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Wards and Ward Cubes, By Susan Werner

Started by Evie, January 20, 2017, 03:07:28 PM

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Most Deryni-fans adore the magical rituals and find them incredibly intriguing and memorable. Setting wards and using Ward Cubes are important elements in Deryni magic. Indeed the rituals often seem so real that we'd like to try them ourselves. But what is really involved in setting wards and using Ward Cubes? How have those activities changed between the Camberian and Kelsonian eras? And what might the Airsid and Varnarites have done with them that even Camber and his children failed to discover?

Ward Cubes
Haven't we all wished we had a set of eight black and white Ward Cubes? Some of us have even played with sugar cubes, pretending they are Ward Cubes? But where do Ward Cubes come from and what are they made of? Katherine has said that while some may be ebony and ivory, they need not be made from any specific material and could even be dice (or disguised as dice). "Ultimately the material matters little, so long as the colors of the two quarters contrast sharply, to symbolize the notions of light and dark, positive and negative, male and female, and a balancing between these pairs of opposites–for the only real function of the physical Ward Cubes is to cue a particular mind-set." Deryni Magic, p.155.

Given that Ward Cubes glow when activated by a Deryni in much the same way as Shiral Crystals do, I can't help wondering if there is some connection between them which our Deryni friends have yet to discover. Or perhaps Orin and Jodotha and their associates knew all about that. After all, the bodies were warded by nets of Shiral crystals...perhaps groups of shirals function in a similar way to Ward Cubes. Or perhaps Shirals can be activated to work with Ward Cubes. We know that Orin's body lay between the Pillars of the Temple (a Ward Cube construction). Maybe the Ward Cubes in that construction were somehow magically linked with the nets of Shiral crystals covering the bodies for added protection.

Deryni Magic also reminds us that Ward Cubes also contain a "psychic imprint" of their owner, which may help or hinder another Deryni's use of that particular set. We have yet to see anyone fail to use another's set of Ward Cubes but this would make an intriguing story. We did see Arilan use Morgan's Ward Cubes to construct the temporary Portal at Llyndruth Meadows so that he could take Morgan, Kelson, and Duncan to the Camberian Council. Obviously Morgan's distrust of Arilan did not impede this working, though perhaps his involvement in the ritual forced the Ward Cubes to cooperate.

We know that Deryni children learn to use Ward Cubes early in their arcane educations. Camber states that Joram learned them as his first spell. And Tiercel seems bored teaching anything as basic as Ward Cubes to Conall. However, we also know that by Tiercel and Conall's time much magical knowledge has been lost or hidden. The Kelsonian era Deryni seem only to use Ward Cubes for setting the protective Wards Major and, of course, have no Deryni schola. Perhaps now that the Schola founded by Kelson in King Kelson's Bride has opened, we will learn more about Deryni training.

Setting a Wards Major requires much concentration from the Deryni and provides a protected space in which to work more complex rituals. The Ward Cubes' nomen (Prime, Seconde, Tierce, and Quarte) come from Latin defense moves in sword-fighting. Katherine points out in Deryni Magic that this fits with the Michaelines emphasis on battle, but the Michaelines appear to have developed much later than Ward Cube use. The Airsid obviously possessed greater familiarity with the uses of Ward Cubes than any Deryni we have yet met, but they do not seem to have been particularly militaristic. Codex hints that the Deryni race developed from a warlike race called the Heldurnii who fought the Byzantuyuni invaders in 249. We have no way of knowing, however, if the Heldurnii used Ward Cubes or even possessed anything akin to Deryni powers.

Once ignited and merged, the Ward Cube towers are usually activated by naming (Primus, Secundus, Tertius, et Quartus, Fiat Lux!) and configured into a Z or lighting flash design which corresponds to the naming of heralding quartering on a shield, which further underlines the militaristic characteristics of Ward Cube use.

Activated Ward Cubes provide a silvery protective dome surrounding the person or people working the ritual. While we have seen other workings in which wards extended underground, we have not seen this done with Ward Cubes. Perhaps one could be attacked from underground or a lower floor of the castle while engaged in a working inside a Ward Cube protected area.

In Saint Camber when Camber and Joram explore the black and white cube altar, Camber says that he has seen "sketches of a full dozen additional cube matrices already, and there are literal dozens more possibilities. Unfortunately, I haven't yet figured out what any of them do, including this one–which appears to the be only one worked in three dimensions..." (Saint Camber p.310).

This suggests that earlier Deryni than Camber or the Airsid knew a great deal more about using Ward Cubes than even Camber and his children. In Camber the Heretic, Camber uses the Saltire pattern of Ward Cube configuration in an attempt to calm his own grief over Davin's death. In The Harrowing of Gwynedd Queron describes his Gabrilite Master performing a ritual using the "Pillars of the Temple" configuration on a bluestone altar. Although Queron describes this as an ordinary altar, I wonder if the bluestone might contain some magic of its own. We see a great deal of blue stonework at St. Neot's and later in Torenth, but we have never explored the powers these blue stones might contain.

Queron goes on to perform the ritual on the black and white cube altar, thereby raising the altar and leading to the discovery of Orin and Jodotha's bodies. But we never find out what the ritual was originally intended to do (Joram, Evaine, and Queron speculate that it's a purification ritual). Nor have we yet encountered any other Deryni who worked this or any similar spell.

At the end of Harrowing, Evaine walks through the Pillars of the Temple to rescue Camber from Limbo and join Rhys and Aiden on the other side. She also describes "drawing power from the warding energies, from the reservoirs of the cubes beneath his body...." which indicates that the power in the cubes can be drawn out as well as ignited.

Jesse sets Ward Cubes at the cardinal points of the octagon drawn on the floor when he, Javan, and company construct the Portal in Rhemuth Castle in King Javan's Year. Since Ward Cubes are used at this Portal construction and at the later such undertaking with Arilan in Deryni Rising it seems that Ward Cubes may be necessary for this ritual, although this has never been stated. If Ward Cubes are required for Portal Construction, Deryni must have been using them for centuries and Ward Cubes must have been common in other Deryni lands besides Gwynedd. We know that the Torenthi have Portals, but we have never seen them use Ward Cubes. Or perhaps different cultures construct Portals in different ways? The Torenthi Moving Wards appears to complex a working to become part of a Portal construction ritual though.

Setting Wards
We have seen simple and complex ritualistic ward setting. The manner of the ward setting seems to depend upon the Deryni engaging in the working, the need for speed in completing the magical task for which the wards are needed, and the cultural background of the Deryni involved. The rituals also seem to change a bit between the Camberian and Kelsonian eras, though we see more the Camberian style of warding as Kelson's reign progresses.

We see both Camber and Joram call wards rather quickly and easily. In Camber of Culdi, when Camber is about to shapechange Crinan and Wulpher into Rhys and Joram, he merely sets four candles on the floor and ignites a silver circle around them. "Four more candles were placed on the floor, forming a five-foot square inside of which Camber bade Crinan stand... he (Camber) gestured toward the candles of the square, and a circle of silver light flared around them..." Camber of Culdi, p.131. Later, when Camber is about to become Alister, we see Joram simply call wards for the ritual after Camber asks him to do so. "Drawing a deep breath and closing his eyes, Joram raised his arms to either side and triggered the words which would set the wards....Pale, blue-white light sprang up around them, barely visible in the growing darkness."

Camber's wards are silvery, Joram's are blue-white, Kelson's are red, and Charissa's are blue. Kelson and Charissa also call wards with a sweep of the arms and a few words. It seems that a Deryni's aura may be related to the color of the warding circle he/she creates. When Laran, Barrett, Tiercel, and Vivienne create the warding circle around Kelson, Wencit, and their allies for the four-on-four duel arcane, it contains four colors amber, silver, crimson, and blue. "Light began to glow around the four Deryni nobles, amber and silver and crimson and blue. As Laran spoke, the light spread until the circle was complete. The colors merged and coalesced as his words rolled over the circle. Ultimately this circle becomes "pale, blue-violet." (High Deryni, p.722 — Science Fiction Book Club 3-in-1 Chronicles of the Deryni edition).

In "Swords Against the Marluk", Alaric uses a sword to cast a silver circle in which he performs Brion's empowerment ritual. Later, Brion and the Marluk form a circle, red on Brion's side and blue on the Marluk's. Thus perhaps the color is derived from Deryni genetics — Haldanes all are red (as is their standard) and Festils (at least the Marluk and Charissa) are blue. The "synchronizing of auras" also comes up in the Torenthi Moving Wards ritual (Codex, p. 177).

Warding usually involves casting three circles and calling the quarters. Deryni Magic tells us that the warding circles have three purposes: preparing the sacred space for the working, containing the power raised during the ritual, and preventing interference from outside sources. (p.265). All circle movement begins in the east and moves deosil (sunwise) or clockwise, around the center. The circle is first aspersed with holy water containing a pinch of salt and embodying the elements of water and earth, then censed, adding the elements of fire and air, and then cast with a sword, dagger, athame, or the first two fingers of the right hand.

The cardinal directions are represented by a Deryni who calls the appropriate archangel, or Guardian of the Quarters. Raphael, the healer and Guardian of the Air, is in the east and is usually called by a Healer. Michael, the warrior and Guardian of Fire, is in the south, and is usually called by a soldier, often a Michaeline. Gabriel, Guardian of water, is in the West. Because Gabriel is associated with the Virgin Mary, he is usually called by a woman. Uriel, Guardian of the North, is the Archangel of Death and is associated with the element of earth. Uriel, or Auriel as he is called in some traditions, is usually called by an older, wiser Deryni.

We see numerous rituals in which the Guardians of the Quarters are called and Wards are set: Cinhil's power assumption, Camber's scrying before the battle with Ariella, Cinhil's sons' power assumption, Queron's Camberian Council initiation, Evaine's ritual to save Camber's soul, Javan's power assumption, Rhysem's power assumption, Nigel's empowerment when Kelson goes to war, and Conall's empowerment. Each is slightly different in the wording and the intricacies involved, yet all contain the same basic elements. Personally, I find Queron's Camberian Council initiation, utterly breathtaking every time I read it. I especially love the part in which the warding circle is completed in three dimensions and Queron must walk the sword path to enter the keeill.

Interestingly, all of the above rituals involve at least three men. Presumably four Deryni women could complete a ritual alone, but we have to see that done. Or can they? We know that rituals often proceed better with a Healer present, but can be done without a Healer. We have met few highly trained Deryni women, other than Evaine. Joram and Queron probably made sure that Rhysel and Jerusha received excellent training. Richenda has at least enough training to participate in advanced rituals and presumably she is helping Alaric expand his skills and talents. Vivienne, Kyri, and Sofiana all possess enough power and skill to join the Camberian Council, though we have yet to see them in serious Deryni action. Nor do we know the extent of Rothana and Araxie's abilities, though hopefully we'll learn more about them in the book which follows King Kelson's Bride.

Torenthi Moving Wards
We first encounter the Torenthi Moving Wards in Codex Derynianus in the entry on the the Furstan, Nimur II, King of Torenth. Count Berrhones describes particating with Counts Branyng, Ungnad, and Czalsky in the honor of being the King-to-Be's Moving Wards in his inauguration ceremony and the Girding with the Sword of Furstan. Each of the four men in the Moving Wards dresses in the color of the Archangel he will represent (gold for Raphael, blue for Gabriel, green for Uruaiel, and red for Michael). They then create a psyhic link with each other and synchronize their auras to create a protective dome over and around the King-to-Be. During the ritual the Moving Wards seem to merge with the archangels they represent.

Later, in King Kelson's Bride, Kelson becomes a Moving Ward in Liam's killijalay ceremony. Kelson wears blue and takes Gabriel's Quarter as he works with Matyas, Teymuraz, and Branyg. Maintaining the "silvery sphere" of the Moving Ward throughout the long procession and ritual causes a tremendous "power drain" on the participants according to Kelson (King Kelson's Bride, p.215). The ritual words in the killijalay and for the Moving Wards are in Greek rather than in Latin, as are most other Deryni rituals we have seen. Because of the mind merging involved, the Moving Ward both makes the participants more vulnerable to attack from each other and strengthens them when the attack comes from outside the Moving Ward, as it does from Mahael, because they can support each other.

Kelson describes learning to participate in the Moving Wards as difficult and exhausting, though the king beneath the Wards actually controls the focus and balances the energy. "Balancing the energies will not be your concern," Azim told him...."Liam must blend the contributions of the four of you to stabilize the sphere of protection. While he does this you must merely hold steady with the image you project." Azim goes on to say that Gabriel is the easiest position and Uriel the hardest. Is projecting the image of the Archangel in the Moving Wards anything like projecting another's image in shapechanging? Apparently the latter is easier, since Camber and Coram are able to maintain their alter-images for years and even while sleeping.

Does the strain involved in the Moving Wards make such a working too difficult for a woman to participate? We see only men in both rituals, but given that only men can experience killijalay and be girded with the Sword of Furstan, perhaps the Torenthi only allow men to take any role in such a ceremony. But suppose a group of powerful Deryni women could perform such a ritual...what else might they accomplish?

Perhaps we will see more Deryni women setting wards and participating in rituals in the Childe Morgan trilogy. We know that Donal chooses powerful Deryni women as mothers for his magical offspring, so one would think that these women might engage in rituals.
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!