Calendars mark the passage of time …

 … and have done since ancient times. 

 All my life, I have been a celebrant of Halloween. For me, it is the most important day of the year, the turning point in the old pagan calendar.

John Burnside

 Calendars are an important element of our daily lives and they govern the way we conduct our daily, weekly, monthly, yearly routine.  In the earliest times, human beings calculated time by observing the periods of light and darkness that alternated continuously. The solar day is considered the earliest form of the calendar. The second basic type of calendar was the arbitrary calendar, which was created by counting the number of days over and over again, either towards infinity or in a cycle. Nonetheless, there were several problems with the arbitrary calendar. Firstly, farmers of early civilizations could not calculate the perfect time to plant their crops. Crop planting is an activity that is closely linked to the seasons, and the arbitrary calendar was not based on the durations of seasons. Therefore, humans began to observe the sun’s passage through a fixed point, and this practice was the precursor of the solar calendar. Calendars that were based on lunar and stellar cycles were also used in the ancient times.

A mesolithic arrangement of twelve pits and an arc found in Warren Field, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, dated to roughly 10,000 years ago, has been described as a lunar calendar and was dubbed the ‘world’s oldest known calendar’ in 2013.  While Adam’s Calendar in Mpumalanga, South Africa it is a standing stone circle about 30 meters in diameter, which various astronomical alignments identified at the site suggest it is possibly the only example of a completely functional, mostly intact megalithic stone calendar in the world

The Mayans, known for being one of the most technologically advanced civilizations of their time, inhabited the regions of Central America and southern Mexico. Their most notable achievement was their intricate system of time, which consisted of three calendars. These calendars were known as the Long Year, the Solar Year, and the Tzolk’in. The Long Year calendar was used to measure long periods of time and is responsible for the 2012 predictions. The Solar Year is the calendar that most closely resembles our Gregorian calendar; The Tzolk’in calendar consisted of only 260 days and was used mostly for religious purposes. These calendars came under great scrutiny in 2012 due in part to the media portrayal of an ‘apocalyptic’ prediction. However, after 2012 came and went without incident, historians began looking for the true meaning of why the Mayan calendar system ended on that date.

India has used the Hindu calendar to measure time since their ancient days. Over the years, the calendar has been edited and changed as the regional face of India has changed. There are several variations of the Hindu calendar in use today, specific to the various regions of the country. Each version of the calendar has small characteristics that differ them, however, one thing is the same for all of them: the names of the twelve months. The calendar is made up of both solar and lunisolar calendars, and also centers on astronomy and religion. The early Hindu calendar was born from the astronomical philosophies developed in the late BC time. Lunar months are the basis of the calendar and are determined around the phases of the moon. The calendar marks important religious festival and worship days. While there are many different variations of the Hindu calendar, there is a standard version of the calendar that serves as the national calendar of India.

The Roman Book of Days by Paulina Erina

The Roman religion and civil calendar that spread across the Empire was closely aligned to the farming year in central Italy. It comprised of festivals for sacrifice and festivals for games, although the routine sacrifices to the many civil gods were left in the hands of the State priesthood. The more humble cults flourished on the streets and in the countryside, at home private worship continued well after the Roman conversion to Christianity because the ancient gods were so firmly entrenched in pagan hearts.

REVIEW: “A lot of people be they neo-pagans or amateur scholars or authors trying to research have the same problem: It’s very hard to get good, concise information on the Roman Calendar. Even otherwise good books and websites only list the major festivals, and mention briefly that some days were dies comitialis, others dies fasti, and so forth and so on. Obviously this is of little help, say, want to know if the hero of your novel could press a lawsuit on the 20th of August, or what festivals are held on the 9th of June. This book is the answer to that problem. It lists every day of the year, and what happens on that day; festivals, lucky and unlucky days, and the character of the day (fasti, nefasti, etc). If you want to know what happens on 20th of August just look up that day, and you’ll see that it’s a Dies Comitialis where citizen committees can vote on criminal and political matters. It’s very useful and a great relief for someone who’s been tearing their hair out looking for this information. I wasn’t sure if it should get four or five stars, since it is fairly short and only gives an abbreviated explanation of each feast day. However I’ve decided on five stars since the information you find here is virtually impossible to find anywhere else, and believe me I’ve looked. More to the point once you have the name of a festival, or the type of day, it’s very easy to find any additional information on the internet. Thus five stars, and a book that’s very highly recommended!” Norse Victorian- Amazon

ISBN: 9781786971517 : Type: Paperback : Pages: 144 : Published: 14 July 2016 :           Price: £6.99

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Old Year, Old Calendar, Old Ways compiled by Melusine Draco

Most of today’s pagans religiously follow the phases of the moon, and the various witches’ almanacs gear their celebrations and/or observances in line with the dates of the Gregorian calendar in order to synchronise their monthly observances. If we follow our pagan year merely for celebration and observance it makes little difference when we hold our feast days and festivals but if our magical operations need to connect with the Old Ways of our Ancestors then we need to align with the old calendars that were brought to these islands by the Romans, the Celts and the Anglo-Saxons. These formal calendars are the nearest guide we have to help us in understanding the customs and beliefs of our indigenous ancestors. The Roman legionnaires garrisoned in Britain came from all over the Europe and they would have brought their religions and beliefs with them from the far flung corners of the Empire; as would the incoming Celts, Danes and Anglo-Saxons whose influence would have eventually been grafted onto older, indigenous stock especially when similar celebrations fell around the solstices and equinoxes.

REVIEW: “Great book! Love the fair days and events in England that still hold with old tradition and the ideas for honouring days. Definitely a book to have on the shelf and look at every couple of days.” Sarah Beth Watkins, historical author and publisher at Chronos Books

ISBN: 9781788762052 : Type: Paperback : Pages: 210 : Published: 25 January 2018     Price: £7.99

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The Calendar of Ancient Egypt compiled by Melusine Draco

This revised ‘Book of Days’ has been compiled from Temple Festival Calendars of Ancient Egypt by Sherif el-Sabban; the Greek and Demotic Magical Papyri lodged in the British Museum; the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris; the Staatliche Museum in Berlin; the Rijksmuseum in Leiden; the Sallier Papyrus IV and The Cairo Calendars currently lodged in the British and Cairo Museums. The latter shows that although the document itself was made during the time of Rameses II, it was a ‘reprint’ of much earlier material For the ancient Egyptians every day was considered to have some magical significance, which caused it to be good, bad, or partly good and partly bad and this calendar was compiled for purposes of religious observance. By consulting the lists of lucky and unlucky days, each individual could protect himself and his family against the danger of the day.

REVIEW: “I am teaching a course on ancient Egypt, so I was able to use this every class day to read the prognostication for the day and tell my students how they should behave. It makes things more fun.” LARA1407 (Amazon)

ISBN: 9781788765831 : Type: Paperback : Pages: 202 : Published: 5 November 2018    Price: £7.99

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The Kindle e-book version of these calendars are available on special order offer UK£0.99/US$0.99 : The Calendar of Ancient Egypt 7-14th February: The Roman Book of Days and Old Year, Old Calendar, Old Ways 7-14th March 2020

Photo: The Guardians of Time is an art project of the Austrian sculptor Manfred Kielnhofer.

Books News …

The (Inner-City) Path: A Gleaning of the Seasons was inspired by Chet Raymo’s book of similar title – that chronicled his own daily 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 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 familiar 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 Path will be published by Moon Books on 25th September 2020

A Book-Worm’s Eye View

As I’ve said before, writing about witchcraft is easy.  Finding the right theme isn’t.  Any fool can pass themselves off as a witch but finding an informative and entertaining approach for a new book is a whole different cauldron of knowledge.  Personally, I feel there should be a magical purpose behind any book on Craft – otherwise it’s all been said before – and usually better …

It’s often surprised readers that Traditional Witchcraft and the Pagan Revival is the fifth book in the series but it often transpires that it’s not until folk have been ‘at it’ for a while that they begin to question the numerous inconsistencies, contradictions and anomalies that occur between the different Traditions.  And it’s not until they get to this stage, that they want to learn about where their own Tradition sprung from … and where it fits into the whole scheme of things.  When people are shopping around for a particular path or tradition that suits them, their ‘wants list’ only looks at witchcraft on a very superficial basis.

In fact, it’s easier to trace an individual’s ancestral DNA back thousands of years than it is to follow an unbroken line of belief down through the ages.  The furthest Coven of the Scales can trace its proven lineage is to the mid-1800s, although coven-lore claims it goes back much further.  In truth, if we go back far enough, all our ancestors were pagan – even if not all of them were witches!  Pagan Revival attempts to offer an explanation of where these pagan influences crept into our racial subconscious, only to manifest in the 20th-century to such an extent that paganism per se is now the fastest growing belief in the western world.

Traditional Witchcraft and the Path to the Mysteries is the last in the series. Some claim there is nothing new contained within the book, 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 the right guides or teachers, to further our progress along the Path to the Mysteries.

Or as one Old Craft witch wrote: “This book, the final book in the series packs an impact, it is as if this book was personally written and directed at myself and my own personal and spiritual journey and my own path to the mysteries. You can tell that the author has navigated the journey personally and the landscape of going deeper and as such is qualified to guide seekers further. It was as if as I read, I was sat with the author and she speaking directly to me and my soul and its journey for the last 15 years. The journey is not for the faint-hearted, there will be twists and turns, stops and starts, fields of flowers and paths of brambles to navigate and ultimately the descent into the underworld as we journey through the landscape of our soul and to the deeper mysteries and if you are felt worthy the door will swing back open for you, if not the path will take you to the state of being where your soul needs to be for that present time.

“The author writes ‘For the traditional witch undergoing initiation into the mystery tradition, it’s a word associated with a solitary life changing (often life threatening) experience. It represents a true test and that cannot be revised for – or cheated at’. I had many moment of putting the book down because I could not believe that the author was so spot on and shaking my head with amazement at the synchronistic points referred in the book, even boxing things away and returning to them when the time is needed or completely ridding oneself external things one acquires along the way and you once thought were important …”

Traditional Witchcraft and the Pagan Revival and Traditional Witchcraft and the Path to the Mysteries by Melusine Draco are published by Moon Books.

Photo: The Guardians of Time is an art project of the Austrian sculptor Manfred Kielnhofer.

Book News … Gender Dynamics

I have just signed the contract for a new Moon Book – Sexual Dynamics in the Circle: Magic, Man & Woman

One of the most significant social changes in the 20th-century was the wedge driven between the males and females of Craft as a result of social media and political feminism. From a purely magical point of view the battle of the sexes has been one of the most negative crusades in the history of mankind since everything in the entire Universe is made up from a balance or harmony of opposite energies. Men and women are different as night and day but still part of the same homo sapiens coin – regardless of their individual sexuality.

“I was so pleased to get a preview copy of Sexual Dynamics in the Circle: Magic, Man & Woman to read; a good, proper book on sex magic is long overdue and this one is seriously refreshing. Melusine Draco’s approach is very down to earth and, at the same time, fully with spirit. Gone are the crazy, titillating, salacious styles of far too many other books on the subject, Draco shows you and explains what actually happens and helps you understand this for yourself. In Sexual Dynamics in the Circle, we learn about working with the two principles of the universe that we know, here on Earth, as gender, female and male, the duality that is all creation from forming stars on down. And we’re able to get away from extreme feminism too, always a good thing; the powers of goddess and god are twined and combined, they don’t battle for supremacy. If you want to learn more about how the genders combine to work magic this is the book to read.”   Elen Sentier : Shaman and author

A Book-Worm’s Eye View

Writing about witchcraft is easy.  Finding the right theme isn’t.  Any fool can pass themselves off as a witch but finding an informative and entertaining approach for a new book is a whole different cauldron of knowledge.  Personally, I feel there should be a magical purpose behind any book on Craft – otherwise it’s all been said before – and usually better …

Traditional Witchcraft for Fields & Hedgerows had to come since the series needed a month-by-month witch’s calendar and it was difficult to find material that hadn’t been regurgitated in countless other titles about the witches’ year.  For this book I settled for a ‘treasury’ format – a monthly potpourri of country-lore, superstitions, hearth magic, recipes, weather-lore, tree-lore, Circle-working and spell-casting – all part of the witch’s or the countryman’s craft.  Being a born and bred countrywoman much of what I write has its roots in rural living and is part of that rapidly disappearing world that has kept the practice of rural witchcraft alive long after its application vanished from daily living.  Hopefully the book acts as a guide to some of the traditional parts of our witch culture including some of the lesser known customs.

The problem we encounter with this kind of writing, of course, is that the modern pagan community is often at odds with the ‘hunting, shooting, fishing’ – not to mention the ‘red in tooth and claw’ – aspects of country living.  I was once accused of advocating ‘black magic’ in quoting from the English Huswife of 1615 that advised those infected with the plague to try applying hot bricks to the feet and, if this didn’t work, ‘a live pidgeon cut in two parts’.  This was a cure tried on Catherine of Braganza and recorded by Samuel Pepys in his diary on the 19th October 1667 that ‘pigeons were put to her feet’. Actually, pigeons were a surprisingly common ‘ingredient’ in the medicine of the time and were even recommended for various conditions in the official pharmacopoeia (catalogue) of sanctioned remedies.  Again, it was a case of a misreading of the text but it still makes me wonder how a common 17th-century folk-medicine practice can be misinterpreted as a 21st-century ‘black magic’ rite – unless it’s deliberately misunderstood!

The first in the series to reach best-selling status was Traditional Witchcraft for Woods & Forests: A Witch’s Guide to the woodland with guided meditations and pathworking …  This book needed a different approach and so Hunter’s Wood came into being. Hunter’s Wood does not exist in the ‘real’ world — or rather, different parts of it exist in different locations. Neither is the practice of Wood-Craft restricted to any particular witchcraft or pagan tradition since a wooded landscape is pertinent to every creed and culture since ancient times.

For the purpose of visualisation, meditation and pathworking, however, I decided to use natural broad-leafed woodland, since the fauna and flora of the forest have always played an important role in traditional witchcraft. Many of the ingredients for a witch’s spells and charms come from woodland plants and trees, while the fauna offers unique opportunities for divination and augury. Hunter’s Wood can be recreated on the inner planes by using magical techniques, so that even those witches living in urban surroundings can take to the woodland paths whenever they choose … and perhaps come to understand more about traditional wood-Craft and country ways.

Tradition Witchcraft for Fields & Hedgerows and Traditional Witchcraft for Woods & Forests by Melusine Draco are published by Moon Books in paperback and e-book format.

Nearly two decades in print … and still as popular!

Root & Branch: British Magical Tree Lore was always a best-seller as far as the old ignotus press was concerned, even finding favour with the Forestry Commission and the National Trust.  The compilation was a labour of love and even more so when a revised and expanded edition was re-released in 2016 …

It is perhaps surprising to learn that only thirty-five species of tree are indigenous to the British Isles. The following are common native trees that the natural witch should be able to recognise and utilise for magical purposes, although strictly speaking the blackthorn, ivy, spindle, heather, gorse and elder are classed as shrubs, their place as sacred or magical trees cannot be ignored. And so their addition brings the number up to forty of the most common that would have been familiar to the indigenous people of these islands. Neither should we ignore the parasitic mistletoe, and the ‘vine’ whose presence is more complex since it is listed separately from ivy in the Ogham tree alphabet – but it brings our total of magical native ‘trees’ to forty-two.

Even today, few places can rival an English oak wood in early summer for peace and beauty with its carpet of primroses and bluebells. Or the cathedral-like majesty of the autumn beech wood with the sun’s light filtering through the leaves. Or the brooding quiet of the ancient holly wood. Perhaps it is not surprising that our remote ancestors performed their acts of worship in forest clearings and woodland glades, for this is where they came face to face with ‘Nature’ – however they chose to see it.

What is hard to understand is the modern trend for many pagan practices to ignore our native trees and include introduced species into their tree-lore, despite the fact that they profess to be following the beliefs of the indigenous people of ancient Britain. This is, of course, understandable in the case of the rare strawberry tree, for example, which can now only be found growing naturally in Ireland – but where is the alder and the beech? Why is ellen-wood often listed among the nine sacred woods suitable for the Beltaine-Fire when any seasoned countryman would tell you that it can never be burned without some risk to hearth and home?

So come and walk with us awhile … take my hand, child, and I will take you safely through the Wild Wood.

 Root & Branch by Melusine Draco is published by Ignotus Press UK and available direct from the printer at a reduced price and in e-book format from Kindle-Amazon.