Archive for dream

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

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.

Hag Stone Necklace

Posted in Art, Folklore, Projects with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2012 by manxwytch

I’ve collected Hag Stones for many years and have always wanted to make a necklace.  However, not just a necklace with a single stone, but a  magical necklace that would mark some kind of passage of time and vision.  Waiting for the right Holed Stones has taken years of collecting and though I’ve had plenty of stones for many years, none were the right feel and fit until now.

I’m recently vision impaired so tying a knot alone can be a real challenge for me.  Stringing a thread onto a wee beading needle is a lesson in patience for even those with 20×20 vision.  My ability to create now takes an incredible amount of time, but I’m still an artist and craftsperson and I won’t let that part of me go as it helps to feed my soul.

As I said, I wanted to make a Hag Stone necklace for many years and I’ve wanted it to mark a point in my life.  This is the first piece I’ve made since the loss of my vision and a great challenge for me.  It truly marks a pivitol point of my life, a rite of passage in my way of being and seeing in the world.

Thirteen holy Hag Stones, one for each of the full moons.  I will begin the consecrations of each stone on the full moon closest to the new year, in the dark half, Samhain.  So each full moon will be marked and the necklace will be fully charged in a full year’s cycle.

Twelve round pieces of Amber stone to mark the solar cycles of time and light.  The passage of the Twelve Houses of the Sun.  Amber is a stone symbolic of life, light and energy.  Amber, like Quartz, can hold an electric charge and be seen to glow as if from an internal light.  It also smells heavenly when warmed, heated or drilled.  It has been used in ancient medicines for many years and is said to hold healing properties, bearing the lamp of the sun.  Many priestesses wear Amber and Jet necklaces to symbolize the eternal cycles of life and death.

Rather than use Jet, I decided to go right to the source and I’ve used carved bone as the third bead.  There are Forty Bone Beads.  Bone is our mortality.  The stone of our bodies.  Our inner strength and our support.  It’s what holds up this bag of skin, sinew and cell.  It is white to remind us of the Light where we originated.

The circle of Hags, Amber and Bone is held together with silk thread and copper wire.  Copper for the Green Venusian Current, and Silk for its opulence and  strength.  Fine materials for a precious piece that I hope I will one day hand down to a Priestess of my lineage.

During the year’s cycle, I will make a pouch or box to hold the necklace.  Right now, I don’t know how it will look.  The dream hasn’t manifested and neither have the materials, but I’m sure that Providence will bring the right tools at the right time.  She always does.

The centrepiece stone was chosen because of the natural Runes, yods and crescents carved by Fortuna’s hands. It was also the latest of the Holy Stones to come in to my possession, being found just a few months ago.

A Traditional Witchcraft Triple Bill

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

In addition to carving, I’ve been spending time with my bedside reading, making my way through a trio of new-ish offerings on the Traditional Craft.

Ars Philtron has been on my shelf for a while, but the broader scope of Viridarium Umbris demanded my attention first, even through the first edition of AP was the earlier publication. The Children of Cain is on loan from a witch who has university papers on medieval witch hunts to write, so I scooped it from her ample bookshelves until she has the time to go through it herself. The first of the Three Hands Press occult monographs is a recent arrival, and a quick and satisfying read that provided the icing on this particular occult layer cake.

Ars Philtron, Concerning the Aqueous Cunning of the Potion And its Praxis in the Green Art Magical, by David Schulke

Edition Codex Vasculum, Xoanon Press, 2008

In the author’s words, the focus of Ars Philtron is, “any ensorcelled aqueous coction compounded with Plant, Mineral, or Beast adjuncts, employed as a vehicle of enchantment.” (Italics are the author’s)

This book is part Alchemical, part Herbal, and part Grimoire. Simultaneously revealed and concealed within the writing style of the Cultus are instructions and lore dealing with all manner of potions, running the gamut from love philtre to thanatotic libation. Unfortunately, many of the formulae call for distillation equipment, putting them outside the scope of practice for most Green Witches and Wort Cunningfolk.

The author begins with a description of the materials and equipment used in the art, their preparation and function in the production of the potion. He proceeds to describe in detail the lore and manufacture of several classes of philtre, among them, aphrodisiacs, ablutions, sacraments, vinegars, potions to alter states of consciousness and dreaming, poisons and animating potions. To conclude, Schulke offers the consummation of the art, words to the Wise concerning the Real Work. This is followed by a brief lexicon and a useful bibliography.

Occasionally profoundly obscure, some sections require significant effort on the part of the reader to recall what it is the author is actually talking about. Though, as always, this offering from Mr. Schulke is a very thorough and valuable elucidation of the subject matter.

Children of Cain, A Study of Modern Traditional Witches by Michael Howard

Three Hands Press, 2011.

As the editor of one of the longest running and highest quality witchcraft periodicals in the world, The Cauldron magazine, Mike Howard is in an ideal position to write a history of modern Traditional Witchcraft.  His exposure to wide range of Craft traditions and practices over the years and his connections built up in the traditional community put him in a position to assemble and share a valuable history.

The Children of Cain is a general wander through the realm of modern Traditional Witchcraft.   The author provides a basic introduction to a dozen traditions in the UK and the US.  As might be expected from the author’s background, his approach is more journalistic than academic, and while some traditions are very well researched and referenced, others are presented with no new information offered than what has already been published elsewhere, and in some cases, no support given for what is offered beyond its presentation.  It may be in these cases that Howard relied only on secondary sources where he lacked personal contacts with the primary ones or, knowing what I know about Mike Howard, he chose to respect the privacy of his sources and their requests for secrecy about some aspects of their traditions.

Howard begins his book with Robert Cochrane and the Clan of Tubal Cain, providing a short biography of the former and a valuable description of the beliefs, tools, Gods and methods as well as the documented and oral history of the latter.  Howard has been severely criticized by one member of the Clan for his treatment of Cochrane, but in reading the criticism, I am left wondering if we have in fact read the same book!  My impression as a reader without a vested interest is that Howard has dealt fairly with the details of Cochrane’s life and that his treatment has been realistic and balanced.  I didn’t read a depiction of a “dysfunctional madman” in the author’s writing.  As for the other criticisms, again, as an outsider it looks like the Clansman is grasping at straws or suffering from tunnel vision fixating on the parts of Howard’s narrative he disagrees with.  There has been little written about the Clan from its originator, and what there is Mike Howard has used in detail, along with information from Cochrane’s successor and past associates in the Clan.

From here he goes on to describe The Regency in a lengthy section, providing some history and details on the more neopagan outer circle and the traditional inner circle and describing the important role The Regency played in keeping old witchcraft alive while simultaneously making it more available to the growing neopagan movement.

The next section focusses on the legendary George Pickingill and his nine covens, though much of what is here was already published in the Pickingill Papers, which Howard relies on extensively.

After this he details the Guilds, and again Howard has drawn extensively on secondary sources for historical information on the various guild groups making use of witchcraft including the Horsemen, the Toadmen and the Millers Word.  Regarding the initiation rites, Howard goes into rather more detail that I would like to see revealed in a general survey of traditions.

The final two sections deal with Traditional Witchcraft imported into the US by European immigrants and a trans-Atlantic review of the Old Craft today.  Today is used rather loosely to include figures and traditions from the 1900s on, including Cecil Williamson and his museums, Austin Osman Spare, Rosaleen Norton and the contemporary Cultus Sabbati, among others.  With his personal connections to the Cultus Sabbati, Howard does an excellent and in depth discussion of its history, influences and approach, speaking extensively about Andrew Chumbley and the contributions he made to the modern occult movement.  He also includes discussions with Daniel Schulke, Chumbley’s successor in the Cultus.

In all, I would describe the Children of Cain as an excellent and detailed introduction to the Modern Traditional Craft, but not the definitive work that its publishers would like it to be.  I do highly recommend it and consider it to be an essential addition to any witchcraft library.

Mysticism, Initiation and Dream, by Andrew Chumbley

Three Hands Press, 2012

This slender volume is the first of the Occult Monographs series published by Three Hands Press and is an academic paper by Andrew Chumbley surveying Voodoo, Sufism, Tibetan Bon and other sources on the subject of Dream Initiation.  The work is particularly valuable in that it is not an historical survey of dreams and their meanings, but instead the author posits two directions of work for oneiric praxis – the first is the grounding of the dream into the physical, the second is the ennoblement of the dreamer through the dream.  In the author’s words:

“It is as if the initiatory dream is a window – a transliminal portal, set on the border between many worlds and many states, through which the divine numen shoots forth a starry beam; a ray with which to inflame the mystic’s heart whilst on earth, but nonetheless to draw him heavenwards.”

Chumbley’s thesis is that through the interpretation of the symbols in dreams, the sacred is made manifest in the dreamer’s world; and through dreaming, the dreamer is linked in an immediate and personal way to the source of the mystical dream, which shapes his outlook and actions to move him in that direction.  The author also addresses the concept and role of the dream initiator and the universality of access and gnosis in the dreaming.

The breadth and depth of Chumbley’s understanding of his research subject is, as always, impressive, and this addition to his published works is heartily welcomed. The production quality of the volume is up to the Cultus Sabbati’s usual excellent standards. Tantalizing glimpses of future titles and authors show great promise for the series as it addresses a broad range of subjects in sufficient depth to be of use to both experienced practitioners and critical scholars.

Runes

Posted in History, Projects with tags , , , , , on March 22, 2012 by manxwytch

The early Manx culture was a blend of Celtic and Viking in roughly equal proportions.

The Isle of Mann was never conquered by the Romans so the Christianity that came to the Isle was a blend of the Celtic version which was brought over from Ireland, and a very odd Norse Pagan-Christian fusion that arrived with the last of the Vikings. There were several false starts at introducing the New Faith and the pre-Christian pagan influence was far stronger on the Isle, and lasted much longer than on the mainland. The majority of the Manx these days are terribly proud of their Christian heritage and tend to exaggerate the extent to which and date it became dominant on the Isle. Sometime between 800 and 1200, making it among the last of the western European countries to convert. As a result, many examples of Viking Runic inscriptions and Celtic Ogham are found throughout the Isle, dating from the pre-Christian and the early Christian eras.

With the strong Viking influence on Mann, carving runes seems natural. Up until now I have always carved my runes on stones, my first set done decades ago on green granite. I’ve carved quartz pebbles collected from the northernmost point of the Isle of Mann, the Point of Ayre and silven slates from the mermaid coves at the Sound, near where the god Manannan first stepped foot on the Isle.

This is a set of apple wood staves, a gift for an organic apple orchardist; made from pruned wood of the heritage variety trees that she planted and that are still in her care.

Instead of carving the symbols the way I have done on stones, these are pierced, so one is able to see through the rune shape.

Sigils such as the runes function as templates to shape energy, much like the play-dough molds from childhood – energy gets pushed through one side and comes out the other, rune-shaped. I wanted to make this image literal with these runes. When I make something magickal, I typically have a rough idea of what I want, I may begin a project, gather materials, but momentum doesn’t build until after I’ve dreamed the work.

This sometimes takes weeks, sometimes months or years. Needless to say, I don’t always finish a project quickly, especially if it’s an important project. While I was awaiting the dream, I sewed a moose hide bag for the staves.

In this case, I dreamed the final product and in the dream I was doing the work with hand tools, whereas I normally carve runes with a motor tool because of their diminutive size. The motor tool would have been much faster and less awkward, but in the end, carving and filing by hand I only had to redo one rune due to my own clumsiness.

Carving a set of runes is a meditation, completing each of the runes of the cycle and focusing one-at-a-time on the universal forces which they embody. The act of making the shape connects the carver with the energy of the rune itself, and forms a bond with all those carvers in the past whose hands made those same shapes on stones and staves.

With this set and the technique which I had not done before, I began with the simplest rune and worked in sets of 8, based on the complexity of the design. The constraints imposed by piercing meant that I had to find a way to suggest the shape of some of the runes without physically cutting them.

Once cut and filed, I laid out the rune cycle. To my chagrin I counted twenty-three runes! Apparently one of the rune blanks walked away from the work bench, and insisted on being carved start-to-finish on the Vernal Equinox. I’ll leave you to guess which one it was.

I coloured the symbols with ochre which I found in a stream and ground by hand, to vivify the runes. Ochre is the colour of the blood of the land, and the blood of the land gives life. Depending on who I’m making the runes for, I may rubrify them with other materials. Lastly, I finished the staves with a natural sealant made from linseed oil and resin.
From here they will make their way to the hands of their recipient, who will do what she will with them. My work has moved them from tree to stave, through dream to work, and from symbol to physical form. Now my work with them is done.