Monday, October 10, 2016

A new facebook page



I've recently installed a new Facebook page - NAQADA - ToK Egyptian Mystery Tradition - aimed at those who are more interested in learning about the more magical and mystical elements of ancient Egypt.  Find us at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/671349789681551/

Sunday, September 4, 2016

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

THE SACRED PLACES


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

EXTRACT FROM TRADITIONAL WITCHCRAFT FOR THE SEASHORE

TRY BEFORE YOU BUY




Colour correspondences

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.



An Introduction to The Secret People





The Secret People: Parish-pump witchcraft, Wise-women and Cunning-Ways
Melusine Draco

“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.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Book News continues ...

Just been notified that The Secret People: Parish-pump witchcraft, wise-women and cunning ways will be released 30th September, so watch this space.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Latest book news ...

There are now two new books in the pipeline for Moon Books - The Secret People: Parish-pump witchcraft, wise women and cunning ways and Pan: Dark Lord of the Forest and both due out later this year.  Will keep you posted ...

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

TRY BEFORE YOU BUY ...


EXTRACT FROM TRADITIONAL WITCHCRAFT FOR FIELDS AND HEDGEROWS

Pathworking Exercise

Within traditional witchcraft one of the most potent times for magical or meditational working is at dawn and dusk. As we have seen, of particular interest to the witch are the boulders, trees and streams that serve to denote the limits of land ownership, and often supplemented by man-made markers,
including banks, ditches, walls, double-hedges and tracks. These boundaries mark the magical division between time and place — the place of time between times, and it is here we will attempt our next exercise. Gone are the days when we could roam the countryside at any time of the day, or we may not have physical access, so we can perform this psychic exercise in the safety of the home.

Firstly, we need to visualise a ‘field margin’ that we can recreate on the astral at any time. It may be a favourite spot a where the field is flanked by a stream; a large boulder in the over-grown margin, moved to its present location by glaciers in the last Ice Age; or the green cave of a double hedge. Our picture book will provide us with images that can focus the mind’s eye like a camera lens as we stand at the edge of a wood, looking out to where mist still lingers over the stubble field; an avenue of beech trees; or a winding cart track between tall banks of wild flowers. This is our ‘jumping off’ point where we can visualise ourselves before embarking on a pathworking.

Pathworking is an astral journey for the purpose of magical/mystical instruction whereby the witch has no control over the outcome or sequence of events. This state is usually reached via visualisation where the witch sets the scene on a conscious level and then allows herself to be drawn into an involuntary journey of discovery and/or revelation. So … at dusk or dawn, make yourself comfortable and set up your Circle according to your own working method, and begin by visualising your chosen ‘field margin’. Concentrate on the images before you and allow yourself to be drawn into the scene …

No one can predict the results of a pathworking, or where the journey will lead, since each individual’s results will be different. Much depends, however, on what we have in our mind prior to the pathworking, and this will influence the direction or outcome. Since we are using the technique in search of magical or mystical instruction, it should not be used for a personal gratification or mere thrill seeking. Remember to ensure you are properly ‘earthed’ when returning from any pathworking by consuming sweet biscuits and a warm drink, since nothing dispels psychic energy like food!

Traditional Witchcraft for Fields And Hedgerows is published by Moon Books
www.moon-books.net



Thursday, March 24, 2016

SYNESTHESIA – by Alex Bay



I am a synesthetic dancer and performer (and Witch). My synaesthesia is that I can `see` music. As clear as day. As different coloured shapes that are full of motion. The deep brown/black round heavy shape of a bass drum,comes into vision as I hear the sound. Then fades away at the same time that the sound stops. The ticks of a high-hat look like white and black quick lines, like a hair clip. Of course, leaving behind any personal experiences you have had with a certain sound, which may effect how you feel about it. We can talk about sound in a synesthetic way.

Everyone knows that repetitive beats that are low, keep you grounded but out of your normal self enough to do the work. Mix grounded low bass with some evocative sound for male energy work (think Wardruna, maybe?).  Whereas flowy, soft, pan pipe sounds can evoke the feminine. Personally I like my Feminine a bit wilder and stronger than a pan pipe. But we're all different.

So, we know that deep, earthy sounds are grounding. Obvious, yes? Grounding to just you? Or do they affect the energy of your working space also? If you are after a highly energetic group working, that involves fast movement and a culmination of a super fast, arms raised blast off. Then probably best not to include any grounded noises at all. You may be able to work with it, or even against it, but your fighting every single atom of energy that has been made heavy and thick by that drum bang.  I can see why Wiccans use a bell (light, high vibrating sound and energy), and why Yogi's use a Singing Bowl (still high energy but so smooth and grounding. Also constant, like meditation). What kind of worker are you? What is your aim for your practise?

I teach dance also, and one of my current classes is a very evocative, deep and sensual practise. The music of which is crucial for the class energy to go smoothly. I see this `line` that has to stay throughout the class as a temper, texture and also a power to it. The music has to have this is in common.

Synesthesia not only counts for music, its the way for all sounds for me. Your voice will have a texture colour and shape. (Something to try with your loved ones; talk to each other, see what you see). You don’t have to have synesthesia to figure out what you need. Although I do believe it can be brought on through attention and practice. And it's going to be different for everyone. Choose the next Solstice/ Equinox. What colour and shape is to YOU. Write down those words. Now what sounds/music corresponds with those words to you? If you have been taught that Beltane is blue and Samhain is Purple then that may be hard to shake off.

The planets have their designated colours, and so do Elements and quarters. As for your personal symbols you need around you to cross the ditch, they have to be personal to you and your environment. To some, Lust is a powerful red, and pulsing, and deep. To others it is gold, like honey. Shimmery. To some, Lust can be a forest green, natural, fertile. You can choose music and scent to accompany how you `see` your aim in your working. If you can `see` your music. And it's not that hard to, once you start listening.

So, we have briefly, without going all quantum, covered that sounds may effect the energy of your working space as well as you. We have covered how to start seeing what you hear (voices I find are best to start working with, then music, then birdsong). Once you find music easy to see, move onto water. What colour, texture and shape is Wind? (That one is a toughie. Sometimes Wind is silent as it thuggishly pushes you down the street.).

Lastly, try shouting out and `seeing` your own voice. This will, funnily enough, be hardest to see, as your emotional state and also confidence may hinder you. You will feel, rather than hear. I am currently sitting by my fire, and feel very silly and embarrassed about shouting out for no reason. And all those colours and textures of my embarrassed voice will come through. Which is a hindrance.

But, if I were to work on, practice and decide on a neutral noise, than I could use. As a comparative, to the noises around me, or even the thickness of the stillness. It would be a great tool to use to sense the energy your surrounding area. Find your neutral noise, practise until it is consistent , see how it `looks` in different locations. Try not to choose something that will draw attention in the Wood at night. For obvious reasons. If you work indoors, something quick that will bounce off the walls will give the most information. If you really wish to increase this sensitivity skill, study kinaesthetic spatial awareness. By way of movement. Primal movement classes are very `in` and easy to find these days. Work with your body and your space, so you can `work` with your body and your space. `




ABOUT ALEX BAY
Alex is a open field and hedgerow kinda gal, and has been working with her local fauna since the late 90`s. She likes to give a wide birth to birds that she passes in the street so as not to interrupt them, but will always interrupt your conversation to reply to your pet

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

GREEN CARNATION


An extract taken from ‘Coven Working: How To Join or Set Up a Working Coven’ (Kindle edition) by Carrie West and Philip Wright.



Initially, it may seem strange that ‘straight’ magical partners are writing on the subject of gay magical practices in the context of general coven working, but on closer examination this is not as odd as it would first appear.  We always try to adopt an approach that is integrated, non-judgemental and avoids the overtones of justification that often accompany the majority of gay and lesbian writing, while still managing to examine gay magical energies from a purely practical and functional perspective.  It is quite difficult keeping all the balls in the air  (if you’ll excuse the expression) but it is also possible to integrate gay members into a mixed coven with the minimum amount of fuss, if folk are of a mind to do so.
     As experienced practitioners, we have operated successful teaching groups for many years that have included men and women of all sexual persuasions without exclusion or bias.  During that time we have, of course, encountered problems and prejudices on both sides of the ‘gay divide’ and would say right from the start, that the refusal to welcome gays into a predominantly straight groups says more about the coven leader’s personal prejudices than it does about their magical teaching capabilities. There are a number of difficulties and misunderstandings that do arise with regard to gay and lesbian magical practice within Craft, but hopefully our ‘four-penny worth’ of advice will help to reassure both gay pagans and those straight pagans who claim (quite wrongly) that gays have no place in a modern coven.

Firstly: An individual’s sexuality is an extremely personal and intimate thing.  Our sexual preferences are our own affair and not something that is up for open discussion – especially if our inclusion or exclusion from a group may be dependent upon it.  In fact, all over the world there are thousands of ‘straight’ magical groups, covens, orders and organisations operating with members who, unbeknown to the majority, are gay. This secrecy usually stems from the homophobic attitude still prevalent within Western society and the mercurial reaction with which so-called friends can respond once the truth is out in the open.  It’s not just in Craft that we hear the words: ‘I quite liked him/her until I found out s/he was gay!’ as if the person referred to was guilty of some heinous crime, or had some highly contagious disease.
     Subsequently we now have a gay and lesbian community inside the wider pagan community because they feel the need for a separate identity.  The result may have created a new pagan club-culture but it does nothing to solve the magical problems that arise from same-sex covens.  This schism was widened a few years ago when a leading pagan journal openly announced that homosexuals could not be witches.  It was a stance that the late Bob Clay-Egerton was quick to question in What You Call Time:
     “When I first commenced my studies in the days of illegal witchcraft, I was taught before my initiation that anyone who commenced the practice of Craft in sincerity, formal initiate or not, was a witch.  This would imply that a homosexual can be a witch.  The homosexual, or trans-sexual will probably find major obstacles put in their path if attempting to join a coven and may find it easier to find acceptance among magicians than they will among witches.
     “Sexuality, to my mind, is not a physical but a mental and instinctual thing.  The problem is not in the mind of the trans- or homosexual pagan but in the early conditioning by socio-religious mores of pagans not yet sufficiently advanced to be able to stand apart and look with the eye – not of morality and sexuality – but with the eye of spirituality … I wonder if we all, male and female, do not have quite a bit of both sexes in our individual makeup.  I do know personally of one High Priestess who, from firsthand experience of working with homosexual and heterosexual members, is prepared to consider such applications for admittance into the Craft based on ability rather than gender.”
     Successful magical equilibrium, requires that everyone takes into account the dual masculine-feminine energy that is contained within us all.  Those whose magical training has only been at a superficial level often have difficulty in looking at this aspect of god-power beyond the concept of god/goddess and man/woman. This is usually due to the ‘fertility’ aspect of most modern earth-based spiritualities not being able to see much further than the traditional gender roles and the fertility of the god/goddess in terms of Nature and procreation. 

Secondly:  We need to examine the viewpoints of gay pagans – and for this we are extremely grateful to the former editor of Hoblink for allowing us access to the magazine’s archive, which gives gay pagans the opportunity to speak for themselves.  One letter struck a very positive cord, which may also cause a large number of straight pagans to think quite carefully.
     “A few years ago, a couple of friends and I formed a gay coven. We had all met through a larger mixed group, but the formation of a specifically gay group aroused considerable opposition from the more traditionally-minded elements of the Craft.  They really needn’t have worried.  Firstly, the group included a number of individuals who left when it became clear that they weren’t likely to achieve their own ends.  Secondly, and far more importantly, the group failed because it did not have a central myth around which to build the group’s identity, or to focus group-work.
     “That experience left quite a deep impression on me and so for the last few years I have worked solo.  However, I believe that the same dilemma still faces almost all gay men who become involved with the neo-pagan groups. Whether the same problem confronts lesbians, I don’t know …  Sadly, one sees so many groups today that attempt to revive ancient religious ‘mysteries’ that don’t have any relevance to the lives of their members. In the end they become fancy dress parties, performing sometimes charming, but utterly meaningless rituals.
     “I say this because I believe the danger of gay men falling into this trap is very real.  Once again, I can only speak from my own experience, and I know only too well that I find it very difficult to relate to a culture dominated by heterosexual values.  But I also know that I am not alone in this.  My personal belief is that gay men are physically and psychologically different from straight men.  Moreover, we have our own distinctive patterns of behaviour and our own cultural values (however shallow some may appear!).  They do not always sit well with the accepted values of conventional society, hence the charge of moral turpitude so  often levelled against us …”
     Our reaction on reading this particular piece, was how tragic that such a magically perceptive young man had been forced to work solitary when his concept of magical energy was probably more heightened than most straight pagans (both male and female) we’ve encountered.  This latter point was driven home by the claim in a subsequent issue, that magical energy didn’t ‘give a monkey’s who it is flowing from and to as long as those people are in tune and have ‘perfect love and trust’ for each other’.  Sorry … but yes it does.  Just like the positive, negative and earthing wires in an electric plug need to be chanelled correctly, or you run the risk of short-circuiting the whole house!
     One young man who applied to join our coven, bit the bullet and admitted right from the start that he was gay. This wasn’t bravery, he simply didn’t want to waste time attempting to integrate with a group of people who may possibly reject him if, and when, his sexuality became common knowledge.   For us this wasn’t a problem.  Over the years we’ve worked with every permutation of sexual persuasion including hetero- and homosexual, lesbian, bi-sexual, transsexuals and transvestites and each one has been a magical challenge – for us, as well as our students.  
     At the moment, within the coven we just happen to have a transsexual, a bi-sexual and two homosexuals – and each one requires a different perspective on their own particular approach to magic.  Don’t think for one moment that we get it right every time – we don’t – but at least we’re willing to give it our best shot!  Our way is to treat each person as an individual, and get them to operate initially within the Circle as normal men and women, and to forget about the subtle nuances that make them different from the ‘straight’ members of the coven.  
     What we have found is that ‘straight’ people are frightened of homosexuality, simply because it makes ’em nervous.  A man may normally engage in physical contact in the form of back-slapping but if the  recipient was known  to be gay,  he would immediately refrain from any bodily contact in case he was: a) thought to be making sexual overtures, or b) any onlookers might assume him to be gay.  We also know that people always fear what they don’t understand, and the thought of joining in The Mill, holding hands with a homosexual, would probably give most heterosexual males a fit of the vapours!  Women tend to be less paranoid, but there are still a large number who would it offensive if they found a gay man in their group.  Lesbians, on the other hand, tend to excite prurient curiosity rather than revulsion.
     In the beginning we found ourselves having to combat members’ stereotypical attitudes that gay men were automatically ‘pansies’ (to coin an old-fashioned phrase), i.e. the limp-wristed, girlie types caricatured by stand-up comedians.  One of our gay lads is a six-footer, built like a brick lavatory and works as a scaffolder, balancing precariously hundreds of feet above the City pavements – anyone want to call him Alice!!?  The other is a stockbroker, with a beautiful home and a partner with whom he’s lived for the past 15 years, and without any outward sign that he happens to be gay. 
     Contrary to popular belief, not all gay men are hairdressers or in the least bit ineffectual, and on a superficially magical level, there’s nothing different about them at all.  For group working they participate in just the same way as any straight man.  Similarly, the first year of study is identical for anyone joining the coven, regardless of gender.  This doesn’t mean that we blithely carry on as if there were no differences at all, but because of the way individuals respond to the set selection of tasks and magical exercises – again regardless of gender – we are able to gauge the direction their magical leanings will take.  And it is on this level that the magical dissimilarities of the individual will manifest.   It is not unusual, for example, for a perfectly normal, ordinary woman to exhibit decided masculine traits on a magical level, but this does not mean that she has any latent lesbian tendencies!
     As the young man pointed out earlier in this chapter, gay culture does have its own distinctive patterns of behaviour and values, and it is not until we get onto the next level of magical practice that any real problems may arise.  Contemporary paganism has become imbalanced, inasmuch as the Goddess is all, and we can see where gay men would have a problem sublimating a female ‘fertility’ image.  As he also pointed out, gay culture does not have a ‘central myth’ around which to build an image for the purposes of belief/worship, and this can play havoc within group work in terms of coven harmony and equilibrium.  This is why Bob Clay-Egerton suggested that ritual magic might be a more appropriate Path … we would add that shamanism is also an area where gay men can come into their own ... as it were.
     For these reasons, it is not possible to offer any off-the-cuff, quick-fix solutions about the correct way to integrate gay men (or lesbians) into a predominantly straight group, since much depends on their own personal magical energies and how they handle them.  An experienced magical practitioner will have little difficulty in analysing the best way to proceed with a programme of learning, but those with little or no true magical ability may cause more harm than good, both on the personal and psychic levels.   Again, we can only reiterate that the refusal to welcome gays into a predominantly straight group, says more about the coven leader’s personal prejudices than it does about their magical teaching capabilities.
     Trans-sexuals, on the other hand, can have even the most experienced practitioner scratching their head.  During the period of change (both chemically and surgically), a trans-sexual’s body and mind has a lot to cope with on the physical, never mind trying to experiment with altered states of consciousness while being pumped full of hormones! From personal experience, we would say that it would be inadvisable for anyone undergoing a sex-change to indulge in any deeper levels of psychic or magical working until all the ‘i’s’ have been dotted and the ‘t’s’ crossed.  Magic can be dangerous and this is one of those areas where even experienced practitioners can get it wrong, so keep things on a superficial level until there are distinctly recognisable energies to channel.
     The bi-sexual girl in our group, doesn’t have any problems with magical identification, simply because she is a pretty, feminine creature, who merely enjoys sex with both male and female lovers.  What she does bring to the coven is a happy, relaxed attitude to sexuality, which results in a lot of good-natured banter between everyone, without anyone feeling threatened or uncomfortable. And laughter is the key to solving most problems within any group, magical or not.


When It Goes Wrong
The main problem (apart from unavoidable personal prejudices) cited by people who become irritated by the gay issue, appears to stem from psuedo-historical arguments concerning various different cultural views on homosexuality to present cases for and against, totally disregarding the fact that witchcraft, paganism and homosexuality have all been classed as social aberrance by the Church in its time.  Anyone doubting this should spend some time reading the non-pagan Sex, Dissidence & Damnation by Jeffrey Richards, former Professor of Cultural History at the University of Lancaster. Also citing the historical evidence of homosexual relations in Sparta, and feudal Japan, or claiming every well-known historical figure had homosexual tendencies, does nothing to validate the recognition of gay men and women in Craft.
     The ‘real’ problem, however, has nothing to do with an individual’s sexuality and everything to do with the personalities involved.   As one coven leader of our acquaintance exclaimed:  “I couldn’t care less which side of the divide people come from, providing they behave like civilised human beings.  I recently had to boot one chap out, simply because he was a thoroughly unpleasant character and was hell-bent on disrupting the group at every turn.  He started screaming that we were homophobic, and couldn’t get it through his thick head that he was being chucked out because he was an objectionable little shit!  The fact that he was gay didn’t enter into the equation.”
     Of course, the problem of homophobia is not going to go away and for anyone who is gay and who wishes to join a group, we would say keep your personal life under wraps until you’ve sussed out the magical capabilities of those running the coven.  With the best will in the world, we cannot force folk into welcoming others into what is, to all intents and purposes, a private group.  If the magical group dynamics are going to work, then it will only do so if all the participants are comfortable with each other and in harmony with their magical energies.

      Those operating covens and other groups should again be honest with themselves about their policy over admitting gays.  If you are operating a purely devotional group, as opposed to a magical one, then ‘gay’ energies will make very little difference to your festivals and celebrations.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

EXTRACT FROM TRADITIONAL WITCHCRAFT FOR URBAN LIVING


From:
Chapter One – A Pagan Perspective

If much of today’s pagan propaganda is to be believed, anyone who doesn’t live a stone’s throw from, or have regular access to the rural heartlands of England, is hardly qualified to call themselves ‘pagan’. And if the unfortunate town-dweller can’t be found at weekends rooting about in country hedgerows, then ‘witch’ is also a label to which they apparently have no right!

Tosh, tosh! And thrice tosh!

Yes, of course, we can haul out the old chestnut of ‘pagan’ deriving from the Latin pagus, which properly means ‘belonging to a village’ but it was used in a derogative sense, just as contemporary town dwellers might refer to country folk as ‘swede bashers’ or ‘carrot crunchers’. Long after the Christian Church was first established in the cities and towns (centres of learning), what they saw as idolatrous practices continued to be observed in rural districts and villages, so ‘pagan’ and ‘villager’ came to mean the same thing. Similarly, the word ‘heathen’ (from the Anglo-Saxon hathen, hath) referred to a ‘dweller on a heath or common’. Christian doctrine would not have reached these remote people until long after it had integrated town and city, and in both cases, ‘pagan’ and ‘heathen’ implied a lack of worldliness, sophistication and learning. It was intended as an insult.

In contemporary society, ‘pagan’ is now the accepted umbrella term for those who follow any eclectic, reconstructionalist doctrines of pre-Christian beliefs, while ‘heathen’ tends to refer more specifically to those of the revivalist Norse traditions. Ironically, the vast majority of followers of both traditions live in towns and cities. And let’s face it, people live in urban communities for a variety of reasons: the most common being the close proximity to work and/or family.

For the witch whose career confines them to an urbanised environment, regular Craft practice may often seem like a futile gesture, especially if home is a small, gardenless-flat. Even the suburbs can be magically incapacitating, if there is constant noise from traffic and neighbours. People work long hours; often setting off for work and getting home again in the dark during the winter months, without having the opportunity to notice the subtle changing of the seasons. Weekends are a constant battle with family commitments, domestic chores and socialising. It’s no wonder that the urban witch has little time or strength left for magical and spiritual development.

There are, of course, others who find themselves having to remain town and house-bound because of age or disability; because they are caring for an aged/infirm parent, or partner; or because they have small children. Urbanisation often provides on-the-spot facilities to make things easier on the domestic front but it cannot give the one thing that a witch needs most – privacy and spiritual elbow-room.

So how do we manage?
We get up close and personal. And we reject the textbook clichés of what is, and what is not, recommended witchcraft practice. We do not follow stereotyping when it comes to when, where and how we perform our rituals simply because it may not be practically possible to follow the instructions to the letter.

For example: I am a Welsh witch and I come from a place midway between the mountains and the sea, but I have not lived in my homeland now for many years. It would be untrue to say that I never experience what the Welsh call hiraethus, that indescribable feeling of longing and home-sickness, but as we all know, in magical terms there is always a price to be paid for our Craft. During those long years, my career and domestic life has taken me to London (where I lived for 20 years), to the industrial Midlands and, more recently, to a totally urbanised area of East Anglia. Not once, in all that time did I have the luxury of wild, open spaces – it was all concrete and asphalt. But not once, in all that time, did I stop being a real witch.

In my experience, the greatest problem a solitary urban witch faces is that an urban environment is not user-friendly when it comes to psychic activity, but then we don’t always have a choice of where we are going to live if someone else’s needs have to be catered for, too. Mostly I have been confined to renting small terraced cottages and flats, often with little or no garden to give that extra bit of space. I make this comment merely to demonstrate that my Craft activities have not been conducted in a round of luxurious city apartments and picturesque Grade II listed town houses!

Under these circumstances, for me the key words have always been: acclimatise, adapt and improvise. Any animal, plant or person that is uprooted and transported to another environment quickly learns to acclimatise if it is going to survive. I have adapted to my surroundings and drawn on whatever material/energy there is to hand, even if it is not what I’ve been used to working with. I improvise by drawing on existing knowledge and experience. So …

Acclimatise:
Accustom yourself to tuning-in to your environment, even if you’ve lived there for some time. Try to imagine visiting the place for the first time. Buy a detailed street map or guidebook, and familiarise yourself with all the hidden nooks and crannies in the immediate vicinity. Is there a park nearby? Public gardens? Churchyard? Cemetery? What trees are growing locally? Which are the most important/attractive buildings? Where is the nearest river or canal? Where is the oldest church? Take your time … explore … rediscover acclimatise.

Adapt:
Modify or adjust the way you look at things. There is no point in wishing you were elsewhere when circumstances dictate that you remain where you are. But on the other hand there’s nothing quite so mind-numbing as doing the same thing, day in day out, for weeks on end. For a change, try walking to the shops, school, or travelling to work, via a different route. Examine what’s growing in all the front gardens along the way to the shop, school, station or bus stop. Make sure you take time out for lunch - and get out of the home or working environment for an hour - even if it’s a wet Wednesday afternoon: after all, a witch shouldn’t
be afraid of a little drop of Elemental Water! Start seriously interacting with your environment … adapt.

Improvise:
Be prepared to perform a magical working at any time, without preparation, and without what is considered to be the ‘proper regalia’. Be aware of the magical signs Nature has to offer and be ready to act spontaneously, even in the middle of a crowded railway station or shopping mall during rush hour! It may also come as a bit of a shock to realise that a large number of books mentioned in this text are not about witchcraft, or written by witches. This is because we are learning to improvise and look at things from a different or unexpected perspective.


Before we go out and meet Nature face to face, however, there may be one or two changes needed to enable us to re-connect with the natural, elemental energies that are an essential ingredient within any magical environment. Sorry … we’re not talking about symbolic bowls of water, salt, night-lights and a joss stick to mark the quarters on the sitting room rug, we’re talking about encountering real Elemental Air, real Elemental Water, real Elemental Earth and real Elemental Fire - up close and personal! ...

Friday, February 19, 2016

EXTRACT FROM BY SPELLBOOK & CANDLE:


Cursing, hexing, bottling and binding


A witch’s ability to curse was exploited to the full by Church and Inquisition alike. ‘Cursers are murderers,’ wrote Richard Kilby in The Burthen of a Loaden Conscience [1616], ‘for if it please God to suffer their curse to take effect, the party cursed is murdered by the Devil.’ Although it was not invariably suspected that diabolical aid had been put to such use, many of those hauled up before the authorities to answer accusations of ‘cursing’ were ordinary Christian men and women.

A reputation for ‘successful cursing’ could easily lead to a formal charge of witchcraft, as in the case of 14-year-old Mary Glover. In 1602 the maid reported that one Elizabeth Jackson, having been turned away from the door, had wished ‘an evil death to light upon her’. The girl died and at the trial much was made of Jackson’s threats – ‘the notable property of a witch’. Another instance of successful cursing was that of old Cherrie of Thrapston in Northamptonshire, who died in gaol in 1646 while awaiting trial as a witch. He had wished that his neighbour’s tongue might rot off … and it did!

According to Religion and the Decline of Magic, this was to become the stock pattern of witchcraft accusations: ‘When a bad tongued woman shall curse a party, and death shall shortly follow, this is a shrewd token that she is a witch.’ Author Keith Thomas observes that it was ironic such presumptions should have been made so readily, in that if the curser had been provoked, it is hard to understand why contemporaries should have been so reluctant to see the outcome as divine judgement. ‘The notion that God might avenge the poor by responding to their supplications was one which the Church, like society as a whole, seems to have been unwilling to face …’ or cursing being seen as a means by which the defenceless tried to avenge themselves upon their enemies when the normal channels of legal action had been denied them.

Thomas warns it would be wrong to suggest all persons accused of witchcraft had malevolent thoughts about their neighbours, but it was the witch’s ‘traditional malignity’ that rendered the charges plausible within the community. That was why some of the most powerful minds of the 17th century believed in punishing so-called witches, even though sceptical as to their actual powers. In other words, even if the accused wasn’t capable of directing a successful curse, the mere token of the action itself was a declaration of malice towards another, and the witchcraft statues could be justified as a method of repressing malevolent feelings. But as one contemporary historian observed: ‘If mere ill-will was to be punished then men would be driven to the slaughter-house in thousands.’

Because of the low social station of many of those accused, modern researchers are also loath to believe witches of the time could exploit the psychological effects of a carefully placed curse. That said, cases recorded by anthropologists are of those of the Australian Aboriginal people, who do not have a formal training in psychology either! Neither do the Azande of Africa, who had been used as academic references for witchcraft for years.

Curses have been ‘thrown’ for the protection of homes, treasures, tombs and grave sites … the latter often remaining active for years. There are also records of curses being laid upon families, which have plagued them for generations – the Templar’s curse reaching down through the ages to the death of Louis XVI on the guillotine. These were instruments of revenge or protection, and not placed by practitioners of witchcraft. The longest Christian curse is the one placed by God on
Adam and Eve when they were expelled from the Garden of Eden. While the solemn ritual of cursing that dates from the Middle Ages is excommunication; the Catholic Encyclopaedia describes the outcast as being ‘considered as an exile from Christian society and as non-existent … in the sight of ecclesiastical authority’. The Church basing its right to curse on Mathew 18.18 where Jesus tells his disciples that ‘whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven’.

The Old Testament’s ‘catalogue of maledictions’ were so drastic that the Jewish congregations were frightened of hearing them read, in case they brought the curses down upon the listeners. These curses of Hebrew origin were the predecessors of the Christian rite of excommunication, more popularly known as ‘Bell, Book and Candle’. Here the officiating cleric closes the book from which he has read the curse, a bell is tolled as for a dead man, and candles are extinguished as a sign that the soul of the offender has been moved from the sight of God. Even in the original version of the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer there is a relic from earlier times, a service called a commination, or ‘denouncing of God’s anger and judgement against sinners’, which recalled some of the curses from the Old Testament. The medieval church laid this heavy imprecation on the heads of its excommunicated sinners:

Let him be damned in his going out and coming in.
The Lord strike him with madness and blindness.
May the heavens empty upon him thunderbolts
and the wrath of the Omnipotent burn itself unto
him in the present and future world. May the
Universe light against him and the earth open
to swallow him up.
[Pope Clement VI 1478-1534]

Perhaps one of the most well-known of ancient curses is that connected to the Egyptian boy-king, Tutankhamun, and placed at the time of his burial by the priesthood to protect the tomb of the young Pharaoh:

May death come on swift wings to him who
disturbs the rest of the Pharaoh.

The world’s press faithfully recorded the ‘untimely’ deaths of several members of the archaeological team involved in the 1922 excavation and the legend of the ‘Curse’ was firmly established as fact.

Nearer to our own times, the cursing well at Llanelian-yn-Rhos, near Colwyn Bay in Wales, was still doing a flourishing trade in the mid 19th century, and even the epitaph chosen by William Shakespeare for his own tomb was couched in the form of a curse:

Good friend, for Jesu’s sake forbear
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blest be the man that spares these stones
And curst be he that moves my bones.

In the esoteric encyclopaedia, Man, Myth & Magic, a curse is defined as the ‘product of inner tension … even though few of us any longer expect the curse to do physical damage to its victims’.
And while the author of The Encyclopaedia of Witches & Witchcraft, Rosemary Ellen Guiley, maintains that ‘contemporary witchcraft does not condone cursing’, the often-quoted piece by the late Evan John Jones, states quite categorically that one of the signs of a genuine witch is one who does have ‘the power to call, heal and curse’.

So, let us make no bones about it, cursing, or ill-wishing isn’t confined to witches, but when dealing with magic it is always advisable to have one or two tricks up our sleeves, as other folk may not be so reticent about demonstrating their magical prowess. We should also bear in mind a ‘price’ often exacted on those laying a curse, because if it should ‘misfire’, it will inevitably rebound on the sender. Think things through beforehand and do not fling a curse if a bottling or binding will do the trick.

This has nothing to do with the belief in the ‘Three-Fold Return’ – all magic must be ‘earthed’ in order for it to work, and if a spell hasn’t been correctly directed, it will return to the sender just like a boomerang – because it has nowhere else to go!


This WARNING must be borne in mind by any potential curser. No matter what the books may tell you about spells for lifting curses … there is no such thing. Once sent, a curse cannot be lifted, called back, withdrawn or negated. It can, however, be deflected and, if the cause is not just, can be rebounded on the sender, especially if another magical practitioner is involved.