Firstly, there’s been some positive response from TV Writer’s Vault concerning The Temple House Archive and the Hugo Braithwaite Mysteries and all we can do is keep our fingers crossed that both series find favour with a television production company in the not too distant future.  Decided that The Temple House had come to the end of its natural life but if it turns out to be a popular TV series then I can always turn my hand to new titles.  The HBM series now has Break-In in preparation.

Had submitted a proposal to Moon Books for the last book in the ‘How To Survive (and Enjoy)’ the varies seasonal festivals and to reclaim these ago-old celebrations back from the church and re-introduce them to our own people.  Just reporting that I’ve just received and accepted the Moon Books contract for Breath of Spring to complete to complete the series for ‘How to Survive (and Enjoy)’ the seasonal festivals. The whole series should be out next year with an extra title Hallowe’en vs Samhain in the Arcanum-ignotus series, which we thought was a bit too gamey for mainstream readers.

The ARCANUM series is rapidly growing and at close of play in 2021 we were up to eight titles with RATS!: Fear or Reverence, Incubation & Temple Sleep and Bush Soul in the pipeline for the first half of 2022.  Our second limited edition title, Inner Court Witchcraft has passed the half-way stage …

Taking a bit of a break and trying my hand at science fiction during the next few months to see how it works out and hopefully will make a start on the fourth book in The Vampyre’s Tale series.

Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living

By Melusine Draco

An extract from the book and a bit more …

Only recently, a rather mature witch of my acquaintance reminded me of the time when I’d advised her on how to cope with a recent move from rural Berkshire to a large sprawling city;  of how she needed to get out and find the old heart of her new community and reconnect with the heart-beat of her kind.  It was amazing, she said, just how many old life-lines were still evident in the abandoned water-courses, derelict churchyards and ancient architecture. 

Late 18th-century antiquarians portrayed the urbanizing towns of the period as ‘centres of a new-style civilization, confident, reformed, free of the old superstitions of the past.  The urban laboring-classes were still views as ignorant and vice-ridden, but they were not thought to be as ignorant, and consequently not as superstitious as their country bumpkin cousins.  By the mid-19th century, confidence in the civilizing effects of urbanization had worn off somewhat … but many intellectuals of the period believed that urbanization rescued people ‘from the idiocy of rural life’.   Thus an editorial in the periodical All The Year Round (November 1869), remarked that although the belief in witchcraft still existed ‘to a very considerable extent in England’ it was not heard of in the busy towns

Washington Irving, writing in 1820, described how the inhabitants of Little Britain (near Smithfield Market) still believed in dreams and fortune-telling but failed to mention witchcraft among the beliefs still held in the area.  It is evident from the scant folkloric source material, and from the newspaper archives, that accusations of witchcraft were far less common in London than in rural areas during the modern period.  In early modern England the flow of rural migrants to an expanding London, for example, did not necessarily lead to irrevocable breaks in social relations between village and city.  Rural teenagers were apprenticed to urban relations or friends, and many townspeople returned to their village homes to help at harvest time, this reinforcing those kinship links which geographical distance might have otherwise broken.

Owen Davies, who is well-known to most pagan readers for his classic Popular Magic: Cunning Folk in English History charted the transition of cunning folk from village to city in his The Decline in the Popular Belief in Witchcraft and Magic; his unpublished PhD thesis for the University of Lancaster, 1995 – which was later published in the Journal of Social History (1997).   By the time of WWI there were far fewer cunning folk operating in England than there had been fifty years before, and by the 1940s they seen to have disappeared altogether.

Interestingly, Gabrielle Hatfield made a similar observation in Memory, Wisdom & Healing (1999) following her researches into the history of domestic plant medicine , that had been passed down orally from one generation to the next.  She acknowledges that many women described as witches were probably innocent practitioners of herbal medicine; while others undoubtedly cultivated the image of witchcraft so that they had more to offer their customers than the common knowledge of plant medicine.

She also found that when she was collecting data on 20th-century plant remedies, many people initially disclaimed any knowledge of the subject. “In our present century, elderly people with such knowledge usually have not passed it on to the next generation for fear of being laughed at, or simply because they felt that such information was of no interest … especially in view of the condescending attitudes shown towards the users of such remedies.”

As far as today’s witches are concerned, the pursuit of this hidden urban knowledge is concerned, will be long and often misleading.  After all, why should an eager young witchlet expect these elderly kinfolk to be forthcoming?   The modern witch seeks to drop into a stranger’s life and expect to share their recollections and knowledge, and very often they will not be immune to having the wool pulled over his or her eyes!

For the witch whose career confines them to an urbanised environment, regular Craft practice may often seem like a futile gesture, especially if home is a small, gardenless-flat. Even the suburbs can be magically incapacitating, if there is constant noise from traffic and neighbours. People work long hours; often setting off for work and getting home again in the dark during the winter months, without having the opportunity to notice the subtle changing of the seasons. Weekends are a constant battle with family commitments, domestic chores and socialising. It’s no wonder that the urban witch has little time or strength left for magical and spiritual development.

There are, of course, others who find themselves having to remain town and house-bound because of age or disability; because they are caring for an aged/infirm parent, or partner; or because they have small children. Urbanisation often provides on-the-spot facilities to make things easier on the domestic front but it cannot give the one thing that a witch needs most – privacy and spiritual elbow-room. So how do we manage?

We get up close and personal. And we reject the textbook clichés of what is, and what is not, recommended witchcraft practice. We do not follow stereotyping when it comes to when, where and how we perform our rituals simply because it may not be practically possible to always follow the instructions to the letter. For example: I am a Welsh witch and I come from a place midway between the mountains and the sea, but I have not lived in my homeland now for many years. It would be untrue to say that I never experience what the Welsh call hiraethus, that indescribable feeling of longing and home-sickness, but as we all know, in magical terms there is always a price to be paid for our Craft. During those long years, my career and domestic life has taken me to London (where I lived for 20 years), to the industrial Midlands and, more recently, to a totally urbanised area of East Anglia. Not once, before moving to rural Ireland, did I have the luxury of wild, open spaces – it was all concrete and asphalt. But not once, in all that time, did I stop being a real witch.

In my experience, the greatest problem a solitary urban witch faces is that an urban environment is not user-friendly when it comes to psychic activity, but then we don’t always have a choice of where we are going to live if someone else’s needs have to be catered for, too. Mostly I have been confined to renting small terraced cottages and flats, often with little or no garden to give that extra bit of space. I make this comment merely to demonstrate that my Craft activities have not been conducted in a round of luxurious city apartments and picturesque Grade II listed town houses! Under these circumstances, for me the key words have always been: acclimatise, adapt and improvise. Any animal, plant or person that is uprooted and transported to another environment quickly learns to acclimatise if it is going to survive. I have adapted to my surroundings and drawn on whatever material/energy there is to hand, even if it is not what I’ve been used to working with. I improvise by drawing on existing knowledge and experience. So …

Acclimatise: Accustom yourself to tuning-in to your environment, even if you’ve lived there for some time. Try to imagine visiting the place for the first time. Buy a detailed street map or guidebook, and familiarise yourself with all the hidden nooks and crannies in the immediate vicinity. Is there a park nearby? Public gardens? Churchyard? Cemetery? What trees are growing locally? Which are the most important/attractive buildings?  Where is the nearest river or canal? Where is the oldest church? Take your time … explore … rediscover … acclimatise.

Adapt: Modify or adjust the way you look at things. There is no point in wishing you were elsewhere when circumstances dictate that you remain where you are. But on the other hand there’s nothing quite so mind-numbing as doing the same thing, day in day out, for weeks on end. For a change, try walking to the shops, school, or travelling to work, via a different route. Examine what’s growing in all the front gardens along the way to the shop, school, station or bus stop. Make sure you take time out for lunch – and get out of the home or working environment for an hour – even if it’s a wet Wednesday afternoon: after all, a witch shouldn’t be afraid of a little drop of Elemental Water! Start seriously inter[1]acting with your environment … adapt.

Improvise: Be prepared to perform a magical working at any time, without preparation, and without what is considered to be the ‘proper regalia’. Be aware of the magical signs Nature has to offer and be ready to act spontaneously, even in the middle of a crowded railway station or shopping mall during rush hour! It may also come as a bit of a shock to realise that a large number of books mentioned in this text are not about witchcraft, or written by witches. This is because we are learning to improvise and look at things from a different or unexpected perspective. Before we go out and meet Nature face to face, however, there may be one or two changes needed to enable us to re-connect with the natural, elemental energies that are an essential ingre[1]dient within any magical environment. Sorry … we’re not talking about symbolic bowls of water, salt, night-lights and a joss stick to mark the quarters on the sitting room rug, we’re talking about encountering real Elemental Air, real Elemental Water, real Elemental Earth and real Elemental Fire – up close and personal!

Elemental Air: This is … wait for it … fresh air! It’s the stuff every living thing on the planet needs to breathe to stay alive but, apart from the occasional jaunt to a pagan camp, a large number of urban pagans appear to be terrified of it. I’ve been into some homes where the stuffy, cluttered atmosphere is so over-powering that you could cut the reek of stale incense with a knife. Whilst we appreciate that modern society no longer allows us to live with our doors and windows wide open, we must get used to letting cleansing air back into our lives.

There is a purifying element to fresh air! In both religious and magical terms, however, Elemental Air is usually represented by smoke from the incense carrying our prayers and entreaties up to the gods. As Joules Taylor observes in Perfume Power, the burning of fragrance to represent questions or appeals is an ancient and well-nigh indestructible facet of worship. In other words, from very early times fragrance has been associated with the gods, the soul and spiritual qualities. Learn to recognise natural fragrance (not always pleasant) from the world around you, and not to rely totally on the contrived atmospherics of the incense burner!

As Jules Taylor goes on to observe, our once highly developed sense of smell is now generally under deployed and now perhaps the least-regarded of all human senses. We can improve our ‘scent perception’ by simply concentrating on becoming more aware of the smells around us. Unfortunately, the urban witch also has to contend with exhaust fumes, fast-food outlets and all manner of other municipal pollution, but with practice it is possible to detect the faint fragrance of Nature. If we want to reconnect with Nature the first thing we must do is sharpen our senses and learn to read the signs that come to us on the breeze

Elemental Air brings lightness and freedom of spirit, as well as being a universal symbol of irresistible force and uncontrollable power. Exercise: In town it’s often difficult to find a moment, or even a place to relax. In the larger towns and cities the noise is a constant, 24- hour drone of traffic, where people never seem to sleep. With the use of a local map, find a ‘green spot’ … even if it’s only a small churchyard or square … where you can sit, watch and listen.

Okay, but what are we watching and listening for?

Nature … because she is there all around us, all the time. For example, I’ve encountered a green woodpecker while sitting in the small courtyard garden of a coffee shop in the middle of town. I’ve seen (and heard) hundreds of these birds over the years, but this was the closest I’d ever been … just five feet away. How many different birds (most certainly creatures of Elemental Air) can you identify? If the answer is very few, then how can you hope to begin to read those ‘signs’ that make up a large part of the witch’s world? Invest a few coppers in a book on British birds from a local charity shop, or buy off e-bay, or ABE-Books on the Internet. Start learning, even if it’s only by watching the pigeons in Trafalgar Square! You’ll be surprised how many different birds can be spotted in our towns and inner cities on a regular basis, and birds have been always been considered bearers of omens since ancient times.

Elemental Water: Water is the essential ingredient of life but how many of us consciously pay homage to this fact in our day-to-day existence? We use water for the daily ritual cleansing of our home and body, to water the garden or wash the car, but often neglecting its spiritual properties. From prehistoric times, our ancestors considered springs and ‘watery places’ to be sacred, and the contemporary custom of throwing coins into wells and municipal fountains goes back to the times when votive offerings were cast into the waters to propitiate the gods. We should be mindful that water, particularly spring water, is truly a ‘gift of the gods’ and not to be treated casually.

For magical purposes we need to re-connect with water, for even the most rubbish-clogged urban watercourse carries life[1]giving properties along its muddy artery. If we live close to a river, canal, park or golf course, then it makes it easier to observe water at close quarters during the changing seasons, and come to recognise the local wildlife that depends on it. Even the modern fountain in the city centre can be a focus for meditative moments when the sun catches the colours of the rainbow in the falling spray. Our local brook regularly acts as a depository for shopping trolleys, traffic cones and other domestic debris, as it runs right through the centre of town. Growing through the restraining brickwork, however, is a magnificent elder tree and an amazing collection of harts-tongue ferns, which I haven’t seen in such profusion since leaving Wales.

Most days the flow is the barest trickle but when it rains, the watercourse becomes a raging torrent. The only other ‘watery’ place is the dried bed of an old pond that only floods during the winter months, but this is the real magical place. The water has gone because the surrounding urban development has drained it, but the site is old, with a large stand of reed mace and a host of other interesting creatures living in this well-established habitat.

There are numerous ideas for a ‘water feature’ in the home, and much depends on personal taste rather than pagan cliché. Even the smallest courtyard can host an ornamental wall fountain, birdbath or wooden barrel containing miniature water lilies (although these do require direct sunlight for success). Inside, a large bowl with flower heads floating on the surface can be extremely attractive … but not a good idea if you have small children or a large dog. Be creative, use your imagination.  

Elemental Water ‘saturates our lives and language and is the most compelling of human metaphors’ wrote Rebecca Rupp in Four Elements; it is the universal symbol of primal mystery.

Exercise: Trace your local source of natural water and try to follow it for as far as possible. You may be lucky enough to live near a pond, stream, lake, river or canal and can watch the changing face of the seasons at the water margin. How many different species of flora and fauna dependent on an Elemental Water habitat can you identify? If the answer is very few, then how can you hope to begin to read those ‘signs’ that make up a large part of the witch’s world? Remember that pure (or purified) water is sterile and that for magical purposes we need to work with natural water. Unless you have access to a spring or holy-well, place a wide bowl or jar outside on a window-sill, to catch rain or moisture; transfer to a sealable bottle and keep for use in your rites. But don’t drink rainwater!

Elemental Earth: Of all the elements, Earth is the symbol of solidity and substance, and the ‘most intrusive in our daily lives’, was an observation made by Rebecca Rupp. The subject of global warming and saving the planet is at the forefront of everyone’s mind these days, but for the witch, the sanctity of the Earth and Nature has always been paramount. The witch does not ‘worship’ Nature but exists in a sort of ‘spiritual care-taking’ capacity – after all, it is from Nature direct that we divine the signs and symbols that give us the power over natural things. Communing with Nature isn’t always easy in an urban environment and it is very often necessary to ‘manufacture’ a moment of peace for ourselves amongst the busy populace.

Dig out a copy of that famous junior school poem by William Henry Davies, ‘Leisure’ that begins: “What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare … ” and take a verse for your very own Thought for the Day. Without compromising your personal safety, try to visit the local park or old cemetery during school hours, or early on a weekend morning, when you can guarantee having a quiet corner to yourself for a while. Many years ago, long before the ‘great clean up’ got underway, we lived near Highgate Cemetery and this was a perfect place for a meditative or magical moment. The magnificent monuments were overgrown and apart from the occasional tourist visit at weekends, we pretty much had the place to ourselves via a discreet hole in the boundary fence. Not only had Nature taken over completely and the place full of wildlife, but there was also the comfortable familiarity that all witches should have with both the spirits of the dead, and the spirits of Nature.

But how do we bring Elemental Earth into our urban home? By growing something, of course! Not everyone has green fingers but it doesn’t take much effort to introduce a small selection of supermarket-grown potted herbs to the kitchen window-sill, does it? This small gesture gives a dual sense of purpose, in that we are caring for something that we can utilise in our day-to-day cooking and magic. Go one better and buy a small kitchen bay. As well as having culinary uses, bay is one of the oldest sacred herbs with strong protective powers when used in spell-casting. My bay started out (many years ago) some six inches high and now stands three-foot tall in a large pot that can be transported anywhere. This is your first step in learning (or re-learning) about wort-lore within the confines of urbanity.

Elemental Earth gives a feeling of security. Universal myths claim that first man was created out of clay, earth or sand; traditionally Earth is represented by the ‘mother’ and the harvest.

Exercise: It must be obvious that Elemental Earth is much more complex than we would first imagine. We live on it, our food comes from it, we bury our dead in it, Elemental Earth (North) is the direction of magical Power … and yet most of us are afraid of getting our hands dirty by interacting with it. So now is the time to rediscover the Earth energies around where you live, by going out and making time to stand and stare!

This also time for an exercise in personal honesty; be truthful, just how comfortable are you with quiet corners of a park or cemetery? If the answer is ‘not very’, then how can you hope to begin to read those spiritual and temporal ‘signs’ that make up a large part of the witch’s world? Again, I would repeat, never compromise your personal safely while on your quest, but try to determine whether you are nervous because you feel vulnerable (i.e. alone), or whether you are uncomfortable with the close proximity to the natural (and supernatural) worlds.

Elemental Fire: In its natural state, Elemental Fire is the most elusive of the four within an urban environment, unless the local vandals have ignored the ASBO and gone on a car-torching spree! Fire has always played an important part in esoteric gatherings but the historic concept of a coven gathering around the bonfire in a woodland clearing is highly suspect. A single candle flame can be seen for miles on a dark night, and in the days when witches were falling foul of the law, a blazing fire would have been an open invitation to the Witch Finders. Fire, however, is part of the Mysteries of Craft and an integral part of any magical working.

First man probably encountered fire as the result of a lightning strike, and so he would have been left in no doubt that the resulting blaze was indeed heaven-sent. From that time to the present, that god-gift of heat and light has provided the dual[1]purpose of hearth fire (domestic) and sacred flame (religious) … both equally as important as a spiritual focus. For our purposes the hearth-fire is, of course, the most obvious, for witches require no formal temples or sanctuaries in order to follow their Craft. Our urban problem of fire lighting was solved by purchasing a circular patio heater – this is a domed-mesh cover affair, with a tray underneath to catch hot ash so it can safely be used on decking – and also doubles as a barbeque. It can be used in confined spaces and moved to another home when necessary. We also have a collection of old-fashioned lanterns (probably nearer the true), which double up for both indoor and outdoor working … and infinitely safer than naked candles.

Elemental Fire is the symbol of warmth, passion … and danger. It can offer the welcome of a glowing hearth or an uncontrollable conflagration that destroys everything in its path. Those who pass through the flames and survive, emerge transformed and improved.

Exercise: Learn to love fire and make a point of always having a candle burning (safely) while you are at home. Treat yourself to a ‘special’ holder that will always act as the focus for your devotions – whether indoors or out – so think in terms of something generous, expensive and wind-proof, like a storm[1]lantern. If you are fortunate enough to have a patio heater or an open fire, buy some of those wonderful copper sulphate- coated pinecones that produce the most amazing coloured flames – perfect for divination – but don’t cook over them! Now … how comfortable are you with fire? If the answer is ‘not very’, then how can you hope to begin to read those divinatory ‘signs’ that make up a large part of the witch’s world?

Important: When out and about, never put yourself at risk by wandering in remote places. More attacks on lone people occur in urban areas rather than out in the countryside, so do not be foolhardy – the gods do not always protect.

We also need to accept that witchcraft (unlike Wicca) is not a religion – it never has been, simply because it’s an individual’s natural ability that distinguishes him or her as a witch. In other words, a witch is born, not made. It just isn’t possible to learn how to become a witch if we haven’t got these abilities, although it is possible to learn how to hone and develop latent, or suppressed psychic talents, under the right tuition. And there is no age limit for these discoveries – in either the young, middle-aged or old. Wicca, on the other hand, is fast becoming accepted as the ‘new pagan religion’ with its doctrines drawing heavily on an eco-feminine shadow-image of Christianity. This again is nothing new, since Christianity itself absorbed many of the existing pagan festivals and celebrations into the Church calendar (including an identification of the Virgin Mary with Isis), and contemporary paganism is merely reclaiming its own. But in reality, even in the days before the Christian invasion, not all of the pagan populace were skilled in the Craft of witches.

To use a natural analogy, the differences between witchcraft and paganism per se is to liken them to the relationship between the domestic and the wild cat. To the casual observer there is little difference. Just as the similarities between the modern wild cat (felis sylvestris) and the house cat (felis catus) are so great and the differences so few, that it is difficult to establish any authentic genealogy. There is evidence that wild cats have mated with domestic cats and domestic cats can survive in the wild having gone feral, but they don’t usually move far from human habitation and will quickly revert if given the opportunity. The wild cat, however, cannot be handled or tamed; even a small kitten it is extremely ferocious. In appearance it is difficult at a distance to distinguish a wild cat from a large domestic tabby that has gone feral, but (as with witchcraft and paganism), the subtle differences are there, if you know where and how to look.

Witchcraft is not bound by social rules and conventions, only by the personal morality of the individual, and is governed solely by the natural tides. Any form of magical working or spiritual observance tends to be of a solitary nature, or in the company of tried and trusted people. Witches believe that esoteric knowledge should be kept hidden because it is impossible to convey the meaning of the ‘true mysteries’ without the appro[1]priate teaching. Traditional witches are now rarely seen at pagan events, and hold that any ritual equipment will be acquired as and when it is necessary.

The witch learns his or her Craft along the way, and pays homage to Nature but in a more abstract form that the textbooks will allow, something along the lines of Blake’s ‘Auguries of Innocence’:

“To see a World in a grain of sand,

And a Heaven in a flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour”


Memory, Wisdom & Healing, Gabrielle Hatfield (Sutton

The Secret People, Melusine Draco (Moon Books)

Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living, Melusine Draco (Moon Books)


Memory, Wisdom & Healing, Gabrielle Hatfield (Sutton

The Secret People, Melusine Draco (Moon Books)

Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living, Melusine Draco (Moon Books)

Urbanization & the Decline of Witchcraft: An Examination of London, Owen Davies, Journal of Social History vol 30, No 3 (Spring 1997)

Book sale on Kindle

The eigth title in the Arcanum series is now available as part of our on-going magical tutorial Arcanum books will be titles of under 100-pages of practical and/or instructional text on a specific esoteric subject or theme and written by magical practitioners with proven antecedents. Based on the idea of those children’s ‘Ladybird’ books that often introduced us to an interest that lasted a life time and, taking its name from the Coven of the Scales’ foundation course, the aim is to offer further tuition/guidance on specific elements of witch-lore and practice.

Coming in at around 25,000 words, each title will be packed with information and instruction rather than puffed out with superfluous wordage and regurgitated text borrowed from other publications. The series will be aimed at those who have attained a certain level of magical competence and who don’t need to be spoon-fed basic instructions for Circle-casting with each volume – and are therefore not written with beginners in mind. Published by ignotus press they are available direct from Feedaread at a reduced cost of €6.85/£5.90 plus shipping.

No 1: Sacrifice to the GodsThe act of propitiating or appeasing the gods is as old as humankind. And, it is just as much an integral part of pagan worship today as it was when our Mesolithic ancestors first began leaving their mark on the landscape – both to honour the gods in times of plenty and to appease them in times of trouble. For the tribes that were beginning to track their footsteps across the open plains of the vast continents, they left behind evidence of their ‘holy places’ – where they periodically stopped and gathered together in the act of honouring the Gods, the Ancestors and denizens of Otherworld, according to the light of their times … and as their customs directed. What is the meaning of sacrifice? Sacrifice is the offering of food, objects or the lives of animals or humans to a higher purpose – in particular divine beings – as an act of propitiation or worship. Needless to say, putting others ahead of ourselves requires sacrifice and in more modern parlance it is the act of offering or the giving up of something we would prefer to keep

No 2: Talking to Crows‘Talking to crows’ is said of those who have some presentiment or foresight in Sicilian folk-lore. It is believed that to those who can understand them, these black birds, garrulous creatures they are, communicate the latest news on the doings of human beings, since they have a clear view – a bird’s eye view – of the whole. They have also been around for a lot longer than human beings and, perhaps not surprisingly, long ago developed the reputation of being messengers of the gods in many different cultures across the world. Members of this large, adaptable family live in habitats ranging from treeless tundras where land is flat to mountain forests. They live in deciduous forests, where trees shed their leaves, and coniferous forests, with cone-bearing evergreen trees. Corvids range in deserts, grassland steppes where there are few trees, and on the edge of rainforests, where heavy rain produces much growth. In addition, they live in cities and small villages. They are always our close companions and who more able to communicate news from Otherworld, should we choose to listen?

No 3: Hagstones‘The hag stone tells the more human side of this history perhaps. Of fear, suspicion, disease and its healing, of countering dark magic, of minding the gap between the living and the dead, natural and supernatural. Its very form is a negotiation between the visible and the invisible, a combination of stone and air, presence and absence, at home in this transient place where land and sea meet, a place of limbo and secret, slow transformations …’ Alex Woodcock, In the Eye of the Hagstone Much of the information that has been collected for Hagstones is of a repetitive nature but this is, in itself, an endorsement of the strong beliefs that were still prevalent in the early part of the 20th-century up and down the country. In fact, the oddity of hag-stones has long made them a focus of folk magic – where they’ve been used for everything from wishing spells to hedge-riding and protection – and serious academic study. The names for these perforated rocks vary by region, but hag-stones have been viewed as magical across the world and, are also said to be bringers of high psychic powers and heightened intuition.

No 4: Thrice Great ThothIn its simplest form, the modern function of the ancient Egyptian god, Thoth, can be seen as being the patron of writers and magical practitioners. Thoth is attested from the earliest historical periods onwards: he already played a prominent role in the oldest religious texts of Egypt, the Pyramid Texts, and continues to appear almost everywhere in Egypt up to the end of Egyptian religion some 4000 years later. Throughout this long period the god is overwhelmingly present in a vast body of documentation that yields an extraordinarily colorful picture of his nature and functions within the Egyptian pantheon. We should not forget that the archaic Thoth-cult of the pre-Dynastic era was a long way removed from the sophisticated theology of Ptolemaic times. Neither is my shadowy concept of Thoth enjoying a fine single malt and a cigar any more incongruous that the anthropomorphic images carved in the stone of the ancient temples. In historical terms, the death of Cleopatra was nearer to man’s landing on the moon, than it was to the magnificence of the pyramid-building era of ancient Egypt – but through all these times of change Thoth’s popularity has endured. Still holding the brush and palette of a scribe, since the wisdom of which he is the Master is in particular that contained in the sacred texts.

These are availble at a special discounted price direct from the printer – Feedaread https://www.feedaread.com/…/SACRIFICE-TO-THE-GODS…. The first four titles are avaailble on Kindle as a special offer of UK£0.99 between 3-10th January.


Gateways to Otherworld

Melusine Draco

When we talk of Otherworld, we are usually referring to the world of spirit, of fae, and the ancient Ancestors, from where kindred calls to kindred and blood calls to blood. It is a separate reality, or a world that exists simultaneously with ours, but independent of it – and most genuine witches find that they spend their lives with one foot in the ‘real’ world and the other foot in Otherworld. We co-exist in a way that enables us to ‘see’ things on the other side of the veil without the rigmarole of trance- or path-working, self-hypnosis, meditation or contemplation.

To find the psychic gateways or portals that enable us to step through into this Otherworld that are as clearly defined as stepping through our own front door, enhanced by our ability to perceive the subtle-dimension or the unseen world of spirit. The terms gateways, portals and doorways speak for themselves, and as a witch’s magical ability develops these psychic ‘gateways’ will begin to open – maybe in one, or even several directions simultaneously. Personal advancement along the Old Craft path depends on an individual’s willingness to pass through or stay put, since these gateways open as a result of personal progress serving as an indication that the time has come to move on and to climb to the next level.

ISBN: 9781803022758

Type: Paperback

Pages: 96

Published: 3 December 2021

Price: €5.68

New book release

Scent of a Witch

Melusine Draco

‘Magic and scent were conceptually linked in antiquity. Ancient authors sometimes treated magic as a type of smell; at other times odors were treated as a medium through which magic worked. Some authors compare the effect of smells to magic; others described scent and magic as different things but impossible to distinguish. Magicians used incenses and perfumes liberally to set the scene for their rituals and please the gods, as demonstrated by the corpus of spell books that survive from Greco-Roman Egypt; meanwhile, ancient deities signaled their presence by their divine fragrance.’ So writes Britta Ager in her academic paper for Penn State University, Magic Perfumes and Deadly Herbs: The Scent of Witches’ Magic in Classical Literature.

The Classical authors that Professor Ager cites in her paper were, of course, more contemporary with the regular users of those fragranced preparations. While most modern scents are produced from synthetic materials, the original fragrances were a combination of plant or animal products and rich oils. Today, archaeologists continue to find evidence of perfume’s use throughout the Ancient World, often in the form of contents in intricate perfume vessels. In witches’ spell books, known as grimoires, herbs, flowers, roots and resins were called upon to facilitate the workings of the magical practitioners who recorded the use of olfaction as a very powerful tool in spell-casting. Essences and aromatic smoke have also been linked with spirits and gods in ancient cultures, and the earliest of spell books …

Perfume-making has long been big business and from the earliest times provided a ‘cottage industry’ for those who knew and understood the properties of plants. Those early Greek witches whose magic was associated with scent were supernatural exaggerations of rhizotomoi, or ‘root-cutters’ – professional herb gatherers who supplied doctors, magicians, and others with ingredients.

Rhizotomoi, who could be male or female, observed ritual precautions when picking certain plants, either to protect themselves from the herbs’ dangerous powers, or to preserve the herbs’ efficacy. Such plant-cutting rituals are well-attested throughout antiquity, including precautions such as pulling up the plant with the left hand, drawing a magic circle around it with a sword, chanting, sacrificing, pouring libations, or cutting it at a particular time of day. There was a tendency worldwide to attribute medicinal and magical powers to plants with strong odours, and, conversely, scented plants are more likely to accrue folk-lore about their potency than inodorate species. Homer’s mythical plant moly, for instance, was frequently identified in antiquity with stinking rue or garlic.

The Greeks believed that the scent of certain herbs, magic or otherwise, was potent enough to be dangerous; thus Theophrastus, a fourth-century BC botanist, wrote that people gathering hellebore should eat garlic and drink wine as a protection; and that when harvesting other plants the root-cutter should stand upwind to avoid eye damage and swelling. One early portrait of the mythological Greek witch, Medea, shows the ease with which female root-cutters, with their strange rituals and dangerous herbs, came to be mythologized as witches. Evidence for Medea in the classic Greek Archaic period is highly fragmentary, although what survives already shows a well-developed narrative in which she is the wife of the hero Jason and a powerful witch with magical powers grounded in a knowledge of herbs and drugs

Further along the historical time scale, however, the ‘root-cutters’ were still going strong. In his Herbal Simples (1897), William Fernie made rare mention of the ‘green men’ [and women] who were first licensed in the Elizabethan Wild Herb Act to gather herbs and roots from wild, uncultivated land – but it was a contemporary occupation that had already been going strong since the late 14th-century. A new kind of medical herbalist had evolved – the apothecary – who purchased plants collected from the countryside by these wandering herb collectors. In Green Pharmacy, Barbara Griggs records that during the 17th-century herbs could also be bought direct from the herb women in Newgate Market or Covent Garden. According to Fernie:

Coming down to the first part of the present [19th] century, we find purveyors of medicinal and savory herbs then wandered over the whole of England in quest of useful Simples as were in constant demand at most houses for the medicine-chest, the store-closet, or the toilet-table. These rustic practitioners of the healing art were known as ‘green men’, who carried with them their portable apparatus for distilling essences, and for preparing their herbal extracts. In token of their giving formally officiated in this capacity, there may yet be seen in London and elsewhere about the country, taverns bearing the curious sign of The Green Man & [his] Still

The Green Man & Still was a tavern originally situated at 335 Oxford Street, London and was also a coaching inn (a 1792 map shows it at the entrance to a stagecoach yard), the starting point/terminus of several stage coach routes out of London. Although the original tavern closed and re-located, it retained the Green Man & Still name as late as the early 1920s. Another Green Man & Still is recorded at 161 Whitecross Street, Clerkenwell in 1789 run by one Peter Richardson, victualler, from Sun Fire Office records held at the London Metropolitan Archives. It closed in 2006 and remained empty until it became a coffee shop in 2011. The ‘Green Man’ became a popular name for English pubs in the 17th-century (when the Distiller’s Company Green Man & Still heraldic arms were still in common use), although most inn signs tended to feature the familiar foliated face of church architecture; while the ‘green men’ or rhizotomoi, of Elizabethan times, probably merged into the cunning-folk tradition and faded into oblivion.

Gone were the days when a tavern sign pointed to the existence on the premises of a still where cordials were distilled from green herbs. In this case, the house was not kept by a tavern-keeper, but by a herbalist. The premises may, however, have belonged to an innkeeper or a ‘green man’ who lived further afield on the same estate. In Shakespeare’s time there was a London street, named Bucklersbury (near today’s Mansion House), so noted for the number of apothecaries who sold Simples and sweet-smelling herbs that in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Sir John Falstaff describes the dandified fops of his day as ‘Lisping hawthorn buds that smell like Bucklersbury in simple time.’

The cunning folk provided a combination of written charms, magic rituals, prayers and herbal preparations, because one of the most ancient of magical sciences is ‘magical perfumery’. It has long been recognized that certain scents produce certain responses in our physical, mental, and emotional bodies. Both men and women of old perfumed their bodies and kept unguents in alabaster flasks and caskets so that the perfume seeped through the alabaster. The bottle was called a flacon – a small, often decorative container with an opening seal or stopper, designed especially to hold valuable liquids which may deteriorate upon contact with the air.

A modern-day rhizotomai – or root magician, John Canard, in his Defences Against the Witches’ Craft, describes himself as fitting into the role of the cunning man – and, of course, cunning men were often employed to fight against the malefic attentions of witches. He lists a whole range of plants said to protect from negative magic that can be home-grown for protection and several of the classic anti-witch herbs are mentioned in the old rhyme – but not for their perfume:

Trefoil, vervain, John’s wort, dill, / That hindereth witches of their will.

  • Trefoil has a sweet, vanilla scent and although it is a pretty yellow flower, its old country meaning is one of revenge or a warning. It was worn as a protection against evil and witchcraft.
  • Vervain was one of the three most sacred herbs of the Druids (the other two are meadowsweet and watermint) and used to ward off evil. It has very little smell and a bitter taste. It has been used as a powerful protective plant from malefic magic, hence the name of Devil’s Bane.
  • St John’s wort oil has an herbaceous, sweet, floral aroma although the leaves give off a ‘foxy’ odour. Used as a powerful herb against malefic magic.
  • The distinct smell of Dill influences the conscious mind and will clear the head after smelling it for a few seconds. It was believed to be a very powerful anti-witch herb

This is where we have to try to define what brings back the past for us as individuals. I would have to say that for me, personally, it is the scent of hawthorn on the summer breeze and before the flowers start to fade. This also evokes the late spring-early summer weekends of childhood and camping trips to The Quarries where the landscape was a mass of white flowering trees mingling with the smell of wood-smoke from an open camp fire … Seventy-five years later and these particular scents can cause me to take a gigantic leap back in time in an act of involuntary memory.

For dwellers in green places, every season has its own perfume: Spring has the sappy smell of working bulbs, piercing sword leaves, and swelling buds. Smell a daffodil and you know the entire fragrance of spring. During high summer the golden liquid of a thousand scent bottles changes unnoticed into a pot-pourri of fallen petals. The smell of autumn, perhaps the most nostalgic of all scents, of rotting leaves, wood-smoke and mushrooms, hangs motionless between the trees until one day we realize that it has gone, who knows where – and the chill of splintered mirrors in frozen ditches gives out the faintest perfume of the year. [Green Magic]

Translate these scents of the seasons into colours, and we have for spring the pale green of new leaves. Summer’s scent is a deep rose-pink; autumn is an orange-red, fading to brown and then to grey, as the season dies. Winter’s cold faint perfume is a silvered ice-blue in the witch’s world where we often ‘see’ intangible things in terms of colour.

The Scent of a Witch by Melusine Draco is published by ignotus press uk : ISBN: 9781803022338 : Paperback : Pages  104 : Price £6.85 : Published  28 October 2021 : Order direct from https://www.feedaread.com/books/Scent-of-a-Witch.aspx

New release

Quartz: Breath of the Dragon

There are many different varieties of quartz, several of which are semi-precious gemstones. Since antiquity, varieties of quartz have been the most commonly used minerals in the making of jewellery and hard-stone carvings, while in the metaphysical world quartz crystals are the supreme gift of Mother Earth. Even the smallest piece is imbued with powerful properties that enable the bearer to cross the boundaries between the worlds; while archaeologists are finding more and more evidence that quartz played an important part in the ritual and burial customs of our Megalithic and Paleolithic ancestors

It is the quartz element of granite that reconnects us with the spirit within the landscape. As an accomplished occultist and having a doctorate in Geology, one of the Coven’s founders, Mériém Clay-Egerton, was fascinated by the fact that for millennia, humanity and quartz had interacted with each other. She wrote that our ancestors having recognised the qualities of quartz was evident from the studies of its usage, not region by region, but over the entire area of the British Isles and other parts of the world: “Everywhere one looks there are clear distinct traces. To people who know its potential, it was clearly no accidental employment of any material to hand. It was sought out for use. Why?”

Quartz is the most common constituent of rock, she went on to explain, a basic silicate dioxide having three molecules arranged in either a right or left-handed spiral form, which has the power of polarising light in more than one direction: “When light enters a crystal it splits into two beams, due to the differing speeds of the light’s velocity being refracted back from the different vibration of the crystal’s lattices, and their own individual refracting indices. In certain circumstances, the crystals can act as ‘windows’ to ultra-violet and infra-red wavelengths. In addition to these scientific points, we may also hear quartz crystals hum or ‘sing’. We can also see quartz crystals displaying piezoelectric effects.”

These are scientific terms for what our ancestors knew: “Burial chambers with quartz kerb-stones were commonplace, as were the pits used for inhumations, which were sprinkled with quartz chippings, both whole and broken. There is a school of thought that these were used to either keep the individuals concerned safely at rest, or to permit the living to contact spirit entities when they were in a correctly attuned state.”

On a metaphysical level, Mériém wrote: “Standing stones (some of which are made of quartz – others may contain a high percentage of it), are accepted by psychics [and magical practitioners] as being able to act as conductors of ‘earth-force’, such as that encountered at nodal points for energy lines. If they are acting like natural ‘acupuncture needles’, then it is not surprising that they should be as pure a substance as possible and with natural powers of their own. Many circles in the south-west of England appear to have been originally constructed with a central point; other phases being tacked on afterwards. A quartz stone, or stones with high quartz content, will often appear in such a prominent position, having superseded the original wooden post.” A new study  reveals how Stonehenge has stood the test of time so successfully: The quartz crystals that make up the sarsens form an interlocking structure that makes the boulders nearly indestructible.

And much closer to home: “Nowadays, we protect our water with chemicals to make it fit for us to drink, but in ancient times folk made offerings to the guardians of holy wells. Some were simple things, others were valuable objects that had been ceremoniously broken; it is strange how often white stones, and quartz in particular, figured highly on the list of offerings. As the wells were quite often used in fertility and healing rites, then I suppose we should naturally expect quartz to be a frequent gift. Today, crystal healing is still practised; and quartz plain or coloured, is one of the principal stones used – yet another relic of our past.”

In truth, as Dr Clay-Egerton asserted some forty years ago, the use of quartz in prehistoric stone-working traditions was a worldwide phenomenon.  For archaeologists, however, quartz analysis presented significant challenges with the result that it was often misidentified, or ignored, or only cursorily analysed.  Indeed, well into the 20th-century, quartz artefacts were routinely discarded during excavations.  Nevertheless, quartz was an integral part of traditional British Old Craft teaching all those years ago and, despite the contemporary pagan penchant for crystals, for us nothing was allowed to displace quartz from being the most valuable stone for witchcraft.

On a final note: quartz is solid silica and if it did not crystallize when it solidified it is known as flint, and everyone knows that two flints struck together will produce a spark. What is not generally known is that all quartz pebbles will do the same and often produce bigger and better sparks. Clear quartz, or rock crystal, will produce an orange spark if two pieces are struck together in a darkened room, accompanied by the smell of burning … and this can be viewed as magical fire from the very Earth itself.  Despite all the gems of the world, for the magical practitioner, natural quartz should remain the most precious gift of all.

As a result of this current resurgence of academic interest, there is a certain pride and satisfaction in knowing that the ‘old-fashioned’ teachings of traditional British Old Craft are now being validated by contemporary scientists and archaeologists, who are beginning to understand that the ancients’ obsession with quartz crystals was more than just a passing fancy.  It was Aleister Crowley who maintained that magic was an amalgam of art and science and those Old Crafters of my generation were fortunate indeed, that our founder was a doctor of geology, with more than a passing interest in archaeology, anthropology and ‘earth mysteries’.  This meant that we also had a thorough grounding in these subjects and were encouraged to investigate further for information and knowledge … a practice that is maintained within the Coven to the present day.

‘Thanks, Mériém …’

Quartz: Breath of the Dragon is the sixth in the ignotus press Arcanum series. ISBN: 9781803021829 : Type Paperback : Pages: 104 : Published: 17 September 2021: Price£6.85 : Order direct from https://www.feedaread.com/books/Quartz-Breath-of-the-Dragon-9781803021829.aspx

WRITER@WORK – Autumn Equinox

WRITER@WORK –  Autumn Equinox

with Melusine Draco

This is the best time of year to pick up old projects and get them finished … or re-started.  Now we’re about to see the next Temple House Archive novel – PACT!  – to be published.  It’s an unusual title but it saw me killing off one of my favourite characters and the tying-up of all the loose ends in the series, so that the next book – Labyrinth – starts from scratch.   It’s also led to the idea that the TH Archive would make a good television series and so will be poking and prodding about among the production companies over the next few months to explore the possibilities.  These are unchartered waters so any suggestions would be gratefully appreciated …

The Water Boatman in ‘A Tale For All Seasons’ quartet is now available in paperback and e-book format.  Set against a backdrop of the British waterways, the principal character is a modern day herbalist and cunning-man who operates off his luxury narrowboat to become embroiled in various adventures along the way.   Although it has its own fair share of bodies along the tow-path, this is much more of a cosy-crime … along with the start of the next Hugo Braithwaite Mystery … Break In! … set against a covid background because we can’t ignore it completely, can we?

It’s also time to start on the fourth title in The Vampyre’s Tale series – Mememto Mori – that picks up the story in the Middle Ages as it moves towards its conclusion with its dual time-line.  Dark doings for a darker time of the year

At the back end of the Summer, Moon Books issued a contract for Sumer Is Icumen In: How to Survive (and Enjoy) the Mid-Summer Festival and saw me make a start on the next title Song of Harvest Home in the same format.  If MB accept it there will be Springtime to follow … if not, they can be published under the ignotus press banner.

Ignotus Press’s Arcanum series is well under way with the first four titles already in print: Sacrifice To The Gods, Talking To Crows, Hagstones and Thrice Great Thoth.  With The Power of Images, Quartz and Scent of a Witch currently in production, Gateways to Otherworld should bring the total up to eight by the end of the year.

I’m also making a stab at a new departure into a sci-fi adventure …

So yes … all in all it’s been a very busy and productive summer

The Power of the Pendulum

My fingers are best suited to cleidomancy and over the years I have experimented with numerous different types and sizes of pendulum made of different materials.  Magically a pendulum is a weight suspended from a pivotal cord or chain so that it can swing freely; scientifically when a pendulum is displaced sideways from its resting, equilibrium position, it is subject to a restoring force due to gravity that will accelerate it back toward the equilibrium position.  Generally speaking, a pendulum is a small weight on a cord or chain. And that’s all it is! It can be any weight, and it can be any sort of cord or chain.  The pendulum itself is more often than not, an object only about ½ inch by 1 inch in size and the cord or string is about 8 inches long; the whole thing fitting easily in a small pocket or pouch.

Like dowsing with hazel twigs, from earliest times, pendulums have been used to locate water, gold, gems, and other valuable commodities – as well as missing items. In Europe early scientists and doctors would consult a pendulum for medical diagnosis to locate infections and weak areas of the body and to determine the gender of unborn infants. In the practice of radiesthesia, a pendulum is used today for medical diagnosis.

People also trust the pendulum enough to let it guide them through the most difficult times of their lives. For an extreme example, during WWII, a pendulum was used by Colonel Kenneth Merrylees to locate deeply buried bombs.  He was employed by the Army to dowse water supplies for Allied troops at the front, and also worked as a bomb disposal expert back home, where he used his dowsing skills to find unexploded bombs with delayed-action fuses that had penetrated deep into the ground; famously locating one 500-pounder under the swimming pool at Buckingham Palace. Even the most hard-bitten sceptic is not going dismiss the Colonel’s remarkable abilities with his pendulum!

Another advocate of The Power of the Pendulum (published in 1976) was T.C. Lethbridge, an English archaeologist, parapsychologist, and explorer. A specialist in Anglo-Saxon archaeology, he served as honorary Keeper of Anglo-Saxon Antiquities at the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology and over the course of his lifetime wrote twenty-four books on various subjects, becoming particularly well known for his dowsing and other experiments with a pendulum.

It is usual practice to first determine the response you will be using: (i.e. left-right, up-down); which will indicate ‘yes’ and which ‘no’ before proceeding to ask the pendulum specific questions.  The pendulum may also be held over a pad or cloth with ‘yes’ and ‘no’ written on it, or perhaps other words written in a circle. The person holding the pendulum aims to hold it as steadily as possible over the center and its movements are believed to indicate answers to the questions. Repeatedly asking the same question should be avoided as pendulums have been known to become ratty and climb up the cord like a snake about to strike!

Quite simply, when held correctly, the pendulum reacts to very small nerve reactions in our fingers that are generated by our unconscious mind in response to a question. Different nerve reactions will be detected depending on what our subconscious mind knows. These reactions are transmitted to our fingers from the deep recesses of the mind and through our fingers to the cord holding the weight of the pendulum. These tiny nerve transmissions affect the cord and are then transmitted to the weight – causing it to move in some direction. So rid yourself of the myth that a pendulum is moved by some spirit, or by magic – it is moved by our subconscious mind …

… and yet! There is a certain amount of magic in the ability to interpret some of the reactions.  I have found that the best results come from a pendulum with some quartz content since this is the mineral that ‘earths’ our magical abilities and makes the link with those chthonic energies that set the pendulum swinging … backwards and forwards for ‘yes’ … in a circle for ‘no’ … although others may use the opposite interpretation.  We make sure we’re on the same wavelength by uttering a simple incantation like: ‘Adonai, please answer my questions. Swing backwards and forwards for ‘yes’ or in a circle for ‘no’.  I thank you’.

My personal pendulum is a heavy crystal droplet from an old chandelier. Despite its name, ‘crystal’ is actually glass containing a minimum of twenty-four per cent lead. Not present in other types of glassware, the lead increases the sparkle and makes it easier to cut; the brilliance of lead crystal relies on the high reflective qualities caused by this lead content.  Although these droplets are manufactured there is still enough lead content to link us with the earth and its magical correspondences.  I also use a heavy pendulum because it takes more than a slight nervous reaction to set it swinging, and also for it to change from swinging backwards and forwards, to rotating in a circle without any detectable sensation of movement within the hand in response to my questions.

In addition, in alchemy lead is known as the silent metal. It is a law unto itself and in magic creates a space of silence; this is the perfect metal for ‘infinite space’ meditations, making an effective barrier against all forms of negative energy.  Ruled by Saturn, the magical use of lead promotes contact with deep unconscious levels (both the underworld and Otherworld), deep meditation, banishing negativity breaking bad habits and addictions, protection, stability, grounding, solidity, perseverance, concentration and conservation.

The magical correspondences also include: the astrological houses of Capricorn and Aquarius; Chronos, the father of Time; the Universe in the Major Arcana; the colours black and blue-black; magical powers of malediction and death (since lead is highly toxic), alchemy and geomancy; perfumes – all dull and heavy odours including sulphur and asafoetida.

It is not surprising, therefore that a ‘crystal’ pendulum with its high lead content makes the perfect tool for divinatory work. For the record, my second choice would be a clear quartz crystal with bands of rutile since quartz (in all its forms) is the most magical mineral on the planet. Although in magical circles we are warned to ‘never haggle over a black egg’, a large droplet from a broken down chandelier  can be obtained for a few pounds off e-Bay, while a decent sized quartz/rutile pendant could have set me back over £100.

Let’s face it, divination is both a skill and an arte but an individual’s proficiency depends on regular practice just as much as his or her natural abilities. Most witches do, of course, have a particular favourite divining tool, which acts as a prompt for tuning in to psychic forces and if you already have a favourite method, then there is absolutely no reason to change. Just as the good all-rounder is rare in any walk of life, so the witch who can divine by using every tool imaginable is a rare animal indeed!   In addition, there are also different types of ‘tool’. For example, there now are hundreds of different Tarot packs to choose from and it won’t be until you find the design that ‘talks’ to you that you will excel in spontaneous tarot readings for yourself.

As with all elements of Craft the more we understand about the history and antecedents of our chosen divinatory method, the easier it becomes to instantly get onto our ‘contacts’ regardless of the technique we are using.  It isn’t enough to buy a modern book off Amazon and slavishly follow the directions.  We need to understand the history behind the system and to discover where it has travelled from to re-emerge in 21st century western esoteric writing.  We need to re-connect with the ancient seers, shaman and augers of the ancient world

Pagan Portals: Divination by Melusine Draco is published by Moon Books ISBN 978 1 78535 858 6 : 82 pp : UK£6.99/US$10.95 : Available in paperback and e-book format.  http://www.moon-books.net

New release …

ARCANUM New release

Thrice Great Thoth: The Magician’s Magician

Thrice Great Thoth: the Magician’s Magician by Mélusine Draco is the fourth title published in the ‘Arcanum series’ for Ignotus Books. Arcanum books will be titles of under 100-pages of practical and/or instructional text on a specific esoteric subject or theme and written by magical practitioners with proven antecedents. Based on the idea of those children’s ‘Ladybird’ books that often introduced us to an interest that lasted a life time and, taking its name from the Coven of the Scales’ foundation course, the aim is to offer further tuition/guidance on specific elements of witch-lore and practice.

In its simplest form, the modern function of the ancient Egyptian god, Thoth, can be seen as being the patron of writers and magical practitioners. Thoth is attested from the earliest historical periods onwards: he already played a prominent role in the oldest religious texts of Egypt, the Pyramid Texts, and continues to appear almost everywhere in Egypt up to the end of Egyptian religion some 4000 years later. Throughout this long period the god is overwhelmingly present in a vast body of documentation that yields an extraordinarily colorful picture of his nature and functions within the Egyptian pantheon. We should not forget that the archaic Thoth-cult of the pre-Dynastic era was a long way removed from the sophisticated theology of Ptolemaic times. Neither is my shadowy concept of Thoth enjoying a fine single malt and a cigar any more incongruous that the anthropomorphic images carved in the stone of the ancient temples. In historical terms, the death of Cleopatra was nearer to man’s landing on the moon, than it was to the magnificence of the pyramid-building era of ancient Egypt – but through all these times of change Thoth’s popularity has endured. Still holding the brush and palette of a scribe, since the wisdom of which he is the Master is in particular that contained in the sacred texts.

ISBN: 9781803020969 : Type: Paperback : Pages: 102 : Price £6.85

Published: 6th August 2021 – Also available in Kindle e-book format

Order direct from https://www.feedaread.com/books/Thrice-Great-Thoth.aspx

Lammastide – the holy of holies

In the good old days, the harvest festivals began in August (Lunasa – ‘beginning of harvest’) followed by September (Meán Fómhair) and October (Deireadh Fómhair) translated as ‘middle of harvest’ and ‘end of harvest’ respectively. Harvest was one of the most sacred times of the pagan year and the Harvest Home or In-Gathering was a community observance at the end of the harvest to celebrate and give thanks for the bounty with all its attendant celebrations, including the singing of the traditional folksongs like John Barleycorn. Celebrating the harvest is still the holiest time of the Craft year and Lammas celebrates the coming of harvest-tide with its decoration of corn sheaves, fancy loaves, berries and fruits – all leading up to the Autumnal Equinox (or Michaelmas) that marked its zenith with the eating of the traditional goose and the raucous festivities of the community harvest supper and country fairs.

Lammas Day (Anglo-Saxon hlaf-mas, ‘loaf-mass’), however, is a holiday still celebrated in English-speaking countries in the Northern Hemisphere, usually between 1st August and 1st September, to mark the annual wheat harvest – the first harvest festival of the year. On this day it became customary to bring to the local church a loaf made from the new crop that began to be harvested at Lammastide. The loaf was blessed, and in Anglo-Saxon England it might be employed afterwards to work magic: a book of Anglo-Saxon charms directed that the Lammas bread be broken into four bits, which were to be placed at the four corners of the barn, to protect the garnered grain from rot and vermin. In many parts of England, tenants were bound to present freshly harvested wheat to their landlords on or before the first day of August. In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, where it is referred to regularly, it is called ‘the feast of first fruits’

The Chronicle is an account of events in Anglo-Saxon and Norman England; a compilation of seven surviving interrelated manuscript records that provides the primary source for the early history of England. The original manuscript was created late in the 9th century, probably in Wessex, during the reign of Alfred the Great (c871–899). Multiple copies were made of that one original and then distributed to monasteries across England, where they were independently updated. In one case, the Chronicle was still being actively updated in 1154 and seven of the nine surviving manuscripts and fragments now reside in the British Library. The remaining two are in the Bodleian Library at Oxford and the Parker Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

The ninth century Anglo-Saxon Chronicle; the 10th– century Anales Cambraie; Chronicle of Aethelweard and even earlier sources such as the 8th-century historians, St. Bede of Jarrow and Nennius of Bangor, all shed light on the conversion of the pagan Anglo-Saxons, and each of them in turn referred to the 6th– century writings of Gildas the Wise. These are among the primary sources used to study who the early pagan Anglo-Saxons were – and how it was that they came to abandon their ancestral religion in favour of Christianity.

Lughnasadh’s pagan origins are mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature, the festival being named after the old Celtic sun-god Lugh. It involved great ‘in-gatherings’ that included religious ceremonies, ritual athletic contests (most notably the Tailteann Games), feasting, matchmaking and trading – and visits to holy wells – with many of the activities taking place on hilltops and mountains. According to folklorist Máire MacNeill, evidence shows that the religious rites included an offering of the ‘first fruits’, a feast of the new food and of bilberries, the sacrifice of a bull and a ritual dance-play in which Lugh seizes the harvest for mankind and defeats the powers of blight. In Wales, Gŵyl Awst marks the first harvest, because there is a second harvest at the time of the Autumn Equinox.

Old Lughnasadh: Irish: Lúnasa; Scottish Gaelic: Lùnastal; Manx: Luanistyn is the Gaelic festival marking the beginning of the harvest season. Historically, it was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man and was originally held about halfway between the Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox; over time, however, the celebrations shifted to correspond to other European harvest festivals such as the Welsh Gŵyl Awst and the English Lammas. According to the Julian calendar, 14th August is the day to connect magically with the Ancestors for a true first Old Craft harvest celebration when ‘Kindred calls to kindred, blood calls to blood’.

This is also a season of renewed growth in some trees during July and August in the northern hemisphere, and Lammas growth on trees can be really pretty. On oaks it tends to be lime green but is often tinged with red and it brings the trees to life again, and makes the woods and hedgerows look refreshed.  Lammas growth declines with the age of the tree, being most vigorous and noticeable in young trees. It differs in nature from spring growth, which is fixed when leaves and shoots are laid down in the bud the previous year. The Lammas flush is free growth of newly-made leaves throughout the tree.

It was beneath the oaks of the New Forest that King William Rufus went hunting on 2nd August in the year 1100, and was killed by an arrow through the lung, though the full circumstances still remain unclear. The earliest statement of the event was in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which noted that the king was ‘shot by an arrow by one of his own men’. According to an unidentified ecclesiastical account, a charcoal burner took the King’s body, placed it on a rude cart, covered it with a ragged cloth and conveyed it to Winchester.

The body was said to have dripped blood along the entire route, an idea consistent with the belief that the blood of the divine sacrifice must fall on the ground in order to fertilize it. The king was mourned not by the Christian nobles but by the largely pagan common folk, who lined the roads of his funeral procession and followed the body to the grave; thus giving voice to the legend that William Rufus’s death was a ritual sacrifice as part of the dying-god fertility cult since he was descended from a pagan leader on both sides of his family. Many of his friends and close associates were also openly heathen, and his chief advisor was Randolf Flambard, recorded in the Chronicles as the son of a witch.

Along with the Mid-Winter Festival, the celebration of the Harvest is one of the most important celebrations in the Old Calendar and, like Yule, is celebrated over a number of weeks until the full harvest has been gathered in – culminating in a community In-gathering or Harvest Home. That a working knowledge of the natural tides was requisite in traditional witchcraft is shown by Paul Huson in Mastering Witchcaft (1970) and later by Patricia Crowther in Lid Off the Cauldron (1981).  And yet apart from the monthly moon cycle, much of this teaching is absent from contemporary pagan writings. 

In truth, the ‘dark tide’ first begins to stir at Lammas, the time of fruition and harvest when the crops are gathered and fruits begin to ripen. Under the new style calendar, Lammas would be celebrated on 1st August; since we still follow the old calendar, so would perform the Lammas Rite on 12th August.  We’re heading towards the Autumnal Equinox, when the two tides of summer/winter, bright/dark, god/goddess stand equally opposed so – the bright tide will start to wane, the dark aspect ever increasing – and traditionally Lammas was essentially a male-oriented ritual. The goddess-imagery now begins to fades into the background until the fires of Candlemas and the Vernal Equinox call her forth once again; with a shared celebration of fresh bread and wine/beer she takes her leave and future Coven rites reflect the god’s power.

In ye olden days, the Lammas celebration was exclusively a male affair with the women waiting outside the Circle in order that they may – or may not – be invited to participate in the rite.

Within CoS we tend to keep things simple at Lammas and wait for the ‘big event’ at the Autumnal Equinox when the feast should be a full scale, bells and whistles, Harvest Home supper.  Weather-wise, however, Lammas is still basically a summer event and fresh-baked crusty bread goes with all sorts of seasonal food; if it happens to be cold a thick home-made soup goes down just as well.

It is also a great time for implementing one of those other popular pagan institutions – Pot Luck – that is a communal gathering where each coven member contributes a different, often homemade, dish of food to be shared. The pot-luck supper is a great idea in theory: but in practice, it still needs organizing. What if the dishes clash? What if everyone brings lasagna? If you’re a Type-A personality, like most Dames and Magisters, tell people what to bring, especially if you intend eating outside.  This dispenses with any difficulties.

Everyone uses pot-luck to bring their favorite indulgent dishes, like pasta salads or macaroni and cheese bakes, but don’t be afraid to offer to bring something new.  Ideally, people almost always bring dishes that can be eaten off a plate and that’s fine: but the pot-luck plate often lacks crunch and brightness. Bring something fresh like a grain salad or a raw vegetable side dish for some variety.  If you’re going store-bought, bring cured meats and cheeses, or pick up a great nut mix.  Don’t forget that fresh produce is never better than during the summer, so take advantage and make a dish that highlights the produce of the season. A crisp veggie/salad tray fresh from the garden is a welcome addition to a spread that features mostly comfort foods; serve any dressings separately to prevent things from going soggy – or the beetroot salad escaping into the coleslaw!  And lots of fresh, crusty breads for this Lammas night.

Don’t forget that the Lammas loaf was made from the first corn cut that morning, and by night-fall the woman of the house would have had a freshly baked loaf waiting to be eaten.  The designs for Lammas loaves are varied and can be from a simple cottage loaf to a plait, or the more ambitious wreaths and corn sheaves – the latter often having a little mouse cunningly concealed at the bottom – like Mouseman furniture!  If we’re not bread-makers make a trip to the local bakers and fill a large wicker shopping basket with a selection of different breads and rolls that can be served with lashings of ‘real’ butter. 

Since I’ve never made bread that couldn’t double as a door-stop, the following recipe from A Witch’s Treasury of Hearth & Garden became part of our own Coven tradition and could be quickly prepared when time was pressing at the time of the harvest …

The Lammas Cake

8 oz self-raising flour with 1 teaspoon mixed spice

5 oz castor sugar and 5 oz butter

6 oz currants

6 oz sultanas

2 oz chopped peel

2 eggs beaten with 6 tablespoons milk

Mix flour and spices. Beat butter and sugar to cream. Beat eggs and milk together. Alternatively stir in flour and egg/milk mixture to the butter and sugar a little at a time. Add fruit and mix thoroughly. Line a loaf tin with grease-proof paper and bake the mixture for 1 hour at Gas Mark 5 (350F/180C) for 1½ hours, then at Gas Mark 2 (300F/150C).  Wrap the tin in a thick layer of newspaper to prevent burning.

It is from those last sheaves of Lammas corn that the stems for making the corn dollies are taken. Even today the corn dolly tradition is still followed in the UK, where most counties have their own designs and forms. The Stafford Knot, the Suffolk Horseshoe, the Yorkshire Spiral or Corn Drop are just a few of the old variations that survive today. While many don’t look like a typical ‘dolly’ in the general sense of the word, their care and crafting are still imbibed with intent and mystery, and a desire to protect the promise of the next growing season. Whatever shape or form they take, the ‘Spirit of the Grain’ is still a potent pagan custom and magical working, and we don’t have to be a farmer to take advantage of its talismanic power. It can represent success and bounty, and the fervent hope the future will hold prosperity and abundance. 

In European pagan culture it was believed that the spirit of the corn lived amongst the crop, and that the harvest made it effectively homeless.  James Frazer devotes some four chapters to the ‘corn mother and corn maiden’ customs in The Golden Bough. Among the customs attached to the last sheaf of the harvest were hollow shapes fashioned from the last stook of wheat or other cereal crop. The corn spirit would then spend the winter in the house or barn until the ‘Spirit of the Grain’ was ploughed back into the first furrow of the new season.

Smaller versions of this country craft were usually made for individuals and it is with these personal examples that we are most familiar. A countryman’s favour was usually a braid of three straws and tied into a loose knot to represent a heart. It was believed that if it had been made by a young man from straws picked up after the harvest and given to his loved one – and if she was wearing it next to her heart when he saw her again then he would know that his love was reciprocated.  Corn dollies were also made as a badge of trade at hiring fairs, where men and women would decorate them with a wisp of wool or horse hair to signify that they were a shepherd, for example, or a wagoner.

These annual hiring fairs were held later in the year, during Martinmas week at the end of November, in the northern market towns where both male and female agricultural servants would gather in order to bargain with prospective employers and, hopefully, secure a position for the coming year. The yearly hiring included board and lodging for single employees for the whole year – with wages being paid at the end of the year’s service. These fairs attracted all the other trappings of a fair, and they turned into major feasts in their own right, which attracted poor reputations for the drunkenness and immorality involved.

The corn dolly is another way of connecting with a tradition our Ancestors would have celebrated around Lammas-tide – even if we just take a bunch of corn stalks, trimmed and tied with a scarlet ribbon. What will our corn dolly represent? What promises, what hopes do we wish to manifest in the coming seasons? Will we make room at our altar or hearth for the ‘Spirit of the Grain’ to ward off the lean times? The magical power of the dolly is not merely the object itself, but the care and work put into it: a representation of the sacrifice we all make today to ensure a better tomorrow. Whatever form of greater increase and prosperity we desire, perhaps keeping the ‘Spirit of the Grain’ in a safe, warm place through times of slack and dormancy could help us stay opportunistic on our way to our own bountiful harvest!

Because it was common practice to break up corn dollies from the previous year and sow the grains in the spring with the new planting, it’s unusual to see many old ones around.  Since the corn dolly is a symbol of wishing wealth on the household, it is pointless leaving it to gather dust for years on end, particularly as the ‘wealth’ comes from the releasing of the Spirit of the Grain back into the fields to work its magic.  If we give a corn dolly to someone else, do make sure they understand that come spring they should take it outside and burn it, sprinkling the ashes onto the garden.

Lammas is still a time of excitement and magic. The natural world is thriving around us, and yet the knowledge that everything will soon die looms in the background. This is a good time to work some protective magic around the hearth and home.  This occasion celebrates the beginning of the harvest season and the cycle of rebirth, and can be done by a solitary practitioner or adapted for a group or coven setting.  It is an expression of gratitude for the change in seasons — from a season of planting to a season of harvest – that marks today’s observance.

The floral tribute for this time of year is a huge vase full of dried grain stalks with as many different varieties as possible – wheat, oats, barley – these characteristic heads make a distinctive display that will last for weeks. Wheat is one of the oldest and most important of the cereal crops cultivated in Britain since prehistoric times, so its symbolism is timeless.

If working solitary, prepare a platter of fresh bread together with small dips of oil, honey, together with wine and spring water to symbolise the age-old offerings.  Think about the bounty that fills our life. What are we getting ready to ‘harvest’? Have we taken time over the summer to enjoy the fruits of our labour? How are we preparing to shift into the darkness of the coming months? 

Break the bread into large chunks and set some outside (or at your altar) as an offering. Have some of the bread yourself, first with olive oil, and then with honey. Wash it down with your harvest beverage and fresh spring water, and offer your thanks for the abundance of the coming harvest.   Mix the oil, wine, honey and water together and make a libation for the Old Ones by pouring it on the ground outside. 

We often forget that honouring the seasons and our Tradition do not have to be grand celebrations, full of complicated Compass casting, fancy rituals with bells and smells, and sumptuous feasts – yet!  Of course the Sabbats can include one or all of those things, but do they have to be? Of course not. Honouring the change of the season can be as simple as a lighted candle, a murmured invocation, and a libation. Just five minutes to reconnect with our beliefs, our deity and the land.

‘Wishing you all the joy of the Season’ – Melusine Draco