Sunday, September 22, 2013

Autumn Song

Know’st thou not at the fall of the leaf
How the heart feels a languid grief
Laid on it for a covering,
And how sleep seems a goodly thing
In Autumn at the fall of the leaf?

And how the swift beat of the brain
Falters because it is in vain,
In Autumn at the fall of the leaf
Knowest thou not? and how the chief
Of joys seems—not to suffer pain?

Know’st thou not at the fall of the leaf
How the soul feels like a dried sheaf
Bound up at length for harvesting,
And how death seems a comely thing
In Autumn at the fall of the leaf?

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1883)

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Black Toad Limited Edition

Troy Books is pleased to announce that fine hand-bound limited editions of some of our titles are to be added to our catalogue. Following the enthusiastic reception of The Black Toad by Gemma Gary, we have decided to launch our fine editions by retrospectively issuing a limited edition of this title. This is to be expertly bound in Cornwall by master book-binder Tom O'Reilly M.A.

The book will be presented as a black cloth, leather and toad skin half binding, with goat leather to the spine; gold blocked to the side with a double toad device, and with black cane toad skin to the corners, gilded edges, maroon end papers, black head and tail bands and marker ribbon. An optional slipcase in full black cloth, embossed on one side with a toad device, will be available, prepared to order.

The Black Toad fine edition will be limited strictly to 83 signed and hand numbered copies only. Numbers to be assigned in ascending order on a first come first serve basis. Orders are strictly limited to a maximum of 2 copies per customer.

Gemma Gary's second book; The Black Toad - West Country Witchcraft and Magic, with foreword by Michael Howard, is also available in paperback, hardback editions.

The Black Toad explores potent examples of the folk-ceremonial magical practices and witchcraft of the south-west of England; dealing especially with Devon and the author’s homeland of Cornwall. Within the West Country, the popular belief in witchcraft and its attendant charms, magical practices and traditions continued to be observed and survived long after such ways had faded in most other parts of the British Isles.

 Described within The Black Toad is a collection of some of the fascinating magical practices and lore of the West Country’s cunning folk and early modern witches;  ways that have survived and evolved within the rarefied Craft of the area’s modern day witchcraft practitioners of the old persuasion. As this book affirms, these ways of the Old Craft and Cunning Arte include a belief in and working relationship with the spirit forces of the land, the Faerie, animal and plant lore, as well as the magical use of Psalms to cure or curse, the invocation of Christ and the power of the Holy Trinity.

“For all those who are interested in learning about the Old Path as it is taught and practiced today by West Country witches this book of practical magic and sorcery will be a revelation. As the late Cecil Williamson, founder of the witchcraft museum in Boscastle, North Cornwall and a modern cunning man himself, said and Gemma Gary’s excellent book proves – “It still goes on today.”

Michael Howard

The above image is a digital impression of the completed binding for illustrative purposes. Each book will be hand crafted using natural materials, and therefore unique.

To find out more contact: Troy Books

Friday, September 13, 2013

With Heart and Without Harness

My practice has changed over the past five years.  I currently embrace a more visceral, intuitive practice.  The elements within Traditional Witchcraft which is my path, are referred to as The Craft walked by The People or the Pellar Current; and this is a spiritual journey that leads one into a different wood; one that has no manicured path on which to travel. I heartily welcome that perspective and reality.  It is also one that pre-dates the Gardnerian influence that most pagans are familiar with today and from which most traditions are birthed including that of the Chalice Well Tradition of which I am a founder.

 The devotional powers I'm drawn to now include the Wildwood Lord, the Ruby Mouthed Lady and the Grand Bucca also known as Bucca Gam.  Both the Wildwood Lord and the Bucca represent the light and dark elements of the cyclical landscape which include the powers of life and death. However, the Wildwood Lord has no androgynous quality about him as is referred to when dealing with the Sabbatic Goat of the Witches. 

Upon exploration of Cornish Witchcraft back in 2007, I was reluctant to dismiss the lord and lady whom I personally venerate. However after an introduction I meditated on the information surrounding the mysterious Bucca and realized that I could incorporate that relationship into my daily focus without relinquishing my gods.  I can report that after six years all is well. The Wildwood Lord, the Dark Lady, creators and inhabitants in the land, and the Bucca, initiator of the path and influencer of the seasonal tides are all honored on a regular and contented basis.  As if slipping my hands into an old pair of gardening gloves, veneration of the triple energies has deepened and heightened my devotional practice and allowed me greater ease in my work.

Now, for those who might not be familiar with the famous, or infamous, Bucca figure, the Cornish Folk Story "Duffy and the Bucca" also known as  'Duffy and the Devil' tells the tale. You can find it via this site: but understand there is far more to this figure than can be captured in a story, poetry or song.

 Additional folklore surrounds the Cornish fisherman and their relationship, of sorts, with the Bucca, Bucca Dhu in particular.  Viewed more as a hobgoblin who demands three fish out of every catch, fisherman still leave payment on the shore without protest.  Here is a piece explaining the folklore concerning Buccas:

Here is William Bottrell's description in 1890 of this practice:

'It is uncertain whether Bucka can be regarded as one of the fairy tribe; old people, within my remembrance, spoke of a Bucka Gwidden and a Bucka Dhu - by the former they meant good spirit, and by the latter an evil one, now known as Bucka boo. I have been told, by persons of credit, that within the last forty years it was a usual practice with Newlyn and Mousehole fishermen to leave on the sand at night a portion of their catch for Bucka.'

Living near the ocean again after too many years away, I do feel the presence of this curious and supreme deity of oceanic pulse as well as through the weather, which here on the peninsula is varied and extremely fierce at times.  No bother, I have no regrets as to the intensity of living this far north. by the sea.  It suits me just fine.

No matter the story, the scare or the glory, today it is agreed by most practitioners of the Pellar Craft that observation of the opposing twin aspects/selves addressed within the Bucca as Bucca Gwidder and Bucca Dhu in particular is satisfying.  Bucca Dhu contains and expresses the ‘black spirit’ of energy, the storm surge, the rendering of that which was once whole.  Called the Dark God or Devil, Bucca Dhu influences spirit communication, dark moon revelry, defensive or otherwise known as dark magic which could involve blasting or defensive magic, the unconscious realms, and tides of the unseen.  It is this aspect that rules the dark half of the year from Allentide to May's Eve.   
Although many who know very little of this deity would presume that the darker side is the only character that witches would gather 'round or beckon audience but there is another side to his mysterious persona, that of Bucca Gwidder. also known as 'the fair'. 

Bucca Gwidder the 'white spirit' presiding over the light half of the year from May's Eve to Allentide is the benevolent side of nature.  Addressed as the 'fair one' it presides over fair weather, beneficial rains, regenerative magic, healing and protection and the power of the broad white moon shining across plowed fields at midnight.  It appears that Bucca Gwidder is indeed the more approachable side of the Bucca's nature.    

Bucca Gam, is the reflective polarities of the male and female gender and the mystery that bridges them; the ebb and the flow, the rise and the decent of the current of power.  As with all opposites Bucca Gam brings them together in a marriage that bestows balance, stability and clear vision, all necessary traits for one who walks the Crooked Path.   The Bucca is the Grand Initiator; the Leader on the Road; the Resolver of Opposites. Depicted by many including myself, by a goat skull with a candle affixed between the horns, this symbolically joins Dhu and Gwidder, the afore discussed opposites, thus creating magical equilibrium. The light Betwixt the Horns is a pure light shining in the darkness of ignorance bringing forth the light of wisdom.

 Comprehending the aspects of Bucca Gam, came rather easily to me given my reverence and understanding of the Wildwood Lord, the stag antlered god the ruler of the forest behind my home and all of the wild and untamed places throughout the natural landscape.  Some might compare his wild nature as untamed where the goat energy of the Bucca might be miscalculated as having a domesticated nature.  Nothing could be farther from the point.  In my experience I do not feel a harnessed power when I connect with the Bucca and its authority.  Never fear, there's no  castration of power here.

Understand, the Wildwood God is not the tame all father figure found in many new age circles by any means.  There is no polarity of the sexes coursing through his veins.  He is unto himself, all male, raw and the unfettered nature of blood, tooth and claw that I have written about elsewhere on this blog.  Given that his different aspects do have dual aspects, that of the Holly and the Oak or Summer and Winter Kings, the relinquishing and claiming actions at the light and dark halves of the year are carried out by energies one would not care to meet at the height of their rein.

 The Oak King is not unlike Bucca Gwidder with the season of expansion, regeneration and calmer seasonal weather.  The Holly, like Bucca Dhu, rides the harsher tides, ruling death and decay, the bleaker times within and without. 

As with all things to do with nature, the calm and the harsh, the path of the practitioner is not an easy path, hardly 'glitter strewn' or close cropped through a tidy wood.

 Traditional Witchcraft is therefore for those with heart and without harness.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Charitable Physitian, circa 1639

From the work of by Philibert Guibert,  


"To make Oyle of Roses three wayes:
The first way is, take a pound of red Rose buds,
beat them in a marble morter with a woodden pestle,
then put them into an earthen pot,
poure upon them foure pound of oyle of Olives,
let them infuse the space of moneth in the Sunne,
or the chimney corner stirring them sometimes, then heate it, a
nd presse it, and straine it, and put it inot the same pot or other vessell to keepe.
The second is take halfe a pound of red Roses,
and halfe a pound of Damaske,
beate them together in a marble morter,
and put them into a pot, and poure upon them foure pound of oyle,
let them infuse the space of twelve houres,
pour them all into a pan and boyle them two or three boylings,
straine and presse them in a strong towel in the presse,
in the meane time put in the pot as many more Roses
poure the oyle upon them and so beate them
presse them and put Roses to the oyle three times,
boyle it until all the humidity bee consumed.
The third is to take all Damask Roses and make three infusions as before."
reprinted in Rohde's The Scented Garden.

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Lute Song by Campion

A 16th cen. poem concerning witches.

          Thrice tosse these Oaken ashes in the ayre, 
          Thrice sit thou mute in this inchanted chayre; 
         Then thrice three times tye up this true loves knot, 
         And murmur soft, shee will, or shee will not. 

          Goe burne these poys'nous weedes in yon blew fire, 
          These Screech-owles fethers, and this prickling bryer, 
          This Cypresse gathered at a dead mans grave: 
          That all thy feares and cares an end may have. 

          Then come, you Fayries, dance with me a round, 
        Melt her hard hart with your melodious sound. 
        In vaine are all the charmes I can devise: 
        She hath an Arte to breake them with her eyes.

Campion, Thomas, 1567-1620:  XVIII.