The Art of Scrying
The Grove of the Druids
The Practice of Druid Magic
Another use for the grove ceremony is as a starting point for inner journeys, using the imagination as a gateway. Distrust and fear of imagination is so deeply rooted in modern culture that many people dismiss such journeys as empty makebelieve, and others who reject this prejudice react by putting too much emphasis on imaginative experience. These two extremes define a binary, of course, and the third factor defines an important branch of magical work.
The word scrying is an old term for “seeing,” and still gets some play in modern English in the form descry, meaning “to see at a distance.” In magical circles, though, it long ago turned into a word for a kind of seeing that does not rely on the physical eyes. Like so many magical techniques, scrying is something everyone does all the time without noticing it. Mages simply noticed this, learned to do it consciously, and put it to work.
Scrying, in fact, is nothing more than the art of seeing with the imagination. Take a few moments right now to imagine something—a weathered gray standing stone, let's say, with grass around its base and patches of white lichen growing on it here and there. You don't have to “see it” as though it's physically in front of you. Simply let the image rise in your mind's eye, and see what your imagination adds to it. As you look at the stone, what lies beyond it? What is the weather and the time of day? Is the wind blowing, and if so, from what direction? Don't try to reason these questions out, or force the image to go one way or another; simply let your imagination play, and see what it shows you.
If you took the time to do that just now, you have just had your first scrying experience. It really is that simple! Mages usually practice scrying in a ritual or meditative setting, however, in order to focus the inner eye of scrying more intently on a chosen subject. The grove ceremony offers an effective framework for doing this, and seven imaginal spaces—the realms beyond the Seven Gates—as destinations for your first imaginal journeys.
Start by setting up the grove in the usual way, except that the chair is placed so that it faces across the altar toward the direction of the element you intend to scry—for example, the chair will be in the west facing east to scry air, and in the south facing north to scry fire. (Leave it in the north to scry the three forms of Spirit.) Open the grove as usual, with the standard grove ceremony version of the Sphere of Protection. Take your seat, and go through the same process you would use to begin a meditation: relaxation, followed by the cleansing breath, followed by five minutes or so of rhythmic breathing. Do this as color breathing, using the color of the gate you plan to enter, to begin attuning yourself to its energies.
When you have finished the period of rhythmic breath, imagine that a circle of great trees surrounds the grove. Just within the circle of trees, the symbols of the elements hover in the air, brightly colored. Beneath you is the rich warm earth of the forest floor, marked with the orange circle of Spirit Below, and the sky and the purple circle of Spirit Above are overhead. Hear the wind in the branches and the calls of birds, and smell the scent of leaves and earth and fresh forest air. This is the Inner Grove, your sanctuary and place of Druid magic in the imaginal world. You will be returning to it at the beginning and end of each of your imaginal journeys, so take the time to imagine it richly and strongly.
Then imagine yourself rising to your feet and going to the center of the Inner Grove. Face the symbol of whichever element you have chosen to scry. Imagine it expanding until it is large enough for you to walk through. You see that it has become a portal, opening onto another realm of existence. At this point, pass through the portal into the elemental realm beyond.
The first time you do this, stop just inside the portal and simply look around. Let images rise in your mind the way they did when you imagined the standing stone. What does the realm of the element look like? What sounds, scents, and other perceptions come to you? Are there animals or other living things of any sort visible? If so, what do they look like, and what are they doing? Do they approach you or speak to you, and if the latter, what do they say?
When you have seen as much as you wish, or as much as the element appears to be willing to show you, go back through the portal into the Inner Grove. Face the symbol of the realm you just left, and imagine it shrinking back to its normal size. Return to the chair where your physical body is sitting, and sit down. Then allow the imagery of the Inner Grove to fade from your mind, stand up, and perform the closing half of the grove ceremony.
Afterward, make detailed notes on your scrying experiences in your Druid journal. Over the next few days, devote several sessions of meditation at least to the images, ideas, and events you experienced in your scrying. As imaginal experiences, these things will likely be packed with symbolic meanings that must be unpacked through meditation. Take your time, work through the experiences of the scrying one at a time, and finish the process before you do another scrying. You will find, as generations of mages have found before you, that one scrying opened up in meditation and thoroughly understood is worth twenty left unexplored.
The Uses of Scrying
It's best to scry each of the elements once to begin with, starting with air and going on in the same order you used to learn the invocations and banishings of the Gates. Each of these scryings is done the same way except for the last. When you scry Spirit Within, you don't need to get up out of your chair and face a portal; you yourself are the portal to Spirit Within. Instead, imagine yourself sitting in the same place as your material body. Let your imaginal self shrink and descend into your material body. Within your body, you find the inner landscape of your own microcosm. See what you find there, and when you are ready to return, imagine yourself expanding upward and outward until your imaginal body and your material body fill the same space, and then allow the imaginal body to fade from your mind's eye.
Once you've scried each of the seven elements once, you can scry them again in whatever order seems best to you. It's wise not to spend too much time on a single element, or neglect one of the elements completely, since scrying the elements will attune you to elemental forces and a scattershot approach risks imbalance. Still, this is one of the many dimensions of magical work where the personal equation is paramount. If you come to realize that you relate very poorly to one of the elements, doing a series of scryings of that element can be an effective way to bring yourself more into balance.
As you explore the elemental realms through scrying, you will find that the imaginal beings who inhabit them provide crucial dimensions of the experience. The modern world's materialist philosophy insists that such beings are “all in your imagination,” but you'll find that the imaginal beings you encounter in scrying know things you don't, and behave in ways you can neither predict nor control. Treat them as real beings, with purposes and desires of their own, and you'll learn the most from them.
You can ask these beings, for example, to guide you in your journeys through the elemental realms. A good way to do this is to trace the elemental symbol clockwise, the invoking direction, and say words like this: “By the powers of [name of element] I ask for a faithful guide in this elemental realm.” If a spirit approaches you, ask it to trace the same elemental symbol in the air. If it passes this test, you may safely accept its guidance. After it has shown you as much of the elemental realm as it chooses, ask it to take you back to your starting place, and when it does, trace the elemental symbol counterclockwise and say words like these: “By the powers of [element] I thank you. May the blessing of [element] always be with you.” Then close the scrying as usual.
Magical lore gives many names to the beings of the elemental realms. One useful set comes from Welsh faery lore, which fuses Celtic and medieval magical traditions. The beings met beyond the Gate of the East are the Tylwyth Teg (pronounced “TUH-loo-uth TEG”), the light-elves; they wear red garments and teach magic to those who please them. The beings beyond the Gate of the West are the Ellyllon (pronounced “ELH-ulh-on”), the forest elves; they wear white garments, and will share wilderness lore and the secrets of herbs to those who earn their trust. The beings beyond the Gate of the South are the Coblynau (pronounced “KOB-luh-nye”), the dwarves, dwellers in mines and mountains who dress in drab colors. They have all the secrets of craftsmanship in their keeping, and will communicate these to apt pupils. The beings beyond the Gate of the North are the Bwbachod (pronounced “BOO-bakh-od”), the spirits of houses and fields; they wear brown garments, and teach the arts of farming and housekeeping to those who are diligent and patient.
The three realms of Spirit are inhabited by more powerful beings, the three great families of Welsh myth. The realm of Spirit Above is the home of the Plant Don (pronounced “plohnt DONN”), the children of the goddess Don. In the last age of the world they were ruled by Math son of Mathonwy; their rulers in this age of the world are Gwydion (pronounced “GWI-dee-on”) son of Don—in Welsh, Gwydion ap Don—and his sister Arianrhod (pronounced “ah-ree-ANN-rhod”) daughter of Don—in Welsh, Arianrhod ferch Ddon (pronounced “verkh THON”). The Plant Don are the regents of the Sun, the Star Logoi of Western occult tradition, and Welsh folklore assigns them homes among the stars. Even today, the Welsh call the Milky Way Caer Wydion, the Castle of Gwydion, or Caer Arianrhod, the Castle of Arianrhod. Some of the lore of the Plant Don may be found in the fourth branch of the Mabinogion.
The realm of Spirit Below is the home of the Plant Annwn (pronounced “plohnt ANN-oon”), the children of Annwn, the realm of the dead and also the source of all life. In the last age of the world they were ruled by Arawn; their rulers in this age of the world are Gwyn ap Nudd (pronounced “GWUN app NEETH”) and his wife Creiddylad ferch Ludd (pronounced “CREY-thu-lad verkh LEETH”). In Welsh tradition, lakes are gateways to Annwn, and maidens called Gwragedd Annwn (pronounced goo-RAG-eth ANN-oon”), “women of Annwn,” are said to come from beneath the waters of lakes bearing strange gifts. The Lady of the Lake in Arthurian legend, who gave Arthur the magical sword Excalibur, was one of these. Some of the lore of the Plant Annwn can be found in the first branch of the Mabinogion.
The realm of Spirit Within is the home of the Plant Llyr (pronounced “plohnt LHUR”), the children of the god Llyr. In the last age of the world they were ruled by Bran ap Llyr, called Bran the Blessed; their rulers in this age of the world are Manawyddan ap Llyr (pronounced “man-a-WUTH-ann app LHUR”) and his wife Rhiannon ferch Hefeydd Hen (pronounced “rhee-ANN-on verkh HEV-eyth HEN”). The Plant Llyr are the archetypal forms of humanity, and their struggles, triumphs, and tragedies echo the fundamental patterns of human existence; they also represent particular energies within the human body that can be encountered and awakened by a variety of magical practices. Some of the lore of the Plant Llyr can be found in the second and third branches of the Mabinogion.
These beings should be approached carefully and with due respect. Strictly speaking, they are not elemental beings at all, but belong to the class of mighty spirits that different traditions call angels, intelligences, or devas. Very often they test newcomers to their realms before revealing any of their secrets, and the tests are not always obvious ones. Those who pass their tests and earn their regard, though, can receive magical teachings of great power. The Plant Don and Plant Annwn govern the two great currents of energy that shape the cosmos of Druid magic, and the Plant Llyr govern the energies of the human body—the alchemical vessel where these two currents fuse to create the lunar current, the creative power of Awen.