Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Meal Offering To The Dead

I'll be posting a quick round of short things here in the run-up to Samhain. This is a short and simple offering that could be made with and by the whole family.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Designing Your Personal Practice

The work on my forthcoming book (working title, presently: "Pagan Magic; Esoteric Spiritual Technique for Polytheists") continues, though not at the pace I might like. As a bit of proof-of-life I offer this chapter-section on developing a personal schedule of spiritual work.

The Order of Work
• Development of the hidden powers within Pagan spiritual practice requires diligent effort over an extended time. Of course some techniques can be tried immediately, and simple worship and meditation begin their effects immediately. More advanced techniques, like those of any discipline, require committed self-training and applied effort. The magician is a spiritual artisan, the shrine is the workshop, and magic is the product. Only practice, and learned skill carefully applied, can move the student from apprenticeship to journeywork to mastery.

• Many traditional polytheistic magical systems have been taught in controlled circumstances. This was often a ‘school’ of students surrounding a master, in which daily work and focus were maintained by a master-servant relationship. In more ‘civilized’ Pagan places monasteries grew up in which occult students could be supported in detailed temple ritual, long-term retreats and group ceremony. In either case the student of magic participated in a formal regimen of study and practice that led to both skill in spiritual arts and earned recognition of skill.
• One of the hallmarks of the medieval grimoire tradition of magic is its insistence on the development of spiritual power through basic ‘religious’ rites. Daily prayers, purifications, attendance at rites and the receiving of the church’s traditional blessings were all major sources of the magician’s power. Many ritual tools are made with the aid of priestly rites.

It seems to me that it would not have been different in Pagan days. Taking advantage of the spiritual power of local temples, the blessings of the public sacrifices, etc. would have been a basic part of the magician’s work. What can be difficult for modern practitioners to understand, perhaps, is that in both the medieval grimoirist’s work and the Pagan sorcerer’s magic was directly integrated into the religious work of their cultures. Certainly we may call the former ‘heretical’, and some Hellenes would have said the same of the latter, but both depended on the workings of their mainstream cults to empower magic.

• In our modern times, many Pagans seeking occult skills are simply unwilling to resort to the rites and customs of the Roman Church. “High Church” occult styles, such as the post-Masonic orders (three sash minimum…) are often bound around with oaths of secrecy, and also sometimes modeled on monotheistic and medieval theologies that deter Pagans. Public Pagan temple rites are difficult to find (though no longer impossible). A solitary modern student of magic must, essentially, devise and conduct their own personal temple, as well as a magic school or monastery. The invocations, offerings, power-exercises and spells that are part of the traditional arsenal of the Pagan magician must be derived from books, digested in thoughtful analysis, arranged (whether written-out or re-written) for practical performance, practiced until performance is competent and, finally, set into a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly cycle of magical and spiritual rites and practices. In short, the Pagan magician begins by functioning as the priest of their own temple.

• The Daily Sequence: Common modern life will prevent many from devoting more than a maintenance level of effort to daily offerings and works. If one chooses a simple morning prayer or invocation, supported with a simple offering and short moment of meditation, then that can be enough. It should be said that there can be a difference between common daily work and more specific preparations for major magical rites. The latter may be well-served by added invocations, offerings and trances proper to the intention at hand.
            A simple Daily Work routine might include simple morning salute/offerings, Ancestor prayer and meal offering, and bedtime prayer. Additional offerings for special principles could include special daily offerings to a god or spirit one means to invoke, as well as meditations or workings meant to reinforce the magician’s integrity and spiritual power. As a magician’s work advances they will almost certainly find themselves developing a personal ‘constellation’ of gods and spirits, unique to their own altar. Making the proper offerings to these in the proper times will become a part of daily work for many.

• Weekly or Monthly Sequence: Regular performance of more detailed ritual is valuable for the building of personal magical power. This provides a chance to build ritual skills, work useful spells for personal growth and gain and build relationship with the Gods and Spirits.
            Weekly work is a matter of personal choice. Those who must keep their daily schedule short and simple (usually in service of their work and family duties) may find a weekly hour (or day…) at the shrine a useful way to develop their work. For those working with family a weekly rite is a chance to involve the whole clan in one’s magic in a way that will simply become the ‘way we do things’ to the kids, and build powerful mental consensus in the mage. If family or those who are not actively training for magic are involved such rites can be kept simple, with the mage quietly working the Inner patterns to activate them for their goals.
            Perhaps the most traditional clock for timing monthly work is the moon. Certainly Neopagan methods have tended to imitate the Wiccan pattern of meeting at the Full Moon – it is both the most obvious of the moon’s phases and often the best night to be outdoors. World polytheist systems have a variety of lore-sets about the moon’s phases and stories. For now I will talk about how I have used the moon to time magical and religious rites.

            The moon’s magical power is associated with its phase, and the amount of its light. The two primary phases of the moon are the Waxing (from the first visible crescent until the end of Full Moon) and the Waning (from the end of Full Moon through the Dark Moon days). In European lore these are universally understood to affect life, work and luck. The waxing moon stimulates growth and gain, while the waning moons retards it. On a far-too-simple level these are sometimes perceived as ‘positive and negative’ times, but this is so only in the most literal sense. Much good can be done under the waning moon, to retard the growth of disease or reduce the influence of an irritant. 
            Within the twenty-eight day turning of the moon are several moments of traditional magical power. Workings that hope to use the moons power to grow a result can choose the early phase of the waxing moon, when one has many days of waxing power to draw on. The very first visible crescent is good for this, but can be hard to spot. Druid tradition has emphasized the ‘sixth night’ of the waxing moon – roughly the end of the first quarter – as a night when the growth power of the waxing moon is both well-established and still growing, making it a good time for many kinds of magical working. Of course the full moon is the legendary height of magical power. As the crest of the moon’s growth, it is a time when one wishes to grasp and use the force of the wave’s top – to work for things that manifest immediately. I think it is for this reason that the full moon is the time of the Witch’s Sabbath – the summoning of gods and spirits is especially proper at that time. The Full Moon’s power of manifestation makes it a fine time to invoke and assemble the ‘constellation of worship’ of whatever is included in one’s home cult, maintain one’s offerings, and receive their conversation and blessing. This is essentially the ‘esbat’ of the witches.
            Finally, many cultural systems assign symbols or names to each of the  lunar months, and those can be of use in designing an annual ‘retreat’ of  rituals with specific focuses. Astrological symbols for the passages of the sun and moon can also provide symbols on which to focus a sequence of rites. This can allow a set of cultural symbols to be more completely expressed and understood, and provide a powerful set of blessings.

Seasonal or Annual Sequence: I have already written about the traditional Year-cult, and its eight-fold expression in Neopagan ways. Those working a specific ethnic reconstruction will choose how to adapt the seasonal and calendrical rites of the past to modern times. Such work is off-topic for this instruction in magic, and is yet another instance in which I must recommend detailed additional reading. Learning the lore of whatever cultural form you pursue can only deepen and clarify your magic.

            High Day rites (as we Druids have come to call the larger annual ritual occasions) present an opportunity to create and arrange ritual on a scale larger than home-shrine work. Attunement of the personal spirit to the tides of the great wheel of seasons, the Gods and Spirits who dance through them, and the Blessings conveyed by each are sources of personal magical authority and respect among the spirits. Incidentally, these notions apply whether one is working the Neopagan Eightfold Wheel, the seasonal cycle of ancient Athens (so different from the Anglo-German north), or the annual saints’-calendar of the Roman Church.
If one is able to present rites for friends or community then elements of theater, development of performance persona, etc can all be useful to practical magic. In a later chapter we will discuss using occult techniques to strengthen the effects of public seasonal rites, but the ritual skills developed for effective public ritual also strengthen one’s personal magical authority and power.

All of this structure can be allowed to develop organically inside a magician’s practice. For a certain sort of student (such as myself) the tendency to begin by getting a blank book and pre-writing the outline of such practices will be nearly irresistible. There is value in that work (and a version of my own version of the work is provided here in the Rituals section) but I advise you not to postpone beginning simple daily or weekly work until you have everything ‘just right’. Your understanding will grow with experimentation and work, and pre-writing may serve to constrain your choices. It is inevitable that you will outgrow your first efforts, and some students are hampered by a sense of loyalty to their own writing that restricts experimentation. I might humbly suggest beginning with another’s printed scripts and rites, such as those presented here. One need feel no special loyalty to those when the time comes to change or abandon them.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Paganism and Politics 2016

I've always like Heinlein:
"Politics is the only alternative to violence"

It’s a divided and divisive year in the ol’ USA. Political feelings are running high. The hottest feelings are driven by concerns well beyond commonplace politics. Simple fear for one’s life and safety drives the organizing efforts of both people of color and women in general.  More traditional political positions – taxation or not, firearms and freedom, can we “get tough on crime” to any effect – have also become heated, and uncivil rhetoric and demonization of fellow citizens is common. I’m guilty of it on occasion myself, finding it difficult to understand or sympathize with traditional social arrangements of power and privilege, and using barbed language to their advocates as a result. Generally no good is served by such behavior beyond that nasty little satisfaction one gets in hurting a bad guy.

Our Druidry (ADF) has mainly been politically quiet about our predominantly left-of-center ethos. No political litmus test is applied for membership, and we do have members who probably vote Republican, or whatever. We would feel like unAmerican scum if we policed such a thing, I suppose. Groves are encouraged to do ‘community service’ which may be anything from food-banks to stream-cleans to donating to causes. The volunteer top-end board has generally been busy running as fast as they can to keep up with an org with 70+ local chapters, etc. Recently there has been a call for the organization at large to begin responding to current-events causes. Our core documents make our progressive positions on environment, race and gender inclusion explicit. The call for immediate responses to this week’s news caused a bit of a dust-up.

Modern social-justice advocates took stands in favor of the org becoming a public supporter at least through statements and teaching. Those who found reason to dispute the positions of this specific effort or that organization took issue. Most notably, a seeming majority of respondents (whatever their wing) simply wanted their spiritual organization to focus on the work of spirituality, and did not see social-justice advocacy as part of that focus. It's interesting to me that this week's discussions have produced anger in both progressive *and* conservative members. We are, in fact, a politically diverse group.

I take some comfort, even pride, in knowing that the org values tolerance of diverse ideas more than any specific cause or socio-political position. To me there is a primary ethic of the sacrifice-ground – that tribal and personal enmities be set aside for the sake of the Blessing. Despite my own concern for social issues such as racism, sexism and environmental protection I am willing to share the sacred fire with those who feel differently than I about the nature of and solution to those problems. 

The old charm says "Without malice, without envy,
without jealousy, without fear, without terror of
anything under the sun..."

That's because the restoration of polytheism, and multivalent worship of the Gods and Spirits, is my primary socio-political goal in life. I consider the defeat of the notion of One Truth and One Way the single most valuable tactic we can employ in the fight against oppression. We can break the hold of the idea of One God and the heritage of its institutions on our culture. We can restore not just respect for nature, but love for its very mud, and delight in its sensual reality. We can help modern people build personal spirituality not just in the public square, or even in the public church but in hearths and hearts, where it can have deep enough roots to withstand public weather. We can expose mortals to the presence of the Spirit(s), which cannot help but deepen their compassion and brighten their lives. Maybe we can help to restore the element of Mystery to a western society subject to the machines. Not everyone who devotes themselves piously to our works need have these goals as their Grail, but I do. I have remained with ADF these decades because ADF has clung closely to work that supports these goals. I suspect that many of those drawn to the organization do as well.

The thing is, there are a lot of organizations and coalitions that work for public socio-political goals. Those whose passion directs them there have many choices for where to put their efforts. Some people can manage intense involvement in both spiritual and political work (which I do not think consist of the same actions, generally) but many must choose where to commit their resources. I think that our most valuable job as a national Pagan church is to make a house of the spirits available to regular modern folks who live in apartments and get by. One that is home-grown in the culture in which it operates, and thus actually can belong to any modern citizen of a developed country. We have come a long way toward that goal in 35 years. I see it as the only seriously valuable institutional thing a church like ours can do to move the planet onward toward peace, joy and happiness.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Solitary Rite of Pagan Sacrifice

A high-church solitary
temple, with Tree at top,
Well at the base
and Fire before that.
For long-time readers, this is a new solitary script based on ADF's Order of Ritual. I felt like trying to devise some new language, and employ some new mythographic understandings as well as a couple of ritual tropes. It will be familiar to Our Druids, but I hope it may be instructive and suggestive to others looking for a modern approach to traditional-style rites of offering-and-blessing.

The Sacred Center is arranged with a Fire as the circumstance permits, and with a bowl of clean water. There can also be an offering bowl if offerings may not be directly spilled on soil, and a censer to hold multiple incense sticks if offerings cannot be directly burned in the Fire. If desired, a third symbol of the Sacred Center – a pillar ‘tree’ or stone – can be added. To these basic tools are added any images or objects proper to the rite at hand.

If you plan to work seated on the ground have a small rug or cloth to lay over the earth or floor. If you wish to stand, a low table with a cloth covering will make the physical steps easier.

Tree, Well, & Fire, with Deity images and offerings at the ready.

Basic offerings and blessing:
Silver to bless the water
Incense, either loose incense to spoon onto charcoal or sticks to place in sand, enough for at least nine individual offerings.
Bread and honey, for the Dead
Three silver-colored coins, or small semi-precious stones, for the Landwights
Scented oil or specially-chosen incense, for the Gods
A chosen drink for the Blessing – ale, wine, or non-alcohol, and a cup to drink from.

Other offerings, symbols, images and vessels may be needed for the specific purpose of any rite, but the above will serve for a basic offering.

Arrange the ritual space with a seat, and a cloth to cover the grass if working on the ground, or on a small table if working standing or seated.

The Rite:
Light the Fire (the candles and/or charcoal, or a proper Fire) and find your center and your power, as you speak:
The Fire, the Well, the Sacred Tree; Flow and flame and grow in me.
Let the Deep Waters rise; Let the Great Light shine
I sit in balance, I seek the Sacred Center
Between the Earth and Sky

Work the Two Powers or other centering in silence, then say the Opening Prayer:
I come to keep the Old Ways. O Holy Ones hear me, I pray you, as a Child of the Earth. Let my call come unto you with honor and truth, as I work the work of wisdom.
Mighty Mother of all, first Goddess, whether the Mother of this soil, of the great waters that flow, or of the whole world, I make offering to you (offer ground grain) bless and uphold this rite, I pray you with love and reverence.

• The Well is elevated, and the silver offered, saying:
Waters of wisdom, Waters of love, Waters of life
Power of the Deep, be present in these waters and in this Grove.
Sacred well flow within me
• An offering is made to the fire saying:
Fire of inspiration, Fire of transformation, Fire of sacrifices
O Light of Inspiration, be present in this fire and in this Grove.
Sacred fire, burn within me.
• The Tree or Stone is sprinkled and censed, saying:
Pillar of the Grove, Sacred Crossroad, Tree of the World,
Let the Order of the Worlds be present in us all and in this Grove.
Sacred Tree, grow within me.

• The water is sprinkled around the area, and the incense is carried or fanned saying at least three times:
By the Might of the Waters and the Light of the Fire
Let the Sea not rise, let the Sky not fall, let the Land hold fast
Let good be welcomed and ill be turned away
And this Grove be made whole and holy.

• spread hands and proclaim:
The Fire, the Well, the Sacred Tree
Flow and flame and grow in me
In Land, Sea and Sky, below and on high
Thus is the Sacred Grove claimed and hallowed!

• An offering of incense is made to the Fire, saying:
Where Sacred Fire & Water meet
There is the Boundary Between
There is the Center of the Worlds
Lord of the Sacred Center, Keeper of the Crossroads, Fleet-traveler, Teacher of the Wise, Herald of the Spirits, Keeper of Roads and Ways, hold open the way between the worlds, I pray.  Bar all ill and admit all weal as I seek the blessing of the spirits.
Gatekeeper, accept my offering.
• Make an Opening spiral (spiraling out from center to edge, clockwise) over the fire, saying:
By the Lord of the Borders, and by my magic, let this sacred center be as the boundary between all worlds. Let the voices of the spirits be heard, let my voice be heard among the spirits. Let the mist be parted, let the way be clear, let the gate be open!

Three Kindreds Offerings
• In this phase the offerings to the spirits are presented and set at the center. They are not burned or spilled until the Prayer of the Sacrifice
• Pause for a moment to contemplate the whole pattern of the Sacred Center, and the Boundary. Then begin the offerings by saying:
I come to the Sacred Center, to the Crossroad, where three meets three at the Threefold Hallows. Let my voice be heard by the Gods, by the Dead, by the Noble Ones as I make to them due offering.
• Prepare the simple offerings: Ale for the Dead; worked silver or crystal, or three silvery coins for the Wights; scented oil or special incense for the Gods.
• The Dead: Hear my voice, Ancient and Mighty Ones. You who first were born and died, you enthroned in the House of the Dead, First Memory, hear me.
Hear my voice, oh Mighty Dead. Grandmothers and Grandfathers, Progenitors, Wisdom-Keepers, Warders of our line, hear me. Likewise, to all those of my blood who stand by and watch, who will give aid, I call to you.
Hear my voice, oh Ancient Wise, Heroes of the ancient world, and of our times. All you men and women of renown, whose names we know, and whose deeds inspire us, hear me. To you all I make this simple offering, bread and honey from my store. I welcome you at my fire; I set a feast for you in my heart. Mighty Dead, accept my offering!

• The Landwights: Hear my voice, Wild and Lovely Ones. You noble kindreds of the land who dwell in the world with us, Spirits of the World, hear me.
To the Uncounted Clans, those who dwell in the flesh of the Land, in the blood of the Sea, in the breath of the Air; vast or tiny, to you I call.
To the Gentle Court I call, to the great ones who guide, the Queens and Kings of the clans. Let me be welcome among you, and hear my call.
To you spirits who are my allies, known to me or unknown, who share my life with me and mine; keep my luck by your aid, and hear my call.
To you all I make this simple offering, wealth from my store. I welcome you at my fire; I make a gift to you in my heart. Noble Ones, accept my offering!

• The Deities: Hear my voice, Shining Ones, Gods and Goddesses. Ancient Victors and Rulers, you who Order the Worlds and turn the Seasons, hear me.
You Ancient Fate-Weavers, Eldest, Silent, you who turn the wheel and draw out the future, spin good weal for us.
First Mothers and Fathers, Enthroned Ones, Kings of the Realms, Great Queens, let my path be well-walked by your guiding.
All the Tribe of the Mother, gods and goddesses, of wise arts and clever skill, of the Warrior, the Farmer or the Wise, known to me or unknown, grant me your blessing.
To you all I make this simple offering, oil/incense to sweeten the Grove for your presence. I welcome you at my fire; I feed a flame to you in my heart. Shining Ones, accept my offering!

• To all the Holy Beings, whether in Land, Sea or Sky, in the Shining Heavens, in the dark wealth of the Underworld or in our green Middle World, I say again: Mighty, Noble, and Shining Ones, gather at the Center, drink from the Well, be welcome at my Fire!

Pause for a time, if you wish, to open your Inner eyes to the vision and presence of the Spirits. Whatever your ability to ‘see’, know that they have come in answer to your offerings. Be open in heart and mind for their voice or spark.

The Key or Special Offerings:
If you have additional gods and beings to convoke, according to the season, or a magical intent, that is done at this time. A magician might devise a personal pattern of invocation and offering for her allies among the Spirits, naming them and inviting them specifically. When the seasonal High Day rites are kept each will involve a constellation of beings proper to the feast. These Beings of the Occasion need not be limited to Deities – the Dead and Landspirits can also be involved, either collectively or as individual names. In short any invocations specific to the special intention of the rite are worked in this place.

For simple general worship a rite may proceed directly from the Three Kindreds Offerings to the Sacrifice:

The Sacrifice
• All of the offerings assembled from the invocations are now burned, spilled or given. This represents the magician’s offering of honor, respect and even love to the beings of the rite. This is a point at which ex tempore or personal, heartfelt speech is proper, as long as focus is maintained. Magicians may sing, or ‘om’ or intone, expressing the emotional truth of the rite as the offerings are made. Of course spoken words are always proper. Here is a charm written for a rite intended to invoke the spirits for magical work:
Now let my voice arise on the fire; Let my voice resound in the well
Let my call pass the gate to the land of spirits and bring the spirits to my aid.
Holy Kindreds, Gods, Dead and Noble Ones
A Child of Earth calls you to the Sacred Grove;
By Three Realms and Four Winds
By the World Tree’s root and crown
By Fire’s Light and Well’s Might
By the Sacred Center where Magic is made
Come to the Fire, Holy Ones
Come to the Fire, as you hear my voice.
Come to my Fire, and receive this offering.
You who would aid me in my work,
I send you love and honor with this gift, saying - Holy Ones, accept my sacrifice!

Or a more general Sacrifice Charm:
Let my voice arise on the Fire, let my voice resound in the Waters.
Hear me Holy Ones, as I give you due offering. Respect I offer, and honor; love I offer, and aspiration to the divine; a feast I offer with these simple gifts. I set a place for you in my temple and in my heart. Holy Ones, accept my sacrifice!

This is another moment during which silent contemplation may be valuable. The magician may envision the whole composition and structure of the rite, and abide in the presence of the spirits that have been invoked, before proceeding to the Blessing:

The Blessing
Pt 1: Taking An Omen.
Using whatever traditional divination system you prefer, draw an omen, asking whether the Powers will offer you a blessing, and of what sort. You might pray:
Holy Ones, I have offered to you and now I would ask, in turn, your blessing. Let me hear your voice, let me see your signs; reveal to me, in these symbols, whether my offering has pleased you and whether your blessing will be sweet.
Draw the omen, and interpret it for yourself. Does it seem to display the pleasure and reward of the Holy Ones? If you feel unsatisfied with the offered blessing you might choose to make a second round of offerings, and again ask for a better blessing. However some would simply choose to take a no for a no, and try another time.

Pt 2: Calling the Blessing
(Holy Ones)(or names of the Beings of the Occasion) I see your signs, I listen for your voice, I call for your Blessing. Give me the flow of fullness, the light of your power; I call for your Blessing. By this blessing let the whole world be blessed; three times I call for your Blessing!

If it is expedient, the drink might now be poured into the vessel.
Let the Blessing be poured from the Well of the Deeps, from the Starry River, from the stores of the gods’ feast, into this cup of blessing. Gold of Sun and Moon’s Silver, heat of the Sacred Fire. River of Memory, Fountain of Wonder, Cauldron of Nourishing, let the Blessing of the Holy Ones be poured.
Elevate the vessel over the Fire, saying:
Let this drink be the spirit of the Holy Ones given to me for my good and gain.
Behold, the Waters of Life

The Blessing is reverently and contemplatively consumed. It can be valuable to deliberately drink three times, perhaps accompanied by a charm or hymn:
We take up Wonder with this holy cup
The Draught of Druid’s Ale that stirs the soul
In joy and power we are lifted up
So drink the Blessing, that our hearts be whole.

The spirit in all things is in us too.
The Well flows deep, the Fire shines in our heart
The power fills us, deep and good and true
We drink the Blessing, filled in every part

So blessed are we in belly, heart and head
On every side, in Land and Sky and Sea
The power of the Gods, the Sidhe, the Dead
We drink in Blessing, and so let it be!

With the sensation of the drink cool in one’s belly, sit in contemplation of the whole spiritual
form of the rite. If you have called special gods or beings for the occasion, see them enthroned
with the Fire before them, or however they present themselves to you. See again the Triple Host of spirits arrayed around them, and the Three Hallows holding all at the Sacred Center. Abide a while in contemplation, communing with Them as you may. When you are finished, return awareness to the material temple and the Hallows, and begin the closing, saying:

I am blessed by the Blessing of the Holy Ones! Secure in their blessing, I prepare to go from the Grove into my life and work. I go forth with the blessing of the Gods in body, mind and spirit.
To you Holy Powers to whom I set this feast, O (names of the Beings of the Occasion, if specific) I give you mythanks for your blessing.
To the Three Kindreds of Spirits, Mighty Ancestors, Noble Tribes of the Land, Shining Gods and Goddesses, I give thanks for your blessing.
To all those who have come to my fire, all who have given their blessing, to all those who aid me, I give thanks. I bid you go in peace, if you will, or stay at my sides in blessing. Spirits, I thank you!

The Gatekeeper is thanked and the gate closed, saying:
Keeper of Gates, Lord of Ways, for watching and warding the ways between, I give you my thanks.
Make a closing spiral, beginning from the outer edge and turning anti-clockwise inward, over the Fire, saying:
Now let the Fire be but flame; Let the Well be but water
Let all be as it was before; Save only for the magic we have made.
Let the gates be closed!

At last, To the Mother of the Land, Mother of all Life, for upholding this rite as you do all our lives, I give you my thanks.

 Then recite a closing Blessing:
The blessings of the Holy Ones, be on me and mine
My blessing on all beings, with peace on thee and thine
The Fire, the Well, the Sacred Tree
Flow, and flame and grow in me.
Thus do I remember the work of the wise!

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.

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.

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 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, 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.