Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Spiritual Symbolism in Druidic Rites

This article is an abridgement of one of the very last articles in the Nine Moons system. I'll have an update on that work and some news very soon. This article is framed as advice to those who are completing the program, and hints for possible future work.

The same work that allows the practice of religion and sorcery can lead into a vital spiritual and mystical path. The term ‘mystical’ carries a heavy load of cultural freight. We’ll use it in a fairly specific meaning: “The relationship between the common self and the divine.” In magic we are often acting according to the will of that version of the self which we call ‘me’. We use our personal will to determine what should occur, and our personal power to make it happen. Mysticism is rather the other side of the coin. We open our personal spirit to the influence of the Gods and Spirits, and we seek to join our personal mind and will with the patterns of the cosmos.
These two ways – the sorcerous and the mystical – make fine companions on a personal spiritual journey. Together they bring the Druid’s goals of Wisdom, Love and Power, in proper measure as each person might need them. So we encourage you to attend to both in your ongoing Druid’s path.

Meditation and Ritual
Meditation is core to mystical work. It is the primary means by which we adjust our consciousness toward the goal states of awareness of the work. The basic skills of open meditation and contemplation will be used constantly, and your skills at concentration and visualization should be strong and well-practiced.
Ritual also brings spiritual expression to the personal soul, and helps to link the manifest self with the many expressions of the divine. From simple devotions to rites of offering and blessing to meditative rites of union, ritual can be a central part of a mystical practice. Skill at contemplation allows you to be present in and as the symbols of the rite even as you pursue the intention.
Forgive me for reminding you again. Please do not neglect regular open meditation, with no intention except to relax and refresh your spirit. The sages recommend a minimum of a half-hour of meditation daily, but even half that, perhaps broken into morning and evening sessions, is useful. When you are off-center or confused by your life, choices or circumstances, open meditation will help you arrive at the cool moonlight mind that can best solve problems.

Cosmos Meditation
In Cosmos meditation you create the vision of yourself as present both in and as the sacred pattern of existence. The ‘mandala’ (i.e. symbolic arrangement of icons or images) of the worlds and beings is arrayed around you. Into this mandala you seek to expand your spirit, to widen your awareness beyond the boundaries of your individual self into the greater worlds.
That work can be supported and enhanced with preliminary meditations on the Horizontal and Vertical Axes. Trances to explore the Three Realms and the Three Worlds can naturally follow from the Inner Grove vision work, and all this can be assembled as a single vision.
Of course every full sacrifice worked in our Druidic Order of Ritual contains a cosmos meditation. To begin with the Mother and establish again the Three Realms and the Three Worlds, is to be, yourself, the Creator of Worlds. You can always take those chances to contemplate the Cosmos, to share your own duile – your components – with those of the greater world, bone to stone, breath to wind.

The Da Fein
We have been referring to your Personal Inner Divinity, the God-of-Yourself, as the Da Fein. Of all the work you have done, this is the most intimate and personal, and the least amenable to instruction. Your visions, your intuition, will lead you toward greater communion with the Da Fein as you continue to meditate upon it.
One approach is to set up an active shrine to your Da Fein. It may seem ironic to attempt to make an exterior shrine or to offer I-and-Thou worship to that which is the very center of the self. However, ritual, representation and symbolism satisfy and focus the common conscious mind, and with the mind calmed and focused, you can more clearly hear the voice of the God of You.
The choice of an icon to express the presence of the Da Fein is itself an exercise. Some have chosen an ‘angelic’ style of depiction, and another approach is to choose an entirely non-human, even non-living, representation. From the perspective of Celtic lore, no more proper symbol occurs to me than the Vessel of Wonder. The Cauldron or Dish is one of the complexes that feed the medieval ‘Holy Graal’ stories. The Cauldron was the object of quests and raids often held deep in the Underworld or Otherworld. But, again, you must choose the depiction of the Da Fein, if any, as you are led by your own learning and intuition.

Microcosm and Macrocosm
A constant in Indo-European religions is the principle of reflection and mutual influence between the worlds. This was expressed in late Pagan times in the famous verse: “That which is below is as that which is above, and that which is above is as that which is below, to accomplish the Mysteries of the One.” So we begin with the idea that whatever beings exist in the spiritual worlds – the Gods and Spirits – may each have a reflection in an individual’s soul. When we invite the Kindreds to our Fire their presence is reflected in us in turn.

The Kindreds as Mystery
Most ritual worship workings are intended to announce yourself to the spirits and gain their good will. This presents the chance to seek their power in your own psyche, in the cosmos-in-you. While there are many sorts of exercise to enter that awareness, it can be enough to remember that you stand as a mirror to the spirits, and they to you, even as you work ritual.
• The Dead
Every human being draws life from the lines of blood, of womb and seed. When we mirror the Dead in our spirit we open ourselves to the great line of memory. In the voices of the Ancient Wise we hope to hear the echoes of the work of ancient Paganism.
On a personal level the presence and power of the Dead awakens the very blood and seed of the divine-in-us. In time we, ourselves will join the Ancestors, and receive the offerings of the living, offering our potent blessings in turn.
• The Nobles
As mortal folk we dwell in the Middle Realm, which is also the home of the Other Clans, the Good Neighbors. The blessing of the Sidhe is the core of the luck of the world, and the wise seek to keep their goodwill. When we mirror the Host of the Sidhe in our spirit we may glimpse the stealth of the night-runner, or the vision of the eagle, or the warm deep of borrow or the high perspective of mountain winds and moonlight.
On the personal level work with the Noble Ones can awaken affinities and related powers in the magician. The Wights are often called upon in magical arts, and we can learn secrets that we can turn to our advantage, even as the Nobles learn by dealing more closely with a mortal.
• The Gods
The Shining Beings we call the gods and goddesses are the Eldest and Mightiest, those who in the first days helped to shape cosmos and set life in it, and who still live eternal. The Gods are the very persons of the divine, in its brightest and deepest sense. In the presence of a god, especially, we may be carried out of our common self into a greater perspective
On a personal level, you may find your relationship with the Earth Mother and the Gatekeeper to be sufficient for your work. However it is common for other gods to become a part of your personal spirituality, and you should be aware of their voices when they call to you.

• Sacrifice and Blessing
Druidic spirituality is based in reciprocity – in the proper exchange of good for good between mortals and the spirits. The symbol of sacrifice and blessing, when we seek its deeper meaning, reminds of the eternal link between the individual and the great pattern of existence – between the dancer and the Dance.
In the drinking of the Blessing (or even in the working of a spell, in a practical rite) we become ready to focus directly on the reflection between the invited beings and our own spirit. We have that moment that is called by words meaning ‘audience’ – when the divine beholds us, and we behold the divine. Such are the moments that fill our inner cauldrons, granting us health, wealth and wisdom.

• A Mystical Practice
Even if you feel more drawn to sorcery and practical magic than to the search for spiritual awareness it is worth your while to remember these things. As you work your rites remember these other meanings, these deeper mysteries, behind the symbols of your working shrine. To advance this kind of awareness can only increase your wisdom, and thus your power.
Whatever your inclination, may you walk your path in the Druid’s Peace, with a clear heart and a steady hand, and wisdom in your brow.

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