Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Court of Brigid - journal

On Friday of the Summerland Festival 2011 L. and I worked the Court of Brigid working for a group of about 35. This was the first public working of the rite, and the first time that I had applied some of the spirit-arte principles in a public group rite intended to allow contact with specific spirits. In the past I have often offered spirit-contact workshops intended to allow alliances with personal ‘familiars’ from the Land-wights and the Dead. This is the first time I’ve done a general group ‘prospecting’ rite, intending to compile a list of spirits.

This, I was a bit nervous on approach. Like any piece of performance, there’s a certain risk of personal dignity involved – I’m laying out both my ideas and my skill as an enchanter for public examination. So a certain amount of flop-sweat comes with the territory. On another level, I intended to open roads for a group of festival guests with very little attention to the purification and preparation of the individuals involved. I felt a degree of concern about all that, as well.

I attempted to assuage both levels of concern. We had held a preliminary workshop and simple prep meditation the evening before, so at least some guests had a clue. The group that showed up did include a number of the skilled, experienced folks that I had hoped would be there, and I’m sure that the success we had depended largely on that fact.

I got to the rite early and was well set-up before guests arrived. I was a little worried about the excellent weather making the sacrifice ground rather too sunny, but fortunately the shade was over most of the space by the time the rite began. There’s little more counterproductive than hot bright sun on the face when you’re working into trance.

The crew arrived promptly, and we began on time. Rather than processing into the pace we simply did an intonation, followed by a chime and proclamation of the rite. L. and I worked through the ordinary portions of the Order of Ritual (this was done in the ADF style) which flowed quickly. I felt as if the additional banishing and securing (compared to our usual worship liturgy) was being effective, and certainly felt the presence of MacLir and his sword of protection over the Grove.

The ability of the group to communicate with the spirits would depend on their ability to enter trance and perceive what I refer to these days as the Threshold Realm. This is the visualized inner environment, usually at least partially conscious construct but also partaking in the spontaneity of dreams, in which magical vision begins. Since we weren’t ‘journeying’ anywhere I didn’t expect the extra-deep trance of efforts to move into the deeper places to be needed.

I think my trance-guidance worked ok. I tried a couple of newish tricks, including mixing short segments of guiding speech in-between the verses of the Charm of the Threshold. Students working with the Nine Moons will eventually become somewhat conditioned to enter trance by reciting the charm, but I can’t expect that of a festival crowd. The entrancement process began before the rite, with suggestions leading toward confidence and resourcefulness, then was given the first formal induction in the Two-Powers centering during the opening. Following the Gates the Threshold Charm was the first formal call for the Inner Eyes to open. This was followed by a short, pro-forma preliminary offering to the Three Kindreds then straight into the invocation of the Goddess.

If I were to rewrite this I might choose to make a bigger deal out of the distinction between the Wights and the Dead in the Court of Brigid. It has been made clear to me that both human Dead and the various landwights may be present in the Sidhe-host. Of the spirits who answered the rite’s calling some seem clearly to be the Dead, while others are less determinate. There could be a case made for making the presence of the two distinct types in a god’s court more clear.

The calling to the Three Powers of Brigid went well, in my experience. I chose to invoke these three beings as a kind of ‘archangel’ to be intermediary between the Goddess herself and the host of spirits. The response I felt during the rite was very positive, and I intend further work with those powers. In this version of the rite the Three Powers were offered to during Key Offerings. So, once all that had been done it was time to take the omen.

So, I had discovered that my set of ogham lots was one short. Damn, blessed little cats – but my fault for leaving it laying on the shrine… L had hers but she thinks its tattered (it is, in fact) and I was hoping to get a new one, perhaps, at festival. Fortunately, Jean Drum had sets made from lightning-struck oak! A little annotating and a new bag later, and I was back in the omen business.

In the flop-sweat dept., taking the omen at a big rite is always a little scary. The funny thing is that I have come to trust the spirits and the system. If the rite is well-done the omens will be good. These were our three lots:
Dair: The Oak – Strength, law, rightness. Always a good omen for Druids.
Onn: Foundation/Wheel – Gorse, Movement, means of advancement
Nion: Letters/Support – Ash, Connection, weaving together.
With Oak leading the way, I interpreted the other signs to say that we were ready to weave our connection with the spirits of the Court of Brigid.

My adaptation of the ADF Order of Ritual for this work used the ‘blessing’ as a spell both to call the minor spirits of the Court and to enchant the eyes of the group. It’s common in Gaelic lore to use a potion or anointing to grant vision of the Sidhe, so we first convoked the general-purpose Host of Her Court, and then hallowed the Blessing Bowl. To distribute the blessing we directly anointed the hands of each, and they then put their hands to their eyes to place the blessing on their sight. Each individual got a direct anointing, but we were able to speed along pretty well, and I don’t think anyone waited too long. I also think that the trance guidance did in fact crescendo to this point, with the sensory cue of the cool water of the Blessing the final goad to send folks deeper into Threshold vision.

Following the blessing, there was then the period of first sight of the host of spirits, and the Oath. In an individual calling of spirits the Drui would extract an oath of peace and cooperation directly from the specific spirit that was called. In these group rites, and in general if ‘prospecting’ for a crowd of spirits, I have developed the method in the script, of reciting the oath and requiring that all who do not abide by it depart. Thus far it seems to produce a cooperative body of spirits from which to draw alliances. The participants reported a departure of spirits that made sense to them during the Oath.

We all recited the Welcome to the Spirits together, which contains elements of both a traditional welcome and charge. I then led a final round of focusing guidance, and after some silence asked whether someone present had met a spirit who would speak with us.

The instructions had been that once the vision was established, those who felt able were to seek to meet a specific spirit. We were looking for spirits who would be willing to aid ‘the magicians of Ar nDraiocht Fein’, and certainly the folk gathered there. Seers were to seek first a name to which the spirit would answer, what abilities the spirit had, or in what works it could aid, and what offering it would ask in return for its work. Of course all these spirits called were of the Court of Brigid and we rather expected them to serve that goddess’ goals.

I might have sought more detail from each spirit. I should, I think have been more explicit about seeking a description of appearance, though gender and general appearance was plain for each. I might also have asked what sort of spirit they were, whether of the Dead, or of one of the Other kins. We got snippets of all that anyway.

My own trance state was focused on the big picture in the rite. I was still directing, calling “who else has a spirit?” I made it my business to hold the big model of the work in vision – especially the goddess in her central enthronement, and secondarily the Three Powers. I myself ended up seeing the spirits only in a shadowy way, though they would become more visible by reflection as they were described.

The Archdruid was the first to respond, with a clear and simple description of a Cupbearer of the Cupan’s court. That opened the way, and there was a steady slow flow of vision. L. served as the scribe, writing the data down, once spirit per page, in a blank book of rough brown paper. It would have been sensible to have more than one scribe, though by working one at a time most of the spirits were described audibly to the whole group. As it was I limited the collection of names to nine spirits during the actual rite, and encouraged those with more to come up afterward. Another seven were given in that way, for a total of sixteen names recorded.

The closing of the rite seemed to go well. I did not add any huge ‘banishings’ to our usual Order, simply giving the license to depart along with the other round of thank-yous done to all categories of spirits.

After the rite folks were buzzing with the juice. Fortunately it was off directly to dinner and a drink for the event, so grounding was encouraged. A couple of folks displayed intense emotional reactions, though only one reported a vaguely negative vision, characterized by featureless dark and a sense of threat. By morning no one reported any difficulties.

One of the concepts current in spirit work is that the spirits who present themselves to magicians have, as one of their desires, to grow in fame. BY aiding mortals they gain renown for their name, receive more offerings and become more present in the world. Now, one might suppose that not all spirits care about that – no matter, it’s the ones who do that are willing to help us. So, after some consideration I publish here the names and basic notes of each.

Spirits of the Court of Brigid: These are the spirits that answered the calling and revealed themselves to our seers:
• Heal-fetch (Cneasaigh Beir): Young woman/teenage girl, member of the court of the Cupan Brigid. Cup-bearer of healing liquid. Asks for an offering of milk
• Fionna: appeared as a beautiful young maiden; Brings the gift of joy, asks only for the expression of joy as her offering.
• Sirona: Female figure bearing a cup and quill; brings the healing power of music; offering is to be a verse of thanks, burnt to her with sweet-smelling herbs.
• Corum: Gentle male figure; Helps bring dreams and inspirations into manifestation.
• Mendahlyn: Female; brings healing of financial illness/wounds, provides sufficiency moreso than wealth; gift of silver coins for offering.
• Tabar of the Forge; male wearing helmet, standing at the point of the anvil; helps us forge our gifts and wishes; asks fire as an offering
• Ehnnie; female gathering flowers; comforts with flowers those who are about to pass into death; offer her flowers.
• Mikel; male; bears messages and enchantments; aids in fine metalwork; offer components of metalwork.
• Gredda; female; gives the gift of smithcraft, especially of silver and fine craft; offer silver.
• Old Man (Fear Sean); Giver of gifts; wants song for an offering.
• Enach; older woman; brings wisdom, offer crystal
• Keimh; male, childlike yet like an old farmer; brings vitality to the forge and heart; offer charcoal
• Theala; plump woman; gives peace, vitality and joy to the hearth – full stomach and good times; offer bread and ale.
• Hanish; male with odd hands and clear eyes; gives the strength to see truth and speak it without fear; offer aromatic smoke
• Temper; young woman; brings precision, proper application of energies for making magical tools; offer iron.

• Cionnacht (or Ceannacht) ;male spirit wearing white feathers. Tends the Eastern Bellows, can increase energy for work ("more bellows"); offering of iron or white feathers.

The next step will be to create a sigil for each, using Fionn’s Window. It will then be up to individual mages to call on these powers and test their strength and ability. Each spirit should be able to reveal spells and methods to channel their power into the world, and work one’s will. Since we began with the Court of one of the kindliest and most arts-centered of the Gaelic gods we don’t have a lot of flashy intents on this list. Still, I think there’s enough practical stuff to be able to put them to work. I’ll post more on that process as we go, including models for simple conjurings to call these spirits in order to find out more, or put them to work. May we all be blessed by it.


AJ said...

I have to say Ian, that the power that came forth was amazing. I would love to do it in a more intimate setting with a more focused group. Maybe a clergy retreat thing to do more at dusk. Thank you for bring it to the event and sharing it here. I have already called the "Old Man" in meditation and will try to get more info for the rest of us on him. I do like the name Fear Sean seems to be right I will see if he responds to it when next I meditate.
Thank you again!!!

dubhlainn said...

Wow Ian.

I do some of this kind of work at my home shrine but I know I could not hold the big model together while also directing others (of varying degrees of experience) in a rite this large.

I am very impressed! Great results too!

~ Jamie

Missy said...

Ian, this was a very powerful experience. I've spoken with her again, and her name is Tsirona, with a "T." She and I have had some good talks, and I called her in the manner she described with great sucess. Calling her directly is proving to be a bit intense and definitely leaving me wanting to work with her more. I will continue to record my findings.

Ceworthe said...

This will be a wonderful list for people to seek an alliance and aid from these beings. Thank you for that effort!

nightdrum said...

Hello, Ian,

I decided to look up Tabar's name, since it was so pronounced when it came to me and interestingy enough, Tabar means "well" in Irish Gaelic. How interesting that a being named "Tabar" would be a Shaper. I will have to deve into this further

Uberrod said...

It should be noted that Corum is more about taking your ideas in your head and actually getting them down on paper, whether it is stories, poetry, or art. It's not really vague manifestation of wishes kind of thing.

It was just so hard to express with words what it meant at the time.

I felt great afterwards though.

Uberrod said...

Oh, and Corum's offering is honey.

IanC said...

Thanks for the clarifying notes, folks. I also got a 16th spirit by email after the weekend. In the next few days I'm going to render some sigils and do a more comprehensive document on the Courtiers.

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