The Essentials of Practice
The Foundations of Druid Magic
Divination, the second leg of the cauldron of Druid magic, takes many forms. Of the dozens of methods of divination practiced in the Druid community today, most would have been completely unfamiliar not only to the ancient Druids but to the founders of the Druid Revival as well. This is an excellent sign, as it shows that Druidry is alive and growing from its deep roots.
One system the old Druids might have recognized, however, is based on the Ogham alphabet. Reintroduced to the Pagan community by Colin Murray in the late twentieth century, Ogham divination has become a popular art in the modern Druid community, and it has much to offer the Druid mage in training—not least because anything that will help you become more familiar with Ogham will make it easier for you to use the fews in magic.
To practice Ogham divination, you'll need twenty-five cards or sticks that can be marked with the Ogham fews; sticks are more traditional, but many people prefer cards because they are easier to handle. You can purchase several different versions of Ogham cards, and many Pagan stores now sell Ogham sticks as well; you can also make either one. In either case, if you make a set, be sure you have a way of telling when the few is upright and when it's reversed, since this makes a difference in divination. A spot of black ink on the bottom of each Ogham stick will do, and for cards, writing the name of each few on the top of its card works well.
Like ritual, divination should be practiced every day, and a basic three-few spread does well for this purpose. Shuffle the sticks or cards thoroughly, and then deal out three in the form of the Three Rays of Light, one of the classic Druid symbols, as shown in Figure 3-3. The first few goes on the left, the place of the Ray of Knowledge; it represents what comes to the situation from the past. The second goes on the right, the place of the Ray of Power; it represents the potentials for change in the situation, and leads into the future. The third goes at the center, the place of the Ray of Peace; it represents your position in the present, between past and future.
Figure 3-3 The Three Rays of Light (Basic Ogham Reading)
Turning three Ogham fews into a meaningful reading takes practice, and this is one of the reasons why daily practice is so important. Even with practice, interpreting the reading is the difficult part of divination for many people, but it doesn't have to be that way.
One of the chief obstacles to interpretation is the idea that each symbol in the divinatory alphabet has to have one and only one meaning. The process becomes much easier when you remember that the symbols of a divination system are as many faceted as the images of dreams. The following notes on the meanings of the Ogham alphabet should be treated as a starting point for your own intuition, not as a cage that restricts what the card can mean. It can help to look at the meanings listed and ask yourself, “What does this make me think of? What does this bring to mind?” Pay attention to the answers that surface, no matter how strange they may seem.
One very effective way to learn divination, with Ogham or any other oracle, is to ask the same simple question each day—“What do I most need to know about the day before me?”—and write down your interpretation of the reading. Go back a day later and compare the symbols you cast, and the interpretation you gave to them, with the events of the day. With time and regular practice, this process will teach you the meanings each of the Ogham fews have for you, and help guide the growth of your own intuitive abilities.
Can you use another divination system instead of Ogham? Of course, but Ogham is more than just an oracle. What the Hebrew alphabet is to Cabalistic magic and the runes are to Norse magic, the Ogham is to Druid magic. Many of the magical methods given in later chapters rely on the fews. Use them for divination, and you'll find that they and their meanings stick in the memory much more quickly.
Divinatory Meanings of the Fews
Upright meaning: Beginnings, new possibilities, potentials. Renewal and rebirth. A favorable sign in most matters, though there may be discomforts involved.
Reversed meaning: Blind alleys, wasted effort. Creative blockages. Remaining fixated on the past, or on things that have been lost. Longing for the impossible.
Upright meaning: Clarity and attention to details. Concentration on the task at hand. Purification. Danger avoided or overcome. A choice between two paths.
Reversed meaning: Confusion, uncertainty, deception, delusion. Lack of defenses. Something is not what it appears to be. Someone may be misleading you—possibly yourself.
Upright meaning: Connection and transformation. Relationship to a larger context. You are part of a wider world. Events may be more important than they appear.
Reversed meaning: Isolation and self-containment. You are separated from what is going on, for good or ill. Boredom and lack of initiative may blind you to possibilities in the present.
Upright meaning: Protection and guidance, a bridge over deep waters. Steadfastness. Good advice received from others or your own inner depths. Spiritual guidance and insight, the presence of the gods. An unexpected way past a difficulty.
Reversed meaning: Willful blindness, refusal to listen to advice. Arrogance and lack of insight. You are out of your depth.
Upright meaning: Moving with the flow of events. Intuition, dreaming, the unconscious. Letting go of fixed ideas and responding to the moment. Faith in a personal vision.
Reversed meaning: Inability to move with the situation due to rigidity, confusion, or lack of awareness. Unforeseen dangers. A difficult time, which will pass eventually.
Upright meaning: Patience, reserve, retreat. A time of waiting and planning rather than action. Obstacles that can be overcome. Success after a delay. Temporary obstacles.
Reversed meaning: Inappropriate action, rushing ahead when patience and planning are called for. A risk of failure. You need to stop and reconsider.
Upright meaning: Success, forward movement, attainment. Power and energy; you have all you need to accomplish your goals. A door opens in the outer world.
Reversed meaning: Help from those in positions of power or authority. Success despite inadequate means. Borrowed strength. A gift.
Upright meaning: Conflict, challenge, struggle against opposing forces. Victory against the odds. A change of fortune. Decisive action is favored.
Reversed meaning: Inadequate strength or skill, the possibility of defeat. Lack of direction and balance. You need to build your strength and understand the nature of the opposition.
Upright meaning: Knowledge, intelligence, talent. Transformation and flexibility. The beginning of a new stage in life. Learning. Communication and teaching, new information.
Reversed meaning: Creative and intellectual blockages, lack of insight. Often, fear of failure, leading to a retreat to familiar ground.
Upright meaning: Happiness, healing, and recovery. Awakenings and new experiences. An unexpected gift. The rewards of success. An opportunity to live more fully.
Reversed meaning: An unavoidable choice among alternatives. Mixed gain and loss. A temptation to scattered effort or procrastination that must be overcome.
Upright meaning: Inspiration and prophecy. Community. The influence of spiritual factors on the situation. Unexpected truths. Freedom from limits and restrictions.
Reversed meaning: Burdens, difficulties. A need to relax and unwind. You have been trying too hard in unproductive ways.
Upright meaning: Slow and indirect progress, movement by roundabout paths. Purpose, determination, selfcontrol. A difficult but viable path.
Reversed meaning: Entanglement in circumstances, or in your own egotism. Think twice about what you are doing, and why.
Upright meaning: Swiftness, sudden movement, instability. Healing, change for the better. A message or an opportunity. You are not yet finished with your work.
Reversed meaning: Stuckness, inability to act. A need for healing. Patience. You are not yet ready to begin.
Upright meaning: Necessity and inevitability. The hard realities of life. Something that cannot be changed. The results of one's own actions. The influence of fate.
Reversed meaning: Pain, difficulty, retribution, unavoidable suffering. A difficult path that must be taken. Every choice leads to unhappiness.
Upright meaning: Healing, resolution, completion. Transitions from one state of being to another. Difficulties permanently overcome. An omen of success in most things.
Reversed meaning: Endings and departures. The need to release things that are past their time. Facing up to facts. Embarrassment and shame. Illness and disability.
Upright meaning: Insight, transformation, expanded awareness. Change for the better. The ability to see things in perspective. Peak experiences, dreams and visions.
Reversed meaning: Lack of perspective, ignorance of the broader picture. Unrealistic ideas. You need to step back and assess the situation more carefully.
Upright meaning: Gathering together, combination of forces. Energy, life, vigor, sexuality and attraction. Opportunities, though not without potential problems.
Reversed meaning: Difficulties and delays, overconfidence. Desires out of touch with the realities of the situation. Uncoordinated efforts. Problems, but with potential benefits.
Upright meaning: Spiritual power, the forces of nature. Fulfillment. The coming of new life. A door opens in the inner world. Passion, power, and magic. Creation.
Reversed meaning: Weakness, dispersed energies, loss of contact with nature and the spirit. Dreamy neglect of realities. A need for recuperation and reconnection.
Upright meaning: Courage and tenacity in the face of opposition. A struggle in which victory is possible but not certain. A quest for inner strength.
Reversed meaning: Declining strength. Compromise and negotiation. Prudence. If you continue in your present path the results will not be good.
Upright meaning: Enduring realities, that which remains unchanged. Old age, legacies from the past. The consequences of present actions.
Reversed meaning: Stagnation and immobility. Things lingering past their time. The past as a burden not yet overcome.
Upright meaning: Complexity, the presence of many factors. Capacity for freedom. A place of balance from which many possibilities open.
Reversed meaning: Confusion and bewilderment. There may be too many factors at work to allow successful prediction.
Upright meaning: Radical transformation, the flash of the lightning bolt. Sudden change, illumination or destruction, set in motion by forces outside the situation.
Reversed meaning: Patience and preparation. The path before you is slow and cannot be hurried. Wait for outside forces to act.
Upright meaning: Secrets and revelations, the influence of the subtle and seemingly insignificant. Small causes with large effects. Insight into the nature of the situation.
Reversed meaning: Situation is not what it seems. Hidden factors are a source of complications. The information you need is not available to you.
Upright meaning: Knowledge and lore, learning, study, education. The wisdom of the past as a guide to the present and future.
Reversed meaning: Ignorance. Lack of attention to existing knowledge. Failure to learn from experience.
Upright meaning: Unexpected change, the arrival of a new influence. The effects of destiny.
Reversed meaning: Sudden endings and disruptions, the dissolution of the familiar.