Archive for the ‘divination’ Tag

Steps toward Elemental Rebalancing

In the previous post I wrote:

With covid, wildfires, floods and political turmoil, the U.S. exhibits profound imbalances in all four Elements. With air transmission of the virus and a mental haze surrounding our responses, with fire in the west and our over-heated rhetoric, with water leaving its channels in flood and drought, and our emotions swamped, and with stubborn disagreement about whose land this is and how we can best inhabit it together, Druids, we have our work cut out for us.

It was one of those moments when the blindingly obvious actually became visible. We’ve all had those perceptions, and wondered why until now we hadn’t seen them in terms that made their focus clear. And yes, it would be nice to think that a clarified and clarifying perception is all I need to move forward. But as you and I also know, by the time we perceive something clearly, we’ve almost always been working on it for a while already, and we usually stand somewhere around midway on the particular leg of the path we’re walking. The next half of the journey awaits us.

Deborah Lipp writes in her Way of Four Spellbook that Spirit

is what happens when all four elements meet and combine. Spirit is the quintessence, the “fifth essence,” the original elemental whole from which the other elements emerged. Elementals have only their individual qualities. For example, Gnomes will only be Earth, and are incapable of acting in any way but an Earthy way; they won’t feel or be willful. And Salamanders will only and forever be Fire; we cannot ask them to be stable or exercise self-control. But people, and other beings with spirit, have the capacities of all four elements, and the freedom to grow and explore in any direction (pg. 16)

By devoting myself to a particular element, I’ll certainly see results. That’s also how imbalances result: push hard into too much of a good thing and soon I’m no longer in “good thing” territory. We may tend to think that only skilled users of magic obtain results, when almost anyone can and does manifest them — just not especially balanced ones. We’re all magicking ourselves into and out of situations constantly. It just may not be particularly gracefully or intentionally or lovingly.

Lipp notes:

… heavy work in a single element — such as several Earth spells over a period of time unbalanced by other elemental work — might call forth the presence of the appropriate elemental. It is important to pay attention to signs of excessive elemental activity in your life (pg. 19).

We can and should certainly work for elemental balance. Earth, air, fire, water — diet, exercise, staying hydrated, work, routines, “getting enough fresh air”, partners, pastimes, practices — these are almost the definition of the whole ” self-help” genre, the workshops and guides and supplements, the exercises and fixes, the “one-size-fits-all” that almost never does. Balance means something different for each of us.

We’ve all had the experience, too, of a remedy that does work — for a time. Then eventually we need to tinker, adjust, modify, adapt — or yield at last to the need to change, or do a complete overhaul. “People, and other beings with spirit, have the capacities of all four elements, and the freedom to grow and explore in any direction”. We might add that people have the freedom and also the need to grow and explore in any direction.

I’ve found it most helpful to begin with Spirit — because that’s where balance originates. Starting with any other element means I’m guessing that’s where I should work. But it’s different with Spirit. In fact, if I’m looking for a definition of Spirit these days, that works pretty well — “where balance originates”. You can see from that definition that working out its consequences in each of our lives may well take different forms. Your balance isn’t mine, just like your diet isn’t. But your balance is much larger and more encompassing than what you put into your body — than any one element — and we can see common threads and components when we compare our journeys.

What does all of this mean in practical terms?

1. I can take an “elemental inventory”. Where has my attention been recently? Does any particular element seem to dominate my experience, concerns, actions, feelings, thoughts? Is that element one that I need to cultivate and bring into play, or one that’s already present and may need to be scaled back?

2. I can explore a solar and lunar inventory as well. Is there a time in my day that needs attention or love? Are mornings hard to get going? Are evenings lost in fatigue? Has a quick “pick-me-up” started to “put me down” instead? Are there monthly — moon — issues that keep recurring? How can I recognize and address and honor some of the larger cycles in my life? What does my birthday mean to me and bring into awareness? What elemental features does it highlight or emphasize? How about other anniversaries and yearly cycles?

3. What ancestral forces are at work? Ask for insight into ones you might be overlooking. How are you yourself becoming an ancestor as you live your life? We’re all working on it — we hardly waltz into exalted ancestor status just by dropping this physical form in death.

4. What “either-ors” and binaries in your life need a good Druidic ternary or third component to open them up and remove them from a cycle that no longer feels productive? What’s a missing third component? What tensions include an overlooked factor that may clarify and illuminate them? What’s one small thing I can do differently? And what difference does that make?

5. How’s your dream life? Yes, many people think they don’t recall their dreams, and that may well be true, so how is the dream content manifesting in other ways — since it always will? Our hidden lives want to connect with our apparent lives and vice versa, and not be left out or ignored.

6. What numbers or other patterns and dynamics are manifesting in your life? Are you seeing a lot of fives or threes or sixes? These can show up anywhere — odometer reading on your car, dates on the calendar, telephone numbers, billboards, license plates, etc. (I just got a new cell phone number yesterday, and am working out the waking dream of its numeral significance.)

7. What ways and avenues and channels do you have in place in your life for answers to any of these things to reach you? We each develop strategies to cultivate insight and intuition and discovery, and we can each find and explore new ones, too. Maybe you daydream in the shower, or maybe music helps you open up to non-verbal wisdom. Maybe a song lyric or meme reaches you with an insight that resonates. A friend’s casual comment, or a divination your carefully work with. A dream practice, or daily ritual, or fortune cookie. Prayer, meditation, chant. The “chance” detour on your way to somewhere else that brings you a new encounter, road sign, time for reflection, etc.

8. With so much attention on “waking up” and “wake-up calls”, how about some “sleep down” time as well? As one hemisphere of the planet moves deeper into the dark half of the year, even as the other is waking up into spring and summer, how can we use this shifting dynamic that is always taking place in ourselves as well? What parts of us need to make this shift, into rest and restoration, as well as animation and activity? Each hemisphere isn’t one thing only — both these tendencies still manifest. As above, so below; as within, so without.

9. Where (and how, and when) does Spirit manifest in my life? It’s present for everyone, and despite some millennia of bad theology and teaching, Spirit isn’t — or need not be — a matter of “belief”. My stomach digests and my liver purifies my blood without any need for “belief” on my part, thank the gods. Spirit manifests quite as concretely and specifically for each of us, and in ways it pays to seek out and honor and relish.

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31 Days of Lunasa: Day 9 — Temperance

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The third card of my draw is Temperance from the major arcana. Here again Kat Black’s collage of medieval art has assembled a remarkable image. How is temperance winged? Not why, but how?

As the final element and resolution of the first two in a series, the third component of a triad is not merely a combination but a transformation. Analytically: thesis, antithesis and synthesis. Spiritually, something more. We are all much more than our components, being living conscious beings.

The Page of the second card has brought word to the seated figure of the Four of Coins, a representation of where I began, or where my consciousness was when I drew the cards. Already I’ve moved on, of course — we all do; we don’t sit still, though sometimes it can feel like it. What manifests as a result? A winged feminine figure. More than a third of the obligatory tarot booklet that deck creator Kat Black includes in the boxed set gives sources for the composite photoshopped images. The figure is initially a nun, and the wings come from another source. The addition is literal inspiration — the consequence of opening to an elemental energy for transformation, something we each do every day in one form or another (that’s how we live).

If the Four of Coins can release the materiality of his outlook — and he’s seated, pretty firmly entrenched in it, by all appearances — he can transform into his winged potential. Between Death and the Devil is Temperance. Moderation in all things, counsels the deck booklet, a common enough reading, very appropriate, too. A time to enjoy equilibrium. Flanked by death and the devil, two strongly transformational cards, temperance is an apex of seeming calm. The Page as middle card is the hinge, its gifts (as I noted in the previous post) youthful animal energy and change, transformation, travel.

Winged. So for a start at least, I pay attention to birds. We’ve let our small rural lot grow wilder this year, the berry-bushes spreading, the variety of birds greater, mosses heavy in the shaded areas, with all the rain of the past two months. (The eastern imbalance is too much water, with flooding and loss of property here to mirror the drought and fire of the western U.S.)

Birds heard, often, but with so much tree cover, less often seen. Listening, the counsel echos. Keep listening. What we hear so often precedes what are able to see.

Josephine McCarthy in her Magic of the North Gate observes:

Remember, your imagination is only an interface, it sends out signals that spirits can decipher and creates a window in your consciousness whereby the beings can interface with you (pg. 111).

I know I tend to think of imagination as “mine” rather than a shared space we offer — or we can offer — for connection and service. The care-taking I mentioned at the beginning of this 31-day series doubly applies to imagination. I know I have to attend to care-taking my consciousness. So many beings and forces these days want a piece of me. (We can easily locate and identify people who have agreed to be nibbled and snacked on by forces they’d never let in their front doors, if they shone the full light of their consciousness on them.) All the more reason a regular spiritual practice, whatever form ours may take, is essential for sanity and survival.

With all the talk about “freedom” these days, we frequently ignore our own spiritual freedom. Sometimes I’ve made fun of the state motto of bordering New Hampshire: “live free or die”. More accurately, it’s live free and live — it’s the only way we truly do live, as free spiritual beings.

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31 Days of Lunasa: Day 8 — Page of Wands

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The second card of three, from Kat Black’s marvelous Golden Tarot. I don’t read frequently from this deck, but it always offers unexpected richness when I do.

The second in my three-card spread:

To the image of myself sitting outside the city walls (see yesterday’s post) comes the page on foot, three rabbits nearby on the road — the nearness of animal life. His staff is coming into leaf — a living staff. Behind him, fire. Youth, animal spirits, fire, travel or journeying, all coming to challenge the sitting figure to own his royal potential, his crown with three points — matching the three rabbits?

This is a useful prod — I’ve been feeling dis-spirited. To get re-spirited has become an increasingly clear quest I need to undertake — it will not (or not any longer) happen by itself.

What do I need to attend to? Fire, symbolic and literal. This fire festival season is an apt interval — all four of the Celtic festivals of Imbolc, Beltane, Lunasa and Samhain are fire festivals, after all.

The Lunasa meditation for Sunday in Matthews’ Celtic Devotional includes this self-clarification: “May the tides of change sweep away all that is outworn and strengthen whatever is eternal in my life” (pg. 110).

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31 Days of Lunasa: Day 3 — Ravens

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Part of the point of this series is to put in a period of steady writing. As a spiritual practice, it has much to recommend it. The commitment gets things into words that wouldn’t otherwise arrive there. And if you’re a Druid on top of that, you naturally get at least some things that are Druidic into words, too.

The theme I thought would jump-start me was berrying. But all day, nothing was stirring. I found myself avoiding this blog altogether. (Just day three and he’s dead in the water, mutters the inner censor.) Yes, I probably could have gone out to our half-wild blackberry bushes in the back yard, taken a picture, and found in that interaction at least my triggering subject. Poet Richard Hugo writes in his delightful 1979 book The Triggering Town:

A poem can be said to have two subjects, the initiating or triggering subject, which starts the poem or “causes” the poem to be written, and the real or generated subject, which the poem comes to say or mean, and which is generated or discovered in the poem during the writing. That’s not quite right because it suggests that the poet recognizes the real subject. The poet may not be aware of what the real subject is but only have some instinctive feeling that the poem is done.

Young poets find it difficult to free themselves from the initiating subject. The poet puts down the title: “Autumn Rain.” He finds two or three good lines about Autumn Rain. Then things start to break down. He cannot find anything more to say about Autumn Rain so he starts making up things, he strains, he goes abstract, he starts telling us the meaning of what he has already said. The mistake he is making, of course, is that he feels obligated to go on talking about Autumn Rain, because that, he feels, is the subject. Well, it isn’t the subject. You don’t know what the subject is, and the moment you run out of things to say about Autumn Rain start talking about something else. In fact, it’s a good idea to talk about something else before you run out of things to say about Autumn Rain.

As with so many human crafts and skills, each has much that wise observers learn they can transfer — or maybe transpose — to living a life. The equation isn’t always one-to-one. We’ve become accustomed in the last century to photographs. We point to an image of ourselves frozen on a a flat phone screen or hard-copy print-out and declare “that’s me” without thinking much about how strange such a statement is. I can be both “here” and “there”, in the same way that human beings in the Hebrew Bible are made in the “image of God”, both divine and not at all. The image both is and isn’t the same as the thing it images. The triggering subject often works similarly, pointing us beyond. I start a blogpost about berrying and I know at this point that the title and possibly some ghosts of ideas will linger in the draft folder on WordPress. That idea got me onto my blog. A starting point, a seed crystal. A prompt. But that’s not the current title.

My wife and I were sitting out back eating diner an hour ago when we heard a series of gronks emanating from the front yard. She hadn’t paid much attention to such calls before, though I know she’s heard them, and she couldn’t identify the creature making them. What IS that? she said. As the calls became more insistent, I knew that Raven was asking for my focus. One call probably wouldn’t have been enough to break through. But a series of them did. What made the conversation even more interesting and significant is that we’d just been talking about ravens, among the other birds that frequent our hilltop, including waxwings as they migrate north and south, bluebirds that occasionally nest here, and an assortment of woodpeckers.

As a bird with world-wide associations and symbolism, the Raven naturally lends itself to varied interpretation. While we needn’t discount such ready hints and clues, we don’t need to ascribe to them invariant significance either. Google “the name raven” and you’ll dredge a surprisingly muddled set of potential meanings and mis-meanings suitable for any bias. Your best friend means something quite different to you than to his parents, children, co-workers, the pedestrian he or she cut off in traffic, and so on. An actual being interacts with so many others, and picks up meanings and interpretations like carrion attracts flies. The simile is intentional — the Raven is a messenger or guide between realms in very many cultures, including the realm of the dead. But as Hamlet quips to his mother, “Tis not alone my inky cloak … that can denote me truly”. Meanings can be slippery things. Check it out before you check it in.

This particular raven was going about his own business. While simultaneity put us both in proximity and brought my wife and me to hear his cries, the raven doesn’t have to “mean something” to have profound significance. What did my conversation with my wife “mean” to him? Is he now divining in a book of Raven Wisdom to learn what his recent interaction with two humans meant? (Maybe he is!) We were brief interactions in a cosmos stuffed with them every instant. Wisdom can help us learn from our interactions.

For one thing, a raven close by could be a sign that the owl pair nesting up the hill from us hasn’t decimated the local bird population. For another, “Crows, ravens, magpies, and jays are not just feathered machines, rigidly programmed by their genetics. Instead, they are beings that, within the constraints of their molecular inheritance, make complex decisions and show every sign of enjoying a rich awareness”, notes the Wikipedia entry for common raven. My inclination, rooted in decades of practice, is to remain alert for future appearances, other coincidences, (dis)confirmation of speculations, and direct inquiry in meditation. Raven, what do you want to say to me?

Call this “Raven divination” if you want to. It’s also a form of creative play. The universe seems to play catch with meanings, tossing them towards us to see how many we’ll even notice, let alone return.

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The Case of the Missing P

The ogham alphabet, which some contemporary Druids and Pagans use in divination, served writers of early Irish for about half a millennium, starting in the 400s. The writing system consists of mostly straight lines, well-adapted for incising letters on wood and stone, which keep saying “we don’t do curves”.

Ogham stone, Rathass Church, Kerry, Ireland./Wikipedia Images.

You can read scholarly speculation about ogham’s origins here on Wikipedia and elsewhere. Accounts in the later medieval Lebor Gabala Erenn (“The Book of the Taking of Ireland”) and the Ogam Tracts variously attribute its origins to the god Ogma/Ogmios and to wise Celtic ancestors.

Among other modern writers, Robert Graves (1895-1985) launched the ogham into the modern world in his book, The White Goddess. Did he know what he was doing? Well, it’s subtitled A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth. Depending on your point of view, that’s utterly contradictory, or an image of our common human reality. Things rarely have a single “cause” but instead are part of a web or network of beings and energies, each aspect or person or deity contributing its portion.

Whatever you make of its origins, as a proven divination system the ogham can open doors to insight.

But as a friend of mine recently discovered, it has some practical disadvantages in non-magical use. For one thing, it has no letter to represent p, in part because Irish had no need for a letter to represent this sound, which disappeared over the course of its development. Historical linguistics offers examples: Proto-Indo-European *pater “father” became early Irish *athir; PIE *pisk– “fish” became (modern) Irish iasc, and so on. (With Christianity, Irish came to adopt the Latin alphabet, convenient for all the words beginning with p that it eventually borrowed from Latin.)

I find in these things some helpful reminders. Sometimes what works — works well, works wonderfully — on one level of reality may not fit well or at all on another level. Deploying the gift of a magical alphabet like ogham, I might discover something profound about my purpose in this life, but not be able to write the word “purpose” using that same alphabet.

Though a p is a possible sound, you might say, I may not need it in particular — there are other sounds, a whole spectrum. (Arabic, for instance, doesn’t have a p either, and gets along fine. From the perspective of many other languages, how can English speakers possibly have a language without the “raspy throat sound” in Bach or Ḥanukkah? [That’s a velar or pharygneal fricative, if you want to show off.] English used to have that sound — the evidence lies in all those archaic spellings with -gh- like “night, light, sought, though, bright, laugh” etc. And the way languages keep changing, we could one day have that sound back again.)

I fall into a ready trap if I expect the cosmos to line up obediently according to my partial understanding of it. (Don’t ask me how many times I’ve had to re-learn that lesson. And by the looks of things, I’m not yet done, either.) When I asked Ogma for help with a constructed Celtic language, I attempted to align with an energy connected to language and words. The results reflect both the blessing the god was willing to offer, and also my human effort. Centuries from now, if someone attempts to “explain the origins” of “my” language, could they even come close to the muddy, messy reality of human interest, a spiritual door opening, a gift of inspiration, some experience with Celtic languages, time dedicated to manifestation, and who knows what else in the mix? I may want my magic pure and my life comprehensible, but they refuse to cooperate.

Maybe because the p’s are missing.

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“Find the Right Tree”

says a line in my current OBOD Ovate gwers (Welsh for “lesson”). No, I’m hardly giving anything away. Or at least no more than I often do here on this blog. (Thus I fulfill the wise counsel of Lew Welch’s 1969 poem “Theology” to “Guard the Mysteries! Constantly reveal them!”)

Though the instruction may sound peremptory or authoritarian, the judgment about any “rightness” is — no surprise — left to the student. Thus are we led and set free in equal measure by spiritual teachings that prove their worth in such encounters.

In practice it’s not so much different from deciding which flavour of ice cream you’d like as you stand in front of the menu board. The quality of your decision will be reflected in your choice, and in your subsequent experience. You are not separate from your situation, but an integral part of it.

Or to enlarge the kind of choice a little, not too much: who will you commit to and spend your life with, if you choose to do such a thing? How do you recognize the — or just a — “right” one? What can your recognition teach you? What qualities of rightness met your judgment, sense, desire, will, reason, imagination, etc.? As interesting, perhaps, do these same qualities arise today when you recognize rightness?

Curiously enough, any rightness isn’t for hoarding. It’s rarely some kind of endpoint where I arrive, having won the prize, and where I can now rest, fulfilled, accomplished, self-realized, gone to the other shore, salvation assured, gold crown in hand, halo proudly pressing on my brow. Much more often, it’s for giving away, for planting, for setting in the earth to manifest, so that more rightness can arrive. It’s the rightness that arrives, not me. I take this as a good thing. When any rightness arrives, I can serve it, rather than the other way around.

Sometimes the bright tree is also the right one. Or vice versa. Maple this a.m.

Here I’m with a maple I transplanted two years ago from where it had sprouted right next to the foundation of our house. This is the first autumn its leaves haven’t simply fallen, but turned bright red first, in best sugar maple fashion.

Sometimes the “right” tree is one you’ve already connected with. Sometimes it’s one you’ve yet to learn from. By branch and leaf, elder brothers and sisters, steer me towards the tree of today.

Of what value is such a spontaneous desire or prayer?

I want to weave in another thread here, this time from Jung, whose introduction to the Wilhelm version of the I Ching offers some deep insight into how attention and divination (and magic, for that matter) can work. Rather than build my own argument — Jung does it much better — or spend time cutting and pasting text from an online version you can as easily find here (https://www.iging.com/intro/foreword.htm), I encourage the curious or thoughtful reader to investigate.

The only indulgence I will grant myself are these closing lines from Jung, which seem to me to accord with the spirit behind the gwers instruction to “find the right tree”:

The I Ching does not offer itself with proofs and results; it does not vaunt itself, nor is it easy to approach. Like a part of nature, it waits until it is discovered. It offers neither facts nor power, but for lovers of self-knowledge, of wisdom — if there be such — it seems to be the right book. To one person its spirit appears as clear as day; to another, shadowy as twilight; to a third, dark as night. He who is not pleased by it does not have to use it, and he who is against it is not obliged to find it true.

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Directional Divination, and Confluences

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scenic drive up Mt. Equinox, VT

We inhabit a speaking cosmos. (World, would you call me home?) I don’t know about you, but that’s what I keep on concluding, when I consider my own history, the breadth of divination systems, the experiences of many who report contact with other beings, sought and unsought, the writings in world-wide cultures attesting to the existence of persons both with and without skins on, and many other odd and assorted pieces of evidence. How to connect, how to join the conversation, is what remains, and that can become part of a regular practice. For that, here’s one more item from my toolkit.

Diyeshegwanhi dee-yeh-sheh-gwahn-hee — the “seven directions”. It’s a word that came to me in meditation many years ago, and I use it when I do this particular divination. An awareness of the cosmos with seven directions appears in a number of traditions: the cardinal four of north, east, south and west, with the addition of above, below and toward the center. Often the starting direction varies, but I almost always end with toward the center. It focuses and closes the divination with what is going on within — something good to attend to, that guides without dominating the divination.

After grounding and centering, I invite the directions, acknowledging my kinship with the beings who inhabit each of them. Recently I’ve been reading about ancestors who lived and are buried in northern Vermont, so today I begin with north.

North of my kindred, I greet and bow to you! [Pause] May I attend to your wisdom.

And so on through the directions, making it a meditation, a ritual, a prayer, and varying what I name and attend to as I go. Sometimes it’s enough just to turn in the direction, or to visualize it (which can mean other senses than site — the focus of imagination IS visualization, regardless of the active sense. I may feel north, for instance, rather than hear or see anything).

I write down what I sense/visualize, and that’s my divination, always shaped by the final focus on what’s going on inwardly, which guides my interpretation. (I often use the abbreviations n-e-s-w-a-b for north, east, south, west, above, below in my notes — holding the center apart — and so I think of the meditation as my neswab meditation.)

This morning’s divination:

North: birdsong
East: shadow under the willow
South: morning haze
West: openness
Above: a swirling or whorl of energies
Below: containment
Center: movement across, or transverse

I am moving across a field with both song and shadow. I’m open or accessible to these energies emotionally, while my field of movement, my perception or awareness of a range of action, as well as my intention, may be obscured by haze and shadow, or by a confusion of energies. Goals: attend as I move, watch and work for clarity, and sharpen my intention. Because the field is in transition — because I’m transiting it — now isn’t the time for insisting on substantial or enduring perceptions, but for a sounding of what’s current, timely, of the moment, as a guide for what’s coming next.

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Mt. Ascutney from the south on Rt. 91N

Now it’s certainly possible — and maybe desirable, depending on your inner guidance — to expand this to include other correspondences: the chakras, the notes between octaves, and so on. Personally, I find my own associations much more useful than someone else’s. Your mileage will vary. The point with any divination system is its practicality: does it serve? If not, its neatness, symmetry, complexity, etc. are all distractions.

If it helps, for instance, to associate the directions with sacred spots on your own local landscape, follow through. Four New England mountains lie along my cardinal directions: to the east is Mount Monadnock; to my south, Putney Mountain; north is Ascutney; and west is Mount Equinox. I’ve visited all but Equinox, and it happens to lie in the west, and be the home of the only Carthusian monastery in the U.S. — the Charterhouse of the Transfiguration.

To take just one obvious tack from my divination, what needs transfiguring that I haven’t yet visited or invited into my experience? And given my interest in Druid-Christian linkages, what should I be focusing on there? The home page of the monastery website, as a pointer, notes “The Transfiguration of the Lord contains all the constitutive elements of Christian contemplation”. The Carthusian prescription for contact, for connection, is silence and solitude, and of course prayer.

All of this is a helpful reminder for someone like me who can spend too much time online. That’s what bloggers often end up doing. So a regular period of fasting from social media is one way for me to bring more solitude and silence into my life, where I can then hear the awen more clearly.

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If you find yourself asking But where’s the Druid(ry) in all this? you might enjoy reading the current (21st) Mt. Haemus lecture, sponsored by OBOD, which this year is “The Well and the Chapel: Confluence” by RoMa Johnson, MA, MDiv, addressing connections between Druidry (the Well) and Christianity (the Chapel). The link takes you to an OBOD subpage where you can learn more about the author, and download a PDF of the lecture.

Johnson explores five sub-topics: Worldviews—Immanence and Imminence; Justice—Sin, Responsibility and Restoration; The Three—The Sacred Feminine and the Trinity; Immrama—The Soul’s Journey and Inspiration; and Confluence.

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Omen Days 12-13 — and a Full Moon

Omen Days [ 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5-6 | 7-9 | 10-11 | 12-13 ]

The source of my omen for Day 12 is you, my readers. In your continued re-reading of my April 2017 post on the Grail Cross (and your silence in response to my requests for feedback!), I find a useful omen for our days ahead: we need both Grail and Cross energies. In the absence of your reasons, I can only supply my own, and that is as it should be.

The Grail Cross is a union of symbols, a conjunction of two traditions, yes — but both celebrating and indicating things much larger than human tradition: the divine not just accessible in nature, right here where we live, here in the flesh, but the same thing, on a different arm of the spiral. If I’m not feeling it, and knowing it, that’s something I can change. How you and I change it will shape much of our experience in this new year. Not politicians, not employers, not partners or celebrities — give away my power to them and they can’t — even with the most loving of intentions — give me what I need, what the world needs. Rightly understood and calibrated, these two needs are one, even as Grail and Cross are a union. Immanent and transcendent, if you need or want those words.

In the Tarot reading in the previous post, the cards for “recent past” and “possible outcome” are both Cups, or Grails. The moon is the Self or significator. Do I really need clearer pointers?

Well, maybe I do. I don’t know about you, but I can be notoriously thick, and slow to understand even when signs, spirits, gods and the weather all point in the same direction. So I look for the final omen of these Omen Days, number 13, on January 6.

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sauna photo courtesy BW.

My friend B invites me to share his recently-constructed sauna on Twelfth Night (or Thirteenth Night, in terms of the omens I’ve been taking for this series). We thaw and warm and relax in the cedar space, alternating with brief stands in the evening snow outside, watching the moon that’s full today, feeling our sweat dry, returning when the wind bites cold on our heated bodies.

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sauna photo courtesy BW

In this dim, round, warm, womb-like space, we sit and sweat and talk. B has added a few things not shown in this second picture: a tomten stone at the foot of the stove, in honor of the local land spirits, a thermometer near the top of the round interior, a small venting hole and cover to help regulate the temperatures. For most of our hour in and intermittently outside the sauna, the temps hover around 200-210 F / 93-99 C — blissful, exquisite heat, in which the body yields, sweats, unknots, and finally reacquaints itself with what the Finns call löyly — the sauna steam as a celebration of all the elements together, working in concert: fire in the stove, earth in the rocks above it, water ladled from a sauna bucket onto the rocks for the final steam bath, and the steamy air that rises from them. (B is meditatively carving a sauna ladle from cherry wood he found as windfall on his land.)

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Omen Days 10-11: Moon and Star

Omen Days [ 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5-6 | 7-9 | 10-11 | 12-13 ]

Three days into the new year, and the omen for Day 10 (3 January) is a Tarot reading I did on the 1st, but put aside for other tasks. But it’s been in my attention to return to it and take another look as I post it here. Third time, or third day in this case, is the charm.

The question I posed for the reading is this: What needs our attention in the coming year?

(In light of everything in play just past the start of this new year, this innocent-seeming question already feels more than over-loaded!) But how much of our task is focus, attention to what matters, without which we scatter and “lay waste our powers”. We can see much of the past decade as a painfully clear illustration of just such a scattering. But also, a gathering and centering in response, as we belatedly come, however imperfectly, to attention.

1. Significator or Self: Moon
2. Cross or cover: 2 of Cups
3. Basis: 7 of Pentacles
4. Recent past: Ace of Cups
5. Possible Outcome: 9 of Cups
6. Near Future: 10 of Pentacles
7. Self: 10 of Wands
8. Environment: Empress
9. Hopes and Fears: Queen of Pentacles
10. Outcome: 6 of Wands

Rather than attempting a point-by-point explication now, I’ll look for an overview I’ll return to and expand on through the coming months, refining and revising my understanding.

For now, then, the Moon:

The true task of the third line [of the Tarot major arcana] is not revelation but bringing that inner ecstasy back to consciousness. The Star [the card preceding Moon] contained no road back. It shows us dwelling in the glories of darkness transformed into light. To use that light, we must pass through distortion and fear.

The Star experience lies beyond words or even form, though it implies forms emerging with the streams of water. In the moon we see this process happening, as visions, myths and images. The Moon is the card of the imagination as it moulds the energy of the Star into shapes that the consciousness can apprehend. — Pollack, Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom, pg. 125.

How to “use that light” and “pass through distortion and fear” seems a fitting take on a principal challenge of 2020, and a concise answer to my question for the reading: “What needs our attention in the coming year?” I’ll take up the other cards in coming posts as explications of possible ways to go about this double task.

BAM Druid Gather

“Let moon meet answering fire”

DAY 11

For Omen Day 11 (4 January), a late-arriving Christmas card featuring the Star in the East. Sometimes we seek the omen, sometimes it seeks us. They meet in a handshake, an embrace, yin and yang of incarnate experience, with us the conduits, the lightning rods, and the capacitors of what we are pleased to call “our” lives.

Could we but see the whole, these mutual seekings comprise its two halves, yin and yang, which themselves contain the characters for sun and moon. In the character simplification that mainland China pursues, yin 阴 and yang 阳 clearly display their respective elements of 月 moon and 日 sun.

Several Druid orders draw on this ancient understanding and make it a formal part of their training, instructing students to pursue the Sun path and the Moon path, with the third component, the Earth path, the synthesis energized by the interaction of the first two. And in the intermingling of Threes and Fours, those ancient symbols and numerical powers that color much of modern Druidry, we could name four paths: earth, moon, sun and stars. It’s no accident that’s where Dante’s Divine Comedy ends: l’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle — “the love which moves the sun and the other stars”.

Yesterday, too, the blogpage here on Magic received five views, so the omen feels confirmed — the “messy creativity” of five-star magic.

Christmas … What’s born in us? A magical birth, the Child of Light, image of the being always being born in us as we grow and love, die and are reborn in each moment, so a post on magic, a riff on another’s post from a couple of months ago, comes together here.

The Five Counsels of Magical Living

Use what’s on hand.

The hand — four fingers of the elements, a “fifth” of spirit: the five-pointed star of magic, symbol and potency of spiritual traditions Pagan and Christian both. Always a festival celebrating something both new in the world, and always present — divinity incarnate that we can touch and see and hear. (If this world is not a holy place flush with divinity, what world is?)

For balance, I gather the four elements, ask the blessing of the fifth that is always pouring forth unasked. (The asking helps me focus.) Earth my body, water my blood, yes. Words of the old chant. But earth also in each thing, solid and durable, whether difficult or easy, manifesting itself clearly to the senses, saying I am here. Water in the blood, and in snow, rain, clouds, sky, emotion and imagination, intuition and dream, possibility flowing all around me, saying I am here. Slightly less palpable, but only slightly.

Air my breath, and also the breathing of all things on and around us, wind on my face, speech and thought hastening past, wings across the skin, a hint of vista, and distances covered in a moment by thought fast as any falcon. Air saying I am here.

And fire …

Hallow your space-time.

What is the time? We’re always checking the clock, “reading the time”, parceling out our minutes and hours. But how do we hallow it, make it holy, sacred? Do I know? Where can I find out? It doesn’t happen by itself, except insofar as being here is a holy act on its own. Necessary, beautifully necessary: but not sufficient. We get a “minimum daily requirement” of the sacred, enough to keep us breathing, our hearts beating, and the planet spinning, not enough — without our own efforts — to achieve what we’re here to achieve. Don’t know what this is? Few do, completely. Run it “to earth” as the old hunting metaphor has it — such seeking is part of achieving. It is holy, the space-time of our lives that we and the gods together weave and clothe ourselves with.

Make me ever sky-clad to spirit, so I can know its nearness

Focus (on) magic that’s already happening.

What’s already happening? Do I know? (Not from headlines, which rarely tell us what’s really happening, only its consequences. We look at mere symptoms and try to divine their causes, rather than starting with causes and working things out from there.)

Kindle a fire from “dead” trees and living flame bursts forth. Draw a breath and this body lives to move us through experience till it kindles, too, with spiritual energy. The awen is always singing. Am I listening? Where do I hear it? How can I listen more? From the deep we all bring it … How and where are we shaping it? In Annwfn, Abred, Gwynfyd, Ceugant? Where will my actions manifest? How can I improve my choosing?

Magic mirrors where my mind is, mortal and immortal merging …

Put words to it.

Name it, whisper my days. The magical journal, the blog, the diary, the impulse to record, to trace the path we’ve taken this far, is a spiritual one, whatever else may lie behind it. A good half of our naming becomes the next charm, the new spell, the in-cantation, where we sing ourselves into the Ancient Song of existence that is always arriving out of silence.

Name it and “hame” it — manifest it. The “hame”, Old English hama, is a covering, the “natural shape” of things, but also — magically — its astral form. In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf gains the epithet Greyhame or “gray mantle” for the cloak he wears. But even as it cloaks or covers him, manifesting him so that others can perceive him, it also conceals his inner nature as one of the Maiar. He is a “spirit of fire” no less than Feanor.

Words make up the golden thread that links earth and the other worlds. Sound, shape, thought, figures carved in stone or wood, printed in ink, fashioned of electrons on a screen.

Let words hame me, let me hame my words, till I can draw the magic deeper into time and space and assist it to take form. Let the Word become flesh. Resist it, and it will take form anyway, but often a nightmarish one, out of the distortions our creative use of our power to block also makes of it. We see monuments of our mis-making all around us in this present world, to temper our future makings, if we choose to learn.

Aim for and with the hame to tame it, reclaim it, see it in others, the same It.

Renew how you ground.

Unbalanced, we fumble through our hours and lives. Ungrounded, we electrocute ourselves with stress, anger, fear, dis-ease. Without a steadying spiritual practice, how can we stay earthed? We all already have a practice — it’s time to explore it more deeply, draw on it, shift it where it needs shifting, reinforce it where it needs reinforcement, grow it and cherish it.

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Pollack, Rachel. Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom. Element Books, 1997. (This is an omnibus edition of what were formerly published as two separate volumes.)

Omen Days 7-9

Omen Days [ 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5-6 | 7-9 | 10-11 | 12-13 ]

A New Year’s Side-Note

Looking for tips on making a radical change in 2020? Here are some actually good ideas from The Guardian, in an article titled “Everyone thought I was mad — how to make a life-changing decision and stick to it” — not the usual “New Year’s Resolutions” clickbait. The 10 strategies it offers are, of course, all (un)common sense, that birthright so many of us abandon under the onslaught of dark-magic* advertising, politics, social media, bad education, lack of imaginative reading, etc. — the soul-less enterprise that infiltrates much of what we call life, but is really a bad substitute, sold and re-sold to us, when the Real Thing is always and forever free.

Yes, Others really do want to exploit our wills for their benefit — one of the good things coming out of our times is how transparently clear that’s finally become to many. And that need not lead us to despair, but can tell us how powerful we really are, or can be, unless and until we listen to numerous forms of bad counsel that run against our own better judgment. Yield too much, and it can take us lifetimes to regain and restore what we gave up. Or you may be a “just-this-one-life-that’s-it” kind of person, but you still see how far too many of us relinquish our sovereignty and holy self-hood to others who deserve it not at all.

Smartest radical change I ever made? Walking away from a teaching job at a private boarding school that included not only a high salary (for a school-teacher), but also health insurance and housing and utilities, but that was also quite literally making me sick (cancer diagnosis in 2009). At one point I was homeless and jobless, too — but alive.

Second smartest change? Marrying my wife, though at the time I was unemployed and broke, and had just returned from an overseas teaching job in Changsha, Hunan Province, China that paid me $250 U.S. per month. The strategies in the article are wise ones — take it from someone who’s made some radical changes in his life, and never regretted those he made (only those he didn’t!).

Third smartest change? Taking that China job I just referred to, though it paid so little. Because it opened doors to all the subsequent jobs I ever had, though I didn’t foresee that at the time. And the perspective of being a foreigner, going deep into another culture as speaking even some of the language can help you do, as well as seeing my country from a distance, from the outside, and as a foreigner myself for a short while after I returned — I can set no price on the profound value of those experiences.

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The junco’s for Omen Day 7. Tuesday, on my way to drop off a draft of our labyrinth paper to my hospice client, I spotted a flock of juncos foraging near my car as I exited the community where my client lives. Juncos were such frequent wintertime companions in my childhood in upstate New York that I was pained but not surprised to read how their range has shrunk over 50% in the interim. Below’s an image of the dark-eyed subspecies I saw, clearly featured against the snow. Or as Linnaeus described it in his 18th-century classification, F[ringilla] nigra, ventre albo — “A black finch with white belly”.

What we take for granted is often the most vulnerable, or least permanent: whether it’s democracy, life, health, friendships or a bird, they can all prove equal in their fragility. We forget we are a part of this world, not apart from it. What we do matters, helping to shape the whole we all live in and through.

dark-eyed-junco-938546_640

dark-eyed junco — junco hyemalis

Omen Day 8 didn’t even ask me to leave the house: the sourdough starter we revived for yesterday’s New Year’s Day breakfast of waffles. We’d refrigerated it for several days, and the night before, it was time to revive and feed it, ready it for another meal.

It’s natural to find the cute and furry things amenable to a nice, safe middle-class Druidry. But the prickly, grotesque, dangerous, or simply odd and invisible ones? Not so much. All praise, then, to the lactobacillus that gives all things sourdough their tangy character, and thrives together with us in our bodies all our lives, strengthening, healing and rebalancing so many of our essential biological systems! Three hurrahs for such mutualism!

Let me find ways, o Spirit of 2020, to be more surprised, and less fearful, more grateful, and less suspicious.

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One of the traditional practices for the Omen Days is to go outdoors, close your eyes, spin yourself around, and take the omen from the first thing you see when you re-open your eyes. But of course there are many ways to read the cosmos. I’ve done it with dreams, with the “obvious/non-obvious” thing immediately underfoot, and so on. For me the deeper point of taking an omen is to pay attention, to actually attend to what I may have overlooked, to begin to explore the richness of the supposedly ordinary and everyday. If I’ve expanded where I look, noticed more of the daily amazement of living that offers itself to all of us, I count that omen a successful one.

Omen Day 9, looking for your sign, I finally see it.

logheart2

Going out to the woodpile, I participate in its manifestation, by being alive, in this place, here, now. A log, the heartwood brown and rough. Nothing “special”, perhaps, but beauty, given freely. That counts in my book as “special”. I bring it indoors, the condensation damp on my hands, and set it on a side table to photograph. In the picture it looks like the lampshade’s growing out of the wood — fittingly enough: firewood, a source of heat and light.

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Another bard offering words — William Stafford’s “The Dream Of Now”. This isn’t an expansive poem of the summer solstice, exulting in long days and heat and passion, but a poem about that core toughness in us, that sees us through winter along with all the other things fluffing out feathers and fur against the cold, or sleeping deep in the Earth till she warms again.

When you wake to the dream of now
from night and its other dream,
you carry day out of the dark
like a flame.
When spring comes north and flowers
unfold from earth and its even sleep,
you lift summer on with your breath
lest it be lost ever so deep.
Your life you live by the light you find
and follow it on as well as you can,
carrying through darkness wherever you go
your one little fire that will start again.

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IMAGE: free Junco image from Pixabay.

*dark-magic: magic that doesn’t let our own light in; magic practiced against our own better interests, something we almost always participate in, because our consent is required, until we notice and begin to wake up again. Always weaker than light-magic, though its power comes from convincing us otherwise by whatever means available: deceit, obscurity, false promises, appeals to our weaknesses (cleverly scouted out in advance) … Another reason to learn and practice magic: absolutely everyone and everything else all around us already practices it.

Omen Days 5 and 6: Stars and Ice

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Two nights ago, I turned to look at the clock on my nightstand, the pale phosphorescent numbers showing almost 2:00 am. Then I heard my wife moving in the hall outside the bedroom.

What is it? I asked.

The stars woke me up, she said.

A little shiver, of awe and pleasure both, at those words. And yes, with a few steps across the kitchen toward our boots, and quiet laughter as we stumbled out the front door to look, the clear night sky above us flamed with stars. So many cities now glow with light pollution at night that you can no longer look up and see the stars. How helpful the present darkness, for seeing the splendor of the light.

(Here for my daily augury I take up a typo from an earlier draft of this post — I’d quoted Aleister Crowley’s famous line from his Book of the Law (1), but with one additional letter at the end: “Every man and woman is a start”. I laughed a good while over that one. Yes, I’m a beginning, a work in progress, raw materials like all of us are. So just keep going, says Spirit.)

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Year-end storms brush much of the U.S. this week. The northeast is seeing sleet and ice, rain and snow for a couple of days, leaving roads treacherous. Some New Hampshire friends have taken to heart the Icelandic tradition of  Jólabókaflóð — literally, “Yule-book-flood”, and have provided themselves with ample reading material for whatever the weather brings.

iceeverg

outside our front door this morning

“Wind and ice are the only deciders of symmetry”, writes upstate New York poet Linda Allardt (2). “Survival makes do for grace”. Some winter days, especially in a northern climate, you can feel the truth of that right down into your bones.

The Galilean Master tried to teach “spiritual meteorology” to his followers: “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?” (3). I religiously check “the weather” each morning, but too often ignore my “spiritual climate”, which includes our physical one. The analogy hits home: weather is to climate, as mood is to spiritual climate. The former changes day by day, while the latter’s a long-term trend.

[For what I’ve come to understand, over a decade of study, is a fairly accurate projection of our climate future, take a look at articles like this one in The Guardian: “The Climate Crisis in 2050: What Happens if Cities Act but Nations Don’t” . Rather than pure depressing statistics, it reflects and extrapolates from the present reality, as the subheading names it, that “It is cities, not national governments, that are most aggressively fighting the climate crisis”. And if you’re still too optimistic, this second article can really help cure that.

I don’t know about you, but for me clear vision is preferable to hysteria and paranoia any day. This one possible future may indeed be grim, but there’s room for human hands and hearts to shape its form and direction, and avert its worst features, as we’re beginning to do, albeit in fits and starts. And as a strong believer in reincarnation, I suspect I’ll likely be back again in the middle of it, dealing with it as best I can, along with a good number of others alive today. From this perspective, it’s good to start equipping myself now with the spiritual tools I’ll need to work with then.]

So there you have it. I’ve written a post that has Jesus, Aleister Crowley, and climate change in it, and it sorta kinda maybe even coheres.

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(1) Book of the Law, Ch. 1, verse 3.

(2) The Names of the Survivors (Ithaca House, 1979). Cursory info on Allardt here.

(3) Matthew 16:3.

Omen Days 4: Marmota Monax

[Updated 30-Dec 2019]

Omen Days [ 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5-6 | 7-9 | 10-11 | 12-13 ]

Groundhog, whistle-pig, moonack (derived from a Native American name), or French Canadian siffleux (“whistler”) — as I take more firewood from the stack, I’ve found our backyard woodchuck has again taken shelter for the winter in a burrow between our woodpile rows. It makes good animal sense: until I started taking the wood away for fires, the burrow mouth was protected, and tin sheets still partially shield both wood and burrow from snow and rain.

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woodchuck — marmota monax — Wikipedia

The woodchuck enjoys a regional claim-to-fame in the U.S. as “Punxsatawney Phil” and indeed has a brief cameo in the ’93 Bill Murray/Andie MacDowell comedy, Groundhog Day.

(We can detect in the February 2 Groundhog Day — no surprise — echoes of older celebrations like Imbolc. The harsher winters in North America merely postpone the coming of spring that the European holiday anticipates, until late March at the earliest, at least in New England. Animal divination!! The groundhog’s “prediction” of early spring or more winter depends, after all, on sunlight: if it’s sunny and he sees his shadow — only his “priests” know for sure — that means, paradoxically, six more weeks of winter.)

When our next-door neighbor dug a new in-ground septic tank over a year ago, things reached a tipping point that made “his” marmota monax leave home in search of a better life. The journey didn’t demand much — no long treks for the plucky immigrant who would ultimately set down roots in a strange new land. Instead, just a quick run under the property line fence, and voila! Our handy clover patch no doubt also played a savory role — we saw him — them? — off and on this past summer in the thick of it, grazing quite contentedly, bees humming all around in the clover flowers.

Last winter I discovered him burrowed in under the first row of the woodpile. By the time spring came, and I’d cleared away the logs and knew he was out, I drove a log firmly into the mouth of the burrow. (I absolutely refuse to use the smoke bombs that poison both animal and soil. Have-a-heart traps may be the next option.) Sure enough, un-dissuaded, he dug a new hole in June, this time right along the east-facing foundation of our house. When I stuffed a log into the mouth of that hole, he dug around it. I added another log. Then when I didn’t see him for a while, I thought my harassment campaign had paid off, and maybe he’d finally crossed the road, where there’s some prime woodchuck real estate that could be his for the taking. A neighboring farmer mows the open, level 5-acre meadow bordered by woods just once a summer, and otherwise it lies fallow, undisturbed.

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Hard to see, but dirt between the log rows comes from the enlarged burrow

But there’s the roof of his winter burrow, with its mouth one row deeper into the woodpile. Part of me rejoices at his resilience, even as I plan anew how to see him off, once warmer weather arrives. All this, of course, while another part of me ponders whether this is indeed the unsubtle arrival of a new animal guide, upping his campaign to grab the attention of this torpid and obtuse human.

In the guise of a woodchuck, a delightful link exists between Frost and Thoreau, those two quintessential New England bards. A wry Colby Quarterly article, “Two Woodchucks, or Frost and Thoreau and the Art of the Burrow” , exhibits good Druidic sensibility in exploring that link. Regardless of whether the article author actually follows through on his own insights, they remain for readers. To make a cellar for his cabin at Walden Pond, Thoreau enlarged a woodchuck’s burrow, trusting the beast had dug deep enough, beneath the frost line. Here the “Two Woodchucks” author cites Thoreau’s sense of the need to dig down both literally and metaphorically to find out the truth of things:

In order to find this reality, we must first “settle ourselves,” establish a sense of place, a living connection with the landscape. Then we must “work and wedge our feet downward,” in woodchuck fashion, “through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvion [alluvium] which covers the globe”.

I read as I draft this post that the woodchuck can nearly double its weight as it gorges each autumn to store up fat for hibernation. The average burrow, with between two and eight mouths, requires the removal of 500 lbs / 225 kilos of dirt. Sure enough, it often digs a separate winter burrow, much deeper than its summer quarters. Though at need the woodchuck can climb trees to escape predators, and typically retreats to its burrow rather than fight, when cornered, the sturdy beast has claws and sharp incisors to defend itself. Their range spans from Georgia to Minnesota and New England, north as far as Newfoundland, and west across the Canadian plains into Alaska. Study almost any creature, and you begin to see its adaptations to its specific life-path emerging as something quite remarkable.

Boar, pillbug, woodchuck — the teachings of animal encounters to guide this Druid, if he only listens, through his days.

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Omen Days 3: Fog, and Screening

Omen Days [ 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5-6 | 7-9 | 10-11 | 12-13 ]

fogscreen2

No need this morning to look far for what first strikes the eye: fog outside, and a window-screen in the foreground. As with our own human consciousness, what’s up front and in our faces draws the camera’s auto-focus to the screen, in spite of one shot (in a series of attempts) where I thought I’d finally gotten the camera to focus on distance. Probably could have, too, if I knew my camera better. When the human eye focuses on distance, the screen blurs and fades. Right there is a whole chapter of spiritual practice, attention and mechanical behaviors. Where’s my focus? What am I looking at? I decided the indoors version with the foregrounded window screen should stay — it was still offering something to think about further.

Fog-weaving, and awareness. With temps well above freezing, and enough snow to melt and turn to low-hanging mist, it was a perfect day to drive in and out of banks of fog as the elevation changes in our Vermont hills. Often it’s easy to slip into altered states of consciousness, walking a fogged-in landscape. Driving through one, it’s much less safe to try!

About a year and a half back, I wrote about fogweaving with Lugh while climbing our local Mt. Ascutney:

Fog-weaving at such times needs so little effort. The climb quickens the breath, and the cool air is lush with oxygen. Without the chatter of any human companion as a distraction, and with the fog collapsing the field of vision to just a few dozen yards in any direction, your attention narrows in on step after deliberate step. Light trance comes on like cloud itself. Without thought you can slip through to the “realm next door” between one step and the next, and you may sense the god dreaming on the peak. And rather than needing human action or imagination to weave or conjure vision, the fog itself curtains or reveals what is already there.

Awareness is a tricky thing: we move each day into and out of so many different kinds of awareness that we often don’t notice they’re best for different purposes — they’re most definitely not interchangeable. Or as I try to explain this phenomenon in the page on Magic:

… each day we all experience many differing states of consciousness, moving from deep sleep to REM sleep to dream to waking, to daydream, to focused awareness and back again.  We make these transitions naturally and usually effortlessly — so effortlessly we usually do not notice or comment on them. But they serve different purposes: what we cannot do in one state, we can often do easily in another.  The flying dream is not the focus on making a hole in one, nor is it the light trance of daydream, nor the careful math calculation. And further, what we ordinarily do quite mechanically and often without awareness, we can learn to do consciously.

With the tickle of a dream the previous night to set the tone, I woke with another dream in my head early this morning: I have a son who’s seeking me out.

(In the category of “too much info” but helpful context: it’s even possible such a child exists. My graduate school girlfriend turned down my marriage proposal, warned me she’d never tell me even if it turned out she was pregnant, and on that note I opted to leave the U.S. and the whole intolerable situation in the fall of 1987 to teach in China. We haven’t been in contact since. So — to cut short any further confessions — I woke this morning wondering, yet again, what the dream could be saying.)

Looking up close, I see screen. Focusing on the distance, I see fog. Where’s my focus? What am I looking at?

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Omen Days 2

Omen Days [ 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5-6 | 7-9 | 10-11 | 12-13 ]

A dream this morning. I haven’t been sleeping well for the past several days, but with that wakefulness, it’s been easier to catch and record dreams before they fade into the next sleep cycle of the night. In the dream I’m trying to cross a stream flowing through a forest, but it takes me a bit until I find stepping stones, and even then, the first one’s half-submerged. The stream’s neither wide nor deep, but for some reason in the dream I don’t want to get my feet wet. The water runs very clear, and I know in the dream there’s something — what it is I can’t tell — something unusual about the forest.

Then this morning as I’m going out to fetch wood for the two fires, house and studio, I need to start: hornet’s nest on the eaves of the woodshed. I wasn’t thinking about this Omen Days practice until almost the moment I looked up, and then there it was. A nest of gray paper, empty now, but mostly intact, a season’s work to build a growing house that entomologists say the hornets almost never return to for the following year. In the photo everything’s  shades of gray, though it’s a color shot: even the evergreen in the background comes across in black and white, rather than green.

waspnest

Now it’s certainly easy enough to argue yourself out of as well as into a divination. There’s a kind of trust involved, that the universe really does talk to us, and not just through such crabbed and sometimes tortuous means as a divination can be, or as we can make it with all our second-guessing — the cosmos talking constantly, ceaselessly — wind in the trees, birds, beasts, clouds, our own skins, those touch-points where we seem to end and Everything Else begins, though we intermingle like high school students at a formal dance, awkwardly sometimes, though sometimes with heat in our blood. “How can we tell the dancer from the dance?”

Crossing a stream, leaving a house: like most signs and symbols, they mean best when they “mean personal”. You could, I suppose, go look them up in a symbol dictionary, the kind that sells for a couple of bucks in the checkout line at the grocery, or a pricier version summoned from deep in the bowels of Amazon. But why would I want somebody else’s take on what is, after all, my life? I’m not mocking the impulse, only reining it in. Live a few decades, and your own hand-made symbol dictionary is better, for you, than anyone’s.

Like any good mount, a dream-interpretation horse, or a symbol-horse, needs a sensible rider, or what use is riding at all? I might as well walk. I can, it’s true, just let the animal-self roam free, and there are excellent times and places for that, too. (Take your animal guide for a run, if you haven’t done so recently. Mine’s sure eager for it.) But right now the journey asks the best of both of us, and so I ride my symbol-horse, and my horse carries me. Leaving a house can signify death, but just as important, transformation, and growth: the hermit-crab outgrowing the old shell and moving into a newer one — vulnerable during the change, true, but doing what it does, what it needs to do to live at all. And where is it, specifically, that I don’t want to “get my feet wet”? That’s sure kindling for another dream, another divination, a prayer, especially when I don’t usually pray.

Finding stepping-stones to cross a stream: earlier in the day yesterday, I’d done a tarot divination as a way to gain insight into a character for a novel I’m working on. The significator was the Wheel of Fortune — apt for the antagonist, who’s experimenting outright on his life — as we all are. And for such symbols and signs and communications — since I mentioned Dickens in the previous post, then I’ll invite him, since it looks like he’s along for the ride anyway — we can ask Scrooge’s question in A Christmas Carol: “Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of the things that May be only?”

As with most divinations, if we think we’re asking a question of the future, then we get what we understand to be the future’s answer, which may be useful or not, or hard to read, or no answer at all. Scrooge has met with “ghosts” or spirits of Past, Present and Future, and not one of this Temporal Triad is the sole determining factor. Scrooge himself is. In his experience, the future gives no “answers”, but shows the shadows of things that are even now taking shape. These, in turn, interact with all the Ancestors have left us, and set in our hands for an inheritance.

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snowsparkle

This picture from a couple of days ago, looking out across the stone in our yard, reveals ice-sparkle I couldn’t see without the zoom that focuses this image. To the naked eye it’s a general glow. But this is hawk’s view, more sharp-eyed than I am unaided, without the help of lenses and devices — our human-craft. A different kind of divination, like the signs and symbols available when we look with a microscope, or telescope, or listen with a telephone, or stand in ritual and attend to those without skin on who just might have something to say to those of us wearing it for the moment. Look differently, and see anew. Every sense whispers “Try this”.

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Omen Days 1: Going “Dvoverian”

Omen Days [ 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5-6 | 7-9 | 10-11 | 12-13 ]

Earlier today my co-admin Steve on the Druid and Christianity Facebook group posted this link to one of Caitlin Matthews’ blogposts from several years back about “Omen Days” — the southern Celtic (Wales and Brittany) tradition of using the Twelve Days of Christmas for divination. As an intercalary period, one literally “between the calendar(s)”, from Christmas to Twelfth Night or Epiphany on January 6, the days have long been considered “time out of time”, and therefore especially apt for such practices. Like the holy space of a ritual, set aside from ordinary time, the Twelve Days are — or can be — magical.

In some versions of the divination, each day aligns with one month of the year: December 26th with January, December 27th with February, and so on, offering a particular flavor to the practice.

Looking, too, for a link between solar and lunar calendars, it seemed fitting to me to make it 13 days, starting on Christmas Day, rather than just 12 by starting the day-count after, on the 26th. But there is a new moon on the 26th this year, and that can play into any decision.

And when we consider that this period after the solstice is a liminal one, open as at Samhain to the Ancestors and the spiritual realm, it’s worth reflecting on Dickens’ choice to set his “sacred holiday ghost story” of A Christmas Carol during this interval, with its Druidic as well as Christian series of three spirits, and we can enjoy as well such a context for other stories, like those of the Wild Hunt, active in the winter and so around Yule, and the Medieval “Day of Misrule”, the inversion of “normal” order, on Twelfth Night itself.

In the same post, Matthews mentions dvoverie, a Russian word meaning dvo “two” verie “faiths”  — or holding “two beliefs”, a word to describe the persistence of an old worldview after the arrival of a new one. (The Russian ver– is cognate with our Latin-derived verity — “truth”. Two truths for one.)

For a while this cultural expression was thought to characterize or be unique to Russia, especially prevalent among folk practices. Think of our ongoing custom of treating the sun as if it rises and sets each day, in spite of astronomical awareness that it’s the earth that moves, not the sun. Though this source go so far as to call dvoverie “an academic myth”, as if dismissing something as a “myth” makes it untrue, rather than simply ahistorical, I’d argue we’re all quite “dvoverian”, and in more ways than we might imagine.

In some Christian circles, it’s true, the lament persists that certain symbols, practices and beliefs are “Pagan”, “not Biblical”, etc. Pagans sometimes return the favor. (Personally, I find such “purity tests” too often lead to sub-optimal results, just like they do for many women today in only slightly different circumstances, and for often similar reasons.) I’d prefer to ask those symbols, practices and beliefs: “Are you worthwhile? Do you grant insight, increase our understanding, grow our capacity for gratitude and love?”

(And lest we too quickly conclude that divination is never a Christian practice, we have only to look at the Apostles drawing lots in order to identify Matthias as a replacement for Judas Iscariot in the Book of Acts, or at ancient practices in Israel. St. Thomas Aquinas among many others exercised himself on the topic in his Summa Theologica.)

Let’s make Omen Days a “dvoverian” experiment.

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My divination today follows the practice of asking my question outdoors, then spinning around eyes closed, opening them to the first thing seen, or asking the question indoors and then going outdoors to observe whatever offers itself. In either case, the sign or omen is what first comes to the attention.

“What can these divinations teach me?”

jet-trail2

For me it was jet-trail and birdsong — the seen and the heard at the same time. I looked up to see the jet-trail, and then I became aware of the song. The trail had no sound, the song no visible bird. A useful reminder that a single sense rarely provides all the evidence, or any kind of “complete picture” (note the bias toward the visual in such expressions!).

If you live in an urban area near an airport, of course, this may prove no omen at all for you. (That’s why omens are not universal signs, in spite of our best attempts to codify the cosmos.) But in southern Vermont, a plane of any size passing over is unusual. Except for June or July, when the nearest airbase sometimes makes training runs for days at a time over Vermont (and usually seems to halt each time the complaints reach a certain threshold), a flyover merits attention.

The birdsong belonged to a song sparrow, a very common bird, a cheery voice for our northern winters. No, it wasn’t a Raven, or some other bird with mythic weight and portent to weigh down an omen till it crumbles under its own gravity. If I want to push it even a little, I might recall the Gospel verse: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care”.

Here’s a Youtube video of a song sparrow in our neighboring state of New York:

The worlds of human (jet) and animal (bird) need not be opposed, and aren’t at heart separate worlds at all, in spite of our unwise attempts to uphold such a false division. The Song all around and within us keeps rising, in spite of our jet-trails, in spite of our restlessness to be somewhere else other than where we are. We hear it. How can we heed it more fully?

2020: jet-trail and birdsong — a divination of our times.

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