Ashlesha Nakshatra is the celestial snake constellation.
The stars in the head of the Hydra form Ashlesha.
The word Ashlesha is comes from the root Shlesha, which means to entwine or to wrap around.
This is one of the Nakshatra’s that has a collective as its presiding deities.
Review also the text on the collective deities called the Vishwadeva who dwell upon the Nakshatra of Uttara Ashada.
The collective deities of Ashlesha are the Naaga serpents. In the course of this text we will be looking at some of the implications of the Naaga serpents.
It is a vast and fascinating subject that we will attempt to look at from the stance of this ritual work.
There are many mythologies of serpents in the Yogic teachings that carry encoded teachings. Consider that Shiva wears the serpent Vasuki around his neck.
Vishnu rests upon the serpent with an infinity of heads who is known as Ananta Shesha.
Ganesh wears the Serpent belt around his thick waist.
Krishna battles with the venomous serpent Kaliya.
Or the serpent.
Buddha was sheltered from the storm for seven days and nights by the Mukhalindh.
These are just a few serpent teaching symbols and stories of Yogic wisdom.
Khodiyar Maa is also a Tantric Goddess connected to the Naaga serpents. You can review a past text about Khodiyar Maa here.
The constellation of Ashlesha Nakshatra brings us the teaching of the etheric serpents that the Yogins call the race of the Naaga.
These serpents relate to the Kundalini serpent of the central spinal channel in a direct and yet subtle way. The Naaga energies are the basis of reality. They are the etheric matter that informs all phenomena from behind the veils of awareness.
How the celestial serpents relate to our experience of the personal Kundalini phenomena will be a study of this nights ritual. The ritual of Naaga Panchami spans India across many thousands of miles, there are many unique and particular regional celebrations and rituals that mark this festival. The sun is in Ashlesha Nakshatra between the 3-16 of August and this is when the ritual of Naaga Panchami takes place. It is ritualised on the 5th lunar night.
Naaga Panchami is a time when snakes are most present and prevalent on earth.
It is a time when the snake constellation of Ashlesha spreads its teaching to us on earth. The 5th lunar day is known as Panchami. It is the Moon phase that is sacred to the Naagas, rather interestingly, Ashlesha consists of 5 stars in the head of the Hydra constellation.
The 5th lunar day is a day of release and reception of lunar and etheric force. Every Panchami is reserved by Tantrics for work with the snake energy. But Naaga Panchami is the main Panchami of snake power in the Tantric calendar.
Celestial Snakes & the Doors of Perception
The Naagas inhabit the deep subterranean realms that are beyond the reach of Moon and sun. Naaga Lokh is the world of the Naaga. It is a place of unparalleled beauty and is described in the Yogic mythologies as the most beautiful paradisal realm where the most splendid jewels and treasures are to be found. The jewels of Naaga Lokh are described as radiating their own light and thus lighting the dark world of the Naaga from within.
How do we respond when we hear of a subterranean realm without light that is inhabited by serpents?
We may make interpretations according to the customs and thought forms assigned to the archetypes of our culture.
This highlighted sentence is central in getting an insight into the energies of Ashlesha. The Naagas are the underlying energy essence of phenomena.
Akash is their element and this is the subtle-most ‘physical’ element. Akash is the etheric element that is described by the Yogins as the subtlest of the 5 elements Pancha Bhoot elements.
Akash gives sense to phenomena at the most fundamental level.
Let us take a practical example of these principles that so easily can start to sound like mere wordy metaphysics:
Maybe we are blessed enough and used to living in a fine house with fresh running water. Perhaps we have a soda-stream machine that gives us access to refreshing sparkling water. Perhaps we even have a refrigerator to tune the water to our exact preferred temperature.
Now, if we were to pass a puddle of muddy water in the street, we would not think much of it, and would most probably seek to avoid stepping into it.
But the self-same puddle of dirty water would be a prize for someone else.
We all know that there are parts of the world where drinking water in very scarce. For someone living in such a situation, the dirty puddle water becomes highly precious. It is still the same puddle, but it has a different value put upon it that is relative to the situation.
In the same way, for some, a snake is a terrible creature denoting sin and the very opposite of spirituality, to others it is a sacred creature.
Some view the regions below the earth as infernal pits of damnation, but for some, they are regions of beauty and paradise.
It is the thought form that is assigned to the symbol, that creates the symbol.
A muddy puddle can verily be a source of life, or a thing of disgust. The same with a snake, which can be a divinity or a devil, or the underworld can be beautiful or ugly, horror or wonder!
The energy that we assign to phenomena is not in the thing itself, but in us.
The Tantric’s call this underlying force the Akash element that informs all phenomena and creates phenomena to be what we turn it into.
The snake is either a devil or a divinity depending upon the underlying Akash element that we shape in the furnace of the soul. We can think of ourselves as a blacksmith that is ever shaping and creating reality.
Knowing that we are giving meaning to everything around us, does not offer us any solutions to extricate ourselves from the meanings we assign to phenomena.
We might be disgusted by the same thing that someone else is inspired by, but the energy that assigns disgust or inspiration to phenomena is in the realm of the deep unconscious.
It is in the realm of the Naagas, in a realm of no external light, but a realm with internal light that creates from the inside out. Remember that Naaga Lokh has only internal light that emanates from its jewels. We could liken Naaga Lokh to the unconscious underworld workshop of the blacksmith soul that fashions reality based upon unconscious impulses.
The Tantric works with the Akashic element that is ever creating reality and assigning meanings to things.
What happens when we un-invest the energy of meaning from phenomena?
What happens when we relinquish our thought forms and see reality without the coloured lenses of the unconscious world?
Here written in his own hand, the 19th century English mystic William Blake encapsulated this in a few verses thus:
When we travel to the underworld of Akash that is deep within the caverns of creation in our soul, we encounter the Astral serpents that live in our soul.
The Naaga Akash beings are like astral energies that whisper with lisps, slivering deeply, silvery and silently behind the lens of our life experience.
The realm of the Naaga is created by our personal Karmic impressions. Things such as cultural, religious and ancestral energies, travel deeply into the underworld and live in the unseen.
Such things enter invisibly into the hidden realm because they are so fundamental to the fabric of our being. Cultural, religious, ancestral and gender energies are often part of the consensual reality that we are woven and intertwined with. But it is a question of relativity of notion, that is nourished by focused attention with no actual basis in naked reality.
The established codes of culture and civilisation might even run contrary to nature?
The Tantric does attempt to move into the naked reality, while acknowledging and moving within the consensual streams of realty that prevail in the life they live move and have their being within.
The 19th century French Occultist Eliphas Levi had popularised the principle of the Astral light. This is worth mention here because it has parallels to the Subject of the Naagas element of Akash.
The Astral light is a term that Levi much popularised in the area of occultism. The Astral light is a neutral substance that pervades and underlies all phenomena. Levi’s system of occultism worked very much with imbuing the astral light with one’s intention through working with one’s Will and Imagination.
Tantrics recognise this absorptive quality of the etheric substance to take on the character that we impress upon it. Though we often impress upon the Astral light or Akash element in an unconscious way, it is possible to effect the phenomena of our lives by wilfully manipulating the underlying energy behind manifest phenomena.
The Tantric branches that deal with healing, seek not so much to imbue the Akash element with one’s will, as they do to un-imbue or un-invest it from the energy of will and imagination.
Tantra covers a broad spectrum and scale of practices and practitioners, a practitioner of Tantra can be a magician or a healer, or both.
In the healing arts of Tantra, the practitioner attempts the healing of the vision through approaching the pure perception that was so beautifully versed by William Blake in the quote above.
Rather interestingly, Levi called the Astral light the great Serpent. He described the astral light as being a serpent like receptacle that is open to receive and reflect back all the deviations and pollutions of consciousness.
He describes the Astral light to originally consist of pure energy which can take in all manner of spiritual pollution and distortion of reality, ranging from a slight blemish upon the face of reality to downright toxicity. Once invested of inceptions and deviations from pure awareness, the astral light has the ability to bite back like a serpent and cause spiritual and physical suffering. Levi described the astral light as being a mirror of our consciousness that connects our inner reality to the pure energetic essence. The scale of deviation from the essence reality is vast. Levi said it gives us back what we put into it.
Levi also hinted that the astral light takes on collective energies and creates a mass-consensual-reality that reverberates back as psychic and even physical events such as collective waves of consciousness and happenings of collective tragedies such as epidemics.
Without digressing too far off topic, it is worth noting how the Russian Occultist H. P Blavatsky said that the ability to access the universal Akashic Chronicle is dependent upon how good a contact one has with the unembellished form of Astral light. She implies that memory becomes opaque if we do not do the work of purifying the thought forms that live in the personal and collective Astral light with which we are intertwined. The process of extracting ourselves from the thought forms of the astral light is a rather universal theme across the magical systems of many cultures.
Even in the Kabbalah, we see the spiritual map of taking back the symbols and moving towards the pure manifest.
Those who would like to read further into these subjects are recommended to read any of the books by Eliphas Levi, such as A History of Magic, translated by A. E Waite, and Isis Unveiled by H. P Blavatsky.
These books were written a few decades before the close of the 19th century, but they underlie many of the Spiritual notions that have become inherited into the Western spiritual tradition, the ideas presented in these books inform much that came after.
Shedding the Skin
We have looked at the Astral light as an analogy of the Akash element of the Yogins that underlies and informs all phenomena.
Let’s look a bit more into how one would go about the act of freeing oneself from the encasements that wrap themselves around the soul.
Through the course of our souls journey, we develop skins, some of which we shed, some which we keep. Costumes and Uniforms around the soul might be a way to navigate the many terrains of existence, We shift in and out of characters to suit the situations we find ourselves in. Some situations in life are restrictive and some give us the liberty and space to be free.
Perhaps there is a way to gain the inner liberty to shift between forms without feeling the poles of freedom and restraint?
This is a question to ponder.
What would it take to feel unrestricted by situations around us?
Maybe if we are not inwardly restricted, then we wouldn’t feel restricted by ‘outer’ happenings?
To become so predictable as to react to outer situations and phenomena in a clockwork manner, is the very opposite of liberty.
Ashlesha can be translated as the restricter.
This Nakshatra brings us the awareness of what it is that restricts us from without. The gift and awareness of Ashlesha is to find that the outer restricter lives within the Akash element within us.
This Nakshatra presents us with a profound teaching.
Some might never look at the outer as being a reflection of the inner.
The Tantric’s attempt to look.
Shedding the skin like a snake is no easy thing. When a snake sheds its skin, it is in a state of hyper sensitivity and vulnerability. It is even temporarily blind. It is the time when the snake is most exposed and prone to attack. Losing our skins, even the ones that are comfortable and familiar and yet squeeze the life out of us, is to enter into the nakedness and sensitivity of the snake at the time of shedding. This is a lesson that the snake transports to us.
The vulnerable place is a place of power. It is a transitional rite of passage but it’s not only easy sailing and pleasant.
Tantric’s approach the vulnerable place. When the vulnerable place is lost. We become encased. The avoidance of the vulnerable place is not strength, but stiffness.
When we approach the vulnerable place, the body heart and spirit melt.
Stiffness of mind, body and heart mask the wound. The only way to approach the vulnerable place is to have courage.
Shiva has the Naaga king named Vasuki wrapped around his throat. Shiva is the Yogic god who symbolises among many things the awakened Kundalini.
Kundalini is a heavily loaded word, Kunda is the pot at the base of the spine that houses the coiled Shakti energy,
Kundala is a swinging vibration. When the energy from the pot is freed, it creates a psycho/physical circuit of energy that gives the sensation of a swinging vibration.
Some of the Tantric practices create this sensation rather immediately, this inner swing is visited and gradually cultivated, it can become a perpetual inner motion of Shakti.
Kundala is also the literal word for the earring that Shiva and many Yogins wear.
It is a type of earring that swings side to side when one walks.
To wear the Kundala earrings is a meditation technique in itself that some Tantrics practice.
It involves becoming aware of the swing and sensation in the ear, and meditating thereon.
At advanced levels, the practitioner of the way of the Kundala earring starts to synchronise breath and Mantra with the swings of the Kundala.
The Kundala offers a practice of the utmost awareness.
By becoming acutely aware of our conscious actions, we gain insight into the underlying unconscious elements that inform consciousness.
A particular weight is selected according to the capacity of the practitioner. The piercing of the ear connects with the sexual Nadi (energy channel) and has a subtle effect upon the Sexual Chakra, which in turn affects the Kundalini.
The Jewel of Ashlesha
The Naaga Snakes of Yogic Mythology are said to be the Keepers of the Naagamani. This is a jewel of great healing power. It is said that very old Cobras have this jewel inside them. Some Tantrics believe that it is in the throat Chakra of the snake, while some say it’s in the crown Chakra of the snake. It is said to be a stone with magical healing powers that is very rare to come by. Some have postulated that the jewel is the dried venom glands. Others say that it glows in the dark. Some have taken the jewels to be the innermost power of the Chakras.
In the following section, we will apply a meditation of looking into the Jewels within.
The Kundalini rises as the Jewels of the Chakras are polished and refined. The polishing of the Chakras is the healing of the Akash element from its inceptions and energy investments.
The Chakras carry skins that are sometimes blocking the opening of the Shakti in the pot. This Shakti in the pot is known as Kundalini.
By looking at our Chakras and studying the psycho/physical energies of these power stations, we get insight into the coverings that might be obscuring the self-illuminating radiance of the Chakric jewels.
Tantric’s speak of the 3 Granthis which are sometimes called the 3 cities, or the 3 jewels. Untwining the Granthis is the un-obscuring of the jewels.
- The realm of the lower Chakras, which are linked to the creative force and is called the Brahma Granthi. This is the knot upon the creative force. When untwined, the Kundalini force moves from this point.
- The heart region, is the preservational force which is linked to Vishnu and is called the Vishnu Granthi, this is the knot upon the heart. When untwined, it opens the heart.
- The throat/head Chakras, which are the realm of Shiva the destroyer. Known as the Rudra Granthi. Its untwining is the destruction of all formulated realities.
Meditate on these 3 areas in your body and spirit.
Look into the 3 jewels by way of contemplation, and ask yourself the following questions by letting your psychic vision unfold the teachings of the 3 jewels.
- What is the condition of your base, creative and solar plexus Chakras. How does the jewel of this realm appear?
- What is the condition of the Heart Chakra. How does this jewel of the heart realm appear?
- What is the condition of the jewels in the realm of Shiva, spanning the throat to the crown Chakra. What does the Jewel that has the power to destroy reality have to tell you?
The many bites that destiny delivers to us are our lessons.
Some bites can be mild, maybe even pleasurable. Some bites can inflict venom and be paralyzingly painful.
The outer bites might come to us in many forms and mediums. Outer bites become inner bites and cause us to bite back until we have our teeth well sunken into the realm of the Naagas, and be chewing away at a corner of personal reality.
Personal tragedies can be like a sharp bite to the heart. Financial, existential or health struggles can be like gnawing, chewing bites. Accidents and injuries can be like sudden bites.
In this here reflection, identify 3 bites that destiny has delivered to you.
- Identify a bite first on the physical level. Perhaps you have a physical symptom or had an accident or operation that causes you discomfort.
- Next, identify a bite that destiny delivered to your heart. Maybe a personal loss or any other cause for heartfelt lament.
- Identify a Mental bite, meditate deeply on the things that move through your mind. Maybe regular thoughts or phrases, maybe you labour under a conviction that might be causing you suffering. It might not be so easy to separate the mental from the feeling level, but try in your own way to access your mental body and discover your mental bite.
Some bites might be slowly poisoning and venomous, some might be drinking blood quietly in the background unnoticed. When we silence inner and outer happenings by applying contemplation or Tantric practices, we sometimes get an insight into the bites that live behind the surface.
Silence and contemplation has often been a key component in Tantric practice.
Silence and contemplation offers a route to sink behind the surface layers and gain vision of that which lives in the undercurrent of our being.
Sometimes the wish for, and the seeking after many external waves in our lives is an attempt to escape the undercurrents of the soul.
Deep healing of the soul and spiritual empowerment comes from traveling to the undercurrents.