Tag Archives: druid magic

Druidry and magic

There isn’t a great tradition of spell working in Druidry. Much of the magic is about inner transformation and the natural consequence of ritual and communion with nature. Magic is a process that happens to us as much as something we might instigate. Mostly. There’s the magic of captivating and inspiring people – a big part of the business of being a Bard. There’s the magic of experiencing the world in a profound and awe inspiring way. We request the presence and blessings of spirits, or deities sometimes, but we don’t command or demand.

Part, if not all of the reason this is so, is philosophical. If you go through life trying to disappear all the bumps and challenges, where is your scope for heroic virtue and learning? You can’t be heroic if everything is easy! The Celts had a heroic culture, they celebrated the characters who faced up to challenges. We are here to learn, and to live, and much of life is challenging, awkward and less than perfectly comfortable. In learning to love what is imperfect and being open to not getting our own way, we learn how to do a better job of being people.

I know I don’t really know what’s for the best. Sometimes what I thought would be really good doesn’t happen, and it opens the door to something I would never have dared to imagine. Being open to what comes from outside, rather than trying to control every aspect of our lives, can often take us further and give us more. Most of the time I would never even consider trying to magic an outcome that I really wanted, in case it caused me to miss something that would have turned out better.
I’m interested in the ‘magic’ of positive thinking and inner calm, as day to day issues. There’s often a fine line between magic and psychology (as Terry Pratchett fans will know, Headology rules.) While I don’t believe we entirely create our experiences, we have a lot of room for manoeuvre in how we choose to interpret and understand. Additionally, what we bring to a situation will heavily inform what we get out of it.

The other reason to leave magic alone is that it’s a messy and unruly thing (assuming you believe in it, and I admit that I do.) The more complex a situation, the more variables, people involved, possible outcomes, the harder it is to work out what would need to change in order to give you what you want. Ethically speaking, seeking the outcome without considering the consequences is totally off limits, for me. Magic is generally understood to require focus and precision, so the woollier and more confusing the situation, the less scope you have to begin with.

Now and then though, life throws up a situation where the issues are pretty simple, and there’s only one tolerable outcome. I would imagine that finding you have cancer would create one of those. Most of the time life does not hand over such clear cut win-lose scenarios, but when it does, perhaps that is the time to dust off the wand and start composing the demands you need to make of the universe.

My mother always said that magic is what you do when you can’t do anything else. It’s also what you do when you absolutely cannot afford to have anything else happen. If nothing else, there’s a bit of Headology here, holding the belief that you can win gives you a better shot at winning than falling into a pit of despair does.

Sometimes, the universe seems to conspire to make things work out after all. I don’t generally believe that the universe is an inherently benevolent place that has our best interests at heart, but I think sometimes it might be persuaded to act that way. And when you get to that sort of point, there’s little to lose in trying.

Acoustic spirits of place

Being a singer and musician, I’ve always had a consciousness of acoustics, and it slowly dawned on me that this is not universal. Apparently not everyone automatically does this or grasps it as an idea, so I thought I should share… Every space has its own sound quality. As a Druid, in ritual or just connecting with a place, the sound of a place is easily tapped into and, I feel, really enables you to engage with its spirit. Using the sound resonance of a space really adds to ritual work and performance.

If you listen to a space, you can start to get a sense of how the sounds work. Are there echoes? Is sound bouncing about? Or travelling to you from afar? What makes sound here? If there’s anything vertical, be that a slope, a tree, a standing stone, you can bounce sound off it a bit. The big stones at Stonehenge are amazing for this. Messing about with your voice and listening to what comes back will tell you what’s going on.

In buildings, the height of walls, length of room, shape of ceiling will inform how the sound behaves. Often, some spots turn out to be better than others. If you can stand in the right place, throw your sound the right way, you get to tap into that resonance. The space takes your sound and embellishes it. Sometimes certain notes or pitches work better than others, and if you can hear that, you can play with it, pitching your voice accordingly. It works as well for speech as for song, and puts you into the most magical kind of interaction with your space.

If you can tap into the echoes, into the pitches that suit the space and find the right place to stand to get the best audio effect (that might simply be upwind of everyone else so the wind takes your words to them, and not away) you are in harmony with the space. The space is working for you, you do not need amplifying, your words fly out as if by magic.

I’ve been doing this for lot of years, and I know when I’ve understood the space and worked with it, because not only do I hear the soft echoes supporting my voice, but I notice how much quieter people are. Get this right and an audience that might otherwise have been restless will stand still, silent, spellbound.

Druid magic… bard magic… there’s some science in this, although you have to work intuitively and with your senses to use it. This is the simplest way of adding a magical quality to your words or music, and it works anywhere. Even the deadest room will have places that work better acoustically than others. So, if you see me ambling about a place, staring and the ceiling and humming quietly to myself, this is why. I’m listening to the spirit of the place.

What is magic?

I’ve been reading with interest ideas about magic on Cat’s Blog and Red’s Blog this week. Red’s really got me thinking about how we square honourable relationship with magic. Now, what is normally called ‘white magic’ could be described as ‘asking for something nice magic’ while going round cursing people would be ‘black magic’ being horribly simplistic for a moment. But take apart ‘white magic’ and what are we doing? Asking for something we haven’t worked for, maybe something we want and can’t have. Nothing comes without consequence, even prayers for healing. If we all lived forever, magically, this world would not be viable. If we use magic to violate the laws of nature and the natural cycles of life and death, how can we square that with the idea of honourable relationship?

If we pray – let’s imagine that’s for a miracle to save a dying person – we are inviting a deity to look over the idea and, from their more enlightened perspective, figure out whether it’s a good idea. Sometimes the answer to prayer is a ‘no’ which is as well. Humans do not make decisions for the best reasons. We never see the bigger picture, it is inevitably beyond us. Driven by fear, hunger, greed, loneliness and all manner of things, we can and do want things we should not have, that aren’t good for us, and that harm others.

The more I think about magical acts that are basically demanding something be different, the less I like them. I don’t work that way myself, I’ve moved away from ideas of spells. Mostly the transformations I seek to achieve are within myself, where, as Red points out, I have every right to make change.

However, a magical perspective of the world has always been intrinsic to my paganism. I believe in the transformative magic of ritual and bard craft. I’m increasingly fascinated by prayer as a concept. I believe in the power of oath and pledges made to the gods. I also believe that magic flows and exists in the world – if I didn’t, there would be precious little point considering the ethics of using it!

I went down to the Severn this morning as the tide was turning. I watched the muddy curve of the river start to refill with water. There were seagulls, and an egret. The reeds were rustling and talking, the wind soft, the air warm. Everything was very alive, me included. The sheer intensity of presence intoxicated me. I sat for some time, just being there, and a thought began to formulate in my mind.

I don’t want the kind of magic that gives me the power to step outside of nature. I don’t want fireballs to zoom from my hands, I don’t want to live forever. I absolutely reject the magic of high fantasy. But when everything is humming with life, there is magic. Everything is full of it, me included. I am recognising what is. What if I understand magic as the means to enter into a dialogue with everything else? Much of ‘everything else’ couldn’t care less how I feel, or what I want. I would have to listen and give at least as much as I asked for things. There would be scope to learn, to deepen understanding. I might not change what is happening, but I might instead learn why it is happening and through that be better able to work in harmony with it.

I think about the people who firewalk, able to do it because they trust that the fire will not harm them. That’s a kind of magic. I think about asking the hills if I can share in their slowness and peace for a little while, or sitting with a tree and listening. That’s magic too. It has the power to transform. We can change each other by mutual consent. I can give, or receive. I can ask for help or guidance. I’m not asking some external force to obey my will or forcing anything to give me what I want. I may be asking for a favour, a kindness, conscious that ‘no’ is an answer that I might be going to hear. I might also hear ‘here is the thing I want in return’. I would also need to be open to the idea that other things could come to me for help in just the same way. The creature in the canal calling out for rescue. The land that wants litter removing. The air that wants to be clean. Sometimes I’m going to have to say no, too.

I think I’ve been trending this way for a while, between the prayer work and the contemplation of relationship, but between Red’s words yesterday, and the river this morning something has come into focus in my head. I have changed, consentingly, to a magic that has been worked upon me from outside. Red’s magic did not require me to change, but it gave me the opportunity to do so, and from here on, that’s the magic I am dedicated to working with.