Thursday, April 29, 2021

Your Church Is Not Your Religion

As an organizer in one of the larger Neopagan church organizations in N America ( ) and likewise an occasional contributor to the practice of Neopagan Druidism as religion, I think it is valuable to make a clear distinction between those two things. Let me try to start with simple descriptions or definitions of what I think I mean. 

 A religion is a method or set of methods by which humans manage our relationship with the spiritual, or the numinous, or whatever term one likes (even ‘God’… not a term I use). Religions arise through a folk-process, like styles of music or art. Like those, major practitioners can shape practice or invent ‘schools’ of practice. In religious matters those often become more easily identifiable as ‘religions’. However most traditional religions don’t have ‘founders’, but rather grow out of the soil of their originating culture. 

People join religions when they actively take up the practices of those religions, and play with approaching the world through the assumptions of related philosophies. Neopaganisms have been that way, growing out of the culture of the late-20th c post-modern ‘West’. That said, ‘Churches’ are organizations created to promote the practice of a religion or religious tradition. Most churches do not contain all the members of the religion it practices – that’s kinda the mark of a ‘cult’, perhaps. Even the Roman Catholic Church is far from the only organization working the religion of Western Sacramental Orthodox Christianity (if you will… Christianity is complicated). There are numerous unrecognized apostolic lines, funny little garage-chapels, etc, across the world. 

 A church is a religion-club; a group of interested, even passionate folks who want to pursue a spiritual work. People join churches because they are identified with or interested in the related religion, or because of their neighbors, or families. Like any club, just the interest in the topic may or may not be enough to bind a group of strangers or acquaintances into a creative circle. The same problems that attend a local arts group or little-league will exist for attempted churches. Rules, by-laws, budgets… there’s more work in doing a Church than just having a religion, and no degree of spiritual growth makes people suitable to keep the books.

 Joining a religion-club is not the same as joining a religion, nor is leaving the club equivalent to leaving the religion. You cannot ‘become a Druid’ by paying your annual donation to ADF Inc. (my home club) You participate in Druid religion by working Druidic spiritual methods for yourself. ADF has placed our most recent basic instructions for working the religion outside our paywall as our Hearthkeeper’s Way instruction. Someone recently called it the ‘D&D Starter-box’ for a home Pagan religion. Those looking for a walk-in guide to establishing a Pagan practice should have a look. 

 I suppose, then, that we expect (even hope) that our style of Paganism will be available as religion regardless of individual membership in our club. Conversely since we are the largest (though not only) fellowship for this style of Paganism we hope that by generating more members of our religion we can, in turn, recruit members for the club. 

But if someone takes up the work, creates a shrine, offers to the Kindreds, studies the Old Ways and makes an effort to live by virtue, they are practicing our religion, whether they ever join our fellowship, or not. 

 No big wrap-up, except maybe to say that joining or leaving a church should not generally be equated with joining or leaving a religion. The choices are separate.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Non Mortui

 Hello...?
Yeah, I'm still 'here'. It's been nearly half-a-year since I've posted, but that's the result of the shut-down inertia finally catching up with me. I did do some writing and arting over the winter, but didn't do the extra steps of posting it here.
So as my brain stirs in its burrow for spring I will be back on this outlet as well. We plan a gradual re-opening of activities here at Tredara this year. The Wellspring Gathering is still virtual (post on that very soon) but we may be able to open to a careful public for Summer Solstice, if everyone stays with the program.
So, this is just Hello, and a preface to real content, coming directly...



The view from my back deck, facing East, as we did our
morning offerings today...
Ah, Spring by Lake Erie...

Saturday, November 7, 2020

A Healing Cup of Brigid

Have a pleasing wine-glass or chalice, filled with your preferred drink. Place it upon this sigilprinted or drawn with its versicle. On one side place a lit candle, on the other a glass of Water 

Calm your heart and prepare yourself with whatever bit of ritual you prefer, then begin by composing the vision…

See, above you, first, the Great Hearth of the Heavens…Perfect and precise, yet true for you… as you see it… 

A great open space, clean and neat, with a warm, well-kept fire in the center…

The light of that fire reaches out…Toward you, as a ray of red-gold light… That reveals a shining figure… Of the Goddess…

Behold Her in vision, bathed in Firelight…Brigid of the Healing, dressed in clean white robes…Bearing in her two hands a radiant cup… a chalice… a Quaich…Filled with a steaming brew… Made of herbs and magic…That is Brigid’s Divine Medicine

Let the vision of the Cup-Bearer grow clear in your mind…Be reflected in your heart…

As you invoke:

Brigid of the Hearth-Fire, Brigid of the Forge

Brigid of the Fire of Inspiration Send me your cup!

Brigid above me; Brigid below me;

Brigid on every hand around me;

Brigid, grant me your Blessing.

Bríd thuas linn, Bríd thíos linn, 

Bríd maidir linn; Bríd inár gcroí 

(Breezh hoo-uhs lin, breezh heeuhs lin,

breezh mahjir lin, breezh inor cree)

and make a simple offering to Brigid.

Brigid of the Healing, Heart of Physicians, 

Who heals by Fire’s light. Who heals by Water’s Might

Who makes all pure, bear the Draft to (me)

Cup of Brigid, come in!

Cup of Brigid, Bear the Draft!

Cup of Brigid, bring the medicine of the Goddess of healing!

To this Blessed cup

Upon this Blessed cup

With this Blessed cup

For the relief of infection

For the relief of fever

For the relief of illness

By the Power of Brigid

By the Beauty of Brigid

By the Triple Mercy of Holy Brigid

And the Grace of Brigid’s Cup.

In wisdom, Love & Power, so be it!

And behold the Power flow into the drink upon the sigil, in whatever way is true and real for you. Drink reverently, and with a calm heart.


Friday, October 2, 2020

A Samhain Devotional Practice

 The following introduction is edited from a longer text that will appear in ADF's 'Oak Leaves' magazine in the Winter issue. That issue will contain a Yule Devotional script, but I wanted to make the Samhain thing available in a timely way.

Pagan Devotional Worship

Modern Paganism, at least as I’ve known it, is primarily expressed through ritual performance. Our Paganisms are not, generally, contained in texts. Study of the words of a founder or of seers or spiritual teachers is not a significant part of Pagan practice, rather our ideas, understandings and inspirations are often translated into ritual acts and speech. This is as true for the Wiccan-styled segments of Paganism as for more traditional styles. Elements of Wiccan ritual speech, such as the ‘Charge of the Goddess’ come as close to scripture as Neopagan ways get. 

In ADF our rites have enshrined elements of our cosmologies, attitudes toward the gods and spirits, and toward one-another. Very little of that is overt and very little recitation or teaching usually accompanies those works. Rather we depend on group energy and the use of more grand ritual work to generate spiritual experiences for participants. Those working alone at home, or perhaps in a micro-group of family or friends, may need a different style of spiritual practice. It is certainly possible to mount the full production of a High Day sacrifice in living-room or backyard, but there are other methods that may serve better. 

The following text draws on elements of both the Indic ‘Pooja’, and the Roman Catholic ‘Novena’ The latter is a tradition of undertaking nine consecutive days of dedicated prayer focused on a particular spirit (i.e. saint or person of the Trinity) or on an intention. Authors compose formal novena-prayer texts for such things. I fell upon the text of modern RCC Novena prayers, and immediately saw what might be a useful model.

Taking what might be the easy road, I am beginning by creating Devotionals for the eight High Days of Neopagan tradition. For those who attend liturgical celebrations of the Days such a home-rite can serve as preparation, focus and personal work. For those working solitary a Devotional can serve as one’s primary celebration of the spirit of the Day. While these practices don’t follow our OoR closely, they do generally use the traditional formula of offering and blessing.


Practice Notes
The Order
The basic order under which I am writing these is thus:
1: - Opening Charm: The Blessing of Fire and Water, and acknowledgement of start
2: - Water and Smoke Cleansing: As usual – always a valuable ritual moment
3: - Hymn of Intention – a versified statement that both clarifies intention and inspires the proper feelings.
4: - The Vision - simple text to induce the vision of the target principles. This rather replaces the scripture-reading in the RCC texts.
5: - Prayer of the Vision – Affirmation of the vision-contents. A reflective reading followed by affirmational prayer is a sequence I like.
6: - Invocation of the Powers – calling and offering to the gods and spirits of the intention
7: - Litany of Blessing – reception of the Power
8: - Final Prayer of Thanks or Petition

The Shrine
This practice requires the usual Fire & Water, along with the means to make offerings – a censer and a plate or bowl for food offerings. Unlike liturgical rites offerings can be small, or token amounts of the lists called-for. If no offerings are specified in the text then an incense-offering is always proper.
As always, images of the gods and decorative symbols of the season are proper. Those who enjoy decorating seasonal altars and displays in their homes may find this worship-form useful.
                Allow me to give a serious (if pro forma) warning about the single greatest ‘danger of occult ritual’ – burning down your house! Treat live fire as a tricky guest – do not trust your luck to leaving live fire unattended.

Offerings
Some of these practices call for food offerings that will spoil if left sitting unattended. Offerings made in ritual should be disposed of respectfully no later than the next morning. The best is to leave perishable or edible offerings at the foot of a tree. Those with minimal tree-access need not hesitate to dispose of offerings at home. I, personally, find flushing to be a more respectful and direct disposal than the house garbage-bag. If you find your censer with a dozen sticks in it, a window-sill or balcony may be in order.

The Work
The text is meant to be read-through, making offerings as you go, as called for. Each begins with an informative reading, which can be read silently before beginning the formal ritual sections. I have not included detailed trance-involvement instructions, but I encourage you to find your center and your basic trance before beginning, and return to that position as needed. The work includes a ‘vision’ – a ‘guided meditation’ segment in which you are asked to imagine or envision specific patterns relevant to the holiday’s themes. Visualization while reading need be no more complex than the internal visuals which accompany fiction for many of us.
                ‘Novenas’ in the RCC, may be done at home, or be led in church for group work, often leading up to a major calendrical feast. They use the ‘litany’ form, in which a reader recites the various lines of prayer, and the group responds with an affirmation. I have retained the form in just one place; it can be read through alone, or used as a responsive reading if the work is done in a small group.
                Another such trope is the ‘antiphon’ a framing mechanism used to begin and end sections of the work. These will probably remain consistent from text to text for my eight High Day devotionals.

Hallowing the Shrine
The Fire, the Well, the Sacred Tree
Flow and flame and Grow in me.
In Land, Sea and Sky,
Below and on-high
Let the Water be Blessed and the Fire be Hallowed,
And let my voice be heard by the Holy Ones!

Now may the Powers of Underworld and Heaven bring their cleansing blessing.
Anoint and cense the hands, and any items proper to the work, saying:
By the might of the Water and the light of the Fire, 
this (place/thing/work etc) is made whole and holy.

And/or, slightly more detailed:
Fire and Water, earth and Sky
Rooted deep and crowned High
Ill be gone and good draw nigh
Fire and water, Earth and Sky

 Hymn
The year begins, the year must end
The road of life to death must bend
As mortals we go on our way
Our fate is but our course to stay

In elder days the year was broke
In two by poetry bespoke
On Hallowed night, the ancient time
The spell was rightly made by rhyme

To gather on the high place bright
The folk would come on Samhain night
To light the sacrificial flame
And feast the Dead of ancient fame

Remembered, still, at this, my shrine
Where this small spirit-fire does shine
In Samhain-tide the cup I raise
And give the Holy Ones due praise.

Antiphon  of the Vision
Let the Inner Eye be open, let the spirit eye be clear
Wisdom speaks in spirit-vision, let the truth be on me here.
Sitting in your meditation seat, breathe and seek your peace in silence.
Let your bone uphold you
Let your blood beat in you
Let your breath flow through you
For a moment, in silence…
And let the Gate of the Season be open, and let the Fall of the Fall flow into your mind…
The Edge of Winter…
Where in such latitudes the trees go bare, and beasts burrow deep…
And mortal folk look toward the barren season.
Let the feel of the land’s season be over you
As you contemplate three doors.
Let the first door be in the Halls of the Dead,
Where the Great Feast is served, and the Hosts sit enthroned
Yet in season a door is open, and the Dead go forth into mist
Toward the Fires lit for them.
And let the second door be at the end of the long hall of cold stone…
Deep in the mound on the Edge of Beneath
An arch of giant stones, one upon the other… 
that opens into the Samhain season night
Upon green Earth.
To walk in the living Green… with wind and stars…
Toward the Fires lit for them,
Brings your vision to the Third Door – the homely Threshold
Of a family…
Warm fire light…
Scent of the boiling pot
Where kin welcome kin
And love welcomes love
At the feast of Samhain-tide.

Abide for a time in the Vision, and conclude with the antiphon.
Antiphon  of the Vision
Let the Inner Eye be open, let the spirit eye be clear
Wisdom speaks in spirit-vision, let the truth be on me here.

Prayer of the Vision
So I open my heart to the Holy Ones, in this season of the gates. May I walk in harmony with the tide, and gain the season’s blessing. Holy Ones in the Deep, who keep by right the Throne of the Hall of the Dead, hear my prayer in this season. Most Ancient Dead, hear me, Wise Dead, hear me, Beloved Dead, especially you my kin, hear me please.
Oh Mighty Ones, as you loved life so bless me with life; as you loved your kin let me know the love of kinship; as you endured death so may I endure life and death with Grace. In Wisdom, Love and Strength, so be it.

Offeratory Invocation
The Samhain Charm 
End of Summer, summoned
Herd Culling; Head Taking
Mead Making; Dead Calling
I keep the Feast of Samhain!
First of the Fallen, you I call
Son of the Warrior; Eldest of Brothers
Lord of the Feast in the House of the Dead.
Take now this offering here at my Fire.
Wrathful Red Goddess, you I call
Queen of the Spirits, Daughter of Danu
Mare of the Stallion, Crow of the Corpses
Take now my offering, here at my Fire.
Host of the Ancestors, this is your feasting.
Apples I give you, fruit of the Gods
Bread I give you, flesh of the Land
Ale I give you, blood of the Cauldron
Come you from the Isle of Apples
Come you from the Dark One’s House
Come you through the Door of the Hinge
And give your blessing to our year!

So, all you Powers, I give you welcome at my Fire. Let your light be reflected in my spirit, let your ale flow in my veins. I raise this glass to you, and drink to your divine power. Let me know the health, wealth and wisdom of the Gods and Spirits on this holy feast of Samhain! So be it!

Offerings: For the Deities, oil or incense, for the Dead as specified: Apples, bread and ale. Work the rite close to your hearth, or at a tomb. 
Blessing cup: Prepared before beginning, to be drunk as the text calls for, and during the following litany.

Antiphon of Blessing
With open heart and centered mind I seek the flow of blessing
Shine from Above and Rise from the Deep

Litany of Blessing
Holy Ones, we remember you
response: Grant me the Blessing
All beings of the Great Way of Things
response: Grant me the Blessing
You to whom I make these offerings
response: Grant me the Blessing
That there be blessing in our spirits, bright and deep
response: Let the Blessing be in me
Let there be blessing in our minds, calm and clear
response: Let the Blessing be in me
Let there be blessing in our Flesh, whole and strong
response: Let the Blessing be in me
That Wisdom guide me
response: That the Blessing be mine
That Strength empower me
response: That the Blessing be mine
That Love sustain me
response: That the Blessing be mine
Antiphon of Blessing
With open heart and centered mind I seek the flow of blessing
Shine from Above and Rise from the Deep

Antiphon of Contemplation
In soul-peace I let light reflect, and shadow bide in the deep
May my stillness reflect beauty, and abide in wisdom
Now abide a while in silence, and let the whole Blessing of the coming Feast be upon you
Antiphon of Contemplation
In soul-peace I let light reflect, and shadow bide in the deep
May my stillness reflect beauty, and abide in wisdom

Final Prayer
So I remember the work of the Wise. Let the Fire be lit again, let once again the Well give forth, when I return to this shrine and work. Let the Holy Ones be praised, and the Great Dance of All Things be a turning of joy. Let Blessing carry me, and mine, and bring comfort to all the world. In Wisdom, Love and Strength, so be it!


Sunday, September 13, 2020

The Druid's Gate Seal

The second of two new Druidic sigils or lamens that have gotten a bit of traction out in Pagandom. Posted largely so that I can reference it, and in case you've wondered what your buddy's t-shirt means...

The Druid’s Gate is a telesmatic design shown by inspiration to Ian Corrigan – an expression of the core ritual power of Druidic spirit-magic. By bringing together symbols of this entire complex we create a figure filled with power and awe for use in further magic

At the base of the figure we see the sigils of Water and Fire. The Primal Powers, reflecting the cosmic powers of Earth and Sky, Underworld and Heavens. From the Two arises the Three, and the Triskelion might represent the Three Worlds, of Land, Sea and Sky, as understood by the ancient Celts and their Druids. In this triskel the sacred Center, the Place Between is held by the ritual fire. By bringing these powers together a liminal place is created, neither/nor; the Boundary Between; and above the combined fire and water the Gate appears. I might have chosen to express this ‘crossing-place’ as a cross-road symbol of the usual sort, but chose instead to harken to the truly archaic forms of the stone trilithons and gates of the pre-Celtic world, which were mysteries even to Druids. From such gates Otherworld beings emerged.

And so we see the sigils o
f the Three Kindreds of spirits emerging from or arriving at the gate. The Flaming Countenance of the Gods, the Skull of the Dead, and the Serpent to represent the power of the Landspirits all appear surrounding the Gate and the Center.

So this synthetic glyph manifests the proper order of Summoning, that the gate arise from the Between, and the Spirits come to our presence through the gate. So to display the sign, properly enchanted, is to declare one’s place as a Keeper of the Ways, a person to whom the respect of spirits is due.

Because this is the internet age, you'll find occasional products branded with this symbol - t-shirts, cups, gee-gaws, etc.
I should note that the ADF clergy order has adopted a variant of this seal as the symbol of our Senior Priesthood. You'll see priests of that rank wearing this variant as we please, on raiment or jewelry. The variant with the triskelion remains my own, the variant with the ADF sigil is used for the Senior Priesthood... just to be real clear.


Fire and water, shine and flow
Meet and Join, above and below
At the Sacred Center, stand
Sea and Sky, and Holy Land
Gods and Dead and Spirit Kin
By this sign, now, come ye in
By these Holy Powers all
Open the Gate! I make the call!

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Magical Companion

Magic isn’t about products. This basic truth is often repeated on the internet, in between waves of advertising for occult products. But it’s true – the effective work of magic does not rely on cool stuff, whether blades or jewelry or books.

Ah, books… I admitted I was powerless over books, and that my shelves had become unmanageable…
Nevertheless, books are, for many modern occultists, the real gate and road to learning magic.  Personal teaching is rare to locate, and rarer to find without strings attached – books respond as reliably as they are used. Certainly if more students actually did what the books told them, we’d have more competent magicians. But, I’m already rambling.
In my own desire to own the sort of books of magic I imagine, I have produced collections of my own rituals and spells, most notably the Leabhar Mor  (”Big Book” in Irish) a full-sized Wizard’s Tome which I have made available over the years. I love the copies I have, and it did fulfill some basic “I want a wizard-book” fantasy. The big book on the podium in the library or ritual room is one of the core images for me.
But there is another facet to the archetype of the Magical Book. So often in recent centuries magic has been “forbidden knowledge”, either frowned-upon socially or actually outlawed by authorities, and suppressed by violence. From another angle there was a long period in which books themselves – each book – were treasures. Paper, even parchment, was rare and valuable, and the skill of bookbinding produced items that were intended to be of lasting value even when not embellished with gold and gems. So some books were intended to be concealable, or as handbooks on a busy workbench, or as a light load for a scholar’s luggage and might be bound in small size… the ‘octavo’, or even smaller. Prayer books and missals were commonly bound so, as were grimoires and books of sorcery.

In my very own head, where all the attics and shadowy glades of my magic are found, two fictional models of powerful occult books in small sizes stick out. The first is the curious cypher book in John Bellair’s “The Face In The Frost”, which fascinates the attention of a sequence of scholars and magicians, and the Book of Calls, from Fred Mustard Stewart’s “The Mephisto Waltz”. Both were written in such a way as to present a powerful (and spooky) book of magic in a small, portable, concealable way.
So I was quite pleased when, at last, Lulu.com began offering on-demand hardback books in their ‘pocket book’ size – the size of the old standard paperback book. As usual Lulu’s standards for their work are good, and the experimental copies I’ve received are holding up to some carrying and use. They offer only a couple creative options in covers, but I’ve done something I like…

The Pagan Magical Companion is my effort to assemble a hand-book of modern Pagan magic and spirit. It contains material mostly written since the compilation of the Leabhar Mor, along with some repeated material, tables, etc, which I thought necessary for a useful portable reference. My intention is to create a book that is useful to the working magician, as well as inspirational to those pursuing Pagan spirituality.

The book begins with material useful in beginning and maintaining a simple house-cult of local gods and spirit – which can be the basis for a lot of more esoteric magical work. The book presents a method of formal theurgic invocation of the gods, and offers a model for using it in context of a yearly cycle of seasonal rites. 

In this handbook format I have not included articles of technical explanation of basic magical methods, such as trance-vision journeying. I do present a ritual framework that can help unite vision-journey workings with one’s larger ritual-magic practice, but the method will have to be acquired by the reader. Likewise divination is discussed, and some simple methods given, intended to be especially useful for the magical rites described.

Central to the book’s magic is the Pagan system of spirit-arte it presents. Based in my research and experiments over the past decade, here I have tried to boil-down and present the method in an easy outline that can be worked with a few proper tools. The work presented in the book includes all the needed rites for making the tools, preparing the mind and opening relationships with the spirits. With those things in hand, spirit-arte is the next logical step. The book contains a set of rites for making basic alliances that can serve for practical magic of all kinds.
Finally I collect a set of experiments based on the book’s methods, along with many one-off charms and ‘prayers’ for a variety of spiritual and practical purposes. These needful charms help make the Companion a source of inspiration and support through our common lives.

So the Magical Companion is available now at my store on Lulu.com. It is a pocket hardcover, the cover image-printed on gloss (which I find more durable than their matte stock). It is printed in full color on sturdy stock, with red and black text throughout, and many color illustrations and plates. I find it has a satisfying heft while suiting the desire for a portable resource.

                                    

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Starwood 39.5


Your Festival Staycation.

So, here in Ohio we continue to face Covid-related caution advisories. None of them have been Draconian – we’ve gone out for supplies as needed, but socializing here at Tredara has been minimal, and all spring/early summer events have been cancelled. As a result we have been learning how to use the internet for our work – our Druid Grove has offered our rites on live feeds, and we’re all meeting on various meeting-platforms.

As most of you know I’m a founder of and organizer for the Starwood festival, which is approaching its 40th opening this year. Things being what they are, this year we felt it wise to cancel our Big Camp-out. Instead we are producing a virtual event that we hope will be as interesting and engaging as a live Starwood.

Attendees will receive a link to the “Lobby”, where scheduled programs can be accessed. Beginning with the Opening Circle meditation on Tuesday evening, we will offer four days of workshop program. Each day will open with a “coffee at Camp” chat-meeting, where folks can get face-time, test their connection, ask questions, etc. We will often offer two, three or more choices per scheduled slot. 

I invite you to review the schedule and speaker list at the link. Selena Fox, Jeff McBride, Vermin Supreme, and so many of our favorite folks (we couldn’t possibly have them all…). Workshops will be interacting, tough our monitors will work to keep things organized, prevent extraneous noise, etc.
Musical guests will play at lunch-time and post-dinner slots each day, and various unusual overnight feeds will be accessed. We will maintain a non-themed chat-room, and offer unique programs from our 40-year archives.
There’s some fire-tribe building a Pretty Big Fire in my back meadow as we speak. Saturday night, after concert, we will light it and join our eyes and hearts together, even if we can’t all dance in the same place.

So if you have the cabin-fever, a persistent nagging itch to do something cool, and an ache in your bones for the fam, consider pitching in the measly fee.
Then get yer wi-fi in order, with a good screen, arrange some camp chairs (or your fave chairs…) around a fire – even a little bitty one, maybe get a cooler full of your fave cold stuff.  You can meet friends and like-minded mutants from across the planet (probably), while relaxing with your very own plumbing.
You can register at this page:
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/virtual-starwood-395-tickets-105711453804
It’s the 2020 thing to do…