Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dresden Files

Welcome to the Jungle
Dresden Files graphic novel
Written by Jim Butcher, Illustrated by Adrian Syaf
One of my favorite total-pulp entertainment series of novels of the past few years has been the Harry Dresden books. Harry D is the only consulting wizard in the Chicago phonebook – mid-20s, recently ‘graduated’ as a wizard (with plenty of baggage) and sort of a cross between a goth-noir occult detective and another young Harry… In fact…
When you think of ‘Dresden’ what do you think of – I mean beside thinking of apocalyptic bombing? You think of those little figurines, the china, the, er, pottery… We can say that Harry Dresden is sort of Harry pottery. All that aside, they’re lovely fast, funny adult-ish adventure novels – guaranteed to pass a plane-flight happily.
Jim Butcher seems to be the sort of authentic weirdo that many of us would recognize - sword-swinging, con-going, gamer who really lives in the pulp culture he writes in. This is a good thing, imo. His observations on fan culture, even on Pagan culture is respectful but as funny as the rest of his writing.
The graphic novel in the pic is a great place to start, (or the free stuff on Butcher's website) if your dignity will allow you to read ‘comic books’. The story is by Butcher, and the art does a great job of capturing the characters, and the pace and occult weirdness of the series. It’s an expensive hardback right now, but I got mine from my local library – watch for a cheaper paperback, I suppose.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Druidic Mystical Practice- Open Meditation

In the course of devising this big outline for a nine-month program of Druidic magico-religious work, I am forced to revisit the basics of meditation training and trance yet again. Despite some efforts on my part, I consider the present ADF Dedicant training in trance and meditation to be barely adequate to get started - I feel a need to require remedial practice at the start of the next level.

I especially intend to require the work of 'silent' meditation, or Open Meditation as I am calling it this week. There has been plenty written about this technique, including by me, but I want to emphasize it in the opening steps of the work. So I've written this little homily and encouragement, and I'll append the basic method and a simple ritual setting for it.

Training the Mind for Druidry – part 1: Open Meditation
In the course of working with students I find a continuing resistance to the systematic practice of basic Open Meditation. By this term I mean the practice of concentrating attention on a single object, such as the breath, while allowing other thought and sensation to flow by the attention without attachment. This technique is basic to further trance and even to ritual work and should be a common part of any program of mental practice. Beginning students, however, do find reasons to balk.
Some seem to find the business of sitting motionless, pursuing nothing except mental activity, to be chafing. To this the only answer can be that any new skill has its basic methods, and most of them involve some inconvenience in early phases. Whether stretching the hands for the piano or lying face down for push-ups, discomfort is often part of learning. So we can only tell students that the results will justify the work of learning to sit motionless. Fortunately for these students a practicing Druid spends rather more time in the trances associated with ritual, than in motionless trance.
Some students mistake this practice for the attempt to ‘stop thinking’. In some of the world’s mystical systems this does seem to be a goal, with great value placed on finding and enhancing the silence between thoughts. Druidic lore doesn’t suggest that the finding of motionless silence is, in itself, a core goal. It seems to occur spontaneously in some students, but it isn’t central to the work.
Rather the point of this method for the system we’re building is the development of a detached observer in the self – a point of observation for all that passes, within or without. The student learns to maintain her equanimity – engage her passions at need and to step away when she must. The work of Pagan spiritual practice can arouse the passions, can stir up ones mental contents. The ability to stand in a place of neutrality and peace offers a special strength in the work of magic, whether it’s dealing with one’s emotions, or facing the Gods.
It is common to confuse basic trance with the work of Open Meditation. They are, in fact, closely related, but there is an important distinction. Basic trance is the primary mental preparation, induced by relaxing the body, focusing the attention and suspending critical observation (or ‘attachment’ as some say). We have taught this state through the Fire and Water induction, and the Bone, Breath and Blood exercise. Either of those exercises, among many other similar forms, produces the focused poise that leads to other trance states.
Open Meditation can be understood as an extension of that poise into a longer experience sustained by will. By directing the concentration upon a single focus – watching the breath being our most usual method – we locate the still point. As our thoughts and impressions flow around us, we keep returning our awareness to the focus as we sit in stillness. By sustaining the relaxation, concentration and detachment of basic trance we allow the mind and emotions to relax in turn, releasing the ‘knots and kinks’ of daily life.
Open meditation is an excellent accompaniment to the regular work of ritual purification. The Water and Fire clear away the spiritual cobwebs and parasites of daily spiritual life in the world. Open meditation deprives your personal inner imps and larvae of their food and weakens their grip.
So we begin the formal work of mental training by learning to abide calmly among our own thoughts and feelings. If no other good were gained from the work of Druidry, the ability to stand at peace amid the swirl of life’s impulses would pay for all. In order to work the system I’m presenting here the student will have to simply choose to set to it, and develop the basic skills that support all further work. We will refer often to the ‘Druid’s Peace” in this work – by this we mean that steady and unmoved center. In addition to this Peace, we will learn a set of active meditations, but the Peace is the basis of them all, because the Peace grants access to the management of the mind by will.
Open meditation is as basic to mental training as aerobic exercise is to training the body. Some students will take to it readily, others may find it more difficult. Its value and results speak for themselves and to neglect it in early training is to deprive yourself of future resources.

Working Open Meditation
First Stage:
• First find your seat, in a position that can be comfortably maintained with your spine straight.
• Begin patterned breathing. Work the Blood, Breath and Bone induction.
• If you wish to work a simple shrine opening, do so now. Practice maintaining basic trance as you speak and do the ritual gestures. Return to motionless basic trance following the work.
Second Stage:
• Choose a point of focus for your concentration. Initially you should continue to use the breath.
• With your attention focused simply sit and maintain that focus. You choose not to give attention to any specific thought that arises, whether about the object of concentration or any other thing. Each time that you notice a thought or specific impression holding your attention, return your attention to the focus. That is the entire basic technique. Like raising an arm or taking a step it is the act of will that brings the attention back to the focus.
• As you practice you will begin to notice more quickly when you have drifted, and be able to hold your concentration on the focus for longer without breaks. This is the first level of success in this practice.
• Always end the session of meditation formally, with the recitation of a closing charm and/or other formal gesture.

Stage 1: Simple Shrine Blessing and Open Meditation.This first section can always serve as a fall-back, or minimum practice. It can be done daily, even as you add additional work during retreats or more focused workings.
The Druid seats himself in her seat, facing east if possible. If there can be hallowed Fire and Water, so much the better. The body should be kept balanced and alert, while relaxed.
Begin your breathing pattern. Find your peace, perhaps using the Bone, Breath and Blood method.

Bless the Water and Fire, as you say:
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.

When you are ready, dip your hand in the Water and sprinkle or lave yourself, then pass your hands through the incense or Fire and bring it onto yourself, as you say:

By the Might of the Waters and the Light of the Fire
Cleansed of ill and bane am I
By the Might of the Waters and the Light of the Fire
Blessed in Land and Sea and Sky

As you cleanse and bless yourself, feel the Water and Fire washing and searing away all that’s not in your true pattern of being.
Light an additional offering of incense, and open your heart in welcome to all the Holy Beings. Say:

Gods and Dead and Mighty Sidhe
Powers of Earth and Sky and Sea
By Fire and Well, by Sacred Tree
Welcome I do give to ye.

At this time you may wish to pause in open meditation for as long as you wish. In daily practice it can be enough to do the simple cleansing, followed by open meditation.
When your meditative practice is complete, take time to return your awareness fully and completely to your body and material senses. Even as you remember what you may have gained or learned in a working, allow your awareness to return to common life and breath. Before you rise from your seat pause for a mement and return to your center in peace. Cross your hands on your chest and say:

The blessings of the Holy Ones be on me and mine
My blessings on all beings, with peace on thee and thine
The Fire, the Well, the Sacred Tree
Flow and Flame and Grow in me
Thus do I remember the work of the Wise.

on to pt 2

Monday, December 22, 2008


What does the term ‘magic’ mean in context of modern Pagan spiritual endeavor? I find myself trying to answer this question over and over. I find the topic discussed over and over in Pagan writing. What makes this word so difficult, so confusing, so likely to produce conflicting definitions in different minds?

It seems to me that the word sits fairly comfortably on those working the various spiritual techniques developed in the renaissance and modern times. Grimoiric magic, Hermetic ritual magic and the various methods that are referred to as theurgy or thaumaturgy seem to be able to define themselves as ‘magic’ in a way that is almost, or overtly, in opposition to ‘religion’. In the context of Christian orthodoxy these techniques were plainly proscribed, or at best barely tolerated, and that required a vocabulary for the plain distinction between ‘religious’ ritual and spiritual techniques and ‘other’ ritual and spiritual techniques. Following the custom of Greek and Roman literature, Europe came to use the term ‘magic’ to refer to these other methods.

When we go outside of the Euro-Christian model, the whole matter becomes less dichotomous, and so less simple. In most pre-Christian systems (and many modern non-Christian ones) the techniques that we know as magic – self-empowerment and energy work, theurgic invocation, spirit-art, empowerment of talismans and images, leveraging events through hidden influence, divination, etc – are often entirely integrated into the category of ‘religion’. There might be specific vocabulary terms for each, but there is no need for an overarching term like ‘magic’ to distinguish them from regular practice.

This leaves the would-be Traditional Pagan in a funny place in relation to modern usages of the term ‘magic’. In many ways our religious practice is based on principles and practices that have been taught in the west as magic. Correspondence, consecration of images, trance and meditation are all core practices of a working Pagan spirituality. It is entirely reasonable to say that ancient religion was ‘based on magic’ as long as we recall that the ancients themselves would never have said such a thing. A statement like that is true only in a modern usage in which magic means ‘technical application of spiritual arts for the production of specific willed effects’.

The key words there, for me, are ‘technical application’ and ‘willed effects’. In my opinion magic is primarily a body of human skill, applied to the spiritual (and secondarily the material) realm in order to produce desired outcomes. This brings me to the reason I took up this topic.

I keep reading people saying things like ‘magic isn’t something you do, it’s something you are’. These folks tend to use ‘Magic’ to refer to some (to me) ambiguous ‘magicness’ in the universe, perhaps to the sense of wonder and spiritual awe that accompanies some spiritual effects. They seem to want to pomote magic to a station even higher than I would place it – to keep it in the realm of the ‘unknowable’ or of ‘mystery’. I guess I understand this – but for me the ‘unknowable’ only exists so that I can figure it out – I don’t really perceive value in the existence of that which cannot be understood. There’s lots of value in things which we *don’t* understand, and in things which any one of us may never understand in a lifetime, but not so much in the existence of things that are not meant to be understood, at least enough to put it to use.

(Now, I’ve often stated that I’m an agnostic of sorts, in that I don’t think the human senses and mind are capable of directly perceiving (especially spiritual) reality or of ever being certain that we know what’s “really” going on. Nevertheless our senses and comprehension are pretty good. They allow us to build material objects that last for thousands of years and construct spiritual methods that produce results over centuries. So I’m generally willing to accept the approximate Truth we can arrive at by our will and skill as Good Enough to Get Started.)

So I vastly prefer to use the term ‘magic’ to refer to a body of skills that humans use to shape and direct spiritual forces, rather than use it to refer to the forces themselves. That is I don’t think there’s ‘magic all around us’ in a literal sense. There are spirits, and powers, and relationships all around us, but ‘magic’ is the body of talents and skills – ritual, vision, knowledge of natural powers, etc – that allow us to speak with the spirits, experience the Otherworlds and build relationships with the Gods. So, we could say that there is “magic all around us”, as the old ritual song says, we might mean that we are surrounded by the wonders we have made, by the relationships we have built.

Sometimes I think people perceive the above approach as reductionism – it turns magic from a cosmic wonder into a tool-bag and a set of methods. I’m afraid that, to a certain extent, it may be so. But I think such a feeling also devalues our divine human powers of shaping and making. In my own Pagan world-view the divine lives in us, in the souls and talents and skills of humans. Our ability to shape wood or make music or bargain with spirits is of the same kind as the ability of Gods to shape mountains – just in smaller supply. This is certainly, in itself, a wonder. We might say that this approach to magic moves the object of wonder from the strange and hidden in the outside world to the skill and power of the divine in the self.

On another level I think I detect a sort of ‘faith not works’ feel to the idea of magic as a sort of ‘thing’ that exists of itself in the cosmos. There is a certain sort of spiritual model – both Christianity and Buddhism have versions of it – in which human effort doesn’t really count in the business of achieving gnosis, or wisdom, or whatever we might call ‘enlightenment’ or ‘adeptship’. In such systems all that a student can do is prepare themselves, and hope that the result occurs. It seems to me that in these models gnosis isn’t something you do, it’s something that happens to you. I suppose this has value for those who want to weaken the grip of the social mask-ego on the broader psyche. It reminds the student that the ‘them’ they usually perceive isn’t the do-er of the deeds, or even the primary target. But again I feel like this is throwing out the baby with the bath – discarding the reality of human spiritual power in favor of ‘surrender’ to a divinity, or a magic, outside of the perceived ‘self’.

Alright, that’s taken us down a road a bit from the starting point of the meaning of ‘magic’. I continue to like a definition such as ‘spiritual skills applied for personally willed goals’. I suppose that, for the sake of our modern understanding, we might contrast that with ‘religion’, by which I might mean ‘spiritual skills applied for customary or community goals’. Is this a distinction the ancients would have made? Hard to say.

Romans made a distinction between public rites and private rites, with the former well-regulated and the latter mainly left alone. For the Greeks and Romans ‘magic’ had the connotation of ‘foreign’, referring to the wandering Persian ritualists who claimed to be able to command the Gods and spirits by their rites. Nevertheless Hellenic religion was full of trance-oracles, bribing of Gods for gain, consecrated images and talismans and the things we might now call ‘magical’. It seems to me that among cultures with a more ‘professional’ priestly class, such as Vedic, Persian and Celtic, there is greater chance of a specialist discourse developing in which technical methods of invocation, trance, etc are discussed. Celtic sources leave little to judge from, but we do have classical descriptions of their devotion to religion, divination and sacrifice, with direct comparisons to the Magi. Persians and Bharati cultures had ‘magical’ practices integrated into their religion – astrology and planetary spirit-art, for instance, are gospel-orthodox in those traditions. We don’t see much of that in Roman religion – I know of no Roman instruction to sacrificers on how to properly involve the mind in sacrifice. We do see it plainly in post-Vedic material, and perhaps by inference in the hymns themselves. Vedic culture simply calls such things ‘knowledge’, though they have technical vocabulary for the various rituals and practices.

In some Paganisms we also see some or most of this knowledge preserved as esoteric – it is for the few, for those trained and accepted into the priestly work. This sense of esotericism contributes greatly, I think, to the later notion of ‘magic’. Once again we see this much more clearly in some cultures than others, and it seems to me that Celtic cultures falls on the side of esotericism, with it’s specialist priestly-poetic class.

As a modern practitioner of both public priestly ritual and more arcane skills such as divination and spellbinding I will probably continue to find a use for the English word ‘magic’ as distinct from other types of spiritual practice. I suppose I’ll continue to argue for its use to mean ‘body of human spiritual skill’ rather than ‘intrinsic wonder of the cosmos’. Of course one can simply use ethnic terms when we want to be specific – seid and galdr, briocht and pishog – and that’s probably a good plan, but doesn’t make modern theoretical thought about these things any easier. Using good English descriptive vocabulary is also a good plan – talk about invocation in a technical sense, develop (steal, co-opt, etc) terms for states of awareness and trance, have terms for various practical-magic goals, that allow us to talk technically about willed use of spiritual skills without referring too often to that broad and difficult category of ‘magic’.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Review: The Celtic Flame - Aed Rua

Celtic Flame; An Insider’s Guide to Irish Pagan Tradition
Aedh Rua 2008
iUniverse, Inc. ISBN: 978-0-595-52970

This is a welcome addition to the wave of Celtic Paganism books beginning to break in the last year. Author Aedh Rua is a long-time participant in the effort to build a modern Gaelic Paganism, and this small book is a good summary of the basics. I recommend it to those seeking an introduction to Gaelic lore and neo-Celtic practice.

Aedh Rua (a former member of ADF, incidentally) does a good job of presenting the basics of a Tuatha De Danann pantheon, with plenty of good lore for each of the deities. Beyond the primary list of the Highest and Wisest, he also describes a category of deity he calls Earlaimh – ‘Patrons’. These are lesser spirits, Landwights, even Ancestors who become the special patron of some local tribe or place or family. Rua’s device provides a nice category for those beings that become ‘promoted’ to functional deity-hood. His chapters on the Ancestors and the Daoine Sidhe, and on the Otherworld are brief but informative.

The book offers an interesting chapter on a virtue-based ethic and Gaelic metaphysical principles. This concept of Fhirrine – Truth, in the Druidic sense – extends from the personal to the social. There’s a lot of good summary of Gaelic concepts in this section. The author uses it as a chance to discuss Gaelic social organization as well, perhaps a little more than I might have liked. However it is a very nice summary of some basic principles of brehon law – something not normally found in Neopagan treatises.

The chapter on the Fhomoire gives me my only chance to actually disagree. Rua makes the Fomor entirely too ‘demonic’ or ‘anti-cosmic’ to fit my understanding of their place in the lore. He describes them as entirely opposed to ‘the Truth of the Gods’, while I would suspect that they have been subsumed in that order, even as their chaos continues to refresh the world. All of that aside he provides a good description of the beings of the Fomor, and some discussion of dealing with them.

The chapter on ritual draws on many of the sources common to ADF ritual, and is quite compatible with Neopagan Druid liturgy. Rua provides some nice charms and invocations in Gaelic and in English, and in fact offers his entire short basic ritual in Gaelic, in an appendix. He provides simple solo works for each of the Gaelic High Days, as well.

Gaelic kinsfolk will be very pleased with this book’s handling of Irish language. Almost every vocabulary term or name offered is accompanied by its phonetics. A pronouncing glossary is included at the end. The actual charms and invocations in gaeilge don’t come with phonetics, but they’re simple enough to make excellent exercises.

Celtic Flame makes a fine introduction to authentic Gaelic lore and practice. It should be useful to reconstructionists and to Neo-Druids, as well as anyone who wants a better understanding of Irish lore.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Dunwich Horror - new film!

I'm all a-flutter over discovering that Lovecraft's story "The Dunwich Horror" (one of my very faves) is being remade as a movie! This version stars long-time HPL interpreter Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator, From Beyond, so much more...) as Wilbur Whately, as he searches for the Necronomicon so that he can bring the Old Ones through and clear off the earth, bark-bark, woof-woof...

The first flick of the DH was done by Roger Corman for TV, back in the day, and was pretty good for what it was. As another blogger has said the whole movie was worth seeing Sandra Dee writhing half-naked as Dean Stockwell chants to Yog Sothoth over her. Also very cool naked cultists, especially for 1968 on TV. Stockwell gets a part in the new movie as well.

No telling what they'll fiddle in the story, at least not yet. The story pretty much demands a look at the Necronomicon and some amount of ritual magic, so it'll have that going for it.
Here's a link to the first trailer:

Monday, December 15, 2008

TV Wizards

So look, ‘serious minded’ has just never been a description of me. I love cheesy fantasy and horror, occult adventure, pulp culture, etc. So we’ll be having an occasional bowl of that here in the old bloggo.
It’s a pretty good season for fantasy and speculative TV, and there are some pretty cool wizards and quasi-wizards. I can’t say it’s a great year for occult TV, though – most of the wizards tend to be using ‘science’ rather than sorcery – but it’s making for some fairly cool storytelling

Dr Helen Magnus is the wizard of the new Sci-fi series ‘Sanctuary’. In this case we have science as magic – but the setting is a huge gothic facility, the creatures resemble werewolves and various demons, and we find Magnus the wizard investigating the hand-written books of lore left by weirdo scientists. I admit to finding the dalliance with occult motifs thinly veiled as science to be kind of frustrating. This show began as a series of short web-casts, I hear, and the first episodes – patched together from those webisodes - were pretty choppy as a result. It’s getting better, and having ‘Magnus the magician’ be a hot, smart, strong woman is a-ok by me. I’m not enchanted with this show, but I think it has potential.

Zeddicus Z’ul Zurander is your very typical fantasy wizard in "Legend of the Seeker" a syndicated series based on Terry Goodkind’s fantasy series ‘The Sword of Truth’. This is a Sam Raimi production, shot in new Zealand, with the folks from Hercules and Xena - however the tongue is out of the cheek in favor of more serious fantasy storytelling. Goodkind’s books are classic post-Tolkein, even post-Jordan fantasy – nicely realized worlds over many novels. The series has a big job working with a sprawling worldscape like that, but so far it’s at least entertaining. Of course this setting gives us a more directly ‘magical’ depiction of the wizard’s work, but it’s also pretty post-D&D – the Wizard has firebolts and other good fighter spells, as well as being mixed up with big prophecies and kingdom-level plots. There has been a little depiction of ritual magic, and I rather hope for more as time goes by. I give extra points for the hot magic-using warrior woman, too.

I should mention Supernatural here, but they don’t really play with the wizard archetype at all. The two young heroes have slowly worked themselves up to being competent occult warriors, dealing with demons and angels, but they’re short on a wizard – they could use one, presently. Maybe I’ll write separately about ‘occult’ TV – this show has had the coolest depictions of ritual magic available in a current series. Not saying much these last seasons, but they’re the leaders.

Dr Walter Bishop is the wizard of the Fox sci-fi conspiracy ‘Fringe’. They use the term ‘fringe science’ for the experiments that center the plots, and the man at the heart of the mystery is Bishop himself. Once a mad scientist working in academe, he gets brought out of the asylum to help ‘the agency’ fight his former colleague, who has become a Black Scientist. Bishop himself isn’t what you’d call either morally good, or strictly sane. It’s his skill in speaking with the dead, creating various homunculi and breaking the scientific spells of the bad guys that make him valuable. The look of this show is more universal Frankenstein than medieval gothic – rusted metal, dusty glass cabinets – odd specimens in jars, hidden stashes of old fringe science lore. Dr Bishop’s experiments – done in the early 1970s – included plenty of psychedelics, and we’ve seen obscure dietary supplements employed in some of the electro-shamanism. All in all Walter is probably my fave wiz in this line-up. He’s morally ambiguous, capable of cool marvels and probably actually nuts, but he’s obviously enjoying his work.

Maybe one of these days someone will give us a new, cool occult adventure – where’s Joss when ya need him…

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Druidic Magical Training

My current project...
So, we’ll just assume that soon (soooon) my first big book - Sacred Fire, Holy Well (SFHW)- will be formally published by ADF Publishing. That assumed, I have been poking around in my brain for what the next Big Project might be. I seem to have settled on devising a formal program of Druidic magical training based on two models.
First this new system will serve the Initiate’s training program as outlined in ADF’s Clergy training. The Initiate’s work is a set of ‘courses’ (as we call them) that focus on magico-religious skills in a Druidic context, with just enough scholastic support to keep it grounded. It requires basic theory and practicum in ritual, divination, trance skills and practical magic, and sets clear standards for achievement in those skills. What it entirely fails to do is to offer an actually systematic approach to learning and practicing these skills in an Indo-European, Celtic/Druidic context.
Modern Pagan writing is full of simple-to-complex instructions on all of those skills. Most of the ideas therein derive from western ceremonial magic, or from scraps of folklore. They often depend on mystical ideas based on Hermetic Qabalah (the G:. D:. sort, not the Jewish sort) or loosely lifted from Buddhism or Hinduism. So, one can learn a great deal about Tarot, or Runes, or herbal magick, poppet spells or shamanic vision. One can read methods of contacting the Holy Guardian Angel, of meeting a Power Animal, of entering trance through music or rhythm or sexual practice. Each and all of these could have some context in a Druidic occultism, but none of it is really constructed inside a Northern, much less a Celtic, world view.
In some ways it’s the Celtic perspective that has had the least attention. If one works a Hellenic system one can approach most of these skills through Graeco-Egyptian magic and the fairly well-documented remnants of Hellenic religion. Asatruar have several modern resources that merge classical magical goals with Norse myth and symbol. Of course eastern, post-Vedic systems have never completely lost their own intrinsic occultism, though those have often drifted fairly far from the kind of archaic models I’m considering.
In the last couple of years there has been a new round of publishing on the topic of Celtic Paganism. Books such as Aed Rua’s Celtic Flame, Robin Artisson’s The Flaming Circle, Erynn Laurie’s Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom (reviews forthcoming) and my own thing all seem to be nearing a rough consensus on some symbols and cosmology of a Celtic Pagan worldview. However I think that I’m still a bit ahead of the pack in turning these ideas to the uses of actual occultism and magic.
So the second model for the Next Project will be to create a system of occult training that is adequately Celtic, specifically Gaelic, in a modern context. There’s little doubt that in some cases what I’ll be doing is ‘Celticising’ some classical magical methods. In other cases I’ll be drawing on Gaelic folklore for rather more unique models. I’ll be drawing on a lot of the ideas and models from SFHW, but I’ll also be writing a lot of new material.
My model for the practice is a nine month focused program of work. That work is organized in a weekly ‘retreat day’ on which the Druid will work morning, mealtime and evening exercises and rites. Back when I worked in the traditional Craft we expected those working toward initiation to spend at least two to three nights per month attending ritual and practice meetings. It seems to me that at least that level of regular work should be expected of anyone hoping to move from a preliminary commitment (‘dedication’ as we might say) to the skilled use of occult methods. The practice I’m devising is based on lunar cycles, with retreat days set on the First Waxing, the Sixth Night, the Full Moon and the Waning. At least three of these involve a full personal ritual in the evening. The goal is to meet all the requirements of the ADF Initiate’s Program practicum in the nine month cycle. I worry a bit that this is too ambitious, but only a little – let those with less ambition use a different method.
So as time goes by I’ll be reporting on my progress here, and publishing excerpts from the writing. I have finished a meditative ritual technique that brings together several core elements of the Celtic Pagan consensus with the intention of seeking the various ‘mystical’ states characteristic of occult spirituality. (My article on ‘Druidic Mysticism’ is done and submitted to ADF’s magazine, Oak Leaves, incidentally. Maybe I’ll post excerpts here…) I’m currently working on the skeleton of rites and practices for the ‘retreat days’. I began intending to model the retreat work on the canonical hours (perhaps thinking of Kirk’s future ‘monastic’ dealy) but there are rather a lot of those, and I want the program to be doable on a weekday even for working people, so that the student can choose not to devote one weekend day per week to it unless they want to. So in the end I only recommend a morning work, a mid-day activity (divination), and evening meal work and a full ritual at night. I guess my question to the reader is whether this much work can be done once per week by a student of middling diligence, or should the load per month be reduced. The Dark Moon week, especially, could be limited to simple meditation and, perhaps, catching up the journal. To get us started, here’s the outline I’ll be working to fill in initially, over the next weeks:

The Initiate Student Retreat – worked weekly on the quarters of the moon.
The Work of the Retreat Day:
• Morning Work – to be done before beginning the day’s tasks. Rise, Bathe and go to the Shrine. Perform the Shrine Devotion, and the prescribed meditation.
• At Meals – make the food offerings to the Ancestors and local Wights – development of relationship with the local beings.
• The Oracle – At some time in the day a full reading is done with the preferred divination tool, and carefully recorded.
• The Hearth Rite: a full solo liturgy that includes honoring the Gods and Spirits of the student, divining the nature of the Blessing and working a good Blessing in turn. The rite may include a formal trance working, full invocatory work, and/or practical magic. The closing of this rite ends the weekly retreat.
The overall 9-month Work must accomplish:
• Increasing facility with the Druidic symbols and ritual outlines
• Possible increasing familiarity with a Celtic language (if yr hmbl author can increase his own before publishing…)
• Development of personal ‘hearth customs’ and relationships with the spirits.
• Achieve basic skill as diviner/reader
• Work several successful operations of practical magic
• Gain skill at trance – the work will contain at least three kinds of trance style or method – Grounding & Centering, Open Meditation and vision-journeying.
Specific magico-spiritual goals include:
• Develop skill in mystical trance – unity with the land and the Two Powers, awareness of the God In the Self.
• Develop an Inner Grove – a base of operations for the Inner World
• Develop initial alliances with specific beings of the Kindreds.
• Use divination to develop understanding of one’s path and goal.
• Develop invocation skills to work with the Deities.
• Use Hearth-customs and Welcomings to build power in the local land
• Use spellbinding to improve the conditions of common life