The Heart of the Matter: Hermekate and Hieros Gamos

The Heart of the Matter: Hermekate and Hieros Gamos

One powerful function of eclipses is said to be that of revealing secrets, and I’ve also written in an earlier post that I’d be elaborating on the connections between Hermekate and eclipses; as such, it should come as no surprise that the recent Lunar Eclipse in Scorpio–sign of secrets, intrigues, and occultism per se–brought with it some deep realizations regarding Hermekate.

This is especially true since the sigil aspect of Hermekate is so intimately interwoven with my own Saturn Return and that’s because my native Saturn is in the sign of Scorpio–opposing Venus in Taurus, which complicates matters because this means there is no separating Saturn from Venus when it comes to anything Saturn does throughout my life. Because my Saturn comes coupled with Venus (is this its own “sacred marriage?”) as a packaged deal, the coming couple of years should prove to be both revelatory and auspicious for the development of Hermekate, since all eclipses will be falling along this axis until October of 2023. In other words?

In another “leitmotif” that, my readers shall soon learn, also peppers this tale, it turns out that I’ve suspected for quite some time what this Mystery is and how deep it runs–at least in theory. I still hadn’t had the needed experience to be certain, but by now, I have. Before I discuss the Mystery proper, I’d like to address two of the major threads along which it happens to run, for it was by comparing and contrasting the issues that arose along those two threads that I was able to perceive the common Mystery wedding them. Each of them is a thread that happens to involve a lot of current social controversy, and that is no mere coincidence; as I will explore further in future posts, such social reckonings are very important to what Hermekate is and what it means.

The two threads in question are:

-Gender, or Hermekate as “Sacred Marriage” between Hermes and Hekate.

-“Eastern/Western” union and cultural relations.

Hermekate, Gender, and Hieros Gamos

What even is “hieros gamos?”

It’s important to define terms before building a conceptual framework upon them, so that needs to be gotten out of the way; the problem is, realizing that Hermekate is related to hieros gamos is not the same thing as fully understanding hieros gamos myself. This is where I’ve been stuck, quite literally, for years. Fortunately, recent realizations have integrated almost every thread of its meaning that I currently grasp.

“Hieros Gamos” has been loosely translated into English as “Sacred Marriage.” Given the political, social, and spiritual state of the world at the moment, there’s a lot of controversy surrounding the concept, including questions about whether or not the concept will serve humanity well going forward.

One of those issues that comes to the fore in the world of occultism is that of what some perceive to be the concept’s heteronormativity; some organizations have cloven to traditional gender-binary symbolism and expressed this commitment in ways that are exclusionary to transgender and queer people (see this post regarding the controversy surrounding the O.T.O.’s stance on gender in the performance of the Gnostic Mass).

Since I’m not an O.T.O. member and have no personal stake in what the organization does, my opinion on any such decision doesn’t matter, but it does strike at the heart of what “sacred marriage” is really all about.

When reviewing such controversies and forming an opinion about them, however, it’s important to understand that while certainly based on all sorts of sacred traditions from throughout history, organizations like O.T.O. are modern iterations of something ancient and the context involved is completely different.

However, I think it does bear pointing out that while any number of religious and spiritual bodies take an explicitly heterosexual stance regarding hieros gamos, it has been queer-coded from its very beginnings owing to the fact that the “bride” in the original “sacred marriage” was the bisexual and sexually-charged Inanna (and how do you suppose a married couple would reconcile such a fact? Hmm…). Anywho, since Hermes is queer-coded, that same base is covered as far as heteronormativity is concerned, especially since he and Hekate definitely did not marry.

Even with the wiggle-room such an understanding provides, those who wish to split hairs endlessly can point out that the coupling itself is still essentially heterosexual, and that as such, it’s exclusionary to gay and lesbian people, and that is true insofar as we think we need to stay married to the concept of….well…literal marriage. Again, Hermekate sidesteps this by having nothing to do with bona fide marriage in its symbolism.

I think it’s important, though, that we remind ourselves that “sacred marriage” is, itself, merely a symbol for a much deeper and far-reaching process, and I honestly think that process transcends gender entirely in many respects–but for those whose gender expression is cis and binary at the very least, the gender binary is always going to be one layer of self and society that must be reckoned with. There’s talk of “outsourcing” reproduction from natural means entirely and thus freeing humanity entirely and irrevocably from the gender binary, and there’s a futurist part of me that sees the appeal and the sense in that concept, but there are two things I think should be pointed out:

  1. Despite the imminence of its technical feasibility, we’re simply not there yet. We just aren’t.
  2. We don’t have a solid guarantee that civilization will endure long enough for us to get there. We just don’t.

So, for now, let’s not throw out babies with bathwater…and while I fully agree that the global occult community has a great deal of adjusting to do in order to comfortably accommodate queer people with dignity and respect, it’s still not necessary to dog cisgender culture while we’re at it. That’s not a fair conclusion and it’s a reactionary approach.

If, for whatever reason, the metaphor of marriage is one that you can’t relate to, it doesn’t mean you’re left “out of the loop,” so-to-speak–why? Because this isn’t even really about gender.

It’s about something else.

Hermekate and Cultural Dynamics

As I introduced in the previous post, Hermekate has as one of its important themes the synthesis of “Eastern” and “Western” modes of spirituality–a prospect which itself is nothing new, but is definitely frought nowadays with all sorts of ethical quagmires surrounding power dynamics. Some people take the very notion at its most basic level to smack of Orientalism and thus to be reprehensible, but with regard to Hermekate, that’s not the case at all and I am quite prepared to establish how and why I know that to be true.

Though I’ve jumped the gun in the past in terms of writing about some of my personal work involving phurbas and will be reserving future writings for a more careful presentation, I have realized that while the cultural power dynamics surrounding such phenomena as a European working privately with a Tibetan artifact are important and cannot at all be ignored, much of the controversy so prevalent about the matter of cultural appropriation and spirituality seems to ignore entirely the possibility that we really might be working with actual spirits who exist independently of us–almost as if, despite our publicly-avowed spiritual worldviews, we’re afraid to base our discussion on a full conviction in the reality of spirit and to hash out what that really implies–honestly, non-defensively, and open-heartedly.

Who is having that discussion?

My feeling all along has been that in my case, there are real spirits connected with phurbas, that I have managed to make genuine contact with them, and that I am working with them, in my own way–in their own way–in our own way–with reverence and permission.

But yes, that, I think, is the real question at the heart of the controversy that most of us seem to be awkwardly avoiding. It’s not really just about power dynamics.

It’s about something else.

What’s It About?

To connect the dots, Hermekate does have to do with working out the current controversies and conundrums that come along with magic and gender, and it does have something to do with how we’re going to navigate the emerging global multicultural reckoning that is at hand, but it has a lot more to do with the central issues running through all of that.

I have firmly established the connection between Hermekate and Path 18 of the Tree of Life, and insofar as all of the above matters converge on that point, I have this to contend with, from DuQuette’s Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot:

As you have probably guessed, Panurge’s question “Should I marry?” has deeper magical implications than simply questioning the wisdom or folly of matrimony. It should be of particular interest to us because we see so much “marrying” going on in the trumps of the Thoth Tarot. Recall that our Qabalistic fairytale in chapter 10 is all about marriage; the marriage of the Prince and Princess (the Holy Guardian Angel and his client), and the marriage of the Supernal King and Queen.

“Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot: An Authoritative Examination of the World’s Most Fascinating and Magical Tarot Cards,” p. 116.

The Sacred Marriage of Holy Guardian Angel and his client–in other words, that operation which is hailed by many as the “holy grail” of all true Initiatory occult and spiritual practice.

In order for this to be a valid and worthy pursuit, both the Holy Guardian Angel and “his client” must exist, and this highlights yet another divide in the occult community, or another set of collective “opposites” which must somehow be “unified:” For the Holy Guardian Angel to literally be real, so must spirit; otherwise, we must have a solid understanding of what this operation entails on the purely physical and mundane plane. Yes, we’re talking about the timeworn divide between the “spirit” and “psychology” models of magic, and how we reckon our pursuit toward union with the Holy Guardian Angel obviously depends on how we resolve that in our minds. Otherwise, we have to take a lot on faith and will wander aimlessly. Honestly, I think the latter is part of a healthy and balanced approach to spirituality when we include it in the right proportions.

One problem with the situation as described above is that the operation is such a lofty one that the average practitioner would be hard-pressed to finger someone they know personally or have direct access to who can say they know what this is about from experience. We are told such people are rare, and of course, the world is undeniably filled with hucksters trying to convince you that they’ve done it when they haven’t. It’s true. So that’s a struggle I would wager most sincere occultists know all-too-well….that questioning:

“How real is this?

My answer? “It’s….real enough.” And in posts to come, I’ll tell you how I know.

I close with one more quote from DuQuette’s book on the Thoth tarot:

The path of the Chariot crosses the Abyss and joins the fifth sephira, Geburah, to the third sephira, Binah. Being so high on the Tree of Life, its mysteries deal with the most sublime and profound aspects of nature and consciousness. Please keep this in mind when you are tempted to view this card (and my comments) as simply an expression of sexual alchemy. As effective as this operation can be, it is only a reflection of the magick of the gods, a faint echo of the titanic forces, energy, and love that creates, sustains, and destroys the universe.

“Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot: An Authoritative Examination of the World’s Most Fascinating and Magical Tarot Cards,” p. 116.

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