Saturday, July 23, 2016

Genuine Starwood!


Starwood 36; 2016
So, not a ‘review’ or even a puff-piece so much as my personal impressions and musings. Moral of the story: come to Starwood.

Bam!
My joke at the end of the event this year was that the five-hour drive from our organizing center to the site requires us to bring the event in what amounts to a pop-up can. We arrive, pull the tab and the event inflates. If only…

This year’s Starwood Festival, the 36th annual, saw a new stage of growth and maturity in the on-site management. Our ‘maturation’ has been anything but a straight-line process, with various side-steps along the way, and presently we’re growing out of our move from a site of twenty years to a new location. That has meant redesigning our program spaces and materials use, usually on an as-arrived, ad-hoc basis. After all nobody pays us to do this stuff. This year we got it right. Our new wave of volunteers has solidified, our understanding of the required logistics is clear… why, it’s almost like we knew what we were doing!

Hot weather punctuated by short but exciting thunderstorms kept the clothing to a minimum, with clothing-optional temperatures from dawn ‘til dawn. Wisteria has made a major improvement in roads and paths, and the rain produced far less slippery mud than previously; kudos to the camp for ongoing improvements – better showers, improving electrical, etc. I believe this was Wisteria’s 20th anniversary as a self-invented intentional community and business, and that feat alone is worthy of applause.

Kids and grownups together
at Creation Station.
But enough in-house musing – it was a great Starwood! Efforts at budgetary control meant that we spent a bit less on our main stage, but there was no shortage of music, both there and at two smaller stages. Most days say lunch and dinner concerts at the kitchen and tavern venues, and a main concert in the evening along with scheduled side-jams. Yes that’s right – the Green Man Tavern is restored to us, this year with a selection of craft-brews from Athens’ brewers. Happy hour was consistently happy.

Overnight temps in the high 60s meant all-night clothing-optional living, and the Drum-Fire in Wisteria’s Paw-Paw patch rocked all night, every night. Located down in the dell the drums aren’t deafening for most camps, but it’s so nice to sleep to the rocking roll of the rhythm… ah yes… This year saw the return of some classic drum-fire personal, making it a particularly good year for that end of the festival.

Our workshop list continues to offer everything from sorcery to sustainability, to art & music, from this year’s progressivism to high-concept speculation on the future. I was very pleased to be included on a panel with David J Brown, Oberon Zell, Phil Farber and Harvey Wasserman discussing the future of consciousness-arts following the legalization of cannabis. One of my goals for the next years is to bring equally high-level occult and Pagan programming back to full-measure. At our thirty-sixth year we have suffered some attrition, with kinsfolk like Isaac Bonewits and Margot Adler traveling on. We have spaces to fill, and a platform to offer to new voices.

The ritual menu was also reasonably full, though the Druid sacrifice was rained out (yeah, well…)
One of the ritual sites
and we couldn’t wangle a Gnostic Mass (OTOites, we wanna help). The Alchemical Fire, as designed by Magnus McBride, is becoming a fixture of the event, and the Labyrinth provides an unstructured yet powerful contemplative opportunity. Workshop-based meditations, healings, gongings and other para-spiritual activities rounded out the offerings.

I was pleased with my own activity this year. Having extricated myself from much of the physical labor I was able to concentrate on my program elements, and things went well. I did my two-parts on Pagan spirit-arte which were somewhat more raggedy in the woods, without visual support, and in 75-minute slots, but seemed well-received. L. and I performed twice, once in the café and once in the tavern. I was able to take some control of my schedule this year; I appreciate when the team views me as top-o-the-bill and puts me all on Saturday, but these days I get rather worn by the end of my 9-day woods fun.
 
The Pawpaw Patch
drum-circle, morning...
The Starwood Bonfire has been the trademark of the event since year one. It is simply true, if immodest, to say that Starwood helped to invent and develop fire-and-drum-circle culture, inspired heavily by that first big fire on Saturday night. Over the years, as Starwood has grown and receded with economic tides, what began as a hot fire-party for 200 turned into a wild carnival for 1,000, with a stack of wood as big as a house. As we have settled in at Wisteria we have been looking for the right combination of size and activity to hold on to that wild spirit as the years pass along.

This year we did pretty well. The fire was scaled back in diameter, but I noted that the central stack of the three-tiered fire was quite tall. The fire-tribe has worked for years to develop fire-models that fall safely inward and downward, and that makes a 25’ center-stack possible even in a smaller fire. This year’s fire blew up real good, as usual, and then produced a footprint that allowed the crowd to approach and dance without being roasted. We’re still developing an entertainment model that allows some ‘performances’ that don’t interfere with the general dance, but we had a good night, ending with the miraculous pancakes of dawn.

And under a Full Moon, too...
Starwood is more than just an event created by a committee, it is, or contains, a culture that has grown by its own life inside the event. Fire-tribe, Palace, Druids, people bring their own seeds and grow them in our soil by the light of our fire. One of the most central of these magics is the work of making the Torches that are used to light the Fire. This set of customs, and the crew that support it, grew from the attempts of early years to craft effective and safe carry-able torches. Many experiments were made, and many a torch-head dripped flaming oil, or went out in 7 minutes, or burned through and fell off like a match-head. Finally the current formula of paraffin-soaked terry-wraps was devised, and it produces some of the steadiest and most reliable torches I have seen outside of the movies. The custom has become to name each of the eight-plus-one torches by a certain virtue or power of desirable thing, and this provides a unique flavor to each year’s enchantment. This year’s torches were named Healing, Integration, Love, Perseverance, Flow, Transcendence, Wisdom/"Adulting", Slack and the Master Torch, from which the others were lit, was Grace. By that spell we bless these good things into us all.
 

Grace is a funny word, one with accumulated layers of meaning in our English tongue. In Christian theology it is used to describe ‘unmerited favor’, such as the gift of salvation, given whether we ‘deserve’ it or not. I prefer an older meaning. Grace refers to the natural and undeniable presence of beauty, true form, and balance, and to our experience of those things. The two definitions are not unrelated. We do not need to ‘deserve’ the beauty of a sunset or our delight in it – they are given to us freely, regardless of our ‘moral’ condition. The Three Graces of Hellenic Paganism were named Aglaea ("Splendor"), Euphrosyne ("Mirth"), and Thalia ("Good Cheer"). Splendor, Mirth and Delight – what three things can better describe the lighting of the Starwood Bonfire, and the all-night revel that it illumines?

So we emerge from this year well-recharged and energized for coming organizing. On we go, my kin! Thanks to all, and remember: We All Do It Together.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Book Review: The Practical Art of Divine Magic - Patrick Dunn

The Practical Art of Divine Magic: 
Contemporary & Ancient Techniques of Theurgy – 2015 by Patrick Dunn

Let me begin by saying that I have enjoyed all of Patrick Dunn’s previous works on magic (he consistently drops the modern ’k’ from the spelling). In “Magic, Power, Language, Symbol” he brings a linguistic and semiotic approach to magic, and in “Postmodern Magic” he introduces the ‘information model’ of magic, to stand next to the ‘energy’ and ‘spirit’ models. All of this is informed by a thorough understanding of modern and traditional magic, clearly supported by personal practice.

In this book Dunn turns his sharp mind to one of the most well-documented systems of ancient magic – divine theurgy. ‘Theurgy’ roughly means ‘divine work’, and it grew from the late-Pagan need to take the worship of the gods out of the temples and into private chapels, living-rooms and gardens. This makes it well-suited for those same spaces in our Pagan revival. Dunn breaks a complex, multi-century tradition into usable bites and explains each sufficiently for a beginner audience.

In this he begins with Neoplatonism, giving a good simple summary of both Plato himself (and his cave of shadows) and the Neoplatonist mages such as Iamblicus. His understanding is based on Neoplatonic hierarchy – not of archangels and angels, but of Numen-logos, and the layers of manifestation and symbolism that lead spirit into manifestation in matter. His explanation of how all this produces the classic ritual forms of things done, things said and things thought is both simple and elegant.


By going back to the roots, Dunn is able to explain several classic ‘occult’ ideas in their directly theistic Pagan origins. The discussion of the nature of the gods, and of their manifestations and extensions into manifestation, and of sub-deific spirits, runs as a thread through several chapters. He attempts to discuss the gods both as cosmic principles and as their multiple manifestations in symbol and form, both in mental  realms as stories, songs, etc and into the ritual realm in idols and images, and into the natural realms as the ‘correspondences’ of herbs, stones, colors, sounds, etc. The explanations of ‘correspondence’ take a fresh and inspiring direction that reminds me of things I have heard from non-European polytheisms.

The book is complete with a set of exercises that lead from basic trance to full simple rites of offering and blessing. Tools, framing ritual forms, purification are explained and lightly-scripted. The work of the invocation of deity is dealt with in detail, from an intellectual familiarity with a god through formal ritual invitation and reception of power, to the consecration of talismanic idols for longer-term personal cult. Methods of divination are discussed; the method he most thoroughly teaches is the seeking of omens in the natural (and/or urban) world. In a culture of cards and dice it is good to see the basics of intuition emphasized.

His chapter on Daimonology – the lore of the sub-deity spirits that serve both the gods and magicians – concludes with a full rite for meeting one’s ‘personal daimon’ or ‘supernatural assistant’. His spends some time parsing the nature of such a being, without prescribing any conclusion. The rite is based on a famous falcon-rite from the Graeco-Egyptian papyri, well-adapted for a modern altar-top. It is the most fully-developed rite of ‘ritual magic’ (as vaguely distinct from Pagan religious rites) in the book, the culmination of the several small rites and forms that have been previously taught.

The chapter on thaumaturgy (spell work) focuses on written invocations and inscribed tablets, but also provides a good basic rite for consecrating a talisman for any purpose, under the proper deity. Dunn explains that the book isn’t focused on practical magic, but the material here compliments the system taught very nicely.

I heartily recommend this book for Pagans and polytheists interested in adding depth and occult power to rites of worship. It is probably the best general book on Pagan occultism for those working modern polytheism that I have yet encountered. By ‘occultism’ I mean, here, the use of the hidden angles of influence, of invisible connections between material objects and spiritual principles to turn ritual from a heartfelt performance to a machine of blessing. I recommend The Practical Art of Divine Magic to ritual leaders and working clergy, and to those working alone who desire to become the priest/ess of their own temple.


Friday, June 17, 2016

Druidry, Paganism and Pagan Magic resources from Ian Corrigan - Summer 2016


Multiple streams of income… that’s what all the smart slackers say about developing a cash-flow. Look, I create these products, out of my inspiration and skill, to help my readers/purchasers develop in the Arte – to worship the gods, speak with the spirits, grow in wisdom and skill. Along the way, I like to make a little money. Fortunately, the internet makes self-publication and complete creative control not only possible but profitable, at least for my skill-set, and so I have a few outlets for my writing and art to tell you about. I promise to return to substantive topics directly, here on the blog.

Books
I have two primary outlets for my books on Celtic Paganism and Pagan occultism. The core thing is published by ADF Publishing, and is available on Amazon. My other titles are available at my Lulu.com store, though some are also on Amazon. If you’re asking, I do better when you buy things from my Lulu shop.
First, if you are unfamiliar with my work, I would strongly suggest this article as a guide. I have had a tendency to recycle my own work, and the article will make that all clear, helping you to avoid redundant purchases.

“Sacred Fire, Holy Well” is my summary introduction to my understanding of Celtic Paganism and sorcery. You can find it here.

My Lulu shop is here. I advise you to watch their front page for sales from 10% to as much as 30% off. The marvelous thing is that such sales do not affect the author’s portion of the sale, so keep your eyes peeled.

 I have promised a new book, and a new book is coming. I’ll provide some proof-of-life here, soon.


Decks and Kits
A couple of years ago I discovered Gamecrafter.com, an on-demand printing service for games, decks and components. There are various suppliers for decks, but no others I’ve found for tiles, boards, small tokens etc. Being a board-game geek myself, I took to the opportunity. The ability to order these items on a print-on-demand basis is unbeatable for convenience and creativity, but not what I would call inexpensive. I offer two stand-alone decks:

The Ninefold Druid’s Oracle (sometimes called the 9x9) is a non-Tarot oracle deck that employs
nine key symbols of Our Druidry – Land, Sea, and Sky; Gods, Dead, and Landspirits; Fire, Well, and Tree. Each of these is analyzed into nine symbols, making an 81-symbol deck, well-suited to polytheist and traditional ideas. In order to reduce cost I have eliminated paper booklets (an expensive item) from all of these products in favor of providing detailed downloads.
 
My Tredara Ogham Pack (named for our bit of sacred land) is a simple display of the ogham letters, annotated with the Irish name, the English translation of the names, the associated Tree, a divinatory keyword and a selection from the “phrase Oghams”. It is intended as a learner’s support as well as for direct divination and oracles.

My Gamecrafter store also features portable ritual kits, made of game components, cards, tiles, etc: 

Traveling Magic: A Celtic Temple Kit: In this small bag of wonders you will find a portable temple of Druidry, along with talismans for works of practical magic. While the Temple is arranged especially for Pagan Druidic rites, it can be valuable to anyone interested in magic arts and the Old Ways
• Four Druid Ritual Temple-floor Hallows Tiles
• Thirteen Temple Images cards, Including nine images of the Celtic Gods. • Complete Ogham Oracle Mini-deck (just the coolest, if you like minis…)
• Velour drawstring bag and three card-stands
• Supplemental files Including 27 Book of Shadows pages with invocations of the Celtic Gods, instructions for ritual and spellcasting, and simple ogham divination instructions.


The Planetary MagicTemple Kit: A portable kit for rituals of magic with the seven classical planets, provides a portable temple of traditional western magic, focused on the Seven Planets as they are understood in classical astrology and wizardry. Useful both to ceremonial magicians and to Pagans and Wiccans, drawing on Elemental symbols and on traditional ritual forms common to both. The kit will be be valuable to anyone interested in magic arts and the Old Ways • Five Elemental Temple Ritual Tiles
• Additional Triangle of Manifestation tiles
• Seven Planetary Eidolon cards, depicting the Gods of the Planets with their traditional magical sigils.
• Seven Planetary Talisman cards, useful in evoking powerful planetary spirits.
• Two images of the Cosmic Goddess and God, and a Hermetic Gate image.
• Three properly colored dice for the ancient Oracle of Homer, and for a second more modern dice oracle.
• Three card stands, and a velour pouch that holds all. (No box, just the pouch.)
• Sixteen-page Planetary Magic Grimoire - Supplemental files with full details for use, and The Homeric Oracle. 


The Master Temple Kit: provides all of the content of the two kits, along with nine expansion cards featuring deities of various Pagan pantheons. The Big Box – not cheap, but very complete.

• 24-card Temple Images trumps, including Nine Celtic Gods, as well as general images for the Gods and Spirits, Norse, Hellenic and Neopagan deities.
• 14-Trump Planetary Magic series, appropriate both for Hellenic Pagans and Ceremonial work.
• Six jumbo trumps, with Gate and spellwork.
• Nine Temple-floor Tiles, for both the Four-Quartered Circle and the Druidic Sacred Grove,
• Micro-Ogham divination deck, Hellenic Homeric Dice Oracle, a New Dice Oracle, three card-stands.
• 36 Downloadable grimoire pages with full instructions for ritual and divination using the Temple Kit.

And in the nearly-unclassifiable department, a set of spellwork and spirit-conjuring sigil-tokens:

Celtic ConjuringTokens: for use in Pagan and Druidic conjuring and spellbinding. A pouch of thirty-nine 1.25" tokens printed with sigils proper for Pagan spellcraft, especially in a Celtic or Druidic context
• Twenty-seven conjure-word tokens - Irish Gaelic words referring to magical intentions, rendered into sigils on the mysterious Fionn's Window. Each token presents the sigil on the front, and the Irish word with its English translation on the back.
• Three tokens for the Gods, the Dead and the Sidhe; three tokens for the Land, Sea and Sky at large; three tokens for the Wise, the Warriors and the Landkeepers.
All packaged with a red velour bag.
Together this symbol set can constructs patterns for almost any sort of spell-work, or for the summoning of a variety of spirits. This system has been explained in Ian's several books, and this small kit will be useful for those putting it to use. It is especially useful as an addition to the Celtic Temple kit, but can be used for many kinds of Pagan spellcraft.
• Nine tokens of the Druid's Elements - Stone, Soil & Vegetation; Wind, Sea and Cloud; Sun, Moon & Stars.

Audio Meditation training: The first of these albums, ‘Training the Mind’, is a basic 90-minute workshop in trance and divination, very useful for students or groups beginning their practice. The second of those albums includes selected intermediate trance-workings, and the ritual-support recording gives full trancework guidance for basic Druid ritual.

OK, now we enter the almost-entirely-frivolous…

Pagan T-shirts, Prints, etc: My Teepublic store offers many choices of my art in print-on-demand t-shirts in good quality at mid-level prices, along with various other printed products, including phone cases… Keep an eye out for monthly sales in which all shirts are $14 + shipping.





















My Café Press Shop features various gee-gaws and print-on-demand swag that I have adapted as ritual and devotional items - plaques, cups and glasses, trays, etc. Also a stash of Cthulhu Mythos fun…





So, I hope that you might find inspiration, support and fun in these products of my slightly-twisted mind.

Friday, June 10, 2016

AJ Gooch, In Memoriam

This eulogy was written for ADF's magazine, Oak Leaves, following AJ's death at the end of February 2016. It is late to the public, but I want it preserved here on the blog. 

Let us take a moment to write about our good friend… our brother... AJ Gooch.  He passed from life due to a suspected pulmonary embolism following minor surgery on the 28th of February, 2016, at the age of forty-eight. He is survived by his son and daughter, Madoc and Sydney, and wife Stephanie, and by the work and worth of several organizations and communities of which he was a central part.

We met the Gooches at Stone Creed Grove’s Summer Solstice of 1998. Madoc was in a stroller, and the young family was searching for a spiritual home. The sense of accord was immediate, and the family threw itself into ADF, and into the local Grove.

At that time AJ’s back-injury disability, the result of an auto-accident and subsequent surgeries, was not as severe as it would become. Throughout the years that we knew him AJ fought against ongoing nerve and structural difficulties, which produced chronic back-pain at levels that we guess were well beyond what an uninjured person might suspect. He faced medical predictions of life in a wheel-chair, but he never arrived there; largely, we thought, due to pure cussedness, but also due to the care of his family and ongoing alternative medical attention. AJ seldom allowed his pain to interfere with his mood, and handled the pain that his efforts produced privately; we consider him a fine example of a bad lot well-handled.

AJ and his son Madoc
AJ was, maybe first of all, an organizer. When we met him he was finishing a long term as the Seneschal (administrator) of the local SCA Barony, where his interpersonal and political skills had allowed him to see that group through a difficult change of leadership. He was also the ‘Lord’ of a small but noisy household – a matter of personal loyalty and tribe, more than bureaucracy. His work in the Current Middle Ages had given him broad experience in organizing events large and small, handling an all-volunteer membership work-force, and generally herding cats. From the first he was ready and willing to share those skills with ADF. AJ served nearly ten years as Senior Druid of Stone Creed Grove, helping us grow and solidify our work. He became a partner in the Grove’s effort to develop Tredara as a Pagan resource, and his absence will be deeply felt in those ongoing efforts, as in all.  Our local organizer cadre being fairly incestuous, AJ and Steph also quickly became organizers for the Starwood Festival. While his son was young he took charge of Starwood’s Children’s Program, and now-adult members of that community will remember him as that big, nice guy that helped them have a great, if different, ‘church-camp’ experience.

AJ’s skill with children (some called him the baby-whisperer) was an example of the kind of heart that AJ brought to the world. A big, tough-seeming young man, he possessed a core of empathy and open-heartedness. He was the sort of fellow that spent time on the phone and in person with friends, just getting his broad shoulders wet, helping friends process their bad times and enjoy their good ones. Certainly AJ enjoyed good times, and his ability to bring life to a party had as much to do with his openness and easy respect and affection as his skill as a bartender, grillmaster, and host.

AJ, Liafal & I at the Winterstar Ball 2015
AJ was also a man of art, and arts. A craftsman in metal and wood, he expressed musical talent especially as a drummer and didgeridoo player. He developed his high level of natural talent through casual workshop instruction, but especially by hours of real practice. (I admired him for his success at mastering circular breathing.) AJ will be remembered in Cleveland’s alternative community as the organizer and host of the “Thursday Night Drum Jam”, a venerable meeting that AJ revived and preserved for many years, bringing it out of living-rooms into notable public venues.

All of these things came together in AJ’s personal priesthood. AJ had a desire to serve the gods and spirits, to work magic, and to serve the community spiritually as well as by organizing. His charisma and forthright face made him a fine public ritualist. He was ordained in ADF in 2010 and, while he did not complete the scholastic work of ADF’s training program, served as a priest in fact in Stone Creed and the surrounding Pagan community. He was dedicated to Brigid, both of the Arts and the Hearth, and to Manannan the Wise. He served as a chief, a diviner, and as the occasional voice of inspiration, bringing such things as the Oath-ring custom to SCG’s local religion.

A person can have many sorts of luck. AJ lived with the bad luck of his injury, but he lived, and lived a life he often enjoyed. He was blessed with a family that he loved, and with an extended tribe that he loved as well, in all its motley qualities, and which loved him in turn. His memorial was attended by over three-hundred, all drawn by the departing light of AJ’s life and work. We lit the Fire of his final offering (well, not final…) in the fire-altar that he mortared with his own hands. His life was short, it must be said, but it was not quiet or without reward. The wise also say that luck comes from strength, and it was AJ’s strength - of body, heart and character – that made his life shine brightly, and that will keep his memory equally bright in the hearts of those whose lives he touched.

May he Roam In Pride, wherever his fate takes him.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

A Throne for the Dead


The Elder Nemeton
The Hallows of the new Nemeton
At Tredara, the sixteen-acre patch of land that L. and I keep, here in NE Ohio, we have long been working to build remarkable and inspiring worship and magic spaces. L. began with a small worship circle in the forest for her Wiccan coven, many years ago, but even that small space was ringed in small stone and equipped with ringed firepit and wooden altar. Stone Creed Grove built a Nemeton working space in the back corner in the mid-90s, which served us for many years. In recent times we have begun to outgrow it, and we were making plans to bring a more major event to the place. 

Three years ago L. and I had the opportunity to double our acreage, and the new patch offered plenty of new space. We almost immediately chose a meadow in which to build a larger ritual space, and that new temple has been in use for over a year at this time, following some adventures. Firmly established, a year or so ago we turned our attention to new projects, and the item that occurred to us first was a Mound built for the Mighty Dead.

I won’t do a survey of Euro-Pagan burial mound customs here, but the heaping up of stone and earth over the graves of the honored dead has a long and widespread history. However confused Neopagan amateur scholarship may be about the relationship

Norse burial mounds
between megalithic passage-graves, Celtic and Germanic tumuli, kurgans, etc, the image of the Mound looms large (uh, note my title, coined a decade before this project…). Myself, Liafal and our departed Kinsman AJ committed to the project and began feeling our way around the property for where such a thing might be located. While I had an inclination to put it in the immediate grounds of the nemeton we determined that the central crossroad of the property, in the SE corner, would suit best. We removed a few ‘fire bushes’ and left many in place, building the mound between them to keep a sense of the original space.
Germano-Celtic burial Mounds

Skallagrim's Mound, Iceland
At the first important ADF nemeton, at the Brushwood Folklore Center, building and improvements were usually done at the Wellspring Gathering. Wellspring is the annual festival sponsored by Stone Creed Grove, which has been the location of the ADF annual meeting for many years. Building sacred spaces together has been a powerful source of group memory and identity over the years, and so we chose to do the primary build of the Mound at Wellspring 2016.

Offerings to the Dead began to be made on this spot pretty early in our ownership. We made a series of offerings over the months and weeks prior to the build. My general permissions and reception by the spirits of the new piece of land allowed me to proceed with confidence, and the outcome, thus far, vindicates my choice not to do immediate divination concerning the spot. We did take an omen at the consecration, as I’ll tell below.
gravel and dirt - I like them well.


Mechanically I found myself pressed by the scheduling of the Wellspring event to plan to build the Mound in a single day. Being the grateful owner of a modern tractor, I was confident of completing the work in the required time. To support that effort I prepped the materials like a sous chef with mounds of cracked stone, sand, and topsoil, arranged in a row.

To obtain enough boulders to feel well-supplied for the design was not inexpensive. To support the effort I ran an internet t-shirt fundraising campaign. I must thank the many who purchased shirts for the benefit of the effort, which specifically allowed us to reach the stretch-goal of a full ring of good rock around the Mound.

I must mention, as well, that the very weeks of that campaign saw the sudden death of AJ Gooch. I’ll be posting my eulogy for my kinsman and friend soon, but here I’ll say that he was the third man here at Tredara after L. and I, and his loss was a brick to the head of our local community. It did, however, help to inspire giving to our fundraising, our friend’s strength carrying us even in death. The timing of his passing meant that it would be his own ashes, in part, that anchored the spiritual construction of the Mound.

In addition, ADF has been entrusted with a modest gift of the ashes of our Founder, Isaac Bonewits. A nearly-homeopathic amount of that ash was given to us in a tiny reliquary, and was added to the burial. For this we thank Isaac’s spirit and his family, and remind all that the families of Gooch and Bonewits will always be welcome to make offering at this place.



The Initial Offering
The base and anchor of the giant talismanic project was the burial of an initial grave-offering beneath the center of the Mound. For this, AJ had asked Grove member Brian Wilmott to apply his professional skills to the construction of a ‘casket’ to contain the initial offerings. Brian is a master-carpenter, proven by his production of a cabinet-class, perfectly joined coffin of classic style. Substantial at 48”x20”x16”, the side-panels of the coffin were decorated with Underworld art produced by Ian Corrigan, and laser-burned (text-crisp) into the wooden panels by Michael Dangler and The Magical Druid of Columbus, OH. Fitted with a well-made lid and ( ! ) upholstered ( ! ) by members of the Grove the casket made, itself, a remarkable object - a wonder of craftsmanship on its arrival at the event on Thursday. To know that this art would be given in sacrifice forever to the land was… poignant.
The tiny relic of Isaac Bonewits
The coffin full of offerings, Friday AM


The four primary panels of the casket.

The plan was to consecrate the coffin at the Thursday evening Opening rite, allow it to “lie in state” overnight in the community area while folk made offerings into it, and then inter it on Fri morning. So we did, with several key offerings being given that evening. I can say with certainty that we gave: a drinking-set of pitcher and various memoried cups; worked platters and vessels of service; 12-year-old scotch whisky, various ale, the Underworld Gate token made by Rev. Raven Mann of honored memory, an ADF priest who has passed on. Also: a sealed casket of AJ’s personal hallows and power-objects, with personal family gifts and a skull-vase of his ashes; many personal gifts of rings, cups, cigars, talismans and small crafted marvels were added. By morning the coffin which I had feared over-large was full nearly to not-rattling with gifts.

This whole process was a combination of the serious and ceremonious with folkish and community revelry. The full Druid-Temple opening rite and blessing led to the coffin being pall-borne down the forest trail to the party, where we spent the evening drinking and admiring the memory of our beloved Dead as well as the skill of the craftsmen. The grief around our kinsman AJ was still rather raw for many, and the knowledge that this work of art was a one-night-only show made everything rather like a wake.

Morning At the Graveside
The Mound was sited at the ‘upper crossroad’ of the place, where four roads meet. The land-crew had cleared a small number of bushes (leaving more), filled holes, and dug the grave at the center of the circular area. We scheduled the graveside assembly for an abstemious 8:30 AM Friday morning, and missed it by most of an hour, but it got us going on the day. The weather was scheduled to be summer sun and 85F temperatures by mid-day, so we meant to get to shoveling.
Morning graveside prayers

The graveside rite was mainly improvised. I spoke about the work, and we lit a fire in the bottom of the grave, because we feel funny without Fire, and to confuse future archaeologists. We recited the Death Song and sang “Breaths”. The offerings were topped off with cut flowers and incense, and a shroud given from SCG’s ritual gear was tucked over all. Brian once again proved his skill by driving nine soft worked-iron nails into his sound, oaken lid with a round-ended ritual hammer to seal the coffin.

Building the Mound
The Fire was extinguished and the sealed coffin-offering was placed in the House of Clay. The shovels came out and we filled the grave by hand. With sufficient earth over the grave we began using the tractor to bring several of the larger boulders to pile over the grave, along with a couple of scoops of cracked stone.

The plan was to build a central offering shaft by propping three chimney bricks up on this pile of stone. Around this center we built the initial ring of boulders, carried by the tractor and arranged on the ground by hand. The cracked stone was then used to begin the filling, and a long morning of heaping up earth began. The pace rather required steady tractor work, but many folks pitched in with hand-tools to spread and level the scoops of sand and soil as they arrived. Names deserving of mention include Brian Wilmott (the craftsman), Mike Zurilla (who was our triple-blessed land-crew boss for the weekend), Tom and Debra from Arkansas, Oona and folks from Stone Creed Grove, and, really, too many to be sure to remember them all.
The covered grave, and the chimney-brick
that makes the shaft.


There are categories of work that are simple but not easy. The work of heaping up 4.5 feet of mound, bringing the earth roughly to the lip of the shaft-bricks was a trudge, though the thaumaturgical aid of Tantor the Robot Elephant did the work of ten mortals. The weather was premature summer at May’s end, and we sweated like two horses each as we completed the primary fill. We had discussed a stair to allow access to the top of the Mound, and Brian found three flat-sided boulders to install, making a steep but usable stile up the eastern side. The bit of brick showing at the top was decorated with small stones, as we declared a primary end.

There was one more key business, and that was the installation of the stone monument, carved for us by Sidney Bolam of BohemianHobbit Studio, who generously delivered the work to us, and accepted no fee. We stared at the work for a while, and finally chose a spot at the top of the stairs.

This project is a modern work, and some might call it a ‘folly’ in the older style. But I’ll say this about its authenticity – it is rooted and crowned with the craft of the craftsman, the inspiration of the artist. From the Vanished Offering deep beneath to the Skulls of Honor on top, its whole shaping was done by community, for community, with song and fire and beer and sweat and diesel. Inspiration is in it, and love, and will, so I’ll stack it’s beginning in spiritual power against any in the world.

The Stomping-In
Once the primary heaping-up was done, we invited people to climb up barefoot and stomp their way around the top. The mix of sand and topsoil was fairly firm, and a flat top evolved quickly. A steady progression of the folk, circle-dancing women, etc helped to conform the fill to future uses. My goal had been to have enough flat surface on the fourteen-foot diameter to provide seats for a small group, or a bed for one or two; this was achieved.


Women finished with a dance
I am told that there was a spiritual ‘breaking in’ as well. A roving band of Druid priests and fellow-travelers made improvised rite on the mound, and trancework led to results of which I suspect more will be heard. The new construction seemed to amount to a spiritual attractive nuisance, but nobody broke their head.

As mentioned the weather was lovely, if tropical-hot. Finally on Saturday afternoon the heat and humidity broke into a rolling thunderstorm, the mightiest of the season so far, with winds high enough to send folks scurrying, and rain in tubs. Despite the inevitable difficulties we were pleased to see the sandy Mound hold its shape and drain the water well. So we felt as if the construction had been well stomped-in by the time we reached the final Rite of Consecration on Saturday afternoon.

The Consecration
The final rite of the sequence was a modified Order of Ritual rite, done in full sun on Saturday afternoon, following the storm. We contemplated postponing the work, for fear of the flooding, but in fact the land drained very nicely and a little treatment with straw made it quite usable. WE assembled at more-or-less the appointed time.

I had planned the construction of the Mound in rather a lot of detail. We were winging the consecration. The weather conditions were high in my priorities – I wanted to avoid sun and heat injury. I devised a little trick, and instructed the company to attend with a towel or veil or cloth that could be draped over the head and face. The ‘veil’ would be drawn over the face for the vision portion, and could be used to protect the head and neck throughout the rite.


ADF has not developed a rubric that separates Underworld offerings from our common sacrifices. Among the Hellenes that split was fairly severe, though matters are less clear to the North. For this rite we decided to focus honor on multicultural Kings and Queens of the Dead. At the core level this meant Hades (Aidoneos, we learned), Pluto, Persephone, Velnius etc. As the Gatekeeper we offered to Hermes Cthonios, Manannan, and Arawn. We chose not to receive a drink blessing, but rather to give all to the Deep, and seek blessing in a vision.

We opened with a simplified outline, and a short Sacred Center affirmation. Three priests made the invocations of the Gatekeeper(s). The Landwights were honored especially as the beings whose bodies made up the Mound – kins of stone and soil. The Underworld Gods were invoked by a round-robin of priests and chiefs, and given precious crystal as an offering. That brought us to the core of the work.

The central offering to the Dead was worked in three parts. First we heard words of memory about the three ADF Honored Dead who are given special memory in the Mound – Raven Mann, AJ Gooch and our Founder, Isaac Bonewits. We then heard the Invocation of the Dead. Brian’s wife, Ygrainne, is a skilled Pagan priestess who has recently become a part of our Grove’s work. I had asked her to expand the simple prayer which I had written for the casket-panels into a longer invocation, which included the specific language for blessing the Mound itself. Finally we gave a gallon of milk, a bottle of whiskey, apples, bread, and honey into the new offering shaft at the top-center of the Mound.


Here is the full text of the Invocation to the Dead:


So we will remember the dead.
O, heart of the underworld, forebears,
Dwelling beneath the sacred land
To impart your watchful wisdom & guide our journeys.

Let us remember the Fathers & the Mothers; from our own cradles back into time.
Those in whose promise & potential we abide
As heirs of their gifts, given freely in love & hope.

Let us remember those we knew in love, of blood & heart.
Those with whom we shared life's simple joys,
Whose passing tore us asunder,
And yet now impart to us peace, 
in the knowledge that all must pass.

And those we know as heroes, as inspirations & as way-showers.
Whose lives, lived in virtue & valor, remain a beacon,
Despite their passage o'er the threshold
Into the realms of the mighty.

Let us remember the ancient wise & ask them for their good teaching.
Open our eyes for signs & portents of their pointing of the way,
And grant us the courage to make good of the wisdom they share.

Mighty & beloved dead, we make this gift to you of art & reverence.
With open heart, with all honor, with the keen power of our memory, 
And the will to continue the work.
Bless this place, we ask,
Where we will give you due offering.
So will we remember the dead. 


For an omen we drew three Ogham lots. The first was Nion, meaning “letters” and given to the ash tree; communication, tradition and the Warrior’s Shield. (This letter had appeared in the blessing of the casket, so it provides a frame.) Muin was the second, meaning “Esteem” and given to the vine; connection and clever effort. The third lot was Gort, “Garden”, given to the ivy; fertility, the soil, and bounty.

I took this as a good omen then, and agree now. The spirits offer us communication and support through the Mound, they offer teaching and gain in honor, and they offer the bounty of the very land in which graves are dug. May we gain the good of these blessings, over the years.

The Blessing confirmed, we called for a vision. Pulling the veils over our faces we opened our hearts to the spirits for a sun-shortened length of time. Sometimes truth comes like a cliché; I am grateful for the loving embrace of my kinsman that was the central point of my own short vision.

I felt the rite was concise yet detailed, and produced a proper atmosphere, even in the mid-day sun. It capped a work well-done by a community working together, and produced a modest monument.


Going Onward
Now we have this Mound – this Sidhe, this Seat or Throne made for the Dead. The next step is to devise both local cult and occasional extraordinary use for it. I’ll be writing about both as we go. I anticipate using the mound for regular offerings, and for regular divination and communion with the Dead. I plan its use as a place for a High Seat for Seidhr work, and a basis for utiseta type outdoor spirit-rites. Located in the center of our patch it should provide silence and darkness for many kinds of chthonic experiments.

As we said several times over the course of the work, it is the oath of Liafal and I that this Mound, as all of the Tredara sacred complex, will be accessible for worship and inspiration as far into the future as we can provide. May we all be blessed in the work.
This lovely pic, and several others herein,
are thanks to Michael Dangler of "The Magical Druid" in Columbus Ohio,
and more from Francesca Hedrick. Thanks to all.





Sunday, April 26, 2015

Official - moved to Patheos

My first (and very introductory) post is up at Patheos, and future stuff from me will appear there. I'm leaving this blog open as an archive, while I repost the top articles (judged by poplarity, or by me) in the new joint.
If you've enjoyed my work here, do follow me over. Forgive the ads - the wife is retiring : ).
New blog here:
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/intothemound/2015/04/hello-to-patheos.html

Monday, April 6, 2015

Changing Tides

The Spring spring was wound down tight by the weight of 30" of February glacier, but it has finally sprung! We've been able to get out into the flooded woodland of Tredara, and get the fun... uh, work... started.
 The gradual thaw has left the place fairly workable, and our rush to put gravel on the roads at the end of last season is paying off. I've got mud on the tractor, and lots more to come

One of the central tasks of developing our new acreage is the building of our outdoor Nemeton worship space. In imitation of the Brushwood Nemeton, which I have helped to design over the years, we have arranged our new space with Eidola of the Earth Mother and the Keeper of the Sacred Center ('Gatekeeper') in places of permanent honor. These two gods are offered to at every rite, asked to uphold the sacred space and guide the work.
The Eastern porch, with Well and Bile (World Tree), and now the shrines of
the Mother of the Land and the Lord of Wisdom
 














We are very pleased and proud to enshrine carvings done exclusively for us by Sidney Bolam of Bohemian Hobbit Studios. She worked from sketches by me, and so it's a bit of my own art mingled with her excellent execution.

Here's the real news. 
This blog is moving to the Patheos platform! I'll admit to being pleased and flattered to be asked (by Jason Mankey) to be part of the Pagan blogging team on what is, I think, the largest religion-topics portal on the web.

I expect the topic list to be mainly unchanged, though I will put some greater effort into producing 'essays' rather than just rambling on about my life and stuff. This is going to mean a period of confusion (for me at least) as the switch is made. I'm not transferring content from here, so the old archive will remain, though I will post the top-twenty posts from here over the first months, along with new material. We're about to hit the traditional working-not-writing part of my year, so having reposts will be helpful.

I hope my readers here will follow me over to this fun shiny new building. I'll be keeping stuff coming. More detail in a week or so...