Thursday, December 31, 2009

Music, Sound and Form

The Ogham were said by some to have been formed by Sound and Form (as its parents). What better child of Sound and Form would there be but Music? It is a theory of Seán Ó Boyle that the Ogham represent the notes of a Celtic harp. My thoughts on Ogham go beyond this musical notation into realms of mantra and mantic states. In this, I do not think I am far from what Alain Danielou proposed when he said in Music and the Power of Sound:

"If we were able to reproduce the exact relations that constitute the natural names, we should recreate beings, things, and phenomena, because this is the very process of creation, explained by the Vedas and also indicated in Genesis, or in the Gospel of John when the 'creative Word' is spoken of. If, however, exact relations cannot be produced, approximate relations have a power, if not of creation, at least of evocation; sound 'works now in man's small magic, just as it first worked in the grand magical display of the World Creator.'

'The natural name of anything is the sound which is produced by the action of the moving forces which constitute it. He therefore, it is said, who mentally or vocally utters with creative force the natural name of anything brings into being the thing which bears that name.'

By the artificial construction of harmony we can go beyond the phenomenon of sound vibrations and perceive not sounds but immaterial relations through which can be expressed realities of a spiritual nature. We can thus lift the veil by which matter hides from its all true realities"

It is my experience that the Ogham can be used in such a way to produce altered states of consciousness and to open the doors to levels of reality. In a true language (such as Ogamic Irish) with nature words and names, there is a power to the harmony of sounds and the letters that give them birth/form. Everything has a music that is natural amd uniquely characteristic of it alone. The fundamental sounds determine the "Music of the Spheres." Each of these "spheres" can be represented by an Ogham, a note and a sound as well as a quality, an essence and a level of awareness.

For starters, the Ogham can and should be used as a means of transitioning between normal consciousness/reality and mystical/altered consciousness/reality in much the same way that Amergin does so in his poem that is sometimes known as the "Mystery." what Amergin did was to chant and to "become" a variety of mystical/magical symbols for states of being and reality in his poem of mastery over the cosmos. The Ogham characters each have at least three kenning-meanings associated with them from historical/traditional Druidic lists. These meanings can be used to form relationships to create transitions in states of being in a manner similar/parallel to the Tree of Life structure that is used in Cabala (after all, the Ogham are primordial sound/form; even trees in Druidic traditions).

The keys to doing all of this in a Druidic way are to thoroughly understand the traditions, tales and values/concepts associated with the Ogham symbols. This is really not much different from the analogous ways that other Magical systems work to establish esoteric hierarchies. Of course, some will say this is "smoke and mirrors" but to me those who say such things just display an ignorance or an avoidance of Celtic/Druidic ways when they don't put forth the work to actually understand such things. The Druidic Way is not for those who want easy/instant solutions.

Another parallel for this use of Ogham, tone and mantra/chant among Druids and the Filidh (their inheritors) is to be found in the use of Sanskrit letters, symbols, sounds and correspondences among the Brahmins and Yogis of India. In their system chant and mantra are the foundation of meditation and the pathways to enlightenment. Almost any Hindu or Vedic site on meditation or Yoga will give information similar to this found at Universal Mantra.

"The Yogis of the past, found that within our body and mind there is a vibrational activity, and this activity creates sounds. In their deep meditations they listened all this sounds and they cataloged them, they found fifty sounds, and now this sounds are the fifty letters of the Sanskrit alphabet. "

"In the tantric science of meditation these sounds are used to awaken higher stages of consciousness and they are combined together to create Mantras, special words based on this sounds."

Other sites for this sort of information can be found at: The River of Heaven which says:

"Hence the Yoga of sound is meant to take us back from our gross sounds to their idea content to the perception they represent and ultimately to the pure being behind that perception. It is not a process of merely saying sounds or thinking about words but tracing the origin of sound and meaning back to awareness itself by the power of meditation."

Awen and Imbas

"This information could be almost anything: events from a person's past life, a detailed history of who and what had happened to an object or even how and why the subject was bespelled or enchanted. The examples that I've seen seem to suggest to me that a spontaneous flow of information and/or poetic verse might accompany the first contact that occurred between the seer and the object. This verse would then be interpreted based upon the vast storehouse of Druidic knowledge that had been accumulated through many years of study, experiment, observation and experience. It is this interpreting of the extemporaneous recital of verse that involves the act of 'cracking open the nuts of wisdom'."

Damh the Bard tells us:

"During a Druid ritual, the Awen can be intoned as a single monotone note using three syllables "Ah-oo-en" (some Druid Orders intone the three letters I. A. U. in a similar way). The power held within the Awen mantra can be used in many ways - from initiating poetic inspiration, to drawing down the blessing of the God and Goddess or evoking a change in the atmosphere of a ritual circle. It is truly a sacred word. "

So it also was and still is among Druids regarding chant and mantra for meditation. Rudimentary use of this was first attempted by Iolo Morganwyg in the Barddic Mysteries and the Barddas, when he suggested that the Awen was represented by three rays/sounds/letters (which are I A U as given above). These are the "fifth", "primary" and "third" elements in the Ogham vowel group or Ailm Aicme. In any esoteric alphabet, the letters represent primary states and tones. In the Ogham, each grouping can have a relationship to the elements/qualities as well as the directions and parts of being. A study of some of the Irish tales has suggested associations for these to me that mesh in a web of interlinking meanings as well as tonic qualities.

One practice that could come out of this use/cross-referencing of Ogham to sound, is that an entire symphony of meaning could be arranged in a melody of notes while colors, lists and other associations (like blossoms and smells) would also allow a multileveled matrix/field-like approach to any esoteric or mundane situation/ritual using the Ogham lists (which were a part of every File and Druid's education). What this means is that there is a ready sourcebook in Druidic memory and tradition for spellwork, medicine, poetry and ritual to be found in the Ogham as music, symbol, talisman and knowledge indices.

I could go on at length about this (and have in books, seminars and classes on the subject) but these few short remarks should point to the wealth of knowledge that awaits one who seeks the knowledge that is to be found along the Druid Way (and especially through the use of Sound and Form and their child which is the Ogham).

Saturday, February 7, 2009

How Druids Created the World

Several years ago, I visited my imbas to see if there was a story of how the Druids created the world (as they claimed in the Senchus Mor).

Here I present a hypothetical discussion between a Druid and his student that is modeled after and based on other similar teachings regarding cosmic order and organization that exist in many Indo-European traditions. The 'Colloquy of the Two Sages' contains a similar form of esoteric questioning and answering through the art of Ogham kennings. So does the 'Cauldron of Poesy.' The model for the text of this conversation is directly based in large part on the sixth Brahmana of the Third Division of the Brhadara aranyaka Upanisad that is recorded between Gārgī Vācaknavī; (the student) and Yājñavalkya (the teacher or Sage) found at:

The following tale is what leaped out of the darkness at me:

How Druids Created the World

"Then the student asked him: 'My teacher', said she, 'since everything in Creation is woven, like warp and woof, on water (i.e. the flows of creation or the powers of the universe which are brí and bua), on what, please tell me, is water woven like warp and woof (amhail deilbh, amhail eanglaim)?'

The teacher answered, 'On the winds (gaoth), my student; on streams of water and whirlwinds (sruth bua: caise uisce, gaoth ghuairneáin).

'On what then, are the streams and winds woven?', asked the student.

'On the worlds of the open sea and the enclosed lands and the columns of the sky (an fharraige choimhthíoch is tír is Maige Tuired), my student.' answered the teacher.

'On what, then, pray, are the worlds of the open sea and the enclosed lands and the columns of the sky woven?' inquired the student.

'Not hard to say', answered the teacher, 'On the worlds of the spirits of the air, the forests, the depths and the mountains, my student. (the Sídhe)'

Next the student questioned, 'On what, then, please tell me, are the worlds of the spirits of the air, forests, the depths, and the mountains woven?'

'Easily answered, on the wheel of the Sun (Roth Grían), my student.' replied the teacher.

'On what, then, pray tell, is the wheel of the Sun woven?' was the next question put forward by the student to the teacher.

'This too is easily answered', he said, 'on the houses of the Moon (Tiath an Éasca).'

Then the student asked, 'On what, then, please tell me, are the houses of the Moon woven?'

'Ni hansa, on the plains of the Cattle of Tethra my student.' answered the teacher

'On what, then, pray, are the plains of the Cattle of Tethra woven?' inquired the student.

'On the lands of the gods (Maigh Mhór), my student?' said the teacher.

'On what, then, pray tell, are the lands of the gods woven?'

'On the Cró of Lugh, my student.', was the answer given.

'On what, then, please tell me; is the Cró of Lugh woven?'

'On the treasures of the cities of Findias, Gorias, Murias, and Falias, my student.' was the enlightened reply from the teacher.

'On what, then, pray tell, are the treasures of the cities of Findias, Gorias, Murias, and Falias woven?'

'On the powers and skills of Draíocht and the mastery of the Dagda, the God of Druids, my student.' was the steadfast answer given by the teacher.

'On what, then, please tell me, are the powers and skills of Draíocht and the mastery of the Dagda, woven like warp and woof, like Land, Sea and Wind, like Sun and Moon, like the Cattle of Tethra and the worlds of the gods?', asked the student finally.

Then the teacher, instead of answering the question directly, warned the student 'not to ask too much about things that are not easily understood but which must be experienced and mastered through training.'

This is thought to mean that the teacher did not give the answer in plain words, but through the means of kennings or by having the student learn the ways through pathworking. It is clear from the Druid's statement, as well as from other passages in the ancient wisdom, that he had Tír na Bhithbheo (Annwn, Alltar, Tír na n'Óg, Tír Andomain), the eternal Otherworld, the unknowable, sacred reality, in mind within which everything else is based, and from which, everything is sourced and reborn. Here also is to be discovered and understood the fundamental relationship existing between the different components of the three worlds, as well as the balances existing between the deities/powers of Order (i.e. the Tuatha Dé Danann) and the deities/powers of Chaos (i.e. the Fomorii/ Tuatha Dé Domnann).

Searles O'Dubhain

What's in the Cauldron?

I've resisted blogging for many years now but have finally taken hand and knife to this one. Hopefully, I won't clutter the Internet with too much dross or drivel.

Here's links and an article to what it's all about:

What is an imbas experience?There seems to be some confusion about this topic among some frequent posters to this newsgroup. It's certainly not a way to self-aggrandizement. It is however a way that one connects to the gods.That means that it is a pathway of dedication. I apologize in advance to those of you who already know what an imbas experience is.Good historical and scholarly information about imbas can be found here:

A short description of my personal take on imbas can be found at this URL:

This is a part of "The Celtic Workshops" a course I taught online forseveral years:

The Celtic Workshop is a part of "O'Dubhain's Cauldron" a Pagan Bestof the Web website which is itself a part of the Summerlands Public Library and the Summerlands itself (the website that my wife Deborah,many talented others and myself created seven years ago):O'Dubhain's Cauldron:

The Summerlands:

But enough about all that for now! :-)

Imbas is an experience that has been described by Druids in the past. Amergin described it in the Cauldron of Poesy materials as translated by Erynn Laurie and found at:

Here is different version of part of this poem:

The Cauldron of Vocation

Ar-caun Coire
intlechtaib raith
rethaib sofis
srethaib imbais,
ellach súithi,
sru/aim n-ordan,
indocbáil doer,
intlecht ruirthech,
rómnae roiscni...

I acclaim the
Cauldron of Érmae
with understandings of grace
with accumulations of
with strewings of imbas,
(which is) the estuary of wisdom
uniting of scholarship,
the streams of splendour,
the exalting of the
the mastering of language,
quick understanding,
the darkening
of speech...
Attributed to Nede mac Adne and translated by Liam Breatnach

I put together a version of these texts more in line with my own imbas that stands on the shoulders of previous translations and versions:

The Three Cauldrons

Trí coiri bit en cach dúini:
coire érma, coire goriath, coire áiged.

Three Cauldrons that exist within each person: the Cauldron of Formation, the Cauldron of Vocation, and the Cauldron of Celebration.

Amergin, White Knee and the Triads of Ireland

My own existence springs forth from the Cauldron of Formation,

Which was created by the gods from the dúile;
Enlightened is each inspiration
That streams forth in my speech and from my center of being.

I am Amergin White Knee,
Ancient in years and gray of hair.
My inspirations are found within
The many forms of poetry
That are born within my Cauldron of Wisdom.

The Gods do not orient each person’s Cauldrons equally
Or fill them with the same talents and abilities:
Some are formed upside down, some tilted or upright.

Some are empty, while others are half full,
Some are filled with knowledge like Eber and Donn,
Capable of creating chants of life and death,
Through a skillful combination of words
In the power of three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter,
And possessing the strength of three measures:
Double letters, long vowels and short vowels.

My Cauldron of Vocation is trained
Through a study of the arts of poetry
And sustains me through proper composition.

I sing also of the Cauldron of Knowledge
That allocates the gifts of wisdom
According to the laws of each art
And the work of each artist in general.[i]

Question: Is the root of poetical art found in a person’s body or within their soul?

Some say that it is found in the soul, since the body is brought to life by the soul. Others say that it is through the body that the skills of our ancestors are passed down to us, hence it is true to say that the source of poetical arts is within a person’s body; though in every second person it is not to be found at all.

Question: What is the root of poetical art and all knowledge?

Not hard to say. Every person is born with three cauldrons existing within them: The Cauldron of Formation, the Cauldron of Vocation and the Cauldron of Wisdom.

All people are born with their Cauldron of Formation upright, which promotes growth in the body and the learning of childhood.

Secondly, the Cauldron of Vocation is properly filled and oriented after each
person has done the work of turning it from its original position on its side.

Finally, the Cauldron of Wisdom is originally upside down in all people, and it
distributes the first gifts and aptitudes of art.

In unenlightened people, the Cauldron of Vocation is completely upside down; while it is on its side in people who practice the arts of Poetry and Barddism; for the skilled it is completely upright as is the case with the Ollúnaidh (Filidh or Doctors) and the
Draoithe (Druids). The position of the Cauldron of Vocation determines a person’s level of skill, and does not yield proficiency until it is turned by either an awareness of sorrow or the thrill of ecstasy.

Question: How many forms of sorrow will turn the Cauldron of Vocation?

Not hard to say. There are four forms of sorrow that occur within a person: longing, grief, jealousy, and a questing for the Gods; though the causes of each of these are sorrows found in the world. There are two forms of ecstasy that can turn the Cauldrons upright in a wise person: divine joy and human joy. Human joy has four forms: the union of marriage, the excellence of good health, the joy of graduation after long study in the poetical arts; joy in the experience of imbas granted by the nine hazels of wisdom of the Well of Segais, which flows in its excellence against mundane streams along the Boyne with the relentless determination like a wild boar in valor, or like a racehorse in the Sun’s splendor, at the Solstice during the
most perfect year of its endeavors.

When the Cauldron of Wisdom is turned by divine ecstasy, rather than by human joy alone, its special grace is a gift that transforms a person, who becomes both sacred and knowledgeable, so that their works include miracles, prophecies, judgments and precedents. It is these people who establish the wisdom that guides our knowledge and regulates the forms of our speech. though this knowledge comes from within a person, its truth and its power is from the Gods and originates from outside of a person.

[i] The text of the Cauldron of Poesy is all traditionally
attributed to Amergin. Several translations of the text have been done (to my
knowledge): one by P.L. Henry, one by Liam Breatnach, another by Caitlin
Matthews and still another by Erynn Laurie. Anne Power transcribed the original
text. I have studied materials from each of these translations and am offering a
combined version of them and their meanings in my own words.
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] Ibid

I personally had this kind of experience after years of questing and months of sustained and dedicated meditation. It's what started me on the Druid way. It is what let me experience a connection to spirit and deity that gave me a direct personal experience of life beyond life and the reality that surrounds/touches the present reality.

Don't take my word for it or place me on a pedestal for having the experience. You can discover your own imbas that comes from the gods yet is found through an inner search. See for yourself as Cathbad told Cú Chulainn. Seeking truth and finding it for yourself is what the Druid way is allabout. That is the "Truth Against the World." That is an imbas experience. That is how you can know for yourself.

Searles O'Dubhain