Friday, November 30, 2012

The Rann of the Summoner

In spring-tide, when the snow had melted and the roots of things soaked in cold waters, newly flowing, a vision of the spirits came to me. I saw the snows vanish away and the green wave sweep the world. Imbolc turned to May in the sweep of the Queen’s sleeve and the crowd of the Noble Ones showed themselves to me.

I beheld the Queen of the Sidhe, in her beauty and strength, and with her the Chief of Clans. Their loveliness was both deep and glittering and if I gazed straight upon them they might seem to be a woman and a man. Yet their presence seemed to call away from form, and to draw me toward the Other.

“Tell me, mighty Queen of Spirits, whether it is better that form rise into essence, or that essence should descend into form.”
I stood with the Fire and Water in my hands, and dared to question her.

The Queen of the Land kissed the Chieftain, and he departed into the forest. Then she raised her arms and the robes fell away from her, so that her raiment became her beauty, and her beauty became her power, and her power became the Sovereignty of the Land. By her power she called form out of potential, and the clans of the Sidhe emerged.

It was said in ancient days that the People of the Mound loved to process and to parade. So they appeared to me, coming in troupes from every quarter. From out of stone and soil, from the green of the forest and the waves of the sea they rose and marched, totems and standards raised high. Pure white and storm-black they came, red as blood and green as sap. Like hounds and like ravens they came, like stags and songbirds and like flights of bees. From out of the halls of the Lord of the Dead came heroes, mighty ones of the spear and of the plow, and of the Druid’s Wand. Striding across hilltops or mounted on horses of lightning-shadow, they rode among the hosts. At their head came the Chieftain, in wizard’s array, hazel-wand white as he led the Host that he had called.

Shining folk of silver and gold streamed from above; wild, lovely and mighty. Winged and horned and hoofed, in cloaks of leaves and light and shadow they joined with the scuttlers and slitherers, with the small folk of stone and bark. Together they came, summoned by the sorcerer Chieftain at the command of the Queen of Elfhame.
I beheld the coming and goings of things in the dancing procession of the spirits. In the whirl and turn of the parades of the Sidhe I saw life fall into death, and spirit rise. I saw the spirits of the Sea rise into the Clouds and fly, then dive to Soil again and grow green. I beheld the constant flow of form as it swirled and knotted to decorate all the worlds.

The Queen rose into the air before me, and spoke, saying:

“See you – it is never still. The fallen must rise, and the high must descend. All is reflection and refraction and unceasing motion in all the worlds.”

So I understood that the Work of the Wise is to come to stand at the Center of that Great Dance. As that understanding filled me, the Queen and the Chieftain came together before me, and raised their own hands as if to invoke a greater power. Before me the vision flowed and shifted, and two greater beings appeared – the Mother of All, and the Lord of Wisdom.

The Keeper of Gates, the Teacher of Heroes came to me then, with the Mother of Fate all around us. Before me, my vision coming to earth, I beheld my nemeton; Well and Tree and Altar of Fire, the iron cauldron, the forked staff, the ring of stones and earth on which the Fire burned. Over the Bile, wreathed in the smoke of the flame, stood the God of Magic. Robed in shadow with symbols sewn in twilight, he bore his staff and cauldron. His uncut hair and beard flowed around him and the Other Light shone in his eyes.

“Tell me, Lord of Secrets, how it is that a fire of human kindling may be a gathering-place for the Gods.”

The Lord of the Between reached out his wand toward my forehead. It was as if a new vision came to me, as I first gazed into the well. My Cauldron of ritual water, thrice-gathered, was a deep-pooled spring, a Well of Blessing. I saw ancient folk approach their own Wells with offerings of silver and I saw the spirits come to the ancient Well, and to the cauldrons of magicians.

I saw the Cauldron at the Root of the World, ever flowing, watering that root with life’s juice. Up from that deep I beheld the Pillar of the World, that ancient Tree. It stands in the Sacrifice Ground, carved and gilded; it is the Center of the Worlds. It is the Ridgepole of the Heavens it’s presence the presence of the World Tree itself.

A web of roots in the Underworld Water, a web of branch and leaf in the Heavens’ Light; the Tree is the All-Connection, the power that joins all things together. In this way the Tree is like the Mother of All, whose love draws all things into the great embrace.

“The Well of Potentials waters the Tree, and the Tree gives wood. It is of the Wood of the Tree that the fire is laid,” spoke the voice of the Red Lord of Wisdom, “The spark of the Fire is the Elder Spark, passed down through ages, hearth to high place. For it is the spark of the hearth that lights the Fire of Sacrifice. From
 the clans comes the spark and to them it returns with the shining blessing.”

“As it is in the Wood of the World, so let it be in your heart. Your flesh must die, and continual death sends memory flowing like water into the Well. Your living flesh is rooted in that very Water and the Heaven’s Light kindles the Fire in you. The Fire gathers the elements of the world, they dance in the way that is you.”

So I understood that the Cosmos is in my very being and that I am made of the parts of the World. From the Fire and the Water I saw the Plain of the World extend, from the Fire in the Four Airts to the wild Sea all around and the dome of the Sky over all.

The Procession of spirits made their circuit of the Middle World, turning rightward round the Tree. The Mother of All enthroned herself above the Well and the Lord of Wisdom stood with his Wand at the Fire of the Sacrifice. Thus I understood that it is the bond of blood and spirit between mortal folk and the spirits that brings the spirits to our Fires. It is the Mother’s Love and the Teacher’s Wisdom that inform us as we call the spirits, and it is by that same wisdom, love and power that the spirits respond.

For I time I rested in this vision, and greatly was I blessed by it. O Children of Earth, in this vision may you be blessed in turn. May the Strength of the Tree be in you, and the strength of the Well. May the strength of the Fire’s Light bring your best fate into the world. May the Mother and the Keeper of Gates open the way to the Gods and may the Host of the Spirits march in answer to your skillfull song.

Thus may we remember the Work of the Wise!

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Quiet Month

When we last saw our intrepid etc, he was headed back from his summer adventures to a quieter season at home.
Well, that sort-of happened. We aren't packing, setting up, taking down and unpacking every bleedin weekend this month. However I have been keeping busy.
Court of Brigid is Shipping
At this time I believe that I have one unclaimed set of the nine collectible, ready-for-ritual Druidic Sorcery sets. Write me at for details.
I'm gratified at the response, and encouraged to try some other ideas are unusual and practical occult items in the future. 
I've ben figuring out how to package these, and they should be in the mail within a day or two of this post. That still puts me at least somewhere in the mid-November zone, but I thank my supporters for their patience.
Tredara Upgrade
After a summer of poking around and watching the eyes of contractors glaze over, I found a willing team to do the barn even in this late season. That means stripping off about half of the building and rebuilding it, as well as adding a new porch and rectifying other problems. Here's pics:
The old barn, site of seasonal Pagan fun for 30 years.

We're adding a side porch to replace the tent we've used for years

We're replacing the ancient slumping toad of a shed that was one end of the building

As if this hour pillars are going up. Since you've indulged me this far I will
post some nice shots of the final finished item, when it happens.
It's seems like it is happening apace. We have a week of rainless days predicted, and it seems like it will be completed promptly. Thanks to a little windfall I don't have to break my own back for this, but there's been lots of incidental activity. And excitment!
So, watch this space for something more substantive before the end of the month, but excuse me while a dance little jiggity-jig over here...

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pretty Sure

I rattle on at various times about the lack of the need for faith within my polytheistic religious model. We try to let each student begin with some choices of model, and we expect every real practitioner to develop a personal and idiosyncratic practice. There are no credos, no recitations of doctrine. Even as we develop cosmologies and experiential maps of Inner and mythic locales we step back from objective ‘belief in’ them.
“Look, ‘tis Camelot…”
“It’s only a model…"
Nevertheless, you don’t build something unless you believe it will stand. Any venture, including spirituality, requires assumptions, opinions and plans. Separating those terms from the term ‘belief’ is exactly the sort of thing I’ve been trying to avoid in my theological thinking. I try to take spirituality off the pedestal, and assume that it isn’t different in kind from any other human social or artistic endeavor. So I think of ‘beliefs’ as nothing more than ‘opinions’. Some religions want to invest certain opinions as the very image of the divine. Paganisms generally haven’t gone that route, in ancient times, or now. Still, every purpose requires a degree of ‘being convinced’ which is pretty much the same as ‘believing’ (never mind believing by faith – that’s just silly; though I don’t mind believing for experimental assumption… is that different?).

So, what are my assumptions about religion and spirituality? When I set myself down for a look at that part of my head, I noticed that my relative certainties clustered around method, and not around result. In other words I have more opinions on how to do spirituality than about what a spiritual person is or acts like. In general I don’t think the effects of spiritual practice can be predicted very well, but we can predict what practices are likely to bring results. It may be that spirituality doesn’t make us more the same, but rather produces diverse kinds…

Some Assumptions, Opinions or Beliefs about Religion, Spirituality and Magic

• The Existence of Spirits (including the human spirit), and a Spirit-World. I’m entirely willing to entertain the notion that the spirit-world is a psycho-linguistic realm, however I rather think there is more to it than that. Even as information-bundles or semantic complexes, the gods are worthy of worship and the spirits can get work done. This primary assumption includes no details on the nature, number or names of the gods and spirits – my certainties about those are… various and somewhat variable.
• Polyvalent divinity – the divine, or spiritual, is composed of an uncounted number of persons, probably including all of us.
• Contiguity of the spiritual and material worlds – the spirit-world isn’t outside of nature, and it is in constant interaction with the material as part of a natural process.

• Relationship between mortal and spiritual persons is forged and maintained through rites and customs. This is the set of behaviors that get called religion and/or magic. Traditional cultures have passed-down sets, though innovation happens everywhere. One bit of good news is that innovation often seems to work fine – you *can* make it up and develop this stuff on your own with the spirits, if you have the talent. However systematic and traditional practices are those which have brought results in the past.
• Human ritual action is spiritually efficacious and pleasing to the spirits – A long leap for some moderns, but one that can be proven by experiment.
• Spirituality/religion requires deliberate human effort – While the spirits occasionally reach out to humans most interactions are begun and maintained by us.

• Relationship between spirits and mortals leads the mortal psyche through processes of spiritual evolution and change. The human spirit or mind responds strongly to the experience of the divine. Various schools of practice try to focus this process for certain goals deemed as the good – compassion, love, various kinds of salvation or enlightenment. My certainty stops at “stuff will happen in yo’ head”, though I’m working on some more specific application models.
• As without, so within – the old Mac and Mic - when Apollo approaches he stirs the Apollo-shaped part of the self.
• Specific complexes of spirit-contact constitute “the mysteries” – ancients made constellations of gods and spirits and invoked them for specific kinds of results.

• The guidance and wisdom of tradition leads us into patterns that increase our health, wealth, and wisdom. Here I mean old-time agrarian and tribal tradition. What Nineteenth Century writers called ‘fertility religion’ is, in my opinion, really ‘prosperity religion’. The cycle of the seasons produces a regular pulse of growth and harvest in whatever one’s crop may be – wheat or words or iron-work. Put another way, old ways helped our ancestors live well; they can teach us how to do the same today.

So, those are some over-arching ideas which I’m willing to assert are true. Note that they include nearly no specific mythic elements. I’m not betting my certainty on the Book of Invasions, or on Snorri, or even on Thrice-Great Hermes. But with the above assumptions I think I can approach any of those systems and begin an experimental approach to the gods and spirits. I believe in them – if by ‘believe in’ we can mean ‘am reasonably sure they exist’.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A New Year

Samhain is the turn of the year in the most popular Neopagan calendar, whether or not it can be shown that it was such for the ancient Celts. The new cycle begins at sunset, and night precedes day in the order of things. Thus this season comes on us, bringing a phase of introspection and quiet calm before the rising light of Yuletide. For me it really is rather like that. October signifies a winding-down of my manic travel and hosting gigs, and November (the real month of Samhain – the word means November in modern Irish) brings it all to a stop. L and I are having our first unscheduled weekends in months, it seems. So I’ll pause for a moment and think back on this year’s work.

The Court of Brigid
This has certainly been my major occult work of the last year. We did the three-night retreat here at home last Imbolc, worked the festival rite at Eight Winds in California and developed and worked the practical magic rite at Summerland in August. In the meantime local devotions to the Three Powers are ongoing, and further ideas are starting to flow. I have had three reports of successes from the spell-work rite, since posting the journal here.

Of course I have issued my big experimental collectable set. The reception has been good, and six sets are now claimed. If you have been considering getting one of these once-only, practical and collectable sets now is the time to claim one of the remaining three. I have just received the shipment of talismans, and they look great! Careful proofing has meant that I’m waiting for the books now, and should be able to ship mid-month. I’ll also be making a trade paperback available soon.

I anticipate further work with these spirits this winter. I’m inclined to attempt some work on the other side of the occult coin, and to begin asking the spirits – especially the Three Queens of the Court – to lead me in visions and reveal mysteries.. Perhaps I’ve been a little focused on practical magic lately, to the expense of mysticism.

Personal work
Well, it hasn’t been the best summer ever for personal occult work, but then summer seldom is. We have gotten through another season without doing the specific land-wights work on our place that we’ve been simmering. However several ideas seem to be bubbling to the top, and I think that, with the instruction of the Teachers, we’ll be ready to go in the spring.

I do feel as if the stream of inward teaching from my allies is continuing apace. My alliances with the Ancient Wise, as begun in our ADF Clergy Council work, are really firmer than ever. I have specific conversation with a set of three ‘cucullati’ (because that’s how they appear…) and along with my long-time personal Teacher ally the connection seems strong to me.

As usual, this winter it will be back to Shrine work. I owe my allies personal offerings, bless their patient little auric centers, and the phase between Samhain and Yuletide feels right for some new work with the Dead. N

New Ideas
• An Introduction to Pagan Magic – I’m considering reframing our ‘Druidic’ ritual order into a more folkloric, magical-styled system that can be accessed through a short intro manual. I feel a little funny about attempting to ‘popularize’ this sort of thing, but only a little. I think our basic model of fire-and-water sacrifice is at least as well organized and deep as any of the ‘housel’ or other almost-there models out there. My personal opinion is that there are real advantages in our model, over the post-Wiccan four-square circle, and it needs to be available more widely. It will only make ADF’s work look more familiar to folks when they find us…

• The Nine Moons System – This is going to be high on my priorities this winter. I think I have an angle that will allow me to solve some structural problems. In the meantime, I suspect there are still people out there working with it, and I always appreciate feedback and am available for questions. I wonder whether there’s interest in another ‘class’ or group starting the work at the same time…

• Genius Locus – I b’lieve that I have given myself permission to use a couple of the ‘tricks’ that have been poking around at the edges of my mind. (That ungainly description seems to describe what that fancy ‘inward teaching’ feels like.) As a result I think I’ll actually have a suite of rituals ready to go for the rising of sap come spring.

• ADF In-house – I have one major project in hand for the year, the creation of a manual of practice for those who have completed the Dedicant’s Path introductory work. I’ll be organizing it but lots of the priesthood will be contributing.

• The Novel – Oh yeah, the novel. Well, I really am still working on it. I’m gonna try to move it up this list in priority, but I find it more difficult, in some ways, than writing occult instruction.

Today is our local Samhain sacrifice. Our Grove has long kept the ‘astronomical’ date, moving us away from the secular fun of ‘Halloween. For most Pagans we reach the end of Samhain revelry, as we move forward into the year’s dark half. Let me leave us with a Blessing:

Let us be blessed on the Feast of Samhain, the End and Beginning of the Sacred Year, the Time of Turning, of Twilight, when the Dark Time begins. This is the Last Harvest. The fields lie empty, sinking into Winters Sleep and our larders hold what gain we have reaped from our labors. As our forebears did, so do we do now, and so may our descendants do after us.
O Mighty Ones, our Ancestors, our kindred, we your children honor you. You whose life and death creates our lives, you whose wisdom upholds our wisdom, Hear us, across this modern world, as we call to you and invite you to our Samhain fires. O Mighty Ancestors, we honor your presence offering our love and worship. Be with us in our groves at our shrines, and in our hearts. Accept our gifts, given in kinship, and grant us your aid and blessings in the new year.
So be it!