<![CDATA[Coven of the Scales - Blog]]>Fri, 03 Jan 2020 06:58:12 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Nearly two decades in print … and still as popular!]]>Fri, 03 Jan 2020 12:17:57 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/nearly-two-decades-in-print-and-still-as-popularPicture

Root & Branch: British Magical Tree Lore was always a best-seller as far as the old ignotus press was concerned, even finding favour with the Forestry Commission and the National Trust.  The compilation was a labour of love and even more so when a revised and expanded edition was re-released in 2016 …
It is perhaps surprising to learn that only thirty-five species of tree are indigenous to the British Isles. The following are common native trees that the natural witch should be able to recognise and utilise for magical purposes, although strictly speaking the blackthorn, ivy, spindle, heather, gorse and elder are classed as shrubs, their place as sacred or magical trees cannot be ignored. And so their addition brings the number up to forty of the most common that would have been familiar to the indigenous people of these islands. Neither should we ignore the parasitic mistletoe, and the ‘vine’ whose presence is more complex since it is listed separately from ivy in the Ogham tree alphabet – but it brings our total of magical native ‘trees’ to forty-two.
Even today, few places can rival an English oak wood in early summer for peace and beauty with its carpet of primroses and bluebells. Or the cathedral-like majesty of the autumn beech wood with the sun’s light filtering through the leaves. Or the brooding quiet of the ancient holly wood. Perhaps it is not surprising that our remote ancestors performed their acts of worship in forest clearings and woodland glades, for this is where they came face to face with ‘Nature’ – however they chose to see it.
What is hard to understand is the modern trend for many pagan practices to ignore our native trees and include introduced species into their tree-lore, despite the fact that they profess to be following the beliefs of the indigenous people of ancient Britain. This is, of course, understandable in the case of the rare strawberry tree, for example, which can now only be found growing naturally in Ireland – but where is the alder and the beech? Why is ellen-wood often listed among the nine sacred woods suitable for the Beltaine-Fire when any seasoned countryman would tell you that it can never be burned without some risk to hearth and home?
So come and walk with us awhile ... take my hand, child, and I will take you safely through the Wild Wood.

Root & Branch by Melusine Draco is published by Ignotus Press UK and available direct from the printer at a reduced price
https://www.feedaread.com/books/Root-and-Branch-British-Magical-Tree-Lore-9781786974471.aspx and in e-book format from Kindle-Amazon.

<![CDATA[THE TRADITIONAL WITCH’S CALENDAR – January]]>Tue, 31 Dec 2019 11:34:55 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/the-traditional-witchs-calendar-januaryPicture

JANUARY: [OE ] Æfterra Gēola ‘After ‘Yule’ or ‘Second Yule’ [OHG]: Wintar-mánód ‘winter month’. The Anglo-Saxons called it Wolfmonath, when wolves moved closer to human habitation to feed off the carcasses of fallen stock. The 14th century misericord country calendar shows it as the time for collecting firewood as the fires would be burning night and day. The tree representing January is the Rowan, a symbol of protection and good luck.
Rowan Magic: The rowan, or mountain ash, is a particularly magical tree – even the Christians adopted its use as a preventative charm against witches! Tie a red ribbon to a berry-bearing branch for general good luck and to keep evil and harm at bay, or make your special wish while you do so. Rowan is also one of the trees believed to take away illness. Take a lock of hair from the sufferer and make a slit in the bark of the tree; push the hair into the slit and as the slit heals, so will the patient. The Saxons made use of this healing property by using a special spoon fashioned from rowan wood to stir medicinal potions.
1st Feast Day of Strenia the old Sabine goddess of good health, and in her name gifts were exchanged for good luck. Small tokens of friendship can be given, but even as late as the early 1900s the old Roman custom of strena was still being observed in rural parts of South Wales, probably having been introduced to Britain by the Romans.
2nd Unluckiest Day. According to the ‘Project Britain Folklore Calendar’ quoting an old Saxon belief, this was one of the unluckiest days of the whole year, and anyone unlucky enough to be born on it could be expected to die an unpleasant death. 
4th Hunting The Wren. Although the wren has always enjoyed a certain protection as a sacred bird, on one day of the year it was hunted and killed. The reason why the traditional Midwinter ‘hunting of the wren’ now takes place in early January is because the shift from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar meant eleven days were lost in the process. See 26th December. As an example of transference magic, the wren was expected to shoulder all the ills and problems of the people; effectively taking their bad luck, ill health, and so forth, leaving them free to hope for good health and prosperity in the coming year. Traditionally, the tree of the wren is the ivy, while the robin is allocated the holly. A simple rite from Traditional Witchcraft for Fields & Hedgerows that could be performed instead of the actual killing of a wren.
5th Twelfth Night. Currently the last day of the Christmas season and the night for wassailing and Twelfth Night celebrations; and there can be no doubt that the title of Shakespeare’s play Twelfth-Night took its origin in the festivities with this festival and the proper close of the festivities of Christmas. According to Folk-Lore of Shakespeare, the play was probably originally acted at the barrister’s feast at the Middle Temple on 2nd February [Candlemas] 1602. “It is worthy of note that the festivities at Christmas-tide, were conducted on the most extravagant scale. In addition to the merry disports of the Lord of Misrule, there were various revels. The Christmas masque at Gray’s Inn in 1594 was on a magnificent scale.”
5th The Ashen Faggot is a West Country Christmas custom – it’s a large log with withies bound around it to make a bundle which is burned indoors in the hearth. Drinks are consumed as each withy breaks in the flames, which sounds like an excuse for conviviality!
5th Lars Compitalia, festival of the Roman guardians of the crossroads celebrated with socialising and entertaining.
6th Old Christmas Day is still celebrated in Ireland as Nollaig na mBan, ‘Little Christmas’ or ‘Women’s Christmas’ and is regarded by many as the end of the Christmas season. According to the Julian calendar this is the date of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti and many of the orthodox churches still observe this date. Today: A time to honour the old gods with feasting in the company of friends and to burn a faggot made of the Nine Sacred Woods.
Plough Monday is the traditional start of the English agricultural year and while local customs may vary, Plough Monday is generally the first Monday after Twelfth Day on 6th January. References to Plough Monday date back to the late 15th century, which means the festivities would have coincided with the old Julian calendar. The traditional Norfolk ‘Plough Pudding’ is a boiled suet pudding, containing meat and onions and eaten on Plough Monday.
Hilary Term in the Law Courts, begins on Plough Monday and ends the Wednesday before Easter. It is so called in honour of St Hilary whose feast day in 14th January.
Gaudy Days: Feast days in the Colleges of our Universities are so called, as they were formerly at the Inns of Court. “They were so called, says Blount, ‘from guadium, because, to say truth, they are days of joy, as bringing good cheer to the hungry students”. [Folk-Lore of Shakespeare]
7th St Distaff’s Day This was traditionally when women resumed their household work after the holiday, as Robert Herrick’s bawdy poem, Saint Distaff’s Day; or the Morrow after Twelfth Day describes:
Partly work and partly play
Ye must on St Distaff’s Day;
From the plough soon free your team,
Then come home and fodder them;
If the maids a-spinning go,
Burn the flax and fire the tow;
Scorch their plackets but beware
That ye singe no maiden-hair:
Bring in pails of water then,
Let the maids bewash the men;
Give St Distaff all the right,
Then bid Christmas sporty good-night,
And next morrow every one
To his own vocation.
Weather-lore: ‘If the birds begin to sing in January, Frosts are on the way’.
11th Juturna, Carmentalia and Old New Year’s Eve. Juturna is the Roman goddess of fountains and the underworld whose symbol is a spring; this was an ancient fire festival still celebrated as Old New Year even after the calendar reforms. Today: An opportunity to extend the Yuletide celebrations and see in Old New Year’s Eve.
12th [OS] Handsel Among the rural population of Scotland, Auld Hansel Monday is traditionally celebrated on the first Monday after January 12th, reflecting a reluctance to switch from the old style calendar to the new one. The firm conviction that the special character of Old New Year’s Day was reflected in the natural world held that whoever succeeded in drawing the first water – known as the creame – from any well (spring) would be lucky. Today: Make a trip to your local well – for luck.
13th St Hilary’s Day. This feast day has gained the reputation of being the coldest day of the year due to past cold events starting on or around this date. See Plough Monday.
14th Despite the earlier alterations, by the 21st century the Julian calendar is now thirteen days behind the Gregorian calendar, thus January 14th is sometimes celebrated as New Year’s Day (Old New Year) by the many religious groups who still use the old calendar.
17th Old Twelfth Night. In some places Old Twelfth Night is still celebrated on this evening, continuing the custom on the date determined by the Julian calendar. Today: This really is the time to party according to all the old traditions.
17th Feast day of Felicitas, the Roman personification of good fortune, happiness or felicity. Today: Might be a good time to consult whatever is your method for foretelling the future to make sure there’s nothing nasty lurking in the woodshed!
17th Wassailing the Apple Trees at Carhampton in Somerset where cider is poured on the roots of the finest tree and spiced wassail cake is placed in the branches. Shotguns are fired through the branches to drive away evil spirits to the chant: ‘Hats full, caps full, three bushel bags full’. Another is a seasonal poem by Robert Herrick:
Wassail the trees, that they may bear
You many a plum and many a pear;
For more or less fruits they will bring
As you do give them wassailing.
20th St Agnes Eve. This was the eve on which girls and unmarried woman who wished to dream of future husbands would perform all sorts of rituals (depending on the part of the country they lived) before going to bed.
21st Agnes Day According to Aubrey’s Miscellany: ‘Upon St Agnes night, you take a row of pins, and pull out everyone, one after another. Saying a pater-noster, stick a pin in your sleeve, and you will dream of him or her you shall marry.’ A Scottish version of the ritual would involve young women meeting together on St. Agnes’s Eve at midnight, they would go one by one, into a remote field and throw in some grain, after which they repeated the following rhyme in a prayer to St. Agnes: “Agnes sweet, and Agnes fair, Hither, hither, now repair; Bonny Agnes, let me see The lad who is to marry me.”
Weather-lore: If on St Vincent Day (22nd) the sky is clear, More wine than water will crown the year. Or on St Paul’s Day (23rd) the rural prophecy claimed that if the day was fine there would be a good harvest; if rain or snow, scarcity and famine. Clouds and mist signified pestilence, and high winds, war.
Old Year, Old Calendar, Old Ways compiled by Melusine Draco is published by Ignotus Press UK and available at a special price direct from the publishers

<![CDATA[Have a cool yule ...]]>Mon, 16 Dec 2019 10:48:45 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/have-a-cool-yulePicture
The Yuletide season has begun with snow on the mountains and rib-roast on order to celebrate the Winter Solstice.  Wishing everyone greetings of the season and here are a few thoughts for New Year’s resolutions and by introducing small sustainable habits they will lead to us feeling good with ourselves:      
  1. Start the day off with a smile and extend it to the first person you meet each morning together with a cheery ‘Good morning’ – even if they scowl back in response.
  2. Be determined to arrange five-ten minutes Me-Time every day in the daylight and fresh air even if it’s only drinking a cup of tea in the garden or local park. A ten-minute walk at lunch-time to help balanced the melatonin and serotonin hormones, which help regulate mood and sleep.
  3. Twenty minutes in the sun helps to combat Vitamin D deficiency that causes SAD; in the meantime take Vitamin D tablets until the sun come back.
  4. Spend a few minutes chatting with an elderly person.  Remember you could be the only person they’ve spoken to that day.
  5. Make a donation to a charitable cause each month even if it’s only donating unwanted items to a local charity shop.
  6. Remember: kindness costs nothing. Carry a bag, open a door, or pick up something from the shop.  Good manners and kindness are never out of fashion.
  7. Drink more water because every part of our body needs water to function properly.
  8. ‘Earthing’ has now entered the mainstream and an increasing number of scientific studies have revealed that it has real health benefits.  The Earth is like a gigantic battery that generates a natural electro-magnetic charge that is present in the ground.  So, weather permitting, kick off your shoes and reap the benefits.
  9. Say ‘well done’ to yourself for big and small achievements – and share them with someone important who will share in your joy.
  10. Read something new every day so that we stimulate our minds with knowledge.   Why not make up your mind to re-read one of the Classics every month and see just how much you enjoy them when looking at them from a different perspective.
  11. Dancing is a great stress reliever, so dig out those old dance tunes and rave away on your own.
  12. Do you have energy-suckers (or ‘psychic vampires’ in your life.  We are who we spend time with, so choose your company carefully and surround yourself with those who life you higher.
  13. No body knows everything, and the true treasure of life is that we can learn from each other’s wisdom and experiences.  So learn to listen and you’ll learn a lot.
  14. Sleep is when the magic happens when our cells get to renew.   Switch off the brain at learn an hour before going to bed, have a hot drink and spray Yardley’s Old English lavender on your pillow.  Put on cosy socks, pyjamas and snuggle under a warm throw by the fire – just because it’s a nice thing to do …

​Which is as good a time as any to plug a new book that’s coming out next year The (Inner-City) Path: A Simple Pagan Guide to Well-Being and Awareness published by Moon Books.

<![CDATA[All I Want is Loving you ... and music, music, music]]>Thu, 12 Dec 2019 12:24:17 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/all-i-want-is-loving-you-and-music-music-musicPicture

I love church music … whether it’s the ‘big band’ versions of Mozart and Monteverdi, or the earlier but still popular Gregorian chant developed mainly in western and central Europe during the 9th and 10th centuries. Most people who study the history of music believe that kings such as Charlemagne brought music from Rome to their kingdoms in France and Germany. When Charlemagne’s people sang these songs, they changed them and this new music became Gregorian chant.
Church music has varied enormously during the history of Christianity as different churches kept changing their ideas about what part music should have in religious worship. Most church music is based on singing. Music written for church choirs mostly used the words of the liturgy (the words used in services). The organ being the most important musical instrument in church music, although from time to time many other instruments have been used as well. During many periods in history composers writing for the church used traditional music rather than the newest fashions. This was particularly the case in the early 17th century when composers such as Claudio Monteverdi often wrote in two different styles: the old style for church music and the new style for secular (non-religious) music.

Usually men and boys sang Gregorian chant in churches, and holy women and men sang them in their daily prayers. In Roman Catholic churches, prayers and songs follow an order called the ‘Roman Rite’ and Gregorian chant is the music used in the Mass and the Office of the Roman Rite. The Mass is the part of the Roman Rite where Catholics receive what they believe to be the body and blood of Christ. The ‘Office’ is the part of the Roman Rite where holy men and women pray at special times every day.

 In the past, people sang different songs in parts of Europe, but Gregorian chant replaced almost all of them. Although the Roman Catholic Church no longer requires people to sing Gregorian chants, it still says that this is the best music for prayer.  And a recording of Gregorian chants would also be appropriate in the background for any coven or solitary working as it has become received wisdom that listening to this form of plainsong increases the production of alpha waves in the brain, reinforcing the popular reputation of Gregorian chanting for producing a sense of elation.

The reason being that the music scale used today is out of sync with the old scale, and as such, is thought not to be as useful when it comes to promoting feelings of euphoria. Solfeggio frequencies, which the old scale used, were lost when the modern scale was introduced, but have recently re-emerged. We can find them in recordings of The Hymn to St John the Baptist, and in modern audio created specifically with the same frequencies.

Some music historians state that monks began using Solfeggio frequencies merely as a means of helping people remember music. However, the fact remains that the old scale was based on a specific mathematical formula that dates back to Pythagoras. In addition, it is likely that Pythagoras was aware that he had discovered frequencies that could help lift people to a higher realm of consciousness and encourage enlightenment. It is also unlikely that Gregorian monks stumbled upon Solfeggio frequencies by accident because, like Pythagoras, they were in the business of helping people reach higher spiritual levels of being. Making use of the ancient knowledge that they applied to music could be beneficial if we want to experience a degree of healing and rise to a higher state of consciousness.

A recording of Gregorian chants would also be appropriate in the background of any coven or solitary working as it has become received wisdom that listening to this form of plainsong increases the production of alpha waves in the brain, reinforcing the popular reputation of Gregorian chanting for producing a sense of elation. The reason being that the music scale that is used today is out of sync with the old scale, and as such is thought not to be as useful when it comes to promoting feelings of euphoria.  Solfeggio frequencies, which the old scale used, were lost when the modern scale was introduced, but have recently re-emerged. We can find them in recordings of The Hymn to St John the Baptist, and in modern audio created specifically with the same frequencies.

Some historians state that monks began using Solfeggio frequencies merely as a means of helping people remember music. However, the fact remains that the old scale was based on a specific mathematical formula that dates back to Pythagoras. In addition, it is likely that Pythagoras was aware that he had discovered frequencies that could help lift people to a higher realm of consciousness and encourage enlightenment. It is also unlikely that Gregorian monks stumbled upon Solfeggio frequencies by accident because, like Pythagoras, they were in the business of helping people reach higher spiritual levels of being. Making use of the ancient knowledge that they applied to music could be beneficial if we want to experience a degree of healing and rise to a higher state of consciousness.

Alternatively, listening to the right kind of music can help alleviate anxiety.  Baroque largo  music is known to induce calming alpha waves in the brain. The presence of these can act simply to calm or, more ambitiously, as a background to thought changing processes. Baroque music, pioneered by composers such as Bach, Handel and Vivaldi is also known for its grandiose, dramatic, and energetic spirit, with its multiple melodies and countermelodies.

As we can see, church music has its magical/mystical elements and we shouldn’t miss out on the advantages of utilising it because it was composed for other religious purposes.  The clergy soaked up this kind of information like a sponge and very often church archives are the only sources of preservation of esoteric information that might otherwise be lost – such as the Solfeggio frequencies contained within the old Gregorian chants.

<![CDATA[Writer@Work : Winter 2019/2020]]>Wed, 11 Dec 2019 07:19:59 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/writerwork-winter-20192020Picture

Having never been one for making extra work for myself, I’m in the throes of getting rid of several Facebook pages that are superfluous to requirements now that the various Blogs are up and running.  We don’t realise just how much time FB eats into the working day and so the first to go is the MD page: followers will be given plenty of warning and the opportunity to join the MD Word Press Blog

 On the book front, Pagan Portals: Seeking the Primal Goddess is due for publication on 31st January and can be pre-ordered on Amazon.  Meanwhile in production there’s Pagan Portals - Sacred Landscape: Caves and Mountains (due 28th August) and Pagan Portals - The Inner-City Path: A Simple Pagan Guide to Well-Being and Awareness  (due 25th September 2020).  Work in progress includes Sexual Dynamics in the Circle, Sacred Landscape: Lakes & Waterfalls, The Witches’ Book of Simples and Sacred Landscape: Groves & Forests for Moon BooksWhile the third in the Vampyre’s Tale series is compYeted in the first draft and the fifth in the Temple House Archive will be started in the New Year …

Added to this I’m busy helping out with the final stages of Philip and Carrie’s Round About the Cauldron Go, and with the added input from James and Julie, the Magister and Dame of Coven of the Scales, this book can really be classed as a team effort.  Should be ready for publication with Ignotus Press by the Spring Equinox …

<![CDATA[THE TRADITIONAL WITCHES' CALENDAR - DECEMBER]]>Thu, 28 Nov 2019 10:28:43 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/the-traditional-witches-calendar-decemberPicture
DECEMBER: [OE] Ærra Gēola ‘Before Yule ’, or ‘First Yule. OHG Ærra Gēola ‘Before Yule’ or ‘First Yule’. Also called Heligh-monat or Holy-month by the Anglo-Saxons.  In the 14th century misericord calendar, it was shown as the time for spinning by the fire since the weather was too inhospitable to work outdoors. The tree representing December is the Holly, symbol of the winter aspect of the god as the Holly King and sacred to the Horned God.
5th Faunalia was a festival celebrated in rural areas, honouring nature and animals sacred to the Roman Faunus, god of fields and shepherds – and of prophesy. Today: The perfect time for a spot of divination according to your method of choice.
Weather-lore: ‘A green December fills the grave yard’.
9th Optalia, celebrated Ops as the Roman goddess of the harvest as part of the agricultural cults and festivals of the folk calendar. Today: Perhaps a time to give quiet thanks for the good things that have happened during the year before the Yuletide revels begin.
17th First day of Saturnalia, the most popular of Roman festivals. Dedicated to the Roman god Saturn, the festival’s influence continues to be felt throughout the Western world. Originally celebrated on 17th December, Saturnalia was extended first to three and eventually to seven days. The date has been connected with the winter sowing season, which in modern Italy varies from October to January. Today: as good a time as any to put up the Yuletide decorations.
18th Festival of Epona: Epona’s feast day is held on 13th June, while The Festival of Epona is on 18th December. The festival is a Roman celebration, the only celebration by the Romans that honoured a Celtic deity, probably because she was popular with the Roman cavalry. Today: Offer your equine companions a special treat.
19th Sigillaria was a day of gift-giving in ancient Rome. The closing days of the Saturnalia were known as Sigillaria, because of the custom of making, toward the end of the festival, presents of candles, wax models of fruit, and waxen statuettes which were fashioned by the sigillarii or manufacturers of small figures in wax and other media. The cult statue of Saturn himself, traditionally bound at the feet with woollen bands, was untied, presumably to come out and join the fun. Today: A good time to distribute Yuletide gifts.
21st Mumping Day. St Thomas’s Day was a day on which the poor used to go out begging, or s it was called ‘going a-gooding’ that is getting money to procure good things for Christmas (mump, to beg). In Warwickshire the term was used ‘going a-corning’, i.e. getting gifts of corn; while in Staffordshire it was simply spoken of as ‘a-gooding’. Today: Make a donation to the charity of your choice.
21st Candle Auction. The candle and pin auction at Old Bolingbroke [Lincolnshire] is one of a handful of survivors of an ancient method of selling which involves the auctioneer taking bids whilst a candle with a pin stuck though it burns; when the flame reaches the pin, it falls out and whoever placed the last bid wins. The origins of the sale appear to be lost in the mists of time, but the current revival has been going since 1937 with only a brief break or two. Today: A good idea for a fund-raiser
21st Winter Solstice. Astronomically speaking, winter begins at the Winter Solstice, which falls on or around the 21st and marks the coldest and darkest time of the year when nature sleeps. It is the time of the Holly King who rules the land until the Spring Equinox that occurs in March. If there isn’t a holly tree in the garden keep a few sprigs indoors to honour the Dark Lord and his Wild Hunt. Professor E O James in Seasonal Feasts and Festivals confirms that: “Around the Christmas Festival, a great variety of ancient seasonal customs and beliefs from a number of different sources clustered, originally observed from the beginning of November [old Hallowe’en] to the end of January [Candlemas], particularly those connected with the winter solstice rites…”
22nd Yalda. According to Persian mythology, Mithra was born at dawn to a virgin mother on the day after the Winter Solstice. He symbolises light, truth, goodness, strength, and friendship; Herodotus reported that this was the most important holiday of the year for contemporary Persians. Mithraism came to Britain as the god of the Roman Legions and there have been several temples discovered that were dedicated to his worship, particularly in London and along Hadrian’s Wall.
23rd Festival of Laurentalia for Acca Larentia, an early Italian goddess of the Earth to whom the seed was entrusted. End of Saturnalia. Today: A brief respite from the revels.
24th Modraniht. The Anglo-Saxon Modraniht or Mother’s Night and the beginning of the ‘Time Between the Years’ – the thirteen sacred days and twelve sacred nights of a Germanic sacrificial festival associated with the ‘Matron cult’ of the West Germanic peoples on the one hand, and to the dísablót already known from medieval Scandinavia. This was the blót (sacrificial holiday) held in honour of the female spirits or deities from pre-historic times until the Christianisation of Scandinavia. Today: A special night for the matriarchal members of the family.
25th Dies Natalis Solis Invicti. The renewal of light and the coming of the New Year was celebrated in the later Roman Empire at the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, the ‘birthday of the Unconquerable Sun’.
Weather-lore: ‘If Christmas Day be bright and clear, there will be two winters in the year’.
26th Boxing Day or St Stephen’s Day. The Feast of Stephen (of the Christmas carol fame) fell on this day and so he came to play a part in the Yuletide celebrations, which were previously associated with Freyr.
27th The Mari Lwyd is a wassailing folk custom still found in South Wales and under other names in various parts of England. The tradition entails the use of an eponymous hobby horse, which is made from a horse’s skull mounted on a pole and carried by an individual hidden under a sackcloth. It represents a regional variation of a ‘hooded animal’ tradition that appears in various forms throughout Britain.
31st New’ New Year’s Eve or Hogmanay is the Scots word for the last day of the year and synonymous with the celebration of the New Year (in the Gregorian calendar) in the Scottish manner. The origins of Hogmanay are unclear, but may derive from Norse and Gaelic observances. Today: Observe the tradition of ‘first footing’ by a dark-haired man of the family taking a piece of coal across the threshold of your neighbour’s house for good luck.
31st Fire Festivals. Celebrating the end of the old year and start of the new with fire festivals still continues in several places through Britain. Believed to have pagan origins, the Allendale Fire Ceremony in Northumberland is perhaps one of the most spectacular with a procession of ‘guisers’ carrying tubs of flaming tar above their heads. The procession eventually arrives at the town square where the flaming tubs are thrown onto a bonfire. At the stroke of midnight the church bells ring out to symbolise the supplanting of paganism by Christianity!
31st Burning the Old Year Out. A re-enactment of the ancient Scottish fire festival is continued with a torchlight procession through the town followed by a bonfire that symbolizing the burning out of the old year. During World War II a candle was lit in a tin can to ensure the tradition survived.
31st The Flambeaux is an ancient Tayside torchlight procession originally performed to drive out evil spirits. The villagers march round the village to the four points of the compass and then back into the main village square where the torches are thrown onto a bonfire.
31st Swinging the Fireballs. The ceremony at this east coast fishing village of Stonehaven is one of the most unique Hogmanay festivals in Scotland. At the stroke of midnight the High Street is lit up as sixty local fireball-swingers make their way, swinging their fireballs above their heads; they proceed through the town down to the harbour where the balls are thrown into the sea. The modern ceremony dates from a fisherman’s festival in the 19th century, but its origins may stem from pagan times. There are other theories on the significance of the festival. One recalls that sometime in the Dark Ages a shooting star appeared above Stonehaven. In the year that followed the sighting, the local farmers recorded a bumper harvest. Attributing their prosperity to the shooting star, the villagers introduced the fireball ceremony to symbolise its coming as an omen of good fortune for the future.

<![CDATA[OLD YULETIDE: Quot estis in convivio]]>Thu, 28 Nov 2019 10:11:51 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/old-yuletide-quot-estis-in-convivioPicture

​The Boar’s Head Carol is a 15th century English carol that describes the ancient tradition of sacrificing a boar and presenting its head at a Yuletide feast. Of the several extant versions of the carol, the one most usually performed today is based on a version published in 1521 in Wynkyn de Worde’s Christmasse Carolles. According to folklorists, the boar’s head tradition was probably introduced into Britain by the Anglo-Saxons, although our knowledge of it comes substantially from medieval times ... In ancient Norse tradition sacrifice carried the intent of imploring Freyr to show favor to the New Year. The boar’s head with apple in mouth was carried into the banquet hall on a gold or silver dish to the sounds of trumpets and the songs of minstrels and is probably the forerunner of the traditional Christmas ham.
The boar’s head in hand bring I, (Or: The boar’s head in hand bear I,)
Bedeck’d with bays and rosemary.
And I pray you, my masters, be merry (Or: And I pray you, my masters, merry be)
Quot estis in convivio (Translation: As many as are in the feast)

Caput apri defero (Translation: The boars head I bear)
Reddens laudes Domino (Translation: Giving praises to the Lord)

The boar’s head, as I understand,
Is the rarest dish in all this land,
Which thus bedeck’d with a gay garland

Let us servire cantico. (Translation: Let us serve with a song)


Our steward hath provided this
In honour of the King of Bliss;
Which on this day to be served is

In Reginensi atrio. (Translation: In the hall of Queen’s [College, Oxford])

This Mid-Winter Festival as our ancestors would have called it is the most magical and mystical time of the year and should be celebrated as such with all the pagan gusto we can summon. It is an ancient fire festival that heralds the shortest day of the year; an astronomical turning of the tide to announce the rebirth of the sun and the promise of warmth returning to the land. It was a time of long nights and short days. It was cold and dark and not a time to be venturing out. It was, therefore, the perfect time to feast and create artificial light and warmth – and look forward with hope to the return of the sun.
The Winter Solstice was immensely important because these ancient people were economically dependent on monitoring the progress of the seasons. The reasons for this are obvious – and demonstrate why the Mid-Winter Festival with all its trappings of feasting and plenty should remain one of the most important feasts in the pagan calendar – if only as a testament to those who didn’t make it through the long winter darkness. The festival was the last opportunity for feasting, before deep winter began; when a large proportion of the cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter, and it was the only time of year when a plentiful supply of fresh meat was available. The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and also ready for drinking at this time.
Needless to say, Roman, Celt, Anglo-Saxon and Norse invaders also brought their Mid-Winter customs with them, and as they integrated with the native peoples, so these customs were melded into existing ones. The concentration of these observances were not always on the day commencing at midnight or at dawn, but at the beginning of the pagan day, which in many cultures fell on the previous Eve.

Have A Cool Yule: How to Survive (& Enjoy) the Mid-Winter Festival by Melusine Draco is published by Moon Books.  www.moon-books.net

<![CDATA[A Book-Worm’s Eye View]]>Tue, 26 Nov 2019 12:43:10 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/a-book-worms-eye-viewPicture
Writing about witchcraft is easy.  Finding the right theme isn’t.  Any fool can pass themselves off as a witch but finding an informative and entertaining approach for a new book is a whole different cauldron of knowledge.  And since there’s a distinction between information and instruction, the author has to decide whether they are going to overload the readers’ senses with a compilation of facts, or whether magical enlightenment is the point of the exercise.  Personally, I feel there should be a magical purpose behind any book on Craft – otherwise it’s all been said before – and usually better …
When I was contracted to write my first book for Moon Books – Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living – there wasn’t anything similar when it came down to aid magical practice in the steamy metropolis.  Originally it was called Mean Street Witchcraft but then John Hunt thought it could be developed into a series, which it subsequently was and so the title was changed.  I wanted to produce something that was short, sharp and easy to follow because urban witchcraft does have all sorts of unique magical pitfalls that rural witches don’t usually need to think about.  And having lived in London for twenty years I reckoned I’d come across most permutations of them. Considering that most witches are urban dwellers, there was obviously a need for such advice and so the first book in the Traditional Witchcraft series was written. 
The second book needed to address another aspect of witchcraft that is rarely dealt with and that was the importance of linking with the different ‘tides’ that effect or enhance magical workings.  And what better environment in which to talk about the subject than in Traditional Witchcraft for the Seashore?  Needless to say that since the entire planet is governed by the various natural tides - oceanic, atmospheric, lunar and solar – the seashore was the focus for this title, even if we didn’t need to live anywhere near the coast to draw upon it.  Again there was nothing similar in print at the time, so there was a gap in the market for a book that took working with moon phases one step further.
The sea is a metaphor for life: it is vast and empty and infinite. The poet Walt Whitman, used the sea as a metaphor for immortality, while Henry David Thoreau used the sea as a metaphor for the enrichment of man’s mind and the limitlessness of his abilities. The two oceans that are a common theme in Thoreau’s work is the ocean which is found on earth and the ocean in the sky which consists of the moon, stars and air. Conceptually, to Thoreau both oceans represented the accessible vastness of the human psyche which man should aspire to engage until he dies.  Magical practice is, however, one big metaphor and therefore this was seen as another exercise on the path of traditional witchcraft.

Tradition Witchcraft for Urban Living and Traditional Witchcraft for the Seashore by Melusine Draco are both published by Moon Books.  www.mon-books-net

<![CDATA[FOOT OR HORSEBACK]]>Mon, 18 Nov 2019 12:57:24 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/foot-or-horsebackPicture
Whether we like it or not, we live in disruptive and dangerous times.  Whereby if you’re not with us, you’re against us, you’re the sworn enemy and you need to be stopped and gagged regardless if what you say is based on ‘fact’ – facilitating an Inquisitorial brand of manipulative brainwashing of ordinary citizens in the religious newspapers and social media.  And so it begins …
On its own admission the Catholic church has experienced a couple of wobbles in recent years whereby it has found itself in the position of embracing green-politics and even having to deny the existence of the Devil in an attempt to bring the religion up to date. With the head of the Jesuits stating that Satan is a ‘symbolic figure’ who doesn’t really exist. In an interview with the Spanish paper El Mundo, Fr. Arturo Sosa Abascal, the Jesuit’s Superior General, said: “We have created symbolic figures, such as the devil, in order to express [the reality of] evil,” when asked if he believed evil is a process of human psychology or if it comes from a higher being. 
And yet in an article in the Independent 8th October 2018, Pope Francis says that the devil is alive and well and working overtime to undermine the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, according to journalist Philip Pullella, the Pope is so convinced that Satan is to blame for the sexual abuse crisis and deep divisions racking the Church that he asked Catholics around the world to recite a special prayer every day during that month to try to beat him back. “We should not think of the devil – the great accuser [sic … No Your Holiness, that’s a satan!] – as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech or an idea. This mistake would lead us to let down our guard, to grow careless and end up more vulnerable,” he wrote in a papal document.
Historically, the Superior General of the Jesuits has been dubbed the ‘Black Pope’ because of his influence in the Church and Fr Abascal referring to the devil as a symbol follows a trend within current Catholic leadership of downplaying and even denying the existence of hell altogether. The problem of evil in the Christian view, however, refers to the question of how to reconcile the existence of evil with an omnipotent, omnipresent and omnibenevolent God; an argument for evil claims that because evil exists, either God does not exist, or does not have all three of those properties to combat it. Which reminders me of a trick question that was going round the pagan camps many years ago: ‘Can God create a stone that he can’t lift?’
This on-going debate concerning the problem of evil generally applies to the monotheistic religions such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism who believe in a God who is all powerful; but the question of ‘why does evil exist?’ has also been studied in religions that are non-theistic or polytheistic, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. It also refers to the challenge of reconciling belief in an omnipotent God, with the existence of evil and all the suffering in the world – especially as the three warring Abrahamic religions, i.e. Judaism, Christianity and Islam, have the same root faith. The Devil and/or Satan has no relevance outside the ‘Big Three’ since those of a pagan persuasion have no reason to include the Bad Guy of monotheisim in their pantheon.
And yet … there is (once again) an ominous undercurrent bubbling away in the religious press. The most frightening aspect of current Church opinion was the announcement in the Irish Times in January 2018 that a ‘renowned Irish exorcist and priest has called on the Catholic Church to appoint more exorcists and that the church needed at least one trained exorcist for each diocese because ‘Irish people are being ravaged by demonic possession’. The priest said the Catholic Church was ‘out of touch with reality’ as they were sending sufferers of possession to psychologists instead of performing the ritual of exorcism! The Catholic Communications Office even confirmed the church did require that each Irish diocese have a trained exorcist; i.e. someone who knows how to distinguish the signs of demonic possession from those of mental or physical illness.
Deborah Hyde writing in The Guardian, however, opened her report by saying that ‘exorcism is intrinsic to Christianity’ and revealed that the Vatican had set up a new exorcism training course, following an alleged increase in demonic possession: there are half a million cases reported in Italy yearly, and demand for assistance has tripled. ‘To claim that such a large number of Italians have been inadvertently contaminated by Satan, like some paranormal STD, is a significant aspersion on a nation of 60 million people.’ Hyde continued:
 ‘A quick breeze around the Catholic Herald website certainly confirms that exorcism is a live topic. And in 2014, the Vatican officially recognised the International Association of Exorcists. But another thing bothers me: the class of specialists produced by exorcism courses and professional bodies. These specialists derive status from the practice of their ‘skills’, in the manner of Maslow’s hammer: when you have a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. An investment in the intellectual models of demonic possession and exorcism can bring catastrophic momentum. A quick look at history demonstrates how just one educated yet gullible fool can wreak havoc: in the witch-hunts of Labourd, in France, in 1609, Pierre de Lancre brought at least 70 people to the stake. There are many more career witch-hunters of whom similar stories can be told.’
While the Catholic News Agency in Rome reported demonic possessions were on the increase in Italy, the Vatican was hosting a week-long training programme to better prepare exorcists for ministry. ‘Today we are at a stage crucial in history: Many Christians no longer believe in [the devil’s] existence, few exorcists are appointed and there are no more young priests willing to learn,’ said one of the event’s speakers, according to Vatican News … Nevertheless, to the Church, demonic possession will always refer to demons of The Exorcist variety and dealt with accordingly – although the rest of us could be forgiven for thinking that after two thousand years of murder, inquisition and intolerance it’s a wonder that any churchman still feels he can hold the moral high ground as far as the Devil is concerned.’
Marc Cramer, who holds a MA in psychology and a leading authority on parapsychological issues, as well as a member of the Society for Psychical Research, authored The Devil Within -the result of extensive study and research into the subject, as well as first-hand witnessing of possession. Cramer reached three fundamental conclusions: Firstly that the ‘overwhelming majority’ of all reported cases of possession had been induced by hysteria, or are outright frauds; and that true demonical possession is exceedingly rare. While he believed that the existence of manifestations of possession are something distinct from ‘mythomania’ or madness, it did not follow through that the possession is actually caused by evil spirits or demons. He also explained that while there is every reason to believe that so-called demon infestation is a psychological (but not supernatural) event, the syndrome is not directly related to other mental disorders, and belongs to a different category.
Once again, with history repeating itself, the Church is again finding itself in a position of weakness and hitting back with all its medieval weaponry intact. Despite the head of the Jesuit Order, an important influence in Catholic thought and education, are denying the existence of hell – their ‘Boss’ is stating quite categorically that the Devil is alive and well and living wherever he chooses.
Now, a year later, the Catholic Voice publishes two double-page features entitled ‘7 Steps to Reclaim the Catholic Faith in a Neo-Pagan Modern Culture’ and ‘Defence Against the Devil: Priest Offers Key to Spiritual Protection’.  The first is a book promo that is reminiscent of that classic Billy Connelly sketch ‘We are the Christian, we hate the Romans’ … because the theme of the piece is about how Christianity saved the world from those nasty pagan Romans and how ‘our own world looks more and more like the world of the ancient pagans’ as an excuse for the writer to use the ‘neo-pagan’ buzzword when in fact the author obviously knows half of f… all about ‘today’ neo-pagan society’.
The other piece jumps on the Papal bandwagon in another book promo, this written by a church exorcist, which supports the other frightening aspect of current Church opinion and gives the devil his due by advising the newspapers’ readers against directly talking to the devil!  A second double page feature in the same publication reverts to a diatribe of superstitious that basically comes up with the same old argument: ‘We know hell is real in the same way that we know the devil is real – from the Bible.’  But no mention that the Bible is the product of Christian mistransliteration.
The free Catholic monthly newspaper, Alive, also adopted the ‘neo-pagan’ buzzword for: ‘Púca Festival: Ireland’s Dangerous Neo-pagan Revival’, which included the statement that ‘The Púca festival appears to be an initiation ceremony into the occult.  The Catholic understands that there is a real danger of being opened to demonic spirits by taking part in pagan rituals …’
A study has showed more than eight in ten Catholics believed the devil is just a symbol but if the devil isn’t real then Catholic theology falls apart. The ‘devil and all his legions’ are a necessary superstition if the exorcists can be justified in being brought back in force to shore up a crumbling edifice. And with the Catholic Church in Ireland having its sordid under-belly exposed with depressing regularity in recent years, one would have thought the Vatican would have wanted to avoid scoring any more home-goals on the subject of evil!
Nevertheless, as at Belshazzar’s feast, the writing’s on the wall and we need to be aware that this is exactly how the 1980s anti-occult crusade started off.   So, forget ‘Perfect love and perfect trust’ and remember the words of the Interfaith anti-pagan lobby who commented at that time:  ‘We don’t need to go undercover.  All we need to do is be nice to them and they tell us everything we want to know …’
The Arte of Darkness by Melusine Draco is published by Ignotus Press UK.  Available from https://www.feedaread.com/books/The-Arte-of-Darkness-9781788769198.aspx at a discounted price.

<![CDATA[THE WITCH’S CALENDAR – NOVEMBER]]>Mon, 28 Oct 2019 09:42:46 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/the-witchs-calendar-novemberPicture

​NOVEMBER: [OE] Blōt-mōnaþ ‘Blood Month’ or ‘Month of Sacrifice’ when surplus livestock would have been killed and stored for use over winter. [OHG] Herbist-mānod ‘autumn month’. The first week of November has long been a time of festivals and celebrations marking the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter. In the 14th century misericord calendar, it was shown as the time for killing the pigs fattened with acorns during the previous month. The tree representing November is the Elder, the tree of justice since in times past judgements were often carried out beneath it.
1st Hallowmas (All Saints’ Day) commemorates the faithful departed. In many traditions, All Saints’ Day is part of the triduum of All-hallowtide, which lasts three days from 31st October to 2nd November inclusive. Today: A time for remembering the dead.
1st All Saints Great Fair. Before 1153, Earl Simon of Northampton granted a tenth of the profit of the fair held in the church and churchyard of All Saints to St Andrew’s priory; in November 1235, Henry III ordered that the fair was not to be held in the cemetery or church of All Saints, but instead at a vacant, waste piece of land to the north of the church. In the 13th
century, this was one of the great fairs of England and by 1334: the fair lasted from 1st to 30th  November. Today: Ideal for a family day out to a local market and a pub lunch.
1st La Mas Ubhal – The Irish Day of Apple Fruit dedicated to the ‘Lunar-arkite goddess who presided over seeds and fruit’ according to the Cambrian Quarterly. Pronounced la-masool, the English corrupted it to ‘lambs-wool’. A beverage consisting of the juice of apples roasted over spiced ale. A great day for this drink was the feast of the Irish apple-gathering. “The pulp of roasted apples, in number foure or five … mixed in the wine quart of faire water, laboured together until it come to be as apples and ale, which we call lambes wool.” Johnson’s Gerard 1460. Today: A warming winter drink for celebrating the end of the apple harvest.
2nd All Souls Day remembers deceased relatives on the day. Some believe that the origins of All Souls’ Day in European folklore and folk belief are related to customs of ancestor veneration. Today: If you haven’t before, light a candle for any deceased relatives and friends.
2nd Day of the Dead – the day in the Celtic year when the Festival of the Dead took place. It was once the custom to leave doors open and food on the table to nourish the souls of recently departed family members. Today: In traditional witchcraft this might also involve holding a Dumb Supper, either today or more appropriately at Old Samhain.
Weather-lore: ‘On first November if weather is clear;
’Tis the end of the sowing you’ll do for the year’.
3rd Hilaria, a harvest festival in the Roman religion; day of merriment and rejoicing of the Isis-Osiris cult, marking the resurrection of Osiris, husband of Isis. This was a mirror celebration of the Cybele-Attis cult resurrection celebrated on the 25th March. Today: A day of endings and new beginnings.
10th Old Samhain Eve, Lá Samhna, Calan Gaeof. This is the winter season that traditionally runs from is about halfway between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals, along with Imbolc, Beltaine and Lughnasadh. Historically, it was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Similar festivals are held at the same time of year in other Celtic lands; for example the Brythonic Calan Gaeaf (in Wales), Kalan Gwav (in Cornwall), and Kalan Goañv (in Brittany). Tonight: Hold the traditional observance for Samhain.
11th Better known since 1918 as Armistice Day, it is the time to remember the war dead and the Ancestors on Old Samhain. Today: Wear your poppy with pride.
11th Martinmas. The time when autumn wheat seeding was completed, and the annual slaughter of fattened cattle produced ‘Martinmas beef’. Hiring fairs were held where farm labourers would seek new posts. It was also the time when autumn winter seedling was usually completed and the farmer provided a ‘cakes and ale’ feast for the workers that included special ‘hopper cakes’ made with seeds and whole grains. Today: Celebrate with ‘cakes and ale’ in time honoured fashion.
11th Vinalia, the Feast of Bacchus. When Bacchus was merged with Christianity, St Martin had to bear the ill-repute of his predecessor and become the patron saint of drunkards, with the Feast of St Martin used to be held as a day of great debauch! Today: Share a bottle of wine with close friends.
Weather-lore: ‘Wind north-west at Martinmas, severe winter to come’.
13th Feronia, a Roman terrestrial goddess of fertility and ‘plenty of abundance’ who was once a Sabine goddess of the wilderness and wild woods. The particulars of the festival are lost but Dionysius of Halicarnassus gives us a flavour of them when he describes other festivities dedicated to Feronia. Today: Honour the goddess in her untamed form.
20th The Feast of St Edmund the Martyr of Suffolk (d.869) the patron saint of England until Edward III replaced him by associating Saint George with the Order of the Garter. The King believed England should have a fearless champion as its patron saint and not one who had been defeated in battle. In 2006, a group that included BBC Radio Suffolk and the East Anglian Daily Times failed in their campaign to reinstate Edmund. In 2013 another campaign to reinstate St Edmund as patron saint was begun with the backing of representatives from businesses, Churches, radio and local politicians.
23rd Feast of St Clement. He became the patron saint of ironworkers and of all trades, the blacksmith’s is richest in traditions. The smith’s magical status was early established because he worked with iron and fire. Today: Light the patio fire in honour of the smith gods and hold your own ‘Clem Supper’ especially if you’re a horse-person.
25th The Roman Festival of Proserpina, daughter of Ceres and the root meaning behind the Eleusinian Mysteries, and the beginning of winter. 
30th [NS] St Andrew’s Day. The celebration of Saint Andrew as a national festival is said to originate from the reign of Malcolm III.  Today: Celebrate the national day of Scotland.