Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Posts Tagged ‘Celtic’


The Game of Arts and Powers

The prior of Bec…waved away her honest respect. “I’m a man like any other, lady.”

She arched a brow. “Truly?”

“Truly,” he said.

“There is the matter of…” She flicked her hand. The lamps went out. In the sudden dimness she bade a light grow, shimmering over her fingers, unfolding from them like a strange flower.

He quelled her working with a gesture. That same gesture, completed, restored the lamps to their former condition. “This too is God’s gift,” he said.

“Surely,” she said, “but it’s given to few, and to precious few in such measure as yours.”

“Or yours, lady. You will be stronger than I.”

“But not yet.”

“You are young,” he said, “and while not foolish, perhaps not granted such judgment as will be yours with greater age and maturity.”

She had had enough of dancing around the point. “Yes, I made a mistake. Yes, I know what mistake I made. And what part do you play, Father Prior, in this game of arts and powers?

“A small one,” he said, “by the grace of God.”

That was disingenuous. She swept it aside. “So. You’re a Guardian of Gaul. Have you come to impose sentence upon me for dereliction of duty?”

“If anyone is to do that, lady” he said, “it should be your father. No; I came to offer such aid as I could….”

Judith Tarr, Rite of Conquest, Chapter 10

Emphasis mine.

Too Much Power Expended Too Quickly

He was all alone in the empty land, surrounded by people whose souls he could not sense at all. He was in hell, with no hope of earthly salvation.

He lashed out, still in a fit of panic—even knowing it was folly; knowing he hovered in delusion. Fire surged up out of the earth and poured down from the sky.

In the last instant he flung it away from the crowd, but he had neither the strength nor the speed to unmake it. It plummeted into the midst of the city. Blood-red flames roared to heaven, then sank down into mortal gold and blue and the black of smoke.

The crowd fled in a chorus of screams. The few with their wits about them surged toward the flames. The rest scattered in panic no less mindless than Henry’s, but far less perilous.

Only the monks were left with the king’s body, and Henry with the drawn and empty sensation of too much power expended too quickly….

Judith Tarr, King’s Blood, Chapter 7

Emphasis mine.

The Lady of the Lake Had a Secret

The Lady of the Lake had a secret. It was nothing mortifying or dangerous, but it might have caused difficulties if certain persons discovered that behind the veils was a maiden younger than Mathilda. Mortals, especially men, needed to see an aged face before they would believe in either power or wisdom.

Her name was Etaine. It was not something she shared with the world, any more than her face or her manifest youth. When she walked abroad from the lake of Avalon, she walked veiled, stately, and mantled in mystery.

Mathilda did not make the mistake of discrediting her wisdom because she had, at the most, fifteen summers on this side of the Otherworld. She remembered who she had been. Her knowledge passed from world to world, life to life, Lady to Lady, back beyond Morgaine and Rhiannon to lives so ancient that even bards had forgotten them.

Judith Tarr, Rite of Conquest, Chapter 29

Conversing With the Dead

Robin sank down where the shade had been sitting. With its passing the air was noticeably warmer, but Robin had begun to shudder. Even for one of his arts and powers, it was no easy thing to converse with the dead.

Judith Tarr, King’s Blood, Chapter 12

Emphasis mine.

Ignorance Is Deadly

“…We are no friends to the prince below,” she said, “or any other force for the world’s destruction.”

“Including me?”

You are no more or less dangerous than ignorance ever is.

“That’s deadly.”

“It can be taught,” she said, “and will. I am bound to it….”

Judith Tarr, Rite of Conquest, Chapter 8

Emphasis mine.

You Must Know How to Undo

“Tomorrow I will teach you how to undo what you have done.”

“That’s not possible.”

Her brow arched. He did not quite see what she did. It had something to do with a gesture of the hand, and some part of it was a slant of the eye and a turn of mind.

The charred branches stirred and cracked. Black scales fell; ash blew away in a sudden swirl of wind. Living branches unfolded, sprouting leaves as bright as the first morning of the world. They glowed in the night. Blossoms budded and bloomed, a cloud of white and palest rose. Their scent enveloped him in sweetness.

William’s mouth hung open. He could barely muster wits to shut it.

“You are meant for more and better than this,” she said, “but whatever you have done, you must know how to undo. It’s a law of our order.”

“‘Our’ order?”

“You are born to it, and reborn, for ages out of count.”

Judith Tarr, Rite of Conquest, Chapter 8

Emphasis mine.

To Pass Through Shadow and Fire

Mathilda sat where she always sat, among the oldest students, young women who would be passing through the shadow and the fire come the dark of the year. A few would emerge as Ladies [of the Wood] of full power and learning. Many would die in the testing.

Judith Tarr, Rite of Conquest, Chapter 17

Every year at Beltane, one or more of the young women in the acolytes’ house passed through darkness and fire. Then they were Ladies of the Isle; or they were gone.

Judith Tarr, King’s Blood, Chapter 33

Emphasis mine.

Why Wizards Do Not Rule the World

“You can’t leave me in this condition. What if I blast the king, or one of his courtiers?”

“You won’t,” she said.

“How do you know?”

Magic costs,” she said. “Go to the kitchens first, before you sleep.”

“I’m not—”

“Do it.”

She had laid a binding on him. A fugitive memory told him what it was. Then the griping in his belly bound him more tightly still.

He was ravenous—starving. He was dizzy with hunger. If the cooks were not awake, he would raid and pillage on his own. Then he would sleep like the dead.

Not the worst battle he had ever fought, on the field or in lordly hall, had taxed his mind and body as this little bit of magic had. Small wonder wizards did not rule the world, if this was what it did to them to try.

Judith Tarr, Rite of Conquest, Chapter 8

Emphasis mine.

Not a Delicate Art

“Wouldn’t it be easier to teach me to read? Then you could go off and do whatever you do when you’re not torturing me, and I could see this blasted nonsense laid out on a page. Writing’s like a map, isn’t it? Only it’s words instead of castles and rivers. Give me a map and I can learn this.”

“Writing would catch it on parchment,” she said. Her knuckle rapped his much-abused forehead. “You need it in there. The powers you’ve been facing, and will face, won’t wait for you to run to a library before they crack open your skull and suck out your brains.

William realized he was gaping. He did a great deal of that when he was with Mathilda. “You are the most indelicate noblewoman I have ever met.”

This is not a delicate art,” she said….

Judith Tarr, Rite of Conquest, Chapter 8

Emphasis mine.

Playing With Fire

It was still broad daylight, though the shadows were lengthening. The warmth of early spring was giving way to a creeping chill. Turpin shivered. Roland tossed a new log on the fire, feeding it till it swelled to a respectable blaze. He stayed there on one knee….

…Roland seemed lost in a dream, or in contemplation of something very far away from this royal assembly of the Franks. The fire cast ruddy light on his face and lost itself in his eyes. Such odd eyes, yellow as a hawk’s. Sometimes he did not look human at all.

He raised a hand idly, slipping it in among the flames. They licked his fingers. He stroked them as a woman pets her cat. They purred as a cat purrs, leaping, curling about his hand, arching under his palm.

Turpin set his lips together carefully. Equally carefully, and with an effort, he turned his eyes away. Roland was not as other men were. All the Companions knew it; and none of them said a word. Roland was their brother, their comrade in arms. They would not betray him….

Judith Tarr, Kingdom of the Grail, Chapter 1

Emphasis mine.

The Act of Sacrifice

The act of sacrifice occupies an important position in every religion, but our present day conception of it appears to be a modification of its original meaning which has gradually altered over the centuries.

For the word sacrifice actually derives from sacrum facere which means “to make sacred” and was used to describe any act of self-transcending through which the individual sought to attain the divine. It has now come to denote very little more than the killing of an animal or a man as an offering to the divinity either by way of supplication or thanksgiving; and Christianity has further devalued the word by associating it with notions of austerity and self-denial.

To regard sacrifice as a synonym for mortification is a serious error, since it totally alters the nature of that spiritual process by which the Ancients sought to fulfil their destiny. Ritual sacrifice was never intended to deprive creation for the sake of the creator. The Gallic chief Brennus gave a lucid and accurate account of its real meaning during the Celtic expedition to Delphi when he uttered the supposedly impious comment that “The gods had no need of treasures since they showered them upon men.”

Sacrifice was first and foremost a psychic procedure in which the sacrificial “victim” threw off the burden of earthly dross and rose through a series of stages in his attempt to reach the divinity. This divinity might be the Perfect Being, the Great Mother, an objective god or some concept of the ideal which was inherent in the individual….

The original act of sacrifice…was a process of self-identification with the divinity. It is this act which the Catholic priest performs during the mass. As Plutarch points out in his treatise on the E of Delphi, however, wise men seek to hide the truths from the masses and resort to fable as a means of preserving a tradition accessible only to the initiate. For the truths are not always to be lavished upon the common herd, and the means used can be both positive and negative in their effect. They may lead those who use them thoughtlessly and clumsily to unforseeable disasters. The way to hell is paved with good intentions….

Jean Markale, The Celts, p. 224

Emphasis mine.