Solar and Telluric Currents - The Ways of the Life Force - The Foundations of Druid Magic

The Druid Magic Handbook: Ritual Magic Rooted in the Living Earth - John Michael Greer 2008

Solar and Telluric Currents
The Ways of the Life Force
The Foundations of Druid Magic

As the link between mind and matter and the power behind the magical uses of intentionality, nwyfre stands at the heart of Druid magic. Understand the ways of nwyfre and you know all you need to know about the magical arts. This is less easy than it sounds, however. Nwyfre fills the whole universe, and every mental process and material object in the universe affects it in one way or another. To know its ways completely would therefore take a working knowledge of everything in the cosmos.

Fortunately some of the things that influence nwyfre have much more potent effects than others. The most powerful, for our purposes, are the two primary sources of nwyfre in the little corner of the universe where human beings live. One of these is the Sun, and the other is the heart of the Earth. From these spring the two primary currents of nwyfre used by Druid magic: the solar and telluric currents.

The solar current descends to the Earth's upper atmosphere from the Sun and cascades from there down to the surface. It waxes and wanes according to the position of the Sun in the sky, reaching maximum strength at dawn and noon, but it is present even at midnight; it flows wherever light from the sky can reach, and even penetrates a short distance down into the soil. The other planets of the solar system reflect the solar current to Earth just as they reflect the Sun's light, and their cycles shape the flow of the solar current in ways that can be tracked by astrology and other magical traditions of time. The solar current's traditional symbols in myth and legend are birds such as the eagle, the hawk, and the heron. Magical writings sometimes call it aud or od, and in alchemy it is the Sun. Its primary symbol in Druid lore is the circle, representing the Sun's orb. It is symbolically masculine, and one of its names is the current of knowledge.

The telluric current takes its name from Tellus, an old name for the Earth. It rises up from the heart of the Earth through the crust to the surface, and takes its form and character from the landscape the way the solar current takes its character from the turning planets. Underground water affects it powerfully, and springs and wells where water comes to the surface blaze with it. The serpent and the dragon are the most common symbols of the telluric current in myth and legend. Its names in occult lore include the secret fire, the dragon current, and aub or ob, and in alchemy it is Mercury. Its primary symbol in Druid lore is the triangle, representing its fiery and transforming nature. It is symbolically feminine, and one of its names is the current of power.

Most systems of ritual magic in the modern West rely on the solar current exclusively. In writings from these traditions you'll hear plenty of talk about heavens and higher levels of being. Learning magic in these systems takes the form of ascent from lower to higher levels, and the major rituals call down the powers of the planets and stars, or draw down deities into earthly manifestation. All these higher levels and powers, to the Druid way of thinking, are ways of talking about different aspects of the solar current.

A much smaller number of magical traditions in the Western world work exclusively with the telluric current instead. In systems of this sort you'll hear talk about underworlds and deeper levels of existence. Learning magic in these systems takes the form of descent or deepening, and the major rituals bring up energies from within the Earth or call up spirits from the depths. All these underworlds and their powers, to the Druid way of thinking, are ways of talking about different aspects of the telluric current.

Traditions that work with the telluric current have a dubious reputation in modern occult circles, and in a very few cases this reputation has been well earned. Workings from certain medieval handbooks of magic use ritual to summon unbalanced, destructive telluric entities from deep within the Earth, so that the mage can browbeat them with symbols of the solar current, bribe them with sacrifices, and force them to obey his will. This approach is as dangerous as it sounds, and tends to be self-defeating as well, since the entities in question usually do whatever they can to turn the tables on their would-be controller. Some of the imagery in these systems draws on popular religious ideas about devils, and this has encouraged some people—even in the occult community—to think of all telluric magic as devil worship.

This is untrue, and indeed unfair. Most of the occult systems that focus on the telluric current bless and heal as effectively and as often as any system of solar magic, and have nothing to do with Satan or any other figure out of Christian mythology. For that matter, there are unbalanced and destructive magical systems that rely solely on the solar current.

It's quite true that the telluric current expresses itself in the individual through the lower aspects of human nature—the forces of life, love, passion, and power that root in the body—but it's only from the biased viewpoint of an extreme solar perspective that lower means worse. These aspects of the self are lower in the same way that a foundation is lower than the building it supports. They evolved long ages ago and function without conscious attention, and they also work through centers of nwyfre in the belly, hips, and feet, the lower half of the physical body. The womb center, in the belly about one inch below the level of the navel, is the primary focus of the telluric current in the body.

The solar current, by contrast, expresses itself through what are often called the higher aspects of human nature—our capacities for reason, imagination, abstract knowledge, and impersonal emotion. These aspects of the self are higher than the manifestations of the telluric current in the most straightforward physical sense, since they function through centers of nwyfre in the chest, shoulders, and hands. They also evolved more recently and thus require more conscious attention and development than the body and its passions do.

For most of Western history, spiritual as well as magical traditions have embraced one or the other of these currents, and rather too often, they have rejected the other one. The result of this binary has been a great deal of spiritual and psychological imbalance. Taken to extremes, an obsession with the solar current turns spirituality into an arid pursuit of abstract perfection that abandons the body and its potentials for power and delight. Taken to extremes, an obsession with the telluric current turns spirituality into a quest for raw physical sensation that abandons the mind and its potentials for wisdom and insight.

From a Druid perspective, at least, neither of these extremes is very useful. Far more effective as a starting point for magic is the recognition that both poles of the binary are equally necessary and equally holy. From this comes the realization that the interactions between the currents offer many more possibilities for creative action than either current does on its own.

The two currents can interact in several different ways. On the simplest level, they can balance one another like the two halves of the famous t'ai-chi (yin-yang) symbol of Taoism (presented as Figure 1-1). At the point of balance between them, possibilities of freedom and effective action exist that cannot be reached from either one of the currents on their own.

The two currents can also set secondary currents of energy in motion. In the symbolic language of alchemy, heaven and earth give birth to a red king and a white queen. These two currents, the red and white dragons of Celtic legend, reflect the energies of the solar and telluric currents in the natural world. They play an important role in sexual polarity, and they also have a place in Druid magical work.

Figure 1-1 The T'ai-Chi Symbol


The third relationship between the solar and telluric currents, however, yields the deepest and most powerful results. The two currents can fuse, and this fusion gives rise to a third current: the central secret of Druid magic.