Wiccan Rede * Winter 1983 by Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki
In this pathworking we will move into the past and the Temple in the Desert and the Well of Faith. Since time immemorial the desert has drawn men and women into its fire filled mysteries. There, in the quietness of its harsh landscape great steps may be taken along the road of self-knowledge. It is a very real and testing road, be it on the physical plane or those of the Inner levels.
Of old, many of the great teachers and prophets have gone into the desert to search out the pattern their lives had to take if they were to fulfill their mission on earth. The Inner Plane teacher who guides the S.O.L. has always known this journey, and has felt the inner fires of the spirit burn away the dross. This being so, this pathworking may well be a link with Him for those of you taking the S.O.L. course.
The Middle Eastern lands, surrounded as they are by ancient shifting sands, retain their “charge” in a very unique way. Their atmosphere is preserved more than in any other region. St. John of the Cross likened this “dark Night of the Soul” to a Desert Journey, where the water of self knowledge is a milestone along the way, and the God Within the Ultimate Goal.
Best done at sunrise or sunset, and in as quiet a spot as possible, this pathworking can have results that far exceed its seeming simplicity. One can be too elaborate in striving for effect on the physical plane, for the essence of occult work is simplicity as symbolized by Kether. If this is not observed, then both ritual and pathworking become charades that diminish rather than enlarge the mind. To have any effect at all a pathworking must catch the emotions and the imagination; together these form the Pylon gate through which we may enter the Inner Realm.
As always make sure you will not be disturbed. I know I repeat this very often but it really is important. Have near you a glass of water and a biscuit, if your creative imagination is good, your will NEED this water when you return. Take a few moments to relax and establish your breathing rhythm, now close your eyes and let the mind float. Imagine that you are in an open landscape, and coming towards you is a large white cloud. Let it envelope you, at first it feels cool and damp, you become aware of an utter lack of sound. Then, faintly at first, then getting louder, comes the sound of a clock ticking, like an old grandfather clock. Start to count to its beat, backwards from 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, the cloud starts to thin, 4, 3, the tick fades, 2, 1, and the cloud is gone.
We stand in the market place of a desert town, it is early morning. Already a crowd of people are assembled. Men in the loose garments and headdress of the Bedouin are attending to the camels of a large caravan with which we shall be traveling. The air is filled with a Babel of voices and the angry grumbling of the camels. Into the square comes the leader of the caravan, a tall fierce eyed hooked nosed figure. At his command everyone gets ready to move out. There are about twenty five camels and twice that number of people. You may ride or walk as you wish. You are dressed like twice the others in a loose fitting garment, leather sandals and a cloak of coarse wool with a hood that can be drawn over the head and a long scarf to wind about the nose and mouth against driven sand.
We make our way through the town gate – and almost immediately we are in the desert. The wind hits us at once, not violently but enough to be irritating. It doesn’t take long to be out of sight of the town, and then the landscape becomes a great golden sea of sand and stunted grasses. The only sound is the jingle of the harness and the never ending complaint of the camels. The sand deadens all other sound, and we go further into the heat of the day.
The air starts to dance and shimmer, and the perspiration trickles down inside our clothes making them sticky and unpleasant. Faint glimmers of light appear and disappear, glimpses of towers and minarets flicker in front of the eyes, mirages that entice and delude the mind.
When the sun is overhead we halt, the camels kneeling at command. Their jaws move constantly on the cud, and they gaze around with a supercilious air. The Arabs say that although a wise man knows the 99 names of God, the camel is the only living creature who knows the 100th. We drink warm brackish water from a goatskin and try to rest in the heat. Man and sub seem to be waging a personal battle against each other, a battle that never ends. It is time to move again. Each step seems to be almost too great an effort. Then, over the top of a large sand dune we see in the distance an ancient building, and beside it a small collection of greenery and palms. An oasis, but more than that, it is on of the oldest desert Temples. The caravan winds its way towards the oasis, and as we draw nearer we see that the building is of weathered brick, of the kind made in the East for many thousands of years. It is square in shape and surmounted by a large dome. Across the door is a curtain of animal hide. A small courtyard surrounds the Temple, and in the middle of it is a well. Again of simple design with a leather bucket and a long rope with which to reach the water. Cut into the brick is the Hebrew letter MEM, meaning water. A ‘Mother’ letter. This temple and its well are so old that men have forgotten who built them, they only know that it is a place of great holiness and is called the Well of Faith. It is said that whoever drinks of this well, drinks from the breast of the Great Mother herself. They say it reaches down to the very center of the Earth. Truth, they say, lives at the bottom of a well such as this.
The camels are being watered and we have a mission to fulfill. Approaching the well we see a small boy, who, for a few copper coins, will draw water for us, even truth has a price… Cup your hands and drink, the water is very cold, and slightly bitter, reminding us of Marah, the bitter sea. Its icy touch numbs the mouth and throat, filling every part of the body it seems. There is a strange feeling that the water has encompassed us rather than us being filled by it. More water is poured over our feet washing away the sand and dust, then we are ready to enter the Temple.
The contrast of the coolness after the great heat is almost a physical shock. It is dim inside and our eyes take a while to adjust. At first there is a feeling of disappointment, it is almost empty. There is only a floor of packed earth, and a small altar that holds a lamp and a wooden cup of water from the well. Overhead hang three plain lamps that sway in the breeze coming from the doorway. High above us, in de side of the dome, is cut a small circular hole.
As we look, the sun comes into position and a shaft of light enters the dim interior and strikes the altar. It moves slowly upwards. By its light we see a statue of black basalt, it is of a woman primitive in type, the body grotesque in shape with heavy breasts and overlarge buttocks, She is heavily pregnant. Unlovely but powerful and compelling. The Black Isis waits in the Temple for those who have the courage to face Her. The features are crudely carved, the mouth slightly open, there is almost a menacing feel about it. This is the primitive Force of Birth and Death that fought the battle of Life and Evolution when the earth first came into being. It fought and it won for us the right to be what we are now. We are still not perfect, but at least we are someway along the road.
Pick up the cup of water from the altar and approach the statue. Be quick for the light will not wait, pour it over the feet of the statue. Give your thanks if you so wish to this Great Archetype, then stand back and look at Her again. Look at the beauty of alabaster carved with love into the semblance of feminine beauty and perfection. The white Isis is tall and graceful with rounded breasts and hips covered, by the skill of the artist, with a veil of gossamer. One hand is outstretched in a blessing, the other rests lightly on her body swelling with the Son of the Sun. The Divine father who, with His light covers and caresses His female counterpart. The lovely face holds patience and understanding and love. The eyes lustrous and the mouth gently curved in the beginning of a smile. The Sun catches the whole figure in a luminous halo that dazzles the eyes, making us look away, then it is dark again. When we can see once more the Black Isis stands as before, silent and unmoving.
A call from the outside tells us it is time to depart, and we leave the Temple of the Mother and return to the dusty courtyard and the waiting caravan. When all are ready we move out into the desert again, thinking on the mystery we have just witnessed. The men about us sense our withdrawal and make no conversation. We travel in silence like the Magi of old, who also came seeking a Mother and the Son of the Sun. We have seen that a seeming ugliness can hide ultimate beauty if we have the faith to face it. Like the story of Gawain and Lady Bragnall legends of the Round Table.
So we go on our way, carrying with us a small piece of the Truth watered by the Well of Faith. Another desert town comes into sight before us, and soon we are entering through the stone gateway leading into the market place. We give a gold coin to the leader of the caravan, his just due for leading us through the desert. His eyes no longer fierce, seem to penetrate our thoughts, understanding a little of what we feel. There si always a guide when we need one, we have only to look around. He has taken many into the desert, to the old Temple, some witnessed the miracle, some will have to try again.
We turn away, and there coming towards us is the same white cloud. It envelopes us with its coolness, a delight after the hot sun. Through the mist comes the ticking of Time and e start counting forward, 1, 2, 3, 4, the cloud is starting to thin, 5, 6, 7, the sound begins to recede, 9, 10, 11,12, and we open our eyes on to our own plane of existence. Take some time to slowly settle into your familiar surroundings and feel the physical take hold of you once more. Then have your customary tea and biscuits before writing down in your notebook the realizations of what you have seen. Use this pathworking sparingly, and in between, mediate on the mystery it holds. It will have a different effect on men than on women, but to both it can bring a deep and significant opening up of certain mysteries. Those working on the Path of the Hearth Fire will find it very illuminating.
We would like to thank Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki for giving us permission to publish this pathworking. Dolores is directrice of an occult school, the S.O.L. (Servants Of The Light).