WHY I BURNED THE ROSY-CROSS - OR ON THE MAGICAL USE OF MESAS
Some people asked me why I burned the rosy-cross. I guess that’s a fair question? My initial answer was it is a personal matter and so it is indeed. But on pondering about it, I realized there are actually a few things I can share about it. So should you be interested to learn about the use of mesas in ritual magic, here are some thoughts...
The rosy-cross you can see on these images I painted when I was sixteen or seventeen years old and my magical journey had just begun. To be honest, painting it was one of my first magical acts I remember - one that required a lot of time, yet still was very unconscious and intuitive. I probably carved and painted on it for the better part of a week before it was fully done.
Ever since then this rosy-cross accompanied me through the many temples I have built, relocated and taken down again. Over years it always hung on the wall of my temples: First as a guiding light of my inner search while I encountered and initiated myself into the techniques of the Golden Dawn. After these initial years it turned into a ritual tool for creating and using spirit seals. And when I moved on from the classical GD approach it still hung over my temple, seemingly watching over my actions and protecting my works.
Last weekend I had to relocate my temple again after four years of wonderful work. As any ritual magician knows packing up your temple in silk, cardboard and plastic is no easy undertaking. Spirits that have dwelled in the structure of the room get unsettled, some chose to move with us, some chose to stay. Yet the old structures that allowed them to rest, to be nurtured and renew break away and open up. Change on many levels is the inevitable consequence.
During the process of carefully storing my temple items in boxes I came across the rosy-cross. It had suffered slightly from the years spent on my damp, incense pregnant temple walls, yet the colors were still fresh and alive. Intuitively I put it aside, packed up all the rest and only came back to it when everything else was done.
At that point I understood that something had stopped working between us. The gate this symbol had been for me for many years had been blocked. I looked at the details of the design and I realized that many of the symbolic structures actually didn’t reflect anymore how I perceived the structure of my magical cosmos. The colors didn’t align to my personal experience of the quarters, the strong correlation to Christianity and Jesus ‘as our savior’ was something I always had to wrestle with that suddenly put me off. Even the placement of the hexagrams and pentagrams was something that I couldn’t validate from personal experience...
You know, in shamanism it’s an important step for every shaman to design, craft and ritually implement their very own mesa. The mesa can be drawn on animal skin, bark, parchment, embroidered on a carpet or simply carved on the ground each time it is needed. There are other uses of the term mesa as well. Yet, the way I had been introduced to it, the term mesa refers to the spiritual map of the cosmos a shaman uses when traveling in spirit work. To make an easy comparison - you can assume that the mesa of many Kabbalists is captured in the Tree of Live. The mesa of shamans, however, tends to be much more personalized as it is essentially built on their personal experiences of tonal and nagual, i.e. the material and spirit realm.
Once the mesa is fully established and consecrated it no longer is a glyph or symbol of the cosmos, but it turns into the cosmos itself. Thus the shaman can go into spirit vision and move objects around on the actual mesa - while energies and beings are shifted and transformed accordingly on the inner realm. The mesa becomes one with the shaman, it turns into the map that unites both his outer and inner worlds.
Here is a wonderful explanation of one shaman’s personal mesa:
“My power objects are wrapped in or sit on a colorful woven fabric called a mesa cloth with regular, geometric patterns. Usually, there is a column looking like a zigzag of lightning running down the length of the middle of the cloth. This column mediates between the two sides of the mesa and represents the inherent duality of life: the bottom represents hucha, or the "heavy" energies (...); the upper part represents sami, or "light" energies. (...) they represent a complementarity between the "Underworld" and the "Upperworld" or from a western psychological standpoint, between the shadow and the ideal, or the subconscious and conscious, which are in a dynamic dance in the psyche. The column in the middle represents the balancing of these two polarities as they are expressed in physical action here in the middle world.
The mesa also holds the energies of the four cardinal points of the compass, North, South, East and West. Like the philosophy of the Medicine Wheel in many indigenous cultures, each direction represents a particular energy: South—youth and growth; West--darkness, decomposition and death; North--balance and wisdom; East--light, regeneration and rebirth. At the center of the directions, with Earth below and Sky above, is the point of mediation or the Axis Mundi. Like the Axis, or the Great Tree, we want to stand at the center of this wheel and have the fluidity of character to be able to access the complementary energies of each part of the mesa as needed in service of our personal goals - whether of healing, accessing our highest possible destiny, or manifesting a particular outcome in the world.”
(Rachel E. Mann, PhD, A World of Healing: The Mesa in Peruvian Shamanism)
In our Western Tradition of magic we equally make use of the concept of mesas. We only call it differently. Often it comes robed in the layout of a magical temple or circumscribed by the lines and words within a magical circle. However, the most condensed way of representing one’s mesa in the Magical Tradition of the West is to create a single glyph that holds and organically unites all elements of one's personal magical cosmos. And this is what the Rosy-Cross used to represent for the adepts of the Golden Dawn.
Now, don’t get me wrong: the mesa of the rosy-cross is a wonderful expression of Western magical knowledge, a balanced way to depict the inner realms where true power resides and flows from. It is also still is a gracious tool to express spirits names in forms of sigils. However, at this point in time it is not an authentic expression of how I personally perceive the flow of power and balance in the inner realm. It's not about right or wrong - it is about being authentic and staying true to what we actually experience in our own practice.
So rather than an expression of my own living knowledge the rosy-cross had become an artifact of someone else’s knowledge and experience. There was no living connection between us anymore. Even worse - by constantly being present in my temple and watching over my actions, it actually blocked me from expressing my own authentic mesa in a new form. The space it took in my temple and mind needed to be taken by another structure. One which I hadn't found yet. And one I wouldn't find, until I had created open space for it.
For new things to begin, old things have to end. And that is why I burned the rosy-cross.