Sunday, April 22, 2007

Training The Mind For Druidry Open Meditation

Training The Mind For Druidry Open Meditation Image

In the course of working with students I find a continuing resistance to the systematic practice of basic Open Meditation. By this term I mean the practice of concentrating attention on a single object, such as the breath, while allowing other thought and sensation to flow by the attention without attachment. This technique is basic to further trance and even to ritual work and should be a common part of any program of mental practice. Beginning students, however, do find reasons to balk.

Some seem to find the business of sitting motionless, pursuing nothing except mental activity, to be chafing. To this the only answer can be that any new skill has its basic methods, and most of them involve some inconvenience in early phases. Whether stretching the hands for the piano or lying face down for push-ups, discomfort is often part of learning. So we can only tell students that the results will justify the work of learning to sit motionless. Fortunately for these students a practicing Druid spends rather more time in the trances associated with ritual, than in motionless trance.

Some students mistake this practice for the attempt to 'stop thinking'. In some of the world's mystical systems this does seem to be a goal, with great value placed on finding and enhancing the silence between thoughts. Druidic lore doesn't suggest that the finding of motionless silence is, in itself, a core goal. It seems to occur spontaneously in some students, but it isn't central to the work.

Rather the point of this method for the system we're building is the development of a detached observer in the self - a point of observation for all that passes, within or without. The student learns to maintain her equanimity - engage her passions at need and to step away when she must. The work of Pagan spiritual practice can arouse the passions, can stir up ones mental contents. The ability to stand in a place of neutrality and peace offers a special strength in the work of magic, whether it's dealing with one's emotions, or facing the Gods.

It is common to confuse basic trance with the work of Open Meditation. They are, in fact, closely related, but there is an important distinction. Basic trance is the primary mental preparation, induced by relaxing the body, focusing the attention and suspending critical observation (or 'attachment' as some say). We have taught this state through the Fire and Water induction, and the Bone, Breath and Blood exercise. Either of those exercises, among many other similar forms, produces the focused poise that leads to other trance states.

Open Meditation can be understood as an extension of that poise into a longer experience sustained by will. By directing the concentration upon a single focus - watching the breath being our most usual method - we locate the still point. As our thoughts and impressions flow around us, we keep returning our awareness to the focus as we sit in stillness. By sustaining the relaxation, concentration and detachment of basic trance we allow the mind and emotions to relax in turn, releasing the 'knots and kinks' of daily life.

Open meditation is an excellent accompaniment to the regular work of ritual purification. The Water and Fire clear away the spiritual cobwebs and parasites of daily spiritual life in the world. Open meditation deprives your personal inner imps and larvae of their food and weakens their grip.

So we begin the formal work of mental training by learning to abide calmly among our own thoughts and feelings. If no other good were gained from the work of Druidry, the ability to stand at peace amid the swirl of life's impulses would pay for all. In order to work the system I'm presenting here the student will have to simply choose to set to it, and develop the basic skills that support all further work. We will refer often to the 'Druid's Peace" in this work - by this we mean that steady and unmoved center. In addition to this Peace, we will learn a set of active meditations, but the Peace is the basis of them all, because the Peace grants access to the management of the mind by will.

Open meditation is as basic to mental training as aerobic exercise is to training the body. Some students will take to it readily, others may find it more difficult. Its value and results speak for themselves and to neglect it in early training is to deprive yourself of future resources.


First Stage:

- First find your seat, in a position that can be comfortably maintained with your spine straight.
- Begin patterned breathing. Work the Blood, Breath and Bone induction.
- If you wish to work a simple shrine opening, do so now. Practice maintaining basic trance as you speak and do the ritual gestures. Return to motionless basic trance following the work.

Second Stage:

- Choose a point of focus for your concentration. Initially you should continue to use the breath.
- With your attention focused simply sit and maintain that focus. You choose not to give attention to any specific thought that arises, whether about the object of concentration or any other thing. Each time that you notice a thought or specific impression holding your attention, return your attention to the focus. That is the entire basic technique. Like raising an arm or taking a step it is the act of will that brings the attention back to the focus.
- As you practice you will begin to notice more quickly when you have drifted, and be able to hold your concentration on the focus for longer without breaks. This is the first level of success in this practice.


- Always end the session of meditation formally, with the recitation of a closing charm and/or other formal gesture.

Stage 1: Simple Shrine Blessing and Open Meditation.

This first section can always serve as a fall-back, or minimum practice. It can be done daily, even as you add additional work during retreats or more focused workings.

The Druid seats himself in her seat, facing east if possible. If there can be hallowed Fire and Water, so much the better. The body should be kept balanced and alert, while relaxed.

Begin your breathing pattern. Find your peace, perhaps using the Bone, Breath and Blood method.

Bless the Water and Fire, as you say:

The Fire, the Well, the Sacred Tree
Flow and Flame and Grow in me
In Land, Sea and Sky, Below and on High,
Let the Water be blessed and the Fire be hallowed.

"When you are ready, dip your hand in the Water and sprinkle or lave yourself, then pass your hands through the incense or Fire and bring it onto yourself, as you say:"

By the Might of the Waters and the Light of the Fire
Cleansed of ill and bane am I
By the Might of the Waters and the Light of the Fire
Blessed in Land and Sea and Sky

As you cleanse and bless yourself, feel the Water and Fire washing and searing away all that's not in your true pattern of being.

Light an additional offering of incense, and open your heart in welcome to all the Holy Beings. Say:

Gods and Dead and Mighty Sidhe
Powers of Earth and Sky and Sea
By Fire and Well, by Sacred Tree
Welcome I do give to ye.

At this time you may wish to pause in open meditation for as long as you wish. In daily practice it can be enough to do the simple cleansing, followed by open meditation.

When your meditative practice is complete, take time to return your awareness fully and completely to your body and material senses. Even as you remember what you may have gained or learned in a working, allow your awareness to return to common life and breath. Before you rise from your seat pause for a mement and return to your center in peace. Cross your hands on your chest and say:

The blessings of the Holy Ones be on me and mine
My blessings on all beings, with peace on thee and thine
The Fire, the Well, the Sacred Tree
Flow and Flame and Grow in me
Thus do I remember the work of the Wise.

You also may enjoy this free books:

Bil Linzie - Drinking At The Well Of Mimir An Asatru Man Meanderings
Alan Wallace - Lucid Dreaming And Meditation
Ornella Corazza - Near Death Experiences Exploring The Mind Body Connection

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Pagan Christmas Tree

A Pagan Christmas Tree Cover
The Christian tradition of a Christmas tree has its origins in the Pagan Yule celebration. Pagan families would bring a live tree into the home so the wood spirits would have a place to keep warm during the cold winter months. Bells were hung in the limbs so you could tell when a spirit was present.

Food and treats were hung on the branches for the spirits to eat and a five-pointed star, symbol of the five elements, was placed atop the tree.

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Sunday, April 1, 2007

Green Men Appear Again

Green Men Appear Again Cover There are many places where undisputed Green Men appear, and many people find him an intriguing figure. So why does he often appear in religious, and specifically Christian, settings all over Europe and even extending into parts of the Middle East and India?

The name ‘Green Man’ has been given to several different characters. Some link him with the woodwose, a wild man with a Club, possibly intended to be John the Baptist or Hercules. This figure appears on some Church fonts, e.g. at Stradbroks in Suffolk, and as a supporter (a figure at the side of the shield) in heraldry. In this form perhaps he symbolised the taming of strength. But the woodwose often appears shaggy and stupid, very different from the true Green Man.

On signs outside inns called ‘The Green Man’ he is often pictured as a kind of Robin Hood figure, sometimes alternatively named Jack-in-the-green or Jack-in-the-Tree.

Was he a Celtic fertility god, the beneficent spirit of vegetation, the tree spirit, still being built into churches after 1000 years of Christianity, and currently revived by people who love such places as Stonehenge, Tintagel, and Glastonbury with their associated legends?

On May Day, a day associated with the return of life, a Chimney Sweep sometimes became a living Green Man, being decked in a wicker frame decorated with leaves and flowers, and paraded around. Or a man was led through the fields as a token of aiding their fertility, and then symbolically drowned. By his death he was thought to make life-giving forces available to the village.

The annual Burry Man festival in the village of South Queensferry, Scotland, appears to be a living equivalent of the Green Man in much the same way as the Jack-in-the-Tree or Chimney Sweep mentioned above.

Such rites persisted well after the time many Christian churches were being built (and Green Men were being incorporated within them) for in 1540 Bishop Latimer was told in another town it was no good opening a church for a service because everybody was attending such ceremonies. Other accounts speak of the revellers entering Church to dance their rituals there, even when a service was already in progress. Priests disapproved, but people’s customs were strong and were often backed by the squire, so the parson had to keep quiet. Rogation Day Ceremonies, with their blessing of the fields, is probably a Christianisation of such activities.

He may represent the bringing of the tree spirit or spirit of nature under the guidance of Christ, in the way that many pagan ideas and rituals have been baptised into Christianity - a common practice in the attempt to lead people from Other Beliefs into the Christian Faith.

This last thought might go even further, possibly linking with the other figure in the church porch vaulting. That figure is presumably Jesus, the wreath on his brow perhaps representing the crown of thorns. But has he, too, vegetation around his head? Is this merely decoration, as often appears on vault bosses? Or is there another possibility? Christ, the Logos (the Word) has been equated with the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. Also, Christian thought claims that the act of creation was performed through the pre-existent Christ. When the writer of the book quoted below was shown this face he raised the suggestion that it might be to do with the Spirit, the Creator Spirit, being revealed through created things.

The Green Man has a special meaning today. After centuries of man’s exploitation of nature for his own benefit, as if mankind is the only creature that counts, we are now beginning to realise how dependent we are upon the natural world, that we are part and parcel of the whole of G-d’s creation, and therefore must learn to work in co-operation with it. The Green Man, especially in his strange structure blending the human form and vegetation, can be taken to symbolise the unity of mankind with the natural world. Perhaps it is not surprising that he should have a place in Christian Churches of all types for when they were built mankind was much closer to nature than we are, at least in the industrialised western world.

Given that we now know for certain that Rosslyn Chapel was built by the St Clair family specifically as a Christian edifice it seems clear that the Green Men within the chapel were, by 1446, no longer pagan but had been adopted as a Christian symbol

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Israel Regardie - The Art And Meaning Of Magic
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