Green Carnation

Extract from Coven Working by Carrie West and Philip Wright

Initially, it may seem strange that ‘straight’ magical partners are writing on the subject of gay magical practices in the context of general coven working, but on closer examination this is not as odd as it would first appear. We always try to adopt an approach that is integrated, non-judgemental and avoids the overtones of justification that often accompany the majority of LGBT writing, while still managing to examine gay magical energies from a purely practical and functional perspective. It is quite difficult keeping all the balls in the air (if you’ll excuse the expression) but it is also possible to integrate gay members into a mixed coven with the minimum amount of fuss, if folk are of a mind to do so.

As experienced practitioners, we have operated successful teaching groups for many years that have included men and women of all sexual persuasions without exclusion or bias. During that time we have, of course, encountered problems and prejudices on both sides of the ‘gay divide’ and would say right from the start, that the refusal to welcome gays into a predominantly straight group says more about the coven leader’s personal prejudices than it does about their magical teaching capabilities. There are a number of difficulties and misunderstandings that do arise with regard to gay and lesbian magical practice within Craft, but hopefully our ‘four-penny worth’ of advice will help to reassure both gay pagans and those straight pagans who claim (quite wrongly) that gays have no place in a modern coven.

Firstly: An individual’s sexuality is an extremely personal and intimate thing. Our sexual preferences are our own affair and not something that is up for open discussion – especially if our inclusion or exclusion from a group may be dependent upon it. In fact, all over the world there are thousands of ‘straight’ magical groups, covens, orders and organisations operating with members who, unbeknown to the majority, are gay. This secrecy usually stems from the homophobic attitude still prevalent within Western society and the mercurial reaction with which so-called friends can respond once the truth is out in the open. It’s not just in Craft that we hear the words: ‘I quite liked him/her until I found out s/he was gay!’ as if the person referred to was guilty of some heinous crime, or had some highly contagious disease.

Subsequently we now have a gay and lesbian community inside the wider pagan community because they feel the need for a separate identity. The result may have created a new pagan club-culture but it does nothing to solve the magical problems that arise from same-sex covens. This schism was widened a few years ago when a leading pagan journal openly announced that homosexuals could not be witches. It was a stance that the late Bob Clay-Egerton was quick to question in What You Call Time:

“When I first commenced my studies in the days of illegal witchcraft, I was taught before my initiation that anyone who commenced the practice of Craft in sincerity, formal initiate or not, was a witch. This would imply that a homosexual can be a witch. The homosexual, or trans-sexual will probably find major obstacles put in their path if attempting to join a coven and may find it easier to find acceptance among magicians than they will among witches.

“Sexuality, to my mind, is not a physical but a mental and instinctual thing. The problem is not in the mind of the trans- or homosexual pagan but in the early conditioning by socio-religious mores of pagans not yet sufficiently advanced to be able to stand apart and look with the eye – not of morality and sexuality – but with the eye of spirituality … I wonder if we all, male and female, do not have quite a bit of both sexes in our individual makeup. I do know personally of one High Priestess who, from firsthand experience of working with homosexual and heterosexual members, is prepared to consider such applications for admittance into the Craft based on ability rather than gender.”

Successful magical equilibrium, requires that everyone takes into account the dual masculine-feminine energy that is contained within us all. Those whose magical training has only been at a superficial level often have difficulty in looking at this aspect of god-power beyond the concept of god/goddess and man/woman. This is usually due to the ‘fertility’ aspect of most modern earth-based spiritualities not being able to see much further than the traditional gender roles and the fertility of the god/goddess in terms of Nature and procreation.

Secondly: We need to examine the viewpoints of gay pagans – and for this we are extremely grateful to the former editor of Hoblink for allowing us access to the magazine’s archive, which gives gay pagans the opportunity to speak for themselves. One letter struck a very positive cord, which may also cause a large number of straight pagans to think quite carefully.

“A few years ago, a couple of friends and I formed a gay coven. We had all met through a larger mixed group, but the formation of a specifically gay group aroused considerable opposition from the more traditionally-minded elements of the Craft. They really needn’t have worried. Firstly, the group included a number of individuals who left when it became clear that they weren’t likely to achieve their own ends. Secondly, and far more importantly, the group failed because it did not have a central myth around which to build the group’s identity, or to focus group-work.

“That experience left quite a deep impression on me and so for the last few years I have worked solo. However, I believe that the same dilemma still faces almost all gay men who become involved with the neo-pagan groups. Whether the same problem confronts lesbians, I don’t know … Sadly, one sees so many groups today that attempt to revive ancient religious ‘mysteries’ that don’t have any relevance to the lives of their members. In the end they become fancy dress parties, performing sometimes charming, but utterly meaningless rituals.

“I say this because I believe the danger of gay men falling into this trap is very real. Once again, I can only speak from my own experience, and I know only too well that I find it very difficult to relate to a culture dominated by heterosexual values. But I also know that I am not alone in this. My personal belief is that gay men are physically and psychologically different from straight men. Moreover, we have our own distinctive patterns of behaviour and our own cultural values (however shallow some may appear!). They do not always sit well with the accepted values of conventional society, hence the charge of moral turpitude so often levelled against us …”

Our reaction on reading this particular piece, was how tragic that such a magically perceptive young man had been forced to work solitary when his concept of magical energy was probably more heightened than most straight pagans (both male and female) we’ve encountered. This latter point was driven home by the claim in a subsequent issue, that magical energy didn’t ‘give a monkey’s who it is flowing from and to, as long as those people are in tune and have ‘perfect love and trust’ for each other’. Sorry … but yes it does. Just like the positive, negative and earthing wires in an electric plug need to be channelled correctly, or you run the risk of short-circuiting the whole house!

One young man who applied to join our coven, bit the bullet and admitted right from the start that he was gay. This wasn’t bravery … he simply didn’t want to waste any more time attempting to integrate with a group of people who may possibly reject him if, and when, his sexuality became common knowledge. For us this wasn’t a problem. Over the years we’ve worked with every permutation of sexual persuasion including hetero- and homosexual, hermaphrodite, lesbian, bi-sexual, transsexuals and transvestites and each one has been a magical challenge – for us, as well as our students.

At the moment, within the coven we just happen to have a transsexual, a bi-sexual and two homosexuals – and each one requires a different perspective on their own particular approach to magic. Don’t think for one moment that we get it right every time – we don’t – but at least we’re willing to give it our best shot! Our way is to treat each person as an individual, and get them to operate initially within the Coven as normal men and women, and to forget about the subtle nuances that make them different from the ‘straight’ members of the coven.

What we have found is that ‘straight’ people are frightened of homosexuality, simply because it makes ’em nervous. A man may normally engage in physical contact in the form of back-slapping but if the recipient was known to be gay, he would immediately refrain from any bodily contact in case he was: a) thought to be making sexual overtures, or b) any onlookers might assume him to be gay. We also know that people always fear what they don’t understand, and the thought of joining in The Mill, holding hands with a homosexual, would probably give most heterosexual males a fit of the vapours! Women tend to be less paranoid, but there are still a large number who would it offensive if they found a gay man in their group. Lesbians, on the other hand, tend to excite prurient curiosity rather than revulsion.

In the beginning we found ourselves having to combat members’ stereotypical attitudes that gay men were automatically ‘pansies’ (to coin an old-fashioned phrase), i.e. the limp-wristed, girlie types caricatured by stand-up comedians. One of our gay lads is a six-footer, built like a brick lavatory and works as a scaffolder, balancing precariously hundreds of feet above the City pavements – anyone want to call him Alice!!? The other is a stockbroker, with a beautiful home and a partner with whom he’s lived for the past 15 years, and without any outward sign that he happens to be gay.

Contrary to popular belief, not all gay men are hairdressers or in the least bit ineffectual, and on a superficially magical level, there’s nothing different about them at all. For group working they participate in just the same way as any straight man. Similarly, the first year of study is identical for anyone joining the coven, regardless of gender. This doesn’t mean that we blithely carry on as if there were no differences at all, but because of the way individuals respond to the set selection of tasks and magical exercises – again regardless of gender – we are able to gauge the direction their magical leanings will take. And it is on this level that the magical dissimilarities of the individual will manifest. It is not unusual, for example, for a perfectly normal, ordinary woman to exhibit decided masculine traits on a magical level, but this does not mean that she has any latent lesbian tendencies!

As the young man pointed out earlier in this chapter, gay culture does have its own distinctive patterns of behaviour and values, and it is not until we get onto the next level of magical practice that any real problems may arise. Contemporary paganism has become imbalanced, inasmuch as the Goddess is all, and we can see where gay men would have a problem sublimating a female ‘fertility’ image. As he also pointed out, gay culture does not have a ‘central myth’ around which to build an image for the purposes of belief/worship, and this can play havoc within group work in terms of coven harmony and equilibrium. This is why Bob Clay-Egerton suggested that ritual magic might be a more appropriate Path … we would add that shamanism is also an area where gay men can come into their own … as it were.

For these reasons, it is not possible to offer any off-the-cuff, quick-fix solutions about the correct way to integrate gay men (or lesbians) into a predominantly straight group, since much depends on their own personal magical energies and how they handle them. An experienced magical practitioner will have little difficulty in analysing the best way to proceed with a programme of learning, but those with little or no true magical ability may cause more harm than good, both on the personal and psychic levels. Again, we can only reiterate that the refusal to welcome gays into a predominantly straight group, says more about the coven leader’s personal prejudices than it does about their magical teaching capabilities.

Trans-sexuals, on the other hand, can have even the most experienced practitioner scratching their head. During the period of change (both chemically and surgically) a trans-sexual’s body and mind has a lot to cope with on the physical, never mind trying to experiment with altered states of consciousness while being pumped full of hormones! From personal experience, we would say that it would be inadvisable for anyone undergoing a sex-change to indulge in any deeper levels of psychic or magical working until all the ‘i’s’ have been dotted and the ‘t’s’ crossed. Magic can be dangerous and this is one of those areas where even experienced practitioners can get it wrong, so keep things on a superficial level until there are distinctly recognisable energies to channel.

The bi-sexual girl in our group, didn’t have any problems with magical identification, simply because she is a pretty, feminine creature, who merely enjoys sex with both male and female lovers. What she does bring to the coven is a happy, relaxed attitude to sexuality, which results in a lot of good-natured banter between everyone, without anyone feeling threatened or uncomfortable. And laughter is the key to solving most problems within any group, magical or not.

The main problem (apart from unavoidable personal prejudices) cited by people who become irritated by the gay issue, appears to stem from pseudo-historical arguments concerning various different cultural views on homosexuality to present cases for and against, totally disregarding the fact that witchcraft, paganism and homosexuality have all been classed as a social aberration by the Church in its time. Anyone doubting this should spend some time reading the non-pagan Sex, Dissidence & Damnation by Jeffrey Richards, former Professor of Cultural History at the University of Lancaster. Also citing the historical evidence of homosexual relations in Sparta, and feudal Japan, or claiming every well-known historical figure had homosexual tendencies, does nothing to validate the acceptance of gay men and women in Craft.

The ‘real’ problem, however, has nothing to do with an individual’s sexuality and everything to do with the personalities involved. As one coven leader of our acquaintance exclaimed: “I couldn’t care less which side of the divide people come from, providing they behave like civilised human beings. I recently had to boot one chap out, simply because he was a thoroughly unpleasant character and was hell-bent on disrupting the group at every turn. He started screaming that we were homophobic, and couldn’t get it through his thick head that he was being chucked out because he was an objectionable little shit! The fact that he was gay didn’t enter into the equation.”

Of course, the problem of homophobia is not going to go away and for anyone who is gay and who wishes to join a group, we would say keep your personal life under wraps until you’ve sussed out the magical capabilities of those running the coven. With the best will in the world, we cannot force folk into welcoming others into what is, to all intents and purposes, a private, close-knit group. If the magical group dynamics are going to work, then it will only do so if all the participants are comfortable with each other and in harmony with their magical energies.

Those operating covens and other groups should again be honest with themselves about their policy over admitting gays. If you are operating a purely devotional group, as opposed to a magical one, then ‘gay’ energies will make very little difference to your festivals and celebrations.

Coven Working: How to Join or Set Up a Working Coven by Carrie West and Philip Wright is published by Ignotus Press UK and available from Amazon or direct from the printers at a discounted price.  Go to:  https://www.feedaread.com/books/Coven-Working-9781786971234.aspx

Spirits and Deific Forms: Faith & Belief in British Old Craft

Spirits and Deific Forms: Faith & Belief in British Old Craft

INTRODUCTION:

In 2008 Daniel A. Schulke approached the late Michael Howard, editor of the British witchcraft and folklore journal The Cauldron, about co-editing and producing a witchcraft anthology for Three Hands Press. Given the quiet but potent renaissance that traditional and hereditary witchcraft underwent in the 1990s, they both felt that such a publication was long overdue. At the time, much written about traditional witchcraft was of poor quality, either crudely derivative of a few often-repeated sources, factually inaccurate, or simply plagiaristic. Though this situation persists, readership on this subject has grown increasingly sophisticated and discerning, and a few new voices have emerged from the collective hedge to articulate important and original perspectives on the Craft.

Aside from considerations of quality content, high-caliber writing and creative synthesis, they agreed that a crucial aspect of the work should be the unique voice of the actual practitioners, speaking directly to experience of the magical Art itself. Though still obscure to most, the variety and idiosyncrasy of old witchcraft lines is remarkable. The witches of Cornwall, with their corpora of folk charms and blessings, are one such phenotype. The Pickingill Craft as described by E.W. Liddell, remains despite its controversy one of the most unique and potent streams of Old Craft, as does Robert Cochrane’s Clan of Tubal Cain. The Manx Old Order covines, with their intense connection to angelic magic and the dark faery lore of Ellan Vannin (the Isle of Man), are another such clan, as is the Skull and Bones tradition of Pennsylvania with its ominous and rustic spirit-patrons. The Old Craft lineages of the Cultus Sabbati, with the medieval Witches’ Sabbath as an important organizing principle, are yet another distinctive tradition – as was Bob and Meriem Clay-Egerton’s Coven of the Scales – which is where I entered the equation.

Though these forms of the Old Craft are known through their exterior writings, there are other such groups who are content to remain out of the public eye, practicing their Art and training their own generation of adepts. All of these traditions share a common feature of extreme selectivity when it comes to prospective members, and the willingness to reject those proven unfit for the work. [my italics, MD] This unpopular and confrontational stance has often led to thorny relations between groups, but it has also engendered a sanctuary-like environment where creative magical collaboration can unfold according to the design of each tradition.

Thus was forged Hands of Apostasy: Essays on Witchcraft and Folk Magic, an anthology featuring eighteen writers on witchcraft topics as varied as the Devil, plant magic, necromancy, the Romantic movement, and the powers of moon and tide. Representing widely varying witchcraft traditions and perspectives, the book is a sound testament to the Craft’s diversity and strength. With Apostasy Daniel Schulke served as a co-editor with Michael Howard, whose work over the years with The Cauldron had been an immensely valuable resource to the at-large community of practitioners.

I’d known Michael Howard for many a long year but I must confess that the commission had me scratching my head for a long time. We know what we believe but it’s another thing to explain to outsiders so that it makes sense and after several months ‘Faith and Belief in British Old Craft’ finally passed muster …

 

Faith & Belief in British Old Craft

An insight into the spiritual beliefs and faith of traditional British Old Craft and its approach to the spirits and deific forms that inhabit the natural world around us; and how an Old Craft witch was taught to approach these beings of both the natural and Otherworld to draw on them magically Melusine Draco.

Our witchcraft has taught us a basic tenet of belief that although not a religion, there is a highly defined spiritual element to its practice. Also that traditional British Old Craft – like the mysteries of pre-dynastic Egypt and pre-Roman Italy; the ancestral beliefs of Japanese Shinto; the Aboriginal tribes of Australia, and the indigenous native Americans – is fundamentally animistic.  Animism is, of course, the belief that every object, animate and inanimate, has its own life-force, or energy.  Here there is no separation between the spiritual or physical world, where ‘spirit’ exists in all flora and fauna (including humans); geological features such as rocks, mountains, rivers and springs; and in natural phenomena such as storms, wind and the movement of heavenly bodies.  It is the understanding that a small quartz pebble can link us with the cosmic Divine.

Taking this viewpoint into account, it is not unreasonable to claim that Old Craft is probably the native shamanic practice of the British Isles.  The term ‘shamanism’ describing the supernatural powers practitioners channels from the spirit world for healing, divination and the conducting of souls – all of which are the natural province of an Old Craft witch where it is viewed as ‘an isolated or peripheral phenomenon’ [The Penguin Dictionary of Religions, ed John Hinnels, p293], rather than the overt devotional practices often found in contemporary Wicca.   As intermediaries between the world of the Ancestors and the living, the Old Craft witch maintains direct contact with spirits, whether of Otherworld, ‘of plants, animals and other features of the environment, such as the ‘master-spirits’ (e.g. of rivers or mountains)’.

A natural witch has the ability to identify and interact with this spirit energy on which she (or he) must draw for all purposes of Craft practice.   Without this natural ability there is no Old Craft witch, because as Hotspur retorts to Glendower’s claim that he can ‘call spirits from the vasty deep’. “Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them?”  And which particular spirit energy do we conjure for what purpose?  The gentle ethereal energy of the fields and hedgerows differs quite considerably from the primitive and often menacing energy of the woods and forests; or the ever-changing seashore; while mountains and rivers generate their own mystique.

Needless to say, much of what is referred to as ‘magical energy’ often depends on what lies beneath our feet and some geological formations are better suited for magical or creative working than others; an idea mooted by Dion Fortune in her novel, The Goat-Foot God. There are, of course, many different types of rock that make up the Earth’s surface and each of them will have certain positive or negative magical-creative properties.  Like all things magical, however, the Old Craft witch knows that nothing is as simple or precise as it seems.  Just as the outcome in all magical and psychic exercises depend on the personal chemistry of the individual, so the blend of individuality, ability and Earth energies can combine to produce the most extraordinary results.  And some things work better than others …

It is, for example, the quartz element of granite that reconnects us with the spirit of the landscape.  As an accomplished Old Craft witch and having a doctorate in geology, Meriem Clay-Egerton was fascinated by the fact that for millennia humanity and quartz had interacted with each other. [Magic Crystals, Sacred Stones, Melusine Draco, Axis Mundi p.25] She wrote that our ancestors recognizing 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: “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?”

She went on to explain at some length that quartz was used prolifically at prehistoric burials sites and that there was an esoteric school of thought that the quartz enabled the living to contact spirit entities “when they were in a correctly attuned state”.  Standing stones (some of which are made of quartz, other may contain a high percentage of it) are accepted by magical practitioners as being able to act as conductors of ‘earth-force’, such as that encountered at nodal points for energy lines.  “A quartz stone, or stones with high quartz content, will often appear in such a prominent position.”

Once we understand that quartz is very abundant in slate, it is not difficult to see why this particular material generates so much earth-energy.  Magical and psychic working on slate packs a very distinctive punch, especially if the slate layers are close to the surface.  Chalk, on the other hand, generates its own particular kind of energy, which is why our ancestors built their most prestigious monuments on chalkland.  By contrast if we try walking through very heavy clay, it immediately becomes obvious why earth-energy is often ‘blocked’ or sluggish.  Magical working on clay involves a lot of magical generating techniques by the practitioner, and unless there is a considerable amount of experience to draw on, things may take a long time to come to fruition.  And despite all the wealth of crystals in the world, for the Old Craft witch, natural quartz should remain the most precious of all, since a quartz pendulum used for dowsing draws on an ancient knowledge for unlocking psychic power and seeking out information not easily obtained by any other means – especially contacting spirits of the landscape.

The genius loci or guardians of these locations are some of the strangest spirit beings we encounter since few are able to move from their native area, either because they are ‘part of the landscape’ or because they are bound to it for some other reason.  Although extremely powerful and appearing to possess rational thought, they are ‘simply vast, semi-sentient well-springs of magical energy’ with the power rarely extending beyond the boundaries of the particular genius loci.   If a witch is in that location at the time of posing a magical question, the energy may manifest in the form of a divinatory response, simply because an Old Craft witch provides a natural conduit for magical energy.

Christopher Tilley [A Phenomenology of Landscape] describes this phenomenon as occurring because the landscape has 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.

One of the most famous examples being Wayland’s Smithy, the Neolithic long barrow and chamber tomb site located near the Uffington White Horse, close to The Ridgeway, an ancient road running along the Berkshire Downs.  It has been suggested that this prehistoric site was named for a Germanic smith-god by the Saxons who settled in the area some four thousand years after Wayland’s Smithy was built; although a ‘smith-god’ association may have been linked to the site by the indigenous Pritanni many centuries before the Saxons arrived. In other locations genius loci are thought to be formed by powerful magical events, and in others the results of ley lines, dew ponds, or an equivalent natural phenomenon.

There is also a belief that many ‘sacred sites’ have their own guardians to prevent improper use of site-energies.   Tom Graves [Needles of Stone] cites the reaction a group of students experienced when they decided to perform a magical working taken from a spell book on top of an ancient earth barrow at night – for a joke.  Whatever happened spooked the group so badly that they panicked and ran.  For days afterwards the students were plagued by the fear of being stalked, some even requiring psychiatric counseling before they were able to overcome the fear of being followed.  According to Graves, it was impossible to get an exact description of what suddenly appeared on top of the barrow, as its appearance differed in each account but as any experienced magical practitioner would realize, this is characteristic of such guardians and many other kinds of nature spirit.

Natural sites also have guardians which, as Philip Heselton explains in Secret Places of the Goddess, can be sensed by both physical and Otherworld components.  “Often you will find your eye drawn to some feature, a tree which is distinctive in some way, or a rock formation.  You certainly get human guardians of some sites who appear from nowhere – the woman walking her dog, the old laborer, even a child.  Animal guardians can also be striking – a wild animal that comes surprisingly close and watches you for longer than seems natural.”

Anthropologist Christopher Tilley also observes: “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.”  This is part of an Old Craft witch’s instinctive grasp of how to behave within a ritual or sacred landscape, and to recognize the type of magical energy to be encountered there.

Equally as important is an adeptness in identifying the location of nature sprites or ‘numen’ – the spirit-essence dwelling in each natural object: a tree, a spring, the earth, or more correctly: where the presence of ‘deity’ is suspected but undetermined. As Philip Heselton observes: “Many of us had our first experience of the numinous – that living spirit which lies behind physical form – through walking in the woods.  Indeed, this is so universal in those I have talked to, that I suspect it to be of a fundamental and archetypal nature.” Although numen are usually considered to be an ‘essence of deity’ rather than deity itself, the Old Craft witch treats them with the utmost reverence and respect.

The usual concept of such ‘spirits’ is of neutral powers, that might be hostile if neglected, similar to those of ancient Rome [The Religion of Ancient Rome, Cyril Bailey],which if duly placated with offerings will be friendly and give health and prosperity.  As a result, any site that inspired status on account of its own magical power, became sacred because it was “the dwelling of a spirit, or had been touched by its power”.  These sentiments were also expressed by the poet Ovid [Fasti, iii, 263 and 295]: “There is a lake, girt with the dark wood of the valley of Aricia, sanctified by an ancient feeling of awe …” and “There was a grove below the Aventine dark with the shade of holm-oaks, and when you saw it, you might say ‘there is a spirit there’ …”.  As Cyril Bailey [ibid] points out, however, this was a cult of individual natural objects, but was in no sense a worship of the powers of nature.

A nature sprite is the kind often encountered as the guardian of an individual plant or tree. They can also be guardians of animals and of specific natural landscape features, but these spirits are bound to one particular place. There are certain places where it is easier to contact them, usually where mankind has not intruded too much into the landscape, or where the land has been largely left to look after itself. These spirits have individual personalities and it is possible to create an understanding either with an individual or with specific ‘family’ of nature spirits – especially those that venture into the house for a look around.  Although long-lived, their lifespan is often connected to a tree or part of the landscape; should this be destroyed, then the nature-sprite will die.

There are, however, different kinds of nature sprites that are often referred to as ‘elementals’. Some are the naturally occurring kind usually linked to specific natural features e.g. cliffs, ponds, junctures of ley lines and can also be thought of as guardians of such places. Most need to be approached carefully, as they can be extremely temperamental. They react well to genuine emotions of sympathy, trust, and the wishing of a witch to learn, and can react quite detrimentally to cynical or disrespectful thoughts, since these creatures react to emotions and feelings, not to the spoken word.  This kind of elemental does not, as a rule, move around. It will only be found in its ‘home’ location – even in the basement of a tower block, for example, if one has been built over its original home.  In this confined environment they are also likened to ‘dark springs’ of energy which manifest in a similar manner  to poltergeist phenomena – amateur ghost-busters resort to exorcism but it is only effective for a short period of time and never permanently as an elemental cannot be banished or destroyed.

The Old Craft witch should also be able to differentiate between the energies of the spirits residing in the woods surrounding cultivated land and those of the agricultural hedgerows per se, since the ‘wild borderland spirit’ being more in touch with untamed Nature, has the gift of prophecy.  The significance of all these places of ‘time between times’ is the sometimes over-powering generation of magical energy that can be terrifying if encountered unexpectedly and not fully understood.  Combine the powers of the wood-field margin with owl-light (dusk) and experience the sensation of Nature at its most raw and untamed.

These ‘spirit’ manifestations should also include mention of the Faere Folk since it is generally believed in Old Craft that the natural witch has what is usually referred to as ‘the taint of Faere blood’.   There are many different theories about the origins of the Faere Folk, the most common being the one mentioned by archaeologist Margaret Murray [The Witch-Cult in Western Europe]: that faeries were the descendants of the early people of Northern Europe.   Generally described as human in appearance and having immense magical power, there is an overwhelming amount of folklore surrounding them.  Murray’s work may no longer be considered academically-sound but there are still many Old Craft ‘truths’ hidden in her text that cannot be found in more contemporary writings.

Alan Richardson, however, writing the Prologue for the 2005 facsimile edition of The Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns & Fairies (1691) by Robert Kirk observed that “to the people of that time faeries were not the tedious, pretty thumb-sized creatures … but other dimensional beings of real power, with their own laws, who co-existed (not always happily) with our own world, and who were linked with the ancient deities of forgotten faiths”.

To R J Stewart [Walker Between the Worlds] faeries were real beings in their own right with substantial supernatural powers, and the genius loci of the ancient world.”  While Margaret Murray observed that: “The identification of the witches with that fairy race would give a clear insight into much of the civilization of the early European peoples, especially as regards their religious ideas.”  While this author commented: [Traditional Witchcraft & the Pagan Revival] “It may also explain the subtle differences between traditional witches and cunning-folk, in that the ‘darker’ nature of Old Craft stemmed from the ‘taint of Faere blood’ and an inherited dislike and distrust of the human race; while cunning-folk used their natural abilities to combat the more malevolent aspects of some witchcraft for the benefit of their neighbors.”

Otherworld

Otherworld is the world of ‘spirit’ in its widest possible sense as Bob-Clay-Egerton explained, there are innumerable planes of existence on different levels in many dimensions of time and space. Mankind exists, physically, in one dimension of time and space.  Mentally he can penetrate to other levels.  Spiritually he can reach more levels.  “This is similar to a trained pearl or sponge diver being able to reach very much greater depths, for longer periods, than can the untrained diver — who can, nevertheless, reach greater depths in safety than a non-swimmer.  As mankind can mentally and spiritually penetrate to other levels, so other entities can penetrate to our level, in our dimension.  As not all men and women are benevolent, so not all intruding entities are benevolent; as men and women differ in intelligence, so do the entities of other planes.  Thus we have a variety ranging from simple, uncomplicated ‘elemental’ entities to complex and powerful ‘deific’ entities.”

These are what we refer to as discarnate entities – what Old Craft witches call upon, or communicate with, for mystical-magical purposes.  They are what others may refer to as deities or gods, demons or angels – they are what we summon to the quarters to protect us, invoke into ourselves to channel magical energy, or act as a [Holy] Guardian [Angel]. What we should never lose sight of is the fact that these energies-entities can be helpful or harmful, and should be treated with the greatest respect and caution.  These are cosmic energies on a very lowly level but they are far more powerful than can ever be imagined and as such can destroy if treated in a cavalier manner.

The Old Craft witch learns to understand as much about these energies as possible and is not encouraged to use eclectic mix-and-match god-forms from different cultures. Once summoned, any entity requires energy on which to feed (i.e. charge its batteries) and if not kept it under firm control, or the magical working is not closed down properly, it may continue to feed-grow until it manifests into something unpleasant and difficult to shift – which is not as rare as we would like to think!  Whatever we call these ‘powers’ they do have the necessary link to the abilities and attributes that the witch strives for in the hopes of finding all she or he seeks.  If the invocation is gone about in the right manner, there is no reason why this cannot be achieved – but it must be constantly born in mind that they are not interested in any human development, only their own.   Only by encountering these varying aspects can the witch learn to differentiate between the positive/negative, active/passive beings that exist on other planes because for every one that will help, guide and give advice, there are the same number who will hinder, deceive and cause harm, if given the opportunity.

The most powerful energy on which an Old Craft witch can call, however, is that of our ‘Ancestors’, who represent our culture, traditions, heritage, lineage and antecedents; they trace the long march of history that our predecessors have taken under the aegis of traditional British Old Craft. When those of a particular Tradition pass beyond the veil, their spiritual essence merges with the divine spirit of the Whole, which in turn gives traditional witchcraft the continuing power to endure – even past its own time and place in history.  It therefore remains the duty of an Old Craft witch to ensure that the soul of any newly deceased can successfully join the Ancestors and keep adding to the strength of belief, which, in many instances may already have endured for hundreds of years.  If when living, we cannot acknowledge and respect the Ancestors of traditional British Old Craft to which we claim to belong, then we will contribute nothing to the Whole when we die.

The honoring of the dead and venerating their memory is a common root of all belief, with many cultures believing that the dead live on in another dimension, continuing to affect the lives of subsequent generations.  This concept of spirit-ancestors is an extremely ancient one, especially when it involves dealing with deceased members of a particular people or clan, and is still widely observed in Japanese Shinto, Chinese Confucianism and among the Australian aboriginal and native American peoples. In the West, we know from the prehistoric remains of the numerous earth-works that the indigenous people of the British Isles and the Celts honored their ancestors; and the earliest written observations are those of the Roman Paternalia (February) and the Lemuria (May), which later spread throughout the Empire.

Interaction with these spirit-ancestors as an invisible and powerful presence is a constant feature of traditional British Old Craft, with the Ancestors remaining important members of the Tradition or people they have left behind.  In general they are seen as Elders, treated and referred to in much the same way as the most senior of living Elders of a coven or magical group, with additional mystical and magical powers. Sometimes they are identified as the Holy Guardian Angel, the Mighty Dead, the Watchers, or the Old Ones, who gave magical knowledge to mankind, rather than merely family or tribal dead. Or, even more ambiguously ‘those who have gone before’ – their magical essence distilled into the universal subconscious at different levels.

Reverence for Craft Ancestors is part of the ethic of respect for those who have preceded us in life, and their continued presence on the periphery of our consciousness means that they are always with us. And because traditional witchcraft is essentially a practical thing, the Ancestors are called upon to help find solutions to magical problems through divination, path-working and spell-casting.

Earth Mysteries & Magic
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.

Sometimes this transition can be difficult and painful but in magical learning everything has a reason, so we must never ignore the opportunity, no matter how it strange or vague it feels.   The price of an Old Craft witch’s progress can be exacting but the end result is well worth it; to ignore it will only result in personal loss (in terms of both spiritual and magical development).  In time, the same situation will return and the trial begins all over again.  If the opportunity is not taken, it may be many years along the line before it occurs again, in which case there are many years lost in an individual’s progress as it will be akin to starting anew; or it may not occur again in this lifetime.

Gateways or portals can appear in Circle; during meditation; or in a dream, but we should not be afraid of these blinding flashes of inspiration, as they only appear when the ‘powers that be’ feel that we are ready for them.  For an experienced witch it may be a boot in the bustle to suggest they’ve spent long enough at a particular level and that it’s time to take the next step.  Not taking the chance on these new openings will be the individual’s loss, since those who have chosen not to pass through these gateways, even after many years of practice remain at exactly the same level as when they first began.  Their magic and understanding has never altered; their progression halted due to their own fear and misunderstanding.   They have tried to batter down the door for years without success; the true Old Craft witch finds that the door swings open at just the lightest touch of a finger when the time is right.

Passing through the portal also brings awareness that there all manner of other different currents and movements on the planet that effect us on a deeper magico-mystical level [Traditional Witchcraft and the Path to the Mysteries].  Let us consider for a moment Professor Brian Cox’s comment that every blade of grass has 3.8 billion years of history written into it.  Or what we often blithely refer to as ‘earth mysteries’ that can produce a mild tingling sensation, which sets the pendulum swinging; or a burst of warm energy in our hands and feet.  But do we stop to think that this 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? Or is our Elemental Earth just a quiet ramble in the countryside and a container of sand marking the Northern quarter?

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, bringing 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 of our magic Circle?

Nothing on the planet can live without clean, breathable air but the witch needs to think beyond soft summer breezes and rainbows after a spring shower. Air is the stuff from which tornados and hurricanes are made; it brings puffs of cumulus cloud or a billowing thunderhead some 10 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 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 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 wildfires 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 Element Fire restricted to a candle burning at the Southern quarter of our Circle?

These, for example, were some of the lessons taught by Bob and Meriem Clay-Egerton in the Coven of the Scales. That is wasn’t necessary to rely on group dynamics, psycho-drama, ritual, Circle casting, chanting and dancing to generate magical energy because it is there, all around us on a permanent basis.  It means that a natural Old Craft witch can be on his or her contacts in seconds; knowing what type of energy, or ‘witch-power’ is needed to cure a headache, or channel the strength to walk the death-path with confidence after being diagnosed with a terminal illness.  It really is a belief that can move mountains – if the application is right – and all witches draw on this natural energy to cause change through the application of Will.

In more simplistic terms, ‘witch-power’ is similar to the energy raised by tai chi – and tai chi is widely used within art and sport without any magical significance whatsoever.  It is a perfectly natural energy or force that can be harnessed or tapped into on a daily basis to a greater or lesser extent. A true witch can generate the magical powers necessary by channeling this natural energy from the natural world – in its widest possible sense.  Covens produce the same energy by artificial means via psycho-drama and group dynamics.  Old Craft uses both methods, of course, but if a solitary witch needs to be instantly on his or her contacts, then it could be a long wait between coven meetings!

Faith In Doubt

Natural Old Craft abilities are not governed by any form of religious allegiance but rather by channeling these natural energies or powers of Nature.  Those who acted in a priestly or shamanic capacity for our Pretannic ancestors, probably saw these natural forces as more abstract concepts than we do today.  For them, masculine energy would be seen in terms of the hunter-protector-rutter, while feminine energy would manifest in more general terms of fecundity and the hearth.  And, because mankind has always had a tendency to see images of its gods in his own likeness, we have come to see pagan deities very much cast in 20th-century form.  Ironically, in giving ‘god-energy’ the outward form of the Celtic ‘horned-god’, Cernunnos and ‘goddess-energy’ the cartoon image of a ‘warrior-princess’ or a member of the pre-Raphaelite sisterhood, the true mystery of Old Craft has been lost in favor of fantasy creations.  Just as Christianity promoted the ‘Madonna’ as a popular image, so Wicca has adopted a similar approach in order to give this New Age religion people-appeal.

What it is important to understand, however, is that neither Wicca nor the modern trend of eclectic paganism, is NOT synonymous with Old Craft; it may utilize many of the trappings of Old Craft but Old Craft will always be a matter of ability, not religious conviction.   In purely magical terms, it is not possible to up-end these ancient concepts just because they are at odds with 20th-century political correctness.  A traditional British Old Craft witch was probably more often than not, seen taking part in Christian observances, and still refers to the seasonal festivals by the ‘mass’ celebrated within the church calendar of the time.

The ‘God of the Witches’ concept was one coined by Margaret Murray in her book of the same name, first published in 1931 as an anthropological study.  Around the same time, Gerald Gardner inaugurated the tradition that we now know as ‘Gardnerian’, based on alleged rituals from a group based in the New Forest.   Margaret Murray endorsed these claims by penning the Preface to Gardner’s own book, Witchcraft Today, a rag-bag of folk-lore, superstition, history and anthropology but the elevation of the ‘goddess’ within Gardnerian rituals was predominantly his own.

For the purposes of Old Craft technique, it is important to accept the energies associated with the male-female aspects of magic and not transpose the concept of the loving, caring mother-goddess of Wicca-Christianity into Old Craft working.  The female-goddess energy within Nature is just a red in tooth and claw as male-god energy; both are equally as merciless as the other.   It is also important to understand that this energy (whether male or female) is neither malevolent nor benevolent, it is merely natural energy waiting to be harnessed for use in Old Craft magic.

Nevertheless, it is amongst the trees of ancient woodland that we come face to face with the Old One, or in some cases, are pursued by Him.   Who has not experienced the Presence when walking alone in the woods and suddenly feeling that we are being hunted, or that rushing feet are coming up behind us, only to turn and confront – nothing?  Except for the unearthly sound of laughter fading in the undergrowth.

Although not generally acknowledged, there are still areas of the forest, known as the Wild Wood that are dark and untamed where unearthly and potentially dangerous beings are still to be found.  This is not always welcoming and many urban witches never get over an ‘atavistic fear of Nature uncontrolled’ [Traditional Witchcraft for Woods & Forests].  On a magical level, the Wild Wood refers to those strange, eerie places that remain the realm of the ‘horned god’ and untamed by man. Ancient gnarled oaks, festooned with ferns and draped with lichen, carry an air of solitude and remoteness that is deeply unnerving – here birdsong and the trickle of the stream are the only sounds to break the silence.  This is the realm of Pan – the Renaissance image of Pan Pangenetor, the All-Begetter – creative energy in its most material form. Here among the trees, we are never sure that what we see is reality or illusion.

Old Craft, although not a religion, is a belief – a belief in one’s own abilities and in the ‘Power’ that fuels the Universe; and a faith – faith in one’s own abilities and in the ‘Power’ that fuels the Universe.  This is not generally seen as gender specific but in truth, Old Craft does lean towards the male aspect since the female remains veiled and a mystery.  In other words, the ‘God’ is the public face of traditional British Old Craft while the ‘Goddess’ remains in the shadows, revered and shielded by her protector.  Not because she is some shy and defenseless creature but because face to face she would be too terrible to look upon!  Or as the scientist who discovered the deadly Marburg filovirus observed when he saw the virus particles [The Hot Zone, Richard Preston]: “They were white cobras tangled among themselves, like the hair of Medusa.  They were the face of Nature herself, the obscene goddess revealed naked … breathtakingly beautiful.” The secrets of Old Craft comes from the understanding of these things because it is not possible to convey the true meanings of our Ways to a cowan, or ‘outsider’ who has not experienced these Mysteries for themselves.

Nevertheless, Bob Clay-Egerton brought everything full circle [Coven of the Scales: The Collected Writings of A R Clay-Egerton] when he described the Power of the One in pure animistic terms.  “The Almighty is everything, physical and non-physical, literally everything and therefore incomprehensible to our finite understanding.  Being everything, the Almighty is male and female and neuter – not just a male entity. All things are created in the image of the Almighty because the Almighty is every part of everything. The Almighty has no specific regard or concern for one species – i.e. mankind, among millions of species on one insignificant minor planet, in an outer arm of a spiral galaxy which is one among millions.”

When calling upon such entities it is also necessary to adopt the correct approach and invocation and evocation are terms which are frequently misused, due to the misunderstanding of their exact meaning.  This is because in the correct use of the term, the Old Craft witch calls upon a ‘god-power’ or higher level of intelligence to possess him or her.  To take over the invoker’s body so that they become that entity and possesses the power of deity. This means we take a specific god- or goddess-form into ourselves and give up, albeit temporarily, the control of our body by inviting the entity to take control.  The taking over, or coming in, is the operative element, so it is simple to remember that invocation is the plea for deity to come in and accept that only possession by the required ‘deity’ or god-power is the intended result.

“It is not, therefore, necessary to intentionally invoke a particular entity; it is sufficient to put the mind into a state suitable to allow possession by another entity.  To do so is to open a psychic doorway through which a discarnate entity or extra-terrestrial intelligence may enter a mind suitably, if only temporarily, adapted so that it may control the earthly body. The danger can arise that the person who puts themselves into this state (or allows themselves to be put into a suitable state) for possession, may have no control over what level of extra-terrestrial intelligence takes the advantage.”

In contrast, evocation is the calling on lesser entities or extra-terrestrial intelligences such as demons; though less than ‘god-forms, these entities may yet be as powerful and/or dangerous.  As a protection, the summoner usually stands in a protective circle and calls upon the desired entity to manifest in a specially prepared, restrictive triangle of conjuration.  The invoker calls ‘in’ a god-form, to bring their macrocosmic force to the human microcosm, but the evoker becomes the symbolic macrocosm and calls forth the elemental intelligences to manifest in the microcosmic triangle.   But what is the summoner to do with this power or energy?

Bob Clay-Egerton explained that it can’t be kept permanently because the human body is not designed or intended for such a purpose.  One discharges the power in some way by using it to animate a thought form to perform some task.  It may be transferred to a weapon or talisman in the form of a charge; or it may be passed on to members of a group.  The power must be used or transmitted in some way as only by its use is it effective.  A charged talisman or weapon is like a storage battery.  The power it has received can be discharged when necessary to some purpose which eliminates the need for a complete invocation every time the power is needed.  Atavars of gods and goddesses, and high grade Adepts may not need a ceremony to invoke their deities. With such people it may be accomplished in seconds and the power sent out or ‘earthed’, which can be a little disconcerting to an inexperienced witch who witnesses itWith magical evocation it is necessary before attempting to control the lesser entities, to invoke and be possessed of the power of a deity.  “Above all it must be remembered that one must have sincerity of intention,” he concluded.

Much of this may be seen as playing with semantics but in truth, the god-forms themselves have changed greatly down through the millennia.  It is only by studying myths, legends and folklore, and pulling all the strands together that we can appreciate just how much these have altered.  To a pre-dynastic Egyptian, for example, the goddess 3st was a modest deity identified with Osiris; later the cult of Isis spread into Greek and Roman society becoming so popular in later days that she absorbed the qualities of many of the other deities – male and female.  Early Christianity found it easier to incorporate the mother and child image into its own canon rather than suppress it; while in modern times she has become the greatly diluted mother- goddess of the Fellowship of Isis – so far removed from the god-power of the ancient Nile valley that she would be seen as an alien entity by those early worshippers.

The spirits of the landscape, however, have remained constant; they have not altered their form and have only grown more powerful with age.   These well-springs of magical energy have not been contaminated because few have known of their existence – apart from the native shamanic practitioners (witches) who have kept the secret down through the ages.   In The Goat-Foot God, Dion Fortune observed that the power-centres such as Stonehenge and Avebury “have all been exorcised long ago” mainly by the tramp of idle sight-seers who have polluted these popular tourist sites by their sheer numbers.  In more secluded spots, the spirits of Old Pretanni survive in remote ancient monuments, isolated lakes, the rural landscape, and in the depths of the Wild Wood with which our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have been familiar.   When the native shamanic practices went into the shadows, these powerful energy spots were deemed unholy and feared by the locals – and as such passed into folklore as those things that are ‘never fully remembered and yet never fully forgotten’.

And yet by studying our native folklore there are many echoes of these old beliefs in the recorded versions made by puritanical Victorians who were unable to differentiate between the two thin strands that linked traditional British Old Craft with the customs of our ancestors.   The cult of the cunning-men and women preserved the old wisdom in the form of charms and healing aimed at thwarting the attentions of malevolent Faere-Folk and witches.  The latter, with their knowledge of magic and Otherworld (and ‘taint of Faere blood’) were not adverse to using the energy generated by Church ritual, which is supported by the fact that a great deal of preserved authentic Craft-lore is based on the medieval, or pre-Reformation Church calendar.

In similar context, one of the most influential and controversial documents for the 20th-century pagan revival was Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches with its over-tones of Roman mythology and Catholicism, compiled by Charles G Leland and published in 1899.  Purported to be of Etruscan lineage, Leyland’s informant took eleven years to compile the manuscript, which is made up of spells, blessings, rituals, stories and myths surrounding: “Diana is Queen of the Witches; an associate of Herodias (Aradia) in her relations to sorcery; that she bore a child to her brother the Sun (here Lucifer); that as a moon-goddess she is in some relation to Cain, who dwells as prisoner in the moon …”.

Aradia is a slim volume composed of fifteen chapters, the first ten of which are presented as being Leland’s translation of the ‘Vangelo’ manuscript given to him by his source, Maddalena. The remaining five comprise of material Leland believed to be relevant to the Vangelo, and acquired during his research into Italian witchcraft, while working on his Etruscan Roman Remains and Legends of Florence.  A fierce debate has always surrounded the authenticity of the Vangelo manuscript itself but regardless of the reliability of its source, the real gems can be found in the ‘Notes’ that Leland affixed to each chapter.  As this author remarked in Traditional Witchcraft & the Pagan Revival, there are numerous echoes of traditional British Old Craft in Aradia in those ‘Notes’, which came from Charles Leland’s own folklore researches.

Nevertheless, human intelligence and curiosity being what it is, the modern Old Craft witch’s motto must surely be that line from a T S Eliot’s poem: ‘We shall not cease from our exploration’.  And as a result, they will eventually seek to embellish those natural abilities with input from ritual and ceremonial magic, while enhancing the spiritual aspects of belief by exploring the highways and byways of the mystical Qabalah, coupled with the insight and poetry of the Tarot.  Some will experiment with the techniques of the Masonic-inspired Golden Dawn rituals; the bittersweet philosophy and magick of Thelema; doctrines of the East and West; or the paths and traditions of the Ancient World.  In the fullness of time, however, this exploration will lead to the recognition that the thread leading us through this esoteric labyrinth is as familiar and yet as alien as the resonance of a singing Tibetan prayer bowl echoing out across time and space – pulling us back to our roots.  We do indeed ‘arrive where we started/And know the place for the first time …

Traditional British Old Craft remains an oral tradition and much can still be found in our native folklore that resonates with those schooled in this more primitive form of witchcraft that is not reliant on group dynamics and psycho-drama to raise magical energy.  And while an Old Craft witch can continue to find solace amongst the forests and woodland, lakes and mountains, in the rural landscape and on the seashore, the spirit-energies that power our belief will continue to endure.

 

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

Her Traditional Witchcraft series is published by Moon Books: Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living, Traditional Witchcraft for the Seashore Traditional Witchcraft for Fields and Hedgerows and Traditional Witchcraft for Woods and Forests, Traditional Witchcraft and the Pagan Revival together with The Dictionary of Mystery & Magic, By Spellbook & Candle, Aubry’s Dog, Black Horse, White Horse, Divination, Western Animism and The Power of the Elements. Magic Crystals, Sacred Stones and The Atum-Re Revival are published by Axis Mundi.

Published by Ignotus Press UK: Wort-Lore: the Craft of Witches, CRONE!, Root & Branch: British Magical Tree Lore; and Old Year, Old Calendar, Old Ways.

Work in progress: The Arte of Darkness

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

Nevertheless, there is an increasing tendency these days for groups and individuals to portray themselves as being more exciting, adventurous, or more magically competent by covering themselves with the mantle of ‘Darkness’.   Let’s make no bones about it – there is no such thing as Black and/or White magic – since the realms of Darkness and Shadow are an intrinsic part of everyday magical practice regardless of path, creed or tradition.

The Arte of Darkness by Melusine Draco is currently a ‘work in progress’ and hopefully will be due for publication by Ignotus Press UK mid 2019

Old Craft for a New Generation Mélusine Draco

I recently read a response on an application form for Coven of the Scales to the question “What do you understand by the term traditional British Old Craft?” The response was that “‘Witchcraft is whatever you want it to be?” It might if we are talking about eclectic paganism … but within Old Craft if there is no natural ability for communicating with the spirit world, divination, recognizing and reading the omens, healing, cursing and moving between the worlds, then there is no witch. Added to this, Old Craft is extremely selective when it comes to prospective members and will reject any who prove themselves unsuitable for the Path.

Magic – whether of the folk or ritual variety – does not conform to the whims and vagaries of contemporary fashion and, like science, it has its own laws and lore that must be adhered to if a successful outcome is required. As ritual magician David Conway warns in his The Complete Magic Primer, to go through the ritual motions with no clear idea of what they are all about is mere superstition, not magic.

In any case, a witch should expect more from his or her magic than mere signs and wonders. If these are all he is after, he would be better advised to take up conjuring, which is far less trouble. The real rewards of magical study are not temporal benefits but a spiritual maturity which affords a more profound understanding of the universe in which we live. The form of traditional witchcraft practiced by the Coven of Scales teaches that the basic tenet of belief, although not a religion, does have a highly defined spiritual element to its practice. Also that Old Craft is fundamentally animistic – the belief that every object, animate and inanimate, has its own life-force, or energy. Here there is no separation between the spiritual or physical world, where ‘spirit’ exists in all flora and fauna (including humans); geological features such as rocks, mountains, rivers and springs; and in natural phenomena such as storms, wind and the movement of heavenly bodies. It is the understanding that a small quartz pebble can link us with the cosmic Divine.

Those members of CoS who have successfully passed through the first portal are usually mature individuals who have seriously studied other paths and traditions but were not comfortable with the contemporary dogma and questionable sources. Because let’s make no bones about it, today’s pagan interpretation of witchcraft often belongs to a revivalist tradition and should not claim to be anything else. Nevertheless, the seasonal rituals and celebrations need to be as close as they can to the beliefs of our Ancestors without falling into the trap of lumping all the deities together in one ageless pantheon … and expecting the magic to work!

These simple tenets of faith need to be enshrined in our memory because they allow us to perceive the simplicity at the heart of creation.  Much of this may be seen as playing with semantics, but in truth, the god-forms themselves have changed greatly down through the millennia. It is only by studying myths, legends and folklore, and pulling all the strands together that we can appreciate just how much these have altered.

The spirits of the landscape that are the true focus of the ancestral beliefs of Old Craft have remained constant; they have not altered their form and have only grown more powerful with age. These well-springs of magical energy have not been contaminated because few have known of their existence – apart from the native shamanic practitioners [witches] who have kept the secret down through the ages. In more secluded spots, the spirit-energy of the ancient Britons survives in remote ancient monuments, isolated lakes, the rural landscape, and in the depths of the surviving Wildwood with which our hunter-gatherer Ancestors would have been familiar.

When the native shamanic practices went into the shadows, these powerful energy spots were deemed unholy and feared by the locals – and as such passed into folklore as those things that are “never fully remembered and yet never fully forgotten.” Those people who come to us are looking for the Path back to the Old Ways and learning how to connect with this timeless energy that “speaks” to them on a variety of different levels. In the light of all this, it might be felt that Old Craft has no place in modern paganism since it is both elitist and hierarchical but our answer to that accusation has always been: “How can you teach yourself what you don’t know exists?”

It is pointless stripping away all the ancient magical formulae to shoe-horn ancient wisdom into a pre-prescribed contemporary system in order to make it easier to understand, when the interior workings that drive the whole have been declared redundant. The ancient symbols, sigils, formulae, analogies and metaphors remain an integral part of the spiritual journey; just as magic is an amalgam of science and art and the stepping stone to the Mysteries. These symbols are so ancient that they are firmly entrenched in the collective subconsciousness and it would be a mistake to discard them purely because they are not understood – or worse still – misunderstood.

During the recent BBC History of Magic programme that unveiled rare books, manuscripts and magical objects from the British Library’s collection and forthcoming exhibition, were revealed some of the traditions of folklore and magic which are at the heart of the Harry Potter stories. J K Rowling said of the exhibition: “The British Library has done an incredible job. Encountering objects for real that have in some shape or form figured in my books has been quite wonderful and to have several of my own items in the exhibition is a reminder of twenty amazing years since Harry was first published…” And she was honest enough to admit that although she had thoroughly researched her subject, some of the magical stuff was made up!

The worlds of J K Rowling and J R R Tolkein are fabulous stories, full of magic and glamour (in the magical sense) but they are wonderful works of fiction and fantasy – not reality. Nevertheless I suspect that many of those original “kiddy converts” have now swelled the ranks of the pagan community but where do they go to discover authentic witchcraft? Our own ‘converts’ discovered for themselves that there was a dearth of material available and it took them many years of searching before they discovered there were other approaches to witchcraft than popular Wicca. Just as not every member of a Christian congregation came be a priest, so not every pagan can be a witch since according to tradition this is some innate ability that manifests in the ways of the Craft.

And although we draw upon the natural energy from the landscape, we are even closer to those sentient beings we refer to as the Ancestors who represent our culture, traditions, heritage, lineage and antecedents; they trace the long march of history that our predecessors have taken. When those of a particular Tradition pass beyond the veil, their spiritual essence merges with the divine spirit of the Whole, which in turn gives traditional witchcraft the continuing power to endure – even past its own time and place in history. It therefore remains the duty of an Old Craft witch to ensure that they keep adding to the strength of belief, which, in many instances may already have endured for hundreds of years

So yes, in the twenty-first century you can view witchcraft as being whatever you want it to be but please don’t pretend to be following the Old Ways – because those “old ways” still matter.

First published in Magical Times 2019:

Melusine Draco is an Initiate of traditional British Old Craft and the Khemetic Mysteries and author of over fifty titles, many currently published with John Hunt Publishing, including the popular Traditional Witchcraft series published by Moon Books and a contributor to their latest anthology, What is Modern Witchcraft?  www.moon-books.net  Or contact www.covenofthescales.com for more information.

Power Animals Closer To Home

According to general belief, a power animal is a broadly animistic and shamanic concept that has entered the pagan lexicon, and where a particular creature acts as a protector or guide. These ‘spirit animals’  carry meaning, wisdom, and power and finding out what your spirit animal or totem means is like a going on a journey. Meanings will be revealed as you deepen your personal connection with it and there are various techniques to help you go beyond generic animal symbolism and connect with the true essence of your power animal. Power animals do not have to be mammals and can be reptiles, insects or even sea creatures, especially if you live within lose proximity to that particular element.

We all have our own personal totem-power animals but there are certain flora and fauna that have special meaning with Old Craft per se. These are particular animals and plants that transcend the personal and belong to the collective awareness of Old Crafters. Some may actually be an individual’s power-animal; others may appear as messengers from Otherworld even though they are not actively considered as a personal totem. The message, however, should not be ignored if any of these creatures cross our path. For example:

The most common and most obvious are the various members of the Corvus family: crows, rooks, ravens, magpies and jays. Noisy, raucous birds whose odd behaviour may contain a warning. For cowans (i.e. non witches) these birds are considered unlucky but as with a lot of superstitions, the meaning is often reversed from the Craft perspective. The old folk-rhyme “One for sorrow, two for joy …” is equally applicable for both crows and magpies. Magpies, jays, crows, rooks and ravens were all particularly feared if they seemed to be focussing their attention on a particular person or household – but this attention would be seen by a witch as a different kind of message.

The shy, elusive brown hare has long been synonymous with witchcraft; the emblem of the three hares joined by the ears is also an ancient image and one chosen as a logo for Coven of the Scales’ Arcanum course. As far back as Julius Ceasar writing ‘The Conquest of Gaul’, he recorded that the native Britons would not eat hare meat and attributed this to mean that the creatures were sacred; in Christian times the hare was considered unlucky and often viewed as witches in disguise. She was sacred to the goddess Eostre but in more recent times, this holy hare has been replaced by the ‘Easter bunny’.

The grass snake was considered unlucky and/or evil but its skin was nevertheless believed to have curative powers and used in a variety of domestic medicinal preparations. In traditional British Old Craft a witch would wear a snakeskin garter as a badge of rank and according to legend, this is the foundation for the origins of ancient Order of the Garter. As one historian observed: “Only at the instigation of a king as powerful as Edward III could such a famous order of chivalry have as its symbol an article of ladies’ underwear.” The story goes that the Countess of Salisbury dropped her garter and the king picked it up and placed it around his own leg – the gesture inferring that the garter was more than a simple frippery and that its significance suggests that the Countess was a witch and now under the king’s protection.

Weasels and stoats are often interchangeable but both are deemed to be unlucky and have a strong connection to Old Craft. They were probably avoided because of their ferocity but the skins were used to line cloaks and the ‘ermine’ became a badge of rank for the nobility. These ferret-like creatures often appear in old wood-cuts as witches’ familiars.
Needless to say, in traditional British Old Craft we also work with these sacred creatures in the wild, such as the brown hare, the grass snake, raptors of all shapes and sizes, and various members of the crow family – all of whom bring omens, messages and warnings on the wind to us all because they are ‘tribal’ creatures rather than personal power-animals.  And yet, lurking in the undergrowth is my own favourite wild power-animal – the stoat – a tiny, ferocious creature capable of tackling prey many times its own weight.  Or am I giving too much away!

In general terms, for an Old Craft witch the completion of an outdoor spell-casting or magical working should be followed by the bark of a dog/fox; the cry of an owl/hawk, or the croak of a frog/toad to indicate that the spell had ‘gone home’. Endorsement of this sentiment can also be found in Leyland’s notes to ‘Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches’. And if a particular type of flora (or fauna) is listed in compendiums of superstition as being unlucky, then it’s a safe bet that there was originally a connection to witchcraft or pre-Christian beliefs. Holly, ivy, blackthorn and whitethorn are all traditional Old Craft trees and deemed unlucky in many parts of the country. The oak, however, has been adopted as a multi-cultural symbol of strength and national pride. These traditional symbols of Old Craft are with us constantly, regardless of our own personal choices, and we should recognise – and honour – them as such.

Unwisely, however, domesticated animals are generally not considered power animals because they already in service to human beings. Traditional British Old Craft tends to have its roots in both shamanic practice and the animistic belief that everything possesses a spirit-energy connecting us to the Divine.  In this context, a power (or totem) animal acts as an individual’s guide and/or guardian for both the spiritual and temporal worlds; in some cases it may also impart the animal attributes of its species to a person under its protection.  We often tend to think of a power animal as an exotic creature of the wild and as a result, overlook those animals that live in close proximity to us and often share our lives – our pets who already provide us with physical and emotional benefits.

Cats are now the most popular of domestic pets and yet even the most placid and complacent family tabby is only a whisker away from the wild; a genetic study concluding that domestic cats are descended from African wildcats (Felis silvestris lybica) from around c.8000 BC.  In Grimalkyn: The Witch’s Cat, Martha Gray has charted this progress in magical and mystical terms and reveals how we are able to draw upon this power and enhance our magical workings by harnessing this elusive feline energy.  By understanding the evolution of the cat family, she shows how we can utilise the level of ‘cat power’ needed to cure a headache, or walk the death-path having been diagnosed with a terminal illness. The cat adopted as a power-animal represents independence, cunning, dexterity, agility, sensuality, inscrutability and ferocity – energies that can be extremely useful within the magic circle.

The domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) is the 18-31,000 year old descendant of a now extinct European Wolf and has been the most widely kept working, hunting, and pet animal in human history; in Aubry’s Dog, I examine the power-attributes of a creature that has been both guide and guardian since.  Packed into this little book are some of the most potent magical workings, spells, curses and conjurations in British witchcraft including summoning the hounds of hell and the mighty Shugal. Dogs (and I have my own ‘pack’ of greyhounds at home) are a force to be reckoned with in the psychic realms, and the person who has a dog (in whatever form) as their power-animal is unlikely to come to any harm.  To put dog-power in its true magical perspective, however, we need to recognise which breeds are the aristocrats in terms of our own ancestral associations – as well as theirs.  And just as importantly, when working with wild dog energies we must refrain from attempting to give them the characteristics of the domestic dog.  The dog adopted as a power-animal represents speed, agility, courage, protection, justice, nobility and loyalty and if you choose to walk this Path, it’s guaranteed you’ll never look at your dog in the same light ever again.

My other domestic power-animal is the horse, which has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today.  In Black Horse, White Horse, I view them from a magical perspective, where the horse is a symbol of terrestrial or chthonic power being projected into the heavens and integrated with the sky gods in most of the ancient religions.  In this book I’ve included the real horse whisperers, superstitions, magical lore and perspective together with equine rites, rituals and the Blacksmith’s Curse.  The horse adopted as a power-animal represents power, speed, courage, nobility, freedom and chthonic forces; and those ‘harnessing’ this particular type of energy for magical working will find that it is enhanced considerably with half-a-ton of horse power behind it.

But when we look at our choice of power animal, do we ever stop to think of the negative aspects of these creatures?   If they have chosen us, are they recognising the negative elements that lurk inside us all if we are honest with ourselves.  Negative in this context does not, of course, mean bad or evil – it is the natural balancing side of the coin that regulates the Universe.

Many folk will look upon the wolf as an animal that stimulates all different kinds of emotions – they are awesome, scary, magnificent, pack oriented and free.  On their ‘dark side’ , however, they will bully and drive out the pack’s punch bag; in their natural environment they will kill the family pet, and research has shown that the most dangerous wolf is the one that has been reared in close proximity to humans!   Does your power-wolf see these traits in you?

Predators are high on the popularity list for totem and power animals and yet they are often chosen by those who refuse to accept that Nature is always red in tooth and claw – and that humankind is the greatest predator of them all.   We might consider that our power animal is proud and strong but do we accept that it is also a highly efficient and conditioned killer who hunts to stay alive, because these are the elements we call upon when harnessing the magical power of the creature.  When we conjure up the ‘Hounds of Hell’, for example, we are calling upon the combined instincts of the pack to hunt down and extract our revenge on our enemies.

Even small creatures such as the robin will kill a rival in defence of its territory and cute little garden frogs behave like a hoard of rampaging Vikings during the mating season!   When calling upon the protection or guidance of our power animal we are using the wild natural energy that the creature manifests on a psychic level for our benefit but we cannot pick and choose which elements we wish to utilise.  We cannot focus on the warm, cuddly aspects and ignore the over-amorous or rending of flesh with sharp teeth if we wish our magic to succeed.

In Nature animals are merely living according to the habits of their species, for unlike humans, animals are not calculatingly evil or deliberately cruel.  So, stand back, and take an objective view of the power animal that shadows you on the astral and ask yourself – who chose who, and for what reasons?

Shaman Pathways: Black Horse, White Horse by Melusine Draco

ISBN: 978 1 78099 747 8 (Paperback) £4.99 $9.95

 Shaman Pathways: Aubry’s Dog by Melusine Draco

ISBN: 978 1 78099 724 7 (Paperback) £4.99 $9.95

 Pagan Portals: Grimalkyn: The Witch’s Cat by Martha Gray

ISBN: 978-1-78099-956-2 (Paperback) £4.99 $9.95

 

A Hagiography of Craft by Melusine Draco

There nothing more tiresome that biographical details of someone who is desperately trying to create a life of importance and yet when it came to writing The Secret People I found myself in the invidious position of recording memories of a country life-style that had almost disappeared when I was still a child.  You might even say that I grew up surrounded by ghosts of the past – which was the perfect jumping-off point for where I am today!   Although there have been those critics who claim those memories to be ‘romanticised’ … for example:

A few years ago, I attended a Welsh Game Fair with a group of friends. In the main arena, one of the attractions was a chap who was simulating all the old poacher’s tricks for the entertainment of the crowd. His display was cleverly contrived by using a series of elastic lures to make the fake ‘rabbits’ streak across the field into the long-net. It was so convincing that two visiting whippets joined in the fun, much to the delight of the crowd and the embarrassment of the owner. I’d been watching the display with a view to writing an article about it but instead of taking in the details of the here and now, my subconscious mind was re-living my own memories of poaching that had been long forgotten.

Like Faust’s madeleines, it was the running of the long-net that triggered the memory. A long-net was some two foot high and some 20 feet long, and held up right by cut hazel sticks … how did I know they were hazel sticks? Because it had been my job to carry them. The story goes back to my pre-school years and my father left baby-sitting for reasons I can’t now remember. He’d done the 1940-45 stint in North Africa and Europe and it took a long, long time to get the need for an adrenalin buzz out of his system. Being a countryman, he turned his hand to a spot of DIY recreational therapy (i.e. poaching) because that was the way you coped in those pre-counselling days.

It was a fine night with a poacher’s moon; myself (aged about four) and the dog (about the same age) were bundled onto the motorbike and off we went into the darkness of the woods for a few hours of illegal hunting. This happened several times until my mother found out – then there was all hell to pay and my night-time excursions were stopped. Today, social services would consider leaving a four year old alone in the dark holding a poacher’s net, the act of extreme neglect, if not cruelty. For me, it represents ultimate trust in the person closest to me. The long-term effect is that I have no fear of being alone in remote places during the hours of darkness – which was just as well when I lived in Wales and used to roam about the fields at midnight with the dog, star-watching. Or where I live now in the Galtee Mountains. [Taken from Life-Writes – Compass Books]

The Secret People is my recollection of growing up in a rural environment where older people lived life that still relied on herbal preparations and ‘simples’ and poaching for the pot – and if that is classed as ‘romantic’ in some eyes then so be it.  I feel myself privileged to have experienced a rapidly disappearing way of life, and damned lucky to be able to remember it … and in CRONE! to share many of those enduring memories that have accompanied me through life.

EXTRACT from The Secret People: Parish-pump witchcraft, Wise-women and Cunning Ways.

The Secret People is a wander down memory lane and a step back in time; it is that ‘other country’ of the past where parish-pump witches, wise women and cunning folk still travel the highways and byways of a bygone era. Their voices can still be heard in the recipes and remedies handed down via an oral tradition, and now giving new knowledge to the next generation of pagans. It was a world where men went out with a ferret in a box and a long-net, accompanied by a silent long dog for a companion under a ‘poacher’s moon’. From ‘owl-light’ until dawn these people walked silently in the woods and along the hedgerows, watching and waiting to collect Nature’s bounty to be used for the benefit of themselves and their neighbours. From them came the introduction to spells and charms, divination and fortune-telling; the language of birds and the movement of animals – all grist for the witch’s mill. Mysterious horsemen might share secrets of horseshoe nails and thunder-water; while countrymen lived by weather, the seedtime and the harvest.

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

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

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

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

And yet…the knowledge of The Secret People is still there for the learning, if only we know how to search for it and rediscover our identity.

The Silent People by Melusine Draco is published by Moon Books. ISBN: 978 1 78535 444 1 226pp  UK£13.99/US$22.95 http://www.moon-books.net

 

 EXTRACT from CRONE! A Year in the Life of an Old Craft Witch

On reflection life is good and it’s not everyone who can live the witch’s dream of retiring to a small, isolated cottage in a river valley in the shadow of a wild mountain range. Since I’m country born and bred, it’s more like returning to my roots but life’s rich tapestry has certainly had its fair share of snags, runs, holes and endless thread-pulling along the way. I’ve lived in the Glen for over ten years now and although my original pack of greyhound companions has been reduced drastically through old-age, I’m still pack-leader of five … not forgetting Harvey my intrepid little mongrel!

The Glen is ideally suited to the type of magic we teach in Coven of the Scales simply because we are not over-looked – psychically or magically – and nothing is allowed to interfere with the daily routine of interacting with Nature on a full-time basis. The cottage is on the opposite side of the Glen to the mountains, on the wooded Slievenamuck Ridge with a lush valley and the River Aherlow running between. The view of the mountains 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. Each morning I can stand at the bedroom window and stare out with the feeling that this is an ever-lasting holiday – and one I often share with members of the Coven.

The Galtees (Na Gaibhlte) are Ireland’s highest inland mountain range, a high ridge which rises up almost sheer from the surrounding plain, the highest peak being Galteemore. As far as the geology is concerned, two major periods of glaciation affected the area and the rounded summits of the Galtee peaks were formed due to the higher parts being above the ice. The constant freeze-thaw action on the higher rocks gradually wore the peaks down to form the stony, scree covered summits we see today. This glacial action also formed corries on the higher slopes, which are now five mysterious glacial lakes. These mountains have many secrets not easily discovered: cliffs, lakes, bogs, streams, archaeology, wildlife, sheep, wonderful wild plants and ancient history.  If anyone is familiar with my Magic Crystals, Sacred Stones (Axis Mundi), they will understand how important these geological features are to our magical teaching.

As a result of being surrounded by all this beauty, I’ve now gone into Crone-mode, which in magical parlance means that I can do and say what I want, when I want, and no one can object, since they must sit at my feet and drink in the pearls of wisdom I dispense with every breath … even if they are the senile, verbal wanderings of an aging crank. Seriously, the Coven has been told that if I do get to that stage ‘Do not revive!’ must be entered on the medical chart! Today, I am blessed with a crowd of wonderful people in the Coven from all over the world; all of whom are bright, intelligent and talented – not a witchy outfit to be seen amongst them with the Craft ‘mark’ tastefully concealed – and all dear friends.

In truth, we as practitioners of Old Craft are less concerned with ritual and dogma, and more focused on natural energy-raising techniques, which we use to channel or direct spells and charms according to the nature of the working. As I’ve often said, Old Craft witches do not worship Nature but we are certainly proficient at working in harmony with it … and are highly spiritual beings on this level, too. Unlike the majority of modern pagans, however, we accept Nature as being red in tooth and claw and do not seek to impose our will on the natural scheme of things – even if Beltaine is delayed because the hawthorn comes into bloom a month late! And you can’t have a true Beltaine celebration without the fragrance of May blossom in the air … if you understand my meaning.

We also accept the timeless concept of the hunter and the hunted, and the essential inter-action of male-female energy. Old Craft is not generally seen as gender specific but its beliefs do tend to lean towards the male aspect since the female aspect remains veiled and a mystery – as she should be since this is the ancient and fundamental ‘Truth’ behind the Mysteries. Coven of the Scales is not a true sabbatical tradition but it remains an initiatory Mystery one, and what it does share with the other pre-Wiccan traditions is a common feature of extreme selectivity when it comes to prospective members – and the willingness to reject those proven unfit for the Path. Needless to say, this unpopular and confrontational stance has often led to thorny relations between other so-called ‘traditional’ groups, but it has encouraged a sanctuary-like environment where creative magical collaboration can unfold according to the design of each individual member of the Coven.

All this ‘tradition’ has now funnelled down to a tiny, remote cottage in the Glen that offers members of the Coven a warm welcome, a magical learning centre and a spiritual home, hopefully, for many years to come. We have our own Neolithic site where we interact with the Ancestors and, unlike many other ancient monuments, these ancestral energies have not been polluted by the unwelcome tramp of tourism. Here I can live the life of an Old Craft Crone according to the tenets of my belief and periodically welcome friends and fellow travellers to share in my magical world.

CRONE! By Melusine Draco is published by Ignotus Press UK. ISBN: 978 1 78876 001 0 UK£7.95  https://www.feedaread.com/books/CRONE-9781788760010