A druid’s window on the past…
I had been really excited about finally seeing real magic!
Venturing into a cave and reciting an old Welsh spell of making, made me realize that there was more to life than meets the eye.
After that one genuine experience, I was hungry for more truth. So I thought, ‘Why not blow the doors right off the Otherworld and go for the Dragon calling?’
Yet, my mentor put the brakes on my noble ambitions before I could head out for the endeavor. He warned against unwelcome results if I went too far too fast. A younger me may have ignored his caution, but luckily, I learned the extremely important skill of listening about ten years prior.
“Okay, okay,” my old friend Woody would say, “just slow down!”
At that point I would be interrupting his dialogue with my own, assuming I knew where his advice was headed.
“You need to learn to listen!” he said, soundly.
I paused and remembered something I read about people subconsciously waiting for an opportunity to speak rather than processing what the other person was actually saying.
“You always do that! Every time I start saying something that you think you know, you break in and try and finish my thought!” he stopped momentarily to see if I would do the same thing again…
“Good,” he said.
Then he went on, “I’m merely giving you some subjective information first. You have to wait until I am done talking to make a judgement call on whether I’m teaching you something or not.”
Then I thought long and hard about what he just said. Ever since, I wait a few seconds after someone speaks before I start blabbering.
There’s no telling how much knowledge I skirted by cutting people off, till then.
So, I waited for my mentor to get back to me with a recommendation on further steps in my Pheryllt training. It was a test of patience, but the effort payed off.
“Generally, the best place to start from is the last place you remember. If you don’t remember who you’ve been, then you won’t know where you should be going.” he advised.
This made perfect sense to me. I had made recent connections that suggested I had been in many forms before coming into this one. A simple example can be found in other blogs of mine, but a cliff note might be found in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of British Kings. (Besides, haven’t you ever asked yourself how good writers write the stories that they do? Doesn’t it seem like they had to have been there?)
So, I waited patiently.
The next correspondence I received was suggesting that I perform a Rite of Awen.
Naturally, and immaturely, I assumed I knew what he was talking about, and immediately responded that I would try and focus on the rites of assumption, which came earlier in the Druidic text I had on hand.
“No,” he says. “The rites of assumption would do you no good right now unless you were Taliesin himself! The rite of Inspiration is what I suggest!”
And my old habit of cutting people off half-thought strikes again!
Quickly I pulled out my Doctrines and thumbed through the pages until I found Grimoire XV: The Rite of Inspiration.
The Pheryllt text (the actual pheryllt text, not some knock off written from someone in this century) states that a man seeking insight into his past lives need only scatter a handful of Bechan over a cauldron of whole grain alcohol that’s been set alight, when he’s in the midst of a deep wood at a proper threshold time; like dusk, dawn, or midnight.
I had, in my possession, an iron cauldron, and I felt that his recommendation was more attuned to my level of truth-seeking than the dragon calling. So, I once again, followed his gentle directions.
It took almost three weeks to get the Balm of Gilead (Bechan Herb) and finish crafting my golden sickle. But the time was filled with many family preoccupations and other work-related duties.
Presently, I had secured only one of my Druidic symbols of mastery. The chalice, which holds sway over the realm of water and sea; an area I had felt I had physically mastered over the past few years.
Each week swimming a mile out beyond the sandbar with the beings of sea and tide, only asking myself each time, “How can no one else want to experience the beauty of being a piece of underwater ecology?”
I have brought back (and released) many treasures from my free-diving excursions. But the chalice itself was earned through my cave experience; my son in tow.
Earning the sacred sickle was going to be different. My eldest son (not by birth) had moved away to his dad’s house and I was left to handle the craftsmanship on my own. I carefully drilled a hole in the blade and went about setting a ruby into the void. A task not easily accomplished! But at long last, it was done. I gilded the whole thing with gold and marked the handle and blade with symbols of personal importance.
I planned on using the sickle to spread the coals of the fire if I had a chance to practice the rite of inspiration before the real magic began.
The Rite of Awen can be done in two ways, depending on your intention.
If one intends to seek an answer on a specific issue, then Nightshade leaves and berries are scattered on the coals of a dying fire. But if one wishes to delve into their past lives, then the Balm of Gilead should be thrown onto the surface of combustible alcohol and set to light in an iron cauldron.
I was in dire need of knowing who I have been. So I opted for the second option.
Living in a beach side city doesn’t leave a lot of candidates for temporarily camping in deep natural woods. Of course, there are state parks in the area, but according to Google Maps satellite images, the closest deep wood that might not get me arrested when building a fire, was nearly twenty miles away.
A few nights before the date I planned for the rite, I found myself free from work just after midnight and decided to scout out the potential terrain.
As I had never been on that land before, I was skeptical that it would be friendly to me on my first visit. Boy was I right!
I had the foresight to pack a small offering of apples and honey, in case I found a suitable clearing for my work, but otherwise I was only armed with my cellphone as a flashlight and my diving knife that always stayed in my car.
From an overhead view on Google it looked as if a clearing was no more than 3/4 of a mile North of where I had parked on the outskirts of the forest. The entire perimeter of the wood was full thicket, but I decided to try my luck traveling as the bird flies. If I could get past the initial underbrush, I thought it may thin out and become an easier hike. Yet, after 30 minutes of thorns, marshland, and unrelenting brambles I had moved only a small blip on the GPS. It would take many hours at that rate!
Finally, I accepted defeat on that front, and doubled back to skirt around the perimeter of the wood until I got closer to the clearing.
A wide lane had once been forested in order to accommodate power lines. It ran North along the West side of the wood. While it was very overgrown, it seemed most suitable to remain under cover as I made my way closer to the spot.
I hiked through the head-high weeds for half a mile before my little blue dot appeared to be parallel of the supposed clearing on the map. It looked impossible to enter the thicket, but as before, I hoped it would thin out if I kept my resolve.
I estimated that it was about a quarter mile to the clearing.
It was rough going, pushing aside mangrove bushes, navigating cypress roots and vines, and then, when I was no more than 100 yards in, the land turned to marsh and I was wading in water up to my knees.
Frustration began to set in.
I squatted down to rest. Loathe to let my frustration turn me into what my emotion was suggesting, I instead brainstormed on how best to proceed.
Hacking away at the reeds and mangrove with my diving knife would serve no positive end! If Merlyn were here, I could really use being turned into a fox. Then I could toe my way underneath all of this rubbish!
I got down on all fours and became as much a fox as possible. I put my flashlight in the mesh bag and began crawling beneath the mangrove in the mud. Climbing over in some spots, and under in others, I finally felt that I had managed at least five hundred yards, but the way was no easier than it began!
I stopped from exhaustion and took out the phone to check my location. Just as before, my little dot had hardly moved in the grand scheme of things. I was utterly defeated. And what was worse, I was getting unsure that I would be able to make it back out, as the effort thus far was debilitating.
As I breathed, I wondered if perhaps the forest was trying to tell me something. Why was I fighting so hard and getting nowhere? It had passed two o’clock in the morning and I had no more hope of getting to that clearing than if I had been sitting back in my car.
My frustration finally waned. Either through absolute defeat, or deciding to heed my very own intuition. I looked again at the satellite image and saw if I were to have just followed the path of the power lines I would have eventually made it to a thinner swath of forest.
Now, I was faced with the decision of an hour return struggle, the way I had come, or the risky choice of continuing on in faith. Momentarily, I thought of just lying down and falling asleep till morning right there in the bog!
I stood up as best I could and tried to compose myself. I wouldn’t be defeated! I would just have to listen to the forest.
“Take the path of least resistance,” I told myself.
I decided to turn North and head for what might be sparser forest rather than the clearing I had been so focused on. Then, something miraculous happened.
After not more than twenty feet, I came out on the trail exactly where I had entered! I was utterly confused, as I had been tracking my progress East. But rather than question the stroke of luck, I simply smiled and thanked the Gods for the double fortune of both insight and direction.
I personally vowed not to fight the forest again!
I headed North through the saw grass toward my new goal, determined to follow whatever trail I could until close enough to consider diverting.
After about another quarter mile I spied some large oaks off to my right and remember thinking, “That’s the type of wood I am looking for.”
But, the satellite image suggested that a sparse woodland was just ahead, so I continued on.
When the trail finally turned away from my goal I looked for the friendliest looking area to start out East again.
I climbed a small mound and started my way into a reedy area that quickly became marshland. At least there wasn’t thick mangrove blocking every inch! I checked my satellite again, and it seemed I was headed in the right direction so, I continued on.
Suddenly, in the thickness of the reeds, there came a sawing noise. I stopped and listened. When the reeds stopped swaying the noise ceased. I took another step, and beside me thrashed a huge disturbance.
Chills ran down my arms as I pictured a mountain lion leaping from the grass.
The large animal sent the reeds clamoring. Cat tails nodded away as the beast moved through the six foot grasses to get away from my spying eyes.
“Where there is no imagination, there is no fear,”
I repeated to myself for the better half of five minutes.
It was just calming me down when my next big step fell on unsupported ground. I sunk in the mud up to my waist and swamp poured in around me.
“What am I doing?”
Here I was, again. Fighting the forest. Wasn’t there an easier way?
Then, as if in answer, I saw the big oak trees off to my right. I looked down at the Google Earth image and saw that my little blue dot was right in the center of what should have been a clearing. So much for that!
I glanced back at the old oaks and put my cell phone into the mesh bag for good. For now on, I was following my intuition!
I trudged my way up out of the mud and started parting the reeds toward the oak trees.
I climbed up a small rise from the wetlands and had to push through some eight foot saw grass, but once I was under the welcoming canopy of the oaks, I knew I was on the right track.
Stretching out before me was a wide lane of low growing marshwort, bordered on both sides by ancient oaks. The nature’s road ahead seemed to stretch unending into the dark. I ventured forth.
There were few interruptions along the path. A fallen log or two, home to some interesting mushrooms, a couple of giant spider webs with orb-weavers as big as my hand.
“Where there is no imagination there is no fear,” I said, ducking beneath them.
And then, there it was. The nemeton.
Some thick vines hung from the canopy, nearly dragging the ground before looping back up into the trees. A giant ancient oak stood guardian on the left of the clearing. It was here that I decided to leave my offering of apples and honey.
I quickly unpacked my Tupperware and emptied its contents at the base of the trunk. Then, I placed a hand on the tree and awoke it to my cause, following the rite outlined in The Lost Books of Merlyn by Douglas Monroe.
It was past 3am when I turned and headed back the way I had come.
I paused only once at the spot I had entered the stand of oaks from the swampland, but quickly reminded myself to follow my intuition. Instead, I continued down the natural lane, and behold! I emerged directly onto the path where I had eyed the giant oaks at first!
If I had only followed the forest’s lead to begin with!
It only took forty minutes to return to my car following my memory and sense of self-direction, a chore that had whittled away four hours relying on an overhead satellite image by Google!
Soaked to the core and exhausted, I headed for home.
It was the evening of my expedition and my four-year-old son was rocking back and forth on the couch; as is his usual comfort measure before bedtime.
But, this time I realized he was saying something as he rocked.
My ears perked up.
“Sa… rah… makes… it… out…” he was saying each rock. His breathy barks reminding me of a woodwind instrument.
“He’s talking about the character on the cartoon,” my wife advised.
The experience sparked a memory of when I was young. I would use my whole body like an instrument. Sometimes knocking on my head like a hollow coconut, or beating my chest as I talked, not unlike American Indians who might pat their mouth as they dance to create rhythm!
Hi yi yi yi yi yi yi yi! Hi yi yi yi yi yi yi yi!
Not to mention, I had a natural draw to the piano and had always been an avid whistler! It seemed that simply preparing for my journey, into the past, was stirring up bardic memories!
My pack was full of all the necessities for my night in the woods.
I had put a couple of dry logs and some smaller sticks in the bottom of my bag in case the forest was still damp. My iron cauldron (fashioned with some pearls), three bottles of dried and crushed herbs, a headlamp to navigate, some white wine for sacrifice, The Lost Books of Merlyn, and my trusty pipe bag.
I had my daughter take a picture before departing, as I knew it would likely be the only photograph of the entire endeavor. I was determined to get genuine results again, and I had read that Otherworld entities shy from the camera and electronics.
Besides, a cell phone would mean sure rescue. And what would an adventure be without some actual danger? The phone would stay in the car.
I had donned my robe. Beneath it, I wore a simple black outfit as to better meld with nature and the night. On my belt, I carried a suede bag of twelve stones (each special to me), a pint of firewater, and my hand-crafted golden sickle. I planned to carry my Fire Globe at arm’s length during the entire event.
I closed the door to my house and stopped for a brief moment, considering my wife and her absolutely neutral expression on the matter. After a full minute I returned to the living room and blurted, “This is your last chance to tell me I’m crazy.”
She looked up from her game of Sudoku and said gently, “I do think your crazy! Anyone going into the woods at night without a cellphone in order to look at their past lives is nuts! But you do you. I just don’t believe in all that.”
All in all, she didn’t forbid my adventure, so I expressed my appreciation to her for understanding and accepting my position. Then, I was off.
Before I knew it, I was holding the radiant blue Palen tan aloft as I pushed through the saw grass onto the Northbound power line track. My pack was securely on my back and I was surprisingly comfortable. Confident that I remembered the path I took returning from the nemeton.
At one point, my sickle swung on its leather cord, and nicked my thumb with its blade. I sucked the blood from my knuckle, surprised that the edge I had put on it came out so smart.
As I shortened the leather strap to prevent further accidents, I noticed I was standing at the place where I had first entered the thicket and failed. It served to remind me that I only need follow my intuition.
When I came upon the view of the oak trees off to my right, I didn’t ignore their call. I could even see a small indention in the towering reeds where I had emerged on my return trip. I pushed them aside with the fire globe and passed easily over the mound.
At the base of the small rise I spied some unfamiliar plant life. It was a mint green leaf and stalk, riddled with bright purple clusters, almost like the eggs of an insect or fish.
Later I found out it was beauty berry, a natural edible fruit.
I was back on nature’s road and had hardly broken a sweat!
Immediately, I felt safe and relaxed. I was thankful that I had scouted out the land and left an offering before undergoing this adventure. It seemed the land was indeed friendly to me now!
I crossed over the familiar softened logs, now alive with snails and beetles, making homes under the tender and colorful mushrooms. I passed gently under the immense spiders, bouncing on their dew-spotted webs. No fear, for I knew every inch of the domain.
As I approached the nemeton, I knew such a sense of familiarity that I hardly noticed my apples had been partly consumed. By the looks of it, mostly by the ants. At least I knew I had their favor!
I reached up and hung my Palen tan from a low hanging creeper. Then, looking up along the vine’s path in the canopy there was a sure sign I was at the correct spot.
Above me, the canopy opened in a perfect circle. The old oak, which I had left an offering before had a companion tree just 50 feet from it on the same side of the nemeton. Each tree reached an ancient arm out over the grove that formed together in a circular embrace among the forest roof.
That was where I felt destined to build my fire, as it would act as a natural chimney. The ground cover was thick; about shin to knee height, and still moist. I would have to clear a circle if I wished to kindle my campfire safely.
I took up my sickle and gave it a curious practice swing at the marshwort. Like a knife through butter the ground cover came away cleanly. Surprised at this effect, I began clearing the outline of what would be my circular ritual site.
After ten minutes, I had broken a sweat, but the shear joy in the effectiveness of my blade had kept me hard at work. Only then did I unshoulder my pack and set it outside of my work space. Then I set back to work clearing a twelve foot diameter circle directly under the natural chimney.
I was a peasant reaping the grain!
Once I got the circle down to a few inches tall, I began using the concave of the blade as a rake and shaving the earth down to pure moist dirt. I found myself overly thankful for having such a useful tool!
I have been a martial artist all of my life, and as such have carried a katana in my car for as long as I can remember. It was curious to think that my small handheld sickle was of more use than than the ninja tool I had grown comfortable with.
Once I had a relatively bare circle to work in, I started placing my twelve stones equidistant around the inner circumference. Each stone meticulously crafted by my children. I left the final one just out of place.
To my surprise, when I finally flipped my headlamp off, they all gave off a glow of their own. My kids had used glow-in-the-dark paint!
Inside my open circle of light, I removed the logs, and small sticks I had collected from my pack and placed them near the Eastern most point of the circle. I pulled out the white wine and set it aside. Turned the Lost Books of Merlyn to the page outlining a poem to encourage the Forest God Kernunnos. Then I set my cauldron in the center of the circle.
The three pearls had broken free from the rim of the relic, so I fished them out from the bottom of the bag and placed them in the pot itself. Then, I uncorked my phial of firewater and filled the cauldron one third full.
At this point, I was beginning to feel a lot like I had when I had ventured into the cave alone. Something familiar was going on. The light of my Palen tan gave off that ultraviolet wavelength from outside of the circle. Something about how it was hanging in the trees, within that grove, that really sparked my memory.
And then I saw the yellowish eye-shine up in the trees. The distance between the two eyes unmistakable; from the branches of a towering oak, an owl sat unblinking, watching my every move.
I put my mind to the task at hand. Got up and placed the final stone in its proper spot.
“Nid dim on d’duw, Nid d’duw on dim.”
By this time, I was pouring sweat and quite exhausted, but overall I was satisfied at a job well done. I thought it a good time to take a few moments, be still, and catch my breath, for I was gently wishing that I had brought water along.
After a few minutes, my thirst subsided and I began to relax. I decided to try and enjoy myself. So, I retrieved my pipe from my bag, packed it, and then struck it to life with my flint.
As I folded the tastes and smells of chamomile, mint, and tobacco into playful shapes on the night air, I began to feel as if I were living in a memory. It was time for action.
I took a knee by the kindling and in a firm voice intoned,
“Nuc habae amos lucem et caloren!”
Then I struck the thickest log with the flint and steel and the spark took to it. Dancing along the most brittle end until catching the other dry wood. With no further effort, I sat back and relaxed against my pack as the fire took on a life of its own.
As I watched the flame slowly work its way with the pieces of wood I had stacked there, I asked myself if the power were in the word, or the dryness of the wood? I let the thought pass, as either way I was enjoying the fondness of my experience. I knew for sure, that the many fires I had kindled in the past were not so obedient! For that, I was thankful!
I rummaged in my pack for the corked bottles of herbs and resin I had brought along. I had ground each with a mortal and pestle to make them more agreeable to changing form by flame. I put each glass bottle on display before the fire.
Then I took up the book and studied the poem I had been memorizing to entice a visit from Herne the hunted.
I took a long draw from my pipe as I read the passage…
Stone glade in dark wood
Pine branch into watcher’s hand
Smoke of iron calls forth the forest guardian…
Then, all at once, I understood.
Lifting the glass bottle, labeled Dragon’s Blood, I peered through the rusty colored powder at the flames licking the air.
I was the watcher.
With no hesitation, I uncorked the bottle and took a small pile of the iron smelling resin into my palm. Then I thrust it onto the fire.
“Ah! Yes!” I exclaimed, as sparks danced up into the void of the canopy and beyond.
The magic had begun…
and I remembered every second of it.
Before all this, I had a growing suspicion that I had been a druid once before. It was all the same as the suspicion I had when I was in my early teens; that I had once before been a ninja…
The assurance comes when you are standing in a nemeton, tossing dragon’s blood onto a fire and realizing that your smoke of iron will not call forth the forest guardian unless you are holding a pine branch, and possibly not even before you are standing in a stone glade rather than a marshy one…
I had been a druid, for sure! Just as I realized that I had been a ninja, when I was carrying out a ninja mission alone against three other students of mine and they thought I had set a whole clan up against them!
I sat back taking in everything that was occurring to me, alone in these dark woods. Alone with only Noath, and the dark glade.
I was going to have to wait for the coals to die down before I would be able to properly ask a question with the little bit of nightshade I possessed. So, I moved an Eastern stone aside, and took up my headlamp to go in search of a pine branch I might take with my sickle.
I walked in each direction for half an hour as the fire burned down and was disappointed not to find a single conifer in reach. The pine, so abundant in my daily ventures, and here, when I am in need, not a needle to be seen!
To be fair, I was near a wetland. I would sooner have luck bringing back a stone glade!
I remembered that I had brought some fertilizer spikes along, and while I gave up my search for a pine branch, I thanked the married oaks by depositing a couple in their bases. The hole in the canopy had well ventilated my unattended fire.
Then for no other reason than to relive my past, I ventured out into the wood again. This time directionless, with only my Palen tan.
Like, when I had gotten turned around during my first attempt in the wood, I knew that the forest could have its way with me. But, as I turned, after having hiked a good distance, I could see there, through the trees, the flickering of my campfire leading me back from the Otherworld.
It was as if I had stepped right through a two-sided mirror. Who I was, and who I am.
As I re-entered my nemeton and hung the Palen tan in its proper spot, I felt like I was home.
Closing the circle with the three fold utterance, I took up a handful of nightshade and with certainty simply asked, “Is it time?”
There was no clock to check for accuracy, and only a small window on the night sky above. The firewood had turned to black char but still held a mighty flame. Yet, I had no other question. And, truly druids are servants to no clock.
With my sickle, I broke up the char and spread it over a wider space.
“Is it time?”
The flames ran further down to ember, but still lived.
“Is it time?” I asked once more and scattered the nightshade on the embers.
The shredded berries caught to fire like drakes. Ribbons of flame dancing up into the night air. I watched in awe until my attention was grabbed by something else caught alight near the fire.
It was my sickle! The gilding must have caught fire from the heat.
It was indeed time!
I shook the flame from the sickle and placed it away from the fire. Then I took up the Balm of Gilead and spread it across the surface of the cauldron’s liquid, asking for insight into my past.
Tossing my blade back onto the dancing flames, I stood up in the middle of the circle reaching to the void above.
“To bathe in the waters of life
to wash of the not-human,
I come in self-annihilation
and the grandeur of inspiration.”
The sickle was again aflame! I touched it to the surface and the cauldron roiled in high blue crests of fire.
Then I sat my sickle back into the embers to let it face a challenge beside me. I wanted to see if it would withstand the test of patience in its own trial by fire!
Ten minutes passed as I counted heartbeats. Sweat dripping into and sizzling as the firewater ran itself toward its end.
Then, simultaneously the fire in the cauldron guttered, and the ruby in my sickle fell from its soldering into the underlying embers of the campfire. But I wouldn’t let the precious loss deter me!
With a single thought and mighty blow, like I was blowing out the candles on a birthday cake, I set the fire to darkness so that all that existed was me and the guttering blue flame in the cauldron.
How one breath could extinguish an entire campfire and set its embers to immediate ash, I do not know, and did not ask. There was not time!
I was rapt as the Bechan caught spark in the bottom of the cauldron like a fuse. Slowly, the tiny red ember traced its way across the saturated herb until staring up at me was was clearly the burning face of a red dragon!
I took a breath in the pitch black.
It took nearly half an hour, scouring and spreading the ash of the campfire with my sickle to find the ruby that threatened to dash my rite’s conclusion. But eventually, it clinked like a pebble among the fine soot and I brought it home in the bottom of my cauldron.
The following day, I went to work at the task of more permanently welding the gem to the blade, and when I scrubbed the char from that once untreated stone, it shone with the true red of Mars!
There is a common trinity among ninjas and the druids.
To be silent
I emerged from my experience with a deeper understanding of this most sacred pact.
There will always be naysayers when it comes to real magic. Indeed, naysayers when it comes to truth.
“The bechan fell into the bottom of the cauldron in just the right way!”
“Owls frequent marshland!”
“There may have been wine involved!”
Men will always go to their graves preaching their own truths… but, there are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy…
Yet, if all possible objections must be overcome nothing will ever be attempted; and the only truth, is in action!
With that great insight,
I may just be singing the rites of assumption after all!
Jay Horne is an author and publisher out of Bradenton, Florida who has shared a genuine interest in philosophy and writing since early childhood. He is a husband and father of four. Jay enjoys writing fiction, humor, horror, and teen & young adult.
View all of his professional and philosophical works of literature on his Amazon author page where you will find blogs, videos, and free excerpts:
Jay M Horne