Love to Our Ancestors on Samhain: The Re-Awakeners

Samhain is a time to honor our ancestors.

Time to lay out a feast and invite them to dine, to share their presence with us while the veil is thin.

So, in respect for those who came before, I have made a small Ancestral Gallery of Witches. Give them a smile, tip your hat, light a candle and say thank you for blazing the trail and holding open the gates of Elfhame.  It took a lot of courage, in those old days, to walk between the worlds.

My original plan was to give space to thirteen of our forebears in one blog post, but i realized, not everyone would know them, so I shall make a series of posts with three in each — a good magical number. It is amazing to discover these great teachers and mentors all over again and to remember how they kept magic alive for all of us, sometimes at great personal risk.

We come closer to our time with the Grand Dame of the Witches and the Grandfather of modern Wicca. The last is an inspired poet of the kind Robert Graves spoke of in his pivotal classic The White Goddess. Poets have been and still are some if the most potent interpreters of the witchcraft stream…

They were all born at Midsummer. The uncanny patterns continue…

All Hallow E’en — The Wild Ride

In the hinder end of harvest, on All Hallow E’en,

When the Good Neighbors do ride, if I rede right,

Some buckled on a bane-wand, and some on a bean,

Aye trottand in troops from the twilight;

Some saddled on a she-ape, all graithed into green,

Some hobland on a hemp stalk, hovand to the height,

The King of Pharie and his court, with the Elf-queen,

With many elfish incubus was ridand that night.

Montgomerie (1515)

Margaret Murray:

Born: July 13, 1863/ Entered Faery: Nov. 13, 1963

Margaret Murray, author of The Witch Cult in Western Europe and The God of the Witches, was an Egyptologist who seems to have become obsessed with the idea of the Sacrificed King as described by James Frazer in The Golden Bough. Her search for evidence for this practice took her all the way back to the Stone Age where cave paintings of dancers masked as stags seemed to justify her thesis that there had once been an Old Religion in Europe, based on fertility rituals, in which dancers dressed as animals, particularly stags, and in which the Rite of the Sacrificed King was practiced to insure the production of crops.

Though her ideas have been proven groundless, her wonderful imaginative re-creation of an Old Religion in harmony with the nature, is frequently cited as the great inspiration behind modern Wicca as many were determined to bring back an ancient and extinct way of life.

Here she reveals what I feel is a true connection:

From The God of the Witches

Descriptions of fairies given by eye witnesses can be found in many accounts of the Middle Ages and slightly later. The sixteenth century was prolific in such accounts. John Walsh, the witch of Netherberry in Dorset, consulted fairies between the hours of twelve and one at noon and at midnight, and always went among the “hills” for the purpose. Besssie Dunlop in Ayrshire saw eight woman and four men, “the men clad in gentleman’s clothing, and the women had all plaids round them and were very seemly-like to see”; she was informed that these were “from the Court of Elfame”; she had previously received a visit from the Queen of Elfhame though without knowing at the time who her visitor was; she described the Queen as “a stout woman who came in to her and sat down on the form beside her and asked a drink at her and she gave it.” Alesoun Peirsoun, in Fifeshire, was ” convict for haunting and repairing with the good neighbors and the Queen of Elphane, and she had many good friends at that court which were of her own blood, who had good acquaintance with the Queen of Elphane.’  In Leith, Christina Livingstone affirmed “that her daughter was taken away with the Fairy folk, and that all the occult knowledge she had was by her daughter who met with the fairy.” Aberdeen was full of people who were well acquainted with fairies….”

The God of the Witches contains many evocative descriptions of these small, dark people of Bronze Age Britain who still walked around in the 17th century. When I first read this book back in 1979, I was totally smitten by it too.

Hail to Margaret Murray for planting the seeds!

Gerald Brousseau Gardener:

Born: June 13, 1884/ Entered Faery: Feb. 12, 1964

Origins of Wicca:

Gerald Gardner launched Wicca, the first religion based on the Old Religion of fertility and witchcraft described by Margaret Murray,  shortly after the end of World War II. He went public with his creation following the repeal of England’s Witchcraft Laws in 1951.  Gardnerian Wicca is a path of initiation, in which one’ s magical progress is marked by the attainment of degrees. Much of their information is secret and bound by oaths, which means it can never be shared with those outside the coven.

Gardnerian Witches identify  with their lineage, which is always traced back to Gardner himself and those he initiated.

The Book of Shadows:

One of Gerald Gardner’s most compelling magical creations was the  Book of Shadows. In reading about the original Book he made, it is clear the man was utterly inspired, for he tried to craft it like a Medieval Illuminated manuscript, filled with paintings and calligraphy — a very magical item like an ancient tome found in some  Medieval ruin charged with sorcery. Within a Gardnerian group, each member copies the coven’s  Book of Shadows and then adds to it with their own information.

His imagination was influenced by Charles Leland, Aleister Crowley, SJ MacGregor Mathers, and the books of Margaret Murray whose Old Religion he intended to re-create. I think he was also affected by the tribal rituals he must have seen when he worked in Malaysia as a civil servant, and a heavy dose of Arthurian Legend.

Gardnerian Wicca in the Public Eye:

Gardner was an educated folklorist and occultist, and claimed to have been initiated as a young man into a coven of New Forest witches by a woman named Dorothy Clutterbuck. When England repealed the last of its witchcraft laws  Gardner went public with his coven, much to the consternation of many other witches in England. His active courting of publicity led to a rift between him and Doreen Valiente, who had been one of his High Priestesses. Gardner formed a series of covens throughout England prior to his death in 1964.

Being initiated into the witch cult does not give a witch supernatural powers as I reckon them, but instructions are given, in rather veiled terms, in processes which develop various clairvoyant and other powers, in those who naturally possess them slightly. Some of these powers are akin to magnetism, mesmerism and suggestion, and depend on the possibility of forming a sort of human battery, as it were, of combined human wills working together to influence persons or events at a distance. they have instructions
on how to do this by practice…

Witchcraft Today — with introduction by Margaret Murray

Kathleen Raine

Born: June 14, 1900/ Entered Faery: July 6, 2003

Is this a lament for the loss of the Faeries?

The Wilderness

I came too late to the hills: they were swept bare
Winters before I was born of song and story,
Of spell or speech with power of oracle or invocation,

The great ash long dead by a roofless house, its branches rotten,
The voice of the crows an inarticulate cry,
And from the wells and springs the holy water ebbed away.

A child I ran in the wind on a withered moor
Crying out after those great presences who were not there,
Long lost in the forgetfulness of the forgotten.

Only the archaic forms themselves could tell!
In sacred speech of hoodie on gray stone, or hawk in air,
Of Eden where the lonely rowan bends over the dark pool.

Yet I have glimpsed the bright mountain behind the mountain,
Knowledge under the leaves, tasted the bitter berries red,
Drunk water cold and clear from an inexhaustible hidden fountain.

Kathleen Raine

I though to include the British poet Katheleen Raine not only because of her beautiful poetry, but because of her sensibilty. She seems to express a natural, even unconscious inclination towards witchcraft.

She is influenced by Yeats, himself a great forefather of magic and the mysteries –  which would alone would count her among our ancestors –  but she has also had a great attachment to the land. I think I may not be alone in sharing this quality with her.

Kathleen  was an independent scholar writing on William Blake and W. B. Yeats.
Known for her interest in various forms of spirituality, most prominently Platonism and Neoplatonism, she was a founder member of the Temenos Academy.

The story of her life is told in a three-volume autobiography that is notable for the author’s attempts to impose a mythical  structure on her memories, thus relating her own life to a larger pattern. Creating meaning out of life by the use of mythology and poetic inspiration is a very witchy thing to do.

Post Footer automatically generated by Add Post Footer Plugin for wordpress.

London: How I Encountered the Spirits of the Land

The Faery Queen and the Horned God

In March 1998, I went to live in London, England. I had thought I would stay there for 18 months while I researched my  Grail Bearers’ Tarot, but the Spirits of the Land had other plans for me. I have since come to believe they called me to the British Isles because of certain Magical links I had made, and because of my contacts with the Celtic Faery who are the true Grail Bearers.

As a Celtic Faery Initiate, I received powerful visionary visitations by the Tuatha de Danaan, or the Irish Faery. This began just after Samhain in 1996 a few weeks after a workshop I took with R.J.Stewart. The Tuatha de Danaan not only came to my house and opned portals into the Otherworld for me to pass through, they taught me many secrets of the Underworld Faery and their connection to the Holy Grail and the Arthurian Mythos. I was compelled to go the U.K. to wander through the lands of Arthur and Merlin to ground the visions into my soul and body — for when we embark on the Initiate’s,  journey our blood changes, our ancestors wake up in our blood.
My King Arthur Tour to the U.K. took place in a beautiful March of 1997. During the month I was there,  I roamed through England, Wales, Cornwall and Ireland. The last thing I did before I came home, was an eight hour overnight coach trip to Edinburgh to see Rosslyn Chapel, reputed to be the final sanctuary of the Holy Grail.

I had many powerful experiences on this Quest of mine that will be shared in future posts.

Mystical Encounters with the Spirits of the Land

Having grown up in the woods in Massachusetts and maintaining my bond with wild nature throughout my life, I have always had a strong sense of how different places have their own spirit, and spirits who are particular to that place. The liminal twilight atmosphere of the Massachusetts woods, the low rolling hillls, swamps, and  changing light, the striking cycles of seasonal transformation, suit beings very akin to traditional fairies, the types you find in Grimm, and in the Romantic descriptions of Yeats or Fiona Macleod; seasonal spirits of snow, ice and  flaming and then falling leaves, silence, and subtlety. There are also witchy spirits, for  the Black Man of the Forest, ruler of the witches lives there. There is the Salem Witch current, ghosts, and Iroquoise False Faces and Manitous.

Some of these seem to have been brought from England during Colonial Times. There are records of Scottish Faery Seers coming to these shores in during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I who brought their spiritual contacts with them, or drew them here over the water after seven years of separation.

Mexico has spirits of another sort: desert beings, spirits that rattle in the night, wind ghosts, an earth that vibrates with living currents of serpent power that you can feel as you walk over it. The animals behave in mysterious ways. Coyote appears on the horizon and in the blink of an eye is gone; the sea tortoise comes ashore under a moonless sky, and vanishes under the waves of the sea as if she never been. The sun charges the Earth so that, even in daylight, the spirit world is palpable.

In Ireland, I took a bus  ride over the Burren. As lead singer in a Celtic band, Castlerigg, in the 1990′s, I had heard form Irish players that many tunes had been given  to the bards by the Faery. Maybe it was imagination, but as my contacts with the Underworld Faery, especially of Ireland had taught me, imagination is the key to the Kingdom. But I heard music, the same as that of an Irish tune, coming up from under the Earth. Had I been a proper musician, I could have written it down.

As the Queen slays the King in the Upper World, so he rules in the Underworld.

Tarot of the Grail Bearers

I wasn’t in London long before the God and Goddess of the British Isles made themselves known to me. I was living near to Hampstead Heath, formerly the stag hunting forest of the Royal families of Britain. I had arrived in that neighborhood in late April of 1998, finding a cheap bedsitting room with a large bay window that gave me plenty of light to paint by.

I was working on a Tarot Deck, Tarot of the Grail Bearers. Each image was designed after intense 3-dimensional visions given to me, in an ordered fashion, by the Tuathaa de Danaan. It was clear they wanted this Tarot deck to be painted, and to be painted by me despite my lack of skill. The project took over my life for four and half years during which teaching after teaching was given to me along with the images for the cards.

Perhaps the Tuatha deDannaan chose me because I had been reading and teaching for most of my life. The Tarot lived in me. I have been told that my images have great spiritual intensity. I think this is because, as I painted each card, I was passing back and forth a doorway of its symbols the entire time. This deck is charged with Faery magic.

To see the full Tarot of the Grail Bearers, please visit my website at http://www.whiteswan-tarot.com/ and look through the Gallery. It used to be called Tarot of the Holy Grail until I realized it is not about the Grail. but about those who guard and keep it in the Otherworld.

50 The Drive

I had no idea the house was haunted. Not only haunted — but also on the Spirit Line of the Wild Hunt!

See my post  How to Know if Your House is Haunted for another angle on this tale of woe.

Initiation of the Horned God

This etching looks like Old London, doesn’t it? My bedsitting room was in a house down below there, on the path the Wild Hunt has taken through North London, over the Heath, from antiquity.

It began with nightmares.

Not long after Samhain, 1998, I was woken at 3AM by the presence of a shadowy Stag/Man standing near my bed. He was looking down at me with pale, fiery eyes. I had been visited by such a spirit as a child in Massachusetts, ( See my post: The Horned Ones)  but never had he displayed to me such awesome power, never had he focused his entire being on me. Alarmed, I sat up, but the vision did not go away. I was experiencing the same level of clairvoyance that brought the visions of the Faery and Holy Grail. But, where the Grail Bearers were gentle, lofty, sometimes tricky, this being was dangerous.

The Stag/Man was not endowed with a human conscience, he did not let feelings or emotions concern him. He embodied raw, untamed, male sexual power. There were nor reasons, no inhibitions, no consideration for me. He intended to take me, to possess me as if I was the same as he — a wild animal from the forest. I wasn’t about to let him.
Since I was well versed in magical protection, and because I thought this was an illusion brought by some kind of psychic attack, I got to work. On the first night, I performed a  Rite of Banishing, sealed my space and, finally, at 6AM, went back to sleep.
I thought I had succeed. It was peaceful for two nights. Then, the third night, at 3AM, the Horned One was back again, and much more insistent and violent. This  time, the Stag/Man was also accompanied by a wolf. The wolf prowled around the edges of my protective circle. I was so grateful my Rite had been strong enough that he couldn’t get in! The wolf was beautiful, with a shimmering silver coat of thick fur. He howled and stared while
the Stag/Man commenced to try to attack me.

I chanted all the spells of protection I knew, and refused to go to sleep and surrender control of my being.


To cut a very long ordeal short, over the course of six weeks, I was stampeded by Wild Riders that raged through the bed room from the windows through the wall. Vines grew up from under my bed, crawled up from the foot of the bed, wound around me, bound me in tendrils and stems as thick as your arm so that I could not move. Under the blankets, great phallic stems rushed  towards me like special effects in a horror film.
Spirits of darkness circled around the room, uttering strange piercing cries like night birds hunting, wolves prowled, and owls fluttered across my dreaming eyes. A strange man entered my dream/ visions,  playing crazy clown,  Ringmaster, or walking on stilts, trying to get into my brain.

There was no place to go! For me the invasion of my very inner space, always my last ditch sanctuary,  was just not acceptable. The Stag/Man came every night at 3AM to get into bed with me, holding me down while I fought. I refused to go to sleep until 6AM when the visions stopped with the dawn.

It is unfortunate that I did not understand what was going on, for in my desperation to ward off the nightmare, I began to throw psychic fireballs, and to attack these beings, devastating my inner world. This was because I was afraid that if I surrendered, I would be possessed. My training in kundalini Yoga had taught me to send spirits away and purify myself so that the serpent could rise without triggering karma. (snark) Well…

I am sure for initiated Wiccans this attitude is incomprehensible, but I was not, and am not, an initiated Wiccan. I was born with the Witchblood, so much of what goes on between myself and the Otherworld is unexplained. My teachers have been lax in this area also. There seems to be a conflict of interest.

If you wonder why I refused to surrender to my mystic, nocturnal visitor, it was also  because of the raw power, strength, and violence of the God. Imagine being chased through the forest by a horney wild elk! How can you surrender to that?

Eventually, near Christmas, I was so exhausted that I just stopped fighting.  As I slept, exhausted and unable to care, I felt the Stag/Man enter me. I was instantly consumed in a fire that burned from head to foot. I was wrapped in flames. This sensation lasted for three days — even in during my daily activities. I burned, and burned, and burned…It was highly charged erotic energy. Soaring fire and burning eyes. As a student of Alchemy, I knew I was in the furnace.
I made a decision to stay away from magic after that. It was the wrong thing to do because the magical people were the very ones who had an explanation of what I went through…


It comes to mind that such a fiery Initiation seems to mirror the fate of witches burned in Elizabethan times, and later under King James. How passing strange it all is…

We hunt him and then he hunts us. The God of Death and Rebirth.

I had spent so many years connecting with the bright side of Faery. Little did I know that I would be forced into the dark, that my pursuit of the White Hart into the Forest of Brociliande would carry meh into the abyss as the God took on his cthonic, or Underworld, form.

For seven years I felt I had been a spiritual victim. Afraid of psychic attack, I  avoided the magical practices that had once been second nature to me. I stayed away from like-minded others: magicians, witches, magical people. It was lonely trying to fit in with mundanes and New Agers, but at least I was safe…I thought.

Unable to bear the isolation any longer, I found my way to Treadwells Bookshop in Covent Garden. There I found a thriving and brilliant community of occultists and pagans. With much trepidation, because I was afraid of being thought mad, I approached the owner, Christina, and asked her if she would explain something to me.
Over tea and cookies, I gave her my horrific story. Despite my trauma, I knew my experience was significant. I wanted to know what it meant, what was it for, and why did I have to go through it?
What she told me was actually quite beautiful. She gave me an illustration of a circle patterned after a labyrinth. At the bottom of the circle, a powerful stag stood in a dark forest. At the top of the circle was a little cottage with smoke coming out of the chimney.

The Horned God in the Forest

Christian explained that the bottom, the dark forest where I had been, represented death; that as we hunt the Horned God, so he hunts us, and takes us. At the top  of the circle, where the sunlight shines upon the cottage, is our reward when we pass through our ordeal successfully: safety and coziness.


Of course this idea of the ‘hunt’ is not a literally about killing for food or sport. One chases the white stag into the forest of the deep self, the unconscious, the soul, if you will. The goal is to find a transcendent experience, perhaps to gain healing, or powers, or a gift from the Otherworld. But in entering the uncharted, moonlit labyrinth of the soul, one must encounter the dark forces that dwell there, the repressed things, the caged animals within, the history of old hurts, rages, and hates. To avoid this experience is impossible once one has set foot on the Path, and dark experiences are necessary if one is to gain spiritual maturity, true depth, and wisdom. Without these qualities, one is not fit to take one’s place as a teacher of the Mysteries. I had been a teacher before, and a healer. But now, my work is made richer, and more potent, for my having passed through the Abyss.
Christina also told me that Hampstead Heath, near where I lived, had been a Royal stag hunting forest since Norman times. So it was no surprise that the Horned God might follow an ancient trackway through the haunted house I lived in.
One of the great hunting monarchs of all time was the Faery Queen, Elizabeth Tudor. So it was no wonder that the two came to me hand in hand, symbolizing the inner marriage of the polarities of the Land
.

Post Footer automatically generated by Add Post Footer Plugin for wordpress.

Intimations of Ancestry

In keeping with my exploration of Witches Familiars and Horned Gods, I feel this old poem of mine expresses the psychic power of their presence.

Song of the Gundestrup Cauldron


***************************************************************************************************************

Silver Cernnunos sits in splendor
Crowned with branches of oak and hart,
Whispering a lie of immortality.
Wolf and deer gaze in wonder.


She turns the moon in her hands,
spins the bowl of blood in a silver spiral.


Silver Cernnunos looms darkly above,
Antlers stretching against the white north.
He is golden as mistletoe
Captured in oak.
He floats, a brown leaf
On silver waters.

She turns the moon in her hands
Spins the bowl of blood in a silver spiral.

A strong golden necklace
Protects the dead
On a path that is bordered
With black, waling mothers.
The Queen of Crones
Cradles the bones.
They cling
‘Til a white tree
Grows in a well.

She turns the moon in her  hands
Spins the bowl of blood in a silver spiral

Backwards she walks
Down a stairway of mirrors,
A nautilus spiraling,
A maze of ancestors…
She waits in an orchard
With a sickle of silver.

She turns the moon in her hands
Spins the bowl of blood on a silver spiral

She turns the moon in her hands
Spins the bowl of blood in a silver spiral

She turns the moon in her hands…

For regular updates form this blog, please subscribe to my RSS Feed or my email list.

Post Footer automatically generated by Add Post Footer Plugin for wordpress.

Legacy of the Witchblood


I died when I was born. Reluctant to enter the world that my soul knew was the next phase of my journey, I attempted to flee the womb. I tried to leave for a second time and was sent forcibly back to be born under a dark, winter moon.
Since then, my life has been one long series of deaths, and rebirths, and forced removals . I have been thrust into changes I would not have volunteered for if not for the heavy influences of unseen forces involved with my soul. At times I have complained that it was more than I could bear, the suffering was too great, my emotional tides too strong, my frame too weak to contain them. At others the pristine light of understanding brought perspective, often helped by the experiences of others who, in prior lives, elected to complete the Great Work.

In the depths of winter I was born under a witch’s moon.
Capricorn, sign of the Horned God, was crossed by Neptune, bringer of poetry and visions. Aquarius, the Grail Bearer, dispenser of dreams and wishes, barely escaped from this realm of shadows, its one solar eye looking back into darkness so old even the earth has forgotten it.
“He stands at the gate by which we must return with his tall antlers, and his cloven hoof…”
“Moon in Capricorn just behind the sun in Aquarius in the tenth house — career? Practical occultism.”
The astrologer was so certain. But what did it mean? At the age of twenty-five, I had no idea that I was practicing magic. I thought it was art, dance…yet my own dances were always patterned on myths and rituals: north, east, south, and west, the center, the circle. Sword, vessel, wand, and mirror. Circe. Hecata. Bleodewedd. Salome. The Lady and the Unicorn.
“She brings a dark force to her dancing. She emerges from it carrying a light…”
So said a perceptive, poet friend in my hearing.
“Do I do that?”
“Of course.”
He had always known. He wrote a poem about me called “To a Sleeping Astrologer” when I knew nothing about astrology.
“What is the dark?”
“I think it’s sexual.”
“Of course…but it’s old. The dark is anything that is hidden.”
“Why are things hidden?’
“Maybe because they are not meant to be seen.”
“Mysteries.”
“Yes. The ancient mysteries…Orpheus, Dionysis. Those are my favorite ones.”
“The Elusinian mysteries…”
“And some have reduced it to mushrooms…”

I am trying to describe the nature, the experience, of the witch blood. And how you can have it and not know what it is for a long time… It sets you apart. At the age of twelve my mind and body were flooded with visions and telepathic communications with the trees and birds, the sky, the hills…It got so intense that I would stand among my friends and forget I was with them. After a while, they got sick of me and I was shut out of their circle. Nothing could be more painful, and yet when the call floated over the low hills, I heard it, and hearing it, was alone.
“We are here…You see us, don’t you?”
“Yes.”
The Earth is our mother, the beginning of life, and the end of life. Before the
dissolution of the body, they come and ferry our souls into a parallel world, a spirit world, where we live until the Mother ushers us back to mortal life again. I always knew this. It has not been easy to know such things in our modern times, but since I almost died at birth, moving between the worlds is my second nature and my proof.

Within is deep stillness, is silence, a winter lake surrounded with bare trees whose branches trace letters across the sky. The high black rock sings under the stars. The water has strange patterns in it…The holly drips berries like blood…Every step over the ground is holy. It is not easy to know this beauty, this love, this creation, when it is being destroyed minute by minute for money. When the paths to rebirth are being closed to us forever. When the Wasteland arises again out of ignorance and arrogance and greed.

Just as in the old Romances, the Grail appears and is withdrawn again when we have proved powerless to choose the good.



Post Footer automatically generated by Add Post Footer Plugin for wordpress.