The Rising Dragons
The Secret of the Grail
The Practice of Druid Magic
The next phase of the Inner Grail working draws its imagery from a Celtic tradition of the Middle Ages. Two of the earliest accounts of King Arthur, the ninth-century History of the Britons by Nennius and the twelfth-century History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth, both include detailed references to it, and a different version appears in a tale in the Mabinogion, the story of Lludd and Llefelys.
As Nennius and Geoffrey tell it, the wicked British king Vortigern wished to build a stronghold in the mountains of northern Wales, but the stones his workmen put up each day fell down again each night. He summoned his wizards and asked them for advice, and they told him that the stronghold would stand if the blood of a child without a father was mixed into the mortar. Vortigern sent messengers throughout his kingdom, and they found a boy from the town of Caermarthen whose mother swore she had been made pregnant by no man. Nennius calls the boy Emrys, while Geoffrey gives him his more famous name: Merlin.
When Merlin came before Vortigern, however, the boywizard immediately took control of the situation. When he heard about the collapsing fortress and the wizards' advice, he told Vortigern to summon his wizards, and he demanded that they explain why the stronghold kept falling down. When they admitted they had no idea, Merlin told the king to have his workmen dig down beneath the building site, and predicted they would find an underground lake with two containers—vases in Nennius, hollow stones in Geoffrey—containing two serpents or dragons.
The workmen dug down and found the lake, then drained the lake and discovered the containers and the dragons just as Merlin predicted. Once uncovered, the dragons awoke and struggled against each other. At that moment, according to Geoffrey, Merlin burst into tears, entered a prophetic trance, and spoke the Prophecies of Merlin, a text as famous in the Middle Ages as the prophecies of Nostradamus are today.
R. J. Stewart, one of the most insightful modern interpreters of the Merlin legend, pointed out in his 1986 book The Prophetic Vision of Merlin that the rising dragons and Merlin's breakthrough into prophetic vision appear together for good reason. The dragons represent creative energies present within the land and every human being as well, and when these energies awaken and rise up through the body, they bring magical gifts of wisdom and power. This same imagery appears in the teachings of several traditional Druid orders as well, for the rising of the two dragons forms the basis of one of the most potent exercises in Druid magic.
The principle behind the exercise appears in veiled form in the old Grail legends, and can also be found written in the landscape at Glastonbury, where tradition claims the Grail had its hiding place. Two mineral springs flow near the flank of Glastonbury Tor, one flowing with red water, the other with white. These same colors appear over and over again in the Grail legends, often in the form of two lesser vessels holding the sweat and blood of Jesus, or some other pair of white and red fluids. The roses and lilies, red lions and white stags, red kings and white queens who appear so often among the symbols of alchemy point to the same thing.
It takes only a little familiarity with the language of myth to recognize that the Grail and the white and red fluids mean exactly the same thing as the underground lake and white and red dragons revealed by Merlin, or the alchemical vessel in which the red king and white queen embrace. The Grail, as we have seen, is present whenever the solar and telluric currents fuse and the lunar current is born. Yet the Grail is a vessel, a container, and the power that fills it comes from three sources. The first is the solar current, descending from above into the open mouth of the Grail in the form of the holy spear that appears alongside the sacred cup in the legend. The other two come from the land itself.
The solar and telluric currents, as mentioned back in chapter 1, give rise to two secondary currents, the red and white dragons of the legend. When these rise through the three cauldrons forming the Grail, they charge the cauldrons and strengthen them and their effects dramatically, awakening subtle perceptions and powers within the self. They also help keep the solar and telluric currents in balance within the vessel of the Grail. You can awaken the dragon currents in the same way as the three cauldrons, with a ritual working followed by a daily exercise linked to the Sphere of Protection.
The Rising Dragons Ritual
Like the Three Cauldrons ritual, the following ritual need only be done once, though the flows of nwyfre it establishes must be strengthened through regular practice of a simpler exercise afterward. It should not be performed until you have the three cauldrons solidly established in your imaginal body, a process that usually takes four to six weeks of daily practice. If you performed the Cauldron ritual on one of the eight holy days, it often works well to perform the Two Dragons ritual on the holy day following. If you have any doubts, cast an Ogham reading to settle the matter, just as though you were planning any other magical working.
Once you are ready for the working, prepare for a standard grove ritual, with wand, cauldron, and crane bag present, and open the grove in the usual way. When you invoke the four material elements, ask each element to assist you in awakening the power of the two dragons in yourself, and banish all obstacles to your success in the working. When you reach the invocations of spirit, go on as though you were doing your usual Three Cauldrons exercise, breathing nwyfre into each cauldron three times.
When you finish this stage, turn your attention to the heavens high above you. As you draw in a breath, imagine a ray of light streaming straight down from above you. It passes through the center of your head and through each of the cauldrons, and as you breathe out, it continues down to the center of the Earth. This is the holy spear, descending into the Grail to restore fertility to the land, and it also represents the rays of the Sun falling on the underground lake beneath Vortigern's tower. Repeat this same image a total of nine times, on nine breaths.
Then clasp your hands over your cauldron of Earth, an inch below your navel, and hold your elbows a little out and rounded. Make sure your knees are slightly bent and your weight rests equally on both feet. These details of posture help guide the currents through your enaid and physical body along the proper paths.
Next, turn your attention to the earth below your feet. Reach deep into the Earth with your imagination, and picture the heart of the Earth ablaze with light. From that deep source of light, imagine two currents of nwyfre rising up, one red and one white, like twin serpents or dragons. The red one rises until its head is just below the sole of your right foot, and the white to just below the sole of your left foot.
Next, bring the red current up through your right leg and the white current through your left leg, and draw them into your cauldron of the earth. The two currents cross there, so that the white current flows to your right side and the red to your left. They flow into your arms, curve out and then back in, and flow into your cauldron of the Sun. Here they cross again, so that the red is again on the right and the white on the left. The two currents arc up the sides of your head and neck and flow into your cauldron of the Moon. Here they fuse in a blaze of pure light, as shown in Figure 7-2.
Repeat this upward motion of the two currents nine times in all. It often works best to take two breaths in the course of each upward movement—breathing in as the currents flow up your legs to the cauldron of the earth; out as they flow out and back inwards to the cauldron of the Sun; in again as they flow out and back inwards to the cauldron of the Moon; out again as they fuse and fill the cauldron of the Moon with blinding light. If you need to take more breaths, however, by all means do so. The goal of the ritual is to get the imagery and flow of the rising dragons firmly established, not to get it done quickly.
Figure 7-2 The Two Dragon Currents
When the dragons have risen to your cauldron of the Moon nine times, go on to the Circulation of Light as usual. Take your seat in the grove, and meditate on the two dragons, then close. If you feel dizzy, as many people do after this ritual, eat something to bring yourself back down to the material world.
The Rising Dragons Exercise
Once you perform the Rising Dragons ritual as described, a simpler working can be used to build on the foundations established by the ritual. The exercise expands further on the Sphere of Protection, and is done as follows.
Begin as usual with the Elemental Cross, and invoke and banish the elements of air, fire, water, and earth in the standard way. Then invoke the elements of Spirit Below, Spirit Above, and Spirit Within to fill the three cauldrons, just as you did in the Three Cauldrons exercise.
Next, as in the ritual, imagine a ray of the solar current descending from infinitely far above you, passing through the three cauldrons and into the center of the Earth beneath you. Repeat this image three times in all.
Then clasp your hands over your cauldron of Earth, and imagine the dragon currents rising from the heart of the Earth to the soles of your feet. Bring them spiraling up through your body, using the same breathing pattern as in the ritual. Do this three times in all, and then perform the Circulation of Light as usual.
If you find yourself in a situation where you can't perform the Sphere of Protection for some reason, an even simpler version of the Rising Dragons exercise can be done. Simply call a ray of light down from high above you, as in the beginning of the Elemental Cross, and send it down to the center of the Earth. Next, establish the three cauldrons in the usual way and breathe nwyfre into each cauldron three times. After that, imagine the descending spear of light three times, and then bring the dragon currents up three times in the way just outlined, and finish with the Circulation of Light. As with the simplified Three Cauldrons exercise, this shouldn't be done too often because it lacks the balance of the material elements, but it works well when waving your arms around isn't an option.