Writing about witchcraft is easy. Finding the right theme isn’t. Any fool can pass themselves off as a witch but finding an informative and entertaining approach for a new book is a whole different cauldron of knowledge. Personally, I feel there should be a magical purpose behind any book on Craft – otherwise it’s all been said before – and usually better …
The second book in the Traditional Witchcraft series needed to address another aspect of witchcraft that is rarely dealt with and that was the importance of linking with the different ‘tides’ that effect or enhance magical workings. And what better environment in which to talk about the subject than the seashore? Needless to say that since the entire planet is governed by the various natural tides – oceanic, atmospheric, lunar and solar – the seashore was the focus for this title, even if we didn’t need to live anywhere near the coast to draw upon it. Again there was nothing similar in print at the time, so there was a gap in the market for a book that took working with moon phases one step further.
The sea is a metaphor for life: it is vast and empty and infinite. The poet Walt Whitman, used the sea as a metaphor for immortality, while Henry David Thoreau used the sea as a metaphor for the enrichment of man’s mind and the limitlessness of his abilities. The two oceans that are a common theme in Thoreau’s work is the ocean which is found on earth and the ocean in the sky which consists of the moon, stars and air. Conceptually, to Thoreau both oceans represented the accessible vastness of the human psyche which man should aspire to engage until he dies. Magical practice is, however, one big metaphor and therefore this was seen as another exercise on the path of traditional witchcraft.
And yet those with no true experience of magic will always pick up on any negative aspects, which demonstrate just how little they really know. As I pointed out in CRONE!, I often wonder about some of the people who read my books and who have no compulsion in making scathing comments about the content. I don’t expect everyone to like my style, which can often come across as slightly abrasive, but I don’t appreciate being insulted or belittled by those with scant experience in the ways of magic. It’s usually at this point I will repeat those famous words of Aleister Crowley who was no stranger to a bad press:
Test the average man by asking him to listen to a simple sentence which contains one word with associations to excite his prejudice, fears or passions – he will fail to understand what you have said and reply by expressing his emotional reaction to the critical word…
For example, one reviewer for Traditional Witchcraft for the Seashore complained that a spell ‘suggests throwing a plastic container into the sea and letting it go where the tides takes it’, followed by a lecture on ecology – which showed that the complainer hadn’t read the passage properly, or more importantly, even remotely understood its content. “I’m wondering what you are thinking when you recommend throwing anything plastic in the ocean ? We have enough plastic refuse in our Oceans . This is not a very eco friendly recommendation for spell work . I urge you to re think this particular spell in subsequent editions.”
I had included this charm of ‘confusion and chaos’, i.e. a curse that involved throwing a small medicine bottle into the fast current of an estuary to let the natural currents carry it where it would. I pointed out that there was no way of retrieving this charm, so there were to be no knee-jerk reactions when making the decision to cast it. And that if came back on the returning tide, then if must be retrieved and destroyed since the ‘powers that be’ had rejected the appeal. I also explained that retrieval could be extremely dangerous, so there needed to be sufficient justification for casting the charm [curse] in the first place or there could be serious repercussions, and the sender would only have themselves to blame.
The complainer had made several adverse comments (including an Amazon review) about the casting of small plastic medicine bottles into the briny … but nothing at all about cursing, or showing any understanding of the positive-negative aspects of using this method of thowing a curse. Curses generally have a much greater environmental impact than small plastic bottles and the whole point of the exercise was missed because the words: ‘throw a small medicine bottle into the current’ excited the passions of the reader.
There were enough safeguards in the text to make even the most feeble-minded of readers stop and think whether it was worth the effort, or risking the dangers of the sea in order to get even with some real or imagined enemy. And if you’d got it wrong and the sea returned the bottle, then there was even greater risk to life in attempting to retrieve the offending container. And it was hardly envisaged that thousands of junior-league pagans would be cursing and hurling their plastic bottles into the briny just because it was written in a book! All magic has an element of risk to the practitioner and time would be better spent making sure they understood what sort of spell they were undertaking – and if you don’t understand it, then don’t do it!!
The ‘Traditional Witchcraft’ series provides varied information about what it means to be a practising witch in modern times. In places, it feels like a guide, or self-help book. But there is much more to it than that. What strikes me is the amount of science running through the book. To understand nature is to live as a part of nature, and ultimately to become one with its changing patterns and cycles, to synchronise one’s own psychic or magical energy with natural tidal forces and the elements. So a witch, like no other religious practitioner that I’m aware of, must study her environment carefully, and attune her life to it. For a witch devoted to the sea and seashore, that involves learning much about the tides, weather, flora and fauna of the coastline, lunar cycles, as well as the folklore and myths of the sea:
“The world of the sea-witch is not confined to the shore and the water margin. It is a multi-dimensional world of light and shadow, of reality and illusion, where we have moved into the subjective world of the spirit – a rich fishing-ground for those who trawl in these inner seas. The Mystery is now within and around us. By immersing ourselves in the world of myth and legend to such a degree, it has become as tangible to us as the ‘real’ world, forming a continual back-ground to our daily life.” The learning is multi-disciplinary, and feels almost as if one was studying a textbook written by a poet. Yet the science collated in these pages is interesting, and pragmatic. Intermingled with the factual information is much about rituals, superstitions, beach treasures to collect for magical means and, of course, spell-casting. The witchcraft seems real enough – the engagement in the rituals and practice requiring as much faith as any other religion as to its efficacy.
Not everyone tuned into the sea can physically live near it, of course, and the book also provides advice for the budding sea-witch who lives inland, even in an urban environment. Much information is provided on how to build a sea garden sanctuary, away from prying eyes, to conduct ritual and relax in. The tides still extend their reach inland, as science has shown through its study of the remarkable tidal recalculation made by inland oysters. Traditional Witchcraft for the Seashore is like a Radio 4 feature about witches – not that one could ever imagine that happening, or imagine a witch providing ‘Thought for the Day’ on the Today programme! But it has that sense of quiet wonder about it, supported by education, knowledge and, above all, wisdom. Andy Lloyd Book Reviews
This book recognises that we can’t all live in picturesque cottages by the coast and that if we light a huge Fire of Azrael (made famous in Dion Fortune’s Book The Sea Priestess) on some popular tourist beach we are unlikely to be left alone to peacefully scry into its embers. Instead, Melusine offers a selection of easy pathworkings and visualisations plus traditional folk spells and that you can whisper quietly or just go through mentally without saying anything aloud while sitting by the seashore or standing before the waves. The book also suggests creating a small garden containing such things as shingle, bits of driftwood, shells and plants that are happy growing on dunes and shingle or inland. Even if you live in a town or city, you can spend time in your sea garden and imagine you are by the coast. Lucya Szachnowski | Badwitch
Such a wonderful book! It’s definitely a must-have in your sea-witchery library. This book is not just for those who live along the seashore (because it concerns the seashore and weather lore) but also by rivers or estuaries and there is even something for those who live a distance from the sea. You can even find details of how to recreate a sea garden at home. The author gives us some practical ‘Magical Tasks and exercises’ throughout the book and there is also a little spell book at the back that is full of useful tasks and activities for all occasions. It was amazing. Claudia Loureiro
Traditional Witchcraft for the Seashore by Melusine Draco is published by Moon Books. http://www.moon-books-net