Friday, February 24, 2012

The Sarf Ruth

The Sarf Ruth is the Cornish term for "Fire in the Land".  It is the dragon energy in the land -- also known as ley lines -- that flow to and from sacred places such as wells, crossroads, graveyards, sacred trees, etc.

This "dragon energy" is drawn up from ley lines by use of the stang, which in Cornish tradition is called a gwelen.  Walking the ley lines is one way to walk the Crooked (serpentine) Path.

Although the Sarf Ruth is well documented in England (mostly through the work of Alfred Watkins), it is a phenomenon that spans the globe, and many cultures have beliefs in energy in the land.  Often old sacred sites will tend to line up along a "straight track" on a map. Watkins developed a theory that these alignments were created for ease of overland trekking by line of sight navigation during neolithic times and had persisted in the landscape over millennia.

Dragons and serpents have long been associated with this energy, from Merlin's red and white dragons battling underground, to the eastern concept of kundalini.

Ley Lines in Southern Indiana

Local to us (here in Southern Indiana) are two notable dragon lines.  One is the Lost River, a feature unique to our limestone-laden hills.  The second is Indiana State Highway 150, also known as the Buffalo Trace.  The Buffalo Trace was originally formed by millions of migrating bison. It later became an important land route for settlers in Indiana. 

These two land features converge in an valley to the north of the small town of Hillham, Indiana.  In one of these valleys is Our Haven Nature Sanctuary, where Laurelei and I attend many summer festivals.  The energy there is intense and very healing.  I didn't realize that these two ley lines met near Our Haven until I was writing this piece.  I hope that my Our Haven family is as tickled as I am by this information.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ladders, Rosaries, and a bit on Weaving

Unique style of leather Witch's ladder
While the season is still under the auspices of the Black Goddess (herself a weaver of fate and magic), I thought I might like to write about a version of weaving magic that is rather central to traditional Witchcraft. I'm referring to the production of witches' ladders.

The simplest sort of ladder is a single string, thread or cord into which the Witch ties a series of knots. The magic of the Witch -- her power and intent -- is stored in each knot and can be unleashed at a later time.

The exact same type of ladder can be used as a devotional tool, a sort of Witch's rosary, in which she plans the steps on the ladder to lead to a devotional goal.

Of course, witchcraft isn't at all about doing things in the simplest manner, and we ARE a crafty lot. We enjoy weaving together numeric and color symbolism, and so our ladders tend to have more than one strand -- and often more than one color -- braided and knotted together. We include charms, beads, bone, feathers, and more to add oomph to our magic.

To the right is a picture of a drawing that was included in the "1734 Letters" that I printed from Joe Wilson's website in early 2000. While all of the writing is still available, I am a little dismayed that most of the pictures have entirely disappeared from the Internet. (The text at the bottom of each page clearly said, "Not to be sold under any circumstances for any purpose. Must be freely distributed.")

At any rate, this picture (labeled "THE KNOTS") shows three possible placements for "GIRDLES" -- or ladders. In Robert Cochrane's writing "On Cords," he describes the use of both devotional and magical cords:

"When worked up properly they should contain many different parts--herbs, feathers and impedimenta of the particular  harm. They are generally referred to in the trade as "ladders," or in some cases as "garlands," and have much the same meaning as the three crosses. That is they can contain three blessings, three curses, or three wishes. A witch also possesses a devotional ladder, by which she may climb to meditational heights, knotted to similar pattern as the Catholic rosary."

Three colors, three braids in each color, three knots
This rhyme is often seen accompanying Witches' Ladder spells:

By knot of one, the spell's begun.
By knot of two, the magic comes true.
By knot of three, so it shall be.
By knot of four, this power is stored.
By knot of five, my will shall drive.
By knot of six, the spell I fix.
By knot of seven, the future I leaven.
By knot of eight, my will be fate.
By knot of nine, what is done is mine.

When making a ladder, you will typically work from the outsides toward the middle. So, your first knot is on one end of the cord, your second knot is on the other end, and your third knot is in the middle. If you have more than three knots (as in the rhyme above), you place new knots between established ones, still alternating sides. So, for instance, the fourth knot would be between knots 1 and 3. In this way, the placement of knots becomes an act of weaving, as well.

The Gandreigh

A gandreigh is a riding pole used to fly out astrally to access different realms.  The gandreigh can be a broom, a staff, a stang, or even a wand that the rider uses to send forth a fetch for the astral body to inhabit.

Nigel Jackson writes:
"The stick is the Gandra which is both the magic wand and stick that straddle the Witch of the North. It is a variant of the classic broom or forked stick of witches in Europe. The armies of the night-flying creatures on sticks are called "the gandreigh" in Old Norse. This applies to the flight of witches and the dead ghost hunting Wild."
The gandreigh is not used for physical flight through consensus reality, rather it acts as a world tree by which we can access levels of being through "flying" (or climbing) up and down the pole.

In our tradition the world tree is symbolized by the Spiral Castle, although the stang, staff, or broom is a personal tool which acts as an expression of this energy.  It is the witches most personal tool and is usually destroyed upon a witch's death or given as a kuthun.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Witches' Ballad - Doreen Valiente

The Witches' Ballad 
Doreen Valiente

Oh, I have been beyond the town
Where nightshade black and mandrake grow
And I have heard and I have seen
What righteous folk would fear to know!
For I have heard, at still midnight
Upon the hilltop far, forlorn
With note that echoed through the dark
The winding of the heathen horn
And I have seen the fire aglow
And glinting from the magic sword
And with the inner eye beheld
The Hornid One, the Sabbat's lord
We drank the wine, and broke the bread
And ate it in the Old One's name
We linked our hands to make the ring
And laughed and leaped the Sabbat game
Oh, little do the townsfolk reck
When dull they lie within their bed!
Beyond the streets, beneath the stars
A merry round the witches tread!
And round and round the circle spun
Until the gates swung wide ajar
That bar the boundaries of earth
From faery realms that shine afar
Oh, I have been and I have seen
In magic worlds of Otherwhere
For all this world may praise or blame
For ban or blessing naught I care
For I have been beyond the town
Where meadowsweet and roses grow
And there such music did I hear
As worldly-righteous never know

Monday, February 6, 2012

Pendulum Dowsing

Divination is one of the traditional arts of a witch, and one of the simplest forms of divination is dowsing through the use of a pendulum.  Pendulums can be purchased, or easily made.  Any weight suspended from a chain or string can work as a pendulum in a pinch. Pendant style necklaces work well.  I've also had success with a key suspended from a rubber band at the office!  Of course, using a tool that you love and that speaks to your unconscious mind will improve your overall results.  Any vehicle may get you to your destination, but many people still prefer luxury automobiles.

After you have selected your pendulum you will want to perform a simple exercise to attune your mind to the pendulum.  Keep in mind that it is not any special metaphysical force that moves the pendulum, rather it is the small unconscious muscle movements of your hand.  The "magic" behind the pendulum is that your unconscious mind is already attuned to the true outcome or answer to your questions.

To use the pendulum let the weight swing freely from your fingers as shown in the photo.  Concentrate on the pendulum being very still.  Then ask the pendulum to "Show me YES".  Focus the thought of YES at the weight of the pendulum.  The pendulum will begin to swing.  Wait until the swinging takes on a regular pattern, such as side-to-side, forward-and-back, clockwise, or counterclockwise.  This is your signal for yes.  Now still the pendulum.  Ask the pendulum to "Show me NO".  Again, send the thought of NO strongly to the weight of the pendulum.  Wait for the pendulum to swing in a regular pattern, this time different from the pattern shown as "yes".  You now have charged your pendulum and your mind to receive yes and no answers through the pendulum.

For more detailed questions you may want to make use of a dowsing board, such as the one shown below.  To dowse, suspend the pendulum over the point of the chart where the rays meet at the bottom.  Ask the pendulum to be still.  Then concentrate on your question, stating it aloud.  Follow the movements of the pendulum to receive your message.  It may be helpful to have someone record the results of the dowsing while another person uses the pendulum and asks the questions.  If you have poor results with the board initially, do not be discouraged.  With time and practice your skills using the board will improve.
You can also use pendulums to dowse for water or lost objects through the use of a map as the dowsing board.  To find a lost object draw a rough map of your home, or the location where you think you lost the item. Divide the map into sections like a tic-tac-toe board. Focus on the item while moving the pendulum from one area to another.  The pendulum will react strongly in the location of the lost item.

Pendulums are sometimes used to dowse in people's energy fields for blockages.  Pendulums can be charged to react strongly (a YES response) to open chakras and other energy centers, and to produce a NO response when encountering a blockage or negative energy.  This can be helpful when doing group healing work, as everyone present can "see" the areas affected, rather than relying on touch.

These are only a few common techniques for pendulum dowsing.  The uses for a pendulum are limited only by your imagination.  Pendulums are not only one of the easiest forms of divination to learn, they can be improvised in many situations with common objects.  Thus, using a pendulum can be a basic and essential practice for your bag of tricks.

If you want to buy a pendulum, we have several handmade varieties available in our online Botanica.  Also, most occult retailers offer pendulums at reasonable prices.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Charm of the Spiral Castle

In a silver castle
far beyond the sea
grows a golden apple
on a silver tree.

On the Isle of Apples
through the pearly mist
stands a spiral tor-mound
on which the castle sits.

Waters flow upon the isle,
pools of life-in-death.
A sacred river circles it
the ancient stream of Lethe.

The castle spins between the worlds
to touch the vault of heaven.
Stars dance around its towers four
two Bears, one Crown, the Sisters Seven.

Upon the highest tower
with linen at her feet
spins the castle's Lady
in her uneasy seat.

Down below the castle
iron touches fire,
where Cain pounds at the anvil
all that we desire.

The Mighty Dead reside within --
Ancient, wise, and brave --
for those who walk the Crooked Path --
seek Rose Beyond the Grave.

Seek the turning castle
by right of Scarlet Thread.
It won't be found with mortal eyes
but ones hallowed by the dead.

~Natalie Black, Imbolc 2012

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February Totems: Owl

In our tradition we divide the year not only by eight solar and agricultural holidays, but also by the Kalends. We celebrate twelve months of the year by the common calendar, plus a special thirteenth month for Samhain.  These month cycles are associated with different totemic spirits. Each month is assigned an animal, a bird (or other flying creature), and a tree. February's totems are Cat, Willow, and Owl.

The totemic associations are as follows:

Cat – (Cath) mystery, magic, secrecy, independence, sensuality
Willow – (Saille) divination, lunar magic, healing, night
Owl – (Comhachag) wisdom, magic, night, inner visions, change


In the western tradition owl is inextricably associated with the quality of wisdom.  This is due in part to its ancient associations with the Goddess Athena, and also with its large forward-facing eyes.  In Welsh tradition, the owl is among the most ancient of animals, second only to the eagle and the salmon of knowledge.  It was the third animal that Culhwch asks regarding the whereabouts of Mabon.  Also in Scotland we find this rhyme:
I am coeval with the ancient oak
Whose roots spread wide in yonder moss,
 Many a race has passed before me,
And still I am the lonely owl of Srona.
Whereas the salmon of knowledge offers a general kind of wisdom, the owl is symbolic of a more circumspect wisdom.  It is objective and detached from the mundane.  Owl watches and waits, in ruined castles, church towers, barns, and hollow trees.  The owl is symbolic of esoteric wisdom and secrecy.

In folklore the owl is associated with death, night, and silence.  The owl is much noted for its unique feather and wing structure which allows it to fly silently.  The old magazine Puck records a folk rhyme that links the owl with slience:
A wise old owl lived in an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Why can't we all be like that wise old bird?
Owls have acute hearing, and use a kind of echo-location to hunt their prey.  The owl can be a symbol of both silence and the ability to hear those things that others might miss.  An owl totem can be a sign that one would benefit from listening more.

One of the Celtic names for owl is "Cailleach-oidchce" (crone of the night), linking the owl with the Black Goddess as the Cailleach.  The Black Goddess is the Lady of life-in-death and the call of the owl is seen as an omen of both the birth of a girl or the death of a man.  This ability to foretell the future links the owl with clairvoyance and astral travel.

The owl is a bird set apart.  She hunts at night, and is mobbed by other birds -- notably crows -- during the day.  The Welsh point to the story of Math, Son of Mathonwy for the reason behind this.  Blodeuwedd, the flower-bride of Lleu Llaw Gyffes, was transformed into an owl as punishment for betraying her husband.
"And because of the dishonor thou hast done to Lleu Llaw Gyffes thou art never to dare show thy face in the light of day, and that through fear of all birds; and that there be enmity between thee and all birds, and that it be their nature to mob and molest thee wherever they may find thee; and that thou shalt not lose thy name but that thou be forever called Blodeuwedd."
Another Goddess figure who was also transformed into an owl as punishment for betraying her husband is the Sumerian-Jewish Lilith.  Lilith is also associated with wisdom, as folklore tradition makes her the serpent in the Garden of Eden who offered forth the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge to Eve.

To the Ojibwa tribe of North America the owl is a symbol of evil and death.  To the Pueblo, it represented Skeleton Man, Lord of death and fertility. To the Pawnee the owl was a powerful symbol of protection.  Owls are sometimes nailed, wings spread, over the doors of barns to protect livestock from evil spirits, both in North American and in European tradition.

In ancient Rome it was believed that placing an owl feather on the body of a sleeping person would allow you to discover all of their secrets.
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