Thursday, April 7, 2011
Book of Summonings, Introduction
The history of our neopagan revival has been the story of modern people using the best scholarship available to them in their own time to create new systems intended to resemble the Old Ways. This was true of MacGregor Mathers, who drew on newly discovered greco-egyptian sources and the artifats of early-modern occultism, which have only become obsolete as better translation were completed. It was true of Gerald Gardner,who relied on the ideas of Murray and Michelet, both entirely respectable in the time when he was designing his work. The rise of ‘shamanistic’ magic in the late 20th century resulted from new work by academics, and the various ethnic ‘reconstructions’ of Paganism all seek to keep up with the most current notions of just what ancient Paganisms looked like.
In Our Druidry (ADF, the Neopagan Druidic order in which I work) we have sought the same - to build modern ritual systems based on the ancient ways of Indo-European cultures. In this we have drawn primarily from the limited material available through history and archeology. However we have also found it neccessary to draw upon living examples of polytheism and polytheistic ritual from non-Indo-European cultures. Both African and Asian ritual have influenced us, though of course much of Indian practice is as Indo-European as the Vikings. In the same way, West African ways have strong Indo-European content - we refer to a cultural stream, not to any ‘race’.
Modern Paganism has often involved a view of magic as the use of ‘occult energies’ that are channeled and directed by the will and body of the magician. While this kind of work is common in Asian magical systems, it is much less easy to demonstrate that it was present in European mysteries and magic. It seems much more common for both ancient European Pagans and modern tribal polytheists to view magic as the art of contacting and dealing with spirits - of their Gods, of the spirits of nature and, always, of the dead. In an effort to find out what the ancients knew and did, modern mages are returning to an active approach to the spiritual as groups of beings – spirits – with whom we make alliances and relationship.
One neglected path of research for Druids has been the native magical traditions of Europe as expressed in literate magic of the medieval and later periods. We have been very willing to examine ‘folklore’ from those periods, but much less willing to consider that the grimoires of spirit-arte might have something to teach about Pagan magic. Modern research is pointing to a fairly direct train of transmission from the late classical magic of the Greco-Egyptian Papyri and neoplatonism, through the Byzantine and Muslim worlds, to the ritual magicians of Western Europe in the 15th century and later.
Within the literature of ritual and spiritual practices preserved from ancient days is a stream of magical practice that has been largely ignored by reconstructionists – the grimoiric tradition of spirit-arte. The grimoires known to modern magicians – the Key of Solomon, the Lemegeton, the Grimoirium Verum, Abramelin and their imitators represent efforts by 17th, 18th and 19th century magicians to systematize and teach their understanding of the basics of dealing with the spirits. A ‘grimoire’ is a ‘basic book for students’.
Methods, ritual forms and even spirit-names in the grimoires can often be traced back to models in the Papyri and other late Classical sources, suggesting a chain of inheritance of material from Pagan times, preserved under the heretical Christian veneer of post-renaissance occultism. This should make this tradition of magic of real interest to those who would like to work both Pagan religion and Pagan magic. However several things have conspired to reduce Pagan interest in these systems.
The work presented in the grimoires is done under the presidency of the Judeo-Christian deities and angelic hierarchy. This makes the whole business feel ‘unpagan’. The Angel/Devil moral dualism renders the methods of dealing with the spirits coercive and oppositional. Pagans have long felt that grimoire methods insult the spirits.The goals of much of the work are pretty worldly – love and money, wisdom and success.
This works intends to be an answer to those objections. In it I will present a model of spirit arte informed by the grimoiric process, but applied in a polytheistic, animistic context. The work at hand is done under the rulership of the Gaelic Gods and Goddesses,worshipped in our Druidic way with sacrifice and praise. The approach to the spirits is animistic and relational. Drawing lessons from modern polytheistic systems we base our work on offering and blessing, on do ut des (I give, so that you may give), as the Romans said it. Instead of the grimoiric oppositional relationship with the Spirits, we enter into a relational one. We make offerings and ask boons in turn, based on honor and truth. While some classes of powerful and dangerous spirits may require ‘bindings’ and protections, the core of this work is about partnership.
On the other hand, no apologies are needed for a focus on practical magic. This subject is mainly about practical magic – the ability of the spiritual operator to Get Things Done. Work done for theurgy is related, in that theurgic success brings power for thaumaturgic success, but this kind of spirit-arte is about results. The work in this grimoire is, in many ways, perparation for more practical applications. It will allow the students to make the initial contacts and empowerments needed for successful spellwork.
In this guide I will present a simple yet complete method of entering into first a worship relationship with the spirits, and then a working relationship. This work is Pagan in nature - built on a mutual bond of sacrifice and blessings between mortals and the spirits. Those who have spent some years in basic pagan worship, keeping the seasons, honoring the deities, perhaps working with the Landwights and the dead, will be best prepared for this system. Pagans who have not made formal offerings to the spirits will find a great store of power to be had in the practice. The simple rites in the first section are sufficient to begin, though it would be best if they were given for some time before undertaking more formal approaches to the spirits.
I hope this system helps to move Pagan magic forward toward a more active engagement with the spirits, and I hope it allows individuals to gain a stronger personal power, that the Work of the Wise may be increased, for the good of all beings.
Concerning A Few Assumptions
It might be useful to list a few of the author’s theological and cosmological assumptions. I’ll do that here, because I intend to spend very little spce on them in the rest of the book, which is primarily a manual of practice with just enough theory to ground the student.
• Polytheism: The divine manifests in the worlds as an uncountable number of individuals. The mightiest of those, and those who enter into blessing relationships with mortals, are often called ‘the gods’. “The Gods are many.”
• Animism: That material existence is interfaced with a kind of informational alternate existence, in which specific objects exist as specific beings. “All things have spirits”
• Humanism: That the human spirit is a spark of the divine, and that individual humans can have individual spiritual authority and power. “The Power is there to be had.”
• Cosmicism: This is an archaic approach, in which the concept of antagonism between dark and light, chaos and order is simply not a part of the world of mortals or spirits. In the archaic understanding, the war between primal Chaos and powers that establish the Order of the Worlds was concluded at the dawn of time. The Old Giants, Titans, Fohmoire,etc are a part of the World Order now, sometime allies, sometime lovers, sometimes opponents of the Gods, but all within the Cosmos. “The World is Good”
Thus, in the mythic setting of this system of magic, there are no Archons. We do not live in a prison of matter and form, but rather in the true and holy garden of the worlds, taking our place in the Great Dance as the wheels turn. While conflict is a natural part of living in a system with no Supreme Being, those with strength and wit can make the manifest world their delight and their academy.
If I were to define any ‘mystical’ goal connected with this work, it might be to expand mortal awareness to comprehend and indwell the Cosmos itself. From such a position the Magician is empowered to deal with any spirit.
This set of axioms produces a spirit-arte that is characterized by several things:
1:Personal Authority: The magician has power in the work because of both her intrinsic divine nature as a spirit in flesh, and because of the magical efforts made in training and preparation. We stand before the spirits not just as agents of a higher power, and not as mere supplicants, but as beings with authority, who can deal with the spirits directly.
2: Hierarchical Authority: The magician also equips himself with alliances among the spirits, including and especially an alliance with one or more of the Gods. The work in this book is placed under the names of the Mother of All and the Keeper of Gates, as we call them. If you bring your own alliances, you should include them in the rites given here. By keeping our roads of offering and blessing open we are able to act among the spirits with the protection and power of the god.
3: Reciprocity: Despite this emphasis on authority, the system is not based on ‘commanding’ the spirts, so much as on negotiation, and on mutuality. When we work with a spirit we make offering to it. This may be as simple as incense, or bread and oil on the fire, or hatever simple thing the spirit asks for the partnership. The choiceto accept the mutual pact is on both parties - the magician need acept no terms he cannot meet. Once made, simple observance keeps the spirit near and ready to aid the mage.
In this way we intend to offer a system that is aligned with modern ethics and with Pagan spirituality. We remove the remnants of dualism, step back past the mythographic wreckage of the early modern period, and reject the enslavement models of some Grimoire systems. We replace them with a human-friendly cosmos, many Gods to choose from, and an approach to the spirits based on respect and prudent alliance.