Tag Archives: witchcraft

A guest blog from Zoe Murphy

Brightest Blessings Blog Followers!

 

Before I introduce myself properly, I’d like to give a shout out to Nimue for giving me the wonderful opportunity to be a guest blogger on this beautiful blog. It warms my babywitch heart when writers/artists/creators support and show love for each other. For this post, Nimue asked us to possibly look at ‘living traditions.’

So, babywitch you may have read…yes, I am a baby witch, a witchling, an apprentice witch or whatever you’d like to coin me as and I am about eighteen months into my amazing, eye opening, affirming, incredible journey into witchcraft and spirituality. To be honest I didn’t find witchcraft, it found me and it found me through my irreplaceable mentor, craft mother, mama witch and very, very good friend Joolz Raven Stewart. This woman is amazing and has brought about a pivotal and important change and lifelong chapter into my life.

I am now known as This Welsh Witch on my social media channels and like I said above, I’m very much in the infancy of my learning so I am a maiden so to speak! I have actually found a warm and embracing witch and spiritual community on Instagram with some badass witches who regularly share resources and ideas and support each other’s ventures all the way. I have actually learnt a lot from the World Wide Web and while it gets a bad rap, for me and my learning it has been invaluable for contacts and study. It is now part of my daily life and learning. I am actually a Hekatean neophyte and very proud to be so. I am currently studying Hekatean Applied Modern Witchcraft by using an amazing book called ‘Keeping Her Keys’ by Cindy Branden. It’s a fantastic book and resource and will take me a year and a day (a traditional witchcraft period of study) to complete all the lessons. Hecate is the most fierce, complicated and renegade goddess I’ve read about~ Queen of the Witches~ but that’s another blog post/discussion altogether…;-)

I could discuss Hecate and witchcraft for days but my particular focus with this post is Welsh mythology, legends and the gwrachod- Welsh for witches. I am fiercely and immensely patriotic and proud of our rich and deep heritage and our language (I am a frustrated non-Welsh speaker haha) and as much as I am dedicated to my goddess Hecate, I will also be honouring the country of my birth.

I have been reading a brilliant book called ‘Welsh Witchcraft, Charms and Spells’ by Marie Trevelyan and I have been researching Welsh mythology for around seven years for my debut novel, which incidentally is due out this year. The crafting and writing of my novel has taught me so much about witchcraft that I’m hoping it will provide people with a insight into the tradition of Welsh witchcraft to carry forward. The novel and subsequent series will be a large part of my little legacy I hope!

I have also started my own hashtag, the #welshwitchseries which focuses on the legends and mythological aspects of Wales. What I have come across is that there is a wealth of knowledge among people regarding Greek myths. However, there isn’t a whole lot about Welsh ones and our heritage contains such a lavish tapestry of tales, oral traditions and a wide pantheon that it seems a shame not to bring it to the fore. I have always connected so much to Cymru on a spiritual level and it’s even deeper now because I know we have a very strong mythological identity. Obviously, we have the undeniable Mabinogion but there are also so many more creatures, figures and stories within the realm of Welsh mythology.

One aspect of my witchcraft life is my homemade charm/spell bags that I have recently listed in my Etsy shop and the bags names, intentions and contents all correspond to the Welsh language, historical figures or the tales of Wales. Within the range there are bags for Harmoni, Joio, Cwtch, Seren and Pilli Pala which pertain to manifesting harmony, joy, love, peaceful sleep and transformation. I have also bags for Cerridwen, Arianrhod and Gwenllian. I think a lot of people will be familiar with those last three and these have been a focus of my #welshwitchseries posts. As part of my #welshwitchseries posts I have also been honouring several old customs and traditions such as Nos Calan Gaeaf, Nos Calan Mai and the Mari Lwyd.

Cerridwen was on the table as a possible contender for my dedication but I was drawn to Hecate instead. You could probably call Cerridwen the Welsh equivalent of Hecate and she is still a strong warrior goddess witch that you could call upon. Cerridwen represents magic, wisdom and creative inspiration and a lot of people will know about her creation of the bard Taliesin! Arianrhod is the goddess of fertility, rebirth and the weaving of time and fate. She is also strongly linked with the moon; lunar practice being embedded in witchcraft and rituals. Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd was a warrior princess of Wales and was beheaded defending the country.

To conclude this post, in terms of my own ‘living tradition’ I have tried to imbue the qualities that these fierce women embody, into my own life and my practice. The tales of these female figures and their narratives have been passed down through oral tradition and are a symbolic part of Welsh heritage and by learning about them and extending my knowledge I feel like I have become part of another community and the wider witchcraft community. Witchcraft is becoming slowly more accepted in certain parts of society and what could be more living tradition than a lifestyle and practice that reaches back years and years and that also teaches you to reclaim your personal power. Witchcraft is teaching me to look within the depths of myself and teaching me to embrace the universe and its energy and to harness it for the good of myself and others.

I am hoping that I become part of that living tradition by passing it on to my children who can become the next tradition bearers but for now I am very much living!

IG: @thiswelshwitch

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Ancient Spellcraft – a review

Laura Perry’s Ancient Spellcraft is a really interesting read, regardless of whether you’re a spellcaster. Let me start by clarifying that I do not work spells in any kind of witchy style, so I’m certainly not the person for whom the book is intended – it is written for people who want to use it to do magic. I find books about magic fascinating, however, and as a consequence have read quite a few such along the way.

Ancient Spellcraft is one of the most interesting spellbooks I’ve ever read. Author Laura Perry draws on what we know of a number of ancient Pagan cultures, to create a way of working that is likely a much better reflection of ancient practice than anything else you’ll find in modern witchcraft.

For most of our ancestors, life was not compartmentalised in the way it is today. Healing, magic, religion, luck, and so forth were all interconnected. Divination comes from the same word roots as divine – because it is the business of the Gods. Equally, all forms of magic were an appeal to divine powers for assistance. The lines between magic and prayer were not distinct. Who you might call upon, and how, and to what effect is an interesting area to explore, which this book does well.

The concerns of our ancient ancestors were not so very different from our modern concerns, in essence. Protection, security, love, sufficiency in the basics of life and a sense of what might be coming are things people have always wanted to know about. I like how this book gives us that sense of connection with our ancestors and puts our concerns into historical context.

The spells in this book draw on historical insights, but have been adapted to be suitable for the modern practitioner. I would have loved more details about the sourcing, and the adaptation process, but that would have resulted in a very different book, probably less useful for anyone who wants to work spells.

Laura Perry has put together something readable, accessible and fascinating. If you want to develop a deity-orientated magical practice, this would be the ideal place to start.

 

More about the book here – http://www.lauraperryauthor.com/ancient-spellcraft


At the Magical Crossroads in Scotland, 1979

A guest post by Suzanne d’Corsey

When Nimue Brown kindly invited me to offer a guest blog to her site, spurred by the publication of my novel The Bonnie Road, the topic of witchcraft in the book was the obvious choice to explore.

The Bonnie Road takes place at a pivotal time in the history of our Western neo-Paganism, in Scotland, 1979. This was when the secretive followers of the Auld Ways existed in a relatively static state; when a quiet movement was underway to uncover and make meaningful a pre-Christian legacy; when many strands twined together in the New Age movement, of passionate explorers of lay lines, earth mysteries, of UFO sightings, of Findhorn finding its feet, all these trends rising against the backdrop of Margaret Thatcher’s new government. Add to the mixture the encroachment from England of a relatively new style of witchcraft that came to be known as Wicca, and it was a swirling, heady, occult, confusing and exciting time for seekers. The face of neo-Paganism- and Scotland- was about to change forever.

When I began writing the novel, many years ago, the magical maelstrom was not my primary focus, at all. It was a by-product of simply setting this novel in a time and place I knew well, populated with eccentric characters which included the witches. (Not that ‘witch’ was used as a positive reference back then.)

The people I knew in Fife and further afield, who actually practiced the old customs and kept a sort of country wisdom, may or may not have been influenced by various other movements through the previous couple of centuries, including the Celtic Revival, Spiritualism and all. While the wonderful Silver Bough by F Marian McNeill was available, it was a description of what the people were doing at the time, not a research tool to discover Scotland’s pagan remnants, unless one were drawn to the study of folklore. Rather, the last major player to dramatically affect the expression and beliefs of the magical ways in Scotland was the Reformation and Calvinism. How curious then, that the next huge change would come from “The Wica,” as it gradually made its way north, till it caught fire and blazed across the world. But back then, this was the farthest thing from anyone’s mind, including those few Wiccan pioneers in Scotland, for whom secrecy was the norm.

I include a good few scenes in the novel of the uneasy alliance between Morag the Scottish town ‘witch’ and the secret coven in a neighboring village. To whet your appetite, here is a scene from the novel, part of Morag’s musings as she is in process of seducing one of the young coven initiates. I chose it because it draws in all the magical threads, of Scottish witchcraft, of Alastair Crowley, of the new Wiccans:

There was a new style of witchcraft migrating north from the Sassenachs. Morag had been tipped off a few years past when rumors circulated about “the Strathkinness coven.” The wee village already boasted a resident witch from a century past, who could gang aboot invisibly, and did all the usual folkish mischief. Her specialty was transferring her neighbor’s butter to her own churn. Caught in the act of cantrips on the last night of the year, she was overheard to make a charm by spinning a cow’s hide tether about her head and singing “Hare’s milk and Mare’s milk, an’ a’ the beas’ that bears milk, come tae me!” She must have been a lazy besum that she couldn’t churn her own butter, though Morag would never begrudge the use of spellwork to effect changes. The witch would also gang into a hare, a popular game among the auld Scots witches, emerging with the inevitable gunshot wound from a confused farmer, thus proving the witch’s credentials. Considering that Morag often enough flew on the raven’s wing, she knew this talent to be entirely feasible.

The magical group was very different, insofar as Morag could ascertain. Secretive coven- formed, a hierarchical High Priest and Priestess requiring initiation, magic which seemed to be codified in a process in the context of ritual. She knew how Alastair Crowley did things well enough. Her grandmother Morag had visited him in his house on Loch Ness, called Boleskine, and enjoyed some “parties’ there. There was a similar structure to their ritual, what with protective circles and invoking this and banishing that with much brandishing of swords and sticks and all, and being joyfully out of their minds with drugs and trance. Young and beautiful grandmother Morag had been made welcome, right enough, by the Master of Boleskine, who was curious to uncover the auld Scots magic, indeed to test whether it legitimately worked for his own purposes. Which were not at all the same purposes as that of a Scottish witch; the one a clever magus, the other kin to the wild. And so they came together like a hunter and a wild deer, enjoyed the exchange, kissed in kindness, and departed back to their own kind.
But this English group was quite different from Crowley’s Boleskine frolics. Staid. Proper. Genteel. At last she might be able to uncover the truth of their existence. Far as spying went, what could possibly be more enjoyable, and effective, than seducing the lovely young initiates of the so-called secret coven? That made everybody happy. A little magic of her own, and the lover, lost in a blissful trance, would barely recall any of his pillow talk. (Pgs. 103-4, The Bonnie Road)

Needless to say, things escalate, as they will when personal agendas are played out, in this instance through practical jokes, seduction, alliances and unexpected twists and turns leading to a horrific episode at Samhuinn in the Highlands. Depending on your viewpoint, of course.
I have taken great pleasure in layering descriptions of how things really were in the late 70s in Scotland among the followers of the Auld Ways, throughout the novel. It is only now, in hindsight, I come to find I’ve described a time that is slipping away from memory, or worse, being revised and often misinterpreted. If The Bonnie Road helps to shine a light on this dark time of Scottish witchcraft, and does so in an entertaining and enlightening way, no one will be more pleased than I.

“Let us open our eyes to the great mysteries that surround us…. for in them is our only solace in this fleeting world.” – Quote by Morag Gilbride, The Bonnie Road

www.suzannedcorsey.com
www.thunderpoint.co.uk


Kitchen Witch

rachelI knew nothing about Rachel Patterson when I first started reading her books. The kitchen witchcraft aspect appealed to me greatly. It sounds earthy, pragmatic and suitable for everyday use. And indeed, her work is all of these things, with added charm and humour for good measure. Like me, she’s someone who believes in cake as an important part of life.

Her titles at present are as follows (but she’s uber-prolific, so if you’re reading this post a while after I blogged, there’s probably more…) and while I haven’t read all of them, her style and approach in what I have read incline me to say this is an author I trust. I think she’s also a good author for your younger witchy types, because she’s accessible and responsible in equal measure.

Pagan Portals Kitchen Witchcraft  

Grimoire of a Kitchen Witch

Pagan Portals Hoodoo

Pagan Portals Moon Magic

A Kitchen Witch’s World of Magical Herbs

A Kitchen Witch’s World of Magical Food

 

Here’s some samples of her work, to give you a bit of a flavour…

“A woman stands hunched over an old wooden table, pestle and mortar in her hands, grinding away at a mixture of ingredients.  A large white candle stands on the table beside her the flame flickering and spluttering.   Open in front of her lies a huge leather bound book, the pages well worn and filled with beautifully written spells.   Sounds like a scene from medieval times?  Actually it could be now; it could be me (or you) in a town house kitchen, or an apartment in the city.  This is a witch at work, same scene, same utensils, and same ingredients now as it was centuries ago.”

Pagan Portals Kitchen Witchcraft

“Food is magical, not just because of the amazing tastes, flavours and aromas but also for the magical properties it holds.   The magic starts with the choice of food to use and it can then be added in whilst you are preparing and cooking then the magic unfolds as people enjoy your food.   Dishes can be created for specific intents, moon phases, and rituals, to celebrate sabbats or just to bring the magic into your family meal. Many food ingredients can also be used very successfully in magical workings in the form of offerings, medicine pouches, witches bottles and poppets.”

A Kitchen Witch’s World of Magical Food

 

While I don’t self-identify with witchcraft at all, if I did, kitchen witchery would undoubtedly be part of my mix. As a Druid, I’m a maker of cakes and puddings to mark the seasons, festivals and rites of passage. I like the kind of medicinal herb that goes straight in the cooking (garlic!) and I like approaches to magic that are about our daily lives.


History of the troubled mind

I recently read a book on witchcraft – looking at historical witch-hunters. One of the things that struck me is that there was a time when what we now call depression, could be interpreted as magical attack – the consequence of a curse, or being afflicted by malign spirits sent to harass you. The same book also referred to melancholia, the condition of unbalanced humours. Back in the days when a person had a mix of choleric, sanguine, melancholic and phlegmatic that made up the balance of their personality and physicality, a person with too much melancholic influence, would be mournful. Depression explained!

Once upon a time, if you heard voices you were either divinely inspired or afflicted by demons. Now you have schizophrenia. Go back a few hundred years, and the uncontrollable voicing of obscenities would indicate you’d been attacked by a witch. These days, you’ll have Touretts syndrome. To be a lunatic, was to be under the strange influence of the moon. Today you might be diagnosed as having a psychotic episode.

The language of mental health has changed. It sounds scientific. You get syndromes, not curses. We talk of brain chemistry rather than lunar influences and humours. Sometimes medicating to rebalance the brain chemistry solves everything. Sometimes it doesn’t. Yes, the language has changed a lot, and how we relate to mental health has changed alongside the language. The very ailments that are labelled as ‘mental health’ issues would, in other times, have been understood as moral ailments, or afflictions of the soul, instead. Modern medicine does not like to think in terms of morality and soul. It prefers ‘healthy lifestyle’ as a term.

The same core issues remain. The labels have changed, along with the logic of the labelling. How we relate to treatment has changed, but not, really speaking, the way in which we tend to stigmatise the sufferer. Perhaps the biggest change is that, as a crazy visionary, you are much less likely to become a saint or prophet these days, that door is closed for now. You just get to be ill.

Perhaps there was a good thing about ascribing poor mental health to curses, and other magical influences. The afflicted person in this context was an unfortunate victim, but might not be responsible. They could have been cursed because of envy. In a world view that saw witchcraft as tending towards evil (and the mediaeval mindset most certainly did include this perspective) the victim of wicked enchantment is not to be blamed. On the downside, some poor scapegoat may be blamed instead, and the consequences when that happened could be dire, and probably of very little use to the person suffering from what we would understand as mental illness.

We’re not much better at curing malaises of the mind and spirit than were our medieval forebears. We are better at medicating people into compliance, but in terms of fixing afflictions, not a great deal has really changed. Tranquilising people is not the same as curing them. We have new words for some very old problems, but I’m not convinced we have any more functional understanding of it than our ancestors did. Yes, it may be more technically accurate to talk about a neurotransmitter in the brain, than a demon, but as I can’t see the chemicals in my brain, that’s as abstract to me as the little chap with horns and a pitchfork. Wonky brain chemistry or demon infested, there’s still not a heck of a lot I can do some days to put myself right.

It makes me wonder if we are in fact still as wide of the mark on mental health issues as our predecessors probably were with afflictions of unbalanced humours and malevolent witchcraft.