A Black Tent Temple   7 comments

A Red Tent Temple

A Red Tent Temple. Just imagine this in black and purple…

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Red Tent Temple movement, which started in 2007 and grew out of the popularity of Anita Diamant’s book The Red Tent.

Although I have no personal experience with it – nor have I read the book – the Red Tent Temple movement, as I understand it, is focused on creating a sacred space for women, initiation of young girls into womanhood, and building community.  There are shrines, tents decorated lavishly with gorgeous red textiles, and comfortable intimate lounging spaces where women get together and share personal stories about their lives.

I support and honour the spirit of what this movement is doing (and I love the cozy, inviting décor of the tents!)  We desperately need spaces like this in a misogynist culture, and anything that supports women’s healing, allows room for emotional catharsis, and counters shame about our bodies and female-ness in general is all right by me.  Still, it’s all a bit too colourful, New-Age, and parenting-focused for introverted cave-dweller types and committed non-parents like me.

Nonetheless, I am thoroughly inspired by what they’ve done, and it only adds fuel to my own desires.  For more than ten years I’ve had dreams and visions in which I construct and maintain something that might very well be called a Black Tent Temple.  This temple is a space of deep silence, creative incubation, emotional catharsis, restorative ritual, and contemplation for the darkly inclined (whatever their gender identity may be.)  The carefully chosen décor of the Black Tent Temple issues an invitation: Come in.  Enter into the cave-like sanctuary and envelop yourself in darkness.  Drink some tea.  Immerse yourself in the world of evocative dark ambient music, or take refuge in the depths of inner silence.  Honour your ancestors and the spirits of the dead.  Walk the labyrinth.  Take space to meditate, to grieve or to mourn.  Take solace in solitude.  Take part in devotional dark fusion temple dances.  Wear a mask, a veil, or a black ritual robe.  Gaze into the black obsidian scrying mirror, let the spirits speak, and see what you find there.  Make an offering at the shrine of the Earth Serpent, or pay your respects to the chthonic gods, spirits, and guardians of the underworld.

I doubt the Black Tent Temple will ever be as popular as the Red Tent Temple, and perhaps that is as it should be.  But I am convinced that we need well-designed and appropriate spaces for this in our culture, and as a temple keeper it is an important part of my Work to build and maintain such a space.  Pagans have very few spaces set aside for their dedicated religious use anyway, and dark Pagans have even fewer.  Not everyone who is attracted to the darker side of religious experience in a contemplative, monastic, or artistic sense is interested in joining an occult lodge, magical group, coven of witches, Heathen kindred, or esoteric society.  The Black Tent Temple is a nice alternative.

One of the best things about a Black Tent Temple is that it’s something I can pull together in almost any appropriate space, given the right tools and enough lead time.  I don’t need to wait until I find the perfect location to build a dark Pagan sanctuary for the long-term.  I can give the space a cavelike, tentlike, mysterious feel with dark textured fabrics, overstuffed black and purple pillows, subdued red lighting, furniture draped with canopies, thick velvet curtains, and so on.  I can create the right mood with an enclosed meditation corner, shrines for the dark divine, and appropriate spaces for dark fusion temple dance.  I love to feel secure and unseen, hidden away from the insanity of the world; this is the feeling I’ve tried to capture with the current incarnation of the Black Stone Hermitage, since it’s located in a small one-room flat that is also used as my living space.

A peek inside the meditation studio

A peek at the textiles inside the meditation studio at the Black Stone Hermitage

And, of course, I can choose music for the Black Tent Temple that facilitates trance and invites contemplation.

Recently I saw a YouTube comment on a raison d’être video describing the track (“Ascension de Profundis“) as “monastic ambient.”  I thought that was quite an apt phrase –  it captures the introspective, contemplative feel of most of the dark ambient music I love so much.  In a previous entry I wrote that my passion for dark ambient music is so intense that it could “almost be called religious.”  Perhaps I should drop the “almost.” Listening to really good dark ambient transports me, helps me slip into trance…and makes me feel more spiritually connected than I’ve ever felt in any church or religious service.  That is why I dance to it.  And it also helps lead me into the silence.

“…you listen to the silence, and everything is open…”
Huldufólk 102

Ultimately, I want the Black Tent Temple to facilitate the experience of deep inner silence.  There are very few places to experience this kind of silence in the culture of my upbringing, and I feel the weight of this lack every day, as I am easily over-stimulated.  I am reminded of a passage I like from a book that helped me get acquainted with my Serpent Muse:

“The “key” of inner silence is useless as long as it remains a concept.  But when this concept becomes more of an experience, it will open doors within you that have been shut all the while, doors that would allow you to experience the essential timeless, ageless, boundless, infinite nature of life.  This silence exists at the core of all existence.  It is the void, the womb, and the “ground zero” that continually gives birth to the new and swallows the old.  Indeed, it underscores what it means to be a human being.  The word human comes from the root word humus meaning earth.  So you come from the dirt of the earth and shall return to it.”

– Shri Yannan, Serpent’s Dance: Secrets of Self-Mastery

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7 responses to “A Black Tent Temple

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  1. I really love this idea. As an introvert, I need to have those moments of inner silence to function well, but it is difficult to come by in my hectic life. And sometimes my taste for darkness, silence and contemplation is not understood very well by my fellow pagans however much I appreciate them. So I try to make moments where I don’t speak, when I dress all in grey and black, when I light a dark candle and meditate on the gifts of sadness, mourning, and endings… but I would love to be able to go to a Black Tent, I have to say. And well I just learned my power animal was a bat, so…

    • I’m glad to hear that you love the idea of creating a Black Tent Temple – I do, too! Feel free to take the idea and run with it. I’d love to hear about what you come up with. I’m actually kind of surprised that I seem to be the first person to post about it. I did a search online on the phrase “Black Tent Temple,” and it returned no hits at all (until I made this post, that is – now this blog is the only hit!)

      I know what you mean about the general lack of understanding, even in the Pagan community, regarding the value of darkness, silence and contemplation. There are very few places in our culture where it is acceptable to allow ourselves to mourn our losses, open ourselves to the deep silence, and embrace melancholy and all that is shrouded in mystery. There seems to be a great deal of fear and misunderstanding about anything that’s considered ‘too dark,’ and we often try to look the other way or distance ourselves from it. Great beauty, wisdom, and solace can be found in dark places, but it takes a certain kind of courage to explore those places. It helps to have an environment where this kind of experience would be considered appropriate.

      I wish I’d had a Black Tent Temple available to me when I was grieving the loss of my 14-year marriage. I would have made frequent use of it, and I think it would have helped me heal.

  2. YES I want to make , build a Black tent, for help w/ both women and men with sexual abuse issues. like rape, incest, sexual abuse of any sort ! Thanks ! love Michaela Maestas, Shabeta’s Red Tent , ABQ., NM

  3. Pingback: The Black Tent Temple: A Space for Incubation and Endarkenment | The Black Stone Hermitage

  4. Pingback: The Black Tent Temple Project Update | The Black Stone Hermitage

  5. Pingback: A Black Tent Temple by Gerrie Ordaz | The Black Stone Hermitage

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