- Describe the difference between a “magical” ritual and a “religious” ritual, including if there is a difference and why there is or is not. (min. 150 words)
I think this is a case of squares and rectangles. All religious rituals are magical, but not all magical rituals are religious. This comes from the fact that all rituals contain elements of magic that aid the folk in communing with and honoring the gods. However, I don’t think all acts of magic take place within a religious context. For some, I think perhaps for me, they might, but I don’t see it as a requirement. In every religious ritual magic is performed in someone way or another. Sometimes it is simply an invocation calling for a spirit to hear our words, sometimes it is calling for blessings from the spirits, and sometimes it is an elaborate working with a specific intent. But when you consider that all magic is is prayer with intent, then we’re performing magic all the time in ritual.
When considering magic specifically within the context of an ADF ritual, it is important to determine whether or not you are observing the 18 steps of the Core Order of Ritual, and leaving out the 7 things that are not to be included in an ADF ritual (ADF Clergy Council). If you are including all the steps in the Core Order of Ritual, then it must be a religious ritual, even when it includes a magical working. You have Opened the Gates, honored the Kindreds, and continued the work of building a working *ghosti relationship. If you’re not including all the steps, or you are including one of the 7 things that don’t fall within an ADF ritual, then the rite may be better classified as a magical ritual. This may be the case if one were completing one of the spells from the Greek Magical Papyri that calls for a blood sacrifice, such as the spell detailed in PGM III 1-164, which requires drowning a cat (Betz). For the record, I would not recommend attempting most of the malicious spells contained in the PGM.
Additionally, the division of magic without religious purposes can be seen within ancient cultures when looking at the division of functions. The Priest and the Magician divided out from the other functions as the magico-religious class, but then also divided further as time went on (Mallory 131-2). In general, the priest remained welcome within mainstream society, while the magician was relegated to the outskirts and the fringes of society. Religion, and rituals that contained both religious and magical elements, was part of everyday life. However, magic when it was performed out side of a religious context drifted away from the mainstream and was feared in many cases (Graf 20-22).
It should also be noted that depending on what category of magic your working in will determine whether or not it fits better into a religious of magical definition. As I described in Magic 1, the categories I see magic falling into are based on intent. Does the magic benefit the spirits, the self, or the folk? I think magic that benefits the spirits or the folk is better classified as a religious ritual, while the magic that benefits the self will more often fit the definition of magical ritual. Again though, the line is fuzzy, and won’t stay the same for all practitioners of magic.
- Describe magic as it exists in one non-Indo-European culture, describe how it has influenced or could influence the magical system of an Indo-European culture, and describe what lessons you could take from the non-IE culture into your own personal practice. (min. 200 words)
The Egyptian magicians and priests were practitioners of magic as it exists in a non-Indo-European culture. They were said to be keepers of ancient mysteries, and refused to share their methods with outsiders, so there is very little information on the apprenticeships that beginning priests and magicians in Egypt would undergo in order to be initiated. What we do have, however, are recipes and handbooks for many of the technical aspects of the magic from the Hellenistic Age. These can be found in the Greek Magical Papyri.
The nature of Egyptian magic has certain features that can be teased out by looking at what doesn’t fit with the magic that existed in Greece before the Hellenistic Age. The first aspect of Egyptian magic is that it is “a means of harnessing good or evil powers in order to achieve one’s goals and desires” and is not necessarily used a means of protection from evil powers (Luck 25). The second aspect of Egyptian magic is that the magician uses their own personal authority, their ‘Big Voice,’ and “pretends to be a god in order to frighten the gods” allowing them to command these greater powers (Luck 25). The third aspect of Egyptian magic is that there are specific and exact words and diagrams that are used to achieve the desired ends. Similarly, the fourth aspect of Egyptian magic is that there are specific gestures and rites performed in order to achieve the desired ends (Luck 26).
Due to Egypt’s proximity to Greece in both location, trade, and migration, there ended up being a lot of crossover between the two cultures in terms of magic. “The Greeks who lived in Egypt had an opportunity to observe native religions and forms of worship, folklore, and superstition, and being Greek, they must have tried to make sense of what they saw” (Luck 14). The Greeks had a definite hand in the creation of the magical papyri that have been found as they gathered and modified the practice that existed in Egypt to fit their language and needs. As the native gods of Egypt (Isis, Osiris, Anubis, Typhon, etc.) are called in the magical spells in the Papyri, it is interesting to note the phenomenon that “the gods of a foreign culture are not addressed as proper gods, but since they seem to work for that other culture, they are suspected of having powers that could be useful in magical operations” (Luck 16).
As I incorporate various aspects of magic into my own personal practice, I definitely see the influence from the Egyptian system of magic. This makes sense, since many of the current occult systems draw heavily on the practice of this particular ancient system. For example, when I do magic that is outside of a religious ritual context, it is often done in order to achieve my own goals and desires. Additionally, I have learned that when I’m doing any magical act, whether it is invoking a spirit, opening the gates, calling for blessings, or something else, it is certainly best to use my ‘Big Voice.’ While I would not say that I’m trying to “frighten the gods,” I am speaking in such a way that denotes that I have the confidence and authority to be acting the way that I am. I have tried a few of the spells from the Greek Magical Papyri, however with the emphasis on following the recipes and instructions exactly, most of them are impractical in a modern context. The few I have tried though, particularly those meant to induce trance to speak with a certain spirit and a few of the amulets, have seemed to be successful.
- (Crossover Requirement) Keep a journal for five months detailing the trance work that you have done. Write an essay based off those journals that examines your practice over the time you journaled. The essay should describe how you use trance for your magic, whether trance has helped your magic, and particularly how trance and magic have played off each other in your personal work. Entries occurring less than weekly will not count toward completion of this requirement. Your journal must include work from the exercises found in the support material for this course. [This requirement’s journal matches up with requirement 10 in Trance 1: see required and recommended reading for that course for further information] (min. 1000 words)
Trance has certainly played an integral role in my magical work, both in and out of ritual. I’ve found that in order to be in the best mindset to achieve the results I want with my magical work, I need to enter a least a light trance. This trance may differ depending on my location, if there are other people present, if the magical working is taking place in or out of a ritual context, and how complex the magical working is. The deepest trance states I use in conjunction with magical work are done when I am in my own home, by myself, in ritual space, with a complex working. If I’m going to go deep into trance I need to feel safe and comfortable. This could probably be done around a few people who I trust as well, though that opportunity has not presented itself. I am also more likely to enter a deep trance state for more complex workings because this will minimize distraction and help me to better focus my intent. Additionally, I’m more likely to do a complex magical working within ritual space because if it is that important or that complex, I will probably be asking the spirits for assistance.
I use trance when I am doing divinatory work, which I consider to be a form of spirit arte. I am entering a trance state to call on the spirits, in this case Apollo Mantikos, in order to ask for their assistance in divining the answers to specific questions or general situations. When I do divination the first thing I do is take a deep breath to center myself and then call out to Apollo Mantikos, crushing an offering bay leaves, using the same prayer I use every time I pull omens:
“Apollo Mantikos, guide my hand.
See with my eyes. Hear with my ears. Speak with my voice.”
I crush the bay leaves in order to offer them because it is both a sound and a smell that happens every time. This resonates with the idea that the Pythia had a whole series of steps that she would do the same every time in order to prepare her to speak with Apollo and enter the trance state where that was possible. As I use them in a similar way to put myself into a light trance in order to make that call to Apollo Mantikos and be able to hear and interpret his words, I feel it is an apt way of doing things. This intentional use of trance has helped to augment my divinatory practice.
Then I begin pulling symbols out of the bag, letting my hand stir them around and linger over them until one ‘feels right’ and I pull it out and lay it out as part of the spread. I do not put the symbols back after I pull them, because I feel that in most cases this is not conducive for me to be able to relate the symbols to each other. It makes sense to me to have the smaller pool of symbols, and I feel like if this is how I always do my divinations, then the messages I receive from the divine will answer my questions in such a manner that this makes sense.
I also use trance for magic when I writing bardic pieces. Part of the Order of Bardic Alchemy work requires you to write a bardic piece in ritual space, with the intent to use it during ritual. The Muses are my bardic patrons, and whom I work with most frequently when I’m doing bardic work. I call to them for inspiration before I write, and often before I play, sing, or perform. I decided the piece I would write would honor them, and give me an alternative method to call to them, rather than with a simple invocation.
I did the bardic alchemy devotional, and when I reached the working portion, I called to the Muses for inspiration and asked them to fill me with their song so that I might better honor both them and Kindreds. I made offerings of sweet incense (Lotus), milk, and honey. The thought process here was that this was a mix of the sweet words that I hoped to be blessed with and one of the hypotheses for what makes up ambrosia.
I had my bard book open in front of me, and sat staring at a flame. The words seemed to come excessively quickly. I often describe the process of this ‘gift song’ as trying to catch the Awen with your pen, and funnel it down into something coherent on the page. This was not my first experience with a ‘gift song,’ and like the others, the whole piece was written in probably under an hour: words, chords, melody, and all. It required very little revision following the initial writing. “Muses, Sing Through Me” is still the main way that call to the muses before beginning bardic work.
This type of gift song also occurred when I wrote a song honoring Artemis (“I am the Huntress”), and when I wrote a song honoring Tsirona, one of Brighde’s helping spirits met during the Court of Brigid work with Ian (“Because They Love”).
I also use trance when I’m doing healing work, in order to focus the intent of the energy being directed, as well as allowing me to better visual the target when I’m working from a distance. Most recently we performed a healing at a Druid Moon for one of our Grove members who is dealing with a wound that won’t heal, a staph infection, and recently diagnosed diabetes. Paul, Missy, and I led the working, which involved everyone toning and focusing the healing energy through to the grove member. We began by breathing together and then started the toning. The regulated breaths that are required by toning, combined with the circular motions Missy was making with incense helped to drop me into a deeper trance. Things seemed to slow and the sounds took on a synesthesic quality, seeming to thicken and color. I focused on wrapping the grove member in the tones. As we continued to work, I began to hear the overtones and harmonics coming out of the toning. That is one of the cues that I recognize as an indicator that the intent is properly focused and the magical work is taking effect. We continued for just a bit longer past the overtones, letting them fully sink in, before completing the work. I was surprised to note that the Folk followed me in ceasing the toning, and then Missy tied up the loose ends with pretty words.
I also put myself into a light trance when I am performing various magical parts of liturgy. Most notably invocations of specific deities, the recreation of the cosmos and opening/closing the gates, and the return flow. Some examples of this are when I invoked Poseidon during Dylan Johndrow’s Coming of Age rite. His patrons are Poseidon and Athena, and as we share a devotee relationship with Poseidon, I wrote and performed the invocation. I was in a light trance for it, and felt the power surge through me and into him as I was speaking:
“The Children of the Earth call out to Poseidon, the Lord of the Deep!
Fury of the cresting breakers and calm in the raging storm.
Your trident commands the ocean.
The seas turn glassy at your approach as your horses toss their heads, coming ashore.
Your teach us of endurance and patience,
The calm in the raging storm.
You teach us of strength and perseverance,
The gates holding the Titans at bay.
You teach us of memory and honor,
The consequences of our actions.
You teach us of persistence and change,
The ebb and flow of the tides.
You teach us of magic and mystery,
The dark and unfathomable depths.
Encircle us as your realm encircles the earth.
Wash over us as your waves drench our souls.
May we be pulled to the watery depths by your riptide,
And bob to the surface as the tide rolls in.
Poseidon, come to us, and let us feel your heavy gait upon the earth
As you join your magic and power with ours.
Elthete, Poseidon, and accept this Sacrifice!”
During my grove’s Summer Solstice ritual at Comfest this year I Opened the Gates in a way that differs from how we normally do. I first Recreated the Cosmos, then Opened the Gates of my own power before calling on Atlas to act as a Gatekeeper and Guard the Gates for us. Recreating the Cosmos and Opening the Gates is something I have always done in a light trance. I get to that state mostly by breathing to center myself and letting myself sink into that state. I find the experience of performing these two parts of the ritual to be visually interesting, because I see, or envision, an almost overlaid image as the worlds align, and then as I make the spiraling motions to Open the Gates the slightly fuzzy look that the overlaid image lends clears and comes into focus.
The Return Flow is also an example of when I use trance for a magical part of the liturgy. During the Hellenic Full Moon rituals that I’ve been leading, following the omen, I ask that the omens fill the Waters, and grow in power like the cycle of the moon:
“Let the brightness of the full moon fill these waters with the omens we have received, [Omen, Omen, and Omen]. Let their blessings grow in strength like the light of the moon, shining with the brilliant power akin to the noon-day sun. Their strength shall augment our strength as we approach the workings ahead.”
I envision the moon growing from new to full, and the omens filling the Waters making them grow brighter and brighter as the power is poured into the Waters by the Theoi. The blessed waters are then mixed with wine and the Folk are free to drink either the water or watered wine.
I also use trance when I am doing a protective working. I’ve found trance in this case to be particularly helpful because it helps me to better visualize where and how the “zone of protection” is. An example of this was following Easter weekend this past year. There was a shooting involving students at my school, where one killed the other. We (the teachers) were advised not to come to school the day following the funeral due to fears of retaliation. There had been threats related to that specific day, and so I along with many of my coworkers, did not go in to work that day. However, I did do some hefty work in the days leading up to then, both to protect the students at my school, and to make sure that nothing happened and none of the threats came to fruition. I made offerings to the Theoi, and asked that they watch over the students at my school. I also asked Epione to provide healing for those who were grieving, and allow them positive outlets for their anger and sadness. I drew up energy from the Earth and gathered it within myself. Then I focused on it traveling outwards and blanketing my school in a protective mist that both deters violence and helps to wash clean the anguish that dwells there now.
Trance, as well as practice, has certainly helped my magic. It allows me to better focus my intent. Additionally, since I am a very visual learner, it helps me be able to visualize my intent clearly. Trance and magic play off each other very nicely in this same sense. I can enter trance in order to perform magical work, and then often during the magical work my trance will deepen as my intent focuses, and as my trance deepens the magical work becomes more potent. I think trance is an integral part of magical work for me. It doesn’t always have to be a deep trance for every working, but at least a light trance helps to take me out of the mundane state of mind and into the state I need to be in to focus.
- Discuss the role of the Three Kindreds in magic, particularly in your personal practice but also in ADF’s cosmology. (min. 300 words)
The Three Kindreds are part of what makes ADF unique in the vast conglomerate of neopagan religions. The collection of Ancestors, Nature Spirits, and Shining Ones are the spirits with whom we build our relationships, and who we come to honor. I am reminded of one of the “challenge questions” within my grove when we perform members only rites: “Who do you come to honor?”
The Kindreds are one of the cornerstones of our practice, especially as it relates to building the *ghosti relationship. This relationship of hospitality, of give and take, is a large part of makes magic possible within the context of ADF. For me, since I perform nearly every magical act with the aid of a spirit, it is especially important to develop good relationships with the Kindreds, or the categories of spirits that exist.
I will admit, that I often have a difficult time with the delineation of spirits into the Three Kindred categories, feeling more comfortable operating with the spirits in terms of what realm they come from. That being said however, depending on the magical task at hand will determine who I am working with.
First, within the context of an ADF ritual, some of the common magical acts that are performed are things like opening the gates and calling for the blessings. When working with a spirit to perform one of these acts, it is important to have built a relationship with them. The relationship is important because we are asking the spirit to “join your magic with mine,” and without the relationship that we have focused on having within a religious context, the joining of our magic would not be as powerful. For example, when opening the Gates, it is important to have built a relationship with a spirit who can traverse all the realms, because that is what their knowledge allows them to do, and what their powers are geared towards. However, this spirit does not need to belong to a specific category of Kindred. The two Gatekeepers I commonly work with are Hekate, a Shining One, and Garanos, a Nature Spirit.
While I believe the relationship is paramount to working with the spirits, within the ancient context this was not always the case. Take for instance, the Greek Magical Papyri, and the plethora of spells it contains that deal with coercing a spirit and making it do your will. The ones I’ve noticed the most often are the spells that deal with Typhon (PGM IV 260-285). I relate to this the way I noticed relationships working within an urban classroom. As the teacher, you find the biggest, baddest kid in the room, and win him over to your cause. Then he will take care of keeping the rest of the kids in line. So, in the case of the ancient magician, if he could get Typhon to do as he wanted, then he wouldn’t have to be concerned with the other spirits because Typhon would take care of them for him.
When I’m thinking about the delineation of spirits along the lines of the Ancestors, Nature Spirits, and Shining Ones, depending on what category the fall in changes the way I think about them and how I approach my relationship with them in terms of magical work.
The Ancestors are important for their knowledge and skills that they are able to pass on, and this is determined based on the skills they had in life. So, if I am working with an ancestor and desire to learn more about and perform divinatory work, I may reach out to Teiresias or Pythia, because in life, that is where their skills were. Teiresias was a Seer in life, and Odysseus meets him when he journeys to the Underworld. Teiresias gives him a prophecy and guidance (Homer). The Pythia is the name given to the Oracle who dwells at Delphi and speaks for Apollo (Johnston 33-50). These ancient diviners carry forward the skills they had in life into death. Therefor, by developing a relationship with them, and communing with them, not only can they teach you some of their skills, but they can also assist in the interpretation of an omen. Alternatively, if I wanted to work with an Ancestor for bardic work, I may reach out to Taliesin or, more likely, Homer.
The Nature Spirits have otherworldly powers that give them the innate ability to perform magical acts. When developing a relationship with a Nature Spirit in the context of magic, they are beneficial to work with because they are likely to know more about a certain type of magic than me. For instance, if I am working with plants and growing things, I would likely call out to a nymph of some variety for their specialized skills in that area. Nature Spirits also make excellent guides, as is evidenced by the number of people who have totems and spirits guides that take the form of animals. This can also be seen in the lore when considering the Greek daimons. They are spirits who are approached for a variety of reasons, and are powerful beings in their own right. They can help a magician if he calls on them to perform anything from agricultural magic to weather magic.
The Shining Ones are huge, alien, and knowledgeable in far more things than me. So when I seek to work with them it is from the stand point of they have this awesome power, and I’ve developed a relationship with them that makes them want to help me, as I have honored them. I often view working with the Shining Ones as their power filling me (or another person), and allowing me to direct that energy to achieve an end. For example, when I do bardic work, I ask the Muses to fill me with their power and to sweeten my words, to sing through me. When I do healing work, I often ask for Asklepios or Epione to fill the physician and work through their hands. Askelpios is the son of Apollo and God of Medicine and Doctors (Atsma “Asklepios”). Epione is his wife, and is the Goddess of the soothing of pain, particularly emotional pain (Atsma “Epione”). Othertimes I ask Brighde to fill me with her warmth and allow me to ease the pain of someone. When I do divinatory work, I call on Apollo Mantikos to “See with my eyes, / Hear with my ears, / and Speak with my voice.” These are all forms of spirit arte and/or channeling the divine, and it is that relationship that I’ve developed with the deity that allows me to ask for, and perform these acts of magic.
- Discuss three different instances of magic done in every ADF ritual, how the magic is accomplished, and what makes that particular work magic. (min. 150 words each instance)
The three instances of magic that are done in every ADF ritual that I’ll be discussing are the Recreating the Cosmos, Opening/Closing of the Gates, and the Return Flow.
Recreating the Cosmos
The Re-Creation of the Cosmos lines up the different realms, so that they are overlaid, or parallel. It is common to sanctify the space around the ritual and the ritual participants as part of the Re-Creation of the Cosmos. I think this works well, since we are creating the Sacred Center of ritual, and setting aside the mundane for a time in order to commune with the spirits.
When I Re-Create the Cosmos I first hallow the space around the ritual participants, to be sure that the miasma is washed clean and chaos is left behind. Then I initiate the connection to the worlds by declaring that the smoke from our sacred Fire will carry our prayers to the gods. I make offerings to the Fire and the Well, allowing the objects that represent them to become fit for the purpose of ritual. Then I take the omphalos and bring it to the center, declaring that it marks the Sacred Center of all the Realms. The Re-Creation of the Cosmos works because it establishes the Sacred Center and primed the space for the Opening of the Gates.
Because I am mimicking the first establishment of the Center, the magic being performed here is sympathetic. I am mimicking the directions of Zeus, as he searched for the Center of the World.
Below are the words I say most often when Re-Creating the Cosmos:
“Let this area around us be purified sacred space where we go to meet the gods, and the gods descend down to meet with us.
Let the smoke from our sacred fire carry our voices to the heavens to be heard by the gods.
I place this omphalos at the center of worlds, just as it marked the center of the ancient world. My hands, like two eagles, flying to meet in the middle and establish this as the sacred center of worlds.
Through this sacred center, let the World Tree grow, plunging deep within the earth to touch the Sacred Waters below and reaching through the sky to embrace the Sacred Fires above.
Opening the Gates
After the Cosmos has been Re-Created, the space is primed and the Gates are ready to be opened. When the Gates are opened the space between the realms is connected, so that we are better able to hear the Kindreds and they are better able to hear us. It is akin to ringing the doorbell of a spirit. While they are all around us, Opening the Gates allows us to get their attention.
When I Open the Gates, I call on a Gatekeeper for assistance. In my personal rites, this is usually Hekate. I say an invocation that praises Her and extols the reasons why I desire to work with Her in particular. Then I ask that She join Her magic with mine, and help me open the Gates. The physical motions that I make I believe are echoes of what many in ADF do. When Opening the Gate to the Underworld through the Well I make a spiral motion from my center, counter-clockwise down towards my feet. When Opening the Gate to the Upperworld through the Fire I make a spiral motion from my center, clockwise up towards the sun towards my feet. Then to connect the realms I first form a ball (Tai Chi “hold the ball”) at my navel with my right hand on top and left on bottom, then I press my right hand up towards the heavens, and my left hand down towards the earth. Finally, as I proclaim the Gates to be open I take my hands from a ‘prayer’ position and open them out to my sides.
In this manner, I think the motions help to focus the intent of the magic, but it is with the help of the Gatekeeper that the Gates can actually be opened. As with most of the other acts of magic I’ve discussed, it is the relationship with the spirit that makes the magic possible.
Below are the words I say most often when Opening/Closing the Gates:
“We call out now to Hekate to guide us in walking between the worlds!
Hekate, at moonlit crossroads, you befriend the helpless.
Keyholding Mistress of Earth, Sea, and Sky.
Dark Mother Hekate,
Ghosts and hounds follow you.
You are the black puppy and the black she-lamb.
Torchbearer, we praise you for the brightness of your power.
We offer you [eggs and wine].
Hekate of the Crossroads be our Guide!
Guide us as you guided Demeter in her journey.
Reveal to us the way to walk in safety.
Radiant Hekate of the Torches,
Guiding Light, Keeper of the Keys,
Join your hidden knowledge and power with ours
and help us to open the Gates between the worlds.
Let this water become the Well, and open as a Gate to the worlds below.
Our connections deepen to the Chthonic beings as the Gate is opened.
Let this flame become the Fire, and open as a Gate to the worlds above.
Our connections deepen to the Ouranic beings as the Gate is opened.
Let this Omphalos stand at the center, and mark our sacred center here and in all the world. Let the tree wrap its roots around the stone and sink into the Well, and let it’s branches stretch upwards and reach for the Fire.
We stand here, connected at the Sacred Center to all the realms of Land, Sea, and Sky.
Let the Gates be Open!”
Closing the Gates/Restoration of the Ordinary
“Let this Well be but water, ever sacred in its own right, but no longer a Gate opening to the many paths.
Let this Fire be but a flame, ever sacred in its own right, but no longer a Gate opening to the many ways.
Let the omphalos no longer be the Center of the Worlds holding us at the Crossroads. Hekate, as we move away from the Crossroads and return to the center of our hearts and homes, stand ever vigilant as you always do, until we return again in need of your aid.”
The Return Flow
The Return Flow takes place after all the offerings have been made. It is the reciprocal part from the Gods, that as we have given gifts to them, now we ask for gifts in return. When we ask for blessings from the Kindreds, we take an Omen to see what form those blessings will take. Then the Blessings are infused in some way, often within the Waters, so that the folk can imbibe them and take them within themselves, and carry them into the work ahead and into their lives.
When I Call for the Blessings, I first reflect on the omens that the Seer has received and interpreted. It is important to understand the omen, because that is what you are going to be infusing the Waters with, and offering to the Folk. I find it useful in larger, especially diverse, rites to also call on the Folk themselves to consider the omens and their interpretation, and how it applies to them. I then ask for the Theoi to give us their blessings, as we have given of ourselves. I use the imagery of the moon to help the Folk visualize the Blessings filling the waters. I hold the vessel of water aloft as I ask for the Theoi to send down their blessings. As I am doing this I reach out in all directions with tendrils of awareness, and use them to act as a conduit and a funnel for the blessings, so that they make it into the vessel. As I feel the vessel getting heavier, more dense, and often slightly warmer, I declare that with the blessings of the gods we can grow ourselves, and symbolize this mixing of our energies by pouring the blessing infused waters into the wine (or juice). Some of the water is reserved for any workings that will be done, as well as for those who desire a non-alcoholic drink (when wine has been used). The Folk are then invited to imbibe and reflect on the blessings.
Below are words, or a variation on them, that I commonly say when conducting the Return Flow:
*have vessel filled with wine, and vessel filled with water. Water is infused with the blessings and poured into the wine. Some water is set aside for the working*
Having given of ourselves, and received wisdom and blessings in return, we now seek to take of those blessings to enrich ourselves for the work that is to come. We seek to fill ourselves with these blessings so that we may be thusly imbued with the sacred powers and apply ourselves to the work ahead.
*take vessel filled with water*
Let the brightness of the Shining Gods fill these waters with the omens we have received, [Omen, Omen, and Omen]. Let their blessings grow in strength like the light of the moon, shining with the brilliant power akin to the noon-day sun. Theoi! Rain your blessing down upon us, and fill our Sacred Cup.
*vessel is held aloft as water is infused with the blessings*
Their strength shall augment our strength *blessed waters are poured into wine. reserve some waters for the working* as we approach the workings ahead.
Drink deep, Children of Earth, and think on the gifts we’ve been given.
- Discuss the use of song and poetry in magic within your hearth culture, and explain how you have used music and poetry in your own work. (min. 300 words)
There are many examples of poetry within the Greek hearth culture, ranging from epic poems to hymns praising the spirits. The poetry that I have found to be most useful in ritual space are the Homeric and Orphic hymns. Each is to a clearly defined spirit (most often one of the deities), and extols them and their domains. During the Hellenic Full Moon rituals that I lead, we use the Orphic Hymn to each of the Olympians for the month that they are honored.
Plutarch discusses types of music within Ancient Greece, dividing them into the two contrasting categories of paean and dithyramb. He relates the former to Apollo and the latter to Dionysos: “To this god [Dionysos] they also sing dithyrambic mele full of passions and a modulation that has a certain wandering and dissipation. For Aeschylus says: ‘It is fitting that the dithyramb with its mingled shouts should accompany Dionysos as fellow-reveler.’ But to the other god [Apollo] they sing the paean, an ordered and temperate muse” (Mathiesen 71). This fits with my concept of the two types of inspiration, and two methods that I commonly use to write. There is the wild and free inspiration that comes from Dionysos, but there is also the inspiration of writing with a strict form in mind, that comes from Apollo. I use both methods when I write, sometimes separately, and sometimes together.
It should not be surprising that I use song and poetry rather extensively within my own personal practice, and for the most part I use them in much the same way. I generally use poetry, often free verse, to invoke the spirits. I enjoy writing these out before hand so that I can focus on the way the sounds roll together and how the specific words play off each other, however, I am also comfortable speaking off the cuff in a poetic fashion for invocations. Some of ones I use often, in many different rituals, are to Ushas, Hekate, Gaea, Okeanos, Ouranos, and Poseidon. I have also used song to invoke the spirits. An example of this is “Muses, Sing Through Me,” where I call to each of the nine muses in turn, describe their strengths, and invite the to “Inspire me with [their] grace and song, to honor all the Kindreds.”
I use both song and poetry in my personal work to honor the spirits. For example, “Because They Love (Tsirona’s Song),” is a song that describes the joy and healing that she brings through the power of music. “A Song for Your Passing” was written as an Ancestor song (specifically for my grandfather) and honors those who have gone by singing of them, and reminding that we continue to honor them when we tell their stories and share their words. “Kore: Phoenix Maid” is a poem written in honor of the Kore and her rebirth as Persephone.
There are also songs and poems that I use with specific magical intent in mind. For example, “Wash Away,” is a song I use for healing, specifically emotional healing. The last line of the song is literally “Let this song wash away all your sorrows.” It has the added benefit that it is simple enough for folks to pick up easily and sing with me, as well as simple enough to allow for embellishments, echoes, harmonies, and countermelodies to be woven in. To me, this helps make the song much more powerful. I’m currently working on a sestina (a strictly formatted poem) designed to be used in opening the gates.
Other musical things I due to enhance my magical work are free note toning and toning the Awen to focus intent, as well as drumming either by itself or as an accompaniment to song to help build energy. Both of these things are useful in that they help to occupy the extra spaces in your brain that can lead to distraction, and thus splitting your available resources, and aid you in directly all of your focus to the task at hand.
- Detail your understanding of why self-understanding and introspection are critical for the magus at any stage and how you intend to pursue a course of self-understanding. (min. 200 words)
Self-understanding and introspection are essential for every person who practices magic, whether or not they consider themselves a magus or magician. For me this becomes a discussion of ethics, and a discussion of ethics within my practice turns towards the Delphic Maxims (Oikonomides). Personal introspection falls under maxim #8 “Know Thyself” or perhaps “Be Yourself,” depending on the translation. This requires a person to examine their personal values, and determine why they feel the way they do, and how to best act in accordance with those values they have come to own. Many other values are accounted for within the maxims that help to guide who that “self” is that you should strive to know and be.
An understanding of yourself requires that you know who you are and continually explore who you want to become. It requires an understanding of how your actions and inactions affect yourself and others, and your view of yourself and how others perceive you. This does not require you to cater to or be afraid of how others will view you, but at least have an understanding. This understanding as you grow will help you to distinguish the role that magic is taking in your life. I believe there is always a danger that hubris can overtake a person, and in the case of magical work, this hubris can be more devastating as the magician breaks from reality. One of the guiding maxims that I think helps to curb hubris is to “Be (religiously) silent.” It is more important to do the work than talk about all the work you have, or could have done.
An understanding, and continual drive for better understanding, of how you view yourself and how others view you will help to keep hubris from taking root and destroying both the self and any relationships that may exist. You should like who you are, and act in such a way that you continue to do so. If you don’t like yourself, then you should be able to take steps to fix that. You should also have an understanding of how those around you view you, and be able to accept that view.
Ways that I pursue a course of self-understanding are first by examining (and re-examining) my biases. It is important for everyone to know their biases so that they can account for the ways that may pre-dispose them to a certain belief or outcome. I do divinatory work to consult the divine on whether or not an action (magical or not) is called for. I meditate on how my actions will affect myself and others. I work to determine what I view as right and wrong, and where my line is that I won’t cross. I do my best to stay honest with myself and true to my gods, because in the end, I have to answer to my conscience and my gods.
- Describe three workings you have done that had demonstrable, intended results. Explain what those results were, how the working was conducted, and how the result appeared to manifest. (min. 150 words per working)
I have worked with Artemis since I knew I was pagan, certainly since high school, and likely before. She became my patron goddess, like a guardian and a sister. There are so many myths about her devotees, and what happens when they leave her realm to get married. I knew I needed to ask her permission to get married if I had any hope of not being forsaken to her. So I conducted a rite of passage to move myself from her realm as a maiden, to Hera’s realm, as a married woman. It was, and still is, the hardest rite I have ever written and performed.
I researched the rites that were done in Ancient Greece as girls left the protection of Artemis, and I wrote my own rite of passage to reflect these ancient practices. I chose two of my treasured toys from my childhood and sacrificed both them, and a lock of my hair. This sacrifice was part of the process that allowed me to leave the realm or Artemis and enter the realm of Hera.
My relationship with Artemis has changed drastically since that day. I don’t work with her nearly as often, and when I do, it’s in a different fashion. Now I work more as a colleague with her. And rather than being under her protection I am now working to provide protection. I have acted as a liaison for several girls, and I suspect I will continue to do so.
After my daughter was born I successfully breastfeed her until I went back to work. After I started work again, I had many issues pumping at work, and as much as I still wanted to breastfeed, and wanted desperately to make it to at least 6 months, but my supply was tanking. I began offering to Brighde every morning. Initially, to gain her attention, and show my intent and that my need was real, I offered a small portion of my own milk, and promised other offerings should my milk production remain steady and allow me to continue to feed my daughter.
I offered incense, milk, and honey regularly along with lighting the Kildare flame along side Hestia’s nearly every morning. On the days that I forgot, my supply was noticeably lower. And when I reached six months my husband and I made the decision to begin introducing formula. So I thanked Brighde for her help, made a final offering of incense, milk, and honey and then stopped making my daily offerings. I made it barely another three to four weeks before Thalia had been weaned and we were formula feeding exclusively.
Each Hellenic Full Moon ritual I lead has a magical working in it. During the Artemis full moon, we created protective talismans for the children of the folk who normally attend (or for the children of those close to those who normally attend). I wrote out the text for the working, and we did it in a call and response fashion. I felt that it was important for each person to speak the words themselves, because they knew who the talisman was being created for, and could better focus the intent. I’ve included the text below:
Creating a Protective Talisman:
- Need a token of some sort that will be on or near child/young mother
- Need blessed waters, cypress or walnut (both sacred to Artemis), and incense
We come together now in the presence of all the Theoi, but most especially Artemis, protector of children.
I take this token and ask that it be blessed.
Blessed in the light of the moon which has infused these Waters.
Blessed in the presence of the Maiden, who watches over all children.
Blessed by the breath of the Theoi, who watch over us all.
Let these waters wash clean (this child) as they infuse this token.
Let this plant, sacred to Artemis, fill (this child) with strength, and protect (her) from all harm, as it infuses this token.
Let this smoke breathe life and joy into (this child) as it infuses this token.
Infused with the blessings and in the presence of the Kindreds, we call now for the powers of Land, Sea, and Sky to combine with ours and with the bright, fierce essence of Artemis, to seal this intent into this token.
I fashioned the working itself a bit after some of the amulets in the Greek Magical Papyri, such as what things were done to the item in order to make it fit for the intended use. In the case of this working I wanted the talisman infused with the powers of the land, sea, and sky, as well as ensuring that the child would be looked after by all the Theoi and by Artemis specifically.
As we were conducting the working, I go the tingly, slightly dizzy feeling that I have come to associate with magic that has worked, and intent that has been pushed through and realized. While tangible results for this working are hard to determine, I feel that the combination of the energy feeling I got from the working and the fact that nothing bad has happened to my daughter and she’s been full of life and joy are a good litmus test for deeming the talisman a success.
Part of the Order of Bardic Alchemy work requires you to write a bardic piece in ritual space, with the intent to use it during ritual. The Muses are my bardic patrons, and whom I work with most frequently when I’m doing bardic work. I call to them for inspiration before I write, and often before I play, sing, or perform. I decided the piece I would write would honor them, and give me an alternative method to call to them, rather than with an simple invocation.
I did the bardic alchemy devotional, and when I reached the working portion, I called to the Muses for inspiration and asked them to fill me with their song so that I might better honor both them and Kindreds. I made offerings of sweet incense (Lotus), milk, and honey. The thought process here was that this was a mix of the sweet words that I hoped to be blessed with and one of the hypothesis for what makes up ambrosia.
I had my bard book open in front of me, and sat staring at a flame. The words seemed to come excessively quickly. I often describe the process of this ‘gift song’ as trying to catch the Awen with your pen, and funnel it down into something coherent on the page. This was not my first experience with a ‘gift song,’ and like the others, the whole piece was written in probably under an hour: words, chords, melody, and all. It required very little revision following the initial writing. “Muses, Sing Through Me” is still the main way that call to the muses before beginning bardic work.
- What three modes of magical work do you find most appealing, and why do you find them so interesting? How have you used these modes? (min. 200 words for each mode)
The first mode of magical work that I find appealing is spirit arte. I was introduced to the concept of spirit arte, or at least was given a name for it, by Ian Corrigan in his Court of Brighde work. I attended the initial festival ritual where we sought out the hand maidens, or helper spirits, of Brighde, and made alliances with them. From that working, the spirit I have continued to work with is Tsirona, an ancestor spirit. She aids Brighde in her work of healing through music. I find spirit work appealing because it is what makes the most sense to me when trying to achieve something magically. I, by far, prefer and operate within a thaumatergical magical system. I have built these relationships with the spirits, and so it makes sense to me to ask them for help when I’m trying to achieve something. The burden is lessened for all when you ask for help. This is especially true if I’m doing a magical working that the pre-divination has indicated Beta (ask for help). For me, spirit arte does not just have to be a relationship or bargaining with the worker spirits. It is just as valuable working with deities, whether they are those who I’ve developed a patron-like relationship with or those with whom I’ve built a strong working relationship (ex: Gatekeepers such as Hekate and Garanos).
The second mode of magical work that I find appealing is incantations. When I talk about incantations, I’m lumping a large variety of spoken word magic all together. For me, incantations can be the writing and speaking of hymns and poems that weave the power of the words together. These often take the form of strict poetic forms, such as sonnets, villanelles, and sestinas. I’ve found that strict forms help ensure that proper thought and power has gone into a piece, and the form itself lends additional power. There is also power in free verse, provided that other poetic elements are observed to still lend power to the spoken word, such as alliteration, meter, or assonance. I use these hymns and poems most often for invocations to specific deities as I call on them to aid me in a specific work. This ties closely to the spirit arte I discussed above. The spoken word invocation is how to gain their assistance, and the spirit arte is what you have them help you with once they arrive.
Another aspect of incantations for me is toning. It still depends on the audible sounds that are made. I use toning to raise energy and direct toward a specific intent. Toning is interesting in that it has an audible cue for when the work has reached completion. I tone so that I can hear the resonance of the notes around me, and my pitch shifts to echo the harmonics. With the shifting notes the toning continues until I hear the overtones. Overtones are the harmonics heard above the actual pitches that are sounding. So, when it sounds like a choir of voices singing all around you, rather than just one or a few, that is the indicator that the spell has worked, and the intent has happened. I use toning most often for charging an item, for healing work, or to focus the intent of a sacrifice.
The third mode of magical work that I find appealing is sigil magic or talisman magic. I don’t feel as confident with sigil magic, mostly because I don’t feel confident in my ability to accurately draw what I need to, but both talisman and sigil magic are fascinating because it is a spell that is tied to a material object or concrete image. I lump these together because sometimes sigils are marked onto talismans to give the talisman more power. They are created with a lot of thought going into the design of the piece. For sigils, there is an accurate symbol that is drawn, sometimes in conjunction with other symbols. Each line, angle, and instance of shading is carefully considered so that it can be applied towards a certain end. For talismans, the magician needs to consider how the piece will be worn of carried, the size, the shape, and the color of the piece. They also need to decide if any additional markings will go on the piece, or if the talisman will contain other ingredients, and if so, what order they are added in. Talismans are also interesting because they are worn of carried by the person for whom they are made, and thus exude a kind of magical energy at all times. I’ve had good luck making initial talismans, as well as with recharging the magic on existing talismans. One example of making an initial talisman is described above in my workings detailing the protective charms that were made at the Artemis Full Moon ritual.
- Explain how you determine if a magical working is the proper action in the situation you wish to apply it to. Describe your method of determining the proper magical course of action, from start to finish, as well as any particular exercises (such as divination) you go through to ensure that your actions are correct. (min. 300 words)
When I’m considering whether or not a magical working is the proper action for a situation my general outlook is “would I take a mundane action to try to resolve or aid this situation?” If the answer is yes, then I will consider taking a magical action. If the answer is no, then I have determined no action should be taken, and so the consideration stops there. When I’m determining if any action at all should be taken I consider my morals (mostly derived from the Delphic Maxims, the ADF Virtues, and common sense). Some notable maxims to consider are #2 “Obey the Law,” #30 “Exercise nobility of character,” #50 “Act when you know,” #93 “Deal kindly with everyone,” and #107 “Pursue harmony” (Oikonomides). These tie in nicely with some of the ADF Virtues I consider in particular (Wisdom, Courage, Integrity, and Perseverance), as well as with some good old-fashioned common sense: “Don’t be dumb” and “Don’t be an asshat.”
If I would take a mundane action, then my next step is to consult the gods. This is the step where I do divinatory work to determine if I should take action, and in some cases what form that action should take. If I’ve determined it is the right course of action, then I have a better understanding of what questions need to be asked when I’m approaching the deities to ask for guidance.
If the deities agree that a magical action can and/or should be taken, then my next step is to determine what form the magical working should take. This is the step where crafting the work takes place, and so it just remains to be determined how to best achieve my ends. Sometimes the answer is simpler than others, particularly if the magic act is something for my own ends. I have particular deities I’ve forged relationships with and with whom I work best. For me, these are nearly all within the Hellenic hearth culture. However things get more complex when I’m working for the benefit of or by request of another. I must stop and consider if it would be better to consult with the deities that they honor for better results. I’ve only just recently started considering this method, and have been working to build at least passing relationships with multiple deities outside my hearth for when these instances occur. I think working with deities you are familiar with can help to establish an intermediary connection with deities that the other person works with. And the ability to approach another’s deities will help to ensure that the intent is properly established for the work.
- How can the magician serve modern society? (min. 300 words)
When serving the community as a magician it remains important to still consider the ethics that if you would make the mundane effort, then why not marshal all your forces and also make a magical effort. “Use your skill” and thus, use all the resources available to you to serve in the way your role demands (Oikonomides). There is great power in magic for the benefit of the community. Things like Opening the Gates and Calling for the Blessings within an ADF ritual benefit the community. They allow all the participants in a ritual the opportunity to connect more deeply with the spirits and to receive their wisdom and blessings. This magic is central to our being able to perform rituals. I think magic that benefits the community is the most important, and it is our relationship with the spirits that allow us to do it.
It is also an important job of the religious magician to develop and maintain relationships with the spirits. This way, there is someone familiar with them when a need arises. It is because of this I’ve started branching out of my current hearth culture and comfort zone and have begun to develop relationships with deities beyond the Greek hearth. If a religious magician is to serve her whole community, she must be prepared to access the means to respond to the needs of the community.
Magic that benefits the community also contains work that is done for others, such as healing and protective charms. I’ve found that folk have started coming to me, often privately, and asked for some of these things, and I feel that it is the right thing for me to be doing to help them in whatever manner I can. By helping the individual members of our community, we’re strengthening the community as a whole. Other things individual members of the community may request are things like divination. This can serve the needs of modern society by helping guide each individual’s actions in the right direction, or give them confidence they need to make the right choices.
Magic done to strengthen the community, care for the earth, or help someone through a time of transition is also benefiting the community. These are things that serve not just the local and specific community, but also serve modern society as a whole. Without the earth, and without people who are comfortable in their own place and position, society would become, at least, more unstable.
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