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Posts Tagged ‘witchcraft’

I was talking with a friend recently (I won’t name names, though I don’t think she reads this blog) and she mentioned that I needed to write more about my relationship with Ing and what kind of work I do and how I see and interact with him.

I’ve picked up a copy of Richard North’s Heathen Gods in Old English Literature, which has a huge section on Ing in it, and connects him securely to the sacrificial king myth which is so central to my practice.

The hard thing though, is that while I can talk about him as this old, primal, almost alien force – this God of death and rebirth, of prosperity and providence, of sex and death and the ancestors, the God of the World… I can’t really put into words what it’s like to actually experience that presence? I do know that the more I work with him the older and stranger he gets, and that passing him off as Freyr “the god with the big dick” is overlooking something powerful and deep.

And, in some ways, working with him reminds me of the kinds of things I read in Peter Grey’s Apocalyptic Witchcraft – that he’s both in and outside of civilization, that he’s deviant and counter cultural and deeply sexual but also deeply tied to the dead and the elves. I’ve been “told” that one of the reasons I don’t deal much with other powerful forces among the Good People is that Ing is such a strong presence in my life. He’s the Lord of the Elves as well as all of the other things he is.

My relationship with him is ineffable – I can’t put it into words what it’s like to serve as the priest of this deity, to carry symbols of him, and his work. To know that he is the Boar, the Sheaf, the Sacrifice – John Barleycorn who falls and rises and falls and rises. The prosperous god of the mound, who dispenses and rules over frith and community.

It’s such a complex thing to try to untangle. And maybe I just need to take it one piece at a time, but I’d like to get out there the idea that there’s so much more to working with Fro Ing, with Freyr, than just fertility and sexuality (though he does have those aspects, and if you happen to be LGBT, know that is welcome in his service as well).

So this is me making a loose promise to talk more about Ing. Maybe as I read more, I’ll have more concrete things to say. And maybe this will just be me spouting a bunch of UPG. But at least it’ll be out there – UPG that others can take and try on and experiment with.

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I think it’s about time I repost and update my daily practice, since it’s been a few years since I’ve talked about it, and it has evolved a bit. First, though, my altar has some new items that I want to show off!

Altar - April 2016

This is just the working surface (which you can tell is used, by the amount of ash that I continually fight to keep cleaned up). I have a shelf full of deity and spirit icons/tokens above the tree, but it’s hard to get a picture of both that looks good.

The new items are the incense burner on the left, and the oil lamp in the middle.

Both are made by blacksmith David Cohen, at Dark Moon Forge in Austin. I’m lucky enough to know David in person, having met him at the Texas Imbolc Retreat the last two years, and he is a wonderful artisan. I purchased the incense burner from him last year, and then a few weeks ago he was posting on Facebook about the new oil lamps he was making to gauge interest. Typically he doesn’t do mail-order items, preferring to sell his wares in person in the Austin area, but I asked very nicely, and he mailed me my new lamp.

I had to wait a few days to get the lamp oil in (I’m using Firefly Clean Lamp Oil, since it’s odorless and smokeless), which was agonizing, but I’m SO happy with how it looks. I’ve tried various configurations of candles for the fire representation on my altar over the years, and never found anything I truly loved. I also had problems with candles getting weird and needing to be replaced because they were only lit for 5-10 minutes at a time. This lamp will burn for any amount of time, and I just love the leaf handle (which does allow me to carry it around, but since it’s an open container of lamp oil, I’ll have to be super careful with anything like that). I still love and burn lots of candles, but for my altar, I see myself using this oil lamp for a good long time.

Regardless, if you happen to be in the Austin, TX area, I can’t recommend Dark Moon Forge highly enough.

As for my daily practice, I first posted about it in June of 2014 as I was working on my first pass at the Liturgy Practicum class, before I had started on the Clergy Training Program. I typically do this practice at my mid-morning “coffee” break (I don’t drink coffee, but I like to get up around 10:30 or 11 and stretch a bit.)

Not a lot has changed, but I have added to it slightly, and I still feel like it’s not quite finished.

(Three breaths to center self)

Hail to you, Hertha, Earth Mother – may I always be supported as I walk in your ways.

The earth is below me, the heavens above me,
The flame lights the way! (Light lamp)

The earth is below me, the heavens above me,
The well flows within! (Fill/touch well)

The earth is below me, the heavens above me,
The tree spans the world! (Bless tree)

Let us pray with a good fire! (Light incense)

Eostre, Guardian of the Gates of Dawn, hold fast these gates that I may speak into the worlds.

I make offering to the gods.
May their power be with me this day. (Cense altar shelf)

I make offering to the ancestors.
May their wisdom be with me this day. (Cense altar shelf)

I make offering to the nature spirits.
May their blessing be with me this day. (Cense altar shelf)

The waters support and surround me
The land extends about me
The sky stretches out above me
At the center burns a living flame
May all the kindreds bless me.
May my worship be true
May my actions be just
May my love be pure
Blessings and honor and worship to the holy ones.

Mighty, Noble, and Shining Ones, thank you for your blessings and your presence.
Eostre, Guardian of the Gates of Dawn, thank you for keeping fast the ways.
Hertha, Earth Mother – thank you for upholding me always.

(Three breaths to center self)
(Extinguish lamp)

I always think it needs a daily rune draw, but I haven’t managed to figure out a good way to do that. If I leave my runes on my altar, I forget about them when I need them for ritual or study group meetings, and though I have a journal specifically for readings, I never seem to remember to write down what I drew. (I have a working memory like a rusty sieve these days.)

I also feel like I should make some kind of offering to the deities I’m working with by name (Ing Frea, Hela, Frige), as well as to my ancestors and house spirits, but I also don’t want to have a 15 minute practice. I’ll never remember to do the whole thing if it’s going to take more than just a few minutes. Perhaps I need to have a weekly practice to make specific offerings. Or maybe I need an evening practice to do?

I’ve talked to other ADFers, and they seem to have more “built in” practices – an offering to the ancestors with breakfast coffee, and the like. I have trouble starting anything like that due to just sheer forgetfulness, but with all the beings I’d like to be building *ghosti with, maybe I need to just send myself a bunch of reminders!

Anyway, this is obviously a work in progress – I try to balance as much oomph as I can get into a small bit of time, knowing that I’m most likely to actually do the offerings that way, and so far it works nicely.

Any thoughts you might have on polishing this into something a little more “complete” feeling would be really nice!

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Last night some friends and I (Hi Yngvi!) did a group ritual to celebrate Hallows. It went well, minus one quick trip to the kitchen for a forgotten offering, but it brought to mind some of what I miss about previous ritual groups I’ve worked with, and something I feel I’m missing out on as a solitary Druid.

In the Core Order, you do a lot of work to set up a ritual – warding, honoring, recreating the cosmos and hallows, etc. Then you welcome in the Kindreds… and then it seems like there’s a short working where you make offerings to the deities or spirits of the occasion and then it’s right on to the omen and blessing part of the ritual, take everything down and you’re done. The middle part – the actual working in honor of the high day – is fairly short (or nearly nonexistent) compared to the rest of the work.

In my previous work, there was always setup involved, distributed to members of the group (or done by the leaders, depending on the step), but the main focus of the work was definitely on the High Day working – and it was definitely WORKING. There was decidedly magic involved. Maybe because my previous group was Wiccan, and a Witch Turns The Wheel, but I miss that feeling of purpose, and of magic, in my ADF rituals.

I also miss sitting with my groupmates after the working as we discussed the working and all things magical, winding down the energy and grounding. Last night we did a small ancestor toast, but that was really it, and we were on to dismissing the hallows and taking down the ritual. There are definitely reasons for that – some of which I didn’t know before hand (like we were only doing one round of toasting, so I should name everyone in the first round instead of just starting with the first one and then being like “whoops! now we’re done?”). Plus we were short on time. But it still felt like the “guts” of the ritual weren’t the important focus that they could have been. (This is not a criticism of my friends’ ritual skills – I was co-leading the ritual, so it’s just as much my fault!)

I am finally getting to where I have parts of the COoR that I use consistently (though I just got a new ritual template from another Anglo-Saxon Druid, and I’m totally stealing parts of that for my own use), and there are even parts I can improv offhand without a script, but I haven’t found a good way to feel the “magic” of High Day rituals.

Maybe that’s just a difference in focus – the high days are about honoring and giving gifts and receiving blessings, not about actively, magically turning the wheel of the year. The ADF rituals I’ve done where I’ve had magical workings to do – especially my oath rite – have been much more powerful. High days feel more like a ritual of obligation and less like they spring from a magical need. It feels like a Druid honors, offers, celebrates… but a Witch works.

Perhaps I need to work on combining some of my previous path into my ADF workings, and elaborate on the “work” part of the ADF COoR – it’s definitely got a spot built into the ritual format, but it’s not a required part of the high day. As I work out how to meld the Neopagan Wheel of the Year with the Anglo-Saxon holidays (which actually line up pretty well – no surprise there), I think I may be feeding some more Neopagan magical work into the ADF celebratory rituals. I’m more driven to do rituals that have purpose, and “Yay Ancestors, Have a Beer!” isn’t quite the purpose that I need from my rituals.

As much as I’m a working Druid (and intend to continue to be so), deep down I think I may still be a Witch – and a Witch Turns the Wheel.

Blessed Hallows!

 

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One of the email lists I’m part of has been having a really interesting discussion about the difference between prayer and doing magic. I firmly believe there’s a place for both in Paganism, and as I read more about Druidry, I’m hoping to find a balance between the two there as well.

To me, prayer is talking to/with the Kindreds (Gods, Ancestors, Nature Spirits) – prayer is essentially about communication, though it can be about asking for things. But asking for things through prayer removes the control from the situation. You’ve asked your Deity for something, and now you wait to hear their answer. (Which is a little like meditation – prayer is the talking part, meditation can be a listening part (though it can also be other things))

Magic, on the other hand, is taking a situation into your own control. It says “I’m going to do X, Y, and Z, with things A, B, and C, in accordance with my will and energy, to create result Q.” I might ask for a blessing on the work from Diety/ies, but I am the one doing the work, and I am therefore responsible for the result.

In a metaphysical sense, I see magic as a way of stacking the deck of events, an idea I got from the blog Rune Soup. Basically, in a world where any outcome is possible, magic stacks the deck in favor of the outcome going a certain way. The more out of control the possibilities, the bigger the magic has to be to have any affect. My favorite example is the lottery example, which says that if your odds are 1 in 6 million to win, and you do magic really well, and reduce those odds to 1 in 1 million, you’re still likely not going to win the lottery, even though the magic worked.

So far, in ADF, I’ve heard a lot about prayer, especially as it relates to piety (which I see as both prayer and devotional action). The ADF-Dedicants and ADF-Discuss lists have talked about conversational prayer, petitionary prayer, and especially offertory prayer – prayer used as part of an offering of praise. Though spontaneous prayer is definitely common, the major rituals are often formulaic or formula driven prayers, and Ceisiwr Serith’s Book of Pagan Prayer is quoted often as a starting point. The Book of Pagan Prayer is a collection of prayers to various Dieties for specific occasions, and many of the prayers are lovely and powerful.

They are not, however, acts of will-driven magic. I’d like to think there’s a part of ADF that would have a space for magic as well.

ADF ritual is, in some ways, thematically magical – you do the offerings to get the blessings, ideally the blessings that you are asking for. The *ghosti relationship that defines how ADF relates to its gods encompasses both being a good guest and being a good host, and the reciprocal hospitality that goes along with it. This can be argued as being a form of magic – you’re not just begging for something, you’re building a relationship whereby you can ask things of the Gods and they can ask things of you. Still, it’s not a personal-responsibility sort of system at its core. Yes you’re responsible for making the offerings, but you’re still at the whim of the Gods when it comes to what blessings you receive. If you’re asking for Patience, you may find yourself more patient… or you may (more likely) find yourself in situations that try your patience mightily, and have to figure it out for yourself.

I’m looking for a system that has space both for magical work and for prayer – for creating a deep relationship with the Gods, for petitioning the Gods for blessings, and for working to create change around me. I can see situations where I might do both prayer AND magic for something.

Say, for example, I’m looking for a new job. In addition to doing the “fill out job applications and send them in” ritual, I might pray for the foresight to find openings around me, but I might also do magic to open new pathways and do strong sending magic on the applications before I mail them out/deliver them. Before an interview, I might pray for comfort and reduction in nerves, but also do some sympathetic magic to sweeten the relationship between myself and the interviewer, so that I make the most favorable reaction. I’d be doing divination around all of this to determine if something is the right path for me going forward, or to help me see the unseen in a new situation.

Ideally, I’d be using my own will and the power I can raise myself to direct change, and asking for additional power and blessings to aid that work from the Gods. They may choose not to aid me, but I am still the one initiating the work, and still the one ultimately responsible for the outcome. This seems very different than asking the Gods to fix or change something for me.

Which comes down to my interactions with the COoR.

The Core Order of Ritual is a devotional format designed to enact the basic “magic” of Druidry – the *ghosti relationship of offerings and blessings. There’s a section in the end, after the receiving of blessings, where there’s a note that “any magical workings should be conducted here”.

If I’m honest, I find that a little disruptive so far. The state of mind that I enter to devote my time, prayer, praise, and offerings to the Kindreds is not the same state of mind that I enter to work magic. Maybe I’ve just not experienced the true energy of a well-done COoR rite yet (which is possible, I’ve only experienced my own), but I find that I’m wanting to work magic in a different context. Not even that I’m looking to cast circles and do Neopagan like magic. More like I’m interested in Traditional Witchcraft type magic, with sympathetic magic and symbols and sigils and herbs and candles and lots of home-grown energy sent out in the direction of some change.

As a solitary Druid, I’m working my own magic on my own time and schedule, so I can do that magic separately or in a ritual as I so desire. However, I don’t know how well a very personal magical working would go in a large group setting like a Grove. Magic works best when it is focused and well-directed, and a congregational style setting isn’t really one where I see getting focused and well-directed results, even in a group with the best intentions. It’s hard enough with a small coven of Witches who are all used to working together and who are well briefed on the imagery and chants and symbols beforehand! The advantage of a group is that you can tap into more energy, but without good focus and an agreed upon, specifically defined result, you get fuzzy magic. And fuzzy magic makes for fuzzy results.

Maybe this is possible in a small Druid setting more than it would be in a more congregational style grove ritual. I imagine there are both types of gatherings, just as there are in any community-oriented religion. That still means separating magic from the COoR though. (And there’s no rule that you have to use the COoR all the time either, so maybe my focus on that is unnecessary.)

So how does this all fit together into Druidry? Do I just separate my magic from my prayer and devotional rituals, since I see them as different things, or is there a new kind of magic I need to learn, a kind that fits into the COoR better?

Obviously a balanced practice has both prayer and magic, and I want to think there’s room for both in Druidry. I’m just having trouble finding the place where magic fits.

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