Bardic Magic

In my current re-exploration of magic I’ve also been thinking about what the bard path means to me, and how I relate to it. Bardic work is a big part of what I do – more and less subtly. I use creativity to achieve transformation and I depend on the flow of inspiration, but I’ve not let myself think of this as a magical practice.

Sometimes I write in order to know. With a pen in my hand, I can open doors to insight, intuition and become aware of things that I didn’t previous see or understand. This is something to do quietly, curled up on the sofa. There’s no ritual, no drama, and so I tend to persuade myself there’s also no magic. Those insights come most readily when I’m writing silly things, and the mirth means I have been in the habit of not taking myself seriously. I have no intention of taking myself seriously, but I need to stop seeing mirth as at odds with reverence.

Sometimes I write in order to change things, for myself and other people. Most of my poems are arguably also spells. I write them to explore the changes I want to make, to re-imagine, to commit to things. I write this blog to help other people change as well. I’ve started doing this a bit more deliberately of late.

I also sing as a way of getting things done – to change the atmosphere in places, to comfort and to uplift.

I’m writing this blog post partly to figure out what I do.

One of the things I’m very good at doing is finding reasons why what I do isn’t as valid, shiny, important as what anyone else does. I don’t have visions, I have ideas while writing stuff. The Gods do not talk to me, unless I am making up a story that pertains to them, but that’s me making up a story. I don’t do magic, except with a pen, which I have decided doesn’t count. But if I don’t claim too much for what I do, there’s nothing to take from me.  There’s no inherent invitation to knock me down.

I can’t imagine claiming any great spiritual significance for my own creative work. I’ve seen other people do it and marvelled at their confidence, and at a relationship with the world that is so very different from my own. Obviously what I do isn’t sacredly inspired, isn’t held by a relationship with a divinity… and it comes down to a sense that what I do isn’t good enough. Of course this is just the story I choose to tell. People who choose to tell stories in which they are magical and doing important work get to put that into the world. But, I have no idea what it would take to feel entitled to tell a story in which my work has weight and significance.

This all raises more questions than it answers. I suspect I’m waiting for permission, but I have no idea whose. I guess whatever the answers are, I will discover them by writing about them.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

9 responses to “Bardic Magic

  • Sheila Murrey

    Why do we feel as though we “need” permission from anyone outside of ourselves? Give yourself permission! You are a creator! ❤️🦋🌀🙏☀️🌱

  • Tim Waddington

    You’ve set me to thinking here, Nimue.
    As a performing musician I definitely regard my bardic art as a magical practice. Ideally the creation of a group consciousness which can then be “nudged” in the direction of what I am trying to achieve, spiritually, emotionally or intellectually. Whether you take a Dion Fortune “changes in consciousness in conformity with the Will” or a William Gray “bringing the outer and inner worlds to congruity” approach, it’s magic. Sometimes only for the moment, sometimes for longer (I still remember the resonance of a performance by John Martyn back in 1979).
    But writing? I’m not a writer, so I’m not sure, you’ll have to forgive my speculating. The nearest parallel I can come up with is composing, which, like what you do is done without any contact with fellow musicians or the audience. Sometimes the grain of an idea is there, and I have to struggle to develop into a cogent whole, and sometimes the piece writes itself, and I feel I am the conduit through which it manifests. Strangely, this has nothing to do with the effectiveness of the work, which I only find out when I present it to my band, or better still, in performance.
    You write something and only rarely get a direct response from the people you are affecting with what you have written. That must be very difficult (doubly so as you must make a living at it). Literature can both change an individual or the world, but does any author know what effect his or her writing will have? Whether or not you have an inkling of what you are trying to achieve, it’s still a worthwhile endeavour, if it’s done with a pure heart and a true intent.

  • lornasmithers

    ‘Obviously what I do isn’t sacredly inspired, isn’t held by a relationship with a divinity…’ If you don’t mind me asking where do you think your work comes from? I’ve always seen it, particularly your poetry and some of your Hopeless Maine stuff, as very inspired. If it isn’t inspired in the classical sense of being breathed into you by the gods, the spirits, the land, the dream world, from the soul where does it come from?

    • Nimue Brown

      that is a question, and often the answer seems to be from outside of me, but not in a way that aligns me with anyone doing more deliberately sacred work.

      • lornasmithers

        Have you never wondered where exactly from outside of you? It was my drive to find out where my inspiration and general craziness was was coming from that led me first to philosophy (up to PhD level) and when I finally found out philosophy couldn’t explain it after all that money and effort to the gods. It took me 30 years to get to the bottom of it but it was a worthwhile process.

      • Nimue Brown

        It isn’t all one place. Some of it comes out of my interactions and relationships with people. Some of it I think comes from my own unconscious processing. Some of it comes from other places, but not a single source, as far as I can tell. I open a door sometimes, but to who, or what I do not always know, and that often feels ok, maybe even necessary.

  • locksley2010

    Who is to say what is ‘important work’ or not?

    Your writing is extremely important, if it has inspired me and encouraged me to think about the subjects you raise, then it has surely done that for countless others who read your blog and follow your performances.

    Yours is a work of direct honesty and fixed firmly on the ground, which is where we all are physically. And I find that ultimately refreshing and affirming.

    You make no pretensions of who you are or what you do and if the gods are talking, they talk to you in the way you see the world: through ideas and inspiration, the beauty and pain in the world, the challenges that must be faced in the apparent world.

    As wonderful as it is to encounter the Other (be it spirits, gods, what have you), I do think there is a strong tendency for people exploring Paganism to become obsessed with the glamour of this…. So much so, they see spirits and gods everywhere to the point of insanity.

    When you write about your encounters with owls and foxes, slugs and more….. that’s the divine right there.

    Don’t ever think your work isn’t good enough, it’s more than that. So thank you for taking us on the journey with you.

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