Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Bring in the New Year

New Year's eve is a time of anticipation and preparation. It is also a time of endings and a time to clear away the trash of the old year.

This is one of those magical times which is a crack between the worlds, a time full of potential. When one year ends and another begins, we often make New Year Resolutions, promises which we hope will give us a new start. We have a whole clean slate of newness, and we want to make that newness count for something.

There are many traditions to do with the ending of the old year and the beginning of the new.
You could make a Calennig Apple either for yourself or to give to friends. This is a Welsh tradition. Take a large apple, pierce it with cloves and give it three twig legs to stand on - toothpicks work well for this. Then take a sprig of evergreen and poke this in the top of the apple. Stand the apple on your windowsill, to see in the New Year and bring you and all the household good luck.

First Footing is a well known tradition. We were told that it had to be a dark haired man who was the first person invited into the home in the new year (handy that my dad had dark hair). The first footer brought with him blessings for the house, a stick, a piece of coal and a candle, these represented the blessings of warmth and light, and as they were brought in with the New Year, they ensured that the house would not be without these essentials in the coming year. During the 1930's depression when work and money was hard to come by, my dad told me he and his father made a few shillings early one New Year 'first footing' around some of the posh houses in Barton-upon-Humber.

Our family embellished on this tradition and created a tray of blessings. During the evening we would put on a tray all the blessings we wished to be ours in the New Year, so in addition to the coal, stick and candle, there would be bread and salt - for food and savour - a purse containing some money (for wealth), fruit cake and a bottle of whiskey - for riches and all good things.
Since I have had my own home, and we are a Witchy family, we have added magical items to the tray as well. Sometimes it is simply a personal magical tool, sometimes it is a spell to be brought in with the new year, if we need something in particular.
A sprig of evergreen could be used to symbolise renewal and energy (especially welcome as we get older and the joints don't work quite as fluidly as they used to - maybe I should add a bottle of oil or some axle grease), there could be a coloured candle or gem stones to represent certain energies or magical tides we wish to emphasise - a citrine for joy and good health, a moonstone to increase psychic powers.
As this is the feast of Hestia the goddess of the home, bring in some ivy leaves on the tray to bring the Goddess and her protection into your home.

The method for first footing of any kind is simple: make sure the person who will be the 'first footer' is outside before midnight, and welcome them into the house after midnight. Of course make sure they are equipped with what ever you have decided you want to bring in for the New Year, whether it is the traditional coal, wood and candle, or a more elaborate offering tray.

However you celebrate your New Year, I hope it is filled with happiness, magic and all the good things you wish yourself.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Boozy Bread and Butter Pudding

I decided to make a Boozy Bread and Butter Pudding because it was Graham's birthday yesterday and this is his favourite pudding. Now this recipe is really going to make some people throw their hands up in horror, not because of the boozy bit, but because the quantities are not going to be exact.

This is based on both my mum's recipe for bread and butter pudding and her method, so it is not like the conventional recipes you will find all over the place. It is basically a store cupboard pudding using up left overs, so you use what you have got.

First thing - choose your bowl.
In our house that means - the biggest pyrex dish I can lay my hands on (which also happens to be one my mum gave me when Graham and I were first setting up home together).
Mum would then brush the inside of the dish with melted butter or marge (or cooking spread type thingy as we have to call it these days), but I don't think this is necessary.

Next choose your bread:
Again you can use any bread you have in the house, and if it is dry and stale so much the better, don't be using your good fresh bread for this one. I have made this pudding with white bread, wholemeal even sliced up brioche and they are all good and delicious. My favourite is hot cross buns as they are a bit spicy which adds to the flavour, but today I have got some cheap teacakes, which work equally as well. I have sliced the teacakes into three, rather than halves, because they are quite thick, but this is up to you. For this sized dish four teacakes was just right, but you can just butter another slice of bread if you run out before the job is done.
Now whatever bread you have chosen, butter it (or marge it, or use the non-dairy butter substitute of your choice) on both sides. When I was doing this for mum she insisted that every surface of the bread was buttered, and that included the edges, but again I don't think this is necessary - or perhaps shows that I am more slap-dash than mum was.

Line your chosen bowl with the buttered bread - keep about a third of the bread back as you will also need a bread lid for this pudding. So this bread and butter pudding is not going to look like the pictures you see in cookery books.

Next choose some dried fruit:
This can be currants, sultanas, mixed fruit, whatever you have handy or needs using up, or you particularly like. We happened to have an open packet of sultanas in the cupboard, so I am using them. You can just sprinkle some in, as much or as little as you like or have left in the packet. As a variation today I have soaked the sultanas in some rum. Just put them in a bowl or jug and pour over as much or as little of whatever booze you like or have handy, to just about cover the fruit. Leave these to soak for at least an hour.
When they have soaked up as much of the booze as they can, sprinkle them into your bread lined dish and sprinkle over some sugar. I also sprinkled some ground cinnamon as I like this pudding to taste spicy. Don't use too much sugar, you can always add sugar to taste when you dish this out, so don't stress about the quantity, I probably used around a couple of tablespoons - remember the fruit will be sweet already, and some bread is already sweetened too.
Then cover over the fruit with some more bread and butter.

Now for the 'custard':
Again get ready to panic, I am not going to give you exact quantities as it depends on the size of your bowl, but I have made this with fewer and more eggs and the pudding has gone down great guns either way.
This morning I used five whole eggs, around a tablespoon of sugar and topped my jug up to around the two pint mark - which is just under a litre - with skimmed milk. Whisk this all together to dissolve the sugar and make sure the egg and milk are well combined - i don't have a whisk so I use a fork to do this. Again you can use whatever milk you have to hand, I have made it with full fat, cows milk, goats milk and soya milk too.
I reckon 2-3 eggs to a pint of milk is about the right proportion. Oh and add some nutmeg to this - it has to have nutmeg!
Carefully and gently pour the liquid over the pudding - it will take more liquid than you expect - then leave it for 30 mins to an hour to soak. Sprinkle the top with more nutmeg.
If when you go back to look at it the top looks dry, use another egg and some more milk - or just some more milk.

Yep, it is panic stations again, cos this is not an exact science.
The conventional way to cook this pudding is in the oven in a bain marie. That just means you stand it in another dish which has some water in it. This stops the pudding drying out and keeps it lovely and soft in the middle. It could take anything from 3/4 of an hour to 1 1/2 hours.
However I am going to give the cooks among you a heart attack. I cook this pudding in the microwave, it turns out just as good and takes a fraction of the time.
The only thing you have to watch out for is to mind it doesn't overflow.
Also, DO NOT cook this pudding until it is solid in the middle. Keep an eye on it - open it carefully with a spoon, and if there is just a little moisture in the middle take it out of the cooker/microwave and leave it.
The custard will carry on cooking from its own heat and when it is cool enough to eat without burning your mouth, it will be just right.

You can serve this pudding hot or cold. Some people like to serve it with cream or custard, I like it cool and on its own. Yummy !

A Satisfied Customer .

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Last Minute Spell Kit Making

Well the days seem to be rushing towards christmas now.

     Perhaps it seems even worse as being a Mail Order company we are aware of how few posting days there are left when we can be sure our customers are going to get their goodies in time before the holidays.

     We have been working all day today (and probably will be tomorrow too) making sure any orders we have received up to today are picked and wrapped ready for posting on Monday.
     This included today a special one off Spell Kit, with unique spell instructions which had to be devised, items collected, a special talisman designed and hand pyrographed. Then, oh joy, remember I told you that my new pc is refusing to speak to the copier/printer (Technology- don't you love it) ?
So we sent off for a new printer cable, which will (we hope) solve the problem. That was around a fortnight ago, and despite Mike (who ordered it off the internet for us) getting an email saying it had been despatched the day after he ordered it, it still hasn't arrived.
        So in addition to creating the spell kit, making the talisman (and a magical oil) to go in it, I have then had to write out the spell instructions by hand - and my hand writing is terrible at the best of times.

     Well, there is only a week or so left to go before Last Posting Date, and that is when we shall knock off for our mid-winter break. This is the only time we take off during the year, so we shall have a lovely holiday until the 5th of January.

     (Although I must admit I have got myself a list of things which I could do during the holidays.)

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Technology - Don't you love it? !

I am a non-technical person living in an increasingly technical world.

Youngsters seem to instinctively understand tablets and WII's and mobile phones, and the speed of their thumbs while doing text messaging is amazing.
I have none of the above devices. I did have a pay-as-you-go mobile phone for about a year, but in that time the service provider turned it off twice because I was not using it enough. The third time I found it didn't work when I went to use it was the last time I ever touched it.

So last weekend I became the proud possessor of a bright and shiny new (second-hand) work pc.

I had to get one as my current machine has got into a disconcerting habit of freezing every few minutes, and one day, when I really could do without it, I know it will just freeze and not un-freeze. My previous pc blew up losing several years worth of stored files and I didn't want to go through that again.

My darling son came with said pc (and small grandchild) and while I entertained grandchild with wooden blocks, TV and cake, my son set to the task of transferring all my files to the new pc and setting everything up for me. He managed that in under an hour, which impressed me.

However then came the 'but' moment.

This time last year we got a shiny, brand new printer/photocopier which is attached to my work pc so that I can print out all the flyers, fact sheets, instruction leaflets, Newsletters, books, letters to customers etc., etc., etc.... And when my son connected it to the new pc, they did the technological equivalent of having a hissy fit and refused to talk to one another.

No problem, we thought, I'll just ring our photocopier maintenance people and as they installed the photocopier on my previous pc, no doubt they will be able to do the same again on my new pc.

'Yes, no problem, madame,' said the young man at the photocopier place, 'Although you do realise this will attract a call out fee of £75 (plus VAT) for the first half hour, plus our hourly rate if it takes longer than this?'

I was somewhat taken aback by that gem of news and said I would have to think about it.

So I am currently thinking about how to get information from my pc to the photocopier which doesn't involve strangling a photocopier maintenance person.

I'll let you know what happens next.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

It has been Ages .....

This post is really an apology for not putting a post up recently.

As you might imagine, working in a mail order company, we are into the run up to christmas and (thankfully) things are busy (although we are happy to be busier - with orders - at any time!). We are working most of the weekend to try and get orders processed as quickly as possible, so that our customers get their magical goodies in good time.

We also recently had a visit from our dear friend Paul Bradley who has just moved into a new home. He asked my if I could make him a Spirit Doll guardian for himself and his new house, which I was more than happy to agree to.

All Spirit Dolls are individual, and based on the skills and magic of the person who makes them, and tuned towards various purposes. As I am making this doll for a special person and a specific task, I am building the magic into the doll with every stitch. It will all be hand made and hand sewn, with spells and symbols built into it. The inside of the doll, the bit no one will ever see, unless they deliberately dismantle it, is as important, if not more so, than the outside.

The inside will include a spell giving the doll its character and purpose, and there will be gemstones and herbs inside as well as stuffing. The clothes of the doll will also incorporate magic and symbolism, as will its features.

Obviously this Spirit Doll will take time to make, as it involves both a lot of different processes plus my concentration and magic. But it is also an exciting and fun thing to do.

So please accept my apology for the lack of posts recently - as soon as I get some spare time, I will be back bothering you more regularly.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Spell Casting

Number 10 in my Folk Witchery series

Spell casting is the act of seeking to effect the world by bringing magical (or some might say 'psychic') pressure to bear.

There are lots of folk spells around, and most of them are extremely simple:
     Blow a kiss to the New Moon when you first see her, and make a wish

     Grind coriander seed to powder and as you do so chant:
Warm seed, warm heart
Let us never be apart.
Put the powder into something your lover will eat

     If you have lost something, light a candle to St Anthony and pray that the item will be returned to you.

All of those examples are spells and anyone can simply follow those instructions and work those spells.
However have a think about it: spells are recipe instructions for magic, and they assume that a practitioner of magic will be aware of all the unsaid processes which can give the spell its optimum potency.

As today is St Albert Magnus day, let us have a look at a spell from the Petit Albert:

To Prevent Persons doing Evil unto you, whom you suspect of bearing Malice or designing Evil against you.
     Welcome, in the name of God, ye brethren true and God, we have all drunk of the Saviour's blood. God the Father be with me, God the Son be with you; God the Holy Spirit be with us all. Let us meet in union and part from each other in peace. + + +
     Three times spoken.

Now even though it would appear that the spell is worded as if you are speaking directly to your enemies, it is obvious that the spell is designed to be used before you actually meet them, so how would you use those words?

As Folk Witchery practitioners we know there are several things we can add to the spell, for a start we can do it within a properly cast circle. So first cast your circle, consecrate salt and water, bless yourself and anyone else with you in the circle.
Next we have to think about how we want to make use of the invocation. If you think your troubles are being caused by one person in particular, take a candle and write that person's name up the side of the candle, from bottom to top. Use your athame for this, or a long pin or needle. If you don't know who is causing the trouble, write 'My Enemy' up the candle instead. If you suspect it is a group of people, you can write instead 'My Enemies'.

Now light the candle and speak the invocation, just as if you have the person (people) in front of you and are speaking directly to them. Remember to repeat the invocation three times. the + sign means that you make the sign of the cross in the air towards the candle. So you make the sign of the cross three times after each repetition.

You can even make this invocation into a special magical talisman to carry with you for personal protection. If you want to make the talisman to prevent the machinations of one particular person (or several) write their name(s) on a piece of clean paper - consecrate the paper by putting a spot of consecrated salt water on each corner of the paper and pass the paper through your incense smoke.
In this case you could use frankincense, white sage or a special blend either for protection or to banish evil.
Turn the paper over and on the back write the invocation out. When you have written it, read the invocation out and make the sign of the cross three times in the air over your writing. Turn the paper over and say the invocation once more over the name(s) you have written and again make the sign of the cross three times.
Now fold the paper up so that the names of the person or people is hidden inside the packet, then fasten red thread around the packet to keep it closed. Then drip some of the wax from your candle onto the knotted thread to seal the package.
Put this packet into a little pouch you can carry with you, it is best if you can make it so that you carry the pouch against your skin, put a thread on it so you can wear it around your neck, or a woman could pop it inside her bra.
If it is safe to do so, let the candle burn down completely. This is for several reasons:
1)  Letting the candle burn down makes the complete offering to the powers and means that you cannot accidentally use that candle for anything else.
2) having written the name of the person up the candle, as it burns down, the person's name is also diminished and made less, and in magical terms this also diminishes their influence over you and lessens their ability to do you harm

So there you have it. From a seemingly simple and basic spell, you can create a potent and effective magical working just by using your knowledge as a working Witch.

Incidentally the book Black and White Magic of Albertus Magnus ed. Chris Sempers £4.95 packed with spells, information and a section on the Sator Square is available from
17 Melton Fields, Brickyard Lane, North Ferriby, East Yorkshire HU14 3HE

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

The Full Moon

Number 9 in my Folk Witchery series.

The Full Moon is the most important monthly occurence for Witches. It is the time when we get together for a Full Moon Esbat.

In the days before electric lights and street lighting the only light you ever saw outdoors during the night was the light of the stars and the moon. And only when the moon was full was there enough light to see where you were going at night.

The Full Moon is looked on as the time of the month when the Lunar powers are at their greatest strength. When the full silver disc of the moon is showing, then the power of the Bright Goddess is at its height.

Folk Witchery is natural magic, that is: magic which is an interaction between the Witch and the natural world and its rhythms.

It is possible and sometimes even necessary to work against those natural tides, but it does mean you need to work twice as hard. It is the difference between pushing a heavy barrow up a hill and allowing a slope to carry the barrow downhill for you.

So what should you do at the Full Moon? This is, of course, a great opportunity for spell casting and to make even greater use of the magical tides, see what day of the week the Full moon falls on. This week the Full Moon  falls on a Thursday (6th Nov 2014) which is the day of Jupiter, but do remember that the moon will appear full for a day either side of this, so you can also make use of the Full Moon magical energy boost on Wednesday and Friday.

Wednesday is the day of Mercury, associated with travel and communication, so a day for spells such as encouraging someone to get in touch, or be persuaded to your point of view, or to bless a journey.
Thursday is Jupiter's day, associated with wealth and money, so any kind of spell to do with financial matters such as seeking a better job or a wage increase, or a boost to your business.
Friday is the day of Venus (and also the traditional day for Witch meetings) spells tonight for love, seduction, friendship and harmony.

It is traditional to do at least part of your ritual out of doors where you can see the moon. Alternately if you have a room the moon shines into simply open the window and do your ritual there.
If neither of these is possible, go outside before you start your ritual and blow a kiss to the moon and make a wish.

If the night is dark and cloudy and there is no way you can see the moon, then remember that above all the moon is simply the symbol of the powers of the Goddess and work your ritual indoors.

Your ritual for the Full Moon can be a simple as you like.
You already now know the basics for any ritual:
Have a preparatory bath
Cast your circle
Consecrate salt and water
Bless yourself and anyone else in your circle.

At the Full Moon it is traditional to invite the Goddess into the circle and into the person of the priestess conducting the rite. The priestess then acts as the Goddess adding power to your spells and perhaps giving special messages to those present.
This process is known as Drawing Down the Moon.

However what is rarely mentioned is that:
a)  you can do it yourself, alone
b)  you can do it whether you are male or female
(the moon in many cultures has a male deity associated with it, in ancient Egypt there are both male and female moon deities, so you really can take your own choice)

In our Samhain ritual we invited the God and Goddess into our circle, so we can use the same words to do this again.
Then say:
I ask that the powers of the Full Moon descend into the body 
of your priest/priestess
(remember to stand with your arms curved out and upwards like the shape of the crescent moon)

Next the Goddess/God may choose to speak through the celebrant, or speak to you if you are working the ritual alone.
It is at this point when you may choose to recite the Charge of the Goddess. This is based on an invocation from the book Aradia, the Gospel of the Witches by C G Leland (version ed. by C P Sempers) available from Raven £4.95).
Whenever ye have need of anything
Once in the month, and when the moon is full, 
Ye shall assemble in some desert place,
Or in a forest all together join
To adore the potent spirit of your queen, Great Diana,
You who would learn all sorcery, 
Yet have not won its deepest secrets
To them will I teach, in truth all things as yet unknown.

There are actually many versions of this invocation, Raven also supplies a laminated poster version which is longer and more detailed (£1.95). So it is up to you whether you use it, or which version, or the God/Goddess may choose to speak something entirely different through you. Oh and of course you can change the name of the deity in the invocation to suit your personal preference.

Next do your magic spell, or some scrying or divination.
After that bless biscuits and drink as we did at the Samhain ritual. Remember to save a little of each to give to the spirits after you have finished your rite.

Then go to your altar and facing north - arms in invocation pose - say:
Lord and Lady of Witchdom, I thank you for attending my rite
As you return now to your place of power in peace and friendship
I wish you hail and farewell.

A nice touch now is to draw a pentacle in the air using your athame, wand or index finger.
Then kiss your hand and blow the kiss towards the north.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Ritual Preparation

Number 8 in my series on Folk Witchery

Although spells and rituals can be entirely spontaneous, there is a lot to be said for making some special efforts to prepare yourself, and your ritual area, for the working you wish to carry out.

Your preparations can awaken your Witchy senses, start the build up of the special atmosphere and 'tune' the energies so that you are in a heightened state of magical awareness before you step into your temple area.

If you are going to go in for ritual magic there are a whole set of rules concerning how you should conduct yourself and what you should eat or drink (or not) before your ritual. But as we are dealing with Folk Witchery, our preparations do not need to be so elaborate.

The main things to think about from a practical point of view are:
     Don't have a huge meal and drink loads of alcohol immediately before a ritual.

Simply because food helps to ground and close down psychic centres (one of the reasons that having cakes and drink comes after spell casting) and if you are tipsy you will make mistakes in your spells. Drunkenness also attracts the wrong kinds of energies - unless you are wanting to give yourself nightmares and call up lower astral entities, as they are known.

The best form of ritual preparation is to have a shower or a soak in a special bath infused with oils, salts or even charmed bubble bath. You can have a scented candle and appropriate joss stick or incense burning while you have your bath too.

Before you get in, pass your hands over the surface of the water and imagine blue Witchfire enlivening the bath with the power of purification and awakening in your soul and spirit the special energies you will need for your spell or ritual. Soak in the bath and think abut your ritual and the kind of magic you will be using, this will all help get you into the right frame of mind for your working and help increase your success rate too.


It is a nice idea to wear something special for your rituals (if you have a nice warm house you might choose to work skyclad - naked). A robe is not difficult to make: measure from your shoulder to your ankles then go buy some plain fabric twice this length. Fold the fabric in half and cut a hole in the fold line to poke your head through. Sew the sides of the fabric up, leaving gaps near the fold to stick your arms out. Or simply fasten the sides with pieces of ribbon, or just tie a sash or cord around your waist.
It is actually so simple you might end up with a drawer full of different coloured robes.
The colour you pick for your robe is up to you, but obviously black is traditional.

However, if you haven't got a robe, don't worry, you can wear your ordinary clothes.

Never let the fact that you haven't got exactly the right piece of equipment stop you from practising your magic. None of us ever has exactly the most perfect items we would like (unless you are multi-millionaire with bottomless pockets) and Folk Witchery in particular is about being adaptable and using what you have to hand,

Next time we shall look the Folk Witchery approach to the Full Moon

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A Ritual for Samhain

No. 7 in my series on real Folk Witchery.

The old Celtic name for Halloween is Samhain (pronounced Sow-in), this festival was so important to our Pagan ancestors that the christians were obliged to take it over and rename it All Hallows Eve which shortened to Halloween.
     First I will just say that this festival is a season rather than a single day as so its celebration can be timed either to the date, 31st October, to the nearest Full Moon (known as the Hunter's Moon and this year on the 6th of November) or to Old Halloween 11th November, or any day between new and old Halloween.
     Also of all the festivals, if you can hold it out of doors, it does add to the magic and mystery of the occasion. And if you can safely make a fire of 13 sacred woods, this will be the centre piece of your celebration.
     If you are holding your ritual indoors then try to make a special incense using shavings of 13 different varieties of wood. You may be surprised how many different sorts of trees and shrubs there are.
     You will also need a sprig of rosemary (available at most supermarkets) a small glass of wine, cold tea or fruit juice, and some good quality biscuits. These can be made by you or bought, but make sure there are enough for everyone present to have one, and one left over.
     I shall write this ritual as if it will be just you alone inside doing it, but feel free to adapt, add or take out bits to suit your needs or beliefs.

     First cast your circle and have some of your special incense burning. Take your time, be thorough, this is not a race.
     Consecrate salt and water.
     Now while facing towards the North, hold your arms out and up so that they curve like the curve of the crescent moon (this is the standard pose for invoking any deity or spirit in a Witch's circle) and say:
"Boreas, guardian of the Northern gates, 
open the way for the Lord and Lady of Witchdom to enter this circle 
and be with me at the Holy rite of Samhain."

     Now wait quietly and imagine your God and Goddess coming towards you from the North. If you have names for these deities, you can use them in the invocation.
     You may feel the temperature rise at this point.
     Now take up the consecrated water and dip your index finger into it, and use this to draw a five point star in the middle of your forehead. You can do this also to anyone else present and as you do so say:
"I bless [magical name] in the names of the Lord and Lady, Blessed Be!"

     It is now traditional to do some magic, a spell or divination. When that is complete say:
"And now it is the time to welcome and remember the dead."

     Dip the rosemary in the consecrated water and use this to sprinkle around your circle and say:
"May this place be welcoming to the spirits of Witchdom, 
and to those who have gone before."

     Break off a few leaves of rosemary and drop them into your incense burner and say:
"I remember [name(s)] merry meet, merry part and merry meet again!"

     Next we are going to bless your cakes and wine. For this part you can use either your Athame, wand or the index and middle fingers of your strongest hand. Point at the plate of biscuits and say:
"I conjure thee, O Meal, thou who art indeed our body,
 for without thee we could not live.
Thou who first was seed and grew in the body of the Earth Goddess, 
growing tall and strong and yet were cut down in thy prime, 
dried and ground so that through your sacrifice we could live and flourish. 
Blessings be upon thee, and upon all who partake of thee. Blessed Be!"

Now point at your goblet of drink in the same way and say:
"I conjure thee, O Wine, thou who art indeed the blood of the Goddess, 
drawn forth from the dark earth and spreading through the fruits and vines. 
As we drink of thee we remember again the old ways and the ancient rites. 
Blessings be upon thee and upon all who partake of thee. Blessed Be!"

     And now you should sit in your circle and enjoy the atmosphere, eat a biscuit and drink some of the wine or fruit juice. Remember to save some of each as these will be an offering for you to take outside after the rite, leave it under a tree or bush as an offering to the spirits.

    When you are ready to end your ritual, go to your altar, face north and stand again with your arms outstretched like the horns of the moon, and say:
"Lord and Lady and all the spirits of Witchdom, 
those who have gone before and those who are yet to be, 
I salute you all in love and friendship 
and thank you for attending my Samhain rite. 
Stay if you will until dawn lights the sky, 
and then return to your proper place in peace. 
So shall it be."

     You can now leave your circle and take the offerings outside.


For lots more information on Samhain and folk magical traditions surrounding Samhain and Halloween see:
A Folk Witchery Book of Halloween by Chris Sempers and Graham Raven £3.95
Lesson 1 Raven Wicca Course (which includes the festival of Samhain) £2.95
The conjurations used for the cakes and wine are based on some from the book Aradia or the Gospel of the Witches by C G Leland, edited by C P Sempers £4.95
all available from Raven, 17 Melton Fields, Brickyard Lane, North Ferriby, East Yorkshire HU14 3HE

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Your Book of Shadows

This is number 6 in my series on How to Do Folk Witchery
By the way I'd just like to say thank you for some of the nice comments I've had about my blog. I am glad to hear that people are finding these posts helpful.

Please note: I did not entitle this post 'A Book of Shadows' or 'The Book of Shadows' but 'Your Book of Shadows' and this is for a very good reason: it doesn't matter what anyone else writes in their books, this book is yours.

First of all: What is a Book of Shadows?
     Basically it is an individual Witches notebook of spells, rituals, magical workings or anything to do with their magic. It is the Witches equivalent of the records of  experiments an industrial chemist might keep.
     So you would write in it your ritual for casting a circle, consecrating salt and water, your seasonal rituals and any spells you want to try.
     One thing I would say: bear in mind that you may well be reading your Book of Shadows by candle light - so write clearly.
     I have found that a loose leaf folder can make an excellent Book of Shadows as you can rearrange the pages to suit your needs. However another thing to think about is that if you are going to be using it to read from during a spell or ritual, you will have to put it down somewhere from time to time, so you will either need it to be not too huge, or you must invest in a book stand of some kind.

      (The photo is of Books of Shadows or magical notebooks we currently have in stock)
      A Book of Shadows is a magical tool in the same way as your Athame is and as such it should be treated with respect. It is also a personal and private magical diary and should only be opened and read by someone else if you give them permission to do so.

     None of your magical tools should be left lieing about where anyone can pick them up and examine them. Only your magical vibrations should be on the tools of your magical trade. (With items for group or Coven use there is a bit more leeway, but even then only the group members authorised to do so, should be handling the group magical equipment.)

Magical tools do bite!

There are many stories and legends of what happens if someone finds a magician's wand or something belonging to a Witch and plays with it, without giving it the correct respect.
     The story of the magician's apprentice who starts a spell off and then can't get it to stop is based on a true story.

     The way we prepare any object, or set it apart for magical use, is through the art of consecration. So, as an example, here is a short ritual of consecration.
     You are going to need your altar table, candles, salt and water, incense, pen and ink and your Book of Shadows.

First cast your circle ! I hope you wrote down the ritual I gave you in my Blog post of that name, as that working also includes the making of Consecrated Water, which you will need for this process.

Once you have cast your circle, go and sit at your altar table.
We shall consecrate your Book of Shadows first of all.
     Dip your thumb and first finger in the Consecrated Water and nip the four corners of the book's front and back covers with your thumb and finger. When you have done all four corners say:
I consecrate this Book of Shadows to the study and Art of the Witch's Craft
Now pass the book three times through the smoke of your incense. This means that your Book of Shadows has been consecrated by the four magical elements - Earth, Water, Fire and Air.
     Next, hold the book between your hands, your palms flat against it and imagine blue Witchfire passing between your palms and through the book. Take your time with this, and know that this is bringing your book to magical life.

     That is all you need to do to consecrate your Book of Shadows. However, if you want to, you can embellish your book by drawing a pentacle in a circle on the front cover, or more discretely on the inside front and back end papers. You can put your name in the centre of the pentacle, I prefer to use one of the magical alphabets to do this, Theban is my favourite, but if you are studying Norse magic then you could use Runic.

    All of your magical tools can be consecrated in a similar way, but once you have done so, make sure you keep them safely away from anyone else. Have a special drawer or cupboard to keep your magical equipment in.
     Incidentally the only things you should not consecrate are those which already have a magical energy you want to make use of such as a natural talisman such as a holy stone, herbs, incenses and oils. Since consecration wipes away all previous vibrations and puts your magic in its place.

     You can find more in depth information on the Book of Shadows, another ritual, pentacles of protection for your book and a table of magical alphabets in our Fact Sheet 74 The Book of Shadows. Fact Sheet 16 Ritual Purity, covers ritual preparation and consecration too. Message me through if you would like a set of catalogues popping in the post.

Next time we are going to look at the last and first ritual of the Witches' Year - the Rite of Samhain.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Three Times is the Charm

 Number 4 in my Folk Witchery series
Three times is the charm is a very old saying and relates directly to the magical process.

In my last Blog article 'Now Cast Your Circle' you will see that in effect the circle boundary was cast three times. The first time with blue Witchfire, the second with consecrated water and the third time with incense.

Three is a very powerful number both in the physical and magical worlds.

In the physical world three is the number of sides of a triangle, the strongest and most stable shape in nature. A box can collapse if it hasn't been given triangular supports across its corners. A three legged table or stool is stable on even the most uneven surface.

In the magical world it is traditional for a spell or invocation to be repeated thrice (three times) and Witches speak of the Triple Goddess - Maiden, Mother and Crone.
The reason why we repeat the spell three times is also because we need to get through to the magical universe to activate the energy we need. I was once told that the first repetition is for the conscious mind, the second repetition is for the subconscious or unconscious mind, and the third repetition goes beyond these to our magical mind. So it is the third repetition that actually gets the magic moving.

It is also traditional to cast the circle three times, or with a triple boundary, for a similar reason. However I also incorporated a bit more into the ritual I gave you.

The first casting was done with Witchfire. Witchfire is the personal power of the Witch and (if you manage it properly) an energy which rather than just being drawn from within yourself, is channelled directly from a Universal energy source. Witchfire is effectively the power of life, the energy which turns a lump of dead flesh into a living entity. So by using Witchfire to cast your circle boundary, the boundary, the circle and the magical area all comes alive. And so does the magic within you.

Now we needed to awaken your inner magic so that you could do the next process, the consecration of salt and water, and once that was done, the consecrated water was used for the second boundary.

With the third boundary we raised the magical power levels again, using incense to 'call the quarters'. The quarters or compass points of the circle, East, South, West and North correspond to the magical elements Air, Fire, Water and Earth. These four magical Elements are the building blocks of the magical Universe, the alternative dimension which is the source of the physical world, and by using the consecrated water and incense, we were incorporating those Elements into the very boundary of our magic circle.

Consecrated Water being composed of salt and water is actually a blend of Elemental Earth and Elemental Water. The incense is both Elemental Fire and Elemental Air. So we have the four magical Elements plus the fifth element, Witchfire which enlivens them all.

These five elements together are symbolised by the five point star, the pentacle, which many Witches and Pagans wear.

So the little, simple circle casting I gave you was actually a 'swan' form of magic - floating serenely along on the surface and paddling like fury underneath.

You will find that many traditional spells and Folk Witchery are of a similar ilk, so don't dismiss or disparage traditional spells as being simplistic. There is more going on within than is apparent on the surface.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

First Cast Your Circle

Here we have Number 4 in my series on the basics of Witch Craft
When you create a magic circle, you are constructing both a magical containment area and a Witches' temple or sacred space.
     The first thing to say is that the space does not have to be circular (although it mainly is), it can be the shape of your room, or under certain circumstances it can be a specific shape such as square or triangular.
     It is a good idea to delineate the border of your circle in some way. You could mark a chalk circle, or sprinkle a boundary of salt, or even position candles - beware of swishing a robe across a flame! The traditional method to mark a circle on a dirt floor was to stab an Athame into the floor at the centre of the area, tie a length of cord to the handle and use a second knife at the other end of the cord to score a line into the floor. You could use this method out of doors, but I've found the easiest way is to lay down a length of white cord to create the boundary. This shows up well in the dark and can be almost instantly removed leaving no trace of your activities.
     Nine metres of cord will enclose a circle nine feet in diameter, the traditional size for a general circle, so six metres of cord will make a six foot diameter circle, ideal for personal use, and fifteen metres of cord makes a 15ft circle for an outdoor group working.
     Of course the size of your circle will also be dependant on the size of space you have available.
     Inside your circle you will need all the equipment for the spell or magical working you intend doing. For this particular working I would suggest you will need: a small table to serve as your altar, a couple of candles and holders if necessary (night lights are fine), some incense, a container of salt and a small bowl of water. If you have an Athame or wand put that on your altar too, and a stool or chair might also be a good idea.
     First mark the boundary of your circle and position the table and chair in the middle of the area so you can walk around them, you should be facing towards the north when you sit at the altar table. If your area is small then put the altar against the northern wall, or the northern boundary of your circle.
Light the candles and incense and put out any electric lights in the room, and have your curtains closed if there is any chance of you being over-looked.
     Now take your Athame or wand and go to the eastern point of your circle boundary, point at the boundary and imagine blue fire springing up where you point (if you don't have a wand or Athame, use the index finger of your strongest hand). Move towards the south of your circle, drawing the blue fire along the circle boundary, then to the west, to the north and back to the east to that you are surrounded by a circle of blue fire. Go and sit at your altar and close your eyes if you want to and imagine the circle for a little while.
      Next we shall consecrate salt and water. Cup your hands together, palms downwards, over the salt and imagine the blue Witchfire flowing from your palms and into the salt making it glow. You can then say aloud:
I consecrate this Salt to the service of the Lord and Lady
Put three good pinches of salt into the bowl of water. Cup your two hands together palm downwards over the water and again imagine blue Witchfire flowing from your palms into the salty water. You can then say aloud:
I consecrate this Water to the service of the Lord and Lady
     Take your time with all of these processes, there is no rush and especially the first few times you do them it is better to be thorough.
     Then take up the bowl of water and go to the eastern point of the circle, dip your fingers in the water and sprinkle a few drops on the boundary, turn towards the south and sprinkle a few drops all the time you walk around the boundary of your circle until you get back to the east again. Then put the bowl back on your altar.
     Now take up the incense and go to the east again and say: 'I ask the Powers of the East, of elemental Air, to empower my circle. Blessed Be!' Waft the incense three times outward as an offering and just wait a little while. Try to imagine what the spirits of elemental air might be like - imagine the feeling of a breeze blowing onto your face from this direction.
     Go to the south and face outwards and say: 'I ask the Powers of the South, of elemental Fire, to empower my circle. Blessed Be!' Waft the incense three times and wait. Imagine what the powers of elemental fire might look and feel like - imagine a feeling of warmth against your face, as if you are facing a fire.
     Continue to the west of your circle, face outwards and say: 'I ask the Powers of the West, of elemental Water, to empower my circle. Blessed Be!' Waft the incense three times, wait and then imagine what the powers of elemental water might look like - try and imagine the feel of mist or sea spray on your face.
     At the north of your circle say: 'I ask the Powers of the North, of elemental Earth, to empower my circle. Blessed Be!' Waft the incense three times, wait and imagine what the powers of elemental earth might be like - try and imagine the smell of grass or of freshly turned earth, or even of ashes or decaying leaves.
    To seal the circle, continue to the east once more, then replace the incense on your altar and say:
The circle is created, it is a place between the worlds, where magic happens!
 So Mote it Be!

     You have created your first magic circle, and consecrated salt and water. That magical liquid can be used to bless yourself and other people within your circle, to bless your magical implements and to banish negative energies.
     If you want to work a little spell you can do so now, or you can just sit for a while, meditate or enjoy the atmosphere.
     And know that it is the act of performing this ritual which confirms you as an active Witch.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Ma-at Spell for Justice

In Ancient Egypt the Ma-at (or Mayat) was a very important and ancient goddess. She existed from ancient times, long before Isis and Osiris.

It is said that when Ra emerged from the primeval mud, he created Ma-at before any other deities, and that all rulership should be based on the principles of Ma-at. This was phrased: all rulership lives upon the body of Ma-at. Meaning that only by following the principles of Ma-at could a ruler remain in power.

Ma-at is usually depicted as a woman wearing a headdress with one or two long feathers in it, and sometimes just the symbol of the feather is enough. She is usually represented in the Egyptian Book of the Dead as a feather on one pan of a pair of scales, with the heart of the deceased on the other pan.

As long ago as 2500bce the vizir Ptah-Hotep wrote a series of maxims for the instruction of Egyptian youth and says about the principles of Ma-at, which are justice, honour and truth:
'Ma-at is good and its worth is lasting.
It has not been disturbed since the day of its creator, whereas he who transgresses its ordinances is punished.
It lies as a path in front of him who knows nothing.
Wrongdoing has never yet brought its venture to port.
It is true that evil may gain wealth but the strength of truth is that it lasts; a man can say
"It was the property of my father." '

Ma-at Spell for Justice
This spell can be used at any time you have been treated unfairly or unjustly. You will need a white candle, some incense of sandalwood or cedarwood, a small feather, a pen and paper and some red thread.

Light the candle and incense and by the light of the candle write on the piece of paper your petition to the goddess Ma-at. Keep it brief and to the point, for example:

Lady Ma-at
[name] has stolen my ideas and is passing them off as his/her own
I ask for justice
I ask for their crime to be revealed
I ask that they shall not prosper from this crime
In your hands be it.

Put the feather on the writing and roll it up into a scroll. Secure it with red thread and seal it with wax from your candle. Then pass the scroll three times through the incense smoke and say:
     None can escape the judgement of Ma-at
     So be it.

Put the scroll somewhere safe until it has been fulfilled - I have a small box decorated with Egyptian symbols and I keep all my petitions to the Egyptian gods in there.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

First Steps in a Witch's Craft - Basic Supplies

Article 3 in my 'How to become a Witch' series:

Once you have commited yourself to becoming a Witch, and especially after you have taken the step of undergoing any form of Initiation ritual, the next question is always: What do I do next?

One of those questions I get asked regularly is: what equipment do I need to be a Witch? This is another of those deceptively simple questions which is devilishly difficult to answer. It will depend on what sort of a Witch you are going to be, and there are a whole load of things you will need if you are going to follow a particular branch of Witchcraft.

However what you are learning from me is Folk Witchery and that is rather different. Folk Witchery is the Witch Craft done by people in their own home, in their own town or village and usually makes use of whatever you have to hand. However to make your life easier I will go over some of the basic things which you are going to use regularly:

Candles: you can always use white candles for most workings, but if you have a stock of coloured ones they can help to 'tune' your spells

Salt: you will need this for blessing, cleansing and protection spells. You can also use it to create the boundary of your magic circle.

Incense and an incense burner: this can be anything from a church style thurible on chains to swing it, using natural resins burnt on a charcoal disc, to a simple wooden incense sled and joss sticks. I use both loose incense and incense sticks and cones, depending on the ritual or spell, where I am and what I feel is best at the time.

Pen and paper: it is always best if you can keep your magical supplies exclusively for your magical practises rather than just using any old pen and scrap of paper - but there are times when 'needs must' so never get yourself hung up on not working your magic just because you don't have the ideal tool or ingredient to hand. I prefer to use an old fashioned dip pen and ink for my magical writings, just because it feels more 'special' and that I am making more of an effort. Also ink can be flavoured with a couple of drops of magical oil, or have special herbs added, which can also help tune your magic in and thus encourage a more potent outcome to your working.
We are lucky these days to be able to find many different thicknesses and colours of paper, so you can incorporate the colours into your magic.

You will find that you accumulate equipment as you need it, but one thing which every Witch will need is an Athame or magical knife. This is the chief instrument you use to direct magical energy, but what it looks like can be very different.

As you can imagine, I do own several Athames and use them for different purposes. One is a paper knife make out of black bone shaped into a goats hoof, with a scimitar shaped horn blade. Another is hand carved by me from a yew wood branch, it has a distinct handle and triangular shaped blade, rather like a phurbah and is decorated with pokerwork incorporating various magical symbols. Some people would call it a magic wand, since it is entirely made of wood, but I know what it is and that is all that matters.

The classic Athame has a black handle and a metal blade, but I have seen all sorts of knives used from hand knapped flint, to glass and even plastic. An Athame is used to cut things in the magical realms, not the physical world, so the blade does not need to be sharp. There are times when you will need to cut things though, so you might need another knife for this - the second knife traditionally has a white handle - or even a pair of small scissors.

The Athame is the personal tool of the Witch, and at one time everyone had a personal knife, it was used for everything from cutting up your dinner to sharpening your quill pen. So there is no reason why your Athame can't be used in a similar way. Some people say that the more you use your Athame, the more powerful it becomes, so I feel this is down to your own personal choice.

However if you can't find a knife that suits you, the index finger of your strongest hand can be used to direct power in just the same way.

Notice I have not mentioned a pentacle, cup or wand, cords, broom or cauldron. These are all things you may well end up buying, but are not essential to getting started.

Next time we shall look at how to cast a magic circle.

Monday, 29 September 2014

To Be a Witch

This post follows on from my post 'How do I become a Witch?'

In my previous post I gave you some quick and traditional methods of becoming a Witch, in this post we will look at how you could create your own ritual to celebrate your first steps into the Witchy realm. These rituals are sometimes known as self-initiation as no-one but yourself needs to be involved in whatever you decide to do.

I feel that there is a lot to be said for your first ritual to be between yourself and the Old Ones. When you work your ritual in solitude it is literally a matter between you and the gods. You will decide whether you wish to give yourself to the Gods, and they will decide whether to accept you.

It takes courage to work a solitary ritual of initiation. It can be a scary experience - but all initiations should be scary, as what you are doing is deliberately turning away from your old life and taking on something completely new and very different. In many initiation rituals you will find a point where someone asks the postulant, 'Are you sure you want to carry on? Because if you go through with this there will be no way to return to your old way of being.'

Initiation should and will fundamentally change you. Sometimes those changes are subtle, it could be a feeling of contentment that at last you have acknowledged a part of you which has been suppressed, or sometimes those changes can be quite brutal. Being a Witch has never been an easy course to take, Doreen Valiente was quite clear on the value of keeping your beliefs to yourself, saying 'Witchcraft won't pay for broken windows.'

But being a Witch is never boring!

So now we shall look at what your ritual could be like, but bear in mind you do not have to follow my suggestions, your own ideas may be totally different. Just try and keep things simple, complications always cause problems.

The first thing you will need for your ritual is a place where you can be alone and uninterrupted. Turn off your mobile, unplug the phone, make sure anyone else in the house is asleep or out of the way.
Midnight is known as the Witching hour for a very good reason: in the days before electricity most rural people would be fast asleep before midnight so it gave Witches the privacy they needed for their spell working. Midnight is also a 'between' time, it is an hour between one day and the next, so Midnight is a good time to pick for your ritual.

I would suggest that you do your ritual by candle light, a single candle can act as a focus for your energy, and it also feels special and magical too. You could also light some incense, flavours such as Night Queen, Sandalwood or Patchouli would be appropriate, or one which you particularly like.

Some people insist that for this ritual you should be naked, as it is a re-birth into a new world. I can understand the argument but I don't feel that it is necessary, and again you should follow your own feelings in this matter

If it feels appropriate to you, you could start by reciting the Lord's Prayer backwards, this effectively unfastens you from your previous life and sets you free to choose to become a Witch. Alternately you could simply say:
       I stand here alone, I put myself beyond the bonds of mortal life, I offer myself to the Old Ones.

One of the acts of many traditional initiation ceremonies is the taking of the measure. The priest or priestess would use a length of cotton, wool or cord to measure the height of the new Witch, this measure would then be kept by the coven. This piece of cotton represents the person it measured, and as such if that person betrayed the group, then they could use the measure in spells and rituals to bind or silence them.
You could measure yourself, with a piece of cotton: simply hold one end in one hand and spread your arms as wide apart as possible and call that your measure. This piece of cotton should then be put into a small pouch and kept safe.

Alternately you could put one knee on the floor and put one hand on the top of your head and say:
   'I give all that is between my hands, freely, to the Old Ones and ask that you accept me as a Witch.'

   'Let me see or hear a sign that I am acceptable to you.'

Traditional signs are the barking of a dog, or the cry of a bird, but it could be a book falling off a shelf, or the sudden flickering of your candle flame, or that it bobs or grows larger or smaller.

At this time it is also traditional to take a special magical name, so you could say:
'Let me be known within the circle as ... [name you have chosen].'

Then finally stand up and say:
'I stand now before the God and Goddess as Witch [Witch Name]. 
Merry Meet, Merry Part and Merry Meet again.'

Welcome to the circle of Witchdom.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Equinox Balance?

This is an article which first appeared in the Raven Newsletter Harvest 2011 edition:

   So many times we are told that at the Equinoxes of Spring and Autumn the powers of Light and Dark are in balance. At Spring the light is poised to grow and strengthen and at the Autumn Equinox it is the darkness which is advancing.
   Because of the equality of light and darkness at the Equinoxes we often picture this as an old fashioned balance scale (as in the astrological symbol of Libra) with the two pans standing level.
   These times are therefore looked on not only as times of balance, but also of harmony. However as there are two pans on a balance scale, the Equinox energies have two sides or faces to them.
   As well as the harmonious, balanced energies, there are also the chaotic, unbalanced energies. The chaotic energies are often ignored or simply disregarded as a temporary or anomalistic blip in the overall harmonious metaphysical energies of this season.
   Chaos is a normal part of these seasons
   Chaotic elements can be seen even in the weather around the Equinoxes. March and September are known for their wild and windy weather - this year we have had the tail of a hurricane crossing the country causing great disruption in places. Remember the old weather lore saying that March can come in like a Lion and go out like a Lamb, or equally come in like a Lamb and go out like a Lion. In other words great contrasts in the weather have been recognised as a feature of the Equinoxes for centuries.
   And as it is with the world of nature, so it can be with the tides of magic and emotion.
   Many times people find that great chaotic changes in their lives occur around the Equinoxes. There may be job losses (or gains), house moving, relationships breaking up or being remade. You may find old friends appearing out of the woodwork - or falling out with you for no apparent reason. The Equinox energies are Mercurial, changeable, chaotic and can hit you with all the force of a sledge hammer.
   The Equinoxes can be thought of as times of cleansing and purification in preparation for the two greatest times of magical energy in the year. In Spring the next festival to come is Beltane, and after the Autumn Equinox will come Samhain.
   In the physical world the Equinox winds whip the old dead leaves from the treas. Both Equinoxes clear away dead wood, blow away clouds and foggy uncertainty as, when they have passed, you are in no doubt that the seasons have turned. At this time of year we have moved from the settled, bright and balmy blue skies of Summer into the colder and darker days of the coming Winter.
   The Equinoxes can be thought of as times when one door closes and another opens. They are times of change, which in the physical world is the change from Summer to Winter, or Winter to Summer - the Celts recognised only two seasons, Autumn and Spring are our later interpretations of these times of transition.
   When anything is changing from one state of being to another we are lucky if that transition happens smoothly, gently and harmoniously. In practise most change involves some disruption and even conflict, very often having to be shoved through against a protest of one kind or another.
   We like our lives to be predictable. We are content (in the main) knowing that today will be much like yesterday and tomorrow, this is how we are able to plan for the future - and hence the old Chinese curse 'May you live in interesting times.'
   However this can lead to stagnation and taking the easy way, the path of least resistance, or least disruption, just to keep a steady level (no matter how low) of stability or contentment.
   Sometimes we need a shake up. We need to find out that a loved one isn't content with you going out with your mates three nights a week, or equally would like to go out with their own mates rather than sit at home every night. The state of your lives 'harmony' can be a dangerous illusion which can crumble without warning.
   This is not to say that changes only occur around the Equinoxes. Change can happen at any time, but the Equinoxes can regularly be found to be times when these changes all seem to decide to happen all at once. Some people do seem to be more susceptible to these disruptions than others, this is particularly true of those who live a more magical life.
   Incidentally these same chaotic energies can often manifest prior to an initiatory experience, another time when old attitudes, habits and even relationships need to be broken and remade in a new form. An initiation can be a rebirth, and often this means former relationships have to be made anew as you move into a new mental, magical and spiritual sphere.
   So if your Equinox is being chaotic rather than harmonious, this is natural and normal.
   Just be ready and remember;
   Some changes really are for the better.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

How do I become a Witch?

When I am asked this question, I am often stumped what to reply, as there are so many ways I could answer.

The simple answer is: just get on and be a Witch.
But that doesn't really help with the practical 'how's and 'why's and 'wherefore's.

So since the nights are drawing in and we are heading towards the most Magical time of the year, I decided it was time to look at giving out some practical information instead.

First: If you haven't already done so, please send for a Raven catalogue (you will find links to a version you can read online on this blog page, and on our facebook page). I know that is a bit of shameless self-promotion, but just having the catalogue to read through will answer a lot of your questions. For example there are the Basic and an Advanced Wicca Course, Fact Sheets and the Folk Witchery Book of Self-Initiation and Solitary Witchcraft.
All of these will help you on your quest, but the really basic thing to consider is:
         Do I feel like a Witch and that I want to make a commitment to being a Witch?

Anyone can cast a spell, you do not have to be a Witch to do that. So if all you really want to do is learn how to cast a few spells for various purposes, just find yourself a spell book, there are plenty on the market.

The way most books recommend that you become a Witch is by joining a Coven and being initiated by them. Of course that does have its own difficulties, firstly finding a Coven is difficult enough, then finding one that is willing to initiate you, and that you feel comfortable with is another matter.

Becoming a Witch does not have to be a convoluted process with an elaborate ritual, but it should involve you making some sort of commitment to a new way of being.

There are actually a lot of traditional methods for becoming a Witch. Many of them come from times when everyone in Britain was christian, or at least had to appear to be so, and when every child would have been baptised, thus making them a part of the christian church. So in order to become a Witch, very often the process involved ways of breaking your links to your former religion.
One old ritual says that you should walk three time widdershins around a church at midnight and then leave your prayerbook in the porch. Leaving your prayerbook obviously means that you will no longer be able to participate in the christian rituals, and widdershins movement is a way of undoing something, in this case you are undoing your attachment to the christian church, leaving you free to make a new bond to Witchcraft.

Another old ritual is to kneel naked at midnight with a single candle and recite the Lord's Prayer backwards. Again the backwards recitation of the prayer is a way of undoing your commitment to your former ways and leaves you outside the bounds of conventional society.

There are other traditional spells which emphasise more the commitment to your new life, rather than breaking the bonds with the old, for example:
Go to a crossroads at midnight and mark a circle there big enough for you to move comfortably within it. Then kneel down and put one hand on the sole of your foot and the other on top of your head and say:
          I give all that is between my hands to the service of the Old Ones.
You should then stand up and wait until you hear a noise such as the rustling of leaves or the cry of an owl, or until the world feels uncannily silent around you. Then throw a silver coin towards the noise, leave your circle and walk back to your house without looking behind you.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Folk Witchery Books

I have been busy this weekend putting the finishing touches to a new publication:
The Folk Witchery Book of the Winter Solstice. (£3.95 from Raven)

We are currently working on the next mail shot and I wanted to be able to put the new book in it (and remind folks of some of our other Folk Witchery publications, especially the one for Halloween, - also £3.95 - which will be upon us sooner than you think).

Over the years the Postal Bookshop, our book catalogue, has evolved from being a list of 'bought in' books to being a full, and ever expanding catalogue of our own publications - published under our Corvus Books imprint. It has given us the opportunity to have great fun researching and writing about all the stuff we enjoy. The Folk Witchery series in particular was inspired by our love of finding old traditions and spells, things that are being increasingly lost in our modern technology driven world.

I come from a country village in the heart of rural Lincolnshire. A place where folk beliefs, superstitions and traditions were a normal part of my childhood. But I know that even then, those traditions were being lost and forgotten by most of my contemporaries and their parents. I happened to come from a family with strong folk magic beliefs: talking about your dreams and interpreting them, telling fortunes from the tea leaves from the remains of the FIRST cup of the day, superstitions about everything from when to cut your toenails to which ear the cat washed first, all these things were normal every-day occurences in my home.

I remember at Grammar School one day the English teacher decided that we should all write down as many superstitions as we could think of. Most of the children could only come up with one or two, such as not walking under a ladder, but me and a boy from a nearby village filled pages with omens and meanings to do with bird flight, trees and plants and animal behaviour and all sorts of other things from the meanings of dropped items of cutlery (a visitor: a knife is a man, a fork a woman and a spoon for a child) to which shoe you should put on first to avoid bad luck that day (the right one).

So my love of these folk practises, and my determination to remember them and hopefully pass them on so that others will know of them, stems right from my early childhood.

Our latest book, A Folk Witchery Book of the Winter Solstice is a compendium of anything and everything to do with the beliefs, traditions and practises which are found around mid-winter. There are recipies for food and drink, spells and superstitions, a calendar of festivals from the 6th of December (St Nicholas feast day) to Epiphany on the 6th of January, drawn from christian and pagan beliefs - and often from christianised pagan practises. There are also sections on The Wild Hunt, the Winter Shaman, Christmas Decorations, Wassailing and Prognostications for the day on which Christmas Day falls and lots more.

It was great fun doing the research and writing the book - I hope you enjoy reading it as much.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Odin and the Runes

The story of Odin and the runes is a very magical one.

Odin was the chief of the Aesir, but his main quest and aspiration was always for knowledge. So he decided to try and learn the knowledge of the magical symbols known as the Runes. The story of what he did and what he learned is contained in an ancient poem known as Havamal, 'The Words of the High One' so this poem is not someone else's interpretation of what occurred, but Odin's own words.

Odin knew that he had to find the source of the runes and that he would have to pay for his knowledge. He chose to sacrifice himself by hanging himself on the world tree Yggdrasil:

I know that I hung on a windy tree
Nine long nights,
Wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin,
Myself to myself,
On that tree of which no man knows
From where its roots run.

Odin knows that only being prepared to give the ultimate sacrifice will give him any chance of learning the magical secrets of the runes. How many of us would think that knowledge was worth more than your own life?
As he hung on the tree Odin was poised between life and death:
They gave me no bread, they gave me no drink

The outcome could have gone either way, and as he hung in that in-between state, after nine days and nights of suffering suddenly he saw the runes appear below him, reflected in the waters of the well of Urd
I peered down below, took up the runes
Screaming I took them and fell back again.

The effort of getting the runes to reveal themselves to him was immense, and as he seized them, knew them, learnt their meanings, he fell from the tree with the runes in his grasp.

The next stanza reads like a shamanic spirit journey. Odins body so exhausted and damaged by his ordeal and the pain of wrenching himself from the tree has put his spirit outside his body, his body appears dead, but his spirit is learning still:
Nine lays of power I learned
From the famous Bolthor, Bestla's father
He poured me a draught of precious mead
Mixed with Odrerir

In other words, Odin journeys to the spirit worlds and there he learns directly from his own grandfather. Bolthor was an ice giant and his daughter Bestla is the mother of Odin. Bolthor aids his grandson by giving him a special draught of mead to speed his recovery from the ordeal

Well-being I won and wisdom too
I waxed and grew
From a word to a word I was led to a word
From a deed to another deed

So Odin returns from the spirit world, his soul returns to his body and he is not only alive, but stronger and wiser too. And he knows that what he has learnt will be knowledge he can and will put into action, not only words but deeds - from one deed to another.

Magic is not a theoretical subject.

It is all very well being able to memorise the meanings of tarot cards or the symbols of the runes, but they are NOTHING unless you use them.

You are not a magician/witch/shaman unless and until you take that step and USE your knowledge.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

I Love Boot Sales

We have been out this morning to Walkington Boot Sale, one of my favourites.
I told one friend that I love going to boot sales, and she was amazed, 'What on earth for?' she asked, 'There is nothing but a load of tat!'

Well one persons 'tat' is another persons treasure!

The thrill is never knowing just what you might find. I have certain things I look out for, light reading books (why pay a tenner for a novel you will read once, when you can get em for 50p each, or less), glass beads  and jigsaw puzzles.
I do like a jigsaw, and I don't mind if there is a piece or two missing, in fact you often get them a bit cheaper if they are not complete - I am easy to please. Mind you it can be a bit of an adventure buying jigsaw's at a boot sale. I once bought one which was supposed to be a circular puzzle of a variety of wild flowers, when I got it together it was an oblong picture of an underwater action scene from a Bond movie - all frogmen with harpoon guns and sharks - and five pieces missing.

Recent bargains have been: a hand-made patchwork quilt for a fiver, a light fitting of gilt oak leaves with crystal droplets for 50p, a necklace and earrings with purple glass beads for four pounds, a teapot, cups and saucers in Willow pattern for three pounds, oh and a box of amber beads for a pound.

Of course you are going to have to look through loads of stuff which are of no use or interest to you - but they will be to someone! You should see the way the chaps flock to look at rows of rusty old handy man tools.

Walkington Bootsale is particularly good because it is only on once a month for four or five months in the summer, and is full of people who have come from all over the countryside, with genuine stuff they just want rid of - unlike some regular weekly bootsales which are packed with dealers selling the same stuff time after time.

So what treasures did we get today? I got some books to read and a puzzle of a painting of Venice. We also got a pile of books my grandson will enjoy when he comes to visit. I got a nice stoneware milk jug, and a long ethnic scarf, oh and a couple of big church candles and Graham got a thing.

I made the mistake of having a sit down on a handy bench under a tree, out of the baking sunlight (it is a beautiful day for us today) and letting Graham have a wander round on his own for a bit. He arrived back with something that looked like a stool which had been badly put together by someone who had never seen a stool before, with the seat on the ground and the legs stuck up behind it. It turns out to be an exercise machine. You sit on the seat (which is on the floor), hold the handles and lean back against a post with sponge rollers on and it leans back with you while giving you some resistance, then gives you support and aid while you sit up again.

He had spent a whole fiver on it.

The sellers were pleased to get rid of it, and Graham has a new toy to play with.

So a good time was had by all.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Dog Days

Once again, for you poor souls who are not on the Raven mailing list, and therefore miss out on our magical Newsletters, here is an article from our latest edition. Remember you can subscribe to the Newsletter for only £5.00 in the UK and NI and £10 EEC.

The Dog Days is the time of the year when the Dog Star, Sirius rises with the sun. They run from the 3rd of July to the 11th of August and were known from Roman times as the hottest days of the Summer. The Romans called these caniculares dies, and it was reasoned that since Sirius was so bright, when it rose during the day time it added its heat to that of the sun.

This extra heat plus the influence of the Dog Star was said to make humans and animals behave oddly or out of character, making dogs more likely to bite and humans to be subject to fits of temporary insanity, or to be more likely to commit acts of violence. Although the ancient Greeks believed that the Dog Days made men more tranquil and women more volatile.

The Dog Days were also believed to give a general indication of the health or wealth of the nation:
Dog Days bright and clear
Indicate a happy year:
But when accompanied by rain
For better times our hopes are vain.

The ancient Egyptians knew the Dog Star well and to them it was the star of Isis. Osiris was linked to the constellation of Orion. Sirius was called Sopdet and was the precurser to the annual inundation of the Nile, which brought fertility and wealth to Egypt.

In ancient Persia, Sirius is Tishtrya and revered as a divinity who brings rain and fertility, forever fighting Apaoasha the demon of drought. Tishtrya is depicted as a white horse.

Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky, and seems to twinkle in different colours. This may be because Sirius is actually a Binary star, two stars which circle each other around a common centre - it has recently been theorised that Sirius might be a system of three stars, the third member being either a small, dead, burnt out star or even a black hole.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Litany of Isis

This is a special prayer which you can use as an invocation to the Goddess Isis. If using it in a group situation everyone could say the 'Praise unto thee' part with the celebrant continuing with the rest of the line:

Praise unto thee, O Mother of the heavens.
Praise unto thee, who hast granted light unto the stars.
Praise unto thee, who hast fashioned the crystal stars
Praise unto thee, who hast set the moon in the sky.
Praise unto thee, who hast given the silver light in the darkness.
Praise unto thee, O Goddess of the night sky.
Praise unto thee, O Mistress of all Mystery.
Praise unto thee, whose journey through the darkness doth lead unto our renewal.
Praise unto thee, O Star-flaming One who gives life to the earth.
Praise unto thee, O Goddess who hath given us eternity, 
and shown us the way unto the gods.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Midsummer Magic

The Summer Solstice is another special time for all sorts of magic and rituals.

This is the time of the cauldron of Ceridwen. The cauldron of the goddess can contain many things: death, birth, re-birth, wisdom, fear, but above all it is always the vessel of transformation.
Create your own cauldron of Ceridwen today:
      Into a clear glass bowl pour spring water and into the water drop some crystals - clear quarts, rose quarts and amethyst, plus a single green stone (green aventurine would be a good one).
     On the surface of the water float some flowers, daisies are especially appropriate as they are the Day's Eye, the flower of the sun.
     Do all these things outdoors, in the light of the sun if possible, then stir your cauldron three times deosil (sunwise or clockwise) with your magic wand and chant:
Ceridwen, Lady, Cauldron Queen,
Bless me, this magic hour,
Infuse these waters, give them life
And all Thy magic powers!

    Close your eyes and lift your face and left arm towards the sun, your right hand should point at the water - you can hold your wand in the water if you prefer. Now allow the power of the Solstice Sun to run through you and enliven the waters of your cauldron.
     When you are done the water should be saved and used to bless yourself and others, or sprinkled to give extra power to your spells. It can also be added to your watering can to give your garden a magical blessing too.

All sorts of energies and magic are more powerful if done today, or during this season.
For a start the fairies are more active around the solstice and up until the 29th of June, so a good time to work any kind of fairy magic.
     Plant some thyme or chamomile in a special place in your garden to attract fairies and put near it some little bells or a wind chime.
     Position a Fairy Door today, and remember to knock on it to activate its powers.
     Cut a magic wand or divining rod today and it will be especially powerful.
     Curses, hexes and ill-wishes are also more powerful today, so be careful about how you use your psychic energies today. Pick some nettles and sprinkle them on your windowsills, they are powerfully protective and will turn away every kind of negative vibes from stray jealousy and fleeting ill thoughts to full blown curses aimed at you.

Collect seven different flowers today and put them under your pillow tonight and you will have a special magical dream. You can also ask the fairies to visit you and show you the way to fairy land.
       Make a small garland or necklace from flowers and throw it into a stream as you make a wish. If the water carry the flowers away your wish will be granted, but if they meander about and return to the bank, you are unlucky this time.

Make yourself a Talisman of the Sun today for success, prosperity and good fortune:
     In the centre of a circle of paper draw a small image of the sun and around it draw thirteen small stars. Turn the paper over, and on the back of it write your name or initials and date of birth.
     Now put this paper somewhere where the light of the midday sun can bathe it. Leave it there until at least 12.30, then put it in your purse, money box, or in a small pouch which you can carry with you. Keep it safe and you will soon see an upturn in your fortunes.

Oh and this is also a wonderful time for all times of love magic. Pick a rose tonight after sunset and stand naked in your garden. Pluck the petals from the rose and as you do so whisper the name of the one you desire and your wishes will be carried on the night breeze.

If for any reason you can't do your magic or rituals today, remember that the 23rd of June is Midsummer's Eve, perhaps the most magical night for all Fairy Magic, and 24th is Midsummers day, so you can do your spells and rituals then instead.

Merry Solstice!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

A Witches Work is Never Done

It is a good thing that we enjoy what we do, because it is very rare for us to take time off.

There is always something which needs doing - for example today: I have researched some info for our daily Facebook post; taken some photos of plants, and had a quick little bake (photos of these are also up on Facebook), then I settled down to clearing a few more orders, yes even on a Sunday.

I like doing stuff at the weekend actually, I feel more able to do the orders that need a bit more attention. A lot of orders are straightforward despatches of items which we make as standard, or are simple picked from the boxes in the stock room. But quite a lot of orders need a personal touch, or sometimes a lot more than just a touch.

By the nature of our business, a lot of people make magical enquiries when they place an order, sometimes these can be answered simply, but these are often quite in depth and may need a spell or magical working researching or devising, just for that individual. So today I have been finishing off some orders which needed letters including with them. One needed a spell to help with business success, another enquired if we could create a special magical oil for them for a particular working they were doing, someone else wanted a working for healing.

And now here I am typing a piece for my blog!

To be honest, I don't think I'd know what to do with myself if I had nothing to do.

Oo just had an idea for another magical charm ! Sorry folks must dash off and make a quick note before I forget it.

Coming to a Mail Shot very shortly .....

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Butterfly Myth and Magic

For those of you unlucky enough not to be on the Raven Mailing list - and therefore having missed out on the latest edition of our Newsletter - here is one of the articles from the June 2014 issue which went out with the new Magical Curiosities catalogue.

Butterfly, Butterfly
Whose soul were you carrying
Butterfly! Butterfly!
Yesterday to heaven?

     This children's song was collected in the western isles in the 19th century. It was believed that butterflies were sent from heaven to guide the souls of the departed, so it was a good sign to see butterflies outside the home of one who had recently died, as it ensured that their soul would be swiftly led to heaven.
     Butterflies are associated with spirits of the dead, or the unborn, in cultures all over the world
     In ancient Greece the word 'psyche' means both soul and butterfly as does the Latin word 'anima'.
     In Teotihuacan, the Aztec capital, is the Palace of the Butterfly, the Palace of the Mariposa - in modern Mexico the word 'mariposa' still means butterfly, but also means a beautiful homosexual man.
     To the Azrtecs the butterfly represented the elements of both fire and water and was sacred both to the rain god Tlaloc and to Quetzalcoatl the Feathered Serpent. Quetzalcoatl was associated with the planet Venus, which appears as both the evening star and then as the morning star, he was the dying god who sacrificed himself in fire, then was reborn as the morningstar. When the morning star reappeared, its symbol was the butterfly which therefore symbolised rebirth and resurrection.
     The Aztecs thought that the earth was maintained through a dynamic harmony of Fire and Water, and that if this balance was not maintained the earth would be destroyed. The butterfly held that balance between Tlaloc and Quetzalcoatl.
     The association with the Fire element is seen in that the butterfly is invoked in healing ceremonies for 'Fire' diseases such as frostbite, chilblains, prickly heat or soreness of the eyes.
     The Celts also believed that the souls of the dead manifested as butterflies and up to the 17th century in Ireland it was against the common law to kill a white butterfly as these were believed to be the souls of children.
     There is an old Irish blessing:
May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun
and find your shoulder to light upon,
to bring you good luck, happiness and riches
today and beyond

     It was also said that if butterflies are seen outside the home of one who has recently died, they have come from heaven to guide the soul into the after-life. And any butterflies found in the home are spirits of dead loved ones come from heaven for a visit.
     In Russia the butterfly is sometimes called Babochka, which is a name of honour meaning 'old woman' (as in Baba Yaga, the archetypal Russian Witch in her spinning house, on chicken legs) as Witches are believed to be able to transform into butterflies.
     The butterfly symbolises grace, beauty, sensuality, the summer, kisses and secrets. In ancient Rome it was sacred to Juno, the goddess of marriage.
     In China a Jade butterfly is the emblem of love, suggesting the bonding of souls, so a husband would give his wife a jade butterfly to symbolise their eternal love.
     The butterfly is also the symbol of the Vodun lwa Loko who is the spirit of the wildwoods and invoked before any healing ritual.
     The butterfly also symbolises the power of magical transformation. The caterpillar, earth-bound, concerned only with eating and growing, turns into the pupa (dies) and is re-born, transformed into a creature of light, air and beauty.
     According to American folklore, if a girl wants a new dress she should catch a butterfly of the appropriate colour and crush it between her teeth while muttering a magic formula. I suspect the type of girl who is ruthless and selfish enough to try this spell, doesn't actually need it in order to obtain a new dress or any other trinket she desires.
     A nicer spell says that you should carefully catch a butterfly without harming it, and while it is between your hands whisper your wish to it. Release the butterfly unharmed and your wish will be granted.
     If you see a Fritillary butterfly it means you have money coming to you.

     'Once upon a time, I dreamt Zhuangzi was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly, and was unaware that I was Zhuangzi. Soon I awakened, and there I was, veritably Zhuangzi again.
     But now I do not know whether I was then Zhuangzi dreaming he was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am Zhuangzi.'
              Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu) 389-286 bce