Christmas is coming …

HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE (PAGAN) CHRISTMAS
I was sitting there on the sun lounger under an umbrella during the heat-wave and reading an article by one of the Sunday Independent’s columnist on the subject of all things – Christmas! “The festive season is on my mind,” wrote John Masterson, “because my plans are made … I will be visiting a part of it that I love, with people I love …” and these are sentiments I expressed when compiling Have A Cool Yule in answer to all those complaints that folk make about what should be the most sacred time of the pagan year.

To implement the suggestions made in Have A Cool Yule: How to Survive (and Enjoy) the Mid-Winter Festival it takes a lot of advance planning in order to make the festivities a success.  Why not invest in a copy now and circumnavigate many of the problems caused by leaving things to the last moment, especially when it comes to avoiding causing offence with family and friends. It’s easier to announce there will be changes to your plans for Yule during the summer-autumn months, rather than waiting until Christmas decorations are appearing in the shops. “Make your plans now.  Decide who you want to be with and where you want to be.  Do not make any allowances for toxic people because of the time of the year.  Plan ahead …” concluded John Masterson is his article …

And if, a few months further down the line, you find yourself in the same old rut and bemoaning the fact that you hate Christmas, you’ve only got yourself to blame.

What people are saying about it:

As per usual and in great style, Mélusine Draco presents a wealth of information about this historically proven pagan festival. Whichever way the reader chooses to celebrate…whether it’s a traditional family Christmas or a traditional Yule in the company of pagan friends or as a solitary – there is something for everyone. From a complete festival calendar with some simple rites and symbolism, to carol lyrics, recipes, gift ideas and feasting to the ‘art of using up’ and festive games; everything Yuletide is covered. And with generous doses of light-hearted good cheer and a sprinkling of dark humour, the author strikes a balance that is both useful, informative and entertaining. A charming little book.” Sheena Cundy, Witch Lit author The Madness and the Magic

“This certainly makes a cool yule for me! So much information, such fun too. It puts a whole new slant on our perhaps limited ideas of yuletide.  …turns all preconceptions upside-down. Do read, you’ll enjoy.” Elen Sentier, author of Merlin: The Once and Future WizardElen of the Ways and The Celtic Chakras.

 “Have a Cool Yule is a lovely guide on how to truly enjoy the festive season in the depths of winter, whether you call it Christmas, the Winter Solstice, Yule or any other name. In the pages of this book you will find time-honoured traditions, recipes and sensible advice on how to avoid the worst of the commercialism and make the occasion what you want it to be.” Lucya Starza, author of Pagan Portals – Candle Magic

Pagan Portals: Have A Cool Yule – How ro Survive (and Enjoy) the Mid-Winter Festival is published by Moon Books (www.moon-books.net) and available from Amazon in both paperback and e-book format.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

The Secret People

This was a book I really enjoyed writing because it was an autobiographical journey down memory lane and a step back in time; it is that ‘other country’ of the past where parish-pump witches, wise women and cunning folk still travel the highways and byways of a bygone era. Their voices can still be heard in the recipes and remedies handed down via an oral tradition, and now giving new knowledge to the next generation of pagans. It was a world where men went out with a ferret in a box and a long-net, accompanied by a silent long dog for a companion under a ‘poacher’s moon’.

From ‘owl-light’ until dawn these people walked silently in the woods and along the hedgerows, watching and waiting to collect Nature’s bounty to be used for the benefit of themselves and their neighbours. From them came the introduction to spells and charms, divination and fortune-telling; the language of birds and the movement of animals – all grist for the witch’s mill. Mysterious horsemen might share secrets of horseshoe nails and thunder-water; while countrymen lived by weather, the seedtime and the harvest.  It was a world I grew up in … but it was breathing its last.

Few of The Secret People could be called traditional witches by any stretch of the imagination, and many would have been mortally offended to be referred to as a ‘witch’ or ‘pagan’. Few parish-pump witches would have thought about the skills they possessed since these were natural abilities, and even fewer wise women and cunning folk would have had any concept of the sombre and often dangerous rituals required for the raising of energy needed in the practice of true witchcraft. Theirs was a knowledge that filtered down in the form of spells, domestic plant medicine and country lore, imparted to offspring, friends and neighbours, who in turn handed it down to their children … and so on down through the generations. In fact, in his Dialogue Concerning Witches & Witchcraft (1603) George Gifford observed that local wise women ‘doth more good in one year than all these scripture men will do so long as they live’.

Most, however, would live by the Church calendar, inveigling saints to add potency to their healing spells, or to guide a hand in locating missing property; with many of the protective charms being aimed at deflecting malevolent witchcraft or ill-wishing! Most old ladies in the parish seemed to have a wide repertoire of fortune-telling tricks to amuse young girls looking for a husband, not to mention the applied psychology of already knowing their neighbours’ business, which made divination with playing cards and tea-leaves a push-over, and even up until recent years the village fete always had a fortune-telling tent. And since the early Church calendar had been formed around the agricultural year, the menfolk of the village had no problem with presenting themselves, their animals, and produce from the harvest for blessing.

 The Secret People would have greatly outnumbered the practitioners of traditional witchcraft since the practical abilities that define a true witch are bred in the bone and not everyone can lay claim to the lineage. The skills of The Secret People can, however, be learned and perfected with practice and for those who struggle to find a label with which to empathise, it is hoped the lessons taught here will help the reader to establish some sort of identity that sits comfortably with them.

Today, under the ubiquitous umbrella of paganism, the parish-pump witch runs the occult shop in the high street, the wise woman dispenses Reiki healing and the cunning man has become a professional tarot reader. The countryman’s world has disappeared under a sprawl of urban housing and ring roads, while the poacher has yielded his domain to the brutal gangs who slaughter wildlife on a commercial scale – even the poacher’s dog, the lurcher, has found his niche in the ‘fly-ball’ event at Crufts!

And yet…the knowledge of The Secret People is still there for the learning, if only we know how to search for it and rediscover our identity.  I’m glad I was privileged to have lived through those last declining years and to be able to witness first-hand what I now attempt to preserve for posterity.

 

Published by Moon Books at http://www.moon-books.net

ISBN 978 1 78535 444 1 : 225pp : Price UK£13.99/US$22.95

Book News

What people are saying about
Western Animism: Zen & the Art of Positive Paganism
Mélusine Draco’s book takes us back to basics: it explains
clearly the fundamentals of Zen and how Zen “Ki” can also be
identified with Old Craft “Witch-power”. As an old crafter I
found the comparison fascinating and also useful. This book has
broadened my approach to Craft and has given ideas to try in
practice.
Julie Dexter, Dame of Coven of the Scales

I can’t think of another writer today who is more unusual or
more inspired than Mélusine Draco. I had assumed that, by now,
books on Zen were using their one-handed clapping to flog dead
horses along roads to nowhere. Yet her take on Zen is completely
unexpected and totally original. I don’t think she has ever failed
to surprise and often startle me in her previous books. This one
is no different …
Alan Richardson, esoteric author

Excellent book on Zen, very readable and engaging. Mélusine
Draco’s father was a martial arts instructor so she grew up with
this ancient form of animism-shamanism, and she’s well able to
relate it across to other traditions. We all come from the same
human and spirit roots! This is going to be one of my “go to”
books, every time I need a bit of inspiration and to reconnect
across the traditions of our Earth.
Elen Sentier, shaman, author and storyteller

In production with Moon Books and due early 2019

Coven Cafe Culture

Back in the 1980s Bob and Meriem Clay-Egerton held regular Sunday morning meetings in a local coffee shop in Newcastle for the benefit of non-Coven members who wanted to know more about witchcraft and magic – and didn’t know who to ask. In fact, many of their old friends have contacted us over the years and almost the first thing they mention are those magical Sunday mornings.

In keeping with Bob’s idea we have decided to open a Coven of the Scales ‘coffee shop’ on Facebook for the benefit of those pagans who need to ask questions about witchcraft and magic – but don’t know who to ask. After all, how can you teach yourself what you don’t know exists, and if you’re self-taught, who do you ask whether you’re doing it right?

Coven of the Scales is a traditional British Old Craft group and its members have years of experience of Craft, folk, practical and ritual magic techniques as well as all coming from different walks of life. This means there will always be those in the coffee shop from new members of CoS to Elders and Initiates who will be willing to answer your questions. It may be that you receive two conflicting responses but CoS has always been about encouraging magical discussion because that’s the only way to learn and progress … so … discuss … don’t be afraid to ask why?

All that Coven Café Culture demands of its members is good manners and being a closed group, we will dispose of anyone who isn’t willing to observed the basic courtesies when using the page. Neither do we want to give floor space to those massive egos who think the only way to discuss magical matters is to deliver a diatribe in highfaluting jargon that is incomprehensible to beginners. Any inappropriate or irrelevant posts will be automatically removed – so let’s keep it simple and sensible.

And remember – the only daft question is the one you didn’t ask.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/covenofthescales/?multi_permalinks=533495947070313&notif_id=1533811112020900&notif_t=feedback_reaction_generic

Book Review

Title: Pagan Portals: Divination: By Rod, Birds, and Fingers
Publisher: Moon Books
Author: Melusine Draco
Pages: 112 pp
Price: $10.95 (paperback)

Divination: By Rod, Birds, and Fingers is a companion volume to By Spellbook & Candle and By Wolfsbane & Mandrake Root. It does not, however, seem to require that it be read or worked side by side with either text, or for one book or the other to be read first as a prerequisite. The title is derived from a quote from Robert Cochrane. The quote and title do set a good tone, theme, and organization for the book. This book is clearly dedicated to divination compared to fortune telling, and more geared towards personal use than reading for others. The reader would do well to bear in mind that the author is from Wales, as this effects her writing style; also, the culture is a bit different.

In the text, the Rod includes, wand-, staff-, rod-, and arrow-related divination. Fingers includes all forms of sortilege, which are objects selected, drawn, cast, or thrown. The Birds chapter relates to divining by watching birds in various forms.

The material is not that which is often repeated elsewhere. It may not be new from a historical standpoint, but the material is very fresh from the standpoint that many of the topics or methods are often not written about in this manner. In a sense, they are re-introduced to the public. There were shining moments of awe when I read something I hadn’t before seen in print.

In the beginning of each chapter there are lists of various sub-types of the divination realm, terms, and definitions . Each chapter considers not only the how of divination, but also the why’s of each method, followed by some instructions and examples. Along the way, there are some thought provoking questions such as “The Tarot appears to be the weapon of choice for most witches, but how many, truthfully, would rely on it when confronted with making a difficult decision in their lives?” I also very much agree with the writer’s urging to not meander across different systems, but to work at one to be proficient. This book left me wanting more.

In summary, Divination: By Rod, Birds, and Fingers provides an introduction to, and beginning instructions in, several methods of divination rooted in traditional witchcraft. I feel it is accessible and understandable to someone new to the subject, but I would encourage more reading on individual systems afterward. It would be appreciated by someone involved or interested in traditional witchcraft. If you are already a Moon Books reader, or reader of By Spellbook & Candle or By Wolfsbane and Mandrake, or other books by Melusine Draco, this should join your library with its related companion books.

[Robert Scott is the editor of The Diviner’s Handbook: Writings on Ancient and Modern Divination Practices.]

New release: Wort-Lore – the Craft of Witches

https://www.feedaread.com/books/Wort-Lore-the-Craft-of-Witches-9781788764490.aspx

“Wort-lore isn’t just about knowing which herbs are suitable for use in treating medical conditions, it is also about their history, superstitions, magical use and correspondences.” [The Secret People]

One of our Coven members recently confessed that she felt not being raised in the country had a certain disadvantage in being unfamiliar with the various traditional wild herbs used in witchcraft. So, let’s put this in some kind of perspective and define exactly what we mean by ‘herbs’. According to the Oxford English Dictionary a herb is ‘any plant with seeds, leaves or flowers used for flavouring, food, medicine or perfume’. Many of the herbs used in contemporary pagan herbals tend to use domestic herbs but once upon a time, all herbs were ‘wild’. The most popular plants that often were discovered to have multiple uses were cultivated, and later others were added as a result of invasion and migration. Although Melusine Draco is not a herbalist, she has grown up with domestic plant medicine being part of everyday life, and while Wort-Lore – the Craft of Witches might not have risen above the level of what is now labelled ‘domestic folk-medicine’ it does share an awareness of poisons and the ingredients used in magic spells that are an integral part of Craft knowledge.