Sunday, December 23, 2012

Montol Eve

The main event of the festival is Montol Eve on the 21st of December every year. During the evening processions of individuals known as Geeze dancers can be seen throughout the town, carrying lanterns, wearing masks and traditional costumes.

The Lord of Misrule is chosen from among the masked revelers.

During this midwinter festival the spirit of the dark half of the year is known as Bucca Dhu the dark spirit who plays with the Mare of winter solstice.

 The Mock is the Cornish Yule Log, a member of the public is chosen to mark the Mock with a stick man. In tradition this represents either the Christ Child or Old Father Time marking the death of the year, or the celebration of the birth of Christ "the light of the world".

To learn more:Living History in Cornwall and Cornish Culture

Photos curtosy of Wikipedia:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Household Spirits

A household spirit protects one's home.  They can be described as a spirit bonded to the family as a whole or even to individual members.  They are steadfast in their duties but can appear fragile in appearance and emotion.

Within traditional Pagan folklore, there are two types; house spirits and hearth deities, sometimes described as domestic goddesses.  This is a common belief in Irish, Norse and Greek mythology along with many cultures of the past. Examples include: Brighid, a goddess in Celtic paganism; Frigg of the Norse; Hestia, a hearth goddess to the Greeks; Vesta of the traditional Roman region; Gabija of Baltic paganism and Matka Gabia in Slavic lands.  Temples and shrines have housed representations of these deities throughout the world.

A second type of household deity is honored within the home itself opposed to a separate temple being constructed for them.  The observance takes place on the household hearth making it the focus of adoration and gratitude.  Within some family traditions the god or spirit of the hearth is invited to join in at meals with the family itself.  In other traditions or at specific times of the year offerings of food and drink, many times milk and a small cake, are left on the hearth or mantle acknowledging the spirit's need for privacy.

Found in the north and midlands of England, a spirit known as a Hob is invited to live in the garden or in the house by the family residing there.  Many times permission is widened allowing travel between the land, farm and the home.  A Hob, like Dobby in the Harry Potter movies, may reside with a given family for generations.  They can be helpful as in the  famous account of a Hob called the 'Hobthrust' lived near Runswick Bay in a 'hobhole', and was said to be able to cure whooping cough. However, if offended, Hobs and other household spirits can create havoc.  There are further accounts in folklore of a set of new clothes being given to the troublesome Hob as a symbol of their freedom, granted by the family and signaling the end of any further household service.

Brownies is the most industrious of the household spirits.  Well known in the country of Scotland, they will help with farm work, tending animals needs, cleaning barn and house Alike. Kitchen work as in the task of helping grind grain to flour, sweeping the floor, tidying up after everyone has gone to bed, really anything you or I might find tedious, is of no bother to them whatsoever. The only payment that would be accepted without insult is a small cup of fine cream, milk and a bit of cake or bread.

The 'cofgoda, meaning house-god in Old English, is the forerunner of the Hob or Brownie.  A derivation of the word Hob is hobgoblin, is a fond title used by English gypsies.

Dísir (sing. dís) a term for 'woman' or 'sister' is known as a household guardian in both Scandinavian and Norse folklore and myth. They differ from the faerie of common folklore in that they are the human-spirits of the deceased kin who remain behind to watch over their loved ones. H.R. Ellis-Davidson describes them thus:

'Evidently such female guardian spirits are not linked with the land like the Vanir or land-spirits, since they may travel over the sea to reach the men they are protecting. Their link is rather with a particular family, and they seem to symbolize the luck which can be passed on from one generation to another.'

Below a prayer from Sigrdrífumál St. 11, advises expectant mothers to seek their aid:

'Learn help runes eke, if help thou wilt
a woman to bring forth her babe;
on they palms wear them and grasp her wrists,
and ask the dísir's aid.'

 Within English tradition milk and bread are taken to the hearth on the Solstice night.  A candle is carried and lit on the hearth or mantle.  A small empty bowl is placed there allowing each member of the house to pour a wee bit of milk into it followed by dropping in a small piece of the bread.  The eldest female family member then speaks to the spirits by addressing the departed kin; thanking them for their steadfast watchfulness and care over the past year. She asks that this offering be accepted and that their protection and aid may continue into the year to come.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Wildwood Lord

The Wild-wood Lord is the energy of the land. Although antlered and animal-like, there is a human quality that startles and beckons the crafter into a different woodland glade.

The Wild-wood Lord is nature at it's core. There is no father-figure here. Standing off at a distance his gaze is fixed, eyes feral, his breath hot and rhythmic. Humbled, your heartbeat quickens, you dare not pull your gaze for fear he might leap beyond your comfortable boundary, to what end you cannot predict.

As witches, we understand this figure as the true and vital force of nature in the raw. No climbing into this All-Father's lap for comfort; for this is not the Hero of the Forest as told in popular myth. Dealings with this unvarnished aspect of the land can be dangerous for those who think that their relationship will be different, or safe. Caution is the action to keep foremost in ones' mind.

There are two cycles to his lordship outside of the guardian of the animals, field and stream.  They are similar in their title but not in aspect. Known as reign of the Winter and Summer Kings, their royal authority in this form does not change at the popular solstice celebrations marked by modern Wiccan calendars. As with the shifting of seasonal tides, they change as nature changes, in an authentic way, not light for dark or dark for light, but by a subtle shifting, a gradual integration called Tides.

Holly and the Oak are the mantles this aspect dons. The timing of this exchange is through the demonstration of the oak. Looking to the holly through the seasons of a given year we see it as unchanging, an evergreen whose subtle increase or decline of power is hidden from us. The oak on the other hand is a deciduous tree and this is the herald of the exchange of crowns.

Within the Old Ways many view this rulership beginning in the spring, when buds appear, and the summer half of the light-divided year begins anew. What better time than at this, known as Roodmas, to become a King and rule the land with vitality. His reign ends when leaves turn ruddy-brown, dropping to the ground and the first frost covers the fields.

With the arrival of summer's end he removes his oak circlet; standing stiff in sinew and bone, the Holly King rules the windswept field and leafless branch. Now, hollow-eyed,  breath, sharp, smelling of death and decay, his attention fixed on the purpose ahead; to gather up the wandering spirits of the passing year.  With a spectral group of huntsman by his side, phantasmal horses with wild mane and blowing steam shift their weight, hounds race forward in mad pursuit across the hardened ground.  This is the frenzied clamor and thunder hooves of The Wild Hunt of Souls.

My path as a witch is one trodden with eyes wide open, not impaired by a long ago child's innocence. There are no faery glittered glades with toadstool pixies whispering tidings of good cheer in the woods I wander.  No bother, I prefer the eldrich-kind of shadowy glen and weird forgotten hollow.

As a witch I touch, smell and taste life, unafraid knowing full well what the Wild-wood Lord embodies, and I accept it without objection.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Lady

The Lady is Life, from birth through recycled remains.  As nature is her ensemble, all the aspects within nature are part of her train; they trail in her wake glistening with beauty and death.  The Lady is Youth, Maturity and Decay.The lessons we are taught are divulged through the stages of life; all life, not just the egocentric lives of man and woman-kind.  She is not maiden, mother and crone for these are figures neatly structured to meet our expectations which is clearly not her station.

Our education at her knee contains nurture and wrath; how we perceive this is ours alone,for life, full of the energy-force, merely 'is'.  She is the power of the seasons we call the 'Tides', not the dropping leaves of autumn, but the force that makes them fall.

We are the stumbling interpreters, arms and hands outstretched, fingers wiggling, tripping over obstacles until we learn how to navigate the darkened room which is her realm.  She is there, in the dark, watching; never fully revealed. The Lady is the faint aroma that fades the instant we think we can identify its source and the texture of something 'more' contained in the soil that slips through our eager fingers.

As a mother in the wild She can suckle us and devour us.... sometimes in the same moment. 

She waits patiently as the Lady of the Cauldron; helping us to descend into the cosmic ooze housed in Her Castle of Roses to live, love, and be reborn another day, in another way.  The Lady is the power of 'Will' and The Lord is that which 'Manifests'.

Although the world evolves and changes the Lady remains. She does not follow.  Her methods may reveal aspects and abilities that are not predictable ....... ones we are not comfortable witnessing or experiencing.  She will make you change whether you come to it through surrender or kicking and screaming.  For what is change really?  What is easy may not be what is best and what is best may not be easy. Change happens...

The Ruby-Mouthed Lady is the 'Unstoppable Continuation of Nature'.  With this understanding we never underestimate the power in Her hands.

" Beloved Blood-Mother of my especial breed, 

Welcome me at this moment with your willing womb.....
for no one has lifted your veil, seen your face...and lived"

Quote from Witchcraft a Tradition Renewed - Doreen Valiente & Evan John Jones

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Betwixt and Between

As I walk along the shore I'm aware of forces that have accumulated in varied levels of intensity just beneath the ground. I pause and using my senses I connect through my inner compass called my gut.  Utilizing earthly forces takes a competence which I have only attained through devoted practice, allowing intuition to become sharpened by time.  There are no short cuts in developing the technique, at least none that I have found personally. 

As an animist I understand the relationship between a physical object or location and its animaistic nature.  Because I relate to the world in this way my senses are acute and I have a deep respect for the forces present in most things.   I am not unique.  Many individuals have this ability.
When I come across energy that is flowing and abundant enough to be gathered I use a particular instrument to aid me in harnessing these forces. The process I use for finding such places of power is called mapping the grid.  Once located the atmosphere from which it emanates I refer to as the 'betwixt and between'.

In the area between land and water runs what is known as the telluric current. Pulsating at a lower and slower vibration due to the distance it has traveled it is markedly different from the energy I have experienced when walking among stone alignments at Carnac Brittany, Avebury England, the Cuillin Hills of Scotland or through the desert and red rock of Arizona.  That being said, the telluric currents here in Maine, are still viable.  
There are various names for the power within the land.  Many refer to it as the  serpentine path, earth energy, benker or ley lines, black streams or sprowl.  In the British Isles and Ireland power paths have been called Faery Paths and Holy Lines to God. The Greeks called them the Sacred Roads of Hermes, to the Chinese, who related them to the power of the earth dragon, this power had the ability to change the contours of the land.  Ley lines connect standing stone circles, ancient burial grounds and holy places strewn intact or in ruin across the landscape of the globe; it is little wonder that so many flock to these sites for healing and introspection.
Where the shore meets the sea is beloved to me.  I respect it in all its forms; calm, pensive or savage. There, where the trees are tethered only by grace to the rocky outreach, I willingly stand buffeted by the scent of soil and saline, a palpable and rich perfume.  Subtle and not-so-subtle forces dance between rock and sea foam, streaming and pulsating under the phases of the moon.  When gathered, it can be used to imbue objects, aid meditation, used in healing and ritual work.  Wisely coaxed and kneaded into prayer and invocation it is partnered to a given purpose by those who indulge in this kind of magic. 

Instinct and humility are the attitudes beneficial when dealing and working with chthonic currents.  Harnessed for benefit or destruction, ever coursing, pooling, waiting, never still, it resides where the twilight dwells and the old ones whisper.

Serpent of the Land

Movements felt in blood and bone
Awake thy breath
and by thy power

Monday, November 19, 2012

Courses and Wales

There's a comfort in the sound of the needles as they click and slide off each other.  Aware of the yarn as it moves along my fingers brings the sense of being purely 'in the moment'.  The added comfort that I can instill into the piece a prayer, simply by reciting it quietly to myself or in hushed tones as each row is completed, is rewarding.  A form of spell weaving, pure, simple, quiet and deliberate. A deepening of the gift to be bestowed to the recipient.

Intentionally instilling 'protection' into the article for the purpose of safe  travel might be achieved using silver needles and yellow yarn 'worked' on a Wednesday the day of Mercury.  Specific stitches creating  'triangular' patterns, symbols of creation, using blue needles for an expectant mother. 'Fortitude' woven into a shawl displays strength and perseverance by using cable stitches and yarn in tones of earth and stone by needles flaming-red, capped with agates.

Imparting favorite memories in a blend of color and texture is as intriguing as it is magical. Such variation and symmetry all from a single strand, much like life weaving itself through time.

Knitting connects me to my ancestors.  I imagine them sitting patiently creating beauty and warmth. I relish the idea of giving time to something so simple, so satisfying, one that runs it's course with purpose and growing skill. 

Done alone or in quiet company, the small space in which I sit expands into a complex exchange of intention and form. Indulged in anywhere, whether in front of the fire or outside in nature this pastime allows me the ability to create and pause, as desired, to watch the images in firelight or catch, from the corner of my eye, the descent of a leaf from the changing canopy above.

However viewed, for whatever purpose created, knitting is an old and valuable form of magic.

2. Vincent Van Gogh  Woman at the Window Knitting

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Where Witchcraft Lives

by Doreen Valiente 1922-1999

A classic title re-released for the third time.
First printed in 1962, UK
119 pages; paperback 2011

The Rerelease: Written in 1962 by Doreen Valiente this was her first published writing on witchcraft. The original edition was limited to 1,275 copies due to her being a fledgling writer. Original copies of the first edition were released, as were many books of its day, in hardback.  Today some original copies fetch prices of $300. or more.
This paperback edition, through Whyte Tracks ApS Denmark, is available from The Centre for Pagan Studies with the help of Ronald Hutton, Brighton Museum and Sussex Archaeological Society which is in support of a foundation for the Doreen Valiente Trust.  One may also purchase a paperback copy through  Amazon UK.

The Doreen Valiente Trust preesrves her manuscripts and artifacts through for future generations. Proceeds from the 3rd edition book go to the Trust where they house her treasure trove collection based on her life's work.

From the Introduction ~ John Belham Payne writes :

"I have no doubt in my mind that Doreen Valiente's contribution to the understanding of the 'Craft of the Wise' is immeasurable. For me she is by far the most important figure we have seen to date.  Her place in history is secure and when you study the Craft in detail, you will understand why Doreen's name appears in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography."

From the Forward ~ Ronald Hutton ~ Professor of History, Bristol University, UK writes:

"For the past half-century, Where Witchcraft Lives has featured among the most neglected of texts concerning modern Pagan witchcraft.  It has not been classed among those which revealed great traditions of witchcraft to the wider world, such as the books by or associated with Gerald Gardner, Alex Sanders (as ghosted by June Johns), Robert Cochrane (as represented by Justine Glass), Stewart and Janet Farrar, Ray Buckland or Starhawk.  Nor is it among those who have challenged orthodoxies within the movement, such as the work of Aidan Kelly.  This is, despite the fact that it is very early - indeed one of the first three books to be published on the subject - and the work of the greatest single female figure in the modern British history of witchcraft."

Although this is a short book, 119 pages, Where Witchcraft Lives is a valuable contribution surrounding the indigenous beliefs and traditions of England's pagans in the Sussex area. The book was written following her involvement in Gardnerian Wicca with its founder, Gerald Gardner.

Chapters include: Who Witches Were, the Horned God of Sussex, Sussex Witch Trials, Two Strange stories, Witches, Hares and the Moon, The Power of Witchcraft, Sussex Witch Beliefs, Folk Rites, and White, Present-day, and Modern Black Witchcraft.

I cannot tell you how long I have waited to add this treasure to my library.  Although the sheer volume of books I owned once have dwindled due to life's circumstance, the ones that remain in my collection are the oldest, most valuable and dear to my heart.

Bio: Doreen Edith Dominy Valiente (craft name Ameth) was born 4 January, 1922, in Mitcham, South London, England. Her involvement in witchcraft began with Gerald Gardner, who, after 1951 when the Witchcraft laws in England were repealed, broke from the New Forest Coven and formed his own. Doreen worked with Gardner from 1953 -  1957; her initiation into the craft occurred at Midsummer 1953 at the home of Dafo in the New Forest area.  She became his High Priestess very quickly and helped him produce many important scriptural texts for the Gardnerian Book of Shadows including  her famous  “The Witches Rune” and the “Charge of the Goddess”.

After splitting off form The Bricket Wood Coven in 1957, she went on to work with Robert Cochrane and his Clan of Tubal Cain.  In the mid 1960s she began working as a solitary.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s she wrote several books on the subject of Wicca - which, incidentally, she referred to simply as "witchcraft"  and she always referred to herself as a 'student.'


  • 1962: Where Witchcraft Lives
  • 1973: An ABC of Witchcraft
  • 1975: Natural Magic
  • 1978: Witchcraft for Tomorrow
  • 1989: The Rebirth of Witchcraft
  • 2000: Charge of the Goddess, a collection of poems, published posthumously

Doreen Valiente edited and wrote the introduction to the 1990 book, Witchcraft: A Tradition Renewed by Evan John Jones, surrounding Traditional Witchcraft such as Cochrane's Craft.

Most of her books are still in print today or can be obtained from book dealers online.

She died on 1st September 1999 from pancreatic cancer.
Photo: Doreen Valiente 1962

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Arte of Foresight

Cartomancy is described as 'the art of fortune telling or divination through a deck of cards'. Divination or fortune-telling with cards has been used since playing cards arrived in Europe during the 1300's. 

The origin of cards are still debated among researchers and scholars. The earliest  reference dates back to China where paper was invented. Stuart Culin, the American games historian, did the most original research in this particular area of games and concluded that the playing cards appeared before 1200AD in China as 'money' cards;  later to be introduced to Europe in the 13th century.   

Playing cards using the suits of Spades, Clubs, Diamonds and Hearts first appeared in France in the late 1400s; later European influence introduced representations of courtly human beings and the court cards were born. Development of 'suits' may have been an adaptation of the Islamic cups, swords, coins, and polo sticks which appeared in the 12th-13th centuries. 

Tarot cards, as a form of divination, first appeared in Italy and France in the 14th and 15th centuries, possibly having traveled there from the Middle East. By the end of the 15th century, playing cards were known throughout most of Western Europe due to the well-established printing technology at the time. Mass production of printing playing cards allowed for diversity of types and styles. Suit symbols were somewhat fluid during this time allowing for the inclusion of drawing of everyday objects, animals, hunting or botany to be included in the suits.

Playing cards have been called "The Devil's Picture Book." Superstitions surrounding them abound in all levels of society. Miners would not allow fellow workers to play cards in the caves in which they were working. Fishermen viewed card playing as bad luck.  The danger of even having a deck of playing cards on board a ship going on a voyage was known by sailors and captains alike..  Thieves would rarely steal a deck of cards from a home or gentleman's pocket due to the belief that this will turn the thief's luck against them . 

There is no surprise that the use of cards was condemned by the church due to their fear that all card games were originally developed in part as a way to hide the more serious application of their symbols against the church and its doctrine. 

The suits used in a deck of playing cards today are: hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades.  Each suit represents an area of life as are as follows:

Hearts represent friendship, close relationships, romance, and love.

Diamonds represent money and business matters.

Clubs represent energy,  creativity, hard work, and reward.

Spades represent change, warning, unexpected happenings and the unknown.

The suits of the Tarot are:

Hearts equate to Cups, Diamonds to Coins, Spades to Swords and Clubs to Wands. 

Personally I had only used the standard ' Tarot' cards for divination or oracle purposes up until a couple of years ago.  The oldest deck I have is the Aquarian by David Paladini which I purchased back in the late 80's when it first appeared on the occult or new age scene. 
Now, worn, supple and darkened by years of use the sound of shuffling is punctuated by their slap and muffled flutter, no longer the crisp announcement of a new deck.  I prefer it truth be known.

Today I've turned to a simple deck of playing cards for study and foretelling.  There is such a wide array of themes and card stock available.  The cards are smaller in size, easier to conceal in a pocket or within the folds on a sweater's sleeve. 

My other method is called throwing bones.  One from my distant past, the other in process.

The earliest set dates back to high school in the late sixties (dating myself here) where it was my custom to entertain and/or frighten the girls of my prep school, where else but in the darkened corner of the ladies loo.  Huddled around school books and half eaten lunches, the topic of future boyfriends, travel plans and grades where my usual queries.

The set was self-designed and comprised of beads, both wood and stone along with  natural seeds roughly the size of one's pinky nail. Some plain while others were crudely inscribed. The porcelain off-white beads were the larger presence within the pile resembled shiny knuckle bones.
The set currently gaining my undivided attention are of the chicken bone variety.  Cured and dried awaiting inscription, smoke and oil.

Whichever method I use, the outcome of the telling remains roughly the same.  A clouded event slowly becoming crisp to the inner eye, symbolic images with their chilling or comforting meanings waiting to be disclosed in whispers across a candle lit scene are  always worth a held breath or two.


 Historic Cards Reproduction
Fortune Teller by Candleight - John Theodore Heins
Fortune Teller - Leyden Lucas Van
Fortune Teller - Albert Anker

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Witch Bottles

Placed in the oddest, and most hidden locations, in order for their power to work properly, witch bottles have been a favorite method of personal protection for centuries.
Examples as early as the 17th century have been found in England and the Americas.  All witch bottles have a purpose.
Pellars were employed by someone who felt they were under the influence of spiteful or evil spirits. The witch bottle was created by  the cunning person specifically for the client.  The purpose was simple; protection of the client and the demise of the attacker. 
The size of a witch bottle can vary.  As large as 12 inches or as wee as 2 inches.  Although they can be made of any material, stoneware is the most common.  Traditionally called 'Greybeards or Bellarmine stone salt-glazed jugs' they measured approx. 9 inches tall and were decorated with an embossed bearded face.

 Bellarmines take their name from a particularly fearsome Catholic Inquisitor, Robert Bellarmine, who persecuted Protestants.  He was labeled as a demon by his victims. Today many original jugs may be seen in museums. 
What went into a witch bottle was usually quite simple.  The client's urine, hair, nail clippings were common ingredients.  If the victim happened to be a woman of child bearing years menstrual blood was included in the mix.  Ash from the victim's hearth was most times very important to include since many attacker's spirits found their way into the victim's home through the chimney. 
The protection housed in the bottle remained active, provided the bottle remained hidden and unbroken.
How did it work? 
The essence of things belonging to the victim would attract the evil spirit into the bottle, where it would slide down inside the bottle via the opening, and the neck being narrow trapped it from escaping. The spirit would either drown in the urine and/or be impaled on the sharp objects.
Simple enough.
Some bottles were filled with the above ingredients or herbs and liquids, such as rosemary and wine, to represent the particular qualities of protection were used instead.  Both can, and usually do, include bent pins and possibly knotted threads.  The bottle was placed in the fire on the hearth; when the bottle exploded, the spell was broken and consequently  the attacker not just their spirit, could be killed.  If nothing else, the one inflicting the damage would get the message.
 Witch bottles are still employed today.  Plain stone salt-glazed varieties are the norm.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Beyond the Veil Supper

The year has turned its circle,
The seasons come and go.
The harvest all is gathered in
And chilly north winds blow.
Orchards have shared their treasures,
The fields, their yellow grain,
So open wide the doorway~
Thanksgiving comes again!
~Old Rhyme

We set the table for loved ones beyond the veil, giving thanks for all they've done for us; for without their aid, their love and care, we would not be where we are today.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Sea Sprowl

The storm's fingers reach for the coast where we live.  The amount of energy that is building is beyond palpable.  Standing on the ocean's bank, salted spray caught in a driving wind lashes rock, sand and bracken.  In a few short hours that will change to so much more.  Lingering long is not an option.


A deep guttural moan created by breaking wave and ragged wind upon this rugged shoreline sounds like a wind-roarer whirled by the hand of an ancient god. Leaves are torn from slender branch and twisted twig that belonged to the weather beaten trees I stand amongst for companionship and dwindling shelter.

 Energy like this reminds me what it means to be a practitioner of the old ways. I never question the push and pull of a storm's pulse. I've learned to be prepared, as best one can.

Upon returning home, I hear the wail of the wind trying to find a 'way in'. It's voice, perhpas that of a lonely soul who once knew shelter such as mine.
A cup of tea, cat in lap, and candles at the ready are my only plans just now.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Entering the Twylyte

In order to ‘ride the hedge’ one must learn the skills necessary to do so by ‘Entering the Twylyte.’

Trance is used for a number of reasons, one of which is in order to ‘see’ from a different vantage point.  Not all divination, spells or charms can be created from a mundane mind-set.  Another term for this technique or ability is 'Crossing the Hedge.'

 Denizens of the Otherworld are important allies who help the practitioner acquire a clearer perspective into a given situation.  The use of the correct arte for the matter at hand is part of the Cunning Folks' stock and trade.

 A Hedge Rider is on a shamanic path within the Traditional Path.  Other names are Walkers Between the Worlds and Rim Walkers. 

 Hedge Riders often engage in 'Spirit Flight' and enter, within their race, the Otherworld. The companion on such journeys are moths, the night butterflies that slip between the worlds unheard.  Once there they act as mediators of messages from the Old Ones beyond the Veil.  Birds associated with hedge-riding are Crows, Ravens and Owls.

 As a hedge often delineated the boundary of a town, 'To Ride the Hedge' is to have the ability to cross the boundary between this world, the mundane, and the Other.  Whatever the symbol to the people of the barrier, the idea of the boundary is key to this Path. 
 The use of masks to 'Enter the Twylight' is common and worn to be recognized by the Otherworld Spirits as to who one is when they enter their realm;  this idea harkens back to a 12th century reference by C.E. Law :  'Woman, I saw you riding the fence switch with loose hair and belt, the troll skin (mask), at the time when night and day are equal.'

 Hedge Riders are seen astride a broom, riding-pole or pitchfork, many times turned backwards to the classic 'flying witch' depictions of today and represent the phallic energy of the Great Horned God of the Witches.  They are also known to be forked at the end which became the tool called a stang. 

 Today some hearths and solitaries use ointments' to achieve altered states of consciousness, while others train in the yogic skills of meditation.  One uses 'Spirit Flight' to speak with the Old Ones, ancestors and entities.  


Paintings: Luis Riardo Falero

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Allantide- The Herald

Returning home from the market yesterday, along a road that has now become familiar, I was struck by the change of season .  The sun was setting, angled through a stand of deciduous trees, its rays were scattered through the woods by trunk and branch.  This particular view had been obscured all summer long from the road and it wasn't until yesterday, upon seeing the sun from this vantage point that I really felt the approach of Allantide.

Allantide (in Cornish Calan Gwaf or Nos Calan Gwaf) is a festival celebrated on  October  31st.  Here in the States we refer to it as Samhain or Halloween. The festival itself has pre-Christian origins similar to most celebrations on this date.  In Cornwall England there are references stating that the holiday is linked to St Allen or Arlan who was a Cornish Saint. Not much information can be found on him however.  Still, Allantide is celebrated by many who follow the Old ways as the Celtic New Year.  But yet again there are some who would say that this is a false belief.

The ease with which one can observe one's faith in small hearth circles, or as solitaries, allows individuals the freedom to celebrate the holidays as they see fit.  Given that I am drawn to the Cornish culture within my practice, Allantide is, therefore, the herald of the New Year.  A time when the veil between the worlds grows thin; when reaching into and through the misty membrane of time is an opportunity to communicate with those who have gone before.

The following is a description of the festival as it was celebrated in Penzance at the turn of the 19th century.  However the practice described is very much alive in the modern witch's home  in Cornwall and elsewhere today.

"The shops in Penzance would display Allan apples, which were highly polished large apples. On the day itself, these apples were given as gifts to each member of the family as a token of good luck. Older girls would place these apples under their pillows and hope to dream of the person whom they would one day marry. A local game is also recorded where two pieces of wood were nailed together in the shape of a cross. It was then suspended with 4 candles on each outcrop of the cross shape. Allan apples would then be suspended under the cross. The goal of the game was to catch the apples in your mouth, with hot wax being the penalty for slowness or inaccuracy."
Robert Hunt in his book 'Popular romances of the West of England' describes Allantide in St Ives.

The ancient custom of providing children with a large apple on Allhallows-eve is still observed, to a great extent, at St Ives. "Allan-day," as it is called, is the day of days to hundreds' of children, who would deem it a great misfortune were they to go to bed on "Allan-night" without the time-honoured Allan apple to hide beneath their pillows. A quantity of large apples are thus disposed of the sale of which is dignified by the term Allan Market.

References1.                              * Robert Hunt Popular Romances of the West of England 19022.                              *MA Courtney Folklore and Legends of Cornwall 18903.                              *Simon Reed - The Cornish Traditional Year 20094.                              *AK Hamilton Jenkin - Cornwall and the Cornish 1932