Friday, December 28, 2012

Blinking and Yawning - Still Here?

Having concluded a big round of work over the Samhain season, I've been content to enjoy the delights of Yuletide. I find myself like a mental gopher or other small rodent. I nod and relax in my warm den, and only stick a nose out if someone makes a noise. Dark out here…

World didn’t end…

I’m not surprised. I can only hope that this will be the last of these end-of-the-world routines for the century, at least. It’s all just tiresome.

Back in the early 80s, when Ronald Ray-gun was playing chicken with the Soviet empire, I adopted a little mantram – “No end of the world!” Having grown up in even warmer days of the cold war, including the shooting proxy-war in Viet Nam, the general opinion among freethinkers was not optimistic. The air and water were still visibly crap, police behavior was the sort of unreformed barely-above-criminality that would later produce reactions in LA and elsewhere, and the government was busy busting the union labor movement to make way for the give-the-money-to-the-rich policies of the last 30 years.

It was certainly a time when we dreamed of revolution. In those days we didn’t really look to some extra-human agency when we thought about changing the world. Back in 1970 the question was whether there would be a shooting revolution in the US – or so we dreamed when we were in that mood. The fact is that things never really got worse. Environmental regulation came along, and the air and water were improved. The social values of the young left – free sex, neurological freedom, social-role breakdown, became more and more normative. Punk came and went – in the US it was never a very political or even influential thing.

But over all of it, until the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, was the looming specter of nuclear war between the competing superpowers. All of our efforts, or reforming, our rethinking, would come to nothing if the Big Assholes at the top pushed the damned button. That fear trickled into esoteric (and what was becoming called ‘New Age’) thought as a variety of immanent eschatons. Various star-people, Jesuses, Kalkis and prophets promoted memes in which the Old World Order was swept away, to be replaced with something new. To me it was always obvious that this was largely a hope-and-fear reaction to the realities of life in that age. So my mantra became “No end of the world”, asserting that I liked it here, and that it would be just as well if things just kept going.

Maybe people will always feel that the age in which they come of age is fucked up. To me, the several decades of my adult life have generally been a time of increasing good and gain for myself and the world. Trends on the planet are mixed, but in general there is more wealth, more education, more health for more people on Earth than ever before. Wars are down to a very minor level, crime is decreasing in the developed world, and the choke-hold of late Christian morality (if not that of recent Islamic puritanism…) is in steady decline. Human rights continue to advance, if by fits and starts, and we seem to even have a shot at working around the end of fossil fuels. Maybe I’m just a cockeyed optimist, but I don’t see that the world particularly deserves ending, nor needs saving. See here for more on all that.

From a Pagan perspective, I think that we must abandon the idea that there is some plan for the world that is not being fulfilled, or that the original intention of things is not the precise world in which we find ourselves. I think that it’s leftover Christian myth that inclines us to think that the world would be a kind, just and safe place if not for our human sins. In fact, I don’t think that the world was ever meant to be different than it is. Wyrd weaves as it will, the Great Improvisation moves into a new phase, but the instruments and themes remain the same. Humans are tested and proven in conflict, including in war and violence. We’re a long way from replacing that natural part of the Web, even if we thought we should. Love, war, mystical vision – those were the powers that the Celtic poets said could bring wisdom and illumination.

I guess in the end I think that only individual humans can be “spiritually enlightened” or whatever. The world cannot. The world is just as it is meant to be – a Great Dance of fun and filth, wisdom and worthlessness that never ceases to turn. Those who seek a Way of Wisdom in that turning must find the way for ourselves – nature will never change to make it easier for us.

P.S. I'll get back to writing and experimental magic soon, I'm sure. This year's solstice feels like cocooning time...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

An Offering for the Lost Dead

I've been feeling dead-ish lately, and this little task has been weighing on my intent since Samhain. I have felt a desire to make a proper offering to the... unhappy dead?... the shades... the sluagh... I'll call them the Lost Dead, for the sake of this charm. I might have done it at Samhain, but really Yuletide is as much about the Dead in Norse lore as Samhain is in Gaelic, and the theme of new light seems proper for a charm meant to bring hope and peace.

Last night as I had my monthly conversation with my allies among the Wise Dead, I asked them for some inspiration for the piece, and they gave it. So, here is a charm that I'll probably do as my praise offering at our Yuletide this coming Sunday.

Let an offering of bread, honey and ale or wine be prepared, along with a small fire, or candle.
Begin with whatever prayers and offerings to the gods and spirits are proper to your work, and then prepare the fire so that the food offerings can be placed before it.

• Let the blood of the Dead water the root of the Tree.
Let the Hazels of Wisdom grow from deep roots.
Let wisdom, strength and love nourish every being, by the rising of the light.

• Often do we honor the Ancestors, blessed and beloved.
With them we share warmth at the Shrine of the Hearth.
Many are those who die who we know not,
Yet human kinship does not stop at the garth’s wall.

• All our allies among the Dead, help us to speak to the Lost.
Elder Wise, Grandparents of our lines,
Join your voices with ours in love and mercy
For all the Host of the Dead.

• Hear me now, all you lost spirits
All who died suddenly, without warning;
All who died unjustly, or by the hand of another;
All who died alone, in unknown places, or in deep waters;
All who died without the embrace of kin.

• We make these offerings to you, for your rest and peace
That you no longer be lost
That you no longer be angry
That you no longer be vengeful
But be welcomed at the Fire.
(Lay the bread offering, and pour honey upon it)
We honor you with this gift of bread and ale
(Lay the Ale or wine offering)
Though we may not name you,
We have not forgotten you
(Light the small fire or candle)
• This small fire we light for you,
As the small sun of Yule morning will rise.
Let it be as a hearth of warming
Where peace prevails
And all feast as friends
With the Blessing of the Gods.
Host of the Dead, accept my sacrifice!

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Fire & Water Cleansing

In an ongoing effort to fill in the general outline of magical intents in a Celtic/Druidic form, I present this effort at a basic 'cleansing'. Modern Pagans sometimes balk at the idea of ritual impurity, being tied-up as it is with notions of sin and, therefor, guilt. At some point I might write a bit on all that, but in practice I think purification and cleansing rites are useful because a: we get dirty, just hanging around and doing stuff. (That's true in the material world, and I think the material world is an illustration of what the spiritual world is like) and b: spiritual dirtyness fouls up one's luck. Again, this need have nothing to do with morality; the casual ill-wishing of drivers, the small malices of stepped-on spooks, etc can add up. Rites like this are meant to both wash away that sort of infection, and actively promote luck and well-being.

The text is written as if to be used by an operator upon a client, but it could easily be adapted for solitary work.

• First gather water from three sources, including at least one that is dedicated to the gods or spirits. Have herbs – vervain, rue and mint, either fresh or dried. If possible an aspergillum should be made of them, in season, otherwise they will be sprinkled in the water and fire.

• Prepare a small fire in a pan or cauldron, arranged in such a way that it can be lifted and carried. The fire should be laid of twigs of rowan, oak and birch, or shavings of these woods should added to the charcoal of a censer-fire.

• If possible a branch or sprig or even a twig of fresh birch should be available. Otherwise a wand of birch may be used, or any properly consecrated wand.

• The person to be cleansed should provide an offering of a small bowl of honey and a glass of ale or wine, or beverage as they please.

• Before sunrise, let all be assembled. The client should bathe and dress in simple clean clothes, white being best.

• The Fire and Water are arranged between the client and the Druid. An offering bowl is provided if the work is done indoors. If the client has a favorite deity or ally, an image or shrine may be arranged facing the client, with the bowl before it.

• The Druid begins by balancing the Two Powers in herself. She lights the Fire, then blesses the Fire and Water, saying:

The Fire, the Well, The Sacred Tree
Flow and flame and grow in me
By Land, Sea and Sky
Below and on high,
Let the Water be Blessed and the Fire be Hallowed.

• Taking up the bowl of water the Druid brings the Underworld Power through him into the water. He sprinkles in the dry herbs, or dips the aspergillum into the water, and begins to sprinkle the client, starting at the crown of the head and working downward. Recite, perhaps:

May the Waters of the Deep descend to the Deep, and carry away all ill.

• In this the Druid is to wash the client with the Underworld Power, carried in and as the blessed water. See the Power dissolving all knots and barriers, cleaning corners, washing gently all tender places and flooding away large blockages.

• With the rod, twig or wand, dip it into the water and touch it to the client’s chest. Draw a spiral, outward, tuathal from the center and when you reach the edge fling the tip away from the client. Do this three times.

• In this, see a final cleaning and rinsing away of ill, accomplished by will and intent.

• Make sure that the fire is well-lit, adding material to bring a good open flame if possible. Add some of the three woods to the fire.

• Take up the Fire and lift it before the client’s body, bringing the Heaven Power lightly and carefully into contact with the client. The client can be encouraged to pass hands through the flame. Recite perhaps:

May the Sacred Fire rise from earth to heaven, and drive away all ill

• In this the Druid is to warm and brighten the client with the Heaven Power, seeing it shining down into the body, filling every shadow with light, drying up swampy places and restoring proper order and function to the whole system.

• Pass the wand through the flames, then lay it on the client’s head, then bring the wand down, in a straight line along the center-line of the client’s body, to touch the earth.

• In this, see the full kindling of sacred fire in the client’s body and spirit.

• The Druid takes up the honey and drink. Opening to the presence of the Gods, Dead and Spirits, she offers a small bit of each, saying:

Mighty, Noble and Shining Ones, we give this gift to you, asking you to look kindly upon (client’s name). Share in this sweetness and joy with (him) and grant him freedom from ill and trouble and harm, by your holy power.

• The Druid then instructs the client to taste a small amount of the honey and drink, then gives the honey and drink to the client, then leads the client in offering them, the client saying:

Mighty, Noble and Shining Ones, I give this gift to you, asking you to look kindly upon me. Share in this sweetness and joy with me and grant me freedom from ill and trouble and harm, by your holy power.

• The client may then add whatever additional she wishes, silently or aloud, so long as the whole intent is purification and cleansing and blessing.

• Finally, the Druid touches the wand to the head, heart and belly of the client, saying:

The Fire, the Well, The Sacred Tree
Flow and flame and grow in thee.
In Land, Sea and Sky,
Below and on High
Let every ill be turned away.
So be it, and so it is!