Tuesday, January 27, 2015

An Imbolc Charm for the Beer

Readers know that the goddess Brigid is the chiefest god of our house. Such a thing is not easy to say, meaning no slight to the Dagda, her father, nor any other mighty one. Still, Brigid the Inspirer is close to both me and my wife, and Brigid the Hearth Mother has been kind to us over the years. In the ways of our Paganism, Imbolc is the special feast of Brigid, and we're working our Grove to work a big ol' sacrifice for Her this coming weekend.

Last night L and I kept our monthly Druid Monday work, which involves checking in with certain Inner contacts. I often spend a certain portion of that work asking for teaching, and the result is often a whirl of brain-contents and attempted clue-bricks, that sometimes knock together. Last night I was given most of this charm in a bag, and told to manifest it in the morning.

Like most of the Gaelic deities, we know of Brigid only by hints and reflections, especially in stories of her namesake St. Brigid of Kildare. This semi-historical figure is so surrounded by tales of magic and wonder that it is impossible not to suppose her a reflection of the earlier Celtic goddess. It is in stories of St Brigid that we hear of her connection with beer. 

It is not often that I link to Franciscans, but do have a look here for a marvelous 10th century poem about offering a lake of beer to god.
"St. Brigid also was a generous, beer-loving woman. She worked in a leper colony which found itself without beer, "For when the lepers she nursed implored her for beer, and there was none to be had, she changed the water, which was used for the bath, into an excellent beer, by the sheer strength of her blessing and dealt it out to the thirsty in plenty." Brigid is said to have changed her dirty bathwater into beer so that visiting clerics would have something to drink. Obviously this trait would endear her to many a beer lover. She also is reputed to have supplied beer out of one barrel to eighteen churches, which sufficed from Maundy Thursday to the end of paschal time."

This verse is especially meant for the brewing of beer, but I'm sure it could be used to bless any beer you might drink in celebration of the Power of Good Welcome, the Inspiration of Arts. Later today I mean to go brew beer for the coming season with fellow-Druid AJ. Perhaps he'll let me charm it with this verse:

Friday, January 23, 2015

Witches' Almanac 2016

I am pleased to announce that I'll be published later this year in the Witches' Almanac 2016.

Way back in the 1970s - like High School 70s for me - it was already my habit to comb every drug-store book-rack and paperback outlet I knew of. In the occult publishing boom of that time one could just never tell when something truly strange would appear. It was on such an afternoon expedition that I first saw The Witches' Almanac. Since I was buying everything that said 'witch' on it in those days (and one didn't go broke doing it) I snapped it up. 
Originally published in a chapbook,
"Old Farmers'" style

While it was in the form of a fairly standard almanac, with calendar pages, moon-phases and limited ephemeris, the 'filler' content was very different from the Old Farmer's Americana. There were spells, short lore articles, and actual Pagan material as well. The popularly-published item was obviously aimed at the new wave of Witches and Pagans.

I was in Ohio in those High School days, and the Almanac was produced by Elizabeth Pepper (of Rhode Island and Manhattan) from 1971 until 1979. Just after that I would find myself in Providence working on my Witchcraft initiations. An eleven-year hiatus was followed by the revival of the publication by the Peppers and a well-known Providence occultist "Theitic" (who happens to be an initatory cousin of mine through our Wiccan heritage.) Elizabeth passed from the mortal world in 2005, and the new generation has continued the publication. The same publishing house has produced several volumes important to modern witchcraft scholarship, especially Leland's "Dame Darrel" material and the full scholastic study of the origins of both the "long Rede and of a specific New England tradition of the craft in "The Rede of the Wiccae"

I am proud and pleased to have been asked to contribute to this venerable publication. I'll have two articles, one on the Sacred Fire, from Sacrifice to Summoning and the other on the Celtic Nine Elements and the Spirits. The Almanacs are dated from Spring to Spring, so the current issue runs into March of 2016. The 2016 - 2017 issue will be on sale sometime midsummer of this year. Watch this space.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Atheism and Paganism.

This topic keeps coming up.   In general the Atheopagans are more sinned against than sinning in this last round, but this article raised some hackles

A certain segment of the Pagan population has decided to adopt in large part the ideology of modern atheism and philosophical materialism. They often consider themselves to be within the strain of modern thought called ‘humanism’, and have labelled themselves as ‘Naturalist’ Pagans. I have no objection to any of this (except the latter, see below). Paganism does not require any fixed set of opinions to be Paganism, and this lot seems reasonably focused on ritual, meditation, and service, which *are* Paganism-indicators, to me. However they are not just Pagans who happen to be atheists, they also seem to act like atheists who happen to be Pagan. Where I find myself objecting is when members of this school present their ideas as Truth of some sort, or as “more true” or “more in touch with reality” than those of more mythic perspectives.

Modern atheism suffers from imitation of Christianity in its evangelical desire to assert its ideas as “the truth”. I’m not interested in doing hard philosophy here; we’ll be vernacular about “truth”. I am entirely unwilling to accept that materialist, scientistic worldviews more accurately describe the reality of religious phenomena than those of tribal mythic systems. In fact I find atheism and materialism in every way inadequate to describe religious phenomena, though they have developed some complex rationales to attempt to do so. Thus I dismiss them as useful “truth”.

On the other hand, I (and many spiritist Pagans) reject the term ‘supernatural’ for the realm or category in which non-material intelligence abides. I view the spirits, in their uncounted species, as being as natural as chipmunks or chairs. They simply haven’t been subsumed into the ‘scientific worldview’ that started quantifying what it could reach a few hundred years ago. One of my favorite teachers said “There can only be one Order of Nature”, an aphorism that makes sense to me. Thus I simply don’t use the idea of ‘supernatural’ at all. For that reason I do resent the attempt to co-opt “Naturalist” for the materialist position - it simply fails to describe the spectrum of modern Pagan ideas accurately. Most Theistic (an inadequate term for polytheism and spiritism) Pagans, I’ll hazard, are not ‘supernaturalists’.

To be clear, in my local Pagan culture such discussions are relegated to the beer-hall. They play no role in the practice of our religion. The truth or falsity of any given world-view, from traditionalist to materialist, is irrelevant to practice. My own experience has been that when educated materialists are exposed to well-crafted spirit and deity work for a few years a good percentage will find themselves… let’s say “less atheist” than previously. Several in my experience have become devotionalists.

Atheism arises naturally in certain minds, and enters others by conviction. I associate it with other human specifics such as tone-deafness. Even tone-deaf people can participate in music by well-planned charts and by experience. Thus I’m willing to assume that folks who simply don’t perceive the spiritual intelligences of nature (or who have rationalized that perception away) can participate in religion to their own benefit. However I’m unwilling to accept assertions that a&m are true in some sense greater than the assumptions of a Voudun priest or Shakta tantric. Some atheists want to be participants in the Pagan movement. I would heartily suggest they note the community aversion to proselytization. This is not *merely* philosophical laziness, but a real awareness – a skepticism - of how unlikely any specific model of ‘truth’ is to be the truth in fact. In general “proclaimers” and “revealers” are viewed as pests.

I would suggest that Atheopagans will find themselves welcome to the degree that they refrain from suggesting that the belief systems of other Pagans are false. After all we all agree (at least I agree with the atheists) that personal philosophical biases are unimportant as definers of Paganism (or polytheism). No matter how convinced one is of their ‘truth’.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Court of the Dagda; First Working

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 5, 2015

2014, and Onward

2014 was not an “easy” year, for us or for a lot of folks we know. It was not a stay-the-same year; not a slide-on-by year, not a rest-comfortably year. Considering that none of me is any younger than I once was, the pace has been both challenging and invigorating, with occasional sadness-sauce. I may have another year like it before me.

Most notably, I lost one of my best friends this year, to fast cancer. It is plain that the older we get, the more dead people we know. This comes under “facts of life”. However, the shock-level of seeing one’s own generation begin to go is notable. It isn’t something I look forward to growing accustomed to.

Tredara Hearth
Regular readers will know that we moved ahead with work on our new property. Our most successful effort this year was the new Nemeton which has the basics in place, and next-year’s designs firmly planned. It remains our goal to make a comfortable outdoor worship space for 100 or more guests. 

We (by which I mean Thomas, our skilled carpenter) also finished the rebuilding of the ‘Cabin’ on the northern edge of the property, on the skeleton of a piece-of-crap house-trailer left behind on the property. It will provide an ‘office’ and registration-house for the future. We've gotten nice gates on the new front door, and look forward to making that the entrance, and not having all traffic arrive past our residence.

Our larger goal is to establish Tredara as a working site for medium-sized gatherings. To that end we intend to build a large pavilion-roof, continue to improve roads, open new camping meadows and otherwise dress and manicure our new garden-forest. Watch this space for various exciting announcements as we move toward spring.

Oh, we ended the year by plunking down some capital for a brand-new Kubota B-26 tractor with front-loader and brush-cutter. Me likey. Moving gravel by the farm-cart load isn’t getting any easier.
More a shovel-year than a writing year. My intentions just haven’t generated the results – the novel lurks under the bed, smelling slightly of rot yet still wiggling. The Nine Moons work is waiting to be re-organized. However I’ve been somewhat dead-in-the-water for new ideas. Again, that may have to do with increased outer focus. However it is winter, and I must make an effort to get something done.

I am looking at one new outline. I’d like to take a shot at outlining a modern approach to magic based on traditional European ways. It would be an effort to move outside the post-Wiccan circle-style , energy-based ritual model into a de-ethnicized Sacred Center model, emphasis on relationship with the spirits, etc. So far, we’re no further than a chapter outline, but we’ll see.

It seems that when I’m not writing, I at least do art. This year I discovered an on-demand card and game-component company, and I’ve been trying to design a viable product or three using its capacities.
The first two many have seen before:
• The Ninefold Druidic Oracle  – my 81-card oracle deck based on core Indo-European and Celtic symbols.
• The Tredara Ogam Pack – a simple presentation of the 25 ancient Irish Ogham letters, with meanings from lore.

The third item got a complete re-issue this year.
• The Travelling Magic Ritual Kit now includes more image cards, a full deck of ritual text prompt-cards, the mini-ogham deck, and tiles for Fire, Well & Blessing, as well as card-stands, all in a basic draw-string bag. Still pocket-sized and perfect for travelling or small-scale ritual set-ups.

The fourth item is new but, well, obscure:
• A Druid’s Conjuring Kit is really an expansion of the Travelling Magic set.
“A pouch of forty-five 1.25" tokens printed with sigils proper for Pagan and Druidic spellcraft.
• Twenty-seven conjure-word tokens - Irish Gaelic words referring to magical intentions, rendered into sigils on the mysterious Fionn's Window.
• Nine tokens of the Druid's Elements - Stone, Soil & Vegetation; Wind, Sea and Cloud; Sun, Moon & Stars.
• Three tokens for the Gods, the Dead and the Sidhe; three tokens for the Land, Sea and Sky at large; three tokens for the Wise, the Warriors and the Landkeepers.

In addition the kit includes a deck of mini-cards based on Ian Corrigan's Court of Brigid work, each card displays the sigil, name, powers, and the proper offering to be given to the spirits of the Court of Brigid. Used with the Portable Temple these spirits can be called to aid the Druid in many kinds of blessed work.”
All packaged with a red velour bag. I gotta say, this is some obscure stuff, but it is also one of the most unique tools available for practical Celtic spellcraft.

Leabhar Mor Last Call
The final version of my big-ass all-in-one compilation and Wizard’s Book Will be available here for just a little while longer. A paperback edition, small but potent, is also available here. The paperback may stay a little while longer.

This is going to be a busy year here at Tredara, as we raise funds, recruit community work and build the next round of infrastructure. Comfort-roofs in the Nemeton, a big gathering pavilion and road and camping improvements are top of the list.

I expect to be doing more direct teaching locally for and through Stone Creed Grove. The Grove has a wave of new folks who are ready for the basics. We’ll see if any of that results in a new book.

Incidentally things have heated up here at home on the esoteric front, and I’ll have some journaling on that within a few days. Watch this space.