Significant to the rite is the partaking of kykeon, a ceremonial drink generally comprised of barley and other natural substances. Some historians believe that kykeon might have contained trace elements of LSD — due to the presence of ergot, from which LSD is synthesized — and that such may serve as an explanation for the cosmic revelations described from the pilgrimage.
If this was a rite from one of the longest-lasting and influential of culture — a culture that created the classical system, that contributed largely to modern law; that celebrated learning and beauty; that embraced homosexuality and foreign cultures — what would a modern culture look like, if its people were encouraged to journey INWARD, to experience their own firsthand encounters with cosmic truths, instead of being having them handed to us by overlords?
In posing this question to Jefferson Zurna, the mind/body/spirit that makes up one half of magickal psych/drone cosmic folk outfit 3 Moons, as well as a handful of other beautifully-sobriquetted visionary musickal projects, one receives an in-depth commentary on what it is to not take the reigns for one’s own life.
This is a pretty stock answer from Zurna, with complicated layers and levels of meaning, full of insightful references, spun together into personal mytho-poetic arcs.
“Oh and just to be clear,” Zurna continues, “‘they’ means the handful of ultra-rich corporate power players who run vast global corporations which own and operate governments,which make laws and policies favorable to themselves, to the detriment of people and the ecosystems of Earth. About 62 families and their corporations.”
Zurna’s psychedelic political philosophy is echoed in his music, wherein hints of traditional music from around the world is layered with sci-fi electronics and deep wells of reverb and echo — like futuristic reverberations of the Perennial Philosophy. 3 Moons, which is currently based out of Oakland, CA, but began its strange, dreamy, occult-ish half-life in Kansas City, MO, is part devotional hymn, part visionary trance ritual, and part rustic rootsy folk jam.
Zurna and his partner, Dena Goldsmith-Stanley, conjure bizarre alternate realities and lucid astral dream states from a bizarre caravan of unusual, sometimes handmade, home-altered guitars, lead-soldered pedals, and microphones that sound like they’ve been salvaged from a drowned German U-boat. The Americana is tempered with gongs, singing bowls, tape loops, and woodwinds; it can, at times, sound vaguely Turkish or Persian, while quickly side-shifting into an Indonesian jungle, before returning home for a crawfish cookout with a bottleneck blues player, followed by a gnarly punk band.
Reality’s On The Run & Aesthetic Resistance
While the Ancient Greeks may have caravaned to have their heads blown wide open in what sounds like the Greatest Party Ever, the secret teachings and hidden wisdom come, in this age, via media — with records and media being passed around like arcane runes, to be deciphered those by those paying attention.
This answers an inherent criticism, broadly leveled at the entire musical community, and artmakers in general. What’s the point? Why bother making a record, in an age of diminishing album sales and attention burnout? Why do we all do it?
“Music, art, writing: these activities cultivate wisdom, knowledge, self-criticism and transcendence, without which, we are doomed,” says Zurna. “What I notice these days is a fanatical anti-intellectualism — an assault on basic literacy and autonomy that expresses itself clearly in the repugnant sewer of American politics, and the commercialized wasteland of the mainstream. Luckily, reality is alive and well, even though it is now a criminalized outlaw on the run, along with love and freedom.”
Zurna also reminds us that, while the shape of “awakening” is different for each of us, we are all striving and growing towards a common goal. He speaks poignantly on the nature of subculture and community which springs up around all these virulent mutant blues and visionary punk mysticism.
“It’s up to us to resist, and remain vital and aware, and help each other grow,” he says. “We do it in all kinds of ways, [through] noise, zines, punk rock, comedy, painting, poetry, botany, studying mushrooms. We have to shine the lights for one another through these and other means, because that’s the only way we are going to have any light at all. We cannot expect it from anywhere else. The shapes always change, but you know the electric charge of life when you feel it.”
Mapping The Interior: Astronomy of Dreams
Most recently, 3 Moons has released their wonderful Astronomy Of Dreams LP on Moon Glyph records. Despite having dozens of releases across nearly as many projects, Astronomy of Dreams is Zurna’s first vinyl appearance. Vinyl, as a medium, acts as an inward-gazing portal — quite literally a revolution towards the center — which seems an apt analogy for 3 Moons, in particular, as well as an allegory for Zurna’s music as a whole.
Each side of the LP concludes with a sprawling, lengthy jammer based upon a musical mode – “Mars In Phrygian” and “Mercury In Hypophrygian”, as well as an astrological planet. Modes, for those who don’t know, are variations on the regular “major scale”, which allow for endless, intuitive jamming via scales within scales. Astrological symbols, likewise, each represent a different area and function of human life. In this case, Mars symbolizes aggression, force of will, and masculinity, while Mercury stands for ideas and communication. This naturally leads one to wonder about Zurna’s intentions for Astronomy of Dreams, and releasing music/media in general.
In mythology, the planet Mercury is associated with the messenger Hermes, who Zurna calls “the archaic mascot of the Information Age”. He explains that, “Unlike most archetypal figures, who lurk in the violent and erotic dreamstuff beneath the surface of our everyday awareness, Hermes also embodies the social psychology of language and communication. He flies ‘as fleet as thought’ — an image of the daylight mind, with its plans and synaptic leaps, its chatter and overload.”
3 Moons invoke Mercury’s synaptic connections — its “immense electric tangle of words, images, songs, and signals,” as Zurna puts it — on “Mercury In Hypophrygian” with an alphabet of delayed electric pianos and ghostly detuned oscillators, like a lost and mouldering soundtrack from some grainy ‘70s BBC sci-fi psychodrama. “Mercury In Hypophrygian” concludes side B of Astronomy of Dreams, and seems designed as a sonic sigil to set the pairs intentions into flight.
But 3 Moons are not about transcendental escapism, either. Astronomy of Dreams‘ other trance-oriented mantra, “Mars In Phrygian”, sort of sounds like Gurdjieff scoring a space opera with electric harp, phaser, and jajouka panic horns. Mars is the planet of battle, and with this track, 3 Moons are thickly in the fray.
“I’m trying to win small daily battles in the war on reality. I’m on the side of sanity and the well-being of the natural ecosystems of Earth, which includes but is not limited to humanity,” says Zurna. “I’m also interested in larger victories against the Thought Factory and its myriad mechanisms of repression and control.”
Zurna and Goldsmith-Stanley are seemingly drawing influences from all over, from every mystery school and mystical strain. There’s no distinction between “high culture” and “low culture”; they seem as moved by UFO documentaries as Greek myth or Gnostic Christianity. Take for instance, “Nazi Zuni Lulu Annunaki”, which moves through tin hat hollow earth mysticism, or the fire-and-brimstone decayed blues of “This Old Christ”. By infesting your head with luscious, opiated dreams and reveries, 3 Moons imply that once you peel back the ratty, tattered paperback covers, a lot of the messages are the same. What you see is up to you.
Modern Day Chautaquas: Taking It On The Road
3 Moons aren’t merely content to ply obscure psychedelia treatises from the Ivory Tower, either. They’re also devoted road warriors, touring this country over and over, like some modern day Chautaqua.
“Traveling and sharing actual reality with people and different environments is wonderful. Willie Nelson talks about receiving his education this way. I can relate to that,” explains Zurna. “You are exposed to methods of existence previously unimagined, and then things can be integrated into your own practices. This exchange is the most vital aspect of all the art/music/science/thought/spirit/scene/underground goings-on. Things that can only be learned by experiencing life firsthand, outside of a constructed narrative like ‘school’ or ‘the news’.”
“This is a natural and welcome consequence of the creative act, and it has the potential to aid the mending of this world gone wrong,” he hypothesizes.
Astronomy of Dreams is out now on Moon Glyph. 3 Moons are working on a follow-up record of songs based on the Astrological modes, in collaboration with Idaho Joe Winslow, a lysergic Outlaw Blues guitarist and regular collaborator of the project.