germany between the two rivers Rhine and Moselle. The women who were buried there were dated back to circa 4th century BC, and they were buried with lots of treasures, jewelry and other precious objects. Some of them were buried with a special torque on the chest, which are symbols of status. According to researchers, only a Druidess could have a high enough status to receive a burial like this. Two burials located in the Vix in Burgundy, France and Reinham in Germany were dated back to the 5th century BC, and almost certainly belonged to female Druids.
A Gorgon head is on the outside of each of the krater's three handles found in Vix, Burgundy, France.
A Gorgon head is on the outside of each of the krater’s three handles found in Vix, Burgundy, France. (CC BY-SA 2.5)
Moreover, on the Rue de Récollets, in Metz, France, there was discovered an inscription dedicated to the female Druid in honor of the God Sylvanus. It is difficult to confirm which of the noble Celtic women were really Druids, but it is believed that most of the well educated women whose graves contained luxury goods were the elite of their tribes and quite possibly Druids.

The Heritage of Ancient Druidesses

The Romans killed many Druids and destroyed many of their books. The Roman Catholic church believed that female Druids were sorcerers and witches in cooperation with the devil. They also saw the knowledge of the Celts as a huge danger for their domination. The well-known Saint Patrick burned more than a hundred Druid books, and destroyed many places connected with the old cult.
However, Druidism has never fully disappeared. Nowadays, many people still try to follow the ancient tradition. Many researchers continue to work to rediscover the ancient wisdom of the Druids.
Featured image: Consulting the Oracle by John William Waterhouse, showing eight priestesses in a temple of prophecy. Source: Public Domain


Miranda Aldhouse-Green, Exploring the World of the Druids. 1997.
Ward Rutherford, The Druids and their Heritage, 1978.


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Today is Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday, an important day to the historical Knights Templar as well as esoteric Christians in ages past. It begins a sacred 40-day period during which we try to give up certain pleasures or things that we are better off without anyway.

Doing without something we normally enjoy teaches us valuable self-discipline, a skill that comes in handy throughout life! Fasting does the same thing, which is why many denominations teach fasting. Both Lent and fasting, of course, help us to walk that holy path that leads to the Divine One.
The Templars had four 40-day periods they honored each year. This one — Great Lent — is of course the most sacred of them all.
Why is it called “ash” Wednesday? Because on this day we are to go to a priest who will dip his right thumb into a pot of ashes and make a equal-bar cross on our forehead.  The Templars did this and Catholics all over the world are doing it right now. You then go the rest of the day walking around going about your duties with the cross made of ashes on your forehead. You are not supposed to wash it off.
If you can’t get to a priest, you can make your own cross out of ashes.

Supernatural Paranormal in the Bible; the Unseen Realm

Paranormal and supernatural elements in the BibleLast week, Bishop James, the Dean of our seminarian/priesthood Holy Orders program, suggested I share the info below with you Mystery School initiates.  It looks most intriguing!

Bishop James writes: “Dr. Heiser is a fundamentalist Christian with a paranormal, esoteric, twist.  It is interesting material, and he does back up what he says with peer reviewed sources.

Here are links to the homepage and podcasts of Dr. Michael S. Heiser,  one of the developers of the well-known Logos Software and an instructor in the almost equally well-known (notice the intentional neutrality of the term) Liberty University Distance Learning Program.

One of his recent publications is The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible. A major academic interest is the Divine Council (quoted from his site):

Psalm 82:1    God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment.

“The term divine council is used by Hebrew and Semitics scholars to refer to the heavenly host, the pantheon of divine beings who administer the affairs of the cosmos. All ancient Mediterranean cultures had some conception of a divine council. The divine council of Israelite religion, known primarily through the psalms, was distinct in important ways.”

He also writes about the paranormal, ghosts, demons and UFO’s. He says “I am most intrigued by high technology in the ancient world, cultural diffusionism, archaeological / artifactual anomalies, and western occult and esoteric traditions.”

I encourage you to review his site:

Materials on the Unseen Realm:

And I especially encourage you to listen to his podcasts:

As you may imagine, our approach in Holy Orders III is somewhat different. Nevertheless, it is important to be informed about the different theories and approaches in the Biblical disciplines.

Please let me know what you think about his materials.  If your reply will be of interest to most seminarians, please post it to the critical thinking module.

Bishop James


Today is Templar Remembrance Day

Knights Templar Friday the 13th Mystery SchoolToday, October 13, is Templar Remembrance Day, the day the historical Templars were betrayed by the King of France and arrested en masse to be tried and executed as heretics. On that fateful day in 1307 it also happened to be Friday, and this is the origin of the unlucky Friday the 13th.

Just posted a link with pictures to our New Order of the Knights Templar Facebook page.

If you don’t have Facebook, you can see the pictures and read the article here on Wikipedia.

72 Names of God, Number of the Beast, the Movie Pi number 216

72 Names of God 216 Mark of the Beast 666
One ring to rule them all… The 72 Names of God inscribed on a ring

As our Mystery School’s Melchizedek initiates know, the Shem-ha-mephorasch refers to the 72-Names of God in esoteric Judaism aka Kabbalah. The 1998 movie Pi studies makes mention of the “two-sixteen” number or the 216 lettered name of God (each of the 72 names has 3 letters, and 72 x 3 = 216.

The 666 number of the Beast in the Greek Bible’s book of Revelation can be written as 216 = 6 x 6 x 6
In the Left Behind series of Christian End Time’s fiction novels, the Anti-Christ character — I think his name is Nikolai Carpathia — has a jet numbered 216 and something else, his residence maybe, I forget what (it’s been 25 years since I read those novels). He uses 216 because it is 666 expanded as 6 x 6 x 6 = 216.

72 Names of God Shem-ha-Meforesh
The 72 three-lettered names of God equal “the 216 lettered name”

But in Hungarian-jewish Darren Aronofsky’s movie Pi, the 216 “two-sixteen number” as the Cohen genius kid calls it, is in reference to the name of God with the same amount of letters (72 x 3 = 216). In the movie Pi, the kid can figure out the stock market using the number. The Golden Ratio (also featured in The Davinci Code), magical number patterns in the universe, gematria, and Kabbalah, are each mentioned. Pi was Aronofsky’s first movie. His most recent movie was Noah in which he also has esoteric Jewish mysteries such as Zohar (the magical gold substance) and Nephilim (fallen angels who protect man and when they die, shoot up to heaven like angels returning home to God). Aronofsky has other esoteric Judaisms in the movie Noah.

Here’s the wikipedia article about the 72 names of God and all the math magic,

You might also like the Wikipedia article about the movie Pi.


Eleusinian Mysteries: Mother Daughter Rites compare to Father Son Christianity

Eleusinian Mystery Religion Greek Initiates Mother God Daughter God
Demeter & Persephone

The Eleusinian Mystery rites made up an awesome mystery school in ancient Greece. It has a whole “liturgy” based on a Mother-God and Daughter-God who were separated, descended into hell, had an annual resurrection (Easter).  This early Greek “religion” has long been compared to the masculine Father-God and God-the-Son “myth cycle” of Christianity.  One of our seminarians read that Cicero was an initiate and dug deeper into this “most famous of the secret religious rites of ancient Greece” (according to Encyclopedia Brittanica).

I have always loved to study about them. One of the longest esoteric mysteries and teachings websites has a page on this topic which existed before Wikipedia existed. Here it is:

Encyclopedia Brittanica online also has an interesting article:

Here’s a nice bit of information:

Pow-Wow, Psalms, and German Magical Folklore by Mark Stavish

Pow-Wow, Psalms, and German Magical Folklore
by Mark Stavish
As many of you know the Pennsylvania German tradition of “pow-wow” has a special place in my heart and practice. The first article I ever published shared the same title as this one, “Pow-Wow, Psalms, and German Magical Folklore” and was published in MEZLIM almost a quarter century ago. It was a very fortuitous set of circumstances that led me to submit that article, a story I will explore at another time, suffice to say, the tradition of the old schools of magic is something that has always been a part of me. Over the last few months I have been receiving emails from readers of The Inner Way – The Power of Prayer and Belief in Spiritual Practice regarding the use of Psalms, basic theurgy, and questions related to pow-wow, or braucherei as it is often called. Readers mostly are interested in where they can get more information. To this end I can only refer people to what I am directly familiar with, and have knowledge about. This sounds strange as today it is very common for authors and other ‘authorities’ to write endorsements for books they have never read – simply as a marketing device for themselves. This is something I have never done, and never will.
So, back to pow-wow. One of the most comprehensive books you can read on the subject is The Red Church – Or The Art of Pennsylvania German Braucherei by Christopher Bilardi. I wrote the Introduction for this book as well as supplied a modest amount of the research material used in its creation. Originally published by Pendraig Publishing it is currently only available on the second-hand market. Bilardi will be releasing a revised edition at some point and we will let you know how this progresses.
There is also Powwowing Among the Pennsylvania Dutch: A Traditional Medical Practice in the Modern World (Pennsylvania German History and Culture) by David Kriebel. I have had some email communications over the years with Kriebel and deeply enjoy this book. Signs, Cures and Witchery – German Appalachian Folkore by Gerald C. Milnes is very insightful into the Appalachian branch of powwow and why we often confuse the old practices of the ‘hollow’ with Scotch-Irish Pennsylvania Dutch Pow-wow Powwow German Folklore Christian Magicwhen it really is German in origin. For some more background on that it is important to read the wonderful pleasant book edited by Richard Wentz, Pennsylvania Dutch Folk Spirituality (Sources of American Spirituality). While all of the aforementioned books contain information on the practice of pow-wow, one of the few specifically modern practical manuals (The Red Church being an exception) is Karl Herr’s fine little tome, Hex and Spellwork: The Magical Practices of the Pennsylvania Dutch. Now many people have asked me if I am Karl Herr, and the clear and unambiguous answer to that is no, I am not Karl Herr.
However, no discussion of pow-wow would be complete without a mention of The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses, by Joseph Peterson. Long held as a sort of magical textbook of the most powerful and respected of pow-wow practitioners, this book of magical formula has found its way deep into the American magical psyche. Its influence can be found in not only pow-wow, but also hoodoo, Caribbean, and African practices. Joseph Peterson edited a version of The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses, published by IBIS Press, for which I wrote the back jacket copy. To my knowledge, this is the finest edition of the book one could want as either a scholar or practitioner of both the angelic and Faustian arts it contains.
In more general terms I would be remiss if I did not mention a book containing a fine series of vignettes, American Shamans: Journeys With Traditional Healers by Jack Montgomery. There is a great deal of fine information in there, as well as an interview with Christopher Bilardi. You can also see Chris, along with Robert Chapman in a new documentary entitled, “Hex Hollow” at:
Chapman has an extensive series of videos on powwow that can be found on YouTube, as well as several publications.
For those of you unfamiliar with this notion of Christian magic rooted in the Psalms, and used for the ‘healing of man and beast’ information on this tradition can be found in [my own recent book] The Inner Way -The Power of Prayer and Belief Spiritual Practice