Book News: The Arte of Darkness

Into the Darkness:

‘Evil is simply misplaced force.  It can be misplaced in time: like the violence that is acceptable in war, is unacceptable in peace.  It can be misplaced in space: like a burning coal on a rug rather than the fireplace. Or it can be misplaced in proportion: like an excess of love can make us overly sentimental, or a lack of love can make us cruel and destructive.  It is in things such as these that evil lies, not in a personal Devil who acts as an Adversary,’ so says the Qabalah.

Nevertheless, there is an increasing tendency these days for groups and individuals to portray themselves as being more exciting, adventurous, or more magically competent by covering themselves with the mantle of ‘Darkness’. Such people believe they know everything there is to know about the ‘arte of darkness’ but more often than not, whatever knowledge they have, it is not enough since they are ‘loaded to the gunwales with a cargo of conceit’. Let’s make no bones about it – there is no such thing as Black and White Magic – and the realms of Darkness and Shadow are an intrinsic part of everyday magical practice regardless of path, creed or tradition. Magic used only for good purposes is only singing half the Mass!

Magic per se is neither black nor white, good nor evil, and it is often extremely difficult to define exactly what is meant by magic (or magick), as the word has completely different meanings for different people.  [Aleister Crowley, incidentally, usually spelt magick with a ‘k’ to distinguish his own particular brand – which was of a sexual nature – from the traditional ritual and ceremonial kind.] To some it merely refers to the cabaret act of card tricks and illusion; others think of it in terms of ignorant superstition; today many connect it with the fictional world of Harry Potter, or the literary world of The Lord of the Rings.  For many more, the definition falls between a sinister connection with black masses and dark-doings on one hand, and love potions and healing on the other.  The age-old conflict between the opposing forces of good and evil may only have been the product of over active imaginations, but it has always attracted the attention of highly accomplished personalities who were generally acknowledged as having access to magical and mystical powers.

Once we fumble our way past beginner stage, however, we quickly come to realise that magic is a tantalizing system of opposites: black/white, negative/positive, active/passive, male/female, dark/light, day/night and that the opposite of ‘good’ isn’t necessarily ‘evil’ – or even lukewarm wicked!  And once we reach the path of the Initiate, we find that things haven’t changed much, except that we now understand we know nothing and have to begin all over again by looking at life, magic and the Universe from a completely different perspective.  In fact, darkness regularly comes to us all as the Earth spins on its axis and another part of the world gets to see the light. And we must always remember that in even the deepest esoteric book-learning there are always bits missing! Like that uppermost point that links the human consciousness with the divine, i.e Daäth or Knowledge – the Qabalistic legend of the ‘fall’ that is a parable of the shutting out of man from Paradise by the destruction of Daäth and the establishment of the Abyss … These are the realms that go beyond Initiation and which we must still strive towards in order to gain the hidden Wisdom that ultimately leads to Understanding.

Nevertheless, there are basic elements of esoteric practice that an old CoS colleague of mine always described as ‘Ooo-er magic!’ meaning that it had been modernised (or bastardised) out of all recognition, and put across as being slightly risqué or risky, depending on how one viewed the application.  The impression is often given by ‘Ooo-er!’ practitioners that certain deities, who were simply Underworld or Otherworld denizens, or those that had been blessed with an unfavorable physiognomy and/or unfortunate pedigree, are hailed as the ones to follow. Often accompanied by a scornful distain for those who are nervous about interacting with such murky energies might be better served taking up macramé.

Added to this, a good rummage around in the ‘darker’ aspects of the monotheistic or Abrahamic religions is always good for a bit of ‘Ooo-er magic!’ providing those they are trying to convince haven’t bothered too much with conducting any research into the background claims of the participants, or their ‘occult tradition’. Where would we be, for instance, without the supporting cast of the Book of Revelations, the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha? Like sexual orientations, a person’s magical inclinations are just that: personal.  They are governed by an individual’s own ethics and morality in what Meriem Clay-Egerton always described as forty shades of grey (long before that other book came out).  My Welsh slate grey, for instance, might be your deepest black; your pewter grey might be my Arctic white – again, it’s all a matter of individual perception.

It’s also an acceptable and undeniable fact that practitioners of Craft magic learn to curse as well as heal but in all honesty, healing has probably caused more unintentional damage than all the cursers on the planet, if the latter could be persuaded to get up off their collective backsides to admit that they much prefer a nice bottling or binding because it is often far more effective – and usually requires far less effort. All seasoned magical practitioners learn to walk safely on the wild (or dark) side that they occasionally need to tread but they do it with a certain amount of fear and a hell of a lot of respect.  Because as that same CoS colleague often commented: ‘If you don’t feel that frisson of fear, you ain’t doing it right!

So the next time you see an on-line promotion trawling for those who want to learn the ‘real’ hidden secrets of magic from those who walk on the dark side with some shady entity, and which reads as though it’s just come straight from J R R Tolkien (but less literary) … it probably has!

The Arte of Darkness by Melusine Draco will be published by Ignotus Press UK in the autumn of 2019

Western Animism: Zen & the Art of Positive Paganism

Within contemporary paganism there is a widening schism between the different factions who may benefit from the wisdom that, in Zen, it is the question – not the answer, that is vital. This book explores Western spirituality and paganism from an Eastern perspective.
Looking back I can see how my Shinto upbringing (my father was a martial arts instructor and a countryman) made it so easy to pick up on the underlying animistic threads of Old Craft and its associated esoteric practices. From a small child I was in touch with that indefinable sensation of witch-power, god-power, ki, qi, or earth energy – call it what you will – the natural energy that is believed to be an active principle forming part of any living thing.

Unfortunately, within contemporary paganism, there appears to be a widening schism between the different factions who may benefit from the wisdom that in Zen it is the question that is most important – not the answer – and that some kinds of teaching cannot be set down in words but can only be learned through experience. As an antidote, I suggest that in the spirit of Zen it is possibly necessary to step away from this type of negative thinking and try seeing the pagan world through a different spectrum of supernatural agencies and spirits, and the practice of divination, ancestor worship, and shamanic healing where we can we find plenty of parallels between East and Western paganism.

Publication date: 26th July 2019
Pagan Portals: Western Animism: Zone & and the Art of Positive Paganism
Published by Moon Books ISBN 978 1 78904 123 1 :

Writer @ Work

Phew!  There are two titles in the ‘finished box’ – that is a book that has been put away for a month to settle before being taken out for a final read through before the publishing process begins.   One is the first in the Sacred Landscape trilogy – Caves & Mountains – for Moon Books; the other is the 100,000-word The Arte of Darkness for Ignotus Press UK.  A third book is now in the planning stages …

The Path: A Gleaning of the Seasons was inspired by Chet Raymo’s book of the same name – that in its turn chronicled his own daily walk to work and observing with a scientist’s curiosity.  As often happens, I began thinking what if there was a similar title written from pagan’s perspective for when we to take our own local paths?  And, as if arising from some external creative impulse The Path began to unwind in the mind’s eye … based on several familiar walks that merged together to make a chapbook of the seasons and to offer a glimpse into the pagan mind-set that can find mystery under every leaf and rock, or caught in the murmur of running water, along the way.

Book Talk:

Traditional Witchcraft and the Path to the Mysteries 

‘I admit I didn’t initially realise there was an order to the Traditional Witchcraft series and read this one first, yet despite that fact it gave me a lot of head nodding and confirmation to the beliefs and ideas that had been forming inside me from all the other books I have been reading. It was as if finally there was a book that helped put it more succinctly and make sense of the various threads I had been gathering.’ EA (Aust)

The Word Counts

The Dictionary of Magic and Mystery was 10 years in the compiling.  It started out as a personal reference file purely for my own use in writing those 30+ mind, body and spirit titles that have appeared in publication during that time.  It survived two computer crashes and one complete melt-down and, like Topsy,’ it just grewed’.  The thought of publication never entered the equation until I was given The Dictionary of the Unexplained that weighed in at 1,300 entries and thought ‘Mine’s twice that now!

Trevor at Moon Books had started to publish my Traditional Witchcraft series and so I submitted to first draft on ‘spec’.   It was considered ‘at  65000 words or so it’s on the slim side, could easily be 2 or 3 times the length… Could do perhaps with some more supporting text, longer introduction… I note that the Watkins Dictionary of Magic has 3,000 entries, whereas this would have ‘twice as many entries’ as the Chambers, which stands at 1250 entries. Could the author go for 3000+ entries, even, to get beyond the magic 3,000? I like the style – and, as above, would the author extend the intro or/and add short features on practice – rituals/spells, even?’  You bet the author would, and as a result the finished typescript went to press with 3113 entries and 26 mini-features, making it the biggest dictionary of its kind.  With a ‘continued’ file ready for an extended edition.

Now there are a few very important lessons to be learned from this little saga.  The first is that like all the different uses for a pig, the writer uses everything including the grunt!   Get used to ‘recycling’ because everything we write can serve multiple purposes if rehashed in the right manner. Always take notice of any feedback from publishers and if they want something extended or re-developed, be prepared to do it.  Use reference books to stimulate ideas – I’ve always been rather partial to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable – and have pulled out hundreds of ideas over the years.  It was good to see from the following review that author Sally Spedding has similar ideas!

The finished Dictionary was compiled by a writer for the benefit of writers, whether fact or fiction, because even ‘fantasy’ that includes magical elements wit in the story must be subject to those annoying metaphysical laws, just as science fiction still operates within the laws of science and physics.  As Sally writes… she doesn’t normally ‘read’ dictionaries but…


I admit that I don’t normally ‘read’ dictionaries, but this one by Mélusine Draco really is as gripping as any thriller. The proverbial page-turner, with its tantalising introduction and often startling entries. Every fiction or non-fiction writer should give this wonderful reference book space on their desks, not only to show what lies beneath our present day, so-called ‘civilisations,’ but also as a conduit to what may well lie beyond. To step from their comfort zones and give their work ambition, fresh interest. A need to take the reader on more unusual journeys.

I am convinced of a growing fascination with alternative spiritualities. Of other ways of living life and of dying. Melusine Draco, delivers her expert and painstaking research into all this in such a way that will surely ignite further enthusiasm. She takes us from the Argentinium Astrum – the Order of the Great white Brotherhood (Adepts) founded by Aleister Crowley; the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance; Alphitomancy – which will make you look at barley bread in a new light – to the Field of Reeds and Dead Man’s Teeth, to Sea Witches and beyond.

I found myself making excited notes on Podomancy, Cramp Rings and the Angel of Death – and already wondering where these different springboards could lead. Within the dictionary format, the work is helpfully constructed into sections, ie; Black Magic, White Magic, while references for further research are relevant and not too copious. In a crowded marketplace where the ups and downs in publishing are ever more pronounced, I’m convinced this amazing volume will stir the writer’s imagination and help to get their work noticed. Unique and memorable.’


The late Michael Howard of The Cauldron fame said: ‘THE DICTIONARY OF MAGIC AND MYSTERY The Definitive Guide to the Mysterious, the Magical and the Supernatural. Compiled by Melusine Draco (Moon Books/John Hunt Publishing £12.99/US$22.95 370pp) Melusine Draco originally trained in the magical arts and traditional British witchcraft with Bob and Meriem Clay-Egerton and their Coven of the Scales. This book does what it says on the cover, although some may feel it is not the definite guide to the subject. It is an A-Z of witchcraft, magic and occultism with over 3000 entries ranging from the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance to Zoanthopy (divination by observing candle flames). There are also 26 short articles by the compiler on various aspects of the occult. This is an excellent book for the beginner, and even those with more experience as it is impossible to know about everything.’ Recommended. MH. The Cauldron

Sally Spedding is the cclaimed author of eight paranormal, historical and psychological thrillers and ‘How To Write a Chiller Thriller’ for JHP Compass Books.  She is also an experienced creative writing tutor who has helped many of her students achieve publishing success.


‘Kicking Over The Cauldron’ is not irreverence; it’s an act of getting rid of the dross that often obscures genuine Old Craft teaching with modern-day propaganda. In Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living we observed that an old-time witch might not have had the enquiring mind or educational opportunities of her 21st century counterparts, but she would have had the advantage of absorbing teaching passed on within an oral tradition that had persisted for hundreds of years.   In Traditional Witchcraft & the Pagan Revival we trace those Old Craft roots back to the beginning.

The kernel of a traditional witch’s faith, however, is a belief in a definite association of force (or energy) within special localities, and the notion of natural universal energy influencing cause and effect.  The term ‘animism’ was first coined in the early 18th century by Georg Ernst Stahl to describe his philosophy of a world soul; the word anima, meaning ‘breath’, which in Latin came to have the secondary sense of ‘soul’ = breath of life.   The belief embraces the notion that spirits [or natural energy] inhabit everything in Nature – every hill, tree and stream, every breeze and cloud, every stone and pool has its own ‘spirit’.

It was Andy Lloyd Book Reviews that first put the Traditional Witchcraft series into its proper perspective: “The 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 … The learning is multi-disciplinary, and feels almost as if one was studying a textbook written by a poet … it has that sense of quiet wonder about it, supported by education, knowledge and, above all, wisdom.”

Throughout the series there is the continuous theme of how important the Ancestors are within Old Craft, and anyone wishing to follow this Tradition must understand who they are, and how they influence both the magic and belief of the traditional witch.  For this reason the historical view of Traditional Witchcraft and the Pagan Revival was left until the fifth book because it’s not until we’ve been studying traditional Craft for a while that we start to notice both the differences and the similarities between the various pagan disciplines.  We want to know where our own beliefs come from; to trace these antecedents; and to understand why some of our ways are often diametrically opposed to those of other traditions we read about – and why.  That is the reason for this fifth book in the series being written as a magical anthropology; simply to make sense of some of the things we’ve noticed but never fully understood.

Some claim there is nothing new contained within the books, or that there are no great revelations in the text, ignoring the fact that Old Craft learning is about forty percent information and sixty percent intuition; but it’s also about realising when intuition is telling us that we don’t have all the information.  There are books claiming to reveal the ‘secrets’ of traditional Craft – but intuition should tell us that if the secrets can be revealed in the reading of just one book, then the author cannot have that much to tell. The real secret is that there are no secrets, only a system of revelation that eventually leads us to a series of enlightening experiences, and guides or teachers, to further our progress along the Path to the Mysteries.

Because of its occult (i.e. ‘hidden’) nature, traditional British Old Craft methods really do differ from county to county, so the opportunity of being in the company of genuine witches, meant that late-night magical discussions were all part of the invaluable exchange of information that old Crafters enjoy when meeting with those of their own kind and calibre. It was usually well past midnight when the cauldron would be kicked over; the dross discarded and the rare elixir of Knowledge at the bottom savoured and shared.

Mélusine Draco originally trained in the magical arts of traditional British Old Craft with Bob and Mériém Clay-Egerton. She has been a magical and spiritual instructor for over 20 years, and author of numerous popular books on witchcraft and magic.  Her highly individualistic teaching methods and writing draw on ancient sources, supported by academic texts and current archaeological findings.

 Traditional Witchcraft & the Pagan Revival by Melusine Draco is published by Moon books ISBN: 978-1-78279-156-0 UK£11.99/US$19.95

Book News

Publishing update: Have just signed the contract with Moon Books for ‘Sacred Landscape: Caves and Mountains’ which is a multi-path approach to the world around us and how we react to it. This (hopefully) will be the first of a trilogy including Sacred Landscape: Groves & Forests and Sacred Landscape: Lakes & Rivers.