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Posts Tagged ‘Magic’

If you’re a science fiction fan, you may remember a show from the 1990s called Babylon 5. B5 was a bit like The Lord of the Rings in Space: A five-season show with a narrative arc that ran through the entire series, with a strong thematic interest in religion, politics, and the intersection of the two. One of the recurring motifs was that the main characters would, at key points, be asked certain questions by the powers behind the scenes: Who are you? What do you want? Where are you going? In the short-lived but intriguing sequel, Crusade, two other questions were introduced: Whom do you serve, and whom do you trust?

Recently some things have happened that have posed a new question for me, one that might be as important for me as those questions in the Babylon 5 universe. A dear friend of mine was being threatened by her estranged spouse, and my husband and I felt threatened by him as well because we were helping her. She had done all the right mundane things to take action against him, but it wasn’t stopping him from invading her privacy and damaging her property. Finally I had enough of this bullshit, and I did something I have never done before: I called on a deity for help, to protect our friend and us and restrain the malicious ex-spouse. As part of my request, I made an offering that required some time, money, and effort to assemble and present, well beyond the usual candles, incense, and water I offer to the spirits.

As we waited to hear whether the warrant for crazy spouse’s arrest had been executed, I kept asking myself, What will I stand up for? What motivated me to do magic now, when there have been so many situations when I haven’t?

When I was studying the New Hermetics, I successfully did workings to resolve financial difficulties, find a new job, and move house. At the same time, while I set goals to “lose weight” and “write more”, those goals never turned into specific workings with measurable results. I did many other less goal-oriented practices that resulted in greater self-knowledge and self-understanding, and overall, training in Hermetic magic convinced me that my mind could be controlled and directed to self-benefit rather than self-sabotage.

I’ve only just started to rebuild my often difficult relationship with my deities. I have said little about them here–probably that old-time Anglican reticence operating–but that is going to change. As of this afternoon, crazy harassing estranged spouse is in jail and has been since Friday night, when the warrant was issued and my initial request went out to the otherworld; he’s been denied bail, and he’ll probably be in jail for about a month, as a court date won’t even be set for two or three weeks. It’s no wonder that when I fired up a coal, burnt some incense, and prayed again this morning, I got a distinct response of, “Just shut up, it’s okay.” And it was.

Hail Catubodva, battle raven, crow goddess, who accepted my offering and intervened when I called on her. I, Mam Adar, thank you in the presence of my readers.

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Two months ago, I wrote about coming back to druidry after a long hiatus. Since then I have experienced a number of twists and turns on the path that I was very much not expecting. I went through several detours on which I thought I might settle down with Zen Buddhism, or with some kind of Egyptian paganism. Eventually I turned back to something that hadn’t let me down yet: The tools of the New Hermetics magical system.

Every day for a couple of weeks, I have performed the New Hermetics Grounding and Centering, our equivalent to the standard Pentagram Rituals. I have intoned the Middle Pillar into my aura. I have sat down to do the threefold meditation of the Synergistic Meditative Flows: breath awareness, energy work, and visionary scrying.

Last Sunday, I called my magical mentor, Jason, to talk to him about my daily practice and how it was going and to catch up on life in general. I said, among other things, that I just did not think druidry was going to work for me any more, but that I very much wished it would.

He asked me the same question I’ve asked myself over and over: Why druidry? why this path and no other? And the ancillary question, though he did not ask it: Why has finding a place in druidry been so damned difficult for me?

I didn’t really have an answer for him, except that nature spirituality is important to me. I don’t live on a farm, I don’t grow my own food, I don’t keep chickens (I’d rather like to), but I am absolutely certain that my urban trees, my courtyard birds, the wind and clouds, the drenching rains of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, the movements of sun and moon, are just as much Nature as the daily life of a farmer living off the grid. And to build cities seems to me to be part of human nature; I want us to build them more greenly, more sustainably, more humanely, not to stop building them.

Sometimes you ask a question and don’t get an answer. Sometimes you ask a question and don’t get an answer at the time you expect it. The answer to “Why druidry?” came to me in the shower this morning, unexpected but welcome, as shower-borne inspirations usually are. When it popped into my head, I knew that I wanted to share it and that I was ready to start blogging as a druid again.

  • Why druidry? Because the druid is a magician, a priest or priestess, and an artist, and I am all of those  things.
  • Why druidry? Because nature spirituality, in the midst of the city, is an integral aspect of my personal spirituality.
  • Why druidry? Because druidry was imprinted on me as an ideal in a formative period of my life, and connected with stories of deep significance to me.

I’ve often talked about my background as an Episcopalian and how it taught me the importance of song, poetry, and story in religious life, religious meaning. At the same time that I was imbibing the Hymnal and the Prayerbook, I was reading works of fiction that would influence me permanently, and not just Rumer Godden’s In This House of Brede. The “druidic” books that took root in me were children’s retellings of the stories of King Arthur (principally Pyle and Lanier), the Prydain books of Lloyd Alexander, inspired by the Arthurian romances of the Mabinogion, and the Mabinogion Quartet of Evangeline Walton, adult retellings of the Four Branches (very adult–a bit sexy for a young reader, at times, but I didn’t tell anyone).

Those books were crowned, in my teen years, by the publication of The Spiral Dance and The Mists of Avalon. It’s fashionable now in some quarters to sneer at both those books, but as to the first, there were very few other books like it when it was new, and as to the second, it was so damned convincing. I have a lot of issues with Mists when I reread it, as I also do with The Lord of the Rings and other staples of my childhood reading, but Bradley made sense of Malory in a compelling way. And while the druidic magic of the Avalon universe has very little to do with historic druidic practice as we currently understand it, it has everything to do with the Western Mystery Tradition and the work of Dion Fortune and her successors.

It may sound strange–or childish or quixotic or foolish–to settle on a spiritual path because you read about it in a book as a kid. But not only is that what a lot of pagans do, it’s very much what most Christians do, and what anybody does who simply adopts the mainstream religion of their culture. They accept what others tell them as children, go along with the stories they’re given, unless and until they think it over for themselves and change church, or change religion, or reject religion, for their own reasons.

I think I have made druidry hard for myself by not seeing and accepting those simple answers to the question “why druidry” and thinking instead that my druidry had to look like someone else’s, had to conform to external standards. I’m the sort of person who usually works well with clear and specific requirements, as I did in my New Hermetics training, as I do on the job. But in this case, I think I need to strike out on my own, make my own path through the forest, carrying with me the tools that have served me best so far: Song and story, meditation and magic, the ideas of the Sword and the Grail and the Table Round, Merlin the mage and Morgaine the priestess, and a great deal of Capricorn determination.

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Well, apparently I am not a druid.  Again.

My attempts back in November to fulfill the requirements for NaBloPoMo and to make Druid spirituality my primary path both failed.  Since then I have wrestled repeatedly with the angelic conundrum of being attracted to a number of religious paths that I simply can not practice, or can not practice simply.

I’ve been attracted to Druidry since the early 1990s.  Back then I longed to join OBOD, but the cost was prohibitive; while my income has increased since those days, so has the cost of OBOD’s famous correspondence course.  Whatever the exchange rates between the pound and the U.S. dollar might be, the Atlantic has not gotten any smaller, and packets from OBOD will always have to cross it to get to prospective druids in the States.

I discovered the Ancient Order of Druids in America at the end of 2004, and I managed to achieve the first degree, Apprentice Druid, within a couple of years.  I’ve tried repeatedly to advance to second degree, but no matter my intentions, I repeatedly found myself not doing the work.  I am still a First Degree member in good standing, but the work for further degrees is not, I think, going to get done.

I learned today that there has been a big blow-up in another pagan tradition to which I’ve been attracted for years, the Feri or Faery tradition stemming from Victor and Cora Anderson.  Like many people, I think, I first heard of it through Starhawk’s mentions in The Spiral Dance, which I first read when I was thirteen and the book was brand new.  I was thrilled to discover that people actually worshipped the old gods whose stories I’d read throughout my childhood, and practiced a kind of magic, another topic I’d read about precociously.  I was enchanted, and I use the word in the fullest sense, with her descriptions of Victor’s Faery teachings, though that enchantment translated into lots of bad poetry rather than into trying the magical exercises or even performing rituals.

I still rather miss being an Anglican, particularly around Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.  The Incarnation was and is far more important to me as a doctrine than the Atonement; the Atonement, for me, makes little sense without a stress on the Incarnation and has everything to do with Divine Love revealing itself in extremity and nothing to do with a wrathful Deity being bought off somehow by the torture of his Son.

Buddhism, especially the Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism of Tibet, is the thing that has been the most helpful and illuminating for me over the past five years or so.  Its philosophy explained so much of Western magic and religion in a newly coherent way, and the practices and community I found helped me deal with stress, train my mind, look at the big picture.  But I don’t live in circumstances where I have regular access to a Tibetan Buddhist teacher, and I’m not willing to make huge changes in my life–such as relocating to another city or learning to drive and buying a car for the first time–in order to do so.  I can’t help but feel that makes me a bad Buddhist, a half-assed practitioner, but I’m insistent that my spiritual practice reduce chaos and stress in my life (give or take a few necessary crises) rather than increase it, and moving or buying a car would definitely count as an increase in stress.  I can’t even switch tracks and practice with a Zen lineage, which might not be a bad thing; again, there’s no sangha with a teacher that’s accessible to me in time and place.

There’s a saying that is often useful even though it sounds ditzy: “Bloom where you’re planted.”  I prefer metaphors like, “Go through the door that’s open, or out the window if the door is locked.”  Or, “Deal with what lands in your lap.”  Recently two things have opened up for me or landed in my lap: The chance to take yoga classes and develop a practice, and the chance to study further with Jason Augustus Newcomb in the New Hermetics system.

I’ve been interested in yoga since I was a teenager (hm, along with Witchcraft and Druidry and what not else), and right before Christmas I discovered I was living a few blocks away from a thriving yoga studio.  I registered for their five-class beginners’ workshop, which started anew on December 23rd, and started attending regular beginner-level classes alongside my equally interested husband. The improvement we have both felt in strength, flexibility, pain relief, and overall well-being has been enormous, in a relatively short time. I can do things with my body that six weeks ago I would have sworn were impossible for me, and that’s after little more than a month of classes.  Those really terrifying postures you see on yoga calendars now look to me like a difference of quality, not of kind–like the difference between my own fiction and [insert Great Novel here] rather than like the difference between my body and an invertebrate’s.  Even now I’m looking forward to sweating through tomorrow night’s class and hoping that the mix of snow, sleet, and rain we’re predicted to get won’t cause a cancellation or make walking too treacherous.

Back in 2005, I was one of the first students to take the course that Jason based on his then-new book, The New Hermetics, and one of a few to make it through the whole program and go on to take the Advanced work two years later.  Jason’s system of mental and magical training worked better for me, in terms of both daily life management and of working big changes in my life, than any other spiritual practice had worked before.  It also led me to the Mahayana ideals of bodhichitta and dedicating the merit of one’s practice to the benefit of all beings, and thus to investigating Buddhism afresh and finding new answers and inspiration there.  When Jason recently announced that he was going to teach a beta version of a revised course, available to previous students at a hefty discount, I was right there like all the bad metaphors for being right there that you can think of–white on rice, ugly date, cheap suit, the works.

Actual work with the new program is starting in February, at Imbolc.  I’ll be lighting some candles for the Star Goddess again and asking for a blessing on the work.  My overriding goal for this re-training is to bring everything that I’ve learned, from Feri, Druidry, the Church, Buddhism, and wherever, and use the New Hermetics to contain it.  To put it another way, my goal is to cross-fertilize the New Hermetics, which comes out of a specific tradition of Western magic, with everything else that has worked for me.  I have, after all, spent over twenty years seeking, studying, learning, in a variety of traditions; perhaps it’s time for me to stop envying people who have spent as many years identifying by one name, one tradition (whilst no doubt studying many things), and start taking seriously what I’ve learned and bringing it to bear on the practice that I know I can work, and that will work for me.

To that end, I would like to stop posting here and renew posting at A Comfortable Oxymoron, to give myself a wider context in which to talk about walking the Path and undertaking the Great Work.  I will likely be cross-posting a version of this entry to that blog.  See you at the new URL, I hope.

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For ritual and meditation, I wear a white robe.  I purchased it online from Deva Lifewear, a company that handcrafts clothes from natural fabrics, mostly cotton.

The white robe has been traditional for Druids at least since the Revival, and probably longer.  The Brahmins of India and the flamens of Rome both wore white.  The heavenly saints in the book of Revelation wear white, probably for the same reason that the druids and Brahmins did: Because it is difficult and costly to produce by pre-industrial methods.  “Clothed in white garments, they follow Christ wherever he goes.”

The white robe is also the prerogative of the Adeptus in the Golden Dawn tradition.  I have trained to the level of Advanced Adept in the New Hermetics, which owes much to the Golden Dawn’s legacy.

And the white garment is the sign of the upasika or lay practitioner in Buddhism.  Lay men and women constitute the “white sangha”, contrasting with the red or yellow robes of the monastic sangha.  “In the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha most excellent I take refuge until enlightenment is reached. By the merit of generosity and the other good deeds, may I attain Buddhahood for the sake of all sentient beings.”

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Every year, starting about five years ago, I compile a list of books I read.  I include both new books and re-reading, novels, collections of short stories, graphic novels, collections of poetry, and what you might call meditation books, things you’re supposed to read a bit at a time (I keep one or two of those in the bathroom).  I don’t include anything that I started but didn’t finish, or anything that I only skimmed or read parts of.

Rather than giving you the complete list, I decided I’d run down what I felt were the outstanding books of the year–outstanding not only in the sense of being well written, but in the sense of being personally significant to me.

Invoking Reality: Moral and Ethical Teachings of Zen by John Daido Loori is unquestionably the best book on ethics I have ever read, period.  No one else approaches the same balance of integrity and compassion in evaluation behavior, illuminating the connection between proper self-worth and kind consideration for other beings.  I was very happy to discover Loori’s work last year and then saddened by his death last October.

Dead until Dark by Charlaine Harris was my introduction to this series, variously known as the  Sookie Stackhouse books or the Southern Vampire series.  Its adaptation into the HBO drama True Blood brought multiple new copies of Harris’s books into the library where I work, piquing my interest.  I do not, as a rule, like vampires as a subject of fiction; most films and novels about them bore me stupid.  But Harris starts from a clever premise–what if vampires “came out” and made their reality known to ordinary people, and tried to live with everyday citizens–and writes with an insider’s knowledge of smalltown Southern life.  The books are laugh-out-loud funny but grow progressively more serious, with higher stakes for the characters, as Sookie, the narrator-protagonist, is drawn deeper and deeper into the world of the “supes”, the supernatural people.

Lavinia by Ursula K. LeGuin is, in my opinion, the finest work of this very fine novelist.  Like much of her work, it defies genre labels in its retelling of Aeneas’s conquest of Latium through the eyes of Lavinia, the young woman he  marries.  Lavinia tells us of her life before Aeneas, her visionary experiences of the poet Virgil and his struggle to write the Aeneid, her embrace of her destiny to wed the conquering stranger, and–what Virgil did not tell us–her happiness with Aeneas as his wife, queen of her father’s domain.  In her most subtle and delicate prose, LeGuin portrays a very early pagan way of life that is more like Shinto than like the Greek polytheism of the polis, where gods and spirits emerge from and merge into stone, tree, and woodpecker, and where Aeneas’s Trojan traditions merge gently with the piety of the land he conquers.  This is a novel not to be missed.

In the Land of Invented Languages by Arika Okrent was a marvelous sojourn into a topic that has fascinated me since my childhood, at least since I read the appendices to The Return of the King. Okrent chronicles the history and culture of human attempts to create ideal languages, universal languages, and fictional languages that embody fictional cultures, interweaving the story of her own attempt to gain certification in Klingon.  This was definitely the most sheerly entertaining nonfiction I read last year.

The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia–and How It Died by Philip Jenkins is a book that told me things I did not already know, and I’m fairly conversant with early Church history.  Jenkins opens up for the popular reader the geographical and historical scope of the Churches known in the West as Nestorian, and condemned as heretics at the first Council of Ephesus in 431 C.E. for having a somewhat different Christology than was adopted by the Catholics and the Orthodox.  The Nestorians, known to themselves simply as The Church of the East, spread as far as China, India, and Tibet, and flourished for over a thousand years in multicultural, multireligious societies where they were never the dominant religion.  While they suffered occasional periods of persecution in Muslim-ruled societies, their greatest losses in numbers and power were due to Communist and nationalist movements of the twentieth century.  Jenkins holds out the Church of the East as a possible paradigm for Western Churches no longer sure of their place in a world where the old Christendom of Europe is dead and buried.

So far this year I’ve read two graphic novel compilations in the Lucifer series and a book on the Western magical tradition that I think is going to be one of my most significant reads of this year, possibly of the next decade, but I don’t want to say any more about it until I’ve read it a second time.  With notes.

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I no longer call myself a druid, but I feel more druidic than ever as I absorb the morning sunlight on my walk to work.  I have finally realized how much my well-being depends on exposure to the light.

I haven’t thought of myself as a Christian in a while, but I feel more Anglican than ever as I say the Daily Office and find strength and stability in the practice, and new meaning in the familiar texts.

I am not really practicing as a Buddhist, even though I formally took refuge and the bodhisattva vow, but the perspectives of Mahayana and Vajrayana have illuminated and revived my Western religious and magical practice.

I don’t know what to call myself or my path, except to say that I am a magician, and I work in the Western magical tradition or with the Western Mysteries; I have no convenient labels or fancy poetic phrases.  I do know that if, as many systems say, there are three chief stages to the Path, then I am at last firmly in stage two: No longer a beginner, no longer uncertain of my commitment, purified and being illuminated, a Proficient (in the Christian sense, as used by Anglican writer Martin Thornton), an Adept (in the Hermetic sense, if only a fledgling), an aspiring bodhisattva.

More and more, I seek to expose myself to the Light.

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… in a magical working for the Winter Solstice.

This effort comes from writer and mage Jason Augustus Newcomb, author of The New Hermetics and 21st Century Mage.  I have studied and worked with Jason for five years and owe a lot of my direction on the Path to his books and his mentoring.  Please consider carrying out the following working between Monday, the Solstice proper, and Christmas Day:

Creating a Universal Solar-Hermetic Egregore

This Solstice, I want your help in creating a giant battery of magical power, love, wisdom, peace, prosperity and strength. I want to create a universal egregore that magically links all participants with a huge source of communal magical strength and vitality for the coming year.

The solstice is traditionally a time for solar rebirth, and this year I want to birth a Solar-Hermetic “Sunchild” with the help of magicians all over the world all working together in love to create something beautiful in unity. If we all work together we could have hundreds or even thousands of people contributing energy to a huge magical battery that will only become more powerful each time it is used.

The “Sunchild” is an androgynous godling that will contain the collective love, wisdom and power of every participant. The power of the egregore will constantly expand as contributors will become more powerful as they become harmonized with the forces invoked, so that the power within the egregore will constantly grow. This will also coincide with the solar force increasing in the coming year.

The working will be extremely simple and fairly short to conduct (about 20 minutes), and yet highly powerful as well as healing to the world. There will be no particular temple set up, and no tools needed. I have created a guided audio recording that will completely direct you through the simple inner magical procedure.

Click here to download this free recording:

http://jasonaugustusnewcomb.com/store/initsec.html

All you need to do is face the setting sun right as it is descending below the horizon on the day of the Solstice, or any day after that up until Christmas, then play the recording and follow along as you give and receive various magical energies to birth the “Sunchild.”

Please participate in this, and spread the word to help get magick users and esotericists all over the world to participate. Tell everyone in your lodges, covens, meetup groups, your massage therapists, reiki practitioners, everyone who might like to have a battery of loving power this year. Everyone is welcome, and everyone’s contribution will add more power and beauty to the “Sunchild.” I want to see hundreds or even thousands of people participating in this united working. I want us to create a truly Universal Solar-Hermetic Egregore that any and every esoteric practitioner can give to and draw upon.

If you cannot participate at sunset on the Solstice itself, please participate at sunset in the days following. There will be a constant rolling creation as people all over the planet send their energy up at their unique sunsets. This is a big revolutionary spell that circles the globe with the sunset for several days, involving hundreds or perhaps even thousands of magic users. Let’s make an amazing egregore of Love, Beauty and Power together.

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