Friday, March 16, 2012

Nine Moons Isn't Enough (and other updates)

So, it has been most of a year since I released the alpha version of my training program in Druidic magic and occultism, as the Book of Nine Moons. (It's still available here, though I keep threatening to withdraw it...) My impression from my first year’s work-through of the Nine Moons system is that it is presented in a too-much too-fast way. I’ve watched students, including myself, make it through several months of the work and then stall, often to take the work up again, sometimes not. This matches closely my major concern about the formatting of the program when I put it together, and suggests a new direction for reworking.

I’ve said it before – Americans like having several colors of belt between white and black. Presenting complex material in easy-to-digest steps is just how-you-do-it in this day and age. Thus, I b’lieve I’ll give that route a try.

Here’s how this happened; I wanted to put the system I’d been building into a single outline. It would be a full-strength training program in magic, fully centered in a polytheistic, animistic world-view, with plenty of Gaelic Pagan emphasis. I wanted to create a system as complete and focused as what we used to undertake for our ‘degree’ work in an old-style Wiccan coven. So I put together rites and works I’d been developing, lifted a little from previous publications, wrote almost everything fresh and put it together in a series of weekly lessons covering nine months. After much dithering I published the entire system as the Book of Nine Moons.

I opened a group for students and provided recorded audio support for the first 5 or so months. Results were as described above. Several students have actually finished through the main empowerment rite of the system, and some more might do it. All those I’ve spoken with have reported improvements in their practice and work. The fact is that the intense nine month ‘retreat’ that is presented is still only the basic training for operative sorcery or mystical rites.

The system aims for several goals at once. The first is to deepen and solidify the student’s practice of our sacrifice-based, Fire-and-Well ritual form, develop the consecrated tool-set, and be familiar with solitary ritual work. Basic meditation, trance and energy work are taught, and a basic familiarity with a set of cultural divination symbols or letters is begun. By the end of the first three months students are consecrating a talisman and learning to step out into vision.

The second three months is the formal prep for works of power. In the vision-work the student builds the Inner Grove, and takes first steps into Otherworld locales. This is one of the more labor-intensive bits, requiring three-phase trance-works, etc. I’ll be working on that outline and presentation. Two personal tools of power are consecrated, used freely in the Druid’s hands rather than nailed into the shrine’s world-order, if you will. This phase includes rites of offering to the Not-Gods, beginning the process of calling them near for the alliance works ahead. The three months ends with the first formal practical-magic rite, the student now fully armed and rooted.

In the final three months the central work is the making of formal alliances with allies among the Ancestors and the Sidhe. Certain mystical threads from earlier months are brought together as the central meditation-pattern of the system is completed. Practical magic rites are worked for prosperity, health, and wisdom. Relationships with the newly-made allies are deepened, experimenting with trance-scrying and other methods. Finally all is brought together in a Convocation rite intended to establish the magician’s presence and authority.

So, that’s rather a lot. Where’s my monastery? Oh… yeah, I’m fresh out of dedicated nine-month periods of retreat in a nice forest enclosure, and so are most modern students. So it’s time to rework the material, to present in a more attractive and effective way.

I think that dividing the work into three courses makes sense. That will allow each one to be manageable in a few months, even with less-than-weekly workings. Most important, I think, I will disconnect the lessons from any sense of timetable, or urgency. It simply makes sense to allow folks to work the various exercises and rites at their own pace, while providing a relatively firm outline and order of proceeding. That last is important, I think – one thing that seems to have been valuable is the clear path and obvious next step provided. I think that I need to build more flexibility and breathing-room into the pattern.

So what I think will happen is that I’ll divide the program into three stages. I’m sorry – three is just too Druid-y a number, and the nine months of the existing program divide nicely that way.

The first part will be the basics of beginning a Celtic sorcery practice. Since it won’t be constrained by the desire to teach a whole religious practice I can skip dealing with seasonal rites and the like, and teach the basics of fire sacrifice and mental training. The course will complement but not replace ADF’s Dedicant Program, with a greater emphasis on preparation for practical magic.

The second part feels the most difficult to make into a free-standing program. In the outline the central three months are about key works of personal power and opening up to the spirits. I may have to add some detail to keep it from being plot-less and anticlimactic, like a bad second book of a trilogy.

The third part is the money, and will be able to come across in a pretty straightforward grimoire fashion. Again, there will be some fleshing out.
Now, how to frame and dress the three stages… Watch this space.

Other Stuff:
• I'm going to be doing the Court of Brigid working at the Eight Winds festival in Cali at the end of June. Once that is done, and some more personal efforts with several of the spirits are complete I may issue some sort of publication on it.
• I'm still writing the novel. I'll try to isolate an excerpt soon.
• I've updated by Cafe Press Store with new items, including some talismans and ritual items. Look for more there, and look for some unique items to come from a collaboration with the folks at The Magical Druid.
• Spring is early on the lakeshore this year. I hope that means that L and I will be beginning a round of work intended to draw nearer to the wights and rulers of this patch of land we hold. This should lead to some more new material in the Druidic spirit-arte dept. Spring Equinox directly, Beltaine before ya know it... time for another burst of occult work before festival season kicks in...

1 comment:

Andrew B. Watt said...

Maybe you should structure the course around three nine-moon periods. That's a little bit more than two years.

You could have the first stage be Bard — reading, learning, memorizing material, and learning to play in the Gaelic Pagan mindset as poet and performer.

The second stage is Brehon — following a legalistic framework with increasing liberality as the 'law' framework gradually resolves into 'working principles'. The Bardic material re-spirals in.

The third stage is 'Druid' or 'adept' or 'merlin' (small M), who concentrates on the more magical aspects. Just a thought.