‘All Hallows’ – from Carry On Crafting

‘So if I were to join in one of these witchcraft rituals, would I have to run up and down with a lighted taper in my arse, singing the Hallelujah Chorus?’ The question was patronising and more than a little offensive, even if it wasn’t on camera.

Rupert fixed the interviewer with a steely look before responding in his best, clipped public-school tone: ‘You could if you wanted to, old boy, but it wouldn’t add anything constructive to the proceedings.’

With that, he climbed into the Land Rover and drove off, leaving the television crew staring after him, open-mouthed, while the public relations girl looked as though she was about to burst into tears. I had warned them well in advance not to ask daft questions but obviously the media genius with the Beckham mentality had decided to busk it – and this was the result. So there they stood in the middle of a field, on a damp October morning – a complete production team, whose star performer had just buggered off! And no amount of coaxing was going to get him back.

Needless to say, it was a couple of weeks away from Hallowe’en, and this was an attempt to inject something ‘topical but spooky’ into the early evening CountryStyle programme. Rupert had only agreed to take part because he’d been led to believe it related directly to his new book, Equine Magical Lore and he was expecting to talk about traditional British ‘horse-whispering’ and natural animal cures. (He can wax quite lyrical about pig oil and sulphur, which he considers to be a cure for most things. I once caught him eyeing the children speculatively when they were small and suffering from measles!) He was not prepared to talk about Old Craft, on or off camera, with a moron who was just trying to provoke some good television.

As we’ve said many times before, the problem is that the media doesn’t want to portray witches as sane and rational adults with jobs and family responsibilities. They want weird (as opposed to wyrd) and will try any trick to manoeuvre their victim into doing, or saying, something stupid so the nation can snigger behind its collective hand, convinced that we’re all mentally defective. Unfortunately, there are a handful of so-called magical practitioners who will perform this kind of stunt for five minutes of fame but they are only representative of those whose roots were grafted after the popular surge of occultism in the 1970s.

Having finally managed to soothe Rupert’s affronted pride, and attempted to persuade the production crew that camping out in the greenhouse wasn’t a good idea, most of the morning had gone. Judging by the amount of frantic mobile telephone activity – conspicuous in a stable yard by the discordant assortment of electronic ringtones – they had obviously been told not to return to base without a result. For some time we amused ourselves by watching from the upstairs windows as they circled the house, trying to conceal themselves among the bushes and shrubs, waiting to pounce. The publicity girl, now thoroughly sodden, had tried banging on the door a couple of times, but Rupert was not for turning. It was going to be a long day, but the dog was keeping them on the move, and finding it all immense fun.

Periodically, someone would mooch past the kitchen window, sporting what appeared to be a dead ferret on the end of a pole. I was reliably informed by my son (who telephoned in the middle of this hiatus), that it was a microphone and part of the sound equipment, but out here in the country, you can never be quite sure. We know of one local lad who managed to sell the same dead fox to a television production team on three consecutive days, by keeping it in the freezer overnight and fluffing up the fur each morning with his mother’s hair-dryer. And they say country folk are thick … he earned £100 for that road kill!

Anyway, Rupert refused to leave the kitchen while the media circus was still lurking about, and just as we were sitting down to an early lunch, in came Pris, spitting feathers. ‘I’ll murder the bugger!’ she kept saying, until Rupert’s special blend of strong coffee laced with Famous Grouse worked its magical calming effect; not to mention feeding her a cheese and pickle sandwich, the size of which would have felled a healthy Rottweiler. At first we thought poor old Adam was coming in for some flack but it was much more serious than mere marital dispute.

A stranger had ridden into town and, compounding sacrilege with blasphemy, had announced to all and sundry that he came from the very same Old Craft tradition that had spawned Pris. Now we have ways and means of recognising our ‘own’, as it were, and this pretender was not giving out any of the signals that would have endorsed his claim. In all honesty, Pris’s old teacher was a bit of a colourful character with some most peculiar working methods – which may account for some of Pris’s strange habits – but his magical approach was certainly unique. As she’d said on many occasions in response to prior bogus claims to her lineage: ‘He might have been a scurrilous old bugger, but he was our scurrilous old bugger!’

This type of claiming ‘kinship’ is, unfortunately, no longer a rarity, especially as the schism between contemporary Wicca and the Gardnerian-based traditions is widening all the time. Those older traditions that have formal, initiatory training and an established hierarchical system now wish to distance themselves from this eclectic free-for-all that typifies 21st century paganism, by referring to themselves as ‘traditional’ Craft.

For those of British Old Craft, however, the gulf between modern paganism and our ways could never have been reconciled. As we frequently point out, there’s nothing altruistic about Old Craft, which retains its tribal mentality and does not wish to take on the responsibility for global problems that occur outside its own sphere of operations. We tend to work on the guiding and hallowed principle of looking after our own … full stop!

All this convenient pagan colour-coding has resulted in more and more folk coming forward to claim antecedents for themselves, to which they are not entitled. As a rule they allow around five years from the death of one of these Old Souls and if no one else appears to lay claim to the tradition, they publicly proclaim themselves to be the inheritors of the old wisdom of the dear departed. Even if the closest they’ve ever been is bumping into one at a pagan camp; holding a couple of telephone conversations of a pseudo-magical nature; or being involved in the same public ritual as ‘the Name’. Old Crafters are notoriously secretive and this form of lèse-majesté is the only thing that will bring ’em out of the woodwork to defend their corner. There’s many a pretender who has been faced down by an affronted Old Crafter … and it’s not a pretty sight!

The Coarse Witchcraft Trilogy is published by Moon Books in paperback and e-book format. ISBN: 978 1 78279 285 7 : 254p : UK£10.99/US$18.95

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