Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summer Break

My summer's all screwed up (in a chaos-of-potential sort of way) this year, due to the change of date involved in Starwood Moving to Wisteria. Usually things are buckled-down after Solstice, as we get Every Last Thing done, then the end of July is wild, leading directly to Lughnassadh. This year it's all moved up several weeks - we go to Starwood on the 4th of July, and then have the rest of July to prep for the August High Day. So between Solstice at my house and a lovely trip to Washington to the nascent Trout Lake Abbey for the NW ADF Eight Winds Festival, I'm approaching the Big Festival with a serious sleep deficit. Ah well...
Needles to say, blogging will remain eratic over the next two weeks. I'm taking the toy 'puter with me and one hears there is wifi, so if I can do a groovy on-site Starwood 30 bloggo, I will. Otherwise, feel free to move freely about the summer, as we maintain a high cruising altitude.
PS: Just in case you're still tempted, for the first time ever Starwood has a weekend rate of $100 for Friday through Sunday! Also, click on the rocky pic...

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Book Game

On the Rune Soup (Adventures Beyond Chaos Magic) blog, there's a cool notion posted, that several magic-bloggers have been doing. Here's the link of the post with the rules, scroll down at: general, the notion is that you have ten books to teach a student a specific kind of magic. Each is assumed to be read in turn, with no other influences. Just a thought experiment, but an interesting one.

The Book Game
Target mage-type: Celto-Germanic sorcerer (emphasis on spellcraft and seership). This ain’t easy – most of the good books are still being developed, but I think I can make it make sense. The hard part is to stay focused on magic, and not drift off too far into Celtic cultural realms. I agree that moving the agnostic indifferentist into open-minded readiness is the hardest thing – could require ten books of its own. The job is harder still when you have to introduce an unfamiliar mythology.
1: Cosmic Trigger – Robert Anton Wilson
I must agree with Gordon that there is no better easy text for inducing doubt concerning the standard rationalist paradigm.
2: Cunning Folk & Familiar Spirits- Emma Wilby
Introduces basic shamanistic concepts in a western historical context, and makes a great case for how modern people could come to perceive relationship with the spirits.
3: The Way of Wyrd – Brian Bates
This scholastically reasonable historical novel is specifically built to lead from a more modern perspective into the ancient ways. Wish it was Irish and not Saxon, but oh well.
4: Ancient Irish Tales – Cross and Slover
There are many summaries and retellings of the lore – this one is a good, fairly direct translation – a good secondary source. (others might have been Ellis or Markale)
5: Celtic Heritage – Rees & Rees
Where C&S provide the raw materials, R&R offer comparative mythic analysis that breathes some spirit into the old texts.
6: Sacred Fire, Holy Well – Ian Corrigan
Yes, I wrote it, but it does both re-summarize Gaelic myth after the massive data load of the last two books, and provide a work-ready ritual and practical magic system that isn’t warmed-over post-Wicca. (Other choices might have been Aed Ruadh or Blamires)
7: Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom – Erynn Rowan Laurie
Combines real scholarship on the ogam with real Pagan sensibilities. Not much about spellcasting, plenty about divination (opposite of my book) but alternatives in ritual that fit the imagined system.
8: Practical Magic in the Northern Tradition – Nigel Pennick
Germanic lore fills in many gaps in Celtic material, and vice-versa. This is an excellent one-stop body of lore, informed with a practitioner’s notes and methods.
* the ninth and tenth are hard… many good choices… Kaldera, Huson, even Artisson. No other novel leaps to mind, but this whole system is full of story…
9: Galdrbok – Practical Heathen Runecraft, Shamanism & Magic – Johnson & Wallis
A Norse dark horse. Packed with Norse lore, but firmly focused on sorcery and results magic. Excellent poetics too – those of us who speak English have a natural tool in Germanic poetic meters.
10: Mastering Witchcraft – Paul Huson
Ok, so this has little to do with celtic anything and only a little more with Germanic. However Huson’s eye for spellcraft and sense of atmosphere remain unmatched, and his stripped-down instruction on how to make a spell operate through the rousing of passions is totally accessible. By this time the student will be able to separate wheat from chaff, and this will be very valuable. (Could have been Inominandum, but I have a soft spot.)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Nine Moons Update 6/10

Writing is hard… Or, more precisely, designing a coherent magical training program that both accomplishes certain objectives and is contained in a specific set of lessons is proving to be rather harder than I had hoped when I hit the ground running with outline 1.

After working the first three months I stalled and began re-examining the system. That re-examination has been through about three rounds now, but I think I am reaching some more solid conclusions. My goals for the program haven’t changed, and those are as follows:

1: To build competence and excellence in solitary or micro-group Druidic ritual. Essentially I expect a graduate to be able to function as their own ritual priest.
2: To build meaningful and useful relationship with the Gods and Spirits. The graduate should finish the work with specific allies among the Dead and the Wights, as well as with the spirits as group-categories. The system focuses on the Land-Mother and Gatekeeper as the divine contacts, though the student may/will develop other personal patronages as well.
3: To develop a personal mystical practiced, structured by the specific Gaelic cosmological meditation in the system. (The Nineteen Working) This includes regular ‘open’ meditation as well as several contemplations. The graduate will be equipped with a well-rehearsed pattern of empowerment and contemplation.
4: To develop skill in vision, specifically by creating a Threshold locale in which Inner operations can be done – an Inner Nemeton. The graduate will have considerable experience at Open Meditation, a developed Inner Temple, and experience in Three Realms journeying.
5: To develop familiarity and basic skill with a specific divinatory symbol-system. The graduate will know a set of symbols, be experienced in ritual omens, and have some experience in reading for themselves and others.
6: To develop familiarity and basic skill at practical magic. The graduate will have experience of talismanic consecration, and of several kinds of spellbinding style.

OK, that’s enough to do, isn’t it? Organizing this into workable lessons is what’s holding the revision up, but I believe that one last step is getting me over the hump.

The Dedicant’s Discipline
Now, we haven’t named this yet, but it seems very likely that in ADF we will be recommending a way of practice for Dedicants – that is, for those who have ‘finished’ our basic training program. In fairly typical cart/horse confusion, ADF has spent plenty of time designing the training and designing the evaluation process, but rather less time providing a goal for students. While we are teaching good skills, we haven’t exactly taught what to do with them when you have got them.

It has been plain to me that the original order of the Nine Moons placed rather a steep step in front of the just-graduated Dedicant student. I’ve been playing with the notion of introducing a “month zero” in which the student gets the basic skills together. Instead I have separated out some of the basic practices that had been in month one, and placed them in a guide to doing a basic Druidic spiritual practice using the skills taught in the Dedicant’s Path. These include simple offerings to the Kindreds, construction and use of the Home Shrine, regular basic meditation and devotion, developing the habit of reading, and keeping a journal. The journal could be a place to begin some of the formal introspection that our work has tended to lack.

So the intro section of some eventual publication (next winter?) will be this ‘Basic Druidic Spiritual Practice’ material. The message will be that when one has been keeping those practices for some little while, then one might consider taking up deeper work. (There’s some chance that this material will be involved in some in-house ADF document as well… no telling yet)

Here’s the outline for that section, as roughly drawn now:
0: Introduction
I: Description of the Three Core Practices
A: Piety – Meditation, Devotion & The Home Shrine
1: Basic Hallows and meditation seat.
2: Daily Shrine practice
3: Regular home offerings to the Kindreds.
B: Study – Continuing Education
1: Regular reading & note-taking
C: Virtue – The Journal
1: Record of practices
2: Introspection exercises
II: Support for the Three Practices
A: Piety
1: Daily Home practices – morning devotions, offerings to Ancestors and Landwights fit into schedule. Doable even without Hallows, on the road, etc.
2: Open Meditation and Daily Shrine Work.
3: Intro to Devotional practice (needs written)
a: Daily Devotion & Meditation rite script.
4: Home Shrine & Hallows
a: Blessing the Home Shrine script
b: Offering Rite script
B: Study
1: Selected booklist – drawn from the preliminary classes, I suppose.
2: (New article on sources, evaluation, academic whatsis?)
3: ?Other article on note-taking, related skills?
C: Virtue
1: Journal exercises
a: Introspection exercises
b: record keeping
c: Essay drafts

The New Outline
This allows me to begin the actual work assuming that students have some forward momentum. I’m keeping the four monthly ‘retreat days’ as the model, while more strongly encouraging daily basic meditation and offering. One student has wondered whether there should be something for formal to do in the waning quarter – my advice would be to use it to work on one of the academic projects required by ADF’s study programs.

Here’s the short outline of primary works for each retreat as it stands:
• First Moon
New Moon – Rite of Introduction to the Kindreds
6th Night – Uncrossing Rite
Full Moon – Rite of Self Blessing
4th Quarter – Study and rest. (I won’t list this for the rest…)
• Second Moon:
NM: Passing the Mist: Entering the Threshold in Vision
6N: Consecration of a Talisman of Protection
FM: Offering to the Earth Mother and Gatekeeper – a rite of introduction
• Third Moon
NM: Finding the locale and beginning the Inner Grove
6N: Hallowing the Cauldron of Blessing
FM: Calling the Mighty Dead
• Fourth Moon
NM: Building the Inner Grove – vision trance work
6N: Hallowing the Druid’s Wand
FM: Calling the Noble Sidhe
• Fifth Moon (New Moon works become three-day sequences from here forward)
NM: The Three Gates – three trances to find the ways from the Inner Grove to the worlds.
6N: A Working for Healing
FM: Calling the Teacher (the Ancestral Ally)
• Sixth Moon
NM: Three Trances to seek the Da Fein.
6N: A Working for Prosperity
FM: Calling the Familiar
• Seventh Moon
NM: Working with the Allies, three works: Pendulum, Scrying & Journeying
6N: A Working for Inspiration
FM: The Convocation Circle – all allies and powers brought together in one Great Trance, using skills from the Nineteen Working.

The observant reader will note that this isn’t nine months. I have two possible solutions to that. First, I could lay out two months of formal familiarization with the Dedicant’s Discipline, with a few more exercises, etc. Otherwise, I could invent two further months of expression of the skills gained in the first 7 – doing magic, doing divination, learning to work with the Allies, etc. I don’t know if it’s just laziness that inclines me to the former; after all I’ll probably end up wanting to write an Initiate’s Discipline or something. Maybe that’s just the next thing…

So, there it stands, and there it will stand, I think. The first five lessons are written, the sixth is 70% written and the seventh about 50%. The good news is that as we move along there are fewer explanatory articles required. The bad news is that festival season is here and the Solstice-through-Lughnassadh eighth just wasn’t made for sitting and writing. So I can confidently predict completion of the project… Samhain? Not unlikely, but Yule surely. No promises though… this has already been harder than I thought.
I’ll try to put up a revised first four moons soon for eager downloaders.