Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Intellectual and Personal Responses to the "Court of Brigid"

[Edit: After seeing a couple of the comments so far, I want to make it clear up front in this post that I'm not intending this post as a criticism of Ian's project, it's an observation of my own hypocrisy.]

I've been following Ian Corrigan's development of his "Court of Brigid" rites with a great deal of interest. He describes it as an "effort to develop a ritual spirit arte that applies the general principles of Euro-Grimoiric methods using the Druidic Order of Ritual and inside a pre-Neoplatonic, Indo-European mythic cosmos."

I've got conflicting perspectives on the whole thing. Intellectually, it's fascinating to see what he's doing and to read his results. I'm very interested to see what happens when he gets to the conjurations of the spirits of the "Courts" he's identified. In my opinion, the proof of his concept will be demonstrated in his results in that specific aspect of the rites.

But personally, I find the whole thing fundamentally distasteful. In the '80s and '90s, it was really popular to make up your own flavor of Wicca. Faery Wicca, Dancing with Dragons Wicca, Lord of the Rings Wicca, it didn't matter what theme you picked, you just took the basic novice-grade GD-derived rites and substituted the God-Names and Elemental Representatives with whatever you wanted. As recently as 2008, Raven Grimassi published a book on how to make up your own Wiccan tradition. It's a standard practice in Neopaganism, with roots going back to Gardner, as far as I know.

Ian's up to the same old mischief, only he's gotten rid of the GD stuff and went back further to the approaches of the grimoires. I'll admit it, I'm a bit territorial when it comes to the grimoires, and the appropriation of techniques I happen to use by others. I see in his list of published books a lot of the techniques and approaches to magic explored by Jason Miller, Jake Stratton-Kent, and Aaron Leitch. I see a neopaganized version of the kinds of things I've been blogging about for the last six years, and I feel a bit used, and uncompensated. (That may be code for jealous, but I'm not entirely sure.)

I don't know if my issues with the approach are based on anything valid or not though. We all adapt stuff to suit our needs and desires. I'm fascinated with Jake Stratton-Kent's efforts to revitalize the Goetic traditions of the past and turn the Magical Revival into a living tradition in our culture. I see my own work with Hermetics to be an effort in that direction, with less emphasis on the roots of Goetia, but still focused on practicing a practical living tradition that helps people today using the magical techniques that have been around for at least the last 10,000 years.

We're all creating new systems based on the old ones, to varying degrees, but never exactly as performed at any stage in history. We make adjustments, include pieces of different approaches according to our own personal intuition and input from our glorified spirit guides about what needs to go where. Frater Ashen is the most traditional magician I know and work with, and even he makes adaptations as he sees fit. His adaptations all come from traditional sources, and make sense, and look really good, but they are still adaptations.

Hell, I don't think any two magicians have ever performed the exact same rite, honestly. There's always variance.

But there's something about neopagan adaptations that rubs me the wrong way, in the same way that the worst kinds of Chaos Magic rubs me the wrong way. It just has an air of fraudulence, an aroma of flatulence. The Court of Brigid? Really? What Bardic epic points to Brigid ever having a court of spirit assistants that were ever conjured and worked with the way a grimoire magician works with the rank and file of angels and demons? Wasn't she a Warrior Queen or something? Boudica, the Celtic Warrior Princess? Trapped in a tower by an evil Fairy who used her hair for magical purposes, but it could never be cut with iron shears, and then one day she let an errant prince into her tower with her hair, and he raped her while she slept, and the twin babies were lost in a forest when the ravens ate their trail of breadcrumbs or something?

I'm not real sure what she did, but I'm pretty sure she never had a Court of Servant Spirits, or responded to any conjurations.

But at the same time, it's a logical conclusion he's made, Powerful Dead spirits who get worshiped after their death usually would, in theory, accumulate a gaggle of assistant spirits over time, as adherents and dedicants died and went on to whatever functions they might have in the afterlife. That's how several of the pantheons in ATRs came into being, if I understand the process correctly.

And as far as mixing systems in our adaptations goes, I've included Orphic Hymns to the gods of the Planets in my planetary rites with Archangels, Intelligences and Spirits. It's effective. It's powerful. It's an adaptation based on sound theory that has useful results.

So I just don't really know what to think about the whole thing he's got going on in the depths of that Mound he's always going into. If he managed a visible manifestation that changed his world entirely, and demonstrated the 16 or so sub-spirits of the system were at least as potent as the saints of the Catholic tradition in meeting the needs of the incarnate, it would go a long way towards convincing me that he's onto something real, something big, and something effective.

But ultimately, he doesn't have to prove anything to me. He has to prove its effectiveness and applicability to no one but himself. Regardless, I'm watching what happens because I want to delve into some of the stuff Jake talks about in Geosophia, and I want to do it using the Modern Angelic Grimoire techniques, talk to the Heroes and Sibyls in a Crystal like God intended.