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.