Strictly speaking, this isn’t an Autumnal Maker School post. One, I finished making ten things already, and two, I don’t know that things that I’m making specifically for magical purposes should get counted as part of the total anyway.
John Michael Greer, the head of the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn (druidical-gd.org) has recently made available to members the results of some of his research — a secret/sacred alphabet for druidic work, designed to be used for divination and for ceremonial work of various sorts. It’s difficult, I think, to work with a material like this magically, before one has worked with it physically.
That is to say, if you can’t work with the magical teaching material in all four realms of being, chances are pretty good that you can’t work with it at all.
Now, there are four realms of being. Actually, there’s probably considerably more than four, but druidry teaches that there are at least four distinct realms or worlds, and that these can be associated with the four elements of Earth, Water, Air and Fire (and maybe Spirit); and that these worlds correspond roughly or distinctly to physical matter, emotion and thought, intellectual ideas, and ‘energy’ or soul. This is a simplified teaching — chances are you have your own version of this.
My goal was to walk into the Design Lab, find parts or materials that had already been ‘used’ or ‘damaged’ in some fashion, and turn them into something that could be my physical representation of this alphabet in the lowest realm of Earth.
The representation had to be:
- made of already-used or abandoned materials
- assembled during a class period or two today
- be useable for divination
- indicate (to me, anyway) its magical purpose
- be the tool(s) and hold them in some fashion.
This amounted to twenty-eight disks of wood that I scavenged from a game design project that a kid had been working on, and that had gone awry. I thought that I could pyrograph/write the characters on one side (and their Roman/English names on the other; and then four special disks for four additional signs I intend to include). I found two pieces of felt, one black and one white, to turn into the bag; the black felt was slightly larger, so it became the part with the ‘flap’ for the bag. I found a button on the floor, and that would be my closure. I also found a length of yarn, to turn into braid for the edges/seams of the bag. I gave myself some leeway, and used a new piece of string for binding the bag together.
I pyrographed the twenty-eight characters (and their reverses) first, and that took about 50 minutes. In double-checking them now, I discover that there are two which I haven’t pyrographed the backs, yet, and I’m going to have to do those on another day sometime soon. The pyrograph tool had been left plugged in by a student, and I was going to have to unplug it soon anyway; I simply put it to another purpose first.
I hand-stitched the bag with a spare needle and some new thread. I attached the button. The button is wood, and has only two holes, so I had to modify my process for sewing on buttons to account for this.
I then began making the braid. As you can see from the photograph, I’m not yet done making the braid. However, the braid will provide both a decorative pattern on the front of the bag ( I think I have enough yarn for that), and provide some edging along the sides of the bag and around the edges of the flap. The braiding is taking the longest time; and in fact at this point it’s the nicest element of the whole design; part of me wants to save it for a project made of better materials than a bag made out of craft felt. However, a deal’s a deal. By the time I’ve made all the yarn into braid, and attached the braid to the bag, I imagine it will look pretty nice.
Last night, as well, I took a notebook I’m already using, and wrote out the 24 characters of the alphabet, and their meanings, and their correspondences both to the (druidic) tree of life, and to the cards of the Major Arcana (some of them, anyway) in the Tarot deck. That completes the work I’ve done for the emblems.
What did this give me, besides a whole lot of work on something that some of my readers may regard as useless? Well, for one, I realized that I’m able to work across a multitude of craft disciplines: in string, in sewing, in scavenging, in repair, in wood, in measurement, in conceiving a project and seeing it to conclusion in a short while. This is no bad thing, in my line of work.
From a magical perspective, I took the first few steps in learning a new element of this particular tradition: I began learning the alphabet of the tradition, and how to read its lore. I demonstrated reverence for the teaching by copying it out by hand, and I demonstrated reverence for the teaching itself by trying to emulate its practice in the creation of an object to house this element of the tradition (this, by the by, isn’t actually part of the official lore — to make a bag and braid-decorate it out of used materials — just how I’ve chosen to do it). And I’ve made the thing, knowing that I’m likely going to have to make it again, anew, once I’ve really studied and understood this material. Hmph.
From a teaching perspective, though, I have understood finally just what it is that I’ve spent the last five years learning, and what I’m likely going to have to take five years to teach to my students in the youngest grades — how to move between disciplines, and materials, and mindsets, with relative ease. I learned how to do that from choosing to be a magician and a druid and a Maker. I wonder how I’ll go about teaching them how to do what I do, without necessarily teaching them the magic.
I don’t imagine it will be easy. Hmmm.
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