To Face One’s Own Death
Descending Half Moon Ritual
Ruler of the North,
You who are the House of Death,
And the Death itself,
You who are Time,
Teach us the secrets of Fear and Devotion,
Maha Kaal Siddhi be yours to teach,
The magical secret beyond time.”
Monday the 7th of December is the Descending Half Moon. This is known to Tantrics as the annual day of Maha Kaal BhairavJayanti, the ‘birthday’ (Jayanti) of Kaal Bhairav, the Tantric deity of darkness and fear. The 8th night of lunar waning every month is Sacred to Bhairav, the darkest form of Shiva.
The 8h descending lunar night is known as Bhairav Astami. Or Kaal Astami.
Kaal means time, Astami means the eighth. The last Bhairav Astami of the dark half of the year is the most sacred one and is Bhairav Jayanti, which is why it is considered Bhairav’s ‘birthday’ (Jayanti).
Kaal Bhairav represents Time and Death. In fact, Kaal means ‘dark’. He is represented as the Crow master who rides upon the Black Dog. Crows and black dogs belong to his realm and are the messengers of his secrets.
Kaal Bhairav is the heavy and slow planet Saturn. The Planet Saturn is highly active upon the inner astral plane in the Northernmost hemisphere at this time of the year.
This night of Bhairav is sandwiched right between the last Full and Dark Moons of the Darkest Season of the year, when the length of the nights are at their peak and Tantrics spend time investigating the dark layers of their being.
THE DEEP DARK LAYERS
Of the Soul
In the ritualistic circle of Tantra this is a time in which to study the deep dark layers of oneself, peeling away the outer layers like an onion to reach the sometimes tear-inducing taboos of the nether-regions.
Subjects such as death,
fear and time are approached
in this ritualistic night.
Time is of the essence and our time can be something devoid of magic. It then becomes something to waste away when it is barren of moonlit magic.
Some of the modern rituals we repeat are worth our investigation. If something is repeatedly done with our concentration then it becomes a ritual.
Rituals can both entrap and liberate.
Kaal Bhairav ritual-worship has the potential to show us the most obvious yet easily unseen things of what we are doing with time – or perhaps what time is doing with us.
We find Devotion
Bhairav is the ultimate destroyer.
The story tells that it was he who beheaded even the creator. Bhairav suffered for it, yes, whereas the creator found liberation.
This night’s ritual follows the narrative of the subtle tale of Bhairav’s journey to the North. It is a subtle tale that encompases the deepest and darkest corners of the soul, not to mention the most destructive aspects.
The story tells that, after Kaal Bhairav beheaded the creator, he could not get free of what he had done. Destruction and creation literally stuck together, as the head of the creator stuck to Bhairav’s hand and rotted putridly for aeons upon aeons. In the end Bhairav finally crossed the invisible line between life and death and traversed the threshold of creation and of destruction.
This story points to an inner reality that is to be meditated on.
Life and time, creation and death, all hold hands in the fear-inducing realm of a Kaal Bhairav.
the Bhairav ritual & practices
are highly secretive.
They are to be proceeded with caution,
for they arouse
our deepest & darkest
Raising fear carries a great healing power if one works with the raised material in the landscape of the soul.
The various names of Kaal Bhairava are powerful Mantras that move repressed fears in us.
The freedom of finding and facing repressed fears, frees us from agitation as there is nothing to move away from, this works like a mirror, there is then also nothing to move towards either.
The place of Yogic power comes in this inner constellation.
Drive dies and spirit power takes its place.
The creative spiritual impulse
is not free of death,
for creativity without death
The Direction of the Spirit
Bhairav is the ruler of the North.
North flowing rivers take the spirit out of the body, the dead are placed to the North in Tantric wisdom.
The liberated spirit goes North beyond the grip of the illusions of the astral plane.
Bhairav is the God of Kashi (today renamed ‘Varanasi’), the sacred city of death in the North. The place in India where the Ganga river flows North. It is a region of the astral-plane alike.
is therefore a deep friend,
liberator and protector,
if he is approached in honour.
He holds the Danda, the stick of power he gained after aeons of pondering the dead creator’s head in his hand.
For this Bhairav is called Dandapaani, ‘the one who carries the stick of power’.
It is the magic wand of the Wizard and Witch.
It is the spine that flows with the dance of circuitry in the currents of life and death.
It is the stick within grasp when we study the mysteries of Bhairav.
It is the stick that carries the soul across the portals of life and death.
The stick is called Kankala Danda, literally the ‘skeleton stick’.
The stick of Bhairav gives the protection of courage to go under the surface of skin and flesh, right to the very bone of the matters that weigh most upon us.
Bhairav asks us ‘are we here to live or are we here to die?’
is a most northward pursuit
in which one works
with one’s death.
It works with
the time one has
…and the time
one does not have.
On the occasion of the yearly Bhairav Jayanti, the Tantric practitioner tunes to the celestial and atmospheric waves of nature and harnesses the flood of the spirit.
comes to know that destruction
is the other hand of creation,
both go together in the cyclic dance
of death & life.
Both destruction & creation
go hand in hand.
In this ritual we might chant his 64 names if we come that far.
By tradition, his Bija mantra is never written, but it will be uttered in this dark night’s ritual.
His mudras are Maha Kaal Asan and Kashi Mudra. These physical movements send the spirit North to the world beyond.
Maha Kaal asan takes a step through the three worlds, it reaches skyward, whilst rooting deeply, and requires the focus of the middle realm that we inhabit. This Mudra teaches us slowly of the walk – called life – we take through the triple realm of our being (which we began to explore last Monday on the first part of this new 4-part series – read about the myth of Shiva destroying the three worlds of illusion on our blog).
The inner and outer Danda mudras are practiced, including the antar Kankala mudra (the inner skeleton practice)…
… a dark practice
of calling upon one’s death,
not suitable for the faint hearted
or the spiritual consumerist
Tantra may have become sensationalised as pleasure and spiritual indulgence, easy to buy into in the modern era.
But the old-school rules of Kaal Bhairav are within the timeless laws of pain and pleasure: the two go together.
Under Kaal Bhairav’s jurisdiction,
the taboo – even unto ourselves –
is approached on the ritual
of his birthday night.
He is Time, he is Death, he is obstinate, tenacious, terrifying and immovable by his laws. He can reveal where we are obstinate, tenacious and immovable to his laws of Time and Death.
He can show us how to die, many may be consumed with the issue of ‘how to live’, but the tantric equally concerns themselves with ‘how to die’.
He can show us the lessons we are not learning and having to repeat for lifetimes long.
But he demands that we have courage to face our pain as well as our pleasure, for pleasure alone does not fill the cup in his realm.
Just like Shuni (the planet Saturn) that he is, Kaal Bhairav, takes us beyond and far behind the limits of darkness, death and time, he is heavy and slow and gives depth to the soul who dares to meet his gaze, the soul who dares to face themselves in the dark finds a deep friend.
We hope you will choose to join us forthis ritual and
venture together on this journey into one of the darkest
themes in Tantra.
– Boonath & Kim