Zar, Encounters with the Trance Dance Tradition of Egypt

Zar is the name of an exorcism dance tradition known most commonly from Egypt. The word is itself of obscure origin but most likely explanation is that it means a “visitation”. When western observers first encountered Zar in Egypt they described it as “black magic”:

“WITHIN only a comparatively short period of years,” says Professor Macdonald, “quite easily within thirty years, I should say — we have come to know that practically all through the Moslem world there is spread an observance exactly like the Black Mass in Christendom. That is to say, it is a profane parody of a sacred service. ..”

The heartland of Zar is modern Sudan, which was in the ancient world known as Nubia, the “land of gold”. The Nubians were famous as practitioners of sorcery. Sudanese people have in past been forcibly relocated all over the Middle East via the slave trade, thus there are different kinds of Zar, the most famous being Egypt Zar, but there are also branches all over the Mehreb, Morroccan (Gnawa), Libya, Algeria, and also Iran where they are known as the people of the air. Zar spirits can be Pagan, Muslim, Hindu, Christian or Jewish. 

Initiations into the cult could be be “demonic” – that is one becomes an initiate because of encounter with a specific disease-spirit . One instinctively recognizes the musical signature of your first spirit. Depression is one of the most common triggers for Zar possession, something that, for example, commonly afflicts Egyptian women. From the Iranian branch we learn that there are in fact 72 different kinds of Zar spirit. 

Masters of the Zar circle are known as Baba or Mama – father or a mother. They are experts in all the different Zar spirits, having been introduced to them by their first spirit initiator. These spirits are very similar to those from pharaonic Egypt – where they were known as the Akh or Akhw. These terms have been compared to Arabic Afarit, a kind of Djinn. Actually Djinn are fiery spirits whereas the Zar spirits often live under the earth in places such as caves or tombs.

A contact in Egypt, thinking I might help, told me about the problems experienced by his sister who would fall into a spontaneous possession trance that was catatonic. When her relatives spoke to her in this state and asked what she wanted, the spirit would reply “she wants a divorce.” The spirits are very practical and make a lot of sense in people’s lives. So the first question one should always put to such as spirit should be : “what do you want?”

Often part of the answer is a ceremony of some kind, which like much ancient folk ritual was ecstatic. The ceremony breaks many taboos and can involve alcohol, food, music and ecstatic dance in mixed company. It is important to have a blood sacrifice, usually a goat, whose blood will be offered to the spirits, while the human participants share the feast. 

Wadôh wadêh ‘eni wadôh – yâ mamma / or Al La (Mogg Morgan author of Supernatural Assault in Ancient Egypt) 

The Masters of Zar 

Around 7 pm we were ready to go out to see the Masters of Zar that was showing at the El Dammah Theater, we couldn’t find the theater on the map, and weren’t sure about the address so we got Essmat to write the address and the name of the theater in Arabic so we can show it to the Taxi driver. Thanks to Essmat’s note, the Taxi driver could find the place which was tucked away at the back of a tiny ally. Inside, a very small theater, maybe enough room for about 50 people. There were not many people, only us and 4 other British tourists and about 10 locals. 

At exactly eight o’clock three “mamas” enter. They are dressed in beautiful traditional dresses. The “crone” is dressed in royal blue, the “mother” dressed in black and the “younger” was dressed in red (the youngest probably in her fifties the oldest probably in her eighties). They started singing and chanting and one by one the other members of the group entered. They are drumming and chanting and building the rhythm into a very energetic trance beat which makes you want to get up and dance.

Four British guys are sitting in the front row and it doesn’t take long before one of them gets up and dances with the zar troops. The three mamas dance around him and it looks to me that they are guiding him into a deeper trance – they are circling and chanting around him dancing, hypnotising him, like they are putting a spell on him or maybe they are trying to break the spell that he’s been under…who knows?…

The atmosphere in the room is buzzing and I am sitting at the edge of my chair waiting for the right moment to get up and join in the magickal Zar circle. While thinking that, one of the Zar members approached me, he was a very handsome black man, very tall and looked like an Egyptian Pharaoh, all regal and beautiful in his white Galabia. He took my hand and lead me towards the dancers. As soon as we got into the circle the three mamas circled and danced around me, it felt like they are trying to show me something so I follow their moves which apparently was the right thing to do as the 2 older mamas moved on to dance with the 2 guys, and left me with the third one – The Black Mama, she showed me her moves which I followed and repeated. The rhythm and beat of the music grew faster and hypnotic, I could feel I’m going into trance. The eldest of the company, who I suspect was the leader, got closer and started to dance with me, while dancing together the rest of the company formed a dancing circle around us. The rhythm of the drums became faster and louder all smiling at me like they know something I don’t. I feel hypnotised, I dance the ancient dance with the company of wild Egyptian gypsies, the elder looked into my eyes, said something and smile and handed his drum over to me!

HE HANDED HIS DRUM TO ME!!!

I nearly fainted, this is the deepest shamanic initiation I know, holding THE DRUM in my hand I felt the buzz of its rhythm vibrating all over my body and in my heart. The three mamas are circling us and it feels to me that they are flying around us. I’m so excited and nervous at the same time, I can hear my drum completely out of tune, the “red mama” looked at me and with her eyes I can see her asking, “what are you doing woman? You are out of tune”! I gave her the drum back and thanked her of saving me from total embarrassment. From the corner of my eye I see the black prince leads Mina into the circle and before I knew it the “black mama” is taking me by the hand and Mina with her other hand and dances with both of us, everyone in the circle is cheering and dancing around us, the atmosphere is intoxicating, this is all a bit too much for me, I feel that I’m going to explode with joy, I need to sit down. I leave the circle feeling like I’m walking on clouds, feeling I am blessed.

The show’s going on for a little while longer, and once it’s finished I went to say goodbye to the three mamas. I get hugs and kisses from all of them, but it’s the Blue Mama, the eldest, she really got me. She gave me a big big hug, kissed both of my cheeks, looked into my eyes and said : “Habibty, Ya-Albi” ( “my darling, my beloved – my heart”), I was in tears. I kissed her back and thanked her.

For one long moment we were one, I was as one with her, I was a Zar.

Morgan Witches – who are they?

 

 

Morgan is a name of illustrious pedigree, that means “born of the sea”. There is a legend in these parts that the inhabitants of a particular historic county in Wales (Cymri), were descendants of mer-people who moved inland from the nearby sea. Witchcraft has always had this strong connection with the sea, and something of the ocean’s undercurrents are strong among all the Cymri. The Morgan witches emerged in the ocean of story, as two new members of the ancient clan of witches began to weave their spell of words, and found they needed an authoritative author for the ideas that arose unbid in their souls.* Thus the Grimoire of the Morgan Witches drew its first breath. Less preposterous, lets just say they are two members of a little clan of witches who feel compelled to share their lesser magick here on this blog. * see NakedTantra: grimoire of a magical year.

The Eternal Moment

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The Eternal Moment

On the longest night of the year, the tribe has gathered for the Winter Solstice ceremony.  The Spice is very strong and it doesn’t take long before the doors of perception have opened before us. My ‘mission’ is to raise Babalon. My Babalon working will be like a prayer to raise her power and energy in Everywoman.

I believe that Babalon is Everywoman, but many women deny her existence, some are afraid of her, some are so prudish they truly believe she’s an whore. I embrace my Babalon, she is integrated within me, she is part of me and always was. There was time I didn’t know who she was or what is her name, so I called her “Everywoman”.

I’m Every Woman –  A tribute to Whitney Houston 

“Whatever you want, whatever you need, anything you want done baby, I’ll do it naturally.”

The ritual and ceremonial music are vibrating in the air but for some strange reason I can’t get out of my head the 80s anthem song by Chaka Khan – “I’m every woman”.

I remember the first time I heard it, the Chaka khan version, and how I thought to myself, what a great song, perfect for me. The song came out in 1978, I was only 10 years old.

In the 90s Whitney Houston took Chaka Khan’s song and made it into an even bigger anthem, a classic that will never go out of fashion, a good party will always have this anthem at the peak of the night.  I was a party girl back then, The Ministry of Sound and The Zap Club, were like my second homes. One night at the club, I recall thinking to myself; if “God is a DJ”, “Everywoman ” must be his wife! I didn’t know anything about Babalon or the Scarlet Woman at that time, but an affinity with Everywoman was always part of me.

Whitney Houston was born with the touch of the Red Goddess, she was beautiful, talented and charismatic. It didn’t take long before she became world-famous, she was, and still is, the most awarded female artists, and remains one of the best–selling musicians of all time. Whitney Houston was a goddess, flying high and far, but she couldn’t handle the fire of the Red Goddess, and soon those flames consumed her. After over a decade of meteoric success, she allowed her demons to take over, and she burnt out.

So I toast the first cup of Spice to you Whitney, and to Everywoman out there.

Here She Comes

My mind is racing. I really don’t understand where did all this stuff come from? I’m here at the ceremony and all I can hear is these 80s–90s club anthems playing in my head, and think of Whitney Houston. But then something at the corner of my eye catches my attention. I’m looking but not too sure what I am seeing. It’s a crack in space/time, like in the Dr Who episode “The Crack in the Wall”.  I knew it’s her on the other side. I call her, come, enter, my beautiful goddess. Flames burst out of the crack, it can only be her, and there she is – Babalon!                                            She is shining like the sun at sunrise, and the only thing on my mind is the question – Who swallowed the sun? Now as I write it down, it’s a bit obvious, don’t you think? But at the time I just couldn’t see it. 

The Library of Babel

As soon as she enters, I know – Babalon is the librarian of the Library of Babel. I am very pleased with myself and move on to other things. The goddess NewMedia is here too, and she is loading me with information, I need to write all this stuff down, I need to remember it all. I see the connections in everything I do, like synapses that pass electrical surges through a great spider’s web, or was it the WorldWideWeb? Marketing, advertising, books, writing, writing, writing, writing, writing … attention, attention! The system is overloaded. I’m stuck in a loop, thank god it’s time for the second cup.

Shiva is serving the second round of Spice. He has a special gift, he is a master of blessing the Spice, and this time he adds a special boon, a magickal journey.  As soon as I drink the second cup of Spice I’m back at the library of Babel. I’m lost in a maze, it’s HER maze, it’s HER LIBRARY! She is not the librarian at all,  it’s her library! At the very same moment, I notice a little path that leads to a garden.

The Garden of The Forking Paths 

The garden is strange, if anything, it looks like another maze, like the library. It’s kind of grey and dusty. I go down the path, thinking to myself “so who swallowed the sun?” At that time I didn’t have a clue. Then another thought crosses my mind – why is this garden is so “forked”? A garden should be light and green, soft and gentle, that word, Gentle, made me stop for a moment, and I rethink it all again.  Why is the garden so forked? A garden should be light and green and soft, like The Garden of Eden. The word EDEN in Hebrew means – Gentleness = עדן = EDEN. The path I chose in The Garden of The Forking Paths leads to The Garden of Eden!

This realization made me stop for a moment. I looked at the 9th Gate card that I had brought with me. In the card, which I painted a few days earlier, behind Babalon is the Ninth gate illuminated with the sun’s rays. I look at the card for a while, and as soon as I put it back in my bag, I’m back in The Library of Babel. I look around me, books are floating in the air, staircases spiralling in all directions like some weird Michael Escher picture. Then BANG! The Ninth Gate materializes in front of me in all its glory, and at the same time, the shocking realization; SHE IS THE LIBRARY, SHE IS THE LIBRARY.  Another crack appears in space/time. The room is spinning, thunder and lightning, a cacophony of strange and very loud noises. The library has exploded and I’m being sucked into a black hole, what remains of it is spinning around me; books, staircases, labyrinths, forking paths, gardens, all in a mad and chaotic dance, spiralling towards the black hole.

I’m going mad, am I going mad? I know I must look into the crack that grows with each moment, I know who’s coming, but I dare not look. I go down on my knees and try to pray. But only one word comes out of my mouth:

Baphomet 

I forgot all the words to the prayer. I can hardly find my voice, all  that comes out is a faint mumbling of just one word, the one that makes sense:

Baphomet

Baphomet

Baphomet

Each time I repeat this word, things getting clearer.

Baphomet. 

The room has stopped spinning.

Baphomet.

I can breathe again.

Baphomet. 

The books and the staircases are still spiralling around me but in very slow motion.

Baphomet.

Quiet. 

Everything has stopped as it is, books and staircases frozen in a mid spiral in the air. I can hear the beautiful ancient mantra, the sound of the sea, waves on a breezy sunny day, and I remember.

“I believe in one secret and ineffable LORD; and in one star in the company of Stars of whose fire we are created, and to which we shall return; and in one Father of Life, Mystery of Mystery, in His name CHAOS, the sole viceregent of the Sun upon the Earth; and in one Air the nourisher of all that breathes.                                                                                                    And I believe in one Earth, the Mother of us all, and in one Womb wherein all men are begotten, and wherein they shall rest, Mystery of Mystery, in Her name BABALON.                                                                                    And I believe in the Serpent and the Lion, Mystery of Mystery, in His name BAPHOMET.”

At this moment the beautiful shamaness comes and crashes on the mattress next to me, she knows nothing of Baphomet, but she understands Chaos. Together we are experiencing The Eternal Moment, we both know that the only time is now, and this now is for eternity. I hug her, whispering in her ear “open your eyes, and call Hir, Baphomet, sHe is already here” and she does and she sees what I see. 

And I believe in the Serpent and the Lion, Mystery of Mystery, in His name BAPHOMET.”

The tribes of the Spice are the tribes of the serpent and the lion (well, the Jaguar really…) Some follow the serpent, some follow the Jaguar, all are drinking the same Spice, both tribes sharing similar ceremonies but different rituals.  Baphomet walks among our tribes naturally – which takes me back to the beginning of the journey when I heard Whitney Houston singing in my head the lines “Whatever you want, whatever you need, anything you want done baby, I’ll do it naturally”…  Sooo Baphomet…

In the Thoth Tarot, the card Lust, ‘appears the legend of the woman and the lion, or rather lion–serpent’ (The Book of Thoth). Another realization of eternal moment, Babalon rides Baphomet just like the tantric Kali rides Shiva.

“And I believe in the Serpent and the Lion, Mystery of Mystery, in His name BAPHOMET.”

Baphomet is the serpent and the lion, Mystery of mystery; the Fifth Head of the serpent is The Raging Lion!

“The Desire and aspiration of the highest, most spiritual spark of your consciousness is to clothe itself in flesh and personality and to Come Into Being here and now. The purpose of Initiation is not to swap one for the other: it is to open the eyes of both, perceive what is Real, and empower the entire Self to its maximum potential…” (Michael Kelly, Dragonscales)

“The Fifth Head, that of the Raging Lion, is one specifically focused upon Desire, upon passion.” (Michael Kelly, Dragonscales)

With all this in mind, I hear the call for the third cup.

The Third Cup

The third cup is a meditation journey on the sounds and vibrations our Music Master has prepared for us.

The Music Master and I go back a long way. He was there the first time I took the Spice. He taught me how to listen to the vibrations and how to see with my ears. His journeys are my favourite part of these ceremonies, and after a night of illuminated Chaos, I am looking forward to lying down and chilling out on his magickal carpet.  The third cup is the cup of the Shamaness. I love this woman with all my heart. We look at each other and smile. I say: “only a little cup for me this time”, she looks at me, smiles back and pours the Spice, a full cup… I drink the blood of the dragon and lie back on the cushions and fly.

The Seven Jewels of the Red Goddess

In the myth of Inanna she descends into the underworld, and meets the guardians of the seven gates, who will not let her pass through unless she leaves one of her jewels in each gate, only then can she proceed into the underworld.

The Seven Jewels are:

  1. The Great Crown
  1. The Wand of Lapis Lazuli
  1. The Jewel Around her Neck
  1. The Jewel On Her Breast
  1. The Belt of Jewels Around Her Hips
  1. The Jewels Around Her Wrists and Ankles
  1. The Jewelled Robes

In his book Dragonscales, Michael Kelly asks what these seven jewels are? On page 125 of Dragonscales, he writes:  “As an exercise for further thought and meditation, I would like to throw out the suggestion that the seven jewels of Ishtar are resonant with the Seven Heads of Apep, but in reverse order, with the Jewelled Robes having an affinity with the Head of the Scorpion and the Great Crown having an affinity with the Head of the Typhon. This affinity and this inversion of ordering may be suggestive of one of the secret links between the Lady and the Serpent.  Muse upon it…”

I’m flying the magickal journey the Music Master takes us on and musing upon Michael’s riddle. It doesn’t take long and I’m back again at The Garden of the Forking Paths. Now there are new paths ahead of me, and I don’t know which one to follow.  There’s a tiny voice in the back of my mind which whispers “Follow Me”… so I follow it down a very narrow and very old path.                                                                                                                I love the author Tom Robbins. Back in the 90s, I read quite a few of his books which probably helped a lot to shape the way I think and perceive things. There is something in the myth of Ishtar’s seven jewels that reminds me of something he wrote, but what was it??

The song about Miriam the Prophetess is playing and I remember. In his book ‘Skinny Legs and All’  Tom Robbins writes the story of Salome and The Dance of The Seven Veils. The myth of the Seven Veils Dance and the myth of The Seven Jewels probably are based on the same myth of Inanna/Ishtar. In the original dance of The Seven Veils, those veils come off in the same order as the seven Jewels:

  1. The Veil around Her Face
  2. The Veil around The Shoulders                                                   
  3. The Veil Around her Neck                                                                  4.
  4. The Veil On Her Breast
  5. The Veil Around Her Hips
  6. The Veil Around Her Wrists and Ankle
  7. The Veil Around her Legs

In the book Skinny Legs and All, Tom Robbins actually does reverse the order in which the veils are coming off Salome:

I’ll try to explain:

The First Veil to come off is the veil around her legs, ‘The Jewelled Robes’, think again what the Jewelled robes might mean… she is dancing and her most precious jewel is unveiled. “Because Veils of ignorance, disinformation, and illusion separate us from that which is imperative to our understanding of our evolutionary journey… The first of those veils conceal the repression of the Goddess, masks the sexual face of the planet…” By taking her Jewelled Robes off first, our Red Goddess has awakened the Serpent, the Typhon, the Kundalini.  So, our  Salome is dancing and the veils of illusions keep coming off, one by one, unveiling and, abandoning old patterns such as blindness to the wonders of nature, politics, religion, money, death, time.

The Seventh Veil:  The Veil around Her Face – The Great Crown – The Head of The Scorpion;

“The illusion of the Seventh Veil was the illusion that you could get somebody else to do it for you. To hang on your cross.  Everybody had to take control of their own life, define their own death, and construct their own salvation. And when you finished, you didn’t call the Messiah. He’d call you.” (Skinny Legs and All)

This is all very much in the spirit of the Scorpion Head…

For me the theories of Tom Robbins always make sense. And now it’s nearly the end of the journey and the sun is going to rise any minute. I can just see that at the end of the path I’m journeying, there’s another path to follow (it is the garden of the forking paths after all) but I’m too tired now, maybe next time…

The Great Crown – The Head of The Typhon – Spirituality and awakening.  What a Night!

Here Comes The Sun.

“Whatever you want, whatever you need, anything you want done baby, i’ll do it naturally”

IO BAPHOMET