Incubatory practice is still on my mind, though. It shows up again and again in hints and pieces through the literature of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Today I read an article by Patrick K. Ford from the Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies titled The Death of Aneirin about the Gododdin poem that probably originates in 7th century Wales. The article involves references to being imprisoned or buried under the earth as a potential reference to initiatory and/or incubatory ritual.
The ogam fid úr is soil and its word ogams refer to the grave and to burial and death, but this metaphor is taken up in so many places as one of incubation and initiation. Whether the poet is buried in the ground, lies within a darkened chamber with plaids over her eyes or a stone on his belly, whether she is bound up in a bag and set adrift for forty years, the themes of darkness and restriction of movement appear over and over again. Aneirin lies under the earth with a chain about his knees. Taliesin was found in a bag in a salmon weir. The poets in Scotland lay within windowless huts seeking inspiration.
What is apparent is that illumination comes from within. External objects of meditation -- images, fire, the stars in the sky -- are not a focus in this particular practice. Blindness is its metaphor. To be blind in one eye is to see into the Otherworlds, those places that can't be seen with the physical eyes in this realm. Darkness opens a door.
When we look at what the filidh sought when they went to sit on a burial mound we see the same thing -- poetry, madness, death. Madness is what pursues us, death transforms us, poetry arises as the fili arises out of the darkness of the incubatory chamber of the symbolic grave. The search for poetic inspiration brings death to our old life, our old personality, and a new spirit, alive with imbas, is born.