Friday, December 28, 2012

Blinking and Yawning - Still Here?

Having concluded a big round of work over the Samhain season, I've been content to enjoy the delights of Yuletide. I find myself like a mental gopher or other small rodent. I nod and relax in my warm den, and only stick a nose out if someone makes a noise. Dark out here…

World didn’t end…

I’m not surprised. I can only hope that this will be the last of these end-of-the-world routines for the century, at least. It’s all just tiresome.

Back in the early 80s, when Ronald Ray-gun was playing chicken with the Soviet empire, I adopted a little mantram – “No end of the world!” Having grown up in even warmer days of the cold war, including the shooting proxy-war in Viet Nam, the general opinion among freethinkers was not optimistic. The air and water were still visibly crap, police behavior was the sort of unreformed barely-above-criminality that would later produce reactions in LA and elsewhere, and the government was busy busting the union labor movement to make way for the give-the-money-to-the-rich policies of the last 30 years.

It was certainly a time when we dreamed of revolution. In those days we didn’t really look to some extra-human agency when we thought about changing the world. Back in 1970 the question was whether there would be a shooting revolution in the US – or so we dreamed when we were in that mood. The fact is that things never really got worse. Environmental regulation came along, and the air and water were improved. The social values of the young left – free sex, neurological freedom, social-role breakdown, became more and more normative. Punk came and went – in the US it was never a very political or even influential thing.

But over all of it, until the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, was the looming specter of nuclear war between the competing superpowers. All of our efforts, or reforming, our rethinking, would come to nothing if the Big Assholes at the top pushed the damned button. That fear trickled into esoteric (and what was becoming called ‘New Age’) thought as a variety of immanent eschatons. Various star-people, Jesuses, Kalkis and prophets promoted memes in which the Old World Order was swept away, to be replaced with something new. To me it was always obvious that this was largely a hope-and-fear reaction to the realities of life in that age. So my mantra became “No end of the world”, asserting that I liked it here, and that it would be just as well if things just kept going.

Maybe people will always feel that the age in which they come of age is fucked up. To me, the several decades of my adult life have generally been a time of increasing good and gain for myself and the world. Trends on the planet are mixed, but in general there is more wealth, more education, more health for more people on Earth than ever before. Wars are down to a very minor level, crime is decreasing in the developed world, and the choke-hold of late Christian morality (if not that of recent Islamic puritanism…) is in steady decline. Human rights continue to advance, if by fits and starts, and we seem to even have a shot at working around the end of fossil fuels. Maybe I’m just a cockeyed optimist, but I don’t see that the world particularly deserves ending, nor needs saving. See here for more on all that.

From a Pagan perspective, I think that we must abandon the idea that there is some plan for the world that is not being fulfilled, or that the original intention of things is not the precise world in which we find ourselves. I think that it’s leftover Christian myth that inclines us to think that the world would be a kind, just and safe place if not for our human sins. In fact, I don’t think that the world was ever meant to be different than it is. Wyrd weaves as it will, the Great Improvisation moves into a new phase, but the instruments and themes remain the same. Humans are tested and proven in conflict, including in war and violence. We’re a long way from replacing that natural part of the Web, even if we thought we should. Love, war, mystical vision – those were the powers that the Celtic poets said could bring wisdom and illumination.

I guess in the end I think that only individual humans can be “spiritually enlightened” or whatever. The world cannot. The world is just as it is meant to be – a Great Dance of fun and filth, wisdom and worthlessness that never ceases to turn. Those who seek a Way of Wisdom in that turning must find the way for ourselves – nature will never change to make it easier for us.

P.S. I'll get back to writing and experimental magic soon, I'm sure. This year's solstice feels like cocooning time...




Tuesday, December 18, 2012

An Offering for the Lost Dead

I've been feeling dead-ish lately, and this little task has been weighing on my intent since Samhain. I have felt a desire to make a proper offering to the... unhappy dead?... the shades... the sluagh... I'll call them the Lost Dead, for the sake of this charm. I might have done it at Samhain, but really Yuletide is as much about the Dead in Norse lore as Samhain is in Gaelic, and the theme of new light seems proper for a charm meant to bring hope and peace.

Last night as I had my monthly conversation with my allies among the Wise Dead, I asked them for some inspiration for the piece, and they gave it. So, here is a charm that I'll probably do as my praise offering at our Yuletide this coming Sunday.

Let an offering of bread, honey and ale or wine be prepared, along with a small fire, or candle.
Begin with whatever prayers and offerings to the gods and spirits are proper to your work, and then prepare the fire so that the food offerings can be placed before it.

• Let the blood of the Dead water the root of the Tree.
Let the Hazels of Wisdom grow from deep roots.
Let wisdom, strength and love nourish every being, by the rising of the light.

• Often do we honor the Ancestors, blessed and beloved.
With them we share warmth at the Shrine of the Hearth.
Many are those who die who we know not,
Yet human kinship does not stop at the garth’s wall.

• All our allies among the Dead, help us to speak to the Lost.
Elder Wise, Grandparents of our lines,
Join your voices with ours in love and mercy
For all the Host of the Dead.

• Hear me now, all you lost spirits
All who died suddenly, without warning;
All who died unjustly, or by the hand of another;
All who died alone, in unknown places, or in deep waters;
All who died without the embrace of kin.

• We make these offerings to you, for your rest and peace
That you no longer be lost
That you no longer be angry
That you no longer be vengeful
But be welcomed at the Fire.
(Lay the bread offering, and pour honey upon it)
We honor you with this gift of bread and ale
(Lay the Ale or wine offering)
Though we may not name you,
We have not forgotten you
(Light the small fire or candle)
• This small fire we light for you,
As the small sun of Yule morning will rise.
Let it be as a hearth of warming
Where peace prevails
And all feast as friends
With the Blessing of the Gods.
Host of the Dead, accept my sacrifice!

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Fire & Water Cleansing

In an ongoing effort to fill in the general outline of magical intents in a Celtic/Druidic form, I present this effort at a basic 'cleansing'. Modern Pagans sometimes balk at the idea of ritual impurity, being tied-up as it is with notions of sin and, therefor, guilt. At some point I might write a bit on all that, but in practice I think purification and cleansing rites are useful because a: we get dirty, just hanging around and doing stuff. (That's true in the material world, and I think the material world is an illustration of what the spiritual world is like) and b: spiritual dirtyness fouls up one's luck. Again, this need have nothing to do with morality; the casual ill-wishing of drivers, the small malices of stepped-on spooks, etc can add up. Rites like this are meant to both wash away that sort of infection, and actively promote luck and well-being.

The text is written as if to be used by an operator upon a client, but it could easily be adapted for solitary work.

• First gather water from three sources, including at least one that is dedicated to the gods or spirits. Have herbs – vervain, rue and mint, either fresh or dried. If possible an aspergillum should be made of them, in season, otherwise they will be sprinkled in the water and fire.

• Prepare a small fire in a pan or cauldron, arranged in such a way that it can be lifted and carried. The fire should be laid of twigs of rowan, oak and birch, or shavings of these woods should added to the charcoal of a censer-fire.

• If possible a branch or sprig or even a twig of fresh birch should be available. Otherwise a wand of birch may be used, or any properly consecrated wand.

• The person to be cleansed should provide an offering of a small bowl of honey and a glass of ale or wine, or beverage as they please.

• Before sunrise, let all be assembled. The client should bathe and dress in simple clean clothes, white being best.

• The Fire and Water are arranged between the client and the Druid. An offering bowl is provided if the work is done indoors. If the client has a favorite deity or ally, an image or shrine may be arranged facing the client, with the bowl before it.

• The Druid begins by balancing the Two Powers in herself. She lights the Fire, then blesses the Fire and Water, saying:

The Fire, the Well, The Sacred Tree
Flow and flame and grow in me
By Land, Sea and Sky
Below and on high,
Let the Water be Blessed and the Fire be Hallowed.

• Taking up the bowl of water the Druid brings the Underworld Power through him into the water. He sprinkles in the dry herbs, or dips the aspergillum into the water, and begins to sprinkle the client, starting at the crown of the head and working downward. Recite, perhaps:

May the Waters of the Deep descend to the Deep, and carry away all ill.

• In this the Druid is to wash the client with the Underworld Power, carried in and as the blessed water. See the Power dissolving all knots and barriers, cleaning corners, washing gently all tender places and flooding away large blockages.

• With the rod, twig or wand, dip it into the water and touch it to the client’s chest. Draw a spiral, outward, tuathal from the center and when you reach the edge fling the tip away from the client. Do this three times.

• In this, see a final cleaning and rinsing away of ill, accomplished by will and intent.

• Make sure that the fire is well-lit, adding material to bring a good open flame if possible. Add some of the three woods to the fire.

• Take up the Fire and lift it before the client’s body, bringing the Heaven Power lightly and carefully into contact with the client. The client can be encouraged to pass hands through the flame. Recite perhaps:

May the Sacred Fire rise from earth to heaven, and drive away all ill

• In this the Druid is to warm and brighten the client with the Heaven Power, seeing it shining down into the body, filling every shadow with light, drying up swampy places and restoring proper order and function to the whole system.

• Pass the wand through the flames, then lay it on the client’s head, then bring the wand down, in a straight line along the center-line of the client’s body, to touch the earth.

• In this, see the full kindling of sacred fire in the client’s body and spirit.

• The Druid takes up the honey and drink. Opening to the presence of the Gods, Dead and Spirits, she offers a small bit of each, saying:

Mighty, Noble and Shining Ones, we give this gift to you, asking you to look kindly upon (client’s name). Share in this sweetness and joy with (him) and grant him freedom from ill and trouble and harm, by your holy power.

• The Druid then instructs the client to taste a small amount of the honey and drink, then gives the honey and drink to the client, then leads the client in offering them, the client saying:

Mighty, Noble and Shining Ones, I give this gift to you, asking you to look kindly upon me. Share in this sweetness and joy with me and grant me freedom from ill and trouble and harm, by your holy power.

• The client may then add whatever additional she wishes, silently or aloud, so long as the whole intent is purification and cleansing and blessing.

• Finally, the Druid touches the wand to the head, heart and belly of the client, saying:

The Fire, the Well, The Sacred Tree
Flow and flame and grow in thee.
In Land, Sea and Sky,
Below and on High
Let every ill be turned away.
So be it, and so it is!

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Rann of the Summoner

In spring-tide, when the snow had melted and the roots of things soaked in cold waters, newly flowing, a vision of the spirits came to me. I saw the snows vanish away and the green wave sweep the world. Imbolc turned to May in the sweep of the Queen’s sleeve and the crowd of the Noble Ones showed themselves to me.

I beheld the Queen of the Sidhe, in her beauty and strength, and with her the Chief of Clans. Their loveliness was both deep and glittering and if I gazed straight upon them they might seem to be a woman and a man. Yet their presence seemed to call away from form, and to draw me toward the Other.

“Tell me, mighty Queen of Spirits, whether it is better that form rise into essence, or that essence should descend into form.”
I stood with the Fire and Water in my hands, and dared to question her.

The Queen of the Land kissed the Chieftain, and he departed into the forest. Then she raised her arms and the robes fell away from her, so that her raiment became her beauty, and her beauty became her power, and her power became the Sovereignty of the Land. By her power she called form out of potential, and the clans of the Sidhe emerged.

It was said in ancient days that the People of the Mound loved to process and to parade. So they appeared to me, coming in troupes from every quarter. From out of stone and soil, from the green of the forest and the waves of the sea they rose and marched, totems and standards raised high. Pure white and storm-black they came, red as blood and green as sap. Like hounds and like ravens they came, like stags and songbirds and like flights of bees. From out of the halls of the Lord of the Dead came heroes, mighty ones of the spear and of the plow, and of the Druid’s Wand. Striding across hilltops or mounted on horses of lightning-shadow, they rode among the hosts. At their head came the Chieftain, in wizard’s array, hazel-wand white as he led the Host that he had called.

Shining folk of silver and gold streamed from above; wild, lovely and mighty. Winged and horned and hoofed, in cloaks of leaves and light and shadow they joined with the scuttlers and slitherers, with the small folk of stone and bark. Together they came, summoned by the sorcerer Chieftain at the command of the Queen of Elfhame.
I beheld the coming and goings of things in the dancing procession of the spirits. In the whirl and turn of the parades of the Sidhe I saw life fall into death, and spirit rise. I saw the spirits of the Sea rise into the Clouds and fly, then dive to Soil again and grow green. I beheld the constant flow of form as it swirled and knotted to decorate all the worlds.

The Queen rose into the air before me, and spoke, saying:

“See you – it is never still. The fallen must rise, and the high must descend. All is reflection and refraction and unceasing motion in all the worlds.”

So I understood that the Work of the Wise is to come to stand at the Center of that Great Dance. As that understanding filled me, the Queen and the Chieftain came together before me, and raised their own hands as if to invoke a greater power. Before me the vision flowed and shifted, and two greater beings appeared – the Mother of All, and the Lord of Wisdom.

The Keeper of Gates, the Teacher of Heroes came to me then, with the Mother of Fate all around us. Before me, my vision coming to earth, I beheld my nemeton; Well and Tree and Altar of Fire, the iron cauldron, the forked staff, the ring of stones and earth on which the Fire burned. Over the Bile, wreathed in the smoke of the flame, stood the God of Magic. Robed in shadow with symbols sewn in twilight, he bore his staff and cauldron. His uncut hair and beard flowed around him and the Other Light shone in his eyes.

“Tell me, Lord of Secrets, how it is that a fire of human kindling may be a gathering-place for the Gods.”

The Lord of the Between reached out his wand toward my forehead. It was as if a new vision came to me, as I first gazed into the well. My Cauldron of ritual water, thrice-gathered, was a deep-pooled spring, a Well of Blessing. I saw ancient folk approach their own Wells with offerings of silver and I saw the spirits come to the ancient Well, and to the cauldrons of magicians.

I saw the Cauldron at the Root of the World, ever flowing, watering that root with life’s juice. Up from that deep I beheld the Pillar of the World, that ancient Tree. It stands in the Sacrifice Ground, carved and gilded; it is the Center of the Worlds. It is the Ridgepole of the Heavens it’s presence the presence of the World Tree itself.

A web of roots in the Underworld Water, a web of branch and leaf in the Heavens’ Light; the Tree is the All-Connection, the power that joins all things together. In this way the Tree is like the Mother of All, whose love draws all things into the great embrace.

“The Well of Potentials waters the Tree, and the Tree gives wood. It is of the Wood of the Tree that the fire is laid,” spoke the voice of the Red Lord of Wisdom, “The spark of the Fire is the Elder Spark, passed down through ages, hearth to high place. For it is the spark of the hearth that lights the Fire of Sacrifice. From
 the clans comes the spark and to them it returns with the shining blessing.”

“As it is in the Wood of the World, so let it be in your heart. Your flesh must die, and continual death sends memory flowing like water into the Well. Your living flesh is rooted in that very Water and the Heaven’s Light kindles the Fire in you. The Fire gathers the elements of the world, they dance in the way that is you.”

So I understood that the Cosmos is in my very being and that I am made of the parts of the World. From the Fire and the Water I saw the Plain of the World extend, from the Fire in the Four Airts to the wild Sea all around and the dome of the Sky over all.

The Procession of spirits made their circuit of the Middle World, turning rightward round the Tree. The Mother of All enthroned herself above the Well and the Lord of Wisdom stood with his Wand at the Fire of the Sacrifice. Thus I understood that it is the bond of blood and spirit between mortal folk and the spirits that brings the spirits to our Fires. It is the Mother’s Love and the Teacher’s Wisdom that inform us as we call the spirits, and it is by that same wisdom, love and power that the spirits respond.

For I time I rested in this vision, and greatly was I blessed by it. O Children of Earth, in this vision may you be blessed in turn. May the Strength of the Tree be in you, and the strength of the Well. May the strength of the Fire’s Light bring your best fate into the world. May the Mother and the Keeper of Gates open the way to the Gods and may the Host of the Spirits march in answer to your skillfull song.

Thus may we remember the Work of the Wise!

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Quiet Month

When we last saw our intrepid etc, he was headed back from his summer adventures to a quieter season at home.
Well, that sort-of happened. We aren't packing, setting up, taking down and unpacking every bleedin weekend this month. However I have been keeping busy.
Court of Brigid is Shipping
At this time I believe that I have one unclaimed set of the nine collectible, ready-for-ritual Druidic Sorcery sets. Write me at tredaraatncweb.com for details.
I'm gratified at the response, and encouraged to try some other ideas are unusual and practical occult items in the future. 
I've ben figuring out how to package these, and they should be in the mail within a day or two of this post. That still puts me at least somewhere in the mid-November zone, but I thank my supporters for their patience.
Tredara Upgrade
After a summer of poking around and watching the eyes of contractors glaze over, I found a willing team to do the barn even in this late season. That means stripping off about half of the building and rebuilding it, as well as adding a new porch and rectifying other problems. Here's pics:
The old barn, site of seasonal Pagan fun for 30 years.



We're adding a side porch to replace the tent we've used for years

We're replacing the ancient slumping toad of a shed that was one end of the building

As if this hour pillars are going up. Since you've indulged me this far I will
post some nice shots of the final finished item, when it happens.
It's seems like it is happening apace. We have a week of rainless days predicted, and it seems like it will be completed promptly. Thanks to a little windfall I don't have to break my own back for this, but there's been lots of incidental activity. And excitment!
So, watch this space for something more substantive before the end of the month, but excuse me while a dance little jiggity-jig over here...

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pretty Sure

I rattle on at various times about the lack of the need for faith within my polytheistic religious model. We try to let each student begin with some choices of model, and we expect every real practitioner to develop a personal and idiosyncratic practice. There are no credos, no recitations of doctrine. Even as we develop cosmologies and experiential maps of Inner and mythic locales we step back from objective ‘belief in’ them.
“Look, ‘tis Camelot…”
“It’s only a model…"
Nevertheless, you don’t build something unless you believe it will stand. Any venture, including spirituality, requires assumptions, opinions and plans. Separating those terms from the term ‘belief’ is exactly the sort of thing I’ve been trying to avoid in my theological thinking. I try to take spirituality off the pedestal, and assume that it isn’t different in kind from any other human social or artistic endeavor. So I think of ‘beliefs’ as nothing more than ‘opinions’. Some religions want to invest certain opinions as the very image of the divine. Paganisms generally haven’t gone that route, in ancient times, or now. Still, every purpose requires a degree of ‘being convinced’ which is pretty much the same as ‘believing’ (never mind believing by faith – that’s just silly; though I don’t mind believing for experimental assumption… is that different?).

So, what are my assumptions about religion and spirituality? When I set myself down for a look at that part of my head, I noticed that my relative certainties clustered around method, and not around result. In other words I have more opinions on how to do spirituality than about what a spiritual person is or acts like. In general I don’t think the effects of spiritual practice can be predicted very well, but we can predict what practices are likely to bring results. It may be that spirituality doesn’t make us more the same, but rather produces diverse kinds…

Some Assumptions, Opinions or Beliefs about Religion, Spirituality and Magic

• The Existence of Spirits (including the human spirit), and a Spirit-World. I’m entirely willing to entertain the notion that the spirit-world is a psycho-linguistic realm, however I rather think there is more to it than that. Even as information-bundles or semantic complexes, the gods are worthy of worship and the spirits can get work done. This primary assumption includes no details on the nature, number or names of the gods and spirits – my certainties about those are… various and somewhat variable.
Derivatives:
• Polyvalent divinity – the divine, or spiritual, is composed of an uncounted number of persons, probably including all of us.
• Contiguity of the spiritual and material worlds – the spirit-world isn’t outside of nature, and it is in constant interaction with the material as part of a natural process.

• Relationship between mortal and spiritual persons is forged and maintained through rites and customs. This is the set of behaviors that get called religion and/or magic. Traditional cultures have passed-down sets, though innovation happens everywhere. One bit of good news is that innovation often seems to work fine – you *can* make it up and develop this stuff on your own with the spirits, if you have the talent. However systematic and traditional practices are those which have brought results in the past.
Derivatives:
• Human ritual action is spiritually efficacious and pleasing to the spirits – A long leap for some moderns, but one that can be proven by experiment.
• Spirituality/religion requires deliberate human effort – While the spirits occasionally reach out to humans most interactions are begun and maintained by us.

• Relationship between spirits and mortals leads the mortal psyche through processes of spiritual evolution and change. The human spirit or mind responds strongly to the experience of the divine. Various schools of practice try to focus this process for certain goals deemed as the good – compassion, love, various kinds of salvation or enlightenment. My certainty stops at “stuff will happen in yo’ head”, though I’m working on some more specific application models.
Derivatives:
• As without, so within – the old Mac and Mic - when Apollo approaches he stirs the Apollo-shaped part of the self.
• Specific complexes of spirit-contact constitute “the mysteries” – ancients made constellations of gods and spirits and invoked them for specific kinds of results.

• The guidance and wisdom of tradition leads us into patterns that increase our health, wealth, and wisdom. Here I mean old-time agrarian and tribal tradition. What Nineteenth Century writers called ‘fertility religion’ is, in my opinion, really ‘prosperity religion’. The cycle of the seasons produces a regular pulse of growth and harvest in whatever one’s crop may be – wheat or words or iron-work. Put another way, old ways helped our ancestors live well; they can teach us how to do the same today.

So, those are some over-arching ideas which I’m willing to assert are true. Note that they include nearly no specific mythic elements. I’m not betting my certainty on the Book of Invasions, or on Snorri, or even on Thrice-Great Hermes. But with the above assumptions I think I can approach any of those systems and begin an experimental approach to the gods and spirits. I believe in them – if by ‘believe in’ we can mean ‘am reasonably sure they exist’.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A New Year

Samhain is the turn of the year in the most popular Neopagan calendar, whether or not it can be shown that it was such for the ancient Celts. The new cycle begins at sunset, and night precedes day in the order of things. Thus this season comes on us, bringing a phase of introspection and quiet calm before the rising light of Yuletide. For me it really is rather like that. October signifies a winding-down of my manic travel and hosting gigs, and November (the real month of Samhain – the word means November in modern Irish) brings it all to a stop. L and I are having our first unscheduled weekends in months, it seems. So I’ll pause for a moment and think back on this year’s work.

The Court of Brigid
This has certainly been my major occult work of the last year. We did the three-night retreat here at home last Imbolc, worked the festival rite at Eight Winds in California and developed and worked the practical magic rite at Summerland in August. In the meantime local devotions to the Three Powers are ongoing, and further ideas are starting to flow. I have had three reports of successes from the spell-work rite, since posting the journal here.

Of course I have issued my big experimental collectable set. The reception has been good, and six sets are now claimed. If you have been considering getting one of these once-only, practical and collectable sets now is the time to claim one of the remaining three. I have just received the shipment of talismans, and they look great! Careful proofing has meant that I’m waiting for the books now, and should be able to ship mid-month. I’ll also be making a trade paperback available soon.

I anticipate further work with these spirits this winter. I’m inclined to attempt some work on the other side of the occult coin, and to begin asking the spirits – especially the Three Queens of the Court – to lead me in visions and reveal mysteries.. Perhaps I’ve been a little focused on practical magic lately, to the expense of mysticism.

Personal work
Well, it hasn’t been the best summer ever for personal occult work, but then summer seldom is. We have gotten through another season without doing the specific land-wights work on our place that we’ve been simmering. However several ideas seem to be bubbling to the top, and I think that, with the instruction of the Teachers, we’ll be ready to go in the spring.

I do feel as if the stream of inward teaching from my allies is continuing apace. My alliances with the Ancient Wise, as begun in our ADF Clergy Council work, are really firmer than ever. I have specific conversation with a set of three ‘cucullati’ (because that’s how they appear…) and along with my long-time personal Teacher ally the connection seems strong to me.

As usual, this winter it will be back to Shrine work. I owe my allies personal offerings, bless their patient little auric centers, and the phase between Samhain and Yuletide feels right for some new work with the Dead. N

New Ideas
• An Introduction to Pagan Magic – I’m considering reframing our ‘Druidic’ ritual order into a more folkloric, magical-styled system that can be accessed through a short intro manual. I feel a little funny about attempting to ‘popularize’ this sort of thing, but only a little. I think our basic model of fire-and-water sacrifice is at least as well organized and deep as any of the ‘housel’ or other almost-there models out there. My personal opinion is that there are real advantages in our model, over the post-Wiccan four-square circle, and it needs to be available more widely. It will only make ADF’s work look more familiar to folks when they find us…

• The Nine Moons System – This is going to be high on my priorities this winter. I think I have an angle that will allow me to solve some structural problems. In the meantime, I suspect there are still people out there working with it, and I always appreciate feedback and am available for questions. I wonder whether there’s interest in another ‘class’ or group starting the work at the same time…

• Genius Locus – I b’lieve that I have given myself permission to use a couple of the ‘tricks’ that have been poking around at the edges of my mind. (That ungainly description seems to describe what that fancy ‘inward teaching’ feels like.) As a result I think I’ll actually have a suite of rituals ready to go for the rising of sap come spring.

• ADF In-house – I have one major project in hand for the year, the creation of a manual of practice for those who have completed the Dedicant’s Path introductory work. I’ll be organizing it but lots of the priesthood will be contributing.

• The Novel – Oh yeah, the novel. Well, I really am still working on it. I’m gonna try to move it up this list in priority, but I find it more difficult, in some ways, than writing occult instruction.

Samhain
Today is our local Samhain sacrifice. Our Grove has long kept the ‘astronomical’ date, moving us away from the secular fun of ‘Halloween. For most Pagans we reach the end of Samhain revelry, as we move forward into the year’s dark half. Let me leave us with a Blessing:

Let us be blessed on the Feast of Samhain, the End and Beginning of the Sacred Year, the Time of Turning, of Twilight, when the Dark Time begins. This is the Last Harvest. The fields lie empty, sinking into Winters Sleep and our larders hold what gain we have reaped from our labors. As our forebears did, so do we do now, and so may our descendants do after us.
O Mighty Ones, our Ancestors, our kindred, we your children honor you. You whose life and death creates our lives, you whose wisdom upholds our wisdom, Hear us, across this modern world, as we call to you and invite you to our Samhain fires. O Mighty Ancestors, we honor your presence offering our love and worship. Be with us in our groves at our shrines, and in our hearts. Accept our gifts, given in kinship, and grant us your aid and blessings in the new year.
So be it!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Seven Occult Flicks

Happy Halloween! I thought I'd dive into pop culture for some Halloween reviews. I celebrate both secular Halloween and our Pagan Samhain, usually on separate days.

I love horror flicks - or at least some kinds. These days far too many films in the bin are torture-fests, or chem-zombies. Sorry, zombies without black magic just doesn't excite me. I'm always on the lookout for films with a bit of the feel of 'real' occultism, or even with fantasy magic that pushes the right buttons. I don't mean Pagan flicks (I'll do a list of those soon, maybe) but good old Evil Occultism, preferably with some good-guy occultism to oppose it, though that's hard to find. I suspect I'm not the only one with these little peccadillos, so here are seven flicks that did the job for me. Understand that my tolerance for cheese is high. Several of these are small movies, with marginal production values. I wouldn't refer to each of these as a 'good' movie, by standards of er... taste; they are all movies that entertained me. They all had something sorcerous that got them on this list. In no particular order:

• Outcast (2010) A flick that will engage the Traditional Witchcraft crowd, or folks who like their sorcery earthy, bloody and hard. A tale of the Fae living on the edges of human society - an urban fantasy that hasn't been washed and brushed-up.

• All My Friends are Funeral Singers (2010) - a tarot reader is aided by her allies among the Dead, until a mystery arises that points toward pacts made by her equally witchy mother. A marvelously atmospheric set-piece, with marvelous music by Califone.

• The Skeleton Key (2005) Hoodoo and the blues in the Louisianna bayou - and they get it fairly right. Home-duty nurse finds her way into the conjure room of the old gothic mansion. Suggests that sorcery-vinyl didn’t start with heavy metal.

• Lo (2009) One of the few attempts to show a goetic evocation, and one of the most successful. Our protagonist's girfriend has been carried off by demons, and he evokes the demon Lo in an effort to get her back. The excellent script shows the demon and the evocator writhing in one another's grasp. Excellent script, very funny, watch for demon vaudeville...

• Crowley (2008) So, this really has surprisingly little ritual magic in it, but it *is* about Uncle Al, in its way. Of course Crowley is functionally the demon of the movie, come back into the body of a hapless professor of English. The depiction of Crowley is funny at times, bombastic and totally Hollywood. If you like AC it’s kind of like watching a train-wreck, but hang in there for a surprising Wilsonian ending...

• The Devil’s Rock (2011) Nazi occultism on the brink of the Normandy invasion. Two commandos stumble upon the remnant of an experiment gone bad. Excellent grimoire prop, ritual magic chamber, constrained demon and even a bit of attempted ritual magic.

Magus (2008) I almost didn't list this, because the magic in it bears minimal resemblance to any real occultism, with plenty of rays of power shining from hands, etc. But it does have a nice bit about a young woman who finds her personal power, and it also has both Julie Strain as a washed-up sorceress and her younger sister Lizzy as an amazonian bodyguard.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Court of Brigid Grimoire


The core of Pagan magic and religion is contact with the spirits, from the mightiest Gods and Goddesses to the most common local herb-wight. Western magical arts have preserved ancient, reliable methods by which spirits can be contacted and their aid gained for both spiritual growth and practical success. Because these arts have been preserved in the rites of ceremonial magic and the grimoires they have often been ignored by modern Pagan magicians. Now Ian Corrigan has taken the outline and structure of classical spirit-arte and applied it within a polytheistic, nature-based worldview. These methods were presented in The Book of Summoning, and have been being applied experimentally for the past several years. The first public result is the work of the Court of Brigid.

The Grimoire of the Court of Brigid is a suite of rituals that allow the magician to gain the aid of one of the most beloved of the Celtic deities – Brigid the High One, Goddess of Fire and Water, Lady of Skills and Inspiration, Keeper of the Good Hearth. With Her blessing the magician then calls and treats with a variety of spirits of her court. By making alliances with those spirits the magician is able to do a variety of more casual magical works, or spells.

The method of this grimoire combines traditional hierarchical evocation with a reverent and benign approach to the spirits. They are convoked in friendship and alliance, with proper offerings for each. There is no element of coercion or threat, and no discussion of ‘angels’ or ‘demons’. The spirits serve the Goddess and, by her blessing, they serve us. In this way the magic of the Court is placed firmly within the rites of Pagan religion.

The Court of Brigid grimoire is focused firmly on practical work, providing full instructions and conjurings for each of the works. It provides a full system of ritual work, from the creation of the proper sacrifice ground to the Three Rites by which the alliances are made, to spells and boon-rites for specific goals. Also included is the full text of the group rite that was the basis of the work. The names, powers and sigils of twenty-eight spirits are presented. These spirits showed themselves to our seers at one of two rites performed over the past year.

The work of the Court of Brigid is unique in current occult publishing – a system of formal evocation based firmly in a polytheistic (not to mention Celtic) context. Let the Fire of Offering be lit, and the spirits come to our call!

The Druidic Sorcery Set

This is a collectors set, with only nine examples commercially available, never to be repeated in this form.

The set includes a dust-jacketed hardback edition of the grimoire; uniquely typeset, signed, sigilized and numbered by the author. Each set includes three 5.5” laser-carved wooden talismans, numbered in sequence with the books. These are the keys to works of inspiration, prosperity and healing under the power of the Goddess and her spirits, as explained in the grimoire. In addition the set includes a small carved wheel of Fionn’s Window and a roomy cloth bag in which to keep the disks, making a remarkable Pagan and occult collectable with practical utility for magical work.
Close-up of one of the talismans

Standard Edition cover
The Court of Brigid Druidic Sorcery Set is available for $81, plus $10 for shipping in the US. International orders should inquire about payment and shipping cost. Interested parties should email me privately at Tredara at ncweb.com. Sets will ship in mid-November.

Standard Hardback – all the content without the decorative and collectibles pages - $27
Popular paperback to follow.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Coolest Thing I've Seen This Week - The Magical Druid

The Magical Druid
Supplies for Paganism and Pagan Magic

Ok, I didn't just see this this week, but still, I haven't seen anything to beat it...
So the coolest thing this refers to is actually the excellent, high-tech laser engraving device that my friends and colleagues Mike Dangler and Seamus Dillard bought. Just have a look at this:


That’s high-detail line-art translated into wood by computer engraving. It isn’t just wood-burned, though, it’s a nice, tactile 16th-inch deep cut in the wood. It makes a product that feels both natural for its wooden material, and as precise as if it had been cast from resin. They can do it on wood, horn, some kinds of stone, leather, various plastic and who knows what else.

Don't let "Druid" put you off. The lads'
expertise runs from Asatru to Chaos magic
and their willingness to work to you
spec is limitless.

  One of the best opportunities here for magicians is that Magical Druid can handily do custom work. I’m confident they would even work out planetary hours of production (within the limits of their day-jobs…).
A 12" granite Triangle of Manifestation
made to my system's specs.
Cool, eh?

They’ve been using a bit of my artwork, so this is not a disinterested plug, but still, how cool is this:
Yes, it's a jigsaw puzzle, suitable for little hands
and hearts.

 




From unique Rune and ogham sets to handy portable triangles of manifestation, this is a valuable source for unique magical aids. Look for a special offer from me, supported by them, very, very soon…



Wednesday, October 3, 2012

An Audience with the Dagda


Earth Warriors Festival 2012
On the last weekend of September L and I travelled to SW Ohio for the Earth Warriors festival, an event in its fifth year, held at a 4-H campground. We were present as guest presenters doing an informational workshop and ritual focused on the Dagda, a Gaelic god of wisdom, fertility and strength. All in all it was an excellent weekend.

This was our first Earth Warriors, but we expected to know lots of people. We expected a number of Druid friends, as well as some Starwood buddies. The ADF Warriors’ Guild has been involved from the first, running a version of our usual Warrior Games. In fact L and I, being experienced refs at such things, were drafted to help manage them and so spent Friday afternoon helping with archery, rock-chucking, stick-wrestling etc. It was fun, and a good way to get to know some of the folks we hadn’t previously met.

The event was well-organized, with a diligent support staff. Things happened on-time and as predicted, barring a couple of no-shows on the presenter list. The food was managed by a crew of pirates who produced it well and plentifully. I do enjoy events where the food just appears on a plate – my tolerance for camp-cooking hasn’t gotten greater as I’ve gotten older. All in all the logistics at EWF were exemplary. I’d recommend the event to anyone in the area.

They scheduled our program in the ‘vesper circle’ that 4H camps usually have – a nice firepit surrounded by a small amphitheater of benches. This might have been difficult for a standing-in-a-circle-holding-hands sort of ritual, but it fit nicely in ADF’s format. We brought a kit focused on the rite at hand (rather than the two-tub full kit) and as a result forgot this and that. Always nice to be at a Pagan event where things like a few worked-iron nails and extra incense are readily available.

Trying to fit all the background for a rite like this into one workshop slot is basically undoable. Since there were lots of non-ADF people there I felt I had to begin with a little basic Celtic cosmology, tying that into the ritual forms early (i.e. why we won’t be calling elements at the Quarters). The center of the talk was a pretty quick review of the stories and idea surrounding the Dagda, followed by an introduction to the ritual for the next day. The talk was well-attended and seemed well-received.

The rite itself was somewhat less attended, perhaps no surprise for a ritual opportunity on a lovely Saturday afternoon with other choices to hand. Still we had some twenty present. The rite is based in the same outline I used for the Audience with Brigid that is now the first of the three-rite suite. It combines a reasonably detailed material shrine with a focused inner vision-idol, a detailed verbal invocation combined with nine specific offerings to the god. Once again I composed a short Irish charm to be sung as each offering was given. The trope of the company singing the charm as each offering is carried around the fire and offered to the idol is strong moment in the rite.

If there’s one thing I regret about festival rites it is doing them broad daylight. There’s just no doubt about it – fire rites look better in the dark. I know that it’s bad Indo-Europeanism – rites associated with goodness and blessing are done in daylight. Too bad – fire rites look cooler after dark. One big advantage to after-dark rites is that trance induction is easier. These Audience rites depend on inducing at least a moderate level of trance, and I think that many of our participants got there, despite the lovely shining sun.

The offerings went smoothly, and the omen was quite proper:

Fearn – support – alder – strength and protection (warriors if you like)

Eamhancholl – twinned hazels – illness and healing (third function, for healing)

Eabad – salmon – woodbine – wisdom and poetic power (first function)

So a nice transfunctional omen that indicated, to me, that the Dagda was present and ready to bless us.

For the Blessing I used my three-flames-around-a-cauldron trope. Into the cauldron, along with water, were placed an equal number of black, red and white glass tokens. These, it was explained, would represent the blessing of one of the three Indo-European functions as expressed by In Dagda – the black for bounty and fertility, the red for strength and courage, and the white for wisdom and inspiration. Once the cauldron was blessed it was borne around the Grove. Each participant was sprinkled, and reached into the cauldron to randomly draw a token, getting one of the flavors of blessing. Interestingly there were only a few black blessings drawn, and a few more than that of red, and maybe double-digits of the white blessing – a definite weight for the Ruadh Rofhessa, and the wisdom-power of this complex figure. Two people told me later that they received the kind of blessing they specifically asked for. Otherwise I haven’t gotten feedback, though the general ‘buzz’ following the rite seemed good.

I probably should have done an informational post on the Dagda here. He is one of the most important of the Gaelic divine persons, one who is easy to stereotype and difficult to fully comprehend. I have been invoking him for many years, including some significant trance and invocvatory events back when L and I were doing early experiments together. I still can’t say I have grown close to him in the way I have with Brigid or the MacLir. I hope that by this working, which will surely be repeated over the next seasons, I can bring his power more brightly into both my own shrine and into our community.

An Invocation of the Dagda



a: Trance Eidolon

• Now let the Gate be as a window to our vision... opening to reveal the Otherworld... and let us behold the ancient and mighty one, In Dagda Mor, the Great Good God.... he is seated in beauty and bounty, in a nimbus of nineteen colors... fire and gold and green, shining and arrayed around him... flowing and changing, emerging from a white-gold brightness at their center... at that Center the Red God is seated... clothed in the colors of fire and earth... leather and iron, white tunic and nine-hued cloak of plaid... with his mighty arms and legs bare... a huge torc of gold rests around his neck, with silver bands on his wrists, reflecting the flickering flames... and at the center is the face of the god...

• See the eyes of the Lord of Wisdom... gaze into them, whether or not they see you yet... see his features, his flowing red hair and mustaches, the tips gold as flame... He sits cross-legged on a richly carpeted seat... before him burns a good fire, on a square fire-platform... above the fire a great iron cauldron is suspended, and it bubbles, giving off a scent of perfect delight... in his right hand he bears his great striking staff, and in his left hand his beautiful harp rests upon his knee, that fills the air around him with a wonderous music...

You approach the god... and he towers above you on his seat... let your vision rest in him... as we make our invocation...

b: Invocation & Offerings
• Dagda most honored, to you we make sacrifice, to Eochaid the All Father, Son of Elatha, Chieftain of Danu. All-skilled King of the Tuatha De Danann, Hoster of the Hall of Heroes,Keeper of the Feasting Cauldron, Wizard Harper, Lord of Secrets, Hear us, Red God, as we offer!
• Stallion of Fathering, Mighty Clan Chieftain, Great Cauldron-Feaster, Red-Bearded Giant who mates with the Mare. Abide with us Eochaid as offering we give:
(oil offering made)
• Guardian Warrior, Club-wielder, champion, Nine-slayer, Sun-eyed, Slay and Unslay with the stroke of your Club. Abide with us Dearg, due offering we give.
(oil offering made)
• Wise Druid, Fire-keeper, Harper of Seasons and Master of Secrets, Oh Lord of the Sacrifice, Great Ruadh Ro-fhessa, abide with us here as due offering we give.
(oil offering made)
• Dagda most honored, to you we make sacrifice,
that you be the warmth beneath the Cauldron,
that you be the Fire of Sacrifice,
that you be the giver of bountiful Blessings.
• Flame in the belly that sustains life,
Flame in the heart that illumines life,
Flame in the eye that comprehends life
Be in us, and let us be in you
• O Father of Clans, Red Stallion of Hosting
O Sun-Eyed Champion, Slayer and Healer
O Lord of Wisdom, Fire of Sacrifice
O Dagda most honored, to you we make offering.
As each of the Nine Gifts are given, the whole company responds by singing the charm:
Dagda Mór, bheith linn
Dagda Mor, Dia linn
Dagda Mor-Great good God,
• Porridge I give, because you feed every honorable guest.
• Pork I give, because you give the Champion’s Portion.
• Ale I give; because you strengthen the spirit in the corn.
• Silver I give, because you bestow wealth,
• Iron I give; because you bring sharp magic
• Oak I give; because you bring strong law
• Flame I give, because you keep the Sacred Fire
• Herbs of vision I give, because you keep the Gates of the Otherworld
• Mead I give, because you keep the Draught of Inspiration.
c: Final Sacrifice
I call with the voice of the Cauldron of Wonder, I call with the voice of the Hearth of Welcoming. Oh Dagda Mor, be welcome at our fire. Receive these gifts, and with them our love, our honor, our aspiration.
Dagda Mor, Great Good God accept our sacrifice!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Unsacred


The title of the rather edifying blog No Unsacred Place keeps bugging me. The phrase brings to my mind the little discussion that sometimes occurs inside Neopagan ritualism in which the idea of casting the circle or creating sacred space is questioned. The argument is that in a ‘nature religion’ all of existence must be the manifestation of the divine, and therefore human efforts to designate any particular space as sacred are at best redundant and at worst irreverent and presumptuous.

To me this notion contains misunderstandings both theological and linguistic. Let’s do the linguistic first.

“Sacred” is derived from Latinate roots that mean ‘to separate’ or ‘to cut off’. It refers especially to places or things that are made separate from common life and work, in order to be especially dedicated to the work of religion or magic or spirituality (as you like). The thing is, the essential point of ‘sacredness’ is its separation from the common. To use ‘sacred’ as a reference to unity is rather a contradiction in terms. To say that there is ‘No Unsacred Place’ – that everything is equally dedicated to the special work of religion, is essentially to say that nothing is, in fact, special. If nothing is unsacred, then nothing is sacred.

The complement to this is found in the word ‘holy’. Holy is from the same Germanic roots that give us our English ‘whole’, ‘heal’ ‘health’ etc. It is perfectly reasonable to say that the entire cosmos is holy – wholly whole, and wholly holy, as somebody famous once said. “No unholy place’ makes plenty of sense, if you like.

On another level, sacredness isn’t an intrinsic quality, it is an imparted one. In order for a thing or place to be sacred it has to be declared so, either by a spirit or by a human. My ritual robe is sacred not because of its cloth or its color, but because I have set it aside for the special work of spirituality Sometimes a god makes a mountain or river sacred, sometimes it is done by humans. In every case sacredness happens because some specific intelligence makes it so.

To me this isn’t really a theological matter so much as a technical one. Religious methods are intended to induce spiritual experience in the participants. The technique of designating a specific space as the sacred space – the space where we can expect the gods and spirits to manifest – is basic and undeniable. As always, I assume that spirituality works by most of the same rules as material nature. If you diffuse your work thinly over a vast area you’re unlikely to get a useful result. Concentrating effort in a specific zone is the way to have real impact. So when I want a god to be present I make an image of the god and bring the god to be present specifically in the image. Note I don’t try to ‘have the divine be present’. The divine *is* always present, but unless it is concentrated in some specific form and place it is mainly irrelevant.

Sacredness is about separateness, and without separateness there can be no sacredness.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Earth Warriors Festival

And A Fall Update
Yes, things have slowed down just a trifle this month. It won’t last. We’re coming into a month-long run of weekend blitz. Fortunately much of it includes some good Pagan or esoteric work. We’ll be keeping Equinox with the Grove here at Tredara, getting my occasional shot of Norse blessing as we keep our Vanir cult. In October we will host the ADF Clergy Retreat here, always one of my favorite occasions of the year, often including some juicy magical work. At the end of the month we’re off to Earth Warriors. Earth Warriors fest is organized by an old friend from SW Ohio. We’re pleased to be making the time to get there this year.

Earth Warriors Festival is “an earth centered multi-path pagan festival, honoring the many paths of pagan warriors and guardians, coming together to celebrate our similarities and learn from our differences.” I’m very pleased to be joining the line-up with Alaric Albertsson, M.R. Sellers, Kellianna and many other local and regional speakers. The music looks great, they have singing pirates (I am, on occasion, a singing pirate) and I’m going to do something new.

L and I will be doing a two-part workshop and ritual honoring the Dagda, the Excellent God of Bounty, Victory and Wisdom. The rite will be an ‘audience’ rite of the sort I have been developing, with effective trance, powerful symbolism and a solid blessing. I look forward to bring the deep and powerful energies of this male deity into the public Pagan scene. Dagda is a fascinating interface of the warrior function with powers of wisdom and the farmer’s fertility, so there’s plenty to work with. My hour-and-a-half lecture will include discussions of the model of a real Celtic pantheon and some discussion of our econstruction of Druidic sacrifice rites. I have nicely organized notes, and there’ll be no danger of not filling the time. I’m prepping some nice tools and images for the rite the next day, and hope to make it a real darshan of the Red Lord.

The Court of Brigid Grimoire is browning nicely, and will be done soon. It will still roll out sometime around Fall Equinox, and I have a surprise coming for those who like surprises.