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Lydia Dancing

A Shamanic Rite of Transmission

Dedicated to C.G. for healing and harmony 


The Antioch cell, like all the Mystery congregations in the Levant, Egypt, and across Europe, received frequent visitors from Asia. The network of the Mysteries was far-reaching, extending from the outermost islands of Hibernia (Scotland) down into Africa, and across the Levant and the Land of the Two Rivers toward the heart of Asia. Visitors brought techniques from their own traditions, and learned from us about local lore and practices. Language was no problem, as Greek was universal from Alexander's time in the late 4th century BCE. Also, some cell members were polyglots who specialized in learning foreign languages and served as translators. For years the Antioch cell hosted a hoary Druid who could speak ten dialects of the indigenous Europeans, including the lost language of Etruscan! Our Asian allies often spoke five or six tongues including the ancient forms of Sanskrit and Prakrit, additional to the koine, common Greek.

Survival Yoga

Svubindra was a Dravidian shaman from a tribe that preserved shamanic knowledge derived from an untold period. He was the color of smoked cork with refined features of a Melanesian allure. His tatooed body was small but sturdy, and extremely supple. He was a skilled hunter and master of animals who held the cobra sacred above all creatures. He was a "wild yogi," one who did not practice the traditional hatha rites, rigid asanas and so forth. Additional to his mastery of animal powers, he was learned in the ancient sciences of drumming and recitation of the exploits of Shiva. We affectionately called him "the learned savage." His native tongue was Tamil. Among us, he spoke in modestly competent Greek with a generous dose of Sanskrit words.

Over the course of several sessions, Svubindra offered us a unique view of Indian spirituality. He told us that Vedic and Vedantic teachings about the supreme source of consciousness were late formulations of survival techniques used by Northern peoples in the last Ice Age. In order to live for extended periods of time until the weather became more hospitable to life, members of the shishti (transitional tribes, those who would live through the extinction process) deliberately put themselves into a state of hibernation. Or suspended animation. They practiced a kind of survival yoga.

"Look at the folk memories of the Northern tribes," Svubindra said. "The earliest legends tell of Himalayan sages who meditated in caves in the fastnesses of the high ranges. The rishis. They are said to have achieved high states of cosmic consciousness by total detachment from the world. They lived in caves at high altitude without eating for many years. They practiced forms of yoga called tapas, a retention of prana and body heat, that allowed them to melt snow for drinking water. They lived off pure water and sunlight for countless years. Both men and women did this, gathering in small enclaves. The rishis did have wives, or consorts," he added, grinning, "but I can't say how much maithuna they used to keep warm in that long winter season." Maithuna is the Sanskrit term for sexual yoga.

We were all familiar with the stories. In my youth, the Mardeena made several trips to Ghandara in the Hindu Kush. At the age of ten, I was deeply moved and fascinated by the Buddhas in Greek togas and the first images of the human form of the Bodhisattva. Alexander the Great had reached Ghandara in his attempt to conquer the world. From the 4th century BCE, five centuries before my time, many exchanges had been underway between India and the Mediterranean. Buddhist monks passed through Hecatombylos and Harran on their way to Luxor and Dendera to study in the Egyptian Mystery schools. I had met some of these wandering bhiksus, and even loved one, when I resided at Dendera and learned star-dacing on the roof of the Temple of Hathor.

"It is fantastic how the transitional tribes could have survived those conditions, a proof of the adaptation of humankind," the Dravidian continued. For what I am calling "adaptation," he used the Greek word palengenesia: "repeated birth," cyclic becoming, which may be equated in the individual case with reincarnation. "Palengenesia is our genius. No other species can adapt the way we do... But the pasu, the human animal, adapts in odd ways, and goes to extremes with it," Svubindra reflected. "Once the Himilayan sages no longer needed to undergo suspended animation for survival, later generations continued the practice as a spiritual exercise, with the goal of returning to the supreme source. So, a method for survival came to be formulated in the rites and teachings of the non-dual Vedanta."

Thread Dancing

Svubindra described his years of pilgrimage among the sunyassins of the Ganges and the Himalaya. At the age of twenty, he went north believing (as many did, and still do) that the rishi tradition formulated in the non-dual Vedanta contained a superior way to the Divine. He spent five years learning the traditional yogic methods before he realized that his own Dravidian ways were preferable, because they touched more intimately on the living threads of the Divine. Svubindra rejected the path to the luminous void of supreme awakening and returned to the ecstatic nature wisdom of his tribal roots. He became a dualist, devoted to the mystery of Maya, the self-veiling expression of Devi the Goddess, the source of all regenerative powers on this earth. His devotion was true and efficacious. When he came to us in Antioch, he was perhaps forty or forty-five years old, but he appeared to be a rigorous young man in his early twenties.

During a series of trance-learning sessions, I paired with Svubindra in addressing the Organic Light with specific questions. We asked about the sacred thread of the Brahmins, a tradition that had troubled the Dravidian when he first encountered it in Lucknow. Brahmins wear the tied thread as a symbol of their religious status in the highest caste, a closed system. We wanted to know the origin of this elitist claim. The answer we got was rather obvious: the Brahminical thread signified a direct genetic line from the Himalayan shishti, the transitional tribes of the last Ice Age. The Brahmin caste held themselves to be descended from the earliest survivors who emerged from that minor extinction event, around 10,000 BCE.

Members of the Mysteries do not put much value on genetic descent, parentage, blood-ties, and the like. The Mysteries were eclectic, its members totally unbiased by any claims of superior descent. Our aim was educational: to awaken and nurture human genius regardless of familial and racial origins, though we did consider these as background factors. As Svubindra and I continued to investigate the sacred thread, we acquired an entirely new view of genetics and inheritence. We were shown that the palingenesia of the human species depends on a sacred thread or network of sacred threads rooted in the plasmic core of our galaxy. In a wonderful moment of discovery under instruction by the Light, Svubindra retrieved via past-life recall the Dravidian secret of dancing the thread.

There exists to this day a school of classical dance called Katak located near Madras in Tamil Nadu, Southern India. Although Katak is said to originate in the north, the Madrasi school preserves in a kind of fossilized form certain movements of the sacred thread-dance known uniquely to the southern or Dravidian peoples. In Katak, the intentional passes or mudras of this dance are stylized into a theatrical performance, but certain gestures are retained, especially the distinctive finger pinch for holding the thread.

Mystical Melody

In Antioch we found musicians trained in the nine raga moods and the japas and talas or rhythmic modes of Indian music, including an accomplished lute player. The lutist was blind, which served our purposes well. He occupied the practice room, and the drummers sat behind a curtain—thus no one could see what we were doing. Svubindra and I then spent six months re-covering the original method of thread-dancing. Working as members of the Company of the Eight, the interior core of a cell, we developed this method in seclusion; then we spent six months to teach and transmit it to the other eight members, the exterior group. Normally, the handover would continue from this point with the exterior eight taking a technique or teaching into the world at large. But we decided to preserve the method of thread-dancing for oral transmission only, and to keep it "under wraps." Facing excessive hostility toward Pagan customs, including their condemnation by the death penalty, and the attribution of evil magic to our sacred practices, we deemed that the time was not favorable to expose such a powerful rite of transmission to the outer world.

With the destruction of the Mysteries shortly after my time, thread-dancing passed into the realm of all things lost and repressed: it suffered the fate of the esoteric. But then, early in the 16th century, something auspicious happened in Northern India. A musician scholar discovered a Sanskrit text, Natya Shastra, attributed to an ancient sage named Bharat Muni. It describes in minute detail aspects of music and dance and magical gestures that enabled the scholar to invent a new instrument, the sarod (sah-rode). Musicians from Persian and India courts collaborated on constructing this instrument, whose name in Persian means "sublime or mystical melody."

The sarod is a formidable object, hand-carved from solid teak with a fretless steel fingerboard. It is covered in goatskin and has deerhorn bridges to support 25 metal strings. There are four main strings to carry melody, four for the principle notes of the raga chosen for performance, and two for drone and rhythm. The remaining 15 strings are "sympathetic," tuned to the scale of the raga. The sarod is plucked with a java, a plectrum made from a coconut shell. The greatest living master of the sarod is Ali Akbar Khan.

Sarod music uses the accompaniment of the tabla, the traditional pair of Indian drums. Table and sarod together provide the musical support for the mudras of thread-dancing, coordinating the right hand to the hard plucking of the metallic strings and the left to the drums.

Thread-dancing to the accompaniment of sarod music is possible today, but this is not a performance art. Like Flamenco dance, thread-dancing can be viewed but it is never done solely to be viewed. It is done intentionally for magical purposes, including healing and casting spells, or dispelling them.

I, Lydia of Damascus, offer this true story of a mysterious rite that connects the transmigrations of humanity to the galactic source, the Pleroma. It is an act of beauty and a kinetic gateway to higher perception. In this case, I will observe the vow of my cell that thread-dancing be restricted to oral-only transmission. I welcome the conversations that will permit this transmission in the time and setting that life presents.







Material by John Lash and Lydia Dzumardjin: Copyright 2002 - 2018 by John L. Lash.