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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Healing Charm


            I really like using healing charms. Although any medical issue should always be treated professionally I think that along side medical interventions the use of healing charms can improve the outcome and give the person being treated a feeling empowerment. I happen to believe healing charms are effective because they work magically, but even if I am wrong they certainly can be effective psychologically. I've used this particular charm before for cancer patients with success, and so have chosen to include it here - it can also be used for any illness, from the flu to swelling or inflammation.  This one is a heavily rewritten version of a Pow-wow chant; I would recommend the book Pow-wows, or Long Lost Friend for more on this school of folk magic.
            The charm should be chanted while holding your hands over the afflicted area, or a picture of the person. I highly recommend doing this charm on a set regular basis, for example three times a day for a series of nine or 27 days, or a full cycle of the moon. In order for the charm to be effective it must be done often and consistently.
         The imagery of this charm is based on the Irish concept of the ninth wave; to be beyond the ninth wave is to be exiled and sometimes to be beyond this world altogether. The beginning of the chant calls the person being healed back from this liminal place, back into themselves, their power, their strength, and back into this world. The second part of the chant is directed at drawing the illness out of the person and placing it in the earth.

A Charm to Reduce and Heal Tumors

 Nine waves upon the ocean
The nine become eight,
The eight become seven
,
The seven become six,
The six become five,
The five become four,
The four become three,
The three become two,
The two become one,
One becomes none;
Out from the marrow into the blood,
Out from the blood into the flesh,
Out from the flesh into the skin,
Out from the skin into the hair,
Out from the hair to the healing earth.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Draoi Draíochta

  I have several blogs that I enjoy reading on a regular basis; one of these is Nimue Brown's blog on her Druidic path. Yesterday I read an interesting post by her about Druidic Magic where she suggests that magic doesn't play a big role in Druidry, which focuses more on learning to see and understand the patterns than to directly influence them. My own view of course is utterly opposite of that, as I see magic as a key aspect of Druidism, but it was intriguing to read her point of view. Contemplating her words has me reflecting on my own opinion, what shapes it, and why I can't imagine changing it.
    From a historic perspective both mythology and comments made by Greek and Roman authors support the importance of magical practices to the ancient Druids. Beyond that when we look at the ancient pagan world we see magic everywhere, from daily household protection charms to spells to curse or subdue an enemy. This magic seems to have been so integral to people's lives that even after converting from paganism much of the magic survived in folk practice; we can see a multitude of examples of this in the Carmina Gadelica as well as different books looking at Irish folk belief like Lady Wilde's Ancient Irish Charms and Superstitions.
    From what I've gathered in my studies magic was a utilitarian tool that was applied to anything and everything by those who used it. Like any tool one had to know how to use it but there did not seem to be any idea of reserving the little magics for extreme situations. One of my favorite examples of this is a curse tablet found at the site, if memory serves, of Sulis's shrine where the writer asks that a curse be placed on whoever stole his cloak. When we look at the charms and spells in the Carmina Gadelica we see folk magic for a variety of life issues, from protecting cattle to getting butter to churn properly. From this observation I've come to approach magic in the same way, as a useful tool that can and should be used to help in my life. Rather like indoor plumbing, if its there why not use it? The same rules apply to using magic as would apply to using a physical object, that is using it properly, cautiously, and with an understanding of its effects.
   Of course many people living in a modern first world country have lost touch with this interweaving of magic charms and spells into daily life. Some people see modern magic as superfluous, others see it as tampering with the natural order, and still others don't believe in it at all. Our modern world with its hectic modern life and somewhat jaded approach to things has relegated magic to primitive superstition and naive wishful thinking. Among modern pagans specifically we see magic as a niche practice, something that specific religions, like Wicca, do but that many others - including the majority of Heathens and Druids - do not do and do not have any interest in. I, obviously, am an exception to that, but to many magic in paganism is just not important, or even something to be spoken against. I would never argue that any one should learn or practice magic if they don't want to but I wish that more people were open to the beauty of it and accepting of it in others.
   Call me old fashioned, but to me magic is intrinsic in every aspect of my life. I can't imagine Druidism without magic, or even Irish paganism for that matter. I say a blessing charm over every meal I cook, whisper protective prayers over my children before they leave the house, give my family medicine along with healing spells when they are sick. There are also the greater magics when needed - the fith fath, the Druid mist, and such - but its these little daily magics that are part of my life morning and night. If my life is a song that I am singing as I go, then magic is the constant tide of breathing that underlies each verse and chorus. And I wouldn't want it any other way.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Charm Against the Evil Eye


     The Carmina Gadelica has a series of charms which all deal with the evil eye, that is the curse laid upon a person by another who wishes them ill or looks upon them with envy.  This one is my personal favorite and I have modified it slightly to be more pagan; I love the imagery it presents and find it reminiscent of the Song of Amergin. Anyone who has read the works of the witch Sibyl Leek may recognize the middle portion of the charm, the “power over” section, as she made use of this portion in an unhexing spell in one of her books, clearly drawing on the Gadelica as a source. That same section has also appeared in a young adult novel by L. J. Smith called The Power; all of which could be seen as a testament to the power and flexibility of the Carmina Gadelica charms, as well as their intrinsic value.

Exorcism of the Evil Eye 141
I trample upon the evil eye,
As the duck tramples upon the lake,
As the swan tramples upon the water,
As the horse tramples upon the plain,
As the cow tramples upon the grass,
As the host tramples the sky,
     As the host tramples the air.
Power of wind I have over it,
Power of wrath I have over it,
Power of fire I have over it,
Power of thunder I have over it,
Power of lightning I have over it,
Power of storms I have over it,
Power of moon I have over it,
Power of sun I have over it,
Power of stars I have over it,
Power of earth I have over it,
Power of sky and of the worlds I have over it,
     Power of the sky and of the worlds I have over it.
A portion of it upon the grey stones,     
A portion of it upon the steep hills,
A portion of it upon the fast falls,
A portion of it upon the fair meadows,
And a portion upon the great salt sea,
She herself is the best instrument to carry it,
     The great salt sea,
     is the best instrument to carry it.
In the names of the Three of Life,
In the names of the Gods of Skill,
In the names of all the Ancient Ones,
And of the Powers together.

 - excerpted from By Land, Sea, and Sky by the author

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thoughts on Boudicca and Hero-cults

"When the going gets tough, the tough channel Boudicca" - T-shirt wisdom
  If you ask me who my favorite historic person is, or which one person in history I'd like to meet, I would answer Boudicca. Ever since I first heard her story I have had a strong affinity for Queen Boudicca and I have adopted the above motto, which I first saw on a t-shirt, as my own approach to difficult times. For those who are unfamiliar with her, Boudicca (alernately Boudica or Boadicea) was the Queen of the Iceni tribe in Britain until 61 CE. Described as a noblewoman, tall, with reddish brown hair and keen inteligence; she was said to wear a multicolored tunic and a golden torc. Her husband, King Prasutagus, had allied with the occupying Romans and had written a will that left his kingdom to his two daughters and the Roman emperor, jointly. He had hoped by doing this to keep his people nominally independent of Rome and to maintain the status quo that existed during his life, however Rome did not acknowledge a woman's right to rule and after his death his will was ignored. The Roman forces took over the Iceni; Boudicca was publicly flogged and her two young daughters were raped. In response to this double outrage Boudicca rallied the Iceni and several neighboring tribes and rebelled against Rome. Boudicca was said to be devoted to the goddess Andraste and as a form of divination before battle she released a hare and watched the way it ran. She succeeded in driving the Romans into retreat and burned several major cities to the ground - including what is now Colchester and London - pursuing the Romans south. Despite these early successes the Romans eventually rallied and met the much larger force of the rebelling Britons.
   Before the final battle Tacitus tells us that Boudicca addressed her gathered forces, saying:
    "This is not the first time that the Britons have been led to battle by a woman. But now she did not come to boast the pride of a long line of ancestry, nor even to recover her kingdom and the plundered wealth of her family. She took the field, like the meanest among them, to assert the cause of public liberty, and to seek revenge for her body seamed with ignominious stripes, and her two daughters infamously ravished. From the pride and arrogance of the Romans nothing is sacred; all are subject to violation; the old endure the scourge, and the virgins are deflowered. But the vindictive gods are now at hand. A Roman legion dared to face the warlike Britons: with their lives they paid for their rashness; those who survived the carnage of that day, lie poorly hid behind their entrenchments, meditating nothing but how to save themselves by an ignominious flight. From the din of preparation, and the shouts of the British army, the Romans, even now, shrink back with terror. What will be their case when the assault begins? Look round, and view your numbers. Behold the proud display of warlike spirits, and consider the motives for which we draw the avenging sword. On this spot we must either conquer, or die with glory. There is no alternative. Though a woman, my resolution is fixed: the men, if they please, may survive with infamy, and live in bondage." - Tacitus, The Annals Book XIV
   Now whether Boudicca actually said any of that or whether it is purely Tacitus's creative idea of what she said, I do not know, but the words certainly resonate and seem to sum up her story, and the Celtic spirit itself. Unfortunately for Boudicca and her people the Romans emerged victorious from the battle and the rebellion was put down. Boudicca herself died shortly after the fight, either from illness or suicide. Her daughters are lost to history, but it is most likely, I think, that they died after the battle.
   It is her fighting spirit that draws me and her willingness to fight for her family and people against the odds. I respect her for being a leader when it would have been easier back down. To me Boudicca is an example of a female historic figure who fought for freedom and for justice and who embodies strength of will. And, of course, I love that she almost drove the Romans from Briton.
   For a little while now - perhaps the last year - I have felt called to honor Boudicca more actively. This feeling has had me contemplating the Greek and Roman idea of the Hero-cult, that is the honoring of historic or mythic heroes as Powers above humans but beneath the Gods. This idea grew out of the older ancestor worship of these cultures and marked a shift from honoring relatives within a family to honoring heroes within a community. I have been thinking about it since I first heard of some people who are celebrating March 17th in honor of Cu Chulainn, after the fashion of a modern hero-cult. The idea of taking a Celtic approach to Greek hero-cults appeals to me very much, but I have no strong draw to Cu Chulainn; on the other hand the idea is perfect as a way to honor Boudicca. 
   Now I admit my understanding of the concept of hero-cults is fairly basic, and so my take on the Celtic version of a hero-cult to Boudicca is as much guess and adaptation as anything resembling historic practice. For one thing, as I understand it, hero-cults usually centered on sites associated with the hero or on relics from the hero, neither of which are options for me since I don't live near Norfolk (England) or have anything directly associated with Boudicca herself. The best I can manage is an artist's rendering of Boudicca, which is itself someone's best guess based on descriptions of what she looked like. I created a small hero shrine to her on my ancestor altar, nonetheless, by placing a candle in front of a ceramic bowl filled with earth from different sacred sites, her image, a goddess-figure representing Andraste, and several branches of a pussy-willow tree (representing - to me - hope and survival). Several times a week I sit before the little shrine and burn the candle, offering some incense, and contemplate the qualities of Boudicca that I respect and how to nurture those same qualities within myself. 
  I have only just started on the tentative path of honoring Boudicca, and I still have several details that are unresolved. I would like to have a special day to honor her, rather as modern Heathens do for several historic Heathens of special note such as Sigrid "the Haughty" or Ragnar Lodbrok, but I haven't decided which day is best yet. Another aspect of the traditional hero-cult that I have not yet worked out in my own practice is the idea of the hero communicating with devotees using signs and omens at the site of their shrine; obviously my little shrine isn't easily adapted for this. I would like to include the use of hares or rabbits for divination/communication perhaps by working up my own system using bones or perhaps by adapting an existing system. Even though there are still details left to deal with, I feel very positive about beginning to honor Queen Boudicca and am confident that I am slowly moving in the right direction.


Hero shrine to Queen Boudicca
further reading on Hero-cults: http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2000/2000-12-17.html
http://chs.harvard.edu/wa/pageR?tn=ArticleWrapper&bdc=12&mn=4348

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Life, Near-Death, and Close Encounters with Deity

  I've had the blog on a bit of a hiatus as I've been dealing with some intense personal issues. The experiences themselves ranged from awe inspiring to terrifying and I've debated for the last week about how much to talk about here - in the end though I think its helpful to be open about what's been going on and share experiences that might benefit others.
  First for the awe inspiring; two weeks ago my youngest child was born. I knew going into this pregnancy that it would be my last, by choice, and I had tried throughout to make it special. Not that every one isn't special, but there is something bittersweet in knowing from the start that there would be no more. This one was my Beltane baby, and was originally due on Imbolc; I spent the past 9 months researching pregnancy folklore and traditions and trying to cherish each moment. Of course my goal was perhaps unrealistic and I didn't do everything I wanted or planned to do, but I never lost that need to make this one special, to honor my final expression of physical fertility in a way that it deserved. When he was born I was surprised by how sad I felt, knowing that I would never feel those little pregnancy things again. But I also felt relieved, after several weeks of pregnancy complications, that he was here and safe. I held him and I thought of all the experiences waiting for him.
   Now for the terrifying. Within 12 hours of being released from the hospital with the baby I was in the emergency room, unable to breathe. I had gone into congestive heart failure after the birth, a rare but not unheard of complication, and the edema in my lungs was making it impossible to draw a full breath. I can't really describe the feeling, the panic, of realizing how bad it really was. After arriving in the emergency room they placed me on a type of oxygen that uses continuous pressure; I hated it. It was like sticking your head out a car window on the highway. For the first time in a long time I had a panic attack and tried to get the thing off, because I literally thought that I could not bear it, but that only made the doctor decide to sedate me, which I did not want. In the midst of all of this I had what I consider a spiritual experience; I heard a woman's voice telling me to be still and just focus on breathing - when I closed my eyes I saw what I believe was the Goddess Flidais. Why Her I'm not entirely sure, especially since I was praying rather desperately to Odin, God of breath, at the time, but I had seen Her once before in a meditation and I was sure it was Flidais. I felt a wave of calm come over me in an almost surreal way, and I allowed the mask to be fastened on. Luckily for me the medications began taking effect and within an hour I was off of that mask and on a regular nasal cannula.
    Once I was in a less desperate way I was transferred to the local hospital, where I was admitted to the cardiology floor. Being as sick as I was didn't matter to me at that time, all I cared about was being separated from my 4 day old baby. It was agony, and I found myself thinking over and over of the story of Rhiannon and how she lost her son. I could not even say the word "baby" without crying. Finally, late that night I decided to be as pro-active as I could, under the circumstances, and make an offering to Flidais who is, after all, associated with healing and nurturing. I poured my offering out into the bathroom sink (my only option) and asked Her to help me regain my health and to reunite me with my child. I did not know how either would or could be accomplished, as things were looking rather grim at that point, but I needed the hope that prayer can give us when we have nothing left to look to.
   The answer to my prayer came the next day, on Imbolc, and in a way that I had never anticipated. I was still too sick to leave the hospital but through a series of inexplicable misunderstandings and a minor miracle the hospital arraigned for me to be transferred to the labor and delivery floor so that my child could join me. This was the only way we could be together, and only if both my obstetrician and the L&D charge nurse agreed to the re-admission because the hospital was on a visitor lockdown due to a flu and norovirus outbreak. Yet somehow everything aligned so that it could happen. And I spent the next 3 days of my hospital stay with my child, and my husband who had to stay as well to help care for the baby.
   I have since been released and am recovering at home. My baby is doing well, as are my older daughters, and life is taking on a new normality that accommodates my recovery. Eventually I should recover totally and be back to my usual feisty self; my blog should also return to its usual references and citations soon. The entire experience has definitely changed how I look at my health, and has also created a stronger connection to a deity I had previously only started to research. 
   As the motto of my Druid Order says: tada gan iarracht (nothing without effort).

Thursday, February 7, 2013

How We Define Ourselves

My february entry for the Hartford FAVs site is up, looking at how we as a community define ourselves http://hartfordfavs.com/faith/clergy-and-congregations/how-we-define-ourselves