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.