Archives for category: 2011

Welcome to the latest issue of the Pagan Friends Webzine; we hope you have a fantastic Yule this year! We’ve been working hard since Samhain to put an extra-special issue together for you with features by Mogg Morgan, Judith Page and Vincent Ongkowidjojo, poetry by Yvonne Cunningham and much more.


An Interview With The Pagan Friends Forums’ Own Midori

An Interview With Jodi Lee


Egyptian Demons & Magick, By Mogg Morgan

Theft of The Seven Ankhs, By Judith Page

The Sepiroth From The Bottom Up (Part Two), By Si Cash

The Origins Of Christmas Traditions, By Jessica Howard

Essays & Extended Features

Futhark: The Celtic Link, By Vincent Ongkowidjojo

Blood Bones and Fur: Personal Experiences of Working with the Remnants of the Dead, By Charlotte Rodgers

Regular Features

Yule Moonlore, By Liz

Renewal Magick at Pennsbury for Yule, By T. Fox Dunham

Tools, Tricks & Ingredients

Resin: Frankincense, By Rebecca L. Brown

Secrets of Asgard, Vincent Ongkowidjojo An Instruction in Esoteric Rune Wisdom, Reviewed by Nattvarg Nattvargsonn

Fiction Review: Carry on the Flame: Ultimate Magic, By Jodine Turner

Reviewed by Rebecca L. Brown


True Beauty, By Linda Gibson

Sápmi Story, By Nattvarg Nattvargsonn (Summer Shudder)

Poetry Corner

Forgotten Cycles, By Yvonne Cunningham

Steal Into Winter, By Maggie Koger

Walking Down Sunday Roads, By Maggie Koger

Yule, By Kenny Klein

Tears, By Karie McNeley

Beaten And Blemished, By Karie McNeley

A Poem, By Nattvarg Nattvargsonn (Summer Shudder)

Want to contribute to the Imbolc issue?

Are you a budding writer, artist or photographer? Do you have something to say to the pagan community? We’re already looking for exciting new content to include in our Imbolc issue. We’re interested in your personal anecdotes, poetry and short stories; if its interesting and relevant, we want it. For more information on how to submit to us, visit our submissions page. We’re looking forward to seeing what you’ve got!

We are now also accepting material for review and events listings for inclusion in the webzine.

The views and opinions expressed in this webzine are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily represent those of the Pagan Friends team. Any advice given within articles is not intended to take the place of professional medical advice, legal advice or otherwise.

An Interview With The Pagan Friend Forum’s Midori

Q: Did you choose to follow Druidry or did it choose you?

I have been fascinated by Druids since I first saw News features about them at Stonehenge at Summer Solstices. This was either the Ancient Druid Order or another of the Fraternal Orders (Christian, Freemasonry types), long before the Hippies and the Festival movement started. I didn’t find Pagan Druidry until 1995, although I started in Gardnerian Wicca in 1966.

Q: I know you refer to your path as Druwitch, so what parts of Wicca still influence your path today and which parts have you rejected, and the same with Druidry please.

Nowadays there is very little Wicca in my path, I tend more toward Witchcraft alongside the Druidry. What happened was I saw the interweaving of Wicca and Druidry, and decided that they would blend well, so I stripped away the formal rituals of both systems and the God and Goddess forms, and took it back to absolute basics, the reverence for Earth, Sea and Sky, making my deities Mother Earth, from whom we came and to whom our bodies return, Father Sun, without whose warmth and light the Earth would be just a dark, frozen rock, and Sister Moon, who controls not just the oceans, but the tides of fertility itself. These form a Triad, (take one away and life ceases to exist) and Three is the sacred number in Druidry. I also venerate the Ancestors, and work with the Spirits of Place.

Q: How long have you folowed a Pagan path?

If I really look at it closely, I have had a Pagan outlook since I was a small child, although I didn’t become conscious of it unti I joined the Coven. I was always happier out in the woods and fields, observing animals, birds and plants, than going around with others of my age. I was always the ‘odd’ one, preferring animals to people.

Q: Who and what have been your greatest influences?

The Land has been my primary teacher and infulence, along with my first teachers in the Coven, all passed through the gates of the Otherworld now. Latterly, my Druidic influences have been Philip Shallcrass, Emma Restall Orr and Professor Ron Hutton, along with the many friends I have made along the way.

Q: How does your health affect your Path?

In the last four years my health has collapsed in a big heap  . Cataracts have stopped me driving, which has prevented me attending public rituals, Fibromyalgia has weakened me, and consequently I am in permanent pain, especially in damp and cold weather. Just to add to the mix, there is IBS, which means I can’t stray far from a loo, high blood pressure and Cholesterol, and I’m currently waiting on tests fro a possible cardiac problem. It all puts a decided crimp in my activities  . I like to perform ritual out of doors, so it is inconvenient, to say the least!

Q: How do you feel the portrayal of Paganism has change over the years?

It has changed immensely. When I started in Wicca, there was no Internet nor mobile phones, books on pagan subjects were like rocking horse manure!  To get hold of books you had to either get up to the esoteric bookshops in London, or obtain them through organisations such as the Golden Dawn Society. (Plain brown wrapper jobs!). Wicca was still very much ‘underground’, it was only fifteen years since the repeal of The Witchcraft Act, so we kept our heads firmly down! It was hard to find a Coven, let alone gain admittance! I was lucky enough to have a friend who introduced and sponsored me.

Nowadays Paganism is ‘out’, there are books everywhere you look, Websites abound, Psychic Fayres come regularly to your area and Complementary Therapies are thriving. Wiccans and Druids appear on TV, it is just a total reversal.

Q: What memories of your Path do you cherish the most?

Too many to list, but a few are, my first Coven meeting, the three Initiations, attending a Druid camp in 1995 and finding I’d come ‘home’, skinny dipping with another bunch of Druids one summer, Pagan camps in various places, interfaithing, Moots, watching sunrises, eclipses and stars, meeting up with old friends.

Q: What would you like to do again, given the chance, and what would you like to avoid?

I would like to have travelled farther and learned a lot more, don’t think I would change much if I could do it all again, maybe avoid a few of the people who have spread gossip about me, not sit in the nettles during a skyclad ritual, and not set my robes smouldering on a quarter candle!

Q: Who have you most admired along the way?

I have great admiration for Professor Ron Hutton, his writings, teachings and lectures at Pagan events, along with his TV appearances, I just don’t know where he finds the time! Philip Shallcrass, who kept going despite personal tragedy and Emma Restall Orr, who has struggled against ill-health for most of her life, but is still active in Paganism.

Q: Do you have ambitions with regard to your path once you move house and your health issues have improved?

Oooh! Tough one this. I would maybe like to start a group if folk would be interested in the way I do things, or maybe write a short book on Druwitchcraft, but all is fluid, so I can’t commit to anything right now.

Q: Is there a favourite place you like to spend time if you could? (sacred sites, etc.)

There are places I love, Danebury hillfort, Avebury, Swallowhead Spring, Cissbury Ring, Chanctonbury Ring, Kingley Vale, Devil’s Bridge, Elan Valley, Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia, North Cornwall, Tintagel, Boscastle, St. Nechtan’s Kieve, Rocky Valley, (mostly I can visit only in memory now) I would have loved to travel in Japan, to see the Shinto shrines and gardens, etc.

Q: What’s your favourite way of celebrating Yule? (if money/time/ health were no object?)

Wow! Let me think… I would like to gather all my Pagan friends together on coaches and take everybody to a Roundhouse for a couple of days and nights of feasting and entertainment, somewhere where the neighbours couldn’t complain about the noise!

Why not visit the Pagan Friends Forums to chat to Midori and our other members?

An Interview With Jodi Lee

Jodi is a writer, editor and the owner of Belfire Press . You can find out more about her work by visiting or

Q: Tell us a little bit about your spiritual path; what was your first experience of paganism?  

When I was twelve, I spent two weeks with my uncle’s family. During that time, I picked up one of his books, which I could never remember the title of… but it spoke of magic, spirituality, witchcraft and the old ways. About a month after I went home, my uncle passed away suddenly. Within hours of receiving the news, many family members mentioned visitations, that he had come to them, perhaps to say goodbye.   He had visited me, telling me he’d be okay and I shouldn’t worry about him, and from then on, I began reading anything I could that covered any pagan or paranormal topic.   It wasn’t a surprise to my family, in the least, when I came out of the ‘broomcloset’ either. My gran had a wealth of herbalist knowledge passed to her from her mother and grandmother. My grandfather’s sister was highly psychic, particularly attuned to the members of her family. His grandmother had charms and recipes from her family in Ireland – I think I came by it all honestly.

Q: How has the path you follow changed over time?

In my early days, I kept it all secret, never telling anyone what I was reading. I followed every ritual and spell to the letter, timing and ingredients had to be just so. Now, I’m lucky if I have time or remember to give a passing nod to the Lady when she rides the sky. I’ve become less and less focused on the minutia, and simply give more of myself and my heart, I know now that my faith is far more important than whether or not I have sage or blessing oil!   I’ve also become more and more eclectic as time goes on. When I first began studying, it was mostly a Greek pantheon I gave homage to. When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, a small voice whispered in my ear: “I’m Rhiannon.” I began researching the name, and the related pantheons – Welsh, and the other Celtic deities. It was like coming home, for sure.   And I ended up naming my daughter Rhiannon, too.

Q: In what ways is your everyday life affected by your beliefs?  

Not a day goes by that I don’t read or research something to do with rituals, mythology, the Celts, even when it’s something small.. and I try to find those teachings in the day to day things, even to the cleaning of the house and preparation of meals. I try to do and keep things as presentably as possible so as not to dishonor my ancestors, or my patrons. I never noticed until I was already well into my thirties, but I even fold the linens in threes. In half, in half, in half – and then in thirds.   The moon and solar cycles play a large part as well. In the summer we plant our container garden corresponding to the moon, and harvesting accordingly. Although I have ‘the touch of death’ when it comes to growing plants, my youngest is doubly gifted with the green thumb I lack. To make up for that, I blend teas and herbals with the harvested greens and flowers, either those she’s grown or those that we wildcraft. This year we had a fantastic harvest of wild bergamot, and with a bit of black tea and lavendar, we’re going to have a marvelous Earl Grey for Yule breakfast!

Q: Do you encourage your children to follow the same path as you, to find their own or a mixture of the two?

I’ve always encouraged the girls to find their own ways, as did their father who is atheist. When Rhiannon was young, she had a deep interest in the protestant church, then briefly in the local baptist church. After a very, very brief visitation to a pentecostal gathering, she has found her path as pagan.   My youngest, Carrie – she was casting circles in the backyard before she was four, before she’d ever seen one done. Although she had a brief flirtation with the United Church where we live, it turned out she was there mostly to argue philosophy with the Bible school teacher. That lasted all of half a morning… she’s just always been on this path, I think right from the day she was born.

Q: Your Yule chapbook is now available; can you tell us a little about the chapbook series? What made you decide to release them?  

Ah, yes! That little ebook has created quite a bit of excitement here. The girls have been thrilled to watch the numbers at Amazon. They know what I do for a living, of course, but this is the first time they’ve been involved as well. We’re all thrilled that there are going to be more kids out there that will have fun with the activities and recipes.   Two years ago, the chapbook series started out as a project for the three of us to work on together, as a way to teach them more of our path, and to help share what they’ve learned and what we do as a family. Being a pagan family was all new to me – my family may have been saturated with the customs etc., but they were always practicing protestants. Quite WASP, actually. When the girls were young, I was at a loss for the what and the how – we no longer had access to the library I had studied in, and at the time we weren’t connected to the internet. It wasn’t until 1999 that we began to connect with other local pagans (to my shock!)… Anyway, the girls and I were talking about it and we all seemed to come to the same idea, why not take what we’d started with Sprites Pagan Kids (on my website) and expand it for the sabbats!   And we did. So far we have Yule finished and published, and Litha was released as a handmade chapbook about 18 months ago. I’ve got it formatted now for e-books, and hope to have it available through the same venues as Yule soon.   Imbolc is in the final tweaking stages, and should be available around January 1st. After that, the sabbats will be released about six weeks ahead, until we wrap up at Samhain next year.

Q:Could you tell us a little bit about your own Yule celebrations?

Has there been a particular Yule which is more memorable than the rest?   We haven’t really had that many Yule celebrations as a family, in the larger scope of things. Although I stepped out of that closet in ’97, it wasn’t until after the girls and I were on our own that we really began celebrating Yule separately from Christmas. Before that, I was focused on Christmas celebrations with the family (I have a large family that used to gather together, sometimes up to 35 people), and Yule was also my wedding anniversary. Between 1999 and 2002, I also had a small gathering with the grove, usually just an exchange of cards and the imbibing of a great deal of coffee.   Now though, we celebrate with our grove, Glas Celli. There are about ten of us, give or take… We welcome the return of the Sun, and honor the Lady as she prepares to rest until spring. A version of the ritual we used as a sample for the Yule ebook is performed, and our HPs will follow that with a prayer from the Ceisir Serith’s A Handbook of Pagan Prayer. Then it’s on to the feast, which is pretty traditional except for the lack of turkey. Everyone gets turkey with their extended families, so we tend to go for ham or roast. We all share the cooking duties: HPs generally provides the meat and potatoes, the girls and I do the veggies and salads, and other members provide the rest.   If we haven’t all exploded from over-indulging, we let the little ones into the gifts. This year we have two babies celebrating their first Yule, so we’re all quite excited.

Our most memorable Yule though… it was a combination Yule/anniversary/life celebration. 1994 – my then-husband and I had been married for a year, and it had been a very hard one on both of us. He’d lost a job, I was at home with two babies (Rhiannon was preemie, and delayed in her development) and pretty much exhausted. We had money enough to last until the end of the month, but that was it.   The day of our anniversary – Yule – he received a job offer that really opened up our options, and lifted the stress we’d been under. Well, most of it. He loaded us into a car, and we went shopping… the first time the girls had seen the stores all lit up and shining. Rhia picked out presents for herself and Carrie, and then we picked up pizza.   At home, I cast a circle and we ate inside it… we’d received a blessing that night. Despite everything that’s come since, that will always be my favorite Yule.

Egyptian Demons & Magick

By Mogg Morgan

Supernatural Assault in Ancient Egypt

is an exploration of the role of “demons” in Egyptian magick and acts as an introduction to my use, together with fellow adepts of “The Companions of Seth”, of techniques from the Egyptian exorcism cult known as “Zar”. The Zar cult is a folk magical tradition from the Arabic world, principally Egypt and Sudan; that makes use of music and dance to “exorcise” intrusive spirits or Djinn. I first learnt of the cult from I M Lewis’s classic study of Ecstatic Religion a study of shamanism and spirit possession, so naturally my interest was drawn to piece a book by Jan Fries that detailed the foundation myth of the Zar tradition, as originating in Pharaonic Egypt.

Over the last few years several new highly technical academic studies have yielded yet more useful ritual information and indeed some corroboration of many assumptions in my own book. Robert Ritner is an Egyptologist whose work has become increasingly well known amongst the practitioner community as a vital source on ancient magic. Since the 1980s the academic study of magic has been revolutionised by people like Robert Ritner.

In a new essay Ritner further unravels the details of Ancient Egyptian demonology and shows how it eventually emerged as the driving force of Egyptian magic. One cannot get very far in this study without encountering the god Seth, who so often provides the archetype of the demonic entity. “The trickster character of Seth is well-known, but his ambiguous qualities can be shared by other gods.” Thus in a dramatic text well known as The Contendings of Horus & Seth, the underworld deity Osiris threatens a demonic attack against the other gods in the celestial tribunal if they do not hurry and make a decision. Or consider the action of Sekhmet as plague goddess particularly associated with the liminal space between the old and new year, sending forth her deadly seven arrows.

Hatayw, Shamayw and Akhw are common names for demons in the Egyptian language. I’ve transcribed this in the easiest way for the practitioner, the ‘w’ should be pronounced as a vowel – oo as in new; I give the computerised transcriptions in a footnote.

Hatayw is often translated as ‘Knife bearers’, ‘murderers’, ‘night spirits’ depending on the content.

Shamayw are ‘wandering demons’.

Akhw variously as ‘undead’, ‘transfigured dead’, ‘ghosts’.

Ritner’s essay concentrates on the Hatayw. In Late Egyptian language the term shortened to Hawet, Demotic Hayet, Coptic Shayet all meaning ‘inspiration’, ‘exorcism’, ‘doom’, ‘fate’, ‘fury’, or ‘curse’, depending on the context.

In the final millennial of ancient Egyptian history, in the seventh century bce, these could become personal protectors and are then called Pa-na-hatayw or Nas-na-hatayw (both meaning “he of the slaughtering demons”). In Ptolemaic Thebes there was a full-blown cult of the Hatayw (genies) that had its own dedicated prophet (hem neter). Later still one finds the syncretic deity Tutu (twtw), popular in the oases, whose name means “image” of the “collectivity” of disease bringing demons. Magical practice often does involve interaction with disease entities of one kind of another, one sees this very clearly in late the origins of Hindu Tantra and Kaula.

Although “the Egyptians did not live in terror of their gods’ capricious whims nor was Egyptian theology fixated on the vindictive or jealous nature of a god in the manner of Genesis 20: 5” even so healing spells often paired demons and gods together as possible disease causing entities.

The late Egyptian tale or Report of Wenamon has an episode in which Hatayw is, translated as ‘frenzied’, and used in a significant way: “when he sacrificed to his gods…the god seized one of his noble youths, [a medium] making him frenzied, so that he said: “Bring [the god] hither! Bring the messenger of Amon who hath him. Send him and let him go.”  Now , when the frenzied youth continued in frenzy during this night, I found a ship bound for Egypt, and I loaded all my belongings into it. I waited for the darkness, saying: “When it descends, I will embark the god also, in order that no other eye may see him.”

Hatayw is also used in the account of the Bentresh Stela, a monumental inscription of the Persian times although falsely ascribed to Ramesses II, presumable to give it extra authority. In this regard it is similar to the pseudo authorship of  magical texts such as Testament of Solomon. The stele contains a long tale of the relationship between Great King Ramesses and the distant princedom of Bakhtan, perhaps Bactria on the Pakistan/Afghan border. After a successful diplomatic exchange between the two kingdoms, they cement the relationship with a marriage of the Bactrian prince’s sister, she becoming one of Ramesses many royal wives. Years later news arrives from the young queen’s homeland that a mysterious malady had seized the body of her  younger sister Bentresh and she that  is possessed by a spirit (akhw).

Ramesses summons learned priests from the Theban House of Life attached to the temple of the moon god Khonsu. One is dispatched to Bactria to investigate and reports that the princess Bentresh is indeed possessed by a spirit and that he is an enemy with whom one could fight, although the priest needs a special object to finish the job. A statue representing a special form of Khonsu (Khonsu-who-determines-fate) is duly dispatched from the temple to Bactria.

After a very long journey the “god” arrives and prepares to make a magical  protection to cure the stricken princess. Then the spirit speaks to Khonsu: welcome in peace, great god, who expels disease demons! Bactria is your home, its people are your servants, and I am your servant! I shall go to the place from which I came, so as to set your heart at rest about that which you came for. May your majesty command to make a feast day with me and the prince of Bactria. Then the ‘god’ motioned approval to his priest, saying let the prince of Bactria make a great offering before this spirit.

While all this was happened the prince and his soldiers were very frightened, but they did what was required, organised a great feast for the entire day and at the end of it the spirit departed and the princess was cured.

The technique of animating statues with divine entities is a core technique of Egyptian magical practice. The way the statue indicates its desire usually involves some kind of forward or backward movement, rocking or change of position.

The story is almost identical to the foundation myth of the modern day Zar cult. It again shows that the “exorcism” in antique magick does not involve violent expulsion of a spirit, at least not as the preferred option. “Exorcism” is much more of a dialogue or transaction which in this instance ends in a wild party that all participants, including sick person undoubtedly enjoyed.

Both texts, the Voyage of Wenamun and the Bentresh Stella use a similar technical magical word for the process of expelling the demon. This is the Hatayw – which has connotations of frenzied, fury but also ecstasy leading to kathathis. It can be something one casts against another, or a power that possesses the magician bestowing the ability to conjur and prophesy. From earliest times in the Old Kingdom Egypt it denoted a class of disease entities but later, in the twilight of Egyptian culture, it meant the magician’s power to enchant and conjure. It is from this base that the technique passes westwards into the grimoire traditions of Europe and eastwards into the religious impulse that in about the 8th-9th ce became Kaula and Tantra.

In the Companions of Seth we are exploring and reviving many of these same techniques. I have also benefited much from the corporation of others in my workshops at Pagan gatherings that used Khemetic, postmodern versions of the same techniques. We are adapting traditional but simple Arab rhythms, blending them with late classical Egyptian magic from the Hermetical and Magical Papyri.

1   Morgan (2011) 2   Lewis (1971) 3   Fries (1996) Seidways, shaking, swaying and serpent mysteries. 4   Ritner (1993) The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice, Chicago 5  Ritner, R (2012) “An Eternal Curse upon the reader of these lines ..” pp 3-? In Kousoulis P, (ed) Ancient Egyptian Demonology, Peeters.

6   Op cit p3 7   Other sources on demons: Te Velde LA I (1975); Meeks in Carelli, P; Vennus, Athribis, No 141 pp135-7 8   Computer transcription: xA(y)tyw = hatayw, pA-nA-xty-wy = pa-na-hatayw, Axw &  axw = Akhw (capitals for variation in spelling), SmAyw = shamayw 9    See Pestman RdeE 25 (1973) 10   Ritner op cit p 5 11   See for example amuletic decrees (a complete example is given in Supernatural Assault. 12   Col 1/39 & 40 13   Ritner (op cit) says the word translated as youth can also mean mediums and could even be a Semitic loan word meaning seer ( ‘ddn) 14   Lichtheim, M (1980) Ancient Egyptian Literature Vol III The Late period p 90sq. New translation in Simpson, W (ed) Literature pp361-6  col 611 35-36 15   See also BAw for magical power

Theft of the 7 Ankhs

By Judith Page

From my childhood I was fascinated by Ancient Egypt, the mystery of the pyramids, the lone Sphinx and the never-ending ever-changing colour of the river Nile. It is said that if you fall into the Nile you will always return to Egypt. In my youth when I was sailing on a felucca between Luxor and the West Bank, I didn’t hear the boatman’s order to duck my head as he moved the sail from side to side to catch small gust of wind. The wooden boom hit me in the head sending me plunging into the Nile waters.

Return I did, but have lost count of the times I’ve been to this land – beginning as a tourist in my early teens in the company of my grandmother, and later eventually working as part of a team in Abydos on the creation of a meditation centre.

Always the magic was there from the phantoms that appear in the desert region of Abydos to the mirages in the Sahara.

Mystery and magic go hand in hand when I think of Egypt and so many books on the subject have been written for adults; romance, adventure, tourism, history, archaeological – the list is endless. But what is available for children? Plenty of interactive games, marvellous historical tomes produced by the many museums of the world– but few are about adventure and Egyptian magic with children in mind!

So, I decided to remedy this and began in the year 2000 to write Theft of the 7 Ankhs. It is based on my childhood with my grandmother, a cousin who I adored, various characters I got to know when visiting Egypt, some famous and some infamous! My late friend Billie Walker-John I would say took the lead role as Meri-Khem; this being her magical name. Even my partner Alain is featured in the story and performs beautifully as Al-nia the shape-shifting Ushabti.

But what’s so special about Theft of the 7 Ankhs? And how can it compete with other books on magic written over the past ten years; what springs to mind is of course the famous Harry Potter series all steeped in magic. I am in no way competing with these stories as they all have their place in the scheme of things. What I have written is a different kind of magic, a magic that is not concocted, this magic is real; it was practised for thousands of years in ancient Khemit we know as Egypt. The magic exists still, if you want to tap into it.

Please bear with me, I’ll explain more – Although I use the word ‘magic’ which to many people tend to think that religion and magic of ancient Egypt are two separate practises, they are not – to these ancient folk, religion and magic was one and the same. It was a complex system of polytheistic beliefs and rituals that played an essential part of ancient Khemit culture. It focussed on the Egyptian’s communication with a multitude of deities whom they believed to be present in, and indeed in control of the very forces and elements of nature.

The legends about these deities were meant to explain the origins and behavior of the forces they represented, and the practices of Egyptian belief were efforts to provide for the deities in order to gain their favour.

Ceremonial religious practice revolved around the Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Even though he was human, the Pharaoh was believed to be descended from the gods. He acted as the mediator between his subjects and the gods, and was duty-bound to nourish the gods through ritualistic rites and offerings so that the gods could preserve order in the universe.

The state of Khemit gave enormous funds to the performance of these rituals and also to the construction of temples where these practises were carried out.

Individuals could also interact with deity for their own ends, asking for their help through offerings and prayers, or compelling the gods to act through magic.

Another very important aspect in the lives of the ancient Egyptians was the belief in the afterlife and the great importance they placed on funerary practices. They went to great efforts to ensure the survival of their souls after death, providing tombs, donating and giving grave goods, and offerings to protect the bodies and spirits of the dead.

But what has all this got to do with Theft of the 7 Ankhs? The very essence of this ancient belief system is imbedded in the story and as the child reads, they effortlessly absorb knowledge and the magical practices of the main character Prince Setne Khaemwaset who at an early age becomes Sem priest to his father King Rameses the second. He was also Khemit’s greatest magician!

The story begins in ancient Egypt when the prince discovers a precious papyrus that reveals the hiding place of a legendary scroll and uses its secrets to create the magical collar of the seven ankhs. The ankhs are stolen, and a riddle is set that will disclose their locations. Ramose, a Time Lord, travels to the twentieth century to locate the riddle.

One piece is in the Cairo Museum, and the other belongs to Vida Richardson Hardy in England. Her Granddaughter Meri copies this fragment, and discovers a recipe for a magic mirror. Kenneth, Vida’s Grandson, identifies the second half of the riddle in Cairo. On a visit to London, he and Meri de-code the riddle, and venture back in time to Ancient Egypt to search for the seven ankhs.

But Kenneth realizes that Meri’s in danger – with the aid of the magic mirror, he goes to the rescue – but will he be able to save her?

I wrote Theft of the 7 Ankhs for children 9 to 12  – but hey, is there not a child in all of us?


Without warning, Meri made a sudden dash between the paws of Shu and began pounding on a limestone slab. The ground rumbled beneath her feet as the slab slowly dropped down into the rock.

‘Quickly, Khaem, let’s go,’ Meri said, signalling to him. ‘We need light.’ She touched the crystal in her circlet, emitting a beam of light. ‘I’ll go first.’

Down several steps and along a narrow passageway, they ran.

‘There’re no markings of any kind on these walls,’ Khaem observed, disappointed.

‘Here’re some small caverns,’ Meri said breathlessly.

‘Let me see.’ Khaem pushed past her and peered inside.

‘There are incised marks on this wall but nothing I recognize. Perhaps it’s the language of the gods.’

‘Let me see. I don’t know other languages, but it looks like Greek. The Ptolemies were Græco-regals for a time.’ Meri looked at the text. ‘It’s very strange,’ she continued, turning her head on the side. ‘If this is the Sphinx of Tomorrow, he represents the future. Maybe the ancients couldn’t read the future, and they just left a load of graffiti.’

‘Meri, look, it’s here in a niche. I’ve got the fifth ankh.’ Khaem seized it and held it briefly to his chest and sighed. ‘The ankh of truth. I don’t deserve it.’

‘Listen,’ said Meri, putting her hand up to silence Khaem.

‘I can’t hear anything.’

‘Ssh. Come on, run!’ she said and grabbed him by the hand. As they reached the outside of the Sphinx, the limestone slab slammed shut behind them.

‘Look, Khaem the sun’s setting, taking Tefnut with it. She’s disappearing again,’ Meri screamed. ‘We’ve got to get inside her to get the other ankh.’

Together they broadsided in the sand and slid towards the lion’s chest through an opening, landing with a thud on a stone floor.

‘Oh my gosh, Khaem. Look around you,’ Meri gasped as the beam from her circlet lit up a huge chamber. ‘One of the walls is made of crystal. There’s a picture of a boat, a bit like the Boat of Ra, and there are two figures on it. One looks like Horus. The other is a man kneeling down being welcomed by another. Look at the symbols, Khaem. Can you read them?’

‘Meri, this is incredible.’ Khaem was beside himself with excitement. ‘I can make out a few.’

As he ran his fingers over the signs, they emitted sounds. He suddenly cried out: ‘The stones in the ankhs are vibrating.

I can’t move my fingers from the wall.’

Meri ran over, trying to pull him away. ‘The sounds are swirling round in my head,’ she cried, letting go of him and cupping her hands over her ears. ‘Aaaagh,’ she cried in pain, uanable to help him.

Khaem screamed: ‘Mmmerrrrihelllllpmeeeeeeee.’ His body shuddered, and his face contorted.

Suddenly, the symbols left the wall and travelled in sequence along the crystal beam of light, disappearing into the crystal circlet on her head.

Khaem fell away from the wall and collapsed on the floor.

Meri’s eyes glowed like orbs. She opened her mouth, uttering sounds that ricocheted around the chamber. A voice from within her spoke, forming multidimensional pictures around the words:

‘At the dawn of our beginning the heavens were much closer to earth, and we, the Neters, were more familiar with man. In those days, we could walk the land between heaven and earth. We were able to cross the abyss to create reality.

We created this room and hid these secrets beneath Tefnut, our Guardian of the West. Within her is the entire history of Zep Tepi. But man changed and was not ready for this knowledge, so we took Tefnut away from view. Within her are the keys.’

Meri blinked and looked at Khaem, who stared

wide-eyed at her.

‘Have you keys that hold the secret?’ pressed Khaem.

‘Yes,’ the voice answered. ‘But they’re not keys: one has to utter sacred sounds. They’re multilayered sound forms that will pass you through to another dimension onto other planes, onto other spheres of being, to the greater and the higher—to the place of the Neters, the Home of Gods, to us.’

Meri didn’t have a clue what the voice was talking about, but Khaem stood tall and spoke to the being that had taken over the girl’s body.

‘Ra appeared before me in all his godlike forms. I saw him, and felt his essence. As his golden light surrounded me, he touched these keys.’ Khaem touched his collar with deep emotion, and uttered:

May these keys, these ankhs of life represent trust, blessing, courage, rebirth, truth, wisdom, and mystery. Each time you speak to the ankhs, the gemstones will resonate to your voice.’

‘If you have the seven ankhs, why are you here?’ the voice questioned.

‘We seek the ankh of wisdom, which was stolen from me and is hidden in this chamber,’ answered Khaem.

Meri closed her eyes and threw back her head. Her mouth twisted and contorted. Khaem recoiled in shock. She emitted a note so pure it rang round the chamber, ripping through the air and shattering the wall. Shards of crystal wafted around them like feathers, each the colour of a rainbow.

Khaem and Meri were bathed in wondrous light.

‘Khaem, look on your collar,’ she cried with joy. ‘It’s the sixth ankh.’

He touched his chest and bowed his head, ‘I thank thee, Meri-Khem.’

‘Ah… it was nothing really,’ she said, rubbing her neck. ‘My throat hurts a bit though.’

‘I’m not surprised. Where did you learn to utter such sounds?’

Meri shrugged her shoulders and shook her head. ‘The only sound I was taught to make was with a triangle.’

‘A triangle.’ This time Khaem shook his head.

‘We have to get out of here. Our Lady Tefnut has sealed the entrance from the outside and my incantation won’t work in here,’ he said, feeling the wall.

‘No problem. Look the crystal flakes are clearing, and there’s our way out,’ Meri ran towards a doorway that led into a tunnel.

Theft of the 7 Ankhs is available in hardback and Kindle E-book.

· Reading level: Ages 9-12

· Paperback: 320 pages

· Publisher: AuthorHouse (May 23, 2011)

· Language: English · ISBN-10: 1452073279

· ISBN-13: 978-1452073279

By the same author:

Song of Set (hard copy – Aeon Publications and E-book – Kindle)

Song of Meri-Khem (hard copy – Mandrake Publishers and E-book – Kindle)

Song of Bast (E-book – Kindle)

Pathworking with the Egyptian Gods (hard copy)

Invoking the Egyptian Gods (hard copy) available in December 2011

The Sepiroth From The Bottom Up (Part Two)

By Si Cash

(Part One featured in our Samhain 2011 issue)

Once the veil of Paroketh has been passed. And its interesting to note that a lot of rituals on passing this veil have allegories to light, lamps and covering/uncovering lamps. Then the next Sepiroth is Tipareth.
Tipareth is the 6th Sepiroth its a balance point. If you were to look at the ten Spheres and their relationship to the human body then its in the chest and heart area. Looking at the chest in a magical rather than medical sense, it was believed that this was a intersection between three elements, Air, Fire and Water, Where Water and Fire combined made the blood and Air was the lungs which circulated and cooled it. Its associations are with the Sun, heat and life-giving properties. Which going back to the veil of Paroketh then Tipareth is the light which illuminates, As well as the heat which gives the power to all things to grow.

Yet Tipareth is a growing child. Associated with youth and playfulness. It is the sixth Sepiroth and is associated with the sixes of the Tarot all of the sixes, allude to finding the balance, or accepting solutions, but Tipareth is a temporary state, a place that is cyclic in nature just as the sunny day will give way to the night then the nature of Tipareth is to find a balance and then move on. Because of its Appolian as well as many other Solar Gods nature, its also useful for Mathematical workings and logically attacking problems.

When working in Tipareths a great place to physically re-energise oneself, Like a battery though that energy must be used it cannot be stored indefinitely as it will gradually dissipate. This energy can be channel in all directions. First of all down to Hod and Netzach or up to Geburah and Chesed. The closest Spheres. But also to Yesod, Binah, Chockma and Kether. This makes Tiparthet unique in the Kabbalistic tree as the one which is most directly connected to the others.

There is a more sinister, or to be more precise Sacrificial nature to Tipareth, Just as the corn grows in the sunlight it is harvested to be made into something finer. And Tipareth has these qualities too. The Gods of Jesus Christ and Osiris, Bringers of light and love and then themselves made sacrifice for the ‘greater good.’ or The law of conservation of energy and mass tends to corroborate this – in all cases of energy transmutation, a sacrifice is necessary so a new form may be born.

In my own experience Tipareth manifests itself in very physical ways. When performing the Ceremonial Magic ritual of ‘The Middle Pillar’ the concentration of energy from Tipareth can warm the whole of the body. Certain other CM rituals use Tipareth a focus point to draw in or expel energy from.

Travelling on and up then the fifth and fourth Sepiroth are Geburah and Chesed respectively. Like Hod and Netach discussed before they are Spheres of opposing qualities.

First is Geburah as in this day and age it is the Sepiroth who’s forms and emanations we are most familiar with. It is the Martial sphere, Associated with Mars, War, Aries, Hours and Thor amongst others. But this only tells half of the story, these Martial aspects are the more superficial aspects which should be examined and used when necessary but as we are travelling up the Kabbalistic tree here then the act of war is left behind and its important to concentrate on the reasons for this course of action. Concepts such as Justice, Strength, and the execution of Judgement’s to use a fruity metaphor, the stone is the concept and the flesh is the action-which in the case of Geburah usually results in something combative or creative, creation can be a destructive act especially forms of creation such as sculpting or carving. The creation practised here is not the calculated planned creativity of Netach-Hod-Yesod or a combination thereof, but the more primal and misunderstood side of things, This is the Sphere which if untempered can cause the artists to turn the energy inwards upon themselves and self destruct. The example which springs to mind here is Van Goth:
The left hand column of Boaz is classed as negative energy. Yet its probably better to think of a 4 way polarity not just a Left/Right Negative/Positive but also a Up/Down or North/South a more…well Elemental rather than just dualistic scale.

Its interesting to note that Scientists are starting to apply this 4 way model to energies now. Particularly in the fields of Magnetism and Electricity.

Without the negative there would be no positive. From my youth and training as a Electrical Engineer It is the negative that allows energy to flow. Something to bear in mind when studying and using the left hand Sepiroth.

Opposing Geburais Chesed, Sometimes know as dulha or ( this is Mercy to Geburas Severity. This is Water or the idea of Water to Geburah”s more Fiery actions, and while Fire can burn it can also warm, while water can give life it can also drown. Again superficially on the surface the qualities of Chesed are somehow ‘good’ actions. There is a deeper level of understanding required. To show Mercy then we have to understand that circumstances have driven us to that point of having to make that decision.

This is where translation from Hebrew and Aramaic languages into English causes some problems, there is no direct literal translation, the close concepts are Mercy, but to some scholars and in other languages Gedulha/Chesed can also mean Pity or Majesty, words which in English has completely different connotations. When dealing with these two Sepiroth then a little bit of thinking outside the rigid box of words is required. Look at the archetypes of the God of War and the Goddesses of Mercy and then the seemingly strange decision to place them in the Feminine for War and Masculine for Mercy columns. At first it makes no sense. Its only when a deeper understanding is reached that that decision becomes a little clearer. As I said in the previous part of this essay, notions such as gender become much more fluid the further away from Malkuth one decides to travel.

In both Geburah and Chesed actions in either one are not without consequences. This is why the balancing equilibrium of Tipaereth is so important.

Its interesting to note that some Kabbalists see the five Six Spheres of Yesod through to Chesed as a whole entity in itself, something which balances itself against the sheer mass of Malkuth.
The Origins of Christmas Traditions

By Jessica Howard

It’s that time of year again, and love it or hate it, there is no escaping Christmas. The shops are crammed with Christmas gifts and decorations long before December, Christmas songs are blasted from every available output and eating an entire box of chocolates before midday is quite often justified with the line, “Well, it is Christmas.” However you celebrate Christmas, under whatever name, there are certain customs and traditions that never seem to grow old, and are still observed by many today; Christmas trees, mistletoe, stockings for the children. But where did all these traditions start?

Christmas Stocking

According to legend, there was once a kind nobleman, who squandered his entire fortune after unfortunate death of his beloved wife, leaving his three daughters without dowries and thus doomed to a life of spinsterhood. The compassionate St. Nicholas, AKA Father Christmas heard of the girls hardship and so rode his white horse to their house and threw three pouches of gold coins down the chimney. The girls rejoiced, and hung them over the fireplace to dry, hence the popular imagery of the stocking over the fireplace, although these days with fireplaces very much out of fashion many people prefer to hang them at the end of the bed.


Mistletoe is in fact one of the many Christmas traditions with Pagan origins. Druid priests used Mistletoe some 200 years before the birth of Christ in their winter celebrations, revering it for the fact that it had no roots yet somehow remained green throughout the winter months. It was believed to have healing powers, and used to ward off evil and an antidote for poison. It was also said amongst the Romans that any enemy who happened to meet under Mistletoe would lay down their weapons and embrace.

However, it is believed that the tradition of kissing under the Mistletoe actually originated with the Scandinavians. They associated the plant with Frigga, the Goddess of Love, and it was said that those who kissed under the Mistletoe were ensured happiness and good luck throughout the following year.

The Holly and the Ivy

Like the Mistletoe, boughs of Holly were also believed to have magical powers as they too remained green through the harsh winter. The Holly and Ivy were often placed above the doors of homes to drive away the evil spirits, the ghosts and demons that could be heard howling in the bitter winter winds. Legend also has it that Holly sprang from the footsteps of Christ as he walked the earth, Holly leaves representing the pointed crown of thorns he wore upon the cross and the red berries symbolizing the blood that he shed.

There is also the famous and very similar Pagan story of the Holly and the Oak King; they fight at Yule, with the Oak King winning, (a symbolic representation of the waxing half of the year). The Oak King reigns until Midsummer, when they fight again and this time the Holly King (representing the waning half of the year) wins, and keeps his throne until Yule, where the cycle continues. Holly and Mistletoe were used to commemorate the battle, with Holly being hung for the Holly King, and the Mistletoe in honour of the Oak King.

Candy Canes

With the arrival of Christmas trees came special decorations used to dress them. Food items were a popular choice, such as cookies and candies, especially straight white candy sticks. It is said that it was during the 17th century that craftsmen began creating the white sticks of candy in the shepherds crook, or cane shaping that is familiar to us today at the suggestion of the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany. These treats were given to children during showings of the Nativity scene to keep the quiet, and the passing out of candy at such ceremonies soon spread throughout Europe.

Modern explanations of the symbolism of the Candy Cane explain that the colour white represents Christ’s purity and the red the blood that he shed, the presence of the three red stripes representing the Holy Trinity. Although there is no factual evidence to prove this, it is becoming an increasingly common belief.

Christmas Cards

Although a form of Christmas cards first began in England, when young boys would practise their writing skills by creating greetings for their parents, the first real Christmas card is credited to the first director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Sir Henry Cole. He found himself too busy during the Christmas of 1843 to compose individual greetings for all his friends, and so commissioned artist John Calcott Horsley to do the illustration. This first actual Christmas card featured three panels, with the centre panel depicting your traditional family enjoying your traditional Christmas festivities, and inside the card was the message, ‘A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.’

Christmas Trees

It is believed that it was in 26th century Germany that fir trees were first decorated, indoors and outdoors with items such as roses, apples, candy and coloured paper. The fir tree covered with apples was used to represent the Garden of Eden, and in the middle ages the story of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, ending with the prophecy of a saviour coming was a popular one to be replayed during the advent season. Protestant reformer Martin Luther was said to be the first person to decorate these trees with lights, inspired by the beauty of the stars shining through the branches of a fir tree as he walked home one night.

The Christmas tree was brought to England by Prince Albert from his native Germany in 1848 for his wife and family, and was soon popularized so that by the late 19th century the Christmas Tree has established itself as an important Christmas tradition.

The fir tree has long been associated with Christianity. When St Boniface, who was busy converting the German people to Christianity some 1000 years ago, saw a group of Pagans worshipping an Oak tree, he cut it down in anger. To his amazement, a young fir tree sprouted from the roots of the tree, a sure sign in the eyes of St Boniface of the Christian faith.

Food and Drink

There are certain foods and drinks we only consume at Christmas, or mostly at Christmas. For example, mulled wine, again originally a German custom, is favoured because of its warmth at this cold time of the year. Mince pies are a British tradition, dating back to the 13th century when crusaders brought the recipe back from the Middle East. When first introduced, it was indeed the size of a traditional pie and known by many names, yet it has always been seen as a Christian custom; in fact, they were even banned during the English Civil War as it was viewed as primarily a Catholic custom. The mince pie later returned, in a smaller form and without the Catholic connotations it had held before. The Christmas pudding, or Plum pudding’s associations date back to Medieval Ages when the Catholic Church decreed that on the 25th of December, every household should prepare this pudding with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and his 12 Apostles, and that every family member should take turns in stirring it in the direction of East to West to honour the Magi and their journey in that direction.

Father Christmas

The most notable Christmas tradition is that of Santa Clause, also known as Father Christmas or Kris Kringle. Often depicted as a large, jolly man dressed in red with a long, white beard, he is said to deliver presents to every child round the world on the 24th of December. There are many different cultural influences for this figure in every different country. St. Nicholas of Myra is the Christian influence for this universal figure.  He was known for his generous gift-giving, as in the story of the origins of the Christmas stocking. From Pagan Germany we have the figure of Odin, who was celebrated during Yule and owned an eight-legged horse that could leap through the sky, drawing comparisons to Santa’s reindeer. Children would fill their boots with straw and carrots and leave them by the chimney as an offering to Odin’s horse. In return, Oden would leave gifts and candy, a custom very akin to the popular tradition of leaving a glass of milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer. Dutch folklore has its own version of St Nicholas, or Sinterklaas. The peoples of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg believed that Sinterklaas arrived mid-November from Spain by steamboat with a notebook containing notes on every child and whether they had been good or bad that year, and awarded the good children with chocolate and spiced nuts. During the next three weeks, Sinterklaas deposits these gifts down peoples chimney’s as he rides across the sky on a white horse. It is easy to see the resemblances between these figures and the modern depiction of our Father Christmas.

Futhark: The Celtic Link

By Vincent Ongkowidjojo © 2011

One of the most shrouded mysteries of the runic alphabet is its early history. As a matter of fact, no-one can really say how the script originated. We know that the runes exist and were used by the Ancient Germanic peoples, but where did they come from? When were they invented? Why were they designed? Who first used these characters? Drawing parallels between the history of the Futhark and the Ogham alphabet might just shed light on this.

The two earliest rune finds are also the two most dubious. They both date from the first century CE and stem from the same area. The best known inscription comes from Meldorf, the other one from Osterrönfeld. Both are located in modern day Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, famous for its historical settlement Haithabu. This, and the fact that the early rune finds (200CE-400CE) concentrate around the area of northern Germany and southern Scandinavia, makes it difficult to ascertain any link with an original parent alphabet. We are therefore confronted with a gap of evidence in both space and time. The runic script just seems to be there.

The most accepted theory states that the rune alphabet is based on one or several of the North-Italic scripts, must have originated in the first or second century of our era and is probably the result of contact with the Roman world.

At the Limes

At the time of the theoretical invention of the runic script, the Continent was a natural mix of many different tribes. Some of them were Germanic, some of them were Celtic. And all the while, the Roman Empire tried to lay claim on all of them. To the outsider, such as the average Roman, they all looked the same, and not much distinction was made between possible differences in ethnicity. Indeed, the culture of these various tribes looked very similar and influenced each other.

In fact, many tribes were ethnically confused, both by Romans in their time and now by us. Some tribes held to be Germanic turned out to be Celtic, and vice versa. Especially, of the Cimbri the debate is still going which of them they are. Their homeland is supposed to be Jutland, Denmark, but words associated with their tribe point to a Celtic background. Similarly, the Heruli, whose tribe name may have provided for the word erilaz occurring so often in runic inscriptions, are not by any certainty a Germanic tribe. Scholars are still at a loss to explain their name. Alexander Rackus believes they are a Balto-Slavic tribe. And so it is with many a tribe. Of most we have only a name, and it cannot be said that we are dealing with either a Celtic or a Germanic tribe, or any other kind for that matter.

One of the more perplexing aspects that both cultures shared was the adoration of the Mothers. Celtic as well as Germanic individuals raised votive altars in honour of the so-called Matres or Matrones. Dedications appear on stone altars and are always written in Latin. Only the names of the divinized mothers show that we deal with a native practice. Half of the inscriptions honours Celtic deities and half of them Germanic ones.

These votive offerings date from the first to the fifth centuries CE, coinciding with the period of the early rune finds. Their occurrence reflects a certain level of literacy. In the least, it shows that both Germanic and Celtic peoples made use of the existing Latin. From different sources it is known that the Celtic peoples were inclined to use existing alphabets to write. Often Greek and Latin are cited, but they also deployed the North-Italic scripts for their business. The use of Greek and Latin scripts by Celtic and Germanic people makes one wonder why a native script was needful.

The Parallel History

Why did the Celts have need of an own alphabet? It is generally assumed that the Ogham was exclusively reserved for cultic purposes. All the while they kept to using Greek and Latin for the profane. It is also well known that the Druids of old and new are under a sort of geis not to commit their wisdom to writing. It is also quite widely suggested that the first uses of Ogham were divinatory in nature. All these motives do call for a more exclusive set of symbols.

The Druid approach to writing may fill in the gaps of the Germanic development of the runic alphabet. Academic scholars of the Futhark are wont to disregard the cultic aspect of the runes and attempt to reconstruct their history from a writing perspective only. The only exception seems to be Bernard Mees, who has published much on the cultic importance of runic writing in their early history. Can we suppose that the Ancient Germanic peoples designed the rune alphabet strictly to perform divination? To answer that question, we will have to look deeper into the parallels between the runic and the Oghamic script.

The Futhark and the Ogham are unique in Europe in that they are no copies of the archetypical Phoenician alphabet brought to Europe by the Greeks. However, both seem to draw inspiration from the Mediterranean alphabets, each in its own way. The Futhark draws heavily on the letter forms of these alphabets, whereas all other aspects, such as letter order and naming are entirely native to the Germanic culture. Contrarily, the Ogham borrows names from the Greek mother alphabet, but its letter shapes and order are entirely novel.

A list of rune shapes and their possible Mediterranean forerunners might be insightful, as also a small list of the Ogham names with their Greek models. In the table, Latin is preferred over Greek possibilities.

Fehu Latin F
Uruz Latin V
Thurisaz Latin D
Ansuz Latin A (?)
Raido Latin R
Kenaz Latin C
Gebo Greek Chi
Wunjo unknown
Hagalaz Latin H (?)
Nauthiz Latin N (?)
Isa Latin I
Jera Latin G
Eihwaz unknown
Pertho Greek Pi
Algiz unknown
Sowulo Latin S / Greek Sigma
Teiwaz Latin T
Berkana Latin B
Ehwaz Latin E (?)
Mannaz Latin M (?)
Laguz Latin L
Inguz unknown
Othila Latin O (?) / Greek Omega
Dagaz Double Latin D
Beith Greek Beta / Phoenician Beth
Nion Greek Nu / Phoenician Nun
Muin Greek Mu / Phoenician Mim
Ruis Greek Rho / Phoenician Resh
Ailm Greek Alpha / Phoenician Aleph
Eadha Greek Eta /Phoenician Chet
Idho Greek Iota / Phoenician Yod

It is interesting to note that the Ogham letters named after their Greek sisters are the heads of the different families or aicmí. The heads of the four families are Beith, Huath, Muin and Ailm. The odd ones out are Nion, Ruis, Eadha and Idho. Now, Huath might be the right original counterpart of Greek Eta (Phoenician Chet), because the Celtic letter alludes to the spiritus asper most commonly associated with Eta, H. Nion, Ruis and Idho are all the last letter of their group.

As regards to the Futhark, it has to be said that most letters are shared by the Latin and Greek alphabets. Of the runes Gebo and Pertho it is quite clear that the Greek script was followed. This is corroborated by the Gothic alphabet, where the Greek Pi provides both Gothic P and Q and where the Gothic G is rendered by the Greek Gamma.

It must be remembered that the Ancient Germanic inventors of the Futhark were probably acquainted with more than one script. Often, the North Italic script is the favoured one, but the North Italic area contained more than one alphabet. Surely, the Germanics came in contact with all these diverse alphabets and remembered what they could when they set about designing their own symbols. In the meanwhile, the Celts too adopted the North Italic alphabets, such as the Etruscan, in preference to the Greek alphabet for their own writing.

Sacred Space

One archaeological find binds all these data together. In 1811 a deposit of Etruscan helmets has been unearthed in modern Negova, Slovenia. The helmets were made between 450 and 350 BCE and were ritually deposited at circa 50 BCE. These types of helmets are known to be worn by priests. Two of about 26 helmets bear inscriptions, so-called Negau A and Negau B. They are all written in the North Etruscan script and carry only names. The Negau A helmet bears about four Celtic names and the Negau B helmet bears one Germanic name and a title. It is supposed that these inscriptions give a date before which the runic alphabet had not been designed yet, neither would the Ogham have been. The inscriptions date between 200 and 100 BCE.

The Negova site may have been a nemeton that was visited by Celtic and Germanic priests alike. The Negau B helmet glosses the Germanic person teiva which can be translated as

‘priest’. Maybe Negova was one of the old centres of learning where initiates of the different mystery schools of Europe met and gathered. In the Celtic tradition, it is fairly well documented that Druids frequented the mystery schools of Ancient Greece and implemented lots of their knowledge. The almost Greek sounding names of some of the key Ogham fews bear testimony to this. In the same way, we see how the Greek system of alphabetic numbering is adopted by Wulfila when he designs his Gothic alphabet in the fourth century CE. We must be aware of the likelihood of communication between Druids and Germanic cultic functionaries at a regular basis. The cultures mixed, there was no fixed border between them, they had lived alongside each other for centuries since and routes of commerce run up and down their territories. It would make awkward neighbours if they didn’t speak to each other once in a while.

As a matter of fact, the Germanic word for a secret gathering is ‘rune’ and has been joyfully adopted by the Celtic priesthood. The Germanic word is actually quite well represented in the Celtic languages, such as Old Irish (500CE-1000CE) and Middle Welsh (1100CE-1400CE). Even in Viking times, the term still denotes a meeting. It might be from this meaning in the context of the alphabet’s conception that the word was first associated with this set of symbols.

In this respect, it might be useful to mention the Gundestrup cauldron. In 1891, the item was found in a place called Gunedstrup, Jutland, Denmark. It dates from the second or first century BCE. The size and iconography of the cauldron define it as a ritual object. The item has been found dismantled and deposited at Gundestrup, which suggests ritual use. According to specialists, the metalwork is Thracian in origin, but the depicted scenes are generally assumed to be Celtic. This might locate a place of origin nearer to the Negova site. More importantly, scholars cannot tell how the cauldron ended up in Denmark, but it may just prove a link between Celtic and Germanic mystery schools.

In Words and Wood

In comparing the time line of Futhark and Ogham, we see that the first Ogham inscriptions only occur from the fourth century onward. They appear on stone monuments and are found mostly in Ireland and Wales. The peak of inscriptions dates between 400 and 600 CE. When it comes to runes, we already possess a small corpus of inscriptions on different materials by that time, but curiously, inscriptions on stone monuments only appear from the fourth century onward and have their heyday in the same period (400CE-700CE).

Scandinavian rune stones are usually set in a funerary context, but also had a bearing on a person’s rights to land. However, the Ogham inscriptions mostly carry personal names and genealogical information, such as the name of a tribe that a person belonged to. Possibly, monumental stones in both traditions had a similar, legal, function. It is, however, queer that both traditions start at about the same time and it looks like one may be a response to the other. And maybe the creation of either the Futhark or the Ogham was also a reaction to the other.

The start of the stone monument tradition in either tradition may indicate a change in philosophy towards the employment of a magical alphabet. Given that Ogham was written exclusively on wood until that time, it will originally have served only cultic purposes. In the same way, all early rune find inscriptions are cultic in nature. Somehow this changed in the fourth century and a more profane use of runes and Ogham alike was suddenly applied. At the same time, we notice that the frequency of the key word erilaz in runic inscriptions suddenly decreases.

Since wood is a hard material to trace in the archaeological record, the creation history of the Ogham alphabet, as with the runes, has been shrouded in myth. Nevertheless, an approximate date of the creation of the Ogham can be fixed to no later than the first half of the first century CE. The Ogham alphabet as we know it displays a Q-Celtic basis. After the conquest of Gaul by Caesar, P-Celtic became more widespread on the Continent. Hence the early date. Intriguingly, the first possible rune finds date from the same period.

On Divination

Among Celtic scholars it is more commonly accepted that their native alphabet was used for divination. This would account for the gap in time between the conquest of Gaul and the first Ogham inscriptions. Runologists, however, seem reluctant to accept a thesis that explains the conception of the Futhark as a divinatory means or a magical alphabet. Yet, it does not seem unimaginable that the runic alphabet was designed to cater for a magico-religious need. For the Northern tradition, the thesis relies on the account of Tacitus (ca.98CE). The Celtic tradition finds evidence in the tale of The Wooing of Étaín. The written text dates from the eighth or ninth century.

Tacitus relates how a branch is cut and made into wooden slips. These are marked with signs. Then, they are randomly thrown on a white cloth. And finally, the person leading the ceremony takes up three and interprets them according to their marks. Tacitus uses the Latin word nota to describe these markings. According to Bernard Mees, we can safely assume that these are runes. He argues that Tacitus seldom Latinized barbarous words, but ever looked for a good Latin translation. Mees also assures us that the meaning of notae with all its connotations perfectly describes the concept of a rune, namely “alphabetical characters of any sort employed in … divination”.

The Wooing of Étaín

tells of how King Eochu Airem of Ireland lost his love Étaín to Midir in a game. Midir takes off and hides the girl, but King Eochu asks a Druid to find their hiding place. So, the Druid makes four rods of yew wood and writes an Ogham on each. Much as the Futhark, the Ogham is divided in different families. They are called aicmí and there are four. It is generally accepted that the four yew staves refer to the four aicmí. Possibly, the number of runes interpreted in the report of Tacitus equally refers to the three ættir of the Futhark. Incidentally, a threefold division might have been original in the early Ogham as well. The fourth aicme was only added later to provide for foreign sounds and still later for the vowels. The four staves of yew also feature in the story of The Phantom’s Frenzy. In this case, the Ogham is applied to select a king at a ceremony. The text was written down in the tenth or eleventh century.

The use of yew wood offers another clue. Druids preferred yew over other sacred woods to make divining rods from. This ties in with the role yew plays in the Northern lore, where it is associated with the World Tree Yggdrasil. The mythical tree has a direct relationship with divination. Between its roots lies the Well of Urd where the Norns reside and rule the fate of men and gods. It is also this well from which the prophetess of Voluspa is summoned. In the story, she divines the outcome of the last battle. Even more so, it is probably in this well that Odin found the runes hanging from the tree. Indeed, the sacred well and the tree are a motif well documented in Celtic lore. Plus, the yew features in both alphabets.

Wood in general seems to have been the preferred medium to consult the wisdom of the gods and both runes and Ogham seem to have been specifically designed for this kind of medium. Both scripts avoid curved lines and the letter shapes make us suspect wood as a primary carrier. As a synonym for ‘rune’ the Ancient Germanic word stabaz ‘stave’ supports the vision that runes were originally cut in wood, and probably used for divinatory purposes. Mees also points out that Celtic words for fate derive from a meaning of casting wood. This divination method is recorded as prinni loudin in the first century CE Coligny calendar, France. This lemma on the calendar is the name of a ritual and literally means ‘the throwing of the woods’. It is possibly connected with Ogham. Mees also reminds us that the morpheme ‘book’, as in German Buchstabe or Old Icelandic bók-rúnar, does not refer to the beech tree, but stems from an Indo-European root *bhag meaning ‘share’ and secondary ‘lot, fate’.

An exclusive application of the Ogham alphabet in wood can make up for the gap in time and space between the supposed conception before the time of Caesar on the Continent and the first inscriptions in the fourth century on the British Isles. If the names of the Ogham fews are studied, it appears that most of the vegetation referred to was only found on the Continent, not on the Isles.

Ogma and Odin

One of the earliest sources of the Ogham names is the Auraicept na n-Éces and stems from Ireland, dated to the seventh century CE. The Auraicept places the origin of the Ogham in Ireland, but claims the god Ogma to be its inventor. From Roman historians, we know that the same deity was known on the Continent as Ogmios, facilitating a Continental origin for the alphabet. His mention in historiographies coincides with the early dating of the creation of the Ogham alphabet. He was a poet and a god of eloquence, likened to Hercules but visualized as an old man.

The tradition of a deity ruling an alphabet is widespread but finds its direct parallel in the Norse god Odin. However, the tradition goes back much further and might well have been inspired on the Mediterranean cultures. The Latin alphabet was invented by Mercurius and the Greek alphabet by Hermes, who was Trismegistos, tracing the tradition back to the Egyptian role model Thoth. All of these gods share the same qualities. They rule both the written word and magic.

What is the connection between Ogmios/Ogma and Odin? As a god of poetry Ogmios/Ogma is nicknamed the Honey-Mouthed. This name corresponds to Odin’s heiti Farma-Tyr, referring to the myth in which he carries off the Mead of Poetry. He actually holds the mead in his mouth. Ogmios/Ogma is also called Sun-Faced. There does not seem a direct correlation, but Odin’s epithet One-Eyed might needs be of Celtic origin. In Celtic myth, one-eyed creatures are common and usually linked with the sun. To this, Odin’s nicknames Báleygr ‘flaming eye’ and Bileygr ‘shaking eye’ might testify.

Besides the comparison between Odin and Ogmios/Ogma, there seems be an even more exciting parallel. In my opinion, it might be possible to see a link between the poet god Ogmios/Ogma and Bragi the skald. And this parallel would be supported by information regarding Bragi’s wife, Idun.

In the Irish tradition, the wife of Ogma was Étan, sometimes spelled Eadán, and sometimes confused with Étaín. On homophonous grounds, there might well be a link between Étan/Étaín and the Norse goddess Idun. The Irish story of The Wooing of Étaín is paralleled by the Norse story of the abduction of Idun. By some evil cause Loki leads away Idun from Asgard and lets her being kidnapped by the giants and taken into the Otherworld. Loki is also the one that gets her back. In the same way, Étaín is kidnapped by Midir of the Sídhe. Interestingly, both stories feature the shapeshifting of the girl, a theme well known from Celtic sources but much less so in Old Icelandic literature.

Now, Bragi was a poet and a god of eloquence. He was possibly named after a ninth century skald, but has been integrated in the Viking pantheon as a son of Odin. He is an aspect of Odin. He is depicted as an old man with a long beard, symbolizing his wisdom. The Roman historiographer Lucian writes that Ogmios “is represented  as pulling along behind him a mass of men all kept together with gold and amber chains through their ears … the god’s tongue has been perforated so that it appears to be pulling along the men while the god turns smiling towards them”. It is a symbol of his eloquence. What is more, it relates directly to a cryptic passage in Sigrdrifumal where Bragi is said to have a rune inscribed on his tongue. Might Bragi be identified as Ogma?

On Poetry

Typical of the oral tradition is that the names of the runes and the names of the Ogham fews are only known from the manuscript tradition onwards. No doubt, these names were orally transmitted using mnemonic poems. The earliest attestation of the rune names is found in the Abecedarium Nordmannicum, a ninth century manuscript probably written at the Fulda monastery, Germany. The earliest attestation of the Ogham names is found in the Auraicept na n-Éces mentioned above, from the seventh century.

According to Alan Griffiths, the Abecedarium is modeled on the Celtic tradition to compose such verses. The contemporary Irish community in Northumbria would have influenced the native Anglo-Saxon intelligentsia in this respect. This would have led to the composition of the Old English Rune Poem as early as the seventh century, attributed usually to the eighth to ninth century, and would have inspired the composition of such poems as the Abecedarium.

Proof of the Old Irish influence would be found in the stanzas of the Old English Rune Poem. Griffiths sees a link between the commentaries on the Ogham letters and the stanzas of the Old English runes. He discusses in particular three runes, namely Hægl, Eolhx and Dæg, concluding that the stanzas of these runes correspond to the kennings of the same letters in the Celtic alphabet, Huath, Straif and Duir. According to his theory, the names of the Celtic letters were in turn based on Greek and Latin glosses, implying that the naming of the runes might have been a continuation of this tradition – or a parallel development.

From a personal word from Freya Aswynn, with the voice of Odin, I know that the Germanic peoples learned their poetry from the Celts. In the old days, poetry was the key to all knowledge and transference of knowledge. One aspect typical of oral lore written down in the Old Irish tradition is that it was framed as questions and answers. The Auraicept is a good example of this. The same technique rings through in the Eddic poems, such as Vafthrudnismal and Alvissmal. This might be due to skalds that were trained by bards and Druids.

The Germanic people would not only have adopted the naming tradition but also the tradition of composing mnemonic poems. As it stands, from a wider perspective, the runic alphabet might be a Celtic invention. In fact, the Younger Futhark, possibly from before the time of the Abecedarium, is included as one of the 150 different Oghams that Druids had to learn in the first three years of their training. At the least, this has endowed the Celtic research with an open mind lacking in the study of the Northern tradition.

One wonders whether a similar tradition existed in Ancient Scandinavia, in which different Futharks had to be memorized. First of all, it is almost certain that the Younger Futhark and the Elder Futhark coexisted for some time. Secondly, the Old Norwegian Rune Poem seems to be very precise as what had to be memorized. In this poem, each rune has two lines. The first line describes the name of the rune and, according to Bernd Neuner, the second line described the shape of the rune. Thirdly, the Old Icelandic Rune Poem gives not just the kennings, but also Latin glosses and names for ‘chief’. The latter comes very close in likeness and technique to the secret Oghams that had to be studied.

The ‘Chief Futhark’ would run thus: Fylkir, Vísi, Þengill, Oddviti, Ræsir, Konungr, Hildingr, Niflungr, Jöfurr, Allvaldr, Siklingr, Tiggi, Buðlungr, Mildingr, Lofðungr, Ynglingr. Possibly, a Futhark of god names had also existed in earlier times. This would account for the fact that the first ætt is called Frey and not Fé. It explains why this rune is named Frey in later Icelandic sources.

More Parallels Within

To support a common origin of Futhark and Ogham, a further curiosity of the alphabets themselves has to be discussed. One of the greatest mysteries of the Elder Futhark besides its origin is the enigma of the letter P. The names of the elder runes are only known through the Rune Poems, the Old English one especially, and the Gothic Alphabet. The Old English Rune Poem stems from the eighth century, whereas the names of the Gothic runes are only known from a treatise by Alcuin, written in the ninth century. However, they agree on the letter P, naming it respectively Peorð and Pairthra. The Ancient Germanic reconstructed form is Pertho.

What makes this rune so elusive is that the name has no counterpart in any Germanic language. Moreover, the rune was not retained in the Younger Futhark. Neither was it used in Early Germanic runic inscriptions. The stanza on this rune from the Old English Rune Poem has made interpretation only more difficult. The only plausible solution appears to be that the name is Celtic in origin. A Germanic Pertho might stem from the Celtic word for apple tree, Quert. In my opinion, the naming of the Gothic alphabet helps in deciding on the truth, since the alphabet has also Qairthra. It shows almost beyond doubt the Celtic P/Q-split. Examining the Gothic alphabet both letters are each other’s mirror image. They belong together. Their letter shape also seems to derive from the Greek letter Pi, strengthening the above theory.

Why this name was chosen for an otherwise Germanic alphabet is a mystery. Unless… Perhaps it might be too far-fetched to say that the Futhark was originally designed for the Celtic language, but it might just be near the truth to suggest that it was in fact designed or co-designed by Celtic initiates.

Similarly, the Celtic alphabet has somehow two redundant characters. These are Huath and Straif, representing the letter H and an unknown sound. As a matter of fact, these Ogham fews are not recorded in the epigraphical material. The Celtic language knows no consonant H, yet Huath is put together with other consonants. What is more, even if the Ogham derives from a Latin or Greek model, these languages had no letter H either. The Germanic people, however, did. The letter Straif is a little harder to place.

You would almost imagine that they swopped letters. The swopping of letters seems to point to some form of cooperation between the Celtic and the Germanic intelligentsia. It seals a pact. What we are faced with reminds me a little of the myth of the war of Aesir and Vanir. Legend says that both races of gods matched each other in war. Neither one can overcome the other. In the end, they call a truce. And to seal this pact of peace, they swop hostages. Njord of the Vanir and his children will live in Asgard from now on. Mimir and Hœnir of the Aesir will live in Vanaheim. Having the history of the twin alphabets in mind, this sounds much too alike to dismiss.

Maybe another bit of runic myth can tentatively be related to this parallel history. It is said that Odin finds the runes, but by that time they are already in existence, even loaded with power. Before that they were somehow created. According to both the Eddic poems and Early Germanic inscriptions, the runes come from the Regin. They invented the runes. They are a non-specified class of gods that were linked with the unfolding of creation. But the word regin means ‘advisor’. Who knows the Druids were meant.


What we end up with is two European scripts with a parallel history so close that they might have been invented at the same time by the same people and at one and the same place. Both alphabets in their own way seem to draw from Mediterranean tradition and deviate from it. The arrangement of sounds is different in both alphabets and entirely new for both scripts. Both alphabets would initially have been designed for cultic, specifically divinatory purposes, to be inscribed on wood. Maybe it was a test which one worked best? By the looks of both alphabets, they seem to have been planned events. And by the looks of it, they seem to stem from the same period and from the same geographical area. Might it be too much to imagine that Celtic initiates and Germanic initiates sat together one day and made plans to design a magical alphabet?

450-350 BCE Negau helmets made
200-100 BCE Negau helmets A & B
200-0 BCE Gundestrup cauldron
50 BCE Negau helmets deposited
0-500 CE Matres/Matrones inscriptions by Celtic and Germanic people in Latin
50 CE Caesar’s invasion
50 CE Latest timing invention Ogham
50-100 CE First runic finds
100 CE Tacitus’s Germania
350 CE Wulfila’s Gothic Alphabet
400 CE First Ogham inscriptions
400-700 CE Rune stones Elder Futhark
500-1000 CE Old Irish language period
600-700 CE Auraicept na n-Éces
700-800 CE Gothic rune names by Alcuin
700-900 CE Old English Rune Poem
700-900 CE The Wooing of Étaín
800-900 CE Abecedarium Nordmannicum
800-900 CE Alcuin’s Gothic letter names
900-1100 CE The Phantom’s Frenzy



Rolf H. Bremmer, Hermes-Mercury and Woden-Odin as Inventors of Alphabets: A Neglected Parallel, in: Old English Runes and their Continental Background, Carl Winter Universitätsverlag, Heidelberg 1991.


Gregory A. Clouter, The Lost Zodiac of the Druids, Vega, 2003.


Stephen E. Flowers, How to Do Things with Runes: A Semiotic Approach to Operative Communication, in: Runes and their Secrets, Museum Tusculanum Press, Copenhagen 2006.


Alan Griffiths, Rune-Names: the Irish connexion, in: Runes and their Secrets, Museum Tusculanum Press, Copenhagen 2006.


Stewart R.A. Macalister, The Secret Languages of Ireland, Armorica Book Co/APA-Philo Press, 1976, reprinted by Craobh Rua Books, Armagh 1997.


James Mackillop, Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2004.


Bernard Mees, The Celts and the Origin of the Runic Script, in Studia Neophilologia, Vol. 71 Issue 2, 1999.


Bernard Mees, Runes in the 1st Century, in: Runes and their Secrets, Museum Tusculanum Press, Copenhagen 2006.


Bernard Mees & Mindy MacLeod, Runic Amulets and Magic Objects, Boydell Press, 2006.


Paul Rhys Mountfort, Ogam. The Celtic Oracle of the Trees, Destiny Books, Rochester 2002.


Bernd Neuner, Das Norwegische Runengedicht – was sich hinter den zweiten Zeilen verbirgt, in: Runes and their Secrets, Museum Tusculanum Press, Copenhagen 2006.


Alexander M. Rackus, Guthones, Draugas Publishing, Chicago 1929.


Malcolm Todd, The Early Germans, Wiley-Blackwell, 1996.

Blood Bones and Fur: Personal Experiences of Working with the Remnants of the Dead

Transcript of a talk given for Atlantis Bookshop’s, ‘Moot with No Name’, November 2011.

By Charlotte Rodgers

I rocked up to a hospital once and was declared dead on arrival. My family were contacted and told that I’d stopped breathing and been clinically dead for long enough to cause me to be severely brain damaged IF I came out of the coma ,which was unlikely.

The thing is I had no light at the end of the tunnel, no voice telling me to, ‘go back it wasn’t my time’.

What I did get from this experience was an intense and previously unrealised knowledge of my own strength, fight and will to live and an insight into my essential and true self.

A friend of mine, Sarah Grimstone, referred to the experience as a fast track HGA ritual.

Prior to that I always had an attraction to death and its various remnants and trappings.

My favourite image at seven was in a copy of Man Myth and Magick of a ‘hand of glory’ lodged at the Museum of Witchcraft, and I still have a copy of Richard Cavendish’s Black Arts, pinched from Wellington Library when I was 14, with my pencilled-in notes on the chapter of Necromancy.

When I had the above coma experience at 24, I’d been working with road kill for some of the years prior in the name of art and magick.

This will be the main focus of this presentation; however first I want to give you some of my general thoughts, opinions and experiences of my work with death; back ground stuff.

I regard myself as an animist and my greatest pull towards an established magickal tradition is towards Haitian Voodoo, but I don’t go there because I won’t perform blood sacrifice.

Yeah, I have taught myself to gut and eviscerate road kill, and due to a personality quirk I have dissociative tendencies which in many ways my practise has enhanced. These tendencies would make animal sacrifice both relatively easy and possible; however the life I have lived has put me in a position to both see and experience a lot of violence, suffering and pointless death and my own magickal direction and knowledge of what makes my practice work, and what is right for me is implicit in no killing.

Make no mistake; I don’t condemn animal sacrifice in a culturally and spiritually appropriate context, just as I don’t condemn killing the meat that you eat. It is just not right for me.

Magickally I could be seen to be more experimental than sensible. For instance I’ve used the same, very effective recipe for protection sachets for years. I made one for a friend’s car and then the car was stolen. The police found it in perfect condition, with all the ingredients laying around it for torching it after the joyriding experience was over, and  said it looked like something at scared off the thieves and potential arsonists at the nth hour.

My friend actually benefitted from the theft as when his car was returned to him, he had gained a variety of ropes, tools and jump leads which the thieves had abandoned when they fled.

Now I mulled over from every angle why the car was stolen in the first place (even though something put the wind up the thieves before they could do any damage) as my protection sachets have NEVER failed .Then I remembered that like many of us, I had some graveyard dust in my supply cabinet and thought I would add it to my usual protection recipe …just to see what happened…

Anyway, there are a few anecdotes about my personal magickal morality and attitudes. Now to move onto the subject in hand.

Being brought up with an overly heightened awareness of the possibility of someone jumping up behind you and hitting you on the head, translates well magickally. It means you are more aware of your surroundings and what is out of place.

When I was younger and constantly broke as I preferred to spend my money on drugs rather than food or bills this was great, because I would focus magickally on finding money that was needed, and I always did.

Necessity or survival magick I think the term is.

Now zoning into remnants of death is similar; they create a difference in the environment even though they are ostensibly just vessels for something which once lived. However this container still holds memory and that memory can link to the essence of the species which is incredible and very powerful to work with both in art and in magick.

At this point it was be natural and easy to go into historical and cultural references to using remnants of the dead in spiritual and magickal practice and I’ve done plenty of research in this field; in part to validate and provide a point of reference to my intuitive practice, and in part out of interest.

However I want to stick more, at present, to my own experiences of the subject.

For whatever reasons human bone doesn’t actually press my buttons, although I’ve had various skulls and fragments pass through my hands over the years.

I will say that it was human bone, I believe, that provided a catalyst and a breakthrough in my long working of a personalised variation of the Mather’s ,Attainment of Knowledge and Conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel.

I’d been working systematically on this ritual for some time, when the London Underground bombing occurred. On the evening of the tragedy I decided to send comfort and acknowledgement to those killed. I integrated this into my daily rite. and used a fragment of human bone to access the collective human consciousness and help me tune into the recently dead.

For some reason this particular ritual culminated in achieving my goal re Holy Guardian Angel.

I don’t know whether this result came from my connecting with the dead, utilising the human bone or a combination of both, but I do believe that working with death on that occasion turbo charged the ritual to my benefit, even though that had not been my aim  at that time. .

As a child I did my share of poking around bones and sticking things under a microscope

In my teens I took things a step further. I started experimenting with mummification and preserving techniques. I taught myself to skin and gut road kill (seeing no contradiction in my being a staunch vegan, as I was at the time) and to make fetish objects.

My magick at this time was pretty raw. In that era in New Zealand the usual training implements were via the works of Dion Fortune/Crowley and the influence of a splinter group of the Golden Dawn in Wellington. As in England there was a natural drift towards what would later evolve into Chaos Magick and TOPY and my practice could be seen to ally with that in some respects.

Bear in mind that there was no internet connection then and I was living off the radar in trucks and squats up and down the West Coast of New Zealand, so wasn’t consciously aware of the current magickal trends and progressions.

My older self feels great discomfort at a younger me, taking mushrooms doing rituals and then crafting creatures from pieces of road kill.

However I cannot knock it in some respects as though I went through the initiatory rites of madness, addiction and dodgy sexual magickal groups, at the end of this I still have magick at my core. I still practice it and I learned as I always do( the hard way) why certain criterions of behaviour magickally exist; to make things safer as these can be dangerous and treacherous realms which require working with care and respect. However these rules were only learned through trial and error. For people such as myself mistakes are a natural part of a long and hard learning curve, and they indicate action; not necessarily good action but action all the same.

I have quoted, or misquoted Israel Regardie on this matter many times when he said that anyone who seriously undergoes magickal training should concurrently undergo a course of some sort of psychoanalysis.

I didn’t find that little gem of Regardie’s wisdom until way, way too late but it makes a lot of sense

I spent eight years or so immersed in working with the fetish on every level, both magickally and practically, then I took a break for a crash course in the REALLY problematic field of living in mundane reality.

Okay to zoom forward a few years to my return to fetish work, because this is where my personal magick seems to be centred and following that core self is really what it is all about isn’t it?

Okay there may be intellectual and creative diversions but finding our core, our talent and taking that potential as far as it goes  allies in my mind with definitions such as to know/to will/to dare or to effect changes in consciousness in accordance with will.

As I’ve already said being aware of my environment and the gifts it gives me is a big part of it. Finding a road kill badger and working with it was the beginning of a series of immensely powerful workings that lasted several years.

There is something decidedly shamanic about the focus of working with the dead. There is a necessary turning off of the conscious mind as the nasty, smelly side of preparing a corpse is undergone.

With a larger animal the physical effort itself is exhausting but as with meditation thoughts and insights drift through the mind; feelings of compassion for the method of death or the waste of such a life; respect for physical strength or beauty.

Truth to tell I don’t enjoy it. Finding a nature cleaned bone in a field is lovely but actually working with a dead body is unpleasant and sometimes nasty and at one time I actually threw away my knife and thought I don’t want to work with death like this anymore (although the next day I found a new and better knife on my way to work which could be construed as a sign of sorts)

Once I actually start working on a dead creature, all of this is forgotten and I get carried along with the process. The resident living animals in my house generally lose any atavistic blood thirsty instincts and stay well clear; in fact they get quite freaked out as everything becomes very intense.

This is a very different intensity to ritualistic workings I do in the house of a less blood thirsty nature as one of my cats will then REFUSE to be locked out of any room they are occurring in.

For some reason the body of an animal retains its identity longer after death than a human body. I suspect that human beings (and to a much lesser extent domestic animals) have a learned individual nature that tends to override the nature of the species more strongly. However that is a subject for debate as although I have been around a lot of recent dead human beings in my time, I have never worked on them as I have had with animals.

I actually prefer to avoid working with domesticated animals as they have generally had their essential nature obscured.

Again this may be due to my own perspective being biased as I have always lived with domesticated animals; but I believe that domestic animals take on the trappings of their environment and the traits of the humans that they live with to the point that their animal nature and essence becomes faded.

I’ve also never used inner city seagulls or pigeons or city rats.

Perhaps it is a latent snobbery, perhaps it is a hygiene issue which I haven’t acknowledged (although thinking of some of the animals in varying states of decay and infestation, I’ve worked with I doubt that) but they just don’t work for me.

It is possible that inner city survival also changes the essence of the animal, and whilst it would be interesting to work with a creature for that particular reason, at this point it is not something which I have gravitated towards or has gravitated towards me.

Although I have been working for some time now with inner city debris and integrating them with the bones of rural animals, this is an ongoing process which I haven’t structured and directed as yet. In this particular piece I have used as a base broken car window glass from New Orleans and recent riots in the UK  and am integrating them with natural and organic material to try and cleanse and transform the acts of violence that resulted in the windows being smashed. In some ways it is a post apocalyptical image, a sort of directing of Kali Yug or the Blasted Tower if possible and in many ways this art work is similar to ritual group workings to clear or cleanse space.

Whether I am more open to finding animal remains of a type that is necessary for me to work with because of a subconscious need, or whether they come to me and inform me of the direction that I need to explore, I don’t know.

Once the actual preparation of the creature is done, I’ll sometimes find a new home for it or sometimes I will put them aside until something I am making needs an addition that just happens to be sitting in a jar in my kitchen.

There are some anomalies that again may be coincidence but I’ll cite them anyway.

On occasion, generally in summer, I just cannot cope with the mess and smell of preparing a creature especially a larger one, so I’ll bury them to let nature do the work and mark the place I’ve buried them, often with something quite heavy so they cannot be dug up by living animals.

Now my garden has at least three foxes and two partial badgers buried in it (and sundry other creatures) and I have never been able to find them again, despite having dug over those parts of the garden many times.

What I make from these pieces falls into three overlapping categories.

I use pieces for charms or spells, which is pretty traditional and simple common sense.

I make spirit houses and I make magickal art which combines both of the above.

My initial work was with using bones and mummified animal parts and painting them with camouflage colours. Now camouflage techniques can have fascinating magickal applications, Austin Osman Spare explored them and Hugh Cottrell defines camouflage in very magical terms as,

one makes something unreal recognizable [while] the other makes something real unrecognizable.

Say I was working on a badger’s skull and creating a spirit house for protection of the family I would play up the solar qualities of expansion with golds, but have them banded in by Saturnine black to contain the energy and also protect and nurture it, giving it a defensive martial quality that will bite if threatened.

The black obviously absorbing the negative and threatening, and the gold radiating and expanding the positive whilst still contained in the skull container of the notoriously grounded ,family orientated and very fierce badger.

I also created a head piece for this creation to lift and elevate the intention.

This sort of work is like a jigsaw, being both meditative and intuitive.

When I was younger I made many pieces along these lines but in my 30’s I became more ambitious and  went through a period of baptising these creatures in blood and giving them life which was very foolish  and nearsighted of me as they already had life, I just couldn’t appreciate the power of it.

Using these creatures as spirit houses and  feeding them blood fed what was in the houses and caused them to grow into something that become near uncontrollable. Feeding them menstrual blood wasn’t a problem, but venous blood was. Everything has life but not necessarily power, and blood provided that power and the bone provided the form.

One very practical and not necessarily conventional application of spirit houses is for healing.

When I was undergoing a particularly invasive form of chemotherapy I used a horse’s skull from an abattoir; not a creature I would normally use as it hadn’t died in a natural manner, but is being hit by a car natural? However an abattoir is a deliberate and focused killing as opposed to most road kill.

I decided to use the horse’s skull as a chthonic spirit house and work with the horse’s violent death and my own descent into illness and madness (no exaggeration, this medication was very nasty) reconciling and transforming both into something more positive.

This mare was coloured in blacks and silver and had a small mummified toad in its pallet; the amphibian that can leap between the spaces.

When I finished the treatment I made a second talismanic piece to symbolise an uplifting from illness to a progressive and positive state. This piece, was all solar rather than lunar and incorporated snake vertebrae for focus, whale vertebrae for buoyancy, and an old Indian toy horses head…more frivolous than the N’mare and more a feeling of the fool than of the blasted tower or death that the mare epitomised, and there is always a slightly fool like element to any ascent or progression in my opinion, so it seemed apt.

I’ve also used this sort of work to illustrate tarot atu or trumps, although again that is a long work in process.

In some respects the above work could be seen to be blurring boundaries between art and magick; perhaps, although I believe that they are cut from the same cloth and as I grow older the line between art and magick becomes less distinct.

Death is part of who we are and remnants of it are gateways to greater knowledge and greater potentialities. Magickal practice gives us keys and rituals but art ties them into coherent structures.

When I look at magickal objects from places such as Benin, Naga pieces or masks from Borneo for example, I get greater clues of working magickally than I do from words which traditionally hold more deception and misinformation.

What I do is use my awareness of life force inherent in everything including death, magickal techniques of trance and focus and more traditional folk techniques to work with the web of life.
Yule Week MoonLore

By Liz
Yule Eve, Wednesday, 21st December 2011
The Moon will be Waning, in it’s Fourth Quarter, 3 days off Dark (New) Moon, in Scorpio Wednesdays usually put the spotlight on Study, Travel and Divination while Moon in Scorpio often increases psychic potential A great night for scrying to see what’s ahead in 2012.

Yule, Thursday, 22nd December 2011

Winter Solstice The Moon will be Waning, in it’s Fourth Quarter, 2 days off Dark (New) Moon, leaving Scorpio and entering Sagittarius Thursdays are usually all about Money, Investments, Generosity and Growth while Moon in Sagittarius usually boosts confidence, and increases imagination A great time to take a new look at the finances to make plans for the year ahead

Friday, 23rd December, 2011

The Moon will be Waning, in it’s Fourth Quarter, 1 day off Dark (New) Moon, still in Sagittarius Fridays are usually all about Love, Friends, Reconcilliations and Beauty While Moon in Sagittarius this day indicates there will be expansion and growth New friends made around now will stay important to you in your life for the months to come

Saturday, 24th December 2011

Christmas Eve here in the UK Dark (New) Moon, leaving Sagittarius and entering Capricorn Saturdays are all about longevity, exorcisms, endings homes and houses, While Moon in Caprocorn this day means the focus will be on developing strong structures Perhaps a good night to take stock of where you are heading and to make changes so there will be better order in life next year, to become pro-active instead of re-active

Sunday, 25th December 2011

Christmas Day here in the UK The Moon will be Waxing, in it’s First Quarter, 1 day after Dark (New) Moon, still in Capricorn Sundays are all about Healing, Spirituality, Success, Strength and Protection While Moon in Capricorn this day would indicate the focus will be on responsibilities and obligations At least when you’ve done what’s required and expected of you, the rest of the day is yours to have fun with as you see fit, even if that’s to slob out in front of the television and do nothing!!!

Monday, 26th December 2011

Boxing Day here in the UK The Moon will be Waxing, in it’s First Quarter, 2 days after Dark (New) Moon, leaving Capricorn and entering Aquarius Mondays the emphasis is usually on Peace, Sleep, Healing, Compassion, Friends, Psychic awareness, Purification, and Fertility While Moon in Aquarius usually brings fourth a sense of rebellion Going your own way or taking the lead can be fun, but try not to upset those around you too much while doing so.

Tuesday 27th December 2011

The Moon will be Waxing, in it’s First Quarter, 3 days after Dark (New) Moon, still in Aquarius Tuesdays normally shift the focus to Passion, Sex, Courage, Aggression and Protection While Moon in Aquarius today gives us the strength to change bad habits, and to let go of that which we no longer need in our lives. Open and Honest communication is what’s called for in a situation like this.

Renewal Magick at Pennsbury for Yule

By T. Fox Dunham

In my articles and stories for Pagan Friends, I have pursued the theme of simple magick in quotidian life. I have reported of common magick, the energy we generate and focus through acts and customs and how our spirit responds to this energy. We create this magick when we apply our spirit to acts of life, to creating art. When we cook with spirit, we are imbuing the act and meal with magick. When we compose poetry, plant a herb garden, volunteer at a hospital—any act that we imbue with spirit, with passion—we are enacting a ritual magick. This is the ritual of those who do not practice magickal faith, the people who just live simple life.

Magick is also created through unique and meaningful experiences in our lives. I have often written of the magickal and spiritual journey I undertook as I battled a rare cell type of lymphoma, a journey that took me down many blind paths and created in me a cauldron of enchantment and power. This is essential to what I write of in this essay.

At the heart of mundane magick we find joy. This is the product of the enchantment, an élan of spirit, an energy that invigorates us, compels us, the source we live for.

I am reminded of this during in the weeks before Yule. This time and tide is the anniversary of my stay of execution, of my miracle reprieve from a cell type of lymphoma that had not been previously cured. After having prepared myself to pass through the silver veil, my surprise remission shattered my preconceptions and paradigms, granting to me the newborn’s gift and nascent sight from the point of view of a man.

Pennsylvania lives in its history. There are a multitude of reservations where the past is preserved and animated again, played out for education—and let’s admit it, fun. I worked at one such site, Pennsbury Manor, the colonial home of the governor and owner of the territory, the notorious English Quaker, William Penn. This country estate along the Delaware River that divides the state of New Jersey from Pennsylvania was a fully equipped farm and manor house, rebuilt from the ruins in the 1930s as part of the WPA program instituted by F.D.R. to provide jobs during the depression. I lived in the site’s kitchen gardens, among her stables. Peacocks roamed the site in splendor and violet vanity. This was the location of my first true story to Pagan Friends, Seabhac: the Wounded Hawk.

Each December, the site prepares for Holly Night, a special evening when open hearths burn in the kitchens, candles ignite the halls and stone paths, bonfires burn on the riverside where cider warmed and old woes could be cast into the fire, left with the previous year.

In shamanism, we have a concept: the spirit of the land. This is basic animism, the mountains, rivers, forests possess a living spirit, often seen as a deity or sidhe. This doesn’t just apply to natural settings. Have you ever gone into a building and felt it had character? Even personality? We contribute to this spirit of ourselves every time we interact with its field, growing it more. Places of history possess old souls with deep natures. Pennsbury was a popular place to convalesce. I knew many volunteers who were living beyond their assigned time of death. As the home of a Quaker, the place had a spirit of peace, of healing. And when the night lit up with candles glowing along the stone paths, when the open hearths burned, the chefs at work cooking colonial meals in big pots, and the choir sang traditional carols of the year, the salubrious magick of the land amplified. This was part of my healing process, my reconnection to the living world. I felt such a sense of youthful wonder and light.

Fox, you are alive.

Fox, the world is alive in color and song.

Fox, there is so much beauty in the world at Yule.

Every year at Yule, this feeling returns to me. I know people complain about the malls, but I love it—the decorations, the people shopping, the sound of carols over the speakers. It is so lovely being alive, and that’s the deepest of common magick. This is the essence of hope for a better year to come.

Traditions of renewal are common at this time for most cultures. It is a custom that transcends religion and is bound to the natural rhythms of a community. For a people surviving the winter without the benefit of modern technology—as was the case previous to most parts of the world before the last century—the need for a custom of renewal is vital to the emotional health of the tribe, whether it’s a village, a city or a nomadic caravan.

This tradition is enacted at Holly Night, as visitors may throw holly twigs into the riverside fire as a symbolic act—the heart of magick—called the burning of the woes, the release of the trials and hardships of the last year to begin anew with the nascent year. This tradition is so popular that often people would call the site asking about the burning of the woes, mislaying the event’s name. This is at the heart of common magick, the burning of a natural offering, holly imbued with potential.

I held my holly twig in hand, standing before the towering bonfire at the river. With only the candles on the paths, the glowing windows of the manor house, the orange aura of the fire to light the sward, the river at night turned to oil, hidden in the dark with only the sound of rushing waters to remind me that time progressed. I lifted my arm to lob the enchanted holly—enchanted now that I had imbued the sprig with metaphysical purpose—and I focused not on my woes, not on my struggle with cancer, but the woes of those suffering souls at this time of year. I thought of the hungry, the poor, those trapped in war. So many good people did not survive their cancer as I had. I thought of them, their families. I poured it into the slender holly. It cracked beneath the weight of the burden I had placed on it. Then I closed my eyes and cast it into the fire.

To my family—and those I love, you are all my family—I wish you all joy and potential for this Yule. I ask you to look to the world around you, to give a little back perhaps by contributing to a food drive or dropping off a toy for Toys 4 Tots. This is the time when we need hope the most, and hope can be found not in charitable acts that we receive but in acts of charity we commit. You will find magick in this connection.


By Rebecca L. Brown

Frankincense (from the French, meaning ‘pure incense’) is an Arabian or African tree sap from trees of the Bolswellia genus which is collected by peeling back the bark and then allowed to air dry into a resin. It is used in incenses and perfumes, mainly for it’s scent. frankincense is also sometimes referred to as olbanum.

Frankincense is mentioned in the Bible and is traditionally both given as an offering in some Jewish ceremonies and burnt in Catholic churches. The ancient Egyptians, who referred to frankincense as the tears of Horus, used it in their embalming processes (as recorded in the Ebers Papyrus) and in both scents and cosmetics. Frankincense was also known and used across Ancient Greece, Rome and China.

Magickally, francincense can be used to dispel negativity and evil influences. It has a purifying effect. Alchemists once recommended the use of frankincense to promote longievity.

Frankincense an anti-inflammatory and has some antiseptic properties. There is some ongoing medical research into whether or not it may be useful in fighting cancer and the treatment of osteoarthritis.

Book Review: Secrets of Asgard, Vincent Ongkowidjojo An Instruction in Esoteric Rune Wisdom

Reviewed Av Nattvarg Nattvargsonn

From the very beginning of the book, Vincent Ongkowidjojo shows a very strong grasp of the subject matter and a deep passion alongside his tremendous knowledge, which immediately draws the reader into the book. In my first read-through of the book, I was not only highly impressed by such a comprehensive mix of personal ideas and factual information, but also impressed by the style of writing; whilst I personally find most books of this nature to be tedious reads, filled often with mistakes and UPG, this book is filled with enough facts and information that the personal opinions of the author contained within are not the kind which make most Heathens cringe. Whether a scholar interested in Runes, a Godi reflecting upon and referring to sources to improve your rune knowledge or a novice starting out, this book is the most comprehensive and agreeable book I have ever had the immense pleasure of reading on the subject. Whilst the language is somewhat scholarly in nature and filled with big words that may put some people off, however, the authors use of language is comprehensible for the serious reader. It should also be noted that the author is from the Netherlands, the use of language and writing style is most impressive and easily understood considering it is by a foreign author; this fact itself impressed me – I have had the displeasure of reading books from foreign authors that the flow of the book is nearly unable to be followed. Being that I have formed my own opinions on Runes and Runic magic, I have found myself at some points disagreeing with the author’s opinions, however, the way the book is written is not matter-of-fact and allows the reader to make his or her own opinions, this is a trait few authors manage. It is with a deep respect and admiration that I write this review, despite disagreeing with a few ideas contained within it. I can see and understand the thought process behind these ideas, which makes the book not only a pleasure to read, but also the disagreements I do have with it are not ones that offend, like so many other author’s assumptions and presumptions. It is deeply refreshing to see a book filled with knowledge as opposed to ignorance, logical thoughts as opposed to presumptuous conclusions and filled with plenty of ideas for thought and reflection on. As a Norwegian Heathen, I am often wary of anything from outside of Scandinavia. I have found a great many Heathens are also wary of anything that is not the Havamal and Eddas, but this is a book I would wholly recommend to any Heathen, Scholar or Chaote requiring Runic knowledge to put on their bookshelves. The author’s grasp of the subject matter is such that it outdoes that of many Heathens I have the pleasure of knowing. I cannot think of any book I would recommend more highly if the reader is looking for a book on Runes; this is the book for anyone requiring knowledge of runes, whether simply beginning or advanced in their ‘Career’ as users of the Runes.  

Fiction Review: Carry on the Flame: Ultimate Magic, By Jodine Turner, 

Reviewed by Rebecca L. Brown

Carry On The Flame: Ultimate Magic, By Jodine Turner

“I am ancient and I am now

I am the one that once was and I am the many who now are

I have climbed out from the jaws of blackness

I am one of many who were waited for and one who has found her way”

Carry on the Flame: Ultimate Magic, is the next book in Jodine Turner’s beautifully written Carry on the Flame series. (The previous book, Carry on the Flame: Destiny’s Call, which which was reviewed in our Samhain issue is a finalist in the USA Books “Best Books of 2011” New Age Fiction category; congratulations Jodine!)

Ultimate Magic is a thoroughly enjoyable and engrossing read. As in her other writing, Jodine uses a combination of well-written characters, evocative description and an enjoyable plotline as a means by which to express her own obvious love of and attachment to the Divine Feminine. This book, and indeed the whole of the Carry on the Flame series are a definite must-read for lovers of Celtic-flavoured fantasy and of magical fantasy adventure in general!

For more from Jodine Turner, visit her website

True Beauty

By Linda Gibson

Friends since nursery, Emma and Claire were more like sisters. Emma’s quiet serenity was the perfect balance to Claire’s loudness. Added to the mix was Josh, who they’d grown up with. He was confident and sure of himself without being cocky, and like Emma, he came from a family of witches, both families able to trace their lineage back through centuries. Claire just took it in her stride, and loved them both for who they were. She was loved by the families, and even though non-pagan, was included in all their family gatherings.

Emma had met Josh in the college dinning room and was discussing her Yule Blessing with him in a quiet corner away from prying ears. Claire rushed over to them, full of energy, as usual.

‘Hey Emma, what’re you wearing to the Christmas disco on Friday? You are going aren’t you, you too Josh? Don’t make me go on my own, please, please, please!’ Josh was about to protest, but Claire got there first.

‘Don’t try to use the Yule party at Emma’s as an excuse, because that’s on Saturday,’ she said, grinning at him.

‘Okay, okay! If it shuts you up I’ll go,’ laughed Emma, ‘and so will Josh,’ as he nodded his agreement for the sake of peace. ‘I’ll wear my purple dress with the black lace.’

‘Yes!’ squealed Claire, ‘you’ll look a knock out in that. I suppose you’ll try to get away with jeans,’ she said in mock sarcasm to Josh.

‘Actually, I’ll wear my suit, I do own one you know,’ he said, poking his tongue out at Claire. With that, they went to afternoon lectures.

Later that night, Emma prepared for her Yule Blessing, placing her Book of Shadows in her bag. It had been handed down through her family, and was wrapped in a silk cloth and kept out of sight. Emma never did a ritual without it. She made off for the woods, just half a mile from her home. Checking she hadn’t been followed, she made her way through the woods to the Sacred Grove, known only to the families. Emma greeted the Goddess, opened the Book of Shadows and grounded herself for protection before casting a circle and calling the quarters. As she performed her Yule Blessing, a breeze began to blow around her, generating energy. She asked the Goddess for blessings and closed the circle carefully afterwards. Emma sat down under a tree to meditate, as she always did after a ritual. She had a vision of her late grandmother. Emma often felt her presence guiding her, and she gave Emma a warning to watch her back. She faded before Emma could ask her what she meant, and it worried Emma.

After leaving an offering, Emma went home to bed, exhausted. She couldn’t sleep and kept playing her grandmother’s message over in her mind. Eventually managing only 3 hours sleep, Emma reluctantly went to college, barely staying awake for morning lectures. The last thing she needed was to be cornered by the ‘in’ crowd, lead as always by Alexa Winters and her two cronies. Deliberately knocking into Emma, Alexa sent Emma’s bag flying, sending the contents sprawling everywhere.

‘Oh look, here come your bodyguard!’ she sneered, catching sight of Claire storming over.

‘You’re a first class bitch, Alexa!’ yelled Claire, pushing her out of the way. The two cronies backed off, dragging Alexa with them before she could retaliate, leaving Claire to help Emma gather her belongings.

By the night of the disco, the incident had been forgotten, and Emma met Claire and Josh at the entrance. Emma was unaware of the admiring glances she drew as she glided gracefully into the hall. She’d worn the floor length purple gown with plain black satin ballet pumps, and let her waist length chestnut curls tumble loosely down her back. Josh couldn’t take his eyes off her.

‘Wow! You look amazing,’ he whispered.

‘Told you so,’ grinned Claire, nudging Josh playfully.

‘Claire, how do make overstated look so great?’ laughed Emma. ‘Only you could get away with those colours!’ Claire had chosen a bright cerise pink prom dress with matching three inch heels. Her black hair was piled high in a mass of glossy curls, and the whole look suited her. ‘Claire, you should show your legs off more often, instead of hiding them in jeans. You look gorgeous.’

The trio were enjoying themselves, dancing non-stop, and stopping for punch now and again. Suddenly the music stopped, and a voice they dreaded floated over the speakers.

‘Emma Bradbury, or should we call you Silvermoon,’ Alexa gloated, as a hush fell over the hall.

‘What’s this then, a Book of Shadows?’ Alexa proceeded to open the book and began to read from it out loud.

‘Give it to me Alexa, you don’t know what you’re doing,’ fumed Emma. ‘How did you get it anyway, its private property?’ She realised then that she’d forgotten to take the book out of her bag when she’d got home from her Yule ritual. It must have fallen out when Alexa knocked into her.

Emma rushed onto the stage and grabbed the book, glaring at Emma. It shook Alexa to see how angry Emma was, she’d always been so quiet.

‘Here, take the damned book, you and your family have always been weird, witch,’ she spat at Emma as she let the book go.

‘My family are witches too, going to pick on us too, are you, you nasty piece of work?’ Everyone turned to Josh. ‘Emma’s worth four of you. You may have a pretty face, but you’re so ugly inside.’

The hall erupted with cheers and applause when Josh finished ranting. Alexa flounced off stage with her cronies in tow, and impossibly vain, couldn’t resist checking her reflection in the hall’s huge windows. She shrieked in horror as she saw an old hag staring back at her, her face covered in open sores and boils, and wrinkled like a prune. Only Alexa could see this, to everyone else she looked normal.

‘What have you done to me? They’ve cursed me,’ she screamed, running about aimlessly, everyone laughing at her.

‘You’ve seen a reflection of your true self, just how ugly your soul is,’ said Josh. ‘Beauty has nothing to do with looks. It really is true that what’s on the inside counts for more than anything. I hope this teaches you to be nice to people, you’ll find they’re nice to you because they actually like you. Try it for a change!’

The three friends went home. They enjoyed the Yule party the following day, both families having been close friends for generations. Alexa had learnt a hard lesson, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that people did indeed like her when she let her guard down, and was popular for the right reasons. She even began to study witchcraft and its true history, asking the families for help and advice, and treated Emma with a healthy dose of respect since the disco.
Sápmi Story

By Nattvarg Nattvargsonn

The air was cool and fresh, a reminder of the rainstorm that had battered the land the night before; the sky was still grey on grey, a mismatch of many different shades of grey colliding above our heads, seemingly ready to come crashing down on the head of the nomad. Patches of yellow permeated the grey of the sky, the sun reflecting off of clouds higher in the stratosphere, giving light to an otherwise near-dark day. It was hard going, trudging over the heath land, the soles of his feet felt cold and wet but he was not miserable as he would have been as a young man. He had come to enjoy the wind that carried the cold freshness of the air, his hard, leathery skin was used to the hardships of life as a nomad. Somewhere in the wilderness, a wolf called to it’s kin, adding to the isolated loneliness of the journey; the isolated loneliness that was the reality of the nomad, the isolated loneliness that was a constant companion and the isolated loneliness that was no longer lonely, but more of a reflective state of solitude. It took a hard man to do such a thing all their life, but the nomad would not call himself hard or tough, he would not speak to many people.

The wind carried drops of moisture with it as it buffeted the low-lying heather, the clouds would not hold their torrent much longer and the only shelter nearby was the Wolf-Cave. He could not remember when he had first been to the Wolf-Cave, that place with it’s many, many paintings by Noaidi from times passed. The nomad was sure that the cave was a Sieidi, but then, since his first Spirit Journey. Some said that he had gone mad from communicating with the Spirits and Gods. He had not been exiled, per se, but he knew he was no longer welcome in the cities, or at least, that is what he felt.

Finding that the cave had been stocked with tinder and firewood, he set about creating the life-giving warmth. Most of the Sami would have been with their community, been with their little Clan herding Reindeer in the small parcels of land that were given to them by the Government. It was a dying art, the boazovázzi, everyone knew it, yet no-one would say so. How much easier it would be if he had a Lávut, what had happened to his since he had left? What had happened to his family? Maybe they had all become normal people, living in cities with modern conveniences, electricity and supermarket-bought food. The easy life was not for him, though, he though as he lit his fire. The warm embrace of the fire enshrouded him, his old bones feeling the warmth and groaning appreciatively. He could smell the smoke of the wood, it was slightly damp but had lit without a problem. The crack of the fire consuming the wood hungrily made him think of his own belly, he removed his backpack, an old thing made of tanned Reindeer hide and removed some smoked meats and fish, cheese and vegetables; he took out a bushel of herbs for Biegkegaellies, the God of the Winter Winds so that he might have a good Winter, one where he would not freeze to death.

There was a time when his father had shown him this cave, when they had wandered freely with the Reindeer, when instead of being guided by the laws and fences of the strange men from the South, they had been guided by the instincts of their herd. It was a time when he was carefree, when his father would keep him safe from the evil spirits of the night.

The warmth of the fire and a full belly caused sleep in the old nomad. His leathery skin was softened momentarily as he dreamed back in time. Back to when he was a boy who ran free amongst the herds. A stillness set through his old bones as his breathing became shallower, the wind whistling past the cave that sheltered him from the world hid the sounds of the storm on the horizon. In time, the fire died out, the flames retreating from a blaze to embers. The old nomad’s eyes remained shut, the embers faded to non-existence so silently. Nothing would bother him anymore, now that he roams with the Spirits.


Forgotten Cycles

By Yvonne Cunningham

Forgotten cycles of a jaded world
An ageing time, silent, unheard Darkening wood, snow-driven night
Winter’s hurt has yet to bite.
Around the Fire, feel it burn
Gather friends, for slumber’s end
A new spring comes, light returns
In the unfailing cycles of an awakening world.

Steal Into Winter  

By Maggie Koger

Send a ring of ribbon flying

long and long on frosty air

reeling North on windy swells

swept in satin tales of snow.

Some pray to muddy myths

of angels, sheikhs and shepherds

but leave the single star adrift

look up, look up and witness

fiery planets, burning stars;

feel your lungs fill with light

breath aswirl in solar style.

Walking Down Sunday Roads  

By Maggie Koger

Winter at Robie Creek where crusted

snow crunched loud underfoot as

a white and blue world lavished wide.

Crystals of ice whirled sun high while

evergreen spires pierced sapphire skies.

Elfin snowmen lined each roadside

wet powder pushed in banks by plows

riven and sculpted by afternoon suns.

Saw a dingy old truck rusting to ruin

nosed to the door of a sporty red wreck

its cracked-open windshield a gaping hole

icicle shards draped with a gunny

sack reading:  Farm Feed & Seed.

Our echoing aroused an angry dog

he raced to the length of his chain, jerked

howled in his labor, bellowing, barking

raising up specters of ancestor wolves.

If you come here, show no fear

step slowly, firmly, and watch for ice.

Snow hides it and slicks the surface

you must save yourself from falling.

Maggie Koger is a Media Specialist with a writing habit. She lives and works in Boise (pronounced boysee) and celebrates Le Bois–the trees the city is named for. She has published poetry in Poet Lore, Avocet, Mused, WestWard Quarterly, Montucky, Blast Furnace, and Eternal Haunted Summer. She can be reached at


By Kenny Klein

Amongst the oak and holly leaves

The Wren and Robin sat between

“Come” the Wren said, “I shall sing

A song of winter cold

“My brother is the far-flung Crow

The black death-watch upon the snow

The swordless Horned One to him goes

When Autumn sun wanes cold

“My sister of dark night is queen

The hag that lives the moons between

Her womb is barren now of seed

Her lover gray and old

“And where have you been, Robin brother

Gone to see your white-breast Mother?

The white snow covers up Her bowers,

She’s taken Her home of old”

Amidst the Oak and Holly leaves

The Robin silent sat between

Until with sweet voice, calmly he

Began a merry song

“Long has my white crow Mother been

With your brother, black winged Bran

Until Her belly stirs within

As Yuletide sun grows strong

“And now at sunrise, silent, stark

Between the days and the winter dark

Rekindled is the fire’s spark

The Oak King sounds the horn

“In the forest’s icy gleam

There goes a shadow, swiftly seen

The Holly and the Oak between

The Green Man is reborn

“So tell me truly, dark eyed Wren

Where will you the winter spend

Until the wheel is turned again

And winter casts its thorn?”

But Wren’s reply was never got

By a golden arrow he’d been shot

And darkness died upon the spot

The Holly and Oak between

The Oak King now is berry-crowned

The Green Man born the forest ’round

But the Wren lays cold upon the ground

The Holly and Oak between

And young lads on the darkest night

Their golden arrows swift in flight

Will sing until the morning bright

The sun to welcome in;

“The Wren the Wren the king of the birds

On Yuletide day was caught in the furze

Up with the kettle and down with the pan

And give us a penny to bury the Wren”

Kenny Klein


By Karie McNeley
melted snowfall drips from reddened corners
the drips re-freeze as they release & silver stalactites
hang from those eyes
the icicles hold over ‘til the summer of frost ends
& then they drop again
heavier now and with the intent of hail;
daggers falling into wounded snow beneath footsteps of white
Beaten and Blemished

By Karie McNeley

You are floating above me

Never really touching my body

A completely severed layer

Connected only by tooth and nail

You protect me from burns

And from cold

You are water-absorbent

But only by circumstance

On occasion you break and bleed

Hard impacts turn you soft and brown

Like over-ripe bananas

Sharp objects pierce and cut right through you

And for a moment you show me

What I really look like inside

I can bandage you

Stitch you up sideways

Cause the blood to delay

Before it spews out of me

Green in the vein

Red on the streets

You wrinkle and scar

Pink and purple cross-hatch

You will never be the same

But I will love you solidly

As long as you keep me human

Karie McNeley is a mid-twenties non-conformist from Lakewood, California who conforms only to writing poetry. She has been published in Verdad!  and in Bank-Heavy Press’s first three publications. She is an editor for Bank-Heavy Press, a new poetry and fiction magazine published quartlerly in Long Beach, CA. She searches for beauty in everything, especially the ugly.  Her hobbies include drawing, writing, and rocking out to 90’s alternative  music.

A Poem

By Nattvarg Nattvargsonn

At a bus stop the urban thrall await

A mass exodus, that of the Nine to Five

Outside the bank, the urban congregation

Awaiting the promised saviour in green

The provider and sustainer that is cash

Inner city life, devoid of mystery

Meaningless in macroscopic view

Yet so intricately woven in the mind

The throng of the night calls to the brave

The adventure of downtown summons

The promise of better goods are shown

Consumerist materialism thrives here

Alone in the dark recess of the mind a voice

Asking what is yet to come in life and death?

Yet ignorance is our chosen path

The nihilistic self-confidence undermines

The solid foundations of community life

The walk of shame is a walk of pride

Another notch on the bedpost

Another name forgotten by dawn

The city lights set the sky ablaze

A testament to the genius of man

An affront to the Gods of old and new

There is only room for the Trinity here

Man, Machine and Money are our Gods

Hark! Call the Scientists aloud

The priests of the Brave New World

See our wondrous invention and discovery

Swallow our words like the bitterest pill

For superstition has no place in our time

Has mankind lost it’s way in the urban rush?

The spirit has been cast out and sold

The Gods are dead and remain no more

Man is as empty as the ape that came before

Our forebears forgotten in the grind of time

Welcome to the Samhain issue of the Pagan Friends Webzine! We’re celebrating the move into the darker half of the year with a selection of great articles, poetry and fiction from both new and old contributors. We’re sure you’ll enjoy reading this issue as much as we enjoyed putting it together.


An Interview With The Pagan Friends Forum’s Opalmoon (Penny Cash)


Alchemical Yoga: Asanas and The Language of the Birds, by Paul F. Cowlan

Carew Castle, Princess Nest and Satans’ Ghost, by Liz

Time; how do you see it?, by Jill Malenoir

The Seprioth from the bottom up (Part 1), by Simon Cash

Essays & Extended Features

Grimoire Shamanism: The Shaman and the Solomonic Path, by Aaron Leitch

Regular Features

Samhain Week Moonlore, by Liz

Pumpkin Spice Cake, by Calidonia

Animal Spirit Guides, by T. Fox Dunham

Tools, Tricks & Ingredients

Salt Crystal Lamps & Tea Lights, by Beth Holtum

The Elements, by Beth Holtum

Spice: Cumin, by Rebecca L. Brown

Stone: Cinnabar, by Rebecca L. Brown


Treadwells Events


Review: Carry On The Flame: Destiny’s Call, By Jodine Turner


The Ghost of 22 Captain, by Joshua J. Mark

Poetry Corner

Ancient Elders We Remember You, by Liz

Wrestling, by Carolyn Agee

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Want to contribute to the Yule issue?

Are you a budding writer, artist or photographer? Do you have something to say to the pagan community? We’re already looking for exciting new content to include in our Samhain issue. We’re interested in your personal anecdotes, poetry and short stories; if its interesting and relevant, we want it. For more information on how to submit to us, visit our submissions page. We’re looking forward to seeing what you’ve got!

We are now also accepting material for review and events listings for inclusion in the webzine.

The views and opinions expressed in this webzine are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily represent those of the Pagan Friends team. Any advice given within articles is not intended to take the place of professional medical advice, legal advice or otherwise.

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An Interview With The Pagan Friends Forum’s Penny Cash

Q: I know you come from a very “interesting” family background. How do you feel when people say your family history is like a “bad vampire novel”?

Ok, first off folks you can choose your friends but you can choose your family!

My family tree is full of nuts and weirdos and we come from all over the globe. I don’t claim to come from a 7th century witch family (I probably do but then so does most of the population if you all managed to look back far enough). I have no need to lie about or big up my family; it is what it is, simple really. Folks who have met me will now this. So what if my great granny was a Javanese princess and my great, great, great uncle was a lion tamer on my mum’s side or that we are related king someone or another on my dad’s side.

If folks think I need to lie about where I come from then they really don’t know me, but then I have more in my real life to worry about than some trolls on the internet!

Q: I would like to know if your water witchy-ness is only linked to the sea, or does it extend to cover rivers, lakes or rain etc.

This is an odd one for me; the sea and I have a very special link having spent my life close to it. My favourite time is when there are high winds, as the sound of waves crashing can induce such energy. I do like rivers, but they tend to be small fast flowing rivers and waterfalls are just amazing. Big, slow, meandering ones, for me, are dull like the drudgery of everyday. As for lakes, they make me cold; to me, they are dead energy, kind of like seeing an animal in the zoo. The water is just still and stagnant, it can’t flow and move. I do, however, love a good downpour as I feel its gives everything a good cleanse and I do recommend a good dance in a downpour. I feel the water can wash away worries just for that moment and everything smells better after a good downpour.

Q: I would also like to know if you have a Patron God/Goddess or if you work with any other kind of lifeforce,. Have you encountered any form of ethereal essence of a place? Are there particular places you like to be or any you find a need to vacate quickly?

Now, the whole god goddess thing has me at a kind of crossroads. I don’t feel the draw of any particular god or goddess if I believe in them at all. To me, the sea is ‘my’ god and the earth is ‘my’ goddess. The work of earth and water to create energy and life is what I work with, if that makes any sense!

As for places where I feel a presence, this happens a lot to me. Whether I am in tune with the land or place, I don’t know. Many times, I have had to up and leave places and houses. The best way to describe these places is troubled; to me, the air feels thick and the energy is wasted. Other places, I never want to leave I feel so welcome and comfortable. For example, there is a house down the road from my dad. It is a converted chapel that was desecrated years ago. I even have to cross the road to walk past it today; heck, even writing this I feel all yukky!

Places I love… I love St Donats castle. My grandparents are buried at the church and it feels so serene and calm there. The church there actually predates Christianity and even though it  is home to the graves of shipwrecks it still feels so beautiful.

Q: I would also like to know if you have ever worked in a coven, or perhaps in a partnership with anyone. Have you ever had, or been, a mentor?

Sorry but covens are not for me! I don’t really play nice with others and there is always too much bitchcraft for my liking in group meetings. I have worked with others when asked to, but only if I know the people involved well enough. Often Si and myself will work together; we both approach things from a very different perspective, but when working together we do mix things well and get some great results.

I’ve not ever really had a mentor as such. There are a very select few folks who I will listen to, but I tend to tweak things to my way anyway and I pity the poor person who wants me to mentor them; that’s an express ticket to hell if you ask me!

Q: Are there any working tools you consider special and would hate to be without?

My mind! I don’t really place any value on tools. Normally, I use what’s to hand.

Q: Are there any tools you wish you had but haven’t got yet?

A bigger selection of herbs would be the only thing I really want more of.

Q: What’s usually on your altar at Samhain?

My altar tends to stay the same all year around. I don’t tend to add anything for special days; boring I know! Now where did I leave the goats skull…

Q: Do you have a favourite Sabbat?

I only really do Samhain and Beltane if I’m honest.

Q: …And what do you usually do to celebrate it?

For Samhain, we normally have a ritual on the beach and then have a bit of a do at the house with lots of noms and drinks with friends. Beltane is normally a nice big tasty meal with Si and the kids.

Q: Does colour matter in your path work? Do you have a favourite colour?

Depending on what I am doing, if a certain colour is required then I will use it, but often I don’t stick to the rules on colour and will go with what feels right. As for a favourite colour, it has to be PINK! I’m just such a girlie and love the colour pink, but I’m known for loving purple as well!

Q: Have you a favourite crystal or group of crystals to which you have bonded and which you like to work with?

Opals in any form. It’s my birthstone. I find them calming and very easy to work with and wear. I am also partial to a bit of amethyst as well; I was given a gorgeous piece recently that I made into a necklace for my wedding. It now sits on my altar.

Q: Do you find any of the herbs more helpful than others?

This would depend on what it as needed for really as all herbs have great uses. I do grow quite a lot of my own herbs and what I can’t grow I like to keep in my stock cupboard. In cooking, the addition of a certain herb can make a dish taste so much better; the same can be said in workings. A little pinch of a certain herb can make the results so much better.

Q: Do you use things in your pathwork that are natural (like sea shells or lemons) or do you made things (like poppets or amulets)?

I would say most of what I use is natural even when making poppets or amulets. I use natural things; I do a mean line in sand poppets using driftwood, shells and pebbles to help. I also enjoy making wands and staffs from driftwood stripping. Sanding the wood, then seeing what the wood would work well as gives me hours of pleasure. I also enjoy cooking as a form of pathwork making all sorts of dishes and cakes I find can get me in the right mood for some certain workings.

Q: Have you had a special connection with any of your cats over the years? Have you had any other animals that might have been familiars?

I do have a very special connection with cats. At the moment I have my Mab, a little black kitty. She is stunted so will always look like a kitten. She is my protector and will often be at my side during a working. She is also great at sending anything sent to the house packing as well; she will often hiss at nothing I can see, then come and sit on me.

Before I had Mab, we had a family cat called Raggs who loved doing banishings with Si and would always be at my side in a circle. Funnily enough, she always slept at the top of the stairs at night so she could protect us all as we slept.

The only other animal I could say I have had a connection with was a dog I had as a kid called Joseph. He was a Heinz 57 and it was me that walked him twice a day. One day a kid who lived down the road from me set his doberman on me. I didn’t know until I turned around and my dog had it pinned by the throat to the floor. He was my protector through some very troubled times and I was very close to him.

Q: Is there a witchy ambition you have yet to fulfill?

Somebody you’d like to meet, perhaps, or somewhere you’d like to go?

For me, everyday is a school day when it comes to the witchy in me. I would love to visit Boscastle and the museum of witchcraft. I have a bit of a fascination with voudoo and would love to visit Haiti to see it at its roots.

Q: Have you a favourite form of scrying?

What’s the most interesting message you have received from it?

Unfortunately I don’t really do scrying. I do own a black mirror but have never felt the pull to use it, so I cant say I’ve ever received any messages from it; sorry, boring ain’t I!

Q: Do you ever have times when you feel un-witchy?

What do you do to feel re-connected?

I think there are times we all lose the connection to our witchy side. My health issues over the years have set me apart from my witchy way as well. I find a trip down to the beach is often the best medicine to get me all connected back up and working away again.

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Alchemical Yoga: Asanas and The Language of the Birds

By Paul F. Cowlan

At first sight there might not seem to be much common ground between yogis and alchemists, between the cloud-driven hermitage and the smoky laboratory, but closer investigation reveals that the differences are largely illusory, while the similarities, both in origins and aspirations, are striking. Both disciplines consider the interplay of ‘matter’ and ‘spirit’ to be fundamental; both pursue an advanced metaphysical goal; both require dedication and patience; both seek to purify, transmute and perfect.

There is no space here to go into alchemy’s Egyptian, Classical, Chinese and Indian roots, or its transmission back to the mediæval West through the medium of Islamic science and mysticism. India alone claims our attention, and there, some fourteen hundred years ago, the emergence of Tantra, and of the so-called siddhas, or ‘perfected ones’, already provides numerous examples of widespread joint practice of yoga and alchemy.

Titus Burkhardt writes of ‘Tantric spiritual methods which are more closely related to Alchemy than to any of the other spiritual arts.’ and adds, ‘The Hindus, indeed, regard Alchemy as a tantric method.’ From Marco Polo himself, and five hundred years later, from François Bernier, we have first-hand accounts of yogis versed in the traditional alchemical skills of gold-making and the preparation of longevity elixirs compounded from mercury and sulphur.

The combination of yoga and alchemy is, therefore, a long-standing one, and my own rather eclectic system, which has evolved over many years of private practice, makes no claim to any great originality.

At this point it is important to remember that the practice of Alchemy has always maintained a balance between the manual and the psycho-spiritual, the laboratory and the meditation space, but whatever the proportion favoured by any given practitioner, both components are essential. This is one of the characteristics which distinguishes the Royal Art from supposedly pragmatic modern science. The alchemist’s spiritual alignment was, and is, considered crucial if there is to be any hope of success.

One of the many epithets for the Alchemical mysteries is ‘The language of the Birds’, a concept with deep and wide-ranging ramifications throughout the fields of mythology, folklore and magic. As denizens of the air birds were always thought to have access to divine secrets, so it was logical that alchemists, who were also keen sky-watchers, should find such an image congenial.

As a travelling musician ‘on the road’ in approximately ten different countries per year, there was never time for me to enroll in any regular course of instruction, so my yoga is self-taught, over a period of about thirty-five years, through the medium of many books, sometimes painful trial and error, and tips and hints from various practitioners met along the way. It is an amalgam of predominantly Iyengar-based asanas, Tantric chakras, Sahaja-derived mudras (hand gestures), and alchemical imagery which, combined with various stretches and pranayama (regulated breathing), forms a sequence of approximately ninety minutes duration. Clearly, I can only hope to present a general outline here.

I have studied and practiced psycho-spiritual alchemy for twenty-six years and, from the very beginning, found it natural to incorporate it into my yoga practice. Therefore the beginning of my development of Alchemical Yoga dates from approximately 1985, and my system, if I can venture to call it that, is based around the seven major chakras, or psychic energy centres, imagined as situated along the spine, from the perineum to the crown of the head. Three channels connect these; the lunar Ida, the solar Pingala, and the central Mercurial Sushumna, which together form an intertwined helix or, as an alchemist would see it, a caduceus, the Wand of Hermes. (See Figure 1.)

Figure One

Each chakra is associated with an asana, a colour, a number, a planet etc., and thus far we are dealing with moreorless basic Tantric concepts. In the accompanying diagram I have retained the traditional Indian chakra names, in addition to my personal alchemical labels, but this is where Alchemy begins to make itself felt.

The four Elemental chakras of Earth, Water, Fire and Air also align with the planetary metals of lead/Saturn, tin/Jupiter, iron/Mars and copper/Venus, together with appropriate stones. The accompanying animals are also alchemical in their associations. The three Spiritual chakras continue this pattern with mercury/Mercury, silver/Moon and gold/Sun: respectively Spirit, Soul and Lapis, or Philosophers’ Stone. I also visualise the five Platonic solids, made up to seven by the addition of an ovoid and a sphere. However, for a first encounter, we are probably complex enough already.

Figure Two

Although separated by basic stretches and other asanas, the seven main postures, beginning with the Earth chakra, are: Earth-padmasana (Lotus), with arms locked and straightened behind, forehead to the floor; Water-ugrasana (Formidable Posture); Fire-salabhasana (Locust); Air-matsyasana (Fish); Spirit-sarvangasana (shoulder stand); Soul-Third Eye mudra; Lapis-shirsasana (Headstand). Although there is a broad consensus concerning the appropriate asanas for the last three chakras there are many variations among the others, and those listed here are simply the ones which emerged as the most appropriate for me. (See figure 2, in which Sandra Scherer demonstrates the simpler Tadasana instead of the Headstand, and in which the Ajña massage is different from the one which I now employ.)

The practice begins with asanas and poses which balance and stretch, but regulated breathing and visualisation are intrinsic throughout. The first of the chakras visited is Fire, followed by Earth. Then come Water and Air, linking all four Elements. Thereafter the upward direction is reversed, moving downward from the Lapis, to the Soul, and finally the Spirit; the latter providing the essential link between what might be termed the Spiritual and the Elemental.

To the casual observer the entire sequence would appear to be a succession of conventional yoga asanas, combined with other physical postures, and as such they fulfil the simplest part of their intended purpose; toning, limbering, health-giving excercise. This benefit is not to be underestimated.

However, the ongoing alchemical visualisation, constituting the essential inner work, would of course remain unseen. After twenty-six years of development this is intricate and sequential, with even the smallest details possessing relevance, and the entire process has evolved from a combination of reading, practice, dream study and intuition.

The complete cycle intuits and imagines the creation, preparation and combination of the Philosophic Sulphur, Mercury and Salt, culminating in the successful creation of The Stone. Of course, I am not so misguided as to think that such perfection is so easily attained, but this is the concept which gives direction to the overall structure.

Although it is useful to visualise, and meditate upon, each chakra individually, they are not separate entities any more than water, steam and ice can be described as unrelated; and the same is true for the four Elements, forever transmuting, one into the other. Each of these images comprises part of an undivided landscape through which it is possible to travel imaginatively. There is no hope of adequately outlining sufficient details within the scope allowed by this article, but here is a very superficial checklist.

EARTH: The setting is subterranean and involves a black, green-eyed bear, a giant lead statue of Saturn, a black onyx stone cube and other additional details. For the alchemists one interpretation of the bear was the Earth, the ‘lead’ which is to be transmuted into gold; the prima materia, the raw, unrefined first substance, containing, in potentia, everything necessary for the Work; the fixed, unmoving basis from which the Opus starts, and upon which everything is founded. Powerful, instinctive, requiring discipline. This is the fertile ‘black earth of Egypt (al chem) from which the word ‘alchemy’ derives. Alchemical symbolism is inexhaustible and there are many alternatives. The Dragon is another prima materia symbol.

WATER: Would include orange fish, a girasole icosahedron, a lifesize tin fountain-statue of Zeus the Rain-bringer, a lake with a waterfall, showers, a rainbow, and so on. In alchemical symbolism fish share their watery element with sirens, whales and sea-monsters. The ‘makara’, associated with this chakra in Tantra, is just such an all-devouring sea-creature, hungrily consuming desires and pleasures. But fish too have their associations with Venus, the lusty goddess of sexual passion, and as denizens of the deep they also represent the instinctive contents of the unconscious. When shown in pairs they represent the Soul and the Spirit, immersed in the ocean of the Body or the Opus, and although they appear to be two individual creatures they are, in reality, a unity. Sometimes they are depicted in the cooking pot, being subjected to the fire which, as they stew in their own juice, will render them wholesome and nutritious.

FIRE: The preferred alchemical sequence of the elements is Earth, Water, Air and Fire, with the last two often being combined, but the position of the solar plexus in the human body dictates that fire is located in the third chakra, the centre of will, power, laughter, anger and joy. Lions have always been solar symbols, and are everywhere in alchemy, where they come in a variety of colours but, among their many meanings, one of the most important is that they represent the sun, gold; the perfect form, towards which all metals are striving. Lead contains the seed, gold is the fully ripened fruit; and the lion is king of the beasts, just as gold is king of the metals. Fire and water, sun and moon, king and queen; the opposites must harmonise. A ruby tetrahedron and an iron statue of Mars share a mountaintop with the Lion.

AIR: Eagles, like lions, feature frequently in alchemy. They, too, are of many different colours, often have more than one head, and can symbolise either gold or mercury. But their essential quality is that they are creatures of the air, swiftly ascending into that element, leaving mundane existence behind and enjoying a wide overview of the world. Balance, compassion and love can be the result. In alchemy birds of any sort represent the volatile substance, ever ready for flight, and prone to escape into the open sky if not carefully restrained and obliged to engage with the fixed components of the work. They can also symbolise fleeting spiritual insights which are liable to escape before the conscious mind can fully grasp them. In a forest glade, below the eagle’s flight, a copper statue of Venus is surrounded by flights of doves and sparrows. In her hand she holds a topaz octahedron.

SPIRIT: The white unicorn represents the Spirit, the essential energy of life in its pure, impersonal state. When the unicorn stirs the water of the forest pool with its horn, all the other animals know it is safe to drink because any poisons will have been neutralised. The unicorn is swift and fierce, impossible to take by force; but if a young virgin sits down alone in the forest it will come and lay its head on her lap. Therefore one should approach the potential of this chakra in an open, receptive state of mind, the wisdom it offers is not based on reason or logic, but on the underlying wisdom of the cosmos itself. This is the centre of communication; of æther, sound, creativity, and change. The Unicorn is found in company with the god Mercury, and is associated with a sapphire dodecahedron. Mercury is central to alchemy; guide, trickster, giver of wisdom, he represents the psyche itself, mutable, deceptive, indefinable, always to be handled with caution, but capable of bestowing priceless insights.

SOUL: The white stag, with stars glistening on each tine of its antlers, is perpetually in flight, never allowing itself to be caught. This is the region of light, of dreams, intuition and alternative states of consciousness. In alchemy the fleeing stag cervus fugitivus almost always represents the Soul. When it meets the unicorn in a woodland clearing, this symbolizes the Soul and the Spirit, meeting in the Body. (See also Water; two fish in the sea). In terms of Paracelsus’ ideas, the body is represented by Salt, the Soul by Sulphur, and the Spirit by Mercury, and an alchemist would expect to find Diana here, silvery goddess of the Moon and of all wild creatures. An Egg of dark amethyst encloses these images. Often known as the ‘third eye’, this chakra relates to the pineal (in some systems, the pituitary) gland, and strangely enough, the very first amphibians to live on land seem to have had a light sensitive organ in this position.

LAPIS: Glimpsed in a radiant diamond sphere, the gold and purple Phœnix, symbolising immortality, spreads its wings from a nest of fire, surrounded by flights of birds radiating out and upward. Immolating itself on a pyre of spices it is continually reborn from the flames, always young, always potent, and infinite in its capacity to communicate its perfection. To put it another way, to the alchemist it was the long-sought Philosophers’ Stone, The Elixir, The Universal Panacaea, the goal of the alchemical quest; capable of turning base metals into gold, restoring the sick, raising the dead, and ensuring the fortunate possessor of immortality. In contemporary terms it was an indication of true enlightenment, bestowing an experience of oneness with the Ultimate Reality, resolving all doubts and conundrums. But its ultimate source is none other than the Black Earth of the first chakra, the prima materia, refined and refined again, through numerous gruelling stages of development, until it emerges at last in its pure state, freed from all imperfections. Another name for the prima materia is The Stone of the Philosophers’, the raw material of The Philosophers’ Stone; two titles which sound deceptively similar but which, in fact, represent the Alpha and the Omega of the Great Work of Alchemy.

Experience has proved this to be a living system, when practiced regularly as an integral part of a balanced lifestyle. Consistency is the key, for both the physical and meditational aspects. As in most situations, you get what you give.

To illustrate how these images can assume a dynamic of their own; on one occasion, after several days of meditation at a centre in the Swiss mountains, I had the following experience.

During one of the later meditation sessions, I was imagining the process of my breath passing up and down through my ‘alchemical’ chakras. Suddenly I was aware of the breathing as if it were a process happening independently of myself. I could hear it but was not consciously responsible for the production of the sound. I then saw the sahasrara as a glittering diamond sphere with a blazing phœnix at its heart, surrounded by darting flights of smaller birds inexhaustibly emanating into infinity. I was fully aware of myself, and the fact that I was witnessing this very special sight, but my elation in no way interfered with the process. Perhaps this vision lasted for five minutes, it would be difficult to say, but as it began to withdraw I allowed it to do so, continuing the breathing, and feeling very fulfilled and privileged….. It took me some time to return to plain consciousness.

I have had alchemical visions before, and this one was not entirely ‘autonomous’, in the sense that what I saw was what I always actively imagine for the Lapis chakra during my daily yoga practice; but it was not consciously created, emerging from the subconscious spontaneously and, apparently, self-generated.

This brief excursus is clearly not an attempt to provide the necessary information for anyone to begin practicing. It was written in response to an invitation to give an introductory account of my Alchemical Yoga, and makes no attempt to do more than that. Apart from one or two workshops I have never made a concerted drive to teach the system outlined here, and I certainly harbour no missionary ambitions. However, I would welcome communication from anyone interested enough to know more.

Paul Cowlan is a professional songwriter-poet-performer who also gives illustrated talks on alchemical topics. He can be contacted via the following websites, where his CDs, poetry, artwork and alchemy publications are all available.
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Carew Castle, Princess Nest and Satans’ Ghost
By Liz.

Carew Castle

When I first came to Wales, back in 1975, aged just fifteen, I did an awful lot of travelling around the Pembrokeshire area. I wanted to walk some of the coastal path, to see the beautiful sights of the sea, to visit the relatively unspoilt villages and most of all to indulge my love of castles. One of the castles I particularly fell in love with was the atmospheric Carew. I’ve learned quite a lot about it’s history over the years, so I thought I would share some of it with you.

The famous Carew family take their name from the place and still own the castle, although it is now leased to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park which administers the site. Set in a stunning location overlooking a 23-acre millpond, Carew Castle is in the civil parish of Carew in the Welsh county of Pembrokeshire. With a history spanning 2,000 years, the castle as we see it today is an interesting blend of the strong defences of a Norman fortress and the grandeur of a Tudor mansion house.

The castle stands on a limestone bluff overlooking the Carew inlet — a part of the tidal estuary that makes up Milford Haven. The site must have been recognised as strategically useful from the earliest times and recent excavations in the outer ward have discovered multiple defensive walls of an Iron Age fort. The Norman castle has its origins in a stone keep built by Gerald de Windsor around the year 1100.

Gerald was made castellan of Pembroke Castle by Arnulf of Montgomery in the first Norman invasion of Pembrokeshire. He married Helen Nest, princess of Deheubarth and the daughter of the late Welsh king, Rhys ap Tewdwr around 1095. Nest brought the manor of Carew as part of her dowry and Gerald cleared the existing fort to build his own castle on Norman lines.

The original outer walls were timber, and only the keep was of stone. This early keep still exists in the later structure as the “Old Tower”.

Nests’ story

Princess Nest, also known as Helen of Wales, was renowned for her great beauty. She had been the lover of King Henry with whom she had 2 children out of wedlock. In her marriage to Gerald, the couple had five children together.

During the Christmas holidays of 1108 the story goes that Cadwgan ap Blethyn, Prince of Powys, held an eisteddfod in Cardigan. To this entertainment, every man of position throughout Wales was invited. Bards sang their songs, the mead passed round, the revelry was fast and furious; then one of these wandering minstrels told a tale about Nest, the fairest of the fair, old Rhys’s daughter, royal Gryfudd’s sister. He told  them about how she had enslaved the English King and now was wife to the robber chief Gerald of Winsor who had seized land.

Fired by this song Owain, Blethyn’s son, became determined to grab Helen from her lord for himself.

When the feast was over, Owain collected a number of his friends together, and they sallied forth to Pembrokeshire. Claiming kinship with Nest, he was well received by her husband Gerald and left the castle later feeling lust mad. That night he returned with a considerable following, believed to have been fourteen or fifteen men and, having in some way obtained entrance to Carew, laid siege to the room in which Nest and her husband lay.

Gerald, when he discovered that resistance was hopeless, was persuaded by his wife to escape through a garderobe (i.e. the lavatory chute). She let him down with a rope and thus saved his life. Meanwhile, Owain burst in the door, seized Nest, her two boys, and two other children (the illegitimate offspring of her husband), fired the castle and carried off his prisoners into Powys.

The children were later returned to Gerald.

Nest is said to have borne Owain two sons before finally being returned to her husband. Owain ap Cadwgan left the country to avoid retribution, whilst Owain’s father, Cadwgan ap Bleddyn, lost his own lands in subsequent war. Gerald waited for Owain to return to Wales, then ambushed and killed him in combat as retribution for kidnapping his wife and children. After Gerald died, Nest went on to marry again and to have further children.

She died some time after 1136.

Satans’ Ghost

The new castle Gerald built served the increasingly less affluent Carew family until financial circumstances forced the family to mortgage the castle in 1480. The new owner was Rhys ap Thomas who gained wealth and power from his support of the Yorkist kings during the War of the Roses. In 1485, he switched sides and made a significant contribution towards the victory of Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth. He was knighted on the battlefield and rewarded by the new King Henry VII who made him chief justice and chamberlain of South Wales and a Knight of the Garter.

To celebrate his elevation to the Order of the Garter, Sir Rhys held a Great Tournament at Carew, the last medieval style tournament ever held in Wales. Sir Rhys completely modernised the castle, turning it into a lavish residence.

Following his death, the castle was inherited by his grandson, Rhys ap Gruffudd, but when he was executed for treason in 1531, the castle became Crown property.

In 1558 the castle was leased to Sir John Perrot, reputedly one of Henry VIII’s illegitimate sons. Sir John demolished the northern section of the curtain wall and added a new range in the architectural style of the day. The three-storey building had rows of mullioned windows and semi-circular bays on each floor. The entire top floor was a long gallery where Sir John and his guests would be able to stroll during bad weather. In 1591, before the building was completed, Sir John was found guilty of high treason and he died the following year while imprisoned in the Tower of London.

In the 17th century, the castle’s lord, Sir Roland Rhees, a former pirate captain, is alleged to have kept a Barbary Ape, most likely a mandrill, inside the castle. Rees had acquired the creature on one of his many voyages. Rees was a very ill-tempered and mannered individual, and would host banquets at the castle just to shout insults and laugh at his guests. The ape, whom he named Satan, would mimic him and laugh at the guests.

One stormy night, when there was strong wind and rain, the ape grew restless while Rees drank heavily in the dinning hall. There was a knock at the door and a Flemish tradesman appeared to deliver his rent, but had only half the money needed. Rhees was already upset at the man because he did not approve of his son’s relationship with the man’s daughter. In a drunken rage, Rees loosened the ape’s chains and goaded it to maul the tradesman close to death. The tradesman escaped but, weak through loss of blood and struggling to make his way out, collapsed in semi-consciousness.

The tradesman was rescued by a benevolent servant who tended to his wounds and hid him away in his quarters, intending to let him go when the violent storm past. As the two men talked a violent cry and mad laughter was heard coming from the dinning hall.
They rushed to the scene to find Sir Rees dead on the floor, his throat gashed open, and the ape burning in the fireplace.

The ghosts of the ape, and its master, are said to haunt the castle to this day. Footsteps are reported regularly, objects throw themselves, and the mad cackling laughter of an ape echoes through the halls.

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Time; how do you see it?

By Jill Malenoir

Most folk nowadays think of time as linear, a straight progression from birth to death. Our modern life encourages this, with ease of travel, timetables, appointments, deadlines, etc., we live at great speed going from A to B each day. Everything is scheduled and timetabled. We are expected to conform to this regimented life with rush hours, gridlock etc. We even talk of ‘Time’s Arrow’.

Compare this to our ancestors, even 60 years ago most people worked on the land. They could watch the change of the seasons, meditate whilst doing a repetitive job and they were far more in tune with the land. They could see, as each day passed the cyclical nature of Time.

My grandfather was a Master Carpenter, his speciality was ornate staircases for Stately Homes. He worked at his own pace with hand tools. My other grandfather was a farmer, he had a mixed farm with a few cattle, some sheep, a few pigs, geese, hens, ducks, and of course Shire horses for the work and a smaller Cob for the marketing. Both had time to appreciate the seasons and the changes in the land that we barely notice now.

Look at a clock with a second hand, sweeping around the dial. Then look at the minute hand, slower, but following the same path, and now the hour hand, twice around the dial in a day. Where does the cycle take us next? The lunar month is the next cycle, from New Moon through to Full and back again, slowly winding us through the seasons from Samhain to Samhain.

Why is Samhain considered the New Year?

It goes back to a time before clocks, and the smallest convenient measurement was the day, but when did one day end and another begin?

Our ancestors knew that life began in darkness, in the womb, so it was no great stretch to surmise that the new day was born from night, and so they set the change from day to day at sunset. You can even find this confirmed in the Bible, where in Genesis, when God is creating the Universe, it states ‘And the Evening and the Morning were the first Day’. So it became no great leap for the year to change when the Earth went into Her resting phase, the time when the animals were brought back inside for the winter, and the people prepared for the cold weather and the dark nights were long. the Goddess awaited the rebirth in Spring.

Even today, the Jewish and Muslim calendars are Lunar ones, their Sabbaths and Festivals begin at nightfall. This also is the reason for Easter being a movable feast, it is timed from the Jewish Passover, which begins on the first Full Moon after the Spring Equinox. Good Friday is the first Friday of Passover.

Copyright Jill Malenoir, 2010

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The Seprioth from the bottom up (Part 1)

By Simon Cash

A lot of the Magic texts I’ve read concentrate on the Sepiroth from the Top down, starting at Kether which is the highest Sphere (literally the Godhead) and can take a lifetime of work to understand.

So here, I will start with the lowest Sphere and work upwards as Malkuth is the one which we are most familiar with and have the most experience in. Now while I am concentrating on the Spheres or Sepiroth of the Kabbalistic tree of life, I will sometimes touch on the paths than connect the Seprioth as the two are interlinked.

Malkuth the Tenth Sephiroth

Malkuth is the “largest” Sephiroth; large in a physical but also a mental sense. Many magical diagrams show Malkuth as the same size as the rest of the tree of life, but this is only done for symmetry in the two dimensional world of books and paper. If the diagram were to scale, then Malkuth would be many times larger than the rest. Bearing this in mind, a lot of the lessons and parables of the Kabbalistic books will make more sense. Malkuth is the foundation on which we stand and it is important to have strong foundations. It is also more a balance point or a pivot point, as some Kabbalistis believe in the Quippoth, a “Tree of Death” as it were.

The mission in Malkuth is to recognise ourselves and recognise the temptations of the Physical world, the distractions. But its not just physical; we can end up mentally in debt to people just as easily as we can end up in debt to the bank. Malkuth contains both the physical and mental distractions and also the sheer physical beauty of the World; beaches, waterfalls, places of quiet contemplation, nature at its finest and also the works of mankind at its finest too; churches and temples, works of art, places where mankind has made a positive impact on the world. All of these things are tangible and physical. All of these things both the good and the bad we can recognise ourselves with a little bit of introspection.

Makluth is the world around us, which is partly or our own creation and partly the creation of others. The two not only overlap but overlay as well. This is to say we are experiencing our own and everyone else’s “reality” simultaneously. This is how distractions happen. This is how we allow ourselves to be led.

Even in basic psychological terms, a person on their own is capable of making rational decisions, yet the same person in a crowd will be led and go with the flow. Imagine that in a large gathering everyone else’s Malkuths are closer, overlaying your own. Think of it as Malkuth is like a lecture theatre before the teacher enters; all the students are shouting to make themselves heard, some are gossiping some are talking about the lesson but everything is equally as loud and confusing, The key is self awareness.

Going back to the “largeness” of Malkuth; there is more of everything.

Malkuth is where the light and energy of God (and I’m using the term God in the Kabbalistic sense of Godhead rather than the Christian sense of ineffable omnipotent being here) is diffused and diluted. Now, that is necessary a bad thing. This diffusion means the raw energy has been contained in many specialised forms and vessels, each one for a specific purpose. Think of Herbalism and Alchemy how the same plant can contain both the poison and the medicine; the essence is there it is the vessel and the preparation which forms the end result.

This is one example of the diffusion of the energy.

Malkuth is the easiest Sepiroth to perceive and its the one in which we spend the most time. It is also one that we should spend a lot of time understanding as it is linked into Kether in many ways.


The next Sepiroth “up” is Yesod. In Ceremonial Magic, the pathways between the Sephiroth have names and attributes too. the pathway between Malkuth and Yesod is path number 32 and is represented by the “world” card of the tarot. There are exercises and rituals which deal solely with the paths and the ways they interconnect but for this essay I am concentrating as much as possible on the Sepiroth themselves.

Yesod is the lowest Astral plane. It is associated with the Moon, the nines of the tarot, the sexual organs of man and woman, the element of Water and the emotions. It is also a part of the Spiritual body made up of six Sepiroth known as the ‘Yetzira’. This association with Water is very much a metaphorical one as water is a physical entity, yet it flows its always fluid and moving. It is the place of the unconscious mind the place where ideas come from. It is also the psychic centre of your being, a place of the intuitive skills,

Yesod can be used as a retreat, a place to step back from the World of Malkuth, to recharge the batteries and bring forth creative ideas. It’s link with the Sexual organs make it a place of potential of ‘seeding’. A lot of Kabbalistic literature deals in metaphor especially around the area of sex and reproduction which can confuse the issue. Remember its metaphor not literal truth.

Yesod could be described as the foundation of the spiritual body. To use modern terminology, Yesod is very much a interface between the higher realms and the physical realm of Malkuth. Yesod is the commonest as in the most experienced Sepiroth. But it is the bottom of a much larger spectrum.

Hod & Netzach

The next two Sephiroth are Hod and Netzach, the 8th and 7th spheres. In diagrams they are situated above and to the Left (Hod) and Right (Netzach) of Yesod.

Hod, the 8th Sepiroth, is associated with the 8 card of all the Tarot suites. It is on the left hand side of the tree of life which is the known as the pillar of severity or Boaz and is associated with amongst other things female energies, lunar energies and the north.

Hod is also known as “Majesty” or ‘Splendour’ and deals with the power gained through the act of submission or conceding, the power gained not through brute force of will, but through learning and adapting. This submission is an admission there is something larger than your will and your intuition, then learning to accept and work with it. This is the ‘Shamanistic’ sphere. Hod is where the Magician realises that there are other spiritual entities apart from himself and communes with the spirits. Its associated with many archetypes of the Magicians who rule over language and communication, such as Annubis, Thoth, Mercury and Hermes. As an aside, this is why, in some Cermonal Magic rituals, Evocations to several Gods of differing pantheons are made at the same time; the ritual is dealing with the Sepiroth associated rather than that particular god or goddess themselves.

Hod’s opposite number is Netzach the 7th Sepiroth, which is associated with the 7 card of the tarot. It is as the base of the right hand column, the pillar of mercy or ‘Jocaim’ and is associated with the Male side the south, solar energies including the element of fire. Netzach is also known as Victory and Eternity. This column is known as kindness or mercy but be warned its not a indulgent kindness, just as the column of Boaz is not Severity in the sense of bullying or wanton abuse. Netzach is the opposite of Hod in that the Magicians own will or sense of discipline is what’s important here. This is the place of endeavour a place where the power of the soul can overcome obstacles. It is the place of instinctive behaviour rather than educated behaviour.

In some ways Netzach is paradox as its archetype forms are Love goddesses such as Venus and Aphrodite and is associated with love. But its not the love of a partnership it is the love of a Mother for her children, sometimes tough love is what is needed.

Its sometimes beneficial to apply a little bit of a Eastern Philosophy to the twin Spheres of the Seripoth, Hod/Netach, Gebura/Chesed and Binah/Chokoma and see them as Ying and Yang symbols where they both compliment and balance each other. Like the Ying and Yang, there is a touch of the opposite characteristics in the other.

The Two Sepiroth of Hod/Netzach have another role and meaning; their role in the Kabbalistic ‘body’ is as the legs (The Spheres are situated on the hips) and are associated with the ‘Pillars of Hermes’, a physical representation of these pillars can be found in classical architecture in the two pillars flanking a doorway, such as are found on the entrance Masonic temples and older civic buildings such as courts of law, banks and even some churches. This symbolism is so old it has become lost on many people. For those interested, The Pillars of Hermes appear on The High Priestess card of the Raider White tarot, one of the more Kabbalistic influenced cards, and again on the Hierophant and Justice cards.

A word on gender and the Sepiroth; it is important to remember not to apply such rigid definitions of Male/Female to the Sepiroth or to separate gender from genitals as in the case of The Biblical Angels which are often described as Androgynous. Once you pass Yesod, which is associated with the genitals then such things become irrelevant.

These four Sepiroth make up two worlds of the Kabballa, the world of ‘Assiah’ or of Action, which is Malkuth on its own and the world of ‘Yetzirah’ or the world of Formation. If you were working down the Sepiroth, then the worlds are:





These four worlds are separated by barriers or ‘Veils’” which the Magician must cross (almost like a quest). The two main Barriers are the veil of Paroketh which is above Hod and Netzach and the veil of the Abyss which separates the highest three Sepiroth, Kether, Binah and Chockoma from the world of Briyah, which I shall deal with in the next essay.

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Grimoire Shamanism: The Shaman and the Solomonic Path

By Aaron Leitch

For at least the past two or three generations, the Solomonic grimoires have been popularly associated with lodge-style ceremonial magick and secret societies. Therefore, when I first suggested the grimoires are more intimately connected to paganism and folk/witchcraft traditions, than to men like MacGregor Mathers or Aleister Crowley, I expected the idea would become somewhat controversial. Instead, to my surprise, it has stirred much more interest than controversy. I have not only received requests for more information, but I have also heard from many modern-day sorcerers who have come to similar conclusions about the Solomonic material. (If you have read my essay Modern Grimoire Magick, you have seen how I stumbled upon an entire Solomonic movement among the same people who practice Hoodoo, Hexcraft and other folk-magick traditions.) So, it turns out my message was given directly into the hands of a waiting audience!

I would dare say such an audience has not existed since Gerald Gardner’s publication of High Magick’s Aide in 1949. Written to mask real magickal practices in the cloak of historical fiction, the story depicts a medieval Solomonic wizard and a Pagan witch working hand-in-hand, as if their practices were closely related. (Which, of course, they were!) In Gardner’s day, the Solomonic grimoires were still held in high regard by practicing witches. For example, you can find elements of the Key of Solomon the King within “Old Religion” covens- such as the New Forrest- and even in Gardner’s Wicca.

Today’s students have apparently come full circle. They want to break away from the “self-help occultism” of the past two or three decades. They are now willing to learn about the very same Old Magicks from which- just a few years ago- they would certainly have been told to steer clear. Santeria, Palo, Voodoo, Hoodoo, Hexcraft- even Solomonic magick itself (especially the Goetia and similar texts)- were so recently subjects to be avoided or derided. Now, people who desire magick that “really works” are exploring systems descended directly from tribal shamanic worldviews, where Angels and spirits are real rather than mere psychological constructs.

With all of this in mind, I feel there is a place for this essay- especially for those who would like more information about the shamanic nature of the Solomonic texts. In what follows, I will briefly summarize the premise you can find elaborated within Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires, and then offer some illustrations of modern Solomonic mages at work.

Shamans and Exorcists

First and foremost, I would like to take a moment to explain my use of the term “shamanism.” I am aware that many scholars are moving away from using that label as a universal “catch-all” for any system of primitive tribal spirituality. It does, in fact, make it easier to assume that different cultures in different times and places all practiced “the same thing”, viz.- “shamanism.” Nothing could be further from the truth(!), and I can assure the reader that I do not use the term in such a manner. Instead, I am using the term to indicate the social conditions surrounding the shamanic vocation as opposed to those social conditions that typically surround the Temple Priest in history. The “shamanism” I describe can be found in any culture, ancient or modern, tribal or metropolitan.

Given my broad use of the term, I cannot attempt to offer a cohesive definition of shamanism. Instead, I can only outline those practices that collectively make a tradition shamanic: Common aspects of the Shaman’s vocation are withdrawal into solitude, ritualized death-rebirth, the gaining of Patrons and Familiar Spirits (from whom the Shaman learns most of his magick) and learning a secret language of some sort (such as the languages of birds or animals). Once he gains mastery, he must be able to exorcise the dead, demons and nature spirits without falling prey to them. He must also develop relationships with the Gods of the tribe or community, so that he can petition Them for aide in times of distress (such as plague, drought, failed hunts, crop shortages, etc).

Perhaps most universal to shamanism is the ecstatic trance- often obtained via drugs or physical discomfort/exhaustion- which allows the Shaman to visit the Gods in the celestial realm, or descend into the underworld to retrieve the lost souls of the sick and dying. These ecstatic states are his primary source of power – not only making his astral journeys possible, but also granting him such superhuman abilities as invulnerability to pain/injury from fire, snow and freezing water, blades or blunt weapons.

Also, many of the Indo-European tribal cultures that bear directly upon the development of Western civilization shared a common cosmology. They believed in a three-fold universe- consisting of a celestial world, a physical world and the underworld. The celestial world was the home of the Gods, beginning with a transcendent Father God who was most often the Creator and directly associated with the Sky. This “Father Sky” was followed by a number of Sons or Messengers – often in groups of seven or nine, and associated with visible heavenly bodies (such as the seven Planets). These younger Gods were not transcendent, but regularly interacted with the physical world and human beings. Shamans were charged with gaining the favor of these Gods for the good of the tribe, and it was often one of these Gods who would become the Patron or Spiritual Spouse of the Shaman. He was also charged with keeping the spirits of the underworld either appeased or at bay.

Of course, no single culture or tradition will include all of these aspects, or place them within the same context, or even place the same importance upon them. They are not even the exclusive jurisdiction of the Shaman, as the Priest will often fulfill shamanic roles when the Shaman is not available. (Such as when the medieval Church drove out Pagan healers and replaced them with their own clergy.) However, the Priest is much less likely to engage in astral trips, or acquire Spirit Familiars. He usually comes by his knowledge in a university-style setting, rather than a death-rebirth initiation in solitude. Plus, the Priest performs his work under the authority of an established religious body, while the Shaman almost never does so.

Where it comes to the Solomonic grimoires, we find a curious mixture of the shamanic and priestly vocations. While the intent of the magick hearkens back to tribal witchdoctors, the content borrows much from established Church ritual and procedure. Thus, we find spells for such things as retrieving lost property, divining the future, healing sickness and getting ahead at work, that require such things as the performance of a Mass, the use of a consecrated Host and the singing of Psalms.

I believe this is because the grimoires were written by a group of people who fell somewhat between the two extremes of Priest and Shaman. On one hand, many of them were clerics of one type or another. Some of them were priests or even higher-ranking officials, while a likely greater number were low-ranking scribes and other Church personnel. (Called the “purified ones”, these clerics performed minor duties such as carrying holy objects, preparing the altar, writing music, transcribing texts, etc.) On the other hand, their occult practices were most certainly not sanctioned by Church authorities. While this put many Solomonic mages’ lives at great risk, it also afforded them some freedom to act as freelance shamans within their communities.

It is possible that much of the Solomonic genre was created by members of the clerical Order of Exorcists. Consider, for instance, this quote from the Key of Solomon the King:

He who hath attained the rank or degree of Exorcist, which we are usually accustomed to call Magus or Master according to grade…

The Key and other Solomonic texts often refer to the operator as an “Exorcist”, and we can see from the above quote that the term indicates some kind of rank. When we look into the medieval use of that term, we find it within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

The medieval Church was divided into three major and four minor Orders. The first three (Priesthood, Deacon and Subdeacon) require ordination, while the final four merely require appointment and are mainly composed of the low-ranking “purified ones.” These minor Orders have changed according to time and place, and have included such offices as Acolyte, Reader, Doorkeeper, Porter, Lector and- of course- Exorcist.

The Exorcist was charged with “laying hands” upon new converts- to cast out lingering spirits before one was baptized. It was also his duty to tend to the sick, exorcising the demons of disease. Thus, ailing peasants in a medieval village would visit the exorcists at the local church, just as they would have previously visited the local witchdoctor. Because of this, there were few requirements for the role of Exorcist beyond a charismatic personality and (preferably) a knack for faith-healing. In many ways, the Exorcists lived on the outer fringe of Church dogma. Unlike ordained

Priests, the Exorcists would often break with the official rituals (such as the Rituali Romanum found in the Catholic Book of Exorcisms) and develop their own styles and techniques. I suspect they got away with more than their share of heresy, because their vocation called for what really worked at any given time and place.

This likely contributed to the fad for exorcism in medieval Europe- during which appeared countless “exorcism manuals”, each one outlining its author’s favored methods. They commonly begin with exhortations for the operator to live a clean and pure life, to obey religious laws, observe chastity, etc. They describe spiritual preparations involving prayer, fasting and solitude. They include discussions of what to expect when the spirits appear, and how to behave toward them during the exorcism. Finally, they outline the ritual itself- usually including confession, Psalms, the Pater Noster and other established Church prayer. They also contain lengthy conjurations, repeated multiple times, that admonish the spirits in the Names of God, Saints, Angels, Prophets, etc. In fact, I believe these manuals are where the Solomonic grimoires come into the picture.

Books like The Key of Solomon the King, the Goetia and even parts of the Book of Abramelin follow the form of medieval exorcism manuals. The difference is that the Solomonic grimoires are extreme examples, and incorporate much more Pagan and occult lore than the Church would tolerate. (Again, see my essay Modern Grimoire Magick, where I discuss the “receipt-book” or “wonder-book”- another grimoiric parallel known for inclusion of such pagan lore.) Possession of these grimoires led many clerics to prison, torture and execution.

Regardless, the grimoires proliferated so far and so fast the Church was unable to burn them all. There was just something in the human spirit that kept people writing, transcribing and preserving them, even at their own peril. I suspect that “something” was the same thing that called the most primitive tribal shaman to his duty, and every shaman, prophet and mage that followed. There will always be a need for humankind to interface with the spirits of the world, and thus there will always be a need for the Shaman. In medieval Europe, one form the Shaman took was that of the grimoiric mage.

The Solomonic Magus and the Way of the Shaman

We can easily find several examples of such shaman-mages in action. In the Book of Abramelin, we follow the journeys of Abraham the Jew as he heals the sick, offers magickal aide to kings and princes and even raises the dead across Europe. In his journals, Dr. John Dee recorded instances of himself and Edward Kelley performing magick and divinations for their community, colleagues and even the Queen herself. (Legend has credited Dee with creating the storm that sunk a Spanish fleet before it could attack Britain.) Henry Cornelius Agrippa, author of the famous Three Books of Occult Philosophy, once confronted a local Inquisitor on behalf of a poor woman suffering imprisonment and torture on charges of witchcraft. He succeeded in securing her release, had her accusers arrested, drove the presiding Inquisitor from office and (some say!) ended the Inquisitor’s life via magickal means.

The above are merely the more popular examples of grimoiric mages working to protect their communities, nation or humanity as a whole. If you would like to read more anecdotes about the grimoires and the people who wrote and used them, I highly recommend the Magic in History series from Penn State Press. Take special notice of E. M. Butler’s Ritual Magic and Richard Kieckhefer’s Forbidden Rites. Both books include in-depth discussions of the culture that gave rise to the Solomonic texts, as well as excerpts from medieval records depicting both masters and amateurs attempting to use the magick.

At this time, I wish to focus upon the manifestation of the Shamanic Arts within the grimoires themselves. I have already outlined many of the points that can earn a practice the label of “shamanism.” Therefore, I can now revisit that list and provide examples of the same principles within a few of the more popular grimoires.

To begin with, I should mention that the Solomonic texts generally adhere to the same tribal shamanic cosmology I described earlier: a celestial Father God (the Creator) who charges His many Sons or Messengers (Angels) with the governance of the physical world. While the Father God can be invoked for aide and authority, He truly remains transcendent and far-removed from reality. It is His Angels and spirits whom the mage summons for any given purpose.

We can also see that the shamanic three-fold cosmology was adopted by mages like Agrippawho based the structure of his Three Books of Occult Philosophy upon it. (Agrippa actually described a celestial realm, an intellectual realm and a physical realm. He recognized the infernal realm, but left it “unspoken” in his three-fold cosmology. Instead, he added the intellectual realm to represent the mind, where man and God meet. This may have been a Gnostic influence- as the Gnostics tended to view the physical world and Hell as the same place, and placed much importance upon the Mind of God.)

Moving forward in our list: The initial vocation (or calling/initiation) of the Shaman often involves a long period of seclusion, during which a death-rebirth ordeal must be endured. Often during such an ordeal, the spirits of sickness and injury will attack the would-be Shaman in a kind of spiritual-alchemical process. As each attack is endured and survived, the aspirant is further purified and strengthened- until the spirits eventually lose all power over the new Shaman. It is this ordeal that grants the Shaman his primary source of spiritual authority. As the spirits have already failed in their initial attempts to kill him, the Shaman enjoys a position of superiority to- and invulnerability from- the dangers they might pose to a layperson.

It is not difficult to find parallels in the Solomonic texts. Nearly all of them insist the aspirant must remove himself from public life, preferably spending his time alone in ritual purification and prayer. Each text outlines its own regimen, but it is generally agreed that the longer and more intense the seclusion and preparations, the more powerful the magick. Also, I note that these preparations are more often associated with evocation of spiritual entities, rather than with folk-magick spells or talisman creation.

A great example is the Book of Abramelin, which requires a full year and a half (or, in the French version of the text, a mere six months) of seclusion and ritual preparation before attempting contact with the Guaridan Angel and the infernal spirits. Every single day, the Abramelin aspirant must wash, enter an established Oratory and recite prayers before an Altar. As the regimen progresses, more prayers and ritual preparations are added until- by the time the evocations begin- the aspirant has become consumed by the process. Not only that, but he is also experiencing the mental stress associated with such long periods of seclusion. This creates an altered state of consciousness that allows one to perceive the Angel and spirits.

The Book of Abramelin is also the best example of the ordeal of death and rebirth in a Solomonic text. I have covered this aspect of the system in another essay, The Holy Guardian Angel: Exploring the Sacred Magick of Abramelin the Mage, so I will share some excerpts with you here. These are from my descriptions of the final seven days of the Rite:

The second day is the first day of the invocation of the Angel. This is where the funerary symbolism of the Rite comes into play. At dawn, one is not to wash or don the White Robe, but instead must put on the Robe of Mourning [made of black sackcloth]. Once inside the Oratory, ashes are taken from the Censor and placed upon one’s head (a funeral custom found in Biblical literature- such as the Book of Job), and a black veil is placed over the head and face.


Day three … continues the funeral rite. At dawn, one enters the Oratory as in the previous day, wearing the same Robe of Mourning. Now, the aspirant must lay prostrate upon the floor, with his head at the foot of the Altar, and pray silently for three hours or more. This is the symbolic “laying within the tomb” found in many solar Dying and Rising God mythos.


The fourth day … progresses from the death symbolism of the previous two days into the rebirth half of the equation. Here at last the White Robe is worn once more- symbolic of the resurrection and spiritual purity of the aspirant. (The donning of a white robe at the end of such an initiation is found as far back as ancient Egypt.) One is to kneel at the Altar and begin to offer prayers of thanks to the Highest as well as invocations to the Guardian Angel. If all has gone well, it is here the first tentative contact with the Angel will be achieved.

The objective of the Abramelin process is to bring an end to the old way of life, and initiate an entirely new path. Thanks to the extended seclusion, social contacts will have waned, old habits have been broken and the aspirant faces an entirely new life on the other side of the process. The death-rebirth symbolism of Abramelin merely symbolizes this fact, and associates it with the death and resurrection of holy figures like Christ and Osiris.

The next point is perhaps the most obvious: A shaman’s vocation usually involves the reception of his spiritual Patron and Familiars. He then learns his magick directly from those spirits, and has the ability to communicate with them in times of need. We can find examples of this dynamic in nearly every grimoire.

The Book of Abramelin is dedicated entirely to this process – beginning with the permanent invocation of one’s Holy Guardian Angel. That Angel, then, is supposed to teach the aspirant countless magickal secrets – including the methods of summoning and binding the infernal spirits. The infernal spirits are also expected to teach the aspirant some magick, as well as provide the names of any number of lesser spirits who will serve the aspirant as familiars. Four of these lesser spirits, in particular, are charged to stay with the aspirant at all times for the rest of his life. Having achieved all of this, the final book in the grimoire provides hundreds of talismans for use in communicating with the spirits for any necessity or desire.

The Pauline Arts, one of the five books of the Lemegeton, also pays special attention to the aspirant’s Patron Angel. This time the Angel is one of a group of 360 who govern the degrees of the zodiac. According to the text, you share a special relationship with the Angel who rules the ascending degree of your own nativity. By following the process outlined in the book, you can establish contact with that Angel and learn magick, gain information, receive guidance, etc.

At the other end of the spectrum are books like the Goetia, also of the Lemegeton. Here we find no mention of Patrons or Guardian Angels. However, we do find a list of 72 ranking spirits of the infernal hierarchy, any of whom can teach the aspirant mysteries (magickal, scientific, philosophical, etc) or provide personal familiar spirits. Such spirits can be bound to a brass vessel (or something similar) and become permanent members of the household. (This is also covered in depth in Modern Grimoire Magick.) I will go further into this aspect of the grimoires below.

There are so many wonderful examples of this dynamic in the grimoires, I couldn’t hope to list most of them here. To my knowledge, no Solomonic grimoire in existence fails to include this to some degree- and most of them are dedicated to this subject alone. Outside of a few folk recipes their authors may have found useful, the bulk of the grimoires focus upon the evocation of Angels and/or spirits, and assume the aspirant will learn the magickal arts directly from them. As the author of the Book of Abramelin states:

In time, I have become able to recognize the holy angels and the good spirits. I now share their friendship and have discussions with them. They have explained to me the basis of true magic and how unredeemed spirits need to be- and must be- controlled. To finish, I need to say that I learned the holy secrets through Abramelin’s teachings from God himself; and I learned to do the true, not false, magic from the holy angels.

The above is also related to the next aspect of shamanism- the ability to command the dead, demons and nature spirits without falling prey to them. We have already seen that both Abramelin and the Goetia outline how to exorcise and bind the infernal spirits as familiars. To these we can add texts like the Theurgia-Goetia, the Key of Solomon the King, the Heptameron, the Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy and the Magus. All of these, and hundreds of similar and derivative texts, include directions for commanding, binding or overcoming the infernal spirits- or communing with the spirits of nature and the Elements.

Unfortunately, this aspect of the grimoires has led to many generations of misunderstanding. Because the books describe how to “summon the demons of Hell” (or the lesser spirits of nature), many have assumed they must- by definition- be rituals of black magick. The question, perhaps asked first by the medieval Church itself, was why a God-fearing person would wish to deal with devils.

However, I feel that question misses the point entirely. As we have already seen in this essay, there was a time when holy men were expected to work with infernal spirits. Just like the exorcists who cast demons out of peoples’ homes and bodies, and the shamans and witchdoctors that preceded them. While there are a few rare examples of grimoires that call upon Satan or Lucifer instead of God and His Angels, we find that most demonology grimoires place the mage on the side of God and directly invoke Holy Names and Angels to control the infernal spirits. As mentioned above, the intent is usually to overcome and bind them- placing the mage in a position of superiority and authority. Only with that spiritual authority can the Shaman cure disease, retrieve lost souls from the underworld and protect his community from demonic spirits.

Let’s now examine another aspect of the shamanic vocation that bears directly upon the grimoires – learning a secret language. In ancient tribal cultures, this was often associated with the languages of animals or birds- with whom the Shaman was believed to communicate directly. (An important skill for any tribal shaman who practiced animism.) By the time we reach the point of written history, we find that magickal languages have become the dead languages of past human civilizations.

For example, the Priests of Babylon used ancient Sumerian as their sacred language. The Egyptians, too, utilized older forms of Egyptian hieroglyphs in their magick. The point was that the language had to be obscure- unspoken by the common people and known only to those who study it. A dead language remains static- unchanged by linguistic evolution resulting from common daily usage. It should also have some foundation in the history of a given culture. All of this makes it sacred something that can be set aside, and allows mystics to assign correspondences to the letters or sounds, incorporate them into established rituals, etc. Thus was Sumerian useful to the later Babylonian Priests. So, too, were Hebrew, Greek and Latin sacred languages within medieval Judeo-Christianity.

For the Solomonic mages, nearly any ancient tongue was sacred. They adopted names and conjurations from Egyptian, Chaldean, Babylonian, Sumerian, Hebrew, Latin, Greek, Coptic and even more sources. Of course, it was rare for an author to have any real knowledge of more than one or two of these languages (such as Latin, Greek or Hebrew). As such, many of the ancient names and conjurations were handed down in a haphazard fashion. I suspect the words were transmitted orally for some time, during which they would certainly have mutated to some degree. Then, when the grimoires were penned, their authors simply recorded the words phonetically, writing down what they had heard from their teachers. The problem was further compounded as the magickal texts were circulated and transcribed. For example, scribes who did not understand Hebrew made glaring errors- quite often mistaking one Hebrew letter for another letter with a similar shape. It was even worse when they attempted to transliterate the Hebrew characters into English, as every individual scribe had his own style of transliteration. (The same is true today, which is why we can see the Hebrew QBLH- Qoph, Beth, Lamed, Heh- spelled “Qabalah”, “Kabbalah” or even “Cabala.”)

Over time, small errors were compounded on top of small errors until (in many cases) the words had lost all semblance of their original forms. In the grimoires themselves, we can find truly bizarre conjurations such as the following from the Key of Solomon the King:

I conjure ye anew by these other names of God, most holy and unknown, by the virtue of which names ye tremble every day – BAZUC, BACURABON, PATACEL, ALCHEGHEL, AQUACHAI, HOMORIONS, EY, ABBATON, CHEVON, CEBON, OY, ZOYMAS, CAYE, EHEIEH, ABBAMACHI, ORTAGU, NALE, HELECH, YEZE – that ye come quickly and without any delay into our presence…

Today we call words like these “Barbarous Names of Evocation”- which simply means “foreign words of command.” The phrase is taken from The Chaldaean Oracles of Zoroaster, which is neither Chaldean nor Zoroastrian. It first appeared during the Renaissance, making it contemporary with Solomonic mystics. The relevant passage from the text states: “Change not the Barbarous Names of Evocation, for there are sacred Names in every language which are given by God, having in the Sacred Rites a Power Ineffable.”

The admonishment to leave the “barbarous names” unchanged likely arises from a recognition that the ancient languages were not understood. They were already corrupt in the Solomonic texts, and it would therefore be unwise to attempt to alter them further. This philosophy resulted in the establishment of a new sacred language- of sorts- as we see in the above quote from the Key. Having been committed to record, these words are as static as those of a real dead language. They are never spoken in common business, and their derivation from the ancient Western languages gives them a cultural foundation and history.

Finally, I can’t let the subject of sacred languages pass without mentioning John Dee’s and Edward Kelley’s Angelical Language. It is especially relevant to our discussion, because it adheres so well to our model of shamanism. Not only did Dee record for us a large portion of a new Secret Language, but he received that language directly from the Angels themselves. Most of the invocations Dee recorded (consisting of 48 Angelical Callings) are intended for use with a specific magickal system. However, his journals reveal that Angelical was used for several purposes beyond the Callings, and the Angels told him they preferred it “before that which you call Hebrew”- presumably meaning the Hebrew Dee would have used in his occultism. (In fact, there is one example in the records of Dee creating a talisman with Angelical characters for a woman in trouble.) Both Dee and Kelley were assured that the Angelical language would grant them unprecedented ability to communicate with Angels and command spirits.

Since Dee’s lifetime, the Angelical language has had a large impact on Western Esotericism. Most of that impact has come through the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn – which had its own particular approach to the language and rules for its pronunciation. Several groups who followed the Golden Dawn have also created their own recensions. Today, scholars have a much better grasp of Dee’s original system, and are revisiting his journals to study Angelical in its original form (with its original pronunciations). We should see some of the results of these newer studies within the next couple of years.

At long last we reach our final aspect of shamanism- the use of the ecstatic trance to produce magickal power. This included nearly everything the Shaman accomplished- communing with spirits, physical strength/invulnerability, celestial flight, divination and- of course- creating visions. All of these things depend on the alteration of consciousness to an ecstatic mental state. It is literally the opening of the mind to the greater spiritual universe, so that one can perceive the Angels and spirits who live there.

Agrippa gives a lot of space in his Three Books… to this subject: Book I dedicates seven consecutive chapters (61-68) to explaining the passions of the mind and their importance to magick. In Book III, he returns to the subject in six chapters (45-50), where he explains the ecstatic trance or “phrensy.” In chapter 45 he describes this as the vacation of the spirit from the mage’s body, followed by the entrance of the Holy Spirit to fill the space. Once the Holy Spirit has “possessed” the mage, both prophecy and magick are possible:

…prophesying is not made according to the will of man, but holy men spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. When oracles and spirits descend from the gods or from daemons upon them, and are delivered by them; which descendings the Platonists call the falling down of superior souls on our souls. … Of which sort of deamons … were wont to enter into the bodies of men, and make use of the voices, and tongues, for the prediction of things to come…

But these kinds of fallings down, or senses, come not into our souls when they are more attently busied about anything else; but they pass into them, when they are vacant. Now there are three kind of vacancy, viz., phrensy, ecstasy and dreams. [Three Books… Book III, Ch. 45]

These phrensies and ecstasies are outlined by Agrippa over the next four chapters. The first type he describes is the phrensy “from the Muses”- which basically indicates revelation through inspiration. The second type is “from Dionysus”- indicating ecstasy through religious fervor (such as we see in modern faith-healing). The third type is “from Apollo”- indicating ecstasy gained by the creation of mind-altering drugs and medicines. The fourth type of phrensy belongs to Venus- indicating ecstasy gained through obsessive love and devotion.

Finally, in chapter 50, Agrippa explains that the removal of oneself from earthly distractions (seclusion and ritual purity) and turning the mind toward celestial things (invocation and prayer), results in the elevation of the soul to a near-God-like state. In this state, the human vessel becomes fit for habitation by divine things. Thus, while the human mind is flying through the heavens with God, the Holy Spirit might enter the body to prophesy or perform miracles.

When we understand the Art of Ecstasy, it brings into focus many grimoiric spells that might otherwise appear to defy reason. For example, the Book of Abramelin contains a chapter of talismans for “Traveling in the Air”- on a ship, a cloak, a cloud, etc. A more obscure grimoire, today called the Munich Handbook of Necromancy, contains experiments for obtaining horses (winged and otherwise) and even a flying throne. Richard Kieckhefer classifies these as “illusionist experiments”, meaning that these horses and thrones are not to be taken literally. Instead, they represent visionary trips the mage can take into the heavens, to meet with and petition the Angels.

Kieckhefer also classes spells to create visions and illusions (of castles, armed men, banquets, etc) under the same heading. In some cases, these visions are seen only by those engaged in the magick, and witnesses often report seeing nothing unusual at all. For example, in the Book of Abramelin, Abraham the Jew describes a woman who concocted a flying ointment, which the two used with apparent success. However, when Abraham later asked to observe the woman as she took such a trip alone, he only witnessed her fall the ground and sleep as if dead for a couple of hours. Eventually, she awoke and described her journeys to Abraham, but her trip had been entirely visionary.

Much the same can be said for most instances of spirit evocation “to physical appearance.” The grimoires are ever romantic in their tone, and they tend to imply that the spirits will literally take on flesh and stand before the Circle. However, according to the records we have of actual Solomonic mages at work, the summoned spirits hardly take on physical form. Previously, I mentioned such records can be found in Butler’s and Kieckhefer’s work on the grimoires. Likewise, the journals of Dr. Dee and Edward Kelley are extremely enlightening- as Kelley could always see the Angels while Dee most often could not. In some cases, the participants will drink or eat some kind of mind-altering brew- and even offer it to those witnessing the rites. (Such as the flying ointment with which Abraham the Jew experimented). If such a concoction is not offered- or is refused by a spectator- then the Angels and spirits are generally perceived only by the person(s) skrying the entities.

Mind-alteration is also a big part of divination. Whether one is summoning a spirit to ask about hidden information, or attempting to skry directly into far away places, the foundational purpose of the ritual is to create a vision that reveals the desired information.

Perhaps understandably, the subject of mind-altering drugs in the grimoires (Agrippa’s “Apollo phrensy”) generates the most controversy today. Unfortunately, there are even some who insist that drugs have nothing to do with either shamanism or Solomonic mysticism. (Such a stance comes from fear of the modern Inquisition called the “drug war.”) In truth, however, drugs have always been an established aspect of these practices. Ancient cultures have used tobacco, alcohol, cannabis, mushrooms, ayahuasca, belladonna, henbane, hemlock and many more mind-altering substances in their mysticism. And, as I mentioned previously, medieval records indicate the grimoiric masters were no exception.

Agrippa obviously knew about such techniques, and wrote about them in more than one place in his Three Books. A great example is found in Book One, chapter 43:

So, they say that if of coriander, smallage, henbane and hemlock be made a fume, that spirits will presently come together; hence they are called the spirits’ herbs. Also it is said that a fume made of the root of the reedy herb sagapen, with the juice of hemlock, and henbane, and the herb tapus barbatus, red sanders, and black poppy, makes spritis and strange shapes appear.

Today we have a good understanding of these “spirits’ herbs” and their effects on the human brain. Plants like henbane, hemlock and black poppy produce hallucinogenic chemicals, and have traditionally been associated with the evocation of spirits, production of visions and illusions, etc.

Unfortunately, these particular drugs are also deadly neuro-toxins that tend to accumulate in the brain over time. Their physical side effects include such things as nausea and convulsions. As such, these drugs are generally associated with goetic evocation and necromancy- contacting demons and the spirits of the dead. They open one’s mind to the infernal side of reality, and will eventually kill you.

It is very likely that such a drug was intended for use with the Goetia– which instructs one to apply an Anointing Oil to one’s eyelids and temples. We can find the same instructions given with “flying ointments” of the same era – just like the Witch’s ointment given to Abraham the Jew. It is necessary to rub the oil upon the body where it can be absorbed directly into the bloodstream. The temples and other pulse-points of the body are good places. There is a rather large vein in the centre of the forehead- the “third eye” spot where anointing oils are most often applied. And, of course, the eyelids offer a very thin bit of skin to absorb the oil. (The descriptions of the demons in the Goetia– as fearsome and dangerous creatures who inspire terror on sight- could very well be records of henbane or belladonna trips.)

Some typical recipes- taken from Scott Cuningham’s Complete Book of Incense, Oils and Brews– follow:

Flying Ointment #1 : Cinquefoil, Parsley, Aconite, Belladonna, Hemlock, Cowbane.

Flying Ointment #2: Hog’s Lard, Hashish, Hemp Flowers, Poppy Flowers, Hellebore

Notice that most of the ingredients listed are psychoactive (many of them listed by Agrippa as “spirits’ herbs”), and several of them also happen to be deadly.

It is also possible to create oils with more benign drugs. For example, there is much speculation that the Holy Oil described in the Bible (Exodus 30) was intended to include extracted THC from cannabis. (This Biblical recipe was adopted whole-cloth into the Book of Abramelin– though there is no evidence the author believed that cannabis was intended.) However, such an oil would not likely have the astounding effects we see with toxins like henbane and belladonna- which is likely why we find the latter in most flying ointments.

Before I end this section, I should point out that the other phrensies described by Agrippa also come into play in the grimoires- especially those involving religious fervor and devotion. In fact, these play a larger role than mind-altering drugs, and are achieved via the extended periods of prayer, confession and rituals of worship adopted from Christian and Jewish religion. We also find a heavyemphasis upon fasting, seclusion, vegetarianism and general stimulus deprivation (abstinence and moderation in all things). Taken together, all of these combine to create a shift in brain chemistry for the grimoiric magus. I cover all of this in considerable depth in Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires.

Modern Solomonic Shamans

Last year, I was invited to speak at the first Austin, Texas Western Mysteries Conference. For my lecture, I chose to read my recently-published essay Modern Grimoire Magick: Folk Magick and the Solomonic Path. However, I also wanted to add something new- in case anyone in attendance had read the essay on their own. Therefore, after the reading, I went on to discuss the work of a fellow Solomonic mage, who drew from my work and had posted his results for all to see. I hoped to give the audience an idea that this isn’t all theoretical, but that real people are out there, right now, actually doing this kind of work.

Now, I would like to do the same in this essay. First, I will relate the same anecdotes I shared at the conference. Then, I would like to share some entirely new anecdotes- this time about the magickal quest of a young lady who once came to me for advice on Solomonic magick in general, and the Lemegeton‘s “Pauline Arts” in particular.

Frater R.O. and the Goetia

Our first Solomonic magus is best known by his motto- Frater Rufus Opus (or, at the time I gave my lecture, Frater Redactum Opus). Frater R.O. was hardly a beginner when I first encountered him. However, he had been inspired upon reading my essay Modern Grimoire Magick, as well as some forum discussions concerning “Spirit Pots.”

To explain briefly: the creation of a Spirit Pot is an extremely ancient method of working with lesser spirits and familiars. It appears in cultures around the world- though the most common in America are likely the gnangas fashioned by practitioners of the Afro-Caribbean faiths Santeria and Palo. A gnanga is often an iron cauldron- sometimes a terracotta pot- filled with substances that are in natural sympathy with the familiar spirit. (For example, the gnanga of an ocean spirit will include water, plants, fishes and objects taken from the sea. A river spirit would require such ingredients taken from a local river, a mountain spirit would require items taken from a natural high place, etc.)

There are just a few examples of this concept in the grimoires- the most famous being the Brass Vessel of the Lemegeton‘s Goetia. According to that text, King Solomon attempted to entrap 72 ruling spirits of Hell within a vessel of brass, which he then tossed into the sea. His goal was thwarted, however, after the Babylonians witnessed him dispose of the vessel. Believing it to be full of treasure, they later fished it out of the water. Much like ancient Pandora opening the forbidden box of Human Woes, the Babylonians broke the seal and released the evil spirits into the world again. The Goetia further implies that a Solomonic mage can use a similar Brass Vessel to bind any of the 72 spirits, or any spirit at all.

Part of my Modern Grimoire Magick essay was dedicated to explaining Spirit Pots in detail, and suggesting ways to incorporate the same ideas into the Goetia‘s Brass Vessel. Most modern occult texts suggest one summon, question and finally banish the spirits each time we have need of them. However, I made the suggestion that the spirits could be bound to the Brass Vessel instead- creating what I facetiously called a “Solomonic Gnanga.” This appealed to Frater R.O., who began his own experiments with the process.

The spirit he chose to work with is the 26th of the Goetia, named Bune- who is described as bringing riches to the Exorcist:

He is a Strong, Great and Mighty Duke. He appeareth in the form of a Dragon with three heads, one like a Dog, one like a Gryphon, and one like a Man. He speaketh with a high and comely Voice. He changeth the Place of the Dead, and causeth the Spirits which be under him to gather together upon your Sepulchres. He giveth Riches unto a Man, and maketh him Wise and Eloquent. He giveth true Answers unto Demands. And he governeth 30 Legions of Spirits.

According to the Goetia, Bune is a Duke of Hell- which makes him a spirit of Venus whose Seal should be fashioned from copper. However, Frater R.O. decided to use the correspondences outlined in Crowley’s 777, which assigns Bune to the zodiacal sign of Sagittarius. Personally, I would have suggested he stick with the attributions of the Goetia itself- though I must stress that Frater R.O. was not “incorrect” in his choice. Spiritual entities are not restricted to the correspondences we assign to them, and it is possible to work with any spirit from the standpoint of various “Paths.” Thus, Frater R.O. simply chose to work with a “Sagittarian Path” of Bune, rather than the more traditional Venusian Path.

To begin with, Frater R.O. obtained a brass pot with a lid, and decorated it according to the instructions in the Goetia. (The Divine Names of the Goetic Magickal Circle are inscribed around the circumference of the Brass Vessel, which our Frater did using the letters of the Malachim Magickal Alphabet.) He also fashioned a Secret Seal of Solomon and placed it under the vessel’s lid.

He then followed my instructions by filling the vessel with objects sympathetic to Bune (as listed in 777 for Sagittarius)- such as Rush grass, incenses of lignum aloes and sandalwood, dates and raisins, an arrow carved from cedar wood, etc. Most important, of course, is the Seal of the spirit itself which is the main focus for the entity inside the vessel. Frater R.O. reported that Bune’s presence was distinctly felt as soon as the vessel was created- and he placed small (appropriately-colored) candles around the pot to attract and feed the entity until it was time to formally bind him to the vessel.

At last, Frater R.O. performed the full evocation ceremony outlined in the Goetia. (Remember that modern systems usually begin at this point!) He placed the completed vessel into the Triangle of the Art, summoned Bune and asked the spirit if it would like to reside therein. The spirit agreed and was commanded into the vessel once and for all. There was no banishing.

It was only afterward that the real work took place. Frater R.O. began to interact with Bune and the vessel on a daily basis- eventually developing a relationship with the spirit. It took some trial and error in order to learn how it operates: at first, he hoped Bune would help him win the lottery. That didn’t work at all, but he soon found that Bune was perfectly willing and able to bring new clients and contracts to his job. Before long, Frater R.O. had more work than he knew what to do with, and the collective profit he stood to make went into the thousands of dollars! (Sagittarius is ruled by Jupiter, and Jupiterian spirits are notorious for bringing riches through labor rather than free and easy money.)

This has only been a brief introduction to Frater R.O.’s experiments with Bune and the Brass Vessel of the Goetia. If you would like to follow his experiences as they developed- including photographs of his work- simply visit and click the link for “Spirit Pot Operations.”

Kathy McDonald. and the Pauline Arts

Kathy McDonald is one of my favorite success stories. Not only is she one of the most seriously dedicated Solomonic mystics I have met, but she also came to it through much trial and tribulation in her life. Her experience has truly been a shamanic vocation.

I first met Ms. McDonald through my Solomonic Group at Yahoo. At the time, her life had recently undergone drastic changes. She had incredible emotional obstacles to overcome- the worst of which was her feeling of helplessness in facing a big and often dangerous world with her young daughter. Because of this, I believe Kathy came to us on a quest- even if she wasn’t sure what exactly she sought. I didn’t mark her as someone with much interest in grimoire-style magick (an erroneous observation, as we shall see!). She seemed more interested in simply talking with people she felt had attained some spiritual advancement. Eventually, as often happens in these on-line encounters, Kathy simply vanished from the forums.

After a couple of years passed, she suddenly reappeared in the groups, and we were surprised to meet a very changed woman. I’m not precisely sure what we told her, or what exactly she took away from her encounters with us, but she returned with her emotions and her mundane life much more in check. We also learned that, during her absence, she had obtained a copy of Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires and was avidly devouring the book! She had returned because my presentation of the Lemegeton‘s “Pauline Arts” had piqued her interest, and she had further questions. As she related in a Yahoo post:

Yes my focus started with a desire to learn more about astrological magic and timing and a desire to work with a system as opposed to winging it. The Pauline Art offered both a structure and a planetary focus that sat well with me. Contacting the angel of the degree of my nativity is the goal. Also after reading your book I was keen to try a few things out and have increased things like preparation, timing, attention to details and exploring their origins.

Now, I have already described part of the Pauline Arts– involving the Angel of the zodiacal degree of your nativity. In order to summon this Angel, it is necessary to make its talisman from a specific metallic alloy. Then, the Angel must be summoned at a specific magickal time- on the proper day and hour attributed to its Planet, and when the Sun has entered a zodiacal sign of the appropriate Elemental Triplicity.

Kathy wished to know if it is truly necessary to fashion these complicated alloys and wait the necessary months for the Sun to enter the correct sign. Couldn’t she just fashion the Talisman from colored paper and get on with it? We answered that is was certainly possible to use simpler methods of evocation, but the results would only be as impressive as the effort she put into the work. Not only that, but simplifying the Rites would mean she was no longer working the Pauline Arts system of evocation, but merely drawing from it.

What set Kathy above so many who ask such advice was the fact that she took it to heart! It was going to be a full year before the Sun again entered the sign of her birth, and she decided that was just enough time to properly prepare for the evocation of her Angel. Over the next months, she completely analyzed the Pauline Arts– even tracing the alloy recipes to their original source (Paracelsus, for those keeping score) and deciphering them. She was meticulous about the magickal timing, and had the Renaissance astrologer Christopher Warnock go over her astrological election in detail. (He even corrected a mistake she had made.) And she also had plenty of time to create the Holy Table and other magickal tools necessary to the Rite.

In a particularly interesting twist, Kathy did in fact perform a simplified invocation after all. Soon after she began the Pauline Arts project, she fashioned a paper Sigil for the Angel she wished to contact and offered invocations and candles. She placed the entire process under the governance of the Angel, who provided both guidance and continuity throughout the work. (Notice how Kathy used this method as a smaller part of the larger operation, while most folks settle for this in place of the Rite itself!)

Most fascinating was Kathy’s exploration of metallurgy. This isn’t something with which I have experience, and I learned much from her prolific posts about what she was learning- including photographs of the tools and equipment she accumulated. One by one, she tackled each metal called for in the alloy Talisman. She learned what equipment was necessary to melt each metal (easy for the soft metals, but progressively more difficult and dangerous for the harder metals). Like a true alchemist, she learned through trial-and-error how these metals behave when heated and cooled, and thereby learned tons about the Planetary spirits who are associated with them. She experimented with making several metal talismans, each one revealing what she had done right or wrong during the process.

By the time her year ran its course, Kathy had gained a solid education in the Solomonic magickal arts. She had learned how to create magickal tools, prepare her Temple, choose astrological elections and magickal timing, design and paint Talismans, work with metals and forge alloys- and that merely scratches the surface! She also discovered the writings of past occultists like Paracelsus, Trithemius, Agrippa and more. Further, she learned much from the growing relationship between herself and the Angel with whom she was working: what the Angel liked or disliked, and what it expected of her.

Perhaps you’ve heard the term “Renaissance Man”- indicating someone who has education in many different areas. Kathy’s year-long quest earned her a true Renaissance education in the magickal arts, which she would have missed entirely had she chosen the “easy” route instead. She could have performed the simplified evocation and therefore say “I’ve done that.” But, instead, she undertook a longer journey of truly life-changing significance. She learned that the Rites outlined in the grimoires are not the end-goal, but merely the keys with which to unlock greater mysteries.

This is a point I have tried long and hard to make with would-be students of the occult. The constant search for an “easier way” to perform the magick is counter-productive. Contrary to popular belief, mere “intent” is not the most important aspect of magick. In fact, it is relatively unimportant when compared to virtues like effort, discipline and dedication. Like the Knight searching for the Holy Grail, the Solomonic mage gains his (or her) power from the Quest to achieve what might otherwise seem impossible.

In the end, Kathy’s evocation of the Angel was successful. You can read her write-up of the entire process in A Pauline Arts Magical Adventure ( After the ordeal was over, she took some time off from the Yahoo Groups in order to rest and reflect on her accomplishment. During that time, her house was struck by lightning! No one was harmed, but a lightning strike is an age-old sign of true Shamanic initiation. It was a perfect sign that she had succeeded in drawing vast energy to her home, and in gaining the attention of her Angel.

There is much more I could add about Kathy and Frater R.O., but I’ll leave it to the reader to follow the links I have given to learn more about them. Each of these aspirants are perfect examples of how modern Solomonic mages should work. You may also gain much from these essays about the grimoires (all of which I have mentioned in this piece):

Medieval Magick (Ch. 1 of Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires

Modern Grimoire Magick: Folk Magick and the Solomonic Path

The Holy Guardian Angel: Exploring the Sacred Magick of Abramelin the Mage

Copyright(C)2007 Aaron Leitch

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Samhain Week MoonLore

By Liz

Sunday, 30th October 2011 – Samhain Eve

The Moon will be Waxing, in it’s First Quarter, having just left Sagittarius and just entered Capricorn. Being a Sunday, the focus will be on Healing, Spirituality, Success, Strength and Protection, while Moon in Capricorn means the focus will be on strong structures and we really should take time and care to see to our responsibilities and to fulfill our obligations. Don’t leave business unfinished when the sun sets this night if you want the outcome to be favourable.
Monday 31st October 2011 – Samhain

The Moon will be Waxing, in it’s First Quarter, in Capricorn

Being a Monday, it will mostly be about Peace, Sleep, Healing, Compassion, Friends, Psychic abilities, Purification and Fertility, whilst Moon in Capricorn today means it’s a good time to set boundaries and enforce rules. Start as you mean to go on, keep everything tidy and organized and you can’t go wrong.

First Footing: Don’t forget as the clock strikes Midnight, you would do well to have arranged a tall dark handsome man to come through your front door carrying a lump of coal (so you may not know cold) some ale (so you may not know thirst) and some cake (so you may not know hunger) for the coming year ahead!
Tuesday 1st November 2011 – Witches’ New Year

The Moon will be Waxing, in it’s First Quarter, just leaving Capricorn and just entering Aquarius. Being a Tuesday, the spotlight will be on Passion, Sex, Courage, Aggression and Protection while Moon in Aquarius today will find us in a rebellious mood. New year, a new you? Get that besom out and give your world a nice clean sweep!!!
Wednesday 2nd November 2011

The Moon will be Waxing, in it’s Second Quarter, in Aquarius,

Wednesdays being all about study and travel, it’s a good day to go to places new to meet people and to learn things which will expand your horizons and broaden your mind whilst Moon in Aquarius today means giving up bad habits and letting go of negative thoughts should be quite easy to do. A positive start to the witches new year so far!
Thursday 3rd November 2011

The Moon will be Waxing, in it’s Second Quarter, in Aquarius

Being a Thursday, the focus will be on money, investment, generosity, growth, and prosperity whilst Moon in Aquarius should put the spotlight on personal freedom and individuality. Time to see if balancing those books can’t be sorted out to cut you a little slack so you can afford something you really want. Spend it wisely though.

Make it something that has multiple benefit, then there will be no regrets.

Friday, 4th November 2011

The Moon will be Waxing, in it’s Second Quarter, leaving Aquarius and entering Pisces

Being a Friday, it will all be about love, friendship, reconciliation, and beauty whilst Moon in Pisces at this time means the focus will be on looking back, nostalgia and dreaming. Time to chase up long lost pals, maybe?

Saturday, November 5th 2011 – Guy Fawkes (Bonfire) Night

The Moon will be Waxing, in it’s Second Quarter, in Pisces,

Being a Saturday, the focus will be on Longevity, exorcisms, endings, homes and houses, whilst Moon in Pisces means this day will be a good one for spiritual persuits and philanthropic activities. Sounds like a good day for stocking up on those things which help fetch us comfort through the dark cold months of winter too.

For those of you lighting Bonfires and having FireWorks parties or attending “public” events this night, take extra care, please check for hibernating Hedgehogs before igniting the woodpile, keep the fireworks in a lidded boxes (preferably metal ones), remember to use a battery powered torch to see them with in the darkness, not a naked flame, make sure there is plenty of water nearby for putting out accidental spread of flames and please watch the little ones with sparklers as even they are dangerous while hot. Having said all of that, have a great evening and may the weather be with you!

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Pumpkin Spice Cake

by Calidonia


2 cups pumpkin mashed

4 eggs

¾ cup oil

1 tsp vanilla

1 Tbs ginger

mix well and set aside

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 Tbs pumpkin pie spice

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

Mix well and add to pumpkin mix 1/3 at a time

Stir well, pour into greased cake pan. Bake 350 for approximately 30 min.

Chai Cream Frosting

6 Tbs butter softened

3 oz cream cheese softened

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp milk

pinch of salt

1 – 2 tsp chai spice (to taste)

Cream together well

2 cups powdered (confectioners’) sugar

Add gradually into cream cheese, continually stirring

Frost the cooled cake. Garnish w/ chopped nuts and dried fruits if desired. Store in refrigerator

This cake is amazingly good and very moist. I made it yesterday, and it’s gone today!

Samhain baking is much more pleasurable than that for Yule. Perhaps it’s because it isn’t as commonplace and presumed. Or possibly because getting fresh pumpkin is so much easier to find when it’s in season.

(I cheat and buy blended spices when I can find them. If they aren’t available, here’s a breakdown to keep on hand in your kitchen. Pumpkin Pie Spice ¼ cup cinnamon, 2 Tbsp ginger, 2 tsp cloves, 1 tsp nutmeg, & ½ tsp cardamom. Apple Pie Spice ¼ cup cinnamon, 1 Tbsp allspice, 2 tsp nutmeg, 2 tsp ginger, & ½ tsp cardamom. Chai 2 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp cardamom, 2 tsp cloves, 2 tsp ginger, 1 tsp coriander, 1 tsp black or white pepper, & a pinch of salt.)

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Animal Spirit Guides
By T. Fox Dunham

At my side these hard years has walked a companion with a red, furry tail. He sometimes walks ahead, finding the path, at my side to keep me walking straight, or behind to kick me in my bum to keep me going. He is my fox, my spirit guide in these lives, in many worlds a shaman traverses, and my spirit would be incomplete without him.

Animal spirits assist us in several capacities. They come as guides, as teachers and protectors. They comfort and assure. They traverse the silver veil into the otherworld, bringing us wisdom, and they lead us back to guide us on the path we need to follow on the other planes. These planes are vast worlds, often tangled and sans trail, but our animal spirit guide can perceive through the mesh and lead us to the next step in our growth.

I’m aligned to the fox as we share the same nature. The fox is diplomatic, cunning, looking to avoid direct confrontation though guile. We are gentle, family orientated, love the dawn. We are survivors, adapting to changes in our environment. Foxes thrive in urban areas, adapting to the human sprawl that is consuming the natural world. The various traits of animals have been witnessed over the eons and used in legends and folk tales to help us learn from them, to recognize their energy in ourselves.

Shamans of tribal societies dressed up as animals, using their aspect and then enacting their behaviour to share in the spirit’s energy. This is what’s known as shape-shifting, to see the world through the eyes of the animal. This was another method to gain wisdom or the medicine of the animal spirit. It was also used to enact a metaphysical hunt to bless the coming hunt and honour the animal prey.

As a practicing shaman, I journey into the other planes—often the inner wilderness, the realm we all share within ourselves where we go to heal and grow. Before I begin my meditations to Imramma, I summon my fox to come to me or meet me there at the gate or the well, depending on my vector of entrance. I place his symbol on my altar or by my side in the grass: a fox figurine. As I meditate and use the metaphysical map, I’ll begin to notice my fox communicating with me. Sometimes I hear him breathing or yelping. I’ll feel his fur brush along my arm or see his teal eyes watching me in the dark turning light of the ‘tween places.

Animal spirit guides can also aid in the healing of illness. During my battle with cancer, I used a metaphor technique during meditation. At night, I’d visualize an animal spirit attacking the cancer cells in a symbol. At that time, I employed leopard energies. The cat stalked the cells—usually an animal of my own creation, dark and possessing several heads and several limbs, mutating wildly, devouring all the countryside and leaving it a barren land. Then my leopard would run and tackle the dark animal, devouring it and protecting the natural world.

There are many methods to discover and summon your spirit guide both ancient and new. Over time I developed my own system, and this is the method I prescribe to others seeking their spirit guide. It is the first step I apply to anyone who wishes to explore shaman practices in their own capacity. The animal guide will guard them and guide them on their journey.

I begin with asking about affiliations to animals in their lives. Was their one special animal they’ve always related to? Found a strong connection? Often, they’ll feel it in their chest, in their lower energy centre. I once worked with a young woman, who when she first made contact with a dolphin, her lower chest surged with an energy. The dolphin felt familiar like she possessed an innate empathy to the animal. I ask if there are any special stories with animals. I gained the red tailed hawk as an ally after I saved an old mother hawk, finding her paralyzed on the forest floor. I told this story in the summer issue of Pagan Friends Zine. Seabhac: The Wounded Hawk. They may have also dreamt of the animal and found kinship in their night reveries. If they’re not sure, I send them on a dream quest. Before sleeping at night, I instruct them to meditate then focus on the question of their spirit guide’s identity. This is a way of sending an invitation for your animal to come to you. You open your mind to it.

Once they feel certain they know their animal totem, I instruct them to use one of their gifts of spirit to invite it into their lives. If they are an artist, I suggest they paint a picture. Poetry for a poet. A song for a musician. And so forth. This acting of the creative energy into an application based on the invitation is like a beacon, a sign you’re putting up for your animal to come to you.

I then send them to make an offering in a sacred place. In the case of my friend Paul, he left an apple on a sand island in the middle of a parted stream.

Once the animal is summoned, you create an icon. I use a fox figurine. This is an item of your own choosing. You place it on your altar or your power centre, slip into a medicine bag or carry it with you.

Once discovered and summoned, an animal guide is a close friend and teacher. In a world where humans are disconnecting from nature, we are losing a valued tradition, a tool to bring healing and balance into our lives. Inviting these spirits into our lives will return to us a missing element, fill a void we all sense and return to us a love and respect for our natural world. Only in this way can we find harmony with our environment and harmony in ourselves.

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Salt Crystal Lamps & Tea Lights
By Beth Holtum

Salt Rock lamps and tea-light holders are hand crafted from huge deposits of crystallised salt from Himalayan mines. Each piece has its own unique colouring and character.

Halite is the mineral name for salt crystal and it is valued by crystal healers for manifesting self-love, blending the energies of the heart and solar-plexus chakras. This is useful for someone who needs to find time for their physical and spiritual well being.The gentle heat of a Salt light generates ions carrying a negative charge, improving the surrounding air and general health and well-being. It’s a similar atmosphere to standing next to a waterfall or by the sea, giving good breathing space for relaxation, and particularly beneficial for asthma or rheumatism.

Salt has hygroscopic properties, and therefore it draws water—so never wash or wet your salt light and don’t keep it in a damp room or outdoors. If the light does gain moisture it may form crystals, which can be removed with a soft brush, or it may puddle. To avoid this, have it alight regularly so that it is maintained by dry heat.

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The Elements
By Beth Holtum

The traditional elements of earth, air, fire and water are still valued for giving us a key to our place in the world, long after the development of the modern Periodic Table.

Here’s a reference table I drew up of the crystals associated with each Element, and a reminder of the characteristics, in Chakra order. I hope you find it useful!

The Elements

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By Rebecca L. Brown

Cumin (Cuminum Cyminum) is a spice native to the Egyptian and Mediterranean. The seeds, either whole or ground, are widely used in traditional Moroccan and Mexican cookery, as well as in curries and certain Dutch cheeses. The harvesting and use of Cumin is mentioned in a number of ancient texts including the Old Testament, the Ebers Papyrus, a scroll from King Ashurbanipal’s library at Nineveh and Pliny the Elder’s Historia Naturalis and it was most likely used in prehistory. Traditionally, cumin is ruled by Mars and associated with Scorpio and Taurus.

In Ancient Egypt, cumin was used in cooking, perfumes and to treat digestive problems. It was included in unguents to relieve headaches and added to a drink given to women who have recently given birth. Cumin was also traditionally placed on altars as an offering to appease the gods.

During the Middle Ages, cumin was one of the more commonly used spices. Since it was believed to encourage love and loyalty in love (it was said to keep lovers and chickens from wandering!), it was taken to weddings and given to soldiers in a loaf of bread by their wives. Traditionally, it was also blended with wine as a potion to create lust. In the seventeenth century, Culpeper wrote in his English Physician that cumin was a strengthening plant.

In Ancient Greece, cumin was a symbol of cruelty and greed. It was also used for protection.

Many people believe that cumin will protect against theft when it is attached to an object and in Germany it is baked into breads to stop them from being stolen by fairies. In protective workings, cumin is blended into an incense with frankincense. It can also be scattered with salt to repel evil or as part of a banishing.

Cumin is used widely in Eastern medicine as it is believed to travel through the digestive system to react the liver relatively intact. In Ayurvidic practices, it is used to treat digestive problems (a purpose for which it was also used across a variety of cultures throughout history).

The seeds of cumin act as a carminative and a stimulant. They are rich in antioxidants and may have anti-fungal and anti-carcinogenic properties (there has been some evidence that cumin seeds may be useful in treating colon cancer, although some of the compounds they contain may in fact be carcinogenic until cooked). The essential oil has been used to treat headaches and tiredness, as a digestive stimulant and for muscular pain because of it’s warming properties. It is potentially phototoxic, so skin which it has been applied onto should not be exposed to the sun.

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By Rebecca L. Brown


Cinnabar is a reddish ore of mercury which occurs in veins where there has been recent volcanic activity or at certain hot springs. Since it contains mercury, it can be toxic to humans and animals. Marcus Vitruvius Pollio recorded the effects of cinnabar on the men who mined it as including shaking, mood swings, hearing and visual impairment, madness and finally death. It is therefore not recommended for use in jewellery or as a fetish.

Cinnabar is found in artefacts from ancient Greece and Roman, as well as in trace amounts in objects from China dating back to the second millennium BC. It was used to create the pigment vermillion. The Romans, at least, were aware of it’s potential toxicity and it was mined and prepared by criminals and slaves.

To the Olmecs, cinnabar was a symbol of life, the ‘blood of the earth’. Important people were often coated with cinnabar after death. It may also have been traditionally ground up, mixed with tallow and painted onto the skin of living people.

In China, the Taoist alchemists believed that they would be able to find a way to transform cinnabar into gold and that it could give a person a variety of incredible or miraculous powers if used correctly. The Arabic alchemist Geber included it as an ingredient in his recipe for the Elixir Vitae which would rejuvenate and bestow immortality.

As a gemstone, cinnabar is associated with transformation, the manifestation of wealth and gaining insight into things. It is linked to luck, good fortune and protection from evil, as well as longevity.

Cinnabar is available to purchase at the Rainbow Spirit online shop.

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Treadwells Events

More details are available at the Treadwells website.

02 November 11 (Wednesday)
Ritual in Early Jewish Mysticism:Descent to the Chariot and Angelic Adjuration
S. Leigh
Tonight’s lecture explores early Jewish mysticism not in terms of theory, as is so commonly done, but in terms of actual ceremony and ritual practice. How were altered states achieved, and what actions were taken by Merkabah (Chariot) mystics? The speaker is a practicing Jew with an ardent interest in the traditions mystical techniques, including practical Kabbalah. He brings to these studies a familiarity with Western Mysteries esotericism, so is able to make connections, comparisons and to speak in terms familiar to those who are not grounded in Hebrew or the Jewish religion. He returns to Treadwells, for his third lecture, by popular demand.
Price: £7.00
Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

05 November 11 (Saturday)
Foraging for Herbs:A Hedgewitches’ Teaching Walk
Natasha Richardson, Herbalist
Qualified Herbalist Natasha Richardson leads a walk round Hainault woods, teaching and demonstrating: herb identification; medicinal facts and herbal folklore; and  foraging techniques.  This afternoon is pagan-oriented, friendly and practical, and will involve engaging intuitively with the plants as well as learning skills and information.   This November walk concentrates on barks and roots; you will come away with a deeper appreciation of how you can find and work with herbs growing all around you. Great for beginners. More on Natasha Richardson here.  Advance booking required.
Price: £8.00
Time: 12.45 for 1.00 pm departure from Hainault Tube Station

10 November 11 (Thursday)
The Cult of Ku:The Occult Chinese Poison Cult
Andy Sharp
One of the most exotic of the many enticing tendrils of Kenneth Grant’s Typhonian Trilogies is The Cult of Ku. References to an illusive coterie of Chinese adepts run through his work like dreamed wafts in a Limehouse Opium Den. Grant’s hints that such a cult once existed in London: did it? In this talk Andy Sharp will trace Ku back to its roots as a form of poison magic in ancient China. He will explore Ku as a multi-layered monad, its syncretic correspondences with alchemy and UFOlogy, Grant’s extrapolations, and its collision with the pulp horror of Sax Rohmer. Sharp will also discuss how this particular obsession of Grant has fortuitously intruded into his personal wyrd. Andy Sharp is published in Strange Attractor and runs the creative occult project ‘English Heretic,’ an imaginary organisation dedicated to the reification of malefic energy spectres and the adumbration of a modern qliphoth.
Price: £7.00
Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

19 November 11 (Saturday)
Healing with Herbs, Seventeenth-Century Style:An Afternoon Course
Julie Wakefield
Learn and make plant-based remedies from the 1600s at this lively practical day course. First is a look at the sources: Culpeper and Gerard’s herbals, and the recipe books of gentlewomen. Then you will recreate some of the remedies yourself and sample a few of them. And what about magic? We will look at 17th-century astrological herbalism and plant folk magic – from alleged cursing to protection. Cambridge graduate Julie Wakefield is a museum freelancer in historic medicine, who works at the Old Operating Theatre & Herb Garret and others. Price includes, all handouts, samples and potions made (NB. If pregnant, you will not be able to ingest remedies).
Price: £25.00
Time: 1.30 – 5.00 pm

23 November 11 (Wednesday)
Your Own Hypnosis and Trance Induction:For magical practitioners, shamanic workers, pagans, magickians
Mark Smith
A practical evening teaching hypnosis methods to self-induce trance states and to work on unconscious mind patterns, in your magical practice.  Techniques will enhance visualisations and pathworkings and intensify your ritual workings — whether you work in chaos magic, shamanic journeying, general meditation or witchcraft. It will go through the three levels of trance; trance induction and deepening. Plus fractionation techniques, fixation techniques and progressive relaxation. Practical exercises through the evening mean you can immediately apply these methods. Mark is a professional clinical hypnotherapist, professional drummer, gym addict and chaos magician. A rare opportunity from someone with a remarkable blend of experience and skill.
Price: £10.00
Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

24 November 11 (Thursday)
Queer and Pagan:History, Theology, Society
Lou Hart
In this lecture Lou Hart reviews some of the historical context for a queer approach to magic and paganism, and discusses the transformations that occur in a queer magical setting. Queer Paganism is a term that is intentionally broad-brush, its fusion of politics and differing magics producing a potent brew of practices and beliefs. These work on the basis of self-identification, inclusion of ‘otherness’ and self-authentication, operating within a radical framework that changes the way we look at or act on things. To be queer is to challenge the accepted notions of gender, sexual orientation and relationships. Queer magic challenges stereotypes, polarity, authoritarianism, and the relationship with the surrounding world. Lou Hart is a queer witch and a founder of Queer Pagan Camp, which is probably Britain’s most important and longstanding pagan network and event community for people of alternative sexualities. An experienced and engaging speaker, she has also written about the need to include queer approaches in magical practice (Magic is a Many Gendered Thing) and is a contributor to The Wanton Green (forthcoming).
Price: £7.00
Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

28 November 11 (Monday)
Tarot Reading Intermediate Course:Progression, Depth, and Complexity
Monday Night Class with Diana Taylor
Okay, you know your greater trumps and your Minor Arcana, you’ve just about got the hang of basic readings. Now you want to go further, and gain competence. This course is her for just that, as it guides you in sharpening your abilities and skills. Deeper knowledge and hands-on practice combine with more depth understanding of complex card meanings. The gifted Diana Taylor takes it to the next level. This course is for people who have taken a Treadwell’s Foundation class in tarot, or and equivalent course elsewhere.  Break over Christmas / New Year.
Price: £160 for eight week course. £80 deposit, balance due before first class
Time: 7.00 – 9.30 pm

30 November 11 (Wednesday)
Baba Yaga & the Virgin of Guadalupe:A One-Woman Performance
Xanthe Gresham
On a road trip through Mexico two deities dangle like dice from the rear view mirror… One is Baba Yaga – once a goddess of fire and fertility, now just a witch in Russian fairytale. With iron teeth and cannibalistic tendencies, she scuttles through the forest in a hut balanced on a pair of hairy chicken legs. The other is The Virgin of Guadalupe – Latin America’s iconic Mother, who launches Mexican waves of tea towels, plastic bracelets and prayer cards across the country. Unlikely travelling companions perhaps, but only they can guide the way to the 360 degree hilltop epiphany, where you, me and the moment collide… Hold on as you ricochet through haunted hotel rooms, day of the dead celebrations, visions and peculiar folklore. Xanthe Gresham is an award-winning storyteller, performer and magical adventurer, who performs across the UK. Seeing her is breathtaking experience.
Price: £7.00
Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

02 December 11 (Friday)
Dark Working Sorcerers:Illusion and the Occult
The London Magician
Magic, the occult science rather than the dodgy card trick, has been around for quite a while. Shamans, alchemists, cunning folk and fortune tellers have all plied their trades since the dawn of time. Some were just out to make a living, others to show that there’s more to the world than meets the eye.  Suspect techniques were sometimes used to turn lead to gold, manifest spirits, control men’s minds and otherwise convince the general public that magic was real, and when they were, then they might have looked something like this… the things you will see tonight. Feats will be performed, spirits conjured, minds read. In this lecture-cum-performance you will meet John Dee, Michael Scot, Aleister Crowley, Roger Bacon and Rabbi Loew.  By London Magician, who brought you the sellout show, ‘Through a Glass Darkly.’ Book early.
Price: £10.00
Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

07 December 11 (Wednesday)
Bohemian Occult Subculture:Golden Dawn in Britain’s 1890s
Dr Christina Oakley Harrington
The Order of the Golden Dawn is the late Victorian ceremonial magic organization which created the template for subsequent occult magic. Western mysteries, Kabbalah, Celtic mysticism, and even Wicca would follow forms it developed. It was an occult renaissance, sudden and powerful. Historians stress the founders’ connection with freemasonry, giving the impression of a club of old Establishment men: gray suits and gray beards, boring and patriarchal. In fact, the Golden Dawn core group were young creatives – friends collaborating, inspired by the mysterious. Together they made art, made ritual, did meditations, had romances – tried to reach into something beyond the normal. These thirty-somethings were bright, feisty achievers with active social conscience. Seeing them anew, we can see the Order of the Golden Dawn anew. Christina Oakley Harrington runs Treadwell’s Bookshop, and is co-editor of Abraxas, Journal of International Esoteric Studies. Repeat of sold-out New York City lecture.

Price: £7.00
Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

10 January 12 (Tuesday)
The Famous Psychic Investigator:The Life, Adventures and Tragedy of Harry Price
Sarah Sparkes
Harry Price (British, 1881-1948) was the most controversial and famous psychic researcher ever to live. A celebrity in his day, he still deserves to be recognised, for he was an emblematic of an important facet of Edwardian society – the mass obsession with the supernatural. He did fascinating studies on haunted houses, investigated psychic activity, visited and tested mediums. He aimed to be scientific and impartial, and ended up discovering a great deal of fraud, as well as a few things he couldn’t explain away. Tonight, Sarah Sparkes introduces this remarkable man, his work, his collection. An engaging speaker, Sarah is also an artist and researcher running a creative research project centred on the Harry Price Library now in Senate House.
Price: £7.00
Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

17 January 12 (Tuesday)
Make it Really Work:Results Magic with HypnosisTechnique
Mark Smith
Mark Smith, a clinical hypnotist and magical practitioner, leads this four-part intensive short course, in which each participant will select a specific life-enhancing positive magical goal. Then, with hypnosis and chaos magic techniques, each person will work to achieve it by the end of the course. Mark will teach the steps and techniques from both disciplines, and there will be feedback all the way through. Attendance at all four sessions is essential, and intensive work independently is expected. Included in the price of the course is a private directed session with Mark and his hypnosis CD, The Chaos Chamber available only to students of this course). Rave reviews from previous students. Numbers strictly limited  in this results-based, focussed group. Dates: 17 Jan, 24 Jan, 31 Jan, 7 Feb.
Price: £130 (£60 deposit, £70 balance due on first night)
Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start to 9.30 pm

18 January 12 (Wednesday)
Sun Struck:On the Dangers and Pleasures of Solar Sexuality
Dr Stephen Alexander
“How strange it would be if some women came / forward and said: / We are sun-women! / We belong neither to men nor our children nor / even to ourselves / but to the sun.” D. H. Lawrence.  Stephen Alexander tonight investigates this strange, queer idea in the context of Continental philosophy, in a formal paper followed by discussion. Whilst the sun is undoubtedly delicious, if you are a woman in love, to feel warm kisses upon one’s skin and to open like a flower before the sun, so too does the sun drink blood and burn flesh. ‘Melanin and melanoma’ could be an alternative title for this presentation. In learning how to love and be loved by the sun in a cosmic-carnal sense, one is left dehumanised and stripped naked before an uncaring universe wherein integral being ceases and life is soon exhausted. Please join us for a mid-winter’s night of object-oriented philosophy, perverse materialism, and pagan astro-porn (please note: sun cream and other lubricants are not provided). Stephen Alexander received his PhD in Continental Philosophy from Warwick University. He writes and presents occasional papers at Treadwell’s.
Price: £7.00
Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

25 January 12 (Wednesday)
Eliphas Levi :Father of Modern Occultism
Dr Christopher McIntosh (Exeter)
Eliphas Lévi (French, 1810-1875, Alphonse Louis Constant) was a key figure in the development of occultism as we know it today. HP Lovecraft called him as ‘that cryptic soul who crept through a crack in the hidden door and glimpsed the frightful vistas of the void beyond.’ He influenced not only esotericists such as Madame Blavatsky and the Golden Dawn but also writers such as Huysmans, Baudelaire and Yeats. Famously, he popularised the Tarot as a magical system. His books are still widely read, and his Goat of Mendès drawing is now iconic. In this illustrated lecture Dr Christopher McIntosh talks about Lévi’s life and work, examining his significance and enduring legacy. A night of esoteric history, alive and engaging. Dr Christopher McIntosh is an historian of Western esoteric traditions, on the teaching faculty of Exeter University’s Esotericism Centre. His book Eliphas Lévi and the French Occult Revival, first published in 1972, has recently been re-published by SUNY.
Price: £7.00
Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

15 February 12 (Wednesday)
Planetary Magic :Eight Week Course of Theory and Practice
Sue Merlyn Farebrother
This course immerses you in planetary magic. Working with the planets – with their personalities and powers – has been at the core of Western magic for over a thousand years, from Picatrix to Golden Dawn to Chaos Magic.  We are proud to present a course where this core knowledge can be learnt and digested in depth. It explores mythological, astrological and psychological meanings as used in esoteric thinking and magical practice. Sue Merlyn Farebrother has been a professional astrologer for over 30 years, is trained as a psychotherapist with the Psychosynthesis and Education Trust, and gained an M.A. in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology at Bath Spa University in 2007. She is bright, organised, focussed — and has delightfully dry sense of humour. The course meets on eight Wednesday evenings.

Price: £160 (£80 deposit, balance due on first night)
Time: 7.00 pm to 9.30 pm

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Review: Carry On The Flame: Destiny’s Call, By Jodine Turner

Jodine Turner is an Oregon-based writer of young adult and adult fantasy fiction, a therapist and a consecrated princess.

Carry On The Flame: Destiny’s Call is the third book in the Goddess of the Stars And The Sea series, which Jodine began writing whilst living in Glastonbury. Despite being part of a series, it can be enjoyably read as a stand-alone novel in it’s own right. In it, Jodine has explored a young woman’s initiation into the spiritual, her difficulties accepting that initiation and the horrors of a jealous aunt in a style which is well-written, thoughtful and a thoroughly compelling read. Destiny’s Call is a well-written love story which touches on some of the issues facing humanity in relation to our connection with the Divine. After enjoying the well-developed characters and captivating plot of Destiny‘s Call, we look forward to reading the next in the series!

Visit Jodine’s website at for more news on her writing and other work.

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The Ghost of 22 Captain

by Joshua J. Mark

The return of 22 Captain to his family land elicited an ambiguous response from his dead family. As he reported it, they “showed their teeth” but said nothing. Realizing this gesture could be interpreted as either a blessing or a curse, he set off on his journey home, conscious only of a certain relief at putting some distance between himself and his deranged relatives.

Quite a walk – and he only three feet tall – if that – marching his little leather boots through the forest – under trees fifty or a hundred times his height with the wails and cheers of those who had cared for the earth while they lived bouncing off his wooden ear. His smile was fixed – his thin moustache undampened, and his high blue captain’s hat sat tilted back on his head. He knew the way home. No amount of passing seasons – not even ninety-eight years worth – could cloud his memory. Nor did the changes in the terrain set him off course; he would have known his way should sky scrapers have been reared across the land since his death. He toddled on (he would prefer “marched” but one owes something to verisimilitude) until he broke from the forest and found a paved road. True, he did marvel somewhat at that but no matter – he knew where he was and who he was – and it was time he was getting home.

A freak October snow storm had blanketed our town only days before. Shops were selling Halloween candy next to shovels and salt. The two feet of snow on the ground slowed his passage through the woods – one would have seen only his resolute hat and two eyes pushing through the forest. On the paved road he made better time. The night was clear with a three quarter moon that refracted off the snow and illuminated the road and trees – their branches and trunks silver and white in the strange, luminous darkness. And, he said, he sang a little song as he “marched” – a song they used to sing in the fields at harvest time – but I have forgotten the words.

This all happened long ago now and yet, really, it seems like yesterday. I was not at home at the time. I was staying at my friend Kayla’s house while she was in the city at her mom’s funeral. I didn’t know her mom but I sure knew funerals and I didn’t envy her the experience. Her house was a large place she’d just expanded from an older, smaller home on a wide patch of land ringed by woods near the far end of the village of Galen’s Mills. I had been seduced by her satellite TV and my life, that night, revolved around trying to orchestrate the taping of three movies – on three different channels – on three different video tapes. Yes, I said `video tapes’. I told you this was long ago.

I had this loathing of inconsistency then. I could not bear to have a six hour video cassette of, say, “Apocalypse Now” and “Hearts and Minds” with “Annie Hall” sandwiched between. It was all or nothing. It had to make sense. None of this mixing. Mixing bothered me. Mixing confused things -confused emotions, confused thoughts. I wanted things simple and uncomplicated.

I’m not a great thinker now and I wasn’t one then. I’m easily confused. I can hardly figure out how turning a metal key in a cylinder starts a car. I have no idea how I can move two tons of steel by pressing my foot on a gas pedal; never mind serious stuff. But I was trying my mind at serious stuff back then. I was reading books on spirits – ghosts – and what worlds could be waiting to welcome the soul after death. I had only just learned that Halloween is known by pagans as `Samhain’and how the veil between those living and the dead grows thin at that season.

I’d experienced what some people call `hauntings’ all my life, raised in upstate New York where, as everyone knows, the dead rise to walk as the evening descends; but experiencing and understanding are pretty different things. You know, someone you love goes to France or Germany, you get a postcard telling you what it’s like and what they’re doing. Doesn’t happen with death. No one sends postcards back from that place, at least no one I knew. My dad had just taken that trip a few months before and I missed him. I wanted to know where he was. I wanted a postcard. I thought of trying a séance that night, what with the veil being so thin and all, but I couldn’t muster up the courage to do it alone. I wasn’t even sure one could do a séance alone. Then, of course, thinking about talking to a dead person just scared me; it was much more comfortable to concentrate on the TV.

The knock came at the door at precisely 12:05 am. “Mr. Jordan” had just ended and I was inserting the cassette to record “Liberty Valance”. The trick was to get the satellite swinging as I changed the tapes in the VCR; by the time the new station was selected I had the new cassette in and was perfectly poised, fingers lightly on the buttons, to snatch another film from the ether.

I glanced, surprised, out the living room window at the front porch, saw no one, and turned back. The little black box atop the set clicked into place on satellite station T4 and I flipped through the channels to number 16 – the knock came again – a bright knock – one could say “sprightly”, a lively rap-rap-rap -unmistakable now. My attention was diverted. Who could be at the door at midnight Monday morning? Kayla’s place was quite isolated out at the far end of the village; no trick or treaters had knocked on the door all night. Why now at midnight?

Yes. My attention was diverted. It was only – at most – two seconds; but it was enough. I whirled back to the TV and, Good God, the opening credits were spanning the screen. I slammed the record button and just as quickly slammed the stop/eject. It was just not done. It just could not be done. Better no movie than one clipped and slipshod like a thrift shop tux. I pounded the `off’ button into the TV and the screen went black; then I proceeded out to see to the cause of this untimely rapping.

I opened the door – and no one was there; until I looked down. He was as I’ve described him earlier: about three feet tall, thin, in a dark blue fireman’s cap with 22 Capt on it, blue fireman’s coat and pants and knee high boots. He had a cheery face and very merry eyes which radiated an electric delight.

“I’m home!” he smiled.


“Home,” he said.

He walked past me, through the kitchen, and hopped up on the sofa in the living room. His feet stuck out over the edge. I stared at him stupidly from the kitchen, my hand still on the knob of the front door.

“Oh, moving pictures!” he chirped. “I love `em. Never seen `em, but I knew I’d love `em.”

He turned and grinned at me – then turned back to stare at the blank screen.

“Would you mind?” he smiled, turning toward me again.

I walked silently over to the TV and pulled the set on. The screen filled with light and the room with sound.

“Hot damn,” he said. “Ain’t that somethin?”

I sat down in the chair next to the sofa and watched him watching TV. I knew who he was. I had read of him in Kayla’s local history book – only a passing reference there. But the old people remembered 22 Captain from stories their parents told and, if you stayed around Galen’s Mills long enough, you’d sooner than later hear someone talking – remembering events that happened before their time; when the mills still ran down by the river near the ice houses and the great estates rose high on the hills of the town, 22 Captain was a folk hero in his own time. Fighting fires was his idea of fun – and they’d say he never lost a single life in any fire he put down (except once Mrs. Milroy’s hog – a prize winner – of course).

I had been intrigued by the man – as I am always intrigued by those who have what I have not or can do what I can only dream of, and I’d pictured him strong and robust, a good six feet. No one had ever mentioned the fact that the man was only three feet tall – a significant detail to omit, I feel anyway.


“Yes?” he said, his eyes on the screen.

“You’re Twenty-two Captain.”

“No doubt about that.”

I sat back and stared down at my sneaker. I wiggled my toes and thought – then leaned forward again.



“Do you know that you’re dead?”

“No doubt about that either.”

He glanced at me, then back to the TV.

“You sure do like to state the obvious, boy.”

“Well, I didn’t know if you knew,” I said. “You see, I’ve read how sometimes spirits’ll come back to a place – sometimes haunt a place for years – `cause they don’t know they’re dead. I just thought -well – that you should know.”

“Thank you, son.”

I sat back in the chair and watched him watching TV. I was no stranger to the occult and the supernatural; to some I was a master, to others a novice – as it is with anything. Whether one or the other, I was used to it all by now, living in a region of New York where the woods and streams, the houses and the rotting hovels were alive, swirling, with past inhabitants. Mill workers or transparent daughters of the Cooper, an Indian Prince or phantom bucks – one or more had roamed or run through my living room or kitchen any hour of the day or night ever since I was aware I was alive and had a memory. I was used to invisible feet on the stairs and faucets going on by themselves. I was used to sightings out of the corner of my eye or the lights flipping on and off. What I was not used to was one who wanted to stay, one who was solid, one who appeared, not in a sudden flash to be suddenly gone again, but at the door – knocking at the door – stating he was home. I leaned forward again.


“Call me Captain.”



“What do you want?”

“Oh, nothing for now. Maybe a beer a little later.”

“No, – no. I mean, why are you here?”

“Felt like coming home.”

“This was your home?”

“Sure was. The land, you understand, not the house,” he said. He glanced around and then said, “Well, parts of it I recognize. Wasn’t nearly so large in my time.”

“And – that’s it. That’s all you wanted – was to come home.”


“You don’t have some – some mission, or – uh – message, or warning or anything?”


“You don’t want to talk? Ease some regret – some guilt you carried with you to your grave?”


I stared at him.

“You just want to sit here and watch TV?”

“You mean the moving pictures?”

“Yeah -those.”


This contradicted everything I had ever read.

So that night we watched television. I tried to explain it to him and also what the VCR was – but he wasn’t interested and told me to hush up finally. He somehow drank a beer and enjoyed it immensely as he laughed uncontrollably all the way through “Days of Heaven”. Sometime between three and four I fell asleep.

The next morning I’d have thought the whole thing a dream – but there was his empty beer bottle on the couch table. I knew I hadn’t had a beer because if I had I’d have woken up with my usual one beer hangover. Even so – and even after all my reading and experience – it was difficult to believe the events of the night were anything more than an elaborate dream.

I spent the day in the forest behind my own house cutting and hauling cords of wood to sell. I’d lost my job at the health food store when the boss caught me eating a Big Mac in my car one afternoon. I didn’t live far from Kayla’s house and, after a quick stop at KFC, I returned there. The TV was going when I came in and there on the couch, feet up, beer in hand, was 22 Captain. He nodded and smiled. I smiled back. His gold buttons shone brightly in the flickering light from the TV screen.

“Is that fried chicken I smell?”

“Yeah. You want some?”

“No, thanks, son. Just love that smell. Reminds me of home.”

So I ate my chicken and sat on the couch next to him watching TV. A Clint Eastwood western was on and the Captain was really getting into it. I had a thousand questions but he was having too much fun and I didn’t want to bother him.

Later, though, when the movie ended, I asked him, “What’s it like to be dead?”

“What’s it like to be alive?” he said.

“Well – ok, I guess.”

“Same here.”

“But – what’s that mean? Can’t you tell me anything?”

“What do you want to know?”

“Well – anything. What it’s like.”

“Where you been besides here?”

“Travelled to?”


“Not many places. Maine mostly. The coast.”

“So what’s Maine like? Never been.”

“Oh, it’s beautiful. The ocean air is so fresh – I always feel like my lungs are getting cleaned out when I’m there. And the pines – you go inland a little? The pines are so sweet smelling and tall. I just lay there sometimes on the soft needles after breakfast and watch the sunlight dancing through the branches above me. Dancing down – to me, you know?”

“Knew a fellow from Maine once. A logger. Don’t know if he was from the same part you’re talking about. But I asked him the same question I just asked you.”

He turned from the TV and smiled at me.

“He said the state of Maine was God’s outhouse and the Lord just hadn’t gotten round to mucking it yet.”

He laughed.

I smiled and looked at him.

“Same with death -or life. Depends on who you ask. I can’t tell you but what I’ve experienced. When they first get there most say they’re miserable – they want their woman again or their man again or their baby again in their arms. Some moan after a cigarette again in the morning with the winter sun coming through the kitchen window, or a cup of coffee or the sound of birds toward dusk. They miss the earth something awful. Others don’t give a damn `bout anything – probably didn’t notice what they had when they was alive and didn’t give a damn then either `cause they were worrying over things too much to even notice an Autumn leaf.

“But they pretty much all calm down -some sooner and some later and there’s some never do. Depends on their understanding. You see, folks fear death because they think it’s everything you’ve ever had being taken away. It’s not. It’s everything you’ve ever lost being returned to you. It’s just that, well, some people don’t know what they got when they’ve got it – so they don’t feel the value when it comes on back to `em. They don’t recognize it, see?

“For me? When I get to missing the earth too much, why, I just pay a call.”

“Is there a Heaven?”

“Sure there is – if you want to go there.”

“Are you there? Is that where you’re from?”


“Where then?”

“Right here. This is my home.”

Throughout the week I stayed there 22 Captain visited every night. We always watched TV but in the early morning we’d sit and talk before he left. He told some great stories. Funny stories. I’d never laughed so much. I forgot all about taping movies. He said he visited all the old places during the day or sometimes sat and watched me cutting wood. I told him to make some sort of sign, if he was out there with me when I was sawing, but he wouldn’t. He said I was doing dangerous work and ought to keep my mind on it instead of looking around for signs from spooks.

The last night we were together he took from his pocket a small, thin pen knife and put it in my hand.

“Keep this,” he said.

“Thanks.” I was startled.

He sat back on the sofa, his stubby legs protruding his feet over the edge.

“You worry too much, son,” he said. “It’s in your features. You don’t even have to speak – it’s all over your face you worry too much.”

I smiled at him and looked down at the knife. It was thin, inlaid with pearl, and had a small, gold chain attached to one end. I ran my finger across the smooth sides, keeping it closed.

“You take that thing out now and again.” he said. “You get to worrying, you take that thing out and recall to mind that when that knife was made, when I carried it, the earth was a different place – but folks then was worrying same as you. They worried themselves and they worried others but they endured and the earth endured after them. And when you’re gone the earth is going to be an even different place – but folks’ll worry still and endure still. Things ain’t half so bad as you think. You read too much – I can tell in how you put your words together and by the kind of moving pictures you watch. You see things sorrowful and you see things pained. But you oughta know that it doesn’t all have to be that way.”

I nodded, looking down at the knife.

“I’m not giving you a sermon. No call to look so hang-dog. Could I get a beer?”


“I’m going back tonight.” he said, setting the beer down on the table. He looked like a four-year old sitting on the sofa.

“Back where?”

“See the family. They’re an odd bunch, but they’re blood.”

Then he told me of his leaving and his march through the woods the week before.

“You coming back ever?” I asked

“Might. Don’t know.”

“I enjoyed your visit.”

“You’re good company, son. Hospitable, a good listener – you got fine beer here – if only you didn’t worry so much.”

“I’ll work on it, Captain.”

“You do that,” he said. “Who’s your lady friend lives here?”

“Oh, that’s Kayla. She’s just a friend. I mean, she’s not a `lady friend’ or anything.”

“I see,” he said, then smiled, winked at me. “You might want to work on that, too.”

He was gone when I got up in the morning -there was not even the empty beer bottle as a souvenir. I went back and lay in bed and handled his knife over and over. I wondered how a spirit could produce a heavy, material object from a ghostly pocket and leave it with me – how a phantom could drink a beer or leave an imprint on a sofa cushion – why none of these things were ever discussed in the many books on the supernatural I’d read. And then I remembered and tried not to worry.

That night I watched TV by myself and felt the knife in my pocket and I missed the Captain; but I tried not to worry. I felt like I’d gotten my postcard, sure, and I could imagine my dad with the Captain under some great canopy of violet and gold by some eternal lake, laughing at the old stories and I’d smile and feel all right. Then, a moment later, I’d miss him again, miss them both, and I’d feel it all just wasn’t enough.

I never told Kayla about that night; I’ve never told anyone until now. Maybe I should have told her. Maybe it would have changed how everything turned out and we could have started something new together instead of drifting apart on our own separate seas of grief. I thought I’d just sound crazy talking about a ghost but now I don’t care. He was real; it was all real. He never came back and I’ve never forgotten him and, even now as I am writing this page, that knife hangs heavy in my left breast pocket – and I’m still trying not to worry all these years later. It’s not easy. I suppose the only way to really stop is to open the knife up and use it. But then that’s not what he gave it to me for.

Back to the Index

Ancient Elders, we remember you
By Liz.

As we gather in this sacred place,
to meet friends, old and new,
To mark this Samhain Sabbat,
an Ode dear Ancient Elders,
we write for you,

Without you, we’d not be here
to share this love today,
So Ancient Elders hear us,
especially when we say,

Our lives you did give too us,
to live to the full, and to enjoy,
A heart that’s strongly beating
in every girl, and in every boy.

Your blood is pumping through our veins,
your wisdom in our mind,
Your spirit rides with us every step of the way,
And your kindness is all around, we find.

Your love and nurture steering us
so we may be the best,
Your gracious ways of forgiving us
whenever we put you to the test,

Your guidance there to help us
at times when we want to climb tall,
Your patience there to catch us
at the times when we happen to fall,

And as the young grow older,
They should really know,
It was you, dear Ancient Elders
Who helped us all to grow

Past, present and future,
Cradle to Grave, you are there
So hear us Ancient Elders,
With these words we stand and share

The great wheel turns,
Hail to Death!
Rebirth Comes.

Back to the Index


By Carolyn Agee

 I grow wary of dreams,
and what what they tell me, unbidden,
in the unconscious hours of slumber.
Solemn warnings grasping for the corners of my mind,
vivid colours to set my soul on fire,
dread cloak of foreboding to snuff it out.
Fate spins on a single strand, ever twisting.
In the noon of waking, still, hangs the grey twilight,
a gift I would forgo.

The Autumn equinox seems to have crept up on us quickly this year, bringing with it a rich bounty of content in the Pagan Friends Webzine’s Autumn Equinox issue. Read on for some great features from Christopher Josiffe, Alex Sumner and Charles Vella, a selection of Autumnal poetry and some fantastic artwork and photography.


An Interview With The Pagan Friends Forum’s Si


The Magic of the Earth By Alex Sumner

Modern Grimoire Magic: Folk Magick & The Solomonic Path By Aaron Leitch

Herbology By Jessica Howard

Selenite Meditation By Beth Holtum

Batty About Bats By Liz

Working With Boji Stones By Beth Holtum

East Anglian Scarecrows, the Crowman and the Pagan Origins of Saying “Grace” By Liz

Essays & Extended Features

Origins of Writing: Magic or Accountancy? By Christopher Josiffe

Regular Features

Mabon Week Moonlore By Liz

Should we take another look at the Gods & Spirits? By Jonny Blake

True Magick in a Virtual World By T. Fox Dunham

Tools, Tricks & Ingredients

Rosa Damascena – Rose Absolute By Suzannah Hill

Meet the Family – Tourmaline
By Beth Holtum

Personal Accounts & Experiences

The Travels of Charles Vella


The Spellcasting Picture Book: Visual Tools For Grown-Up Magic 2nd Edition By Diana Raichel


Artwork By Gaynor Lewis

Decorated Skulls By The Pagan Friends Forum’s Tas Mania

Photography By Cai Thomas
Corn Sunset
Longleat Bat
Floral Treat
Pink Skies

Photography By Nik
Untitled 1
Untitled 2
Untitled 3


Lucy’s Tale By Logos Tartaros

Poetry Corner

Apple Time By Joan McNerney

September Song By Hedgewizard Erb

The Sock Puppet Poppet By Rebecca L. Brown

A Deserted Place By Linda Gibson

Butterfly BY Linda Gibson

Want to contribute to the Samhain issue?

Are you a budding writer, artist or photographer? Do you have something to say to the pagan community? We’re already looking for exciting new content to include in our Samhain issue. We’re interested in your personal anecdotes, poetry and short stories; if its interesting and relevant, we want it. For more information on how to submit to us, visit our submissions page. We’re looking forward to seeing what you’ve got!

We are now also accepting material for review and events listings for inclusion in the webzine.

The views and opinions expressed in this webzine are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily represent those of the Pagan Friends team. Any advice given within articles is not intended to take the place of professional medical advice, legal advice or otherwise.

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Cornfield by Cai Thomas

An Interview With The Pagan Friends Forum’s Si

What moved you towards RM? What age did you conduct your first full ritual and what was it’s intent? What do you see as the most positive impact of societies such as Golden Dawn? What do you see as the most negative impact?

Well I actually started off as a Chaos Magician, It would have been in the early to mid 1990’s and I had books by Phil Hine and Peter Caroll but nothing worked. I had heard of Al Crowley but didn’t know much about him; this was in the pre internet days, and I lived in the provinces, So didn’t have acesses to Occult Bookshops. I had picked up the Chaos Magic books from WHSmiths Mind Body Spirit section.
I met someone who was a practising RM who gave me my first Ritual. I would have been in my early 30s. He did sort of throw me in at the deep end with a Enochian Ritual. It worked.

The positives of the GD? Well its a bit like the positives of the Freemasons, fraternal organisations tend to help their fraternal brothers first so if your a member of the organisation then there may be a lot of help, but if your not a member then its all a bit secretive and closed shop. So saying, the general guiding principles of a lot of these organisations seem to filter down to the general populous through the years in a positive manner. Well you can argue this point, but I believe that to be the case.
So saying I think that certain Individuals have done a lot of good (and harm). And usually the same individuals, Crowley being one, His life and work are fascinating. But it requires a little bit of knowledge about ritual Magic to understand his successes and impact on Modern Paganism.

By the same token I see the secretive aspect of RM holds it back, A lack of transparency allows wild rumours to breed. And because RM is quite a “academic” style of practising Magic then it suffers from the same pitfalls as Academia.

Your interest in science as well as paganism has stuck out to me more than most things, is there a specific reason why you voice this? do you believe other pagans out there share your interests or perhaps people are starting to reinvent these ancient philosophy’s and cosmology in the form of a modern update?
A bit of a rambling answer to this one.

I don’t see why science and paganism have to be at odds with each other. Partly because most of the RM I practise flourished in the late 1900’s and early 20thC, in a era that we now take for granted, but how different would our lives be without people like Charles Darwin, Marie Curie and Thomas Edison? Without trying to sound like Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons. If you can talk to a modern day scientists “off the record” as it were then a lot of them are more open minded about esoteric subjects. On the record they have to justify their Grants and Budgets so they tend to be a lot more conservative. Which is a shame.

I trained as a Engineer, I have a logical mind. I can see RM as a kind of almost-science because it has a set of “rules”. Things like Gravity and Magnetism existed before we put a name to them. I see RM and Magic in general as a science that we just don’t fully understand yet.

It seems to me a lot of Pagans want to live in some kind of pre industrial society, don’t get me wrong I enjoy camping, cooking on a open fire and making my own bread, but wouldn’t want to do it full time. When we go camping its nice to come home to a hot shower and comfy bed. Hot and Cold running electricity and wireless internet are the benefits of Science. So I’ll embrace them. And as a society we don’t hold our scientists in high esteem either…Look up the Story of Alan Turning one of the fathers of modern computing, he certainly saved thousands of lives in WWII by shortening the war by cracking the Enigma Code. Yet was persecuted for his Homosexuality (that bits not mentioned so much in the modern history books).

Isaac Newton is remembered as coming up with the theory of Gravity. Yet he was always much more interested in Alchemy and wrote a lot more on Alchemy than he ever did on Physics. Watson or Crick? was rumoured on a LSD/Shamanistic trip when he saw the double helix of the DNA strand. Its just that some inventions of science benefit a lot of people, Its not science that’s the problem its Business and Economics.

Lets remember in the Greek, Sumerian, Egyptian cultures, the Magician was also the Scientist, There was still a Priest class that interpreted and charged the muggles payment for preforming magical acts. This is a point that the neo pagans tend to convinenty overlook.

If you Google Noetics then its very cutting edge Quantum physics and maths, But some of its theories are similar to the “Rules” of Magic that Magicians have known about for years. Its a case of the men in the white coats catching up with the men in the robes.

Did you find kabbala hard, and how has it helped you regarding magic?

Kabbala is a set of rules, Its a bit like a Map showing where many have been before. And just like following a Map there are things you can do. You can take short cuts across the land and stray off the roads marked out on the map but you can’t walk on water. Its a question of learning which shortcuts work for you.

Just as the early Christian Church was unified at the Council of Nicea into what we recognise as Catholicism today, the same thing happened to the different Judaic cults they were unified into one particular faith. I try and bear this in mind when working with the Ballast. Its history as well as its current incarnation.

RM isn’t Kabbala, Kabbala is just one strand. Once you get into RM then you find its a mix of different influences,

I would like to know what was the most successful working you’ve ever performed please.

That’s a tricky one to answer…most of my rituals are towards one goal, to be a “better” person. There have been a few life changing events one of the most successful was the circumstances in which I met Pen. I experienced a feeling like vertigo or falling and the feeling of being watched. I had done a ritual many months beforehand and it felt like the culmination of that ritual.

How do you handle negativity aimed directly at you; have you ever been on the receiving end of somebodies jealousy or other malice,  or the victim of prejudice etc., and if so,  how did you cope?

Most of the time I ignore it, These days I’m getting more verbal and argue back….My problem is I’m not very tactful or diplomatic.
On the interweb, sometimes people want the argument,they relish the attention, I know I’m not going to change anyone’s mind so I won’t give them the satisfaction of playing semantics with me.

In real life, I’m different I’m more inclined to patiently argue my corner and point of view but again if I can see in their eyes I’m not getting anywhere then I’ll back off, I’m not wasting my breath on them.

If someone wants to send malice towards me…then the gloves are off, I’ll use every trick and tactic I know including cursing them but only if their malice starts to affect me and mine. (Thing is its not so much other Pagans/Magicians who act like this, its Muggles who tend to be more negative towards me, and yes a muggle can curse, they just don’t know what they are doing). I cope by sending it back, sometimes with interest.

Have you a favourite method of protection?

Yes I preform the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram on a regular basis, its a Elemental Banishing that is designed to clear the area.

Is there something in your collection of shinies/ritual tools etc., you feel you couldn’t do without? Has anyone ever gifted you something very magical?

Hmmmm, “Tools” I differ from a lot of RM’s in that I don’t always use a wand, knife, staff, ect, If I need to point I use my finger. I do have some decks of Tarot cards I would be very disappointed to loose. And I was once given a black scying bowl but to be honest I haven’t used it….yet.
A more in depth answer is that because certain items like Daggers and Wands have such a symbolic meaning they become specialised. Great for certain purposes but not so good for others.

Have you a favourite (Pagan) author? and a favourite book?

Thinking about it its got to be Crowley, I don’t agree with everything he did and said, and I certainly don’t follow everything he wrote or try and emulate him, as many do. But for the sheer amount of information he put down on paper you can always find something pertinent in his books. As to which book? That’s a toss up between Magic in Theory and Practice, Magic without tears and Book 4

A mentor? somebody who taught you a lot, who you look up to?
I did have a mentor, He did teach me a lot, he threw me in at the deep end, I had some practical successes and results which make it a lot harder to deny the existence of Magic. Do I look up to him? No I don’t. He knows more than me, and probably always will because he’s been practising a lot longer than me. But friendship wise he let me down. So I don’t have anything to do with him any more.

Is there a place you like to visit often for a particular reason, do you get the feeling of “good” places, and “bad” places?
I like beaches where the element of water meets the element of earth and its always in constant flux, there’s a energy there that I can feel and like to tap into. Though that’s not a RM thing, its much more a Witchcraft thing.
Yes there are good places, places that are tranquil and relaxing and bad places with a sinister atmosphere, There’s a small church we visit a few times a year which is very spiritual. Yet 300 yards away is a tower which most of the time you can feel something “nasty” watching you.

Does the weather affect you, or the stars, or storms, etc.
The cycle of the moon certainly affects me. Not too sure about my Magic, but certainly my moods and energy levels and so does the weather, I get headache and irritable before a storm. But again that’s maybe more of a personal thing than a RM thing. Common sense dictates I wouldn’t attempt a complicated ritual when feeling “pre storm” because I wouldn’t be able to concentrate enough.
Again RM is usually preformed indoors in a temple or sacred space. Very often the beginning parts of a ritual are to cleanse the area and bring the mind into focus as not to be influenced by external forces such as the weather.

Have you a favourite element?
Yes Air, its the easiest and most effective way of getting things done…though not as strong in some ways as water or fire.

Does any of the 13 full moons or the 8 esbats have personal significance for you? How do you celebrate the wheel of the year as a rule?
Yes Beltaine and Samhain I tend to celebrate in my own way, a fire and a small meditation. The rest of the year, not so much.

Have you ever had a familiar of your own?
Nope, didn’t even have pets till I met Pen.

If you could turn back time, would you change anything?
On a personal level? No.
Don’t get me wrong there are things I have done that I regret, but changing them would change who I am now, and I’m happy with who I am today. Plus I’ve read enough sci fi to understand paradox loops and wouldn’t want to get stuck in one of them.

If you had a time machine, who would you visit and why?
I wouldn’t want to change history, the old “Killing Hitler might prevent my Grandparents meeting so prevent me being born” paradox again. I’d certainly like to go back and observe events, but that’s for my own satisfaction. And would just observing events be any more different than watching them on TV? Plus as soon as we had the technology to go back and observe then we would change anyway-hopefully for the better. Because then we would know that we could be observed too.

Seeing that you live with a witch how do you find mixing the CM with craftwork and have you taken any craft practises and added them to your CM workings?
Well there’s certainly a influence. CM is not “One Path” although it may appear like that to someone on the outside. There’s a tremendous mix of Enocian, Hermetisim/Egyptian, Goetia, Kabbala, Zoroastrian, Eastern Practices such as Yoga and Buddhism/Shinto/Taoism. I suppose what most people see as RM is the Work of the Golden Dawn and O.T.O. So why not add a little Witchcraft into the mix.
There’s also the Argument that Crowleyghost-wrotete GeralGardner’sr’s ritualWhetherther believelieve it or not, a lot of the 2nd and 3rd degree Gardarian ritcertainlytanly haCeremonialonial feel to them. Alex Saunders used Solomonic and Goetic Magic. So there’s a influence there. I like to think the Influence can go both ways. The line is very blurred in the area of using magical incenses and oils, which particular path used them first? The Cunning Woman in the village making oils out of what she had to hand or the Ritual magician making a oil from instructions written down in a dusty old grimoire? Its a chicken and egg situation to me.

As far as taking craft practices goes, Well you know I’m quite happy to practice RM outside, on a beach.

Although we are both classed as Pagans there are huge differences in our chosen practices, its never been a issue as we have always respected each others Path.

My take on it is this; ritual Magic is a mix of many different styles so why not utilise a little Witchcraft too. Here in the Cardiff area there are some RM’s who also practise and have a interest in Voodoo.

What’s for dinner? (and can I have some)
What’s for dinner, Well it will be something home cooked, made from fresh and cheap ingredients, 3 out of 4 of us in the family are meat eaters so I’m used to catering for a vegetarian (well Piscatarian-he eats fish). I don’t believe in freezing Meat or Veg unless I have to, so I make a almost daily trip down to the supermarket. I would love to shop at farmers markets and buy more organic stuff but we are on a tight budget so it has to be the supermarket, I’m a real bargain hunter and will always check out the reduced price section, if there is something cheap there then that will become the basis for the meal. We don’t do takeaways, because of the way we eat a takeaway makes us both feel uncomfortable if not ill and I can make my own Chinese, Indian or Burger and Chips meals. If on the rare occasions we eat out then a quality restaurant doesn’t make us feel ill. But the cost of the meal may make me feel a bit faint
And yes we do like to cater for others, Just give me a little bit of notice please.

Would you ever consider a path as anything other than an RM?

Well, never say never but it would have to be something pretty extreme to make me take up another path. I am a bit of a dilettantetetete (sp) there’s so much scope within RM to study different disciplines, I can split my time between, the studies of Alchemy, Planetary Magic, Kaballa, Enocian and Goetic. In my experience the most interesting people that I’ve met within the RM world have been those who haven’t slavishly stuck to one path at the exclusion of everything else.

Do you have a patron deity?

Sort of;  I do/have worked with Odin a lot. but more in his guise as a Magician, and the master of Magic than as the Norse Allfather. I don’t work with the rest of the Norse Pantheon, just him.

Does that make you a heathen or an Odinist?

In my way of seeing it neither. I don’t follow all the “rules” of the heathen or Odinist creed. When a CM works with a god, its a different kind of relationship.  Its more a relationship of equals, symbiotic. He helps me and in return I help him. Its not a grovelling “I’m not worthy” kind of relationship but its more a one on one kind of thing. That’s not to say I don’t respect him. He’s taken from me, blood and flesh at times

Interesting… when did you first start to work with Odin?

Odin has always been a god I’ve been fascinated by, I read 8 days of Luke when I was 11,  I always see Odin in other figures, like Gandalf and Dumbledore not just physically, but in his attitude. Especially in the last hp where it turns out Dumbledore has his own agenda

Do you work with Odin in any other aspects as a multi-faceted god?

No.  I have given that “all gods are one god” a lot of thought. and it may be true to say . Archetypes may resemble each other

When you work with Odin and then say Mercury who shares a lot of common characteristics, you ‘know’ they are different. its a bit like saying ‘all goetic demons are aspects of the devil.’ which isn’t true

Have you ever felt tempted to talk with Odhinn’s allies or compatriots, such as his sons or wife?

Nope. none of them………interest…(poor choice of word) me when i stared in RM one of the thirst things i learnt was the whole sphere of magic was open to you, Norse, Greek, roman, Caribbean /voodoo, Japanese, Chinese and you work with whoever and whatever is the best fit for the job

Okay, so have they ever tried to call on you?

No, never been contacted by any to the Norse Pantheon……maybe Odin protects his own    he is a jealous god the way i see it. the odin i work with is the wandering shaman, the seeker of the runes, the trickster. not the Allfather, i work with him before he became the one who sits in Valhalla-in a earlier part of his history, if you see what I mean

How has Odhinn shaped your “path” through magic, life and so on??

Well, like i say he’s taken blood and flesh, he taught me some very harsh lessons. taught me that magic wasn’t a game though it is best approached with a sense of humour. but i won’t dedicate myself to him, i work with ‘bigger’ things like the enochian angels and nastier things like the goetic demons too

Have you, or would you ever turn down Odhinn?

Would I turn him down……that’s a tough one to answer…all i can say is i haven’t…yet. but then again he’s never let me down if he let me down….didn’t keep his end of the bargains…then probably yes. sometimes it does the gods good if you have a scream and them and loose your temper with them  it kicks them in the ass and makes them take notice

How does Odhinn fir with the other things you work with? Some Pagans, Heathens especially would frown upon you for not being strictly “purist”

I think Odin doesn’t want – pardon the pun. blind followers. I’ve had ‘discussions’ with heathens about this he’s fine with it being a RM, a lot of it is finding and using what works best for what purpose. Odin is good but he has his limits.  he works best (with me) as a ‘teacher’  I don’t call on him for curses/revenge stuff like that. Probably because I don’t see him like that, because i don’t see him in his Parthenon if you see what I mean

Do you adhere to a “religious” path within your workings with Odhinn as an added extra?

That’s a tricky one to answer….some of the CM stuff is very religious-lots of Egyptian gods being called and spells that sound like Psalms and Prayers some of it isn’t…..planetary magic isn’t religious sounding at all planetary magic is…well its almost like electrical circuits and scientific sounding planetary magic is the basis for the sigil side of magic in my humble opinion

How would you say you perceive the universe? Did it change after “becoming” Pagan?

It didn’t change after becoming pagan…..but it really changed for me when i started working through the enochain watchtowers I’m still not sure what being a pagan is i’m still not sure what being a pagan is where being a CM is much easier to define how do I perceive the universe… a mix of planets/astronomy, a physical edge to the universe that we can see and all that stuff Brian Cox bangs on about but also as energy energy and vibrations, cosmic winds, things like that

Well, that pre-empts my next question – “how would you define yourself?” so, how did you “come to” be a CM?

How do i define myself….on forms I put pagan, but I call myself a CM or a occultist there are some ‘pagan’ things i don’t subscribe to  so pagan for me is a umbrella term, like a Baptist calling himself a Christian

Interesting, what sort of things do you mean?

What do I not subscribe to? well who do pagans have to be synonymous with dirty hippies? why should pagans be poor, crushed velvet, beardy weirdy types why cant we be rich, trendy clothes wearing types as well  in short i don’t conform to stereotypes but…well i’ve been around the pagan world for about 10 years now, and i’ve seen a lot of double standards and hypocrisy, IRL as well as online

Is there anything wrong with nudism?

Nudism….depends on your body if you’ve got it flaunt it but if you look like hairy road kill then cover it up if your comfortable and confident with it then most of the time other people accept it if your not confident then it becomes a issue…but that’s true if your weaning clothes that you don’t feel confident it too

Have you ever considered going “moonclad”?

I fall into the hairy road kill camp

Have you ever been “persecuted” or picked on for your beliefs?

Yes of course. but not by anyone that mattered its never affected me in getting a job, or i’ve been followed around by a security guard.

Do you buy into the “persecution complex” many Pagans seem to have?

No.  there’s a load of Bed-sit Crowleys in the CM world but there’s more ‘successfully’ well adjusted people who don’t make a issue out of it

What advice would you offer to someone starting out as a CM?


Interesting, and why is that?

In all honesty, don’t get into CM because you think it will make your life easier, it wont it makes your life more difficult, first of all there’s the whole…..persecution and people treat you differently if you are ‘out’ as a cm and there the whole… need a working knowledge of at least 3 languages, Greek, Hebrew and English you need to learn a lot. I say its about as much learning, hitting the books as university degree so its not a easy option or shortcut

What, if anything, would you recommend instead?

Depends what you want from life….if you ant more money, study and get a better job, if you want women, then hit the gym and lay off the takeaways if you want some kind of spiritual enlightenment then study the occult it will make you a better person but it also takes its toll on you its a bit of complicated one, because some of the rituals will change you, they change your perspective on things.

How do you feel about Otherkin?

I don’t do Otherkin.

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Corn Sunset by Cai Thomas

The Magic of the Earth

By Alex Sumner

Our mother the Earth pulses with the vitality of Spiritual Energy. The psychic imprint of every living being that has ever existed remains within the aura of this planet. But more than this – there exists the energetic signatures of spiritual beings that have ever remained unseen in the purely physical world. Yet more remarkably – the warp and weft of lines of force stretch across the surface of our world in a manner which no one can explain, save by positing the idea that our planet itself lives and breathes and thinks and feels – and remembers. The born-psychic, the clairvoyant who has spent many years developing his or her faculty, and even the complete beginner who can boast no other qualification except for an open mind: all of them – all of you – can detect and interact with these phenomena right now, even as you read these words.

A magical library of ancient wisdom lies scattered across the Earth, and its sacred places represent those points where we can gain access thereto. All parts of the Earth have a sacred character to a greater or lesser extent. However – for practical purposes – one can more easily detect this at sites traditionally associated with worship.

What does this library contain? If you search hard enough – the answer (or at least the method of working out the solution) to any question you might reasonably want to ask. I call it a ‘library’, though, because it takes some searching and not a little ingenuity to discover the correct answer and where it lies. Yet everyone who searches diligently will soon realise that the potential for exploration has no limits.

The Initiated Meaning of Ley Lines

I would like to share a series of practical methods for accessing this spiritual heritage of the Earth.

Ley Lines exist. Some have so much power that the ease of finding them can easily surprise – I speak from personal experience. Commentators on them have long observed that Ley Lines connect places of worship in the ancient world, including both megalithic monuments and sites where now stand modern churches.

But… the question arises: Why do they exist? What purpose do they serve? From one aspect this line of enquiry has little point to it: assuming they predate humanity one can say that ‘they exist’ and ‘they serve themselves.’ Looked at from the viewpoint of the beings that live on the planet – of which humankind comprises but a fraction and not necessarily the most important one at that – a clear tradition exists. Ley Lines serve the function of ‘Spirit Roads,’ i.e. routes used by spiritual entities to traverse the landscape.

A tradition exists, certainly in the British Isles, that the road leading from a church to the local graveyard lies on a perfectly straight path. The folk-belief that arose around this practice held that spirits travel in straight lines – whereas a curved or winding path confuses them. When one examines the layout of the old towns where such beliefs exist, one invariably notices that the church, the graveyard and the connecting corpse-road form part of a Ley Line.

I now believe that this arose from a dimly remembered recollection of how ancient magicians used Ley Lines. The folk-belief held that the “spirits” which used a spirit-road were those of the dead: I, however, say that in the secret tradition they comprised Spirits of the Living, i.e. magicians. (Incidentally I reached this conclusion after having consulted an astral entity of the kind I describe later on in this article.)The magician would memorise every point on the line – every cairn, anvil-pool, earth mound, standing stone, stone circle, etc – in the correct order. He (or indeed she) would visualise each location in turn, mentally traversing the length of the Ley line and coming back again.

Those who have studied astral projection will recognise this as a method for inducing an Out-of-the-Body-Experience (you can practice this for yourself to try this out). The act of successively visualising each point on the Ley Line naturally causes the Magician to enter an altered state of consciousness, loosening the ties to the physical body, and enabling him or her to astrally travel to the sites along that line, and interact whilst there – for example – by receiving psychic impressions at the place in question.

Shamen in South America relate that tribes in Amazonia used this or a similar method to communicate across the whole rain forest, without ever physically leaving their village.

‘Genii Loci’

But Ley Lines do not just exist as paths between one point and another, but as connections between magical and sacred sites.

In spiritual terms nothing – i.e. no physical thing – is truly ever ‘dead.’ Everything, whether mineral, vegetable, or animal, has at least some ‘spiritual life’ to it, though the extent to which each one does varies greatly in each particular case.

The experienced psychic can make contact with each instance of spiritual vitality and communicate with it – but that does not mean that he or she would necessarily find it useful to do so.

However – speaking from personal experience – certain locations upon the Earth have such a large aggregation of spiritual vitality that the energy there behaves as a sentient and intelligent being. These locations coincide with the sites of ancient worship – the very same places that Ley Lines connect together.

The living wisdom of such a site has the traditional term of ‘Genius Loci’ – meaning ‘the spirit of the place.’ If one communicated with a Genius Loci it would appear to ones clairvoyant vision as an actual being – perhaps a person, deity or spirit traditionally associated with such a place. The Genius Loci might exist as an actual being in its own right, or an artificial elemental created by the egregore of the people who worshipped at the site – or a combination of both.

Despite the great age of many sacred sites, one can still find their respective Genii Loci there, even after thousands of years. One can do this by physically visiting the place in question – or by doing so in the astral – hence the reason for them lying along Spirit Roads or Ley Lines.

This too you can attempt yourself. ‘Go’ to a sacred site which you know, and ask its Genius Loci to appear to you clairvoyantly. It can talk to you about such things as what went on at that particular site, the nature of local deity or the people who worshipped there, or about the nature of psychic questing generally. Remember to be respectful towards it, and always thank it when you have finished.

Stonehenge, for example, has one of the most helpful Genii Loci I have met. And no wonder, since it has lain at the centre of British spiritual awareness for over three thousand years, since before even the time of the Druids. From this I can extrapolate a tip for beginners to the practice of contacting Genii Loci: start with major sites as these will prove easier, and move on to more obscure ones as you gain in confidence.

Another practical method: how can one use these Earth mysteries to help solve everyday problems? E.g. health, money, love, etc? Do some research and find a sacred site associated with a health deity, or a money deity, or a love deity – or any deity in the habit of granting boons to devotees. Or maybe a place which, whilst not associated with a know deity, does however have the reputation of bestowing good luck upon its visitors. Go to that site either physically or astrally, and commune with the Genius Loci there, for if anyone can help you out, they will.

Advanced Work

However… where to find all these sites, these nexus-points of ancient energy? Available literature can tell you so much – and some of admittedly has more reliability than most – but ultimately finding them oneself satisfies to a far greater extent than book learning ever will. If I were to say to you: “There is a Ley Line in such-a-place, running in such-a-direction” – that will not do you much good. The subject of ley hunting will only come alive when you find one yourself. And this means going on a field trip.

In this connection I would like to relate my experiences of the first time I went dowsing. I had no specially constructed equipment, nothing consecrated or blessed by some wizard or bought from a magical supply shop. A pair of L-rods created from coat-hanger wire, and a mind open to the possibility that dowsing could indeed work formed the only equipment that I had in my possession that day. I also had a teacher, a quite down to Earth woman who possessed absolutely no shred of superstition whatsoever. She had the attitude of “Dowsing is real – don’t ask me how!” She spent half an hour explaining the basic techniques, put the L-rods in my hands, and set me off.

I explored an archaeological site, and noted that the rods crossed at certain points. This I did not think remarkable… until I noticed other people in the same party also had their rods crossing at the very same points.

Some time later I had the opportunity to visit Avebury, and surprised myself by detecting a line of energy passing through the centre of the village via Silbury Hill, a few miles away. But this surprised increased even more when I checked on a map and found that several hundred miles to the south, the same line passed straight through the giant megalithic site at Carnac in Brittany.

I do not claim any talent in dowsing. I found this Ley Line not because of any great ability which I have, but because the energy of the place lay there for me or absolutely anyone else to discover. This incidentally would make a good beginner’s tip: get used to the art by starting from a known power-centre and go from there. Stone-circles make the best such sites at which to practice ones dowsing skills. Arm yourself with a pendulum and a compass – or indeed the Compass app on your iPhone! – and stand in the centre of the circle. Get in the zone, establish your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ signals, then face each stone in turn, asking: “Is there a ley line in this direction?” When you get a ‘yes’, make a note of the bearing so you can check it later. Do not stop when you get at your first ‘yes’, but check the remainder of the stones to see if there are more than one Ley lines.

Earth energy exists. One can sense it not only psychically but – via the rod or pendulum – physically as well. The potential to explore it and its many mysteries has no end.

You can find more of Alex’s work at

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Modern Grimoire Magick: Folk Magick and The Solomonic Path

By Aaron J. Leitch

The medieval systems of “grimoiric” mysticism (of which the European Solomonic tradition is a part) are outlined in such manuscripts as The Key of Solomon the King, the Goetia, the Book of Abramelin, The Magus, etc.[1] The authors of these texts (many of them members of the medieval Catholic Church) drew magickal secrets from the cultures they found around them – such as Jewish Merkavah Mysticism and Qabalah, classical Gnosticism, Arabic Sufism and the rich traditions of European pagan folklore.[2]

The mysticism that evolved among these Christian mages was fairly shamanic. It called upon the Angels and spirits of nature. It described methods of exorcism and acquisition of spirit familiars. Wax images, sacrifices, incantations and necromancy all proved a marked pagan influence on the texts. Yet, they were unquestionably the work of devout Christians, who invoked the name of Jesus, used standard Christian prayers (such as the Pater Noster and the Psalms) as magickal spells, and presented a blatantly Christian mythos.

The Solomonic mystics were unique because they were among the first humans in history to have access to the technology of paper and bound books.[3] (They were very often scholars, scientists or scribes.) Therefore, they naturally recorded much of their tradition into manuscripts called textbooks or “grammars” (French: grimoire). The appearance of these grimoires shocked Roman Catholic and many Protestant authorities so deeply, it triggered the Inquisitions and mass book burnings. What we know of Solomonic mysticism today comes largely from the grimoiric manuscripts that survived.

After the Inquisitions, the Age of Enlightenment dawned in Europe. The surviving grimoires had vanished into private collections and museum archives – mostly guarded by the Masons as occult curiosities. There was the odd scholar or quasi-Masonic group (most of them students of Hermeticism) who discovered the texts and made use of some of the material. You might recognize many of the names – Elias Ashmole, “Dr. Rudd”, Francis Barrett, MacGregor Mathers and Aleister Crowley are just a few. However, few of them practiced the texts on their own terms. The more pagan elements of the grimoires vanished, and the mark of Masonic lodge-style magick was eventually imprinted upon them.

Today, there are many ceremonial groups that make limited use of the Solomonic material – most of them descended from or influenced by a late Victorian quasi-Masonic lodge called the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. There have even been a number of modern Orders that focus entirely on the grimoires,[4] though even they are influenced by post-Golden Dawn magickal methodology. Toward the end of the 20th Century, several books were released that present methods for summoning Angels and spirits based upon (or influenced by) Golden Dawn techniques.[5]

While the modern ceremonial systems may draw names, sigils and talismans from the medieval grimoires, the techniques they utilize are no older than the late 1800s – and in some cases are even younger. The grimoires are not composed of lodge-style ceremonial magick. You’ll find no “Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram” in the Key of Solomon the King. You will not see instructions in the Goetia to inscribe geometric figures in the air. No Tarot-based Elemental Weapons or Lotus Wands are found anywhere in the vast corpus of medieval Solomonic literature.

At the time I wrote my book on grimoire magick, I was operating under the impression that the “living grimoiric tradition” – as recorded by the medieval mages themselves- had long-since ceased to exist. I focused strictly upon the historical European Solomonic tradition, along with suggestions for following a similar path in the modern world. (In fact, I was hoping my book would help to re-ignite the Solomonic tradition, and provide a textbook – grimoire – for it.)

However, over the past several years, I have discovered that I was fundamentally wrong about the passing of the “living grimoiric tradition.” It was not stamped out by the Church, nor has it been dead and buried in Masonic vaults for the past 400 years! Indeed, it survived the inquisitions, migrated to the New World with European immigrants, and – true to its shamanic nature – mutated to a new form. It has been with us right here in America for nearly as long as the nation has existed – and it is currently becoming part of a larger occult revival. I have been shocked to discover just how many people are currently out there really working with this material! Their procedures may or may not differ from what I describe in my book. I may or may not always agree with their philosophies about the magick. Yet, one way or the other, they are using the old methods and getting results.

Thus, contrary to what you may read in my previous work, the Solomonic tradition is alive and growing today. In this essay, I will trace this slightly mutated “grimoiric” trend from Europe to the New World (both New England and the American South), and finally discuss how it is currently affecting aspirants searching for the Solomonic path. Overall, I hope to give the reader a solid impression of what it means when someone – right here in the modern world – calls him or herself a “Solomonic magician.”

European Folk Magick in the New World

The medieval Solomonic grimoires are, in fact, a sub-set of a larger literary genre – the folkloric “receipt-book.” (The word “receipt”, used in this sense, is an archaic form of the word “recipe.”) A receipt-book was a hand-written journal of family and local folklore, passed down from generation to generation.

The typical receipt-book contained such things as agricultural lore, cleaning tips, beauty aids and “home remedy” medicinal secrets. For an example of such domestically-useful content, take this recipe for a plaster that aids healing:

A Very Good Plaster.[6]

I doubt, very much whether any physician in the United States can make a plaster equal to this. It heals the white swelling, and has cured the sore leg of a woman who for eighteen years had used the prescriptions of doctors in vain.

Take two quarts of cider, one pound of bees-wax, one pound of sheep-tallow, and one pound of tobacco; boil the tobacco in the cider till the strength is out, and then s train it, and add the other articles to the liquid: stir it over a gentle fire till all is dissolved.

Or this recipe for curing fatigue:

Another Remedy for Weakness[7]

Take Dittany and St. John’s wort, and put them in good old rye whiskey. To drink some of this in the morning before having taken anything else, is very wholesome and good. A tea made of the acorns of the white oak is very good for weakness of the limbs.

The receipt-books also contained occult lore – in the form of incantations, spells and simple conjurations. Depending on the source, this occultism is variously known as European folk magick, witchcraft or “collections of local superstitions.” For example, here is a folk remedy for the fever:

How to Banish the Fever.[8]

Write the following words upon a paper and wrap it up in knot-grass, (breiten megrich,) and then tie it upon the body of the person who has the fever:

Potmat sineat,

Potmat sineat,

Potmat sineat.

Or, how about this helpful hint for ranchers:

Another Way to Make Cattle Return Home.[9]

Feed your cattle out of a pot or kettle used in preparing your dinner, and they will always return to your stable.

There are also more involved spells, which should sound very familiar to any student of the Solomonic tradition:

To Prevent Bad People From Getting About the Cattle.[10]

Take wormwood, gith, five-finger weed, and assafœtida; three cents’ worth of each; the straw of horse beans, some dirt swept together behind the door of the stable and a little salt. Tie these all up together with a tape, and put the bundle in a hole about the threshold over which your cattle pass in and out, and cover it well with lignum-vitæ wood. This will certainly be of use.

This kind of magick was a hold-over from the paganism that existed in Europe before the domination of the Church. While the pagan religions themselves may have been destroyed, local and family traditions and folklore often survived. Many of them simply adapted to the new Christian environment. By the time the receipt-books were penned, Biblical scripture and prayers to Jesus and Saints had become intermixed with the older pagan material:

Another Well-Tried Charm Against Firearms.[11]

Blessed is the hour in which Jesus Christ was born; blessed is the hour in which Jesus Christ was born; blessed is the hour in which Jesus Christ was born; blessed is the hour in which Jesus Christ has arisen from the dead; blessed are these three hours over thy gun, that no shot or ball shall fly toward me, and neither my skin, nor my hair, nor my blood, nor my flesh be injured by them, and that no kind of weapon or metal shall do me any harm, so surely as the Mother of God shall not bring forth another son. + + + Amen.

At the same time, aspects of Judeo-Christian occultism (such as we see in the Solomonic grimoires) were incorporated into the receipt-books. Perhaps the best example of this is the famous SATOR/ROTAS magickal square:


We have seen this square on Solomonic talismans, and a (slightly altered) version even appears in the Book of Abramelin.[12] Meanwhile, the lesser-known receipt-books grant this talisman various powers. If written on either side of a plate and cast into a fire, it can extinguish the flames without water. If written on paper, ground up and added to cattle’s feed, it will protect the beasts from evil witchcraft. If built into the structure of a door or window, it will keep evil spirits from entering.[13]

Another folk remedy for the fever should be familiar to students of European occultism:

To Banish Convulsive Fevers.[14]

Write the following letters on a piece of white paper, Pew it on a piece of linen or muslin, and hang it around the neck until the fever leaves you:

A b a x a C a t a b a x

A b a x a C a t a b a x

A b a x a C a t a b a

A b a x a C a t a b

A b a x a C a t a

A b a x a C a t

A b a x a C a

A b a x a C

A b a x a

A b a x

A b a

A b

This talisman is obviously adapted from the “Abracadabra” formula, which adopts its principal from Qabalistic philosophies on the power of words. The fever is symbolically linked to the word “Abracadabra” (or, in this case, “Abaxacatabax”), and should diminish as the letters of the word are reduced one by one. (Most folks are familiar with “Abracadabra” because stage-magicians in the early 1900s – who sometimes claimed real occult power – adopted the word into their acts.)

The receipt-books were grimoires in every sense of the word- and were sometimes known as “wonder-books.” In fact, it could be said that the Solomonic grimoires were merely the receipt-books (or wonder-books) of one group of medieval Christian mystics.

Once the Inquisitioners had finished searching for grimoires on the shelves of their clergy, they began seeking out the local healers and midwives who often had receipt-books of their own. (From this grew the legends of “witch-burning” that characterize the Inquisition to this day.)

It was this atmosphere of religious persecution throughout Europe that prompted many individuals and entire communities to seek their fortunes in the New World. Those whose faiths were labeled (or bordered upon) “heresy” migrated especially to the colony of Pennsylvania, which had been founded (in 1681 CE by the Quaker William Penn) on the principal of religious freedom. It quickly became a haven for Quakers, Mennonites, Anabaptists and other obscure (and often mystical) religious sects. By 1683, German settlers had established the community of Germantown near Philadelphia – and they brought their receipt-books with them.[15]

Once in the New World, the lore we find recorded in the books combined with Native American herbalism. (The immigrant cunning-folk and healers would have wanted to learn about the local plant life as soon as possible, in order to make necessary medicines and potions.) The information then began to appear in published works in the late 1700s and 1800s. Thanks to mass distribution through mail-order catalogues,[16] books like the Farmers Almanac, and John Hohman’s Pow-Wows, or the Long Lost Friend (first published in German, in 1820, as Der Lange Verborgene Freund) became the foundation of the New England folk tradition.

This New England folk tradition is sometimes called Hexcraft – though this may be a modern convention. Alternately, it has been called braucha in the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, speilwerk in the German, or “Pow-wow” after the title of John Hohman’s book. (He had simply borrowed an Algonquian word for “shaman.”)[17]

Practitioners of Pow-wow magick were known by the German term Hexenmeisters (spell-masters). Besides their spells and conjurations, they were most famous as herbologists and healers. In most cases, the tradition could only be handed down from a male to a female, or from a female to a male – especially from mother to son. (Modern students of Wiccan history may find that information of interest.)

Receipt-books had been kept within families since the invention of paper and bound books, and they continued to appear even as late as 1950s America. Eventually, the advent of the Industrial Age and the nuclear family destroyed the transmission of such folk wisdom from the older generations to the younger, and the receipt-book finally disappeared.[18] Today, it is unclear how many hexenmeisters are left, or whether or not the tradition will be handed down to another generation.

Nonetheless, Mr. Hohman’s book eventually became the quintessential American grimoire, and was the principal (but not the only) source of spells for Pow-wowing. (In fact, all of the above examples of receipt-book folklore were taken from The Long Lost Friend.) Another text of importance was Egyptian Secrets, (supposedly) by Albertus Magnus, which was one of the main sources for Hohman’s book.

Even more interesting for us here, there were several classical grimoires that made it through the Inquisition and across the sea to America. The most important to the Pow-wow tradition were the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses, the Black Pullet and possibly the Goetia as well. The hexenmeisters were not very interested in the purification rites and conjuration ceremonies. Instead, they merely adopted the elaborate seals and sigils – which they charged according to their own tradition. For instance, merely placing a grimoiric seal inside a Bible for seven days was often enough to make it magically viable.

Unfortunately, these classical grimoires were often associated with “black-magick” by Pow-wow healers. Even owning such a book was seen as an indication of satanic influence- and they were strictly avoided by those who wished to present Pow-wow magickal lore as lawful within Christian dogma.[19]

The Magick Moves South: The Hoodoo Tradition

While the European immigrants were bringing their religions and folk magick with them to New England, the slaves were bringing theirs to the South. In places like Cuba, the Caribbean and the American southern states (like Louisiana), we find a strong presence of the African Diaspora religions – such as Santeria, Palo and Voodoo (or Voudoun).

These initiatory shamanic faiths were themselves combinations of the original African religions and elements from religions in the New World. Santeria adopted much from Catholicism, so that Saints were invoked as indistinguishable from the African Orishas (gods). Both Santeria and Palo drew from Allan Kardec’s Spiritism (an offshoot of Spiritualism) to replace their lost ancestral worship- resulting in the mesa blanca (white table) séances.

It would also appear that, unlike the New England hexenmeisters, the Diaspora faiths had no compunction against making use of the European grimoires. [20] For example, at some point, several of the seals from the Goetia and related texts were adopted by the Voodoo priests as veves (sigils) for the African Loas (gods).[21]

For example, compare the following two sigils. One is from the Goetia, representing the spirit Gomori. The other is the Voodoo sigil for the Loa Ezili-Freda:

The next example is also from the Goetia – the seal of the spirit Marbas. Compare this to the sigil of the Loa Ibo:

the Grimoirum Verum, representing the spirit Frucissiere. Corresponding to this, we have the Voodo sigil of the Loa Papa-Legba:

As one should expect, these African-descended religions also brought with them a rich tradition of African folk magick. Crossroads magick, “foot track” magick, “laying down tricks”, crossing and uncrossing, gris-gris or mojo bags, ritual sweeping and bathing are all African survivals. And, as usual with folk traditions, these things were not strictly contained within the Diaspora religions. Instead, during the late 19th century, they disseminated among the lay-people as well – intermixing freely with the folklore and occultism of surrounding cultures. Included in the mix were Native American herbalism, Spiritism, European folk magick (especially Pow-wow), and the medieval grimoires.

This new southern American folk tradition was eventually labeled Hoodoo – also known as root-working and conjure sorcery.[22] Because of its close ties to Voodoo, Palo, etc, it is often mistaken as a Diaspora religion in its own right. However, Hoodoo is not a religion, nor does one have to be an initiate of any of these religions to practice. Like the Pow-wow tradition, it was taught and practiced by common folk within families or close-knit communities. (Pre-WWII blues music is known for references to Hoodoo – such as Crossroads Blues by Robert Johnson and Hoodoo Lady by Memphis Minnie.)

Of course, for this essay, we are most interested in the influence of European folklore and occultism on Hoodoo. The southern rootworkers (or root-doctors) were great fans of what they considered “Jewish Kabbalistic” works like Hohman’s The Long Lost Friend,[23] Magnus’ Egyptian Secrets and grimoires like The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses, The Black Pullet, The Key of Solomon the King and The Goetia. In fact, there is some speculation that the term “Hoodoo” may descend from the Latino word Judio, pronounced “hoo-dee-oh”, and meaning “Jewish.” It could easily have come into the culture via Palo, within which is a path named Palo Judio. If this is the origin of the word Hoodoo, then it is likely the practice was named for its association with so-called “Jewish magick”; the medieval grimoires.

However, much as we see with New England folk magick, the southern rootworkers were not interested in the grimoires’ ritual instructions – they wanted books with lots of seals and words of power associated with them.[24] These seals were then drawn on paper and placed in sachets, buried in pathways, built into doors, placed upon wounds, etc. – similar to the manner in which the SATOR square is used. They could be empowered via several simple methods such as intonation of their words of power, anointing with oil, recitations of scripture and/or enclosure within a Bible for seven days.

Another European magickal tradition adopted into Hoodoo was the use of the Biblical Psalms as spells or conjurations in their own right.[25] This was largely (but not entirely) thanks to the publication of a text called Secrets of the Psalms: A Fragment of the Practical Kabala by Godfrey Selig.[26] (Possibly based upon a medieval Jewish book entitled Shimmush Tehillim – On the Use of Psalms.) Selig’s book described the Qabalistic philosophy that the Psalms (especially those attributed to King David) contain hidden “seed syllables” that will produce magickal affects if pronounced aloud.

In practice, however, the use of Psalms in Hoodoo magick is much like the conjurations of the Solomonic tradition. The magickal effect produced by the scripture is directly related to the subject-matter of the passage- rather than to Hebrew “seed-syllables.”[27]

For instance, if one wants to bring fortune to his home, one might recite Psalm 61 which says:

Thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Thy tabernacle forever, I will trust in the covert of Thy wings.

If one has need to travel by night, one might invoke protection via Psalm 121 which says:

I will look up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

For headaches or backaches, one can recite Psalm 3 (traditionally used in exorcism) which contains the line:

Thou, o Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter of my head.

In this manner, Secrets of the Psalms outlines Psalms for numerous uses- such as release from prison, business success, safe childbirth, success in court, defeat of enemies, general protection from evil and more. Psalm magick remains central to Hoodoo practice to this very day.

Hoodoo reached its greatest popularity during the early 1900s – largely thanks to the growing mail-order industry and companies like King Novelty Co., Valmore Beauty Products, the Lucky Heart Co., and R.C. Strong. These companies specialized in beauty products (like Sweet Georgia Brown Hair Pomade, Bleach Cream and Face Powder), cleaning supplies, and “spiritual curios.” The spiritual curios are what interest us- the basic components of conjure-spells like roots and herbs, incenses, anointing oils, lodestones and herbal washes.

Within these same catalogues, rootworkers could find such grimoires as The Long Lost Friend, The Black Pullet, The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses, and the Secrets of the Psalms, right alongside of books like The Art of Kissing, the Book of 1000 Ways to Get Rich and The Egyptian Witch Dream Book and Fortune Teller.

Eventually, an expanding market lead to several new books that blended the European occultism of the grimoires with the growing lore of Hoodoo. Lewis de Claremont[28] released a number of books, among them The Ten Lost Books of the Prophets, The Seven Keys to Power, and The Ancients Book of Magic. Also of particular interest to us is Henry Gamache’s The 8th, 9th and 10th Books of Moses, which is similar to the older grimoire, but includes a lengthy introduction by the author that links African tribal beliefs with (so-called) anceint Jewish and Egyptian practices.

Henry Gamache also wrote an important Hoodoo book called The Master Book of Candle Burning. The folk use of candle burning likely originated in the Catholic practice of lighting votives to the Saints and the dead. Then, thanks to mass-production in the early 1900s, candles of all sorts of shapes and colors became easy to obtain from local drugstores. This led to the central role that candle-burning magick played in Hoodoo.[29]

The practice was fairly simple. One merely needs to take a candle of an appropriate color (such as green for money, red for love, black for curses, etc), anoint it with a related dressing oil (Money Drawing Oil, Healing Oil, Follow Me Girl Oil, Aunt Sally’s Lucky Dream Oil, etc), and light it with an appropriate Psalm or statement of intent.[30]

Today, Hoodoo candles are available in a plethora of types and shapes. The most popular are glass-encased seven-day candles with pictures of Saints on their labels. (They usually have a prayer to the Saint on the back of the lable as well.) Some of them are multi-colored for spells designed to have different effects at different stages. You can even buy candles with one color on the outside and another on the inside- for removing jinxes and returning them to their senders. You can even buy candles shaped like men, women, penises, and other shapes that aid in magickal sympathy with the object of the spell.

It is very unlikely that Hoodoo is in the same danger of dying out as Pow-wow. (This is likely due to the fact that Pow-wow put heavier restrictions upon its transmission.) As Hoodoo once disseminated itself through mail-order catalogues, it is now gaining popularity through the Internet. Websites like the Lucky Mojo Curio Co.[31] make the obscure spell ingredients, altar tools, talismans, and books easy to find.

Rootworking and conjure-magick is alive and well. One reviewer of Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires suggested the release of my book was well timed, because it met with an “…increased interest in operative magic…”[32] I suppose what they meant by that was a rising interest in good old-fashioned witchcraft. The kind of folk-magick that requires a crossroads at midnight and railroad spikes, rather than initiations and lodge-style ceremonies. The kind of magick our ancestors used and passed on to their children, but was sacrificed to “scientific reason” and the nuclear family before our generation came along. As the world becomes an increasingly hostile and dangerous place, perhaps the younger generations desire to reconnect to the healing spells, protective spirits and results-oriented “operative magick” we have lost.

The Modern Solomonic Path

In this essay, we have traced grimoiric shamanism from medieval times to the present day, and we have seen that it followed two specific paths: One path was with the Masons and Hermeticists. They eventually borrowed the grimoires’ talismans and words of power, but applied them to their own lodge-style magick. The second path was with the immigrants who took the grimoires with them to the New World, packaged with their native folklore. However, they also ignored the ritual instructions in favor of the talismans and words.

The modern Solomonic Path differs from these in that it does not eschew the instructions recorded in the grimoires. The purifications and preparations, robes and magickal tools, conjurations and ceremonies are what define the Solomonic Path. However, at the same time, the Solomonic mage is just as interested in the “rootworking” aspects of the grimoires that have been dismissed by the magickal lodges. The wax images, virgin-spun thread, sacred herbs, etc.

The Solomonic mages in medieval Europe had borrowed what they could from local pagan folklore. Likewise, modern Solomonic mages are drawing pagan material from systems like European folk-magick, the African Diaspora religions and Hoodoo. (In fact, the practice of borrowing material from European and African folklore is a hallmark of Hoodoo itself.)

When I began to explore the Solomonic material (during the 1990s), I was unfamiliar with the traditions of Pow-wow and Hoodoo. I knew that Pow-wow existed, but I knew very little about it and had no idea it was connected to the medieval grimoires. Of Hoodoo I knew even less – except for a vague understanding that some members of the Afro-Caribbean communities were using the Books of Moses and possibly a few other medieval European texts. In fact, I had heard there was a growing “Solomonic trend” within these communities, though I had no clue where this movement was taking place.

For some years, I had used the grimoires in the modern ceremonial fashion; with acceptable results. I knew it was not a true reflection of the magick presented in the medieval texts – however, the grimoires were not easy to understand on their own terms. Besides being jumbled and obscurely worded, they were missing a lot of material that had likely been transmitted orally from teacher to student. Plus, their instructions often directly contradicted what I “knew” to be true about magick.

Eventually, I stumbled upon Santeria and Palo Mayombe through a friend who had been initiated into both faiths. At first, my interest in his knowledge was purely academic. I love to speak with people of differing faiths and worldviews, and especially of different magickal systems, in order to widen my own perspective. In this case, I was wildly successful – because my discussions with the Santero radically altered my worldview. Those long conversations were my first real introduction to magickal principals outside the influence of Neopaganism or the Golden Dawn. It was my first direct encounter with established systems of shamanism.

It all came together when the Santero and I realized that his descriptions of African-descended magick were coming awfully close to my descriptions of the Book of Abramelin, the Key of Solomon and several other grimoires. Agrippa’s Occult Philosophy did not contradict his own at all. (He was particularly fascinated by Book I of the Three Books…- dealing with “natural magick,” or what we have been calling folk-magick.) Many aspects of the grimoires that made no sense to me, and were often called “blinds” by others, were perfectly logical when viewed through his shamanic worldview. (Frog skin? Blood from a black cat? Ritual sacrifice??)

Before long, I was bringing the grimoires to him for clarification. I would ask him about the obscured and missing aspects of Solomonic magick, and he would fill in the gaps by describing similar practices in Santeria or Palo. He could tell me why certain things were done, and even where to find the obscure ingredients. (The co-relations were so close, I began to suspect the African and Solomonic traditions had crossed paths before.) Eventually, my girlfriend decided to explore the path of Palo with my friend as her spiritual god brother, and the two of them have been invaluable sources of information and practical experience ever since.[33]

In some cases, the grimoires and folk traditions like Hoodoo match almost exactly. A great example is the parallel folklore about crossroads found within both. Hoodoo teaches that a crossroads at midnight is a place of convergence – between days, human destinies and “between the worlds” of human and spirit. At the crossroads, spirits are met, deals are made and power is gained.[34]

Meanwhile, grimoires like the Key of Solomon the King insist that evocations (especially necromancy or goetic work) are best performed at a crossroads “during the depth and silence of the night.” [35]In The Magus, we find an operation for binding a number of familiar spirits to a magickal book – including both a crossroads and the hour of midnight.[36] One is to prepare the book with all the prayers and conjurations necessary to call the spirits. Then, at a crossroads at midnight, one must prepare a magickal circle. The book is consecrated and the spirits are summoned. The book must then be buried in the center of the crossroads and (after wiping away all traces of the circle) left for three days. On the third night, one must return again at midnight, reform the circle, offer prayers of thanks and retrieve the book. That is the kind of magick any good rootworker can appreciate!

We can find even more examples of folk magick in Agrippa’s Occult Philosophy, Book I, “Natural Magic.”[37] In fact, I would suggest that it stands on its own as a root-worker’s manual- especially for someone geared toward the Solomonic path. It is certainly the most neglected book of Agrippa’s trilogy, merely wanting rediscovery by modern aspirants.

A wonderful example is found in Chapter 16, “How the operations of several Virtues pass from one thing into another, and are communicated one to the other“:

Therefore they say that if any one shall put on the inward garment of an Harlot, or shall have about him that looking glass, which she daily looks into, he shall thereby become bold, confident, impudent, and wanton. In like manner they say, that a cloth that was about a dead Corpse hath received from thence the property of sadness, and melancholy; and that the halter wherewith a man was hanged hath certain wonderfull properties.

[…] If any shall put a green Lizard made blind, together with Iron, or Gold Rings into a glass-vessel, putting under them some earth, and then shutting the vessel, and when it appears that the Lizard hath received his sight, shall put him out of the glass, that those Rings shall help sore eyes. The same may be done with Rings, and a weasel, whose eyes after they are with any kind of prick put out, it is certain are restored to sight again. Upon the same account Rings are put for a certain time in the nest of Sparrows, or Swallows, which afterwards are used to procure love, and favor.

This sounds like something one would expect to read in a Hexenmeister‘s receipt-book. It is an example of sympathetic magick- or “like attracts like”- the hallmark of most primitive shamanic and folk traditions.

Agrippa makes much of magickal sympathy in his book on Natural Magick. Another example can be found in Chapter 19, “How the Virtues of things are to be tried and found out…”

Moreover thou must consider that the Vertues of things are in some things according to the species, as boldness, and courage in a Lyon, & Cock: fearfulness in a Hare, or Lamb, ravenousness in a Wolf, treachery, and deceitfulness in a Fox… So is boldness in a Harlot, fearfulness in a Thief. And upon this account it is that Philosophers say, that any particular thing that never was sick, is good against any manner of sickness: therefore they say that a bone of a dead man, who never had a fever, being laid upon the patient, frees him of his quartane.

Extending from this philosophy of sympathy, we find healing practices in faiths like Santeria wherein an animal (usually a bird) is applied to the body to “absorb” a sickness. This is described by Agrippa in Chapter 21, “Of the Virtues of things which are in them only in their lifetime…”:

So they say that in the Colick, if a live Duck be applyed to the belly, it takes away the pain, and her self dies.

Agrippa gives many further examples in Chapter 51, “Of Certain Observations, Producing Wonderfull Virtues“:

So they say that quartanes may be driven away if the parings of the nails of the sick be bound to the neck of a live Eel in a linen cloth, and she be let go into the water. And Pliny saith, that the paring of a sick mans nailes of his feet, and hands being mixed with wax, cure the quartan, tertian, and quotidian Ague, and if they be before Sun rising fastened to another mans gate, will cure such like diseases. In like manner let all the parings of the nailes be put into [anthills], and they say that that which begun to draw the nailes first must be taken, and bound to the neck, and by this means will the disease be removed. They say that by Wood stricken with lightning, and cast behind the back with ones hands, any disease may be cured…

Also the Spleen of Cattle extended upon pained Spleens, cures them, if he that applies it, saith that he is applying a medicine to the Spleen to cure, and ease it: After this, they say, the patient must be shut into a sleeping room, the door being sealed up with a Ring, and some verse be repeated over nineteen times.

I find the following quote – from the same chapter – to be particularly fascinating from the root-working perspective:

It is said also in gathering roots and herbs, we must draw three circles round about them, first with a sword, then dig them up, taking heed in the mean time of a contrary wind.

Space prohibits me from giving more excerpts – though I certainly could continue at some length. Agrippa continues to describe auguries by animals, the power of “enchantments” (incantations), and many more tidbits of use to modern sorcerers. The entire book discusses the philosophies behind Natural Magick in depth – all based upon the four Elements and the seven Planets.

As we can see, there is plenty of material within Solomonic literature to appeal to members of Afro-Carribean religions and Hoodoo rootworkers. For this reason, it would seem, the modern Solomonic movement has become wedded to a parallel “ATR” (African Tribal Religion) movement.

There is currently a growing interest in the ATRs, as cultural intermixing in America has slowly opened them to Caucasians.[38] Many are taking the full initiations, while some are choosing the Hoodoo route of merely drawing folklore and folk-magick from the religions. The modern Solomonic sorcerer usually falls into the latter category, though I know of some Diaspora full-initiates who also engage in Solomonic practice.

Therefore, when we encounter the records of a modern grimoiric practitioner, we are likely to find a kind of hybrid between Solomonic magick and African rootworking. Let us take a look at some examples:

The Goetia tells us that King Solomon bound spirits into a brass vessel. The book also tells us how to make a brass vessel of our own, including the Hebrew Divine Names and the Seal of Solomon. However, it tells us nothing at all about what to do with the thing. One can assume the vessel should be placed in the Triangle of conjuration (with the spirit’s sigil traced on the ground beneath it), and perhaps a metallic seal of the spirit placed inside. Beyond that, where it comes to working with such a spirit in a vessel, the grimoire is silent.

Meanwhile, if we look to Palo we also find familiar spirits bound to vessels, called ngangas, and a practice backed by an elaborate and ancient tradition. They know the secret ingredients to include inside the vessel to provide a living environment for the spirit. They know how to feed and care for it. And they know how to get it to work for them.

The modern Solomonic mage can draw from such lore to “flesh out” the instructions of the Goetia. The brass vessel could include its own set of ingredients to provide the Goetic spirit with a harmonious environment. A Goetic “King” (a Solar spirit) like Belial would be in sympathy with the metals gold (from which his Seal should be made) and pyrite, solary plants (like saffron, sunflower, laurel and frankincense) and solar stones (such as ruby, yellow topaz and carbuncle). Small figurines of a sun, a hawk, a king, a scepter, and/or a throne (and better if they are fashioned from gold) can be included.

Also dirt from places like local hospitals, courthouses, police stations, etc. will grant the spirit a direct astral link with the places from which the dirt was taken. This gives the shaman some amount of protection from and influence over the organizations at those locations.

Adding fresh hot peppers to the vessel is an obscure secret. Paleros include them to add “spiritual heat” to their Ngangas; to excite the spirit and discourage it from lapsing into sleep.

Further ingredients could be included, such as tools for the spirit to work with. A writer would make sure to include a pen and paper. An artist could add a paintbrush and easel. A police officer could include a badge and bullet, or even a gun. Much like the dirt, the tools you give the spirit will give it influence over the arts that utilize those tools.

Santeria makes use of a special water it calls Omiero as a kind of offering to newborn Orishas. Simply put, it is water that has been strained through sacred herbs while a Santero sings shamanic songs over it. The Santero then uses this sacred water to wash the Orisha’s sacred objects before sealing them in an urn. The practice appeared in Hoodoo in the form of various herbal washes- usually sold in the catalogues as floor washes and baths. They can even be purchased today.[39] Or one could make their own by straining Solomonic holy water through herbs sympathetic to the spirit (i.e.solary herbs for Belial, etc). For the right Psalms to chant, one could reference Secrets of the Psalms[40] and/or read up on Psalmody in Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires.[41] Then, the resulting water could be used to wash the objects placed into the vessel, and even poured directly into the vessel itself during the Conjuration.

After the Goetia’s conjuration rites are complete, the brass vessel could be placed on a simple altar or shelf decorated in sympathy with the spirit; objects, colors, stones, plants, etc. Light a candle and incense when consulting the spirit, and don’t forget to feed it![42]

I’m afraid I must now bring this discussion to a close. If you are a Solomonic mage, I hope these practical examples have fired your imagination. If you are a student or aspirant seeking to discover the “Solomonic Path”, I hope I have given you some idea of the spirit behind the tradition and its history. (Make sure to explore the links in the footnotes!)


AGRIPPA, H.C., April 11, 2004-last update, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa: Of Occult Philosophy, Book I. (part 1) [Homepage of Twilit Grotto: Archives of Western Esoterica], [Online]. Available:

FRATER ALASTOR, February 21, 2004-last update, sigils and veve [Homepage of The Magick Circle], [Online]. Available

BARRET, F, unknown-last update, the magus [Homepage of Internet Sacred Text Archive], [Online]. Available:

GRASSO, S, unknown-last update, hoodoo [Homepage of], [Online]. Available:

KONSTANTINOS, 2003. Summoning Spirits. 2nd edn. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.

KRAIG, D.M., 2002. Modern Magick: Eleven Lessons in the High Magickal Arts. 2nd edn. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.

KRIEBEL, D., July 21, 2003-last update, powwowing: a persistent american esoteric tradition [Homepage of Esoterica], [Online]. Available:

LEITCH, A., 2005. Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.

MATHERS, S.L.M., PETERSON, J.H., December 3, 2005-last update, the key of Solomon (clavicula salomonis) [Homepage of Twilit Grotto: Archives of Western Esoterica], [Online]. Available

MATHERS, S.L.M., 1975. The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage. 2nd edn. NY: Dover Publications, Inc.

REGARDIE, I., 1985. The Golden Dawn: A Complete Course in Practical Ceremonial Magic, Four Volumes in One. 6th edn. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.

RUNYON, C., 1996. The Book of Solomon’s Magick. Silverado, CA: Church of the Hermetic Science, Inc.

SELIG, G., 1958. Secrets of the Psalms. NY: Dorene Publishing Co., Inc.

STAVISH, M., unknown-last update, voxhermes review of ‘secrets of the magickal grimoires’ by aaron leitch [Homepage of Aaron J. Leitch], [Online]. Available:

STRASSER, B.D., 1999. Pennsylvania German Mysticism & Folk Spirituality. Allentown, PA: Allentown Art Museum.

YRONWODE, C., December 28, 2005-last update, hoodoo in theory and practice: an introduction to african-american rootwork [Homepage of Lucky Mojo], [Online]. Available:


1. See for an introduction to the medieval grimoires.

2. In fact, one of the grimoires- the Book of Abramelin- chronicles the journeys of one Aspirant who investigates all of these sources in his quest for the True and Sacred Magick. See Mathers (1975).

During the medieval period, both Gnosticism and Hermeticism were nearly dormant, and Rosicrucianism had yet to be introduced. These three, along with the Christian Qabalah, would arise later during the renaissance era and become the foundations of Christian Mysticism.

3. Paper was invented in China in the first century CE. However, they guarded the secret of its manufacture for quite some time, and the technology did not reach Europe until the 13th Century. This is the late medieval period. See

4. See for the Order of the Temple of Astarte.

5. Regardie 1985, p.402; Kraig 2002, pp.371-420; Runyon 1996; Konstantinos 2003.

6. Excerpts from John Hohman’s Pow-Wows, or the Long Lost Friend. See

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. In the Key of Solomon the King, see the Second Pentacle of Saturn (where the square is written with Hebrew letters).

In the Book of Abramelin, see Book III, Chapter Nineteen (For Every Description of Affection and Love), the ninth Talisman (By a Maiden in General). The square is there written:






The earliest known appearance of the SATOR / ROTAS magickal square was in first-century Pompeii, where it was written on a the wall of a residence, as “graffiti.” (It was more likely someone casting a Roman folk-magick spell.)

13. For further discussion of the folk use of the SATOR square, see Strasser (1999)

14. Hohman, op. cit.

15. Ibid. for further discussion of the migration of German mysticism to America.

16. Yronwode (1996, Online), “Admixtures: European, Spiritist and Kabbalist Influences on Hoodoo.”

17. See for a short introduction to the subject of American “Pow-wow” magick; also Kriebel (2002, Online) for a lengthy discussion of the Pow Wow tradition.

18. However, the receipt books would become source-books for later spiritual traditions. No doubt, Gerald Gardner and the founders of British Traditional Wicca had access to such books (the “family traditions” to which many of them laid claim?) and drew much witchcraft lore from them.

19. Kriebel, op. cit.

20. In Leitch (2005), I made a small case for the idea that the African religions had affected the European grimoires during the time of their writing. If this is the case, then the favor was returned in the New World once the African Diaspora religions began to adopt material from the grimoires.

21. Alastor 2003, Online.

22. Yronwode 1996, Online; Grasso 2004, Online.

23. Yronwode 1996, Online, Powwows –

24. Even today, you can purchase the Seals from the Books of Moses in Botanicas or even from online curio suppliers. See for an example.

25. We can see this throughout the Key of Solomon the King, as well as other medieval grimoires both Christian and Jewish.

26. Yronwode 1996, Online., “Secrets of the Psalms: The Kabbalist Influence on Hoodoo” –

27. See Barret (Online), Book II, “Of The Consecration Of All Magical Instruments And Materials Which Are Used In This Art.” – “Then in the prayer by which the consecration is made it derives its virtue either from divine inspiration, or else by composing it from sundry places in the holy Scriptures, in the commemoration of some of the wonderful miracles of God, effects, promises, sacraments and sacramental things, of which we have abundance in holy writ.”

28. See Yronwode (1996, Online), “The Enduring Occult Mystery of Lewis de Claremont, Louis de Clermont, Henri Gamache, Joe Kaye, Joseph Spitalnick, Black Herman, Benjamin Rucker, and the elusive Mr. Young.”

29. Grasso, op. cit.

30. Again, Wiccan scholars may wish to take note, as this could be the origins of modern Neopagan and New Age candle magick.

For Hoodoo anointing oils, see

For Hoodoo ritual candles, see

31. See

32. Stavish 2005, Online.

33. Both of them appear in the acknowledgements for Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires, as their influence is found throughout the book.

34. Grasso, op.cit.

35. Mathers (1975), Book II, Chapter 7, “Of Places Wherein We May Conveniently Execute the Experiments and Operations of the Art”

36. Barret (Online), Book II: The Perfection and Key of the Cabala, or Ceremonial Magic, “Of the Invocation of Evil Spirits, and the Binding of and Constraining of Them to Appear.”

37. Agrippa, Online.

38. As always, the Internet is helping this along. Plus, there was an entirely new Diaspora in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina – which spread the lower classes of New Orleans across America. This should result in further dissemination of Afro-Caribbean folklore.

39. See

40. Selig (1958). The original version of this book, Schimmusch Tehillim, or the Use of the Psalms, can be found online here:

41. Leitch (2005).

42. See Mathers (2005, Online), Book II, Chapter 23, “Concerning sacrifices to the spirits, and how they should be made.” I would feed the spirit at the time the Goetia prescribes for its conjuration.

Modern Grimoire Magick: Folk Magick and The Solomonic Path first appeared in The Journal of Western Mystery Tradition Volume 1 Issue 10, 2006. You can find more of Aaron’s work at

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By Jessica Howard

The study of the use of herbs in medicine is known under many names, such as Herbalism, Herbology, Botanical Medicine and Herblore, and has been around for thousands of years. A 60 000-year-old Neanderthal burial site, “Shanidar IV”, in northern Iraq has was discovered holding large amounts of pollen from 8 plant species, 7 of which are used now as herbal remedies. The first written accounts of Herbalism come from the Sumerian culture roughly 5,000 years ago. However, despite its lengthy history, Herbalism has not always been an accepted form of medicine. At one time it was forbidden for anyone except a specially trained doctor to practise medical Herbology; anyone else who dabbled in Herblore was likely to be labelled as a witch and hung. And up until the early 18th century, there was much confusion in botany in general; a single plant could be given many names, and likewise the same name might be given to several different plants. That was until Swedish botanist Carl von Linné, better known as Linnaeus, developed the system of binomial nomenclature, giving a unique Latin name to every known species. This also allowed a more defined division between Botany and Herbalism.

Herbology took a back seat at the arrival of modern medicine: with pills to combat nearly every sort of disease imaginable and antibiotics to combat infections, it seemed that disease and suffering was a thing of the past. However, that didn’t happen, and herbal medicines are making a big comeback. Nowadays you can find herbal substitutions next to synthetic medicines in supermarkets and pharmacies, combating everything from depression to sleep deprivation. The majority of medicines prescribed today by doctors are of herbal origins. For example, Salicylic acid, a precursor of aspirin, was originally taken from white willow bark and the meadowsweet plant. Vincristine, a medicine used to treat particular types of cancer, comes from periwinkle. The opium poppy yields morphine, codeine, and paregoric, was the favoured tranquilizer in Victorian times. Even today, morphine remains the standard against which new synthetic pain relievers are measured.

Medical Herbalism can be used in many forms. Below is a brief description and some examples of the different ways in which herbs can be utilized.

Essential Oil:

The distillation of oils was first accomplished in the eleventh century and has been used in medicine ever since. Oil can be distilled from the root, the leaf, or the actual flower, depending on the plant itself, and can be used in many different ways. One of the most popular way is to burn oil in a burner, an effective way in permeating a large area with a certain scent, slightly more subtle than incense and without the smoke which some people can find irritating. Another popular use of oils is in massage, with properties varying from soothing and relaxing to rejuvenating and invigorating oneself. If you don’t have the time or the extra pair of hands for a massage then a few drops of oil added to a warm bath can be very effective.

Rubbing oil directly onto the skin is another common use, but one must use caution. There are only two types of oil which can be applied directly to the skin, Lavender oil and Tea-Tree oil. Both are extremely effective when applied to skin afflictions such as acne or cuts and wounds, as not only do they act as an antiseptic but they also draw any infection out to the surface. Other oils must be diluted either with water or with a carrier oil such as sweet almond oil, as they can be harmful to the skin. Take for example, cinnamon oil. At the age of 16 I decided to try a simple beauty spell on the night of my high school prom, which involved applying cinnamon oil directly to the skin. Unfortunately, I did not know that you had to dilute it, and was horrified once I had performed the spell and looked in the mirror to see not a beautiful prom queen staring at me, but a podgy teenage girl with a deep red rash across her face and hands. Luckily it had faded by the time I arrived at the ball, but even so-not a mistake I will make again! However, oils are commonly blended into creams or lotions in safe quantities.

Popular Oils and Their Uses:

Lavender oil: Can be applied directly to the skin. Apply to wounds or acne to help heal, and to burns to stop them blistering. Place a few drops unto a cloth and place by your pillow to help you sleep. Or, add to boiling water and inhale to help soothe sore throats, and place on the temples to help alleviate a headache.

Sage: Generally it is the herb that is burnt, but for those who can’t stand the smoke or who only wish to fill a small room, burning sage oil is excellent for ridding unwanted energies.

Citrus: Citrus is great for burning if you are after something uplifting and refreshing, or to generally rid the room of bad odours.

Mojo or Herb Bags:

Mojo bags are known under many different names, such as gris-gris, trick bag or jomo. The term mojo comes from the African-American hoodoo tradition, and consists of a pouch or cloth filled with various magical items, including herbs. Carrying a pouch of herbs is a popular practise, and can be used for many different purposes, from healing to attracting prosperity.

Once the pouch is full of herbs chosen with a specific goal in mind, they are usually charged through various methods such as visualization, chanting, or dipped into oils or potions or sometimes in whisky (known by some as ‘the water of life’). Once created the mojo bag is carried on oneself, usually hidden away under clothing or worn around the neck, as it is thought that if anyone but the carrier should touch the bag then the ‘luck’ will be lost.

Herb Bags and Their Uses:

Rosemary: A pouch full of rosemary will help keep negative energies away.

Catnip, Rosemary, Rose petals and Thyme: Use this mixture to bring love closer to you.

Cloves: Add an equal number of cloves to two pouches, and give one to a friend and keep one for yourself to ensure a strong and lasting friendship.

Herb Baths:

As mentioned, herbs can be added to you bath, either with a particular intent behind them, or simply to make yourself smell scrumptious! Some people leave the herbs to float loose in the water, whilst other fill a pouch up with herbs and leave that to soak in the water. Of course, essential oils can be used instead, it all comes down to personal preference. The bath can be a ritual in itself, or part of a larger ritual. Many witches bath in a specific herbal blend before a ritual, to cleanse themselves and help themselves attune to divinity.

Herbal Bath Mixtures:

Protection: Add bay leaves, rosemary, and cloves to a bath to help protect you from negative energies.

Peace: Add lavender, chamomile and passionflower to relax you after a hard day.

Psychic Power: Add bay leaves, peppermint, and mugwort to your bath to help put you in tune with your psychic powers.

Cooking with Herbs:

Sprinkling herbs over food can be more than a culinary attribute, but a magical one too. Choose herbs with a specific purpose in mind, but also one that compliments the food you will be serving it with. Empower the herbs before use, either through chant, prayer, or visualization. As you pour drawing something towards you, such as love, and anti-clockwise if you are trying to rid yourself of something, such as an illness.

Chili Powder-Add to food to spice up a relationship or partnership.

Lavender Shortbread: Whilst it is common belief that lavender in any form will help soothe and relax, some people maintain that ingesting lavender actually energises oneself. Lavender is one of the easiest herbs to bake with, and one of the yummiest. To make lavender shortbread, take one or two tablespoons of dried English lavender, depending on the size of the mixture, and use a rolling pin to gently crush the seed out from the flower. Add the whole lot to the mixture and bake as usual.

Herbal Teas:

Tea is another popular method of utilizing herbs for their various purposes. You can either add the herbs to the hot water as they are, or mixed with tea-leaves, depending of course on the herb and its taste. Herbal teas area great way to incorporate herb magic into your everyday life as they are cheap, easy and highly effective. Remember to always check before hand to ensure that any herb you are using is fit for consumption as some could be poisonous.

Herbal Tea Blends:

Rosemary: Drink rosemary tea to improve one’s concentration.

Chamomile and Lavender: Drink before bed to help you sleep.

Nettle, Chickweed and Burdock: Drink preferably twice a day to aid weight loss.

Herbal Incenses:

Herbs can also be used as incense. Choose the herbs you require, and the amount of each you need, and gently crush them together either using a mortar and pestle, herb grinder, or even a small blender. Once ground, sprinkle onto a lit charcoal block. The only problem with using this method of incense is getting the mixture just so that it creates a pleasant scent and is not too overpowering.

Incense Recipes:

Banishing Negativity Incense: Crush bay leaves, rosemary than bay, a very small pinch of lavender, a slightly bigger pinch of mugwort, and a very small pinch of rose or flower petals to rid an area of negative energies.

To Aid Concentration: Burn rosemary mixed with balm of Gilead and chamomile, with a greater proportion of rosemary, to aid in concentration.

Divination Incense: Mix camphor, mugwort, and dandelion and honeysuckle together and burn when performing divination.

Growing Herbs:

Herbs can be difficult to grow from scratch, which is why many people prefer to buy herb plants that have already taken root; out of a standard packet of seeds, most of the time you will be lucky to get five plants taking root and growing successfully. Each herb plant needs to be nurtured in different ways; for example, some require planting in May and some July, some need to be covered or kept in a greenhouse and some can take weeks longer than others to start sprouting. Each packet will have specific instructions written on the back, so make sure you check these out before planting your herb garden.

Take a shallow seed tray and fill with soil about two thirds of the way. Water liberally. Distribute the seeds evenly, making sure to note what seeds you have put where, as it is very hard to tell within the first couple if weeks which herb is which. With your pinky finger, make a small dents in the soil and scatter the seeds in. Cover lightly with soil, and water again. Keep in sunlight, perhaps bringing them indoors during the night when even in the British summertime the weather drops. Try to use a soil-based compost, as very few herbs will grow in a peat-based composition, and is also better at holding in the moisture. Also, water in the morning, so if the temperature rises during the day then they have more of a chance.

You may find it necessary to prune your herbs, once the flower dies if you have not used it. To do this, cut back to the leaves, roughly 1/3 of the plant down, to ensure that it flowers successfully next year.

If your herbs are having problems growing, try the following to give them an extra boost:

Green Fingers Spell:

To promote growth of herbs and plants, especially with pot plants

You will need:

. A Plant

. Three Seashells

. Three Pebbles

Hold the shells and pebbles in your hands and say;

“From the sky above and the earth below I call upon the elements To help these plants to grow Spirit, breathe magickal life into all I sow.”

Place the pebbles into the pot around the stem of the plant, or maybe slightly under the soil. Feel free to recharge them whenever you think you need it.

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Selenite Meditation
A meditation of alignment
By Beth Holtum

This meditation calls upon Selenite’s property of ‘alignment’

When you’re ready, free yourself of the daily, physical world and prepare yourself in your usual way for meditation.
Visualise a gigantic rod of Selenite gently entering your space. See it’s clean, white lines and linear structure as it moves closer. They are like fibre optic cables, fine rods that transmit light from one end to the other.

The Selenite moves slowly and freely closer to you, and you allow it to hover over you. It attracts a beam of universal light which it then transmits down to you, so you are enveloped in a column of gentle white light.

Feel it tingle and release any tension and blockages as it gradually passes from the top of your head down through to your feet.

Visualise stretching your hands out to play with the light, running your fingers around to find that the beam of light is made up of many rods of light. Close your hands around one of the rods and become one with the Selenite. Feel yourself in perfect balance in space and time, with equal forces holding you above and below.

Ask the Selenite to show you that which you are free to move away from, and allow it to move into the distance of your vision. Then turn to the future, and see the bright light of positivity that shines on the way ahead. Ask for guidance and confirmation to take with you.

Stay in the light until you feel ready and comfortable to return.

You can purchase Selenite and other stones from Beth’s online shop Rainbow Spirit

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By Nik

Batty about Bats

By Liz

Love ‘em, or hate ‘em, bats have been around for a very long time. Since moving to our temporary home on the banks of the river Pembroke, we have been lucky enough to have 2 bats flying around our garden in a loose kind of figure eight pattern every evening at dusk, hunting for moths and other insects which we have here in abundance. Their arrival for me is a happy one for I am, like them, very much a creature of the night!

I am yet to be sure of their identification but I rather suspect they are greater horseshoe. I call them ‘my’ teddybears with wings because for me that’s what they are like! Getting good pictures of them is notoriously difficult because they are so fast, but we have tried several times now to varying degrees of success.

Longleat Bat By Cai Thomas

Thanks to Andy from PFF for help in making the image of one clearer for me. One of my first ever familiars was a bat, a common pipistrelle called Hermann who came to me when I was on a visit to distant family in Dymchurch. I went for a walk around the garden of the house where I was visiting and he landed on my shoulder. I was startled at first but I wasn’t afraid; in fact, I felt very blessed. I tried to put him back in the tree several times but he just kept on returning, each time landing on a different part of my body. I actually thought I had managed to return him to the tree until I was getting out of the car having gone back to the place I was living only to find him again firmly gripping a bag I had put in the boot of the car! Clearly we had formed a bond and that was how it was.

He lived under the bookshelf I had on the wall in my bedroom.

I left the window ajar and he used to come and go as he pleased for about 18 months. One day he went out and just didn’t return; I never did find out why, but I sensed it was just “call of the wild”.

He is very missed!!!

So, what have I learnt about Bats? Bats are an important part of our natural heritage and indicators of a green and healthy environment. Their future is directly linked to our quality of life and the quality of our environment.

As their natural habitats have been gradually lost bats have been forced to find alternative places to roost. Some species will make their homes in a variety of houses, from large and old properties to modest and suburban ones.

Thousands of householders across the UK have bats roosting in their roof or loft space. For the majority it is a wonderful experience and many of them enjoy watching the bats emerge on a Summer’s evening. These householders are playing a vital role in conserving our native bats.

Bats are flying mammals. Their forelimbs are webbed and developed as wings, making them the only mammals naturally capable of true and sustained flight. Bats don’t flap their entire forelimbs to fly like birds do. Instead, they flap their spread out digits, which are very long and covered with a thin membrane.

There are about 1,240 bat species worldwide. This represents about twenty percent of all classified mammal species.

About seventy percent of bats are insectivores. Most of the rest are frugivores, or fruit eaters. A few species such as the Fish-eating Bat feed from animals other than insects, with the vampire bats being the only mammalian parasite species. Bats are present throughout most of the world and perform vital ecological roles such as pollinating flowers and dispersing fruit seeds. Many tropical plant species depend entirely on bats for the distribution of their seeds.

The smallest bat is the Kitti’s Hog-nosed Bat, measuring 29–34 mm (1.14–1.34 in) in length, 15 cm (5.91 in) across the wings and 2–2.6 g (0.07–0.09 oz) in mass. It is also arguably the smallest extant species of mammal.

The largest species of bat is the Giant Golden-crowned Flying-fox, which is 336–343 mm (13.23–13.50 in) long, has a wingspan of 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in) and weighs approximately 1.1–1.2 kg (2–3 lb) – this is my favourite kind.

Flight has enabled bats to become one of the most widely distributed groups of mammals. Apart from the Arctic, the Antarctic and a few isolated oceanic islands, bats exist all over the world. Bats are found in almost every habitat available on Earth. Different species select different habitats seasonally — ranging from seasides to mountains and even to deserts — but bat habitats have two basic requirements: roosts, where they spend the day or hibernate, and places for foraging. Bat roosts can be found in hollows, crevices, foliage, and human-made structures; and include “tents” that bats construct by biting leaves.

Some bats have been recorded as seasonally travelling from the Baltic states: Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and possibly even Finland, to Northern Spain or Italy.

They sure get about!

How they communicate and navigate

Bat echo-location is a perceptual system where ultrasonic sounds are emitted specifically to produce echoes. By comparing the outgoing pulse with the returning echoes the brain and auditory nervous system can produce detailed images of the bat’s surroundings. This allows bats to detect, localize and even classify their prey in complete darkness.

At one hundred and thirty decibels in intensity, bat calls are some of the most intense airborne animal sounds.

Most bats are nocturnal and are active at twilight. A large portion of bats migrate hundreds of kilometres to winter hibernation dens, some pass into torpor in cold weather, rousing and feeding when warm weather allows for insects to be active. Others retreat to caves for winter and hibernate for six months. Bats rarely fly in rain as it interferes with their echo location and they are unable to locate their food.

The social structure of bats varies, with some bats leading a solitary life and others living in caves colonized by more than a million bats. The fission-fusion social structure is seen among several species of bats. The term ‘fusion’ refers to a large numbers of bats that congregate together in one roosting area and ‘fission’ refers to breaking up and the mixing of subgroups, with individual bats switching roosts with others and often ending up in different trees and with different roostmates.

Studies also show that bats make all kinds of sounds to communicate with others. Scientists in the field have listened to bats and have been able to identify some sounds with some behaviour bats will make after the sounds are made.

Breeding habits

Most bats have a breeding season. This is in the Spring for species living in a temperate climate. Bats may have one to three litters in a season, depending on the species and on environmental conditions such as the availability of food and roost sites. Females generally have one offspring at a time, which could be a result of the mother’s need to fly to feed while pregnant. Female bats nurse their youngsters until they are nearly adult size; this is because a young bat cannot forage on its own until its wings are fully developed. Female bats use a variety of strategies to control the timing of pregnancy and the birth of young, to make delivery coincide with maximum food ability and other ecological factors.

Females of some species have delayed fertilization, in which sperm are stored in the reproductive tract for several months after mating. In many such cases, mating occurs in the fall, and fertilization does not occur until the following spring.

Other species exhibit delayed implantation, in which the egg is fertilized after mating, but remains free in the reproductive tract until external conditions become favorable for giving birth and caring for the offspring. In yet another strategy, fertilization and implantation both occur but development of the fetus is delayed until favorable conditions prevail. All of these adaptations result in the pup being born during a time of high local production of fruit or insects.

A single bat can live for over twenty years, but the bat population growth is limited by the slow birth rate.

Associations with witchcraft and vampires and folklore

Bats have long been associated with witchcraft, black magic and darkness. The witches incorporate bat in their brew in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The fact that bats are mammals, yet can fly gives them status as liminal beings in many cultural traditions. The bat is sacred in Tonga and is often considered the physical manifestation of a separable soul.

Bats are closely associated with vampires, who are said to be able to shapeshift into bats, fog, or wolves. Bats are also a symbol of ghosts, death, and disease. Among some Native Americans, such as the Creek, Cherokee and Apache, the bat is a trickster spirit. Chinese lore claims the bat is a symbol of longevity and happiness, and is similarly lucky in Poland and geographical Macedonia and among the Kwakiutl and Arabs.

Pre-Columbian cultures associated animals with gods and often displayed them in art. The Moche people depicted bats in their ceramics.

In Western Culture, the bat is often a symbol of the night and its foreboding nature. The bat is primarily associated with fictional characters of the night, both villains like Dracula and heroes like Batman. The link between fear of the night and bats was treated as a literary challenge by Kenneth Oppel, who created a best selling series of novels, beginning with Silverwing, which feature bats as the central heroic figures much as anthropomorphized rabbits were the central figures to the classic novel Watership Down.

An old wives’ tale has it that bats will entangle themselves in people’s hair. One likely source of this belief is that insect-eating bats seeking prey may dive erratically toward people, who attract mosquitoes and gnats, leading the squeamish to believe that the bats are trying to get in their hair. Contrary to popular belief, there are no vampire bats in Europe, and only one fruit-eating bat (the Egyptian fruit bat that belongs to the sub-order Megachiroptera).

Bats are not only good at reducing insect populations, but they are also one of the best natural indicators of the health of the environment around us. If you think bats are roosting in your house, some things to be aware of are:

Bats are not rodents, and will not nibble or gnaw at wood, wires or insulation.

Bats do not build nests and therefore do not bring bedding material into the roost; neither do they bring their insect prey into the roost.

All bats in the UK eat insects, so they are a great form of natural pest control!

Their droppings are dry and do not putrify, but crumble away to dust.

Female bats usually have only one baby a year. Most bats are seasonal visitors to roosts in houses – they are unlikely to live in that roost all year round, although they are loyal to their roosts and so usually return to the same roosts year after year.

The risk of catching bat rabies from UK bats is miniscule. Rabies is transmitted through a bite or a scratch from an infected bat, or by saliva from an infected bat getting into an existing cut or coming into contact with a person’s mucus membranes. It is not spread through urine or faeces. Therefore you are at no risk if you do not handle bats.

In Britain all bat species and their roosts are legally protected, by both domestic and international legislation.

This means you will be committing a criminal offence if you:

Deliberately capture, injure or kill a bat.

Intentionally or recklessly disturb a bat in its roost or deliberately disturb a group of bats.

Damage or destroy a bat roosting place (even if bats are not occupying the roost at the time).

Possess or advertise/sell/exchange a bat (dead or alive) or any part of a bat.

Intentionally or recklessly obstruct access to a bat roost.

All European bats are, to a greater or lesser extent, endangered with extinction. Some have even become extinct in certain countries. The reasons for this are mainly:

– loss of roosts

– loss of feeding areas and increased use of pesticides, both in agriculture and in the protection of building materials against pest action, which in turn poison the bats who consume them

– misunderstanding and prejudice arising from ignorance about bats and their lives and habits.

I found it interesting to learn recently that the roost in Carew castle is under such stringent protection law that the owners CADW are unable to do the restoration works the castle desperately needs and it’s therefore at very real risk of falling derelict. Also, there are high wire fences now along the road to the ferry port specifically put there by the Pembrokeshire council to protect the bats who live in the trees just outside Milton from the lorries who head for the ferry because their were reports of some in flight being injured.

So, if you’ve got bats in your belfry this Autumn, call the Bat Helpline on 0845 1300 228

Sources of information for the above:

The BCT (Bat Conservation Trust)


CMS (Convention on Migratory Species)

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Working With Boji Stones
By Beth Holtum

I’ve found Boji Stones fascinating. When I first met some, I didn’t like the sensation they give when you hold one in each hand and wouldn’t hold them for long. But I loved the ‘male and female’ difference between the two of a pair.

Boji Stone is a registered trademark name for a spherical concretion of pyrite that was formed in a mass and then river tumbled. They are worked with in pairs – male and female – with one being smoother (female) and the other having the pyrite cubes visible (male).

They bring self-awareness, solidity and cleanse all the chakras. Try holding one in each hand in the centre, solar plexus reflex point of your palm and feel a negative or positive drawing sensation. Then swap them over for the opposite sensation. Work with them in the position that feels most comfortable.

Now I’ll grab my pair and pop them in my trouser pockets (or bra if I’m wearing leggings or a skirt!!) for instant grounding on days when I’ve been ‘out there’ and at risk of bouncing too much, and be totally dysphasic.

I also work with Boji Stones for myself, and with others, to explore the shadow self. I’ve found that they create a spiralling sensation. When held one in each hand, (eg female in left hand and male in right) you can feel a gentle sensation as if you are swaying in a circular motion. If you swap the stones over, (eg holding male in left hand, female in right) you’ll notice a change in the nature of the sensation. One way it is like a downward spiral – quite a heavy sensation, drawing you to introspection. Swapping them over gives a lighter, more lifting (but still grounding) sensation.

I’ve found them most useful for using the introspective, inward and downward sensation to visualise going down a spiral staircase of the self, meeting negative aspects that have been hidden or ignored by the compensated self, in order to shine a light on them, acknowledge what their need is, and visualise offering them a gift (eg a mirror for vanity, a deck of cards for the bored inner child) or understanding a way they can be satisfied (playing Squash for the competitive/aggression) etc.

I hope you have a chance to explore the mysteries of Boji Stones sometime.

Boji stones are available to purchase at Beth’s online store, Rainbowspirit

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By Nik

East Anglian Scarecrows, the Crowman and the Pagan origins of saying “Grace”

By Liz

Definition of a scarecrow – That which frightens or is intended to frighten without doing physical harm. Literally that which scares away crows, hence the name scarecrow.

The Scarecrow is one of the most familiar figures of the rural landscape not only in the United Kingdom but throughout Europe and many other countries of the world. His ragged figure has been recorded in rural history for centuries.

His image has proved irresistible to writers from William Shakespeare to Walter de la Mare as well as to film makers since the dawn of the silent movie. Yet, despite all his fame, the origins and the development of the scarecrow have remained obscured in mystery.

A Traditional Scarecrow from the cover of Scarecrow Fact & Fable, by Peter Haining, Published in 1986 by Robert Hale

A scarecrow is essentially a decoy, although traditionally, a human figure (or mannequin) dressed in old clothes and placed in fields by farmers to discourage birds such as crows or sparrows from disturbing and feeding on recently cast seed and tender delicate growing crops.

In Kojiki, the oldest surviving book in Japan (compiled in the year 712), a scarecrow known as Kuebiko appears as a deity who cannot walk, yet knows everything about the world.

Spending 4 years of my childhood in the early 70’s as I did living and working on a farm in East Anglia, a highly agricultural based area as it was at the time, I became very used to seeing Scarecrows in the local fields. I grew fond of them and feel sad that you don’t really see them any more these days. For me, they were as much a part of English life as red telephone boxes, red route master buses, black taxi cabs, and red letter boxes, all part of the turning Wheel of the Year, all part of the cycle of life – death – rebirth. A symbol of fertility and of hope. Scarecrows were made from two wooden poles tied together in the form of a cross. The head was usually a potato sack stuffed with straw, dressed with discarded clothes from the farmers’ family, the scarecrow was traditionally made every year around the end of July beginning of August.

The East Anglian farmers knew that around the third week of August was the best time of year to plant their beets, onions, turnips, and other rootcrops, along with planting out seedbeds and flower gardens. Then, around the bank holiday weekend, they would sow grains, winter wheat, oats, rye and flowers, plus other days in September for carrots. Of course, all of this brought the hungry crows down out of the trees. The work of the scarecrow was very important because it helped to safeguard the farmers yield and put food in the mouths of the villagers.

In the United Kingdom, where the use of scarecrows as a protector of crops date from time immemorial, and where dialects were rife, they had wide range of alternative names. These include:

Tattie Bogal (Isle of Skye)

Mommet (Somerset)

Murmet (Devon)

Hodmedod (Berkshire)

Tattie bogle (Scotland),

Bodach-rocais (lit. “old man of the rooks”)

Bwbach (Wales)

Alternative names for scarecrows also include these localized versions:

Tao-tao (Philippines)













Espantapájaros (Spanish)

Nuffara (Maltese)

Espantalho (Portuguese)

Epouvantail (French)

Vogelscheuche (German)

Vogelverschrikker (Dutch)

Kakashi (Japanese)

Spaventapasseri (Italian)

Bijuka (Hindi)

Scarecrows appear as popular characters in Magazines, Books, Films and on television:-

L. Frank Baum’s tale The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has a scarecrow as one of the main protagonists. The Scarecrow of Oz was searching for brains from the Great Wizard. In the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz The Scarecrow of Oz was portrayed by Ray Bolger. In the 1914 film His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz the Scarecrow of Oz was portrayed by Frank Moore.

Worzel Gummidge, a scarecrow who came to life in a friendly form, first appeared in series of novels by Barbara Euphan Todd in the 1930s, and later in a popular television adaptation.

The Scarecrow is a character in the DC Comics universe, a classic supervillain and one of Batman’s greatest enemies.

Similar characters, known as Scarecrow and Straw Man, have appeared in Marvel Comics.

A scarecrow called Mervyn Pumpkinhead is one of the dreams who serve Dream of the Endless in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman (Vertigo) series. Mervyn is a builder of dreamscapes as well as a caretaker or maintenance worker of sorts.

Decline is scarecrow use is due to the change of farming technology started with the industrial revolution. The hectic life of the farmer means that he doesn’t have time to even feel the earth or walk it. He sits in his combination machine i.e J.C.B. He is protected against the elements and maybe listening to music. He is high off the ground and the earth and its magical properties are lost in a kind of factory floor. The hedges have gone to make larger areas. Lots of wild life has gone but somehow ‘The Crow’ survives. The farmer of old would once a year sow his land by hand after the land had been lovingly prepared and tended.

Now this is all done by machine.

The farmer used to discard his old clothes and create a friendly chap and put him to guard his crops.

He worked and still does.

Farmers of today rarely make a Scarecrow. On talking to them young and old still have a love of them. They try electronic ones and pop up balloon types. They are still trying to find an answer as the birds soon get wise to these methods. I believe if the Scarecrow is going to do his job he has to have a mystical feel about him. The ones made by the farmers in East Anglia back in the 60’s and 70’s used to conceal certain “charms” about their person; perhaps a sprig of “lucky heather” safety pinned to their lapels, maybe a white rabbits’ foot in their waistcoat watch pocket, maybe a black swans’ feather in their cap, or whatever, but there was usually something deeper in it’s meaning than just a representation of a man in the field guarding those crops. The 1881 Household Cyclopedia of General Information gives the following advice:

Machinery of various kinds, such as wind-mills in miniature, horse rattles, etc., to be put in motion by the wind, are often employed to frighten crows; but with all of these they soon become familiar, when they cease to be of any use whatever.

The most effectual method of banishing them from a field, as far as experience goes, is to combine with one or other of the scarecrows in vogue the frequent use of the musket. Nothing strikes such terror into these sagacious animals as the sight of a fowling-piece and the explosion of gun powder, which they have known so often to be fatal to their race.

Such is their dread of a fowling-piece, that if one is placed upon a dyke or other eminence, it will for a long time prevent them from alighting on the adjacent grounds.

Many persons now, however, believe that crows like most other birds, do more good by destroying insects and worms, etc., than harm by eating grain.

—Henry Hartshorne, The Household Cyclopedia of General Information

Crows can be a substantial problem for gardens in the springtime: they can work down a row pulling up recently sprouted corn to eat the remaining seed/seedlings. In some parts of the world common methods of scaring off crows were the use of a dead crows hung upside down from a pole, the deployment of sparrow hawk decoys or even real sparrowhawks.

Modern scarecrows, though still essentially decoys, seldom take a human shape. On some farmland, highly reflective aluminized PET film ribbons are tied to the plants to create shimmers from the sun. Another approach is automatic noise guns powered by propane gas.

Here in Pembrokeshire where I live now, they seem to grow a lot of the crops under a sea of plastic membranes. It looks like the fields are flooded with water across the landscape to the unaware. One or two of the farmers still use sparrow hawks. I’ve yet to see a scarecrow doing his proper job, and it’s a real shame.

But I live in hope.

Scarecrow Festivals

Isle of Skye, Minginish. Tattie bogal event, Workshops, Scarecrow trail, Family fun Day, and Ceildh & Barn Dance happens each year. In the UK, the festival at Wray, Lancashire was established in the early 1990s and continues to the present day. In the village of Orton, Eden, scarecrows are displayed each year, often using topical themes such as a Dalek exterminating a Wind turbine to represent local opposition to a wind farm. Norland, West Yorkshire has a festival. Tetford and Salmonby jointly host one. In Teesdale, the villages of Cotherstone, Staindrop and Middleton-in-Teesdale have annual scarecrow festivals. The village of Meerbrook in Staffordshire holds an annual Scarecrow Festival during the month of May. Kettlewell in North Yorkshire has held an annual festival since 1994.[6] Scotland’s first scarecrow festival was held in West Kilbride, North Ayrshire in 2004, and there is also one held in Montrose.

In Dymchurch on Romney Marsh a man dressed as a scarecrow rode down the street annually since 1964 in celebration of local author Russel Thorndike’s Dr Syn books, however in 2008 he was required to walk due to health and safety regulations.

Tonbridge in Kent also host an annual ‘Scarecrow Trail’, organised by the local Rotary Club to raise money for local charities. In the USA, St. Charles, Illinois hosts an annual ‘Scarecrow Festival’.

The ‘pumpkin people’ come in the fall months in the valley region of Nova Scotia, Canada. They are scarecrows with pumpkin heads doing various things such as playing the fiddle or riding a wooden horse. Cats and pigs made from pumpkins are also present. Hickling in the south of Nottinghamshire is another village that celebrates an annual scarecrow event. It is very popular and has successfully raised a great deal of money for charity.

A Poem By Barbara Euphan Todd

Ye Scairey-crows of dry-land,

Your little fields have bounds,

Come sail with me and you shall see,

The sun upon his rounds.

The sea-flowers bloom year out,year in,

The Plough is in the sky.

As you sail, as you sail,

And the time goes passing by,

And you will forget the fields you knew

As the times goes passing by.

Here where I live in Pembrokeshire, the good people of LLangwm used to hold an annual Scarecrow festival every June, but sadly this year it has cone to an end because the organisers are unable to find anyone keen enough to take over the running of it, despite putting out heartfelt pleas in the local press and other means of contacting people. I for one will sadly miss it.

Something a lot of folk don’t know is a long time ago, back in the 1800’s, there used to be real life human scare crows, called crow men. These men would be employed by the farmers to keep their crops safe from hungry birds. It was believed they had special magickal skills and powers and that they could literally “charm” the birds to stay away. Their skills were much sought after and the good ones rose in status to the elevation of almost God-like standing because if they failed the villagers starved. It put them in a very powerful position and if they turned up at the farm expecting hospitality no farmer could refuse. It was believed that every meal successfully put on the table meant another reason to thank the crow man. It is easy to conclude that this was the Pagan origins of saying Christian Grace.

Real life crow men were replaced with the wooden pole variety when war broke out and all the labour went into the military.

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Floral Treat by Cai Thomas

Origins of Writing: Magic or Accountancy?

By Christopher Josiffe


It is striking to note that myths from many of the ancient world’s cultures ascribe a divine or supernatural origin to the art of writing. Thus, Nisaba, the Sumerian goddess, was patroness of scribes and writing, as was the Babylonian Nabu. According to another Sumerian myth, Inanna and Enki: the Transfer of the Arts of Civilization from Eridu to Erech (translated by Kramer, 1972, pp.64-65), it is the god Enki who gave the arts of woodworking, metalworking and writing, (together with many other skills necessary for civilization) to the goddess Inanna, and thence to humankind. The Egyptian Thoth was said to be the inventor of writing, and the Egyptian word for ‘writing’ (m.d.w-n.t.r) may be translated as “the speech of the gods”. According to the Norse tradition, Odin hung on the world tree Yggdrasil for nine days, and by this ordeal was granted the secret of the runes, which he then gave to humankind. The Irish deity Ogma is associated with the invention of writing, the Ogham alphabet being named after him. The mythical Chinese god-king Fu Xi is credited with the invention of writing, as is Brahma, who, in the Hindu tradition, is said to have given the secret of writing to humankind. Gelb (1952, p.252) noted: “Everywhere, in the East as well as in the West, the origin of writing is ascribed to a divinity.”

This article will seek to demonstrate that, whilst the origins of the Sumerian writing system are closely connected to an emergent trade economy (and thence the need for a written method of accounting), there may have been alternative driving forces – namely, magico-religious imperatives – which led to the development of other ancient writing systems. Early Chinese (‘oracle-bone’) scripts, and the ‘Old European’ script of the Balkan Vinča culture, will be examined.

To begin with, it would perhaps be as well to establish what is meant by ‘writing’. Gelb (1952, p.11) differentiated between what he styled the “semasiographic stage of writing (expressing meanings and notions loosely connected with speech) and the phonographic stage (expressing speech)”. He argued that general linguists, having defined writing as a method of recording spoken language by means of certain marks (whether they be on clay, stone, wood, paper etc), and seeing such a method as being a faithful representation of its spoken equivalent, were unable to appreciate the development of writing from its earliest stages. They failed to understand that such a definition could not be applied to writing at its very earliest stages, where the marks only loosely approximated the spoken language. Similarly, he criticized philologists, who (he claimed) believed that writing, even after the introduction of phonetization, was still used to record both sounds and ideas. In fact, Gelb claimed, once humankind had established a method of exactly recording spoken speech in a written form, writing then lost its independent character and became ‘simply’ a substitute for speech.

It follows from this that Gelb regarded certain ideographic systems (such as that of North American Indians) as not being ‘proper’ writing as such, if defined as a system which faithfully represents speech phonetically. He differentiated between what he calls ‘primitive’ writing systems and more sophisticated ones, by looking for a ‘full phonetic system’. But the mere appearance of some sporadic phonetic elements (e.g. Yoruba cowrie shells) is not on its own evidence of a ‘high level’. Neither is a system’s sophistication and elaboration evidence on its own of its being ‘true writing’. Gelb argued (1952, p.56) that whilst the Mayan and Aztec systems are on a ‘higher level’ than their North American counterparts, they were, nevertheless, not ‘true writing’, since they lacked the full phonetic element:

“The best proof that the Maya writing is not a phonetic system results from the plain fact that it is still undeciphered. This conclusion is inescapable if we remember the most important principle in the theory of decipherment: A phonetic writing can and ultimately must be deciphered if the underlying language is known.”

However, it should be noted that the Mayan languages are still spoken in the present day, and are therefore “known” languages. Furthermore, it is no longer the case (as it was in 1952) that the Mayan script remains undeciphered; the last 40 years have seen major breakthroughs, following, in particular, the academic conference Mesa Redonda de Palenque, held at the Mayan site of Palenque in 1973. It is now possible to read and understand the majority of Mayan writings. These successes were kick-started, ironically, by a work published in 1952, Yuri Knorozov’s Ancient Writings of Central America.

The general thesis of Knorozov’s paper was that early writing systems such as Egyptian hieroglyphs and Sumerian, hitherto believed to be predominantly logographic or even ideographic in nature, were in fact possessed of a significant phonetic component. The Mayan system is now known to be a logosyllabic one, that is, an individual glyph may represent either a word or a syllable. But it is the phonetic element which conforms to Gelb’s criteria of ‘true writing’.

Hooker (1990, p.6) restated the point that pictographs in themselves do not constitute writing as such: “Pictographs have no linguistic reference of any kind; they depict an event, or convey a message, by means of a series of drawings. Such a medium can hardly be called writing.” Nevertheless, he does appear to part company with Gelb, who drew a sharp distinction between what he termed ‘primitive’ and ‘complex’ systems. Hooker (ibid) wrote that “so-called ‘primitive’ societies using pictographs may be just as complex in their modes of thought as users of other methods but it is a different order of complexity” and argued that pictograms were developed mainly amongst hunting or farming societies (e.g. North American Indians), whereas the ‘other methods’ tend to develop in urban societies with more advanced technologies (e.g. Sumer). Whether pictograms may be regarded as the precursors to writing proper, or whether logograms developed independently of pictograms is still a matter for debate. Hooker noted that the Egyptian (1st Dynasty; c. 3,100 BC) Narmer Palette features both. It is interesting to note that, in his research into the earliest writing of Mesopotamia (4th millennium BC: Uruk IV site), Falkenstein (1936) observed that purely pictographic signs were rarely employed; ideographic-abstract signs being far more common.

The earliest stages of the Sumerian system have been subjected to close scrutiny, and it is now generally accepted that – following Denise Schmandt-Besserat’s pioneering studies – the need for a means of accountancy was a determining factor in the origin of Mesopotamian written language.

Mesopotamian writing systems & Schmandt-Besserat

Schmandt-Besserat is strongly associated with the economic theory of writing origin, following her investigations into the clay tokens which are found in such profusion throughout the ancient Near East. Amiet (1966) had first proposed the idea that these tokens represented some form of recording system, but Schmandt-Besserat went on to develop and expand this theory. She described (1992, pp.7-8) finding these tokens, by chance, amongst:

“.Near Eastern archaeological clay collections dating from 8,000 to 6,000 BC stored in museums of the Near East, North Africa, Europe, and North America.[where] I.came across a category of artefacts that I did not expect – miniature cones, spheres, disks, tetrahedrons, cylinders, and other geometric shapes. The artefacts were made of clay.some were in the shape of animals, vessels, tools and other commodities.I sensed that the tokens were part of a system because I repeatedly found small and large cones, thin and thick disks, small and large spheres, and even fractions of spheres, such as half and three-quarter spheres. But what were they for?”

She also examined a hollow clay ‘tablet’, dated to the second millennium BC, discovered at Nuzi, a site in northern Iraq, which bore a cuneiform inscription, reading:

Counters representing small cattle:

21 ewes that lamb

6 female lambs

8 full-grown male sheep

4 male lambs

6 she-goats that kid

1 he-goat

3 female goats

The seal of Ziqarru, the shepherd

(Rudgley, 1998, p.50)

Upon further inspection, the object was not a tablet, but rather, a clay envelope that contained 49 clay counters. This sum corresponded to the total number of animals inventoried in the inscription on the outside. It then became clear to Schmandt-Besserat that this constituted some form of accounting system, and she connected the counters found inside the envelope with those tokens found in huge quantities all over the Middle East and Turkey. Over the next 15 years, she made this her main area of study, setting out a large body of supporting evidence for her theory that this system of accounting tokens was the precursor for both the earliest forms of writing (the Uruk archaic texts) and of a written numerical system.

She differentiated between two types of token, the first being those more simple forms, dating from c. 8,000 to 4,400-4,300 BC, which she termed plain tokens, nearly always composed of clay, between 1 and 5 centimetres wide, and forming geometric shapes such as spheres, cones, disks and so on. The second type, termed complex tokens, were of a later date, beginning to be created from 4,400 BC onwards.

The plain tokens were associated with commodities, so that the conical type of token represented a measure of grain, the ban (approximately a litre), and the sphere, a larger measure of grain, the bariga (approximately a bushel). Similarly, the cylinder represented a domestic animal, the tetrahedron, a unit of labour, and so on. The complex tokens she assigned to finished products as opposed to raw materials, so that incised cones, ovoids and rhomboid tokens represented bread, oil and beer respectively (Schmandt-Besserat, 1979).

Schmandt-Besserat saw these two types of device as leading to a duality in the subsequent writing system. Plain tokens were contained within a clay envelope, which was in turn impressed with tokens. This, she argued, evolved into a representation of the quantity of items being counted, i.e. numerals. Complex tokens were hung on string with an accompanying bulla, which was itself inscribed with a stylus (the incised nature of the complex tokens making them unsuitable to be impressed onto clay). The ensuing pictographs represented the nature or quality of the items being counted; these in turn, she argued, led to the development of phonetic signs. At some time around 3,500-3,100 BC, a further development occurred, whereby “the accountants realised that the notation on the outside of the envelope made the tokens and the envelope itself redundant” (Rudgley, 1998, p.54). In other words, a tablet, suitably impressed or inscribed, would serve the same purpose; there was no need for the tokens themselves.

It should be stated that there has been some criticism of Schmandt-Besserat’s theories. Jasim & Oates (1986), whilst not disputing the validity of her interpretation, regarded it as being over-generalized, in the sense of its universal application across the entire Near East, when the evidence so far only points to her thesis being valid for certain localized sites such as Susa: “Certainly, there was no ‘universal’ system” (p.351). They also suggested that the tokens may have had different functions from those proposed by Schmandt-Besserat, noting that at Tepe Gawra, a child’s grave contained a set of alabaster spheres, implying a gaming function, and that another tomb was found to contain only marble spheres, as grave goods, implying high status objects. They asserted that:

“.we cannot assume comparable function for all small geometric objects; certainly they are not all ‘accounting tokens’, though ceremonial or ritual symbols may have had an economic derivation.” (p.352)

Whilst we may attempt to make a sharp distinction between an ‘economic’ and ‘ritual’ usage, Jasim & Oates made the sensible point that “the two functions are not necessarily as distinct as our terminology implies.” (p.355)

Nevertheless, perhaps as a result of Schmandt-Besserat’s undoubtedly exhaustive ancient Near East research, an economic origin is sometimes regarded as being the sole cause for the development of any written system anywhere in the world. As Powell (2009, p.63) observed:

“The undoubted economic character of the protocuneiform tablets has coloured general histories of writing, suggesting that all writing has appeared in response to economic behaviour.”

In opposition to such a view, Powell pointed out that Mesoamerican writing systems were developed in order to glorify its rulers, as may also be said of early Egyptian writing, and that the earliest Chinese writings were oracular in character.

Shang ‘oracle-bones’

The Chinese ‘oracle-bone’ inscriptions of the Shang dynasty (1,751-1,111 BC) constitute the earliest known writing system in East Asia, and form the basis of all later forms of Chinese writing. The so-called ‘oracle-bones’ were, in fact, either turtle shells, or the shoulder bones of oxen, and were employed in the forms of divination known as plastromancy, or scapulimancy, respectively.

These shells or bones would first be cleaned and prepared so as to create a flat surface. Indentations would then be bored into the surface at regular intervals. The shells or bones would then be subjected to intense heat by means of a heat source being inserted in one or more of the holes. This heat would induce stress fractures on the surface; the ensuing patterns would then be interpreted or ‘read’ by the diviner. It has been argued (e.g. Marshall, 2001) that there is a connection between the ‘oracle-bones’ and the 3,000-year-old Chinese I Ching or ‘Book of Changes’, used to this day by millions for the purposes of divination or for advice of a philosophical nature. Certainly, the similarity between those regular patterns produced on the ‘oracle-bones’ by the process described above, and the broken or unbroken lines which make up the hexagrams of the I Ching, is indeed a suggestive one.

This pyromancy was a relatively widespread form of divination, being attested throughout much of Asia and also in North America. The practice is perhaps very old, but the earliest evidence in China dates back to around 3,500 BC (at Fu-ho-kou-men in Liaoning), where the fractures were random. The Shang dynasty’s innovation was to produce more regular patterns by means of the drilled holes. The other singular factor is that amongst all the worldwide instances of such pyromantic divinatory practices, only the Shang Chinese made a written record of their divinations, by carving signs into the oracle-bones themselves.

The divination process would begin with the shell or bone being anointed with blood, and inscribed with the diviner’s name and the date, in a process known as the ‘preface’. The subject of the divination would then be posed. Typically, enquiries would be concerned with the health of the king and members of his royal family; the outcomes of forthcoming military endeavours; the prognosis for that year’s harvest, and so on. These enquiries were directed at ancestors as well as gods (Keightley, 1978).

Although the characters were mostly carved into the shell or bone, there are a few instances where the writing has been drawn onto the surface in red or black ink, using a brush. Keightley (1989, pp.182-184) observed that there is relatively no aesthetic component to the brush-writing:

“.the aesthetic influence of the brush appears to have been minimal; the brush-written script looks stiff and angular, resembling the carved script. That the Shang scribes could have written all their inscriptions with a brush but chose not to do so raises the interesting question of why they expended considerable time and labour to carve the characters into the bones. One cannot be sure of the answer, but two facts are suggestive. First, the diviners also carved out some of the cracks as well, rendering them deeper and more visible, and second, the diviners frequently filled the incised graphs and the cracks with red- or black-coloured pigments. These practices suggest that the carving itself served some aesthetic function – permitting the colouration of the writing – and that it may also have served some magical function in which the actual carving, by establishing a sympathy between the crack and the record, helped to “fix” or induce the desired event.”

So the act of carving the signs itself was somehow part of the magico-ritual process.

As regards the nature of the script itself, Bagley (2004, p.198) stated quite unequivocally that it was to be regarded as ‘true writing’ and not just a set of simple pictograms:

“As to the script, specialists are agreed that it is full writing at the moment when we first encounter it; that is, a Shang scribe could probably have written pretty much anything he could say.”

Similarly, Bottéro (2004, p.258) stated that “the Chinese script is obviously an original system of signs created to record an ancestral form of the Chinese language”, and, whilst pointing out the fact of its origin being problematic, still regarded the Shang ‘oracle-bone’ script as being, if not the first, then one of the very earliest such:

“First, it is hard to find any social requirements for writing prior to the Shang dynasty…Second…the graphic style of the Shang script, with its rather pictographic shape, strongly suggests a writing close to its first steps or its beginning…” (ibid).

So, until such time as earlier examples of archaic Chinese writing are discovered, it would seem to be the case that the ‘oracle-bone’ script appeared fully-formed during the Shang period.

Keightley (1989, p.184) noted the “considerable continuity” between the Shang signs and those of later Chinese scripts:

“Literate Chinese of today, untutored in oracle-bone script, would probably find much of it incomprehensible at first glance.but after only a few moments of study they would begin to identify some of the early graph forms that preceded those of the modern script.”

A pattern of development may be observed when one compares the Shang characters with those of the later Western Chou (‘greater seal’) script, the Eastern Chou (‘lesser seal’) script, and finally, the modern forms.

Keightley (1989, p.195) also suggested that “social or technological activity in the late Neolithic” may have led to the development of a writing system – the need for measurement and calculation for constructing pots, and compared this with Renfrew’s argument (1972) of a similar imperative in the Mediterranean:

“Writing in the ancient Aegean seems to have arisen partly to assist in problems of mensuration and calculation. The archaeological evidence suggests that it was indeed the cultures of the Neolithic East that were primarily concerned with such problems. For componential pot construction implies attention to scale and measurement, particularly when three-footed vessels are involved, which must be made of equal size. The parts – legs, handles, spouts, lids – have to be measured so that they will fit the vessel body.” (Keightley, ibid)

The present writer finds this argument unconvincing. Would such a requirement as measurement – admittedly important – have been the driving force for the creation of an entire writing system, rather than just a numbering system? Rather, it would seem more logical to view the oracle-bone characters as being the precursors of later Chinese scripts, and to regard early literacy in China as having been driven by the imperative of magico-ritual demands, namely divination – and as Keightley himself observed, literacy was employed for divinatory purposes 500 years before it was put to any more ‘practical’ use.

‘Old European’

Another writing system, whose origins may also lie not in economic but in religious practices, is the ‘Old European’ script espoused by the archaeologist Marija Gimbutas, and by later writers. It must be emphasized that the signs (found on pottery, and upon clay tablets) which are claimed to be ‘Old European’, are by no means universally accepted to be writing. Even if this sign system is accepted as being a written language, it is, as yet, an undeciphered one. But, as this article will hope to demonstrate, the work of Gimbutas, Winn and Haarmann builds a strong case.

The discovery, in 1961, of three inscribed clay tablets in a sacrificial pit at Tărtăria, near Cluj, Transylvania (now in Romania), ascribed to the Neolithic Vinča culture, was a perplexing one for prehistorians. Hitherto, the consensus had been that all technological and other innovations had arrived in Europe from the Near East, via diffusion (Childe, 1925, 1929). It was recognized that Neolithic cultures (e.g. the Vinča, Tisza, and Karanovo cultures) in the Balkans were the earliest in Europe to have employed techniques of metallurgy – using copper at c. 5,000 BC – but these techniques were thought to have been developed first in the Near East. Similarly, writing systems were regarded as having first arisen in Mesopotamia. So the discovery of the ‘Tărtăria tablets’ and their having being radiocarbon-dated to 5,500 BC, clearly conflicted with a Near East origin, given that Uruk IV proto-writing evolved in the later 4th millennium BC.

It should be pointed out that the early date ascribed to the Tărtăria tablets has been challenged, on stratigraphic grounds (Zanotti, 1983). But these inscriptions were by no means the only ones to have been discovered in the Balkans region. Clay tablets, bearing incised signs, found at two Bulgarian sites, Gradeshnitsa and Karanovo, were in both cases radiocarbon-dated to 4000 BC at the latest.

Regarding these incised signs, Renfrew (1999, p.193) observed:

“More than 200 examples have been described from the important settlement of the Vinča culture at Tordos in Romania. Some of them are very simple – just a few strokes on the base of a pot, or a straightforward cross; others show more complicated motifs.”

Whilst the simpler forms might be thought to have been potter’s marks, it was these “more complicated motifs” that aroused the interest of Gimbutas, described by Renfrew (1999, p.193) as “the leading American authority on the prehistory of eastern Europe.” She used the evidence of widespread incised signs found at these early Balkan Copper Age sites, together with accomplished sculptures, mainly depicting female figures – upon which signs were often inscribed – to posit a sophisticated matrifocal Old European Neolithic culture in existence between c. 7,500 and c. 3,500 BC.

Certainly the figurines are predominantly representative of the female form. Markotić (1984) stated that, of 558 figurine discoveries attributed to the Vinča culture, 541 depicted females. Whether these figurines represented goddesses or ordinary human females is uncertain, although Gimbutas (1991, p.308) insisted that these objects were religious in nature:

“Votive offerings – gifts to the divinity in accordance with a vow, a wish, or desire – inscribed on religious objects usually found in clusters or rows, are characteristic finds of the Neolithic and Copper Ages, particularly in east-central Europe.”

Whilst noting that: “the invention of a script some eight thousand years ago has seemed so unthinkable that to this day the possibility is ignored and its evidence given very little attention” (1991, p.308), Gimbutas went on to declare that:

“Although the Sumerians are generally thought to be the inventors of written language, a script in east-central Europe appeared some two thousand years earlier than any other that has yet been found. Unlike Sumerian script, the writing of the Old Europeans was not devised for economic, legal or administrative purposes. It was developed, instead, from a long use of graphic symbolic signs found only within the context of an increasingly sophisticated worship of the Goddess. Inscriptions appear on religious items only, indicating that these signs were intended to be read as sacred hieroglyphs.” (ibid)

These claims may seem incredible to some, but it should be noted that Gimbutas, although the first to portray the many archaeological finds in the Balkan region as being representative of a coherent whole Old European civilization, is not alone in her claims. Winn undertook what is still the most comprehensive study of the Vinča signs for his 1973 dissertation (later published in 1981). It features an extensive sign catalogue, incorporating hundreds of examples from 50 sites identified as belonging to the Vinča culture. 210 basic sign types were identified (Winn, 1981, pp.60-65), which could be subdivided into 18 categories, and further classified as belonging to five core signs – (1) a straight, unbent, unbroken line; (2) two straight lines intersecting at the centre; (3) two lines intersecting at one end; (4) a dot or stipple; and (5) a curved line.

The signs – inscribed on pottery, figurines, spindle whorls, and other more unusual objects, sometimes unidentifiable – were sometimes found in isolation, or as part of a sign group. Arguing against an identification of isolated signs as mere potter’s marks, Winn (1981, p.13) noted:

“Isolated signs are found more frequently on pottery, but they may also occur on figurines, rarely on spindle whorls and occasionally on other subjects. Some of the basic sign types appear restricted to figurines and/or whorls. Therefore, these signs cannot be identified as mere pot marks.”

Winn (1981, p.14) also distinguished between mere decorative, aesthetic elements found on the objects, and the signs proper: “A distinction has been made between decoration and signs on the basis of their integration into overall ornamentation or independence from decoration”. He claimed that it was easy to tell which was which, although in some cases, a few decorative elements resembled signs (e.g. the ‘M’ sign, to which Popović and Gimbutas ascribed a religious meaning). He theorized that these had more than just an aesthetic value, with a symbolic meaning also, such that they may have formed the basis for the later origin of the signs proper (1981, p.12): “In a minority of cases the signs may be influenced by decorative prototypes, as there are certain decorative elements which may be related to the origin of signs.” Interestingly, one decorative element identified by Winn, organized or deliberate scratch marks, was found in abundance at one site, Jela (in modern Croatia), at the very northwest limit of the Vinča culture’s sphere of influence. He suggested that these scratch marks had been made as mimicry of the signs themselves, in imitation of an admired culture (one thinks of Romano-British coinage, where British chieftains sought to emulate Roman coins, reproducing the design whilst not understanding the script).

Winn (1981, p.76) also observed that the signs were inscribed on various parts of the objects: on the rim or upper body; on the lower side near the base; and on the base itself. In his catalogue, these various locations formed a further means of classification. It was noted that certain signs, or groups of signs, tended to be found on certain parts of the objects. For example, the Tordos signs were found to occur “in very high proportions on the base” whereas pictograms were found “principally on the body” of the objects:

Arguing against their identification as mere potter’s marks, he wrote (p.79):

“It is difficult to understand why more complicated signs.should be placed on the base. The general view, of course, has been to dismiss them as proprietary marks, but in my estimation this is an over-simplification. Certainly, some may be proprietor’s marks, but this view does not provide an adequate explanation for the majority of recurring signs. These signs are noted at various sites and do not seem to be intuitively distinguishable for such a basic purpose as ownership, where owners could hardly be cognizant of identical signs elsewhere, unless the identity was entirely the result of chance or there were certain standardized signs, which then must have had an attached concept with which the owner was familiar when he utilized the sign as a pottery mark.”

Instead, Winn maintained that the above observations denoted “purposeful distinctions in sign usage and, therefore, an intention to communicate something meaningful”, concluding (p.235) that the signs form a “conventionalized and standardized” semiotic system, rather than individual signs being merely discrete magical symbols (p.267):

“The suggestion that the signs represent nothing more than magical marks is untenable, although some simple signs, particularly on pottery vessels, may have been inscribed as part of magical formulae. The evidence shows deliberate sign usage at various sites according to object and function; this usage over space and time illustrates its meaningfulness in the world view of the society.”

Whilst the system could not be termed ‘true’ writing, on account of insufficient attestations of group sign repetition, Winn nevertheless argued against its being, fundamentally, a pictographic one – the majority of signs being abstract linear ones which occur alongside earlier pictographic signs, which in turn have been observed in isolation, at the earlier Tordos site. Thus the Vinča system may have developed from an earlier pictographic one, much like the development of Sumerian logograms and syllabograms.

Regarding the origin and source of the Vinča signs, this has been the source of much debate. Following the discovery of incised signs from the Tordos site in 1879 (during Zsofia Torma’s excavations of this very large site, yielding some 10,000 objects, from 1875-1891), and others found during the first Vinča excavation by M. Vasić in 1908, it was the general view that the script must have arrived in the Balkans by means of diffusion from elsewhere. Torma (1889) argued for an Assyro-Babylonian influence. The prevailing view at the turn of the nineteenth century was that early Troy and early Dynastic Egypt shared a common script. Vasić (1908) argued firstly for a Trojan influence, and then later suggested (1957) that there had been an Ionian colony at Vinča. And the enormously influential V. Gordon Childe (1927, p.83) claimed “an ethnic connexion between the first settlers at Vinča and the peoples of the Aegean”, also noting (p.88) analogies between the cultures of predynastic Egypt, Troy, and Vinča.

However, the application of C-14 radiocarbon dating techniques in the 1950s, which gave a date of 4,240 BC to the earliest Vinča finds, meant that such ‘diffusion’ theories of origin were untenable, the earliest date for the foundation of Troy being at least 1,000 years later. Whilst the implications of these startling dates were still being assimilated, the discovery in 1961 of the three Tărtăria tablets added further controversy. The excavator, N. Vlassa (1963) drew attention to the Tărtăria signs’ similarity with those of the Uruk IV and Jemdet Nasr tablets (late fourth to third millennia BC), a view with which Falkenstein agreed (1965). Vlassa claimed the earliest level of the Tărtăria site to be no older than 2,700 BC, this making a Mesopotamian origin tenable. Other writers such as Popović (1965), Hood (1967) and Makkay (1969) concur. Popović, taking a similar view to Gelb, does not regard the Balkan civilization to be sufficiently advanced as to develop a system of writing, and thus claims a Sumerian origin. Hood also adheres to a Childe-like diffusionary theory, arguing that the magico-religious attributes of the Vinča signs may have resulted from religious conversion via Near East influences. And Makkay (1969, p.14) compiled a list which compared Vinča signs with those of Mesopotamia, admitting that he is compelled to make such Near East connections for want of any possible European influences. Nevertheless, the Tărtăria signs aside (which this writer considers to be something of a red herring, on account of their debatable date (see Zanotti, 1983) and similarity with Jemdet Nasr/Uruk IV pictograms), there is clearly a problem for an ex oriente lux argument, given that C-14 dating ascribes a date of 4,240 BC to the earliest Vinča finds. Indeed, with radiocarbon calibration (the method by which a more accurate date may be found), an additional 500-800 years must be added, so that the dates are pushed back still further! Accordingly, we are faced with a well-established Balkan civilization flourishing in the 5th millennium BC, reaching its pinnacle around 4,000 BC, with its decline or destruction coming some time in the 4th millennium.

As noted above, Winn argued that the Vinča signs were derived from five core elements. Noting the prevalence of such signs as the zigzag or meander, the spiral, and the cross or X, he further noted (1981, p.237) that “such signs/motifs can be considered symbolic: fertility, good fortune or welfare, duty, water, etc.The association of such symbolic decoration with figurines is clear”. Gimbutas (1991, p.314) claimed a Palaeolithic provenance for certain core Vinča signs:

“Independent abstract signs, not pictographs, such as V, X, and Y, originated during the Upper Palaeolithic. A number of them, engraved on stone, bone, and antler, continued through the Mesolithic into early phases of the Neolithic. In Old Europe and Anatolia they consistently recur on ceramics in various arrangements: duplicated, triplicated, multiplied, inverted, opposed, and associated with meanders and parallel lines. Some signs are continuous from the Upper Palaeolithic Gravettian and Magdalenian cultures into the Neolithic, Copper Age, and even early Bronze Age of Europe and Anatolia, a span of 15,000 years.”

She further attributed religious meanings to these signs; thus, the V sign was said (1991, p.315) to derive from the vulva or pubic triangle, “one of the earliest symbols known from prehistoric art…Its repetitiveness in homologous contexts speaks of its central role in the symbolism surrounding certain aspects of the Goddess.” One might, at this point, note this sign’s similarity to the Sumerian sign for ‘female’ (‘MUNUS’; Labat, 1948, no.554), although it should be noted that I am not arguing here for diffusion, an Old European influence on Sumerian; rather, that such elementary signs may have had an independent origin in different parts of the world at different periods.

Noting (p.315) that “multiple V’s or chevrons appear consistently on both articulate and schematic effigies of the Bird Goddess, and on objects associated with her veneration, such as ornithomorphic vases…”, Gimbutas observed (p.316) that:

“Examination of the repertory of symbols on figurines leads to several observations. Signs surrounding the image of the Bird Goddess, for example, (such as V’s and chevrons combined with X) identify her, while V’s associated or connected with meanders, zigzags, or parallel lines emphasize her intimacy with the aquatic life-giving sphere, suggesting her function as a giver of moisture and life waters.I believe that the Old European sign system developed into a script from extensive use of very ancient symbolism. It is possible that certain symbols could have had a phonetic sound much earlier than the 6th millennium B.C.”

One might note that the Sumerian sign for ‘water’, (‘A’; Labat, 1948, no. 579) in its very earliest forms (e.g. Jemdet Nasr or Uruk IV periods) resembles a zigzag. Rudgley argued that the zigzag’s association with water had a very early origin (1991), citing Marshack’s (1972, 1976) detailed examination of deliberate marks found on Upper Palaeolithic animal bones – in particular, the discovery of a zigzag on a fragment of bone found at a Mousterian site (Bacho Kiro, Bulgaria), suggesting a possible Neanderthal date.

Naturally, the idea that writing may ultimately have a Palaeolithic origin is very problematic, and has met with opposition by some in the academy. Forbes and Crowder (1979, p.359) wrote:

“The proposition that Ice Age reindeer hunters invented writing fifteen thousand years ago or more is utterly inadmissible and unthinkable. All the data that archaeologists have amassed during the last one hundred years reinforce the assumption that Sumerians and Egyptians invented true writing during the second half of the fourth millennium. The Palaeolithic-Mesolithic-Neolithic progression to civilization is almost as fundamental an article of contemporary scientific faith as heliocentrism. Writing is the diagnostic trait, the quintessential feature of civilization. Writing, says I. J. Gelb, ‘distinguishes civilized man from barbarian’. If Franco-Cantabrians [i.e. Ice Age European peoples] invented writing thousands of years before civilization arose in the Near East, then our most cherished beliefs about the nature of society and human development would be demolished.”

This is not to say that a Neolithic origin is any less controversial! Winn himself was unable to bring himself to describe the Vinča signs as true writing – hence, when his 1973 dissertation, The Signs of the Vinča Culture was published in 1981, it was titled Pre-Writing in Southeastern Europe: The Sign System of the Vinča Culture [my bold]. Winn was unable to determine the Vinča system to be a logographic one, due to the insufficient attestation of long strings of signs – whilst qualifying this with the cautious remark (1981, p.238) that “the system may be partially logographic, i.e. some of the signs may represent words or concepts.” Neither was he able to describe it as a phonemic one, and therefore concluded that it was a system of pre-writing rather than writing proper.

In a linguistic study, Haarmann (1995) examined the Vinča sign system, in comparison with those of ancient Mediterranean civilizations such as that of Crete – Linear A & B – and the Cypro-Minoan script. He noted Winn’s refusal to ascribe ‘true writing’ status to the Vinča signs, but pointed out Winn’s adherence to an American definition of writing (Haarmann, 1995, pp.31-32): “[i]n American terminology, “true writing” or “full writing” is reserved to mean ‘phonetic writing of some sort'” He suggested that instead of ‘pre-writing’, the term ‘nuclear writing’ be used to describe early writing systems which, whilst essentially logographic, were not yet phonetic.

Haarmann (1995, p.28) believed that the Vinča signs comprised a ‘sacred script’, a genuine writing system, albeit one as yet undeciphered:

“The close relationship to objects which were used in burial rites or magico-religious rituals, that is, votive offerings and cult vessels, and the presence of inscribed objects with a potential usage such as offering gifts in the residential areas of the Chalcolithic settlements is indicative of a sacred function of the Old European script.”

Renfrew (1999, p.204) refused to ascribe to the Vinča signs the status of ‘true’ writing:

“To call these Balkan signs ‘writing’ is perhaps to imply that they had an independent significance of their own, communicable to another person without oral contact. This I doubt.”

Rather, he compared them to the signs on the rongorongo wooden tablets of Easter Island (sacred objects surrounded by taboos), which, he argued, functioned as mnemonic aids for religious chants within an essentially oral tradition, citing Metraux (1957, p.206):

“The rongorongo of Easter Island bards used staves to augment the effects of their recitations. On these staves the engraved sacred symbols, like the notches on the staves of the Maori orators, may originally have been aids to memory; later the decorative or mystic aspect of the symbols gained over their pictographic significance.We may suppose that the signs were arbitrarily associated with chants, each symbol representing a significant word, a phrase, a sentence or even a verse.”

In a comparison with the Vinča script, Renfrew (1999, p.204) argued that the rongorongo tablets demonstrate how an elaborate sign system might arise in a “relatively small society, which, despite its hierarchy, had no permanent central bureaucracy, and no full-time specialists.”

However, he also suggested that, further comparing the rongorongo tablets with the Vinča script, we may infer the latter to have had mnemonic value only, rather than being anything so sophisticated as ‘true writing’ by which ideas might be communicated to any other party who was able to understand the script. And, citing those Vinča signs that are found inscribed on pottery, Renfrew compared them with potters’ marks from other cultures and periods, for example, those of Phylakopi in the Cyclades, c. 2,000 BC. These, he argued (1999, p.204), were merely a “private code, significant only to the potter who made [them].carrying a meaning only at the moment they were made.” This seems an unfair comparison, when one recalls Winn’s extensive catalogue of the Vinča signs; from the thousands of occurrences found in museums in Europe and the US, he identified recurring attestations of 210 signs, which themselves could be analysed as belonging to one of five core sign groups. Further, these signs had been found at sites with a wide distribution throughout the Balkans region, not one single local area. Clearly, the Vinča signs were not merely a “private code.”

By way of contrast, Renfrew (1999, p.204) noted that “the writing of the Near East, like that of Crete, grew up in another context, that of the emerging palace economy, with the need to record in- and out-payments and to indicate ownership.” In such an emerging trade economy, the need for written signs which form a codified system which may be readily understood by others, without the need for oral explication, is clear. The agricultural society of the Vinča culture had no such economic imperative, and as Renfrew pointed out (ibid), in terms of archaeological discoveries, “there is no evidence for a redistribution system like that of early Bronze Age Greece, where the seals and sealings were functional objects of real economic significance.” Instead, the inscribed figurines and tablets of the Vinča culture:

“.testify to a very real absorption in religious affairs: and it is in this context that the signs on the tablets and plaques have to be understood. I suggest, indeed, that this “writing” emerged in a religious context, not an economic one.”

Thinking of the Vinča signs as mnemonic devices, aides-memoires for participants in religious ceremonies (as per the Easter Island rongorongo tablets), Renfrew compares them with Navaho sand paintings, which were designed according to strict conventions and laden with symbolism, were made specifically for use in a ceremony, after which they were destroyed. Had they, he suggested (p.204): “.been in a permanent medium they would have been – like the Balkan tablets – enduring repositories of symbolic information, indeed a form of writing.” So the Vinča signs may also be a ‘form of writing’, although:

“.while we can agree with the Bulgarian scholar Vladimir Georgiev that these Balkan signs had an independent origin and held a real meaning for those who made them, to talk of writing, without careful qualification, may not be appropriate.”

Renfrew’s refusal to view the Vinča signs as comprising a script has been criticized (Haarmann, 1995, p.77), on the basis that “his opinion was based on scarce iconic material in the first place, and [that] he [had] inspected only a few specimens of Old European writing then known.” Winn’s investigation, involving the analysis of thousands of inscribed figurines and other objects, was far more rigorous. Perhaps Renfrew hesitated to talk of the Vinča signs as being ‘true writing’, because of the fantastical and unacceptably unorthodox implications of a writing system from Europe which pre-dated that of Mesopotamia by several thousand years.

The language spoken by these Neolithic Balkan peoples is totally unknown to us today. It was not an Indo-European language, since, according to Gimbutas’ hypothesis, Kurgan invaders from the Russian steppe first brought an early Indo-European language to Europe, when they over-ran the Balkans and displaced the ‘Old European’ civilization and peoples. (For a geneticist’s findings which lend support for this theory, see Cavalli-Sforza, 1997). We are thus unable to map the Vinča signs (as written language) against a spoken counterpart. Therefore, Gelb’s distinction between a ‘semasiographic stage of writing (conveying meanings and concepts loosely connected with speech) and phonographic stage (expressing speech) is inapplicable – since we are unable to say whether the signs merely conveyed certain ideas and notions that were expressed by the spoken language, or whether they directly expressed speech (e.g. phonetically). It will be recalled that Gelb would only ascribe the status of ‘true writing’ to a phonetic system. It does seem unlikely that the Vinča signs are phonetic representations of a spoken language; there do not seem to be sufficiently lengthy ‘strings’ of signs (as one observes in, for instance, Sumerian tablets), so are they more likely to have been pictographic or ideographic in character?

Again, one recalls Hooker’s argument that a purely pictographic system is not ‘true writing’, since it depicts an event or message by purely visual means, rather than referring to any linguistic content; this also reminds us of Falkenstein’s observations (1936) that the earliest Mesopotomian signs (at Uruk IV) were seldom pictographic in character. Whilst we cannot be certain, it would seem likely (for the reasons stated above) that the Vinča signs are pictographic or ideographic, rather than syllabographic. Nevertheless, Hooker refused to follow Gelb’s lead in distinguishing between ‘primitive’ and ‘complex’ writing systems. He argues that pictograms were developed mainly amongst hunting or farming societies. So, in this sense we may claim a highly developed ‘order of complexity’ for the Vinča system, whilst not according it the status of writing. Hooker wrote (1990, p.6) that “so-called ‘primitive’ societies using pictographs may be just as complex in their modes of thought as users of other methods but it is a different order of complexity”, arguing that pictographic systems tended to arise in hunting or farming societies rather than urban ones – like the Balkan ‘Old European’ civilization.


As noted above, there is disagreement as to whether the Vinča signs may be regarded as constituting ‘true writing’ or not. Winn ascribed to them the status of ‘pre-writing’, and Renfrew, by way of comparison with the rongorongo tablets, suggested that their function was a mnemonic one, an aide memoire for oral religious practice. Haarmann and Rudgley, however, insisted that the signs were a fully-fledged – if as yet undeciphered – writing system.

It should also be stated that Gimbutas has been criticized in some quarters. Such criticism tends to focus on the speculative nature of her theories – based on an ‘archaeo-mythological’ approach – which posited the existence of a peaceful, artistic and matrifocal ‘Old European’ civilization. Partly because the script (if it is indeed a script) remains undeciphered, it could be asserted that her ideas concerning the wider ‘Old European’ culture lack foundational evidence to support them (although see Cavalli-Sforza, 1997). In addition, it has been argued that her theories were motivated by a desire to promote a feminist agenda (e.g. Hayden, 1986; Sommers, 1995), although for stout rebuttals of such criticism, see Christ, Goldenberg & Spretnak (all 1996).

However, whether or not one accepts the existence of the ‘Old European’ civilization as described by Gimbutas, the existence of a Vinča sign system is surely incontrovertible (following Winn’s rigorous and scholarly analysis).

Notwithstanding the above controversies, Winn, Renfrew and Haarmann are all in agreement that the signs originated in a ritual-ceremonial-religious domain, rather than an economic one. The same may also be argued as to the development of early Chinese scripts, namely, that the motivation was magico-religious in essence (i.e. divination) rather than economic. For this reason, both Renfrew and Haarmann compared the Vinča script with that of the ‘oracle-bones’. As noted above, the act of carving the ‘oracle-bone’ signs itself was a part of the magico-ritual process, so perhaps a tentative analogy might be drawn with the Vinča signs – particularly those carved on figurines which apparently depict goddesses.

However, until such time as a Rosetta stone equivalent is discovered, bearing the Vinča characters alongside those of another (known) script, the former will continue to remain the subject of speculation as to their nature and meaning. But, whether we accept the Vinča script as being ‘true writing’ or not, it is, I believe, reasonable to regard religion rather than economics as the driving force behind the ‘invention’ of the signs. As Winn (1981, p.255) concluded:

“In the final analysis, the religious system remains the principle source of motivation for the use of signs. The thousands of [inscribed] excavated figurines impressively demonstrate the cardinal role of domestic ritual in Vinča society.”

With thanks to Professors Mark Geller and Andrew George, for their suggestions and advice. And thanks to NISABA, Goddess of writing and learning.


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Christopher Josiffe works at Senate House Library, University of London, as a library cataloguer. He has a MA in librarianship, and has also studied the Ancient Near East at SOAS. He has previously been published in Faunus, the journal of the Friends of Arthur Machen Society, and the Fortean Times. His interests include: Northern Soul and roots reggae, fine cheeses and beers, and visiting prehistoric sites.

Copyright Christopher Josiffe 2011

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MoonLore for Mabon week
By Liz

Thursday, 22nd of September 2011 Mabon Eve – The Moon will be Waning, in it’s Fourth Quarter, leaving Cancer, and entering Leo. Being a Thursday, it will be all about the money, investment, expansion, prosperity and generosity and Moon in Leo puts the spotlight on self, time to express one’s needs, to listen to one’s own ideas, to become a little introverted and reflecting, perhaps. A good day to “take stock” of one’s position in the grand scheme of things.

Friday, 23rd September 2011– Autumn Equinox – Mabon – The Moon will be Waning, in it’s Fourth Quarter, still in Leo. Being a Friday it’s going to be all about Love, Friendship, Reconcilliation and Beauty. Moon in Leo this day will draw us away from people with emotional needs. A day for not letting negativity influence your mood. A good day for some alone time. A great day for some self discovery if the fates are being kind.

Saturday 24th September 2011 – 3 Nights away from Dark (New) Moon – The Moon will be Waning, in it’s Fourth Quarter still, remaining in Leo. Being a Saturday, it will all be about Longevity, Exorcism, Endings, Homes and Houses, and Moon in Leo today warns us folk may be a little over-the-top and melodramatic. A good day to keep perspective.

Sunday 25th September 2011 – 2 Nights away from Dark (New) Moon – The Moon will be Waning, in it’s Fourth Quarter, leaving Leo and entering Virgo. Being a Sunday, it will all be about Healing, Spirituality, Success, Strength and Protection while Moon in Virgo this day reminds us it’s all in the details and fine print. Not a day for taking short cuts or papering over cracks, A day for taking care of business properly.

Monday 26th September 2011 – ! night away from Dark (New) Moon – The Moon will be Waning, in it’s Fourth Quarter, in Virgo still. Being a Monday, it will be all about Peace, Sleep, Healing, Compassion, Friends, Psychic abilities and Fertility, while Moon in Virgo this day warns us to pay attention to our health and daily routines. A good time to start a new self care regime in a less-is-more kind of way.

Tuesday 27th September 2011 – Dark (New) Moon – leaving Virgo and entering Libra. Being on a Tuesday, this Dark (New) Moon will be about Passion, Sex, Courage, Agression, and Protection, while Dark (New) Moon in Libra favours social activities and spending time with friends. A good time to have a good time.

Wednesday 28th September 2011 – 1 Day after Dark (New) Moon – The Moon is Waxing, in it’s First Quarter, in Libra. Being a Wednesday, it’s all going to be about travel and study, while Moon in Libra this day will be about balance and partnership. Learning from friends is a great way to learn.

Thursday 29th September 2011 – 2 Days after Dark (New) Moon – The Moon is Waxing, in it’s First Quarter, leaving Virgo and entering Scorpio, This being a Thursday it will be all about the money, investment, expansion, prosperity and generosity and Moon in Scorpio will mean it’s a good day for scrying, for interpreting dreams, and for other psychic endeavours. A day fro trusting your instincts and going with your gut reactions.

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Should we take another look at the Gods & Spirits?
By Jonny Blake

When I was 13 I had a conversation with a classmate during religious studies, and he had this idea that what ancient people thought were gods were just a more advanced mortal race. Hypothetically speaking, if we discovered this was true then it would mean this ‘’fact’’ would only be comprehensible by anyone born in the last 100 or so years; as someone who wouldn’t know anything about the concept of a galaxy (and other life bearing planets) or a parallel dimension, or a species that got there before humanity in evolution back in ancient Egypt or Central America and so on. So with that ethos, I found myself re-interpreting mythology and lore throughout many pagan cultures throughout the years.

My last article ‘a new way of thinking’ ties into this one for the sake of argument (that making these speculations are mere thought and harmless to paganism and one’s chosen path), on it’s own it seems to present no purpose; but that’s my fault for being a blog newbie so sorry about that!

I’ll start with the classic alien intervention (using the name lightly as not to invoke images of green dudes) which is popular among conspiracy theorists the world over. If we take the Egyptians who are usually chosen under this theory next to the Mayans and Sumerians, what they saw a gods and works of magic may only be works of very advanced technology (read into the Aztecs and the way they described the Spanish invaders). But then, if this happened in Egypt exclusively then why did cultures all over the world develop mythologies and religions? The only answer I can think of is that this race would have to had watched the earth from above and designate groups to particular locations then descend when the time was right (say they had a rule like the first signs of agriculture and permanent structures = intervention time).  A modern mind would want to know their motivations behind this, surely enlightening an entire species and helping them build things must cost a lot of time, effort and space dosh. I thought that they could have several possible motivations. One would be having their own spiritual goals that include bringing knowledge to lesser species or just the act of altruism (we look after animals and expect nothing in return; however humans would be able to show their appreciation via worship and festival). Perhaps they could be scientist’s conduction a grand experiment, looking for answers about their own evolution or just ‘’seeing what happens’’. With this idea it brings up the question ‘’why did they go?’’, well rather than controlling the variables a much more insightful experiment would be to plant the foundations and just leave it to progress along it’s own path and return at a later date. Something like this would lead us to certainly question their morality, as they may have just signed the earth’s death sentence with all the industrialisation and war that has happened and can possibly get worse. Also it is noteworthy that different groups within said race may have dividing motivations: say if 3 people immigrate to another country, one does it for business and success, another for adventure and exploration, and the last to get away from their current country. This would correlate with the different alignment and types of deities; some are good, evil, neutral, or ambiguous as to what their take is.

But say the scientific and logical theories are all wrong, as we are still not as advanced as we can be yet, so perhaps our logic is flawed or missing some gears in its system that haven’t been uncovered yet. Some ancient people were totally aware of their lack of knowledge; sage’s had to employ ‘circular’ thinking instead of logical X + Y = Z thinking, and Plato wrote the Allegory of the Cave to demonstrate how limited people’s perceptions were. In reference to my first article, the more we find out about the world, the more mysteries we discover and therefore we realise we still don’t know much about it. However today because of the amassed knowledge and using the gift of thought, we can speculate more about what we don’t know than the first pagans did. So let’s go with the idea that gods and spirits are in fact immortal and capable of manipulating the world with powers not given to them by evolution or technology. We are still left with these questions like ‘’well why would they come into the mortal world? At what point did they physically present themselves? When were they most active? And if they are still here then why do they not have as much power?’’ Metaphysical realms such as the spirit world and the way (Tao) share the idea of being ‘’formless’’, I thought that perhaps a reason why beings who exist in a formless world may latch onto a physical world (this one) may be something similar to a symbiotic relationship. I’ve noticed that humans by nature become quickly contempt with the reality they live in, we don’t like the idea of looking around and someone saying ‘’and that’s it I’m afraid, nothing else to see’’ despite the world having so many beautiful places, many (but not all) people won’t fully appreciate it unless they are spiritual. What if the spirits are in the same position? The idea of a world where everything is made of energy and matter and that only physical actions make a difference would appeal to someone who can’t ‘sense’ or ‘do’ anything, if a human soul stumbled into their world, with no physical boundaries they would be able to ‘look’ into the human and experience what its like to touch, see, smell, hear and taste reality, some shamans claim to meld with spirits so both beings are experiencing both worlds. Maybe an alternative would be that this world provides them a canvas for theirs, when they experience our reality, they can fill up their blank and chaotic dimension with ideas taken from mortal minds, giving them something they can connect to as their own creation and ‘live’ within it. The novel ‘’American Gods’’ also proposes an idea I thought I came up with first. The books story revolves around old gods living in modern times, the book makes up its own lore that gods depend on mortals to believe in them to simply exist. My own version was that a god could not be godlike unless it had gained influence over the people, then this way it would be able to have influence over the environment they lived in, how much depended on how much the people incorporated the god into their life. This would mean that what is just seen as pantheons with a lot of schism going on now look like chess games in competition for power (Greek and Norse gods were always in willy waving contests).

From a psychological point of view, this would make every god a bit of an a-hole! As they are just using mortals to gain power over the other gods and pantheons, so what about benevolent gods or ones who are made out to be neutrally aligned? And why don’t they ever go the other way or do anything else but stick to their role? At this point I thought that they must be an embodiment of their role and their idea of free will is different to ours. If a mortal one day is a fisherman then decided to learn an instrument and be an entertainer, then a god who couldn’t do that should be a bit embarrassed if the hairless apes are multi-talented and they’re not. So perhaps the gods take an interest in humans because of free will (only really achievable by sapient creatures, as animals follow instinct), say they always existed but when we came along they started learning that maybe they could be capable of achieving other things like killing their dads and cursing people who steal their volcanic rocks, and the benevolent gods took a liking to err being benevolent perhaps each god learning from different humans. Problem is this leaves so many holes in mythology that the speculation spins off into a million questions, which leads onto the argument that spawns from something like this: do we stick with what was left behind or adapt it to the times and changes that happened since? A paganfriends member ‘Summer Shudder’ started a thread asking whether recon or individualism is better to employ as a modern age neo-pagan. I personally never ‘’believe’’ lore whether original or re-interpreted, one reason being that the original stuff may not be so original, who’s to say that people didn’t tamper with it since it’s creation? I don’t really trust human perception to present the facts as neutrally as possible; then again re-interpreting a mythology to personal taste makes the philosophy of that path obsolete and shares the same flaw that handed down accounts may have. I accept all sides of the debates that surround a path, like with Hel where some see it as innately a dark place but others say it was just another afterlife underground and very icy, with accepting all sides I can eventually reach a consensus. When it comes to speculations, I only ever consider them while not fully accepting the original source, so just in case you might have felt offended about what I said on gods then don’t worry as I don’t actually hold it to be true, I just believe that we should always be wondering and using nature’s final gift that is our brains, thoughts won’t hinder you from your path, but if you want an answer then you must first ask a question.

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True Magick in a Virtual World
T. Fox Dunham

Part of being a shaman is traversing the other planes, the inner and outer wilderness. We travel in metaphor and reality with the same substance as this world. To a shaman, a virtual plane or reality like Second Life is second nature. It exists as its own plane, a metaphysical reality generated from the spirits and minds of the denizens who dream it. It’s just another plane to us, no different then the planes we’ve always traveled.

In Second Life, there is a rich pagan community, travelers from around the world who gather in this virtual world, divided in body, but joined in spirit and mind. There are myriad witches, wiccans, covens, druids and all sorts of seekers. Many teach or work their magick online.

Let me explain Second Life to those who have not dwelled as avatars in symbolic and protean photon flesh. To join this online world, you only need to download the viewer, pick a name and log in. You can pick from a selection of generic avatars—or virtual people. You wear your avatar as an extension of your body and use it to interact with others and the world. You can customize this avatar to be anything you like, from a natty dressed gadabout to a little otter. One of my best friends is a mischievous otter.

Second life exists as a world of SIMS. SIMS are virtual planes, cubes of space with great distance that are turned into worlds. There is a building system in Second Life similar to a C.A.D. program, and if you can imagine it, it can be built. I’ve walked through eldritch forests, visited live music clubs and even recreations of the battleships of Pearl Harbor or the starship Enterprise.

The pagan community in Second Life has created a universe of SIMS devoted to their spiritual study and growth. Many of the covens and pagans meet in worship just as we do in this ‘real’ world, and their magick is no less valid. Does distance really matter? Are these bodies of physical flesh the only container that can possess a soul? So much of a magick is about intent, metaphor, symbolic representation. We burn incense and use it as a symbol for wind. A symbolic candle in Second Life would have no less value as a metaphor, as the intent of magick. Altars and circles are created and blessed just as they would be here in this world.

It’s all about the soul, about imbuing elements with our energy and the energy of the cosmos. Second Life in essence is a world of energy, less material and more protean than this world. It is wet clay, a realm of pure potential that can be imbued with the spirit at the root level. Since it is a world composed entirely from human creation, we can seed the spirit at the heart, at the beginning and lay this foundation of magick into the worlds we create. Powerful magick can be woven in a virtual world like one great altar.

Samhain is a special time for me. It is when I died while battling lymphoma and returned, thus granting my initiation as a shaman. To celebrate it, I create a month long festival in Second Life. My team and I have created festival grounds. I’ve hired several live musicians to perform for us in the evenings. These are actual performers playing live as they would on stage or in a club. We also have literary and poetry events, themed dances, live storytelling and other ways to celebrate the turning of the year. To come join us, you only need to download the viewer from the Second Life Website, make an avatar and send me an instant message. My name is Fox Ravenheart.

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Rosa Damascena – Rose Absolute
By Suzannah Hill

Rose essential oil is an expensive addition to any aromatherapist’s repertoire due to the nature of its production. Rose oil is extracted from the petals of the flower and thousands are needed to produce even the smallest amount of oil. Luckily a little of the oil goes a very long way and in many blends a single drop is sufficient.

The oil itself is a strong fresh floral aroma that blends well with the majority of essential oils and is also useful on its own in light base oil. If the cost were not so high it would probably be every bit as popular as lavender for its multiple uses.

Rose Otto is useful for calming emotional distress, easing respiratory problems and balancing female hormonal issues. Rose is most useful however in skincare for elderly dry and irritated skin being highly moisturising and soothing. For those that suffer from extreme facial redness from broken capillaries rose is useful in reducing the redness and associated soreness.

Rose oil is a pleasant addition to many face creams and lotions is popularly used in perfumery and works well in an oil burner or vaporiser. Care should be taken when purchasing as cheaper alternatives are commonly diluted with base oil. While the oil is non-sensitising and non-allergic all essential oils should be used with care and a qualified aromatherapist consulted. Rose oil should not be used during pregnancy.

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Meet the Family – Tourmaline
By Beth Holtum

Tourmaline is one of my favourite families of crystals – not only for it’s fine rod form and gemmy appeal, but also for the wide array of colours that it comes in. It pretty much covers the spectrum – black, brown, yellow, green, pink, red and blue, but sadly no purple. From a Crystal Healing perspective, the Tourmaline family deals with relationships. Here’s my take on the most common members of the family . . .

Starting with the main-stay, most well known, Black Tourmaline – also called Schorl Tourmaline – with it’s dark, often crisp nature – deals with the need for a barrier from negative relationships/situations. It’s a protective stone, that can provide an energy shield when we need to deflect matter away from us.

Dravide is the name for the brown variety of Tourmaline that corresponds with relationships in the wider group. It brings clearance and grounding, freeing us from emotional constraints and fostering an ability to engage within a community – be it family or society.

Verdelite is Green Tourmaline – which can range from bright green, to a colour so dark that it can be mistaken for black. This variety of tourmaline is like the King of Cups in a Tarot deck – a gracious and strong man in a position of authority. It fosters the ability to be ‘cruel to be kind’, and to give tough love when necessary.

Rubellite, (Red Tourmaline) pounds with the beat of the heart, and emotional unrest in which there’s been a need to guard your heart against others words or actions. It nurtures energy for recovery and the ability to overcome difficulty for the physical/emotional body, soothing a way forward.

Watermelon Tourmaline is probably the epitome of the relationship qualities of Tourmaline. This variety forms with a central core of pink which is encased by an outer band of green. This resonates with both aspects of the heart chakra – the male and female. Watermelon Tourmaline is used to improve relationships by fostering gentle love and friendship, encouraging patience and tact. Its property is to alleviate fear and depression through boosting inner security.

Indicolite is the blue variety of Tourmaline, associated with the Third Eye and the sometimes tricky realms of intuition. Blue Tourmaline is my No.1 crystal for depression when the trigger is lack of control and being restricted by another person’s actions – for example, when a more than capable employee is worn down by frustrations of barriers and controls imposed by their boss.

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By Charles Vella

Recently, we spent a couple of days in Vilars, Arbeca in Spain where we studied ruins dating back 750 BC. The astonishing thing about the Iberian tribe is the way that religion led their lives and the daily rituals that were conducted each day. As many of us know, the word Pagan is used for a person who follows a belief ‘from the village’ and it is not necessarily itself a religion. This tribe used to have a fire lit on a daily basis no matter what type of weather controlled the environment. This fire was looked upon as not only a powerful element but, along with water, the two elements were respected and treated like deities.

A small table would sit near the fire and on top of the handmade wooden structure were placed ritual items used to conduct their rites. The items consisted of a cup, knife, and a plate of earth. Unwanted items were tossed into the fire – in a form of thanks. With the knife, they would close the ritual and sprinkle water into the fire to unite the two elements.

Of course, Christianity was not known back then and the belief in a form of religion was not something that entered a person’s mind. To those people, the mysteries of life remained in the power of the universe. The moon played a large part in their daily lives and the changes in it’s pattern from new to full moon were considered to be magical. For example, holy water was made by leaving a jar of water outside on a full moon throughout the night. It would then be collected in the morning and used for special purposes.

The tribe lived in ranks; the higher the rank the larger the house and the bigger the altar. Each believed in their “faith” though there is uncertainty about whether a high priest or a person in a religious position existed within a tribe.

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Review: The Spellcasting Picture Book: Visual Tools For Grown-Up Magic 2nd Edition By Diana Raichel

I have to admit that when I first read through The Spellcasting Picture Book, I didn’t find what I was expecting. This isn’t another 101 spells for the busy housewife-esque paperback with a selection of spells for every occasion. If I’m honest, at first glance I wasn’t sure exactly what I was reading.

When I’d finished I flicked back through the book, this time starting with the last page and working my way back to the beginning (a ‘bad habit’ of mine), paying a little bit more attention to what was there instead of what I was expecting. I spent a little more time looking at each page, made a little more effort to understand what I was looking at instead of expecting all the answers to be presented up front.

Diana’s bright, primitive images made me work to get something from them, to find a meaning which I could personally relate to. The images (and I hope you’ll forgive me for saying so Diana) might not be the most polished or perhaps the most artistic, but instead they are honest and heartfelt, a little glimpse at something which feels far more personal than a how-to guide or ‘recipe’ book. This is a book that you have to work at as a reader, but in my opinion it was well worth the effort.

For me, The Spellcasting Picture Book was an inspiration and a reminder; rather than teaching me something new, it reminded me of things I already knew, a simplified and straightforward way of working. When I finish writing this review, I’m going to get out my crayons, my scissors and some glue and get to work creating something of my own. I only hope that the results are as honest and without pretense as Diana’s.

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By Gaynor Lewis

Gaynor Lewis is a Derbyshire-based artist and writer. Her work includes landscapes, pet portraits and work with a fantasy theme in a variety of media. Gaynor’s artwork is both sensitive and bold, often combining a delicate use of colour with bold lines and delightfully intricate detail.

In Sleepy Oaks Woods by Gaynor Lewis as Fearneve

In In Sleepy Oaks Woods, an Autumnal and almost desolate background is offset with a splash of colour to create an enchanting otherworldly effect. The boldness of the lines bring to life the subtle shades whilst the tentative and organic outlines of the grass, leaves and mushroom are beautifully complimented by the curves of the door and windows.

The Green Man by Gaynor Lewis as Fearneve

Of all Gaynor’s pieces, The Green Man is one of my favourites. With a few simple lines, the she has created an image with a great deal of character and charm. The softness of the eyes contrasts beautifully with the crisp texture of the leaves and twigs and the deep shadows create a depth which suggests the furrows and lines which come with time.

Castle Glimpse by Gaynor Lewis

Castle Glimpse captures perfectly the beautiful contrast of the natural and the man-made. The castle Gaynor has chosen to paint, Dartmouth castle, watches over the calmness of the waters almost like a sentry and yet the painting has an almost overwhelming serenity to it.

Higher Lodge by Gaynor Lewis

Again, like Castle Glimpse, Higher Lodge uses a contrast between natural landscape and architecture to create a poignant and beautiful painting. The bold lines of the cottage in the distance contrast with the gradual shadows of the bushes and tree to create a stunning but peaceful effect.

More of Gaynor’s work can be found at and (for her fantasy art)

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Decorated Skulls By The Pagan Friends Forum’s Tas Mania

Goat Skull With Acrylics

Deer Skull With Acrylics

Sheep Skull With Acrylics

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Lucy’s Tale

By Logos Tartaros

Lucy woke up in a bed of grass on a warm summer day. She knew she was in the place she was supposed to be, after her long journey. She knew this was the place she would never leave, and if she were human she would probably realize that she was in shock, and dying.

But being a cat, an especially old cat, has its advantages. And now, all she was aware of was that she was simultaneously sinking into the ground and, and at the same time, floating away. Things seemed to be brighter and Lucy was about to jump into the light coming for her when she heard a man’s voice.

It was a soft voice that settled over her and insulated her from the light; which paused, and spoke back to the man in deep tones that Lucy could feel in her bones. The light receded and Lucy was aware of the grass tickling her side, her tired shoulders, and sore pads that were caked with the blood of her long walk. But more than anything, Lucy was hungry.

The heat from the man’s hands, which was strangely warmer than the summer sun beating down on her, helped Lucy raise her head so she could lap at the milk in the saucer in front of her. The taste of the milk and the warmth on her fur stirred a memory in Lucy. She lapped greedily and then slowed as the memory tugged her into unconsciousness.

Lucy dreamt she was small, and with her first owner. She lapped at milk from a large spoon that was offered to her by a small girl. Lucy cleaned the spoon, and the little girl picked her up; instantly they were outside; walking in a garden.

The kitten clung to the little girl as the sounds, smells, and sights enveloped them. Curiosity got the better of Lucy and she bravely crawled up the little girl’s arm and perched on her shoulder. The sounds went silent and the little girl stopped. Lucy’s fur fluffed on her tail and eventually, her entire body; her claws reflexively dug into the little girl’s shoulder, who flinched.

The little girl was also startled by the garden’s sudden silence. Something was there, with them; but the little girl couldn’t see it. Lucy, could. It was a very tall woman swimming in black clothes; her eyes focused on the little girl, but the woman called out to Lucy.

The kitten went limp and fell to the ground. The little girl squealed and went to reach for Lucy; but Lucy rolled away and after finding her feet went to chase the woman the little girl couldn’t see; beckoned by the voice the little girl couldn’t hear.

The voice called to Lucy through the brush, while the little girl pleaded for her kitten to return. As she ran, Lucy could hear the little girl in the brush behind her; but the kitten couldn’t stop and scurried as fast as she could through the underbrush.

The woman, swimming in black clothes, was waiting in what looked like a clearing. Lucy bound for the woman, but the ground disappeared from under her claws. Lucy rolled, uncontrollably, to the bottom of a shallow ravine. Startled, Lucy mewled, only stopping when she heard the scream of the little girl; who fell into the ravine beside her.

The little girl gasped for breath from the wind being knocked out of her, and then froze; for she could now see the woman swimming in black clothes, hovering above her, and descending.

The black clothes never touched the ground as the woman bent over the little girl. The woman’s outstretched pale hand covered the girl’s mouth ending Lucy’s first owner’s life with a brutal calculated swiftness.

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Apple Time

By Joan McNerney

Red yellow brown carpets

of crunchy leaves spread

out to welcome you.

You are coming home to aromas

of cinnamon and me. I’ve been

waiting so long

to touch you

feed you

juicy apples.

Finally you are here.

Red giant stars


our names


in neons

for eons.

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Pink Skies by Cai Thomas

September Song

By Hedgewizard Erb

The September sun comes dancing across the land

Golden month, peaches and corn, fairs and school

The beginning of autumn, sunflowers bow their heads

Soon the rains and winds will echo winter and a new year

Beginnings, endings, golden rays before the colors of October

The great wheel of life turns and we all go along for the ride

When I was young, before computers, I would look forward

To a new pencil box, comic books, new things in school

September was a new start, we collected nature things

Watched the sun go down over the Pennsylvania hills

And drink coffee and eat crumb cakes for breakfast

Savoring everything in between day and night

The silver full moon shown over the rooftops, a glow

Would light up the early evening with its own magic

And we were all in awe of the world in September

By Nik

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The Sock Puppet Poppet
By Rebecca L. Brown

Into this sheathe, her sheathe
She has sausaged five fat toes
Haired and sweat-salted
Still grimy from the kitchen floor.
A stray hair caught between the fibres
Calloused skin rubbed free by a too-tight boot,
Unwashed, unclean, the fabric holds her scent
Bittered and foul, ground in by time.

The toe becomes her crook-pointed face,
The heel the overstuffed curve of her pimpled arse,
A tuck here, a stitch there
Threading in intent, drawing out her essence,
Until her face stares back at me
From a patchwork of new stitches
And old, pressure-worn darns.
Then all that is left is to slip my hand inside…

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A Deserted Place
By Linda Gibson

This looks like a deserted place
But there’s life under the surface
If you take look again
There’s a spider on the window pane
Her webs are scattered all around
It teams with life on the ground
At night there’s the squeak of mice
Beneath rotting stumps crawl woodlice
Over loose rubble beetles scurry
To unknown destinations they hurry
The floor’s been reclaimed by weeds
On which a lone honey bee feeds
It’s not really deserted you’ll see
Just take a closer look, like me.

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By Linda Gibson

Graceful Butterfly
Oh, so beautiful colours
As you flutter by.

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It’s that time of year again, and we’re celebrating Lammas with an issue packed full of great content. Read on for articles by Richard Smoley, Peter Carroll and Starhawk, interviews with Andy Letcher and Damh the Bard, part two of our Phil Hine interview and much more!


An Interview With Phil Hine (Part 2)
An Interview With Andy Letcher
An Interview With Mel Fleming
An Interview With Damh The Bard
An Interview With The Pagan Friends Forum’s Own Tas
An Interview With The Lady Selene (Part of T. Fox Dunham’s Herbal Magick)


Planetary Magic by Peter J. Carroll
The Pollok Witches by Tas Mania
Organisational Astrology by Fern Spring
Corn Dollies by Liz
Hidden in Plain Sight: The Not-So-Occult Foundations of Nazism
by Apuleius Platonicus
A Pagan Christ? by Richard Smoley
Sator Squares by Simon Cash
A Maypole in Prison by Starhawk

Personal Experiences

Going Into Brick Ain’t All It’s Cracked up to be by Liz
Pentre Ifan by Liz
John Barleycorn Must Die by Liz

Regular Columnists

Harvesting the Karma by Jules Harrell
‘A New Way of Thinking’ by Jonny Blake
Evolution of Change by Caledonia
Herbal Magick
With An interview from The Lady Selene
by T. Fox Dunham
Lammas Moonlore by Liz

Tools, Tricks and Ingredients

Dandelions by Rebecca L. Brown
Jet by Rebecca L. Brown


One Turning: Poems for the wheel of the year,
by Miriam Axel-Lute

Upcoming Events

Treadwells Events


An extract from Pelzmantel by K.A. Laity

Poetry Corner

All of a Lammas Evening by Elizabeth Barrette
Castoffs by Elizabeth Barrette
Firefly Harvest by Miriam Axel-Lute
Beauty in the Fertile Autumn; a Villonette by Julie Smith
Fire-Feast by Patricia Monaghan
Garland Sunday And She Calls Her Lover to Join Her on the Mountain
by Patricia Monaghan
Lost Harvests by Olivia Arieti
Harvest Time by Olivia Arieti
The Bounty of Nature by Olivia Arieti
God Bud by Danielle Blasko
A Rooster’s Tale by Hedgewizard Erb
Comfort of The Dove by Hedgewizard Erb
Lawn Care by Jackie L. Simmons
Looking Down From Uffington by Annabel Banks
Epiphany by Rose Blackthorn
Last August Light by Penn Kemp
Wild Craft by Penn Kemp
Stirring Not Stirring by Penn Kemp

Want to contribute to the Autumn Equinox issue?

Are you a budding writer, artist or photographer? Do you have something to say to the pagan community? We’re already looking for exciting new content to include in our Autumn Equinox issue. We’re interested in your personal anecdotes, poetry and short stories; if its interesting and relevant, we want it. For more information on how to submit to us, visit our submissions page. We’re looking forward to seeing what you’ve got!

We are now also accepting material for review and events listings for inclusion in the webzine.

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The views and opinions expressed in this webzine are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily represent those of the Pagan Friends team. Any advice given within articles is not intended to take the place of professional medical advice, legal advice or otherwise.

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An Interview With Phil Hine (Part 2)
(Part one appeared here in our Summer Solstice Issue)

Q: You’ve talked about the difficulty of translating some terms into English (see (part one of the interview). Would you say that some ideas are so inherent to a cultural framework that only the language native to that culture can express them in their entirety? Do you think is it possible to completely master a language which is the product of a different cultural background and if not to what extent can Tantra really be understood by the western world?

Well to some extent I do feel that interpretation and understanding will always, like history, be partial – and I think its okay to acknowledge that. Having said that, I do know people who are very fluent in Sanskrit, Tamil, and some of the other languages that “tantric texts” are written in, as they’ve spent thirty-odd years reading, writing, and thinking in those languages – often living in India for years and practising themselves. I recently went to a presentation by Mark Dyczkowski, a highly respected scholar-practitioner who’s devoted most of his life to practising and understanding Kashmir Shaivism – and he was saying that the material he was giving us had taken him twenty-odd years to understand – so don’t expect that you will take it all in instantly. It takes time. My own understanding of particular tantric ideas has changed dramatically over the last twenty-odd years, and will continue to do so. So I’m very aware that, in many respects, my understanding of tantra is partial and limited. It’s too vast a field for anyone to claim absolute knowledge of.

Tantric studies, as an academic field, has changed drastically in my lifetime. Back in the 1980s, when I was first getting interested, there didn’t seem to be much information available apart from Arthur Avalon’s books, which were written in the early 20th century. Nowadays its very different, there’s a vast amount of material available, some of which is highly specialised, and I do “consume” a lot of it. Which can be a challenge in itself, because I then have to get up to speed on the theoretical disciplines that the scholars are drawing upon. There’s a wealth of translations of primary texts and commentaries available, as well as secondary literature which examines the various traditions which are labelled as “tantric” in terms of their historical and cultural settings.

Q: Could you tell us a little bit more about how you personally practice Tantra? How did you first experience the goddess Lalita and what kind of relationship do you have with her?

Practice has been on my mind a lot, lately, as in “what is a practice?” For many years, I’d say that I practiced unreflectively, in that I would do things such as meditations, rituals, attentive exercises etc. – because that what one has to do – in order to “make progress”, but I didn’t necessarily think too deeply about why this was necessary. Also – and I think this is related – I thought of “magical practice” as something very different to “everyday practices” (walking around, cleaning my teeth, working). You have to set aside time and a special place for “magical practice.” By the early 1990s, I began to get interested in the notion that how? “practice” gets conceptualised in two particular ways – firstly, by making magical practice seperate to the rest of our life-activity, we reinforce the idea that there is a difference between the magical world and the mundane world (spirit-matter, if you like). Secondly, magical practice becomes “work” – something you have to do, a discipline to be suffered, rather than something you want to do, or something that you do because you enjoy it. I think a lot of this emerges out of the eighteenth/nineteenth century (although you can trace it back to medieval monasticism) that work is the Raison d’etre of our lives – the kind of Protestant Work Ethic attitude. People say, “I’m working with this deity”, “I’m working with this energy”. I started to write about “playing with x” or “flirting with so-and-so” or “just messing around” – and its amazing how quickly you get judged by other people when you say “I’m just messing around with this stuff. I’m not taking it seriously.” Because by not being serious, more often than not (particularly on internet forums) you then get classed as a “newbie” because you’re not doing it properly, you’ve not made the commitment, gone the distance, “put the work in.” And sometimes, the requirement that you set aside a regular time and place for practice is really difficult if you’ve say, got kids, or or are on call 24/7. Another problem with the work ethic view of practice is that it’s very easy to get tied up in knots about thinking “I’m not doing enough practice” or “I’m not progressing fast enough” etc. Okay, sometimes you have to push past your own inertia. I’ve had some amazing unexpected moments come out of staggering about of bed at 5.30am still hungover from the previous evening’s revelry to do a daily meditation, but I don’t think that was because I felt I had to do that, but that I wanted to. Another thing, which I think is related to how we conceptualise practice is the way you get a distinction made between “basic” (or “beginners”) practices and “advanced” practice. I think this often leads to the conception that “basic” practices are boring, something you just do for a set period (or avoid completely) and then never go back to, and the “advanced” stuff which is interesting (and “powerful”) – and of course it’s nice to think of oneself as an “advanced practitioner” isn’t it? Rather, I would draw a distinction between “core” practices – things you do all the time, and “specialised” practices which are restricted to a particular domain of activity – but of course the two are not seperate really, they inform each other. So for example, at work I occasionally do animation, which is a specialised activity for me, but in order to do that animation, I obviously need to have a core set of practices (design skills, an understanding of how applications work, and the ability to visualise the outcome I want) which are in continual use?

In my tantra practice nowadays, I don’t make the distinction i used to between mundane-magical. In fact, that whole notion is kind of foreign to Indian life as a whole. So whilst i still do meditation, rituals, etc I don’t think of them as “seperate activities”. I meditate as I walk to work every morning. There’s a lovely stanza in the Saundaryalahari (“the flood of beauty”) which is a Srividya text devoted to Lalita which expresses the orientation I’m talking about:

“Let my idle chatter be the muttering of prayer,
my every manual movement the execution of ritual gesture,
my walking a ceremonial circumambulation,
my eating and other acts the rite of sacrifice,
my lying down prostration in worship,
my every pleasure enjoyed with dedication of myself,
let whatever activity is mine be some form of worship of you.”

Which brings me onto Lalita – “she who plays”. How do I relate to Lalita? Well, I don’t see Lalita as a particularised being – a person, if you like. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how books on paganism/magic tend to place limitations of deities. I’m thinking of the kind of approach you get in a lot of books, where you get a short “biographical” sketch of a god or goddess – what they “look like”, what their likes/dislikes are, a myth or two, and what their “function” is (i.e. you call on god x for healing, god y for courage, etc). It seems very reductive, to me. Like for magic to happen, everything has to get neatly filed away in little boxes.

For me, Lalita is everything, and everything is Lalita, so it’s about how I relate to everything – a much bigger proposition. And that, i think, comes down to making a commitment to live in a particular way, to recognise Lalita’s potential presence in every moment, every encounter. There’s this idea, in some tantric texts, that we are most close to the divine when we experience moments (no matter how fleeting) of astonishment, wonder, joy or delight, so my basic orientation to the world is to be open to being surprised, to being playful, because the world? is Lalita’s play. of course there are days when I forget this, and yet there are days when it seems I can barely contain the joy and wonder I feel for the diverse, playful, wonder of the world, and find my marvelling at the flight of birds, or retractable ballpoint pens. This comes out of the last decade or so, when my guru began to take me through some of the core practices associated with his approach to SriVidya, which is an approach to tantra oriented around Lalita. Doing that practice led to me questioning a lot of the stuff I’d done previously, and coming to think of tantra as being basically about attempting to live my life in a particular way, rather than simply doing a particular set of practices??

Q: When did you last experience a moment of wonder or delight?

Oh I have them all the time. The morning I received this question I was emptying the pots out of the sink in preparation for doing the washing up. It was about 5.30am and the sun was rising, but the sky was very overcast. A ray of sunlight must have broken through the clouds because it seemed to me that a ray of light passed through me and everything – pots, pans, knives forks, scrubbing brush, my hands, was lit up and shimmering. And for a moment, everything danced.

A couple of days ago, I was on the train home and there was some bird shit on the carriage window. I glanced at it and suddenly I was seeing the most amazing unicorn shape, with different shades of birdshit forming its mane, its flanks. I couldn’t stop looking at it after that.

For more musings by Phil Hine, visit his current project

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An Interview With Andy Letcher

Q: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you’ve been doing recently?

Well, I’m just back from a Summer Solstice pilgrimage, walking forty two miles along the Ridgeway to Avebury, where I met up with old friends and fellow bards – proper wandering minstrels! I’ve just finished writing a piece, ‘Dead Reckoning,’ for an academic book about our relationship to the dead (title and publisher tbc) and I’m halfway through writing a module, ‘Festivals in Religion and Culture’ for the Religion and Theology course at Oxford Brookes University, where I teach part- time. That’s on top of all my various musical projects, Telling the Bees, Wod, playing in sessions and so on. You could say that life is pretty varied. It’s certainly full of riches (metaphorical if not literal!)

Q: What was it that let to your interest in paganism?

Like so many people I discovered paganism in my teens. It put a name to the profound feelings I had towards nature (I was born grew up in rural Devon). Over the years I’ve followed various pagan paths, including Wicca and Druidry, but now I do my own thing, drawing eclectically from what I can glean about pre-Christian worldviews. And much of what I ‘do’ as a pagan isn’t obviously ‘pagan’ at all: hiking, learning bird song, watching wildlife, trying to understand the weather and so on. I try and foster what I call an ausculatory (listening) attitude towards the other-than-human world. It’s an ongoing process.

Q: In what way do your pagan practices relate to your activism?

I wouldn’t describe myself as an activist now, though many of my songs have a political or protest angle. However, I was very involved in the anti-roads movement during the 90s and my paganism was a big reason why I got involved. In fact I rather regarded protesting as a kind of applied paganism. At the time I saw the land as sacred and therefore felt it was my duty as a pagan to do what I could to protect it. My view is a bit more nuanced now (ten years of academic questioning have left me uncertain as to what ‘sacred’ actually means) – I see it as our responsibility to curb our impact so that the other-than-human people with whom we share the world can flourish alongside us.

Q: As a “modern troubadour”, do you feel you have a responsibility to fill a social niche or requirement? Did you choose this role, or did it ‘happen’ to you?

Well, I feel strongly that the role of the bard, troubadour, minstrel or whatever you want to call it – a role that was once recognized and given social sanction – is important and in need of reviving. In this I am obviously out of step with modern society, which is why like most artists and musicians I know, I have to find other sources of work to pay the rent (in my case, teaching part-time)! It was obviously my choice, but I feel that something in me was always reaching towards the role. I don’t want to go all Jungian on you here, but let’s just say that the figure of the troubadour always excited my imagination, and when I saw others performing in that guise, I wanted it to be me up there on stage.

The Bard strikes a deal with the audience: give me your attention and I will take you somewhere. Something extraordinary will happen and we will all be changed by it. It’s not something you can measure, or quantify, or put a monetary value to, or even name, but we’ll all know it’s happened. And to do that the Bard has to employ emotional honesty, a heightened sensitivity to others, skill achieved through years of hard work, all bound within the traditions of the art: scales, modes, metres and rhythms. It’s the antithesis of everything the modern, disposable, youth-obsessed music industry espouses. We need it back.

Q: What draws you to the bagpipes as an instrument? When did you first decide you wanted to play them?

I think I’ve always liked the sound of bagpipes but I first got excited about them when I heard the music of the late David Munrow (the man behind the British Early Music revival). When I first came to Oxford in 1991 I used to play whistle in the Irish sessions. One day a man called Simon Owen (now also sadly deceased) came in with a set of Spanish gaita. I had never heard anything like them and his minor scales electrified me. I was lucky enough to be given my first set of pipes, a knackered old set of gaita, by Giles Lewin and that got me started. Now I play English border pipes made by Jon Swayne of the band Blowzabella. They’re quieter, more flexible and can easily be played with other acoustic instruments. I can practise indoors too.

A lot of people find drone-based music stark, austere and repetitive but it speaks to me profoundly: I listen to a lot of drone music from around the world, especially India. The ancient function of the pipes (which haven’t substantially changed in design in seven hundred years) is to make people dance. I love the repetitive, trancey nature of bagpipe music, its power to get people on their feet. The pipes are the ancient precursor to the electric guitar or the Roland TB-303. They’re a design classic. It feels like a privilege to be playing them and to be part of the English piping revival. On the subject of which…

Q: Could you tell us a little bit more about your involvement in the Bagpipe Society and the revival of British bagpipes?

I’ve been a member of the BagSoc since 1998 and haven’t missed a Blowout (their annual piping festival) since. Their aim is to promote interest in the pipes you won’t have heard of (at least sixteen kinds of pipes are played in Britain, with many more across the whole of Europe, North Africa and the near East). These days I’m their publicity officer and have just been rebuilding the Society website, with new artwork by the phenomenal Rima Staines. The evidence from iconography, church carvings and other historical sources is that bagpipes were a common feature in England up until the seventeenth century, from which time they fell out of favour. There’s a lively piping revival in Southern England, very much influenced by what’s been happening in Brittany and Central France (piping in the North of England has never really gone away, but the music doesn’t quite speak to me in the same way). Various makers have arrived at a kind of standardized pipe that is more or less chromatic and has a range of an octave and a half. You can play minor and unusual scales in other words, and the pipes are becoming a popular folk instrument again.

Q: You’ve written and talked extensively about the history of the magic mushroom and psychadelic experiences in general. Your book Shroom recieved mixed reviews; why do you think that was? Why did you decide to write the book and would you consider re-writing it to take into account new evidence in the future?

Ronald Hutton (who examined my PhD thesis) was very much my inspiration for writing Shroom. I wanted to set the history of the magic mushroom on the evidence and to discover what, exactly, we know about its use in the past. My argument is that the claims made my the pagan/psychedelic community – that psilocybin mushrooms have been used in Britain for millennia – typically rest on very shaky evidence, or no evidence at all. The absence of evidence, of course, means that you can believe what you like – there’s just no evidence, for or against!

In fact I’ve had very good reviews of the book, especially by the academic community, but some people have missed the subtlety of what I was trying to say. But then I’m tampering with people’s mythology – always a dangerous pursuit – and many have a lot invested in the idea of a secret, oppressed, psychedelic tradition to which they are heirs. The question I always ask is, why does it matter so much to you that the story you hold dear is true? What have you invested in it? Why is the idea of changing your worldview so problematic?

I’ve also been accused of being anti-psychedelic which those who know me find laughable! That’s very far from the case. But I dislike ‘isms’ and the way that beliefs become ossified into systems, in this instance ‘entheogism’, and I’m all for shaking up received opinion. Using psychedelics in no way means you have to abandon reason. Indeed, I think the only way we can grapple the psychedelic experience is through critical enquiry – how else are we to make sense of something that is so alien and other?

I have no plans to update Shroom at present – to date no evidence has surfaced that would make me change my thesis – though of course, if it does I shall be the first to champion it!

Q: What does shamanism mean to you?

I know from my studies that the word shamanism is problematic: it’s a term that’s been stripped from its original Siberian context, romanticized by the West and universalized. But given that, the kind of shamanism that interests me is the kind that uses psychedelics. The glib answer is that the shaman is the guy who can take higher doses than anyone else and still function! The less facetious answer, again drawing on this profound animistic idea of other-than-human people, is that shamanism is all about forging relationships, especially with plants – listening again – for the benefit of the community, either through healing or en-visioning. As with all these things the name is unimportant. Anyone can call themselves a shaman: it’s what you do that counts.

To find out more about Andy Letcher, visit him at

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An Interview With Mel Fleming

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a 53 year old man in Riverside, California. I’m also a survivor of decades of abuse from the Catholic and Christian churches. I grew up as a child, both physically and emotionally abused by the Catholic church, and then later in adult life by the evangelical church, due to my progressive social and political beliefs. I fell into paganism by accident, when I first moved to Riverside. I was walking along the markets, happened into the DragonMarsh bookstore and for some reason, happened upon two books by Scott Cunningham on Wicca. After reading and putting the principles from the book into practice, my path into a more eclectic form of paganism, became more embraced. I’m currently very eclectic, and my principle Goddess is Lilith and God is Bacchus. I have a group in California, named The Pheonyx Circle of Sacred Sexuality where we study, discuss, and celebrate the blending of the magickal, spiritual and physical planes to establish balance and harmony. The study of sexual magicks is becoming an emerging science within the pagan community having been long too neglected. I published a book on divination and sexuality; The Tarot and the Mysteries of Love and Sex, published by Ostara Publishing, owned by Cynthia Joyce Clay. I am one of sexual noted pagan authors, among Lasara Firefox, Donald Michael Kraig, Jason Newcombe, Karen Tate, Stella Damiana, Dr. Stuart Berlin, Inara Luna of the Red Lotus Temple, and Margo Anand, who are of the opinion that by living in a world of self denial, making it a virtue, that we’have lost sight of that which is both natural, normal, as well as a gift from the Goddesses and Gods. We see sexuality in ancient texts, practices, even with ceremony, such as the Great Rite. There is also a plethora of Deities, who have sexual connotations attached to them.

Q: Could you tell us a little bit about why you decided to write “The Tarot & the Mysteries of Love & Sex”?

Sexual magick is a much neglected aspect of our magickal lives. The aforementioned authors, and myself feel, that the pagan communities still carry a very fundamentalist christian viewpoint, that their bodies are “sinful” to a degree and harbour societal and religious instil, and indoctrinated guilt about natural sexual desires. Many in our community either are ignorant of this fact, have never bothered to study this aspect, or believe that sexual magicks are for people who are “weird,” or have abnormal motives. Others have body issues: “too short, fat, not attractive enough” types of attitudes. Many come from abusive environments where self esteem is an issue. Others believe that the magickal practice should be limited to “spiritual values.” However is not our physical self part and parcel of our spiritual self/ And if not then why are there so many Goddesses and Gods with sexual attributes? Why are so many documented rituals filled with sexual connotations. For example, “The Chalice and the Blade” where the Blade, represents the male genitalia, and the Chalice the female? From the ancient times we see documented history of sexual rites, the sacred courtesans priestesses and priests. Regretfully, even with all this rich history, we modern pagans, wrap ourselves in the robes of “piety and self denial.” It is absolutely sad, and shameful. We are better people than that.

Q: You’ve written about the idea of having a Pagan sexual life; what do you feel *is* or *isn’t* ‘pagan’ in terms of sex? Is there always a definite link betweeen religion and sexuality and where there is, is it always a bad thing?

Well sexuality is certainly not a religious invention, although their institutions wanbt to either regulate or deny it altogether. however, allow me this opinion. We are born, both biologically, and chemically as sexual beings. If not, then we would not be born with sexual organs. The brain is our most sexually oriented organ, and the genitals complete the process. Spiritually in any group, Coven, Circle, whatever pagan tradition, I do stress some reasonable rules. All sexual rites among participants be consented to, without emotional or mental reservation, all participants must be of legal age of consent in their area, state, and country. And the rituals must have a specific spiritual purpose and not just be an excuse to simply have sexual activity. If your group follows those guidelines things should proceed smoothly. And there are things in my book, and the other people I’ve mentioned, who are wonderfully gifted, in their books writing as well. If I might “plug” a few places. The Temple of the Red Lotus, has a training program. has groups on Sacred Sexuality. Karen Tate and LaSara Firefox-Allen. The resources go on, and people are welcome to contact me on these as well.

Q: What makes the Tarot of the Divine Union set so special? Do you think there is a link between sexuality and the tarot in general?

The cards, designed by Cynthia Joyce Clay, my publisher, and owner of Oestara Publisher, designed the cards, specifically to perform readings on love, sex, romance, intimacy and your sexual personality. And the text meanings are geared only in those directions. So, they are not suited for general type readings. Also, the Tarot Card artwork by Cynthia is both highly artistic and extremely erotic in design. I consider them a blending of works, based upon the great masters, and a bit of surrealism. People have commented favorably on the artwork. by the way we have a separate tarot deck with a booklet, as well, so people who desire, do not have to cut out the cards from the back of the book.

The Pagan imagery uses the Theban Code, and in the tarot and sexual relationship. The imagery of certain cards such as the Empress, High Prietess and the cups and wands are sexual imagery.

People will absolutely find them entertaining and a joy to have.

Q: Could you tell us a little bit about your experiences with these cards?

Being that it’s a new deck, I have done readings for people, based soley on the focus of the cards, as aforementioned. However, people who have purchased the deck have enjoyed the insightful meanings in the main book and report their sexual lives are improving, even if slowly. That makes it all the more worthwhile.

Q: To what extent do you think that tarot reading is about personal interpretations rather than other people’s divination meanings? Is it important to have a balance between the two?

Well you need to be careful about reading into what the cards mean instead of their actual meanings. Don’t do readings from a personal bias. Too many people do that. In fact do a confirmation reading with a single card. Now, that’s just a suggestion, not a rule. Be calm and perhaps do a bit of peaceful meditation, beforehand. come to any tool of divination in a balanced manner, otherwise you will direct negative energies into a reading, then receive a result that is highly incorrect

Q: Are you working on anything else at the moment?

Yes. a book on Astrology and Love matches. I also do life coaching in this area of sexual spirituality by email, and Astrology/Numerolopgy charts for love and sexual questions People may contact me at; I do not charge. I accept gratuities based upon their generosity.

If there are those in California, who wish to participate in my Sacred Sexuality group, they may join the Pheonyx Circle of Sacred Sexuality, at If you are on or search for Mel J. Fleming II, PhD.

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An Interview With Damh The Bard

Q: Your music seems to be very much inspired by myth, folklore and legend; what led to you interest in these things?

Since I was a child listening to my Mum tell me stories I’ve always loved myths and legends. I’ve always felt like there was something else behind them, some hidden aspect of truth. They get my heart pumping. When I visit a site linked to a legend, such as Dozmary Pool in Cornwall with its Arthurian links, I will just sit and open my imagination (or some would say use my psychic abilities) to see through the modern into that world of myth. To tune into why this place has become so linked with myth. Often I find the energy just lurking under the surface, ready to be seen and heard.

Q: Is there a big difference for you between performing for an audience and playing music for yourself? Do you play differently when you are alone than when you are on stage?

The energy is still the same. When I’m playing to myself I’m often in a natural environment, such as a woodland, or on the moors. And although I’m playing music ‘alone’ I’m often very conscious of ‘Other’ ears listening too. See, that’s the drive behind my music and always has been – to give voice to how I feel about the land, the myths, the Faerie, the sacred sites and to give that voice I have to listen first. And just as I listen to the land, so you have to listen to an audience and judge what it is they want from my music on that particular night. Sometimes it’s to sit and listen, others times it’s to dance and have a party.

Q: Are there any legends or ideas you’ve come across which you wouldn’t want to use in your music and why?

Not so far. There are some that I’ve found more difficult to tune into and put into words, but I haven’t found one that I wouldn’t touch at all, not yet anyway.

Q: If you weren’t a musician, what do you think you would be doing? How different as a person do you think you would be without your music?

Wow. I have no idea really. I’ve been playing music since I was eight and singing and driving my parents mad even before then!

Without my music I would be a very different person. During my teens and early twenties I was a drummer in a rock band. That intense drive of rhythm probably saved me from many of the traps of the teenage years. I had a real outlet for that frustration and aggression. But my introduction at 8 was through acoustic folk music, so my musical life has come full circle. I just would not be me without my love of music.

Q: Is music and rhythm a key part of your beliefs and practices? Is your interpretation of myth and folklore affected by the way your music takes shape as much as your work is by those myths?

When I discovered Druidry, and within that the tradition and lore of the Bard, it was at that moment my life began to make sense. So my spiritual beliefs influence my music, and my music influences my spiritual beliefs, they are like two great circles that overlap within my soul.

Q: Outside of your musical acheivements, what has been the greatest achievement of your life so far? What would you most like to achieve in the future?

My two sons are without doubt my greatest achievements. There is not a day that goes past that I don’t think of them and how proud I am of them both. In my music, my aim is to one day play the Royal Albert Hall. Can you imagine that? To have a Pagan musician play a concert there? If it was successful it would be one more thing that places Paganism firmly on the map in the world. It’s going to happen one day, I know it will.

Q: How did you come across druidry and in what ways has it affected you as a person?

I was just coming out of a Ceremonial Magic group and was looking for something more earthy. So I sent off for details of all of the groups in the classifieds of a magazine called Prediction. Fellowship of Isis, Guild of Pagans, Pagan Federation, and a small ad for the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids. The cost of that stamp changed my life completely. It was like coming home.

Q: And finally, how would you sum yourself up in five words?

Ha Ha!! Ok, ‘I find music in Nature’ 🙂

Visit Damh at for more news and updates

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An Interview With The Pagan Friends Forum’s Own Tas
(Questions by other members of the forum)

This issue, the members of the Pagan Friends Forum were lucky enough to be able to interview Tas. Almost no restraints were involved at all! To chat with to Tas and other forum members, why not join us at The Pagan Friends Forum?

From Liz:

Q: Have you always been a solitary eclectic, or have you worked in a coven or followed a more specific path in the past maybe?

Put the kettle on folks – this could take some time!

I began my forays into the world of paganism by attending a meditation class run in a witchy shop in the city. I and a friend went, and when the lady who ran it decided to start a coven, we were first on her list of takers. It didn’t suit – long story, but as always, ego played a large part.

So for a long time I worked and studied alone, always seeking. Then I joined up for an online course, which – contrary to opinions that have made their way onto the WWW, was not a rip off, nor was it as dodgy as it was made out to be by the Magister’s detractors; sadly, some people have an axe to grind and don’t care how they do it.My teacher latterly was an amazing Lady who has now sadly passed over. On her death, I was offered the opportunity of working with her replacement, but I had misgivings, for reasons which are and will remain private. Suffice to say, a number of us left, and now sometimes work together, having moved on from what remains of the original group. I wish them well and acknowledge what I learned whilst a part of their teachings. I believe I made the correct decision.

Q: Do you think Scottish Paganism has ways about it that are different to Paganism in other parts of the world?

Of course! For one thing, we wear specially reinforced knickers when traversing the moorlands cos it gets damned chilly up here!

Q:What’s your favourite time of year and where would you spend it if you were free to choose?

It has to be the Autumn, Keat’s

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

I’d spend it on the Isle of Mull, in my dream cottage by the shore, harvesting and preserving against the coming of the Cailleach Bheur…

Q:What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you while engaged in your witchery?

As I will mention again later in the interview – attempting not to give away my thoughts when watching someone who was so totally out of her depth it was laughable, and the fact others were being taken in by it – I had a real struggle that night!

Q: Do you have a home altar, and do you get much chance to do much path work at home?

I have an altar in my bedroom, on top of a cabinet, also one in the main room of the house with a goat’s skull, candles, and my Badge of the Wards on it, plus always flowers or greenery and anything else that speaks to me – same with the bedroom one. Neither of these are working places though – they are more for my own perusal and an expression of my beliefs.

Q: Or do you prefer to take yourself off somewhere more private and work in nature, perhaps?

I work outside, apart from the rare occasions I might want to use a still candle flame. Also, because of the way I have been taught, we no longer need to do an actual working in the physical. This may seem odd, but you can reach a stage in your development as Witch wherein you can work on, for want of a better word, the astral. One’s visualisations make the space and one works outside one’s physical self. We do of course meet up for various rites both as a working group, and as solitary workers when one’s secular life precludes meeting up. These latter solitary workings may be done as individuals, or if need be we time our own workings to coincide and work together although apart to do whatever needs to be done.

Q: Does the Moon make any difference to how you go about things?

It does and it doesn’t! The 3 days before a full are when we can access most power. The dark we tend to use for working with darker heavier energies, but we will do a working regardless of moon phase if it needs to be done.

Q:Are you into Astrology at all?

Other than a perfunctory glance at the horrorscopes in magazines in the Dr’s waiting room, I don’t pay much attention to astrology. I know it does work though, having read up about it and heard of how accurately it can predict things. Horoscopes and star signs just don’t appeal to me that much. However, the stars do have a lot to tell us about our past and our mythologies, the memes, and the very real and powerful forces that drive us. Caput Algol for one.

Q: Have you had any strange experiences like picking up on energies, hearing sounds, seeing orbs or feeling cold when visiting less familiar locations?

Where would you like me to start LOL! Umpteen, though I now know how to keep it all in check so it’s liveable with – for a while, especially when my own powers were first being awakened, I seriously began to doubt my sanity!
I do do something unusual from time to time and the way I choose to describe it is “a telling”. This comes more or less unbidden and it’s as if a switch gets thrown and I begin telling a person about themselves – past, current and future. This is a bit heavy and scary to some, but also unnervingly accurate. This can also happen via a held object.I have a tale or three to tell!

I also transmogrify.

Q: What are your dreams and aspirations for the future in realistic terms?

Realistically? To keep body and soul together and manage to keep earning until I can survive on whatever pension I get. On retiral, I intend taking my exams to become a Celebrant so I can work at that, also set up a website dealing solely with witchy things, without fear of losing my job! Maybe artwork? And writing. And sewing.

Q: And if money were no object, what then?

A plot of land. An architect built house on one level for easy maintenance, with a forest and a river and on the shore so we could sail. And spend the winters sailing in the Med! My stepdaughter and her kids would live with us (she’d have her horses and separate accommodation) so she could care for the chickens, goat and pig, plus all the moggies and the Irish Wolfhounds whenever we buggered off to the warm.

Q:If you could do things all over again, what would you change, if anything?

My initial reaction is to say that I’d never have met my exes, but then, I’d never have my lovely daughters. Or that I’d have a had a loving mother and a father who hadn’t topped himself. If I had had the funding, I’d love to have taken my PHD when it was offered. But I am what my life has made me, for better or worse.

Q: What’s in a normal day for Tas when she’s not at work?

Apart from gibbering at the wall you mean?! I do whatever takes my mood wherever possible. That may be a walk in the park, or reading, using FB, drawing. Usually though, it’s cleaning, laundry, taxi servicing!

Q: How do you like to spend rainy days?

Walking outside!

Q: And how do you like to spend hot days?

Lying outside getting brown and reading!

Q: And how do you like to spend chilly days?

Wrapped up warm and comfy with a full tummy and a dram to hand, the candles lit and some soothing music. Or else relaxed in a deep warm bath with a dram and a book, with a cosy bed awaiting in a candlelit bedroom, scented with incense, classical music on, and no bugger to disturb me!

Q: Have you ever used any witchy tactics on your own family members or friends at all?

I have used tactics on folk who are being a pain in the arse to me or mine, but never friends – why would I? One can add a little summat to one’s OH’s noms if one feels the need though!

Q: Have you got a favourite pizza topping?

Gluten free cardboard pizza is all I can now eat. Plain is best – toms and mozarella and torn basil and garlic with lots of olive oil and black pepper!

Q: Which herb would you say is the most useful in a witches cupboard?

Lavender because it’s a healing agent as well as being a dark herb, also mugwort, and ivy and vervain.

Q: Which tool would you most not want to loose from your collection?

My brain. And that’s not a flippant reply either! Tools are simply an outward expression of the will, and as such can be very useful, but ultimately, the mind is what is doing the work. I do still see my stang as my Guardian though!

Q:If you could be a super hero for a day, who would you choose?

See my reply to Caledonia which also answers this.

Q: If you had a time machine who would you go back and get to know?

Circa AD 50 so I could get to know what shaped Boudicca’s character and thinking, and learn about how she was taught about Andraste, plus all the other things that happened back then, before our land was raped. The Library at Alexandria, plus a translator would be fun to visit too.

From Vix!

Q: Do the Wights of the Wooded Glen prefer fruit cake or Madeira in your experience and what’s the nastiest thing they’ve done to you all those times you forgot to feed ’em?

These wee jobbies will take what’s given to them and be bloody well grateful! And they don’t do nasty any more. Not after the last time.

Q: I’d like to take you right back to the beginning…. what were your first experiences of “paganism” what drew you and have you changed your path over the years?

Vix, if you read what I wrote in response to Liz I think this covers it, but it’s also something that is in you and a part of you, making you different. As a child I travelled (OBE’s) but was punished for mentioning such things, also seeing things that weren’t there merited a hard slap. I wasn’t aware that I was unusual in this until much later when I’d learned it was “wrong”. What a pity parents/society curb such things.

Q: What’s your worst experience of Paganism, and do you have anything that’s “taboo” in terms of using magic?

The so-called coven that I joined locally, albeit briefly, all those years ago. I have never come across such manipulative, self serving, ego-ridden TWUNTS in my entire life, before or since, as some of the people in it! Mind you, I am a lot older and wiser now. It would take a page at least to explain; suffice it to say, it’s a good job I don’t buckle easily. And I also heard that the main culprit received his come-uppance from the Old Ones. In a delightfully apt manner, mwuhahaha!

I will NEVER act upon a person for their gain unless they have specifically asked me to, and even then it has to be considered carefully. It isn’t a game.

Note that I will work against a person should I feel the need demands it, though this is also never undertaken lightly. Even thinking about it sets the wheels in motion.

From Disillusioned:

Q: How have your beliefs helped you in darker times?

I had near terminal cancer a while back and my group worked with me to shrink the tumour. I couldn’t travel, but we worked on the same night. One rite involved me climbing onto a deserted hillfort on Islay in the middle f the night to call up the Heroes, a rite which is not undertaken lightly. One of my Sisters in the Craft did a similarly dangerous rite in her neck of the woods, one which left her literally feeling as if she was dying afterwards. The Consultant couldn’t quite comprehend what was going on – my blood counts actually came back improved rather than the opposite after chemo and radiotherapy!
I was out of hospital after major surgery on day 6 instead of the usual 12 to 14 days recovery period. My faith and my loyalty to all those who have taught me and those work with me means everything to me – it’s who I am.

From Winterwitch:

Q: Tas you believe you were a witch/pagan in other lifetimes?

Yes I do.

Q: Do you have any memory of this?

It is something we access when we are fully initiated, and become Witch reborn, as are all Witches.

Q: Which element are you more connected with?

Air, though this could change. It always amazes me, calling up a winds in the middle of a still night! One Samhain when we all got together, we were all commenting afterwards about how calm and beautifully still the night was, with the moon shining down upon us, lighting our circle. Only to discover next day from one woman’s daughter that the area we had been in was being lashed by rainstorms and lightning and gale force winds during the period we were holding the rite!!!! Seriously – that isn’t made up – we seem to have been protected within a sort of bubble where the elements were held at bay!

Q: And I sooo much want to know more about your dolls. Maybe this one shouldn’t be here lol but I’m really interested.

Ah – the dolls….Basically you can make a doll which embodies a desire, breathe life into it, and have it perform what function it is designed for. It is not the same as a poppet.

Q: What is your favourite Sabbat?

Samhain, when the veils are thinned and the new year approaches.

Q: Describe yourself in 3 words.

Cantankerous old bat?

Q: Is spellwork an important part of your craft?

No, not any longer. When I first began learning, it was an important part, and the learning itself plays a large part in one’s development as a working Witch. But not now. As I mentioned earlier, one can work without tools, circles etc.

Q: If it is have you had any memorable successful spells?

Not spells as such, but certainly what I would term “workings”. There’s the stuff I explained about when I had the cancer. But even before I began on my chosen Path, the Witch within spoke and I became almost possessed at one point. It’s a weird one this – my ex was off shagging his bint on Orkney, and I was in pieces. Something seemed to take over and I mixed up oil, water, salt and flour, made a poppet and dressed her with green DM’s (which she wore and I envied!) fashioned from green paper in a magazine, plus black hair from around my dog’s backside for its pubes and hair. I wrote her name on paper and put it and the paper into an old margarine tub and shoved it to the back of a cupboard. Days passed with no contact from him and I was frantic. Again, I was compelled to get the tub, and I built up a roaring fire into which I hurled the poppet, saying, “Burn, bitch!” As I watched it being consumed, the phone rang. It was him in a call box, glibly telling me how the sun was shining – then there was an almighty bang and crackling and him yelling, “WTF!” and the phone being dropped. He eventually came back on and very shakily told me that suddenly the sky had darkened and from nowhere a bolt of lightning had stuck the ground just next to her! Then he hung up. To say I was disconcerted isn’t putting too fine an edge on it! Apparently the only thing that saved her life was the fact she was wearing those green DM’s…

This scared me as it showed me the power and how it can be used for ill – I was terrified in fact. I also believe I acted in a way I may have done in a previous life.

Q: What type of divination do you use the most?

Winterwitch, this ties to what I reply to Lucy – I think it comes later.

Q: What are your thoughts on the death penalty?

For anyone irrefutably convicted of certain types of crime ( sexual assault/cruelty towards children/animals and bombings, also serial killers) bring it on.

Q: Tas ..after posting my blog about the poor beautiful horse (in the forum itself) I would like to know…
How do you work through pain and anger?

As most people do, with effort. Anger in particular if a very real force which must be contained as it can be used almost inadvertently to harm by intent. And see too my previous reply to Winterwitch about “successful” workings.

Q:Do you feel anger has a part in say a ritual or spell to protect someone or something from harm?

Or do you think any ritual/spell should be a calm working?

Not if one is directing anger; but it must be held and controlled before being projected otherwise things can get really pear shaped. This isn’t quite the same as calmness – it’s “different”. Otherwise, yes. One shouldn’t work unless one is contemplative and readied mentally – this requires calmness and control of mind/spirit.

Q: I think what I’m trying to ask is do you think anger/emotion makes a spell or ritual more powerful?

Yes – it does, if properly utilised.

From Lingib:

Q: Are you drawn to a particular Deity, and has this changed from when you first started in Paganism?

Now this one’s interesting, inasmuch as my answer might be a bit odd to get to grips with at first, so please bear with me.

First, I’d have to ask you – how do you view deity? Because the Path I follow doesn’t view things in quite the same clear cut manner as is usually taken as read (in particular by Wiccans) that dieties are a pantheon…

Here is my take on this, based on what I and other of my particular Path do:

We are all part of a much bigger picture. Whereas e.g. Wicca sees pantheons of all sorts, we see them as representative of processes which we have to go through in order to unlock things in our psyche to access the Divine.

For instance, in the Lilith rite other Paths might contact Lilith as a Goddess, but we approach the rite as a process which creates an altered state of consciousness. This unlocks a certain part of the brain and enables us to make the connection [with what she represents] – some would say on the astral level.

NB: This is NOT The same as using meditation techniques (of which there are so many from warm baths, to seated, and including visualisation, using breathing techniques etc.) to attain an ASC . During this rite we kick start if you like, certain endorphins. There is a fine balance which can only be reached working with people one trusts implicitly, especially as working this process literally catapults us to where we need to be to complete the working. This process (and the rituals involved) will be different dependant on which aspect of the Divine, as personified by a particular deity, we are working with.

Basically, for us, deity is a process rather than a particular being/God/dess.

Q:How do you cast a circle, and do you work indoors or outdoors, or both?

Anti-clockwise for all acts of magic because we work with the earth

Clockwise for all acts of worship, because the dead work clockwise.

From Lucy:

Q: What has been your most embarrassing moment, if any, during ritual?

None for me personally, although with that first group I joined, I literally squirmed inwardly because I just knew a certain person was, erm…struggling a bit!

Q: What successes have you had with scrying and what are your favoured methods?

I do try, honestly I do, but scrying using crystal spheres, water in a black dish etc. just doesn’t seem to do it for me. However, I have had epiphanies, usually followed by vividly telling dreams, after gazing into streams, lochs etc., and also looking into fires. I also have an old mirror in my back garden into which I have been known to gaze of an evening – invariably this results in transmogrification (of my reflection) which I assume to be partly my own past lives, and partly Others appearing.

Q: Do you have a favoured item of magical jewellery/decoration, that you rarely take off – why is it so special?

I do indeed – I met a lovely lady who had on a bronze serpent pendant which I admired greatly. When she returned to Norway she posted me a slightly smaller on, in silver, on a leather thong. This gift reminds me of my connection to the Serpent Mother. I also wear a solar cross, again silver, on a chain. These never come off.

From Caledonia:

Q: Have you raised your daughters to follow an alternate path? If not, why?

Believe it or not, I raised them as nominally Christian! We lived in a very small insular village, and the fact their father was English, and they attended the Gaelic school in the island’s “rival” village meant they were in danger of being left out of village life. So I volunteered my services as a Sunday school teacher! This meant they were integrated – I know, ingratiating myself LOL!

The beauty of it all is, neither believe in anything! Mind you, the younger one does have the gift, but she is currently in denial mode. What they choose is entirely up to them – all I ask is that they are contented, decently rounded, honest human beings.

Q: Does Himself follow your beliefs?

NO WAY! Himself is a died in the wool atheist. Probably his reaction to having received such a rigorous Catholic grammar school education from the infamous Marist Brothers!

Q: What ‘rumour’ about pagans most amuses you?

Ooooh – where does one start? Boiling up babbies in the cauldron? The problem with that, if they would just give it some thought, is that it takes a lot of effort breaking all their ickle limbs to make them fit in! And doesn’t leave much space over for the goat either.

Q: If you could have any superpower at all, what would it be?

To heal minds globally – that would stop wars I think…

Q: And what would your superhero name be?

Now I’m equating “superhero” with the popular concepts like Catwoman etc. – but I’d be an unpopular one – so summat darkly gothic but a piss take. Any suggestions? My mind’s just gone blank. Sadly watches as last brain cell trickles onto carpet in search of pastures new…

Q: What would your costume look like?

Oooh – FUN! I like dressing up! Either leather and bronze, Boudicca style adaptation, or – as is more likely, a sort of green foresty woman idea – all soft suedes, linen, and mossy traily leafy stuff….

Q: And the most vital of vital…… Coke or Pepsi?

I rarely drink either, but on the odd occasions that I do it would have to be Coke!

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Planetary Magic
by Peter J Carroll.
Fra. Stokastikos
Past grandmaster IOT Pact
Chancellor of Arcanorium College.

A brief essay on the origins of some contemporary esoteric ideas.

Over a recent lunch, Professor Ronald Hutton surmised to me that H.P. Lovecraft’s idea of the Necronomicon probably arises from the Arabic Gayat al Hakim manuscript which later appeared in Latin as the Picatrix Grimoire. The Gayat al Hakim/Picatrix itself shows the strong influence of Egyptian magic and Neo-Platonic and Hermetic magic and leads to conceptions of Planetary Theurgy, which later appear explicitly in the medieval and renaissance grimoires.

The whole idea of a dread grimoire having as its author ‘Abdul Alhazred, the Mad Arab’, fits in rather well with the Gayat or its derivatives having inspired H.P.Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos stories, or at least his idea of the Necronomicon.

Planetary magic or at least planetary religion seems to have begun in Hellenic classical cultures when the ancient Greeks and Romans identified some of their gods and goddesses with the planets of the solar system, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and the Moon, although the beginnings of this idea appear in the Babylonian culture.

As the classical religions fell to creeping monotheism, the idea of planetary powers or spirits survived in Gnosticism, reappearing as Archons, entities attributed to the various planets which the aspiring Gnostic had to master to achieve spiritual progress. Some Gnostics viewed the Archons as malignant or obstructive spirits standing in the way of the ascent of the adept back to godhood. In the medieval grimoires we also see the idea of some of the planetary intelligences and spirits having malignant characteristics, and such ideas may well have also fed into the Necronomicon mythos, after all the title itself implies a book of ‘dead names’, or at least those of long forgotten gods.

Eventually, ideas from Hermeticism, Neo-Platonism, Classical Paganism, Late Classical ‘Pagan Monotheism’, and Gnosticism, The Medieval and Renaissance Grimoires and a late form of Kabala, (together with a dash of spiritualism and colonial orientalism), all come together in the late 19th century to form a grand synthesis that we could call “The Standard Model of Magic’ forged by the adepts of the Golden Dawn (mainly MacGregor Mathers it seems).

From this synthesis comes most of the magical theory and technology on which various people built such traditions as Thelema, Wicca, Neo-Paganism, Neo-Druidry, Chaos Magic, and indeed most of the esoteric components of the New-Age movement, in the second ‘occult revival’ beginning in the last three decades of the 20th century.

In contra-distinction to the prevailing but declining monotheism and the increasingly dominant mechanistic-materialistic scientific world views of the late 19th and 20th centuries, this new esoterics began to view its ‘deities’ not as almighty cosmic creators but as archetypal ‘god-forms’ representing human scale abilities and aspirations, and ‘spirits’ as fundamentally arising from the activities of ourselves and living organisms and natural phenomena, rather than as the authors of such phenomena. Thus magic became again the art and science of theurgy; making ‘spirits’ and ‘godforms’, (or your own subconscious archetypes and parapsychological abilities), perform on demand.

Thus Invocation, Evocation, Divination, Enchantment, and planned Illumination came to replace the religious practices of worshipful prayer or prayerful supplication, and semi-mechanistic parapsychological models of apparently magical phenomena came to augment the developing ‘hard’ scientific paradigm.

The basic techniques came down to ritual enactment, the drawing of various mystical signs and symbols, incantation, visualization, and altered states of consciousness by various physiological means, to which Crowley of course added sex and drugs.

Chaos Magic then added an additional battery of consciousness altering techniques from many sources, and the theory that sacredness, sanctity, and meaning depend entirely on operator choice, rather than on historical or spiritual precedent, thus defining belief as a tool rather than as an end in itself.

Perhaps the most significant development of the second magical revival lay in the realization that you could use any symbolism you liked, ancient or modern or imaginary, and write your own rituals and incantations, and that these would have magical effects so long as you used the appropriate practical techniques, altered states of consciousness, and sleights of mind. This development lay implied in the great synthesis that the adepts of the Golden Dawn created, although they attempted to disguise the fact by attributing their creations to certain ‘secret chiefs’. It became fully explicit only in the second magical revival under the aegis of Chaos Magic where practical techniques assumed primary importance and the symbolic representations of antiquity became regarded as mere window dressings of choice.

Rather than adopt any particular ancient or antique pantheon Chaos Magic built a simple color coded psychocosm based on magical intent;

Blue for works of wealth and power. (~Jupiter)
Orange for works of intellect and quickness. (~Mercury)
Green for works of love and friendship. (~Venus)
Red for works of vitality and aggression. (~Mars)
Black for works of death. (~Saturn)
Silver or Purple for works of Sex. (~Moon)
Yellow for works of Ego and Extraversion (~Sun)
Octarine for works of Pure Magic Research & Quest. (~Uranus)

This scheme functions rather like the modified tree of life kabala that the GD originated except that the spheres do not lie in an hierarchy, but rather in a round table of equality with the possibility of combining archetypes for less straightforward entities, for example the newly revived goddess Eris might appear as having Red-Purple characteristics which we can use to structure an Invocation. Odin for another example; does not equate well with any single sphere derived from classical-kabalistic considerations.

At Arcanorium College,, an international internet based adventure; we have an ongoing project to create what we have provisionally called The Portals of Chaos, a graphic grimoire. This will consist of a set of CG images on moveable cards which the magician can use for Invocation, Evocation, Enchantment and Illumination as well as just for Divination.

It will bear little resemblance to a conventional Tarot for it will have the above 8 major god forms and their associated planetary ‘spirits’ and intelligences’ as well as 28 god and goddess forms representing ‘mixed’ attributes corresponding to various personality types, assorted deities from many pagan pantheons, and various magical intents. Plus it will probably have a number of ‘random’ event cards for the anticipation of such in divination or the imposition of such in enchantment.

Also we have chosen the big five entities from the Necronomicon; Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep, Shub-Niggurath, and Yog-Sothoth to represent various cosmic scale phenomena such as panspsychic panspermia, higher dimensionality, eldritch knowledge from morphic fields, and so on.

So, if we aim to create A Worke of Magical Arte, with useful practical applications, then perhaps we continue in a very ancient tradition. All Grimoires then appear as objectively ‘fake’ including the imaginary ones like the fabled Necronomicon, because the deities and monsters in them derive from cobbled together bits of our own psychology and mythology, which nevertheless can have a real psychological and parapsychological power for us. Perhaps then we should regard Grimoires in general as ‘workes of arte’, as convenient analogical impositions, rather than as objective maps of the incredible complexity of the cartography of our own psychology.

In the composition of The Portals we aim to give it all we have got, including superb computer assisted graphic design, in the hope that it will actually improve upon the Picatrix and the Necronomicon ideas, whilst acknowledging them as precursors in an historical tradition of artistic magical thinking……..

Peter J Carroll has written
‘Liber Null & Psychonaut’ and ‘Liber Kaos’, published by Red Wheel Weiser,
‘The Apophenion’ and ‘The Octavo’, published by Mandrake of Oxford,
and maintains a website and blog at and an online magical college at

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The Pollok Witches
by Tas Mania

Do you believe in witches? Sir George Maxwell of Nether Pollok certainly did, condemning five souls to death for the crime of witchcraft in 1676.

Sir George Maxwell was the Lord of Pollok in 1688, and is known traditionally as the bewitched baronet. On the 14th of October, he became suddenly and dangerously ill, with pains similar to pleurisy. As his ailment did not respond to conventional medicines, it was ascribed to witchcraft, with suspicion leading to certainty. A young, apparently deaf mute, vagrant woman, Janet Douglas, having heard of Maxwell’s “bewitchment”, undertook to discover the offenders, accusing several of the most respectable tenants on the Pollok estate. It appears that she signified,

“there is a woman whose son has broke his fruit yeard that did (censored) him in the side.” Subsequently, she asked that two servants accompany her (for protection) to the home of one Jennet Mathie, an old woman of evil fame, widow of John Stewart, under-miller in Schaw Mill. The two servants, Laurence Pollok and Andrew Martin, verified her findings, and the fact that the pins inserted were “in the right side very long, and that in the left shorter”, corresponded neatly with the severity of the laird’s pains. “She going in with the men, the woman on some occasion stepping to the door, the dumb lass instantly put her hand behind the chimney, and takes out a picture of wax wrapped in a linen cloth, gives it to the men; away they all come with it, and let the gentlewomen [of the Maxwell family] see it. They find two pins stuck in the right side of it, and a pin on the shoulder downward, which they take out, and keeps quiet; and that night the bird had good rest, and mended afterward, though slowly, for he was sore brought down in his body: and in two or three days they made him understand the matter.”

Jennet Mathie, was apprehended on the spot and sent to prison, but when questioned, denied all knowledge of the incriminating article, saying it was the work of the dumb girl. Nonetheless, it came to light that her son Hugh had once robbed Sir George’s orchard* – and when told that he was no longer in Pollokland, having gone to Darnlie, Sir George announced, “I hope my fingers may be long enough to reach him in Darnlie!”

Despite these accusations being held as sufficient proof of Jennet’s family intending to do the laird as much mischief as possible, the prosecution wanted no stronger proof. Jennet’s obstinate refusal to confess nothing resulted in her body being searched – and naturally, the Devil’s mark was discovered, whereupon Sir George’s health improved dramatically – for a time… When his pains returned the dumb girl said that Jennet’s eldest son, John Stewart, had formed a second clay image, four days since, which could be found in his house, in a bolster among the bed straw. Again accompanied by the servants, his home was duly searched and a freshly made image was discovered, as described, though it was “soft and broke in their hands”.

Interestingly, the servants kept her at a distance, but acted under her directions to find the image. John denied all knowledge of the thing, but he and his young sister Annabel were apprehended. The next day Annabel confessed. The events, as she relates them, now become more interesting. She tells that on the 4th of January while the clay picture was being formed, a black gentleman had come into her mother’s house. John Stewart, not then at home, had returned and been present at the making of the second image:

“After he had gone to bed, the Black Man came in, and called him quietly by his name, upon which he arose from the bed and put on his clothes. Margaret Jackson, Bessie Weir, and Marjory Craig did enter in at the window in the gable.”

The first thing that the Black Man required was that he should renounce his baptism and deliver up himself wholly unto him, putting one of his hands on the crown of his head, and the other to the sole of his foot . . . promising he should not want any pleasure, and that he should get his heart’s desire on all that should do him wrong. (All, having given their consent to the making of the clay image, which was meant as a revenge for Sir George Maxwell taking away his mother).

“they wrought the clay, and the Black Man did make the head and face, and the two arms. The devil set three pins in the same, one in each side, and one in the breast; and John did hold the candle all the time the picture was making. The picture was placed by Bessie Weir in his bed-straw.”

On this occasion, they had all had nicknames given them by the devil, who himself bore the name of “Ejool”. Jennet’s devil-name was “Lands-lady”, Bessie Weir‘s was “Sopha”, Marjory Craig’s “Rigeru”, Margaret Jackson’s “Locas”, and John Stewart’s “Jonas”.

She wavered slightly when confronted with John, but he too was searched, many marks were found on him and when found the spell of silence was broken: he confessed his pact with the Devil as openly as his sister, and naming the same accomplices. Of these, only Margaret Jackson, aged fourscore or so confessed, but with the great number of witch marks her body revealed, she had no hope for leniency.

On the 17th of January a portion of clay was found beneath Jennet Mathie’s bolster, in her Paisley prison. A woman’s portrait this time, it was decided that the witches were plotting against the entire Maxwell family! On the 27th Annabel made a fuller deposition, stating that the devil, as a black man, had come to her mother’s house last harvest, requiring her to give herself to him and promising that she should want for nothing good if she did. Being enticed by her mother and Bessie Weir, she did as was desired, placing one hand on the crown of her head, another on the soles of her feet, and giving over to him all that lay between – whereupon her mother promised her a new coat and the devil made her officer at their several meetings. In addition he gave her such a nip on the arm that she was sore for half an hour after, and given her new name, “Annippy”, or “an Ape” according to Law. It is noted that when the girl, after confession in bed in Pollock House, was asked what the devil’s name had been to her, “she, being about to tell, was stopped, the bed being made to shake, and her clothes under her blown up with a wind.”

All were said to have been present at the making of the clay image which was to doom Sir George to death. Formed of clay, then bound on a spit, it was turned it before the fire, “Sopha” crying “Sir George Maxwell! Sir George Maxwell!” and the curse was repeated by all.

She also described a meeting, attended by the Devil dressed in, “black cloathes and a blew band, and white hand cuffs, with hoggers en his feet, and that his feet were cloven.”

The black man, whose name was “Ejoall”, or “J. Jewell” stuck the image with pins, and delighted in giving himself various names, as when he caused himself to be called Peter Drysdale, by Catherine Sands and Laurie Moir, and Peter Saleway by others.

John’s confession quickly followed. He confessed to his own baptism; to the hoggers on the black man’s legs, who had no shoes, and “spoke in a voice hollow and ghousty”; to the making the clay image; and to his new name of Jonas.

On the 15th of February, 1677, John Stewart, Annabel Stewart, and Margaret Jackson all adhered to these depositions, though Jennet, Bessie and Marjory denied them. When the two young people had been committed to Paisley prison, Jennet, desired to see her son, and with the request being granted, “they make a third and new picture of clay, which the dumb lass again discovers.” It was supposed that this was intended for Sir George’s daughter-in-law, who had taken an active interest in detecting the diabolic conspiracy, and who fell ill about this time.

It seems though, that regardless of Jennet’s continued denial of her crimes, the Fates were against her. In spite of being placed in heavy stocks, her goaler declared her bolster was found beneath her – a feat impossible for a mere woman to have managed as the said bolster had been placed well outside of her reach. Had she summoned up superhuman reserves of strength to shift the weight of the stocks? Or had Auld Horny given his servant a helping hand?

Before the court she explained how she had got one foot out of the hole, and drawn the stocks to her, “a thing altogether impossible.” Exhorting their mother to confess, John and Annabel reminded her of all the meetings she had had with the devil in her own house, telling her accusers, “a summer’s day would not be sufficient to relate what passages had been between the devil and her”. “But still contemptuous” nothing could prevail with her “obdurate and hardened heart”. All, save young Annabel who in consideration of her young age (14) and penitence was retained in prison, were burnt.

On the 15th of February, the rest of the party were tried and condemned, Janet Mathie, Bessie Weir, and Marjory Craig continued to deny their guilt to the last. Mathie’s obduracy was considered the more horrible as her two children seriously exhorted her to confess: Annabel with tears, reminding her of her many meetings with the devil, but this was all in vain. The four women and the boy were burnt at the Gallowgreen of Paisley on 20th Feb. 1677. Mathie was first hanged, and then burned, along with the wax and clay effigies. When Weir, the last of the four, was turned off the gallows,

‘there appears a raven, and approaches the hangman within an ell of him, and flies away again.”
A modern ballad on the subject, by Mr. Peter M’Arthur, states,
“The story Is told by legends old,
And by withered dame and sire,
When they sit secure from the winter’s cold
All around the evening fire:
How the faggots blazed on the Gallowgreen,
Where they hung the witches high;
And their smoldering forms were grimly seen
Till darkend the lowering sky.”

* “broke his fruit yeard”

In conclusion:

There remains a great deal of speculation about the dumb lass who first accused the widow Mathie – how convenient it was that she was able to lead Maxwell’s servants to exactly the right spot and uncover not one – but two effigies. Having played her part in the uncovering and subsequent conviction of the widow Jennet and her kind, she disappears from the histories – maybe to vanish into safe obscurity, enjoying the payment she undoubtedly would have received for her help – or maybe she was the witch, and as such, responsible for the immolation of her rivals?

It was necessary to the satisfaction of the witch persecution’s ends to typify witchcraft as directly oppositional to the established faith, hence the need to identify the object of the witches’ veneration as the Devil.
It was desired by both church and state to typify witches as heretics – not as infidels, like Jews or Muslims. The concept of “maleficia” i.e. harm to people, beasts or property, was also important. Witches were blamed for causing everything from impotence to bad weather, thus optimising public support for the persecutions, whilst minimising any resentment over the seizing of friends, relatives and neighbours.

It is true that in our ancient history there is little mention of magic, and scarcely any vestiges of witchcraft. The first capital punishment for witchcraft was in 1479, and the last 1722. King James writes a book on the subject (Dæmonologia) stating therein,

“no age, sexe, or ranck should be exempted from punishment.”

However, he cautions judges,

“to beware to condemne, except those that are guiltie;”
and laments that witches,
“were never so rife as they are now”

It seems we were ever damned regardless – as the esteemed and learned Sir George M’Kenzie averred,

“witchcraft to be the greatest of crimes, and that the lawyers of Scotland cannot doubt there are witches since the law ordains them to be punished.”

Copyright Tas Mania

Tas is a 59 year old Witch who lives in Glasgow with her husband and two daughters – none of whom are remotely interested in pagan practices, but who have finally learned to ignore her mutterings. She doesn’t feed cake to wights.

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Organizational Astrology
by Fern Feto Spring

If you think astrology and business don’t mix, think again. Over the centuries astrology has been used by kings, leaders and other powerful figures to help guide the timing of major political and financial decisions. J.P. Morgan famously said, “Millionaires don’t use astrologers, billionaires do.” Morgan was known for routinely consulting his famous astrologer Evangeline Adams for advice on both his business and personal life. Adams also counted Charles Schwab, J. Paul Getty Sr. and Joseph Campbell among her clients, and she was well known in the early 1900’s for her high profile and successful astrological practice.

So how can astrology be useful to businesses in the modern era? Astrologers today consult with record labels, production companies and hedge funds. Providing advice from everything ranging to the timing of record releases, to the best new hire, modern astrologers are continuing an age old tradition of offering advice and counsel based on their knowledge of the cycles of nature, and the relationships of these cycles to our personal and professional lives.

Like the use of the Enneagram, astrology can also help to identify and isolate personality traits in individuals that lead to a greater understanding of how and why they work the way they do. The astrological chart shows both the potential of an individual, event or business, and also specific characteristics and patterns that will emerge over time.

In my own practice working with businesses and organizations, I have been called on to analyze the charts of new and potential hires, lead workshops at staff retreats, and analyze communication patterns amongst staff based on their astrological charts.

When explaining my services to new clients, it’s often necessary to do a certain amount of educating about how and when astrology can be helpful, and explain the difference between “sun sign” astrology, and the more in depth astrology that I use in my practice.

Most of us are familiar with “sun sign” astrology. Based on the sign your sun was in on the date you were born, certain characteristics and qualities associated with that sign are said to describe who you are. Newspaper horoscopes and books about sun signs abound, and depending on their quality, can be either surprisingly accurate, or wildly off base. But to say sun sign astrology encompasses the complete art of astrology is like saying that looking at the sun everyday will tell you everything you need to know about astronomy. It leaves out much that makes astrology relevant, and ignores a huge body of knowledge that can be practically applied not only in the world of business, but to life in general. Besides the sun, there are traditionally nine other planets that astrology considers when casting a chart: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Some astrologers also work with the asteroids, Chiron is the most commonly used, but other asteroids can yield useful information as well. The sign that was rising on the horizon when you (or an event or business) were born is called the “rising sign”, and this is also taken into account when casting a chart.

Each planet or asteroid represents a different sphere of life, a different quality, gift or challenge. The rising sign shows how we approach life, the way that we appear to other people, and the manner that other people most easily understand us on a first meeting.

In analyzing individual’s charts for work related issues, I usually look first at the placement of the planet Mercury. Mercury rules or governs the arena of communication. Writing, speaking, listening, learning, teaching. You name it, if it has to do with verbal, written, sung or signed communicating, you can bet Mercury is involved. So often, conflicts at work, as in most relationships, center on issues of communication. By looking at the sign that Mercury is in, it is possible to gain instant information about that person’s style of communication. Mercury in Aries for example would be blunt, confident and impatient. Mercury in Cancer is imaginative; feeling based, and has a remarkable memory. Combine the two in a work setting and you’re looking either at constant conflict, or the opportunity to harness some of the tension and energy that could lead to conflict, to create something new and untried.

An astrologer can explain and describe the qualities unique to each Mercury sign, and help to find ways that the different signs might connect, and interact in beneficial rather than challenging forms.

I’ve had many useful strategy sessions arise just from facilitating groups in a discussion of the sign and house of each person’s Mercury, and how their style of communication supported or hindered the work of the group as a whole.

Besides using the chart to troubleshoot the personality dynamics of the workplace, astrology also stands out as a tool for what I like to call “wise timing”. Just as our ancestors, and many modern farmers, used the cycles of the moon and the stars to decide on the best time to plant, weed and harvest, astrology can guide us in the right time to launch new projects and proposals.

By analyzing the current cycles of the planets, it’s possible to note what the daily, weekly and monthly planetary weather is, and plan accordingly. Traditionally speaking, the new moon is a good time to plant the seeds of a project, the full moon is the time to see both flaws and benefits, and the waning moon a time to both reap any harvest, and cut back what is no longer working.

When we apply the cycles of nature to our work in the world, we find that we are participating more harmoniously with the natural flow of life. Astrology offers one more tool to more intimately integrate the rhythm and pattern of the natural world more closely with our daily lives, creating a unique partnership between humans and nature, one that is more necessary now than ever before.

Though it may seem unconventional to some to marry the worlds of astrology and business, past experience shows that there is merit in this union, offering potentially unlimited opportunities for new growth and understanding. By allowing ourselves to draw on the wisdom of the past, we can create new models for a more successful future.

This article has previously appeared on Fern’s website,

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Corn Dollies
by Liz

Corn dollies are a form of straw art work made as part of the harvest customs and practices in agricultural areas of the world. It’s widely believed by Pagans that the spirit of the corn lives amongst the crop and that the harvest makes it effectively lifeless and homeless. Making a hollow structure with the last sheaf of the harvest addresses that situation and it becomes a charm for the household over the dark part of the year; a symbol on the wall that crops will return again in Spring, so that there is hope during the Winter where less crops are available to us to eat.

The person who cuts the last ears of corn traditionally makes them into a corn dolly and it is traditionally brought home on the last wagon, symbolizing that the harvest is all safely home for another year. It was also a well known custom in days gone by for the young farmer to make something called a country favour just before harvesting began. to give to a young lady whom he had affections for. She would then know she was special to him and if she accepted the gift, they became a courting couple after the harvest came in. The harvested corn is soaked in water to make it flexible, and the pieces are joined together, wrapped around each other and plaited in specific patterns depending on the kind of dolly being made. Coloured ribbons are tied to it and the colour had specific meaning; red meaning new life, blue meaning happy future, green meaning good health, yellow meaning good fortune and so on.

The style of the dollies vary across the land and many have become associated with specific areas of the country, such as the Anglesey Rattle, the Cambridgeshire Umbrella, the Durham Chandelier, The Claidheach (Scotland) The Herefordshire Fan, The Kincardine Maiden (Scotland), The Leominster Maer (Herefordshire), The Norfolk Lantern, The Northamptonshire Horns, The Okehampton Mare, The Oxford Crown, The Suffolk Bell, The Suffolk Horseshoe and Whip, The Teme Valley Crown (Shropshire), The Welsh Border Fan, The Welsh Long Fan, and the Worcester Crown. But there are others like hearts (Mordiford), horns of plenty, glory braids, and many more. The corn spirit would then spend the Winter in this home until the “corn dolly” was ploughed into the first furrow of the new season to ensure the new crop does well.

And so the cycle starts all over again.

For more information on straw crafts, why not visit the website of The Guild of Strawcraftsmen?

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Hidden in Plain Sight: The Not-So-Occult Foundations of Nazism
In response to The Occult connection to the Third Reich by Simon Cash
by Apuleius Platonicus

The Latin verb occultare (occulto, -are, -avi, -atum) means to conceal or hide. Dion Fortune, in her classic work “What is Occultism?” (originally published as “Sane Occultism” in 1920) said that “occult science is really a branch of knowledge which is hidden from the many and reserved for the few …. Occult science, like classical music, reserves itself for the few whose training and natural gifts enable them to appreciate it.” Fortune makes it clear that she has no interest in what she calls “pseudo-occultism”, which she considers to be “worthless garbage” because “it cannot stand up to the most cursory examination.”

In popular usage, “the Occult” almost invariably refers not to genuine, intellectually sophisticated Esotericism (the “occult science” of Fortune), but to anything and everything that is considered mysterious, inexplicable and aberrational (“pseudo-occultism”). And it seems that there is something comforting in the idea that the Nazis came to power with the aid of mysterious, that is “Occult”, forces (in the popular sense), and/or that the racist and anti-semitic ideas at the core of Nazism arose from small, secretive pseudo-occult groups lurking on the fringes of society. This reassures us that Nazism was just a terrible aberration appearing suddenly out of nowhere, or, more precisely, that the origins of this aberration were themselves also aberrational. (Why, look, it’s aberrations all the way down!) The great appeal of this comforting explanation has led to a profusion of books, articles, websites, and History Channel schlockumentaries on the subjects of “Nazi Occultism”, “Nazi Pagans” and so forth.

The problem is that, like many comforting explanations, this is a lie. There was nothing hidden or secret or “Occult” (or Pagan) about the roots of Nazism. Most importantly, virulently racist and anti-semitic ideas were extremely popular in mainstream German society (and throughout Europe and also in the United States) long before the Nazi party ever existed, and these ideas were expressed openly and, indeed, proudly. No secret cults were needed for formulating the murderous racial theories that paved the way for the Final Solution, nor was there anything esoteric about how these ideas were spread, or how those who supported these ideas came to power.

The non-occult origins of Nazism are well illustrated by the case of a man who was an internationally celebrated intellectual in the early 20th century, but who is largely forgotten today: Houston Stewart Chamberlain. At one time Chamberlain’s writings were widely read and highly acclaimed throughout Europe and also in America. But he was also a vicious anti-semite who was praised and greatly admired by the Nazis and by Adolf Hitler in particular.

Chamberlain and the Kaiser

In the year 1900, Houston Stewart Chamberlain published “Foundations of the Nineteenth Century”. The book was an instant best-seller, and its previously unknown author became an overnight sensation. Although an Englishman by birth (b. 1855 in Portsmouth), Chamberlain spent most of his life on the Continent. His earliest published works (on both biology and literature) were in French, but starting in 1888 he published mostly in German, the language in which he wrote “Die Grundlagen des Neunzehnten Jahrhunderts” (which was only later translated into English).

An early fan of Chamberlain’s “Foundations” was the Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia, Kaiser Wilhelm II. Wilhelm was so impressed with the book that he invited the author to meet with him privately at his palace in Potsdam in 1901. That first meeting was the beginning of a lasting and close friendship between the two men. The Kaiser declared to Chamberlain: “God sent your book to the German people, just as he sent you personally to me.” The author was no less profuse in praising his Emperor: “May you save our German Volk, our Germanentum, for God has sent you as our helper!” Chamberlain urged the Kaiser to forge a renewed Germany that was “racially aware” and that would “rule the world.” The two exchanged dozens of letters, and material from Chamberlain’s letters often ended up in the Kaiser’s speeches. (See the next paragraph for the source of these quotes.)

For many years after WWII historians feigned ignorance concerning the depth and breadth of Kaiser Wilhelm’s anti-semitism. This started to change only in 1987 (over four decades after the fall of the Third Reich) with the publication of John C. G. Röhl’s book-length study “The Kaiser and his Court”, in which Röhl devotes the concluding chapter to the subject of “Kaiser Wilhelm II and German Anti-Semitism.” (The quotes in the previous paragraph are from page 205 of the 1994 Cambridge University Press paperback edition.) Unfortunately, however, today there continues to be far too little appreciation of just how significant a role Wilhelmenian anti-semitism played in preparing the way for the Final Solution.

According to Röhl (p. 191): “The notion of the Kaiser as an anti-semite is novel, historically highly controversial, politically inopportune and emotionally disturbing. In the 1960s, when Fritz Fischer succeeded in demonstrating [in his book “Germany’s Aims in World War I”] the high degree of continuity that existed between Germany’s aims in the First World War and those pursued by Hitler in the Second, some historians were at pains to break the continuity chain again by insisting that Hitler’s anti-semitism was unique, and his Third Reich consequently ‘qualitatively’ different from anything that had gone before.” This urge to “break the continuity chain” between the Third Reich and Germany’s (and Europe’s) anti-semitic past is also the transparent motive behind sensationalistic stories about the “Occult roots” of Nazism.

Wilhelmenian Racism and Antisemitism

As early as 1888, Wilhelm was referring to the doctors attending his father, who would soon be dead of throat cancer, as judenlümmel, a standard antisemitic slur meaning “Jewish louts”. Moreover, Wilhelm suspected these doctors of “racial hatred” (Rassenhaß) against Germans. [Röhl, p. 202] This means that a year before Adolf Hitler was born, the man who was about to become Kaiser (upon the imminent death of his father) was not only already giving voice to paranoid accusations of Jewish plots against the German people, but was articulating his anti-semitism in explicitly racial terms.

John C. G. Röhl writes (on page 202): “When Wilhelm acceded to the throne in 1888, anti-semites from Paris to Vienna crowed:

‘All those who are truly Christian-German are devoted with their entire soul to Kaiser Wilhelm II and cheer him along the paths that he has chosen to go.’

Also according to Röhl, the infamous Austrian anti-semite Georg Ritter von Schönerer was especially adulatory toward Wilhelm: “Germans had only one hope of salvation from the Jewish yoke, he [von Schönerer] declared, and that hope was Kaiser Wilhelm II.”

“By the mid-1890s, Kaiser Wilhelm II had adopted a thoroughgoing racism as a central element of his Weltanshauung and lost no chance of proclaiming the need for a pure and exclusive Germanic race,” writes Röhl . But Wilhelm was a little unsure about just where to focus his racism. In this, however, Wilhelm was displaying a common trait of racists, who often have long lists of “enemies” (the same was true of Chamberlain). The Kaiser’s enemies list included not just the Jews, but both the Slavs and the English as well. Wilhelm also had a lifelong obsession with the Asiatic “yellow peril,” and he even proudly claimed to have invented that term (a claim that is probably true). [pp. 202-203]

But by the late 1890s Wilhelm was focusing increasingly on the Jews: “Wilhelm’s visceral anti-semitism of the the 1880s resurfaced …. From around the turn of the century, under Chamberlain’s influence, and unnerved by the rising tide of
democracy and socialism at home and Germany’s increasingly exposed position internationally, Wilhelm II gave voice ever more openly to anti-semitic convictions.” [pp. 204-205] During this time, Röhl characterizes Wilhelm’s attitude as “wavering between pogrom anti-semitism and extermination anti-semitism.” That is, Röhl, probably the world’s leading expert on Kaiser Wilhelm II, claims that, “under Chamberlain’s influence,” the Second Reich was already moving in the direction of the Final Solution while Adolf Hilter was still ein Schuljunge.

But after the cataclysmic defeat of Germany, the (now former) Kaiser stopped his “wavering”. In December of 1919, Wilhelm wrote the following in a handwritten letter to General August von Mackensen (quotes are from Röhl pp. 210-211):

“The deepest, most disgusting shame ever perpetrated by a people in history, the Germans have done onto themselves. Egged on and misled by the tribe of Juda whom they hated, who were guests among them! That was their thanks! Let no German ever forget this, nor rest until these parasites have been destroyed and exterminated from German soil!”

Wilhelm went on to write that humanity must eradicate both “Jews and mosquitoes … in some way or another.” To which he added, “I believe the best way would be gas.”

“Key Ideas” of Nazism

Now lets look a little more closely at Chamberlain’s book, “Foundations of the Nineteenth Century”. Richard Evans (Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge) in his 2004 study “The Coming of the Third Reich” investigates the various writers and thinkers who helped to shape the racist and anti-semitic ideological core of National Socialism. Evans singles out Chamberlain for particular attention:

“It was Chamberlain who had the greatest impact”. However, with his book The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, published in 1900. In this vaporous and mystical work Chamberlain portrayed history in terms of a struggle for supremacy between the Germanic and Jewish races, the only two racial groups that retained their original purity in a world of miscegenation. Against the heroic and cultured Germans were pitted the ruthless and mechanistic Jews, whom Chamberlain thus elevated into a cosmic threat to human society rather than simply dismissing them as a marginal or inferior group. Linked to the racial struggle was a religious one, and Chamberlain devoted a good deal of effort to trying to prove that Christianity was essentially Germanic and that Jesus, despite all the evidence, had not been Jewish at all. Chamberlain’s work impressed many of his readers with its appeal to science in support of its arguments; his most important contribution in this respect was to fuse anti-semitism and racism with Social Darwinism . . . . Here were assembled already, therefore, some of the key ideas that were later to be taken up by the Nazis. [pp. 33-34]

Below are five of these “key ideas” of Nazism to be found in “Foundations”:

(1) Human history can only be understood in terms of race, and, in particular, in terms of the struggle of the Teutonic race.

“The leitmotiv which runs through the whole book is the assertion of the superiority of the Teuton family to all the other races of the world.” [Introduction by “Lord Redesdale”, aka David Mitford]

(2) The “races” of humanity are not equal.

“[T]he most learned gentlemen in Europe have solemnly protocolled the fact that all the races bear an equal share in the development of culture . . . . It provokes a smile! But crimes against history are really too serious to be punished merely by being laughed at; the sound common sense of all intelligent men must step in and put a stop to this.” [Chapter Six: Entrance of the Germanic People Into History]

(3) Aryans constitute the “Master Race”, that is, not only are Aryans superior, but they should rule over all other (inferior) races.

“Physically and mentally the Aryans are pre-eminent among all peoples; for that reason they are by right, as the Stagirite [Aristotle] expresses it, the lords of the world.” [Chapter Six: Entrance of the Germanic People Into History]

(4) Jews, as a race, constitute the great, internal enemy of the Aryans.

“The Indo-European, moved by ideal motives, opened the gates in friendship: the Jew rushed in like an enemy, stormed all positions and planted the flag of his, to us, alien nature — I will not say on the ruins, but on the breaches of our genuine individuality.” [Chapter Five: The Entrance of the Jews Into Western History]

(5) Jesus was Aryan, and Christianity is the natural religion of Aryan people.

“He won from the old human nature a new youth, and thus became the God of the young, vigorous Indo-Europeans, and under the sign of His cross there slowly arose upon the ruins of the old world a new culture — a culture at which we have still to toil long and laboriously until some day in the distant future it may deserve the appellation ‘Christ-like’ . . . . Whoever wishes to see the revelation of Christ must passionately tear this darkest of veils from his eyes. His advent is not the perfecting of the Jewish religion but its negation.” [Chapter Three: The Revelation of Christ]

Very Strange Bedfellows

Wilhelm II wasn’t the only high profile fan that Houston Stewart Chamberlain had. When “Foundations” was translated into English in 1910, Theodore Roosevelt wrote a review that began and ended on positive notes, but that also included a significant amount of criticism of Chamberlain, as the following passage shows:

“A witty English critic once remarked of Mitford that he had all the qualifications of an historian—violent partiality and extreme wrath. Mr. Chamberlain certainly possesses these qualifications in excess, and, combined with a queer vein of the erratic in his temperament, they almost completely offset the value of his extraordinary erudition . . . . Mr. Chamberlain’s thesis is that the nineteenth century, and therefore the twentieth and all future centuries, depend for everything in them worth mentioning and preserving upon the Teutonic branch of the Aryan race. He holds that there is no such thing as a general progress of mankind, that progress is only for those whom he calls the Teutons, and that when they mix with or are intruded upon by alien and, as he regards them, lower races, the result is fatal. Much that he says regarding the prevalent loose and sloppy talk about the general progress of humanity, the equality and identity of races, and the like, is not only perfectly true, but is emphatically worth considering by a generation accustomed, as its forefathers for the preceding generations were accustomed, to accept as true and useful thoroughly pernicious doctrines taught by well-meaning and feeble-minded sentimentalists; but Mr. Chamberlain himself is quite as fantastic an extremist as any of those whom he derides, and an extremist whose doctrines are based upon foolish hatred is even more unlovely than an extremist whose doctrines are based upon foolish benevolence. Mr. Chamberlain’s hatreds cover a wide gamut. They include Jews, Darwinists, the Roman Catholic Church, the people of southern Europe, Peruvians, Semites, and an odd variety of literary men and historians. “

But despite these reservations, Roosevelt began his review by calling “Foundations” “a noteworthy book in more ways than one” and ended his review with these words:

“Yet, after all is said, a man who can write such a really beautiful and solemn appreciation of true Christianity, of true acceptance of Christ’s teachings and personality, as Mr. Chamberlain has done, a man who can sketch as vividly as he has sketched the fundamental facts of the Roman empire in the first three centuries of our era, a man who can warn us as clearly as he has warned about some of the pressing dangers which threaten our social fabric because of indulgence in a morbid and false sentimentality, a man, in short, who has produced in this one book materials for half a dozen excellent books on utterly diverse subjects, represents an influence to be reckoned with and seriously to be taken into account.”

George Bernard Shaw (social reformer, playwright, and founder of the London School of Economics) also wrote a review of “Foundations”, which begins like this: “This very notable book should be read by all good Fabians.” The Fabian Society is a group (still in existence) that advocates moderate, non-revolutionary, Socialism. Among its illustrious members, in addition to Shaw, have been H.G. Wells, Annie Besant, Virginia Wolf, Oscar Wilde, and Emmeline Pankhurst.

Why did George Bernard Shaw believe that “all good Fabians” should read Chamberlain’s book? Because “it is a masterpiece of really scientific history. It does not make confusion: it clears it away.” Shaw ends his review by writing, “Meanwhile, as this book has produced a great effect in Germany, where 60,000 copies are in circulation, and is certain to stir up thought here, whoever has not read it will be rather out of it in political and sociological discussions for some time to come.” Shaw would also later write (in the preface to his play “Misalliance”) that “the greatest Protestant Manifesto ever written, as far as I know, is Houston Stewart Chamberlain’s Foundations of the Nineteenth Century: everybody capable of it should read it.”

As the reaction of the moderate Socialist George Bernard Shaw demonstrates, Houston Stewart Chamberlain’s anti-semitism was socially acceptable in the early 20th century, even in politically progressive circles. And the reaction of the Progressive Republican Theodore Roosevelt demonstrates that this acceptability still held even for those who recognized Chamberlain’s anti-semitism for what it was and explicitly rejected it in no uncertain terms. The importance of this acceptance must be underscored. Although to the average 21st century reader, “Foundations” sounds like an unhinged anti-semitic rant, its author genuinely hoped to reach out to and influence well-educated, serious minded, socially conscious individuals. The reactions of Shaw and Roosevelt demonstrate that he achieved some real success in doing so.

Conclusion: Hidden In Plain Sight

In the years following Germany’s defeat in WWI, Chamberlain’s health and spirits declined precipitously. But then in the fall of 1923, at the age of sixty-eight, the increasingly frail author received a young visitor who was at the time almost precisely half his age. Chamberlain instantly realized that he was now, finally, in the living presence of the great leader who would fulfill the grand vision of his “Foundations”. And the name of this Führer-to-be was Adolf Hitler. The day after their first meeting, Chamberlain wrote effusively to Hitler: “You have great things to do …. With one stroke you have transformed the state of my soul. That in the hour of her deepest need Germany gives birth to a Hitler proves her vitality.” That letter was written on October 7, 1923. Just one month later Adolf Hitler would stage his infamous Beer Hall Putsch, at which he declared, somewhat prematurely as it turned out, “The National Revolution has begun!”

The 1923 Putsch failed, but Hitler made use of his (brief) time in prison to start writing “Mein Kampf”, in which he specifically praises Houston Stewart Chamberlain by name. In 1925, on the occasion of his 70th birthday, Chamberlain was proclaimed in the official Nazi press as nothing less than “the author of the gospel of the Nazi movement,” in an editorial written by Alfred Rosenberg, the principle “theoretician” of Nazi “racial science.” Rosenberg wrote his own sequel to Chamberlain’s work and called it “The Myth of the Twentieth Century”, which would go on to become the second best selling book during the Third Reich (right after “Mein Kampf”). In 1927, Chamberlain died. Neither Theodore Roosevelt nor George Bernard Shaw attended the funeral, but Adolf Hilter did. Six years later, Hitler was Chancellor of Germany.

What Chamberlain had imagined, and Wilhelm had aspired to, Adolf Hitler did. And Hitler and the Nazi Party did not rely on Occult ideas or Occult techniques to seize power, conquer Europe, and carry out the near total extermination of European Jewry. And while it is true that some Nazis may have dabbled in pseudo-occultism, it is also true that Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian, and no one (in their right mind) believe that this means there is a “connection” between Nazism and vegetarianism. It is also true that many Nazis supported equal rights for (“Aryan”) women, and some Nazis were active trade unionists, but that does not mean that we should look for the “roots” of Nazism in the feminist and/or labor movements.

The truly frightening thing about Nazism was the fact that it was a mass popular movement with the support of tens of millions of people throughout Europe, and that their ideology of racism was consistent with the mainstream culture of the day. The foundations of Nazism, when properly understood, are seen to be not at all hidden from view, but plainly visible for all to see, or at least for all who are willing to open their eyes.

You can read more of Apuleus’ writing at

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A Pagan Christ?
by Richard Smoley

Strictly speaking, a pagan Christ is a contradiction in terms. The very concept of paganism was constructed by Christians who wanted to distinguish their faith from the old religion of Greece and Rome, which by the end of classical antiquity was observed only by peasants in remote rural areas — the pagani, or “country people,” or — to use words that are similar in tone — rustics, rubes, hayseeds. So there can be no pagan Christ. Paganism is all that Christianity is not.

Once we go past this elementary point, however, we see that the situation is not so simple. The resemblance between Christianity and its rivals could never be entirely overlooked. The Church Father Augustine (354–430) wrote, “That which is now called the Christian religion existed among the ancients, and never did not exist from the planting of the human race until Christ came in the flesh, at which time the true religion which already existed began to be called Christianity.”

Whatever Augustine meant by this — and it’s not entirely clear from the context — one thing it could mean is that the “true religion” is universal and has always existed; only comparatively late did it come to be codified in the teachings of Christ.

Before I go further into what this “true religion” might be, it’s necessary to stop and take a look at early Christianity in its context. Christianity, as is well known, grew up in the Roman Empire, a time of remarkable fecundity in religious belief, with a huge and dizzying marketplace of gods and cults and philosophies for the seeker to choose from, many of which bore more than a passing resemblance to one another. It’s impossible to believe that Christianity was not affected by this background. Although the Christians insisted that their religion was true and all the others were false, they still had to account for the fact that theirs was not so different from many of those they were denouncing.

Over the past century, one of the most influential views of the relationship between Christianity and paganism has been that of Sir J.G. Frazer (1854–1941), author of the classic work The Golden Bough, first published in 1890 and updated in many editions thereafter. A pioneer of comparative mythology, Frazer delved into the compendious collections of lore and legend that scholars were amassing in his time and noticed that Christianity had taken many of its elements from the religions it would eventually displace.

The most famous instance is Christmas. The birthday of Christ was not recorded and is not known; in the early centuries of the religion that bears his name it was not celebrated. But by the fourth century, Christ’s birthday came to be observed as a holiday. In the East (starting in Egypt), the date selected was January 6. But the Western church, which had never observed this date, set Christ’s birthday as December 25. Why? One Christian writer quoted (but not named) by Frazer explains: “It was a custom of the heathen to celebrate on the same twenty-fifth of December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and festivities the Christians also took part. Accordingly when the doctors of the Church perceived that Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnised on that day and the festival of the Epiphany on the sixth of January.”

Another, possibly more revealing, case involves the festival commemorating the death and resurrection of Christ. Today Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon after the March equinox. (This is to some extent a simplification of the complex process of fixing the date of Easter, but it will serve our purposes here.) Frazer noted that there was an ancient tradition by which the death of Christ was observed on March 25, regardless of the phase of the moon. Remarkably, this coincided with the date on which the death and resurrection of a pagan god, Attis, was celebrated. Still more significantly, the parts of the world where Christians observed Easter on this date — western Asia Minor and Rome — were precisely the areas where the cult of Attis was most popular.

Attis, according to the myth, was a handsome young shepherd who was born of a virgin. Beloved of the Great Goddess of life, he was said in some legends to have been killed by a boar, in others to have died after castrating himself. (The priests of the Attis cult were all self-made eunuchs, in imitation of him.) After his death, he was changed into a pine tree. It’s curious that the death and resurrection of Christ should have been celebrated in such close conjunction with that of one of the deities that the Christians so detested. What’s even more interesting is the underlying similarity of the myths: both are celebrations of a god, born of a virgin, who has died and risen again. More surprisingly still, Attis was not the only god in antiquity who was believed to have died and risen again. There was also Adonis, worshipped in Babylonia and Syria. Adonis, another beautiful young man, was said to die every year. His death caused passion to cease and beasts and men to forget to reproduce; all life would be extinguished if Ishtar, the goddess of life, did not rescue him annually from the halls of death. And of course there is Osiris, the slain and dismembered king of Egypt who was reassembled by his wife Isis (another goddess of life) to serve as the lord of the dead.

Even this cursory sketch suggests how many parallels we can find between Christianity and pagan religions. Moreover, it was obvious that the pagan faiths were much older than the Christian one. Christianity looked like a mere copycat of these religions, and that’s exactly what many of its pagan critics contended. The Christian fathers countered with a remarkably clumsy response: that Satan, foreseeing that Christ would come to earth, came down first and created religions that were merely diabolical imitations of the truth.

Those of us who find this argument implausible are left wondering exactly what the relationship between Christianity and these pagan cults was. Frazer saw the mystery religions of Attis and Adonis and Osiris as essentially fertility cults: Their rites were designed to mimic and foster the rebirth of life each spring. According to Frazer, Christ had come as a teacher of “ethical reforms”; the mythologies of the fertility cults were gradually assimilated to the faith of Christ’s followers “so as to accord in some measure with the prejudices, the passions, the superstitions of the vulgar.” Frazer writes:

To live and to cause to live, to eat food and to beget children, these were the primary wants of men in the past, and they will be the primary wants of men in the future so long as the world lasts….These two things, therefore, food and children, were what men chiefly sought to procure by the performance of magical rites for the regulation of the seasons.

This all may sound plausible — as it certainly did to Frazer’s rationalistic late-Victorian contemporaries — but there’s one small problem with it. The idea that the mysteries of Attis and Adonis and Osiris, and by extension of Christ, were mere attempts to reproduce and sustain the cycles of life was known to the ancients and explicitly refuted by them. Plutarch, writing in the late first century A.D., contends:

And we shall also get our hands on the dull crowd who take pleasure in associating the [mystic recitals] about these Gods either with changes of the atmosphere according to the seasons, or with the generation of the corn and sowing and ploughings, and in saying that Osiris is buried when the corn is hidden by the earth, and comes to life and shows himself again when it begins to sprout.

Cicero, the Roman statesman and philosopher (106–43 B.C.), also says there is something more to the mysteries:

These Mysteries have brought us from rustic savagery to a cultivated and refined civilization. The rites of the Mysteries are called “initiations” and in truth we have learned from them the first principles of life. We have gained the understanding not only to live happily but to die with better hope.

We can safely say this much: The ancient mysteries were more than rites intended merely to ensure that the crops grew and the animals bred. But what, then, were they? What is the dying “with better hope” that Cicero mentions? And why does the story of Christ, springing from the monotheistic world of Judaism, so much resemble those of the gods that went before?

At this point it would be helpful to address an extremely important issue: the reliability of the historical accounts of Jesus. Apart from a few extremely brief references in non-Christian writers such as Tacitus and Pliny the Younger (which talk about the Christians as a sect but say practically nothing about Christ himself), we have to rely on the canonical gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Scholars unanimously accept these as the oldest gospels, with the possible exception of the Gospel of Thomas, an early sayings collection with a strongly Gnostic tinge; the many other gospels that were written are almost certainly later — one reason they didn’t find their way into the New Testament.

Unfortunately, even these texts present Jesus at a remove. None of them, it is now generally acknowledged, was written by any of the Twelve Apostles or even by anyone who knew or saw Jesus personally. The earliest Gospel, Mark, is dated to around 70 A.D.; the latest, John, to around 100 (these dates are highly approximate). Nowhere in these Gospels is the claim that the writer himself has seen what he is describing. Indeed most scholars today agree that none of the texts in the entire New Testament was written by any of the Twelve Apostles.

The only surviving eyewitness account of Christ is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Paul did not know Jesus when he was alive, but he writes that after Jesus had appeared to Cephas (Peter), the twelve, and various other witnesses, “last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time” (1 Cor. 15:5).# This experience, usually equated with Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1–7), is an eyewitness account: Paul is claiming that he has had a vision of the risen Christ like that of the other apostles. Inasmuch as Paul died during Nero’s persecution in Rome in 64 A.D., this text is almost certainly earlier than any of the Gospels. But Paul does not say anything more about his experience, and he says almost nothing at all about Jesus before his death.

In their 1999 book The Jesus Mysteries, Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy argue that the extreme scarcity of direct evidence about Jesus, together with the strong resemblance of his story to other pagan myths, means that Jesus did not exist as a historical figure. He was created by Gnostic sages as a kind of Jewish equivalent of the dead and reborn gods of the pagan Mediterranean world.

Freke’s and Gandy’s view, although interesting, seems to be an overstatement given the evidence. They say that Paul’s vision (as described by himself) may have been a later addition to 1 Corinthians, a claim that, to my knowledge, no reputable scholar would agree with; or perhaps that it was a mystical vision of some sort. But the context of 1 Corinthians 15 indicates that, as Christians have always claimed, Paul, like the others who claimed they had witnessed the resurrection of Christ, regarded it as an actual encounter with the risen Jesus. Whatever it was they saw or did not see, this much seems indisputable. Indeed, if we go to 1 Thessalonians, another letter of Paul’s, which was the first New Testament book to be written (it’s generally dated to around 50 A.D.), we see Paul saying, “The Jews…both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets” (1 Thess. 2:14–15). “We believe that Jesus died and rose again,” he writes in the same letter (1 Thess. 4:14). In both these instances, he is stressing the historical actuality of these events: they are not a myth. Furthermore, Paul is not introducing this idea as a novelty but as a premise that he expects his readers to share. About the historical Jesus, then, we can say this much: that as early as 50 A.D., no more than twenty years after his death and still well in the lifetime of his disciples, his followers preached that he had suffered and died and was resurrected. These facts are not later mythic accretions but among the first things the historical record says about Jesus.

What, then, does this all mean? Paul’s own ideas seem to have grown and changed over time. In 1 Thessalonians, his first surviving epistle, he sounds like a modern-day fundamentalist, obsessed with the Rapture. In fact the idea of the Rapture comes from 1 Thess. 4:17: “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with [the dead] in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.” Later, Paul becomes more mystical. In 1 Corinthians he explicitly denies the physical resurrection of the dead: “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body….Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption” (1 Cor. 15:44, 50). This, incidentally, puts mainstream Christianity in the bizarre position of teaching a doctrine — the resurrection of the physical body — that is explicitly denied by its own scriptures. I do not know of any other such case in all of world religion.

Nonetheless, resurrection is at the core of Christianity from its earliest days, just as it was of the mystery religions of Attis and Adonis and Osiris that preceded it. And, like the pagan mysteries, which enabled its initiates to die “with better hope,” Christianity viewed the resurrection not an isolated case that happened to one (possibly divine) man, but something that is the common human inheritance, potentially available to everyone: “Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20). This was not the concept of resurrection as commonly taught, but part of what the Church Father Origen (185–253 A.D.) called “the deeper and more mystical doctrines which are rightly concealed from the multitude.”

The nature of this resurrection lies at the heart of the old pagan mysteries and the Christian faith alike. To best understand it in a short space, it would be helpful to use the common metaphor of a seed, used both by Jesus in the Gospels and by Paul (as well as in some of the pagan mysteries). A seed is something extremely small and contains only in germ the full plant; this is the metaphor Paul uses to compare what he calls “the resurrection body” with the “natural body.” Christ in the Gospels likens the kingdom of heaven to a seed on several occasions as well: for example, “the kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed” (Matt. 13:31).

What, then, is this “seed”? What is the kingdom of heaven, for that matter? If you were to read the works of many theologians, you might conclude that they don’t know. But this is a central concept in esoteric Christianity. It is not difficult to grasp, but it is subtle. I’ve discussed it in detail in my book Inner Christianity, but in essence it comes to this: There is that in you which says “I.” It is consciousness in its pure form; it is never seen, but always that which sees. You may think you are your body or your emotions or your thoughts, but the fact that you can step back and look at all these things at a distance proves that these things are not you — not in the truest and fullest sense. In fact it is your very confusion of your “I” with your thoughts, emotions, and sensations that constitutes the fundamental problem of human existence. Liberation or enlightenment or, as the early Christians called it, gnosis is the freeing of the “I” from its identification with its own experience. Paul writes, “That which thou sowest is not quickened until it die” (1 Cor. 15:36). Esoterically, this means that the “I” must “die” — must detach itself from its former identifications — before it can be “resurrected” or “born again,” that is, realize its fullest potential in a life that is not limited by the body or the psyche. In the course of this liberation the “I” realizes its own immortality.

This, in the simplest and most concise language that I can muster, is the secret that I believe lies at the heart of esoteric Christianity and of the Christian mystery itself. To speak of the resurrection of the physical body, explicitly denied by Paul, is to misunderstand; it is the symbolic death and rebirth of the true “I” — called “I am” in the Gospel of John — that is really the point. But it is an arcane point, and not everyone can grasp it. Early Christianity eventually allowed ordinary believers to believe in a physical resurrection because it was easier to understand; only those who wanted to go deeper were told the truth. As Origen writes, “The resurrection of the body,…while preached in the churches, is understood more clearly by the intelligent.” Origen is saying that the doctrine “preached in the churches” is not the whole story. Regrettably, however, as Christianity developed in later centuries, those who had only an inaccurate, secondary understanding of this truth came to lead the church. Because they did not understand the deeper message, they suppressed it, with consequences that have been disastrous for the spiritual life of the West.

In any event, the revelation of the true nature of the “I” makes the correspondence between the Christian mystery and those of the pagans much easier to understand. If these things are true, they are universally true, and if they are universally true, they must have been known in many times and places and cannot be the property of a single religion. That, I would suggest, is why Augustine can say that the “true religion” always existed. It’s also why the mystery religions so resembled Christianity. They were expressing a universal truth to which Christianity was also pointing.

All the same, this does not entirely explain the innumerable parallels between the Christ of the Gospels and the figures of ancient myth. Often it does seem that characteristics of the ancient pagan gods were later associated with Christ — and at a fairly early stage. The virgin birth, for example, is not mentioned in Mark, the earliest canonical Gospel, or for that matter by Paul. But it does appear in Matthew and Luke, which are generally dated to between 80 and 100 A.D. This suggests that by this point certain myths and legends had attached themselves to the basic story of Christ’s death and resurrection.

Exactly how this happened is unclear. There is no contemporary documentation of this process, or, for that matter, of Christ himself apart from the Gospels to serve as a check. The best guess seems to be something like this: The earliest Christians believed they had some experience of the risen Christ, and this was the central part of their message from the very beginning. By the end of the first century, as the Gospels were being written, the historical kernel of the story of Christ was expanded and recast, partly to imitate familiar aspects of pagan myths but also to symbolically express certain truths.

That’s why Origen could write:

Very many mistakes have been made because the right method of examining the holy texts has not been discovered by the greater number of readers…because it is their habit to follow the bare letter….

Scripture interweaves the imaginary with the historical, sometimes introducing what is utterly impossible, sometimes what is possible but never occurred….[The Word] has done the same with the Gospels and the writings of the Apostles; for not even they are purely historical, incidents which never occurred being interwoven in the “corporeal” sense…. These passages, by means of seeming history, though the incidents never occurred, figuratively reveal certain mysteries.

This process began with the Gospels but did not end with them. It continued for several centuries later, as we’ve seen with the Christian appropriation of Christmas and Easter in the fourth century. Later still, in the fifth century, when the cult of the pagan goddesses was suppressed, there was a need for a feminine face of divinity, and the mother of Christ was elevated to this role; many of the attributes of Ishtar and particularly Isis were then attached to her. Christianity’s success was at least partly due to its remarkable genius and flexibility in adapting pagan myths to its own ends. Ultimately, however, the true greatness of the faith lies in its profound and haunting expression of what may be the central mystery of human existence.


Brown, Raymond E. Introduction to the New Testament. New York: Doubleday, 1997.

Frazer, J.G. The Golden Bough. New York: Macmillan, 1922.

Freke, Timothy, and Peter Gandy. The Jesus Mysteries: Was the “Original Jesus” a Pagan God? New York: Three Rivers, 1999.

The Greek New Testament. Edited by Kurt Aland et al. Third edition. N.p.: United Bible Societies, 1966.

Mead, G.R.S. Thrice-Greatest Hermes: Studies in Hellenistic Theosophy and Gnosis. York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, 1972.
Originally published 1906.

Origen. Contra Celsum. Translated by Henry Chadwick. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953.

———. On First Principles. Edited and translated by G.W. Butterworth. New York: Harper & Row, 1966.

Richard Smoley has over thirty years’ experience in studying the world’s esoteric teachings. His latest book is The Dice Game of Shiva: How Consciousness Creates the Universe. His other works include Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions (written with Jay Kinney); Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition; Forbidden Faith: The Secret History of Gnosticism; The Essential Nostradamus; and Conscious Love: Insights from Mystical Christianity. He is editor of Quest: Journal of the Theosophical Society in America and of Quest Books. His Web site is This article originally appeared in New Dawn magazine.

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Sator Square
by Simon Cash

Those of you that know me may have noticed that on a some days I wear this talisman

Its a Sator square and translated from the Hebrew letter it reads as:


As you can see its a 5X5 square with a Latin Palindrone inscribed on it. And there is a long tradition of using squares like this for protection. Why protection? Well there are several theories, one of them being that the logical perfection of a square of letters like this will confuse, another that the Devil who will get lost inside them as in a maze. Another older but similar theory is that the symmetry of the pattern of the letters is a example of how the Order of Logic can “triumph” over the Chaos.

For those interested, the translation of the Sator Square is as follows:

Sator-Sower, planter; founder, progenitor (usually divine); originator
Arepo-(arrepo) (I) creep/move stealthily towards, also trust, or likely an invented proper name; its similarity with arrepo, from ad repo, ‘I creep towards’, may be coincidental
Tenet-hold, keep; comprehend; possess; master; preserve
Opera-(a) work, care; aid, service, (an) effort/trouble
Rotas-(rota) wheel, rotate; (roto) (I) whirl around, revolve rotate

Which is usually read as “The farmer Arepo has works wheels.” or as a instructional mantra “The farmer must work the land.” But, like many things in Magic, this is open to interpretation and understanding on many levels. It could just as easily mean “Progenitor moves towards coprehension efffort rotating.” or “I slowly understand with repeated efforts.”, a mantra for teaching and the aquisition of knowledge and understanding which the Greeks prized so highly.

The Greek and Roman cultures prized symmetry and geometric patterns. Their Civic buildings were constructed on strict geometrical lines, not just to satify the rules of constriction and architecture but also to show how Logic and Geometry could stamp order out of the chaos of nature and to remind the Genral populus that Order will prevail.

There are Magic number squares, A 3X3 grid where all the numbers in the horizontal and vertial axis add up to 15 like so:


This square has apperaed all through history and different cultures, such as in the legend of Lo Shu from China 670 BC where a turtle emerged from a flooded river with the pattern arranged in dots on its back, and from this the people were able to control or predict the flooding of the river. There are many variations on the numeric square, not just a simple addition, but squares where the numbers match, through multiplication or squares where a base number is added.

The Kubera-Kolam is a floor painting used in India which is in the form of a magic square of order three. It is essentially the same as the Lo Shu Square, but with 19 added to each number, giving a magic constant of 72, this being a mystical number of some significance.


Larger squares contrain more information, sometimes at the cost of the mathematical simplicity of a smaller square.

Such as the Enochain Tablets:


where the names and more important the hierarchy of the Enocian Angels were written into the squre. I’m not going to give examples of how to ascertain and use the Enochian Magic here, instead I’ll warn that using the Tablets can be very dangerous. I would advise as much reseach as possible into them before attempting any type of Magic using the squares. The above square is merely intended to be a visual example and nothing more.

A larger numeric square is the 7X7 grid of the Planet Venus where the horizontals and verticals add up to 175 giving it a symmetry.

22 47 16 41 10 35 4
5 23 48 17 42 1129
30 6 24 49 18 36 12
13 31 7 25 43 19 37
38 14 32 1 26 44 20
21 39 8 33 2 27 45
46 15 40 9 34 3 28

Where a sigil can be constructed for Angels, Spirits or Demons. For example, if you draw a line starring at 5 diagonaly down to 3 then vertically up to 10 and then down to 3 again you have the shape (sigil) of the Spirit “Hagiel” which looks a little like \ll and also the numerical values of 5+3+1+10+30.

The Spirit Hagiel has the follwowing qualities:

“Hagiel is regent of Venus and of Friday. He is a chief of two choirs – Virtues and Principalities – and is listed by some authorities as one of the Great Archangels. His name translates as “Great of God” and he is believed to have been one of the few angels given the honor of assisting at Creation. Tradition names him as the angel who bore the prohpet Enoch to Heaven.

It is said that merely pronouncing Hagiel’s name can provide protection from malign influences. As ruler of the zodiacal sign of Libra, Hagiel helps mediate between opposites and intergrate diverse elements into harmonious balance. As the Angel of Venus, Hagiel creates beauty, love, affection, and harmony. He can intercede in all kinds of relationships – family, friends, lovers – to end quarrels, heal rifts, forge friendships, and bring lovers together.

Numerology and magic have such a history that it could be a complete other article in itself. Suffice to say it requres a leap of faith and then a commitment to studying using what the Ceremonial Magicians term “Gemetrica”, where letters are assigned numerical values and the sum of these values can be “reverse enginered” onto other words. This is based on the Hebrew Kabbalistic theory that each letter in itself is a powerful magical symbol.

This system falls down a little as it was designed to work with the Hebrew not English alapabet and is subject to the errors made in translating; whilst the letters can be translated over, the context cannot. And while Hebrew is written and, more importantly, undersood in the right to left manner, English and the Europian languages are written and understood Left to Right.

This brings me back to the power of palindromes.

Whilst not Magic Squares, palindromes worth touching on. In one of the more recent cultural examples of Numerology, the model Agyness Deyn, born Laura Hollins, used Numerolgy to change her name to Agyness. Seeing as she’s a well known and a well paid model/actress (playing Aphrodyte in the film Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief) I’ll leave the reader to draw their own conclusions about the effectivenss of numerolgy. Bear mind, though, that Agyness/Laura was born with that genetic handout that got her spotted as a model in the first place!

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A Maypole in Prison
by Starhawk

“When Pagans get their rights, everyone gets their rights,” says Patrick McCollum, who for the last fifteen years has volunteered to serve as a Pagan chaplain in the California prisons. McCollum, a talented jewelry designer and craftsman by nature, has in the last decade spent the bulk of his time—and money—helping prisoners and making interfaith alliances worldwide.

This last weekend was the second time I’ve gone with him to visit women’s prisons in central California. Valley State Prison for Women and Central California Women’s Facility are across the street from one another out in the fields near Chowchilla. Bland, concrete structures, they look a lot like my junior high school had its chain link fences been topped with razor wire and surveyed by guard towers.

Being in prison is like being in a hellish version of junior high school—where your every movement is monitored and controlled, subject to the prison version of a hall pass, called ‘duckets’—a word which I find extremely irritating for some reason, maybe because I suspect it’s really supposed to be ‘dockets’? I don’t know—of all the humiliations and assaults of prison it’s probably the least significant, but still it bugs me.

Although I’ve been arrested and jailed numerous times for political actions, I’ve never served time in prison. “Short time is hard time,” one of the lifer women told me. When you’re in for life, or for a long time, as many of these women are, something happens to you. Your ties to the outside world fade, and the prison becomes your world. You let go of the hopes and dreams you once had, and find new, smaller things to hope for within the narrow world to which you are confined.

All the more reason why these celebrations and moments of spiritual commitment take on a greater importance, here, than they do for us outside. When we have infinite opportunities to revel in flowers or dance on the grass or connect with those who share our spirituality, we get blasé. “Maybe I’ll go to the ritual—maybe I’ll stay home and watch kitty videos on YouTube.”

In prison, if you’re Pagan, you might get a chance to connect once or twice a year. If you are Christian, of course, there are weekly services, Bible study groups, special programs, Christian Alcoholics Anonymous meetings—but if you’re Pagan, your religious rights to meet, to study, to learn about your tradition, to celebrate your holidays and practice your tradition are not generally respected. Patrick and others have fought major battles to gain the limited access we have, and although he is recognized as a chaplain by the State of California, he still has trouble bringing in ritual supplies, books, or volunteers.

I went with Patrick and Johanna and Tiki from the Pagan Alliance. To get down to Chowchilla by 9 am, we need to leave the Bay Area by 6 am, which means waking up at something like 4:30 am, which is something I try never to do. I don’t take 6 am planes or go power jogging before dawn, and I’m not one of those writers who like to work in the wee hours of the morning. Back in the ‘80s, when we were doing some of those political actions mentioned above, we’d wake up at 4 am to get into place to blockade early workers at nuclear plants. Since then, I’ve grown to favor actions that start at noon. But waking up that early is inextricably linked, in my mind, with going to jail, still, so it seems appropriate.

At VSPW, they have ‘lost’ our paperwork, which Patrick has dutifully submitted and had approved. They’ve also moved us out of the gym and field so they can set up for a Christian group’s dedication of a new, interfaith outdoor chapel which is still days away. However, the warden showed up and intervened, not only putting us back in the gym but actually helping to carry in the Maypole! (Which Patrick has constructed from plastic pipes, so it’s light.) However, while 160 women have asked to come to the ceremony, only about forty actually have gotten their duckets and been allowed to come. There are a surprising number of Pagans in prison—Patrick estimates something like 20,000 in the U.S. Most of them become Pagan while they’re incarcerated. While the numbers of Christians are higher, the Pagans have some of the highest numbers of active, participating members of any religious group—and are among the least served, with no paid chaplains and endless barriers for volunteers.

For me, it’s especially heartbreaking to see so many women locked up for life, or for very long sentences. Many, many of them were arrested as teenagers and tried as adults when they were sixteen or seventeen years old—a practice which is, in my mind, itself criminal and unjust. Teenagers are not adults and do not yet have adult understanding—not just of their actions and consequences but also of what their rights are, how the legal system works and how to negotiate it. The most common reasons they’re there are drugs, getting caught up in their boyfriends’ drug deals and attacking or killing a pimp or a rapist. They end up with heavy sentences, sometimes, out of loyalty—they won’t rat out the boyfriend while the men have less compunction about throwing the women under the bus. In prison, boyfriends and husbands generally stop visiting after around six months. Women connected to male prisoners visit them for years.

The women themselves created our ritual. They asked me to invoke the Goddess, and I called in the She Who Blesses All Forms of Love. One reason prisoners embrace Paganism is that we accept people as they are. We think sexuality is a good thing—including gay sexuality, and we tell people that they are children of the Goddess, who loves them even if they might have messed up badly at some point in life. Even in prison, you can continue to grow and develop spiritually, to serve the Goddess and to serve the community. And a number of the women have stepped up to learn how to create and priestess rituals.

We set up the Maypole in the center of the running track. After some time spent untangling the ribbons, which the wind had whipped into a tangle, we danced. I had to sit down for a while—between the blazing heat, the early morning, the lunch of Complete Carbohydrates—veggies and dip, French fries, a biscuit and cake—I was having a bad blood-sugar moment. It was beautiful to watch the dance, however, and see how much the women enjoyed it—the hilarity of moving in and out, under and over, mostly getting it slightly wrong but nonetheless the ribbons weave. Then it was time to go.

Between the heat and the stress, we were nearly comatose by the time we got to our hotel. We went out for Mexican food with Sister Mary Ann, who is the Catholic Chaplain at CCWF, where we were going the next day. Sister Mary Ann is a true Christian—dedicated to the women and the work, selfless, and very supportive of Patrick and all our efforts. She reminded me of the many wonderful nuns, priests and ministers I’ve met through the years, especially when I was teaching at Matthew Fox’s institute back in the ’80s and ‘90s. We may hold different beliefs, but we share common values.

But our visit to CCWF did not go well. Again, they had ‘lost’ our paperwork—this time, five separate copies of our event package which Sister Mary Ann had personally delivered to five separate officials. The warden was not on site on a Saturday—nor were other personnel who could have okayed the event. The Watch Commander, who could have authorized it, said “No way.” We were allowed in as visitors—which meant a much more exhaustive process of listing every single thing we were wearing or carrying. Tiki’s underwire bra would not go through the metal detector, and she had to go out, change into a bathing suit, and put up with snide comments about her breasts. But, we got in, though Patrick was quietly fuming while being ever so polite to everyone.

We met in the Chapel, where about twenty of the sixty or so women who had asked to come were assembled. The group at CCWF had been much, much larger—but the prison had systematically transferred out anyone whom they identified as a Pagan leader, so it’s now slowly recovering. We weren’t allowed to bring in our Maypole, our flowers or any of the ritual food we’d brought, but we had ourselves.

We set up a simple altar with materials on hand, and I led a grounding and taught some basic energetic exercises. We talked with the women and had time to do some counseling one on one, while four volunteers went to get our lunch from the food service.

Then suddenly we got word that the Watch Commander had stopped our food volunteers and sent back the carts, while throwing three of them into Administrative Detention—‘the hole’—for doing what they’d been asked to do. Sister Mary Ann was now in trouble for supporting us, and we needed to go before the rest of the women also got into trouble. While Christians get rewarded for attending their services, and their faith is a mark in their favor at parole hearings, Pagans run huge risks.

They can get written up, they are often threatened or persecuted, and their faith can be used against them in parole hearings and earn them years more jail time. Nevertheless, they still come.

So we left, going back out through the succession of control points and sally ports. At the visitor’s gate, we had to confirm that every single earring and hair ornament we’d brought in was accounted for. Unfortunately, one of us had lost track of her Chapstick. That resulted in frantic calls back to the chapel—and Patrick eventually went back in to find it while we waited. He came back, at last, triumphantly bearing the ‘contraband’, and we got out. Luckily, one of the chapel clerks had found it—just as the Watch Commander was about to order the guards to put us all into Administrative Detention until they ‘investigated’ the incident.

The world always looks brighter when you get out of jail—even after a short visit. But any encounter with the system always makes me angry. I’m angry at the discrimination Pagan prisoners face, and I’m even more angry at the system as a whole, which targets poor people and people of color so disproportionately. The prison industrial complex has become a profit-making industry, a new form of slavery. Instead of rehabilitating and reintegrating offenders, it creates a permanent underclass. Draconian sentencing laws, the ‘War on Drugs’ which is really a war on poor people who use drugs, especially people of color, the whole punitive orientation of our society means we in the U.S. imprison more people than any other country in the world.

Fighting for prisoners’ religious rights is just one small way to challenge some of the injustices inherent in the system.

Patrick has been carrying the ball for many years now, and has spent tens of thousands of dollars of his own money doing it.

He has important court cases making their way upward through the system. Check out his website, below, and if you can support him with a small donation, that will be a huge help.

When Pagans get our rights, everyone gets their rights!

Patrick’s website:

Reprinted with permission from Stawhawk’s blog ‘Dirt Worship’

Copyright (c) 2011 by Starhawk. All rights reserved.

This copyright protects Starhawk’s rights to her work. Nonprofit, activist, and educational groups may reprint this essay for nonprofit uses.

To join the campaign to make Starhawk’s book ‘The Fifth Sacred Thing’ into a film, visit

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Going into brick ain’t all it’s cracked up to be
by Liz.

There’s a saying amongst my community that going into brick, (for you Gaujo’s- non-Roms that’s leaving one’s nomadic lifestyle behind and replacing rolling van wheels with static house foundations underneath you,) although considered a better way of life by many, ain’t all its cracked up to be, and when the summers here, it really comes to mind more than at any other time of the year.

Call me a fair-weather Gypsy if you like but it’s true; there were times, in my youth, the weather didn’t matter quite so much, I’d happily swap the house for a van all year around, come rain come shine.

But time flies, the years catch up with you so very fast, families come along and take a lot out of you, injuries slow you down and make you feel the cold and damp a lot more, some irresponsible travellers get the genuine ones a bad name with the selfish messy ways they go about things, so councils get better and better at turfing you off their land. Residents turn and attack you just for what and who you are because they fear us in their bias and ignorrance having read the bad press and tarred us all with the same brush, and you don’t always feel the same way.

It doesn’t stop me remembering though, back to all those days spent roaming free, learning from nature and by watching and listening to the wise elders. All those evenings spent under the stars, listening to the tales of days gone by and falling asleep on the rugs, the chilly baths in the old tin tub making you cold but clean and feeling really alive while dancing in the rain, cooking on the camp fire stove with GrandMa, chucking what we could in the pot, – best not to ask sometimes what was in it, but it always tasted good whatever it was! My favourite part was always seeing to the horses with Pops and running barefoot through the grass or on the sand. It was a wonderful, but a hard way of life.

I didn’t treasure it at the time; it was all just normal to me. I must confess to days when I even felt bored, but if I’d known then what I know now and life hadn’t changed like it did around the time I was growing from a teen into womanhood, I would have lived every second of it to the full, never have got bored with any of for one single second (for it went in a flash) and all I have left of it now is a couple of tatty faded old photographs in an album and memories, happy ones mostly, but I guess I wouldn’t really have wanted it any other way.

Pentre Ifan
by Liz

Last Summer, my favourite Pembrokeshire Pagans Moot of the year took place at Pentre Ifan Cromlech so I thought I would share what I learned about it with you.

Pentre Ifan – the name means ‘the homestead of Ifan’ – is the name of an ancient monument, a neolithic dolmen in the civil parish of Nevern, North Pembrokeshire, West Wales.

In 1884, it was the first monument in the UK to become a Scheduled Ancient Monument on the recommendation of General Pitt Rivers.

Pentre Ifan observes a wonderful view on all sides, hills and forests, sweeping fields, a wide view of the coastline and out across Cardigan Bay, to the north east of Carningli Mountain. This site truly is spectacular.

The dolmen dates from approximately 3,500 B.C. and would originally have formed part of a much larger mound. It is possible that it was used as a communal burial site but some would possibly argue it could equally have been a temple used for rituals.

The facade surrounding the portal was built with carefully constructed dry stone walling and it would once have been covered with earth and cobble stones.

The existing stones form the portal and main chamber of the tomb, which would originally have been covered with a large stone mound about 36.6 m long and 17 m wide.

The capstone is 5.1 m in length, and is estimated to weigh 16 tonnes and rises 2.4 m above the ground. It is delicately supported by the narrow tips of three uprights and it seems to sit balanced finely on the pointed uprigths with ease, although you can almost imagine it taking off and flying down into the bay because it’s a little aerodynamic looking in its shape (like an arrow head). It points at the Nevern River.

From the east side of the site looking west the capstone leads your eyes to the mouth of the Nevern estuary at Newport.

Some of the other stones have been scattered, but at least seven are in their original position.

What is thought to have been the original door way in to the cairn is blocked by a huge upright boulder which is believed was put in place to close the cairn after its use.

Archaeological excavations took place in 1936 – 1937 and 1958 – 1959 led by William Francis Grimes. Various finds were excavated including a small amount of flint flakes and some fragments of pottery.
But, as yet, no human remains.

The dolmen is owned and maintained by Cadw, the Welsh Historic Monuments Agency. The site is easily accessed from the road if you arrive by car there is a small layby to park in (although avoiding busy times is best) and entrance is free.

It is located about 6 km by road from Newport (the Newport in North Pembrokeshire – there is more than one Newport) and 17 km from Cardigan.

From Newport, head east along the A487. After passing Llwyngwair Manor on your left, take the next right sign posted ‘Pentre Ifan’.
Keep going straight on at the cross roads for another three quarters of a mile.
Follow the right hand lane sign posted ‘Pentre Ifan’ and after some half a mile you will see a layby on your right.
Park here and the entrance to Pentre Ifan cromlech is at the lower end of the layby.

If you need more information about visiting the site, please contact Site Operations staff at Cadw, telephone 01443 336 104.

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John Barleycorn must die
A song for summer drinking
by Liz.

Every year when the Summer Solstice has been and gone, my thoughts start turning to harvest time and an old folk song I used to hear a lot in my youth growing up, as I did, in agricultural parts of East Anglia. That old folk song is called “John Barleycorn”.

John Barleycorn referred to in this old folk song isn’t actually a real person, it’s the name given to an important cereal crop harvested for the brewing industry used to make ale and whiskey, namely barley, and the song is a lament to the “sacrifice” it makes laying down it’s life every Summer to quench man’s ever raging thirst.

In the song, John Barleycorn is represented as suffering attacks, death and further indignities which correspond to the various stages of barley cultivation, such as reaping and malting.

There are many versions of the song as it has been re-written over the years by numerous people, but the version I am most familiar with goes:

There was three men come out o’ the west their fortunes for to try,
And these three men made a solemn vow, John Barleycorn must die,
They ploughed, they sowed, they harrowed him in, throwed clods upon his head,
And these three men made a solemn vow, John Barleycorn was dead.
They’ve let him lie for a very long time, ’til the rains from heaven did fall
And little Sir John sprung up his head and so amazed them all
They’ve let him stand ’til Midsummer’s Day ’til he looked both pale and wan
And little Sir John’s grown a long long beard and so become a man
They’ve hired men with their scythes so sharp to cut him off at the knee
They’ve rolled him and tied him by the waist serving him most barbarously
They’ve hired men with their sharp pitchforks who’ve pricked him to the heart
And the loader he has served him worse than that
For he’s bound him to the cart
They’ve wheeled him around and around a field ’til they came unto a barn

And there they made a solemn oath on poor John Barleycorn
They’ve hired men with their crabtree sticks to cut him skin from bone
And the miller he has served him worse than that
For he’s ground him between two stones

And little Sir John and the nut brown bowl and his brandy in the glass
And little Sir John and the nut brown bowl proved the strongest man at last
The huntsman he can’t hunt the fox nor so loudly to blow his horn
And the tinker he can’t mend kettle or pots without a little barleycorn

For the musically minded, it has been covered by artists including Chris Wood, Steeley Span, Jethro Tull, Traffic, Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Heather Alexander and many others. To hear a rendition of it being repeated in country pubs across the land where the ale is flowing well is not altogether unusual at all.

So, next time you are enjoying a pint or two of ale, or a couple of wee drams of the Landlords’ finest malt, remember to raise a glass to the memory of good old John Barleycorn and what he’s given up in the name of a good bevvie at the bar.


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Harvesting the Karma
by Jules Harrell

As I write this article, I reflect on how the Summer has gone. We’ve experienced a very high heat index, bigger than life weeds, Japanese beetles, slugs, a llama who ate my corn. A fox who ate my cats, fishers who ate many other local cats.

Flowers, birds and bees. Then there’s the larger wildlife who live here and freak out my dogs. Bears, for example. One day, I took a morning off from the garden to track a longterm resident big black bear from his morning swamp root breakfast to his pawprints to his den by a wild berry patch, deep in the woods. Have you ever seen a bear’s bed? It’s a big surprise, let me tell you.

Other excitement included having my locked, 2009 Toyota truck stolen stolen in broad daylight in downtown Pittsfield, MA. Truckless, expecting to never see my beloved Tacoma again, I sent the thieves really good vibes even though I felt like buying a shotgun. I told the thieves that if they knew me, they would never take my truck. I physically sat next to them as they pawed through my stuff, including a silver necklace on the gearshift. I felt sorry for them that I had such abundance here on the farm while they were reduced to stealing trucks. I even told them their mothers loved them… 48 hours later, my truck was returned to within two blocks of where it was taken, with all contents intact, including checkbooks, jewelry, Netflix, and CDs. The Pittsfield police are amazed. These were professional thieves with a pass key. I think they just changed their minds.

Then there’s the harvest. Recently, four of my friends came over to ferment veggies together, probably 40 pounds of beets, carrots, garlic and cabbage. Jim and Mary don’t have a garden this year, so they come to our place and work in ours. I always call Vince as he’s my fermenting guru. While Mary trimmed the Japanese beetle eaten grape leaves, Jim harvest broccoli, cukes and cabbages, and Vince prepared our large containers by hosing them down and scrubbing them out.

We all sat around chatting, and scrubbed veggies, trimming the tops and bottoms. Moving the operation over to a large, wooden block on our picnic table, we commenced to chopping and bruising the veggies in a big 10 gallon pot. We added salt, bruised, and mushed with our very clean hands.

Next, I crammed jar after jar with the luscious soon to be bubbling veggies, while Mary added a little salt to the top, a little water and topped them off with waxed paper and a lid. Then we all had a feast, as my husband was busy cooking while we were fermenting. My friends each took several jars of veggies home with them, filled with organically grown, good energy, love and friendship.

At the moment, we have about 75 pounds of garlic drying, as the garlic harvest was early this year. After pulling all the garlic and hanging it to dry, I replanted the beds with some peas and clover to add nitrogen to the depleted soil. I’ll replant these beds in October with the best garlic, and mulch it over well for the winter.

We ate large when our friends invited us to pick their blueberry bushes. Mine are still young babies. We will enjoy beets and cabbages and carrots made into kimchee with garlic and cayenne this winter. I still have corn growing from the other side of the garden as the llama who escaped didn’t know about that well-hidden patch. This year, the most exciting news is that almost everything in the garden was grown from Co-op seed, started in beds in the cattle panel greenhouse.

Probably my favorite aspect of gardening is sharing with others. I took a huge wad of garlic up to the neighbor’s house so that they have some to plant, promising them more as they have six children and are avid garlic eaters. Growing food in great abundance and sharing with friends is the best reward for a summer of hot, hard work, gargantuan weeds, loose llamas, and voracious bugs.

Here’s to another great harvest.

You can find Jules at

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‘A New Way of Thinking’
by Jonny Blake

This is a blog about the process of me becoming a pagan, my spiritual path and what I intend to do with it. I am writing these blogs as a means to propose my thoughts to whoever is reading. My aim is that people who are having similar thoughts to me will make contact and discuss what I write about because I know that statistically it’s impossible for me and only me to have come up with any of this. For those who won’t find any similarity, I’d be very happy if this does anything at all that makes you think about it, literally, just scratching your head and briefly humming will do :-). I am by no means preaching, I find the act of it ill-intended and cheap (in my village, they call it ‘’a crock of shit’’).

I like to think (no pun intended) that I belong under the Pagan label when ‘beliefs’ are concerned. I grew up with an atheist family, and as an attempt to give me a better education and attitude to learning that he didn’t get my dad brought me up with science and history books modified for children. Of course, the only logical thing that happened was that I became a bit of a geek; I had my phases of huge interest in dinosaurs, space, ancient civilisations, animals (sharks, reptiles, mammals, and insects, nearly all of them), geology and the human body. I also have the gift of artistic talent, so finding inspiration in the works of fiction (in all forms of how it’s presented) I found an interest in the mythology behind stories, and as I grew older I started to find social/political meanings or a philosophy behind such things. My modern/scientific way of thinking could only allow me to speculate to a certain level, after I found that neo-paganism embraces all un-established ‘religions’ most of which I have already studied or are heavily referenced in a work of fiction, I thought I’d give it a go to feed my inquisitive nature a new flavour.

The reason why I am telling you about my childhood is because I have always been left with more questions than answers: I was never told ‘’the sky is blue because god made it blue’’, or when relatives passed away and they said ‘’he is in heaven now’’ and I ask ‘’how do you know?’’ I would be answered with ‘’I don’t know, nobody does, but I hope he is’’ rather than a patronising answer most children are met with. I come to realise that to get a good answer, you need to ask a bloody good question. Many people get too held up on finding the answer they desire (or worse, just an answer), rather than getting into that mentality of a curious infant who just wants to know because they accept that the world and everything beyond it is a total mystery. The greatest minds of pagan cultures totally understood this mentality, and they obsessively embraced it, and many writers unknowingly engage in it; hence they have such brilliant imaginations to fill up the mysteries with their own ideas (at least I think that may be it, it was for me anyway lol).

I titled this ‘’a new way of thinking’’ because its something I’m in the middle of crafting for myself at the moment, in terms of it being generally new, it’s really not… but, I am trying to see if I can comprehend the unknown in a different way than what I’ve read and researched. My philosophy collection isn’t to a standard yet, but I’ve read books on Greek philosophy, the Tao Teh Ching and a few others. A lot of what is said in these writings can be made relevant today; in the same way that a lot of the ska and punk records from the 80’s that I listen to seem to speak a lot of truth about our current conservative government. Of course, a lot of this is down to interpretation, but isn’t that the point? I believe the fitting description is saying that these things are ‘’timeless’’, but then I thought back to all the things I’ve learnt from science and then I realise we now know the answer to something like ‘’if a tree falls and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?’’, because we know that the impact of a falling tree would send a shockwave through the air as well as the ground, therefore making a loud noise regardless of anyone being there or not. So, I want to create my own new way of thinking because I don’t feel any need to restrict myself to the old ways, but I’ll remain aware that those who do not learn from history will just repeat it.

There came a point when I saw so much truth in ‘’the only thing you can know, is that you know nothing’’ that it almost stopped me asking any questions I had on the spot. However I didn’t fancy just becoming a ‘realist’ or hopping onto whatever spiritual wagon that seemed pretty. I have a fear of becoming arrogant, I know many arrogant people, and I fear it because arrogance would stop me from learning and wondering, that to me sounds like a miserable fate. So many people who go down a spiritual path become arrogant in the large amount of knowledge they gain therefore limiting their spiritual insight, their thought patterns and eventually their intelligence; I have seen many teachers been torn a new one by
students for refusing to accept new or different ideas, hell I even had a go myself once. So, I was left in a struggle between overwhelming myself with knowledge (which may or may not be true) and creating a god complex or just accepting that I will never know any secrets of the universe and focus my spirituality on nature and those I hold affection for….

However, I completely missed that I don’t need knowledge or a lack of it to be spiritual or to simply look into the unknown; I just need myself and the ability to think. I feel like a right tit that I overlooked the fact I am free to question as much as I like, I am free to think about whatever I can think about, I can speculate just about anything I can comprehend.

Thinking is not like Pandora’s Box either, if you unlocked something you didn’t want to you could easily forget about it later, instead it enables me to ask questions; questions that if I did not ask like ‘’is this what I want to do in life?’’ then I would be doing something that I actually didn’t want to be doing. Therefore I can just think freely and so far, this new way of thinking is bringing me much joy, wonder and a shit load more questions.

I can’t stress enough that for me being pagan didn’t lead to being spiritual, but being spiritual lead to being pagan… I’d like to think I am writing this as a pagan and from a pagan’s point of view, but as far as I’m aware it’s only my perspective and interpretation, but that’s why I call myself a pagan. There are many paths through a valley, paganism presents all the paths that previous travellers have found, and you can chose whichever one you like, but it doesn’t say anywhere that you have to stick to an exact path like many other religions do, so I thought why not run off into uncharted territory once and a while, if it goes nowhere I’ll come back and do the same elsewhere, after all isn’t that how the first pagans mapped out the existing paths? And these people lived thousands of years ago.

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Evolution of Change
by Caledonia

Life is not static. It grows and dies, expands and shrinks. The only thing one can ever be certain of is change. How is that for quixotic?

Just as the landscape changes with each season, so does our relationship with the gods. When the pantheons had wide-spread attention, many centuries ago, there were specific roles assigned to each of the gods. Over time, the roles have changed by necessity.

Why is this? The needs and requirements of their followers have evolved. We no longer fear and tremble when the skies thunder and lightning flares. We understand why the sun comes up in the east and sets in the west. While there are still numerous mysteries in the natural world around us, we no longer need to attribute those we don’t understand to the supernatural.

By necessity our society, religions, beliefs and gods have evolved.

Due to modern technology many things which were simply unimaginable even 30 years ago are now commonplace. We can read a newspaper from London without having to wait for it to be delivered to the local newstand. The distance between countries seems almost nonexistent because of instant messaging. Information can be shared with a much wider audience through forums and websites. We live in the age of information and technology. Through the advantages of there are new opportunities for learning and growing than have been previously afforded us. In short, our world has evolved.

How does this affect a belief structure? The evolution of learning and teaching expands the knowledge available. Much like the Romans did as their empire grew, we also adopt the teachings which appeal to us as individuals and make them our own. We insert these new ideas into our own rituals, spells and core beliefs.

As we change, so too do the gods. Some neo-pagans call to those deities which cannot be found in a book of mythology at the local bookstore. New gods have been created, and some have found new homes in far different lands than their birth. A prime example of this would be the lady Libertas. Her name is obvious as to what she is patron of, but she is still not as well known as she should be. Researching her even in today’s information friendly world is very difficult. She was a very minor Roman deity whose followers vanished off the earth before Christianity took a grip on Europe.

The Romans first codified the idea of liberty in the person of the goddess Libertas. This minor deity was the patron of a freedom which has echoed through the ages, and while only obscure references remain from her Roman origins, she has shaped the face of nations. During the reign of Julius Caesar, the Roman Empire was crumbling under its own weight from the inner corruption which invariably comes from an unchecked government. Caesar’s heir, Augustus left his mark on history by easing the Republic of Rome into a less domineering principate, which lasted for close to three centuries (Garrett G. Fagan).

Augustus Caesar also “made a point of restoring the temples of Libertas” (Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion 318) and reinstated the liberating aspect of personal freedom by making her “the goddess of the Roman commonwealth” (Encyclopedia Mythica).

Libertas has appeared, in various incarnations over time. For those wishing change, those demanding to be free and yearning towards a better life, she is a rallying point, though her worship has long since disappeared into the dusty annals of history. She has faded into obscurity, her offerings have long since crumbled into dust, and her altars lie empty. Her name unknown in this much more modern world, or is it? The wretched whisper her name. Her guise is immediately recognized the world over. Her voice has thundered quietly over the waters. She represents prosperity, freedom, and opportunity. Her name is uttered every day, spoken with reverence, shame, incredulity, vehemence, pride, and sarcasm. She says, “Give me your tired, your poor, /Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” (“The New Colossus”, 10-11). A bright beacon in her hand, she welcomes all to her warm embrace; with broken shackles at her feet, she stands tall, gazing sternly towards the east. She gazes almost defiantly towards the “old country”, the lands of repression and poverty. A view of her most certainly brings one to thinking of the larger than life country to which she is a symbol of the American Dream. The tablet she holds in her arm recites an almost magical date, July 4, 1776. She is Liberty. Libertas no longer has altars. Her worship and followers have evolved, most no longer acknowledge her as real. She is not recognized in her original country. But we all know who she is, and what she represents. She has evolved.

The way we worship the gods as a whole has changed as well. While some of the temples devoted to them still exist in many parts of Europe, they are now viewed as historical artifacts rather than religious shrines. Much of this is directly due to the wide-spread reign of Christianity, but not completely. One of the most effective ways to indoctrinate a conquered people is to incorporate their religious beliefs and practices into that of their conquerors. This is something Europe was first taught by the Romans, and then again by the Christians.

Now the public rituals and gatherings are becoming a bit more commonplace and accepted, but such has not been the case for a very long time. Through necessity, the gods were hidden and worship was secretive. The evolution was stunted. Massive quantities of lore and wisdoms have been lost, never to be regained. All we can do now is retrieve what knowledge we can and add to it. Is everything we know and believe exactly the way it was when Lugh rode the sun? No, nor can it be. Nor should it be.

Why should we believe differently from our forebearers? First and foremost, because we are much more sophisticated in our knowledge and understanding of the way the Universe works. In many ways, we are as knowledgeable as the druids. We comprehend many of yesterday’s Mysteries through our learned ways. A druid did not worship the same way as the common man did, for the teachers had devoted their lives to knowledge and understood far more than their less sophisticated neighbors.

Secondly, it is much more difficult to obtain ceremonial opiates…. not to mention illegal. Mind-altering drugs were commonly used by those who were the knowledge keepers of the communities. Many neo-pagans eschew the use completely.
Third, we no longer need blame the thunderstorm on the rages of Zeus, or the hurricanes on the whims of Poseidon. Are they still the lords of their realms? Of course! But, we also comprehend the physical and natural reasons for these forces of nature.

Who came first, the gods or the devotees? This is a circular argument which can never be resolved. The gods exist, and shall continue to do so…. even as they change and grow.

Kind Roads,

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Herbal Magick
With An interview from The Lady Selene
by T. Fox Dunham

When you’re a pagan diagnosed with a rare cell type of lymphoma, a cancer with a high mortality rate, you need to find options in addition to the treatment of chemotherapy and radiation. I needed an edge, to add an element to the treatment. I wasn’t going to survive if I depended only on current medicine.

As part of a spiritual regimen, I turned to herbalism, but not just chemical herbalism—the use of oils as part of pharmacology. Magickal herbalism is more than just alkaloids and essential oils. It uses a spiritual element, a drawing of the life force of the goddess earth, taking her love, connecting to her soul so she can heal you. Sages have understood this for centuries.

When the United States National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) asked James Lovelock to develop a model of life on other worlds, he hypothesized the Gaia Hypothesis. His theory is an elegant union of science and pagan belief. He perceived the earth as a single organism, interconnected as our own bodies—heart, mind and immune system. He saw it as the fecund womb of the goddess, something peoples close to the earth have always known.

Hildegard Von Bingen, a medieval mystic, spoke of Viriditas, the Greening Power. This is an empowerment gained through working with the earth, with plants to enhance quality of life. When I endured radiation therapy for lymphoma, I took an active role in healing the disease, thus creating a cycle of energy through my garden, mixing with the energies of the earth, enriching the salubrious properties of the plants and thus to aid in curing the imbalance in my body.

Greening power is not just the administration of herbs; it is taking an active role in your recovery by seeding, harvesting, preparing, enchanting. This is the heart of spiritual herbalism. Just as farmers who grow their own corn and wheat feel more connected to the soil, so can a herbalist seeking remedy feel the greening power by actively seeding, growing and harvesting their own medicines. Magickal herbalists create a web of energy in this cycle they use to heal.

There are many so-named hedge witches who practice magickal herbal healing. The Lady Selene, a respected teacher here outside of Philadelphia, took some time to answer some questions about her craft.

Q: How do you determine which herbs you use to help?

There are plenty of magickal herbals out there. It’s a popular bandwagon to jump on right now. I have always been an outdoor girl and found many plant devas communicated with me when I was younger. As I grew, my gardening became more practical at first, food being high on my list of necessities. But I couldn’t stay away from the herbs and flowers that spoke to my soul.

Doing research in Culpepper and Grieve, as well as more arcane works, I found that the plants I was drawn to were usually those that had historically been used in witchcraft. So I think that if herbalism is your thing, then using plants becomes a combination of research and intuition. Everything has its own spirit, or Deva, and vibrational pattern and frequency, that is how plants can be helpful in your magickal working.

Q: What is the source of your wisdom? Where did you get your training in the use of magickal herbalism?

There was no Practical Herbal Magick class when I was seeking occult wisdom. I actually developed that class and teach it at irregular intervals at Ostara (A Pagan Shop) in Bethlehem, PA. So I steeped myself in herbal lore, reading and doing research, research, research. I also gardened every year, became a Master Gardener thru Penn State Extension, joined a garden club, and became a student and lover of all things horticultural. You can find snippets of occult wisdom in the most mundane sources, sometimes taking you by surprise.

Q: Do you have a special ceremony you use for harvesting and/or preparing herbs?

The harvesting of herbs for magickal purposes is influenced by astrology and the phases of the moon, and many more complicating factors. There is a special knife called a boline which can be used, or one may choose to use a white-handled knife. Any tool used should be blessed and consecrated and used for that specific purpose. Then there is the school of thought that proposes that the intent is in the practitioner, and it doesn’t matter what tool you use to harvest. I believe that if I am harvesting a plant for magickal purposes, any tool I use is a magickal tool, even my hands—especially my hands.

Permission from the plant Deva should be obtained first, and a gift should be left in exchange for the material harvested.

Q: Are there any special techniques you advise while using the herbs? Meditation? White light cleansing? Using candle magick?

Herbs can be used to assist in meditation, can be included in crafting candles and oils, used in energy cleansing. The possibilities are almost limitless; in fact, the list of uses is too extensive for me to attempt to go into right now, and—well—we witches have our secrets.

Q: How does magickal herbalism fit into modern medical treatment? How does it augment or replace?

Magickal herbalism can be used in conjunction with modern medicine, but I would never recommend herbalism alone, magickal or otherwise, in lieu of diagnosis and treatment from a competent and qualified medical practitioner. My class mentions medicinal uses of plants purely from a historical perspective as I am not qualified to give medical herbal advice. I am a witch, not an M.D.

Q: Any special stories you’d like to share of your experience?

I have met the nicest people through my interest in gardening, both magickal and mundane. I think that plants bring out the best in people, and we have always been meant to coexist, bringing out the best in each other. I’ve found magickal plants and fairy gardens tucked into the corners of gardens belonging to people I would never have suspected of entertaining such esoteric practices. We exchange secret smiles if they don’t want to be outed. And then sometimes a gazing ball is just a gazing ball, lending a bit of Victoriana to a cottage style garden. And that’s OK too, ’cause fairies are still attracted to shiny things even if they are not put out specifically to welcome them.

The Lady Selene is a native Pennsylvanian, having had several careers, including teaching, business management and finally nursing, a role she still enjoys. She makes ritual jewelry, as semi precious stones enchant her. Their vibrations usually leave her a little high and make her friends afraid to let her drive a car.

As many of us who have not been raised pagan, she was a spiritual seeker for most of her life. She was a self initiated priestess and solitary practitioner until meeting Mary, a local witch and owner of the pagan store, Ostara. She became one of the High Priestesses in the Butler Family Tradition of Witchcraft, which Mary teaches at her store. The Lady Selene is a Crone, and she has come to accept that title with the graciousness and satisfaction that her years in this incarnation have brought her.


The world is full of such hedge witches and wizards, drawing lenitive and curative from the soil as flowers, roots, leaves.

They cook them, make tisanes, balms, oils, incense, liquors, soaps and all sorts of gentle administrations. They carry an ancient tradition, providing alternative medicine with a divine element. They understand that more than the body must be treated, also the mind and the spirit. Modern medicine is only now beginning to understand this. These are effective treatments that have a powerful effect over the body and spirit.

As a responsible herbalist, I must write this caveat. These are potent chemicals and energies that must be treated responsibly. Herbalists study for years, learning the dangers and proper uses of herbs. For example, potent herbs such as Foxglove (Digitalis) affect the heart. Before administering, you must carefully study and test, such as rubbing a bit of the essential oil onto your skin to check for an allergic reaction. Also, always know the source of the plants. Herbs from unfamiliar ground maybe contaminated with pesticides. Be responsible with your herbal magick, study the subject herb, know its history and folklore, its place in the natural cycle.

I suffer from an array of debilitating symptoms after my Pyrrhic treatment of chemo therapy and radiation. Because of my allergies and sensitivities to harsh medications, I must seek out alternative treatments. I can’t use normal medications for my nausea. Herbal treatment—usually ginger—along with meditation are my only remedy. I use sage incense to cleanse myself while projecting a white light sweeping through my body. I use scents such as honeysuckle to enhance my energy levels. My work with spiritual herbalism fills the gap where medical science fails, providing me relief and a better quality of life, both physical and spiritual.

LINK to the Ostara Store:

T. Fox Dunham is a modern bard, cancer survivor and author, having stories appearing in many international journals. He is currently finishing his first novel, The Adam & Eve Experiment and is writing a sci-fi series for Beam Me Up Radio and Podcasts. His friends call him Fox, being his totem animal, and his motto is: Wrecking civilization one story at a time.

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Lammas Week Moon Lore
by Liz

On Sunday July 31st, Lammas eve, the Moon will be Waxing, in it’s First Quarter, in Leo. This will be a good time to listen to that inner wisdom we all have tucked away deep inside our thoughts but so often doubt and second guess. We need to trust our instincts more and all will be well. There will be a deepening of our spirtual understanding, the seeking of new interests and thrills, and the chance to heal old wounds.

On Monday, 1st August, Lammas Day, the Moon will be Waxing, in it’s First Quarter, leaving Leo and entering Virgo. Don’t be surprised if you spend the day dancing to somebody else’s tune, especially if that somebody is higher up the chain of command than yourself.

It might also be prudent to pay attention to niggling health matters around now because to be pro-active is always better than to be re-active, and you can’t be too careful when it comes to one’s own wellbeing. The message here is very loud and clear, and that is less is more so don’t go over-doing it today or trying to burn your candle at both ends, or the cost might be a bit higher than anticipated.

On Tuesday 2nd August, the Moon will still be Waxing, in it’s First Quarter, still, and remaining in Virgo. It’s influence there on that day may well put a bit of a dampner on passions, and your relationships could well be somewhat strained, but the good news is it’s only temporary, and it will pass as quickly and as uneventfully as it began. Don’t say anything you can’t take back, or cause a scene, and all will return swiftly to normal by return of the clock.

On Wednesday 3rd August, the Moon will still be Waxing, in it’s First Quarter, still, and moving on to Libra. With Wednesdays putting the spotlight on study and travel, and Libra putting influences of partnership and balance to everything, you should have an enjoyable and enlightening day. Friends may issue an invite but the travel may put you off, force yourself to go and it could make you really glad you did!

On Thursday 4th August, the Moon will still be Waxing, still in it’s First Quarter, and in Libra still, cash matters may well spring up but the good news is this time it’s value for money, a fair price paid for something of value to you, so it could be worse.

On Friday 5th August, the Moon will still be Waxing, moving into it’s Second Quarter, and leaving Libra and moving on to Scorpio. Fridays are associated with love and friendship, while Scorpio tends to increase our intuition and psychic awareness, so prepare to be more in tune with those dear to your heart and quite possibly be ready to feel all loved up. Romance is definately in the air tonight.

By the end of the week, Saturday 6th August, the Moon will still be Waxing, and in it’s Second Quarter, in Scorpio still.

Saturdays tend to be mostly about homes and houses, while Scorpio’s influence could warn of an ending of some kind, but as one door closes, another door always opens. Change isn’t always a negative thing. Embrace the new!

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by Rebecca L. Brown

Wherever you are in the world, there’s a good chance you can find some dandelions if you’re looking for them. Their puff-ball seed heads and bright yellow flowers are a familiar sight on lawns, in parks and on wasteland. Whilst widely considered to be a weed, the dandelion has a suprisingly large number of uses in cooking and herbal medicine.

Dandelion flowers can be used to make a wine or eaten battered and fried, whilst the leaves can be eaten in salads or cooked in the same way as spinach. Dandelion leaves are rich in vitamins A, B, C and E as well as iron, calcium and potassium. In the past, it was common for dandelion leaves to be blanched and eaten as a vegetable.

The roots of dandelions can be made into a coffee-like drink. The root is best harvested in Autumn, then sundried and roasted until brittle. It is then ground and used in the same way as coffee. It can also be sliced, sauteed and stewed in salt water until soft and eaten.

Dandelion leaves have been used medicinally as a diuretic and to treat liver or gall bladder problems. The root may have potential in the treatment of diabetes and can act as a mild laxative. The sap has traditionally been applied to corns, verrucas and warts and may act as an insect repellant.

Dandelion should not be taken alongside diuretics. It may increase the blood sugar lowering effects of anti-diabetes medication and so should be used with caution by medicated diabetics.

The seed head of the dandelion is often blown because it is said to carry wishes along with the seeds or to ‘tell the time’. The seed heads have also traditionally been blown to carry thoughts to loved ones. Dandelion heads can be used to predict the weather. The seed heads fold shut when it is likely to rain and only opens again when the chance of wet weather has passed.

Magickally, dandelions are associated with Jupiter and fire. The seed heads have been used in divination whilst rubbing yourself with the sap is said to encourage unusual hospitality towards you. Dandelion flowers collected on St John’s Eve were historically thought to protect against witchcraft.

Symbolically, the dandelion thrives in all situations and is almost impossible to get rid of. It regenerates itself quickly from the tiniest part of root. the dandelion also undergoes a metamorphosis from yellow flower to puffball, preparing itself for the moment when the seeds escape on their journey to new places.

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by Rebecca L. Brown

Jet stone formed from fossilised wood deposits in water; the hard jet which most people are familiar with is formed in seawater. Jet has lower thermal conductivity than many stones, meaning that it is not usually cool when touched. It is easily polished and relatively easy to carve. Like coal jet can be burnt and so jet jewellery and objects should be kept away from flames.

Jet jewellery in the form of beads or pendants has been found in paleolithic deposits including the Kesserloch cave deposits. It is thought that these pieces would have been worn close to the skin. the Romans calld jet ‘gagates’ and used it decoratively. More recently, jet was used to make crosses and rosaries for the inmates of 7th century Streoneshalh (the monastery which pre-dates Whitby Abbey) and was a popular material for 16th century rosaries because it was thought to attract the favour of god. In the Victorian era, it was commonly used to make jewellery as only jet jewellery was permitted to be worn in court for the period of Queen Victoria’s mourning beginning in 1861. Modern Native Americans cultures still use jet in the creation of certain amulets and in burials for it’s supposed protective qualities.

Magickally, jet is connected with the planet Saturn and with the Earth. It is used in grounding and to increase spiritual awareness. Jet is thought to have a calming influence and is used to create balance. It is said to help relieve the negativity which is often felt by people suffering from depression or stress and by people who are grieving by absorbing it. It’s negative electrical charge is used to draw power and knowledge.

Jet is often used in association with amber and is sometimes known as ‘black amber’.

Jet is available to buy at Rainbow Spirit Crystal Store

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Review: One Turning: Poems For The Wheel of The Year
by Miriam Axel-Lute

Review by Rebecca L. Brown

One Turning is a selection of wonderfully written poetry which addresses the circle of life from a modern pagan perspective. Miriam’s brave and honest exploration of the wheel of the year builds on the pagan tradition rather than looking wistfully back into it’s past, addressing the way in which we experience the seasons now and perhaps in the years to come.

“Connection is not, after all, about beauty.” Miriam writes,
“It’s about stories. It’s about attention.
It’s about moving in the same space, and knowing it
and continuing to move.”

In these poems, Miriam has moved into the space of paganism past and continued to move and she has done so beautifully. She has connected with her audience in a way which is both eloquent and thought-provoking.

Miriam’s poem, ‘Firefly Harvest’, is included in our poetry corner. For news of her other work or to buy your copy of One Turning, visit her at

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Upcoming Events

For more information on events at Treadwell’s, visit their website.

05 August 11 (Friday)
Magical Pagan Quiz Night:Hijinks at Treadwell’s
The Treadwells Gang
How’s your trivia for things pagan and magical? Our quiz night will have a cheesy-grining compere, lots of beer and wine and your convivial company, we hope. The quiz will have questions for beginners and oldtimers, in categories of Magick, paganism, witchcraft, mythology, witches. You can play on your own or in a team of up to 4 people. Prize worth 35 quid for the lucky winner.

Price: £3.00 on the door, bur email or ring to sign up in advance

Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start, ends 9.30

06 August 11 (Saturday)
Abraxas Journal:Issue Two Launch Party
Fulgur Ltd and Treadwells
The long-awaited second issue of Abraxas is celebrated tonight with a party for everyone. Scholars, artists, writers and musicians from almost every continent have contributed to this collection of work on esotericism and esoteric culture. Postal advance orders can be made via Treadwells or via the Fulgur website. Treadwell’s parties are as legendary as Fulgur’s high-quality books, so we think this is a mix too heady to miss; please join us. RSVP to Treadwell’s, and do say if you would like a signed launch copy to be reserved you.

Price: Free but RSVP required

Time: 7pm till late

08 August 11 (Monday)
Your Own Hypnosis and Trance Induction:For magical practitioners, shamanic workers, pagans, magickians
Mark Smith
A practical evening teaching hypnosis methods to self-induce trance states and to work on unconscious mind patterns, in your magical practice. Techniques will enhance visualisations and pathworkings and intensify your ritual workings — whether you work in chaos magic, shamanic journeying, general meditation or witchcraft. It will go through the three levels of trance; trance induction and deepening including visual (sight), auditory (sound) and kinaesthetic (touch). Plus fractionation techniques, fixation techniques and progressive relaxation. Practical exercises through the evening mean you can immediately apply these methods. Mark is a professional clinical hypnotherapist, professional drummer, gym addict and chaos magician. A rare opportunity from someone with a remarkable blend of experience and skill.

Price: £10.00

Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

11 August 11 (Thursday)
Hecate and Diana:Pagan Ritual Evening
Caroline Wise and Friends
Mid-August brings the days sacred to the goddesses Hecate and Diana. This ritual evening in their honour provides an occasion to come together for learning and ceremony. The first 45 minutes is an illustrated lecture and group discussion on these deities, and the second half is a temple-style ceremony in which all participate. If you wish to explore group ritual, this night is for you. It will also suit experienced pagans who wish to honour these goddesses in the week of their ancient festival day. Caroline Wise has been working in pagan traditions, and in priestess training, for over 30 years. An experienced and gifted ritualist, she enjoys sharing the beauty of temple ritual and its forms. She is a senior member of the Fellowship of Isis.

Price: £10.00

Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

17 August 11 (Wednesday)
Smoke and Mirrors:London’s Voodoo Psychogeography
Stephen Grasso
Writer and witch doctor Stephen Grasso unveils the hidden occult landscape of the City of London. ‘Dark rum hits old stone at the crossroads and we enter heavy Voodoo terrain, tuning into the dub echoes of history. The mysteries of the boneyard and the buried river slide into focus. The lunar temple of St Pauls Cathedral opens its doors for witchcraft, and the chained giants of the Guildhall break their bonds. Our Lady of the Thames pulsates outside of time … Senses are washed clear and duplicitous spells are undone. All cities have magic.’ Stephen Grasso lives in London, practices Voodoo, and is published in many journals, most recently Strange Attractor IV.

Price: £7.00

Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

26 August 11 (Friday)
Dark Working Sorcerers:Illusion and the Occult
The London Magician
Spirits to visual appearance, levitation, creating gold: these are some of the phenomena associated with the great magicians of history, whether they be theurgists or alchemists. Tonight explores, and shows, what an illusionist can do with these effects.

Price: £10.00

Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

01 September 11 (Thursday)
Great Goddess Inanna:A Night of Her Stories
June Peters, Storyteller
One of the most significant ancient narratives in modern paganism is the Descent of Inanna, which in various forms lives and breathes in modern esoteric spiritualities. Modern audiences are enchanted by the stories in which the Mesopotamian goddess descends to the Underworld, while in other stories she quests for magic, confronts death, seduces her lover, and praises her own sexuality. Tonight, renowned storyteller June Peters recounts her favourite Inanna myths — centring on the iconic Descent. June is a vivacious, captivating performer who brings the gut-wrenching and humorous myths to life: she received a thundering ovation for her last Inanna performance at Treadwell’s.

Price: £7.00

Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

05 September 11 (Monday)
Thorn Coyle:Speaking on Self-Possession
Visiting from the United States
Thorn Coyle is an innovative pagan thinker and magical practitioner ; she is trained in the Feri tradition of Victor Anderson and enriched by an ongoing and rigourous personal practice which is informed numerous spiritualities. Treadwell’s customers include many fans of her work: her Kissing the Limitless and Evolutionary Witchcraft are among our most often recommended titles. Tonight she will be talking about spiritual personal transformation, sharing her perspectives on radical self-transcendence as a goal in pagan magical practice. If impeccability has an advocate in modern paganism, it is surely Thorn Coyle.

Price: £7.00

Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

15 September 11 (Thursday)
Interview with a Witch:
Shani Oates in Conversation with Christina Oakley Harrington
Shani Oates is a traditional witch — Maiden of the People of Goda of the Clan of Tubal Cain, to give her her full title. Tonight she will talk about her experiences of this path, and what it means to her. She will be also explaining more about the tradition and its ‘muse’ and how it called her. This is a night for people who are interested in lived experience, what it means to live within a witchcraft tradition, and for those interested in Cochrane-based traditional Craft. More on the Clan: (Shani is shown in the photo with her mentor, Evan John Jones).

Price: £7.00

Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

21 September 11 (Wednesday)
Floods in the Ancient Desert:The Ark, the Archaeology, and the Latest Discoveries
Dr Irving Finkel (British Museum)
Much-loved British Museum curator and scholar, Dr Irving Finkel, comes to Treadwell’s to update us on some ground-breaking discoveries in ancient Near Eastern studies. The biblical story of Noah’s ark is well-known to anyone who went to Sunday school, and the reality of a flood is a subject for the archaeologists of the region. Now, it looks like there is an idea of what such an ark might have actually been like. Irving Finkel, a charismatic speaker who works on the cutting edge of ancient scholarship, is Assistant Keeper of Ancient Mesopotamian (i.e. Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian) script, languages and cultures, in the Middle East Department of the British Museum. Join us!

Price: £7.00

Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

03 October 11 (Monday)
Learning the Tarot:Foundation Course for Beginners
Diana Taylor
Learn how to read and work with the tarot with a gifted, experienced teacher. In an active lively class, progress from basics to more complex classic tarot, grounded in mystical symbolism. Includes homework, handouts, and backup support. By the end, students can do basic readings and use tarot in meditation. Tutor: Diana Taylor has been reading tarot for 15 years following her training in the Western tradition, continuing studies with teachers such as Rachel Pollack. Eight Tuesdays, starting 19 July. See the

Price: £160 (£80 deposit, balance due on first night)

Time: 7.30 pm to 10.00 pm

04 October 11 (Tuesday)
Tantra:Exploding Some Myths
Phil Hine
Phil Hine, known through the 1980s and 1990s for his important work in chaos magic, is a longterm practitioner and researcher into tantra. His blog,, is an active site of articles and ongoing thoughts on issues between west and east. This talk takes on western ideas of tantra, particularly those prevalent in occult circles. The ‘left-hand path’ will never look the same ever again. More information soon.

Price: £7.00

Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

09 October 11 (Sunday)
Candle-making for Ritual and Magic:A Hands-on Day Course
Nathalie Beveridge (Little Owl Candles)
Learn to make candles by hand from a specialist maker who caters for ritualists and magicians, and learn the techniques for best results from a friendly specialist. Each participant will make and take home two types of candle, and will have the knowledge to make candles at home with basic equipment. Nathalie will also teach how to use candles in magical workings and in ritual. This day is ideal for practitioners who want to be able to make personal candles for their own practice, be it ceremonial magic, hedge witchcraft or shamanistic working. Price includes teas, coffees, handouts, supplies, your own just-made candles to take home.

Price: £45 (£25 deposit, balance due on the day)

Time: 11 am – 6 pm

11 October 11 (Tuesday)
Pictures from the Book of Sleep :Alchemical imagery in dreams
Paul Cowlan
‘Individuals still experience the revelations and visions that were so instrumental in the creation and development of alchemy, and understand them in terms similar to those of the ancient and medieval alchemists.’ (Jeffrey Raff) Any student of dreams is, in effect, a researcher into their own vibrant, but largely hidden personal language, a geographer of inner landscapes; and it is certainly true, as Jeffrey Raff states, that alchemical imagery still occurs frequently in contemporary dreams; regardless of whether or not the dreamer is acquainted with alchemy. In this illustrated talk Paul will be presenting selected dream symbols and exploring them from an alchemical viewpoint. Having been actively engaged with his own dreams for more than forty years, and with alchemy as a way of life for nearly thirty, he speaks from personal experience, and will welcome any questions and personal contributions from the audience.

Price: £7.00

Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

18 October 11 (Tuesday)
Kenneth Grant’s Against the Light:Reflections upon the Work
Michael Staley
Tonight the head of the Typhonian Order speaks on some of the themes arising in the book Against the Light, written by the Order’s founder, English occultist and writer Kenneth Grant (1924-2011). Grant was one of the most influential forces in the culture of late 20th century esoteric culture, with his particularly compelling magical imagination, his championing of the artist Austin Osman Spare, and his interpretations of Aleister Crowley’s doctrines. Tonight is for all who have appreciated his work. Michael Staley is his successor as head of the Typhonian Order, and is the founder of Starfire Publishing.

Price: £7.00

Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

23 October 11 (Sunday)
Open House with the Phoenix Rising Academy:Western Esotericism Studies Today
Sasha Chaitow and Colleagues
The UK contingent of Phoenix Rising Academy gather for an evening at Treadwells to discuss the study of esotericism in the modern world. Short talks from Sasha Chaitow, Angela Voss, Hereward Tilton, Orlando Fernandez, and Geoffrey Cornelius, will explore the relevance of various aspects of the Western esoteric traditions to modern life, and highlight the value of rediscovering them from a modern perspective. They will also discuss academic perspectives to Western esotericism and answer any audience queries on this, and other aspects of the study of esotericism. More on Phoenix Rising Academy.

Price: £7.00

Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

25 October 11 (Tuesday)
Learning the Tarot:Foundation Course for Beginners
Sue Merlyn Farebrother
This intensive, engaging class offers a solid grounding in classic tarot. The mystical symbolism, the key archetypes and the card meanings are all taught in a vibrant class, by a tutor with 30 years experience. Classes have diverse activities: lecture, discussion, pair-work, meditation, and practice sessions, so that you will finish the course able to do basic tarot readings and use it in personal work. You receive handouts and back-up support, and homework and memorisation is expected. Bring a Rider-Waite deck or similar. Tutor: Sue Merlyn Farebrother has been reading tarot for 30 years, and teaching for over ten. Also an accredited psychologist with a Master’s in Cultural Astronomy, she brings intelligent acuity to her teaching – and a wonderful dry sense of humour. This is her fifth year teaching at Treadwell’s.

Price: £160 (£80 deposit, balance due on first night)

Time: 7.00 pm to 9.30 pm

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Extract from Pelzmantel
by K.A. Laity

I am very old, though not so old as the hills. Kings and queens have been born and grown and died, while still I go on.

Perhaps I am only curious. But many will tell you that it is because I am a witch. It is true that I know many of the hidden ways. But I am a story-teller first, last and always. Many stories, too, have passed before me, but there is only one that I turn to again and again. I do not know, yet, how it shall end.

Once upon a time, there was a queen. She had hair of brilliant gold. It would shine like burnished metal in the sunlight, dance in moonlight spears. Her face had the radiant glow of genuine happiness, for she loved the land in which she dwelled, and she had found her own true love. Her king loved her truly and deeply, and nothing but death could part them. This is the end of one story that I know: a happy ending. But it is the beginning of this story, so of course something terrible is going to happen.

The queen’s name was Gunnhild. I came to her land in the time of her great-grandmother—or was it perhaps her great-great-grandmother? No matter. Like all these women, she called me “Nanna” and became my charge. She was very special to me, this child, for Gunnhild was born small and weak, barely alive. The midwife frowned and sighed. The child’s mother cried silently, clutching my hand with dread. But I looked into the baby’s eyes and saw no nonsense, no fear. I smiled. She would survive.

It was never easy. Gunnhild’s mother, the queen, never lost her look of worry. There was the fever at one year, the pox-scare at two, a dog-bite once, and a strange sleeping-sickness that lasted a week. Each time a little thinner, and yet more radiant, Gunnhild would rise weakly from the pillows of her sick-bed and smile. The queen would clasp her joyfully and I would clap my hands with delight. The king would bless my healing salves—I would thank the clear, bright light, which glittered within Gunnhild’s eyes.

But this is not the time for the child’s story. All the triumph and the sorrow of her early years I leave for another time.

Today I tell of Queen Gunnhild. The child is grown—though never strong—luminous and energetic. She is a useful and beautiful queen, as the best ones are. Gunnhild knows the spinning wheel and the wine-press, the library and the quill. She understands the people of her realm, their desires and their fears. More importantly, she cares about them too.

She has found a man – Kormac – she loves like no other. Her king, too, is a handy man as well as handsome. He can jest with the farmer and ride with the hounds. He has ventured abroad to return with stories of fantastic lands and incredible people.

Together, Gunnhild and he ride across their land to visit their families and to settle disputes. At feasts, they share their laughter and a loving cup, to toast the brave warriors and gallant women.

But they have no child.

It vexes the queen. Her people expect an heir, she will tell me, her brow furrowing.

“Do they say so?” I ask her.

But she will only tell me they need not, for she knows her duty. The women of her line have always ruled here. She must not be the last. In a family older than the Ynglings themselves, to be the last of such a powerful lineage of women after so many generations is a shame too great to bear. Much as she loves Kormac, Gunnhild does not wish to have her realm pass to his hands should she die. She has seen what such power can do to men, what it has done to the war-loving dominions around her.

Besides, she sighs as we spin, how the king, too, would love a child.

“Does he say so?” I ask her again.

But she only gazes sadly out the window, her hands carrying on the work her mind has forgotten.

But one day Queen Gunnhild comes to me with bright hope shining from her eyes of mossy green. “Nanna, is it true? Do you really know secrets to help me bear a child?”

I drop my fine needlework to my lap. “Who has been telling you such a thing, my dear?”

“A mage, a new mage, from your land, he has come to the king, he says it. Nanna,” she repeats, “Is it true?!”

The blood drains from my face and I feel cold. “It has a price—all such wizardry does. Have you seen this mage?”

“Nanna! We must begin at once! A child, a child, a dear child of my very own, oh Nanna, today!”

“A child cannot be rolled and baked in an afternoon like a pie,” I say crossly. But her smile does not dim and I can see that this desire cannot be turned away, whatever the cost shall be. Her stubborn will! It kept her alive through fevers and chills, against the wish of her flesh. The terrible price means nothing to it. But the king may feel otherwise.

I put aside my handiwork with some determination of my own. “Let us go see this man from my country. Is he with the king still?” Perhaps he can sway her stubborn heart.

“Nanna, Nanna!” Gunnhild tugs at my sleeve. “Can it be done?” Her eyes gleam dizzyingly, hope blinding them.

I look up into her face. “My queen, it can cost you your life,” I say softly, hoping my own eyes convey the enormity of this risk.

But she merely laughs and pulls me into sprightly dance, circling around the floor. “Oh Nanna, my own mother thought I would never live out my first day. Each one after that has been a gift. You, of all people, should know better than to forecast gloom. I’m much stronger than I look.”

“You do not know what it’s like to bear a child. With even the healthiest and strongest women, it is often dangerous and difficult. A thousand complications arise, a thousand challenges to your body—and your body is not one made for birthing. It tries to tell you that.”

“Nanna, listen to me.” Gunnhild’s face is gravely fixed. “I will have a child. You will help me.”

There is no more to discuss. She is my queen. We go to the king, her strides purposeful and swift, my own solemn and slow.

In the great hall of the castle, King Kormak stands before his high seat, laughing with his counselors and a short dark man.

I feel a chilly finger touch my spine as my gaze falls upon him. I know this one. And I know evil has come to this pleasant land—from my own.

The queen hugs her man happily. His joy in her radiates from his face. “My dear, you must meet my new friend. He tells many an amusing tale.” The king turns to me. “Nanna! He is from your homeland too and says that he may know you.” The king winks at me encouragingly. I hold my feelings close to my heart. This is no time to betray fear.

I summon a cheerful countenance. “I can always recognize a son of Bricriu, whatever shore he may walk upon.” The crowd turns expectantly to regard the guest. His smile masks much from them, but its malevolence is clear to me. He has not expected to find one who knows him—and knows him so well.

“When last you were seen, was your hair not fiery red?” he asks. “Could it be so long ago? Or have the people of this land frightened the bonny color away?”

Everyone smiles at his japes. They have heard it is the way of our people to banter and jest. I decide to reply in kind.

I raise an eyebrow and regard him with careful scrutiny. “And you, friend, still no taller? I was sure you were going to grow a little. Never mind; here they say the measure of a man comes not from the length of his legs.”

They all laugh, he loudest of all. I keep my bantering tone. “Is there a bark that can restore my hair color? For since my trip to the Sithe, it has lost all its fire—and you are so skilled in the secrets of the wood.” He knows all too well that I see his true nature.

I itch to uncover his plans, his reasons for traveling so far. Why has he come? And what evil does he bring?

Later in the evening I get a chance to ask, but the answer is not to my liking. We stand on one of the balconies stretching out from the great hall, looking on the twilit-land below. It is the first warm day of the year. The doors and tapestries are thrown back to let the night air in.

“Well, Mná,” he says with a self-satisfied grin, “you have taken the name of grandmother. Were you named by a child?”

“Yes I was. It is no shame to me. Indeed here it has other resonances. What evil wind blew you to this country, Maldachta, or should I call you Thomas as you have asked my lord and lady to do?”

“Ah, you remember me.” His smile is a sneer. He need not bother to conceal his sinister heart from me. “Yes, we know one another’s true name. No matter. I’m sure neither of us wishes to have them widely known. And we know one another’s true self.

Lord and lady! How like a slave you talk still, though I hear you have been freed long since.”

“It is true I came here as a slave. But I have always been free. I own my soul, my mind. My lord and lady respect me and value my knowledge. I show them the same honor. In our land I was but one of many wise women—here I am unique.”

His smile shows teeth, small and flashing. “You were unique. I think I may stay awhile. If a weak old woman like you can have so much, surely I can have more.”

“Like so many men you confuse strength and power. Do not underestimate resistance.” I can feel my face redden with the anger I wish to contain. “Why come here? Were there too many who called for your blood in the Emerald Isle? Like that village I once helped chase you from when your mischief brought those poor shepherds to near ruin?”

“There were inconveniences,” he admits, waving them away with his hand. “I have had adventures here and there. But when I hear that one of my country women has taken this realm in hand as her own domain—how can I resist such a challenge?”

“It is not my domain. I find only peace and joy here. I do not seek to rule.”

He barks with laughter. “You are too modest. I see how you have inserted yourself into this land. And it will be my pleasure to wrest it from your control.”

I bristle at this. “You will not find it as simple as stealing a cow from your neighbour.”

Hate burns in his eyes. “The sons of Bricriu are not cattle thieves.”

“Nonetheless, you will not succeed in ripping this realm apart. I will not allow it.”

“Do not stand in my way, woman. You’ll find out just how much power I command. You who were captured as a slave— “

“Do not forget, too, that I have been to the Sithe. The otherworld taught me much and fortified me in ways I am still discovering.”

“We shall see, old woman.” He measures me with his eyes. “The daughters of Mná have had their way for generations. You may have stolen many secrets in the Sithe, but I know that the women of your kin have a geiss against thwarting the magic of the sons of Bricriu, so your pilfered knowledge is useless. You cannot stand in my way. And I swear by all that my people swear by that you will regret it if you try.”

“Perhaps—but the geiss only prevents me from using my magic against yours. There is much else I can do.” But my words are more confident than my heart, and I fear for this land and these people. Can he tell my courage does not match my words? For the first time in decades, I miss my sisters and my green me.

Pelzmantel is available to purchase from

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All of a Lammas Evening
by Elizabeth Barrette

The moon is a silver sickle
Reaping the twilight’s yield

The mist is a silken blanket
Lying upon the field

The corn is a golden pollen
Riding upon the wind

The cricket’s a chorus-master
Singing of summer’s end

The wheat is a bearded giant
Waiting the razor’s kiss

All of a Lammas evening
Nothing is sweeter than this

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by Elizabeth Barrette

These things are everywhere
in the late August evenings:

butterfly wings
in brown grass –
abandoned dreams

flower petals
fallen in a cooling wind –
forgotten scents,
fragrant memories

cicada shells
backlit by the setting sun,
turned to lambent amber –
armor from some
erstwhile altercation

Summer is packing her bags
and going back to her mother,
leaving behind her only
this bright detritus of her visit.

Elizabeth Barrette has been involved with the Pagan community for more than 23 years. She served as Managing Editor of PanGaia for 8 years. She has written columns on beginning and intermediate Pagan practice, Pagan culture, and Pagan leadership. Her book Composing Magic: How to Create Magical Spells, Rituals, Blessings, Chants, and Prayers explains how to combine writing and spirituality. She lives in central Illinois where she has done much networking with Pagans in her area, such as coffeehouse meetings and open sabbats; see the Greenhaven website. She enjoys magical crafts, historic religions, and gardening for wildlife. Her other writing fields include speculative fiction, gender studies, social and environmental issues. One of her Pagan science fiction poems, “Fallen Gardens,” was nominated for the Rhysling Award in 2010. Visit her blog The Wordsmith’s Forge ( ).

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Firefly Harvest
by Miriam Axel-Lute

Rising commas
inflecting the night air
with a silent din
of small talk and prayer
Summer’s semaphores
embellishing childhood memories
gone vague with time.

This is as it always is
in this field at this time of early corn,
sweaty mules, and late black raspberries.

Except tonight there is
an extra beat in their pulse
a tremble in their collective echo
as the storm of the year approaches
steady and wild over the ridge.

We wait, flattened against the
back wall of the porch,
breath held, minds blank
not thinking of how it has been a year of hungry weather
hail-bitten apples and sodden, blighted tomatoes.

But the lightning bugs give themelves in worship—
dancing through the ozone heralds
moving when everything else
has frozen in anticipation.

We were made in your image (they say)
or at least named in it.
Same thing.
Pluck us, an early harvest, from the dusk,
a bonfire substitute.

They alone still have the voice to ask for mercy
on this abundance
that’s not our own.

Firefly harvest is taken from Miriam’s chapbook, One Turning: Poems For the Wheel of the Year (see our review)

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Beauty In Fertile Autumn
by Julie Smith

Cerelia sings, wind carries her cry.
The weaver and fabric of destinies,
Cycles of time thread like a tapestry.
Harvest ended, stacked and stored with a sigh.

A rainbow of earth tones float under sky;
Yellow and rust waltz around the trees.
Autumn chills mix with the late summer thinned,
Cerelia sings, wind carries her cry.

The end of summer spawns lust in the eyes.
Fruition whispers, the time now beckons,
A fertile dance before the winter’s sleep.
Harvest ended, stacked and stored with a sigh.

Cerelia sings, wind carries her cry.
It’s almost time for dreaming and slumber,
Harvest ended, stacked and stored with a sigh.

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by Patricia Monaghan

In the middle of the city the men
feel a sudden tenderness above the ears.
As the sun sets they lie down,
heads throbbing. As the moon rises
horns push out like seedlings
from the temples of all the men.

Most sleep through the hot night
and wake exhausted wet with sweat,
full of dreams they can’t remember.
All day at work they snap warily at other
men, look weakly after all the women.
All day they search their pockets for lost keys.

Only a few rise in the moonlight,
heads full of antlers, to seek
the women dancing on the leaves.
Only a few men know the power of stags
dancing through them as they are ridden
by the eager women of the night.

And the next day, and the next,
we know these men when we meet them.
We see them from the corners of our eyes
turning into animals, turning back, turning.
We know them with our doe skin,
we know them with our steaming breath.

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Garland Sunday, and She Calls Her
Lover to Join Her on the Mountain

by Patricia Monaghan

How many years since you pressed
that first kiss upon me, up on
the hilltop in the shining season?
I laughed and filled your mouth
with bilberries. I laughed, you
filled my mouth with love.

The next year we were joined,
we climbed the mountain
arm in arm, smiling at the
courting couples. The next year
I walked slowly, full of love;
the next year, and the next,

and now the years all run together
and now I cannot remember
which year my brother died, which
year your mother died, and always
before us the mountain, its gray
green presence a reminder of summer

and always, at this time, the climb,
always the climbing, for what is life
but seasons passing, what is love
but memories and ceremonies—
what is love but a pledge taken
on a midsummer hill and kept?

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Lost Harvests
by Olivia Arieti

Too ripe
And swollen
The orchard fruits
No longer carriers
Of the reaper’s
Sneer the glory
Of Abundance
And fall
Like dead birds
On the muddy

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Harvest Time
by Olivia Arieti

Proud and ripe
The fruits drop
In the old cart
That slowly
Sets forth
Through the misty
To fill
The cornucopia
Of all wintry
With joyous

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The Bounty Of Nature
by Olivia Arieti

The Harvest Moon
Smiles gently
On the weary
Ready for their
Wintry sleep
As the swollen
Wait silent
For the morning
Final cut,
Their ritual
To the bounty
Of Nature.

Olivia is a US citizena high School English teacher and lives in Italy with her family. Her plays were published by Brooklyn Publishers, Desert Road Publishing, JAC Publishing, USA, Lazy Bee Scripts, UK. Her poems appeared in Women In Judaism, The Wanderlust Review, Poetica Magazine, Eye On Life, VWA: Poems For Haiti, Cliterature; her short stories in The Smoking Poet, Enchanted Conversations, Pill Hill Press Anthology, Voices From The Garage, Riverbabble.

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God Bud
by Danielle Blasko

Once in the light
of the stage
during the vegetative phase
her growth was stunted
for lack of nutrients.
So now, she takes her fill
in words, nurturing
them into flowering
where they stay until harvest.

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A Rooster’s Tale
by Hedgewizard Erb

Remembering when the Rooster’s calling bid everyone to come
To the time they called First Harvest under the August sun
My Grandmother and my Great Grandmother would render
Lye soap from a steaming cauldron, dry corn on a Summer day
Worked to can the fruits of the land for peaches in Autumn’s way
And the farmers stacked the hay bales
Those were far different times back then
We were bound to the land and seasons
The chickens, the cows, and the pen
And if any had the price of bread
The same would have their reasons
To fret about the coming cold, ice, rain and snow
Those days the harvest was more than just a TV show
It was life itself there were no big stores to shop
No berries out of season
No meal in a frozen box
Simple days from February to Mays
Most folks owed their lives
To that old August sun upon the land
And the Roosters morning calling cries

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Comfort of the Dove
by Hedgewizard Erb

The shards of heartache fall to time, if enough has past
To the waters of forgetfulness, to the rivers of tears
Fears keep the cut festering in the soul

Unless the light of all is sought out in peaceful valleys
And unless the light can fill the voids left bare to pain
There may be no end to the cause and effects in life

Only hope and faith in the seen and unseen spirit
Only the deep understanding of how reality shifts
Only the vision of saints and stone, heals the wound

The eye of the universe sees everything there ever was
Everything that is and will be or might have been
There is the whole thing written on silver pages

Let those who have ears to hear, understand this
All things unfold in their own time and place
And the peace of the living spirit is never far away

We have only to find it within ourselves to trust
Our steps will flow out of pain and into the future
Better, for having known our own human heart

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Lawn Care
by Jackie L. Simmons

My neighbor down the street
speaks with all the confidence
and authority that her carefully
manicured lawn & nails can muster.
“You can’t plant different kinds
of fruit trees in your yard”
she tells me
“or you’ll get strange hybrids.”
“Like a catfish or a dogfish?”
I ask her.
“No, really, you’ll get weird fruit,
plums too small
& apples too tart to eat.”

She wanders off abruptly, because
it’s suddenly too loud to converse.
Across the street, lawnmowers
come blazing off a trailer,
dozens of sharp, spiral rotors
guffaw as they lay waste
to the defenseless green blades.
Weed whackers join the fray, then
exotic shrubbery and ornamental
grasses are placed strategically
around the grounds.
Chemicals are spread stealthily
to ensure the lawn’s health.
The workers leave as loudly as they came,
leaving the picture of perfection in their wake.

I turned and saw a friendly dog next door,
her tail wagging, until she got too close
to the electric fence her owners
had just installed, got zapped,
yelped, and lay down.
She wasn’t the one that needed to be collared.

I have to admit, our lawn really stands out.
It’s the one with kids rolling around in the grass,
looking for brightly colored bugs and
four-leaf clovers while
cats chase mice and chipmunks.
It’s the one with perennial gardens
of strawberry, rhubarb, and asparagus.
The vegetable garden’s tomatoes and pumpkins
thrive as their vines wild.
The home orchard yields real cherries, peaches,
apples, plums, pears, and mulberries.

Our neighbors shake their heads in disdain.

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Looking Down From Uffington
by Annabel Banks

We are high. The wind makes my hair
a lash to fringe this horse’s eye unblinking

we find the chalk exposed to show
the curving lope of slowing earth

across to see the harvest-half
the bones of fields, hedged and dark

some left to nod the summer out
some bared, prepared for sleep

down to where those last few seeds
stick in the crease of her lifeline.

Annabel Banks is a writer living in London. She has had poetry and short fiction published and is working hard on her
novel. Find out more at

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by Rose Blackthorn

Bluebells softly chime
In a gentle southern breeze
Long grass shows a silver underside
Rippling in meadows
Like the far-off ocean’s waves
The sighing of the tall pines
Lends a background melody
To orchestras of cicadas
And the buzzing of contented bees
A sky of brilliant sapphire
Pasture for the herd of wooly clouds
Which jostle, piling higher
Before escaping my view
I’m lying here content, alone
Connected to the earth
By the full extent of sweat-glazed, aching muscles
Which have brought me to this place
An epiphany . . .
As I surrender to what my senses tell me
That despite all logical argument
We’re not alone, the Gods are alive, and they live on in me.

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Last August Light
by Penn Kemp

Kore, Ostara, Flora, sing light intimacy
of air, flights imagination will lilt with.

Goldfinches float above the daffodils,
hang upside-down on the stalk of old
sunflower to catch last fall’s last seed.

Wasps and bumblebees scheming for nectar
dip and swim through the haze, yellow and
black, carrying home their burden of pollen.

Seasons have their hues: ours is sun-steeped
translucence lit from within till it brims over.

Females dun beside their bolder mates, goldfinch
cross the sky in graceful loops of liquid

flight and song, sway on green fronds that bow
under light weight to the doctrine of signatures.

River carp leap and fall, rippling circles the stream.
Like calls to like through bright air before sunset.

Celebrating Ceres, celebrating Demeter, goldenrod
scimitars flash solid arabesques of late summer, late
afternoon, late in our lives for such luminous entrance.

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Wild Craft
by Penn Kemp

My daily bouquet of dandelion
satisfies the neighbour’s need

for desert of green grass and mine
for wild propagation, untamed.

Those yellow vibrant heads last
just a day, and then plunge sodden

into compost, to rot and feed more
flowers, not to go to seed and
propagate as they are raised to do.

Daily, the flowers bloom closer
and closer to the ground, as if

to speed the cycle, to seed before
the lawn mower lops off their
vibrant unmistakeable heads.

In thwarting their will to reproduce,
I celebrate their evanescent charm
and serve their leaves for lunch.

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Stirring Not Stirring
by Penn Kemp

Honey drips from my nose, coats
my hair in blond stiff strands.

I am standing very still calling
bees by scent. Pheromones draw

them to collect on me, hiving off
to a giant new temporary queen,

spun down from my chin in a grand
pharaoh’s beard. My eyes, my ears

are bee-shut, open only to their buzz,
attending emergence, awaiting sweetness.

As in old stories the swarm might birth
out from entrails of black bull and bear.

Bee goddess, bear goddess, midwife,
be with us mid-life and beyond, be here

Activist poet, performer and playwright Penn Kemp has published twenty-five books of poetry, devoted to aspects of the Goddess. She is London Ontario’s inaugural Poet Laureate. As Writer-in-Residence for University of Western Ontario, her project was the DVD, Luminous Entrance: a Sound Opera for Climate Change Action, Pendas Productions. She hosts an eclectic literary show, Gathering Voices, archived on See ,

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The sun has been shining, the flowers are in bloom and it’s time for the Summer Solstice issue of the Pagan Friends webzine. We’ve got plenty of exciting stuff for you to read, including an exclusive interview with Phil Hine, an extract from Gary Budden’s ‘New Lexicons’ and pieces from Jill Malenoir, Raven Kaldera and Melanie Marquis. So pour yourself a glass of something summery, put your feet up and enjoy!

And if you enjoy the webzine, why not visit the Pagan Friends Forum? There, you can make new friends from around the world, chat to other pagans and even take part in the forum’s quiz.


An Interview With Pagan Friends’ own Liz

An Interview With Phil Hine

An Interview With Aidan Kelly


Crystal Elixirs & Gem Essences by Beth Holtum

Summertime Tarot Magick by Melanie Marquis

Quantum Physics is Wyrd by Eoghan Odinsson

Oft-Overlooked Dangers in Indoor Workings by Jill Malenoir

Element Meditation: Fire by Beth Holtum

Excerpts from Hippie Commie Beatnik Witches by Aidan Kelly

The Occult connection to the Third Reich by Simon Cash

Tricks, Tips & Tools

Litha Moonlore by Liz

Gemstone: Moldavite by Beth Holtum

Resin: Labdanum by Rebecca L. Brown

Herb: Nettles by Rebecca L. Brown

Personal Experiences

Seabhac: The Wounded Hawk by T. Fox Dunham

Being The Change by Raven Kaldera

Three Sculptures: Inspiration and Creation by Ama Menec

The Sacred Clay by Rebecca Brown


I Hear Your Cry by Lynne Gibson

In The Green (Excerpt from New Lexicons) by Gary Budden

Excerpt from the Novel Goddess Murder by Aidan Kelly

Poetry Corner

Incantation for a Summer Solstice by Dawn Walls Thumma

Our God by Hal O’Leary

Flight of The Wizard by Hedgewizard Erb

Reality by Aidan Kelly

Ancient Tribes by Ron Koppelberger

Willow Road by C. B. Anderson

My Epitaph by Hal O’Leary

At My Age by Aidan Kelly

The Unborn Goddess by C. B. Anderson

Hearthfire Remedies by Ron Koppelberger

To Remember Thomas DeLong,

Who Wrote as Gwydion Pendderwen,

On the Second Anniversary

Of His Going into Eternal Lifeby Aidan Kelly

Summer Solstice by Hedgewizard Erb

Puti Poems:

Flower-Picking Mudra by Changming Yuan

Sky-Reaching Mudra by Changming Yuan

A-Mi-Te Mudra by Changming Yuan

Artwork & Photography

This issue’s photography was contributed by Cai Thomas

Want to contribute to the Lammas issue?

Are you a budding writer, artist or photographer? Do you have something to say to the pagan community? We’re already looking for exciting new content to include in our Summer Solstice issue. We’re interested in your personal anecdotes, poetry and short stories; if its interesting and relevant, we want it. For more information on how to submit to us, visit our submissions page. We’re looking forward to seeing what you’ve got!

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An Interview With Liz From Pagan Friends

Q: What’s the most important tool for a Pagan to have?

I can’t answer for every Pagan, of course, but for me, apart from having an inquiring mind and a very big heart, that has to be my lighter. Mine’s a little silver refillable one, with a picture of a glittery purple and pink fuschia flower fairy on the front, and it has an unusual pretty green flame.

Brian, my Hubby, got it for me when we were in Galway, Ireland for my 40th Birthday in 2000 so it has a lot of sentimental value and it came from a very cool place.

Sadly, it’s packed away in my box of my most precious Pagan stuff because we are moving house again before Yule, so for now, I just use a black plastic throw-away lighter, instead, but I miss it, loads, and can’t wait to have it back in active service along with all my other important working tools.

Q: Have you ever felt awkward about being a Pagan?

Yep, only the once, that was last year, sat at a table in the beer garden of our local pub, The Ferry Inn, with my Son’s girlfriend, Jo.

She’s devoutly Christian, and when I told her I was Pagan, she said, “Oh, that’s OK, just as long as you aren’t one of those witches who do spells, or put curses on people….” *gulp* I’ve never been known to fall so silent. Cat got my tongue, big time. Talk about being put on the spot….. For Dan’s sake, I didn’t answer. But I suspect she kind-of guessed, anyways, I don’t see her so often now

Q: Do you have a threshold guardian?

Tricky one, that, I guess it all comes down to personal definitions of a threshold guardian.

If you mean in a practical sense, like does a guardian protect my doorstep, then yep, I charged a dragon to do it for me, and he does an excellent job.

If you mean in a spiritual sense, then it’s not so straightforward to answer right now, no.

I’m going through a lot of changes in my path life at the present time, and some of the protective forces I enjoyed previously have sadly gone awol, but I am sure others will replace them eventually if the need should arise.

Q: What number is most significant to you? (3, 7, 13….)

Having numerical dyslexia, I’m not big on numbers at all, I kind-of see them as the enemy.

I’ve tried getting into the whole numerology thing, many a time, but it’s isn’t happening. Lol- but I think 13 tends to be lucky for me rather than unlucky, so I’ll go with that one.

Q: The dark Moon affects your moods, does it affect you when you try to do magik, or rituals?

Oh, yes, enormously! I can’t do much at all at Dark (New) Moon, other than get depressed, cry a lot, eat chocolate, drink lots of wine, or port, or rum, and sleep a lot – 14 hours a time some times.

Equally, I go into over-drive at Full, cat napping here and there, picking at my food like a bird, de-toxing like a nutter, surviving on adrenaline, doing all sorts of meditating, scrying, cleaning, healing, making charms, changing my alter over, collecting nature’s gifts for my casting, just call be Bi-Lunar. Lol!

I still manage to do my morning “greeting the day” and evening “giving thanks” rituals at Dark (New) Moon, they never stop, (even still did them in hospital when my kids were born and when I had my hysterectomy,) but meditation, healing or other spell work is out of the question, I just don’t have the motivation or energy to do it.

It’s like my elastic snaps, and I’m useless for about a week, some months are worse than others.

The recent lunar eclipse at Dark moon was a particular low for me, and I’m only just starting to recover from that a week on.

Q: How do you celebrate the Summer Solstice?

It’s my wedding anniversary too, this year it’s our 31st, so we usually go out to dinner in a swanky restaurant somewhere for a double celebration, then when I come home, I tend to light a candle, do a meditation, perform a little scrying for the second half of the year,then I kind-of get a bit excited knowing the wheel is turning, the dark half of the year is approaching, nights will start drawing in, and my beloved Mabon/Samhain/Yule isn’t very far away. Yay!!!

This year I have been invited to a moot with a friend called Becky who lives in North Pembrokeshire.

I think we might have a little musical event as she wants to learn to play the celtic harp like me and I’d quite like to take up the drums like her.

Q: What is one of the earliest acts of magic you attempted with any degree of success?

Lol! That would be winning over a teacher who didn’t like me in Primary school.

Her name was Miss Tideman.

I’ve no idea why she took dislike to me, but I suspect it was more to do with my Mother having a go at her for something rather than me, I thought she was lovely, but she seemed so hostile.

I got hold of a photo of her from a school magazine, took it home, placed it in a dish with a rose quartz crystal and an amethyst crystal, lit a sandalwood candle beside it, carved with my name on one side and hers on the other, I made an offering to my (then) Deity, Lugh, (of soda bread soaked in honey), then I placed an apple in my lap, and envisaged Miss Tideman sitting me on her lap reading me Enid Blighton’s Faraway Tree – my favourite book at the time. I gave her the apple for her lunch the next day and she ate it.

Did it work? Yep. Sure did! I was sitting on her lap listening to her read my favourite book later the very same day. Woo-Hoo!!!

Q: There is a great deal of symbolism and activity associated with Romanii – is there a God/Goddess generally favoured?

I am thinking in relation to lives hinging principally on travel and (more so in olden days,) horses as a vital element.

The majority of Rom Pagans I knew back in my youth actually chose “Black Sara” as their Patron Goddess. Her image is that of the Black Madonna, and Her links seem particularly strong with the sea. That might explain why I am bonding with my lady Yemaya now that I am turning more toward root work in my own path as thewre are many things in common between the two of them. … onald-lee/

Q: Have you ever seen a spirit person or animal?

I was quite young when a Policeman rushed passed me on my GrandMa May’s stairs as I was coming down them one day. He was stout, with a red bushy beard, and I knew he was Irish by his accent because he was muttering away under his breath as we drew side by side. He had come to arrest Grand-Dad for violence. When I told Grand-Ma, she went pale, the Policeman who arrested Grand-Dad was actually shot dead before I was born, she had a newspaper clipping to show me all about it, and she told me that what I had seen was the Policeman in spirit still coming after Grand-Dad, something she had seen a few times herself, and it was precisely the reason GrandMa never went upstairs in the house again for the remaining 10 years of her life. Grand-Dad had moved her bed into the living room after that.

Q: Are you like your lovely Grandma Maud?

In many ways, yes I am, to look at, a chip off the old, especially when it comes to the round face and thinning hair, the ample figure and problem with the swollen legs and feet, so it’s not all good, however, behaviour-wize, I am very self-motivated, very community-minded, and capable of many things, some of which might be considered to be more “mens work” than womens’ work, like my love of brick building and plastering, putting up shelves, and car mechanics, and I know that makes her very happy and proud of me. Her attitude was always don’t be hanging on a man to get by, do it yourself. So I do. She used to be the local agony aunt, friend to the friendless and Mother to the Mother-less, and so was I before I moved out of London. I see a return to that once I get back into paid employment and start circulating in society a lot more. I’ve already got plans to kick the Pembroke Dock Civic Society into the 21st centuary soon by getting it out there onto the web, and meeting with the local council to see how I can imporove my new area to better serve the residents, plus I’m considering starting an annual Welsh Pagan Pride event, possibly in Cardiff, then there’s the Goddess Temple project in Pembrokeshire, and I can feel Maud approving of all those things, already.

My artistic and musical talents and gardening skills come more from May, my other GrandMa.

I know she approves of my harp and zither playing, and shes been nagging me from over in Summerlands to get back to gardening and drawing, something I plan to do when the move has happened.

Q: If and when Liz, you feel disconnected with your path/beliefs/nature, what helps you to re connect?

Normally, I get some sort of psychic wake up call or proverbial kick up the backside from either of my GrandMa’s, Maud or May, or my M-I-L Joyce over in Summerlands, that usually works, but failing that, I take a walk down by the river, or pay a visit to the forest, or try meditating on a Full Moon night or something like that. Camping is always a good way because it fetches you closer to nature.

Q: What piece(s) of music would be your preference to honour your passing to Summerlands?

I jokingly once said Monty Pythons’ Always Look On The Bright Side of Life, but I don’t think that’s really Gothy enough, do you? so it’s gonna have to be Funeral Bell by Black Label Society.

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An Interview With Phil Hine (part 1)

Q: At your new blog,, you have already explored some very interesting ideas. Are you happy with how the project has developed so far, and where do you see it going in the future?

Yes, I’m very happy with it so far. It’s really helped me get back into writing – and it’s already taken me into unfamiliar territory. Last year, for example, I thought it would be interesting to do a short post on Richard Payne Knight, author of Discourse on the Worship of Priapus – written towards the end of the eighteenth century. So I started digging around into his life and social milieu, and found it so fascinating that I soon had enough material for a lecture, which I gave at Treadwells Bookshop in February, and I’ll eventually get round to writing it up for publication. I’d never really looked into eighteenth-century history before that, and I’ve kept that interest going – now I’m researching the relationship between shamanism and sexuality in the eighteenth-century.

The original idea for Enfolding came up in a conversation with a few friends about creating a place to explore some common interests – tantra, queer paganism, history, etc.. It was originally intended to be a “group blog” but at the moment it’s mostly me posting, with occasional posts by various friends. I’d like to get more of my friends to contribute, but that’s largely a matter of me hassling them to write – and recognising that, like me, they’re often busy with other projects.

As for the future, I don’t know. I’d like to get more book reviews posted, and I’d like to get back into interviewing people – something I used to really enjoy when I was editing Pagan News but probably with a camera this time.

Q: Do you think that shamanism and alternate genders are intrinsically linked or that any link between them is based on perceptions external to the culture within which they exist? Does the shamanic practice in itself perhaps relate to an additional and wholly separate gender?

It’s complicated. I’m going to restate part of it simplistically as: (in culture x) do you become a shaman because you’re gay, or become gay because you’re a shaman? (i.e. because the spirits tell you to). This is a question that anthropologists have spent a long time grappling with – and tends to look weird because in the West we’ve used to thinking of gender-preference in terms of identity rather than related to a specific social role.

If you look at any culture, you’ll find that the relationship between “shamanism” (and by extension, any other kind of ritual or magical specialist) and gender is highly complex and variated, and anthropologists’ attempts to represent such complexities has shifted accordingly – with an increasing trend to, rather than use broad categories such as a “third gender” – actually find out how the persons they are studying represent themselves. So in India, for example, not only are there Hijras, but there are also other subjectivities, such as kothis, zenanas, jogappas, siva sathis, as well as men who identify as gay in much the same manner that we are used to in America or the UK. Generally speaking, Hijras themselves distinguish between three gender identities – panthis, kothis, and narans – panthis are masculine men who take the penetrative role in sex (with kothis or women) kothis are “feminized” men (“not-men”) who desire the receptive role in same-sex encounters and like to do “women’s work” and narans are women (regardless of age, marital status, etc) – and Kothis are “like women” but not women. So for Hijras, gender identity revolves around who does what to whom, rather than anatomy – sexual behaviour rather than identity. The more you look at it, the more complex it gets, and some researchers have also stressed that western categories such as “heterosexual” or “homosexual” are just not valid for India. Shivananda Khan a few years ago, quipped that “there are no heterosexual men in India – just married men and men who will get married.”

One of the things I want to concentrate in the series I’ve started on is to look at the way the relationship between shamans and gender has be represented historically in “western” accounts of indigenous peoples. It can be interesting to do this because not only can this kind of discussion highlight the complexities of the relationship between shamans and gender, but also show how they’ve changed over time – and – how accounts of gender often say more about the people giving the account than the people they’re talking about.

For example, I do feel that there’s a tendency sometimes, for pagan authors to assert that – either in “ancient times” or in “tribal cultures” (sometimes both) gays and lesbians were “special people” who were honoured were often shamans – and from there it’s very easy to go from there to a rather simplistic, romantic view that those peoples are “just like us” or that cultures where there appear to be gender-variant magical specialists are honoured in the same way, that perhaps, we’d like to be.

Just doing a quick search around the net, I found this blogpost:

“One of the most interesting theories is the existence of a ‘third gender’ – that there are certain sacred people “between the genders”. These people serve their community in some priestly or spiritual capacity. Examples given include the ‘two-spirit’ shamans in some Native American traditions, the hijras of India (men dressed as women who bless newborns, among other things), or the Galli, the ancient priests of Cybele.”

Which I think illustrates the problem, for me – because Hijras are not the same as “two-spirit shamans”. Reading this (and I’m not trying to single this post out, just using it as an illustrative example) there’s a tendency to focus on “sacred people … serving their community” and it’d be easy to assume that as such, Hijras are (a) thought of as sacred and (b) get respect back from the community they serve. What it’s easy to forget (or perhaps avoid thinking about) is that Hijras are widely viewed as “outcasts” in India and are regularly subjected to tremendous abuse – arrest, rape, eviction – and have virtually no legal rights.

I feel quite strongly, that if we as pagans are going to draw strength/inspiration from the identities of people in other cultures, then we need to do so ethically – which entails respecting their histories, material conditions and present struggles and not reproducing simplistic stereotypes just because they make us feel good.

Here’s a great article For All Those Who Were Indian in a Former Life which highlights some of these issues:

“The New Age movement completely trivializes the oppression that we, as Indian women face: that Indian women are forcibly sterilized and are tested with unsafe drugs such as Depo-Provera; that we have a life expectancy of forty seven years; that we generally live below poverty level and face a seventy-five percent unemployment rate. No, ignoring our realities, the New Age movement sees Indian women as cool and spiritual and therefore, available to teach white women to be cool and spiritual.”

Q: Why do you think some pagan (and non-pagan) authors are so keen to present gay and lesbian people from other cultures as being honoured and special? Is (as suggested by interpretative archaeological theory) any ‘re-reading’ or interpretation of the past necessarily subjective and if so can any interpretations be more or less valid than others?

In a way, I think its a perfectly understandable consequence of the way that – up until fairly recently (roughly, the last thirty years or so) LGBTQI persons have been characterised in western culture as deviants or outsiders who had no “place” in society or history, and certainly no right to speak for ourselves. And let’s face it, this hasn’t gone away.

I recently remarked on a blog post that I remember when almost no one was writing positively about LGBTQI themes in mythology, occultism or paganism and what sparse references there were to LGBTQI people in pagan/occult texts was overwhelmingly negative. There was a widespread belief that “only heterosexuals” could engage in magical/pagan practice which I encountered on more than one occasion – and it was not uncommon to find authors stating that “homosexuality” was “black magic”; that “homosexuals” were elementals occupying human bodies, or that “sexual deviance” was due to people’s chakras being blocked. I met a couple of quite high-profile British pagan authors in the 1980s who both told me that if they came out as gay, their pagan workshop audiences (from which they gained much of their income) would “go away”.

I think, given these circumstances, it’s understandable to go looking for evidence – from history or from other cultures where things might be different.

In the late 1980s, Mark Thompson edited an anthology called Gay Spirit: Myth and Meaning A theme central to Thompson’s introduction was the idea that -for gay men – the “coming out” process was very similar to “the shaman’s journey”. What’s quite revealing though, is his footnote – which makes it clear that he’s drawing on the work of Eliade – particularly the idea that shamans undergo an initiatory crisis and that shamans are “separated from the rest of the community by the intensity of their own religious experience” (footnote, introduction, p14). Thompson is, as I read him, making an explicit plea for gay men in terms of their similarity to shamans (in that they have roles (healing, mediating, leadership) yet are at the same time “separate” from their communities. Later in the book, he makes a case for viewing drag queens as shamanic “trickster” figures – again, citing the prevalence of sacred transvestites and cross-dressing shamans. Thompson wasn’t the first person to make an explicit connection between non-normative sexuality and shamanism, but when I first read his book at the end of the 1980s, I wasn’t aware of that. But I wasn’t really convinced by this argument. I’d become very interested in shamanism in the mid-1980s (see my “shamanic trilogy” downloadable here ) and kind of went through a “shamanic phase” of practice. One of the “convictions” which came out of that was that it doesn’t matter what label you attach to yourself – i.e. that you can call yourself a shaman if you want to – but if you’re serious about taking on that role, it entails having some kind of community within which you are recognised as a specialist – doing things like divination, rituals, or healing for people. I couldn’t really take seriously the idea that all gay men were “potential” shamans – just by virtue that they were gay.

One of the critiques of archaeology/anthropology is that the disciplines treated “facts” as though they were context-free objects passed around much like commodities. Now in the context of shamanism and gender-variance, there’s a tendency to treat shamanism in this way – as an abstracted, “universal” category which is found everywhere (often with the implication that it is pretty much the same everywhere). a variation is that all magical (or “shamanic”) techniques are essentially similar, irrespective of culture, context, history etc. This is a view I’ve becoming increasingly critical of over the last decade or so. Eliade is often critiqued nowadays because his work did a lot to promote this universalised image of “the shaman”.

Stephen Breyer has done a useful critique of Eliade’s approach here and again, I’ll get around to looking at some of these issues on in due course.

Your invocation of interpretative archaeology, followed by the question about subjective interpretation is particularly interesting as Interpretative archaeology is often accused of cultural relativism – the belief that there are no universal criteria that we can use to compare or judge values, customs, beliefs, interpretations. So yes, how can one interpretation be more “valid” than another? It’s a question that I get asked quite frequently by pagans & occultists, who are often surprised that I have opinions (and beliefs) on the basis of which I (perhaps sometimes too readily for some people) reject theories and positions.

Some archaeologists & anthropologists have proposed that no actions can be separated from their cultural context – from frameworks of meaning. These “frameworks” are not universal, and so the same act conducted in two different societies will not necessarily carry the same significance. The consequence of this relativistic approach is that it is held to be impossible (or very difficult) and problematic to abstract a practice from the framework of meaning that renders it comprehensible. This perspective was popularised by anthropologists such as Boas – their original intention being to highlight the problem of basically judging other cultures by our own standards – and was a reaction against earlier methodologies which unquestioningly assumed that, for example, western civilisation was the pinnacle of human progress and that “primitive” races either had to become civilised or become extinct – or that they were evolutionary dead-ends who would probably die out anyway which would be no great loss to “evolution”. I’m going to look at some of these theories and how they related to historical interactions with regard to indigenous peoples as my “Shamanism and gender-variance” series of blogposts develops.

History is always going to be partial, incomplete. We are not neutral (“objective”) when we read the past, and how we interpret the past (or other cultures) is going to depend on what we are looking for, and what our commitments are – our politics. So you can accept a pluralistic perspective but still be capable of making moral or ethical judgements based on your own commitments. So, readings of history/culture which promote and underwrite genocide; that support violence towards persons by making them “less human” than oneself – because of race, gender-identification, etc., are all abhorrent to me. So I can’t accept that fascist ideologies, or the kind of Christianity espoused by the likes of Fred “God hates fags” Phelps are as equally valid as a commitment to view the world as pluralistic, richly diverse and complex. If that’s going to be viewed a failing on my part, then I’m okay with that.

But going back to this appeal for being special/honoured. As I say, it’s understandable, but its tricky because its often rooted in an appeal to sameness. Appeals to sameness are always problematic because once someone has defined what a “real person” is – in terms of a particular identification, then it becomes very easy to start excluding people on the basis that they are not “proper” persons. A lesbian friend in India tells me that she is frequently accused of not being a “proper Hindu” because her lesbianism is a “western import” and women who love women never existed in India prior to the foreign. colonial influences of the Mughals and the British. When the movie Fire first showed in India, nationalist groups firebombed cinemas and made death threats to the director and cast and petitioned for the film to be banned on the basis that if “women’s physical needs get fulfilled through lesbian acts, the institution of marriage will collapse” and “the reproduction of human beings will stop”.

Over the years I’ve been involved with paganism I’ve seen various attempts to define what paganism in terms of condition-statements. Projects which are, IMO, doomed to failure as paganism is extremely diverse and heterogeneous, and any attempt to set up a sense of paganism in terms of “principles” (i.e. “all pagans believe “x”) is going to be tricky, as sooner or later you’re going to encounter people who identify as pagans but don’t agree with the conditions that have been set up. And its very easy to say “well x isn’t a ‘proper pagan’ because they’re not a vegan, or they don’t honour the god and the goddess.” And this is a problem of identity-based politics in general – that essentialised and homogenised identities tend to erase differences and have the potential to silence and erase others. Which is one reason why I referenced Andy Smith’s essay in my response to the previous question.

Q: As you’ve already said, it has been proposed that specific actions are inseparable from their cultural context and the ‘frameworks of meaning’ surrounding them. In relation to your explorations of Tantra, how does your Western background affect your experiences? How important is it to you to understand the cultural context of Tantra?

I first became drawn to Tantra in the early 1980s after experiencing a recurring dream in which I met the goddess Kali in a cremation ground. At that time, the only sources of information I had access to were occult texts, many of which produced an explanation of tantra which was rooted in western concepts and terminology or emphasised the “sacred sex” and – a predominantly psychological approach to the subject. I wasn’t really interested in “new age” (for want of a better term) approaches to tantra – I wanted something more directly “magical” – which an emphasis on ritual, if you like. By 1986 I’d moved to Leeds, and met a guy who was an initiate of an East-West Tantric “order” known as AMOOKOS. AMOOKOS was my entry into the “magical” tantra that I’d been searching for, as a lot of its practices were rooted in historical Indian tantra practice – streams such as Patanjali’s Yoga, Sri Vidya, Kaula. Under the guidance of my initiator – my guru – I began to perform these practices. I was very much focussed on the practice itself – the doing, and not really concerned with the “theory” (the philosophy, if you like) in which these practices were rooted. But gradually, I began to understand that something was missing. I’ve been writing about the problem of assuming that our concerns, aspirations, etc. are universal. So, during this initial phase of my involvement with tantra – which was about ten years – I’d more or less assumed that what I was practicing were just “techniques” and that the context which underwrote them, wasn’t important. Probably because I’d internalised a set of western understandings of ritual, meditation, selfhood, etc., to the point where I’d stopped questioning them. And I’d probably been influenced by a western picture of tantra that had grown up – one which says, effectively, that tantra is just “techniques” and is completely “separate” to the rest of Indian religion – and that is isn’t a religion at all.

I think that I began to change my view primarily because I began to get interested in how these western understandings of tantra arose, historically. I found that western “imaginings” of tantra – and indeed, the very notion that there was this particular thing called “tantra” arose when western scholars in the 18th-19th century tried to understand Indian religion, and how a lot of the ideas about tantra which are circulating in occult texts are rooted in a set of misconceptions which come out of the nineteenth century. I became very interested in this, because by that time I was doing a lot of workshops and lectures – occasional on tantric themes, and would have to deal with other people’s misconceptions as well as my own. At the same time, I was beginning to read tantric texts themselves – which is interesting in itself as many western accounts of tantra don’t seem to be aware that there is a vast tantric literature out there – or indeed that there are different tantric “traditions” – and trying to make sense of them. I gradually came around to the realisation that assuming that tantric ideas were basically “the same” as the ideas that I was familiar with – from my background of western ceremonial magic and Wicca, was a mistake because they were actually very different – based on very different understandings of the world and how we relate to it. So in “translating” a term, a concept or a “technique” from one culture to another, often things get lost, misinterpreted, or erased if we do it from the point of “sameness” rather than difference.

Let me try and give a basic example. In western magic we’re very used to the idea that there is a distinction between the spiritual and the material – and so when we perform ritual, for example, we are “creating sacred space” and thereby separating ourselves from the mundane, everyday world. But in the tantric streams which I was increasingly beginning to drink from, that “hard” separation just isn’t there. All space is sacred, because the entire universe is the body of the goddess. When we perform ritual, we’re intensifying or coagulating our sense of the sacred temporarily, but nothing is itself, not sacred. So we don’t denigrate the “everyday world” or try and separate ourselves from it. Does that make sense?

Another fairly fundamental example is that in the west, we’re used to thinking in terms of a basic mind-body divide – or that the individual is separate to society. A lot of occult texts assume that there is a division between “inner experience” and outward forms. Now there are Indian philosophies which look similar to this, and so tend to get interpreted as “dualistic” – although I would argue that even Indian dualistic philosophies – such as Samkhya (which was very important for the development of Yoga), are different in important ways to western ones. But in explicitly “tantric” philosophies those divisions are not present. The gods, for example, are held to be simultaneously immanent and transcendent, and we experience them through our bodies, our senses, our experiences.

Similarly, how we translate terms can be tricky. In European and American accounts of chakras, you’ll often see the term “nadi” translated as “nerves”. So there is a tendency to conceptualise nadis in the same way that we think about nerves in the human body – as being fixed in place. But if you translate nadi as “stream” as in a stream of water – it instantly becomes more dynamic, because streams dry up, run at different speeds, change their course, etc.

And these issues/problems become much more difficult when one tries to make sense of a tantric text. I’m going to take an example from the Saundaryalahari – “the flood of beauty” which is a key text in the Sri Vidya tradition (one of the traditions I am drawing inspiration from). Verses 7-8 are part of a description of the goddess Lalita (“she who plays”) suitable for meditation or ritual:

“Banded with a tinkling girdle, heavy with breasts like the frontal lobes of young elephants,

slender of waist, with face like the full moon of autumn,

bearing on the palms of her hands bow, arrows, noose, and goad,

let there be seated before us the pride of him who shook the cities.(7)

In the midst of the Ocean of Nectar, where covered with groves of heavenly wishing trees

is the Isle of Gems, in the mansion of wishing jewels with its grove of nipa trees,

on a couch composed of the four gods Shiva, your seat a mattress which

is Paramashiva – some few lucky ones worship you, a flood of consciousness and bliss.(8)”

Yet there is much more here than just an image for meditation. Let’s go through just a few of the imagery. Firstly, the text, likens Lalita’s face to the full moon of autumn. This reinforces the radiance of her face to the devotee. India’s autumnal period (approximately mid-October to December) is relatively free of clouds, allowing the moon to shine brightly and clearly. Then there’s “bearing on the palms of her hands bow, arrows, noose, and goad” – these are four weapons often associated with Lalita (although of course other deities bear them as well). The bow is the mind, the arrows are the five senses. The noose can be thought of as Lalita’s capacity for drawing Her devotees towards her, or a reminder that Lalita is the source of all attachments; the goad for encouraging devotees on Her path – to be unwavering in their devotion/practice. Together, the noose and goad can represent attachment/desire (noose) and aversion/anger (goad) – both of which emerge from Lalita – one implication being that in order to experience Lalita fully, one has to not be bound by either. The bow Lalita holds is often described as made from a piece of sugarcane, with a drawstring of bees, the five arrow-senses, as flowers.

“him who shook the cities.” is a reference to Siva in respect to one of his deeds as recounted, for example, in the Siva Purana. The four gods who make up the couch (they are the four supports, or legs, of her seat) are Brahma (southeast), Visnu (southwest), Rudra (northwest) and Isvara (northeast). The Isle of Gems and the mansion of wishing gems may be taken as references to the nine layers or chakras of the Sri Yantra – which is Lalita herself in multiple form. It can also be a reference to the human body, which is composed of nine constituent parts – hair, skin, etc.. which can be found in Ayurveda and tantric alchemy. The Ocean of Nectar is both the bindu of the yantra and the devotee’s heart-space in which Lalita is eternally present. Nectar – which can be thought of as the joy of experience, flows from Lalita. This is reinforced by the reference to Nipa trees (“water coconuts”) are a type of palm tree, bearing clustered fruits, from which can be extracted sugar. Its sap ferments very quickly. The flowers of the Nipa are sometimes associated with inciting feelings of love, particularly in classical poetry. Having Lalita seated on a couch made up of four important deities, with Paramashiva – “supreme Shiva” as Her mattress emphasises the primacy of Lalita over all other deities, and the entire description of the “island” is very similar to that of royal pleasure gardens – emphasising Lalita’s royalty and power.

So you can see, even in these brief two verses, there is quite a lot of “context” to understand. Now the Saundaryalahari is a fairly popular text, and there are many commentaries available which will help understand its various meanings and interpretations. But even with these to help, it can often be difficult. There is no one book – or indeed one person – who can tell you everything you need to know. So I find myself coming back to a text again and again, as my understanding deepens through practice and reflection. Tantric texts are not really literal instruction in the way that we often relate to texts in the west. They are often cryptic, dense and richly layered, and were often complemented by an oral and commentarial tradition. They were, by and large, written by and for practitioners – so you’re not going to find any “tantra 101”-type texts from within the traditions themselves, and one often finds assertions that the “mysteries” of a tradition cannot be found just by reading a book. It sounds complicated – and it is, but if, for example, I’m mediating on Lalita’s presence in all experiences at any one moment, be it the feel of the sun’s warmth on my skin, the traffic noises, outside the house, the smells around me, the sensation of fingertips touching fingertips, it becomes much simpler.

Our interview with Phil Hine will be concluded in our Lammas issue.

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An Interview With Aidan Kelly

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself and what you’ve been working on recently; who is Aidan Kelly these days?

Being 70, it’s often a mood of:

At my back I always hear

Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.

I come from a long-lived family and I’m in good health; so I do have a good chance of seeing Bella, my youngest, now 8, graduate from college. I’m still working—teaching part-time for ITT Tech to supplement the Social Security—but I spend as much time as I can, allowing for home schooling our three kids, on my writing. I’ve gotten three books—a history of the NROOGD, a wild novel called Goddess Murder, and my collected poetry—up for sale on Amazon. (I think the Print on Demand technology is wonderful. I don’t have to argue with agents about whether I know what I’m talking about. The corporate publishers are doomed; their ecological niche has evaporated.) Next I’m completing an overall history of the Craft in the US and Canada from the 1960s into the 1990s, to be called A Tapestry of Witches. But largely all that’s to get stuff out of the way, so that I can work on my autobiography and on a theology of the infinite, which relates to religions in general about the way that quantum mechanics relates to Newtonian physics and common sense. One can get some sense of what I’m doing by looking at my blog at I’m continuing to work on improving my now 17-year marriage to my beloved Melinda and on being a better father to our three children, Evan, Chloe, and Isibella. And I’m hanging with the Gnostics; they do exist; fascinating!

Q: You’ve talked about several of your experiences of the mystical, including your first spontaneous mystical experience at fifteen. What has been your most recent mystical experience? And which (if you can pick just one) do you think was the most important to your spiritual development?

I have described those experiences in essays that will be incorporated into my autobiography; one was at 14, the other at 23. They certainly gave me a view of reality different from that of most people, even though such experiences are actually not very rare. What they showed me was:

(a) we are aspects of the divine, despite our illusion of being separate beings;

(b) our minds are not what we think (at least two meanings there);

(c) what the Catholic church had been teaching about sexuality for about 1900 years was thoroughly pathological.

I really haven’t had acute experiences like that since, although getting sober in AA, getting my Ph.D., and surviving being in a manic state for 20 years were all quite transformative.

Q: What was your original intention when you established the NEW Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn? Are you pleased by how it has developed since then?

I and my friends were primed to create an adequate spiritual path for ourselves in the late 1960s, and I was merely the catalyst for that. In effect, I was hired by three powerful women to serve as their mouthpiece. Our goal was certainly to create something better than what we had often suffered from in the institutionalized Christian churches. I’ve described all that in my Hippie Commie Beatnik Witches: A Social History of the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn (available on Amazon for $25; crass commercial, sure, but look, guys, I’ve got three kids at home I need to feed, clothe, and educate, so I promise to spend your money wisely). As for how it developed: it’s one of the oldest active traditions in the US. I was quite surprised and pleased by Chas Clifton’s argument in Her Hidden Children that the NROOGD has achieved a viable balance between keeping the essential concepts of Wicca intact, yet encourages creativity, and in that sense represents the genuine mainstream of the whole Wiccan movement. I thank you greatly for that, Chas.

Q: For several years, you withdrew from the Pagan community and became a practicing Roman Catholic; I know you were raised as a Roman Catholic but how did you reconcile the two different kinds of worship (if, of course, you felt you had to at all)?

No, I didn’t have to reconcile them. They, like all other genuine religions, don’t conflict, because they all are talking about ultimately different issues—which is why they are all needed. I tried being a practicing Catholic again in order to maintain my sobriety, since in 1977 I could see no way to do that in the Craft, as well as to resolve issues left over from my youth, but to do so in an adult way. As I said to Lisa Lawrence, I didn’t stop being a Witch; I just didn’t practice it for a while. I still have my original athame from about 1968, and when I reactivated in the Craft about 1987, I found that there were now Pagan AA meetings; the movement had matured that much. I did not have my fingers crossed while being a Catholic again—you can’t stay sober that way—but I finally could not stomach being a member of a church that still owns all the machinery of the Inquisition. And I did manage to insult in print the guy who has become the current Pope. I’ve heard backchannel that he knows who I am.

Q: You’ve had an uneasy relationship with the Gardnerian tradition (and with certain Gardnerians in particular) for quite some time now. You have been accused, for example, of being an oath-breaker. How do you feel about this?

I feel that many of those critics are simply malicious, jealous gossips. They don’t seem to get that all my research on how Gardner recreated the Craft was done as an outsider using publicly available sources in the mid 1970s, and that I did not accept Gardnerian initiation until about 15 years later (I’m still not sure that was a good idea at all). As it was, Lady Brigit (Meredydd) let me add a codicil to my oath stipulating that the oath did not apply to anything I had learned before my 1* initiation. Much of the rest of that brouhaha resulted from my ignoring rules invented by one small faction among the Long Island Gardnerians in about the late 1970s, rules that neither I nor the British Gardnerians had ever agreed to. Some of that got cleared up when I was finally able to prove to the COG BOD that a certain HPS in Alberta had simply lied to them—not that that shut the gossips up. Enough. Such discussion simply feeds energy down a rat hole, and I have important work to do now. Actually, the best way to evaluate the merits of my critics is to read their books.

Q: You’ve admitted that you’ve made mistakes in the past (as, of course, everyone does). What do you think has been your biggest mistake and would you do things differently if you knew then what you know now?

Hard to pick just one, most had nothing to do with the Craft, and most occurred during the 20 years I was in a mild manic state because of being on the wrong medication. I look at all that and think, “If I had made any decision differently, I would not have Evan, Chloe, or Bella now—and I would not trade them for the universe—so, no regrets.”

Q: How did you handle being at the centre of all the controversy your books, particularly ‘Inventing Witchcraft’, caused?

Mostly I ignored it. Most of the complaints about my research came from people who would benefit from taking a freshman course in religious studies and who have no idea what doctoral studies in that field involves. As an analogy, I am not obligated to explain the tensor calculus to people who cannot do algebra, who are not paying tuition, and who therefore have no clue that they should be learning anything new.

Q: How do you think Paganism has changed since the mid 1990’s as a result of the internet’s influence? With information more readily available, the Pagan community has expanded, but do you think this is an advantage?

I’m aware of the tremendous growth since the Internet became available in the 1990s, but I really have not looked at it carefully. That growth is the major reason why I’m using the mid-90s as the cutoff time for my history book. The history since then will have to be someone else’s problem. I know my colleague Doug Cowan has made a good start on studying it.

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Crystal Elixirs & Gem Essences

by Beth Holtum

Elixir OF Crystal Life

An elixir, or essence is a liquid preparation made to hold the vibrational qualities of the base material being used. Here’s a guide to the varying methods which you can choose from, depending on your time, intent and purpose.

Crystal Water

Purify water from psychic impurities by placing a small Clear Quartz crystal which has been cleansed in the bottom of a glass contained filled with tap water. Allow it to remain undisturbed for twelve hours, preferably in natural sunlight. When drunk, this crystal clear water will have a wonderful cleansing affect on the bloodstream. When taken with other essences, such as flower essences or vitamins, the crystal water will promote their action.

Gem Water

Gem water is made in the same way as crystal water, with the addition of a cleansed gem instead of a quartz crystal. Drinking gem water is an excellent way of becoming aware of the healing properties of different gems. Label the gem water so that you know which gem was used. Keep notes on your feelings before taking the water and the differences you feel afterwards. You can keep gem water for 2-3 days, but if you want to keep it for a longer period of time, you will have to make a gem essence.

Gem Essence

A gem essence provides a balanced pattern of specific energy that operates like a recording, playing the same pattern of vibrations each time it is taken. While taking herbal remedies affects the etheric and the physical body, gem elixirs also affect the emotional, mental and spiritual subtle bodies.

To make a gem essence, place a stone in a clear glass container that has been sterilized by pouring boiling water into it. Add spring water or distilled water. Ask the Devic kingdom for help in charging the water for healing. Cover the container and place it in the sun for several hours. You may wish to leave it out for twenty-four hours under a full moon. This allows both the dynamic energies from the sun and moon to activate the gem.

When the gem water is ready, sterilize a number of brown glass dropper bottles. Half fill the bottle with your gem water and fill to the remainder with a good quality drinking alcohol (Gin, vodka, or brandy).

Label the bottle with the gem name and give the essence a use-by date of a few months for the best effects.

Taking Gem Essences

Add between two to five drops of gem essence to a glass of spring water. Sip this at intervals throughout the day. It is best to determine intuitively how much to take.

Please note- always seek medical advice for any long term or severe condition.


As with all alternative practices, care should be taken to check the details of each remedy, and seek GP medical advice if a condition is serious or persistent.

Some stones and crystals are not suitable for making elixirs or essences. My rule of thumb is if they look metallic or one of the colours associated with copper or lead secondary minerals – then avoid. It’s always worth checking their mineral composition for copper, lead, sulphur or arsenic. Most crystal guide books will specific if a stone is not to be used in an elixir.

Here’s a quick reference guide to ones to definitely avoid:

Copper – Amazonite, Atacamite, Azurite, Chalcopyrite, Chrysocolla, Cuprite, Dioptase, Gem Silica, Malachite, Mowhawkite, Quantum Quattro, Smithsonite

Lead – Antimonite, Barite, Galena, Stibnite, Vanadanite, Wulfenite

Sulphur – Boji Stones, Chalcopyrite, Pyrite, Realgar


Visit Beth’s store Rainbow Spirit at where you can purchase beautiful hand-picked and cleansed crystals.

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Summertime Tarot Magick

By Melanie Marquis

Summer is a time when magickal energies associated with solar influences are at a high point in their yearly cycle. It’s an excellent season for divination and magick in all its forms, and is especially fortuitous for love magick, mood-lifting magick, and spells to bring success and opportunity. Here are some tarot spells to help you make the most of summer’s power.

Tarot Magick for Love

Who doesn’t like a Summer romance? Try these simple spells based on the principles of attraction magick and see what happens! Attraction magick can be carried out with different methods. One technique is to combine the energies of what you wish to attract with your own energies. You simply weave the energies together, entwining them, through visualization, will, and symbolic action. So for a tarot love spell based on this principle, you can choose a card to represent yourself, a card to represent your ideal lover, and a card to represent the feelings you wish to share. Place the Sun card above these cards to amplify the spell with summer’s magick. Imagine all the energies shown in the cards combining. Look at the images and stack the cards on top of one another. You can say an affirmation if you like, a positive statement in your own words such as, “These energies are now entwined, in love, united.”

Another way to work attraction magick is to project the energy you wish to attract. This principle is based on the rule of three commonly used in the Craft, that whatever energy you send out is returned to you threefold. Choose a tarot card that represents pure love, such as the Ace of Cups, conjure this feeling within yourself, meditate on the card to amplify this feeling, and then release the energy out into the world to bring you what you seek.

Tarot Magick for Happiness

Here’s a good summertime spell for inducing happiness. One of the ways to work mood-lifting magick is based on the principle of expelling and absorbing. You simply let go of and neutralize your negative emotions, and then absorb the energies of the emotion you wish to feel. So for a tarot spell to bring happiness, you would simply choose a card through which you will release your negative emotions. You can pick a card that represents these feelings, or a balancing card such as Temperance. Explore your sadness or anxiety, and then touch the card and visualize the negativity flowing away from you, coming out of your fingertips and going into the card. Now blow hard across the surface of the card, or shake it in the air, thinking, “Neutralize!” You can visualize the colour gray if you like, to help neutralize and dispel the negative, unwanted energies. Now look through your deck and choose a card that represents the emotion you want to feel. The Sun, The Magician, or The High Priestess are effective cards to consider. Feel the energies symbolized in the card, then hold it high above your head upside down, pouring these energies into yourself and feeling your joy expand.

Another way to work mood-lifting magick is with a shielding charm. For a shielding charm, you simply build a shield around yourself comprised of the energy you wish to be surrounded with. The shield will help keep you immersed in this energy while protecting against the intrusion of unwanted emotions. For a tarot shielding charm to increase happiness, choose a card that represents positive strength and positive emotions, such as The Sun, Strength, or the Ace of Cups. Hold the card face out and turn around in a circle, visualizing an orb-shaped shield of this energy forming around you, much like a witch might cast a protective magick circle.

Tarot Magick for Success

It’s summer, the season of golden sunshine and fierce energy, so dream big and put tarot’s magickal power towards achieving those dreams. One way to work a spell for success is with the combining principle of attraction magick. You’ll simply weave your own energy together with an energy of success. For this tarot spell, choose a card to represent yourself, and choose a card to represent the success you seek. The Sun, the Ace of Pentacles, the Ten of Pentacles, or the Ace of Cups are fine options. Place the two cards together as you visualize yourself being entwined with a successful energy. Imagine the energy wrapping around you, making you shine brightly. Stand confidently and proudly, just as you would if you were extremely successful. You can carry these cards with you to act as talismans, if you like, or you can leave them sitting someplace safe underneath a citrine crystal or other success-bringing stone.

Another way to work attraction magick to manifest success is to project an energy that will attract what you seek. For a tarot spell to attract success, you could choose a card that represents leadership, ability, willingness, or desire. The Magician is an excellent selection, but be sure the card you pick is one that holds personal meaning to you, that shows a quality you feel you would have in abundance if your aims were achieved. Hold the card and visualize yourself having the success you desire, and feel this powerful energy coursing through you. Now focus your thoughts on the qualities you have within you that make you worthy of this success; you might think of your strength, passion, wisdom, talent, vision, determination, or creativity. Write your full name on a piece of paper, and place the tarot card on the paper above your name. Magnify your feelings of success as much as you can, willing the energy to grow and glow within you. Now project this energy into the card and into your written name, touching each separately then both together as you feel the magickal power flow out of your fingers. If you like, say an affirmation such as, “Here I am, ready for success! Opportunity and tools, come to me, and I will use you well!”

A Magickal Summer

Summer is a great time to try new things and explore new horizons. Why not try some tarot spells as you soak up the sunshine and power of this magickal season? Take a deck on your travels for emergency charms work on the go, cast a tarot spell to attract a summer romance, or just lay back and relax with a tarot spell to release tension. Although the summer’s not endless, the potential of magick is, and tarot is a ready key for opening the door into unlimited possibility.

Melanie Marquis is a lifelong practitioner of magick, the author of The Witch’s Bag of Tricks (June 2011, Llewellyn), and the founder of United Witches global coven. Find more ideas for personalized, powerful magick in her book and on the web at

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Quantum Physics is Wyrd

By Eoghan Odinsson

Ok, firstly, I am NOT a Physicist. I did take a Physics class at University, but that’s was years ago, and not my area of expertise. So please take what I say with a grain of Salt, and feel free to set me straight if I’m off base.

For those of you who are new to the Northern Traditions, Wyrd is somewhat like fate. The word “Wyrd” is cognate (related) to many words in the Germanic languages and roughly means “to come to pass, to become, to be due”.

Wyrd is not your fate or destiny carved in stone, we are not trapped by Wyrd, but our lives are shaped by it. For example, suppose you were born with no legs. Would that mean you would be fated to never run a marathon? Certainly not. It would make it a big challenge, but with today’s technology could be over come – via prosthetics for example.

So Wyrd sets us on a certain course, but we have the ability to alter course, and change our lives – so our forefathers believed.

My thoughts one day happened on Wyrd, and my belief in it. From time to time I like to consider what I “believe” in…..we all change, and sometimes it’s good to re-examine old beliefs in light of new experience, evidence etc.

Here’s where we get to the Scientific stuff (cover your ears if you must).

The Physics our grandfathers learned were heavily dependent on the works of Sir Isaac Newton – you know the guy who thought up gravity after being hit on the head by an apple . So we know that branch of physics as Newtonian Physics. I like Newtonian Physics; it’s neat, tidy, and certain. You can calculate things, and know what to expect.

If the multiverse were governed purely by Newtonian Physics, then the Universe should be totally predictive…that is, if I had all the information, I could predict any event with 100% accuracy. So life would be pre-destined, which would contradict our understanding of Wyrd – which we can influence. Hmmm….so do we throw out the concept of Wyrd in favour of Newtonian Physics? Not yet.

Quantum physics or mechanics, tells us that there is no certainty, only probability (things exist in multiple states simultaneously), there can be no prediction of a single outcome, all outcomes are viable, and do occur. So we likely have layers of realities – multiple universes, or the multiverse – a bubbly frothy foam of possibility.

So actions I take, according to Quantum Physics, will affect things in a way nobody can predict ahead of time. We can only talk about probable outcomes. So then my “fate” is not set in stone! My “Wyrd” is mine to manipulate, and even the Gods don’t know where I’ll end up.

So, Quantum Physics gives me faith in Wyrd!

Canadian born Eoghan Odinsson is an award winning journalist and author with a lifelong passion for the knowledge of our Northern forefathers – or “folk lore”. Literally, the knowledge of our people. Graduating from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland with his Masters of Science degree, he subsequently taught for the University, and was a dissertation advisor for graduate students. In addition to his academic background, Eoghan also holds a Black Belt in Shito-Ryu Karate, and has taught Martial Arts in Canada and the USA. Eoghan has just returned from a 10 year stretch working in the Washington D.C. area, and is now back in his native Ottawa Valley where he lives with his wife, son and three dogs.

You can find out more about him and his book at

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Oft-overlooked dangers in indoor workings

By Jill Malenoir

Especially for those who always work indoors, there are certain dangers to beware of.

If you often find you need to cleanse your home of bad vibes, etc., it could be that you are unaware of the ways some entities gain access.

One way is a circle cast without considering certain safeguards.

Mirrors, tvs, computer screens, Glass tabletops, glass doors and windows, pictures and other reflecting surfaces need to be covered, as they can allow entities in. Mirrors and pictures can be turned to face the wall, or be covered with a sheet or similar cloth.

Clocks should be stopped or removed from the room, although I’m not expecting you to get a hernia trying to remove the grandfather clock! Watches too need to be kept out of circle.

Phones should be unplugged or turned off, including mobiles.

There are good reasons for all of these measures, inside your circle you are out of both place and time, and you do not need a clock chime or a phone ringing whilst you are meditating, it can cause you to come out of trance too quickly resulting in a mental shock, as well as ruining your working.

Mirrors have a special place in magic and folklore. We all know the superstition of seven years bad luck for breaking one, but there are many reasons to be wary of them.

Getting between two mirrors (take care at the hairdressers) is supposed to take a part of your spirit, in the same way as photographs. The more reflections you can see, the more is taken from you.

Conversely, entities multiply in multiple reflections as they seek to gain entry, they are drawn by energy workings.

They are not all bad though, there are plenty of spells using mirrors, just take care when using them.

Take reasonable precautions and you should have less trouble with unpleasant entities and atmospheres.

Happy Circle Raising.

Jill Malenoir has been openly Pagan for 45 years, Coven trained, she now works with a blend of Witchcraft and Druidry, is a Hospital Visitor and celebrant.

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Element Meditation – Fire

By Beth Holtum

As it’s the Litha edition of the Pagan Friends’ Webzine, I thought I’d share a Fire Meditation.

If you wish, start by casting a circle in your usual way around the area you’ll be working in. Place a Carnelian crystal, or object you associate with the Fire element at the South of your circle. Alternatively, you could hold the crystal/item – try it and see what works for you.

You may also wish to light a candle that can burn safely while you meditate, and have that in the South too. I associate the colour red with Fire and the South – but go with what makes sense to you.

Sit in the middle of your circle facing South (preferably on a cushion or chair if you need back support, to avoid physical distraction from your meditation).

Settle yourself into a comfortable position and read through the meditation to familiarise yourself with it.

Remember to have a notebook and pen with you for taking notes afterwards.

The Meditation

Sitting comfortably, facing South. Close your eyes and shift into a meditative state in your preferred way.

Imagine that there is a semi-circle on the floor that spans around you from West to East, your right side round behind you to your left. Visualise it as a dark line on the floor. Gradually visualise that arc rising over you, shrouding you in darkness, rising as a dome that covers you in a protective shell. It passes behind you, over you and slowly down in front of you until it gently touches the floor in front of you and you are completely contained within a darken dome.

Settle yourself into this safe stillness. Accept the silence and solitude. Focus again on your breathing, with each breath inhale tranquillity and exhale tension.

Slowly you sense heat building around you and light rising in front of you. The Sun is starting his ascent for a new day in your life. The light starts to fill you with warmth and anticipation.

Beneath you, the Earth responds to the sun’s presence and conducts heat to your body. You sense heat building from the Earth below you – it is a sensual heat that caresses you and awakens you. The heat rises, and suddenly a spark ignites within in you – lighting your inner fire. Visualise it as a glowing coal that sits below your belly that compels you to stare into it.

Your inner fire holds the power of your will; your creative ability and sexual expression. It sparks your anger, your fear and your ability to take action. Enjoy the heat without fear of being burnt. Stay a while, gazing at your inner fire and how it burns. How bright is it? What fuels it?

Your attention moves on as you hear the rhythmical, metallic beat of an anvil and hammer, and you gain vision of a blacksmith at his forge. You approach to watch him at work. It reminds you of your own creative ability.

He’s making a sword of power, and it is a gift for you. Watch as he shapes and forms the metal, seeing it glow red as he takes it from the fire and transforms it from a rod to a powerful tool. What does this sword mean to you? Feel the anticipation of waiting for it to be ready. What power do you wish to weald with it?

When the sword is ready, accept it as a gift to take with you. Study your sword, its texture, shape, decoration and the scabbard that will hold it safe. Know its purpose. How does it feel to hold it? Your sword remains with you as you settle back into your physical being and return your inner gaze to the horizon in front of you and the light that surrounds you.

When you are ready, visualise the dome rising over you, slowly adjusting you to your everyday surroundings. Return to thoughts to your breathing, and slowly come back to normal consciousness.

You can purchase Carnelian crystals from Beth’s shop Rainbow-Spirit

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Excerpts from Hippie Commie Beatnik Witches

By Aidan Kelly

At some time early in our evolution, certainly by about 1969, our core group one evening was discussing the classic question from The Wizard of Oz: “Are you a good Witch or a bad Witch?” Naturally, we all wanted to be good Witches, and therefore we would need to work White Magic rather than Black Magic—but we quickly discovered that the difference in practice between those two types of magic was not at all obvious.

Someone proposed that White Magic is used to help people, Black instead to harm. Then we began trying to define what constituted help and what harm. Such definitions also proved to be not obvious. Someone suggested that the Golden Rule might apply—but Glenn objected to that line of thought.

“You don’t have the right to decide what is good for someone else,” she said. “They have the right to decide for themselves whether something would help them or harm them. After all, the Inquisitors said they were burning the witches for their own good. You have to ask if people want you to do magic to help them. They might not.”

“You mean we would need to ask permission?” someone asked.

“Yes,” Glenn said. “That’s what it means.”

“But what if a person is unconscious?” she was asked.

“You need to ask someone with the right to give permission for him, or her,” she said.

This now led us into an almost Talmudic dialog.

“Can a mother give permission for her child?”

“It is allowed.”

“A husband for his wife?”

“It is allowed.”

“A boyfriend for his girlfriend?”

“If you know they are committed to carrying each other’s karma, yes. Otherwise, it is not allowed.”

And so on.

We had many more discussions of how ethics should work in the Craft, and in about 1971 I wrote these up in the document entitled “Aporrheton1 Five: The Craft Laws,” which began to be circulated during the following years. The principle that one must ask permission before doing anything that would affect another person, whether by means of magic or physically, thus became generally accepted among Wiccans in America. As far as I know, Glenn Turner should be credited with having stated it first.

From 1969 on the Order began holding regular public circles for the Sabbats and has continued to do so ever since. The circles were held in public parks in good weather, in rented halls during the rainy season. It was not unusual for several hundred people to attend a Sabbat, even though one could hear of them only by word of mouth. That is, the NROOGD Sabbats were larger than many of the later festivals in the 1980s. In the San Francisco Bay Area of the late 1960s, beset by student revolts, war protests, and civil rights marches, the peaceful NROOGD circles attracted no official attention whatsoever. The success of these public circles was one factor that helped overcome the initial secrecy of the Wiccan movement and led to the creation of regional and national festivals beginning about 1979.

For our Mabon Sabbat in 1969, we decided to hold a weekend campout at Samuel Taylor State Park in Marin, a central location that we could all get to. At that Sabbat we gave white cords to a few people who hadn’t been able to get to the Lammas Sabbat. The strain of commuting had begun to tell on our northernmost members; so perhaps what happened that night resulted as much from a premonition that this would be the last gathering of our original hardcore as from my spontaneous additions to the ritual.

I knew we were meeting on the night when the Eleusinian Mysteries would have begun if the classical Greek calendar were still being used; so I broke the order of our usual ritual, by leading all off in a torchlit procession, crying “Kore!” and “Evohe!” and “Iakkhos!” down the hillside, across wooden bridges, down to a spring, where, as I recall, I first spoke the myth of Kore’s gift of immortality, then back to the circle, where we invoked the full Ninefold Muse with nine priestesses, whom I, like Orpheus, audaciously let in a chain dance about the fire; then all joined the circle, and we danced until all but Catherine and I had dropped from exhaustion, until again that silent energy rose and lapped its waves around us, filling the entire campground with a warm mistiness that was everywhere except where I was looking. . . .

Given our excitement at having been able to raise such energy, given that we now had our white cords, for whatever they were worth, and given also that the dust of moving had settled somewhat, we finally met for our discussion about esbats on October 25, 1969, at the new home of Joe and Glenn in Lagunitas. We had a potluck dinner and listened to a BBC interview by Theodore Roszak with a London witch, Zachary Cox, who was then (I learned later) the High Priest of Gerald Gardner’s original coven. (Geoff B. later commented, “It wasn’t until I heard that tape that I was certain this whole thing was not just Aidan’s headtrip!”) I also explained to the group what I had recently learned about Soviet psi research. Late in the evening, after a few people had already left, we finally turned to talking about our main business: could we hold nude esbats? It soon became clear that everyone there wanted to hold them. Okay, but how do we get started?

At this point, Fritz — and may the Lady preserve him in Canadian winters! — stood up, said, “The only way to have one is to have one,” and started taking off his clothes. We all looked at each other, got up, and began taking off our clothes too — and there we stood, naked, grinning shyly at one another. Glenn got out her tools, and we began the ritual. For lack of space we danced with our arms around waists or shoulders chanting, singing, stamping our feet — and the energy came: we got high, and higher, and even higher. “Goddam, stoned again!” Joe sang out, and we all giggled. Finally, we were too tired to go on. We broke the circle, and got dressed, and drifted homeward in a pleasant glow that lasted for days afterward.

Thus our coven began. As Larry S. commented later, it should have been obvious, and of course at the time it wasn’t, that our first esbat would have to happen spontaneously.

1 “Aporrheton” was Greek for “that which may not be spoken,” and referred to the lesser secrets of the Eleusinian Mysteries; Athenian law made it a capital offense to reveal those secrets to the uninitiated. However, the greater secrets were “arrheton,” i.e., impossible to state in words and therefore needed no protection by a mere human law.


Healing Victor

For Beltane 1973 the NROOGD Red Cord Council decided to try having a skyclad Sabbat, for initiates only. We were all used to being skyclad at esbats and to going skinny-dipping at the nude beaches, but we thought that having a concentration of several dozen skyclad Witches to raise a cone of power might be an interesting experience. As it turned out, this experiment also had a useful purpose.

We were holding the Sabbat on a Sunday night, since that was when we could rent the Unitarian hall. On that Sunday morning, Alison Harlow phoned at 6:00 a.m. to tell us that Victor had awakened at 4:00 a.m. vomiting blood, and had been rushed to the hospital; he was in intensive care, and his prognosis was guarded. Could we work for him at the Sabbat? Well, yes, we should be able to do that.

After some local calls to the other people running the Sabbat, at 11:00 I got through to Herman Slater at the Warlock Shop in New York City. He in turn phoned Lady Theos, who had recently become the reigning Queen of the Gardnerians in America after the Bucklands had retired, and at 11:30 she, to my surprise and delight, phoned me. We chatted; she offered to send me what information she could on Gardnerian practices. She said most covens had already met, but they’d at least get a circle of Elders together to work for Victor. I phoned her back at 2:00 to double-check time, and she said that covens had been contacted in Chicago, Philadelphia, Texas, Los Angeles, New York, and elsewhere; and many were reconvening to work for Victor. She was quite astonished; this was the first time that all the traditions were getting together, despite the squabbles, to work for a common purpose. Thus the plans were laid for a national cone of power to be transmitted to Victor at 9 p.m. PDT, and it worked out that Alta would be the Priestess who would focus it. She wrote the following account of that experience.

This was to be a special Sabbat for our Order: the first closed, skyclad Sabbat, with only coven members attending. We had all expected it to be a special evening—and now we had work to do for a dear friend. Since I was to be the Green Priestess for this Sabbat, I was already “keyed” for the occasion, but the thought of energy, not just from our group, but from other groups as well, passing through me to Victor was a little awesome. I tried to spend the day becoming and keeping as psychically clear as I could. I fasted and meditated, and by the time the ritual was starting, I was very trancy, but determined to catch our energy, gather what was sent, and send it on to Victor, without being knocked off balance by it.

I stood in the center, facing south, as forty skyclad people danced wordlessly around me, stomping out complex rhythms. I was filled with a fantasy that the walls of our temple had become a giant grove of trees, that I was surrounded by massive beasts shuffling in the darkness. Off to one side was the sound of a drum, and the drumbeat became a collective heartbeat. The energy began to build and rose like a pulsating wall around me. At the cardinal points the heat and tension of it was magnified. The energy peaked over us—and the group held the feeling. The circle moved faster, and we entered into a time vortex. The smell of warm bodies, the sound of rasping breaths, began to press in on me.

From the middle of my upper back, a warm, tingling feeling spread to my chest, through my throat, to my forehead and crown. There was an urgent feeling of pressure in me—I called for the group to drop. As they dropped, the collected energy entered my heart, flew up into my head, passed through me into the wand I held. But the energy from the East hadn’t arrived yet. Somehow I had to hold that energy poised, and wait. I stood, holding the wand before me, both hands outstretched, feet braced against the floor, rooted to the center of the circle. Now, finally, a door seemed to open, and energy from elsewhere began to pass through me, into the wand. I held on as long as I could, and when I could hold no longer, I spun the tip of the wand, forming the energy into a ball, and threw it with the words “Victor! Catch!” The ball streaked out, leaving a bright tail connected to the wand.

I tried to sit down, but found that my knees were locked. Finally I managed to sink slowly, awkwardly, to the floor, and sat crosslegged, holding the wand before me, as the group chanted and Om’d, and more energy flowed through me to Victor. A century or so later—fifteen or twenty minutes, at least—the power stopped flowing, the group was quiet . . ..

When the ritual ended, I was very high. I had no doubts it had worked, nor had any of the 40 or so others there . . . . It was not until the following Tuesday afternoon that I was . . . out of my altered state of consciousness.

Alta was and is the most gifted clairvoyant I have ever known. The preceding is not metaphor, but is a factual description of what she felt and perceived.

The doctors had planned to operate on Victor Monday morning, but he was feeling so much better that they postponed the surgery and did another examination. To their surprise, they could not even see where the bleeding had been coming from; the wound had already healed. The technicians were also quite puzzled, Victor said, about why all the instruments attached to him had gone crazy at 9:00 Sunday night.

Gwydion did some counting and found that exactly 13 covens were working that night. However, since many covens had already met on Saturday night and simply could not reassemble the next night, many Witches were also working for Victor individually at the appointed hour; Gwydion estimated there might have been about 500 people altogether. Alta had commented after the meeting that there had been enough energy to blow a battleship out of the water, and that Victor had taken only what he needed and had sent the rest back, or on, or somewhere. It was thus not surprising that everyone at the Sabbat was high afterward and that it turned into quite a party. . . .

Alta also said that when she started focusing in on Victor, she kept seeing a room with two beds, which seemed odd, since most intensive care rooms have only one. But in fact there were two beds in Victor’s room. On Monday, when Victor was feeling much better, he began chatting with his roommate, who turned out to be of Hawaiian extraction also. They had a fine discussion of Hawaiian folklore and suchlike, and after a while the other man got up enough nerve to ask Victor, very circumspectly, where all that mana in the room the night before had come from. Victor laughed heartily over that. He was home by Wednesday, feeling quite well.


The World Parliament of Religions

The Second World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1993, marking the centennial of the first such parliament, was a major step toward world ecumenicism. For the first time delegates from many major and minor religions, including COG and the NROOGD, met face to face and have remained in contact ever since. Many amateur papers on things religious were read to diverse audiences, as well as a few by recognized scholars. The renowned Hans Küng authored a manifesto on religious rights and freedoms that was adopted by the parliament. Deborah Light, the only person present who was a member of COG, of the Fellowship of Isis, and of the Church of All Worlds, signed it as the representative of the Pagans.

Not all was sweetness and light. The Greek Orthodox delegation walked out of the parliament to protest the presence of the Witches, whose request to hold a circle in the nearby park was initially denied by the Parks Department. However, in preparation for the grand entrance procession that began the parliament, a spectacle modeled after the entrance parade at the Olympic games, the groups were arranged alphabetically in the staging area. Thus it happened that the Covenant of the Goddess was stationed right next to the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, and Phyllis Curott, lawyer, author, and then First Officer of COG, was able to chat casually with Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, the archbishop of Chicago.

After COG’s request had been denied, Phyllis turned to Cardinal Bernardin on live television and asked him if he could please use his influence to ensure that the religious rights of other American citizens would be respected. The Cardinal could hardly have refused. The permit was issued, and the COG circle was held on the spot (carefully chosen) where the riots had broken out at the Democratic National Convention in 1968. The ritual, led by Phyllis, was spectacular, and the huge circle included Hindus, Moslems, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, and members of many other religions. The worship of the Goddess made front-page news and could no longer be ignored, at least, not so easily.

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Litha MoonLore

By Liz

The approaching Solstice on June 21st (Summer for those of us in the Northern half of the globe, Winter for those in the Southern half) this year falls on a Tuesday when the Moon is Waning in it’s Third Quarter, in Piscies and 10 days away from dark (New) Moon.

Tuesdays are all about love, passion and sex, courage, aggression and protection, fire in the belly, and burning desires,

and Piscies being all about dreaming, nostalgia, intuition, psychic impressions and a good time for spiritual and adventurous social activities, it should find us all looking back to early encounters and previous conquests with fond memories

and preparing for good times ahead, but maybe with some caution thrown in for good measure.

The Sun also enters Cancer on the 21st, so this is where things should get rather interesting.

So begins a short period of contentment and enjoyment for your midweek so long as finances allow. If the money situation is pulling you down, now might be a good time to shop around to get a better deal and make the money coming in go just that little bit further. There’s a bargain to be had that could make all the difference if you can find it.

Also those of us who tend to bite our tongues and keep quiet really should speak up for ourselves a little more around this time, or it will be a case of too little too late.

Saint Johns’ Eve (and Cornish Golowan) on the Thursday 23rd June coincides with the Moon entering it’s 4th Quarter in Aries.

Thursdays are all about money, cash, cheques, banking, loans, prosperity, expansion, generosity and investment,

and Aries is good for starting things but lacking in staying power, rapid changes, and folk being somewhat argumentative and difficult to get on with, so we should find it a time when we are needing to continue to be extra careful with out money.

We could find ourselves faced with changed plans, or caught up in some kind of disruption. Perhaps we ought to distance ourselves from those who aren’t being very sociable.

Traditionally a good night for jumping bonfires, taking a dip in moving waters and making special “wishes” to fetch good luck! And I can think of much less enjoyable ways to spend the evening, of course!

The following weekend should be quite grounded for us as the Moon progresses through to Taurus, but be prepared to become quite selfish and greedy as we all know that’s the sign of wanting instant gratification and longing for sensory experience. We could develop a taste for the finer things in life.

The end of June sees the Moon moving into Gemini and for a few days away from the next dark (New) phase, our courage may be riding a little on the low especially if put to the test.

As Wane turns to Wax and we start July at Dark (New) Moon, in Cancer, on a Friday, the focus will be on meeting new friends and making changes in our surroundings.

So there we have it, exciting and challenging times ahead and mixed blessings for us all!

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The Occult connection to the Third Reich

By Simon Cash

Did the Nazi party utililise Occult means to gain power and how deep did their interest in the Occult go?

In order to understand the rise of the Nazi Party to power in the 1930’s, it is important to step back in time a little to the formation of Germany in 1871 from a mixture of many smaller German-speaking territories which were all divided in turn into several hundred kingdoms, principalities, duchies, bishoprics, fiefdoms and independent cities and towns. Suddenly, this new young country formed out of all of this was thrown into Europe against the background of social change that was the late 19th and early 20th century. So there was a young nation with no sense of History and very little sense of identity.

At the same time, there was a wind of change all across Europe. The established authority of the Church had been shaken by Darwin’s “Origin of the species”. There was a time of spiritualism, fuelled partly by Queen Victoria’s interest in contacting the deceased Prince Albert. From their very beginning, the Ripper Murders were tagged with a occult significance. Occult and Masonic type lodges flourished among the upper and middle classes, both in Britain and the European continent. New fiction was putting forward some radical ideas; Bram Stokers Dracula was published in 1897, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein had been published 1818 but found popularity in the later half of the 19th century. Jules Verne and H G Wells explored some speculative ideas which a century before would have been deemed heretical by the church. Science was moving at a fast rate and the effects of that science could be seen. Electric street lighting and radio; devices like these had a immediate effect on the general population, factories were becoming more mechanised and mass production had its effect on social order.

It was the era of the “Gentleman Scientist”. Along with Darwinism and the microscope, these were the early days of psychology and sociology. Exploration into the ‘wilder’ areas of the world such as the Amazon basin and New Guinea led to new theories in anthropology as for the first time explorers came face to face with so called primitive tribes. This led onto the theory of eugenics. These ‘Gentleman Scientists’ were of the upper middle classes, the same people who were members of Lodges.

It was a time when the established pillars of religion and science were being shaken and out of this Spiritual mix came several key characters in what would be the eventual rise of Nazism. Its important to remember that at this time no one foresaw what would eventually happen; with the value of hindsight this essay is easy to write.

Starting with Helena Blatskavy and the Theosophical society; Blatskavy claimed she was in telepathic contact with a race of homo superior called the Aryans, that they had been a highly developed and evolved race like the Atlantis and the Hyperborians and that they were a “root” race (that is to say the current world races, were mongrel mixes of the Aryans and other less developed primitive races). The once mighty empire of the Aryans was now nothing more than a couple of outposts in the Himalayas and they had travelled to northern Europe where they had seeded the Nordic races. And while Blatskavy certainly influenced British Occult Lodges such as The Order of the Golden Dawn, she influenced the European Occult lodges too.

The Godfather of Nazism was Guido Von List. Von List popularised the notion that Runes had magical properties, much in the same way that the Kabbalistic scholars attributed magical properties to the Hebrew alphabet. He studied heraldry and incorporated a lot of occult meanings into coats of arms. He believed that in the middle ages there was a secret society a kind of Templar society called “Armanashaft” who were Warrior/King/Priests who ruled the richer European lands from behind the scenes. Its very doubtful this society ever really existed, but List projected all his nationalistic fantasies onto them. He also wound into this fantasy the dominance of the Roman Catholic church in Germany as a kind of “Occupation of the German states by the Roman Empire.”

Along with List was a ex Cistersersian monk called Jorg lanz Von Liebenfrels. Jorg was living in Vienna in 1904, where he published his book Theozoologie (“Theozoology”) in which he advocated sterilization of the sick and the “lower races” as well as forced labour for “castrated chandals”, and glorified the “Aryan race” as “Gottmenschen” (“god-men”). Theozoologie could also be said to encompass what has now come to be called cryptozoology. Lanz justified his Neognostic racial ideology by attempting to give it a Biblical foundation; according to him, Eve, whom he described as initially being divine, involved herself with a demon and gave birth to the “lower races” in the process. (A mixing of the “Lilith” Story of the Hebrew’s into the Book of Genesis. )Furthermore, he claimed that this led to blonde women being attracted primarily to “dark men”, something that only could be stopped by “racial de mixing”. One year later, in 1905, he founded the magazine Ostara, Briefbücherei der Blonden und Mannesrechtler, of which he became the sole author and editor in 1908. Lanz himself claimed to have up to 100,000 subscribers, but it is generally agreed that this figure is grossly exaggerated. Readers of this publication included, amongst others, Adolf Hitler and Dietrich Eckart. Lanz claimed he was once visited by the young Hitler, whom he supplied with two missing issues of the magazine. Also in 1905, Lanz and some fifty other supporters of List signed a declaration endorsing the proposed Guido-von-List-Gesellschaft (Guido Von List Society) which was officially founded in 1908. He also founded his own esoteric organisation, the Ordo Novi Templi (Order of the New Templars) in 1907. These movements were supposed to “further the racial self-confidence by doing pedigree and racial research, beauty contests and the founding of “future sites” in underdeveloped parts of the Earth” (“das Rassebewusstsein durch Stammbaum- und Rassekundeforschung, Schönheitswettbewerbe und die Gründung rassistischer Zukunftsstätten in unterentwickelten Teilen der Erde zu fördern”). To further this agenda, he purchased the Werfenstein castle ruins in Austria. Neither organization really managed to attract a large member base, though; it is estimated that the order had around three hundred members, the most prominent of whom was the poet Fritz Von Herzmanovsky-Orlando. Lanz’s claim that the organization was already founded prior to 1900, and that he met with August Strindberg in 1896 and managed to convince him to join the order, have been shown to be fabricated. Even though the order was small in number and some of its claims unfounded its influences were sadly very wide reaching. Prior to all of this Jorg Von Libenrfels had made his name as a Bible scholar, which lent an air of authenticity to his later work.

Now the young Adolf Hitler joined the German Army at the outbreak of hostilities and his job all through the War was a communications messenger on the front line. He ran messages from trench to trench, a job which had a short life expectancy due to the dangers involved. However, Hitler thrived in this environment; he had extreme ‘luck’ and was awarded the Iron Cross, though never made it past Corporal on the promotions ladder. Hitler was temporarily blinded in a gas attack towards the end of the First World War and some say he had a epiphany while recuperating in hospital. While he was in Hospital the German High command surrendered, not because of a military disadvantage (in fact the German Army was “winning” in 1918), but because in Germany itself its infrastructure was collapsing. Citizens in Germany were starving, the workers in the factories which supplied the war machine the were striking and it is this severance in supply which prompted the end of hostilities. Germany was more or less starved into submission, something that along with the hyper-inflation of the 1930’s fed the German peoples sense of being unjustly treated, especially among the Military. The old Solders believed they could have won and blamed the Surrender on the strikers, labelling them Communists and Trade Unionists.

On some photographs and newsreels of the First World War, German Solders had decorated their kit with the Swastika and Runes for luck. The ideas of Von List had filtered down from the intellectual upper classes to the solders in the trenches, Its possible these ideas and concepts of people like Von List and Liberfrels had been used as propaganda on the front line troops.

After the War Hitler, still in the employment of the Army travelled to Munich, Also in Munich was the “Thule Society” one of many Occult Lodges which had sprang up after the War, who’s membership was a mixture of Aryan promoting intellectuals and War hardened veterans. The “Thule Society” decided to create a political wing and called it “The German Workers Party”. Hitler was sent into to gather information on communist groups and he had been sent to gather information on the German Workers Party. Hitler, however, found himself in agreement with their ideas and within a few months was leading the Workers Party. The Thule Society found this Iron Cross decorated war hero and began to “Groom” him, they introduced him to the upper classes and industrialists, he received lessons off a drama coach to improve his ability and charisma as a public speaker. This is the start point of Nazis here in Munich with the Thule Society and people like Alfred Rosenberg (Hung in the Nuremberg trails) and Dietreich Eckart. Rosenberg was a anti Semitic and anti Communist, and published the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”; a hoax or propaganda document of the alleged minutes of the 1896 world conference of Jews where the high ranking Jews all over the world have a summit and take minutes of their master plan?

This document still resurfaces every now and then as different factions try and pin their own agendas to it. The most recent one being that Rosenberg substituted Jews for Masons and its actually a Masonic plan to take over the world! The Thule Society wasn’t just a intellectual society though; they became active. The closest analogy I can give is that the Thule Society were the IRA and the German Workers Party, Sinn Fein. The Thules got their hands dirty and committed violence against other political groups, especially in their home base of Munich. Hitler’s relationship with the Thule’s was symbiotic, they needed a charismatic spokesman and he needed power, suffice to say Hitler manoeuvred himself to power as his power grew his methods of gaining power became more sophisticated. Hitler however saw the Occult side as a means to a end, there were more active and occult practising members of the Nazi party who gained power along with Hitler in the 1920-1940 time period.

So the base for Nazism was certainly influenced by Mystics, Occultics, Proto Historians and Spiritualists.

Heinrich Himmler and Rudolph Hess were probably the two most occult driven members of the Nazi Party, Hess was fascinated by Astrology where Himmler was much more Aryan influenced. It was Himmler a academic who had studied classical literature who founded the “Ahnenerbe” (A think tank that promoted itself as a “study society for Intellectual Ancient History.” Founded on July 1, 1935, by Heinrich Himmler, Herman Wirth, and Richard Walther Darré, the Ahnenerbe’s goal was to research the anthropological and cultural history of the Aryan race, and later to experiment and launch voyages with the intent of proving that prehistoric and mythological Nordic populations had once ruled the world). This group is the base for the Nazi Artefact hunters in the Indiana Jones films and while the Indiana Jones films are fiction, historical research shows that the Ahnenerbe funded expeditions to, Iceland, The Crimea, Italy, The Ukraine and Tibet to search for proof and artefacts that could be shoehorned into the Nazi Propaganda machine. The Ahnererbe members were usually members of the SS or given “honorary” commission in the SS as in the case of Otto Rahn who’s Homosexuality was conveniently overlooked as long as he was achieving results… Of course when Otto Rahn’s search for the Holy Grail began to fail it was a different matter.

Hummler’s SS adopted the double Sieg rune as it’s symbol, again going back to the theories of Von List and fallen SS solders had a different gravestone, another rune instead of the cross. This was again to set them apart as a different race. They celebrated different holidays and swore some very Occult sounding Oaths on joining the SS.

Himmler himself thought he was a reincarnation of a King Heinrich of the 10th century who ruled over the lands west of Rome and was thought to be one of the mythical Armamanaschaft. Himmler also devised a practical method of reintroducing the Aryan race, Membership of the SS was based on physical and genealogical characteristics, Polygamy was encouraged among the SS and there were what now would be called Breeding and Nursemaid programmes. This reached a point where Aryan looking children and babies were being removed from their parents in the occupied countries and taken to the Aryan Nursery. Himmlers plan was a expansion of the German peoples “living room” eastwards across the Baltic states and eventually Russia. He was also in charge of the “Race and Resettlement Had the ideas of the Third Reich come to pass and they succeeded to some romantic notion of a pre industrial society, where majority of the population were peasants but the ruling over-class had the upper hand in all things including technological superiority inventions of the age (Rockets, jet aircraft, Television) would be under the control of the Armanashaft ruling class. As well as the mystical icons and spiritual well-being of the Third Reich.

Hess was one of Hitler’s original groupies. Introduced to Hitler through the Thule society. Its debatable what the reasons for Hess flying solo to Britain and trying to broker a peace treaty, some say it was a plan by secret agents who used Hess’s interest in Astrology and his personal Astrologer to manipulate Hess into doing so, some say it was a independent action of Hess and he believed he was acting in the best interests of Germany and Hitler for doing so. Whatever the reasons, Hess failed in his mission and ended up a prisoner. (Its interesting to note that Ian Fleming proposed that Hess should be debriefed by Alistair Crowley in a attempt to lean any Nazi occult secrets and plans.)

In Germany however, days after Hess’s flight Hitler (who had Dictatoral power over the German people by then) decreed that all Astrologers, Fortune Tellers, Palm readers etc. were to be arrested. Many were and subsequently to disappear into the concentration camp system. The Occult Lodges were systematically raided by the SS and their books and artefacts confiscated, most ending up at Himmlers’ Wewelsburg castle in the Alme Valley which was the headquarters of the SS. This put a end to German occultism at least for a while and it is interesting to note though, that for all its occult themed Propaganda, any actual successes from the rituals of the SS seems to be ill documented.

A myth has grown up around the Hapsburg Spear, supposedly the Spear of Destiny, the Spear thrust into Jesus’ side by a Roman Solider at the Crucifixion. Indeed one of Hitler’s first actions once he annexed Austria was to have the spear removed to Nuremberg and it is said that on the 30th April 1945 (the day Hitler committed suicide) the spear fell into the hands of the 7th American Army.

Whilst the American Space program certainly benefited from the Nazi scientists and debate still rages on should current Medical Science should use the results of Nazi medial experiments, Nazi occultism is a forgotten field. Were all the successes of the Nazi Occultists successfully eradicated? Or is it far more plausible that they never really achieved success in the first place and even at the highest levels of their most secret societies the practices were nothing more than ritual without any tangible Occult Result?

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By Beth Holtum

Here’s the low down on another of my favourite crystals, which I use for protection; pursuing a spiritual path and for transformation through life.

Moldavite is a baby of the crystal world, having been formed relatively recently, compared to the other rocks and minerals we use.

A natural glass formation, Moldavite is a green variety of Tektite that formed 14.8 million years ago when a large meteorite entered our atmosphere so fast that it melted before it crashed and exploded on impact in the Czech Republic.

The impact was so great that it formed the Bohemian plateau and Moldavites are found across the vast area. It has a very high vibration, activating all chakras, often giving you a light-headed feeling.

It aids awareness – both personal and spiritual – of your inner secrets and also those of the universe. Moldavite resonates with all chakras, particularly the heart, and carries the power for transformation, rapid spiritual evolution and expansion of awareness, of synchronicity, seeing dark fears in a new light and connection to guides.

It can shine a light into the darker corners of one’s life so that we can see that the things we fear in truth, and find out that they’re not as bad as we thought.

In divinatory terms, drawing Moldavite can indicate a time when you feel alienated from others – that you follow your own path with a greater awareness that others cannot comprehend.

Moldavite, and many other stones are available to purchase in Beth’s store Rainbow Spirit

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By Rebecca L. Brown

Traditionally collected by combing the coats of sheep and goats or by raking plants with a rake called a ladanisterion, labdanum is produced by certain species of rockrose native to the Mediterranean. The best quality resin is said to come from the rockrose which was originally native to Crete, although the majority of modern labdanum comes from Morocco, Spain and France.

Although best known as an incense, labdanum has historically been used in a variety of ways. In Egypt it was also used within the embalming process, in perfumes, whilst the Cretans used it as an ingredient in skin creams.

At room temperature, labdanum is a thick resinous liquid. To make it easier to use, it can be poured onto wax paper and frozen until required when pieces can be broken off or shaved away using a blade.

Labdanum incense was widely used across the Mediterranean. The Hebrews, and later the Orthodox church, used it as a ceremonial incense and it was popular in the Minoan kingdoms (where it was often combined with mastic) and Egypt (where it was a common ingredient of Kyphi mixtures).

As an incense, labdanum can be used to heighten visions, moods or memories. It is said to strengthen a person’s awareness of their body and help uncover inner warmth. It is also useful for grounding or for those seeking self-discovery. It is used as a fixative for other scents and to add a mossy or leathery undertone to blends.

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by Rebecca L. Brown

The name nettle is thought to come from the Anglo-Saxon ‘noedl’ meaning needle.

Nettle leaves can be picked fresh (whilst wearing gloves) and boiled or steamed as a vegetable and the water in which they are cooked can then be drunk as nettle tea or used as a hair wash. The cooked leaves can be blended into soups, added to sauces and added to a variety of dishes or eaten like cooked spinach. Nettles can also be dried or bought as tea bags or in capsules.

As a crop, nettles are easy to grow and cultivate and will adapt to almost any conditions, but be aware that their roots are as intrusive as mint. For this reason, it may be best to grow them in a pot or container.

The nettle has been used in the past to relieve arthritis or to improve circulation through a process of self-flagellation. It supposedly has anti-inflammatory and anti-hystamine properties and has been said to relieve allergy, asthma and hayfever symptoms when taken internally in dried form. Eating stewed nettles has been traditionally used in some countries to relieve pain. They also contain boron and silicon which are thought to alleviate the symptoms of bursitis, tendonitis and arthritis and are rich in vitamins A, C and E. The natural diuretic properties of nettles mean that, when taken internally, they can help lower blood pressure, relieve bloating and even reduce the risk of kidney stones.

Nettles should not be used by pregnant or nursing women as there is some evidence that they might induce contractions and cause an imbalance in electrolytes.

Nettles can be used to make cloth or paper. The juice can be used to make green or yellow dyes or as a substitute for rennet in cheese making. A burnable oil can be extracted from nettle seeds and nettles are often included in hair treatments to improve shine or as a remedy for baldness.

Because of it’s many healing and nourishing properties, nettles have been used magickally to nourish the spiritual self. At the same time, it’s sting has led to it’s use as a protective and warding plant. Nettles are the promise of a gift at a price, a prize which is only reachable by the brave.

The inclusion of nettle fibres in some ancient British burial cloths might mean that it was associated with the boundary between life and death and it is traditionally a boundary guardian and a ward against curses.

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Seabhac: The Wounded Hawk
By T. Fox Dunham

I leaned against the lone oak tree at the river, among the grass and acorns, pen in hand, pressing it to my writing journal till a puddle of blue ink soaked the pages. The words failed to come. I’d lost them somewhere just after my first chemo treatment, fallen out of my heart like the hair from my head. Even now in remission, I couldn’t compose one line of prose. Writing had always come to me like breathing, an automatic function of my life, the way I met the world. Sans my work, I’d fade from the living world.

My body, only nineteen years in age, had hosted battle to a rare species of lymphoma—a rare, composite cell type that always proved fatal. They’d burned me to ash with toxic chemicals, with daily lashings of radiation. Through some miracle or mistake in god’s abacus, I survived, becoming the first, but I’d never asked myself whether I wanted to live.

Now it was done. The true trial in my life began the day the cancer went into remission five months before.

I had used magick in my battle with cancer, my work with shape changing, animal transformation like one of my ancient mentors, Taliesin. Fighting the cancer, I envisioned myself a fox, tricking and leading the tumor away, which I perceived as hounds. We are gentle spirits, foxes. It became a game. This was part of my path to becoming a bard.

My body felt battered that late afternoon, worn after an event at Penn’s Manor, the museum where I worked—an eighteenth century, colonial manor estate in Pennsylvania, complete with manor house, bake and brew building, servant’s cottage, a farm with animals, and gardens. On June twenty-first each year, minstrels played, volunteers mingled in period dress, blacksmiths hammered and cooks baked and boiled over the open hearth. Families came to travel backwards in time to a gentler era. Escaping to the kinder past was why I had come there months ago.

The twenty-first of June was also a sacred day in the Celtic-pagan calendar: The Solstice, the beginning of the summer season, a day of life afire, fire reaching to me, waiting to touch, to ignite. I still felt inchoate, not finished, part of me here and part of me in the other world. Shamans face death as part of their initiation, their education, emancipation. My uncle had told me this when I was a lad, my teacher, my bearded beloved uncle. I didn’t realize it would be so literal.

For a moment, I slipped back to that place where I always dwelled, the private patient waiting room at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Eighty pounds. No longer able to walk. My fair hair starting to grow in like peach fuzz, like soft nettles. My oncologist wanted to stick a tube down my throat, inflicting more pain, an agony already just to swallow. I declined. I made a choice. I let go, ready to die. The next weeks I spent in hospital, slipping away. I sensed a place of summer-always nearby, just beneath the layer of this world. Still my fox brought me back. I had work to do yet. I’m doing it now.

Then I was at the museum again. I resigned my pen and walked the shore of the Delaware River till the swards turned to ferns and the ferns to trees. Silver skinned sycamores and noble oaks stood sentry along the river wild. Here pulsed the ancient wood, preserved as the eyes of the Lenni Lenape tribe had seen it for centuries. The river had recently flooded, scattering knobby driftwood on the forest floor. Mocking birds lilted in triple call on the branches, and I rejoined, knowing their song from many mornings in their company.

I sensed something calling to me, leading me deeper into the ancient domain. I could sense it close—fear, rage, fighting till the end. Bards are sensitive to subtle rhythms. I followed its song deeper, through the sticker brambles. I caught my shirtsleeve on thorns, ripping my skin in dashes. I used the globe in my chest as compass.

A red-tailed hawk waited for death on the roots of a birch tree. Her healthy eye whipped, searching for cat or fox that would exploit her vulnerability. Crippled with broken wing and swollen head, blood dripping into her faded, crimson feathers, the old mother hawk understood her helplessness, but still she thrashed, reminding any who dare come near of the fury in her claws.

So close, I could sense her fury, the tornado in her heart. I could feel her rage, her need for life. She bellowed, allowing death not one extra second.

I knelt by her, and she lunged her head at me.

“You carry a message for me.”

Hawks carry messages between this world and the next. I felt certain she had come to guide me in my faded time. Animal, spirit guides play a vital role in my faith. I’m a bard, a type of Celtic shaman—a system using animism, spirits in the land, in the trees, in the rivers and the wind. An animal spirit walks with us on our path, shares its nature, aids us in our healing and our work with others. During my treatment for cancer, I performed visualization exercises, sending my fox to lure the cancer into the ferns, drawing the beast out, tricking it to the river where the current would take it out to sea, the poison drawn from my body.

“Don’t be afraid now. I’ll guard you, keep away predators.”

I felt my face dampen with tears. We were kin—both trapped between life and passing, inchoate of spirit, torn between both worlds.

“I’m going to get Charlie,” I told her. “He’ll know what to do—Charlie the Goat.”

I feared leaving the beast, but there was nothing else I could do.

Charlie worked by the manor house, cleaning up the front gardens. I told him about the hawk, and he plucked on his oak-moss beard. He fetched a burlap sack from his shed, and I took him to the old mother hawk.

We were careful of her talons as we swept her up into the sack. We secured her, and I held her to my chest, feeling her light body tremble. I sat in the back office of the visitor center, while Charlie made some phone calls, cradling her in my lap. I moved my arm to reach for a cup of tea, and she curled up, driving her talons through the burlap where my arm had just been. She would have pierced my flesh straight through.

Charlie found a non-profit clinic for wounded, wild animals in Newtown—the Ark—an hour’s drive from Morrisville. Charlie didn’t have a car, and I searched for a volunteer, since I wasn’t allowed to drive. The museum staff looked forward to heading home after such an arduous day and didn’t care to drive me. Finally Mary, my friend and mentor at the museum, volunteered.

I’d always been a little in love with Mary—her professional aspect, yet so gentle. She’d taken me under her wing, treated me like a brother. She didn’t own a television and spent her Sundays birding. I always thought she was a bit lonely.

We got into her white Volvo—the little car with zip. I cradled the hawk. We drove out of the site parking lot, beneath muddy skies smothering the sun. The mother hawk became still, taciturn. I feared she wouldn’t survive, we wouldn’t. Only an hour had we been connected, but I could feel a tether between our two lives. Mary also knew. She’d lost her sister to cancer and her mentor, Alice, the site director. She could see the need in my eyes, how much I needed the hawk to live. I’ll love her forever for that day.

I could feel the sturdy clockwork of the hawk’s heart, a minute mechanism like a windup soldier, such a tiny locket to hold the wild, wind spirit. Her heart had been her mother’s heart and the heart of all mothers before, inherited, their spirit shared—something humans had lost—and now this was her first lesson to me.

I’d died once in the hospital and was resuscitated, my body burned away and made new, my raw spirit cleared of fatty fear; and now my spirit surged just beneath my skin. I felt my heart beating in choir to the hawk’s.

Driving over the Tullytown Bridge, the sky’s back snapped, and a river burst onto the Volvo. The sky howled in thunder, igniting the premature dusk with flashbulb whips. Mary wrestled with the steering wheel to keep the car steady against the stampeding buffalo wind.

The storm thrashed at us for most of the trip till its energy waned as we drove into Newtown. Mary flipped on the radio. I knew the song well.

I sang along:

“It’s still the same old story,”

“A fight for love and glory,”

“A case of do or die.”

She shook her head as I exaggerated the song, posing like a lounge lizard.

“The world will always welcome lovers,

“As time goes by.”

Afraid I might continue my act, she flipped off the radio.

“One of my favorite films,” I said. “In all the gin joints in all the world—”

She shrugged.

“Can I tell you something I’ve never told anyone before?” she asked.

“Everyone does.”

“Casablanca never did anything for me,” she confessed.


We arrived at the Ark. Volunteers took the hawk back and tended to her. I knew she would live. We both would live. A few minutes later, she would have bled to death or been the meal of a lucky cat. I could still feel her cradled in my arms, pressed on my chest, sharing my heart. The old mother hawk raged for every second. Something of the hawk’s spirit went into me, reminding me of my need for life, waking my soul from a coma buried deep in a glacier.

I knew I would dream of her. She would join my fox as a guide for my journey. She drove her dagger talons into me, awakening me with the pain. Life suffered. Life ached. This made it real.

I added her Gaelic name to mine. Seabhac.

I hugged Mary outside, dried my eyes on her cardigan sweater.

“Let’s go home,” I said. “This will make a good story.”

T. Fox Dunham lives outside of Philadelphia, PA. He is a cancer survivor, a historian, and an author published in many international magazines and anthologies, some under the name of T. Joseph Dunham. He is currently finishing his first novel, The Adam & Eve Experiment and writing for Beam Me Up Podcasts. He follows the path of a modern bard. His friends all call him Fox, being his totem animal, and his motto is: deconstructing civilization one story at a time.

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Being The Change

By Raven Kaldera

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

-Mahatma Gandhi

In the morning, I wake up between my two partners.

I’m polyamorous and pansexual, and I sleep every night between my wife of 16 years and my boyfriend of 8 years. Both of them came into my life after I asked the Gods to provide me with the right partner – not once, but twice. They were given to me, complete with invisible tags saying: “Arranged relationship package from Divine HR, by request – please take delivery!” How do I know what that tag looks like? Easy. It’s a Vesta-Juno conjunction on the ascendant of our composite astrological charts – hers and mine, his and mine. Both times. The odds of that happening twice in a row are … astronomical. But when you’re dealing straight up with Gods, all the odds go to Hel. Literally, in my case.

Of course, it also means that I can’t ever get divorced, should I want to. It’s been made clear to me that to do so would be an insult to Divine HR (also known as The Love Goddesses), and They would punish me accordingly. I’ve seen what they can do. I know better. I also know I’d never get anything better after that, either. This gives me incentive to make my relationships work, with communication and consideration and being a mature adult instead of a jealous child. I’m not perfect, and sometimes I make mistakes, but I try to love through and around and beyond all the social garbage that we’re told about long-term committed relationships. I try to love as if I’d grown up in a world where those didn’t exist. And this, too, is an act of magic to change the world.

My wife usually gets up before me and goes out to do the morning chores. She feeds the sheep and goats, the chickens and ducks and geese and rabbits, and if it’s winter she starts the big old Victorian wood cookstove that heats our food and our house. We found our stove at a yard sale when we’d first bought our little 18-acre homestead, more than a dozen years ago, and named her Esmeralda. She is the guardian spirit of the kitchen in our admittedly animistic eyes. She costs us nothing but labor. It’s said that woodstoves warm you three times: once when you cut the wood and drag it home, once when you split it, and once when you burn it. We’re working toward energy self-sufficiency, but it’s a long, slow, expensive haul. In the meantime, when the power goes out during our fierce New England blizzards, at least we have hot water and hot food. We log our little piece of the forest in sustainable ways that do not offend the forest spirits. When we say that, we mean it; it isn’t an affectation or a metaphor.

We get our meat and eggs from our farm, and much of our dairy when the goats are in milk. It’s my job to milk them, a meditative job that I’ve come to enjoy.

Hearing the squirt of milk rattle in the pan somehow connects me to centuries of ancestors who heard that same thing on their daily quest for nourishment. When I do the nighttime milking and come outside to a full or near-full moon, I make sure to catch the moon’s reflection in the bowl of milk. It’s good mojo for my nourishment. No, it’s not superstition, it’s all part of the great spell of my survival.

I belong to Hela, the Death Goddess of the Northern Tradition, but I also honor many other gods, some from other pantheons. The patron of our farm is the Norse corn god Frey, the Sacrificial King. We sacrifice to Frey by holding ourselves strictly to organic farming, even though it’s sometimes more work and we do lose crops occasionally. Food is sacred, says Frey, and should be produced and eaten with respect due to the sacred substances that keep you alive. This includes both plants and animals – it was Frey who first explained to me that raising plants that are genetically modified to be soaked in chemical pesticides and still survive, and then extracting their fruits and heating them to such a degree that they develop trans fatty acids, is just as disrespectful to the plant spirit as keeping a chicken in a confined, disease-ridden cage is to the chicken spirit.

I wouldn’t suggest homesteading, getting back to the land, to anyone unless they really loved it. This is not the kind of lifestyle that you take on quickly or thoughtlessly. The physical work alone can eat you, unless you see it as an earth-centered meditation, an act of mindful worship. If one can rake patterns in a Zen garden, one can hoe potatoes with the same mindfulness. Pulling weeds becomes a magical act of cleansing, removing stressful or obsessive thoughts and feelings from one’s mind. There’s an African Ashanti word – fofoo – that literally refers to a kudzu-like weed that must be entirely obliterated from a garden or it will take over and choke the melons and millet. It is also used metaphorically in that language to mean the sort of negativity that will take over your whole life if you let it. Every time I kneel in the garden, it’s a chance to remove fofoo from my head … and other places as well. Every time I lay another bed fertilized with nothing that came from a chemical factory, I remember that I am modeling this for others in some small way. See, it can be done, and done well. And this, too, is an act of magic to change the world.

The vegetable garden is also my job, as is the herb garden that has entirely taken over our front yard. Since my childhood, I’ve talked to plants. I didn’t have any wise old family members who held old herbal knowledge and taught it to me, as so many famous herbalists have recounted. I did have a grandmother who was into gardening, but she tended towards pansies and pachysandra. My family were middle-class American suburbanites who saw everything in terms of the latest scientific theories, and would have found my practice of talking to plants fanciful at best and ridiculous at worst. Gardening was all right – for a few years my father grew some vegetables in the back yard, and my mother put in a few small trees and some chrysanthemums – but plants weren’t medicine, and they certainly weren’t people that you could talk to.

I knew better. I was one of the outcast children at school, poorly coordinated and oddly behaving, picked last for gym teams and exiled to far left field for many phys-ed classes. Sometimes an hour would go by without a ball coming my way (not that I could have caught it, anyway), or anyone noticing that I was sitting down in the tall grasses at the edge of the recess field, touching weeds. Sometimes I would pick leaves and fold them, pull them apart. Sometimes I just stroked them like a pet. (I wasn’t allowed pets at home due to the allergies of other family members.) Sometimes the plant would communicate with me, not exactly in words, but I could tell that its consciousness had responded to me. A clump of plantain read about like a mouse to me in terms of consciousness sophistication, although one was mobile and one sessile. Like one might talk to a mouse in a box, I would talk to it, and it would respond in some small way that did not include physical movement. I’d long ago learned that I could see the glow of life force in a living thing, and I could see it in plants just as strong as animals. As I petted it, it glowed brighter. That plantain was just as alive as an animal, although it wasn’t very bright.

But there was something else present that was. Sometimes when I talked to plants – on the recess grounds, in the back yard, at my grandmother’s house – I sensed a larger presence looming behind the plant like a parent standing over me and watching my interaction with their child. Whenever I sensed this sort of presence, my heart would pound and the hair would stand up on my neck, and I would be careful not to pull off any leaves while they were there. I convinced myself that I couldn’t see them, largely because I didn’t want to look. Besides, I sensed that whatever it was, was very old, and as a child I felt that I oughtn’t to associate with my elders. The little clump of plantain was just about my speed.

As an adult, I ended up in the city and all my dealings with plants ceased for years, caught up in a cycle of poverty, single parenting, chronic illness, and general scrambling for a living in the concrete jungle. However, somewhere along the line a friend drove me some hours away into the country, and we visited a herbfarm. I was captivated, wandering around in a daze. The herbs seemed so much more alive, somehow, than the over-fertilized tame hybrid vegetables or plastic-colored bedding flowers or scraggly weeds that I’d known in my youth. (I had no idea, at that time, how isolated I was from nature, how isolated most modern people are.) They called out to me with those voices that were not voices, and I ended up frantically buying a dozen of them to bring home and keep in pots. The herbs weren’t timid; it was as if they sauntered up and demanded my attention. From that day on, I would never again live without live herbs in or around my house.

I read everything that I could find about them, ransacking the public library for books. As I read, something echoed in me again and again: I’d done this before. Not the reading, but the growing of them, the talking to them, the harvesting and preparation and … dosing? Yes, giving them to people who were ill. I’d known what to do then, although I got the feeling that while some of the information I got out of those rather general library herbals was common knowledge I’d had before, some of it wasn’t. I’d known things that weren’t written there, scraped up through trial and error and the advice of those who had taught me. I also noticed that while there were many herbs who would call out to me, there were many more who wouldn’t. It was the European herbs that drew me in with those memories, and specifically ones from northern latitudes, or that had been naturalized there. I also felt that from some of the local North American plants in the ecosystems where I lived, but those seemed to be less about “I remember you – don’t you remember me?” and more about “Hey, I saw you when you were a kid, talking to that plantain. Want to talk to me?”

I learned, now that I was older and wiser and no longer afraid to look large spirits in the eye (in fact coming to terms with the fact that I could see human ghosts helped me face the spirits of nature), that the Presences looming over me were the overriding spirit of that sort of plant. Devas, some New Age folk called them. I called them Grandmother Mugwort and Grandfather Plantain, Mother Dill and Father Comfrey, Master Fennel and Mistress Hyssop. They sometimes looked human in my mind’s eye, but I never assumed that this was anything more than the way that my mind interpreted their energy. Some didn’t look human at all. Some were simply undelineated Beings. Some seemed to like me, some were indifferent or even hostile. Some helped me, offering advice. I found that when the Grandparent spirit was standing over them, the little plant spirit didn’t mind giving up its leaves, and even the sacrifice of its entire being was not accompanied by negative feelings. The Grandparent spirit simply gathered it in, and I took its body to make medicine with.

For medicine they were. I was poor, and had no health insurance, and was chronically ill. Taking herbs saved me from wasting my meager money on doctors often enough to make it definitely worth my while. It was quite satisfying, too – I was getting one over on the Man. Every time I fought off a cold with garlic and elderberry, I was robbing a pharmaceutical company, a doctor’s office, and the entire medical industry. I was walking in the ways of my ancestors, some of whom might have once been me.

I have lupus, and by the time I was diagnosed I was already allergic or resistant to all the front-line medications prescribed for it. Go home and wait until your organs start failing, I was told, then check into the hospital and we’ll give you chemo drugs. I can do better than that, I thought. With acupuncture, massage, live food, staying away from as many chemicals as possible, avoiding allergens, and depending liberally on the aid of my friends the greenwights, I am still very much alive when by all predictions I shouldn’t be. And this, too, is an act of magic to change the world.

The story of how I became a shaman, how the Northern gods and wights came for me, killed me, brought me back, and trained me in the other parts of my job is a path that runs parallel to my dealings with the plants … or Greenwights, as I began to call them after the cultural context of my practice congealed around me. When most people think of shamans and spirits, they think of animal spirits – the shaman’s allies are Wolf, or Bear, or Eagle. (You’ll also notice that the popular stories all have large impressive animals; you rarely hear of famous shamans using Rat or Sparrow.) While I did eventually get introduced to a handful of animals, it was always plants first for me. Instead of Wolf, I got Agrimony. Instead of Bear, I got Burdock. The stories also tended to refer to the shamans as only having one or two allies; instead, I was expected to make some kind of alliance, however tentative, with every sort of plant that would talk to me.

Two plants in particular dogged my footsteps, and I began to refer to them as my watch-wights. Before I had learned that term, I just made sure to look for one or the other of both whenever I found a new apartment, even in the city. If I saw one or the other, it was a sign that this place would be important or useful to me. One was Belladonna, the other Elder. They were the first Grandmother spirits that I ever faced. Lady Belladonna was dark and sleek, languid and sardonic, sorceress and Black Queen, sharp and dangerous as a stiletto, the Mata Hari of the plant world. Even though she told me that she had been set to guard me by my patron goddess Hela, I have always been careful to treat her with respect and never turn my back on her. Dame Ellhorn, on the other hand, was a dignified grandmother, a wisewoman of noble blood who expected me to treat her with courtly manners. At first I thought that she had been set to guard me as well, but she told me that she had merely seen me once as a child and had taken a liking to me, which suggests that all my talking to weeds paid off.

One was Gerda, the wife of Frey the god of agriculture, the Sacred Corn King. My wife is descended from Frey’s festival-got children – her mother’s maiden name was Ingerson – and we both called on his blessing when we began our small farm and the first vegetable beds went in, the first goats and sheep and chickens found their pens. It would be later that I met his wife. Gerda is a giantess-goddess, quiet and dark and heavy where Frey is golden and bright and laughing. Her name means “guard”, and she came to me as the Lady of the Walled Garden. Frey oversaw our farm, but the herbs were Gerda’s place. Indeed, as the garden grew, she claimed more and more of it until the whole area within the stone walls and fences became her sacred place. She would come to me while I was weeding or digging – conveniently already on my knees before her – and talk to me about the herbs, telling me their stories. (They weren’t stories I’d ever read, and I don’t know if they have ever been written down. The shamanic tradition of my ancestors was lost while they still had an oral culture.)

Gerda introduced me to plant spirits that I didn’t yet know. Some who had previously been indifferent to me stood up and took notice when I followed in the wake of her quiet dark-cloaked figure. She specifically introduced me to certain types of greenwights – the Wisewomen like Mugwort and Yarrow, the Magicians like Fennel and Speedwell – who knew the gossip about other greenwights, and who ought to be used for what, and might be willing to teach. To this day, when I meet other herbalists, they invariably ask me who I’ve studied with. I know that this is their way of determining my credentials and methodology, but I always have to be honest and say, “The plants taught me.” Some raise their eyebrows, smile fixedly, and move away. Some smile more deeply, and nod; there’s really nothing else to day about it.

Has there been a price for my involvement with the greenwights? Of course there is. In all worlds, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Some greenwights (like the Ancestral Fathers and Mothers) are bound to us as a species and are obligated to help us. Others simply like humanity and have a close relationship with it, or are healers of such power that they are spiritually obligated to heal when asked under the right circumstances. Still others are indifferent to humans and must be convinced to aid us. The greenwights have demanded that I be more aware of what I eat, especially plant matter; they would prefer it if I only consumed organic food, a deal that I can’t fully consummate yet but I am sincerely working toward. Genetically modified food is out of the question, and overly processed food is also an abomination to them. I have had to be mindful of what I harvest in the wild and how; what I feed to my livestock; what I throw out and where it goes. A picnic at a park may become waylaid by a greenwight who wants to talk to me, right now in the middle of the sandwiches.

Another strange taboo they’ve laid on me, which will probably upset a good number of people, is that I cannot be a vegetarian for reasons of principle. If I required that sort of diet for health reasons, that would be one thing, but my body likes meat protein and does well on it. To the greenwights, saying that it is wrong to kill animals but right to kill plants would be privileging animals over plants, and a plant shaman can’t do that. The carrot has as much reason to live as the cow, and is as necessary and worthy of respect when sacrificed so that we may live. Ironically, my involvement with plants has therefore also led me back around to supporting organic and cruelty-free livestock farming. (If you don’t think that the two are related, go have a talk with Master Clover, or better yet, Frey.) And this, too, is an act of magic to change the world.

And yet … with all this natural living, I never forget that my body is a product of modern technology. I’m an intersexual, born with an endocrine system poised between male and female that exploded into a double puberty at age 13. I was raised female and transitioned hormonally to male; I pass as male on the street, but between my legs and between my ears I am both male and female and always will be. I didn’t understand why this was important to my future until I bled to death, quite literally, and Hela took me apart in an almost-hallucinogenic vision while I laying dying, and reconstructed me again … differently. I can do things now that I couldn’t do before, but none of those things are mine to use outside of the job that She has set me.

One of her most difficult orders was getting sex reassignment. I took testosterone, made by a large pharmaceutical company, and I will take it forever for the rest of my life. I don’t like large pharmaceutical companies. To someone with my politics, they are a nightmare, and yet I’m bound to this path now. To pay for what I have to do, I made this vow with my first injection: I will take this corrupt, poisoned substance into me, tainted with all the ill work that its makers have spread, and I will transform its substance. Like snake venom, it will be turned by my flesh and spirit. It will be used to fortify a life that will work to slowly prevent that ill work. Let this medicine be a tool against the source of its own taint, and thus be cleansed.

And this, too, is an act of magic to change the world.

After transition, I found myself passing fully as male … and I was told that I must wear skirts whenever I could safely get away with it, as a sign that I was still one of the Sacred Thirds. I am not allowed to choose one of the two ends of the gender continuum and stay there; I must claim the middle ground as my own. I can never fully be a part of woman’s or men’s space; I am the living anchor for the alternative – a space where all genders are welcome, but the Thirds know best. You don’t have to be like us to be here, but you do have to like us – and you do have to give up, however temporarily, the uniform and values of your precious War.

I see the Gender Wars between men and women more clearly from this outsider perspective. In the Dineh myth of Turquoise Boy and White Shell Girl, the ancient quarrel between the sexes once grew so bad that they stopped speaking altogether, and only the two protagonists – both nadle people, the in-between sacred transgendered folk – could talk to both sides. As they were the only ones who ever came down to the river that divided the two camps, they were the only ones who realized that its waters were rising, and that everyone had to be herded into the same boat in order to survive the flood and save the human race. They took the task on themselves, and thus saved the People. This is part of what we were born for, we who are destined to walk in both pairs of shoes. We are the sacred mediators, whether we like it or not. This is our job – to save humanity in spite of all the efforts of the men and women that make up most of it.

My skirts symbolize my nature as two-spirited, and they also hide the very real bodily fact of my nature. It’s not a theory or an archetype to me. What’s between my legs is some of both, and it will stay that way. My Goddess has forbidden me to surgically change my genitals to something wholly male-looking; even though the rest of me has been shapeshifted, that needs to stay Third. Even while I belong to neither side, I embody both in some way.

In a very real way, my sex reassignment – from almost-female to almost-male – is my truest embodiment of the Gandhi quote at the beginning of this essay. I live as both, and I love as both – not figuratively, but quite literally. My partner Bella is a male-to-female transsexual – are we heterosexual, or the same sex because we are both Third? Who is the man and who the woman? My partner Joshua is female-to-male – we’re definitely same-sex, but in whose camp? I lie between them every night; what does that make me – besides very happy? Our love bypasses all of those boxes and labels. We don’t try to claim them so much as we show how incomplete they are, how irrelevant they are to our experience. You can only describe a rainbow with the colors of yellow, blue, and green if you are color-blind. We’re a whole different part of the spectrum. We are sacred, we tell people. Our path is sacred. Just watch what it does to the minds of those who observe it! That’s how you can tell that something is sacred, you know. It’s one of the reasons why sacredness is so often shut up into small boxes … for the safety of the people who might be changed by it.

In our house, there are no sexist assumptions. No one is allowed to do something or refuse to do something on the basis of what’s between their legs, or on their chest, or what they were taught that they could do or not do while growing up. We’d point and laugh at the very idea, and going into environments where this sort of thing is unquestioned – in any direction – often boggles us. We’re used to living in space entirely unbothered by gender-programming … but somehow, the price that we paid to get that space horrifies “normal” men and women so much that they don’t even want to hear our stories of what it’s really like to live this way. Still, we tell those stories, and we model this world, and we will continue to do so until we’re dead. And this, too, is a great and terrible act of magic to change the world.

Then there’s the other battle, the dark battle. Once I won my sexuality back from gender dysphoria, I realized that it didn’t look like most other people’s sexual desires. I like the exchange of pain, of intensity. I like to be in control of other people, to run the show completely. I like terrifying my partners. Obviously, these urges could have been very bad had I allowed them to run wild, but I didn’t. All sexuality is sacred, Pagans say … and does mine count in that category? Of course it does. There was the initial step of learning about BDSM, learning how to be safe, how to become a one-man adult haunted house that my lovers could use to go down into their personal Underworlds and rise again better for the experience, but soon this, too, became subsumed into my job. I became an Ordeal Master, designing rituals of passage for those who came to my door and requested them. The potential danger was, once again, harnessed into an act of redemption, potential poison used to heal.

I take people down into their own darknesses, and scour them clean. I show them that authority does not have to mean corruption, that pain does not have to mean wounding, that power-over does not have to mean abuse, so long as it is entered into with consent, mindfulness, and awareness of the sacred. It is a position simultaneously of great arrogance and great humility, a place of power roped into service to provide a place for … service. And transformation, and purification, and honor.

For this work, I needed a deity who could understand – and embody – the place where my sexuality comes from. That force walked into my life on clanking hooves, and his name was Baphomet. I get the feeling from reading various accounts that the side of Baphomet that I experience is very different from the Baphomet experienced by ceremonial magicians and chaos-magic types. He swaggered into my life, a hairy, half-goat hermaphrodite whose job is ferreting out one’s ignored internal rot and rubbing one’s face in it. He embodies a sexuality that is dark and intense, even sadistic, but that is always dedicated to helping people attain a stronger knowledge of their selves, including the deepest, darkest parts. And, of course, he embodies this in a form that is both male and female … and highly sexual. Many androgynous deities are safely sexless; Baphomet is the opposite of both those words.

He is also ruthless about making sure that I face my own darknesses in a useful way. It is said that anyone who would play Shiva the Destroyer must have a Kali to throw him down and tear his guts out, and while Hela performs that role for me in the rest of my life, when it comes to my sexuality – the part of me that has the greatest risk of becoming dangerous to others – Baphomet does the Kali role with implacable beauty – mentor, dominant, teacher of humility and arrogance, Rex Mundi. King of the World, this world, the world of flesh and blood and humus, of rot and growth and the eternal cycle of life. He is Lord of Perversions, taking that which others reject as monstrous and turning it into a tool of healing. I am one of those tools. And this, too, is an act of magic to change the world.

The beauty of all this is that I didn’t choose to do any of it to change the world. I chose every piece for other reasons, or the Gods chose it for me and forced me to comply. Changing the world is simply a wonderful side effect, and I think that this is the most effective change of all. There is nothing that cannot be used as a field of redemption, for yourself or for the world. There is no end to the Work of the Repair of the World, and this is a good thing … for it is in this Work that we repair ourselves, and through our own repair that we do the Work. Macrocosm to microcosm. As above, so below … as long as you do it mindfully and with intent.

My friend Fuensanta writes poignantly about walking along Monterey Beach and picking up litter, and willing each act of stooping and removing filth to be not only a physical undoing, but a spiritual undoing of the ignorance and selfishness that created it. She likens it to undoing the stitches made with a needle: magically, it’s not enough to clip the threads and pull them out. You must work the needle backwards through each hole that it came through, and this makes your work reverberate throughout the worlds. It’s simple. You just live everything you believe, wholly and unreservedly, and most of all consciously, making everything that you do a spell of change. As I pull these weeds, I pull my own fears and hatreds, my own internal obstacles. As I pull these weeds, I pull the fears and hatreds of the human species whose world and genome I inhabit. As I change this hospice bedpan, I cleanse my own fears about my eventual aging and dying, my inevitable helplessness. As I change this hospice bedpan, I cleanse the social fears about aging and dying that imprison people away from the world where they do not have to be seen by the ones with the fears. Be the change and make the change. You’ll be surprised by how powerful you are.

That also means that there’s plenty of work to go around. So enough with the posturing, the whining, the bogging down in irrelevant things! Get out there – or in there – and get your hands dirty. Shaman says it’ll be worth it. Promise.

Raven Kaldera is a Northern-Tradition Pagan shaman, herbalist, astrologer, transgendered intersexual activist, homesteader, and founding member of the First Kingdom Church of Asphodel. He is the author of too many books to list here, including the Northern-Tradition Shamanism series, Drawing Down the Spirits (with Kenaz Filan), Northern Tradition for the Solitary Practitioner (with Galina Krasskova), Pagan Astrology, and Hermaphrodeities: The Transgender Spirituality Workbook. >Tis an ill wind that blows no minds.

Being The Change has previously appeared in the short-run anthology ‘XVI’.

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Three Sculptures: Inspiration And Creation

By Ama Menec

The Dreaming sculpture came about as a result of me having messed up an appointment and so having 3 hours to kill and nothing else to do. I spent the time making a small hand sized sculpture trying to fit a female figure into a spiral. The result was a maquette for ‘Dreaming’! The sculpture herself took 3 months!

The Hare In The Lane, was the result of an encounter I had with a Hare in the lane on my way home, at midnight, (of course!) after working late at my studio. She was just sat in the road, and unwilling to move, and given the high ‘Cornish Hedges’ we have here, couldn’t get out of the road. I followed her slowly for nearly a mile, in a slow stop start kind of way, and was struck by the jinxing way of running hares do. I grew up in East Anglia, and saw Hares regularly, but this was the first Hare I’d seen in 10 years of living in Devon, and I had completely forgotten the way they ran. She kept stopping and looking back at me, measuring the distance. All the time I kept thinking I should be ‘getting’ something from this, there was something so profound about the way the Hare zig-zagged. Later I discovered the running of Hares has been used as a form of divination, and that Boudicca divined using the running of Hares before her last battle with the Romans.

The Wolf and Raven sculpture came about as a result of reading that humans couldn’t have domesticated the dog if it weren’t for the Raven…. Wolves and Ravens have a cross species symbiotic hunting relationship, Ravens can spot a kill miles away and can lead Wolves to the carcass. Ravens also have a wide vocal range, and can make themselves understood to the Wolf. By leading a wolf to a large kill, the Raven gets a dinner, as the wolf is better equipped to open up a large animal. If the Wolf and Raven hadn’t already crossed the species boundary, humans wouldn’t have been unable to do the same. Imagine how human evolution would have been without the dog? I love this; it puts us in our place as a species, we’re not as smart as we think we are!

The shape of the Wolf and Raven wall sculpture came to me in a dream. The only time this has happened, and I listened to wolf song on CD while sculpting it!

These sculptures and more are available to buy at As part of World Animal Day, Ama Menec will be exhibiting sculptures on the 2nd October at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust near Reading.

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The Sacred Clay

By Rebecca L. Brown

I press my palms together. The clay seeps between my fingers, staining the backs of my hands a dark, wet red.

It sucks at my fingers as I peel them away, leaving behind a landscape created by the contours and the lines of my hands. The grooves where they sank into the yielding core become valleys, the peaks mountains. I imagine myself surrounded by those mountains, kneeling to take a pinch of clay to shape between my hands, feeling it seep between my fingers.

I press with the heels of my hands, crushing that landscape into a flat and featureless desert.

The clay shifts beneath my fingers, flexible and changing. I rolled a rock between my hands once, a fixed and unchanging crag of a landscape balanced between a thumb and two fingers. It’s slopes were timeless and yet barren, an ancient and stable emptiness, stark contrast to the fertile promise of cool, damp clay I am pressing flat beneath my sticky hands. It’s ability to transform matches the shifts of my thoughts, an expression of my will limited only by my skill (or lack of it).

With one fingernail I form a word, marking it into the clay: met. Another stroke, another line and met becomes emet. I my hand across the surface, smoothing away those words until they might never have existed.

I am more sure now, my hands moving with a purpose they had lacked before. Now, I become an echo, my hands a dim reflection of Ninmah’s as she created man from the primordial clay. Two shoulders, two arms tapering down into hands which press together as if in prayer.

The clay is warmer now, more rigid where the heat of my hands and the sun have touched it. Soon I will cast my creation into the fire where it will harden or else crack and be ruined.

As I place the figure on the ground, I realise I have created myself.

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I Hear Your Cry

By Lynne Gibson

The bus was full of passengers going to work, into town to shop, and children going to school. It was full of chatter. Suddenly there was a bang and the bus screeched to a halt, throwing people around. They screamed.

‘Oh God, I’ve just hit him! He stepped out of nowhere, I couldn’t stop’ shouted the shocked driver.

He got out of his cabin and went to see what had happened to the old man that he had hit. He could see that the man was half stuck under the bus and called the emergency services, which arrived within minutes. The road was closed off and the passengers were ushered off the bus and treated for shock.

I got woken up by the sound of sirens blaring. Something bad must have had happened. I could hear that Mummy had the radio on in the kitchen so I went down to her and asked her if she knew what had happened. She just said that there had been an accident in the town.

‘You had better get dressed Gemma and have breakfast if we’re going shopping’ said Mummy.

‘Ok, can we go to the Newspaper shop first, please? I like going to see Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins. They always give me a chocolate bar if nobody else is in the shop.’

‘They spoil you, they have since the day you were born. They have known me since I was your age’ laughed Mummy.

It didn’t take me long to eat breakfast, wash, and clean my teeth. I put on my favorite dress and sandals because it was a sunny day. It didn’t take long for us to walk to the village shops and the Newspaper shop was empty, so that meant a chocolate bar for me, yummy.

‘Hello Mandy. Hello Gemma I suppose you have come for your comic, young lady, and seeing as there’s no one else here you can go and pick out your chocolate bar’ said Mrs. Jenkins, smiling at me.

‘You spoil her’ laughed Mummy.

‘Gemma, find me!’ Gemma heard coming from somewhere in the shop.

‘Where’s Mr. Jenkins, is he out the back?’ I asked, because I’d just heard him calling my name.

‘No, he’s nipped into town to get your birthday surprise for tomorrow.’ said Mrs. Jenkins.

‘Oh, that’s strange! It sounded just like he was out the back,’ said Gemma in surprise.

I knew that we had to go to Town now, because something was very wrong with Mr Jenkins. I don’t know how I knew, I just felt it.

‘Come on Mummy, we have to go, now!’ I said shaking her hand.

‘Ok, let’s go. I’ll see you tomorrow Mrs Jenkins. Bye now,’ she said taking me to the car.

It didn’t take long to get to town in Mummy’s car. We had to park just out side town in a little road because the high Street was closed off. I could see some ambulances, fire engines and police cars near to a bus. I suddenly felt frightened because I could see the bus stuck in the middle of the street and somebody was lying next to it on the ground. I grabbed hold of Mummy’s hand and she held it tight.

‘Does anyone know this man?’ asked a policeman.

Just then one of the ambulance men moved and we could see who it was.

‘Oh, no’ said Mummy. She started to cry.