The Tree of Light
The Secret of the Grail
The Practice of Druid Magic
The third and final phase of the Inner Grail working unfolds from a symbolism found all over the world. Many traditional mythologies picture the world as a mighty tree with its roots in the underworld, its branches holding the worlds in place, and its crown reaching up to the highest realms of spirit. It's a powerful image and, like all myths, it can be understood on many different levels. It has obvious relevance to Druid magic, because trees draw their life from above and below at the same time—their roots bring up minerals and water from deep within the Earth, while their leaves soak up sunlight and carbon dioxide from the heavens—just as Druid magic draws power from both the solar and telluric currents (see Figure 7-3).
The image of the world tree also has potent links to the lore of spiritual transformation. Countless myths of the attainment of wisdom include the world tree as a central feature. The Norse wizard god Odin hanging on the world tree Yggdrasil for nine nights to win the secret of the runes, and Gautama the Buddha achieving nirvana while seated at the foot of the Bo tree, are two examples. Another example, though it's not often recognized as one, is the crucifixion of Jesus. The Gospel of Truth, one of the Gnostic gospels, says of Jesus: “He was nailed to a tree and he became a fruit of the knowledge [gnosis] of the Father” (Robinson, 1988, p. 41).
Figure 7-3 The World Tree
Many Gnostics, as this text shows, believed that Jesus brought gnosis—the spiritual knowledge that transforms the self—to humankind through his crucifixion. Like Odin, the Buddha, and many other mythic figures, his self-surrender in the presence of a tree won the gift of knowledge. The Gnostics were not the only ones who pictured the cross as a living tree, either—many medieval images of Jesus' crucifixion show the same unexpected image.
Like every other mythic image, this conjunction of the tree, the holy person, and the gift of wisdom has many meanings and lessons. The simple fact that sitting with your back against a tree very often helps deepen your meditations is not the least of them! Still, another meaning in this combination of symbols has an important secret to teach the Druid mage.
Some of the most insightful studies of tree symbolism, such as E. A. S Butterworth's The Tree at the Navel of the Earth, suggest that these myths of revelation at the world tree relate to one of the hidden potentials of the human enaid. Many people nowadays have heard of kundalini yoga, the art of rousing the “serpent power” at the base of the spine and leading it up to the crown of the head. This is one expression of a widely known magical technique—the opening of a central channel of nwyfre along the midline of the body.
Different magical and mystical systems use this channel in many ways. Kundalini yoga opens the channel to bring energy up from below and awaken the seven chakras. The Golden Dawn's Middle Pillar exercise, by contrast, brings nwyfre down the central channel from above, and uses it to awaken five energy centers. The difference in technique comes from the fact that these two systems don't draw nwyfre from the same sources or work toward the same goals. Each one does what it needs to do to reach the goals it sets itself. The same can be said for the countless other traditions that use the central channel to direct nwyfre. In Druid magic, as you've probably guessed already, the central channel opens to a twofold flow of nwyfre from the macrocosm—upward from the telluric current and downward from the solar current.
The process of opening the central channel actually began with the very first gesture of the Sphere of Protection, the first ritual you learned in this book, when you brought down a ray of light from far above and sent it down into the depths of the Earth. All the invocations of Spirit Above and Below and the work with the solar and telluric currents took the process further, and the first two stages of the Inner Grail working brought it to a new level by establishing centers of nwyfre along your body's centerline, and bringing the two dragon currents into play to balance and sustain the central channel.
The third stage of the Inner Grail working completes the sequence by formulating the central channel anew and opening it to the nwyfre of the macrocosm. As with the first two stages, an initial ritual to establish the imagery needs to be followed by regular practice with a simpler exercise. As you work through these stages, the central channel will open slowly and naturally. Methods of opening the central channel in a hurry do exist, but these need to be learned under the close supervision of an experienced teacher, and involve substantial risks to your physical and mental health. A more patient approach gets the same results, and can be followed successfully from written instructions like these.
The Tree of Light Ritual
Like the rituals that began the first two phases of the Grail working, the following ritual need only be done once, though regular practice is just as important once you perform it. Before you attempt it, be sure you have the two dragon currents well established in your imaginal body, a process that usually takes four to six weeks of daily practice. If you performed the Rising Dragons Ritual on one of the eight holy days, it often works well to perform the Tree of Light ritual on the holy day following. As before, cast an Ogham reading to be sure you are ready.
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 bringing the Tree of Light into being 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 and Rising Dragons exercises, breathing nwyfre into each cauldron three times, and then bringing the dragon currents up through the cauldrons three times.
At this point in the working, imagine a point of light descending from your cauldron of the Moon to your solar plexus center, as though you were about to begin the Circulation of Light. Instead of expanding it into a sphere, though, hold it at your solar plexus center for a time, imagining it as a seed. Let the seed of light sprout, sending a slender stem of light upward and a root of light downward. Watch it grow into a sapling, and then into a tree, putting out branches and leaves of light above you and roots of light below. Feel sunlight and wind on the leaves, soil and water around the roots, the firmness of the trunk connecting them. Spend as much time as you need to make the image of the tree as clear and solid as possible.
Next, turn your attention to your breath. As you breathe in, imagine the leaves drawing in air, sunlight, and the nwyfre of the solar current, and sending them down through the trunk all the way to the deepest root. As you breathe out, imagine the roots drawing in water, nutrients from the soil, and the nwyfre of the telluric current, and sending them through the trunk all the way to the highest leaf. Repeat this nine times in all.
Finally, turn your attention back to your solar plexus, and imagine that the seed of light is still there, in the heart of the Tree of Light. Expand it into a sphere as usual, making the sphere large enough to surround the entire Tree of Light, and then perform the Circulation of Light as you usually do. Take your seat in the grove and meditate on the image of the Tree of Light. When you are ready, close the grove in the ordinary way.
The Tree of Light Exercise
The Tree of Light exercise builds on your previous daily ritual practices—the Sphere of Protection, Three Cauldrons exercise, and Rising Dragons exercise—and includes all of these. Plan on practicing it regularly from the time you perform the Tree of Light ritual, for as long as you choose to follow the path of Druid magic.
Begin by performing the Elemental Cross as usual, and invoke and banish the elements of air, fire, water, and earth in the standard way. Next, 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. Bring the ray of solar light down from above to the center of the Earth, summon the two dragon currents and bring them up through your body and the three cauldrons, just as you did in the Rising Dragons exercise.
Then, let a seed of light descend from your cauldron of wisdom to your solar plexus center, and imagine the Tree of Light growing from that seed until it extends far above and below you. Once the tree is established, bring the solar current down to the roots on each inbreath, and bring the telluric current up to the leaves on each outbreath. Repeat this three times in all. Finish by performing the Circulation of Light as usual.
Regular practice of this exercise, once you have worked your way through the rituals and exercises leading up to it, will open door after door to your magical and spiritual advancement. As your practice ripens, so will your ability to sense and shape nwyfre and work magic in yourself and the world around you. This ripening process will bring you to an inescapable challenge. Now that you hold the keys to magical power, what will you do with them?