The Magic of Mirrors: The Vampire’s Mirror

I haven’t posted on here for a long time and would have a very long story to tell about that—in fact a whole slew of stories since stories are what have keeping me away! I started this blog as an apprenticeship, to hone my writing skills for fiction. That’s why you will find a first drafts on here and on Gothic Faery Tales, my other blog, amongst the regular blog posts. I also saw this as a place to explore my interests in magic, folklore and history — themes that also deeply inform my fiction. I want to come back to this blog and could think of no batter start than to share the research behind one of my top books.

The Vampire’s Mirror was #1 in Horror and #2 in Gothic Romance on Kindle and got several excellent reviews. But here, on the Winterspells blog, I want to talk about, not the story, but the magic of mirrors.

If you want to check this novella out, go here: http://amzn.to/OE6mmT

The Ancient Dread of Mirrors…

Blame Alice Through the Looking Glass, or perhaps Snow White, but I have, since childhood, been aware of the uncanny nature of mirrors. The mirror sees things in reverse, it may reflect what we cannot see because it is behind us, or above us, or at an odd angle. It may show us the hidden side as when we hold one mirror to our face to look into another mirror at our back. The mirror suggests hidden worlds on the other side of the glass. Mirrors can be used for spying and magician’s tricks, bending our perception of reality.

“Jack in Glass”! How could he not be a Jack being all leftwards and backwards sinsiter? And how could a doppleganger be safe?

Have you ever stared at your refection in a mirror and seen yourself morph into creatures and animals and elves? Transformations abound in the mirror.

Before glass was and silver were combined by the Venetians into clear and wonderful speculums, our ancestors looked into the surface of a lake or a dish of water, a polished stone, or perhaps, as in this tale, a sheet of polished silver, to see what others saw, but they themselves could not see: their own images.

Yet all reflective thinsg were suspect…

Though metal was a superficial thing, all metals were attributed to Gods. The surface of a lake goes deep into another realm, also largely invisble to the human eye, that nevertheless yields up treasures and food. All of these qualities were mysterious and therefoe suspect in ancient times.

Mirror Magic

I love what Rosemary Ellen Guiley says about the ancient practice of mirror magic in her intriguing article here: http://www.visionaryliving.com/2008/09/17/working-with-mirrors-in-magic-and-psychic-development/

“The power of mirrors – or any reflective surface – to reveal what is hidden has been known since ancient times. Gazing upon shiny surfaces is one of the oldest forms of scrying, a method of divination practiced by the early Egyptians, Arabs, the Magi of Persia, Greeks and Romans. In ancient Greece, the witches of Thessaly reputedly wrote their oracles in human blood upon mirrors. The Thessalian witches are supposed to have taught Pythagoras how to divine by holding a magic mirror up to the moon. Romans who were skilled in mirror reading were called specularii.”

The Vampire’s Mirror

The Vampire’s Mirror plays with the idea that the vampire cannot be seen in the mirror. This is an interesting idea because it suggests that the Vampire has no body to reflect. He also casts no shadow. Yet he is not incorporeal to those he presy upon who not only see the vampire, but feel him and are powerfully effected by him.

Since the vampire is a predator, then the mirror must serve his predation. Therefore it must be, as in Alice Through the Looking Glass, a portal through which he passes into the victims workd and through which the victim may pass into his. The mirror can also be used as a means of enchantment.

In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the mirror is aligned with Vanity.

Sins of Vanity and Temptation

 

“Giselle wouldn’t call herself a thief, but like a magpie she was pulled toward bright objects: jewels and bangles, rings and beaded sashes, embroidered reticules and fans. The mere sight of a pair of earrings lying unattended on the dressing table would set her fingers fluttering to enclose them, secretly, in the palm of her hand, to be nonchalantly dropped in the pocket of her apron. Only cleaning up, she’d tell herself. My Lady shouldn’t leave valuable things lying around like that.”—Alyne de Winter The Vampire’s Mirror

Thieving creatures like magpies and crows love bright shiny objects. Something about objects that give off light associates them with the Devil. Perhaps because all the Devil’s works are but counterfiets of God’s Creation.

The Hero of this tale, Stefan, is unable to resist the lure of the vampire’s mirror. His beloved Analise grow enraptured with her own reflection in the glass, but also sees the vampire’s world on the other side. She sees him and he sees her….

 

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Four Quarters of the Moon

Four Quarters of the Moon

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Although my soul resonates with the old Night Religion, I am not Wiccan. That is nothing against Wicca, merely my own preference to stay free of group-minds. I have certainly learned a lot from Wiccan teachings over the years, those that have been available to the public through books and things. Back around 1980, I found many of the early witchcraft books very inspiring, such as The Spiral Dance, The White Goddess, The Sea Priestess, etc.  There was very good one long out of print called Moon, Moon. One of the primary figures that fascinated me was the Triple Moon Goddess.

One of her most evocative images was as a row of three identical mothers in peaked hoods carved in stone on some ancient Roman wall. These three mothers are primal. I later discovered the concept of the Triple Moon Goddess: Maiden, Mother and Crone. I don’t recall, or don’t remember, the origin of this idea, but it was everywhere. As a sky watcher since childhood and a moon lover, this symbolism just never felt right. Clearly, in my original, un-indoctrinated,  mind, the moon did not have three phases, but four.  Somehow, like the famous Durer etching of the “Three Witches”, the obvious four had been reduced to three and, despite the obvious presence of the fourth figure, this mistake continues to be made. ( see my post Four Witches, Three Graces, or Something Else). The old academic mind  has seemed to be entranced by the Three Graces, the Three Muses,  the Three Fates, the Norns, to a blinding degree. Why do they ignore the fourth? What are they afraid of?

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I rebelled against mainline Feminism, hanging on to my femininity at all costs. Not only did I enjoy embodying that quality, I knew the inherent, soulful power of it. I was actually frightened by the idea of giving that up to become to a kind of imitation and therefore lesser “man”, for that could only lead to drainage of the woman’s wild soul. In those days the alternate path was made available through “Women’s Studies”. Under that umbrella was the Women’s Spirituality Movement where, in the bookstores,  the ancient mythologies of the world could be found. There I found my elders, the Grandmothers who, if I sifted through the pop-ideological nonsense, I found keys to the deep knowing.

Clearly the moon has four phases: Waxing Crescent, Full Moon, Waning Crescent, and Dark Moon, wrongfully called the New Moon. The term New Moon more accurately describes the slim first crescent as the moon re-appears in the sky after three nights of darkness. This is Diana’s bow.  (The varying iconography of the Goddess Diana is worthy of another blog post). It seems the Dark Moon is being left out. Perhaps it is because it is the Black Moon of Death.

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Back in the 1980s “Women’s Mysteries” were so-called because no one ever talked about things like menstruation which is our distinct connection to the moon. Womanhood was equated to giving birth. We were meant to represent fertility only in the most active stages: either being the Maiden in preparation for conception of  children, the Mother, pregnant and nurturing, or the Grandmother, or Crone (another mis-applied term) taking care to guide the younger ones. These are beautiful concepts, but by leaving out the Dark Mother — the real Crone — the ancient Old One — does not protect us from the disturbing subject of death, rather it cuts us off from the natural cycle of Life, Death, and Re-birth. It severs us from our souls.

There may have been a hidden agenda as well in hiding knowledge of this fourth phase of the moon that has to do with the Dark Side of the Moon. There are two issues here.

1: Denial of the Dark Moon is denial of the Dark Predator in the psyche. By keeping our inner darkness unconscious, we remain children ( as Patriarchy wants us to be) Naive and easy prey to externalizations of the evil force. By recognizing and owning this wild creature within, we are empowered by it, able to fight and defend ourselves and those we love like mother bears. we also earn how stop pushing, to let go, to rest, to allow rejuvenation and rebirth, safe in the silence of the Dark Mother.

Esoterically the Moon has always been considered to be the gateway of souls falling from Heaven to the Sub-Lunar atmosphere to enter a quickened womb to be born again on earth. This purpose is that of the life-giving phase of Waxing to Full Moon that is the sign of the Fertile Mother.

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Spirits of the Dead by Kieron Rhys-Johnson

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2: There is an esoteric planet behind the moon, at the Dark Side. This is called the Eighth Sphere, portal to the realm of the dead.

This Eight Sphere is a tricky issue, for it is said that it is a realm of hungry ghosts, or demons. The Women’s Spirituality Movement of the 1980s slipped into the larger New Age Movement ( all these “movements” crikey!) so easily that almost became synonymous. (As a born clairvoyant, I was drawn into this “movement” against my will as I knew my abilities had nothing to do with any commercial/ political “movement” but were a natural condition of my soul. Clairvoyance is Seer-ship. It does not depend on spirits to see into the Unseen, but are symptoms of an awakened Inner Eye.) The job of the New Age was partly to seduce some people into becoming dependent upon spirits by joining the ranks of Channelers and Trance Mediums. ( I was warned against Mediumship very early on) These methods of “communicating with the dead” lead directly into contact with that Eighth Sphere, home to the the Shells  and what Qabbalists call the Qlippoth. These things want your soul.

I will not elaborate further on this, except to say that the two are Not the same thing. In the esoteric realm it is so important to get the symbolism straight because symbols are keys to the psychic core. They effect you in subtle ways which is one reason why so much of this stuff was, until very recent times, kept secret.

Secrecy cuts both ways, of course. My goal is enliven Soul.

Christian Influences on Our Perception of the Moon

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I just want to share a fragment of my forthcoming book, The Grail Keepers’ Tarot, to illustrate an important junction in how lunar, and therefore female and fertility symbolism may have come to be manipulated for propaganda purposes. It comes under my description of Trump number 18, The Moon, depicted in my tarot deck as The Three Maries of the Sea.

“The image of the Three Marys of the Sea may have its roots in the pagan Triune Goddess of the Moon, or the Three Fates—-Spinner, Weaver and Cutter of the cord. The moon and the sea are of course inseparable, for the tides are ruled by the phases of the Moon. The introduction of the dark-skinned servant, Sara the Egyptian, suggests the hidden presence of the fourth lunar phase, the dark moon. In the old legend, the Three Marys threw Sara overboard, but a raft took shape beneath her and she was saved. On a symbolic level, this cruel behavior is early evidence of the Christian tendency to fear the hidden side of things, things that only come out in the total darkness, and move at the edges of consciousness, banished deities like Sara, who are yet saved by the invisible ones. Many of the Black Madonnas of France and Spain are associated with the hidden Sara of the black moon.”

Sara is worshipped under ground, in a cave, a place reserved in the ancient world, for the dead.

This is not glorify death, or to encourage a Death Cult. Not by any means. Nihilism leads to all kinds of abuses and has to do with that Eighth Sphere. But to deny the existence of that fourth, Dark Moon, is to flee the very cycles of life that lead to our deepest natures, our courage and maturity. Denial of this dark makes perpetual children of us. The Ancient Mother is ultimately our teacher and protector.

Those who disagree with me are free to comment. This is a deep topic, prone to dogmas and worthy of debate.

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Witchblood


A little poem I found scrawled in the convolutions of my brain.

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Leaves by frahnkee

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Witchblood

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Does she love the half light,

the oblique mirror,

the sheen?

Are her fingers,

thrown against the white sky,

rune-like?

Is she always listening for

bells and

sighs,

rustling footsteps

on the leaves?

Does autumn move her,

fire and gloom,

a winter white lover

holding secrets

under the black soil?

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Within the hollow tree

she stands.

Knowledge trickling

sap-like

down the vision

is not apart

from nature

but is in all things

that carpet

the earth.

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Two Ravens Dream

Significant Dreams

Klimt

Life Cycles and Numerological Symbolism

Occasionally one has a wildly significant dream that may hold value for others. I had this one this morning, full of archetypal symbolism.

Numerology tells me that 2010 was a 9 year for me. The end of a cycle. Time to say “Goodbye” and make room for new things. Make sure to visualize exactly what I want, and how I plan to make it happen for 2011, my number 1 year.

My birthday came in late January.  I did not feel renewed. Rather I have plunged inwards. Been very quiet, had writer’s block where every sentence I wrote sounded like a clunker. I broke through that a bit, then this morning, I had this dream.

Dream — March 9, 2011

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I am in a school, a university. A young man has been in causing trouble. 2 incidents cause minor concern, but I can’t remember what they were. Then the man shoots another young man in the head, just above the ear. It is all over the news.

I go into the restaurant side of the school. It is darkish, like a night club but there is no music. I rush in to get some papers out of a desk. I find two wooden ravens—one 3 dimensional and the other flat and carved in the style of the Salish tribes. The papers are messily folded up. The top one has blood all over it. I ask the host at the desk how it feels to be there after such a terrible incident. He and others say it is terrible. A sense of foreboding fills the atmosphere, a threat of death.

I leave that restaurant with papers and the two ravens. I take them nervously into a large classroom that looks like the cafeteria at Worcester State College (where I went a long time ago), but rather than tables, the room if full of children’s school desks. I want to save the ravens but cannot carry them. I must keep the papers. To my right here are big windows that let in lots of white light. I find a desk beside the window, and decide it is mine. I lift the lid and put the ravens into the back of the desk, where the pens and pencils are usually kept.  They are very tactile, wood painted black, old and handmade. I am not sure how safe they are in the desk, for might not really be mine, but I don’t let it worry me too much.

I wake up with a sense that the cycle is finally complete. Several story problems ( my fiction and a screenplay I am re-writing ) are solved all at once. New ideas are being downloaded. I don’t know what else will come to life in the next few weeks but writing is bound to be great.

New Year begins with Aries indeed. Even the moon has been passing through Aries. Uranus, my Aquarius sun sign ruler, is in Aries. The first growth of life in Spring is at hand.

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Ron Victor LaRochelle

Alchemy

Since I discovered Alchemy via Carl Jung’s famous work in the late 1970s, I have described my life to myself in Alchemical terms. The raven fits perfectly with the end of a cycle, a 9, number of the Moon, and the Alchemical phase of Nigredo. I’ve been through this before, but this time, the ravens are inanimate, toys that I can put away in a  child’s desk. They are handmade, natural human creations, though for the Salish tribes, Raven is the Trickster God. What does it mean that the God of the Land on which I live, the Northwest, has been reduced to a piece of black painted wood? Perhaps it is a talisman, though even that is put away.

I’d like to think it means that I no longer have to fear God’s  (Saturn’s ) wrath. That the darkness is no longer a threat. The blood on the pages of the manuscript was spilled turning my personal pain onto art, just as the ravens have been made into art. The man shot in the head symbolizes the necessity to get out of one’s head where one is firmly placed by the university, or formal education. That the others in the dream are men is perhaps a symbol of the left-brain world, the intellect vs.  intuition and feeling.  The fear of losing that head-space is a fear of death. Perhaps.

The Alchemical phase after Nigredo is Albedo, symbolized by the white light at the window. This is the phase in which we confront the opposite sex within, and move towards the reconciliation of opposites. Perhaps that is what all the young men are about.

I hope all of this means I am free to think and create from a pure place. I hope it means new adventures. Its been so quiet the last year or so as I strive to complete my old projects. Such a long period of retreat has been unusual for me. I am ready to leave the nest again

Spring: Benjamin Scalvenzi

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Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees: Alder

Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees: Alder

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Witches Wheel

Alder, alder, tree of the Faerie King

Who rises from the Underworld waters in Spring;

Raven bedecked, and oracle crowned.

Cone, leaf, and blossom, new life shall abound.

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Fearn (farin)

There is powerful poetry in the succession of trees, for the death dream of Willow in February is dispersed by the return of the Alder in March to summon the greenwood awake.

Alder springs from the watery places that are the interface between the mortal world and Fearie. The Alder tree is called King of the Waters. His red inner bark, and purple buds display his royal status. He is  connected  to two other water loving trees. The Queen of the Waters, Willow, and the Lady of the Woods, Birch. White Alder looks very much like Birch, suggesting a sibling relationship; Birch stands at the threshold of Winter, as Alder guards the gateway to  Spring.

Anyone who has walked in a young wood will find the Alder as straight and densely packed as troop of warriors. In the Gaelic battle of the Trees, Alder was said to fight most fiercely. Small wonder the Celts made their  battle shields of Alder wood, for despite its softness, it was imbued with the essence of the brave Faerie King. Alder also represents the Wounded King. When he is cut, his wood turns  red as blood. Reflected in the waters, these wounds may appear to be  blood spilled forth as a sacrifice to earth, guaranteeing the resurrection of all  living things.

Alder is the only deciduous tree to have cones as seeds. As we know from the Greeks, the pine cone represents the pineal gland, seat of vision and communion with the Divine. Dionysis  carries a staff with a pine cone at the tip, emblem of masculine fertility. Alder cones grow in a spiral pattern, symbolizing the role of male of fertility in the cycle of death and rebirth.

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Bran the Blessed

The famous Irish warlord, Bran the Blessed takes the Alder as his special tree.  He is another aspect of the Faerie King, Lord of the Underworld who springs up to the surface world with the strengthening of the light.  Alder is called The Shining Tear of the Sun. This image suggests  the rising sun reflected in water, inspiring a vision of the golden oracular head of Bran coming up from the Underworld.  Ravens attend on Bran.  Raptors that thrive even in winter, ravens carry messages from the dark realms into the light. The sacred Head of Bran speaks true poetry: Death conquers all; there is no death.

Because of its associations with Bran, the Alder is sacred to poets and singers, which were synonymous in ancient times.  Mortally wounded in battle, Bran  prophesied the events that would follow his death. He then told his men to cut off his head and carry it with them. Like the alder wood, it never decayed. They carried Bran’s head to Harlech where is sang for seven years. They carried it to Gwales where it spoke prophecies. They brought it to London and buried it under the White Mount, site of the Tower of London, to protect England from invasion. If not for the hubris of King Arthur digging the head of Bran up, it would still be there. Yet the ravens remain to sound the alarm.

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Fertility

Alder has another aspect of the Between.  He bears female catkins. These attract caterpillars that spin cocoons and re-emerge as moths and butterflies. Darkness to light, death to rebirth once more. Butterflies attend the King  by day. Moths keep him company at night. Alder is the foundation of magic—-transformation of the world, and of the self are in his power.

So primal is the power of trees that Irish lore says the first man was and Alder and the First woman a Rowan.

Alder is fertile and generous.  Though soft, he has an oily bark making him resistant to water and fire.  Therefore pilings for lakeside houses and docks, boats and even wooden shoes have relied on the wood of the Alder to last. He also gives many colorful dyes. Red, purple, yellow, brown, and black. Dye production and spinning of cocoons make Alder sacred to the Weaving Goddess, who also attends upon the Wounded King in the Arthurian Legend. He feeds many creatures. Bees love his flowers, grouse eats leaves, buds and seeds, rabbits chew his bark.

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Alder Healing:

Alder bark is prepared for medicinal use by carefully scraping off the dead outer bark and using the green, living tissue underneath. Alder bark can be simmered in water to make a wash for very deep wounds, rashes, and burns. The leaves and bark are simmered into a bitter tea for tonsillitis and fever. He helps with diseases of damp, relieving joint pain and inflammation.

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Alder Working:

March is a time for making spiritual decisions. Prophecy and divination rites come in handy for this., assisting your intuitive processes and abilities. Alder flowers and twigs are used as charms  in Faerie magic. Whistles made out of Alder shoots call upon Air spirits. It’s an ideal wood for making a pipe or flute.

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Our hopes and dreams for the New Year can be manifested in the Alder time. Alder grows quickly, so focus on  things that might be stalled. Use this bounding new energy to resolve old disputes and more forward into the new.

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Magical Correspondences

Ogham Name: Fearn

Letter: F

Tree: Alder

Deities: Bran the Blessed, Faerie King, Astarte and Tammuz, Phoroneus inventor of fire

Bird: Raven

Use: Gateway to Faerie, Divination, Protection, Healing, Musicianship

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Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees: Willow

Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees: Willow

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David Lewis Baker

Witches Wheel

Willow, Saille, Willow,
Oh silver drenched tree!
Long leaves fall on water
Rippling in moonlight
Ladies who bend
On the threshold of February.

Saille ( Sahl-yeh)


Charles Krebs

Moonlight on willow is a mysterious sight, especially on the threshold between Winter and Spring when the bare trunks cast crooked shadows over the frosted grass like spirits coming through the mists of the Otherworld.  The voices of the Faeries can be heard in the rustling of the willow branches, breathing, into the ear of the poet, their songs.

The willow is a remarkably feminine tree. It thrives near rives and streams, lakes and ponds, it shimmers in the moonlight, and provides shelter under its umbrella of graceful branches. Uniquely beautiful and mysterious, the willow invites entry into another world within the compass of its branches. If you have ever been inside a large weeping willow then you know how instantly the outside world ceases to exist as silence and diffused light encompass you. It is this quality of the willow that makes it one of the first trees of Faery.

Pagans have always  associated the willow with the Triple Goddess of the Moon. Sacred to Hekate, Goddess of the Dark Moon, the willow stands as the gateway to the Realm of Shades or Death. The weeping of the willow mirrors the grief of those left behind, as was the Greek poet Orpheus who, armed with willow branches, entered Hades and returned, not alas with his beloved wife, Euridyce, but with the gift of poetry.

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Tree of Poetry

As the “witch’s tree” tree of poetry, transformation and healing, willow is connected with the Bright Brighid whose Day of Initiation is February 2, Candlemas, a Festival of Lights. In the Pagan mind, death is also an initiation, a transformation not to be feared any more than the peace found under the branches of the willow tree under the full moon when one feels transported to a strange and beautiful place.

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The willow tree reflected in the waters brings moon magic to earth, creating a numinous, visually confusing, liminal effect. This may be why it the tree of romantic love, for what can be more difficult to interpret than the varying faces of love in the throes of deep attachment? Valentine’s day is also in February, suggesting that Love is the fulfillment of the Light celebrated at Candlemas.

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In some traditions, willow is the thirteenth tree. This may fit it in at the leap year, the liminal 29 day of February, that was the modern concession to the natural rhythmic sequence of the lunar year.

Willow Working

Spell

Throw your shoe up high
into the branches of a willow tree;

If he branches catch and hold your shoe,
You soon will married be.

The Witch’s Tree

The magical properties of willow are as numerous as its medicines. Faery magics of enchantment, wishing, romance, and divination under the moon are enhanced by the presence of willow. Its powers are beneficial, protective, nurturing, inspirational, joyful, and peaceful. This throws a provocative light on its role as tree of mourning, for how can death be evil when couched among so many life giving powers? Rather, willow traditionally inspires courage, and helps one overcome the fear of death. Willow is flexible, fluid, resilient, and strong. It focuses intuition, induces trance states, attracts Faeries and other spirits. It eases transitions, especially into the unknown.

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Because of the many medicines dispensed by the willow, it was much sought after by Cunning people for healing purposes. As a feminine tree connected to the moon, willow bark provides pain relief for menstrual cramps and child bearing. The gemstone for willow is the blood-red carbuncle. This is another image that evokes women’s mysteries of bleeding and fertility. Burning willow lends energy to healing magic.

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Willow wands are excellent for moon magic, and its wood is good for making magical harps, accompaniment for for poets for ancient times.

Divination by Willow:

Willow increases psychic vision into the watery Otherworld Realms under the waves. Dreams, and premonitions are stirred by willow’s influence on the deep subconscious mind. Just being near a willow tree can induce trance states in which prophetic oracles can be mediated from Faery into our reality. Divination by smoke from a willow fire while passing a willow wand through it to disturb its shapings, is a powerful divination technique for those with the second sight. Scrying into water where willow is reflected on nights of the full moon, is venerable tradition.

Awakening of dormant powers and emotions, pay attention to dreams. Love is n the way. Positive transformation from one way of life to another, The need to be flexible an adaptable. Relief from painful situations. Encounters with Faerie, or  the deceased.

Magical Correspondences

Ogham name: Saille
Letter: Z
Tree: Willow
Deities: Brighid, Fand, Sinend
Bird: Hawk
Animal: Hare, Bull
Color: Haze
Use: Wands, Psychic Divination, Fertility, Pain Relief

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Have Joyful Winter Solstice! Celebrate and be Inspired!

Have Joyful Winter Solstice!

Let’s have a magical feast and invite everyone who desires to share in the spirit of love,  generosity, elegance, and creative imagination.

Cheers!

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Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees: Rowan

Rowan

After November 1st, we enter the darkest time of year. A bright branch of Rowan is like a torch in the night and at the heart of each flame-colored berry is the five-pointed star of protection. Little wonder a Rowan wands were used to ward off enchantments.

The Faery gateway of the Green and Burning Trees, suggests the  green and burning quality of Rowan.

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Linda6769 photostream

Witches Wheel

Rowan berry, rowan berry
Ends in a yellow star.
A wand of rowan above our beds
Is an anchor in dark December dreams…

Luis ( loush)

The lovely Rowan is the fire in the night. With its bright orange berries, it lights up the perpetual twilight of winter with a touch of brilliant warmth much like the hearth fires our ancestors gathered around as they hunkered down for long hours indoors.  For most of their waking hours, the fire and the candles were the only sources of light. Small wonder that a tree bearing the color of flames would be perceived as protective.

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There was a time when fire was so scarce that it was kept very safe and was never allowed to go out. Our very early ancestors did not know how to create fire; they knew it as a gift from the Gods. Fire was carried in lamps and delivered from lamp to lamp. Woe to the person who let the fire go out!

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In the Book of Balymote, “Luis is the delight of eye that is Luisu”, or the lambent color of flame. In modern Irish Luise indicates a red glare with added luster or sheen. As fire keeps off predatory animals and freezing cold, it also has the power to ward of demons, faeries, and ghosts. To that end, rowan is planted in graveyards to keep the dead from rising. The wood of the Rowan was used by the Druids on funeral pyres for it had power over death and rebirth.

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The association of Rowan with fire is one reason it is ascribed to Candlemas and the Goddess of the eternal flame, Brighid. The poetry of this may be why the Ogham was made to correspond to the Julian calender of a January 1st New Year. But the symbolism of the Rowan also suits the festival of Winter Solstice. The use of Rowan as a protective amulet toward off the darkness of December, to survive for the time when the light begins to return, is a strong point in favor of Rowan belonging to December.

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The magic of Rowan guards us against the forces of chaos and destruction, strongly linked in the minds of our ancestors with darkness and the creatures that prowl unseen and hungry at the doors and windows. Rowan promises rebirth with the increasing warmth and light that comes after the Winter Solstice.

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Rowan was said in ancient times to have been guarded by dragons.

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Rowan Tree and Red Thread,
Gar the Witches tyne their speed.

Rowan tree and red thread slow down wicked witches, for it has the power to bind to malevolent forces. Magic wands made of Rowan branches are excellent for this purpose. In celtic countries, spindles and spinning wheels were made of Rowan.
Rowan, also known as Mountain Ash, is one of the trees of the sacred Faery groves of oak, ash, and thorn.  Scottish Faeries are known to hold celebrations within stone circles protected by Rowan trees.

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It is so sacred to the Scots that the old law does not allow use of any part of the tree except for sacred purposes.
Another reason for the Rowan’s protective influence, and its magical nature, can by found by examining the berries themselves, for at the end of each one is a tiny five-pointed star, or pentagram.

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Rowan Working

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It is the deepest dark of winter. You sit close to the fire to stay warm. The fire sets you dreaming so that you see the flames part and desire to walk between them. In you minds eyes, they flames become two Rowan trees. Pass between the trees, bright with red berries, into the snowy landscape on the other side, bringing with you the fire of Luis. Let it illuminate your path.
A necklace of Rowan berries is the Red Thread that confers protection from evil spells.

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Divination by Rowan: You need protection and nourishing through this time. Creativity, vision art, poetry and storytelling are inspired as you slow down and focus inwards with the flame of passionate inspiration to guide you. Health and strength improve.
Magic can be done by placing Rowan twigs above the doors and windows for protection. Place Rowan twigs in the shape of a cross and bind with red thread to be carried as a protective amulet.

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Another name for Rowan is Witch Tree or Wicken Tree and can be used for divining precious metals in the way hazel is sued to find water. Rowan can be used to increase psychic powers, and is a fine ingredient in spells for healing, success, safety, and is used to make excellent magic wands.

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Magical Correspondences:

Ogham Name:
Letter: L
Tree: Rowan
Deities: Brighid
Birds: duck
Animals: unicorn, bear
Color: flame red
Uses: magical protection

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Babalon Diaries: # 17: Invocatory Theatre and the Babalon Project

Aline DeWinter: Invocatory Theatre and the Babalon Project

Interview by Alison Rockbrand

This is Part 17 to a series of posts about my adventures during 2005, leading up to the performance of Paul Green’s play Babalon. The story is full of cloak and dagger, initiatory strangeness, chaos, and hysteria. It shows what can happen on the Magical path if one is not careful…

Directed by occultist, Alison Rockbrand, Babalon was performed on December 16, 2005, at the John Gielgud Theatre at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts to a sold out audience of London’s finest occultists and magicians. If you want to listen to it, click Radio QBSaul: Archives: Babalon. I played Marjorie Cameron/Babalon. I am called Angela Murrow because I had to hide my identity.

by Air Adam

by Air Adam

As part of her on going academic research into esoteric acting and performance/theatre at the Rose Bruford College, Alison Rockbrand interviewed me about my creative process. She was  especially interested in my use of ritual to develop roles in acting and dance.  Most actors at one time or another, study Method Acting developed by Constantin Stanislavsky in the late 19th century. I recently learned that he made great use of esoteric methods in training actors how to embody their roles. I wonder how far he originally took them in terms of Otherworld contacts….

Alison Rockbrand:

Aline DeWinter is an American medium, tarot reader, witch, writer and performer whose work has crossed from the Seattle Shakespeare Company,to the dance performances of the Companions of Musavir, to working on esoteric theatre projects in London, England where she lived for nine years. She is the writer of a detailed and extensive blog on what she calls ‘the magical path’; included in this blog is an account of her experiences while working on the esoteric play by Paul Green, Babalon, of which I  myself was the director. I spoke to her on her experiences as an individual performer in the realms of esoteric theatre and dance.

Interview with Aline de Winter

AR: You describe yourself as a witch and as a performer, can you give me some idea as to how you interpret these terms and how they relate to each other?

AD: Well, I think I have always been what I would call a witch. When I first started working with the Seattle Shakespeare Company in the 1980′s I started to feel that there were deeper levels to Shakespeare that no one was really investigating. I tried to bring my magical awareness into my performances.

AR: What do you mean by ‘magical awareness’.

AD: At the time I was doing a lot of Kabbalistic magic, you know from the Jewish Kabbala. I was getting up at five in the morning to do these meditations which were based on that system, trying to increase my esoteric knowledge. But I was always a natural witch, I always just somehow knew how to do magic. It was like what they say about shamans, I was just called to the path I am on by the spirits themselves. I have heard the same sort of thing from Native Indian shamans with whom I have had a lot of experiences. Basically I knew how to tap into other dimensional reality and bring stuff through, though my body. I would move my mind through a door. But at the time of my work with Shakespeare and particularly with the part of Lady Macbeth, I was just trying to integrate my knowledge with what I felt were the deeper levels in that play.

AR: How did you accomplish this integration?

AD. One example is the scene where Lady Macbeth conjures of all of these dark spirits or demons in order to make herself stronger. In the performance, we thought of that scene as an actual magical ritual. We drew a circle, and conjured the directions, and treated the scene very much as you would in ceremonial magic. We thought of the scene as an actual magical ritual though we were quite careful not to fully conjure the dark energies that Lady Macbeth was conjuring, or at least I did not conjure them into myself as she was because that would have been too chaotic. But we still  treated it as though I were real, as though the spirits were being spoken to during the performance. We also banished them everyday after the rehearsals and performances; we were careful to cleanse to space magically after every performance.

lady-macbeth Ellen Terry as Lady MacBeth

AR: Can you tell me something about your preparation for the performance of that role?

AD. Well as I said I was doing all this Kabbala, and that helped me to get to some of those deeper levels. But the way I always prepare for such roles is through ritual and through the use of images. I would find the right image of the magical levels within the character I wanted to use during the scene and then I would take those images into my own body, or my own awareness. I finally found that it was easier to do this with dance because then I can just totally let go in performance and let the character or the spirit I am trying to work with completely take over, like a kind of shamanic possession.

AR: You said you also used ritual?

AD: Yes, when I practice at home I always begin the practice by drawing the circle and calling in to it the energies I need for the performance. Its a magical ritual that I repeat every time I rehearse because I am trying to do magic on the stage and it takes a lot of practice of that ritualistic kind to accomplish that. The ritual might vary, but its a ritual the same as in ceremonial magic where the circle is drawn before the spirits can enter. It was the same when I started working in dance.

AR: Can you elaborate about your work in dance?

AD: I started to work with the dance company, Companions of Musavir, performing sacred dances. I was initiated into the Sufi Order in Paris in 1982.  In those days when I was dancing an doing a lot of theatre my whole desire was to use theatre as a magical vehicle.  There were very few people, if any, who had the same idea as me- only Elizabeth Dickinson, the director of the Companions of Musavir - had this as the real reason behind the dance company. I was one of two dancers who got that. I felt I could do more of what I wanted with them. I started doing my own choreographies which sprang out of my desire to unite with a Goddess or God- as Circe, Melusine, Salome, Ariadne and various others.

circe

Circe by Waterhouse

AR: What was your process in preparing for that kind of role?

AD: When I was working on Circe, once the choreography was set, I would move my consciousness into what I have to call ‘the Circe current’. I would try to connect my consciousness with that of the Goddess, which feels more like a specific current of consciousness rather then the mind of a character. Its something from a different reality. Then I would often find new ways to move in the choreography and a lot of it would change based on my connection. I would do this over and over again, as a ritualistic, magical and spiritual practice as a preparation for performance.

AR: How was the performance different from the rehearsals?

AD: In the rehearsal phase I would just be contacting it myself, letting the Circe current show me the dance and letting in use me to find the right choreography. In performance, I would mediate on stage between the Goddess Circe and the audience. I would try to bring something magical through to the audience. However, you never know if its going to work. You can’t control the spirit. Its a willing co-operation. If it does not want to manifest in a certain performance then there is nothing you can do. You have to work with it and develop a relationship with it, so that is why there is so much ritual practice involved- it makes the connection stronger.

AR: How do you develop this connection?

AD. I always invoke, I develop in magical circles. I make a circle, I invoke the spirit and then I let it take over me but without letting go of my critical side so that I can work. It develops through the ritual practice, but in that practice I am making my self very open emotionally. I am trying to release my conscious mind and go into the subconscious, which opens you up emotionally, and then  you can connect to the spirit through a strong emotion. In magic we often use sygils and symbols to get in touch with the subconscious mind and I use those to connect the spirits as well. I use the heart chakra combined with the third eye, which then makes you telepathic with spirits that are good for you,that have a higher energy level. From the solar plexus into the lower chakra levels you get demons who feed off your sexual energies, which can be very debilitating.

AR: What is there to be gained from this kind of connection to a spirit?

AD: Every time I perform in this way and get into the body of a spirit, or mediate for a spirit to an audience, it alters me in ways I sometimes do not know about until much later. I have gotten many gifts from this kind of practice, mainly new abilities or new insights into myself or the world. These are magical gifts which are given from the spirit who has a different reality to me, and when I communicated with it on this level, something of the spirit always stays with me, forever. And it can alter reality as I know it as well. Things change, strange things happen, my life changes. It could be a dangerous practice and many people on the occult path go insane from conjuring demons. If you conjure positive entities, then good things will follow, but often when you deal in Black Magic, then bad things tend to happen and people loose themselves. With the Babalon project, I felt that the energy of Babalon was very fiery and chaotic and many bizarre things happened during the rehearsal process in London. But I gained a lot from Babalon, especially lots of Kundalini energy rising up my spine.

AR: Can you tell me more about your preparation for Babalon?

AD: I have written in my blog about the experiences with Babalon by Paul Green and with the spirit of Babalon because it was something that altered my life in many ways and in which I saw how the use of certain energies and types of magic can have major effects in reality. In preparation it was very magical because the play itself is alive- it contains some of the Enochian keys of John Dee and Edward Kelley which were used by the occultist Jack Parsons to complete what he called “ The Babalon Working”, a magical rite to call the energies of the spirit of Babalon into the world at large. Those energies were not the kind I was used to dealing with. They were darker, more fiery. In rehearsal we sang the Enochian keys and it would get very weird. There was definitely something happening when we sang the keys in rehearsals. Since all the actors were occultists and magicians, it would seem that we could not help but actually perform aspects of the Babalon Working whenever we performed those scenes in the play.

AR: Did this differ from your private practice?

AD: In my private practice I would draw the circle, call the directions as is done in most Wiccan and ceremonial magical rituals, then I would use the Babalon sygil which Aleister Crowley created to try to connect to the ‘Babalon current’ . I would work to bring through the Babalon energy. What it felt like was a very disruptive energy, like the earth was falling from underneath me. As always I experienced it as a dimensional shift. Then Babalon would appear to me. Babalon shows up as a red fiery figure covered with jewels. Then I would walk into that figure. I would just move my body into the body of this spirit Babalon and I would focus on what that felt like, and try to remember the feeling of that for the rehearsals with the rest of the cast.

AR: Was the same thing happening in performance?

AD: No. In performance I felt as though Babalon was talking directly through me to the audience. There were moments in the performance when I felt as though the energy was really being manifested directly to them. My performance was a magical act to conjure Babalon and I think she was definitely there and I think the audience could feel that. But each time one of these spirits manifests though a medium, it will take on aspects of that person as well. So my invocation of it would be different from another actors.

AR: You said you experienced magical phenomena during the rehearsals for Babalon. Can you elaborate?

AD: The play had a magical effect way beyond just the rehearsal room. Not only on myself but in the real world as well. There is one incident which happened during the rehearsals. It was towards the end of the rehearsal process and nearing the performance. I had a problem with my flat and so I had to go and stay with a friend of mine near Hampstead Heath. At one point  she told me to find someplace else to stay because another friend of hers was coming from Germany for her job in Hemel Hempstead. The German friend’s return home was delayed all of a sudden when the factory she was working at blew up. It turned out that the factory was a producer of airplane fuel.  It’s very bizarre because Jack Parsons, the protagonist of Babalon, was, in real life, one of the inventors of rocket and air plane fuel. He was killed when he dropped a canister of rocket fuel and it exploded. His death is also the climax of the play.  I find it incredible that this should have happened so close to where Babalon was being performed and only a few days before the performance, and that I who was  playing Babalon, was directly connected to someone who worked there. It’s horrible though, really.

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The Babalon Working as it was performed by Jack Parsons was supposed to bring the energy of the ‘Babalon Current’ into the world at large, to affect the outside world and to have a major effect on humanity. Many people have wondered what was actually accomplished by it though, as Parsons was killed in an explosion not long after. I think we awoke something in our rehearsals that had a similar effect. We  performed a version of the Parsons Babalon Working and a factory close to us that stored air plane fuel blew up.  That is what I mean about real effects. This type of esoteric theatre effects things.

(Aside by me: This why we say “Don’t do this at home….” Luckily no one was hurt.)

AR: What effects did the experience have on you personally?

AD: Its always like a kind of initiation because something in me changes and a whole new side of my personality can develop. The experience with Babalon brought through something that was not there before. Initiation is about creating a holistic self  from these currents, dimensions, or conciousnesses, and letting them add to by body and to my knowledge. I have more energy then I do this. Also, the spirit becomes a muse for me, and though it new connection are born and I gain in gnosis. Working with Babalon I contacted things I had not contacted before, but now I always can again. I can always call that spirit or energy back. I still feel very connected to it today. It affects objective reality.

AR: Do you think this kind of experience is possible though other theatrical means? Do you need to be an esoteric actor to experience this or can it happen in other theatres, such as those in which use shamanic techniques ?

AD: I have done a lot of work with shamans and I have seen many of their rituals on Native American reservations in America. You cannot take the techniques of shamanism away from the shamans and expect to get the same results. Those techniques are tied to the land, to specific trees, or lakes or other natural elements, and to a specific tribe. I have seen shamans perform with feathers that were 1000 years old passed down a family line- a lot of the magic is in those feathers. Shamans are healers and they work for the whole community. There may be some similar techniques in esoteric acting, but its not really shamanism the way it is used traditionally. Our practice of Esoteric theatre is urban, it travels with us, its not tied to a place or a people. Its like a kind of urban shamanism. But these shamans like esoteric actors are trained to be able to see into other dimensions and to bring things back. I do not think that is what is happening in other theatres because the people involved are not trained in that way, the audience in not being changed in the same way because the actors are not calling in other dimensions of reality. They are exploring this reality, but we are going somewhere beyond there.

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And of course, if you want to listen to podcasts of our December 16, 2005 performance of Babalon, the links are just below.

Babalon: Part One

Babalon: Part Two

Please leave comments. For updates of the Babalon Diaries, subscribe to my RSS Feed or my email list. There is more to come…

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Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees – Birch

Birch

The graceful Birch is the White lady of the Woods. It is fitting that these trees,
ghostly in twilight, should stand at either side of the gate of the Celtic New
Year of October 31st, for it has come down to us that passing among the
birches can take you into the Otherworld.

_2F_images_2F_origs_2F_909_2F_new_beginning_autumn_aspen_paintings_birch_tree_art_by_jennifer_vranesNew Beginnings by Jennifer Vranes

Witches Wheel

Birch, white stemmed birch
Stands pale in the dark forest.
A rod of Birch will cleanse us of evil
And usher us through November’s long doorway…

Beth (Beh)

There was an old Samhain tradition of running down an avenue of birch trees
while being flogged with the twigs as a means of purification for the New Year.
This birch portal at the gate of the New Year mirrors its position as first of the
letters, for it is the opener of the gate to the Ogham, the creation of Ogma
Sun-Face, God of Eloquence.

Birch was traditionally used to make cradles for babies to protect them from
being stolen by the Siddhe. It seems typically paradoxical that the tree that
opens the doors to the Otherworld would be used to protect a child from
possession by it, but perhaps the birch bark cradle served to fool the Gentry
into thinking the child was already theirs…

In Britain, the maypole is made of birch while the wonderful scraggly birch twigs
are used to kindle the Beltane fires. The best witches brooms are made of birch with those wonderful black twigs as sweepers.

There is an old tradition of burying the dead with conical birch bark hats on their heads to insure the purification of their souls.

The lines are from the English ballad: The Wife of Usher’s Well. The lady’s sons appear wearing their birch bark hats — proof that they are dead.

It fell about the Martinmass,
When nights are lang and mirk,
The carlin wife’s three sons came hame,
And their hats were o the birk.

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Birch Working

Imagine the birch trees standing across from each other, their topmost branches in the shape of a Gothic arch. On the other side, calling you with its mysterious, mist filled grandeur is Faery. If you walk through, you will enter the trance that allows divination by the Ogham.

Divination by Birch: Protection from harm both physical and magical. Cleansing, leaving the negative, life draining energies behind to start over refreshed. A time of going inward to store power in purity. Clear the ground of
obstructions so that new things may grow. Change comes gradually with the turning of the Wheel.

Magic can be done for fertility and creativity, healing and protection.
Tie a red ribbon around a birch tree to ward off negative energies. Hang birch twigs over a new baby’s cradle. Use birch bark as magical parchment to keep your writings safe.

Magical Correspondences:

Ogham Letter: Beth
Letter: B
Deities: The White Goddess, Belin, White Ladies of the Forest
Bird: Pheasant
Animal: White Cow
Herb: Fly Agaric Mushrooms — The Flowers of Annwn
Color: White

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