My Magical Timeline: North

My blog mentor, Yaro Starak says we should tell our life story as is relevant to our blog topic. So here it begins. I intend to use  the four seasons and then the Center to organize my Magical Timeline.

Magical Childhood

I think childhood is a magical time for most people. Most lose their sense of wonder early, others later. I never lost mine. So for what its worth here are my beginnings. I intend the progression of my spiritual path to unfold in these posts, much like the Fool’s journey in Tarot.  Much like the Fool, the first magical person I ever met was a Tarot reader in a carnival.

I begin in the North because I always had a sense that my soul came to Earth from the North Pole. later on I was told by a Blackfoot  medicine woman that, unlike most people who are born in the South, I was born in the North. This explains why I spent so much time out of my body went I entered the airy East at adolescence. People born in the North tend to feel that they are living their life backwards.

My Grandparents Ernest and Pearl Hebert

My Grandparents Ernest and Pearl Hebert

(If I had a scanner that worked I would have a better picture. They came from Quebec after WWI. My grandfather fought in the trenches at Normandy.)

Born in the North

I was born on January 23, 19– (LOL)  in Worcester, Massachusetts. My brother, James, was born on January 22, one year later. We were like twins.
We lived in a tenement on Plantation Street for three years. I have many vivid memories from that time, including a dream.
In trying to escape from my crib, I climbed over the bar and fell down, spraining my arm. I had to go to the doctor’s and get an x-ray. My Grandmother brought me a Bride doll that had waist that turned. This was the first time I had ever seen such a thing. That night I dreamed that the doll was a woman dancing naked in the starry sky and the top of her body went to the right, while the lower half went to the left. It always makes me think of the World card in the Tarot when I remember this dream.

House in the Woods

When I was three, we moved to 4 Lexington Avenue, Leicester, Massachusetts. This house was at the bottom of a hill, one of a string of new houses built into the woods on the former farmlands of Peter Salem, a free black man who had received those acres as payment for his service in the Revolutionary War. All the streets were named after the Revolution. We lived on Lexington Ave that swept around a bend and down a little hill named Bunker Hill. At the bottom of Bunker Hill were our mailboxes as we were and RFD route in those days. Peter Salem Road swept along from Pleasant Street to the Four Corners where Henshaw Street going up to the left. I think it looped back to Pitcairn Ave which joined Bunker Hill at the top. There was a huge chestnut tree around there where we collected horse cobblers and a bridge over a stream where the ‘bad boys’ used to go to sniff glue.
Most beautifully there was a hill that used to be Peter Salem’s blueberry orchard, The bushes were large and, in summer, loaded with huge, juicy berries. On hot summer days the air was fragrant with the smell of ripe blueberries.

Being New Englanders, these little bits of history were important to us, gave us a sense of place.  Behind our houses ran an old sawmill road. It wound through the stands of trees and mountain laurel, opening out to a sand pit and the ruined saw mill long gone to decay. Along with the woods, this was a fantastic playground; our home away from home. There were lots of kids in that neighborhood around the same age. I was an excellent tree climber and could even scale the pine trees with all their needles. Scratches and sappy hands were worth it because the pine smelled so good and the view at the top was superb.

There were clearings off to the side of the sawmill road where logs had been piled  very long ago. They made a pleasant hang out in the summer. The woods always smelled of pine, made more resinous and fragrant by the heat. One day I was there alone wondering about a circle that had been worn into the ground, when suddenly I heard bells coming down the sawmill road, and before I knew it, a tribe of Indians in full regalia including face paint, feathers, moccasins — the whole works, were filing into the clearing. They entered the area with high ceremony, ignoring me completely, and began to dance around the circle. The dance involved throwing out bad spirits. I watched them totally mesmerized and still remember what they did and how they moved. When they finished the dance, they turned and left with the same concentration as when they came. Even though I learned later that were a group of Boy Scouts, that was a strange and magical moment for me.

We were part Indian, Iroquois. My mother used to bring me to what was left of an Indian reservation in the city of Worcester, An old lady lived there alone called Princess White Flower. She dressed in white buckskin and had long white braids. Some days she held barbecues, called Free For Alls that my other took us to.

Iroquois Indians

Iroquois Indians

I will skip a lot now because some of this stuff will be detailed in my blog.

Catholic Mass and Ceremonial Magic

I will mention my Roman Catholic upbringing though as I feel my initiation to ceremonial magic began in church.
My family is predominantly French Canadian and Indian. There is some Irish thrown in for good luck. My father’s side, the Heberts, Roys, LeDoux, Borrassas, etc, are very French to the point of Medievalism. When me and Jim slept over at Meme and Pepe’s house on the weekend, we were up Sunday morning saying rosary beads on our knees before going to church.
Church was Bleeding Heart of Jesus, if I recall, Sacre Couer. The whole Mass was said in Latin and French. I didn’t understand a word of it. It was an incense filled cathedral, lit by candle branches, with a huge Baroque altar from which a life sized crucifix loomed, angled so that Jesus hovered over the congregation like a giant bird. The ceiling was painted with clouds and it seems to me some of them were detached and suspended by chains. The nuns were voluminous black habits and used castanets to direct us when to sit, stand, and kneel. The Priest wore fantastic robes; the choir of monks sang like angels. For a kid like me, it was as if I had entered another dimension full of magic and mystery. I loved not understanding what they said. It increased my sense of having left the mundane world behind.

Avignon Cathedral

Avignon Cathedral

(I can’t find a picture of the Sacred Bleeding Heart of Jesus Church, but it felt something like this.)

Civil Rights Movement: We Knew Abby Hoffman

When I was ten, my mother got involved in the Civil Rights Movement. For a whole summer we went to the poor neighborhoods in Worcester so my mother could teach the black ladies how to knit. All my friends that summer were black and our playground was the street. Instead of climbing trees, we climbed stairs and railings and chain link fences. My mother worked very closely with Sheila Hoffman, Abby Hoffman’s first wife. I played with their kids Elia and Andy.  Once I saw a sign in front of a house that said “Dr.Hoffman”. I asked my mother if Mr. Hoffman was a doctor? She said, “No. He’s a kook.”

Folk music was all the rage: Joan Baez, Peter Paul and Mary, The Seekers, The Kingston Trio. I was especially drawn to the English and Scottish folk ballads and the Appalachian ones that stemmed from them. They were like Grimm’s Fairy Tales put to music. It may have these influences that caused me to populate the woods with spirits, but it seemed that there was a difference between and fairies I saw in my head and the figures I saw in the woods — some of whom were Indians that were not in Grimm’s nor from the Child ballads.

It was also in my tenth year that I first read the hugely influential, The Lord of the Rings.

Vatican II

1966: Vatican II made my father crazy. My parents fought all the time. My sister, Susan was born. My mother went mad, and my world turned upside down.
My mother went on ‘retreat’ to a convent in Lancaster Massachusetts called the Cenacle.
She stayed there for a week or two, and we went to see her one weekend. This was the most beautiful place on earth! Not only was the Convent house a splendid mansion with shiny banisters and stained glass windows, but there wee several large gardens designed in European styles. There was a shady English garden full of green shrubberies, trees, and lush grass surrounded by a high stone wall, and an Italian garden with broad steps, classical urns filled with bright flowers, sculptures, and carved stone benches, bounded by a wall that let in the light. There was a Spanish Garden, a Topiary, and a French formal garden. I explored them all and the memories have stayed with me all this time finding their way into my novel The Golden Stair about a witch and her magical gardens.
Then at night the nuns sang the sun down, and at dawn they sang the sun up, with the most celestial voices, layering over each other like far away bells, and gongs deep under the sea.

Leaving My Sacred Land

A year later we moved “ closer to town”. “Town” was Main Street with its gas station, grocery store, convenience store, Italian restaurant, and the library.  There were woods all around our house, a lake across the street that used to be a beach until the Castle Restaurant was built. A stream ran from the lake, under the road, and came out through our back yard. The stream wound through what was then bushes, and eventually pooled around a ruined mill where a big brick chimney stood on its own like a tower.

I was deeply miserable for a long time. Not just because I was separated from all of my friends, but because I was separated from the land. The trees and swamps, frogs, fireflies, birds, little stone walls running through the woods, the clearings, the sawmill road, were my friends too. I didn’t know if I would find the same magic in the new place.

To be continued…

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Hidden Doors: My Websites

How to Find Other Realms of Mystery and Magic

Please visit my other websites. One is for my business as a professional Tarot, Astrologer, and Healer. It also includes a gallery of my original artwork for The Tarot of the Holy Grail along with a Tarot blog.

Its at:

http://www.whiteswan-tarot.com/ Book of Visions: Clairvoyant Tarot.

The other includes inspirations and some fiction such as the first two chapters of my novel, Rosewolf , and a short story called The Strange Marriage of Lady Crawford.

This is at http://www.themysteriousdomain.com

Continue reading

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Leonore Fini: Moon Goddess

The Mysterious Dreamworld of Leonore Fini

I finally got this posted. Sometimes Mercury retrograde is actually helpful.

Surrealist Artist, Leonore Fini. I am sure she carries the Witchblood as all the Surrealists do, come to think of it!

Watch for my article about her — with more pictures of course — at www.themysteriousdomain.com

Leonore Fini

Leonore Fini

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Here are some nice Surrealist books and DVDs to browse:
Sadly I could not find a book of Leonore Fini’s art though they do exist.


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What Is Tarot and Where Does it Come From?

The Devil’s Picture Book by Paul Huson

Open the book. Read the first page.

The classic 1972 book on the history of the Tarot Cards by Paul Huson called The Devil’s Picture Book, opens with one of the most evocative first pages about the “wicked pack of cards” ever written. So I quote the whole thing:

“Whether you know it or not, each time you pick up a deck of playing cards you are putting your soul in immediate danger of hellfire. So the church once said. The tarot was the medieval prototype for our present day deck. Instead of hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs, it used cups, coins, swords, and batons as symbols. In addition, it also contained a series of twenty-two mysterious picture cards called trumps. The main use for tarot cards, apart from simple gambling, was for telling fortunes. This was their true danger. Worse still, within the cards lurked devils disguised as kings and heroes. To quote a seventeenth century moralist on this point:

The playe of the Cards is an invention of the Devill, which he found out, that he might the easier bring in ydolatrie amongst men. For the King and Coate (Court) cards that we use now were in olde times the images of idols and false gods; which since, they that would seeme Christians, have changed into Charlemaigne, Launcelot, Hector, and many such like names, because they would not seeme to imitate their idolatrie therein, and yet maintain the playe itself.

This indicates the connection between playing cards and witchcraft. That witches practiced rites drawn from old pagan cults is becoming more and more a matter of common knowledge. That remnants of these old cults have boldly remained on display for all to see down the ages is not so well known…”

How I First Found Tarot

They were boldly displayed for me at a fair.

The first time I saw a pack of tarot cards was in my early teens in the 1970′s. It was a Coleman-Smith- Waite deck, called back then Rider Waite. The images in the cards had a strange, mysterious feel to them that instantly attracted me. I was drawing constantly back then, making black and white Bearsdleyesque illustrations for fairy tales, heavily influenced by the seventeenth century energies still streaming in the aethers of Massachusetts. The pictures on these Tarot cards tapped into those aethers, suggestively masking an unseen world populated by spirits who wished to communicate with us.

It wasn’t long before my boyfriend gave me my first tarot deck — a castoff given to him by someone else. It was the Rider Waite, one of the very few tarot decks published at that time.

I spent a long time brooding over the pictures on the cards, more interested in the art, and the effect it had on me, than in divination. That was much too daunting to learn, having to memorize all the meanings: right side up and up side down, and in all sorts of combinations between.

So, I began drawing my own. Here are my very early attempts at a Tarot Deck:

The Magician looks like an occult guy I used to know back then. The Fool I think is me.

It shouldn’t be a surprise the Tower card looks wonky.

The Hanged Man was the first one I drew. He is so autumnal, like a leaf hanging from a tree.

This was all I did. The task of making a complete Tarot deck was more than I could commit to at 17 years of age.

But, it doesn’t matter. The importance is that by just brooding over the  tarot images seeded my already receptive imagination and anchored it deep into the archetypes. This led to an ability to write poetry from a deep and primal source, to continue to make images drawn from the  depths of the unconscious that can hold its attention like a magnet.

The tarot was, and still is, the most accessible gateway into the Occult, introducing you to numerology, astrology, Qabbalah, symbolism, and many other fascinating realms of magic and mystery. The cards can be called upon to guide almost every avenue of occult study, and can be used to construct rituals, story plots,  artworks, dances, and many other artistic creations.

I was once involved in a piece of street theater that was based on the tarot. We were all dressed as various tarot figures — I was High Priestess and then Death. The Fool met each one of us at various  picturesque stops along the way like doorways, under trees, beside the river, until we had a grand procession following him down the streets of Boston.  I would love to do that again in London.

Mystery plays are still performed in Chester and other cities in the U.K.

How Medieval Mystery Plays Inspired Tarot

In The Devil’s Picture Book, Paul Huson discusses the connection of the Major Arcana or Trumps of the tarot deck with the ancient Mystery religions. He gives examples of the use of tarot-like figures in talismanic art, hymns to the pagan gods and goddesses, planetary and magical workings invoking the Gods through icons like those found on tarot cards. The Empress is the Goddess, the Devil is Lucifer, the Magician is Hermes and so on. He calls on Henry Cornelius Agrippa’s magical correspondences to create a thesis for the origins of Tarot that is wonderful to read and ponder. He also makes a fine case for the use of tarot images as memory devices for teaching spiritual truths the mostly illiterate people of the times.

In 2004, Paul Huson wrote a second book on the history of Tarot called The Mystical Origins of the Tarot. In this carefully  and lovingly researched book, he introduces the 15th century Mamluk playing cards from Persia called Muluk wanuwwab, or the “Game of Kings and Deputies. ” The four suits displayed in the Islamic deck consist of Cups, Coins, Swords, and Polo Sticks. Huson writes: “In 1980, Dummott fairly conclusively demonstrated that they all showed more than a significant similarity to the suits of the Italian playing cards.”

Huson develops a fascinating argument that the images of the Major Arcana were originally based on stock characters from medieval Mystery Plays. In Italian cities during the Renaissance, processions of  pagan Gods, seated on thrones and carrying symbols appropriate to their functions,  were pulled  by chariot through the streets with great fanfare. It was a time when pagan Gods and Goddesses were in high  fashion, eclipsing the state religion of Christianity, until zealots like the monk, Savaranola, preached fire and brimstone in the streets, demanding the sheep return to the fold. Under the spell of this fanatic and the social guilt he stirred up, the great Botticceli tragically burned some of his paintings of pagan subjects — thank God his Birth of Venus wasn’t among them! Playing cards, and  especially the use of cards in fortune telling, went underground as a climate of fear sprang up around notions of the Devil and his secret followers.

But the deed had been done. Playing cards combined with Trumps or Triumphs had  become Tarot and thus went on to create mysteries of its own. The cards stayed in the shadowy occult underground for centuries, until no one could remember where they came from, or how they came to be. Under the influence of the 19th century Theosophical Society, and others, Tarot was brought back. Tales were spun about the mysterious cards origins in the ever popular ancient Egypt. They were brought into Europe by Gypsies who preserved them through the murk of the Middle Ages until they could be restored to their proper spiritual plane by modern Magicians.

With my experience of our 1970′s tarot guerrilla theater behind me, it was not difficult to believe Huson’s suggestion that the tarot images were illustrations of medieval Mystery Plays, Morality Plays and even Christian Miracle Plays performed in a pre-literate age when deep truths were taught through the use of allegory and iconic images. The Dance of Death, frequently performed during the plague years, also had a strong influence in developing ideas in tarot.

These are very rich subjects, and Paul Huson brings so much to the study of tarot. His history, much more accurate than that of Eliphas Levy, or the Golden Dawn, is still full of wonders, and charged with magical overtones. The first theatrical productions in ancient Greece, were ruled by Dionysus. Theater evolved into religious folk drama during Medieval times, and  went on to be preserved in the majestic Major Trumps of the Tarot. Their actual lineage is indeed steeped in spirituality of a rather more earthy, than lofty, kind, but is no less powerful and beautiful.

Please return for my exclusive interview with Paul Huson. We will go much deeper into these subjects and also discuss his new Tarot Deck, Dame Fortune’s Wheel.

Below are most of Paul Huson’s excellent books if you want to buy them here!


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Interview with the Queen of the Witches: Maxine Sanders

Maxine Interviewed in Dutch Documentary

I posted this so you could hear Maxine’s voice and have a sense of her presence. I would have liked to do a podcast with her, but she is shy of technology. I don’t blame her. If I lived in the green hills of Wales, that would be enough for me too.

I hope this interview sparks discussion in the comments section. Just press Comments and let’s start talking! If you want to know more about Maxine read my review of her book Firechild, Firechild: The Life of Maxine Sanders, Witch Queen and Maxine Sanders: Queen of the Witches: Dawn Ritual

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Lost935
Maxine Sanders Interviewed On A Dutch Witchcraft Documentary. This was originally upload on YouTube by lichtengel60 as part of a much longer Dutch documentary about Witchcraft. I figured it would`t be found by most UK viewers so cut it out and uploaded it separately. It is only a minute long but is still a nice clip and shows the lovely Maxine interviewed in 1995.

I discovered Maxine Sanders when I lived in London between 1998-2006. She fascinated me. Here was a witch that was beautiful, poetic, a figure from a fairy tale, and 1960′s icon as well. She had lived a life dedicated to Magic. She agreed to do this interview for me form the goodness of her heart really. It turned out to not be a good time for her. She is very busy and has her family needing her attention. Still, she gave some thought provoking answers to my rather personal questions. I had to ask her things I wanted to know, and I hope my readers will find these interesting as well.

From Maxine

This interview was given via email. It wasn’t easy as there was not the normal give and take of a conversation that leads from one thing to another. Plus I am totally new at this. So please forgive me if I didn’t make the most of this as far as the questions I asked.

Arlene:

Hello, Maxine.

I would like to thank you up front for taking the time to talk to me. I have given these questions a great deal of thought. Hopefully, you will enjoy discussing them.

Please feel free to answer, or not, if you don’t like a question. Or add if you are particularly interested.

Just so you know where I am coming from, I have not been initiated into Wicca or any Witchcraft Tradition, though I have been invited recently to join a coven. I think witchcraft is in my blood, though. I have ample evidence of that from my youth.
I didn’t join the coven because of time constraints, but I wish I could.

Maxine:

I have been away and am rather taken up with travel back and forth to London. My son has been seriously ill. He is still in hospital. My answers are alas brief, nonetheless they are as I feel. I find the in depth meanderings of mind only confusing to those who are really interested. If there is anything else I can help with please let me know.

Arlene:

Thank you so much.  (Lets send out a prayer for Maxine’s son, Victor, that he gets well soon.)

Questions and Answers

Arlene:

In reading things about you, reading your book, and just looking at you, I sense that, even if you had never met Alex Sanders, you would have been a witch. Do you have a response to the idea that there are people who are born witches, and how that guides their journey through life.

Maxine:

I believe some are born with magical potential and ability just as there are people who seemingly have a gift for maths or music. It is fate and fortune that help and enable these gifts to be enjoyed.

Arlene:

Is there a deep difference in energy between witch souls and other mystics?

Maxine:

The title Witch is given by Initiation or by village society where the person practices their art within the community etc. Witches are individuals who tend to specialize in particular aspects of magic and some are Witch and Mystic.

Arlene:

What marks a witch?

Maxine:

Initiation and training.

Arlene:

Where does it come from, this consciousness of the deeper Mysteries? Are we born with it, called to it, or did your mother teach you these things?

Maxine:

We have a vocation that is born of a natural consciousness. Circumstance of birth and upbringing brought me to the world of Witchcraft.

Arlene:

How does the Moon effect witches? What is the role of the Moon?
(Forgive me, I am a poet and I sometimes see images in the words that you may not see. If the questions are too vague, feel free to change them, ignore them, or ask me for clarification.)

Maxine:

Everything in the Universe effects us all. Witches are taught to be aware of the cycles of the planets and their effects. We work in the appropriate cycle to bring about affect.

Arlene:

I am very interested in the spirits of place. In Fire child, you suggest that Alderly Edge had a special energy. When I first lived in London, I lived near Hampstead Heath and on the first Samhain was assaulted, from 3AM – 6AM by the Horned God during six weeks of vivid dreams. There was a lot of related phenomena. I was terrified. When I finally stopped trying to block it, He entered me and I was on fire, on all levels, for three days and nights.
I was later told (by Christina at Treadwells) that Hampstead Heath was a stag hunting forest. Had I been initiated into Wicca, I might have known how to deal with this event, but it just erupted into my life and put me into shock.
In my earlier life, I dreamed all the time that I had stag antlers.
Can you address this issue of spirits of the land?

Maxine:

They are just that and I am aware of them and use them. A fully trained witch would not be hurt by them.

Arlene:

Why does the Horned God visit some people without being called? Or any Deity for that matter?

Maxine:

The Witch studies the natural and is empowered by their experience with these energies. The witches training includes safety techniques that include the wholeness and protection of self.

Arlene:

How have the places you have lived effected, or transformed your magic?

Maxine:

Every valley and vale is different and effects the magic of the witch.

Arlene:

Are cities better for lodge magic, and the rural places for witchcraft?

Maxine:.

Magic and its effectiveness is dependent upon the individual practitioner.

Arlene:

Does it matter?

Maxine:

For me the place obviously matters, however the preparation and creation of the sacred place contributes enormously.

Arlene:

Can witches help to heal the Earth?

Maxine:

Witches have always been aware of the need to respect the Earth. We know the Earth does have the ability to heal itself. I believe it is our responsibility to continue in respectful behaviour and if it is possible this should be encouraged throughout the human race.

This is one of my favorite photos of Maxine and the Witches. It is from King of the Witches by June Johns, 1969.

Arlene:

I am interested in the interrelationship of Faery tradition and Witchcraft. Would you discuss the relationship between witches and the Faery — especially those in the British Isles?
Are they important to you or not?

Maxine:

All of the elemental kingdoms are important to the Witch and Occultist.

Arlene:

What about the Roots of the Tree of Life?
The Underworld realms. Shamans go there, but Qabbalists keep away. Do you have any feelings about that that you would like to share?

Maxine:

I have been practicing the Art of Witchcraft for over 45 years. However I am not an historian nor am I an authority on the subjects you mention, I am still the student, enjoying that status. I do believe we each have our speciality we have chosen to practice. We can only wear one pair of shoes at any time.

Arlene:

What happens to a witch’s power if she doesn’t practice magic for a time?

Maxine:

The laws of Witchcraft advise that we invoke often. Probably because we will loose it if we don’t.

Arlene:

Do some people HAVE to practice magic to be OK?

Maxine:

No

Arlene:

I traveled in Cornwall in 1997. On one leg of the trip, I wanted to find an old wishing well I had heard about. I was in the village, and asked some children if they knew about it. An old lady come up to me and smiled and pointed the way. I sensed I had met someone whose background had always been in the Old Religion.
When you were doing your work in the 1960s, were you aware of people in the British Isles still living an ancient way of life?

Maxine:

Yes, and I am still aware of them. I live in a rural area in North Wales and even now the Old Religion is still apparent.

Arlene:

(How cool is that!)

Were there covens, or is that a modern thing?

Maxine:

I believe coven is a comparatively modern term although I do think there have always been gatherings of magical practitioners

Arlene:

Have you met earlier generations of witches during your life, and did they teach you things?

Maxine:

Yes.

Arlene:

As the Old Ways become more mainstream, domestication may become a concern. Mainstream and Domestic seem to me to equal loss of vividness, loss of power. Like churches where peoples’ prayers are empty.
How do you keep the witch soul alive when there are so many novices who become self appointed experts, and replace the deep truths with platitudes and shallow unsolicited advice?

Maxine:

It is my own practice in my own circle that is my responsibility to keep pure. Whilst Witches keep true to their highest ideals and disregard those who are ruled by ego born of earth, the Craft will be continue to be Hidden and true.

Arlene:

Have people tried to advise you as if you were born yesterday? lol

Maxine:

Yes.

Arlene:

How do we protect the power of the Goddess and the Fay when so many take them for granted, or change them into household doodas, and generally disrespect the awesome power that they are?

Maxine:

The Goddess and the Fay are more than capable of protecting themselves. To doubt it enables the profane.

Arlene:

How do we keep the old ways from becoming an organized religion?

Maxine:

Remember the Craft are called ‘The hidden Children of the Goddess’.

Arlene:

Or in the face of that probability, how do we keep the portals open, in the right way, for ourselves?

Maxine:

It would seem appropriate that we remain hidden.

Arlene:

Many women find that when we are in the Spirit that our love life stops. I was told a Faery was very possessive of me and drove potential boyfriends away.
What do you make of that phenomenon?
Has it happened to you?

Maxine:

The path of the Initiate is that of vocation and dedication. It was my choice therefore I must live with the consequences.

Arlene:

Do you have anything you want to say to people who are drawn to the occult, and magic, but may not know what they are getting into?

Maxine:

Listen to the Inner voice and beware of those who boast.

Arlene:

What is the Dark Night of the Soul and its purpose?

Maxine:

The Dark Night of the Soul is experience of true Brilliance. The Brilliance is the realization of the inner reality of that experience.

Arlene:

Can goodness be found in the dark?

Maxine:

There is a saying ‘The Light shineth in Darkness’.

Arlene:

What do you say to those who insist God wants you to be happy all the time?

Maxine:

Happiness is of the moment. Continuous happiness would be difficult.  I rather think if would become boring, although it is possible to enjoy the moment and be at peace with all experience.

Arlene:

Are your cycles of death and rebirth fast or slow?
Are they intense or easy?
Why does the Goddess put us through such strong cycles?

Maxine:

We choose the path!

Arlene:

Right, right….of course. What is the goal?

Maxine:

The Moment.

Arlene:

I love in your book your sea working in Wales. It reminds me of Dion Fortune’s Sea Priestess and Apuleius’s vision of Isis in the Golden Ass. How breathtaking! Is this the type of magic you do all the time?

Maxine:

The intensity of the Sea Rite is truly breathtaking, it would be quite silly to do this kind of work regularly; it would loose its vitality.

Arlene:

Can I be your student? lol!

Maxine:

Bless you. I stopped teaching several years ago. I believe the Craft is experiential and extremely physical. Whilst as an Elder I can advise, my physical ability is compromised through time against which we are helpless.

Arlene:

I hope these questions are not too obtuse, Maxine. I want to know these answers from one of the very wise, so must others want to know.

Maxine:

I do wish you joy on your wonderful journey.

Thanks so much!

If you want a little more, please see my blog reviewing Maxine Sander’s autobiography by clicking this link: Firechild: The Life of Maxine Sanders, Witch Queen

Buy the book by clicking on this widget. there are other great Wicca books here as well but those connected to the Sanders.


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London: Spirits of the Land, The Faerie Queene

Elizabeth Tudor: the Faerie Queene

Of Faerie lond yet if he more inquire,
By certaine signes here set in sundry place
He may it find; ne let him then admire,
But yield his sence to be too blunt and bace,
That no’te without an hound fine footing trace.
And thou, O fairest Princesse vnder sky,
In this faire mirrhour maist behold thy face,
And thine owne realmes in lond of Faery,
And in this antique Image thy great auncestry.
— Edmund Spencer, The Faerie Queene

I was drawn to London because of Shakespeare. In the 1980′s I was heavily involved in Shakespeare productions, not only as an actress, but as a choreographer as well. I was also known to lend a hand with costumes for they are one of my passions, and brought up in small town Massachusetts, I was a trained needlewoman since early childhood.
In 1998, an authentic replica of the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre had been completed on the south bank of the Thames. Portraits of Queen Elizabeth and the Tudors were on free exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery. It is quite a thing to be able to stand in front of a painting that one’s favorite monarch actually sat for and to feel the centuries pass below you, carried on the River Thames.
The reign of Elizabeth was remarkable for its glories in art, music, dance, magic, and culture, as well for its horrors.  One only has to walk along Tower Bridge to recall that in her day the severed heads of traitors would have been displayed above you,  visited by crows and reduced to bones on a regular basis. Of course, across the bridge one can see the Tower of London, where Elizabeth herself was imprisoned as a girl.
Bright light, deep shadow, London was a microcosm of the forces of dark and light, god and evil, and everything in between.

I have no doubt that I was ‘guided’ to live in London because of the intensity of this duality, resonant as I was with the city’s history in Elizabeth’s time. Magically, Elizabeth Tudor’s court Astrologer, John Dee, and his Seer, Edward Kelly, were talking to angels. After the Queen’s death, these two  would help to bring the art of Alchemy to fruition in Bohemia. King James’s daughter, Elizabeth, would marry Fredrick of Bohemia. Together they  became the icons of the Alchemical King and  Queen.
Edward Spencer’s epic poem, The Faery Queen, based on Queen Elizabeth, did not come out of a vacuum. I believe he was inspired by a conceit already being played out in the Court.
But I had ‘met’ her in this guise  while living in Seattle, long before I ever went to London.

Have a listen to Spem in Alium, composed for Queen Elizabeth’s birthday by Thomas Tallis, while you read the blog. It is sung by 8 choirs.

The Pelican and Phoenix Portraits


My first formal magical excursions into the Realm of Faery were under the guidance of R.J.Stewart in a workshop he gave on the Dark Goddess.
One of Bob’s exercises is have an audience with the Faery Queen and the Faery King. Each participant has their own version of this, for the Realm of Faery, though ‘real’, dresses itself in the iconography of our individual imaginations. I saw, and have seen since, the Faery King as great Stag/Man and the Faery Queen ‘dressed’ as Queen Elizabeth.

The Influence of Our Personal Imagery on How Faeries Appear

I thought this imagery was due to my inner links with Shakespeare and Elizabethan times. Also, as a child of he 1960′s, I grew up listening to Joan Baez singing the old Child Ballads, many of which came from the 15th and 16th centuries. Many of these songs were collected in Appalachia, brought to the Americas by English, Scots and Irish settlers during those times. As a child in Massachusetts, my imagination was informed by austere Puritan imagery: Women in black clothes with laced  corsets, neck ruffs, and peaked hats were among the  spirits of that land for me. The infamous Man in Black was dressed in 17th century clothes. I drew many pen and ink illustrations of women dressed like this, calling them my “Witches”. I felt they came to me from the flint, birch trees, and the golden rod, that covered the low hills of New England. The folk ballads and the Puritan imagery worked together in my imagination to generate ideas of what Underworld Faeries, the Ancestors, looked like.

This would be true for everyone who enters Faery. They will appear to you in a from that appeals to you or frightens you, or whatever gets the strongest emotional response from you.

Imagination, or Something Else?

While in London, I began writing fiction. I had been writing all my life, mostly poetry. (I am a published poet and have won a few prizes for my work.) But it took living in an historic country like England for my stories to come alive in me. My first endeavor was a novel about a Faery Changeling entitled Dark Night, Lily Bright. The Faery Queen is called Queen Elspeth and her consort is Cernunnos, the Stag/Man. There are also two other related characters in the story, sorceresses, that are similar to her. They all wear Elizabethan fashions.

Writing is a magical act, and the characters were very much alive. This seems to be the reason people become passionate about writing, for the writer watches as the characters act out their story and record it. In my novel about Faeries, I merely clothed the Faery Queen as Elizabeth. I never dreamed it may have actually been Elizabeth as Goddess of the Land entering my inner world.

My ‘real’ work is as a psychic and healer. One day, I was doing a healing session with a client lying on the massage table in a trance. When the session was over, she sat up and said “The whole time we were working, two women were standing at the end of the table dressed in purple. They said they were Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary.”
I was floored! Never had anyone else seen them before. I did know that Queen Mary had arrived. Of course they were sisters.

Masonic Connections


Before I went to England in 1997, I had a dream that I was invited into a gathering of English people seated in an a circle in a formal library as you might find in a stately home. It was a gathering of occultists. I saw the face of the leader of the group very clearly, for he had opened the door to me.
In 2004, I went to a talk on Alchemy that was held at a Masonic center in Cannonbury, Islington. During the tea and cakes reception a man walked toward me, holding out his hands as if he were greeting a long lost friend. I instantly recognized him as the man in my dream! During our conversation, in which I told him of my pre-cognition of our meeting, the subject got on to my feelings about Queen Elizabeth and magic, especially Alchemy. This man, Joseph McDerrmott, had been a Jesuit monk in Ireland. He eventually left the Order to focus on occult practices. The iconography of Queen Elizabeth was a special interest of his, so he kindly invited me to meet him at the Tate gallery to see the Phoenix Portrait of Queen Elizabeth on loan from the National Portrait Gallery. He told me it would be ‘an initiation’.

The Symbols of Sacred Queenship

Pelican of Sacrifice

The iconography of the rubescent Pelican Portrait displays emblems of the Queen’s willingness to sacrifice  herself for her subjects, for as the mythical Pelican pierces her own breast to feed her young with her heart’s blood, so the Queen bleeds for the benefit of her country and its people. Red is the color of martial strength,as well as sexual energy. She has a branch of cherries behind her ear that seems like a ‘come and get it if you can gesture’, though one could not possibly suggest that the Queen would play such games…The roses and other  flower-like jewels and embroideries on her gown suggest fertility and abundant life. The Tudor rose and the fleur-de-lis floating in the space behind her are the symbols of England and France.
In restored versions, there is a fringe over her head suggesting  that she stands beneath a canopy. As her shadow is cast on the wall behind her, we can assume she must have been facing the sun, the source of light. This solar spotlight suggests that the Queen chose to be highly visible before her people. She had nothing to hide, rather she displays her role as their protector and guide.
These are the outward shows for the sake of reassurance for the realm that she give her all for their sake.
Yet there was one important thing Elizabeth would never give them — an heir. I think her compensation for this is revealed in the companion portrait, where she looks to the left, the ‘sinister’ direction of the moon. Her black veil suggests that she stands in the shadows, in the darkness, hidden.

Phoenix of Death and Rebirth

The Phoenix Portrait is the companion piece to the Pelican Portrait. Joe described one as being  ‘with the red rose’, while the other is ‘under the black rose’. The black rose signifies secret knowledge kept ‘under the rose’ or ‘sub rosa’.

In the Phoenix portrait, Elizabeth stands under a black veil against a black background suggesting that she is on the threshold of the Unseen. The phoenix is an emblem of death and rebirth, but not pro-creative duplication. This is important in Elizabeth’s case, for she remained ‘virgin’, or unmarried, all her life. This created serious political problems, for she was dooming the kingdom to go on, after her death, without an heir.

The phoenix as a symbol for Elizabeth’s uniqueness, oneness and chastity, has a hidden meaning. The bird that dies  in fire to rise again from its own ashes, is a powerful icon for dynastic mysticism. Its ability to transcend death asserts the continuation of hereditary kingship through the immortality of the monarch, in this case the Virgin Queen. There could be no more potent symbol of power on Earth than this reminder that  even death cannot defeat this Queen.

The jewels in the Queen’s hair ray out like moonlight, she is covered in pearls and garnets, suggesting moonlit dew drops and blood. The strawberry leaves embroidered over the fabric of her gown symbolize love, luck and pregnancy(?). (It is interesting to note that strawberries, when crushed, could be said to bleed.)

Most significantly for the occultist, the Queen holds a white stone in her  hand. Could it be the Philosopher’s Stone that grants immortality, eternal youth and life?

This portrait explains the secrets behind and esoteric justification for the Queen’s chastity. Her possession of the Philosopher’s Stone means that she will never die.  Did Dr. John Dee conjure this for her? As we saw previously, it was he that brought Alchemy to Bohemia, catalyzing the Magical Court of Emperor Rudolf, a center for esotericists from all over the world.

When one  considers that the Tudors were also Celts, with their ancient tradition of Lady Sovereignty, representative of the Land, it may not be too far fetched to suggest that Queen Elizabeth reveals her magical beliefs and alchemical aspirations to be the Sovereign Lady reigning over the land of England forever. All future Kings who marry the Land will marry Elizabeth, for she is one with the land, part and parcel of it. She is the Faery Queen.


photo credit: Ivana Warde   Hampstead Heath

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Attributes of the Horned God During the Dark Night of the Soul

This picture saved me!

Christina Oakley gave this extremely powerful image to me over tea and cookies in her office at Treadwells Bookshop in Covent Garden, London. Seven years after my harrowing spontaneous initiation with the Horned God, I had finally drummed up the courage to ask for help.  It was not easy to find someone who would understand the difference between visionary experience and insanity — especially in the UK where ‘mental and emotional problems’ are still perceived quite harshly.  But the only way out of darkness for me has always been to find meaning in the experience. I felt Christina could provide that meaning, for she is a knowledgeable initiated Witch.

This Initiatory ordeal is discussed in depth in my previous posts: The Horned Ones, and London: How I Encountered the Spirits of the Land.

The Horned God had come to me in the form of large and powerful Stag/Man.  Due to my own resonance with deer, I always see the God in the form the French Cernnunnos, the Stag. I had written a poem about Cernunnos as he appears on the Gundestrup cauldron a good 15 years before he came to me in the night.

( Intimations of Ancestry: Song of the Gudestrup Cauldron)

In England, the Stag is called Herne the Hunter, Lord of the Wild Hunt. Indeed, it was as he was leading the Wild Hunt through my house that he found me and my ordeal began.

When it comes to spirits and the Elder Gods: “If you can see them, they can see you.” Never take this lightly.

In her own poetic style, Christina told me about the picture at the top of this post. The bottom shows the Stag  in the dark forest. We, as Hunter, or man in his primal, unconscious, undifferentiated state, have chased him there thinking “Wow I have found a big one! One that will feed me for many months!” In our pride we fail to see that the case is reversed. It is he who has led us into his wild domain.

The Hunter thinks the Stag is the one who will die — or who will serve him, or feed for him for a long time, but it is not so. It is the Hunter who dies by entering the Dark Night. The Hunter enters the maze and cannot find the way out until the God decides he is ready. This usually takes seven years in human time.

Does anyone know the reason seven years are required to face one’s demons and walk out wounded, but wiser, and profoundly changed? It is seven years. I know for a fact!

(In writing this, I just realized, I had asked for this experience back in 1996. I was questing in true Arthurian fashion in an Arthurian, Faery domain. In other terms, I was hunting the God — following the White Stag into the Otherworld to discover the richness and beauty of the unseen worlds.  Where would he take me? What marvels would he show me? I thought he would he ‘feed’ me for a long time with wonders and possibly a spiritula prize of great merit. But rather than into the Grail Castle of transcendent beauty, he led me into the Abyss where death and a darkness waited to consume my to my very bones….for to the mortal being, the Faery realm is the abode of spirits, shades, the dead — and that is a dark place indeed.)

In Christina’s picture, the Stag’s antlers grow and branch into the Tree of Life. For Qabbalists, you can see that the Stag is not only BELOW the Tree, in the Qlippoth, but is actually the ROOT of the Tree. The traditional Qabbalistic propaganda about about the roots of the Tree of Life, or its upside down reflection, it shadow on the earth, is that they are the abode  devils, demons, chaos, and evil to be strictly avoided in meditation and magical workings. Very dangerous indeed!

This fear, in my thinking, was promoted at a time when the Roman Church sought to separate the people from their Pagan Gods, who were also rooted in the land, and thus sever them from intimacy with nature. An image of the roots of the Tree of Life beginning in the horns of an animal with cloven hooves, is remarkable indeed. For the horned and cloven ones came to be, in Christianity, synonymous with the Devil.

The Dark Forest

Wandering in the Dark Forest, is the symbol for the Dark Night of the Soul. You are lost. It seems even God has left you to grope your way through your own blindness, left you unprotected to face the monsters you grew in the shadowy corners of your mind that lurk and block you until you admit their presence. No one can advise you in the murky terrain of your own soul.  It is the helpless, lonely stage of the Quest, where no one answers your questions, where you don’t even know the right questions to ask, and comfort is in short supply.

But look again at the picture. High in the antler/branches of the Stag, are birds fluttering their wings. They hover just below the culminating symbol of what I guess is an embryonic deer, seeded in the womb space that pokes into the Upper World just under the earth. Singing, the birds conjure a blazing light around the top of the tree. Yet they seem to be barred from ascending to the Upper World, where light and life is. These birds show, not that there is a way out of the darkness, but that there is light in the darkness. The symbol also shows that the antlers of the Underworld Stag terminate in buds. These buds will flower and live again when conditions are right.

Seeing the pattern of the antler/tree reminds me of the labyrinthine path one follows in the forest of the soul. I have come to believe you must tread the maze completely before you are able to come back out into the light where the birds sing and fly free. This is because the pattern and boundary of the maze are fixed– its route, and our journey along it, is pre-ordained by the nature of its fixity.

Birds have always been symbols of the Soul. The presence of birds tell us this is soul work, this Stag chase into the woods is how we reclaim our soul.

Our Reward:Coziness

When we return to the light and the living, we find our way to the sunny mountaintop where a cozy cottage sits in plain view with smoke coming out of the chimney. A warm, welcoming fire awaits us. We see the forest far below, visible and no longer threatening. Nothing can ever threaten us again, once we have faced the darkest dark and gone through it, not even the Devil with his horns and cloven hooves can scare us!

Looking closely at the image of the little hut on the hill, we see the impressions of flowers growing along a path that climbs a hill of solar rays, and terminates in a fire inside the house. Smoke flows out of the chimney.The land is cleared and the view is spectacular. In the distance, across the treetops of the forest, we see another such hill with another little hut with smoke coming out of the chimney.  We are separate but not alone.

The flowers bloom from the buds at the points of the antlers that poke up out of the Underworld, the path ending in fire is an extension of the central trunk of the Tree of Life. Though the mountaintop is a classic symbol of spiritual attainment, this image is homely, earthy. The path of the Horned God does not lead to a celestial abode of angels and endless harping, but to life close to nature without being at its mercy. We are sovereign, but not lonely. But as the path leads up, it also leads down again. Our relationship with the God is cyclical and permanent. As this image so eloquently tells us, the Stag/God/Tree sustains us as he sustains all of life through nature.

Herne the Hunter and his Symbols

There were many other spirits that came to me with Herne — all of them part of his iconography, listed on his Table of Correspondences. When Christina described these things to me, the information was all the more convincing for my not having known it consciously before.

Herne’s Rites are traditional for Autumn Equinox, but I learned by experience that the Rites of Autumn are foreshadowed in the Spring, due perhaps to that Scorpio Full Moon at Beltane. The veil is thin at both seasonal tides, and when the veil is thin, the spirits come out upon the Earth.

Among the images associated with the Stag God are:

Harvest: First is the Harvest of Grain. Then comes the Harvest of Grapes for the wine. Third is the Harvest nuts. Last is the Harvest of Souls.

The idea of a Harvest of Souls always stirs us. It comes at the time of Samhain as we descend into the freezing darkness of Winter. Perhaps in primal times, many humans died at this time. The ancient Celts had a tradition of flogging each other with birch rods to cleanse impurities from the soul. I imagine this was a kind of insurance in case one did not survive the snows. In Christian times, the weak and sick must have run to the priests to cleanse their sins and gain absolution. Certainly the priests used this time of worry to harvest souls for Christ.

But Samhain was also a time for hunting. A large animal such as a  stag would provide meat for many weeks, feeding a family in the deepest winter months when it was dangerous to stray out of doors. For farmers, October/November would have been a time to slaughter livestock, weeding out the old so that the new born in the Spring would be strong and healthy. Thus, the animal souls were harvested by the Gods, brought home again to be reborn in the Spring.

Symbols: Grapes, Wine, Vines, Garlands

The vines suddenly burst up through my bed, driving up over the sheets to wrap around me like snakes. Lengthening at a great speed, the green vines shot up through my mattress to bind me for the God.

Animals: Wolves!

If you ever get to read my fiction you will see I have been just as busy with wolves as I have been with Stag/Men.

Wolves prowled around the edge of my protective circle — but, strangely,  couldn’t get in.  Everything else did. Also Dogs, Birds of Prey, Blackbirds, Stags, Goats, Salmon ( the wisdom part)

Plants: Vines, Ivy, Cedar, Hops

Ritual Meaning: Celebrating the Second Harvest, Darkness Overtaking Light, Celebration of Wine.

Often Initiation leads through a death and second birth. In those terms, a second harvest  would have to do with gathering the fruits of the second birth, sacrificing those fruits in preparation for another death. So the cycle goes round and round.

Deities: All Wine Deities especially Dionysus and Bacchus, Persephone, Modron, Morgan le Fay, Demeter, the Muses, Snake Woman, Sphinx, Thoth, Hermes.

Oh my! All of my most significant Gods and Goddesses! What could it all mean?

Activities: Wine Making and Adorning Graves.

What is this connection with wine and death? Anyone? Perhaps the answer is here: Stirring the Witchblood: John Barleycorn Must Die

Foods: Grapes, Acorns, Root Crops, Nuts, Apples (Goddess), Wine, Ale, Cider.

Witchcraft is the Green Religion

I am not writing all of this to blather on about myself, but to show how real the Initiation of the Horned God was and how real the Gods are. They were not contrived by ancient poets and bards, they were not invented by story tellers. They exist in their own Time/ Space and can be contacted through magical rituals and conscious observation. Our ancestors lived with these Gods and Goddesses, communicated with them regularly, made sacrifices to them to insure an abundant harvest. These ancestors were not silly children with overactive imaginations. Rather we moderns lack the instincts and intelligence of our forebears. We give nature short shrift, deny her our true attention. What right do we have to decide that the Gods of Earth do not exist just because we have cut off the organs we used to have to see them with? Safe inside the walls of our cities, we have decided that nature, our very source and provider, is irrelevant.

Seeing the spirits of the land, respecting the Gods and Goddesses of Earth proves that the Earth and all of nature is alive! The Gods embody the wisdom and sentience of the Earth, the animals her soul, the plants her spiritual essence. The Gods may be forceful towards those of us with the Sight because it is so important that they re-establish their priesthood. Who else will say what I am saying here: The Earth is your Mother, the Sky is your Father. That which is Above is as that which is Below. The Under World of spirit gives life to the Upper World of mortality. Without one, the other cannot exist.

Please be aware that you are walking on the Gods.

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London: How I Encountered the Spirits of the Land

The Faery Queen and the Horned God

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

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

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

Mystical Encounters with the Spirits of the Land

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

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

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

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

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

Tarot of the Grail Bearers

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

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

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

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

50 The Drive

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

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

Initiation of the Horned God

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

It began with nightmares.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

The Horned God in the Forest

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


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

Witchery of the White Sow

The pig shares its symbolic value with the boar. In Mesopotamia, at Catal Huyuk, in shrine EVI8, rows of breasts molded over jaws and tusks of boars express the idea that life comes from death.- Buffie Johnson

But, I hear you say, “Isn’t the White Sow the beast of Cerridwen, and is she not a Lammas Goddess, a Goddess of sacrifice? Why bring her to darken the door of Springtime? What has she got to do with flowering  Beltane?”

Let me tell you a little story.

As the trees are reflected in a mirror lake, their branches reaching across the water from their roots into the underwater sky, so do I climb the branches of the Underworld Tree from roots to branches that plunge deep into the earth. Before me is light for which I aim — a green sky shining between the leaves. Out in the light, I reach the topmost twigs, and drop down to the green grass below. Lifted by a wind, I float to the low hills glimmering on the horizon. Inside the door of the hill the Watcher,cloaked in scarlet and black, waits. A penny for your thoughts? I drop a coin into box and find the opening that leads into the Palace of the Faery Queen.


The Faery Hall at Beltane

The dome of the Faery Hall is supported by pillars of trees. Its floor is composed of black and white stones filed flat as tiles set out in squares like a chess board. On a green terrace are two carved and ancient thrones where sit the Horned God, and the Lady with Antlers, the Faery Queen. When they see me enter, their gray eyes glitter, they stir. The low bells toll, and the drums roll under the earth.

The Faery Court surrounds me, full of focused intent. They wear the clothes of Medieval France. Their movements are graceful, coy, unpredictable. Do not be fooled. The Faery, though beautiful, are one with nature and, like nature, they are wild.

A horn sounds  near and far away. A huge white sow enters the Hall. Waving black steamers float around her head. She sniffs the air when she sees me and next thing I know, I am under her feet. As she tramples me with her cloven hoofs, I hear a great drum beating, but it is not a drum. It is the unified breathing of the Faery Court, keeping time to her stomping and grinding me into the black and white stones of the floor. Soon, I am nothing but a smudge of darkness on the white square, and a spray of gray dust on the black ones.

There is silence, and then a blare of trumpets coming from somewhere between the pillar-trees.  Suddenly I see myself, the way all dreamers do, sitting sideways, and unladylike, on the back of the great white sow. I am dressed in a green gown, my waving golden hair is encircled with flowers. Hawthorn flowers entwine the Sow, who is also crowned May Queen, She Who is Reborn in Spring. Smiling, the Sow Goddess dances on the black and white floor, taking me with her. I raise my hands, palm up, as if to catch the rays of the sun. The Faery Court claps and laughs. Soon we are dancing in the bright green light as the Sow carries me around the Faery Hall.

This vision was prophetic. Literally. For when the long seven years in the dark forest of the Horned God’s initiation was over, I went out to a May Day celebration at the Deveraux Pub in London, and was made May Queen by a drawing of lots.

Here is what remains of my hawthorn crown. It has traveled many miles with me. They were elder witches that gave it to me.

Beltane and the Underworld Goddess

Beltane comes to pass in the sun sign of Taurus. At mid tide, the Sacred Cow sees her self in the mirror of a Full Scorpio Moon. As Taurus is birth and the nurturing of life, Scorpio is the sting of death whose weapon is the blade of sacrifice.

Because they were less expensive to feed and care for than bulls, sows appear as lesser sacrificial animals in vegitative festivities. Afterward they were eaten by worshippers who thus partook of the essence of the divinity. In Crete the pig was a favorite sacrificial animal at the Peak Sanctuary on Mount Juktas and other mountaintop shrines consecrated to the Lady of the Beasts. In Crete the Crone, as Goddess of Wisdom, takes the form of a Sow... Buffie Johnson, Lady of the Beasts

Triplicity

Fertility, death, resurrection are the threefold cycle of Earth. The pig with her litter of piglets, sucking her to the bones. The Sow that eats her young. The sacrificed pig who fertilizes the grain, whose death is the promise of life to come.

The Sow is the creature of the Underworld — she lies under the Earth, one with the soil seeded with grain. Divinized, the pig’s blood is given to the soil from which the Goddess springs up in the long days of May. All  spiral into, and out of each other, feeding on each other as life feeds on itself. Close to the forces of nature, the ancients lived these cycles day after day, night after night, season after season. The Full Moon in Scorpio reminded them, that in the fullness of Spring, the darkness of Death was waiting.

Sow and Reap

As early as the seventh millenium B.C.E., the sow was involved in vegetation rituals. The pig’s habit of rooting in the soil with its tusks is a primal image of the plowing of the soil. the sow’s fast growth, and wealth of piglets, made her a creature of plenty. The existence of an ancient Sow Oracle attests to her transformative nature, and intimacy with the powers of fertility — the main concern of agrarian cultures worldwide. Ancient votive figures of pigs have grains pressed into their bodies, making them one with the crops. Neolithic Priestesses wore sow masks to represent the Goddess as they copulated in the fields during Beltane.

The association of sowing and reaping with iconography of Old Man, Death, are well known.

The Sow Goddess acts as an epiphany of the Lady of the Plants. The Greek Goddess, Demeter carries a pig and a torch into Hades when she searches for Persephone. It is no accident that the only witness to Hades’ abduction of Persephone is a swine herd, and that the swineherd reports the rape to Hecate, Goddess of the dark side of the Moon.

As the pig is sacrificed to the Goddess to make the crops grow, the boar is often the agency of death. Set takes the form of a boar to kill Osiris. The Irish God Diarmid is killed by a boar — in fact many Grail Knights are wounded in the thigh by boars to be rescued by Faery Queens. The rites of Tammuz follow the same boar slain pattern as all the dying and resurrecting Gods of the Grain.

Cerridwen

The Welsh Goddess, Cerridwen, has long associations with the White Sow, magic, and poetry. She is a Goddess of doorways between death and rebirth. A shape shifter, Inspiratrice, and witch, it was she that trampled me in the Faery Hall to initiate me into her Mysteries. It was she who dogged my steps for nine years.

Nine: Number of the months of human gestation. Sacred number of the Moon.

The  Black Book of Carmarthen  contains two poems by the bard Cuhelyn that associate Cerridwen with seeds, and therefore fertility and growth in the darkness of the Underworld. As she seeds the Earth, she seeds the imagination of poet, becoming his dark Muse:

A successful song of fruitful praise, relating to the bustling course of the host,

According to the sacred ode of Cyridwen, the goddess of various seeds,

The various seeds of poetic harmony, the exalted speech of the graduated minstrel–BBC III

Her Name

Scottish, Welsh) [KARE-id-ooín or KARE-id-win] Moon Goddess; Great Mother; Grain Goddess; Goddess of Nature. The white-corpse eating sow representing the Moon. Her symbol was a white sow. Death, fertility, regeneration, inspiration, magic, astrology, herbs, science, poetry, spells, knowledge.

Cerridwen is the goddess of dark prophetic powers. She is the keeper of the cauldron of the underworld, in which inspiration and divine knowledge are brewed. She is often equated with the famous Greek crone, Hecate, and to the Irish Badb. She is also sometimes related to the Greek Muses, only in a more violent and dark form.

Cerridwen’s name has many meanings that signify Moon, Sickle, Sow.

Cerid-wen: fair, beloved

Cerit: hooked, crooked Hook, sickle, ben: woman Crooked Backed Woman ( Sounds like the moon to me.)

Ceritwen: crooked white one

One can see that the round shape of the pig suggests pregnancy, the Moon. The cyclical swelling of her belly with unborn piglets decreasing to bone thinness after birth, mimics the phases of the Moon. While in Mexico, I saw a mother pig almost devoured by her suckling piglets who were almost the same size as she. The connotations of the life feeding on darkness as the sow almost dies to feed her young, are resonant. The crooked back of the Sow mirrors the crooked sickle moon, whose belly is in darkness.

The Moon, as has been discussed before, is the vessel of fertility, the place from whence the souls of the unborn descend to earthly incarnation.

Full Moon in Scorpio

Give me more death. — Pablo Neruda

The Poet and his Muse.

The artist must be taken sometimes against his or her will. The Muse possesses the artist, for the artist is the instrument through which the Goddess speaks. The creative process is a fire. It brings illumination, radiation, and sometimes pain, when one comes to close to the flames. The Goddess, Cerridwen, kept the Cauldron of Poetry and Rebirth. As Gwion’s fingers are spattered by the Witch’s brew, he gains the gift of prophetic speech. If he enters the cauldron he will be twice born, divinized, springing up like the grain from the soil of death. He becomes Taliesin, poet, prophet, divine son of the Goddess.

Beltane, your flowers spring from the death of winter. When the sun and moon are joined in the sign of the solar Bull and the lunar Cow, they procreate in the dark. The grass grows, the flowers bloom, the birds feast on buds, and worms that make the gardens fertile.

Merciless, the moon soon rises, and like a mirror, shines back to the joyous Great Mother Goddess her other face: Scorpion Queen of Samhain.

The cycles moves around and around, eternally, or as long as there is life on Earth. Sacrifice, Purification, Divination, and Rebirth. The transfigured Sow Goddess rules Beltane.

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Salome: The Seventh Queen

For you fiction lovers out there, the complete Part One of Salome: The Seventh  Queen is posted under under Fiction on the navigation bar, or you can find the chapters listed in the side bar.

It is a draft of my own work. Part Two will begin when I get a response for Part One. Critiques, feedback, all is good and will help me write a better story. This is a draft, not a finished piece, but hopefully entertaining.

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All commentators will recieve a free ebook of Salome: The Seventh Queen in its finished form just for helping and being interested.

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