Writer @ Work

Phew!  There are two titles in the ‘finished box’ – that is a book that has been put away for a month to settle before being taken out for a final read through before the publishing process begins.   One is the first in the Sacred Landscape trilogy – Caves & Mountains – for Moon Books; the other is the 100,000-word The Arte of Darkness for Ignotus Press UK.  A third book is now in the planning stages …

The Path: A Gleaning of the Seasons was inspired by Chet Raymo’s book of the same name – that in its turn chronicled his own daily walk to work and observing with a scientist’s curiosity.  As often happens, I began thinking what if there was a similar title written from pagan’s perspective for when we to take our own local paths?  And, as if arising from some external creative impulse The Path began to unwind in the mind’s eye … based on several familiar walks that merged together 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, or caught in the murmur of running water, along the way.

Book Talk:

Traditional Witchcraft and the Path to the Mysteries 

‘I admit I didn’t initially realise there was an order to the Traditional Witchcraft series and read this one first, yet despite that fact it gave me a lot of head nodding and confirmation to the beliefs and ideas that had been forming inside me from all the other books I have been reading. It was as if finally there was a book that helped put it more succinctly and make sense of the various threads I had been gathering.’ EA (Aust)

The Word Counts

The Dictionary of Magic and Mystery was 10 years in the compiling.  It started out as a personal reference file purely for my own use in writing those 30+ mind, body and spirit titles that have appeared in publication during that time.  It survived two computer crashes and one complete melt-down and, like Topsy,’ it just grewed’.  The thought of publication never entered the equation until I was given The Dictionary of the Unexplained that weighed in at 1,300 entries and thought ‘Mine’s twice that now!

Trevor at Moon Books had started to publish my Traditional Witchcraft series and so I submitted to first draft on ‘spec’.   It was considered ‘at  65000 words or so it’s on the slim side, could easily be 2 or 3 times the length… Could do perhaps with some more supporting text, longer introduction… I note that the Watkins Dictionary of Magic has 3,000 entries, whereas this would have ‘twice as many entries’ as the Chambers, which stands at 1250 entries. Could the author go for 3000+ entries, even, to get beyond the magic 3,000? I like the style – and, as above, would the author extend the intro or/and add short features on practice – rituals/spells, even?’  You bet the author would, and as a result the finished typescript went to press with 3113 entries and 26 mini-features, making it the biggest dictionary of its kind.  With a ‘continued’ file ready for an extended edition.

Now there are a few very important lessons to be learned from this little saga.  The first is that like all the different uses for a pig, the writer uses everything including the grunt!   Get used to ‘recycling’ because everything we write can serve multiple purposes if rehashed in the right manner. Always take notice of any feedback from publishers and if they want something extended or re-developed, be prepared to do it.  Use reference books to stimulate ideas – I’ve always been rather partial to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable – and have pulled out hundreds of ideas over the years.  It was good to see from the following review that author Sally Spedding has similar ideas!

The finished Dictionary was compiled by a writer for the benefit of writers, whether fact or fiction, because even ‘fantasy’ that includes magical elements wit in the story must be subject to those annoying metaphysical laws, just as science fiction still operates within the laws of science and physics.  As Sally writes… she doesn’t normally ‘read’ dictionaries but…

DICTIONARY OF MAGIC & MYSTERY review

I admit that I don’t normally ‘read’ dictionaries, but this one by Mélusine Draco really is as gripping as any thriller. The proverbial page-turner, with its tantalising introduction and often startling entries. Every fiction or non-fiction writer should give this wonderful reference book space on their desks, not only to show what lies beneath our present day, so-called ‘civilisations,’ but also as a conduit to what may well lie beyond. To step from their comfort zones and give their work ambition, fresh interest. A need to take the reader on more unusual journeys.

I am convinced of a growing fascination with alternative spiritualities. Of other ways of living life and of dying. Melusine Draco, delivers her expert and painstaking research into all this in such a way that will surely ignite further enthusiasm. She takes us from the Argentinium Astrum – the Order of the Great white Brotherhood (Adepts) founded by Aleister Crowley; the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance; Alphitomancy – which will make you look at barley bread in a new light – to the Field of Reeds and Dead Man’s Teeth, to Sea Witches and beyond.

I found myself making excited notes on Podomancy, Cramp Rings and the Angel of Death – and already wondering where these different springboards could lead. Within the dictionary format, the work is helpfully constructed into sections, ie; Black Magic, White Magic, while references for further research are relevant and not too copious. In a crowded marketplace where the ups and downs in publishing are ever more pronounced, I’m convinced this amazing volume will stir the writer’s imagination and help to get their work noticed. Unique and memorable.’

 

The late Michael Howard of The Cauldron fame said: ‘THE DICTIONARY OF MAGIC AND MYSTERY The Definitive Guide to the Mysterious, the Magical and the Supernatural. Compiled by Melusine Draco (Moon Books/John Hunt Publishing £12.99/US$22.95 370pp) Melusine Draco originally trained in the magical arts and traditional British witchcraft with Bob and Meriem Clay-Egerton and their Coven of the Scales. This book does what it says on the cover, although some may feel it is not the definite guide to the subject. It is an A-Z of witchcraft, magic and occultism with over 3000 entries ranging from the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance to Zoanthopy (divination by observing candle flames). There are also 26 short articles by the compiler on various aspects of the occult. This is an excellent book for the beginner, and even those with more experience as it is impossible to know about everything.’ Recommended. MH. The Cauldron

Sally Spedding is the cclaimed author of eight paranormal, historical and psychological thrillers and ‘How To Write a Chiller Thriller’ for JHP Compass Books.  She is also an experienced creative writing tutor who has helped many of her students achieve publishing success.

KICKING OVER THE CAULDRON by Melusine Draco

‘Kicking Over The Cauldron’ is not irreverence; it’s an act of getting rid of the dross that often obscures genuine Old Craft teaching with modern-day propaganda. In Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living we observed that an old-time witch might not have had the enquiring mind or educational opportunities of her 21st century counterparts, but she would have had the advantage of absorbing teaching passed on within an oral tradition that had persisted for hundreds of years.   In Traditional Witchcraft & the Pagan Revival we trace those Old Craft roots back to the beginning.

The kernel of a traditional witch’s faith, however, is a belief in a definite association of force (or energy) within special localities, and the notion of natural universal energy influencing cause and effect.  The term ‘animism’ was first coined in the early 18th century by Georg Ernst Stahl to describe his philosophy of a world soul; the word anima, meaning ‘breath’, which in Latin came to have the secondary sense of ‘soul’ = breath of life.   The belief embraces the notion that spirits [or natural energy] inhabit everything in Nature – every hill, tree and stream, every breeze and cloud, every stone and pool has its own ‘spirit’.

It was Andy Lloyd Book Reviews that first put the Traditional Witchcraft series into its proper perspective: “The series provides varied information about what it means to be a practising witch in modern times.  In places, it feels like a guide, or self-help book.  But there is much more to it than that.  What strikes me is the amount of science running through the book.  To understand nature is to live as a part of nature, and ultimately to become one with its changing patterns and cycles, to synchronise one’s own psychic or magical energy with natural tidal forces and the elements.  So a witch, like no other religious practitioner that I’m aware of, must study her environment carefully, and attune her life to it … The learning is multi-disciplinary, and feels almost as if one was studying a textbook written by a poet … it has that sense of quiet wonder about it, supported by education, knowledge and, above all, wisdom.”

Throughout the series there is the continuous theme of how important the Ancestors are within Old Craft, and anyone wishing to follow this Tradition must understand who they are, and how they influence both the magic and belief of the traditional witch.  For this reason the historical view of Traditional Witchcraft and the Pagan Revival was left until the fifth book because it’s not until we’ve been studying traditional Craft for a while that we start to notice both the differences and the similarities between the various pagan disciplines.  We want to know where our own beliefs come from; to trace these antecedents; and to understand why some of our ways are often diametrically opposed to those of other traditions we read about – and why.  That is the reason for this fifth book in the series being written as a magical anthropology; simply to make sense of some of the things we’ve noticed but never fully understood.

Some claim there is nothing new contained within the books, or that there are no great revelations in the text, ignoring the fact that Old Craft learning is about forty percent information and sixty percent intuition; but it’s also about realising when intuition is telling us that we don’t have all the information.  There are books claiming to reveal the ‘secrets’ of traditional Craft – but intuition should tell us that if the secrets can be revealed in the reading of just one book, then the author cannot have that much to tell. The real secret is that there are no secrets, only a system of revelation that eventually leads us to a series of enlightening experiences, and guides or teachers, to further our progress along the Path to the Mysteries.

Because of its occult (i.e. ‘hidden’) nature, traditional British Old Craft methods really do differ from county to county, so the opportunity of being in the company of genuine witches, meant that late-night magical discussions were all part of the invaluable exchange of information that old Crafters enjoy when meeting with those of their own kind and calibre. It was usually well past midnight when the cauldron would be kicked over; the dross discarded and the rare elixir of Knowledge at the bottom savoured and shared.

Mélusine Draco originally trained in the magical arts of traditional British Old Craft with Bob and Mériém Clay-Egerton. She has been a magical and spiritual instructor for over 20 years, 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

 Traditional Witchcraft & the Pagan Revival by Melusine Draco is published by Moon books ISBN: 978-1-78279-156-0 UK£11.99/US$19.95

Book News

Publishing update: Have just signed the contract with Moon Books for ‘Sacred Landscape: Caves and Mountains’ which is a multi-path approach to the world around us and how we react to it. This (hopefully) will be the first of a trilogy including Sacred Landscape: Groves & Forests and Sacred Landscape: Lakes & Rivers.

Gemstones, Rocks & Crystals

Although shop-bought rocks and crystals are beautiful things to own, those with the greatest magical properties are the ones we find for ourselves. Our world is built of rocks and crystals,

made from hundreds of minerals, in differing amounts to make up hundreds of different kinds of rock. The traditional witch was more likely to use a local piece of rock (or pebble) as a power object or amulet, and most people can visit a shingle beach — here we will find a wide variety of colorful and beautiful semi-precious stones which are ours for the taking.

Having said that, good pebbles are to be found anywhere in the shallow stream bed, on the sandy banks of an inland river, turned over in a plowed field, even dug up our own garden. It isn’t necessary to acquire a degree in geology to collect ‘magical’ pebbles because our choice is reliant on a small stone that catches our eye because of its unusual color or shape. We may discover it under unusual circumstances, or it may be something that we feel the need to pick up and possess. Having come straight from the Earth, how much more potent this will be than a polished crystal that has been mined and commercially prepared for the High Street ‘Crystal Cave’.

Quartz is one of the most popular of ‘crystals’ and pebbles having quartz as their dominant constituent are to be found on almost every beach in Britain. The differences in color and appearance are due to varying amounts of other minerals in each one, and also to the way in which the quartz has formed. Did you know that quartz is solid silica and if it did not crystallize when it solidified it is known as flint? Everyone knows that two flints struck together will produce a spark, but it is not generally known that all quartz pebbles will do the same and often produce bigger and better sparks. This can be viewed as magical fire from the very Earth itself — but would you want to risk smashing expensive, shop-bought quartz together to produce the same result? Clear quartz will produce an orange spark if two pieces are struck together in a darkened room, together with the smell of burning.

These crystals cost £££s in occult shops, but how much more satisfying to discover our own raw variety. It may not have been subjected to the lapidary’s polishing techniques but it will be all the more magical for that. Even a crude flint hagstone straight from the field will have more earth-energy than a glittering lump of amethyst that has been sitting on a shelf in a shop and having everyone pawing over it.

 Magic Crystals, Sacred Stones by Melusine Draco is published by Axis Mundi in paperback and e-book format.  ISBN: 978 1 78099 137 5 : UK£11.99/US$19.95  : http://www.axismundi-books.com

Folk Medicine: Nature’s Medicine Chest

Unlike the wort-lore of traditional witchcraft, folk or domestic plant medicine is the everyday use of plants by ordinary people to cure minor wounds and ailments. Although there is a wealth of material from the classic herbals and herbalists recorded by the Benedictine monk Aelfric, the Physicians of Myddfai and the 17th century apothecary, physician and astrologer, Nicholas Culpeper, very little has been preserved of the common plant remedies used by our forebears.

Effective home remedies did not require any accompanying ritual to make them work and a countrywoman would merely pick the necessary plants from the garden or hedgerow to make a preparation for the family’s fever, or to treat a wound. A hot infusion made from diaphoretic and febrifugal herbs, such as yarrow, comfrey and cayenne, will increase perspiration and help to reduce a high fever. While towards the end of WWI, the British government used tons of sphagnum moss as surgical dressing, placed directly on to wounds when the demand for cotton bandages could not be met. Fortunately this folk remedy had not faded from memory and is still used in some rural areas.

Similarly, feverfew has been used since the Middle Ages for its analgesic properties. Culpeper recommended the herb for ‘all pains in the head’ and current research has proven the efficacy of feverfew in the relieving of migraines and headaches when taken as a tea.

The common ‘weed’ plantain has long been recognized as an excellent restorative and tonic for all forms of respiratory congestions – nasal catarrh, bronchitis, sinusitis and middle ear infections. The plant’s demulcent qualities make it useful in an infusion for painful urination. As a lotion, plantain calms the irritation and itching of insect bites, stings and skin irritations; and as a disinfectant and styptic for wounds and how many of us automatically search for a dock leaf after a close encounter with a stinging nettle?

With all its magical connotations and fairy connections, the elder has long been known as the ‘poor man’s medicine chest’ because its flowers and berries have so many uses in treating respiratory infections and fevers. The leaves make a useful ointment for bruises, sprains and wounds, while an ointment made from the flowers is excellent for chilblains. The inner bark has a history of use as a purgative dating back to the time of Hippocrates, and we must not forget the ‘tonic’ of elderflower champagne and elderberry wine!

Through the daily life of ordinary country people, the use of folk medicine had been preserved with remarkable accuracy from one generation to another up to the early 20th century. As a result of two world wars and with the large-scale dispersal of country people to the towns, however, the need for folk medicine diminished. The old people who remained no longer had anyone left to whom they could pass this age-old wisdom and so it died out for lack of interest.

Today there is a renewed interest in natural medicine and the old remedies are being researched by a joint project called Ethnomedica [1990s Kew Gardens]. Involving medical herbalists and botanists, their aim is to gather information about country remedies throughout Britain.

Wort Lore: The Craft of Witches is compiled by Melusine Draco and published by Ignotus Press UK ISBN: 978 1 78876 449 0

https://www.feedaread.com/books/Wort-Lore-the-Craft-of-Witches-9781788764490.aspx