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.