It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
I am a member of a mystery school called the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn, founded in 2013 by John Michael Greer. It seemed appropriate, as part of my 31 days of magic posts, to recommit to that training process, with the intention of completing the process of learning and doing the work necessary to be called a Druid in this system. This means practicng meditation, geometry, geomancy and spagyrics; as well as lighting a trio of candles in front of this green circle and red cross are part of my work — even when away from home, we do the work. (There are also supposed to be cauldrons of water and earth, but I don’t have those with me at the moment).
I decided to use today’s Druidical work as part of 31 Days of Magic because I’ve found in the past that the use of the three candles is a great mini-divination of its own during a long working. The three candles represent the Three Rays of Light in the druidic tradition: Gwron or “knowledge”; Plenydd or “power” and Alawn or “harmony”. Thus, the three candles stand for specific powers in the world. The left-hand candle represents knowledge, while the central candle represents power. The third candle, the right-hand candle, represents peace or harmony. By watching them burning, I can use them as a guide to what will be important in the next few weeks or months. Given that today is January 1, I can use them as a preliminary guide to the entire year… but I chose not to do that. Instead, I dedicated them to this month, and I’m using them as a divination.
Today, the right-hand candle burned away to nothing well before the other two. As it did so, it left a lot of melted wax on the right-hand side of the candle-stick. This suggests that harmony will be a swift-footed thing this month, and that my harmony will come at the cost of a lot of slag and waste piled up on other people. Alternatively, it’s saying that what harmony people have right now will be used up quickly in the month of January, and that there may be some wasted peace.
The central candle burned quite slowly, and fairly completely. It left behind very little slag, and burned straight up and down with a clean bright flame. This is the one which stands for “power”. There was very little waste involved in this candle burning, and there was a sense that I will use what power I have both efficiently and effectively.
The left-hand candle, representing ‘knowledge’ burned with some waste on the inside/right hand side of the candle, suggestive that knowledge acting in conjunction with power — awareness and wisdom used on conjunction with power and deliberateness. It burned faster than the central candle, but slower than the right-hand candle.
Before I began, I consecrated the three candles to three purposes — one, to use them as a divination for the kind of results which I’d see from participating in the 31 Days of Magic process (and this came out of the community of students of Jason Miller). I’ve already mentioned the second goal, which is to complete the training work necessary to become a Druid in the DOGD. But the third goal is something that’s going to underlie a great deal of my work over the next thirty-one days, which is that I hope these posts generate some interest and commitment from some of my more teacher-y readers to bring more Design and more Maker philosophy into their classrooms and into their teaching practice — and into their lives.
I don’t wish to say too much about this just yet, because it’s an ongoing process. But I want to refer back to the first paragraph of this entry, where I said that I was a member of a Mystery School. I don’t think of my druidry as a religious experience, you see — although it could be that. Rather, I think of it as a spiritual, intellectual, and emotional experience, which is designed to heighten my capacities of memory, imagination, and willpower, and deepen my sense of peace and contentment. One of the things which has emerged from this work has been a deeper commitment to teach children how to use their hands, and tools, and their growing skillfulness, to be makers and creators in a variety of disciplines. And it’s very hard to do that without committed teachers and partners. These days, I need more committed adults who are willing to be partners in teaching children to be Makers. And my hope is that these posts will inspire some people to become the kinds of folk who Make for the sake of teaching children to Make.
One of the things which this kind of work — magic, that is — brought into my life is a commitment to create moments of beauty like this bright candlelight in a dark room. The druid Ross Nichols (I think it was him, and not some other druid, but I may be misremembering) once called them “poetry in the world of acts”. From there, it was a relatively short set of steps to the idea that looking at candlelight changes the way we think, changes the way we feel.
Thanks to things like Harry Potter and Charmed and Constantine, we tend to think of Magic as something that affects matter and energy — that is, the world of physics, the world of molecules and chemistry and biology. We raise our hands in a particular gesture, speak certain words of power, and bolts of lightning shoot from us, strike down our enemies, or blow holes through walls. But Magic has also been defined as the art of changing consciousness in accordance with will. And maybe it’s the case that magic is not so much about blowing up buildings as blowing up stale mental patterns.
It’s certainly the case that tonight, as my last candle began to burn low, that I had insight into what this last candle-light was for. I wandered room to room in the house, speaking words of blessing and good will over the house and its occupants — the furniture, the artwork, the people. With a candle named Power in hand, I ordered ill-will, misfortune, and unhappiness to flee far from this house, and for the light of good will, beneficial fortune, and happiness to enter. Poetry in the world of acts.
It wasn’t a planned action before I began. Rather, it came into being as I gazed into the candlelight. It’s a funny thing, this speaking of words of protection by firelight on the first day of the year. Some might think it’s spooky, or superstitious. Some will scoff and say that this action has no power, and caused no actual effect in the world. But for me, today, it felt like the most natural and ordinary thing in the world — a deed of Power to bring the light, and make the shadows flee away.