Archive for Traditional Witchcraft

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
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.

In Memoriam: Michael Howard

Posted in In Memoriam with tags , on September 26, 2015 by manxwytch

mementomoriEarlier this week I was told of the death of my friend, Mike Howard. Years before he and I were acquainted, he had been a longtime friend of several Manx Elders, and was an important supporter of the Manx Line, in addition to the tremendous work that he did for many surviving Traditional Craft Lines and recensions.

He will be greatly missed.

His extensive work and research on the Traditional Craft has left a vitally important legacy for those of us who follow the Old Ways. He made important connections between folk of valid lineages and traditions, and through The Cauldron, brought this wisdom to a wider audience and preserved it for future generations of practitioners.

The announcement of his passing may be read here.


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.

The Cauldron

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 1, 2014 by manxwytch

The Cauldron

At last correcting an oversight; the link to Mike Howard’s, The Cauldron, webpage for those who haven’t seen it, or who, like Manxwytch, have until recently been familiar only with the print version of the magazine. Contained within this treasure trove are gems of Traditional Witchcraft, crafted by credible practitioners of the Art, published years before the current popular resurgence.


Manx traditional witchcraft steps out from the shadows…

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

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

Hands of Apostasy A Witchcraft Anthology from Three Hands Press



The Cauldron and the Traditional Witchcraft of Ellan Vannin

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 2, 2014 by manxwytch

Just a quick note to let folk know that Manxwytch has an article published in the February edition of The Cauldron. If you need a Manxwytch fix, pick up a copy!

There will be a new post here in the next few days, it’s written but awaits completion of the project which is its subject so photos can be taken to accompany the text. Soon.

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.