Category Archives: Non-Fiction

The Druid Garden

The Druid Garden is a new book from Luke Eastwood.

In this age of high technology, GM foods and industrial farming, many people are looking for an alternative way to live, that honours and respects the natural world. The Druid Garden mines the deep seem of gardening through the ages and alternative modern developments, to bring the reader a method of gardening that is truly in touch with the Earth. Drawing on the knowledge of the Druids and other ancient cultures, Luke Eastwood has created a practical guide to organic and natural methods that are proven to work. Advice for the total beginner, through to the experienced, ties together Druidic wisdom with the best of gardening knowledge. Part of this book is a handy alphabetical guide to trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants, giving a wealth of information on history and folklore, as well as practical details on plant care and growing from seed.

This book is invaluable to anyone serious about organic gardening or those simply interested in how things were done in former ages, Celtic Europe in particular.

You can buy copies directly from the author – https://lukeeastwood.com/books/the-druid-garden

Divination – A Book Worm’s Eye View

DIVINATION: A Practical Approach

It was Robert Cochrane who originally coined those now famous words:

“If one who claims to be a Witch can perform the tasks of Witchcraft, i.e. summon the spirits and they come, can divine with rod, fingers and birds.  If they can also claim the right to the omens and have them; have the power to call, heal and curse and above all, can tell the maze and cross the Lethe, then you have a witch.”

Divination is what I would refer to as the practical element of Craft magic, and we don’t even have to be witches to be able to read the portents.  But it helps!

Looking into the future is a very ancient practice. As we saw in the chapter ‘Developing the ‘Art of Seeing’ in Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living, thousands of recorded British customs and superstitions all have their roots in fortune-telling spells and charms, and they are as fashionable today as they were way back when. In fact, it’s been said that divination was as commonplace in the past as satellite communication is today: it was part of everyday life for everyone from king to commoner.  It utilised all manner of techniques and methods from a simple nut placed on the fire grate to the complicated reading of the Roman auspices.

For example a few of these techniques include:

Aeromancy: Divination using the formation of clouds and other patterns in the skies.

Botanomancy: Divination through plant life; may include the burning of plants and foretelling future events through the ashes or smoke.

Crystallomancy: An ancient form of casting lots using small stones. Or crystalomancy: Divination by studying a crystal ball.

Daphnomancy: Using the smoke of burning branches of the laurel tree to answer questions and forecast upcoming events.

Enoptromancy: An ancient method using a shiny surface placed in water.

Felidomancy: Divination through the observation of felines, including domestic and wild cats.

Geomancy: An ancient system interpreting the patterns and shapes or events found in nature.

Halomancy: Foretelling by interpreting the formation of the crystals when salt is poured to the ground.

Ichthyomancy: Observing the behaviour of fish both in and out of the water.

Jungism: The understanding of mythic symbolism as it relates to the human subconciousness.

Kephalonomancy: Ancient method of pouring lighted carbon on the skull of a goat or donkey to determine guilt or innocence.

Lampadomancy: Divination through the observation of flames from a candle or flaming torch.

Metopomancy: Divination and character analysis by studying the lines on a person’s forehead.

Necromancy: Contacting the spirits of the dead to interpret omens and forecast future events.

Oinomancy: An ancient Roman practice of interpretation through the study and evaluation of the colour, consistency and taste of wine.

Psephomancy: Divination by selecting at random small stones from a pile.

Qabbala: A blend of powerful divinely-inspired divination and mysticism.

Rune Stones: A series of mystic symbols thrown or selected to determine the future.

Scrying: Divination by interpreting the play of light on a shiny object or surface.

Tephramancy: Interpreting the ashes of a combustible object.

Uromancy: Divination using urine.

Visualisation: A controlled level of consciousness during which the seeker can divine answers to questions.

Wort-Lore: The understanding of the appropriate herbs to use to aid divination.

Xylomancy: Using the arrangement of dried sticks to predict the future.

Ying-Yang: Describe how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may interrelate to one another and influence future events.

Zoanthropy: Divination by observing and interpreting the flames of three lighted candles placed in a triangular position.

A deep-rooted belief in divination has existed throughout the ages, among both the uncivilized and the most civilized of cultures, as the desire to know the future continually gave rise to some weird and wonderful ways of peering into it. The Egyptians used dreams [i.e temple sleep] to divine the will of the gods; the Druids used many different forms of divination, as did the Hebrews. Although augury was first implemented by the Chaldeans, the Greeks became addicted to it; and among the Romans no important action of State was undertaken without the advice of the augers and their pre-occupation with raw liver!

Both oracles and seers in ancient Greece practiced divination. Oracles were the conduits for the gods on earth; their prophecies were understood to be the will of the gods verbatim and usually communicated to rulers and prominent persons. Seers were interpreters of signs provided by the gods via natural signs and were more numerous than the oracles being highly valued by all Greeks, not just those with the where with all to travel to Delphi or other such sites, where pythonesses perched on stools, inhaling noxious fumes. As it does today, the ancient Greeks made use of various techniques of divinatory practice: either direct or indirect, and, either spontaneous, or artificial.

Direct divination is where and when a seeker might experience divination by way of dreaming and dreams or by way of a temporary experience of madness, or phrensy (frenzy), all of these conditions being a state from which an inspired recognition of truth is attained. A necessary condition is that the seeker has made an effort to produce a mental or physical state which encourages a flash of insight. These historically attested efforts included sleeping in conditions where-by dreams might be more likely to occur, inhaling certain vapour, the chewing of leaves, drinking of blood, etc.

Under these conditions the seeker may gain the power of prophecy (albeit temporary) that was associated with caves and grottoes within Greek divination, and the nymphs and Pan who were associated with caves often bestowed the gift of prophesy.  Pan was able to dwell within people, a condition known as panolepsy, that causes inspirational abilities relating to divination or prophecy.  A degree of possession of an individual by a nymph is known as nympholepsy, meaning ‘caught by nymphs’ …a term we would use today as someone ‘being fairy led’.

Indirect divination where-by a seeker observes natural conditions and phenomenon such as ‘sortilege’, and chance encounters with the animal kingdom. This consists of the casting of lots, or sortes, whether with sticks, stones, bones, beans, coins, or some other item and often interpreted by a third party. Modern playing cards and board games are believed to have been developed from this type of divination, whereby dice or counters are cast in order to predict the future.

But not all divinatory methods were well-received. As early as 692 the Quinisext Council, also known as the ‘Council in Trullo’ in the Eastern Orthodox Church, passed canons to eliminate paganism and the practice of divination, but it continued to be popular well into the Middle Ages despite being frequently banned by the Church.  In fact the seven artes magicae or artes prohibitae, i.e. those methods of divination prohibited by canon law (as expounded by Johannes Hartlieb in 1456), were:

It has been suggested that the division between the four ‘elemental’ disciplines (i.e. geomancy (Earth), hydromancy (Water), aeromancy (Air) and pyromancy (Fire) appears to be a contrivance of the time, but traditional forms such as  chiromancy was the divination from a subject’s palms as practiced by the Romany (at the time recently arrived in Europe), and scapulimancy, the divination from animal bones, in particular shoulder blades as practiced in peasant superstition. By contrast, nigromancy came from scholarly ‘high magic’ derived from High Medieval grimoires such as the Picatrix or the Liber Rasielis and was classed as ‘black magic’ and demonology, by the vernacular etymology, from necromancy.

In the constitution of 1572 and public regulations of 1661 of Kur-Saxony, capital punishment was used on those predicting the future and laws forbidding divinatory practice continue to this day in some parts of the world.  Nevertheless, the belief in ‘fortune-telling’ continued to be looked upon as a popular pastime for finding a husband or predicting a favourable outcome with regards to health, wealth and happiness.  Even the popular Victorian compilations of superstitions were given a Christian spin to weed out anything that wasn’t considered ‘nice’ or smacked too much of paganism, but the Folklore Society’s extensive archive enables serious researchers to trace these old divinatory practices back to their roots.

Divination, however, is only a small part of a witch’s stock in trade and although a very basic introduction to the subject can be learned from books, proficiency will only come through vigorous practice. This proficiency comes through the discovery of certain secret matters by a great variety of means, – correspondences, signs and occult techniques – and before a witch can perform any of these operations with any degree of success, we need to develop the ‘art of seeing’ and the ability to ‘divine with rod, fingers and birds’

Very early in his studies one student had grasped the fact that the animal world helps us to connect to this new level of being, particularly through birds, which have long been recognised as an effective means of divination.  Once he understood the principles behind the phenomena, he began to find that he was beginning to ‘see’ more.  How many people, for instance, will even notice the mice on the Underground … but he’d watched them and interpreted their behaviour. How they would always disappear long before the rumble of the train was discernable to human awareness.  Once we get into the habit of watching the animal world, we will always have something around us to warn when that ‘train’ is coming!

The most remarkable thing about divination, of course, is its continued success. And a large number of people who turn to professional readers are impressed by the amazing details ‘coming through’ from their past – but this isn’t what divination is about.  ‘Cold reading’ is a set of techniques used by mentalists, psychics, fortune-tellers, mediums and illusionists to imply that the reader knows much more about the person than the reader actually does.  There are dozens of books on the subject that reveal how, without prior knowledge, a practiced cold-reader can quickly obtain a great deal of information by analyzing the person’s body language, age, clothing or fashion, hairstyle, gender, sexual orientation, religion, race or ethnicity, level of education, manner of speech, place of origin, etc. Cold readings commonly employ high-probability guesses, quickly picking up on signals as to whether their guesses are in the right direction or not, then emphasizing and reinforcing chance connections and quickly moving on from missed guesses.  Even the police and military use the technique during interrogation sessions …

The witch, however, is not so much concerned with the past as with the present and more particularly the future.  Of course, our past actions affect the way we view the future but if we ignore the warnings that divination brings concerning the present, we will be doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.  We must also remember that regardless of whatever method is used to predict the future those results are not cast in stone! Divination reveals the future as relating to the past and the present, and what will happen if the warnings are not heeded in order to change things before they go wrong. The answer is also subjective to where an individual is standing at the precise moment in time when they pose the question.  We’re back to the saying: “You can’t change anything but yourself, but in changing yourself, everything changes around you.” So if you don’t like what the results of the reading is telling you … do something about it before it’s too late!

As witches we are responsible for our own destiny and a proficiency in our own chosen system of divining gives us a powerful advantage. Experienced practitioners usually prefer to use a single form of divination, and while some methods may prove to be more efficient than others, and some diviners may be more accurate than their fellows, it is traditionally part of a witch’s natural ability to be able to divine by ‘rod, fingers and birds’, as the saying goes.  After years of practice with any particular system, we find that we can interpret the signs without even having to think about it – it’s like receiving a message from an old friend.

The results we get from our endeavours are signs of opportunities to be taken, dangers to be avoided, or impending news of change. Here the witch also interacts with Nature to keep close watch on any unusual activities or occurrences that might have any effect on themselves, or those close to them. This is another reason why it is essential for even the most urban of witches to be well-versed in natural lore as well as magical lore. It pays to understand the local wildlife, otherwise we might not see that unusual ‘something’ in an animal’s or bird’s normal behaviour patterns.

Our native flora and fauna are linked to our magical subconsciousness and, if we have required any form of divinatory methods to guide us through the subsequent stages of our love life or career, we must be receptive to those responses. For those with a working understanding in the language of magical correspondences, it is easy to grasp how natural the reading of the symbols becomes, and how easy and obvious (in most instances) is the interpretation. For the beginner, however, accept that the answers are not going to appear suddenly in chapter and verse in a book on fortune telling.  Divination is more subtle and, more often than not for the inexperienced, irritatingly obtuse!

Reading for others is a common moral and ethical dilemma that is often raised on internet sites and personally I always refuse point blank to indulge in the practice.  That has not always been the case.  There used to be an unwritten ethic whereby a reader seeing something really nasty in the future was duty bound not to reveal what they had seen lurking in the woodshed.  And in the words of that old Leonard Cohen song … “I’ve seen the future, brother, it is murder!” I decided it was unreasonable for me to carry the burden of knowledge for strangers and waiting for the other boot to drop, and that has remained my personal code to the present day … so don’t ask.

If you do wish to read for others then remember not to use your own ‘tools’ for outsider’s readings as these will become contaminated through use.  Keep your own private equipment under lock and key and have a completely different set for public readings – even this should be ritually cleansed after use as each reading will leave a psychic residue behind and contaminate the next person’s reading.

On the legal front, the whole ball-game changed in 2008 when the Fraudulent Mediums Act (which replaced the 1735 Witchcraft Act) was replaced by the new Consumer Protection Regulations. Now there’s a whole list of disclaimers that must be added to the fortune-teller’s spiel if they are to avoid an avalanche of writs from disgruntled customers.  The reason behind the introduction of the new law was because very little in the multi-million-pound psychic industry in Britain is for free, and anyone charging or accepting ‘gifts’ in exchange for a service is bound by the new regulations.  A legal specialist wryly observed: “Now there is no difference in law between a psychic and a double-glazing salesman.”

Let’s face it, there are ‘professional’ fees charged for all manner of types of divination, including Tarot, psychic readings and clairvoyance – just take a look at the number of classified advertisements in any of the MB&S magazines.  According to Office of Fair Trading research, which provided the basis for the new changes, psychic mailings are estimated to have cost gullible Britons £40m in 2006-07, while psychic services via telephone, online and satellite TV keep the tills ringing in the psychics’ favour.

In the USA the legal status of spiritualists, psychics, fortune-tellers and healers has often been a precarious one, and explains why many pagans adopted the title of Reverend as this kept them within the boundaries of the law.  As one web-post explained:  “If one goes to psychic fairs, etc., you will notice that virtually all readers are Reverend ‘So and So’ with another title attached.  If you are using Tarot or scrying for a church or religious purpose [i.e counselling], and not for the purpose of fortune-telling – you are legal.”  So there you have it … if you are a professional diviner and charge a fee for your services, you might be falling foul of the Office of Fair Trading.

From a purely personal point of view, my abilities when it comes to divination have always been limited, I have to confess.  I regularly use cartomancy (i.e. Crowley’s Thoth Tarot) and the pendulum for personal divinatory purposes – and with a great deal of success I might add – but tend to rely more on the messages from the natural world on a daily basis.  I have the most amazing crystal ball collection but generally use them for meditational work by holding the appropriate sphere in the palm of the hand – one colour for each sephiroth of the Qabalah – rather than prediction.  So … I’m okay with fingers (cleidomancy) and birds (alectryomancy) but the rod (rhabdomancy) I really have to work at to get any kind of results …

Pagan Portals DIVINATION: By Rod, Birds and Fingers by Melusine Draco is published by Moon Books (www.moon-books.net) ISBN 9 978 1 78535 858 6 : UK£6.99/US$10.95 : 82 pages.  Available in paperback and e-book format

 

 

 

 

 

A bookworm’s eye view of divination

DIVINATION: A Practical Approach

It was Robert Cochrane who originally coined those now famous words:

“If one who claims to be a Witch can perform the tasks of Witchcraft, i.e. summon the spirits and they come, can divine with rod, fingers and birds.  If they can also claim the right to the omens and have them; have the power to call, heal and curse and above all, can tell the maze and cross the Lethe, then you have a witch.”

Divination is what I would refer to as the practical element of Craft magic, and we don’t even have to be witches to be able to read the portents.  But it helps!

Looking into the future is a very ancient practice. As we saw in the chapter ‘Developing the ‘Art of Seeing’ in Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living, thousands of recorded British

customs and superstitions all have their roots in fortune-telling spells and charms, and they are as fashionable today as they were way back when. In fact, it’s been said that divination was as commonplace in the past as satellite communication is today: it was part of everyday life for

everyone from king to commoner.  It utilised all manner of techniques and methods from a simple nut placed on the fire grate to the complicated reading of the Roman auspices.

For example a few of these techniques include:

Aeromancy: Divination using the formation of clouds and other patterns in the skies.

Botanomancy: Divination through plant life; may include the burning of plants and foretelling future events through the ashes or smoke.

Crystallomancy: An ancient form of casting lots using small stones. Or crystalomancy: Divination by studying a crystal ball.

Daphnomancy: Using the smoke of burning branches of the laurel tree to answer questions and forecast upcoming events.

Enoptromancy: An ancient method using a shiny surface placed in water.

Felidomancy: Divination through the observation of felines, including domestic and wild cats.

Geomancy: An ancient system interpreting the patterns and shapes or events found in nature.

Halomancy: Foretelling by interpreting the formation of the crystals when salt is poured to the ground.

Ichthyomancy: Observing the behaviour of fish both in and out of the water.

Jungism: The understanding of mythic symbolism as it relates to the human subconciousness.

Kephalonomancy: Ancient method of pouring lighted carbon on the skull of a goat or donkey to determine guilt or innocence.

Lampadomancy: Divination through the observation of flames from a candle or flaming torch.

Metopomancy: Divination and character analysis by studying the lines on a person’s forehead.

Necromancy: Contacting the spirits of the dead to interpret omens and forecast future events.

Oinomancy: An ancient Roman practice of interpretation through the study and evaluation of the colour, consistency and taste of wine.

Psephomancy: Divination by selecting at random small stones from a pile.

Qabbala: A blend of powerful divinely-inspired divination and mysticism.

Rune Stones: A series of mystic symbols thrown or selected to determine the future.

Scrying: Divination by interpreting the play of light on a shiny object or surface.

Tephramancy: Interpreting the ashes of a combustible object.

Uromancy: Divination using urine.

Visualisation: A controlled level of consciousness during which the seeker can divine answers to questions.

Wort-Lore: The understanding of the appropriate herbs to use to aid divination.

Xylomancy: Using the arrangement of dried sticks to predict the future.

Ying-Yang: Describe how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may interrelate to one another and influence future events.

Zoanthropy: Divination by observing and interpreting the flames of three lighted candles placed in a triangular position.

A deep-rooted belief in divination has existed throughout the ages, among both the uncivilized and the most civilized of cultures, as the desire to know the future continually gave rise to some weird and wonderful ways of peering into it. The Egyptians used dreams [i.e temple sleep] to divine the will of the gods; the Druids used many different forms of divination, as did the Hebrews. Although augury was first implemented by the Chaldeans, the Greeks became addicted to it; and among the Romans no important action of State was undertaken without the advice of the augers and their pre-occupation with raw liver!

Both oracles and seers in ancient Greece practiced divination. Oracles were the conduits for the gods on earth; their prophecies were understood to be the will of the gods verbatim and usually communicated to rulers and prominent persons. Seers were interpreters of signs provided by the gods via natural signs and were more numerous than the oracles being highly valued by all Greeks, not just those with the where with all to travel to Delphi or other such sites, where pythonesses perched on stools, inhaling noxious fumes. As it does today, the ancient Greeks made use of various techniques of divinatory practice: either direct or indirect, and, either spontaneous, or artificial.

Direct divination is where and when a seeker might experience divination by way of dreaming and dreams or by way of a temporary experience of madness, or phrensy (frenzy), all of these conditions being a state from which an inspired recognition of truth is attained. A necessary condition is that the seeker has made an effort to produce a mental or physical state which encourages a flash of insight. These historically attested efforts included sleeping in conditions where-by dreams might be more likely to occur, inhaling certain vapour, the chewing of leaves, drinking of blood, etc.

Under these conditions the seeker may gain the power of prophecy (albeit temporary) that was associated with caves and grottoes within Greek divination, and the nymphs and Pan who were associated with caves often bestowed the gift of prophesy.  Pan was able to dwell within people, a condition known as panolepsy, that causes inspirational abilities relating to divination or prophecy.  A degree of possession of an individual by a nymph is known as nympholepsy, meaning ‘caught by nymphs’ …a term we would use today as someone ‘being fairy led’.

Indirect divination where-by a seeker observes natural conditions and phenomenon such as ‘sortilege’, and chance encounters with the animal kingdom. This consists of the casting of lots, or sortes, whether with sticks, stones, bones, beans, coins, or some other item and often interpreted by a third party. Modern playing cards and board games are believed to have been developed from this type of divination, whereby dice or counters are cast in order to predict the future.

But not all divinatory methods were well-received. As early as 692 the Quinisext Council, also known as the ‘Council in Trullo’ in the Eastern Orthodox Church, passed canons to eliminate paganism and the practice of divination, but it continued to be popular well into the Middle Ages despite being frequently banned by the Church.  In fact the seven artes magicae or artes prohibitae, i.e. those methods of divination prohibited by canon law (as expounded by Johannes Hartlieb in 1456), were:

It has been suggested that the division between the four ‘elemental’ disciplines (i.e. geomancy (Earth), hydromancy (Water), aeromancy (Air) and pyromancy (Fire) appears to be a contrivance of the time, but traditional forms such as  chiromancy was the divination from a subject’s palms as practiced by the Romany (at the time recently arrived in Europe), and scapulimancy, the divination from animal bones, in particular shoulder blades as practiced in peasant superstition. By contrast, nigromancy came from scholarly ‘high magic’ derived from High Medieval grimoires such as the Picatrix or the Liber Rasielis and was classed as ‘black magic’ and demonology, by the vernacular etymology, from necromancy.

In the constitution of 1572 and public regulations of 1661 of Kur-Saxony, capital punishment was used on those predicting the future and laws forbidding divinatory practice continue to this day in some parts of the world.  Nevertheless, the belief in ‘fortune-telling’ continued to be looked upon as a popular pastime for finding a husband or predicting a favourable outcome with regards to health, wealth and happiness.  Even the popular Victorian compilations of superstitions were given a Christian spin to weed out anything that wasn’t considered ‘nice’ or smacked too much of paganism, but the Folklore Society’s extensive archive enables serious researchers to trace these old divinatory practices back to their roots.

Divination, however, is only a small part of a witch’s stock in trade and although a very basic introduction to the subject can be learned from books, proficiency will only come through vigorous practice. This proficiency comes through the discovery of certain secret matters by a great variety of means, – correspondences, signs and occult techniques – and before a witch can perform any of these operations with any degree of success, we need to develop the ‘art of seeing’ and the ability to ‘divine with rod, fingers and birds’

Very early in his studies one student had grasped the fact that the animal world helps us to connect to this new level of being, particularly through birds, which have long been recognised as an effective means of divination.  Once he understood the principles behind the phenomena, he began to find that he was beginning to ‘see’ more.  How many people, for instance, will even notice the mice on the Underground … but he’d watched them and interpreted their behaviour. How they would always disappear long before the rumble of the train was discernable to human awareness.  Once we get into the habit of watching the animal world, we will always have something around us to warn when that ‘train’ is coming!

The most remarkable thing about divination, of course, is its continued success. And a large number of people who turn to professional readers are impressed by the amazing details ‘coming through’ from their past – but this isn’t what divination is about.  ‘Cold reading’ is a set of techniques used by mentalists, psychics, fortune-tellers, mediums and illusionists to imply that the reader knows much more about the person than the reader actually does.  There are dozens of books on the subject that reveal how, without prior knowledge, a practiced cold-reader can quickly obtain a great deal of information by analyzing the person’s body language, age, clothing or fashion, hairstyle, gender, sexual orientation, religion, race or ethnicity, level of education, manner of speech, place of origin, etc. Cold readings commonly employ high-probability guesses, quickly picking up on signals as to whether their guesses are in the right direction or not, then emphasizing and reinforcing chance connections and quickly moving on from missed guesses.  Even the police and military use the technique during interrogation sessions …

The witch, however, is not so much concerned with the past as with the present and more particularly the future.  Of course, our past actions affect the way we view the future but if we ignore the warnings that divination brings concerning the present, we will be doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.  We must also remember that regardless of whatever method is used to predict the future those results are not cast in stone! Divination reveals the future as relating to the past and the present, and what will happen if the warnings are not heeded in order to change things before they go wrong. The answer is also subjective to where an individual is standing at the precise moment in time when they pose the question.  We’re back to the saying: “You can’t change anything but yourself, but in changing yourself, everything changes around you.” So if you don’t like what the results of the reading is telling you … do something about it before it’s too late!

As witches we are responsible for our own destiny and a proficiency in our own chosen system of divining gives us a powerful advantage. Experienced practitioners usually prefer to use a single form of divination, and while some methods may prove to be more efficient than others, and some diviners may be more accurate than their fellows, it is traditionally part of a witch’s natural ability to be able to divine by ‘rod, fingers and birds’, as the saying goes.  After years of practice with any particular system, we find that we can interpret the signs without even having to think about it – it’s like receiving a message from an old friend.

The results we get from our endeavours are signs of opportunities to be taken, dangers to be

avoided, or impending news of change. Here the witch also interacts with Nature to keep close watch on any unusual activities or occurrences that might have any effect on themselves, or those close to them. This is another reason why it is essential for even the most urban of witches to be well-versed in natural lore as well as magical lore. It pays to understand the local wildlife, otherwise we might not see that unusual ‘something’ in an animal’s or bird’s normal behaviour patterns.

Our native flora and fauna are linked to our magical subconsciousness and, if we have required any form of divinatory methods to guide us through the subsequent stages of our love life or career, we must be receptive to those responses. For those with a working understanding in the language of magical correspondences, it is easy to grasp how natural the reading of the symbols becomes, and how easy and obvious (in most instances) is the interpretation. For the beginner, however, accept that the answers are not going to appear suddenly in chapter and verse in a book on fortune telling.  Divination is more subtle and, more often than not for the inexperienced, irritatingly obtuse!

Reading for others is a common moral and ethical dilemma that is often raised on internet sites and personally I always refuse point blank to indulge in the practice.  That has not always been the case.  There used to be an unwritten ethic whereby a reader seeing something really nasty in the future was duty bound not to reveal what they had seen lurking in the woodshed.  And in the words of that old Leonard Cohen song … “I’ve seen the future, brother, it is murder!” I decided it was unreasonable for me to carry the burden of knowledge for strangers and waiting for the other boot to drop, and that has remained my personal code to the present day … so don’t ask.

If you do wish to read for others then remember not to use your own ‘tools’ for outsider’s readings as these will become contaminated through use.  Keep your own private equipment under lock and key and have a completely different set for public readings – even this should be ritually cleansed after use as each reading will leave a psychic residue behind and contaminate the next person’s reading.

On the legal front, the whole ball-game changed in 2008 when the Fraudulent Mediums Act (which replaced the 1735 Witchcraft Act) was replaced by the new Consumer Protection Regulations. Now there’s a whole list of disclaimers that must be added to the fortune-teller’s spiel if they are to avoid an avalanche of writs from disgruntled customers.  The reason behind the introduction of the new law was because very little in the multi-million-pound psychic industry in Britain is for free, and anyone charging or accepting ‘gifts’ in exchange for a service is bound by the new regulations.  A legal specialist wryly observed: “Now there is no difference in law between a psychic and a double-glazing salesman.”

Let’s face it, there are ‘professional’ fees charged for all manner of types of divination, including Tarot, psychic readings and clairvoyance – just take a look at the number of classified advertisements in any of the MB&S magazines.  According to Office of Fair Trading research, which provided the basis for the new changes, psychic mailings are estimated to have cost gullible Britons £40m in 2006-07, while psychic services via telephone, online and satellite TV keep the tills ringing in the psychics’ favour.

In the USA the legal status of spiritualists, psychics, fortune-tellers and healers has often been a precarious one, and explains why many pagans adopted the title of Reverend as this kept them within the boundaries of the law.  As one web-post explained:  “If one goes to psychic fairs, etc., you will notice that virtually all readers are Reverend ‘So and So’ with another title attached.  If you are using Tarot or scrying for a church or religious purpose [i.e counselling], and not for the purpose of fortune-telling – you are legal.”  So there you have it … if you are a professional diviner and charge a fee for your services, you might be falling foul of the Office of Fair Trading.

From a purely personal point of view, my abilities when it comes to divination have always been limited, I have to confess.  I regularly use cartomancy (i.e. Crowley’s Thoth Tarot) and the pendulum for personal divinatory purposes – and with a great deal of success I might add – but tend to rely more on the messages from the natural world on a daily basis.  I have the most amazing crystal ball collection but generally use them for meditational work by holding the appropriate sphere in the palm of the hand – one colour for each sephiroth of the Qabalah – rather than prediction.  So … I’m okay with fingers (cleidomancy) and birds (alectryomancy) but the rod (rhabdomancy) I really have to work at to get any kind of results …

 

Pagan Portals DIVINATION: By Rod, Birds and Fingers by Melusine Draco is published by Moon Books (www.moon-books.net) ISBN 9 978 1 78535 858 6 : UK£6.99/US$10.95 : 82 pages.  Available in paperback and e-book format

 

 

 

The Power of the Elements – extract

This is an extract from the Power of The Elements by Melusine Draco, reproduced here at the author’s request.

A magical practitioner, whether witch, druid, ritual magician or shaman must be aware that there are all manner of different currents and movements on the planet that affect us on a deeper magico-mystical level than we could ever imagine when we begin our voyage of discovery. And as I asked at the beginning of Traditional Witchcraft and the Path to the Mysteries, do we ever stop to think that the burst of energy that sets the pendulum swinging could be caused by the swirling molten layer under the Earth’s crust, creating the electro-magnetic field that surrounds the planet by the spinning outer crust around the solid part of the inner core? Do we recognise the continuous re-arranging of the Earth’s surface by tectonic plate movement; of the earthly debris from volcanoes that brings precious stones and minerals to the surface and the underground eruptions that causes giant tsunami to race around the globe. Or is our Elemental Earth just a quiet ramble in the countryside and a container of sand marking the Northern quarter in our magic Circle?

 

We may sit meditating by a rippling stream, watching the sunlight dance in the water as it trips over the stones and pebbles in its path – but do we allow our minds to explore the greater picture of where that crystal clear water comes from? Do we realise that this stream began its brief chapter of life being drawn up as vapour from the ocean and falling as rain on the hills and mountain sides, before flowing down into the river valley with enough power to bring rocks and stones tumbling in its wake? Do our magical energies focus on the stream; the rainfall on the mountain; or the ocean? Are we constantly aware of the force of that water-flow throughout the seasons – the spring floods; the summer drought; the clogging of the channel with autumn leaves and the frozen surface in winter. Or does our concept of Elemental Water begin and end with the symbolic bowl of tap water marking the Western quarter in our magic Circle?

 

Nothing on the planet can live without clean, breathable air, but a magical practitioner needs to think beyond soft summer breezes and rainbows after a spring shower. Air is the stuff from which tornadoes and hurricanes are made; it brings puffs of cumulus clouds or a billowing thunderhead some ten miles high; not to mention the thousands-of-feet-high dust storms that are created when a monsoon collides with dry air currents above it. Or is our Elemental Air merely the curling smoke from a perfumed joss stick marking the Eastern quarter in our magical workings?

 

Fire, even in its most modest form has the capacity for great destruction – a box of matches in the hands of a child, a fallen candle, or a carelessly discarded cigarette. On a grander and more epic scale, we are well acquainted by television coverage with devastating wildfire destroying anything that stands in its path; the eruption of a volcano; or the power of solar winds that reach out from the sun to interfere with electronic equipment here on Earth. Or is our contact with Elemental Fire restricted to a candle burning at the Southern quarter of our Circle?

 

For over two thousand years of human history there were just the classical elements of the ancient Greeks – earth, air, fire and water – who formulated this idea in the sixth century BC. The Greeks had an insatiable curiosity about the workings of the world and came to the conclusion that there was a logical explanation for natural phenomenon that was not caused by dyspeptic deities or any other supplicatory supernatural agencies. These ancient men of science at first believed that a single element was the fundamental principle of the universe but eventually the natural philosopher Empedocles argued that all four played equal and interactive parts.

 

These essential four, he expounded in Tetrasomia, or Doctrine of the Four Elements, either singly or in combination, account for all matter on Earth. That ‘things take on different forms when their component elements separate and rearrange, variously directed by the force of Love, which brings elements together, and Strife, which tears them apart’. And as Dr Rebecca Rupp pointed out in Four Elements: ‘The theory revealed a surprising grasp of the basics: that is, all matter is assembled from a finite number of basic and irreducible elements; and these, combined in specific proportions, make up all the substances that exist.’

 

In reality, none of these, apart from water, was even close to being elemental. As Marcus Chown explained in The Magic Furnace, all that was needed was for someone to draw the right conclusion.

The man who did so was Antoine Lavoisier, a French aristocrat whose life was ended by the guillotine in the spring of 1794 … Five years before his death, Lavoisier compiled the first list of substances which he believed could not by any means, be broken down into simpler substances. Lavoisier’s list consisted of 23 ‘elements’. Some later turned out not to be elements at all but many were indeed elemental. They included sulphur and mercury, iron and zinc, silver and gold. Lavoisier’s scheme was a turning point in the history of science. It signalled the death of alchemy and the birth of chemistry.

 

Nevertheless, the contemporary pagan viewpoint is that the four classical elements are still a natural part of our mental make-up, though in each person only one predominates. There is still a lurking appeal of the ancient Greek view that a single one-word answer can reveal something about what we are. In truth, science has come a long way since then … and so has magic. The Greek four are the elements of tradition and time, and have dominated human thought for over two millennia – and have been around long enough to insinuate themselves into our lives, language, art and literature. Even Galen, the ‘Father of Medicine’ cited elemental properties as being at the root of sickness; a theory that was still being expounded by the seventeenth- century herbalist, apothecary and astrologer Nicholas Culpeper.

 

In magical practice, these four elements still guard the four cardinal points of the Compass (or Circle) and it doesn’t matter in whose name, or in what form we summon them. When ‘Calling the Quarters’ for a Magic Circle it is usual to draw down the protection of the elements by summoning the:

 

Guardian of the Watchtowers of the North, South, East, West …

or:

The Power of the Element of Earth, Fire, Air, Water …

or:

The Guardian of the North, South, East, West …

or:

The Element of Earth, Fire, Air, Water …

or:

The Stations of the Gnomes, Salamanders, Sylphs and Undines.

 

The last comes from the classical Paracelsian perspective that there are four elemental categories: gnomes, undines, sylphs, and salamanders, which correspond to the Classical elements of antiquity: earth, water, air and fire. Aether (quintessence) was not assigned an elemental and represents the realm of spirit. For those of ritual magic persuasion the Call would be for the archangels from the Hebrew tradition:

 

North = Earth = Uriel

South = Fire = Michael

East = Air = Raphael

West = Water = Gabriel

 

And there is a very good reason why we do this, as Kenneth Grant explained so well in Hecate’s Fountain:

It may be asked, why then do we not abandon the ancient symbols in favour of the formulae of nuclear physics and quantum mechanics? The answer is that the occultist understands that contact with these energies may be established more completely through symbols so ancient that they have had time to bury themselves in the vast storehouse of the racial subconsciousness. To such symbols the Forces respond swiftly and with incalculable fullness, whereas the pseudo-symbols manufactured in the laboratory possess no link with elements in the psyche to which they can appeal. The twisting and turning tunnels explored laboriously by science lead, only too often, away from the goal. The intellectual formulæ and symbols of mathematics have been evolved too recently to serve as direct conduits. For the Old Ones, such lines of communication are dead. The magician, therefore, uses the more direct paths which long ages have been mapped out in the shadowlands of the subconsciousness.

 

And since I go along with Crowley’s belief that magic is a blend of science and art, it is easy to see how ‘sulphur and mercury, iron and zinc, silver and gold’ later became the magical correspondences for the Underworld, Mercury, Mars, Uranus, Moon and the Sun respectively. It is true Uranus wasn’t universally accepted as a new planet until it was ‘discovered’ by William Herschel in 1783 but it had been observed on many occasions over the centuries and mistaken for a star. Possibly the earliest known observation was by Hipparchus, who in 128 BCE might have recorded it in his star catalogue that was later incorporated into Ptolemy’s Almagest.

 

And although zinc was recorded as an ‘element’ by the unfortunate Antoine Lavoisier in 1789, ornaments made of alloys containing 80–90% zinc have been found that are 2500 years old, while a paper published in 1933 (Weeks, The Discovery of the Elements), cites a possibly prehistoric statuette containing 87.5% zinc found at a Dacian archaeological site. The smelting of zinc ores with copper was apparently discovered in Cyprus and was used later by the Romans. Alchemists burned zinc metal in air and collected the resulting zinc oxide calling it Lana philosophica, Latin for ‘philosopher’s wool’, because it collected in wooly tufts like white snow. The name of the metal was probably first documented by Paracelsus, a Swiss-born German alchemist and magician, who referred to the metal as ‘zincum’ in his book Liber Mineralium II, in the sixteenth century, before the metal was rediscovered later in Europe.

These ancient symbols are magical shorthand that cut across the aeons and connect us with the ‘Old Ones’ who are quite willing to pick up and communicate with those who ‘speak’ their language. And to repeat with emphasis what Kenneth Grant wrote on the subject:

 

To such symbols the Forces respond swiftly and with incalculable fullness, whereas the pseudo-symbols manufactured in the laboratory possess no link with elements in the psyche to which they can appeal … The magician, therefore, uses the more direct paths which long ages have been mapped out in the shadowlands of the subconsciousness.

 

Nevertheless, the idea for this book came from a Coven member who was involved in the filming of an opera on a beach at low tide:

“As we were shooting the film, the tide was starting to come in quite quickly and every five minutes we had to move forward because the water was catching up with us. Standing there I could feel the immense power of the energy that was rising right behind me. The wind was picking up and I could sense the power of the water. It was incredible. All I wanted to do was stop shooting this stupid film and work some magic! It also made me think that I wanted to go and live right by the sea so I could experience this more often. It was so amazing.
And then it made me think about the conversation we had the other day when you asked about ‘Calling the Quarters’ in the Circle. You said you thought I was more connected to Water and I said, No, Air. Well boy, did I feel connected to that water. I can feel it now. When I need to call upon Water I will dig inside of me for that feeling I had. I can connect to Air as well but I think you were right, I think I have a much stronger connection to Water for some reason. Perhaps because I miss it, being from Marseille in the south of France, but now that I am on this path I feel like I miss it even more.”

 

Here we have the realisation that although we are psychically connected to the same elements as our ancient Greek counterparts, the modern belief that in ‘each of us only one predominates’ is a long way from the truth. In ancient astrology, the triple groupings of the ‘Star Signs’ were more of a seasonal nature, so each season was given the qualities of a particular element. For example:

 

  • Spring (wet becoming hot) – Air – Aries, Taurus, Gemini
  • Summer (hot becoming dry) – Fire – Cancer, Leo, Virgo
  • Autumn (dry becoming cold) – Earth – Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius
  • Winter (cold becoming wet) – Water – Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces

All the fire signs are by their nature hot and dry. However, the addition of the elemental qualities of the seasons results in differences between the fire signs; Leo being the midsummer sign gets a double dose of hot and dry and is the pure fire sign. Aries being a spring sign is wetter (hot & dry, hot & wet), and Sagittarius being an autumnal sign is colder (hot & dry, cold & dry); and in the Southern Hemisphere the seasonal cycle is, of course, reversed. Using the seasonal qualities also accounts for other differences in expression between signs of the same element.

Similarly, if we look again at Nicholas Culpeper’s Herbal, we can see how this seventeenth-century English herbalist’s medicine was the same as that practised by the famous Greek physicians Hippocrates and Galen that had been used traditionally throughout Europe for 1,400 years: ‘The four temperaments of the body, then, were said to arise from the interaction of the four elements and their primary qualities. This four-fold variation in the human body was matched specifically by the predominance of one of the four humours or bodily fluids. Indeed, the humours, elements, qualities and temperaments were all related’, observed Graeme Tobyn in Culpeper’s Medicine when describing the seventeenth-century’s approach to medicine, although the influence of astrology began to wane in the decades following Culpeper’s death.

The elements Earth, Air, Fire and Water were not literally viewed as things in this world, but as the building blocks in the composition of everything in Nature. Soil would be said to be formed of all elements but, in this case, with a preponderance of the element Earth so that it was perceived as being earthy. Likewise, Air contained Fire (heat), Water (Vapour) and Earth (particles) as well as, mainly Air. The philosopher Empedocles’ (c. 490–430 BCE) ideas became truly established in Greek physics and natural philosophy when the great philosophers Plato and Aristotle incorporated it into their theories concerning the physical universe.

Empedocles might have watched a piece of wood burning. Something disintegrates. We hear it crackle and splutter. That is water. Something goes up in smoke. That is air. The fire we can see. Something also remains when the fire is extinguished. That is the ashes – or earth. [Gaarder, Sophie’s World]

And to put these ideas into a magical context, we discover that each element has other facets influencing its purity or effectiveness. By using the Court Cards of our favourite Tarot Deck we can begin to identify what causes those peculiarities that make us say we don’t identify with our particular Star Sign. Leo, for example, is represented by Elemental Fire and is identified with the Knight (or King) of Wands but his ‘family’ is made up of the Princess (the Earthy part of Fire) and the Prince (the Airy part of Fire) of Wands … and the Queen of Wands (the Watery part of Fire).

Adrien, being an Aquarian and a professionally trained singer and dancer, is obviously more geared towards the Watery Part of Air, while I’m an untypical Piscean wired for the Fiery Part of Water in my youth and the Earthy Part of Water in my later years. The current Magister of Coven of the Scales is a Leo and a former Fire Chief who obviously relates to Fire; while the Dame is a Virgo and a lawyer who associates with the Airy Part of Earth. As they get older and develop magically, it will be interesting to see whether these ‘parts’ are subject to change. For the point of this exercise, however, our current chosen points of the Compass for a magical working would be as follows:

 

The Crone: North

The Elder: West          +            The Dame: East

The Magister: South

 

So, here we have four people Calling the Quarters of their choice and who are not necessarily manning the Compass at the station related to their actual birth sign, but of the part of their personality that often overpowers the Star Sign. And we often do find ourselves altering perspective as we go through life-changing situations during our time on this earth whereas our birth sign remains the same until death.

And when a magical practitioner makes the sign of the equal-armed cross +1 at each cardinal point of the Compass, they are evoking the protection of the Elements – not using it in any Christian context. The equal-armed cross, also referred to as the square cross is another name for the Greek cross when this is found in ancient cultures pre-dating Christianity.

First orient yourself by facing the North – the Place of Power – and remember that the + is shorthand for Earth (forehead), Fire (chest), Air (right shoulder) and Water (left shoulder) and by introducing it into our Circle workings we are bringing down every attribute, association and correspondence relating to those four points of the Compass simply by evoking the Guardian and making the sign of that cross. Even if we begin traditionally casting the Compass at the East we still follow the sequence of the equal-armed cross at each station. For example:

 

East + South + West + North + and complete the Circle by returning to face the East.

 

Hopefully a picture is beginning to emerge concerning the exactitude necessary for a serious magical undertaking whether it be for spell-casting, banishing, divination or meditation. The famous magician’s directive ‘Know Thyself!’ is not just referring to spiritual self-analysis, it also exhorts us to understand exactly where we are placed in the magical and universal scheme of things.

 

Endnotes

:

  1. For the purpose of examples in the text, I have used Aleister Crowley’s Tarot and The Book of Thoth for imagery and his Liber777 for correspondences since these are the sources with which I am most familiar on a magical level. Needless to say, many of these images will not be the same for those using other Tarot decks or Tables of Correspondences (i.e. David Conway’s The Complete Magical Primer), but the principles remains the same.