Blog reviews

PAGAN PORTALS: Blacksmith Gods by Pete Jennings

From time to time I will be introducing reviews  for books that are complementary to traditional British Old Craft and the Khemetic Mysteries … or just because they contain their fair share of ‘magical truths’ that are pertinent to all Paths and Traditions.   Wisdom isn’t confined to a single belief system and sometimes we can benefit from a different viewpoint … even if it’s not remotely connected to what we personally believe. 

PAGAN PORTALS: Blacksmith Gods by Pete Jennings

Smithing and horses are an important part of the old witchcraft traditions and I always have a collection of equine bits and pieces for magical use tucked away because these are extremely powerful ingredients for spell casting that can be found at the blacksmith’s forge. Such as:

  • Horse-hair: Perfect for binding spells
  • Cast horseshoes: For luck and protection
  • Thunder water: For magical spells and healing
  • Horseshoe nails (new and used): For cursing

Pete Jennings takes us on a whistle-stop tour of the ‘blacksmith gods’ and reveals the importance of the position the smith held in our ancient traditions whether we be Craft, Druid, or Heathen.  The smith was a worker with ‘fire and iron’ and therefore a magician; he was a healer, and often a dispenser of the law – these skills feature strongly in the myths and legends of the Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian and other Germanic peoples. The iron horseshoe – one of the typical products of the smith – is still regarded as a ‘magical’ symbol today and is hung on walls and doors to bring good luck (but only if the curved part is at the bottom, otherwise the luck ‘falls out’  – if you’re a Horseman, the reverse is true).

As the author comments: “Yet even at the basest level of the smith’s craft, a sense of awe, magic and mystery attaches itself. Little wonder, when those early workers of the Bronze Age and Iron Age obtained metal from rocks and turned it into tools and weapons. It was a world away from their stone implement ancestors. We hear about the magical ‘drawing the sword from the stone’ in Arthurian legend, yet that is what those early metalworkers actually achieved. No wonder they kept their trade secrets, making sure that they maintained a local monopoly on such goods. Of course, keeping their secrets from the general population (and working apart from them to prevent the spread of fire) would be bound to lead to an idea or suspicion that they were working some sort of magic; that is actions that could not be explained by other ordinary people. In some places even iron or other metals were imbued with an air of magic, good or bad, and consequently would not be used in ritual situations.”

ISBN: 978 1 78279 627 5 :  published by Moon-Books :  110 pages: Price £6.99

The story behind …

The Story Behind …

 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 …

Traditional Witchcraft and the Path to the Mysteries

This was the six and last book in the Traditional Witchcraft series and came about from the questions being asked by members of Coven of the Scales who were working towards Initiation and was not originally intended for publication.  It was a way of going over old ground, much of which had already provided the basic material for the first four books in the series – although I have been asked if reading the whole series qualifies the reader as being an Initiate!   Err … n-o-o!  Preparing for initiation is a long and torturous process and it is necessary to re-visit old lessons and path-working to view them from a different perspective and Traditional Witchcraft and the Path to the Mysteries was my way of bringing all those elements together.

Lucya Starza very kindly wrote of the book on her Bad Witch Blog: “More and more often these days I get asked what books would I recommend for solitary witches who have gone beyond material aimed at beginners. The truth is, there aren’t that many. The Deep Heart of Witchcraft, by David Salisbury, is one I’ve recommended in the past. Now I’ll be adding Traditional Witchcraft and the Path to the Mysteries by Mélusine Draco.

The journey that is described within its pages is both symbolic and literal. It advocates embarking on a walk from where a great river meets the sea, back along its course past the estuary and urban sprawl, through water meadows, dark woods, and up into the hills to the original source. You can read the book and visualise the journey – but it would be far better to travel out into the real environment and experience nature in the raw. The book explains what the different kinds of environment can symbolise and also how different types of geology and environment can affect us psychologically and spiritually. As Melusine says: “Observing Nature is an equally valid expression of spirituality as meditation within the Circle.”

There are exercises to do, meditations to perform and questions to answer along the way. However, the only answers you will get are the ones you find yourself as you search for your own path and your own truth about the inner mysteries of witchdom.  Although Traditional Witchcraft and the Path to the Mysteries is aimed at traditional witches in the style of British Old Craft, I would say that the lessons offered within its pages are applicable to witches of other schools too. I am an eclectic Wiccan, yet I would happily recommend this book to other Wiccans training towards their second degree or even beyond. Reading it has certainly given me the urge to embark on a Great Walk – using a term from the book On Walking – travelling lightly on foot along a river from sea to source.”

For those who have not made a serious study of traditional British Old Craft the content will not anything new but those who have come to it well-schooled have come away with the idea that the book was written for them personally.  I doubt if this one will ever hit the best-seller lists but at the end of the day it was decided it was a title that needed to be written because it might be a guide for those who want to understand what will be expected of them should they choose to begin the journey.

Traditional Witchcraft and the Path to the Mysteries is published by Moon Books as part of the Traditional Witchcraft series.   For more information go to www.moon-books.net

 

 

 

The Story Behind …

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 important as the published book itself …

Traditional Witchcraft and the Pagan Revival

 The idea for Traditional Witchcraft and the Pagan Revival: A magical anthropology was originally sparked off by that old in-joke of the late Michael Howard’s concerning the ‘Celtic Potato Test’ in which he highlighted the number of pagan publications that repeated the myth that the one of the Celts’ sacred plants they brought to Britain was the potato!  Over the years it became evident that these historical inaccuracies were permeating contemporary pagan publishing and perpetuating mis-information for the generations to come.

Witchcraft has a fascinating history but no-one can trace their antecedents back to the Stone Age, and at best what we have now is a watered-down version of primitive shamanism that is nevertheless often easily recognisable from ancient European cave paintings.  Witchcraft and shamanism probably ran in tandem with the developing culture of these islands and would have reflected (but not controlled) the beliefs of the indigenous population.  As anthropologist Francis Pryor explained in Britain BC:

It is my contention that the influences of British pre-Roman cultures are still of fundamental importance to modern British society … The six millennia of insular development gave British culture a unique identity and strength that was able to survive the tribulations posed by the Roman Conquest, and the folk movements of the post-Roman Migration Period, culminating in the Danish raids, the Danelaw and of course the Norman Conquest of 1066.

And it was his subsequent comment that according to his research, all the Romans can take credit for was wiping out a 10,000-year old island culture quite unlike any other in the ancient world, which gave me food for thought.  So … just as not all members of today’s Church are members of the priesthood, not all of the indigenous peoples were witches; and just because something is ancient doesn’t mean to say that it was viewed as ‘sacred’.  And burial sites were not necessarily places of worship. Yes, there are many tenuous strands that reach back into the mists of time but more often than not if we give a good tug, the threads come away in our hand.

Magical ability itself is a very tenuous skill that needs to link to its own original roots to work successfully; we need to be able to tease the strands from the tangled skein of history to trace the power back to its source.  So began a fascinating journey back into our pagan past to discover where the various different threads became woven into the magical chain.  Yes, it took a long time to write but in the process it was possible to correct many of the misconceptions, dis-information and downright deliberate inaccuracies and restore some sort of form of magical chronology to the beliefs of our Craft forebears.

Traditional Witchcraft and the Pagan Revival is published by Moon Books as part of the Traditional Witchcraft series.   For more information go to www.moon-books.net

Blog Reviews …

PAGAN PORTALS: CANDLE MAGIC by Lucya Starza

From time to time I will be featuring reviews of books by other authors that are complimentary to traditional British Old Craft and the Khemetic Mysteries, and which I feel are recommended or essential reading material.  For example:

PAGAN PORTALS: CANDLE MAGIC by Lucya Starza

It would be easy to say this is a delightful little book for beginners – but Lucya Starza packs so much information into 25,000 words that it qualifies as a ‘must-have’ introduction to the fascinating subject of candle magic. I particularly like the down-to- earth, chatty approach that reads like a casual conversation around the kitchen table – by candle light, of course. Candle magic is one of the simplest, yet one of the oldest, most powerful forms of spell-casting and an essential addition to any witch’s toolbox of tricks – so if you want to discover more about the glittering, shimmering, flickering, dancing world of candle magic then this is the book for you.

Since its publication I’ve also added it to the list of recommended reading in the Coven of the Scales Arcanum course, and often refer to it in my own books as the best treatment of the subject since the late Michael Howard’s Practical Candle Magic, which is now out of print. Lucya Starza often hosts candle magic sessions in London and if you want to find out more about this fascinating aspect of witchcraft go to her Bad Witch blog … see cover picture above.

ISBN: 978-1-78535-043-6 :  published by Moon-Books :  112 Pages: Price £6.99

The Story Behind …

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 important as the published book itself …

Traditional Witchcraft for Woods & Forests

As I’d already published Root & Branch: British Magical Tree Lore (ignotus press), which had said everything I needed to say about our native trees, it was extremely difficult to come up with a new slant for the Tradition Witchcraft series. Woodland was where I first had my first mystic experiences and there was no shortage of information if I came at the idea from a more esoteric standpoint. Therefore the fourth in the series was written as Traditional Witchcraft for Woods and Forests: A Witch’s Guide to the Woodland with Guided Meditations & Pathworking.

Woodland is a world that provides endless doorways and portals into Otherworld and since ancient times, woods have been places of sacred groves and nemorous temples. In fact, woods and forests have played a mystical role in all cultures where trees once dominated the landscape, so it’s not surprising that these sylvan worlds provide a fascinating backdrop for traditional witchcraft.  And yet many witches are not comfortable when the trees close in around them should they wander too far from the path.  Tree-lore is an integral part of a witch’s stock in trade since trees provided food, warmth and shelter – and there is nothing more evocative that the smell of burning wood and leaves that accompanies the fine veil of misty blue vapour that hovers between the trees in the autumn.

Or as a friend with whom I’d shared many of those woodland walks, wrote: “Took the dogs to the woods yesterday and the bluebells are out; the perfume and the rippling blue haze was absolutely gorgeous. I love the woods; they still hold that scary, unpredictable magic feeling. What might be lurking behind the next tree? The movement of the branches causing a flickering dappled sunshine effect. All in the imagination … until in the silence a pheasant suddenly goes up and you nearly pooh your pants!”

Being a creature of the Wild Wood, the author does not reflect the modern ‘theme park’ attitude to the woodlands and hopefully, this book will encourage a new generation of witches to have the courage to follow the age-old observances (in spirit if not in practice) and help return power to the genius loci of the forest.

Traditional Witchcraft for Woods and Forests: A Witch’s Guide to the Woodland with Guided Meditations & Pathworking is published by Moon Books as part of the Traditional Witchcraft series.   For more information go to www.moon-books.net

 

 

 

Blog Book Review

From time to time I will be featuring reviews of books by other authors that are complimentary to traditional British Old Craft and the Khemetic Mysteries, and which I feel are recommended or essential reading material.  For example:

Earth God Risen by Alan Richardson

This is a book that’s been around for a l-o-n-g time and is written by one of our most underrated esoteric authors.  In its first incarnation as Earth God Rising it was enthusiastically endorsed by no less than Bill Gray, an irascible English ceremonial magician, Hermetic Qabalist and writer, who published widely on the subject of western esotericism and the occult.   At the time of its original publication, he wrote:

“Richardson traces the presence of the male aspect of deity in Westerners through ancient Egypt and medieval metaphysics into modern mysticism and his own experience.  This he does with scholarly skill and a pleasant fluency.  A delight to read and a worthwhile asset to possess.  So much has been written about our Primal Goddess that it is refreshing to read of Her consort, the Primal God – which the author eventually finds in himself after looking nearly everywhere else.  Adventurous and fascinating.”

Now, all these years later, the Earth God has indeed Risen and from his lofty heights of maturity, Alan Richardson has revisited his previous work on the male mysteries. With his inimitable incisiveness and laconic humour this new commentary alongside the original text offers fresh insights into his own personal approach to the mysteries.  With all the skill of a spiritual surgeon, he also frequently manages to cut his often pretentious younger self down to size.

This innovative re-lease can offer an excellent example for other laurel-resting authors whose books have been out there for too long without any revision or added benefits of hindsight.  As always, Richardson’s writing makes me laugh out loud while at the same time bashing the reader over the head with practical common sense.  If you are a proud possessor of the original, may I suggest you add Earth God Risen to your library – it is still a delight to read and the fresh insights might trigger your own kensho moments on the mystical Path.   MD.

ISBN: 978-1-910098-00-4 : Published by Skylight Press : 174 pages : £12.99

Book News

CRONE! has gone off to the proof-reader but in the meantime here’s a taster …

CRONE! An Old Craft Witch’s Year is a rag-bag of memories, wise counsel, reflections, magic and nostalgia that make up a witch’s year – especially one who’s just stepped down as leader of a Coven and finds herself with a lot of time on her hands. Magically this is the best of times since there is nothing to prevent the Crone from doing what she likes, when, where and how – since her personal power is now greatly magnified.

CRONE! might also provide food for thought for those Craft ladies of a certain age who need to step aside and let the next generation have their turn, because often we don’t stop to think that the magical power of the group can diminish and stagnate through the lack of fresh energy. Hopefully, as far as the new Magister and Dame are concerned, I will be around for a long time to come, remaining in the background dispensing Knowledge, Wisdom and Understanding so that they in turn can train their own successors for the future, while I return to my own chosen Path.

In truth there’s comes a time in a Crafter’s life when it becomes necessary to follow a different Path and see where it takes us. We leave the security of the Coven and set off on a solitary journey … but as Aleister Crowley observed: “What an adventure!”