Hello There

My thoughts about Traditional Witchcraft, Wicca, cooking, gardening, and anything else that catches my fancy.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Samhain Altar

I don't normally show my working altars, but I did want to show my Samhain one. It's got nuts, fruit, a Jack O' Lantern, pictures of deceased loved ones, my Blackthorn wand, and this and that.

And here are some of my Jack O'Lanterns. I carved five this year, three for the back porch, one for the front, and one for my altar.

And the front porch one!

Happy Halloween/Samhain!

I hope all of my readers have a wonderful and enlightening Halloween/Samhain! I'm going to be doing a Dumb Supper and some divinations, but will otherwise probably be taking it pretty easy. This is my favourite holiday all year, and I'm so glad I have other Witches and magic-workers around me who share my fun.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mastering Witchcraft: The Comeback

I wrote this after reading some of the conversation over at The Used Key is Always Bright, and found myself quoted on the page! Quite an honour to see my words there alongside those of Sarah Lawless and Hyperion!

There has been SO much discussion lately about Paul Huson's book, "Mastering Witchcraft," that I had to jump in and post about it once more. Those who know me know it's one of my favourite books; in fact, if I had to pick two books and two books only which have really directed the shape of my practice, it would be "Mastering Witchcraft" and Doreen Valiente's "Witchcraft For Tomorrow." If you could kind of mash these two books together, it would be the kind of Witchcraft I practice, and the kind I always imagined when I was a little Witch and hadn't read a single occult book.

"Mastering Witchcraft" is a rare gem, a Witch's "how to" manual written way before the glut of fluffy, anything-goes McWicca books that flooded the market in the late '80s and early '90s. This is not a book about a lovely matriarchal Goddess religion, and it doesn't encourage you to make up whatever you feel like and call it Witchcraft. This book is good, functional, old-fashioned Witchcraft of the kind Witches ACTUALLY practiced, and as such contains curses, love spells, and other such staples which would be likely to make somebody weaned on modern "harm none, and never do magic without permission" reading material tear our their hair in fright. Such ideas, of course, that Witches never use curses and must ask permission from all involved before casting spells, is entirely a modern invention and actually makes little sense. Much of the Craft's power comes from secrecy, and if you go asking people if you can do spells on them, you've already blown that. "Mastering Witchcraft" is more realistic; it assumes you're willing and able to make judgments about when the use of magic is appropriate, and leaves the responsibility up to you and not to some glib, meaningless "harm none" rule. Not everyone in this world is "nice" and not every problem can be solved by "sending love" or "binding." Knowing powerful defensive magic WILL come in handy; I can speak from experience here.

Witchcraft is not supposed to be safe, harmless, or common. It's not supposed to be a Sunday religion, where you go to services and listen to sermons and have bake sales. Witchcraft is truly OCCULT; that is, "hidden" and should be practiced in relative secrecy and silence. Modern day attempts to turn Witchcraft and pseudo-Wicca into a kind of "Christianity II" complete with clergy and churches have, in my mind, been disastrous and have gone a long way in completely castrating the word "Witch." I feel heartened at the recent surge of interest in "Mastering Witchcraft" and in Traditional Witchcraft in general. I am hoping that this signals a turning away from the pop-culture stuff that so dominated the magical landscape for the past couple of decades, and back towards fewer, but better educated and more dedicated, practitioners who really know their stuff. If only we'd had a few more books like this, perhaps we could have avoided the whitewashing of the Witch and the ensuing results.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Witchcraft of Dame Darrel of York

As promised, but much later than I had planned, here are some images of the amazing book, "The Witchcraft of Dame Darrel of York". The original (which you can see images of in the book) was hand-written and illustrated by Charles Godfrey Leland, famous for his work "Aradia: Or, The Gospel of the Witches." That book was a compilation of various Italian Witch legends, stories, and spells as told to him by a mysterious figure who claimed to be part of an ancient Witch Cult of Diana. This book, "Dame Darrel," is a recreation of authentic English Witchcraft from the Middle Ages. While there wasn't a historical Dame Darrel, this book claims to reconstruct the workbook of people who would have been very much like her.

The book itself is beautiful. The first half is a reproduction of Leland's original hand-written, hand-illustrated work. The second part is a modern transcription, which is appreciated as some of the text was difficult to decipher. The book even has built-in ribbon markers so you can keep your place. It's a big, heavy, almost coffee table sized book and really does feel like an ancient tome. The spells and charms are very much like poetry, some resembling an old Mother Goose rhyme, which adds to their appeal. It's easy to see an old, story-book Witch using these things in a little cottage deep in the forest.

So, without further ado, the images!

The cover

The hand-written pages

Details of some of the illustrations

Images of the actual, original book

Ribbon markers

The transcribed pages

Sorry this took so long! I've been a bit unwell, not really been feeling up to posting. I'm working hard to rally for Samhain, though.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Haunted Cemetery and a Hawthorn Tree

Living as I do in the South, we don't really have the "age" that, say, the Northern US, and of course we don't have anything like glorious old castles and graveyards of Europe. Be that as it may, we do have some old (for us) sites that are worth a visit. In my city, one of these would have to be Washington Grove Cemetery.

The cemetery is located in what is now known as "Uptown" and is surrounded by rather tacky, yuppie-ish condos and some nice little bars, restaurants, and pastry shops. Once you walk through the gates, though, it's like stepping back in time. The oldest grave I ever found here dated from the very early 1800's, but the cemetery is so large that, in the middle of it, you really do forget that you're in a big, modern city and feel as though your in a different world. In the Autumn, migrating monarch butterflies make their temporary home in the cemetery, due to the large trees and lack of power lines, and I've also seen (and saw today, in fact) foxes, rats, cats, and other creatures darting between the graves and making their homes inside or on top of the monuments.

The cemetery is beautiful, and not in any way dark, but nevertheless it does have a bit of an "eerie" feeling. I am not a powerful medium by any means, but I can definitely feel a bit of....activity. I would hesitate to call it ghosts per se, but I do think there's a presence of some sort that those who are sensitive to that kind of thing can feel. As always, I'm always very respectful while in the ground; it belongs to the Dead, not the living, and there are few things that anger me more than seeing people littering, smoking, screaming into cell phones, or otherwise dishonouring the sanctity of the graveyard (and don't even get me started on people who turn over stones or otherwise commit vandalism.)

I also happened upon several of what I believe to be Hawthorn bushes. I'm checking with a friend to make sure, but if I am right, imagine....Hawthorn wood and berries from a graveyard! If I do take anything from it, rest assured that I will be very careful not to damage the tree, or to mar its appearance in any way. There were several of them, which makes me wonder who planted them or how long they've been there.

Here are some pictures of the cemetery, and the suspected Hawthorn trees (which are actually more like shrubs.) Hope y'all enjoy! Definitely put me in the Halloween mood....

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Halloween Happenings....

In case you haven't noticed, this is my favourite time of year. I love both Halloween, the secular spooky holiday, AND Samhain/Hallowmas the Pagan/Witch sabbat. I find them tied together, as the decorations I choose (witches, skeletons, ghosts) tend to revolve, however subtly, around the themes of death, magic, and changes. I don't ever go for gore, blood, or anything like that; I much prefer either straightforward reminders of mortality, or cheerful skeletons and ghosts, who remind us that though we may die, we are not gone for good, and that this is the holiday in which the dead are closest to the living.

Anyway, though I'm still not finished, I thought I'd share some images of my Halloween decorations and ritual preparations. Some of these things are up all year, but others are holiday-specific. I still need to lay out my full Hallows altar, and decide on a menu for the dumb supper I plan on holding on the night, but I'm pretty pleased with what I've gotten so far. I've also been baking up a storm, making several different pumpkin-based dished, which of course is always rewarding.

An owl AND a pumpkin? How can you go wrong!?

Some Witches are offended by such Halloween images, but I am not. I like the idea of the Witch as a powerful, otherworldly being who lives by their own standards. This Witch might look "ugly" to our cultural standards of beauty, but she is clearly powerful and in charge! You can see my Stang in the corner.

I've got my Halloween tablecloth on my table, as well as some sparkly pumpkins and some amazing horror-movie dishes I got for next to nothing from the supermarket. On the holiday, this table will be covered in various dishes and plates for my Dumb Supper

The Owl is kind of my "personal symbol" and I have quite a collection of them.

So, here you go. I'll be posting more as the holiday draws closer, as well as sharing some recipes AND the (very late) pictures I promised from "The Witchcraft of Dame Darrel of York."

Hope y'all are well!