Thursday, June 21, 2018

A Prayer to the Mothers

In the world of formal neopagan 'Church' in which I do my work, people are often moved by the news of the day, and the distant suffering of strangers is brought to us in our hands through our media. Whether or not one supports the involvement of religious work in chosen 'causes' it is the plain goal of Wisdom to help people process our reactions to life's troubling events, and choose the best path toward better outcomes. In the Clergy Council of Our Druidry we discussed the creation of prayers and works proper to circumstances as they arise in the socio-political currents.

After a few drafts this arose for me. Writing it brought me up against several bumps in my road to 'topical prayer'.
I believe (not a phrase I start sentences with often) that my progressive values are simple and rational, and conform well to my polytheism, and even to many (not all!) of the tropes of ancient society. So I ought to be able to write a prayer that asks for the kind of good I want, without beginning to cite specific circumstances that I want changed.
(This produced the insight that a prayer tells the gods what kind of world you want, while a spell or charm aims to make specific changes...)

I want to write things that seek what is unarguably The Good, regardless of the times, or the circumstances of this quarter's politics, or the specifics of issues. I believe that by doing so I will advance progressive ideas, since those inhere in nature. Likewise I want the work to remain useful even after whatever current political circumstance may have inspired it has passed away.
I feel the asking-for part of this verges a bit close to the recitation-of-modern-political-norms thing, but I still rather like it. May it be a blessing to the work.

(plain text below graphic)

A Prayer to the Mothers
For the Sake of Children

Let this be a prayer to the Mothers.
To those powers of spirit who bear forth the living
Who nurture the young
Who ladle out sustenance
In the Land, and all kindreds
Among the Gods, you Shining Mothers
And surely among the Beloved Dead
You peace-weavers, home-warders
To you I call.
And Three-fold I call:
To mother Abundance – that all may be kept whole
To Mother Liberty – that all my walk their paths in freedom
To mother Wisdom –that together we may build in peace
Mighty Mothers, protect our children.
The children of my hearth, and of my clan,
Of my town and of my valley, of my mountains or plains.
Let the wanderer’s children be protected as our own.
Let us value humanity before nationality
Let the freedom of persons be honored
Let us value liberty before conformity
Let the compassionate heart be honored
Let us value kindness before severity
So, Mothers of us All, keep you the hearths of our people.
Let The Fire be lit for all who come with a guest’s heart

Sunday, June 3, 2018

A Pagan Pub-sing Folk-roots Discography

If you hang around me for any length of time, you discover that I'm a singer. I mean, I do perform on stage, with L. in a formal way. I'm also likely to burst into song at random nearly any time... sometimes whatever earworm or free-association has appeared in my head, sometimes just nonsense-lyrics to my cats. Nature gave me an acceptable voice, and I've worked it all my life, so I enjoy using it.

A.D.F. (Ár nDraíocht Féin) the Druid order I work in, is rather full of folks like me, in that regard. As a group focused on the pre-Christian religions of Europe, very little is more authentic to the spirit of the Old Ways than the singing of traditional songs. ADF rites are intended to be tuneful, with songs for walking and standing, for worship and for receiving blessings. It helps move us from the atmosphere of a ceremonial temple to that of a joyous village even as we do tight, detailed ritual.
After a cup of mead (or whatev) there is likely to be singing at our campfires. At least here in my region many of us share a certain repertoire, derived from the British and Celtic folk revival of the 70s and onward. We have grown up, musically on some of the same albums and performers, and these songs tend to burst from us at the slightest poke. 

The body of song and music that grows from the culture of the British Isles - England, Scotland and Ireland, to be simple - enjoyed a revival in the 1970s as a style of 'folk-rock'.  The bands and singers below mixed-and-matched, producing albums in multiple styles, varying between unadorned preservation and hot, 1970s psychedelic guitar. They drew their material from the deep wells of traditional music.

Whether Britain, Ireland or Scotland there is a store of folkloric music that has been preserved by scholars and periodically revived by performers. Much of this material is modern, from the age of sailing ships or steam engines - one can find many songs about the dire arrival of the factories. Some is historical, preserving causes and wars long passed. Shape-note church hymns, labor songs, and both celebrations and laments of common living are strung throughout. However many modern Pagans feel that bits and scraps of the kind of old lore we seek are preserved in these songs, sometimes in unlikely places. Shreds of lost English dialects, Gaelicisms in the Irish songs, and the long memory of the farmers and land-bound 'peasantry'. (... forgive me, much of this material is plainly peasant music, though there is a courtly tip) Songs of the seasonal year, planting and harvest, and narratives of spirit contact feel like they hold clues for us.

The albums linked below are core collections that I still recommend both for Pagan material, but also for general pub-singing, bardic circle performances and self-satisfaction on forest walks. It isn't Pagan music, primarily, but it is music that has inspired Pagan bards, and is being preserved folk-style in the mouths of many living singers in homes and at campfires. There's an emphasis on a capella singing and simple performances, though listen for the 70s hi-tech variants of some songs.

For your edicifation, I'll start here. This is Steeleye Span (more below), in recent years, still working. They are the paradigmatic brit folk-rock band, Featuring three or four of the artists I'll detail below, and the incomparable Maddie Prior on vocals. Yeah, it's a boogie...

The Watersons
Perhaps the single most influential album on anglophillic US Paganism is Frost and Fire, by the Watersons. The Waterson family is one of several preserving families for this kind of English singing; Mom, Dad and the kids, at this point. Their kids and grandkids are still singing today.

Image result for frost and fire watersons
This album has a lot of folk-Christian references, if one considers the like of "Jesus Christ nailed to a big Yew tree" to be Christian. Many will recognize the May Carols, and Yule songs, and the many examples of the form and structure of folk versification has instructed many. It also offers a style of singing accessible to good singers who haven't a moment's schooling.

Anything by the Watersons will have some interesting stuff on it. The album "For Pence and Spicy Ale" doesn't seem to be up in entirety, but it has material I still use, as well as Music-Hall silliness such as 'Chickens in the Garden".

As an interlude, here's a Morris side singing a hunting song in the same vocal-group style. As is often the case, one must overlook the modern context of a fox-hunting song, and enjoy the lads singing about their dogs by their names.

The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem
The three brothers Clancy joined with their old friend Tommy Makem to create the sound that brought Irish folk music to the US in the folk-revival years of the 60s. Politically aware but willing to trade on  the old blarney, their singing introduced us to songs revolutionary, idyllic and occasionally drunken, though none of the lads were great drinkers, themselves.

The Irish repertoire in the US is heavily infected with vaudeville, and 'burlesque Irish' is a discernable category, in such gems as "Who Put the Overalls in Mrs Murphy's Chowder". Irish-Americans organized and fought to end the burlesque depiction of the lazy, drunken mick. Nevertheless if you, like me, are one who enjoys an ounce of the best (at a time, let us say) there are some lovely odes to the Water of Life, lots of cultural and nature references, and some good stories. Also this old material is very widely known, among folk-geeks and even those of more regular tastes.
Here's the boys on Pete Seeger's folk-music TV show, back at the dawn of TV time. Links will take you onward into the Clancy rep. The song straddles that Irish line, but it's still sung everywhere. Hang in for an Easter Egg with Pete.

Sea Shanties and Pye-rate songs
Yar, mates, tap the grog, willya? The Age of Sail, the establishment of world-wide deep-sea travels however perilous, and the creation of great national and commercial navies by the European powers led to a category of work and leisure song that is still recalled and sung. The list is uncounted, by me, at least, but here is one of my fave collections. And here's another, from the Smithsonian collections, and a third, with some more popular sing-its.

Shanties are primarily work-songs, the rhythm meant to time and coordinate work with pulleys, ropes and winches. They are ideal for raggedy, fun-time singing, and can spring up unexpectedly...

Silly Wizard

Lest we neglect the northern Gaels and Scots, let me commend the work of the seminal Scots folk band Silly Wizard. Led by the gifted Andy Stewart they adapted Scottish and Irish songs, added an instrumental element that sometimes featured Dougie MacLean on the fiddle, and introduced new songs that have sunk seamlessly into folk performance.
Fun with dialects is part of the joy of folk-music. This thick Scots brogue amounts to English, nearly...
For a more preservation playlist of Jacobite Scots ballads, go here.
Steeleye Span & Pentangle
In the early 70's Steeleye Span, a folk-rock supergroup consisting of Tim Hart, Maddie Prior, Ashley Hutchings, Martin Carthy and others created a modern sound that combined fine a capella vocals with hot electric fiddle and guitar to create a unique sound. Their first 4 or 5 albums, beginning with "Hark! The Village Wait" and "Please To See the King" including the classic "Below the Salt" and "Parcel of Rogues". This music informed the Neopagan and early festival scene, and many filks have seen these songs end up in Pagan circles.
I may not neglect Pentangle, the work of  John Renbourne and Burt Jansch, with their compatriots. Their jazz-influenced approach took a different path from Steeleye's guitar-rock style, but their influence extended to Bob Dylan, who hung with them on his UK travels.
This period of music deserves an article of its own, which I'm not proceeding to at this time. I'll leave you with a band composed of some of the children of these famous players, who are updating the music in their own way.
Sing, my friends, and be happy!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

A Druidic Cosmos Sigil

This sigil has begun to appear more often both in-house in ADF, and randomly out in Pagandom. I was asked for a more complete discussion of the origin and meaning of this fairly complex symbol. I invented this design in the 1990s, some time, as part of an effort to create some evocative line-art sigils to be used in our growing Druidic Occultism. The family of sigils from that effort includes simple signs for the Three Kindreds of Gods, Dead, and Landspirits, and various gates, triskels etc. Out of all of those, the Cosmos Sigil seems to ‘have legs’, as they probably used to say – I don’t keep up.

ADF published some of those sigils in an article, and the Cosmos sigil seems to have begun to appear in google searches for things like ‘Druid Symbols’. It had caught on in ADF to a degree, most commonly used as a symbol of the World Tree. As a result, I think, of Google placement it has begun to appear randomly on handcrafted Etsy items, and most recently in lovely metal tokens from some trans-pacific tokener. Mainly I have refrained from protest or efforts to Get Money – I’ll take my smug pleasure in seeing my work’s influence for reward. 

Slavic and Euro Tree motifs
It brings together a number of influences, along with my personal aesthetic sense about cool occult sigils. One primary influence in the overall structure of the piece is the so-called ‘Tree of Life’ motif common in folk patterns, embroidery and crafts. It is fair to call the symbol a Tree of Life, adapted to our threefold cosmology. I began with a simple stylized tree, with a Druidical three roots reaching down and three branches reaching up. Looking for a way to more directly depict the Underworld and Heavens concepts I placed a display-circle in the center branch, and curved the other two branches in cool pointy crescent. Note the extending center branch or root past the circle.
In the upper circle is the eight-spoked wheel that stands for the turning order of the Heavenly Lights – sun, moon and stars. In the lower circle is the spiral that stands for the swirling Underworld Waters, the wells and springs of the deep. I simple graphic element divides each from the center, because I liked it.

The square, nine-chambered figure in the center represents the manifest world, arising in the tension between depth and height. The figure is a European folk-motif with many meanings – for instance it is the playing-board for the game of Nine-man Morris. In my mind it is specifically the so-called Nine-Chambered Hall of Tara, as sort-of described in the cryptic Irish tale “TheSettling of the Manor of Tara”. So the King is seated in the center, and the Four Kings seated around him, and the Nobles of each king around them.

So, I mean the Cosmos sigil to represent eh whole of what Our Druidry sometimes calls the ‘Vertical Axis’ – the root and crown that reaches from the Underworld Wells to the Center of the Sky, with our whole turning world in the midst. Thus is it both an affirmation of place and power for those who bear, wear or show it, and even a protective symbol, in that it affirms the Way of Things against chaos and ill-turning. May my work have value to The Work.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Tredara Spring 2018

"The" Tredara

On we go!
Here at our own small Pagan sanctuary and community hall, which we call Tredara after the big triple oak in one corner., we are cranking the place up for spring. It is really only fate that has led that to mean that we must be ready for our local Grove's Bealtaine just at the beginning of May, followed by hosting ADF's Annual Meeting at the Grove's Wellspring Gathering at the end of the month. That means that if it rains in april, we have a bit of catch-up to do.
This year we had a bit of catch-up to do. We are also a couple of key staff people short, due to unavoidable attrition.  Fortunately L. and I are retired, and have some time to do the work. We also have our community of friends and volunteers, who have helped in many ways. We'll be ready, bless it...
So, without a lot of typing while I could be mowing and trimming, I'll give you a little tour of some of the pretty, sacred things, including new Shrines.

We have had several styles of shrine to the Earth Mother over the years. Aiming for a once-and-for-all solution, we commissioned this fine piece from artist Sidney Bolam of Bohemian Hobbit Studios. 

She knew just what we wanted, and produced a lovely image, with the figure on both sides so that it can be seen both from the path, and through the windows of the barn's social room
Down the path and over the little stream one reaches the Lower Crossroad, where we have erected a Herm. A Herm is a traditional crossroad shrine to Hermes, Lord of Roads, and the Hellenes have wanted one for some while. We kept this simple, with a square pillar rising from the start of a cairn. Folks will now bring stones when they come to visit, and the cairn will grow in time. There's something just right to me about having a shrine to Hermes, Lord of Magic, down in dark, moist crossroad next to the running water. Sure we're Druids, but witchy is witchy...
Leaving the Barn, and the warm, Earth-Mother's hearth, and passing the Crossroad with due offering, one makes the way up into the Shrine precinct proper.
The dedication to the Landspirits is standing firm, even as we consider how best to gently garden the space around it.
The Ancestor Mound requires more gardening attention, and it gets a full shave every spring, save for the patches of herbs that are establishing themselves.
We are reaching the completion of the vague plan we began with for buildings, shrines and facilities here. The device is nearly built. Now we must spend some years (if fate blesses us) learning what it can do.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Gods and Spirits, Magic and Prayer

“Prayer is a form of magic.” “Magic is applied prayer.” One hears these saws often enough in current discourse about Pagan religion and practical magic. Neither assertion has ever rung the bell for me. I feel as if there is a significant difference between what is done when we pray, and what is done when we work a spell for a practical goal.

Refusing to resort to dictionaries, I assert: “Prayer is a verbal or internal address to a/the deity. Often it includes a request for specific aid, though it may be or include some other conversation. While traditional prayer was often scripted, traditional and uniform, prayer is also often performed ex tempore.” Beyond that description, prayer has the connotation of a request to a ‘higher power’, and the inevitable implication that the request might be refused. “All prayers are answered,” we hear from monotheist apologists, “but sometimes the answer is no.” 

Magic arts, on a different hand, intend to cause effects and not merely to ask for them to be caused. Magic is a body of technique that uses spiritual skills to work the individual will of the magician. This is accomplished, in tradition, by a combination of work with the living spirits, and with impersonal spiritual forces. Allies are gathered, patterns woven, and pressure-points targeted in the clever ways that are also used in engineering or even artistic composition. One expects that once one has built skill that doing the work correctly will produce the desired result, without being dependent directly on the will of any higher power. “Magic always works – if you do it right,” is the basic aphorism here.
To do a little context, magical manuals are full of prayers and instructions to pray, and how to pray. The preparation for high-end ritual magic commonly involves periods of fasting and prayer 

Philosophers have found reason to object to traditional magic because it implies an effort to coerce the gods. This is a reasonable objection – that mortal-level efforts cannot have the juice to coerce a large transpersonal power, any more than we can move a hurricane with fans. Yet traditional magical rites, and the spoken ‘prayers’ they preserve, are full of both invitations and direct commands to deities and to a variety of other spirits. Here we find the point I intend to make in this piece:
Traditional Magic does not depend on asking the gods to accomplish our goals.

I think this is the core reason I find magic and prayer to be separate.
If magic is not based on petitioning and requesting, what is its basis? As I said, it is a combination of relationship between the magician and the spirits, and the magician’s ability to employ impersonal spiritual forces. What can be missed by modern students, especially those who are inclined to apply generalized ‘religious’ principles to Paganism, is that the Gods are not the only focus of Pagan religion and sometimes not even the primary focus. I have a point to make about practical work with the gods, but first let me think about the big kindreds of non-deity spirits that play a part in magical work.

Magic of the Dead
Traditional sorcery is heavily, perhaps predominantly, powered by the Dead. The ‘hordes of spirits’ often summoned to carry out the conjuror’s will are composed of the restless dead – those spirits inadequately settled by rites or fate, whose hunger, lust and anger can be exploited by magic. In our modern lives we are lucky to be far freer from violence than our pre-Christian ancestors could have imagined. Likewise the culture of magical hexing and spellcraft for personal gain at another’s expense is greatly reduced. Many of us work to calm and cool the restless Dead, not to exploit them. 

Ancestor worship is a different matter, concerned with family, affection and reverence. One no more commands ones ancestors than one’s grandparents. Rather we maintain our relationship with the Beloved Dead and they become primary protections and instructors. Spirits from our family lineages may become familiar allies or important contacts, but often they remain background counselors and support.
Folk-magic customs may seek aid from a specific spirit. Customs surrounding graveyard dirt and such tokens may call on a specific spirit in a specific grave. In some places such graves have become shrines of a sort, regularly visited by those seeking aid. Magic has always had it’s ‘saints’, and even post-Christian magic seems likely to continue the tradition. 

That kind of individualizing and personifying can happen with the non-human spirits of nature as well.

Magic of the Land-Spirits
A variety of magical traditions draw on spirits present as plants and animals. To gather herbs for practical magic is to make a pact with the spirit of the herbs. Plants of special power and lore may be more individualized allies – the mandrake is an example of this kind of plant familiar.
More mobile spirits abide in wind and weather, and can be called to aid the magician, along with the shining beings of sun and moonlight. These spirits, along with the spirits of the green world and even the sea often appear in the forms of animals.

My own intuition is that such animal-formed Landwights were frequently the ‘familiar spirits’ of medieval folk-witches.

Lore is full of tales in which spirits appear as ‘chimaeras’. In Greek story the Chimaera was a Titan-spirit composed of lion, goat and serpent. Thus the ancients depicted mighty spirits in this composite way. The Satyrs and Centaurs of the Greeks, the Griffins of the east, even the Water-Horse or Nuckelavee of Celtic lore use animal forms to display the power of the Nature-Spirits.
Lacking a literate remnant of Northern Pre-Christian magic, we can find many examples of chimaera spirits in the grimoire tradition. The spirits called ‘demons’ in the medieval theological atmosphere of the grimoires can easily be understood as Landwights or ‘elementals’, appearing in animal-mixture forms proper to their natures. The medieval Christian cosmology relegated all such beings to demonic status, even the gentle ‘demons’ that teach poetry and herbcraft.

Daemons of the Gods.
It seems reasonable that even the most able mortal should not be able to ‘command’ great transpersonal spiritual forces. Ancient skeptics and modern have wondered why the planetary powers of wind or water should respond to our calls. I think a reasonable answer lies in the ancient understanding of the Daemons. 

In Hellenic Paganism the relations between mortals and the gods are managed through the uncountable number of spirit servants attendant on every deity. These spirits were called ‘daemons’ (or ‘daimons, same pronunciation…) a word derived from roots meaning ‘able to act’. The daemons attended the sacrifices as regents of the deities, receiving the offerings and ‘carrying’ them to the gods, then bearing in turn the gods’ blessings back to mortal rituals. In doing this they acted (as their name implies) as the active powers of the god, and would have appeared and acted as the deity, often bearing the symbols and tools of the god. So if a traveler were visited by an apparition of a fine naked young fellow with wings on his hat, he would likely assume it to be both a daemon of Hermes, and a visitation from the god, unconcerned about the distinction of person that might be involved. 
It is such daemons of the gods that magicians seek to employ in practical magic.(more here) The magic of the Greco-Egyptian Papyri often explicitly invokes gods, asks them to send a daemon (or some daemons) and then commands those agents of the god by the borrowed power of the god. In this way one is not, in fact, claiming to command the mighty power that rules the (whatever) of the cosmos, but only their agent, specially selected for and by your magic to be in tune with you and your desire.
So, I feel as if I might define ‘prayer’ as an attempt to invoke and speak directly to the cosmic principle or higher being of a deity, and to entreat it through supplication (i.e. by asking for something). Magic, in turn, is an effort to bring an active agent of the divine near to the mortal world, and arrange to have them aid your goals. In practice this can be the daemon of a God, or a Landspirit, or one or more of the Mighty Dead. Note that in basic magical theory it is spirits who are closer to the mortal world, to the world of forms, who have power to act in our realm – far more so than the Great Abstractions that might lie at the top of an imagined Platonic ladder.
Prayer can be used as a technique of magic. Often it is a preparatory technique intended to attune the magician to those Great Abstractions and thus make us more suited to speak with the related spirits. As a practical spiritual tech for getting results I can see it being useful perhaps with deities with whom one has developed a long sacrificial relationship. However I can’t see prayer as the equivalent of practical magic, or imagine that it could have magic’s (still imperfect) reliability or effectiveness.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Pagan Rites of Sacrifice

Ancient Hellenic bull-sacrifice
One cannot do any study of the actual ways of ancient European religion, i.e. Paganism in its original forms, without encountering the fact of animal sacrifice, and the rumor of the taking of human lives in ritual. It is undoubtedly true that human sacrifice occurred in most ancient European cultures at one stage or another. However it was never the central element of Pagan religious ritual.
               Let me begin with the word ‘sacrifice’. From the Latin, it means ‘Sacred Work’; and ‘sacred’ means ‘set apart for the work of the spirits’.  While it has come to have connotations of ‘giving up’ and even of loss, to reclaim its sacred power is to affirm sacrifice as a joyous work of connection with the divine. During the work of sacrifice, many offerings may be made, of many kinds. In common language these offerings are often referred to as ‘sacrifices'. This is, in a way, a mis-speaking. To say “the sacrifice” is not to refer to whatever object is the central offering of the ritual, but rather the whole ritual of offering and blessing is, itself, ‘the sacrifice’ – the sacred work. So I find myself enjoying referring to our public Pagan rites as ‘the sacrifices’… feels nice and archaic.
               Secondly, in preface, I mention that the Neopagan Druid system I work in has specifically disallowed live-animal offerings in our rites. We do make many offerings – ale and meal and bread and fruit and even meat, but we admit that we haven’t either the call or the skill to take the life of an animal and butcher it for cooking in ritual.

Classical Indian Fire-Sacrifice
• Animal Sacrifice-offerings 
The basic form of larger, community worship from Ireland to India was a feast, shared with the spirits and graced with poetry and song. The best way to serve meat is fresh, and the terrible truth of the human ability to bring death to other beings required ritualization. So animals were ritually honored then killed, and their meat cooked. In Hellenic rites (of which we have written records) the bones and fat were wrapped in the skin and that was burned on the altar for the spirits. The cuts of meat were cooked and shared with the attendees. In ancient Indian fire-sacrifice it was said that the rite was not properly concluded 'until the poor had been fed'.
Smaller or personal religious rites often made offering through ‘libation’ – the simple pouring of wine, grain or other offerings on the altar of a spirit, or by ‘dedications’ – the giving of gifts of images, inscriptions, altars, buildings, even gold and cash to a deity. This form of offering was, in fact, gaining in popularity in the classical period, and even internal and native philosophies in the ancient world found reason to argue against the ancient customs of animal sacrifice. Modern rites that replace animal-meat feasting with such offerings are only expressing a Pagan-era trend.
• Human Sacrifice-offerings:
Ritual killing of political and criminal prisoners is described among the Celts. Scandinavians are said to have offered human lives before their greatest idols. Greek and Roman myths speak of youths being ‘offered’ to this titan or that monster, and the Romans specifically outlawed human-life offerings (which means that there was something to outlaw) in the years around 100bce. Human sacrifice seems to have had two major kinds, though we have no literate remains of ritual for those that I know of. (Some rites may exist buried in Indian Tantric material). First was the killing of prisoners of war and criminals. This seems to have been done en masse when needed, and to have been somewhat casual and pragmatic. We read, also, that when armies faced one another, the opposing army would all have been dedicated to the gods, so that every life taken in battle was an offering.
Modern Druid Fire-Sacrifice
Personal human sacrifice (the 'virgin youth' sort) had to be voluntary. The lore suggests that an offering such as that would have been intended to 'remake the world' - to restore the essential elements of existence. Bone is given to make stone, flesh to make soil, breath to make the wind, etc. This is, I think, where the occasional claim comes from that the Druids said they had created the world.

To live in the Old Ways was, I think, to seek to live in harmony with the world as it really is. To do so, especially for those living and eating straight from the farm, would seem to require the sanctifying of the fact of death, and the ritualizing of the deed of killing. What is murder? Murder is killing done outside the laws, and without the blessing of sacrifice. So, killing for food, killing for law or religion, even killing for war - the ancients seem to have considered the power to kill to be so sacred that it had to be acknowledged and ritualized. As an exercise we might make an ethical comparison between such an attitude (and recalling that life was cheaper, in fact, in ancient days) and our own culture of sanitized, mechanized, and commoditized killing.
• The Takeaway: ‘Sacrifice” is the sacred work of offering to a god or spirit (the gods or spirits), often as offerings of food and gifts as if for a noble guest. Animal-life offering, while common in the ancient world, is not mandatory in modern work. Human sacrifice was already passing away in Pagan times, and need never be contemplated in ours.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Two New Books (Sort-of) part 2

Pagan Spells: Rites for Conjuring Spirits
I’ve been working, for some years, on devising an approach to spirit-arte that preserves the
inheritance of European sorcery and occult tradition, while being adapted for modern Neopagan, polytheist and animist perspectives. It is common in our Neopagan movement to look to the ideas and methods of surviving world spiritist traditions for clues in how to deepen and focus Pagan spiritual work. However the direct heritage of literate, post-European occult tradition contains a large body of spirit-contact tradition, in the form of the magic of the grimoires.
               The magical methods of the manuals called ‘grimoires’ are a direct inheritance from the late-classical world, a time when polytheism was giving way to fashionable monotheism, but the ancient traditions were also being preserved by hidden practitioners. This preservation would become the ‘western occult’ traditions, and would produce, much later, the ‘solomonic’ tradition of ritual spirit-contact. That tradition became, in later centuries, closely connected to both the Christian mythology and spiritology, and to an antagonistic approach to those spirits labeled ‘demons’. These elements have often turned modern Pagan occultists away from investigation of grimoire-magic.
               In the past decade, new research has revealed the direct heritage of classical Paganism in the grimoire rituals and theology. This has led me to look for ways to adapt the method of grimoire spirit-arte to a polytheistic and animist mythos, with reciprocity as the basis of the work. I published a fairly detailed synthesis of the results as “The Book of Summoning”.
               In spring of 2017 I cleaned out my notebooks and published a small spellbook. I soon realized that the material contained almost everything needed for a simple, sorcery-at-home version of spirit-conjuring and spellcraft with spirits. The voices in my head that serve as my self-publishing editors and consultants assigned me to redo it as a formal, step-by-step simple grimoire, adding a few charms and spells to the back-matter.
               The result is my most concise instruction to date in using a polytheist, offering-based ritual system (the sort presented in my other new book “A Guide to Pagan Worship”) for the occult work of making specific alliances with spirits. Like most of my work it by-passes the ‘Golden Dawn’ era of correspondences and lodge-based ritual work. Drawing on archaic, Triadic cosmology, and a broader system of conceiving the classes of spirits I hope it can be usable/adaptable by those working a variety of ancient pantheons and cultural modes.

               I apologize to those who might have bought the first edition of this (there were a number… and thanks). There is probably 20% of additional material in this new addition. I will note that almost all the text (in the original edition, and this one) is new writing, and not self-plagiarism.
               Those who are interested in non-Wiccan ritual styles, drawn from the Pagan tradition of offering and blessing, will enjoy the form of the work. Much of the outline and language could also be used by those working a Wiccan-style four-quartered circle. I hope that the work helps contribute to a livelier relationship with the Spirits among modern Pagans.

Order from this link.
Lulu commonly offers discount codes. As of this writing one can get 10% off the price, plus free shipping (actually a nice deal) with the checkout code BOOKSHIP18 (case sensitive).