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

https://www.feedaread.com/books/Wort-Lore-the-Craft-of-Witches-9781788764490.aspx

“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)

Novels:

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)*

Anthologies:

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’

WALKING WITH THE ANCESTORS

 

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

MAGIC CRYSTALS, SACRED STONES

Needless to say, much of what is referred to as ‘magical energy’ often depends on what lies beneath our feet and some geological formations are better suited for magical or creative working than others; an idea mooted by Dion Fortune in her novel, The Goat-Foot God. There are, of course, many different types of rock that make up the Earth’s surface and each of them will have certain positive or negative magical-creative properties.  Like all things magical, however, the Old Craft witch knows that nothing is as simple or precise as it seems.  Just as the outcome in all magical and psychic exercises depend on the personal chemistry of the individual, so the blend of individuality, ability and Earth energies can combine to produce the most extraordinary results.  And some things work better than others …

It is, for example, the quartz element of granite that reconnects us with the spirit of the landscape.  As an accomplished Old Craft witch and having a doctorate in geology, Meriem Clay-Egerton was fascinated by the fact that for millennia humanity and quartz had interacted with each other.  She wrote that our ancestors recognizing the qualities of quartz was evident from the studies of its usage, not region by region, but over the entire area of the British Isles: “Everywhere one looks there are clear distinct traces.  To people who know its potential it was clearly no accidental employment of any material to hand.  It was sought out for use.  Why?”

She went on to explain at some length that quartz was used prolifically at prehistoric burials sites and that there was an esoteric school of thought that the quartz enabled the living to contact spirit entities “when they were in a correctly attuned state”.  Standing stones (some of which are made of quartz, other may contain a high percentage of it) are accepted by magical practitioners as being able to act as conductors of ‘earth-force’, such as that encountered at nodal points for energy lines.  “A quartz stone, or stones with high quartz content, will often appear in such a prominent position.”

Once we understand that quartz is very abundant in slate, it is not difficult to see why this particular material generates so much earth-energy.  Magical and psychic working on slate packs a very distinctive punch, especially if the slate layers are close to the surface.  Chalk, on the other hand, generates its own particular kind of energy, which is why our ancestors built their most prestigious monuments on chalkland.  By contrast if we try walking through very heavy clay, it immediately becomes obvious why earth-energy is often ‘blocked’ or sluggish.  Magical working on clay involves a lot of magical generating techniques by the practitioner, and unless there is a considerable amount of experience to draw on, things may take a long time to come to fruition.  And despite all the wealth of crystals in the world, for the Old Craft witch, natural quartz should remain the most precious of all, since a quartz pendulum used for dowsing draws on an ancient knowledge for unlocking psychic power and seeking out information not easily obtained by any other means – especially contacting spirits of the landscape.

 

 

A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE

 

There is an increasing  tendency these days for groups and individuals to portray themselves as being more exciting, adventurous or more magically competent by covering themselves with the mantle of ‘Darkness’.   Let’s make no bones about it – there is no such thing as Black or White Magic, and the realms of Darkness and Shadow are an intrinsic part of everyday magical practice regardless of path, creed or tradition.

Once we fumble our way past beginner stage, we quickly come to realise that magic is a tantalizing system of opposites: black/white, active/passive, male/female, dark/light, day/night and that the opposite of ‘good’ isn’t necessarily ‘evil’ – or even lukewarm wicked!  And even once we reach the path of the Initiate, we find that things haven’t changed much, except that we now realise we know nothing and have to begin again by looking at life, magic and the Universe from a different perspective.

Nevertheless, there are elements of ancient magic that an old CoS colleague of mine once described as ‘Ooo-er magic!’  meaning that it had been modernized (or bastardised)  out of all recognition, and put across as being slightly risqué or risky, depending on how one viewed the practice.   The impression was given that certain deities, who were simply Underworld or Otherworld denizens, or had an unfavorable appearance, were hailed as the ones to follow, and those who were nervous about interacting with such energies might be better served taking up macramé.

And a good rummage around in the ‘darker’ aspects of the monotheistic  or Abrahamic religions is always good for a bit of ‘Ooo-er magic’ providing those you are trying to convince don’t bother too much with  research into the background claims of the participants. Where would we be, for instance, without the supporting cast of the Book of Revelations, the  Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha?

A person’s magical inclinations are just that: personal.  They are governed by an individual’s own ethics and morality in what Meriem Clay-Egerton always described as forty shades of grey (long before THAT book came out).  My Welsh slate grey might be your black; your gun-metal grey might be my white – again, it’s all a matter of perception.

Practitioners of Craft magic  learn  to curse as well as heal but in all honesty, healing has probably caused more unintentional damage that all the cursers on the planet, if the latter could be persuaded to get up off their collective backsides to admit that they much preferred a nice bottling or binding because it is far less trouble.  All experienced witches learn to walk safely on the wild (or dark) side that they occasionally need to tread but they do it with a certain amount of fear and a hell of a lot of respect.  Because as that same colleague commented: ‘If you don’t feel that frisson of fear, you ain’t doing it right!’

So the next time you see an on-line promotion for those who enjoy walking on the dark side that reads as though it’s just come straight from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ … it probably has!

 

PAN: Dark lord of the Forest ad Horned God of the Witches by Melusine Draco is published in the Pagan Portals series of Moon Books in paperback and e-book format. ISBN 978 1 78535 512 7 : UK£5.99US$9.95  Available on Amazon or http://www.moon-books.net