<![CDATA[Coven of the Scales - Blog]]>Wed, 29 Sep 2021 17:30:08 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[NEW RELEASE]]>Wed, 29 Sep 2021 09:56:45 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/new-releasePicture
Quartz: Breath of the Dragon
There are many different varieties of quartz, several of which are semi-precious gemstones. Since antiquity, varieties of quartz have been the most commonly used minerals in the making of jewellery and hard-stone carvings, while in the metaphysical world quartz crystals are the supreme gift of Mother Earth. Even the smallest piece is imbued with powerful properties that enable the bearer to cross the boundaries between the worlds; while archaeologists are finding more and more evidence that quartz played an important part in the ritual and burial customs of our Megalithic and Paleolithic ancestors
It is the quartz element of granite that reconnects us with the spirit within the landscape. As an accomplished occultist and having a doctorate in Geology, one of the Coven’s founders, Mériém Clay-Egerton, was fascinated by the fact that for millennia, humanity and quartz had interacted with each other. She wrote that our ancestors having recognised the qualities of quartz was evident from the studies of its usage, not region by region, but over the entire area of the British Isles and other parts of the world: “Everywhere one looks there are clear distinct traces. To people who know its potential, it was clearly no accidental employment of any material to hand. It was sought out for use. Why?”
Quartz is the most common constituent of rock, she went on to explain, a basic silicate dioxide having three molecules arranged in either a right or left-handed spiral form, which has the power
of polarising light in more than one direction: “When light enters a crystal it splits into two beams, due to the differing speeds of the light’s velocity being refracted back from the different vibration of the crystal’s lattices, and their own individual refracting indices. In certain circumstances, the crystals can act as ‘windows’ to ultra-violet and infra-red wavelengths. In
addition to these scientific points, we may also hear quartz crystals hum or ‘sing’. We can also see quartz crystals displaying piezoelectric effects.”
These are scientific terms for what our ancestors knew: “Burial chambers with quartz kerb-stones were commonplace, as were the pits used for inhumations, which were sprinkled with quartz chippings, both whole and broken. There is a school of thought that these were used to either keep the individuals concerned safely at rest, or to permit the living to contact spirit
entities when they were in a correctly attuned state.”
On a metaphysical level, Mériém wrote: “Standing stones (some of which are made of quartz - others may contain a high percentage of it), are accepted by psychics [and magical practitioners] as being able to act as conductors of ‘earth-force’, such as that encountered at nodal points for energy lines. If they are acting like natural ‘acupuncture needles’, then it is not surprising that they should be as pure a substance as possible and with natural powers of their own. Many circles in the south-west of England appear to have been originally constructed with a central point; other phases being tacked on afterwards. A quartz stone, or stones with high quartz content, will often appear in such a prominent position, having superseded the original wooden post.”  A new study reveals how Stonehenge has stood the test of time so successfully: The quartz crystals that make up the sarsens form an interlocking structure that makes the boulders nearly indestructible.
And much closer to home: “Nowadays, we protect our water with chemicals to make it fit for us to drink, but in ancient times folk made offerings to the guardians of holy wells. Some were simple things, others were valuable objects that had been ceremoniously broken; it is strange how often white stones, and quartz in particular, figured highly on the list of offerings. As the wells were quite often used in fertility and healing rites, then I suppose we should naturally expect quartz to be a frequent gift. Today, crystal healing is still practised; and quartz plain or coloured, is one of the principal stones used – yet another relic of our past.”
In truth, as Dr Clay-Egerton asserted some forty years ago, the use of quartz in prehistoric stone-working traditions was a worldwide phenomenon.  For archaeologists, however, quartz analysis presented significant challenges with the result that it was often misidentified, or ignored, or only cursorily analysed.  Indeed, well into the 20th-century, quartz artefacts were routinely discarded during excavations.  Nevertheless, quartz was an integral part of traditional British Old Craft teaching all those years ago and, despite the contemporary pagan penchant for crystals, for us nothing was allowed to displace quartz from being the most valuable stone for witchcraft.
On a final note: quartz is solid silica and if it did not crystallize when it solidified it is known as flint, and everyone knows that two flints struck together will produce a spark. What is not generally known is that all quartz pebbles will do the same and often produce bigger and better sparks. Clear quartz, or rock crystal, will produce an orange spark if two pieces are
struck together in a darkened room, accompanied by the smell of burning … and this can be viewed as magical fire from the very Earth itself.  Despite all the gems of the world, for the magical practitioner, natural quartz should remain the most precious gift of all.
As a result of this current resurgence of academic interest, there is a certain pride and satisfaction in knowing that the ‘old-fashioned’ teachings of traditional British Old Craft are now being validated by contemporary scientists and archaeologists, who are beginning to understand that the ancients’ obsession with quartz crystals was more than just a passing fancy.  It was Aleister Crowley who maintained that magic was an amalgam of art and science and those Old Crafters of my generation were fortunate indeed, that our founder was a doctor of geology, with more than a passing interest in archaeology, anthropology and ‘earth mysteries’.  This meant that we also had a thorough grounding in these subjects and were encouraged to investigate further for information and knowledge … a practice that is maintained within the Coven to the present day.
‘Thanks, Mériém …’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

<![CDATA[New book release ...]]>Mon, 28 Jun 2021 07:54:16 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/new-book-releasePicture
Many years ago, I featured a cover picture on my Facebook page, showing dozens of hag-stones washed in sea water, and received a message from someone asking how I managed to create so many without shattering the pebbles! Apparently the sender had been trying for years to make them by drilling the holes in order to sell them online! Wrong … in fact, according to Beachstuff.com cheating by drilling a hole through any old stone you pick up is liable to bring you curses and pestilence and other undesirable occurrences. 
     A hag-stone is an elusive and extremely magical stone tumbled by tides and winds over time to create a naturally forming hole through them. Hag-stones are special because they are rare to find and are also called adder-stones, faerie-stones, Odin-stones, eye-stones or witch-stones. Most are caused by water eroding weakened spots on the stone until a hole occurs, though many are created by wind, erosion, and weathering alone. They can also be formed as a result of the boring of a bivalve mollusk called a ‘piddock,’ whose shells look like angel wings. Or, as a result of smaller stones repeatedly grinding into the stone’s surface caused by weathering or water pressure. Or, more rarely from the deterioration of an embedded crinoid fossil.
     First, however, we need to start with the geological aspects of the hag-stone. These small witch-stones all have naturally formed holes in them but they originally came from the bed-rock of the Earth, having been chipped off by impact, tectonic activity, glacial movement, seismic eruptions and weathering. So the original rocks that make up the small pebbles from which our hag-stones are formed may, in some places, be over 3 billion years old; the actual pebbles are probably only a few thousand years old since it only takes a relatively short time (geologically speaking) for streams and rivers to transport them. 
     As rocks are weathered and otherwise broken up, they go through many stages. Pebbles start off as part of a much larger formation of bed-rock in the ground. A crack formed and water flowed through; later, this chunk was broken off by some natural process and has been worn down, probably by being tumbled in a river, or by waves, until it became fairly round and smooth. Pebbles are very common along the lower boundaries of the last glaciers. The rocks get eroded by ice and water, getting smaller and smaller as they are borne along. Most of these pebbles will be rounded off over hundreds or thousands of years.
     Beach pebbles form gradually over time as the ocean washes over loose rocks; the result is a smooth, rounded appearance with colours ranging from translucent white to black, and including shades of yellow, brown, red and green. Some of the more plentiful pebble beaches are found along the coast of the Pacific Ocean, beginning in the United States and extending down to the tip of South America in Argentina. Other pebble beaches are found in northern Europe (particularly on the beaches of the Norwegian Sea), along the coast of the U.K. and Ireland, on the shores of Australia, and around the islands of Indonesia and Japan – and here hag-stones of all sizes and colours can be plentiful.
     Inland pebbles (pebbles of river rock) are usually found along the shores of large rivers and lakes. These pebbles form as the flowing water washes over rock particles on the bottom and along the shores of the river. The smoothness and colour of river pebbles depends on several factors, such as the composition of the soil of the river banks, the chemical characteristics of the water, and the speed of the current. Because a river current is gentler than pounding ocean waves, river pebbles are not usually as smooth as beach pebbles. The most common colours of river rock are black, grey, green, brown and white and hag-stones tend to be much rarer.
     A large number of hag-stones are made of flint and in some of the old Victorian compilations about superstitions, customs and folklore, they are often described as a ‘flynt stone with hole’. This has led a lot of folk to believe that other types of stones with a hole are not true hag-stones but there is no written rule that says that a piece of limestone or sandstone with a naturally occurring hole does not have the magical properties of a hag-stone. In truth, it is about the essence of each individual stone and its geological properties – but it has to have a hole that has been weathered over a long stretch of time.
     From a magical perspective, hag-stones are generally used as protective amulets to deflect negative energy and their additional properties are governed by the type of stone they are made from. Flint is the most common type found in Western Europe and, as a result, these stones have traditionally been seen as the ‘real’ hag-stones described in the old books. Flint is not tied to any geological period and has been formed ever since the pre-Cambrian period, but almost all flint found in Europe was deposited in the period that we call Cretaceous when the world was a vastly different place.
     In the early Cretaceous age, the continents were in very different positions than they are today. Sections of the supercontinent Pangaea were drifting apart. The Tethys Ocean still separated the northern Laurasia continent from southern Gondwana; the North and South Atlantic were still closed, although by the middle of the period, ocean levels were much higher and most of the landmass we are now familiar with, was underwater. By the end of the period, the continents were much closer to their current configuration. Africa and South America had assumed their distinctive shapes; but India had not yet collided with Asia, and Australia was still part of Antarctica …
Flint hag-stones are often created when crinoids fossils deteriorate. The crinoid is an example of a marine animal that left a poorly fossilized image due to its delicate parts ... They are an ancient fossil group that first appeared in the seas of the Middle Cambrian age, about 300 million years before dinosaurs and, since crinoids were not usually buried quickly, their hard stem-parts are far more frequently found as fossils. Crinoids are common fossils in the Silurian rocks of Shropshire; in the Early Carboniferous rocks of Derbyshire and Yorkshire; and in the Jurassic rocks of the Dorset coast and Yorkshire (Robin Hoods Bay).
     Flint is a hard, shiny, almost glassy, stone which is often pointed and flaky rather than smooth and rounded. It is formed from a complex process deriving from animals such as sponges, urchins and other marine animals in the sediments lain down to form the rocks. Because it is hard, and can easily form sharp edges, it was used as first human tools. If you find a flint hag-stone, you have good reason to be absolutely delighted with yourself! If it is flint then it could be the remains of a fossil that has been eroded by wave action; these in their whole state are usually a roughly spherical hollow flint with the inside encrusted with crystals.
     The magical properties are enhanced, depending on the type of rock that the pebble is composed of. Coming originally from mountains where rocks and minerals have been brought up from deep within the Earth’s crust, in many cases deep from within the mantle of the planet’s interior where metals and gemstones are formed. Most gemstones are found in igneous rocks and alluvial gravels, but sedimentary and metamorphic rocks may also contain gem materials. From a geologist’s point of view, however, hag-stones are mainly pebbles of sedimentary rocks that have a naturally occurring hole or holes in them.
     Some of the folklore stories link them to having been created by ‘serpents venom in the centre of the stone’, however, the scientific explanation might be less fascinating! The culprits behind the creation of those holes are, as we have seen, those common piddocks – with specially adapted oval shells that are edged with fine teeth, which they use to excavate burrows in rock. These creatures can bore holes into a rock by locking on with a sucker-like foot and then twisting its shell to drill. Their long oval shells are distinctively wing-shaped, giving piddocks their other common name of ‘angel wings’. Even more magically, during the low tide and in darkness, we may witness a weird bluish-green glow because the animals are bioluminescent.
     Anyone who has ever walked on the beach, especially in southern England, has come across flint. For most people it is not really an especially attractive or beautiful stone, despite the interesting shapes or beautiful colours – but no rock or mineral has had so much influence on human history as flint. This makes it one of the most important, if not the most important rock in human development. Flint is a cryptocrystalline quartz rock, ranging from black to grey and from red to brown – caused by contamination with chalk, iron or organic material. In England (actually across the whole of Europe) we find flint almost always as layers in chalk or limestone: sometimes in narrow bands, sometimes in thicker layers.
     Flint is always a marine deposit – a seawater deposit. Silicon dioxide, the building blocks of quartz, dissolves in water at high temperature (no worries, your quartz crystal really does not dissolve should you decide to wash it in warm water). Seawater normally contains little silica, and silica-containing water is often only seen after volcanic eruptions in the cavities in the solidified lava. That is why quartz geodes form here – but in seawater it has to come from somewhere else. The theory is that the silica from which flint is formed comes from animal remains: microscopically small skeletal particles of micro-organisms in the sea. Of all these animal fossils many have been found in flint. In addition to the organic origin, silica-containing water also enters the sea through groundwater in which silica is dissolved from the soil, and through clay particles that wash into the sea and dissolve in sea water. Flint is very ‘fossiliferous’ anyway and the fossils are often very well preserved: for example sea urchins, shells, ammonites, etc.
     Flint is created on the seabed. Many of these cavities were made by animals that lived in the seabed, such as crustaceans. These critters dug a way through the seabed and in these burrows flint eventually formed. Hence flint concretions can have the most amazing shapes. These petrified burrows are not fossils, after all they are not actual imprints or physical remains from the animal. We call these types of remains ichnofossils, trace fossils. Just like, for example, saurian footsteps or crawling traces of trilobites are ichnofossils. The ‘skin’ of a flint concretion is often white. Sometimes flint can also have beautiful bands. This is the so-called banded flint. In southern England, the colour of the rock sometimes tells where the flint comes from. In the Southeast, the White Cliffs area, the flint ranges from pale gray to black. Further west, towards Dorset, the flint becomes more reddish brown in colour.
     Fossils in flint also plays an historical role. Flint containing a fossil has sometimes been worked in such a way that the fossil had a prominent place in the tool. An example of this is a flint axe with a sea urchin from Homo heidelbergensis, which is 400,000 years old; and a Neanderthal axe from Norfolk with a fossil shell that is 200,000 years old. A recent study also shows that Neanderthals had an eye for the beauty of stone and that they kept exceptionally beautiful pieces of flint.
Hagstones by Mélusine Draco is the third title published in the ‘Arcanum series’ for Ignotus Books. Arcanum books will be titles of under 100-pages of practical and/or instructional text on a specific esoteric subject or theme and written by magical practitioners with proven antecedents. Based on the idea of those children’s ‘Ladybird’ books that often introduced us to an interest that lasted a life time and, taking its name from the Coven of the Scales’ foundation course, the aim is to offer further tuition/guidance on specific elements of witch-lore and practice.
Coming in at around 25,000 words, each title will be packed with information and instruction rather than puffed out with superfluous wordage and regurgitated text borrowed from other publications. The series will be aimed at those who have attained a certain level of magical competence and who don’t need to be spoon-fed basic instructions for Circle-casting with each volume and are therefore not written with beginners in mind.
Hagstones compiled by Melusine Draco for the Arcanum series, published by ignotus press uk : ISBN: 9781803020334 : In paperback and e-book format : Pages: 98 : Published: 23 June 2021: Price £6.68 : Order direct from https://www.feedaread.com/books/HAGSTONES.aspx

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

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

<![CDATA[Talking to Crows: Messengers of the Gods]]>Sat, 29 May 2021 08:34:42 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/talking-to-crows-messengers-of-the-godsPicture
Book News … New release

By Melusine Draco
‘Talking to crows’ is said of those who have some presentiment or foresight in Sicilian folk-lore. It is believed that to those who can understand them, these black birds, garrulous creatures they are, communicate the latest news on the doings of human beings, since they have a clear view - a bird’s eye view - of the whole. They have also been around for a lot longer than human beings and, perhaps not surprisingly, long ago developed the reputation of being messengers of the gods in many different cultures across the world.
The best way to introduce ourselves to Corvidae is by feeding them. Some may argue that corvids are wild creatures and by feeding them, we encourage an unnatural dependence. With most wildlife, this is an excellent philosophy. But most corvids and humans have been living side-by-side for centuries now, and researchers like Marzluff and Angell (co-authors of In the Company of Crows and Ravens) point to many instances of cultural co-evolution between us. This relationship has been arguably symbiotic for quite a while now. Certainly, after all this time together, our lives and histories have become closely intertwined. They’ve watched people come and go for years; people who may have watched them right back.
Don’t try to get too close. These are wild creatures, after all. Our goal shouldn’t be to tame them or make them into pets. Even after years of friendship, a corvid will be skittish and standoffish, and it’s better this way. They are never going to come running for a fuss, and their standoffish attitude is probably a major reason why they have thrived as a species for so long ... but if we’re interested in them, we have to learn to appreciate their charms from afar.
Besides, get real, most humans view crows as ominous, murderous evils (or at best, rats with wings). For centuries, crows have played the bad guys in the stories humans tell themselves, and I’m sure those crows have noticed the eye daggers most people shoot at them, how cars veer to the shoulder to intentionally run them over. Why wouldn’t that distrust be mutual from a creature with this level of intelligence? So crows will take their own sweet time deciding if they trust us or not ... but once they know who we are, they’ll never forget. At first, they may give us the cold shoulder and ignore our offerings, but don’t take it personally. Remember that paranoia is all about survival, but patience and vigilance will eventually pay off. If we pass the test, they will decide to trust us. [Joanne Fonté, How To Make Friends With Crows]
We can also see how there are various attributes that are associated with all members of the Corvidae family but that there are also subtle differences between each of the species. All are monogamous and loyal, although some are more aggressive than others; all have a highly developed intelligence while others often display anti-social habits. When we begin ‘talking to crows’ we are entering into a mystical dialogue with Otherworld by being sent spiritual messages showing us a symbolic image of a corvid, either a physical bird or the spiritual image of one in the guise of a totem.
These messages are words of wisdom and advice, and they can help us to identify talents we are not using, or the negative beliefs and thought patterns that are holding us back. Once these messages are understood and applied to our lives, they can be a valuable source of direction as we progress on our spiritual journeys. Birds reflect a strong symbolism. They encourage us to aim high and realize our goals despite the challenges we might face as we chase those dreams. They can also be a motivation to deepen our spirituality even more because they help us explore our devoutness and push the boundaries. Although some may represent good omens, some, unfortunately, do not. Which is why it is important to know which of the species we encountered before we get in a state with worry – we need to be able to interpret our sightings accurately. [Birds: Divine Messengers, Angela Wansbury]
Fossil records suggest that modern birds originated 60 million years ago, after the end of the Cretaceous period about 65 million years ago when dinosaurs died out. And, since prehistoric times, people have probably looked to the heavens for signs; and since birds fly, it makes sense that people would have perceived birds as messengers of divinity. After all, a bird’s-eye-view is significantly more omniscient than any earthbound perspective. Birds know what the world looks like from 30,000 feet high; they have seen the insides of clouds, so looking to birds for perspective makes an odd kind of primitive sense.
And, wouldn’t it be convenient if all we had to do to find answers and guidance in life was to walk outside, look up at the sky, and ‘read’ the birds flying overhead, especially if black meant always bad and light or brightly coloured birds always meant good – but of course, nothing is that simplistic. For example: What does it mean if a crow follows us? It doesn’t necessary mean some highly significant or mystical message. It’s more likely that the crow recognizes us for some friendly reason. If a crow follows us, it feels a connection to and/or curiosity in use for some reason. Maybe we fed that crow once before (or we look like someone who did) … because we’ve learned that corvids have the power of recognition for humans.
Or if a corvid shows no fear of us, it may be something to pay attention to for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the bird is trying to tell us something. Either it is just the bird’s interest in us (maybe we looked familiar – maybe it is hoping for food), or perhaps it represents someone else’s interest in us – a deceased loved one, an ancestor, or just the universe, trying to connect with is for some reason. See the incident outside the bookshop at the end of Chapter 4.

  • There are two kinds of bird signs: impetrative (sought after, asked for, or requested) and oblative (unasked for; coming out of the blue like a bolt of lightning!). So ask yourself: Is the bird bringing us an unasked-for message from the universe? Or is it answering a question we’ve asked – explicitly or implicitly?
  • Seeing a bird is not going to give us a clear answer. It’s no magic 8-ball (a fortune telling gadget shaped like a classic pool eight-ball; filled with water and containing a multi-face dice, with each side featuring the answer to a question – and who thinks those are really magic!?). A bird’s colour doesn’t necessarily make any meaningful difference whatsoever. 
  • And the millions of corvids that exist aren’t on the planet simply for the purpose of providing humans with messages from Otherworld because they have a difficult time as it is merely staying alive! We need to establish an affinity with the birds in our immediate vicinity, because there is little point in claiming a raven or chough as our personal totem when we’ve never encountered one in the flesh. Similarly, I rarely see a carrion crow or jay, but the ‘hoodies’ are regular visitors – as are the magpies and rooks – and I talk to them on a regular basis.
  • And what better way to affirm this affinity than with a tattoo. A bird tattoo meaning is deep, and primarily stands for freedom, independence, and fearlessness. Some people who choose to get a bird symbol inked on their body tells us something that is individually unique to that person, and his or her experiences. They often relate to one of the following:
  • Spirituality, higher understanding or a connection to the being supreme
  • Self-sufficiency, self-actualization or the power of self-direction
  • To enhance perspectives or capabilities, like agility, lightness, buoyancy, and the ability to rise above adversity.
Birds that represent freedom can mean mental autonomy, spiritual self-direction, and independence from the hindrances of physical capabilities or freedom of any other choice.

Let’s be honest … anything can be symbolic if we want it to be and everything in Old Craft is linked in some way to sigils and symbols, allegory and analogy, metonym and metaphor. This is the language of witches.

Members of this large, adaptable family live in habitats ranging from treeless tundras where land is flat to mountain forests. They live in deciduous forests, where trees shed their leaves, and coniferous forests, with cone-bearing evergreen trees. Corvids range in deserts, grassland steppes where there are few trees, and on the edge of rainforests, where heavy rain produces much growth. In addition, they live in cities and small villages. They are always our close companions and who more able to communicate news from Otherworld, should we choose to listen?

​Talking to Crows: Messengers of the Gods
by Melusine Draco is published by Ignotus Press UK as the second in their Arcanum series : ISBN 978 1 83945 968 9 : 104 pages : Price £6.85  Order direct from https://www.feedaread.com/books/TALKING-TO-CROWS-9781839459689.aspx

<![CDATA[LIFE STYLE by Melusine Draco]]>Sat, 15 May 2021 12:31:43 GMThttp://covenofthescales.com/blog/life-style-by-melusine-dracoPicture
The (Inner-City) Path 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’ …
Summer - the Path of Flowers
Since prehistory, the Summer Solstice has been seen as a significant time of year in many cultures, and has been marked by diverse festivals and rituals. According to the astronomical definition of the seasons, the summer solstice also marks the beginning of summer, which lasts until the Autumnal Equinox (22nd or 23rd September in the Northern Hemisphere, or 20th or 21st March in the Southern Hemisphere). Traditionally, the Summer Solstice is seen as the middle of summer and referred to as ‘Midsummer’. Within the Arctic Circle (for the northern hemisphere) or Antarctic Circle (for the southern hemisphere), there is continuous daylight around the Summer Solstice.
The woods of The Path with its scattering of fading bluebells, horsetails and ferns, have a primeval feel about them as spring descends into summer; and when the trees are full of leaf, it is easy to image that we are tramping through Wildwood even though we are never more than a few hundred yards from our village or town. The urban woods along The Path are somewhat unkempt and before the wooded path opens out into the meadow there is a sturdy oak which is exposed to the full force of the westerly winds. The branches on the windward side break the gusts: the trunk and the dark, sturdier branches don’t give an inch, the smaller branches and twigs sway but a little. Then a branch breaks off … Next to the oak is a silver birch that sways
and bends with the force of the summer storm …
Later, we recall the buffeting of the wind and feel so much empathy for the two trees that we can almost experience or perceive what forces were at play. We can feel the resistance and stiffness of the oak, and how futile this resistance is when a branch gets broken off. With the birch, we can feel how it surrenders itself to the wind and how supple and pliable the tree is. We can attribute resistance to an oak and pliability to a birch and if these concepts are correct, then we will be able to recognise them in all the different parts of these trees. We will see it in the leaves (the tough, unbending leaves of the oak and the light rustling leaves of the birch) and the seeds (the heavy acorn with the hard shell, the light birch seeds which carry on the wind) … [Psychology Today]
It is the Ash tree, however, that has a host of folklore surrounding it. The ash along with the oak is one of the last trees to come into leaf and according to country lore, the one that comes into leaf first, gives us an indication as to what the weather will be like for the summer: “Ash before the Oak, you can expect a soak, but Oak before the Ash, expect a little splash” The fascination of the ash tree traces its roots to the ancient times. The Druids believed that it had the ability to direct and blend the masculine and feminine energy, using a branch of the ash to make their staffs. The staff then acted as a connection between the realms of the earth and the sky. A staff of ash is hung over door frames for protection as it will ward off evil influences; while ash leaves can be scattered in the four directions to protect the house against negative and psychic attacks - but despite its traditional role in protecting against witches, the ash is also extensively used by them.
The ash is often found growing near sacred wells and it has been suggested that there is a connection between the tree and the healing waters of the well (possibly iron contained in the roots and leeching into the well). The tree itself can sometimes supply ‘holy’ water as the bole of the ash often has a hollow in it like a shallow bowl; the water that gathers in this is well known for its healing properties. This could be a good example of a ‘bile’ - a sacred tree. Sailors also believed that if they carved a piece of ash wood into the shape of a solar cross and carried it with them then they would be protected from drowning. A solar cross, consisting of an equilateral cross inside a circle ⊕ is frequently found in the symbolism of prehistoric cultures, particularly during the Neolithic to Bronze Age periods of European prehistory.
The oak, birch and ash are common tree along The Path and we should make an effort to recognize and understand the lifecycle of these three sacred trees that are tightly bound into our folk-, country- and Craft-lore. As we leave the woods and step onto The Path that borders the meadow our attention is caught by the plants that adorn the verge of hard-packed earth and stones: daisies, dandelions and filmy cow parsley. Cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris), grows in sunny to semi-shaded locations in meadows and at the edges of hedgerows and woodland. It is related to other diverse members of the Apiaceae family, such as parsley, carrot, hemlock and hogweed - and often confused with Daucus carota which is known as Queen Anne’s lace or wild carrot and mistaken for several similar-looking poisonous plants, among them poison hemlock and fool’s parsley.
From where The Path exits the woods it is only a few minutes before we come to the plank bridge over a brook fringed with forget-me-nots. The plank bridge is one of our favourite places to dawdle with the pond on one side and the brook making its way back into the woods on the other. On one side the water lies dark and deep in a languid pool where dragonflies and nymphs hover over the still surface (perfect for scrying); and from this bridge the slope of the water meadow basks in late summer sunlight and autumn mists since the surrounding ancient woodland was cut back for agricultural reasons. ‘It is widely acknowledged that a landscape of open fields, trees and brooks is what humans consider most beautiful,’ observes Chet Raymo.
In the water meadow we can find an olde English favourite: Meadowsweet from the Anglo- Saxon meodu-swete meaning ‘Mead sweetener’. The plant’s herbal uses had a base in scientific
fact; in common with many other folk and herbal remedies, in the 19th century, chemists isolated salicylic acid from meadowsweet to use as a disinfectant that not only made rooms smell better but helped the fight against bacteria. It was one of the three herbs considered sacred by the Druids: the others being vervain and water mint.  Creamy, perennial of damp waysides, meadows, marshes and woods, this tall plant flowers from June to September, and with a heavy fragrance, the flower heads are frequently visited by bees attracted by the heavy scent which can be so evocative of summer days in the countryside. In spite of this fragrance, however, the flowers produce no nectar. Insects, however, don’t realise this but their visits serve to fertilise the plants which are heavy with pollen. A peculiarity of this flower is that the scent of the leaves is quite different from that of the flowers, the leaves having a heavy almond-like aroma whereas the flowers have a strong sweet smell.
Meadowsweet was historically known as Bridewort because it was strewn on the ground at hand-fastings for the bride to walk on (wort is an old word that means herb or root) and it was also used in wedding posies and bridal bouquets. Meadowsweet was also spread on the floor in medieval times to provide a nice smell and deter insects. This plant was given to Cúchulainn in liquid form and it was said to calm his fits of rage and outbreaks of fever and it may be for this reason that another name for meadowsweet in Ireland is Cuchulainn’s Belt or Crios Conchulainn. It is also associated with death as the scent of its flowers was said to induce a sleep that was deep and fatal. However, in County Galway it was believed that if a person was wasting away because of faerie influence then putting some meadowsweet under the bed ensured that they would be cured by the morning.
All along the water courses most Willow species grow and thrive and this theme is reflected in the legends and magic associated with these trees. The willow muse, called Heliconian (after Helike), was sacred to poets, and the Greek poet Orpheus carried willow branches on his adventures in the Underworld. He was also given a lyre by Apollo, and it is interesting to note that the sound-boxes of harps used to be carved from solid willow wood. The willow is also associated with the fey and the ‘Wind in the Willows’ is said to be the whisperings of a faerie in
the ear of a poet.
Willow was often the tree most sought by village wise-women, since it has so many medicinal properties, and eventually its healing and religious qualities became one and the tree became called a ‘witch’s tree’. The willow is associated with enchantment, wishing, romantic love, healing, protection, fertility, death, femininity, divination friendship, joy, love, and peace. Placed in homes, willow branches protect against evil and malign sorcery. Carried, the wood bestows bravery, dexterity, and helps to overcome the fear of death. If we knock on a willow tree (‘knock on wood’) this will avert evil. A willow growing near a home will protect it from danger, while they are also good trees to plant around cemeteries and for lining graves because of its symbolism of death and protection.
Willow can also be used in rituals for intuition, knowledge, gentle nurturing, and will elucidate the feminine qualities of both men and women. When a person needs to get something off their chest or to share a secret, if they confess to a Willow, their secret will be trapped. Also, wishes are granted by a willow if they are asked for in the correct manner. Willow leaves, bark and wood add energy to healing magic, and burning a mix of willow bark and sandalwood during the waning moon can help to conjure spirits. Uses of willow in love talismans include using the leaves to attract love. The tree is linked to grief and in the 16th and 17th centuries jilted lover poems were written that included reference to the tree. In Irish folklore it couldn’t be more different as it was called sail ghlann grin or the ‘bright cheerful sallow’. There it was considered
lucky to take a sally-rod with you on a journey and sally withies were placed around a milk churn to ensure good butter. It was believed that the charcoal left behind after burning willow could be crushed and spread on the back of an animal as a way of increasing fertility and even restoring hair.
Needless to say, country folk have long been familiar with the healing properties of willow. They made an infusion from the bitter bark as a remedy for colds and fevers, and to treat inflammatory conditions such as rheumatism. Young willow twigs were also chewed to relieve pain. In the early 19th century modern science isolated the active ingredient responsible, salicylic acid, which was also found in the meadowsweet plant.
As we follow the brook back through the wood along a different pathway, in the sunlit glades swathes of foxgloves stand tall above the bracken. A well-loved plant, the whole foxglove plant is extremely poisonous, but provides a source of digitalis used by doctors in heart medicine. The foxglove was believed to keep evil at bay if grown in the garden, but it was considered unlucky to bring the blooms inside the house. The name derives from the shape of the flowers resembling
the fingers of a glove – ‘folk’s glove’ meaning belonging to the Faere Folk and folklore tells that a bad faerie gave the flowers to the fox to put on his feet to soften his steps whilst hunting. In Irish folklore it was said that if a child was wasting away then it was under the influence of the faerie (fairy stroke) and foxglove was given to counteract this as it was known to revive people.
One such remedy was the juice of twelve leaves taken daily. It could also work for adults, such a person would be given a drink made from the leaves, if they were not too far gone, they would drink it and get sick but then recover. However, if they were completely under the spell of the faerie then they would refuse to drink. An amulet of foxglove could also cure the urge to keep travelling that resulted when anyone stepped onto the faerie grass, the ‘stray sod’ or fód seachrán. In Ireland it is also believed that the foxglove will nod its head if one of the ‘gentry’ pass by.
And it’s not just in the woods and fields that Nature is lush and tropical and green, because as The Path takes us passed the allotments, we can find the lushness reflected in the vegetable plots and gardens. In the overgrown orchard some of the old trees are still capable of producing a good crop after the warm, damp start to the year. With our newly discovered vision we relish the sight of all this bounty that is the result of sore backs and chapped hands during the cold and wet of the seedtime. As harvest approaches, we can appreciate the fruit of their labours by proxy since friendly gardeners often have surplus stocks that they gladly share with their neighbours.
Exercise: A Sense of Contemplation
Don’t get carried away by a new-found enthusiasm but commit to contemplate today – and only today. It is not necessary to commit to contemplation tomorrow, or every day for a week, a month, a year because over-commitment is a sure-fire recipe for procrastination. If you have the opportunity for five minutes contemplation today – contemplate today. If you have the opportunity to contemplate tomorrow – contemplate tomorrow. Contemplation is the action of looking thoughtfully at something for a long time. It is not a relaxation exercise or meditation but while it may contribute to us becoming more relaxed, this is simply a side effect. Contemplation is profound thinking about something and here we select something from the natural world where we can sit and stare – for example – at bees on a clover patch, lavender plant or butterfly bush (buddleia).
Doctorates in Bioenergetic Medicine and teachers of the ancient Egyptian healing and spiritual tradition, Meredith McCord and Jill Schumacher tell us that in ancient Egypt the humming sound of the bee was said to stimulate the release of super hormones known as the ‘Elixirs of Metamorphosis’, as the sound also resonates the ventricular chambers in the center of the brain, which are filled with cerebrospinal fluid that acts as a cushion for the brain’s cortex, providing basic mechanical and immunological protection to the brain inside the skull. The good doctors claim that the humming sounds of bees also resonate and stimulate various other structures of the brain, including the pineal gland, pituitary gland, the hypothalamus that link the nervous system to the endocrine system, and amygdala, which is responsible for emotions, survival instincts, and
Five minutes contemplation in the company of these small creatures can open up worlds that we would otherwise not bother to think about – and it’s an added incentive to create areas in our garden that are bee-friendly for our own benefit, too. Invest is a couple of bee boxes to encourage queen bees to lay eggs and repopulate your own garden next spring.
The Wild Larder
We can also treasure the time spent alone foraging. The repetition of gathering wild food allows the mind to relax – we can’t fret about household chores and work when we’re out there stocking
up our wild larder. The creamy-white flowers of the Elder can be found in woods, hedgerows and waste places and as Richard Mabey writes in Food For Free:
…to see the mangy, decaying skeletons of elders in the winter, we would not think the tree was any use to man or beast. Nor would the acrid stench of the young leaves in spring change your opinion. But by the end of June the whole shrub is covered with great sprays of sweet-smelling flowers, for which there are probably more uses than any other single species of blossom…
Elderflowers can be eaten fresh from the shrub on a hot summer’s day and have the taste of a frothy ice-cream soda; while the flowers separated from the stalks make a remarkable sparkling wine. Dipped in batter the flower-heads can be deep-fried and served as fritters to end a summer meal. The berries are small and green at first, ripening to deep purple clusters that weigh down the branches. These are made into wine, chutney, jellies and ketchup.
Any witch worth her salt, of course, knows that the elder is also known as the ‘poor man’s medicine chest’ due to the wide range of herbal remedies that can be got from the shrub. The flowers are utilised to raise the resistance to respiratory infections, and ointment made from elder flowers is excellent for chilblains and stimulating localised circulation. The flowers are also used in hay fever treatments for their anti-catarrhal properties. Medicinally, both the berries and the flowers encourage fever response and stimulates sweating, which prevents very high temperatures and provides an important channel for detoxification. To cure warts, rub them with a green elder twig which should then be buried. As the wood rots so the wart will disappear.
The (Inner city) Path: A Simple Guide to Well-Being and Awareness by Melusine Draco is published in Moon Book’s Pagan Portals series ISBN 978 1 78904 464 5 : 78 pages : UK£6.99/US$10.95 in paperback and e-book format.