Transpersonal Reality, Macrocosm, and Community
“God is SelfAnd Self is GodAnd God is a person like myself.”—Victor Anderson“Every man and woman is a star.”—Alistair Crowley
From apex point of sex doth flow
The gifts of love that we would know
That lures us ever toward our pride
Which shines as law and does provide
Awareness of our self’s domain;
And knowledge of all things arcane.
A move toward power stirs within
Power shared with other kin.
As waves of passion fill our souls
We grow with wisdom; life’s true goal.
By the Iron and by the Pearl
I claim my being;
I claim my world.1
Like its Iron counterpart, the Pearl Pentacle is a major teaching tool utilized by most lines of the Faery tradition. Whereas the Iron can be said to represent qualities pertaining to the self 2, the Pearl is often thought of as extending these concepts outward and into the transpersonal realm of community, complimenting the Iron with a type of comparative polarity. When taken together, the Iron and the Pearl embody the divine union that is necessary to fully awaken the awareness of our divine natures.
Where the Iron can sometimes be felt as being sharp, frantic, and hot (much as the red hot iron in the blacksmith’s forge) the Pearl is often described as being soft, calm, and cool; a much needed balance to the Iron’s sometimes overwhelming severity. This is, of course, only a generalization; it should be understood that there are as many ways to experience the pentacles as there are people who work with them.
In the style in which I was originally taught Faery, a great deal of time was spent working first with the Iron before the Pearl was even mentioned. On one level this makes perfect sense… if the Iron is about refining one’s personal relationship with the Self, then it seems a sound practice to allow that work to serve as a foundation before jumping outward into the work of building community, a particular lesson that the Pearl has to offer. While this does make sense, it is certainly not the only valid way to approach these tools. In fact it is reported that —on several occasions— the late Victor Anderson3 himself would teach these two pentacles together, sometimes combined into one symbol known as the Copper Decagram4. Here we see yet another example of how fluid our traditional methods really are; a perfect reminder that ours is a living tradition based on shamanic principals, and not a one-size-fits-all system of spiritual instruction. Faery loves paradoxes, and when considering the Iron and the Pearl pentacles we can contemplate one of the biggest of them all: There is only one pentacle. The Iron and the Pearl are not separate, but are instead the same pentacle as seen from different angles.
When we are focused on working internally with the self, we see the Iron in all its fiery glory; its five points representing those qualities that all so often need to be healed in order to claim our personal power. Modern society perpetuates some very unhealthy attitudes toward certain natural qualities and behaviors, and because we are products of that society we often need to “un-learn” or “re-align” ourselves in a balanced and conscious way. Take for example the Iron Pentacle’s point of Pride. It exists in opposition to a larger societal standard that would teach us either to completely subjugate the ego (“Don’t be too proud”, “Pride is a sin”) or to exalt it above all else (“You’re the most important person in the world”, “Every man for himself”). The Iron Pentacle is a method to allow ourselves to achieve a true and personal balance between these two unhealthy extremes; helping us find our own way… our own truth.
When our focus is about taking our own energy and sharing it outward with others, then the usefulness of the Pearl Pentacle comes into play. For example, consider how the Iron point of Sex becomes the Pearl point of Love. Sex, much more than simply the physical act, is the generation of a current of life-force energy. It is the experience of opening up to accept outside forces within ourselves so that we might merge with them in ecstasy, becoming more than we were before. It is both physical sex as well as non… it is the enlivening of the senses so that we may experience on a deeper level that which is all around us. In this view, even breathing consciously can be an act of sex. Love is the force of attraction that keeps that current flowing; the state of deep emotional attraction that leads us ever onward to return —again and again— to that state of sexual union.
The Self of Iron becomes the Knowledge of Pearl. If Self is the fullest awareness of one’s own limits and potentials, then Knowledge is that on a universal scale. When sharing our own fully-realized selves with one another, we are able to learn exponentially. We act as mirrors for those around us so that they may then see themselves in a new light, gaining new perspectives along the way. And in turn we too gain new vantage points from which we may view ourselves (an Iron experience) and the world around us (a Pearl perspective).
The point of Iron named Passion becomes that of Wisdom when viewed on the Pearl. Passion is the complete opening to life’s experience, so that we may engage the fullest spectrum of human emotions. Passion can be felt in any number of human emotions… from love… to hate… to joy… to fear… and everything in between. The lovers whose awareness of the outside world falls away so that they see only the object of their desires… The artist whose obsession leads them to create their masterpiece… or onward to madness… The parent, who’s all encompassing love for their child leads them to experiences that they had never previously considered… Passion is a moving force toward new experiences… and the cumulative integration of these experiences —our own and those shared with others— is the embodiment of Wisdom.
Iron’s Pride becomes the Pearl point of Law; Pride being the unrestrained and natural shining forth of the innocent self… Law is quite simply the same phenomena only on a larger scale. It is literally the way in which the universe works; the natural order of all things. The journey of the earth through its orbit… the effects of gravity… the turning of the seasons… these are manifestations of Law that we are all familiar with. Simple, natural, and to the point. When we embody Law it is the adoption of a personal ethical code, not based on the expectations of those around us (for we have purified ourselves of the egos impulse to compare ourselves to others by working with the point of Pride) but based on our own true and balanced will.
Much controversy has been wrought over this next station on our beloved pearlescent pentacle and to this I must make some observations. In one way of viewing these pentacles5 it is said that the Iron point of Power (representing ones power-from-within; our own ability to extend ourselves outward to cause change) morphs into the Pearl-version, also named Power, only now representing the concept of power-with; that is to say, power shared with others in concert without restriction or oppressive hierarchy. While this certainly follows the previous pattern of taking the individual concepts expressed in the Iron and moving them outward into the world via the Pearl, there are other nuances of interpretation for this point which also have traditional “validity”. In some lines of Faery this point on the Pearl Pentacle is named Liberty6, and represents freedom from restraint, especially (though not exclusively) that put upon us by outside forces wielding power-over, or coercive control.
It is actually not difficult to see how these two interpretations actually reflect the same core understanding. They are both concerned with a release from restriction and the fostering of a healthy —and uninhibited— personal authority; a state that is necessary when striving toward the realization of ones personal divinity.
So why the controversy? Surely in a path such as Faery where much has been said of the fiercely individual methods of working within our tradition, there is room for different interpretations of even core materials? Part of the issue, in my opinion, comes from the (perfectly reasonable) desire to preserve what is traditionally handed-down, as opposed to the (perfectly valid) innovations that have been introduced later on. While this might be seen as a practical stance from a somewhat anthropological point of view, when taken in the context of actually working within the tradition it begins to break-down as there are several traditional methods for working with this material, even going back as far as Victor himself, as mentioned previously. Many of the practitioners who worked early on with him have reported that he tailored his teachings to them individually, which would account for some people being taught the Iron Pentacle before even mentioning the Pearl, while others were introduced to them for the first time together as one, sometimes as the aforementioned decagram. This revelation should put to rest once and for all that one method is more traditional than another, as both have a definite precedent. There are many valid methods of working with these symbols, and many more yet to be discovered.
That there has been controversy over the issue should be a clear indicator that more work with the Pearl Pentacle is in order. While working with the Iron we become strong personalities, but strength of ones personality does not necessarily mean that we are able to function well with others. In fact, the type of strength usually achieved by working exclusively with the Iron Pentacle, while important, is only the beginning. On the path toward claiming our divinity, there are many challenges that we are called to face. We must be prepared to share the world with others if we are to be worthy of the powers that we would claim. None of us exists in a vacuum. It is relatively easy for the spiritual master to become enlightened up on a mountain in solitude. The real challenge is to do it and still be a part of the world. The Pearl has much to teach us in that regard.
The ideals of working with others should not imply that it is necessary to suffer unhealthy interactions with people should they arise. Part of building any healthy community is learning when to establish definite boundaries; when to say “no”. Certainly the lessons of the Iron Pentacle teach us to be powerful and to never surrender that power to anyone or to anything. When combined with the insights of the Pearl, an alchemical transformation is allowed to take place; one that strives to allow our Black Hearts to shine in harmony with others.
What follows is a basic exercise to connect with the Pearl Pentacle. Feel free to adapt it for your own use.
Invoking the Pearl Pentacle
Ground and center. Perform a Three Souls alignment.
Invoke the Iron Pentacle before you. Feel the red fiery energy moving between each of the points, merging and blurring with each pass between them. Take your time with this. You may wish to perform whatever Iron cleansing/balancing exercises you are accustomed to.
When you are ready, focus on the point of Sex and feel that the red energy is becoming a soft white pearlescence… feel how Sex has become Love. Feel how the point is now different than it was, but how it is also the same. Take your time.
Now allow this soft white glow to travel along the lines toward the Iron point of Pride where it becomes Law. Follow the same pattern until the whole pentacle has been transmuted into the Pearl. Feel how it is the same pentacle as the Iron, only seen from a different perspective. Feel how the energy overall seems different, and yet is the same. Be open to the subtlety of the experience.
Now, focusing on the uppermost point, call out three times:
“I invoke Love!”
Imagine the point growing larger than all the others… shining its healing light deep within you. Feel your own ability to feel deep compassion… attraction… love. Remember a time in your life when you were in love with someone or something and recall how that felt. Know that it is your birthright as a human being to feel love. Say:
“In the name of Love!”
Feel yourself permeated with Love, raised to the power of Divinity.
Focus on the point at your right foot and call out three times:
“I invoke Law!”
Imagine the point growing larger than all the others… shining its healing light deep within you. Feel how the natural laws of the universe affect you and how they are no different than those laws that govern your own life. Become aware of how other people’s laws have tried to sway you and what the consequences have been for either following or abandoning them. Say:
“In the name of Law!”
Feel yourself permeated with Law, raised to the power of Divinity.
Focus on the point at your left hand and call out three times:
“I invoke Knowledge!”
Imagine the point growing larger than all the others… shining deep within you. Feel how true knowledge begins with the self and how we are all mirrors for each other; revealing the blind spots that —when left on our own— we might not notice. Feel how true Knowledge is something that continually grows through sharing, but also must be nurtured and respected. Say:
“In the name of Knowledge!”
Feel yourself filled with Knowledge, raised to Divinity.
Focus now on the point at your right hand and call out three times:
“I invoke Power/Liberty!”
(Try mixing it up for different sessions, but at least in the beginning try to stick to one or the other for awhile to get a feel for it.)
Imagine the point growing larger than the others… shining deep within you. Feel how Power shared freely frees you from the bonds of expectation… of always having to be “right” or “in control”. When you feel powerless, you can accept help from another… and when you are powerful, you can assist those who need it. Feel how liberating this experience is. Say:
“In the name of Power/Liberty!”
Feel yourself filled with Power/Liberty raised to Divinity.
Focus now on the point at your left foot and cal out three times:
“I invoke Wisdom!”
Imagine the point growing larger than all the others… shining within you. Feel how the depths of your emotions have led you into life experiences that have made you who you are. Feel how because of those experiences you are a unique individual with a unique point of view. Feel how the integration of these experiences makes you strong and powerful. Say:
“In the name of Wisdom!”
Feel yourself filled with Wisdom raised to Divinity.
Now, allow your awareness to flow from point, to point, in the order invoked as you focus on the energies of each while calling out their names: “In the name of Love… in the name of Law… etc.” Remember to keep your breathing slow and deep while you allow the energy to get faster and faster. Eventually shorten your chant to just the names of the points, “Love, Law, Knowledge, Power, Wisdom!” and then even abandon those and just breathe as the power moves fluidly between each of the points. Notice the quality of the energy… if there are any blockages between any of the points. Notice if any of the points seem dim or overly bright… take note of them and notice how they feel. After awhile you might experiment with consciously directing any excess energy into the areas that seem to need it, balancing your pentacle.
When you have done this for at least several minutes, take three deep breaths while focusing on the entire pentacle as a whole. Then with another three, absorb the pentacle into your body, allowing it to inform and heal each cell. Feel it move into each of your Three Souls. End by saying:
“By the Iron and by the Pearl,
I claim my being;
I claim my world!”
In addition to the varied working methods already discussed, another interesting permutation of these pentacles has emerged, although at the time of this writing its origin is still unclear to me.7 When arranging the points of the two pentacles into a single geometry, and combining the two points of Power into one, a nine-pointed star can be used to represent the Iron and Pearl as a combined force. Further meditations on this particular symbol have yielded some interesting bits of lore, including a peculiar visualization [see image below] of the nine-rayed star with the gap between the two bottommost points slightly widened (as in a decagram with the bottommost point missing) and the addition of a small green dot in a blue circle (called “the stone of fire”) which represents Liberty & Freedom. This particular symbol is said to be a gateway (called “the way of night”) and reportedly can be used in meditation as a portal into the dark, or night-realm, of Faery.
Yet before the pentacles can be safely used to traverse into other realms, it is wise to use them to discover more about our inner landscapes and both the powers and the poisons that reside there. The pentacles of Faery tend to first be used as a sort of ‘psychic diagnostic tool’ that enables us to see more of where we are directing our energies so that we may make informed decisions about the use of our personal power. Between strengthening our individual selves with the processes of the Iron Pentacle, and the community building gifts of the Pearl, we have a tremendous opportunity to claim our human birthright of recognizing our own Godhood.
1. A reworking of a poem published in my book The Stars Within the Earth, ©2003 Storm Faerywolf. Available from www.FeriTradition.org.
2. For more information on the Iron Pentacle, see my article The Iron Pentacle: Understanding the Harmonics of Consciousness, www.faerywolf.com/essay_ironpentacle.htm ©2000 Storm Faerywolf.
3. Victor Anderson (1917-2001) was the original Grandmaster of Faery, and is generally regarded as the founding member of the tradition, although he would not have agreed with that description, seeing himself as simply the then current mouthpiece for the survival of an ancient form of working magic. All initiates of the Faery tradition can trace their lineage through him.
4. Not much is generally known about the Copper Decagram outside of the Faery lineage known as Vicia; the lineage that worked directly with Victor prior to his passing. I have mentioned it here based on personal conversations that I have had with Vicia members.
5. This was true of how I was initially taught, but not all lines of the tradition work in this fashion. As stated before, there are many ways of working Faery authentically.
6. It is my understanding that when working with the Copper Decagram the Pearl point of Liberty is used to distinguish it from the Iron point of Power, as they are used together as part of the same symbol.
7. This particular bit of lore was presented to me as a part of my Faery training and so I have assumed that it finds its origins somewhere in the Bloodrose lineage of our tradition. I would be most interested to hear about the experiences of other practitioners who decide to use this.