A Book-Worm’s Eye View

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!!

REVIEWS:

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

Book Reviews

Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living

With the number of books available nowadays that address the solitary practitioner, it’s surprising to see how very few of them focus on one concrete common fact – that most of us witches (or pagans) do not live in a small cottage in the countryside, surrounded by fairy-tale forests and herbs. That many of us live in flats, inside blocks, in the middle of the city. If you are lucky enough, you’ll have a small house with a garden. If you are even luckier – and your job allows you to do so – you’ll live in the suburbs. Even though most of the books mention that likely possibility, they do it in a rather ‘patronising’ way – IF one cannot go out to gather herbs, there’s the ‘possibility’ to use those in our kitchen. Personally I consider that that’s showing the reader that “it’s not very nice” but “it should work”, making him or her not appreciate what she’s using and regarding it as a “second hand element” (and we all know how important it is, for our practice, the feeling we put into something.)

In Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living, Melusine Draco dedicates the whole of this small volume to address this situation. Mainly offering a useful way to develop our Craft practice in what she describes as “an hostile environment” – instead of just stating the obvious inconveniences that we have. The surprising bit is that she doesn’t achieve this through the seeking of ‘exceptions’, of ‘country-like’ places in the city – she encourages the witch to rediscover the city, to look into it, and to change her (or his) attitude rather than getting stressed by the daily noises coming from the street. In short, she encourages us to make the best of what we’ve got. She guides us to small places in our city or our own house that may have been overlooked. In each chapter she also offers a useful exercise related to the subject.  Alder Lyncurium – Wiccan Rede

This book offers a starting point for how to do this in a modern city environment. It is very much about my own kind of magic, the kind I try to write about in A Bad Witch’s Blog – practical witchcraft for the real world. I recommend this book for any witch who is struggling to find their magical way in the big city. Lucya Szachnowski/Starza | Badwitch

Adapt and thrive. That’s the message traditionally-trained Craft practitioner Draco has for readers. Rather than withdrawing to practice time-honored rituals in secret, she encourages modern witches to open their windows, explore their neighborhoods, put a pot of herbs on their kitchen window sills, light a candle, and summon their ingenuity.

Carefully distinguishing her practice from Wicca, she encourages modern witches to care less about worshipping nature with elaborate rituals, and to focus instead on developing a personal relationship with the physical environment. She thinks of herself as a caretaker, rather than a manipulator, of the natural world. There’s a lyrical quality to her writing which lifts the reader into the modern magical world she describes. She provides basic information about herbs, magic pouches, talismans, pagan holidays, spells, and pathworking. More importantly, this is a handbook for restoring sanity to an overcrowded and cramped urban lifestyle. The magic ingredients are creativity and fun. Consider displaying it with books about herbs, urban birdwatching, city parks, and Feng Shui.  Anna Jedrziewski | InannaWorks.com

This book is for the student of Traditional Witchcraft, not Wicca or other neo-pagan disciplines (although it is certainly useful for all). The distinction is thoroughly explained, much to the readers benefit. If you’re tired of books filled with the usual neo-pagan fluff and are looking for something that gets “right down to it,” this is the book for you. It is accessible, well written, enjoyable, and often humorous. The common sense approach makes the reader the beneficiary of the authors many years of magical experience, and it quickly becomes obvious that she has already done a lot of the trial-and-error work that will save the reader/practitioner a lot of valuable time.

As the title suggests, it is for students and practitioners living in urban areas. Not only does it dispel the myth that one has to live in the middle of the forest to be a “real witch,” but offers a lot of valuable advice for a successful practice while living in the city. The book is being republished as Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living, but the contents will be identical, so dont spend the extra money purchasing a used copy. A pleasure to read and a treasure of useful information and techniques!  Chris Grabarkiewctz USA

The author of these books was an initiate of the late Bob Clay-Egerton’s Coven of the Scales and she has been a practising occultist, magical teacher and writer on esoteric subjects for over twenty years. These two books are the first volumes in a series on modern traditional witchcraft for beginners. Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living, as the title suggests, is a guide to being a witch today in a town or city environment and still connect to nature, the elemental forces and the land. The other book is for those who live near or often visit the coast and wish to magically commune with the sea and its energies. You will not find any Wiccan Rede or invocations to Cernunnos and Ceridwen here and the featured charms are mostly Christianised ones as traditionally found in historical witchcraft. Both of the books are written in a down-to-earth style with a refreshing common sense approach and are rooted in the folk traditions and Old Ways of the British Isles. Recommended.  Michael Howard : The Cauldron

Book Reviews for Pan

PAN: Dark Lord of the Forest and Horned God of the Witches

As you read this, Pan is opening his strange eyes with those lucid, rectangular pupils which gives him huge peripheral vision. He is observing you very quietly. Look up from the page, look around. He is here, now. Believe what I say!
Also be aware that at this same moment there is an Inner Pan within your psyche who yearns to be aware of things from this wider perspective, who aches to take you toward the dark recesses of your mind, and the wild, tangled undergrowth of your unconscious. As you make your own antic path into the Wild Woods in search of the Great Pan, your nape hairs might prickle, you might see things at the new edges of your vision and strange realms will open up. If you have a frisson of fear – you are on the right path. Keep going. There is light and love there too, in abundance.
Melusine Draco’s book is filled with pleasing seeds and roots that she has collected from obscure, musty corners of the mythological and literary forest. Just brooding upon them ensures that they will be planted and grow in your consciousness, often in startling ways. And if you ever find yourself on hilltops in Wiltshire and see an elegantly ageing and once-handsome chappie chanting: Io Pan, Io Pan, Io Pan, Pan Pan! then you’re probably hearing me putting to good use the practical evocations she gives.                  Alan Richardson, author of Priestess and The Old Sod, biographies of Dion Fortune and Bill Gray

A fascinating and interesting read packed full of historical and mythological information and knowledge. Draco has researched her subject well, illuminating Pan as never before. His mystique and folklore jump off the page and make you yearn to find him in the forest!  Draco is a well respected instructor in British Old Craft and she shares her wisdom in her many books on traditional witchcraft and magic. This latest book richly adds to her collection. A must read for those interested in learning more about the Horned God with practical exercises to enhance the reader’s consciousness along the way. Enter the woods – if you dare! Sarah-Beth Watkins, Publisher Chronos Books

Just finished this book and I highly recommend it. I’m a polytheist so I don’t believe in one overall horned god and I’m happy to say this book can appeal to all. I’ve studied Pan’s lore for many years yet there are pieces of lore in this book I have not seen and also insight that made me stop and think. Great book. Pan & Hecate FB page

Pagan Portals- Pan: Dark Lord of the Forest and Horned God of the Witches by Melusine Draco introduces us to Pan and his many gifts. We are given a short ancient prayer or ritual to Pan to in order to ask for visions or gifts of prophecy or even theatrical criticism all of which fall under Pan’s areas of expertise. We are shown the history of Pan through Ancient Greece to his transformation by Christians into the devil and also his journey to Britain and our modern times. We are shown hymns to the god Pan. We are given a lot of information about Pan. I enjoyed the magical exercises at the end of each chapter designed to bring us more knowledge of Pan and his energies. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the Pan, his history and magical practices that could be used to connect to him. I acknowledge that I received this book free of charge from NetGalley in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. Rose Pettit | Insights Into Books

A thoroughly enjoyable journey through Pan’s forest of legend and myth as expressed through art, literature, poetry and spiritual beliefs from ancient through to modern times. As always, Melusine Draco’s fine scholarship and insightful perspectives elevate what might have been a dry academic study to that of intriguing discovery. Also appreciated are the author’s inclusion of personal experiences connected with the Dark Lord. Highly recommended!  M Orlando

From the start, I was impressed with this book. The author did a fantastic job of researching the material she used as sources, including many passages to prove the points she was making. I liked her informative writing style and thought this was a really interesting look at Pan through the ages and different cultures. A lot of times, books like this can quickly become redundant and lose my interest, but this one didn’t. I enjoyed reading this and felt like I learned quite a bit from it by the end. If you are interested in the horned god, this is a book that you don’t want to miss.  Ionia Froment | Goodreads /NetGalley 

Melusine Draco’s Pan: Dark Lord of the Forest and Horned God of the Witches is a fantastic little introduction to one of the most beloved gods in paganism and witchcraft. Exploring Pan throughout history, mythology, literature, religion and the craft, Melusine traces Pan from classical era history to Christianity’s adoption of his image for that of their Devil. She showcases Pan in his role of the Horned God of the Witches in the writings and beliefs of Margaret Murray, Dion Fortune, Robert Cochrane, Nigel Jackson, Aleister Crowley, Gerald Gardner and more. Melusine also shares some of her personal gnosis and experiences with Pan in this book and she isn’t shy to delve into both Pan’s free-spirited and joyful side as well as his darker wild side.
The book touches on Pan’s myths, his home of Arcadia and his companions such as nymphs and satyrs. The book is full of a wide variety of classical prayers, paeans and hymns to Pan, including some that I’ve never came across. One of the things I found the most interesting was her comparison of traditional prayers to Pan versus certain Catholic prayers of the Church. Melusine does a great job of providing accurate historical information on Pan without the dry and boring writing style of academia scholars. Falling just barely under 100 pages long this book can easily be read in one sitting and is perfect for those of you out there with limited time to read or that might just have a short attention span.  Mat Auryn : Patheos

I found this book to be a fascinating read. The author opens with The Orphic Hymn to Pan. She talks about the Coven of the Scales, of which she is the Principal Tutor, they worship Aegocerus ‘the Goat-God’ and not Cernunnos. Ms. Draco puts forth the question, “How did the pre-Olympian Deity find his way into traditional witchcraft of Britain?” No other foreign Deity has been added to Traditional British Old Craft, so why Pan?  Ms. Draco goes into some great depth on the history of Pan. She does this in a way that is very smooth and never a dry read. It is interesting to think that because in early times art was a way of teaching, the early church was able to pick Pan as a stand-in for their Devil. People didn’t know how to read, so the church used art to teach them what to fear and what to love. So, they had to change the landscape. You can’t fear a scruffy looking being playing the pipes surrounded by half-naked beauties in a lush green valley. The church changed his surroundings.
Ms. Draco writes about the resurgence of interest that lasted into the early 1920’s. Here she talks about some of the writings that many pagans grew up reading or having read to them by their parents. One of these stories is that of The Wind in the Willows By Kenneth Grahame. ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ is very much the story of Pan appearing to the characters of the story. He looks like a protector of the wild places. The way this piece reads you feel a closeness to Pan that is calm and beautiful.                                 I also learned all the different names of the different types of nymphs from this book about Pan. I find that the history of Pan, in all the different ways he was seen, to be fascinating. It becomes an attractive subject, in such a way that if you would let it, it could quickly become a rabbit hole for you to fall down. Ms. Draco’s book Pan: Dark Lord of the Forest and Horned God of the Witches is both entertaining and educational for those Pagan’s seeking more knowledge of an old God, that seems older than even the Olympian Gods. I look forward to reading more of Ms. Draco’s books and in learning more about the “Goat-God.”   Dawn Borries | PaganPages

Pan is published by Moon Books as a companion title to Seeking the Primal Goddess – both by Melusine Draco  http://www.moon-books.net

Book News

Using archaeology, archaeo-mythology and mitochondrial DNA we can chart the mass migrations of people throughout the ancient world and follow the footsteps of the beliefs of Old Europe. But if the concept of the Old Goddess is at odds with current popular thinking, how will we feel if we discover that the Great Mother of contemporary Paganism bears no similarity to the primal Great Goddess of the Old European world?

Is there a ‘magico-spiritual’ gene that could be traced back to those distant ancestors who actually worshipped the forebears of the various deities to whom we claim allegiance today? Are there time-honoured things about us all as individuals that are bred deep in the bone? Are we what our roots (our DNA) claim us to be? Perhaps, even though we are now scattered all over the globe, we cannot escape those ancient racial memories of where we originally came from.

As most of my readers will know, I have a fascination for odd and obscure historical facts that are hidden away in the millions of sources that outstrip and confound the confines of the Internet – it’s finding them that presents the stimulation and the challenge. If we merely rely on the regurgitated information of contemporary paganism not only does our mind become stagnant, but for those who follow the Craft of the witch, so do our magical abilities.

Over the years I have also incorporated a great deal of folk- cunning- and country-lore into my books on witchcraft with a view to preserving that knowledge for future generations. Much of what even my grandparents’ generation once knew is now lost because it was never recorded for posterity. True there are numerous pagan books written about similar subjects but it is obvious that a large number of them don’t have the countryside in their blood and fail to reflect the magic and mystery of growing up in an uncomplicated rural environment. Strangely enough, these sentiments are often now viewed as some form of elitism but I prefer to go back to the roots of learning rather than consult something that has been cobbled together from different popular titles without any true grounding in Nature  MD.
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 with Arcanum and the Temple of Khem, and is the author of numerous popular books. The Primal Goddess is her latest title due for publication in January 2020 and a companion title to Pan: Dark Lord of the Forest & and God of the Witches.  Both are published by Moon Books http://www.moon-books.net.

Book Extract …

The Cult of Birthstones by Melusine Draco

The fashion for using ‘birthstones’ as personal amulets appears to have its origins in the twelve gemstones from the breastplate of the Jewish High-Priest and “the gems contributed for the tabernacle by the Israelists in the wilderness”. There are two lists of twelve stones to be found in both the Old and New Testament but these do not correspond to the months of the year, or the zodiac, but to the twelve tribes of Israel, or the twelve mighty angels who guard the gates of Paradise. The following extract is given in Exodus (xxviii, 15-30) and quoted in The Curious Lore of Precious Stones — written by that distinguished mineralogist George Frederick Kunz (1856-1932) who, for more than 50 years was the gem expert for Tiffany’s in New York:

… And thou shalt set in its [the breastplate] settings of stones, even four rows of stones: the first row shall be sardius [carnelian], a topaz, and a carbuncle; this shall be the first row.  And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire [lapis lazuli?] and a diamond [rock crystal or corundum?] And the third row a ligure [amber or jacinth], an agate, and an amethyst. And the fourth row a beryl, and an onyx, and a jasper; they shall be set in gold in their enclosings.

 Islamic legend also represents the various heavens as composed of different precious stones, and in the Middle Ages, these ideas became interwoven with a host of astrological, alchemical, magical and medical superstitions. There is, however, a much earlier Egyptian representation of the breast-ornament worn by a High-Priest of Memphis (14th Dynasty), consisting of 12 small balls or crosses. “As it cannot be determined that these figures were cut from precious stones, the only definite connection with the Hebrew ornament is the number of the figures; this suggests but fails to prove, a common origin,” concluded George Frederick Kunz.

Many of the ‘classical’ lists cited as antecedents for natal or zodiacal stones will include diamonds — but this gem could not have been one of the original stones simply because astrology dates back thousands of years and the ancient lapidaries did not know how to cut a diamond.  It is possible that what was later mistaken for a diamond was more likely to have been rock crystal but this ‘humble’ stone would not have been considered valuable enough in later times. The ancient priesthood, however, would have known about the magical powers contained within the rock crystal, even if latter day magicians did not.

Or as Kunz observed, “A mysterious stone mentioned three times in the Old Testament, each signifies a material noted for its hardness and translated ‘diamond’, however, as it is almost certain that the Hebrews were not familiar with the ‘diamond’ it was most probably a variety of corundum …” Similarly, lapis lazuli was referred to as the ‘sapphire of the ancients’ and it may have been lapis rather than the rarer blue corundum that was in use at this time.

Birthstones are still used today as amulets to attract health, wealth and happiness and most people know their own birthstone but from the dozens of different compilations, which is the correct attribution for each month?

The cult of the birthstone and belief that each stone was endowed with its own peculiar virtue for those born in that month can be traced back to the writings of Josephus (1st century AD) and St Jerome (5th century). Despite these early references, the common usage of giving and wearing a birthstone seems to have originated much later in Poland sometime during the 18th century.  The belief in the special virtues of the stones was paramount, and it was long before the mystic bond between the stone of the month, and the person born in that month was realised.

Nevertheless, nearly every book on gemstones will assign different stones for each month and Kunz himself, gives eight different listings from ancient Hebrew to the present day as examples. The following are taken from two contemporary publications on the subject — and even here there are contradictions for the given stones against each month.

Gemstones of the Month (Spells, Charms, Talismans & Amulets, Pamela A Ball)

January: Garnet, Onyx, Jet, Chrysoprase

February: Amethyst, Jasper, Rock crystal

March: Aquamarine, Bloodstone

April: Ruby, Garnet, Sard

May: Emerald, Malachite, Amber, Carnelian

June: Topaz, Agate, Alexandrite, Fluorite

July: Moonstone, White agate

August: Cat’s eye, Carnelian, Jasper, Fire agate

September: Peridot, Olivine, Chrysolite, Citrine

October: Opal, Tourmaline, Beryl, Turquoise

November: Topaz, Lapis lazuli

December: Serpentine, Jacinth, Peridot

 

Gemstones of the Zodiac (Talismans, Charms & Amulets Robert W. Wood)

Aries 21 March — 20 April Red Jasper

Taurus 21 April — 21 May Rose Quartz

Gemini 22 May — 21 June Black Onyx

Cancer 22 June — 22 July Mother of Pearl

Leo 23 July — 23 August Tiger Eye

Virgo 24 August — 22 September Carnelian

Libra 23 September — 23 October Green Aventurine

Scorpio 24 October — 22 November Rhodonite

Sagittarius 23 November — 21 December Sodalite

Capricorn 22 December — 20 January Snowflake Obsidian

Aquarius 21 January — 19t February Blue Agate

Pisces 20 February — 20 March Amethyst

When looking for authenticity in terms of magical working there is an additional complication caused by historical calendar re-alignments and what is known as precession. Because of the tidal effects of the Sun and Moon, the Earth ‘wobbles’ like a spinning top, causing the direction of the Vernal Equinox to shift in the sky. The early calendar makers were unaware of this phenomenon and believed that in making the beginning of the year dependent on the Sun’s entry into the constellation of Aries, they were fixing it forever to the time of the Winter Solstice. At that ancient point in time, theoretically the gemstone representing Aries would have been that of the Winter Solstice, i.e. December.

As the centuries rolled by, the stars of Aries receded from the Winter Solstice, moving steadily through almost a quarter of the great ecliptic and by the 2nd century BC, the Spring (or Vernal) Equinox was not far from the same point where the Winter Solstice had been when the first calendar-makers had fixed the constellation in the heavens. The Vernal Equinox is now on the cusp of Pisces and Aries but over the full ‘wobble’ it will move through all the signs in the zodiac — at the moment the gemstone for Aries is represented by that of the Vernal Equinox, i.e. March.

There is also some evidence in favour of the theory that at the outset all twelve stones were acquired by the same person and worn in turn, each one during the respective month to which it was assigned, or during the ascendancy of its zodiacal sign. According to the German writer Bruckmann (1773 Abhandlung von Edelsteinen), “The stone of the month was believed to exercise its therapeutic (or magical) virtue to the fullest extent during that period. Perhaps the fact that this entailed a monthly change of ornaments may rather have been a recommendation of the usage than the reverse.”

When utilising gemstones as magical correspondences, however, it is vital that we use the ancient propensities for each stone … because it is what the ancients believed, that locks us into the universal subconsciousness so quintessential for successful magic. We are talking here of esoteric archetypes not the fake-lore and fantasy of modern crystal working.

The twelve stones of the High-Priest’s breastplate — sardius (carnelian), topaz, carbuncle; emerald, sapphire (lapis lazuli), diamond (corundum or rock crystal); ligure (amber or jacinth), agate, amethyst; beryl, onyx, and jasper — set in four rows of three to signify the seasons as suggested by Flavii Josephi; and again by Clemens Alexandrius in the 2nd century, give us a starting point. Even then, things are not that simple. The c1539 edition of Marbodus’s lapidary shows a figure of a High-Priest with the names and tribal attributions of the twelve stones, which differ slightly from the Greek Septuagint version from c250 BC as follows — and shows where the confusion over the inclusion of the sapphire may have arisen.

  1. Sardion (carnelian) — Odem
  2. Topazion (topaz) — Pitdah
  3. Smaragdus (carbuncle or emerald) — Bareketh
  4. Anthrax (carbuncle or emerald) — Nophek
  5. Sapphirus (lapis lazuli) — Sappir
  6. Iaspis (corundum) — Yahalom
  7. Ligurion (amber or jacinth — Lesham
  8. Achatâs (agate) — Shebo
  9. Amethystos (amethyst) — Ahlamah
  10. Chrysolithos (beryl or chalcedony) — Tarshish
  11. Beryllion (beryl or onyx) — Shoham
  12. Onychion (green jasper) — Yashpheh

The above does not claim to be the earliest, authentic list since there is still the suggestion that the Hebrew system may have been based on the earlier Egyptian version. Neither should we be dismissive of using an archaic Hebrew system as the foundation for our observances, for as any student of ritual magic will know, the Hebrew influence plays an important part in the development of the ‘Western’ system of the magical Qabalah and ritual magic.

Melusine Draco is the author of Magic Crystals, Sacred Stones published by Moon Books ISBN: 978 1 78099 137 5 186pp Price UK£11.99/US$19.95 : Kindle version available.  http://www.moon-books.net

Round About the Cauldron Go…

Philip Wright and Carrie West are the authors of Coven Working and Death & the Pagan.  They were early members of Coven of the Scales when it was formed by Bob and Meriem Clay-Egerton following their move to Newcastle and have since run their own teaching coven in St Albans for well over twenty years until its recent disbanding.  The long history of the Moonraker-CoS Coven has always been close knit and often beset with troubles resulting from both internal and external causes but unlike many of those that were around back in the day, they are gratified to see that CoS goes from strength to strength.

‘Traditional British Old Craft is often frowned upon by millennial-witches for its elitist, hierarchical and god-based structure but it has been provably in existence since the mid 1880s and has managed to survive to keep the spirit of ‘true’ Craft alive despite the often overwhelming odds.  We as old-timers are proud to have this as our heritage …’

Round About the Cauldron Go … is a rummage around in their personal magical journals to produce a witch’s coven calendar that is as relevant today as it was for our Old Craft forebears.  This is the opening for the first draft to wet your appetite …

PART I: SUMMER: Calan Haf-Beltaine

 The whole essence of traditional British Old Craft is closely bound to the natural tides that govern our planet.  When we organise our own Coven activities, these are focused on drawing down an elemental power to synchronise with the traditional Sabbats/Esbats, thus ensuring the Coven develops 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. Kindred calls to kindred, blood calls to blood. The modern Gregorian calendar is now fourteen days out of alignment and had been thirteen days adrift since March 1900 – but magically as 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 year – not just the solar and lunar tides but the oceanic, earth and atmospheric tides that can also enhance 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 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..

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 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.  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 …

Fire is the focus of our Coven meetings – either as a symbolic fire-pit in the garden, or a more ambitious cooking fire in the great outdoors where we celebrate a fire festival with a shared meal around the glowing embers.  Fire gives light and warmth but it is also extremely destructive if not properly contained – its symbolism is wildly varied depending on the circumstances of its use.  Within the Coven it is seen as the only one of the four elements we can create for ourselves and therefore it is the link between gods and mortals whether generated by a roaring bonfire or from a simple candle flame.

Needless to say, it is necessary to take some form of precautionary measures in hand in order to guard against inadvertently causing wild-fire because not every coven is fortunate enough to have a former fire-chief amongst their members!  And while controlled fire can be beneficial for the environment, one caused by flying sparks or an inadequately extinguished bonfire can be devastating in a season of very dry weather. Ideally, all witches working outdoors should hold a Craft equivalent of the scouting fire-safety merit badge, since one coven of our acquaintance regularly lit their bonfire with a whole box of fire-lighters and a bottle of white spirit!  It’s a wonder the whole wood didn’t go up in flames and them with it.

The cauldron is, of course, a traditional witch’s possession.  The originals were made of cast iron and used to feed the family group; while small reproductions are now used to burn loose incense on a charcoal disc, to make black salt (used in banishing rituals), for mixing herbs, or to burn paper spells (with Names of Power or wishes written on them). Cauldrons symbolize the ‘goddess’ and when miniatures versions are placed on an altar they represent Elemental Earth because used in this capacity it is a working tool. There are numerous myths and legends cast around this most functional of coven equipment and whilst the symbolism is all part of our folk-heritage, our version was used for the purpose for which it was intended: to cook enough food for a large group of people – to symbolize plenty.

In truth, genuine cast iron, three-legged pot-bellied cauldrons are rare indeed and they weigh a ton. A witch-friend was lucky enough to have a monster gifted to her and decided that it would be used to celebrate the next fire festival.  Now their working site was a wondrous place but getting to it could be likened to a commando assault course.  By the time this weighty vessel had been lugged across two fields and over a small ravine, half the contents had been spilled (to the benefit of the local wild-life) and the Man in Black was developing definite homicidal thoughts towards his Lady.  The exercise was not repeated and after that single outing the cauldron stayed at home beside the hearth filled with dried grasses and flowers.

Our acceptable alternative is the army field kitchen ‘dixie’ (that Phillip remembers from his scouting days) and like many army terms ‘dixie’ is of Indian origin, from the Hindi degshi for cooking pot.  These are large three-gallon oval pots with lids and can literally contain enough to feed an army!  Dixies are available from army surplus stores and websites at only a fraction of the weight and cost of an antique cauldron – witches have always learned to adapt and improvise – and a dixie is perfect for outdoor cooking.

Another traditional item that comes under the same heading is the witch’s knife and most ‘real’ knives – as opposed to ceremonial or reproduction items – would certainly be classed as illegal to carry in any public place.  For that reason we have always recommended our Coven members invest in a second ritual blade in the form of a utilitarian Swiss Army knife that is cleansed and consecrated in the normal way but which can be carried almost anywhere (except in carry-on luggage on an aircraft) without let or hindrance.  Since witches generally claim that the only reason they carry a ritual knife is for wort-collecting, the Swiss Army knife allows us to do this without running the risk of spending a night in the cells!  Philippe is never without his (consecrated) Swiss Army blade that he’s carried since boyhood, and besides, some fool always forgets the corkscrew!

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 keep warm – 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 CoS 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 previously, 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.

Round About the Cauldron Go will be published by Ignotus Press Uk early in the New Year 2020.

Book News …

THE PERFECT BOOK FOR HALLOWE’EN READING

The Arte of Darkness bMelusine Draco

‘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’. Let’s make no bones about it – there is no such thing as black or white magic – and the realms of Darkness and Shadow are an intrinsic part of everyday magical practice regardless of path, creed or tradition.

“Mélusine Draco, as her name suggests, has long been plugged into the powerful currents of traditional witchcraft and ritual magic. She is one of the real ones. Her provocative writing will show you how to move between the inner and outer worlds. Follow along behind her if you dare …” Alan Richardson, author of numerous esoteric titles including Priestess and The Old Sod, biographies of Dion Fortune and W G Gray.

ISBN: 9781788769198 : Type: Paperback : Pages: 262 : Published: 4 July 2019

Special offer price if ordered direct from the printer:

https://www.feedaread.com/books/The-Arte-of-Darkness-9781788769198.aspx

Or on Amazon Kindle at a special price of UK£0.99/US$0.95 between 11-18th November 2019