<![CDATA[Coven of the Scales - Blog]]>Tue, 31 Mar 2020 02:41:50 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[The Traditional Witch's Calendar - April]]>Mon, 30 Mar 2020 10:43:18 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/the-traditional-witchs-calendar-aprilPicture
APRIL: [OE] Easter-mōnaþ ‘Easter Month’, ‘Month of the Goddess Ēostre’ symbolised by the hare or [OHG] Ōstar-mānod ‘Easter month’. The medieval Irish poem ‘Dawn’ represents the goddess at dawn. It was in Scandinavia, perhaps understandably, considering the long winter nights that she was most widely worshipped. Her Scandinavian name was Eostre and she gave her name to the Christian festival of Easter, which is one of the few Christian festivals that changes its date according to the moon. The Ēostre spring festival is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the Vernal Equinox - depending on the approximation of March 21st for the Vernal Equinox. The Easter Bunny is derived from the sacred Moon Hare, and the Easter Egg from the notion (strongly believed in medieval Germany) that the Moon Hare laid eggs for children on the eve of Easter.  In the 14th century misericord calendar, it was shown as the time for scaring birds from the fields to protect the new shoots of grain. A flock of pigeon can strip a field in no time. The tree representing April is the Willow, associated with mourning in the old days and is often referred to as such in traditional folksongs and ballads.
 
Willow Magic: There are several different species of willow but they all have similar medicinal properties and can be used interchangeably in magic. Willows are one of the earliest colonisers of these Islands and it should come as no surprise that it can be found in the Celtic tree alphabet; it is classed as one of the Peasant Trees and bears the name saill. In Celtic times, those wishing to learn eloquence, to be granted visions, prophetic dreams or inspiration, frequented groves of willow. Artists and artisans who learned their craft in willow groves were reputed to be especially skilled.
 
1st Veneralis, the Feast of Venus and All Fool’s Day for the Romans when everyone participated in ludicrous celebrations; a custom that has persisted down through the ages to the present day as have many of the other important old Roman festivals that were assimilated into the later Church calendar and the deities given saints’ names. Today: The tricks we play on our friends and neighbours should be rooted in good fun not malice.
 
Weather-lore: If it thunders on All Fools’ Day, it brings good crops of corn and hay.
 
Eastertide: St Ives’ Great Easter Fair [Hunts] was huge and eventually drew merchants from Flanders, Brabant, Norway, Germany and France for a four-week event each year, turning the normally small town into ‘a major commercial emporium’. Dozens of stalls would be established and hundreds of pounds of goods bought and sold; the fair being one of Ramsey Abbey’s biggest local sources of income. A Royal charter for the fair was first granted in 1110 by Henry I and allowed the Abbot to hold a fair at Slepe (as St Ives was still called then) for eight days each Easter. During the 12th and 13th centuries St Ives was one of the most important fairs in the whole country.  It was an important market for cloth and it is no coincidence that the fair declined at the same time as a sudden collapse in the English weaving industry in the years around 1300.  Later royal charters changed the dates of the fair and there was also a short-lived August fair, and other charters to set up weekly markets but the 1110 charter was the first. Today: Treat this as a family day out just as our forebears would have done.
 
At Hungerford, Berkshire, the Hocktide Festival commemorates the patronage of John of Gaunt who granted the town special fishing and grazing rights in 1364. He also gave the town his hunting horn which is preserved in the vaults of the local bank; a replica of this horn in blown annually in the Corn Market to summon the local people to the Festival. ‘Hoke Monday was for the men and Hoke Tuesday for the women. On both days the men and women alternately, with great merriment obstructed the public road with ropes and pulled passengers to them, from whom they extracted money to be laid out in pious uses.’ [Brand’s Antiquities] Today: Treat this as a family day out just as our forebears would have done.
 
Hocktide: A very old medieval festival used to denote the Monday and Tuesday in the week following the second Tuesday after Easter to commemorate the day when the English surprised and slew the Danes, who had annoyed them for 255 years. This Tuesday was long held as a festival in England and landlords received an annual tribute called hock-money, for allowing their tenants and serfs to celebrate Hock-Day. Together with Whitsuntide, the twelve days of Yuletide and the week following Easter marked the only vacations of the husbandman’s year during slack times in the cycle of the seasons. 
 
4th Megalesia: Another ancient seasonal festival of Cybele, the Great Mother Goddess, who may have originated in Neolithic times. She was worshipped in Phrygia, Ancient Greece and throughout the Roman Empire. See 22nd March Attis Arbour Intrat and 25th the Hilaria. The Megalesia celebrated the anniversary of Cybele’s arrival in Rome. The festival structure is unclear, but it included ludi scaenici (plays and other entertainments based on religious themes), probably performed on the deeply stepped approach to her temple; some of the plays were commissioned from well-known playwrights. Today: Observe this as a traditional day to welcome the Great Mother into your home with lots of flowers.
 
6th Old Lady Day. This would be the traditional day for rents to be collected as per the old Julian calendar.
 
14th The cuckoo sings from St Tiburtius’s Day (14th April) to St John’s Day (24th June) and is the sign that Spring has arrived. The bird’s arrival is usually mid-April but in Worcestershire there is the saying that the cuckoo is never heard before the Tenbury Fair (21st April) or after the Pershore Fair (26th June). The discrepancy in dates is because traditionally the bird arrives in different parts of the country on different days during April. Various April dates were called ‘Cuckoo Days’ and some places still hold ‘Cuckoo Fairs’ – such as Marsden Cuckoo Day in West Yorkshire, a traditional annual festival that celebrates the arrival of Spring; Heathfield Cuckoo Fair in East Sussex marked the traditional myth of releasing of the cuckoo from a basket when it flies north carrying the warm weather with it; or Downton Cuckoo Fair in Wiltshire held on the village green to mark the ‘opening of the gate’ to let the cuckoo through.  Today: Make a wish when you hear the first cuckoo.
 
15th Fordicidia, a Roman festival to promote the fertility of cattle and fields, usually held on the Ides of April. Today: Observe one of the pastoral festivals with a simple lunch in the open air.
 
 
21st Parilia, a festival to honour the old Roman pastoral goddess Pales and observed by driving livestock through burning straw to cleanse both sheep and shepherd. Today: Observe one of the pastoral festivals with a simple lunch in the open air.
 
23rd Shakespeare Day. Marks the date of the Bard’s birth (1584) and also the anniversary of his death (1613). The memorial to him is located inside Holy Trinity Church at Stratford-upon-Avon, the church in which Shakespeare was baptised and where he was buried in the chancel two days after his death. It carries the inscription: ‘Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare, To dig the dust enclosed here. Blessed be the man that spares these stones, And cursed be he that moves my bones.’ Which is a full-blown curse if ever I heard one! Today: Watch your favourite Shakespeare play.
 
23rd Feast of Saint George who, according to legend, was a Roman - soldier of Greek origin and an officer  in the Praetorian Guard of Roman emperor Diocletian, who was sentenced to death for failing to recant his Christian faith. As a Christian martyr, he later became one of the most venerated saints in Christianity and in particular during the Crusades. Edward III of England put his Order of the Garter under the banner of St. George around c1348. The chronicler Jean Froissart observed the English invoking Saint George as a battle cry on several occasions during the Hundred Years’ Wars, which explains the rallying cry in Shakespeare’s Henry V: ‘Cry God for Harry, England, and Saint George’. In his rise as a national saint, George did not become the patron saint of England until the 14th century because he remained obscured by Edmund the Martyr, the traditional patron saint of England, until in 1552 during the reign of Edward VI, all saints’ banners other than George’s were abolished because the king wanted to identify with a more befitting hero.  Today: Celebrate this national day of England.
 
24th St Mark’s Eve. The night on which all persons fated to be married or to die during the coming year, were supposed to pass in procession through the church porch. From a very early period there has existed a belief in the existence of a power of prophecy at that period which precedes death [Folk-Lore in Shakespeare].
 
.25th Robigalia was a Roman festival where sacrifices were made to protect grain fields from disease. The celebration included chariot races, games and a blood sacrifice. A prayer for the occasion is quoted in Ovid’s Fasti, Book IV. It begins: ‘Scaly Mildew, spare the blades of corn, and let their tender tips quiver above the soil. Let the crops grow, nurtured by favourable stars, until they’re ready for the sickle’. Today: Here we might offer up the prayer with a libation poured in the vegetable plot to encourage a healthy crop.
 
27th Floralia is the beginning of a Roman spring festival that honoured Flora the goddess of flowers. According to Willian Warde Fowler’s The Roman Festivals of the Period of the Republic the festival had a licentious, pleasure-seeking atmosphere. “In contrast to festivals based on Rome’s archaic patrician religion, the games of Flora had a plebian character.” Today: The elements of the Parilia and the Floralia may have contributed to the later Beltaine celebrations as the Roman Empire spread into Britain.
 
Weather-lore: ‘April wet, good wheat’.
 
30th Walpurgis Night is the English translation of Walpurgisnacht one of the Dutch and German names for the eve of the feast day of 8th century St Walpurga. In Germanic folklore is also called Hexennacht, literally ‘Witches’ Night’, and believed to be the night of a witches’ meeting on the Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz Mountains, a range of wooded hills in central Germany between the rivers Weser and Elbe. The first known written occurrence of the English translation ‘Walpurgis Night’ is from the 19th century. Today: Modern Beltaine Eve.

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<![CDATA[Old Craft for a New Generation]]>Fri, 20 Mar 2020 14:41:53 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/old-craft-for-a-new-generationI recently read a response on an application form for Coven of the Scales to the question “What do you understand by the term traditional British Old Craft?” The response was that “‘Witchcraft is whatever you want it to be?” It might if we are talking about eclectic paganism … but within Old Craft if there is no natural ability for communicating with the spirit world, divination, recognizing and reading the omens, healing, cursing and moving between the worlds, then there is no witch. Added to this, Old Craft is extremely selective when it comes to prospective members and will reject any who prove themselves unsuitable for the Path.
 
Magic – whether of the folk or ritual variety – does not conform to the whims and vagaries of contemporary fashion and, like science, it has its own laws and lore that must be adhered to if a successful outcome is required. As ritual magician David Conway warns in his The Complete Magic Primer, to go through the ritual motions with no clear idea of what they are all about is mere superstition, not magic.
 
In any case, a witch should expect more from his or her magic than mere signs and wonders. If these are all he is after, he would be better advised to take up conjuring, which is far less trouble. The real rewards of magical study are not temporal benefits but a spiritual maturity which affords a more profound understanding of the universe in which we live. The form of traditional witchcraft practiced by the Coven of Scales teaches that the basic tenet of belief, although not a religion, does have a highly defined spiritual element to its practice. Also that Old Craft is fundamentally animistic – the belief that every object, animate and inanimate, has its own life-force, or energy. Here there is no separation between the spiritual or physical world, where ‘spirit’ exists in all flora and fauna (including humans); geological features such as rocks, mountains, rivers and springs; and in natural phenomena such as storms, wind and the movement of heavenly bodies. It is the understanding that a small quartz pebble can link us with the cosmic Divine.
 
Those members of CoS who have successfully passed through the first portal are usually mature individuals who have seriously studied other paths and traditions but were not comfortable with the contemporary dogma and questionable sources. Because let’s make no bones about it, today’s pagan interpretation of witchcraft often belongs to a revivalist tradition and should not claim to be anything else. Nevertheless, the seasonal rituals and celebrations need to be as close as they can to the beliefs of our Ancestors without falling into the trap of lumping all the deities
together in one ageless pantheon … and expecting the magic to work!
 
These simple tenets of faith need to be enshrined in our memory because they allow us to perceive the simplicity at the heart of creation.  Much of this may be seen as playing with semantics, but in truth, the god-forms themselves have changed greatly down through the millennia. It is only by studying myths, legends and folklore, and pulling all the strands together that we can appreciate just how much these have altered.
 
The spirits of the landscape that are the true focus of the ancestral beliefs of Old Craft have remained constant; they have not altered their form and have only grown more powerful with age. These well-springs of magical energy have not been contaminated because few have known of their existence – apart from the native shamanic practitioners [witches] who have kept the secret down through the ages. In more secluded spots, the spirit-energy of the ancient Britons survives in remote ancient monuments, isolated lakes, the rural landscape, and in the depths of the surviving wildwood with which our hunter-gatherer Ancestors would have been familiar.
 
When the native shamanic practices went into the shadows, these powerful energy spots were deemed unholy and feared by the locals – and as such passed into folklore as those things that
are “never fully remembered and yet never fully forgotten.” Those people who come to us are looking for the Path back to the Old Ways and learning how to connect with this timeless energy that “speaks” to them on a variety of different levels. In the light of all this, it might be felt that Old Craft has no place in modern paganism since it is both elitist and hierarchical but our answer to that accusation has always been: “How can you teach yourself what you don’t know exists?”
 
It is pointless stripping away all the ancient magical formulae to shoe-horn ancient wisdom into a pre-prescribed contemporary system in order to make it easier to understand, when the interior workings that drive the whole have been declared redundant. The ancient symbols, sigils, formulae, analogies and metaphors remain an integral part of the spiritual journey; just as magic
is an amalgam of science and art and the stepping stone to the Mysteries. These symbols are so ancient that they are firmly entrenched in the collective subconsciousness and it would be a mistake to discard them purely because they are not understood – or worse still – misunderstood.
 
During the recent BBC History of Magic programme that unveiled rare books, manuscripts and magical objects from the British Library’s collection and forthcoming exhibition, were revealed some of the traditions of folklore and magic which are at the heart of the Harry Potter stories. J K Rowling said of the exhibition: “The British Library has done an incredible job. Encountering objects for real that have in some shape or form figured in my books has been quite wonderful and to have several of my own items in the exhibition is a reminder of twenty amazing years since Harry was first published…” And she was honest enough to admit that although she had thoroughly researched her subject, some of the magical stuff was made up!
 
The worlds of J K Rowling and J R R Tolkein are fabulous stories, full of magic and glamour (in the magical sense) but they are wonderful works of fiction and fantasy – not reality. Nevertheless
I suspect that many of those original “kiddy converts” have now swelled the ranks of the pagan community but where do they go to discover authentic witchcraft? Our own ‘converts’ discovered for themselves that there was a dearth of material available and it took them many years of searching before they discovered there were other approaches to witchcraft than popular Wicca. Just as not every member of a Christian congregation came be a priest, so not every pagan can be a witch since according to tradition this is some innate ability that manifests in the ways of the Craft.
 
And although we draw upon the natural energy from the landscape, we are even closer to those sentient beings we refer to as the Ancestors who represent our culture, traditions, heritage, lineage and antecedents; they trace the long march of history that our predecessors have taken. When those of a particular Tradition pass beyond the veil, their spiritual essence merges with the divine spirit of the Whole, which in turn gives traditional witchcraft the continuing power to endure – even past its own time and place in history. It therefore remains the duty of an Old Craft witch to ensure that they keep adding to the strength of belief, which, in many instances may already have endured for hundreds of years
 
So yes, in the twenty-first century you can view witchcraft as being whatever you want it to be but please don’t pretend to be following the Old Ways – because those “old ways” still matter.

 
 
Melusine Draco is an Initiate of traditional British Old Craft and the Khemetic Mysteries and author of over fifty titles, many currently published with John Hunt Publishing, including the popular Traditional Witchcraft series published by Moon Books and a contributor to their latest anthology, What is Modern Witchcraft?  www.moon-books.net  Or contact www.covenofthescales.com for more information.
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<![CDATA[The Traditional Witch’s Calendar]]>Thu, 27 Feb 2020 09:25:38 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/the-traditional-witchs-calendarPicture

MARCH: Old English [OE] Hrēþ-mōnaþ ‘Month of the Goddess Hrēþ’ and was named in honour of a little-known fertility goddess names Hreða, or Rheda. Her name eventually became Lide in some southern English dialects, and the name Lide or Lide-month was still being used locally in parts of southwest England until as recently as the 19th century. Alternatively ‘Month of Wildness’ or in Old High German [OHG] Lenzin-mānod ‘spring month’. The Norsemen regarded the month as ‘the lengthening month that wakes the alder and blooms the whin [gorse]’ calling it Lenct – meaning Spring. It was a period of enforced fasting when winter stores were running low and as such was incorporated into the Church calendar and renamed Lent. The Anglo-Saxons referred to it as Lenetmonath
 
In the 14th century the misericord calendar carved into the backs of choir seats in St Mary’s Church at Ripple was shown as the time for sowing. The carvings reveal an annual round of country life in the Middle Ages and are believed to be by local craftsmen; they add up to a country calendar with religious overtones, showing the tasks of husbandry month by mouth. The tree representing March is the Alder, associated with Bran, the pre-Celtic raven god.
 
Alder Magic: With the alder’s natural habitat being streams and riverbanks it is not surprising that it can be viewed as being sacred to Elemental Water, although with its various associations, it seems to embrace all four elements. Pipes and whistles were made from alder, making it sacred to Pan and Elemental Air; whistles can be used magically to conjure up destructive winds – especially from the North (Elemental Earth). Associated with the Elemental Fires of the smith-gods (because although it burns poorly, it makes one of the best charcoals) it has the powers of both dissolution and regeneration. Primarily, the alder is the tree of fire, using the power of fire to free the earth from water and a symbol of resurrection, as its blooms heralds the drying up of the winter floods by the Spring Sun. Use alder as part of your magical workings at Spring Equinox
 
1st St David’s Day. The national day of Wales and has been celebrated as such since the 12th century. He was reputedly born on a cliff top near Capel Non (‘Non’s chapel’) on the South-West Wales coast during a fierce storm. Both his parents were descended from Welsh royalty: he was the son of Sandde, Prince of Powys, and Non, daughter of a chieftain of Menevia (now the little cathedral town of St David’s ). The site of his birth is marked by the ruins of a tiny ancient chapel close to a holy well, and the more recent 18th century chapel dedicated to his mother Non can still be seen near St. David’s Cathedral. St David is the only national saint in the British Isles to be ‘home-grown’.
 
There is doubt as to the origin of the custom of wearing a leek, but according to Welsh tradition, it is because St David ordered his Britons to place leeks in their caps that they might be distinguished from their Saxon foes. It has also been pointed out that this allusion by Fluellen (in Henry V) to the Welsh having worn a leek in battle under the Black Prince, is not necessarily confirmation that it originated in the fields of Crecy, but rather that it shows when Shakespeare wrote that Welshmen wore leeks. Today: Celebrate this national day of Wales by wearing the leek or a daffodil.
 
2nd The Feast of Ceadda (pronounced Kedda), an early Celtic deity associated with sacred springs and wells. Replaced in the Church calendar by Chad, a prominent 7th century Anglo-Saxon churchman who became abbot of several monasteries, Today: Make an offering at your local well or stream by clearing the winter debris.
 
10th The fourth Sunday in Lent in most Lancashire towns is called Simnel Sunday, and Simnel cakes – ornamental,  rich cakes like those made at Christmas time – are eaten. A writer in The Gentleman's Magazine (1867) said: ‘from time beyond memory thousands of persons come from all parts to that town (Bury) to eat Simnels. Formerly, nearly every shop was open, with all the public-houses, quite in defiance of the law respecting the closing during ‘service’ …’ The origin of the word Simnel is unknown: in Wright’s Vocabularies it appears as Hic arlaecopus = symnelle – a form in use during the 15th century. In the Dictionarius of John de Garlande, completed in Paris in the 13th century, it appears as Simeneus = placentae = simnels. Today: An appropriate cake to celebrate the Ēostre spring festival.
 
15th The old Roman New Year actually began on the famous Ides of March, which was sacred to Jupiter and a day for special religious observance. Due to Shakespeare’s dramatic ‘Beware the Ides of March!’ in his play Julius Caesar, the day has developed sinister connotations. Today: Do as they did in Shakespeare’s day … watch the play!
 
Weather-lore: A dry March and a wet May, fill barns and bays with corn and hay.’
 
15th The Roman Festival of Anna Perenna, an ancient deity whose feast day was at the full moon in what was then the first month of the year. Ovid describes her as ‘Anna ac Perenna’, or ‘she who begins and ends the year’. Today: An opportunity for an impromptu ‘old new year’ celebration or simply making an offering to your household gods.
 
17th Feast of St Patrick celebrates one of the world’s most popular saints. He was born in Roman Britain and when he was about fourteen was captured by Irish pirates during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. He eventually escaped to Britain but returned, preaching and converting all over Ireland for forty years often using shamrocks to explain the Holy Trinity. Today: Celebrate this national day of Ireland.
 
17th Liberalia was celebrated in Rome in honour of the god of the vine as a great carnival; it was at this festival that Roman youths first assumed the toga virilise, or ‘manly gown’. This ancient Italian ceremony was originally a ‘country’ or rustic ceremony but the Roman State adaptation was meant to honor Liber Pater, an ancient god of fertility and wine, who was also a vegetation god, responsible for protecting seed. Liber, like Dionysus, had female priests although Liber’s priests were older women; wearing wreaths of ivy, the priestesses made special cakes, or libia, of oil and honey which passing devotees would have them sacrifice on their behalf. Possibly this was an older rite that was originally aligned with the Vernal Equinox. Today: An excellent opportunity to pay homage to the vine by offering a libation of a good English wine.
 
21st The Spring or Vernal Equinox – check on the Internet for precise alignments. As we’ve already noted, by 600AD the Sun was entering the constellation of Aries at the Spring Equinox and still marked the beginning of the year for the Roman calendar makers since Aries has always been recognised as the first sign of the year. These are powerful tides around the Vernal Equinox and often a time of great change. A good time for divination to see what the coming astrological year will bring.
 
22nd Attis Arbour Intrat: In Ancient Rome, the procession of the pine trees was dedicated to Cybele, Ops or Rhea, in what was known as the Festival of the Entry of the Tree; immortalised in music as Pini di Roma a four-movement tone poem which depicts pine trees in four locations in Rome - at different times of the day by the Italian composer Ottorino Respighi. Arbor intrat (‘The Tree enters’), commemorates the death of Attis under a pine tree. Today: Bring a pine bough into the home in recognition of the Great Mother.
 
22nd Also a Roman Dies violae – the ritual laying of flowers at ancestral tombs and so this is a good time to visit a grave or memorial of an ancestor of the blood, place or tradition and leave a tribute. There were several dates set aside for honouring the ancestors in the old calendar and not just at the beginning of winter (Hallowe’en or Samhain), since the ancestors could be approached with prayer and offerings to ensure the fertility of the land and livestock at any time. (See Flowering Sunday at the end of the month) Today: Place flowers on a family grave or pour a libation in an act of remembrance.
 
25th From 1252 until 1752 in Britain, the legal new year began not on 1st January but 25th March, which is still known as Lady Day and a date when many rents still fall due as it forms one of the ‘quarter days’. Today: End of the tax year!
 
Lady Day: It was said that if Easter fell on Lady Day then some disaster would shortly follow: ‘When my Lord falls in my Lady’s lap; England beware of some mishap.’
 
25th This day was also known as Latha na Caillich or Cailleach Day and a festival would be held to ‘drive out the winter hag’. Today: Light a fire outdoors and share a small feast of bread, cheese and wine in her honour.
 
Weather-lore: ‘As it rains in March, so it rains in June’.
 
25th Hilaria – a Roman festival of joy in honour of the goddess Cybele, mother of the gods, that ended a nine-day period of fasting when bread, pomegranates, quinces, pork, fish, and probably wine were prohibited. Only milk was permitted as a drink. The ancient festival was celebrated around the Vernal [Spring] Equinox in honour of the goddess, who had a long and extended historical journey from Anatolia to Rome, and then throughout the Roman Empire. Today: Perhaps this should be included in the current pagan calendar as the original ‘Mothering Sunday’ celebration.
 
26th The anniversary of the date of the service in which Richard III was finally laid to rest and ‘given dignity denied in death’ was Thursday 26th March 2015 in Leicester Cathedral, nearly 530 years after his demise. On 22nd August 1485, Richard was killed at Bosworth Field, the last English King to die in battle, thereby bringing to an end both the Plantagenet dynasty and the Wars of the Roses. Today: Light a candle in memory.
 
27-28th Lent: The fair season opens with the medieval Chartered mid-Lent fairs at Stamford and Grantham [Lincs], both held in the streets of the town. Stamford’s fair was chartered by King John in 1205 although the feast of the fair is not recorded; Grantham’s fair was chartered by Richard III in 1484 to be held on Passion Sunday. Today: Celebrate with all the fun of the fair!
 
29th Sad Palm Sunday (1463) marks the day of the battle of Towton, the most fatal of all the battles in the Wars of the Roses when over 37,000 Englishmen were slain. Drayton’s poem Polyolbion refers:
Whose banks received the blood of many thousand men,
On ‘Sad Palm Sunday’ slain that Towton field we call …
The bloodiest field betwixt the White Rose and the Red.
Today: Light a candle in memory.
 
https://www.feedaread.com/books/Old-Year-Old-Calendar-Old-Ways-9781788762052.aspx

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<![CDATA[A Book-Worm's Autobiographical View]]>Fri, 21 Feb 2020 11:02:16 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/a-book-worms-autobiographical-viewPicture
As most of my readers will know, I have a fascination for odd and obscure historical facts that are hidden away in the millions of sources that outstrip and confound the confines of the Internet – it’s finding them that presents the stimulation and the challenge. If we merely rely on the regurgitated information of contemporary paganism not only does our mind become stagnant, but for those who follow the Craft of the witch, so do our magical abilities.
 
Over the years I have also incorporated a great deal of folk- cunning- and country-lore into my books on witchcraft with a view to preserving that knowledge for future generations. Much of what even my grandparents’ generation once knew is now lost because it was never recorded for posterity. True there are numerous pagan books written about similar subjects but it is obvious that a large number of them don’t have the countryside in their blood and fail to reflect the magic and mystery of growing up in an uncomplicated rural environment. Strangely enough, these sentiments are often now viewed as some form of elitism but I prefer to go back to the roots of learning rather than consult something that has been cobbled together from different popular titles without any true grounding in Nature.
 
Both The Secret People and CRONE! are autobiographical and were a lot of fun to write.  The Secret People is a wander down memory lane and a step back in time; it is that ‘other country’ of the past where parish-pump witches, wise women and cunning folk still travel the highways and byways of a bygone era. Their voices can still be heard in the recipes and remedies handed down via an oral tradition, and now giving new knowledge to the next generation of pagans. It was a world where men went out with a ferret in a box and a long-net, accompanied by a silent long dog for a companion under a ‘poacher’s moon’.
 
From ‘owl-light’ until dawn these people walked silently in the woods and along the hedgerows, watching and waiting to collect Nature’s bounty to be used for the benefit of themselves and their neighbours. From them came the introduction to spells and charms, divination and fortune-telling; the language of birds and the movement of animals – all grist for the witch’s mill. Mysterious horsemen might share secrets of horseshoe nails and thunder-water; while countrymen lived by weather, the seedtime and the harvest.
 
Few of The Secret People could be called traditional witches by any stretch of the imagination, and many would have been mortally offended to be referred to as a ‘witch’ or ‘pagan’. Few parish-pump witches would have thought about the skills they possessed since these were natural abilities, and even fewer wise women and cunning folk would have had any concept of the sombre and often dangerous rituals required for the raising of energy needed in the practice of true witchcraft. Theirs was a knowledge that filtered down in the form of spells, domestic plant medicine and country lore, imparted to offspring, friends and neighbours, who in turn handed it down to their children...and so on down through the generations. In fact, in his Dialogue Concerning Witches & Witchcraft (1603) George Gifford observed that local wise women ‘doth more good in one year than all these scripture men will do so long as they live’.
 
The Secret People would have greatly outnumbered the practitioners of traditional witchcraft since the practical abilities that define a true witch are bred in the bone and not everyone can lay
claim to the lineage. The skills of The Secret People can, however, be learned and perfected with practice and for those who struggle to find a label with which to empathise, it is hoped the lessons taught here will help the reader to establish some sort of identity that sits comfortably with them. Today, under the ubiquitous umbrella of paganism, the parish-pump witch runs the occult shop in the high street, the wise woman dispenses Reiki healing and the cunning man has become a professional tarot reader. The countryman’s world has disappeared under a sprawl of urban housing and ring roads, while the poacher has yielded his domain to the brutal gangs
who slaughter wildlife on a commercial scale – even the poacher’s dog, the lurcher, has found his niche in the ‘fly-ball’ event at Crufts! And yet...the knowledge of The Secret People is still there for the learning, if only we know how to search for it and rediscover our identity.
 
 
Secret People, The
Parish-pump witchcraft, Wise-women and Cunning Ways
Melusine Draco
September 30 2016
Paperback 978-1-78535-444-1
Pages: 226
Status: Published by Moon Books www.moon-books.net
 
 
“The Secret People is all about the kind of practical folklore our grandmothers and great-grandmothers would have used in their daily lives when planting a cottage garden, foraging for herbs in the hedgerows, treating family ailments and making the most of what was around the house. It is also about the secret folklore they would have known, from love charms and fortune-telling to protection spells and magical cures. The book is both really useful and a delight to read. Mélusine said that it would take me on a trip down memory lane, and it certainly did.”
Lucya Starza, author of Pagan Portals: Candle Magic
 
“I’ve so looked forward to this book. It high time our old ways came to light again so that we can all remember and use them. Draco writes in a style that is easy to read and her knowledge of
the old ways is enormous. Anyone who wants to get back into the old customs and traditions of Britain will find this book a source to be treasured.”
Elen Sentier, author of Shaman Pathways: Elen of the Ways, shaman and wise woman


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<![CDATA[A Book-Worm's Autbiographical View]]>Fri, 21 Feb 2020 10:54:45 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/a-book-worms-autbiographical-viewPicture
CRONE! on the other hand takes ‘a year in the life of …’ approach and is a rag-bag of memories, wise counsel, reflections, magic and nostalgia that make up a witch’s year – especially one who’s just stepped down as leader of a Coven and finds herself with a lot of time on her hands. Magically this is the best of times since there is nothing to prevent the Crone from doing what she likes, when, where and how – since her personal power is now greatly magnified. CRONE! might also provide food for thought for those Craft ladies of a certain age who need to step aside and let the next generation have their turn, because often we don’t stop to think that the magical power of the group can diminish and stagnate through the lack of fresh energy. Hopefully, as far as the new Magister and Dame are concerned, I will be around for a long time to come, remaining in the background dispensing Knowledge, Wisdom and Understanding so that they in turn can train their own successors for the future, while I return to my own chosen Path. In truth there’s comes a time in life in Crafter’s life when it becomes necessary to follow a different Path and see where it takes us. We leave the security of the Coven and set off on a solitary journey … but as Aleister Crowley observed: “What an adventure!”
 
On reflection life is good and it’s not everyone who can live the witch’s dream of retiring to a small, isolated cottage in a river valley in the shadow of a wild mountain range. Since I’m country born and bred, it’s more like returning to my roots but life’s rich tapestry has certainly had its fair share of snags, runs, holes and endless thread-pulling along the way. I’ve lived in the Glen for ten years now and although my original pack of greyhound companions has been reduced drastically through old-age, I’m still pack-leader of five ... not forgetting Harvey my intrepid little mongrel!
    
The Glen is ideally suited to the type of magic we teach in Coven of the Scales simply because we are not over-looked – psychically or magically – and nothing is allowed to interfere with the daily routine of interacting with Nature on a full-time basis. The cottage is on the opposite side of the Glen to the mountains, on the wooded Slievenamuck Ridge with a lush valley and the River Aherlow running between. The view of the mountains is never the same two days running and at certain times of the afternoon, the slopes are bathed in a strange, ethereal light that is nothing short of enchanting. Each morning I can stand at the bedroom window and stare out with the feeling that this is an ever-lasting holiday – and one I often share with members of the Coven.
 
 From a magical energy perspective, the mountains were formed during the ‘Caledonian Foldings’, which caused the underlying Silurian rocks to fold into great ridges. The Silurian rocks were quite soft and quickly eroded; the eroded dust compacted over millions of years to form Old Red Sandstone, a tough enduring rock and so the Galtees are of Red Sandstone, but with a softer Silurian rock core. If anyone is familiar with my Magic Crystals, Sacred Stones, they will understand how important these geological features are to our magical teaching.
    
As a result of being surrounded by all this beauty, I’ve now gone into Crone-mode, which in magical parlance means that I can do and say what I want, when I want, and no one can object, since they must sit at my feet and drink in the pearls of wisdom I dispense with every breath ... even if they are the senile, verbal wanderings of an aging crank. Seriously, the Coven has been told that if I do get to that stage ‘Do not revive!’ must be entered on the medical chart! Today, I am blessed with a crowd of wonderful people in the Coven from all over the world; all of whom are bright, intelligent and talented – not a witchy outfit to be seen amongst them with Craft ‘mark’ tastefully concealed – and all dear friends.
    
In truth, we as practitioners of Old Craft are less concerned with ritual and dogma, and more focused on natural energy-raising techniques, which we use to channel or direct spells and charms according to the nature of the working. As I’ve often said, Old Craft witches do not worship Nature but we are certainly proficient at working in harmony with it … and are highly spiritual beings on this level, too. Unlike the majority of modern pagans, however, we accept Nature as being red in tooth and claw and do not seek to impose our will on the natural scheme of things – even if Beltaine is delayed because the hawthorn comes into bloom a month late! And you can’t have a true Beltaine celebration without the fragrance of May blossom in the air ... if you understand my meaning.
    
We also accept the timeless concept of the hunter and the hunted, and the essential inter-action of male-female energy. Old Craft is not generally seen as gender specific but its beliefs do tend to lean towards the male aspect since the female aspect remains veiled and a mystery – as she should be since this is the ancient and fundamental ‘Truth’ behind the Mysteries. Coven of the Scales is not a true sabbatical tradition but it remains an initiatory Mystery one, and what it does share with the other pre-Wiccan traditions is a common feature of extreme selectivity when it comes to prospective members – and the willingness to reject those proven unfit for the Path. Needless to say, this unpopular and confrontational stance has often led to thorny relations between other so-called ‘traditional’ groups, but it has encouraged a sanctuary-like environment where creative magical collaboration can unfold according to the design of each individual member of the Coven.
    
All this ‘tradition’ has now funnelled down to a tiny, remote cottage in the Glen that offers members of the Coven a warm welcome, a magical learning centre and a spiritual home, hopefully, for many years to come. We have our own Neolithic site where we interact with the Ancestors and, unlike many other ancient monuments, these ancestral energies have not been polluted by the unwelcome tramp of tourism. Here I can live the life of an Old Craft Initiate according to the tenets of my belief and periodically welcome friends and fellow travellers to share in my magical world.
 
CRONE!: A Year in the Life of an Old Craft Witch
Melusine Draco
ISBN: 9781788760010
Type: Paperback
Pages: 216
Status: Published by https://www.feedaread.com/books/CRONE-9781788760010.aspx
 
As I’ve said before, and no doubt I’ll say it again, writing about witchcraft is easy.  Finding the right theme isn’t.  Any fool can pass themselves off as a witch but finding an informative and entertaining approach for a new book is a whole different cauldron of knowledge.  Personally, I feel there should be a magical purpose behind any book on Craft – otherwise it’s all been said before – and usually better …
 

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<![CDATA[Calendars mark the passage of time … and have done since ancient times.]]>Wed, 05 Feb 2020 11:47:29 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/calendars-mark-the-passage-of-time-and-have-done-since-ancient-timesPicture
  
 
All my life, I have been a celebrant of Halloween. For me, it is the most important day of the year, the turning point in the old pagan calendar.
John Burnside
 
Calendars are an important element of our daily lives and they govern the way we conduct our daily, weekly, monthly, yearly routine.  In the earliest times, human beings calculated time by observing the periods of light and darkness that alternated continuously. The solar day is considered the earliest form of the calendar. The second basic type of calendar was the arbitrary calendar, which was created by counting the number of days over and over again, either towards infinity or in a cycle. Nonetheless, there were several problems with the arbitrary calendar. Firstly, farmers of early civilizations could not calculate the perfect time to plant their crops. Crop planting is an activity that is closely linked to the seasons, and the arbitrary calendar was not based on the durations of seasons. Therefore, humans began to observe the sun’s passage through a fixed point, and this practice was the precursor of the solar calendar. Calendars that were based on lunar and stellar cycles were also used in the ancient times.
 
A mesolithic arrangement of twelve pits and an arc found in Warren Field, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, dated to roughly 10,000 years ago, has been described as a lunar calendar and was dubbed the ‘world's oldest known calendar’ in 2013.  While Adam’s Calendar in Mpumalanga, South Africa it is a standing stone circle about 30 meters in diameter, which various astronomical alignments identified at the site suggest it is possibly the only example of a completely functional, mostly intact megalithic stone calendar in the world
 
The Mayans, known for being one of the most technologically advanced civilizations of their time, inhabited the regions of Central America and southern Mexico. Their most notable achievement was their intricate system of time, which consisted of three calendars. These calendars were known as the Long Year, the Solar Year, and the Tzolk'in. The Long Year calendar was used to measure long periods of time and is responsible for the 2012 predictions. The Solar Year is the calendar that most closely resembles our Gregorian calendar; The Tzolk'in calendar consisted of only 260 days and was used mostly for religious purposes. These calendars came under great scrutiny in 2012 due in part to the media portrayal of an ‘apocalyptic’ prediction. However, after 2012 came and went without incident, historians began looking for the true meaning of why the Mayan calendar system ended on that date.
 
India has used the Hindu calendar to measure time since their ancient days. Over the years, the calendar has been edited and changed as the regional face of India has changed. There are several variations of the Hindu calendar in use today, specific to the various regions of the country. Each version of the calendar has small characteristics that differ them, however, one thing is the same for all of them: the names of the twelve months. The calendar is made up of both solar and lunisolar calendars, and also centers on astronomy and religion. The early Hindu calendar was born from the astronomical philosophies developed in the late BC time. Lunar months are the basis of the calendar and are determined around the phases of the moon. The calendar marks important religious festival and worship days. While there are many different variations of the Hindu calendar, there is a standard version of the calendar that serves as the national calendar of India.
 
The Roman Book of Days by Paulina Erina
The Roman religion and civil calendar that spread across the Empire was closely aligned to the farming year in central Italy. It comprised of festivals for sacrifice and festivals for games, although the routine sacrifices to the many civil gods were left in the hands of the State priesthood. The more humble cults flourished on the streets and in the countryside, at home private worship continued well after the Roman conversion to Christianity because the ancient gods were so firmly entrenched in pagan hearts.
 
REVIEW: "A lot of people be they neo-pagans or amateur scholars or authors trying to research have the same problem: It's very hard to get good, concise information on the Roman Calendar. Even otherwise good books and websites only list the major festivals, and mention briefly that some days were dies comitialis, others dies fasti, and so forth and so on. Obviously this is of little help, say, want to know if the hero of your novel could press a lawsuit on the 20th of August, or what festivals are held on the 9th of June. This book is the answer to that problem. It lists every day of the year, and what happens on that day; festivals, lucky and unlucky days, and the character of the day (fasti, nefasti, etc). If you want to know what happens on 20th of August just look up that day, and you'll see that it's a Dies Comitialis where citizen committees can vote on criminal and political matters. It's very useful and a great relief for someone who's been tearing their hair out looking for this information. I wasn't sure if it should get four or five stars, since it is fairly short and only gives an abbreviated explanation of each feast day. However I've decided on five stars since the information you find here is virtually impossible to find anywhere else, and believe me I've looked. More to the point once you have the name of a festival, or the type of day, it's very easy to find any additional information on the internet. Thus five stars, and a book that’s very highly recommended!” Norse Victorian- Amazon
ISBN: 9781786971517
Type: Paperback
Pages: 144
Published: 14 July 2016
Price: £6.99
Order from https://www.feedaread.com/books/The-Roman-Book-of-Days-9781786971517.aspx
 
Old Year, Old Calendar, Old Ways compiled by Melusine Draco
Most of today’s pagans religiously follow the phases of the moon, and the various witches’ almanacs gear their celebrations and/or observances in line with the dates of the Gregorian calendar in order to synchronise their monthly observances. If we follow our pagan year merely for celebration and observance it makes little difference when we hold our feast days and festivals but if our magical operations need to connect with the Old Ways of our Ancestors then we need to align with the old calendars that were brought to these islands by the Romans, the Celts and the Anglo-Saxons. These formal calendars are the nearest guide we have to help us in understanding the customs and beliefs of our indigenous ancestors. The Roman legionnaires garrisoned in Britain came from all over the Europe and they would have brought their religions and beliefs with them from the far flung corners of the Empire; as would the incoming Celts, Danes and Anglo-Saxons whose influence would have eventually been grafted onto older, indigenous stock especially when similar celebrations fell around the solstices and equinoxes.
 
REVIEW: “Great book! Love the fair days and events in England that still hold with old tradition and the ideas for honouring days. Definitely a book to have on the shelf and look at every couple of days.” Sarah Beth Watkins, historical author and publisher at Chronos Books
ISBN: 9781788762052
Type: Paperback
Pages: 210
Published: 25 January 2018
Price: £7.99
Order from https://www.feedaread.com/books/Old-Year-Old-Calendar-Old-Ways-9781788762052.aspx
 
 
The Calendar of Ancient Egypt compiled by Melusine Draco
This revised 'Book of Days' has been compiled from Temple Festival Calendars of Ancient Egypt by Sherif el-Sabban; the Greek and Demotic Magical Papyri lodged in the British Museum; the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris; the Staatliche Museum in Berlin; the Rijksmuseum in Leiden; the Sallier Papyrus IV and The Cairo Calendars currently lodged in the British and Cairo Museums. The latter shows that although the document itself was made during the time of Rameses II, it was a 'reprint' of much earlier material For the ancient Egyptians every day was considered to have some magical significance, which caused it to be good, bad, or partly good and partly bad and this calendar was compiled for purposes of religious observance. By consulting the lists of lucky and unlucky days, each individual could protect himself and his family against the danger of the day.
 
REVIEW: “I am teaching a course on ancient Egypt, so I was able to use this every class day to read the prognostication for the day and tell my students how they should behave. It makes things more fun.” LARA1407 (Amazon)
ISBN: 9781788765831
Type: Paperback
Pages: 202
Published: 5 November 2018
Price: £7.99
Order from https://www.feedaread.com/books/The-Calendar-of-Ancient-Egypt-9781788765831.aspx
 
The Kindle e-book version of these calendars are available on special order offer UK£0.99/US$0.99 : The Calendar of Ancient Egypt 7-14th February: The Roman Book of Days and Old Year, Old Calendar, Old Ways 7-14th March 2020



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<![CDATA[​The Traditional Witch’s Calendar – February]]>Thu, 30 Jan 2020 10:43:14 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/the-traditional-witchs-calendar-februaryPicture

FEBRUARY: [OE] Sol-mōnaþ 'mud month’. According to Bede: ‘the month of cakes, which they offered in it to their gods’. Either the cakes looked like they were made of mud due to their colour and texture, or literally it was the month of mud due to wet English weather) [OHG] Hornung - taken to refer to the antlers shed by red deer during this time. The original Anglo-Saxon name for the month was ‘Sprout-kale’ for the vegetable that began to sprout at this time.  In the 14th century misericord calendar, it was shown as the time for hedging and ditching. Hence the popular name ‘fill-dyke’ when rain and melted snow fills the ditches to overflowing. The tree representing February is the Ash, sacred to the goddess in all her many guises.
 
1st Feast day of Brigid, Bride. Daughter of the Dagda and one of the Tuatha Dé Danann. She is considered the patroness of poetry, smithing, medicine, arts and crafts, cattle and other livestock, sacred wells, serpents (in Scotland) and the arrival of early spring. Today: Pin Brigid’s sun-wheel cross up at the threshold of the house to keep evil away for the coming year.
 
Robert Herrick’s poem, Ceremonies for Candlemas Eve gives a contemporary account of the custom of removing Christmas decorations in the 16th century.
 
Down with rosemary and bays
Down with the mistletoe;
Instead of holly, now upraise
The greener box, for show…
 
1st Februm, sacred to Juno Februra and a month during which reverence was shown to the spirits of the ancestors and the rebirth of spring. It was an old Roman custom of burning candles to the goddess Februa, mother of Mars, to scare away any evil spirits.
 
2nd Candlemas or Imbolc. Among the Celts, the pagan celebration of Imbolc occurred on the first of February. This was in honour of the goddess Brigid and was associated with purification and fertility at the end of winter. Peasants would carry torches and cross the fields in procession, praying to the goddess to purify the ground before planting. In the early Churches, the torches were replaced by blessed candles whose glow was supposed to take away evil and symbolize that Christ is the light of the world. They would then take the candles to their homes to bring protection to their houses.
 
Gŵyl Fair y Canhwyllau is a Welsh name of Candlemas, celebrated on 2ndFebruary and the Welsh equivalent of the Gaelic holiday of Imbolc. It derived from the pre-Reformation ceremony of blessing the candles and distributing them to be carried in a procession, however, just as this Christian ceremony drew on pagan festivals connected with the coming of the Spring, some of the old practices that carried on in parts of Wales until the 20th Century suggest older rituals. Robert Herrick’s poem Upon Candlemas Day reflects the spirit of the time – observe the end of the Yuletide festivities with a toast:
 
End now the white-loaf and the pie,
And let all sports with Christmas die.
 
2nd The Festa Candelarum in Rome commemorated the search for Persephone kidnapped by the King of the Other World Hades, by her mother Demeter. As Persephone was no longer in our world, darkness was everywhere, so her mother used a torch in her search, and in the end obtained that her daughter would be on Earth and Olympus for two thirds of the year (the light period), and in the Other World (Hades) for the other third of the time (winter season). The festival of candles symbolizes the return of the Light.
 
4th Fornicalia, a Roman spring corn festival celebrated in the honour of the goddess, Fornax, the goddess of furnaces, to ensure that the corn (grain) would be properly baked. The word fornax is a diminutive of fornacula meaning a ‘kiln’ or ‘furnace’. The Fornacalia was a feria conceptiva – a movable feast, but always celebrated before the 17th of February.
 
7th Favonius – the Roman festival of spring sowing.
 
13th Faunalia, Roman festival of Faunus, guardian of crops and herds.
 
Weather-lore: ‘When the cat lies in the sun in February, she will creep behind the stove in March’.
 
13th Old Imbolc. (Irish: Lá Fhéile Bríde, Scottish Gaelic: Là Fhèill Brìghde, Manx: Laa'l Breeshey), is a Gaelic traditional festival marking the beginning of spring. Most commonly it is held on 1st February, or more traditionally about halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Historically, it was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man and is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals – along with Beltaine, Lughnasadh and Samhain– and corresponds to the Welsh Gwyl Fair y Canhwyllau.Today: Celebrate the beginning of spring.
 
14th St Valentine’s Day. According to folklorist, Thiselton Dyer, whatever the historical origin of this festival, ‘whether heathen or Christian, there can be no doubt of its antiquity. There seems every possibility that St Valentine’s day, with its many customs, has come down to us from the Romans, but was fathered upon St Valentine in the earlier ages of the Church in order to Christianise it’. Or …
 
15th Lupercalia honouring the gods of fertility, woodlands and pasture is believed to pre-date the founding of Rome. It was a festival of youth that eventually became associated with St Valentine’s Day. Today: A day for those of a romantic disposition.
 
18th Quirinalia is a spring festival to honour Qurinus a Roman/Sabine deity – possibly a war god – who pre-dated Rome and whose feast day fell on the last day of the Fornacalia.
 
22nd Beating the Bounds: Traditional day for walking parish boundaries in England. The custom is thought to date back to Anglo-Saxon times and might even have been derived from the Roman festival of Terminalia, celebrated in honour of Terminus, god of Landmarks and Boundaries.
 
 
23rd Terminalia was held to be the last day of the Roman sacred year. See above.
 
Weather-lore: ‘A frost on St Matthias’s Day (24th) will last for anything from a week to two months.’
 
Leap Year: February 29th is a date that usually occurs every four years, and is called leap day. This day is added to the calendar in leap years as a corrective measure, because the Earth does not orbit the sun in precisely 365 days.

 
In Ireland and Britain, it is a tradition that women may propose marriage only in leap years. While it has been claimed that the tradition was initiated by St Patrick or Brigid of Kildare in 5th century Ireland, this is dubious, as the tradition has not been attested before the 19th century. Supposedly, a 1288 law by Queen Margaret of Scotland (then age five and living in Norway!), required that fines be levied if a marriage proposal was refused by the man: compensation was deemed to be a pair of leather gloves, a single rose, £1 and a kiss. In some places the tradition was tightened to restricting female proposals to the modern leap day, 29th February, or to the medieval leap day, 24th February. 

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<![CDATA[Nearly two decades in print … and still as popular!]]>Fri, 03 Jan 2020 12:17:57 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/nearly-two-decades-in-print-and-still-as-popularPicture

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

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


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

JANUARY: [OE ] Æfterra Gēola ‘After ‘Yule’ or ‘Second Yule’ [OHG]: Wintar-mánód ‘winter month’. The Anglo-Saxons called it Wolfmonath, when wolves moved closer to human habitation to feed off the carcasses of fallen stock. The 14th century misericord country calendar shows it as the time for collecting firewood as the fires would be burning night and day. The tree representing January is the Rowan, a symbol of protection and good luck.
 
Rowan Magic: The rowan, or mountain ash, is a particularly magical tree – even the Christians adopted its use as a preventative charm against witches! Tie a red ribbon to a berry-bearing branch for general good luck and to keep evil and harm at bay, or make your special wish while you do so. Rowan is also one of the trees believed to take away illness. Take a lock of hair from the sufferer and make a slit in the bark of the tree; push the hair into the slit and as the slit heals, so will the patient. The Saxons made use of this healing property by using a special spoon fashioned from rowan wood to stir medicinal potions.
 
1st Feast Day of Strenia the old Sabine goddess of good health, and in her name gifts were exchanged for good luck. Small tokens of friendship can be given, but even as late as the early 1900s the old Roman custom of strena was still being observed in rural parts of South Wales, probably having been introduced to Britain by the Romans.
 
2nd Unluckiest Day. According to the ‘Project Britain Folklore Calendar’ quoting an old Saxon belief, this was one of the unluckiest days of the whole year, and anyone unlucky enough to be born on it could be expected to die an unpleasant death. 
 
4th Hunting The Wren. Although the wren has always enjoyed a certain protection as a sacred bird, on one day of the year it was hunted and killed. The reason why the traditional Midwinter ‘hunting of the wren’ now takes place in early January is because the shift from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar meant eleven days were lost in the process. See 26th December. As an example of transference magic, the wren was expected to shoulder all the ills and problems of the people; effectively taking their bad luck, ill health, and so forth, leaving them free to hope for good health and prosperity in the coming year. Traditionally, the tree of the wren is the ivy, while the robin is allocated the holly. A simple rite from Traditional Witchcraft for Fields & Hedgerows that could be performed instead of the actual killing of a wren.
 
5th Twelfth Night. Currently the last day of the Christmas season and the night for wassailing and Twelfth Night celebrations; and there can be no doubt that the title of Shakespeare’s play Twelfth-Night took its origin in the festivities with this festival and the proper close of the festivities of Christmas. According to Folk-Lore of Shakespeare, the play was probably originally acted at the barrister’s feast at the Middle Temple on 2nd February [Candlemas] 1602. “It is worthy of note that the festivities at Christmas-tide, were conducted on the most extravagant scale. In addition to the merry disports of the Lord of Misrule, there were various revels. The Christmas masque at Gray’s Inn in 1594 was on a magnificent scale.”
 
 
5th The Ashen Faggot is a West Country Christmas custom – it’s a large log with withies bound around it to make a bundle which is burned indoors in the hearth. Drinks are consumed as each withy breaks in the flames, which sounds like an excuse for conviviality!
 
5th Lars Compitalia, festival of the Roman guardians of the crossroads celebrated with socialising and entertaining.
 
6th Old Christmas Day is still celebrated in Ireland as Nollaig na mBan, ‘Little Christmas’ or ‘Women’s Christmas’ and is regarded by many as the end of the Christmas season. According to the Julian calendar this is the date of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti and many of the orthodox churches still observe this date. Today: A time to honour the old gods with feasting in the company of friends and to burn a faggot made of the Nine Sacred Woods.
 
Plough Monday is the traditional start of the English agricultural year and while local customs may vary, Plough Monday is generally the first Monday after Twelfth Day on 6th January. References to Plough Monday date back to the late 15th century, which means the festivities would have coincided with the old Julian calendar. The traditional Norfolk ‘Plough Pudding’ is a boiled suet pudding, containing meat and onions and eaten on Plough Monday.
 
Hilary Term in the Law Courts, begins on Plough Monday and ends the Wednesday before Easter. It is so called in honour of St Hilary whose feast day in 14th January.
 
Gaudy Days: Feast days in the Colleges of our Universities are so called, as they were formerly at the Inns of Court. “They were so called, says Blount, ‘from guadium, because, to say truth, they are days of joy, as bringing good cheer to the hungry students”. [Folk-Lore of Shakespeare]
 
7th St Distaff’s Day This was traditionally when women resumed their household work after the holiday, as Robert Herrick’s bawdy poem, Saint Distaff’s Day; or the Morrow after Twelfth Day describes:
 
Partly work and partly play
Ye must on St Distaff’s Day;
From the plough soon free your team,
Then come home and fodder them;
If the maids a-spinning go,
Burn the flax and fire the tow;
Scorch their plackets but beware
That ye singe no maiden-hair:
Bring in pails of water then,
Let the maids bewash the men;
Give St Distaff all the right,
Then bid Christmas sporty good-night,
And next morrow every one
To his own vocation.
 
Weather-lore: ‘If the birds begin to sing in January, Frosts are on the way’.
 
11th Juturna, Carmentalia and Old New Year’s Eve. Juturna is the Roman goddess of fountains and the underworld whose symbol is a spring; this was an ancient fire festival still celebrated as Old New Year even after the calendar reforms. Today: An opportunity to extend the Yuletide celebrations and see in Old New Year’s Eve.
 
12th [OS] Handsel Among the rural population of Scotland, Auld Hansel Monday is traditionally celebrated on the first Monday after January 12th, reflecting a reluctance to switch from the old style calendar to the new one. The firm conviction that the special character of Old New Year’s Day was reflected in the natural world held that whoever succeeded in drawing the first water – known as the creame – from any well (spring) would be lucky. Today: Make a trip to your local well – for luck.
 
13th St Hilary’s Day. This feast day has gained the reputation of being the coldest day of the year due to past cold events starting on or around this date. See Plough Monday.
 
14th Despite the earlier alterations, by the 21st century the Julian calendar is now thirteen days behind the Gregorian calendar, thus January 14th is sometimes celebrated as New Year’s Day (Old New Year) by the many religious groups who still use the old calendar.
 
17th Old Twelfth Night. In some places Old Twelfth Night is still celebrated on this evening, continuing the custom on the date determined by the Julian calendar. Today: This really is the time to party according to all the old traditions.
 
17th Feast day of Felicitas, the Roman personification of good fortune, happiness or felicity. Today: Might be a good time to consult whatever is your method for foretelling the future to make sure there’s nothing nasty lurking in the woodshed!
 
17th Wassailing the Apple Trees at Carhampton in Somerset where cider is poured on the roots of the finest tree and spiced wassail cake is placed in the branches. Shotguns are fired through the branches to drive away evil spirits to the chant: ‘Hats full, caps full, three bushel bags full’. Another is a seasonal poem by Robert Herrick:
 
Wassail the trees, that they may bear
You many a plum and many a pear;
For more or less fruits they will bring
As you do give them wassailing.
 
20th St Agnes Eve. This was the eve on which girls and unmarried woman who wished to dream of future husbands would perform all sorts of rituals (depending on the part of the country they lived) before going to bed.
 
21st Agnes Day According to Aubrey’s Miscellany: ‘Upon St Agnes night, you take a row of pins, and pull out everyone, one after another. Saying a pater-noster, stick a pin in your sleeve, and you will dream of him or her you shall marry.’ A Scottish version of the ritual would involve young women meeting together on St. Agnes’s Eve at midnight, they would go one by one, into a remote field and throw in some grain, after which they repeated the following rhyme in a prayer to St. Agnes: “Agnes sweet, and Agnes fair, Hither, hither, now repair; Bonny Agnes, let me see The lad who is to marry me.”
 
Weather-lore: If on St Vincent Day (22nd) the sky is clear, More wine than water will crown the year. Or on St Paul’s Day (23rd) the rural prophecy claimed that if the day was fine there would be a good harvest; if rain or snow, scarcity and famine. Clouds and mist signified pestilence, and high winds, war.
 
Old Year, Old Calendar, Old Ways compiled by Melusine Draco is published by Ignotus Press UK and available at a special price direct from the publishers
https://www.feedaread.com/books/Old-Year-Old-Calendar-Old-Ways-9781788762052.aspx

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

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

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