Archive for elders

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

The Mighty Dead: Shrines and Cakes and Silence

Posted in Folklore, History with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2012 by manxwytch

When we lose the ones who shared the Way with us, we have lost more than what is stolen in a mortal death.  We have lost their unique strand of the spiritual current and legacy they carried and shared with us.  And though we may hold our own for future generations to carry the torch of our traditions, the Presence weaves a widdershins thread that is stronger through ancient hands grown tired with the weight of fire.

We carry on.  Our old friend, Time lessens the wound but the wound of our loss is always present.  The grief of their physical loss is the depth of love in equal measure to the pain of loss.  This is the dark edge of the sword of love and the burning pain for the joy of loving.  This is also a Wisdom teaching that can only be felt to be known.  It takes courage to love, fully conscious of the inevitable painful cost of the loss of love and to love despite it!  The Arte therefore requires bravery and is not for the faint of heart.  It is no coincidence that the Latin word for heart is cor, which is the root of the word courage.

A simple part of Craft philosophy and in fact many religions of the world is that Love never dies.   If we love someone or have been loved by them, then that love bears their spirit, giving them life in the Otherworld.  The agape is both the vehicle of communion and the feast.  Love and Death are intimates so it is no wonder that the veneration of the Dead plays an integral part of Traditional Craft practice and philosophy and not for Sauin alone.

 The Mighty Dead

Our Craft Ancestors join the Host of the Mighty Dead upon passing from this world.  There, they guard the Arte in death as they did in life and they can also be summoned by the living for knowledge and aid.  This is an unique added benefit to having Traditional Craft Lineage as opposed to ‘making it up as you go’ as many witches do.  Knowing the secret names of the Ancestors and calling them from the Otherworld to Watch and Ward in special rites is an unique experience.  The simple links to the secret heritage, lore and ancestry are irreplaceable treasures and carry a potency and magic which has a tangible life-force and will of its own.  This is not to disregard my brothers and sisters of the Arte who came to Witchcraft on their own but just to say something of the essence of magical legacy.  I am sure that even if a self-made Witch called upon the Mighty Dead with a heart of courage, their summons would be met in the Otherworld with welcome and loving arms.

Of course, summoning the Host of the Mighty Dead is not to be done lightly and clearly it is far more appropriate to convene ones personal Ancestors than the Retinue of Ages.

Ancestor Shrines

My Ancestor Shrine is a living embodiment of my love of those who have passed on.  It changes over time and as I grow old, it becomes more laden.  I’ve seen Shrines that include animals, inspiring people, familiars and thought-forms put to rest.  I’ve also seen shrines that are entirely symbolic and hold nothing but a skull, rose and candle upon a rough stone.  Sometimes it is only a photo and candle upon a hearth.   The appearance of the shrine is never as important as that there IS a shrine.

 The act of creating the Ancestor Shrine in your home or outdoors should be viewed as a sacred act or ritual that creates a pathway between your Ancestors in the Otherworld and yourself.   You are creating a microcosm of the chthonic realm in terrestrial form.  Each shrine is clearly as unique as the Witch who creates it and his or her Ancestors.  There are no colour coded candles, designer altar cloths, sigils or special crystals of power for this and no instruction manual.  You must rely entirely on your intuition and your heart’s relationship with the Ancestor.  If your instinct tells you to find a skull and place a crystal in its socket to give vision to the dead on your shrine, then do it.  Use photos, use hair, use rowan berries, cremated ashes of your loved ones, use graveyard dirt, use symbols carved or painted, use whatever it is that links your mind to your Ancestors, their Shades.  There is no cookie cutter symbol for everyone and they are your Ancestors with their unique personalities for you to consider as well.  If your granny loved her knitting, why not give her some knitting needles and wool?  The Ancestors live as Shades and still have all the personality they did when corporeal.  Keeping in tune with the love we shared with our Ancestors will help to metamorphosis your Shrine into a living micro-world.

Some Witches prefer to feed the Dead or to make personal offerings to their Ancestors on lunar, daily or weekly cycles.  Many Ancestor Shrines house bowls for offerings of favourite foods, flowers, incense, water, milk, alcohol or grain.  One exceptional Witch that I know has made an offering bowl as central to the Shrine.  Her bowl is fired black clay for skrying and it balances upon three femurs, bound by hand-spun red wool.  Most Shrines will house a candle flame somewhere.  Some witches like to burn their offerings to the Dead while others simply leave their offerings in bowls that are later buried, composted or returned to the earth in some manner.  All in all, it is up to you and your imagination as well as your relationship to the Dead.

Communion with the Ancestors

How each Witch communicates with their Ancestors is also a personal affair.  Whether you meditate, talk or sing to them is up to you.  For some, silence is best and they wait to hear the Ancestors speak first.  For others, a more direct approach with visceral tools such as candles, pins in bottles, ouijii boards and the like. Many witches however are relatively happy with the peaceful remembrance of their dead and don’t need dramatics from the Otherworld.

Some Witches are fond of entheogens and alcohol and smoke and drink rather copious amounts to commune with the Dead or the Otherworld Denizens.  I don’t advise that route as it may unite the quick and the Dead sooner than anticipated and not by willed, patient controlled means.  However, as each shrine is individual; each Witch must form their own personal experiences and connection to the Ancestors by their own methods.  Entheogens and alcohol do have a long history in Traditional Witchcraft.  The informed use of entheogens and alcohols as ‘spiritual aids’ is especially helpful for those people who can’t quite find the space by their own efforts or for those individuals who require an intense spiritual catapulting leap of consciousness, usually for a specific purpose.  Most witches however, are naturals at travelling between the worlds and communicate safely with the Shades without such things.  We already live on the edge or… straddle the hedge as some might say so such things are not for everyday use or are entertainments for the clay-born.

 Shibber Valloo:  Dumb Supper

On Mann, a custom for communing with the Ancestors was the consuming of Soddag Valloo (Dumb Cakes).  The general custom took place during Hop Tu Naa (November 11th but now celebrated on October 31st) however the rite itself was performed at any point the Witch desired.  The cakes were made during the day with a base mixture of flour, eggs complete with ground shell, salt and ashes and could be considered a form of bannock.  Other ingredients were often added by the Witch to give further potency to the cake, mindful that the cakes were actually consumed.  The Witch would go to a private place of the Ancestor she sought communion with.  This could of course be at a graveyard but keep in mind that smart Witches did not want to get caught.  Most witches performed this rite in the privacy of their own property.

The place would be hallowed by the elements and after that, the Witch set out plates, silverware, glasses and napkins for both the living and the Dead.  The Shade was summoned to attend the meal by calling its name into the North.  At that point the Witch tolled a bell in a patterned sequence into the silent night.  The knells acted as an auditory guide for the dead as well as protecting both the Witch and the Shade from unwanted travellers along the ghost roads.  Once the Ancestor had arrived, the dinner candle was lit and it was time to begin the Shibber Vallo, or Dumb Supper.

The Witch did not speak at any time during the Shibber Vallo and made every effort to perform the meal in a widdershins way.  If she commonly used her right hand, then she would use her left.  If she wore clothing, she would remove it and redress with the clothing on backward.  The understanding here is that the Otherworld is a mirror of our own and the reflection is often reversed, therefore the joining of the Worlds creates a respected temporal distortion that the Witch embraces physically.  Wine and water was poured for both the Shade and the Witch and the cakes were lain upon the plates and consumed entirely in mute silence.  When the supper concluded, the Witch arose with the candle and walked backward with the Ancestor to their bed or a place where they may lay comfortably for the night.  Visions and dreams were the least to be expected of this night.

However you celebrate the coming season with turnips, or pumpkins, tricks or treats, we hope you have an intimate time with your Beloved Ones in both worlds.

Hop-tu-naa-I met an old woman
Tra-la-laa -She was baking bonnags
Hop-tu-Naa-I asked for a bit
Tra-la-laa -She gave me a bit, as big as my big toe.
Hop-tu-Naa-She dipped it in milk
Tra-la-laa -She wrapped it in silk
Hop-tu-Naa, Tra-la-laa
Jinny the Witch flew over the house
To catch a stick to lather the mouse
Hop-tu-Naa, Tra-la-laa
If you don’t give us something we’ll run away
With the light of the moon.

Ye Old Guidebook: Witchcraft Museum Castletown

Posted in History with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2012 by manxwytch

It is a sad state of affairs that the only documentation on the web from the Isle of Mann’s national website regarding The Museum of Magic and Witchcraft is a shameful piece of rubbish that only serves to demonstrate the lack of scholarly integrity and outright distain and intolerance of the beliefs and values of those outside of the perceived social norm.  That being said, I feel it is time to discuss The Museum of Magic and Witchcraft pamphlet with a more understanding view of the period, clarify errors of authors and perhaps add a more sensible response than the one from the IOM’s page written by “Katie Agnostopoulou”.

One must keep in mind, when reading anthropological, historical, folkloric and religious texts of the 19th and 20th century that the empirical methods of research which we pride ourselves upon today were only in the initial stages of being formed.  Therefore research by such notable forefathers as Eliade, Durkheim, Frazer, Douglas, Weber, Moore and many others should be regarded with the respect due to the research methods they afforded at the time, valued for their unique viewpoint and the intriguing theories offered regarding the subjects, honoured for their interest and development of the field and for their passion and interest in the preservation of lore.  Likewise, armchair authors, historians and insiders of cultural and religious traditions such as Gerald Gardner should also be respected with their own unique theories and faults of the time.  As an insider to a reviving and developing religion, Gardner’s (and other’s) insights offer us a rare historical glimpse of the founding of a new religious movement which will later take on a life of its own and span the globe.  Witchcraft the Old Religion is rising from the ashes and taking its place among what is presently termed ‘New Religious Movements’ (NRMs) and contains various pagan religions that were also ‘re-birthed’ at this time in history.

In July, 1951 Cecil Hugh Williamson along with Gerald Brosseau Gardner opened the Witchcraft Museum in Castletown, Isle of Mann.  These two highly knowledgeable men possessed exceptional collections of artefacts relating to folklore, witchcraft, magic, mythology and superstition.  As well, they each had their own personal contacts, and craftspeople who contributed items for the displays in the Museum.  The relationship between these two men is complex and ended on bitter terms however, they both played an important role in the development of present day Witchcraft, and their contribution to the survival of various folk traditions as well as the rekindling of the love of the Old Gods and Goddesses of magic.

This is the first version of The Museum of Magic and Witchcraft pamphlet which was written by Gerald Gardner for, and along with Williamson’s input.  This small sepia version which I have scanned and posted here is numbered 1 of 6 and it has been suggested that this was part of the initial prints offered by the Castletown Press for review by Gardner and Williamson prior to full publication.  There are later versions of this brochure, one that is specifically Gardner’s own and one that was published by Monique and Scotty Wilson after Gardner’s death.  Each brochure has its own photographic style but the wording of the pamphlet is little changed if at all.

I have placed the photo along with written text for simple viewing and commentary and have attempted to keep the text with the image provided.  I am retaining the format of original text in bold and my comments in standard.  You may click on any image to enlarge the view.

 

The Witches Mill, Castletown, I.o.M.

The cover of the pamphlet is drawn by Gerald Gardner.  The original is a large pen and ink poster on hard board archived in the James’ Toronto Collection of Gardner’s papers, purchased from the Ripley Museum sale in 1987.  Postcards were also made of this image and sold in the gift shop along with various other trinkets for the tourists.

THE STORY 

OF

THE FAMOUS WITCHES MILL

AT CASTLETOWN, ISLE OF MAN

by G. B. GARDNER

Published for C. C. Wilson

The Witches Mill, Castletown Isle of Man

By

The Castletown Press, Arbory Street, Castletown

*

THE MUSEUM OF MAGIC AND WITCHCRAFT

THE exact age of the old windmill at Castletown, Isle of Man, known as “The Witches Mill,” is uncertain; but we know that it was there in 1611, as it is mentioned in a court record of that date.

We know that the windmill was built in 1828.  It burned down and was restored in 1848.  There is no court record that accounts for the windmill in 1611 however, it is probable that Gardner misunderstood the history of the Arbory witches and confused the dates.  The trials of the Arbory witches occurred in 1666 and were in Kirk Arbory.

The Mill got its name because the famous Arbory witches lived close there, and the story goes that when the old mill was burned out in 1848 they used the ruins as a dancing-ground, for which, as visitors may see, it was eminently suited; being round inside to accommodate the witches’ circle, while the remains of the stone walls screened them from the wind and from prying eyes. 

There are two fundamental precepts of history that are often neglected by amateurs and historians alike.  The first is that you were not there and you cannot know for certain what happened.  The second, particularly in this case is that simply because something wasn’t documented doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.  And here it is important to note that the population in question, witches, were both by choice and necessity secretive about what they did and where they did it for fear of public censure and punishment.

That said, I will state clearly that the Arbory witches existed on the Isle of Mann both historically and during the period of the Mill Museum.  The last known surviving Arbory witch passed away quietly on Mann in the first decade of the 21st century.

The Mill Tower was well used by the witches on the Isle of Mann.  It is, as Gerald described it, “eminently suited for the witches’ circle.”  A round tower with an open vault to the heavens, moon and starry sky, protected from the wind, and able to keep a warm fire lit for the dancers.  It was in fact, perfect, though it was not the only site used on Mann or in the Museum for that matter!

After being abandoned for many years, the large barns of the Mill were taken in 1950 to house the only Museum in the world devoted to Magic and Witchcraft. The attractive grey stone walls of the Museum and the old mill stand in four acres of ground, thus providing a large car park, and there is an excellent restaurant on the ground floor of the building, where visitors may enjoy modern service in picturesque, old-world surroundings.

As the Museum is only a mile and a half from the Airport (5 minutes by taxi), many visitors fly over from the mainland to see the Museum only, and return the same day.

The Isle of Mann was a tourist haven in the 1950s and 1960s.  It was an easy boat ride from Britain, Scotland or Ireland for a vacation not too far from home and not too costly on the purse.  The Isle of Mann prided itself upon it tourist trade with its Grand Promenade in Douglas, street vendors, horse drawn trams, cinema, buggy rides, costal path and sandy beaches that at one time, some thought rivalled the shores of Southern Europe.

The policy of the Museum is to show what people have believed in the past, and still do believe, about magic and witchcraft, and what they have done, and still do, as a result of these beliefs. It contains a unique collection of authentic material, some of which has been given by witches who are still living or only recently dead. It shows how witchcraft, instead of being extinct, or merely legendary, is in fact still a living religion, and the possessor of traditions of great interest to scholars, anthropologists, and students of comparative religion and folklore. Witchcraft is actually the remains of the oldest religious traditions of Western Europe, some of which seem to have come from the Stone Age.

The idea that Witchcraft was the remains of one of the oldest religions of Western Europe was not a view unique to Gerald Gardner alone.  It was part of a new theory of religious study which identified religion as evolving from a primitive past to modernity and an often hoped for secularism.  Such early proponents of the evolutionary theory of religion were Max Mueller, Lucien Levy-Bruhl, Sir James Frazer, Herbert Spencer, E. B. Tylor to name a few and there were many others with similar theories.  Gardner’s thoughts were clearly working within the theoretical models of his time.

Apart from the other material, the Museum also possesses a large collection of Manx bygones, including what is said to be the only known specimen of a Manx Dirk, of the type which made the Manx Dirk Dance famous; the dance still exists, but is now performed with wooden weapons.

There are many cultural dances throughout the world and the Isle of Mann also had its own dances.  Though I am not familiar with the historical Manx Dirk, I can say that I have read accounts of Manx dances in historical records.  Many traditional songs and dances were collected by the 20th century Manx Folklorist, Mona Douglas who did a great service to preserve Manx cultural traditions.

From time immemorial the people of the Isle of Man have been believers in fairies and witches. The celebrated “Fairies’ Bridge” is only six miles away from the Museum. There have been a number of witch trials in the Island; but it appears from the records that the favourite verdict of a Manx jury in cases of alleged witchcraft was “Not Guilty, but don’t do it again.”

The Isle of Mann holds a substantial amount of Faery Lore for such a small island.  “The Fairies’ Bridge” referred to is the mock up for the tourist industry and is still in use on Mann today though now-a-days it hangs with more brassieres and notes to win the TT than with prayers to the Mooinjer Veggey.  Many a coach driver had lots of fun with the tourists passing over the bridge during the heydays!  The actual Faery Bridge of Manx historical legend is located in Braddan.

In reference to the “Not Guilty” verdicts of witches on the Isle of Mann, as far as modern day historians of witchcraft can find, it was a common practice in the courts and not unique to Mann.  As records of the witch trials are only recently being examined, reviewed and discovered, there is no way that Gardner or those of his time period would have had this kind of information so his surprise at the leniency of the courts is simply understood.

(Please see the video at the end of this blog for an introduction to the academic study of witchcraft with a focus on historical witch trials in Great Britain).

The only recorded execution of a witch in the Isle of Man took place within a short distance of the old Mill, when in 1617 Margaret Ine Quane and her young son were burned alive at the stake near the Market Cross in Castletown. She had been caught trying to work a fertility rite to get good crops; and as this was in the time when the Lordship of Man was temporarily in the hands of the witch-hunting King James I, she suffered the extreme penalty. A memorial to Margaret Ine Quane, and to the victims of the witch persecutions in Western Europe, whose total numbers have been estimated at nine millions, is in the Museum.

The execution of Margaret Ine Quane happened under the rule of the Stanley Family who were ‘given’ the Isle by King Henry IV in 1405.  The estimation of the victims of the witch craze in Western Europe is largely exaggerated.  We clearly do not know the number of victims though there have been various academic guesses… none of which can be claimed with accuracy.

The memorial to Margaret Ine Quane was painted and designed by Gerald Gardner in the museum.  There was also a makeshift plaque for many years that rested on the Candlestick in Castletown, outside the George Pub.  It memorialized the passing of Margaret Ine Quane and though it disappeared in the 1980s, it has again resurfaced.  Knowing Isle of Mann sentiments towards witches and magic I doubt it will remain there for long.

One cannot understand history without some knowledge of our ancestors’ beliefs, and what they did because of those beliefs. What manner of people were these magicians and witches ? What went on in their minds ? What was the difference between them ? These are some of the questions this Museum sets out to answer.

Ceremonial magic gave its rites a Christian form; whereas witches were pagans, and followed the Old Gods. Hence the witch cult was fiercely persecuted, while ceremonial magic was sometimes studied and practised by churchmen. The idea behind ceremonial magic is that of commanding spirits, good or evil, in the names of God and His Angels, and thus making the spirits do your will; and the proof that this is how magicians’ minds worked is to be found in the old magical books called Grimoires, of which the Museum has a large number, both printed and in manuscript. The procedure laid down in them is complicated, and required a certain amount of

education, often involving a knowledge of Latin and Hebrew, to understand it. Also, the rites they specify needed costly equipment, such as swords, wands, magical robes, pentacles of silver and gold, etc. Hence it was only members of the upper classes, or of the learned professions, who could work such rites.

Ceremonial magic originates in the magical rites of the Abrahamic traditions and is historically evolved from the grimoire traditions of the early medieval period.  The earliest grimoires invoke the name of the Abrahamic God, his angels and demons, as well as classical Gods, Goddesses, spirits, beasts, mythic figures and garbled language for all manner of purposes.

The witch cult, on the other hand, was something much closer to the soil, its practitioners could be, and probably most often were, completely illiterate. It is the remains of the original pre-Christian religion of Western Europe, and its followers possessed traditional knowledge and beliefs which had been handed down by word of mouth for generations. In spite of the great persecutions (some grim relics of which, in the form of instruments of torture and execution, are preserved in the Museum), the cult has never died. Some remnants of it still exist to this day and the Director of this Museum has been initiated into a British witch coven.

Gardner clearly tries to draw a distinction between Ceremonial Magicians and the Witch Cult.  He defines Ceremonialists with wealth, education, professionalism, and sophistication.  Witches he defines as more down to earth, rural, illiterate, with oral traditions handed through generations.  This is a common stereotype of definitions of “high” and “low” magic which is often viewed as: high magic, gendered male-ceremonial and sophisticated, and low magic, gendered female-witch and primitive.

Magic is the art of attempting to influence the course of events by using the lesser-known forces of nature, or by obtaining the help of supernatural beings. Doing anything for luck, or to avert bad luck, is a form of magic.

Throughout history, magic has exercised a great influence on human thought. Stone Age cave paintings and statuettes show that the ancient people of Europe practised magical rites. They made images of animals on the walls of their caves, and depicted them with spears or arrows thrust into them; it is thought that this was intended as a spell in order to gain power over the animals in real life. The same principle is at work in the old spell of making a wax image of someone and sticking pins into it, in order to do them some harm, which is practised to this day.

Fertility magic became increasingly important with the discovery of farming. Magic then was chiefly to ensure good crops, increase in flocks and herds, good fishing, and many babies, in order to keep the tribe strong. From the days of the first rites in the caves, there is evidence that dancing, magic circles, and fires, were part of magical practice. Later, people began to learn the use of herbal remedies, drugs, and poisons (the latter being useful for killing wolves). Each tribe would have its “wise man” or “wise woman,” probably people with natural psychic powers. This is the origin of the word “witch”; it is derived from an Anglo-Saxon word Wica, meaning “The Wise Ones.” The earliest magic was for the benefit of the whole tribe; later “private magic,” such as love charms, or spells to obtain personal desires, began to develop.

Again, Gardner’s theories are contemporary with his time period.

SORCERY originally meant “to cast lots.” The word comes from the late Latin sortiare. It is an ancient and universal practice to gather a number of objects, such as marked stones, or bones, assign different meanings to each, cast them on the ground, and “tell fortunes” from the way in which they fall. However, the word “sorcery” has come to mean almost any sort of magic.

RITUAL MAGIC, Art Magic, or Cabalistic Magic, seems to have evolved from Egyptian and Babylonian magical beliefs that there were many

great spirits, minor gods, angels and demons, who could be bribed or Impelled to cause events to occur, by means of long rites and conjurations, with or without blood sacrifices. A very important branch of this magic was to know the Names of Power, by which such beings could be summoned and controlled. When used for good purposes, these practices were called White Magic; but if for evil purposes, they were called Black Magic. This last term is nowadays much abused, being often applied to anything occult. We have illustrations, by means of books, pictures, and actual instruments and objects, of all of these types of magic in the Museum.

ASTROLOGY aimed at discovering what the future was likely to be from studying the stars. Its basis is the old Hermetic axiom,”As above, so below.” It is still widely believed in, and is the mother of Astronomy. We have some examples of the tools, books, etc., used by astrologers.

ALCHEMY aimed at finding the Philosophers’ Stone, which would turn all other metals into gold, and the Elixir of Life, which would cure all diseases and prolong life indefinitely. It was the mother of modern Chemistry; though alchemists expressed their art in a curious mystical jargon, to prevent their secrets being stolen. We have some objects and manuscripts relating to Alchemy, but regret we have no Philosophers’ Stone or Elixir of Life to show you.

NECROMANCY was attempting to compel the spirits of the dead to return and give information. It was usually performed with the corpse of a person recently dead. Spiritualism has been attacked as being Necromancy, but this is false, as there is no attempt to impel the spirits to communicate, and no dead bodies are used. We have some pictures of the practice of Necromancy.

PACTS WITH THE DEVIL. We have copies of what are alleged to be pacts with the devil, and other diabolical papers, including the alleged signatures of various devils, from the French National Archives and other sources; but we think the originals were either forgeries or cheats to deceive the simple-minded.

DEVIL WORSHIP is usually regarded as meaning the worship of Satan. We have some relics which are said to have been used in such rites; but we have no real evidence that the people who used them were more than jokers in rather bad taste. Witches have been accused of “devil-worship”; but the Old Horned God of witchcraft is pre-Christian, and “the devil” is a concept of Christian times.

THE BLACK MASS. Many practices which may or may not have taken place have been denounced by this name; but there is little convincing evidence of its real existence. However, we are always willing to receive proof, and the Museum has some objects alleged to be associated with it.

Gardner’s brief descriptions are exactly that and not meant to be definitive in any way.  These are introductions to little known subjects for the entertainment, and humour of the tourists.

We have in this Museum the following Exhibits:

On the first floor are two rooms. One represents a Magician’s Study, of the period circa 1630, with everything set out for performing what is variously called Ritual Magic, Cabalistic Magic, Ceremonial Magic, or Art Magic; these terms mean very much the same thing, though some writers use one and

some another. There is a large and complicated circle drawn on the floor, and an altar made to certain Cabalistic proportions. Beside it is the magician’s consecrated sword, and behind it two columns, with a light upon each. If used for good purposes only, this kind of magic was called White Magic; but if used for evil or selfish purposes, it was called Black Magic. The latter might involve the use of blood, and the summoning of demons, who were kept at bay by the Divine Names written around the circle, and were only permitted to manifest in the Triangle of Art drawn outside the circle, where they could be commanded to do the magician’s will.

The other room represents a Witch’s Cottage, with furnishings of about the same date as the above, and with the witch’s magical implements set out for use, with the circle, the altar, etc. It will be seen that these are much less elaborate than those of the magician. The room is an ordinary living-room, with a bed in the background, and a few domestic articles scattered about; the altar is a chest; the circle is a simple chalk line. At an alarm of danger, everything could quickly be made to look quite normal.

The witch’s altar is set out as if for an initiation ceremony. One of the objects upon it is a necklace, the only “ceremonial garment” a witch needed; whereas the magician might wear elaborate robes.

The Exhibits again follow Gardner’s earlier stereotypes of High vs Low magic.  (Magician’s Study vs Witch’s Cottage). The manikin in the Magician’s study highly resembled Gardner.

In the First Gallery starts the famous collection of objects connected with Magic and Witchcraft.

Here follows the high point of the Witches Museum!  The Galleries!!!

I will not go into lengthy detail as these descriptions are beautifully descriptive however, I will say that the objects on display were both owned by Williamson and Gardner respectively, as well as many items that were ‘on loan’ to the museum, crafted by artisans, previously used by witches and magical people and brought to the museum through their individual contacts.  Some were ‘real’ and many were contrived for tourist entertainment.

Case No. 1. A large number of objects belonging to a witch who died in 1951 given by her relatives,

who wish to remain anonymous. These are mostly things which had been used m the family for generations. Most of them are for making herbal cures. The herbs required to make charms or medicines had to be cut at the rime when the moon or the planets were in the particular part of the Zodiac “under the right astrological aspects,” as a practitioner of the art would say; and the curved sickle or “baleen” was used for this purpose. She had a very fine ritual sword, which for many years was lent to the Druid Order which holds the annual Midsummer ceremony at Stonehenge, because it fitted exactly into the cleft in the Hele Stone.

As discussed briefly earlier, this was an exciting period in history when NRMs were being formed in contrast to the oppressive stagnation of Christianity.  Besides Witchcraft, Druidry and other pagan religions were being revived.  Modern Druidry is also a revived religion of the 18th century.

Case into. 2. A large collection of magical rings and other jewellery, used for the purpose of protection and as luck bringers, and for various other magical purposes. This case contains exhibits illustrating the development of present-day amulets from primitive pagan symbols. There are a large number of “Lucky Pieces,” ranging from the crudely mounted “Badger’s Paw” to intricate and costly astrological jewelry made according to the wearer’s horoscope. Among these is the mediaeval magic ring formerly belonging to the Earls of Lonsdale, set with the fossil tooth of an animal, and surrounded by precious stones. It is a thumb ring made large enough to be worn outside a glove, and was supposed to have a mystic power over its possessor.

Case No. 3. A large number of objects used to ward off the “Evil Eye,” dating from Ancient Egyptian and Phoenician to modern times. The “Evil Eye” is the supposed power to cast a spell upon

another simply by looking at them, ant these mascots were thought to be able in various ways to deflect this dangerous glance. This is probably one of the oldest occult beliefs in the world.

Case No. 4. A representative collection of objects used by witches in their rituals, including a witch’s riding staff, which gave rise to the “broomstick” legend. Its actual use was like that of a hobby-horse, in a kind of leaping dance that was part of a fertility ritual. There are several gazing crystals, and a black concave mirror made by a witch in modem times and consecrated at the full moon in accordance with an ancient formula; all of these are used for “skrying,” as crystal-gazing used to be called the idea being that visions could be seen in them. There is a flask of witches’ anointing oil in a silver case. The case also contains objects used in the witch persecutions, and some relics of Matthew Hopkins, the notorious “Witch-Finder General.” Among the instruments of torture used on witches, shown in this case, are thumbscrews, pincers which were used red hot, and a three-inch-long hand-made pin of the type used to prick for the so-called “Devil’s Mark,” which was supposed to be a spot which would not bleed and was insensitive to pain; also instruments used when witches were burned alive.

Case No. 5. A collection of objects used by witches, given by an existing coven of witches. Naturally, they have only lent articles which they are not using, hence the collection consists chiefly of implements for the making of herbal cures and charms; there is, however, one very fine ritual wand, and a curious old desk containing seven secret drawers, in which they used to hide some of their possessions.

Case No. 6. A large collection of talismans engraved on metal, prepared according to the formulas of the “Key of Solomon” and various other Grimoires. These talismans were consecrated with magical rituals, and had to be made and consecrated under the correct astrological aspects for the object they were to achieve, e.g., to gain someone’s love, to obtain money, success in a struggle, or the cure of sickness, and for many other purposes. The person who wished to achieve some such aim by means of a talisman, after it was made and consecrated, had then usually to wear it next to the skin.

This case also contains a collection of charms used against the “Evil Eye,” mainly Arabic and Italian, and examples of the “Medusa’s Head” charm, which was used to avert evil, and the “Mermaid” and “Sea Horse” charms for the same purposes.

SECOND ROOM:

Case No. 7. A complete collection of the secret manuscripts of the Order of the Golden Dawn, a famous magical fraternity to which Aleister Crowley, W. B. Yeats, and many other well-known people at one time belonged. It was founded by the late Dr Wynn Westcott and S. L. MacGregor Mathers, and claimed descent from the original Rosicrucians. Aleister Crowley quarrelled with the Order and broke away to found his own fraternity. The magical working of the Order of the Golden Dawn is founded upon the Hebrew Cabala, and its Cabalistic knowledge was kept very secret, though some of it has now

found its way into print; but most of the contents of this case have never before been available to the public.

The case also contains a number of documents from various sources, pertaining to other Orders which claim descent from the Rosicrucians.

Case No. 8. A collection of objects used for divination and fortune-telling, and a number of ancient and modern books upon the subject. Also a number of ancient and modem packs of Tarot cards. These cards are the forerunners of our modern playing-cards, but consist of 78 cards instead of only 52, as in the modern pack. They were (and are) much used for fortune-telling, especially by Continental gypsies. The Trump cards have many curious figures upon them, an of which have an occult meaning. Their origin is unknown, and some authorities have postulated that they came from Ancient Egypt. They certainly date back in Europe to 1392, and there are possible earlier references.

Case No. 9. A large collection of pictures showing what people have thought witches looked like, from prehistoric times to the present day; together with pictures of the practice of necromancy, and illustrations of sorcery and dealings with the devil. Reproductions of various pacts said to have been made with the devil some bearing the alleged signatures of demons.

Also some copies of the court records of Manx witchcraft trials, some being of cases which occurred in the close vicinity of this Museum. The latter illustrate the old Manx belief, “If a person is a witch, why shouldn’t they do a bit of witchcraft if they want to ?”.

Case No. 10. A very large collection of books on magic and witchcraft, including a number of ancient manuscripts, ranging from the latter part of the Middle Ages to the present day.

Case No. 11. Types of “killing magic,” including the “Pointing Bone” of the Australian aborigines, and the Malayan “Keris Majapight.” Both of these instruments were used in more or less the same way, namely they were symbolically pointed at an enemy to cast a spell upon him whereby he would sicken and die.

Also some stone implements used as charms for protection against lightning.

Some modern instruments said to enable one to see the human aura, and to gain clairvoyance; together with some instruments used in water divining or “dowsing” of various kinds (the modern term for this being “radiesthesia”).

Also a baby’s caul, used as in amulet to enable lawyers to win cases, and as a charm against drowning. (Charles Dickens mentions this belief in “David Copperfield”). The caul is a membrane sometimes found upon the head of a new-born baby, and sailors in olden times would pay a good price for one, and carry it to preserve them from the perils of the sea.

The case also includes a charm compounded in Naples in 1954, to enable a guilty man to be acquired when tried!

THE NEW UPPER GALLERY:

Case No. 12. A collection of magical objects from

Africa and Tibet.

Case No. 13. Books, letters and personal relics of Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), a famous and controversial figure in the world of occultism; called by some “The Wickedest Man in the World,” and by others “The Logos of the Aeon of Horus.” The collection includes a Charter granted by Aleister Crowley to G. B. Gardner (the Founder of this Museum) to operate a Lodge of Crowley’s fraternity the Ordo Templi Orientis. (The Director used to point out, however, that he had never used this Charter and had no intention of doing so, although to the best of his belief he was the only person in Britain possessing such a Charter from Crowley himself; Crowley was a personal friend of his, and gave him the Charter because he liked him.)

Case No. 14. Various articles illustrating the derivation of the present Arms of the Isle of Man (which are three legs) from the Celtic trisula and similar forms, such as the “Cross of St. Bride,” which were charms for luck and protection, being the signs of ancient gods. (Note: exactly the same device as the present Manx Arms, the “Three Legs,” has been found on a coin from Thrace, dating probably from circa 500 B.C., and upon another coin from Pamphylia, dating probably from circa 480-400 B.C. The Greek name for this device is the “Triskeles”).

This case also contains another collection of objects given by another coven of witches. This includes a horned helmet as used by the male leader in certain rites. Also two most interesting examples of the “Green Man” symbol, sometimes called the Foliate Mask. This was a favourite form of decoration in ancient churches but it actually represents the Old God of the witch cult, the “King of the Woods.” He was called the “Green Man” because he was depicted with leaves-often oak-leaves, -springing from his mouth, or with his face partly made up of leaves, or as if peering through a leafy garland. Some of the oldest examples of the Foliate Mask are horned. The explanation is that the craftsmen who built ancient churches and cathedrals sometimes belonged to the witch cult. They could build no shrines to their private beliefs, everyone being compelled by law to attend the Christian church, but they introduced the Old God into the fabric of the church under this guise, and he became one of the most popular figures for church decoration.

Case No. 15. A number of objects connected with what has been alleged to be “Devil-worship,” Black Magic and the Black Mass; including the form of service used at the funeral service of the late Alaister Crowley when his body was cremated at Brighton on the 5th December, 1947. This was fiercely denounced as being “the Black Mass;” if so, it must surely be the only Black Mass in history to which the Press was invited, and which was fully witnessed and reported by representatives of the local paper!

The case also contains a number of articles lent to the Museum by a magical fraternity, including a chalice used by them in performing Form of Mass for magical purposes. (This fraternity insists, how

ever that this was White Magic and not Black).

Also a magical death-spell, or curse, prepared by the late Austin Osman Spare in 1954. Spare boasted that he could kill anyone by Black Magic (he actually said this in the course of an interview he once gave on radio!). He was an artist, famous for his fantastic paintings

Also a number of other objects used in curious forms of magic, which, if not Black, were certainly extremely Grey. These include a magical lamp which was once the property of the notorious Hell-Fire Club founded by Sir Francis Dashwood in the 18th century. This started as “The Monks of Medmenham,” and was a parody of a monastic brotherhood; but the “Monks” were alleged to worship the devil and indulge in all kinds of licence as their “rule.” Later Sir Francis took his association to his palatial home at West Wycombe, where they carried out their rites in a labyrinth of mysterious chalk caves, now known as the “Hell-Fire Caves,” which may still be seen. The “Hell-Fire Club” was one of the scandals of its day, as many men of wealth and consequence were alleged to belong to it; Sir Francis Dashwood himself was at one time Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Case No. 16. A collection of modern charms and talismans, which people still pay good money for and wear for protection or good luck.

Case No. 17. A few articles used by astrologers and alchemists, and a number of boom upon these subjects.

Case No. 18. A number of books on the subject of magic, and some magical articles.

NOTE: Upon the wall of the Upper Gallery is a large round mirror. This is a Magical Mirror, which has evidently been used by a practising magician or a magical fraternity. It is convex, and backed with a dark substance instead of the usual silvering. Around the frame are the names “Michael,” “Gabriel,” “Uriel,” and “Raphael,” the four great Archangels who are said to rule the four quarters of the universe. Such mirrors as these have been used for many centuries to summon up magical visions


BIBLIOGRAPHY

For introductory research and information on the Witches Mill, Gerald Gardner and Cecil Williamson, I recommend beginning with the following:

Crowther, Patricia, One Witch’s World, (Robert Hale London, 1998).

Gardner, Gerald, The Meaning of Witchcraft, (Aquarian Publishing Company, 1959).

Hesselton, Philip, Witchfather, A life of Gerald Gardner. Vol 1 & 2,  (Thoth Publications, 2012).

Howard, Michael, Modern Wicca, (Llewellyn Publications 2009).

Hutton, Ronald, The Triumph of the Moon, (Oxford University Press 1999).

Valiente, Doreen, The Rebirth of Witchcraft, (Robert Hale London, 1989).

VIDEO

This video is an excellent introduction to understanding the witch trials of the medieval period in Great Britain.  Enjoy.

Laa Luanys – Lugh’s Fair Day

Posted in Folklore, History, Poetry, Storytelling with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2012 by manxwytch

Laa Luanys (Laa Lunys) – August 1 (August 12th Old Calendar) is the Day of Lammas, which was moved to the first Sunday in August by the Bishop of Mann in an attempt to eradicate the lewd festivities of its original pagan festival of Lughnasadh, the Festival of the God Lugh, Foster Son of Manannan.[1]  Some interpret Laa Luanys as the ‘Day of Lugh’ substituting Luans or Lunys as Lug, Lleu, or Lugh.  Academics and historians of Religion know that Christianity ‘borrowed’ many religious days and festivals from various religions and cultures including the elder Celtic Calendral Cycles in an attempt to obtain converts and destroy the Old Faiths and practices.  For instance, St. Patrick replaced Lugh in Sunday Services.  On Ellan Vannin, Lugh’s festival, rife with apparent lewd behaviour on the mountains, seemed to be one of the most pernicious practices to destroy, with Christian priests complaining of its remnants even up until the late 18th century.

“The curates and wardens represent to the court that there is a superstitious custom, which is yearly continued and practiced in this and the neighbouring parishes by many young people (and some of riper age) going to the top of Snaefell Mountain upon the first Sunday in August, where (as they are informed) they behave themselves very rudely and indecently for the greater part of that day.”  Pg 70 Manx Calendar Customs

First Sunday after Old Lammas: This was Lhuany’s Day, the day of a festival dedicated to the god Lugh. An orgy was held at the top of Snaefell.” ( http://www.isleofman.com/heritage/epedia/arts/calendars/customscalendar.aspx)

Now, to be clear here, the above quotes are as biased toward Christianity as the Manxwytch Tales are toward the Old Faith; so take it all with a grain of salt.  However, it seemed to take many years for such an enjoyable tradition to die out… though I’ve heard the coals are still kept warm.  The last reports of such open activities on Snaefell[2] were said to have occurred in 1870.  More exclusive celebrations were whispered to have continued in homes, fields and keeils, away from the eyes of prudish priests and those who “spend more time on their knees in church than their backs in bed.”[3]

Various attempts were made by the Parish to end the “profane customs” practiced and handed down through generations of Manx families.  One of the most outright offensive attempts was when the church sent Ministers[4] up to the top of Snaefell and South Barrule to collect alms for the Church and to read aloud both the Nicene Creed and the story of Jephthah and his Daughter from the Book of Judges in the Old Testament.  Briefly the story of Jephthah is that the Israelites were no longer worshiping God again and he got angry and gave them to the Ammonites.  Jephthah was born illegitimately and had only an un-named Daughter.  He becomes a leader and defeats the Ammonites and makes some kind of vow to God that whoever exits the door of his house upon his return will be sacrificed as a burnt offering to God on the altar.  And, since Jephthah’s wife is never mentioned, we can only assume that he might of known who would exit the door to greet him upon return home.  He bewails meeting his Daughter, but must keep his vow to God and sacrifice her.  She cries at the loss of her virginity (!?) (some scholars interpret this as that she mourns that she will never marry) and asks for a couple months leeway to prepare herself.  Then Jephthah carries out the deed and sacrifices her on the fiery altar, burning her to a crisp and all the women remember her for four days each year.   But pay close attention to the story and you might read how it fits what was going on at the top of Snaefell[5].  Worship of a god other than YHVH, sexual theme, sacrifice and mourning.  This all appears to fit quite well with the Day of Lugh.  Despite this dour story being read, I understand that the real killjoy was the demand for alms for the church.  Nothing kills a good ale drinking, laughing, singing, frolicking orgy than some Priest expecting cash!

There are many stories of Lugh in both Welsh and Irish mythology but I will emphasise the Manx legends as they are scantily discussed.  Lugh was the bright Solar Warrior God of the sun, corn and as mentioned earlier, Foster-Son to the great Wizard King Manannan.  Lugh was said to have spent his youth with Manannan on Ellan Vannin and it was here that he was trained in poetry, philosophy, music, smith craft, skill in battle, love and war, sailing, craftsmanship skills and cunning magic, all tutored by the Wizard King.  When his training was complete and Lugh was ready to fulfill his destiny as a warrior of epic renown, Manannan gave to Lugh his own great sword Fragarach, (the Answerer), whose power  forced anyone at whose throat it was held, to speak only the truth when questioned.[6]  Fragarach also bestowed command of the four winds to its owner and any piercing from its blade would deal a mortal wound that would never heal.  Manannan also gave Lugh flashing armour that could not be penetrated and a helmet that could not be broken.  For Lugh’s journey from the Isle, Manannan summoned from the depths of the underworld sea, a swift floating coracle called the Wave-Sweeper and lent to him his prized mare from his royal stables, the horse Aenbharr (Enbarr) whose hooves travelled as easily on water as on land.

Lugh

As a corn (grain) and solar Deity, it is little wonder that the word lugh in Manx Gaelic means mouse.  The mouse, as a totemic animal of Lugh makes obvious sense when one examines the Celtic Harvest Festival named after him, Lughnasadh.

As well, we can possibly see fragments of the relationship between the solar harvest god who dies and is reborn, Lugh’s magical spear and John Barlycorn, though this song is not particular to Mann, it was still sung in a few pubs… and may still be.

John Barleycorn: By Robert Burns

There was three kings into the east,
Three kings both great and high,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn should die.

They took a plough and plough’d him down,
Put clods upon his head,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead.

But the cheerful Spring came kindly on’
And show’rs began to fall;
John Barleycorn got up again,
And sore surpris’d them all.

The sultry suns of Summer came,
And he grew thick and strong:
His head weel arm’d wi pointed spears,
That no one should him wrong.

The sober Autumn enter’d mild,
When he grew wan and pale;
His bendin joints and drooping head
Show’d he began to fail.

His colour sicken’d more and more,
He faded into age;
And then his enemies began
To show their deadly rage.

They’ve taen a weapon, long and sharp,
And cut him by the knee;
They ty’d him fast upon a cart,
Like a rogue for forgerie.

They laid him down upon his back,
And cudgell’d him full sore.
They hung him up before the storm,
And turn’d him o’er and o’er.

They filled up a darksome pit
With water to the brim,
They heav’d in John Barleycorn-
There, let him sink or swim!

They laid him upon the floor,
To work him farther woe;
And still, as signs of life appear’d,
They toss’d him to and fro.

They wasted o’er a scorching flame
The marrow of his bones;
But a miller us’d him worst of all,
For he crush’d him between two atones.

And they hae taen his very hero blood
And drank it round and round;
And still the more and more they drank,
Their joy did more abound.

John Barleycorn was a hero bold,
Of noble enterprise;
For if you do but taste his blood,
‘Twill make your courage rise.

‘Twill make a man forget his woe;
‘Twill heighten all his joy:
‘Twill make the widow’s heart to sing,
Tho the tear were in her eye.

Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
Each man a glass in hand;
And may his great posterity
Ne’er fail in old Scotland!

As has been noted, the pilgrimage to mountaintops was important on Mann to celebrate Lugh, light, the corn and the first harvest.  But this was only one of two pilgrimages on Laa Luanys, the second of which was to the Holy Wells.  For some reason, perhaps related to Manannan, it was important to visit the known healing wells, in particular Maughold[7], Laxey[8], and St. Patrick’s[9] though there were many others, these three appear prominent.  It was said that the curative powers of the wells were more accessible at this time and offerings were made to the Genius Loci of the well and its particular power.  This was often done by the exchange of a pin or a silver coin for its curative spirit.  During the offering, a prayer was made invoking the healing property to cure whatever the ailment was.  Once accomplished, the well was often circled three times and then dressed in ribbons, and flowers.[10]

There is so much that could be told of Lughnasadh, Lugh and his Harvest Festival but I will leave that for another time.  What we can see, is that on a tellurian level, the celebration took place both in the heights and in the deeps.  The very same locations  where the spiritual celebration of this Great Sabbat is held for all witches.

If you are really interested in reading further I suggest obtaining a copy of Marie Mac Neill’s book, written in 1962, titled ‘The festival of Lughnasa: a study of the survival of the Celtic festival of the beginning of harvest‘ and published by Oxford University Press.

—————————————————————————————————————————

FOOTNOTES


[1] There was for many years a harvest fair that continued in the Parish of Santon.  Further there was a Laxey Fair, a Maughold Fair and a Fair at Ballasalla.  Take note of this as you will see, it is important because these were also places of prominent healing wells.

[2] Snaefell is the Isle of Mann’s tallest mountain and therefore those who celebrated Laa Lunys on its summit were as close to the sun as possible.  On a clear day you can see all seven kingdoms – meaning Ellan Vannin, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, the kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of the Sea.  From here, it was easy to give thanks for the harvest and all that could be seen.  Nowadays it’s tough to find a day without rain!  The jaunt up the summit is made easier by the electric train which takes you easily to the top where there’s a good cafe house / tourist shop.  As well, there is almost always someone flying off the peak in a chute.  I prefer to climb the way my Elder taught me, which is by an old footpath straight up from the Mountain Road.  It’s far more fulfilling for the spirit.  Besides this, he was climbing that mountain until well over the age of 75 and I feel that his pilgrimages added to his longevity, happiness and wellbeing.  I can only pray to reach his age and vigour!

[3] Perhaps you recognized it.  An altered quote taken from the classic movie The Wickerman in the extended version.  Apropos for this blog entry I would think.

[4] Ministers Parick Beg and William Giek in the mid 1800s.

[5] Also, there was said to be people who climbed South Barrule and other mountains on Mann but Snaefell seems to be the most prominent at this time.

[6] Magical items that force people to speak the truth are particularly emphasised in Manx folklore.  More on this in another post.

[7] A legendary witches’ haunt.

[8] At the foot of Snaefell, as it is at the beginning of the electric tram.

[9] Obviously re-named from an older Celtic Deity.  Possibly Lugh, as we know the Church replaced Lugh with Patrick during the festival.

[10] It is believed that as the bouquets fade, so too does the disease.

The Feats of Manannan

Posted in Folklore, Poetry with tags , , , , , on April 14, 2012 by manxwytch

Mylechairane,1859

“Manannan beg va Mac y Leirr,
Shen yn chied er ec row rieau ee.”*1

*1 Manannan the little was son of Leirr,
He was the first man that ever had her.”

HAST thou not heard the feats of Man’nan*2 sung,
Who o’er this Isle a silver mist-shroud flung,
To veil the treasure from Sea-rovers’ eyes,
Searching the waters for his fairy-prize ?

This Merchant Manxman of the solemn smile,
First legislator of our rock-throned Isle,
Dwelt in a fort (withdrawn from vulgar sight),
Cloud-capp’d BAROOLE*3 upon thy lofty height.

From New-year-tide round to the ides of Yule,
Nature submitted to his wizard rule:
Her secret force he could, with charms, compel
To brew a storm or raging tempests quell;
Make one man seem like twenty in a fray,
And drive the Stranger*4 over seas away.

But they who read our Island lore aright,
Know that this curious Myth the fact bedight,
How that one Manxman, erst, was worth a score
Of savage Warriors from rude Scotia’s*5 shore.

 

*1 Translation “Manannan the little was son of Leirr, He was the first man that ever had her.” Meaning the Island. Island is feminine in Manx.

*2,The Manx believe Mannan Mac Lear, to have been their first legislator, and hold him in great reputation for his wisdom.” SACHEVEREL.

*3 ,On the highest point of South Baroole are the ruins of walls of most unusual magnitude. On the steepest and least accessible side the walls are of inferior strength, but on the northern side they are 27 feet in thickness.”- KERRUISH’S Guide, p. 186.

*4 ” Our most Gratious and excellent Lord, Sir John Stanley, King of Man and the Isles. In the Vigill of your Lady Set. Mary, Anno Domini 1422, att his Castle of Rushen, &C., &C., gave for Law, that ‘Alsoe that all Scotts avoid the Land with the next Vessell that goeth into Scotland, upon Paine of Forfeiture of their Goods, and their Bodys to Prison.’ “-Ordinances and Statutes of the Isle of Man previous to the Revestment (MILLS), p. 27.

*5 In the “good old times,” the Manx law permitted a native of the Isle to kill a Scotchman, provided he afterwards went over to Scotland and stole a white skin, meaning a white goat, and so giving the Scotch an opportunity of retaliating (by killing him) ; or he was to forfeit three white goats-plentiful in those days as sheep are in these.

Manannan and the Isle of Mann

Posted in Folklore, Musings with tags , , , , on April 5, 2012 by manxwytch

Much has been published and posted online about the Tuatha De Danann god Manannan Mac Lir, the son of the sea. He is the Ruler of his Namesake Isle, Lord of the Waters, and He who commands the Mists of Elphame.  He is both Divine King and Magician, known best for wrapping the island in mists to confound any who tried to attack it.   He particularly loves to shroud the Isle from the British and many a Tinwald ceremony has begun under cover of his cloak, with a protective sprig of St. Johnswort in every lapel.  He walks on three legs to travel earth, sea and sky.

According to one legend, Manannan first set foot on the Isle at the Calf of Mann.

South Barrule is his sacred seat on the Isle, and at midsummer the Manx who followed the old ways would carry a tribute of rushes to its summit.

He has always had a special relationship with the witches of Mann, above all other folk of the Isle; even before the days of the Christian priests. There are stories of  conversations between the god and the witches in Manx folklore, mainly complaining about the Christians and talking about the good old days before they showed up and spoiled things.

When I first came to Ellan Vannin, I had as guides, a witch and her Elder who had spent much of his life wandering the Isle, and who knew the sacred places like the back of his hand.  He was bound by love and time and blood to the spirit of the island, and took me to as many places as he was able.  In hopes of being accepted by the Puissant Spirits of the sacred sites, I made offerings of blood and silver, seed and stone, to plant and nurture eidolic roots there.  (Plus an extra one for the Buggane at the ruin of St. Trinian’s. Any supernatural being who tears the roof off a church enough times that the builders give up and walk away is a being I want as a friend!)

I was taken to the hearts of Mona’s Isle, the heart of the waters and the heart of the land.  I visited the dancing-sites and gravesites of the Elders of my line, ones I had met in life and ones who crossed the veil before I was born.

My Elder told me of pilgrimages and vigils he had made at the old sites for dreaming, communing with the spirits and imbibing the power of the Isle.  I saw tools, lovingly and skillfully made before anyone had heard the term ‘Wicca’ and I was gifted with stories of places and witches from all parts of the island, now bequeathed as part of my legacy to those who follow in my line.

Tribal Elders

Posted in Projects with tags , , , on February 11, 2012 by manxwytch

Forty acorn necklace

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.