Round About the Cauldron Go … in traditional British Old Craft
with Phillip Wright & Carrie West.
The whole essence of traditional British Old Craft is closely bound to the natural tides that govern our planet. When we organised our own Coven activities, these were focussed on drawing down an elemental power to synchronise with the traditional Sabbats and Esbats, thus ensuring the Coven developing a ‘group mind’ of its own that nonetheless periodically needs to be recharged via group ritual. This also explains why Old Crafters synchronise those rituals to coincide with the Old Julian calendar that links us directly to the power of the Ancestors rather than any contemporary ‘wheel of the year’. Kindred calls to kindred, blood calls to blood. The modern Gregorian calendar is now thirteen days out of alignment and will be fourteen days adrift from 2100 – but magically a miss is as good as a mile!
A witch needs to be on familiar, operational-terms with these times and tides of the witch’s true year – not just the solar and lunar tides but the oceanic, earth and atmospheric tides that can also enhance/affect our magical workings. We must also understand that some tides are more beneficial than others for recharging the ‘group mind’ of the Coven so that we as individuals can draw upon these currents of elemental power to energise our own spells at any time. This elemental power is marked in the charting of the stars, and while the stars are not generally used as sources of power they can also act as a celestial barometer for the calendaric ebb and flow. This is the witch-power we channel when we work magic – either singly or as a group – and it makes sense to take these various different tides into consideration and utilise them to our best advantage whenever we can. There’s nothing to stop us from working against the tide but this is self-defeating when it is easier to go with the natural flow of Nature and the cosmos.
These natural tides can and do affect the way we live, work and think although we may not be conscious of the power they have over this little old planet of ours; ask any midwife, who’ll tell you that there are more births when there’s a full moon. By understanding when these tides occur may shed a light on why we may react differently at times without knowing why; it may also explain why we can be magically/psychically hyper/receptive at certain times and not at others.
A natural witch has the ability to identify and interact with this natural energy on which she (or he) must draw for all purposes of Craft practice. Without this natural ability there is no Old Craft witch, because as Hotspur retorts to Glendower’s claim that he can ‘call spirits from the vasty deep’. “Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them?” And which particular energy do we conjure for what purpose? The gentle ethereal energy of the fields and hedgerows differs quite considerably from the primitive and often menacing energy of the woods and forests; or the ever-changing seashore; while mountains and rivers generate their own mystique.
The eight great fire festivals are marked by the Equinoxes and Solstices of the solar year, with the four traditional celebrations of Old Beltaine, Old Lammas, Old Hallowe’en and Old Candlemas making up the eight great Sabbats of the witch’s year. The fire festivals occur at the beginning of each quarter of the solar-tide cycle with Candlemas marking the end of the reign of the Holly King and heralding the first stirrings of the bright tide of summer of the Old Lass. At the turbulent tide of the Vernal Equinox, the bright and dark tides are equally balanced with the bright tide on the increase; Beltaine marked the traditional beginning of summer, which reached its height around the Midsummer Solstice. From here it begins to wane as we progress through the sacred time of harvest … towards the celebration of the Harvest Home.
As glamorous as it sounds, al fresco witchcraft is not practical without a lot of preparation. After many years, however, we eventually got it sussed – one arrives at the site well in advance, lights the fire and sets the pre-cooked stew to heat up – by using a tripod and a hanging pot. Supper was often transported in insulated containers to keep it as hot as possible and emptied into the cooking pot so that the delicious smell greeting the coven made all the extra effort worth-while. Perfectly adequate tripods and pot sets can now be purchased from Amazon at a reasonable price. Purists, of course, will insist on doing everything from scratch on site but unless the coven members have cast iron stomachs they’ll still be sitting there waiting for the ‘feast’ when the sun comes up. But it’s a guaranteed way of causing Irritable Witch Syndrome in even the most resolute of coven members.
Camp-fire cookery is an art in itself and since the whole idea of a Sabbat gathering is to generate power, the Dame and Magister need to be able to organise seamless rituals that aren’t marred by catering problems. Nevertheless, by synchronising our own Coven rituals with the days of the Old Calendar we are drawing down the power of the Ancestors to re-charge the ‘group-mind’ of the present Coven. By utilising power that has accumulated down through the centuries from successive generations of witches who gathered together to celebrate their Sabbat/Esbat on this very day over hundreds of years, we are ensuring that Old Craft survives into the next century. Kindred calls to kindred, blood calls to blood’… linking those that are kindred by token of a common ancestry and a united by a blood-bond to the Ancestors.
Husband and wife team, Phillip Wright and Carrie West ran their own coven for nearly thirty years before its disbanding and their return to the mother Coven of the Scales. They are also authors of Coven Working, Death and the Pagan and soon to be published, Round About the Cauldron Go … from Ignotus Books UK.
Because Round About the Cauldron Go … is being published as a limited edition, from time to time we will be including extracts on the Melusine Draco and Coven of the Scales Blogs.