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

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Buried Moon

My love of all things English is well known, so imagine my delight when I came across the following resource. Apparently, "The Buried Moon" is rather unique in some ways, and the source of the tale is unclear. However, I recall a very similar tale being told by the evil Mrs. Tuggle in Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's wonderful young adult book "The Witch's Sister." I'm assuming Naylor came across this old story while researching her book. In her tale, however, it was not the Moon but a young child that goes missing in the bog. Naylor's version also lacks the happy ending in the version found here.

Enjoy! You can find the link to the original text after the story.

                          The Buried Moon

"LONG ago, in my grandmother's time, the Carland was all in bogs, great pools of black water, and creeping trickles of green water, and squishy mools which squirted when you stepped on them.
Well, granny used to say how long before her time the Moon herself was once dead and buried in the marshes, and as she used to tell me, I'll tell you all about it.
The Moon up yonder shone and shone, just as she does now, and when she shone she lighted up the bog-pools, so that one could walk about almost as safe as in the day.
But when she didn't shine, out came the Things that dwelt in the darkness and went about seeking to do evil and harm; Bogies and Crawling Horrors, all came out when the Moon didn't shine.
Well, the Moon heard of this, and being kind and good -- as she surely is, shining for us in the night instead of taking her natural rest -- she was main troubled. 'I'll see for myself, I will,' said she, 'maybe it's not so bad as folks make out.'
Sure enough, at the month's end down she stept, wrapped up in a black cloak, and a black hood over her yellow shining hair. Straight she went to the bog edge and looked about her. Water here and water there; waving tussocks and trembling mools, and great black snags all twisted and bent. Before her all was dark -- dark but for the glimmer of the stars in the pools, and the light that came from her own white feet, stealing out of her black cloak.
The Moon drew her cloak faster about and trembled, but she wouldn't go back without seeing all there was to be seen; so on she went, stepping as light as the wind in summer from tuft to tuft between the greedy gurgling water-holes. Just as she came near a big black pool her foot slipped and she was nigh tumbling in. She grabbed with both hands at a snag near by to steady herself with, but as she touched it, it twined itself round her wrists, like a pair of handcuffs, and gript her so that she couldn't move. She pulled and twisted and fought, but it was no good. She was fast, and must stay fast.
Presently as she stood trembling in the dark, wondering if help would come, she heard something calling in the distance, calling, calling, and then dying away with a sob, till the marshes were full of this pitiful crying sound; then she heard steps floundering along, squishing in the mud and slipping on the tufts, and through the darkness she saw a white face with great feared eyes.
'Twas a man strayed in the bogs. Mazed with fear, he struggled on towards the flickering light that looked like help and safety. And when the poor Moon saw that he was coming nigher and nigher to the deep hole, further and further from the path, she was so mad and so sorry that she struggled and fought and pulled harder than ever. And though she couldn't get loose, she twisted and turned, till her black hood fell back off her shining yellow hair, and the beautiful light that came from it drove away the darkness.
Oh, but the man cried with joy to see the light again. And at once all evil things fled back into the dark corners, for they cannot abide the light. So he could see where he was, and where the path was, and how he could get out of the marsh. And he was in such haste to get away from the Quicks, and Bogles, and Things that dwelt there, that he scarce looked at the brave light that came from the beautiful shining yellow hair, streaming out over the black cloak and falling to the water at his feet. And the Moon herself was so taken up with saving him, and with rejoicing that he was back on the right path, that she clean forgot that she needed help herself, and that she was held fast by the Black Snag.
So off he went; spent and gasping, and stumbling and sobbing with joy, flying for his life out of the terrible bogs. Then it came over the Moon she would main like to go with him. So she pulled and fought as if she were mad, till she fell on her knees, spent with tugging, at the foot of the snag. And as she lay there, gasping for breath, the black hood fell forward over her head. So out went the blessed light and back came the darkness, with all its Evil Things, with a screech and a howl. They came crowding round her, mocking and snatching and beating; shrieking with rage and spite, and swearing and snarling, for they knew her for their old enemy, that drove them back into the corners, and kept them from working their wicked wills.
'Drat thee!' yelled the witch-bodies, 'thou'st spoiled our spells this year agone!'
'And us thou sent'st to brood in the corners!' howled the Bogles.
And all the Things joined in with a great 'Ho, ho!' till the very tussocks shook and the water gurgled. And they began again.
'We'll poison her -- poison her!' shrieked the witches.
And 'Ho-ho!' howled the Things again.
'We'll smother her -- smother her!' whispered the Crawling Horrors, and twined themselves round her knees.
And 'Ho, ho!' mocked the rest of them.
And again they all shouted with spite and ill will. And the poor Moon crouched down, and wished she was dead and done with.
And they fought and squabbled what they should do with her, till a pale grey light began to come in the sky; and it drew nigh the dawning. And when they saw that, they were feared lest they shouldn't have time to work their will; and they caught hold of her, with horrid bony fingers, and laid her deep in the water at the foot of the snag. And the Bogles fetched a strange big stone and rolled it on top of her, to keep her from rising. And they told two of the Will-o-the-wykes to take turns in watching on the black snag, to see that she lay safe and still, and couldn't get out to spoil their sport.
And there lay the poor Moon, dead and buried in the bog, till someone would set her loose, and who'd know where to look for her.
Well, the days passed, and 'twas the time for the new moon's coming, and the folk put pennies in their pockets and straws in their caps so as to be ready for her, and looked about, for the Moon was a good friend to the marsh folk, and they were main glad when the dark time was gone, and the paths were safe again, and the Evil Things were driven back by the blessed Light into the darkness and the water-holes.
But days and days passed, and the new Moon never came, and the nights were aye dark, and the Evil Things were worse than ever. And still the days went on, and the new Moon never came. Naturally the poor folk were strangely feared and mazed, and a lot of them went to the Wise Woman who dwelt in the old mill, and asked if so be she could find out where the Moon was gone.
'Well,' said she, after looking in the brewpot, and in the mirror, and in the Book, 'it be main queer, but I can't rightly tell ye what's happened to her. If ye hear of aught, come and tell me.'
So they went their ways; and as days went by, and never a Moon came, naturally they talked -- my word! I reckon they did talk! Their tongues wagged at home, and at the inn, and in the garth. But so came one day, as they sat on the great settle in the inn, a man from the far end of the bog lands was smoking and listening, when all at once he sat up and slapped his knee. 'My faicks!' says he, 'I'd clean forgot, but I reckon I kens where the Moon be!' and he told them of how he was lost in the bogs, and how, when he was nigh dead with fright, the light shone out, and he found the path and got home safe.
So off they all went to the Wise Woman, and told her about it, and she looked long in the pot and the Book again, and then she nodded her head.
'It's dark still, childer, dark!' says she, 'and I can't rightly see, but do as I tell ye, and ye'll find out for yourselves. Go all of ye, just afore the night gathers, put a stone in your mouth, and take a hazel-twig in your hands, and say never a word till you're safe home again. Then walk on and fear not, far into the midst of the marsh, till ye find a coffin, a candle, and a cross. Then ye'll not be far from your Moon; look, and m'appen ye'll find her.'
So came the next night in the darklings, out they went all together, every man with a stone in his mouth, and a hazel-twig in his hand, and feeling, thou may'st reckon, main feared and creepy. And they stumbled and stottered along the paths into the midst of the bogs; they saw naught, though they heard sighings and flutterings in their ears, and felt cold wet fingers touching them; but all at once, looking around for the coffin, the candle, and the cross, while they came nigh to the pool beside the great snag, where the Moon lay buried. And all at once they stopped, quaking and mazed and skeery, for there was the great stone, half in, half out of the water, for all the world like a strange big coffin; and at the head was the black snag, stretching out its two arms in a dark gruesome cross, and on it a tiddy light flickered, like a dying candle. And they all knelt down in the mud, and said, 'Our Lord', first forward, because of the cross, and then backward, to keep off the Bogles; but without speaking out, for they knew that the Evil Things would catch them if they didn't do as the Wise Woman told them.
Then they went nigher, and took hold of the big stone, and shoved it up, and afterwards they said that for one tiddy minute they saw a strange and beautiful face looking up at them glad-like out of the black water; but the Light came so quick and so white and shining, that they stept back mazed with it, and the very next minute, when they could see again, there was the full Moon in the sky, bright and beautiful and kind as ever, shining and smiling down at them, and making the bogs and the paths as clear as day, and stealing into the very corners, as though she'd have driven the darkness and the Bogles clean away if she could."

-Source SurLaLune: The Fairy Tales of Joseph Jacobs

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I hope all of my followers have a merry Christmas, no matter what the day itself means to you on your path.

Last night I attended a contemplative "Winter's Eve" service at our local Unitarian Universalist church. I quite enjoyed it, and it spoke more to the human experience than it did to any one religious view; this mean that Christians, Pagans (like me) or humanists all were able to participate and get something meaningful out of it. I'm spending today cooking up a big meal of Yorkshire pudding, onion gravy, steamed veggies with lemon butter sauce, and chocolate bread pudding for dessert. This is actually my first year EVER away from my friends and family, so it's a little odd, but I've got my new friends here to see so it's not like I'm alone.

Here's a picture of our lovely Christmas tree. I'd better get to cooking, so have a great holiday, everybody!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Winter Witchcraft

Up here in the Pacific Northwest it's finally started to really feel like winter. The trees have been bare of leaves for some weeks now, but there have still been a few sunny days here and there and the temperatures have hovered in the mid 40s. Now, though, we've started to get heavy rains every day and the temperature drops at night into the 30s. Cold, but not freezing (I am too near the coast and at too low of an elevation to get much snow.)

Personally, I always find my magical work becomes a bit more low-key in the winter. Perhaps because so much of what I do involves trees, plants, and the outdoors, it seems a bit harder during the dark winter months to really conjure up much energy. It's easy to sit indoors during the chilly months and pore through old books whilst sipping hot tea. However, the winter has its own magic and is the ideal time to work on the hidden, interior, or "decreasing" aspects of life. The Wild Hunt rides along with the shrieking winter winds, and the spirits of the Dead feel a bit closer during the shorter days and longer nights. I'm personally taking this time indoors and using it to enhance some skills that need work, and to power through a lot of the books I've been meaning to get through.

In other news, a kind new friend has loaned me her copy of "The Psalter Of Cain." I've heard amazing things about this book and have been longing to have a look at it, and now I've got a chance to do so. She and I both have books the other wants, so we're going to be doing our own little lending library system.

In closing, please enjoy this picture of a foggy Oregon mountain. I took this during my drive up here, coming back from my mini-vacation back down South. It was quite unnerving at the time to drive through twisty mountain roads with very poor visibility, but it did make for some interesting pictures.

Misty mountains

Friday, December 14, 2012

There Are No Words

The shooting today at the Connecticut elementary school is beyond tragic; it's of a scale that is literally hard to comprehend. Coming as it does on the heels of the mall shooting in Portland (only a short distance from my home) it raises serious questions about our culture of gun violence in the US. There is something seriously, seriously wrong with us as a society if peoples' reaction to every real or imagined slight is to reach for a gun and start shooting. My every thought and prayer goes out to those who've been affected by this senseless violence, and I feel literally heartbroken when I think of all the families who've been torn apart and will never be the same again.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Victorian Homes and a Historical Christmas

Yesterday I attended a "historical Christmas" event at a nearby fort that dates back to the 1820's. There were volunteers dressed up in 19th century clothing that were singing traditional Christmas songs, cooking a meal in the kitchen-house, and working as blacksmiths. It was quite a fun event, though very crowded (which tends to make me a bit claustrophobic.) After that we visited a row of Victorian-era homes that stands near the fort. Some of them are now offices and could not be entered, but one is a restaurant and the other is open for visitors. They were all beautiful, and the interior of the one we visited was truly breathtaking, with its carved wooden staircases and gorgeous stained glass.

 A few days ago we visited a local tree farm and chopped down our own Christmas tree. I don't think we have any big Christmas plans, but I do plan on cooking a nice meal of shepherd's pie, brussels sprouts, and a chocolate bread pudding for dessert. This is my first Christmas ever spent away from my old hometown, so it's bound to feel a bit "off," but I am SO in love with my new home state that just being here feels like the best Christmas present ever.

Not much new to report on the magic front. Personally, I always find it a bit harder to work Witchcraft in the winter. So much of what I do involves plants and the outdoors, and when it's cold and rainy out there's not much to work with. On the other hand, the "dark half" of the year is the perfect time for working with spirits and the shades of the Dead, which is an area I would like to practice on anyway. At one time it was popular to tell ghost stories during the Christmas season, and in fact I've been reading up on haunted places and legends of the Pacific Northwest. As it happens, I've discovered that the cemetery I like to visit in my new hometown has quite the reputation for being haunted. I haven't encountered anything paranormal there myself, but I have had a bit of an uneasy feeling there at times and plan on investigating further.

Please enjoy some pictures of the historical Christmas event and the beautiful Victorian homes!

The huge fireplace in the kitchen (which was built as a separate structure) at the fort.

The main house, decorated with greenery

The fort

A Victorian home. This one was open to visitors.

The beautiful carved staircase of the above home

The parlour

Victorian Christmas tree

Another Victorian home. This one is now a restaurant.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

How To Restore Old Cast Iron

I know, I know, I've written about this before. However, so many people have asked me how they can restore/season old, rusted cast iron that I thought I would do a step-by-step guide on it. I had a friend who was planning on throwing out his old cauldron because it was rusted and in bad shape. He followed by tips on how to restore it, however, and now it's good as new.

I have some old cast iron cornbread molds given to me by my mother. They've not been used in ages, and were rusty and dirty. Here's how I fixed them up.

1. First, find yourself a good assistant. Fortunately, I had Marmalade here to lend me a paw.

2. Next, you need to clean your cast iron. In the image below, you will see how rusty and stained the old cornbread molds were. Using a good sponge and water (do NOT use soap!) scrub off as much rust and grime as you can. On some items you may have to use very fine steel wool for this, but it's best to test a small area first and make sure there's no scratching. I just used a sponge in this case.

3. Once you have it cleaned and dried, place it in a 300 degree oven for about 10 minutes. This heats it up and helps it to absorb the coating. Once it's good and hot, carefully remove it from the oven and let it sit until it is cool enough to handle comfortable, but still warm. At this stage, you need to apply the seasoning. I use plain old Crisco, but you can also use vegetable oil. Do NOT, however, use olive oil because it will go rancid! Apply a thin coating to the entire cast iron piece, using your fingers or a soft cloth. It's important to apply enough, but do not go overboard because you can end up leaving a tacky film. Below you can see the greased cast iron molds.

4. Now that you've got your coating on, put the cast iron in the oven at about 325-350 degrees for an hour and a half. It's best to put down a cookie sheet with some foil over it on the lower rack beneath the cast iron; this will help catch any drips. Now, while it's baking you will smell a strange metallic smell; this is nothing to worry about.

5. When the hour and a half is done, turn off the oven, open the door, and let the cast iron gradually cool down. When it's completely cool, take it out and voila! You are all done. Your cast iron piece is now restored and ready to cook with. Be sure to maintain your results by IMMEDIATELY cleaning it out after each use using only water and a soft cloth. You will probably need to re-season it every year or so. Below, you can see my finished result. Look at how pretty and black it turned out! Nothing cooks like cast iron does.

In other news, I have returned to the South for a few weeks to visit family. I already miss my new home in the Pacific Northwest, and am very much looking forward to returning next week.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hallowe'en Happenings

It's a wee bit late, but I did want to share some of my Hallowe'en activities. This was my first year in my new Pacific Northwest home, so I was not able to decorate or celebrate as much as I would have liked. I am still getting settled in, there's been a lot of things to replace, and I've been without a car for a few months while I waited to go back and get mine from down South. Never the less, I did manage to visit the local historic cemetery, carve my usual Jack O' Lanterns, and perform my Hallowe'en ritual/ offerings to the Ancestors.

Hallowe'en is by far my favourite time of year, doubly so now that I live in a climate with an actual Fall season. Watching the leaves change and feeling the Veil begin to think never ceases to give me a thrill. I also love all of the trappings of the Hallowe'en season; the black and orange, the fat pumpkins on every doorstep, and the cardboard cutouts of Witches and ghosts that festoon most of the houses. It's fascinating to me that something as ancient and steeped in rather dark folklore as Hallowe'en is is still being celebrated today.....in America.....by people who (mostly) do not understand the origins of the customs.

Incidentally, they say that from an astrological standpoint, or using the "Old" calendar, that Samhain actually falls around November 6th to the 11th. So, don't put away those black candles and offerings just yet.....

I don't photograph my rituals or working tools, but here are some images of my Hallowe'en decorations as well as of my new town and local cemetery.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The First Fire of the Year

Behold, the first fire of the year! Now, keep in mind, I've just moved to the Pacific Northwest from Texas. Back home, it stays in the 80's all the way through October. In my new home, however, it's chilly, windy, and grey......in other words, just how Autumn SHOULD be. We've also been getting quite a bit of rain. My new place does not have central air, and I don't like to use the heater anyway, so I've been bundled up under blankets and wrapped in sweaters. Tonight, we made the first of what is sure to be many winter fires. I'm very much looking forward to spending long hours in front of the fireplace with a book and a good cup of hot tea!

In other news, my Hallowe'en preparations are coming along. Despite a few personal setbacks, I'm still quite excited about the holiday. I'm also pleased to report that my sprained ankle/foot is doing a bit better; it's still pretty sore, but I can put my weight on it now.

Monday, October 15, 2012

An Ill-Timed Accident

It's been rainy, dark, and chilly here all week which of course has meant some time spent indoors. Yesterday, while my housemate was away, I decided  to make a cup of tea as I needed a bit of a pick-me-up. So, I headed down towards the kitchen. I'm still not entirely sure what happened, but about 4-5 steps up from the first floor something went wrong and I fell down the stairs. I have a memory of feeling "nothing" beneath my feet, and the next thing I knew I was laying on my right side on the hardwood floor. I knew immediately that I was injured; my right leg and left foot were in a lot of pain, and my right arm was hurting from where I had landed on it. My cell phone had come out of my pocket, went flying, and smashed to bits on the floor. I managed to get up, gather the pieces, and hopped back up to my bedroom in a daze.

At first I thought that maybe I'd just bruised something, but my right foot was very tender and as the hours went on it began to swell. I had a very rough night and got little sleep because the pain has continued to worsen. When my housemate wakes up  he's going to take my to the ER for x-rays.  I probably should have gone last night, but I did not fancy waiting hours in the lobby for a doctor and anyway, I didn't realize it was as bad as it was. I'm afraid my right foot may be broken; at the very least, it's extremely painful and I am not able to put any weight on it at all. This could not have come at a worse time; Hallowe'en is my favourite holiday, this is my first autumn season in my new Pacific Northwest home, and I have a Hallowe'en party scheduled at home in a bit over a week. While I'm very grateful that I wasn't hurt worse or even killed by my fall (and it was a pretty long one) I'm also angry at myself for managing to fall down the stairs in the first place. I put my phone back together, and though it still works it's going to have to be replaced.

So, I hope all of my readers will send me healing thoughts. I simply cannot bear to be  unable to walk, and I'm hoping the doctors will be able to put my right pretty quickly. I'll update this once I get back from the hospital and get an accurate diagnosis.

Update: I've been to the emergency room and back. After some x-rays they determined that I did not break any bones. However, I've sprained my foot and ankle rather badly.  I have to wear a special boot brace and be on crutches for a few weeks at least. Apparently, a sprain in this area can hurt even more than a break. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I heal up quickly.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Cemetery in Autumn

Today, I went with a friend and visited the historical cemetery located not far from my new home. The graves date back to not much earlier than the mid 1850s, but the place has an aura of history about it that makes it captivating. It was a perfect Fall day, and the rays of the setting sun really caught on the trees and gave the graveyard an otherworldly glow. It wasn't hard to feel the presence of the Spirit World.

The cemetery view

An unusual stone

Another unique tomb

Tall trees in the center

Oven-style tomb

Autumn finery

A twisted tree

The tree

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hallowe'en Approaches!

October is finally upon us, and Hallowe'en approaches. This will be my first Hallows in my new home, and I am quite excited about it. When I still lived in Texas, October was likely to be hot and much the same as summer. In my new Pacific Northwest home, however, it's definitely Autumn now. The days are cool, the nights chilly, and the trees are changing to beautiful shades  of red and gold and yellow.

Oregon is well known for its farming, and every year it's possible to go and pick your own  fruit at some of the local farms. It's past the season for blackberries and blueberries, but it's just the time for pumpkins. I'm going to be visiting a local farm soon where you can pick your own pumpkins, visit a corn maze, and do all kinds of Hallowe'en related activities. I also need to get my ancestor altar up and running; unfortunately, I don't have a lot of space in my new bedroom, and as I share my house with non-magical people I am limited as to where I can work.

I've added a picture of the mountains and low-hanging clouds that I took during my trip to the Tillamook cheese factory last week. I'll be posting more about that later. I hope you enjoy, and I hope that all of my readers are having a good Fall so far.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Deep Forests, Rose Gardens, And Autumn in The Pacific Northwest

Well, I've made it to my new home in the Pacific Northwest. The drive from Texas was a long, long hard one and yet somehow still enjoyable. It was nice to see so much of the country, and even more so to watch the weather and terrain change the farther we got from what used to be "home." I never really fit that well into Texas; the lack of seasons, lack of forests, and extreme heat just became unlivable to me. Though I've only been in my new home for less than a week now, I can already tell that this is MUCH more my kind of place.

The area I live in now is surrounded by huge forests, and trees are everywhere even in the city. There are laws in place here that limit the use of billboards and above-ground wires, so the sky is largely free from ugly power lines and massive signs. I live in a relatively small city, so there's a lot less people running around and things feel less hectic. Best of all, I'm delighted to already see signs of autumn appearing. We didn't have a Fall season at my old place; it was just hot all year until December or so, when it got a little chilly for a few weeks. Here, though, the mornings are already down into the low 50's and the days have a crisp, breezy feel that is heavenly. I have some beautiful, huge Oaks and Sycamores in both the front and back of my new place, and they have started to change orange and red and golden as have other trees nearby. It's going to be lovely as the season progresses and the streets are filled with fallen leaves. I'm going to visit the local Farmer's Market later today to see if they already have their pumpkins out.

From a Witchcraft perspective, my new home is also quite an improvement. Clearly the deep forests, changing seasons, and rocky coasts are much more conducive to magic than the concrete-and-stripmall terrain of where I came from. I'm finally going to be able to harvest many of my plants directly from nature, and can grow things such as mandrake that would not tolerate the Texas climate. My area also had quite a large assortment of Witches and occultists of various stripes, so I'm hoping to make new friends and possibly working partners in the near future.

I thought I would end this post by posting some pictures of my new surrounding. Some of them were taken at the Portland Rose Gardens, and others are various shots taken along the way. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

On The Road

Yesterday I packed up my Texas apartment into a UHaul and made my way to my friend's place so we could pack the moving pod. We're leaving tomorrow on our way to Oregon. It's going to be quite the road trip, but I'm really looking forward to it. The Pacific Northwest is an ideal location for Witches; many sacred trees such as Rowan and Hazel grow there, and the huge forests are ideal working spots and guarantee privacy. Of course I'll be posting loads of pictures of my new home when I get there.

It's interesting how much a cross-country move in some way mirrors an initiatory experience. You lose your ordered way of living, undergo frightening trials (try driving a UHaul for hours on the freeway and in downtown!) and then have to rebuild your life from the ground up before expanding into something new and different. It's also made me become less dependent on physical things; when you have a finite amount of space, you tend to keep only what is really important and let go of what is not.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Magical Move

In the next couple of weeks I will be moving to the Pacific Northwest. It's something I've contemplated for a while but have only now really had the chance to do. Texas just is not the place for me; I cannot take the extreme heat and lack of forests anymore. To me, the climate where I will be living is much more conducive to magic, and the huge old-growth forests hold a lot of attraction for me. It's always been my dream to live in England, but as that's not possible the Pacific Northwest has almost the same climate and similar terrain in some parts. I will finally be able to have my English Cottage Garden! At any rate, I will be in transition for the next few weeks and may not post regularly until I'm in my new home.

In a more amusing vein, I'm learning the hard way that it's hard to move as a Witch. Of course, I don't feel comfortable shipping my ritual tools so I am having to pack them into a box so I can take them on the road with me. I've also got so many boxes of candles and oils that cannot be subjected to heat that I don't know what to do with them. Finally, the larger items like my Stang (which is almost 6 feet tall) and besoms are unwieldy and difficult to move discreetly. If anybody's got suggestions for moving such things, please let me know as I would appreciate it.

This will be the first time I've moved so far away from my birthplace, at least as an adult (I had a brief stay in Arizona as a child.) Though it's kind of scary, and because of my poor health extremely taxing, I know this is the right thing to do and I very much look forward to roaming the huge forests and visiting the sea.

Here are a few images I found online to demonstrate what my new home's surrounding will be like.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

My Sympathy

I wanted to take this opportunity to extend my sincerest sympathies to those affected by the senseless acts of violence committed today at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin. Details are sketchy at the moment, but it sounds as though it was a hate crime directed at a religious minority. As a Pagan, I'm only too aware that there is still much hatred directed against non-standard religions in the US. Terrible events like this remind us that there is still a long, long way to go before we can hope for an end to the cycle of violence and hatred. I hope that all my readers, of any religious persuasion (or none) will take a moment from their day and send thoughts of healing to those who have been hurt or who have lost loved ones in this terrible, cowardly attack.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Black Toad: A Review

I got my hardback copy of Gemma Gary's new "The Black Toad" last week. I have to say, I am very, very impressed and now consider it one of my "top 5" along with Doreen Valiente's "Witchcraft for Tomorrow,""Mastering Witchcraft" by Paul Huson, and Gary's own earlier work "Traditional Witchcraft: A Cornish Book of Ways."

"The Black Toad" expands on some of the themes we saw earlier in "Traditional Witchcraft," but "Toad" reads much more like a how-to/practical grimoire and with less theory and history than "Traditional." It also contains many highly traditional charms, most of which are of the "dual faith" persuasion that was a hallmark of Cunning folk practice. In such cases the charms themselves (some of which are very old) seem to have Pagan origins but with Christian deities grafted onto them at a later date. Others are various Psalms which have been traditionally used for magical purposes. In my own practice I confess to having struggled with such workings; obviously, I do not consider myself a Christian. However, such spells ARE very traditional and have a lot of power behind them, and I usually go with what works and the Psalms tend to be very effective indeed.

"The Black Toad" is divided up into chapters according to need. The first part deals with power and protective magic, the second with wort-cunning, and the third with darker Craft aspects such as cursing and binding. There is a lot of new material that I have never come across anywhere else (I had no idea that Parsley had an evil reputation amongst certain regional folk!) and the book, in my mind, is probably THE most accurate glimpse into how the Witches of the past operated. I would not consider it a book for beginners; it's very much a guidebook for the working Witch well past the 101 stage. I consider it a must-have for anyone with a love of English witchery and traditional practices. The book itself is beautifully bound and includes many brand-new line drawings and photographs of Witchcraft artifacts and activities. Highly, highly recommended.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ode to a Nightingale

MY heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
’Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,—
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs,
Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays;
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves;
And mid-May’s eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
To thy high requiem become a sod.

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that oft-times hath
Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toil me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?

-John Keats

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"Witches, Pumpkins, and Grinning Ghosts"

I bought an old favourite of mine from my childhood called "Witches, Pumpkins, and Grinning Ghosts" by Edna Barth. First published in 1972, I came across this book in my school library when I was around 10 years old (not in 1972.) It purports to be a history of various Hallowe'en symbols such as Witches, ghosts, pumpkins, owls, etc. Actually, the history in it is terrible: it claims that the ancient Celts worshiped a God called "Samhain"and that organized covens of Witches existed back to the Stone Age! However, it's still an enjoyable read and as a child it was HUGELY influential on me because of how it portrayed Witches. This book was the first I ever came across that discussed the idea of the Witch Cult as a Pagan fertility religion focused on the worship of a Horned God. Clearly taking a page out of Margaret Murray's books, "Witches, Pumpkins, and Grinning Ghosts"offered a sympathetic, relatively positive view of Paganism and despite its flaws did give a fairly accurate portrayal of magical practices and the origin of the Witch's  broom, cauldron, and familiars.

Prior to this book, the only Witches I'd managed to read about had either been portrayed as fictional or Satanic. To find out that there was (by this time, anyway) a Pagan religion based around Witchcraft that offered a more joyful and organic alternative to Christianity was  a huge "ah ha!" moment for me. This was one of the first times that my own feelings and beliefs had been validated, and I cannot overemphasize the effect this had on me. The rest of the book, which goes into detail about owls, toads, and cats as well as the history of trick or treating, is also a fun read. Above all, the book is very atmospheric and is definitely a good one to read in the Hallowe'en season.

I've been spending a lot of time recently tracking down copies of the first Witch books I came across as a young person, and I'm finding that I was very lucky to have come across the works I did. Such books definitely had a huge influence on me, and to this day I still draw upon the spirit of them even if some of the history wasn't always the best.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A New Acquisition: "Qutub: Or, The Point"

I managed to buy a decently priced copy of Andrew Chumbley's "Qutub" from a friend. For those who don't know who that is, he was an occult writer known for his lavishly illustrated books about what is known as Sabbatic Craft. He died years ago at the early age of 37 and his books, which were already sought after and costly, skyrocketed in price as they were only printed in small batches one time. It's not uncommon to find copies available on Ebay or similar for up to $1000.

I've barely had a chance to look at the book (which, by the way, is my first of his) but it's clearly a challenging read. Written in the style of a long, continuous poem the concepts within are couched in heavily symbolic language and an affected writing style. The book itself is quite small, but clearly it's going to be a time -consuming endeavor to both read and comprehend it.