I’ve been reading a lot of Aidan Kelly lately, ever since Jason at The Wild Hunt linked to a post on Aidan’s recently inaugurated blog. I’ve read every post on the blog; in addition, I’ve read Hippie Commie Beatnik Witches, his book on the formationof the NROOGD and his short novel Goddess Murder, in which he does what Dan Brown was trying to do in his most famous work, only better.
In HCBW, he records some of a group conversation amongst himself and the other people most closely involved in researching and writing ritual for the group. In this discussion the group talks about “having an intuitive sense of what our pattern is, or we couldn’t have looked at all the bits and pieces of traditional information and figured out which ones would fit into a pattern for us and which ones wouldn’t.”
This rang a bell with me, a bell which chimed again when in a recent blog post Aidan discussed the intellectual discipline which advancement in the Craft requires and said, “You must read Murray and Graves and Gardner, for starters, as theology, not history.”
This work, the seeking that Aidan describes the NROOGD doing as a group in its fledgling years, the picking up of pieces from a pattern, the fragments of a jigsaw puzzle, the shards of a vase, is the work I am doing right now. It’s the work of creating a system of philosophy and practice, a system which will probably only ever be mine and mine alone, but which will be tested by experience and have enough internal consistency and practicality to be shared with other people. This system need not have a name, except “what Mam Adar does”. It will include magic and devotion and creative work; it will owe something to Wicca, Druidry, Buddhism, Feri, Northern traditions, hermetic magic, and the Prayerbook and Hymnal that taught me what religion and liturgy should look like and sound like.
One way that I am doing this work is by exploring the practices of one of R.J. Stewart’s more recent books, The Spirit Cord. The book teaches methods of working with one of the simplest of all magical tools: the Cord. I braided three strands of hemp thread together, good tough vividly dyed thread bought at my local bead shop, knotted off the ends, dripped a bit of beeswax on the knots, and I was ready. I have not so far done much formal sit-down work, except for the three rounds of three different dedications which Stewart prescribes as preliminary to the work, but as I have carried it on my person and slept with it under my pillow, my dreams have strengthened, my daily practices have stabilized, and I’ve begun to see, feel, and sense (to borrow one of Stewart’s favorite phrases) the pattern which belongs to me and into which my pieces fit.
The joyful part is that things are working, things are fermenting. The frustrating part is that I was clued in to this pattern some twenty years ago, and I got distracted from it, repeatedly, by a lot of different things. Stewart’s books are part of the pattern, and so are the works of John and Caitlin Matthews; the Druid Revival is part of it, but so is pre-Christian Celtic religion; Wicca has some pieces of it alongside Druidry, Buddhism has some pieces alongside Christianity (and Buddhism has been invaluable in giving me a picture of what an intact, complete religious/magical system looks like and how it works).
Is that eclecticism? is it syncretism? I don’t know and I actually don’t care. What I do care about is following the thread of this pattern, like Theseus in the labyrinth, and not getting distracted again, whether by my own fears and doubts, or by other people’s critiques of what I’m doing. The five feet and four inches of my slender hand-braided cord are my vow not to get distracted or derailed again.