Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Devotional Preparation For Magic

While a year of pandemic inactivity has often slowed my brain to a crawl, I have continued to plod away at creating a series of Pagan devotional practices. Inspired by the form of Roman Catholic 'novena' prayers these practices involve a more detailed series of prayers, meditation, and offerings than most simple Shrine devotions, without the set-up required for a full Fire-sacrifice rite.

Having completed a set of eight seasonal Pagan calendar devotions, I have been writing works for various more practical purposes (as is the custom with novenas). The list of possibilities is endless, so my initial outline will include one devotional for prosperity and success, one for rescue from ill or danger, and one for preparation for other magical works.

Traditional magical instruction, documentable back into pagan times, includes the idea that magic depends on a ritual relationship with the gods and spirits. Magicians are taught to regularly practice religious devotions, to pray for wisdom, love and power, and thus to come before the spirits in fellowship when we want to ask for (or even demand) something.

Some of the traditional instructions provide prayer-texts and rites of purification for such preparation. More simply instruct the magician to attend the holy rites of the local religion, and empower themselves with the blessings available there. This can work for modern Pagans if we live near an organized Grove or public circle, where we can attend seasonal rites.

However it is personal prayer in the focused zone of a personal shrine that is the heart of such preparation. So I offer these formal prayers and works, at least as fodder for creativity - tunes and themes on which to riff. For some they may serve well as written - that is my hope, after all.

One element of these prayers that may be controversial is the 'confession'. I resisted the idea a long time, but it is simply undeniable that even the oldest traditions we have include such prayers. I wrote one to satisfy myself - may it serve for the spirits.

The work requires only a basic shrine, with a designated fire (candle or more...) and a bowl of ritual water, a censer and a small offering-bowl, and whatever idols or images are proper to your work. A cup of drink is a useful symbol for the Blessing.

For those of us adapting traditional ritual magic to a Neopagan frame, devotions such as this are a firm step toward doing as the ancients seem to have done. Most instructions call for at least three days of preliminary prayer (along with the usual instructions to avoid pointless entertainments and the 'company of fools'), but it might often be the case that more is better in such things.

A Devotional To Prepare for Magic
1: The Reading: In Pagan magical arts, there is a teaching that is often concealed behind instructions for ritual and practice. Those who succeed in speaking with the spirits and gaining their aid are those who have become the kind of people that spirits listen to! It is one thing to know words of power, and to perform effective ritual, but the ancient wisdom teaches that it is by a process of personal empowerment that the magician becomes a conjuror. Tradition frames that process as a system of purification, prayer and blessing that amounts to the preliminary work of magic art.
                As human beings we are, or possess, or express a spirit which is as much a part of the spiritual world as any sprite or imp. Our involvement in flesh and the material world easily distracts us from our place and standing as spirits, creating an ordinary kind of forgetfulness. One intention of a round of preparatory work for magic is to remind us of our spiritual presence, and recall us to the ability to act in that power.
                Through purification, attunement to spiritual powers and focused direction of those powers in the self we can approach magical operations as persons (as beings…) of power, luck and will. Traditonal instructions often include monk-like ascetic measures – refraining from meat, or sexual activity, or even from ‘foolish company’. Those of us who do not bring the concept of ‘sin’ to our spiritual work can think of such measures as ‘acts of will’ – we demonstrate to ourselves and to the spirits that we are masters of our deeds. As a basic method we undertake a series of prayers and contemplations such as this; may fortune favor, in the work.
So let us do the Work:

2: Blessing the Work:
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,
And Let my voice be heard by the Holy Ones!
Now may the Powers of Underworld and Heaven bring their cleansing blessing.
Anoint and cense the hands, and any items proper to the work, saying:
By the might of the Water and the light of the Fire,
(place/thing/work etc) is made whole and holy.

3: Prayer of Intent

This my will, now hear my voice.
The fire is laid and the water filled, and I remember the Center of Worlds.
Where the Wells of the Deep are full to overflowing
Where the Fire of Sacrifice is my Hearth
Where Nine Hazels grow, or one great Ash,
And the Pillar-Tree of the Roof of the World upholds my holy work.
It is I who come, I…

(and here, tell the spirits who you are)
Whose face you have seen in the Fire of Offering.
Bless me in my intended work, I pray,

(and here describe the working for which you are preparing)
Clarify my heart, honey my tongue
and Let the rite be worked in truth and beauty
In Wisdom, Love, and Power, be it so.

Prayer of Confession and Statement of Virtue
Holy ones, in humility I seek wisdom.
• 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 Generosity.
These faults come to us all.
• (If there is anything specific 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 - I will strive. To that end, I seek the work of wisdom.

4: The Vision
Antiphon  of the Vision

Let the Inner Eye be open, let the spirit eye be clear
Wisdom speaks in spirit-vision, let the truth be on me here.

Sitting in your meditation seat, breathe and seek your peace in silence.
Let your bone uphold you
Let your blood beat in you
Let your breath flow through you
For a moment, in silence…
And let the Powers of Earth and Sky rise and shine within you… breathe deep, and let roots draw up the Deep strength… let the bright lights of the heavens be reflected in the Waters within you… Breathe deep, and let the flow of breath move the Shining Waters, filling your whole form… feel yourself… as if you could see yourself… filled with the Shining Waters, the Light and Shadow… from toe to eye to fingertip…
And so you bide… with the Powers in you… Now you will place a seal upon your heart… a sign of power, that expresses your magic… conceive that symbol in your mind… and compose it in vision, placed in the field of the Power of Earth and Sky… When you know clearly what sign you will bear, envision it appearing in the Light and Shadow of the Powers, over your heart… breathe deep, and let the power grow in the vision, as you empower the sign, and the power of the sign flows into your spirit…
And so you bide… filled with your power, charged with your sign… and in such a way you might speak even to the gods themselves… an empowered spirit among spirits…

Antiphon  of the Vision
Let the Inner Eye be open, let the spirit eye be clear
Wisdom speaks in spirit-vision, let the truth be on me here.

Prayer of the Vision
The Fire, the Well, the Sacred Tree; Flow and flame and grow in me. To the Three Kindreds I pray – know me as I come before you. To The Fire in me I give the fuel of my heart. From the Well in me I draw the strength of my life. See and know me, as I stand at the fire and call. In wisdom, love, and strength, so be it.

5: Offering to Your Allies
I come to the Shrine, calling!
Fire Shining, Well Flowing
Firm standing, gift giving
I call to the allies of my magic!
Mighty and beloved Dead, you I call
You of my Blood, whose life gives me life
You of my heart, who inspire and guide,
(Name any Ancestors or Heroes you wish to remember…)
Root of my Blossom, Source of Strength
I give my offering, here at my Shrine.
Spirits of Stone and Soil and Green
Of Sea and Wind and Cloud
And even of the Lights of Heaven
(Name any Landwights you wish to specify)
Co-Walkers, Earth-Dwellers
I give my offering, here at my Shrine
Gods of My Altar, You I call
First of the Spirits, Eldest and Wisest
(Name the gods fitting to your shrine, or those proper to the intended work)
Blessing-Givers, Lit by Flame
I give my offering, here at my Shrine.
All you spirits, I bid you welcome. Be warmed at my Fire and quenched by my Well, and be at peace in my service. I make due offering to you with these simple gifts, offering my love and reverence. Let it be as a thousand to you, a feast and a flowing cup, as the silver and gold of my worship. Aid me in my work, uphold me in my magic, as I (state intention)! So be it!


6: Antiphon of Blessing
With open heart and centered mind I seek the flow of blessing
Shine from Above and Rise from the Deep
Litany of Blessing
Holy Ones, we remember you
response: Grant me the Blessing
All beings beneath the Fire of the Sun
response: Grant me the Blessing
You to whom I make these offerings
response: Grant me the Blessing
That there be blessing in our spirits, bright and deep
response: Let the Blessing be in me
Let there be blessing in our minds, calm and clear
response: Let the Blessing be in me

Let there be blessing in our Flesh, whole and strong
response: Let the Blessing be in me
That Wisdom guide me
response: That the Blessing be mine
That Strength empower me
response: That the Blessing be mine
That Love sustain me
response: That the Blessing be mine
Antiphon of Blessing

With open heart and centered mind I seek the flow of blessing
Shine from Above and Rise from the Deep

Antiphon of Contemplation
In soul-peace I let light reflect, and shadow bide in the deep
May my stillness reflect beauty, and
abide in wisdom
Now abide a while in silence, and let the whole Power of your intended Working be upon you
Antiphon of Contemplation
In soul-peace I let light reflect, and shadow bide in the deep
May my stillness reflect beauty, and abide in wisdom

7: Final Prayer
So Oh Holy Ones, behold me as I am purified, and empowered, and devoted to the Work. Grant me your Blessing, and I will see the work through. In Wisdom, Love and Power, so be it!

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Your Church Is Not Your Religion

As an organizer in one of the larger Neopagan church organizations in N America ( ) and likewise an occasional contributor to the practice of Neopagan Druidism as religion, I think it is valuable to make a clear distinction between those two things. Let me try to start with simple descriptions or definitions of what I think I mean. 

 A religion is a method or set of methods by which humans manage our relationship with the spiritual, or the numinous, or whatever term one likes (even ‘God’… not a term I use). Religions arise through a folk-process, like styles of music or art. Like those, major practitioners can shape practice or invent ‘schools’ of practice. In religious matters those often become more easily identifiable as ‘religions’. However most traditional religions don’t have ‘founders’, but rather grow out of the soil of their originating culture. 

People join religions when they actively take up the practices of those religions, and play with approaching the world through the assumptions of related philosophies. Neopaganisms have been that way, growing out of the culture of the late-20th c post-modern ‘West’. That said, ‘Churches’ are organizations created to promote the practice of a religion or religious tradition. Most churches do not contain all the members of the religion it practices – that’s kinda the mark of a ‘cult’, perhaps. Even the Roman Catholic Church is far from the only organization working the religion of Western Sacramental Orthodox Christianity (if you will… Christianity is complicated). There are numerous unrecognized apostolic lines, funny little garage-chapels, etc, across the world. 

 A church is a religion-club; a group of interested, even passionate folks who want to pursue a spiritual work. People join churches because they are identified with or interested in the related religion, or because of their neighbors, or families. Like any club, just the interest in the topic may or may not be enough to bind a group of strangers or acquaintances into a creative circle. The same problems that attend a local arts group or little-league will exist for attempted churches. Rules, by-laws, budgets… there’s more work in doing a Church than just having a religion, and no degree of spiritual growth makes people suitable to keep the books.

 Joining a religion-club is not the same as joining a religion, nor is leaving the club equivalent to leaving the religion. You cannot ‘become a Druid’ by paying your annual donation to ADF Inc. (my home club) You participate in Druid religion by working Druidic spiritual methods for yourself. ADF has placed our most recent basic instructions for working the religion outside our paywall as our Hearthkeeper’s Way instruction. Someone recently called it the ‘D&D Starter-box’ for a home Pagan religion. Those looking for a walk-in guide to establishing a Pagan practice should have a look. 

 I suppose, then, that we expect (even hope) that our style of Paganism will be available as religion regardless of individual membership in our club. Conversely since we are the largest (though not only) fellowship for this style of Paganism we hope that by generating more members of our religion we can, in turn, recruit members for the club. 

But if someone takes up the work, creates a shrine, offers to the Kindreds, studies the Old Ways and makes an effort to live by virtue, they are practicing our religion, whether they ever join our fellowship, or not. 

 No big wrap-up, except maybe to say that joining or leaving a church should not generally be equated with joining or leaving a religion. The choices are separate.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Non Mortui

Yeah, I'm still 'here'. It's been nearly half-a-year since I've posted, but that's the result of the shut-down inertia finally catching up with me. I did do some writing and arting over the winter, but didn't do the extra steps of posting it here.
So as my brain stirs in its burrow for spring I will be back on this outlet as well. We plan a gradual re-opening of activities here at Tredara this year. The Wellspring Gathering is still virtual (post on that very soon) but we may be able to open to a careful public for Summer Solstice, if everyone stays with the program.
So, this is just Hello, and a preface to real content, coming directly...

The view from my back deck, facing East, as we did our
morning offerings today...
Ah, Spring by Lake Erie...