Melusine Draco biography

This is the post excerpt.

This is the Blog for Melusine Draco, esoteric author (fact and fiction) and spiritual teacher; dog person and countrywoman; writer and creative writing tutor.  Hopefully, it will make life a lot easier in keeping in touch on social media about work in progress, new titles and books off the back-list.

Mélusine Draco is an Initiate of traditional British Old Craft and the Khemetic Mysteries.  Originally trained in the magical arts with Bob and Mériém Clay-Egerton’s Coven of the Scales, she has been a magical and spiritual instructor for over 20 years with both Coven of the Scales and the Temple of Khem, and writer of numerous popular books including Liber Ægyptius: the Book of Egyptian Magic; The Egyptian Book of Days; The Egyptian Book of Nights; Root & Branch; The Witch’s Treasury of the Countryside; The Thelemic Handbook; The Hollow Tree, an elementary guide to the Tarot and Qabalah and Starchild: a rediscovery of stellar wisdom. Her highly individualistic teaching methods and writing draws on ancient sources supported by academic texts and current archaeological findings.  She also has a soft spot for the writings of Aleister Crowley and will only use the term ‘magick’ when writing about Thelema and its associated practices; endorsing his view that magic is an amalgam of science and art, and that magic is the outer route to the inner Mysteries.

She now lives in Ireland near the Galtee Mountains and has several titles currently published with John Hunt Publishing including the Traditional Witchcraft series; two titles on totem animals – Aubry’s Dog and Black Horse, White Horse; By Spellbook & Candle: Hexing, Cursing, Bottling & Binding and By Wolfsbane and Mandrake Root: The Shadow World of Plants and Their Poisons; Pan: Dark Lord of the Forest and Horned God of the Witches published by Moon Books; in additional to Magic Crystals Sacred Stones and The Atum-Re Revival published by Axis Mundi Books.

Her series of esoteric novels – The Temple House Archive – has been published by Ignotus Press UK and is available in both paperback and e-book formats.  All books available on Amazon.  Her Ignotus Books non-fiction titles include: Root & Branch: British Magical Tree Lore; Starchild  I & II; The Calendar of Ancient Egypt: The Arte of Darkness: Magic & Mystery From the Shadows; Old Year, Old Calendar, Old Ways; Wort-Lore: the Craft of Witches and CRONE!

Web: www.covenofthescales.com and www.templeofkhem.com

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/melusine-draco.blog

“Mélusine Draco, as her name suggests, has long been plugged into the powerful currents of traditional witchcraft and ritual magic. She is one of the real ones. Her provocative series of Tradition Witchcraft will show you how to move between the inner and outer worlds. Follow along behind her if you dare …” Alan Richardson, author of numerous esoteric titles including Priestess and The Old Sod, biographies of Dion Fortune and W G Gray.

Contact: melusinedraco777@gmail.com



Where did the time go?  Missed out on April completely and here we are well into May with lots of rain forecast.   There garden was decimated as a result of my intended move but it’s almost back to normal with the grass freshly mowed and the gravel due for a top-up.  Vegetable beds have been planted … a lots of additional solar lights to brighten up the darkest nights.

The first draft of the Egyptian book is now complete, so I’ll be working on the best bit between now and September – including acquiring permissions and the relevant photographs.  Can’t remember when I last enjoyed creating a book more as I shoved everything else on the back burner and concentrated on ancient Egypt – and nothing else.  Impressed myself at the amount of material I’d squirreled away in the brain over the years!  Was like writing about old friends.

Must confess that I’ve missed the thrill of writing fiction as you never know where it’s going to take you.   Today’s journey begins with a real life volunteering to adopt Pearl – a little black lurcher who was saved from the pound and promptly gave birth to 11 puppies!   Made me recall that sad Elkie Brooks classic Pearl’s A Singer but this Pearl won’t have to think about how things might have been … she’ll have it made!  Can’t wait girlie.

Black dog syndrome or big black dog syndrome is a phenomenon in which black dogs are passed over for adoption in favour of lighter-coloured animals. Shelters often use the term BBD, or big black dog, to describe the type of larger dark-coloured mixed-breed said to be typically passed over by adopters.  Black cats are similarly reported to be subject to the same phenomenon.  The issue has been gaining media attention since the mid-2000s. Tamara Delaney, an early activist against black dog syndrome, developed a website called Black Pearl Dogs in 2004 specifically to address the issue, both by educating the public about its existing, as well as showcasing individual dogs available for adoption.  I’ve got myself a true Black Pearl …

There’s still a regular interest in the novels from TV Writers Vault and one day, perhaps, a production company will spot a promising candidate for a successful TV series!  In the meantime, I will be making a return foray into the typescripts for the fourth book of The Vampyre’s Tale, a modern gothic horror, and a sci-fi novel … MD

WRITER@WORK – March 2023

WRITER@WORK – March 2023

Although finding myself with a career change, a new publisher and reaching 76 years of age came as a bit of a surprise as I was expecting to slow down a bit.  According to the Mayo Clinic wrinkles and grey hair is to be expected, together with a stiffening of the blood vessels and arteries, causing the heart to work harder to pump blood through them. The heart muscles change to adjust to the increased workload; the heart rate at rest will stay about the same, but it won’t increase during activities as much as it used to. With age, bones tend to shrink in size and density, weakening them and making them more susceptible to fracture. Muscles generally lose strength, endurance and flexibility – factors that can affect our coordination, stability and balance.  What is even more depressing is the forecast pre-occupation with personal toilet habits!


Nevertheless, I’ve also landed the mini-job of events organiser for Society of Authors (Ireland) which means hosting/organising a quarterly discussion/talk for SoA members and maintaining a presence on the SoA (Ireland) Facebook page.  A small group started in 2022 and consisting of 23 members.  My debut meeting didn’t get off to a good start with only two members showing up but we’ll give it another go with a joint SoA/IWU meeting scheduled for Summer 2023.


House of Strange Gods

Real of Shadow

Hour Betwixt Dog & Wolfe

The Thirteenth Sign


FeedaRead : Ignotus Book UK: Fiction series and titles:

The Temple House Archive series – Melusine Draco
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. Drawing on a 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 called in memory of the nine founder members of the original Knights Templar, are all specialists and magical practitioners in the diverse fields of occultism and its relevant histories.
For more details see http://www.facebook.com/TempleHouseArchive
“A brilliant read. Love the writing. A real chiller-thriller. The author has all the skills needed to write a cracking good novel. She also has a vast occult knowledge that really shows and writes on the subject with ease. As usual with Melusine there is a subtle humorous element running through that works really well. Best of all there is a volume two underway. I think this would make a great TV series.” Maria Moloney, Axis Mundi Books
“A cracking read. An excellent story, the characters are three dimensional, the dialogue reads naturally and the pacing is fine. There is tension and plenty of conflict as well as some nice touches of humour. There is also a sense of truth that only someone who is familiar with the occult can provide in this genre.” Krystina Kellingley, Cosmic Egg Books
“A brilliant read and a walk into the world of the occult that is both fascinating and thrilling. Loved the historical undertones and the work of the ‘Nine’. Kept me gripped throughout. Can’t wait for number two!” Sarah-Beth Watkins : Bookworms
House of Strange Gods

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 1970s 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.
ISBN: 9781785106392 : Paperback : Pages 296 : €8.95
Also available in Kindle e-books.
Published: 26 February 2016
Order direct from: https://www.feedaread.com/books/House-of-Strange-Gods-9781785106392.aspx
Realm of Shadow
Led by charismatic Professors Aliona de Foresta and Robert Sands, the members of the Temple House embark on another series of paranormal investigations sparked off when a reality television presenter defiles the burial site of a Viking warrior – with deadly results.
ISBN: 9781786103628 : Paperback : Pages 282 : €8.95
Also available in Kindle e-books
Published: 26 May 2016
Order direct from https://www.feedaread.com/books/REALM-OF-SHADOW-9781786103628.aspx

Hour Betwixt Dog & Wolf
The ‘Hour Betwixt Dog and Wolf’ is taken from a French saying L’heure entre chien et loup and refers to the moments after sunset when the sky darkens and vision becomes unclear, making it difficult to distinguish between dogs and wolves, friends and foe, good from evil. When confronted by what appears to be creatures from the ancient race of dog-headed men, the Cynocephali, the Temple House embarks on one of its strangest cases to date.
ISBN: 9781786979063 : Paperback : Pages 256 : €8.95
Also available in Kindle e-books
Published: 27 July 2017
Order direct from https://www.feedaread.com/books/Hour-Betwixt-Dog-Wolf-9781786979063.aspx

The Thirteenth Sign

Theatre des Vampires without the cast,” said Jack glumly, referring to the fictitious location in the Boulevard du Temple of Vampire Chronicles fame. “Where’s the spine-tingling depravity of our home from home?” he added, raising his voice theatrically trying to instil a sense of horror into the proceedings.
      “For the benefit of the uninitiated” said Chrissie, “the Boulevard du Temple, as its name suggests, refers to the nearby Knights Templar’s stronghold where they established their Paris priory. After a time, it was nicknamed the ‘Boulevard du Crime’ after the crime melodramas that were so popular in its many theatres …” she added sarcastically.
      “So, where’s the violence, the murder and the suicide that’s dogged the family down through the ages. I want bodies hurtling from the roof … insanity …” Jack disclaimed dramatically like some old Shakespearean ham.
ISBN: 9781788766395 : Paperback : Pages 252 : €8.95
Also available in Kindle e-books
Published: 7 December 2018
Order direct from https://www.feedaread.com/books/The-Thirteenth-Sign-9781788766395.aspx


 Was it pure coincidence that the next case load on the Temple House’s schedule consisted of four investigations involving pacts with demonic entities? The medieval palimpsest stolen from the Vatican … the reliquary supposedly containing the blood of the Grand Master … a ‘brazen vessel’ holding an imprisoned demon … and a magical Order that had sold its collective soul to the Devil?   And, as always, there are those metaphorical demons from the past that come back to haunt us all from time to time … Led by charismatic Professors Aliona de Foresta and Robert Sands, the members of the Temple House embark on another series of paranormal investigations in which people are willing to trade their souls for personal gain.

ISBN978 1 60302 068 6 : 212 pages : £8.65

Order direct from: https://www.feedaread.com/books/PACT.aspx

REVIEW: “Pact! The Temple House Archive Book V heralds in the end of an era for the Temple House team. And what a way to go with demon pacts, cursed families, Saracen pots, Templar history, hidden palimpsests and chemical warfare agents. A fast-paced, page-turning read that will keep you up all night!” Sarah-Beth Watkins, Bestselling author of Lady Katherine Knollys

Kindle e-books:  Special UK£0.99 for each title – starting 23rd March until 30thMarch

The Temple House Archive is also receiving a lot of attention from clients of  TVWritersVault – television production companies who are looking at existing books on offer for adaption ….

And last, but certainly not least, I have just completed the first draft of Chapter 12 of the 100,000 word hardback edition of Understanding the Egyptian Gods for Pen & Sword – due for submission September 2023.

Melusine Draco

WRITER@WORK – February 2023

Caira Kelly inspired me again for this month’s piece: “I used to enjoy a good on-line row, but the fight has gone out of me.  I appear to have moved into the ‘couldn’t give a toss’ phase of my life – and I like it.”

Social media is the perfect arena for getting wound-up.   Pre-internet I could fall out with myself, given half a chance but nowadays I can rarely be arsed to get in a state about something I can’t do anything about.   I’ve done my fair share of activism in my time but I’ve reached the conclusion that the folk doing most of the winding-up are self-opinionated, self-righteous arseholes who are only interested in partial facts before going on the warpath!  And now that even the Millennials have been consigned to the old-fart generation, it’s doubtful whether we’ll get any sense out of Gen-Z who have been dubbed ‘social justice warriors’ – without having lived long enough to qualify.

When we’re younger we do feel passionate about a large number of issues and as Dr Kelly says, perhaps we only pretend we’re still furious about all sorts of things but the truth is, we’ve probably run out of steam.  I suspect that we care less about things outside our control – especially when I’m being harangued by someone who is preaching to the choir and already agreeing with my opinions.  Even those who are obviously on my side of the fence in the debate are not the ones who I’d want arguing in my corner, anyway …

In the 1980s I was an activist opposing those promoting the ‘Satanic panic’ but today I couldn’t give a toss about those twittering on about the ‘niceness’ of the modern pagan when I read what it is that they have to say for themselves and what they believe.  This is not my kind of Craft and I certainly don’t want to identify with any of their vanilla-light (to quote the late Michael Howard) pagan sentiments.

In truth, animal issues still get my goat and I will sign petitions or donate to what I consider to be a good cause … but not if it’s spearheaded by do-gooders, or those who can’t string a sentence together without using the words ‘cute’ or ‘sweet’ in the text.  I consciously make an effort, for example, not to buy anything or holiday in places that support the dog-meat trade, and avoid financially assisting any of those ‘poor’ countries that keep moon bears for bile extraction, or the fur trade.  Or help cater for some degenerate old oriental grandfather’s libido through the slaughter of dozens of different wild animals used in traditional medicine, which has been described as ‘fraught with pseudo-science, with the majority of its treatments having no logical mechanism of action’.

Hence I’m not really interested in media ‘awareness’ and ‘well-being’ since those promulgating the ideas don’t necessarily imply any knowledgeable understanding of their subject.  These fads, also known as a craze, refers to a fashion that becomes popular in a culture (or subcultures) relatively quickly, remains popular, often for a rather brief period, then loses popularity dramatically, as it either fades into obscurity … or becomes a regular part of a society’s culture.  For example, the zero-waste movement has inspired “scrap cooking,” or whipping up a meal out of would-be kitchen waste – which, for many of those brought up in a ‘war-time mentality environment, this was (and often still is) normal behavior!

Interest and participation in social causes are becoming more widespread among consumers. With over half of the US population qualifying as ‘conscious consumers,’ value-based marketing and cause-driven business practices are becoming more expected of brands.  So let’s start avoiding the various ‘brands’ that we personally find offensive (for whatever reason) and simply stop buying.  This is something we can all do something about and if each ‘protester’ eschews the purchasing of any item whose origins they find questionable, then it may begin to hit economies where it hurts and encourage them to change the laws.


The 77-strong team from UK fire and rescue services arrived in Turkey earlier in the week – along with four specialist search and rescue dogs – to assist with search and rescue operations following the devastating earthquakes.  Search and rescue teams say a British dog has been injured while helping the recovery effort after Turkey’s deadly earthquake – but should be back in action soon. Colin was deployed to Turkey as part of a team from Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service with his handler Neil Woodmansey.    A spokesperson for Lincolnshire team said: “The vet has popped a few stitches in his paw and he’s now on the mend!”

K9 Search and Rescue from Northern Ireland is a team also assisting in the search effort.  They had been on stand-by all week and on Wednesday received the go-ahead from the Turkish government to fly out to the disaster zone.

The Dutch search and rescue team USAR has so far rescued 11 people and a dog from the earthquake rubble in Turkey.   The USAR is one of many rescue teams from all over the world helping Turkish authorities search for survivors. The team consists of 65 first responders and eight rescue dogs

The rescue dogs continue to work ceaselessly in the earthquake-hit zones in Türkiye’s southeastern part as essential members of emergency response teams.  As true lifesavers, using their keen senses and training to bring hope and comfort to those affected by the earthquake, they have succeeded in saving many people trapped under the rubble.  As the search and rescue efforts continue in Malatya, the teams reached 60-year-old Meral Nakır, who was found on the first floor of a six-story building with the help of rescue dog Köpük, who saved her 77 hours after the earthquake. Köpük, which translates to Foam, works in tandem with the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) teams, helping them to access difficult areas in catastrophes.

Mexico is sending some of its famous search and rescue dogs to Turkey to help look for people buried under rubble following Monday’s earthquake.  A plane with 16 dogs on board took off from Mexico City earlier on Tuesday.  Mexico, which is prone to earthquakes, has highly specialised civilian and military teams which are often deployed to help when disasters strike.

The dogs won the hearts of Mexicans during the country’s 2017 quake, when they saved several lives. A yellow Labrador Retriever named Frida gained international fame when she was seen searching for survivors in Mexico City wearing protective goggles and boots.

Mexico is not the only country sending dogs to help with the rescue efforts in Turkey and Syria. Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Libya, Poland, Switzerland, the UK and the United States are all also deploying canines with their handlers.  Many countries, including the United States, are also sending aid to help with the rescue efforts.   US Transportation Command and the US Agency for International Development is sending two Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams, including 161 USAR personnel, 170,000 pounds of equipment and 12 search-and-rescue dogs to help dig survivors out of the debris.

The animals are often used in areas where the use of heavy machinery could cause the rubble to collapse further, putting the lives of survivors at risk.  The dogs are trained to sniff out humans and alert their handlers by barking and scratching the ground where the smell is strongest.

Mexican officials say their mission is “to save lives” and while the dogs can detect the smell of bodies as well as that of those who are buried under the rubble alive, the hope is that their quick deployment will result in rescues rather than recoveries.  Because time is of the essence in rescue operations like this, search-and-rescue dogs are valuable tools for finding anyone who could be trapped alive in the rubble. The highly trained search-and-rescue dogs are qualified to detect the scent of humans who might be buried.

So what exactly is the job of a search and rescue dog and its handler?  And how are these dogs trained to find human scents and let their handlers know where it is?  Experts estimate that a single S&R dog can search the same area as approximately 50 people on foot – and in far less time.  First it’s partly due to their keen sense of smell.  Dogs have 220 million scent receptors, compared to humans’ 5 million.  But they are also fast.  Time is always an issue in search and rescue.  In an avalanche, for instance, statistics show that more than 90% of people buried in snow can be rescued alive if they’re dug out within 15 minutes.  However, after 45 minutes, only 20-30 percent are still alive, and after two hours almost no one buried by an avalanche is found alive.  That means that SAR dogs are invaluable in locating people when time is critical.

SAR dogs can do a lot of amazing things, including rappel down mountainsides with their handlers, locate a human being within a 1640-foot (500-meter) radius, find a dead body under water, climb ladders and walk across an unstable beam in a collapsed building, but it’s all toward a single end: Finding human scent. This may be in the form of a living person, a dead body, a human tooth or an article of clothing. SAR dogs find missing persons, search disaster areas for survivors and bodies, and locate evidence at crime scenes, all by focusing on the smell of a human being

SAR dogs need to be big enough to successfully navigate treacherous terrain and push debris out of the way and yet small enough to transport easily.  The most difficult SAR specialty, urban disaster dogs search for human survivors in the rubble of collapsed buildings. They must navigate dangerous, unstable terrain. More than 300 urban rescue dog/handler teams responded to the collapse of the World Trade Centers on Sept. 11, 2001.  In major disasters like the collapse of the World Trade Center in 2001, air-scent dogs in all specialty areas assisted in the search. The devastation of 9/11 actually caused many of the SAR dogs to become depressed because the search for survivors was futile. The dogs are rewarded when they find survivors, and at Ground Zero, there were so few people found alive, and such an overwhelming smell of death, the dogs were affected. Some never worked as SAR dogs again.

And if these abilities don’t make a dog a magical creature, I don’t know what does!   To hone these special talents in a power-animal learn how to adapt the power of the dog by reading  Shaman Pathways: Aubry’s Dog by Melusine Draco published by Moon Books ISBN|978 1 78099 724 7 : 84 pages : UK£4.99/US$9.95 : paperback and e-book versions available.


January 2023

Deciding on a topic for the first 2023 Writer@Work article I was spoiled for choice in taking my lead from the various whinge-worthy subjects penned by some of our favourite columnists.  Needless to say, it had to be something empathic … even though I find myself increasingly at odds with the social intolerance revealed by my fellow readers and adherents of the woke- culture.  Woke nowadays refers to being aware or well informed in a political or cultural sense, especially regarding issues surrounding marginalised communities – it describes someone who has “woken up” to issues of social injustice – even to the point of exploiting them to self-serve a journalistic purpose.

That said, I can’t confess to a deprived childhood although growing up in a war-time culture of rationing and ‘left-overs’ recipes has set me up for dealing with modern sky-rising costs of living.  I managed to get through school despite suffering from latently discovered dyscalculia – a condition that affects the ability to acquire maths skills.  Death in various forms has robbed me of a succession of dearly-loved two and four-legged family members; and I’ve ‘survived’ a personal encounter with breast cancer – none of which I’ve ever felt the urge to share with the reading public.

Not to mention regular incidents of bullying and sexual harassment both of which were dealt with at different stages following a crash course in martial arts.  Any temptation to be part of the ‘sister-hood’ was cured by discovering that it included eliminating 50% of the opposition (and me brought up in a boy-scout troop!) – and that in standing up as a defender of justice meant I was on a hiding to nothing in coming forward as a police witness to an assault on one of the boys in blue!

Journalists are constantly under pressure to find topics that strike an empathic cord with their readers and the best among them are known for throwing in the odd, pithy comments that get their critics spitting feathers.  Top of the heap is Brendan O’Connor who, for me, manages to tell it like it is/was:

“Does it count as empathy if you learn it the hard way?” he wrote. “Is there anything noble in gaining an understanding of other people’s lives only because your own life becomes another person’s life? Is that empathy? Or is that cheating? … I made it through school without knowing anyone gay. But it would be college before I met anyone who was gay … I knew one guy who was Egyptian. One brown guy. There was nobody black. Nobody in school, nobody in the area. We grew up with people like us. And we just assumed everyone was like us …”

Nowadays, if I’m honest I’m bored to death of always having to be careful to express the right sympathies, of always having to say the right things whenever I’m confronted with one of life’s self-appointed victims.  In later years those friends who happened to be black/gay didn’t have the obsession about turning every conversation towards their minority issues. 

Ciara Kelly GP, broadcaster and award winning columnist isn’t afraid of controversy either, and has received her fair share of media hate as a result – including death threats.  She is aware that the media and public are fickle beasts but had the courage to say in her column that one story that shouldn’t be allowed to fall off the agenda is the sexual assaults and rapes of hundreds of children by the clergy that is continuing to unfold.

I was more involved on the periphery of the ritual abuse scandals of the 1980-90s that focused its attentions on the pagan community.  Anti-occult hyped material still provides more interesting reading than serious esoteric writing, especially if the authors have a religious bias. The ‘satanic child-abuse’ scare, which lasted for five years, was formulated and fueled purely on deliberately inaccurate scaremongering of Christian fundamentalists and over-zealous social-workers. The intensive investigation the Government-commissioned report by Professor J D La Fontaine (The Extent & Nature of Organised and Ritual Abuse – HMSO) confirmed that there was no foundation for any of the allegations but the media still continues to lambast witchcraft whenever the opportunity arises.

Some even dismissed Social Services’ dawn roundups of children as none of their concern, because the majority of cases did not affect anyone with genuine pagan involvement because they thought whatever happened wouldn’t affect them. Several pagan publications of the time even stated that as far as they were aware, there had been no cases of pagan children being taken into care ‘because of allegations of ‘satanic child-abuse, nor even of any otherwise unprovoked investigations’. This was incorrect – there had been cases of pagan children being taken into care and several parents lost custody cases because of their pagan beliefs. In fact, the authorities had successfully gagged parents by lawful process, which prevented any of them from contacting professional organizations for help and this was why no details surrounding the cases were made public.  And the media story disappeared overnight!

Dr Kelly’s column reveals that this current clerical abuse scandal also involved a legal strategy that protected the perpetrators and paid the legal fees of priests who couldn’t afford to pay themselves. “There is no credible way that so many men all living in close quarters with this sick predilection for preying on children, some of whom were abusing the same boys, didn’t know about each other.  They covered it up.  They moved priests around, enabling them to abuse others.  They fought cases tooth and nail.”

Neither event should ever allow the public or the judiciary in either the UK or Ireland to allow us to forget about these cases.   Seventy-seven priests accused so far of raping or assaulting 300 people; whereas there was ‘no foundation for any of the allegations’ of pagan ritual abuse but both have had their fair share of casualties that people quickly forget about.  Nevertheless, both sides of the religious divide have suffered … but these are casually brushed aside if they make uncomfortable reading.

Fortunately, Ireland never really had a problem with ‘witch trials’ because in the Gaelic-Irish tradition so many people’s spiritual outlook was tied into the fairies, or the sidhe as they are known – even down to the present day.  A large percentage of the population accepted as a matter of fact that the sidhe (pronounced ‘shee’) were real and influenced the world around them.  So while the idea of the witch who was in league with the devil was flourishing elsewhere, in Ireland it just didn’t take hold.

According to Dr Gillian Kenny at Trinity College, people encountered events they interpret as being supernatural they happily attributed them to the faerie, so there was no need to blame witches.  People were obsessed with the wise women who lived in th community and who had knowledge of how to keep them away, she says.  The average person either believed in the sidhe or hedged their bets to be on the safe side. Dr Kenny points out that, even today many people still refuse to build on a fairy fort for example, or to cut down a hawthorn tree.

So, all in all, I’ve not had an uneventful life and close friends have helped me through the sticky bits … but I’ve never felt the need to belong to any ‘Me-Too’ – type community club and get a merit badge.  Or as a my good chum Sheila, has always said: “Get a grip and sort it!”

Claiming Back Our Heritage

Re-claiming the Seasonal Festivals

A large number of the customs and traditions that were an integral part of traditional British Old Craft have systematically disappeared beneath assiduously applied buckets of pagan white-wash in recent years.  In fact, the whole raison d’être for the ‘how to survive (and enjoy) the seasonal festivals’ came from the annual lament of how much pagans hate Christmas. How all the traditional meaning has been profaned and announcing that they will be holed up in solitary misery until all the commercially decadent festivities are over – all of which sadly demonstrated a complete lack of awareness concerning our pagan ancestry and its customs. Let’s understand one thing before we go further: the Church did not invent the Mid-Winter Festival … it was there with all its rich pageantry of feasting and celebration long before a Pope officially decreed, in the 4th century AD, that the birth of Jesus would henceforth be celebrated on the 25th December!

And if we closely examine all the other seasonal events in the Church calendar, we discover most of those had been absorbed into the catalogue of Christian observance.  If we take away the agrarian events, pre-Christian festivals and pagan saints’ days, there’s little remaining on which to build an authentic religious calendar.  The early Church calendar was wholly pagan in its compilation and within Old Craft we still call our main festivals by their Church names: Hallowmas, Candlemas, Lammas, Michaelmas, Martinmas … and by which names they would have been known to our pagan forebears rather than the popular Irish-Gaelic names adopted in the 20th century.

Hallowmas, Samhain and all that …

Halloween may be a secular affair today, dominated by candy, costumes and trick-or-treating, but the holiday is rooted in an annual Celtic pagan festival called Samhain (pronounced ‘SAH- wane’) that was then appropriated by the early Church some 1,200 years ago.  Halloween’s origins date back to this ancient festival with the Celts, who lived 2,000 ago in the area that is now Ireland, Britain and northern France – and celebrated their new year on 1st November.  This day marked the end of summer and the harvest; the beginning of the dark days of winter that was associated with human death.

Traditionally, Samhain was a time to take stock of the herds and food supplies. Cattle were brought down to the winter pastures after six months in the higher grazing. This centuries-old tradition today still parades thousands of bovines from mountain pastures back home to foothill farms. 

Published by ignotus books uk in the Arcanum series : ISBN 978 1 80302 514 8 : 104 pages : £6.85 : Order direct from printer https://www.feedaread.com/books/Halloween-Samhain-and-all-that.aspx  Available in paperback and Kindle e-book format.

Harvest Home: In-Gathering

Michaelmas, or the Feast of Michael and All Angels, is celebrated on the 29th of September every year. As it falls near the Equinox, the day is associated with the beginning of autumn and the shortening of days; in England.  It used to be said that harvest had to be completed by Michaelmas, almost like the marking of the end of the productive season and the beginning of the new cycle of farming. It was the time at which new servants were hired or land was exchanged and debts were paid.  As Michaelmas is the time that the darker nights and colder days begin – and we edge into winter – the celebration of Michaelmas is associated with encouraging protection during these dark months. It was believed that negative forces were stronger in darkness and so families would require stronger defences during the later months of the year.  Traditionally, in the British Isles, a well fattened goose, fed on the stubble from the fields after the harvest, is eaten to protect against financial need in the family for the next year.

Today in many European countries, the Martinmas festival culminates in a lantern walk at night, followed by a bonfire and songs. Traditionally the lanterns were carved out of harvested gourds, and illuminated with a candle – the origin of our jack-o-lantern – but can also be made of paper or jars.  The sacrifice and shedding of blood on this day was once part of the ancient festival of Samhain, but changed in the medieval period to the new date of 11th November, hence the term Old Halloween and what we currently observe as Remembrance Day for honouring our war dead.

Published by Moon Books as part of their Pagan Portals series.  ISBN978 1 803341 110 1 : 84 pages : £6.99 : Order from www.moon-books.net in paperback and e-book format.

Have a Cool Yule

The pagan celebration of the winter solstice is known as Yule, and it’s one of the oldest winter celebrations in the world. It simultaneously celebrates the shortest day of the year, midwinter, the return of the Sun, and a festival of rebirth.

We only have to scratch the thin veneer of ‘Christmas’ to find a highly important pagan holiday with the majority of its ancient traditions preserved intact. Strangely, the ubiquitous pagan Wheel of the Year’ now assigns the Winter Solstice to the place of a minor sabbat, and yet as we’ve discovered, it was probably the most sacred festival of the year for our pagan ancestors.  Nevertheless, these associations reveal that the Mid-Winter Festival was a time of magic and mystery for the ancient Britons, the Germanic tribes and the migratory Celts and Anglo-Saxons, as well as a time for feasting and celebration. It doesn’t matter where we live in the New or Old World, it would be a pity to ignore these facts and not celebrate the season with mirth and merriment as our forebears did – and not let Christian hype and gross commercialism ruin the true magic of the Winter Solstice. Perhaps it’s time to embrace the pagan sacredness of the Mid-Winter Festival and reclaim that which was taken from us by the most insidious of means – absorption!

Remember, the majority of supposedly ‘Christian’ superstitions and traditions we observe today are from our pagan past and they probably wouldn’t have been preserved down through the ages if all those different Briton, Roman, Celtic, Norse and Anglo-Saxon strands hadn’t melded successfully together. When we sit down to our Mid-Winter Festival dinner on December 25th, regardless of whether we’re part of a family gathering or spending it alone, we are participating in a ritual that stretches back to the very dawn of humanity.  After all… what is there for anyone who calls themselves ‘pagan’ to hate about ancient pagan traditions?

Published by Moon Books as part of their Pagan Portals series,  ISBN 978 1 78535 711 4 : 84 pages : £6.99 : Order from www.moon-books.net in paperback and e-book format

Breath of Spring …

Candlemas/Imbolc is the re-awakening of the Old Lass within Old Craft belief and also coincides with the Roman Candelaria and Fornicalia – a spring corn festival celebrated in honour of Fornax, goddess of ovens, and observed by each ward of the city. All this merging of primitive origins and rites, belonging to the European pre-urban agricultural culture, meant that it also commemorated the search for Persephone by her mother and the festival of candles symbolizing the return of the Light. So it continued to be performed until the Christian era, when it was transformed into Candalmas in AD494.

Our seasonal festivals begin with this Breath of Spring … to mark Imbolc/Candlemas on the 2nd February – which in turn marks the official end of the Yule celebrations and a traditional date by when all Yuletide decorations should be removed. Traditional witch, Evan John Jones, acknowledged that Candlemas is the first of the great Sabbats and the start of the ritual year, when it is time to let go of the past and to look to the future, clearing out the old, making both outer and inner space for new beginnings. Followed by the Spring or Vernal Equinox, Ostara and Beltaine to cover the months of spring before we prepare for the summer season …

Living a pagan life-style is more than celebrating the eight important fire festivals each year and calling ourselves a witch.  It’s about observing the continuous calendar of events that may, or not, coincide with the civil calendar.

Published by Moon Books as part of their Pagan Portals series.  ISBN 978-1-80341-188-0 :  84 pages £6.99 : Order from www.moon-books.net in paperback and e-book format

Sumer Is Icumen In …

In Sumer is Icumen In we discover new and exciting ways of surviving (and enjoying) the truly pagan excesses of the Midsummer Festival. Here we can establish and instigate a new smorgasbord of traditions of our own for the purpose of celebration and observance and, in time, even though we must never lose sight of our authentic history, they may even be integrated into future pagan revels.  “So, you want to know about Midsummer? You can’t do better than begin here with this treasure-trove of how the summer solstice has been – and still is – revered all around the world. Melusine Draco is a fountain of knowledge, and wisdom, her books open doors and turn on lights to so many dark places that have forgotten and/or misremembered for far too many years, centuries even…”  wrote Elen Sentier, author of Merlin, Elen of the Ways and Trees of the Goddess.

The Summer Solstice is the longest day in the northern hemisphere and either falls on the 20th or 21st of June, whilst Midsummer’s Day in Europe is traditionally on 24 June; a discrepancy caused by the variants of the Julian Calendar, misappropriation by the Church and further confused by the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar.   Traditionally, Midsummer’s Eve is a time associated with witches, magic, fairies and dancing with bonfires lit all over the country. This was in praise of the sun, for as from today, the days would begin getting shorter and the sun gradually appeared to be getting weaker, so people would light fires to try and strengthen the sun. Practice of this ancient ritual, which also includes a Summer Solstice Circle Dance, is now mainly confined to Cornwall and the West Country.

In common with their usual assimilations of pagan festivals, no doubt the Church adapted yet another pre-Christian festival celebrating the Summer Solstice as a Christian holiday by moving back a couple of days. The Midsummer Festival, now with Saint John’s Day-related traditions, church services, and celebrations became particularly important in northern Europe.  In the pagan community various forms of neo-paganism can be quite different, having very different origins and, despite the shared name, these representations can vary quite considerably.

Some celebrate in a manner as close as possible to how they believe ancient pagans observed the Summer Solstice, while others observe the holiday with rituals culled from numerous other unrelated sources.

Published by Moon Books as part of their Pagan Portals series. ISBN 978 1 78535 981 1 : 82 pages : £ 5.99 : Order from www.moon-books.net in paperback and e-book format

Once again, in her own inimitable style, Melusine Draco shows us how to put the tradition back into traditional British Old Craft and restore the practice of our old beliefs by learning how to survive (and enjoy) our own seasonal festivals.  These are books we can return to again and again to remind ourselves of our true pagan heritage.  Why not treat ourselves to each of these seasonal treats and discover that they make perfect gifts for any of our pagan friends – married or single!

“Melusine Draco opens up the festivals in an engaging, informative and easily accessible way. An enjoyable read, with a mixture of poetry, history and mythology, customs (and even recipes), it builds a fascinating and comprehensive picture of the traditions and festivals, as well as tracing them back to their roots. MD really knows her craft and touches on things like the seasonal effects on the various star signs, while rich descriptions of solar alignments and folkloric practices keep you turning the pages. This will add inspiration to building your own traditions. Definitely for my bookshelf.”  Krystina Sypniewski, author of Pagan Portals – Dream Analysis Made Easy 

New release …

BUSH SOUL: Setting it free …

According to Chet Raymo in When God is Gone Everything is Holy, among the ancients, Mother Nature was more than a metaphor. The veiled goddess was invented at a time when animism and anthropomorphism were the prevailing ways of understanding the world. Every brook, every stone, every heavenly body was thought to have a human-like spirit … But we no longer understand nature animistically or anthropomorphically. New metaphors now instruct our imaginations … The universe, however, sings beyond any metaphor we employ to understand it. We are enchanted by the veiled goddess, teased, seduced [but] we expect no consummation. We would in fact be rather shattered if somehow we were allowed to know the ultimate secrets if the universe.

These are the threads that draw the concepts of animism and the ‘bush soul’ together with one of the oldest beliefs on the planet. Totemism is some mystic relationship between a group of humans and a particular species of animal or plant. But, as T C Lethbridge observed, the exact relationship has defied scholarly definition, and well it might do so. ‘It seems to be a kind of hangover from much earlier times when men are thought to have believed that they were really physically related to animals. Totemism was an indefinable magico-religious idea and the totem animal was in a sense worshipped because it could give help to men belonging to its own particular tribe and which they must not kill without permission.’

Many scholars have noted evidence for totemic beliefs in the Upper Palaeolithic period of at least 12,000 years ago, proving this totem concept was very strong and widespread. It probably went at one time to every corner of the inhabited world. And, as Lethbridge points out, when we find ancient European tribes called Chatti, or Epidii, we can be reasonably certain that their totem animals were once cats or horses respectively. It is highly probable that many of the animals which later appeared as heraldic blazons on the shields of medieval knights were once the totems of the families which bore these images on their arms. This is not a fanciful suggestion: neither is it disregarded by some of the experts of the College of Heralds.

As civilization slowly developed and spread over wider areas, totemism began to be replaced by beliefs of a different kind. Gods and goddesses came to be imagined in human form and in this anthropomorphism, mankind conceived gods to be made in his image and not vice versa. Forces of nature and celestial bodies were gods and they were like men. All that was necessary was to explain to simple people why their totem animal was being replaced by something less easily seen, but more human. This changing of totem animal into deity was found throughout the old world: in India, Egypt; Assyria; Greece; Italy; the Celtic lands and in the mythology and art of the North American first nation.

Since myths appear to be the oral counterparts of religious rites, we can surely assume that wherever we find a myth of this shape-changing nature, there was once a religious performance in which men, or women, dressed up in the skins of the former totem animal and went through the performance which the myth describes. This surely brings us a little nearer to the reason why such curious rites survived for such a long time. The witch-cult seems to have originated at a time when the belief in totemism was on the wane and was being superseded by the belief in gods of human form. When it was begun it was still necessary to explain to the people in general the relationship between the two beliefs in a ritual performance.

‘Since it is generally, the male priest who is dressed up, it is surely the ‘Great Mother’ who represents the new idea. She is taking the place of the old totem animal and is the more important figure. Since it is the kings who are killed and not their consorts, the same conditions hold good. We can then, I feel, be reasonably certain that the [witch]cult came into being when the female principle was recognized as being the most important thing in tribal belief. That is, males had not yet asserted their right to order the doings of the tribe, or their right to succeed to the rulership of it. The organization was matriarchal and matrilineal – which had vanished from Homeric Greece about a thousand years before the birth of Christ – but there is ample evidence from the Greek myths that it had once existed there.’

[Witches: Investigating an Ancient Religion]

A belief in and acceptance of totem animals runs like a vein of iridescent silver through witchcraft lore and is a system of belief in which humans are said to have kinship or a mystical relationship with a spirit-being, contained within a particular animal or plant. The entity, or totem, is believed to interact with a given kin-group or individual, and to serve as their emblem or symbol. The term totemism has been used to characterize a cluster of traits in the religion and social organization of many different peoples. Totemism is manifested in various forms and types in different contexts, and is most often found among populations whose traditional economies once relied on mixed farming with hunting and gathering, or emphasized the raising of cattle.

The term totem is actually derived from the Ojibwa word ototeman, meaning ‘one’s brother-sister kin’ with the grammatical root, ote, signifying a blood relationship between brothers and sisters who have the same mother and who may not marry each other. In English, the word totem was introduced in 1791 by a British merchant and translator who gave it a false meaning in the belief that it designated the guardian spirit of an individual, who appeared in the form of an animal – an idea that the Ojibwa clans did indeed portray by their wearing of animal skins. It was reported at the end of the 18th century that the Ojibwa named their clans after those animals that lived in the area and appeared to be either friendly or fearful.

Similarly, the idea of the ‘sacred’ in African society is as old as the African people. Faced with the puzzles, wonders and mysteries in nature, they had no choice than to consider certain objects and plants as sacred and seen from the perspective of the divine. And as such, they are not to be toyed with; they are given special reverence especially as objects of worship. The African people believe that spirits inhabit these sacred objects and places – and this understanding also gave rise to the reality of totems in African ontology. For sure, belief in totems is an existential fact among African people.

Certain trees, animals, places and individuals are regarded as totems. They are seen as sacred objects that symbolize something real for the people who entertain such belief. Totems are also believed to possess some spiritual and supernatural powers. The thrust of this study is to expose the belief and practice of totemism in Africa and also to ascertain the significance of such belief and practice in a world of change. The focus of this study is on Igbo – African society where the notion of totem is associated with the idea of kinship between certain animals, animate or inanimate beings, and a particular individual or group of individuals in a given society showing that there is a spiritual link between a totemic object and the person or persons concern. [The Background of Totemism]

Totemism has to do with the veneration of some natural objects, namely, animals, plants and other physical objects that are believed to have some spiritual or supernatural powers. In this regard, the mishandling or killing of totemic animals is considered taboo in most African cultures. Belief in totems is a common practice in traditional African society with people having a deep sense of reverence for either their personal or group totems. The reality of totems is not something that is new to the African, who is well known for its belief and practice. Available in paperback and e-book format

BUSH SOUL: Setting it free by Melusine Draco – published by ignotus books uk : ISBN 978 1 80302 584 1 : Price £6.85 : 104 pages : Order direct from https://www.feedaread.com/books/BUSH-SOUL.aspx

Aubry’s Dog …

by Melusine Draco

Dogs Are a Witch’s Best Friend … and Worth More Than Diamonds!

Dogs are never out of the news, especially when we’re extolling their virtues as companion/support dogs … but here they jump to the top of the tree when it comes to magical uses and associations.

Or as ‘Agwren’ observed in her Amazon review: “Ms Draco takes us on a dog’s journey from its earliest forays into the humans world through the four early forerunners groups and onto the many hundreds of variations we know and love today. Through all the mythological connections with the ancient Gods and the recorded ancient historical facts we travel, learning spells and incantations at every turn , discovering craft and planetary connections along the way until finally we reach the lesson at the end of the beginning of our true journey. Each time you look into those beautiful deep dark eyes of your wolf…whether it be the author’s favourite greyhounds or the golden retriever, the lab, the collie or a hundred others from the mighty mongrel to the smallest terrier on your lap … don’t you often wonder what goes on in that mind…what would it be like to walk a mile on the four paws … would the sense of smell blow the human mind … would a thousand new sounds we’d never heard before scream in our ears until we went insane … how would the sudden adrenaline rush feel at the tiniest flicker of movement in a far off hedge ….

“So here is the goal of this particular journey … .let the Teacher lead on a wild shamanistic hedge- ride chase as we follow one of her greyhounds as it takes off across a field in pursuit of a hare. Let us find ourselves shape shifting into a long legged lean hunting dog and run with the hound sharing its excitement as it runs down its quarry … until just at the very last split second the hare cleverly evades us through a hole in the hedge … what a sensational shamanistic shape shifting ride and one so delightfully easy that even a complete novice like me can breeze into it …”

Dogs come in all sorts of power-packs to fuel our magical workings – from simple good luck charms to mighty, full-blown curses. From:

O Guardian of Power

Be thou my guide and defence

against all hostile forces,

visible and invisible,

in every walk of Life.

to summoning the Hounds of Hell …

Gather up a magic spell, summon forth the hounds of hell,

Over sea and over land, answer to a witch command,

Changing moon from bright to dim,

the hounds of hell must follow him

The concept of dogs joining their masters in the sky is an ancient one and in our current sky-scape there are four dogs in view as darkness falls. Orion, one of the most striking of all the constellations, is closely followed by Canis Major (‘The Great Dog’), marked by the brilliant star Sirius, commonly known as the Dog Star – the brightest star in the entire sky. Sirius is said to be responsible for the northern hemisphere’s hot, muggy ‘Dog Days’ that occur in September (taking into account the alterations to the calendar since Roman times), just before Sirius follows Orion into the northern night skies.  And can be another euphemism for the ‘Rainbow Bridge’ that companion dogs cross when they die.

Blazing prominently in the sky, Sirius is the brightest star of Canis Major; its colour appears to be a brilliant white tinged with a distinctive bluish hue. The star has been compared to a sparkling diamond and it is thought that its Greek name was derived for ‘sparkling’ or ‘scorching’. When it appears near the horizon it seems to flicker with all the colours of the rainbow and has more magical lore surrounding it than any other star in the heavens. According to the Greeks, Canis Major could run incredibly fast. Laelaps, as they called him, is said to have won a race against a fox that was the fastest creature in the world, and Zeus placed the dog in the sky to celebrate the victory.

Nearby Canis Minor (‘The Little Dog’), the brightest of its two stars being called Procyon, is said to be the faithful dog Maera (the glistener), which rises in July, a little before the Dog Star. (Greek: pro-kuon). Another myth has both Canis Major and Minor assisting Orion while he is out hunting. Canes Venatici (‘The Hunting Dogs’) are tucked away just south of Ursa Major (‘The Plough’) and represent a pair of hounds, Asterion and Chara, held on a leash by Bootes the

herdsman, as they chase the Great Bear around the North Pole. Unlike Sirius, this is a rather obscure constellation and, with one exception, the stars are quite faint. Whereas Sirius symbolises Alpha Dog, Asterion and Chara are seen more in the role of companions.

The poem, ‘The Gage’ by Walter de la Mare demonstrates the typical reaction to a curse that is thrown because of the sheer bloody-minded arrogance of the people involved. Because two head-strong people fail to appreciate the repercussions of their actions, the ‘curse’ rebounds and no one is happy. It is a perfect example of why we should think twice before bandying curses about – unless of course, it is necessary and all other avenues have been exhausted. By studying this romantic ballad we can see that it contains several magical truths, which are well worth considering.

The arrogance of both parties that led to the death of the hound, and the powerful curse flung in a fit of passion, which cannot be lifted, is set to destroy the lives of both parties. It is only the intervention of the resurrected hound that means the couple can live happily ever after in true romantic fashion. Nevertheless this adaptation of a verse from ‘The Gage’ does offer an example of an extremely powerful curse that could be used in the event of someone injuring a pet dog and should you be willing to pay the price! For example:

O mark me well!

For what my hound befell

You shall pay twenty-fold,

For every tooth

Of his, i’sooth,

Your life in pawn I’ll hold.

Here we are bringing down a curse that is ‘twenty times’ the number of teeth in the dog’s mouth, which in an average healthy adult is around 42. This means that the magical practitioner must weigh in the balance whether the punishment fits the crime. After all, it would be rather extreme if someone had merely given your dog a clout for attempting to ravish their prize-winning bitch. That said, any act of cruelty against a dog – intentional or unintentional – might be seen to be justifiable. Cursing, like most areas of magic, is a question of personal responsibility and/or morality, but once thrown cannot be retracted.

Remember that even the mildest accident magnified 20 x 42 is going to have some serious repercussions. The reader may think the author is gilding the lily with this particular curse but there is a very good reason behind it. The following rite, in its original form, requires the skull of a canine and if anyone reading this book is even tempted to go out and harm a dog in order to procure the skull, then they may consider the above curse well and truly thrown … O mark me well!

REVIEW by Krystina Kellingley : Author and publisher
“I really enjoyed this, a really good read. It starts off with an interesting story and maintains the reader’s interest throughout. I enjoyed the historical and scientific information as well as the charm, amulet and herb lore. The second chapter was a fascinating look at breeds and their characteristics and the bearing this has from a magical perspective and I also really enjoyed the stories of superstition. In fact this book has lots of appealing information on everything and anything you could ever want to know about the dog as a power animal and spiritual companion. It’s written in a very reader friendly manner and I can see dog lovers of all descriptions being hooked by it.”

Shaman Pathways: Aubry’s Dog – Power Animals in Traditional Witchcraft by Melusine Draco ISBN 978 1 78099 724 7 : 84-pages : UK£4.99/US$9.95 Published by Moon-Books http://www.moon-books.net


Update >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Summer

Pagan Portals – Harvest Home: In-Gathering – How to Survive (and Enjoy) the Autumnal Festivals is due for publication on 26th August 2022 and is currently in production.  The last in the series, Breath of Spring – How to Survive (and Enjoy) the Spring Festivals is also in production with Moon Books and should be ready for publication by the spring of 2023.

There are a further five books in various stages of preparation for the Arcanum series

Hallowmas, Samhain & All That

Bush Soul: Setting It Free

The Power of Prayer

Talismans, Amulets & Charms

Water: I Hear Water Dreasming

The limited ignotus edition of Inner Court Witchcraft should be ready for publication in early 2023 with the fourth Vampyre’s Tale in preparation.

I’ve decided that the move back to the UK is going to mark my official retirement.  During the past fifteen years I’ve written more books than I can remember and I’ve decided I will stick to a schedule of one fact and one fiction per year … but as a friend says ‘Oh yeah?’  I suppose I’m lucky in that my work is my hobby and vice versa, so let’s never say never, eh because those ideas keep bubbling to the surface unbidden …

Sorting through all the boxes of paperwork prior to a move, it was interesting to come across the proposed programme for the 2006 CoS workshop.  These were usually held from Friday evening to Sunday lunch and the full Saturday timetable involved the following  sessions:

  • Counting the Cost of a Magical Life
  • Commitment: The Meaning of the Oath
  • Working With the Tree of Life
  • Personal Space and the Personal Universe

We always tried to get away from the bog-standard conference syllabus that appeared year after year – hence our popular ‘Exorcisms We Have Known & Loved’ at one annual London event!  Not surprising we were standing room only … It was our firm belief that participants had the right to expect something new and different – and not just a rehash of the content of a current published book.  Just as a new book needs to offer the readership a different approach to a certain type of witchcraft and magic, so surely it’s not unreasonable for talks to cover new ground that it both informative and entertaining?

Once back in the UK, it’s been suggested that I also think about offering writer’s workshops and the odd magical workshop, which I find more appealing than on-line events as I work better with a live audience.   But that’s on the back burner until I’m settled … MD

New release …

Hallowmas, Samhain & All That

Hallowe’en vs Samhain

Samhain is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or ‘darker-half’ of the year. In the northern hemisphere, it is customarily held on 1st November, but with celebrations beginning on the evening of 31st October, as the Celtic day began and ended at sunset.

Halloween or Hallowe’en, also known as Hallowmass, All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve, is a three-day celebration observed in many countries on 31st October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallow’s Day. It begins the observance of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed.

Well, okay … yeah.

But before we begin … can we imagine the furore if Easter was hijacked by a bunch of loin-clothed rejects from Jesus Christ Super Star dangling from trees in the local park, because they’ve discovered some spurious regeneration connection between the New Testament story and Eostre – the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and dawn? Actually, she is only mentioned once in scholarly writings of the period – Bede, that venerable monk, stated that during Eostremonath (the old Anglo-Saxon name for April), pagan Anglo-Saxons held festivals in her honour. Two hundred years later, in his Life of Charlemagne, another monk – this time named Einhard – gives the old name for April as Ostaramonath. She is also mentioned in a number of German inscriptions, and the modern holiday of Easter – originally the name for the Spring Equinox, but later absorbed into the Paschal cycle for the Eastern Orthodox Christian resurrection holiday built around Pascha (Easter)!?

Nevertheless, this is exactly what has happened to the modern ‘celebration’ of Hallowe’en/ Samhain. Another of the old festivals – like Yule and Harvest – that the Church decided was easier to absorb into its calendar than making any further attempts at abolition. In fact, with the benefit of hindsight, we can judge the original importance of these old festivals from the degree of sanctity accorded these former pagan customs within the Church’s liturgical year. This consisted of a cycle of seasons that determined when Church feast days – including celebrations of the newly created saints – were to be observed, and which portions of Scripture were to be read. Distinct colours were used in connection with different seasons, and although the dates of the festivals may vary among the different denominations, the sequence and logic largely remains the same.

According to the Celts, Samhain was the time when the veil between this and Otherworld was believed to be at its thinnest: when the spirits of the dead could most freely mingle with the living once again. They believed the Lord of the Dead, would come that night to take up into the afterlife the souls of those who had died during that year. Like many other pagan traditions, the holiday was eventually Christianized in order to honour the dead, including those newly ‘absorbed’ saints. In its original Elder Faith form it was much more dangerous and threatening – a weird period of dread and ill-omen; a time of gloom and mourning for the dying year and the Mighty Dead.

At this time of the year, some of the Old Ways tell that certain ‘portals’ between the worlds require physically closing once they have been opened to prevent unscheduled souls being sucked through before their time. These portals must be marked with a propitiatory rite of a soul passing through before the way can be closed or the gates will remain open to trap the unsuspecting. It has been suggested that ‘dabblers’ mucking about with things they do not understand can create this type of ‘gate’ that preys on the unwary because the ‘dead’ are often hungry for life. Here we find disembodied entities, such as those of the Unseelie Court of the luchd-sidhe, who simply hate the living.

The Seelie and Unseelie Courts of Scottish fairies are a particular feature of the folklore of that country; the clear separation of the faes into good and bad groupings that are entailed is almost unique in folklore. The Unseelie Court was used to describe the darkly-inclined faere and no offence was deemed necessary to bring down their assaults. As a group (or ‘host’), they were thought to appear at night and assault travellers, often carrying them through the air, beating them, and forcing them to commit such acts as injuring cattle. In Scotland, they were seen as closely allied with witches.

As we can see there is quite a bit of dangerous stuff out there which is not so much ‘evil’ as hungry. The gates themselves aren’t evil, neither are those who open them indiscriminately – just shamefully foolish and irresponsible. This day marked the beginning of the dark, cold winter – a time of year that was often associated with human death. Which is why Celts believed that on this night – before the ‘new year’ – the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred – and dangerous!  So plenty of propitiatory observations need to be performed to keep the malevolence at bay … because on this night they observed the ‘end of summer’ when it was believed ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble or damaging provisions and livestock, the people also thought the presence of these otherworld entities made it opportune for the Druids (the Celtic priesthood), to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on a volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of guidance during the long dark months to follow.

In its most common form it was seen as an agrarian festival held to placate the Ancestors, to propitiate any malevolent forces; to please the gods (and those ‘saints’ who replaced them), and as a clear distinction between the joys of harvest and the hardships of approaching winter:

As current Chief Druid, Eimear Burke (OBOD) commented: “There’s that notion now that Samhain marks the beginning of the Celtic New Year. Think of all the people that have invaded us. We, Irish people are not Celtic, there are no generic markers. But the Celts when they came, did leave their culture – including music, stories and languages – and their festivals. On this night [Samhain] the Calleach (the Crone) comes to strip the leaves from the trees to quicken the decay of the flesh of the year, so that it may feed the new life to come. We can also ask her to take the unwanted aspects of our personal year away, so that these too, might be transformed.” [Irish Country Living]

To commemorate the ‘new year’ and the first day of winter, there were enormous sacred bonfires; it was the time when the night became longer than the day, the last apples were picked, and the year began again with its dark, winter half. When the Earth rests it is sometimes called Trinoux Samonia, or ‘Three Nights of the End of Summer’. Originally a Druid festival, it was observed on either day (31st October/1st November) as the Celts measured the day from sunset to sunset. In the Celtic seasonal tale, The Wasting Sickness of Cuchulainn, it was observed for a total of seven days – three before and three after the feast of Samhain – marking the dangers of Otherworld at that time of the year.

“There is a marked danger of venturing too far into Otherworld. There is the risk of trespassing upon someone else’s ‘turf’ and getting lost. There is the risk that the dead will not let you go; that someone was not ready to leave life and will like yours all too greatly. There is the risk of wandering too far from your body, since to go that far into Otherworld to reach the lands of the dead, one may lose all awareness of the body’s physical surroundings. If something were to happen, there would be no way of knowing,” warns Ronnie Ellis, formerly taibhsearan for his clan.

In the Sacred Order of the Elder Faith, it is the time when Otherworld entities can mix freely with humans, when the liminal space between the two, is easily traversed. The displacement of the natural laws of time and place means that there is a ‘crossing over’ when all kinds of boisterous behaviour can be indulged in – which is seen as an offering of life-energy to replenish the dying year. Food was provided for the dead but these were not the grand feasts of harvest-time and Beltaine, since these were not celebratory gatherings but observances of propitiation in order to avert the anger or malevolence of the old gods. Turnips, apples and apple cider, mulled wines, gourds, nuts, beef, pork, poultry, ale – the Samhain recipes concocted from the harvest brought the community together and the Celts ate the fruits of their labours, told stories and tried to predict their fortunes in the future.

Needless to say, in early Celtic tradition, Samhain was closely associated with burial mounds, or cairns, which were also believed to be entrances to the Otherworld. In a Gaelic example in Fortingall, a samhnag was built on a mound known as Carn nam Marbh, ‘The Mound of the Dead’ – local lore has it that the mound contained the bodies of plague victims but is, in fact, a Bronze Age tumulus. A stone, known as the Clach a’ Phaigh, ‘the Plague Stone’, crowned the mound and once the bonfire was lit, the participants would join hands and dance around it, both deosil and widdershins. As the blaze waned, the younger participants would take part in leaping over the flame. No guisers or mummers appeared in this particular tradition as the bonfire was the sole centre of attention. In the Highlands, after sunset, many of the youth carried a blazing torch and walked the boundaries of their farms in order to protect the family from the faeries and other malevolent forces. New fire, kindled from the sacred communal blaze, was then brought into each house where it was kept burning for the rest of the year.

Otherworld entities and malevolent forces were free to walk the land at night, causing mischief. Samhain was seen as a time when the future could most easily be predicted, and was a favoured time among Druids for ritual fortune-telling. As in other major Celtic Festivals, Samhain was a gateway, a transition from one season to the next, and, because in Elder Faith belief at the heart of every gateway is a paradox. The threshold is literally between two worlds but is, in itself, in neither/and or in both at the same time. Thus Samhain belonged to both Summer and Winter … and to neither. It is the gateway to winter, and a magical time of passage between the seasons.

As in many pastoral societies, winter was regarded with a mixture of anticipation and dread. Samhain was the last gasp of summer … a time of uninhibited feasting and dancing. It was a time of release; a time to let go of all unwanted baggage, fears and attitudes, just as the trees let go of their leaves. So the lives of men parallel the sacred cycles of nature.

To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to their deities. During the festival, the participants wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted divination. When the festival was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier in the day, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

Púca is one of Ireland’s newest festivals and celebrates Ireland as the original home of Hallowe’en, which began as an ancient tradition over 2,000 years ago; as a time for in-gathering and storytelling, as darkness turns to light and the shape-shifting spirits roam the land. Through the spectacular nights at Púca Festival, they salute the Hallowe’en spirits through folklore, food, myth and music reopening the pathways of reflection and celebration carved out over a millennia ago, and lighting up the night sky with awe-inspiring and unearthly illuminations. Púca has been developed by Fáilte Ireland as a three-day vibrant and contemporary festival, strongly rooted in tradition with a programme of events centred around spectacle, music and food (inspired by the harvest at the time of Samhain and the Púca (Irish for spirit/ghost) a creature of Celtic folklore.

Certain agricultural traditions surround the Púca – a creature associated with the Goidelic harvest festival, when the last of the crops are brought in. Anything remaining in the fields is considered ‘puka’, or fairy-blasted, and hence inedible. In some locales, reapers leave a small share of the crop, the ‘púca’s share’, to placate the hungry creature. Nonetheless, 1st November is the púca’s day, and one day of the year when it can be expected to behave civilly. In some regions, the Púca is spoken of with considerably more respect than fear; if treated with deference, it may actually be beneficial to those who encounter it.

The Púca is a creature of the mountains and hills, and in those regions, there are stories of it appearing on November Day and providing prophecies and warnings to those who consult it.

Considered to be bringers both of good and bad fortune, they could help or hinder rural and marine communities. Púcaí can have dark or white fur or hair. The creatures were said to be shape-changers, which could take the appearance of horses, goats, cats, dogs, and hares. They may also take human form, which includes various animal features, such as ears or a tail. The Púca has counterparts throughout the Celtic cultures of Northwest Europe. For instance, in Welsh mythology, it is named the pwca and in Cornish the bucca.

By 43AD, the Roman Empirehad conquered the majority of Celtic lands. And in the course of the 400 years of suppression, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic observances of Samhain. The first was Feralia – a day in October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead; the second was the day to honour Pomona, a Roman goddess and a festival held in her honour in early November probably influenced the development of the modern Hallowe’en. Pomona was associated with abundance, the harvest and fruit, especially apples and nuts.

On 13th May 609AD, Pope Boniface re-dedicated the Pantheon – the most preserved and influential building of ancient Rome as a temple dedicated to all the gods of pagan Rome – in honour of all Christian martyrs, and the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established in the Western church calendar. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III later expanded the festival to include all saints as well as all martyrs, and moved the observance from 13th May to 1st November.

Many of our current Hallowe’en traditions have their roots in the Middle Ages when people would dress in costumes intended to scare away any dark spirits that happened to be wandering about. Bells were rung, and there were processions and bonfires to scare away malevolent witches, ghosts, and evil spirits. Children and the poor went door to door, offering prayers for the household’s deceased relatives in exchange for small ‘soul’ cakes.

By the 9th century, the influence of Christianity had spread into the Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted older pagan rites. In 1000AD the church decreed 2nd November to be All Souls’ Day – a day to honour the dead. It is widely believed today that the church was attempting to replace the Celtic festivals with related, church-sanctioned holy days.

All Souls’ Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades and dressing up in costumes depicting saints, angels and devils. The celebration was called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English meaning Alholowmesse, meaning All Saints’ Day), and the night before it – the traditional night of Samhain – began to be called All-Hallows-Eve and eventually – Hallowe’en.

The rigid Protestant belief systems in colonial New England severely restricted Hallowe’en celebrations, with the exception of Maryland and the southern colonies. As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups and the Native Americans converged, a distinctly American version of Hallowe’en began to develop. The first celebrations included ‘play parties’, which were public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbours would share ghost stories, and tell each other’s fortunes among the dancing and singing.

Colonial festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making of all kinds. And by the middle of the 19th century, annual autumnal festivities were common – but Hallowe’en had not yet spread everywhere in the country. In the second half of the 19th century, America was flooded with new immigrants and these new people, especially the millions of Irish fleeing the ‘potato famine’, helped to spread the celebration of Hallowe’en as a national festivity. Over time, it gradually evolved into a day of fun activities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, in-gatherings, wearing costumes and eating special treats. [americaslibrary.gov]

In the United States today, Halloween is big business: The National Retail Federation estimates that Americans spent over six billion dollars on candy, costumes and ghoulish decor during a recent holiday and it is now a commercial feast for candy producers and pumpkin farmers. In the 19th century, Irish and Scottish immigrants in America began to revive the old traditions – with more of an emphasis on trick-or-treating than religious introspection – and more than 150 million consumers participated in the modern American iteration of Halloween. An estimated 65% of Americans will celebrate Halloween or participate in Halloween activities this year, with 66% of those consumers planning to give out candy, 52% planning to decorate their homes and 44% planning to carve a pumpkin. Total spending in 2021 was expected to reach $10.1 billion, with the average consumer planning to spend $102.74 on decorations, candy, costumes and more.

These celebrations might have their roots in the ancient Celtic festival, Samhain, which marked the beginning of winter but little remains of the need for propitiatory gestures to keep bad luck/evil at bay. Hallowe’en has retained its spiritual and macabre nature through many centuries, thanks to traditions like ‘souling’, where the poor would beg for pastries on All Souls Day in exchange for prayers for deceased relatives. Our forebears believed that the night before Samhain, spirits from the other world came and destroyed vegetation with their breath, leaving the land barren for winter. People would leave food and wine on their doorsteps to appease the spirits, and wear masks when they left the house to blend in with them. Eventually, the fundamental pagan traditions were co-opted by the Christian church and this Ancestor-based observance fell by the wayside.

Around the world, however, many cultures have festivals intended to honour the dead. Like Samhain, some of them are linked to the change of seasons and the harvest, while others mirror the influence of Christianity, spread by missionaries throughout the world. But although many feature jubilant celebrations replete with dancing and music, they’re meant first and foremost as a way to honour dead relatives and ancestors, and should be approached with respect. [National Geographic]

In the Coven of the Scales, where we follow the old Julian calendar in traditional British witchcraft, since Old Samhain conveniently aligns with Armistice Day that is commemorated every year on 11th November to mark the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, at 5:45 am for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at eleven in the morning – the ‘eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month’ of 1918. But, according to Thomas R. Gowenlock, an intelligence officer with the U.S. First Division, shelling from both sides continued for the rest of the day, ending only at nightfall

The first Armistice Day observance was held at Buckingham Palace, commencing with King George V hosting a ‘Banquet in Honour of the President of the French Republic’ during the evening hours of 10th November 1919. The first official Armistice Day events were subsequently held in the grounds of Buckingham Palace on the morning of 11th November 1919, which included a two-minute silence as a mark of respect for those who died in the war and those left behind. After the end of World War II, most member states of the Commonwealth of Nations, followed the earlier example of Canada and adopted the name Remembrance Day. Other countries also changed the name of the holiday just prior to or after World War II, to honour veterans of that and subsequent conflicts.

Needless to say, for us this is an extremely sombre observation which has no place for frivolous role-playing and festivities. In Coven of the Scales, we observe Old Samhain/Calan Gaeof on the 11th November so that it can coincide with modern Remembrance Day and, as the time to remember our war dead and the Ancestors – today we wear our poppy with pride. Never more so does kindred call to kindred, blood call to blood … because the most powerful energy on which an Old Craft practitioner 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 the Elder Faith.

In other words, our dead are always with us and when we channel that rejuvenating power into the Coven’s mindset, we are imbuing the group and its members with the strength and magical energy of all those centuries of ancestral influence. In fact, these are the ancestral properties we call upon to consolidate the energy required in spell-casting and invocation, rather than what others may see as the beneficence of deities, angels or spirits. And, we re-affirm this allegiance to this sacred past each time – and to each other – whenever we perform a seasonal rite that includes the breaking of bread and taking of salt – either singly or in a group.

The Ancestors act as Coven guardians and also channel the god-power in a two-way conduit, for it would be too hazardous to allow a direct current to pass between supplicant and benefactor. This shield can also act as a safety-barrier for any deific displeasure we may inadvertently attract by behaving inappropriately, i.e. ignoring or disobeying the ‘rules’. It guards us from infiltration by outsiders who would infiltrate our ranks in order to acquire secret information or cause damage. And, it warns when our own are wavering and likely to fall prey to indiscretion and flattery. It also means that once we are permanently linked to this power, we don’t even have to think about it in order to tap into it. This is what it means to be an Old Craft witch [Round About the Cauldron Go …]

So … modern Hallowe’en celebrations and Samhain rituals in America and the UK have very little in common – though both occasions often call for large gatherings. Modern Wiccans and other pagans (Wicca is a subset of paganism; Druids are another example) of all stripes have kept the festivities alive, adapting their Samhain traditions to suit the contemporary pagan community. These days, Samhain is celebrated with more much mischief but (hopefully) it still remains a time imbued, powerful spirituality. Nevertheless, it is often unwise to attempt to combine participants from both traditions since this can lead to offence on both sides.

Hallowmas, Samhain & All That by Melusine Draco and published by ignotus books uk : ISBN 978 1 80302 514 8 : Pages 104 : UK£6.85 : Arcanum series No 11:  Order direct from https://www.feedaread.com/books/Halloween-Samhain-and-all-that.aspx