Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cords as Markers of Admission

One of the Robert Cochrane (Roy Bowers) "writings" that  you'll want to read is titled "On Cords." It first appeared in issue 3 of The Pentagram in March 1965. In it, he discusses two aspects or uses of the traditional Witch's Ladder.

The first is the piece of magical craft that we'll be covering soon. It involves using the cord for spellwork.

The second use of cords is that of the devotional ladder. While many of us will make and use multiple devotional ladders for trance and meditation work related to a variety of focal objects, a great many Witches receive their first ladder as a cord (or set of braided cords) that marks their admission to a curveen.

The cords are usually a length of silk or wool rope, braided yarn, or upholstery cord, whose thickness, length and color vary by tradition. They are versatile, as they are used for cinching ritual robes, indicating rank or degree, measuring the circle, and sometimes for binding blood flow in certain circumstances. When used to control blood flow, they may also be called the cingulum.

Cords used as a cingulum help alter consciousness and they are often employed in initiation rites. There are a few different ways to tie the cords to act in this capacity, but the most common is shown below. However they are used, a cingulum should be administered with care to avoid causing damage or harm.

Cords can also be used as a meditational or trance tool in much the same way as a Catholic rosary. Because they are usually braided and knotted, often with multi-colored fibers, they bind together symbols and imagery that is important to the Witch who wears them. Meditating on a particular knot, strand, or other element of the cord will produce a focused experience on the symbol set contained therein, while working through all the knots (climbing the ladder) produces a transcendent state.

The Spiral Castle Tradition uses a specific progression of cords as markers of admission to the curveen. Each strand of cording that we use is made of a 3 hand-braided strands of wool yarn.

Greening -- single green cord -- This cord represents new growth, the beginning of the learning process and the budding interest of the green Witch in the curveen and Tradition. The purpose of the ritual is to form a magical link with loose bonds between student and cuveen and to establish the beginning of a learning period of at least three months. The Green Cord serves as a physical reminder of that link. Aside from interested adults coming to the Tradition, children of the curveen are eligible to wear the Green Cord (and thereby to acknowledge their relationship to the Craft of the Family) at the Age of Reason. This cord is cut and burned at the time that a Witch progresses to Adoption.

Adoption -- single red cord -- This cord represents the umbilical cord, the blood of birth, and the fire of Tubal Cain. It is a manifestation of the Red Thread. The purpose of the Adoption Rite is to forge a formal magical link between the student and the coven and to establish a formal training period of at least a year and a day. Again, the Red Cord serves as a physical reminder of the link between the Witch and the curveen, but it also reminds her of her link to all Children of Qayin. Children of the Family may be adopted within the Craft at the Age of Puberty.

Raising -- single black and single white cord braided together with existing red cord -- This set of cords is the final set that a Witch within our Tradition will use. The cords are fashioned so that there is a loop on one end, and a long set of tails on the other where the cords remain unbraided. The knot that hold the loop fast is the White Goddess knot. The knot closest to the tails (which somewhat resemble three flails of a scourge) is the Black Goddess knot. A knot is tied in the middle of the braided section -- the Tubal Cain knot. A Raised Witch is a full member of the curveen and Trad, and she wears the most potent symbols of our Craft when she dons her cords. Children of the Family are eligible for Raising, provided that theire knowledge and practice of the Craft is sound, at the Age of Majority.

Paths in the Year Wheel

Many people look at the Wheel of the Year only in terms of a calendar. You move around the circle from one Sabbat to the next, making note of the Deities, Totems, tools, etc. that correspond to each holiday. Frankly, our Year Wheel is packed with plenty of information, and working with it in a strictly cyclical, calendrical manner makes good sense as you are first beginning to learn this Tradition.

The Wheel of the Year should also have some other correspondences and correlations among its many parts. At least, that is what Glaux and I believed when we sat down to hammer out our Wheel. We must admit, though, that there are only a few items that we consciously placed in such a way to satisfy our mutual need for symbolic aesthetics. Most of what is discernible as profound within the Wheel (and therefore within the Trad) is/was as much of a discovery for us as it is for you.

One thing that we noticed right away was the manner in which each Deity (and His/Her respective Sabbat, Gate/Castle, set of Totems, etc) related to the Deity on the opposite side of the Wheel. Each is connected my a wheel-spoke -- or a Path -- as you can see in the graphic below.

This particular depiction of the Paths needs to be updated, as it still bears some names we were using early in our work. The Sabbats listed as Vernalia and Autumnalia should be Eilir and Elfed, respectively. The God Tautes (at Yule), should instead be Janicot; and "1734" should instead say Kolyo.

You will notice that there are 4 paths:

  • Path of the Kings -- which connects the Horned Lords of Summer and Winter, Cernunnos and Janicot. They are the Oak King and Holly King, keepers of the Stone Castle and the Glass Castle, guardians of the Stone Bowl and the Glass Orb.
  • Path of the Queens -- which connects the Light and Dark Ladies of Spring and Fall, Hulda and Cerridwen. They are the keepers of the Castle of Revelry and the Castle Perilous, guardians of the Golden Lantern and the Silver Cup. They are also very strongly associated with the Mysteries of the Broom and the Cauldron.
  • Path of Tubal Cain -- which is the path of the sun itself, the line from East to West. This Path can be viewed symbolically as the Red Thread, connecting us to life (Beltaine) and death (Samhain).
  • Path of the Wagon -- which connects the Black and White Goddesses. The "wagon" is a glyph that we use to represent Them together -- a black gypsy-style vardo, painted with the red and white roses of the Goddesses, drawn by one black horse and one white.

Light out of Darkness, Darkness in Light

The three sacred colors of red, white and black appear in many forms and iterations in the Spiral Castle Tradition (as mentioned in this post), but one of the most direct and pervasive manifestations of these colors is in the three central Deities of the Trad: the Black Goddess, the White Goddess and the Red God.

The Red God -- Tubal Cain, the Witch Father and Lord of the Forge -- is consistent. We see different aspects of Him at Beltaine and Samhain, but He is always the Red God. His is the red thread that offers us the foundational fiber for weaving magic and connecting with the Mighty Dead. He is the fiery red of sunrise and sunset, and His is the light that kindles the forge deep within the earth. (Tubal Cain has deep associations with Lucifer, as the light-bringer and father of smiths. More on this soon, I promise.)

While the Red God has two places of honor on the Wheel of the Year and within the compass (East/Beltaine and West/Samhain), the other two stations of highest honor are seemingly divided. The White Goddess rules in the South at Lammas, and the Black Goddess dominates the North at Imbolc. In fact, these are two faces of the SAME Goddess -- the quintessential Witch's Goddess. She is both light and darkness. But just as the sun does not shine during the darkness of night, She does not fully reveal both sides of Her nature simultaneously.

Through the light half of the year, we mark the influence of the White Goddess whom we call upon as Goda. Hulda is an aspect of the White Goddess, and you will see us later refer to Her as a Queen (for She is the keeper of the Castle of Revelry).

The same is true for the Black Goddess (Kolyo), Cerridwen (the Queen of the Castle Perilous) and the dark half of the year.
Note the demarcations for the light and dark halves of the year.

However, as much as the Black and White Goddesses  (and Cerridwen and Hulda, for that matter) counterpoint each other on the Year Wheel and within the compass that we lay, we must acknowledge and understand that they work along a continuum. They are not truly separate from each other. One requires the other for full manifestation, and the dynamic balance maintained between the two (within the Year Wheel, the symbolism of the Trad, and the inherent energies They represent) is critical to the practice of the Craft as we know it.

In fact, as we have worked with the raw and primal energies of the Black and White Goddess, we are struck again and again by the fact that each holds within Herself the core of the other. Within the darkness of the night, the light of the moon and stars reaches us. During the brightness of the day, shadows lurk.

Just as the white knife cuts in the physical realm, and the black in the astral; so, too, do the Goddesses relate respectively to the physical and astral. The two are, in fact, reflections of each other.

There are more and subtler messages in the interplay between the White and Black Goddesses, but this is enough to set you in the right direction.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Fetch and Flight

Witches do three things, and do them well.  Firstly, witches do witchcraft. This is the action of casting spells, conjure, hoodoo, cunning, rootwork, powwow, folk-magic, or what-have-you.  Secondly, witches honor the horned Witch Father, and the Goddess of life and death.  There are many names and expressions of these energies, but they are common to all witches.  Finally, witches fly.  How witches fly is a matter of debate.  Flying is not an act of levitation, but it is a means of travel.  Flying is simply the act of sending your astral body (or, as we call it, the black soul) out to travel through the realms.

There are many ways to fly.  One may use drumming, chanting, or dancing to achieve an altered state of consciousness. Warricking and stropping are another traditional way to "get out of yourself".  Also, the use of certain herbs and compounds, such as hallucinogens, flying oinments, alcohol, and herbal incenses, can produce or heighten the effect of flight.

Although flight can be achieved through the simple projection of the astral body, witches have several traditional techniques for assisting the black soul while it is mobile.  These include use of a gandreigh, or riding pole, such as a broom, a stang, a staff, or a hobby horse, and the construction of a fetch.

A fetch is an etheric construct that the witch projects herself into for the purpose of astral flight.  This construct can take the form of her own body, or that of a totemic spirit.  Totemic spirits are desirable for this work because the witch already has a unique bond with that creature, and therefore can easily assimilate herself into the new etheric body.

The fetch can be thought of as an inanimate shell of energy waiting for your own astral self to inhabit and enliven it.  It can travel through all the realms as astral space, and can be seen in the physical realm by those that are inclined to mediumship.

Just as with an incorporeal familiar spirit, it is wise to create a kind of "home" for the etheric construct
And I shall go into a hare...
of the fetch to inhabit when not in use as a vessel for the astral body.  A crystal, a statue of the animal, or a spirit bottle are all good physical anchors for this energy.

As with all things, the more you practice, work with, and feed this construct, the more effective it will be when you wish to use it. If you wish to stop working with a particular fetch, simply reabsorb its energy into yourself and deconsecrate or destroy the fetch's house.  This should, however, be avoided if at all possible, as fetches build up numen with time and use, and can become quite powerful in their own right.  They are, in fact, a kind of egregore purposed as a vessel for your own use.

You may wish to cue your transformation from astral body to fetch construct to the use of a charm, such as the Scottish witch Isobel Gowdie did as recorded in the record of her trial in 1662.

I shall go into a hare,
With sorrow and sych and meickle care;
And I shall go in the Devil's name,
Ay while I come home again.

(sych: such; meickle: great) To change back, she would say:

Hare, hare, God send thee care.
I am in a hare's likeness now,
But I shall be in a woman's likeness even now.

Listen below to a modern interpretation of the Gowdie shifter's chant by by Northumbrian folk singer and storyteller Sedayne (Sean Breadin).

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Charge of the Goddess

The Charge of the Goddess interests us both because it is a beautiful piece of Pagan liturgy, and it celebrates the many faces of the White Goddess: Queen of the Fey, Lady of Sovereignty, Moon-Maiden, Mistress of the Gate of Earth.

The original prose Charge of the Goddess was written by Gerald Gardner, compiled from several different sources, including a similar passage found in Aradia, Gospel of the Witches, compiled by Charles Leland, and a portion of the Gnostic Mass of the Ecclesiæ Gnosticæ Catholicæ written by Aleister Crowley. Each of these pieces are included below for comparison.

The Original Charge
from G.B. Gardner's Book of Shadows; also titled Lift Up the Veil

Magus: "Listen to the words of the Great mother, who of old was also called among men Artemis, Astarte, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Diana, Arianrhod, Bride, and by many other names."

High Priestess: "At mine Altars the youth of Lacedaemon in Sparta made due sacrifice. Whenever ye have need of anything, once in the month, and better it be when the moon is full, ye shall assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of Me who am Queen of all Witcheries and magics. There ye shall assemble, ye who are fain to learn all sorcery, yet have not won its deepest secrets. To these will I teach things that are yet unknown. And ye shall be free from slavery, and as a sign that ye be really free, ye shall be naked in your rites, both men and women, and ye shall dance, sing, feast, make music, and love, all in my praise. There is a Secret Door that I have made to establish the way to taste even on earth the elixir of immortality. Say, 'Let ecstasy be mine, and joy on earth even to me, To Me,' For I am a gracious Goddess. I give unimaginable joys on earth, certainty, not faith, while in life! And upon death, peace unutterable, rest, and ecstasy, nor do I demand aught in sacrifice."

Magus: "Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess."

High Priestess: "I love you: I yearn for you: pale or purple, veiled or voluptuous. I who am all pleasure, and purple and drunkenness of the innermost senses, desire you. Put on the wings, arouse the coiled splendor within you. Come unto me, for I am the flame that burns in the heart of every man, and the core of every Star. Let it be your inmost divine self who art lost in the constant rapture of infinite joy. Let the rituals be rightly performed with joy and beauty. Remember that all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals. So let there be beauty and strength, leaping laughter, force and fire by within you. And if thou sayest, 'I have journeyed unto thee, and it availed me not,' rather shalt thou say, 'I called upon thee, and I waited patiently, and Lo, thou wast with me from the beginning,' for they that ever desired me shall ever attain me, even to the end of all desire.

Aradia's Speech to Her Pupils
From Aradia the Gospel of the Witches, Chapter I: How Diana Gave Birth to Aradia

    When I shall have departed from this world,
    Whenever ye have need of anything,
    Once in the month, and when the moon is full,
    Ye shall assemble in some desert place,
    Or in a forest all together join
    To adore the potent spirit of your queen,
    My mother, great Diana. She who fain
    Would learn all sorcery yet has not won
    Its deepest secrets, them my mother will
    Teach her, in truth all things as yet unknown.
    And ye shall all be freed from slavery,
    And so ye shall be free in everything;
    And as the sign that ye are truly free,
    Ye shall be naked in your rites, both men
    And women also: this shall last until
    The last of your oppressors shall be dead;
    And ye shall make the game of Benevento,
    Extinguishing the lights, and after that
    Shall hold your supper thus...

The Priestess's Speech from the Gnostic Mass
by Aleister Crowley

The Gnostic Mass serves as the central ritual of the Ecclesiæ Gnosticæ Catholicæ, which is the eccesiastical arm of the more well known Ordo Templi Orientis. The Gnostic Mass contains a section which influenced Gardner's version of the Charge of the Goddess. Gardner is known to have been an initate of the Ordo Templi Orientis, and had met with Crowley on several occasions. It is clear that both the Great Rite and "Lift Up the Veil" are obviously based on the Gnostic Mass. Although not direct plagarism, the similarities between the two documents are striking. The "Priestess's Speech " (for lack of a better term) of the Gnostic Mass is included below for comparison to Gardner's original Charge. The Priestess's Speech is an echo of the Goddess Nuit's speech from Liber AL vel Legis, or "The Book of the Law", Chapter I, Verse 61.

    To love me is better than all things.
    if under the night-stars in the desert thou presently burnest mine incense before me,
    invoking me with a pure heart, and the serpent flame therein,
    thou shalt come a little to lie in my bosom.
    For one kiss wilt thou then be willing to give all,
    but whoso gives one particle of dust shall lose all in that hour.
    Ye shall gather goods and store of women and spices
    ye shall wear rich jewels
    ye shall exceed the nations of the earth in splendour and pride
    but always in the love of me, and so shall ye come to my joy.
    I charge you earnestly to come before me in a single robe,
    and covered with a rich head-dress.
    I love you!
    I yearn to you!
    Pale or purple, veiled or voluptuous,
    I who am all pleasure and purple, and drunkenness of the innermost sense, desire you.
    Put on the wings, and arouse the coiled splendour within you:
    Come Unto Me!
    To me! To me!
    Sing the raptuous love-song unto me!
    Burn to me perfumes!
    Wear to me jewels!
    Drink to me, for I love you!
    I love you.
    I am the blue-lidded daughter of sunset
    I am the naked brilliance of the voluptuous night-sky.
    To me! To me!

The Common Prose Charge
by Doreen Valiente

The current, and most famous version of the Charge of the Goddess was written by Doreen Valiente for Gerald Gardner. Valiente's version removes most of the influence of Crowley's Mass in favor of more nature-influenced imagery. This version of the Charge of the Goddess has become accepted as the most popular piece of Neopagan liturgy today.

    Introduction spoken by the High Priest:

    Listen to the words of the Great Mother, who was of old also called amongst men Artemis, Astarte, Diana, Melusine, Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Dana, Arianrhod, Isis, Bride and by many other names.

    The Charge of Great Mother spoken by the High Priestess:

    At my altars, the youth of most distant ages gave love, and made due sacrifice. Whenever you have need of anything, once in a month, and better it be when the Moon is full, then shall you gather in some secret place and adore the spirit of Me, who am Queen of all Witcheries.

    There shall you assemble ye who are fain to learn all sorcery, yet have not won its deepest secrets; to these will I teach things that are yet unknown. And you shall be free from slavery, and as a sign that you be really free you shall be naked in your rites. And you shall dance, sing, feast, make music and love all in my praise; for mine is the ecstasy of the spirit, and mine also is joy on Earth, for my law is love unto all beings.

    Keep pure your highest ideal, strive ever towards it; let naught stop you or turn you aside, for mine is the secret door which opens upon the door of youth. And mine is the cup of the wine of life and the Cauldron of Cerridwen, which is the Holy Grail of Immortality.

    I am the gracious Goddess who gives the gift of joy unto the heart of man, upon Earth I give knowledge of the Spirit eternal, and beyond death I give peace and freedom and reunion with those who have gone before; nor do I demand sacrifice, for behold I am the Mother of all living, and my love is poured out upon the Earth.

    Interlude spoken by the High Priest:

    Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess. She in the dust of whose feet are the hosts of Heaven, whose body encircles the universe.

    The Charge of the Star Goddess spoken by the High Priestess:

    I who am beauty of the green Earth and the white Moon amongst the stars. And the mystery of the waters, and the desire of the heart of man, call unto thy soul. Arise and come unto me, for I am the souls of Nature who gives life to the universe.

    From me all things proceed, and unto me all things must return. And before my face, beloved of Gods and men, thine inmost divine self shall be enfolded in the rapture of the infinite.

    Let my worship be with the heart that rejoices, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals. And therefore let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.

    And you who thinks to seek for me, know thy seeking and yearning shall avail you not, unless you know the mystery, that if that which you seek you find not within thee, you will never find it without thee. Behold I have been with you from the beginning and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.

The Verse Charge
by Doreen Valiente

Although Valiente's Prose Charge has become the most popular accepted version in modern Wicca Doreen stated that her personal favorite version of the Charge was a poem she wrote in rhyming couplets. Doreen had a gift for poetry, as is evidenced in much of her writing, and she also held the belief that speaking words in rhyme was an effective way to raise power.

    I the Mother, darksome and divine, Say to thee, Oh children mine (All ye assembled at mine Shrine), Mine the scourge and mine the kiss The five-point star of love and bliss Here I charge ye in this sign.

    All ye assembled here tonight Bow before my spirit bright Aphrodite, Arianrhod, Lover of the Horned God, Mighty Queen of Witchery and night

    Astarte, Hecate, Ashtaroth, Dione, (Morrigan, Etain, Nisene), Diana, Brigid, Melusine, Am I named of old by men, Artemis and Cerridwen, Hell's dark mistress, Heaven's Queen.

    (Whene'er trouble comes anoon) All who would learn of me a Rune Or would ask of me a boon, Meet ye in some secret glade Dance my round in greenwood shade, by the light of the full moon.

    (In a place wild and lone) With the comrades alone Dance about my altar stone. Work my holy Magistry,Ye who are fain of sorcery, I bring ye secrets yet unknown.

    (Whate'er troubles come to thee), No more shall ye know slavery Who give due worship unto me, Who tread my round on Sabbat-night. Come ye all naked to the rite, In token ye be truly free.

    I teach the mystery of rebirth, Keep ye my mysteries in mirth Heart joined to heart, and lip to lip, Five are the points of fellowship That bring ye ecstasy on Earth.

    I ask no offerings, do but bow, No other law but love I know, By naught but love I may be known, All that liveth is mine own From me they come, to me they go.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Familiars and Familiar Spirits

Woodcut depicting witches giving the names of their familiars.
Witchcraft, as we have said before, is a kind of survival or revival of ancient European shamanism.  Just as shamans work with totemic spirits and spirit guides, so do we work with our familiars and familiar spirits.

A familiar is a creature that regularly helps a witch with her Craft.  A familiar can be corporeal (existing in flesh and blood in this realm) or incorporeal (a spirit or astral body).

Corporeal Familiars

The first kind of familiar is usually a common household pet that the witch has a very special kind of working relationship with.  There is a bond (an energy link) created between the witch and her corporeal familiar that is forged through mutual love and trust.  Sometimes this bond is formalized through the creation of a blood link.  This is done by feeding the creature a bit of your own blood.

In the Middle Ages, the Inquisitors of the Catholic Church believed the pets of accused witches to be possessed by demons. A witch was supposed to feed her familiar spirit with her own blood, which the animal sucked from her body at a special nipple that became known as a witch's mark. This nipple might be anywhere on the body. It was identifiable to the witch-finders of the Inquisition because it was completely insensitive to pain. A long needle might be thrust into it without the awareness of the witch, if her eyes were covered or averted during the operation.

Mr. Jinx on the main altar.
A corporeal familiar is usually a singular creature, even if the witch has a plethora of animal companions with which she is close.  This animal will make itself useful whenever the witch is practicing the ways of the Craft in its presence.  Indeed, my own precious companion gets excited whenever I even so much as approach an altar, or talk a bit about the Craft.  He is at my side now as I write this entry.  He has, in accordance with the lore of familiars, even taught me certain types of magic.

Also existing in this realm is the plant familiar.  A plant familiar is a plant grown with offerings of energy and intent to a specific purpose.  The most famous of plant familiars is the storied Aluran, which I will write about more in another entry.

Incorporeal Familiars

The spirit familiar is a creature that most witches are less... ahem... familiar with.  The spirit familiar fits the classical idea of an imp or demon spirit that the witch associates with that gives her workings special power.  The spirits of the Goetia, or the Lesser Key of Solomon, fit the requirements for a spirit familiar nicely, and many of them (Valfor, Paimon, Buer, Purson, Gaap, Malphas, Shax, Alloces, Amy, Amdusias, and Belial) specifically manifest and act as familiars.

Spirit bottles on an altar.
In Vodoun the familiar spirit is known as the Ti Bon Ange or "little good angel".  This spirit is housed in a lidded jar draped with beads, and made offerings to maintain its energy.  This concept can be translated for our purposes by use of a spirit bottle or jar.  A suitable vessel is selected, such as a fancy sugar bowl, or an empty liquor bottle with some character to it.  If you are fortunate you may find a spirit bottle in the shape of an animal, or with a human face, or even an impish one.  Fill the spirit jar with nail clippings, a lock of your hair, and a bit of your blood (if you are a woman of childbearing age some of your menstrual blood would be ideal, as this is the very blood of life).  Add any herbs or charms you feel are appropriate for the type of spirit you want to attract.  Lodestones painted red and fed iron fillings are a good start.  Drawing powder (powdered sugar) or honey are also good additions.

When you have created a spirit jar ready to house a spirit you will need to lay a compass and tread the mill, asking the Gods of our tradition, the Ancestors, and the Mighty Dead to send forth a familiar.  Traditionally it is the Witch Father, in our tradition named Azazel or Tubal Qayn, who offers a familiar spirit to a witch. The payment for this service is determined by the stone bowl, but is traditionally a piece of silver. After receiving a familiar spirit offer it food -- your own blood is best, but milk, bread, honey, or alcohol are all acceptable.  Keep your familiar spirit's jar in a safe place, and adorn it with offerings.  Feed it on a regular schedule, at least once a month.  The familiar spirit can be sent forth to do tasks for you, can teach you the Craft through inspiration and dreams, and can add its energy to any spell as you see fit.

I have also heard of familiars being tied to pieces of jewelry, such a a ring, certain stones, and even mojo hands.  Let your intuition guide you.

In fairy tales familiar spirits come in times of need or crisis, such as Rumplestiltskin (who notably can be controlled by knowledge of his true name), and Puss in Boots (who is inherited as a kuthun and serves his master in exchange for a pair of boots).  Familiars are also alluded to in many Mother Goose rhymes, the most useful of which gives a formula for procuring a familiar spirit.

There was a crooked man, he walked a crooked mile.
He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse.
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

"There was a crooked man" -- there was a cunning man, or a witch.
"he walked a crooked mile." -- he tread the mill.
"He found a crooked sixpence" -- he made an offering of a bent sixpence, or silver (see Peter Paddon's Grimore for Modern Cunning Folk for an excellent explanation of this custom).
"upon a crooked stile." -- in liminal space, astral space (a stile is a structure which provides people a passage through or over a fence or boundary via steps, ladders, or narrow gaps).
"He bought a crooked cat," -- he received a familiar.
"which caught a crooked mouse." -- the familiar needed to be fed immediately.
"And they all lived together in a little crooked house." -- he took the familiar in and gave it a place of rest, such as a spirit bottle.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Black, White, Red

Black, white and red are the three most significant colors of the Spiral Castle Tradition. This fact is particular to us, and it is not reflective of Traditional Witchcraft as a whole. However, our practice of finding significance in the interplay between these colors -- indeed, of holding them as sacred beyond all other -- has a long history from the Celtic roots of British Craft.

In Celtic, British and even some American lore, you can always tell when animals are sacred (or Otherworldly) because they are "marked" with the colors black, white and red. Spectral black dogs, red dogs, or white dogs with red ears are tell-tale hounds from other planes. Kine and swine (both sacred animals in their own right) are doubly sacred when colored similarly (solid black, solid red, solid white or white with red ears).

As we write about the Spiral Castle Tradition, you will undoubtedly notice the redundancy of these colors. Surely, you've already seen it in some places:
  • Black Goddess, White Goddess, Red God (Tubal Qayin)
  • athame, kerfane, shelg (3 knives)
  • Triple Soul
You will notice it in others instances, as well. In fact, you will soon start to see both the consistency with which these colors seem to present themselves throughout the Tradition, alongside the complexity with which they are interwoven.

We hope that as insights come to you, you'll share them with us. After all, 'tis a  Crooked Path we walk ... together, but alone.

August Totems: Swan

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. August's totems are Horse, Apple, and Swan.

The totemic associations are as follows:

Horse (Each) – travel, power, freedom, civilization
Apple (Quert) – beauty, choices, love, inspiration
Swan (Eala) - shape-shifting, love, grace, beauty


The Swan is often depicted with a silver or gold chain around the neck in Celtic legends -- possibly a carry-over from the Aphrodite tradition of the golden sash. Aphrodite was a water-bird Goddess in early Proto-Indo European practice, and the Swan is heavily associated with her in Greek tradition. This is hardly a surprising connection, given that the Swan is very prominent in love stories in Celtic lands, including the tale of Oenghus and Yewberry (who is a Swan Maiden).

In Celtic lore, Swan is associated with Otherworldly travel and migration of the Soul. The "swan song" speaks of both grace and beauty (because Swan's final song is said to be strikingly beautiful) and also of death and transition. Swan is often the poetic representation of the Soul itself in Celtic lore.

This bird's skin and feathers were used to make the bard's ceremonial cloak, according to Philip and Stephanie carr-Gomm's Druid Animal Oracle. This is another sign of grace and beauty -- the grace and beauty of word and song, which the celts understood to be very important to both art and magic.

Swans are intimately linked with shape-shifting in celtic lore, as well. Several tales speak of children and maidens who are changed (or can change themselves) into swans for one reason or another. Because of these shape-shifting characteristics, Swan is also further linked to Elphame and the realm of Faerie.

Swan is sacred to Oenghus, Lyr, Cuchulain, Aphrodite and Apollo.

Swan's connections to Horse and Apple:

Swan, Horse and Apple are a very potent feminine, Faerie Totemic set in relation to the White Goddess (known/shown to us as Goda).

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Flags, Flax, Fodder and Frigg

You may have seen witches signing off with the signature line "FFF" or "FFFF" and wondered what these letters stand for.  In online Traditional Witchcraft communities the series of F's is used much like Neo-Wiccans use "BB" for "Blessed Be".  Indeed, FFFF is also a kind of blessing, although it has very old roots.

The F rune, fehu, is a mark of prosperity and good fortune.  It, in and of itself, is a blessing.  When tripled or quadrupled its energies are increased exponentially.  FFFF is, quite literally, a spell.

FFFF stands for "Flags, Flax, Fodder and Frigg", as Cochrane makes clear in his third letter to Joe Wilson.

"Flags are a form of rush, a plant that grows in European waters - so the answer is Flags, water, Flax, being the weavers plant and blue, thus representing the Goddess of Birth and Death (Fate) being the principle of Air, and Fodder - which means grass, the Earth. The ancients swore an inviolable oath by grass roots - the answer will come to you if you think on it."

Cochrane's interpretation is element-based (or three-realm based: air, earth & water) and omits the final F.

I was taught a different interpretation of the benediction, which includes the final F. In this system Flags, Flax, Fodder and Frigg breaks down to:

Flags = the flagstone, the home, the hearth and the hearthfire
Flax = clothing, the material of weaving, the benediction of the weaver's power
Fodder = food for animals and people
Frigg = the Goddess Frigg, also slang for copulation

So, Flags, Flax, Fodder and Frigg can be translated as "Blessings of the hearth, the weavers, abundant food, and love/sex/fertility".  These were also once popularly given as gifts to families entering a new home. (Gifts of fire, hand woven cloth, food -- usually something baked -- and love or friendly devotion).

I wish you abundant blessings!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Thomas the Rhymer

Thomas Learmonth (also spelled Learmount, Learmont, or Learmounth), better known as Thomas the Rhymer or True Thomas, was a 13th century Scottish laird and reputed prophet from Earlston (then called "Erceldoune").

Sir Thomas was born in Erceldoune (also spelled Ercildoune - presently Earlston), Berwickshire, sometime in the 13th century, and has a reputation as the author of many prophetic verses. Little is known for certain of his life but two charters from 1260–80 and 1294 mention him, the latter referring to the "Thomas de Ercildounson son and heir of Thome Rymour de Ercildoun".  His reputation for supernatural powers for a time rivalled that of Merlin. Thomas became known as "True Thomas" because he could not tell a lie. Popular lore recounts how he prophesied many great events in Scottish history, including the death of Alexander III of Scotland.

Thomas interests us due to a 13th century ballad that was written about him and his time with the Queen of the Fae, who we identify as our own White Goddess.  Much can be learned of the ways of the Fairy realm and its queen by examining the lay.

Thomas the Rhymer
True Thomas lay on Huntlie bank,
A marvel with his eye spied he.
There he saw a lady bright
Come riding by the Eildon Tree.

The Eildon Tree was a sacred hawthorne in the hills of Ercildoun, where Thomas was said to hail from. And the hawthorn is also sometimes known as the fairy bush, for the fey folk are said to inhabit its branches and are its guardians. Sprigs of hawthorn and its flowers were gathered to serve as protection from evil.
Her skirt was of the grass-green silk,
Her mantle of the velvet fine,
At every lock of her horse's mane
Hung fifty silver bells and nine.

True Thomas he pulled off his cap
And bowed down to his knee:
"All hail, thou Queen of Heaven!
For thy peer on earth I never did see."

"O no, O no, Thomas," she said,
"That name does not belong to me;
I am but the queen of fair Elfland
That am hither come to visit thee."

"Sing and play, Thomas," she said
"Sing and play along with me,
And if ye dare to kiss my lips,
Sure of your body I will be."

"Betide me weal, betide me woe,
That fate shall never frighten me."
And he has kissed her rosy lips,
All under the Eildon Tree.

"Now ye must go with me," she said,
"True Thomas, ye must go with me,
And ye must serve me seven years,
Through weal and woe, as chance may be."

She mounted on her milk-white steed,
She's taken True Thomas up behind,
And every time her bridle rung
The steed flew faster than the wind.

The horse is sacred to the White Goddess, as a symbol of sovereignty, and her own horse is white, adorned with silver bells.
O they rode on, and farther on,
The steed went swifter than the wind;
Until they reached a desert wide,
And living land was left behind.   

"Lie down, lie down now, True Thomas,
And rest your head upon my knee;
Abide and rest a little space,
And I will show you wonders three."

"O see ye not yon narrow road,
So thick beset with thorns and briars?
That is the path of righteousness,
Though after it but few enquire."

"And see ye not that broad, broad road
That lies across the lily leven?
That is the path of wickedness,
Though some call it the road to heaven."

"And see ye not that lovely road,
That winds about the fern'd hillside?
That is the road to fair Elfland,
Where thou and I this night must ride."

The three roads are the paths of life itself.  One may choose the easy life, which leads to damnation, the austere life, which leads to redemption, or the "middle road" that leads through nature, the path of the Ancient powers, the path that seeks balance, and leads to the Fairy realm.

"But Thomas, you must hold your tongue,
Whatever you might hear or see,
For if you speak in fair Elfland,
You'll never get back to your own country."

Witches are admonished "to keep silent" about the ways of magic if they seek success.  Likewise, the world of the fae operates under its own strange laws.
O they road on, and farther on,
And they waded through rivers above the knee,
And they saw neither sun nor moon,
But they heard the roaring of the sea.

It was dark dark night, and there was no sun light,
And they waded through red blood to the knee;
For all the blood that's shed on earth
Runs through the springs of that country.

While on the journey to the Fairy land Thomas and the Queen must pass through liminal space.  Here it is eternal twilight, though neither sun nor moon is seen.  The pair pass through a sea of blood, just as each of the castles of our tradition are bounded by a moat.  Indeed, the Castle Perilous is accessed by wading through blood.

Soon they came to a garden green,
And she pulled an apple from a tree;
"Take this for thy wages, True Thomas,
It will give ye the tongue than can never lie."

The apple is another sacred symbol of the White Goddess.  Elfland is sometimes equated with the Isle of Apples, Ynys Avalon.  The apple is red, symbolic of the food of the dead, and of the Housle.

"My tongue is my own," True Thomas said,
"A goodly gift ye would give to me!
I'd neither dare to buy or sell,
At fair or tryst where I may be."

"I dare neither speak to prince or lord
Or ask favor from fair lady -"
"Now hold thy peace," the Lady said,
"For as I say, so must it be!"

He has gotten a coat of velvet cloth,
And a pair of shoes of velvet green,
And till seven years were gone and past
True Thomas on earth was never seen.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Witches' Shield

Each of the four elemental gates of our tradition is associated with a weapon. In the west, the gate of water, is the helm or mask. In the north, the gate of air, is the  staff or spear.  In the east, the gate of fire, is the sword.  In the south, the gate of earth which is associated with Lammas, is the targe or shield.

The shield can be a physical item that is placed at the southern gate, and it can also, more importantly, be a magical tool which we cultivate through visualization and discipline.  This shield is a semi-permeable barrier of etheric energy that we use for self-defense and cloaking magic.

Construction of the Magic Shield

The first thing to consider when building a magic shield is what you will be using it for.  You will want to create a barrier that allows your own energy through unimpeded while offering you strong protection from outside influence.  You may want to have a shield that surrounds you like a bubble (this is my personal space) or you may choose to have one that is tighter against your person, like armor. You will want your shield to be easy to "put on", so you may want to key it to a symbol that is easy to visualize.

One way to achieve this effect is through the use of pentagrams, triangles, and hexagrams (which are two triangles united).  Pentagrams are used in magic whenever a portal needs to be cut.  Pentagrams are charged with specific intent in order to let a certain energy or intelligence come through them.  Examples of this include the use of pentagrams to call in intelligences during the LBRP, or the tracing or a pentagram over the body of the Priestess during the ceremony of Drawing Down the Moon.  Pentagrams can be used in the visualization of your shield anywhere you would prefer to allow energy to pass through one-way.

A powerful protective bindrune.
Triangles are used in magic to bind and contain energy.  Examples of this include the use of the triangle to contain Goetic demons in Solomonic magic, and the use of the triangle on mojo hands to preserve the power contained therein.  Hexagrams are doubled interlocked triangles, adding to their power as a protective and binding sigil.  Hexagrams can be employed anywhere in your shield that you would like full impenetrable protection.  I like to visualize hexagrams densely united as my armor, as if I were wearing chain mail made of thousands of shining triangular links. For those that find the hexagram too ceremonial for their taste, bindrunes can also be used in this capacity.  Algiz, the rune that makes up the witch's foot, is very well-disposed for protective work and personal strength, and has a rich body of lore in witchcraft.

When you have decided how you want to construct your shield begin its construction by drawing up power.  Direct this power around you in the form and symbols you have decided to use.  Hold the image of charging your shield firmly in your mind for as long as you can focus.  With daily practice this will become easy to do.  You are working to build a shield that you are so familiar with that you can call it up easily, yet has been charged regularly enough that it is strong and capable of defending you.

Defending you against what, exactly?  Truthfully, it is a rare thing to do battle as a witch.  If you have the misfortune of being in the midst of a "witchwar" then having a good shield is among the least of your worries.  The shield is important when traveling astrally in flight, as you will sometimes encounter unsavory energies lurking about.  In the work of Carlo Ginsburg there is discussion of the "Night Battles", which are common to those who travel out regularly.  The Benedanti (witches and spirits working with the intent to bless) and the Maladanti (spirits working with the intent to harm) anciently do battle on the fields of the astral plane.  The weapons of the witch (shield, sword, mask, and staff/spear) assist the walker between the worlds should she find herself in the midst of one of these battles.

The witches' shield is an advanced form of magic, and its use can be seen as a challenge to do battle by denizens of the otherworld. Remember that the shield is considered a weapon, albeit a defensive one.  To put on your armor is a sign that you are looking for a fight.  I recommend that you charge and visualize your armor daily in this realm, and I hope that you never have need of it in another.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Witchy Blogs of Note

In days past it was difficult to find good resources on Traditional Witchcraft. Aside from the work of Andrew Chumbley, Nigel Jackson, and (of course) Robert Cochrane very few had written anything about their path.  Those that had (Chumbley for example) were nearly impossible to get your hands on.

We are now in an age when many of us have deigned to come out from the shadows and are sharing our practices with others. For some of us we have felt called by our Gods to share this information, others see it as a kind of kuthun -- a way to pass on the knowledge so it will not be lost after we are gone.  Still others look at what Neo-Wicca has done to our faith and cry "ENOUGH!"  We are sick in our souls of the watering down and selling-out of the Craft and demand a return to more traditional ideas and practices.

If you are looking for how the old Craft lives on today you would do well to visit and join these blogs.

Alchemist's Garden, The ~ one of the best online resources for learning about our plant friends and how they are used by those who walk the hedge.  Plant familiar magic has become rather faddish as of late. This blog is the idea antidote.

Art of Conjure and Hoodoo ~ witches cast spells, do they not?  You would be hard pressed to find a more vibrant spellcrafting community than that of Hoodoo. This is excellent advice on spellcraft and spell components. Do you know what a coon dong is used for?

Classic Witchcraft ~ a new blog by a very dear friend and teacher in the Craft.  I can assure you that "PJB" will be writing about provocative nitty-gritty Craft.

New World Witchery ~ part blog, part podcast, these delightful witches are doing work very similar to what we are doing here.  They are interested in the American expression of Trad Craft.

Tracks in the Witchwood ~ this is Robin Artisson's blog.  Yes, yes, we know.  Have you actually read his books?  They are a wellspring of Traditional Craft.  His blog is on occasion as well.

Walking the Hedge ~ Juniper found us before we found her, but we are so glad that she did.  This is real hedgecraft, not the domesticated kitchen-witchery that tries to pass itself off as hedgewalking.

Wild Hunt, The ~ this is not a trad-specific blog, rather it it a news service provided by one extraordinary witch, Jason Pitzl-Waters, who documents news of note to witches and Pagans throughout the world.

Witch of Forest Grove, The ~ it look like we've saved the best for last. Sarah Lawless is everything you ever thought a witch was when you were young and believed in such things with your whole heart.  That's a bit effusive, but I'm quite an admirer of her work.  She's an artist, a plant-worker, and a hedge-rider with a Scottish flare. She lives in the Pacific Northwest in a temperate rain forest.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tubal Cain (song)

"Tubal Cain" (circa 1846-56)
The Words by Charles Mackay, Esq.
The Music Composed and Sung by Henry Russell, 1812-1900.
[pages 81-88 from "One Hundred Songs by Henry Russell" (?)]

Old Tubal Cain was a man of might,
In the days when Earth was young;
By the fierce red light of his furnace bright,
The strokes of his hammer rung,
And he lifted high his brawny hand
On the iron, glowing clear,
Till the sparks rush’d out in scarlet rout,
As he fashion’d the sword and spear;
And he sang “Hura! for my handiwork!
Hurra for the spear and sword!
Hurra for the hand that shall wield them well,
For he shall be King and Lord!”

To Tubal Cain came many a one,
As he wrought by his roaring fire,
And each one pray’d for a strong steel blade,
As the crown of his own desire;
And he made them weapons sharp and strong
Till they shouted loud for glee,
And gave him gifts of pearls and gold,
And spoils of the forest free;
And they sang “Hurra for Tubal Cain
Who hath giv’n us strength anew­­
Hurra for the smith! hurra for the fire!
And hurra for the metal true!”

But a sudden change come o’re his head
Ere the setting of the sun;
And Tubal Cain was fill’d with pain
For the evil he had done;
He saw that men, with rage and hate,
Made war upon their kind;
And the land was red with the blood they shed
In their lust for carnage blind;
And he said “Alas! that ever I made,
Or that skill of mine should plan,
The spear and the sword for men whose joy
Is to slay their fellow man!”
Get it? Two ball cane. It's a masonic pin.

And for many a day old Tubal Cain
Sat brooding o’er his woe;
And his hand forbore to smite the ore,
And his furnace smoulder’d low:
And he rose at last with a cheerful face,
And a bright courageous eye,
And bar’d his strong right arm for work,
While the quick flames mounted high;
And he sang “Hurra for my handiwork!
And the red sparks lit the air,­­
Not alone for the blade was the bright steel made,”
And he fashion’d the first ploughshare.

And men, taught wisdom from the past,
In friendship join’d their hands,­­
Hung the sword in the hall, the spear on the wall,
And plough’d the willing lands;
And sang “Hurra for Tubal Cain,
Our staunch good friend is he;
And for the ploughshare, and the plough,
To him our praise shall be.
But while oppression lifts its head,
Or a tyrant would be lord,
Though we may thank him for the plough,
We’ll not forget the sword.”

The Stang, The Broom and the Spiral Castle

I (Laurelei) have worked exclusively in covens that have used the Stang as a central point of focus in ritual. Because of this, I have a couple of nifty pics of Stangs that were once near and dear to my heart.

The picture above depicts the Stang adorned for a wedding -- hung with an arrow, which is draped with a white linen shirt. This adornment is used in other situations, as well, which we'll describe in detail in another post. (In the covens of my former Tradition, the Stang was located behind the main altar, which was oriented to one side of the ritual space. You'll note how that differs from the Spiral Castle Tradition's placement of the Stang in a moment.)

This particular Stang was made by one of my coven brothers. It had an Ash handle, iron horns (or prongs), iron foot, and an iron hook between the horns for hanging the ram's skull, arrow and candle. It was a tremendous piece!
Fore-running Configuration of the Spiral Castle
The Stang in the picture above was the tool of the coven for which I served as HPS. It was a converted pitchfork, which meant that it also had an Ash handle and iron (cast-iron) horns. One of my coven brothers cut and ground down the middle prongs to provide us with the piece you see. At the time of this photo, it still needed its branding sanded off and its foot shod with iron.

In the Spiral Castle Tradition, the Spiral Castle itself  sits at the middle of our cosmological system. When we lay the compass, we signify this central focus by placing the Stang at the epicenter of the circle. At its base we place the anvil (and hammer), which is our Oath Stone; the skulls and crossed bones (representations and keys to the Ancestors); and our personal fetishes.

We envision the Spiral Castle as sitting atop a Tor, a ritual mound with a sacred chamber inside.

The Spiral Castle, the Stang and the Broom share a certain transvective power with each other. (In truth, the Broom's base staff is a small Stang, as you will see soon.) What the Spiral Castle does for the entire Tradition (accesses ALL wisdom, ALL experience, ALL the realms, gates and airts), the Stang does for the Coven, and the Broom does for the individual Witch.

In his letters (have you started reading those yet?), Cochrane says that the Mystery of the Broom is "spinning without motion between three elements." He also relates this Mystery to the Qabbalistic Middle Pillar and the "path to the 7 gates of perception." He is, of course, talking about the practice of trance-work and meditation -- and using these tools (the Broom, is the metaphor for the tool) in order to access ALL THAT IS.

The Broom (according to copies of Cochrane's letters which I have that actually include illustrations) is constructed from a small, forked Ash staff. Between the prongs of the fork, a sacred stone is bound. The strips used for binding, the broom twigs, and the handle, are each different sacred woods. (Glaux is planning to reproduce the illustration soon.) The stone is a specific stone (which he calls "balanite," and we have researched to be none other than basalt).

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Witches' Stang

The stang is the central tool and main altar of our tradition. A stang, in its most basic form is simply a forked stick set with its long end into the ground. It acts as an axis on which magic can turn, and as a pole that can be "ridden" by the shaman or witch into different realms. Its forks represent the horns of the Witch Lord.

The stang entered modern Craft by the hand of Robert Cochrane, who called it as "sacred to the People as the Crucifix is to the Christians."  I've written about Cochrane's use of the stang in my July 2011 post on Treading the Mill.

The stang is sometimes represented by a iron-tined pitchfork or a pole with the skull of a horned beast on it. Often in these configurations there will be a candle or torch lit between the two horns or tines, in the style of the icon of Baphomet, or as is shown in this woodcut from 1594 of a sabbat at Treves.

The Horned God with the cunning light between his horns.

Any wood is suitable for use as a stang, although ash, with its connections to Yggdrasill, the tree on which Odin was hung shaman-like for nine days, is a popular choice. Our own stang is based on Him that we honor as the Witch Lord, T'Qain. It is therefore represented by a ram's skull.  It represents both His presence and the Spiral Castle.

Although not as popular as motif as, say, riding a broomstick, there are many examples of witches using the stang to fly in early woodcuts as is shown by the examples below.

Using the stang to carry a cauldron while riding backwards on a goat. It has all the things. ;)

A masked family flies out on their stang.

A witch and her demonic familiar fly to the clouds on a stang.

The stang has antecedents in the Yggdrasill of Norse lore, the Poteau Mitan of Haitian Voudon, and the ascending-pole birch tree of the Yakut shamans.  It is both a world-pillar on which the cosmos (represented by the witches compass) turns and a gandreigh.

Admit it. You want to try out magic with a stang.

For more information I suggest reading the writings of Robert Cochrane, and Nigel Jackson and exploring the links below.

How to Use a Stang
A Special One, But Still a Pole
Posts Labeled "Stang" from This Blog

Monday, August 1, 2011

Faces of the White Goddess

Goda, Godiva (Old English: Godgifu, "god gift"), Rhiannon, Epona, Queen of Elphame, Lilith, Weisse Frauen, Dames Blanches, Witte Wieven, Lady Death, Eos, Aurora, Ushas, Ausera, Ausrina, Istara, Ishtar, Astarte, Araja, Arada, Aradia, Irodiada, Erodiade, Meroudys, Herodias, Herodiana, Diana, Eostre, Ostara, Austija, Habonida, Oona, Oonagh, Una, Uonaidh, Mab, Titania, Mielikki, Andred, Benzozia

Station of the Wheel
South, Lammas, August, Gate of Earth, Corn Moon

Horse, Apple, Swan

Shield, Pentacle, Kerfane, Warricking Cords

As mistress of the Wild Hunt, she is alternately known as frau Gode, frau Gaue, and frau Woden, demonstrating her connection to Odin. Agricultural customs of the region also preserve relics of pagan religion. When mowing rye, the villagers let some stalks stand, tie flowers among them, and when finished with their work gather around them and shout three times: “Fru Gaue, you keep some fodder, this year on the wagon.” In Prignitz, they call her fru Gode and leave a bunch of grain standing in each field which they call “Fru Gode’s portion.” In the district of Hameln, it was custom, if a reaper while binding sheaves passed over one, to jeer and call out: “Is that for fru Gauen?!” The name Gauen connects this legendary figure directly to Odin. In Old Norse, the fourth day of the week is known as Oðinsdagr, Odin’s day. In Swedish and Danish, it is Onsdag; in North Frisian, Winsdei; in Middle Dutch, Woensdach; in Anglo-Saxon, Wodenes dæg, but in Westphalia, they call it Godenstag, Gonstag, Gaunstag, Gunstag, and in documents from the Lower Rhine, Gudestag and Gudenstag. Similarly, in the History of the Lombards, the first literary appearance of Odin and his wife, Odin is known as Godan. Grimm observes that a dialect which says fauer instead of foer, foder will equally have Gaue for Gode, Guode. Thus, in Frau Gauen or Gauden, German farmers have preserved the memory of a Mrs. Odin at work beside her husband in the fields long after the coming of Christianity.

In the folklore of Lowland Scotland and Northern England, the Queen of Elphame, Elphen, Elfen or Elfan (and also Elfin Queen, Fairy Queen or Faery Queen) is the elfin ruler of Elphame (Elf-home; compare Norse Álfheimr), the usually subterranean Scottish fairyland. She appears in a number of traditional supernatural ballads, including Thomas the Rhymer and Tam Lin. She also appears in a number of accounts from witchcraft trials and confessions, including the confession of Isobel Gowdie.

The Queen of Elphame is variously depicted as attractive and demonic. A similar picture is painted by the 1591 witchcraft confession of Andro Mann of Aberdeen. Mann confessed that he saw "the Devil" his "master in the likeness and shape of a woman, whom thou callest the Queen of Elphen." Mann further confessed that the Queen of Elphen rode white horses, and that she and her companions had human shapes, "yet were as shadows", and that they were "playing and dancing whenever they pleased." Isobel Gowdie's confession also noted that the Queen of Elphame was "brawlie" clothed in white linen, and that she got more food from the Queen than she could eat.

But, in Tam Lin the Queen of Elphame is a more sinister figure. She captures mortal men, and entertains them in her subterranean home; but then uses them to pay a "teind to Hell". This ballad tells of the struggle of its heroine Janet, who must overcome the Queen's shape shifting magic to rescue a would-be victim from the Fairy Ride on Halloween. The Queen's shape-shifting magic extends to her own person. Mann's confession also noted that "she can be old or young as she pleases".
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