<![CDATA[Coven of the Scales - Blog]]>Tue, 21 May 2019 05:57:30 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[BLACK SALT]]>Mon, 20 May 2019 09:10:17 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/black-saltPicture
Not to be confused with kala namak, a kiln-fired rock salt manufactured from the salts mined in the regions surrounding the Himalayas with a sulphurous, pungent-smell; also known as ‘Himalayan black salt’ and used as a condiment in cooking.   Neither is table salt recommended because it has been treated with iodine and therefore considered impure for ritual use, so when casting important or powerful spells Maldon salt is the ingredient of choice and is available from most major supermarkets. Remember when adding liquid to salt it sticks together or dissolves so we need to use something dry to colour it.

Maldon salt, incidentally, has a very long history.  Humans have been harvesting salt there for thousands of years, even before recorded history. The spring tides come in over the seagrass and, when the water retreats, leave salt to crystallize. In the Iron Age, people heated clay vessels to reduce the salty water. Two thousand years ago, the Romans scaled up that operation by trapping water in clay-lined pits and boiling it off in pans heated from underneath by wood fires, and the salt was left in the bottom of the pans. In the Domesday Book of 1086, large numbers of brine pits and pans were recorded along the Essex coastline.  So it makes sense to use Maldon salt as a magical ingredient although the ‘black salt’ recipe given here probably comes from vodun sources … hence the occasional inclusion of ‘graveyard dust’.
  • 2 parts Maldon (sea) salt
  • 1 part scrapings from a cast iron skillet or pot to included iron filings OR
  • 1crushed charcoal disk or activated charcoal created from burned wood OR
  • 1 part fine dry ash from your fire pit OR
  • 1 part dry soot from the hearth fire
  • 1 part finely ground black pepper

Depending on the density of the coloring ingredient, we may need to adjust the portions a little, but these are the basic ingredients pounded and mixed together with a pestle and mortar. If we have a well-used coven cast iron pot or cauldron, we should be able to get a good amount of black scrapings (including iron filings) out of the bottom of it - if it seems too oily, use the ash or soot instead.  In addition to being a powerful ingredient in protection magic, black salt is used in some folk magic traditions for cursing, hexing, and binding. Black salt prevents and repels negative magic and energies. Sprinkle this around the property to prevent those who wish us harm or place in an enemy’s footstep to prevent them from returning. 

When using black salt in any form of magic, we will need to get rid of it - after all, because of the nature of its use, we don’t want to keep it hanging around once we’ve finished with it. There are a few easy ways to dispose of it. We can take it somewhere far from our home and bury it; many voudun practitioners recommend burying it near a crossroads or even a graveyard. We can also toss it into moving water, like a stream or river having made sure the water is moving, since we don’t want the salt just swirling around in one stagnant spot. Finally and probably the best, consider disposal by fire. If you choose to use this method, however, be sure to take the ashes far away and bury them - and don’t use them for any later magical applications. 

Salt marshes: North Sea (below)

<![CDATA[THE POWER OF MYTHOS]]>Tue, 14 May 2019 12:05:34 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/the-power-of-mythosPicture
All magical energy should be looked upon as dangerous, if the magician fails to understand what it is that he is calling upon. ‘God’-power can be equally as destructive as demonic-energy if we haven’t bothered to find out exactly what it is that we’re channeling for magical purposes. Any problems stemming from this lack of recognition are the result of sheer arrogance on the part of the magician, who believes he can control something that he isn’t even on nodding acquaintance with.
For the reasons of self-protection, we must be fully conversant with the nature of the energies we encounter on the astral levels. We need to differentiate between the individual god-power represented by Aphrodite (Greek), Venus (Roman), Hathor (Egyptian), Ishtar (Babylonian) or Astarte (Phoenician). In eclectic paganism, all these energies would be identified as having one source, i.e. the Goddess — which is why much of what passes for modern magic is often sterile.
To understand the true god-power emanating from each source, we have to understand what the indigenous peoples who worshipped them called upon, not what we read in dumbed-down, quasi-magical books. If we read genuine magical material from the Golden Dawn or Aleister Crowley, for example, we are instantly struck by the wealth of classical references in the texts. These were not scattered through the text at random; they were carefully controlled and contrived in order to produce the maximum effect in a particular working.
It may also come as a surprise to learn that myth, folklore and legend are now recognized as a vital part of the development of the human race, rather than just a confused jumble of ancient cultural stories. Myths that might, at first glance, seem merely products of fancy are very far from being merely fanciful, and are the means by which ancient peoples expressed their fundamental notions of life and nature. These enduring myths are the actual methods by which they expressed certain ways of viewing the ‘rules’ of life, and which were brought into existence by the manner in which life was regulated in their society. The myths reflect the morality according to the lights of their time.
When we talk about the ‘mythology of Egypt’ for example, we are referring to the whole body of Egypt divine, heroic and cosmogonic legends, together with the various attempts that have been made to explain these ancient narratives for the benefit of modern thinking. The real function of these myths, however, was to strengthen the existing tradition and endow it with a greater value and prestige by tracing it back to a higher, more ‘supernatural’ reality of ancient events. What men have thought throughout history about the supernatural is important not only for what it may tell us about the Mysteries of life and death as the ancients viewed it, but for what it tells us about human beings today. If nothing else, it shows what we have lost!
Very early in the history of conscious thought, the priesthood awoke to the reality that their religious stories (i.e. those that concealed the Mysteries) were much in need of public explanation. As a result, popular versions took over and the esoteric became exoteric. The myths of civilized peoples: the Aryans of India, the Celts, the Egyptians and the Greeks thus contained two elements: the rational and what to modern minds sees the irrational. The rational myths were those that represented the gods as beautiful and wise; but the real difficulties presented by mythology spring from the irrational elements, which to modern minds appear unnatural, senseless or even, at times, repellent.
It is to these irrational elements that the magician must turn if he wishes to reconnect with the ancient Mysteries, which still lie at the very heart of the Great Work. For the true seeker, the great classic myths remain ‘true’ stories; not because we think they really happened but because they contain certain ‘universal truths’ about humanity and life. Truths which cannot be translated
into plain statement.
Extract from The Dictionary of Magic & Mystery, complied by Melusine Draco and published by Moon Books.  ISBN 978 1 84694 462 8 : 370pp : UK£12.99/US$11.95 on in e-book format. www.moon-books.net

<![CDATA[THE TRADITIONAL WITCH’S CALENDAR – MAY]]>Mon, 29 Apr 2019 09:06:35 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/the-traditional-witchs-calendar-mayPicture

MAY: [OE] Þrimilce-mōnaþ ‘Thrimilce ‘Month of Three Milkings’ when livestock were often so well fed on fresh spring grass that they could be milked three times a day. [OHG] Winni-mánód ‘pasture month’. In the 14th century misericord calendar, it was shown as the time for blessing the crops since farmers needed all the help they could get. The tree representing May is the White-thorn or Hawthorne; also known as the May Tree because of its associations with May Day. Since this is a sacred tree it was considered unlucky to take branches of flowers into the house; if used as decorations outside it was a symbol of good luck.
1st Beltaine is the anglicised  Gaelic name for the May Day festival, most commonly held on 1st May, and marks the end of the winter half of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, and is traditionally a day of celebration and revelry in many cultures around the world, but this holiday has surprisingly deep roots that tap into ancient pre-Christian customs relating to fertility, agriculture, and the Spring Equinox. May Day was once the premier summer holiday in many ancient European pagan cultures, where the beginning of February marked the beginning of spring, May 1st marked the beginning of summer – the season of growth and life for crops, animals, and people. Today: Be out first thing in the morning to bathe your face in the morning dew.
1st Calan Mai or ‘Calend (first day) of May’ or Calan Haf  Calend of Summer’ is a May Day holiday of Wales. Celebrations started on the evening before, known as May Eve, with bonfires ; as with Calan Gaeaf on November 1st, the night before (Welsh: Nos Galan Haf) is considered an Ysbrydnos or ‘spirit night’ when spirits are out and about divination is possible. The tradition of lighting bonfires celebrating this occasion happened annually in South Wales until the middle of the 19th century. Today: Light the patio fire and celebrate.
1st May Day or Garland Day. In Britain, as in most parts of Western Europe, May Day marked the end of the harsh winter months. For our ancestors it was a major annual festival and was celebrated throughout the country with music, dancing and games. Traditional May Day celebrations included dancing around the maypole, the appearance of the ‘hobby horses’ and characters such as Robin Hood and Jack-in-the-Green. Today: Join in the May Day celebrations in your part of the country.
Weather-lore: Hoar frost on May 1st indicates a good harvest.’
1st May Day. According to the entry in Brewer’s The Dictionary of Phrase & Fable: ‘Polydore Vigil says that the Roman youths would go into the fields and sped the calens of May in dancing and singing in Honour of Flora, goddess of fruits and flowers. The early English consecrated May-day to Robin Hood and the Maid Marian, because the favourite English outlaw is said to have died on that day. Stow says the villagers used to set up May-poles, and spend the day in archery, morris-dancing and other amusements.’
1st Mother Goose Day. Since its inauguration in1987, many schools and libraries have celebrated Mother Goose Day as a time to remember and enjoy the fairy tales and nursery rhymes of childhood that date back to the 17th century. Many of these rhymes were cited by Robin Skelton and Margaret Blackwood in Earth, Air, Fire, Water – a 1990 compilation of pre-Christian and pagan elements in British songs, rhymes and ballads.
3rd Roodmas the English name for Beltaine, as in keeping with Candlemas (Imbolc), Lammas (Lughnasad), and Hallowmas (Samhain), should be celebrated as near 1st May as possible. Today: Use the following poem and conduct a magical cleansing and protection rite for your home.
3rd Roodmas planting. From very early times, beans were the staple diet of country folk; they were thought to contain spirits, and their flowers were associated with death. In Yorkshire it was said that broad bean flowers contained the souls of the departed, while in Devonshire it was believed that if in a row of beans one should come up with white instead of green, there would be a death in the family within the year. To plant kidney beans on any day other than 3rd May was tempting fate. Today: Plant your beans according to tradition and guarantee a good harvest.
8th The Festival of the Helston Furry Dance is held annually in Cornwall and is said to be one of the oldest examples of a communal spring festival dance. Together with the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance in September, it is one of the oldest British customs still practiced today. A celebration of the passing of winter and the arrival of spring, the modern variant of the dance holds few similarities with the proposed original having been revived long after the event had died out. Today: An ideal time to formally welcome in the summer.
9-11th Lemuria were these odd-numbered days when Roman domestic ceremonies were performed in honour of the ancestors. Acknowledge the passing of family members who have died during the preceding winter and for those who are still sorely missed. Today: Leave a lighted candle on the doorstep to guide home any restless spirits and honour them with an offering of bread and milk.
11th Blessing Sea and Fisheries [Kent] is an annual event and claims to be one of the oldest marine rituals still surviving. One of these occurs in the ancient fishing town of Folkestone, being associated with the chapel of St. Peter, dedicated to the town’s fisher folk and with fine views of the harbour. Today: If you have friends or relations at sea offer up a prayer and libation to keep them safe in the coming year.
12th Old Beltane. Even more traditionally, the festival fell about halfway between the Vernal Equinox and the Summer Solstice and was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. In Irish the name for the festival day is Lá Bealtaine – and is similar to the Welsh Calan Mai. Beltane is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and it is associated with important events in Irish mythology. Historically, it marked the beginning of summer and was when cattle were driven out to the summer pastures. Rituals were performed to protect the cattle, crops and people, and to encourage growth. Special bonfires were kindled, and their flames, smoke and ashes were deemed to have protective powers. The people and their cattle would walk around the bonfire or between two bonfires, and sometimes leap over the flames or embers. All household fires would be doused and then re-lit from the Beltaine bonfire. These gatherings would be accompanied by a feast, and some of the food and drink would be offered to the Aos Sí. Today: Draw on the energies of Old Beltaine and celebrate as our ancestors celebrated with feasting and merriment in time honoured tradition.
17th Feast day of St Madern (Maden, Madron) of Cornwall (6th century). It has been suggested that he was a Christianisation of the mythical Celtic Modron, the mother goddess, since some aspects of the veneration at Madron’s Well do appear to derive from pagan origins. Today: Offer up food and wine to honour the Triple Goddess.
22nd Feast Day of St Helene (Elen, Helen) of Carnarvon. Her story is told in the tales associated with the Mabinogion. Welsh mythology remembers her as the daughter of a chieftain who lived somewhere near Caernarfon and for encouraging the building of roads across her country so that the soldiers could more easily defend it from attackers, thus earning her the name Elen Luyddog (Elen of the Hosts). Since many characters in these tales are thought to be Christianised reflections of older deities, it has been suggested that Elen reflects (along with Rhiannon, etc.,) customs of the Old Ways. Today: Walk out in the woods and appreciate the wonders of the natural world.
Weather-lore: ‘A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay’.
23rd The Tubilustria of May was dedicated to Volcanus, an early Roman deity of fire and the smithy, which identifies with the later connections in traditional witchcraft and many other northern European Traditions. Today: Light the patio fire in homage.
29th Ambarvalia was a solemn annual Roman purification of the fields, when each farmer led his household and one of his animals in a procession around the boundaries of his land. The name ‘ambarvalia’ appears, however, to be predominantly an urban designation as Roman farmers’ almanacs (menologia rustica) describe this only as segetes lustrantur (‘crops are purified’). Joseph Justus Scaliger, a classics scholar maintained the ambarvalia to be the same as amburbium, an ancient Roman festival for purifying the city. Numerous other communities of the Italian peninsula enacted similar rites with different names such as Old Beltaine. Today: Observe as one of the pastoral festivals with a simple lunch in the open air.
30th Death of King Arthur in 542AD and one recurrent aspect of Arthurian literature is the notion that he will one day return to save his people. According to the Welsh Triads, Brân’s head was buried in London where the White Tower now stands. As long as it remained there, Britain would be safe from invasion but King Arthur dug up the head, declaring the country would be protected only by his great strength – which did not prevent either the Roman or Norman Conquests! Today: Light a candle in memory.
Whitsuntide takes place during the week following Whitsunday, and was one of three vacation weeks for the medieval villein; on most manors he was free from service on the lord’s demesne this week, which marked a pause in the agricultural year. It equates with the important Church festival of Pentecost and in early medieval England it took on some characteristics of Beltaine, which originated from the pagan celebration of Mid Summer’s Day, the beginning of the summer half-year, in Europe. As the first holiday of the summer, Whitsun was one of the favourite times in the traditional calendar and Whit Sunday, or the following week, was a time for celebration. This took the form of fêtes, fairs, pageants and parades with Whitsun ales and Morris dancing in the south of England and Whit walks and wakes in the north.
Ascensiontide often coincides with well-dressing in parts of the Midlands and provides an important link with pagan well-worship. Well-lore has survived in every part of Britain in the form of ‘holy’, ie. saints, or wishing wells. See 2nd March.
Today: Put in an appearance at your local well.

<![CDATA[GREEN CARNATION - LGBT]]>Fri, 26 Apr 2019 12:11:40 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/green-carnation-lgbtPicture
Extract from Coven Working by Carrie West and Philip Wright

Initially, it may seem strange that ‘straight’ magical partners are writing on the subject of gay magical practices in the context of general coven working, but on closer examination this is not as odd as it would first appear. We always try to adopt an approach that is integrated, non-judgemental and avoids the overtones of justification that often accompany the majority of LGBT writing, while still managing to examine gay magical energies from a purely practical and functional perspective. It is quite difficult keeping all the balls in the air (if you’ll excuse the expression) but it is also possible to integrate gay members into a mixed coven with the minimum amount of fuss, if folk are of a mind to do so.

As experienced practitioners, we have operated successful teaching groups for many years that have included men and women of all sexual persuasions without exclusion or bias. During that time we have, of course, encountered problems and prejudices on both sides of the ‘gay divide’ and would say right from the start, that the refusal to welcome gays into a predominantly straight group says more about the coven leader’s personal prejudices than it does about their magical teaching capabilities. There are a number of difficulties and misunderstandings that do arise with regard to gay and lesbian magical practice within Craft, but hopefully our ‘four-penny worth’ of advice will help to reassure both gay pagans and those straight pagans who claim (quite wrongly) that gays have no place in a modern coven.

Firstly: An individual’s sexuality is an extremely personal and intimate thing. Our sexual preferences are our own affair and not something that is up for open discussion – especially if our inclusion or exclusion from a group may be dependent upon it. In fact, all over the world there are thousands of ‘straight’ magical groups, covens, orders and organisations operating with members who, unbeknown to the majority, are gay. This secrecy usually stems from the homophobic attitude still prevalent within Western society and the mercurial reaction with which so-called friends can respond once the truth is out in the open. It’s not just in Craft that we hear the words: ‘I quite liked him/her until I found out s/he was gay!’ as if the person referred to was guilty of some heinous crime, or had some highly contagious disease.

Subsequently we now have a gay and lesbian community inside the wider pagan community because they feel the need for a separate identity. The result may have created a new pagan club-culture but it does nothing to solve the magical problems that arise from same-sex covens. This schism was widened a few years ago when a leading pagan journal openly announced that homosexuals could not be witches. It was a stance that the late Bob Clay-Egerton was quick to question in What You Call Time:

“When I first commenced my studies in the days of illegal witchcraft, I was taught before my initiation that anyone who commenced the practice of Craft in sincerity, formal initiate or not, was a witch. This would imply that a homosexual can be a witch. The homosexual, or trans-sexual will probably find major obstacles put in their path if attempting to join a coven and may find it easier to find acceptance among magicians than they will among witches.

“Sexuality, to my mind, is not a physical but a mental and instinctual thing. The problem is not in the mind of the trans- or homosexual pagan but in the early conditioning by socio-religious mores of pagans not yet sufficiently advanced to be able to stand apart and look with the eye – not of morality and sexuality – but with the eye of spirituality … I wonder if we all, male and female, do not have quite a bit of both sexes in our individual makeup. I do know personally of one High Priestess who, from firsthand experience of working with homosexual and heterosexual members, is prepared to consider such applications for admittance into the Craft based on ability rather than gender.”

Successful magical equilibrium, requires that everyone takes into account the dual masculine-feminine energy that is contained within us all. Those whose magical training has only been at a superficial level often have difficulty in looking at this aspect of god-power beyond the concept of god/goddess and man/woman. This is usually due to the ‘fertility’ aspect of most modern earth-based spiritualities not being able to see much further than the traditional gender roles and the fertility of the god/goddess in terms of Nature and procreation.

Secondly: We need to examine the viewpoints of gay pagans – and for this we are extremely grateful to the former editor of Hoblink for allowing us access to the magazine’s archive, which gives gay pagans the opportunity to speak for themselves. One letter struck a very positive cord, which may also cause a large number of straight pagans to think quite carefully.

“A few years ago, a couple of friends and I formed a gay coven. We had all met through a larger mixed group, but the formation of a specifically gay group aroused considerable opposition from the more traditionally-minded elements of the Craft. They really needn’t have worried. Firstly, the group included a number of individuals who left when it became clear that they weren’t likely to achieve their own ends. Secondly, and far more importantly, the group failed because it did not have a central myth around which to build the group’s identity, or to focus group-work.

“That experience left quite a deep impression on me and so for the last few years I have worked solo. However, I believe that the same dilemma still faces almost all gay men who become involved with the neo-pagan groups. Whether the same problem confronts lesbians, I don’t know … Sadly, one sees so many groups today that attempt to revive ancient religious ‘mysteries’ that don’t have any relevance to the lives of their members. In the end they become fancy dress parties, performing sometimes charming, but utterly meaningless rituals.

“I say this because I believe the danger of gay men falling into this trap is very real. Once again, I can only speak from my own experience, and I know only too well that I find it very difficult to relate to a culture dominated by heterosexual values. But I also know that I am not alone in this. My personal belief is that gay men are physically and psychologically different from straight men. Moreover, we have our own distinctive patterns of behaviour and our own cultural values (however shallow some may appear!). They do not always sit well with the accepted values of conventional society, hence the charge of moral turpitude so often levelled against us …”

Our reaction on reading this particular piece, was how tragic that such a magically perceptive young man had been forced to work solitary when his concept of magical energy was probably more heightened than most straight pagans (both male and female) we’ve encountered. This latter point was driven home by the claim in a subsequent issue, that magical energy didn’t ‘give a monkey’s who it is flowing from and to, as long as those people are in tune and have ‘perfect love and trust’ for each other’. Sorry … but yes it does. Just like the positive, negative and earthing wires in an electric plug need to be channelled correctly, or you run the risk of short-circuiting the whole house!

One young man who applied to join our coven, bit the bullet and admitted right from the start that he was gay. This wasn’t bravery … he simply didn’t want to waste any more time attempting to integrate with a group of people who may possibly reject him if, and when, his sexuality became common knowledge. For us this wasn’t a problem. Over the years we’ve worked with every permutation of sexual persuasion including hetero- and homosexual, hermaphrodite, lesbian, bi-sexual, transsexuals and transvestites and each one has been a magical challenge – for us, as well as our students.

At the moment, within the coven we just happen to have a transsexual, a bi-sexual and two homosexuals – and each one requires a different perspective on their own particular approach to magic. Don’t think for one moment that we get it right every time – we don’t – but at least we’re willing to give it our best shot! Our way is to treat each person as an individual, and get them to operate initially within the Coven as normal men and women, and to forget about the subtle nuances that make them different from the ‘straight’ members of the coven.

What we have found is that ‘straight’ people are frightened of homosexuality, simply because it makes ’em nervous. A man may normally engage in physical contact in the form of back-slapping but if the recipient was known to be gay, he would immediately refrain from any bodily contact in case he was: a) thought to be making sexual overtures, or b) any onlookers might assume him to be gay. We also know that people always fear what they don’t understand, and the thought of joining in The Mill, holding hands with a homosexual, would probably give most heterosexual males a fit of the vapours! Women tend to be less paranoid, but there are still a large number who would it offensive if they found a gay man in their group. Lesbians, on the other hand, tend to excite prurient curiosity rather than revulsion.

In the beginning we found ourselves having to combat members’ stereotypical attitudes that gay men were automatically ‘pansies’ (to coin an old-fashioned phrase), i.e. the limp-wristed, girlie types caricatured by stand-up comedians. One of our gay lads is a six-footer, built like a brick lavatory and works as a scaffolder, balancing precariously hundreds of feet above the City pavements – anyone want to call him Alice!!? The other is a stockbroker, with a beautiful home and a partner with whom he’s lived for the past 15 years, and without any outward sign that he happens to be gay.

Contrary to popular belief, not all gay men are hairdressers or in the least bit ineffectual, and on a superficially magical level, there’s nothing different about them at all. For group working they participate in just the same way as any straight man. Similarly, the first year of study is identical for anyone joining the coven, regardless of gender. This doesn’t mean that we blithely carry on as if there were no differences at all, but because of the way individuals respond to the set selection of tasks and magical exercises – again regardless of gender – we are able to gauge the direction their magical leanings will take. And it is on this level that the magical dissimilarities of the individual will manifest. It is not unusual, for example, for a perfectly normal, ordinary woman to exhibit decided masculine traits on a magical level, but this does not mean that she has any latent lesbian tendencies!

As the young man pointed out earlier in this chapter, gay culture does have its own distinctive patterns of behaviour and values, and it is not until we get onto the next level of magical practice that any real problems may arise. Contemporary paganism has become imbalanced, inasmuch as the Goddess is all, and we can see where gay men would have a problem sublimating a female ‘fertility’ image. As he also pointed out, gay culture does not have a ‘central myth’ around which to build an image for the purposes of belief/worship, and this can play havoc within group work in terms of coven harmony and equilibrium. This is why Bob Clay-Egerton suggested that ritual magic might be a more appropriate Path … we would add that shamanism is also an area where gay men can come into their own … as it were.

For these reasons, it is not possible to offer any off-the-cuff, quick-fix solutions about the correct way to integrate gay men (or lesbians) into a predominantly straight group, since much depends on their own personal magical energies and how they handle them. An experienced magical practitioner will have little difficulty in analysing the best way to proceed with a programme of learning, but those with little or no true magical ability may cause more harm than good, both on the personal and psychic levels. Again, we can only reiterate that the refusal to welcome gays into a predominantly straight group, says more about the coven leader’s personal prejudices than it does about their magical teaching capabilities.

Trans-sexuals, on the other hand, can have even the most experienced practitioner scratching their head. During the period of change (both chemically and surgically) a trans-sexual’s body and mind has a lot to cope with on the physical, never mind trying to experiment with altered states of consciousness while being pumped full of hormones! From personal experience, we would say that it would be inadvisable for anyone undergoing a sex-change to indulge in any deeper levels of psychic or magical working until all the ‘i’s’ have been dotted and the ‘t’s’ crossed. Magic can be dangerous and this is one of those areas where even experienced practitioners can get it wrong, so keep things on a superficial level until there are distinctly recognisable energies to channel.

The bi-sexual girl in our group, didn’t have any problems with magical identification, simply because she is a pretty, feminine creature, who merely enjoys sex with both male and female lovers. What she does bring to the coven is a happy, relaxed attitude to sexuality, which results in a lot of good-natured banter between everyone, without anyone feeling threatened or uncomfortable. And laughter is the key to solving most problems within any group, magical or not.

The main problem (apart from unavoidable personal prejudices) cited by people who become irritated by the gay issue, appears to stem from pseudo-historical arguments concerning various different cultural views on homosexuality to present cases for and against, totally disregarding the fact that witchcraft, paganism and homosexuality have all been classed as a social aberration by the Church in its time. Anyone doubting this should spend some time reading the non-pagan Sex, Dissidence & Damnation by Jeffrey Richards, former Professor of Cultural History at the University of Lancaster. Also citing the historical evidence of homosexual relations in Sparta, and feudal Japan, or claiming every well-known historical figure had homosexual tendencies, does nothing to validate the acceptance of gay men and women in Craft.

The ‘real’ problem, however, has nothing to do with an individual’s sexuality and everything to do with the personalities involved. As one coven leader of our acquaintance exclaimed: “I couldn’t care less which side of the divide people come from, providing they behave like civilised human beings. I recently had to boot one chap out, simply because he was a thoroughly unpleasant character and was hell-bent on disrupting the group at every turn. He started screaming that we were homophobic, and couldn’t get it through his thick head that he was being chucked out because he was an objectionable little shit! The fact that he was gay didn’t enter into the equation.”

Of course, the problem of homophobia is not going to go away and for anyone who is gay and who wishes to join a group, we would say keep your personal life under wraps until you’ve sussed out the magical capabilities of those running the coven. With the best will in the world, we cannot force folk into welcoming others into what is, to all intents and purposes, a private, close-knit group. If the magical group dynamics are going to work, then it will only do so if all the participants are comfortable with each other and in harmony with their magical energies.

Those operating covens and other groups should again be honest with themselves about their policy over admitting gays. If you are operating a purely devotional group, as opposed to a magical one, then ‘gay’ energies will make very little difference to your festivals and celebrations.

Coven Working: How to Join or Set Up a Working Coven by Carrie West and Philip Wright is published by Ignotus Press UK and available from Amazon or direct from the printers at a discounted price.  Go to:  https://www.feedaread.com/books/Coven-Working-9781786971234.aspx

<![CDATA[TREE LORE: Hawthorn]]>Fri, 19 Apr 2019 09:31:54 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/tree-lore-hawthornPicture
Mini-article from The Dictionary of Magic & Mystery

​There are two indigenous types of hawthorn, the common (crataegus monogyna) and Midland (crataegus laevigata) in the UK. The leaves of both trees have a nutty flavor and were eaten by children as ‘bread and cheese’. The hawthorn blossoms in May (hence its familiar name), when the trees are smothered in clusters of white blossoms that give out a strangely disturbing but unmistakable perfume.
Common hawthorn has been used for about 2000 years as natural fencing because its tangle of thorny branches makes an ideal barrier for enclosing and protecting livestock. Its name derives from Anglo-Saxon haegthorn, which means hedge-tree and signs of defensive hawthorn hedges have been discovered round the edges of excavated Roman forts. The natural lifespan is around 100 years but some trees have reached the ripe old age of 300 years. Slow growth produces a very hard wood and although it burns well, hawthorn timber is little used today except for tool handles and walking sticks.
Medicinally, the hawthorn can rival the elder. Culpeper recommended it, while in modern herbalism the properties of some of the hawthorn’s active constituents are now better understood. Some constituents strengthen the heart’s action; others slow it slightly and improve the blood supply. For culinary use, hawthorn berries or flowers were used to make jellies, wines, liqueurs and sauces.
Hawthorn has perhaps more connections with ancient beliefs, folklore and traditions than almost any other native tree in the British Isles apart from the blackthorn. The appearance of the blossom at the beginning of May heralded the end of winter and the beginning of summer, when it was said to be unlucky to take May flowers into the house because of the associations with the Faere Folk. For the Romans, however, the hawthorn was a symbol of hope and protection, and cuttings were brought into the home to ward off evil spirits; it also echoed the ancient British tradition that the tree was associated with marriage and fertility. An old country rhyme recommends the tree as protection for man and animals in thunderstorms:
Beware the oak—it courts the stroke.
Beware the ash—it courts the flash.
Creep under the thorn—it will save you from harm.
Like the elder, the hawthorn was a doorway to Otherworld and perhaps it is this association and its links with the old pagan festivals that give the tree its ‘unlucky’ reputation. Quite recently it was discovered that one of the chemicals that make up the flowers’ distinctive scent is also produced during the decay of corpses! On the other hand, the fragrance of the blossom is also reputed to have a strong aphrodisiac effect, particularly on men. Taking all things into account, it would appear that the pre- Christian view of the hawthorn was one of protection. It is appropriate to use hawthorn for the Beltaine bonfires, which the cattle were driven through and the villagers leapt over to ensure their fertility in the coming year.
The tree can also be used to protect babies and young children. Hang a sprig above a child’s bed as a protection, or keep a pouch of the leaves sewn into the pillow. Hawthorn can be planted by the home to keep out negative influences and protect it from lightning strikes. Make a wash of flowers and leaves to sprinkle around the house to repel negative energies; the wood, berries and leaves can also be burnt in incense form to purify and attract beneficent energies.
Hawthorn is said to be sacred to the powers of Elemental Fire and any demon or malevolent spirits can be controlled with a wand or staff of hawthorn. This is one of the trees of the White
Goddess, Cardia who casts her enchantments with a hawthorn wand. Make sure to leave a suitable offering if you take any wood from the tree —perhaps bread or cheese.


<![CDATA[Natural Tides ...]]>Mon, 15 Apr 2019 13:45:48 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/natural-tidesPicture
Since the beginning of time, when man first stood on the shoreline and wondered at the vastness of the ocean, it has been recognized that the periodic rise and fall of great stretches of water had something to do with the moon. Nowhere else on earth was Nature’s power and glory so much in evidence. The tides are due to the moon’s gravitational pull on the water, lifting it to form a bulge resembling enormous wave-crests: one on the side of the earth facing the moon, and the other on the earth’s far side, for there the moon’s pull draws the earth away from the water. The friction between the water and the rotating earth slows the movement of these bulges, and for this reason high tide, as the bulge is called, does not occur exactly when the moon is overhead, but somewhat later.
The sun’s gravitational pull raises similar tides, but less powerful than those caused by the moon. At full and new moon, when the sun and moon are in a straight line with the earth, they produce an especially powerful spring tide. This has nothing to do with the season: spring tides occur throughout the year. This means that we need to tear ourselves away from the stereotypical moon goddess concept and think in terms of the natural interaction of the Sun and Moon, moving in a cosmic rhythm of perpetual motion. Some may be reluctant to accept this idea but it is a scientific fact that, despite its impressive gravitational pull, the moon is a dead, barren place, reflecting the sun’s light, not its own.
Although the ancients had no scientific understanding, this is what is known magically as ‘old wisdom’ – the true interpretation recorded in folklore and logged into our collective subconscious – not the modern ‘fake-lore’ currently in vogue. Without coming to grips with this ancient knowledge, our own modern magic will be stunted.
So, let us return to the sea… in mid ocean, the tides are simply a rhythmic rise and fall of the water. On the continental shelf, they act like the waves on a beach, and become a bodily rush of the water towards or away from the land, producing the tide’s ebb and flow, and in between, when the tide is almost at a standstill, there are brief periods of slack water. This rise and fall takes place twice every day and the sea witch recognizes the importance of knowing about them from both a magical and safety point of view.
Besides the familiar tides of the ocean tides, there are also two other examples to take into account: earth tides and atmospheric tides. Earth tides refer to the alternating slight change of shape of the Earth due to the gravitational action of the sun and moon, and atmospheric tides of the alternating slight motions of the atmosphere, which have the same effect. The moon draws away the envelope of air that surrounds the Earth to produce the daily atmospheric tides.
Recent research has revealed more evidence of the effects of these earth-tides: parts of western Britain and Ireland, for example, ‘bounce’ by four inches and that the movement is caused as tides ebb and flow twice daily! Again, we have scientific proof of cosmic influences on the earth on which we stand, so magical working can be timed to coincide with these natural movements
f or greater effect.
• High tide, just before the water pressure is at its greatest, would be the best time for positive or drawing magic.
• Low tide, when the tide has turned and the earth is about to ‘bounce’ back, is the time for banishing or reducing magic. Calendars and almanacs give the dates of the moon’s phases, but for the sea witch it is essential to also consult local tide tables (usually given in local newspapers) so that we always know the actual times of high and low tide for our area.
Magical synchronicity is the secret key-word.

​[Photograph by Polly Langford]

<![CDATA[Message, Sign or Omen?]]>Mon, 08 Apr 2019 08:36:55 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/message-sign-or-omenPicture

​So there I was, returning from an evening bike ride, that's on the Kawasaki not the Raleigh. Been out with a few other members of the local bike club. It was getting quite cold and the light was failing so I was in a bit of a rush to get home. As I rounded a bend I was confronted with an Owl sat in the middle of the road about 20 metres ahead. Well what a sight. A large barn owl sat on the white line staring straight at me. I immediately rolled off the throttle and slowed up a tad. The owl spread its wings and with such grace and power, took flight. Its path was up and off to my right.

I steadily rode the next bend and noticed that the only street lamp was flickering an intermittent orange sodium glow across the road. Two bends and a short straight bit of road later I arrived at a T junction, a junction with very good visibility in both directions but a nasty ditch on the other side of the road. I slowed to a stop and put my foot to the floor. I would normally get to this point and if all was clear open her up. As my boot touched the floor I felt it slip slightly. I looked down and saw myself in a dark iridescent reflection. I realised I had stopped in the middle of a large spillage of diesel. I gingerly moved away with both feet on the ground until I was well clear and back on grippy tarmac. Without slowing down and coming to a stop I have no doubt that myself and the bike would have had to be recovered from the ditch in a rather poorly state. Now, normally I would have slowed down at the flickering lamp, but in the circumstances I think the Old Ones may have felt the need for something a bit more IN YOUR FACE, hence the owl.
Now, some signs and omens may require careful analysis and may take time to show themselves, while others require immediate attention. Sometimes we'll receive a message from the astral but it will be very subtle, perhaps little more than a specific perfume on the breeze; if you're on your contacts you'll be in “receive mode” and will pick up on these subtleties.
The owl is a totem animal of mine, so when it turns up I know something significant is on the cards, but different animals and birds mean different things to different people. If a creature is doing something out of the ordinary, it might be trying to get a message across to you, but I probably won't be able to interpret the message it has for you, you'll have to do that: what does that creature signify for YOU? The appearance of a fox, for example, might mean Lady Fortune will smile on you, whereas for me, it might mean to keep my head down. The only way you can find out the significance of a particular creature is by seeing what happens after it's shown itself to you? What happened next? Did it warn you about something? If so, when you see it again, it might mean to be on your guard.
So, fellow witches, always be aware of your surroundings and remember be on your contacts 24/7.
                                                                                                                                                              James Rigel

<![CDATA[TREE LORE: WILLOW]]>Tue, 26 Mar 2019 11:10:03 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/tree-lore-willowPicture
There are five native species of willow although the aromatic Bay willow (salix pentandra) is rarely found these days in the wild. Also called Black Willow or Sweet Willow.
Crack willow (salix fragilis), of The Wind in the Willows fame, are usually seen as a gaunt, pollarded trees, hock-deep in water, their naked branches reaching skyward like antlers;
Goat willow (salix caprea) or Pussy willow, whose catkins provide a veritable banquet for brimstone butterflies and bees in March, when there is little other forage for them. Also known as Sally or Palm willow and which often replaces the traditional palm in Church on Palm Sunday;
Grey willow (salix cinerea) or Sallow grows on fens and marshes, in damp woods and by stream and ponds as a shrub or small tree. Also referred to as Pussy willow in some areas;
White willow (salix alba) or Cricket-bat willow is a native of river and marsh, having silver felted leaves that stream dramatically in the wind.
The earliest record of willow’s use by man was in Neolithic times when causeways of willow branches were laid across boggy ground to provide a safe path. By medieval times, in addition to making baskets, fish-traps, fences and coracles, willow was used in tanning, as fodder, to attract bees, to make artist’s charcoal, to produce purple dye, and to prevent erosion along the banks of rivers and ditches. The downy covering of the seeds was used as mattress stuffing.
Later, in days when every lowland English village had its basket maker and its ‘withy’ beds, Richard Jeffries wrote: “An advantage of willow is that it enables the farmer to derive a profit from land that would otherwise be comparatively valueless, to provide arable farmers with market baskets, chaff baskets, bassinets and hampers. This willow harvest is looked forward to by the cottagers who live along the rivers as an opportunity for earning extra money” [Country Illustrated vol 4. No 47]. Today the willow is popularly used to make bio-degradable coffins for woodland burials.
All willows belong to the large family of Salix, which has between 350 and 500 species, depending on the source you consult. This confusion arises because hybrids occur together with parent species and because the willows themselves are variable. In the lowlands all over the British Isles, willows are the most characteristic tree in the landscape, lining the banks of rivers large and small, from the Thames to the Shannon.
Medicinally, the bark of the white willow was used to alleviate pain, relieve headaches and reduce fevers. It was also used to treat rheumatism, arthritis, internal bleeding, inflammations, gout, heartburn, colds, nervous insomnia, digestive problems and stomach complaints. Externally, it was applied for burns, sores, cuts and skin rashes. Culpeper wrote: “The leaves are bruised and boiled in wine, and drank, stays the heat of lust in man and woman, and quite distinguishes it, if it be long used.”
In modern herbalism, the bark of the white willow is collected from young branches during the growth period. Willow is anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antipyretic, anti-rheumatic and astringent. Interestingly, some of the willow’s active constituents, while sharing the pain-relieving effects of aspirin, have a more sustained action in the body and fewer side effects. Although these claims have not been proved clinically, the indications are strongly supported by the fact that the bark was used in a similar way to aspirin long before the invention of the drug.
In folklore the willow was associated with sorrow and lost love. Sprigs were sometimes worn as a sign of mourning; or by those who had been forsaken in love, hence the words of the old folk-song: “All around my hat I will wear the green willow.” The willow is listed in the Celtic Tree Alphabet and is referred to as one of the Peasant Trees, bearing the name saille. In Celtic times, groves of willow were frequented by those who wished to learn eloquence, or be granted visions, prophetic dreams or inspiration.
Because of the willow’s association with rivers and prophesy it is representative of Elemental Water. It is usually the bark of the tree that is used magically in incense, but a bundle of twigs can also be used to call upon Elemental Fire. The twigs should be lit from a special fire or consecrated candle and then plunged into consecrated water. This is known as a ‘fire potion’ and can be used for magical cleansing. To increase the potency, add an infusion of an appropriate herb. The potion may be drunk, or applied as a compress of cotton wool to increase psychic powers. This is the poor witch’s answer to the blacksmith’s ‘thunder water’.
Staff or Wand
Willow is one of the woods from which to make the traditional magic wand. Willow wood is the very essence of magic, not just the mere making of a tool into a magical one, willow makes the tool magical; and a great tool for divination. This should be cut from the tree with a single blow, having first asked the tree for its permission and a suitable offering made. Shaman, necromancers, sorcerers and enchanters were all said to favour wands made of willow because it can be used to command the spirits of the dead. Willow wands are strong in the cycles of life dealing with death and rebirth, change and the Will.
These magical associations were obviously well-known as existing folklore claims that using a willow staff to herd animals is guaranteed to ‘drive them to the devil’. Using a willow wand to renounce your baptism was said to guarantee that the devil will grant you supernatural powers. These are, no doubt, throw-backs to pre-Christian times when willow was acknowledged as being the ‘badge’ of the cunning folk.
Magical Properties
Willow can add vital energy to the sick and elderly; and some say that burning willow can soothe and guide the souls of the recently deceased. Willow will align itself to the inner Will of the practitioner that shares its energy; the stronger the Will, the more effective the wood. Willow is extremely useful in healing, love spells and rituals involving emotion. It strengthens the third eye.
Root & Branch: British Magical Tree Lore by Melusine Draco is published by Ignotus Press Uk in paperback and e-book format.  ISBN: 978 1 78697 447 1 : For more details go to


<![CDATA[TRADITIONAL WITCH’S CALENDAR APRIL 2019]]>Tue, 26 Mar 2019 09:26:42 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/traditional-witchs-calendar-april-2019Picture
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.
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. 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. 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 saintsbanners other than George’s were abolished because the king wanted to identify with a more befitting hero.
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.  As in Shakespeare’s day, right up to Victorian times, there was no superstition so deeply rooted in the minds of many people as the belief in what are popularly termed ‘death-warnings’.
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. Today: Modern Beltaine Eve.
Walpurgis Night: 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. Although local variants are observed throughout Europe in the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia, Finland and Estonia. In Denmark, the tradition of lighting bonfires to prevent witches going to the Brocken is observed as St John’s Eve – Mid-Summer’s Eve. Robert Herrick wrote two versions of The Hag – see 31st October – but this more ribald version is more suited for Beltaine …
            The Hagg [sic]
       The staffe is now greased
      And very well pleased,
She cockes out her arse at the parting,
      To an old ram goat,
      That rattles I’th’ throat,
Halfe choakt with the stench of her farting.
          In a dirty hair lace
          She leads on a brace
Of black-boat cats to attend her,
          Who scratch at the moon,
          And threaten at noon
Of night from heaven for to rend her.
          A hunting she goes;
          A cracked horn she blows,
At which the hounds fall a-bounding;
          While the moon in her sphere
          Peeps trembling for fear,
And night’s afraid of the sounding.

<![CDATA[Folk Medicine: Nature’s Medicine Chest]]>Fri, 22 Mar 2019 12:29:21 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/folk-medicine-natures-medicine-chestPicture
Unlike the wort-lore of traditional witchcraft, folk or domestic plant medicine is the everyday use of plants by ordinary people to cure minor wounds and ailments. Although there is a wealth of material from the classic herbals and herbalists recorded by the Benedictine monk Aelfric, the Physicians of Myddfai and the 17th century apothecary, physician and astrologer, Nicholas Culpeper, very little has been preserved of the common plant remedies used by our forebears.
Effective home remedies did not require any accompanying ritual to make them work and a countrywoman would merely pick the necessary plants from the garden or hedgerow to make a preparation for the family’s fever, or to treat a wound. A hot infusion made from diaphoretic and febrifugal herbs, such as yarrow, comfrey and cayenne, will increase perspiration and help to reduce a high fever. While towards the end of WWI, the British government used tons of sphagnum moss as surgical dressing, placed directly on to wounds when the demand for cotton bandages could not be met. Fortunately this folk remedy had not faded from memory and is still used in some rural areas.
Similarly, feverfew has been used since the Middle Ages for its analgesic properties. Culpeper recommended the herb for ‘all pains in the head’ and current research has proven the efficacy of feverfew in the relieving of migraines and headaches when taken as a tea.
The common ‘weed’ plantain has long been recognized as an excellent restorative and tonic for all forms of respiratory congestions – nasal catarrh, bronchitis, sinusitis and middle ear infections. The plant’s demulcent qualities make it useful in an infusion for painful urination. As a lotion, plantain calms the irritation and itching of insect bites, stings and skin irritations; and as a disinfectant and styptic for wounds and how many of us automatically search for a dock leaf after a close encounter with a stinging nettle?
With all its magical connotations and fairy connections, the elder has long been known as the ‘poor man’s medicine chest’ because its flowers and berries have so many uses in treating respiratory infections and fevers. The leaves make a useful ointment for bruises, sprains and wounds, while an ointment made from the flowers is excellent for chilblains. The inner bark has a history of use as a purgative dating back to the time of Hippocrates, and we must not forget the ‘tonic’ of elderflower champagne and elderberry wine!
Through the daily life of ordinary country people, the use of folk medicine had been preserved with remarkable accuracy from one generation to another up to the early 20th century. As a result of two world wars and with the large-scale dispersal of country people to the towns, however, the need for folk medicine diminished. The old people who remained no longer had anyone left to whom they could pass this age-old wisdom and so it died out for lack of interest.
Today there is a renewed interest in natural medicine and the old remedies are being researched by a joint project called Ethnomedica [1990s Kew Gardens]. Involving medical herbalists and botanists, their aim is to gather information about country remedies throughout Britain.
Mini-article from The Dictionary of Magic & Mystery published by Moon Books in paperback and e-bokk format.  ISBN: 978 1 84694 462 8 : UK£12.99/US$22.95