Wednesday, October 3, 2012

An Audience with the Dagda

Earth Warriors Festival 2012
On the last weekend of September L and I travelled to SW Ohio for the Earth Warriors festival, an event in its fifth year, held at a 4-H campground. We were present as guest presenters doing an informational workshop and ritual focused on the Dagda, a Gaelic god of wisdom, fertility and strength. All in all it was an excellent weekend.

This was our first Earth Warriors, but we expected to know lots of people. We expected a number of Druid friends, as well as some Starwood buddies. The ADF Warriors’ Guild has been involved from the first, running a version of our usual Warrior Games. In fact L and I, being experienced refs at such things, were drafted to help manage them and so spent Friday afternoon helping with archery, rock-chucking, stick-wrestling etc. It was fun, and a good way to get to know some of the folks we hadn’t previously met.

The event was well-organized, with a diligent support staff. Things happened on-time and as predicted, barring a couple of no-shows on the presenter list. The food was managed by a crew of pirates who produced it well and plentifully. I do enjoy events where the food just appears on a plate – my tolerance for camp-cooking hasn’t gotten greater as I’ve gotten older. All in all the logistics at EWF were exemplary. I’d recommend the event to anyone in the area.

They scheduled our program in the ‘vesper circle’ that 4H camps usually have – a nice firepit surrounded by a small amphitheater of benches. This might have been difficult for a standing-in-a-circle-holding-hands sort of ritual, but it fit nicely in ADF’s format. We brought a kit focused on the rite at hand (rather than the two-tub full kit) and as a result forgot this and that. Always nice to be at a Pagan event where things like a few worked-iron nails and extra incense are readily available.

Trying to fit all the background for a rite like this into one workshop slot is basically undoable. Since there were lots of non-ADF people there I felt I had to begin with a little basic Celtic cosmology, tying that into the ritual forms early (i.e. why we won’t be calling elements at the Quarters). The center of the talk was a pretty quick review of the stories and idea surrounding the Dagda, followed by an introduction to the ritual for the next day. The talk was well-attended and seemed well-received.

The rite itself was somewhat less attended, perhaps no surprise for a ritual opportunity on a lovely Saturday afternoon with other choices to hand. Still we had some twenty present. The rite is based in the same outline I used for the Audience with Brigid that is now the first of the three-rite suite. It combines a reasonably detailed material shrine with a focused inner vision-idol, a detailed verbal invocation combined with nine specific offerings to the god. Once again I composed a short Irish charm to be sung as each offering was given. The trope of the company singing the charm as each offering is carried around the fire and offered to the idol is strong moment in the rite.

If there’s one thing I regret about festival rites it is doing them broad daylight. There’s just no doubt about it – fire rites look better in the dark. I know that it’s bad Indo-Europeanism – rites associated with goodness and blessing are done in daylight. Too bad – fire rites look cooler after dark. One big advantage to after-dark rites is that trance induction is easier. These Audience rites depend on inducing at least a moderate level of trance, and I think that many of our participants got there, despite the lovely shining sun.

The offerings went smoothly, and the omen was quite proper:

Fearn – support – alder – strength and protection (warriors if you like)

Eamhancholl – twinned hazels – illness and healing (third function, for healing)

Eabad – salmon – woodbine – wisdom and poetic power (first function)

So a nice transfunctional omen that indicated, to me, that the Dagda was present and ready to bless us.

For the Blessing I used my three-flames-around-a-cauldron trope. Into the cauldron, along with water, were placed an equal number of black, red and white glass tokens. These, it was explained, would represent the blessing of one of the three Indo-European functions as expressed by In Dagda – the black for bounty and fertility, the red for strength and courage, and the white for wisdom and inspiration. Once the cauldron was blessed it was borne around the Grove. Each participant was sprinkled, and reached into the cauldron to randomly draw a token, getting one of the flavors of blessing. Interestingly there were only a few black blessings drawn, and a few more than that of red, and maybe double-digits of the white blessing – a definite weight for the Ruadh Rofhessa, and the wisdom-power of this complex figure. Two people told me later that they received the kind of blessing they specifically asked for. Otherwise I haven’t gotten feedback, though the general ‘buzz’ following the rite seemed good.

I probably should have done an informational post on the Dagda here. He is one of the most important of the Gaelic divine persons, one who is easy to stereotype and difficult to fully comprehend. I have been invoking him for many years, including some significant trance and invocvatory events back when L and I were doing early experiments together. I still can’t say I have grown close to him in the way I have with Brigid or the MacLir. I hope that by this working, which will surely be repeated over the next seasons, I can bring his power more brightly into both my own shrine and into our community.


firewoman said...

Feedback you say?

Here's what I posted in my LJ:

"I did manage to make it to Ian Corrigan's pre-Dagda ritual workshop and then the ritual itself the next day. The familiarity of ADF ritual made the experience of course a wonderful one, and while I would have been okay missing the pre ritual workshop (and I did miss most of the pre-ritual briefing on Saturday...oops!) it's always wonderful to hear another take on a deity, or on our cosmology, or whatever other gems of wisdom I can pick up. I already have to edit my spontaneous Dagda Mor prayer a bit based on some stuff, but I'm pleased not too much :)

The ritual and brief audience with Dagda was wonderful. The audience itself was a bit too brief for me, and ended a bit abruptly. But when a god reaches out with his hand and caresses your face, that there is just a minor ritual style quibble. It was wonderful, just wonderful (did I mention that already)? And to summarize the brief conversation, the keyword is "balance."

Scott Martin said...

Good to find someone else who's doing work with the Dagda! I posted a couple of scholarly/devotional essays earlier this year which you might find interesting: