Druid Magic lecture notes:
(Basically, this is the GOG’s version of the ADF Druid ritual from a magician’s point of view, and some of the magickal philosophy behind it)
by Edwin Chapman, for Crucible Convention, June 2003, Secaucus, NJ
(with stuff taken from “Recreating the Cosmos in Grove of the Other Gods, ADF Druid Ritual” by Ed, Norma Hoffman, Erica Friedman, and Pattie Lawler, Imbolc, 2002. Also inspired by Druid’s Flame and Druidheachd: Symbols and Rites of Druidry, by Ian Corrigan.)
Hi, my name is ed, and I’m you’re friendly urban metropolitan idol-worshiping treehugging New Jersey Druid. I belong to Grove of the Other Gods in New Brunswick, NJ, and we are associated with Ar nDraiocht Fein, a large international NeoPagan Druid organization that can trace its history back to the dawn of time - about 1963. I’ve been a member of Ar nDraiocht Fein since January, 1990, and a member of Grove of the Other Gods since Samhain, or halloween, 1990.
If you grab a book list after the lecture, it’ll have our grove’s website and our national web site, so you can check us out. ADF also has a Magician’s Guild in case you really want to get into this stuff.
.... after meditation:
In the well flow the waters of wisdom. Sacred well, flow within us. (pour water)
We kindle the sacred fire in wisdom. Sacred fire, glow within us. (light fire)
From the depths to the stars spans the world tree. Sacred tree, grow within us. (rap staff)
Druid ritual can be done with the dew on the grass for the well, the sun in the sky for the fire, and any tree or plant or stick that’s nearby. It doesn’t require a lot of tools.
Some of the tools and props you might see at our rituals, tho, include but are not limited to:
Sickles for consecrating and blessing, Staves to ward, knives to cut, hammers and forges to protect and create, wicker baskets to collect things, distribute things, and to burn things in, ribbons to bind things, joss paper to offer gold and silver to the gods, or send messages to them, matches, compasses, cauldrons, costumes, mirrors, handcuffs, body piercing tools, giant puppets, hobby horses, bottles of whiskey, skulls, bones... all depends on the ritual and what we’re trying to do. Grove of the Other Gods likes ritual drama and pageantry. For the summer solstice we’ll be walking around New Brunswick in a colorful parade to honor the city itself and her human and nature spirits.
Our national group, Ar nDraiocht Fein, or ADF, encourages Druids to rely on scholarly information about our religion, rather than romantic notions, and to investigate how our lore survives in folklore, old stories, and songs. So we try to weave a lot of old weird stuff into our rituals. We also keep an eye out for new articles on archeological and anthropological material concerning the old Druids. We believe that that helps us to be honest about what the old Druids actually did - because, quite frankly, there isn’t a lot known about what the old Druids actually did, at least in ritual.
They had an oral tradition, and much of the stuff that was written about them was written by their enemies, particularly the Romans, or written by christian scribes hundreds of years after they were gone. We don’t discount that information, but we remember that the story we get is always tainted in some ways. In addition, in ADF, we rely on the Gods, ancestors, and nature and the land to let us know what works and what doesn’t here and now. Our Druidry is very much a living religion for the modern world that is inspired, informed and impelled by the ancient Pagan world.
To complicate the problem we have about knowing what the Druids actually did, there’s a lot of spurious stuff printed about the Druids that has its roots in British nationalism and the romantic Druid movements of the 1700s and 1800s. These are the Druid groups that William Blake and Winston Churchill belonged to: essentially quasi-Masonic organizations. Something akin to the Lions Club. The British were trying to contrive a romantic history, a mythology commensurate with their new naval power and new role in the world. There was tallk of the Druids being the 13th tribe of Israel, talk of Britain being the site of Christ’s birth, all sorts of nonsense, just as some Druid groups today will tell you the Druids came from Atlantis.
And, of course, in recent years we’ve seen all sorts of books published on Celtic Magic that are really just, what one of our Druids calls “Wicca for Leprechauns”; in other words, a rehash of basic Wicca with a Celtic spin. Our advice is to go as close to the primary sources as you can (and when in doubt, ask the tree in your backyard).
Now, this is a lecture about Druid Magic, and I’ll be getting to that shortly. Real shortly, as we only have an hour, and a typical Druid ritual takes about 45 minutes. And I want to go through and explain the ritual to you, because our magical structure, which reflects Druid cosmology, is quite a bit different from that of Wicca or Ceremonial Magic, systems some of you might be more familiar with. This is going to a very information-dense lecture, but I’ll post the notes at our website, so if you’re really interested you can go back over some of this.
WHO THEY WERE
Before I get into the ritual tho, I need to tell you who the Druids really were. The Druids were the intellectual class of their day - they were the political consultants, the doctors, the judges, the lawyers, and much of the entertainment industry. They were the spin doctors. They advised tribal chiefs, and they controlled a lot of the trade. The King’s Druid spoke before he did. They were a very powerful class of people.
Oh, and there were female Druids as well as male. Anyone who tells you that the Druids were only male just hasn’t read the literature.
The Druids were also the ones who knew how to use the local herbs, and knew the magical properties of the local trees. There’s an old Druid runic-style alphabet called oh-m, sometimes pronounced og-ham, that was used for magic and divination. PW Joyce says that in the Irish countryside “The Gaelic word for Druidical is almost always applied when we should use the word Magical” - to spells, incantations, and metamorphosis.
Much of the magic they did was in the service of the Tribe, the clan. Magict was a big part of their 24-7 job. When two tribes were fighting (and this is Ireland, it happened all the time), the Druids would use their magical arsenal to help their particular tribe win. And, of course, the Druids of the other tribe were doing the same thing. They could utter incantations to weaken the opposing army. They could protect their people by creating magical “Druid fences” and “Druid knots”(1) and could fly up and engage each other in battle in the air. (2)
Druids could turn people into animals, or shapeshift themselves into animal form. They could drive someone crazy by throwing a “madman’s wisp” in his face. The Druid satirists were feared because they could diss someone so well that they’d fall over dead.
As seers, they were responsible for oracular pronouncements. Much of their work was in divining the future, divining who would be the tribal chief, or the king, divining the appropriate time for battle or for a festival. (We still do this today - if some of you are familiar with the Pagan Wheel of the Year, the solstices and equinoxes and the four “fire festivals” inbetween - you might find it curious that in our Grove, we don’t time our fire festivals according to the Julian/Gregorian calendar. We look around at nature to see when these festivals should happen, as our ancestors did. Of course, we also try to time them for available weekends. But our ancestors might have done that, had they had weekends.) The Druids also had a number of methods of trance divination, as well as ways of divining from natural sources: bird flight, the movement of animals, the directions of the prevailing wind. They could also casting the ogham, that we mentioned before, or read entrails from sacrifices. We’ll talk about Druid sacrifices later.
For an oral tradition, there’s really a lot of information in the old stories of what kind of magic the Druids did. More than I can go into in 45 minutes, at any rate. Check out the book list, and be wary of anyone who starts with the four elements and tells you to cast a circle.
OLD PAGAN MAGIC
Now I’d like to briefly talk about the kinds of magic you find in the old Pagan stories.
Magic in the old days was primarly about love, revenge, binding, and money. Most of the magic that I’ve seen done by Pagans these days is about love, revenge, binding, and money. It’s about passion and desire, it’s not about turning the lights on and off by twitching your nose. If you read the old stories, if you read the records of the inquisition, if you look at what has survived in folklore, those are the kinds of things people were doing. The Druid magicians were no different. They worked their magic for very practical reasons, and reasons that were informed by desire.
Our ArchDruid Emeritus, Isaac Bonewits, likes to say that each of us has enough magickal ability to get us through our lives. I’d like to add to that by saying that half of magic is paying attention. We work magic all the time, all of us, but most of it is unconscious. Most of the black magic I’ve seen people do, they’ve done to themselves, without even knowing it. Most of the good magic, too. Pay attention to what you say to yourself. Pay attention to the little rituals you do to get you through your day.
ALLIANCES WITH THE KINDREDS AND OTHERWORLDS
The core of modern Druid ritual is about forming alliances- it’s about “power with” rather than “power over.” We don’t order our deities around, and we don’t pick a deity just because they’re associated with a particular thing, call them down, tell them what we want them to do, and say goodbye. We are all about building strong relationships, and most of the time we don’t do magic. We honor our kindred, our Goddesses and Gods, nature spirits, land spirits, ancestors, and we praise them, and we get to know them and they get to know us. When we need to do magic, they’re there for us, and in a big way.
When I talk about ADF ritual, I’m going to talking about a large group ritual, but our grove has done this with anywhere from 3 people to a hundred and sixty. Usually we have between twenty and thirty, with fifteen or so taking parts in the ritual. I’ve been involved in Druid rituals at festivals where we had over 3 hundred people. But you can do this alone. You lost some of the power, but what you lose in power you gain in focus. We have grove members who use this as a meditation, and one who goes through the ritual in her head whenever she has to have an MRI scan, because it really helps her get through it.
And, I want to add, as a Grove, we mostly don’t script our ritual parts, we don’t script our rituals at all most of the time. The parts all follow in order, but the invocations themselves are frequently off-the-cuff. This way we leave ourselves open to the otherworlds for inspiration. The flip side is that sometimes we also leave ourselves open to standing there and going “buh”. But that’s the breaks when you keep things fresh and alive.
And, also, we readily mix the profane and the sacred. Nothing, really, is profane. Some things are inappropriate at certain times, but nothing is profane, or blasphemous. And, we’re not afraid of humor in ritual. In fact, we encourage it.
MAGICKAL SPACE (use flip cards)
Now, finally, let’s get into how a Druid sets up his magickal space.
A comprehensive pre-ritual briefing always precedes the ritual. This gives the ritual ringmaster a chance to go over the ritual briefly with the participants and gives newcomers an idea of what to expect. We talk about nearly everything we’re going to do- nothing is hidden unless it has to be hidden for the purposes of ritual drama.
First, a clear opening. Let the universe know that the ritual is starting. Let the participants hanging around know that the ritual is starting. This can be done with a piercing chime, blowing a conch shell, a procession to the ritual space, a drum beat - the point is to get everyone to stop talking, socializing, or daydreaming, to get everyone’s attention, and to get the attention of the spiritual world as well, which is probably also talking, socializing and daydreaming. This fixes our time boundary: we are now out of everyday clock time and in ritual time.
The Senior Druid (or whoever else is leading the ritual) will fill the silence after the chime with the line “We are here to honor the Gods”. This line, traditional in old ADF liturgy, is much like the beginning of a story told by a storyteller. “We are here to honor the Gods.” It’s like “once upon a time.” We make a well of silence and then we drop that pebble into it and the ripples practically cast a circle around the listeners, especially if they’ve been to a few rituals.
But we don’t cast a circle- and that’s a big difference between Druid magic and Wiccan or ceremonial magic. Not casting a circle is going to have some interesting implications as we continue. Our boundaries are going to be more permeable. Stuff can get in more easily. Stuff can get out. Keep that in mind as we continue.
Next we honor the Earth Mother, or Mother Earth, the very planet we stand on, the source of all the life here. A rather large ally. Sort of our magical base camp, literally our foundation.
Now, there are people who acknowledge the spiritual world, and people who believe that the material world is the only one there is. Materialists believe that the spiritual world doesn’t exist. There are a lot of spiritual people who believe that the material world is just a pale reflection of the spiritual one. Most Druids don’t buy either view. We tend to believe that the material world is spiritual, and the spiritual is just as real and material as the material one. We really don’t distinquish between the two. There are different rules to follow in each world, but one is no more valuable than the other.
Consequently, our first duty is to honor perhaps the most material of our allies, Mother Earth. We invoke her, and we smudge some dirt on our foreheads, or put our fingers in a bowl of dirt, or maybe go down and kiss the ground if we’re outside. We let her know we’re here, and we’re honoring her. This is done right before a meditation in which we connect to her power underground, and connect to the powers in the sky above us. This positions us on our planet and in the food chain and puts us in a thankful mood. And, on a practical level, this tends to make folks who are new to Druid ritual comfortable- everybody can relate to the Earth. The Earth Mother invocation also puts people in the present: in the here and now, and on the Earth that’s immediately under their feet.
We follow with a typical Druid meditation. Most frequently, we close our eyes, we send our roots down into the earth. We entangle our roots with those of the others in our grove. We relax and shake off the cares of the mundane world, the tensions of getting to the ritual, we just let that all go for the space of the ritual. We raise our metaphysical branches into the air and connect with the powers above us. We take deep breaths and slow our breathing. We prepare ourselves for the ritual.
The meditation should center the participants in the quiet of their own bodies and relax individual body parts and root everyone in the earth and connect them to the powers of the heavens. That’s all. And that’s quite a bit.
If the meditation works, we are also in the here and now in the ritual space and not thinking about getting to the ritual or who these weird druids might be.
When we come out of the meditation, the Druid who is in charge of the ritual will talk for a short while on purpose of the ritual. Are we here for a holiday? Are we here to do magic? This puts everybody on the same page.
Next, we point out the horizontal directions. What’s East of where the ritual is being held? It could be the Atlantic, it could be Brooklyn or Long Island. We’ll talk about geographic features - rivers and mountain ranges- and how they were formed. Sometimes we’ll ask “Who came from the South? Where did you come from?” and follow that around the ritual space. We are orienting ourselves in space in a very real way that everyone can understand. When we travel on highways to get to rituals we frequently don’t know where that site is located in relation to simple geographic features, or even other towns.
We end with “Any point in an infinite space can be the center, any point on the surface of a sphere can be the center, this is now the center.” So, we’ve declared that for our purposes, this ritual space is the center of the universe. Instead of cutting a circle out of the universe for working magick, we are re-creating the center of the universe in our own ritual space.
With the Earth Mother invocation we’ve put people in the present moment and with the meditation we’ve made people aware of their connection with others in the grove and their connection with the earth and sky, and, now, with the horizontal directions they’re aware of where they are in space in relation to the places around them.
Note that the center is a direction by itself. 5 directions.
WELL, FIRE AND TREE
The invocations of Well, Fire and Tree come next, orienting us in vertical space and in magical space. I’m not going to go into Indo-European precedents for well, fire and tree because it would take up way too much time. Suffice it say that if you read old Celtic stories, the Mabinogi, old Irish stories, Norse stuff, Greek and Roman myths, Hindu myths, you will come across magical wells, sacred trees, world trees, and sacrificial fires over and over again. There’s really no question that the old Druids used wells, sacred trees, and sacred fires in their rituals - and archeological evidence from nemetons, the sacred enclosures of the Celts, bears this out.
These are also our Gates. Instead of casting a circle, we recreate the cosmos, and open gates.
Obviously, the well gate goes down. It connects to visceral root stuff, it has associations with ancestors who are buried underground, with underworlds, with fecundity and fertility and with the water that sustains us. Offerings can be made into it that go down. Ribbons can be tied around it. It is the root of the Gates.
The Fire gate goes up. It connects to the heavens, the sky Goddesses and Gods, our higher selves, and our higher aspirations. Offerings can be made into it that go up. It’s both a signal fire and a sacrificial fire. While the well absorbs, the fire transforms.
The Tree is invoked after the Well and Fire in order to connect them. Nature Spirits run up and down the tree, which is rooted in the Well, and has its branches in the light of the sky or the stars. It’s the Norse World Tree, Yggrasil. The Druids called it the Bilé, and it’s our sacred center.
These Gates all work with different types of energy. (Also, these three Gates are the ones we formally invite; there are other Gates in between and all around.) The Well, Fire and Tree all have the scent of folktales and fairy tales and myths- they are points of wonder and magic in the ritual. Connected, they are the axis the ritual revolves around.
At this point, it’s really all about being the center of attention. We try to get centered in our heads and our bodies, standing on our own ground on the Earth, connected to others in our Grove, at the center of horizontal space and vertical space, between the underworlds and the heavens and connected by the tree. We have recreated the cosmos and placed ourselves at the center so all the universe above and below and around can hear us and see us. Our actions take on greater significance here. Our words mean more.
So, now we’ve got our gates invoked. We have a well gate, a fire gate, and a tree gate. The next step is to open them. For that we invoke our Grove’s gatekeeper. We invoke him as an ally to aid us in our magic.
Most Pagan religions have a God or Goddess who is a gatekeeper. Think of Legba. Ganesha. Janus in Rome. Our grove uses Manannan Mac Lir, the Celtic god who is the son of the God of the Sea. He’s the patron of the Isle of Man, and his three legs are still on the seal of the Isle of Man. He rides on the ninth wave, one the boundries between the worlds for the Celts. He’s a figure that appears in many Celtic stories from all over the Celtic world, almost always he’s associated with magic, or strange goings-on. In the stories, he frequently helps humans- sometimes as a trickster, but an ultimately benevolent trickster.
We’ve been working with Manannan for a long time. Every year on the Spring equinox, we travel to Pt. Pleasant NJ, to the beach, and a few of us go in the cold ocean to collect the water from nine separate waves to honor Manannan and to replenish our magical well water. Every fall we honor Manannan with another trip to the shore to discard our old water. We have also been devoting our Spring ritual to Manannan and the various stories that he appears in.
We have a few grove members who work with Manannan on a day-to-day basis, and we rely on their help when we invoke him. What I’m trying to say is that we want to develop serious, long-term relationships with our allies.
So, we’ve developed a relationship that is both practical and emotional, and we’ve performed sacrifices to him, among them trucking out to the shore on a cold weekday and getting our feet in the cold ocean. Taking the time to learn his stories and develop rituals around them. In turn, when we’ve needed to do magic, he’s been there for us.
OPENING THE GATES
And, Manannan has been helping us to open our gates for 13 years, and for any act of magic you want to do in this kind of ritual, you have to have the gates open. This is the first part of the ritual where we are doing magic. We are opening the gates to the otherworlds. When it happens, if you’re paying attention, you can feel it. You can see it. Sometimes, it’s dramatic. I’ve seen the wind kick up to the point where our senior druid, Norma’s, hair was blowing straight out. Sometimes it’s pretty obvious that the gates have been opened. Other times you have to sense it. At certain times of the year it’s easier than others. And there are different gates that open easier at different times of the year.
We turn the well into a gate, the fire into a gate, the tree into a gate, and we say “Let the Gates be Open.” Loudly. So all the neighbors can hear.
THE OUTSIDERS’ OFFERING
If you think of opening the gates as opening the door to a house, you immediately realize you’ve got a bit of a problem now. You live in New Jersey. You’re essentially about to hold a spiritual party. The doors are open. You’re offering the spiritual equivalent of free beer. You didn’t cast a circle of protection, because Druids don’t do that. The guys in the spiritual equivalent of a crackhouse across the street on the astral plane are going to want to crash the party.
You deal with this by making them an offering. At this point in the ritual we make an offering to the outsiders, those entities who would not be comfortable with what we are about to do, or would want to mess up what we are about to do. We also have our gatekeeper, Manannan, to help us if we need help, but primarily we rely on honor and bribes. Many of our grove members are outsiders themselves in many ways, and we are all outsiders somewhere. By honoring the outsiders and offering them something, we get them to leave us alone for the space of the ritual. We also aren’t trying to banish them, or piss them off. Too many people try to challenge these types of spirits. Hey, you gotta sleep sometime. At some point that circle is going to be dissolved. And they’ll still be out there.
We also make an offering to the outsider stuff in ourselves that would hinder us in the ritual: scepticism, anger, that sort of thing. These are useful things, you don’t want to banish them. You’ll need them after the ritual. You simply want to make an offering to them and set them aside so you can do what you need to do in ritual space.
After we acknowledge and offer to the Outsiders, we invoke a Bardic deity. Here we’re invoking an ally to help make our further invocations more powerful. To sweeten our tongues, to help make our voices heard in this world and the other worlds. Our Grove patroness, Brigid, is an ancient Celtic Goddess of poetry, song and storytelling. We’ve depended on her for years, and our Imbolc, or Candlemass ritual is devoted to her. She’s also a Goddess of the healing arts, and a Goddess of smithcraft. And, as Brigantia, the Goddess of the fierce warrior tribe that the Romans called the Brigands. As with Manannan, there are members of our grove who have their own day-to-day relationships with Brigid, and we rely on their help in invoking her.
Now, we invite the group that we call the Kindreds.
First, those kindreds that are closest to us: our Ancestors. These are our ancestors as a general class, but also, and more importantly, our personal ancestors. Grandma who died last year, that sort of thing. We honor them in every ritual. We ask for their help and guidance. They know things that we don’t, and they can do things that we can’t. So we invite them in. People in the grove will call out the names of their departed. Blood ancestors, but also ancestors of the mind- writers, teachers, anyone who has influenced you who’s gone on into death.
Next, Spirits of Nature and Place. This not only includes the animal kingdom, but the spirit of whatever land we happen to be holding the ritual on. And the spirits of whatever town or city we call home. If you’re wandering around looking for a parking spot, a good way to get one is to ask the city for one. Could be as simple as “Hi Secaucus, I’m Ed and I really need a place to park.” It works. It works even better when you say “thank you.” I strongly believe that working with local spirits is really important. Get to know the land you’re living on.
As part of our Nature Spirits invocation, we also call in more inanimate objects: our computers, our cars, our houses, that sort of thing. It seems like we all turn into animists when our cars won’t start, cursing and cajoling, or when our computers bomb. Many Druids believe that there’s sentience and spirit of some sort in everything. And we honor that, as well as the four- and six-legged creatures, and creatures with wings and fins.
We invoke the Goddesses and Gods as a general class. We invite all present at the ritual to call in their own Gods and Goddesses. We don’t discriminate by pantheon or ethnicity or age. And after we call our own patrons in, we also honor all the deities that ever were, and make an offering.
By now, it’s pretty crowded in our ritual space.
We’ve got our gatekeeper, our bardic deity, our ancestors, nature spirits, spirits of place, and all sorts of deities. And our outsiders are hanging outside. We’re connected to the lower worlds by the well, the upper worlds by the fire, and it’s all connected by the tree.
We’re still not through invoking.
We now bring in our main deity of the occasion. This depends on the occasion, and what kind of magic we intend to do. We try to make it a deity that someone in the grove has an established relationship with. The first part of the ritual has been designed in some way to lead up to invoking this deity, and, if we’re working magic, to lead up to the magical act this deity will be helping us with.
The main deity invocation could involve a drawing-down of the deity into someone in the ritual. It could be simply calling them and asking for their presence. There have been times when we’ve called no main deity, and the kindreds sufficed to do what we needed to do.
You can see that we are shamlessly using our allies as power sources. But, we give back to them. It’s not one-sided.
Most magical groups that I’ve seen would start their magickal work at this point, as soon as the deity they were invoking was there. The ancient Druids would not have done that.
An ancient Druid, were he watching one of our rituals, probably wouldn’t say that we were doing things exactly the way he did them a thousand years ago. But he would recognize the parts. He would recognize the well, fire and tree, and understand what they were for. He would understand why we honor our ancestors, why we bring in our nature spirits, why we honor the spirit of the land. He would understand invoking the Goddesses and Gods.
But at this point, he would be asking:
Where’s the cow?
Where’s the cow? You know, what are you going to sacrifice? You’ve got all these spirits here, what are you going to give them?
Now, I could go down to the Shop-Rite and buy a slab of cow and throw it on the fire. That would be easy. But I wouldn’t have raised that cow. I wouldn’t have slaughtered that cow with my own hands. And my family’s well-being doesn’t depend on that cow. Meat is too easy, these days. It’s just not much of a sacrifice.
So what is a good sacrifice, these days? Well, a really good sacrifice is what I’m doing right now - putting my intellectual and emotional XXX on the line in front of the public and in front of the Gods. The Gods respect that. The Gods reward that. We call it, Open Stage of the Gods.
We encourage people to offer praise to the kindreds: songs, poems, stories, dance, vows, artwork, as well as offerings of stones, garden vegetables they’ve raised, that sort of thing. All depending on the holiday, or the magical purpose of the ritual. Sometimes, when we’re doing something that’s doesn’t need to be particularly potent, we’ll let people go one by one with their praises. Other times, we send the praises all at once in one great rush of energy that can only be compared to, maybe, two dozen people simultaneously speaking in tongues. So the praise goes only to the otherworlds, and this world doesn’t get to partake at all. It all depends on what we’re trying to do in the ritual, what we’re trying to accomplish with the energy.
When this is done, we offer a main sacrifice, usually something physical that represents all of our praises and offerings. This could be a flower, a branch cut with a sickle, an apple, or a cup of whiskey in the fire.
Are we there yet? Not quite.
We’ve given to the spiritual world, now we need to know if our offering was acceptable. We want the otherworlds to talk back to us. We take an omen on whether we should continue, or for what guidance the kindreds have for us before we perform our magic. If we get a bad omen, then we don’t do the magic. We shut down the ritual. Sometimes the omen justs asks us to modify what we’re doing. Sometimes it clearly refers to something completely outside of the ritual. One time the omen was clearly telling us to hurry up the ritual because a thunderstorm was moving in. This gives us information on how the otherworlds feel about the magic we’re going to do. This is useful. If the omen is acceptable:
THE CATECHISM OF THE WATERS
The catechism of the waters, the next part of the ritual, involves taking the energy that’s been generated and putting it into water, and passing that water to the people in the grove to empower them. You’re literally drinking in the ritual. The Hallowing of the Waters is, after the opening of the gates, the second real magickal act in the ritual. You can liken it to a Catholic priest turning wine and bread into the blood and body of Christ, except we’re not cannibals.
FINALLY, THE MAGICK
Now, finally, the Druids are ready to perform whatever act of magick they’ve intended. This could be imitative magic, sympathetic magic, folk magic of all sorts, a protection working: whatever is required. Usually, we have a fairly large group, and this both limits and expands the kinds of magick you can do. Writing things on joss paper and having each person offer the joss paper (which is covered with a thin layer of gold and silver) to the Godesses and Gods in a fire offering works well for us. It’s an echo of the gold the Druids sent to the Gods in wells and fires.
The magickal working could be a blessing of magickal tools, or a blessing of mundane tools, like the traditional spring “blessing of the plough.”
This spring we did a trance ritual that had us blessing the five senses of everyone there to increase their talents. We based it on, among other things, the old Irish story of Cormac’s Cup.
We did a very serious and powerful protection magickal act on the Samhain after Sept. 11th, where we channeled all the anger and fear in the grove toward the gates that opened in NY in order to drive whatever came through those gates back and close those gates. We did this in conjunction with a number of area covens and groves that Samhain.
We don’t do magick every ritual, tho, most of our stuff is celebratory. We’re content with honoring our kindreds in the otherworlds, and this one, without asking for anything but their love.
Also, I should add that we also do a lot of folk magic that doesn’t require a long, involved ritual. We sing to fruit trees and wassail them in the winter so they survive and to make them more fruitful in the spring.
At dawn on May 1st we’re in Princeton helping Morris dancers “wake up the earth” with a number of very old ritual dances and dramas. This year, we were all out there in the pouring rain as the sun came up. And we had 50 people standing there watching us at dawn in the pouring rain. Because someone has to do the magic that brings in the spring.
ENDING THE RITE
After the magickal working we meditate, briefly, and ground again. We might take another omen, if we feel we need one. Usually, it’s clear whether it’s worked or not.
Then, because we’re civil, because we’re polite, we thank the deities we’ve invited, we thank the nature spirits, the spirits of place, we thank our ancestors, we thank our Bardic deity. We close the ritual, and with the help of our Gatekeeper, we close the gates. Then we thank our Gatekeeper. We wind down, return everyone to the material world, and clearly end the rite.
ENDING THE LECTURE
We believe that having a real relationship with the land, the gates, the kindreds and individual deities and having a real connection to the other worlds is the heart and soul of ADF Druid ritual. If we don’t have that real connection to the other worlds, we’re not a real religion, we’re a cargo cult. - we’re just dressing up and calling ourselves by funny names and pretending we’re a religion, or pretending we’re magicians.
You can see that our philosophy is all about asking rather than demanding. It’s about working with the natural world, and the natural otherworlds, rather than exploiting those worlds the way mankind has exploited this one. We try to use our spiritual resources wisely, and we clean up whatever psychic pollution we’ve left.
It’s a fairly complicated ritual. If you really want to get an idea on how this plays out, go to our website, where we have a dozen or more writeups of various rituals we’ve done, and read through a few.
Also, check out our calendar, and come see what we do in person. We’re open and public.
Druid Magic Reading List
Grove of the Other Gods, Ár Draíocht Féin Druidry
THE DRUIDS, Peter Berresford Ellis, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, ISBN 0-8028-3798-0. This is the book to start with if you want to know about the ancient Druids.
Books on Druid Magic:
DRUIDHEACHD: SYMBOLS AND RITES OF DRUIDRY, by Ian Corrigan. A small chapbook by ADF’s former acting ArchDruid and Preceptor, now head of the Magic Guild. Good explanation of the ADF liturgy, Druid magical tools, inner work, brief rites and spells. Contact www.ADF.org
CARMINA GADELICA, Hymns and Incantations Collected in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland in the 1800s by Alexander Carmichael, Lindisfarne Press, Hudson NY, ISBN 0-940262-50-9. Old Pagan charms and invocations, some with Christian interjections, spells for various ailments, fairy spells, auguries, songs for dying wool, churning butter, etc... just as you would have found them if you’d been hiking around Scotland in the 1800s. With a bit of imagination, there’s a lot here that could be ‘reclaimed’ by modern Druids. There are wonderful stories in the notes at the end of the book. I can personally vouch that some of these charms still work.
THE MABINOGION. I recommend the one translated and introduced by Jeffery Gantz, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England, ISBN 0-88029-039-0. Welsh tales written down in the 13th century from older oral tradition. A lot of magic, otherworld encounters.
TALIESIN, by John Matthews, The Aquarian Press, 1991, ISBN 1-85538-109-5. . Bills itself as “Shamanism and the Bardic Mysteries in Britain and Ireland,” but Matthews is a respected NeoPagan author, and there’s a great deal of magickal information here from all sorts of old stories. I’ve found this very useful on many occasions.
GLAMOURY by Steve Blamires. St. Paul MN, Llewellyn Publications (2000) Not the best of the lot, but not the worst by far. At least his magickal system is based on solid sources rather than modern Celtic fantasy. Like everything else in life, chew it before you swallow it.
REAL MAGIC by Isaac Bonewits. 1989, Samuel Weiser, Inc., York Beach, Maine. ISBN 0-87728-688-4. This is a classic text by the founder and ArchDruid Emeritus of ADF. It’s not a “Druid” book per se, but a basic text on magic by someone who has been involved in dozens of magickal groups for many years. Isaac is responsible for much of the original ADF Druid liturgy. Isaac also holds the first (and only) B.A. degree in Magick and Thaumaturgy bestowed by the University of California at Berkely. Isaac's website, click here.
On Ogham Divination
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE OGHAMS?, by Skip Ellison, current ArchDruid of Ár nDraíocht Féin. Order from http://www.dragonskeepfarm.com
Just the facts, ma’am, on divination by tree runes. The individual ogham, their meanings, use in ancient texts, variations on Ogham.
Modern Pagan Druids:
THE DRUID TRADITION, Philip Carr-Gomm. Element Books (Part of the “Elements of...” series), Rockport, Mass., ISBN 1-85230-202-X. Good overview of ancient and modern Druidry, by the Archdruid of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.
THE DRUID RENAISSANCE, edited by Philip Carr-Gomm. Thorsons (Harper Collins), London, England. ISBN 1-85538-480-9. Information on the modern Druid revival, by various authors in different traditions.
THE DRUID SOURCE BOOK; THE CELTIC SEERS SOURCE BOOK; THE BARDIC SOURCE BOOK. Compiled and edited by John Matthews. Blandford Press, London, England, ISBN 0-7137-2572-9. 3 collections of excerpts from source material from ancient times through modern times, along with a bit of explanation. Excerpts are out of context, still it teases you to read some of these... beware romantic ideas and speculation.
IRISH FOLK AND FAIRY TALES, edited by Sean Kelly. Galley Press, (The Rutledge Press) New York, NY, ISBN 0-8317-5001-4. Old Irish stories of Gods and Goddesses, Druids and Warriors.
THE GODS OF THE CELTS, Miranda Green, Alan Sutton. Gloucester, England & Barnes and Noble Books, Totowa, NJ, ISBN 0-389-20672-5. Guide to Celtic religion in Britain and Europe covers Gods, ritual customs, cult objects and sacred places. Professor Green, Research Fellow at the centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies, University of Wales, is a well-respected Celtic scholar.
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A DRUID PRINCE. Anne Ross and Don Robins, A Touchstone Book (Simon and Schuster), New York, NY, ISBN 0-671-7422-5. Ross and Robins speculate that ‘lindow man’, a 2000 year old body discovered in a peat bog in the English midlands in 1984, was a high-ranking Druid who was voluntarily sacrificed in a Druid ritual. Dr. Ross is a consultant for National Geographic in the U.K. and a well-known Celtic scholar, Dr. Robins is on the faculty of the Institute of Archaeology at the University of London.
Authors writing about modern Pagan Druidry that you can trust most of the time:
John and Caitlin Matthews, Philip Carr-Gomm, Ellen Evert Hopman, Ian Corrigan, Erynn Darkstar and Taíne Bwca, John King.
Major Modern Pagan Druid Organizations that you can trust most of the time:
Ár nDraíocht Féin; The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids; Keltria.
WEB SITES: www.othergods.org
(our local grove site) and www.adf.org
(our national site).