The Alphabet of Magic
The Foundations of Druid Magic
Every system of magic has its own ways of working with nwyfre. The art of natural magic, for example, relies on material substances that set up particular patterns in nwyfre. These substances go into amulets, oils, and the like, and they create the desired pattern in nwyfre wherever they are. European peasants thus used to gather the bright yellow flowers of the herb St. John's wort at midsummer and put them over doors and windows to protect against hostile magic, because this herb attracts the solar current and radiates a potent protective quality.
Turn to the art of astrological magic and you encounter a completely different way of working with nwyfre. This branch of magic was invented in ancient Babylon and was passed down through the centuries by Greek, Roman, Arab, and medieval European mages to the Renaissance, when it became the most influential magical system of the age; it is almost extinct now, though a few dedicated scholars still practice it. The astrological mage studies the movements of planets and stars to gauge their relative influences on the solar current. At the moment when some desired quality is at its peak, the mage crafts and consecrates a talisman to catch and store nwyfre full of that quality, and the talisman radiates the pattern placed in it from that moment on.
Either of these two magical systems can be followed as part of a modern Druid path, as indeed can most other magical systems. During the years when magic found its way back into Druidry, however, the most common approach to magic all through the Western world was the art of ritual magic. Developed out of medieval and Renaissance sources by the great French mage Eliphas Lévi in the middle years of the nineteenth century, ritual magic relies on the human imagination to work with nwyfre. As the most widely known and accessible magical system during the revival of Druid magic, ritual magic became the template most twentieth-century Druids used to weave their own magical systems, and it defines the approach used in this book.
In his classic books on magic, Lévi presented a vision of the universe very close to the Druid philosophy outlined in chapter 1. To Lévi, the astral light—his name for the life force—is the “great magical agent,” the power that mages wield to accomplish their work. What we call the imagination, Lévi terms the diaphane, the subtle body through which the human mind can sense and shape the astral light. Thus dreams and daydreams, stray thoughts, and all the other products of imagination are not simply inside one human brain; some are created by the diaphane of the person who experiences them, others come from outside, but all are projected onto the astral light. When this is done with intention and concentration, it sets up patterns and flows in the astral light, and these accomplish magical effects.
These same ideas form the core of the system of magic presented in this book. What Lévi called the astral light, Druid mages call nwyfre; what he called the diaphane, Welsh Druid tradition calls the enaid (pronounced “ENN-eyed”), the body of nwyfre. When a pattern is projected into the enaid with intention and concentration, a Druid mage might say, that pattern takes shape in the nwyfre and sends ripples outward. If that pattern is filled with one or more of the great currents of nwyfre—the solar, telluric, or lunar currents—the ripples that go outward from it have immense power and can shape the world in dramatic ways.