Witchery of the Frog and Toad

Witchery of Frog and Toad

I’ll go to the toad

That lives under the wall;

I’ll charm him out

And he’ll come to my call.

The Frog King

In the Grimm’s Fairy Tale, Frog King, a little princess chases her golden ball around the garden. It falls into the well and the girl is heartbroken.  Suddenly a frog hops out of the well and  asks the Princess what is troubling her. She complains that her golden ball is gone down the well. The frog promises to restore it to her if she will accept it as companion who will sit beside her, drink from her glass, eat from her plate, and sleep in her bed. She promises this thinking, “Well, it’s only a frog. It cannot possibly be my companion!” The frog restores the golden ball and asks her to take him home with her. The Princess runs away and soon forgets about the frog and her promise.
The next day, when the royal court is feasting, the frog appears and asks to be let into the hall. The Princess shuts the door on it and attempts to put the frog out of her mind.  Seeing her distress, the King asks her what is wrong. She tells him, and the King insists that she must never go back on her promises and had better invite the little frog in. The Princess does so, but refuses to allow the frog to sit next to her the table, putting her nose in the air, and turning away in disgust. The King reminds her to keep her promise. She begrudgingly allows the frog to share her meal, and then hurries away from the table to escape his next request. The King  angrily calls her back and tells her that someone who has helped her when she was in need must not be despised. So the frog joins her in bed. The little Princess is so revolted at the thought of lying next to a frog, that, after three nights, she can stand it no longer. She picks him up and hurls him against the wall. Suddenly, he turns into a handsome Prince!

illustration: Anne Anderson

When I was child playing in the woods, me and the other children were fond of catching frogs. There were lots of little streamy swamps in our woods that had two major frog ponds in them. One was at the end of a path that went down through a stand of little trees and bushes. At the base of a high rock surrounded with wild irises and tiger lilies was a deep pool. There the frogs were very friendly and easy to catch, and their green clouds of eggs clung to the shore  within hands reach. The other, larger,  pond was deeper in the woods and the frogs tended to stay near the far bank under the bushes. This pond was crossed by a big fallen log. We used to lie across the log and stretch our hands down to water where the frogs swam with their heads just above the surface, green and shiny and looking at us with gold-rimmed eyes. If we were fast enough, we could catch them, though they easily slipped out of our grasp and disappeared under the dark, unreflective water.
I saw the frogs were beautiful and never captured them without letting them go.

Magic of Toads and Frogs

The pond, well, or spring has long been thought to be a portal to the Faeryland which is underground. Water is the carrier of beings from one state to another, and is also our original home. What lies underwater is as mysterious, dark, hidden as that which lies underground. The difference is that the water seems to allow entry into its hidden realm. We can see through the surface of the water where living creatures move like shadows,  sometimes emerging and the disappearing again as through a dark mirror. Frogs, turtles, snakes, alligators, crocodiles, and even some mammals have the capacity to move between realities through water.
If we can imagine  times before there were submarines and technology that allows us to see what  beneath the surface of the seas, we might understand the power of  mysterious wells and springs, the oceans and seas, in the imaginations of our ancestors. These were  literally portals to the Otherworld.
These amphibious creatures are magical, for everything that exists in the unstable state betwixt and between is magical. They move in and out of two worlds, water and earth, above and below. They are transformational, shape shifters, moving through phases like the moon who is their ruler. From a sqaushy green jelly full of eyes,  to tadpole, to frog, the miraculous changes take place before our eyes. Anyone who has watched  a tadpole sprout legs one at a time, lose its tail, and hop on as a fully fledged little land animal knows the fascination of the frog.
For those with the Witchblood the frog and toad become more. I used to be able to see the jewels in the foreheads of toads, especially at night. They sat in our front  garden and sometimes I sat beside them. I was fond of bells in those days and had the odd fancy of tinkling bells over the toads to make them dance. Later I learned that the toad does have a gland in its head that secrets a hallucinogenic substance, or a poison, as all drugs are. For me, as a child, the jeweled Toad was a part of my dreaming reality. I have since learned that bells are carried on the wind of Faery in Celtic tradition.
I often sat beside the pond under the high rock in the twilight to listen to the songs of the frogs and watch them catch the long legged mosquitoes that hovered above the water. I felt that if I just stayed very still and silent, they would communicate with me. Those were magic moments in the hot late summers of Massachusetts, when I ringed the pond with tea lights, and sat with my eyes fastened on the still pool, the slowly moving flowers, the ragged edges of the trees turning darker in the dimming light of the sky. Unlike the Princess, I did not find it strange to be the companion of frogs and toads.
Once I read a book about a girl who found a pond like my pond. When she looked into the water, she saw a face looking back, but it was not her face.  Sometimes the spirit of the well looks up at you from the water. She is a dark woman who is as old as time and as beautiful as your imagination allows her to be. Like the frog, she glances up and then disappears. But you must be very still to see her and it must be twilight and hot summer when the witch grass is thick and the mountain laurel blooms and the bushes smell like ripe fruit.
In the book, the face in the pond was the remains of an old ship’s figurehead. Very New England image, that. It led to some mystery, but that I do not remember. Only the pond and the face looking up. Later on when I would study Faery Magic with R.J.Stewart, I would learn the lore of the three heads in the well and that it was a well of healing. For me the frog pond was a place between the worlds.

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Thomas Rhymer: An Exploration of A Faery Ballad

Child Ballads:

One of the things that drew me to the Faery Tradition was my love of the old Child Ballads. these were collected throughout the British Isles by a folklorist Francis James Child in the late 19th century.

This definition Of the Child Ballads comes from Wikipedia:
“The Child Ballads are a collection of 305 ballads from England and Scotland, and their American variants, collected by Francis James Child in the late 19th century. The collection was published as The English and Scottish Popular Ballads between 1882 and 1898 by Houghton Mifflin in 10 volumes. The ballads vary in age; for instance, a version of “A Gest of Robyn Hode” was printed in the late 15th or early 16th century, and the manuscript of “Judas” dates to the 13th century. The majority of the ballads, however, date to the 17th and 18th century; although some probably have very ancient influences, only a handful can be definitively traced to before 1600. Moreover, few of the tunes collected are as old as the words. While many of them had been individually printed, e.g. as broadsides, Child’s collection was far more comprehensive than any previous collection of ballads in English. (However, there were comprehensive ballad collections in other languages, like the Danish collection Danmarks gamle Folkeviser, which Child referred to in his comments.) One Child number may cover several ballads, which Child considered variants of the same story, although they may differ in many ways (as in “James Hatley“). Conversely, ballads classified separately may contain turns of phrase, and even entire verses, that are identical.
The Child Ballads deal with subjects typical to many ballads: romance, supernatural experiences, historical events, morality, riddles, murder, and folk heroes. On one extreme, some recount identifiable historical people, in known events. On the other, some differ from fairy tales solely by their being songs and in verse; some have been recast in prose form as fairy tales. A large part of the collections is about Robin Hood; some are about King Arthur. A few of the ballads are rather bawdy.”

Initiatory Ballads:

I discovered the ‘fairy tale’ ballads when I heard Joan Baez sing song like ‘House Carpenter’ and loved the haunting Elizabethan tunes she sang whether from England or Appalachia where they were brought with the early settlers to Virginia Colony — named after the Virgin Queen herself by Sir Walter Raliegh.  It was  pretty clear to me as child with the witchblood, that some of these ballads were talking about the Otherworld, about visitors to the Otherworld and the things that could be expected to happen there.
As an example, I have posted below the Childe Ballad of Thomas Rhymer. This is based on a true story of Thomas of Ercildoun, who was lazing about on a Faery Mound when the Queen of the Faeries approached him and whisked him off to her Otherworld Realm. He was not seen by the villagers for seven years. When he mysteriously returned, he was a changed man: a poet with the gift pf prophecy. He might have been thought a little mad, away with the faeries, due to his gift of the Second Sight.
Thomas Rhymer is what is known as an ‘Initiatory Ballad’. In other words, the ballad describes how the Faery Realm is entered, what its main features are, and how one is advised to behave if one finds oneself there. There is a warning given very clearly be the Faery Queen: “Don’t speak or eat when you are in Faery, or you will not return home for seven years.”
Of course Thomas does all of it.
Another feature of this ballad are the descriptions of the Underworld Sea, the Sun and the Moon that shine in the Underworld, the location of the Queen’s domain in an apple orchard, and the twin rivers of blood and tears.

Origin of the Faeries:

Faery is the Underworld because it is the realm of the ‘ancestors’, or more bluntly, the immortal dead. Christians would see it as a kind of purgatory where souls go after death when they were decent people but did not  become baptized Christians. In Irish Faery Tradition, there is  a story of the war in Heaven described by John Milton in his epic poem, Paradise Lost. The Archangel, Lucifer,proud of his shining beauty,  led a rebellion against God for creating the human race and expecting the angels to look after it. The angels took sides, either with Archangel Michael, champoin of God, or were Lucifer the rebel. Some stayed neutral, neither siding with Lucifer nor Michael the Archangel, but were cast down to Earth for lack of devotion along with the Prince of Darkness and his minions. These neutral angles became the Faeries. They are neither good nor evil, but neutral, like most of nature which is their expression and their love.
Thus, at an early stage, the Feary Realm was not yet consigned to Hell, but was a land between Heaven and Hell. Yet it was also not a place of purgation, but of magic, feasting, dancing — mostly to encourage the fertility of the Earth and maintain the balance of nature.
This is expressed very well in the ballad Thomas Rhymer when the Faery Queen points out three roads: The broad easy road leading to Hell, the narrow thorny road leading to Heaven, and the lovely lane winding among the trees is the road to Faeryland.

Image: War in Heaven: Gustave Dore

The Underworld Sun, Moon, and Stars:

The Faeryland is described as being in the Underworld, which most of us imagine as a land inside the Earth, underground. So how can there be Sun. Moon, and Stars, and an ocean down there?
I have two theories on that.

1: Having done many Shamanic journeys into the Underworld over the years, I immediately became aware that the heart of the Mother Earth glows like a sun at the core of the planet. This experience is very easy to access with the right intention.

2: Back in the days when the Earth was believed to be flat, being underground was probably perceived as a layer just below the surface of the Earth where the dead were buried, over which grew trees and flowers. These plants were often consulted when the living wished to speak to the dead as can be seen in fairy tales like the Juniper Tree. In other words, the Realm of Faery was physically much closer to the living, more familiar and accessible. Once the earth was known to be a sphere, it was possible to imagine a vaster realm at the center of the Earth. Now after seeing images from space, we know that the Earth is one of many stars and floats in the sea of the cosmos.

The true Faery Seer would always have seen the stars and celestial bodies below the surface of the Earth with his Second Sight. he may not have known he was seeing through the body of the planet, or sensing its place among the Heavens, but he would have seen the Sun, Moon, and, Stars and the celestial sea deep in the Underworld kingdom.
When one travels to Faery, these images resonate deeply, for the Sun.Moon, and Stars and the Underworld Sea also live inside of us as the rhythms and tides in our blood, where the ancestors ‘wake up’ to guide us deeper into our primal selves.

photo: Moonlight, Park Sadr’s photoblog

The Rivers of Blood and Tears:

The twin rivers of blood and tears are an indication of Faery as a domain of the dead, “for all the blood that was shed on earth flows through the springs of that country…”
Where mortal blood is shed so  tears of sorrow and grief. The rives of blood and tears thus flow together through the Realm of the Faery watched over by the Immortal Dead who are nourished by them.
Within this construct is tinge of the primal fertility rites involving blood sacrifice, for the blood and tears water the Earth creating the fertile conditions that allow nature to flourish. “The Earth must have blood.” This old notion still lives within us and exerts a strange power when we hear or read a tale involving the sacrificed King who gives his life for the land as in the Grail Legends.

The Apple Orchard:

In Irish Ogham the Apple has the quality of beauty. It is also the fruit of the Goddess, who is the Faery Queen. Part of the reason is that when an apple is cut form side to side and opned the figure of a five=pointed star, or pentagram appears with seeds within its points. the apple is also associated with Eve’s first transgression: disobeying God in order to satisfy her desire for knowledge, especially sexual knowledge, the basis of Earthly creation, and the generation of life, making her an equal to God.

Thanks to R.J.Stewart for crystalizing these insights for me.

Thomas Rhymer: Child Ballad 37C

Thomas Rymer

TRUE Thomas lay on Huntlie bank,
A ferlie he spied wi’ his ee,
And there he saw a lady bright,
Come riding down by the Eildon Tree.

2 Her shirt was o the grass-green silk,
Her mantle o the velvet fyne,
At ilka tett of her horse’s mane
Hang fifty siller bells and nine.

True Thomas, he pulld aff his cap,
And louted low down to his knee:
‘All hail, thou mighty Queen of Heaven!
For thy peer on earth I never did see.’

‘O no, O no, Thomas,’ she said,
‘That name does not belang to me;
I am but the queen of fair Elfland,
That am hither come to visit thee.

‘Harp and carp, Thomas,’ she said,
‘Harp and carp along wi me,
And if ye dare to kiss my lips,
Sure of your bodie I will be.’

‘Betide me weal, betide me woe,
That weird shall never daunton me;’
Syne he has kissed her rosy lips,
All underneath the Eildon Tree.

‘Now, ye maun go wi me,’ she said,
‘True Thomas, ye maun go wi me,
And ye maun serve me seven years,
Thro weal or woe, as may chance to be.’

She mounted on her milk-white steed,
She’s taen True Thomas up behind,
And aye wheneer her bridle rung,
The steed flew swifter than the wind.

O they rade on, and farther on-+-
The steed gaed swifter than the wind-+-
Untill they reached a desart wide,
And living land was left behind.

‘Light down, light down, now, True Thomas,
And lean your head upon my knee;
Abide and rest a little space,
And I will shew you ferlies three.

‘O see ye not yon narrow road,
So thick beset with thorns and briers?
That is the path of righteousness,
Tho after it but few enquires.

‘And see not ye that braid braid road,
That lies across that lily leven?
That is the path of wickedness,
Tho some call it the road to heaven.

‘And see not ye that bonny road,
That winds about the fernie brae?
That is the road to fair Elfland,
Where thou and I this night maun gae.

‘But, Thomas, ye maun hold your tongue,
Whatever ye may hear or see,
For, if you speak word in Elflyn land,
Ye’ll neer get back to your ain countrie.’

O they rade on, and farther on,
And they waded thro rivers aboon the knee,
And they saw neither sun nor moon,
But they heard the roaring of the sea.

It was mirk mirk night, and there was nae stern light,
And they waded thro red blude to the knee;
For a’ the blude that’s shed on earth
Rins thro the springs o that countrie.

Syne they came on to a garden green,
And she pu’d an apple frae a tree:
‘Take this for thy wages, True Thomas,
It will give the tongue that can never lie.’

‘My tongue is mine ain,’ True Thomas said;
‘A gudely gift ye wad gie to me!
I neither dought to buy nor sell,
At fair or tryst where I may be.

‘I dought neither speak to prince or peer,
Nor ask of grace from fair ladye:’
‘Now hold thy peace,’ the lady said,
‘For as I say, so must it be.’

He has gotten a coat of the even cloth,
And a pair of shoes of velvet green,
And till seven years were gane and past
True Thomas on earth was never seen

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Lyke Wake Dirge: A Journey Between the Worlds

This dark little number has haunted me since I heard Pentangle do it a long time ago. I wrote a novella called Memento Mori that uses it as a magical charm.

Lyke Wake Dirge is a Medieval English Ballad that describes the Soul on a joureny through a wasteland on its way to the Afterlife. It reflects the tradition of Medieval Morality Plays in which goodness is rewarded and the consequence of selfishness is eternal torment.

Lyke Wake Dirge lyrics

This ae nighte, this ae nighte,
Every nighte and alle,
Fire and fleet and candle-lighte,
And Christe receive thy saule.

When thou from hence away art past,
Every nighte and alle,
To Whinny-muir thou com’st at last;
And Christe receive thy saule.

If ever thou gavest hosen and shoon,
Every nighte and alle,
Sit thee down and put them on;
And Christe receive thy saule.

If hosen and shoon thou ne’er gav’st nane
Every nighte and alle,
The whinnes sall prick thee to the bare bane;
And Christe receive thy saule.

From Whinny-muir whence thou may’st pass,
Every nighte and alle,
To Brig o’ Dread thou com’st at last;
And Christe receive thy saule.

If ever thou gav’st silver and gold,
Every nighte and alle,
At t’ Brig o’ Dread thou’lt find foothold,
And Christe receive thy saule.

But if silver and gold thou never gav’st nane,
Every nighte and alle,
Down thou tumblest to Hell flame,
And Christe receive thy saule.

From Brig o’ Dread whence thou may’st pass, Every nighte and alle,
To Purgatory fire thou com’st at last;
And Christe receive thy saule.

If ever thou gav’st meat or drink,
Every nighte and alle,
The fire sall never make thee shrink;
And Christe receive thy saule.

If meat or drink thou ne’er gav’st nane,
Every nighte and alle,
The fire will burn thee to the bare bane;
And Christe receive thy saule.

This ae nighte, this ae nighte,
Every nighte and alle,
Fire and fleet and candle-lighte,
And Christe receive thy saule.

On this night, on this night,
Every night and all,
Hearth and house and candle-light,
And Christ receive your soul.

When from here away you pass
Every night and all,
To Thorny Moor you come at last;
And Christ receive your soul.

If ever you gave hose and shoes,
Every night and all,
Sit then down and put them on;
And Christ receive your soul.

But if hose and shoes you gave none
Every night and all,
The thorns shall prick you to the bare bone;
And Christ receive your soul.

From Thorny Moor then you may pass,
Every night and all,
To Bridge of Dread you come at last;
And Christ receive your soul.

If ever you gave silver and gold,
Every night and all,
At Bridge of Dread you’ll find foothold,
And Christ receive your soul.

But if silver and gold you gave none
Every night and all:
You’ll tumble down into Hell’s flames
And Christ receive your soul.

From Bridge of Dread then you may pass,
Every night and all,
To Purgatory fire you’ll come at last;
And Christ receive your soul.

If ever you gave meat or drink,
Every night and all,
The fire will never make you shrink;
And Christ receive your soul.

But if meat or drink you gave none,
Every night and all,
The fire will burn you to the bare bone;
And Christ receive your soul.

On this night, on this night,
Every night and all,
Hearth and house and candle-light,
And Christ receive your soul.

Notes: Lyke The word “lyke” is an ancient British word for “corpse.” The word is related to “lych,” and “leich,” all of which refer to the dead. People who have read the “Heroes in Hell” novels will recognize the word in the walking skeletons called “liches”.

Wake The word “wake” originally meant “watch” (as in, a period of standing by or attending) as of attendance upon the dead.

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Death in Art

A somber procession of three hundred robed and hooded men winds along the edge  of the sea. The deep power of their chanting  mingles with the ringing of the bells and the crashing of the surf, and the crashing surf rings against the shore.  In their midst, lifted high on strong shoulders,  a young Priestess lies on a bier wearing a long, purple gown. Her red gold hair undulates around her head like  rays of the sun; her face is covered by a sheer white veil. In her hands are lilies, flower of the dead

As the sun begins to sink below the horizon of the sea, the procession comes to a stop to stand opposite that point of dying light to set the bier upon the waves. A great howling rises up, cries and lamentations, as three torches are lit and waved on high before the flames are touched to the wicket of thorns surrounding the Priestess on the bier. Ablaze, it is pushed out upon the sea to burn, and slowly sink under the waves with the last rays of the sun.
A tomb is erected in the forest in honor of the Priestess who has left for the Otherworld in her fiery boat. A wolf is set to guard it.

I wrote this essay long ago…in the 1970s… in response to a question given by my favorite art history teacher of all time, Dr. Ellen Kosmer. She was teaching a unique class called ‘Death in Art’ and the first thing she asked us to do was to describe our funeral. As I wondered what to write, I found myself hovering above the scene of this barbaric funeral procession, knowing that the woman on the bier was me, and that this was my funeral.
I thought it was just my wild imagination at work…
I had been studying art most of my teenage years. My themes  were mostly moody, dreamlike, and mystical, and because of this tendency, I was introduced to the art of the Victorian Pre-Raphaelites by a fellow student.  After being totally infatuated by their work, especially the Grail paintings by Rossetti and Burne-Jones, I assumed I was being influenced by the popular Victorian images of the Lady of Shallot.  I was very interested in Arthurian Legends and felt that surely these influences had come together to catapult me into this dream of an ancient funeral rite.
During the course of my life, I have learned things that perhaps provide  me with an alternate view of this. In much of my meditation practice, I would find my self hovering above my body looking down at myself before I entered the Otherworld. I also learned, during the hay day of ‘Near Death Experience’ literature, that after death one often hovers above one’s body and looks down at it, attached by what has come to be known of esoteric literature, the “silver naval cord” that ties the physical and spiritual bodies together.
Since then, I have wondered if this essay, written when I was 18 in an art class, was indeed a memory of  a past life death of mine.
To back this notion up, I was told by Jeff Green in my first ever astrology reading, that in a past life I had lived in Scandinavia and been a Rune master.
This essay seems to describe an archaic Viking funeral, the sea burial of a holy woman, and was definitely set in a Northern country.
Could it be so?

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Four Witches, Three Graces? Or Something Else…?


In 2006, at Treadwells bookshop in London, I participated in a  discussion of the engraving by Albrecht Durer included here. It is greatly loved by many Wiccans who claim it shows a circle of Four Witches doing a magical ceremony.There is an argument against this interpretation by scholars who, despite the fact that there four women, insist that it  depicts The Three Graces.

We analyzed and discussed these interpretations for some time, for no one was really happy with them.  We saw that one woman was pregnant and was being directed to go down some stairs. A demon lurks in the doorway. I was impressed by the looks on the womens’ faces. They seemed very grave,  obviously about some serious business. The pregnant one in the foreground has an anguished expression. The one with the funny hat seems to be directing the mother-to-be to go down stairs where Hell must be since there is a devil leering in background.
When the facilitator, historian John Callow, wondered the figure with her back turned to the viewer was doing with her hands, my years of art history studies kicked in, and I saw that her hairstyle was  the same as Botticcelli’s Venus. From there it was small step to observe that she was holding her hands in the same position, but we see it from behind. Therefore, the woman with her back turned must represent Venus.

Unlike Botticcelli’s vision of loveliness, Durer’s Venus is crude and coarse looking, as is the Madam who directs the fallen woman down the stairs. While Botticcelli depicts an angel, Durer’s women are heavy, earthbound, more human than divine.

Sadly, it would thus appear that, rather than a picture of Four Witches, or even Three Graces, we have here an admonitory message against indulging in the sin of Venery, or sex. Venus, originally a Goddess of the fertile feminine force in nature, was by this time degraded as the patron of whores and prostitutes. Childbirth out of wedlock could ruin a woman’s life, especially of she was lower class. I would wager that the pregnant lady is unmarried, and is now being sent down the stairway to Hell.The Devil is having a good laugh.

And of course, since Durer was making art in the 1490′s and into the 1500, any open sympathy with witchcraft would have been dangerous.

In support of that interpretation, note how in his self portrait, Durer depicts himself as Christ. And drop dead gorgeous too!

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The Gate at the Ege of the World

When I was seven years old, I learned the poetry of winter.
In Massachusetts, winter snows are high and deep. I remember we had to pick my brother, Jim, up from some rural place that we never went before. I think it had to do with Cub Scouts. When we were on our way home, it began snowing heavily. As the snow fell, it grew increasingly dark as we wound down the  narrow country road between high stands of pine and spruce. The branches were quickly covered, and weighed down, under layers of snow so that they bent to the ground and swept the sides of our car as we passed. Snowy road, snowy trees, pale, luminous, cloud buried night sky, blended together in a visions of whiteness, silent, still, and apart.
It was impossible to see where we  were going. I am sure my parents were fretting, but I don’t remember that, for the sounds  of their voices were muffled up by the all-pervasive, enveloping quiet of the snow. All I could see from the back seat of the car was a tunnel of darkness far ahead that was always just out of reach of the  high beams that were swallowed by the white, blurry maw of the road, and reflected back in a silvery mist. The depths of the shadows, and the brightness of snow, the soft crunch of the snow treads as the car crept slowly forward, the utter stillness and silence of the night as all sound was absorbed by the snow, placed me in a trance, and I felt as if I was lost in a mysterious dimension far from our everyday life.
Suddenly, the car took a turn to the right and abruptly stopped. We had come to a dead end blocked by a high hedge of bare, snow-traced branches woven between  evergreen swags all fused into a shimmering white pattern so like a gate, and with hints of such darkness beyond, that it seemed we had come to the very edge of the world.
There is where memory ends; stilled by the beauty my mind held on to.

Where there is ice, there must be fire. Can you smell the wood burning? Ahhh! Heaven.

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Everything Has a Soul

One cannot have the Witchblood and perceive nature as a collection of dead objects to be harvested or exploited. For ones like us, everything is alive and has consciousness. That consciousness is not the same as human consciousness, but since we are all on this earth together, we share a certain life force, a certain reality base that has been obscured for human beings by things like ‘religion’, ‘science’ and materialist philosophy, by ‘rationalism’ and other reductionist, fear based, ideologies.
Open your heart and you will ‘know’ that the trees speak, the animals have much to share with you, what the mountain gives, and the seas transmit.  That all of it is nothing except love. All of nature will vivify, and open itself to you, and you will walk into a magical world.
The downside is that all the abuse and cruel exploitation of the ‘rationalists’, scientific reductionists, and harvesters, can break your heart.

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Who are the Horned Ones?

Those of us with antlers, those of us with horns…I saw myself in many dreams with the antlers of a stag. I shall explore the mysteries of horns and those who wear them in the spirit world.

I was never afraid of the dark. Even when he stood in the crack of light between the door frame and the door, silhouetted, strange, bent as when a wild animal rises on it hind legs to look at something higher than the ground.  Perhaps I dreamed, yet it did not seem so, for my eyes were open and I saw him clearly. Tall, feral, dark, and stretching out form the top of his head, the long antlers of a stag.

He only ever came to look at me, gazing with eyes of green fire. When I reached out to touch him, to see if he was as real as he appeared, my gesture was slow and, not stirring a particle of air, more silent than the night. It was then he always disappeared. I remember once, missing contact with my Faery visitor, I fell, slowly, dreamlike to the floor. The sensation of the cold floor against my cheek stays with me still, implanting this memory in my conscious mind forever. And as in a dream, I floated up, weightlessly, back into bed to turn away and dream again a dream I don’t recall.

This spirit returned to me a few times and it was always the same. We lived very close to the woods in Massachusetts, a place where Nathaniel Hawthorne found evidence of old Pagan worship still practiced by English colonists. I have since learned that it is traditional for the Spirit of the Forest to appear in the shape of a man/stag. Even when we moved, we lived still upon the woods, and he came to me there again. I am not sure ha has ever left me.

Later, when I was 29, I was going through a very bad time with a Saturn return in Scorpio in my Seventh House. Everything died in those two years. I was living in Seattle, nowhere near the woods, and had not encountered my spiritual visitor since I moved there.  I suffered what I later learned was a Shamanic illness, characterized by great debilitation, depression, obsession with wheels turning in my mind, soundlessly, constantly, all countered by strange initiatory dreams and visions. I dreamed of the stag, running through the trees. I followed, I rode upon his back and felt more alive than I ever had. I drew a lot of pictures. Of my dreams, of the lover who I lost, of boats, and the sea,  and one of me looking into a mirror in which my reflection wore the antlers of a stag.

A whole series of these images grew out of my depression. One in particular was prophetic: I am sitting in an underground cavern at a dressing table with a round mirror on it. I am wearing antlers and looking at my reflection also wearing antlers.  Many years later, when I studied with R.J.Stewart and his Underworld Faery, I return to that underground chamber and the Horned God would erupted into my life with a power I barely survived.


In this image of the Nine of Pentacles from my Holy Grail Tarot, the leafy, antlered crown of the Faery Queen mirrors the bare winter branches of the trees.  Nine is the number of the moon. The setting is under deep snow, for Pentacles are the  symbol of Earth whose power resides in the North. In the mystic North is night, is snow, is the dark moon, the Underworld, ice, the mirror lake, the stones, white animals, and those with horns and hoofs. She wears a triple horned crown, and carries a cornucopia, the single horn hollowed out and pointing to Earth. It is full of harvested apples, fruit of the Goddess, the Faery Queen, that hides the five-pointed star within.

The Earth is the vessel of plenty, the provider of all we need. everything we have, everything we are, comes from the Earth.
Horned animals sacred to the north are the stag, boar, goat, reindeer.
The stag is a sacred animal whose antlers reflect the World Tree whose roots are in the Heavens and whose branches open down into the UnderWorld as when he looks at his reflection in the lake. The stag is thus a mediator between the Heaven and Earth. As he sheds his antlers in the Spring, and then grows them back, he is also a spirit of death and rebirth. The star road of the Milky Way belongs to Night and therefore belongs to the North and Earth, and  thus to Death, for all Earthly forms are mortal. The Milky Way curves towards the sunrise of the East, place of Birth. The stag dances on this starry bridge as the mediator between Death and new Life.
Duality is expressed in the two horns and the cloven hooves of the stag. Duality expresses  opposites, male/ female, dark/light, above/ below, etc. Without these opposites there would be no Other, would be no sexuality, therefore no creation, would be no consciousness of Self. The three is the result of the pairing of opposites, that which comes together and multiplies has given birth. The single horn of the Unicorn represents purity because the single is whole and impenetrable. A single horn is one within itself, inviolate, virgin. This perhaps explains why there are no more Unicorns, for the Earth is a creation of dual forces. Without the two there can be no three, can be no birth. The one stands alone and is, in the earthly sense, uncreative, spiritual, renunciate.

If you would like to see my Tarot of the Holy Grail, please visit
www.whiteswan-tarot.com Book of Visions: Clairvoyant Tarot

I also discuss the Hunt of the Unicorn Tapestries and the 12th century Courts of Love at www.themysteriousdomain.com. The Unicorn in Captivity above is from those beautiful woven works.

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What is a Witch? How do You Know You are a Witch?

Many people question what it means to be a witch, so it is important for me to define what a witch is from my own perspective, for none have been so maligned or misunderstood as we.A witch has historically been defined as a person who gains psychic powers through the medium of a contract with the Devil. These powers are used for evil, to blight crops, turn healthy people ill, kill children, and various other horrors. But this is old propaganda spun in the time when the Catholic Church sought to consolidate its power among the ruling classes thus routing out the Rites of Sacred Kingship, Rites of Misrule, Alchemy, etc.
During the Reformation, when the Catholic and Protestant Churches waged war with each other for the souls of the populace, the propaganda mills worked overtime, whipping up a frenzy of prejudice in attempts to grab converts in outlying areas. Ordinary peasants practicing fertility rites, midwives, healers, and practitioners of Pagan celebrations were forced to adhere to the dogmas of the churches that moved into their villages and took over their civic life. The literate, city educated clergy had powerful manipulative weapons at their disposal, among them the ability to turn people against each other, demonizing the old ways, and  sowing confusion and distrust. For if a person has the power to heal, might they not also have the power to kill? And if a person can make the crops thrive, can he not also blight them? One who consorts with Faeries suffers from delusions, for are they not really demons, thrown out of heaven in the War of the Angels?

We know better.
As a witch, (and it has taken most of my life to ‘come out’ as one), I am in deep empathy with life. Strong empathy grants conscience. It is difficult to inflict pain when you feel it yourself. Also, ties with nature, attunement to the lunar influences, the ability to converse with trees and animals, can only happen when the heart is open and the heart is the organ of love.

Not only did I almost die at birth, and thus have always been betwixt and between the worlds of the living and the dead, but was born with a caul, or Veil. The caul  is rare and it grants certain abilities, among them psychic visionary and healing powers, shape shifting, the ability to see the unseen…I leave my body in Spirit Flight, and enter the Faery Realm at will.

I  grew up in the woods in Leicester, Massachusetts in a place called Peter Salem Village. Prior to the building of our 1960′s ‘housing development’, this had been farmland originally owned by Peter Salem, a free black man who had fought in the Revolutionary War. The woods in Leicester were, and still are, magical. By that I mean there is an enchanted quality in the land that I have not found elsewhere. For example, when the sun was low in the sky shining through the tiger lilies and irises that bordered the stream in a grassy clearing, the spirits in the light, and in the land were highly visible. I wasn’t alone in seeing them. They informed our play. There were lots of children in the village, and most of us ‘saw’ them. Sometimes the colors in the land were so bright and pure, it was as if the world was washed in a kind of divinity.
There was a special time I never shall forget. It was winter and I was alone walking in the woods along the top of an old stone wall that had been built when that land was clear pasture. I came to a sunken area among the trees and ‘saw’ a circle of white robed figures. When they became aware I was seeing them, they vanished with the snowfall.
At that point, I knew had seen something more than usual…
Maybe it wasn’t really the woods being enchanted, but the steady diet of fairy tales we were all raised on. Children didn’t have rationalism imposed on them in those days. Our minds and imaginations were free. And fairy tales have the uncanny ability to wake up the deep mind.
Fairy tales taught me compassion for wild tings. We used to catch frogs and toads all summer long. Because of stories like the Frog King, I became the protector of frogs and toads and prevented many from being tortured by boys, and sprung many out of jars and boxes and other prisons. Witches, frogs and toads…hmm.
When I grew a bit older, I wanted to be artist. This desire was fueled by the need I had to make my increasingly fascinating inner visions tangible, and visible for others. I spent long periods of time alone in certain ‘power spots’ where I would get telepathic impression from the trees. I was deeply moved by certain configurations in the landscape, for instance the tall arbor vitae the circled the resevoir, a rush of green grass up slope between young spruces, and the moon shining over all.  The land ‘spoke’ to me and my drawings spoke of ghosts, spirits, ladies in long windblown cloaks under oak trees, wise old men coming up from under the earth, wolves surrounding a witch in her circle of candles…
I must retrieve those old drawings of mine and post them in here….

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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.”
“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?”
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.

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