The first day of Spring is one thing, the first Spring day is another …

Have to admit to succumbing to the frustrations of ‘lock-down’ and the torrential down-pours haven’t helped.  But this week has seen the garden burst into bloom with containers of dwarf daffodils and flower beds full of scarlet dwarf tulips. Patchy sunshine has brought the bumblebees out and both the dawn and dusk chorus is a joy to listen to the ear.

Arcanum books got off to a good start and we’re springing into production with Talking to Crows.  Several new ideas for titles have brought the series up to ten with Thrice Great Thoth: The Magician’s Magician, Rats: Born Survivors (working title), The Power of Prayer (with co-author Julie Dexter), Chasing Rainbows: Coping With Pet Loss and Bereavement and The Scent of Magic. These books keep me busy as they can mostly be written off the top of my head and I thoroughly enjoy turning my hand to completely different subjects.  They also spot me from becoming bored!

The typescript for Temple House Archive – PACT! – is still dragging its feet on the subject of pacts, demons and curses – which is best suited to winter creative writing when the evenings are dark and dismal.  I’ve decided to kill off one of my main characters and it’s not easy!  Beginning to sound like one of the spoilers for Death in Paradise!  The end is firmly in sight but just need to tweak the final action …

As I’ve said before, Pagan Portals: Sexual Dynamics in the Circle will finally see the light of day on 26th March 2021 pointing out that 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.

So … what’s new for the rest of the year?   The Witch’s Book of Simples has gone into production with Moon Books and hopefully will be published towards the end of the year.  And once the various bits and pieces, blogs and stuff are out of the way, I’ll take my usual summer break (not that I should need it after all this lockdowning) and make a start on the next book in The Vampyre’s Tale series.

Melusine Draco

Spring Equinox 2021

Sacred Landscape

by Melusine Draco

The sacredness of a landscape is not determined by the man-made edifices that have been littered across its face since ancient times.  These monuments – from the Pyramids to Stonehenge, from Angkor Wat to the Acropolis, from Göbekli Tepe to Teotihuacán – these magnificent temples were inspired by the landscape, and the sites were made sacred because of the astronomical phenomena visible from them.  All the truly ancient monuments were celestially aligned long before the first post-hole or building block was put in place; aligned by our Mesolithic ancestors with particular star-groupings, or the sun’s rising/setting at the solstices/equinoxes.

Mesolithic (also called Middle Stone Age), is the cultural stage that existed between the Paleolithic (Old Stone Age), with its chipped stone tools, and the Neolithic (New Stone Age), with its polished stone tools.  Although culturally and technologically continuous with Paleolithic peoples, Mesolithic cultures developed diverse local adaptations to special environments.  Nevertheless, from an anthropological point of view, human activities become inscribed within a landscape in that every cliff, large tree, stream or marshy area transmutes into a familiar place ‘inside the Neolithic mind’.

Daily passage through the landscape provided biographic encounters for individuals, recalling traces of past activities and previous events and the reading of signs – a split log here, a marker stone there.  ‘So, all locales and landscapes eventually became embedded in the native and individual folk-memory. These ‘daily passages’ metamorphosed into sacred ritual journeys within the landscape, establishing spatial linkages between different topographical landmarks and given lineages: through the journey the lineage becomes ‘mapped’ in the terrain. The shortest route to a ritual mountain from any point on the plain, for example, was not merely undertaken but rather morphed into a prescribed walk in which it could be approached and seen from the propitious direction.’  This journey is always a combination of ritualized occasion and seasonal observation.

‘Ancient cultures understood that we live in a vast ‘sea’ of cosmic energy. They taught that everything animate and inanimate has consciousness, and channels this energy according to its individual capabilities to help facilitate this essential universal dialogue. Ancestral communication is the highest form of spiritual channelling that comes from a strong, deep and pure connection with the Ancestors and, through the Ancestors, with the Divine. In fact, the ancients understood that all matter, including our own physical body, is a gathering of this universal power, even though they couldn’t explain it.’  [Inside the Neolithic Mind]

They accepted that our thoughts and emotions were a form of energy, and that when these are in harmony with the living universal force-field, we become clear, unpolluted channels. Enabling the life force of the Earth and cosmos to flow through us more smoothly and abundantly, guiding our mystical evolution as new perspectives are revealed and advanced magical abilities are awakened within us. These abilities included heightened creativity, extrasensory perception and the ability to bring about dramatic physical results that those of the Elder Faith learn to feel, sense and use without filtering or distorting the energy.

Kindred calls to kindred, blood calls to blood.

I have often quoted from anthropologist Christopher Tilley’s A Phenomenology of Landscape and Interpreting Landscapes in saying that ‘the landscape has a certain ancestral importance due to it being such an integral part of human development that it abounds with cultural meaning and symbolism’. This reflects Elder Faith teaching that bestows an instinctive grasp of how to behave within a ritual or sacred landscape, and to recognize the type of magical/mystical energy to be encountered there.  Tilley goes on to say: ‘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.’

And in case we forget, sacred places and landscapes have been created and evolved through human interpretation, the manner in which people experienced and understood the world of their time. Some form of narrative structure unifies the sacred place within a broader landscape and reinforces the racial memory of events performed there. Sacred places and landscapes were also spatially liminal: just as events in cultural myths occurred in a ‘time before time’ and were then re-enacted in the present. Ancient monuments were erected upon or near natural sacred sites where there was a significant feature or a large area of land, or water that had special spiritual eminence to peoples and communities; consisting of all types of natural features including mountains, hills, forests, groves, trees, rivers, lakes, lagoons, caves, islands and springs. 

All of these natural elements could create a liminal space – a portal to Otherworld – a time between times. A liminal space could be either a physical or a temporal space, and often both at the same time, but it is always a psychic space.

‘In anthropology, liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning ‘a threshold’) is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals (a psychic/temporal/ physical space), when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete. During a ritual’s liminal stage (that is, within the liminal space), participants ‘stand at the threshold’ between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way, which the ritual establishes.’  [Victor Turner]

The sacred landscape is still littered with these ‘thresholds’ whether they be at the field margin, woodland clearing, the forest path, the mountain slope or a lake’s shallows.  They may change according to the time of day, or the seasons of the year.  They act as a sort of psychic Einstein–Rosen bridge linking this and Otherworld – the realm of deity, supernatural beings and the Ancestors – that exists alongside, and often intruding into our world.  They can be signaled by phenomena such as sudden, localised mist, a drop in temperature, sudden changes in the weather, or the appearance of unusual animals and/or unnatural phenomenon.   We have to focus because we have to practice recognising these signs for Otherworld.  We have to break the habit of missing them and create a new habit of actively seeking them out.  And then, hopefully, we’ll start to see them open up for us everywhere.

A liminal space is the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next’.  It is a place of transition, a sense of waiting, and not knowing; it is where all transformation takes place, if we learn to wait and let it inform us. The liminal ‘veil’ is what we call the place where a transition occurs between the threshold and the place that waits before us – and although it may feel confining, it often takes only minor changes to get through to the next place.  In anthropology, liminality is the ‘quality of ambiguity or disorientation’ that occurs in the middle … Twilight serves as a liminal time, between dayand night – where one is ‘in the twilight zone, in a liminal nether region of the night’. 

It can, however, take a lot of hard work and concentration to get to the point of being able to enter into sacred liminality [Otherworld] willingly and freely and, it is a gift to be able to do so without a push from disruptive life experiences. It takes focus and intention, while ritual and repetition can make it easier.  As we learn to understand how it works and why it is necessary, we can learn to go with the flow and use sacred liminality to allow ourselves to psychically expand and develop.  It is here, on this threshold, we are able to enhance our creativity and tap into Universal wisdom.  It is here we begin to fully understand the ways in which we can mould the world in which we live.  And it is here that magic happens.

This is what the Japanese refer to as a kenshō moment. It appears suddenly and fleetingly, upon an interaction with something unexpected or intangible; on hearing, seeing or smelling some significant ‘strangeness’, or by experiencing an unexpected sight or sound. Kenshō is an initial insight or awakening. And we might experience numerous ‘kenshō moments’ along the way – in the Western traditions we refer to them as ‘portals’ or ‘gateways’ – and we must pass through several on the path before we reach an Understanding and/or Enlightenment (satori).  Of which there may also be many different type of experience.

In truth this is no big deal and we’ve all been there. Sitting on a rock or under a tree, feeling emotionally or mentally drained when a sudden thought comes to us and there is an immediate uplifting of the spirit. We may or may not immediately recognise it as such, but if we attempt to hold on to that moment, odds-on we may come up with a solution to our difficulties. On the other hand we may, of course, choose to ignore the sensation and dismiss it as something inconsequential – and continue to wallow in our misery. The experience may not be a spiritual moment in the accepted sense of the word but it is there if we know how to ‘see’ it.

The experience of such places is unlikely to have been equally shared and experienced by all of our Ancestors; the introduction and use of them would have been controlled and exploited within the community.  Knowledge and experience of particular locales and tracts of the landscape would also have been restricted and/or hidden from particular individuals or groups.  These powers of spatial experience are clearly related to the manner in which they are realized, by whom, when, and how in relation to the selection by the spiritual/shamanic leader within the tribe or clan.

The sacredness of any landscape grew out of the natural phenomena that made it remarkable to the Ancestors.  The way the light from the setting sun refracted on mountain slopes; the alignment of the rising or setting sun at the solstices/equinoxes between two peaks on a hillside … the landscape was sacred before those places of worship were added to it.  The phenomena of light bridged the interpretation of landscape and religious experience, while its symbolism pervaded the geography of the sacred terrain.  As Professor of Geography, Barbara Weightman, points out, ‘manifestations or evocations of light in particular may be associated with holiness and are critical aspects of sacred place’. This sacredness was based on feeling and seeing natural occurrences that happened on a regular or seasonal basis, and marked out a particular area as being ‘special’.

The Mound of the Hostages (Irish: Dumha na nGiall) is an ancient paqssage tomb located in the Tara-Skryne Valley in Ireland.  The mound is a Neolithic structure, built in the same style as the Newgrange tomb: dome-shaped with an inset for the entrance and a small doorway, set almost one metre into the side of the monument. The doorway is framed with undecorated standing stones and, as is common in passage tombs, this alignment allows for the rising sun to shine down the passageway only twice a year, illuminating the chamber within. At this mound, the passage is illuminated on the mornings of Samhain and Imbolc,  at the beginning of November and February, respectively.

No doubt to see this light cast upon such places created a deep awareness of an enhanced sensitivity to the reciprocal relationship between spiritual nature and the Earth in the ordinary experiences of the here and now.  In Spiritual Reality, Dr Jerry Killingsworth observes that ‘The historical religions now pretty much blanket the earth, but chronologically they form only the tip of the religious iceberg, for they span less than four thousand years as compared with the three million or so of the religions [beliefs] that preceded them’.  And these are the beliefs that are so firmly embedded in our ‘racial memories’ or ‘collective subconsciousness’ … primal beliefs that focused on a deeper sensitivity and vision that we do not know or recognize today.  ‘It is the living experience that we lack!’

But it can happen … On 22nd March 2020, the Pyramids’ archeological region witnessed a distinct astronomical phenomenon, as the sun set on the right shoulder of the Sphinx. Former Minister of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, noted that the phenomenon occurs twice a year over the course of four days, as the sun sets on the right shoulder of the Sphinx, on 2122nd March 21 and 2122nd September, that is, at the Spring and Autumn Equinox when night and day become equal. Hawass continued ‘that the sun, after falling at sunset on the right side of the Sphinx, heads south, and during the summer it moves to the north.’

The veteran Egyptologist also emphasized that a more significant phenomenon can be seen at the Solstice on 2122nd June, when the sun sets directly between the Pyramid of Cheops (Khufu) and the pyramid of Chephren (Khafre). Hawass pointed out that the phenomenon proves that archaeologists ‘made a mistake when they said that the ancient Egyptians accidentally found an ancient rock and turned it into a statue with a human face and an inhuman body’. He further explained that the phenomenon proves that there is an astronomical and religious reason for sculpting the statue of the Sphinx, which is the sun god, that rises and sets between the horizons of the pyramids of Cheops (Khufu) and Chephren (Khafre).

Another natural phenomena that raised the question of why the sunsets and sunrises were so dramatic in early April.  The answer, according to Met Eireann meteorologist Siobhán Ryan, was partly to do with the current weather and also the time of year.  The country was enjoying a couple of relatively settled days and this dry, calm, still weather ‘scatters the light molecules in a different way and also changes the directions of light rays’, she says:

‘Our eyes are sensitive to the wavelengths in that and the different colours associated with different wavelengths, which bend in different directions.  Both at sunrise and sunset, light has to travel a greater distance to reach our eyes, than during the day, when it is more directly overhead.  So more of the blue – that we see in a cloudless sky – gets filtered out. This reveals more of the warmer colours of the rainbow that make up light.  Because we are coming into the Spring Equinox, there is also more sunlight and the sun is higher in the sky.

Our ancient Ancestors may not have had any understanding of the science of meteorology and light molecules but they were fully capable of charting seasonal phenomena. And as Professor Weightman observes, light is fundamental to religious experience, and its symbolism pervades the geography of sacred landscapes, especially when aligned with the Equinoxes and Solstices:

‘As sun, fire, ray, colour, or attribute of being and place, light serves as a bridge between interpretation of landscape and religious experience. To see the light cast upon places orients believers in otherwise undifferentiated space, grounding them in context of home. As sacred places are created, an inner light outweighs outer darkness, and a spiritual journey commences.  In at least four ways light is integral to sacred landscapes; as the sun or some other celestial body; as fire, the sun on earth; as light rays or beams and colour; and as an attribute of sacred beings and places.  Each of these affects how a local geography is perceived.’  [Sacred Landscapes and the Phenomenon of Light]

This phenomenon is at its most breathtaking during twilight. In the morning, it begins when the sun is just below the horizon and ends at sunrise.  We can define twilight simply as the time of day between daylight and darkness, whether that’s after sunset, or before sunrise, when the light from the sky appears diffused and often pinkish. The sun is below the horizon, but its rays are scattered by Earth’s atmosphere to create the colours of twilight. The ‘blue hour’ refers to the darker stages of both morning and evening twilight, when the Sun is quite far below the horizon, coloring the sky deep blue.

In the evening, it begins at sunset and ends when the sun reaches six degrees below the horizon.  Like the ‘blue hour’, the ‘golden hour’, it is a favorite with painters and photographers. When the late evening sun is close to the horizon on a sunny day, its light appears warmer and softer: this makes the ‘golden hour’, also known as the magical hour, popular with photographers and filmmakers. Dusk and twilight are beautiful, evocative words and times; dusk is the darker stage of twilight.  We may even be fortunate to catch a glimpse of the elusive ‘green ray’ – a meteorological optical phenomena that sometimes occur transiently around the moment of sunset or sunrise. When the conditions are right, a distinct green spot is briefly visible above the upper rim of the Sun’s disk; the green appearance usually lasts for no more than two seconds and I have only been fortunate to glimpse it once in my lifetime.

For many of us, however, the evening twilight is the most mysterious of all as it trails a magical veil across the landscape. This golden ‘hour’ refers to the period just after sunset, and its length depends on where we are, the time of year, and the weather conditions.  This strange, luminous light is unlike any other and it can  not be replicated because there are natural elements about it that make it unique and treasured whenever we experience it. This effect is easily visible when mountain slopes are illuminated, but can also be seen when clouds are affected by light diffusion.

The vast majority of sacred natural sites were originally founded by indigenous spiritualities, but many were subsequently adopted or co-opted by in-coming beliefs. There is, consequently, a considerable ‘layering’ and mixing of religious and other spiritual or belief systems.  Our ancient sites are subsequently connected to a wide range of socio-cultural systems and to different dynamics of change and cultural interaction, which nevertheless continue to adhere to at least some traditional or folk beliefs whereby religion interacts with nature and the landscape.  These ancient beliefs remained so powerful that they are increasingly being revived or rearticulated by many of the mainstream faiths, who are setting out their own religion’s relationship to the natural world and their perceived responsibility towards the planet.

Teotihuacán, for example, was not originally built by the Aztecs. In fact, it’s height of power had been almost 1000 years earlier, and may have been built another 1000 years or more before that.  The Aztecs were in awe of these ancient people and their city, although they knew very little about them; they believed it to be the birthplace of the most recent creation, where the new sun had been born.  The ‘pyramid of the sun’ is the third largest in the world and was built on a lava tube cave: a shrine here may be the original reason for the settlement. Though not built by the Aztecs, Teotihuacán was considered by them to be a sacred site and by the time the Aztec Empire was at its height, this great city had been around for over 1600 years.

As Dr Jerry Killingsworth rightly says, however, these primal peoples should not be romanticized because they had hard lives, were superstitious, and limited in their views, but they did have one thing that we have lost.  ‘And that was that spirit was everywhere and in everything; that that nature and earth are our own unique origin and habitats’ and they also had magic, mystical and holistic ways and views, and they could accept the mysterious, but we’ve lost some of that perspective in our obsession to explain everything.’

Wherever we go in the landscape there is always the overwhelming presence of the genius loci; an idea of a ‘spirit of place’ that has echoed down through the ages. It derives from an ancient and widespread belief that particular bits of the world are occupied by divinity or spirits who had to be propitiated and was a key element of Roman religion. Genius loci is the Latin for this spirit or guardian of a place and a phrase that has been adopted into English and other languages to become a popular concept across the world.

While spirit of place/genius loci was originally, and to some people still are, closely associated with beliefs about the sacred character of a particular landscape, it has been increasingly secularized. A quick Google search for genius loci brought up links to a recent art exhibition featuring the work of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and others; an American kick-starter campaign for a book on tales of the spirit of place; the name of travel company specializing in Italy; and an art project in Weimar in Germany.  Every ‘place’ has its own unique qualities, not only in terms of its physical makeup, but of how it is perceived by those visiting.

As Christopher Tilley explains precisely because locales and their landscapes were drawn in the day-to-day lives and encounters of individuals they were deemed to possess powers; the spirit of place may be held to reside in such a landscape:

‘Familiarity with the land, being able to read and decode its signs allows individuals to know ‘how to go on’ at a practical level of consciousness … People routinely draw on their stocks of knowledge of the landscape and the locales in which they act to give meaning, assurances and significance to their lives.  The place acts to create people who are of that place.  These qualities of locales and landscapes give rise to a feeling of belonging and rootedness and a familiarity, which is not born just out of knowledge … They give rise to power to act and a power to relate that is both liberating and productive.’ [A Phenomenology of Landscape]

Witches are, by custom and practice, ‘spirit workers’. It is one of the basic and unavoidable elements of witchcraft and gives acceptance to the belief that the Elder Faith is, indeed, part of the indigenous shamanic practices of the Old World and its peoples. And yet … the genius loci is not always welcoming, especially if it has been disrespected in the past, and outright hostility is not uncommon.  Just because we’ve signed up to the pagan Party and collected a wide assortment of merit badges, it doesn’t mean we are granted automatic admission to Otherworld.  Like the Ancestors, genius loci have been around for a l-o-n-g time, and have very long memories – and there’s nothing in the rule book that says they have to be pleasant!

If we get a distinct feeling that we’re being told to bugger off and leave them alone, then it’s best to take them at their word and make ourselves scarce.  Should we decided to re-visit the place at a later date, then a small propitious offering would be appropriate – but we make the visit brief and don’t outstay our welcome.  They may relent … and then again, they may not.  If not, then the response will not be open to misinterpretation … we may trip and fall, badly hurting ourselves or get lost; car keys may go missing; or ‘something’ may follow us home to create a little bit of physical or mental disturbance …

One instance of the genius loci objecting to a person’s presence spring to mind.  The first was when visiting another Old Craft coven for the occasion of newbies attending their first outdoor ritual at the coven’s secret working site.  Having worked at the site with them on numerous occasions without let or hindrance, it was obvious from the start that something wasn’t right.  The fire wouldn’t light, the wind kept changing direction and blowing smoke in everyone’s eyes, even experienced members muddled up the wording for the chant, and someone kicked over the uncorked bottle of altar wine. 

The Lady prematurely called ‘time’ and on the way back, when negotiating a steep slope, one of the newbies lost her footing and in slow-motion rolled down to the bottom and ended up with her backside in the shallow stream.  Three of us went back to the site the next week, made the appropriate offerings and never had any more trouble. It transpired that this particular newbie had been nothing but trouble and often disrespecting the Lady; it was obviously the genius loci’s way of saying ‘no admittance’.

We should always bear in mind that our sacred landscape, wherever we are in the world, is the same living landscape that spoke to our Mesolithic ancestors.  True, much of it has been profaned by the encroachment of human development but the sun still appears over mountain peaks and casts its ethereal light on the landscape at certain times of the day.  The tramp of tourism may have caused the flow of natural energy around the mighty monuments to degenerate but it is still there in other places yet to be discovered.   As Dr Killingsworth observes:

‘I believe what are the profound and mystical (beyond words) and holistic (beyond analysis) aspects of spirituality, that is reality, are the essence and non-dimensional characteristics, as in the atmosphere of the spirit, and this is why, I believe, the natives and primal could, and had to, sense, feel, and see the Great Mystery – the Great Spirit – that was in, out, up down, and all around, that is mystical and holistic which yields more to the instinctual and intuitive than to the rational and intellectual.’ [Primal Ancient Religions]

Bob Clay-Egerton maintained that Craft learning is about forty percent information and sixty percent intuition – that is, the ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning; bridging the gap between the conscious and subconscious parts of our mind, and also between instinct and reason. While philosopher Henri Bergson defined intuition as ‘a simple, indivisible experience of sympathy through which one is moved into the inner being of an object to grasp what is unique and ineffable within it.’

We can also look at it as the primal side of our nature and those ancient monuments in our sacred landscape are a testimony to its existence.  Our primitive Ancestors didn’t have a clue about physics: the science of matter and energy, and their properties and interactions in fields including mechanics, acoustics, optics, heat, electricity, magnetism, radiation, atomic and nuclear science.  And yet, they could build huge monuments that allowed sunlight to penetrate into the inner most chambers on a specific time and day of the year; or align them with the stars.  MD

In the Footsteps of the Ancestors

by Melusine Draco

The Ancestors play an extremely important role within the Elder Faith of European witchcraft.  The honouring of the existence of the ‘Mighty Dead,’ and venerating their memory with propitiatory offerings, 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  remains of the numerous prehistoric earthworks that the indigenous people of the British Isles, and later the Celts, honoured their ancestors, and the earliest written observations of the practice are those recording the Roman Paternalia (February) and the Lemuria (May), which later spread throughout the Empire.

It is curious how retentive these ancient mythological doctrines about death are enshrined in the racial memories of different peoples. This Celtic fable of the Land Beyond the Sea, to which souls are borne after death, has also engrafted itself upon popular literature in the concept of the Grey Havens in The Lord of the Rings as ‘one of the only places that leads to the ocean’. The ocean, because it is the origin of all life, and also because of the mysteries beneath, is symbolic of life and mystery. One could even say it represents the mysteries of life … and death … and the Ancestors

In fact, the most powerful energy on which an Old Craft practitioner can call 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 the Elder Faith 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 practitioner 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 the Elder Faith to which we claim to belong, then we will contribute nothing to the Whole when we die.

Interaction with these spirit ancestors as an invisible and powerful presence is a constant feature of Elder Faith, with the Ancestors remaining important members of the Tradition 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, but with additional mystical and magical powers. Sometimes they are identified as the Guardians, 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 differing 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 Old Craft is essentially a practical thing, the Ancestors are also called upon to help find solutions to magical problems through divination, path-working and spell-casting.

The Ancestors are called upon to act as intermediaries between human and the Divine because, in truth, our deities have little time or patience with the constant carping and demands leveled at them by the occupants of the Compass or Circle.  The ‘gimme, gimme, gimme’ attitude of modern supplicants has alienated them from the divine nature or essence of our gods. The ‘god and goddess’ of popular witchcraft are no longer within hailing distance and, as a result, the Ancestors have been dragged out of mothballs to intercede between the two parties with a view to reconciling our differences.  The act of propitiation and appeasement have all but disappeared from our rituals – those rites of direct communication with deity and age-old customs so ancient that they have had time to firmly entrench themselves in the vast storehouse of our racial subconsciousness.

Those deep-rooted folk memories, that earned Carl Jung the scorn of his contemporaries, serve to explain the many cross-cultural similarities that appeared to alter a culture’s natural development by an outside influence, or exposure to a more advanced, or military powerful, society. The mass migrations from the earliest times served to re-populate vast areas of land decimated by conflict and invasion – and the four-thousand years or so following the end of the last Ice Age was a time of dramatic re-ordering in Western Europe, according to Professor Barry Cunliffe in Facing the Ocean.  Old Europe, an early culture in south-eastern Europe before the arrival of speakers of the Indo-European languages, is a term coined by archaeologist Marija Gimbutas to describe what she perceived as a relatively homogeneous pre-Indo-European Neolithic culture in south-eastern Europe.

Old Europe, or Neolithic-Europe, refers to the time between the Mesolithic and Bronze Age periods in Europe, roughly from 7000BC (the approximate time of the first farming societies in Greece). Regardless of specific chronology, many European Neolithic groups appeared to have shared basic characteristics, such as living in small-scale communities, more egalitarian than the city-states and chiefdoms of the Bronze Age, subsisting on domestic plants and animals supplemented with the collection of wild plant foods and hunting, and producing hand-made pottery, without the aid of the potter’s wheel. There are also many differences, with some Neolithic communities in south-eastern Europe living in heavily fortified settlements of 3,000–4,000 people (e.g. Sesklo in Greece) whereas Neolithic groups in Britain were small, with possibly 50–100 people.

Marija Gimbutas investigated the Neolithic period in order to understand cultural developments in settled village culture in the southern Balkans, which she characterized as peaceful, matristic, and possessing a goddess-centered religion. In contrast, she characterizes the later Indo-European influences as warlike, nomadic, and patrilineal. Using evidence from pottery and sculpture, and combining the tools of archaeology, comparative mythology, linguistics, and, most controversially, folkloristics, Gimbutas invented a new interdisciplinary field – Archaeo-mythology.

In historical times, some ethnic groups were believed to correspond to Pre-Indo-European peoples, assumed to be the descendants of the earlier Old European cultures: the pre-Hellenic Pelasgians; Minoans; the Leleges – whom Homer names among the Trojan allies; Iberians; the Sardinian Nuragic people; Etruscans; the Rhaetians, a confederation of Alpine tribes;  the Camunni of Lombardy and the Basques. Two of the three pre-Greek peoples of Sicily, the Sicians and the Elmians, may also have been pre-Indo-European. How many Pre-Indo-European languages existed is not known. Nor is it known whether the ancient names of peoples descended from the pre-ancient population actually referred to speakers of distinct languages. The idea of a Pre-Indo-European language in the region actually precedes Gimbutas, going by other names, such as ‘Pelasgian’, ‘Mediterranean’, or ‘Aegean. [The Language of the Goddess]

According to Professor Gimbutas, Old Europe was invaded and destroyed by horse-riding, pastoral nomads from the Pontic-Caspian steppe who brought with them violence, patriarchy, and Indo-European languages – with later and more prolonged migration after Old Europe’s collapse due to other factors, including the Anatolian migration. While there can be no direct evidence of prehistoric languages, both the existence of Proto-Indo-European and the dispersal of its off-shoots through wide-ranging migrations and ‘elite-dominance dispersal’ are inferred through an accumulation of data from linguistics, archaeology, anthropology and genetics. Comparative studies describes the similarities between various languages and the traces the spread of cultures presumed to be created by speakers of Proto-Indo-European in several stages  into their later locations in Western Europe by migrations and ‘elite-recruitment’ as described by anthropological research. Recent genetic research has also increasingly contributed to the understanding of relations between various prehistoric cultures, including those influenced by the wide-spread Atlantic coastal migration that brought remarkable building skills to Brittany, Ireland and the British Isles.

As a result, our sacred landscape is like a gigantic patchwork quilt that also reflects the beliefs and culture of the people who have dwelt in it down through the ages.  And much of what we see in it today is a stark reminder that its most striking features were important landmarks for our Neolithic ancestors. Chet Raymo is a rare animal indeed. He is a professor of physics and astronomy; a teacher, writer and naturalist, exploring the relationships between science, nature and the humanities. His books are recommended reading for anyone wishing to seriously study pagan Mysteries and learn how to interact with this ancient landscape:

‘This is not a work of metaphysics or theology.  It is instead a kind of serendipitous adventure. A spiritual vagabond’s quest.  I have tramped the landscapes … studying the rocks, the sky, the flora and the fauna, and I took whatever scraps of revelation I could find.  I sought the burning bush and did not find it.  But I found the honeysuckle and the fuchsia, and I found the gorse and the heather.  When I called out for the Absolute, I was answered by the wind.  If it was God’s voice in the wind, then I heard it.’ [Honey From Stone]

Nevertheless, the Neolithic hunter-gatherers who erected those massive monoliths in central Turkey 11,500 years ago had a command of geometry and a much more complex society than previously thought, archaeologists are now telling us.  The enigmatic monoliths erected at Gobekli Tepe have been puzzling archaeologists and challenging preconceptions about the prehistoric culture of our Ancestors since their discovery in the 1990s.  In fact, almost 12,000 years ago, in the remote recesses of Anatolia, today’s southeast Turkey, something happened that, seemingly overnight, completely changed the course of human evolution.

Far flung bands of hunter-gatherers who previously had wandered the landscape, existing day to day by foraging from whatever nature provided, suddenly gathered in one place, organized themselves into a work force, built huge megalithic structures for what seems to be religious purposes, and invented agriculture, giving birth to what is now called civilization. But some pieces of the puzzle are missing. Why did they do it? What motivated them? How did they learn so much so fast? The fact that something drastic occurred is recorded in the archaeological record, wrote Jim Willis in Archaeology & Science. Anatolia had been a popular region for settlement throughout history due to its geopolitical location and fertile lands. Humanity, on the other hand, has consistently built places of worship from past to present. Early periods of civilization are currently being rewritten with Gobekli Tepe – home to the oldest known temple in the world.

At this world-renowned archaeological site several concentric stone circles feature massive T-shaped pillars that reach almost 20 feet in height with animals and anthropological motifs carved in relief. A new study focuses on the arrangement and positioning of the oldest circular stone enclosures and the researchers claim that underlying the entire architectural plan of these great structures is a hidden geometric pattern, which they describe as being specifically an equilateral triangle – and that it required planning and resources to a degree thought of as being impossible for those times.  The first phase of construction at the famous ‘potbellied hill’ has been dated to between 12,000 and 11,000 years ago, and these prehistoric stone circles, located on a barren hillside has challenged archaeologists’ ideas about prehistoric cultures since their discovery.  Does the ‘sacred geometry’ of Göbekli Tepe suggest that our Ancestors knew of these rudimentary principals and indicating a much more complex society than previously assumed by archaeologists, or not?

Until these new observations, most archaeologists had assumed that the circles at Göbekli Tepe had been built gradually, over a long time period, possibly by different cultural groups, and that older circles were covered over with the new. Never was it considered that all three enclosures might have been constructed ‘as a single unit at the same time’, said the researchers. Using an algorithm, they identified the center points of the three irregular stone circles, which fell roughly mid-way between the pair of central pillars in each enclosure. The eureka moment came when the three central points were found to form that nearly perfect equilateral triangle, so accurate in measure, that the researchers say the ‘vertices are about 10 inches away from forming a perfect triangle with sides measuring 63 feet each’.

Nothing like it has ever been found anywhere in the world. As of June 2020, there are more than 200 stone pillars at Göbekli Tepe, buried beneath the surface (most of them) in 20 clearly denoted circles. These pillars are massive; they rise to an average height of 20 feet and have a weight of 10 tons. Fitted into sockets previously hewn out of the local bedrock, the t-shaped stone pillars are the site’s most unique features.

Klaus Schmidt, one of the most famous excavators of the site, discovered two phases of occupation, the oldest of which can be traced back to around 10,000 BC. This means that already 12,000 years ago, the society that was in charge of building Göbekli Tepe was ahead of their time, at least in the construction and organizational sense. Needless to say, its true purpose remains a profound mystery, although various theories propose that Göbekli Tepe was either a massive ceremonial site – which would make it the oldest known megalithic temple on Earth, or an early astronomical observatory.  Experts like Schmidt suggest the site was used in a religious or ceremonial sense, where people from vast distances traveled to the site to pay their respects. Whatever the case, the imposing stratigraphy at the site attests to several centuries of activity, the earliest of which originated during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic.

We must also take into consideration that the people who built Göbekli Tepe did so without the aid of pack animals or technologies such as the pulley or the wheel.  The monument is so old that it predates pottery, metallurgy, the invention of writing or the wheel, and essentially the Neolithic Revolution. Remember, Göbekli Tepe was not built in a day, and it most likely took several generations to complete a site that would deliberately be backfilled around 8,000 BC. Klaus Schmidt suggests that the people of Göbekli Tepe weren’t wiped out, like other lost civilizations. “They simply packed up and went somewhere else – became someone else. It was like the witness-protection programme. In a way, they were still all around us. Lots of us were probably descended from them.”

This then, was the world of our Ancestors before the Indo-Europeans came flooding in from the East and the ‘out of Africa’ migration brought the  ‘stone-builders’ of Egypt and Mpumalanga province of South Africa.  Here, Adam’s Calendar is a series of stones believed to be the oldest man-made structure on Earth and remains accurate as a calendar following the shadow of the setting sun cast by the central monolith onto a flat calendar stone next to it.  The ancient circular monolithic stones predate any other structure found to date and, seen in perspective these stones are amongst an estimated one million ancient stone ruins scattered throughout the mountains of southern Africa; together with the famous megalithic monuments of the ritual landscapes of Brittany, Ireland, England, Orkney and the Outer Hebrides.

By about 8000BC the post-glacial period had finally begun.  The chronology of the changes are blurred but, according to Professor Cunliffe, the long established terminologies of Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic are still useful as a broad generalization, and the date of c.8000BC provides a convenient starting point for the process of change when the British Isles was still joined to the north-western Europe land-mass.   At this time the process of vegetational change escalated as the open tundra was colonized first by open birch forest and then by aspen and birch and later by pine.  About 7000BC hazel began to dominate; then followed elm, lime, oak and alder; and by about 6000 BC the hazel-pine forest had given way to a stable primeval forest dominated by shade-creating trees. In southern Europe, especially Iberia and southern France, pine spread to the higher altitudes while the rest of the land was covered with oak forests, with a much lower percentage of the other trees found in the primeval forests of the north.

The brief but cold spell at the very end of the Late-Glacial period drove human groups from the northern parts of Europe, and required major adjustments in the lifestyles of those who attempted to live at the fringes.      With the rapid improvement in the climate after 8000BC and the spread of forests over most of Europe, human populations moved gradually northwards.  After the middle of the sixth millennium, by which time Ireland had been severed from Britain; in central and southern Portugal it is possible to distinguish between the Early Mesolithic dating to about 8000-6000BC and a Later Mesolithic which lasted until about 4500BC.

By the beginning of the fourth millennium much of Atlantic-Europe – from the valley of the Vistula (Poland) to the Straits of Gibraltar, including the off-shore islands of Britain and Ireland, had adopted a Neolithic lifestyle.  By 4000BC some communities within the Atlantic zone had already begun to develop a specific form of monumental architecture and the building of large megalithic monuments was an Atlantic phenomenon without contemporary parallel.  In south-eastern Europe from the shores of the Aegean and Black Sea to the eastern fringes of the Alps, certain communities, perhaps motivated first by curiosity, were beginning to open up the trade routes.   By about 3000BC the evolving social system had emerged into ‘archaeological visibility’ with the Beaker, the battle axe, and the rite of individual burial as its defining characteristics.  However we choose to interpret these symbols – the communal nature of the drinking vessel, the axe as an icon of aggressive power, and single burial showing reverence for the individual – the ‘package’, and this presumably its social meaning, was widely adopted over a huge territory extending from Moscow in the east to Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland in the west.  [Facing the Ocean]

And, with all this to-ing and fro-ing, these people would have brought with them their culture and customs, beliefs, folk-medicine and superstitions.  Whether they were a member of the ruling classes, artisans, warriors, servants or slaves, their racial memories would have travelled with them in the baggage train – together with their priesthoods and shamans; astronomers, magi and wizards, diviners, conjurors, fortune-tellers and wise women; wort-charmers, healers and augers; sorcerers and enchantresses; necromancers, thaumaturgers, soothsayers and spell-casters. Probably all separated by an uncommon tongue but bound together by their magical prowess.

The majority of ancient peoples observed the cult of Ancestor-worship that was based on love and respect for their deceased. In some cultures, it related to beliefs that the dead have a continued existence, and possessed the ability to influence the fortunes of the living. Some groups venerated their direct, familial ancestors, while others venerated those who acted as intercessors with deity. In European belief, the point of ancestor veneration was to ensure the Ancestors’ continued well-being and positive disposition towards the living tribe, and sometimes to ask for special favours or assistance. The social or non-religious aspect of Ancestor-veneration was to cultivate kinship values, such as filial piety, family loyalty, and continuity of the family or tribal lineage that reach down to the present day.

For example: Brythonic-Celtic cultures in Cornwall and Wales, observed the autumn Ancestor festivals occurring around 1st November; in Cornwall the festival was known as Kalan Gwav, and in Wales as Calan Gaeaf and are ancient festivals from which modern Hallowe’en is derived.  During Samhain, 1st November in the Gaelic-Celtic cultures of Ireland and Scotland,  the dead are thought to return to the world of the living, and offerings of food and light are left for them.  On the festival day, ancient people would extinguish the hearth fires in their homes, participate in a community bonfire festival, and then carry a flame home from the communal fire and use it light their home fires anew.  This custom has continued to some extent into modern times, in both the Celtic nations and the diaspora where lights in the window to guide the dead home are left burning all night. On the Is;e of Man the festival is known as ‘old Sauin’ or  Hop-tu-Naa.

Whether there really exists among their descendents, certain powers lost by those less finely attuned to the Elder Faith, is a subject well worthy of consideration.  It may well be that those more closely allied to the earlier races do retain many more of those occult instincts intact. In the ‘spiritual’ feelings of the indigenous people there continued to dwell from generation to generation, and all the centuries which passed, an inability to obliterate the dark superstitions of the Eld, writes Wood-Martin:

 ‘It is true that the half-educated peasants publicly profess to be ashamed of such practices; but none the less, they do cling tenaciously, in secret, to the mysteries which their fathers and mothers taught them to dread, and the deep-rooted belief of the people in this kind of witchcraft still meets one at every turn.  Unreasoning credulity and superstition are more deeply rooted, both by hereditary tendency and direct tradition … It required, as a matter of course, to be semi-veiled, no matter how pure they might be – for all vanquished religions are accused by the incoming creed – early Christianity – of teaching indecent rites and organized immorality.  It is clear, therefore, that the biased testimony of the Fathers must be taken with a considerable degree of caution with regard to their allegations regarding paganism’. [Traces of the Elder Faiths of Ireland]

Antiquarian, William Wood-Martin was probably researching his magnus opus by the mid-1800s and was more than sympathetic to those followers of the Elder Faith that had survived almost intact in Catholic Ireland.  His two-volume study is a fascinating collection of folk-memories about the mythical races of Ireland, especially the Tuatha de Danann, who were the spiritual race of Eire. and the most ancient of all of them. Tuatha de Danann (or Sidh – pronounced shee) was a magical race with supernatural powers. They represented the Elder Faith, for they were the folk who lived in pre-Christian Ireland for centuries, where they taught their skills in the sciences, including architecture, the arts, and magic, including necromancy. Before their unexplained disappearance, they stayed in Ireland for around four thousand years, and although there have been more than a few claims regarding their disappearance – the truth remains unravelled.  They retired underground, where they became known as Aes sidhe (the people of the mound – fairy mounds or forts), in the hollows of the hills and mountains.

In Wales there is a similar race known anciently by the natives as Y Tylwyth Teg which literally means ‘the fair folk’. Welsh fae typically live in lakes or streams and sometimes in hill hollows – although they are generally divided into five different types: the Ellyllon (inhabit groves and valleys and are similar to English), the Coblynau  (fae of the mines), the Bwbachod (household fae similar to brownines), the Gwragedd Annwn (female fae of the lakes and streams) and the Gwyllion (mountain fae more akin to hags). Although most stories about Y Tylwyth Teg are recorded from oral tradition, references to them appear in writing as early as Giraldus Cambrensis (c.1146–1223). Their king is Gwyn ap Nudd – Lord of Otherworld – while Gwlad y Tylwyth Teg is a Welsh name for Otherworld.

In general, Y Tylwyth Teg are portrayed as benevolent but still capable of occasional and dangerous mischief. In distinction from other Celtic fairies, they are more often associated with lakes, especially at Llyn y Fan Fach in south Wales. Another distinction is their fear of iron; unbaptized children were said to be guarded from being taken by them, by having a poker placed over the cradle. The link with such lakes as Llyn y Fan Fach has implied that the conception of Y Tylwyth Teg is derived from the short, dark-skinned early inhabitants of Britain who lived in crannogs, primitive lake dwellings; this coincides with one of the four general theories explaining the origin of fae; smaller and darker than Y Ttylwyth Teg, the ellyll may have been adapted from the non-Welsh elves.

Faerie belief was beginning to fade at the time countryman, Francis Kilvert wrote that he’d been told: “We don’t see them now because we have more faith in the Lord and don’t think of them.  But I believe they travel yet…”  This was not complete disappearance or extinction, therefore; more, it was a matter of the human eye of faith failing, or being distracted by the Christian teachings heard in the Wesleyan chapels. The fae were still there, but showed themselves less often than before; and were, in any case, naturally elusive. Our forebears often saw them – and knew that they had done so.  The certainty about the nature of the experiences frequently disclosed, is derived from various factors – circumstance, context, and experience – but in no small measure came from the witness knowing already what to expect.  Many, to this day, believe that Wales is still a hive of fae activity, but isolated sightings are depleting because they are now more stigmatised and ridiculed.

A slow absorption of these various pockets of humanity were swirled around the great melting-pot of Europe until only the more distinguishable elements of the different cultures remained in evidence.  It means, however, that we can still recognize the similarities among witches of different nations, backgrounds and ethnicities, regardless of historical, geographical or familial factors.  We can also look at the process and resources whereby knowledge, ideas, skills, perspective and even book-learning that moved across cultures, generated new and fresh concepts concerning the order of things in traditional European witchcraft.  It has been suggested that these cross-cultural exchanges took place in cultural boarder-lands where the margins of one culture overlapped another, creating a mutually beneficial relationship within local communities where exchanges of ideas took place on a mundane level. From such a stimulating interaction, ideas, styles, techniques and practices moved inward towards the cultural centers, urging them to renew and update cultural notions – hopefully without running the risk of misinterpretation or mistransliteration within the cultural-folk memory, or collective unconscious.

Like all forms of memory, cultural memory has important functions. For example, it crystallizes shared experiences and in doing so, provides us with an understanding of the past and the values and norms of the tradition to which we belong. It also creates a form of shared identity and a means for communicating this identity to new members. Because memory is not just an individual, private experience but also part of the collective domain, cultural memory has become a topic in both historical and cultural studies . To understand culture, we access a vast array of cultural symbols, such as books and artifacts of the past to provide insights into where we came from. Libraries and the internet store a seemingly infinite amount of data about what it means to be part of a witchcraft tradition – but cultural memory is the longest-lasting form of memory: indeed, cultural memory can last for thousands of years.

Collective unconscious refers to structures of the unconscious mind which are shared among beings of the same species.  According to Carl Jung, the human collective unconscious is populated by instincts, as well as by archetypes: universal symbols such as The Great Mother, the Wise Old Man, the Shadow, the Tower, Water, and the Tree of Life.He linked his collective unconscious to ‘what Freud called ‘archaic remnants – mental forms whose presence cannot be explained by anything in the individual’s own life and which seem to be aboriginal, innate, and inherited shapes of the human mind’. He credited Freud for developing his ‘primal horde’ theory in Totem & Taboo and continued further with the idea of an archaic ancestor maintaining its influence in the minds of present-day humans. Every human being, he wrote, ‘however high his conscious development, is still an archaic man at the deeper levels of his psyche’.

A Horse of Another Colour

Lascaux Cave is a Palaeolithic cave situated in south-western France, near the village of Montignac in the Dordogne region, which houses some of the most famous examples of prehistoric cave paintings. Close to 600 paintings – mostly of animals – dot the interior walls of the cave in impressive compositions and horses are the most numerous, dominating the imagery, walking and grazing and congregating in herds. Now, a group of researchers has used distinctly modern techniques to help decipher the mystery, at least in the case of Pech-Merle cave’s famous spotted horses. By comparing the DNA of modern horses and those that lived during the Stone Age, scientists have determined that these drawings are a realistic depiction of an animal that coexisted with the artists.

An author of the study, Michael Hofreiter, an evolutionary biologist at the University of York in England, said: “Why they took the effort making these beautiful paintings will always remain a miracle to us.  It’s an enigma, but it’s also nice to see that if we go back 25,000 years, people didn’t have much technology and life was probably hard, but nevertheless they already endeavored in producing art. It tells us a lot about ourselves as a species.”

He and his colleagues did not set out to study cave art. They were simply continuing their work on coat colour in prehistoric horses. Only after they found the spotted horse gene in their ancient samples did they realize they could say something about archaeology. “What we found is that there were really only these three colour patterns – spotted or dappled; blackish ones; and brown ones,” he said. “These are the three phenotypes we find in the wild populations. And then we realized these phenotypes are exactly the ones you see in cave paintings.”

Terry O’Connor, an archaeologist at the University of York who collaborated on the study, said spotted horses in particular had been used to argue that cave art was more symbolic than realistic, and that as a result the finding could cause a stir. “One of the things that most pleases me about this paper as a piece of ancient DNA science,” Dr. O’Connor said, “is it kind of begins with a question. These spotty horses, were they magical or real? But now it is clear that some horses had a gene for that coat colour. “People drew spotty horses,” he said, “because they saw spotty horses.” 

Last summer, exploring a cave in the Dordogne region, Dr. O’Connor said he became transfixed by a series of line drawings. “They were absolutely superb, some using contours of the cave itself, capturing the size and shape and movement,” he said. “You look at that and say, ‘These guys know what the animals looked like, and they can draw.’ ”

What also becomes evident is that very few animals convey such majesty, power, pride, and nobility of spirit as the horse for both prehistoric and modern man. Horse symbolism also speaks about an unbridled desire for freedom because of its naturally wild and powerful spirit, and it always wants to break free.  In fact, horse symbolism holds so much meaning that can stir our heart and set our imagination running wild! The horse is known for being one of the most hard-working animals on earth, with the ability to carry on even on the roughest roads and the toughest climbs – signifying the overcoming of obstacles, and how we should carry ourselves in the face of adversity.

When we accept the horse as our totem, this most commonly represents power and stamina, allowing us to see the true essence of freedom in our life, and if we have this powerful animal working for us, we will truly experience the energy of a genuinely free spirit.  The horse is going to bring forth a number of different ideas and theories surrounding the symbolism that is associated with this animal. However, we do need to pay close attention to the animal and the way in which it is viewed in real life as this is something that is seen as being quite majestic and almost regal in its approach. The same symbolism is then going to be applied to the spirit animal and what it represents, according to spirit-animal.com  The horse-spirit may encourage us to push our boundaries, even if we are not sure of the outcome.  But because the horse can be head-strong and unpredictable we need ro consider the repercussions of our actions.

We also need to familiarize ourselves with the magical associations of the farrier because the folklore of iron and smithing has been common since prehistory, and one of the oldest folk-tales tells of a blacksmith forging a deal with the denizens of Otherworld.  Blacksmiths have long been revered and feared thanks to their skills with metal and flame … they often held a high status because people thought they had magic powers.

The magical power of a horseshoe derives from the obvious elemental energies that go into its making: the heart of the forge (Fire); the sacred metal, iron (Earth), the cooling (Water) and the bellows (Air) – not forgetting the (Spirit) smith who makes and fits the shoe. Should a cast shoe be found in the road, this should be taken home and nailed above the entrance door – with the prongs pointing upwards – to attract and hold good fortune.

While 17th century antiquarian writer John Aubrey, commenting on contemporary social customs, wrote: ‘A horseshoe nailed on the threshold of the door is yet in fashion: and nowhere more than in London: it ought to be a Horseshoe that one finds by chance on the Road. The end of it is to prevent the power of Witches, that come into your house.’ A popular greeting of the same period expressed the wish, ‘That the Horseshoe may never be pul’d from your Threshold.’

Different types of horseshoe required different types and styles of nail for fixing and the social position of the ‘nail-man’ was in no way inferior to that of the farrier. To the uninitiated, it might appear that the nail is an insignificant part of the shoeing operation, but it would be the unwise witch who overlooked its importance as an integral element of ‘horse power’.

Another magical element of the blacksmith’s forge is acquisition of a bottle of thunder water taken from the trough or bucket that is used to cool to shoe when it comes from the fire.  This water has all manner of magical/healing properties …

Shaman Pathways: Black Horse, White Horse: Power Animals Within Traditional Witchcraft by Melusine Draco is published by Moon Books – www.moon-books.net : ISBN 978 1 78099 747 6 : UK£4.99/US$9.95 : Pages 84 : Avaialable in paperback and e-book format.

The Path of the Elder Faith

One concept was learned, but behind that was another hidden mystery. The lifting of one veil led to the finding of yet another.  At the same time, one was left knowing that behind all these veils was an inner core, a hidden truth that only the very few would ever find.  I have yet to reach that stage – if I ever do.  But the sureness of its being there, and the knowledge that it is, can be reward enough in itself.’ [Evan John Jones]

Back in the day when the world was young; when neo-paganism was a resurgence of interest in the Elder Faith, and Old Craft was a primal shamanic ability manifesting in only a few – things were less complicated.  Since then, however, the ‘witch’ has firmly entered the 21st-century zeitgeist as a figure akin to a synergetic composite of Burne-Jones in the terminal stages of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, Guinevere of Arthurian romance, and Daenerys Stormborn from Game of Thrones – reflecting the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of the era. All of which appears to be an out-and-out attempt to make a statement and stand out from the crowd when our forebears would have done everything in their power to blend in with their neighbours!

And yet … in his book Witchcraft: A Tradition Renewed, Evan John Jones warned that to refer to the witchcraft revival as merely a throwback to an ancient fertility cult totally avoids the mystical importance surrounding the belief, for this was never a simple rustic faith of peasants. The faithful still revered all aspects of nature, whether beautiful, bountiful or bloodstained; following the cycles of the seasons in the observation of birth, death and rebirth as represented by the turning of the year.  Of equal importance, however, was the recognition of the darker, more mystical side of life, receptive to hidden psychic forces and ‘the ability to understand that, behind the veil between the known and the unknown worlds of the natural and supernatural, there were powers which were once the birthright of humanity …’ It was this dark side that required the sacrifice of the Divine King in order that his followers might survive having eaten of his flesh; and the God-King sacrificing his own life so that his people may live was a recurring theme among ancient civilisations.

This Mystery aspect of witchcraft appears to be one that is assiduously avoided by all but a few of the more traditionally minded. The late Robert Cochrane was highly critical of the development of the modern Craft in an article written as long ago as 1964 for Pentagram (‘The Craft Today’); describing it as an attempt by 20th century man to deny the responsibilities of the 20th century. He felt that many witches had turned their backs on the reality of the outside world, pursuing a belief system that failed to recognise the needs of modern living, whilst repeating rituals by rote, rather than by understanding. In consequence, he believed that much of it had become ‘static and remote from its original purpose, which was to enlighten the follower spiritually’.

My old friend, Evan John Jones, who was a member of Cochrane’s coven, contends that behind the simplicity of it all was a deeper faith that called for a greater understanding than blind acceptance, which ably demonstrates that dedicated witches are not expected to accept ‘the Word’ in its fundamental context. Beneath the exterior of a simple nature worship and cosy sabbat ceremonies, there lies a deeper tradition through which the devotee ‘may perceive the beginnings of that ultimate in wisdom, knowledge of themselves, and of their motives’.

In a further article for Pentagram (‘The Faith of the Wise’) Cochrane also attacked the limited perception of the various ‘authorities’ on witchcraft, since being one of the oldest and most ‘potent’ of religions [sic] it was a way of life ‘different and distinct from any theory promulgated by the authorities or historians …’ According to Cochrane it brought ‘Man into contact with Gods, and Man into contact with Self. It creates within the human spirit a light that brightens all darkness, and which can never again be extinguished. It is never fully forgotten and never fully remembered.’  And I still have in my possession a letter from Evan dating from July 2000 in reply to a question of mine:

‘I wondered how long it will be before someone asked the question of where Robert [Cochrane] would have been led to in the next step of his magical argosy? I’ve a very shrewd suspicion having more or less followed in his footsteps and eventually finding myself in more or less the same position as he was. The surprising thing is, it can in many ways lead to a break with his traditional craft and eventually leads on to a highly individual form of devotional workings that in one sense, reverses everything Tubal Cain has to teach. In a sense, you belong yet not belong. You break away from being a member of the group as such and embark on a highly individual way of working yet at the same time, you remain rooted to the clan tradition and the other oddity is, you never actually pass on anything in the sense of the working techniques.

Instead, people have to eventually find their own way there and develop their own particular mystical bent and experiences. Roy once said that Tubal Cain should not be the be-all and end-all of a person’s craft experience as each one of us should be capable of reaching far beyond that. The more I think about it, the more I feel he was right, none of us should be led by the hand all our occult lives; we should be free to reach out and find our own spiritual reality without destroying our craft roots.’

Much of the source material for Traditional Witchcraft and the Path to the Mysteries was based on the teachings from the British-based Old Craft coven led by Aleister (Bob) and Mériém Clay-Egerton, that could trace its own recorded roots in Cheshire, back to the early 1800s. Their view was that it is not unreasonable to surmise that Old Craft probably retained features of the native shamanic practices of the ancient Pretanni, since the term ‘shamanism’ describes the supernatural powers practitioners channel from Otherworld 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’, rather than the overt devotional practices often found in contemporary paganism.

Contrary to what many so-called contemporary witches believe, it should also be understood that there is an older system of Craft that has never left the shadows.  There is little altruistic about Old Craft. It can best be described as having a tribal mentality in that it believes in protecting its own, but with no obligation to mankind in general. In view of the periodic backlashes, even in more modern times, this is not surprising. ‘Trust None!’ is the creed of Old Craft and it has preserved its secrecy by not divulging its rites and practices. No matter what a publisher’s blurb may claim, there are no authentic Old Craft rituals, rites of passages, spells, charms or path-workings in print for one simple reason …

Any Old Crafter committing any of these to paper for public scrutiny would be in breach of their own Initiatory Oath – and that still carries the ultimate penalty for treachery and betrayal. Admittedly, there are some excellent ‘smokescreens’ that may offer a parody of the genuine article – but the essence of the Sacred Order remains firmly in the shadows, where it has always been and where it will always belong. Nowadays, there are a lot of people now claiming their antecedents stem from an Old Craft rootstock but a few moments of conversation is enough to reveal that these roots are very shallow indeed!

There should, however, be no doubt about it – that although witchcraft is not a religion (and never has been), the Elder Faith does have an overriding spirituality that is extremely profound in its concepts and perceptions. Although there may be a variation in formulae from region to region, the underlying Mysteries remain the same and the only way to know about the Mysteries is to have experienced them first hand.  Occult teaching at this level is based on a vast variety of magical techniques, which enables the quester to use one or many of the various ‘astral doorways’ to connect with the Anima Mundi for the purpose of mystical or divinatory exploration. These techniques access the archetypal Elder Faith imagery of primal and powerful visionary experiences – both on the inner and outer planes – where kindred calls to kindred, blood calls to blood.

This means that whether the quester chooses the path of the shaman, Old Craft, heathenism, Asatru, Vanatrú, hedge-witchery, Druidry et al, the tools required to connect with the Anima Mundi are universal. By using the different means available, the quester can consciously establish contact through the application of path-working and meditation within the realms of what is often referred to as ‘inner court’ or ‘sabbatic’ witchcraft: an archaic embodiment of traditional Craft that embraces a higher form of spirituality akin to the mysteries of the ancient world, liberally laced with ceremonial magic.  It may also go a long way to explain why the archaic religious and spiritual influences of ancient beliefs persist into the 21st century when science tells us that religion and superstition should have long been rendered redundant.

It is, therefore, unimportant whether these ancient gods, angels, demons or the Faere Folk actually exist, the point is that the Anima Mundi behaves as though they do. In this way, the vodun priestess, the Celtic shaman, the Druid, the Norse Gothar and the Old Craft witch all employ their own individual or traditional techniques to bring the creative force of the Universe into their own lives and into the life of the world of which they form a part. They tap into this reservoir of cultural memory and what we must also accept is that this Collective Unconscious includes the ‘totality of human experience’, both good and evil. ‘In other words,’ writes Francis King, ‘the Anima Mundi is a rubbish heap as well as a gold mine; it contains not only beauty, wisdom and knowledge – but destruction, hatred and ignorance.’

These unconscious but powerful folk-memories of the Elder Faith are old but remain an important feature of many people’s lives. ‘Today more and more people are becoming interested in traditional witchcraft and it is a trend that would seem likely to increase in the future, although Old Craft will always be rather an elitist practice. It has always been for the few and not the many, and will remain so.’  The late Michael Howard also reminded us: ‘As Cochrane said (and few people understand what he meant), witchcraft is not pagan, but it does preserve elements of the pagan Mysteries. A subtle difference.’  MD

This extract has been taken from the limited edition of Inner Court Witchcraft currently in preparation for Ignotus Books UK by Melusine Draco and a companion volume to Round about the Cauldron Go … by Phillip Wright and Carrie West.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Dogs have been with humans for a very long time.  Around 23,000 years ago, in what’s now Siberia, humans and gray wolves were hemmed in by the encroaching glaciers of the last Ice Age. No one knows for sure exactly how the two species started their relationship, with the leading hypothesis being that the friendlier wolves got used to people who gave them scraps or let them raid garbage piles, but that was the crucible in which the first domesticated dogs were born.

From there, the history of people and dogs was intertwined. Genetic evidence of both humans and dog suggest that they left Eurasia together as people and their pooches crossed the Bering Land Bridge to the ancient Americas together.  The Smithsonian Magazine reports that ancient DNA evidence from an unassuming shard of bone reveals  that it belongs – at 10,150 years old – to the most ancient dog yet found in the Americas.  The close association between people and dogs so far back in time underscores an important point. ‘The movement and locations of ancient dogs are proxies to the movement of people, and vice versa, because our histories are closely linked because not far from where the 10,150-year-old dog bone was found, archaeologists have discovered 10,300-year-old human remains in a cave called Shuká Káa on nearby Prince of Wales Island, underscoring that people and dogs were here together’.  In other words – Where people go, dogs go.

Over the centuries, they have played essential roles in our society. They are our mentors, companions, partners in work and play as well as our teachers.  DNA research has also led to the deciphering of the genetic code of the dog, which makes the choice of the dog ideal as a ‘power animal’, in view of the study carried out by the Institute for Genomic Research and the Centre for the Advancement of Genomics. The study has identified 974,000 common variations in the dog’s genetic code, which will be crucial for understanding the genes that contribute to canine disease, and shedding light on human diseases, too.

An article in the Science Journal reveals that many of the 360 inherited dog diseases have human counterparts, and that the genetic code of the dog is spelt out by about 2,500 million ‘letters’, compared with the 3,000 million that describes their owners. “Dogs and humans share 650 million ‘letters’ and scientists have found an equivalent dog gene for three quarters of known human genes,” explained Dr Venture. “The fact that they are so similar, despite millions of years of evolution along separate tracks, suggests that they are important.”  And, this fact should not be overlooked by magical practitioners when searching for a compatible power animal.

In general, ‘dog symbolism’ is a reminder that kindness will often get us a lot further than criticism. In other words, dog-meaning prompts us to allow ourselves to be gentle with those around us; moreover, we should accept that their paths are not necessarily similar or conjoined with ours. In some cases, dog-meaning can also be a reminder that we should always be loyal and truthful to ourselves. Therefore, we should make a point of being our own best friend. Furthermore, by having self-respect and self-value, we can love ourselves first, because when we have self-esteem, it will assure that others will respect us.

According to spirit-animals.com dog-symbolism can represent confusion about our loyalties, beliefs, and commitments. In other words, when we try to be everything for everyone, we end up losing sight of ourselves. The only way to resolve this is to put ourselves first and foremost. Thus, by letting go of everyone and everything else, we will be able to piece together what is right for us. When a hound comes baying into our life, it is a reminder that running with the pack is not always the right way for us to make progress. Moreover, we should step back a bit and sniff out something a little bit different for ourselves. If everyone is reaching for the same prize, what’s the point of having it?

For the most part, however, dog-power focuses on life’s purpose. All of these animals have work in the fields of rescue work, protection, and actual physical labour.  People with the dog as their totem also have a great spirit and an enormous capacity to love and it takes a lot to break their spirit.  Folks with the dog-totem are usually helping others or serving humanity in some way. They embody the loving gentleness of best friend and the fierce energy of the protector. People with this spirit animal will have a deep understanding and empathy of human shortcomings and have compassion for unconditional acceptance and love.

Dog-totem people are fiercely loyal to their pack and stick with them through thick and thin. They are unquestioningly, supportive, committed, and trustworthy. These folks will never abandon, undermine, or betray those close to them. People with dog-totem also have a passion for justice and fair play. As a result, they love to champion causes while being open-minded and willing to listen to others’ reasoning.  They also have a great deal of wisdom, and are willing to share that knowledge generously. These folks have a lot of influence among their peers and have excellent insight into human nature. They are independent thinkers and know how to cut to the truth of matters.

Dog-people can learn from their four-footed companions how to tread this ancient path and follow in the footsteps of both their ancestors …

Shaman Pathways : Aubry’s Dog: Power Animals in Traditional Witchcraft  by Melusine Draco is publishing by Moon Books  www.moon-books.net : ISBN 978 1 78099 724 7 : UK£4.99/US$9.95 : 84 pages : Available in paperback and e-book format.

Dogs pictured: Noel and Gertie (racing greyhounds); Poppy (whippet); Harvey (mongrel) and Ferrero (Thai street-dog).

‘I must go down to the sea again


I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying
.                                                [From ‘Sea Fever’ by John Masefield]

Masefield’s poem is a magical chant all in itself. I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide /Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied; It is the perfect introduction to those natural tides that witches call upon to power their magic – the solar and the lunar tides; the ocean and the earth tides; coupled with the atmospheric tides that make the Earth bounce.

Since the beginning of time, when man first stood on the shoreline and wondered at the vastness of the ocean, it has been recognised that the tides (the periodic rise and fall of great stretches of water), had something to do with the moon. Neither did it take him long to calculate that the usual interval between them was about 12½ hours; roughly half the time the moon takes to circle the earth. Nowhere else on earth was Nature’s power and glory so much in evidence.

In Sea & Seashore, Sir Isaac Newton’s words are used to explain the tides as being due to the moon’s gravitational pull on the water, lifting it to form a bulge resembling an enormous wave-crest. There are in fact two such bulges, one on the side of the earth facing the moon, and the other on the earth’s far side, for there the moon’s pull draws the earth away from the water. Between the two bulges the water is lowered, as though in the trough between these gigantic wave-crests. The friction between the water and the rotating earth slows the movement of these bulges, so that instead of being exactly beneath the moon, they lag a little behind. For this reason, high tide, as the bulge is called, does not occur exactly when the moon is overhead, but somewhat later.

The sun’s gravitational pull similarly raises tides akin to, but less powerful than those caused by the moon. Their period is about 12 hours instead of the 12½ – but the two interact. At full and new moon, when the sun and moon are in a straight line with the earth – this recurs at intervals of about a fortnight – they co-operate to produce an especially powerful spring tide. This has nothing to do with the annual spring season: spring tides occur throughout the year and rise higher and fall lower than usual, although the lowest spring tides of the year occur around the Spring or Vernal Equinox. At the first and third quarters, when the sun and moon form a right angle with the earth (again, roughly, at fortnightly intervals) – the pull conflicts, making a neap tide whose range is unusually small.

In mid ocean, the tides, like ordinary waves, are simply a rhythmic rise and fall of the water. On the continental shelf, however, they act like the waves on a beach, and become a bodily rush of the water towards, or away from the land. The rising water produces the tide’s flow or flood; its fall is the ebb, and between them, when the tide is almost at a standstill, there are brief periods of slack water. This rise and fall takes place twice every day, but high or low tides occur about 50½ minutes later each day and alter drastically throughout the month. While most shores have two high tides every day, some have only one, and some none at all.Instead of one great progressive tide circling the earth, there are a number of local tides, differing greatly in the areas they cover, and the sea-witch learns to recognise the importance of knowing about them from both a magical and safety point of view.

Besides the familiar tides of the ocean, there are those other examples to take into account: earth-and atmospheric-tides. Earth-tides refer to the alternating slight change of shape of the Earth due to the gravitational action of the sun and moon, and atmospheric tides of the alternating slight motions of the atmosphere, which have the same cause and effect. The moon draws away the envelope of air that surrounds the Earth to produce the regular daily atmospheric tides.

Joint research by a team from the Ordnance Survey at Newcastle University and the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory at Birkenhead has revealed more evidence of the effects of these earth-tides. The results show that parts of western Britain and Ireland, for example, ‘bounce’ by about four inches and that this movement is caused as tides ebb and flow twice daily! The nationwide survey also showed that the deformation of the Earth’s crust varies across the country and that the eastern side is much more stable than the west.

According to a spokesman for the project, when the tide is in, the extra weight of the water on the continental shelf pushes the adjoining crust down a few inches. At low tide, the Earth springs back. ‘Because tidal ranges are greater on the south-western side of the British Isles, that is where the biggest bounce can be found.’ The western tip of England, west Wales, the Western Isles and southern Ireland, have the biggest range of movements. Again, we have scientific proof of cosmic influences on the very earth on which we stand, so magical working can be timed to coincide with these natural movements for greater effect.

High tide, just before the water pressure is at its greatest, would be the best time for positive or drawing magic.

Low tide, when the tide has turned and the earth is about to ‘bounce’ back, is the time for banishing or reducing magic.

Around the world there are thousands of miles of coastline: rugged cliffs, tidal-battered rocky shores, sweeping estuaries, gentle brackish creeks, golden sand and shingle beaches. Although each has an enchantment all of its own, few of us are fortunate to live near enough to the sea to use this dramatic shoreline as a regular magical working area. And yet, for a natural witch, born and bred by the sea, the beach and rocky shore are equally as magical as the inland woods and hills of more traditional approaches to witchcraft.

And even if we never went near the sea except for an annual summer holiday, most of us from Scandinavia, and around the British and Irish coasts to Iceland, can instantly recall the sonorous, chant of the daily shipping forecast that took us on a flight of fancy to the wildest coastlines around our shores. Broadcast four times a day, the radio brought us a brief moment of sea-magic, as wonderful and evocative as a Latin Mass …

Viking : North Utsire : South Utsire : Forties : Fisher : Cromarty

Forth : Tyne : Dogger : German Bight : Humber : Thames : Dover :

Wight : Portland : Plymouth : Biscay : Trafalgar : FitzRoy : Sole :

Lunday : Irish Sea : Fastnet : Shannon : Rockall : Malin : Hebrides :

Bailey : Fair Isle : Faeroes : South East Iceland …

This mysterious, but totally meaningless jumble of words, still has the ability to conjure up pictures of grey, heaving northern seas with lashing rain and gale force winds. By stark contrast, it also has the ability to evoke warm, family memories of childhood tea-tables, cosy firesides, and comfort food – although perhaps not for those who were being warned that a gale force-nine was headed in their direction.

This brief maritime detour is included to demonstrate how potent simple words can be; how a rhythmic recital can paint mind pictures in much the same way that an evocative piece of music can. And even if the US marine forecast doesn’t produce quite the same kind of enchantment, Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross, can summon images of this magnificent bird gliding effortlessly over the waves, a tireless companion of sailors in the southern seas.

This is the first lesson in sea magic …

The purpose of writing Traditional Witchcraft for the Seashore was to introduce land-lubbering witches to the natural energies that can be harnessed and used to power our inland magic.  For this we need to add several natural history books concerning the seashore and weather lore to our magical library and, if we are near to the coast, we should make sure we have an up-to-date listing of the local tides. For those living inland, the daily broadsheet newspapers or the internet will supply general information about the daily (and river) tides. Or contact the harbor master on any of the great tidal rivers.

We need to familiarise ourselves with this new way of thinking about magical tides, and record the readings of our own witch-power exercises in a personal Magical Diary. Keep experimenting at different times and under different conditions until the process becomes automatic.

Instead of synchronising our magical workings according to any popular ‘wheel of the year’, try working with the natural tides that are having their effect on the earth and its atmosphere on a day-to-day basis.

Take some time to watch the sky, even if it’s through a windowpane, and try to become more aware of the changing clouds and colour patterns, and learn to understand what they are telling us.

A sea-witch works during the day as well as after dark, so if our trips to the beach are restricted to daylight hours, this will not cause any problems with our magical development. The seashore also offers opportunities for observing ‘portents’ or ‘sights in the heavens’ that are not always visible from inland. These phenomena, of course, demand a clear sky, and are best seen on moonless nights, although on the western shores it is possible to witness some of the most fantastic Turnereque seascapes imaginable, at any time of the day. Although they are natural phenomena, there is nevertheless a magical quality about witnessing such happenings, and a sense of being in the right place at the right time; to being privy to something special. The opportunity should never be missed ‘to stand and stare’ – even at a reflected chain of coloured lights from the esplanade, in the night-time waters of the bay.

I do not live near the sea, but it has always been a dream, should I ever decide to take my leave of the mountains.  In Wales I lived on a tidal river and trips to the coast were made on a weekly basis from the wide sweeping bay with its petrified forest, to the historic harbours.  Researching and experimenting with sea-witchcraft for the book was great fun and extremely illuminating when it came to encountering this wonderful world on a magical basis.  And although I do not live by the sea, there are those summer days when the wind is coming from the west and there is a sharp tang of iodine on the breeze coming in off the Atlantic which makes me think “I must go down to the sea again …”

Traditional Witchcraft for the Seashore by Melusine Draco takes us on a magical journey and reveals how the inshore witches can learn to work with these primal energies even if they do not live by the sea.  From the creation of a sea-witch’s garden regardless of where we live to advanced path-workings with the ‘Power of the Deep’, no traditional witch should be without this book.  ISBN 978 1 84894 426 0 : Pages 150 : Price UK£9.99/US$16.95 : Available in paperback and e-book format it is the second in the Traditional Witchcraft series and published by Moon Books.

Where do writers get their ideas from?

The second most common question a writer is asked, is ‘where do your ideas come from?’ [The first is: ‘Do you make any money from it?’] Experienced writers don’t go looking for ideas; ideas come to them. An experienced writer just has the knack of spotting what makes a good story … or what will make a good story once it’s been given the right spin … because none of us, if we’re honest, will let reality get in the way of a saleable piece of work.

All editors are looking for an element of action, drama or surprise, even in non-fiction. It’s what catches their attention and makes them pause to read further; and the key to any editor’s heart is originality. Not necessarily a new departure in style or genre, but a refreshing and original slant on a popular theme that gives it the X-Factor!

 The X-Factor

Witchcraft (unlike Wicca) is not a religion – it never has been, simply because it’s an individual’s natural ability that distinguishes him or her as a witch. In other words, a witch is born, not made. It just isn’t possible to learn how to become a witch if we haven’t got these abilities, although it is possible to learn how to hone and develop latent or suppressed psychic talents, under the right tuition. And there is no age limit for these discoveries – in either the young, middle-aged or old.

Wicca, on the other hand, is fast becoming accepted as the ‘new pagan religion’ with its doctrines drawing heavily on an eco-feminine shadow-image of Christianity. This again is nothing new, since Christianity itself absorbed many of the existing pagan festivals and celebrations into the Church calendar (including an identification of the Virgin Mary with Isis), and contemporary paganism is merely reclaiming its own. But in reality, even in the days before the Christian invasion, not all of the pagan populace were skilled in the Craft of witches.

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

For example: Paganism (including Wicca) has developed a very strong com-munity spirit in recent years, with everyone at public events joining hands to celebrate the festivals, organized around the nearest weekend coinciding with a formal Wheel of the Year. Pagans believe that information should be available to all, and that everyone has the right to access all esoteric knowledge. Many pagans are highly suspicious of witches and some will deny that they practice any form of magic at all. Paganism caters for teenagers within the community and actively encourages them to attend the fairs, buy the books and any appropriate accoutrements. Pagans claim to worship Nature in the persona of ‘the Goddess’. The generally accepted pagan motto is: ‘And it harm none, do what you will’.

Witchcraft is not bound by social rules and conventions, only by the personal morality of the individual, and is governed solely by the natural tides. Any form of magical working or spiritual observance tends to be of a solitary nature, or in the company of tried and trusted people. Witches believe that esoteric knowledge should be kept hidden because it is impossible to convey the meaning of the ‘true mysteries’ without the appropriate teaching. Traditional witches are now rarely seen at pagan events, and hold that any ritual equipment will be acquired as and when it is necessary. The witch learns his or her Craft along the way, and pays homage to Nature but in a more abstract form that the textbooks will allow, something along the lines of Blake’s ‘Auguries of Innocence’

‘To see a World in a grain of sand,

And a Heaven in a flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour’

The Old Craft motto is ‘Trust None!’ although it could well be taken from the motto of several Scottish clans: ‘Touch not the [wild] cat without a glove’.

Which path will you ultimately tread?

And what aspect of it will you eventually write about?

One of the first instructions I usually give at a writers’ workshop is to always discard the first idea that comes into your head. And while you’re at it, discard the second … and third idea, too. This is because a hundred other writers will have had an identical thought for an article (poem or short story) stimulated by something seen on television, read in a magazine or newspaper, or heard on the radio. We may not consciously realize that this has been the source of our inspiration but the seed has been planted firmly in the deep recesses of the brain … and this is why reference books can spark off all sorts of ideas.

When thriller writer Sally Spedding was sent the Dictionary of Magic & Mystery to review, she wrote: “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 found myself making excited notes on Podomancy, Cramp Rings and the Angel of Death – and already wondering where these different springboards could lead.”

The Dictionary of Magic & Mystery – compiled by Melusine Draco : ISBN 978 1 84694 462 8 : 3333 entries : 370 pages : Available in paperback and e-book format UK£12.99/US$22.95 : Kindle £4.35

The Traditional Witchcraft series … revisited by Melusine Draco

As Trevor Greenfield, the protective spirit and guiding light of  Moon Books never tires of reminding me, I am the Moon Books Matriarch, having published my first book with them in January 2012 (the first month the imprint started) and 23 books later I’m is still there with a new title (Sexual Dynamics in the Circle) out in March 2021.  

In fact, my first book for John Hunt Publishing was for the O Books imprints, Mean Streets Witchcraft, but this was re-packaged two years later as the first in the ‘Traditional Witchcraft’ series for Moon Books as Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living. For the witch whose career confines them to an urbanized environment, regular Craft practice may often seem like a futile gesture, especially if home is a small, gardenless-flat. Even the suburbs can be magically incapacitating, if there is constant noise from traffic and neighbours. People work long hours; often setting off for work and getting home again in the dark during the winter months, without having the opportunity to notice the subtle changing of the seasons. Weekends are a constant battle with family commitments, domestic chores and socialising. It’s no wonder that the urban witch has little time or strength left for magical and spiritual development.

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

I am a Welsh witch and I come from a place midway between the mountains and the sea, but I have not lived in my homeland now for many years. It would be untrue to say that I never experienced what the Welsh call hiraethus, that indescribable feeling of longing and home-sickness but, as we all know, in magical terms there is always a price to be paid for our Craft. During those long years, my career and domestic life has taken me to London (where I lived for 20 years), to the industrial Midlands and to a totally urbanised area of East Anglia, before moving to Ireland.  Not once, in all that time (until I came to Ireland) did I return to the luxury of wild, open spaces – it was all concrete and asphalt. But not once, in all that time, did I stop being a true witch.

In my experience, the greatest problem an urban witch faces is that an urban environment is not user-friendly when it comes to psychic activity, but then we don’t always have a choice of where we are going to live if someone else’s needs have to be catered for, too. Mostly I have been confined to renting small terraced cottages and flats, often with little or no garden to give that extra bit of space. I make this comment merely to demonstrate that my Craft activities have not been conducted in a round of luxurious city apartments and picturesque Grade II listed town houses!

Under these circumstances, for me the key words have always been: acclimatise, adapt and improvise. Any animal, plant or person that is uprooted and transported to another environment quickly learns to acclimatise if it is going to survive. I have adapted to my surroundings and drawn on whatever material/energy there is to hand, even if it is not what I’ve been used to working with. I improvise by drawing on existing knowledge and experience. So … Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living was conceived out of necessity with a view to guiding others facing similar problems.

The series has maintained a steady readership over the years, and has provided a background for recommended reading for those on the Arcanum foundation course, since potential questers often come to the Coven of the Scales having read one or more of the books.  Traditional Witchcraft for the Seashore reflects our teaching that is dependent on the understanding of the natural tides that affect our planet: Earth, lunar, solar, oceanic, atmospheric, electro-magnetic, liminal and astral … All these natural tides are what power our magical abilities and improve our chances of helping to maintain the Sacred Order (balance/harmony) of our faith.

If we step back for a moment into those distant childhood memories and visualise a day at the seaside – but strip away the images of crowded tourist beaches and focus on the sound of the movement of the sea. If we need any reminder, we hold a large seashell to our ear and summon up the voice of the waves. In the depths of our subconscious mind this sound will be a low, muted purr as small waves lap at the water margin; or the roaring of breakers against a sea wall; or the sly, insidious murmur as the tide begins to turn along narrow channels and between sand banks. In fact, we can never encounter the sea in any of its moods, without being aware of its movement; the waves on its surface and the tides and currents, which send it swirling around the globe.

No series on the Craft would be complete without Traditional Witchcraft for Fields and Hedgerows, because for both countrywomen and witches the hedge was a veritable treasure house: a source of food, drink, medicine, shelter, fuel and dyes, while numerous superstitions arose around many hedgerow plants. After feasting on the autumn harvest of elder and blackberries, birds turn to rosehips and haws, then sloes, and finally to ivy berries and this is where we become familiar with our totem animal or bird in its natural habitat.

Unlike the traditional wort-lore of witchcraft, however, folk or domestic plant medicine was the everyday use of plants by ordinary people to cure minor wounds and ailments. In fact, the use of common native plants in everyday home medicine is now almost obsolete, largely because it was mainly a DIY collection of first aid remedies, often passed on orally, rather than a written record. As a result, even many of today’s witches are unaware of the therapeutic effects of ordinary kitchen herbs. With proper care and caution, the same herb used to flavor cooking can be used in a more concentrated form to relieve pain.

Simple home remedies did not require any accompanying magical ritual to make them work; 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. It doesn’t matter whether we refer to ourselves as witch, wiccan, or pagan. Whether we belong to a coven, or consider ourselves to be a ‘solitary’ but important part of the larger pagan community … when we observe what we can view as ‘field Craft’, more often than not, we tend to work alone. The benefits of being a solitary witch means we can work whenever we feel like it, regardless of the date on the calendar, the phase of the moon, or what anyone else considers to be a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ time of the day. The only ‘rule’ we need to learn and obey, is the relentless call of the natural cyclic tides of Nature … nothing else.

No book ever written can teach us how to become a witch. Only Nature can do that. Only Nature can coax out those long suppressed abilities and give us back the freedom to be a witch, releasing the knowledge of the Elder Faith back into the world. So let’s walk through the fields and along the hedgerow together and discover Nature as she moves through the year …

My favourite and not because it’s the best-selling title in the series, Traditional Witchcraft for the Wood and Forests reflects the natural type of landscape in which I feel the most comfortable. First and foremost, forests and woodland have played a mystical role in all cultures where trees have dominated the landscape. Trees bring Nature right up close and personal and, as a result, the whole of the natural world becomes a ‘tangled web of enchantment’ to a true witch’s eyes. Most of us are familiar with what we call ‘broad leaved’ woodland … that is to say, forest made up predominantly of trees whose leaves are basically flat, as opposed to being needle-shaped like those of the conifers of the evergreen world. These trees are mostly deciduous (with the exception of the holly, box and strawberry tree), and shed their leaves when winter approaches, lying dormant until the warmth of spring stimulates new growth.

Before we begin to practice the Craft of the wood-witch, however, we must learn to look at trees with different eyes, because there is still a sense of mystery and enchantment in the woodland world. Each month of the year imprints its own beauty on the trees, and in time, we will become aware of every subtle nuance as part of this sacred mantra, with each month bringing different plants for a witch to use in her magical workings. The spring shimmer of birch and beech bursting into life … the cool of a summer glade filled with the whispering of the leaf canopy … the rich hues of autumn … branches glistening with hoare frost in the winter sunshine …

The aim of Traditional Witchcraft and the Pagan Revival was to provide a sympathetic approach to the evolution of witchcraft as a historical reality, rather than as mere circumspection – or wishful thinking. By combining scholarly writing and recent archaeological findings with a ‘quality of fascination’, I hoped it would prove to be a pleasure to read and a source of new insight for those who would follow the tradition of the Elder Faith. It shows that witchcraft did (and does) exist, and traces the origins and true nature of the many different contemporary pagan beliefs back to their roots. And, what is equally as important, to understand is when outside foreign influences were grafted onto indigenous pagan stock by getting the late Michael Howard (The Cauldron) to check the finished typescript for error!

I’ve been asked why Pagan Revival was the fifth in the series rather than an introduction, and the reason for this is because it’s not until a quester has acquired a reasonable amount of background knowledge about Old Craft that these questions demand answers. Unfortunately, in the rush to establish the many different forms of 20th century revivalist paganism, the element of curiosity has often been suppressed in favour of historical ignorance. Anything that is non-Christian in origin is immediately embraced as ‘pagan’, despite the fact that much of it had little to do with the indigenous people of the British Isles. It also leads to the acceptance of ‘fakelore and fantasy’ as a basis for a considerable amount of contemporary thinking. Reviewing one of these pseudo-history books in White Dragon magazine some years ago, the editor wrote: ‘Books like this pose more of a danger to paganism than the Christian Right will ever do, because they are the enemy within, subverting the Mysteries and dumbing down for spirituality’s equivalent of the day-time television audience.’ Ouch!

From a 21st century standpoint, however, much of what now passes for pagan belief has jettisoned its former labels of ‘occultism’, ‘witchcraft’ and ‘eccentricity’, and now boasts a diverse doctrine, suitable for pre-pubescent schoolchildren to venerable pensioners, from all walks of life and cultures. On the traditionalist’s side, this hard-won respectability means that, in many cases, both the genuine magical and Mystery aspects of the original Sacred Order have been abandoned in favour of a wholesome image more reminiscent of the ad-man’s fictitious ‘Oxo family’ than of the real-life Lancashire Witches.

It must be said from the onset that there is nothing wrong in anyone embracing a neo-pagan life-style. What we should try to do, however, is put into some kind of perspective the impact of the magico-religious links with our ancestral roots when we choose to follow a path or tradition that is alien to our own genius loci the collective or natural spirit of old Pretannia. Whatever numerous contemporary authors may tell us, the Celts were not the indigenous people of these islands; modern Wicca is not synonymous with traditional witchcraft; traditional British Old Craft is not a myth; and subsequent invading cultures did not impose blanket religious conversions on a conquered people.

The kernel of the Elder Faith, however, is a belief in a definite association of force (or energy) within specific localities, and the notion of natural universal energy influencing cause and effect. 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’ – although there are no authentic pagan ‘scriptures’ on which we can rely for guidance or comparison. We should not, however, take this to mean that an Old Craft witch is spiritually backward, or lacking in tradition. The most amazing thing for us to consider, is that all this wondrous insight into the metaphysical and mystical world would have been passed down via an intuitive oral tradition, amongst people with no (or little) formal learning.

In reality, it is possible to perceive ourselves as spiritual beings without being at all religious, because spirituality is how we ‘feel’ about the meaning of life – it is the quest for the hidden mysteries and need not necessarily manifest in religious terms. Lacking in intellect but not in application, the witch of yesteryear would probably have fully understood the sentiments expressed in a collection of spiritual essays dating from 1897, The Treasure of the Humble, wherein the author writes about Ultima Thule – the extreme limit – which also can be applied to the Mysteries of the Elder Faith today.

‘We are here on the borderland of human thought and far across the Arctic circle of the spirit. There is no ordinary cold, no ordinary dark there, and yet you shall find there naught but flames and light. But to those who arrive without having trained their minds to these new perceptions, the light and flames are as dark and cold as though they were painted. This means that the intelligence, the reason, will not suffice of themselves: we must have faith.’

Even in more modern times, however, it is not surprising that ‘Trust None!’ remains the creed of our Sacred Order and it has preserved its Mysteries by not divulging its rites and practices. No matter what a publisher’s blurb may claim, there are no genuine traditional British Old Craft rituals, rites of passages, spells, charms or pathworkings in print, for one simple reason – any traditional witch committing any of this knowledge to paper for public scrutiny would be in breach of their own Initiatory Oath. This still carries the ultimate penalty for treachery and betrayal. Admittedly, there are ‘smokescreens’ that may offer a parody of the genuine thing – but the gnarled roots of the Elder Faith remain firmly in the shadows, where they belong. Although there may be a variation in formulae from region to region, the underlying Mysteries remain the same, and the only way to know about the Mysteries is to have experienced them first hand.

Because of its occult (i.e. ‘hidden’) nature, traditional British Old Craft methods really do differ from region to region, so the opportunity of being in the company of genuine, traditional 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 well and truly kicked over; the dross discarded and the rare elixir of knowledge at the bottom shared and savoured.

In fact, the whole Traditional Witchcraft series was deliberately structured along the lines of a foundation course, so that any would-be traditional witch had a step-by-step guide to follow. Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living was the first in the series and, as the title suggests, aimed at the majority of pagans who live in an urban environment rather than insisting that a witch must live in the country before they can learn about traditional Craft. The second step was revealed in Traditional Witchcraft for the Seashore that teaches the importance of understanding and working with those natural tides within our own environment, even if we do not live by the sea. Step three, Traditional Witchcraft for Fields and Hedgerows, examined what most of us would think of in terms of traditional Craft, and brings us back into the comfort zone where we feel safe and secure – before step four casts us back out into the more hostile world of Traditional Witchcraft for the Woods and Forests – the magical energies differing quite considerably between these four environments.

The historical view of Traditional Witchcraft and the Pagan Revival was left until step five, because it’s not until we’ve been studying traditional Old 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 the 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. Traditional Witchcraft and the Path to the Mysteries, the sixth and last in the series, is a voyage of discovery and, as with every journey, it is essential that we understand where we are now and where we want to be. We need proper direction unlike that popular old Irish saying: ‘If I wanted to be going there, I wouldn’t be starting from here!’

Not that this method of teaching has always been favourably received. Some feel that Old Craft is portrayed as elitist, but as Daniel A Schulke observed in his introduction to this author’s contribution to Hands of Apostasy (‘Spirits and Deific Forms: Faith and Belief in British Old Craft’); ‘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.’ Others 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 40 percent information and 60 percent intuition; but it’s also about realizing when intuition is telling us that we don’t have all the information. There are books claiming to reveal the ‘secrets’ of the Elder Faith – but intuition should tell us that if the secrets can be revealed in the reading of just a couple of books, then the author cannot have much to tell. The real secret is that there are no secrets, only a system of revelation that eventually leads to a series of enlightening experiences, guides or teachers, to further ourprogress along the Path to the Mysteries.

It was Andy Lloyd Book Reviews that first put the Traditional Witchcraft series into its proper perspective:

“The ‘Traditional Witchcraft’ 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 books. 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.”

The complete ‘Traditional Witchcraft’ series is published Moon Books in both paperback and e-book format.  Go to www.moon-books.net for more information and ordering.

Book News … new release

Sacrifice to the Gods by offering, oblation and libation by Melusine Draco

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

Coming in at under 25,000 words, each title will be packed with information and instruction rather than puffed out with superfluous wordage and regurgitated text borrowed from other publications.  The series will be aimed at those who have attained a certain level of magical competence and who don’t need to be spoon-fed basic instructions for Circle-casting with each volume – and are therefore not written with beginners in mind. 

Sacrifice, like death, is one of the great taboos of modern society. The notion that human sacrifice could be considered a most holy act is almost inconceivable.  Yet the evidence for human sacrifice in north-west Europe, derived from both archaeology and the testimony of Classical writers of the first centuries BC/CE, has to be confronted.  The term ‘sacrifice’ has become so firmly engrained in the human psyche – or racial subconscious – that even in this modern day and age, it automatically conjures up images of bloodshed regardless of context. 

In media-speak, any reference to ‘sacrifice’ in connection with pagan rites and practices is almost immediately and erroneously conveyed as involving animals, babies or virgins!  In other words, media reporting provides the narrative that forms the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it is supposed to be fully understood – even if it is misleading and inaccurate. To the detractors of pagan beliefs, however, the term ‘sacrifice’ usually refers to killing animals or harming humans – because they fail to understand that in a pagan sense, what is always offered in sacrifice is, in one form or another, life itself, a a means of preserving the Sacred Order.

Sacrifice is a celebration of life, an acceptance of its divine and imperishable nature. In the act of sacrifice the consecrated ‘life’ of an offering is released as a sacred link that establishes a bond between the sacrificer and the divine power. Through sacrifice, energy is returned to its divine source, regenerating the power or strength of that source; life is fed by life. Hence the words of the ancient Roman sacrificer to his god: ‘Be thou increased (macte) by this offering’.  Needless to say, it is an increase in this divine power that is ultimately beneficial to the sacrificer because sacrifice is the merging and guarantee of the reciprocal flow of the divine life-force between its source and its embodiment.

Often the act of sacrifice involves the destruction of the offering, but this destruction is not in itself the sacrifice. The destruction (or consumption) of a food-drink offering at an altar’s fire is the means by which the deity receives the offering.  Thereby, a sacrifice is the total act of offering and not merely the method in which the rite is performed. 

So, sacrifice as a sacramental communal meal may involve the idea of the god as a participant in the feast, or being identified with the food consumed; it may also involve the idea of a ritual meal, at which either some agrarian event such as the springtime (Beltaine) and the harvest (Lughnasad) is repeated, or the sacred rites of the seasons are symbolically renewed – the Summer and Winter Solstices.  Although the fundamental meaning of these sacrificial rites is that of affirming a bounteous and fruitful relationship with the sacred power and of establishing humankind in the Sacred Order, the rites have in more modern times assumed a multitude of different forms and intentions.

Sacrifice to the Gods looks at the latest archaeological findings from the Ancient World to see how these offerings can be interpreted for modern pagan use, so that we can fully understand what is permissible and what was forbidden in times past, so that our sacrifice is acceptable to our gods, regardless of the Path or Tradition we follow.

Sacrifice to the Gods by offering, oblation and libation by Melusine Draco is published by Ignotus Books ISBN 9781839457012 : Paperback : Pages: 102 :  £6.85 : Published13 January 2021. Available from the printer at a special discounted price from https://www.feedaread.com/search/books.aspx?keywords=Sacrifice%20to%20the%20Gods

E-book format will be available from Kindle shortly