STOP PRESS ...
Just heard that By Wolfsbane and Mandrake Root: The Shadow World of Plants and Their Poisons is going into production sooner than expected and has a publishing date of 24th February. The Secret People is due for publication on 3oth September and can be pre-ordered on Amazon. Pan: Dark Lord of the Forest is due on 25th November ...
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
TRY BEFORE YOU BUY …
An extract from
TRADITIONAL WITCHCRAFT AND THE PATH TO THE MYSTERIES:
“This book draws on unusual sources to describe a true witch’s journey to self-discovery and succeeds in drawing the reader into a new vision of the traditional witches path. I for one have found it breath-taking.” BrettC (Amazon)
If there’s one place that an Old Craft witch is going to feel a frisson of fear and trepidation, it’s standing at the barren edge of an upland lake. This really is an alien landscape, devoid of any visible flora and animal life because nothing can survive in this bleak wilderness. The surface of this expanse of water is dark and ruffled by the cutting wind that blows across the face of the mountain; there is no escaping from the wind-chill and even though the sun is shining, there is no welcoming shelter to be found on the sheer cliff face.
Most of Britain’s upland lakes are glacial in origin, resulting from the great sheets of ice during successive Ice Ages gouging out deep hollows that eventually filled with water. Normally these upland lakes are too deep, over most of their area, to permit light to penetrate and encourage plant-life to grow. Lakes in the region of hard rock, which provide few nutrients, receive poor supplies of these essential minerals into the water, which is lacking in both plant and animal life; the bottom of these lakes usually remains barren and stony and often any fish introduced into them eventually become stunted or malformed.
The depths of an upland lake is a cold, dark, alien world and, according to leading authority, G Evelyn Hutchinson of Yale University, ‘none of the other mechanisms of lake creation – not even earthquakes – can match the slow but enormously powerful creep of glaciers.’ The process of glacial erosion accounts for a high percentage of lake formation ‘and is responsible for more lakes than all the other geological processes combined’. The majority of these glacier-made basins are less than 25,000 years old, dating from the most recent Ice Age, when immense ice sheets advanced over much of the upper latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, bulldozing everything in their path.
These effects have only become visible after the ice receded and are known as cirques, a name derived from the French for ‘circle’ – referring to their distinctive rounded shape when viewed from above. Cirques, corries and cwms are basin-shaped hollows on the steep sides of mountains. These often spectacular landforms are also known by their Scottish name, corries, and by their Welsh name, cwm; when they become filled with water, the resulting lakes are known as tarns.
Some of these hollows were already part of the existing landscape while others were eroded by small glaciers as they moved down the mountainside to the valley below. Lakes of this type reach their greatest depths along the edge closest to the summit of the mountain. It is not surprising that these primitive lakes have a mystical quality all of their own since they have been created by an unstoppable force of Nature, and some of the lakes carved out by old glaciers may be so deep that their bottoms are below modern sea level.
This is where for the flicker of an instant we encounter an ‘Other’ Otherworld where things are not always as they seem. It is the world of illusion, the reverse side of the ‘Tree’ ... in fact we have found ourselves in that place of blind alleyways with conflicting directions and deliberately misleading instructions; following the darkened maze, through endless sloping corridors to a distorted hall of mirrors. We are here on the barren slopes of existence suddenly realising that for all our witchcraft we know nothing.
Photo: Llyn y’fan Fach in the Black Mountains, Wales
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
TRY BEFORE YOU BUY …
Traditional Witchcraft and the Pagan Revival:
A magical anthropology
by Melusine Draco
I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed researching and writing this particular title in the traditional witchcraft series because it was fascinating to discover how and where the various facets of magic entered (and influenced) the equation. This extract forms the Introduction …
The aim of Traditional Witchcraft and the Pagan Revival is to provide a sympathetic approach to the evolution of witchcraft as a historical reality, rather than as mere circumspection – or wishful thinking. By combining scholarly writing and recent archaeological findings with a ‘quality of fascination’, I hope it will prove to be a delight to read and a source of new insight for those who would follow the traditions of the Old Ways. It shows that witchcraft did (and does) exist, and traces the origins and true nature of the many different contemporary pagan beliefs back to their roots. And, what is equally as important, to understand when outside foreign influences were grafted onto indigenous pagan stock.
Generally speaking, today’s paganism falls into four different elements, which in turn separate the different approaches and levels of magical practice. A considerable amount of magical writing can be incomprehensible to those who have not been schooled in that particular path or tradition – so we begin at the beginning and work ourselves up through the spheres of Knowledge, Wisdom and Understanding. And we start by accepting that there is a divide between the various approaches to paganism and magical practice. Such as:
● Animistic: The belief that everything animate and inanimate has its own life-force, such as that which forms the basis of shamanism and Old Craft;
● Eclectic: Selecting or borrowing from a variety of styles, systems, theories, beliefs, etc., as commonly found in modern paganism and Wicca;
● Syncretic: The attempt to reconcile different systems of belief; the fusion or blending of religions, as by identification of gods, taking over of observances, or selection of whatever seems best in each; often producing a seemingly illogical compromise in belief. Found in many aspects of Western Ritual Magic, and the initiatory branches of traditional witchcraft;
● Synergetic: Combined or co-ordinated action; increased effect of two elements obtained by using them together. The combining of ancient wisdom with modern magical applications, as in the case of the contemporary approaches of Old Craft, Norse (Heathen) and Druidry.
As I observed in Coven of the Scales: The Collected Writings of A R Clay-Egerton, it should be understood that although Bob and Meriem Clay-Egerton firmly held the philosophy and opinion that all faiths were one, and that all paths led to the same goal, they did not advocate what is now referred to as ‘eclectic’ paganism. What they did teach was the desire for knowledge and experience, regardless of source. Each new experience was studied within the confines of that particular religion, path or tradition. Each discipline was kept completely separate from another. Only when a student had a thorough understanding of the tenets of each discipline were they encouraged to formulate them into their own individual system.
These sentiments were echoed by Dion Fortune in The Mystical Qabalah:
"No student will ever make any progress in spiritual development who flits from system to system; first using some New Thought affirmations, then some Yoga breathing-exercises and meditation-postures, and following these by an attempt at the mystical methods of prayer. Each of these systems has its value, but that value can only be realised if the system is carried out in its entirety … the student who sets out to be an eclectic before he has made himself an expert will never b anything more than a dabbler."
This book invites the reader to take the opportunity to step back in time and discover – through the gateways of intuition and instinct – where their own individual roots can be found.
Monday, June 13, 2016
Extract from Traditional Witchcraft for the Woods and Forests
“It is said that the forest knows all and is able to teach all; that the forest listens and holds the secret of every mystery”. [Lore of the Forest]
Since ancient times, woods have been places of sacred groves and nemorous temples, including those of the Druids and Iceni. Sir James Frazer refers widely to sacred groves and tree worship in The Golden Bough, while Old Craft teacher, Mériém Clay-Egerton wrote extensively on the subject of trees and produced some highly evocative pieces relating to her experiences:
“To me this was a place that had obviously been held as a sacred area for so very long now that it had in its turn breathed this very atmosphere itself and so projected this onto a mind which was prepared or conditioned to be both sympathetic and empathetic to various woodlands and their forms of existence … it resembled what I might envisage as a naturally constructed ‘cathedral’. Here lived and breathed holiness and beauty …”
The Wild Wood, however, is the dark, untamed part of natural woodland where unearthly and potentially dangerous beings are still to be found. This is not everyone’s favourite place and many urban witches never get over an ‘atavistic fear of Nature uncontrolled’. Historically, the term ‘wildwood’ is the name given to the forests as they were some 5,000 years ago, before human interference, and the pollen records for that time confirm that elms made up a substantial component of the wildwood, along with the oak, birch and lime.
On a magical level, the Wild Wood refers to those strange, eerie places that remain the realm of Nature and untamed by man. Ancient gnarled oaks, festooned with ferns and draped with lichen, carry an air of solitude and remoteness that is deeply unnerving — here birdsong and the trickle of running water are the only sounds to break the stillness. It is the Otherworld of the ‘unearthly and potentially dangerous’. It is the realm of Pan and the Wild Hunt. In modern psychology, it refers to the dark inner recesses of the mind, the wild and tangled undergrowth of the unconscious.
Here, among the trees, we are never sure that what we see is reality or illusion. Mériém Clay-Egerton described the strange half-light that anyone who walks in the Wild Wood will immediately recognise.
“I was always glad to go deeper into the apparent gloom because I would be beyond one of the woodland’s outer barriers.”
Although it is impossible to describe the sensations of the Wild Wood, no one who has walked there can remain unchanged by the experience. Nevertheless, even witches are not always welcome in this tree-filled wilderness. Hostile forces can physically bar our entrance into the inner sanctum of the wood, just as Philip Heselton describes in Secret Places of the Goddess. The undergrowth is a thick tangle of briar and bramble, giving the aura of a place ‘set apart for mysterious concealment’. Entwined with these almost impenetrable barriers, are tufts of tall ferns, the seeds of which can be used to cast a witch’s cloak of invisibility.
We must learn to heed the signs, however, for Nature does not always allow humans to pass.
Nevertheless, Traditional Witchcraft for the Woods and Forests takes us on journeys of discovery through Nature’s own woodland ‘calendar’ and, hopefully will reawaken the dormant senses that coursed through the veins of those witches who lived long ago in these ancient places. In a series of guided meditations and pathworkings, we will learn how to reconnect with the spirit of the landscape and learn to walk softly through the woodlands of both the physical and the astral realms. We will come to understand the gift of Nature’s bounty, and make use of the materials that will ultimately lead to an intimacy with wild things that can only come about through close contact and familiarity.
Traditional Witchcraft for the Woods and Forests by Melusine Draco is published by Moon Books in paperback and e-book format.
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
TRY BEFORE YOU BUY
The colour of the sea varies from a dull leaden grey in gloomy weather, or from the yellow or brown of a muddy river mouth, to a startling blue or green. Off parts of the coast, it may have a milky appearance from clay deposits and yet seen on a bright summer’s day from the cliff top it may almost be a rich purple – the ‘wine-coloured sea’ of the Greek poets. The colour, however, is controlled by:
• the particles that float in it;
• the angle from which it is viewed;
• the brightness of the day;
• the reflection of clouds or adjacent cliffs;
• and, in the shallows, by the colour of the sea-floor.
Here, light shining through a wave crest gives a momentary glimpse of translucent green, while the billows that break on a reef are coloured by the reflection of the marine life that lives on the rocks. From Sea & Seashore we learn that water has a slightly bluish tint, which intercepts the reds and yellows of daylight much more quickly than the other colours, so that only the blues and greens can penetrate to any depth below the surface; a white object sinking into the water turns blue before passing out of sight. Finely divided drops of water always look intensely white, so that the spray from a breaking wave is literally whiter than snow; compared with the spray, indeed, snow seems almost drab. In the wake left by a moving vessel the white foam contrasts with the colours of the undisturbed water, and still more strikingly with the emerald green or azure blue of the water churned up from below.
So, sea-witches working with the Element of Water can choose whichever colour s/he feels most appropriate for the beach on which they work. The colour correspondences for water can therefore range from pure white to muddy brown, with every shade of blue in between. And if we turn to the Table of Magical Correspondences given in Liber 777 – we find that the colours for Water are also far ranging – from deep blue to white, flecked purple, like mother of pearl; deep olive green and sea green.
Similarly, here at the water’s edge the Element of Earth also runs the whole gamut of colour combinations and textures, depending on the type of beach and its location. All around the coastline there are sands and shingle of every imaginable hue – purple jasper, green schist and serpentine, red and gold sand, red sandstone, yellow limestone, rock crystal, agate and carnelian – far more in fact, than the unadventurous indigo; black rayed with blue, blue-black and black as given in the Table of Correspondences.
To represent the Elemental of Air, what could be more fitting than a sea gull in flight, its white and blue-grey plumage contrasting with the yellow of its bill and legs, against the clear blue of the sky. Not surprising that the Table of Correspondences gives us bright pale yellow; emerald, flecked with gold; blue, emerald green; and sky blue!
And finally, what can we find on the beach to represent the Elemental of Fire? The Table of Correspondences gives us glowing orange-scarlet; vermilion, flecked crimson and emerald; scarlet flecked with gold, so what else can there be except the fiery sunset that reflects all these colours as the sun sinks down into the sea on the distant horizon.
A single, or combination of any of these colours, can be plaited or woven together to create the only shop-bought ‘tool’ (with the except of a pen-knife) in the sea-witch’s armoury – the Girdle or Cord.
This extract is taken from Traditional Witchcraft for the Seashore – published by Moon Books and available from www.moon-books.net or from Amazon in paperback or e-book format.
The Secret People: Parish-pump witchcraft, Wise-women and Cunning-Ways
“I’ve so looked forward to this book. It high time our old ways came to light again so that we can all remember and use them. Draco writes in a style that is easy to read and her knowledge of the old ways is enormous. Anyone who wants to get back into the old customs and traditions of Britain will find this book a source to be treasured,” writes Elen Sentier, author of Shaman Pathways: Elen of the Ways, shaman and herself a wise woman
The Secret People is a wander down memory lane and a step back in time; it is that ‘other country’ of the past where parish-pump witches, wise women and cunning folk still travel the highways and byways of a bygone era. Their voices can still be heard in the recipes and remedies handed down via an oral tradition, and now giving new knowledge to the next generation of pagans. It was a world where men went out with a ferret in a box and a long-net, accompanied by a silent long dog for a companion under a ‘poacher’s moon’.
From ‘owl-light’ until dawn these people walked silently in the woods and along the hedgerows, watching and waiting to collect Nature’s bounty to be used for the benefit of themselves and their neighbours. From them came the introduction to spells and charms, divination and fortune-telling; the language of birds and the movement of animals – all grist for the witch’s mill. Mysterious horsemen might share secrets of horseshoe nails and thunder-water; while countrymen lived by weather, the seedtime and the harvest. It’s a rich tapestry against which I spent my childhood – and already it has become ‘history’.
Nevertheless, few of The Secret People could be called traditional witches by any stretch of the imagination, and many would have been mortally offended to be referred to as a ‘witch’ or ‘pagan’. Few parish-pump witches would have thought about the skills they possessed since these were merely natural abilities, and even fewer wise women and cunning folk would have had any concept of the sombre and often dangerous rituals required for the raising of energy needed in the practice of true witchcraft. Theirs was a knowledge that filtered down in the form of simple spells, domestic plant medicine and country lore, imparted to offspring, friends and neighbours, who in turn handed it down to their children ... and so on down through the generations. In fact, in his Dialogue Concerning Witches & Witchcraft (1603) George Gifford observed that local wise women ‘doth more good in one year than all these scripture men will do so long as they live’.
In reality, most would live by the Church calendar, inveigling saints to add potency to their healing spells, or to guide a hand in locating missing property; with many of the protective charms being aimed at deflecting malevolent witchcraft! Most old ladies in the parish seemed to have a wide repertoire of fortune-telling tricks to amuse young girls looking for a husband, not to mention the applied psychology of already knowing their neighbours’ business, which made divination with playing cards and tealeaves a push-over, and even up until recent years the village fete always had a fortune-telling tent. And since the early Church calendar had been formed around the agricultural year, the men folk of the village had no problem with presenting themselves, their animals, and produce from the harvest for blessing.
The Secret People would have greatly outnumbered the practitioners of traditional witchcraft since the practical abilities that define a true witch are bred in the bone and not everyone can lay claim to the lineage. The skills of The Secret People can, however, be learned and perfected with practise and for those who struggle to find a label with which to empathise, it is hoped the lessons taught here will help the reader to establish some sort of identity that sits comfortably with them.
Today, under the ubiquitous umbrella of paganism, the parish-pump witch runs the occult shop in the high street, the wise woman dispenses Reiki healing and the cunning man has become a professional tarot reader. The countryman’s world has disappeared under a sprawl of urban housing and ring roads, while the poacher has yielded his domain to the brutal gangs
that slaughter wildlife on a commercial scale – even the poacher’s dog, the lurcher, has found his niche in the ‘fly-ball’ event at Crufts!
And yet...the knowledge of The Secret People is still there for the learning, if only we know how to search for it and rediscover our identity.
“The Secret People is all about the kind of practical folklore our grandmothers and great-grandmothers would have used in their daily lives when planting a cottage garden, foraging for herbs in the hedgerows, treating family ailments and making the most of what was around the house,” writes Lucya Starza, author of Pagan Portals: Candle Magic and herself a witch. “It is also about the secret folklore they would have known, from love charms and fortune-telling to protection spells and magical cures. The book is both really useful and a delight to read. Mélusine said that it would take me on a trip down memory lane, and it certainly did.”