Monday, December 28, 2009
To talk about the old Druids can sometimes be a daunting task, especially when one attempts to put together a source of information that is as close to what the original practices and beliefs would have been. Apart from information that can be gleaned from older sources which were written about the Druids, these sources being that which were written by their detractors, we know very little about the original Druids. However, with the wonderful reconstructionists and scholars that we have, who so careful put together a tradition that is as close as we can find, and I am sure more will be discovered over time, we can attempt to assemble a reasonable facsimile of what can be construed as “The Druidic Tradition” and of Celtic Spirituality.
Although this book will focus on ritual formats, construction of Sacred Space, and other specific seasonal festivals and possible mantic rituals, it is good to know where we are coming from before we can know where we are going to. For this reason I will give a very brief history of the Druids and their migration pattern, which allows us to ascertain some, and hopefully enough, of the ritual practices based on country and Lore of the times.
When we speak of the Druids, we are mostly referring to the Celts, and although we find some sources focusing on the Druids being Gauls, we also find that Gaul was a land of the Celts, and in the 1st Century, Gaul, which is now Western Europe was also noted as being called Celtica. When we refer to the Celts, we have to remember that they began as a diverse group in Central Europe during the Early Iron Age (1200BC-400AD), also known as the Hallstatt period. In the later Iron Age period, or the La Tène period, these Celts had spread over a large expanse of Europe, as far as Ireland, Scotland, Anatolia in Turkey and the Iberian Peninsula. By the first millennium AD however, the Celtic languages had become restricted to the British Isles. Today we find that the “Six Celtic Nations” (where the Celtic languages are still spoken) are Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man and Brittany (on either side of the English Channel), and it is these Six Celtic Nations where we still find the mother tongues spoken to some extent of Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Breton and two earlier revivals of Cornish and Manx. Other areas which are considered to be of Celtic heritage, but where no Celtic language survives are Portugal, Spain and France.
Because this is such an extensive study, and maybe we will cover it in a future book, although I do urge you to do some research to discover the history of the Celts and the Druids, we will focus on reconstructed Celtic Spirituality generally, without trying to dissect each regional and cultural perspective. This will give you a working format of Druidic ritual in which to take and develop as you see fit. One thing I learned about the Druids many years back was that as they migrated to new areas of Europe they would adapt their spiritual format to suit the land itself, and this must never change. One key principal is therefore to get to know the Land you find yourself standing on. Speak to it, feel it, See it, and function with or alongside it.
However before we move on, we must also briefly discuss the word “Druid”. When we first come across it, we tend to create the imagery of a wizard performing magic of a powerful nature. We do however have to understand that Druid was simply a title of a caste or class of the Celts, and other castes did exist, namely the Vates (often referred to as Ovates) and the Bards.
There are a variety of attempts at the etymology of the word “druid”, but the widely understood version is that it derives from the Irish Gaelic word doire which is an oak tree, but also has its root meaning in the word wisdom. However we also have the Indo-European word *dru-uid which means highly wise. The Druids are mostly described as the teachers and law-givers, but they are also considered to have been active in the medical field, as healers and those that knew plant lore.
The Vates were the ones that we might think of as the Magicians or Wizards. They were the Diviners, Seers, Astrologers and Mathematicians. Strabo described the Vates as “interpreters of sacrifices and natural philosophers”. Etymologically, the Irish fáith is connected to the word vates, which means “seer”, but in Welsh mythology, the “seer” was known as the dryw which connects to the word druid and so we do see some overlaps within these descriptions.
And then we have the Bards who were the “singers and poets”. This may not seem like a very important role, but if we take that as the truth, then we are missing a huge part of the puzzle. The Bards kept the religion alive. They were the ones that sung about the heroes of mythology and legend, adding descriptive tales of the history and function of the Druids and Celts. Singing was also used during ritual practice and spell crafting, and there are many tales of Bards who defeated enemies through song, weaving their power and the power into the Gods into song. Not to mention the courage they could give the warriors with tales of the heroes gone before them. A very powerful class in its own rights.
Some other titles that you may come across if you do some research are Filii (Bards, sometimes spelt Fili and Filli); Fathi (another derivative of Fáith and therefore meaning Vates); Seannachaidh who were the historians and storytellers, the soothsayers (which can also be connected to the Bard); Breitheimh and Vergobretus, who were the brehons or brieves, being the law-givers and judges; and Druidh, which is simply a derivative of Druid.
As can be seen, there is a great deal that can be written about the history and migrations of the Celtic people and hence, the Druids, the above only being an incredibly condensed version, but the purpose of this little book is to give you a basis of ritual format. To do that however, there are some aspects of Celtic Spirituality that must be understood beforehand, and so these will be discussed in the following chapters. Also, to round off the edges and give you a better insight into the history of the Vates, we will also take a look at Coligny Calendar which was created before the inclusion of the Julian Calendar and later replaced by the Gregorian Calendar, which we now use. But don’t forget, take what you read here, try it out, and then build on it. Use your instincts, speak to the Land and the Land Spirits, and move with the flow of the energy that surrounds you.
Friday, December 18, 2009
(This is an excerpt from The Reality of Things by Lee 'Red Oak' Johnson)
The phenomenon of thought forms is a very simple one, which can become rather complex. They can also be classified into various headings that define their purpose for existence. Basically a thought form is an energetic being that has existence only through the continued Intent of the person creating it. Once the person stops thinking about it, there is no more intent for existence and so the energy that was feeding it dissipates and so does the thought form.
You will find that all things that are done via magic and spell work, are done with energy. Energy is the main foundation to all things. What we experience as the real world we live in is actually just energy that we have created a consensual reality upon in order to experience it as solid and material. When a thought form is created, it may not be seen as material or manifest, but it still exists as a body of energy.
The most common example of a thought form is that which a mob will generate. The mob mind will start with a couple people who are unhappy about something. They will cause other people to feel the same and their energy is then connected to the mob mind, which starts to escalate. After time the energy that is generated by the mob will start to take on a life of its own, it will connect the people and cause their minds and intentions to be focused on that one purpose. As more people join and more energy is fed to the thought form or Group Mind, it will grow and the emotions of the people are affected which leads to the mob moving as one body, as opposed to moving as individual people all trying to express the same thing. All members of the mob will think as one, and this is the thought form that is being fed, which feeds the members of the mob, creating one Group Mind. As soon as the mob has been separated and the people start to think as individuals again, they will often wonder how they got so caught up in the actions.
This classic example is what we would refer to, in many cases, as the Egregore. The Egregore is a thought form that acts to hold a group of people together. As thoughts are added to the Egregore, it grows, but it also allows those connected to the Current of the Egregore to access the knowledge of that group. It is the Group Mind, many individual minds all connected to a common mind. Jung referred to the Collective Consciousness, which we could suggest is an Egregore that encompasses all things, all thoughts, all ideas. This we could then conclude would be what many people consider to be God. That which is all things. However, this may suggest that it is the people on this planet that create God, and in a way they do, but God also creates the people, in a symbiotic relationship. As the Egregore is fed, so too do the people connected to it get fed.
And as the Great Egregore that is THE ALL exists and will continue to exist, so too do smaller Egregores. Each religion will have an Egregore, each school, each business, each society, etc., etc. As long as the group stay together and keep feeding the Egregore, it will remain and will grow.
In the magical sense the Egregore will exist with each Order, coven, study group, hof, etc. The members of the magickal group will be able to access the knowledge of the group through the Egregore. It is the god of the group and many Orders have named the Egregore, and they continue to worship it and feed it energy.
Another thought form is the Servitor. The definition of a servitor is a person who is at the beck and call of the master. When a magician creates a Servitor through a magical act, the Servitor is given a task to accomplish. Once that task has been completed or the Servitors life span has expired (in most cases the Servitor is given the task and a certain period of time to accomplish it in), then the Servitor is absorbed back into the magician.
The creation of Servitors is always very specific, whereas the Egregore develops over time and remains in existence until the Intent stops feeding it.
In the same lines as the Servitor we also have the Artificial Elemental. The differences are quite apparent. The Servitor is created from the personal power of the Magician, whereas the Artificial Elemental is created through the Elements themselves, those being Fire, Air, Water and Earth. In the metaphysical world we find beings called Elementals. These are the Salamanders, Sylphs, Mermaids, Nymphs, Gnomes, etc. Each one of them is constructed from a specific element. As humans we are made from all four elements, including Spirit, and so we can exist in this constructed world of ours which is also created from all the elements combined to form Earth. As an Elemental, and because of their very specific make up, to exist in this world is very difficult as the elements which oppose them are found to contradict their existence. Therefore, they exist in a parallel reality which can be crossed from this world and vice versa.
The reason I use the term Artificial Elemental in the case of a thought form is because the Elementals do not exist because humans think about them. The Artificial Elemental is an energetic being that is constructed by the Magician from one or more of the Elements. The purpose of the Artificial Elemental will determine which Elements are used.
There are many warnings about working with Thought Forms, more specifically Servitors, and for good reason. I made the following comment in the first paragraph: "Once the person stops thinking about it, there is no more intent for existence and so the energy that was feeding it dissipates and so does the thought form." However, this is not always true. In most cases, it is, but in some the Servitor will actually latch on to another source of energy to feed from. What this means is that once the time span has expired, or the Magician forgets, the Servitor continues to exist because the food source is coming from somewhere else besides the Magician. Never forget that once something exists, it has a level of consciousness. Maybe not quite like ours, but it can function as a thinking entity.
The other thing to remember is the way in which you treat these entities. Because you are the Master of the Servitor, many people think they can boss them around, punish them, treat them like dirt and generally show no regard for them what so ever, just because they are a body of energy that is there to do the Magician's bidding. A Servitor demands the same respect as any person you will meet on the street. You are the Master, but the Servitor is also your "child" as you birthed it, you created it and allowed it to grow. Treat it with respect and love it, but make sure it stays in line. If you kick it around and it does manage to find an independent food source, then it may just come back and show you what it thought of your treatment.
If you are a Clive Barker fan you may have read Ararat, and there is a very good example of a pissed off Servitor in there.
So, do what thou wilt, but play nicely.
This is a question that we all ask ourselves at least once in our lifetime. The answer to this foreboding question? Well, ultimately, Nothing. This annoys the Christian folk to no end and the Pagan folk sit there wondering why I am even discussing this topic as it is not relevant to anything but a monotheistic religion. Beep, wrong on all accounts.
If we look at (I am going to take a chance and say) ALL religions and spiritual paths, then there is a single force or power that is the primary undercurrent of existence. Many will speak of the Gods, and this question of “What is God?” is incredibly different to the question asked in a previous essay (which I will include here for convenience) of “Who are the Gods?” But many speak of the Gods, individual beings and entities that exist “apart” from us, existing as individuals just as you, me, and every other entity walking through this Cosmos. When we speak of God, however, we are referring to something completely different.
So, let’s get to the nuts and bolts. The word “God” is not a name, it is a title, a description we use for communication. It is much like the word “Lucifer” which denotes a god that is a light-bearer or light-bringer, and although we refer to Lucifer as being an old Roman Pagan god, there are many luciferi and lucifera such as Lugh as an example.
God is The ALL of the Hermetics, Old Dame Fate of the Traditional Cunning Folk spoken of by Roy Bowers. In every path and religion, there is a Supreme Force, an energy that permeates Everything and came from Nothing. A Power that is in, and is everything and nothing at the same time. When we refer to God being Every-Thing and No-Thing, we have to consider that although we experience this world as being solid, when we get down to the atomic level, there may be particles and sub-atomic particles, but an atom is made mostly of the ingredient of No-Thing, the closest representation being thought. And so, from No-Thing came Every-Thing, and in Every-Thing exists No-Thing.
In British Traditional Craft, Roy Bowers speaks of Old Dame Fate “spinning without motion”. This Force or Power is the Centre, and it is our quest to move closer to that Centre, however, what is the centre of anything? If we draw a circle on a piece of paper, where is the centre? We may look to the middle point of the circle and put a dot there and call that the centre, but as soon as you put a dot with your pencil, we give that dot dimension, and the centre itself has no dimension. Therefore, when we speak of the centre, we are speaking of the entire circle from that middle point extending out to its perimeter, and even beyond. The Cosmos is infinite, and so is the Centre.
We can also take this circle we have drawn and bring it into the imagery of a round-about found at a children’s park or playground. If you put a person on each segment of the round-about and spin it with everyone standing on the perimeter, you will all feel the force of the spin, throwing you out, pushing you from the middle. However, if you were all to move into the middle, then you feel the calm of the spin, even though the round-about has not slowed down. And so, Old Dame Fate is the Centre, she is the middle, spinning without motion, but also extending out to the Cosmos.
In Hermeticism, The ALL is also referred to as the Universal Mind. With this depiction we may consider that God created everything through thought, or God thought everything into being and keeps everything going through the mechanism of thought. This may seem a little abstract, but if we go back to the basic ingredient of the atom, it may not be so difficult to understand. Remember that we use words from our language database to describe things, but in some cases, it is somewhat lacking. Thought is not necessarily just that which we may think within our minds, it is energy. Thought, like radio waves, are a form of energy, and our bodies and all things around us, are energy, and so what we see as physical objects, are in a sense, the same as our own thoughts, all energy being projected and formed.
When we look at the Pythagorean Pentagram we find the letter Iota at the point of the pentagram which modern Occultists have come to label the fifth element of Spirit. Iota is the first letter of the Greek word “Idea” which means in English, idea, thought, but also form. In modern Occultism, Spirit or Æther is that element which envelops the other four, being Fire and Water which are bridged by Air and forming Earth, and so Spirit is that which is present in all. Thought, present in all things existing within the Cosmos and forming all things.
I was taught in Kabbalah that the first line of the Bible, which reads in our English translation as, “And God created Heaven and Earth” actually has 42 (it could have been 44) different interpretations in the Hebrew, one of them being, “And Mind created …”. So what is “Mind”? Mind is a thinking unit, and thought is energy, therefore Mind takes thought/energy and forms it into shape.
But now the real catch. Unless you know where, or guessed where I am going with this discourse, you may have considered up until now that God, Old Dame Fate, The ALL, or whatever other title or name you can give this Power, is separate from you and from me. But it is not. It is Every-Thing and No-Thing, and therefore it exists within and without all things. It is everything, including you and me and the neighbor, as well as the trees, the plants, the animals and the coffee, tea, juice or water you drank this morning. It is one flow of energy, not individual strands or balls. Ergo, everything is connected, and everything is one body with many cells, all acting in consensus to keep the body together. Some of those cells may try to reject the body and will form a cancer within it, but they will never be separate from it.
To conclude, everything is God, everything is Power flowing, changing, forever in motion. As the plant withers and dies the energy that formed that plant in consensus continues to move and flow and form a new thing. And so we come back to “What is God?”, and the answer is everything, you, me, all things, including the Gods that we worship, which takes us to the previous discourse I wrote asking “Who are the Gods?”. And the answer? They are beings, entities, bodies of energy just like the rest of us, but also of us, are us, and we are them and you are me and I am you.
Lee ‘Red Oak’ Johnson
Who are the Gods? – previous essay
Everyone is talking about the Gods, but who the hell are they? This obviously has many avenues available, and every one of us will follow, worship, praise, and believe in their own Gods, or set of Gods, or even just the one God. With so many cultures in the world, both past and present, we have a selection that encompasses a continent full of encyclopedias. But it is not just a case of which we select, or those that select us to work with them, but how we understand that relationship.
Before I start this discourse, let me scream from the rooftops that this is only an examination of possibilities. What I believe and what you believe will most probably be two completely different things, and we are all entitled to those beliefs. However, what I will be relating here may come as a shock to some, and will get that back hair raised, ready to attack. By all means, please attack. Nothing like a good ‘ol frolicking in the forest.
Many of us view the Gods as being separate from us. Some consider them archetypes, aspects of our own consciousness, and still others that the Gods are us, part of us, and we part of them. There is also the question of the nature of these beings that we call Gods. Are they malevolent or benevolent? I do consider that in many a case, these Gods are created in our own image. Let’s take an example here. Mildred worships Odin, and in her relationship with Odin she finds him to be loving, kind, helpful, always there to give advice and ready to be petitioned during spell work. Nothing wrong with that, except when we look at the older texts and the nature of Odin to his past worshippers. He was not a kind God, and being a War God, he demanded sacrifices in exchange for work done. So what is the real nature of Odin? Ah, therein lies the crux of this discourse. When looking at the European Gods in specific, they don’t really give a continental about us humans, except for Thunor/Thor, who is protector of Man and Gods. Do the Norse Gods come to our aid when we request it during our prayers? A sticky question actually. Considering they really don’t care too much for humans, I’d have to say no, but then it begs the question, who have people been contacting for so many centuries?
To delve into that question, let’s consider something first. No matter what religion you look at, when you delve deep enough, you will find a common theme. We are all connected. A lot of people may consider this statement to be in terms of our relationships, i.e. we are connected by love or even hate, but it is far more than this. Everything (as I always say) is energy. It doesn’t matter what you are looking at, whether it be your wife, husband, Aunt Agatha or the tree in your front garden, it is constructed of energy. What we see as tree with leaves and bark, is a construction of our minds, and we all see it through an agreement, a consensual reality that creates the tree. If however we were to See energy, then we would see lines or threads of pulsating power flowing up, down, in, out and around the tree. If it has been a while since you watched Matrix 3, then watch it again. Toward the end when Neo reaches the Machine City, in a state of blindness, he Sees everything as energy, lines of energy that move and flow. This is Reality. This energy, known in Anglo-Saxon terms as Wyrd, and in Kabbalistic terms as Avir and Ruchaniyut is never ending, it flows through, in and out of all things. In its form as Avir it is unformed and so it is that energy which is around you, whereas, when it enters you and forms the body you find yourself in, it is known as Ruchaniyut, i.e. realized form or potential. This energy, flowing in a constant flux and motion, connects everything, it is the same energy which flows through the person next to you, the cat in the room next door and the grass growing in your garden. Therefore, we all energy and the same energy, i,e, we are all connected and One.
So who are we talking to when we talk to the Gods? In my understanding, we are talking to ourselves, to a realized potential of who we are, and that which we are is Everything and No-Thing, God, YHVH, Old Dame Fate, The ALL, the Supreme Power that is All, Everything and at the same time, No-thing. We are all these things, but we also have individuality like cells in a body, all moving around and past each other, considering ourselves to be removed from everything, not seeing the Power that flows between us. We are the Gods, and they are us. And in that instance, we also create ourselves in the form of the Gods. Yes, they are as individual as we are to each other, but they are also us, connected, cells within a larger body, and if you consider that this larger body is possibly a single cell within a larger body of It’s reality, then the Cosmos just gets bigger and bigger. And through all these ever ending expanses of realities upon realities, we are all still connected, all being that energy which is flowing through everything imaginable.
TO begin with I would like to give you the methods for performing Meditation and using Breath Technique that are incredibly important to any magical or spiritual practice. These methods were taught to me from a Kabbalistic point of view, but they are not restrictive and can be used by anyone following any Path.
The methods we usually find in lessons and documentation pertaining to meditation are often found to be extremely tedious from the standpoint of bringing boring. We must remember that we are (well, I am and I think most people in this group will be) Western folk. Apart from a different physical framework as opposed to our Eastern Brothers, causing it to be a little more difficult to get into many of the positions for practice such as full lotus, we also need things to be a little more active. To sit in meditation for an hour and just focus on the tip of your nose is extremely difficult. We live in a fast food society and this tends to move across to all aspects of our life. I am not using this as an excuse but many people wonder why they don’t have the proper dedication to do the necessary work, and this is the answer. Therefore, instead of thinking we are useless at this or that because we can’t stick to it, why don’t we find methods that will allow us to stay interested? This comes in the form of active practices. Obviously when we start to make more actual progress in our work, we find that we have something to work for and do become more dedicated, but still, we remain part of the Western World, and must never forget that.
So, moving right along, here are the set of meditation practices that I have come to perform. For a better explanation and an actual visual demonstration which walks you through the practices step by step, you can always get my Meditation and Breath DVD Workshop.
When doing these practices the best way to sit is in an upright chair with back straight and feet planted firmly on the floor, facing West. The direction of west is merely a symbolic aspect of the Western Mystery Tradition, so you may prefer to face a different direction.
IN Hebrew there are three letters that are called the Mother Letters, those being Aleph, Mem and Shin. These three letters also correspond to the three active elements Air, Water and Fire, so when doing the actual breathing you will be breathing in the letter Aleph/Air and then breathing out Mem/Water which is on the right side of the head and Shin/Fire which is on the left side. With the elements on the sides of the head, this creates balance of opposing elements with Air bridging them in the middle. Water and Fire also correspond to Female and Male and in many esoteric documents dealing with energy flowing in the body you will find mention of the masculine and feminine sides of the body.
- Breath in with the sound of “AH”. As you do this your mouth will be open to produce the sound of AH, but the sound will be inhaled so it will be very breathy. As you breath in imagine yourself sitting in a sea of energy that you pull in through your anus to fill your body. This sea of energy is Avir which is Universal Energy.
- Pause briefly when you have breathed in and then breath out with another breathy sound of “MMMMSSSHHHHHH”, this being the letters Mem and Shin being breathed out. Whilst doing this breath the energy back out into the sea of Avir.
- Pause for as long as your body requires before breathing in again. We do not hold the breath, we pause, and this means that you allow the body to let you know when to breath. If you find that this pause between out and in breath becomes incredibly long, don’t panic, it is normal. The body will breath when it requires it.
- Repeat three times minimum.
TUNING AND TONING THE BODY
Following straight on from the Mother Breath we start to breath energy, Avir, into the body parts and then vibrate that energy within the body parts. To do this what we first need to accomplish is to smile warmly within the body part we are working with. What this means is that as you start, you picture your toes, and then you smile warmly inside them, actually sense and feel the warmth of your smile, and then open the pores like a flower and breath in with the AH breath, drawing Avir into the toes. If it helps, either picture a little mouth on each toe that is smiling warmly, or fill the toes with a warm golden light and feel that warm smile inside them.
Once we have breathed the Avir into the toes, then we breath out with a loud hum. This is the MMM sound with the noise. So as with the previous method you breathed the MMM out, this time you make the noise and you hum. As you hum, the energy in your toes is vibrated. You then pause between the breaths whilst moving onto the next body part, filling it with the warm smile, open up the pores like a flower and then breath the AH breath into the body part, and continue on that basis.
At first it is best to go through the smaller body parts, so you will follow this list one at a time:
Shins and calves
Anus (actually inside the anus)
Pelvis and buttocks (including hips)
Chest and lungs
Forearms and elbows
Wrists and hands with fingers
Back of neck
Scalp (from base of skull over the head to the top of the forehead)
Nose and sinuses
Mouth, cheeks and chin
When you become more practiced you can start to combine body parts into larger areas, such as toes, feet and ankles as one, then legs, then pelvis, then lower torso, etc. However, you will find that taking the smaller body parts and working through the slowly puts you in a much deeper state of meditation.
When you have been right through the body, focus on the entire body and breath in and out into the whole body, repeat three times.
PORE BREATHING THROUGH THE HANDS
Now for the fun part. In this practice you will actually feel energy between your hands. A lot of people try to develop this skill but don’t succeed. Well, if you have performed all of the previous meditations, you will definitely succeed.
- Slowly stand up from your chair with your hands dangling by your sides.
- Start to move your hands in extremely tiny circles, so small they are hardly visible. This stirs up energy around you hands and they may feel like the blood is rushing or being pulled from them down into the earth, or that they are just being pulled down with force.
- Then with an AH in breath, lift your hands slowly to be in front of you with palms facing each other about shoulder width apart.
- When you breath out you will hum and See or imagine energy pouring out of the palms of your hands and building up between them. This energy is called Ruchaniyut, or Spiritual Energy.
- Then breath in with the AH breath and pull Avir into the palms of your hands.
- Breath out again with a hum and push the Ruchaniyut out of the palms of your hands.
- Carry on doing the in and out breath. What you start to feel is that when you breath Avir into the palms they will move together like magnets. Start the process by moving them slowly together by yourself and it will then take over. When breathing out, the hands will move apart.
- After a few breaths move your hands in and out very slightly as if you were holding a beach ball and pressing on it. You will feel a resistance between your hands.
- If you do not feel it very strongly, try turning your hands 90 degrees in opposite directions with palms facing and push in that position.
- When done, breath in with an AH breath and move your hands slowly back down to your sides. You will feel a pull again.
Then sit down and either finish the meditation by stretching, or continue with any work that you wish to perform. What we usually follow with in Temple is spontaneous singing which we will discuss later.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
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