As Above So Below – Hermeticism, Ancestors & The World Tree

Emma Kathryn Avatar

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“That which is below is like that which is above, and that which is above is like that which is below, to perform the miracles of one only thing.”
― Hermes Trismegistus

Most people with even just a passing interest in occultism and magick will have heard the phrase ‘as above so below’ at some point. Sounds poetic doesn’t it? But there is a truth in this and the other hermetic principles, though as the Wheel of the year turns towards Samhain, it is this principle we will discuss in relation to ancestor worship, spirit work and the axis mundi.

The axis mundi can be described using the imagery of the world tree, separated into four parts (some may view it as having three sections, but the underworld cannot be ignored). The roots then, delve deep into the underworld, (or within Vodou, the abysmal waters, the place where the spirits of the dead, or at least the ti bon ange, await reclamation), anchoring the tree in solid foundations. Next we have the trunk of the tree relating to the mundane or material realm, the place where we reside. Above the mundane realm, we have the celestial, the realm of the sun, moon, stars and planets, corresponding to the lower branches of the tree. Above this realm, corresponding to the most aerial parts of the tree, the canopy, is the spirit realm.

The aim of many magickal workings, if change is to be affected, is to ascend or descend the axis mundi to the required level, and it is here that the famous axiom comes into play.

‘As above so below’ refers to the fact that the laws that govern on the macrocosm also govern within the microcosm. If we look at this in terms of very basic physics, then it is easy to see that the laws that operate within the universe do so here on Earth too. Within witchcraft then, we use this principle when we undertake any kind of spirit work including ancestor worship, and let’s face it, as Samhain approaches, this is very much in the forefront of many a witches mind.

In terms of ancestor worship and working with our beloved dead then, the first step is to remember them as they were. Remembering them as they were in the microcosm, though they now exist beyond this world, in the macrocosm. This includes their likes, dislikes and everything that made them uniquely them. This is why so many give offerings to their loved ones of favourite foods and drink or leave cigarettes if they enjoyed a smoke in life. Of course in the spiritual realm they have no need of such items now, but the part of them, their soul or spirit, that part of them that comprised their personality does not change. But as well as such offerings, we too must ascend the axis mundi as we hope their spirit will descend and it is at this junction that true spirit work occurs.

“the differences between different manifestations of Matter, Energy, Mind, and even Spirit, result largely from varying rates of Vibrations……the higher the vibration, the higher the position in the scale.”
― Three Initiates, The Kybalion.

So how does one go about traversing the axis mundi? Do not be fooled, it takes time and effort and many cultures the world over have their own methods. Shamanic journeying is one such method, as is trance work and meditation, and learning techniques involved in such practices offers a clear path towards such a goal.When it comes to meditation, of which I consider trance work to be the next step along, experimentation is key, for it is not a one size fits all approach and what works for one practitioner will not work for the next. The point is that we must change our mental state in terms of vibration, if we are to ascend the world tree and an integral part of this is getting to grips with what works for us as individuals.

Setting up a working ancestor altar not only gives you a place where you can honour your beloved dead but gives you a space that also focuses your mind on the task at hand, putting you in the right frame of mind to begin. Here you can burn incense associated with working with spirits as well as any offerings of food, drink or other items the deceased enjoyed in life. This acts as a beacon, if you will, for the spirits of those you wish to call forth and communicate with, allowing them to descend and your own mental state to ascend the world tree.

As the Wheel turns into the dark half of the year, it is the perfect time to honour and work with those who came before. Have a blessed Samhain.

“We do not live in a world of dreams, but in an Universe which while relative, is real so far as our lives and actions are concerned. Our business in the Universe is not to deny its existence, but to LIVE, using the Laws to rise from lower to higher–living on, doing the best that we can under the circumstances arising each day, and living, so far as is possible, to our biggest ideas and ideals. The true Meaning of Life is not known to men on this plane .if, indeed, to any–but the highest authorities, and our own intuitions, teach us that we will make no mistake in living up to the best that is in us, so far as is possible, and realising the Universal tendency in the same direction in spite of apparent evidence to the contrary. We are all on The Path–and the road leads upward ever, with frequent resting places.”
― Three Initiates, The Kybalion.

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