A Book Worm’s Eye View …

DIVINATION: A Practical Approach

It was Robert Cochrane who originally coined those now famous words:

“If one who claims to be a Witch can perform the tasks of Witchcraft, i.e. summon the spirits and they come, can divine with rod, fingers and birds.  If they can also claim the right to the omens and have them; have the power to call, heal and curse and above all, can tell the maze and cross the Lethe, then you have a witch.”

Divination is what I would refer to as the practical element of Craft magic, and we don’t even have to be witches to be able to read the portents.  But it helps!

Looking into the future is a very ancient practice. As we saw in the chapter ‘Developing the ‘Art of Seeing’ in Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living, thousands of recorded British customs and superstitions all have their roots in fortune-telling spells and charms, and they are as fashionable today as they were way back when. In fact, it’s been said that divination was as commonplace in the past as satellite communication is today: it was part of everyday life for everyone from king to commoner.  It utilised all manner of techniques and methods from a simple nut placed on the fire grate to the complicated reading of the Roman auspices.  For example a few of these techniques include:

Aeromancy: Divination using the formation of clouds and other patterns in the skies.

 Botanomancy: Divination through plant life; may include the burning of plants and foretelling future events through the ashes or smoke.

Crystallomancy: An ancient form of casting lots using small stones. Or crystalomancy: Divination by studying a crystal ball.

Daphnomancy: Using the smoke of burning branches of the laurel tree to answer questions and forecast upcoming events.

Enoptromancy: An ancient method using a shiny surface placed in water.

Felidomancy: Divination through the observation of felines, including domestic and wild cats.

Geomancy: An ancient system interpreting the patterns and shapes or events found in nature.

Halomancy: Foretelling by interpreting the formation of the crystals when salt is poured to the ground.

Ichthyomancy: Observing the behaviour of fish both in and out of the water.

Jungism: The understanding of mythic symbolism as it relates to the human subconciousness.

Kephalonomancy: Ancient method of pouring lighted carbon on the skull of a goat or donkey to determine guilt or innocence.

Lampadomancy: Divination through the observation of flames from a candle or flaming torch.

Metopomancy: Divination and character analysis by studying the lines on a person’s forehead.

Necromancy: Contacting the spirits of the dead to interpret omens and forecast future events.

Oinomancy: An ancient Roman practice of interpretation through the study and evaluation of the colour, consistency and taste of wine.

Psephomancy: Divination by selecting at random small stones from a pile.

Qabbala: A blend of powerful divinely-inspired divination and mysticism.

Rune Stones: A series of mystic symbols thrown or selected to determine the future.

Scrying: Divination by interpreting the play of light on a shiny object or surface.

Tephramancy: Interpreting the ashes of a combustible object.

Uromancy: Divination using urine.

Visualisation: A controlled level of consciousness during which the seeker can divine answers to questions.

Wort-Lore: The understanding of the appropriate herbs to use to aid divination.

Xylomancy: Using the arrangement of dried sticks to predict the future.

Ying-Yang: Describe how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may interrelate to one another and influence future events.

Zoanthropy: Divination by observing and interpreting the flames of three lighted candles placed in a triangular position.

A deep-rooted belief in divination has existed throughout the ages, among both the uncivilized and the most civilized of cultures, as the desire to know the future continually gave rise to some weird and wonderful ways of peering into it. The Egyptians used dreams [i.e temple sleep] to divine the will of the gods; the Druids used many different forms of divination, as did the Hebrews. Although augury was first implemented by the Chaldeans, the Greeks became addicted to it; and among the Romans no important action of State was undertaken without the advice of the augers and their pre-occupation with raw liver!

Both oracles and seers in ancient Greece practiced divination. Oracles were the conduits for the gods on earth; their prophecies were understood to be the will of the gods verbatim and usually communicated to rulers and prominent persons. Seers were interpreters of signs provided by the gods via natural signs and were more numerous than the oracles being highly valued by all Greeks, not just those with the where with all to travel to Delphi or other such sites, where pythonesses perched on stools, inhaling noxious fumes. As it does today, the ancient Greeks made use of various techniques of divinatory practice: either direct or indirect, and, either spontaneous, or artificial.

Direct divination is where and when a seeker might experience divination by way of dreaming and dreams or by way of a temporary experience of madness, or phrensy (frenzy), all of these conditions being a state from which an inspired recognition of truth is attained. A necessary condition is that the seeker has made an effort to produce a mental or physical state which encourages a flash of insight. These historically attested efforts included sleeping in conditions where-by dreams might be more likely to occur, inhaling certain vapour, the chewing of leaves, drinking of blood, etc.

Under these conditions the seeker may gain the power of prophecy (albeit temporary) that was associated with caves and grottoes within Greek divination, and the nymphs and Pan who often bestowed the gift of prophesy.  Pan was able to dwell within people, a condition known as panolepsy, that causes inspirational abilities relating to divination or prophecy.  A degree of possession of an individual by a nymph is known as nympholepsy, meaning ‘caught by nymphs’ … a term we would use today as someone ‘being fairy led’.

Indirect divination where-by a seeker observes natural conditions and phenomenon such as ‘sortilege’, and chance encounters with the animal kingdom. This consists of the casting of lots, or sortes, whether with sticks, stones, bones, beans, coins, or some other item and often interpreted by a third party. Modern playing cards and board games are believed to have been developed from this type of divination, whereby dice or counters are cast in order to predict the future.

Divination, however, is only a small part of a witch’s stock in trade and although a very basic introduction to the subject can be learned from books, proficiency will only come through vigorous practice. This proficiency comes through the discovery of certain secret matters by a great variety of means, – correspondences, signs and occult techniques – and before a witch can perform any of these operations with any degree of success, we need to develop the ‘art of seeing’ and the ability to ‘divine with rod, fingers and birds’

Very early in his studies one student had grasped the fact that the animal world helps us to connect to this new level of being, particularly through birds, which have long been recognised as an effective means of divination.  Once he understood the principles behind the phenomena, he began to find that he was beginning to ‘see’ more.  How many people, for instance, will even notice the mice on the Underground … but he’d watched them and interpreted their behaviour. How they would always disappear long before the rumble of the train was discernable to human awareness.  Once we get into the habit of watching the animal world, we will always have something around us to warn when that ‘train’ is coming!

The most remarkable thing about divination, of course, is its continued success. And a large number of people who turn to professional readers are impressed by the amazing details ‘coming through’ from their past – but this isn’t what divination is about.  ‘Cold reading’ is a set of techniques used to imply that the reader knows much more about the person than the reader actually does.  Cold readings commonly employ high-probability guesses, quickly picking up on signals as to whether their guesses are in the right direction or not, then emphasizing and reinforcing chance connections and quickly moving on from missed guesses.  Even the police and military use the technique during interrogation sessions …

The witch, however, is not so much concerned with the past as with the present and more particularly the future.  Of course, our past actions affect the way we view the future but if we ignore the warnings that divination brings concerning the present, we will be doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.  We must also remember that regardless of whatever method is used to predict the future those results are not cast in stone! Divination reveals the future as relating to the past and the present, and what will happen if the warnings are not heeded in order to change things before they go wrong. The answer is also subjective to where an individual is standing at the precise moment in time when they pose the question.  We’re back to the saying: “You can’t change anything but yourself, but in changing yourself, everything changes around you.” So if you don’t like what the results of the reading is telling you … do something about it before it’s too late!

As witches we are responsible for our own destiny and a proficiency in our own chosen system of divining gives us a powerful advantage. Experienced practitioners usually prefer to use a single form of divination, and while some methods may prove to be more efficient than others, and some diviners may be more accurate than their fellows, it is traditionally part of a witch’s natural ability to be able to divine by ‘rod, fingers and birds’, as the saying goes.  After years of practice with any particular system, we find that we can interpret the signs without even having to think about it – it’s like receiving a message from an old friend.

The results we get from our endeavours are signs of opportunities to be taken, dangers to be avoided, or impending news of change. Here the witch also interacts with Nature to keep close watch on any unusual activities or occurrences that might have any effect on themselves, or those close to them. This is another reason why it is essential for even the most urban of witches to be well-versed in natural lore as well as magical lore. It pays to understand the local wildlife, otherwise we might not see that unusual ‘something’ in an animal’s or bird’s normal behaviour patterns.

Our native flora and fauna are linked to our magical subconsciousness and, if we have required any form of divinatory methods to guide us through the subsequent stages of our love life or career, we must be receptive to those responses. For those with a working understanding in the language of magical correspondences, it is easy to grasp how natural the reading of the symbols becomes, and how easy and obvious (in most instances) is the interpretation. For the beginner, however, accept that the answers are not going to appear suddenly in chapter and verse in a book on fortune telling.  Divination is more subtle and, more often than not for the inexperienced, irritatingly obtuse!

Reading for others is a common moral and ethical dilemma that is often raised on internet sites and personally I always refuse point blank to indulge in the practice.  That has not always been the case.  There used to be an unwritten ethic whereby a reader seeing something really nasty in the future was duty bound not to reveal what they had seen lurking in the woodshed.  And in the words of that old Leonard Cohen song … “I’ve seen the future, brother, it is murder!” I decided it was unreasonable for me to carry the burden of knowledge for strangers and waiting for the other boot to drop, and that has remained my personal code to the present day … so don’t ask.

If you do wish to read for others then remember not to use your own ‘tools’ for outsider’s readings as these will become contaminated through use.  Keep your own private equipment under lock and key and have a completely different set for public readings – even this should be ritually cleansed after use as each reading will leave a psychic residue behind and contaminate the next person’s reading.

On the legal front, the whole ball-game changed in 2008 when the Fraudulent Mediums Act (which replaced the 1735 Witchcraft Act) was replaced by the new Consumer Protection Regulations. Now there’s a whole list of disclaimers that must be added to the fortune-teller’s spiel if they are to avoid an avalanche of writs from disgruntled customers.  The reason behind the introduction of the new law was because very little in the multi-million-pound psychic industry in Britain is for free, and anyone charging or accepting ‘gifts’ in exchange for a service is bound by the new regulations.  A legal specialist wryly observed: “Now there is no difference in law between a psychic and a double-glazing salesman.”

Let’s face it, there are ‘professional’ fees charged for all manner of types of divination, including Tarot, psychic readings and clairvoyance – just take a look at the number of classified advertisements in any of the MB&S magazines.  According to Office of Fair Trading research, which provided the basis for the new changes, psychic mailings are estimated to have cost gullible Britons £40m in 2006-07, while psychic services via telephone, online and satellite TV keep the tills ringing in the psychics’ favour.

In the USA the legal status of spiritualists, psychics, fortune-tellers and healers has often been a precarious one, and explains why many pagans adopted the title of Reverend as this kept them within the boundaries of the law.  As one web-post explained:  “If one goes to psychic fairs, etc., you will notice that virtually all readers are Reverend ‘So and So’ with another title attached.  If you are using Tarot or scrying for a church or religious purpose [i.e counselling], and not for the purpose of fortune-telling – you are legal.”  So there you have it … if you are a professional diviner and charge a fee for your services, you might be falling foul of the Office of Fair Trading.

From a purely personal point of view, my abilities when it comes to divination have always been limited, I have to confess.  I regularly use cartomancy (i.e. Crowley’s Thoth Tarot) and the pendulum for personal divinatory purposes – and with a great deal of success I might add – but tend to rely more on the messages from the natural world on a daily basis.  I have the most amazing crystal ball collection but generally use them for meditational work by holding the appropriate sphere in the palm of the hand – one colour for each sephiroth of the Qabalah – rather than prediction.  So … I’m okay with fingers (cleidomancy) and birds (alectryomancy) but the rod (rhabdomancy) I really have to work at to get any kind of results …

Pagan Portals DIVINATION: By Rod, Birds and Fingers by Melusine Draco is published by Moon Books (www.moon-books.net) ISBN 9 978 1 78535 858 6 : UK£6.99/US$10.95 : 82 pages.  Available in paperback and e-book format

A Book-Worm’s Eye View

 Starchild I & II by Melusine Draco

 In 2000 I published Starchild: a Re-Discovery of Stellar Wisdom’ It had taken ten years to write and encapsulated what I’d learned on the path up to and beyond Initiation into the Mysteries – it was a catharsis of all the jumbled and fragmentary magical and mystical information collected in the brain, purged and then drawn together to make a coherent whole. It was, I thought at the time – either through arrogance or ignorance – my Magnum Opus.

 Sixteen years later I put the finishing touches to Starchild II: Lights of the Veil, which demonstrates that the path of the Initiate is never ending in terms of learning. Starchild II does not render Starchild I obsolete – it is an extension of that original understanding – an affirmation, if you like. The first book was created out of the wisdom of the ancient Egyptian world and while the second emerged from more recent wider-reaching discoveries, it has revealed how our mystical roots have sprung from different strains of the same panspermiac seed.

 The past sixteen years have seen tremendous breakthroughs in science, archaeology and astronomy, and have merely strengthened the belief that mankind’s true quest for knowledge, wisdom and understanding still lies along the Path of the Initiate. Starchild II uses the old stellar-wisdom to pull all the various esoteric threads together and examine them under a spiritual microscope. Panspermia was an idea of great antiquity, implying that the seeds of life are inherent in the Universe … we can now see that it also carries all the magic and mystery of the stars.

Astrotheology is the study of the astronomical origins of religion; how gods, goddesses, and demons are personifications of astronomical phenomena such as lunar eclipses, planetary alignments, and apparent interactions of planetary bodies with stars. The actual term astro-theology first appeared in a book by William Derham: Astro-theology: or, A demonstration of the being and attributes of God, from a survey of the heavens (1714) based on the author’s observations by means of a telescope. Derham thought that the stars were openings in the firmament through which he thought he saw the Empyrean Heaven – the place in the highest heaven, which in ancient cosmologies was believed to be occupied by the Element of Fire, or the realm of Pure Light – i.e. Kether.

In Starchild I: A Re-discovery of Stellar Wisdom, we discovered how the ancient Egyptians viewed the stars, and how the roots of Western magic and mysticism are still linked to stellar energy. Stellar wisdom is, literally, as old as Time with its beginnings in the ancient creation myths; the primordial, indigenous forces that were later deemed demonic by those who were unable to comprehend their Mysteries. Stellar magic really does reach from the inner chthonic planes of the Earth to the outer limits of Space.

We also find that respected science writers like Marcus Chown, cosmology consultant for New Scientist magazine with a first class degree in physics and a Masters in astrophysics, can explain how every particle that makes up this world of ours originated in The Magic Furnace somewhere in outer space. “The iron in our blood, the calcium in our bones, the oxygen in our very breath – all were forged in blistering furnaces deep inside stars, and blown into space when those stars exploded and died.” This is an on-going cosmic drama that began some 15 billion years ago and as Chown points out, we are directly connected to that most ‘dramatic and awe-inspiring of cosmic events’ – everyone of us is stardust made flesh.

Even Chet Raymo, professor of physics and astronomy, revealed that he has the soul of a poet in making a personal pilgrimage ‘into the darkness and silence of the night sky in quest of a human meaning’. This pilgrimage is one that each of us must make alone, into this realm of stars and galaxies, to the limits of the Universe, to the boundaries of Time and Space where the mind and heart encounter the ultimate Mystery – the known unknowable. “It is,” he writes, “a pilgrimage in quest of The Soul of the Night.”

We are not talking about philosophical analogies of 20th century theology that ‘figuratively align the three Abrahamic faiths’ with astrological symbolism, or connect the ‘solar allegory and the life of Christ, thereby cleverly rendering obsolete the cosmologies of the ancient Near East’. Our search takes us on a re-discovery of the earliest form of religion that fuelled the faith to construct the Pyramids and the vast Neolithic monuments of the British Isles, all of which were constructed in alignment with the stars …

Starchild I & II by Melusine Draco is published by Ignotus Books.  ISBN 978 1 78697 649 9 : 242 pages.  Available at a special discount direct from FeedaRead  of  7.95

To order: https://www.feedaread.com/books/STARCHILD-I-II-9781786976499.aspx

Or available at a special discount of UK£0.99/US$0.95 between 22-29th July in Kindle e-book format.

Book extract …

The Power of the Elements by Melusine Draco

A magical practitioner, whether witch, druid, ritual magician or shaman must be aware that there are all manner of different currents and movements on the planet that affect us on a deeper magico-mystical level than we could ever imagine when we begin our voyage of discovery. And as I asked at the beginning of Traditional Witchcraft and the Path to the Mysteries, do we ever stop to think that the burst of energy that sets the pendulum swinging could be caused by the swirling molten layer under the Earth’s crust, creating the electro-magnetic field that surrounds the planet by the spinning outer crust around the solid part of the inner core? Do we recognise the continuous re-arranging of the Earth’s surface by tectonic plate movement; of the earthly debris from volcanoes that brings precious stones and minerals to the surface and the underground eruptions that causes giant tsunami to race around the globe. Or is our Elemental Earth just a quiet ramble in the countryside and a container of sand marking the Northern quarter in our magic Circle?

We may sit meditating by a rippling stream, watching the sunlight dance in the water as it trips over the stones and pebbles in its path – but do we allow our minds to explore the greater picture of where that crystal clear water comes from? Do we realise that this stream began its brief chapter of life being drawn up as vapour from the ocean and falling as rain on the hills and mountain sides, before flowing down into the river valley with enough power to bring rocks and stones tumbling in its wake? Do our magical energies focus on the stream; the rainfall on the mountain; or the ocean? Are we constantly aware of the force of that water-flow throughout the seasons – the spring floods; the summer drought; the clogging of the channel with autumn leaves and the frozen surface in winter. Or does our concept of Elemental Water begin and end with the symbolic bowl of tap water marking the Western quarter in our magic Circle?

Nothing on the planet can live without clean, breathable air, but a magical practitioner needs to think beyond soft summer breezes and rainbows after a spring shower. Air is the stuff from which tornadoes and hurricanes are made; it brings puffs of cumulus clouds or a billowing thunderhead some ten miles high; not to mention the thousands-of-feet-high dust storms that are created when a monsoon collides with dry air currents above it. Or is our Elemental Air merely the curling smoke from a perfumed joss stick marking the Eastern quarter in our magical workings?

Fire, even in its most modest form has the capacity for great destruction – a box of matches in the hands of a child, a fallen candle, or a carelessly discarded cigarette. On a grander and more epic scale, we are well acquainted by television coverage with devastating wildfire destroying anything that stands in its path; the eruption of a volcano; or the power of solar winds that reach out from the sun to interfere with electronic equipment here on Earth. Or is our contact with Elemental Fire restricted to a candle burning at the Southern quarter of our Circle?

For over two thousand years of human history there were just the classical elements of the ancient Greeks – earth, air, fire and water – who formulated this idea in the sixth century BC. The Greeks had an insatiable curiosity about the workings of the world and came to the conclusion that there was a logical explanation for natural phenomenon that was not caused by dyspeptic deities or any other supplicatory supernatural agencies. These ancient men of science at first believed that a single element was the fundamental principle of the universe but eventually the natural philosopher Empedocles argued that all four played equal and interactive parts.

These essential four, he expounded in Tetrasomia, or Doctrine of the Four Elements, either singly or in combination, account for all matter on Earth. That ‘things take on different forms when their component elements separate and rearrange, variously directed by the force of Love, which brings elements together, and Strife, which tears them apart’. And as Dr Rebecca Rupp pointed out in Four Elements: ‘The theory revealed a surprising grasp of the basics: that is, all matter is assembled from a finite number of basic and irreducible elements; and these, combined in specific proportions, make up all the substances that exist.’

In reality, none of these, apart from water, was even close to being elemental. As Marcus Chown explained in The Magic Furnace, all that was needed was for someone to draw the right conclusion.

The man who did so was Antoine Lavoisier, a French aristocrat whose life was ended by the guillotine in the spring of 1794 … Five years before his death, Lavoisier compiled the first list of substances which he believed could not by any means, be broken down into simpler substances. Lavoisier’s list consisted of 23 ‘elements’. Some later turned out not to be elements at all but many were indeed elemental. They included sulphur and mercury, iron and zinc, silver and gold. Lavoisier’s scheme was a turning point in the history of science. It signalled the death of alchemy and the birth of chemistry.

Nevertheless, the contemporary pagan viewpoint is that the four classical elements are still a natural part of our mental make-up, though in each person only one predominates. There is still a lurking appeal of the ancient Greek view that a single one-word answer can reveal something about what we are. In truth, science has come a long way since then … and so has magic. The Greek four are the elements of tradition and time, and have dominated human thought for over two millennia – and have been around long enough to insinuate themselves into our lives, language, art and literature. Even Galen, the ‘Father of Medicine’ cited elemental properties as being at the root of sickness; a theory that was still being expounded by the seventeenth- century herbalist, apothecary and astrologer Nicholas Culpeper.

In magical practice, these four elements still guard the four cardinal points of the Compass (or Circle) and it doesn’t matter in whose name, or in what form we summon them. When ‘Calling the Quarters’ for a Magic Circle it is usual to draw down the protection of the elements by summoning the:

Guardian of the Watchtowers of the North, South, East, West …

Or:

The Power of the Element of Earth, Fire, Air, Water …

Or:

The Guardian of the North, South, East, West …

Or:

The Element of Earth, Fire, Air, Water …

Or:

The Stations of the Gnomes, Salamanders, Sylphs and Undines.

The last comes from the classical Paracelsian perspective that there are four elemental categories: gnomes, undines, sylphs, and salamanders, which correspond to the Classical elements of antiquity: earth, water, air and fire. Aether (quintessence) was not assigned an elemental and represents the realm of spirit. For those of ritual magic persuasion the Call would be for the archangels from the Hebrew tradition:

North = Earth = Uriel

South = Fire = Michael

East = Air = Raphael

West = Water = Gabriel

And there is a very good reason why we do this, as Kenneth Grant explained so well in Hecate’s Fountain:

It may be asked, why then do we not abandon the ancient symbols in favour of the formulae of nuclear physics and quantum mechanics? The answer is that the occultist understands that contact with these energies may be established more completely through symbols so ancient that they have had time to bury themselves in the vast storehouse of the racial subconsciousness. To such symbols the Forces respond swiftly and with incalculable fullness, whereas the pseudo-symbols manufactured in the laboratory possess no link with elements in the psyche to which they can appeal. The twisting and turning tunnels explored laboriously by science lead, only too often, away from the goal. The intellectual formulæ and symbols of mathematics have been evolved too recently to serve as direct conduits. For the Old Ones, such lines of communication are dead. The magician, therefore, uses the more direct paths which long ages have been mapped out in the shadowlands of the subconsciousness.

And since I go along with Crowley’s belief that magic is a blend of science and art, it is easy to see how ‘sulphur and mercury, iron and zinc, silver and gold’ later became the magical correspondences for the Underworld, Mercury, Mars, Uranus, Moon and the Sun respectively. It is true Uranus wasn’t universally accepted as a new planet until it was ‘discovered’ by William Herschel in 1783 but it had been observed on many occasions over the centuries and mistaken for a star. Possibly the earliest known observation was by Hipparchus, who in 128 BC might have recorded it in his star catalogue that was later incorporated into Ptolemy’s Almagest.

And although zinc was recorded as an ‘element’ by the unfortunate Antoine Lavoisier in 1789, ornaments made of alloys containing 80–90% zinc have been found that are 2500 years old, while a paper published in 1933 (Weeks, The Discovery of the Elements), cites a possibly prehistoric statuette containing 87.5% zinc found at a Dacian archaeological site. The smelting of zinc ores with copper was apparently discovered in Cyprus and was used later by the Romans.  Alchemists burned zinc metal in air and collected the resulting zinc oxide calling it Lana philosophica, Latin for ‘philosopher’s wool’, because it collected in wooly tufts like white snow. The name of the metal was probably first documented by Paracelsus, a Swiss-born German alchemist and magician, who referred to the metal as ‘zincum’ in his book Liber Mineralium II, in the sixteenth century, before the metal was rediscovered later in Europe.

These ancient symbols are magical shorthand that cut across the aeons and connect us with the ‘Old Ones’ who are quite willing to pick up and communicate with those who ‘speak’ their language. And to repeat with emphasis what Kenneth Grant wrote on the subject:

To such symbols the Forces respond swiftly and with incalculable fullness, whereas the pseudo-symbols manufactured in the laboratory possess no link with elements in the psyche to which they can appeal … The magician, therefore, uses the more direct paths which long ages have been mapped out in the shadowlands of the subconsciousness.

Nevertheless, the idea for this book came from a Coven member who was involved in the filming of an opera on a beach at low tide:

“As we were shooting the film, the tide was starting to come in quite quickly and every five minutes we had to move forward because the water was catching up with us. Standing there I could feel the immense power of the energy that was rising right behind me. The wind was picking up and I could sense the power of the water. It was incredible. All I wanted to do was stop shooting this stupid film and work some magic! It also made me think that I wanted to go and live right by the sea so I could experience this more often. It was so amazing.

“And then it made me think about the conversation we had the other day when you asked about ‘Calling the Quarters’ in the Circle. You said you thought I was more connected to Water and I said, No, Air. Well boy, did I feel connected to that water. I can feel it now. When I need to call upon Water I will dig inside of me for that feeling I had. I can connect to Air as well but I think you were right, I think I have a much stronger connection to Water for some reason. Perhaps because I miss it, being from Marseille in the south of France, but now that I am on this path I feel like I miss it even more.”

Here we have the realisation that although we are psychically connected to the same elements as our ancient Greek counterparts, the modern belief that in ‘each of us only one predominates’ is a long way from the truth. In ancient astrology, the triple groupings of the ‘Star Signs’ were more of a seasonal nature, so each season was given the qualities of a particular element. For example:

  • Spring (wet becoming hot) – Air – Aries, Taurus, Gemini
  • Summer (hot becoming dry) – Fire – Cancer, Leo, Virgo
  • Autumn (dry becoming cold) – Earth – Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius
  • Winter (cold becoming wet) – Water – Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces

All the fire signs are by their nature hot and dry. However, the addition of the elemental qualities of the seasons results in differences between the fire signs; Leo being the midsummer sign gets a double dose of hot and dry and is the pure fire sign. Aries being a spring sign is wetter (hot & dry, hot & wet), and Sagittarius being an autumnal sign is colder (hot & dry, cold & dry); and in the Southern Hemisphere the seasonal cycle is, of course, reversed. Using the seasonal qualities also accounts for other differences in expression between signs of the same element.

Similarly, if we look again at Nicholas Culpeper’s Herbal, we can see how this seventeenth-century English herbalist’s medicine was the same as that practised by the famous Greek physicians Hippocrates and Galen that had been used traditionally throughout Europe for 1,400 years: ‘The four temperaments of the body, then, were said to arise from the interaction of the four elements and their primary qualities. This four-fold variation in the human body was matched specifically by the predominance of one of the four humours or bodily fluids. Indeed, the humours, elements, qualities and temperaments were all related’, observed Graeme Tobyn in Culpeper’s Medicine when describing the seventeenth-century’s approach to medicine, although the influence of astrology began to wane in the decades following Culpeper’s death.

The elements Earth, Air, Fire and Water were not literally viewed as things in this world, but as the building blocks in the composition of everything in Nature. Soil would be said to be formed of all elements but, in this case, with a preponderance of the element Earth so that it was perceived as being earthy. Likewise, Air contained Fire (heat), Water (Vapour) and Earth (particles) as well as, mainly Air. The philosopher Empedocles’ (c. 490–430 BC) ideas became truly established in Greek physics and natural philosophy when the great philosophers Plato and Aristotle incorporated it into their theories concerning the physical universe.

Empedocles might have watched a piece of wood burning. Something disintegrates. We hear it crackle and splutter. That is water. Something goes up in smoke. That is air. The fire we can see. Something also remains when the fire is extinguished. That is the ashes – or earth. (Gaarder, Sophie’s World)

And to put these ideas into a magical context, we discover that each element has other facets influencing its purity or effectiveness. By using the Court Cards of our favourite Tarot Deck we can begin to identify what causes those peculiarities that make us say we don’t identify with our particular Star Sign. Leo, for example, is represented by Elemental Fire and is identified with the Knight (or King) of Wands but his ‘family’ is made up of the Princess (the Earthy part of Fire) and the Prince (the Airy part of Fire) of Wands … and the Queen of Wands (the Watery part of Fire).

Adrien, being an Aquarian and a professionally trained singer and dancer, is obviously more geared towards the Watery Part of Air, while I’m an untypical Piscean wired for the Fiery Part of Water in my youth and the Earthy Part of Water in my later years. The current Magister of Coven of the Scales is a Leo and a former Fire Chief who obviously relates to Fire; while the Dame is a Virgo and a lawyer who associates with the Airy Part of Earth. As they get older and develop magically, it will be interesting to see whether these ‘parts’ are subject to change. For the point of this exercise, however, our current chosen points of the Compass for a magical working would be as follows:

                                   The Crone: North

         The Elder: West          +            The Dame: East

                                  The Magister: South

 

So, here we have four people Calling the Quarters of their choice and who are not necessarily manning the Compass at the station related to their actual birth sign, but of the part of their personality that often overpowers the Star Sign. And we often do find ourselves altering perspective as we go through life-changing situations during our time on this earth whereas our birth sign remains the same until death.

And when a magical practitioner makes the sign of the equal-armed cross +1 at each cardinal point of the Compass, they are evoking the protection of the Elements – not using it in any Christian context. The equal-armed cross, also referred to as the square cross is another name for the Greek cross when this is found in ancient cultures pre-dating Christianity.

First orient yourself by facing the North – the Place of Power – and remember that the + is shorthand for Earth (forehead), Fire (chest), Air (right shoulder) and Water (left shoulder) and by introducing it into our Circle workings we are bringing down every attribute, association and correspondence relating to those four points of the Compass simply by evoking the Guardian and making the sign of that cross. Even if we begin traditionally casting the Compass at the East we still follow the sequence of the equal-armed cross at each station. For example:

East + South + West + North + and complete the Circle by returning to face the East.

 Hopefully a picture is beginning to emerge concerning the exactitude necessary for a serious magical undertaking whether it be for spell-casting, banishing, divination or meditation. The famous magician’s directive ‘Know Thyself!’ is not just referring to spiritual self-analysis, it also exhorts us to understand exactly where we are placed in the magical and universal scheme of things.

 

Endnotes:

  1. For the purpose of examples in the text, I have used Aleister Crowley’s Tarot and The Book of Thoth for imagery and his Liber 777 for correspondences since these are the sources with which I am most familiar on a magical level. Needless to say, many of these images will not be the same for those using other Tarot decks or Tables of Correspondences (i.e. David Conway’s The Complete Magical Primer), but the principles remains the same.

Pagan Portals: The Power of the Elements by Melusine Draco is published by Moon Books (ww.moon-books.net) ISBN  978 1 78535 916 3 : UK£6.99/US£10.95 : 90 pages

Book news …

CRONE! An Old Craft Witch’s Year is a rag-bag of memories, wise counsel, reflections, magic and nostalgia that make up a witch’s year – especially one who’s just stepped down as leader of a Coven and finds herself with a lot of time on her hands. Magically this is the best of times since there is nothing to prevent the Crone from doing what she likes, when, where and how – since her personal power is now greatly magnified.

CRONE! might also provide food for thought for those Craft ladies of a certain age who need to step aside and let the next generation have their turn, because often we don’t stop to think that the magical power of the group can diminish and stagnate through the lack of fresh energy. Hopefully, as far as the new Magister and Dame are concerned, I will be around for a long time to come, remaining in the background dispensing Knowledge, Wisdom and Understanding so that they in turn can train their own successors for the future, while I return to my own chosen Path.

In truth there’s comes a time in life in Crafter’s life when it becomes necessary to follow a different Path and see where it takes us. We leave the security of the Coven and set off on a solitary journey … but as Aleister Crowley observed: “What an adventure!”

ISBN: 9781788760010 : €7.95

Type: Paperback

Pages: 216

Published: 21 September 2017

 Available on special price of UK£0.99/US$0.95 between 15-22nd July on Kindle e-book

WRITER@WORK – Summer

Or not, as the case may be …

After all these weeks of ‘lock-down’ I’ve come to a stand-still on the writing front.  Initially the weather was good and so I could break the day by interspersing the hours with gardening and reading outside in the sunshine.  But with the easing of the restrictions and the on-set of rain, the spark’s gone out and the Muse is having to lie down in a darkened room with a damp flannel …

That’s not to say there’s nothing in the pipeline, because that’s just not the case.  The CoS limited edition – Round About the Cauldron Go … is doing the rounds of contributors and this is taking its time for everyone to agree before it goes off to the printers.   This is a ‘first’ for Ignotus Books because its readership will be restricted to the members of Coven of the Scales who have reached a certain stage on their magical journey and will be put out in a hardback edition.

The Witch’s Book of Simples – the simple art of herbal healing is in its first draft and currently being given the once over by a qualified medical herbalist to make sure I’ve remembered grandmother’s Simples in the right context!  It’s been a long time since those days of being sent to fetch a ‘bit o’ summat’ from the garden and I needed to make sure the brain hasn’t let me down.  Once upon a time, everyone used Simples for minor domestic ailments and that was why they were rarely recorded. So I thought I’d better set down my own recollections before they, too, disappeared.

The rough notes for the next Temple House Archive are forming nicely into the first draft of 50,000 words on the subject of pacts, demons and curses – which isn’t conducive to summer creative writing and might have to go on the back-burner until the evenings start to get darker.  I’ve decided to kill off one of my main characters and it’s not easy!

I’ll probably leave everything to ferment if the promised hot weather is about to return and concentrate on the marketing of books already published, especially with the new Ignotus Books Blog now up and running.  The Coven of the Scales Blog is being expanded to include the ‘Life-Style’ idea that was mooted at the beginning of the year and offer more varied reading.  The Melusine Draco Blog includes this sort of stuff, book extracts, book news and mini-articles.

I just heard that Pagan Dawn has accepted a piece on the Sacredness of Landscape to coincide with the publication of Sacred Landscape: Caves & Mountains by Moon Books on 28th August.  Can’t get excited about it as the publisher pulled the plug on the planned trilogy, which has left the overall concept incomplete with Groves & Forests and Lakes & Waterfalls needing to go elsewhere; suggested they cancel the contract for the first book so that the three could be published as one volume but that wasn’t deemed to be a good idea.

The (Inner-City) Path is due for publication on 25th September with Moon Books and this is a sort of life-style approach to finding Nature in the urban areas that most pagans call home. Sexual Dynamics in the Circle: Magic, Man & Woman also published by Moon Books won’t see daylight until 26th March 2021 and it does what it says on the cover.  To date, there are no further titles under contract to Moon Books and who knows what the future will bring …

A Book-Worm’s Eye View

 Traditional Witchcraft & the Pagan Revival is a funny old book, especially coming as it does as the fifth in the Traditional Witchcraft series.  You see, there’s plenty of material out there to explain what contemporary witchcraft and paganism is all about … and there’s plenty of on-line information discussing everyone’s viewpoint of the pagan ethos aimed at beginners.  But I’ve always found that the really important questions usually arise at intermediary level, when folk have been studying Craft for a while and they start to register the differences and similarities between the various paths.

 This is the stage when the pertinent questions arise as to the group or teacher’s antecedents; and why another witch has the temerity to tell us that what we are doing is wrong!   This is when we need strong historical guidelines about paganism in general and witchcraft in particular; and where we need reliable sources to point us in the right direction.  According to the late Michael Howard of The Cauldron fame, traditional British witchcraft refers to ‘any non-Gardnerian, non-Alexandrian, non-Wiccan or pre-modern form of the Craft, especially if it has been inspired by historical forms of witchcraft or folklore’.  This, of course, upsets a lot of people who call themselves ‘traditional’ when Old Crafters come along and point out that it means belonging to an initiatory lineage that is hierarchical, and often patriarchal and elitist!

 The Pagan Revival has also traced many of the threads of Old Craft that have been preserved in often ‘suspect’ writings on the subject by Margaret Murray and Charles Leland that reveal some of their informants, at least, were indeed authentic.   The book examines the revivalist and reconstructed traditions that, although of modern vintage, still have a lot to offer providing they are honest about their sources, roots and ancestry.

 Traditional Witchcraft & the Pagan Revival by Melusine Draco is published by Moon Books (www.moon-books.net)  ISBN 978 1 78279 156 0 : UK£11.99/US$19.95 : 180pp : Available in paperback and low price e-book format

 

REVIEWS:

I’d like to post a simple book recommendation, this is the first book on the subject I’ve found that takes a well researched academic approach, offers a good overview of the history and is compact and accessibly written. A must read in my opinion. HC

A great writer, a fantastic book and a wonderful person who is full to the brim of the most amazing, interesting and insightful knowledge! Melusine Draco is my favourite! TR

It’s a must have, I thoroughly enjoyed it. An erudite and captivating book that should be on everyone’s reading list. AO

LIFESTYLE … Coven Cafe Culture

We were having a Summer Solstice chat around the fire when we got around to the CoS Blog and how to make it more interesting and wider reaching.  Before resurrecting Ignotus Books, we’d been kicking around the idea of launching a sort of online ‘witchcraft lifestyle magazine’ but then the publishing venture took over and the suggestion was shelved due to the increased amount of work involved.

Nevertheless, there were five editorial staff sitting there and we thought what about expanding the CoS Blog to included ‘lifestyle’ postings and if the slot fell to one person per month that would mean we’d only have to do 2-3 posts per person per year – plus there were specialists within our Circle whom we could ask to provide ‘guest slots’ … with the focus on ‘lifestyle’ rather than magic and linked to Coven Café Culture instead of the monthly calendar posting.  After all, we’ve now run an abridged version of  Old Calendar, Old Year, Old Ways and the only alternative was to go back to the beginning … which just gets repetitive and boring.

We’ve also discovered that Facebook is deleting material such as book promotions that are in context with Coven Café Culture, so an extended CoS Blog would provide a better alternative.   Considering the Caff is a private FB group, there’s no problem about the unsuspecting wandering into an occult camp, since new members are asked to answer three simple questions before being admitted.   The new CoS Blog postings will link back to the Blog from the ‘Caff’ and there will be much more to read on both the magical and the lifestyle front.

How does it sound so far? …

Book extract …

THE SACREDNESS OF LANDSCAPE – Melusine Draco

I would never have the courage to be a mountaineer. And yet I am drawn to the sheer beauty and magnificence of mountains.  They are the first things I see when I awake and the last things I look upon before I go to sleep, the shape of the range often silhouetted against the night sky, regardless of season.  The view of them is never the same two days running and at certain times of the afternoon, the slopes are bathed in a strange, ethereal light that is nothing short of enchanting; the summits are either capped with snow; radiating the mellow tones of sunset; or shimmering in a soft blue haze, or cloaked by low-lying clouds and soft rain.  On rare occasions, there are crystal clear images of a hot summer day when sheep are seen as tiny pin-pricks of white on the far-off slopes and patches of purple heather glow brightly in the sunshine.

The Galtee mountains of Ireland lack the rugged grandeur of the Prescellis, or the formidable bulk of the Black Mountains of Wales but as Aleister Crowley wrote: ‘A mountain skyline is nearly always noble and beautiful, being the result of natural forces acting uniformly and in conformity with law … A high degree of spiritual development, a romantic temperament and a profound knowledge based on experience of mountain conditions are the best safeguards against the insane impulses and hysterical errors which overwhelm the average man.’

Crowley developed his own love of mountains while a schoolboy scrambling among the rugged peaks of Wales, Scotland and the Lake District. ‘My happiest moments were when I was alone on the mountains; but there is no evidence that this pleasure in anyway derived from mysticism.  The beauty of form and colour, the physical exhilaration of exercise, and the mental stimulation of finding one’s way in difficult country, formed the sole elements of my rapture,’ he recorded in Confessions. Of the climb on the lower reaches of Chogo Ri [or K2] the second highest mountain in the world, after Mount Everest, he commented: ‘The views are increasingly superb and the solitude was producing its beneficent results.  The utterly disproportionate miniature of man purges him of smug belief in himself as the final cause of nature.  The effect is it produces not humiliation but humility…’

Similarly, in A Phenomenology of Landscape anthropologist Christopher Tilley describes the landscape as having ancestral importance due to it being such an integral part of human development that it abounds with cultural meaning and symbolism. ‘Precisely because locales and their landscapes are drawn on in the day-to-day lives and encounters of individuals they possess powers.  The spirit of place may be held to reside in a landscape.’  Despite different locations giving a variety of explanations for the existence of this ‘spirit energy’, in a large number of instances the intelligent, magical entity simply develops from the colloquially named ‘spirit of place’ over a great deal of time.

He also observed: ‘There is an art of moving in the landscape, a right way (socially constrained) to move around in it and approach places and monuments.  Part of the sense of place is the action of approaching it from the ‘right’ (socially prescribed) direction.’  The method of approach is governed by a combination of place and time – both seasonal and social – while the ‘art’ is the simultaneous practice of meditation and ritualized operation.  ‘Flashes of memory, so to speak, illuminate the occasion and bestows an instinctive grasp of how to behave within a ritual or sacred landscape, and to recognize the type of magical energy to be encountered there.’

Mountains form the most spectacular natural creations on the planet and cover such a large amount of Earth’s landmass that they can be seen clearly from outer space.  Mountains are also a reminder that humans count for nothing in the greater scheme of things. They were formed by tectonic plate upheavals of such magnitude that the fossilised remains of prehistoric sea-creatures can be found on the peaks; in fact, many Himalayan rocks were originally sediments on the primordial Tethys Ocean floor. And more recently, in 1980, a violent eruption tore apart the snow-capped peak of Mount St Helens in the USA, reminding us of the powerful, and often devastating, internal workings of this planet.

Perhaps, however, it is easier to refer to Shinto, the indigenous religion of Japan for a universally accepted and comparable example of a ‘living’ nature belief. Essentially a compound of ancestor and nature worship, Shinto’s silent contemplation of a flower, stream, rock formation or sunset is, in itself, a normal, everyday act of private worship. As part of a national ritual, each year at the blossoming of the cherry trees, thousands of Japanese leave the city to enjoy the beauty of the short-lived flowering. Neither is it uncommon for them to spend a whole evening gazing at the moon; or sit for hours ‘listening to the stones grow’. Inconsiderately, some might think, Shinto shrines are usually to be found in remote locations of breathtaking natural beauty – with little thought for the convenience of the worshipper.

For the traditional Japanese there is no dividing line between the divine and human, since the forces that move in Nature, move in man according to Zen teaching:

“When one looks at it, one cannot see it:

When one listens for it, one cannot hear it:

However, when one uses it, it is inexhaustible.”

Even rocks are possessed of the divine spark and often form part of the intricate designs used to create those familiar Zen temple gardens for contemplation – reflecting the belief that the Buddha-nature is immanent not only in man, but in everything that exists, animate or inanimate.

Recognizing this instinctive feel for the divine spark of spirituality inherent in Nature is one of the fundamental abilities of those with a pagan mind set. A solitary walk by a rushing spring stream; the awesome thrill of an approaching thunderstorm in late summer; a stroll through the woods in autumn; or the first snow fall on the mountains are times for the working of natural magic. Nevertheless, these natural phenomena can make even the most blasé of people hanker for more of these feelings of elation that can grow from the experience of coming into contact with those elusive ‘earth mysteries’.

When referring to ‘earth mysteries’, it is also necessary to understand the difference between a ‘place of power’, and a sacred or historical site. For example, a large number of modern pagans treat any ancient earthworks as such, without any prior insight of its religious antecedents. As a traditional witch of my acquaintance once pointed out to her flock, such activities are on a par with worshipping at a castle moat or Neolithic flint quarry! Simply because something is old does not mean it has, or had, any religious or spiritual significance.

And as Philip Heselton explains in The Elements of Earth Mysteries, this is a living subject. ‘It is not just a study of things in the past, but is something now, in the present, and moreover something that involves our own participation: we ‘become’ involved.  The visiting of sites and our interaction with the landscape comes central to our belief.  What we are dealing with is a recognition that there are special places in the landscape that are in some way qualitatively special.  Whilst we may not be able to define this exactly, we know when we visit them that this is true.  Whether we can detect the energies present at such a site depends on many factors, particularly the cyclical nature of such energies in the landscape and in ourselves.’

Various cultures around the world maintain the importance of the sacredness of nature worship – often in a complex system of mountain and ancestor belief – at sites of revelation and inspiration. Mountains are often viewed as the source of a power which is to be awed and revered.  And perhaps we should all take the time to reflect on the words of Psalm 121:1 from the Old Testament in the King James Bible: ‘I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help…’

 Publication: 28th August 2020. Pagan Portals: Sacred Landscape by Melusine Draco is published by Moon Books (www.moon-books.net) ISBN: 978 1 78904 407 2

 

Contributor to …

Weathering the Storm anthology

‘Happy Birthday to me …’ by Melusine Draco

There comes a time in everyone’s life when they find themselves spending birthdays alone.  Or what to many would seem even worse, celebrating a solitary Yuletide … especially if we’ve come from a large or close-knit family.  After any form of relationship or friendship break-up, it can be difficult to adjust to life without that person and spending time on our own can feel isolating. Over the years, death and separation part us from our loved ones and the prospect of being alone for these important and personal festivals can turn them into depressing and daunting occasions.  But isolation can also be a blessed state … and as pagans we should have perfected the art of making the most out of those solitary moments.

Solitude frees the mind up from all the distractions of everyday life and allows it to focus more fully on one thing. It allows our brain to think outside the box and to come up with unique, extraordinary solutions to ordinary problems.  Solitude can enhance creativity.  Not only that, taking a little time for ourselves refreshes and re-energizes us. It allows us to think more clearly and make better decisions. Taking ‘Me-time’ also builds our self-esteem over time, as we come to accept that we are important and deserve to have a little time to ourselves.

Some people really don’t like to be alone, whereas others are perfectly content spending time alone at home.  A friend of mine, recently widowed, filled every waking moment with some actively and during the current virus-crisis is finding it extremely difficult to cope with her enforced isolation. Although there’s no right or wrong way to be, we often find that people who are happy to be alone (at least some of the time) are more self-confident and generally more satisfied with life.  By perfecting the Me-time habit we could be enriching our own individual life-style.

Birthdays were always important in our family, not because of any great extravagance but because we always spent them together to do something special.  Then one by one those people left the stage and the performance became a soliloquy. Nevertheless, a birthday is a time to celebrate birth itself. It is an expression of thanks to the gods for being born and for still being alive. It is also an occasion to rethink our life; to reflect on the past, evaluate our present and make plans for our future. It is a time when our past intersects with our present and future.   And so we set that day aside each year and make it special by …

Giving ourselves the gift of time. Sometimes our days are so packed with events and tasks that we don’t have time for ourselves. Consider giving ourselves the gift of time for our own rest and relaxation … treating ourselves to a spa day; visiting a museum, exhibition or concert.

Eating our favorite food. It’s our day – we deserve it, whether it’s eating in or out. Perhaps a special birthday lunch or afternoon tea in luxurious surroundings without thinking about the cost.  Worry about dieting and health tomorrow.

Doing a favorite childhood activity. Maybe it was going to the zoo, the aquarium or a theme park. Whatever it was, do it today! Do it as a way to reignite our inner child and our creativity. Do it for the pure enjoyment. We will be amazed at how good it will make us feel.  For example: Once upon a time, in the 1960s (in fact), Dreamland (Margate) was at the cutting edge of fairground excitement but now it has a whole other agenda: rather than competing with the high-tech thrills of Alton Towers and Thorpe Park, it offers a gentle retro vision of seaside fun’.  Oh, I remember it well I think I’m goin’ back …

Laughing out loud. Do something that makes us laugh with delight! Laughter feels good and is good for us.

Setting some new goals. Today is a perfect day to look forward, to project into the future, to set goals for the next twelve months and become more adept at spending our Me Time alone.  Make amazing plans for the next year’s birthday – and book that cruise if that’s what we fancy.

So, we celebrate our birthday each year because it’s always good to acknowledge that we exist on this earth.  Of course, we would like to have family and friends around us but age and distance often makes that impossible. At the start of the year mark off MY BIRTHDAY in the diary, book the day off work if necessary – whether we work for ourselves or for someone else – and go and do something we’ve always wanted to do.  This is the future – go out and say ‘hello’ to it!

If, on the other hand, we’ve decided to spend Yule alone, then the same rules still apply. It can be rather daunting to actually plan for a solitary celebration, but since the whole focus of the holiday is usually getting together with those close to us – and if those people are no longer around – then the exercise can be seen as pointless.  The solitary life-style is amplified at this time of year and all the hype that is geared around spending time with family often creates the impression that if we’re not part of the extravagance then we’re nothing but a sad git! There’s a vast difference, however, between being alone and being lonely. And although outsiders might think it a bit strange, the company of the cat or dog means that there’s someone in the home to talk to and snuggle up with, and discuss what we’re going to watch on telly.

That said, if mum and dad are no longer around, there is no earthly reason we should be expected to endure the unendurable that families insist on inflicting on each other at this time of year. Make it known – well in advance – you will be ‘home alone’ for Yule and intend enjoying it. Having come from a family where Christmas revolved around my father and grandfather, it was difficult to maintain the enthusiasm following their deaths, but the thought of spending ‘the Day’ solitary never entered the equation.

It was my good friend Polly, who changed my way of thinking because she’d spent ‘the Day’ alone for years and actually looked forward to it. Her preparations were no less enthusiastic with all her favourite foods and a couple of bottles of her chosen tipple shopped for well in advance. From Christmas Eve the candles and fire were lit, with a boxed set (or two) ready for the watching and a selfie-present of a good book, she and the dog snuggle in for two days of sheer indulgence without any interference (or criticism) from outside. When my turn came for the solitary Yule, I took a leaf out of her book and made my own preparations well in advance and enjoyed it, too!  And I must confess that I always treat myself to a v-e-r-y expensive present …

When well-meaning friends and neighbours insist on me sharing a traditional meal because: ‘You don’t want to be on your own on Christmas Day!’ – the answer is, of course, ‘Yes, I do!’ and risk giving offense. If we’re not eating out, this is a day to batten down the hatches with all the things we like to eat, snuggle up warm with the dogs, a boxed set (one year it was the complete dvd set of the Works of William Shakespeare!) – and enjoy. Warn everyone well beforehand that this is our intention and we don’t want to be disturbed. Observe the night by (safely) lighting up the house with dozens of candles to welcome back the sun…and feast well if not wisely on this occasion.

 Weathering the Storm is an anthology published by Moon Books – www.moon-books.net

A nice review on Goodreads for interest:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53404786-weathering-the-storm?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=lqQbjtTx8f&rank=35#other_reviews

 

 

Summer Solstice

The Summer Solstice will actually occur this year on Saturday 20th June 2020 at 21:43 GMT (22:43 BST) while a rare type of solar eclipse will coincide with the longest day of the year this week, marking only the second time since 1982 that these astronomical events take place on the same day.  The annular solar eclipse will see the Sun, Moon and Earth align on Sunday, 21st June, creating a spectacular effect for sky gazers to witness across large parts of the world.

The Moon is at its furthest stage of its orbit around the Earth, known as its apogee, meaning it appears slightly smaller in the sky.  This means it is not able to completely block out the Sun, thus creating what some astronomers refer to as a ‘ring of fire’.  At its maximum point of total eclipse, the Moon will block approximately 99.4 per cent of the Sun, though this will only last for a fraction of a second.  The eclipse will not be visible for people in the southern hemisphere, nor in more northerly latitudes like the UK.

The eclipse occurs on the day that the Sun is at its most northerly point during the year, known as the Summer Solstice in the northern hemisphere and the Winter Solstice in the southern hemisphere.  For those north of the equator, the solstice is the longest day of the year and is often celebrated by watching sunrise or sunset.  In the UK, the sun will rise at 4.43 am and set at 9.22 pm, meaning people will enjoy 16 hours and 39 minutes of daylight.  It is the first time since 2001 that the solstice coincides with a solar eclipse, and will not happen again until 2039.

So … even if it’s raining or overcast get out there with a glass of something sparkling and a promise of positive thoughts and actions for the coming year.