Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Court of Brigid In California

On Saturday, June 30, L and I worked the Court of Brigid festival rite at the Eight Winds Gathering, an ADF festival held in the hills north of Lake Tahoe in California. This was the second time the rite had been worked in a public festival setting. In general it was a success, with a number of new spirits contacted. (See the script for the working here and the journal of the first performance here.)

Eight Winds was the conclusion (and crown) of a two-week holiday in California. Beginning at L's family, we traveled through LA, up the coast through Santa Cruz and on to a friend's house in Reno. Along the way we stopped at The Green Man in Hollywood, and at The Serpent's Kiss in Santa Cruz. Between them we were able to obtain the various crystal, silver and other offerings, including forged iron nails. The 'grocery' offerings, bread, ale etc. were easy to obtain at camp.

The setting could hardly have been more different from the first performance. The first rite was worked in central Ohio, on a hot day in the moist green woods. The ritual area there was a large campground fire circle, with the first rows of benches some yards away from the fire. This time we were in high pine forest, on soil made of dessicated pine needles and dust, but with a lovely body of water visible behind. Still an arid setting that felt high in the air. We debated whether to leave the reference to ‘cloud’ in the script…
Just as pretty as they say...

We were able to travel to that first event by car, and to bring large props of our own, especially items for a substantial shrine to Brigid as the center of the work. This time we had flown in, bringing minimal gear. Of course the Groves that were running the event had a full ritual kit so fire-pit, offering bowls etc were no problem. The rite was held near my own camp, in a shadier and more quiet section than the public fire area, and my camp-mates had just the perfect setting for the rite's Well. The Brigid shrine was much simpler than previously. One of the attendees had a personal Brigid devotional image, made in a box that opened to reveal a collage of Brigid images. We elevated that on a log, and hung one of The Magical Druid's devotional plaques above it. Simple but, as things turned out, effective. The ritual area was small, so the group was seated shoulder to shoulder, creating an intimate atmosphere that made sense with the smaller shrine. The day was mountain-air cool, but the sun was mountain-high strong.

Thanks to Bert the Druid for this shot of the Hallows
of the rite. I utterly failed to take any pics.

The day previous to the rite I attended a talk on Ritual Theory given by Ceisiwr Serith. Among many good points, he mentioned the merit of not losing one's sense of fear when approaching ritual performance. I was right where that advice suggested that I should be. In Ohio I had done my workshops on Pagan spirit-arte over the previous years, so many folks had heard the theory in some detail. In Cali that was not the case. On a sillier level (but still real enough) I was pleased and scared to be working the rite with one of the founders of the Celtic Reconstructionist movement present. Erynn Rowan Laurie is one of our most learned Celtic Pagans. While she is in fact a part of what one might call the more 'liberal' end of CR, still here I was trotting out my obscuro grimoires-meet-Druidism routine for her. Fortunately Erynn is both gracious and skilled in trance-work, so I needn't have worried. I still did.

We completed the set-up and waited for people to arrive. The working was well attended, the glade filling to capacity. One little advantage of ADF ritual style is that we didn't need to stand in a single circle holding hands. Instead we hunkered together like primates. I think that actually added to the sense of community. It certainly made it easier to distribute the blessing and to hear and record the results.

I don't know whether I could make this work for festival crowds that weren’t trained in ADF ritual before-hand. The ease with which the group responded to the ordinary opening moved us quickly into the work. I was able to rely on the level of training present to simply instruct folks to enter their basic state of ritual awareness (trance) without a minutes-long 'induction'. The rite includes several steps of progressive trance-deepening, with the primary transition to Threshold awareness after the Gate Opening.

The rite uses a spoken charm, recited by the whole group, as a key to entering trance. In the first working I interpolated spoken entrancement guidance between the lines of the charm, which I found to be clumsy, though it was effective. This time we had the group recite the entire charm, then hear the guidance. I found it less clumsy in performance, and it seemed equally effective. Unfortunately there was only one attendee who had been present at the first working, but I am interested in any feedback on the use of that technique.

I think the patterned repetition of the offerings in the invocation of Brigid is a solid support for trance without relying on spoken induction. As each offering is made, the company sings the devotional charm to Brigid in Irish. The offering is born around the area or, in this case, displayed to the four directions as the charm is sung. Throughout the visualized image of the Goddess is maintained. Together I think that amounts to a reliable trance-inducer.

As always, the taking of the omen to determine whether the spirits are pleased and what sort of blessing is offered is a trepidacious moment. L drew three fews of the ogham. They were:

Fearn – the Alder, meaning protection and support
Idad – the Yew, meaning memory of ancient wisdom, and the Dead
Idho – honey, gooseberry, meaning sweetness and delight.

This could hardly have been better.

When I lead a group ritual like this I must say that I am not, myself, in a deep trance of seership. Of course I held the vision of the Goddess, and of the Three Powers, but the need to track the sequence of the work and fiddle with the various physical items means that I don’t seek deep trance. However, when the time came to hallow the Blessing Bowl I raised it above my head while L conjured. In that moment I felt and saw the spirits arrive, seeming to flock around the bowl. This perception was entirely unplanned and quite different from perceptions in the first rite. It certainly made me feel secure that the rite was working.

The blessing was given by distributing the waters into the hands of each person using a small ladle. Each person then applied the waters directly to their own eyes, with the intention of enabling and intensifying the vision of the spirits. The touch of the cool water is the final cue for trance deepening.

The big scary part of the rite, as the writer and operator, is that success depends on the attendees actually seeing and reporting their experience of the spirits. There's always the fear that the time will come and the group of willing subjects will just sit there silently. Thank the Goddess and the imbas that was not the case. We recited the binding and the oath, and after a time of silence and communion we called for the reports of the spirits. As previously we were looking for a name, a general sense of appearance or nature, a description of the powers, abilities or kinds of work proper to the spirit, and its proper offering.

The reports began slowly. When first called, perhaps three or four hands were raised. Once the reports began, it seemed that more people were heartened, and in the end we were told of twelve new spirits who had answered our call. As in the first working many of those who saw were ADF leaders or experienced members, but not all. In addition to the full reports of name, form, power and offering there were several partial or fragmentary reports of visions, giving only a glimpse of form or a taste of a personality. In the roll at the end I have included only full reports of spirits who came as part of the Court of Brigid. If further data comes to anyone about any of the work, do let me know.

I was pleased with the feedback following the rite. It was plain that the attendees were lit up – the general effect was a combination of bemusement and chatter, with a number of questions and comments. Several reported a lasting 'buzz', which makes me think I might have spent even more time on recentering, grounding and firmly ending the trance. However in a festival setting like that a little buzz is not a bad thing and none of the comments amounted to complaints.

The following day good comments continued to come in. Particularly gratifying was a comment from someone who described themselves as skeptical of the basic idea of working with spirits in this way, but whose experience was strong and true. They said that rather than finding themselves analyzing and critiquing the ritual script and performance they had been fully immersed in the work and the trance. In the end they became one of the seers. Another pleasant report after the rite was simply “Gods Dayum!”

So I feel I can chalk this up as a win. I'm pretty willing to move this work into the 'proven' column, at least in its ability to produce visions of the spirits. The next step will be to receive actual spells or methods from the spirits of accomplishing goals based on their powers. I can report that my own work with two of the spirits from the first working has begun to bear fruit, both in personal inspiration and in certain matters of emotional health and strength. Of course the Court of Brigid is heavily concerned with artistic inspiration and the work of poets, so the practical goals of these spirits may not include as much about ever-filled purses or world domination as some results-mages might like. Soon I must begin doing this sort of work with another deity or two, and see what kind of beings respond.

The Roll of Spirits
Eight Winds, 2012

• Willis – man with long auburn hair, mustache, green tunic. Master of the written word. Offerings of the written word.
• Mowd – good-looking man in a kilt of many colors, with red-blonde hair. Bears a silver harp. He is an inspirer of arts. Offering of music.
• Neomis – appears as a black bird with orange and yellow eyes. Delivers messages. Offerings of Feathers, Seeds & Dance.
• Ashan – small blond child, gives the gift of innocence, offering of play
• Jerith – male, tall, dark-haired, wearing a leather apron. Creates common things & clothing. Offering of hand-made things or things of leather.
• Sewul – appears as a knotwork heart – protector of messages as they travel; encoding & decoding – offer knotwork or woven words, given to the flame.
• Heal-Fetch – additional data – small girl with dark hair; wants cream rather than milk. She says first invoke Brigid, then this spirit will bear the cup to the patient.
• Shalae – feminine, formless. She is the space before sound, the pause before speaking. Gives blessing in good song, awareness of the space between notes. Offer something written but never spoken, offered only to her.
• Sira – female, bears a golden harp. ‘creator of the desire to create’. Offer new music.
• Tabados – appears as a warrior on a big black horse, long, flowing hair. Gives protection. Offering of Iron
• Aed Ruadh – appears as a living Red Flame, purification, offer wood to the fire.
• Mapanos - Youth – young, naked man, long blonde hair & green eyes, with ‘angelic’ bird’s wings; relieves loneliness and brings companionship. Offer flowers and tokens of beauty.
• Rown – male child with short, curly blonde hair and a bright, hot smile. Grants happiness and delight, brings the light of inspiration. Offer light and heat.


shadowedhand said...

Neomis was a female common grackle, who delivered messages, knowledge, and visions. Who likes seeds, feathers, and dancing.

Jon in AZ said...

Ian, I noticed Heal-fetch mentioned in both courts from two difrent occasions of this working! Thats some serious ju-ju going on there!

Christopher DeGraffenreid said...

Really fascinating. It is good to see new spirits, those beyond the Goetia, being brought forward by modern Pagan magicians/priests.

Nick Egelhoff said...

If I recall correctly, I believe it was mentioned during/after the ritual that the individual who encountered Heal-Fetch was the same one who encountered her during the first rite. Not trying to under-cut or call anyone into question, just mentioning something I think is pertinent.

On another note: while I didn't personally encounter any of the spirits listed in the roll, I had an interesting encounter with Brighid's Powers. Once the Three were present, I happened to spontaneously remark (mentally, that is) that the Hammer was quite pretty (in vision, she was reminiscent of the character played by Jewel Staite on "Firefly"). This seemed to please her a lot - I got the feeling that she doesn't complimented in that way a lot - and in response the Harp played a song for me and the Cup poured water on my shins...which had received a rather bad sunburn a few days previously while kayaking on Lake Tahoe. The rest of the day and into the following the burns felt fine and seemed to heal a smidge faster (nothing overly "miraculous" by any means, but appreciated nonetheless).

IanC said...

Noted on the grackle! Not a bird we have at home. Yes, Heal-fetch was seen by the same seer at both rites, so we have development, but nothing paranormal as such.
Nick, very interesting on the Three Powers. We have some stuff cooking with them here.

Jennifer Hunt said...

There are lots of freckles in Ohio, though perhaps not in your yard, Ian. They are medium-sized blackbirds with a colorful iridescence to them. Very colorful and very gregarious -- aggressive, even. Very interesting birds. :)

(You'd most likely see them in Ohio in retail or fast food parking lots. Say hello to one next time you see one.)

Jennifer Hunt said...

Um... Autocorrect strikes again. That should be GRECKLE not freckle. :p

Erynn said...

Thanks for leading the ritual. I do have some thoughts and comments on language, but I'll send things privately when I have a chance. It was a fascinating and worthwhile experience.

Phaedra Bonewits said...

"When I lead a group ritual like this I must say that I am not, myself, in a deep trance of seership...the need to track the sequence of the work and fiddle with the various physical items means that I don’t seek deep trance."

Wish I could remember the first time I heard the expression, but I've heard this called the sacrifice of the clergy. We have less fun so the participants can have more :-)