<![CDATA[Coven of the Scales - Blog]]>Wed, 16 Sep 2020 05:04:02 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[LIFE STYLE]]>Wed, 16 Sep 2020 11:54:29 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/life-style3339876 Picture
 Publication date: 25th September

The (Inner-City) Path: A Gleaning of the Seasons was inspired by Chet Raymo’s book of similar title that chronicled his own daily urban walk to work and observing the seasonal changes with a scientist’s curiosity. As often happens, I began thinking ‘what if’ there was a complementary book written from a pagan perspective for when we take to our local urban paths as part of our daily fitness regime or dog walk. And, as if arising from this external creative impulse The Path began to unravel in the mind’s eye … based on several urban walks that have merged together over the years to make a chapbook of the seasons and to offer a glimpse into the pagan mind-set that can ‘find mystery under every leaf and rock along the way’, or caught in the murmur of running water, and to act as a simple guide to achieving a sense of well-being and awareness so that even in the city’s throng we feel the freshness of the streams as per Longfellow’s ‘Prelude’ …
 
Generally speaking, witches and pagans come in all shapes and sizes from baby-boomers to millennials and each one is a product of their own generation, complete with all its fads, quirks, foibles and urban myths. By and large, for an older witch, a sense of well-being and awareness focuses on a need for inner harmony and being at peace with what they’ve achieved thus far in life, while looking forward to whatever challenges the future throws at them. For the younger variety, their sense of well-being and awareness is often preaching the gospel via social media (in all its many forms and contradictions) that has frequently made them appear less tolerant, more judgemental, and possibly a tad too obsessed with bodily functions. We are all a product of our Age … all as different as Nature intended … even town and city dwellers may have unconscious pagan leanings.
 
Nevertheless, we also know that Mother Nature is neither nor motherly and when she wants to cut up rough – she will, without a thought for anything, or anyone. In the guise of ‘the goddess’ she is usually seen as spending her days caring for her many children who inhabit and shape the landscape – often portrayed in trailing garments composed of lush plants, colorful flowers, and sinuous woody shapes. In most depictions she is meditative, embodying the spirit of the mythological ‘mother’ in Nature. In reality, humankind and nature can be said to be in conflict, since Nature is often seen by humans as natural resources to be exploited; while Nature will wipe out hundreds of humans with a shrug of the shoulder.
 
Getting back to Nature requires stripping away the anthropomorphism that causes us to interpret non-human things in terms of human characteristics. Derived from the Greek anthropos (meaning ‘human’) and morphe (‘form’), the term was first used to refer to the attribution of human physical or mental features to deities. According to Britannica, by the mid-19th century it had acquired the second, broader meaning of a phenomenon occurring not only in religion but in all areas of human thought and action, including daily life, the arts, and even sciences. Anthropomorphism may occur consciously or unconsciously and most scholars since the time of the English philosopher Francis Bacon (1561–1626) have agreed that although the tendency to anthropomorphise hinders the understanding of the world, it is deep-seated and persistent. But is it so wrong to consider all living, growing things as sentient beings?

The Path we regularly take when out for a daily walk has its own welcoming ambiance and if we feel as though we’re being swamped with negative emotions, we know it can be helpful to walk them off. In fact, a recent British health study showed that simply walking in green spaces induces a gentle state of meditation. Most of us live in urban areas and spend far less time outside in green, natural spaces than people did several generations ago but even a lunchtime stroll in the park may soothe the mind and, in the process, change the workings of our brain in ways that improve our mental health. Whatever the weather, walking in Nature is not only good for our heart and fitness levels, but according to numerous studies it has measurable mental benefits and may also reduce the risk of depression. In addition to promoting mental health, nature group walks also ‘appear to mitigate the effects of stressful life events on perceived stress and negative affects while synergizing with physical activity to improve positive affects and mental wellbeing’, the researchers wrote in the Researchgate study abstract.
 
‘Wellness’ entered the pagan lexicon with the advent of Mind, Body & Spirit magazine publishing in the 1980s when it was generally used to mean ‘a state beyond the absence ofillness’ and aimed at promoting a sense of well-being. It quickly became an umbrella term for pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo and alternative health movements - becoming the defining spirit or mood of the 2000s as reflected by the ideas and beliefs of the time. All of which promoted journalist Hadley Freeman to write in the Guardian as early as 2015: ‘Pseudoscience and strawberries: ‘wellness’ gurus should carry a health warning’. It’s easy to mock wellness bloggers and their fattening apples, but their uneducated bletherings about food and health are, at best, irresponsible and, at heart, immoral. They’re right: what we eat is important, which is why it’s important that people with qualifications beyond an Instagram account educate us about it.
 
Nevertheless, a considerable amount of traditional witchcraft/ paganism revolves around natural folk-cures and herbal remedies, with much of it having been handed down by grandparents and elderly neighbours in rural communities. Foraging was part of growing up and knowing when and where in the country calendar certain delicacies could be found; and who, as a rural child experienced the bliss of gorging themselves on wild, woodland strawberries, has ever forgotten that exquisite taste? Or returning home with fingers and mouths stained purple from picking blackberries by the bushel as part of a school-dinners project?
 
‘Awareness’ is an even more recent innovation commonly used in reference to public knowledge or understanding of social or political issues. It is synonymous with public involvement and advocacy in support of certain causes or movements; or concern about and a well-informed interest in a particular situation or development. Awareness in the spiritual sense is harder to describe in intellectual terms but on a basic level it can refer to a mental state achieved by focusing our awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting
our feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations ... Awareness can mean different things and the first steps we can take on the pagan path is to become aware of the everyday world of Nature that surrounds us … even in the city’s throng …
 
Several decades ago, it was agreed that if it was to survive, witchcraft had to move with the times and although there was a romantic appeal in returning to the Old Ways, it was not always
practical. In the years since the repeal of the Witchcraft Act in 1951, the Craft has evolved in many separate ways and when something evolves, it changes, or develops over time and much can be lost in the process: like our taste in music and literature, which transforms as we get older, and generally changes from one generation to the next. And yet … some things never change.
 
American photographer Frances F. Denny attempted to explore the figure of the contemporary witch beyond the cultural chestnuts that have shrouded and obscured it for Elle magazine: The muddled stereotypes that surround witches nowadays are, in the end, not so very different from those used to define that perennial problem: woman. Her subjects are of diverse age, social class, and ethnicity, and practice a range of rituals, often drawing on ‘mysticism, engagement with the occult, politically oriented activism, polytheism, ritualized ‘spellwork’ and plant-based healing.

Denny asked the women she photographed for the series to wear an outfit or bring along an item that they felt would represent their practice and identity as witches, and as a result: ‘…some of the portraits do answer more readily to our expectations of what a witch might look like. They brandish mysterious implements - a crystal ball, a bow and arrow, a wooden staff; one woman reclines, entwined with a snake - and most are dressed in black. There was an immense theatricality…’

 
Nevertheless, the ‘witch’ has firmly entered the 21st-century zeitgeist as a figure akin to a synergetic composite of Burne-Jones in the terminal stages of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, Guinevere, of Arthurian romance, and Daenerys Stormborn from Game of Thrones – reflecting the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of the era. All of which appears to be an out-and-out attempt to make a statement and stand out from the crowd when our forebears would have done everything in their power to blend in with their neighbours! But it’s not always like that … since many traditional witches have learned the art of blending in.
 
Within esoteric circles the term ‘path’ is often used to refer to the spiritual journey that many of us take as part of our esoteric learning. In this book The Path is a series of gentle mental exercises to limber up the ‘spiritual vagabond’ part of our makeup before we embark on a much more challenging adventure as we metamorphose from embryonic pagan to fully-fledged witch. It helps if we get into a mind-set that plays a critical role in how we cope with life’s new challenges regardless of age or background and imbues us with a hunger for learning about the natural world around us. A pagan mindset is also about living up to our possible potential and who knows how far we can go if we set our mind to it - believing that the effort that goes into
learning and deepening our understanding is well worth all the toil and trouble as we chart our way through the seasons.
 
For example: most of us overlook a bountiful food supply, one that satisfies us personally and, in a very small way, may benefit us financially: the wild larder. We have become so out of touch with food that we no longer recognize wild ingredients as something we can utilize for sheer enjoyment. Foraging puts us back in touch with nature and introduces us to new tastes we can use creatively. Gathering wild leaves and fruits is not the sole preserve of the country dweller as even a touch of wild garlic can enhance urban cooking.
 
It now becomes obvious why ‘gleaning’ was chosen as part of the title for The (Inner-City) Path: A Gleaning of the Seasons because it means to collect information in small amounts and often with difficulty. The conditions of farm workers in the 1890s made gleaning essential because it was the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested, or on fields where it was not economically profitable to harvest. In other words, we are picking up bits and pieces of information to add to our meager store of knowledge in order to supplement our life-style and its modern links with the natural world. And A Simple Guide to Well-Being & Awareness … well, as Dryden wrote: ‘what herbs and Simples grow/ In fields and forests,/ all their powers I know’ when referring to using a single herb or plant in a medicinal way.
 
And it is at this point we step out onto The Path … and a return to a pagan sense of well-being and awareness … and a feeling of wonder in everyday life.
 
Pagan Portals: The (Inner-City) Path by Melusine Draco is published by Moon Books ISBN 978 1 78904 464 5 : 78-pages : UK£6.99/US$10.95.  Available in paperback and e-book format www.moon-books.net

]]>
<![CDATA[Autumn Equinox]]>Tue, 15 Sep 2020 09:10:48 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/autumn-equinoxPicture
We know Keats’ ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ has become a cliché but it is still the most evocative description of an English autumn and our favourite time of the year.

Not surprisingly, the Magister is ‘Master of Ceremonies’ for this fire festival of the Harvest Home and we immediately felt the need to say that it is important to stand well back from the rites and look at it in all its richest symbolism. Many students struggle without the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to these gods, although it is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology to ascribe human form or attributes to a deity.  During the dark time the goddess ‘sleeps’ or goes into hibernation like much of the flora and fauna in the natural world.  The god ‘keeps watch’ and the pair only interact again at the time when the bright and dark tides are equally balanced at the Vernal Equinoxes.
 
The Autumnal Equinox is also a time of transition.  It is the time of the harvest and plenty, when the work is finished and the last stook of corn has been cut and stored in the barn to be ploughed back into the ground in the spring.   So while it is a ritual of thanksgiving, it is also an important rite of passage - regeneration and renewal – the symbol of which is over-wintered in the barn or corner of the kitchen.  To trace our indigenous customs back as far as possible, we can turn to T F Thistleton Dyer’s Folk-lore of Shakespeare, which tells us that ‘the ceremonies which graced the in-gathering of the harvest in bygone times have gradually disappeared, and at the present day [1883] only remnants of the old usages which once prevailed are still preserved’.
 
‘Shakespeare, who chronicled so many of our old customs, and seems to have had a special delight in illustrating his writings with these characteristics of our social life, had given several interesting allusions to the observances which in his day graced the harvest field … an allusion to the ‘Hock Cart’ of the old harvest-home.  This was the cart which carried the last corn away from the harvest field; and which was generally profusely decorated and accompanied by music, old and young shouting at the top of their voices a doggerel after the following fashion:-
 
We have ploughed, we have sowed,
We have reaped, we have mowed,
We have brought home every load,
Hip, hip, hip! Harvest home.’
 
Of course, if the harvest failed there were propitiatory rites to be observed during the coming months, since the survival of the community was dependant on the harvest for its survival. With an exceptionally bad year – and some years were terrible – the harvest-home rhymes reflected this:
 
The bread aint done, the cheese aint come,
The Devil never knew such a harvest home.
 
This theme is echoed in the famous cult-film, The Wicker Man, where human sacrifice was deemed necessary after several consecutive years of a failing harvest. The folk-song John Barleycorn also reflects the belief in the dying or sacrificial god for the benefit of the community.  In good years, however, the chief feast of the year followed on the harvest with all the men, women and boys riding home on the last load, the horses’ harnesses gaily decorated with flowers, and horns being blown. Almost every village seems to have had its own version of the harvest-home rhyme:
 
Up! Up! Up! a merry harvest home,
We have sowed, we have mowed
We have carried our last load.
A good plum pudding and a good beef bone.
 
While a cauldron is the perfect container for a large ‘Harvest Home’ stew – we’d go for a crock-pot (or two) and cook it the day before as this does improve the taste. At the traditional supper, boiled beef and carrots was the staple fare, taken from the pot in the old way with a flesh-fork; the second course was the inevitable plum pudding, and both were washed down with draughts of specially brewed ale. At the end of the meal, the health of the master was sung.  In Robert Herrick’s poem, ‘The Hock Cart, or Harvest Home’ we have a contemporary view of the ingredients of a typical 17th century celebration:
 
Well, on, brave boys, to your lord's hearth,
Glitt'ring with fire, where, for your mirth,
Ye shall see first the large and chief
Foundation of your feast, fat beef :
With upper stories, mutton, veal
And bacon (which makes full the meal),
With sev'ral dishes standing by,
As here a custard, there a pie,
And here all-tempting frumenty.
And for to make the merry cheer,
If smirking wine be wanting here,
There's that which drowns all care, stout beer ;
Which freely drink to your lord's health,

 
Needless to say, these were always boozy, ribald affairs – and the relatively modern British tradition of celebrating the modern harvest festival in churches only began in 1843, when the Reverend Robert Hawker invited parishioners to a special thanksgiving service at his church in Morwenstow, CornwallPopular Victorian hymns such as We plough the fields and scatterCome, ye thankful people, come and All things bright and beautiful helped spread the annual custom of decorating churches with home-grown produce for the harvest festival service. On 8th September 1854 the Rev Dr William Beal, Rector of Brooke, Norfolk, held a Harvest Festival aimed at ending what he saw as disgraceful scenes at the end of harvest, and went on to promote the cleaned-up ‘harvest homes’ in other Norfolk villages!
 
In English folklore, John Barleycorn is a character who represents the crop of barley harvested each autumn. Equally as important, he symbolizes the wonderful drinks which can be made from barley - beer and whisky - and their effects. In the traditional folksong, the character of John Barleycorn endures all kinds of indignities, most of which correspond to the cyclic nature of planting, growing, harvesting, and then death.  It has all the symbolism of the dying god/sacrificial king that is at the heart of all witchcraft and ancient pagan tradition.
 
Versions of the folk-song John Barleycorn date back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, but there is evidence that it was sung for many years before that and, although most of us no longer work on the land, the power of this extraordinary and ancient song remains undiminished.  There appears to be some mystery as to who the three men were coming from the West (sunset - the place of death?) and the three men coming from the East (sunrise - the place of life?) and are possibly the personification of barley and its by-products of bread, beer and whisky.  The lyrics to the Robert Burns version are as follows:
 
There was three kings into the west [or east]
three kings both great and high,
and they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn must die.
They took a plough and plough’d him down,
put clods upon his head,
and they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead. 
But the cheerful Spring came kindly on’
and show’rs began to fall.
John Barleycorn got up again,
and sore surprised them all. 

 
Writer and storyteller, Austin Hackney, tells us that in the earliest Celtic writings and myths, the male heroes frequently set out in groups of three to undertake their sacred quests.  Similarly, in Celtic myth, ‘The West’ as we know was a euphemism for ‘Otherworld’ – the mystic isle across the western sea where wonders and magic were commonplace, where pleasure and immortality could be found in the dwelling place of the gods.
 
‘Thus it seems reasonable that these words of the song are a remnant, a memory, of an earlier myth surrounding the figure of John Barleycorn: three magical heroes coming from the mystic ‘otherworld’ to bring about his death.  In the body of anthropological and folkloric study that has been undertaken over the last hundred years or so there is a wealth of information and evidence to support the theory I propose here for the interpretation of this song – and for its roots in antiquity. From the common symbol of the Sacrificial King, the tomb/womb of death and rebirth and the residual folk customs (such as Corn Dollies and Soul Cakes) that are so redolent of the more terrible offerings of the pagan past, to the rites and rituals of modern pagan revival movements and interpretations in popular media (Stephen King’s Children of The Corn and the original Wicker Man for example).  But for me there is an argument a little less scientific, but personally no less compelling: the simple enduring power and emotional impact of the story and of the song. It has survived a long time and still makes the hair on the back of one’s neck stand on end. That speaks to me of ancient roots that stir deep memories in the psyche.’
 
In Northern Europe, it was Michaelmas that marked the end of the harvest and some covens may prefer to hold their Harvest Home on this day since it was an important date in the rural calendar. This was the time that farm folk calculated how many animals they could afford to feed over the winter and how many would have to be sold or slaughtered and salted down in order to preserve the meat. In addition to livestock fairs, rural folk attended hiring fairs which were especially important for farm laborers looking for winter employment after the harvest.  Old Michaelmas Day now falls on 11th October as a result of the shift from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. 


Michaelmas term [modern 29th September] is the first of the academic year in a number of English-speaking universities and schools, and was also one of the regular quarter-days for settling rents and accounts; often, since this was also the time of the ‘geese harvest’, and many a farmer paid off his accounts with a brace or more of plump birds from the flock hatched in the spring. Michaelmas also marked the end of the fishing season, the beginning of the hunting season, the traditional time to pick apples and the time to make cider.
 
Traditionally, on Michaelmas Day, families sat down to a roast goose dinner and it was the custom to hide a ring in the Michaelmas Pie; the person who found it would be married within the year. This was another old bit of folklore that leads us to believe it was a pie made with blackberries as part of the filling as it was once believed that on the feast of St. Michael, the devil spat on the blackberries (or worse!) and it was therefore very unwise to pick and eat the fruit after 29th September. According to legend, when St. Michael cast Satan from Heaven, the devil landed on earth in a patch of brambles and he returns every year to spit (or worse) on the plant that tortured him, breathing his foul breath over it and trampling it.  In reality, with the onset of heavy dews and the first frosts, mildew begins to cloud any late berries.  In medieval times in England it was a sign that the crop had been defiled and it was therefore deemed unwise to pick blackberries after Michaelmas Day.  So no more blackberry pies for this year!
 
We can see from the above that, once again there is a lot of hidden symbolism concealed behind the historical and folklore elements of the harvest season which remains undiminished as the holiest time of the witch’s year.  For those who view this from a purely urban standpoint and cannot understand the relevance as an integral part of  today’s witchcraft, we would say that if this doesn’t speak of ancient roots and stir memories deep within the psyche, then perhaps your feet would be more suited to a different path. Kindred calls to kindred, blood calls to blood.
 
Carrie West
Phillip Wright

 
Taken from our Old Craft grimoire, Round About the Cauldron Go …
 

]]>
<![CDATA[“Listen very carefully, I shall say zis only once”]]>Wed, 02 Sep 2020 11:17:28 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/listen-very-carefully-i-shall-say-zis-only-oncePicture
nlThat popular catchphrase of Michelle Dubois of the Resistance in the popular television series, Allo Allo usually heralded some dastardly plan of the Gestapo to undermine the war effort.  Been here before, hence the brevity of the text.
 
Once upon a time, a nasty politician decided to start a smear campaign against witches in the UK by publically branding everyone in the pagan community as ‘satanic’ and ‘evil’ It was, therefore, entirely without warning in the spring of 1988 that one of our best-loved occult emporiums became the political focus for a concerted and highly inflammable (no pun intended) campaign to destroy occultism at source.  The scare-mongers had prepared their infamous ‘dossier’ with the help of several quisling pagans, who had provided a valuable insight into the contemporary pagan scene, naming names, magazines, shops and organizations.  In reality, this dossier was no more than a potted listing of UK businesses, publications and individuals – but it was used by anti-occult campaigners as ‘evidence’ of the upsurge in witchcraft – which they considered to be the same as Satanism.
 
Public fears around Satanism, in particular, came to be known as a distinct phenomenon: the ‘Satanic Panic’. The American-inspired campaign lasted five years and successfully tricked not only the British public into believing that satanic ritualised child-abuse really existed, but quite a few uninformed pagans, too! It was quickly discovered that the dividing line between gullible fundamentalists and gullible pagans was extremely vague, and for the duration of the campaign it was also revealed that several self-righteous pagans had helped the anti-occult campaigners’ cause by supplying inaccurate background information and incorrect opinions. Thereby supporting the persecution and jeopardizing other pagans, whist safeguarding themselves from attack, on the grounds that they were ‘only trying to explain …’
 
Some even publicly dismissed Social Services’ dawn roundups of children as none of their concern, because the majority of cases did not affect anyone with genuine pagan involvement. Several pagan publications even stated that as far as they were aware, there had been no cases of pagan children being taken into care - or worse –  nor even any ‘unprovoked investigations’.  This was incorrect – there had been cases of pagan children being taken into care as the ever-growing case-files showed and several parents lost custody cases because of their pagan beliefs.  In fact, the authorities had successfully gagged parents by lawful process, which prevented any of them from contacting others for help and that was why no details surrounding the on-going cases were made public.
 
Thirty years later those schisms have never completely healed – and they never will. Because whether the pagan community like to admit it or not – there are now two distinct approaches to witchcraft.  One is the cleaned up, politically correct, socially acceptable form of neo-goddess worship with little, or no mention of the god, since his image is more difficult to render impotent. Unfortunately this is increasingly becoming the generalized public face of witchcraft because traditionalists who prefer not to sanitise their deities, have retreated back into the shadows through sheer exasperation at the trivialization of their beliefs.  The traditional approach to deity acknowledges the dual importance of both male and female elements which is essential to effective magical working.
 
There are few apologists among the ranks of the traditionalists, who appear less frequently on television and, more often than not, decline to give interviews for the national press decked out in flowing robes with garlands of flowers and pointy hats. Traditionalists often present a darker, less benign countenance – and it is towards this image of traditional Craft that vanilla-lite-pagans point the accusing finger of being practitioners of ‘dark magic’.
 
The publication of The Arte of Darkness was a timely endeavour since there are – one again - ominous undercurrents rumbling away that could spell an uncomfortable time for the pagan community in the not too distant future.  The most frightening aspect of history repeating itself, however, was the announcement in the Irish Times in January 2018 that ‘Irish people are being ravaged by demonic possession’, and that the Catholic Church was ‘out of touch with reality’ as they were sending sufferers of possession to psychologists instead of performing rituals! The Catholic News Agency in Rome also reported demonic possessions were on the rise in Italy, despite Vatican News claiming that many Christians no longer believe in [the devil’s] existence … and when the church is in a position of weakness it requires a scapegoat!
 
We should all be wary of journalists and politicians trying to rejuvenate flagging careers by attempting to create another ‘Satanic Panic’ because they don’t hesitate to use in the same breath those time-honoured buzz-words - wicca, witch, pagan, occult, et al. In the UK earlier this year, a satanic, racist, anarchist, neo-Nazi group founded in the UK in the 1970s and that now operates around the world, including in the US was (quite rightly, in my opinion) lambasted by a MP … but it has since been incorrectly and misleadingly ‘identified as exhibiting hermetic and modern pagan elements in its beliefs by academic researchers’.   Alarm bells begin ringing …
 
I am proud of my time served as an anti-Satanic Panic activist but I have no desire to do it again and why I say: “Listen very carefully, I shall say zis only once” because it’s happened twice before in living memory and it can happen again … and how many self-styled pagans will, once again, join the ranks of accusers? 

 
For the full story: The Arte of Darkness: Magic & Mystery From the Shadows – Melusine Draco ISBN: 9781788769198 : Paperback : Pages 262 : £8.95 published by Ignotus Books
 
To order: https://www.feedaread.com/books/The-Arte-of-Darkness-9781788769198.aspx
nce

]]>
<![CDATA[LIFESTYLE]]>Mon, 31 Aug 2020 10:07:45 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/lifestyle7111312Picture
LIFE-WRITES: Food For Thought
“From time immemorial, the human race has explored the world in search of food … Empires have done battle for food, civilizations have been built around it, crimes committed, laws made and knowledge exchanged …” Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat, A History of Food
 
I have an impressive collection of cookery books – some belonged to my mother and grandmother, others collected by myself over the years. There are regional and foreign cook books; several Mrs Beeton’s from the early and mid 1900s; an ancient copy of the French classic Larousse Gastronomique; farmhouse cookery and wild food from the hedgerows … not to mention a dozen of the basic how-to variety including a complete set of the collectable week-by-week magazine, Supercook, from the early 1970s.
 
For a long time now, cookery books have been regularly listed high on the bestseller lists. We have recipes from Victorian kitchens, cottage kitchens, summer picnics, afternoon teas, Christmas feasts, seasonal and regional suggestions, foreign food ... cooking for students and singles, catering on a budget ... in fact, you name it and there’s probably a cookery book in print to cater for it. Not to mention the ‘how to write about food’ guides. And you don’t have to have a cordon bleu diploma or be a ‘kitchen goddess’ to write about food or cookery. There is an extremely large and lucrative market place for the cookery writer and whether you are a blossoming master chef, or simply wanted to share the recipes from your great-grandmother’s handwritten note book, there are lots of opportunities for entering the world of food publishing in the form of books and articles.
 
The next time you visit any large bookshop, take a look at the number and variety of the cookery books on sale - and make a note of the publishers. Next consider the large number of women’s magazines that feature a cookery page and study the depth of detail that goes into each article. But it doesn’t stop at the women’s magazines … there is often a seasonal recipe included in Home Farmer, Farmer’s Weekly, or game recipes in The Shooting Times. Any of the field sporting magazines would probably be interested in a simple recipe showing what to do with ‘it’ once you’ve caught it! Then there are hundreds of different local recipes for the multitude of regional magazines …
 
Without going any further for the moment, we can see the tremendous amount of potential outlets in this field of writing, not to mention restaurant and book reviews. If you can realize the potential and see yourself fitting in to this area of creative writing, invest in a couple of how-to books on the subject and add them to your reference shelf.  Like Faust with his madeleines, food can be extremely evocative - as this extract from a nostalgic article from The Countryman shows:
 
The men have been out in the fields since dawn and will be looking forward to the supper spread out on the kitchen table. Although it’s school tomorrow, we have been allowed to stay up late to take part in the feast. No standing on ceremony here. The scrubbed boards provide the only backdrop for the huge ham waiting for carving, with its thick outer layer of white fat and breadcrumbs. It’s our father’s last job for the day and everyone is quickly served with a generous helping of the succulent, home-cooked meat. Bowls of crisp salad and juicy tomatoes straight from the garden, and buttered new potatoes lifted just that morning, sprinkled with parsley. Hard-boiled eggs from the hen house, and home-made pickles; fresh bread with rich butter and cheese complete the meal …
 
I can still taste that supper and when I sent a copy of the magazine in which the piece was published to a childhood friend, she immediately remembered those hay-making suppers, which
took us both back to being about eight-years old again
 
We fidget from the hayseeds and dried grass that have crept under our clothes and into our shoes, but we don’t want to move and break the spell…
 
Articles don’t necessarily have to be about food to be enriched by the subject. I recently read a travel piece that offered some tantalising cameos of the cuisine served aboard a French river
cruise ship. There, tucked away in the wealth of detail about people and places were some succulent morsels of the daily fare for the passengers – and resulted in the article being filed away for future reference when a holiday moment occurs! In fact, everywhere we go – both home and abroad – most of us will find a local culinary moment that is worth storing away to share with a readership at some later stage. Such as a wonderful (and colourful) buffet lunch at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul; or the fabulous fresh sea-food platter served in a restaurant behind the ramparts at St Malo. Secret Step Four means that no one can access the same experiences and memories, and that offers you the opportunity to generate unique responses to those situations.
 
Regional food can also be dove-tailed to provide endless topics for articles, both regionally and nationally, and in a wide variety of publications. Here we can draw on family background, nostalgia, memories (and not necessarily our own), as I did when writing another Countryman piece on my partner’s memory of cherry picking in the Kent orchards:
 
We break for a hasty lunch of thick salad sandwiches of fresh-picked tomatoes, crisp lettuce and the sharp tang of spring onions, all pulled straight from the garden earlier that morning. There’s
homemade lemonade and ginger beer for us children, while our mother pours a thick brew of tea from her battered cream thermos flask …
 
Bringing it up to date with my own ‘four penny worth’ … A quick and economical supper that his mother often made from any leftover fruit was a cherry batter served with ice cream or custard. I recently found a similar recipe in a 1930s edition of The Woman’s Treasury for Home & Garden, discovered at a local car boot sale.
 
“The cherries were placed in a greased baking dish and sprinkled with caster sugar. They were then covered with batter (the kind used for Yorkshire pudding, but sweetened) and baked in the oven for 40 mins.” Just add the ice cream and step back in time …
 
Here are a few more possibilities to consider that could earn a few bob as mini-features, readers’ letters or handy kitchen hints:
• Local magazines and newspapers are always interested in the wide range of produce on offer at farmer’s markets, particularly when this involves a local family. Include a seasonal recipe featuring an item of produce.
 
• Recommended mart breakfasts can often find a place in farming publications such as Farmer’s Weekly. There are some amazing little places tucked away in the corners of some of our traditional market halls. Make sure your ‘menu’ is mouth-watering, not swimming in grease!
 
Home Farmer magazine ran a series featuring recipes from around the UK – ‘North West Nosebag’ included simple ones from the Lake District and Liverpool; while ‘Emerald Isle Cuisine’ included farm house kitchen ideas not forgetting the Saturday morning must-have – the Irish breakfast or Ulster Fry!
 
• Simple snacks and inexpensive ideas are always popular – for example: ‘Warming Toast Toppers’ – but do make sure that you include something for everybody. I get quite excited about new ideas but this enthusiasm quickly evaporates because nearly all the recipes contain cheese
and I have a serious cheese allergy.
 
• Growing food with no garden – you would be surprised exactly how much food you can produce on an average sizedpatio and these ideas could earn prizes from the readers’ letters pages in a wide variety of publications.
 
And what about those wonderful 1950s home-from-school treats of cheese and potato pie made with butter and half a pint of cream (or full milk); bubble and squeak (or bubble and squelch as it’s called in some areas) and ‘eggy bread’. The ideas might give the food police heart failure but on a cold winter’s day an editor might just think it’s a tastier alternative to beans on toast.
 
Old fashioned remedies and household hints are also popular but these need to have an unusual or unexpected spin to bring them up to date. For example, it’s a well-known bit of country-lore that onions are a magnet for bacteria and that they’ve been used in sick rooms to ‘draw’ the germs for generations. We’ve known of cut onions being used in racing kennels to prevent kennel sickness. This was normal operating procedure in 150-dog kennel when there was sickness about and none of the greyhounds ever came down with it.
 
For the writer, everything is food for thought.
 
.

]]>
<![CDATA[Book news ...]]>Sat, 22 Aug 2020 08:16:20 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/book-newsJust signed the contract with Moon Books for Witch's Book of Simples: The simple arte of domestic folk medicine. Won't see the light of day for a year but there you go!.
]]>
<![CDATA[Book news ... the Arcanum series]]>Sun, 16 Aug 2020 10:09:46 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/book-news-the-arcanum-seriesPicture

Offerings for the Gods by sacrifice, oblation and libation
 by Melusine Draco is currently a work in progress and will be published as the first title in the ‘Arcanum series’ for Ignotus Books.   Arcanum books will be titles of under 100-pages of practical and/or instructional text on a specific esoteric subject or theme and written by magical practitioners with proven antecedents.

The idea came from those 'Ladybird' books we had as kids that were often responsible for triggering an interest in all manner of subjects in later life. Taking its name from the Coven of the Scales’ foundation course, the aim is to offer further tuition/guidance on specific elements of witch-lore and practice. Coming in at under 25,000 words, each title will be packed with information and instruction rather than puffed out with superfluous wordage and regurgitated text borrowed from other publications.

The Arcanum series will be aimed at those who have completed the CoS Arcanum course and who are preparing themselves for a position of Elder within a Coven, or working towards Initiation – and are therefore not written with beginners in mind.
.

]]>
<![CDATA[LIFESTYLE]]>Thu, 06 Aug 2020 09:42:08 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/lifestylePicture
THE (INNER-CITY) PATH extract
The (Inner-City) Path: A Gleaning of the Seasons was inspired by Chet Raymo’s book of similar title that chronicled his own daily urban walk to work and observing the seasonal changes with a scientist’s curiosity.  As often happens, I began thinking ‘what if’ there was a complementary book written from a pagan perspective for when we take to our local urban paths as part of our daily fitness regime or dog walk.  And, as if arising from this external creative impulse The Path began to unravel in the mind’s eye … based on several urban walks that have merged together over the years to make a chapbook of the seasons and to offer a glimpse into the pagan mind-set that can ‘find mystery under every leaf and rock along the way’, or caught in the murmur of running water, and to act as a simple guide to achieving a sense of well-being and awareness so that even in the city’s throng we feel the freshness of the streams …
 
Generally speaking, witches and pagans come in all shapes and sizes from baby-boomers to millennials and each one is a product of its own generation, complete with all its fads, quirks, foibles and urban myths.  By and large, for an older witch, a sense of well-being and awareness focuses on a need for inner harmony and being at peace with what they’ve achieved thus far in life, while looking forward to whatever challenges the future throws at them. For the younger variety, their sense of well-being and awareness is often preaching the gospel via social media (in all its many forms and contradictions) that has frequently made them appear less tolerant, more judgemental, and possibly a tad too obsessed with bodily functions.  We are all a product of our Age … all as different as Nature intended … even town and city dwellers may have unconscious pagan leanings.
 
Nevertheless, we also know that Mother Nature is neither caring nor motherly and when she wants to cut up rough – she will, without a thought for anything, or anyone.   In the guise of ‘the goddess’ she is usually seen as spending her days caring for her many children who inhabit and shape the landscape – often portrayed in trailing garments composed of lush plants, colorful flowers, and sinuous woody shapes. In most depictions she is meditative, embodying the spirit of the mythological ‘mother’ in Nature. In reality, humankind and nature can be said to be in conflict, since Nature is often seen by humans as natural resources to be exploited; while Nature will wipe out hundreds of humans with shrug of the shoulder.
 
Getting back to Nature requires stripping away the anthropomorphism that causes us to interpret non-human things in terms of human characteristics. Derived from the Greek anthropos (meaning ‘human’) and morphe (‘form’), the term was first used to refer to the attribution of human physical or mental features to deities.  According to Britanniaca, by the mid-19th century it had acquired the second, broader meaning of a phenomenon occurring not only in religion but in all areas of human thought and action, including daily life, the arts, and even sciences. Anthropomorphism may occur consciously or unconsciously and most scholars since the time of the English philosopher Francis Bacon (1561–1626) have agreed that although the tendency to anthropomorphise hinders the understanding of the world, it is deep-seated and persistent.  But is it so wrong to consider all living, growing things as sentient beings?
 
 
The Path we regularly take when out for a daily walk has its own welcoming ambiance and if we feel as though we’re being swamped with negative emotions, we know it can be helpful to walk them off.  In fact, a recent British health study showed that simply walking in green spaces induces a gentle state of meditation. Most of us live in urban areas and spend far less time outside in green, natural spaces than people did several generations ago but even a lunchtime stroll in the park may soothe the mind and, in the process, change the workings of our brain in ways that improve our mental health. Whatever the weather, walking in Nature is not only good for our heart and fitness levels, but according to numerous studies it has measurable mental benefits and may also reduce the risk of depression.  In addition to promoting mental health, nature group walks also appear to mitigate the effects of stressful life events on perceived stress and negative affects while synergizing with physical activity to improve positive affects and mental well-being’, the researchers wrote in the study abstract.
 
‘Wellness’ entered the pagan lexicon with the advent of Mind, Body & Spirit magazine publishing in the 1980s when it was generally used to mean ‘a state beyond the absence of illness’ and aimed at promoting a sense of well-being. It quickly became an umbrella term for pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo and alternative health movements - becoming the defining spirit or mood of the 2000s as reflected by the ideas and beliefs of the time.  All of which promoted journalist Hadley Freeman to write in the Guardian as early as 2015: ‘Pseudoscience and strawberries: ‘wellness’ gurus should carry a health warning’.
 
‘It’s easy to mock wellness bloggers and their fattening apples, but their uneducated bletherings about food and health are, at best, irresponsible and, at heart, immoral. They’re right: what we eat is important, which is why it’s important that people with qualifications beyond an Instagram account educate us about it.’
 
Nevertheless, a considerable amount of traditional witchcraft/paganism revolves around natural folk-cures and herbal remedies, with much of it having been handed down by grandparents and elderly neighbours in rural communities. Foraging was part of growing up and knowing when and where in the country calendar certain delicacies could be found; and who, as a rural child experienced the bliss of gorging themselves on wild, woodland strawberries, has ever forgotten that exquisite taste?  Or returning home with fingers and mouths stained purple from picking blackberries by the bushel as part of a school-dinners project?
 
‘Awareness’ is an even more recent innovation commonly used in reference to public knowledge or understanding of social or political issues. It is synonymous with public involvement and advocacy in support of certain causes or movements; or concern about and a well-informed interest in a particular situation or development. Awareness in the spiritual sense is harder to describe in intellectual terms but on a basic level it can refer to a mental state achieved by focusing our awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting our feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations ...  Awareness can mean different things and the first steps we can take on the pagan path is to become aware of the everyday world of Nature that surrounds us … even in the city’s throng …
 
 
Several decades ago, it was agreed that if it was to survive, witchcraft had to move with the times and although there was a romantic appeal in returning to the Old Ways, it was not always practical.  In the years since the repeal of the Witchcraft Act in 1951, the Craft has evolved in many separate ways and when something evolves, it changes, or develops over time and much can be lost in the process: like our taste in music and literature, which transforms as we get older, and generally changes from one generation to the next. And yet … some things never change. 
 
American photographer Frances F. Denny attempted to explore the figure of the contemporary witch beyond the cultural chestnuts that have shrouded and obscured it. “The muddled stereotypes that surround witches nowadays are, in the end, not so very different from those used to define that perennial problem: woman. Her subjects are of diverse age, social class, and ethnicity, and practice a range of rituals, often drawing on ‘mysticism, engagement with the occult, politically oriented activism, polytheism, ritualized ‘spell-work’ and plant-based healing.”
 
Denny asked the women she photographed for the series to wear an outfit or bring along an item that they felt would represent their practice and identity as witches, and as a result ‘some of the portraits do answer more readily to our expectations of what a witch might look like. They brandish mysterious implements - a crystal ball, a bow and arrow, a wooden staff; one woman reclines, entwined with a snake - and most are dressed in black. There was an immense theatricality …’
 
Nevertheless, the ‘witch’ has firmly entered the 21st-century zeitgeist as a figure akin to a synergetic composite of Burne-Jones in the terminal stages of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, Guinevere, of Arthurian romance, and Daenerys Stormborn from Game of Thrones – reflecting the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of the era. All of which appears to be an out-and-out attempt to make a statement and stand out from the crowd when our forebears would have done everything in their power to blend in with their neighbours!  But it’s not always like that … since many traditional witches have learned the art of blending in.
 
Within esoteric circles the term ‘path’ is often used to refer to the spiritual journey that many of us take as part of our esoteric learning.  In this book The Path is a series of gentle mental exercises to limber up the ‘spiritual vagabond’ part of our make-up before we embark on a much more challenging adventure as we metamorphose from embryonic pagan to fully-fledged witch.  It helps if we get into a mind-set that plays a critical role in how we cope with life’s new challenges regardless of age or background and imbues us with a hunger for learning about the natural world around us. A pagan mindset is also about living up to our possible potential and who knows how far we can go if we set our mind to it - believing that the effort that goes into learning and deepening our understanding is well worth all the toil and trouble as we chart our way through the seasons.
 
For example: most of us overlook a bountiful food supply, one that satisfies us personally and, in a very small way, may benefit us financially: the wild larder. We have become so out of touch with food that we no longer recognize wild ingredients as something we can utilize for sheer enjoyment. Foraging puts us back in touch with nature and introduces us to new tastes we can use creatively. Gathering wild leaves and fruits is not the sole preserve of the country dweller as even a touch of wild garlic can enhance urban cooking.
 
It now becomes obvious why ‘gleaning’ was chosen as part of the title for The (Inner-City) Path: A Gleaning of the Seasons because it means to collect information in small amounts and often with difficulty. The conditions of farm workers in the 1890s made gleaning essential because it was the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested, or on fields where it was not economically profitable to harvest.  In other words, we are picking up bits and pieces of information to add to our meager store of knowledge in order to supplement our life-style and its modern links with the natural world.  And A Simple Guide to Well-Being & Awareness … well, as Dryden wrote:  ‘what herbs and Simples grow. In fields and forests, all their powers I know’ when referring to using a single herb or plant in a medicinal way.
 
And it is at this point we step out onto The Path … and a return to a pagan sense of well-being and awareness … and a feeling of wonder in everyday life. MD
 
Pagan Portals The (Inner-City) Path: A Simple Guide to Well-Being and Awareness by Melusine Draco is published by Moon Books (www.moon-books.net) ISBN 978 1 78904 464 5 : UK£6.99/US$10.95 : 76 pages

​Photo: Polly Langford - River Usk

 
.

]]>
<![CDATA[IT WAS UPON A LAMMAS NIGHT …]]>Thu, 30 Jul 2020 09:45:04 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/it-was-upon-a-lammas-nightPicture
IT WAS UPON A LAMMAS NIGHT …
… When corn rigs are bonie
Beneath the moon's unclouded light
I held awhile to Annie
The time went by with careless heed
'Till 'tween the late and early
With small persuasion she agreed
To see me through the barley



Corn rigs and barley rigs and
Corn rigs are bonnie
I'll not forget that happy night
Among the rigs with Annie
The sky was blue, the wind was still
The moon was shining clearly …

 
Corn Rigs (also known as Corn Rigs Are Bonie) is a Scottish Measure (a tune closely related to a reel, but a little closer to a march) dating from the 17th century.  The tune was a popular choice among early song writers, notably Allan Ramsay who used it as one of ‘Peggy’s songs’ in his play, The Gentle Shepherd (1725).  The ‘rigs’ referred to in the song were the traditional drainage system which was based on dividing fields into ridges around three feet high, and then ploughing them from end to end, the resulting furrows then drained excess water from the land above it, here planted with corn.  Corn Rigs (also known as The Rigs O' Barley) was a Scottish song written by Robert Burns around 1782 to be sung to the air Corn Rigs Are Bonie was set to music by Paul Giovanni for The Wicker Man (1973).
 
In the good old days, the harvest festivals began in August (Lunasa - ‘beginning of harvest’) followed by September (Meán Fómhair) and October (Deireadh Fómhair) translated as ‘middle of harvest’ and ‘end of harvest’ respectively. This was one of the most sacred times of the year and the Harvest Home or In-Gathering was a community observance at the end of the harvest to celebrate and give thanks for the bounty with all its attendant celebrations, including the singing of the traditional folksongs like John Barleycorn. Celebrating the harvest is the holiest time of the Craft year and Lammas observes the coming of harvest-tide with its decoration of corn sheaves, fancy loaves, berries and fruits – all leading up to the Autumnal Equinox (or Michaelmas) that marked its zenith with the eating of the traditional goose and the raucous festivities of the community harvest supper.
 
Lughnasadh’s pagan origins are mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature, the festival being named after the old Celtic sun-god Lugh. It involved great ‘in-gatherings’ that included religious ceremonies, ritual athletic contests (most notably the Tailteann Games), feasting, matchmaking and trading – and visits to holy wells – with many of the activities taking place on hilltops and mountains. According to folklorist Máire MacNeill, evidence shows that the religious rites included an offering of the ‘first fruits’, a feast of the new food and of bilberries, the sacrifice of a bull and a ritual dance-play in which Lugh seizes the harvest for mankind and defeats the powers of blight. In Wales, Gŵyl Awst marks the first harvest, because there is a second harvest at the time of the Autumn Equinox.
 
This is also a season of renewed growth in some trees in July and August in the northern hemisphere, and Lammas growth on trees can be really striking. On oaks it tends to be lime green but is often tinged with red and it brings the trees to life again - making the woods and hedgerows look refreshed.  Lammas growth declines with the age of the tree, being most vigorous and noticeable in young trees. It differs in nature from spring growth which is fixed when leaves and shoots are laid down in the bud the previous year. The Lammas flush is free growth of newly-made leaves throughout the tree.
 
It was beneath the oaks of the New Forest that King William Rufus went hunting on 2nd August in the year 1100, and was killed by an arrow through the lung, though the full circumstances still remain unclear. The earliest statement of the event was in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which noted that the king was ‘shot by an arrow by one of his own men’. According to an unidentified ecclesiastical account, a charcoal burner took the King’s body, placed it on a rude cart, covered it with a ragged cloth and conveyed it to Winchester.
 
The body was said to have dripped blood along the entire route, an idea consistent with the belief that the blood of the divine sacrifice must fall on the ground in order to fertilize it. The unpopular king was mourned, not by the Christian nobles but by the largely pagan common folk, who lined the roads of his funeral procession and followed the body to the grave; thus giving voice to the legend that William Rufus’s death was a ritual sacrifice as part of the dying-god fertility cult since he was descended from a pagan leader on both sides of his family. Many of his friends and close associates were also openly heathen, and his chief advisor was Randolf Flambard, recorded in the Chronicles as the son of a witch.
 
Lammas is still a time of excitement and magic. The natural world is thriving around us, and yet the knowledge that everything will soon die looms large in the background. This is a good time to work some protective magic around the hearth and home.  This occasion celebrates the beginning of the harvest season and the cycle of rebirth, and can be done by a solitary practitioner or adapted for a group or coven setting.  It is an expression of gratitude for the change in seasons - from a season of planting to a season of harvest - that marks today’s observance.
 
And yet, the dark tide first begins to stir at Lammas, the time of fruition and harvest when the crops are gathered and fruits begin to ripen. Under the new style (Gregorian) calendar, Lammas would be celebrated on 1st August; we still follow the old (Julian) calendar, so would perform the Lammas Rite on 12th August.  We’re heading towards the Autumnal Equinox, when the two tides of summer/winter, bright/dark, god/goddess stand equally opposed so - the bright tide will start to wane, the dark aspect ever increasing - and traditionally Lammas was essentially a male-oriented ritual with the women waiting outside the circle in order that they may – or may not – be invited to participate in the rite.  The goddess-imagery (the Dame) now begins to fade into the back ground until the fires of Candlemas and the Vernal Equinox call her forth once again; with a shared celebration of fresh bread and wine/beer she takes her leave and future Coven rites will reflect the god’s power in the form of the Magister.

 
The above is an extract taken from the limited edition, Round About the Cauldron Go … by Philip Wright and Carrie West – published by Ignotus Books
 

]]>
<![CDATA[​DIVINATION: A Practical Approach]]>Sat, 25 Jul 2020 15:07:48 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/divination-a-practical-approachPicture

 
It was Robert Cochrane who originally coined those now famous words:
 
“If one who claims to be a Witch can perform the tasks of Witchcraft, i.e. summon the spirits and they come, can divine with rod, fingers and birds.  If they can also claim the right to the omens and have them; have the power to call, heal and curse and above all, can tell the maze and cross the Lethe, then you have a witch.”
 
Divination is what I would refer to as the practical element of Craft magic, and we don’t even have to be witches to be able to read the portents.  But it helps!
 
Looking into the future is a very ancient practice. As we saw in the chapter ‘Developing the ‘Art of Seeing’ in Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living, thousands of recorded British customs and superstitions all have their roots in fortune-telling spells and charms, and they are as fashionable today as they were way back when. In fact, it’s been said that divination was as commonplace in the past as satellite communication is today: it was part of everyday life for everyone from king to commoner.  It utilised all manner of techniques and methods from a simple nut placed on the fire grate to the complicated reading of the Roman auspices.  For example a few of these techniques include:
 
Aeromancy: Divination using the formation of clouds and other patterns in the skies.
 
Botanomancy: Divination through plant life; may include the burning of plants and foretelling future events through the ashes or smoke.
 
Crystallomancy: An ancient form of casting lots using small stones. Or crystalomancy: Divination by studying a crystal ball.
 
Daphnomancy: Using the smoke of burning branches of the laurel tree to answer questions and forecast upcoming events.
 
Enoptromancy: An ancient method using a shiny surface placed in water.
 
Felidomancy: Divination through the observation of felines, including domestic and wild cats.
 
Geomancy: An ancient system interpreting the patterns and shapes or events found in nature.
 
Halomancy: Foretelling by interpreting the formation of the crystals when salt is poured to the ground.
 
Ichthyomancy: Observing the behaviour of fish both in and out of the water.
 
Jungism: The understanding of mythic symbolism as it relates to the human subconciousness.
 
Kephalonomancy: Ancient method of pouring lighted carbon on the skull of a goat or donkey to determine guilt or innocence.
 
Lampadomancy: Divination through the observation of flames from a candle or flaming torch.
 
Metopomancy: Divination and character analysis by studying the lines on a person’s forehead.
 
Necromancy: Contacting the spirits of the dead to interpret omens and forecast future events.
 
Oinomancy: An ancient Roman practice of interpretation through the study and evaluation of the colour, consistency and taste of wine.
 
Psephomancy: Divination by selecting at random small stones from a pile.
 
Qabbala: A blend of powerful divinely-inspired divination and mysticism.
 
Rune Stones: A series of mystic symbols thrown or selected to determine the future.
 
Scrying: Divination by interpreting the play of light on a shiny object or surface.
 
Tephramancy: Interpreting the ashes of a combustible object.
 
Uromancy: Divination using urine.
 
Visualisation: A controlled level of consciousness during which the seeker can divine answers to questions.
 
Wort-Lore: The understanding of the appropriate herbs to use to aid divination.
 
Xylomancy: Using the arrangement of dried sticks to predict the future.
 
Ying-Yang: Describe how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may interrelate to one another and influence future events.
 
Zoanthropy: Divination by observing and interpreting the flames of three lighted candles placed in a triangular position.
 
 
A deep-rooted belief in divination has existed throughout the ages, among both the uncivilized and the most civilized of cultures, as the desire to know the future continually gave rise to some weird and wonderful ways of peering into it. The Egyptians used dreams [i.e temple sleep] to divine the will of the gods; the Druids used many different forms of divination, as did the Hebrews. Although augury was first implemented by the Chaldeans, the Greeks became addicted to it; and among the Romans no important action of State was undertaken without the advice of the augers and their pre-occupation with raw liver!

Both oracles and seers in ancient Greece practiced divination. Oracles were the conduits for the gods on earth; their prophecies were understood to be the will of the gods verbatim and usually communicated to rulers and prominent persons. Seers were interpreters of signs provided by the gods via natural signs and were more numerous than the oracles being highly valued by all Greeks, not just those with the where with all to travel to Delphi or other such sites, where pythonesses perched on stools, inhaling noxious fumes. As it does today, the ancient Greeks made use of various techniques of divinatory practice: either direct or indirect, and, either spontaneous, or artificial.

Direct divination is where and when a seeker might experience divination by way of dreaming and dreams or by way of a temporary experience of madness, or phrensy (frenzy), all of these conditions being a state from which an inspired recognition of truth is attained. A necessary condition is that the seeker has made an effort to produce a mental or physical state which encourages a flash of insight. These historically attested efforts included sleeping in conditions where-by dreams might be more likely to occur, inhaling certain vapour, the chewing of leaves, drinking of blood, etc.

Under these conditions the seeker may gain the power of prophecy (albeit temporary) that was associated with caves and grottoes within Greek divination, and the nymphs and Pan who were associated with caves often bestowed the gift of prophesy.  Pan was able to dwell within people, a condition known as panolepsy, that causes inspirational abilities relating to divination or prophecy.  A degree of possession of an individual by a nymph is known as nympholepsy, meaning ‘caught by nymphs’ …a term we would use today as someone ‘being fairy led’.

Indirect divination where-by a seeker observes natural conditions and phenomenon such as ‘sortilege’, and chance encounters with the animal kingdom. This consists of the casting of lots, or sortes, whether with sticks, stones, bones, beans, coins, or some other item and often interpreted by a third party. Modern playing cards and board games are believed to have been developed from this type of divination, whereby dice or counters are cast in order to predict the future.

But not all divinatory methods were well-received. As early as 692 the Quinisext Council, also known as the ‘Council in Trullo’ in the Eastern Orthodox Church, passed canons to eliminate paganism and the practice of divination, but it continued to be popular well into the Middle Ages despite being frequently banned by the Church.  In fact the seven artes magicae or artes prohibitae, i.e. those methods of divination prohibited by canon law (as expounded by Johannes Hartlieb in 1456), were: It has been suggested that the division between the four ‘elemental’ disciplines (i.e. geomancy (Earth), hydromancy (Water), aeromancy (Air) and pyromancy (Fire) appears to be a contrivance of the time, but traditional forms such as  chiromancy was the divination from a subject’s palms as practiced by the Romany (at the time recently arrived in Europe), and scapulimancy, the divination from animal bones, in particular shoulder blades as practiced in peasant superstition. By contrast, nigromancy came from scholarly ‘high magic’ derived from High Medieval grimoires such as the Picatrix or the Liber Rasielis and was classed as ‘black magic’ and demonology, by the vernacular etymology, from necromancy.

In the constitution of 1572 and public regulations of 1661 of Kur-Saxony, capital punishment was used on those predicting the future and laws forbidding divinatory practice continue to this day in some parts of the world.  Nevertheless, the belief in ‘fortune-telling’ continued to be looked upon as a popular pastime for finding a husband or predicting a favourable outcome with regards to health, wealth and happiness.  Even the popular Victorian compilations of superstitions were given a Christian spin to weed out anything that wasn’t considered ‘nice’ or smacked too much of paganism, but the Folklore Society’s extensive archive enables serious researchers to trace these old divinatory practices back to their roots.
 
Divination, however, is only a small part of a witch’s stock in trade and although a very basic introduction to the subject can be learned from books, proficiency will only come through vigorous practice. This proficiency comes through the discovery of certain secret matters by a great variety of means, - correspondences, signs and occult techniques - and before a witch can perform any of these operations with any degree of success, we need to develop the ‘art of seeing’ and the ability to ‘divine with rod, fingers and birds’
 
Very early in his studies one student had grasped the fact that the animal world helps us to connect to this new level of being, particularly through birds, which have long been recognised as an effective means of divination.  Once he understood the principles behind the phenomena, he began to find that he was beginning to ‘see’ more.  How many people, for instance, will even notice the mice on the Underground … but he’d watched them and interpreted their behaviour. How they would always disappear long before the rumble of the train was discernable to human awareness.  Once we get into the habit of watching the animal world, we will always have something around us to warn when that ‘train’ is coming!

The most remarkable thing about divination, of course, is its continued success. And a large number of people who turn to professional readers are impressed by the amazing details ‘coming through’ from their past - but this isn’t what divination is about.  Cold reading’ is a set of techniques used by mentalists, psychics, fortune-tellers, mediums and illusionists to imply that the reader knows much more about the person than the reader actually does.  There are dozens of books on the subject that reveal how, without prior knowledge, a practiced cold-reader can quickly obtain a great deal of information by analyzing the person’s body language, level of education, manner of speech, place of origin, etc. Cold readings commonly employ high-probability guesses, quickly picking up on signals as to whether their guesses are in the right direction or not, then emphasizing and reinforcing chance connections and quickly moving on from missed guesses.  Even the police and military use the technique during interrogation sessions …

The witch, however, is not so much concerned with the past as with the present and more particularly the future.  Of course, our past actions affect the way we view the future but if we ignore the warnings that divination brings concerning the present, we will be doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.  We must also remember that regardless of whatever method is used to predict the future those results are not cast in stone! Divination reveals the future as relating to the past and the present, and what will happen if the warnings are not heeded in order to change things before they go wrong. The answer is also subjective to where an individual is standing at the precise moment in time when they pose the question.  We’re back to the saying: “You can’t change anything but yourself, but in changing yourself, everything changes around you.” So if you don’t like what the results of the reading is telling you … do something about it before it’s too late!
 
As witches we are responsible for our own destiny and a proficiency in our own chosen system of divining gives us a powerful advantage. Experienced practitioners usually prefer to use a single form of divination, and while some methods may prove to be more efficient than others, and some diviners may be more accurate than their fellows, it is traditionally part of a witch’s natural ability to be able to divine by ‘rod, fingers and birds’, as the saying goes.  After years of practice with any particular system, we find that we can interpret the signs without even having to think about it – it’s like receiving a message from an old friend.
 
The results we get from our endeavours are signs of opportunities to be taken, dangers to be avoided, or impending news of change. Here the witch also interacts with Nature to keep close watch on any unusual activities or occurrences that might have any effect on themselves, or those close to them. This is another reason why it is essential for even the most urban of witches to be well-versed in natural lore as well as magical lore. It pays to understand the local wildlife, otherwise we might not see that unusual ‘something’ in an animal’s or bird’s normal behaviour patterns.
 
Our native flora and fauna are linked to our magical subconsciousness and, if we have required any form of divinatory methods to guide us through the subsequent stages of our love life or career, we must be receptive to those responses. For those with a working understanding in the language of magical correspondences, it is easy to grasp how natural the reading of the symbols becomes, and how easy and obvious (in most instances) is the interpretation. For the beginner, however, accept that the answers are not going to appear suddenly in chapter and verse in a book on fortune telling.  Divination is more subtle and, more often than not for the inexperienced, irritatingly obtuse!
 
Reading for others is a common moral and ethical dilemma that is often raised on internet sites and personally I always refuse point blank to indulge in the practice.  That has not always been the case.  There used to be an unwritten ethic whereby a reader seeing something really nasty in the future was duty bound not to reveal what they had seen lurking in the woodshed.  And in the words of that old Leonard Cohen song … “I’ve seen the future, brother, it is murder!” I decided it was unreasonable for me to carry the burden of knowledge for strangers and waiting for the other boot to drop, and that has remained my personal code to the present day … so don’t ask.
 
If you do wish to read for others then remember not to use your own ‘tools’ for outsider’s readings as these will become contaminated through use.  Keep your own private equipment under lock and key and have a completely different set for public readings – even this should be ritually cleansed after use as each reading will leave a psychic residue behind and contaminate the next person’s reading. 

On the legal front, the whole ball-game changed in 2008 when the Fraudulent Mediums Act (which replaced the 1735 Witchcraft Act) was replaced by the new Consumer Protection Regulations. Now there’s a whole list of disclaimers that must be added to the fortune-teller’s spiel if they are to avoid an avalanche of writs from disgruntled customers.  The reason behind the introduction of the new law was because very little in the multi-million-pound psychic industry in Britain is for free, and anyone charging or accepting ‘gifts’ in exchange for a service is bound by the new regulations.  A legal specialist wryly observed: “Now there is no difference in law between a psychic and a double-glazing salesman.”

Let’s face it, there are ‘professional’ fees charged for all manner of types of divination, including Tarot, psychic readings and clairvoyance – just take a look at the number of classified advertisements in any of the MB&S magazines.  According to Office of Fair Trading research, which provided the basis for the new changes, psychic mailings are estimated to have cost gullible Britons £40m in 2006-07, while psychic services via telephone, online and satellite TV keep the tills ringing in the psychics’ favour.
 
In the USA the legal status of spiritualists, psychics, fortune-tellers and healers has often been a precarious one, and explains why many pagans adopted the title of Reverend as this kept them within the boundaries of the law.  As one web-post explained:  “If one goes to psychic fairs, etc., you will notice that virtually all readers are Reverend ‘So and So’ with another title attached.  If you are using Tarot or scrying for a church or religious purpose [i.e counselling], and not for the purpose of fortune-telling – you are legal.”  So there you have it … if you are a professional diviner and charge a fee for your services, you might be falling foul of the Office of Fair Trading.
 
From a purely personal point of view, my abilities when it comes to divination have always been limited, I have to confess.  I regularly use cartomancy (i.e. Crowley’s Thoth Tarot) and the pendulum for personal divinatory purposes – and with a great deal of success I might add - but tend to rely more on the messages from the natural world on a daily basis.  I have the most amazing crystal ball collection but generally use them for meditational work by holding the appropriate sphere in the palm of the hand – one colour for each sephiroth of the Qabalah – rather than prediction.  So … I’m okay with fingers (cleidomancy) and birds (alectryomancy) but the rod (rhabdomancy) I really have to work at to get any kind of results …
 
Pagan Portals DIVINATION: By Rod, Birds and Fingers by Melusine Draco is published by Moon Books (www.moon-books.net) ISBN 9 978 1 78535 858 6 : UK£6.99/US$10.95 : 82 pages.  Available in paperback and e-book format


]]>
<![CDATA[The Hollow Tree]]>Tue, 21 Jul 2020 10:29:05 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/the-hollow-treePicture
Periodically the subject comes up as to which Tarot is the best/right one for an individual – followed by a profusion of answers from people who claim to have found one particular deck early in their lives that rang all their bells; while other claim to utilise several different versions depending on the reading required.  Personally speaking, once I’d discovered the Thoth Tarot the others paled into insignificance but then I’d been originally schooled in the Egyptian Mystery Tradition and was a great fan of Crowley in all his many guises.  The symbols and sigils, analogies and metaphors were the language of magic but then a friend always said I had a mind like a corkscrew, which probably explains the lure of the Thoth Tarot.  Nevertheless, even on a mundane/everyday level, the Thoth speaks of mundane things and lends itself to simple questioning.

It helps, of course, if the seeker has had some introduction to the esoteric imagery of a particular deck and has familiarised themselves with the archetypes of the Major Arcana and the elementary mysteries of the Court Cards.   These archetypes are the images that should speak but all too often the representations are too tame, too bland, or too nice to convey the intensity of the mysticism they need to channel in order to reach into the visceral impressions that relate to deep inward feelings rather than to the intellect.

The Tarot is a magico-mystical system, closely intertwined with the mystical Qabalah, which operates on as many levels as  can be found on the Tree of Life.  ‘You must know the Tree backwards, forwards, sideways, and upside down,’ Crowley wrote to a student . ‘It must become the automatic background of all your thinking.  You must keep on hanging everything that comes your way upon its proper bough.’  And in turn, every twist and turn, nuance and subtle meaning of expression in the Tarot has its place on the Tree.

The Hollow Tree: An Elementary Guide to the Qabalah & Tarot by Melusine Draco was originally published by Corvus Books in 1999 with an extended, illustrated version re-printed by Ignotus Books in 2002.  ISBN 0 9522689 8 1 : 76 pages : £9.99 including P&P:  Order via PayPal invoice on ignotuspressuk@gmail.com

]]>