Traditional Wicca – a book review

Decades ago, one of the only methods of people finding witches in our tradition to inquire about training was if you found a note on one of the bulletin boards of a local store that was known to be frequented by folks interested in occult subjects. These notes would include the location and date of where to find the coven…. one trick though, these notes were only written in the “Witches Alphabet” which means you would only find the coven if you were able to translate what the note paper was talking about. Without the translation, the note would look like complete gibberish. This means that you would have to have obtained a bit of knowledge first. This may be easier today, but it wasn’t an easy task in the 1970s and early 1980s when this method was employed!

Even this secret letter method was rare, as typically most people that joined various covens in Pennsylvania at the time was because “you knew someone” or you “knew somebody, who knew somebody.”

Another method to meet witches for training and coven-contacts was through occult stores who catered to an occult clientele.

Another elder and teacher of mine, Tarostar, who worked in the occult supplies trade since 1967, told me how it was common to hear just about every claim and story from the people who would frequent the occult shops. I can only imagine the many colorful tales that he must have heard from people from people back then!

Fast forward 30 years (or more) later:

I find myself sitting at a lecture at a metaphysical shop and all of a sudden, I overhear seekers who are seeking out witches connected to my coven. They had heard over the years many urban legends from our past history and some that still float around to this day. (Many of the tales were fanciful, some rooted in fact, and some downright crazy!) Carefully, I had to decide if I would play an interested party to the conversation, reveal my identity, or quietly listen in silence…

These are just a small selection of tales to demonstrate not even the tip of the iceberg on how seekers would find their way to a coven. This brings us to the reason for this article, which is to review a newly released book, Traditional Wicca: A Seeker’s Guide by author Thorn Mooney and published by Llewellyn Publications.

In this book, Mooney sets out to write a practical guide for seekers of what we may call Traditional Wicca.

You might hear this term, Traditional Wicca, called different things or described differently depending on where you live or the communities you circle within. For example, in Europe you might hear the term “Initiatory Wicca,” whereas in the United States, you might hear the term described as “British Traditional Wicca.” Nevertheless, these are but colloquial terms to describe a similar thing.

It took me a few days to gather my thoughts after reading this book in order to allow what was discussed to be properly digested inwardly and express my opinion fairly. Because I know Thorn Mooney, and I have attended a workshop by her; I didn’t want the fact that I admire her greatly as a person and as a witch-priestess to flavor my thoughts automatically to the positive if there was anything in the book that I disagreed with.

I soon found out there were no worries of this. Page after page I felt a strong “yes,” turn the page, “yes again.” I found myself agreeing with all I was reading.

If you are familiar with our website, you will already know that the folks who are members of Wolfa Coven practices a traditional practice and we are not new to the art of witchcraft. You might ask what value that members of our own Wolfa Coven would find in a seeker’s guide, but first….

I will get this right out of the way from the beginning and say that I found not only great enjoyment, but plenty of invaluable insight with this book. I will explain:

The first reason that absolutely surprised me when I read Mooney’s Traditional Wiccais how inclusive it is regarding geographical differences so that the seeker can find ideas to come in to contact with covens no matter what their location is. I will give you an example to illustrate this:

For example, if you live in England, a common place for public meetings to find other witches are sometimes called pub-moots or just moots. Another good witch-friend of mine told me about Witches Cafes that can be found in continental Europe. Maybe your area has something on a less frequent basis, like once a year Pagan Pride Days? Maybe none of these options exist! Don’t worry, Mooney has PLENTY of ideas for you!

The reason that I think it awesome how these geographical possibilities exist is because even if you live in an area with a vibrant and plentiful witch-population, some of opportunities available to others may not be found in your area, and you can easily get ideas for more resources that you wouldn’t think possible.

For example, you won’t find a moot, Witch-meet-up, or such in my own local area. This is not for anyone’s lack of trying, but for some reason, the concept just has never taken off locally. I’ve known local witches to even try what they called Coffee Klatches with no success on that front either. So even though you may not find that in our local area, you will find plenty of stores, listings online and various events you could attend – particularly in the spring, summer and autumn times of the year.

Mooney is very inclusive of possibilities that will help you spark your interest, as well as traditions. For example, when it comes to the title, Traditional Wicca itself, some folks may only think of two of the many traditions within Traditional Wicca that have the most initiates and the greatest amount of material written about them and their practices – but this can’t be further from the truth. What Mooney discusses in her book, Traditional Wicca, can be used and helpful in joining any of the traditions that identify as traditional, and even traditions that are not!

The next thing that I was very happy to see listed in Thorn’s book is advice on “how” you can contact a coven and ask for more information. So if you are going to approach a traditional coven, what should you say? What is going to get your email or letter answers rather than ignored?

Mooney also helps seekers in this book look for what seems to be possible signs of a healthy coven. Her list of red flags on what to look out for is spot on. If I was personally seeking a coven, that section of red flags would most likely become my checklist to watch out for! I felt that I agreed with her on her assessment of what is a red flag. (If you lead a coven, this would be a good list as well to assess your own coven with!)

The last chapter of her book is titled, Some Guidance for the New Initiate, and this information is invaluable!

Most importantly, Mooney helps straighten out some misunderstandings that can at times be passed around like water-cooler gossip. For example, many seekers have great misunderstanding about hierarchy, nudity in ritual and what a vouch is and she corrects some erroneous beliefs about what initiation into a coven is really all about. (In secular culture, we seem almost blind to Rites of Passage, Admittance and Acceptance making the idea of “initiation” something easily misunderstood. Possibly because of Thorn Mooney’s religious studies background, she provides some amazing thoughts to think about that I have never thought about previously. Even when I look at my magical background, having been initiated multiple times, I still had much more to learn on the subject and I was happy that Mooney schooled me in this with her book.)

Now at this time, I want to share why I found so much value out of this book as well, being someone who has already been initiated and functioning as a High Priest within the circles I am part of:

We call our particular bunch of witches a large witchcraft-family, meaning, that in the year 2018, there are more of us all around the country now connected back to our coven here in Pennsylvania in some way or another than had existed previously. While they are each their own autonomous units, there is common lore that all are familiar with, even though they may identify differently and have different methods that work for them. It is the old “witches grapevine” in action, connecting us all in some way, across tradition lines.

Because of such a network, Mooney’s book provides quite a comprehensive look on different ways that covens can lay breadcrumbs in the modern day so the right seekers will be able to find their way to seeking. Possibly the old method of putting a note in the Witches Alphabet in a store might be outdated and possibly no longer work, and perhaps it might?

More importantly than that, it gives seekers the tools and skills to search us out and how to find us!

Lastly, I wanted to comment on another shining light that can be gained from this book:

Throughout the book, you will find listed mini-sections called “From the Circle” in which Mooney shares wisdom of seeking the Craft, written by seekers, initiates and elders alike. I’m always attracted to books that include other magical folks within the pages. To me, it gives another perspective – sometimes supporting the author’s own view and sometimes providing an alternative view. I think that the ability to do that and showcase a variety of opinions, across traditions and perspectives, is valuable, and shows inclusivity and humility – which to me are valuable and honorable traits.

Another book that came out years ago that I just loved that included wisdom from a great number of witches is titled Keepers of the Flame which was written and compiled by Morgana Davies and Aradia Lynch, which was written at probably the most opportune time before many of our beloved elders have transitioned into their next incarnation.

One witch that I was happy they included in the Keepers of the Flame book was Christine Jones, who was one of Sybil Leek’s last students. We consider her a part of our greater Wicca-family. Christine, who was also British by birth and immigrated to the US like Sybil, has been remembered and her teachings have been carried on and well-preserved and she considered a departed Horsa elder in her own right.

I was also happy to read interviews from other witches in Keepers of the Flame who I admire that are still with us, such as the fantastic Dana Corby of the Mohsian Tradition. I am also of the High Priesthood in the Mohsian Tradition as well, so this is also a keepsake for information from Corby’s perspective as well who also has a great deal of experience and always has something fascinating to share and teach.

Because of my love for seeing such perspectives represented in books like Keepers of the Flame, I paid extra attention to the snippets titled From the Circle in Mooney’s book, from seekers, initiates and elders alike!

Another subject that Mooney’s book taught me further about is the concept of “Outer Courts.” The concept of outer courts are not something you typically find in our neck of the woods, so it gave me some additional information about why some folks within the High Priesthood of traditional covens operate Outer Court covens.

I think it is safe to say that we will most likely be seeing more well-written books and materials by Thorn Mooney in the future! I know I look forward to attending future workshops given by her. So whether you are a seeker, initiate or seasoned Wicca elder, please consider reading Mooney’s book. There are many insights within it that I am sure we all haven’t considered. It is also clear how much careful thought and planning she did to put this book together to make it useful for everyone, in which we are ever grateful!

Blessed Be, Thorn Nightwind

*You may click on the titles of the books below or throughout the article above in order to find them on amazon for purchase. You may also find them at your local retailer.

Resources & Works Cited:

Mooney, Thorn; Traditional Wicca

Davies, Morgana & Lynch, Aradia; Keepers of the Flame

Advertisements

Marketing Occultism

(This article is my own response to thoughts expressed in the recent Patheos Pagan article “The Hipster Witch: Aesthetics, Empowerment, and Instagram” written by Thorn Mooney. It inspired me to put down my own thoughts on the subject.)

A photo from the recent Summer Seasonal Ritual here at Wolfa Coven.

When I read Thorn Mooney’s recent article, The Hipster Witch, I found myself recalling a number of similar conversations and thoughts I have had with folks locally here for the last 15 years or so that revolve around what might be described “Marketable Occultism” and sometimes affectionately referred to as “pop-culture occultism.” I thought I would throw in my own thoughts in the mix based on conversations I have heard about this topic over the years.

Before I begin to express some of our own thoughts we have had in our locale on this topic that Mooney brings up, I first must give a plug to Mooney’s newly released book, Traditional Wicca: a seeker’s guide, which has just been released by Llewellyn Publications. It is an excellent book for those seeking a coven from the perspective of Traditional Wicca. This book is bound to become an up-to-date definitive guide for seekers looking to join a traditional coven of any variety, with information within that is true for assisting non-traditional covens as well. I will probably be posting a review of the book after I finish working through it.

Now back to the topic….

Mooney brings up a good topic that traditional practitioners and those who self-describe themselves as “old-school occultists” have been discussing for some time now. That topic surrounds what some might dub the dissemination of small, easy to digest occult nuggets, produced mainly for the purposes of wider circulation for greater appeal to the general public.

Mooney recounts conversations in her blog about how this is everywhere, and seems to be amongst some of the top-selling books on Wicca and Witchcraft on the online merchant amazon.com. She’s right, and you can see this if you do a general search on amazon for books by just typing in “witchcraft” or “Wicca.”

Amazon has added another new angle in the mix when it comes to book publishing. Though I haven’t researched this fully, I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the books that first show up in the search were published through Amazon, which now has its own publishing and print-on-demand services that allow you to publish books yourself without the help of a publishing house. Because of this, many of the books that show up in the search might only show up for sale on Amazon and not at your local bookstore retailer. Most of the books from our local brick-and-mortar retailers will be ones published by traditional publishers.

This could potentially be a good thing if we look at it from the angle that access to more information can lead to further dissemination of occult materials of all varieties, but not all witches find this to be a good thing, feeling that it further adds to confusion of seekers looking for traditional training by lineaged groups.

I hadn’t previously heard of some of the authors mentioned in Thorn Mooney’s article until meeting with potential seekers to our coven who had told us about them.

Of course, when meeting with a potential coven, one of the first things that a seeker is typically asked is, “What occult books have you read so far?” In the last two years, books by the authors mentioned in Mooney’s article have been part of some of the responses. The typical response here to the answer is, “Oh, haven’t heard of those!” Because of this answer, it is obvious that the authors of these books are reaching a different audience than those of witches who work within covens, particularly those who are new and seeking or who practice solitary.

I haven’t found this trend to be a recent surprise to me, but it definitely was a surprise to me in the mid 2000s when I first started to be aware of it. Since then, we have talked about this topic here for quite a while. What triggered the idea of thinking more deeply on this subject?

“The Secret….”

Many of you may remember that in the mid 2000s, the self-help series known as “The Secret” became a world-wide phenomenon reaching millions of people. I remember the discussions many of us had back then as we read through the materials and watched the DVD just like many others in the occult world who wanted to see what the newest thoughts were.

I remember after reviewing the materials and a number of us saying to each other thoughts similar to “Wow! We have seen this idea before. Why is it that this is such a new discovery to so many? How did this telling of it reach such wider appeal that previous versions of it couldn’t?

What is “The Secret” that swept the world by storm?

The Law of Attraction.

To give you some history of the more popular places that the “Law of Attraction” shows up in our modern time is the late 1800s in “Isis Unveiled” by H.P. Blavatsky who describes it as one of the energizing principles that governs the universe. (Of course, there were even older luminaries who wrote about the Law of Attraction as well before Blavatsky)

Though the modern way in which the “Law of Attraction” is utilized was described by Blavatsky, Leadbeater & Besant in their understanding as the creation of “desire-bodies.”

I might personally describe desire-bodies in my own words: When a thought is created in the mental body of an individual, it either dissolves back into mental matter, or when emotional involvement is applied to it, it can enter the astral body of its creator and can be vivified in the Astral Light. These “desire-bodies” become thought-forms in our own aura that can attract or repeal other desire-bodies, elementals and thought-forms toward or away from the maker of the desire-body.

Sybil Leek talked about the concept of avoidance and pursuit in her book “The Complete Art of Witchcraft” in which we are constantly pursuing after something, or constantly trying to avoid something. This avoidance and pursuit can either be driven from memories of pleasure and/or pain from past experiences and memories, or because of the desire-bodies made by ourselves and others. In this case, it is up to the witch to discover why we are constantly pursuing or avoiding certain things.

In the early 1900s, the “Law of Attraction” was greatly espoused on in the “New Thought Movement.” This New Thought philosophy and approach is but one of the things added to the crucible that would influence greatly witchcraft as I have come to know it.

For those who have been studying the occult, you may be more familiar with the New Thought Movement without even realizing it. Popular hermetic philosophies published such as The Kybalion written by “Three Initiates” is one that students of the occult will be familiar with. Also, much of the material related to the power of positive thinking and the setting of affirmations all come out of the New Thought movement of the time period.

One of my favorite books that I go back to from time to time is one out of this movement written by William Walker Atkinson in 1912 titled, “Mind-Power: The Secret of Mental Magic.” In this book, one of Atkinson’s descriptions of how the Law of Attraction works is:

“First there are mentative currents, arising from the strong centered desire of some person, who forming a strong mental image, by means of visualization, creates for himself a center of desire-force, which guided by his will-power attracts to himself a mentative center, around his visualized idea, and constantly sends out strong mentative currents charged with the strongest, most ardent desire-force, guided, and projected by his developed Will-Power. He thus sets into operation the great mental Law of Attraction…….

-William Walker Atkinson, 1912; quote from “Mind-Power.”

Atkinson’s description is very well put, and his many books are definitely books that I recommend to seekers of witchcraft when it comes to development of the mind and concentration.

Many years later, Witchcraft authors Gavin & Yvonne Frost also talked a great deal about the Law of Attraction in just about every one of their witchcraft books they wrote.

In one of the Frost’s more popular books in 1976, “The Magic Power is Witchcraft,” they wrote a section labeled “You too can use the Law of Attraction.” One the statements they said was, “….there is no way to get around the Law of Attraction, any more than there is to circumvent gravity.” Gavin & Yvonne then go on to describe in understandable terms many pages on how you can make the Law of Attraction work for you.

Many years later, in the year 2000, they place the Law of Attraction as one of the points of “The Wiccan Pentagram of Truth” as one of the basic truths of Wicca in their tradition as published in their book “The Witch’s Magical Handbook.”

Later on, in 2006, the book “The Secret” was released and it was a smash-hit! Shortly thereafter, an accompanying DVD was released and various other titles within the franchise promoting the Law of Attraction. The DVD also featured many celebrity stories on how the Law of Attraction worked for them in their lives. People everywhere were creating Vision Boards in order to paste on them things they wished to draw into their lives and stating positive affirmations to change their lives. It received a huge push when Oprah talked about the book.

I remember when it came out that there was a bit of an upset over the successful series because there were some that felt the series was superficial and lacking in-depth understanding of this old occult truth. I even remember some books at the bookstore that were written that purported to build on where The Secret left off.

As you can see, the Law of Attraction was not new to the world of the occult and also to witchcraft, but the marketing of it was well done and it hit the world by storm.

While we don’t hear the same huge amount of publicity about The Secret today, the franchise still is pretty successful and has a number of other products you can purchase such as follow-up books and even graffitied journals. (Even amongst folks that haven’t heard about “The Secret,” the idea of “Gratitude Journals” were made popular again by The Secret. Almost everyone today has heard of this concept.)

It seems this was a book that changed world-wide thinking. Did some of the folks that started with The Secret go on to study greater occult wisdom? Possibly, but this is hard to quantify. While it didn’t seem to draw a great deal of attention to Wicca even though a number of well known witches like the Frosts had talked in great deal about it for decades as part of witchcraft, at least as far as I can tell, but it did seem to increase popularity of the New Thought movement as additional materials were in demand and dominated the self-help sections of book retailers. Even today, just last week, I saw a beautiful new hardback edition of the classic The Kybalion at Barnes & Noble that is even more beautiful than the old hardback blue edition.

Now I think it comes time to address one of the main pain-points among occult practitioners who desire for more breath and depth of occult books and why there seems to be a lack of advanced texts today to purchase.

Part of the answer to this that I have heard from many occult authors today is that advanced books don’t seem to sell. Publishing is a business, and sales are what keeps it going. If demand drives supply, then that makes sense.

The other thing that seems to add to this is the advanced occultism seems to hide from the brighter light of mass appeal. If you don’t believe me, have a conversation with someone who is not a seeker in the occult about your thoughts on Reincarnation and see how they respond. You’ll notice how their attention will quickly seem to waiver, they will change the subject or even just walk away. I have seen this happen personally in the feedback on the articles and blogs that I have written, and watching which articles of mine receive the most attention and which ones the least.

I have written some advanced articles in which I have received very little private feedback from those outside of my own circle of friends, but when I write something that is on a more basic subject, I seem to get more private feedback from a greater readership. For example, one of the articles that was on the more basic level was “The Witches Cauldron.” I received more feedback privately from a wider witchcraft audience on that one than any of the advanced articles I have written.

In 1801 Frances Barrett may have given us a slight clue in his well-loved grimoire, The Magus, when he said,

“And we should caution you in this beginning that every magical experiment flies from the public, seeking to be hid, is strengthened and confirmed by silence….”

Earlier in the same section, Barrett tells us whom we can safely reveal our magical experiments to:

“…..but reveal them only to faithful, discrete and chosen friends.”

The reason he gives for this is:

“….the prating of a companion, his unbelief, doubting, questioning and lastly, unworthiness, hinders and disturbs the effect in every operation.”

What I feel Barrett means in his statement of unworthiness means not prepared to receive the information. This may be the real reason for “oaths of secrecy” and “oaths of fidelity” so that those who are told the secrets are those who are prepared for it. Those that have the understanding to operate magic with the manipulation of the Astral Light don’t need to worry about tradition arguments because a competent occultist can manipulate the aether behind the scenes and find any supposed “Secret” information they need. The Ancient “Book of Thoth” was not a tarot or card deck, but something which would be read within the Akasha.

I feel at this point, I am left with the question of: “Will these mass-produced pamphlets on witchcraft and Wicca eventually help more seekers discover more advanced forms of witchcraft?” I think that it could potentially happen and I had never thought of this particular question in relation to witchcraft until I read Thorn Mooney’s article that made me think a little more on this.

Has this happened to witchcraft before?

I think it has happened in different ways. During the 1970s, there were a number of books published that had very different versions of witchcraft and Wicca that some folks decried bloody horror to. One of these was published in 1971 by Anton LaVey titled, The Compleat Witch and was later re-titled to The Satanic Witch.

In The Compleat Witch, LaVey detailed a form of witchcraft that has little to do with magical ritual (other than when you are pissed off at an enemy and you stick pins in a doll of them for sympathetic magic) and he concentrates more so on the look of the witch and the way they dress in order to seduce and manipulate men. He uses a lot of psychology by providing a “personality synthesizer” in order to help you base your look for maximum effect.

Some witches were enraged by such a book that by today’s standards is a book mainly describing how to manipulate men through sex. Other witches of the time disliked LaVey for different reasons, such as Sybil Leek, who was not a fan of LaVey or any form of Satanism at all. In many ways, if we are a path focusing on progressive evolution, then the path of selfishness and satisfying your base lust at the expense and sometimes humiliation of others would be a total stagnation and transgressive. LaVey would fire back at Sybil Leek because of he thought their was no such thing as “white witchcraft.”

There were various books published in the late 1980s and 90s that a number of folks in the wider witchcraft circles decried for one reason or another. (In fact, almost any successful book on witchcraft seems to have someone that doesn’t like it for one reason or another.)

The argument at the time was a “white washing” of witchcraft and would bring an end to folks looking for serious training.

So it seems the main fear that I have witnessed over the years is that serious occultism will be cast by the wayside in favor of more marketable versions. Will this be the case? Only time will tell! Though, in some way, I believe that there will always be those that will push past the basics and dive deep into the little known occult wonders.

Blessed Be!

Bibliography:

Atkinson, William Walker; Mind-Power: The Secret is Mental Magic

Barrett, Frances; The Magus

Blavatsky, H.P.; Isis Unveiled

Byrne, Rhonda; The Secret

Frost, Gavin & Yvonne; The Magic Power of Witchcraft

Frost, Gavin & Yvonne; The Witch’s Magical Handbook

Leek, Sybil; The Complete Art of Witchcraft

LaVey, Anton S.; The Compleat Witch

Esbat Rituals

According to many sources, the word Esbat meant “to dance or frolic.” This, of course, still happens at some Esbat rituals to this day.

Some groups of witches when they meet at the coven may perform their rituals outdoors around the baalfire, and some may perform them indoors. Each grouping will have their preference.
Some groups of witches when they meet at the coven may perform their rituals outdoors around the baalfire, and some may perform them indoors. Each grouping will have their preference.

But what is an Esbat in witchcraft today centered on? There seems to be some confusion of the frequency of Esbats, and also what it means in Wicca today. For some witches, it is any ritual or meeting at coven that aligns with the moon phase or a particular phase, some, it just means “the full moon ritual.” (Some older covens, like ours, did not have specific lore surrounding the word “Esbat” or even the word “Esbat” in our earliest materials. Instead, the oldest material just said things like “Full Moon Ritual” and the later concepts of certain frequencies developed later when Wicca was further fleshed out as people expanded their occult knowledge.)

Regardless of tradition and differences of practice and frequency, I think most of us can agree that when it comes to coven work, that an Esbat would be any standard meeting of the coven that consists of just the private, initiated members of the coven that is not a Sabbat and those witches who were deemed sufficient enough in knowledge to be able to perform well with group coven magics. Sometimes, a period of time may even be built in for a newly initiated witch to hone their skills at spell-making, sorcery and talismanic magics before they are permitted to attend the important Esbats. While the Seasonals are much more communal, the Esbats are a bit more intimate as they express the inner-workings.

This article is not written just to outline what might be possible when you initiate into a coven, but can also provide you with some options if you already have your own coven.

The prime importance of an Esbat, as our group has come to know it, concerns itself with the workings of spell-making and talismanic magic, as opposed to the Seasonal festivals which is more focused on a celebration of the Seasonal progressions and alignment with that particular time of year. During the Seasonals, our incantations might still petition the Deity for what is needed in our lives and we might focus on those in need through group thought-transference, long-distance hypnotism, telepathy and directing the elementals, but at those times we also focus on prayers of gratitude and Thanksgiving for what we have received as well as requesting wisdom from our gods. This is different than the Esbats where very specific spell-making is performed and done so in a very specialized manner. (Also, typically the Seasonals or Sabbats occur only four times a year, or more commonly today, eight times per year – whereas Esbats tend to occur more in frequency.)

So what is the frequency that a coven might meet for Esbat Rituals? There is no set-in-stone answer to this question! The coven would meet as frequently as they wish too!

A central altar might be used when working outdoors and a candle used to represent the baalfire at the Esbat when working indoors.
A central altar might be used when working outdoors and a candle used to represent the baalfire at the Esbat when working indoors.

Here is a potential list of common types of frequencies found across various branches of witchcraft practice:

1. Full Moon Ritual – originally, there seemed to have been only one type of Esbat which meant that witches met at coven at the full moon. In most cases that meant that when it came to Esbats, there was only one ritual you might have in your coven workbook for this. Magic might be performed as needed at this time. Many books on Wicca discuss a practice known as ‘Drawing Down the Moon‘ that might even be a common practice at this time. This could allow for a potential of 13 Esbats per year.

2. New Moon Ritual – Later on, some witches decided it may be important to meet at the time of the New Moon. When this became the case, some witches and coven decided they would divide what type of magic that is appropriate for New Moon rituals and what type of magic would be appropriate for Full Moon Rituals.

3. Full & New Moon Rituals – Typically, if New Moons were instituted as a meeting time, then it seems that most covens who perform New Moon Rituals also perform Full Moon Rituals. It is important to realize that some covens only perform Full Moon Rituals when it comes to Esbats and other frequencies of meeting might not be found. In this instance, some covens might say that during the New Moon Rituals they might work magic to draw in new things, whereas at the Full Moon Rituals they might work on banishment and release or various other divisions of work.

4. Weekly Esbat – Some covens might decide to meet once each week for an Esbat. When this is the case, it is typically on a Friday night into Saturday (night of Venus) or a Wednesday night (the night of Mercury) to perform magic together. The coven might have a feast before or after the ritual is conducted and meeting would not depend on when it was Full or New Moon. Covens might pay attention to a fuller scale of various Moon phases and will work magic depending on which phase that the moon is in.

5. Closest Saturday to Full and/or New Moon – Because occasionally some groups of witches live further away from the place of meeting (coven), some groups may choose to meet at the closest Saturday or another set regimented time. Typically, Esbats are not compulsory Rites of witchcraft like the four Seasonals are, so most groups would be okay if you can’t make every single Esbat Ritual.

6. Astrologically Timed Esbats – Some covens may time their Esbat rituals by astrological timing as well as the moon phases. This is two-fold: First, depending on what sign the moon is in at the time set for meeting, such as if the Moon is waxing in Aries or Libra or any other of the 12 astrological signs. They might say that a particular moon in sign may have a different effect on the outcome of the spells themselves, or even slightly different rituals for a Cancer Moon or a Virgo Moon. Some covens may not necessarily plan that far ahead, and decide on the proper wording of the invocations and incantations that will be in line with one of the particular 12 signs the moon is in for that ritual. Some covens may not perform a different ritual at this time, but the meditation part of the Esbat may slightly change depending on the sign the moon is in.

The second method is by using the planetary/angelic days and hours which is a system where each hour of daylight and night is ruled by one of the seven classical planets or one of the seven archangels and aligning this with the correct day of the week. For planetary and angelic hours, this is where the hours of daylight and the hours of night are converted into minutes and then into hourly divisions. This means that at certain times of the year the hours of the day may be longer or shorter than 60 minutes and vice-versa depending on the time of the year it is scheduled. In this system, the only time the hours will line up with perfect even minutes is during the Equinoxes. This method is for serious coven work. Most of the time, the planetary/angelic hours will be used when performing solitary spell-making. It is quite simple, but effective. Figuring out the hours and observing the sign the moon is in seems to add to the spell and goes with the old maxim of, “you get out of it what you put in it.” A greater emphasis might be placed on this when performing talismanic magics, which some groups may call ‘binding the sigils’ or the crafting of Charms.

7. Full Moon Rituals based on the Lunar Folk Names – As we know, there will be 13 full moons in the course of one calendar year. One month will typically have two full moons since the lunar calendar and the Roman calendar don’t line up. Some groups, lines or traditions might even create separate rituals based around these colloquial folk names that might be different from location to location. One example of this may be a list of 13 Esbats such as: Wolf Moon, Storm Moon, Sap Moon, Seed Moon, Hare Moon, Flower Moon, Rose Moon, Wort Moon, Barley Moon, Harvest Moon, Blood Moon, Snow Moon & Oak Moon.

Of course, as you can guess, each group may have a different set of practices they follow when it comes to when and how they perform Esbat Rituals – even within the same line or tradition! Some groups of witches may even try different things on different years as the coven interest dictates. Even eclectic groups might develop their own system and style. Some groups may even schedule times for Esbats they perform these solitary, but will do so at the same time using astrological timing, all bringing their will to bear on a situation at the same time remotely.

One important thing to mention that I have personally found: It is NOT the quantity of witches working the same spell together at the same time that dictates great success. A mass number of witches working on an issue does not necessarily equal success in any way. Instead, it is the quality of work, skill and training that dictates success. A small group of three serious occultists can out-Power a large mass of sloppy occult work. The emphasis should be on quality, rather than quantity. With so many large groupings of people divided over the things that don’t seem to matter much, this is a word of caution for those that don’t have like-minded focus. When it comes to witchcraft, it is rarely politics and opinions that matter – actual results are the only measure of success. Everyone can have their own outlook on many issues, but if these things get in the way and become more important than quality work, rarely will large dysfunctional groups be able to muster the necessary collective power needed for results. This is probably one of the real reasons for the last part of the Four-Sided ‘Pyramid of the Sphinx’ found in classical occultism which tells us ‘To Be Silent.’ This means group acts of spell-making should be performed by a chosen selection of witches that you can get in-synch with, hence, why spell-making tends to always be a ‘small group activity’ amongst those that can get-on with each other.

A place like this, in seclusion, to be able to perform your Rites secretly is a great place where the axon of ‘To Be Silent’ can be put into practice. When conducting rituals, I recommend to slow down and don’t perform them in a place or time where interruption may occur. This is a holy time.. and time set aside for your will to light up the aether.
A place like this, indoors or out of doors, in seclusion, to be able to perform your Rites secretly is a great place where the axon of ‘To Be Silent’ can be put into practice. When conducting rituals, I recommend to slow down and don’t perform them in a place or time where interruption may occur. This is a holy time.. and time set aside for your will to light up the aether.

This above listing of seven options you may find might be far from a complete list and some may have developed cycles that are very different than any that I have come to know.

Maybe your grouping of witches doesn’t meet at coven during chosen Esbats at all? That is fine too, but doesn’t mean that you can’t use the opportunity of the Esbats to perform your own private spell-making. Even when you are an initiate that is part of a group of witches, much of your practice will still be solitary. A group of witches can bolster each other, but that can’t become a distraction from the needed solitary work that we still have to do. A common complaint I have heard amongst some of the High Priesthood over the years is, “I feel I am too busy tending the needs of my own coven and never have time for my own needs.” If you find yourself saying this, remind yourself of one of Sybil Leek’s first Tenets of Witchcraft which is the Tenet of a Balanced Life. Regardless of how much we try, the High Priesthood will still sacrifice a lot for the greater good of a group, but it is important to always stay grounded in the firm reality that you can only help your group if you continue your path of progressive evolution and learning too… which brings us to another of the tenets, which is the Tenet of Learning.

Do you take time to listen to Deity through the tranquility of nature? That small voice with speak to you and you it as you work with aether around you.
Do you take time to listen to Deity through the tranquility of nature? That small voice with speak to you and you it as you work with aether around you.

Those that have been in witchcraft for a long time who have found their place in this world may perform spells less often that those who first come into it. That doesn’t mean that you stop all your solitary work that you also do, but means more time is spent in meditation and contemplation – allowing the Deity and the guides to guide you, and when needed, to bring you the information. This still occurs no matter what successes you have achieved, and no matter what trials or travails you may experience…. never forget to stop and listen…. and be.

Blessed Be!

Elemental Fluid Condensers

One particular piece of spellmaking and sorcery is the manufacture of potions. One example of potion making would be the elemental magnetic fluid condensers. These potions condense the elemental essence within the aether and are of a highly strong magnetic quality, including fractions of the metal gold and also “human gold.”

Photos below are the mixed ingredients in the witch’s cauldron before they reached a boil. The brewing process is evocative of the witch and the bubbling cauldron – and is something that is still performed!

The elemental fluid condensers are not edible potions because of the ingredients used are not suitable for consumption and could be poisonous, but only used with care in magical operations to attract the elementals and condense thought through magnetic impregnation of thought using specific spells that correspond with the nature of the element itself.

Air Elemental Fluid Condenser:

For use with the air elementals - sometimes called the fairies or sylphs
For use with the air elementals – sometimes called the fairies or sylphs

Fire Elemental Fluid Condenser:

For use with the fire elementals - sometimes called the salamanders
For use with the fire elementals – sometimes called the salamanders

Water Elemental Fluid Condenser:

For use with the water elementals - sometimes called the mermaids or the undines
For use with the water elementals – sometimes called the mermaids or the undines

Earth Elemental Fluid Condenser:

For use with the earth elementals - sometimes called the satyrs or the gnomes.
For use with the earth elementals – sometimes called the satyrs or the gnomes.

Just the creation of such magical potions take careful work and preparation. The ingredients are very specific and has to be done with delicate care and exactness. About half of the ingredients I was able to collect in my own garden, but the rest of the ingredients were able to be easily purchased at the local herbal apothecary shop and at my local grocer.

It is important to note that magnetic fluid condensers are not just limited to liquid form. There are also metal fluid condensers, which as such, combines seven planetary metals and also gaseous Fluid condensers. The title of “fluid” does not refer to liquid in itself, but refers to the aether and atmosphere around us that is of a bendable and malleable nature.

It is also important to understand that we are not talking actual water, fire, air and earth; but the astral field of the elements. Just like we as people are surrounded by an electromagnetic/vital body and an astral body, the elements are surrounded by this too. These potions affect them. In fact, communication with the elementals might be best described as communication and interaction with the astral body and vital bodies of the physical elements. (For more information on the various levels and layers of bodies of all beings, you will want to study the Theosophical subject of the Seven-fold principles of man.)

Blessed Be!

Druidic Egg

The Druidic Egg – a fascination charm worn by witches of the Horsa Tradition. Pliny the Elder tells us how snakes entwined together would spew up balls of foam that congealed into crystallized form.

Garbed in Green: Gay Witchcraft & the Male Mysteries

An exciting new book now available on Amazon.com for those interested in witchcraft and re-discovering for today the magic and mystery of the ancient gay priesthood of the past that can be found world-wide. This book is a first of its kind, as it is not just “Wicca for Gay Men,” but digs into just what the male mysteries are. This is esoteric wisdom for gay men who love occult study and ritual.

Within the book, you will also receive four ritual scripts for the four Fire Festivals of the year, their complete directions and also the recipes for the manufacture of the items used within the rituals.

Each personal story is touching and has quite an interesting story and lesson to tell.

This book is perfect for those who are interested in just what the male mysteries are – no matter what your sexuality.

Check out Casey’s website for more information and to purchase; or go to amazon.com and search for the book: Garbed in Green. It is available in both paperback and kindle editions.

Blessed Be!

The Magical Art of Crafting Charm Bags – Book Review & the Crafting of My Own Charm Bag

He who does not believe in himself, fails to believe in anyone else.” -Elhoim Leafar (4)

I was recently inspired to think about Charm Bags again after so long from reading the recent book published by Red Wheel Wiser Books titled, The Magical Art of Crafting Charm Bags (4) written by author Elhoim Leafar. I am still currently enjoying it and finding little gems in the book!

Leafar seems to be a delightful shaman who had recently immigrated from his homeland in Venezuela and now has taken up residence in New York City.

I first came across the use of Charm Bags when I first read Sybil Leek’s book, Cast Your Own Spell (3) when she talked about a story she read where Philadelphia, PA native, Charles Leland met an individual who made him a Charm bag for success and good luck on a book he was writing. Sybil said the maker of the Charm had put a piece of his book in the Charm bag and thought if she might ask a Charm maker to put a page of her book in a Charm bag too.

(Photo Above: the Charm bag that was made for a witch in need of healing along with her Astral candle and a healing candle. Also, the candles and talismans also on the altar for those in need from a previous night’s magical Work.)

As I continued my studies, I would occasionally come across other types of Charm Bags with all sorts of different names such as Sachet Bags, Quanga Bags, Gris-Gris (pronounced gree-gree), Mojo Bags, tobies, Medicine Bags, etc.

When it comes to sachet bags and powders, I first came across this term in the old 1930s classic book that Sybil Leek recommended called, Legends of Incense, Herb & Oil Magic (1) by Lewis de Claremont. In the book it has a section on sachet powders that can be used to magically scent items by putting them in bags and occasionally opening up the bags and sprinkling them places for a certain effect.

The power of perfumery of strong aromatics is what powers the use of sachet powders and are preserved in bags so their scent is retained. Over time, you may need to re-fresh the sachet bag and powders. Today, we typically do so by adding essential or fragrance oils to them. When used for occult purposes, we may use scented potions or fluid condensers to concentrate thought impregnation on the powders.

When it comes to sachet powders, the most common ingredient seems to be Orris Root – which is the root of a particular Iris that when powdered is highly fragrant and retains perfume scent very well. Even when the Iris is planted in the ground, I can tell how highly scented the root is because if you don’t pack the root down good when planting it or at least get it sprouted a bit first before planting, then a critter such as a rabbit or squirrel might dig them up to munch on. I’ve had this happen to me before when planting them and almost made me want to declare a small war on my local squirrels and bunnies at first!

In de Claremont’s book, he gives a recipe for a Love Sachet that definitely looks like it would be very fragrant because some of the ingredients include orris root, Lavender, sandalwood, musk and a few others.

I then came across quanga bags at first through some of the coven lore passed down in which a good luck personal quanga might be called for in certain circumstances. Though, from what I understand though, the term quanga may be a more common phrase amongst the practitioners of a form of witchcraft called Obeah of the Caribbean.

The practice of the Obeah is a combination of European witchcraft mixed with local customs and practices found in its Caribbean homeland such as Jamaica and the surrounding islands.

The European influence in Obeah heavily comes from the old grimoires imported from the old de Laurence company of Chicago – particularly one of our favorite grimoires of sorcery known as The Sixth & Seventh Books of Moses. Another book that heavily influenced Obeah was also a personal favorite grimoire of Sybil Leek’s and has influenced us in the Wolfa Coven greatly called The Great Book of Magical Art.

Gris-Gris bags and mojo bags seem to be common names for Charm Bags found in American Hoodoo practice and little packets wrapped in brown paper bag called tobies seem to be a common name found in American Rootwork practice.

Medicine Bags are also well known to be used by Medicine men and women among various Native American religions. This subject is an interest among some members of the coven since our coven’s High Priestess is part Blackfeet Indian.

One other type of bag that seems to be a modern invention is also called Crane Bags and is used by some practitioners of certain Druid traditions that seems that it could take on a Charm bag qualities….

Another old book from the 1940s also used and recommend in our coven is The Magic of Herbs (2) by Henri Gamache. This book contains a number of ingredients and descriptions about herbs that could be used as is, or in Charm Bags if you wish.

As I said, Elhoim Leafar’s New Book got me thinking about all these things again and their use. I used to make a number of these Charm Bags many years ago and haven’t done so in such a long while – so I was inspired that I should maybe think once again about this subject. I was intrigued by what Leafar had to say starting with the introduction in how he found a lost red bag and took it to his mother to see what she had to say about it and how he received a small leather Charm bag at fourteen and told not never to open it. From these very quick first stories, I knew that Elhoim would have quite a lot to say.

Now just today, I received word that an apprentice witch learning witchcraft from our coven’s Vestal Virgin was in a car accident last night. Our coven’s Vestal Virgin let us know immediately so that we could go to work to aid in healing.

Fortunately, the witch was not seriously hurt but she does have some injuries. She had to swerve to miss being hit by another vehicle and is a sweet girl, so our thoughts, prayers and concentration of healing is being focused on her right now.

My first thought was – why not make my own Charm bag in order to focus the healing with since the idea of Charm Bags were heavily on mind because of currently reading Leafar’s book…. so taking what he had to say in his book, along with my own tradition’s knowledge, I decided to put together a Charm bag that I will share with you.

Now if I had a bit more time to plan and react, I probably could have done a better job selecting ingredients, but had to do this quickly. Fortunately, if you are new to this or need inspiration, Leafar’s book gives 100 magical formulas and recipes that you can pull from and provides instruction for what certain magical ingredients mean.

Here are the items I chose for the Charm Bag:

1. Astral Candle – I chose the color red to represent the witch the bag was made for since she is an Aries. The use of Astral candles, anointed with the proper astral oil is part of our tradition’s practice.

2. Healing Candle – I magnetized a healing candle anointed with Healing Oil for the spell.

3. Solar Talisman – I coated a piece of paper in a fluid condenser to concentrate my thoughts and once it dried and was ready, I inscribed a solar talisman for the purposes of healing and good health. Leafar talks about the use of talismans in his book as well, and Talismanic Magics is used in our coven extensively. One of my witchcraft teachers, Tarostar, says in his book The Witches’ Spellcraft (5) that; “A seal or Talisman is basically a Symbol, not a power in itself, but only insofar that it acts as a condenser of energy which represents or comes from the spiritual Force behind all Matter.

4. A Green Charm Bag & Quartz Crystal – both were given to me as gifts by a friend who is a Luccumi Priest and initiated Witch. Leafar gives a good description in his book (4) on the meaning of quartz crystal and other crystals if you wish to use crystals in Charm Bags.

5. Sandalwood – some sandalwood powder that was given to me by the witch that this Charm bag for healing is being made for and was brought back by her from her trip last year in India. Leafar says in his book (4) that Sandalwood is great for protection, love and as a purification Incense.

6. High John the Conqueror Root – I included this so that she will have some strength and power while she healed up.

7. Wheel of Fortune Powder – this was given to me as a gift from a good friend of mine, Silver RavenWolf, and is used as a powder for all forms of good fortune.

8. Healing Incense – this is a traditional formula part of the Horsa Tradition that I also sprinkled in the Charm bag.

9. Mercurial Incense – Incense of mercury burned on the coals to carry my wishing prayers to the witch in need of healing.

10. Broomstick Charm – given to me by an initiated witch friend from Arizona. I tied this on the outside of the bag. I saw that Leafar sometimes ties little charms on the outside of his Charm bags and thought this may be a nice touch.

11. Shoestring – I tied the Charm bag up with an old shoestring to add a bit of a personal touch of energy to the witch needed healing. I sometimes save things like old shoestrings to use in knot magic for things.

I then proceeded to cast the spell and construct the Charm bag. During that time, I concentrated on seeing her well again and will continue to for the appropriate time period. When the spell is completed, I will burry the Charm Bag in thanksgiving.

Overall, Leafar’s book is instructive and well worth the read. The only unfortunate thing is that I discovered his book in the middle of winter. I am looking forward to the coming of Spring and Summer in order to collect more items out in the garden that can be used for the purposes of Charm Bags.

In other news….

Wolfa Coven’s magic circle......

I hope that you all had a wonderful Yule/Winter Solstice. The Wolfa Coven here celebrated with a great deal of joy and merriment. We look forward to seeing you all in the new year. Happy 2018 everyone!

The altar at Wolfa Coven’s Winter Solstice Sabbat

Blessed Be!

Bibliography & Works Cited:

1. de Claremont, Lewis; Legends of Incense, Herb & Oil Magic. Print.

2. Gamache, Henri; The Magic of Herbs. Print.

3. Leek, Sybil; Cast Your Own Spell. Print

4. Leafar, Elhoim; The Magical Art of Crafting Charm Bags. Print.

5. Tarostar; The Witches’ Spellcraft. Print

… a coven of British Traditional Witches practicing in the Horsa Tradition