Archive for Books

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

More Monographs

Posted in Folklore, History, Library with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 25, 2012 by manxwytch

Numbers Two and Three of the Three Hands Press Occult Monographs arrived some time ago and I read them as soon as they arrived, but have had little time lately for writing.

Number Two is, The Devil’s Raiments, by Martin Duffy. Duffy is someone I had never read before but upon reading this monograph, I will go out of my way to find more of his writing. The monograph is subtitled, Habiliments of the Witch’s Craft, and it involves the various and varied vestments which adorn and veil the magical practitioner. Duffy’s book is a delight; his words are intelligent and well crafted, his command of the material is broad, lucid and thorough. There is much that his thoughtful analysis and exhaustive research have been able to add to my own knowledge of this subject matter.

He begins with the practitioner’s skin itself, the flesh-cloak clothing the indwelling divine light. He explores garment as fetish – a collection of symbols/powers accumulated by the individual in order to facilitate and express her/his work. These symbols may be put directly onto or into the skin, or they may be draped about it. Throughout is the theme of concealment and revealment, alteration and alignment. Every conceivable article of clothing or adornment seems to have been considered somewhere in this small but mighty book.  From the making, to the wearing of the garments are discussed, with all of their symbolic, psychological and magical implications. The sources from which come the costume of the spirit, be they vegetable or animal, colour the powers derived from and approached by the wearer.

From swaddling to shroud we are clothed in life and in death, and it behooves the witch to do so purposefully and with awareness. Mr. Duffy’s contribution to this awareness, and to the Three Hands Press Monographs is an extremely valuable one, and is, thus far, my favourite of the series.

The Third Monograph is written by William Keisel, of Ouroboros Press fame, and is entitled, Magic Circles in the Grimoire Tradition. Keisel here provides an introduction to the uses, materials, orientations (both directional and cosmological) and constructions of the magic circle, as found in the major historical grimoires most widely referenced today. The Books of Occult Philosophy, the Keys of Solomon, the Heptameron, Transcendental Magic, Liber Juratus, are all represented, as well as a few more modern sources such as Book 4 and Azoetia. The monograph is thorough and methodical, as one would expect from this author, but for a practitioner already familiar with the Western Magical Tradition, it doesn’t offer much beyond a general introduction. It appears to be written for an academic audience who may not be familiar with the nuts and bolts of the working Magical tradition.

This monograph’s great worth is in presenting all of the major sources of the Western Tradition in a single place, with some tantalizing glimpses of a possible in-depth metaphysical comparative study. Certainly a fascinating and worthwhile project, and Mr. Keisel would be the man for the job.

Review: Witchfather, A Life of Gerald Gardner

Posted in Library with tags , , on May 12, 2012 by manxwytch

By Philip Heselton

Thoth Publications

ISBN# Volume One:   978-1-870450-80-5

ISBN# Volume Two:  978-1-870450-79-0

Volume I – Into the Witch Cult

Volume II – From Witch Cult to Wicca

The life of Gerald Gardner had been exposed in 1960 by author Jack L. Bracelin in Gerald Gardner, Witch, published by Octagon.  This text was also said to have been ghostwritten by Idries Shah and was based on conversations with Gardner as he reminisced on his unusual life.  Much of Gerald Gardner, Witch has been notably regarded as a suspiciously questionable and clearly biased book.  Despite this, it is still a valuable addition to a Craft library for the simple fact that the stories are Gerald’s personal reflections of history and he recalls various vivid, fantastical and exiting adventures.  It is no surprise that Philip Heselton relied heavily on Bracelin’s work as the building block to his extensive research and he regards it saying “It really is virtually the only source of information for much of Gerald’s life and the broad narrative is largely accurate.” (Heselton, pp xviii) 

Gerald Gardner was quite a trickster who enjoyed a bit of ‘cloak and dagger’ even to the point of changing his and Dorothea’s names while travelling and in hotels. So working from Bracelin’s book, Heselton accomplished a type of investigation that should merit him with a Sherlock Holmes award of detective authorship.  Researching the scanty fragments of Gardner’s eccentric life, Heselton’s patience and seeming fascination with solving puzzles came to a head.  I could not help but notice that his background in geography and interest in landscapes allowed him a perspective that very few historians consider.  In fact it is precisely his geographic interests that may have given Heselton the ‘upper edge’ in his written work and opened doors of possibility and contacts he had perhaps not even dreamed.

At times the book may be overly detailed with lengthy descriptions of family, location, topographical maps, locations, letters and historical events.  If you are looking for a gripping, edge of your seat novel, this is not the book for you.  It is slow to read as Heselton uses every moment to add his methodical details to support his theories on who might have been involved with Gardner at various periods of his life, what Gardner might have been doing at that time, and even what Gardner might have thought.

Though there is a substantial amount of guesswork in Witchfather, it is held between areas of strong solid research and evidence.  Heselton does an excellent job to capture the picture of Gardner`s life, in a balanced and compassionate manner.  He has uncovered intriguing bits and pieces to Gardner`s biography and I am sure that there is plenty that he has kept in confidence due to the nature of the subject matter.

Overall Witchfather is a work to be applauded for not only the discovery of new material and people not generally known in Wica history but as well for a kindly and ethical search for truth, in the life of a man who enjoyed a few embellishments.

I Like Big Books (and I cannot lie)

Posted in Library with tags , , on February 13, 2012 by manxwytch

A package arrived in the mail today.

A large package.

A heavy package.

In it was the third edition of Frazer’s The Golden Bough. All twelve volumes, published in 1920. Plus the supplement published in 1937.

The Golden Bough, Third Edition.

When I found it online, it was the second time in my life I had seen the third edition complete, and the first time I saw it, it wasn’t for sale.

I’m not a book snob, but I prefer old hardcover books to new mass market paperbacks, and I’m not a fan of ebooks. For something as influential and important as TGB, I want the most complete version I can get and this set dropped into my lap like a gift from the Gods.

It now takes pride of place in my Pagan Literary Orgasm section. I have a lot of reading to do. And more book reviews on the way.

Stay tuned.

Ex Libris: Viridarium Umbris

Posted in Library with tags , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2012 by manxwytch

Viridarium Umbris, The Pleasure Garden of Shadow, Which treats of the Secret Knowledge of Trees and Herbs. Deliver’d by the Fallen Angels unto Man.

Daniel A. Schulke, Xoanon Ltd., 2005.

The Verdelet and current Magister of the Cultus Sabbati has introduced a lifetime of work with plant lore and magic in this volume.

It is clear that Mr. Schulke is a master of his chosen field. The amount of research and practice that combine to make up VU is staggering. In addition to reliably drawing on folklore from a broad range of traditions, both of the New and of the Old World, the author also details valuable experiential exercises and practices to bring the reader and aspiring Green Witch in contact with the ultimate teachers, the plants themselves.

The book is organized into categories of herb lore, and each follows the same basic pattern. The section on the Wand for example, begins with a poem to engage the right side of the brain and to introduce the subject in broad and arcane terms.  Following this he reviews the folklore in general before describing a specific practice relating to the exploration of the qualities and powers of the tree branch. From here he supplies a charm or consecration script and a detailed description for the making of a wand by the practitioner. Next he describes the uses of particular species of tree from which one might fashion a wand, and to finish the section, Mr. Schulke describes several practices using wands and staves from his own tradition, along with a more detailed exploration of a particularly significant species used as a wand, namely the Hazel.

This pattern provides a thorough introduction to a host of aspects of Plant Magic ranging from one’s first approach to the Green World, it’s important inhabitants and the taboos associated with them, the values and qualities of various kinds of land ranging from Wild to Cultivated and that which lies In-Between. The Fertile and the Desolate, the Healing and the Harming are all dealt with. Invisibility, shapeshifting, necromancy, herbal medicine, the making of potions, incenses, dusts and other preparations are woven in with the worldview and approach of the Cultus Sabbati, of whom the author is the current Magister. The writing style of VU is typical of the publications of the Cultus, done in a quasi-archaic English with liberal use of Latin and Greek derivatives. I think it both admirable and appropriate to the subject matter as well as to the purpose of the book. Magic shouldn’t be written in language easily accessible to the uninitiated and the careful use of words reveals a careful consideration of the subject and requires a careful, conscious reading on the part of the audience.
The one thing that would make the book even more useful to me would have been the proper referencing of the author’s sources. I recognize many of the descriptions of constituents and correspondences, but it would have been invaluable for further study and research to know which sources Mr. Schulke drew from in those cases where the sources have been published. I have read other reviews which were critical of ambiguity or lack of detail regarding specific quantities in recipes or instructions but I do not share this criticism. I read VU as an herbal grimoire, not a cookbook. Further experience on the part of the reader and further publishing outside the scope of this very thorough introduction will see any gaps well-filled.

The Pleasure Garden of Shadow is tremendously valuable for anyone desiring to interact wisely and magically with the Realm of Plants, and is a broad and solid foundation on which to build one’s own knowledge and practice. It will be required reading for my students in the future, as will future Cultus publications from Mr. Schulke’s pen which will provide greater depth and detail in more specific areas of plant lore and practice – clearly his first love and area of greatest expertise.

What is Witchcraft?

Posted in Musings with tags , on August 31, 2011 by manxwytch

Well I’m so glad you asked.

I’m not telling you.

Yes.

Yes you heard that right.

I’m not telling you.

This is not a blog about what Witchcraft is.  Really, pick up a book and do something wonderful with it.  Read it.  Smell it.  There’s nothing quite like the smell of an old worn book.  The textural feel of the paper.  The weight of it in your hands.  The quality of the cover and the bindings.   The way you shift in your chair and sometimes struggle to find the most comfortable position to cosy to the thoughts of another human being.  The insights that you muse upon later, once the book is put away.  I’ll help you out a little with providing a Library (in the Codex Magicae section) but that’s as far as it goes.

If you’re really that curious, I suggest you find a  witch and ask him/her about it.  Spend some time with a real person.

Besides, I expect that you who are reading this blog are already familiar with the topic.  (Caught you didn’t I?)

Let’s be honest with each other, there are more than enough books, web pages, blogs, articles, chatgroups, pricey magic workshops, pagan conferences, academic roundtables, “community building” initiatives, and information on Witchcraft out there to bloat a Behemoth.   So no, you won’t find me providing any historical, academic, definitions of Witchcraft for the newly seeking aspirant or something for ‘those in the know’ to criticize with their own opinions of what the Craft is.  We all have our own perspectives and as I’ve mentioned, there are plenty of fabulous books out there…  I also won’t be providing an on-line teaching course, passing on any ‘how to become a witch knowledge, spell casting or discussion of private coven lineages or methodology.  Besides, Witchcraft genuinely can’t be learned in that way.  It’s an experiential path that opens the door of gnosis to the Ancient Ones guiding light.  A mysterious, secretive path reserved for those with the eyes to see, the ears to hear and the wit to understand.  You just can’t get it off of Wikipedia or ‘public domain’ Books of Shadows.  You’re either called to it or you’re not.  If you’re natural to it, and you’ve got the spark within you, every witch worth their salt knows that they’ll find it.  With love and trust for the Ancient Ones all witches find their way home at some point… and we know that there’s no place like it.

So no, you won’t hear wordy definitions from me.

We have more entertaining things to write about.  Stories to tell to make you laugh or cry.   Maybe some thoughtful writing regarding ethics. philosophy, social growth and limitations, psychology, historical witchcraft research, book reviews… and who knows?  I’ll post some images that amuse me.  There are plenty out there and I love artwork.  I find it revealing.  I’ll post some of my favorite videos.   I’ll certainly share with you adventuresome stories of real experiences and people.  Some of their names will have been changed to protect the innocent and, well, not so innocent.  Best of all… I’ll share with you some of the Manx folk tales as they were told to me, and some of my own even, with all their witchey embellishments.

I promise to keep poetry down to a minimum.  Only old, good, (IMHO) published poetry and historical fragments will go here.  I’ll refrain from such things as:

“The dark night of Elfame’s enchantments, rang through the soul like a mighty bell…. calling…. calling… calling…

Ere the Novice enter the Crimson Threefold Gate of Her High Nocticular Mysteries.  Bla de bla de bla…”

Let’s leave that kind of poetry to the realm of personal use.  Besides, it’s usually a vanity copy of the Witch Master Andrew D. Chumbley, and very few have come close to his depth of understanding and eloquence, though many have made the attempt.  I’ve  read enough tries of it online and nearly wet my besom laughing far too many times.  Honestly, some witches take themselves too seriously and have no concept that some poetry should be kept to one’s self and only shared with a close friend and confident…. someone you won’t be offended by when they make fun of you.  🙂

From one witch to another…