Book News …

THE ARTE OF DARKNESS: Magic & Mystery From the Shadows

by Melusine Draco

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

Nevertheless, there is an increasing tendency these days for groups and individuals to portray themselves as being more exciting, adventurous, or more magically competent by covering themselves with the mantle of ‘Darkness’. Such people believe they know everything there is to know about the ‘arte of darkness’ but more often than not, whatever knowledge they have, it is not enough since they are ‘loaded to the gunwales with a cargo of conceit’. Let’s make no bones about it – there is no such thing as Black and White Magic – and the realms of Darkness and Shadow are an intrinsic part of everyday magical practice regardless of path, creed or tradition. Magic used only for good purposes is only singing half the Mass!


The Arte of Darkness by Melusine Draco is published by Ignotus Press UK 262 pages : ISBN 978 1 78876 919 8 : Available direct from the printer at discounted prices

Book extract …

Wort-Lore: the Craft of Witches

By Hemlock, Mandrake & Adder’s Tongue

Compiled by Melusine Draco

 Hundred eyes (periwinkle – Vinca major) as incense, infusion sprays, sachet. Use: Reduces anger and anxiety and is ideal for use in binding spells. It was a favourite flower with cunning folk for making charms and love-philtres and was one of the plants believed to have power to banish evil spirits. In Macer’s Herbal we read of its potency against ‘wykked spirytis’, while Apuleius, in his Herbarium (1480), gives elaborate directions for its harvesting:

‘This wort is of good advantage for many purposes, that is to say, first against devil sickness and demoniacal possessions and against snakes and wild beasts and against poisons and for various wishes and for envy and for terror and that thou mayst have grace, and if thou hast the wort with thee thou shalt be prosperous and ever acceptable. This wort thou shalt pluck thus, saying, “I pray thee, vinca pervinca, thee that art to be had for thy many useful qualities, that thou come to me glad blossoming with thy mainfulness, that thou outfit me so that I be shielded and ever prosperous and undamaged by poisons and by water”; when thou shalt pluck this wort, thou shalt be clean of every uncleanness, and thou shalt pick it when the moon is nine nights old and eleven nights and thirteen nights and thirty nights and when it is one night old.’

Also known as: big-leaf periwinkle, large periwinkle, greater periwinkle, blue periwinkle and sorcerer’s violet.

Order direct from the printers at a discounted price:

Book extract


Every good reference book is both a product and a reflection of its time. The Dictionary of Magic & Mystery is not just another compendium or dictionary of occultism: it is a jumping-off point for further research. Here, the reader will find the ancient and modern interpretation for magical and mystical terms, together with explanations for the differences between the varied (and often conflicting) approaches to magic. You will also find both the common, the regional, and the obscure, because even popular usage can often distill the true essence from original meaning. There are historical and archeological references that are essential in helping to put the past into perspective, whether we are talking about witchcraft, ritual magic, or the different paths and traditions from the East. Added to all this information are some of the sacred sites that are associated with our pagan past; together with thumbnail sketches of the well-known (and sometimes dubious) personalities who have been associated with the pursuit of magical knowledge throughout the centuries.  This is an example of one of the mini-essays that complement the entries:

Lammas and the Harvest Home

During the autumn of 1621 the settlers at Plymouth Colony gathered to give thanks for the harvest after their first year in the New World. That was America’s first Thanksgiving, but it has grown into probably the most important family occasion of the year, where everyone gathers to enjoy a meal of roast turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Its roots, however, have their origin in the traditional Harvest Supper – or Harvest Home – of the English farming community.

In truth, the practice of holding a Harvest Festival service was only established in the 19th century in an attempt to control the Harvest Home celebrations, which the Church of the time considered too raucously pagan!

Harvest celebrations were some of the holiest of the pagan year. Traditionally, the harvest continued for most of August from Lammas, when bread was made from the first corn to be cut; right through to the last fruits being gathered in early September. Any housewife worth her salt would be bottling fruit, making pickles and jams, drying herbs and preparing potions from the natural harvest in the hedgerows for the months ahead when the fresh ingredients would not be available.

There has always been a spiritual quality surrounding harvest time: a celebration of the good things that have happened during the year. A perfect time to gather friends and family together for a celebratory supper in a spirit of thanksgiving, whether we are urban or rural dwellers, market trader or stock-market trader. And although the American celebration is held on the fourth Thursday in November, a Harvest Home should be around the Harvest Moon, or Autumn Equinox.

A typical 17th century Harvest Supper would have consisted of ‘… puddings, bacon or boiled beef, flesh or apple pies, and then cream brought in platters… hot cakes and ale…’ A Witch’s Treasury for Hearth & Garden brought the menu up to date with home-made soup, honey-glazed ham, apple pie with cream and a selection of cheeses, served with celery, accompanied by good beer, cider or robust red wine. To set the atmosphere, display any freshly prepared produce for decoration as this will be your own harvest festival. If you’ve made jams or pickles, give each guest a jar as a gesture of sharing.

Should your talents lean more towards the arty, give each guest a corn dolly to take home. Corn has long been regarded as the embodiment of productivity and fruitfulness; a simple plait of corn straw tied with ribbon can be hung in the kitchen to insure a productive year to come. It would also be nice to think that the modern ‘wheel of the year’ isn’t always driven by the need to use the festivals for spellcasting. Before the end of the meal, make sure everyone has a full glass and propose a toast to your own equivalent of the ‘bounty of the harvest’, and ask your guests to join you in pouring a libation on the ground outside. Even in financially-troubled times, we still have something to be grateful for and if we can reintroduce the spirit of thanksgiving at the turning of the year, we will be reconnecting with the simple faith of our forebears.

‘Thanksgiving’ isn’t about preserving ye olde pagan ways with copious amounts of cider swilling, accompanied by endless verses of John Barleycorn, it’s about bringing together family and close friends for the purpose of celebration. An annual pilgrimage back to our pagan roots, or to wherever our pagan roots have been transplanted. We can gather around the simple kitchen table, or set the dining room glistening with starched linen, crystal and silver. There is no preset formula of observance… just the willingness to enjoy each other’s company, count our blessings and reflect on our good fortune.

The Dictionary of Magic & Mystery compiled by Melusine Draco is published by Moon Books : ISBN 978 1 84694 462 8 : 3333 entries 370 pages : Price UK£12.99/IUS$22.95 from



The Arte of Darkness has gone off to the printer and should be ready for publication by September; while Pagan Portals: Western Animism – Zen and the Art of Positive Paganism is due for release on 26th July and will be of interest to anyone with an interest in spirituality and paganism without feeling the need to embraced the established traditions of Wiccan, Heathenism or Druid. The book may even appeal to those whose outlook on contemporary paganism has become jaded with the lack of focus or official litany.  Pagan Portals – Seeking the Primal Goddess is due for publication on 31st January 2020.  Sacred Landscape: Caves and Mountains   is in production but so date yet for publication.

The contract has been signed for The (Inner-City) Path: A Gleaning of the Seasons on a Daily Walk, which based on several familiar urban walks that have merged together over the years to make a chapbook of the seasons and to offer a glimpse into the pagan mind-set that can find mystery under every leaf and rock along the way, or caught in the murmur of running water, and to act as a simple guide to achieving a sense of well-being and awareness.  The typescript should be ready by autumn and the book published towards the end of 2020.

Work in progress includes the third in the Vampyre’s Tale series and books two and three in the Sacred Landscape trilogy.

Advanced orders can be placed for Pagan Portals: Western Animism – Zen and the Art of Positive Paganism from Moon Books –

Book News …


Philip Wright & Carrie West authors of Coven Working and Death & the Pagan have a new book in production that should be published by Ignotus Press UK early in 2020.  They were early members of Coven of the Scales when it was formed by Bob and Meriem Clay-Egerton following their move to Newcastle and have since run their own teaching coven in St Albans for well over twenty years until its recent amicable closure. The long history of the Moonraker-CoS Covens has always been close knit and often beset with troubles resulting from both internal and external causes but unlike many of those that were around back in the day, they are gratified to see that CoS goes from strength to strength.  ‘Traditional British Old Craft is often frowned upon by millennial-witches for its elitist, hierarchical and god-based structure but this Coven has been provably in existence since the mid 1880s and it has managed to survive to keep the spirit of ‘true’ Craft alive despite the often overwhelming odds.  We as old-timers are proud to have this as our heritage …’

PART I: SUMMER: Calan Haf-Beltaine

The whole essence of traditional British Old Craft is closely bound to the natural tides that govern our planet.  When we organise our own coven activities, these are focussed on drawing down an elemental power to synchronise with the traditional Sabbats/ Esbats, thus ensuring the coven develops a ‘group mind’ of its own that nonetheless periodically needs to be recharged via group ritual.  This also explains why Old Crafters synchronise those rituals to coincide with the Old Julian Calendar that links us directly to the power of the Ancestors.  The modern Gregorian calendar is now fourteen days out of alignment and had been thirteen days apart since March 1900 – but magically a miss is as good as a mile!

Watch this space …

Book News …

Have just signed the contract for a new Pagan Portals title for Moon Books …

The (Inner-City) Path: A Gleaning of the Seasons was inspired by Chet Raymo’s book of similar title that chronicled his own daily urban walk to work and observing the seasonal changes with a scientist’s curiosity.  As often happens, I began thinking ‘what if’ there was a complementary book written from a pagan perspective for when we take to our local urban paths for our daily dog walk.  And, as if arising from this external creative impulse The Path began to unravel in the mind’s eye … based on several urban walks that have merged together over the years to make a chapbook of the seasons and to offer a glimpse into the pagan mind-set that can find mystery under every leaf and rock along the way, or caught in the murmur of running water, and to act as a simple guide to achieving a sense of well-being and awareness so that ‘even in the city’s throng we feel the freshness of the streams …

Natural Symbols for Compass Working

Books will give a whole list of correspondences we can utilise to symbolically mark the cardinal points of the Compass for magical working – but some work better than others.  To built up a collection of naturally-charged quarter-markers we need to keep our eyes open at all times for those ‘gifts’ that come our way while out walking. For example:

North:  The Place of Power magically speaking since ancient times – and ancient mystics and alchemists called upon Gnomes as an invocation of the properties in Earth in ritual.  Gems and crystals are all part of the Element of Earth and the most natural would be the small pieces of quartz (milky, rose and clear) or flint that can be found in any handful of gravel, a stream bed, or by the side of a path we walk along every day.  Remember that the tiniest of pieces were once buried deep inside the Earth and have worked their way to the surface over millions of years.

South: Fire is the only one of the Four Elements that humankind can produce itself, so it bridges the connection between mortals and gods because it was Prometheus, the Titan culture hero and trickster figure who defied the gods by stealing fire and giving it to humanity:  an act that enabled progress and civilisation. Slivers of seasoned wood from the Craft’s totem trees can be prepared and sprinkled in the censer over a charcoal disc; or if working outside small faggots can be made from twigs from the ‘nine sacred woods’ – birch, rowan, ash, alder, willow hawthorn, oak, holly and hazel.

East:  The smoke that rises from the incense burned on the altar is a symbol of Elemental Air; or we can collect feathers from the birds sacred to Craft – the corvids who serve as messengers from Otherworld.  Keep them fresh and safe by wrapping them in a silk scarf when not in use.

West:  Rain-water collected in the cup-marks on ancient monuments or from the hollows in the boles of totem trees is the most sacred representative of Elemental Water.  Failing that, collect water from a local spring or holy well.

This means that along with the poop-scoop bags in our pockets, we need an array of small plastic bags, bottles and containers so that we can bring our finds safely home. Stones and pebbles can be ritually cleansed by holding them in a fast running stream or spring, other more perishable items shouldn’t need to be cleansed if they have been brought in straight from the wood otherwise we will destroy those natural propensities they were chosen for.

Power of the Elements by Melusine Draco is published by Moon Books as part of the Pagan Portals series.