The Left Hand Path

Today is all about change. This evening I leave the US to fly back to my current home in the UK. I said goodbye to Hinduism last night (bittersweet) and this morning I woke up enthusiastically embracing the Feri tradition.* A discussion of the ‘left hand paths’ is an appropriate segue between these two traditions. They might appear radically different, but you might be surprised. I was!

Like all dualities, the split between left and right hand paths is a bit of a false dichotomy. Each side has elements of the other, but the designations are somewhat useful. Mostly, the left hand paths are associated with the occult and right hand paths with othordoxy. As I read more deeply about Tantra, which is often considered a left hand path within Hinduism, I read that it too has its own left and right hand paths. Right hand Tantra is more dualist, more Vedic, and less concerned with the siddhis, paranormal powers. In the witchcraft world, Feri is often seen as left hand, with is emphasis on the personal, ecstatic tradition, its relationship with deities often considered (in a Judeo-Christian mindset) diabolical, and its perceived lack of morality. What’s interesting to me is that much of what I read about Tantra sounds like things I’ve encountered in Feri. The two are FAR more in tune with one another than I ever expected.

Both Tantra and Feri are highly mystical, relying on one’s personal experience with Gods/God/Deity (pick your term). Trance, entheogens, meditation, chanting, these are some of the ways used to obtain connection with the Spirits. While the ultimate goal of Tantra is divine union, Feri embraces an autonomy of personal space and power, while also acknowledging that all comes from the ultimate Source, the Star Goddess, and eventually returns to Her as well. Both traditions embrace the body. Our physical existence is not something from which to flee or ‘ascend’ but a gift on our journey; it is a tool. Immanence is taken seriously.

The concept of guru or teacher, as well as lineage, is important to both traditions. Both consider themselves conduits of a powerful current, which is passed through physical transmission upon initiation. While anyone may prepare themselves for the current by practicing certain techniques and opening oneself up to the Gods, if one’s physical and psychic containers are not strong, great harm can come to the dabbler – but also to the initiate who isn’t fully prepared (I have seen this to be true). This is why initiations are not frequent or easy. Concepts of rigorous purification and radical transformation are foundational to both traditions, although their methods and reasoning are often very different. Because of these things, having a trusted guide is crucial.

Both traditions prefer to be secretive. Partially this is because they perceive their work as not for the many, but for the few, given their demanding qualities and the possible risks. However, both traditions struggle with remaining private and growing more publicly. On one hand they have much to offer, on the other hand there are risks – not just to would be practitioners, but to the intimate nature of the traditions themselves. Secrecy is also important because within their wider traditions – Hinduism and Neo-paganism – Tantra and Feri stand on the margins. And within a Judeo-Christian milieu, the Hindu and Neo-pagan are already on the fringes. Personal safety can be a legitimate concern.

Because of this last point of secrecy, I harbor some qualms about speaking publicly about Feri. However, because I am not an initiate I will not be revealing anything that isn’t already publicly available in some capacity. I ask the Feri ‘elders’ to give me a heads up if I stray into problematic areas.

I anticipate some bleeding over of Tantric practices into my work with Feri. It seems fitting and structurally sound.

On a personal note, I amused with my fascination with left hand paths. It’s about as ‘rock star’ as I get. The occult, the gothic, the left hand – I love these things at their philosophical and applied best. Occasionally I love their aesthetics too, but that unfortunately seems tipped more toward the Hot Topic side of things, and well…. I’m a jeans and t-shirt kinda gal. On the surface I’m pretty heteronormative, middle class, average – not a bad thing! Just not particularly ‘freaky.’ But dig deeper and you’ll find a blackening heart beating in my chest.

*A note about my use of Wikipedia sources. I intend these as an easy place for more information. Wikipedia is never the full story, but rather a good place to get the information one needs for further learning.

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About Niki Whiting
  • http://www.deadmadorpoet.com Sara A.

    Ya know, I’d say that the goal of Feri/Faery (I prefer the older spelling) is *also* divine union. We talk about being married to the Gods…in that sense, it’s a lot like African Traditional Religions. The union in question does not transcend the physical world, it joins it with the spiritual (which was never *really* separate in the first place). IMO, that separation is the illusion. Likewise, the “three souls” aren’t really separate either, although it’s useful to think of them individually.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/awitchsashram myownashram

      I found the three souls in yoga…. although they claim 5 energetic bodies and don’t grant them autonomy (I don’t think). The way you phrase things sounds much more like the Tantra side of things. I don’t believe union ever came up for me in my Feri sudies. ….going to go ponder that…. Thank you for commenting.

      • http://www.deadmadorpoet.com Sara A.

        Well, the trouble with talking about union too much is that people start seeing it as a goal, which is counterproductive. As a general rule, the best answer is, “do the practice and see what happens.” But “aligning” your souls is effectively the same as unifying them. And your Godself is connected to/is in some sense also “the Gods.” If that sounds paradoxical…it is. Wheee!

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/awitchsashram myownashram

          I love me some paradox!

  • surya

    Good luck and all wishes for a blissful out come.

    Just received this today from free newsletter email subscription( from himalayanacademy.com.). Probably relevant to your search, i thought.

    http://www.himalayanacademy.com/study/mc/daily_lesson_html/lesson_163.shtml

    Sloka 8 from Dancing with Siva

    What Is the Magic and Power of Shaktism?

    Shaktism reveres the Supreme as the Divine Mother, Shakti or Devi, in Her many forms, both gentle and fierce. Shaktas use mantra, tantra, yantra, yoga and puja to invoke cosmic forces and awaken the kundalini power. Aum.

    Bhashya

    While worship of the Divine Mother extends beyond the pale of history, Shakta Hinduism arose as an organized sect in India around the fifth century. Today it has four expressions–devotional, folk-shamanic, yogic and universalist–all invoking the fierce power of Kali or Durga, or the benign grace of Parvati or Ambika. Shakta devotionalists use puja rites, especially to the Shri Chakra yantra, to establish intimacy with the Goddess. Shamanic Shaktism employs magic, trance mediumship, firewalking and animal sacrifice for healing, fertility, prophecy and power. Shakta yogis seek to awaken the sleeping Goddess Kundalini and unite her with Siva in the sahasrara chakra. Shakta universalists follow the reformed Vedantic tradition exemplified by Shri Ramakrishna. “Left-hand” tantric rites transcend traditional ethical codes. Shaktism is chiefly advaitic, defining the soul’s destiny as complete identity with the Unmanifest, Siva. Central scriptures are the Vedas, Shakta Agamas and Puranas. The Devi Gita extols, “We bow down to the universal soul of all. Above and below and in all four directions, Mother of the universe, we bow.” Aum Chandikayai Namah.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/awitchsashram myownashram

      Thank you for this! Based on these simple definitions I would sat that Feri has most in common with Shamanic Shaktism, as seen through a left-hand lens and practice. It certainly would not be universalist, as anything orthodox is an uncomfortable fit.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000943727150 Gwydion B. Rose

    I always felt a close connection between Feri and Tantra, tool. I think what differs mostly between them is the theory, but from a practical kind of view they well out from the same spring (so to speak).

    I really enjoy all your posts here! Very down-to-earth, clearly structured and inspiring!

    Love,

    Gwydion

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/awitchsashram myownashram

      Thanks Gwydion! I feel a connection too. I want to pursue both more deeply.


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