For the Love of Magic

I’ve always had a private love affair. We fell in love when I was at secondary school. I hunted her out in the library where she used to hang out. It was pretty exciting. To that very young Damh the things she showed me placed my feet upon a life journey. But over the years, every now and then, we lost touch. Other things took my attention. I guess it can happen to any relationship. Then over the past few weeks she got in touch again. Well, not really simply got in touch, she’s been quite insistent. At first I was a little worried I wouldn’t have space in my life for her like I used to, to the degree she obviously wanted, but then I realised that she had always been there, like a supportive friend, I just hadn’t taken as much notice of her as I could have. I guess maybe I took her a little for granted.

As I reflect I remember now that Samhain was always her favourite time of year. As the nights grew longer she came out more, she was somehow more visible. As I sit here writing this I can feel her very clearly, close, like a comforting hand upon my shoulder. I think she’s also glad we are reconnecting again. But I have to be honest it feels a little naughty. The hand resting on my shoulder is the hand of magic, the hand of the unseen, the supernatural. It’s both soft and young, yet also boney and gnarled. She offers peace, connection, dreams, but she can also bring fear, disorientation, or maybe both of those feelings are the result of something else.

Something more primal.

Awe.

I’ll come clean. It wasn’t spirituality that led me to the Druid path. It was those things I mentioned above. I was a 10 year old Fortean, searching the school library for books on the supernatural and the occult. I loved those old Victorian photographs of Mediums with their ectoplasm. The old black and white photographs of ghosts both scared and thrilled me. I loved horror films in the same way some people like rollercoaster rides. Hardly any surprise then that tales of an Otherworld and magic drew my attention, and when I discovered that there were many who saw that Realm as a reality, well, it was like seeing an enormous firework display on the horizon, all I had to do was get there.

As I grew older I went to those Psychic Fayres that were once so popular. I bought as many of the books as I could find. I explored the practices of The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (the magical society, not the far right political party…) and that led me to the books of Aleister Crowley. No, not a nice man at all, but his books on magic intrigued me. I joined a Magical Order and was initated as a Neophyte and began the journey of the magician. But magical Orders being as they can sometimes be, after a few years, this one imploded and dissolved, leaving me adrift and searching. That search led me to send off a stamped addressed envelope to a Druid Order called OBOD, and I that is where I found my new home.

Magic is a potent energy to the modern Druid, but often it isn’t overtly visible, it is subtle. However to me magic, the Awen, have always been intrinsic to my Druid path. I am a polytheistic animist, and I feel the presence of the Otherworld even sitting here typing this, staring at an illuminated screen. I have sometimes seen that this way of viewing the world isn’t 100% popular, even with some Pagans. Rationality, atheism, particularly after the release of Dawkins’ The God Delusion certainly shifted the way some of my Pagan friends viewed the world and their Pagan path. I read it. It didn’t do that for me. I still feel that rational thinking is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master. None of my songs have ever been written using rationality as inspiration, I’m not sure any work of art has been created that way, and that to me is the flowing spirit of the Awen at work.

I love this quote from rational thinker Philip Pullman:

Trying to understand superstition rationally is like trying to pick up something made of wood by using a magnet.

I’d go with that. It’s taken from this article and maybe reading it was another step in me needing to write these words.

(Now if rationalism is your thing, please don’t think I’m suggesting you’re in any way wrong. If it works for you, fabulous. But ever since I fell in love in the school library all those years ago I have felt there is something else, something unexplainable, enticing, seducing, exciting. Rational thinking certainly has its place in my life, but it’s not my driving force. So that’s enough of that, time to move on.)

In a couple of recent blog posts I asked if any of you had had what some may call supernatural experiences on your path, wondering if the culture of social media might sometimes make people fearful of expressing those moments that are labelled, sometimes in a derogatory manner, Personal Gnosis. Sure enough I had a lot of replies, mostly through private email. I read one on the recent OBOD podcast, DruidCast, and the response was encouraging – it seems there are many of you who feel this way too. So I’m going to try to read a few more over the coming months.

I have been on this path, as Magician and Druid, for most of my life. It has been a passion of mine since as far back as I remember. To me the Druid Way is a mystical path, as well as a way of life, and a way of relating to the natural world. When I stand upon the hill below the Long Man of Wilmington to celebrate the festivals of the Wheel of the Year I’m not simply marking a season. I’m seeing the changes in the landscape as a magical dance between the Earth, the Sun and the Moon. The way the seasons change, the Moon waxes and wanes, the tides rise and fall, the way day turns to night, those cycles bring with them a deep and powerful mystical connection with not only the physical changes I feel with my senses, but with something else that is deep within me, and that also flows across the land, and out further into the cosmos. The power of inspiration, magic, life-force, the influence of the Otherworld, and the voices of beings whose tales we tell, and try to understand, is tangible at those times of seasonal change. The Oak is both an ancient living being, and also a portal and doorway to other lands. My wand is both a piece of Rowan wood, and a magical ally who has walked with me for many years. My Druid path is still very much the path of the Magician. It is the horse upon whose back I ride when I see the veil thin, and the high mountains of Annwn come into view.

And I am forever thankful to you, my love, for opening my eyes all those years ago.

11 Comments

  1. Kevin Rowan-Drewitt October 9, 2018 at 1:40 pm - Reply

    A great post Dave and I see parallels with how I got into Wicca. At 14 I read the books about Borley Rectory and the ghosts there – even wrote a song about it back in 75 then in 1979 got into the books about Shamanism by Carlos Castenada then became a folky with all the songs about the seasons and cycles of the year etc before finding my path in 91 with Wicca initially by the books of Kimberley Morgan (who am now proud to know as a good friend – you were there when I met her in Glasgow all those years ago) and the Farrahs. Magic is a big part of my life and it wouldnt be the same without it. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Sheila October 9, 2018 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    How wonderful it is to hear you speak of such an ongoing affair . . . Magic. It is as haunting as it is inviting. I so love your post. Very well done. Thank you for sharing! Blessed be

  3. Linda Newman October 9, 2018 at 2:35 pm - Reply

    Great to read this post Damh. I went from reading Enid Blyton book aged 10, knowing all the different lands at the top of the Faraway Tree were real and the Enchanted Wood trees really did talk to each other to reading Dennis Wheatly black magic books age 12. Eventually ended up studying shamanism with Kenneth Meadows. Once my mind had been opened, I saw and felt the wonder of being able to touch these different realities and work with them.I wish I had been able to inspire my children and grandchildren to investigate these realms.I continue to live in hope and pass on books like Philip Pullman.

  4. Thesseli October 9, 2018 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    Great article!

  5. The Fabled Hare October 9, 2018 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    I always find it fascinating to read about how people found their path. I think my limited experiences have some elements in common with those of both you and some of the other posters here. For years I had always been able to feel the magick in the air, especially strongly in woodlands, meadows and hills. Flowing water or fire were especially magical to me, and from a very early age I would go to the woods or the bottom of the garden, light a small fire, enjoy it and then make sure there was no trace of it when I was done. I felt and savoured the turning of the wheel and felt at peace whenever I was out and about, desiring something that I just couldn’t explain. Enid Blyton was by far my favourite author throughout my childhood. I credit her works with my bothering to learn to read at all. I loved the free-range, outdoor exploits of the Famous Five and other characters. I knew that the Faraway Tree and all its associated characters were real. I tried to be a good Christian as a child, as I had been lead to believe magic and witchcraft to be at worst, evil, and at best, nonsense. But something was missing. It’s a fulfilling path to some; it wasn’t to me. I also disagreed with and disliked some Bible stories, in which I perceived double-standards or dishonesty being favoured (Lot or Noah, anyone?). I stumbled upon Witchcraft (Wicca, to be precise) and subsequently Druidry almost by accident. Out of necessity and last resort in an unpleasant situation, I decided to try to find out if there was any sort of protection spell I could do. This was the mid-late 1990s, so internet resources were sparse and limited. I sought advice at a local curiosity-shop I had always warned to steer clear of. I managed to order in a brand-new copy of a fresh-off-the-press book by a lady called Silver Ravenwolf. I also found a single web site containing a wealth of information on Wicca, Druidry and Shamanism, which to this day I think was one of the best free resources on the subject that the internet has ever seen. It was called “Spirit Online”, but alas, the site probably went offline around 17 years ago. I must have saved its entire content over the course of several evenings running up my parents’ phone bill using our 28.8k modem! Anyway, my hasty, desperate protection spell worked and I felt curiously “at home” when I performed it. I felt it work as I performed it, and the effects lasted! I furiously delved into reading any scrap I could find on magick and paganism. Reading on folk-magick, Wicca and Druidry, I felt like I’d come home. If it’s “evil” and “nonsense” to listen to the hissing of the trees in the wind, feel the magick of the turning wheel, to remember and honour your ancestors, and to feel a connection and love for the Earth and to want to protect her, then I don’t want to be “good”. I now had a name for, to paraphrase several well-loved lyrics, “know(ing) that Jack lives in the Green, that things are never as they seem”, – and of course that the hills “…are hollow and home to the fae, who dance on midsummer’s eve” – and I now knew that others experienced it too. I nervously performed a self-dedication ceremony on the Hunter’s moon, 1999, which would have been the 24th October, so that I’d be officially (in my mind and the Gods’ minds) already Pagan and dedicated by Samhain. Maybe I should have been patient and waited another week, but I haven’t looked back since.

  6. Rebecca October 9, 2018 at 5:58 pm - Reply

    That.
    Was.
    Beautiful.

  7. Margaret Coles October 9, 2018 at 6:12 pm - Reply

    Oh my, subject just up my street. Briefly, born in 1940, brought up Anglican, as I approached 16 years of age, looked at Baptist, Pentecostal, then aged 20 years came across Spiritualism. My Mother had received some astounding evidence from a medium. I struggled for two years however because my evangelical friends told me I was due for hell! However, without going into too many details, I overcame that. Mother took me to a seance in one Spiritualist church in Brighton. It was a closed circle. I witnessed, trumpets flying round, voices coming through, I recognized the voice of my father. The medium was tied to a heavy chair, ectoplasm came out of his mouth and wound around him. Then the chair was lifted from its spot to the other side of the room. Years on I developed my own abilities and reached a stage where I could see spirits as clear as I might see any of you. Caring for the elderly, I have witnessed the spirit leave the body at death and myself experienced a NDE after delivering my third baby. On my way to 79 years and still witness visitations, perhaps several in the course of a week. This will include, chilly air, orbs, lights, flowers, nearly solid spirits of those I love. Oh, don’t forget, I have told you that trees answer me when I talk to them. I am most privileged and know I am loved and I am an eternal being. Love, to all, Margaret.

  8. Pete October 10, 2018 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    Nice one Damh!
    Lovely tale, well written, I was hooked from the initial snippet in the email šŸ™‚
    Great linked article as well – fascinating!

  9. Keri October 11, 2018 at 1:51 am - Reply

    “I still feel that rational thinking is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.” I couldn’t agree more. One would miss out on all the magic in the world, rationalizing it all away.

  10. Sonia October 13, 2018 at 12:53 pm - Reply

    Critical thinking is a delusion buster, and that is needed. But magic is not delusion. Or illusion. It is very real. It is not so much the man but his Magick. Aleister Crowley brought in a new aeon with innovation, and a certain kind of style, a sort of Morning of the Magicans, blooming out of a nearly dead past. A resurrection if you like of Pan.

    This Lady I Know. She once took me down into the West Kennet Long Barrow long ago. I slept there all alone in one of the burial chambers all night. I was touched by life and death, by ancestors, by the Underworld. I ate the pomegranate seed and never was the same again when the cold October morning light met my eyes as I rose from the tomb.

    What a lovely thing it is that you feel her presence, and that you walk with her again. Thank-you for this article it is a deep and meaningful one.

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