Coarse Witchcraft – “a funny and clever book”

The Coarse Witchcraft Trilogy: introduced by Melusine Draco

I’ve often said that Coarse Witchcraft is like Marmite … you either love it or hate it.  Fans of the Coarse Witchcraft series are aware of the story behind the trilogy. How the authors were unhappy with the proposed ideas for publishing the first book as dark humour instead of the rather intense, polemic typescript they had originally submitted. They finally agreed for the text to be given to me (as a fellow Old Crafter) to ghost-write and Coarse Witchcraft: Craft Working was duly published – generally provoking more good natured laughter about British witchcraft at the time than we could have expected in our wildest dreams. Even esoteric author and long-time chum, Alan Richardson, said of the book: ‘Coarse Witchcraft made me laugh out loud in more than a few places. In fact, I think it is the first book of its kind; although it pokes fun at modern excesses and can laugh at itself, it still manages to teach the real stuff at a very high level.’

There was almost enough material left from the first book to launch a second: Coarse Witchcraft 2: Carry On Crafting, with plans for a third. It was dedicated to all those Crafters who believe that reverence should be tempered with mirth and merriment – and was as equally well received as the first. For reasons that will become apparent, the third (and last) title, Coarse Witchcraft 3: Cold Comfort Coven has been a long time in the writing. Despite the popularity of the first two books, the original authors decided to hand all copyright back to the ghost-writer who had created the series (if not the characters themselves), with the proviso that the real names of those people should never be revealed -and retire from the scene.

 Cold Comfort Coven is written in the same vein as the previous titles, and in its own way continues the unexpected, but true, story of the Coven from the numerous notes supplied by, and lengthy conversations with, the original members. In its own way, I think the Coarse Witchcraft Trilogy represents a small but important capsule of Craft history during the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s that we have been lucky enough to preserve for the next generations of witches. MD

Extract from Coarse Witchcraft: Craft Working

St Thomas on the Poke is a small market town, as yet still unspoilt by the march of progress despite its close proximity to the south coast. And, despite an even closer proximity to the New Forest, the Coven lays no claim to any hereditary association with the legendary Dorothy Clutterbuck or the ‘New Forest Witches’. The Coven has been in existence for many years prior to the birth of its current members and will no doubt continue long after their deaths. Our family has farmed the land for centuries and, although that future can no longer be guaranteed, our branch of Old Craft will survive simply because we prefer to remain in the shadows and keep our teaching pure.

In spite of our ‘privacy’, our own small group is often beset with problems and difficulties of both a personal and magical nature, just the same as any other close grouping of people. Although head of the Coven, mine is not a blood-right. Three years after my mother’s death, father re-married; a year to the day his new wife was delivered of a son and promptly died. Some say the child was so ugly that the poor woman died of embarrassment. Be that as it may, as a result of this brief interlude, my father acquired a second son and a mother-in-law who was to be the bane of both his life and, subsequently, mine. Local people never understood why ’Squire (as my father was known) married Elizabeth Jay but I can now answer that question in all honesty, since it is no longer of importance. Like Jacquetta, the old Duchess of Bedford who snared Edward IV for her daughter, Granny Jay is a witch and, although she’s never actually admitted it, she used those powers to get Elizabeth into my father’s bed. In fact, Granny introduced most of the local children to the Old Ways (including my wife and myself), weeding out those who had a natural aptitude for careful nurturing when they came of reasonable age.

On my return from agricultural college following the unexpected death of my father, the old lady (whose personal habits and hygiene had always been questionable but now resembled those of an incontinent ferret) announced that I had been chosen to succeed the dead ‘Man’. Since Roger, my stepbrother, was of her blood, I felt the honour should go to him but Granny muttered that the boy was a moron who couldn’t find his own arse with a road map and a flash-light. She wasn’t, she added, having that sort of person messing up a hundred years of tradition. Despite her unprepossessing appearance, Granny was (and is still) not a force to be trifled with, as many of her neighbours have discovered to their cost. Mine was not to refuse.

Our Coven at present numbers the traditional thirteen although we have, in the past, had many more and often many less. Apart from my wife, Gabrielle, who serves as Dame and myself, there are our children, Richard and Philly, who are currently trekking around India during their gap year from university. (The Old Witch saw to it that they were introduced to the Old Ways at a very early age, even though I threatened to personally strangle her when I found out.) Guy and Gerry run the esoteric shop cum art gallery in the town centre and serve as our specialists in herb-lore. Priscilla and Adam at Bramble Cottage who, apart from keeping everyone supplied with honey and helping out with the livery stables, act as the Coven’s instructors. Then there’s Helena, our seer and diviner, whose jams and preserves are legendary within WI circles – but unlike Granny, hers is a tranquil madness.

Newcomers to the town, Madeleine and Robert were discovered like rare blossoms at a pub moot when Pris and Adam were forced to attend, due to Roger’s emergency hospitalization for haemorrhoids. (Granny unsympathetically observed that the doctors had obviously found a way to shut his mouth and give his arse a chance!) There’s Gordon, our stable ‘lad’ – an absolute marvel at animal healing and, finally, of course, there’s Granny herself.

Our real difficulties arise from Roger who, despite his grandmother’s unflattering pronouncement, formed his own coven in a neighbouring village. This means that Granny migrates between the two and although she disapproves of Roger’s modern approach (i.e. to let anyone and everyone ‘have a crack at the priesthood’) she spends most of her time with his group keeping an eye on things. ‘In case the daft bugger goes and kills somebody!’ The Old Witch also enjoys the atmosphere of seething hostility because Roger’s High Priestess is not his wife, and his wife disapproves of the one he’s chosen – for obvious reasons. Granny, of course, encourages Roger’s extra marital activities, and since Roger will roger anything with a pulse … well … the added spice (for Granny at least) is the fact that Roger’s brother-in-law is also the local vicar!

Although preferring to remain ‘private’, we do not work in isolation and are regularly in contact with other Old Crafters all over Britain. Because of my step-brother’s more liberal approach to craft-working on our doorstep, the members of the Coven felt that we should become more aware of what was going on in what is generally referred to as the ‘pagan scene’ at a more local level. Admittedly in doing so, we have added two new and valuable members to our group – so the effort was worthwhile.

Nevertheless, while we prefer not joining anything on a regular basis, we do make an effort to interact with the various goings-on in the area. This book is the result of the many conversations we’ve have, scenes we’ve witnessed, gossip we’ve exchanged and the experiences we’ve undergone, all in the name of Old Craft.

The names of the Coven members are those by which they have chosen to be known for the purpose of the book, for our true identities are no concern of anybody but our own. Neither will you find us in the telephone directory for we prefer not have our lives disrupted by the idly curious. Those who wish to have an understanding of our ways will seek us out when their time is right …

A few comments from others in the Craft:

“Granny muttered that the boy was a moron who couldn’t find his own arse with a road map and a flash-light.” Love it already and laughed out loud and it’s only page 4, but it doesn’t stop. Lot of humour, it’s wittily written and there’s a heavy dose of taking the er…Mick out of those in paganism who take themselves too seriously and of course the fluffy bunnies. I’d call this recommended reading for all newbies. Maria Moloney

The first part of this unique series,’ Craft Working’, was first published in 2002 by the late lamented ignotus press, followed two years later with ‘Carry On Crafting’. As occult author Alan Richardson commented at the time: “Coarse Witchcraft made me laugh out loud in more than a few places. In fact, I think it is the first book of its kind: although it pokes fun at modern excesses and can laugh at itself, it still manages to teach the real stuff at a very high level.” The Moon Books edition published in 2013, includes the last part, ‘Cold Comfort Coven’ and as Melusine Draco (herself a former ignotus press author) observes in her Introduction: “In its own way the’ Coarse Witchcraft Trilogy’ represents a small but important capsule of Craft history that we have been lucky enough to preserve for the next generation of witches.” Ten years after the first part was published, the antics of the characters are still raising a chuckle, and still causing fellow witches to shake their heads in disbelief. Although based on a true story from the time of the 1990s ‘witch wars’ the books were re-written as humorous ‘faction’, and included contributions from other Old Craft witches who were only too eager to share the indiscretions of their own individual covens for posterity. All too often the pagan scene gets a little bit introspective and serious – ‘Coarse Witchcraft’ shows us that it is possible to combine mirth with reverence. Highly recommended. Carys Llewellyn

This is a funny and clever book,  that reads like fiction but to some degree isn’t. There’s a lot of experience and insight underpinning it, so that, without really revealing anything, it gives the newbie or wannabe witch a chance at spotting the fakes and fraudsters. It is also a really funny and engaging book. Nimue Brown 

The Coarse Witchcraft Trilogy found it’s way to me and I am extremely glad that it did… This book is not only truly funny – it had me laughing out loud and shaking my head in despair at the same time, but it is also a very good reflection on what goes on within witchcraft groups. You will I am sure identify with most, if not all of the characters described within these pages because the fact of the matter is – this book is real, it is true life stories, it tells in a down to earth, no holds barred kind of way how witchcraft and the people that follow it roll. Truly entertaining but I also love the fact that it gets across the roots of witchcraft, how it is practiced by many, many people without all the fancy schmancy fluffy bits… If you want a good chuckle and also a good insight into the workings of a real coven you need to read this. This is Practical Magic meets The Good Life… Rachel Patterson

I’ve always been a fan of the first two Coarse Witchcraft books and howled laughing at the antics of the characters and the nutters they  encountered on the ‘pagan scene’. Now the long awaited third in the trilogy is finally out. These books hold gems of Old Craft wisdom and lore within the pages, a real must for anyone serious about British Traditional Old Craft instead of the new age shenanigins that pass for witchcraft nowadays. I’m glad the third, Cold Comfort Coven has finally been released and its plain to see why  it took so long to see the light of day. I laughed and with a heavy heart I read  the third and final part, as within any coven it only takes one bad apple to  spoil the whole barrel and I must say this ‘Poison Dwarf’ character obviously  has a lot to answer for. Over the years the characters had become like old  friends and the real sense of sadness was felt for Gabrielle as her life  dramatically changes with all round losses as she faces the future wherever the  Old Ones guide her.  Kerry Chadwick

 The Coarse Witchcraft Trilogy is published by Moon Books

ISBN: 978 1 78279 285 7 : 254pp UK£10.99/US$18.95 – http://www.moon-books.net

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