Saturday, December 6, 2008

Druidic Magical Training

My current project...
So, we’ll just assume that soon (soooon) my first big book - Sacred Fire, Holy Well (SFHW)- will be formally published by ADF Publishing. That assumed, I have been poking around in my brain for what the next Big Project might be. I seem to have settled on devising a formal program of Druidic magical training based on two models.
First this new system will serve the Initiate’s training program as outlined in ADF’s Clergy training. The Initiate’s work is a set of ‘courses’ (as we call them) that focus on magico-religious skills in a Druidic context, with just enough scholastic support to keep it grounded. It requires basic theory and practicum in ritual, divination, trance skills and practical magic, and sets clear standards for achievement in those skills. What it entirely fails to do is to offer an actually systematic approach to learning and practicing these skills in an Indo-European, Celtic/Druidic context.
Modern Pagan writing is full of simple-to-complex instructions on all of those skills. Most of the ideas therein derive from western ceremonial magic, or from scraps of folklore. They often depend on mystical ideas based on Hermetic Qabalah (the G:. D:. sort, not the Jewish sort) or loosely lifted from Buddhism or Hinduism. So, one can learn a great deal about Tarot, or Runes, or herbal magick, poppet spells or shamanic vision. One can read methods of contacting the Holy Guardian Angel, of meeting a Power Animal, of entering trance through music or rhythm or sexual practice. Each and all of these could have some context in a Druidic occultism, but none of it is really constructed inside a Northern, much less a Celtic, world view.
In some ways it’s the Celtic perspective that has had the least attention. If one works a Hellenic system one can approach most of these skills through Graeco-Egyptian magic and the fairly well-documented remnants of Hellenic religion. Asatruar have several modern resources that merge classical magical goals with Norse myth and symbol. Of course eastern, post-Vedic systems have never completely lost their own intrinsic occultism, though those have often drifted fairly far from the kind of archaic models I’m considering.
In the last couple of years there has been a new round of publishing on the topic of Celtic Paganism. Books such as Aed Rua’s Celtic Flame, Robin Artisson’s The Flaming Circle, Erynn Laurie’s Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom (reviews forthcoming) and my own thing all seem to be nearing a rough consensus on some symbols and cosmology of a Celtic Pagan worldview. However I think that I’m still a bit ahead of the pack in turning these ideas to the uses of actual occultism and magic.
So the second model for the Next Project will be to create a system of occult training that is adequately Celtic, specifically Gaelic, in a modern context. There’s little doubt that in some cases what I’ll be doing is ‘Celticising’ some classical magical methods. In other cases I’ll be drawing on Gaelic folklore for rather more unique models. I’ll be drawing on a lot of the ideas and models from SFHW, but I’ll also be writing a lot of new material.
My model for the practice is a nine month focused program of work. That work is organized in a weekly ‘retreat day’ on which the Druid will work morning, mealtime and evening exercises and rites. Back when I worked in the traditional Craft we expected those working toward initiation to spend at least two to three nights per month attending ritual and practice meetings. It seems to me that at least that level of regular work should be expected of anyone hoping to move from a preliminary commitment (‘dedication’ as we might say) to the skilled use of occult methods. The practice I’m devising is based on lunar cycles, with retreat days set on the First Waxing, the Sixth Night, the Full Moon and the Waning. At least three of these involve a full personal ritual in the evening. The goal is to meet all the requirements of the ADF Initiate’s Program practicum in the nine month cycle. I worry a bit that this is too ambitious, but only a little – let those with less ambition use a different method.
So as time goes by I’ll be reporting on my progress here, and publishing excerpts from the writing. I have finished a meditative ritual technique that brings together several core elements of the Celtic Pagan consensus with the intention of seeking the various ‘mystical’ states characteristic of occult spirituality. (My article on ‘Druidic Mysticism’ is done and submitted to ADF’s magazine, Oak Leaves, incidentally. Maybe I’ll post excerpts here…) I’m currently working on the skeleton of rites and practices for the ‘retreat days’. I began intending to model the retreat work on the canonical hours (perhaps thinking of Kirk’s future ‘monastic’ dealy) but there are rather a lot of those, and I want the program to be doable on a weekday even for working people, so that the student can choose not to devote one weekend day per week to it unless they want to. So in the end I only recommend a morning work, a mid-day activity (divination), and evening meal work and a full ritual at night. I guess my question to the reader is whether this much work can be done once per week by a student of middling diligence, or should the load per month be reduced. The Dark Moon week, especially, could be limited to simple meditation and, perhaps, catching up the journal. To get us started, here’s the outline I’ll be working to fill in initially, over the next weeks:

The Initiate Student Retreat – worked weekly on the quarters of the moon.
The Work of the Retreat Day:
• Morning Work – to be done before beginning the day’s tasks. Rise, Bathe and go to the Shrine. Perform the Shrine Devotion, and the prescribed meditation.
• At Meals – make the food offerings to the Ancestors and local Wights – development of relationship with the local beings.
• The Oracle – At some time in the day a full reading is done with the preferred divination tool, and carefully recorded.
• The Hearth Rite: a full solo liturgy that includes honoring the Gods and Spirits of the student, divining the nature of the Blessing and working a good Blessing in turn. The rite may include a formal trance working, full invocatory work, and/or practical magic. The closing of this rite ends the weekly retreat.
The overall 9-month Work must accomplish:
• Increasing facility with the Druidic symbols and ritual outlines
• Possible increasing familiarity with a Celtic language (if yr hmbl author can increase his own before publishing…)
• Development of personal ‘hearth customs’ and relationships with the spirits.
• Achieve basic skill as diviner/reader
• Work several successful operations of practical magic
• Gain skill at trance – the work will contain at least three kinds of trance style or method – Grounding & Centering, Open Meditation and vision-journeying.
Specific magico-spiritual goals include:
• Develop skill in mystical trance – unity with the land and the Two Powers, awareness of the God In the Self.
• Develop an Inner Grove – a base of operations for the Inner World
• Develop initial alliances with specific beings of the Kindreds.
• Use divination to develop understanding of one’s path and goal.
• Develop invocation skills to work with the Deities.
• Use Hearth-customs and Welcomings to build power in the local land
• Use spellbinding to improve the conditions of common life


Jamie Goodwin said...

Am I understanding correctly that this work would all be done in one chosen day during the week?

Or could the student do one part one day and then another a day or two later?

Either way, to be honest, I do not think it is too much for the average student.

IanC said...

I've been playing with the question of whether to focus these into formal monthly units, based on weekly retreats, or just present them as nine 'lessons', which a student could do at her own pace. I prefer the former, because the intensity should improve results, but I assume many students would do it at their own pace regardless of instruction, so...
once I get just a half-step further, Sue and I will begin working through the work (despite the basic review nature of the work for us, and see how it feels

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's too rigorous for the average student. I think that, if I made an oath and really dedicated myself to such an undertaking, I would do it. My only concern would be how the retreat day would influence and be influenced by my more or less agnostic fiance whom I live with. He will take part in certain rituals, but sometimes he's just happier playing with ye olde XBOX. I hope you devote a chapter or at least a section to these concerns as I know I'm not the only one who struggles with maintaining a daily spiritual practice due to disruption by non-Pagan house mates... And the disruption is usually not intended by him! Most of the time it's just that I don't want to restrict his use of a room for too long and so I feel obligated to keep things short. I hope this makes sense...

IanC said...

Sure it makes sense. Part of being ready for the work is being able to give it the space it needs. I'll think about what advice I'd give...