Sunday, May 20, 2012

Stang Lore -- Construction, Magic, Dressing

From the version of "1734 Papers" Laurelei got in 1999
We've covered already what a Stang IS. Perhaps it's time we cover what one DOES with it.

Over the years, I've tried to collect as much lore and writing on Stangs as I could find. I'm sad to say there isn't much available. That isn't to say that people aren't using Stangs, just that they aren't writing much about them.

Still, I'm happy to share the little hodge-podge I've cobbled together in the hopes that it's of use to us all. Our cuveen adores the Stang as a working tool -- for group and individual work. I think I can safely speak for all of us in saying that we would LOVE to hear what you all are doing with Stangs, particularly if it varies from the bit of lore accumulated here.

The information shared here comes from a variety of sources, including:

class notes from Clan of the Laughing Dragon (Laurelei's former coven)
Robert Cochrane/Roy Bowers writings
Call of the Horned Piper by Nigel Jackson
Sacred Mask, sacred Dance by EJ Jones
The Roebuck in the Thicket by EJ Jones
Secrets of Modern Witchcraft Revealed by Lady Sabrina
"What's a Stang and Why do I Have So Many?" by VALIRE'BRAND

Construction Basics

A Stang is usually made of Ash, relating it to the World Tree, but Ash is getting hard to come by in the Americas due to the work of the emerald ash borer. At this point. I think most American Traditionalist would suggest using any sacred wood, and I would add, any American sacred wood. I like Oak, and I really like Hickory. (Hickory is the hardwood of choice in these parts for tool handles, and it has a long association with the forge, which makes it a good wood for the Stang in my book.)

You want a nice dry piece of wood that is forked into a Y shape. Otherwise, you'll need a simple pole that you can attach horns or metal prongs in order to create a pitchfork. Of course, you could also *begin* with a pitchfork, and that wouldn't be wrong, either.

If you're using a piece of wood, you'll probably want to remove the bark and give the whole piece plenty of time to dry. You can also treat the wood, once dry, with linseed oil to help preserve it.

"Shoe" the Stang with iron, either by adding a metal cap to the base or by driving an iron nail into it. I prefer to drive an old-fashioned "coffin nail" into the base.

The size of the Stang is really up to you. Our coven Stang is taller than any of us by just a bit. Our personal Stangs are about staff height. And we each have mini Stangs, as well.

You may want to fashion a hook or a flat space between the "horns" of your Stang for placing a candle or hanging a skull, arrows, etc.

Placement of the Stang

According to Lady Sabrina, "when the Stang is accompanied by the cauldron, it represents the totality of life-giving properties of the masculine and feminine powers of the universe." The covens in which I've worked have always located the Stand with the cauldron, along with the anvil. In the case of the Spiral Castle Tradition, we envision this all on the Sacred Mound, the Tor. The Stang is the World Tree, as we have discussed before. The Cauldron is the Well, and the Anvil is the Stone (our Oath Stone). This Mound, Tree, Well, and Stone combination is a powerful one for us and it works very well as the central point, the Axis Mundi, of our Mill.

The Stang is also the tool we use to mark the Moat, the outer edge of the compass. So it is both center point and circumfrence, in a manner of speaking.

Stang Magic

Riding the Stang is a ritual that is used to manhandle one's superiors or to run a person out of village. It is alternatively known as skmmington, skimmity or rough musicking. The basic idea is that a gathering of folks join in the making of loud, obnoxious noises -- often at night -- from the various locations in the village to the doorstep of the offender.

You can make a "sprite trap" or "spirit trap" with a stang by embedding a charged stone between the forks and weaving a pattern of red thread. These are usually made of Rowan or Ash wood and incorporate specific symbols into the woven pattern.

Dressing the Stang

In our Tradition, a ram or goat skull hangs on the Stang most of the time. This represents the Witchfather and the center of intellect.

Atop or behind the the skull, between the horns, is a candle. This is Cunning Fire, and it is also a symbol of balance.

On the shaft of the Stang, hang 2 arrows -- one black, one white. For us, these are all the dualities in our Trad -- the Black & White Goddesses, the light & dark halves of the year, the Summer & Winter Lords. From Spring to Fall, the arrows point up, and the white arrow is on front, representing the dominance of the White Goddess. From Fall to Spring, the opposite is true -- the arrows point down, and the black arrow is in front.

We hang linen shifts (robes) -- one black, one white -- at different times from the Stang, as well. During our Samhain cycle, we hang the black shift from the black arrow. This is also how the Stang looks if the coven is performing blasting magic. We hang the white robe from the white arrow for weddings, initiations, etc.

A bloodied shirt can be hung on the Stang for several types of magic. It can be used in healing and vengeance magics, as well as in maternity and Women's Mysteries.

Seasonal wreaths and garlands can also go on the Stang.

Qayin Lore -- Melek Taus, Lucifer, Azazel, Shamash

Melek Taus
All Gods are not one God. The Ancients didn't see it that way, and we are not trying to put forth that claim, either. And yet, there are Gods -- great, ancient spirits (daemons ... δαίμων) who are so closely related in myth and religion that we can't mistake their relation. Just as a Red Thread connects us to the Witchfather who brought the Cunning Fire to humanity, so too does the Red Thread connect many of beings from whom mankind has sought wisdom.

This is our experience with Azazel (who is called a demon -- literally, a "spirit"-- and an angel -- "messenger"), Qayin/Cain and Tubal Cain, as we've expressed in other posts. Very directly, in our communications with the Witchfather, he uses these names of himself almost interchangeably, and we have come to use them the same way.

There are other sources of information, though, that inform our understanding of Qayin-Azazel, and we'd like to share them.

Melek Taus

"Melek" means "king" or "angel" and "taus" means "peacock." The peacock angel is the central figure, the benevolent and creative demiurge, of the Yezidis. He is seen as repentant after the fall from God's grace, his tears quenching the fires of hell.

Though the Yezidis would disagree, others in the Arabic world (particularly those practicing Islam), equate melek Taus with Lucifer or Satan. Kabbalistically, Yahweh rules in the heavenly/spiritual kingdom of Kether, and Melek Taus (Lucifer/Azazel) rules in the earthly kingdom of Malkuth.

Within the sacred text of the Yezidis, the Black Book, specific reference is made to Azazel, equating the Peacock Angel with Azazel. There are several versions of this book extent from the Middle Ages, copies transcribed online.

Alchemical Symbol for Antimony
Azazel and Alchemy

We have touched on Azazel before, but there are some specific and noteworthy things to share about Azazel's connection to alchemical lore.

Enoch reveals to us that Azazel shares with humanity "all the metals and the art of working them...and the use of antimony." As it turns out, antimony (or stibium), was critical to the alchemical process of creating the Philosopher's Stone. This same element was called kuhl (or kohl) by the ancient Arabs. (You might also recall references to women decorating their eyes with this substance, and that art also being taught by Azazel. This may, in fact, have been a veiled reference to the alchemical process and not to cosmetics at all.)

Sir Roger Bacon tells us that when antimony is processed with vitriol, it is reduced to a "noble red oil" with all of the lesser sulfur having been purified out of it in the process. Red, then, is Azazel's color.

It is doubly his color when we consider that man is made from red clay, according to Middle Eastern tradition, and that Azazel is master of the material world from which man is made.


Oh my Holy Goat, there is so much that needs to be said about Lucifer in relation to the Witchfather. There is so much dross to sift through, so much misinformation that has been propogated about this one figure over the millenia, to reach the golden kernels of wisdom.

For now, let's keep it very simple, shall we?

Lucifer is the "light-bearer." He is Qayin in the East, the Morning Star. He is the torch-bearer of wisdom, inspiration, the Divine Spark, the Cunning Fire.

He is "Prometheus" (literally, "fore-sight"), who rebelled against God (the Gods) to give Fire (the Cunning Fire) to mankind and fell from Divine Grace.


The Nephilim, the "Fallen Angels" or spirits who descended into the material realm to interact with and guide mankind, were first seen as the "Shining Ones" or Gods of Sumerian lore. We've mentioned them before, and we'll write more about them in future posts, but for now, I'd just like to make the connection between Utu/Shamash and Azazel.

It's not a new connection. We're not the first to have made it, by any stretch. You can read this account, for starters. (There's lots of information there about goetic daemons and their counterparts in other lore.)

Utu is the Sumerian name, while Shamash is the Babylonian name for the Sun God of justice,law and salvation. He is linked in a triad with the Nannar-Sin (the Mood God) and Ishtar (the fertility-Earth Goddess, who incidentally is represented by the planet Venus, the Morning and Evening Star).

Ishtar and Shamash are divine twins.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Cleansing Chants

In our home covenstead, we honestly do not cleanse the caim for every rite. However, there are times when feel it is necessary, and we are often guided by instinct in these situations. We also usually cleanse the space with representatives of the Airts when we perform rites outside of our normal surrounds or anytime we are performing BIG magic.

The following cleansing chants are patterned on rhymes taught to Laurelei in her first cuveen, although they have been altered a bit (in some cases, quite a bit).

Each portion of the chant requires a Witch to walk the compass either once or thrice, wielding the appropriate (and obvious) cleansing tools.

Smoke and fume, now as you burn,
cause all harm from us to turn;
let nothing harmful here be found,
as we tread the witch’s round.

Fire that burns and light that glows,
send all harm away from us;
let nothing harmful here be found,
as we tread the witch’s round.

Water and salt, brine of the sea,
wash this circle clean and free;
let nothing harmful here be found,
as we tread the witch’s round.

Besom sweep and besom clean;
above, below and in between;
let nothing harmful here be found,
as we tread the witch’s round.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Dorset Ooser and Atho

The Dorset Ooser and the Head of Atho are two relics with ties to witchcraft that have both, sadly, disappeared.  Each of these relics ostensibly depicts the Horned God of the Witches, the Witchfather himself.

The Dorset Ooser

The Ooser was written about in Doreen Valiente's ABC's of Witchcraft and in Margaret Murray's The God of the Witches.  It was a hollow mask made of painted wood, trimmed with fur, and crowned with bull's horns.  The lower jaw of the Ooser was movable, and it possessed a strange convex boss on its forehead.  Valiente claims that this boss was representative of the third eye, a seat of psychic power.

The original Ooser mask disappeared in 1897, though a modern replica, made in 1975 by John Byfleet, is held in the Dorset County Museum, where it is taken out as a part of a procession of Morris dancers atop the Cerne Abbas giant on May Day and St George's Day, though some records indicate that in the 19th century it was paraded at Christmas instead.

It is unknown when the original mask was made, but appeared to be in a tradition of making animal and grotesque masks to be worn in procession; in the 7th century book Liber Poenitentialis by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Theodore, he stated:
"whoever at the kalends of January goes about as a stag or bull; that is, making himself into a wild animal and dressing in the skin of a herd animal, and putting on the heads of beast, those who in such wise transform themselves into the appearance of a wild animal, penance for three years because this is devilish".

The etymology of the word "ooser" is of special interest to we Indiana witches, as we Indiana natives are labeled by the strange moniker "hoosier", which is a variation of ooser.  The Indiana Historian Jacob Piatt Dunn, Jr. found that the word, "hoosier" was used, in the south, to refer to woodsmen and rough hill people. Mr. Piatt traced this word back to England and the word "hoozer," meaning anything large in the Cumberland dialect. This was derived from the Anglo-Saxon "hoo" meaning high or hill. Mr. Pratt suggests that this word was brought from England and applied to people who lived in the southern mountains. This word then migrated north to the southern hills of Indiana. "Hoosier" is still sometimes used in the southern United States to characterize someone who is less then sophisticated, or more bluntly, an "ignorant rustic."

Thus, a hoosier is a Pagan!

The Head of Atho

The Head of Atho was claimed by Raymond Howard and The Coven of Atho to be a genuine relic of the ancient rites of Witchcraft.  Although an article in the Eastern Daily Press from March 6 1967, stated that laboratory examination had shown the statue to be carved of English Oak around 2200 years ago, the head was recently proven to be a fake.

"It is hollow and has many witchcraft symbols carved on it... When a small crucible of water with a lighted candle under it, is placed in the back of the head, the result is awe-inspiring. The red glass eyes of the head light up and steam emits from the tips of the horns."

Only a month after the newspaper report, in April 1967, the head was stolen from Howard's shop, and was the only item taken in the robbery. It has never been recovered.

Doreen Valiente suggests that "Atho" is a corruption of the Welsh Arddhu, or Dark One.

Heads in Celtic Worship

Why masks of the Horned God?  Why not horned crowns, or full statuary?  The imagery of the talking head is widely considered to derive from the ancient Celtic "cult of the head"; the head was considered the home of the soul.  Celts had a reputation as head hunters. According to Paul Jacobsthal, 
"Amongst the Celts the human head was venerated above all else, since the head was to the Celt the soul, centre of the emotions as well as of life itself, a symbol of divinity and of the powers of the other-world."
Arguments for a Celtic cult of the severed head include the many sculptured representations of severed heads in La Tène carvings, and the surviving Celtic mythology, which is full of stories of the severed heads of heroes and the saints who carry their decapitated heads, right down to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, where the Green Knight picks up his own severed head after Gawain has struck it off, just as St. Denis carried his head to the top of Montmartre. The head of Bran is said to protect the British people and was said to continue to speak prophesy even after death.

The ravens of the Tower of London are said to belong to Bran, whose name means "raven".  It is said that should these ravens ever leave -- and Bran's blessing be revoked -- that Britain shall fall.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Powers of the Sphinx

 There are said to be four primary things essential to magic.  These four principles are the Powers of the Sphinx: TO KNOW, TO WILL, TO DARE, and TO KEEP SILENT.

Eliphas Lévi indicates where to start in our endeavor to use the Powers of the Sphinx:

“When one does not know, one should will to learn. To the extent that one does not know it is foolhardy to dare, but it is always well to keep silent.”

    Thus the Four Powers are employed much like steps in a process; we must know before we can will, and so on. This idea is reinforced in Lévi's Transcendental Magick:

“To learn how to will is to learn how to exercise dominion. But to be able to exert will power you must first know; for will power applied to folly is madness, death, and hell.”


“In order to DARE we must KNOW; in order to WILL, we must DARE; we must WILL to possess empire and to reign we must BE SILENT.”

These four principle powers relate to the four fixed signs of the Zodiac, and the four magical elements.  Together these faces of the fixed signs of the Zodiac create the four creatures composing the Sphinx.

For our purposes, there is no substitute for any of these powers.  Firstly, it is imperative to Know one's Craft in so far as one can at the level that they are currently at.  It is this vital beginning to magic that has compelled us to share our own knowledge of the Craft through this blog.  Secondly, one must have proper force of Will in order to raise and direct power for a purpose.  Thirdly, a magician or Witch must have great Daring to walk the Crooked Path, to travel to other realms and stand in sacred space.  Finally -- and this is the most sacred and most challenging Power, as it is the Power of Earth, which is lowest of matter and closest to beginning over at Spirit -- is the Power to Keep Silent.  In Silence is Wisdom, and there are many Mysteries that cannot be spoken of but must only be felt with the soul.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Saining of Tools

After acquiring a new tool it is traditional to cleanse and bless the implement and to consecrate it to its new owner and new use.  This process is known as saining.  Saining may be performed together as a coven or privately and individually.


You will need: the tool to be sained, dark bread in a bowl (or lipped dish), red wine in silver quaich or chalice, the Red Knife, a portion of purification or blessing incense, and a thurible with a lit charcoal.


1.) Cast the Caim as usual.
2.) Place some of the incense on the lit charcoal and run the tool through the resulting smoke, visualizing all past energies of the tool being carried away and dissolved with the smoke.
3.) Say: "I cleanse this "XXXX" in the name of the Mighty Ones, that it may serve me well in my Craft."
4.) Raise power by seething.  Rock back and forth, hum, chant, wail, and draw power up from the third realm and down from the first realm into yourself and into your tool. 
5.) Perform the rite of the Housle.
6.) Pour the remainder of the wine into the bread bowl, and anoint the tool, giving it a name at this time if you so wish.  The Housle is the blood of the Mighty Ones, and with it you seal in the energy that was raised by seething your power into the tool.
7.) Complete the rite of the Housle.

It is best to use a tool for its intended purpose as soon as possible after saining.

Newly consecrated tools should be kept in as close connection as possible to the body for at least a month (under the pillow, or in a bedroom corner is a common place). When not in use, all tools and weapons should be put away in a secret place. this place is also commonly near your sleeping place. Some traditions recommend that you handle your tools each night before retiring. Do not allow anyone to touch or handle any of your tools until they are thoroughly impregnated with your energy, the usual term for this is near to six months.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Meditation: Visiting the Red God, Qayin, at Beltaine

Our tradition uses guided meditation to help impress certain symbols on our members' consciousness. Below is our Beltaine meditation. It takes place at the Eastern Gate of the compass, the place of fire and sunrise.  It is the home of the Witch Father, whom we know as Tubal Qayin, Lucifer, Azazel, Melek Taus. To use this meditation let yourself relax comfortably and picture yourself drifting downward and inward to the third realm, the lower realm. The third realm is a place of darkness and mystery.  Let yourself sink down into the third realm and rest there peacefully.

Meditation: Visiting the Red God, Qayin

You awake in a broad, newly plowed field just before sunrise. The world to the West is still dark, murky and sleepy-looking, while to your East a fiery sun is beginning to rise on the pale lanscape. The chill of an early spring morning clings to you. The soil beneath you is rich and dark, marked in deep furrows from the plow. The fertile, damp smell of the land fills your nose as you breathe deeply and begin walking toward the East, toward the growing light.

A fence with a gate is ahead of you across the field, and you can hear the lowing of cattle now. As you get closer, you can see the shapes of the cows becoming clearer. You open the gate and cross into the grassy pasture where the cows graze and move lazily. They watch you intermittently as you continue across their field. One of the cattle watches you intensely, but it is no cow. This bull shifts his weight impatiently while keeping his gaze fixed on you. You continue your path across the field, hurrying as the sun continues to rise, and light and heat start perking up the countryside.

A hedge of dense, knotted Hawthorn trees spreads along the next fence, and you spot the gate in its midst. You cross through the old farm gate as you take notice of the trees. Their bright white blooms and long thorns both welcome and warn.

In the glinting light of the sunrise, you see bees bobbing and buzzing along the Hawthorns. You watch them dance as they work. One lands lightly on your hand, and you know that it has no intention of stinging you. Raising your hand to eye level, you look at the tiny creature for a moment. Its feet tickle your hand, making your skin twitch, and it flies away to the East, where you lose sight of it in the now bright sunrise.

Looking along the landscape in the direction that the bee flew, you see a mound of earth. As you focus your attention on it, you’re certain you hear a clinking sound, as well. Curious, you continue your eastward path until you find yourself standing in front of a small hill with a stony cave door. Strange markings have been carved and painted onto the stones around the mouth of the cave and you take a moment to look at them.

You’re certain now that the sounds you heard came from within the cave, and you can see the glow of firelight coming from deep within. The wet, mustiness of the cave’s scent is mixed with the smell of burning coals, here.

The cave path is smooth and descends slightly as it curves naturally to the left. The sounds have grown distinctly louder since you first heard them. No longer a vague clinking, you now hear the rhythmic beating of metal against metal – tap, tap, bang; tap, tap, bang. The cave is both hot and bright here, and as you round the last corner, you see a large chamber filled with both the glinting metal of finished projects and the carbon-blackened metal of work waiting to be done. Plowshares and picthforks lean against one wall, accompanied by spears and swords. In a far corner, you see the glint of gold and silver wrought into fine filigrees and tooled with delicate markings. You also see pieces of unshaped, untouched metal, dull but full of potential

A fire in a ringed enclosure dominates the middle of the room, and a large man is silhouetted by its flame. His skin looks burnished from the heat and soot, and you watch as his powerful form easily handles the bellows, the large hammer upon the massive anvil.

His eyes glint as he sees you, and he holds you in a piercing stare, though he doesn’t stop his movement and work. Tap, tap, bang; tap, tap, bang. You notice the metal in his hands and you recognize what he is making. He places the object back into the forge fire, allowing it to regain a red-hot glow before removing it again.  Tap, tap, bang.

Still working, he speaks to you. “The forge of the Witch Father holds much magic and mystery. This is a place of transformation, of alchemy, of great power.”

He beckons you toward him and places your hand upon the anvil. It is very hot, but it doesn’t burn you. Holding your hand upon the anvil with his own, he looks into your eyes and speaks a message only for you.

You thank him, and after a moment more of looking at you, he resumes his work. Knowing that the time has come to leave, you turn and walk back up the cave path, curving on a right-hand path now toward the fresh air and daylight.

You pass again by the bees, busy in the Hawthorns, and by the cattle in their pasture. Returning to the plowed field, you take a moment before sitting down in the rich soil. You close your eyes and breathe deeply, coming back to yourself.

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