In planning the research for this book, I began with the intention of comparing the plant-based preparations, rituals, and magic of the Welsh Druidic tradition with those of the much broader and infinitely more documented traditions practiced all over the world. However, before I had progressed very far, I came in contact with the works of ancient and modern alchemists. The part of their work that has been maintained for millennia involves the use of materials from the plant kingdom. This immediately drew my interest. My initial fascination with the use of plant materials in alchemical processes was spurred by the mention of the search for immortality and the involvement with sexual ritual, as both have their place in the Druidic tradition.
For many, the very word alchemy conjures up images of dark laboratories with strange equipment and fiery furnaces engaged in the age-old quest to make gold from less valuable ores and metals. Hoping to find a common thread between the Druidic tradition and alchemy, I researched the books and experiments of Lesser Circulation.
Lesser Circulation deals with the herbal processes of alchemy, as opposed to the much better known Greater Circulation, which relates to the mineral (metallic) realm and its reputation for converting base metals into gold. The latter has no equivalent in the Druidic tradition. For those who know more on the subject, both the Lesser and Greater Circulations also exist as metaphors for the creation of a pure, elevated spirit from the basic, unrefined spirit contained within us all.
Alchemy, to a large extent, involves a range of brutal, intensely forceful processes in its efforts to elevate the substances it employs to ever greater levels of purity. These processes violate the original state of the matter involved and demonstrate little respect for the fruits of the cosmic creation in whatever form they appear. As I continued to explore the tenets of alchemy, I grew more and more convinced that although these harsh methods may have a place in the extraction of ores and the amalgamation of metals, they are wholly inappropriate for the plant kingdom. It also was obvious that they bore little resemblance to the Druidic tradition of gentleness and nurturing taught to me throughout my lifetime as a practicing Druid. The goals of both traditions may be similar, but the means of pursuing them differ greatl; in fact, they are poles apart.
In my quest for a greater understanding of the more subtle aspects of alchemy, I persevered in my research on the origins of the theories and practices of the craft. As I progressed, I began to see a correspondence between alchemy and the Druidic tradition that at first had eluded me. It was in part based on their practices and partly in the deep, underlying philosophy enshrined in both traditions. However, there is to my knowledge no significant convergence of alchemy and Druidic practices. Their histories differ greatly, and, as we shall see, their methods differ dramatically. All the same, there is an underlying accord between the two disciplines and an intriguing harmony between the two philosophies.
Eventually, my mind became attuned to both conventions and I was able to reconcile the harsher practices of alchemy with the gentler, more sympathetic practices I had been taught within the Druidic tradition.
The result of this harmonization is an exploration of the use of plant extracts and compounds, derived predominantly from trees and flowers as opposed to herbal extracts, and their use within the Druidic tradition as remedies, elixirs, and magical potions. The following chapters explore the three progressive steps involved in plant magic: the identification and harvesting of appropriate materials, their careful and meticulous preparation, and their ritual application and benefits. As it is my area of expertise, I have focused on the ancient Druidic practice of sex magic to demonstrate the potency of these arcane compounds and rituals.
Writing this book has been a journey of discovery and revelation. The result is a greater understanding of alchemy and the Druidic tradition, and by questioning my own conditioned understanding I have arrived at a new point in my relationship with my own belief system.
Much of what is contained in these pages has been handed down through an oral tradition and little, if any, of it has appeared in print before. I sincerely hope that in reading this book and becoming involved in some of the practices it reveals, you will achieve a fuller understanding of the world in which we live and the suppressed potential within each one of us.