Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Duile and the Spirits

European lore preserves a motif that seems to reach back into the earliest strata of Indo-European cosmological thought – the idea that the cosmos, and, by reflection, the human self, is composed of the elements of the body of the First Being, who is sacrificed or murdered in the creation of the cosmos. Across the old world we find lists of these elements, in which components of the natural world are corresponded with components of the human self. In my own work I have adopted a conventionalized list of nine components, or elements – ‘duile’ in Irish:
Stone = bone
Soil = flesh
Vegetation = hair
Sea = blood
Wind = breath
Cloud = brains (thoughts)
Moon = mind
Sun = face
Stars = spirit

It has long been customary to attempt to classify the spirits according to the divisions of the natural world. The most common of these in the occultism of the last 1000 years have been the four ‘classical’ elements and the seven planets. In an effort to understand the spirits from a more broadly Indo-European perspective, and move back past the heavily Christianized magic of the renaissance magicians, we might consider using the duile as a way of examining the spirits. Initial work suggest a good fit for Indo-European ‘nature spirits’

So in this short piece I will attempt to fit some of the well-known types of Indo-European land-wights, or nature-spirits, or Sidhe-folk, into the Nine Elements of Druidic symbolism. In many cases this is a simple matter, and it sheds light on the nature of the spirits and how they fit into the cosmos. It also opens up some surprising vistas, and reminds us why the third Kindred isn’t just ‘everybody else’.

The Nine Duile are easily assigned to the Three Worlds:
The Land
• Stone – Trolls, Giants, Mountain Wights: Wights of Stone are among the eldest and strongest of beings. Mountain spirits are vast if sleepy powers, who can shake off human effort like leaves on a dogs back. Lesser spirits of stone may still be trolls – unwholsesome beings who like nothing better than to crack skulls. Some kinds of miners and delvers may also be of Stone, but they may also be of the next type.
• Soil – Dwarves and goblins, spirits of fertility and rot. Many of the kinds of spirits called bogles, or goblins, or various ‘brown men’ of the wood seem likely to correspond to the Soil. They see to the power of growth for root and seed, but they also are consumers, eaters of corpses and clearers-away of messes. Most ‘house bogies’ and their ilk come from this type, or perhaps from the next.
• Vegetation – Dryads, green-jacks, grain-men and women, willow-devils, etc. Perhaps the most common of the Land wights are vegetation spirits, present almost everywhere humans go. Folklore is full of flower-spirits and thorn-spirits, and the spirit of the grain that is honored every year might be a ‘god’ in the conventional sense, but he or she is also the spirit of the grain itself, as a vegetation spirit.
The Sea
• Sea
– The Sea is full of spirits in the world of the insular Celts, from the selkies of the north to the merrows (mer-maids and men), to various talking fish and enchanted beings. The Sea is alien to mortals, and always dangerous and strange, though potentially a source of riches, and a road of quests. Out on the wide Sea the marvels of the weather, of nearby sky, become apparent, leading to the other two elements in this world.
• Wind – The kinds of beings called ‘trooping sidhe’, who riot through the air in their rade, carrying that which they pick up, are beings of the Wind, as are messenger spirits, the winged ones who bear the word across the worlds. The Gaels had detailed lore about the winds, and we could focus on very specific spirits for the twelve winds, but even considering four classes of winged wind-beings for the Gaelic airts is interesting.
• Clouds – What are cloud-spirits? They are bearers of weather, surely, often the great forces of the lower airs that carry the waters of the world across its face. More giants, perhaps, of the storm variety, grey and filled with lightning, or low and daylight-quenching. Another system well outside the little reach of our senses, for the most part, though perhaps they hear us when we ask well.
The Sky
• Moon
– the Moon is given to the cool, clear light of the quiet mind, unenflamed by the passions, still and shining. The spirits who dwell in the moonbeams are the night people, a part of what we might call the Noble Court or the High Sidhe. Along with the other Sky beings they carry the offerings and prayers of mortals to the Gods, and bring back their Blessings, in turn.
• Sun – The Shining Court are great but perhaps remote, walking bright and proud over the land, bringing warmth to soil, stirring wind and sea. These great powers, of Moon and Sun, may not be ‘gods’ per se in various IE systems, but the spirits, the daimones, of these elements are always present, always powerful beings in the order of the worlds. When we see them in later folklore, I believe they appear as ‘angels’, and probably appeared as ‘gods’ to Pagan folks before that. Perhaps they do, in fact, do the business of the gods.
• Stars – to speak of the ‘nature spirits’ of the starry heavens is to open the whole question of the meaning of the seven planets and the many powerful fixed stars of European tradition. We have little indication of an important tradition of planetary symbolism among the Celts and Germans, yet it seems unlikely that the widely-learned Druids wouldn’t have picked up the basics from the Greeks. In any case, besides those traditional bodies of lore, we can only contemplate what a spirit of the light of the stars on a summer night might be, or do.

One immediate question in this arrangement might be “where are the animal spirits?” It seems to me that beasts are like us – they are beings of bone and blood and breath, none of which are shared by the vegetative form of life. So when we encounter animal spirits, perhaps they are in fact the ‘ancestors’ or ‘the dead’ of another species, choosing to help humans. Often I think they are guises worn by a god or spirit, often a spirit of soil or the green wearing the forms that live upon their power. Spirits of sun or moon, may come s beasts to better address our human mind and personality. The ancients seem to have seen the spirits using animal forms – especially wondrous or monstrous hybrid forms – and in these cases the characteristic animals of the element become symbols of the spirits’ power. It is entirely reasonable in IE lore to envision such spirits as human forms with wings or horns or hooves or fishtails.

This classification system offers us some handles on approaches to conjuring the spirits. We can construct sigils based on the simple Irish root-word for each element, perhaps clarifying them slightly with a general sign for Land, Sea or Sky. Using those sigils we could then ‘prospect’ for contact with a spirit using the scrying method. If the greater Convocation is used then this classification system might help the Druid to understand the nature of the spirits she meets.

A quick consideration of the possible practical magic associations of the duile might produce:
Stone – works of permanence and protection. Difficult spirits, but strong. Be careful of your protections.
Soil – works of fertility or of decay. Good spirits for service and productivity.
Vegetation – Works of sustenance, healing and vision. Important to maintain reciprocity with these spirits (as with all).
Sea – Not many practical works for land-dwellers among the strange beings of the Sea. Shore dwellers may know more than I.
Wind – Works of communication and distant vision. Messengers and raiders.
Cloud – Weather-working in an immediate sense, but many clans of spirits are involved there.
Moon – Works of vision and mystery, initiation and meditation, secret rites and night-sacrifices. Sun - Works of growth, strength and mastery, weather-work together with wind and cloud, spiritual perspective and memory.
Stars – Works of spiritual power. If one is willing to consider astrology, the whole realm of stellar and planetary powers might be present in this final, highest and strangest world.

In the process of developing a Druidic spirit-arte the problem of classifying and identifying the spirits is central to any new system. We have made little attempt to describe our third Kindred - usually they are just called ‘nature spirits’. However these beings seem to me to be related directly to the daimones of the Hellenic world, and to many other non-deific spirits throughout the IE range. By beginning to understand the nature of the kinds of Spirits we can more clearly honor them, and more clearly know which of them to ask for aid in what ways.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Working the Nine Moons – Report 1

So, L. and I have been working the Nine Moons system for 2 months now (See the Nine Moons category in the topics column at right to allow me to avoid posting specific links to a half-dozen former posts...). I’m learning a lot about practical application of what I wrote, and we’re enjoying the work a lot. I’m keeping my own journal of the work, but I’m not going to blog the individual entries. Instead I’ll post occasional summaries here along with any notable reports from later work.

I’m pleased to find that the level of work is far from crushing, even in a work-week setting. Each month requires four Retreat Days, timed with the phases of the moon. (Review the basic order of a Retreat Day here.) Especially in these early weeks the morning work has been short enough to easily do before leaving for work, and the other offerings can be done during meal-time, with the evening main rite or exercise taking no more than a couple of hours to set up and perform (assuming one has actually read the work and gotten the stuff…). All of that makes me comfortable giving it to students. I know that I’ll have to recommend more than four real working days per month in future months, though… we’ll see how intense it gets. The good news on the increasing complexity is that it has an end, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first months are review and preparation. The morning meditations emphasize Dedicant-level skills – Open Meditation and Two Powers energy work – aiming for greater facility and ease of use. The Dead and Sidhe offerings are quite short and simple, we’ve been able to do them from our back porch – that will change some as we make the later contact-points for the spirits. Since we’re experienced ritualists the evening workings have been pretty easy so far – we have a good home shrine that we can just adjust and use for the rites, and that makes it easy to get them done.

The first month feels like it’s addressed to the Three Kindreds, beginning the process of alignment and relationship that carries through the first half of the system. We began with the Self-Blessing from the new DP (having never worked it ourselves…). The Sixth Night rite is a Rite of Uncrossing. While this system is intended to meet the requirements of ADF’s Initiate’s Program, more directly it intends to make a Druidic Magician of the student. To do that it is always wise to begin with plenty of cleansing, protection and opening of ways, and these first two moons provide that. The Uncrossing Rite combines Gaelic symbolism with a little bit of hoodoo method, and we (certainly I) found it quite juicy – my hands were shining with the effects for a day after. That rite is also worked under the Three Kindreds generally, and the Full Moon rite for the first month brings all that to a head with a formal ‘introduction’ rite of the student to the Kins. This is the first big round of multiple sacrifices for each Kindred. By the end of the first month it felt as if we must have the Spirits’ attention. Incidentally, I can honestly say that ways have opened for me in other parts of my life that had stayed stubbornly closed before now. That sort of Uncrossing is hard to quantify, but I’m satisfied.

The second month gets more down to business. The early stages of the new Moon trance progression are all very familiar to L and I, so the first ‘stand up out of your body’ exercise was review. The Sixth Night rite is the consecration of a talisman of protection. This brings us right into spellbinding very quickly in the system, though it is low-stress in that one needn’t risk watching over one’s shoulder for results. It is also the first more complex rite, using Fionn’s Window sigils, multiple material symbols and recited charms. We liked the form of the rite, but felt like a little more ‘power raising’ (or excitement-building) would be welcome. Multiple repetitions of the charm will probably do it.

The Full Moon rite of the second month is a formal sacrifice to the Earth Mother and Gatekeeper. Having agonized rather a lot over how to move students toward finding a personal patron, I once again ducked the issue by choosing to make the E-mom and GK the patrons of this system and its work. Fact is, anyone who wants to use Our Druidic ritual methods will need a solid relationship with those two deities anyway. This rite is, then, the first phase of three months of formal establishment of more detailed work with the Three Kindreds – Gods first. The rite is the first formal rite of invocation of specific deities in the system, combining Visualized images, physical offerings and spoken hymns. While it still felt like review to us, it also felt well-structured and effective. Once again, we felt we saw and were seen.

Our Dark Moon Retreats have been haphazard. The truth is, it’s good to have a week off from mandatory ritual nights, but we have already fallen behind the recommended pace for divinations and journal exercises. Fortunately the IP standards call for a five month combined journal for trance, divination and liturgy, so we have plenty of time to catch up.

So, on we go. Next come basics of the Inner Grove work, the formal consecration of our personal Blessing Cauldrons, and the creation of the Shrine-fetish for the Dead. I suspect a newish student would reach this stage with a head full of images and energies from this pace of work – I know I have them, but I have a nicely structured mind for such things by now. Testing the work this way on ourselves is good, but soon I’ll be looking for a first round of students.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Starting the New Year

...with a blessing to all of us. Been resting from bloggery for a minute, but there's more coming, as I work on writing the 5th and 6th moon of the system and performing the 3rd and 4th moons, soon. I'll have a general comment on what doing the system has been like soon, and plenty of other stuff. Thanks again to all who are reading... On we go...

The Imbolc Charm

In the Belly, Growing!
Hearth Keeping, Earth Stirring
Light Rising, Bread Baking
I keep the Feast of Imbolc!
Bride of the Hearth-Fire, you I call
Lady of the Sacred Well,
Bannock Mother, Font of Sustenance
Take now this offering, here at my Fire.
Bride of the Skills, to you I call
Queen of Poetry, Queen of Artifice
Queen of Healing, Goddess of Inspirations
Take now this offering here at my Fire.
Foster Mother, Cattle Mother
Fire Mother, Well Mother
Beneath your Mantle of Stars
I give you this sacrifice, Mother of Blessing.
Milk of the Mother, Come fill the Cauldron
Let the Land grow soft with your warmth
Let your milk come into the world,
Let me gain every good in the growth of the season
By the Blessing of the lady of Fire and Water!
So, Brigid and all you Powers, I give you welcome at my Fire. Let your light be reflected in my spirit, let your ale flow in my veins. I raise this glass to you, and drink to your divine power. Let me know the health, wealth and wisdom of the Gods and Spirits on this holy feast of Imbolc! So be it!

Offerings: oat-cakes and milk. Work the rite at your own hearth or home.