Casting the Coelbren: the Awen

When seeking a model for divination using the Coelbren, it is natural to turn to the Awen: the three rays of knowledge introduced to us by Iolo Morganwg, and the symbol of Druids ever since.

This model is used by John Michael Greer in his handbook, The Coelbren Alphabet, which I reviewed here. I find his naming of the rays unconvincing; the names are drawn from Iolo’s Barddas, but there is no link there between the names (attributed to the three pre-eminent bards of the Island of Britain), the rays, or the attributes he gives to the three rays. Consequently, I’m afraid that I don’t find his method useful.

Iolo does, of course, name the rays himself. He does not, though, give the individual rays any particular attributes which might guide us in divination.

However, in searching through Barddas for the meaning of the rays, I found what I was looking for in his discussion of Caesar’s records about the Druids.

Caesar says:

They chiefly worship the god Mercury; of him they have many images, him they consider as the inventor of all arts, as the guide of ways and journeys, and as possessing the greatest power for obtaining money and merchandise.

Iolo, trying to determine which Celtic god Caesar might actually be talking about whilst using the name of the Roman god Mercury, asks:

Is it MERCH-WR, (woman-man,) because the Gwyddon looked straight before him along the line of the East–“Dwyrain,” i. e. dwy rain, the two rays–the ray of Eilir and the ray of Elved, which in nature represented the two sexes, male and female?

Aha! Here is the key to divination using the three rays!

Elfed is a male Welsh name; I give this name to the left-most ray.

Eilir, I’m told, is a unisex name, but I would normally take it to be female; I give this name to the right-most ray.

Let us be careful here: ‘male’ and ‘female’ are crude guides. It’s better to use the Chinese yin and yang, the parts of a mountain which are in shadow, and in sunlight; as the sun moves, so do the yin and yang aspects of the mountain.

Yang represents brightness, active effort, strength, and expansion.

Yin represents shadow, passivity, receptiveness, and absorption of energy.

However, we can go much further since, in the neo-pagan Wheel of the Year, Alban Elfed is the Autumn Equinox; light and dark in balance with darkness on the rise. Alban Eilir is the Spring Equinox: light and dark in balance, with light on the rise. Using the I Ching as a comparison, then, we can consider the Ray of Elfed not just as yang, but as changing Yang; the Ray of Eilir not just as yin, but as changing yin.

Therefore, when we use this model for divination, we are not simply contrasting two opposites in nature (male and female, light and dark), we are contrasting two opposites in trajectory: light changing to darkness contrasted with darkness changing to light.

This is an extremely rich and complex dynamic!

The third ray, in the middle, is of course the outcome of the meeting of these two opposing energies. It is tempting to call it “the child”, being the outcome of “male” and “female”, but this seems to me to be unnecessarily simplistic. I leave this ray unnamed; it is unpredictable and undefinable; it is what results when two dynamic systems interact. It is what the oracle is suggesting as the answer to your question.

Write your question down. Calm your mind, ensuring that you are considering the question clearly.

Shake the bag containing your tiles, whilst considering the Ray of Elfed and all of its properties, and how these might relate to your question. Draw a tile; note down what it is.

Return the tile to the bag, and shake again whilst considering the Ray of Eilir and all of its properties, and how these might relate to your question. Draw a tile; note down what it is.

Return the tile to the bag, and shake again whilst considering strength turning to weakness, and weakness turning to strength, and winter turning to summer, and summer turning to winter, and how these might relate to your question. Draw a tile; note down what it is. Return the tile to the bag.

Look up the meaning of each tile, and consider what that meaning is in relation to the properties of its ray, and to your question.

Look up the sound of each tile, in the order of Ray of Elfed, Ray of Eilir, and the Outcome.

Say each sound in turn as a single syllable. Note the sound, the shape of your mouth, and the sensation that each sound causes in your body. Does this add insight?

Now say the sounds again, drawing each one out and flowing it into the next. Does it flow easily, or is it staccato? Is the sound pleasing to the ear, or harsh? Does this add insight?

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