Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Portable Nemeton

Warning, this is a teaser. The product will be available in 2 - 3 weeks - watch this space...

Ritual magicians dig their tools. Yes, yes; we know that we can do all that cool stuff in our heads, in temples built by vision that feature special effects far beyond what can be achieved in suburban side-rooms and gardens. To the ritual magician the use of material tools is a way to bring spiritual principles into matter, to earth the potential into the real.

When possible, ritual magicians like to build temples. Whether it’s in a spare bedroom, attic or basement, a
rented warehouse or a (backyard) woodland glade, the present magical and Pagan revival is seeing a re-emergence of temples for magic, and to the Old Gods. If there’s a more direct material representation of ‘re-enchanting the world’ than restoring temples of the gods and spirits to the West, it escapes me at the moment.

However, the ritual magician on the road, or in reduced circumstances, can find herself at a disadvantage. One grows used to one’s habits, and working outside them can require energy that may not be available at the end, say, of a business-trip day. Life’s circumstances can reduce our available space for spiritual work to a dresser-top, and maybe part-time at that. As a result our Pagan movement has produced a variety of min-Altars and travel kits.

Our Druidry, being (at 30 years old) a newish thing as religions go, is still short on material supports and props available for easy purchase. I have been making some effort to fill that vacuum, with the sorts of on-line products that I can manufacture from my desk with a computer. The modern world provides such marvelous outlets for creative effort; when I found an on-demand supplier of card decks and games I had a huge geek-attack.

The first results of that have already appeared. Those are both conventional oracle-decks, useful for divination and other symbol-arrangement activities. My ongoing fascination with the ability to produce professional cards has also taken me in another direction.

This amounts to my answer-of-the-week to the portable temple problem. I have suggested the use of Tarot images as cheap-and-easy portable idols to many students over the years. Those concerned with the merit of worshipping pasteboard images should refer to Indian popular religious culture, where posters and post-cards provide deity-images in homes and shops across the region. In this kit I go a step further and design simple colorful images directly for Druidic Paganism, with, I hope, crossover potential for other systems.

The Traveling Magic Ritual Kit is a portable nemeton. – The Druid’s Hallows tiles are four game-board quality, double-sided tiles symbolizing the Fire, Well and Blessing. They are meant to be the ‘altar’ for your own small well, fire-candle and blessing-glass Careful use should allow the tiles to serve for a long while. The twelve Temple Image cards provide ready images of the World-Tree, the Gate and the key gods of the rites provided. These can be stood upright, to create a temple atmosphere in small. The tiles serve as ‘altars’ for the simple candle and water-bowl of a travel-altar, (not provided in the kit… I’ll say that again, too…)  adding color and symbolism to a dresser-top or coffee-table.  Along with the basic Blessing Altar cards the set includes twelve blank spell-cards and a Conjuring Tile along with instruction and resources for arranging them for personal spellwork.
No, the kit does not include the altar cloth,
but it's available from my Cafe Press shop, at the above link.
I’m especially pleased to be able to include a full deck of ogham letters in a quite miniature size. Fortunately the Ogham signs don’t require much graphic detail. Each card is annotated with the letter’s irish name, the translation of the name, the associated tree, and a phrase from lore.

The kit includes a 20-page full-color mini-grimoire that instructs in the use of the kit for a basic offering-and-blessing rite with the Spirits. An additional file of ritual work based on the symbols provided will be available for download with purchase.

This is one of those “Maybe someone will like it” projects. I like it, that’s why I did it, but I hope it might be useful to others. Travelers; students in dorms or at their parent’s hearths; visiting ritualists in hospitals or even prisons; folks with kids or limited free space might all have a use for a ritual kit that can be carried in a suit-coat pocket, briefcase or purse.

This article amounts to advance notice. I’m waiting with bated breath for the final proof to arrive, but everything seems go. You can scope the page for the kit here, and sometime in the 2nd or 3rd week of April it will be available.  Incidentally, props to The Game Crafters for making this on-demand service available. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Portal Book is Available

I wrote at the beginning of the year about my efforts to get a new edition of The Portal Book into print. It is now available in hardback, paperback, and E-book, through the miracle of self-publishing.
Buy the paperback here.
Buy the hardcover w/dustjacket here.
Buy the E-book here

Dear readers, hang on to your hats or whatever for a round of commercial announcements again here on el bloggo. I done been creatin' stuff. I'll do my best to keep relevant content coming as well. Watch this space...

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Learning Magic

preserved from casual FB-ery
Magic is a human skill. It is learned from other humans, practiced until one is good at it. It is comparable to learning to play music, or do carpentry, though I think it's more like art than science, in practice.
Like art, there are traditional forms and methods that allow a student to learn to do the basics. This is what Taliesin is talking about, first of all. If you can't imitate a note, you won't be able to sing a song - first things first.
Now, there are always a few people who seem to have natural talent at an art or skill - they can sing as soon as they can talk, or know calculus at 9. Even those people will benefit from being taught by experienced teachers. Occasionally - very occasionally - such talent is matched with creative power (which is not the same as expressive power) and some kid produces powerful new art or ideas or magic right out of their, er, butts.
That doesn't happen very often. Most people aren't special like that. The new student should not plan on being a unique genius.
Instead, the new student should read traditional books and find a working teacher (that applies to learning magic, gymnastics or saxophone). Plan to sepnd a few years doing exercises and experiments, duplicating previous efforts, and building skills. Of course we all pursue our little personal schemes along the way, and eventually we get enough skill to actually try them.
There's no short-cut. You can't just "listen to your heart". You have to listen to other people.

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Rite of Purification

Over the winter I wrote about models of purification and pollution in a modern Pagan context  That line of thought has led to this first shot at a ritual script. My goal here is to allow those troubled by a feeling of impurity to open their hearts, relieve their burden, and return to the bosom of their community.

The wife says the head-cloths are silly... I still like the idea...

When pollution is upon one or more of the folk, this rite is used to cleanse the spiritual nature, and ease the mind and heart. It can be worked for a single client, or for a small group of clients, who may bring witnesses as they choose.
• The Nemeton is arranged as for a small group rite, with the Well large enough to receive a good amount of poured water. The Well is placed opposite the Fire, with the Tree in the Center. The priest will sit at the fire, standing to support the work, and the folk to be purified will sit around the well. Live flame is a must, though a candle-ring can be sufficient.
• A large pitcher is filled with water, with enough clean white towels to reasonably serve the crowd-size. • Each of the Clients, or those seeking purification, should bring a light cotton or linen cloth large enough to cover their head and hang to the shoulders. If the rite has a sufficient fire the cloths will be burned at the end of the rite. Otherwise a cloth should be provided in which to wrap all the cloths.

The rite is worked seated. If it is worked for a single person that person sits opposite the priest. Small groups should group around the Well If there are too many present for each to lean forward to the Well. While the priest begins the rite at the fire, it will require movement, and attendance upon those being purified; it will be helpful to have additional ritualists available for those tasks.

The Sacrifice:
• The priest/esses open the Grove in whatever way they prefer, hallowing the space, and especially being certain to properly consecrate the Water and the Fire.
• During the opening purifications the cloths of the Clients should be specially aspersed and censed.
• If the rite is worked for a specific person or family, then the offerings should be made to the Gods and Spirits of the Clients. In a more general group offerings to the Three Kindreds in general might be made.
• Make the Prayer of sacrifice, and take an omen to be certain that all is well. Following a positive omen, the Purification Blessing begins:

I call now to the Holy Ones to give to me as I have given to you, as a gift calls for a gift.
Let your power be with me in this work, and let this be a work of Blessing, that I may cleanse from ill, and impart blessing. I open my heart to the flow of your blessing, I, your child and worshipper.
Let the work be worked true!
• Greetings to you (n) and welcome to the Hearth of Peace, Gratitude and Cleansing. Let us all begin by finding our Center and our Power

Pause for a moment of silent meditation, or recite an initial entrancement.

The Druid speaks:
• The Fire and Water shine and flow in us. Remember, Child of Earth, that these powers are yours by the fact of your birth. Hold fast to your roots, be crowned in stars. In this balance we are always fit to come before the Gods.
• Yet we know that the world is not free from trouble. Where there is strife, where there is ill-luck, where wisdom fails, we are made impure. We can no more avoid this than we can avoid the dirt of the road, and so we come before the Fire and Well, to bathe our spirits and make ourselves clean. Let us begin by speaking truth.

The Confession and Statement of Virtue
• It is true that I have failed in Wisdom, forgotten Piety, been blind to Vision.
These faults come to us all.
• It is true that I have failed in Strength, forsaken Honor, been lost to Courage.
These faults come to us all.
• It is true that I have failed in Diligence, slighted Hospitality, shorted Sensuality.
These faults come to us all.
• (If there is anything specific that the clients wish to say, it should be said here. )
• Yet I seek Wisdom, Piety and Vision; I seek Strength, Honor and Courage; I seek Dilligence, Hospitality and Sensuality. For these good virtues I will strive, though I might falter. To that end, I come to the Water and the Fire.

The Clients take up their cloths. The Druid speaks:
• Friends, let us cover our heads; not for shame, but to make ourselves visible to the spirits, and to array our minds and hearts in the intention of our rite.

The Druids prepare for the water blessing, saying:
Look into yourself... find in you that from which you wish to be cleansed... cup your hands before you... breath deep, and move the waters of the earth within you... let the waters carry the ill from which you would be healed into your hands... look into your cupped hands and see there a symbol of that ill...
With your ill drawn out and held before you, see the water flowing with the power of the  Powers, as we hallow the waters of Blessing...
We draw blessing from the cauldron of blessing. We pour the waters of cleansing and renewal. Behold the holy vessel of magic, the outpouring of blessing from the (Deities of the Occasion). When we receive the cleansing of the Waters we cast off our ills and discomforts, washed away in the flow of the Well of Blessing.
drops crystal into the pitcher:
let these waters bring clarity and purity, cleansing mind, body and spirit...
drops jet into the pitcher:
let these waters bring rest and comfort, and the peace of a calm soul...
drops carnelian into the pitcher:
let these waters bring life and strength to the flesh, and joy to the heart!
So let power flow in these waters, for the blessing of those gathered here, for the healing of ill, for the renewing of life... Behold the waters of life!
So let us recite the Litany of Purity, in joy for the inflowing Blessings of the Gods and spirits.
Hymn of Purity
By the power of the Powers
By Spirits, Gods and Dead
Let us be free from every ill, from the imps that cling, from all that is impure or unfit for whole life and holy work.
By the cleansing power of the Waters, let us be clean 
From Nine Kinds of Pollution
By the cleansing power of the Waters, let us be clean 
• From Pollution by crime – for to break what we know as true law disturbs the heart.
By the cleansing power of the Waters, let us be clean
• From Pollution by blood – violence, murder, or disease; the spilling of blood brings terror
By the cleansing power of the Waters, let us be clean
• From Pollution by duty – for even in the doing of good we can be touched by ill
By the cleansing power of the Waters, let us be clean
• From Pollution by the Eye – ill sights, ill visions
By the cleansing power of the Waters, let us be clean
• From Pollution by the Hand – ill deeds, ill blows
By the cleansing power of the Waters, let us be clean
• From Pollution by the Heart – ill feelings, ill imaginings
By the cleansing power of the Waters, let us be clean
• From Pollution by Power – for strength brings obligation
By the cleansing power of the Waters, let us be clean
• From Pollution by Foolishness – trouble comes when wisdom fails
By the cleansing power of the Waters, let us be clean
• From Pollution by Love and Hate.  – for a tangled heart brings ill
By the cleansing power of the Waters, let us be clean
The cauldron is passed, and all sing a proper chant or hymn as each receives a ladle of water on their hands... Druid says to each:
• By the cleansing power of the Waters, you are made clean.           
When all have been cleansed the Druid helps restore peace and center. The Druids prepare the Blessing Fire, with the proper herbs to hand. When all is ready, the Druid speaks: 
Now, where there has been ill, let there be blessing. Look into yourself, and find those places made empty by the cleansing of your ills... be open to the light, that it may fill you, quickening your body and brightening your spirit... raise your hands before you, and be open to recieve the Fire of Blessing...
Let the Fire warm your body and your spirit, as you draw it into yourself...
Druids take up the Blessing Fire, unlit, and bless it, saying:
We draw fire from the Sacred Fire. We kindle this flame, a fire of wisdom, love and strength, and a hearth of welcome and peace. Behold the Fire of the Gods, kindled by magic to carry the Blessing of (the Gods of the Rite). When we come to the Fire, we reflect transformation, inspiration and illumination in our bodies, minds and spirits, we return to our best nature, to the Divine Fire in us.
Drops vervain into the Fire, saying:
Let the power of the Druids’ magic bring blessing to this fire
Drops mugwort into the fire, saying:
Let the power of vision and purification bring blessing to this fire
Drops mistletoe into the fire, saying
Let the power of the All-heal bring blessing to this fire
By the blessing of the Light, Let us be blessed!
Druid touches the spark to the Fire, as all recite the Litany of Blessing
Let the Fire be kindled by the living Flame
By the blessing of the Light, Let us be blessed!
Rise, O Flame, in beauty, strength and purity
By the blessing of the Light, Let us be blessed!
Shine O Fire, with Heaven’s power bright
By the blessing of the Light, Let us be blessed!
That our bellies by full with the blessing of the Fire
By the blessing of the Light, Let us be blessed!
That our hearts be warm with the blessing of the Fire
By the blessing of the Light, Let us be blessed!
That our foreheads shine bright with the blessing of the Fire
By the blessing of the Light, Let us be blessed!
Now come to the Fire, that offers warmth to all
By the blessing of the Light, Let us be blessed!
Now come to the hearth, and the comfort of home
By the blessing of the Light, Let us be blessed!
Be welcome at the Fire,
So, O mighty Powers (gods of the rite) let your power shine in this fire, for the blessing of those gathered here, for the purification of hearts, and the renewing of life. Behold, the Fire of Life!
Druids carry the fire round to each, and each takes it in by passing hands through it and drawing it to the heart. Druid says to each:
By the blessing of the Sacred Fire, be you Blessed!          

The clients remove the cloth from their head, fold it carefully and the Druids take them. The Druid speaks, saying:
So the work is done, and done, and well done.
By Water are you made clean, and by Fire you are made whole.  Be welcome at the Hearth of the Folk, and receive your share of the Blessing of the Gods.

Druids Pour the Blessing, saying:
So let this be the cup of fellowship, of kinship with the living, of honor to the Dead, of the Power of the Gods. When we drink of this Blessing, let us drink in wisdom, love and power, that we may do the work of life as it is brought to us.
Behold, the Waters of Life!

The waters distributed, first to the clients, then to all, with song. Once each has a full cup, the rite is ended.
The Druids raise their cup, and make a toast proper to the feel of the rite. It is always proper to toast “To the Future” or “To Tomorrow”.
The rite is then ended, carefully and reverently, in the usual way. The cloths are burnt if possible, or taken and buried.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Recreating the Cosmos in Our Druidic Ritual Order.

A representation of the
'Cosmic' Fire, Well & Tree
I haven't posted a lot of technical ADF material here, since I suspect my readership is a little more general. However in keeping with my habit, this year, of archiving frequent answers here, I'll put this up. In our Priestly training program there is a moment when students are asked to obtain ritual notes on several subjects from three of our experienced priests. Since I'm on the list, I'll post this short answer right here. It refers to elements of ritual that I've been doing the same way for 20 years now - my answer is unlikely to change soon, and if it does I'll update it.

In my understanding, the basic steps of our Order of Ritual (OoR) amount to a recreation of the Indo-European cosmos. As in many traditional ritual systems, our rites are set in a cosmological diagram. Since our Order is written for modern, park-and-church-basement Paganism, we assume that this cosmic model must be rebuilt and reconsecrated for each ritual. Thus our sacrifices open with rites for consecrating the space and establish it as a gathering-place for the Gods & Spirits.

The arrangement of the Hallows is the most material diagram of our Three-tiered Cosmos. When I think about how to arrange the Hallows it is with that in mind. I tend to fall on the linear-diagram side of the discussion, with the Fire, Well and Tree in an east-west axis, usually with the Fire in the center. This represents, to me, the centrality of the Sacred Fire within the Great Triskel of Land, Sea, and Sky, as well as facilitating ritual access to the Fire.

A Table-top Hallows
There are many who like a side-by-side arrangement of the Fire and Well, with the Tree making a triangle; plenty of symbolic juice available there, not my preference. The goal is to represent the polar or complementary Powers of Underworld and Heavens in a way that facilitates the work of the rite.

The other pre-work is a Two Powers induction for the attendees. Despite the risk of performance failures, the value of inducing light trance in a crowd of otherwise-unprepared folks cannot be overstated. There are lots of ways to do that, but using Two Powers content ties in so artfully with the rest of the themes of our cosmos-building.

That in place, I approach the Opening Prayers of the rite as calls to cosmic, almost pre-manifest deities. I’m a lumper, not a splitter, and I have no problem identifying our Earth Mother call with a more cosmic All-Mother – a title I often call her. Inspiration is much like Primal Fire to my Druid self, and so we have primal (somewhat impersonal) Water and Fire in even the first offerings. Add to those the Outdwellers (as our local order does) and we have a very primal constellation of powers, called even before ‘manifestation’ of the ritual cosmos begins.

From there the formal recreation begins. The Hallows are consecrated as the local presences of the Cosmic Fire, Well, and Tree. We have no particular doctrine or story about that Great Cosmic Center, which might abide in the center of whatever Gods-Gard or Apple-Isle one calls Home, but such a thing is implicit in our approach. We seek to make the very place where we work our rite a sacred Crossroad, a place of Betweenness, where Fire and Water allow the Wonder-Tree to grow.
Fire, Tree and Well (L-R) in a
small outdoor Temple.

The esoteric work of such a thing could (and sometimes does) involve ‘charging’ each of the material Hallows in the Grove with the proper flavor of ‘juice’ – the Well fills with the Old Deep, the Fire shines with a stranger Light, etc. Involving oneself in solid visualizations, encouraging one’s own trance even as one manages the ritual, is a great help in establishing the content of the rite in the group mind, and deepening the work for all. That’s why it is valuable to spread this training among our regular ritualists.

In establishing the Hallows, I like to link the Fire and Water in the Grove directly into the Two Powers vision that I have usually induced in the group. This link between the visualized and the manifest is a powerful aid for general attendees to connect with the rite, I think.

The use of a ‘Horizontal axis’ module – involving Land, Sea and Sky in the Indo-European manner – is understated in our local order, subsumed in the purification by water and incense that follows the blessing of the Hallows. Some local customs give this more prominence. In any case the final map of the ritual space places the ritual ground at the center and crossroads of Underworld, Middleworld and Heavens, as well as of Land, Sea and Sky. Once again, for the operators to hold this vision firmly is a solid anchor for the other attendees.

In my present understanding it is this condition of limnality, of between-ness, that makes our ritual ground a place where we can “Open the Gate”. The Gate is a trick we use in ADF, a metaphor for the fact that in such liminal places the Way Between is shorter, the Veil of Mist thinner. We ask the Lord of Wisdom to aid us in the communication we seek with the Gods and Spirits, by “Holding Open the Gate”.

With the Center-Gate established, the Temple is rebuilt, and reconsecrated, and we are prepared to begin making our offerings to the Gods & Spirits.