<![CDATA[Coven of the Scales - Blog]]>Sun, 16 Jan 2022 15:08:00 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living]]>Sat, 15 Jan 2022 15:29:34 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/traditional-witchcraft-for-urban-livingPicture

By Melusine Draco
An extract from the book and a bit more …
In the roaring traffic’s boom / In the silence of my lonely room from the Cole Porter’s song, Night and Day, probably sums up the lot of many urban witches who find the inner city streets incompatible with what they see as a pagan life-style. And yet for hundreds of years, witches and cunning folk have plied their trade for the benefit of their town-dwelling neighbours.

​Only recently, a rather mature witch of my acquaintance reminded me of the time when I’d advised her on how to cope with a recent move from rural Berkshire to a large sprawling city;  of how she needed to get out and find the old heart of her new community and reconnect with the heart-beat of her kind.  It was amazing, she said, just how many old life-lines were still evident in the abandoned water-courses, derelict churchyards and ancient architecture. 
Late 18th-century antiquarians portrayed the urbanizing towns of the period as ‘centres of a new-style civilization, confident, reformed, free of the old superstitions of the past.  The urban laboring-classes were still views as ignorant and vice-ridden, but they were not thought to be as ignorant, and consequently not as superstitious as their country bumpkin cousins.  By the mid-19th century, confidence in the civilizing effects of urbanization had worn off somewhat … but many intellectuals of the period believed that urbanization rescued people ‘from the idiocy of rural life’.   Thus an editorial in the periodical All The Year Round (November 1869), remarked that although the belief in witchcraft still existed ‘to a very considerable extent in England’ it was not heard of in the busy towns
Washington Irving, writing in 1820, described how the inhabitants of Little Britain (near Smithfield Market) still believed in dreams and fortune-telling but failed to mention witchcraft among the beliefs still held in the area.  It is evident from the scant folkloric source material, and from the newspaper archives, that accusations of witchcraft were far less common in London than in rural areas during the modern period.  In early modern England the flow of rural migrants to an expanding London, for example, did not necessarily lead to irrevocable breaks in social relations between village and city.  Rural teenagers were apprenticed to urban relations or friends, and many townspeople returned to their village homes to help at harvest time, this reinforcing those kinship links which geographical distance might have otherwise broken.
Owen Davies, who is well-known to most pagan readers for his classic Popular Magic: Cunning Folk in English History charted the transition of cunning folk from village to city in his The Decline in the Popular Belief in Witchcraft and Magic; his unpublished PhD thesis for the University of Lancaster, 1995 – which was later published in the Journal of Social History (1997).   By the time of WWI there were far fewer cunning folk operating in England than there had been fifty years before, and by the 1940s they seen to have disappeared altogether.
Interestingly, Gabrielle Hatfield made a similar observation in Memory, Wisdom & Healing (1999) following her researches into the history of domestic plant medicine , that had been passed down orally from one generation to the next.  She acknowledges that many women described as witches were probably innocent practitioners of herbal medicine; while others undoubtedly cultivated the image of witchcraft so that they had more to offer their customers than the common knowledge of plant medicine.
She also found that when she was collecting data on 20th-century plant remedies, many people initially disclaimed any knowledge of the subject. “In our present century, elderly people with such knowledge usually have not passed it on to the next generation for fear of being laughed at, or simply because they felt that such information was of no interest … especially in view of the condescending attitudes shown towards the users of such remedies.”
As far as today’s witches are concerned, the pursuit of this hidden urban knowledge is concerned, will be long and often misleading.  After all, why should an eager young witchlet expect these elderly kinfolk to be forthcoming?   The modern witch seeks to drop into a stranger’s life and expect to share their recollections and knowledge, and very often they will not be immune to having the wool pulled over his or her eyes!
For the witch whose career confines them to an urbanised environment, regular Craft practice may often seem like a futile gesture, especially if home is a small, gardenless-flat. Even the suburbs can be magically incapacitating, if there is constant noise from traffic and neighbours. People work long hours; often setting off for work and getting home again in the dark during the winter months, without having the opportunity to notice the subtle changing of the seasons. Weekends are a constant battle with family commitments, domestic chores and socialising. It’s no wonder that the urban witch has little time or strength left for magical and spiritual development.
There are, of course, others who find themselves having to remain town and house-bound because of age or disability; because they are caring for an aged/infirm parent, or partner; or because they have small children. Urbanisation often provides on-the-spot facilities to make things easier on the domestic front but it cannot give the one thing that a witch needs most – privacy and spiritual elbow-room. So how do we manage?
We get up close and personal. And we reject the textbook clichés of what is, and what is not, recommended witchcraft practice. We do not follow stereotyping when it comes to when, where and how we perform our rituals simply because it may not be practically possible to always follow the instructions to the letter. For example: I am a Welsh witch and I come from a place midway between the mountains and the sea, but I have not lived in my homeland now for many years. It would be untrue to say that I never experience what the Welsh call hiraethus, that indescribable feeling of longing and home-sickness, but as we all know, in magical terms there is always a price to be paid for our Craft. During those long years, my career and domestic life has taken me to London (where I lived for 20 years), to the industrial Midlands and, more recently, to a totally urbanised area of East Anglia. Not once, before moving to rural Ireland, did I have the luxury of wild, open spaces – it was all concrete and asphalt. But not once, in all that time, did I stop being a real witch.
In my experience, the greatest problem a solitary urban witch faces is that an urban environment is not user-friendly when it comes to psychic activity, but then we don’t always have a choice of where we are going to live if someone else’s needs have to be catered for, too. Mostly I have been confined to renting small terraced cottages and flats, often with little or no garden to give that extra bit of space. I make this comment merely to demonstrate that my Craft activities have not been conducted in a round of luxurious city apartments and picturesque Grade II listed town houses! Under these circumstances, for me the key words have always been: acclimatise, adapt and improvise. Any animal, plant or person that is uprooted and transported to another environment quickly learns to acclimatise if it is going to survive. I have adapted to my surroundings and drawn on whatever material/energy there is to hand, even if it is not what I’ve been used to working with. I improvise by drawing on existing knowledge and experience. So …
Acclimatise: Accustom yourself to tuning-in to your environment, even if you’ve lived there for some time. Try to imagine visiting the place for the first time. Buy a detailed street map or guidebook, and familiarise yourself with all the hidden nooks and crannies in the immediate vicinity. Is there a park nearby? Public gardens? Churchyard? Cemetery? What trees are growing locally? Which are the most important/attractive buildings?  Where is the nearest river or canal? Where is the oldest church? Take your time … explore … rediscover … acclimatise.
Adapt: Modify or adjust the way you look at things. There is no point in wishing you were elsewhere when circumstances dictate that you remain where you are. But on the other hand there’s nothing quite so mind-numbing as doing the same thing, day in day out, for weeks on end. For a change, try walking to the shops, school, or travelling to work, via a different route. Examine what’s growing in all the front gardens along the way to the shop, school, station or bus stop. Make sure you take time out for lunch - and get out of the home or working environment for an hour - even if it’s a wet Wednesday afternoon: after all, a witch shouldn’t be afraid of a little drop of Elemental Water! Start seriously inter[1]acting with your environment … adapt.
Improvise: Be prepared to perform a magical working at any time, without preparation, and without what is considered to be the ‘proper regalia’. Be aware of the magical signs Nature has to offer and be ready to act spontaneously, even in the middle of a crowded railway station or shopping mall during rush hour! It may also come as a bit of a shock to realise that a large number of books mentioned in this text are not about witchcraft, or written by witches. This is because we are learning to improvise and look at things from a different or unexpected perspective. Before we go out and meet Nature face to face, however, there may be one or two changes needed to enable us to re-connect with the natural, elemental energies that are an essential ingre[1]dient within any magical environment. Sorry … we’re not talking about symbolic bowls of water, salt, night-lights and a joss stick to mark the quarters on the sitting room rug, we’re talking about encountering real Elemental Air, real Elemental Water, real Elemental Earth and real Elemental Fire - up close and personal!
Elemental Air: This is … wait for it … fresh air! It’s the stuff every living thing on the planet needs to breathe to stay alive but, apart from the occasional jaunt to a pagan camp, a large number of urban pagans appear to be terrified of it. I’ve been into some homes where the stuffy, cluttered atmosphere is so over-powering that you could cut the reek of stale incense with a knife. Whilst we appreciate that modern society no longer allows us to live with our doors and windows wide open, we must get used to letting cleansing air back into our lives.
There is a purifying element to fresh air! In both religious and magical terms, however, Elemental Air is usually represented by smoke from the incense carrying our prayers and entreaties up to the gods. As Joules Taylor observes in Perfume Power, the burning of fragrance to represent questions or appeals is an ancient and well-nigh indestructible facet of worship. In other words, from very early times fragrance has been associated with the gods, the soul and spiritual qualities. Learn to recognise natural fragrance (not always pleasant) from the world around you, and not to rely totally on the contrived atmospherics of the incense burner!
As Jules Taylor goes on to observe, our once highly developed sense of smell is now generally under deployed and now perhaps the least-regarded of all human senses. We can improve our ‘scent perception’ by simply concentrating on becoming more aware of the smells around us. Unfortunately, the urban witch also has to contend with exhaust fumes, fast-food outlets and all manner of other municipal pollution, but with practice it is possible to detect the faint fragrance of Nature. If we want to reconnect with Nature the first thing we must do is sharpen our senses and learn to read the signs that come to us on the breeze
Elemental Air brings lightness and freedom of spirit, as well as being a universal symbol of irresistible force and uncontrollable power. Exercise: In town it’s often difficult to find a moment, or even a place to relax. In the larger towns and cities the noise is a constant, 24- hour drone of traffic, where people never seem to sleep. With the use of a local map, find a ‘green spot’ … even if it’s only a small churchyard or square … where you can sit, watch and listen.
Okay, but what are we watching and listening for?
Nature … because she is there all around us, all the time. For example, I’ve encountered a green woodpecker while sitting in the small courtyard garden of a coffee shop in the middle of town. I’ve seen (and heard) hundreds of these birds over the years, but this was the closest I’d ever been … just five feet away. How many different birds (most certainly creatures of Elemental Air) can you identify? If the answer is very few, then how can you hope to begin to read those ‘signs’ that make up a large part of the witch’s world? Invest a few coppers in a book on British birds from a local charity shop, or buy off e-bay, or ABE-Books on the Internet. Start learning, even if it’s only by watching the pigeons in Trafalgar Square! You’ll be surprised how many different birds can be spotted in our towns and inner cities on a regular basis, and birds have been always been considered bearers of omens since ancient times.
Elemental Water: Water is the essential ingredient of life but how many of us consciously pay homage to this fact in our day-to-day existence? We use water for the daily ritual cleansing of our home and body, to water the garden or wash the car, but often neglecting its spiritual properties. From prehistoric times, our ancestors considered springs and ‘watery places’ to be sacred, and the contemporary custom of throwing coins into wells and municipal fountains goes back to the times when votive offerings were cast into the waters to propitiate the gods. We should be mindful that water, particularly spring water, is truly a ‘gift of the gods’ and not to be treated casually.
For magical purposes we need to re-connect with water, for even the most rubbish-clogged urban watercourse carries life[1]giving properties along its muddy artery. If we live close to a river, canal, park or golf course, then it makes it easier to observe water at close quarters during the changing seasons, and come to recognise the local wildlife that depends on it. Even the modern fountain in the city centre can be a focus for meditative moments when the sun catches the colours of the rainbow in the falling spray. Our local brook regularly acts as a depository for shopping trolleys, traffic cones and other domestic debris, as it runs right through the centre of town. Growing through the restraining brickwork, however, is a magnificent elder tree and an amazing collection of harts-tongue ferns, which I haven’t seen in such profusion since leaving Wales.
Most days the flow is the barest trickle but when it rains, the watercourse becomes a raging torrent. The only other ‘watery’ place is the dried bed of an old pond that only floods during the winter months, but this is the real magical place. The water has gone because the surrounding urban development has drained it, but the site is old, with a large stand of reed mace and a host of other interesting creatures living in this well-established habitat.
There are numerous ideas for a ‘water feature’ in the home, and much depends on personal taste rather than pagan cliché. Even the smallest courtyard can host an ornamental wall fountain, birdbath or wooden barrel containing miniature water lilies (although these do require direct sunlight for success). Inside, a large bowl with flower heads floating on the surface can be extremely attractive … but not a good idea if you have small children or a large dog. Be creative, use your imagination.  
Elemental Water ‘saturates our lives and language and is the most compelling of human metaphors’ wrote Rebecca Rupp in Four Elements; it is the universal symbol of primal mystery.
Exercise: Trace your local source of natural water and try to follow it for as far as possible. You may be lucky enough to live near a pond, stream, lake, river or canal and can watch the changing face of the seasons at the water margin. How many different species of flora and fauna dependent on an Elemental Water habitat can you identify? If the answer is very few, then how can you hope to begin to read those ‘signs’ that make up a large part of the witch’s world? Remember that pure (or purified) water is sterile and that for magical purposes we need to work with natural water. Unless you have access to a spring or holy-well, place a wide bowl or jar outside on a window-sill, to catch rain or moisture; transfer to a sealable bottle and keep for use in your rites. But don’t drink rainwater!
Elemental Earth: Of all the elements, Earth is the symbol of solidity and substance, and the ‘most intrusive in our daily lives’, was an observation made by Rebecca Rupp. The subject of global warming and saving the planet is at the forefront of everyone’s mind these days, but for the witch, the sanctity of the Earth and Nature has always been paramount. The witch does not ‘worship’ Nature but exists in a sort of ‘spiritual care-taking’ capacity – after all, it is from Nature direct that we divine the signs and symbols that give us the power over natural things. Communing with Nature isn’t always easy in an urban environment and it is very often necessary to ‘manufacture’ a moment of peace for ourselves amongst the busy populace.
Dig out a copy of that famous junior school poem by William Henry Davies, ‘Leisure’ that begins: “What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare … ” and take a verse for your very own Thought for the Day. Without compromising your personal safety, try to visit the local park or old cemetery during school hours, or early on a weekend morning, when you can guarantee having a quiet corner to yourself for a while. Many years ago, long before the ‘great clean up’ got underway, we lived near Highgate Cemetery and this was a perfect place for a meditative or magical moment. The magnificent monuments were overgrown and apart from the occasional tourist visit at weekends, we pretty much had the place to ourselves via a discreet hole in the boundary fence. Not only had Nature taken over completely and the place full of wildlife, but there was also the comfortable familiarity that all witches should have with both the spirits of the dead, and the spirits of Nature.
But how do we bring Elemental Earth into our urban home? By growing something, of course! Not everyone has green fingers but it doesn’t take much effort to introduce a small selection of supermarket-grown potted herbs to the kitchen window-sill, does it? This small gesture gives a dual sense of purpose, in that we are caring for something that we can utilise in our day-to-day cooking and magic. Go one better and buy a small kitchen bay. As well as having culinary uses, bay is one of the oldest sacred herbs with strong protective powers when used in spell-casting. My bay started out (many years ago) some six inches high and now stands three-foot tall in a large pot that can be transported anywhere. This is your first step in learning (or re-learning) about wort-lore within the confines of urbanity.
Elemental Earth gives a feeling of security. Universal myths claim that first man was created out of clay, earth or sand; traditionally Earth is represented by the ‘mother’ and the harvest.
Exercise: It must be obvious that Elemental Earth is much more complex than we would first imagine. We live on it, our food comes from it, we bury our dead in it, Elemental Earth (North) is the direction of magical Power … and yet most of us are afraid of getting our hands dirty by interacting with it. So now is the time to rediscover the Earth energies around where you live, by going out and making time to stand and stare!
This also time for an exercise in personal honesty; be truthful, just how comfortable are you with quiet corners of a park or cemetery? If the answer is ‘not very’, then how can you hope to begin to read those spiritual and temporal ‘signs’ that make up a large part of the witch’s world? Again, I would repeat, never compromise your personal safely while on your quest, but try to determine whether you are nervous because you feel vulnerable (i.e. alone), or whether you are uncomfortable with the close proximity to the natural (and supernatural) worlds.
Elemental Fire: In its natural state, Elemental Fire is the most elusive of the four within an urban environment, unless the local vandals have ignored the ASBO and gone on a car-torching spree! Fire has always played an important part in esoteric gatherings but the historic concept of a coven gathering around the bonfire in a woodland clearing is highly suspect. A single candle flame can be seen for miles on a dark night, and in the days when witches were falling foul of the law, a blazing fire would have been an open invitation to the Witch Finders. Fire, however, is part of the Mysteries of Craft and an integral part of any magical working.
First man probably encountered fire as the result of a lightning strike, and so he would have been left in no doubt that the resulting blaze was indeed heaven-sent. From that time to the present, that god-gift of heat and light has provided the dual[1]purpose of hearth fire (domestic) and sacred flame (religious) … both equally as important as a spiritual focus. For our purposes the hearth-fire is, of course, the most obvious, for witches require no formal temples or sanctuaries in order to follow their Craft. Our urban problem of fire lighting was solved by purchasing a circular patio heater – this is a domed-mesh cover affair, with a tray underneath to catch hot ash so it can safely be used on decking – and also doubles as a barbeque. It can be used in confined spaces and moved to another home when necessary. We also have a collection of old-fashioned lanterns (probably nearer the true), which double up for both indoor and outdoor working … and infinitely safer than naked candles.
Elemental Fire is the symbol of warmth, passion … and danger. It can offer the welcome of a glowing hearth or an uncontrollable conflagration that destroys everything in its path. Those who pass through the flames and survive, emerge transformed and improved.
Exercise: Learn to love fire and make a point of always having a candle burning (safely) while you are at home. Treat yourself to a ‘special’ holder that will always act as the focus for your devotions – whether indoors or out – so think in terms of something generous, expensive and wind-proof, like a storm[1]lantern. If you are fortunate enough to have a patio heater or an open fire, buy some of those wonderful copper sulphate- coated pinecones that produce the most amazing coloured flames - perfect for divination - but don’t cook over them! Now … how comfortable are you with fire? If the answer is ‘not very’, then how can you hope to begin to read those divinatory ‘signs’ that make up a large part of the witch’s world?
Important: When out and about, never put yourself at risk by wandering in remote places. More attacks on lone people occur in urban areas rather than out in the countryside, so do not be foolhardy – the gods do not always protect.
We also need to accept that witchcraft (unlike Wicca) is not a religion – it never has been, simply because it’s an individual’s natural ability that distinguishes him or her as a witch. In other words, a witch is born, not made. It just isn’t possible to learn how to become a witch if we haven’t got these abilities, although it is possible to learn how to hone and develop latent, or suppressed psychic talents, under the right tuition. And there is no age limit for these discoveries – in either the young, middle-aged or old. Wicca, on the other hand, is fast becoming accepted as the ‘new pagan religion’ with its doctrines drawing heavily on an eco-feminine shadow-image of Christianity. This again is nothing new, since Christianity itself absorbed many of the existing pagan festivals and celebrations into the Church calendar (including an identification of the Virgin Mary with Isis), and contemporary paganism is merely reclaiming its own. But in reality, even in the days before the Christian invasion, not all of the pagan populace were skilled in the Craft of witches.
To use a natural analogy, the differences between witchcraft and paganism per se is to liken them to the relationship between the domestic and the wild cat. To the casual observer there is little difference. Just as the similarities between the modern wild cat (felis sylvestris) and the house cat (felis catus) are so great and the differences so few, that it is difficult to establish any authentic genealogy. There is evidence that wild cats have mated with domestic cats and domestic cats can survive in the wild having gone feral, but they don’t usually move far from human habitation and will quickly revert if given the opportunity. The wild cat, however, cannot be handled or tamed; even a small kitten it is extremely ferocious. In appearance it is difficult at a distance to distinguish a wild cat from a large domestic tabby that has gone feral, but (as with witchcraft and paganism), the subtle differences are there, if you know where and how to look.
Witchcraft is not bound by social rules and conventions, only by the personal morality of the individual, and is governed solely by the natural tides. Any form of magical working or spiritual observance tends to be of a solitary nature, or in the company of tried and trusted people. Witches believe that esoteric knowledge should be kept hidden because it is impossible to convey the meaning of the ‘true mysteries’ without the appro[1]priate teaching. Traditional witches are now rarely seen at pagan events, and hold that any ritual equipment will be acquired as and when it is necessary.
The witch learns his or her Craft along the way, and pays homage to Nature but in a more abstract form that the textbooks will allow, something along the lines of Blake’s ‘Auguries of Innocence’:
“To see a World in a grain of sand,
And a Heaven in a flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour”
Memory, Wisdom & Healing, Gabrielle Hatfield (Sutton
The Secret People, Melusine Draco (Moon Books)
Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living, Melusine Draco (Moon Books)
Urbanization and the Decline of Witchcraft: An Examination of London,Owen Davies. Journal of Social History Vol. 30, No. 3 (Spring, 1997), (OUP

<![CDATA[NEW BOOKS]]>Sun, 31 Oct 2021 09:25:38 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/new-booksPicture
Scent of a Witch
Melusine Draco
‘Magic and scent were conceptually linked in antiquity. Ancient authors sometimes treated magic as a type of smell; at other times odors were treated as a medium through which magic worked. Some authors compare the effect of smells to magic; others described scent and magic as different things but impossible to distinguish. Magicians used incenses and perfumes liberally to set the scene for their rituals and please the gods, as demonstrated by the corpus of spell books that survive from Greco-Roman Egypt; meanwhile, ancient deities signaled their presence by their divine fragrance.’ So writes Britta Ager in her academic paper for Penn State University, Magic Perfumes and Deadly Herbs: The Scent of Witches’ Magic in Classical Literature.
The Classical authors that Professor Ager cites in her paper were, of course, more contemporary with the regular users of those fragranced preparations. While most modern scents are produced from synthetic materials, the original fragrances were a combination of plant or animal products and rich oils. Today, archaeologists continue to find evidence of perfume’s use throughout the Ancient World, often in the form of contents in intricate perfume vessels. In witches’ spell books, known as grimoires, herbs, flowers, roots and resins were called upon to facilitate the workings of the magical practitioners who recorded the use of olfaction as a very powerful tool in spell-casting. Essences and aromatic smoke have also been linked with spirits and gods in ancient cultures, and the earliest of spell books …
Perfume-making has long been big business and from the earliest times provided a ‘cottage industry’ for those who knew and understood the properties of plants. Those early Greek witches whose magic was associated with scent were supernatural exaggerations of rhizotomoi, or ‘root-cutters’ – professional herb gatherers who supplied doctors, magicians, and others with ingredients.
Rhizotomoi, who could be male or female, observed ritual precautions when picking certain plants, either to protect themselves from the herbs’ dangerous powers, or to preserve the herbs’ efficacy. Such plant-cutting rituals are well-attested throughout antiquity, including precautions such as pulling up the plant with the left hand, drawing a magic circle around it with a sword, chanting, sacrificing, pouring libations, or cutting it at a particular time of day. There was a tendency worldwide to attribute medicinal and magical powers to plants with strong odours, and, conversely, scented plants are more likely to accrue folk-lore about their potency than inodorate species. Homer’s mythical plant moly, for instance, was frequently identified in antiquity with stinking rue or garlic.
The Greeks believed that the scent of certain herbs, magic or otherwise, was potent enough to be dangerous; thus Theophrastus, a fourth-century BC botanist, wrote that people gathering hellebore should eat garlic and drink wine as a protection; and that when harvesting other plants the root-cutter should stand upwind to avoid eye damage and swelling. One early portrait of the mythological Greek witch, Medea, shows the ease with which female root-cutters, with their strange rituals and dangerous herbs, came to be mythologized as witches. Evidence for Medea in the classic Greek Archaic period is highly fragmentary, although what survives already shows a well-developed narrative in which she is the wife of the hero Jason and a powerful witch with magical powers grounded in a knowledge of herbs and drugs
Further along the historical time scale, however, the ‘root-cutters’ were still going strong. In his Herbal Simples (1897), William Fernie made rare mention of the ‘green men’ [and women] who were first licensed in the Elizabethan Wild Herb Act to gather herbs and roots from wild, uncultivated land – but it was a contemporary occupation that had already been going strong since the late 14th-century. A new kind of medical herbalist had evolved – the apothecary – who purchased plants collected from the countryside by these wandering herb collectors. In Green Pharmacy, Barbara Griggs records that during the 17th-century herbs could also be bought direct from the herb women in Newgate Market or Covent Garden. According to Fernie:
Coming down to the first part of the present [19th] century, we find purveyors of medicinal and savory herbs then wandered over the whole of England in quest of useful Simples as were in constant demand at most houses for the medicine-chest, the store-closet, or the toilet-table. These rustic practitioners of the healing art were known as ‘green men’, who carried with them their portable apparatus for distilling essences, and for preparing their herbal extracts. In token of their giving formally officiated in this capacity, there may yet be seen in London and elsewhere about the country, taverns bearing the curious sign of The Green Man & [his] Still
The Green Man & Still was a tavern originally situated at 335 Oxford Street, London and was also a coaching inn (a 1792 map shows it at the entrance to a stagecoach yard), the starting point/terminus of several stage coach routes out of London. Although the original tavern closed and re-located, it retained the Green Man & Still name as late as the early 1920s. Another Green Man & Still is recorded at 161 Whitecross Street, Clerkenwell in 1789 run by one Peter Richardson, victualler, from Sun Fire Office records held at the London Metropolitan Archives. It closed in 2006 and remained empty until it became a coffee shop in 2011. The ‘Green Man’ became a popular name for English pubs in the 17th-century (when the Distiller’s Company Green Man & Still heraldic arms were still in common use), although most inn signs tended to feature the familiar foliated face of church architecture; while the ‘green men’ or rhizotomoi, of Elizabethan times, probably merged into the cunning-folk tradition and faded into oblivion.
Gone were the days when a tavern sign pointed to the existence on the premises of a still where cordials were distilled from green herbs. In this case, the house was not kept by a tavern-keeper, but by a herbalist. The premises may, however, have belonged to an innkeeper or a ‘green man’ who lived further afield on the same estate. In Shakespeare’s time there was a London street, named Bucklersbury (near today’s Mansion House), so noted for the number of apothecaries who sold Simples and sweet-smelling herbs that in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Sir John Falstaff describes the dandified fops of his day as ‘Lisping hawthorn buds that smell like Bucklersbury in simple time.’
The cunning folk provided a combination of written charms, magic rituals, prayers and herbal preparations, because one of the most ancient of magical sciences is ‘magical perfumery’. It has long been recognized that certain scents produce certain responses in our physical, mental, and emotional bodies. Both men and women of old perfumed their bodies and kept unguents in alabaster flasks and caskets so that the perfume seeped through the alabaster. The bottle was called a flacon – a small, often decorative container with an opening seal or stopper, designed especially to hold valuable liquids which may deteriorate upon contact with the air.
A modern-day rhizotomai – or root magician, John Canard, in his Defences Against the Witches’ Craft, describes himself as fitting into the role of the cunning man – and, of course, cunning men were often employed to fight against the malefic attentions of witches. He lists a whole range of plants said to protect from negative magic that can be home-grown for protection and several of the classic anti-witch herbs are mentioned in the old rhyme – but not for their perfume:
Trefoil, vervain, John’s wort, dill,
That hindereth witches of their will.
·         Trefoil has a sweet, vanilla scent and although it is a pretty yellow flower, its old country meaning is one of revenge or a warning. It was worn as a protection against evil and witchcraft.
·         Vervain was one of the three most sacred herbs of the Druids (the other two are meadowsweet and watermint) and used to ward off evil. It has very little smell and a bitter taste. It has been used as a powerful protective plant from malefic magic, hence the name of Devil’s Bane.
·         St John’s wort oil has an herbaceous, sweet, floral aroma although the leaves give off a ‘foxy’ odour. Used as a powerful herb against malefic magic.
·         The distinct smell of Dill influences the conscious mind and will clear the head after smelling it for a few seconds. It was believed to be a very powerful anti-witch herb
This is where we have to try to define what brings back the past for us as individuals. I would have to say that for me, personally, it is the scent of hawthorn on the summer breeze and before the flowers start to fade. This also evokes the late spring-early summer weekends of childhood and camping trips to The Quarries where the landscape was a mass of white flowering trees mingling with the smell of wood-smoke from an open camp fire … Seventy-five years later and these particular scents can cause me to take a gigantic leap back in time in an act of involuntary memory.
For dwellers in green places, every season has its own perfume: Spring has the sappy smell of working bulbs, piercing sword leaves, and swelling buds. Smell a daffodil and you know the entire fragrance of spring. During high summer the golden liquid of a thousand scent bottles changes unnoticed into a pot-pourri of fallen petals. The smell of autumn, perhaps the most nostalgic of all scents, of rotting leaves, wood-smoke and mushrooms, hangs motionless between the trees until one day we realize that it has gone, who knows where – and the chill of splintered mirrors in frozen ditches gives out the faintest perfume of the year. [Green Magic]
Translate these scents of the seasons into colours, and we have for spring the pale green of new leaves. Summer’s scent is a deep rose-pink; autumn is an orange-red, fading to brown and then to grey, as the season dies. Winter’s cold faint perfume is a silvered ice-blue in the witch’s world where we often ‘see’ intangible things in terms of colour.

The Scent of a Witch by Melusine Draco is published by ignotus press uk : ISBN: 9781803022338 : Paperback : Pages  104 : Price £6.85 : Published  28 October 2021 : Order direct from https://www.feedaread.com/books/Scent-of-a-Witch.aspx

<![CDATA[NEW RELEASE]]>Wed, 29 Sep 2021 09:56:45 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/new-releasePicture
Quartz: Breath of the Dragon
There are many different varieties of quartz, several of which are semi-precious gemstones. Since antiquity, varieties of quartz have been the most commonly used minerals in the making of jewellery and hard-stone carvings, while in the metaphysical world quartz crystals are the supreme gift of Mother Earth. Even the smallest piece is imbued with powerful properties that enable the bearer to cross the boundaries between the worlds; while archaeologists are finding more and more evidence that quartz played an important part in the ritual and burial customs of our Megalithic and Paleolithic ancestors
It is the quartz element of granite that reconnects us with the spirit within the landscape. As an accomplished occultist and having a doctorate in Geology, one of the Coven’s founders, Mériém Clay-Egerton, was fascinated by the fact that for millennia, humanity and quartz had interacted with each other. She wrote that our ancestors having recognised the qualities of quartz was evident from the studies of its usage, not region by region, but over the entire area of the British Isles and other parts of the world: “Everywhere one looks there are clear distinct traces. To people who know its potential, it was clearly no accidental employment of any material to hand. It was sought out for use. Why?”
Quartz is the most common constituent of rock, she went on to explain, a basic silicate dioxide having three molecules arranged in either a right or left-handed spiral form, which has the power
of polarising light in more than one direction: “When light enters a crystal it splits into two beams, due to the differing speeds of the light’s velocity being refracted back from the different vibration of the crystal’s lattices, and their own individual refracting indices. In certain circumstances, the crystals can act as ‘windows’ to ultra-violet and infra-red wavelengths. In
addition to these scientific points, we may also hear quartz crystals hum or ‘sing’. We can also see quartz crystals displaying piezoelectric effects.”
These are scientific terms for what our ancestors knew: “Burial chambers with quartz kerb-stones were commonplace, as were the pits used for inhumations, which were sprinkled with quartz chippings, both whole and broken. There is a school of thought that these were used to either keep the individuals concerned safely at rest, or to permit the living to contact spirit
entities when they were in a correctly attuned state.”
On a metaphysical level, Mériém wrote: “Standing stones (some of which are made of quartz - others may contain a high percentage of it), are accepted by psychics [and magical practitioners] as being able to act as conductors of ‘earth-force’, such as that encountered at nodal points for energy lines. If they are acting like natural ‘acupuncture needles’, then it is not surprising that they should be as pure a substance as possible and with natural powers of their own. Many circles in the south-west of England appear to have been originally constructed with a central point; other phases being tacked on afterwards. A quartz stone, or stones with high quartz content, will often appear in such a prominent position, having superseded the original wooden post.”  A new study reveals how Stonehenge has stood the test of time so successfully: The quartz crystals that make up the sarsens form an interlocking structure that makes the boulders nearly indestructible.
And much closer to home: “Nowadays, we protect our water with chemicals to make it fit for us to drink, but in ancient times folk made offerings to the guardians of holy wells. Some were simple things, others were valuable objects that had been ceremoniously broken; it is strange how often white stones, and quartz in particular, figured highly on the list of offerings. As the wells were quite often used in fertility and healing rites, then I suppose we should naturally expect quartz to be a frequent gift. Today, crystal healing is still practised; and quartz plain or coloured, is one of the principal stones used – yet another relic of our past.”
In truth, as Dr Clay-Egerton asserted some forty years ago, the use of quartz in prehistoric stone-working traditions was a worldwide phenomenon.  For archaeologists, however, quartz analysis presented significant challenges with the result that it was often misidentified, or ignored, or only cursorily analysed.  Indeed, well into the 20th-century, quartz artefacts were routinely discarded during excavations.  Nevertheless, quartz was an integral part of traditional British Old Craft teaching all those years ago and, despite the contemporary pagan penchant for crystals, for us nothing was allowed to displace quartz from being the most valuable stone for witchcraft.
On a final note: quartz is solid silica and if it did not crystallize when it solidified it is known as flint, and everyone knows that two flints struck together will produce a spark. What is not generally known is that all quartz pebbles will do the same and often produce bigger and better sparks. Clear quartz, or rock crystal, will produce an orange spark if two pieces are
struck together in a darkened room, accompanied by the smell of burning … and this can be viewed as magical fire from the very Earth itself.  Despite all the gems of the world, for the magical practitioner, natural quartz should remain the most precious gift of all.
As a result of this current resurgence of academic interest, there is a certain pride and satisfaction in knowing that the ‘old-fashioned’ teachings of traditional British Old Craft are now being validated by contemporary scientists and archaeologists, who are beginning to understand that the ancients’ obsession with quartz crystals was more than just a passing fancy.  It was Aleister Crowley who maintained that magic was an amalgam of art and science and those Old Crafters of my generation were fortunate indeed, that our founder was a doctor of geology, with more than a passing interest in archaeology, anthropology and ‘earth mysteries’.  This meant that we also had a thorough grounding in these subjects and were encouraged to investigate further for information and knowledge … a practice that is maintained within the Coven to the present day.
‘Thanks, Mériém …’

Quartz: Breath of the Dragon is the sixth in the ignotus press Arcanum series. ISBN: 9781803021829 : Type Paperback : Pages: 104 : Published: 17 September 2021: Price
£6.85 : Order direct from https://www.feedaread.com/books/Quartz-Breath-of-the-Dragon-9781803021829.aspx

<![CDATA[Treasure House of Images]]>Sat, 11 Sep 2021 08:35:15 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/treasure-house-of-imagesPicture
The concept of magic is communicated by a whole host of signs and imagery – where nothing is as it seems. The magical world is concealed behind a veil of analogy and allegory; similes and metaphor; sigils and symbols; praxis and motif; illusion and allusion; myth and legend – all of which is a complicated shorthand for the techniques of magic and its practices. Because no matter what rosy-tinted view we have of our Craft ancestors, they were not the composers and compilers of the infamous grimoires and magical texts that have come down to us as such.
They ‘knew’ things, of course, but few of them would have known how to record this knowledge for posterity and Craft remained an oral tradition for hundreds – if not thousands - of years. If we turn to Jung, however, we find that the history of symbolism shows everything can assume some symbolic significance, providing we understand the context in which it is presented.
‘Man, with his symbols - making for propensity, unconsciously transforms objects or forms into symbols (thereby endowing them with a great psychological importance) and expresses them in both his religion and his visual art. The intertwined history of religion and art, reaching back to prehistoric times, is the record that our ancestors have left of the symbols that were meaningful to them.’ [Symbolism in the Visual Arts]
There are four recurring motifs that illustrate the presence and nature of symbolism in the craft of the witch – these are the symbols of the stone, the animal, the circle/spiral and the cross. Each of these has had an enduring psychological significance from the earliest expressions of human consciousness to the most sophisticated forms of 20th-century art, wrote Swiss psychoanalyst Aniela Jaffé. And yet, if we do not hold the key to unlocking this means of communication, then the way will remain closed …
We know from our forays into ancient history that uneven stones – like the black meteoric stones known as baitulia – were early objects of cult worship in ancient Greece and were recorded from the earliest times. Some of those archaic Greek writers recall these stones were invested with divine and animated by it. Once anointed they even worked miracles on behalf of their supplicants and had a highly symbolic meaning for various ancient and primitive societies. In fact, their use may be regarded as a primaeval representation of sculpture – ‘a first attempt to invest the stone with more expressive power than chance and nature could give it’, according to Professor David Freedberg in his remarkably enlightening writing on the subject: The Power of Images.
Many people cannot refrain from picking up stones of a slightly unusual colour or shape and keeping them, without knowing why they do this. It is as if the stones hold a living mystery that fascinates us. Men have collected stones since the beginning of time and have apparently assumed that certain ones were the containers of the life force with all its mystery. In many prehistoric stone-sanctuaries, the ‘deity’ is represented not by a single stone but by a great many unhewn stones, arranged in distinct patterns. The geometrical stone alignments at Carnac in Brittany, the stone circles at Stonehenge and the Ring of Brodgar on Orkney are famous examples. Arrangements of rough natural stones also play a significant part in the highly sophisticated rock gardens of Zen Buddhism: although apparently haphazard, the stones in the Ryoanji temple in Japan are arranged to express a most refined spirituality. Or the stone labyrinths of Scandinavia.
‘Very early in history, men began trying to express what they felt to be the soul or spirit of a rock by working it into a recognisable form. In many cases, the form was a more or less approximation to the human figure – the ancient menhirs with their crude outlines of faces, or the hermae that developed out of boundary stones in ancient Greece, or the many of the stone idols with human features. The animation of the stone must be explained as the projection of a more or less distinct content of the unconscious into the stone.’ [Man and His Symbols]
David Freeberg reminds us that when the Greek traveller, Pausanius visited the well-known site of Pharai in Achaia, where about thirty square stones were worshipped as gods, he reflected that ‘in more ancient times, unworked stones were worshipped by all the Greeks, instead of images of the Gods’. It was Pausanius who provided us with the fullest range of references to these unworked stones (or argoi lithoi as they were called), and the baitulia, those meteoric stones, which fell from heaven – both of them classes of objects unformed by human hand and yet given divine status.
In Europe ‘holy’ stones wrapped in bark and hidden in caves have been found in many places; as a focus of divine power, they were probably kept there by people of the Stone Age. At the present time, some Australian aborigines believe that their dead ancestors continue to exist in stones as virtuous and divine powers, and that if they rub these stones, the power increases (like charging them with electricity) for the benefit of both the living and the dead. Even those of us in modern society still have the urge to possess certain stones. We bring them home and place them around the house or garden as symbols of people or happy times, and imbue them with a sense of person or place. Jung says that this animation of the stone can be explained as the projection of a more or less distinct content of the unconscious into the stone.
Animal images go back to the Ice Age and were discovered on the walls of caves in France and Spain at the end of the 19th-century, but it was not until early in the 20th-century that archaeologists began to realise their extreme importance and to inquire into their meaning. Even today, a strange magic seems to haunt the caves that contain these rock paintings and according to art historian Herbert Kühn, inhabitants of the areas in Africa, Spain, France and Scandinavia where such paintings are found, could not be induced to go near the caves. A kind of religious awe, or perhaps a fear of spirits hovering among the rocks, held them back. Which goes to prove that the caves with the animal paintings have always instinctively felt like what they originally were – religious places. The numen of the place have outlived the centuries and kept the profane away.
These pictures suggest a hunting magic like that still practiced by hunting tribes in Africa. A form of sympathetic magic, which is based on the ‘reality’ of a double represented in the picture. The underlying psychological fact is a strong identification between a living being and its image, which is considered to be the being’s soul. Some of the most interesting figures in the caves are those of semi-humans in animal disguise. In the Trois Freres caves in France, a man wrapped in an animal hide is playing a primitive flute. In the same cave is a dancing human with antlers, a horse’s head and bear’s paws and dominating a grouping of several hundred animals that Jung has described as a ‘bush soul’ (or second soul) that is incarnate in a wild animal or tree, with which an individual has some kind of psychic identity.
In the course of time, these disguises were superseded in many places by animal and/or demon masks and played an important part in the folk arts – such as the magnificently expressive masks of the ancient Japanese Noh drama which is still performed in modern Japan. The symbolic function of the mask is the same as that of the original animal disguise, according to Aniela Jaffé in Symbols in the Visual Arts, and that the animal motif is usually symbolic of man’s primitive and instinctual nature. A large number of myths are concerned with a primal animal, which must be sacrificed in the cause of fertility or even creation. One example of this is the sacrifice of a bull by the Persian sun-god Mithras, from which sprang the earth with all its wealth and fruitfulness.
‘The boundless profusion of animal symbolism in the religion and art of all times does not merely emphasise the importance of the symbol; it shows how vital it is for men to integrate into their lives the symbol’s psychic content – instinct.’ [Man and His Symbols]
The magical symbol of the animal is that which represents its most laudable characteristics and elevates it above all others – like the four beasts of venery: the hart, hare, boar and wolf – which distinguishes them from the ‘five beasts of the chase’ – the buck, does, fox, martin and roe. These images were allegorically used in artworks from the Middle Ages onwards in much the same way as the cave-art in prehistoric times.
Circles and spirals are some of the oldest images to be found in prehistoric rock art in the British Isles. A circle represents evolution as a process of transformation from death to birth, ending and beginning; a circle represents eternity and in many customs and spiritual beliefs represents the Divine life-force. The meaning of shapes and symbols meets us when and where we are ready to listen and learn. However, understanding the foundations of what a circle represents may invite investigation to explore the deeper meaning symbolism of the circle in our own life.
Circles, unlike every other shape in our reality, are not linear. There is no corner, edge, or ending to mark where one line ends and another one begins. This is important when looking at the broader symbolic meaning because this holds a lot of interpretations regarding the role that a circle plays in shaping our world. Circles hold and contain energy so that cycles of growth can exist within them. Just like a clock moving through time in a circular motion, we feel a sense that there is a beginning and end to the day; yet, time never begins or ends, it just keeps moving in a circle. Looking at the cosmos, we can see that everything moves in circles, and is shaped in spheres without beginning or end. No naturally occurring straight lines exist in space. Our entire Universe shifts and forms in the shape of a circle. 
Spiritually, the circle represents a supernatural motion that keeps things moving continuously. A circle represents the Divine that keeps everything moving through spiritual law and order; on a smaller scale, a circle represents our own individual spiritual force that keeps us evolving. Symbolically, a circle represents the completion of cycles, transition, potential, and a movement that never ends towards self-realization. A circle protects against chaos and unpredictability, and invites an element of ‘trusting the Universe’. It symbolizes the natural order and progression that inspires us to keep going. 
The spiral and triple spiral motif is a Neolithic symbol in Europe and the so-called Celtic triple spiral is in fact a pre-Celtic symbol. It is etched into the rock of a stone lozenge near the main entrance of the prehistoric Newgrange monument and carved at least 2,500 years before the Celts reached Ireland but has long since been incorporated into Celtic culture. This triskelion symbol, consisting of three interlocked spirals or three bent human legs, appears in many early cultures, including Mycenaean vessels; on coinage in Lycia, Pamphylia and Pisidia; as well as on the heraldic emblem on warriors’ shields depicted on Greek pottery.
Spirals can be found throughout pre-Columbian art in Latin and Central America. The more than 1,400 petroglyphs (rock engravings) in Las Plazuelas, Guanajuato Mexico, predominantly depict spirals, dot figures and scale models. In Colombia, monkey, frog and lizard-like figures depicted in petroglyphs or as gold offering frequently includes spirals, for example on the palms of hands. In Lower Central America spirals along with circles, wavy lines, crosses and points are universal petroglyphs characters. Spirals can also be found among the Nazca Lines in the coastal desert of Peru, dating from 200 BC to 500 AD; the geoglyphs number in the thousands and depict animals, plants and geometric motifs, including spirals.
We see that when one end of the spiral is reached, it is found to be the beginning of another. Try to follow the thread with the tip of a pencil and you will find that it is almost impossible to keep to an unbroken line. Within Qabalistic teaching, the spiral is the metaphor for magical knowledge because as soon as we think we’ve mastered the subject, we discovered another thread that pulls us deeper into another labyrinth – and out the other side onto another path. Each level of consciousness, each sephirah has its own spiral and the ‘wisdom’ comes when we understand that we could spend an entire lifetime investigating the different levels of Malkuth, for example, and still not come to the end of our studies.
The triskele gained popularity in its use within the Celtic culture from 500BC onwards. This archaic symbol is one of the most convoluted to decipher as symbolists believe it is reflective of many areas of culture from the time. Firstly, the triskele can be thought to represent motion as all three arms are positioned to make it appear as though it was moving outwards from its centre. Movement, or motion, is believed to signify energies, in particular within this symbol the motion of action, cycles, progress, revolution and competition. Secondly, and the more challenging area for symbolists, is the precise significance of the three arms of the triskele. These differences can be dependent on the era, culture, mythology and history, which is why there are so many variations of opinion as to what these three extensions in the triple spiral symbol mean.
Some of these connotations include the obvious: life-death-rebirth, spirit-mind-body, mother-father-child, past-present-future, power-intellect-love and creation-preservation-destruction to name but a few. It’s also been proposed that through the combination of these two areas we gain one meaning of the Celtic triskele. It is also believed to represent the idea of forward motion to reach understanding and to represent the three Celtic worlds; the spiritual, the present and the celestial. Like the ancient Trinity-knot, the number three holds a special symbolism within the triskele.
The ‘cross’ is possibly the most confusing of all Craft symbols, simply because it has become inextricably entwined with our persecutors! Nevertheless, the cross used within esoteric practice is much older, being the four-armed, heraldic, Greek or Minoan cross found in many ancient cultures predating Christianity. It is often interpreted as representing either the four seasons, four winds, four elements, or some other equal aspect of physical nature. Or, quaternity – an image with a four-fold structure, usually square or circular and symmetrical – psychologically it points to the idea of wholeness.
Archaeologist, Arthur Evans refers to the images of the Minoan cross being used in many cultures as the most simple representation of a star and concluded that the ‘geared object’ featured on excavated plaques is a combination of a morning star within the disc of the sun. He also claimed that the smaller object is a symbol for the goddess as the queen of the under-world and as the stars of the night; in combination with the crescent, the cross is then an evening star. 
A solar cross, consisting of an equilateral cross inside a circle is frequently found in the symbolism of many prehistoric cultures, particularly during the Neolithic to Bronze Age periods of European prehistory. The famous cross pattée is a type of equal-armed heraldic cross with arms that are narrow at the centre and often flared in a curve or straight-line shape, to be broader at the perimeter. The form appears very early in medieval art; as the red cross the Templars wore on their robes as a symbol of martyrdom, since to die in combat was considered a great honour that assured a place in heaven.
The cross-in-a-circle was interpreted as a solar symbol derived from the interpretation of the disc of the Sun as the wheel of the chariot of the Sun god. Karl Wieseler postulated a Gothic rune hvel represented the solar deity by the ‘wheel’ symbol of a cross-in-a-circle, reflected by the Gothic letter hwair. A wealth of symbolism in one, small shape …
When we begin to explore this impenetrable veil of symbolism we discover that very little in the natural, physical or metaphysical world is not matched with its own form of esoteric shorthand. Because of the complexity of magical jargon, a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing an idea, object, or relationship will be used instead of its ‘true’ meaning. Symbols allow witches to go beyond what is known or seen by creating linkages between otherwise very different concepts and experiences
It is an esoteric concept rather than an actual object and, like all esoteric symbols it represents knowledge, and the more knowledge we have the more of the symbol’s secrets we unlock. The amount of knowledge needed to understand esoteric symbolism, however, can border on staggering for the uninitiated, since the knowledge and science they represent is not taught outside of esoteric circles for a valid reason: because in almost every instance what people have been taught can be the exact opposite of the truth. And symbols and sigils, allegories and metaphors, are used as esoteric concepts because of the amount of encapsulated knowledge they represent which is not easily explainable to the layman.

Published by ignotus press uk : ISBN: 9781803021485Type: Paperback : Pages: 110 : Published: 10 September 2021 : Price £6.85 : Order direct from https://www.feedaread.com/books/Treasure-House-of-Images.aspx

<![CDATA[The Power of the Pendulum [Divination]]]>Tue, 07 Sep 2021 08:53:01 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/the-power-of-the-pendulum-divinationPicture
My fingers are best suited to cleidomancy and over the years I have experimented with numerous different types and sizes of pendulum made of different materials.  Magically a pendulum is a weight suspended from a pivotal cord or chain so that it can swing freely; scientifically when a pendulum is displaced sideways from its resting, equilibrium position, it is subject to a restoring force due to gravity that will accelerate it back toward the equilibrium position.  Generally speaking, a pendulum is a small weight on a cord or chain. And that’s all it is! It can be any weight, and it can be any sort of cord or chain.  The pendulum itself is more often than not, an object only about ½ inch by 1 inch in size and the cord or string is about 8 inches long; the whole thing fitting easily in a small pocket or pouch.
Like dowsing with hazel twigs, from earliest times, pendulums have been used to locate water, gold, gems, and other valuable commodities – as well as missing items. In Europe early scientists and doctors would consult a pendulum for medical diagnosis to locate infections and weak areas of the body and to determine the gender of unborn infants. In the practice of radiesthesia, a pendulum is used today for medical diagnosis.
People also trust the pendulum enough to let it guide them through the most difficult times of their lives. For an extreme example, during WWII, a pendulum was used by Colonel Kenneth Merrylees to locate deeply buried bombs.  He was employed by the Army to dowse water supplies for Allied troops at the front, and also worked as a bomb disposal expert back home, where he used his dowsing skills to find unexploded bombs with delayed-action fuses that had penetrated deep into the ground; famously locating one 500-pounder under the swimming pool at Buckingham Palace. Even the most hard-bitten sceptic is not going dismiss the Colonel’s remarkable abilities with his pendulum!
Another advocate of The Power of the Pendulum (published in 1976) was T.C. Lethbridge, an English archaeologist, parapsychologist, and explorer. A specialist in Anglo-Saxon archaeology, he served as honorary Keeper of Anglo-Saxon Antiquities at the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology and over the course of his lifetime wrote twenty-four books on various subjects, becoming particularly well known for his dowsing and other experiments with a pendulum.
It is usual practice to first determine the response you will be using: (i.e. left-right, up-down); which will indicate ‘yes’ and which ‘no’ before proceeding to ask the pendulum specific questions.  The pendulum may also be held over a pad or cloth with ‘yes’ and ‘no’ written on it, or perhaps other words written in a circle. The person holding the pendulum aims to hold it as steadily as possible over the center and its movements are believed to indicate answers to the questions. Repeatedly asking the same question should be avoided as pendulums have been known to become ratty and climb up the cord like a snake about to strike!
Quite simply, when held correctly, the pendulum reacts to very small nerve reactions in our fingers that are generated by our unconscious mind in response to a question. Different nerve reactions will be detected depending on what our subconscious mind knows. These reactions are transmitted to our fingers from the deep recesses of the mind and through our fingers to the cord holding the weight of the pendulum. These tiny nerve transmissions affect the cord and are then transmitted to the weight - causing it to move in some direction. So rid yourself of the myth that a pendulum is moved by some spirit, or by magic - it is moved by our subconscious mind …
… and yet! There is a certain amount of magic in the ability to interpret some of the reactions.  I have found that the best results come from a pendulum with some quartz content since this is the mineral that ‘earths’ our magical abilities and makes the link with those chthonic energies that set the pendulum swinging … backwards and forwards for ‘yes’ … in a circle for ‘no’ … although others may use the opposite interpretation.  We make sure we’re on the same wavelength by uttering a simple incantation like: ‘Adonai, please answer my questions. Swing backwards and forwards for ‘yes’ or in a circle for ‘no’.  I thank you’.
My personal pendulum is a heavy crystal droplet from an old chandelier. Despite its name, ‘crystal’ is actually glass containing a minimum of twenty-four per cent lead. Not present in other types of glassware, the lead increases the sparkle and makes it easier to cut; the brilliance of lead crystal relies on the high reflective qualities caused by this lead content.  Although these droplets are manufactured there is still enough lead content to link us with the earth and its magical correspondences.  I also use a heavy pendulum because it takes more than a slight nervous reaction to set it swinging, and also for it to change from swinging backwards and forwards, to rotating in a circle without any detectable sensation of movement within the hand in response to my questions.
In addition, in alchemy lead is known as the silent metal. It is a law unto itself and in magic creates a space of silence; this is the perfect metal for ‘infinite space’ meditations, making an effective barrier against all forms of negative energy.  Ruled by Saturn, the magical use of lead promotes contact with deep unconscious levels (both the underworld and Otherworld), deep meditation, banishing negativity breaking bad habits and addictions, protection, stability, grounding, solidity, perseverance, concentration and conservation.
The magical correspondences also include: the astrological houses of Capricorn and Aquarius; Chronos, the father of Time; the Universe in the Major Arcana; the colours black and blue-black; magical powers of malediction and death (since lead is highly toxic), alchemy and geomancy; perfumes – all dull and heavy odours including sulphur and asafoetida.
It is not surprising, therefore that a ‘crystal’ pendulum with its high lead content makes the perfect tool for divinatory work. For the record, my second choice would be a clear quartz crystal with bands of rutile since quartz (in all its forms) is the most magical mineral on the planet. Although in magical circles we are warned to ‘never haggle over a black egg’, a large droplet from a broken down chandelier  can be obtained for a few pounds off e-Bay, while a decent sized quartz/rutile pendant could have set me back over £100.
Let’s face it, divination is both a skill and an arte but an individual’s proficiency depends on regular practice just as much as his or her natural abilities. Most witches do, of course, have a particular favourite divining tool, which acts as a prompt for tuning in to psychic forces and if you already have a favourite method, then there is absolutely no reason to change. Just as the good all-rounder is rare in any walk of life, so the witch who can divine by using every tool imaginable is a rare animal indeed!   In addition, there are also different types of ‘tool’. For example, there now are hundreds of different Tarot packs to choose from and it won’t be until you find the design that ‘talks’ to you that you will excel in spontaneous tarot readings for yourself.
As with all elements of Craft the more we understand about the history and antecedents of our chosen divinatory method, the easier it becomes to instantly get onto our ‘contacts’ regardless of the technique we are using.  It isn’t enough to buy a modern book off Amazon and slavishly follow the directions.  We need to understand the history behind the system and to discover where it has travelled from to re-emerge in 21st century western esoteric writing.  We need to re-connect with the ancient seers, shaman and augers of the ancient world

Pagan Portals: Divination by Melusine Draco is published by Moon Books ISBN 978 1 78535 858 6 : 82 pp : UK£6.99/US$10.95 : Available in paperback and e-book format.  www.moon-books.net

<![CDATA[Name Droppers Anonymous]]>Tue, 10 Aug 2021 14:20:09 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/name-droppers-anonymousPicture

Our Blog is attracting a lot of interest from folk who have suddenly decided they wish to seriously study witchcraft.  Not any old witchcraft, you understand, but the kind promulgated by Coven of the Scales and endorsed by Daniel Shulke in his Three Hands witchcraft anthology, Hands of Apostasy.  He wrote: ‘A crucial aspect of the work should be the unique voice of the actual practitioners … and though these forms of the Old Craft are known through their exterior writings, there are other such groups who are content to remain out of the public eye, practicing their Art and training their own generation of adepts. All of these traditions share a common feature of extreme selectivity when it comes to prospective members, and the willingness to reject those proven unfit for the work. This unpopular and confrontational stance has often led to thorny relations between groups, but it has also engendered a sanctuary-like environment where creative magical collaboration can unfold according to the design of each tradition.’
These expectant applicants are searching for instant networking opportunities, obviously fantasizing that one of the CoS Elders will be so impressed with their remarkable magical versatility and intellect that they’ll be admitted to our ranks without more ado. Eager to instantly establish some kind of connection or rapport, they resort to name-dropping – authors, book titles, quotations, esoteric and magical Orders, various Eastern and Western paths and traditions, you name it, but in so doing, they inadvertently reveal just how little they know about traditional British Old Craft – the exact opposite of what they’d hoped to disguise.  True, they demonstrate how remarkably well-read they are … but, unfortunately, not in the right subject!
People name-drop for a simple reason: It’s an easy way to signal their status as a member of an exclusive in-group and to look good to others by boosting their own self-esteem by claiming knowledge of well-known people/traditions/organizations.  Some folk who trot out a whole battery of books-titles and quotations are more inclined to believe they are unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions). When first interacting with unknown members of CoS, they might unconsciously compare unperceived accomplishments and feel they come up short. And to counteract this, they try to bring up an association with someone or something they think the CoS person will respect.
This kind of name-dropping always reveals the same thing, which is that the applicant doesn’t feel their own accomplishments, or personal magical standing, speaks for itself, so they try to heighten their importance by associating with something/someone that’s much more impressive or interesting.
Here’s the really bad news: Name dropping is absolutely terrible for their credibility, because the CoS reader almost always sees through the act. Interjecting another individual, organization, book or quotation is distracting, and it also leaves the reader questioning why the applicant is so hesitant to talk about themselves.  Worse, at that moment it’s likely their credibility will go down a few notches because if they truly belong to an in-group, they don’t need to go around boasting about membership of it. So, by associating with someone who is an insider’, they inadvertently confirm the outside status they are seeking to obscure.
There’s another risk involved in that they have no idea what that person thinks about the other person or organisation you’ve mentioned.  There’s no better way to get into a very awkward situation than mentioning someone that person doesn’t know, like, or respect.  Of course, sometimes people name-drop simply because they’re trying to establish magical connections they really do have in common. But even if the motivations are truly egoless, it’s impossible to control others’ perceptions - which means even innocent name-drops can be dangerous.
Instead, simply focus on talking about yourself and your hopes for the future.  If you’re worried the person you’re writing to doesn’t know you’re magically competent, it’s best to draw on your own qualifications/experiences, even if it’s not Old Craft related. Instead of talking about who you know or who you’ve worked with in the past, talk about a particular subject or the area you’d be interested in developing.
The CoS Arcanum foundation course was specially structured by Bob and Meriem Clay-Egerton to give an idea of all the subjects that should be familiar to a traditional British Old Craft witch and to offer the opportunity for further discussion during each stage of the course.  As one of our more senior members points out, however, ‘this is only a stepping stone - a place to find your evidence and that evidence, although subjective, should be used to alter one’s perspective of the world, preparing the mind to ask the bigger questions. The gateways of perception are opened by questions not answers’.
The whole of the CoS teaching programme is based on this system of asking questions and opening up discussion.  The initial questionnaire was deliberately couched in such a way that we can extract the information we need to make a decision of whether someone is suitable as a potential student and will fit in comfortably with existing members.  Traditional British Old Craft groups are usually closed orders based on the Elder Faith of the Ancestors and therefore does not talk about affiliations to God and/or Goddess; similarly our deities do not fit conveniently into tick-boxes for categorization, or align with the Western Mystery Traditions.
From our point of view, if we get the impression that the applicant hasn’t got a clue what traditional British Old Craft is about because they haven’t bother to find out for themselves, we wouldn’t be willing to admit them into our system of learning and would suggest they make an effort to understand what admittance to traditional British Old Craft actually entails by reading the articles at:  https://wordpress.com/view/melusine-draco.blog
Because until anyone understands the subtle nuances between the various strands of Wicca and traditional witchcraft they may find it difficult to find an entrance to the way they seek.
Phillip Wright : Arcanum

<![CDATA[Coven of the Scales Teaching Programme]]>Fri, 06 Aug 2021 13:22:35 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/coven-of-the-scales-teaching-programmePicture

The CoS Arcanum foundation course was specially structured by Bob and Meriem Clay-Egerton to give an idea of all the subjects that should be familiar to a traditional British Old Craft witch and to offer the opportunity for further discussion during each stage of the course. It should also be understood that although they firmly held the philosophy and opinion that all faiths were One and all Paths led to the same Goal, they did not advocate what is now referred to as ‘eclectic paganism’.  What they did teach was the desire for knowledge and experience, regardless of source.  Each new experience was, however, studied within the confines of that particular religion, path or tradition.  Each new discipline was kept completely separate from each other.  It was only when the student had a thorough understanding of the tenets of each discipline were they encouraged to formulate them into their own individual system.
As with the majority of Old Craft groups, we are a closed Order, which means that any potential member must complete the prescribed course of study before being formally invited to join the Coven.  Newly ascribed members are given the chance to state the direction they wish their future studies to take and the opportunity to discuss these with like-minded souls on the members-only Moonraker forum. As one of our more senior members points out, however, ‘this is only a stepping stone - a place to find your evidence and that evidence, although subjective, should be used to alter one’s perspective of the world, preparing the mind to ask the bigger questions. The gateways of perception are opened by questions not answers’.
It may also explain why some give differing, if not conflicting answers to certain questions – often because there’s a beginner’s answer and one that will alter depending on the level of learning when one’s perceptions can drastically change.  For example: answers that are pertinent at Moonraker level may not necessarily be valid at an Inner Court (EoS) level.  This has nothing to do with being elitist or superior but is generally governed by an individual’s progress within Craft.
The whole of the CoS teaching programme is based on this system of asking questions and opening up discussions – either group or one-to-one with a tutor.  It is why we are always disappointed when potentially good students drop out after only a few lessons.  And then there are those who actually complete the course but decide not to go further … and discover the shadow world of sabbatic Craft, which is kept in a separate box!
This is the fascinating world of traditional British Old Craft and the ‘rules’ for teaching it were set down many years ago by those who lived and died as witches and why we won’t be bullied or cajoled into cutting corners in an individual’s course of study.  Finish each part first … and then, and only then, will we lead you on to the next stage of the journey.  Don’t forget that some have walked other Paths before this one and they have brought this wisdom and learning with them, even if it isn’t always evident in their postings …

<![CDATA[Melusine Draco's Woodland Walks]]>Mon, 12 Jul 2021 10:20:50 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/melusine-dracos-woodland-walksPicture
Traditional Witchcraft for Woods and Forests
​Root & Branch: British Magical Tree Lore

Hunter’s Wood is a dreamscape that a witch can visit at any time, should we feel the need to harness the timeless energy of the Wild Wood, regardless of time or season. For visualisation purposes, the Wood is approximately ten acres in size, flanked by a fast running stream to the east and a long ride, or track, to the west. A ride is a treeless break in forested areas used in ancient times for the hunting of deer - hence the name of this wood. The stream feeds a woodland pool with a slow trickle during the summer months, but when the winter rains come all the accumulated dead leaves and twigs will be swept away by the torrent. The southern edge of the wood opens onto a huge cornfield, in the centre of which is a large mound, crowned by a stand of three Scots pines; while to the north there is a wide expanse of marshy heathland with its alder carr. Narrow paths criss-cross the wood: some are old and man-made, others are animal tracks, but all will lead us deeper into the woodland realm.
This Wood is old. It has grown old alongside humanity and bears the evidence of its passing; generations of witches have wandered in secret glades, gathering herbs and plants at the midnight hour. Near the woodland ride, we discover other signs, particularly in the shapes of the trees that tell of the history of the wood and what it has been used for. The word coppice comes
from the French, couper, meaning ‘to cut’ and the most obvious signs of past coppicing is the presence of ‘many-trunked’ trees growing on the site of old coppice stumps. It was also important in past times to keep livestock out since they would destroy the young shoots and so the area was surrounded by a ditch with a large bank inside, which was often fenced. Old woodland may also have the remains of a stone wall used to protect the coppiced area. In Hunter’s Wood, the remnants of the bank and wall can still be seen where the ruins of the charcoal burner’s cottage disappears under a tangle of briar and bramble.
A witch should know that the efficiency of the woodland’s eco-system depends on how much of the sun’s energy can be utilised by the green plants and converted into carbohydrate. The tallest trees of the wood, which form the ‘canopy’, are the first to receive the sun’s rays and what grows beneath this layer depends on how much light can filter through to be tapped by other more
lowly plants. In beech woodlands, there is very little, but oak and ash are relatively light shade-casters and a lush growth of plants can exist beneath them. Immediately beneath the canopy will be tall bushes and small trees, which form the second or ‘shrub-layer’ of the wood.
Growing beneath the shrub layer is a mass of herbaceous plants that form the ‘herb layer’, so vital to a witch’s traditional wort-lore. Many of these plants come into flower early in the year, or have developed large flat leaves to make the most of what light is available. The lowest layer of all is the ‘ground layer’ of mosses and liverworts, which remain green throughout the year and are actively growing even in winter.
Another clue to woods that were once coppiced is the abundance of spring flowers. The regular tree cutting allowed plenty of light to reach the woodland floor and this encouraged the growth of the plants. Woodland flowers are slow to spread and so their presence in large numbers is an excellent indication that the wood is ancient; bluebells spread very slowly on heavy clay soils, so a carpet of them under trees could also be the clue to old woodland. Primroses, violets and wind-flowers are found here - all part of the medieval witch’s medicine chest.

​Wild flowers also provide the woods with some of their most attractive features. Because many have adapted naturally to flower before the leaves develop in the shrub and canopy layers, they are regarded as the harbingers of spring. No doubt to our hunter-gatherer ancestors this reawakening of the woodland contributed to the mystical significance of the many rites and rituals associated with the season. A further indication of an old wood is a rich variety of flowers, particularly if bluebells, snowdrops, wood anemones, primroses, yellow archangel and early purple orchids are present. Dog’s mercury may seem to be a common woodland plant yet it is rarely found in recently planted woods - that is, woodland that has formed in the last 100 years - and so is also a good indicator of old woodland. The presence of such flowers in a hedge also suggests that it originated as part of a wood, since these species do not readily colonise hedgerows.
The deeper we penetrate into the Wood’s interior we come to the denser shade of a holly thicket and even on the brightest summer’s day, little light filters through the overhead canopy. This part of the Wood is imbued with a strange atmosphere and, as in so many natural places that people have left alone, a witch enjoys the frisson of nervous wonder. The woodland floor is bare except for dried prickly leaves and a scattering of boulders covered entirely in the rich velvet green of a variety of mosses. Here the stems and branches of the holly trees are almost pure silver-white, not the dingy pewter colour of urban trees – and the holly possesses magical protective powers that can be used in amulets and talismans.
Nearby we find an old beech tree that is so hollow it is amazing the blasted trunk can support the massive branches and rich canopy. This once handsome giant of Hunter’s Wood is coming to the end of its life but each year it sprouts the delicate veil of green leaves that tells us spring is well and truly here again. In the folds of its hollow trunk, we can shelter from summer showers; eat beechnuts in the autumn and remain safe and dry as the winter snow drifts down through the branches. Whenever we pass this way, we greet the old tree as though it were a friend and hope it survives the next winter’s gales.
The Sacred Places
It is said that the forest knows all and is able to teach all; that the forest listens and holds the secret of every mystery.
Since ancient times, woods have been places of sacred groves and nemorous temples, including those of the Druids and Iceni. Sir James Frazer refers widely to sacred groves and tree worship in
The Golden Bough, while Old Craft teacher, Mériém Clay-Egerton wrote extensively on the subject of trees and produced some highly evocative pieces relating to her experiences:
To me this was a place that had obviously been held as a sacred area for so very long now that it had in its turn breathed this very atmosphere itself and so projected this onto a mind which was prepared or conditioned to be both sympathetic and empathetic to various woodlands and their forms of existence … it resembled what I might envisage as a naturally constructed ‘cathedral’. Here lived and breathed holiness and beauty …
The Wild Wood, however, is the dark, untamed part of natural woodland where unearthly and potentially dangerous beings are still to be found. This is not everyone’s favourite place and many urban witches never get over an ‘atavistic fear of Nature uncontrolled’. Historically, the term ‘wildwood’ is the name given to the forests as they were some 5,000 years ago, before human interference, and the pollen records for that time confirm that elms made up a substantial component of the wildwood, along with the oak, birch and lime.
On a magical level, the Wild Wood refers to those strange, eerie places that remain the realm of Nature and untamed by man. Ancient gnarled oaks, festooned with ferns and draped with lichen, carry an air of solitude and remoteness that is deeply unnerving - here birdsong and the trickle of running water are the only sounds to break the stillness. It is the Otherworld of the ‘unearthly and potentially dangerous’. It is the realm of Pan and the Wild Hunt. In modern psychology, it refers to the dark inner recesses of the mind, the wild and tangled undergrowth of the unconscious. Here, among the trees, we are never sure that what we see is reality or illusion.
Mériém Clay-Egerton described the strange half-light that anyone who walks in the Wild Wood will immediately recognise.
I was always glad to go deeper into the apparent gloom because I would be beyond one of the woodland’s outer barriers
Although it is impossible to describe the sensations of the Wild Wood, no one who has walked there can remain unchanged by the experience. Nevertheless, even witches are not always welcome in this tree-filled wilderness. Hostile forces can physically bar our entrance into the inner sanctum of the wood, just as Philip Heselton describes in Secret Places of the Goddess. ‘The undergrowth is a thick tangle of briar and bramble, giving the aura of a place ‘set apart for mysterious concealment’. Entwined with these almost impenetrable barriers, are tufts of tall ferns, the seeds of which can be used to cast a witch’s cloak of invisibility. We must learn to heed the signs, however, for Nature does not always allow humans to pass.
Nevertheless, Traditional Witchcraft for the Woods and Forests takes us on journeys of discovery through Nature’s own woodland ‘calendar’ and, hopefully will reawaken the dormant senses that coursed through the veins of those witches who lived long ago in these ancient places. In a series of guided meditations and pathworkings, we will learn how to reconnect with the spirit of the landscape and learn to walk softly through the woodlands of both the physical and the astral realms. We will come to understand the gift of Nature’s bounty, and make use of the materials that will ultimately lead to an intimacy with wild things that can only come about through close contact and familiarity.
Throughout our long history, forests have been places of shelter, providing food for man and fodder for the animals; the wood for fuel (i.e. warmth and cooking) and for making weapons and other utensils. At the same time they have also been places of fear, where the temperamental Faere Folk, wood sprites and elementals lurked in the dappled shadows.  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.
So come and walk with us awhile … take my hand, child, and I will take you safely through the Wild Wood

Traditional Witchcraft for Woods & Forests (A witch’s guide to the woodland with guided meditations and pathworking) is published by Moon Books : ISBN 978 1 84694 803 9 : and Root & Branch: British Magical Tree Lore ISBN 978 1 78697 447 1 published by Ignotus Books are both by Melusine Draco.

<![CDATA[New book release ...]]>Mon, 28 Jun 2021 07:54:16 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/new-book-releasePicture
Many years ago, I featured a cover picture on my Facebook page, showing dozens of hag-stones washed in sea water, and received a message from someone asking how I managed to create so many without shattering the pebbles! Apparently the sender had been trying for years to make them by drilling the holes in order to sell them online! Wrong … in fact, according to Beachstuff.com cheating by drilling a hole through any old stone you pick up is liable to bring you curses and pestilence and other undesirable occurrences. 
     A hag-stone is an elusive and extremely magical stone tumbled by tides and winds over time to create a naturally forming hole through them. Hag-stones are special because they are rare to find and are also called adder-stones, faerie-stones, Odin-stones, eye-stones or witch-stones. Most are caused by water eroding weakened spots on the stone until a hole occurs, though many are created by wind, erosion, and weathering alone. They can also be formed as a result of the boring of a bivalve mollusk called a ‘piddock,’ whose shells look like angel wings. Or, as a result of smaller stones repeatedly grinding into the stone’s surface caused by weathering or water pressure. Or, more rarely from the deterioration of an embedded crinoid fossil.
     First, however, we need to start with the geological aspects of the hag-stone. These small witch-stones all have naturally formed holes in them but they originally came from the bed-rock of the Earth, having been chipped off by impact, tectonic activity, glacial movement, seismic eruptions and weathering. So the original rocks that make up the small pebbles from which our hag-stones are formed may, in some places, be over 3 billion years old; the actual pebbles are probably only a few thousand years old since it only takes a relatively short time (geologically speaking) for streams and rivers to transport them. 
     As rocks are weathered and otherwise broken up, they go through many stages. Pebbles start off as part of a much larger formation of bed-rock in the ground. A crack formed and water flowed through; later, this chunk was broken off by some natural process and has been worn down, probably by being tumbled in a river, or by waves, until it became fairly round and smooth. Pebbles are very common along the lower boundaries of the last glaciers. The rocks get eroded by ice and water, getting smaller and smaller as they are borne along. Most of these pebbles will be rounded off over hundreds or thousands of years.
     Beach pebbles form gradually over time as the ocean washes over loose rocks; the result is a smooth, rounded appearance with colours ranging from translucent white to black, and including shades of yellow, brown, red and green. Some of the more plentiful pebble beaches are found along the coast of the Pacific Ocean, beginning in the United States and extending down to the tip of South America in Argentina. Other pebble beaches are found in northern Europe (particularly on the beaches of the Norwegian Sea), along the coast of the U.K. and Ireland, on the shores of Australia, and around the islands of Indonesia and Japan – and here hag-stones of all sizes and colours can be plentiful.
     Inland pebbles (pebbles of river rock) are usually found along the shores of large rivers and lakes. These pebbles form as the flowing water washes over rock particles on the bottom and along the shores of the river. The smoothness and colour of river pebbles depends on several factors, such as the composition of the soil of the river banks, the chemical characteristics of the water, and the speed of the current. Because a river current is gentler than pounding ocean waves, river pebbles are not usually as smooth as beach pebbles. The most common colours of river rock are black, grey, green, brown and white and hag-stones tend to be much rarer.
     A large number of hag-stones are made of flint and in some of the old Victorian compilations about superstitions, customs and folklore, they are often described as a ‘flynt stone with hole’. This has led a lot of folk to believe that other types of stones with a hole are not true hag-stones but there is no written rule that says that a piece of limestone or sandstone with a naturally occurring hole does not have the magical properties of a hag-stone. In truth, it is about the essence of each individual stone and its geological properties – but it has to have a hole that has been weathered over a long stretch of time.
     From a magical perspective, hag-stones are generally used as protective amulets to deflect negative energy and their additional properties are governed by the type of stone they are made from. Flint is the most common type found in Western Europe and, as a result, these stones have traditionally been seen as the ‘real’ hag-stones described in the old books. Flint is not tied to any geological period and has been formed ever since the pre-Cambrian period, but almost all flint found in Europe was deposited in the period that we call Cretaceous when the world was a vastly different place.
     In the early Cretaceous age, the continents were in very different positions than they are today. Sections of the supercontinent Pangaea were drifting apart. The Tethys Ocean still separated the northern Laurasia continent from southern Gondwana; the North and South Atlantic were still closed, although by the middle of the period, ocean levels were much higher and most of the landmass we are now familiar with, was underwater. By the end of the period, the continents were much closer to their current configuration. Africa and South America had assumed their distinctive shapes; but India had not yet collided with Asia, and Australia was still part of Antarctica …
Flint hag-stones are often created when crinoids fossils deteriorate. The crinoid is an example of a marine animal that left a poorly fossilized image due to its delicate parts ... They are an ancient fossil group that first appeared in the seas of the Middle Cambrian age, about 300 million years before dinosaurs and, since crinoids were not usually buried quickly, their hard stem-parts are far more frequently found as fossils. Crinoids are common fossils in the Silurian rocks of Shropshire; in the Early Carboniferous rocks of Derbyshire and Yorkshire; and in the Jurassic rocks of the Dorset coast and Yorkshire (Robin Hoods Bay).
     Flint is a hard, shiny, almost glassy, stone which is often pointed and flaky rather than smooth and rounded. It is formed from a complex process deriving from animals such as sponges, urchins and other marine animals in the sediments lain down to form the rocks. Because it is hard, and can easily form sharp edges, it was used as first human tools. If you find a flint hag-stone, you have good reason to be absolutely delighted with yourself! If it is flint then it could be the remains of a fossil that has been eroded by wave action; these in their whole state are usually a roughly spherical hollow flint with the inside encrusted with crystals.
     The magical properties are enhanced, depending on the type of rock that the pebble is composed of. Coming originally from mountains where rocks and minerals have been brought up from deep within the Earth’s crust, in many cases deep from within the mantle of the planet’s interior where metals and gemstones are formed. Most gemstones are found in igneous rocks and alluvial gravels, but sedimentary and metamorphic rocks may also contain gem materials. From a geologist’s point of view, however, hag-stones are mainly pebbles of sedimentary rocks that have a naturally occurring hole or holes in them.
     Some of the folklore stories link them to having been created by ‘serpents venom in the centre of the stone’, however, the scientific explanation might be less fascinating! The culprits behind the creation of those holes are, as we have seen, those common piddocks – with specially adapted oval shells that are edged with fine teeth, which they use to excavate burrows in rock. These creatures can bore holes into a rock by locking on with a sucker-like foot and then twisting its shell to drill. Their long oval shells are distinctively wing-shaped, giving piddocks their other common name of ‘angel wings’. Even more magically, during the low tide and in darkness, we may witness a weird bluish-green glow because the animals are bioluminescent.
     Anyone who has ever walked on the beach, especially in southern England, has come across flint. For most people it is not really an especially attractive or beautiful stone, despite the interesting shapes or beautiful colours – but no rock or mineral has had so much influence on human history as flint. This makes it one of the most important, if not the most important rock in human development. Flint is a cryptocrystalline quartz rock, ranging from black to grey and from red to brown – caused by contamination with chalk, iron or organic material. In England (actually across the whole of Europe) we find flint almost always as layers in chalk or limestone: sometimes in narrow bands, sometimes in thicker layers.
     Flint is always a marine deposit – a seawater deposit. Silicon dioxide, the building blocks of quartz, dissolves in water at high temperature (no worries, your quartz crystal really does not dissolve should you decide to wash it in warm water). Seawater normally contains little silica, and silica-containing water is often only seen after volcanic eruptions in the cavities in the solidified lava. That is why quartz geodes form here – but in seawater it has to come from somewhere else. The theory is that the silica from which flint is formed comes from animal remains: microscopically small skeletal particles of micro-organisms in the sea. Of all these animal fossils many have been found in flint. In addition to the organic origin, silica-containing water also enters the sea through groundwater in which silica is dissolved from the soil, and through clay particles that wash into the sea and dissolve in sea water. Flint is very ‘fossiliferous’ anyway and the fossils are often very well preserved: for example sea urchins, shells, ammonites, etc.
     Flint is created on the seabed. Many of these cavities were made by animals that lived in the seabed, such as crustaceans. These critters dug a way through the seabed and in these burrows flint eventually formed. Hence flint concretions can have the most amazing shapes. These petrified burrows are not fossils, after all they are not actual imprints or physical remains from the animal. We call these types of remains ichnofossils, trace fossils. Just like, for example, saurian footsteps or crawling traces of trilobites are ichnofossils. The ‘skin’ of a flint concretion is often white. Sometimes flint can also have beautiful bands. This is the so-called banded flint. In southern England, the colour of the rock sometimes tells where the flint comes from. In the Southeast, the White Cliffs area, the flint ranges from pale gray to black. Further west, towards Dorset, the flint becomes more reddish brown in colour.
     Fossils in flint also plays an historical role. Flint containing a fossil has sometimes been worked in such a way that the fossil had a prominent place in the tool. An example of this is a flint axe with a sea urchin from Homo heidelbergensis, which is 400,000 years old; and a Neanderthal axe from Norfolk with a fossil shell that is 200,000 years old. A recent study also shows that Neanderthals had an eye for the beauty of stone and that they kept exceptionally beautiful pieces of flint.
Hagstones by Mélusine Draco is the third title published 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. Based on the idea of those children’s ‘Ladybird’ books that often introduced us to an interest that lasted a life time and, 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 around 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 series will be aimed at those who have attained a certain level of magical competence and who don’t need to be spoon-fed basic instructions for Circle-casting with each volume and are therefore not written with beginners in mind.
Hagstones compiled by Melusine Draco for the Arcanum series, published by ignotus press uk : ISBN: 9781803020334 : In paperback and e-book format : Pages: 98 : Published: 23 June 2021: Price £6.68 : Order direct from https://www.feedaread.com/books/HAGSTONES.aspx

<![CDATA[Keep it Simple ... new book release]]>Sat, 19 Jun 2021 09:18:17 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/keep-it-simple-new-book-releasePicture
Although the Romans introduced many plants into Britain, it was the Emperor Charlemagne who actively encouraged the spread of herbs and spices throughout Europe; decreeing that each city within his empire should have a garden planted with ‘all herbs’. The foreign emperor’s edicts, however, did not reach as far as Britain and during the Dark Ages it was left to the monasteries to preserve and augment the legacy of herbal knowledge abandoned after the fall of Rome.  Fortunately for posterity, at the Dissolution of the Monasteries c.1536, some valuable books and manuscripts on the subject found their way into private libraries.
Dr Richard Aspin searched through 17th-century recipe books to find out more about the herbal medicine found in Shakespeare’s plays because locally harvested wild herbs were the foundation of medical practice in England of the time. Some plants were cultivated in kitchen and herb gardens, but they differed little from their wild equivalents. Exotic herbs – that is, plants from overseas – were beginning to play an increasing role in the English pharmacopoeia, but whether native or exotic, ‘Simples’ – ‘those medicinal substances that nature provided without any human intervention’ – still formed the basis of Elizabethan domestic medicine.
In Shakespeare’s time there was a London street, named Bucklersbury (near today’s Mansion House), so noted for the number of apothecaries who sold Simples and sweet-smelling herbs that in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Sir John Falstaff describes the dandified fops of his day as ‘Lisping hawthorn buds that smell like Bucklersbury in simple time.’
William Fernie also made rare mention of the ‘green men’ [and women] who were first licensed in the Elizabethan Wild Herb Act to gather herbs and roots from wild, uncultivated land – but it was an occupation that had been going strong since the late 14th-century. A new kind of medical herbalist had evolved – the apothecary – who purchased plants collected from the countryside by these wandering herb collectors. In Green Pharmacy, Barbara Griggs records that during the 17th-century herbs could also be bought direct from the herb women in Newgate Market or Covent Garden.  According to Fernie:
‘Coming down to the first part of the present [19th] century, we find purveyors of medicinal and savory herbs then wandered over the whole of England in quest of useful Simples as were in constant demand at most houses for the medicine-chest, the store-closet, or the toilet-table.  These rustic practitioners of the healing art were known as ‘green men’, who carried with them their portable apparatus for distilling essences, and for preparing their herbal extracts.  In token of their giving formally officiated in this capacity, there may yet be seen in London and elsewhere about the country, taverns bearing the curious sign of The Green Man & [his] Still
The Green Man & Still was a tavern originally situated at 335 Oxford Street, London and was also a coaching inn (a 1792 map shows it at the entrance to a stagecoach yard), the starting point/terminus of several stage coach routes out of London.  Although the original tavern closed and re-located, it retained the Green Man & Still name as late as the early 1920s. Another Green Man & Still is recorded at 161 Whitecross Street, Clerkenwell in 1789 run by one Peter Richardson/ victualler from Sun Fire Office records held at the London Metropolitan Archives. It closed in 2006 and remained empty until it became a coffee shop in 2011. The ‘Green Man’ became a popular name for English pubs in the 17th-century (when the Distiller’s Company Green Man & Still heraldic arms were still in common use), although most inn signs tend to feature the familiar foliated face of church architecture; while the ‘green men’ of Elizabethan times probably merged into the cunning-folk tradition and faded into oblivion.
The confusion between the two grew from a simple misunderstanding. Julia Somerset (Lady Raglan) only published one article on folklore in her lifetime, which appeared in the journal Folklore - formerly The Folk-Lore Journal (1883–1889) and The Folk-Lore Record (1878–1882) - and it almost certainly had a more lasting influence than anything written by her folklorist husband. She claimed to have investigated the supposed mythic-ritualistic origins underlying popular cultural motifs, but her focus of study was the foliate head seen everywhere in European medieval church decoration of the eleventh to sixteenth centuries. Before Lady Raglan’s intervention, this figure had been anonymous. She gave him a name: the Green Man.
The Green Man largely disappeared during the neo-Classical period and Industrial Revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, although this time also saw the rise in popularity of the related figure of Jack-in-the-Green at May Day festivities (and rather mysteriously having a particular association with chimney sweeps in the early years). Leaf-covered Green or Wild Men had been appearing in town pageants for centuries, possibly as live representations of the Green Man of church architecture, but the first attested appearance of Jack-in-the-Green was as recent as 1775. Indeed, one might have expected the Green Man to disappear completely in this age of science and rationality, and for a time he seemed to have done just that. But he has never entirely faded away … [The Enigma of the Green Man]
In Memory, Wisdom & Healing; The History of Domestic Plant Medicine, Gabrielle Hatfield has gathered together material from manuscripts, letters, diaries and personal interviews to produce a detailed picture of the use of domestic remedies in Britain from 1700 to the 21st-century.  And although historians have neglected this captivating subject, her extensive research caused her to make an extremely important observation:
‘How far have we misinterpreted the role of the ‘cunning man’ or ‘wise woman’ of the past?  Perhaps many of them were the equivalent of this informant’s aunt: well versed in plant medicines, and therefore able to help family and friends in time of sickness; just this and no more: there may have been no ritual or magic in their home medicines.  This is not to deny the existence of magical and ritualistic practices in medicine. To deny this would be to fly in the face of evidence.  What I am suggesting is that family plant-medicine was relatively free of these elements. Indeed, the use of native plants in self-help medicine in this country may have been the one constant thread in the history of medical practice.  Magical and religious and astrological practices associated with physic waxed and waned in popularity, but the use of ‘simples’ remained constant: a standby for country people in times of illness.’
Knowledge was handed down orally and only rarely were written records kept for posterity in rural communities. And, as Gabrielle Hatfield also observes, what few records there are on the subject have usually been written by those with no direct experience of country remedies.
‘Such writing tends to treat fragments of information as curios, of a rather quaint nature, to be collected together like a collection of dried butterflies.  This not only removes the information from its context, it also tends to lead to a condescending attitude towards the users of such remedies.  The very word ‘folk’ has come to have a patronizing ring to it, and too often accounts of folk medicine concentrate on the bizarre and fanciful.  Taken out of context, and sometimes even quoted quite wrongly, this has built up a picture of folk medicine as a collection of odd and anachronistic rituals, practiced by the ignorant and superstitious.  In reality, domestic [plant] medicine was a necessary tool for survival … and it is our loss if we dismiss this wisdom too lightly.’
Up until the 18th- century, botany and medicine were closely allied but they subsequently drew apart and developed as separate disciplines.  This is not to say that the old herbal remedies disappeared: traditions were kept alive in many rural locations, and in some countries they never fell from use.  In Europe the day-to-day use of herbs remained more widely practiced than it did in Britain. Mrs Maud Grieve, whose famous herbal was published in 1931, did much to promote the renewed interest in herbs in Britain in the 20th century.

Witch’s Book of Simples: The simple arte of domestic folk medicine by Melusine Draco will be published by Moon Books 25th March 2022 : Paperback  ISBN 978-1-78904-789-9