Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Third Power

A Natural Evolution of Druidic Practice.
(I’m indebted to Fox for setting this idea into plain view in my mind at Wellspring some years ago. None of this is his fault, though…)

We have used the Two Powers of Underworld and Heavens, Chaos-potential or Ordering-energy as a motif for ‘grounding and centering’ for some years now. Along with the practical benefits of the model, it has developed some cross-over with our cosmological and mythic models. The Two Powers correspond neatly to the Underworld and Heavens, the Fire and Well. That, however, leaves an obvious place for a Third Power, that would correspond to the manifest world. There seems, to me, an obvious way to express this idea in grounding and centering, and in¬ ritual. That is through the principle of vibration, expressed in sound.

It seems to me that throughout the IE world the idea of a core cosmic vibration principle is expressed as sound, as the word and as their many echoes and sympathies. My recent reading discovered the pre-Hindu Vedic idea of ‘Brahman’ to be ‘the power of mantric sound and vibration’, i.e. the cosmic underlying hum, or Om. When the Brahmin takes the sacred words of ritual into his mouth, he becomes himself an expression of the cosmic vibration, and so can work his will in ritual. This seems to me to resonate nicely with what we know of ‘words of power’ among the Greeks with their strings of sacred vowels, and even with the seership and active magic of the poet-singer-magicians of the Celts, Hellenes and Balts. It is by attuning to the Power of Sound, and expressing that cosmic power in the Note, in the Word, in Speech that we can attune to a core, impersonal principle of holy existence.

Such a model opens us to the notion of viewing all manifest existence – all that lies between the Deepest and the Highest – as varieties of vibration in pattern. This corresponds nicely with some of the more arcane of ancient philosophies. It also happens to correspond handily to present-day scientific models, always a pleasant thing in a theology. I think that at this stage in our Druidic examination of this interesting ancient concept we should avoid constructing any specific doctrine or mythic image about it, and just approach it as a practice, as a visualization, an exercise and a meditation, and see what results we get.

As a practice it is so easy to introduce sound into grounding/centering/empowering exercise, and there are so many ways to do it. The most common method, used throughout the Neopagan world, is intonation. Sometimes called ‘Oming’, from its most popular syllable, this is simply the expression of the feeling of the Two Powers in the body as a vocal hum, vowel-tone or other wordless or nearly-wordless sound. The uninhibited use of sound vibration in this way produces a very entrancing feeling of physical and vision-power joining as one. It is quite common for any Pagan circle to end its G&C exercise with an ‘Om’ – that gives the whole thing an IE rationale that fits a familiar Neopagan ritual trope.

My own favorite way to make a wordless intonation is to vibrate the vowels of my own language. The idea of the vowels as expressive of spirit seems pretty widespread in IE thought, and is explicit in Hellenic magical words. One might also use the vowel set from the Hearth language of one’s choice. Most IE languages have more than English’s conventional 5 vowels (so does English, my speech-therapist wife informs me…) – sometimes a symbolically convenient seven or nine.

The Third Power could also be expressed in words. A proper invocation, a proper chant or incantation, a spoken ‘word of will’ are all ways of bringing your inner understanding and intention into manifestation.¬¬ Those who cannot see themselves as ‘singers’ may wish to use a spoken charm as an expression of the union of the Two Powers in the self. There is, however, great symbolic value in the physical effect of an intonation felt in one’s very flesh. Even charms with words can be intoned rather than just spoken – and I strongly encourage experimenters not to think of the process as ‘singing’, but simply to seek sounds that make the bones vibrate.

In my wanderings in Gaelic lore I came across the Irish term ‘Dord Fían’ [Irish dord, buzzing, droning, intoning] The war-chant or cry of the Fianna of Fionn mac Cumhaill. It is described in stories as being low on the musical scale, often delivered with a bass voice. This term ‘dord’ (pro: dor’d) seems convenient to me, and I have been using the term ‘dord draoi’ (dor’d dree) - meaning ‘magic intonation’ or ‘druid’s buzz’ – to refer to this Third Power intoning.

Depending on how you work with the presence of the Two Powers, you may find certain visualizations useful as well. It has long been my own custom to do an exercise in which I bring the Waters of the Deep into my cupped hands, overflowing as they flow. Into the Waters I bring the Fire, and envision it flaming atop the water. As I increase my focus, and strengthen the flow of the Two, they have always seemed to me to become a sort of Third Power – a plasma or ether composed of the Fire and Water. I have found that beginning an intoning allows me to sort-of unify and expand this very mechanical dual symbol into a kind of vibratory fire and water field that is useful in many ways. In the same way it increases the integration of the Two in my whole body.

So, I offer the idea, and with it a revised ‘grounding, centering and empowerment’ exercise for discussion. I would recommend experiments with this exercise to those who have become familiar with the Two Powers as we have been using them.

Centering in the Three Powers
• Breathe deep and find your peace, perhaps by the bone, blood and breath technique.

• Remember the Underworld Power, and use your breath and will to draw the Underworld Power into yourself. Feel yourself filling with the Waters, allowing them to flow through you as they will.

• Remember the Heaven Power, and use your breath to draw the Light and Fire into yourself. Feel the Light filling the Waters, flowing with it.

• Remember that sound is vibration, and that vibration makes the form and substance of all things. Feel the Light set the Water to vibrating, making patterns of waves, shapes and, in fact making you – your flesh, even your mind and spirit, all made of varying and interweaving patterns of the Light and the Shadow in union.

• Pay attention to the way the Water and Fire join together. Think of their joining as a sound. What hum or buzz or chord would their work together make? Use memory and imagination to hear the sound the Powers make, as they exist as you and your surroundings.

• Breathe deep, and allow yourself to begin to hum softly. Lips mostly closed, just make a sound, and let it settle into a level that feels comfortable. Hum more loudly, and perhaps search for a note that puts a vibration in your chest as you make it. When in doubt, begin with one of the deepest pitches you can find – growling and breathing is a good way to start, but let the sound rise louder in you as you find a level.

• Breathe deep and with at least three breaths, make as solid and vibrating a note as you can with your voice. Don’t hesitate if pitch or tone varies – keep your voice and will working together to find that feeling of vibration in the body and spirit.

• You might wish to conceive the three intonations as vibration in the Three Cauldrons, or in some pattern like:

Vibration of the Waters: Reaffirming inwardly the connection to the Underworld
Vibration of the Fire: Reaffirming inwardly the connection to the Heavens
Vibration of the Self: Setting the two into shape by the Third Power

• This last breath could end with the Water and Fire flowing and shining in the hands, as we sometimes do.


Antheros said...

I really enjoyed reading this. I remember when my band director talked about sound and vibration in middle school, he said all sound is vibration. Then in science class we learned that all particles vibrate constantly. Then later on I read a book about light and fire being by-products of very intense vibrations. Those thoughts have stayed with me since that young age and I feel like your Third-Power model ties everything together very nicely. As I read this post I could see myself doing this regularly.

Great post, thanks for writing it!

Patchshorts said...

What a great article!

Electronmage said...

It would seems logical, given the propensity of druids to be drawn to triads, that a third power be added.

Earrach said...

Cool stuff. I'm all for incorporating the sonic element in the G&C process but I can't say we should be calling it a (The...) Third "Power".

I responded in detail to the original post you made about this some time back on the Lists - my post turned into a an article in my grove's newsletter and, with your ok - since it quotes your original post, I'd like to post its latest incarnation on my own blog.

The PDF of it can be previewed at:

- EARRACH of Pittsburgh

Stephane Lavoie said...

I tend to agree with Earrach, as to defining vibrating a 3rd power. I think it is more a manifestation of energy than energy per say. I use word vibrating in rituals to empower (energize) some parts. But I think saying it is a power in itself is a bit like saying fire, heat and light are distinct powers, when in fact heat and light are by-products of fire, just like static is a by-product of friction etc. MHO