The Ring of Arte~ A Witches Compass
“The information about the nine foot magic circle sounds a bit false. I am very disinclined to believe it as a possible historical event. Everything in the theory points towards a laboured nineteenth century hand, inventing primitive man all over again. No twentieth century man likes to admit the possibility that it has all been done before. But in a different way with different means. However, this is literally what a witch’s compass is, a highly efficient and scientific machine, and it requires science to use it properly.
This is the Key of Kings.”
A scientific machine? The Key of Kings? Robert Cochrane wittingly beguiles us with these intriguing descriptions in deference to ~ the Ring of Arte. Upon reading them, we could be forgiven for thinking these two comments oppose one another, or that they suggest a paradox in linear time. Sounding at once archaic and futuristic, it is not until we analyse them in context that we are fully able to properly appreciate how searingly astute a summation Cochrane has declared. We can but wonder what experiences led him to such clarity. Startlingly innovative, nothing like it before, or since, has been known. Not only did he establish a clear demarcation from the more popular and better known practises of the ‘Wica,'(sic) he set the bar for others who came after, seeking more traditional ways of working. His single, most distinctive gift to others outside his tradition concerns the existence of a traditional ‘Compass.’ Making several references to it, he even provided guidelines for others to follow, to secure its foundations in public awareness for generations to come. What he did not explain was those differences. Perhaps he felt they were obvious?
Approached with scientific perception, we may distinguish a Circle from a Ring, and both from a Compass ~ or can we? At what point does physics enter the quantum arc, bridging the natural world of general consciousness with the seemingly chaotic and random realms of supra-conciousness in the planes of supernature? In that unique space, ‘out of time and out of place,’ liminality subsumes the linear order of our universe, and we are at once in Arcadia ~ truly the land of the gods from whose hands the ‘Key of Kings’ was originally gifted.
So how do we begin to understand the Key of Kings?
First of all we must establish an understanding of the basic form and function of Ring, Circle and Compass:
A Circle normally describes a flat space which is not only ’round,’ but is complete in its inclusivity. This means the entire surface of that space is distinguished by its separation from all that surrounds it, peripherally, above and below it.
A Ring is a circular band, placed between two zones to delineate what is inside it, from what is outside of it. Functioned to create a deliberate boundary or transitional zone between two other spaces, these may be the same or different depending on geography, elements etc. i.e. a Castle is separated by a Moat ~ a ring of water that in addition to creating a boundary or bridge between two areas, marks an actual point of departure, from one thing to another. In this case the shift from a natural landscape to a building. In more ancient times a ditch was constructed around a raised ‘circle’ of land, known as a mound. This henge structure afforded tactical defence. In like manner, a nine foot circle is the defensible area one person armed with a sword may secure about themselves.
Both a Ring and a Circle can be physical or metaphysical of course.
A Compass is inter and intra physical and also metaphysical.
A Compass is the mode of transport, the direction traversed and the destination desired.
It is an orientation of intent.
What this means will become realised as we progress.
Setting aside for the moment all tenets of faith and belief that determines the emotive construct (associated with force) within its dynamic, we need to make an analysis of purpose and function in the formalisation of a ritual space according to the directives established by ‘Wiccan’ practises. At its most basic level the Wiccan sacred space is constructed from both a Ring and a Circle. A Ring secures a boundary around a circular area it deems entirely distinct from that on the other side of its boundary. All rather obvious so far. What is known, though is perhaps not so obvious, is, that Ring is very much perceived as ‘defensive.’
Furthermore, to increase that security, Cardinal Watchtowers are envisaged/constructed on the other side of the boundary, warded by Guardians. At this point, it is irrelevant what capacity they assume or how they are envisaged. What is important, is that we understand they are not to be approached or encountered. In fact, they are ‘summoned’ to their posts and held there at the point of a sharp weapon. Once the participant/s is/are inside that ‘space,’ the boundary is generated from inside, around itself, and the Watchtowers are then built beyond that. Paradoxically, in closing all force and focus inwards, everything is pulled physically and psychically towards a static central point of its own origin, from which it looks outwards viewing its boundary and castellated Watchtowers on its peripheral borders. It is a centripetal construct. It is the construct of the Magus, a world apart from all other worlds.
A Compass is an entirely different ‘thing,’ both literally and figuratively.
To begin with, the approach is from the outermost point. Working inwards, the boundary or ‘Ring’ is created then breached, quite deliberately, the Bridge to what lies beyond is forded, allowing access to whatever exists on the ‘other’ side as coded by the purpose of the advance. We shift ourselves out and into another space, leaving where we were in the physical body behind us.
Once over that Bridge we approach the Castle Gate. These Castles, Realms, or Worlds stand at each Cardinal and inter-cardinal nodes, hence it forms the Compass Rose, the supreme glyph of all navigators. On approach to each gate, we prepare and forge the key that will unlock it, hence it is the ‘Key of Kings.’ Knocking is a gesture accompanied by utterance, of sign and sonic to announce our presence. We pass through the now open Gate and into whatever resides beyond that gate. Taking ourselves into their worlds, we approach unarmed to embrace the shades of ancestors and spirit forms from whom we seek wisdom. We choose to shift unhindered through into those other worlds and realms. Traversing ever deeper in our explorations, we paradoxically shift outwards, away from our point of origin. It is a centrifugal force. This is the ‘Witches’ Compass where trajectory is determined by intent. It is the (shifting) world within (all) worlds.
“All measurements of position and velocity must be made relative to some frame of reference.” (centrifugal force)
Within a ‘Witches’ Compass, we have several rings of arte, that is to say, distinct arcs between specific nodes. These bridges and moats distinguish not just the realms from each other, but the purpose that directs and propels those mediations of virtue. And so we begin at last to see how very different is the Wiccan Circle to a Witches Compass, and to see how simple and yet how very complex the latter is when compared to the former. As Cochrane said, it is a ‘map to other worlds.’
After a gravid description of those other worlds within a poignant and scientific Creation Myth, Robert Cochrane separates the basic structure of the ‘Ring’ in terms of gods and kings, of queens and castles, of elemental kingdoms and of their inherent virtues. Poetically he observes the origin of mankind, and our place in the schema of the universality of all reality and non-reality. He speaks of time and eternity, and of a symbiosis of spirit enjoined through ‘witch-blood.’ Linked through ancestry, we traverse the realms by the vehicles their beliefs created for us in Myth made manifest in the realities of those quantum worlds beyond time and space.
So how do we manipulate such deliberate transport?
We do not ‘raise’ power,’ we ride on what is already there. Nature provides all. We ride the ‘Broom,’ a folk name for the Compass, referred to by Cochrane. This is what he meant when he explained to Bill Gray that for us, ‘nature is a means to an end.’ Observing nature, we note that all matter shifts with the winds, from the tides that ebb and flow o’er the variant and distant shores of Gaia, to the scudding clouds above, of vap’rous transparency; we are adrift betwixt heaven and the deep blue sea. Poetically, these three realms are the underworld abyss, the plane of Edin, now corrupted into Hell, and the transcendent arc of the celestial track-ways of the gods. Through the lens of Myth, these three host a hierarchy of beings structured to explain animistic principle expressed in a panentheistic multi-verse, in landscapes that range from pure wondrous beauty to the starkest and most terrifying of nightmares.
These obviously demand three basic requisites in order to accomplish transvection over Bridge and Moat, into Mound and Mold, and through Gate and Doorway……ascending and descending, triangulating ourselves through a mutable and ever shifting map, of no fixed abode, anchored nowhere in time and space. It is the antithesis of stasis. Its axial shaft is the self, we are singularly a microcosmic tree of a collective, and macrocosmic Yggdrasil. Three things provide the context, purpose and mode to generate the dynamic synergy of transvection.
That is to say:
1). Faith: a cultural understanding of how to know the gods, ancestors and all other deific forms in the natural order according to myth and folklore sustained in that Faith.
2). Quest or Mission: the purpose or reason that inculcates structure and format of the ritual procedure.
3). The Crafting of that Ring of Arte: Building the Bridge, digging the Moat, seeking a Mound, Cave, Tunnel, River or lofty Precipice as a ‘jump point’. Construction of Matrix from the Thirteen Tools of Arte, assigning their placements as co-ordinates in a vehicle for the transport of Mind and Soul (not body) to the appointed destination.
Cochrane describes the Worlds and Realms of his Compass thusly:
Aetes/Anemoi: Four gods of the Cardinal winds, that herald the four seasons we now relate to them.
- Tettens/Boreas, the North Wind, the Thrall of Winter.
- Nod/Zephyros, the West Wind, the Herald of Autumn.
- Luci/Euros, the East Wind, the Herald of Spring.
- Carenos/Notos, the South Wind, Flame of Summer.
Sophisticated magical concepts from the middle and near East are rooted into generic Craft rituals. Infused over many hundreds of years, they assert a standard form. Usage determines their ingress. Most particularly we all recognise the significance of the four cardinal points which were once stellar and later attributed to the four winds. The Four Royal stars, named ‘Watchers,’ seen as guardians [eg: Kerubim] were evoked in high places – their symbols were traced in the air with torches or ritual wands [symbolising air], as their sacred names were called out.
Pulled by the call of spirit, by divine measure we traverse the narrow thread, strung upon Wyrd, the map of life and death.
The English word ‘god’ is derived from the Proto-Germanic ǥuđan as found in the 6th century Christian Codex Argenteus, and is generally accepted as the earliest written Germanic root form. Linguists largely agree that the reconstructed ‘Proto-Indo-European’ form ǵhu-tó-m is based on the root ǵhau(ə) meaning ‘to call’ or ‘to invoke.’ This does of course have tremendous implications regarding the more mystical elements of our own spiritual praxis. It is the animate force or Virtue within all things, yet sourced beyond them.
A guiden- pole is a standard banner imbued with (g)odic force manifest and non-manifest as wind and the perceptible but unseen virtue of that ‘wind.’ Erected to ‘guide’ the mind-soul on its journey, these may be set-up and mounted to synergise the jump-point as a visual mnemonic for the entranced body in bi-location, in each of Five Separate ‘Rings.’ Three Rings only have been discussed in any depth (1-3-5), and two alluded to, at (2-4):
1). Cardinals – Fyfolt Cross. (Four Pointed Star)~Wisdom
2). Star Pentagram (Five Pointed Star)~Death
3). Horned Mask of Seven Stars (Reversed Pentagram) ~Life
4). The Necklace (Nine Stones Blessed Eight)~Love
5). Nodal Enneagram (Nine Pointed Star)~Maturity
1). Priestly Mysteries ~ Truth – Central Pillar/Altar & Powers Zone -All Magicks – East (Fire) –Lunar /Earth-(Skull in Reliquary) ~ Castle of the 4 Winds . Hermes is Guide
2). Male Mysteries ~ Death & Prophecy– Right Pillar/Banner – Held & Led by Maid – Of Mound- Highest Will – Mercy – Chaos – Grail Mysteries ~ Martinmas & Mound and Skull. Saturn is Guide.
3). Priestly Mysteries ~ Communion Grace – Life -Water (Skull in Reliquary)– Earth /Solar- Power Zone South (Earth) – Mid-Summer (Feast of St John) & Rose Beyond the Grave – Into the Void – Hekate is Guide
4). Female Mysteries ~ Law & Frith &Troth–Highest Love – Left Pillar/Banner ~ Held &Led by Magister – Covenant & Hallows at Yule – 12th Night Moat & Maze ~ Sophia is Guide
5). Priestly Mysteries ~ Divination/Banishment/Purification/Initiation – Power Zone North (Air) Oracular Head – Stellar/ Lunar – Cave of the Cauldron ~ Nine Norns, AegiPan is Guide.
All of these are ‘open’ (centrifugal) Horned Rings and are created counter and contra to the Hexagrammatic Circle of Six points, which having all arcs closed, maintain a defensive construct for the Magus, ensconced within his closed Circle of Arte. Balanced and mirrored on all sides, it again focuses and condenses everything within, towards its (centripetal) axis.
There has been some amazing feed-back for this article, for which I am very, very grateful. Better yet, I am content in the knowledge that this work is widely seen and appreciated in its own right as the informing Egregore for CTC, a continuous and abiding Virtue.
In that regard, it is necessary to address here a misunderstanding that arose on a forum I am not a member of, and has come to me via a friend there. The matter concerns my own comment that refers to the unique innovation to the workings of Traditional Craft …and I stand by that comment. Within that context of a particular approach to the ‘mysteries’, Traditional Craft is but one modality within the greater whole of occultism.
The misunderstanding has assumed that where I say “there has been nothing like it before or since,” I inferred it within that all-inclusive field entire. I did not. The two sentences immediately following my own comment within the article make it very clear that I refer only to the spectrum of Traditional Craft and nothing else. In fact, if read carefully enough, it is clear the entire article refers to nothing else.
As a person who has always promoted the variant occult mysteries per se, including Hermetism, Hermeticism, Qabbala , Enochia, etc etc, both as separate avenues of the Mysteries and how elements of their craft infuse and inform those of CTC., my appreciation and regard for them as specialisms in their own right has never been in doubt. One cannot compare their modus operandi, not in any sense. They all serve differently. Furthermore, the ability to synergise those elements within his own tradition and culture was Cochrane’s genius.
So even there it ‘could’ be argued that Cochrane’s Tradition is singular in the fact that it took those mysteries out to others, as E. J. Jones said – “The first of his tradition to do so.” We are a closed tradition in the same way as all the afore-mentioned cults and orders of the greater mysteries’, BUT we have opened access to those mysteries in ways they have not.
Therefore, in the sense of : ‘format, form and formulae of work were and are used still in Traditional Craft, and that he opened the gates for others, I still say, his innovative work has not been equalled before or since.