<![CDATA[Coven of the Scales - Blog]]>Wed, 25 Nov 2020 00:48:57 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Divine Intervention: Tarot de Marseille]]>Tue, 24 Nov 2020 10:04:26 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/divine-intervention-tarot-de-marseillePicture

MARIA BLYTH interviews CoS Elder and professional card reader, Adrien Mastrosimone  for Cunning Folk magazine

In many ways, Tarot de Marseille is one of the true elders of tarot decks, with early iterations circulating from the 17th century onwards. By 1700, what we now know as Tarot de Marseille was the standard pack manufactured by French and Swiss card producers, with its easily recognisable illustrations eventually copied and reproduced throughout Europe. The cards, with their clear lines and striking angles, were initially printed from woodcuts and then painstakingly coloured by hand or through the use of stencils by highly skilled workers. Very few of the 17th century decks survive today, though amongst them is the rather grotesque and delightfully lurid Jean Noblet tarot, published circa 1650. The only existing, though not quite complete, version of the Noblet tarot is held in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, of which facsimiles (lovingly restored by Jean-Claude Flornoy) are available today.

So what makes Tarot de Marseille such a singular deck that it remains a popular choice for cartomancers so many centuries later? Renowned tarot expert and teacher Adrien Mastrosimone helped to enlighten me:
“I went through stages of picking up other tarot decks, such as the Rider Waite and then I studied Kaballah, then astrology - you go through all of this and eventually, after studying ceremonial magic, Golden Dawn techniques, Aleister Crowley, and all that jazz, I eventually went back to the Marseilles tarot, because there is too much ego in the other tarots. With the Tarot de Marseille, you have to really integrate the cards - it’s much more about you making the connection. It’s not about someone telling you what it means - it’s much more about you stretching your mind, stretching your intuition, your relationship with the cards, really understanding that it’s much more personal, interesting, and exciting because the Marseille tarot is a system that doesn’t need other systems to make sense of it.”

One teacher who was very influential for Adrien was Phillippe Camois, a direct descendant of the notable Marseille family who had printed Nicolas Conver’s tarot deck since 1760. Conver’s version of Tarot de Marseille had been one amongst many which the filmmaker and artist Alejandro Jodorowsky - in collaboration with Camois - studied in depth in order to reconstruct and restore the Marseille deck. Jodorowsky and Camois’ version of Tarot de Marseille was published in 1998 after years of intense research, to great interest amongst students of tarot worldwide.

When it comes to studying a deck with such a long history, Adrien emphasises that there is no single jumping off point: “To learn something like this you need a lot of different ways in. Self-teaching is important - you read for yourself, you read for other people, and you learn from your mistakes, you learn from what you’ve done right. That’s very important. The other thing is that yes, going to workshops is very important as well. You learn from everything - there is not a mathematical recipe for learning tarot. It’s absolutely an art - you have to learn technique, this is very important. I studied as a ballet dancer and then as an opera singer, and then I ended up doing my own cabaret shows. So I understand art. And what is art? Art is a mix of strong technique, and on top of it you have the personality and something that makes it different. And reading tarot is the same thing - you need to acquire strong technique and then you uncover your own style. When you do eight or nine readings a day you’re going to have days, unfortunately, when you need to rely on your technique. You know the spirit of the tarot is going to back up. When you’re a professional reader, you will sometimes make mistakes, no one is god, and if you get to the point where you don’t, you have nothing to do on this plane any more! I don’t believe that only one way is sufficient.”

Tarot de Marseilles’ influence can be spotted in many contemporary tarot decks, and was clearly a strong force in the soup of symbolism that can be found in Pamela Colman Smith’s Rider Waite Smith deck, published in 1909. Whilst both of these iconic decks share much in common, the Rider Waite Smith is often hailed to be the more accessible of the two due to its colourful and detailed pip card (minor arcana) illustrations. Nonetheless, serious tarot students and beginners alike - those who are willing to tap into their boundless imaginations - will find much magic and mystery in Tarot de Marseilles. This is a deck which remains unlimited in its timeless appeal.

<![CDATA[HAVE A COOL YULE ...]]>Tue, 17 Nov 2020 12:02:59 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/have-a-cool-yule2004739Picture
How to Survive (and Enjoy) the Mid-Winter Festival

With all the doom, gloom and despondency surrounding the Christmas planning for this year, it might be the perfect time to take a leaf out of the dining table and start preparing a pared-down pagan Yule.  Whether ‘bubbling’ or ‘cocooning’, there’s no reason to let the ‘virus’ stop us from enjoying ourselves and observing the festival as one of celebration and good hope.  In order to run smoothly, our pagan Mid-Winter Festival/Yule needs to be planned well in advance and not be spoiled by any last-minute disasters. A bit of organisation goes a long way so start by making lists to cover all aspects of the festivities – guests, gifts and gormandising.
If, on the other hand, we’ve decided to spend the Mid-Winter Festival/Yule alone, then the same rules still apply. It can be rather daunting to actually plan for a solitary Yule, but since the whole focus of the holiday is usually getting together with those close to you – and if those people can’t be around this year - then the exercise may seem pointless.  My advice is stock up with all your favourite treats, a good selection of DVD boxed sets, and treat yourself to a disgustingly expensive Yule gift – mine for this year is a vintage Aquascutum duffel coat!
The solitary life-style is amplified at this time of year and all the hype that is geared around spending time with family often creates the impression that if we’re not part of the glamour then we’re nothing but a sad git! There’s a vast difference, however, between being alone and being lonely. And although outsiders might think it a bit strange, the company of a cat or dog means that there’s someone in the home to talk to and snuggle up with, and discuss what we’re going to watch on telly – just as we’ve done throughout the lockdowns.
Strangely enough, it is Christianity itself that has made a mockery of ‘Christmas’ and turned it into the commercial free-for-all we know today. What is sad, is that a large number of pagans in rejecting the whole concept of Christmas are, in fact, rejecting the ancestral concept of Yule. So, lets us reclaim the Mid-Winter Festival with all its ‘warmth, light and revelry’ and celebrate it in time-honoured fashion without the commercial overtones – even if we have to do it alone this year.

“As per usual and in great style, Mélusine Draco presents a wealth of information about this historically proven pagan festival. Whichever way the reader chooses to celebrate...whether it’s a traditional family Christmas or a traditional Yule in the company of pagan friends or as a solitary – there is something for everyone. From a complete festival calendar with some simple rites and symbolism, to carol lyrics, recipes, gift ideas and feasting to the ‘art of using up’ and festive games; everything Yuletide is covered. And with generous doses of light-hearted good cheer and a sprinkling of dark humour, the author strikes a balance that is both useful, informative and entertaining. A charming little book.”
Sheena Cundy, Witch Lit author The Madness and the Magic
“Have a Cool Yule is a lovely guide on how to truly enjoy the festive season in the depths of winter, whether you call it Christmas, the Winter Solstice, Yule or any other name. In the pages of this book you will fi nd time-honoured traditions, recipes and sensible advice on how to avoid the worst of the commercialism and make the occasion what you want it to be.”
Lucya Starza, author of
Pagan Portals – Candle Magic

Pagan Portals: Have a Cool Yule by Melusine Draco and published by Moon Books : ISBN 978 1 78535 711 4 : UK£6.99 : US$10.95 : 82 pages ; paperback and e-book editions.

<![CDATA[WHAT IS COARSE WITCHCRAFT?]]>Tue, 17 Nov 2020 10:49:23 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/what-is-coarse-witchcraftPicture

These were two of Ignotus Press’s best-selling titles back in the day and now that our own Coven is going back to its sabbatic roots, these memories are even more relevant.  We will, of course, remain a teaching coven on a newcomer’s level because it’s basically a good introduction to traditional British Old Craft but behind the scenes, things will be changing.   After years of talking about it, we have recently published a Coven of the Scales grimoire for our Elders but The Coarse Witchcraft Trilogy is the nearest outsiders are going to get to how an Old Craft coven works.  The two genuine covens were/are uncomfortably similar in as much as things go wrong, the Magister’s irascible , the Dame long-suffering and the members come from all walks of life.

Coarse witchcraft, by definition, is a spoof on bad Craft practice, parodying clichés, every kind of misplaced dramatic performance and Circle disaster. These three books, each with its own mix of disaster and hilarity, take their name from journalist Michael Green’s coarse acting/rugby treatment, resulting in a chaotic catalogue in which everything that can go wrong in the Circle does so.   But as esoteric author and long-time chum, Alan Richardson, said of the book: ‘Coarse Witchcraft made me laugh out loud in more than a few places. In fact, I think it is the first book of its kind; although it pokes fun at modern excesses and can laugh at itself, it still manages to teach the real stuff at a very high level.’

It’s been said that Coarse Witchcraft is like Marmite – you either love it or hate it.  And many of those who love it have taken to CoS teaching like the proverbial familiar to the broomstick!  No … we don’t suffer fools gladly but we do go out of our way to help genuine seekers who demonstrate an aptitude for Old Craft ways.  Yes … the Tradition is idiosyncratic but then we do have a foot in the dim and distant past and do not abandon ancient customs in favour of more contemporary observances.  Because we understands that contact with these old energies may be established more completely through customs that are so ancient that they have had time to firmly entrench themselves in the vast storehouse of the ancestral subconsciousness. 

“I think the Coarse Witchcraft Trilogy should be compulsory reading for anyone wishing to study Old Craft,” said our Dame with a grin. “The stories and the characters are real with very little embellishment but it does give a valuable insight into an Old Craft mindset.”
The Coarse Witchcraft Trilogy by Rupert Percy and Gabrielle Sidonie. Introduced by Melusine Draco and published by Moon Books : ISBN 978 1 78279 285 7 : UK£10.99/US$18.95 : 254 pages

<![CDATA[A Word From the Magister ...]]>Mon, 02 Nov 2020 09:20:28 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/a-word-from-the-magisterPicture

​I’m pleased to announce that, after months of hard work by Philip and Carrie, with input from ourselves and the Principal, the book “Round About the Cauldron Go…” has now been completed and finally published. This book is the Grimoire of Coven of the Scales and, as such, will only be made available on a very limited basis to a few members of our coven. Here is a short extract to give some background to our practices at this time of year and we will be publishing short extracts each month throughout the year.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Philip and Carrie for their dedication and commitment.
James Rigel,

Herbist-mānod - ‘autumn month’ with Hallowmas/Martinmas/Old Samhain
Also known as Blōt-mōnaþ ‘Blood Month’ or ‘Month of Sacrifice’, November was the start of Samhain when surplus livestock would have been killed and the meat salted down for use over winter. There is evidence it has been an important date since ancient times and is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, or the ‘darker half’ of the year. Throughout the centuries, pagan and church celebrations have gradually become intertwined and from 31st October through to 2nd February the calendar is particularly confusing.  
All Hallows or Hallowmas according to the church calendar was the time when ghosts roamed abroad and is a contraction of All Hallows’ Eve that begins the three-day observance of All-Hallows-tide in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead.  It is evident that many Hallowe’en traditions have pagan roots and originated from Celtic harvest festivals, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain; this festival was much later Christianised as Hallowe’en and is now one of the most popular secular holidays in the USA!  Personally, we do not consider ‘trick and treating’ a suitable way of observing this ‘festival of the dead’ and actually find it offensive.
Whereas the Day of the Dead (SpanishDía de Muertos) a widely celebrated Mexican festival, involves a multi-day holiday with family and friends gathering to pray for and remember those who have died, and to help support their spiritual journey. In Mexican culture, death is viewed as a natural part of the human cycle and the day is viewed not as a day of sadness but as a day of celebration because their loved ones awake and celebrate with them.  The celebrations developed from ancient traditions among pre-Columbian cultures and rituals celebrating the deaths of their ancestors had been observed by these civilizations perhaps for as long as 2,500–3,000 years!
Altars with offerings (called ofrendas) are common at the cemetery and are right over where the deceased has been laid to rest. After all, the purpose of the Day of the Dead is to honour family members who have passed and for living family members to use this opportunity to ask them for their guidance by appealing to their good nature with offerings like food, drinks, items of personal significance and anything else that they might enjoy on the other side.  This event is characterized by a festive atmosphere that’s charmingly cultivated with musicians, tasty seasonal foods and a fair amount of alcohol to encourage positive spirits! As such, Day of the Dead traditions are close to many people’s hearts because the idea is to make the spirits comfortable and welcomed during their short visit. Perhaps we should take a leaf out of their book instead of the austere ‘Dumb Supper’ that’s part of our Tradition.
Within Old Craft this is the winter season that traditionally runs from about halfway between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals, along with Imbolc, Beltaine and Lughnasadh. Historically, it was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man, while similar festivals were held at the same time of year in other Celtic lands; for example the Brythonic Calan Gaeaf (in Wales), Kalan Gwav (in Cornwall), and Kalan Goañv (in Brittany).
‘The Festival is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and many important events in Irish mythology happen or begin on Samhain. It was the time when cattle were brought back down from the summer pastures and when livestock were slaughtered for the winter. As at Beltaine, special bonfires were lit, which were deemed to have protective and cleansing powers, as were the rituals surrounding them. Like Beltaine, Samhain was also seen as a liminal time, when the boundary between this and Otherworld could more easily be crossed.    
     This meant the Aos Sí, the ‘spirits’, could more easily come into this world. Most scholars see the Aos Sí as remnants of the pagan gods and nature spirits, and at Samhain it was believed that the Aos Sí needed to be propitiated to ensure that the people and their livestock survived the winter. Offerings of food and drink were left outside for them. The souls of the dead were also thought to revisit their homes seeking hospitality. Feasts were held, at which the souls of dead kin were beckoned to attend and a place set at the table for them at a Dumb Supper. [Britannica]
In CoS we observe Old Samhain/Calan Gaeof on the 11th November [Old Calendar] so that it also coincides with Remembrance Day - better known since 1918 as Armistice Day, and as the time to remember the war dead and the Ancestors – today we wear our poppy with pride.  Never more so does kindred call to kindred, blood call to blood.  Much has been written about the Ancestors but nowhere better than in our Principal’s contribution to the Three Hands anthology, Hands of Apostacy – ‘Spirits & Deific Forms: Faith & Belief in British Old Craft’ – an extract of which is reproduced here with her kind permission:
The most powerful energy on which an Old Craft practitioner can call, however, is that of our ‘Ancestors’, who represent our culture, traditions, heritage, lineage and antecedents; they trace the long march of history that our predecessors have taken under the aegis of traditional British Old Craft. 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 – often past its own time and place in history.  If when living, we cannot acknowledge and respect the Ancestors of traditional British Old Craft to which we claim to belong, then we will contribute nothing to the Whole when we die.
Interaction with these ancestral spirits as an invisible and powerful presence is a constant feature of traditional British Old Craft, with the Ancestors remaining important members of the Tradition or people they have left behind.  In general they are seen as Elders, treated and referred to in much the same way as the most senior of living Elders of a coven or magical group, with additional mystical and magical powers. Reverence for our Craft Ancestors is part of the ethic of respect for those who have preceded us in life, and their continued presence on the periphery of our consciousness means that they are always with us. And because traditional witchcraft is essentially a practical thing, the Ancestors are also called upon to help find solutions to magical problems through divination, path-working and spell-casting
In other words, our dead are always with us and when we channel the rejuvenating power into the Coven’s mind-set, we are imbuing the group and its members with the strength and magical energy of all those centuries of ancestral influence.  In fact, these are the ancestral properties we call upon to consolidate the energy required in spell-casting and invocation, rather than what others may see as the beneficence of deities, angels or spirits.  And, we re-affirm this allegiance to this sacred past each time – and to each other - whenever we perform a seasonal rite that includes the breaking of bread and taking of salt – either singly or in a group.
The sharing of bread and salt re-appears in several Slavic and other European and Middle Eastern cultures whereby in turn, the members of the party carefully break off a piece of the bread, dip it in the salt, and eat - this is a sign of the bond that has been forged between the participants … and to betray that bond is an act of base treachery.  No words are spoken or oaths taken but the act is, of itself, a pledge of fealty, honour and respect just as in Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical novel Outcast, bread and salt is referred to as a sign of belonging to a tribe: ‘You are my people, my own people, by hearth fire and bread and salt’.
It should therefore, perhaps, seem incongruous that our motto is: Trust None!  However, contrary to what many so-called modern witches profess in their maxim of ‘Perfect Love – Perfect Trust’, it should also be understood that there is an older system of Craft that has never left the shadows, and which has its roots in the pre-repeal of the Witchcraft Act of 1951. These groups have never
been part of the publicity machine to popularise Craft, and have always muttered darkly that the mass publicity of the last thirty years would destroy Craft – not preserve it.  In all honesty, there is little altruistic about Old Craft. It can best be described as having a tribal mentality in that it believes in protecting its own, but with no obligation to mankind in general.  In view of the periodic (and often inter-Craft) backlashes, even in more modern times, it is not surprising that Trust None! is the creed of Old Craft and it has preserved its secrecy down through the years by not divulging its rites and practices.
The Ancestors act as Coven guardians and also channel the god-power in a two-way conduit, for it would be too hazardous to allow a direct current to pass between supplicant and benefactor.  This shield can also act as a safety-barrier for any deific displeasure we may inadvertently attract by behaving inappropriately, i.e. ignoring or disobeying the rules. It guards us from infiltration by outsiders who would join our ranks in order to acquire secret information or cause damage.  And, it warns when our own are wavering and likely to fall prey to indiscretion and flattery. It also means that once we are permanently linked to this power, we don’t even have to think about it in order to tap into it.  This is what it means to be an Old Craft witch
Needless to say, it may take many years of practice until this conduit becomes automatically open for us but ancient cultures understood that we live in a vast ‘sea’ of cosmic energy. They taught that everything animate and inanimate has consciousness and channels this energy, according to its individual capabilities, to help facilitate this essential universal dialogue. Ancestral communication is the highest form of spiritual channelling that comes from a strong, deep and pure connection with the Ancestors themselves and, through the Ancestors, with the Divine.

<![CDATA[Cursed be the Dog Thieves]]>Tue, 20 Oct 2020 16:43:54 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/cursed-be-the-dog-thievesPicture

None of us can begin to imagine what it would be like to discover that our dog’s been stolen; but neither can we imagine the terror and fear that the dog must experience on discovering that it’s been removed from its familiar people and surroundings.  Unfortunately, the law doesn’t consider dog theft a heinous crime but to those who are victims (human and canine) perhaps we cannot think of a punishment severe enough – because for dog people – dogs are our family.   This is where we can resort to a Higher Law – the power of the curse - because we don’t have to have a magical interest/aptitude to be able to throw a curse … all we have to have is hate and passion.
The dog thieves are possibly overlapping in their territories and if all those who have had your beloved pets stolen, then the power of the curse is compounded on these individuals.   In this instance, we are talking about the reality of the power of collective ‘prayer’, which cannot be underestimated because there is no doubt as to the magnitude of its effect.  This curse is a prayer of a different kind.
It is called The Gage, which is a pledge; something thrown down as in a challenge, from the poem of that name by Walter de la Mare, and demonstrates the power of the words adapted from of a verse from the poem that offers an example of an extremely powerful curse that could be used in the event of someone stealing any pet dog .  For example:
O mark me well!
For what my hound befell
You shall pay twenty-fold,
For every tooth
Of his, i’sooth,
Your life in pawn I’ll hold.
The effective placing of this curse requires a personal item belonging to the stolen dog (i.e. fur, tooth, bone, saliva, etc.,) and a photograph.  Here we are bringing down a curse that is ‘twenty times’ the number of teeth in the dog’s mouth, which in an average healthy adult is around 42. This means that the sender must weigh in the balance whether the punishment fits the crime; after all, it would be rather extreme if someone had merely given your dog a clout for attempting to ravish their prize-winning bitch!
Cursing, however, is a question of personal responsibility and/or morality, but once thrown it cannot be retracted or negated.  That said, the theft of any dog and removing it from its home environment for financial gain, I would see the curse to be justifiable if the thieves lose their most priceless possession(s) as a result.  For this particular curse it is necessary to produce a small pouch containing the fur and photograph of the dog to be held tightly while reciting the above curse – and keep it safe.  And if everyone whose dog has been stolen were to throw this curse, the results will be compounded on the heads of the guilty parties according to Higher Law.
Remember that even the mildest ‘loss’ magnified 20 x 42 is going to have some serious repercussions.

Taken from Shaman Pathways: Aubrey’s DogPower Animals in Traditional Witchcraft by Melusine Draco and published by Moon Books.  ISBM 076 1 78099 724 7 : UK£4.99/US$9.95 : pages 84.

<![CDATA[Root & Branch - extract]]>Thu, 01 Oct 2020 13:13:55 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/root-branch-extractPicture
Guessing the Age of the Woods
Many of the woods that were once pollarded or coppiced are extremely ancient. Trackways across the marshy areas of Somerset were built of poles that have been identified as coppiced alder, ash, holly and hazel dating from 2,500BC. Trees of many different kinds, with oak probably dominant, indicate old woodland. All the trees are native though sycamore may have been introduced at a much later date. Trees of one kind (such as oak or beech) growing close together with tall trunks, perhaps planted in rows, indicates high forest plantation more than 100 years old.
If the woodland is old it was once either coppiced or grazed. If the woods were grazed (ie. used as wood-pasture) the trees would have been pollarded, so look for old pollards and a lack of variety in ground plants as clues to old wood-pasture. Look to see if there is nothing but grass under the trees; this suggests that grazing continues. Wood-pasture is a dead tradition but some old northern coppice woods are now used for sheltering and grazing sheep.
Look for signs of previous coppicing: perhaps there are ‘many-trunked trees’ growing from the site of the old coppice stools. The main point is that a wood that was being coppiced 100 years ago is likely to be an old wood. The small-leaved lime tree is another good indicator, while the Midland hawthorn shows that the old coppiced area has never been anything but woodland.
When visiting a wood you should look for signs, particularly in the shapes of the trees, that tell of the history of the wood and what it has been used for in the past. Pollarding refers to trees that have been cut to produce successive crops of wood at a height of between 6-15 feet above the ground so that grazing animals cannot reach the young shoots. Pollarding is carried out on wood-pasture and hedgerows rather than on trees in the woods.
From an historical perspective, pollarding allowed livestock to graze the common land of the parish, which often included woodland. As a result, this type of wood-pasture developed its own appearance. It has a bare, grassy floor (for the animals destroyed the spring flowers and undergrowth) and the trees were well spaced out because the livestock also ate many of the new saplings. Supplies of poles could still be obtained by cropping the branches of the trees at head height and his became known as ‘pollarding’ from the word meaning head.
Old pollarded trees can still be seen today and although the technique has all but died out, it has been well documented since Anglo-Saxon times. Apart from wood-pasture, many old pollards can be found in hedges, in farmland as boundary markers, or along water-courses (pollarded willow or poplars).
The word coppice comes from the French word couper, meaning to cut. When young trees are cut back to the ground they quickly sprout a head of shoots which grow about six feet high in a year and then begin to thicken. The resulting tree is called a coppice.
After about seven to fifteen years the shoot of the coppice used to be cut to provide a supply of poles, staves and brushwood. Scattered throughout the coppices were the standard trees that had been allowed to grow unhindered until they reached an age of about 70-150 years when they were felled for timber.
The most obvious signs of past coppicing is the presence of many trunked trees growing on the site of old coppiced stumps. It was important in past times to keep livestock out since they would destroy the young shoots and so the wood was often surrounded by a ditch with a large bank inside, which was often fenced. The remains of the bank and ditch can still be seen in places.
Another clue to woods that were once coppiced is the abundance of spring flowers. The regular cutting of the coppices 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 and was once coppiced.
Wild flowers 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 primitive ancestors this re-awakening of the woodland contributed to the mystical significance of the many rites and rituals associated with spring.
An 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. Bluebells spread very slowly on heavy clay soils, so a carpet of them under trees could be the clue to old woodland.  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 these particular flowers in a hedge bottom today are all good indicators that it originated as part of a wood since these species spread very slowly and do not readily colonise hedgerows.
It’s not just the woods that can be dated from the variety and number of different species. British hedgerows have their own history and this is also chronicled by certain tell-tale signs. Old hedgerows were probably originally planted to mark ancient boundaries to estate and parishes, for example. The majority, however, were planted in the 18th and 19th centuries to enclose patches of land in order to establish ownership or control livestock.
Hawthorn is the most common tree to be found in the hedgerow, although many include blackthorn and holly. Other species arrive as seeds – dog rose and ash soon appear while others like hazel and field maple are slow to colonise. A hedge planted as pure hawthorn slowly acquires additional species as it gets older and scientific studies of the species diversity of hedgerows in relation to their age (where this can be reasonably accurately dated from historical records) have shown that there is more or less a direct relationship between the number of species established in a hedge and its age.
As a general rule one new species colonises the hedge every 100 years, so that a two-species hedge could be 200 years old, and a ten-species hedge 1000 years old.

Root & Branch: British Magical Tree Lore – Melusine Draco ISBN: 9781786974471 : Paperback : Pages:158 : £6.85 To order: https://www.feedaread.com/books/Root-and-Branch-British-Magical-Tree-Lore-9781786974471.aspx 
For the e-book version order from Amazon Kindle between 3-10th October for the special offer of UK£0.99/US$0.95

<![CDATA[LIFE STYLE]]>Wed, 16 Sep 2020 11:54:29 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/life-style3339876 Picture
 Publication date: 25th September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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