Death and the Cycle of Life
Before the Time of Strife, this was the way of things:
A child would be born and there would be great mourning for the child’s Pattern had left Annwn. When that person died, a joyous feast would be had to celebrate their passing into a new life. During the Age of Strife, this was the way of things: A child would be born and there would be great mourning for the child’s Pattern had left Annwn and they now faced a lifetime of war, treachery and hardship. When that person died there would be a sombre wake where the life of the departed would be honoured and their passing mourned. In current time, this is the way of things: A child is born and there is great celebration, for a new life has joined us and the Dragon is stronger for it. Then that person dies, and there is a great sorrow and grief and few remember that the Pattern now rejoices in Annwn. So it was, so it is, and so it shall be. I have died and returned as have others. Such grief ways on my heart when I think about what will be denied to me. But such are the sacrifices we make to enjoy mortal power. Be it by blade or by age, by sickness or by accident, death is not the end. It is the circle renewed, life begun again. If you doubt me, you only have to have spent a moment’s time listening to the late Grandmaster Anwyn. His was the blood of heroes and his Pattern was not new to the Circle of Life. He was Oscar of Oisín of the line of Fionn Mac Cumhaill. With him on the circle is the Pattern of Aidin, his wife, who died of a broken heart. But her identity I shall keep to my chest. From death we go to Annwn, from Annwn we return to life. And the world grows from the new life, the new Patterns, breathed into it by The Dagda.
The Geography of Death
Death is no imperical thing. It can not be measured or weighed, mapped or charted. From this life, the passage to the next can be smooth or tortuous, a rapturous shout or nythling’s mewling cry. How one crosses has little to do with the mode of death all though there are some loose assurance I can make. You will cross in the manner befitting your life. A warrior may die of old age but, he will still die a warrior and the Ancestors will honour him as such. However, Annwn is not guaranteed. Many are the reasons that one may be denied Arawn’s embrace a Pattern is it may find itself in Limbo.
The Nightmare Realm of Limbo
imbo is that between place, it is the road and the river but the end is unknown to all but the dead. I have had the misfortune to be lost here once and on the first occasion, travelled there deliberately. The inhabitants of Limbo are the Patterns of the dead travelling to Annwn or the Patterns of those judged unworthy of entrance or who have choosen not to cross over. Often these Patterns manifest themselves as Wraiths and Spectres that may or may not be hostile. I have had need to talk with these spirits and I have noticed that some Patterns have become so twisted that they have become the Undead. Using Arawn’s tongue I have talked with these abominations and have noted that the transition towards Undeath is most apparent in those Patterns of spirits that are full of emotion. Some times these Undead beings return to our World to haunt the living but I talk more in this in ‘Finding the Dead’. I have never managed to return to the same place within Limbo and indeed, I doubt it is possible to judge this realm as place with quantifiable boundaries and landmarks. However, if one knows the correct blessings and paths, there is a place that all in Limbo must reach at some point, The Bridge of Swords.
The Bridge of Swords
here is one place in Limbo that is unavoidable, it is not the end but it is a place that all will go to at some point in the circle. Travellers on this dark path must not think that the entrance to Annwn will appear to them as a bridge. Sometimes it might seem that you stand on threshold to a mighty castle, other times, a vast pit. Yet, to me, it always appears as a simple stone bridge. Under the unclad stone flow a swift clear river, and on the other side, an empty landscape of sand, grass and dunes. Be prepared to meet the spirits of the dead here. For some reason those Patterns that have degenerated into undeath find this place is anathema to them but those with a purpose, those whom the Ancestors have chosen. They remain here until their destiny is fulfilled. Other spirits with purpose may return to the mortal world but most remain here until found. It is here that I met Kethryn Na’Bascna and here that the Green Knight may be found. All though this being is a strange spirit and I know not what his purpose might be. The Green Knight can seemingly cross the bridge any number of times. Immortals such as the Tuatha and other fey creatures can not cross the bridge. Their Patterns are not congruous with the stuff of Annwn and, therefore, cannot enter it. Mortals can enter Annwn and return only once. The realm of the dead is such an alluring place that no one can resist its song on a second visit.
The Halls of the Ancestors
This is the most difficult Realm of the Dead to enter. I personally doubt it is possible for any living being to enter it, mortal or immortal, unless one is dead. The only way to achieve this blessed place is via the dream road. Places like the Glimmerglas and Ritual Circles, make accessing the dream road easier as does other methods of which bleeding and Wicker Men are two. The land across the Bridge of Swords is vast and empty. Here you may wander for eternity unless the appropriate offerings have been made. Leaving is easy, unless it is your second visit, but staying is hard. Not physically, but in faith and in spirit. There are many traps to beguile the unwary, some like the Tree of Woe may prove fatal but most are not so tragic. If you are strong enough in faith, your story will find you. The dream road is safer but more difficult to interpret. While walking my dreams, I have dined with the Morrighan at her bloody table, seen the Red Gold Chalice flood the horizon and run as the pack with the Cwn Annwn. In the Halls the world spins to the Ancestors song. It is not guaranteed that the Ancestors will even talk with you and if they do speak what they say will rarely make immediate sense. In sleeping dreams you bring nothing but yourself, in waking dreams or Rituals you can bring gifts, better known as sacrifices. The type of sacrifice and how the sacrifice is offered will affect how the Ancestor favours you.
Sacrifice and Gaining the Ancestors Blessing
What is a sacrifice? It can be anything. It should usually be a gift to the Ancestors that makes your poorer and them richer. To have the spirits of dead mariners guard a voyage it is advisable to toss a copper piece into the seas. When crossing the Dragonspines, furs should be dedicated to the spirits of those who have gone before you but been less fortunate. However, this is small sacrifice. Powerful magics can be wrought with greater sacrifice. My own powers were given to me by the Dark Three at no small personal cost but this is no place for that story. When I fought by the Cauldron Dionvach’s men gave their own lives so that the Hunched Man might engorge his army with their now unliving bodies. At the same place, King Padraig, Warmaster Baru, Aiden of Ulster and Bedouer Sword of the Morrighan also gave their lives in a similar rite but, they returned as the dead walking not, the walking Undead. Life sacrifice is the most powerful offering that can be made. Only those well versed in such magic should attempt to take the lives of others to placate the Ancestors. To those who would remember this, Those who go willingly to their deaths will be of no use in a Ritual of War, and those Patterns you take from unwilling victims will want revenge. To divert these avenging spirits, the following rites must be observed. Score into the soil of the Circle, or mark in chalk a crossroads. Each member of the Ritual Team should arrive and depart from the Circle from different points. Cast to the glory of Mannanan’s steeds a trinket of importance or instead cast it into a river. The vengeful Pattern will follow this, not you. And, never perform such a sacrifice on Samhain. If you do not know why this is so then you deserve what is coming to you. Above all, life is never taken lightly. Quantity is meaningless, but the significant numbers of 1,3,9 and 12 should be observed. Never forget, what is given will be returned thrice fold! If you wish to raise the dead, this can only be done with the Ancestor’s blessing. Never demand their return, and neither should you expect it. Those who are returned may not be who you expect and may not appreciate their return (not all of us honour the wishes of our Ancestors).
Finding the Dead
The dead are everywhere, for the dead are our Ancestors, and the Ancestors are everywhere. Yet while spirits inhabit every field, every stream and every star only those Patterns not attuned to their death place can be called on and even then the Ancestors blessing is required. The dead who may be called are those who wait at the Bridge of Swords, wander in Limbo are rest in the Halls of the Ancestors for the time of their return. It saddens me that Jaxana still thieves The Dagda’s club when His back is turned and Ash has only the spirits of the dead to rant to. And the greatest loss of all is that Israel will be in none of these places. However, idle regret aside, the dead may be found abroad on this mortal coil. At crossroads can be found the Patterns of those killed there to satisfy the local judiciary. If they are the spirits of the murderers and villains then that is an ideal place to make a summoning if one seeks to enchant a ghost fence of fear. Battlefields are not the dangerous place you might expect. The heroes have often all ready moved on to the Halls or are back in the Circle while those bound to the earth remain locked in the combats that slew them. Yet a word of caution, if beings of dread nature or weapons of great treachery have been employed, the Undead may haunt these places. I beg you look to Monte Cassino, the ground of that charnel house is so thick with corpses brought low by Fatal blade or Demon’s talon that the armies of his most Excellent Majesty, the Dark Lord Gustav and Gasherim are thick with the legions of the damned. Graveyards are a poor place to summon spirits for those dead at those sombre places have often arrived following peaceful death or have yielded to disease. However, the watchers of Annwn, the Cwn Annwn may cross from the Halls at these locations… why it is easier for them I do not know. The following maps show where the power of the Circles in Cymrija are the most abundant. At these places and where the place is most conducive to contacting the dead, a summoning is most likely to succeed. That is the dead will arrive, not that the summons desired occurs.
Places of Power within Cymrija
The map marks several places of note as being sites of great potency. By potency I simply indicate the potential for magical phenomenon. The major junctures are of course where the Ritual Circles materialise their power. However, as with all things of the Ancestors, the Paths change and I bring the reader to the note of Strata Florida. I am reliably told by the people of the area, the Demetae, that before the last Cataclysm, Strata Florida was a potent Circle, possibly only reviled in power by the might Circle of Truth or New Grange. If you were to walk a direct line from The Whispering Circle towards The Circle of the Lost Hundred then in about two or three hours you would reach Strata Florida. For as long as the Demetae have told stories, the area around Strata Florida has been dedicated to Arawn, King of Annwn. Its association with the dead is long and varied and many are legends of the Cwn Annwn. These are Arawn’s hounds… always they take the form of great white dogs, the size of ponies. Their ears are always the brightest red and their eyes the blackest onyx orbs. They are a terrible, implacable foe. In the tale of Black Pwyll, the hounds pursue Pwyll who has escaped Annwn to visit his wife. Regrettably for Pwyll, his time in the Halls of the Ancestors was not kind. While time passed but a moment, in Cyrmija his wife aged. She was a crone when his questing spirit found her, and as a crone she died in his arms. The story is quite beautiful in construction until the hounds arrive. The terrible work they do to Pwyll and his now departed wife is quite horrifically described. Suffice to say other such stories show the hounds to be relentless trackers of the dead and those who might aid them. Also, the hounds are mentioned on numerous occasions such as in the Ley of the Clutching Hand or the Song of Wandering Vagabond, of their implacable hatred of the Undead. At no small expenditure, I performed a Summoning. The focus of the Ritual was the Undead flesh of a Ghoul that had been captured on the slopes of Y Wyddfa.
Using a rather complex Rite of Offering, I opened a path to Annwn using myself as bate. My arte had allowed me to previously question the Undead and I knew its name. I used this to further encourage the Hounds. They appear to know the names of each creature close to death or reborn to undeath. Dutifully they came, with sickening speed they dispatched it (NB: Its poisoned talons availed it not), and as speedily as they arrived they departed. As I suspected, my now Healed form was of no interest so they departed whence they came
Places of Power within Erin
Iinclude no map of Erin for the education of the reader, as the purpose of the map of Cymrija was not to show any physical localities but to illustrate a possible connection between the meta-physical relationships of Ritual Circles. However, to Erin one must turn for here there is one place in particular that should be of interest to those learned in the ways of the dead. The Cauldron; this fell place was the site of the final battle that ended the Third War. Here, two divine beings died and a nation was made whole. Here an entire people’s belief in the intrinsic ‘wrongness’ of the dead returned was exposed and overturned. The return of the dead to aid the living is something that has occurred many times throughout history. I site the story of Táin Có Cuailgne. In the closing verses, Sualtam, Cúchulainn’s supposed father rode unto Emain Macha to stir up the men of Ulster. But, the warriors of the province were deep in magical slumber and nothing would oust them. In indignation Sualtam turned his mount, the Grey of Macha, so sharply that he took his own head off with the rim of his shield. The severed head continued to shout, “Men are being killed, women carried off and cattle lifted in Ulster.” This dolorous clamour was enough to awaken the men of Ulster. To a contemporary reference. As the forces of She Who Walked, closed in on the Dragon warband, four brave souls gave their lives up in the Cauldron. By the use of a simple ritual phrase, they bound their Patterns to the land and became eternal guardians of that place. Also here, Dion Vacht (not to be confused with Dian Cecht), took his own army. Within the bowels of that wooded dell, a hundred men and more gave their lives to Crom Cruach. What returned was not valiant heroes but the blind, shambling and putrid mockeries of life that are the Undead. Research by my apprentice, Fhian of Slieve has indicated that these corpses, bereft of the Ritual to bind them to the Cauldron, instead gave their essence to the Hunched Man and their bodies became animated by sheer brute force of magic. That such a miracle might occur outside the Ancestor’s chosen places, Ritual Circles, is a marvel in its own right. Was Dr Usher’s influence not such, I would be inclined to offer thanks to the Ancestors and move on. However, I believe ‘Cauldron Magic’ is a thing unique to the Dragon and something I would like to look at further. Such hermetic research is beyond my scope and will form part of another study. It is also curious to note that the summoning of the dead has not been the soul province of Incantors and the deities they adore. Bards have summoned the dead to learn stories from them. Specifically, the great Seanchan Torpeist is reputed to have summoned Fergus Mac Roth, Cuchulainns foster father, to learn the story of our hero’s life. This story, of course, having remained twisted so long by the machinations of the Tuatha.
The Use of Ritual Circles
The Circle is the meeting place of the Paths of Light, commonly known as Ley Lines. Here the stuff of the waking realm grows thin as the dream world; the Halls of the Ancestors grows close. Mages call this place ‘The Void’ and that definition suffices. It is a vast nothingness that is filled with the most vital of essence. Such paradox is the way of the Ancestors and here, summoning and enchantment is made easier. As explained earlier, Circles are not the only place where such magic can be performed, Cauldrons and even places of great legend may suffice. Of greatest interest are the Rituals to use in a summoning. I have tried many incantations and invocations and have learned one vital truth. The words are unimportant; the intent is vital. You can not utter giberish into the Circle for how the Ancestor’s ken your mortal meaning. But, for the whole the Ancestors care little for the fleeting thoughts of their worshippers. There is a grander scheme and we are but the faithful cogs in their machine. In a Ritual the words must be uttered clearly and with purpose. As Lennard would say, “Sound off like u gott’a pair!” It is also vital to announce who you are. The Ancestors know you but, do you know yourself. They will judge you. When summoning the dead the principle Ancestor you must honour and worship is Arawn. He is Lord of Annwn and King of the Dead. Nothing will leave his realm without his blessing. If the Patterns of those you seek are in Limbo, then call in both Arawn and that Pattern’s patron Ancestor. Discovering this, is the hardest part of drawing the Dead back. During the Ritual, you must make sacrifice to the Ancestors you are calling on. This is no Unicorn deal, our Ancestors are mighty and fickle and one must think long and hard before making any offering. The foolish might offer one Pattern for another, or vast sums of gold. Do no insult the Ancestors with such vulgarity. What does wealth or the life of some criminal mean to Them? Nothing! Give of yourself and it will be returned thrice-fold, this is the lore of such things. Most of us will require Contributors to aid in a summoning but there are ways to do so without. But this is dangerous at best and requires knowledge of talismans and rites out of the reach of most. Each Contributor gives of themselves in a Ritual, the Ritualist is the guide. So those who would aid in such an endeavour beware, you might be the sacrifice required. Pick you Circle wisely. Nothing will come of using a Life Circle to power a Ritual of Death. Of those places in the Dragon, I recommend; The Cauldron – Why I do not know but its Pattern is one of death. I suspect a great hero died here for the sadness in the air is palatable. The Circle of the Lost Hundred – Its dire history is well known. and, The Stones of Keshkorran – So much death has occurred in Ulster that the Circle itself reeks of the Dead. Perhaps this is why the Hunched Man has chosen this province as his base.
A Guide to Summoning
A Circle used to summon the dead must be surrounded with an unbroken line of pure salt. This will contain anything that breaks lose, for not all the dead are happy to return and some other things may come through with them. All contributors to the Ritual must enter and leave the Circle from different compass points. This will confuse the dead and the Pattern of any unwilling ‘contribution’. All contributors must be of the Faithful. Magery will not avail thee here. No Necromancy must be present for they will usurp the good work and taint all envolved. If you wish to summon a pure person do not offer base things for that which is antithesis to them will repulse them. The same holds true in reverse. Be prepared to die. For death is not the end only a new beginning.
Tasking the Dead
So you have been a diligent student or have been lucky. The dead have arrived, free of the taint of Undeath and appeased by your placation. So why do this? Well the dead can assist you in any endeavour you choose. But they must do so willingly for Undeath awaits those Patterns tasked against their dead will. The most obvious use is the Ghost Fence. The fierce people of the Wolves use this form of summoning and their fences are mighty indeed. I offer some guidelines based on the Summonings I made. If your fence is to instil fear:
Summon those who have reason to give fear. Murderers and villains, sorcerers and cowards.
If you fence is to induce slumber: Summon bards and poets, musicians and fabled lovers. If you fence is to render the enemy imobile: Summon lovers and romancers, mothers and siblings. If your fence is to repel the foe:
Summon sisters and wives, those dead of disease and old age.
Other than the Fence, the Dead being released of Time can see beyond it. While the divination you receive will be arcane it might offer some insight. The Dead might also return to the living some great artefact. I have personal experience of this as Kethryn Na’Bascna gave to me the Champion’s Sword of Suns Dawning while we stood on the Bridge of Swords. The dead might also imbue some talisman with the same powers as described for a Ghost Fence. A more particular example would the Summoning of Jaxanna and Quicksilver of Quiche to give to two amulets the ability to resist Vampiric powers. These potent artefacts saved my neck on more than one occasion. Or most commonly and potently, the dead might fight by your side. The Cauldron Guardians are ‘self summoned’. But the dead Champions of the Black Fox were summoned by Night and, they were a terrible enemy.
The Return to Annwn
How is the Dead to return to their deserved slumber or resume their quest to cross the Bridge? Most will return when their allotted time is done they fade away from this waking land. The Summoner will return others, and this is helpful in currying favour with this dead Pattern if you wish to call on it again. I have all ready talked of the Cwn Annwn. Do not cross them. One particular book in the Library of Caer Dannon speaks of a pack leader. This dread creature is called Black Shuck. He is as dark as the Hounds are white. He can outrun a destrier in full gallop. And he can being down the greatest of heroes. Do not tarry with your Summoning. If the Dead are not returned then Arawn will send for them… or you!
The Arte of summoning the dead is not Necromancy. Why? To raise the Undead one must be well versed in the arte of Channeling. I am not! What I practice is with the blessing of the Ancestors and they are opposed to Necromancy. What I hope this thesis has done is illustrate to the student that the magic of the Incantor is no finite thing. The Mage studies his books and his chants… ours is the raw stuff of the Gods. To us the greater power lies and what greater power is there than piercing the vale, walking with the Ancestors and bringing back heroes from the grave. Much talk has there been of Patterns, or the dream being of each person. The Pattern is the sum of the parts; mind, body and soul. The dead are patterns disconnected from the mortal coil by death. The study of Patterns does not have to be made directly as some Healers can. To know a Pattern, one simply needs to know the Pattern. What forces shaped it, who that Pattern loved or loathed, laughed and cried with. In essence, a Pattern is the story of a being. Know the story and you know the Pattern. This is the essential part of this lesson. To summon the Pattern back you must know it like it was yourself. The name is the beginning, the ‘key-stone’ to the Patterns inner-core, start here. The physical shape of that Pattern’s mortal being is the outer-shell. To summon the Pattern back you must use the belongings and possessions that person had in its mortal life. That is all I have to say on the matter. I thank the Ancestors and the diligent work of the researchers of the Library on Caer Dannon. Written by the pen of Gwylem ap Dylan, who with his dying breath gave of himself so that this may be complete. May the Ancestors Guide You.