Archive for the Musings Category

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

Plant Gnosis

Posted in Folklore, History, Musings with tags , , , , on February 28, 2016 by manxwytch

With the increasing exposure and detailed information available about the use of entheogens and other teaching plants, larger numbers of practitioners are embracing the idea that working with plants demands a relationship which goes beyond that of practitioner and materia medica / materia magica – a relationship that goes beyond using plants for their biochemical constituents. Much more becomes possible if we approach the work with an attitude of cooperative partnership wherein we encounter the Intelligence of the plant, and open ourselves to receiving insight and information from that encounter.
This seems to me a far more plausible explanation for how we gained the knowledge we have accumulated about plant properties throughout human prehistory, than the dismissal that it was gained through blind trial and error, or through observing the consumption of plants by animals.
By integrating the methods of magicians, herbalists, green witches and hedge wizards, and by re-learning the techniques of intact Witchcraft traditions, it is possible to build an effective modus operandi for making contact with the presiding Genius of a given plant and of gaining insight and direction from it.

The method I have used, and that I share with students of the Path, draws from many sources and has commonalities with many modalities of making these connections, and has proven efficacious in my own experience and practice. Similar methods and approaches may be gleaned from the writings of Crowley, Weed, Schulke, Potts and others.

Begin with the study of what we know about the plant: herbal medicine, field craft, agriculture, folklore, prose and poetry, art, history, are all valid sources of knowledge to amass.

I make a single page synopsis of this information, a monograph of sorts, for each plant which is a focus of developmental study and praxis. Among the points that I gather:

Common Name in English
Taxonomic nomenclature – Genus, species and Family
Common names in languages whose cultures which have made significant use of the plant
Morphological description
Longevity
Range and Habitat
Constituents and known therapeutic chemical compounds
Therapeutic Actions
Traditional uses
Dosage and administration
Side effects and Toxicity
Pharmacognosy (macroscopic/microscopic identification of the crude plant material)
Planetary correspondence
Elemental and Deity correspondence
Typical Magickal uses
Other notes and references

 

Morphology, longevity; those things.

Morphology, longevity; those things.

 

In my formal study of phytotherapy, I prepared similar monographs, albeit minus the planetary and deity correspondences and the magical uses, for some 250 plants in the Western European and North American materia medica.

Following the study and knowledge of the above information, and if the plant is abundant in my area, I will collect a specimen to preserve and examine for further study. I usually press and dry it as exemplar of the species, preferably at a point in its life that shows leaf, flower and fruit/seed forms. I make sure to collect with the roots as intact as possible, and carefully remove the soil to make their form visible as well. In all cases the specimen plant makes itself known to me, presenting itself when my intention to collect is clear in my mind, and an offering is made in exchange for its life. If no plant stands out conspicuously in that location or on that occasion, I wait for another opportunity.
If the plant is not a native of my area, I will secure seeds of it and attempt to grow the plant, or alternatively, will obtain a potted specimen for cultivation.
Throughout the growing season I will get to know the plant, it’s habits and preferences, its development and qualities as I care for it and it grows through its seasonal or life cycle.

During this time I will make a visual rendering of the plant; a botanical drawing, painting, or sculpture, through which to become more intimately aware of the physical presence of the plant. By combining the most typical details from the growing plant, from photographs of other members of its species, as well as from the preserved specimen on hand, I create a visual archetype of the plant, rather than a detailed copy of a particular specimen. In this case, leaf, bud, flower, fruit, seed and root are all depicted simultaneously on the same plant, which may not happen in nature.
I find that this visual and tactile intimacy with the plant is particularly potent in the forging of a personal relationship with its Genius, and this connection enables the efficacious progression into our last step of the process. Frequently, dream and portent will indicate when this has been achieved, indicating readiness to move on.

Helen Sharp, Water-color sketches of American plants, especially New England, (1888-1910)

Helen Sharp, Water-color sketches of American plants, especially New England, (1888-1910)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having learned the properties of the plant, and familiarized myself with its form and habits of growth, I proceed to prepare and consume it at the appropriate stage in its life; using the method of preparation best suited to the plant according to traditional use. It is best to consume it at an appropriate season or phase of the lunar cycle, or during a favourably aspected time according to its planetary correspondences. This consumption of the plant corpus is not limited to the physical, but is a form of communion with the plant Genius; a mingling of spirits. And it is in this mingling that gnosis is shared.

The communion may be ritualized, with preparation and purification preceding, and an invocation of the Spiritus coinciding with the consumption of the sacrament. Gnosis may come to conscious awareness in meditation following the consumption of the plant, or in an dream experience, or as a flash of intuition in the course of your waking life and praxis. Regardless of when it occurs, or even if it occurs at a level of conscious awareness, the validity of the connection will be borne out by practical application and observation of results achieved.

As always in Traditional Witchcraft, the proof is in the potion.

Potable Alchemy

Posted in Musings, Projects with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2015 by manxwytch

Mead and braggot are goals that were set this spring, and the plant ingredients desired to enhance them have been cultivated, or collected from the fields around my home. Now at the new moon’s turning it is time to begin the brew.

A couple of the basic recipes are old ones, passed down to me. Others are new to me, from books and folk who are brewers of beer, braggot and porter, and makers of mead. And with the basic proportions and ingredients proven, there is always room to experiment. The water where I live is very hard, with staggering amounts of chlorine added. I am thankful for this in terms of water safety, but in the case of brewing, these qualities are exactly what I don’t need. A providential day of continuous rain has allowed me to collect sufficient rainwater for a batch of braggot, (which I filtered and boiled, just to make certain my carefully coddled chosen yeasts will not have to compete with filthy local bacteria in the milieu of my brews). However I do not have time at the moment for travel to the sacred well I know that also happens to be health and safety tested, so I will compromise and purchase spring water for the first batch of mead.

Fires burn and cauldron bubble…

Decocting herbs for Mead

Decocting herbs for Mead

 

The fermentation process is a sacred alchemy, producing an embodiment of a plant genius beyond that which can be accomplished by simple chemical extraction, either by water, acid, oil or alcohol. It is the transformation of sugars and other plant constituents by the biotic processes of yeasts and bacteria, in order to release those substances from the physical corpus vegetale, and attenuate them to a level of spirit. In the process, the physical elements are changed by the living organisms consuming them; made more bioavailable, recombined, concentrated, potentiated and depending on how the alchemist directs the process, rendered more or less toxic than the original ingredients wedded together in this chemico-mystical union.

For the making of mead, I have gathered local honey collected from blaa ooyllagh – apple blossoms, along with herbs sacred to the White Lady of the Isle – tramman – the elder; dress villish – eglantine; and katog – the leaves of the wild strawberry.

The braggot, I dedicate to the Grey One, and draw inspiration from old Norse writings and recipes. It will be ready to drink much more quickly than the mead, so I will make several different types. A basic one now, to trial the recipe, I am brewing with lus roddagagh, the sweet gale. Later, as the summer wanes I will brew darker variations.

2Carboys1Pail

Midsummer Nights’ Dreaming

Posted in Musings, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on June 23, 2015 by manxwytch

HenbaneEdit2

Henbane, named lus ny meisht in Manx, has been variously ascribed to Jupiter; Gerard claiming that the plant was called Jupiter’s Beame by Pythagoras; or to Saturn, as postulated, (and in his own opinion proved), by Culpepper, based on where it grows.
But my experience of this plant’s genius, along with what we know of modern neurochemistry, make me  inclined to consider this plant and its spirit to be quintessentially Lunar.

Aside from her traditional associations with goddesses of Witchcraft and of the Moon, henbane’s power and chemistry work almost entirely upon the nervous system. I tend to associate psychoactive plants with the domains of either Sun or Moon, depending on their actions. If one considers the vault of the skull to reflect a microcosm of the vault of the sky, then the luminaries of Sun and Moon are the primary lights affecting this part of the anatomy. They are also widely held to be the right and left eyes of God, allowing direct access to the Divine and the personal, individual Spirit. Pharmacologically, the alkaloids of the nightshade family are anticholinergic, binding to muscarinic and to a lesser degree, nicarinic receptors – physically affecting the fluids and autonomic functions of the body, and evoking sleep, dream, terror and stupefaction in the mind. Hyoscyamine and scopolamine, the main alkaloids found in henbane, affect the smooth muscle tissues of the body: those rhythmic undulations that occur beneath the level of conscious control. Henbane also pulls the fluids of the body inward, drying the peripheral mucosa, condensing and retaining the fluids in the hollow organs. This control of the bodily waters is held in common with the power of the Moon, as are the unconscious, the soporific, the primal, the terrifying and the oneiric.

Henbane’s morphology also suggests to me her Lunar energies: leaves that are fat, succulent and fragile, bearing long silver hairs that glisten in the dark and damp; flowers that are round and pallid with purple-brown irregular spotting coalescing in the throat of the blossom. The flowers bear five petals and later produce an abundance of tiny round seeds contained within a capsule which is sealed until ripe by a tiny circular lid. Once germinated, Hyoscyamus niger grows with astounding rapidity provided there is sufficient moisture. A strong, narcotic smell is released at the slightest touch of any part of the plant, evoking her anodyne properties, sleep and dream.

Henbane has traditionally been used to relieve pain in cases where opiates are ineffective or undesirable. She has also been used to calm the mind and induce sleep in cases of insomnia. Overdose of the plant dilates the pupils, causes dimness of sight, delirium, profound sleep that may be prolonged for days, and death. All in accordance with the most extreme effects of the Moon. Her dual faces, causing stimulation at lower doses and sedation at higher ones, also align her with the bright and dark faces of the Lunar Orb.

Flos et folia

Flos et folia

Several of these effects may also be aligned with Saturn, but in my experience, Saturnine energies have more to do with decay, degeneration and permanent loss of mental and physical faculties than with the transient, seemingly alien narcotic undermining of the waking consciousness that typifies henbane intoxication.
Saturnine plants also tend to be slow growing, physically expressing the slow, plodding pace of their planetary ruler.

Historically, the magicks of this plant are those relating to thanatotic workings, to love and to theriomophism, also suggesting that she belongs within the Lunar Mansion.

Of all the seeds I planted this year, henbane has been the most generous, amenable and prolific in her growth. She and her sister, belladonna, have overshadowed all the other veneficii in my garden. I regard this as in indication that I have work to do, and much to learn from these plants this year. Combining this with the wild plants I have found in my wayfaring, and happening upon formulae that call for these specific plants together, I am directed in my research and explorations at this time through this specific region of the plant world.

Buhner has a useful section addressing henbane and recipes using it in his, Sacred Herbal Healing Beers, and Schulke has worthwhile research and experience to add in his, Veneficium. I sincerely hope he will share his Hypnotikon with an appropriate, educated and eager audience one day.

HenbaneEdit1

Manx traditional witchcraft steps out from the shadows…

Posted in Folklore, History, Library, Musings with tags , , , , , , on April 27, 2014 by manxwytch

Manxwytch is pleased to be a contributing author to the upcoming anthology on Traditional Witchcraft from Three Hands Press.

Hands of Apostasy A Witchcraft Anthology from Three Hands Press

 

 

Reliquary for the Mighty Dead

Posted in Musings, Projects with tags , , , , , , on March 28, 2014 by manxwytch

 

Reliquary1

Begin with a vessel of iron or clay supported on three legs to honour the Three who are Womb and Tomb to all things – Past, Present and Future. Into this vessel place earth from a newly dug grave, dust ground from bones, dried and pulverized leaf of Verbascum, ash from a sacred fire, along with other fitting substances.
About this charnel ground are links of iron forging a chain binding the living to the dead, literal and invisible links to the ancestors, simultaneously encircling and ensorcelling the spiritual community.
Spanning the mouth of the vessel affix a bridge of cypress or yew, the Guardian of the Gate betwixt the living and the dead. Upon this bridge, place a skull, carved with the symbols of power and coloured with the blood of the earth. Into one eye socket place a stone of seeing, crystal or agate. Into the other, place a coin to pay for passage back from the sunless lands to the world of the living. Crown Death’s head and within this Holy of Holies place the relics of your Mighty Dead.

Reliquary2

When first I came into the Cunning Artes, it was at a time when a particularly important and powerful Elder in my line was dying, and I never met him in this life. I have thought from that time, decades ago, that I wanted to design and construct something more symbolically significant and ritually powerful than a photograph or a personal belonging  to honour and connect with the Mighty Dead of my initiatory lines.  Since then, several more Elders close to me and vital to my Craft growth and learning have joined him, along with the last of the Elders on the Isle of Mann, and just over a year ago, my Beloved. Together, all have motivated the manifestation of the idea at this time.

There were no practices handed down in the Manx line directly relating to Ancestor Devotion. We have the beliefs and teachings about the Mighty Dead, and the elements of the Sauin rites that honour them but little more. In the old days, tools were buried and books were burned, so there were few relics that remained to link us after death. Gerald changed that to a degree with the museum, borrowing and in time inheriting tools and possessions of deceased witches.

Having designed the image described above, I explored with great interest the universality of the thanototic elements thus gathered, which came as no surprise since Death awaits us all. From the reliquaries of Al Farrow, to the objects created in the practice of Palo Mayombe,

prenda-nganga-palo

and the designs carved into the trophy skulls of the Dayak in Borneo, and all contributed to the inspiring and informing of the details of my own devotional work.

It has taken more than a year to create and come to terms with this work, step by painful, faltering step, along my Orphic path into Hades and back. Now that the journey has been made manifest, I will continue to develop and improve the piece, and work out the rites and practices that are to be associated with it.

In Life and in Death,

MW

regione vivorum

Posted in Musings, Projects with tags on August 11, 2013 by manxwytch

Thanks to you who have forborne the long silence.

Try as we might to enter the realm of the dead and hold onto our dear loved ones, we must in the end return to the land of the living.

The hard truth is that half of Manxwytch is dead, and it is by far the better half who has gone into the Sunless Lands. The rest of us will continue as best we can, and as our grief will allow.

It seems appropriate, in this season of Laa Luanys, to quote Michelet, as his character addresses the earth:

“…you give us back duly the grain that we have entrusted to you; but you never return that human harvest, the dead loved ones that we have lent you. Shall they not germinate too, our friends, our lovers, that we have planted there? If only for one hour, one instant, they might come back to us!

Ourselves too shall soon be of that terra incognita, wither they have already gone. But shall we see them again? Shall we be with them? Where are they? What is their life yonder? – They must indeed, my dear dead ones, be close captives not to vouchsafe even a sign! And what shall I do to make them hear?”

EarthMother1

There is a great deal of unfinished and ongoing business to attend to, and this blog is part of that. Posts may not be as regular or often, but as often as resources and time allow, Manxwytch will live and grow. And who knows? Perhaps another manxwytch or two may be willing to contribute…