Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Banishing Rites & the Druid’s Gate

Being an Obscure but Short Consideration of an Obscure Point of Magical Art in Druidic Rites.
Ceremonial magic includes rituals of ‘banishing and purification’, intended to render a space claimed and made ready for holy work. These rites are often conceived of as methods of ‘driving away ill spirits’. This can be especially so at the end of rites, when tradition teaches that various larvae and shades may have accumulated to seek the work’s light. Ceremonial magicians are concerned to avoid intrusions by ill-spirits, and often live in a mythic cosmos populated by ‘demons’ who might choose to attach themselves and do ill to a magician or his environs.
When ceremonial magicians have looked at ADF rites there has occasionally been a concern that we do not banish at the end of the rites. (see the full script of a simple rite here and here) There is no call to ‘depart now to your own place’, a custom that lingers even in Wiccan ritual. There is no ‘banishing sign’ used to shoo away the crowd of spirits. This has dismayed some magicians.

Why do we feel that we are safe and the work is well-done using the methods we do? I think it comes from several basic differences in emphasis between traditional ceremonial magic (maybe as far back as proto-hermetic times) and a tribal, spiritist perspective.

1: The Worship Pact: The entire thrust of our rites (at least our religious rites, rather than magical rites with specific goal-effects) is to welcome all beings to receive their due offering with honor.
2: The Protections of *ghosti: (Can I capitalize that asterisk?) Since we do not divide the spirit world into Our side and Theirs, good spirits against evil ones, we expect all arrivals to abide by the peace of the holy place. Even ill-doers think twice before breaking guest-custom, and all the spirits that come are guests at our fires.

On a more technical level, I think that the Gate Opening & Closing is our equivalent of CM ‘banishing’ rites. However, it operates using a different metaphor. Rather than thinking of the Otherworld as identical with our perceived space, and ‘clearing out’ spirits from a perceived area of space, the Gate Opening opens a Way between two conterminous realms. When that Gate is closed contact is not easy. When that Gate is opened the way is clear, and the spirits and mortals are visible to one another. We can quibble about whether and in what way the Gate spell is required in order for one to speak with the Gods and Spirits. However, in a technical ritual sense, the opening and closing is our equivalent of “Now we are open to communication” and “Now we intend communication to end”. By closing the Gate we say to the spirits “you no longer have my permission to influence me”. In other words, they have returned to their realms, full of our offerings and with our thanks.

If there is an advantage to the Gate form, it might be that we are less likely to insult or offend spirits of place. To come into a place filled with spirits who precede the magician there and demand in the names of your God that all spirits depart, perhaps with implications of uncleanliness or other insult, is a good way to end up needing banishing rituals all the time after that. While we do some basic cleansing rites, and ask spirits specifically unfriendly to stand aside, we are mainly simply ‘turning on a light’ so that we may speak with the spirits. When we leave the place, we turn out the light and all the local wights are left in peace, with offerings to remember us by.

So that’s why I don’t worry when I don’t end even a serious conjuring rite with a banishing. I am an ally of the spirits, protected by my own familiars and by my own authority. That’s not to say that knowing a few charms for sending away spirits isn’t a useful thing, but I don’t think our Order of Ritual is lacking in good methods of keeping us safe


Ceworthe said...

Also we open and close the gates with the aid of a Gatekeeper, which implies that the Gatekeeper will guard/keep the gates from intrusion.

Morwenna said...

It's something that has come up again and again, this makes perfect sense and is a good explainantion, so thanks for this post. Very helpful. xx