In recent days I have have been working on necklaces; the first three of a series of nine I plan to make, and I began by taking my inspiration from a traditional Elder’s Necklace from the Isle of Mann.
This original piece was passed down through the Manx covens to my Initiator’s Initiator.
I don’t know if anyone living knows exactly how old it is.
It consists of twelve acorns and a human finger bone strung on a leather thong. Traditionally it would be either an index finger or a ring finger bone, and the necklace would have been a gift to a coven Elder to wear as a mark of honour and respect due to one who has learned and endured much and whose wisdom is as precious a gift as the strength of the oak, the promise of the acorn, and the value of this human life. The original necklace isn’t pictured here, the ones you see here are all modern pieces made by me.
I have been told that back in Gerald’s day a witch would practically be willing to give his left testicle to get his hands on human bone, to make into ritual tools, or symbolically significant jewelry. These days it’s expensive, but not unobtainable, depending on where one lives. The US is pretty open and nonrestrictive; in Canada, the limitations are placed on its transport, and the need to be able to produce a certificate of death to go along with the bone to show its origin and legality. I’m not sure what the limitations are in Europe and elsewhere.
All of this to say that we use what we can get our hands on, and what isn’t commercially available we make ourselves. Just like they used to in the old days. So where there is a lack of human bones we use those of appropriate totemic animals, or we carve in semblance from wood, antler or stone, or cast in metal.
In the old days, those who were adept at making tools and jewelry were greatly esteemed and appreciated by the covens. In the absence of online shops or occult boutiques, appropriate tools and altar fixtures used to be scarce. The efforts of these talented folks can be seen in museums such as in Boscastle, and some were collected by Williamson and by Gardner on the Isle of Mann. Very occasionally they are still in use downline from their makers or original recipients, creating a physical and psychic bond with the old traditions and the Elders who kept and passed them to the present generation of initiates.
I chose to begin my series of necklaces with three variations on the traditional status symbol presented to a Manx witchcraft Elder in honour of my own Elders, several of whom I was unable to gift with them in their lifetimes. So now the pieces hang around framed photographs of these precious people, and I continue working on ones for my living Elders – not all Manx, but each made to honour the individuals who made my path today possible.