Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Court of the Dagda; First Working

One of the primary inspirations for this blog was the blogging of a cadre of East Coast magicians that included Jason Miller and Rufus Opus. They were determined to do tight magical work seeking real goals and to submit their journaling to mutual review in blog format. While I have used this vehicle to blather on about a variety of things I am always happy when I have some real occult news. Have I said 'Happy New year' yet? Well happy New Year!

On the full moon of January, 2015 my priestess-wife and I undertook the next in a series of spirit-arte rites based on the patterns devised for my Book of Summoning. The working was successful on it’s basic level, opening the way for new work with the Gaelic gods and spirits.

Readers here will know that I have been working for some while to apply the methods of European magical spirit-arte, as preserved in the medieval manuals often called grimoires. In these rites my goal is to evoke to local presence specific servitor spirits (i.e. members of the deity’s ‘court’ or ‘retinue’) who are willing to ally with the magician for future magical work. The first formal and public application of my efforts was in the Court of Brigid workings. In what I now consider an ass-backward style I introduced that work as a daring (or foolish) public festival rite in the summer of 2012, followed by a personal intensive at home, and further work in spellbinding with those spirits. It has all been fairly well-journalled here, in reverse Chronological order. The complete account and scripts for the Court of Brigid work are also available here

The Red God
I have been slowly devising a suite of rituals using the same format, focused on the Gaelic deity the Dagda. The Dagda (whose name means “Good God” in the sense of “good at everything”… “Yeah, I’m good for that…”) is one of the Three Kings of the Tuatha De Danann, the literary remnant of the Irish gods preserved in the Book of Invasions. He is called the Druid of the Gods, and Ruadh Rofhessa – the Red One of Secret Knowledge. If you know just one tale of this god, it probably includes the image of him striding across the land, belly distended with porridge, godly dick dragging below his tunic. This may be monkish ribaldry, or a reference to Himself in his fertility aspect. However in my work it has been that Lord of Wisdom, Druid of the Gods figure that has been the central focus. In that figure I also consider the Dagda to be the priest of the Sacred Fire, and thus a key figure in the mysteries of Druidry.

I have chosen to vaguely imitate certain western magic hierarchic ideas, especially the notion of ‘Chief Ministers’, or ‘Captains’ of the spirits who serve the god. Thus the mechanics of the rite involve first invoking the god of the rite in some detail, and abiding in that god’s presence. The god is then asked to send his ‘Chieftains’ – these are understood as more specifically realized persons… daimons of the god, certainly, who embody more specific powers. One might associate this level with ‘archangels’ in a more Hermetic hierarchy, but I do not draw that link too tightly. I remain unconvinced of the necessity of this step for the goal of summoning useful courtiers. However the results of the work with these figures in the Court of Brigid have been continuing, and so I duplicated it in the Dagda suite.
The Three Chieftains invoked (not evoked) during the rite were the Harp, the Club, and the Cauldron. The Dagda possesses several mighty magical implements, including the harp called “Four Cornered Music”, which is said to turn the wheel of the seasons; the War-Club that slays with one end and restores life with the other; and the Never-Dry Cauldron, a feasting vessel that serves everyone their favorite food. These symbols/tools were chosen to represent the Three Chieftains of the Dagda’s Court, and display is tri-functional nature. The Harp is the power of the Poet/Mage, the ‘first function’ in an Indo-European analysis. The Club is the Warrior (second function) power, and the Cauldron of Feasting represents the third-function Wealth-Producers and their delightful bounty.  So we would invoke the Chieftains as the Harp, Club and Cauldron, using several poetic names and references from lore.

As I said, we began the Court of Brigid work with a big group rite that involved invocation of the primary deity and of the Ministers of that deity, and then the evocation of specific spirits. From these specific spirits we receive forms, names, the abilities they bring and what offering they would prefer. This amounted to rather a big rite, especially in a gathering environment.

When L. and I decided to recreate the work at home, we divided the original rite into a suite of three workings. The first rite was/is an ‘Audience’ with the primary god, in which detailed offerings are given and a very specific series of blessings sought. The second rite was effectively an evocation of the Three Ministers, and the third was the evocation of courtiers. We performed the Court of Brigid triad over three weekend days, a very satisfactory method.


Our schedule for the weekend of the January Full Moon simply didn’t leave the time open for the three-rite suite, which I had actually written and typeset some months previously. In a fit of determination we contemplated various configurations. We had performed a full Audience rite to the Dagda three times over the past year, at events and at home. We considered jumping in at the Three Chieftains point, considered trying to fit two full rituals into the time we had. IN the end our choice was to do the whole deal; we would make the full round of offerings to the god from the Audience, do the full vision-presence of the Chieftains (though not the evocation of those beings), and then call for allies from his Court. We would do this all in a single marathon-ish rite. I prepped prompts for the more detailed invocations.

The Working
I gotta tell ya, our choice led to the assembling of a lot of offerings. The initial Audience required nine specific items, then small things for the Chieftains and a few more for the rest. You can see in the photos just how much stuff is involved. Of course we were doing this rite indoors, with a minimal token fire, so stick incense replaced oil offerings in the Fire, and most things were given into a large offering-bowl.

We set ourselves and ambitious goal to be ready, and missed it by an hour. That meant we lit the fire just as the sun was setting, so that was proper. It required about three hours to assemble all the items from our stash of stones, silver, herbs and spell-components. Fortunately that stash is pretty deep these days. Being a vegetarian house we had to buy the pork, and the Big Man was given bacon, which cannot be argued with. While we gave ourselves little time for formal pre-ritual prayers and prep, the work of assembling the rite served in its own way.

The rite was framed in a full “High Day’-style ritual order, which L and I can walk into handily, and expect our awareness to alter into the proper states. While this rite is as complex as anything we’ve done for the public, we didn’t have to worry about successful trance induction. The work L and I had done in my Nine Moons  training serves us in our ongoing work.

Having performed the Audience rite several times, the primary invocation of the Dagda was familiar and powerful, producing a clear presence for me. At each stage of the work we paused for a time to abide in the presence of the spirits. To me the power of Dagda as the Lord of Wisdom has become very clear, in contrast to the fertility-buffoon persona that is so often described.

The invocations of the Three Chieftains included a deliberate visualization of the stylized form of each, with an invocation and offering. An Irish-language mantra or conjure-charm accompanied each call. Again, we chose not to evoke specific daimons of these powers. In retrospect I want to go back and catch that up. However the effect for me was very juicy; very somatic, energetic and fiery. This is the first time I’ve done an encounter with a warrior entity this close, and I found the Club-Chieftain fascinating; more exploration to come. Certainly I have spent more time with the priestly and feastly aspects of the Big Man.

It is the immediate feeling of power and presence that this “ministers” phase produces that convinces me of its value. It has only a tenuous relationship to Northern tradition, though hierarchy was the norm among such tribes. The increased sense of local presence that this stage of invocation produced was notable and valuable, and made the next and final step feel entirely within reach.

We treated both the Dagda Himself and the Three Chieftains as the ‘Beings of the occasion. We concluded our invocations and offerings to them, and made a final Prayer of sacrifice, and drew an omen with the ogham lots.

Our initial intention was to draw a single lot for the omen. However we received Eamhancoll, which we considered rather equivocal, so we proceeded to draw two more letters. Those were Óir and Idad and so we took the omen as good, and proceeded. On a review of the previous Dagda rite journals I discovered that Eamhancoll was part of the omen at the very first Dagda Audience rite, so I take that as a Good Thing as well.

In the two public Court of Brigid rites L. and I were the magisters, and the attending circle acted as the seers, mostly on a one-spirit-per-seer basis. As magisters we were busy managing the interactions, making offerings, writing down the details, etc. We did no formal receiving of spirit-data ourselves.

In the private CoB working we had decided to personally evoke spirits that had presented themselves at the two public rites. We divined a short list of six, and called them to the Fire. Once again, we did no ‘prospecting’ in the manner of the initial rites. This time, as we approached the final phase of the long working, we intended to do just that.

The rite we use takes a great deal of trouble to deepen trance, focus attention and grant permission to see and understand the spirits. We had spent some time in silent abiding, first with the Dagda himself and then with the convoked Chieftains, so even as we manipulated all the little bowls our trance level remained deep. The final deepening of the rite is the blessing of the Return Flow vessel with herbs, silver and crystal, and the anointing of the seers’ eyes with that blessing.

This time I used a formal ‘Seer’s Frame’, a symbolic locale in which I expected the spirit to appear. The chosen symbol is a ‘triangle of manifestation, empowered with the ogham letters for Oak, Hazel and Rowan. Conjuring the triangle was another juicy, trance-supportive moment.

Once the Big Conjuration was made, the impression of a crowd of waiting spirits was strong for both of us. The “Oath” section requires spirits to stay or go according to their willingness to sweat the oath, and we thought that only a few of the initial crowd left at the prompt. We then set to the business of calling individual spirits.

We had decided to alternate, one of us seeing while the other wrote down the details, then trading off. This worked well enough, with a small charm in Irish setting each turn in frame. For me, the early appearances were snappy and clear, while the last couple took more time for a form to resolve. We had set ourselves a limit of nine spirits, and ended up with seven. I must admit that by the end of the two-hour ritual and trancework my knees were stiff and I was both physically and mentally ready to wrap ‘er up.

I hope you will forgive me for not immediately listing the seven Courtiers who answered us. The CoB lists were the result of joint group effort, while this was our personal work. I will probably make them (more) public, but not until some further processing.

This working was not, in itself, a practical magic rite – the result we were looking for was the spirit-contact, and that we achieved. The next step is to test and employ those spirits, as we have done with Brigid’s Court. Watch this space for some practical-magic models and suggestions.

After a final time of abiding in the vision and presence of the whole array of spirits we closed in an orderly way, with the ‘License to Depart’ to the Courtiers, and thanks to all the Holy Beings. We picked up the dishes and vessels, and finally had our dinner, grounding in quiet for a while. The big bowl of mixed offerings we set in a side room overnight. The next morning it was delivered to our new Nemeton on the hill, and dumped into the Offering Shaft (which was full to the top with winter rain).

Our intention is for this to be the beginning of a new round of esoteric work around here. We must take advantage of the winter, indoor season. We approach Imbolc, the High Day of both Brigid and the Dagda in our local cult. I feel that we are more prepared than ever to give and get that blessing. May it be upon you as well, as we await the spring.


Erika Rivertree said...

Greetings Ian;

I find this work to be a fascinating process to witness. I was never much for magical workings, but these Druidic/Celtic based methods have piqued my curiosity. I was at that CoB rite you facilitated at Summerland Gathering in 2012. A spirit came to me, one with whom I have worked since, but I never got around to discussing it with thee. Now that you are beginning this same methodology in work with the Dagda, I am galvanized to undertake a more keen personal exploration of these Airts. I have always felt an affectionate respect for the "Big Man." :) Thank you for your diligence and devotion. ~ E.

Anonymous said...

I'd be curious to know what he's on about.

Didn't seem to like me one bit going into his home on winter solstice, but still not fully certain what that was regarding.

Nicopee.E said...

Very interesting how ever am here to Learn more about the magic works if Dagda....