Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Extract from the first part of The Coarse Witchcraft Trilogy

Sartorial Elegance

By common consent, the Coven dresses in black. Not because of any sinister or Gothic bent but purely and simply because this is the most practical way of dressing when working out of doors. On cold, wet November nights it is not a good idea to go trailing through the woods, or over the quarry, dressed like rejects from the Hellfire Club. Instead we wear black trousers and sweaters that enable us to blend into the shadows and move quickly should any strangers approach. Our full-length, black hooded cloaks are carried in rucksacks and not worn unless it’s bitterly cold or raining. And let me tell you, Pris and I each have a consecrated set of thermal underwear for winter working!

Sky-clad working isn’t for us. This is not because we’re prudish or unduly sensitive but because the weather in this climate is rarely conducive to romping around in the nude. There is nothing more off-putting than a shivering witchlet, covered in goose-bumps, desperately trying to get close enough to the fire without incinerating their pubes – while their backside turns blue. True, once the Circle is cast the cold recedes but it’s not worth the risk of hypothermia for the tired witch or in those whose magical abilities aren’t up to scratch.

There are those who claim that going ‘sky-clad’ means that there are no barriers between you and the natural energies with which you intend to work. I’m afraid we would respond that if clothing presents such an obstacle to magical energies, then something isn’t right somewhere along the line. As with all Old Craft covens, there are times when ritual nudity is de rigueur – that is, require by etiquette or custom, and so there are rituals when we will perform à la Aradia: ‘and as the sign that ye are truly free, ye shall be naked in your rites …’

Until we agreed on what Rupert refers to as ‘going ninja’, we all wore our own personal, but discreet, choice of robe and this is where Helena came into her own. One night she sported a
billowing white chimeraic creation somewhat between a confirmation dress, a bridal gown and a nun’s habit. We blamed it on the Spiritualist Church but it was bloody disconcerting to see a white nun looming up on the other side of the needfire, I can tell you! Not to mention the several near misses with the candles and her offering of a bottle of Blue Nun!

Even the more traditional Craft robes have their drawbacks. I well remember the night when Pris conducted the Autumn Equinox ritual with a bramble caught in the crack of her bum and a squashed slug decorating the back view of her robe in a tasteful surrealist design. Not to mention my own mishap in being forced to borrow a robe from Gwen. We’d all been invited over to Roger’s for a goodwill Lammas ritual (in the pre-Vanessa days) and having left my case open, discovered just as we were robing, that their cat had peed on mine. There was a hasty scuffling about and a spare robe
smelling of something only marginally better than cat’s pee was produced. Unfortunately the garment was designed for a six foot giant and I’m only marginally over five feet – and there was no
spare cord.

I trailed into the coven-room looking like Dopey out of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Pris went cross-eyed trying not to laugh, while everyone else ignored the spectacle. Moving around was preceded by a ballet-like sweep of the foot and all went well until we began the Spiral. Moving around the Circle I steadily climbed up the inside of the robe until my foot appeared out of the neck-hole. At this point, Pris collapsed in hysterics and the Circle ground to a halt; even normally taciturn Rupert excused himself to go to the bathroom.

Our turn came when Adam got stuck in the lining of his robe with his earring caught up in the stitching. It was an outdoor ritual and Pris had made some rather stunning, fully lined robes for him and herself. She appeared from behind the tree looking quite magnificent in the firelight – but where was Adam? We waited as scuffling noises came from the shadows. Finally, there was Psst! Pssst! Pris disappeared to find Adam firmly wedged up the lining, trying to force his head through the sleeve. In attempting to extract himself, an earring had caught up in the fabric and he was flailing around like a ferret in a sack. That was the end of individuality and the onset of convenience.

If our own antics weren’t enough to convince us that some form of standard ritual clothing was essential, then visiting another group clinched it. Having been asked if we’d any objection to working sky-clad, Joan decided to pay homage at the altar by kneeling and bowing her head to the earth. I was standing with Pris in the South at the time, having dodged around to avoid the smoke from the fire. All I can say is that I shall never be able to look upon the Qabalistic sign for the Sun ʘ in quite the same way again.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Faith & Belief in Traditional British Old Craft
Melusine Draco

The form of witchcraft followed by the Coven of Scales teaches that although not a religion, there is a highly defined spiritual element to its practice. Also that traditional British Old Craft is fundamentally animistic: the belief that every object, animate and inanimate, has its own life-force, or energy. Here there is no separation between the spiritual or physical world, where ‘spirit’ exists in all flora and fauna (including humans); geological features such as rocks, mountains, rivers and springs; and in natural phenomena such as storms, wind and the movement of heavenly bodies. It is the understanding that a small quartz pebble can link us with the cosmic Divine.

Old Craft retains features of the native shamanic practice of the British Isles, since the term ‘shamanism’ describes the supernatural powers practitioners channel from the spirit world for healing, divination and the conducting of souls. All of which are the natural province of an Old Craft witch where it is viewed as a ‘peripheral phenomenon’, rather than the overt devotional practices often found in contemporary paganism. As intermediaries between the world of the Ancestors and the living, Old Crafters maintain direct contact with spirits, whether of Otherworld, plants, animals and other features of the environment.

A true witch should have the ability to identify and interact with this spirit energy on which they draw for all magical purposes. Without this ability there is no Old Crafter, because as Hotspur retorts to Glendower’s claim that he can ‘call spirits’: “Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them?” And which particular spirit energy is conjured for what purpose? The ethereal energy of the fields and hedgerows differs quite considerably from the more primitive and often menacing energy of the woods and forests; or the ever-changing seashore; while mountains and rivers generate their own mystique.

Much of what is referred to as ‘natural energy’ depends on what lies beneath our feet, with some geological formations being better suited for magical working than others. There are many different types of rock that make up the Earth’s surface and each will have certain positive or negative properties. As with all things magical an Old Crafter knows nothing is as simple or precise as it seems. Just as the outcome in all magical and psychic exercises depends on the personal chemistry of the individual, so the blend of individuality, ability and natural energies can combine to produce the most extraordinary results.

For example, the quartz element of granite reconnects us with the spirit of the landscape. Once it is understood that quartz is very abundant in slate, it is not difficult to see why this generates so much earth energy; while chalk has its own particular kind of power and why our ancestors built their most prestigious monuments on chalkland. By contrast, magical working on clay involves a lot of generating techniques, and unless there is a considerable amount of experience to draw upon, things may take a long time to come to fruition. And despite all the wealth of crystals in the world, for the Old Crafter, quartz remains the most precious of all, since a quartz pendulum draws on an ancient knowledge for unlocking psychic power and seeking out information not easily obtained by any other means – especially from spirits of the landscape.

These guardians are some of the strangest spirit beings we encounter since few are able to move from their native location, either because they are part of the landscape, or bound to it for some other reason. Although extremely powerful and appearing to possess rational thought, they are simply semi-sentient well-springs of magical energy but with a reach rarely extending beyond their natural boundaries. If posing a magical question in that location, the answer may manifest in the form of a divinatory response, simply because a witch provides a natural conduit for this type of energy. There is also an art to moving within the landscape, a right way to approach places and monuments. Old Craft teaching bestows an instinctive grasp of how to behave within a sacred area, and to recognize the type of energy to be encountered there.

As important is identifying nature sprites or numen – the spirit-essence dwelling in each natural object: a tree, a spring, the earth, or more correctly: where the presence of ‘deity lies behind physical form. Although numen are usually considered to be an ‘essence of deity’ rather than the deity itself, Old Crafters treat them with the utmost reverence and respect. The concept of such ‘spirits’ is of neutral powers that might be hostile if neglected, but which if duly placated with offerings will be friendly, giving health and prosperity. As a result, any such site became sacred because it was the dwelling of a spirit, or had been touched by its power; a cult of individual natural objects, but in no sense a worship of the powers of Nature. There are certain locations where it is easier to make contact, usually where humankind has not intruded too much, or where the land has been largely left to look after itself. Although long-lived, their lifespan is often connected to a tree or part of the landscape; should this be destroyed, then the nature-sprite will die.

There are different kinds of nature sprites that are often referred to as ‘elementals’. Some are naturally occurring, usually linked to specific natural features e.g. cliffs, ponds, or at the junctures of what are now referred to as ‘ley lines’ or ‘spirit paths’, and can also be thought of as guardians of such places. Most need to be approached carefully as they can be extremely temperamental. They react well to genuine emotions of sympathy, trust, and the wishing of a witch to learn, and can react quite detrimentally to cynical or disrespectful thoughts, since these creatures react to emotions and feelings, not to the spoken word. This kind of elemental will only be found in its ‘home’ location - even in the basement of a city tower block if one has been built over its original home. In this confined environment they are likened to ‘dark springs’ of energy which manifest in a similar manner to poltergeist phenomena - amateur ghost-busters resort to exorcism but it is only effective for a short period of time and never permanently as an elemental cannot be banished or destroyed.

Old Crafters differentiate between the energies of the spirits residing in the woods and field margin surrounding cultivated land and those of the agricultural hedgerows, since the ‘wild borderland spirit’ being more in touch with untamed Nature, has the gift of prophecy. The significance of these places of ‘time between times’ is the sometimes over-powering generation of magical energy that can be terrifying if encountered unexpectedly and not fully understood. Combine the powers of the wood-field margin with ‘owl-light’ and experience the sensation of Nature at its most raw and untamed.

Otherworld is the world of ‘spirit’ where there are innumerable planes of existence in many dimensions of time and space. Humankind exists, physically, in one dimension; mentally they can penetrate to other levels - spiritually they can reach even more. The Old Crafter learns to understand as much about these energies as possible and not use eclectic mix-and-match god-energy from different cultures. Only by encountering these varying, undiluted agencies can a witch learn to differentiate between the positive/negative, active/passive beings that exist on other planes; because for every one that will help, guide and give advice, there is the same number who will hinder, deceive and cause harm, given the opportunity.

The most powerful energy on which an Old Crafter can call is that of our ‘Ancestors’, who represent our culture, traditions, heritage, lineage and antecedents; they trace the long march of history that our predecessors have taken under the aegis of traditional British Old Craft. When those of a particular Tradition pass beyond the veil, their spiritual essence merges with the divine spirit of the Whole, which in turn gives traditional witchcraft the continuing power to endure. Interaction with the Ancestors as an invisible and powerful presence is a constant feature of Old Craft and reverence for them is part of the ethic of respect for those who have preceded us in life, and their continued presence on the periphery of our consciousness means that they are always with us. And because traditional witchcraft is essentially a practical thing, the Ancestors are called upon to help find solutions to magical problems through divination, path-working and spell-casting.

Earth Mysteries and Magic
The terms ‘gateways’, ‘portals’ and ‘doorways’ speak for themselves, and as magical ability develops these psychic gateways will begin to open - maybe in one, or even several directions simultaneously. Personal advancement along the Old Craft path depends on an individual’s willingness to pass through or stay put, since these gateways serve as an indication that the time has come to move on and to climb to the next level.

This transition can be difficult and painful but in magical learning everything has a reason, so we must never ignore the opportunity, no matter how it strange or vague it feels. The price of an Old Crafter’s progress can be exacting but to ignore it will only result in personal loss in terms of spiritual and magical development. If the opportunity is not taken, it may be many years before it occurs again; or may never occur again in this lifetime and those who chose not to pass through these gateways, even after many years of practice, remain at the same level as when they first began. Their magic and understanding never alters; their progression halted due to their own fear and misunderstanding. They have tried to batter down the door for years without success; the true witch finds the door swings open at the lightest touch when the time is right.

Passing through the portal also brings awareness that there all manner of other different currents and movements on the planet that effect us on deeper magico-mystical levels. Such as what we often blithely refer to as ‘earth energy’ that produces a mild tingling sensation and sets the pendulum swinging; or a burst of warm energy in our hands and feet. But do we stop to think this is caused by the molten layer under the Earth’s crust, creating the swirling electro-magnetic field that surrounds the planet? Or is our Elemental Earth just a quiet ramble in the countryside and a container of sand marking the northern quarter?

We may meditate by a rippling stream, watching the sunlight dance in the water as it trips over the stones and pebbles in its path – but do we allow our minds to explore where that crystal water comes from? Do we realise this stream began its brief life being drawn up as vapour from the ocean and falling as rain on the hills and mountains, before flowing down into the river valley, bringing rocks and stones tumbling in its wake. Are we constantly aware of the force of the water-flow throughout the seasons – the spring floods, the summer drought, the clogging of the channel with autumn leaves, and the frozen surface in winter? Or does our concept of Elemental Water begin and end with the symbolic bowl of tap water marking the western quarter of our magic Circle?

Nothing can live without clean, breathable air but the witch needs to think beyond soft breezes and rainbows after a shower. Air is the stuff from which tornados and hurricanes are made; it brings puffs of cumulus cloud or a billowing thunderhead some ten miles high; not to mention the thousands of feet high dust storms that are created when a monsoon collides with dry air currents above it. Or is our Elemental Air merely the smoke from a perfumed joss stick marking the eastern quarter in our magical workings?

Fire, even in its most modest form, has the capacity for destruction – a box of matches in the hands of a child, a fallen candle, or a carelessly discarded cigarette. On a grander and more epic scale, we have seen the coverage of devastating wildfires destroying anything that stands in its path; the eruption of a volcano; or the power of solar winds that reach out from the sun to interfere with electronic equipment here on Earth. Or is our contact with Element Fire restricted to a candle burning at the southern quarter of our Circle?

These are just some of the lessons taught by Coven of the Scales. That is it is not necessary to rely on group dynamics and psycho-drama to generate magical energy because it is there, all around us on a permanent basis. It means that a natural witch can be on their contacts in seconds; knowing what type of energy, or ‘witch-power’ is needed to cure a headache, or channel the strength to walk the death-path with confidence after being diagnosed with a terminal illness. It really is a belief that can move mountains – if the application is right – and all witches draw on this natural energy to cause change through the application of Will.

In more general terms, ‘witch-power’ is similar to the energy raised by Tai Chi - widely used within art and sport without any magical significance whatsoever. It is a perfectly natural force that can be tapped into on a daily basis to a greater or lesser extent, and a true witch can generate the magical powers necessary by channelling this energy from the natural world.

Faith In Doubt
These abilities are not governed by any form of religiosity but by harnessing the power of Nature. Those who acted in a priestly or shamanic capacity for our ancient Ancestors probably saw these natural forces as less abstract concepts than we do today. For them, masculine energy would be seen in terms of the hunter-protector-rutter, while feminine energy would manifest in more general terms of fecundity and the hearth. Because humankind has always had a tendency to see images of its gods in its own likeness, we have come to see pagan deities very much cast in 20th century form. Ironically in giving ‘god-energy’ the outward form of the rampant horned-god, and the goddess in the cartoon image of a warrior-princess or a member of the pre-Raphaelite sisterhood, the mystery has been lost in favour of fantasy creations.

What is important to understand is the modern trend of eclectic paganism is not synonymous with Old Craft; it may utilize many of the trappings of Old Craft but Old Craft practice will always be a matter of ability, not devotion. In magical terms, it is not possible to up-end these ancient concepts just because they are at odds with 20th century political correctness. The female-goddess energy within Nature is just as ‘red in tooth and claw’ as male-god energy; both are equally as merciless as the other. It is also important to understand that this energy (whether male or female) is neither malevolent nor benevolent, it is merely waiting to be harnessed for magical.

Old Craft, although not a religion, is a belief – a belief in one’s own abilities and in the ‘Power’ that fuels the universe; and a faith – faith in one’s self and in that ‘Power’. This is not generally seen as gender specific but in truth, does lean towards the male aspect since the female remains veiled and a mystery: the ‘God’ is the public face of traditional British Old Craft. The ‘Goddess’ remains in the shadows, revered and shielded by her protector: not because she is some shy and defenceless creature, but because face to face she would be too terrible to look upon! Old Craft secrets come from an understanding of these things because it is not possible to convey the true meaning of our Ways to a cowan, or ‘outsider’.

Much of this may be seen as playing with semantics but in truth, the god-forms themselves have changed greatly down through the millennia. It is only by pulling all the strands of myth, legend and folklore together that we can appreciate just how much these have altered. The spirits of the landscape, however, remain constant; they have not altered their form and have only grown more powerful with age. These well-springs of magical energy have not been contaminated because few have known of their existence - apart from those who have kept the secret down through the ages.
Many of the great power centers such as Stonehenge and Avebury have been exorcised long ago by the tramp of sightseers who have polluted these popular tourist sites by sheer numbers. In more secluded spots, the spirit-energy of the ancient Pretanni survives in remote ancient monuments, isolated lakes, the rural landscape, and in the depths of the surviving Wildwood. When the native shamanic practices went into the shadows, these powerful energy spots were deemed unholy and feared by the locals – and as such passed into folklore as those things that are ‘never fully remembered and yet never fully forgotten’.

Nevertheless, human intelligence and curiosity being what it is, the modern Old Crafter’s motto must surely be: ‘We shall not cease from our exploration’. They will seek to embellish those natural abilities with input from ritual and ceremonial magic, while enhancing the spiritual aspects of belief by exploring the highways and byways of the mystical Qabalah, coupled with the insight and poetry of the Tarot. Some will experiment with the techniques and doctrines of East, or the paths and traditions of the Ancient World. In the fullness of time this exploration will lead to the recognition that the thread running through this esoteric labyrinth is as familiar and yet as alien as the resonance of a singing Tibetan prayer bowl echoing out across time and space – pulling us back to our roots. We do indeed ‘arrive where we started/And know the place for the first time ...’

Traditional British Old Craft remains an oral tradition and much can still be found in our native folklore that resonates with those schooled in this more primitive form of witchcraft. And while an Old Craft practitioner can continue to find solace amongst the forests and woodland, lakes and mountains, in the rural landscape and on the seashore, the spirit-energies that power our belief will continue to endure.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Cult of Birthstones by Melusine Draco

The fashion for using ‘birthstones’ as personal amulets appears to have its origins in the twelve gemstones from the breastplate of the Jewish High-Priest and “the gems contributed for the tabernacle by the Israelists in the wilderness”. There are two lists of twelve stones to be found in both the Old and New Testament but these do not correspond to the months of the year, or the zodiac, but to the twelve tribes of Israel, or the twelve mighty angels who guard the gates of Paradise. The following extract is given in Exodus (xxviii, 15-30) and quoted in The Curious Lore of Precious Stones — written by that distinguished mineralogist George Frederick Kunz (1856-1932) who, for more than 50 years was the gem expert for Tiffany’s in New York:

… And thou shalt set in its [the breastplate] settings of stones, even four rows of stones: the first row shall be sardius [carnelian], a topaz, and a carbuncle; this shall be the first row.
And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire [lapis lazuli?] and a diamond [rock crystal or corundum?]
And the third row a ligure [amber or jacinth], an agate, and an amethyst.
And the fourth row a beryl, and an onyx, and a jasper; they shall be set in gold in their enclosings.

Islamic legend also represents the various heavens as composed of different precious stones, and in the Middle Ages, these ideas became interwoven with a host of astrological, alchemical, magical and medical superstitions. There is, however, a much earlier Egyptian representation of the breast-ornament worn by a High-Priest of Memphis (14th Dynasty), consisting of 12 small balls or crosses. “As it cannot be determined that these figures were cut from precious stones, the only definite connection with the Hebrew ornament is the number of the figures; this suggests but fails to prove, a common origin,” concluded George Frederick Kunz.

Many of the ‘classical’ lists cited as antecedents for natal or zodiacal stones will include diamonds — but this gem could not have been one of the original stones simply because astrology dates back thousands of years and the ancient lapidaries did not know how to cut a diamond.  It is possible that what was later mistaken for a diamond was more likely to have been rock crystal but this ‘humble’ stone would not have been considered valuable enough in later times. The ancient priesthood, however, would have known about the magical powers contained within the rock crystal, even if latter day magicians did not.

Or as Kunz observed, “A mysterious stone mentioned three times in the Old Testament, each signifies a material noted for its hardness and translated ‘diamond’, however, as it is almost certain that the Hebrews were not familiar with the ‘diamond’ it was most probably a variety of corundum …” Similarly, lapis lazuli was referred to as the ‘sapphire of the ancients’ and it may have been lapis rather than the rarer blue corundum that was in use at this time.
Birthstones are still used today as amulets to attract health, wealth and happiness and most people know their own birthstone but from the dozens of different compilations, which is the correct attribution for each month?

The cult of the birthstone and belief that each stone was endowed with its own peculiar virtue for those born in that month can be traced back to the writings of Josephus (1st century AD) and St Jerome (5th century). Despite these early references, the common usage of giving and wearing a birthstone seems to have originated much later in Poland sometime during the 18th century.  The belief in the special virtues of the stones was paramount, and it was long before the mystic bond between the stone of the month, and the person born in that month was realised.

Nevertheless, nearly every book on gemstones will assign different stones for each month and Kunz himself, gives eight different listings from ancient Hebrew to the present day as examples. The following are taken from two contemporary publications on the subject — and even here there are contradictions for the given stones against each month.

Gemstones of the Month (Spells, Charms, Talismans & Amulets, Pamela A Ball)
January: Garnet, Onyx, Jet, Chrysoprase
February: Amethyst, Jasper, Rock crystal
March: Aquamarine, Bloodstone
April: Ruby, Garnet, Sard
May: Emerald, Malachite, Amber, Carnelian
June: Topaz, Agate, Alexandrite, Fluorite
July: Moonstone, White agate
August: Cat’s eye, Carnelian, Jasper, Fire agate
September: Peridot, Olivine, Chrysolite, Citrine
October: Opal, Tourmaline, Beryl, Turquoise
November: Topaz, Lapis lazuli
December: Serpentine, Jacinth, Peridot

Gemstones of the Zodiac (Talismans, Charms & Amulets Robert W. Wood)
Aries 21 March — 20 April Red Jasper
Taurus 21 April — 21 May Rose Quartz
Gemini 22 May — 21 June Black Onyx
Cancer 22 June — 22 July Mother of Pearl
Leo 23 July — 23 August Tiger Eye
Virgo 24 August — 22 September Carnelian
Libra 23 September — 23 October Green Aventurine
Scorpio 24 October — 22 November Rhodonite
Sagittarius 23 November — 21 December Sodalite
Capricorn 22 December — 20 January Snowflake Obsidian
Aquarius 21 January — 19t February Blue Agate
Pisces 20 February — 20 March Amethyst

When looking for authenticity in terms of magical working there is an additional complication caused by historical calendar re-alignments and what is known as precession. Because of the tidal effects of the Sun and Moon, the Earth ‘wobbles’ like a spinning top, causing the direction of the Vernal Equinox to shift in the sky. The early calendar makers were unaware of this phenomenon and believed that in making the beginning of the year dependent on the Sun’s entry into the constellation of Aries, they were fixing it forever to the time of the Winter Solstice. At that ancient point in time, theoretically the gemstone representing Aries would have been that of the Winter Solstice, i.e. December.

As the centuries rolled by, the stars of Aries receded from the Winter Solstice, moving steadily through almost a quarter of the great ecliptic and by the 2nd century BC, the Spring (or Vernal) Equinox was not far from the same point where the Winter Solstice had been when the first calendar-makers had fixed the constellation in the heavens. The Vernal Equinox is now on the cusp of Pisces and Aries but over the full ‘wobble’ it will move through all the signs in the zodiac — at the moment the gemstone for Aries is represented by that of the Vernal Equinox, i.e. March.

There is also some evidence in favour of the theory that at the outset all twelve stones were acquired by the same person and worn in turn, each one during the respective month to which it was assigned, or during the ascendancy of its zodiacal sign. According to the German writer Bruckmann (1773 Abhandlung von Edelsteinen), “The stone of the month was believed to exercise its therapeutic (or magical) virtue to the fullest extent during that period. Perhaps the fact that this entailed a monthly change of ornaments may rather have been a recommendation of the usage than the reverse.”

When utilising gemstones as magical correspondences, however, it is vital that we use the ancient propensities for each stone … because it is what the ancients believed, that locks us into the universal subconsciousness so quintessential for successful magic. We are talking here of esoteric archetypes not the fake-lore and fantasy of modern crystal working.

The twelve stones of the High-Priest’s breastplate — sardius (carnelian), topaz, carbuncle; emerald, sapphire (lapis lazuli), diamond (corundum or rock crystal); ligure (amber or jacinth), agate, amethyst; beryl, onyx, and jasper — set in four rows of three to signify the seasons as suggested by Flavii Josephi; and again by Clemens Alexandrius in the 2nd century, give us a starting point. Even then, things are not that simple. The c1539 edition of Marbodus’s lapidary shows a figure of a High-Priest with the names and tribal attributions of the twelve stones, which differ slightly from the Greek Septuagint version from c250 BC as follows — and shows where the confusion over the inclusion of the sapphire may have arisen.

1.      Sardion (carnelian) — Odem
2.      Topazion (topaz) — Pitdah
3.      Smaragdus (carbuncle or emerald) — Bareketh
4.      Anthrax (carbuncle or emerald) — Nophek
5.      Sapphirus (lapis lazuli) — Sappir
6.      Iaspis (corundum) — Yahalom
7.      Ligurion (amber or jacinth — Lesham
8.      Achatâs (agate) — Shebo
9.      Amethystos (amethyst) — Ahlamah
10.  Chrysolithos (beryl or chalcedony) — Tarshish
11.  Beryllion (beryl or onyx) — Shoham
12.  Onychion (green jasper) — Yashpheh

The above does not claim to be the earliest, authentic list since there is still the suggestion that the Hebrew system may have been based on the earlier Egyptian version. Neither should we be dismissive of using an archaic Hebrew system as the foundation for our observances, for as any student of ritual magic will know, the Hebrew influence plays an important part in the development of the ‘Western’ system of the magical Qabalah and ritual magic.

Melusine Draco is the author of Magic Crystals, Sacred Stones published by Axis Mundi ISBN: 978 1 78099 137 5 186pp Price UK£11.99/US$19.95 : Kindle version available.

Magic Crystals, Sacred Stones

Mélusine Draco

Regardless of where we live in the world, some geological formations are better suited for magical or creative working than others, an idea that was mooted by Dion Fortune in her novel, The Goat-Foot God. … “Now the best place to get the kind of experiences you want is on chalk. If you think of it, all the earliest civilisation in these islands was on the chalk … Avebury’s on the chalk; and St Albans is on the chalk …”  Christopher Tilley in A Phenomenology of Landscape, however, gives a wider overview of the topographic features of the prehistoric landscape that attracted our distant ancestors’ attention: an affinity with the coast; mountain escarpments and spurs; the ridges, valleys and chalk downlands. Obviously, the most important aspect of each site being not what is seen above ground, but the geological formation beneath our feet.

There are, of course, many different types of rock that make up the Earth’s surface and each of them will have certain positive or negative magical/creative properties. As an example, we will look at what has been found to be the best and the worst when it comes to drawing from, or stifling magical/creative energy.

The Best: Slate is a widespread, metamorphic rock commonly found inter-layered with sedimentary strata and with rocks of volcanic origin. Once we understand that quartz is very abundant in slate and may form as much as 70% by weight of the rock, it is not difficult to see why this particular material generates so much Earth energy – quartz being one of the most powerful crystals on the planet. Magical, psychic and creative working on slate packs a very distinctive punch, especially if the slate layers are close to the surface.

The Worst: Clay - the name derives from Old English clæg meaning ‘sticky’ - is a widespread sedimentary rock with grains too small to be seen under any but the most powerful microscope, and may form in many different geological environments throughout the world. The most extensive layers are found in both deep and shallow marine deposits, in moraines (piles of debris) left behind by receding glaciers, and in zones of pre-existent rocks (especially granite) that have been altered by hydrothermal fluids.  Try walking through heavy clay and it immediately becomes apparent why Earth energy is often ‘blocked’ or sluggish. Magical working on clay involves a lot of energy-generating techniques by the practitioner, and unless there is a considerable amount of experience (and knowledge) to draw on, things may take a long time to come to fruition.

Here in the Glen of Aherlow, however, the mountains are Old Red Sandstone – a tough enduring rock formed during the ‘Caledonian Foldings’, the mountain-building period of the Earth’s long history.  The pressure caused the underlying softer Silurian rocks to fold into great ridges; and over millions of years the erosion dust compacted to form this magnificent range of Red Sandstone mountains. The Galtees are Ireland’s highest inland mountain range, a high ridge which rises up almost sheer from the surrounding plain.  Two major Ice Age periods have affected the area, and the rounded summits of the Galtees are due to the higher parts being above the ice. This freeze-thaw action on the higher peaks gradually wore them away to form the stony, scree covered summits we see today. This glacial action also formed cirques (or corries) on the higher slopes – amphitheatres or hollows, which are now five gloomy lakes.

Despite being easily weathered, sandstone has been used by builders and sculptors for thousands of years, including the ancient ruins of Petra (Jordan), which has been described poetically as ‘a rose-red city half as old as time’. The disadvantages of sandstone are out-weighted by its natural beauty and the ease with which it can be shaped and carve into outstanding works of art such as the famous bust of Queen, Nefertiti that has survived more or less intact since it was carved during the Egyptian 18th Dynasty.

And as the author observed in Magic Crystals, Sacred Stones and The Hollow Tree: A beginner’s guide to the Tarot and Qabalah, because sandstone is highly susceptible to weathering and decomposition, and ultimately crumbling to dust, we can safely assign it to the Element of Earth. Or more precisely, the ‘Earthy part of Earth’ symbolised by the Princess of Disks in the Tarot, who represents the ‘element of the brink of Transfiguration’. She has been depicted with her sceptre descending into the Earth where the point becomes a diamond, and her shield denoting the ‘twin spiral forces of Creation in perfect equilibrium’.

Which might go a long way in explaining why, in the five years we have lived in the Glen, I’ve managed to complete ten books in quick succession, several of which had been lying dormant for several years.  The energies of the Glen are ‘dark’ – not in any negative sense – but because the primitive history of the place is unchanged and unchanging.  And if, like me, you are someone who is attuned to primitive energies, then the magical/creative urges will be stimulated with a vengeance when living in such a magnificent location.   The mountains are never the same on consecutive days: the summits are either capped with snow, radiating in the mellow tones of sunset, shimmering in a soft blue haze, cloaked by low-lying clouds and soft rain, or (on rare occasions) crystal clear images of a hot summer day when sheep are seen as tiny pin-pricks of white against the green.  And when the river is in high-flood, the Glen turns into a vast lake, just as it was before people came to inhabit this part of Ireland.

The area also has a wealth of prehistoric monuments, the earliest of which, is a passage-tomb at Shrough, on the Slievenamuck Ridge (immediately behind our cottage), and south of Tipperary Town, which dates to Neolithic times (c.4000–2400BC); with many prehistoric monuments, such as standing stones, surviving in upland areas on the slopes of the Knockmealdown and the Galtee mountain ranges. In the western part of the county, around Emly (where we lived before moving to the Glen) and Lattin, there is a dense concentration of barrows, earth-built burial monuments from the Bronze and Iron Ages (c.2400BC–AD400).

In legendary terms, the Fort of the Three Pillars, located, like most Irish passage tombs is on a hilltop site, near Galbally on Duntryleague Hill - the westerly end of Slievenamuck Ridge. This great megalith is said to be the grave of Olill Olum, one of the early Kings of Munster. The name Duntryleague is derived from Dún-Trí-Liag, meaning the ‘fort of three pillar stones’, and Diarmuid and Gráinne are also said to have rested there in their flight from the angry Fionn MacCumhaill.  A path through the forest leads to this amazing burial ground where one enormous rock slab rests across a number of upright stones.

But before you respond that this ‘creative stimulus’ is merely wishful thinking on the part of the writer, I would have to add that I experienced similar literary outpourings when living in my homeland of Wales, near the Preseli Mountains.  These hills are also dotted with prehistoric remains, including evidence of Neolithic settlement, and in 1923 the bluestone from the hills was identified with that used to build the inner circle of Stonehenge. Archaeologists have since pinpointed the precise place from where the bluestones were removed in about 2500BC - a small crag-edged enclosure at one of the highest points of the 1,008ft high Carn Menyn mountain. The stones were then moved 240 miles to the famous site at Salisbury Plain. This discovery came a year after scientists proved that the remains of a ‘band of brothers’ found near Stonehenge were Welshmen who transported the stones. The skeletons were found by workmen laying a pipe on Boscombe Down and chemical analysis of their teeth revealed they were brought up in South West Wales. Experts believed the family accompanied the stones on their epic journey from the Preseli Hills to Salisbury Plain.
By contrast, the time between living in Wales and Ireland, was spent in the flat, reclaimed lands of Suffolk and rural Leicestershire, and produced hardly anything at all of a creative nature.  To get any form of inspiration it was necessary to take the dog for a long walk to a spot that proved itself to be particularly strong on magical/creative energies, and that was the granite outcrop at Markfield (Charwood Forest in Leicestershire) that rises up from the Midlands clay plain. These rocks are more closely comparable with those of many parts of Wales and represent some of the oldest known anywhere in England.  

On the western side of this central plain, the magical Malvern Hills are also unlike any other outcrop in England and Wales, and may represent a slice of pre-Cambrian base-rock, which is only found at the surface in north-west Scotland.  Weekends spent in the Malverns also produced a surge of creative energy that quickly diminished after returning home on the plain.  The Suffolk sojourn produced absolutely nothing at all, to the point of atrophy.

·         Once you have located what appears be a suitable site, try to pinpoint your own personal energy spot by using a pendulum that contains an element of quartz. Dowse the site thoroughly and calculate where the energy is the strongest from the pendulum’s reaction.

·         If a location seems unsuitable for magical or inspirational working, then a short journey might make all the difference. For example: the short distance between the clay plain levels at Charnwood, and the granite outcrop was only a daily dog’s walk away from each other.

The surrounding landscape does influence the way magical and creative workings come to fruition, and also the amount of effort needed to be put into the ritual or writing project to bring about the desired effect. By understanding what lies beneath our feet will enhance our magical and creative ability, especially if we can learn to plug-in to the natural energy of the place.

Magic Crystals, Sacred Stones by Melusine Draco is published by Axis Mundi Books ISBN: 978-1-78099-137-5  £11.99 : 186pp

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A new lease of life for the MD blog ...

As from 1st January 2016 I will be using the blog to post longer, regular feature articles on Craft magic that are too long to fit comfortably on the Facebook page - including extracts from my books and articles by other members of Coven of the Scales.  We also have related pages for Traditional Witchcraft, Temple of Khem, Grumpy Old Pagans and Coven of the Sales - USA, so plenty of Old Craft stuff to inform, instruct and amuse.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Debut novel now out!

Received the proof copy of House of Strange Gods: The Temple House Archive I, this morning and delighted with it.  This is a new departure via a new publishing company as well as the e-book being available on Amazon ...

"The Temple House was founded in 1586 in England  during the reign of Elizabeth I as an off-shoot of Sir Francis Walsingham’s recently created intelligence service, inaugurated to investigate the growing popularity of esoteric learning that was occupying the interests of the Elizabethan intelligentsia. For this he recruited the descendants of the Knights Templar who had remained in England following the destruction of their Order. The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon (Pauperes commilitones Christi Templique Salomonici), or more commonly known as the Knights Templar, were formed in 1118 and ‘destroyed’ in 1307 by royal decree when King Philip of France moved to have all Templars arrested and their assets seized. 

     The Order has remained surrounded by myth and legend ever since - from searching and reputedly finding the Holy Grail; the Ark of the Covenant; sacred Gnostic texts even more dangerous than those found by the Dead Sea, or at Nag Hammadi in Egypt; to the timely disappearance of their naval fleet from La Rochelle and their treasure from the Paris Temple. Drawing on this veritable mine of esoteric knowledge and experience of international intrigue, the Temple House was established to combat ‘evil forces’ of a human or supernatural agency, and those who would use occult power for destructive purposes. 

     The current members of the Temple House, or ‘the Nine’ as they are referred to in memory of the original nine founder members of the Order, are all specialists and magical practitioners in the diverse fields of occultism and its relevant histories. When journalist Michael Gilmour discovered a small filler in a tabloid newspaper about the ‘witch busters’ of Temple House, he believed they were the right people to help him discover the reason behind his father’s disappearance back in the 1970's following an investigation into the desecration of a rural church.  What he discovered was even stranger than anything he could ever have imagined in his wildest flights of imagination, which almost results in his own death in an act of premature burial from which he is rescued in the nick of time."

Copies will shortly be available direct from  ; ISBN 978 1 78510 639 2 or from amazon.Kindle at a special introductory offer of .99p for one week only from 16th April 2015.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Feed the Birds

Feed the birds ...
Yes I know it costs more than two-pence a bag but I was rather surprised by a recent article in a country publication which stated: “After a break, I’m back feeding the garden birds and they are costing a fortune to keep.  I had given up on them as the cheeky crows and magpies developed all sorts of strategies to empty the feeders ...”  My first thought was: move the b.....y feeders, then!  But the reaction went much deeper than that.

This was an alleged country person writing who’d stopped feeding the birds during a bitterly cold snap when they are most reliant upon us for food!  Also with the climate on the blink, there aren’t the insects about in early spring when birds are feeding their young, so they might need a helping hand at that time too.   As any pagan worth their salt knows, the crow family are our messengers from Otherworld and a few handfuls of corn for the bigger birds should be looked upon as an offering rather than begrudged.  My magpies are as fat as ‘butter-ball’ turkeys and provide  hours of amusement watching their attempts at raiding the feeders, so they deserve a hand-out as well.  Not to mention the community of noisy starlings who roost in the cypress outside the bedroom window ... and the family of pheasants screaming at one another ...

I agree it’s good to see the robin and the wren in the garden but the big boys need a helping hand sometimes, too!