Archive for tools

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

Cingula

Posted in Folklore, Projects with tags , , , , , on May 9, 2015 by manxwytch

Of late, I have been weaving traditional Manx cords; a process that allows much time for thought and contemplation in the repetition of the weaving and twisting, and is also a potent vehicle for tactile connection with the Lineage in the materials, the spirit, and the passing on of new cords.

The materials and colours of the weaving and binding of the cords connect us with the old faery heritage of the Isle and reflect the dark and light energies with which we work, and must master in the course of our training. One strand of the cord is left its natural colour, another is dyed by hand with oak and iron, both puissant substances and linked of old to witches and our Craft. Twisted together they embody the ophidian power bequeathed to us, and the dual paths of blessing and bane traversed by the Traditional Manx Witch.

As umbilicus, the cord feeds us with life-giving Land and Lineage; as bond, it ties us to our Oath. In being worn, it defines personal otherworldly space, in being seen it shows a badge of office. Its magick is that of connection, (a magick much needed nowadays), whereas the blade separates and directs.

In the old Manx tradition, there are different cords made and given at different times, and used for different purposes. Some of the uses in magickal workings are widely known: the wheel, the ladder; some are shared by many traditions, for measuring and wearing; and a few have fallen out of popular use and knowledge, for controlling the flow of blood in the body and conjuring liminal states of consciousness.

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

More Monographs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Clagh-Array: a Watchstone

Posted in Folklore with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 2, 2012 by manxwytch

The Clagh-array is a heterotopic eye bestowed from nature and given to the witch as a magical gift from the Ancient Ones.  This never blinking vigilant sentinel is used for a multitude of purposes, the least of which is protection, warding and warning of the approach of danger.  It is sometimes placed in a window, on the pathway to the house, or on the outer lintel of the main door to the home.

It is not a seeing-stone per se however; one of its more interesting uses has been to place it in an area where a witch would like to keep vigil.  It therefore forms a third-eye link to a terrestrial area that the witch may not be able to physically inhabit.  Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall?  This is the means for the adept of vision.

The Clagh-array is highly sought after in Manx Traditional Craft and its power can’t be underestimated.  Greater than eyes of glass or beast or crafted by the hands of man.

A magical tool formed through hundreds of years by Nature Herself and Fate’s spinning webs that shaped the eye through rolling turns in sea and sand.  It is considered one of the most powerful vision stones to possess.

At the bottom right hand of this photo is a Clagh-Array placed in a window.

 

Knives, and such

Posted in History, Musings, Projects with tags , , , , , on June 4, 2012 by manxwytch

A little over three years ago I decided it was time to make myself a new ritual knife. The one I had been using I made decades ago as a teen; it was the first ritual knife I had made from scratch – a bar of steel, a stick of red oak and a piece of bronze came together in a wheat/corn/grain/sacrifice-inspired design. The measurements were carefully proportioned for my personal use, and I duly painted the handle black and inscribed on it the traditional grimoiric sigils for an athame.

I was inspired to design a new knife when I found a chunk of meteorite for sale in British Columbia, Canada while I was working at the Olympic Games there. The meteorite was authenticated to contain 92% iron, 6%nickel and traces of two elements not native to this planet. I have always been inspired by bronze and early iron age symbols and art, and I wanted to make a knife of the earliest materials humans learned to work. It is alleged that the earliest iron tools would have been made from meteoric iron, as these tools predate the development of the smelting process to purify iron from terrestrial ore. That was the original seed for the design.

In traditional Manx witchcraft they weren’t terribly concerned about the specific design of ritual tools. There were few who could make them and they used what they could lay their hands on. The colour of the handles wasn’t fixed and what was inscribed thereon was a matter of personal resonance rather than Goetic or grimoiric specification. Certainly there where those who were inspired to use Goetic and angelic sigils, but just as many weren’t, and weren’t thought any less of because of it. I’ve seen Manx blades made of different metals, and handles of wood, bone, hoof or antler, painted, stained or left their natural colour.  I have also seen one athame made entirely of bronze.   Borrowed tools were as good as one’s own, and indeed, for a Manx witch to lend you a knife or sword for ritual was a powerful privilege! I have used tools belonging to ancestors of my lineage, other coveners’ tools, &c, particularly when crossing international borders.

Now, three years later, (I tend to work in what I describe as an arboreal timescale – think about it one year, gather materials and  start building the next year, get something close to finished a year later – at least for my own tools), I have a hand forged blade of meteoric iron with a handle carved of bone. The blade is left a little rough to reveal the marks of its forging, and the handle remains white, in honour of the stars from which the blade came and in truth to the sacrifice required of the material. I have decorated it with ancient stellar and solar symbols from Neolithic carved stones I have visited. These marks are as old as human consciousness, and are powerful in both meaning and meaninglessness.

Presently, I have yet to finalize the design of the guard and pommel, but I know there are going to be caps of apple wood at top and bottom to separate the bone from metal. The blade is the size that the amount of metal would allow, rather than being proportioned to me personally; a little larger than the blade of my previous athame, but this is not a blade just for my personal use, it will be handed down through my line after I am done with it, to be used as I have used the tools of my ancestors.