Friday, June 27, 2014

The Legacy of Dion Fortune

By Diane Champigny
Violet Mary Firth, better known as Dion Fortune in esoteric circles, is one of the most influential female occultists of the 20th Century. Many people today are unaware of the depth and extent to which Dion Fortune has influenced, and continues to influence, the development of the Western Mystery Tradition, Qabalah, Wicca and paganism. During this exciting presentation we will learn of her early life, her study of psychology and mysticism, the formation of the Fraternity of the Inner Light and her Work with the Arthurian and Atlantean currents.  A guided pathwoking will round out the evening.

Diane Champigny is a High Priestess and Lineage Elder of the Alexandrian Tradition of Witchcraft.  She runs an Alexandrian training coven in New England.  She has contributed to several Avalonia anthologies and is a regular contributor to Brigid’s Fire Magazine, Ireland’s premier occult journal. 

Date: June 28, 2014
Location: Hermetic Arts Learning Center
105 Bridge St. Salem MA. 01970
Time: 7:00 - 9:00 pm
Price: $ 25.00
              For more information contact: 
or call 772-380-2 725 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Fire Spreads

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead

Friday, June 20, 2014

Rewilding Witchcraft

Peter Grey, author of Apocalyptic Witchcraft, has written an article for Scarlet Imprint that impacted me, changed my breathing while reading it, and made me understand even more deeply what I knew to be true about the environment and my practice of witchcraft.  Understand that the picture that he paints so vividly and the words that he creatively scatters across the page go well beyond thought provoking.  There is nowhere to hide; no poetic covers, we, as human beings, and witches and pagans in particular, can pull over our bowed heads. 

What Peter presents is not a mere bad dream to wake ourselves from in a cold sweat washing it off with a shower and 'get on with your day' attitude; no amount of caffeine, alcohol or denial will clear the residue from our collective soul.  Once his article is read and even re-read, once the flickering light from the computer or iPhone has penetrated our corneas blinking the image away will not change our reality.  These are not mere words or thoughts of a possible event somewhere in a very distant future, it is already here and struggling outside the closed doors of our very homes. 

My suggestion? do what Peter suggests, 'live your life beautifully', embrace the wildwood, and witness to your core what wonders remain.  Be moved, live with a new clarity of awareness, see the road in front of you and walk it mindfully, purposely, eyes wide open with personal and collective action but without paranoia.  There is no other way forward than this.

Click to Read Article:  Rewilding Witchcraft

Friday, June 13, 2014

Sin Eater

To Heaven

Open thy gates
To him who weeping waits,
And might come in,
But that held back by sin.
Let mercy be
So kind, to set me free,
And I will straight
Come in, or force the gate.

Robert Herrick A 17th century English poet

 Sin Eating refers to 'a person who, through ritual means, takes on, by means of food and drink, the sins of a household, often because of a recent death, thus absolving the soul and allowing that person and their relatives to rest in peace'.

According to folklore, the term 'Sin Eater or Sin Eating' is classified as being the performance of an apotropaic, which comes from the Greek (apotrepein "to ward off" from apo- "away" and trepein "to turn") ritual which falls under the category of religious magic, an important practice in many cultures around the world.

A Little History

Dating back to the Meso-American culture we find the Aztec Goddess, Tlazolteotl, a mother goddess and bestower of gifts on her followers; The Redeemer of her people. One of her greatest attributes could be bestowed when a devotee was dying.  Pleading to her directly, the dying person or family member named their transgressions and begged that they be removed in order to have a good death, removing their sins from themselves and family members.  Hearing the cries Tlazolteotl descended, entering the home in spirit form, to 'eat the filth' of past deeds, cleansing the passage for the dying.

We also see the practice elsewhere in a different form throughout parts of Europe and the British Isles.  John Bagford, (ca.1650–1716) a British antiquarian, writer, bibliographer, ballad-collector and bookseller accounts a sin-eating ritual in his letter on Leland’s Collectanea, (Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 1898)

“Notice was given to an old sire before the door of the house, when some of the family came out and furnished him with a cricket [low stool], on which he sat down facing the door; then they gave him a groat which he put in his pocket, a crust of bread which he ate, and a bowl of ale which he drank off at a draught. After this he got up from the cricket and pronounced the case and rest of the soul departed, for which he would pawn his own soul.”

Folklore states that sin eaters lived on the fringe of society.  Avoided and cut off from conversation, hospitality or a simple gaze.  Yet when the death of a loved one occurred the sin eater was sought out to perform the abominable rite so desperately needed in order to 'makes things right with God'. 

By the simple yet courageous act of eating part of the feast laid out at the wake or funeral, a piece of bread, bowl of ale or wine was left on the body either directly or on a wooded plate to absorb their sins.  Entering the home, the sin eater avoided eye contact, approached the dead, and consumed that which was purposely set aside.  The corpse's misdeeds, were swallowed, leaving the person absolved.  A coin might also be left on the body, gratuity for the act performed; peace descended and the burial could now take place. There would be no wandering ghost or ghastly visage to haunt the living.

Sin-eating survived into the 19th century and was witnessed at Market Drayton, Shropshire.  As the story goes, following the funeral service, the lady of the house poured a glass of ale wine for each pallbearer, purposely handing it to them along with the 'funeral biscuit' over the body of the deceased.  Those individuals partook in the eating of the food, garnished with sin, and completed the rite.  The custom of burial bread or cakes are still made and used in the same way as part of English custom in rural areas today.

In Upper Bavaria 'the corpse cake' has been the usual practice at funerals and lovingly placed on the breast of the dearly departed; eaten in silence by the nearest relative giving all who attend reassurance.

In Demark, 'doed-koecks', translated as 'dead-cakes' were made with the initials of the deceased cut with a knife on the surface; this custom survived with the immigrants settling in America as early as the 17th century in Old New York.  The custom also evolved into initialed cakes being given to attendants at the funeral today.

The Balkan Peninsula customs describes the making of a small bread image of the deceased, baked and eaten by the departed's relatives in honor of a life-lived and through this act, relieved of 'all the burden'.

A sin eater's reputation precedes them; thought to be destined for hell due to their chosen occupation or calling, they were themselves 'lost souls'.  Not sanctioned by the Catholic Church, sin eaters were most often excommunicated; not due to weight of the sins they carried, but for the act of crossing into unsanctioned territory of the parish priest, ignoring Church Doctrine concerning Last Rites.

Are there still sin eaters in modern culture?  Perhaps, in remote areas few of us venture into; and is it a custom that might find its way into mainstream society once again?  Perhaps...

Walford Davies, Richard Marggraf Turley, Damian (2006). The Monstrous Debt: Modalities of Romantic Influence in Twentieth-century Literature.
The Sin Eaters' Grave at Ratlinghope
Ferguson, Linda J. (2011). Staying Grounded in Shifting Sand: Awakening Soul Consciousness for the New Millennium. Balboa Press. p. 52. ISBN 1452541221 Food
Encyclopaedia Britannica
Hilda Ellis Davidson (1993) Boundaries & Thresholds p.85 quotation:
Funeral Customs by Bertram S. Puckle

Friday, June 6, 2014

Amanita bisporigera

 Synonyms: Destroying Angel; Angel of Death: Death Angel

Family: Amanitaceae

Parts: First the volva, a cuplike structure at the base of the stalk; it is the bottom part of the universal veil, an ovate membrane that envelops the lower part of the mushroom during growth phase and remains attached.  The second important feature is the gills that are deep allowing spore dispersal, with a veil tears around its circumference. The absolute whiteness and smoothness of the cap, stem and gills are striking.

Planet: Culpepper places mushrooms under Mercury in Aries. 
Element: Air
Gender: Masculine
Deity: Dionysus or Hekate

Description: Described by Bill Russell in his 'Field Guide to Wild Mushrooms of Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic' as having a "strange luminous aura that draws the eye" that is "easily visible from one hundred feet away with its serene, sinister, angelic radiance."

The cap described as 'glabrous' and 'viscid when wet' distinguishes it from most Amanita genus that have warty patches on their universal veils.

Size: Cap width: 2–5 inches; stalk length: 3–8 inches; stalk width: ¼–¾ inch.

Habitat: Common. Grows alone on the ground opposed to on wood, in the grass and under trees June–November.

Note: An important fungus species; symbiotic connection with tree roots; fibers of the fungus multiply tree roots' ability to absorb nutrients and water. Tree shares nutrients with the fungus.

 Lookalikes: Meadow mushroom has pink gills that turn brown.  Spores are brown, lacks saclike cup at base of stem.

Caution:  Young destroying angels that are still enclosed in their universal veil can masquerade as puffballs,.  Know your death caps and destroying angels in all stages of growth prior to harvesting any white gilled mushroom for consumption.

Toxicity: The destroying angel (Amanita bisporigera) and the death cap (Amanita phalloides) are responsible for the majority of deaths due to consumption poisoning. The toxin is 'amatoxin'. Symptoms appear within 5 to 24 hours.  Destruction of the liver and kidneys is irreversible and has already begun prior to symptoms.

Toxic Consumption Quantity: As little as half a mushroom can be fatal.  Animals, including pets and livestock, are not immune to the toxin.

Symptoms include: vomiting, cramps, delirium, convulsions, and diarrhea.

A Modern Herbal (two volumes) by Mrs. Grieve
Herbal Medicine Maker's Handbook by James Green
Culpepper's Complete Herbal - Nicholas Culpeper