Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Change of Logo for CoS

We've decided to change the logo for Coven of the
Scales to something a little more dramatic while retaining the symbol of the three hares

Friday, July 14, 2017

HAVE A COOL YULE

Have a Cool Yule: How to Survive (and enjoy) the Mid-Winter Festival will now be published on 24th November 2017 ... a tongue in cheek but nevertheless pertinent guide to explaining why pagans CAN celebrate Christmas!!

For the entire Pagan community Christmas should be one of the most sacred times of the year, but the lack of any formal written liturgy has consigned the festival to a minor observance in the Pagan calendar. Have a Cool Yule demonstrates that history proves the festival to be a wholly Pagan event, worthy of being acknowledged as one of the Great Festivals along with Beltaine and Samhain. With all the different strands of Pagan custom brought to the hearth-fire of the Mid-Winter Festival, we all have something to celebrate in time-honoured fashion, whether our ancestors are Briton, Celt, Norse or Anglo-Saxon.

FAITH & BELIEF IN BRITISH OLD CRAFT: PART ONE


 In 2008 Daniel A. Schulke approached the late Michael Howard, editor of the British witchcraft and folklore journal The Cauldron, about co-editing and producing a witchcraft anthology for Three Hands Press. Given the quiet but potent renaissance that traditional and hereditary witchcraft underwent in the 1990s, they both felt that such a publication was long overdue. At the time, much written about traditional witchcraft was of poor quality, either crudely derivative of a few often-repeated sources, factually inaccurate, or simply plagiaristic. Though this situation persists, readership on this subject has grown increasingly sophisticated and discerning, and a few new voices have emerged from the collective hedge to articulate important and original perspectives on the Craft.

Aside from considerations of quality content, high-caliber writing and creative synthesis, they agreed that a crucial aspect of the work should be the unique voice of the actual practitioners, speaking directly to experience of the magical Art itself. Though still obscure to most, the variety and idiosyncrasy of old witchcraft lines is remarkable. The witches of Cornwall, with their corpora of folk charms and blessings, are one such phenotype. The Pickingill Craft as described by E.W. Liddell, remains despite its controversy one of the most unique and potent streams of Old Craft, as does Robert Cochrane’s Clan of Tubal Cain. The Manx Old Order covines, with their intense connection to angelic magic and the dark faery lore of Ellan Vannin (the Isle of Man), are another such clan, as is the Skull and Bones tradition of Pennsylvania with its ominous and rustic spirit-patrons. The Old Craft lineages of the Cultus Sabbati, with the medieval Witches' Sabbath as an important organizing principle, are yet another distinctive tradition – as was Bob and Meriem Clay-Egerton’s Coven of the Scales – which is where I entered the equation.

Though these forms of the Old Craft are known through their exterior writings, there are other such groups who are content to remain out of the public eye, practicing their Art and training their own generation of adepts. All of these traditions share a common feature of extreme selectivity when it comes to prospective members, and the willingness to reject those proven unfit for the work. [my italics, MD] This unpopular and confrontational stance has often led to thorny relations between groups, but it has also engendered a sanctuary-like environment where creative magical collaboration can unfold according to the design of each tradition.


Thus was forged Hands of Apostasy: Essays on Witchcraft and Folk Magic, an anthology featuring eighteen writers on witchcraft topics as varied as the Devil, plant magic, necromancy, the Romantic movement, and the powers of moon and tide. Representing widely varying witchcraft traditions and perspectives, the book is a sound testament to the Craft’s diversity and strength. With Apostasy Daniel Schulke served as a co-editor with Michael Howard, whose work over the years with The Cauldron had been an immensely valuable resource to the at-large community of practitioners.


I’d known Michael Howard for many a long year but I must confess that the commission had me scratching my head for a long time.  We know what we believe but it’s another thing to explain to outsiders so that it makes sense and after several months ‘Faith and Belief in British Old Craft’ finally passed muster.  Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting the complete essay … 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Story Behind Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living

The Story Behind …
Every book has a story behind the story of how it came to be written. It may be about a life-long passion, a personal journey, the need to share an experience or knowledge. It may have been fermenting in the brain for years, or sprung fully formed from a blinding epiphany.  Whether it be fact or fiction, sometimes the story behind the story is almost as important as the published book itself …




Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living
Originally called Mean Streets Witchcraft, this first title in the Traditional Witchcraft series came from a young witchlet’s comment to Meriem Clay-Egerton, that Meriem couldn’t possibly be a real witch because she lived in a town and was confined to a wheelchair.  Now Meriem loved the countryside and everything about it but a chain of circumstances had forced her and Bob to abandon rural life and to remain in a densely urbanised environment for the rest of their lives.

At the time I was also town-bound and having an awful difficulty with my magical practice since the area I was living in at the time was one of those economically depressed areas due to the mines closing two generations before, with no hope of recovery in sight.  True I had a large medieval holly wood to roam and a nearby granite out crop for energy raising, but the community feeling was that of wading through molasses.

Needless to say, many of our lengthy conversations related to the effect this type of urban environment had on psychic energies and the long-term problems it could cause.  In fact, Meriem thought ‘good’ town-bound witches were probably more proficient than their rural cousins, simply because in the countryside it is enough just to be!  The urban witch had to conduct guerrilla warfare against the constant attack of negative energies the town-dweller encounters at every turn at the office, in the supermarket, and even when walking along the street …

And since the majority of witches don’t have the luxury of the rural dream, there was obviously a niche for a book on urban witchcraft and the differences in perspective of which we all need to be aware.  There are no ‘Oh wow!’ moments in Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living and most of the content is pure common sense, but sometimes we all need someone to point out the obvious … more like ‘Oh yeah!

Melusine Draco

Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living is published by Moon Books and available in paperback and e-book format.  For more information go to www.moon-books.net or Amazon.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Charms

There are several ways that a charm can be implemented.  It could be a spell to impress a prospective employer when going for a new job; or to charm your present boss into thinking that you’re the one for the job that’s just been created; or to attract a male/female that you wish to go out with; or to simply ‘charm’ people into liking you.  Some may see this as manipulation, but to a magical practitioner it is simply using your magical advantages.
    
There are those who refer to a charm as something they carry around or have around the home to attract good luck and protection.  For example people carry around a rabbit’s foot, or a special coin, or piece of jewellery because they believe that it brings them good luck or helps with gambling, for instance.   The carrier believes that good luck will come to them to them in some way, or inspiration to help with an exam, or pass a driving test.   Sometimes the ‘object’ is wearing what people believe to be their lucky colour
    
Technically these examples are amulets or talismans, depending on the nature of their empowerment (refer to Lesson Six). A charm (or spell) is the verbal or physical method of empowering an item, without which, the item itself would be useless.   Usually a charm or spell will be worked for a   specific purpose and over a period of time the magician may find that s/he will have acquired a number of them.   
   
Bear in mind when preparing to undertake a charm/spell working that, as with any magical process, you may get what you asked for - and it may not be what you wanted. For example: a house move sounds simple enough but there is a lot that can go wrong.  The roof may fall in and you could end up in some bed-sit somewhere, or a loss of a job may mean you lose your home.  These things are possible and do happen through the lack of attention to detail.   ‘Need not greed’ should be at the forefront of any working, whether for yourself or on behalf of someone else.  A colleague’s son asked his mother for help in obtaining a new job and gave her a list from which to work.   She duly carried out his instructions and made up a suitable charm-bag for him to take to the interview, tucked away in his briefcase.  The perfect job materialised and he would have thoroughly enjoyed it — but he had to leave after a month because he couldn’t stand the boss.  It was something he’d overlooked when making his list of ‘must haves’.
    
So whether the charm empowers an amulet or a talisman, all due care and consideration need to be taken at all times.



Monday, March 13, 2017

A Bit of Background Detail


Get to September-October and the internet is full of pagan postings bemoaning the fact that they hate Christmas.  How all the pagan meaning has been profaned and announcing the fact
that they will be holed up in solitary misery until all the commercially-decadent festivities are over - which sadly demonstrates a complete lack of awareness concerning our pagan ancestry and its customs.  Let’s understand one thing before we go further: the Church did not invent the Mid-Winter Festival … it was there with all its rich tapestry of feasting and celebration long before Pope Julius I officially decreed in the 4th century AD, that the birth of Jesus would henceforth be celebrated on the 25th December.

There are several factors that may have influenced the choice. December 25th was the date the Romans marked as the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (the birth of the Unconquered Sun), which was easily massaged to become the ‘Unconquered Son’ based on some obscure Old Testament verse [Malachi 4:2:] where Jesus was identified with the Sun.  The date was exactly nine months following Annunciation, when the conception of Jesus was celebrated in the Christian calendar. Biblical scholars reckon it most likely Jesus was born late August or September, because ‘when John leapt in Elizabeth’s womb at the presence of Jesus in Mary’ it was during The Festival of Lights [Hanukkah] in December that is more likely closer to his conception than birth!  It was also around the birth date of Mithras whose following rivaled that of early Christianity. Finally, the Romans had a series of pagan solstice festivals near the end of the year, so the calendar was realigned to appropriate these excuses for merry-making.

 Nothing here for us to celebrate, our lonely pagans cry.

Au contraire, mes amies!

And that’s why I have just signed the contract for Having a Cool Yule: How-To Survive (and Enjoy) the Mid-Winter Festival with Moon Books.

The Winter Solstice, or Mid-Winter Festival as our ancestors would have called it, is the most magical and mystical time of the year and should be celebrated as such with all the pagan gusto we can summon. It is an ancient fire-festival that heralds the shortest day of the year; an astronomical turning of the tide to announce the rebirth of the Sun and the promise of warmth returning to the land.  It was a time of long nights and short days. It was cold and dark and not a time to be out. It was, therefore, the perfect time to feast and create artificial light and warmth – and look forward with hope to the return of the sun.

In those days, the British winter was more severe than now but the Winter Solstice would have been a special moment during the year even in Neolithic times. This is confirmed by the layouts of those great late Neolithic and Bronze Age archaeological sites, such as Stonehenge in England and Newgrange in Ireland. The primary axes of both of these ancient monuments were carefully aligned with the Winter Solstice sunrise (Newgrange) and the Winter Solstice sunset (Stonehenge); Stonehenge’s Great Trilithon was erected facing outwards from the middle of the monument, with its smooth flat face turned towards the midwinter Sun.  The Winter Solstice was immensely important because the people were economically dependent on monitoring the progress of the seasons.

The reasons for this are obvious - and demonstrate why the Mid-Winter Festival with all its trappings of feasting and plenty should remain one of the most important feasts in the pagan calendar – if only as a testament to those who didn’t make it through the long winter darkness. Starvation was common during the first months of the winter (January to April in the northern hemisphere), which were also known as ‘the famine months’. The Festival was the last opportunity for feasting, before deep winter began; when a large proportion of the cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter, and it was the only time of year when a plentiful supply of fresh meat was available. The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and also ready for drinking at this time.

In medieval and Tudor England, the Twelfth Night marked the end of a winter festival that started on All Hallows Eve! At the beginning of the Twelfth Night festival, a cake that contained a bean was shared and the person who found the bean would rule the feast. Midnight signaled the end of his rule and the world would return to normal. The common theme was that the normal order of things was reversed. This tradition dates back to pre-Christian European festivals such as the Celtic festival of Samhain and the Roman Saturnalia. Food and drink were an important part of the celebrations and all of the traditional recipes go back many centuries. The punch called wassail is consumed especially on Twelfth Night and throughout the whole holiday, especially in Britain. Around the world, special pastries, such as the tortell and king cake, are baked on Twelfth Night and eaten the following day.

We also must remember that within the early Church many of the traditions and customs practised on ‘holy’ days can be traced back to pre-Christian times when specific events were endowed with magical or spiritual attributes that were incorporated into festivals and celebrations. These customs were so firmly entrenched in the hearts and minds of the people, that when Christianity was finding a foothold in Britain, the Church of Rome integrated and sanctified them. The Church slowly drew the people in by allowing the old festivals to continue with a veneer of Christianity overlaid upon them, with Anglo-Saxon, Norman and early medieval churches being decorated with festive Mid-Winter greenery (which was later banned as being pagan).

We only have to scratch the thin veneer of Christmas to find an important pagan holiday with the majority of its ancient traditions preserved intact.  The ubiquitous pagan ‘Wheel of the Year’ now assigns the Winter Solstice to the place of a minor sabbat, and yet as we’ve discovered, it was probably the most important festival of the year for our pagan ancestors after the Harvest festival.  It doesn’t matter where we live in the New or Old World, it would be a pity to ignore these facts and not celebrate the season with mirth and merriment as our forebears did – but not let Christian hype and gross commercialism ruin the true magic of the Winter Solstice.  After all … what is there to hate about ancient pagan traditions?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Traditional Treatment for Colds and Sniffles – Jewish Penicillin

At this time of the year everyone seems to suffer from cold and sniffles and everyone knows there is no cure for the common cold.  Chicken soup, however, owing to its efficacy as a remedy for colds, flu, stomach problems, etc., has long been referred to as ‘Jewish penicillin’. Like a lot of things that are consigned to folklore, old wives’ tales and rural customs, there is more than a grain of truth behind the claims that it really does lessens the sniffles and acts as a pick-me-up.



A study conducted by the American College of Chest Physicians found that chicken soup could help reduce upper respiratory inflammation, which leads to those annoying symptoms of a cold, like a stuffy head and incessant sneezing. They found this particular old wives’ tale exists in many cultures and that grandma’s chicken soup is prescribed around the world because it really does make people feel better.

Researchers first tested a recipe that was passed down from a Jewish team member’s Lithuanian grandmother, containing chicken, onions, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots, celery, parsley, salt and pepper, and found the soup did have an anti-inflammatory effect. The researchers then tested a variety of canned chicken soups and found that store-bought versions could be just as effective.

Standard Recipe for Chicken Soup
Chicken carcass
Onions
Sweet Potatoes
Parsnips
Turnips
Carrots
Celery
Parsley
Salt and pepper

Peel the vegetables and cut into good sized chunks. Put all the ingredients into a pot with water and bring to a rapid boil. Skim the surface and remove all floating scum. Turn it down to a very low heat and simmer for two hours because the longer it simmers, the better the soup will be. Let the soup cool and refrigerate overnight. Any fat will rise to the surface and harden and make it easy to remove. Scoop off the fat and bring the soup back to the boil. Simmer until it’s time to serve.

Here is scientific endorsement that this little bit of kitchen-Craft really works and should be in everyone’s repertoire of healing – and every bit of goodness in the chicken is used. For a change, boil the chicken with just an onion and carrot and add tinned or frozen sweetcorn to the soup before serving.


Extract from The Secret People: Parish Pump Witchcraft, Wise-Women and Cunning Ways published by Moon Books www.moon-books.net.com