Coven Cafe Culture

Back in the 1980s Bob and Meriem Clay-Egerton held regular Sunday morning meetings in a local coffee shop in Newcastle for the benefit of non-Coven members who wanted to know more about witchcraft and magic – and didn’t know who to ask. In fact, many of their old friends have contacted us over the years and almost the first thing they mention are those magical Sunday mornings.

In keeping with Bob’s idea we have decided to open a Coven of the Scales ‘coffee shop’ on Facebook for the benefit of those pagans who need to ask questions about witchcraft and magic – but don’t know who to ask. After all, how can you teach yourself what you don’t know exists, and if you’re self-taught, who do you ask whether you’re doing it right?

Coven of the Scales is a traditional British Old Craft group and its members have years of experience of Craft, folk, practical and ritual magic techniques as well as all coming from different walks of life. This means there will always be those in the coffee shop from new members of CoS to Elders and Initiates who will be willing to answer your questions. It may be that you receive two conflicting responses but CoS has always been about encouraging magical discussion because that’s the only way to learn and progress … so … discuss … don’t be afraid to ask why?

All that Coven Café Culture demands of its members is good manners and being a closed group, we will dispose of anyone who isn’t willing to observed the basic courtesies when using the page. Neither do we want to give floor space to those massive egos who think the only way to discuss magical matters is to deliver a diatribe in highfaluting jargon that is incomprehensible to beginners. Any inappropriate or irrelevant posts will be automatically removed – so let’s keep it simple and sensible.

And remember – the only daft question is the one you didn’t ask.


Book Review

Title: Pagan Portals: Divination: By Rod, Birds, and Fingers
Publisher: Moon Books
Author: Melusine Draco
Pages: 112 pp
Price: $10.95 (paperback)

Divination: By Rod, Birds, and Fingers is a companion volume to By Spellbook & Candle and By Wolfsbane & Mandrake Root. It does not, however, seem to require that it be read or worked side by side with either text, or for one book or the other to be read first as a prerequisite. The title is derived from a quote from Robert Cochrane. The quote and title do set a good tone, theme, and organization for the book. This book is clearly dedicated to divination compared to fortune telling, and more geared towards personal use than reading for others. The reader would do well to bear in mind that the author is from Wales, as this effects her writing style; also, the culture is a bit different.

In the text, the Rod includes, wand-, staff-, rod-, and arrow-related divination. Fingers includes all forms of sortilege, which are objects selected, drawn, cast, or thrown. The Birds chapter relates to divining by watching birds in various forms.

The material is not that which is often repeated elsewhere. It may not be new from a historical standpoint, but the material is very fresh from the standpoint that many of the topics or methods are often not written about in this manner. In a sense, they are re-introduced to the public. There were shining moments of awe when I read something I hadn’t before seen in print.

In the beginning of each chapter there are lists of various sub-types of the divination realm, terms, and definitions . Each chapter considers not only the how of divination, but also the why’s of each method, followed by some instructions and examples. Along the way, there are some thought provoking questions such as “The Tarot appears to be the weapon of choice for most witches, but how many, truthfully, would rely on it when confronted with making a difficult decision in their lives?” I also very much agree with the writer’s urging to not meander across different systems, but to work at one to be proficient. This book left me wanting more.

In summary, Divination: By Rod, Birds, and Fingers provides an introduction to, and beginning instructions in, several methods of divination rooted in traditional witchcraft. I feel it is accessible and understandable to someone new to the subject, but I would encourage more reading on individual systems afterward. It would be appreciated by someone involved or interested in traditional witchcraft. If you are already a Moon Books reader, or reader of By Spellbook & Candle or By Wolfsbane and Mandrake, or other books by Melusine Draco, this should join your library with its related companion books.

[Robert Scott is the editor of The Diviner’s Handbook: Writings on Ancient and Modern Divination Practices.]

New release: Wort-Lore – the Craft of Witches

“Wort-lore isn’t just about knowing which herbs are suitable for use in treating medical conditions, it is also about their history, superstitions, magical use and correspondences.” [The Secret People]

One of our Coven members recently confessed that she felt not being raised in the country had a certain disadvantage in being unfamiliar with the various traditional wild herbs used in witchcraft. So, let’s put this in some kind of perspective and define exactly what we mean by ‘herbs’. According to the Oxford English Dictionary a herb is ‘any plant with seeds, leaves or flowers used for flavouring, food, medicine or perfume’. Many of the herbs used in contemporary pagan herbals tend to use domestic herbs but once upon a time, all herbs were ‘wild’. The most popular plants that often were discovered to have multiple uses were cultivated, and later others were added as a result of invasion and migration. Although Melusine Draco is not a herbalist, she has grown up with domestic plant medicine being part of everyday life, and while Wort-Lore – the Craft of Witches might not have risen above the level of what is now labelled ‘domestic folk-medicine’ it does share an awareness of poisons and the ingredients used in magic spells that are an integral part of Craft knowledge.



Books by Melusine Draco Currently in Publication

Ignotus Press
Liber Ægyptius: The Egyptian Book of Magic (1998)
The Hollow Tree (1999 – reprinted 2001)
The Egyptian Book of Days (2001 – revised and expanded 2018)
Root & Branch: British Magical Tree Lore (2002 – expanded 2016)
Starchild I: a Re-discovery of Stellar Wisdom (2006)
CRONE! An Old Craft Witch’s Year (2017)
Old Year, Old Calendar, Old Ways (2018)
Wort-Lore: By Mandrake, Henbane and Adder’s Tongue (2018)


The Temple House Archive I: House of Strange Gods – novel (2015)*
The Temple House Archive II: Realm of Shadow – novel (2015)*
Temple House Archive III: Hour Betwixt Dog & Wolf – novel (2017)*

Moon Books – John Hunt Publishing imprint

Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living (2012)*
Traditional Witchcraft for the Seashore (2012)*
Traditional Witchcraft for the Fields & Hedgerows (2012)*
Traditional Witchcraft for the Woods & Forests (2012)*
Traditional Witchcraft and the Pagan Revival (2013)*
Traditional Witchcraft and the Path to the Mysteries (2014)*
The Dictionary of Magic & Mystery (2012)*
The Coarse Witchcraft Trilogy ed (2013)
The Secret People: Parish-pump witchcraft, Wise-women and Cunning Ways (2016)
The Power of the Elements (2018)

plus Pagan Portals & Shamanic Pathways

Black Horse, White Horse (2013)
Aubrey’s Dog (2013)
By Spellbook and Candle : Cursing, Hexing, Bottling& Binding (2013)
By Wolfsbane and Mandrake Root: The Shadow World of Plants and Their Poisons (2017)
Divination: By Rod, Birds & Fingers (2018)
Pan: Dark Lord of the Forest and Horned God of the Witches (2016)
Hearth Fire: The Goddess in Traditional British Old Craft (2019)
Have A Cool Yule: How to Survive (and Enjoy) the Mid-Winter Festival (2017)
Western Animism: Zen and the Art of Practical Paganism (2019)

Axis Mundi – John Hunt Publishing imprint

Magic Crystals, Sacred Stones (2012)
The Atum-Re Revival (2013)*


Witchcraft Today – 60 Years On (2014) Moon Books
‘Traditional British Witchcraft’

Hands of Apostacy (2014) Three Hands Press
‘Spirits and Deific Forms: Faith & Belief in British Old Craft’

Witches Almanac (2016)
‘Belief in British Old Craft’

iPagan Witchcraft (2017) Moon Books
‘Faith & Belief in Traditional British Old Craft’

Seven Ages of the Goddess (2018) Moon Books
‘Beyond the Veil – The Goddess in Witchcraft’

Witches’ Almanac (2018)
‘Corvids – Friend or Foe’

What is Modern Witchcraft? (2018) Moon Books
‘Old Craft for a New Generation’



It is impossible to get very far delving into traditional British Old Craft without coming across a reference to the Ancestors – those enigmatic beings that lie at the very heart of the Tradition. Interaction with these spirit-ancestors as an invisible and powerful presence is a constant feature of Old Craft and they are identified as the Guardians, the Mighty Dead, the Watchers or the Old Ones, whose magical essence is distilled into the universal subconscious at different levels.  Regardless of creed, race or tradition, they represent culture, traditions, heritage, lineage and antecedents and trace the long march of history that our predecessors began.

The honoring of the dead and venerating their memory 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 prehistoric remains of the numerous earth-works that the indigenous people of the British Isles and the Celts honored their ancestors; and the earliest written observations are those of the Roman Paternalia (February) and the Lemuria (May), which later spread throughout the Empire.

The Egyptians began it all with the ‘First Time’ – called zep tepi  – the universal Golden Age ‘during which the waters of the abyss  receded, the  primordial darkness  was banished, and humanity, emerging into the light’, was brought the gifts of civilisation by the Urshu, the Watchers or Light-bearers, acting as intermediaries between gods and men.   The so-called ‘Building Texts’ from the temple at Edfu, record that the Seven Sages, the Builder Gods, the Lords of Light, the Senior Ones,  brought light, i.e. knowledge, to the people – all  descriptions  of  the  same  shadowy brotherhood.

Like many other ancient religious concepts, these have often been used (and abused) in popular culture, particularly in Madame Blavatsky’s Western esotericism, which emphasised the idea of an ancient and superior wisdom that can been found in pre-Christian societies but which was absent from the doctrines of established Christianity.  When those of a particular Tradition pass beyond the veil, their spiritual essence merges with the divine spirit of the Whole, which in turn gives these ancient Ancestral beliefs the continuing power to endure – even past their own time and place in history.

It therefore remains the duty of an Old Craft witch to ensure that the soul of any newly deceased can successfully join the Ancestors and keep adding to the strength of our belief, which, in many instances may already have endured for hundreds of years.  If when living, we cannot acknowledge and respect the Ancestors of traditional British Old Craft (or any other Path or Tradition) to which we claim to belong, then we will contribute nothing to the Whole when we die.   MD