Folk Medicine: Nature’s Medicine Chest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mean Streets Witchcraft

An urban witch is often far more imaginative than their rural cousin for the simple reason that there are far more negative energies waiting in the wings to cause havoc and misery in day-to-day living.  Other people’s negative energies can (unintentionally) infringe on our own personal space and even invade our home if the protections aren’t up to scratch.  An urban environment that confines large numbers of people within a small area is a breeding ground for an untold number of psychic manifestations.

As the new towns and cities rapidly developed during the Industrial Revolution the need for cheap housing  increased. In the rush to build houses, many were constructed too quickly in terraced rows. Some of these houses had just a small yard at the rear where an outside toilet was placed, with most of the poorest people occupying overcrowded and inadequate housing, and some even living in cellars. Though great progress was made in industry and technology, living and working conditions remained poor and were a major cause of illness and disease.

Today, many of those terraces have been gentrified and turned into comfortable homes but in the inner cities it is impossible to escape from the multitude of psychic energies that are created and maintained by the seething mass of humanity that rubs shoulders with each other on a daily basis.  Those infectious diseases may have been eradicated but the psionics generating a variety of paranormal phenomena can be said to have taken their place to cause stress, depression, anxiety, tiredness and irritability because of difficulties at work, or too much social pressure. Also there are higher levels of physical or especially psychological stress when we feel like we can’t cope with life and have more adrenaline , cortisol and caffeine running through our veins than blood!

Wherever we live in the world, stress and tiredness aside, the urban witch has a much greater problem to dealt with: the blanket malaise that often smothers many of our urban environments, which can be best likened to a good, old-fashioned smog that used to permeate everything in the inner cities. The pollution might be gone but there is a different kind of social ‘smog’ invading our personal space that can have a debilitating effect on a witch’s life.

Even if our own particular ‘patch’ is peaceful enough, each time we go shopping or travel to work, the evidence of mindless vandalism and barely suppressed aggression confronts us on all sides. Broken bottles and discarded beer cans litter the streets; the remains of a previous night’s take-away deposited by the bus stop. Chewing gum, vomit and spittle make walking a hazard. Plants ripped from the municipal beds, hurled about in a frenzied nocturnal flower battle and trampled under foot. In parks and gardens there are swaths of daffodils beheaded, or stolen by someone looking for a cheap bouquet. The constant noise of bawling children accompanied by yelling disgruntled mothers. The 24-7 smell of fast food, and the intrusive sound of passing car stereos, played at full blast …

In other words, we need to empower ourselves psychically to withstand the outside pressures that threaten our inner calm. As I’ve said before, I’ve had countless conversations with pagans who believe themselves to be the victim of a psychic attack because they feel prey to a permanent mental, physical and emotional drain. In a way they are correct, but the ‘attack’ is the result of magical arrogance or ignorance, rather than anything directed at them from some known or unknown enemy. Without delving into the dominion of ritual magic, there are numerous parasitic entities that inhabit the inner and outer astral realms, which feed off the negative impulses generated by thousands of people confined within a less than perfect environment. They have been described as strange, parasitic creatures, needing to feed off a healthy host than an enfeebled one, and the unwary witchlet who has insufficient magical protection will attract such entities like a beacon, and to withstand this unwanted psychic barrage, the urban witch needs to be protected at all times, and not just when working in Circle ….

Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living by Melusine Draco is published by Moon Books in paperback and e-book format.  ISBN 978 1 84694 978 4 : UK9.99/US$16.95.


The Temple House Archive

Every book has a story behind the story of how it came to be written. It may be about a life-long passion, a personal journey, the need to share an experience or knowledge. It may have been fermenting in the brain for years, or sprung fully formed from a blinding epiphany. Whether it be fact or fiction, sometimes the story behind the story is almost as interesting as the published book itself …

I like to think that the series has an instructional element to the stories because there’s such a diversity to the phenomena that some magical explanation is required to trigger the reader’s imagination. Throughout the books the Knights Templar background is emphasised and so we get history, too, as well as magic. They’ve been fun to write and, I hope, fun to read, too.


I was always a great fan of The Legacy, that Canadian television series from the 1980s, and although the rather bigoted ‘light is right and anything that comes from the shadows is highly suspect’ attitude was irritating it provided great entertainment. What if …The idea festered for many years and there came along New Tricks and again the ‘what if …’ element reared its head for combining the esoteric with modern investigative procedures, together with the multi-casting story-lines of the CSI series, the idea for the Temple House series was born. What if

If I’m honest the Temple House is pure indulgence – giving the opportunity to bring together all sorts of demons, degenerates and dire doings all under one roof and covering the realms of esoteric, suspense, horror and thriller. Where were these super-heroes coming from? They had to have an authentic and credible historical background. What if …

… the Temple House was founded in 1586 in England during the reign of Elizabeth I as an off-shoot of Sir Francis Walsingham’s recently created intelligence service, inaugurated to investigate the growing popularity of esoteric learning that was occupying the interests of the Elizabethan intelligentsia. For this he recruited the descendants of the Knights Templar. The Order remained surrounded by myth and legend ever since – and drawing on this veritable mine of esoteric knowledge and experience of international intrigue, the Temple House was established to combat ‘evil forces’ of a human or supernatural agency, and those who would use occult power for destructive purposes.

The current members of the Temple House, or ‘the Nine’ as they are referred to in memory of the original nine founder members of the Order, all had to be specialists and magical practitioners in the diverse fields of occultism and its relevant histories. And it wasn’t easy to build up a team that were creatures of the modern world not throwbacks to a bygone age, although they all had a highly developed sense of honour and obligation to tradition.

The first thing that went was the location. No gloomy Gothic exteriors, crumbling castles or dank caverns – the Temple House would be located somewhere light and airy – in a smaller version of my own dream home: Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous ‘Falling Water’ perched on the cliffs overlooking the ocean!

Yes, of course, the story-lines descend into darkness but the characters themselves are modern, forward thinking people who exist as a well-oiled machine. House of Strange Gods conjured up a traditional demon from the Abyss with various different sub-plots including a homicidal link to the past but it also weeded out one of the characters who wasn’t up to scratch and had to be replaced. Realm of Shadow weeded out a couple more as the story-lines acted out the process of natural selection; while Hour Betwixt Dog & Wolf stretched credibility beyond reason. This wasn’t my original intention but as any novelist knows, these things have a habit of developing a life-force of their own and whereas certain characters can’t cope with certain situations in real life, so the flaws are also exposed in a fictional world. They just don’t work! The latest in the series, The Thirteenth Sign deals with a primitive African-cult manifesting in Central London; a haunted house in the West Country and an on-line business for curses by mail-order.

To assemble the cast I used my tried and trusted trick of ‘casting’ – who would I get to play those characters if it were a film (regardless of age) – and to help with the creative process I gave the Temple House its own Facebook page. The page keeps readers up to date on the progress of the team’s latest adventures and arranges special offers on Kindle e-books and discounted prices on all paperback versions ordered direct from the printer. It also gives readers the opportunity to interact with the characters, suggest story-lines for future titles, and enjoy reading the additional information on the background research involved for the next title which, hopefully, will appeal to writers as well as readers.

House of Strange Gods, Realm of Shadow, Hour Betwixt Dog & Wolf and The Thirteenth Sign in the Temple House series by Melusine Draco are published by Ignotus Press UK in both paperback and e-book format.  PACT! is currently a work in progress and can be followed on

All books in the series can be ordered direct from the publisher in paperback at discount prices -

Or for a short period between 16th-23rd March the e-book version will be available on Kindle for UK£0.99/US$0.95

Writer @ Work

It was my intention to slow write (ouch!) down and have some more ‘me-time’ but it hasn’t turned out that way.  The ideas still keep coming with Western Animism: Zen and the Art of Positive Paganism and Seeking the Primal Goddess due for publication later this year.  As for work in progress there’s The Arte of Darkness, a whopping 100,000-worder on the darker, shadowy elements of magical practice and the first of a trilogy on Scared Landscape (Caves and Mountains with Grottos and Forests and Lakes and Rivers to follow) which is a multi-Path approach to the subject.  On the fiction front, I’m half-way through the third book of The Vampyre’s Tale and about to start on the rough draft of the fifth book in the Temple House Archive series.  On top of that there’s the increased traffic on the MD and the CoS Blogs to help keep things interesting …


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

To thoroughly understand what magic is all about, whether from the perspective of the village wise-woman or the high-powered ceremonial magician, we have to know the true history of the path we wish to follow. These are paths that have been beset with persecution and ridicule; both physical and mental anguish; hardship and deprivation. To understand where we now stand, we need to walk in the footsteps of those who have gone before and learn from their experiences, their failures and their triumphs. We also need a basic grounding in Classical subjects because we cannot hope to plug in to the here-and-now and expect instant enlightenment, or become a witch or magician in twelve easy lessons!

Paradoxically, although there are now more books on occultism (in its widest sense) in publication than ever before, the contents are by no means guaranteed to be accurate, or even penned by someone with a knowledgeable, working background in the subject on which they write. Sadly, even mainstream editors have little practical experience in the subjects they are commissioning and, as a result, the genre of ‘mind, body and spirit’ publishing is awash with books and magazine articles by those who are merely regurgitating information, often taken from questionable sources, blended with hefty dollops of contemporary Orientalism.

As that invaluable encyclopedia, Man, Myth & Magic, pointed out back in the 1970s, at the roots of mythology and magic is a kind of thinking which is certainly not random, and which has its own curious logic. Where metaphor, sigla and ceremony convey the intangible and bring the supernatural into the natural world, by making connections between things that outwardly and rationally are not connected at all. And magic is all about understanding these analogies, allegories and symbols. The Dictionary of Magic & Mystery attempts to put this way of thinking into some kind of perspective for the serious student.

For example: The 16th century ritual magician would have had a firm grounding in the Classics in their original language, i.e. Hebrew, Latin and Greek, not to mention a working knowledge of European history, mathematics, astronomy and alchemy. By the 19th century, Adepts of the occult sciences were adding the Eastern influences of Tantra, yoga, meditation techniques and the karmic philosophy of reincarnation. Traditional ritual magic texts are governed by this broad spectrum of learning under the guise of Magical Correspondences and, unless this method of working is fully understood, then the results will be a long time in coming for the striving magus adeptus.

By contrast, the natural witch or cunning-man would have developed an instinctive knowledge of ancestral and natural history, weather lore and folk medicine. And by studying the popular versions of our native folklore and superstitions, we can glimpse behind the Victorian obsession with the ‘Devil and all his works’ when it came to compiling their collections, and grasp the fact that most of these protective charms were originally witches’ spells culled for popular use. Modern witches need to develop the discipline of cultivating the powers of seeing and interacting with Nature, or we will not be able to read the ‘signs’ when they appear. Like the Universe itself, magic is a living, expanding thing and to become a successful magical practitioner, we must learn to grow magically and intellectually in tandem with these developments.

Modern paganism is now permeated with Oriental influences (reiki, feng shui, I Ching, etc) and it also helps to have a nodding acquaintance with modern astronomy, astrophysics, archeology and anthropology to help us to understand where everything fits within the Laws of Correspondence.

Remember: Fact has nothing to do with belief; that the ancients believed, is all we need to know. And even if we think we are no longer susceptible to the powers of the Old Gods, we only have to look through ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Celtic or Viking eyes to see them.

So, some may ask, why can’t we just abandon the use of these ancient symbols? The experienced magical practitioner understands that contact with these ‘old energies’ can be attained more completely through symbols that are so ancient that they are buried deep within the storehouse of our collective unconsciousness. The alternatives – intellectual formulae and symbols of mathematics and science – have been evolved too recently to serve as direct conduits. The magician or mystic uses the more direct paths, which long ago were mapped out in the shadowlands of what Carl Jung referred to as the racial or universal subconscious.

Many of the books referred to in this text are now out of print, but the tracking down and acquisition of such rare volumes should be viewed as part of the magical learning process. These are included simply because they remain the best explanation of the subject (or the most controversial), even though there may be dozens of other more recent titles in print. Others reflect the publishing viewpoint of their time and, as such, offer an insight into the limited availability of good source material during the early 1960s and 1970s; remembering that the last Witchcraft Act wasn’t repealed until 1951.

Some titles offer a basic introduction to a subject, while others may need to stay on the shelf until the moment of enlightenment, when the scales fall from the seeker’s eyes and they are ready to receive the wisdom from the printed page. Surprisingly, perhaps, there are also a handful of fictional titles here, since many of these contain more than just a grain of magical truth. The search for such treasures should be looked upon as part of the magical quest, for seeking out such ‘truths’ should never be as simple as taking down a book from a shelf.

Mélusine Draco


CONTENTS: An A-Z of Magic & Mystery and the mini-articles that support them …

The Ancestors in Traditional Witchcraft : Black Magic, White Magic : Charms and Spells : Discarnate Entities & Extra-terrestrial Intelligences : Earth Mysteries : Folk Medicine: Nature’s Medicine Chest : Gemstones, Rocks & Crystals : Tree Lore: Hawthorn : Isles of the Blessed : Julian – The First Pagan Martyr : Karma & Reincarnation : Lammas and the Harvest Home : Magic – What is it? : Natural Tides : Traditional British Old Craft : The Power of Mythos : Qabalah : The Influence of Roman Gods in Britain : Seasonal Celebrations : Thelema : Underworld and Otherworld : Psychic Vampires : Words & Names of Power : The X-Factor : Yesod: Temple of the Moon : The Egyptian Zodiac

The Dictionary of Magic & Mystery compiled by Melusine Draco is published by Moon Books in paperback and e-book formet. ISBN: 978 1 84694 462 8 : 370 pages : UK£12.99/US$22.95



‘All Hallows’ – from Carry On Crafting

‘So if I were to join in one of these witchcraft rituals, would I have to run up and down with a lighted taper in my arse, singing the Hallelujah Chorus?’ The question was patronising and more than a little offensive, even if it wasn’t on camera.

Rupert fixed the interviewer with a steely look before responding in his best, clipped public-school tone: ‘You could if you wanted to, old boy, but it wouldn’t add anything constructive to the proceedings.’

With that, he climbed into the Land Rover and drove off, leaving the television crew staring after him, open-mouthed, while the public relations girl looked as though she was about to burst into tears. I had warned them well in advance not to ask daft questions but obviously the media genius with the Beckham mentality had decided to busk it – and this was the result. So there they stood in the middle of a field, on a damp October morning – a complete production team, whose star performer had just buggered off! And no amount of coaxing was going to get him back.

Needless to say, it was a couple of weeks away from Hallowe’en, and this was an attempt to inject something ‘topical but spooky’ into the early evening CountryStyle programme. Rupert had only agreed to take part because he’d been led to believe it related directly to his new book, Equine Magical Lore and he was expecting to talk about traditional British ‘horse-whispering’ and natural animal cures. (He can wax quite lyrical about pig oil and sulphur, which he considers to be a cure for most things. I once caught him eyeing the children speculatively when they were small and suffering from measles!) He was not prepared to talk about Old Craft, on or off camera, with a moron who was just trying to provoke some good television.

As we’ve said many times before, the problem is that the media doesn’t want to portray witches as sane and rational adults with jobs and family responsibilities. They want weird (as opposed to wyrd) and will try any trick to manoeuvre their victim into doing, or saying, something stupid so the nation can snigger behind its collective hand, convinced that we’re all mentally defective. Unfortunately, there are a handful of so-called magical practitioners who will perform this kind of stunt for five minutes of fame but they are only representative of those whose roots were grafted after the popular surge of occultism in the 1970s.

Having finally managed to soothe Rupert’s affronted pride, and attempted to persuade the production crew that camping out in the greenhouse wasn’t a good idea, most of the morning had gone. Judging by the amount of frantic mobile telephone activity – conspicuous in a stable yard by the discordant assortment of electronic ringtones – they had obviously been told not to return to base without a result. For some time we amused ourselves by watching from the upstairs windows as they circled the house, trying to conceal themselves among the bushes and shrubs, waiting to pounce. The publicity girl, now thoroughly sodden, had tried banging on the door a couple of times, but Rupert was not for turning. It was going to be a long day, but the dog was keeping them on the move, and finding it all immense fun.

Periodically, someone would mooch past the kitchen window, sporting what appeared to be a dead ferret on the end of a pole. I was reliably informed by my son (who telephoned in the middle of this hiatus), that it was a microphone and part of the sound equipment, but out here in the country, you can never be quite sure. We know of one local lad who managed to sell the same dead fox to a television production team on three consecutive days, by keeping it in the freezer overnight and fluffing up the fur each morning with his mother’s hair-dryer. And they say country folk are thick … he earned £100 for that road kill!

Anyway, Rupert refused to leave the kitchen while the media circus was still lurking about, and just as we were sitting down to an early lunch, in came Pris, spitting feathers. ‘I’ll murder the bugger!’ she kept saying, until Rupert’s special blend of strong coffee laced with Famous Grouse worked its magical calming effect; not to mention feeding her a cheese and pickle sandwich, the size of which would have felled a healthy Rottweiler. At first we thought poor old Adam was coming in for some flack but it was much more serious than mere marital dispute.

A stranger had ridden into town and, compounding sacrilege with blasphemy, had announced to all and sundry that he came from the very same Old Craft tradition that had spawned Pris. Now we have ways and means of recognising our ‘own’, as it were, and this pretender was not giving out any of the signals that would have endorsed his claim. In all honesty, Pris’s old teacher was a bit of a colourful character with some most peculiar working methods – which may account for some of Pris’s strange habits – but his magical approach was certainly unique. As she’d said on many occasions in response to prior bogus claims to her lineage: ‘He might have been a scurrilous old bugger, but he was our scurrilous old bugger!’

This type of claiming ‘kinship’ is, unfortunately, no longer a rarity, especially as the schism between contemporary Wicca and the Gardnerian-based traditions is widening all the time. Those older traditions that have formal, initiatory training and an established hierarchical system now wish to distance themselves from this eclectic free-for-all that typifies 21st century paganism, by referring to themselves as ‘traditional’ Craft.

For those of British Old Craft, however, the gulf between modern paganism and our ways could never have been reconciled. As we frequently point out, there’s nothing altruistic about Old Craft, which retains its tribal mentality and does not wish to take on the responsibility for global problems that occur outside its own sphere of operations. We tend to work on the guiding and hallowed principle of looking after our own … full stop!

All this convenient pagan colour-coding has resulted in more and more folk coming forward to claim antecedents for themselves, to which they are not entitled. As a rule they allow around five years from the death of one of these Old Souls and if no one else appears to lay claim to the tradition, they publicly proclaim themselves to be the inheritors of the old wisdom of the dear departed. Even if the closest they’ve ever been is bumping into one at a pagan camp; holding a couple of telephone conversations of a pseudo-magical nature; or being involved in the same public ritual as ‘the Name’. Old Crafters are notoriously secretive and this form of lèse-majesté is the only thing that will bring ’em out of the woodwork to defend their corner. There’s many a pretender who has been faced down by an affronted Old Crafter … and it’s not a pretty sight!

The Coarse Witchcraft Trilogy is published by Moon Books in paperback and e-book format. ISBN: 978 1 78279 285 7 : 254p : UK£10.99/US$18.95

The Power of the Elements

EXTRACT from Pagan Portals: The Power of the Elements – A Magical Approach to Earth, Air, Fire, Water & Spirit by Melusine Draco

A magical practitioner, whether witch, druid, ritual magician or shaman must be aware that there are all manner of different currents and movements on the planet that affect us on a deeper magico-mystical level than we could ever imagine when we begin our voyage of discovery.  And as I asked at the beginning of Traditional Witchcraft and the Path to the Mysteries, do we ever stop to think that the burst of energy that sets the pendulum swinging could be caused by the swirling molten layer under the Earth’s crust, creating the electro-magnetic field that surrounds the planet by the spinning outer crust around the solid part of the inner core?  Do we recognise the continuous re-arranging of the Earth’s surface by tectonic plate movement; of the earthly debris from volcanoes that brings precious stones and minerals to the surface and the underground eruptions that causes giant tsunami to race around the globe. Or is our Elemental Earth just a quiet ramble in the countryside and a container of sand marking the Northern quarter in our magic Circle?

We may sit meditating by a rippling stream, watching the sunlight dance in the water as it trips over the stones and pebbles in its path – but do we allow our minds to explore the greater picture of where that crystal clear water comes from? Do we realise that this stream began its brief chapter of life being drawn up as vapour from the ocean and falling as rain on the hills and mountain sides, before flowing down into the river valley with enough power to bring rocks and stones tumbling in its wake? Do our magical energies focus on the stream; the rainfall on the mountain; or the ocean? Are we constantly aware of the force of that water-flow throughout the seasons – the spring floods; the summer drought; the clogging of the channel with autumn leaves and the frozen surface in winter. Or does our concept of Elemental Water begin and end with the symbolic bowl of tap water marking the Western quarter in our magic Circle?

Nothing on the planet can live without clean, breathable air, but a magical practitioner needs to think beyond soft summer breezes and rainbows after a spring shower. Air is the stuff from which tornadoes and hurricanes are made; it brings puffs of cumulus clouds or a billowing thunderhead some ten miles high; not to mention the thousands-of-feet-high dust storms that are created when a monsoon collides with dry air currents above it. Or is our Elemental Air merely the curling smoke from a perfumed joss stick marking the Eastern quarter in our magical workings?

Fire, even in its most modest form has the capacity for great destruction – a box of matches in the hands of a child, a fallen candle, or a carelessly discarded cigarette. On a grander and more epic scale, we are well acquainted by television coverage with devastating wildfire destroying anything that stands in its path; the eruption of a volcano; or the power of solar winds that reach out from the sun to interfere with electronic equipment here on Earth. Or is our contact with Elemental Fire restricted to a candle burning at the Southern quarter of our Circle?

 Nevertheless, the contemporary pagan viewpoint is that the four classical elements are still a natural part of our mental make-up, though in each person only one predominates. There is still a lurking appeal of the ancient Greek view that a single one-word answer can reveal something about what we are. In truth, science has come a long way since then … and so has magic. The Greek four are the elements of tradition and time, and have dominated human thought for over two millennia – and have been around long enough to insinuate themselves into our lives, language, art and literature.  Even Galen, the ‘Father of Medicine’ cited elemental properties as being at the root of sickness; a theory that was still being expounded by the 17th century herbalist, apothecary and astrologer Nicholas Culpeper.

In magical practice, these four elements still guard the four cardinal points of the Compass (or Circle) and it doesn’t matter in whose name, or in what form we summon them.  When ‘Calling the Quarters’ for a Magic Circle it is usual to draw down the protection of the elements by summoning the …

Guardian of the Watchtowers of the North, South, East, West


The Power of the Element of Earth, Fire, Air, Water


The Guardian of the North, South, East, West


The Element of Earth, Fire, Air, Water


The Stations of the Gnomes, Salamanders, Sylphs, Undines

The last comes from the classical Paracelsusian perspective that there are four elemental categories: gnomes, undines, sylphs, and salamanders, which correspond to the Classical elements of antiquity: earth, water, air and fire. Aether (quintessence) was not assigned an elemental and represents the realm of spirit.  For those of ritual magic persuasion the Call would be for the archangels from the Hebrew tradition:

North = Earth = Uriel

South = Fire = Michael

East = Air = Raphael

West = Water = Gabriel

Nevertheless, the idea for this book came from Coven member who was involved in the filming of an opera on a beach at low tide. “As we were shooting the film, the tide was starting to come in quite quickly and every five minutes we had to move forward because the water was catching up with us. Standing there I could feel the immense power of the energy that was rising right behind me. The wind was picking up and I could sense the power of the water. It was incredible. All I wanted to do was stop shooting this stupid film and work some magic! It also made me think that I wanted to go and live right by the sea so I could experience this more often. It was so amazing.

“And then it made me think about the conversation we had the other day when you asked about ‘Calling the Quarters’ in the Circle. You said you thought I was more connected to Water and I said, No, Air. Well boy, did I feel connected to that water. I can feel it now. When I need to call upon Water I will dig inside of me for that feeling I had. I can connect to Air as well but I think you were right, I think I have a much stronger connection to Water for some reason.  Perhaps because I miss it, being from Marseille in the south of France, but now that I am on this path I feel like I miss it even more.”

Here we have the realisation that although we are psychically connected to the same elements as our ancient Greek counterparts, the modern belief that in ‘each of us only one predominates’ is a long way from the truth.  And to put these ideas in to a magical context, we discover that that each element has other facets influencing its purity or effectiveness. By using the Court Cards of our favourite Tarot Deck we can begin to identify what causes those peculiarities that make us say we don’t identify with our particular Star Sign.  Leo, for example, is represented by Elemental Fire and is identified with the Knight (or King) of Wands but his ‘family’ is made up of the Princess (the Earthy part of Fire) and the Prince (the Airy part of Fire) of Wands … and the Queen of Wands (the Watery part of Fire).

Adrien, being an Aquarian and a professionally trained singer and dancer, is obviously more geared towards the Watery Part of Air, while I’m an untypical Piscean being wired for the Fiery Part of Water in my youth and the Earthy Part of Water in my later years.  The current Magister of Coven of the Scales is a Leo and a former Fire Chief who obviously relates to Fire; while the Dame is a Virgo and a lawyer who associates with the Airy Part of Earth. As they get older and develop magically, it will be interesting to see whether these ‘parts’ are subject to change. So here we have four people Calling the Quarters of their choice and who are not necessarily manning the Compass at the station related to their actual birth-sign, but of the part of their personality that often over-powers the Star-Sign.  And we often do find ourselves altering perspective as we go through life-changing situations during our time on this earth whereas our birth-sign remains the same until death.

And when a magical practitioner makes the sign of the equal-armed cross + at each cardinal point of the Compass, they are evoking the protection of the Elements – not using it in any Christian context.  The equal-armed cross, also referred to as the square cross is another name for the Greek Cross when this is found in ancient cultures pre-dating Christianity.   The + is shorthand for Earth (forehead), Fire (chest), Air (right shoulder) and Water (left shoulder) and by introducing it into our Circle workings we are bringing down every attribute, association and correspondence relating to those four points of the Compass simply by evoking the Guardian and making the sign of that cross.

Hopefully a picture is beginning to emerge concerning the exactitude necessary for a serious magical undertaking whether it be for spell-casting, banishing, divination or meditation.  The famous magician’s directive – ‘Know Thyself!’ – is not just referring to spiritual self-analysis, it also exhorts us to understand exactly where we are placed in the magical and universal scheme of things.

Pagan Portal: The Power of the Elements – A Magical Approach to Earth, Air, Fire, Water & Spirit by Melusine Draco. ISBN: 978 1 78535 916 3  : UK£6.99/US$10.95