Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Coolest Thing I've Seen This Week

I remain interested in the Non-Wiccan Witchcraft efforts moving through the movement today, and interested in the modern cunning-folk and professional magic users. While there can be a needless resistance to religion in some of them, there's also quite a lot of good research into what folk-magic actually looks like, and how some kinds of modern magical techniques can be adapted to traditional forms.
In my web wanderings I came across the site of one Sarah Lawless, an artist and modern spae-wife from British Columbia. She's got great articles on a variety of Scots magical topics, all pretty late period stuff, but surely retaining bits of an older lore. It's a great combination of scholarship and inspiration, with good charms and invocations of some unusual Scots spirits.
I don't think us Druid types should be scared away by the Witch word. The reg'lar ol' Druid, living in a village or in his own little steading, would have been offering a menu of services including land-blessing, divining for the efforts of the people, turning aside the ill-will of spooks and sorcerers, love-spells and profit-spells. Even the sacrifices would often have been specific blessings for their village patrons. So the kinds of skills being developed by these practical witches is directly related to what a Druid might be today.
Articles that are directly interesting to Druids might include How to Create a Genius Loci Profile, Nicnevin and Cunning Folk, this last with a great list of links to later Scottish lore.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Eldritch Notes

Those of you who are HP Lovecraft geeks like me, or who know one, might occasionally yearn for a good all-in-one introduction to the Old Gent's ideas. What if your fan-boy self finally mates, and you have to explain your cryptic ramblings to a new set of inlaws? Well, the task has been made a bit easier by the new documentary Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown . It brings us nice summaries of all the major Lovecraft stories and plotlines, all analysed by the most well-known current commenters and scholars on HPL. ST Joshi, Robert Price, Ramsey Campbell, John Carpenter, Guillermo Del Toro, Peter Straub and more bring a variety of viewpoints. Even with almost all the data old news to me I found it engaging.

Why, it's almost like some big film-maker were about to take up HPL's stuff, and needed a briefing for the staff... Coincidentally, we hear that Ron Howard (!) may be making the first big-budget Hollywood flick using HPL. They're looking at using Lovecraft: The Graphic Novel, a pleasantly lurid comic-book that uses the outline of HPL's life to write a mythos pastiche. Yes, it's Opie meets the Old Ones... we'll see...

The art is from artist Harold Arthur McNeil. Found him on the back pages of the HPLHS, very nice stuff, including Odinic and Thelemic art as well as his own strangeness.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Yuletide Fun

I love the real Four-Seasons climate of NE Ohio. This year we are having a nice moderate winter thus far (no telling how far into March it’ll go…). But Yuletide is often pleasant here, and so it is this year.

All the sweet emotions of modern post-Christmas Yuletide tend to hide the element of dread with which the ancients seem to have faced Yuletide. Of course it was the start of the lean and harsh months of the year, but it was also a between day for Germanic folks, haunted by trolls and ill wights. It seems to me that the best memory of all that stuff is in the various kinds of demonic assistants of St Nick – Black Peter and the Krampus, especially. I’ve always been a little skeptical of the Santa-meets-the-Wild-Hunt mythography, but having the Jolly One accompanied by whip-wielding horned imps makes it feel a bit more likely.

Stone Creed Grove did our Yuletide back in our old rental site in the Cleveland Metroparks. We had been ousted by a fire some months back, and spent two winters in less desirable digs. But the parks have built us a lovely new hall, with a lovely (for them) new rental rate, and we’re glad to be back there. Yule was moderately attended, with 50ish guests. It felt like a big season for SCG. We’re beginning our 20th anniversary celebration, and we’re issuing our best-ever Grove Ritual Book, along with planning the 20th Wellspring Gathering. There was fine frith in the hall, and we gained several new members.

L. and I sang a Paganed-up version of the Boar’s Head Carol. I’ve always liked that melody, but I’d like to do another lyric. It’s all very available for parody as well… If there had been 16th century Pagan colleges filled with young scholars we’d have things like…
The Boar’s ass as I understand
Is the fattest ass in all the land
And it will give us two fine hams
Eat puteus quod imbibo

Damned latin translator provides ‘eat’, for English ‘eat’… too bad…
Anyway, Yuletide Blessings on us all – grow in bounty with the sun!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Two-Powers Healing Charm

• The Druid stands or sits with the patient, the patient seated or lying. If the Druid has his Wand and Cauldron, then the Cauldron might sit in the lap of the patient, or be held in her hands, with a moderate amount of a healing drink in the vessel. The Druid holds the Wand. Without the Wand and Cauldron, there should still be a vessel of drink, and the raised hand of the Druid shall serve.
• The Druid brings the Two Powers strongly into the self, perhaps finishing with the Kindling Charm.
• The Druid raises her hand, or the wand, and divides the Two Powers, allowing the Dark to fill the earth beneath the patient, and the Light to accumulate in the Wand or hand. Using the breath, the Two Powers are built up, with the patient in the field between them.
• The Druid focuses the Light, with Wand or hand, into the drink in the Cauldron or vessel, allowing it to be charged by the images of the charm, spoken or sung three times:

Powers of Land and Sky attend me.
Attend me powers of Earth and Sun.
Mighty Spear of Lugh defend the
Earth from which all life’s begun.
Hie to me healing

from the deeps
Ancient of Ancients

wholeness keeps
Boon of the bright sky,

healing is
Light on the lurker, illness flees
Sun gives life to Earth’s broad field
Bring me Healing, Spear and Shield!

• As the third recitation is completed the Druid focuses the Light and Shadow into the drink in the vessel, drawing the sigil over the vessel with hand or Wand. The patient then drinks the drink.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Working With the Spirits

A Preface to Druidic Spirit Arte
It is my intention to outline a method of magical practice that allows the operator to make personal alliances and agreements with specific members of the Host of Spirits. It is Our Druidic custom to regularly honor and offer to the beings of the spiritual worlds in three categories, which we call the Kindreds – the Gods, the Dead and the ‘Spirits’. This latter is an indistinct category that includes what heathens call wights and trolls, what Hellenes might call daemons, what the Gaels called the Daoine Sidhe – the People of the Mound, and, functionally, what later mythology and magic came to call angels and demons. Traditional magical arte as it comes down to us through the European Middle Ages, and as we see it in polytheistic cultures, involves communication and alliance with beings of these latter two categories – the Dead and the Spirits, done under the protection and presidency of one or more of the Gods.
Many Pagans have been rather ‘put off’ by the systems of spirit magic presented in the grimoire tradition. Written within the Christian mythology, the Landspirits, Ancestors and Daemons of the Pagan magician became pawns in the imagined war between good and evil. Magic based on contact with the ‘evil’ side of the spirits came to seem tainted and treacherous. Later grimoires often use an adversarial approach to the spirits that has made those systems seem unPagan and unpalatable.
When restored to a less dualistic Pagan perspective, the methods prescribed in the grimoires are plainly an inheritance from the pre-Christian magic of the late classical world. We find plain parallels between the methods of the Graeco-Egyptian books of spells from 100ce and French grimoires of the 1700s. This is enough to interest me in abstracting the methods of classic European spirit arte into a northern cultural setting and giving it a try.
The Grimoiric Formulae
There are several basic patterns I see within this style of magic.
• Personal authority: Conjuration works because the conjuror has developed sufficient ‘authority’ among the spirits to be taken seriously by them. Developing this authority is a process of purification and mental training, the regular performance of rites of personal empowerment and protection, a sacrificial relationship with the Gods and Spirits and, many say, the making of a personal alliance with a herald or gatekeeper spirit who may or may not be the personal genius.
• Hierarchical authority: By making alliance with the mightiest spirits in a region one gains greater authority to deal with minor spirits who can actually work in the world. The Great Queens and Nobles of the Others are deep in their courts, not very concerned with mortal matters. They can, however, direct the spirits of local lands to aid the magician. Magical tradition tells us that it is the local spirits who actually have power over local events, luck, fertility, etc. The Magician works to gain the blessing of the Gods in herself, and by that blessing deals with the rulers of the Nobles, who aid us in dealing with the local clans.
• Formal practice: The spirits are to be taken seriously, and dealt with as though with the envoys of a different tribe, with respect and caution. The magician’s personal authority is only as good as his protections, and care is taken against the proverbial deceits and misunderstandings of the spirits. A conjuring is a pretty formal working (at least for initial contacts) that honors the spirit(s) while attempting to constrain them to harmlessness. Grimoire magic is the inheritor of ‘ritual magic’ from the ancient world, and it’s all pretty high church, as ancient magic goes.
• Specific conjuration: The spirits are a motley host of beings of various kinds. The grimoiric systems make several kinds of effort to specify the spirits that are actually conjured. At the most specific we find the address-book approach of the later Solomonic books, with call-signs and names for various related hosts of spirits. We find the free-form version of this in the traditions of the Liber Spirituum, though even there the conjuror may be working from a pre-existing list. At perhaps the other end of the spectrum we find some of the GEM formulas, which simply ask/tell the God to send his daimons to accomplish the magical goal. Even there the kind of spirit is focused by being (I assume) daimons of a God proper to your intention, and thus of a similar nature. At least the Mathers edition of the Greater Key (I haven’t yet seen the more scholastic modern editions) contains instructions for the invitation of a Host of Spirits, from which the magician finds his allies. It is this last formula that I decided to use in an effort to make the acquaintance of the wights of the land and the local Otherworld.
The Nature of the Spirits
In Our Druidry we have had a pretty clear understanding of the kinds of spirits we call the Gods and the Dead. It has been rather more difficult to clearly place ‘landspirits’ in an ancient context. It is easy for moderns to address ‘nature spirits’ as the spirit reality of natural species and objects – stone and stream, bird and beast. What we have been less willing to address is the huge category of… Others… of non-human, non-animal powerful spirits that is obviously present in ancient understanding.
For the Hellenes it was the daimons that carried human offerings to the gods to whom they were offered, and the daimons who brought the blessings back to humans. If a figure appeared to a mortal as though a god, the common understanding would be that it was a daimon ‘of’ that deity. We Druids should be reminded here that our Three Kindreds remain just conventional categories. To the Hellenes, for instance gods, non-human messenger spirits and the dead could all fit in the category of ‘daimon’.
The Gaelic category of the Daoine Sidhe actually fits very neatly with this southern model. The scribes of the Irish tales resolutely refused to depict Pagan religion, and so we don’t know whether the Sidhe had the place of daimons in ritual theory. However in other wasys the resemblance is striking. In the Book of Invasions (as close as we have to Gaelic mythology) the Tuatha De Danann, the divine race, includes both the great family, eldest and mightiest, that we call the gods, but also the hosts of lesser beings, some still very mighty, some less so. It is these less-than-deific beings who become the servants and messengers, the armies and hunters and reapers, who serve the gods. These are the beings that the tales refer to when they say that the Tuatha De took residence within the land. These beings are perhaps not, themselves, the genii loci of the hill, they are the ‘daimons’ who dwell there, helping to manage the local spiritual ecology. In addition to all this, the spirits of the mortal dead are also within the Gaelic Sidhe conception. The Gods, the Noble Ones and the Mighty Dead are, all together, the Sidhe in the way that all those categories can be daimons.
As to whether the Tuatha De hosts are identical with the animistic spirits of stone and stream, bird and beast, I think the answers vary. I think there are old spirits that precede even the Nobles in the land, and certainly there are those beings who stood against the gods in the first days, but now serve the World Order. If we were to look for a hierarchical model we might find these down-to-specifics spirits to be the third-function ‘yeomen’ of the Noble Court.
A medieval hierarchic depiction of the Other Court is common in Gaelic folklore. Kings and Queens, knights and nobles, and the host of ‘little people’ that join in the rades and processions, and make their dwellings under hedges and at hearths, all appear in the tales. We might, if we wished, employ a simple three- or four-tiered system. We might imagine a local pair as Chiefs, or King and Queen of a region or category, and serving them the Other Druids and poets, then Warriors and knights, and then a much larger company of Landkeepers, the spirits we commonly address as Landwights or ‘nature spirits’. Speculative indeed for anyone of a reconstructionist bent, but nicely in line with the tradition of spirit-arte.
I find myself in moderately surprised agreement about the descent of some of the ‘demons’ of the later grimoires from spirits of the GE sources, and find the modern grimoire tradition’s willingness to insert-divine-authority-figure-here very freeing for my intention. I’ve also been finding what there is to find about ‘fairy evocation’ in the new wave of grimoire publishing (bless ‘em all). I am intrigued that Oberion is the name of a king of the Nobles well before Shakespeare re-spells it.
Druidic Sidhe Evocation
So, that is the model I take in devising a basic rite of spirit alliance in a Druidic context. I will gather my Allies around me, especially my animal ally and my teacher among the Dead, but all beneath my divine patrons. I will establish authority and respect by making the proper offerings to the Gods and gaining their aid, then invoke the presence of the local wights, the Host of the Sidhe. Offering and praise for the King and Queen of the locals… perhaps they appear. Specific spirits are then invited to name themselves and make a deal about availability for aid. The conjuror might use a divination tool to speak with the spirits, or use direct Sight. In this way the conjuror begins a list of minor allies and makes deals with the spirits, creating a Liber Spirituum of new names and signs, perhaps.
The grimoires customarily describe the preparatory rites required for the work. I will adopt a three-day prep period (again, this is for the work of making initial contacts – later practical applications are much simpler). During these days the operator will complete and hallow any special signs or tools, make a preliminary offering to the genius locus of the immediate site of the working and fully preparing the site and tools.
Assuming that the operator is regularly working a Gaelic year-cult the Gods of the rite will be familiar. I have chosen Brigid and Lugh because of the powerful protective charm available as the Cloak and Spear. Offerings are also made to Aine and Aengus Og, both described as rulers of the Daoine Sidhe (the folk of the mound). In our usual Druidic ritual form the offerings are made and then a blessing cup is drunk, preparing the operator with the power of those gods.
This work assumes that the Druid has developed the skill of opening an Inner Eye or Second Sight, to get at least glimpses and reflections of the presences of the Spirits. From a northern perspective this work is not unlike a work of seid, in which trance and vision are used to enable commerce with the spirits. When we conjure to visible appearance, in this way, we bring the spirits into forms visible to our Vision Eye.
Enflamed with the Gods’ blessing the operator makes the call to the Host of Spirits, opens the Inner Eye and observes the gathering that comes to her Fire. From this crew she will seek to find her first small group of allies. This requires that she keep her authority firmly around her, speaking to and with the wights in a firm, respectful but masterful tone. While we may know that on many levels the spirits are greater than us, in this case the Druid is seated at her own Fire, which has claimed the space. In this place the Druid is the chief, and those spirits who are willing to come into that space are probably those willing to acknowledge that. Of course the Druid will be prepared with his talismans of protection, signs of authority and plenty of rowan wood for the fire if needed.
Oh yes – the method does not, at this time, call for the drawing of a circle. The protections described above, and the presences of the allies, especially the overlooking power of the patrons, are considered sufficient for a magician who already has a sacrificial relationship with the spirits. Of course the Wand can be used at any time to drawn a circle if needed, but the light of the properly blessed Fire, extending equally in all directions defines the Druid’s sphere of authority, and the sacrifices ensure a hospitality-bond with the spirits who approach.
The Druid calls for and treats with a few of the spirits, determining what sort of pact can be struck between them. In this the Druid does not act so much as master but as one of two partners in a fair deal. Both the Spirit and the Druid must gain from the bargain, with the spirit getting an innate benefit from contact with a human and our mind, and we getting innate benefit from the power and perspective of the spirit. Beyond that it is proper for the Druid to agree to a certain sort of offering to the Spirit, either when the spirit’s services are needed, or more regularly if there is to be a familiar relationship. In this the Druid must show discretion – swear carefully, when the pact is made, and never promise any offering that seems improper. It may be that some spirits will not be fit for any specific magician, though the next may get a different offer.
The result is that the Druid ends with a short list of (potential) allies. She should know their names, or name that can be used, and perhaps have received a call-sign from them, though a ‘sigil’ can be produced by the Fionn’s Window method, or however seems proper. She will have questioned them as to their station and nature, and what sorts of works they are willing to do. All this should be recorded in some way, whether an (undruidic, perhaps) book or written on stones or bark or whatever…
Working with the Spirits
With this first conjuring done the Druid has a few allies among the spirits. According to what powers his allies offer, he can begin to work with them for practical and spiritual goals. I’ve been interested in the various kinds of goetic rites for working with spirits that have been conjured. My version as given will owe a good deal to the work of Rufus Opus and Inominandum. By arranging the sigil and giving the proper offering, the spirit is available.
It’s a very Pagan-feeling thing to make eidola for these smaller spirits. By giving them a dwelling on or by your Shrine, they can be honored regularly, and addressed as needed. For me this is a fine opportunity for handicrafts, making little idols of clay and wood. Of course a variety of other ‘containers’ might be made, from the ‘brass vessel’ of Solomon’s tale to a spirit house for hearth-wights, to simple river stones given by the spirit itself and perhaps charged with the sigil. All of these are ways to bring these spirits more directly into your own sphere. Making contact with a spirit housed in this way can be by as simple a gesture as burning the right offering before them and calling their name.
I am also interested in a simpler sort of spirit-art charm, in which the daimons are convoked, and then ‘instructed’ in the intent of a spell using the usual combinations of words and symbols. This method should be doable with rather less peril and formality than dealing with individual spirits and making deals. The offerings given in the rite itself are what are offered, to those spirits who will work the operator’s will, with no longer-term pact required. Methods of this sort should be accessible even to only basically-trained Pagans.
The Project
So, it is my intention to finish expanding and refining the evocation material from Sacred Fire, Holy Well into a working grimoire for the convocation of and alliance with wights of the Sidhe in your region. I’m well into the project, and the method could be used now by someone familiar with our Druidic ritual. I’ll be fleshing it out in that style as well, while including cues for replacing our idiosyncratic rites with those of the operator’s choice.
Am I doing this while continuing my progress on the Nine Moons? Yes, yes I am… In fact by the time this work is done we will be well along in the Nine Moons program ourselves, and all brushed-up on skills and alliances, ready to undertake the work in the spring or summer. I really want to do it outside on this land, probably in our nemeton. So, if I begin reviewing and prepping it all here in the dark half, I should be ready to go by Beltaine or so.
Presently I have assembled the basics into a short grimoire-style document of about 12,000 words. Soon I’ll make that document available through a link here. I invite comments and, of course, experiment with the system. If you work with it this winter you’d be getting ahead of me, as I clean and press my alliances with the Kindreds through the Nine Moons work. In the meantime I’m interested in comment on the spirit-model above, as well as the ritual methods themselves.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Building the Inner Grove

Here's an item from month four of the Nine Moons - three exercises toward establishing a complete and well-equipped Inner Grove, the Threshold-state 'launching pad' for further Otherworld adventures. One of the points of the trance-journey techniques in the system will be to move students from using scripted trance-inductions to independent, ubscripted work. This is an early-intermediate step in that process.

Three Trances for the Inner Grove
• Outline of Basic access and work in the Inner Grove
1: Basic trance, induced by whatever method you prefer.
2: Rise in Vision, stand up from your body and place yourself behind you Inner Eyes. Behold the Hallows in the common world
3: Call the Mist to obscure all
4: Envision the Gate Sign with your personal key-symbol.
5: Hold your goal-will as the Inner Grove, and step through the Gate out of the mist into a Threshold landscape containing the Hallows in the Inner.
6: Remember the Grove and recognize it as you have made it.
7: Recite a Grove Charm at the Inner Fire to establish your presence
8: Do any other works.
9: Return

Exercise 1: The Road to the Inner Grove
This work develops a personal habit and inner ritual of vision journey that allows you to easily reach your Inner working space – the Inner Grove in which you will do several works. This script is offered as an example, though it can be used as written.

• Seat yourself comfortably upright, back straight.
• Work a short blessing of the space, or the full Grove opening and Gate if you wish - in your first exercises it might be best to work the full opening, with the Gate.
• Renew and strengthen your Earth and Heavens contacts.
• Feel the cool Earth Power and the hot Sky Power meet in your head, meet in your heart, and meet in your loins.
• And from the meeting-places, feel the mingling of the Powers flow out into your whole form – into your hands, into your form, into your eyes. Where you have eyes of flesh, so you now have eyes of vision.
• Open your eyes of vision, and use your memory of the setting of your Shrine and tools. As you remember them, envision them, so that it is as if you see them with open eyes. It is the eyes of vision that open in this way, and it is in the eyes of vision that you will move.
• With your material eyes closed, decide to stand in your vision form. Allow your eyes to rise, effortlessly. You rise to your natural height, and take a moment to gaze upon your Shrine and Hallows as if you had stood in flesh. Allow the details of your Shrine to become clear.
- And in the meeting-places, feel the mingling of the Powers begin to produce the Mist - the streams of vapor pouring out of your Inner Cauldrons, flowing out from the roots of the Tree, where Fire and Water meet.
- visualize the Mist gathering and thickening, beginning to accumulate. The Mist gathers, growing thicker, and collecting around your feet... around your hips and loins... around your arms and chest. It grows thick and opaque, and rises, at last, to surround your head.
- Now, standing in the Mist, it is time to begin... in your imagination’s eye... in your Inner Vision... not with your physical body... but with the will of your mind and your power of vision… you create the Gate Sign before you. You remember the presence of the Threshold landscape that you have visited before…
- With your awareness firmly centered in your vision-self, step forward toward the Sign… and step through the Sign…, and steo out of the Mist… the Mist thins away... now, with memory and will... you see the scene resolve before you... your goal-image, your Nemeton, revealed in its Otherworld form... elements of the place you left behind in the common world… it resolve in your Inner Eye... You behold the Inner Grove resolving before you... you see the details more clearly now...
The Return
- Standing in vision in your Grove... remember your body… where it sits before the Hallows in the common world… Look out to the edge of your Grove, and there, see the Gate Sign appear… and the Mist beyond it… walk across the Grove, and passeasily through the Sign, remembering your body as your goal… and step out before your Fire in your common Hallows…
- Remember your Hallows, and see yourself seated there before them… go to your body… turn, and step backward into the space where your body is sitting... raise your spirit-hand before you... and make a tuathal triskel in the air before you... sit down into your body... renew your center... feel the Earth and Sky Powers meeting in your flesh...
-Remember your body, and let your awareness be firmly behind your eyes... feel the air flow in your lungs... the blood course in your veins... remember all you have seen and done in this work… open your eyes, and know that your spirit has returned fully to your flesh... stretch... and be finished with the trance.

Exercise 2: Building the Inner Grove
- Come to your Shrine or Hallows, Bless all and open a gate.
- Use your Short Road to the Grove:
Rise in Vision, and see your Hallows
Call the Mist
Make the Gate Sign
Step through the Gate Sign into the Grove
Envision and remember the Grove
- So you come again into the Grove… you pass through the gate and onto the ground of your Threshold locale… and allow the scene to resolve before you… remember where you have placed your Well… your Hearth of the Sacred Fire… see the World-tree as it stands in this small personal place…
- you have been working with forms for your Inner Hallows… now you must choose how you will build and make them, for your next phase of work… a Well... a pillar or Tree... the Fire in the Tintean... Simple or grand, earth-mound or golden temple… you will decide and create… as you begin to envision the shaping and detail of your Inner Grove…
- You might begin with the Well… for no place is whole without fresh water… go to the Well you have seen before… and consider what a more ideal form might be… what shape would inspire you?… go then to the Fire, as it has been before… envision what a true altar for your own Inner Fire might be… and turn to see the Tree or Bile as it has appeared… and consider how you would see its presence here before you…
- Let them be built by your will and vision… consider the bricks and stones, the substance and color… note how the things you build combine with the images of nature or environment present in the space… images of your own hands placing the materials may enter your mind… but it is by will and vision and shaping that you determine the form that your Grove will keep for some time to come… spend some while at this work…

- Now, in your vision body, turn and look around you... turn to your right... and to your left... turn at last and look behind you... you note clearly the form and nature of the things you are building… see them again, your Inner Sacred Grove… as you look at the Inner World around you...
The Return
- Standing in vision in your Grove... remember your body… where it sits before the Hallows in the common world… Look out to the edge of your Grove, and there, see the Gate Sign appear… and the Mist beyond it… walk across the Grove, and passeasily through the Sign, remembering your body as your goal… and step out before your Fire in your common Hallows…
- Remember your Hallows, and see yourself seated there before them… go to your body… turn, and step backward into the space where your body is sitting... raise your spirit-hand before you... and make a tuathal triskel in the air before you... sit down into your body... renew your center... feel the Earth and Sky Powers meeting in your flesh...
-Remember your body, and let your awareness be firmly behind your eyes... feel the air flow in your lungs... the blood course in your veins... remember all you have seen and done in this work… open your eyes, and know that your spirit has returned fully to your flesh... stretch... and be finished with the trance.

Exercise 3: Working in the Inner Grove
- Come to your Shrine or Hallows, Bless all and open a gate.
- Use your Short Road to the Grove:
Rise in Vision, and see your Hallows
Call the Mist
Make the Gate Sign
Step through the Gate Sign into the Grove
Envision and remember the Grove
- Remember and re-establish the Inner Hallows, and the surrounding environment.
- Stand at your Inner Fire, and bring the Two Powers into your vision body… hold up your hands, and know that whatever sacrifice you have given in the common world will also be available to you here in the Threshold… so make your usual offerings to the Hallows, and speak as you will…
- Let silver come to your hand… and give it, a substance of yourself, to the Well… and speak in the voice of your vision…
- Let precious scented oil come to your hand… and give it, a substance of yourself, to the Fire… and speak in the voice of your vision…
- Let burning herbs and pure water come into your two hands… and with them, substance of yourself, honor the Tree, sprinkling its roots and perfuming its leaves… and speak in the voice of your vision…
- pause and feel the presence of the place… its weight and solidity… its weirdness and limnality… remember…
- It is proper to do any other small bits of ritual you wish here before the Inner Fire…
The Return
- Standing in vision in your Grove... remember your body… where it sits before the Hallows in the common world… Look out to the edge of your Grove, and there, see the Gate Sign appear… and the Mist beyond it… walk across the Grove, and passeasily through the Sign, remembering your body as your goal… and step out before your Fire in your common Hallows…
- Remember your Hallows, and see yourself seated there before them… go to your body… turn, and step backward into the space where your body is sitting... raise your spirit-hand before you... and make a tuathal triskel in the air before you... sit down into your body... renew your center... feel the Earth and Sky Powers meeting in your flesh...
-Remember your body, and let your awareness be firmly behind your eyes... feel the air flow in your lungs... the blood course in your veins... remember all you have seen and done in this work… open your eyes, and know that your spirit has returned fully to your flesh... stretch... and be finished with the trance.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Comment on Nine Moons

Candee has written quite a few notes on her reading of the draft of the first three lessons of the Nine Moons project. Candee is in italic.
Candee – thanks for such a detailed and useful comment. Let me respond, mainly as an exercise in reviewing your pointers…
Often we are told to use a charm or rite or method long before it is explained, or with no explanation or reference to what book or website the method can be found in.I think it would be good to define terms or define a charm/rite when mentioned,or give reference as to where it will be described. Many terms are not defined or defined much later. Same for several charms or rites
I have decided that I must create a summary section in which I define a bunch of background ideas of the sort you mean. The fact is, much of the technique in the Nine Moons depends on stuff published in my book Sacred Fire, Holy Well. I’ve been trying to avoid simply importing large sections of text from that book, writing new material even if on ideas already covered. Still, I need to both refer readers to that book and provide at least a glossary level set of definitions for unusual terms. The other source of assumed data is the latest edition of the ADF Dedicant book. For instance the Bone, Breath and Blood entrancement is in there. I need to decide whether this publication needs to depend on the DP, or to what extent it is also offered to the Pagan public, and to what extent I mean to make it easy for them. I guess at least that technique should be added.
1) Bri and Bua mentioned on pg13,but not defined until pg 91
2) There are references to Bone Blood and Breath exercise,but it is not defined anywhere.
3) Rite of Hallowing mentioned as early as page 7,but not defined until pg121
The first Simple Charm of Hallowing is on pg 31, one of the first things in the rites for the first moon. One thing I wonder is whether the format of presenting all the support articles each month first, followed by all the rituals, is useful. The alternative, it seems, would be to present a support article followed immediately by the rite or exercise that it refers to. This would mix the practical text in with the expository stuff, which somehow I didn’t want to do.
4) Land over the 9 waves-what is that?
It’s a poetic reference to the Celtic Otherworld. I expect it to be recognizable to anyone doing some mythic reading. A little mystery doesn’t bother me.
5)Kindling Charm mentioned to be used on page 31, described on page75
6)Two powers used in several rites before being described on page 58
Here’s the thing – I rather assume that early text will be referred back to by students later on (and I’ve copied and pasted it repeatedly as part of formatting the book so far). The instruction is to use that charm or a two-powers centering. Again, I’m assuming students know some version of one of those. I don’t intend to reteach Dedicant material in this instruction – for instance there is no detailed instruction here on making the Home Shrine.
A Celtic pronunciation guide or reference to one would be helpful.
How are the sigils made - a reference to book and page would be great.
Both are in Sacred Fire, Holy Well – I’m a long way from back-matter on this. Remember, this is a draft of the first 35% or so of the Nine-Month instruction.
For a rite or for making incense, a list of things needed like one would do for a recipe would help. You did this for the Rite to Hallow a Cauldron of Blessing, for example .
Don’t I give the recipe, method of mixing, and ultra-simple charm to hallow the incense on page 30?
We are told to get a wand and cauldron,but not given all specifics until when you are soon to hallow and use it. Cauldron-necessity of getting onestated3-4times,but the fact it needs to be drinkable and easily washed not mentioned until pg109 when it is to be dedicated. Wand mentioned etc…
Noted. The hallowing of those two tools has been wandering around the nine lessons, but I think I have it in order – I’ll make that part make more sense.
Cairn mentioned pg10 and29 (not offering seeds so creatures won't climb on it),but none has been constructed nor its function explained yet.
Yeah, it’s in month 4. I don’t mind a little foreshadowing of that sort. Somewhere in the ‘how to use this book’ section I should advise folks to read all the instructional materials first, perhaps.
Sixth nite-how is that calculated?
By counting 6 nites from the new moon. How is New Moon calculated? By when the first crescent appears… is this subjective? Yes. I suppose I should give the student permission to be subjective and a little flexible within the constraints of the moon-phases.
Thanks for all your effort and hard work to put this together for us. It is an awesome task well done.Candee
Well, a task underway, anyway. I’m making my way through the Fourth Moon now. My goal, if I can, is to have the finished nine lessons by Wellspring.
Thank you so much for your cogent reading and comment. The file remains up for those who may want to know what we’re talking about…

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Year One

I missed the 1st anniversary of this blog, on November 7th, but I just want to wish myself a hardy congratulations for actually paying attention to this project for a full year. Since I'm still writing I'll still have stuff to post, and since I'm still a pop-culture geek I'll still find odd stuff to put up as well.
I haven't found the time for as many original essays and just thoughts-on-my-mind posts as I might have wanted. If I sit down at the web to waste time I have plenty to do. So this has mostly been notes and even full articles from the stuff I'm actually writing, with some pop culture and occasional book reviews as well. I want to do more book reviews, but too often they feel like work, not play, and I'm doing plenty of work on the keyboard these days.
Anyway, huge thanks to all those who stay subscribed and give me at least the illusion that I'm writing to somebody : ). By all means do tell me what you like and don't like. No telling whether I'll do anything about it, but I am interested.

Blessings of the USA Thanksgiving season on those who care.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Druidic Ritual Innovation - the Blessing Vessel

In our Druidic ritual it has long been our custom to consecrate drink as the carrier of the Blessing of the Gods and Spirits. While we often use other customs in addition to the Waters of Life, the drinking of the Blessing is the central and most traditional symbol of the receiving of the divine power. In this season of contagion our Grove has decided to begin suggesting that attendees bring a drinking vessel of their own to our High Day rites. While this has some obvious hygiene advantages, it also offers some valuable options for spiritual and magical work. It is always good to find ways to gather intimate, personal moments inside a big community seasonal rite, and the Vessel of Blessing offers just that.

The Vessel of Blessing – A Valuable Druidic Tool

In this article I mean to discuss a development of the core symbolism available within our order of Ritual. The ‘return flow’ portion of the rite has great power that can perhaps be expressed more effectively through the use of a new ritual tool. This Vessel of Blessing – is a quaich, chalice, cauldron, horn, etc which is added to the Druid’s ritual tools as a specific drinking vessel for the substance of the Blessing (the return flow). It is especially valuable for solitary work, and has potential for applications in group and Grove rites as well.
Our Druidic rites often seem focused on the work of offering to the Powers, of honoring the Gods and Spirits. The rites of Opening the Grove and the Gate, the offerings to the Kindreds and to the Powers of the Occasion can leave the remainder of the Order of ritual seeming like an afterthought. The ‘return flow’ or Blessing can sometimes be reduced to a simple affirmation in which the cup is declared to be blessed. This reduction is an error that can rob a rite of a chance for a powerful spiritual moment.
We work the rites for several reasons. We seek to expand our awareness of the natural world and the spirits in it. In that work we also open to the cycles and forces of nature, and to our place in it. We offer to the Gods and Spirits, strengthening their presence because we love their presence, and because we hope to make them more active in the modern world. We bring our people together, creating community and linking hearts. But we make the Sacred Grove, and fill it with the Powers not only for our community and our world, but for ourselves. We seek to inspire and empower our individual spiritual natures by the blessing of the Gods. Our rites are often works of public religion, but they also contain the possibility for personal theurgy.
The ritual moment in which the ‘return flow’ is blessed is a vital spiritual event in our rites. It is the culmination of the intention of the rite, the goal of all that comes before it. Certainly we make our sacrifices because we share a bond of love with the Gods and Spirits. It is impossible for an open heart to know the spiritual realms without responding in awe and delight – in love. Yet one of the real reasons for such awe is the bounteous giving of nature and spirit. From the unstinting gifts of land and sea and sky to the bounties of life’s emotional and intellectual harvests, the worlds give us all that we have. When we come to the Sacred Grove we seek to specifically channel that infinite flow of blessings in more specific ways. Just as the watercourse is channeled in the mill-wheel, or infinite light made strong in the laser beam, so the devices of spiritual ritual focus the power of spirit in our Groves.
Our Order of Ritual most commonly works by blessing a cup of drink, which is then consumed by those present. While our larger practice may use various elements in the Blessing – fire, bread or other edibles, a sprinkling in place of a drinking – the central and most usual symbol of the immediate result of our working remains the Cup of Blessing. This symbol has never been formalized in our work. The ritual forms are well-known but we have created no key symbol or tool for this portion of the work.
The Fire, Well and Tree have been well established as ritual tools in Our Druidry. Even individual practitioners are encouraged to own and use these symbols in the Home Shrine, or as tools in .portable personal ritual. I propose the addition of a further Druidic spiritual tool – the vessel of Blessing. This special drinking vessel is consecrated to the special task of receiving and transmitting the Blessing of the Gods and Spirit. I envision this tool as both personal and collective, spiritual and practical.
The Blessing Cup begins as a solitary tool, a part of one’s Shrine ritual set. A vessel is made or purchased, then hallowed by a charm such as that given below. In personal ritual it is used as the special cup from which the Blessing is drunk. I think that it is as a personal tool that the Vessel finds its truest expression. The Vessel is an expression of the personal spirit – the vessel into which the blessing of the Powers flows. In some ways it could be seen as a symbol of the Da Fein – the God In Me.
In a Grove setting there are advantages to individual members bringing their own drinking vessels to rites. Symbolically, this allows each to present the Vessel of their own Spirit to receive the flow of Blessing from the Grove. Practically it solves the problem of sharing cups among a large group. There is an element of difficulty involved in attendees carrying their own cups throughout a ritual. Medieval traditions of carrying a cup in a belt-pouch or tied to a belt by a cord suggest ways to deal with the problem. The vessels could also be placed on a side-altar as the company enters the ritual space, then distributed at the Blessing.
It would also be possible to create a Grove Blessing Vessel that could be used for High days and other major rituals. A cauldron, large chalice or krater could become a potent symbol of the group-mind of the Grove. A Grove vessel would need to be large enough to hold all the drink for a large-group vessel, and could be accompanied by a ladle for distributing the Blessing. The ritual act of hallowing the Blessing in a group vessel, then portioning it into the consecrated personal Vessels carries many layers of meaning. While it might grow clumsy in very large group rites or in rites involving lots of movement it is well suited to smaller groups, or when everyone has a clear seat.
The Vessel of Blessing is a magical technique, applied to our religious intent. Each student’s vessel becomes in effect, a talisman consecrated to the work of Blessing one’s own spirit. It becomes an Inner center of the Shrine, or of the Grove, just as the Hallows are the visible center. By regular use, and by being kept carefully sacred, such a vessel grows beyond the simply symbolic and comes to have power of its own. By that power the Blessing of the Gods and Spirits becomes ever stronger in a Druid’s rites.

A Simple Charm for Hallowing the Vessel
Have as full a Shrine as you can manage. You’ll need Fire and Water, preferably your own Three Hallows of Fire, Well and Tree. Have your Blessing Vessel present as well.
Bless the Hallows, giving silver to the Well and lighting candles and incense for the Fire, saying:
The Fire, the Well, the Sacred Tree
Flow and Flame and Grow in me
In Land, Sea and Sky, Below and on High,
Let the Water be blessed and the Fire be hallowed.
Sprinkle and cense yourself for purification, saying:
By the Might of the Waters and the Light of the Fire
Cleansed of ill and bane am I
By the Might of the Waters and the Light of the Fire
Blessed in Land and Sea and Sky
Sprinkle and cense the vessel, saying nine times:
By the Might of the Waters and the Light of the Fire
This (cup) is made clean and fit for sacred work.
By the Might of the Waters and the Light of the Fire
This (vessel) is made whole and holy!
And, after the ninth time:
By Fire Well and Tree
By Gods Dead and Sidhe
This is my Vessel of Blessing, made to receive the flow of the power of the Gods and Spirits.
So be it!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Nine Moons Progress Report

I have completed writing the first draft of the first three lessons of my Nine Moons Druidic Magical Training. Those interested can, for a short time, download the PDF of these lessons at their storage dump. I am very interested in feedback on the structure and content of these lessons. I have already decided that they need a couple of additional things, including summaries of the work and goals for each lesson – just what do I expect students to learn from them, and which of the exercises need repeated work during the lesson-month to really build skill.
Liafal and I are about to begin the program. After some discussion we’ve decided to do it pretty much as written, in order to have as close to the student’s experience as possible. This should actually be fun for me. It has been some while since I did a truly focused round of personal work, and while this program doesn’t start with totally basic, pre-dedicant skills, it will take us back to basics on a lot of things, including enforced Open Meditation rather than exclusively visualization and energy work. We will be doing numerous rites and spells in a Druidic style, deepening our solitary skills at the Order of Ritual as well at in practical magic. It will also involve a lot more divination than I’ve done in some while – real readings, not just ritual omens.
In fact our biggest question so far remains whether the pace of the work is simply to fast for a householder keeping a common life while doing the program. Each monthly lesson calls for a full trance exercise, a work of practical magic, and a work of theurgy, along with regular offerings to the Kins, meditation etc. It’s all wrapped up in weekly ‘retreat days’ in which the student works these things into the daily schedule. Like many householders, Liafal and I will be attempting to work these retreat days, in some cases, on weekdays, fitting the activities in around our work schedules.
So, I’ll be posting some accounts of our ongoing work here. No way I’m doing my full journaling in public, that just ain’t me, but I’ll keep this blog posted on notable things. Here we go!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Charm for Samhain

The next in the series of gaelic high-day charms. In all of these cases I have composed them as riddles of a sort. A student who can riddle out all the references in these charms probably knows the High day lore pretty well.
End of Summer, summoned
Herd Culling; Head Taking
Mead Making; Dead Calling
I keep the Feast of Samhain!
First of the Fallen, you I call
Son of the Warrior; Eldest of Brothers
Lord of the Feast in the House of the Dead.
Take now this offering here at my Fire.
Wrathful Red Goddess, you I call
Queen of the Spirits, Daughter of Danu
Mare of the Stallion, Crow of the Corpses
Take now my offering, here at my Fire.
Host of the Ancestors, this is your feasting.
Apples I give you, fruit of the Gods
Bread I give you, flesh of the Land
Ale I give you, blood of the Cauldron
Come you from the Isle of Apples
Come you from the Dark One’s House
Come you through the Door of the Hinge
And give your blessing to our year!
So, all you Powers, I give you welcome at my Fire. Let your light be reflected in my spirit, let your ale flow in my veins. I raise this glass to you, and drink to your divine power. Let me know the health, wealth and wisdom of the Gods and Spirits on this holy feast of Samhain! So be it!

Offerings: For the Deities, oil or incense, for the Dead as specified: Apples, bread and ale. Work the rite close to your hearth, or at a tomb.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Druidic Divination Spread Model

Please begin by ignoring the vague resemblance to the "Tree of Life" diagram - purely coincidental. I offer this spread for experimentation. It's part of the first draft of my Book of Nine Moons project - more divination stuff!
While I use standard ideas from the Druidic Order of Worship for some of the positions, I have tried to generalize these into the kinds of abstract meanings that are useful in doing 'readings' for others. If one wished to use the spread as a more direct set of omens 'from' the Kindreds, etc, that would probably work fine. As written the positions are more 'about't he influences associated with the Kindreds.
Freely offered for experiment, comments encouraged.
This spread is based on three triads and two additional omens, Thus:
The First Triad - Three Omens about the Self
1: Midrealm: The Querent: immediate and personal - the question itself
2: Earth Mother: Underlying forces, source of strength
3: Gatekeeper: Influence of the spirits, for good or ill
The Second Triad - Three Omens about the world and the querent's place in it.
4: Past
5: Present
6: Future: Direct omens about conditions and likelihoods
The Third Triad - Three Omens about influences and possibilities
7: Ancestors: Memory and Culture; influences from the past, opinions of others, social rules and customs; the Tribe
8: Landspirits: Magic and Luck; special opportunities or risks, access to power or need for protection; the Outsiders
9: The Gods: Inspiration and Blessing; the highest in the self, the most powerful in life, distant influences and sudden possibilities
If the Diviner desires she might lay omens for the last two positions
10: The Sacrifice: what will be required to gain the Blessing
11: The Blessing: The final good to be gained from the outcome

Monday, October 19, 2009

Divination Theory

This is an exceprt from the article on divination I'm working on for the Nine Moons project. I should finish that article today, and with it the first three months of that magical practicum training. I have been surprised at how difficult this bit of writing has been for me. The fact is that while I have practiced divination all my life I have never undertaken to write more than the simplest guide before. This piece is much more theoretical, and has more advice on doing readings, etc, than anything I've written before. For example, here's the bit on how and why divination works.

In the course of your retreats you will be doing divination regularly. As you begin to become familiar with the system you’ve chosen and the details of performing a reading, it may also be worthwhile to consider some of the metaphysics and meaning of divination.
Divination is the use of personal intuition and spiritual inspiration to interpret the patterns and signs of the natural world, in such a way as to reveal knowledge or information. In some cases the patterns interpreted by seers are cyclical, such as in astrology, but more often symbols are observed or generated at random. The mix of lots in a bag, the shuffle of a pack of cards, even the unpredictable movements of a column of smoke or of wildlife may appear meaningless to the common mind, yet the diviner’s vision sees patterns that convey meaning beyond common understanding. If we want to consider theories as to how this can happen I might propose three central themes.
First we can look at what might be called the “classical” metaphysical or occult theory. This draws on two traditional laws of magic – the principle of reflection and the doctrine of signatures. The famous maxim “As above, so below; and as below, so above” is remembered from late Hellenic Paganism, but it expresses an Indo-European principle so widespread as to be universal. This doctrine holds that the many layers of the world all reflect one another, both in their forms, and in the events that occur within them. In this model causation occurs in all directions – events in one realm influence all other realms, though the intentions of sentient beings can direct that to some degree. What occurs in the Underworld has reflection in the Mid-world and the heavens and vice-versa, throughout all the worlds. This produces what we might call a ‘holographic cosmos, in which the whole is present by reflection in every part. A number of corollary laws come from this, the most relevant for us being the ‘doctrine of signatures’.
Since all spiritual forces produce their likeness and distinctive signs in the material world by reflection, the wise have sought to understand which spiritual forces are associated with which material things. This has led to lore that concerns the meanings of colors, directions, stones, herbs, trees, etc. In the same way, an image of a spiritual power, created by humans, will natural partake, by reflection in that power if made with the proper colors, shapes, symbols, etc. A divination system is an attempt to create a symbol system that effectively contains the whole of the worlds in its symbols, a balanced structure that can accurately reflect the structure of the cosmos and its variations. The clearest example of such a system is astrology, in which the stars, planets and sections of the heavens make an eternal wheel reflecting life’s possibilities. In the same way augury from natural things always contains the whole world, because it is in fact drawn from the world as it is. Symbolic divination systems, such as tarot, Runes, Ogham or other lots, attempt to create systems that accurately reflect the worlds. By reflecting them they participate in them, and thus when such symbols are randomized, the magician expects them to fall into patterns that reflect the world as it is. From those patterns the diviner reads her answers.
While modern thought will tend to see all of this as a mechanical process of impersonal forces tradition has always held that the spirits are closely involved. It is entirely consistent with tradition to see divination as a process by which the spirits guide the relevant symbols into their relevant positions for our readings, using their superior vision and understanding to see the forces surrounding our questions. While we can attempt to work our magic by our personal power and wisdom alone, any such efforts are greatly enhanced by appeals to the proper spirits. The simplest means of doing this is to invoke the aid of the deities proper to system in use. For the Ogham the proper deities are Ogma, for whom the alphabet is named, and Manannan, who is said to be the keeper of the letters. There is an invocation given in the ritual section which can be used as is or can be inspiration for your own words.
The third basic principle of divination is the native power of intuition of the human mind. Whatever the mechanism is which produces the pattern of symbols in a divination it is human intuition that allows us to turn a series of hints and reflections into a coherent narrative that reveals truth. Some modern magicians assert that intuition is the whole reality of divination. It is true that when the mind is “tuned in” strongly, divination could be done with M&Ms or varieties of bottle caps. However both tradition and experience teach that omens are clearer when the symbol system if properly constructed and well understood by the diviner. So even as you are learning the intellectual meanings of your symbol system you should be carefully pursuing your meditation, offerings to the spirits and trancework, and the cultivation of the Open Eye trance.
The Open Eye
The skill that you are developing in Open Meditation can be directly applied to the work of seership. You are learning to allow your thoughts and mental impressions to flow freely through your mind without attachment. This attitude can also be applied to your sense perceptions. It is simple to begin at your Home Shrine. When you have settled into Open meditation, open your eyes and gaze upon your Shrine. Allow your visual input to simply rest upon your mind. Maintain your focus on your breath, or whatever focus you employ. Let your gaze widen, to see the entire surface of the Shrine at once. Do not focus on any one element of the Shrine; do not fail to see any element of the Shrine. Do not allow any thinking about the Shrine to cling in your mind. It may be that useful ideas will occur to you – note them and return to simple focused attention.
After a little practice you should try the same thing out of doors. In the same way, find a place where a vista of several elements is visible. Find your center and focus into your meditation. Open your eyes and experience the reality of what you see without consideration or evaluation. In this state of mind you may be shown omens, and it is in this state of mind that we seek omens, open to the flow of event.
As we will discuss in our instructions on practical divination this same Open Eye is useful when you are evaluating a reading. Once you have thoroughly assimilated the symbols of a system, observing the pattern with the Open Eye can allow your deeper awareness to form patterns and understandings about a reading beyond the simple meaning and sequence of the symbols.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Dunwich Horror Remake

Amazingly, the new Dunwich Horror flick, with Jeff Combs as Wilbur Whateley and Dean Stockwell as Henry Armitage is not only out, but it's premiering on the Syfy Channel this Sunday at 7pm!! "A new adaptation of the classic Lovecraft tale is set in Louisiana and tells the story of several scholars headed by Henry Armitage who discover the secret to destroying mysterious, other-worldly beings that threaten humankind. Jeff plays Wilbur Whateley, part of a strange, inbred family who with the help of the dreaded tome, The Necronomicon, helps unleash these beings on to the world."
This won't be perfect - it looks like the Necronomicon is the Simon book, and I doubt there's enough special effects money to do Wilbur's brother justice. Still, it's my single fave HPL tale, so I'm excited to see a new version.
How did this happen and me almost miss it?!? Only my diligent monitoring of the program guide on my dvr prevented a tragic miss on this one. I had blogged this early this year, but I was still expected 2010 release date. Weird to have it going direct to TV, but nice to have it coming out on my birthday : ).
Hope it doesn't suck...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dark Fantasy Reads

‘Tis the season for spookiness. Does that bother me, as a Pagan? In that I hold the Dead sacred, and honor then in every season, and in that I also find various horned and clawed and winged ‘nature spirits’ holy, and have been and remain, I suppose, a witch, is there a reason to be put off of all the funny spookiness and fake-evil Hollywood fantasy of the US Halloween?
Hells no.
In some future Samhain perhaps I’ll write about the sacred customs of masking, and depiction of dangerous land-wights, and the lore of the walking dead. I could write about how we could bring all that together with the north-american pop-horror scene in a way that might give us an angle into pop culture…
Never mind that now, I’m going to just catch you up on some pop-literature reads that really impressed me recently. The so-called ‘horror’ genre is maturing nicely, in my opinion. I know that Ms. Kiernan, below, doesn’t even want the label, so I’m referring to this stuff as ‘Dark Fantasy” They actually range from down-and-dirty horror to quasi-mythic adventures with plenty of gore. All of them are characterized by being long, detailed stories, by using story elements that I dig, including quasi-authentic occultism, Euro-lore and Lovecraft’s bits. All of them made me really want the next book in the series, and be sorry (if shaken) when they were over.
• The Pine Deep trilogy by Jonathan Maberry
Ghost Road Blues
Dead Man's Song
Bad Moon Rising

Here’s something you don’t see every day – a horror ‘trilogy’ as tightly constructed and sequential as any fantasy series. The three books comprise what is really a single story, though the first two novels do offer reasonably satisfying conclusions. This gives the author the opportunity to really tell a story, to write the internal point-of-view of several characters in detail, and build suspense continuously. This is combined with a folklorist’s knowledge of actual nasty-liche lore from eastern Europe and Germany, an american musicological interest in hoodoo and Mississippi blues, and a lovely link with a historical character to create one hell of a tale of horror, terror and occult adventure.
The books tell the story of Pine Deep, an exurban tourist-trap community in southern Pennsylvania. Pine Deep has become known as the Halloween town thanks to the efforts of the current generation of town leaders, friends since boyhood. A huge haunted hayride attraction serves as an early centerpiece, and the town hosts a regional Halloween street party. Into this season comes a wave of fear and death. One of Maberry’s strengths is his ability to draw his characters. He presents a dozen characters in great detail, some heroes, some villains, slowly revealing their layers through the first book, all well-developed as human figures, at least at first.
The supernatural horror is always lurking, but takes until near the end of the first book to begin to become visible. However no pages are wasted, and it’s all fascinating set-up for the more overt evils of the later story. The length gives the author the chance to do some classic scenes in detail – the Evil House, the Terrifying Backstory, the Haunted Swamp all get first-class treatments. While perhaps the later two books are not quite as perfectly paced as the first, the payoff is all one could expect - a fully produced cinematic blowoff of just the pulpy sort I like.
This is my A1 recommendation for a Halloween read this year, if you want one.

• The Deacon Silvey books – by Caitlin R. Kiernan
Low Red Moon
Daughter of Hounds

I’ve liked each and every thing I’ve read by this author, but my favorite stories are these very weird tales of a human family’s interaction over generations with the beings that Lovecraft called ‘ghouls’. In HPL’s tales the ghouls are a race of corpse-eaters, huge, dogman-like and crusted with mould and filth, who dwell in tunnels beneath both our earth and that of the Dreamlands. In the most famous appearance in “Pickman’s Model" it becomes clear that ghouls may mate with humans, make hybrids, and take some of those hybrids back below with them, to become a next generation. A lovely combination of the changeling with Lovecraft’s constant theme of the Monster Is Me.
Kiernan totally gets all that, and has built a level of detail around these beings beyond what Lovecraft wrote, but not beyond what he implied. The stories revolve around the characters of Deacon Silvey, a fairly powerful psychic who drinks fairly powerfully, and his love and life with Chance Matthews, a lovely young paleontologist. The first book gives us their unlikely pair-bonding, and the ‘family issues’ that ensue, as they bear and raise a child are a subtle expression of Lovecraft’s themes of the Other breaking through into the common. All of this rather subtly leads to revelations of the under-dwellers. The third book is pretty much kick-ass occult adventure, though there’s plenty of weirdness, too.
This is probably my favorite post-Mythos fiction lately. Kiernan writes Lovecraft’s themes about thoroughly modern characters (including women, thank the Goddesses). She makes a nice mix of visceral shock with occult spookiness, drawing on her own knowledge of traditional witchcraft and magic. From cosmic horror to spell-and-shotgun, these are a good read.
• The Stephen Raszer books – by A.W. Hill
Enoch’s Portal
The Last Days of Madame Rey
Nowhere Land

I’ll have a little less to say here, because I’ve only read one of these – “The Last days of Madame Rey”. That much is enough to give me that telltale feeling of wanting more. “Last Days” is a tale of a ‘psychic detective’ and his efforts to recover a rich man’s son from a dangerous far-right military cult on the slopes of Mt Shasta. Within that premise the reader is taken for ride of mythic proportions, while hardly ever straining the boundary of what we might call fantasy.
In theme and incident I was reminded of the fiction of Robert Anton Wilson. UFOs meet Landspirits, tarot meets the ancient middle-east meet the yetis of Hyperborea – Icke fans, sorry – no lizardmen actually appear in the novel. The characters include scientists, devoted assistants, romani tribesfolk, Moroccan Jews and a psychic stripper.
The plot is adventure - plenty of lead flies, psychic power is used, many weird things occur. Even more interesting, perhaps, is the depiction of the spiritual journey of Stephan Raszer (not his real name…); a former actor, he’s had an illumination, rather literally, and now he must devote himself to his personal search. On the way he can make a few bucks in the anti-cult game. I greatly look forward to reading more of this author’s odd brain, and Stephan’s personal journey.
• The Age of Misrule – by Mark Chadbourn
World’s End
Darkest Hour
Always Forever
Here we come as close as we’re getting to ‘fantasy’ genre material. Once again, I’ve finished only the first two books, but will certainly read the thirds. The writing is engaging and the themes are among my faves. The core theme is common enough in fantasy thinking – the Old Gods are returning. The difference is the author’s fine depiction of what a total change in the fabric of reality, such as might accompany a return to the age of myth, might mean for the world as we know it. Here we see another version of some of the Illuminatus! themes. The first book especially is about the veils of daily, work-a-day life being drawn away, to reveal a new reality that was previously unperceived. This being dark fantasy, this isn’t always particularly good news.
The author makes Celtic myth and legend his motif, and it is the Fomor demons that first return to the mortal world. The first book shows us the ‘assembling of the company’ as five regular joes and janes are drawn together. Once again the author really manages to show us a modern mind making accommodation with the new dangers and challenges of a world driven by what amounts to magic. The heroes must gather the necessaries and do the spell to bring back the Shining Ones in the first book, but the Gods, when they return, are as alien as the Fomor to modern mortals – if prettier.
As the heroes pursue their deeds (on perhaps a trifle clockworky timetable) we see a variety of small depictions of the return of magical and mythic life, as the shadows and fields are once again filled with dangerous wights, and humans begin to make new deals with the nobles of the Shining Courts. The pace of the first two books gallops, but unless our heroes manage to turn back the tide, we see the new age stretching out into the foreseeable future. I have been especially pleased at the slow revelation and/or discovery of what operative magic may now be able to do.

Well, that’s plenty to keep you. Put on your rubber horns and have a fun Halloween season, and the blessings of the Dead be upon you.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Meditation on the Lord of Wisdom

Here's the next in the set of meditations and essays that I'm doing to examine potentials for 'mystical' meaning in ADF's Order of Ritual. For these first efforts, I decided to create visualization and contemplation meditations for the deities, while using essays and less 'worshipful' excercises for the abstract principles. I'll be writing some exercises for the Three Hallows directly. In the meantime here's the partner work to the Earth Mother item given below.

Let the Druid come before the Shrine, and enter a basic trance. Work a simple opening rite and compose the Vision of the Lord of Wisdom, thus:
• Envision the Lord of Wisdom, the Keeper of Gates, before you. See his towering figure, huge above a crossroad in the mist, feet floating above the road. He is slender and strong, dressed only in an open robe of white that billows in the moving air. His face is youthful, but his long hair and beard are snowy white. His left hand is raised, palm forward, and in his right hand he bears a shining white wand with a flame at its tip.
• Around his head shines a nimbus of every color and pattern, filled with every sign and letter of wisdom, shining around his being. His forehead shines with a wondrous light, with a flickering flame in the center. He stands at the crossroad, and you see that every road of it stretches away to another crossroad, and another. At each the Lord stands, in reflection outward, standing at the Center of All Ways, the Fire at the Center of the World.
Make a simple offering of whiskey or incense, or as you can, nine times, as you recite this hymn three times:
Lord of Wisdom
Wanderer on the Roads
Keeper of Gates and Ways
Priest of the Sacred Grove
I make due offering to you
(Offering given)
Because you teach wisdom
Because you guide spirits
Because you reveal secrets
I make due offering to you
(Offering given)
Lord of the Twilight
I worship your cunning
Keeper of Gates
I worship your might
Teacher of Heroes
I worship your wisdom
Lord of Secret Knowledge, inspire my mind with the Elder Ways
Keeper of gates, accept my sacrifice!
Renew your vision of the Gatekeeper and abide for a while in contemplation of that vision. Then proceed thus:
• Contemplate the shining presence of the Lord of Wisdom for a time. When his presence feels real to you then envision yourself seated at the crossroad with the gatekeeper behind you, his aura surrounding and interpenetrating you. You gaze along the roads and you see yourself at every crossing point, your awareness extending outward along the Infinite Paths. Feel your extending presence, out through the whole Web of Worlds. Abide for a while in contemplation of this vision.
• When you are ready, allow the whole vision, the Gatekeeper, the Web and your own form to shrink down and to become equal to your own head. Let the wisdom, knowledge and cleverness, the freedom to pass every barrier be concentrated in you. Feel the presence of the Gatekeeper shining in you, within the boundaries of your seated form. Abide for a while in contemplation of this vision.
• Finally, allow the image to grow again, bringing all the reflections of yourself firmly together in your material presence. Allow the form of the Gatekeeper to grow larger and larger, attenuating to become one with the light and air.
Renew your center, balancing all once again within you, and recite a simple ending charm, such as:
The blessings of the Holy Ones be on me and mine
My blessings on all beings, with peace on thee and thine
The Fire, the Well, the Sacred Tree
Flow and Flame and Grow in me
Thus do I remember the work of the Wise.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Occult Bollywood

It's possible that you won't thank me for pointing out this movie. I ordered Goddess from BBuster on-line, because I have no problem risking zero dollars on a flick that gets 1 1/2 stars with a description like: A wealthy and handsome gentleman falls for a charming and beautiful woman without realizing that she is actually the snake goddess Devi in disguise in this sumptuous take on the classic Hindu fable. Realizing that her mortal lover is in danger of attack from the malevolent snake deity Dantra, Devi does everything in her power to keep him safe from harm.
So, this flick, popular throughout SE Asia, apparently, is over 2 1/2 hours long, and the first hour has only a little cool stuff. The insipid melodrama of two Indian families is fast-forwardable, but the scene in which the Serpent-Devi arrives on earth in the totally psychedelic vimana, strays from her giggly-hot serpent-devi companions and is attacked by the indeterminate rakshasa type is a taste of more to come. The father of the key family sacrifices his own life to save our wayward Devi, and she becomes the guardian angel of the family.
The cool thing about this flick is the importance and depiction of Hindu (and totally Saivite) ritualism, including some directly practical-magic rites. The Snake-God and his Devi daughters are the good guys, and the demonic fellow gets some excellent footage using his tantrik (not sexual) rites to summon his hideous even-demonier god. The film culminates in a double-devotion rite, in which the mortal woman does ritual in her home while the demi-goddess (surely a 'daimon' by euro-standards) works bigger ritual in a mythic locale - all visually satisfying and culturally fascinating, to my particular sort of geekery.
The musical footage during the rites is very nice - the subtitles are minimalist, but the hymns are recognizable if you know that sort of thing. The bollywood musical love-song stuff seems lame by bollywood standards, but the visual effects are pure color and light, even thiongs appear and disappear by the most usual sort of stop-footage.
Anyway, worth seeing to find the footage of ritual and magic. Be of stout heart, and get through the first hour...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Self & Psyche in Druidic Ritual Symbolism

Pt 2 - The Two Powers and Three Realms
This is the next article in the series of attempted 'mysticism' things, based on our Druidic Order of Ritual. The first one part is the Earth Mother meditation posted here previously. This one is based on the 'honoring the Center' portion of the rites, as expressed in our Three Hallows of Fire, Well and Tree.

As we enter our second quarter-century it is perhaps time to begin a new phase in our spiritual practice and discussion. We have refined and focused our ritual order, linking it firmly with Indo-European concepts of cosmos. I think we can move beyond our current understandings to find new layers of meaning. It may be that this has been going on quietly in our Groves and hearths for some time, but I’ll make an effort to lay out some of my own thinking on how we can find deeper experience and meaning in our ritual symbolism.
It is common in traditional Paganism for spiritual techniques and symbols to have several levels of interpretation. For instance we can understand our Order of Ritual first as a feast that the house or clan sets for the Gods and Spirits. The Fire cooks the food, the Well gives drink. On a deeper level we can understand that the physical realities of the rite are spiritual and mythic as well. The Well is the Eye of the Underworld Waters, the Fire the Light of the Heavens. The Grove becomes one with the Center of Worlds. In these essays we will examine another level of interpretation, in which the symbols of the Order of Ritual are applied to the human psyche – the body/mind/spirit complex. In this I accept that ancient maxim best known to us from the late classical age: “That which is above is as that which is below, and that which is below is as that which is above.” By applying cosmic realities to personal realities I hope to find insights toward a Pagan Druidic mystical and spiritual path.
The Primal Powers and the Vertical Axis
The powers of the proto-cosmos – the Underworld Waters and the Fire of the Heavens – can have deep meaning in the personal self as well as in the rites. The Two Powers find expression as central functions of the psyche. They can be the root of much further analysis and practice.
The Underworld Power finds expression first in the material self as the inheritance from our genetic ancestors. The Underworld is the place in which all that has come before is boiled up and boiled down into its basic elements, to feed the rise of new forms. We as individuals rise from the chance of combining DNA – from the Womb of the Deep.
On a psychological level we can think of the Underworld as referring first to the place where body meets mind – the oldest and most ‘primitive’ impulses including hunger, reproduction, territoriality, pack-hierarchy and fight-or-flight. Even though modern humans have some ability to manage these impulses they continue to influence our behavior even in the most civilized of circumstances.
Just as the Underworld Waters bear all the raw nutrients that remain from that which has passed away, so in our mind the memory is the vasty deep into which our experiences are dissolved. Science now knows that memory is not a filing system in which events are clearly preserved. Rather it is more like a bog, in which events are sometimes dissolved, sometimes preserved, and sometimes sprout into living things. In this way the memory is a fine expression of the Underworld Power.
On a spiritual level we carry within our own flesh and spirit the power of the Dead. Our inheritance makes our very face and form an idol of our ancestors, and ancient religion plainly understood ‘the blood’ as carrying the power of our lineage. This presents many opportunities, including transpersonal memory, access to increased personal potential and the mysteries of the Road of the Dead themselves. Those roads lead finally to the Thrones of the Gods of the Deep. Euro-Pagan cultures show us images of the King and Queen of the Underworld, who welcome the Dead and grant peace, rest and, as needed, justice. We hear that the Celts said that they were descended from the Underworld Father. Among the Hellenes and the Norse it is the Underworld Queen who is regarded most highly. These mighty Powers exist by reflection within our own psyches as surely as they live in the Halls Below.
The Heaven Power finds expression in our body as the genetic pattern that makes each of us unique. We grow out of the long history of mating and mixing that preceded our own births, and the genes of our parents came together with a variety of potentials. It is the power of organization and quickening from the Heavens that assembled each of us from the potentials of chance, and our flesh is a combination of Underworld potentials formed by Heavenly shaping. In this way the Heaven Power is just as far outside of our ‘normal’ awareness as the Underworld – it happens whether or not we watch it or direct it.
However, we ourselves possess the Power of Shaping, to one degree or another, in our ability to shape matter and, perhaps, spirit by our skill and wit. The Heaven Power in us allows us to focus our awareness to make patterns and to shape both material and spiritual forms. Equally it finds expression in our human power of reason. Supported by the more complex structures of the brain we are able to plan, design, execute and support our will. For many of us these ability lie largely in potential – spiritual work can lead us to develop our access to the Power of the Sky.
On a spiritual level we carry in ourselves the Divine Fire of the Gods. The principle of Cosmos, of the Rightness of Things causes us both to exist as individuals and to be players in the Game of Worlds. The Heaven Power offers us a transpersonal view of the patterns of existence that we must strive to perceive and on which we may act when we can grasp it.
The Heavens wheel above us, shining their Light on all existence. In the same we have in us an ability to view our own beings, to step above our daily processes and see into our own patterns and habits. On that Inner Mountaintop we can survey our minds and our hearts, and perhaps find a perspective that sees the road through time, from decision to decision, event to event, offering us a more divine perspective on the flow of life.
In the highest halls of the heavens the Bright Ones are enthroned. The Father of All and the Queen of the Gods, the Thunder Hero and the Dawn Goddess all dwell in the Upper Realms. In much Pagan lore the dwelling of the Gods themselves is in the Sky Realm, though there are always hidden roads that link it with the places of the Gods Below. In their High Halls the Gods meet in council, making the plans that guide the worlds.
The Middle World finds symbolic expression as the World Tree or World Pillar in our Groves, rooted in the dark waters, crowned in the Heavens’ gold. We can conceive of All That Is growing, fruiting, passing away and nourishing the future, between the depths and the heights. The World Tree in this way is like our own individual beings – the product of the action of the Two Powers upon the forces and forms of the Middle Realm.
The question of the nature and identity of our personal existence is central to the work of mysticism. In order to seek the transpersonal it seems worthwhile to develop an understanding of our own person. Every tale of the mystic journey begins with the hero-to-be choosing to leave their lives behind. In the same way we may have to think of the spiritual journey as, in some way, a leaving behind of the ‘self’ that we have built for ourselves over the years.
The Middle Realm is a place of unending variety, and every manifest thing springs from the effects of the organizing power of the Light and the massive potential of the Darkness. So, in our personal mind, the thing we commonly perceive as “me” is not in fact the entirety of our being. Rather our daily perceived identity is more of a floating point-of-view. It - as we might say, “I” - wander in the Middle-Realms of the mind, encountering objects and beings – thoughts and memories, perhaps – and reacting to them. When we sleep our point-of-view wanders in the quasi-sensory realms of dream. When we wake, that same point-of-view functions as our sense of “me”, as we move through our daily lives and through our waking minds. If we are sick or injured we may dwell in our pain, when we love we dwell in our joy. In one moment we may be firmly in our bodies, at other times we drift in the abstractions of our minds. We construct our sense of ourselves out of our impressions, habits and inclinations, a figure built of memory and idea. We come to identify this figure with the body we see in the mirror, but the self is so much more.
The Underworld and Heavens are reflected in us as often unobserved portions of the personal mind. The ancient tales show the journey of the seeker through realms strange and distant, though much of the ‘action’ may take place in the Middle Realm. So the mystical seeker sets out “into” a mind that is rather like the land – tangled or cultivated, civilized and savage. We make our way through it by ‘our’ wits.
So, we dwell in the Middle Places of our minds, in our constructed “character” or “persona”. We have some limited awareness of a greater existence, and the connection of our commonly manifest presence with the Heights and Depths of the world sometimes gives us hints of something greater. If we are not open to that intuitive awareness, which varies widely in untrained individuals, this can lead to confusion, and difficulty in making wise decisions. We feel the impulses of the greater world, but dwell within our constructs, and thus we find that instinct often conflicts with will, memory conflicts with ideals, inertia conflicts with intention.
When we bring the Sacred Fire and Holy Well into the material world through ritual, we have an opportunity to contemplate that work as opening our own Middle Realm awareness – our common sense of self – to the presence of the Deep Memory and the Higher Reason. When we work the Two Powers meditation we powerfully direct our common mind to open to those greater psycho-spiritual forces. When we hallow the presence of the Fire and Water during our sacrifices or on our shrines we can take that into our contemplations as a catalyst, opening for us a fresh and clear access to a greater degree of our own spiritual nature.