The Grove Ceremony
The Grove of the Druids
The Practice of Druid Magic
The Sphere of Protection is a complete ritual in its own right, but it also forms one part of a more extensive ritual, the grove ceremony. This ceremony is the key to the more advanced dimensions of this book's magical work, and should be studied, practiced, and mastered as soon as you can do the Sphere of Protection effectively from memory.
In eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Druidry, a grove was a local group of Druids who held regular meetings with ritual openings and closings. Grove, in Druid parlance, in other words, meant much the same thing that lodge means among Freemasons. It still has this meaning, but during the development of Druid magic in the twentieth century, Druids of several traditions realized that the same ritual used to open and close a grove could also be done by a Druid working alone, as a way of opening and closing magical ceremonies. Used in this way, these rituals perform the essential tasks of establishing magical space and time at the beginning of a working, and returning the mage to ordinary space and time at the working's end.
Grove ceremonies from many different Druid traditions can be used for this purpose—I have used half a dozen from time to time with good effect—but most traditions keep their grove rituals private and only communicate them to initiates. The Ancient Order of Druids in America (AODA), by contrast, makes the complete text of its grove ritual public. For this reason among others, the AODA grove opening and closing is used here. Still, if you are an initiate of another Druid order and like to use its grove ritual as a solitary practice, you can use all the magical methods in this book within the framework of that ritual, too.
Opening the Grove
Before you start the opening ritual, you need to gather everything required and put it in its proper place. The requirements for the grove ritual, and for the workings that will take place in an open grove, are fairly simple. You'll need something to serve as an altar—a small end table or folding TV tray will do fine—a white altar cloth, and a chair suitable for meditation.
You'll also need four bowls or small cauldrons. They will all need to fit on top of the altar at the same time, and leave room for other ritual needs and equipment, so “small” is the operative word. Two of them will be filled halfway with dry sand; one of these will be used for incense, and the other for a votive candle or tea light. The third will be half-full of water, and the last one will be half-full of salt or clean earth. They represent the four material elements and play an important role in the ritual.
Finally, you'll need to decide what you want to do about garments. A plain white robe and nemyss—this latter is a vaguely Egyptian headcloth that is tied around the head and falls down over the shoulders, as shown in Figure 5-1—has long been standard ritual wear in the Druid Revival tradition, but it's also a central theme in modern Druidry that each Druid has the right to make his or her own choices. Some Druid mages wear the classic white robe and nemyss; others wear some other sort of ritual garments; still others do magic in their street clothes or wearing nothing at all. Make your own decision depending on your circumstances and preferences.
To prepare the space, set up the altar in the center, put the altar cloth over it, and put the cauldron of incense on it toward the east side. The cauldron of fire goes to the south, the cauldron of water to the west, and the cauldron of salt to the north, as shown in Figure 5-2. The chair goes to the north, facing south toward the altar, with enough space between them so that you can pass through readily. When you've learned the grove ritual and are using it for magical workings, any additional tools or materials go on the altar as well. Just before you begin, put a stick or cone of incense in the incense cauldron and light it, and light the candle or tea lamp in the cauldron of fire. That completes the preparation of the space.
Figure 5-1 A Druid Nemyss
Before you begin, take a few moments to clear your mind of unrelated thoughts and feelings. Then, when you are ready to begin, enter the circle and walk in a clockwise circle to the north side of the altar, between the altar and the chair, where you face south. Raise your right hand palm forward to salute the Sun, which is always symbolically at high noon in the southern sky. Visualize it there, shining down its rays of power and blessing on you and the entire world.
Say aloud, “Let the powers be present as I am about to open a grove of Druids in this place. The first duty of a Druid in the Sacred Grove is to proclaim peace to the four quarters of the world, for without peace my work cannot proceed.”
Figure 5-2 The Druid Altar
Circle around to the east. Face outward and raise your right hand palm outward to salute the direction. Say, “I proclaim peace in the east.” As you do this, imagine peace enfolding the whole quarter of the world to the east of you. At the same time, be aware of your mind and thoughts, and still them, so that peace is present in the symbolic east of yourself.
Proceed to the south and make the same gesture, saying, “I proclaim peace in the south.” Imagine peace spreading across the southern quarter of the world. At the same time, be aware of your passions and desires, and still them, establishing peace in the symbolic south of yourself.
Proceed to the west, and do the same thing, saying, “I proclaim peace in the west.” Imagine peace spreading over the western quarter of the world. At the same time, be aware of your feelings and emotions, and still them, making peace in the symbolic west of yourself.
Proceed to the north and do the same thing, saying, “I proclaim peace in the north.” Imagine peace spreading across the northern quarter of the world. At the same time, be aware of your physical senses, and still them, so that peace comes to the symbolic north of yourself.
Return to the north side of the altar, facing south as you were at the beginning of the ritual, and say, “The four quarters are at peace and the work of the grove may proceed. Let this grove and all within it be purified with air.”
Go to the eastern side of the altar, pick up the cauldron with the incense in both hands. Imagine that it is surrounded with a sphere of brilliant yellow light. Carry it to the eastern edge of the space. Walk in a clockwise circle once around the outer edge of the space, from east to east, and as you do, imagine the sphere of yellow light tracing a luminous circle that surrounds and protects the entire grove. Feel the winds of heaven rushing around the circle as you go. When you come back around to the east, return the cauldron to the altar.
Next, say, “Let this grove and all within it be purified with fire.” Pick up the cauldron with the lamp, imagining that it is surrounded by a sphere of brilliant red light. Take it to the southern edge of the space and go once around clockwise from south to south, tracing a circle of red light that surrounds and protects the grove. Imagine that flames rise and sweep around the circle as you go. When you've come back around to the south, return the cauldron to the altar.
Next, say, “Let this grove and all within it be purified with water.” Pick up the cauldron with the water, imagining that it is surrounded with a sphere of brilliant blue light. Take it to the western edge of the space and go once around clockwise from west to west, tracing a circle of blue light that surrounds and protects the grove. Imagine that waves of water rush around the circle as you go. When you've come back around to the west, return the cauldron to the altar.
Next, say, “Let this grove and all within it be purified with earth.” Pick up the cauldron with the salt or earth, imagining that it is surrounded with a sphere of brilliant green light. Take it to the northern edge of the space and go once around clockwise from north to north, tracing a circle of green light that surrounds and protects the grove. Imagine that a grove of mighty trees springs up around the circle as you go. When you've come back around to the north, return the cauldron to the altar.
Standing at the north of the altar, facing south, say, “I invoke the blessing of the Mighty Ones with the words that have been the bond among all Druids:
Grant, O holy ones, thy protection;
And in protection, strength;
And in strength, understanding;
And in understanding, knowledge;
And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice;
And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it;
And in that love, the love of all existences;
And in the love of all existences, the love of Earth our mother and all goodness.
When you've finished the prayer, chant the word Awen three times. Draw the word out into its three syllables—“Ah-Oh-En”—and let it resonate throughout your body and the grove.
Pause for a moment, then perform the complete Sphere of Protection ritual. In each of the seven invocations, ask the powers of the elements to bless and protect the grove, and in each of the banishings, banish any influence that might hinder the grove and its work. In the east, for example, you might invoke with words like these: “By the hawk of May in the heights of morning, and in the great name Hu, I invoke the air, its gods, its spirits, and its powers. May the powers of air bless and protect this grove and all within it, and grant their aid its work.” You might banish with words like these: “And with the help of the powers of air, I banish from within and around this grove every influence that might hinder its work. I banish all such influences far away.” When you do the Circulation of Light, finally, expand the whirling sphere of light far enough that it surrounds the entire working space.
When you are finished doing the Sphere of Protection, go to the chair and sit down. This act completes the opening half of the ceremony.
Closing the Grove
When the work of the grove is finished, return to the chair, sit down, and let your mind return to stillness. When you're ready, rise and go to the north side of the altar, facing south across it as at the beginning. Say, “Let the powers be present as I am about to close a grove of Druids in this place. Peace prevails in the four quarters and throughout the grove. Let any power remaining from this working be returned to the Earth for its blessing.”
This is a crucial step, and takes practice. Any magical working leaves some nwyfre behind it, and this needs to be earthed out so it doesn't affect others or manifest in your life in unwanted ways. Feel the energy of the working around you, and then imagine it flowing inward toward the altar, down through it into the Earth, and then down to the Earth's center. Keep concentrating on this until the ritual space feels clear of any leftover nwyfre.
Next, say, “I now invoke the Sword of Swords.” Pause, and imagine that a great sword rises through the altar, hilt first, as though through the surface of a lake. The blade is of blue steel that shimmers with a light like Sun on water, the hilt is of brilliant gold, and the pommel at the upper end of the hilt is a jewel that shimmers and flashes in rainbow colors. The sword rises until it has cleared the altar and hovers in the air, its point just above the altar's surface. Repeat the following invocation of the Sword of Swords:
From the rising Sun, three rays of light;
From the living earth, three stones of witness;
From the eye and mind and hand of wisdom,
Three rowan staves of all knowledge.
From the fire of the Sun, the forge;
From the bones of the earth, the steel;
From the hand of the wise, the shaping:
From these, Excalibur.
Raise your right hand in salute, and imagine yourself placing your palm against the flat of the blade, as knights once did when swearing fealty. Say, “By the Sword of Swords, I pledge my faithful service to the living Earth our home and mother. Awen.”
Chant the word Awen in three syllables, “Ah-Oh-En,” drawing each one out. As you do, see the image of the sword dissolve into brilliant light and disappear. You are left standing before the altar, your hand raised in salute to the Sun in the south. Lower your hand, leave the altar, walk in a clockwise circle around the space, and then continue around to the exit and leave the grove. This completes the closing half of the ceremony.