Just received the proof for my latest Moon Book – Pagan Portals: Seeking the Primal Goddess and think it looks pretty impressive. It won’t be published until the end of 2019 but something to look forward to …
There nothing more tiresome that biographical details of someone who is desperately trying to create a life of importance and yet when it came to writing The Secret People I found myself in the invidious position of recording memories of a country life-style that had almost disappeared when I was still a child. You might even say that I grew up surrounded by ghosts of the past – which was the perfect jumping-off point for where I am today! Although there have been those critics who claim those memories to be ‘romanticised’ … for example:
A few years ago, I attended a Welsh Game Fair with a group of friends. In the main arena, one of the attractions was a chap who was simulating all the old poacher’s tricks for the entertainment of the crowd. His display was cleverly contrived by using a series of elastic lures to make the fake ‘rabbits’ streak across the field into the long-net. It was so convincing that two visiting whippets joined in the fun, much to the delight of the crowd and the embarrassment of the owner. I’d been watching the display with a view to writing an article about it but instead of taking in the details of the here and now, my subconscious mind was re-living my own memories of poaching that had been long forgotten.
Like Faust’s madeleines, it was the running of the long-net that triggered the memory. A long-net was some two foot high and some 20 feet long, and held up right by cut hazel sticks … how did I know they were hazel sticks? Because it had been my job to carry them. The story goes back to my pre-school years and my father left baby-sitting for reasons I can’t now remember. He’d done the 1940-45 stint in North Africa and Europe and it took a long, long time to get the need for an adrenalin buzz out of his system. Being a countryman, he turned his hand to a spot of DIY recreational therapy (i.e. poaching) because that was the way you coped in those pre-counselling days.
It was a fine night with a poacher’s moon; myself (aged about four) and the dog (about the same age) were bundled onto the motorbike and off we went into the darkness of the woods for a few hours of illegal hunting. This happened several times until my mother found out – then there was all hell to pay and my night-time excursions were stopped. Today, social services would consider leaving a four year old alone in the dark holding a poacher’s net, the act of extreme neglect, if not cruelty. For me, it represents ultimate trust in the person closest to me. The long-term effect is that I have no fear of being alone in remote places during the hours of darkness – which was just as well when I lived in Wales and used to roam about the fields at midnight with the dog, star-watching. Or where I live now in the Galtee Mountains. [Taken from Life-Writes – Compass Books]
The Secret People is my recollection of growing up in a rural environment where older people lived life that still relied on herbal preparations and ‘simples’ and poaching for the pot – and if that is classed as ‘romantic’ in some eyes then so be it. I feel myself privileged to have experienced a rapidly disappearing way of life, and damned lucky to be able to remember it … and in CRONE! to share many of those enduring memories that have accompanied me through life.
EXTRACT from The Secret People: Parish-pump witchcraft, Wise-women and Cunning Ways.
The Secret People is a wander down memory lane and a step back in time; it is that ‘other country’ of the past where parish-pump witches, wise women and cunning folk still travel the highways and byways of a bygone era. Their voices can still be heard in the recipes and remedies handed down via an oral tradition, and now giving new knowledge to the next generation of pagans. It was a world where men went out with a ferret in a box and a long-net, accompanied by a silent long dog for a companion under a ‘poacher’s moon’. From ‘owl-light’ until dawn these people walked silently in the woods and along the hedgerows, watching and waiting to collect Nature’s bounty to be used for the benefit of themselves and their neighbours. From them came the introduction to spells and charms, divination and fortune-telling; the language of birds and the movement of animals – all grist for the witch’s mill. Mysterious horsemen might share secrets of horseshoe nails and thunder-water; while countrymen lived by weather, the seedtime and the harvest.
Few of The Secret People could be called traditional witches by any stretch of the imagination, and many would have been mortally offended to be referred to as a ‘witch’ or ‘pagan’. Few parish-pump witches would have thought about the skills they possessed since these were natural abilities, and even fewer wise women and cunning folk would have had any concept of the sombre and often dangerous rituals required for the raising of energy needed in the practice of true witchcraft. Theirs was a knowledge that filtered down in the form of spells, domestic plant medicine and country lore, imparted to offspring, friends and neighbours, who in turn handed it down to their children … and so on down through the generations. In fact, in his Dialogue Concerning Witches & Witchcraft (1603) George Gifford observed that local wise women ‘doth more good in one year than all these scripture men will do so long as they live’.
Most, however, would live by the Church calendar, inveigling saints to add potency to their healing spells, or to guide a hand in locating missing property; with many of the protective charms being aimed at deflecting malevolent witchcraft! Most old ladies in the parish seemed to have a wide repertoire of fortune-telling tricks to amuse young girls looking for a husband, not to mention the applied psychology of already knowing their neighbours’ business, which made divination with playing cards and tealeaves a push-over, and even up until recent years the village fete always had a fortune-telling tent. And since the early Church calendar had been formed around the agricultural year, the men folk of the village had no problem with presenting themselves, their animals, and produce from the harvest for blessing.
The Secret People would have greatly outnumbered the practitioners of traditional witchcraft since the practical abilities that define a true witch are bred in the bone and not everyone can lay claim to the lineage. The skills of The Secret People can, however, be learned and perfected with practise and for those who struggle to find a label with which to empathise, it is hoped the lessons taught here will help the reader to establish some sort of identity that sits comfortably with them.
Today, under the ubiquitous umbrella of paganism, the parish-pump witch runs the occult shop in the high street, the wise woman dispenses Reiki healing and the cunning man has become a professional tarot reader. The countryman’s world has disappeared under a sprawl of urban housing and ring roads, while the poacher has yielded his domain to the brutal gangs who slaughter wildlife on a commercial scale – even the poacher’s dog, the lurcher, has found his niche in the ‘fly-ball’ event at Crufts!
And yet…the knowledge of The Secret People is still there for the learning, if only we know how to search for it and rediscover our identity.
The Silent People by Melusine Draco is published by Moon Books. ISBN: 978 1 78535 444 1 226pp UK£13.99/US$22.95 http://www.moon-books.net
EXTRACT from CRONE! A Year in the Life of an Old Craft Witch
On reflection life is good and it’s not everyone who can live the witch’s dream of retiring to a small, isolated cottage in a river valley in the shadow of a wild mountain range. Since I’m country born and bred, it’s more like returning to my roots but life’s rich tapestry has certainly had its fair share of snags, runs, holes and endless thread-pulling along the way. I’ve lived in the Glen for over ten years now and although my original pack of greyhound companions has been reduced drastically through old-age, I’m still pack-leader of five … not forgetting Harvey my intrepid little mongrel!
The Glen is ideally suited to the type of magic we teach in Coven of the Scales simply because we are not over-looked – psychically or magically – and nothing is allowed to interfere with the daily routine of interacting with Nature on a full-time basis. The cottage is on the opposite side of the Glen to the mountains, on the wooded Slievenamuck Ridge with a lush valley and the River Aherlow running between. The view of the mountains is never the same two days running and at certain times of the afternoon, the slopes are bathed in a strange, ethereal light that is nothing short of enchanting. Each morning I can stand at the bedroom window and stare out with the feeling that this is an ever-lasting holiday – and one I often share with members of the Coven.
The Galtees (Na Gaibhlte) are Ireland’s highest inland mountain range, a high ridge which rises up almost sheer from the surrounding plain, the highest peak being Galteemore. As far as the geology is concerned, two major periods of glaciation affected the area and the rounded summits of the Galtee peaks were formed due to the higher parts being above the ice. The constant freeze-thaw action on the higher rocks gradually wore the peaks down to form the stony, scree covered summits we see today. This glacial action also formed corries on the higher slopes, which are now five mysterious glacial lakes. These mountains have many secrets not easily discovered: cliffs, lakes, bogs, streams, archaeology, wildlife, sheep, wonderful wild plants and ancient history. If anyone is familiar with my Magic Crystals, Sacred Stones (Axis Mundi), they will understand how important these geological features are to our magical teaching.
As a result of being surrounded by all this beauty, I’ve now gone into Crone-mode, which in magical parlance means that I can do and say what I want, when I want, and no one can object, since they must sit at my feet and drink in the pearls of wisdom I dispense with every breath … even if they are the senile, verbal wanderings of an aging crank. Seriously, the Coven has been told that if I do get to that stage ‘Do not revive!’ must be entered on the medical chart! Today, I am blessed with a crowd of wonderful people in the Coven from all over the world; all of whom are bright, intelligent and talented – not a witchy outfit to be seen amongst them with the Craft ‘mark’ tastefully concealed – and all dear friends.
In truth, we as practitioners of Old Craft are less concerned with ritual and dogma, and more focused on natural energy-raising techniques, which we use to channel or direct spells and charms according to the nature of the working. As I’ve often said, Old Craft witches do not worship Nature but we are certainly proficient at working in harmony with it … and are highly spiritual beings on this level, too. Unlike the majority of modern pagans, however, we accept Nature as being red in tooth and claw and do not seek to impose our will on the natural scheme of things – even if Beltaine is delayed because the hawthorn comes into bloom a month late! And you can’t have a true Beltaine celebration without the fragrance of May blossom in the air … if you understand my meaning.
We also accept the timeless concept of the hunter and the hunted, and the essential inter-action of male-female energy. Old Craft is not generally seen as gender specific but its beliefs do tend to lean towards the male aspect since the female aspect remains veiled and a mystery – as she should be since this is the ancient and fundamental ‘Truth’ behind the Mysteries. Coven of the Scales is not a true sabbatical tradition but it remains an initiatory Mystery one, and what it does share with the other pre-Wiccan traditions is a common feature of extreme selectivity when it comes to prospective members – and the willingness to reject those proven unfit for the Path. Needless to say, this unpopular and confrontational stance has often led to thorny relations between other so-called ‘traditional’ groups, but it has encouraged a sanctuary-like environment where creative magical collaboration can unfold according to the design of each individual member of the Coven.
All this ‘tradition’ has now funnelled down to a tiny, remote cottage in the Glen that offers members of the Coven a warm welcome, a magical learning centre and a spiritual home, hopefully, for many years to come. We have our own Neolithic site where we interact with the Ancestors and, unlike many other ancient monuments, these ancestral energies have not been polluted by the unwelcome tramp of tourism. Here I can live the life of an Old Craft Crone according to the tenets of my belief and periodically welcome friends and fellow travellers to share in my magical world.
CRONE! By Melusine Draco is published by Ignotus Press UK. ISBN: 978 1 78876 001 0 UK£7.95 https://www.feedaread.com/books/CRONE-9781788760010
The Coarse Witchcraft Trilogy: introduced by Melusine Draco
I’ve often said that Coarse Witchcraft is like Marmite … you either love it or hate it. Fans of the Coarse Witchcraft series are aware of the story behind the trilogy. How the authors were unhappy with the proposed ideas for publishing the first book as dark humour instead of the rather intense, polemic typescript they had originally submitted. They finally agreed for the text to be given to me (as a fellow Old Crafter) to ghost-write and Coarse Witchcraft: Craft Working was duly published – generally provoking more good natured laughter about British witchcraft at the time than we could have expected in our wildest dreams. Even esoteric author and long-time chum, Alan Richardson, said of the book: ‘Coarse Witchcraft made me laugh out loud in more than a few places. In fact, I think it is the first book of its kind; although it pokes fun at modern excesses and can laugh at itself, it still manages to teach the real stuff at a very high level.’
There was almost enough material left from the first book to launch a second: Coarse Witchcraft 2: Carry On Crafting, with plans for a third. It was dedicated to all those Crafters who believe that reverence should be tempered with mirth and merriment – and was as equally well received as the first. For reasons that will become apparent, the third (and last) title, Coarse Witchcraft 3: Cold Comfort Coven has been a long time in the writing. Despite the popularity of the first two books, the original authors decided to hand all copyright back to the ghost-writer who had created the series (if not the characters themselves), with the proviso that the real names of those people should never be revealed -and retire from the scene.
Cold Comfort Coven is written in the same vein as the previous titles, and in its own way continues the unexpected, but true, story of the Coven from the numerous notes supplied by, and lengthy conversations with, the original members. In its own way, I think the Coarse Witchcraft Trilogy represents a small but important capsule of Craft history during the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s that we have been lucky enough to preserve for the next generations of witches. MD
Extract from Coarse Witchcraft: Craft Working
St Thomas on the Poke is a small market town, as yet still unspoilt by the march of progress despite its close proximity to the south coast. And, despite an even closer proximity to the New Forest, the Coven lays no claim to any hereditary association with the legendary Dorothy Clutterbuck or the ‘New Forest Witches’. The Coven has been in existence for many years prior to the birth of its current members and will no doubt continue long after their deaths. Our family has farmed the land for centuries and, although that future can no longer be guaranteed, our branch of Old Craft will survive simply because we prefer to remain in the shadows and keep our teaching pure.
In spite of our ‘privacy’, our own small group is often beset with problems and difficulties of both a personal and magical nature, just the same as any other close grouping of people. Although head of the Coven, mine is not a blood-right. Three years after my mother’s death, father re-married; a year to the day his new wife was delivered of a son and promptly died. Some say the child was so ugly that the poor woman died of embarrassment. Be that as it may, as a result of this brief interlude, my father acquired a second son and a mother-in-law who was to be the bane of both his life and, subsequently, mine. Local people never understood why ’Squire (as my father was known) married Elizabeth Jay but I can now answer that question in all honesty, since it is no longer of importance. Like Jacquetta, the old Duchess of Bedford who snared Edward IV for her daughter, Granny Jay is a witch and, although she’s never actually admitted it, she used those powers to get Elizabeth into my father’s bed. In fact, Granny introduced most of the local children to the Old Ways (including my wife and myself), weeding out those who had a natural aptitude for careful nurturing when they came of reasonable age.
On my return from agricultural college following the unexpected death of my father, the old lady (whose personal habits and hygiene had always been questionable but now resembled those of an incontinent ferret) announced that I had been chosen to succeed the dead ‘Man’. Since Roger, my stepbrother, was of her blood, I felt the honour should go to him but Granny muttered that the boy was a moron who couldn’t find his own arse with a road map and a flash-light. She wasn’t, she added, having that sort of person messing up a hundred years of tradition. Despite her unprepossessing appearance, Granny was (and is still) not a force to be trifled with, as many of her neighbours have discovered to their cost. Mine was not to refuse.
Our Coven at present numbers the traditional thirteen although we have, in the past, had many more and often many less. Apart from my wife, Gabrielle, who serves as Dame and myself, there are our children, Richard and Philly, who are currently trekking around India during their gap year from university. (The Old Witch saw to it that they were introduced to the Old Ways at a very early age, even though I threatened to personally strangle her when I found out.) Guy and Gerry run the esoteric shop cum art gallery in the town centre and serve as our specialists in herb-lore. Priscilla and Adam at Bramble Cottage who, apart from keeping everyone supplied with honey and helping out with the livery stables, act as the Coven’s instructors. Then there’s Helena, our seer and diviner, whose jams and preserves are legendary within WI circles – but unlike Granny, hers is a tranquil madness.
Newcomers to the town, Madeleine and Robert were discovered like rare blossoms at a pub moot when Pris and Adam were forced to attend, due to Roger’s emergency hospitalization for haemorrhoids. (Granny unsympathetically observed that the doctors had obviously found a way to shut his mouth and give his arse a chance!) There’s Gordon, our stable ‘lad’ – an absolute marvel at animal healing and, finally, of course, there’s Granny herself.
Our real difficulties arise from Roger who, despite his grandmother’s unflattering pronouncement, formed his own coven in a neighbouring village. This means that Granny migrates between the two and although she disapproves of Roger’s modern approach (i.e. to let anyone and everyone ‘have a crack at the priesthood’) she spends most of her time with his group keeping an eye on things. ‘In case the daft bugger goes and kills somebody!’ The Old Witch also enjoys the atmosphere of seething hostility because Roger’s High Priestess is not his wife, and his wife disapproves of the one he’s chosen – for obvious reasons. Granny, of course, encourages Roger’s extra marital activities, and since Roger will roger anything with a pulse … well … the added spice (for Granny at least) is the fact that Roger’s brother-in-law is also the local vicar!
Although preferring to remain ‘private’, we do not work in isolation and are regularly in contact with other Old Crafters all over Britain. Because of my step-brother’s more liberal approach to craft-working on our doorstep, the members of the Coven felt that we should become more aware of what was going on in what is generally referred to as the ‘pagan scene’ at a more local level. Admittedly in doing so, we have added two new and valuable members to our group – so the effort was worthwhile.
Nevertheless, while we prefer not joining anything on a regular basis, we do make an effort to interact with the various goings-on in the area. This book is the result of the many conversations we’ve have, scenes we’ve witnessed, gossip we’ve exchanged and the experiences we’ve undergone, all in the name of Old Craft.
The names of the Coven members are those by which they have chosen to be known for the purpose of the book, for our true identities are no concern of anybody but our own. Neither will you find us in the telephone directory for we prefer not have our lives disrupted by the idly curious. Those who wish to have an understanding of our ways will seek us out when their time is right …
A few comments from others in the Craft:
“Granny muttered that the boy was a moron who couldn’t find his own arse with a road map and a flash-light.” Love it already and laughed out loud and it’s only page 4, but it doesn’t stop. Lot of humour, it’s wittily written and there’s a heavy dose of taking the er…Mick out of those in paganism who take themselves too seriously and of course the fluffy bunnies. I’d call this recommended reading for all newbies. Maria Moloney
The first part of this unique series,’ Craft Working’, was first published in 2002 by the late lamented ignotus press, followed two years later with ‘Carry On Crafting’. As occult author Alan Richardson commented at the time: “Coarse Witchcraft made me laugh out loud in more than a few places. In fact, I think it is the first book of its kind: although it pokes fun at modern excesses and can laugh at itself, it still manages to teach the real stuff at a very high level.” The Moon Books edition published in 2013, includes the last part, ‘Cold Comfort Coven’ and as Melusine Draco (herself a former ignotus press author) observes in her Introduction: “In its own way the’ Coarse Witchcraft Trilogy’ represents a small but important capsule of Craft history that we have been lucky enough to preserve for the next generation of witches.” Ten years after the first part was published, the antics of the characters are still raising a chuckle, and still causing fellow witches to shake their heads in disbelief. Although based on a true story from the time of the 1990s ‘witch wars’ the books were re-written as humorous ‘faction’, and included contributions from other Old Craft witches who were only too eager to share the indiscretions of their own individual covens for posterity. All too often the pagan scene gets a little bit introspective and serious – ‘Coarse Witchcraft’ shows us that it is possible to combine mirth with reverence. Highly recommended. Carys Llewellyn
This is a funny and clever book, that reads like fiction but to some degree isn’t. There’s a lot of experience and insight underpinning it, so that, without really revealing anything, it gives the newbie or wannabe witch a chance at spotting the fakes and fraudsters. It is also a really funny and engaging book. Nimue Brown
The Coarse Witchcraft Trilogy found it’s way to me and I am extremely glad that it did… This book is not only truly funny – it had me laughing out loud and shaking my head in despair at the same time, but it is also a very good reflection on what goes on within witchcraft groups. You will I am sure identify with most, if not all of the characters described within these pages because the fact of the matter is – this book is real, it is true life stories, it tells in a down to earth, no holds barred kind of way how witchcraft and the people that follow it roll. Truly entertaining but I also love the fact that it gets across the roots of witchcraft, how it is practiced by many, many people without all the fancy schmancy fluffy bits… If you want a good chuckle and also a good insight into the workings of a real coven you need to read this. This is Practical Magic meets The Good Life… Rachel Patterson
I’ve always been a fan of the first two Coarse Witchcraft books and howled laughing at the antics of the characters and the nutters they encountered on the ‘pagan scene’. Now the long awaited third in the trilogy is finally out. These books hold gems of Old Craft wisdom and lore within the pages, a real must for anyone serious about British Traditional Old Craft instead of the new age shenanigins that pass for witchcraft nowadays. I’m glad the third, Cold Comfort Coven has finally been released and its plain to see why it took so long to see the light of day. I laughed and with a heavy heart I read the third and final part, as within any coven it only takes one bad apple to spoil the whole barrel and I must say this ‘Poison Dwarf’ character obviously has a lot to answer for. Over the years the characters had become like old friends and the real sense of sadness was felt for Gabrielle as her life dramatically changes with all round losses as she faces the future wherever the Old Ones guide her. Kerry Chadwick
The Coarse Witchcraft Trilogy is published by Moon Books
ISBN: 978 1 78279 285 7 : 254pp UK£10.99/US$18.95 – http://www.moon-books.net
I am generally amused by journalist Brendan O’Conner because he’s a sucker for the latest health/well-being fad and occasionally comes up with some thought-provoking comments – like the one above … For poor Brendan, the real shock of this heresy was that it came from one of the most avid and enthusiastic self-improvers he knew. It left him reeling, he wrote, because if folk were to start questioning all these mid-life self-improvement regimes where did it leave them?
Floundering, I suppose. Because the media is awash with quick-fix information on how to improve health, life-style and spirituality from feeding the gut with live bacteria to personal enlightenment. The problem is, that once we adopt one of these life-style regimes it makes us feel good, and virtuous and happy that we are doing something to improve our minds, our bodies and our spirituality because self-improvement has become the new religion.
There was a time when we could unwind and switch-off with other like-minded souls. Nowadays we’re encouraged to work so hard in an increasingly competitive world that we can’t switch-off or relax without some mindless activity; therefore we can’t sleep at night and, as Brendan O’Connor admits, he spends all his free time pursuing things that might help him relax and sleep at night! ‘So basically we spend much of our free time trying to make ourselves able for all the work and trying to undo what work has done to us,’ he added.
So … where does well-being start? Obviously health, or rather fitness, is a good place to begin and to be able to quit while you’re ahead. For most middle and older-agers the usual problem is the belly-fat: that lump that appears around the middle that can’t be shifted through diet or exercise. And herein lays the key to weight loss: the systematic supplementation of certain amino acids allows us to stimulate the body to produce enough fat-burning hormones – in a natural manner and in harmony with the body’s needs. Start trimming down the belly-fat and the rest takes care of its self because we now want to get back into looking and feeling good.
And physical activity doesn’t need to be complicated. Something as simple as a daily brisk walk can help us live a healthier life since it helps us to maintain a healthy weight; prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type-2 diabetes; strengthens bones and muscles … and improves your mood.
This brings us to the self-improvement of the mind and spirit … a whole different ball-game whose rules cannot be learnt in five or ten easy steps – or a weekend course with some kind of diploma at the end of it. Spiritual disciplines require years of study to perfect if any level of true mysticism or spiritual erudition is going to be attained; and it takes more than thinking good thoughts or caring for the planet. It’s doubtful whether we are going to find enlightenment with a superficial attempt at meditation although it does no harm to get into the habit of sitting by ourselves in a bubble of calm on a daily basis … but let’s not kid ourselves that nirvana is just around the corner.
The MB&S phenomena is a multi-billion pound/dollar industry and it pays dividends to encourage the unwary to invest in all manner of spiritual enhancers, supplements, products, jewellery, accessories and clothing. The true seeker needs a teacher to make sure they understand exactly what it is they are seeking because how can you teach yourself what you don’t know exists?
Melusine Draco is the author of Pagan Portals: Western Animism – Zen and the Art of Positive Paganism ISBN 978 1 78904 123 1 UK£6.99/US$10.95 : 80pp.
“ … her take on Zen is completely unexpected and totally original. I don’t think she has ever failed to surprise and often startle me in her previous books. This one is no different …” Alan Richardson, esoteric author
Due for publication July 2019.
The Blank Canvass: Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living
For witches and pagans living in our towns and cities, winter is a blank canvass at which we can stand and stare in order to appreciate Nature’s art as she begins to add her colours in spring … and summer … and autumn. Winter isn’t about bare bones because now we learn to see shapes and subtleties that we miss when leaves cover bare branches and flowers are in bloom. The setting sun of the late afternoon offers a divinatory opportunity when starlings coming home to roost create those wonderful swirling patterns in the sky.
Winter city gardens are more than likely to display the remnants of last summer’s pot planting but in the sheltered cracks and crevasses it is possible to find a first snowdrop; or a tuft of new chickweed with its apple-green leaves and tiny white flowers that appear throughout the growing season. Flowering all year, round this straggly little wildflower can be found growing on disturbed ground, close to walls and on cultivated ground.
Used culinary and medicinally, chickweed is excellent raw used like sprouts, eaten in sandwiches, wraps, etc. and of course it’s a great base for salad. It’s also great cooked and makes a good substitute for spinach. Chickweed is cooling and drying so it has a long history of use in treating skin afflictions like acne, eczema, psoriasis, rashes, minor burns, boils, cuts, and insect bites. It’s also good as a compress for soothing hemorrhoids and varicose veins, while a compress, tincture, or fresh juice is used to draw out splinters.
Our blank canvass also offers the chance to find those hidden places within our urban environment in which to seek out those little bits of magic that we miss during the hustle and bustle of finer weather; hidden gardens, riverside walks and private corners that we can retreat to at any time for a moment of peace and tranquility away from the busy streets. Even old buildings like pre-medieval churches – or ruins of such – can offer a step back into our pagan past, which is alive and well and living in our towns and cities.
Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living is published by Moon Books – www.moon-books.net ISBN 978 1 84694 978 4 146pp Price: UK£9.99/US$16.95
Pagan Portals: Power of the Elements has just been published for the end of 2018 so looking at what’s in the pipeline for 2019. The Thirteenth Sign, the fourth in the Temple House archive series (Ignotus Press) will be appearing in the New Year, while Western Animism and Seeking the Primal Goddess (both with Moon Books) will be coming out later in 2019. Rosewood Madonna (the fourth in the Hugo Braithwaite Mysteries) is complete and due to go off for proofing in the New Year.
Work in Progress:
Currently working on ‘The Arte of Darkness: Magic and Mystery From the Shadows’ and will begin the third part of The Vampye’s Tale in the New Year.
I’ve suggested a Sacred Landscape trilogy for Moon Books’ Pagan Portals series and Trevor seems interested
There’s also a new series of novels with a pagan twist in the offing: A Tale for All Seasons that uses ‘The Wild Horseman’ (Summer) as a starting point with ‘The Water Boatman’ (Autumn) currently under way.
Pagan Portals: Power of the Elements
A Magical Approach to Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit
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?
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
And there is a very good reason why we do this, as Kenneth Grant explained so well in Hecate’s Fountain:
It may be asked, why then do we not abandon the ancient symbols in favour of the formulae of nuclear physics and quantum mechanics? The answer is that the occultist understands that contact with these energies may be established more completely through symbols so ancient that they have had time to bury themselves in the vast storehouse of the racial subconsciousness. To such symbols the Forces respond swiftly and with incalculable fullness, whereas the pseudo-symbols manufactured in the laboratory possess no link with elements in the psyche to which they can appeal. The twisting and turning tunnels explored laboriously by science lead, only too often, away from the goal. The intellectual formulæ and symbols of mathematics have been evolved too recently to serve as direct conduits. For the Old Ones, such lines of communication are dead. The magician, therefore, uses the more direct paths which long ages have been mapped out in the shadowlands of the subconsciousness.
These ancient symbols are magical shorthand that cut across the aeons and connect us with the ‘Old Ones’ who are quite willing to pick up and communicate with those who ‘speak’ their language. 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. In ancient astrology, the triple groupings of the ‘Star Signs’ were more of a seasonal nature, so each season was given the qualities of a particular element. For example:
- Spring (wet becoming hot) – Air – Aries, Taurus, Gemini
- Summer (hot becoming dry) – Fire – Cancer, Leo, Virgo
- Autumn (dry becoming cold) – Earth – Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius
- Winter (cold becoming wet) – Water – Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces
All the fire signs are by their nature hot and dry. However, the addition of the elemental qualities of the seasons results in differences between the fire signs; Leo being the midsummer sign gets a double dose of hot and dry and is the pure fire sign. Aries being a Spring sign is wetter (hot & dry, hot & wet), and Sagittarius being an Autumnal sign is colder (hot & dry, cold & dry) – and in the Southern Hemisphere the seasonal cycle is, of course, reversed. Using the seasonal qualities also accounts for other differences in expression between signs of the same element.
The elements Earth, Air, Fire and Water were not literally viewed as things in this world, but as the building blocks in the composition of everything in Nature. Soil would be said to be formed of all elements but, in this case, with a preponderance of the element Earth so that it was perceived as being earthy. Likewise, Air contained Fire (heat), Water (Vapour) and Earth (particles) as well as, mainly Air. The philosopher Empedocles’ (c490-430BC) ideas became truly established in Greek physics and natural philosophy when the great philosophers Plato and Aristotle incorporated it into their theories concerning the physical universe.
“Empedocles might have watched a piece of wood burning. Something disintegrates. We hear it crackle and splutter. That is water. Something goes up in smoke. That is air. The fire we can see. Something also remains when the fire is extinguished. That is the ashes – or earth.” [Sophie’s World, Jostein Gaarder]
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. 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.
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.
Published by www.moon-books.net ISBN 978 1 78535 916 3 UK£6.99/US$10.95