R E - M Y T H I F I C A T I O N : An Inner Alchemy Practice for Creating Our Own Cosmogony + Deconditioning the Chaos of Culture

Art by Denis Sheckler

Art by Denis Sheckler

It’s the spring holidays, and as per usual, I'm struggling to find a seat at the table with ol’ patriarch Abraham, his stodgy tribesman, and their subpar wine. As an advocate for women’s health, I witness the myriad ways the central myths of our culture wind their way into our unconscious beliefs about our bodies, poisoning our well and damaging our physical and mental health in ways big and small. Whether it shows up in our sexual health, the prioritization of our needs, the right to advocate for ourselves, our reproductive freedoms, or our gender expressions, these myths are internalized, and as a result, shift how we use, tend to, and conceive of our bodies. My work in the treatment room has as much to do with rewriting the stories of our bodies as it does creating treatment plans for navigating a PCOS diagnosis or an autoimmune condition. This woman’s work (#katebush) includes unkinking the noxious knots of internalized myth so that we free up space in the body for the authentic self to emerge, allowing the authentic self to be seen AND revered, and finding ways to meet its needs and support its unfurling.

One of the ways I encourage women to do this is by identifying the core myths that shape their culture and identity, stripping them down, hoisting their legs up in stirrups, and shining a light into their innermost core. If there is a fundamental discord between your ability to thrive in your body and a foundational myth of your culture, perhaps it’s time for that myth to shapeshift into one that supports and nurtures your expression of womanhood. Or perhaps it's time for a new myth written FOR you and BY you to emerge from its ashes.

Re-mythification can wipe the poison smear of patriarchy off the body temple, and serve as a healing, reparative act of #rewilding for the soul. This is a series of exploratory questions posed by Five Element Acupuncturist + scholar Lonny Jarrett in his transcendent tao-informed tome ‘Nourishing Destiny.' I find them to be the perfect departure into the the practice of mythopoesis, forging myth + meaning in the crucible of your own imagination.

  1. What are the foundational myths of your culture?

  2. What are the meanings you have created in your own life?

  3. Are the meanings you see being created in any way related thematically to the myths of your culture?

  4. To what extent do these myths empower or diminish your mental + physical health?

The next step in this exploration might be writing yourself a creation myth, one that condenses your world view into a narrative that supports and enshrines your unique emanation of the Tao. Yes, of course you could look to the rituals and rites of pre-Abrahamic pagan cultures that worshipped the goddess and revered the witch, but I’m a staunch advocate of creating your own meaning from the stew you’re sitting in (hello, #chaosmagic). It’s innovative, radical, topical, postmodern and ancient all at once. Also, in assuming the role of the myth-maker, you don’t serve religion, religion serves you.

From WomanSpirit Quarterly

From WomanSpirit Quarterly

For inspiration, the photo above is a lesbian creation myth written by elana dykewomon (red it! It’s fierce af!) from the radical feminist quarterly WomanSpirit, Summer Solstice 1976 edition (boundless gratitude to the LA Art Book Fair and @familybooks for this rarified treasure, long-sought and much cherished). This piece is the embodiment of re-mythification, the quintessence of mythopoesis. Moses is quoted in the bible as saying “do not let a sorceress live”. Show Moses a good time! Write a creation myth! Live as if it’s the absolute truth! Create rituals with your sisters that mirror its meaning and intent! Be hungry, be curious, and if your blood sugar is low, eat the mthrfckng apple from the tree of knowledge, and don’t apologize, ever.

A Magical Bath Ritual for the Spring Equinox

Spring Equinox

Amongst the ancient Orphic cults of Hellenistic Greece, Protogonos was a beautiful, golden-winged, hermaphroditic deity, the Primordial Being hatched from the serpent-entwined Cosmic Egg. This proverbial ‘Orphic Egg’ was the source of the entirety of the universe, and Protogonos was the uroboric lightbringer, emerging from Chaos bursting with golden life. His name means “bring to light,” “manifest,” and "make appear,” the seed of all magic. To Carl Jung, he represented the generative force of all nature: 

“He is the magnificence of all renewed suns. / He is the joy at every birth. / He is the blooming flowers. / He is the velvety butterfly’s wing. / He is the scent of blooming gardens that fills the nights.’ First-Born and Eros (Love) — being the seed of gods and men.”

The Vernal Equinox, dank with the scent of its own blooming gardens, is rearing its leafy, crowned head this year on March 20th. This is traditionally a time to mark the coming of Spring and the bursting feracity of the land through ritualistic rebirth and the honoring of fertility gods & goddesses. Beyond the orphic thaumaturgy of the Hellenists, the ancients en masse would celebrate the fruitfulness & fecundity of this time of year through the worship of a talismanic egg, decorated and offered as gifts to bring blessings of abundance in the coming year. Easter is the progeny of all this pagan gaiety, albeit an impossibly wan re-appropriation of ancient fertility worship that is conspicuously lacking in the sex and sorcery of its progenitors. Eggs, ribald rabbits, jubilant parades, and resurrection are all aflutter this time of year, without the context of what these archetypes conjured for their worshipers. 

One popular tale of the Germanic origins of Easter eggs centers around the goddess Ostara, from which Easter takes its name. Ostara is said to have found a wounded bird upon the ground late in winter. To save its life, she transformed it into a hare, but, as legend states, “the transformation was not a complete one. The bird took the appearance of a hare but retained the ability to lay eggs…the hare would decorate these eggs and leave them as gifts to Ostara.”Cosmic eggs laid by an amalgamated winged hare?! Don’t mind if I do!

In the Christianized version of Easter, Jesus is the only one that gets to resurrect, and we are all left slaving on the hamster wheel of our respective pedestrian prisons. Here’s a seasonal magical ritual you can use to resurrect qualities lacking from your present state of existence, and bro-down with your inner hermaphroditic, golden-winged Protogonos. This year, the equinox aligns with a total solar eclipse (!!!) and new moon in Pisces, the PERFECT time to tap into generative powers and hatch your own cosmic egg. Using a bathtub, some eggs, and a little moxie, you can launch into a shamanic exploration of emerging from Chaos re-born, dissolving into primordial nothingness and re-constellating inside a Cosmic Egg containing the raw DNA of a new, intentional universe. Because how the heck else would you herald the coming of Spring?  

Materials

Bathtub, Jacuzzi, or Hot Springs: If you opt for Hot Springs, I am swooning at your feet. 

Six Black Eggs: Symbolic of cosmogenesis from deep within the black void of Chaos, these six eggs hearken to the creation of the universe. In Buddhist cosmology, the universe is represented by the number six. Six is the sum of the four cardinal directions, plus the top and bottom, containing all matter within its orbit. The black eggs are also emblematic of the opening stanza of the Orphic Hymn to Protogonos:

O mighty Protogonos (First-Begotten), hear my prayer, twofold, egg-born, and wandering through the air; bull-roarer, glorying in thy golden wings, from whom the race of Gods and mortal springs.

In advance of your equinox bath, have a crafting day and dye a few ‘equinox eggs’ with dark Easter egg dye or chalkboard paint. Take some time to meditate upon the qualities you wish to call forth from the honeysuckled breezes blowing forth from Springtime’s lair. Upon each egg, use a piece of chalk to draw a different symbol or sigil, encoding a desire you wish to manifest in your newly conjugated universe. Dream big- Spring is on your side with an epic eclipse, and lusty joie de vivre for miles! 

Six White Candles: The six white candles correspond with the six black eggs, and glow with the formative seed of creation, conjuring Protogonos as the personification of light:

‘Tis thine from darksome mists to pure the sight, all-spreading splendour, pure and holy light.

Matches: To light the six white candles, obvi.

Myrrh: The sacred fumigant burnt by Orphic cults to honor and invoke Protogonos. You can use this to smudge and purify your space.

Procedure

1.     Prepare your temple space in the bathing chamber. Arrange your eggs upon a makeshift altar, and draw yourself a scolding hot bath, to which you can add any florid & fancy accoutrements you see fit. The bath should mimic the primordial waters of Earth from which the Orphic Egg was hatched, a cosmic slop of crude energy in a vast, untethered nothingness. So maybe ditch the rosy bath beads for some Dead Sea salts or volcanic clay.      

2.     Find yourself a suitable soundtrack of swampy, nebulous depth, and broadcast it loudly in the bathroom temple. I love Ph'nglui Mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'Lyeh Wgah'nagl Fhtagn by the artist Cthulhu {Biomechanical}. You can find this online here. It’s a tremendously lovely amorphous drone that invokes a sense of vast, primeval murk, and a palpable sense of terror & possibility permeates any space into which it’s blared.

3.     Consecrate your bathroom & body temple by smudging a censer of Myrrh, the sacred fumigant of Protogonos. Envision the tendrils of the etheric smoke blurring the lines of your current reality.

4.    Before submerging yourself in the primordial waters, kneel in reverence at the foot of the bath, and incant The Orphic Hymn to Protogonos, invoking him with spontaneous ecstatic movement:

To Protogonos

{Fumigation from Myrrh}

O mighty Protogonos (First-Begotten), hear my prayer, twofold, egg-born, and wandering through the air; bull-roarer, glorying in thy golden wings, from whom the race of Gods and mortal springs. 

Erikapaios, celebrated power, ineffable, occult, all-shining flower!

‘Tis thine from darksome mists to pure the sight, all-spreading splendour, pure and holy light; hence, Phanes, called the glory of the sky, on waving pinions through the world you fly. 

Priepos, dark-eyed splendour, thee I sing, genial, all-prudent, ever blessed king. With joyful aspect on these rites divine and holy consecration propitious shine!

5.     Immersing yourself in the black waters of Chaos, use all the meditative powers your can muster to coax forth a deep trance. The most powerful trance states spontaneously devolve into an exploration of body without form, trudging through the ethereal molasses of the waters as unconjugated debris. Let chaos inhabit your form, and evoke itself through you with ecstatic contortions that defy reality, obliterating this world and its prohibitive natural laws. 

6.    From this emptiness, begin to imagine your body morphing into an egg… the egg form ensconcing your body in nebulous tendrils, suspending you as an embryo in dark, chthonic solution. Allow yourself to become strangely buoyant, and bob in the water as if taken hostage by the undulations beneath you. Imagine yourself taking shape for the very first time, the billowing tumult of your soundtrack chanting you into form. 

7.     When you feel complete, break through your egg, feeling through the blackness for the matchbook on your altar. Light each candle one by one, the explosion of light jolting you into form, like Protogonos breaking through the Orphic Egg as an all-shining flower with golden wings. 

8.     One by one, take each egg into your hands, exploring the sacred symbols scrawled upon them in deep trance, until they dance off of the egg and impregnate themselves deep within your consciousness. At the apex of communion, drop the egg into the cosmic slop, the waters washing over the symbols and bathing the egg in newness (like reverse Easter egg dyeing!). The rite should take on a quality of levity, with shining radiance breaking through the thick mud. 

9.    When you feel fully present and thoroughly new, step out of the waters and bask in the glow of your sparkling newness. The world is your oyster- Happy Equinox, radiant beings!   

Ritual Medicine: Magically Charged Immune Tonic

If one cannot obtain medicines 

One can live still to several hundred years of age,

If one fully grasps the principles

Of cultivating Qi and practices daily.

Indeed, humans exist within the Qi

And Qi exists within humans.

From Heaven and Earth to the myriad things,

Qi is pervasive.

There is nothing that does not rely on Qi for life.

-Master Ge Hong, The Book Of The Master Who Embraces Simplicity, 4thCentury C.E

Qi Gong Immune Tonic

Ritual and Medicine were once entwined in a caduceus of consanguinity, an ouroboros of serpentine synergy. Mutually engendering one another, they coaxed forth each other’s latent powers and filled in the gaps in their respective repertoires. Most traditional medical systems still honor this alchemical marriage, but our current hegemonic medical paradigm has been ripping up the paperwork and denying them rights. As a healthcare provider, it’s fashionable and expected that I shirk away from this brouhaha and peddle the antiseptic certitude of allopathic care with sophistry & absolutism. However, indigenous medicine places the physician as a mender of chasms, honoring the prosaic prowess of each paradigm and fusing ritual and remedy as one. 

On a forced sabbatical recuperating from the pernicious three-week flu that recently swept Los Angeles, I was reminded of how important it is to fuse ritual & medicine, particularly when you’re wilted and supine, struggling to find your mojo in a disempowered mire. There’s nothing more humbling then being banished to your bed by a gruesome malady, a victim of capricious circumstance failed by your own flailing biology. It is in these ashen hours that a call to arms is ever so crucial, so that we may remind ourselves of our ferocious latent powers and re-connect with the seeds of our quieted magic. This is a simple, homespun ritual that I like to do at the advent of cold & flu season, when I feel an itchy tingle beckoning in the back of my throat, or when I’ve got tendrils of pestilence bristling within my body. The purpose of this rite is to strengthen the body’s energetic shield and first line of defense, and allow its innate curative alchemy to expel any lingering pathogens. As magic is best when it’s a prosy pastiche of incongruent passions, this ritual draws upon Traditional Chinese Medicine, kitchen witchery, and the ancient Taoist art of qigong. This can also be done as a protection rite in a circle of priests & priestesses, should you be lucky enough to have a slew of fellow witches and warlocks to bro-down with. 

BACKGROUND

Qigong is the ancient Taoist art of cultivating qi from the abundant environment, and circulating its healing helices of gossamer elixir throughout the body. Through qigong, we can tap directly into the diaphanous motive power that operates the universe, and sycophantically siphon it into our own body cauldron. Qi is everywhere…within, without, above, below, giving life to all things. Its nature is to move and change, and the root of all health problems, be it injury, illness, or aging, involve the stagnation and circulation of qi and blood. Its harmonious flow is the basis of all ancient Asian medicinal and magical practices. 

This simple equation, culled from the magnificent book The Healing Promise of Qi by Roger Jahnke, appeases both the science nerd and wizard in me, and distills the myriad mysteries of qigong into a basic formula: 

Practice + Intention = Inner Harmony = Qi Flow = Health and Longevity

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the lungs are inextricably linked to qi. Doctor Shen’s Compendium of Honoring Life (Shen Shi Zunsheng Shu), a Chinese medical text from1773, states that “the lung is the master of qi. Above, it connects to the throat; below, it connects to the orifices of the heart and the liver. It is in charge of inhalation and exhalation, and, in more general terms, the flux of coming in and going out.” The optimal functioning of the lungs ensures vitality and fortitude for the body en masse. The Statutes of Medicine (Yimen Falü), another Chinese medical text from 1658, illuminates this relationship, stating that “all bodily qi has its physical origin in the lung. If the lung’s qi is clear and straightforward, then there is not a single type of qi in the body that will not obey and flow along smoothly. However, if the lung qi becomes obstructed and turns murky, then the qi dynamics of the entire body will start to go against their natural flow and start to move upwards instead of downwards.”

The lung also has the unique distinction of being the uppermost organ in the body, an envoy between the external evils and the internal sanctum, uniquely susceptible to pathogenic factors like wind and cold. The lungs control the strength and circulation of Wei Qi, the ancient Chinese medical term for the body’s defensive energy and proverbial force field. Wei Qi warms the body and protects one’s self from the rigors of the outside environment. If you catch colds easily, have low energy or require a long time recuperating from an illness, your Wei Qi may be deficient. This ritual uses qigong and kitchen alchemy to strengthen the lung energy, boost Wei Qi, and ensure the harmonious flow of qi throughout the body.

GROCERY LIST

Your ritual libation will be a magically-charged ‘Wei Qi Tonic,’ comprised of horseradish root, white onions, hot peppers, garlic, ginger root, and apple cider vinegar. In some circles, this is called ‘Fire Cider,’ though amongst my kinfolk it is lovingly referred to as ‘Plague Tonic.’ Plague Tonic is white and pungent to support the lungs, as this combination of color and taste resonates with the element metal in five element correspondences within Traditional Chinese Medicine. You can find directions on how the Botanarchy test kitchen makes this infernal brew here. Priests & Priestesses could also use an immunity alembic of their choice in lieu of the Plague Tonic. A strong hot toddy, a shot of fresh pressed garlic juice, oil of oregano, cayenne & lemon water, whatever tickles your pickle. Ideally, your libation will be zesty, fiery, and entirely NOT sip-worthy. But with a dash of magical zeal, anything radiating with the harmonics of healing will do.

PROCEDURE

When you fall ill, first regulate the breath,

Ingest the Qi, and fix your attention on the afflicted area.

Practice holding the breath, 

And by means of conscious attention

Visualize the breath concentrating in the afflicted part.

Visualize the Qi attacking the illness.

When you can no longer comfortably hold the breath,

Exhale very slowly.

-The Immortal Master’s Treatise on the Absorption of Primordial Energy

1.    Prepare the space with a banishing ritual that you vibe with, and an incense or smudge wand of your choice. Ai Ye, Mugwort, would be an excellent fumigant for this rite, as it is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to purify pathogens, and ‘warm’ deficient conditions within the body. 

2.    Sit your Priests & Priestesses in a circle in a comfortable seated position, each with a chalice of Wei Qi Tonic. If you are rolling solo, just plop down and have at it.

3.    Call upon a pathogenic factor you wish to expel. This could be an ‘emotional pathogen’ plaguing the body, such as lingering bad habit or traumatic event, or it could be a physical ailment, such as a runny nose or sinus headache. Attune to the physical locus of the pathogen within the body, and fix your attention on the afflicted area. Where does it linger? Is it heavy, oppressive, constricting? Does it feel hot? Sticky? Smokey? Summon it forth, feel its viscerality, and let it grow. Connect with its noxious character and feel it licking the walls of your viscera. 

4.    When the pathogen has been effectively summoned, slowly imbibe the Wei Qi Tonic, and feel its vigorous heat burning away the putrid evil of the pathogen. Sip slowly and with fierce intention until a visceral response is elicited. This could be anything from a hearty sweat, to a cough, tearing eyes, digestive noises, cathartic breath, or a sensation of lightness within the body. When you feel you have expelled your pathogen, push your ritual chalice to the center of the circle.  If you are working with a group, this will signal to the other Priests & Priestesses that it is time to move on to the Wei Qi cultivation portion of the rite.

5.    Now that you have purified your body, gather the Heavenly Qi of the universe and store it within you. Begin by standing comfortably in Horse Pose. Circle your arms over your head as you inhale Heavenly Qi through the lungs, drawing the qi down through your arms as you rest them in a circle over your umbilicus, exhaling Evil Qi out of your lungs. Visualize spirals of healing qi descending into the lungs, and disseminating protective Wei Qi over the surface of the body. Repeat at least 5 times.

6.    Electrify the Wei Qi, and increase the diameter of its energetic field by relaxing and shaking the body vigorously for at least one minute. Imagine golden white light enshrouding you with protective mojo that no ills can permeate.

7.    Give yourself a Wei Qi bath, by rubbing your hands lightly over the entire surface of the body, starting with the head and face, moving down the outer legs, and back up through the inner legs, dousing the body in energized, electric Wei Qi. 

8.    Once thoroughly exulted, close the rite by taking a few deep breaths to honor your inner physician. Whenever you feel persnickety, pestilent, or fatigued, know that qi is bounteous, free, and omnipresent, the marrow of the universe ripe for the suckling. Enjoy in robust health~!