Six Ways – a review

Posted in Art, Library with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2018 by manxwytch

Ritual Magic, by David Conway, was one of the first occult texts I came across when I was beginning my study of the Arcane Arts. It was a small book which contained the basic framework and tool kit for ritual in the Kabbalistic and Egyptian traditions, with exemplar rites, tables of correspondence, talismanic sigils, magical alphabets, pronunciation keys, most everything one would require to embark on the path of the western ceremonial magician.

That was nearly forty years ago.

Now, Aiden Wachter has published a primer describing the approach and practice of his brand of sorcery, one which draws on many sources within the Western folk magic tradition, but one that is not bound to a particular school, lineage or cultural tradition.
Six Ways – Approaches & Entries For Practical Magic, is a foundational text providing a basic tool kit for the practice of dirt sorcery, a form of shamanry rooted in the magician’s locus, rather than an imported cultural heritage. The six ways are the compass points, plus above and below, oriented from where one stands and practices. From this foundation, one develops and makes use of relations with the spirits one encounters in that place, rather than evoking the named spirits of any specific cultural lineage, or invoking the gods of an established pantheon or mythology.
Wachter draws on folk sorcery traditions of Europe and the Americas, the inspiration and practices of AOS, and elements of chaos magick to produce a sorcery devoted to the practice of magical reification, of making spirit physical where one lives and stands.

Six Ways frontispiece

Aiden Wachter is well know as a talented talismanic jeweller, a reputation earned through his dedication to excellence and the superior quality of his physical work. He is an acknowledged expert in the fields of sigil and talisman, inspired by AOS. His many years of effort are condensed into a valuable chapter on sigil work, which he describes clearly and simply, and with the apparent ease of the greatly talented and practiced, creates an example of a sigil which is potent with symbolic power as well as artistic expression. An example I was not able to approach, even with a month of effort and permutation.

3 sigils

The foundations of the Six Ways include meditation instruction, step by step tranceworking, as well as the philosophical underpinnings which bind the system into a coherent whole. His is one of the best descriptions of the Magical Will that I have encountered, which I paraphrase here:
Do not do something because it is traditional, or appropriate, or praiseworthy, or has been shown to be effective, or because you think it will get you what you want, or because there is data and theory to support it, or because you were inspired or told to do it,
DO IT BECAUSE YOU FUCKING DECIDED TO DO IT.
Brilliant. Concise. Accurate.

There are several sections of the book that are dealt with in only a page or two, and that I would love to read about further. These I hope may be subjects for future chapters in upcoming books. Among them is a brief discussion of Fear. Sacred fear, fear arisen from the exploration of and interaction with the Other which has rarely been mentioned in published grimoires but is known to many established lineages.

I heartily recommend Six Ways, as a welcome respite from the weight of exotic traditions and lineages which have too long dominated the Western Magical Tradition; as a deep outbreathing of modern sorcerous practice; and as a practical and accessible recension of AOS’s potent system of sigillic magick. It offers much to the beginner, and yet still contains valuable gems to be mined by more experienced practitioners.

In with the Old, Out with the New

Posted in Folklore on February 10, 2018 by manxwytch

I heard this slogan on the radio sometime in the beginning of this calendar year, and have been turning my thoughts toward the implications of its application to my Craft and practice. It’s about deepening what you already have, rather than seeking out the new and novel. With the feast of La’al Breeshey behind us, it is time to embark on this journey.

CabalPharrick3

It means reading the stack of books I have already accumulated, and going back to the first lessons I received, and not buying any new books or developing new practices until I have done so.

It means returning to the earliest praxes I was taught, and delving deeply into those, not dabbling in new, complex or exotic exercises that catch my eye or imagination.

In terms of research and lore, it means going back to primary Manx sources, and putting aside the continental Western Magical Tradition’s focus on the Abrahamic teachings and practices, as well as the modern Neopagan Wiccan materials introduced by Gardner and those who followed him.

The process is one of winnowing, processing and digesting what one has, rather than continually harvesting and accumulating more and more. In this, it embodies a stand against the endless consumption that fuels the current western capitalist dystopia, both material and spiritual, and stepping back into a more sustainable way of being: physically, emotionally, spiritually.

For Materia Magica, it means less is more. In the old days on the Isle, consciousness was altered through prolonged fasting, requiring a commitment in time, discipline and the willingness to suffer that goes deeper than the contemporary focus on exotic entheogens.

 

 

Pilgrim’s Progress

Posted in Folklore, History, Storytelling with tags , , , , , , on October 29, 2017 by manxwytch

In advance of Sauin, I undertook a pilgrimage to several of the important sites sacred to the traditional witches in my Line on the Isle. I had several purposes in mind for my undertaking:
To rekindle the light of connection with those places and spirits bequeathed to me by my Ancestors and my Beloved; to carry the relics of my Departed Love to the place where she had brought the relics of her Initiator following his death; to bathe the tokens of remembrance which have been made to honour the Mighty Dead in the waters of the Isle, those lustral waters which had sanctified Them in life; and to bring back physical concretions embodying the Spirit of the Isle and the Line to share with those Brethren who remain among the Quick and who have undertaken the responsibility to carry on the living manifestation of the Daemon of our Lineage.

My journey was bracketed by tremendous storms – initially, the first hurricane to touch the Isle in thirty years, which delayed my arrival, and later another significant storm which had the same effect on my departure. The prevailing winds and rain made quite conspicuous the fact that the time I spent at each site was consistently temperate and dry.
My time, abbreviated as it was, was spent doing the physical things which were required at each site. Action embodied prayer and intent, and action completed then moved on to the next site upon my pilgrim’s path. With imminent changes to arrival, itinerary and departure, my intentions to connect with specific people on the Isle were thwarted, reinforcing the theme of pilgrimage – my connections were with places, and spirits, and ancestors. It also truncated my time there, and that meant extended periods in meditation or ritual at each site were not possible.

Kirk Michael, Kirk Malew, and Kirk Patrick all contain memorials to ancestors of my Line. I paid respects at each, caring for the two sites that were not being maintained by others on the Isle.
The keeil that had been used by the traditional witches for initiations was a place I had been told of, and had seen in a photograph, but had never visited. Finding it, and walking in the footsteps of my forebearers as I made my circuit around and into it, imagining the rites as they were performed in those days; feeling the place and the numen bestowed there, was a potent boon.
From there I proceeded to the Heart of the Isle, the most sacred place in the Manx Witchcraft Tradition, to offer the relics of my Beloved, and commit them to that place and the Power there, as she had done years earlier with the ashes of her initiator. Water and stones I carried back from that place, in remembrance, and to share among the brethren who do not live and practice on the Isle.
I wandered the Sound, under very different conditions and clime than the last time I had been there. Gale force winds and torrential waves meant I had to keep a safer distance from the clifftops and beaches, but I did descend close enough to secure some slate pebbles for the risting of runes.
In the north, the clouds and winds vanished, and I ascended to the Castle of the High Place amid dazzling sunshine and picturesque views of the rolling green hills and whitewashed houses. En Route, and at a stop at the neolithic cairn at Ballafayle, I was delighted to come upon bronze sculptures of a pair of ravens which I had not seen before, installed quite beautifully and sensitively into the landscape.
ballafayleravens1.jpg

Physically walking the Land again feels like priming the engine prior to Sauin. I return to my home just in time to harvest the last potatoes from the garden, and move the mandrakes and tropical daturas indoors under lights, before celebrating the Ancestors and divining the upcoming year, and sharing the stones and stories of the Manx Traditional Line with my brethren.
As we move into the dark and the cold, and the Work makes the transition from Land to Hearth, as the veils thin and we glimpse beyond and draw inspiration to direct and carry us through the winter, may we find solace and strength in the memories of our Ancestors, and the company of those who share the celebration with us.

 

Ancestor Devotion

Posted in Musings with tags , , on February 2, 2017 by manxwytch

For four years now, I have been focused on, (some might well say obsessed with), Ancestor veneration. The late Elders of my line have been most constantly in my thoughts, dreams and practices, to the point where I have come to believe that I am by nature, far more attached to the Dead and to the past than I am to the living, or to the future.

Earlier this week a peculiar train of thought emerged during my meditation:

Focusing on memories, holding fast to the works, the relics and writings of the Dead, thinking daily about the loss of a planned or imagined future, is tantamount to carrying the flesh and bones of the Dead on your back. This is not venerating the Ancestors. Venerating the Ancestors means approaching the Path in the spirit that They approached the Path, and aspiring to the level of adepthood that Their lives manifested through the inspiration and praxis of the lineage They inherited, lived and bequeathed to Their initiates.

I put this in quotation marks because there was nothing familiar about the thought; it had the aura of an intrusion, it was something outside of my insight, contemplation and experience.

It may be that it is not a new practice, or shrine, or fetish that will evoke and connect the Dead with we who are still living, but the practices that they knew and worked in life.

Door_charms

Twelve days, Twelve tasks

Posted in Folklore, History, Projects with tags , , , , , , , on December 29, 2016 by manxwytch

The twelve days following the winter solstice have long represented interstices between the end of the old and the beginning of the new throughout the Celtic countries. As the popular calendar shifted the New Year from 1st November to 1st January, many of the traditions and influences around Sauin became associated with the twelve days. Divining the year to come was an important way-marker of this time, and many traditions around post-midwinter divination survived in the folklore and practice of the Isle.

The twelve days were seen as both predictive and prescriptive, in that they could offer insight into the forces at play in the year to come, but also allow a measure of influence to shape the year according to the wishes of the practitioner.

In this spirit, I have chosen to accomplish a specific task for each of the days, to set a theme and to empower completion and accomplishment as motifs for the coming year.

yulefrog1

The Lord of Misrule

The first is a re-working of an antique taxidermy frog which I acquired a half dozen or more years ago. I’m not certain what possessed someone to over-inflate this unfortunate amphibian and outfit him with a homemade musical instrument, but this fellow had been a harpist for most of his afterlife, until I was inspired to arm him with a Yule stang and crown him with a gilded acorn-cap. The staff was originally part of the harp, and the horns I formed and added from deer antler.

 

braggotdec2016

Gale Braggot

A fresh batch of braggot was overdue, flavoured with sweet gale and yarrow.
I’m modifying the recipe this year, to add a second fermentation, and four year old homegrown mandrake root to the brew.

My recipe:

3lbs liquid malt extract
3lbs apple blossom honey, plus 1lb for secondary fermentation
4 gallons spring water, plus 1/2 gallon for secondary fermentation
2oz dried sweet gale leaves, buds and nutlets
1oz dried yarrow flowering tops
Ale yeast
1/2 oz dried mandrake root

Heat 1 gal of water with the malt and honey, add half the sweet gale and all the yarrow and bring to just below a boil.
Put the remaining sweet gale in the primary fermenter with the remaining 3 gal of water. Add the hot wort to the fermenter, cover and allow to cool. Remove 1/2 cup of the liquid, test the specific gravity and hydrate the yeast in it afterward. Return the proved yeast to the fermenter, lock and allow to ferment.
Starting SG should be close to 1.060, add water or honey to reach it. Ferment until still, 1-2 weeks depending on temperature. Strain into secondary fermenter. Dissolve the remaining 1lb honey in a half gallon of spring water in which you have decocted a half ounce of mandrake root. Cool, add to the secondary fermenter and lock. Strain and bottle when clear, adding 1tsp barley malt extract to each clean bottle to prime. The final SG should be below 1.0 and abv will be just over 6%.
flyingointment2016

 

I’ve combined mandrake root with henbane seed as actives in this small batch of flying ointment. I add a small handful of dried poplar buds to the extraction, to contribute their resin as a preservative, as well as to provide their own properties and influences to the salve. Soot and salt round out the symbolic ingredients, with a small amount of beeswax to provide solidity, a touch of solar force and the experience of flight.
My preference is to stick with one family per ointment recipe, as far as the actives go, and I have had good success with this basic recipe. I’ll leave the hemlock and aconite to others.

 
Further twelve-day tasks will include extracting oleoresin from some of my prodigious harvest of last season’s sweet gale, to see if it can be used with efficacy as an oneirogenic incense; the completion of a holly and rowan wood wand, and the remaining number to complete the twelve, which I shall report on anon.

Helrunar

Posted in Art, Folklore, History, Projects with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2016 by manxwytch

My personal rune set is also the first one I ever made: small tiles of green granite, cut, polished and carved over thirty years ago. I’ve carved many sets since then, in different materials; my favourites have been on slates gathered from a beach at the Calf of Mann, and quartz pebbles from the seam of that white stone that stretches the length of the Isle from the Calf to the Point of Ayre.

All the runes I’ve carved since that first set have been gifted to others.

In recent years I’ve had the urge to carve a new set for myself, in bone. Specifically rib bones, the rib cage being that vault protecting and containing the beating heart, and making possible each life-sustaining breath.
A few years ago I obtained some rib bones, and in recent months I began their transformation into a set of rune staves.
Once cut to length, I began working on caps for the cut ends. These I carved from ash wood, to link these runes physically to the World Tree, as the ribs themselves are joined to the spinal column of the body. This may become more significant in the future, as we lose the ash trees in Europe and now in North America, due to a combination of disease and foreign insect depredation. We may live to see a time when Yggdrasil as ash tree will exist in memory and historical record alone and future generations may not know it as a living presence in the world.
Bone will connect with the otherworldly powers of one who has passed through the gates of Death, crossed the bridge to the Other Side, and will function as eidolon to bring insight and information from that realm to back into this world.
It was the Gallows God who brought the runes out of the darkness through self-sacrifice, and these runes are intended to invoke that power and wisdom.

The inscribed runes that survive on the Isle of Mann show elements of both the Elder and Younger Futharks, in both ‘Long Twig’ and ‘Short Twig’ forms, though none remains extant as a complete set. At the time of Kermode’s writing in 1907, 15 runes were clearly identifiable, though he believed that others were also used on the Isle, and that the 15 we have today are merely what remain physically of all the rune carved stones on the Isle.

bonerunes1

The runic sigils I have used reflect those found on Mann – some of the Younger Futhark and some of the Elder; as my intention is to use this set primarily for divinatory, in addition to specific magickal workings. What is of significance in divination are the ideas and influences represented by the runes, more than each physical shape, so I am comfortable with taking some artistic license in the style and shape of the runes in my personal set.
The dense bone of the ribs is too thin to allow carving of the rune symbols into their surface, so I have burned them into the bone, invoking fire as power to charge the runes as well as to define them, and referencing fire as the catalyst between different phases of being, facilitating the transformation of the material basis into its spiritual potential.

Once marked by fire, I rubrified the runes with heme iron in a protein based colloid suspension. Then sealed them with a blend of oils, beeswax  and resin.

rune-set-close

Mindful of the divinatory aspect of these runes, the energies, purposes and associations therewith; and taking a page from Richard Gavin’s, Benighted Path, these runes, carved and consecrated shall never be profaned by exposure to the rude light of day. Their work will be dedicated to and accomplished in darkness, their illumination sidereal: the light of moon, dream, baalfire and candle glow. The sacred Void will be their womb, the darkness wherein all things become undifferentiated and returned to their unified source, to speak directly to the Night mind that precedes and subsumes again the diurnal conscious awareness.

To this end, I fashioned a bi-layered pouch in which a liner extends beyond the top of a deerskin sack, to ensure that even when open the runes would be protected from exposure, and that the rune reader must, as Glapsviðr did,  reach deep into Ginnungagap to extract the runes. This bag I bound with antique silk and metallic thread ribbon, and a working cord, both inherited from my Initiator into the Manx Tradition.

Once made, I assembled the runes into their cycle and found that again this time, as with the last set I carved, one rune had hidden itself through the process. It demanded to be completed on its own, with my focus solely on it. There are many steps involved in making and finishing the rune set, and many opportunities to discover a miscount or omission. Inasmuch as these omissions occur unasked for, and unintentionally, and elude discovery at multiple steps in the process, I consider them to be significant, an indicator of the guiding Spirit of the rune set as a whole. In this case, I also chose to make it of different materials than the others – antler rather than bone, with an end cap of yew wood, as befits this rune.

rune-set-with-bag

In Work

Posted in Folklore on April 10, 2016 by manxwytch

There are several projects which have been developing toward completion, including seed starting for this years magickal workings, a new visionary braggot experiment involving Amanita muscaria supplied by a Traditional Heathen in eastern Europe; a set of personal rune staves to supplant the first set I carved three decades ago; preparations to accomplish bronze casting at home for ritual tools; and the furtherance of long planned Saturnian explorations, (Chronos is not to be expected to accommodate our wishful timelines).

Inspiration and challenges to overcome in the reification of these things have consumed the days that have passed since the last Manxwytch post, and will do so for a some time to come. As has the arrival of several excellent books which demand to be read and impressions shared here.

More to follow.