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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

One Druid's Magic

  I often hear modern Druids saying that Druids today do not do magic, or that if we do it is not truly magic but a kind of positive thinking or aligning with nature. I find the pervasiveness of this thought interesting, especially as the ancient Druids in myth and legend were well known to wield magic of all sorts. Why have we, as modern Druids, chosen to disassociate from that aspect of our practice?
  The core of what I believe is based in connection to things beyond myself: Gods, spirits, the land. It is achieved through Truth, nature, and knowledge; that is seeking Truth, studying nature, and nurturing knowledge. I am an Irish reconstructionist and within that I am a Druid because that best describes the role I fulfill for my community. For a long time I also identified as a witch - I still may in some cases when I feel its appropriate, especially in the context of the way I interact with the daoine sidhe - butwhen I talk about magic I most often mean the practice of Druidic magic. I see Druidic magic as a key part of what I do and I feel confident that it is as grounded as my religion is in ancient sources and folklore. 
    Historically we know that the ancient Irish had many distinct types of magic workers, of which Druids and witches were only two. Generally, and in broad terms, witches were those who worked baneful magic; the word for witch in Irish, bantúathaid, is related to the word túath in its meaning of wicked or perverse, going against the right order. Druids were known to be supporters of the right order and community.
  The Tuatha De Danann had both witches and Druids who did magic for them in the battle against the Fomorians and looking at what the Cath Maige Tuired tells us about what each group brings to the fight is enlightening.
"‘Os sib-sie, a druíde,’ ol Luog, ‘cía cumong?’
‘Ní anse,’ ar na druíde. ‘Dobérom-ne cetha tened fo gnúisib no Fomore gonar'fétad fégodh a n-ardou, corus-gonot fou cumas iond óicc bet ag imgoin friu.’
‘And you, druids,’ said Lug, ‘what power?’
‘Not hard to say,’ said the druids. ‘We will bring showers of fire upon the faces of the Fomoire so that they cannot look up, and the warriors contending with them can use their force to kill them.’
‘Os siuh-sie, a Uhé Culde & a Dinand,’ or Lug fria dá bantúathaid, ‘cía cumang connai isin cath?’
‘Ní anse,’ ol síed. ‘Dolbfamid-ne na cradnai & na clochai ocus fódai an talmon gommod slúag fon airmgaisciud dóib; co rainfed hi techedh frie húatbás & craidenus.’
‘And you, Bé Chuille and Díanann,’ said Lug to his two witches, ‘what can you do in the battle?’
‘Not hard to say,’ they said. ‘We will enchant the trees and the stones and the sods of the earth so that they will be a host under arms against them; and they will scatter in flight terrified and trembling.’"

As we can see each brought a different power or skill to the battle. The Druids in this case brought rosc catha, battle magic, something we also see attributed to the Morrignae. The witches bring the ability to enchant the earth against the enemy to create fear. In other myths we see Druids using wands to enchant people by changing their shape and to divine the truth of a situation. We know that they were said to use spoken magic to call up ceo draiodheachte, the druidic mist, and the feth fiada, a spell of invisibility. Druids could influence the weather, divine the future and the truth of the present, bless, curse, and create illusions.
   To me magic is an intrinsic part of the role of Druid and it is one I embrace. It fills the stories of Druids in myth and folklore and shapes how the ancient Druids in the stories were said to interact with their world. While witchcraft is often a personally oriented practice that has its own unique focus based in charms and spells, Druidic magic is broader and more intimately connected to understanding and manipulating the connections we have to everything around us. It is about standing in your personal power and using that power to influence things and exert your will.
    Magic may not be important or central to all Druids, but I think we do ourselves a disservice as a community to dismiss it entirely. There is a long and rich history of magic in Irish paganism and in the modern era that often reflects or echos older stories of Druidic magic; that reflection should be honored. Th eold stories and modern folk magic give us the root material to work with to create a viable modern approach to magic that is uniquely Irish, pagan, and Druidic. For some of us Druidic magic is essential to what we do, and that should be respected as much as the choice not to follow that path should be respected. 

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