Saturday, April 21, 2012


Also: May Day, Walpurgis, Roodmas

Beltane, celebrated at the peak of spring around early May, is one of the four main fire festivals native to Celtic culture. The other festivals, commonly referred to in Neopaganism as the "Greater Sabbats" are Imbolc, at the peak of winter, Lammas, at the peak of summer, and Samhain at the peak of autumn. Beltane is usually celebrated on May 1st and the night prior to it, although some celebrate the festival on its alternate date, astrologically determined by the sun's reaching 15-degrees Taurus.

Origins of Beltane

In Irish mythology, the beginning of the summer season for the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Milesians started at Bealtaine. Great bonfires would mark a time of purification and transition, heralding in the season in the hope of a good harvest later in the year, and were accompanied with ritual acts to protect the people from any harm by Otherworldly spirits, such as the Aos Sí. Like the festival of Samhain, opposite Beltane on 31 October Beltane was also a time when the Otherworld was seen as particularly close at hand. Excavations at Uisnech in the 20th century provided evidence of large fires taking place.


In Irish Gaelic, the month of May is known as Mí Bhealtaine or Bealtaine, and the festival as Lá Bealtaine ('day of Bealtaine' or, 'May Day').

Since the early 20th century it has been commonly accepted that Old Irish Bel(l)taine is derived from a Common Celtic *belo-te(p)niâ, meaning "bright fire" (where the element *belo- might be cognate with the English word bale [as in 'bale-fire'] meaning 'white' or 'shining'; compare Anglo-Saxon bael, and Lithuanian/Latvian baltas/balts, found in the name of the Baltic; in Slavic languages byelo or beloye also means 'white', as in Беларусь (White Russia or Belarus) or Бе́лое мо́ре [White Sea]). A more recent etymology by Xavier Delamarre would derive it from a Common Celtic *Beltinijā, cognate with the name of the Lithuanian goddess of death Giltinė, the root of both being Proto-Indo-European *gʷelH- "suffering, death".

In middle Europe, May 1st is celebrated as Walpurgisnacht, named after the English missionary Saint Walburga. As Walburga was canonized on 1st of May, she became associated with May Day, especially in the Finnish and Swedish calendars. The eve of May day, traditionally celebrated with dancing, came to be known as Walpurgisnacht ("Walpurga's night").


Fertility is the major theme of this festival, as it is a reflection of the fertility of the earth at this time of year.  Maypoles, which are phallic symbols, are wrapped in ribbons through a weaving dance on this day.

Purification is another theme of this festival, and the fires associated with it. Saining, the process of ritually purifing something by exposing it to open flame, was common during this time in the form magnificent bonfires that are lept for luck, prosperity, and fertility.  Saining also takes place with the livestock, which was traditionally driven between two bonfires to bless and protect them.

The bonfires hold the secondary role of "burning away" the last remenants of winter, that summer may come in.  The old English round "Sumer Is Icumen In" is often sung with this in mind as the bonfires blaze high.

    Sumer is Icumen in,
    Loudly sing, cuckoo!
    Grows the seed and blows the mead,
    And springs the wood anew;
    Sing, cuckoo!
    Ewe bleats harshly after lamb,
    Cows after calves make moo;
    Bullock stamps and deer champs,
    Now shrilly sing, cuckoo!
    Cuckoo, cuckoo
    Wild bird are you;
    Be never still, cuckoo!

Also on this day are parades with mummers in traditional roles such as the 'obby 'oss, the May Queen, and the Puck.  The May Queen is chosen each year from the Maidens of the area to represent the Goddess in her youthful springtime aspect.

May bushes are decorated with eggs, ribbons, and garlands.  These May bushes were usually the hawthorn, which blooms in May, and which is famously collected when "going a maying".  May bushes gave way to may boughs, which are also of hawthorn.  Usually bringing hawthorn indoors is considered bad luck, but it is worse luck to not "bring in the may" on this day!

Bannocks, which are fire-cooked oat cakes, are made an eaten in celebration of Beltane.  These are known as belcakes.  Morwynn of House Shadow Drake writes of their own family's bannock traditions (and includes a recipe!) here:

In addition to the promise of spring, and prognostication, other neopagan themes common to Beltane include the transformation of the Goddess from Maiden to Lover (this is often celebrated by enactment of the Great Rite in the fields) and the wooing of the sun God. These differ according to various traditions.

The Spiral Castle Tradition

In our tradition Beltane is one of the two times of year when  we pay homage to Tubal Cain.  This is Qayin in his fiery aspect, rising in the east.  He is the Morning Star, the bringer of light and enlightenment to mankind.

The Spiral Castle is turned to face the East Gate, place of Fire, Spring has risen triumphant in our area of the country, and the Lord of the fiery forge of creation holds sway.  The Wheel is turning to the bright promise of summer once again, and there is great rejoicing.

Beltane Chant (by Rudyard Kipling):
O do not tell the priests of our arts,
for they would call it sin!
We will be in the woods all night
A-conjuring conjuring summer in.
And we bring you good news by word of mouth.
For women, cattle, and corn:
The sun is coming up from the south,
By oak and ash, and thorn!
(Continue chanting 'by oak and ash and thorn')


Colors: Deep green, white, red, pink, orange, violet
Herbs: Mandrake, Damania, Basil, Patchouli, Violet, Vanilla, Rose, Frankincense, Lilac
Foods: pork, beef, red fruits, wine, mead, oat and barley pancakes

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The White Witch

The White Witch
by James Weldon Johnson

O brothers mine, take care! Take care!
The great white witch rides out to-night.
Trust not your prowess nor your strength
Your only safety lies in flight;
For in her glance there is a snare
And in her smile there is a blight

The great white witch you have not seen?
Then,younger brothers mine, for sooth
Like nursery children you have looked
For ancient hag and snaggle-tooth
But no, not so; the witch appears
In all the glowing charms of youth

Her lips are like carnations, red
Her face like new-born lilies, fair
Her eyes like ocean waters, blue,
She moves with subtle grace and air
And all about her head there floats
The golden glory of her hair.

But though she always thus appears
In form of youth and mood of mirth
Unnumbered centuries are hers
The infant planets saw her birth
The child of throbbing Life is she
Twin sister to the greedy earth

And back behind those smiling lips
And down within those laughing eyes
And underneath the soft caress
Of hand and voice and purring sighs
The shadow of the panther lurks
The spirit of the vampire lies

For I have seen the great white witch
And she has led me to her lair
And I have kissed her red, red lips
And cruel face so white and fair
Around me she has twined her arms
And bound me with her yellow hair

I felt those red lips burn and sear
My body like a living coal
Obeyed the power of those eyes
As the needle trembles to the pole
And did not care although I felt
The strength go ebbing from my soul

Oh ! she has seen your strong young limbs
And heard your laughter loud and gay
And in your voices she has caught
The echo of a far-off day
When man was closer to the earth
And she has marked you for her prey

She feels the old Antaean strength
In you, the great dynamic beat
Of primal passions, and she sees
In you the last besieged retreat
Of love relentless, lusty, fierce
Love pain-ecstatic, cruel-sweet

O,brothers mine, take care! Take care!
The great white witch rides out to-night
O,younger brothers mine, beware!
Loo knot upon her beauty bright
For in her glance there is a snare
And in her smile there is a blight.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Pentagram

The Pentagram of the Witches is a five-pointed star formed by five straight lines, and encased in a circle, with one point upwards. The five points of the pentagram represent the five elements. The crowning point represents Spirit, and continuing in clockwise order, the remaining points symbolize Water, Fire, Earth, and Air. The circle is related to the magic circle of Power, and connects all of the elements together, all of which is under the dominion of Spirit.

When inscribed on a disk, it represents the Pentacle, or ritual tool of Earth. Small silver Pentagrams are favorite amulets of Witches, and are often worn as ritual jewelry.

The first known uses of the pentagram are found in Mesopotamian writings dating to about 3000 BC. The Sumerian pentagrams served as pictograms for the word "UB" meaning "corner, angle, nook; a small room, cavity, hole; pitfall".

The Pentagram is a very ancient magic sigil, and has been used by many groups under many names. Among the names are: Pentalpha (the five A's of Pythagoras), the Endless Knot, the Eastern Star (used in Masonry, and the star the Magi followed in Biblical myth), the Star of Knowledge, the Seal of the Templars, the Seal of Solomon (although this is a misattribution, as Solomon's Seal is actually a six-pointed star), the Pentagrammaton (or "the five letter word": YHShVH, the ineffable name of the God of the Hebrews when coupled with the Shekinah), the Goat of Mendes, the Seal of the Microcosm, Gawain's Garter (Gawain used this symbol on his escutcheon after defeating the Green Knight) the Witch's Foot, and the Goblin Cross.  Christians once used the pentagram to represent the five wounds of Jesus.

The inverted pentagram represents Spirit triumphed by Matter, and is used as a symbol for the second degree in some traditions of Witchcraft.

The planet Venus traces a pentagram in the sky every 584 days, and the pentagram's associations with this planet – the morning star and the evening star – form some of the earliest stellar lore.

Cutting an apple in half reveals a pentagram within, formed by the seed cavities.  The apple blossom is five-petaled, as is the rowan, and the rose, all of which are associated with Witchcraft and magic.

The Pentagram is used magically as a portal.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tubal Cain: an Introduction

Tubal Cain, T'Cain, Qayin, Qābīl, Kain, Vulcan, Hephaestus, Wayland, Gobannus, Atho, Janus, Óss, Azazel, Azazil, Melek Taus, Lugh

Stations of the Wheel
East and West, Samhain and Beltane, October & May, Gates of Fire and Water, Blood and Merry Moons

Cow, Hawthorn, Bee (May) Toad, Elder, Crane (October)

Sword, Stang, Shelg, Anvil

Of special interest to Witches is the concept of the Smithing God. Metalsmiths were among the first alchemists, and, by virtue of their powers of transmutation of ore into steel, they were once credited with magical powers. Blacksmiths were considered the mages par excellence of this group, and today we find iron horseshoes (iron ore transformed into the God's horns) prized as good luck symbols. The Smithing God is often associated with lameness, which is attributed to a folk practice of laming the village smith so that such an important member of society could not leave. The shambling step of the lamed God is echoed in the most basic Witch dances.

Tubal Cain appears to mean "he who spices the craft of Cain." Gordon Wenham suggests that the name "Cain" means "smith”, or that he is called "Tubal Cain" in order to distinguish him from the other Tubal, the son of Japheth. Henry Morris suggests that etymologically, his name is "the progenitor of the name of the Roman God Vulcan."  Tubal Cain is sometimes thought to be the progenitor of the Celtic peoples.  He is the “first ancestor” and the Witchfather.

Genesis 4:22 says that Tubal Cain was the "forger of all instruments of bronze and iron" or an "instructer of every artificer in brass and iron". Although this may mean he was a metalsmith, a comparison with verses 20 and 21 suggests that he may have been the very first artificer in brass and iron. T. C. Mitchell suggests that he "discovered the possibilities of cold forging native copper and meteoric iron." Tubal-cain has even been described as the first chemist.

According to the Book of Enoch, which brings Azazel into connection with the Biblical story of the fall of the angels, located on Mount Hermon, a gathering-place of demons from of old.  Azazel is represented in the Book of Enoch as one of the leaders of the rebellious Watchers in the time preceding the flood; he taught men the art of warfare, of making swords, knives, shields, and coats of mail, and women the art of deception by ornamenting the body, dying the hair, and painting the face and the eyebrows, and also revealed to the people the secrets of witchcraft and corrupted their manners, leading them into wickedness and impurity.

According to Luciferian tradition, Azazel and Tubal Cain are the same entity.  Azazel having chosen Tubal Cain as his earthly vessel when he lead the rebellion of the fallen angels.  Tubal Cain is of the line of Cain, through his father Lamach, marking him with the holy blood of Lucifer.  By teaching the daughters of man witchcraft, Azazel/Tubal Cain became the Witchfather.
Prayer of Cain Al' Shajarat
(or Tree/Green Cain, Master of the Forge)

Holy Master,
First and Most Cunning of Tillers
By fragrant smokes
And the power of Thy name
I hallow Furnace, Forge, and Flame:
Cain Al' Shajarat,
Sa'Ira, Sa'Ira, Sa'Ira.

Holy Master,
Unto the Craft of the Green
And the Spirits of the Wise
Bear thou from shadow Celestial Fire
And cause the Dead the rise:
Cain Al' Shajarat,
Sa'Ira, Sa'Ira, Sa'Ira.

Holy Master,
Nine times they Name be sung;
Temper these hands and their Work
In thy Fornax and Forge
For Thine is The Kingdom!
Cain Al' Shajarat,
Sa'Ira, Sa'Ira, Sa'Ira.

~Ars Philtron by Daniel A. Schulke

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Line of Cain

Are Cain, Tubal Cain, and Azazel the same entity?  Yes!   And no...

Cain, Son of Eve

Cain/Qayin is the son of Eve through the serpent, Ha-satan. In Genesis when Eve says "I have begotten a man with the Lord" she is referring to Lord Satan-Lucifer.  His brother Abel was the son of Adam and Eve, a creature of clay made flesh, whereas Cain was a creature of spirit made flesh.

Cain was the first to till the earth and harvest plant matter. For this reason he is known as the Lord of the Green Kingdom.  While Cain harvested plants, Abel shepherded flocks of beasts.  When the time came for Cain and Abel to make offerings to Yahweh Abel's offerings of blood pleased Yahweh, but Cain's offerings of burnt plants did not.

It was for this slight in the eyes of Yahweh that Cain killed Abel.  Cain offered forth his most cherished gift of blood (his own brother) to Yahweh.  Abel's blood watered the field and made it fertile. The Necrosophic tradition claims that the blood of Abel that 'watered' the garden also empowered it, making the plants within linked to the bloodline of Cain. This is also the origin of plant spirits or the "Black in Green."

Because of the fact that Cain was the first murderer of man, he eventually became the reaper.  He is the Lord of the Western realms, and the guide of the dead.  Cain was also marked for his crime, and it is this mark (the Witches' Mark) that all children of Cain carry, though in diluted form.

Azazel and Tubal Cain

Azazel was chief among the angels in the story of The Fall of the B'nai Elohim in the Book of Enoch.  The B'nai Elohim is a term that refers to angels. It occurs four times in the Old Testament and is rendered "Angels of God" in the ancient Septuagin translation. These fallen angels, or Watchers, descended to the realm of matter (earth) where they took the descendants of Cain as human vessels. They took women as their wives, taught them, witchcraft and other skills. Azazel took Tubal-Cain, the blacksmith, as his vessel and further improved the arts of smith craft and witchery. Naamah was the human vessel of Nahema-Lilith (Lilith the younger or Lilith's daughter).

The Nephilim

The children of the watchers were the giants known as the Nephilim, which derives from the Hebrew naphal (to fall), or the Fallen Ones. (The Greek Septuagint renders this term gigantes, which actually means "earth-born." This is often misunderstood to mean "giants".  They were marked by extra teeth, extra fingers and toes, double crowned skulls, giant-ism, and other traits that future generations would interpret as witch marks.

The Watchers were originally the four stars Aldebaran (the East), Regulus (the South), Antares (the West), and Fomalhaut (the North).  Witches then, are those who can trace their bloodline to Cain -- the Red Thread -- and are the children of the stars.

For more information:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Alraun

We have discussed the calling and uses of familiars -- both corporeal and incorporeal -- before, but there is another kind of familiar that bridges the gap between the two forms.  This is the ancient magical talisman known as the alraun.
Alraun by Paul Huson

The alraun is a root that has formed in a roughly human shape.  The root may grow this way naturally, or may be carved to resemble a human figure.  The alraun is traditionally a mandrake root, as these have the unique habit of growing in a vaguely humanoid shape.  Any root may be used, however, as it is the virtue of the cthonic properties of the root that provide the necessary magical energies.  Ash and briony are popular choices.

Alraun (also Alraune, Alruna, Alrune) is a German word that means simply "witch".  It derives from the same linguistic root as "rune" and "rowan".

According to The Mystic Mandrake by C.J.S. Thompson, the alraun was wrapped or dressed in a white robe with a golden girdle, bathed every Friday, and kept in a box, otherwise it was believed to shriek for attention. Alrauns were used in magic rituals and were also believed to bring good luck. But possession of them carried the risk of witchcraft prosecution, and in 1630 three women were executed in Hamburg on this charge.  By the 16th century the German word "Alraundelberrin" (Mandrake-bearer) had taken on such a strong connection with witchcraft that to be condemned as such was a death sentence.

The alraun was difficult to get rid of because there was a superstition that it could only be sold at a higher price than bought, and there are legends that owners who tried to throw an alraun away found it returned to their room.

According to German folklore, an alraun assisted easy childbirth, and water in which it had been infused prevented swellings in animals. Alrauns were said to grant wishes of their owners, and to do magic for them, just as a familiar spirit would.

Alrauns are fed milk, honey, and their owner's blood to empower them.  It is best to make these
A mandrake alraun from Pan's Labyrinth
offerings to the alraun each time it is used for magic.  You must treat the alraun as a beloved member of you family, letting it know of family news, and always talking sweetly to it, as if coddling a small child.  Sarah Lawless adds: "[The Alraun] is a sentient familiar spirit and not a curio to be tossed aside. The alraun has the power to bless or curse its owner so think carefully on your intent before making one."

For more information on the Alraun see:

Alraun Crafting at The Witch of Forest Grove Blog by Sarah Lawless
Mastering Witchcraft by Paul Huson
Mandrake in The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft by Judika Illes
The Mystic Mandrake by C.J.S. Thompson 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Elemental Weapons

Each of the four elemental gates is traditionally associated with a martial weapon.  The masculine elements of air and fire are represented by offensive weaponry: the staff (or spear) and the sword.  The feminine elements of earth and water are represented by defensive weaponry: the shield and helm.  These weapons have antecedents in the four suits of the Tarot: swords, staves, coins (shields), and cups (helms).  They are also representative of the four Celtic treasures of Nuada: sword, stone, spear, and cauldron.

The Sword

In the east, the gate of fire, is the forge of Tubal Cain.  Created on this primal forge is that most iconic of forged weapons, the sword.  The sword is a symbol of nobility and initiation.  It is the "sword bridge" we cross to enter the circle of initiation, just as Lancelot had to cross the sword bridge to enter the enchanted country of Melagant.  It is also the "sword that cuts both ways", demonstrating that both initiate and initiator are creating a solemn pact.  In Arthurian legend the sword Excalibur was drawn from a stone, but in the earliest forms of the myth the sword was drawn from an anvil.  In our tradition the "oath stone" of the coven is represented by an anvil in honor of Tubal Cain, Lord of the forge, and the fire of creation.  In the old song "Tubal Cain", we find this refrain:

“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 Staff

The staff is the most personal tool of a witch.  It can be a stang, a distaff, a blackthorn blasting staff, a battle staff, a spear, or a simple walking stick.  The form matters far less than the function of the staff.  It is the weapon of the northern gate, sacred to the Black Goddess, who, in her crone aspect walks with a staff.  In her aspect as the spinner of Fate, she bears a distaff, and in her bloodthirsty warrior aspect she carries a spear.

The staff is a truly personal tool of a witch. It is not passed down as a kuthun to students or family.  It is best if the staff is destroyed upon a witch's passing, or that it is given back to earth, water, or fire with the witch's remains.

The Shield

The shield is both a physical and a metaphysical tool.  It can be a literal shield, like a targe, held as a piece of symbolic regalia upon which the symbols of the coven or the witch are emblazoned, or it can 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.  The shield is a symbol of guardianship of the mysteries.  It is the weapon of the southern gate of earth, and is sacred to the White Goddess.  It is her shining white light which builds the etheric shield, and it is her seelie magic that weaves glamor and cloaking spells that depend on the shield.

The Helm

The helm, upturned, is the cup or cauldron of the western gate of water.  It is the helkapp that Tubal Cain as the Lord of death wears to grant invisibility. The helm is also symbolic of the mask, which we use in transformational magics, and ecstatic ritual.  The helm protects the head, which the Celts perceived as the seat of the soul. Thus, just as the shield protects the physical body from harm, so does the helm, or mask, represent protection of the soul.  It is appropriate, then, that the helm be the weapon of the western gate, that place of rest, that realm of the dead, that healer of the soul.

April Totems: Moth

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. April's totems are Serpent, Ash, and Moth.

The totemic associations are as follows:

Serpent (Nathair) – resurrection, rebirth, initiation, wisdom, transformation
Ash (Nuin) – connections of past to present, spirit to earth, high and low
Moth (Lèomann) – transformation, seeking illumination, initiation


The moth and the butterfly represent transformation, due to their metamorphosis from caterpillar to winged creature.  The word for moth in old Lancashire dialect means 'soul'. The spirit of a witch is sometimes said to travel forth from the body in the form of a moth or butterfly.

Psyche, the Greek 'soul' was another word for butterfly. Psyche was the consort of Eros, and underwent many initiatory tests to prove herself worthy of him. These tests were initiated by the act of seeing her lover by lamplight.  Just as the moth seeks the flame, so do we seek enlightenment and illumination.

The moth navigates by attempting to fly to the greatest light source in the night sky, the moon.  Modern illumination often curtails this instinct, causing the moth to be drawn to another brighter nearby light source.  In this way the moth teaches us to use discernment and to stay true to our path despite distractions.
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