|The basic Shrine of the working.|
Fire, Well & Tree, offering bowl,
the image of Brigid,and an excellent
paving stone from Midnight Moon.
I write this on Sunday morning, having completed the first two rites of the sequence. So far we have been blessed, and have been learning a great deal about how to apply these methods. L. and I will work the final rite, convoking the Courtier spirits together, this evening.
I: The Audience of Brigid
The Audience rite seemed to go very well on Friday evening. We made the decision to invite some of the Grove elders and friends, and had a total of eight people present (I suppose the Honored Guest makes nine…). The performance of the ritual went smoothly, including the fairly complex nine offerings to Brigid and the extra-magicy blessings. Actually I thought the Blessing was very juicy indeed, with extra time taken to consecrate the purification by water, and the live flame of the blessing fire passing around. That is always a good dramatic element, and good Indian incense-cones will burn with a live flame for three to four minutes before producing plenty of lovely perfumed blessing smoke. The guests were full of energy and inspiration as we finished, and we continued to converse on into the evening.
My own impressions during the vision portion were that I was welcomed and thanked by the Goddess for assembling the occasion of worship. I think the gods of old times are still unused to hearing their names praised, unused to receiving our offerings. My relationship with Brigid is the closest of my bonds with the Gods, and her presence was easy and natural as well as intense and illuminating. When we had completed the blessing spells, and the water and fire were sitting before Her shrine, folks came to them for further purification and empowerment – just to bathe in Her blessing. It was a moment of wordless delight.
This kind of rite is something I have done many times. Structurally it went without a hitch and needs no edits. I cannot say the same for the second two rites.
II: Structural Concerns
The effort to develop a ritual spirit arte that applies the general principles of Euro-Grimoiric methods using the Druidic Order of Ritual and inside a pre-Neoplatonic, Indo-European mythic cosmos is ongoing. The Court of Brigid is my most formal and sharable working yet, but it is still in alpha testing, if I must evaluate it in that way. Part of the problem lies in how it was created and what I’ve tried to do with it next.
I began the work as a festival ritual attended my many skilled Druids. In that context it was a Big Damn Deal done all at once – an hour-and-a-half working that included a devotional offering to the Goddess, attunement to the mysteriously nouveau Three Powers, and then group trance in which we wrote down the names of some sixteen spirits discerned by the members of the company. In general the structure and progressive entrancement and conjuring built into that rite worked well.
I want to do more work with the spirits we met in that rite, and would like to make the work available to others as well. It seems to me that expecting a solitary mage to assemble and work the full temple-ritual group-rite is less effective than to split the work up into a series of workings for personal performance. Also, the initial rite was a ‘prospecting’ rite. It involves opening the way, summoning a host of spirits, then sorting those for a few who will work with the mage through alliance. However we now have the basic list of initial spirits. I have been forced to ask myself whether to present the work to others as a method contacting those spirits or as a method of doing further prospecting. I have received requests to do the original rite again as a festival event – again I wonder whether and how much Brigid’s Court, vast as it must be, varies from Ohio to California.
However, what I wanted for myself was to deepen my own contact with the spirits who had responded at that first rite. The fact is that since I was one of the primary conjurors in that group rite (along with L) I just didn’t speak with a spirit myself, or add to the list. The list is interesting, and further work by a few folks has been encouraging, so I wanted a direct deal. Therefore I chose to construct the three rites as primarily a method of contacting the Courtiers that had already presented themselves and made an oath to us.
In the end I divided the work into three rites:
1: The Audience: A preparatory blessing in which the mage offers to the patron god of the rite and receives her purifcation and empowerment.
2: The Three Queens: The ‘shaktis’ of the goddess – personified and individual daemons who very directly express the deity’s core nature – the ‘archangels’ if you like – were called to the Fire to be met and allied with as individual spirits.
3: Convoking the Court: calling the individual Courtiers to make pacts. I wrote the new script to allow for a complete summoning of all sixteen spirits. More on that below.
Is it artistic laziness to recycle ones own words in the context of ritual writing? I tend to think it isn’t. Repetition has more value in spirituality than novelty (as little as certain modernists like the fact), and when one is willing to work from written text, as we continue to be, familiarity is very valuable. However, my effort to edit the texts away from their group-rite, one-shot origins into personal rites was only so successful by the time we got to the actual performance.
III: Calling the Three Queens
Look, when the spirits lead the mind in their direction, sometimes we must just follow. Did I ‘make up’ the ‘idea’ of the Three Powers – three great persons of the Goddess who act as agents of the divine power of Brigid? Yeah, maybe, sort-of. It evolved by reading about Shakta tantra, about the local persons of cosmic goddesses who are the direct objects of worship and magic in that very polytheist system. Of course it is no stretch to find the Three Powers of Brigid – Poetry, Smithcraft and Healing – in lore, and not much more of a stretch to name these three great daemons, or Queens of the Sidhe. The Harp, the Hammer and the Cup were the names that seemed obvious to me. I rendered them into Irish, and called them by those names, and they appeared.
In the original festival rite the Three Queens, or Three Powers, were called as intermediaries between the Goddess and the Courtiers, and as authorities by which the latter were called. Really, it was only our long devotion to the Goddess that kept us out of trouble, I think. Now that I have made direct conversation with those three I’m sure it would have been better had we done so in the first place. Fortunately, the benign and homely nature of Brigid (even in the austere nature of the Harp-Queen, or the lessons of the Hammer-Queen) protected us.
The Three Powers appeared to me in forms proper to their nature. The Clairseach Brid – the Harp of Brigid – came as an austere Druidess in white, with her harp and voice, and a sharp, telling gaze. She has a special place in my personal work both as mage, Druid and artist. I was reminded that ‘poet’ meant something very different to the old ways.
The Cuach Brid – the Cup of Brigid – came as the Red Queen, but not with the raving, Morrigan-y energy. Rather she was the red warmth of hearth-fire and good meat. Appearing as an earth-momma in noble garb and a scarlet cloak she brings the mother’s love, and compassion for all beings. I’ve never been heavily into the healing vibe. She reminded me of the value of that work, and the compassion it both creates and requires.
The Casur Brid – the Hammer of Brigid – appeared as a smith-woman, in a skirt and jerkin of thick leather and a thick black cloak of wool. She came more as black iron than as white silver, but both are hers. Strong and skilled, she both inspires artists and works the shaping of fate. I expect to ask for her aid in practical matters. All three of the Queens have interest in financial security and prosperity, whether the bard’s or physician’s fee, the smith’s pay or the wealth of the family farm.
This sounds like fairly standard ‘aspects of the Goddess’ stuff, but they came to our Fire as persons; shining, giant, mighty persons, but still persons. I had prepared their sigils in a new book, but there was no discussion of ‘swearing on’ them. I was told that my devotion to the Goddess earned me the aid of the Queens, and that while offerings were proper and welcome (we had neglected milk for them, though we gave it for Brigid, which they requested) we weren’t making a ‘pact’ with the Three Queen of the Court of Brigid. OK…
L received personal names separate from the titles for the spirits. We looked those up in the Old Irish resources with some interesting results. For now I’ll reserve those names. Myself, I was led to refer to them by their titles.
I had not included a ‘binding’ spell in this rite. In the calling of the Courtiers There is a specific binding and oath, part of the pact. While this was not included in the Three Queens rite, there was some residual pact-y language that I’ll probably remove or modify.
Generally the rite was powerful and fulfilling. There was no practical goal for that rite, in the sense of ‘charging’ the Queens with some task. Rather it was more Theurgy, bringing the active power of the Goddess closer to our shrine through these spirits.
IV: Convoking the Courtiers - 1/30/2012
It's Monday morning now, and we've completed the third rite. This is the money shot of the working, the calling of the more ground-level members of Brigid’s Court. Throughout our discussions about how to manage this the central issue was whether to attempt to convoke all sixteen spirits in one big crowd, take their oaths and then plan further work, or do something else. We both felt that while there would be plenty of juice in the all-or-none approach it might also reduce the practical result through taxing out skills and strength.
Then L had a great idea. We used the pendulum, and asked which of the spirits from the original list wanted to come directly that evening and enter into pact with us. After some experimentation, I ended up holding the pendulum. L held the book that I had prepared (thanks, lulu…) and indicated one spirit’s sigil at a time with her wand. I wasn’t told which spirit she was asking about, nor in what order she chose them, so we had pretty good double-blind on that. My experience doing the pendulum was fairly intense, with the presence of the three Queens very strong. My intuitions about which of the Courts would be predominant was correct, although I had no clues as to which spirit I was asking about. While I intend to keep the names of the spirits to myself, I’ll say that they are four from the Court of the Harp and two from the Court of the Hammer, though two of the Harp Courtiers might cross over into the Cup’s Court.
So, with the number of spirits that we would call limited reasonably we felt ready to go ahead. We had left the Shrine in place in our living room, at our hearth, since Friday evening. The juice was palpable. Just sitting down at it to do the pendulum divination brought the presence of The Goddess, and the Three Queens were there as well. Each morning we policed the previous night’s incense ash and herb bits, making the Shrine ready for the next work.
After considerable fiddling with the sequence, we settled on an outline. We would call to all the spirits with the primary conjuration as written. I had written the third rite as though all the Courtiers would be called, and had arranged the offerings so that they could all be done at once. We removed that section and instead made the proper offering (as was taught by the spirits at the original rite) as each of the six spirits was called in turn. Each spirit was called, given their proper offering, and their name intoned as we drew their sigil in the smoke of the offerings.
The assembled spirits were then bound and charged using the model I’ve developed. Truly, in this case it all felt like a formality. When we did this the first time we called a host of indeterminate spirits, so when we called for only those who work with us in proper ways to remain, bidding other depart, it counted. In this case the spirits stood their ground. After all, they had already heard those oaths when I recited them the first time.
Nevertheless I intended to build a more direct pact with these spirits. I had prepared a liber spirituum, with blanks ready to receive the sigils and names of the spirits and notes about their work. Once we had determined which spirits would be called I entered their names and a light line-in of their sigil. Once the spirits were welcomed we allowed an extended period for interaction with them. During that period I called each of the spirits to me in turn, asking them to place their hand on the sigil and affirm the oath and our alliance. In turn I placed my own hand on the same sign, and affirmed my part as well. This went very well for me, with the spirits anywhere from willing to actively pleased to swear in this way. Most were dignified, some were joyful. This gave me an opportunity to interact with each, see them more clearly, and get further hints as to their natures.
Let me say a word about the means by which the spirits appeared. I have been working in a model that uses vision-trance as the primary mode of seeing spirits. Our ritual model uses the symbol of a Gate, and in my training when I open my Inner Eyes I see the Gate open in our Sacred Space, with the spirits appearing in/through/by means of it. I have done ‘shamanic’ style work for years, and for me these visions aren’t ‘guided meditations’. While I use scripted guidance as a launching-pad at times, in these trances I am simply opening or moving my awareness and reacting to what happens. So, when the spirits appear they come as they will. I *did* have a general notion of how each would appear, based on their first appearance, but had several surprises and clearly external impressions. I did find that asking the spirits to interact directly with a material object (put their hand on a book) produced the most immediate and solid presence of the spirit. Since the rite I have done the sigils with proper line quality, and handwritten their basics.
|Starter pages in the liber spirituum |
for one of the Three Queens.
I considered making a triangle of manifestation and using disks of wood with the sigils. I may still, but I’m pushing my own buttons – some of my oldest – by making the liber spirituum, and that’s always good. I am convinced that drawing the spirits firmly into local reality is a valuable technique. I remain unconvinced that ‘visible’ appearance – i.e. a pseudo-sensory event indistinguishable from optical sight, or a psychokinetic vapor or dustcloud – would have produced any more valuable result. I do think that I will prepare a distinct locus spiritus for the next time.