Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Taking flight

I have acquired a bike. The circumstances in which this happened are probably best not mentioned, since they're very sordid - that lucky, lucky saddle!
It isn't actually operational at the moment, it needs at least a new chain and brake cables, which I'm going to have a go at myself. I've borrowed a book from the library and it's quite nice to have my blokish strain brought out. No doubt when it's still in the dining room in the same or worse condition in a year, I'll get an expert to look at it!
Despite my claim to the motto, 'why have a bike when you can be one', bicycles do have some major personal significance for me. When I was a teen my bike was to me my freedom, since I grew up somewhere where the public transport was patchy & my mother refused to have a car despite being able to drive. She did get me a blue racing bike for my birthday one year, replacing the second-hand orange Raleigh Commando (without the cool and sexy value of a Chopper) I'd had till then & would only ride round the garden because I was too embarrassed to be seen in public with it. The bike was for a cycling holiday we went on together but underestimated what a bike can do for a 14 year old boy.
I failed the cycling proficiency test at school, but nonetheless my bike allowed me to take off. In the evenings after school & all day in the holidays I must have cycled miles. As a teenager I had legs like tree trunks because of this. In the derelict industrial landscape of the Black Country of the 1980s I also partook of what would now be called urban exploration: easier then because there was less attention to sealing building sites and derelict buildings. I cycled over and over again down a nearby old railway line with the sleepers removed. It was while I was doing that that I saw a couple having sex in a car & the reality of sex & its power came home to me for the first time.
So having a bike again brings all of this up for me. The only little thing is: it's yellow & I feel it may have to have a coat of black smoothite at some point!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Invisibility Spell

Today one of my favourite magical practises, the misnamed invisibility spell: misnamed because you don't actually become invisible (Oh, p-lease, Potter, did you think we couldn't see you?), but rather cast a glamour so that you fade into the background. This is exactly like a glamour for an interview or whatever where you make people see a particular thing, only here the particular thing you're making them see is anything other than you.
Since all acts are magical acts, let's start with the work on this plane: there is no substitute for being nondescript. This is not the occasion to have the pink mohican on show, but think camouflage, and of course the first principle of camouflage is that your appearance should merge into the background. Banksy says you can get away with painting anything in broad daylight if you wear a high-vis vest & have a radio playing. Similarly burglars have been known to wear suits to not be noticed. If you can begin to look like everyone else in the context you are already merging into the background.
You know sometimes when you see someone you know outside of their usual context, you have to double take to recognise them? This spell is made easier if you do it outside of your usual context and make a conscious effort not to look like you normally do.
On a psychic level you are only doing the same as in any glamour, only the idea you are putting in people's heads is something other than you. It is the exact opposite of being one of these people with Presence, who fill a room as soon as they enter it, so the first thing psychically to do is reduce your presence.
Some of the books say you should practice glamours in front of a mirror, but I disagree with this: because a glamour's target is someone else the mirror means you're in danger of seeing it yourself and not the target. Be like actors, darling, & remember that this spell is a performance for an audience. So the rehearsal space should be somewhere that gives you an awareness of other people's presence.
The visualisation you have in your mind must be of your surroundings, & this is the most difficult bit of this spell, since psychically you must not project an image of yourself at all but of 'not-you'. Even that is difficult because as soon as you think 'I am being invisible', you start projecting your invisible presence, which you also do if you start thinking, 'I am not seen', since the word 'not' doesn't seem to work in magic.
The difference between this and other glamours is that you must not try to get an image into the other person's head; if they're a natural empath or in the slightest bit psychic they'll feel your presence. You almost have to close down your psychic awareness to do this, because that is one of the things that creates your presence. It is also the exact opposite of psychic vampirism, where you 'feed' off other people's energy, and also the opposite of shielding where you prevent others from accessing your psyche, rather you are keeping your presence from entering other people's psyches.
You will know you've succeeded at this when other people almost walk through you, and you get this strange sense of isolation in the midst of other people.
I made the mistake when finding the image to use for this post of googling 'Invisible Dick', because I already knew of that book's existence. That awareness prevented me thinking of what else would come up in my search, oh dear. I unwittingly cast an invisibility glamour on myself!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Spirit of Place: Imber

Today a post about a place I have never been to, and am never likely to go to, because it is now owned by the Ministry of Defence and is used to train soldiers in combat in various terrains, including urban. The village of Imber in Wiltshire was inhabited until 1943, when the population were ordered out so that it could be used for training initially American soldiers. I love the idea of an actual abandoned village, and Imber is one among many. I think for me it is the fantasy of being there alone, or waking up there alone. I realise that this is not a fantasy for the ex-inhabitants of Imber, who still campaign to be allowed to move back there.
Personally I don't feel there would be much point, since it is barely recognisable from its pre-requisition pictures, with the exception of the church which has been left alone as it is an ancient monument. Perhaps part of the fascination (I am quite seriously in love with Imber) is precisely with the sense of loss, of requisition, of combat, love for a place which is surrounded by signs saying you must keep out because it is dangerous. The remains of the village are actually open to the public a few days a year, but other than that it doesn't even get urbexed because if you go to Imber there is actually a very real possibility you will die.
Perhaps it's also a love of the anomalous: below is the census data for Imber (the Wiltshire website characterises it as an extreme anomaly):
Imber Census Information


And it's also Imber's remoteness:

Imber on Google maps

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fournier Tarot Genoves

Now I know for a fact that the subject of today's post will not be everyone's 'bag', for reasons which will become apparent. On Friday I met a friend in Wolverhampton & I bought this deck in an esoteric shop there. I've been coveting it for ages, and finally took the plunge.
The Tarot Genoves is a reproduction of a late 19th century deck of the Soprafino type, with one major difference: the Major Arcana cards have the upper half of the image printed twice abutting each other, just like the court cards in modern playing cards (the pip cards are just that). I've commented before that I don't do reversals, but I've finally found a deck with which reversals are almost impossible! - almost, because ironically you could do reversals with the aces.
The reason is that this deck was designed for playing the game of tarocchi, with no divinatory, fortune-telling, or esoteric pretensions. Think pre-Waite, pre-Golden Dawn. It was admittedly in the midst of the French occult revival, but this deck is untouched by that. At the time this deck was published, if you wanted to divine with a tarot deck you would have to use one of the gaming decks available, a Marseille deck (& probably do a Majors-only reading), an Etteilla deck, or a Lenormand deck. This literally comes from a different age in the tarot world, and also speaks of the origin of the tarot as a deck of cards to play *games* with. It is untouched by the ahistorical theories of Egyptian origins for the tarot (& surely nobody still believes the Fez theory?). This is the simplest theory for the origins of tarot & the one requiring fewest historical contortions, always a good sign.
Because of this the deck feels very different to, say, RWS (& I'm still rather in awe of Marseille). The cards feel like playing cards, they are the exact right size for my hands, they feel laminated but not overly, so they don't have the stodgy feel of plain cardboard or the over-plasticky feel of a US Games RWS. The backs look like, well, the back of playing cards. The best sign is that they felt like friends as soon as I took them out of the packet (the LWB has conventional fortune-telling rules & meanings, & an account of the Celtic Cross).
I feel that a good divination tool will lead you to the right questions rather than answers, & in fact this one has already given me an answer I didn't want in response to asking a question to which I knew the answer really - metaphysically slapping me across the head & saying, 'Stupid boy.'
And boy, does this deck answer the right questions. There is a great secret to divination, only normally revealed to far advanced initiates, which I'm going to let out here: after a few drinks it becomes much easier & everything starts to fall into place. So we christened it in a pub, where it responded to the milieu well be joining in as we asked what various people look like naked, or do in bed. Nothing compares to a tarot deck with a sense of humour.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Commentary on the Charge of the Goddess 13: Arianrhod

Sources and Influences
BAM: -
Arianrod (or Arianrhod) is a somewhat ambivalent figure from Welsh mythology; she is actually portrayed as a rather vindictive and cruel magical figure. This account is taken from Lady Charlotte Guest's translation of her myth in Graves's White Goddess ( Robert Graves: The White Goddess (amended and enlarged edition). Faber and Faber Ltd, London, 1961.), with reference to the use he makes of this myth. 
The myth features characters whom Graves treats as both humans and Gods. In the index to the book he defines Math as 'king of Gwynedd', yet the other two main characters are Arianrhod and Gwydion, whom Graves defines as Goddess and God; obviously the court of Gwynedd was populated by both mortals and the divine, since Aianrhod is the king's niece. Graves prefaces the tale by commenting that Math is pictured as a sacred king, and his power lies in his feet, which are protected when he is not in battle by being held in the lap of a priestess, the foot-holder being a powerful office in this part of Wales which survived into the Middle Ages, when it was held by a man. After an attempt to overturn his kingship, Math marries his niece Arianrhod.
Math asks Gwydion what woman he should look for, and receives the advice to seek out his niece Arianrhod, who comes to the king, and he tests whether she is the right one by bending his magic wand and telling her to step over it. Arianrhod does this, at which a yellow-haired boy appears, and she goes to the door. Another small form appears, but before anyone can see it clearly Gwydion hides it, wrapped up in a velvet scarf, in a chest at the bottom of his bed.
Math resolves to have the yellow-haired child baptised (thereby adding another level of ambivalence to this tale), which is done in the sea, in which he swims like a fish, and so is called Dylan, the son of the sea.
One morning Gwydion hears a cry from the chest at the foot of the bed, and finds inside a baby boy, which he gives to a woman to be looked after for a year. The boy grows prodigiously, appearing to be aged two after one year, and after two years, able to go to Court by himself. He remains at the Court and continues to grow quickly. Gwydion takes the boy to Arianrhod's castle, and on walking into her Court, tells her that the boy is her child. Arianrhod protests at Gwydion's dishonouring of her, and resolves that the boy will not have a name, unless he is named by her. Gwydion retorts that he would give the boy a name which would displease Arianrhod, since she is annoyed that she can no longer be considered a damsel.
The next day Gwydion takes the boy for a walk on the sea shore, where he turns some sedges and sea weed into a boat, and dry sticks into leather. He and the boy sail to the port of Arianrhod's castle, where he starts making shoes out of the leather he has created, until he realises he is overlooked by the inhabitants of the castle, and changes the appearances of himself and the boy so that they will not be recognised. Arianrhod sends a servant to find out what work they can do.
Gwydion makes two pairs of shoes for Arianrhod out of the leather; one pair is too large, and the other two small, so he asks to see her feet so that he can make shoes the right size. When Arianrhod goes to the boat, the boy shoots at a wren, killing it, and Arianrhod comments, ''With a steady hand did the lion aim at it.' Gwydion tells her that she has given the boy a name, Llew Llaw Gyffes, 'the lion with a steady hand', at which the leather and boat return to sedges and seaweed, and the true appearance of the boy is restored. Arianrhod is angry at this and tells Gwyion that doing evil to her will not benefit him, but he replies that he has not yet done her any evil. So Arianrhod decrees the boy's destiny: that he can only have arms and armour if she gives them to him.
Gwydion brings up Llew Llaw Gyffes until he is grown up, when Gwydion once again takes him to Arianrhod's castle, by horse this time, with their appearances changed to that of two young men, and they are announced at Court, as bards. Arianrhod welcomes them, gives them a feast, they regale her with stories, and she gives them a bed for the night. In the night Gwydion summons his magical power, and the castle wakes to find it is under siege from the sea. Arianrhod prepares to do battle and arms the two guests, only to find she has been tricked again. So this time she lays the fate on Llew Llaw Gyffes that he will never find a wife from those on earth. Gwydion tells her that she is a malicious woman.
Next Gwydion goes to King Math and tells him what Arianrhod has done, and they agree together to make Llew Llaw Gyffes a wife from the blossoms of the oak, the broom, and the meadow-sweet, which they shape into a woman, whom they baptise Blodeuwedd. Llew Llaw Gyffes marries Blodeuwedd, and Math gives them a castle to live in, and Llew Llaw Gyffes rules over that part of Wales.
One day, while Llew Llaw Gyffes is away visiting Math, Blodeuwedd invites a hunter, tired from hunting buck, Gronw Pebyr, into the castle. They fall in love with each other, he stays the night, and she will not let him leave the next day. They try to find a way to stay together always, and Gronw Pebyr tells Blodeuwedd to find out from Llew Llaw Gyffes how he will die. The next day she still will not let him go, despite his fear of Llew Llaw Gyffes's return, and insists he stay another day, leaving on the day Llew Llaw Gyffes does return.
Llew Llaw Gyffes's return that evening is greeted with feasting, but the next day Blodeuwedd will not speak to him, and when he asks her what is wrong, tells him that she is worried that he will die before her, and so asks him how he can be killed. He tells her that he can only be killed by a weapon that has been a year in the making, and only during the sacrifice on Sundays. Blodeuwedd expresses her relief at the difficulty of the necessary circumstances to kill Llew Llaw Gyffes: a bath in a cauldron with a well-thatched roof, must be made beside a river, and a buck made to stand beside the cauldron. Llew Llaw Gyffes can only by killed when he has one foot on the buck, and the other on the edge of the cauldron.
Blodeuwedd tells Gronw Pebyr this, and he starts making the spear. A year later, when it is ready, Blodeuwedd expresses her surprise to Llew Llaw Gyffes at the circumstances necessary for his death, and asks him to show her how he could possible stand with one foot on a bath and one on a buck, if she prepares the cauldron for him. He agrees to do this. Blodeuwedd has Gronw Pebyr waiting in ambush when Llew Llaw Gyffes gets into the bath. And when Llew Llaw Gyffes stands on the edge of the cauldron with one foot on a buck, Gronw Pebyr shoots him with a poisoned arrow. Llew Llaw Gyffes gives a scream, flies up in the form of an eagle, and is never seen again. Gronw Pebyr takes over the kingship of his kingdom from him.
Gwydion seeks to find out what has happened to his nephew, since he is greatly distressed at his disappearance. He is staying at the house of a vassal that one of the sows is let out each day and not seen until it returns, and so the next day Gwydion follows the sow and he finds her beside a river feeding on putrid flesh, which has fallen to the ground after an eagle in a tree shakes itself. Gwydion recognises the eagle is Llew, and charms it down to his knee by singing to it, and when it lands on his knee, he strikes it with his magic wand, and the eagle returns to its true shape as Llew.

It is not clear from the myth in the version above that Arianrhod is a Goddess, but her inclusion here could be attributed more to Graves's interpretation of Arianrhod. He conflates her with the Greek Goddess Ariadne, and with his White Goddess, who ultimately becomes the virgin Mary. In Graves's comments on this myth the theme of syncretising myths from different ages and places appears, and after all the key thealogy of the Charge is that of a Great Mother, who is given different names by different peoples:
'Arianrhod ('Silver Wheel') ... is a leading character in the Romance of Math the Son of Mathonwy. No one familiar with the profuse variants of the same legend in every body of European myth can have doubts about her identity. She is the mother of the usual Divine Fish-Child Dylan who, after killing the usual Wren (as the New Year Robin does on St Stephen's day) becomes Llew Llaw Gyffes, ... the usual handsome and accomplished Sun-hero with the usual Heavenly Twin at his side. Arianrhod then adopts the form of Blodeuwedd, the usual Love-goddess, treacherously (as usual) destroys Llew Llaw – the story is at least as old as the Babylonian Gilgamesh epic – and is then transformed first into the usual Owl of Wisdom and then into the usual Old-Sow-who-eats-her-farrow; so feeds on Llew's dead flesh. But Llew, whose soul has taken the form of the usual eagle, is then, as usual, restored to life....'  (Ibid, pp. 97-98.)

Graves's interpretations of the mythologies he dealt with in The White Goddess have been widely criticised, but Hutton asserts that he wanted the book, despite its subject matter of the bard and poetic inspiration, to be treated not as 'a personal poetic reverie but as an authentic work of history, an accurate portrait of the Old Religion.' ( Ronald Hutton: The Triumph of the Moon. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001, p. 42) The White Goddess was first published in 1948, and its possible influence on Gardner and Valiente may be indicated by the fact that Arianrhod does not appear among the Goddess names in the BAM version of the Charge. Graves's work has certainly been influential in modern Paganism, although opinions are divided as to whether to approach it poetically or historically, showing its contribution to the currents of magical transformation, the dissolution of the boundary between magic and religion or the mundane world, the presence of the divine in human life. 
This is precisely Gardner's own understanding of Arianrod. In The Meaning of Witchcraft he brings her into the central mythology of Wicca by commenting on her having a divine consort, exactly the relationship between Goddess and God in Wicca, and connects her to the witch-cult in the significance of her leaping over a magic wand, which he sees both as a phallic symbol, and connected to the traditional witches' broomstick.  (Gerald Gardner: The Meaning of Witchcraft. Weiser Books, York Beach, 2004.)

Friday, October 19, 2012

What have the dogs seen?

The hounds of the Goddess come in all sorts!
When I was a child I was frightened of dogs. For no good reason other than that I'd not known one - we always had cats - I was certainly never attacked by one. Even after getting to know a dog that belonged to my aunt I wasn't what you'd call keen; I could take them or leave them, & the feeling was mutual.
However since Hecate took an interest in me during a difficult point in my life several years ago, this feeling has completely left me. It is strange me being a cat person yet being a priest of a Goddess associated with dogs, although cats were also sacrificed to her in the ancient world, something I've often told mine when he gets up on the altar! And it's mutual: dogs are all over me. Hecate loves gay men, and it often feels like a dog is especially attracted to me when it has a gorgeous bit of rough on the end of its lead, trying to maintain his cool!
Recently I came across a little book called Fortress of the Muslim [sic], which consists of what I can only describe as devotions for Moslems. Theologically they're very much what you would expect in a monotheist religion, but what caught my eye when I saw it in the charity shop was this passage:
'Invocation upon hearing a dog barking in the night.
'When you hear a dog barking or a donkey braying in the night, then seek refuge in Allah from them, for surely they have seen what you see not.'
Footnote: 'Abu Dawud 4/327, Ahmad 3/306. Al-Albani graded it authentic in Sahih Abu Dawud 3/961.'
(Fortress of the Muslim: Invocations from the Quran and Sunnah. Compiled by Said bin Wahf Al-Qahtani. Darussalam, Riyahd KSA, no date, p. 213.)
I am fascinated by this and if anyone can tell me what the dogs in particular are supposed to know, I would be very grateful.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A present

I have been given the gift of a skull. It was meant for medical students originally. I now feel I have arrived as a witch, and would never admit to being a Goth. Thank you to the person who gave her to me.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Tarot: personally difficult cards

Perhaps I should begin by saying that this is *not* a post about what to say to someone when the Death card comes up in a reading, or when you clearly see the exact opposite of what the person clearly wants in a reading.
This is rather about a feature of Jungian psychology as it appears to us in the tarot. I tend to soft pedal the personal development aspects of tarot, not wanting to sound like a fluffy, but it does lend itself to the Jungian approach so beloved of magical people. I think one of the reasons for this is that at the heart of Jungian psychology is something also at the heart of magic: that too much of one thing leads to its polar opposite. Jung called this enantiodromia and the Wikipedia page on it ( references the writings of Heraclitus.
In Jungian psychology this polarity is found between the conscious and unconscious (the Shadow) sides of us. There is no judgement on the Shadow side, it is merely that it is unconscious until we meet it. We often 'project' it onto other people, when we see them as something that they don't see at all, or conversely it might be the other person's shadow if they simply don't recognise something in themselves that others reasonably see.
The essential 'meeting' in Jungian terms is for the two sides of the person to meet, leading to individuation, the integration of all the aspects of the person into a whole.
It's very easy to see which tarot card is your shadow: it may irritate you or seem alien. Depending on what situations you relate cards to it may represent something that irritates you in other people. It may represent something in yourself you find irritating. It may be a recurring theme that you see in the world about you (to borrow a phrase from transactional analysis, if you are firmly convinced that everybody is always out to get you, that is your 'script', not theirs). It may represent something that other people accuse you of sometimes but that you don't see in yourself, not forgetting that it isn't 'negative' as such, if someone says, 'You do X', that is not the whole of you, even if it is something really annoying!
Much as I would like to say that my shadow helps little old ladies over the road and picks snails off the pavement when it's rained, in reality my shadow tarot card is The Emperor, particularly in his flip sides of rigidity, arrogance, stubbornness, and so on.
To start off with this was always a card I had inordinate difficulty reading, at length by dint of card-a-day readings over some time, coming to associate it with forces external to myself that were over-authoritative & thought they were right (how that sentence rings alarm bells for a shadow card!). Then I came to think of daddy referring to the Emperor as mummy refers to the Empress. My father died when I was 10 & was ill for some years before that, so that I have as many daddy issues as I do mummy issues, just for different reasons, and I saw my difficulty interpreting this card as being about my absent father. This got me interested in getting to know this card better, & I became more receptive to a less 'negative' interpretation when it came up as daily card, and came to see his authority as also meaning that he has knowledge and resources. It was only when someone commented that I was being rigid in holding an opinion of a particular person that I realised how this card is my shadow. I will happily acknowledge that I am an arrogant bastard, I like to think that I will be reasonable with other people and hear their views (this is my conscious side, the epitome of fairness and reasonableness), but when push comes to shove I will damn well be right.
Well b*gger me if I'm not behaving like all the aspects of the Emperor that irritate me most! This realisation has actually been surprisingly painless, and also my Emperor-ness has ceased to be a negative thing. In fact since I've made this realisation other people seem to be actually asking for my opinion more - lucky this blog is anonymous or someone who knows me might write a reply!).
Also I should have got the hint since my Emperor-ness (imperiality?) Is actually at the heart of the whole mother and father thing. I've posted previously about how my relationship with my mother has deteriorated over the years. I had noticed that she was reminding me more of her mother, then she let slip one day that my father and her mother didn't get on, which I didn't realise. Now I can see that we have been recreating that poor relationship, with me playing the part of my father. We tend to think of the Emperor and Empress as a pair or even a couple, but Their Imperial Majesties are pictured alone, and can clash with anyone who seems to interfere with their dominion.
And my Emperor problem goes even deeper in the relationship with my mother, which is both built on a faultline but was thrown up by cowboy builders. Around 20 years ago I had [imagine the arch tone of voice] a Bad Experience, with someone in a position of authority over me who was emotionally abusive, over a period of about a year. This has left its scars and I still feel the rage now, although like a good witch, while I do nothing to nurture this rage I am not prepared to reach 'closure' as this rage is a potent source of power if I need it. The experience was very similar to Dion Fortune's description of a psychic attack by an employer, in Psychic Self Defence.
My mother did not believe me that this was happening and told me I was wrong, the common experience of those who tell their loved ones they are being abused by a plausible authority figure. Her reaction both undermined any element of trust that might ever have been in our relationship, demonstrating how abuse wrecks people's lives, but if you don't believe what someone tells you I don't see how you can reasonably be surprised when thereafter the person does not tell you what is going on in their life.
This brings me to the whole point of how your shadow self is not a 'negative thing', because given that my so-called nearest and dearest preferred the word of a stranger over her own child (I was a very young adult at the time), I made up my own mind about what was going on. This was the beginning for me of coming into my own power: I realised how I had been brought up with a script that I was always wrong, and made up my mind that when I knew I was right, I would place nothing and nobody higher than my own sovereignty. Incidentally my mother was only reluctantly persuaded she was wrong by a family friend, not me. Therefore I can look at my headstrong shadow side with pride & know that it was nurtured by my own dealing with an extraordinarily difficult situation in my life. This has opened the floodgates to another power, that of divination, because I read right to the heart of a situation, knew I was right & stuck to my interpretation (Fortune describes how difficult and draining it is to stick to your guns in a psychic attack), I have come through with this strange gnosis. When I gnow, I will be right. Yes, this makes me an arrogant bastard but that is an aspect of my personality I welcome, and on occasion other people are grateful for, since I so generously share my rightness with them!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Commentary on the Charge of the Goddess 12: Diana

Goddess Diana fountain in Villa d'Este near Tivoli, Italy
Sources and Influences

: - [not present in BAM version]


Diana is often considered to be the same Goddess as Artemis, but in a Roman form, but Price and Kearns (Simon Price and Emily Kearns (editors): The Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2003.)  write that she was originally a moon Goddess, to whom the characteristics of Artemis were syncretised. They describe her identification with Artemis as ancient, and from Artemis she gained the patronage of wild animals, and luminal places, although it is not clear how this syncretisation took place.
She was virgin Goddess of the hunt, protectress of wild animals, and later a Goddess of women. After her identification with Artemis, she also assumed the title of Trivia, and assumed some of the chthonic roles of Hecate, in addition to her existing liminal associations. Her presence in the Charge is very easily explained, in addition to the motif of a Goddess who appears in the midst of Christian-Pagan conflict, by her folkloric connections with witches, flying by night, and La Vecchia Religione, and it provides the perfect illustration both of how the popular folkloric milieu of the romantic period through into the twentieth century nourished the creation of the new Paganisms, and also how whole histories (don’t forget that anciently ‘historia’ meant investigation rather than how we would understand it now) can be built on relatively little evidence. I am aware that in this section I will be treading on some people’s dearly-loved beliefs, but I am also conscious of another layer to this tale: the whole nature of magic is of changing and creating things. If a whole history of an ancient religion which never existed has been created, and people still firmly belief this spurious history, that is a glamour of the most excellent sort. If we can create a past, just imagine what we can do to the future!
Perhaps the most unusual aspect of Diana’s cult is the one best known amongst Pagans today: her grove near Aricia in the centre of Italy was served by a priest, Rex Nemorensis, king of the grove, who was always an escaped slave who gained this office by killing his predecessor. This combat, which is unique to religion in the ancient world  (ibid.), was initiated by picking a branch from a certain branch in the grove. This is how Ovid describes the grove, a description also highlighting her role in protecting women, and the torches which were part of her worship:
‘In Aricia’s valley, circled by a shady wood,
Is a lake, hallowed by an ancient cult.
Here Hippolytus hides, unfleshed by horses’ reins;
Hence no horses may enter the grove.
The long hedgerows are covered with hanging threads;
Many placards give thanks to the goddess.
Often a woman is granted her prayer, wreathes her brow
And bears shimmering torches from the city.
The grove is ruled by runaways with strong hands and feet,
Who later perish by their own example. ...
Barbarism is peeled off, justice surpasses arms,
And civil violence becomes shameful.
An altar’s sight induces recent brutes to offer
Wine and salted spelt on glowing hearths.’
(Ovid (translated by A.J. Boyle and R.D. Woodward): Fasti. Penguin Books, London, 2000, Book 3, lines 263-272; 281-284, p. 62.)
Ovid places this tradition in a context of justice, an overturning of the existing social order, so that justice rules, and yet the savage loses his savageness, but the reason the history of this unique shrine has been so powerful, is that it is the starting-point for Frazer’s influential study of magic, The Golden Bough, the basic argument of which, summoned in one of Frazer’s letters, will sound familiar to Wiccans:
‘By an application of the comparative method I believe that I can make it probable that the priest represented in his person the god of the grove – Virbius – and that his slaughter was regarded as the death of the god. This raises the question of the meaning of a widespread custom of killing men and animals regarded as divine. ... The Golden Bough, I believe I can show, was the mistletoe, and the whole legend can, I think, be brought into connexion, on the one hand, with the Druidical reverence for the mistletoe and the human sacrifices which accompanied their worship, and, on the other hand, with the Norse legend of the death of Balder. ... The resemblance of many of the savage customs and ideas to the fundamental doctrines of Christianity is striking. But I make no reference to this parallelism, leaving my readers to draw their own conclusions...’  (Robert Ackerman: J.G. Frazer: His Life and Work. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1987, p. 95.)
Gardner did not explicitly reference Frazer in either of his published non-fiction books on witchcraft, but in a sense at the time it was not necessary for him to do so, since Frazer’s ideas form part of one of the major ‘ingredients’ in the creation of modern paganisms: how ancient religion was understood in the first half of the twentieth century, at least by the laity rather than academic historians. These understandings are often built on some theories which were either respectable when they were new and since discredited (like Frazer’s: the multi-volume edition of The Golden Bough is still valuable for its source references, but the ubiquitous single-volume abridgement is not because it cuts out Frazer’s sources and leaves his now-discredited interpretations of them), or else were never academically accepted when new (such as Murray’s Witch Cult) but were unfortunately ideas that the public picked up and ran with. Then, as now, The Golden Bough is to be found in the magical/anthropology sections of libraries and bookshops and so formed and still forms a part of the milieu in which magical people’s ideas are formed.
Diana’s connection to witchcraft may be found in the tenth-century Canon Episcopi, often taken to be evidence of Pagan survivals:
‘...certain abandoned women perverted by Satan, seduced by illusions and phantasms of demons, believe and openly profess that, in the dead of night, they ride upon certain beasts with the pagan Goddess Diana, with a countless horde of women, and in the silence of the dead of night fly over vast tracts of country, and obey her commands as their mistress, while they are summoned to her service on other nights.’  (Rossell Hope Robbins: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology. Spring Books, London, 1970, p. 76.)
The Canon does not mention witchcraft, and the perceived connection to witchcraft may come from the flying motif, found in the trials, while the Devil motif of the trials is replaced by the Goddess Diana, a figure more fitting for modern Paganism. Norman Cohn writes that there was a popular belief of women flying through the night; sometimes their leader was Herodias. He believes that these women were experiencing this then common cultural assumption in their dreams, believed it was actually happening, and the church latched onto this belief as a delusion to be corrected.  (Norman Cohn: Europe’s Inner Demons. Chatto Heinemann, London, 1975.)
    A further connection with witchcraft is found in her presence in Leland’s Aradia as the Goddess of the witches. Gardner wrote that she was the wife of Janus, worshipped in Britain by refugees from the Fall of Troy, and also quoted them with the fairies, quoting A. E. Waite to the effect that fairies were the consorts of Diana, and that the original fairies were merely women who had been initiated into the mysteries of magic.  (Gerald Gardner: The Meaning of Witchcraft. Weiser Books, York Beach, 2004.) Once again Gardner draws on sources which to him as a non-academic may have appeared impeachable, but in fact Aradia has always been considered doubtful historically. Yes, it undoubtedly draws on the folklore of the region, but that folklore also takes place within a Catholic context, and the most damning fact is that there is no other evidence prior to the publication of Aradia, for the survival of an ancient religion in that area of Italy. I discount certain modern witchcraft writers, because the important evidence would have to appear independently of Aradia to be credible.
Hutton identifies three possible extremes in the interpretation of Aradia: first that it was actually the scripture of a vanished religion, second that Maddalena made it up to please Leland, and third that Leland made it up. He does not ultimately come down on any one of these, but asserts that there is still research to be done in Leland’s unpublished papers, and the solution as to the actual source of Aradia may be a combination of all three, or none of them (Ronald Hutton: The Triumph of the Moon. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1999).
This essentially leaves us exactly where we were at the beginning of this: leaving questions of history aside, the stories around Diana and her postulated cult are a potent force within our community today. For feminists she is the epitome of female power, for example. Witches of all traditions have this potent myth of a Goddess who sends her semi-divine and semi-human daughter to the enslaved to teach them how to free themselves from all that enslaves them. If this mythology so much as makes one person get up and do something to make the world a better place, then it has done its job.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Melusine goes to Starbucks

I am so thick sometimes. To the left is one of the images I considered using for the Melusine entry on the Charge. It is a capital from some medieval French church, depicting Melusine. It is only afterwards that I noticed its similiarity to the siren in the Starbucks logo. Do Wiccans drink coffee anywhere else?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Commentary on the Charge of the Goddess 11: Cerridwen


Sources and Influences

- [not in BAM version of the Charge]


Cerridwen (or Ceridwen) is a figure from Welsh mythology, found in the Book of Taliesin, which Green dates to the 13th century, while French  (draws on a 16th century version of the tale written by Elis Gruffydd. (Miranda Green: Celtic Goddesses: Warriors, Virgins and Mothers. British Museum Press, London, 1997; Claire French: The Celtic Goddess: Great Queen or Demon Witch?. Floris Books, Edinburgh, 2001. My account of the story of Cerridwen includes elements from both Green’s and French’s accounts.)  She is another figure about whose divinity there seems to be some ambiguity: French speaks of her as undoubtedly a Goddess, but Green isn’t sure. She is the sort of mythological figure who appeals to witches, her mythology incorporating tales of potions and power, shapeshifting and initiation, as well as the image of the cauldron.
Her story takes place during the rule of King Arthur. Ceridwen, the keeper of the Cauldron of Inspiration and Knowledge, had two children. Her daughter, Crearwy, was beautiful, while her son, Morfran (‘Great Raven’) was so ugly that he was called Afagddu, which means ugly. Her dissatisfaction with Afagddu caused Ceridwen to brew a magic potion in her cauldron that would make Afagddu wise (and, presumably, handsome).
The brew of Ceridwen’s cauldron had to boil for a year and a day, at the end of which time, three drops would spill out, and whomever the drops hit would become the wisest man on earth and a great prophet. When the drops came out, the cauldron would burst, and the rest of the potion, which would have become a deadly poison, would fly out over the surrounding countryside.
Ceridwen was assisted by a blind old man, and a young lad called Gwion, who watched the pot while she went to collect the herbs which would go into the cauldron to make her potion. As the end of the year and a day approached, she had Afagddu stand near the cauldron ready, so that when the three drops flew out, they would fall on him, their intended target. But Ceridwen fell asleep, and was woken by the sound of the cauldron exploding, to find that Gwion had hurriedly pushed Afagddu out of the way when the drops flew out, so that he had become the wisest man on earth, instead of Afagddu. An alternative version has some drops come out by mistake, and land on Gwion’s finger, which he licks.
Ceridwen was furious that the knowledge she had meant for Afagddu had gone into Gwion instead, and since he now had such superhuman knowledge he knew that she would seek revenge, and fled. Both Ceridwen and Gwion changed shape as they went, Ceridwen successively into a greyhound, then an otter, and finally a hawk. Gwion, who was Ceridwen’s prey in each of his transformations, changed successively into a hare, a fish, and then a bird.
Ceridwen’s final transformation was into a hen, and she changed Gwion into a grain of corn, which she swallowed. Nine months later she gave birth to him as a result of swallowing the corn. She meant to kill the baby, but his beauty stopped her doing it, and instead she set him adrift on the river in a coracle (or a leather package). He drifted like this for around forty years, after which time he was rescued from the water by Elphin, a nobleman at the court of King Maelgwm.
Elphin had been trying to fish on the night of Samhain, but there were no fish, and eventually when he saw a leather package floating in the water, he opened it to find a beautiful child inside, and cried out, ‘What a shining brow!’ (‘Tal i esin!’) Taliesin became the greatest poet and satirist in the land, and a great prophet, who foretold the death of the king, and was seen his peers as ‘the genuine incarnation of druidism.’ (Ibid, p. 69.)  He announced at the court of King Maelgum that he possessed all knowedge, and was present at the creation, and at the birth of Mabon. Green writes that his character, age, and divinatory power indicate that he was of divine or supernatural origin. There is a parallel of his story in the Irish myth of Finn, whose knowledge was acquired when he licked his finger after burning it on the roasting Salmon of Knowledge, and who is also associated with powerful women and was brought up by a druidess.
As for Ceridwen herself, Green sees her as a personification of the link found in Celtic mythology between the magical cauldron and Goddesses. There are also parallels between Ceridwen’s description as ‘Old One’, Hag of Creation, and Witch, with the Hags of Irish mythology, who could also transform into animals or beautiful young women. Green interprets her chase of Gwion as a bardic initiatory ritual leading to knowledge and his bardic gifts, which are symbolised by the grain of corn. Ceridwen’s status, while being ‘perhaps divine,’ (Ibid, p. 69.)  is certainly a supernatural status, indicated by her ability to change her own and others’ shape. The cauldron in the Taliesin story is paralleled by the ‘Cauldron of Rebirth’ in the Tale of Branwen, and in Irish mythology.
So what is she doing here? Ceridwen is one of a long line of semi-divine figures associated in mythology with witchcraft, magic, divination, and transformation. It is precisely their ability to change shape and divine which causes these figures to cross over the boundary into divinity. Another example would be Medea, who despite her undoubted human nature, as witch/sorceress, Pindar can describe as breathing words ‘from immortal lips.’  (Pindar: The Odes of Pindar, translated by C. M. Bowra, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1969, Pythian 4, verse 11, p. 188.) In fact, this ability to make changes is precisely what defines the witch: ‘The Witch is the changer of definitions and relationships.’ (Margot Adler: Drawing Down the Moon (Revised and Expanded Edition). Beacon Press, Boston, 1986, p. 44.)
And of course, the ‘tool’ by which Ceridwen is able to give ultimate knowledge is one bearing great resonance in a witchcraft context: the cauldron, which in the story of Ceridwen, Green relates to a matter of great importance in witchcraft: the circle of birth and death:
‘In a sense, Ceridwen was the cauldron: she swallowed Gwion and caused him to be reborn, the symbolism of the grain of corn eaten by the hen could be seen as an allegory of the seed buried in the womb of the earth for regeneration.’  (Green, op. cit., p. 69.)
Gardner wrote of a witch legend that Stonehenge was the Cauldron of Ceridwen, which he takes to have a vaginal symbolism, since he describes Stonehenge as combined with the phallus, represented by the Hele stone, in an ancient centre of worship of the powers of reproduction.  (Gerald Gardner: The Meaning of Witchcraft. Weiser Books, York Beach, 2004.)
The initiatory aspects of Ceridwen’s story fit perfectly the mystery school/fertility cult aspects of early Wicca. The traditional period of waiting a year and a day between initiations need not have come from Ceridwen’s story, though, as it is found elsewhere in folklore. From an initiatory perspective, Taliesin figures in this story more as an interloper than as a candidate for initiation: either by mistake or deliberately, he comes by knowledge which was not intended for him, matures it by long years in a wilderness experience, and ultimately comes to fame through his bardic power. This is therefore not a straightforward fairy tale, in which the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are clear-cut, but much more ambivalent. In fact Ceridwen causes the success of the man who stole what was hers and caused the ruination of her plans for her son, by her wish for revenge on him.
Ceridwen’s inclusion in the Charge could be the result of a wish for a native British mythology for a witch cult which has supposedly been underground for several hundred years, but I think the moral of her story is of much more importance for us as modern witches: by the practice of witchcraft, you too can cross the boundary into divinity, but the pursuit and attainment of ultimate knowledge comes at a heavy cost – your initiation into this knowledge can mean your life being turned upside-down.
Once again Gardner referred in his later published work to Ceridwen as a manifestation of the universal Great Mother, specifically in her role of creating fertility in all its forms. He furthers the universality of this idea in the context of talking about Ceridwen by reference to the supposed ‘Goddess’ figure found at Grime’s Graves in Norfolk, commenting that while a huge distance of time separates the figure from the myth of Ceridwen, the idea is the same, and elsewhere that the popularity of St Catherine may be explained by the fact that she was only Ceridwen, the Celtic nature Goddess, ‘canonised’ as a saint.  (Ibid)

Commentary on the Charge of the Goddess 10: Aphrodite


Sources and Influences

BAM: Aphrodite


Aphrodite is perhaps the Goddess named in the Charge whose origins are most complex and whose mythology is most marked by the syncretism of different local Goddesses. Robbins Dexter comments in the context of discussing Greek Goddesses:
‘...keep in mind the process of syncretism, which played an important role in the development of Greek deities. ...local goddesses with varying functions were often given the names of goddesses whose worship was more widespread. Thus, a Near-Eastern mother-goddess might be assimilated with the Greek virgin goddess, Artemis, or a local Laconian warrior-goddess might be syncretised to the pan-Hellenic Aphrodite.’  (Miriam Robbins Dexter: Whence the Goddesses: A Sourcebook. Pergamon Press, New York, 1990, p. 112. The summary of the origins of Aphrodite is also taken from Robbins Dexter.)
However it is important also to bear in mind that that this process of assimilation of divinities, which in some magical circles today would equate to the process of creating egregores, does not provide support to the theory of an original single Great Mother, but means that different Goddesses were called by different names and took on the attributes and functions of other Goddesses.
There are two different accounts in mythology for the origin of Aphrodite: the Homeric account states that she is a daughter of Zeus, but the more common account of her origins was that in Hesiod, where Kronos, Zeus’s father, castrated Ouranos, his own father, and threw the severed genitalia into the sea. A maiden grew out of the white foam of the sea, and went to Cythera and then Cyprus, emerging as a beautiful Goddess called Aphrodite. Pausanias ascribes the origins of the cult of Aphrodite Ourania to the Assyrians, from whom the people of Cyprus took it, and it spread to the Phoenicians. Herodotus thought that the temple of Aphrodite in Ascalon in Syria was her oldest temple.
Dexter Robbins concludes that the Greeks, while agreeing that Aphrodite was not of Greek origin, did not agree on the geographical origin of her cult. She believes that the cult of a Near Eastern Goddess such as Ashtoreth could have spread to the Greeks, who gave her a new name, included her in their pantheon (hence the attribution of fatherhood to Zeus), and she was then given characteristics found in Indo-European mythology, in addition to her original Near Eastern characteristics.
Some of the Near Eastern Goddess characteristics are found in her iconography, in symbols of a goose, a swan, and a snake. Another Near Eastern characteristic is found in the practice of sacred prostitution in her temple at Babylon (caution should be exercised in how we understand the modern phrase ‘sacred prostitution’: in the ancient world, while it did degenerate into prostitution as we would understand it, what we call by this phrase almost never meant what we mean by it (Simon Price and Emily Kearns (editors): The Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2003, article ‘prostitution, sacred’, pp. 454-455.) ). Herodotus reports this custom, which he describes as ‘wholly shameful’, in shocked tones, but this custom related to a Goddess named in the Charge surely provides an impetus towards the freer sexual mores that Gardner and associates aimed for in the early days of their fertility cult. Every native woman of Babylonia was required once in her lifetime to sit in the temple of Aphrodite and wait to have intercourse with a stranger. She had to do this with the first man to toss a coin into her lap, she could not refuse, and she had to wait in the temple until a man did toss her a coin. Herodotus comments wryly that ugly women could be waiting in the temple for a long time (Herodotus (Translated by Aubrey de Sélincourt, revised by John Marincola): The Histories. Penguin Books, London, 2003. Book 1.199.).
Aphrodite was primarily, therefore, associated with love, and came to take on the characteristics of a Mother Goddess, coming to transcend her original fertility function in being worshipped as a warrior-Goddess by the Spartans, which Robbins Dexter connects to her function as Mother:
‘...she was invoked in this capacity by the martial Spartans. Her “warrior” powers were most likely derived from her nurturing function. The function of a political, protective city-goddess became that of defending the city in time of war and that of guarding it in peacetime.’  (Robbins Dexter, op. cit., p. 114.)
A far cry from the gentle images of love which the name ‘Aphrodite’ often evokes, and much closer to a modern Pagan understanding of powerful womanhood.
In mythology she is as much seen as a Goddess of sexual love; although married to the blacksmith Hephaestos, in the Odyssey she falls in love with the warrior-God Ares, and begins an affair with him. Hephaestos makes a net of bronze, attaches it to their bed, and when, thinking he is away, Aphrodite goes to bed with Ares, they are caught in the net. Hephaestos calls on all of the Gods to witness this, but they laugh, and many agree they would like to be in Ares’s shoes.
Once again this indicates a Goddess of love which definitely includes sexual love: the Goddess of love is not bound by the norms of monogamy in Greek society, and nor is she chaste. Dexter Robbins comments on the autonomy that this indicates.
So an obvious reason for Aphrodite’s inclusion among the named Goddesses in the Charge would be her associations with sexual love and fertility. However a fascinating connection, albeit one which does not appear in the usual authorities, with the mythology of witchcraft itself is also made by J. Rendel Harris  (J. Rendel Harris: The Origin of the Cult of Aphrodite. The University Press, Manchester, 1916. The evidence is lacking to assert that this connection was known to Gardner, but this article could have provided a connection in this context), who connects the cult of Aphrodite to the mandrake as the love-apple of the ancients. Mandrake appears in the mythology of witchcraft and the old herbals as the plant whose root is suggestive of a person’s body, and which was rumoured to scream when it was pulled out of the earth. Harris comments that Aphrodite in ancient Cyprus was seen as both black and white, male and female, and equates a reference in Macrobius to a bearded Venus in Cyprus, to Aphrodite. Similarly mandrake roots were seen as both male and female: ‘We need not, then, hesitate to draw conclusion from the black mandrake to the black goddess. They are the same.’ (Ibid, p. 17.)  In language redolent of the predominant use of colours of the time in which he lives, he states that the ‘white’ Aphrodite predominated, but that the ‘darker’ aspects of the ‘black’ Aphrodite were responsible for her role as a Psychopomp, or guide of souls to the other world. He also draws on the image of the witch with her garden, and actually thinks that Aphrodite started out as a witch (in Lucian’s Dialogues of the Gods Athene charges Aphrodite with witchcraft):
‘As soon as we have satisfied ourselves that Aphrodite was originally a witch, and not a courtesan, we are almost obliged to infer that, like the other witch-goddesses, she had a garden of her own, in which grew her mandrake and other rarities and specialities.’  (Ibid, p. 18.)
In Ovid’s Metamorphoses Aphrodite gathers apples from her garden in Cyprus, and Harris believes this to refer to the mandrake-apple, which he believes is not a medicinal remedy but used only in magic, particularly love magic. He thinks that Aphrodite’s cult came to Greece from Cyprus with the mandrake, and points out that both she and Apollo are pictured holding apples, hers the love apple, to his oracular apple.
In his published writings Gardner draws on this image of Aphrodite as witch, in her teaching her son Jason to draw down the moon and invoke Hecate ( Gerald Gardner: The Meaning of Witchcraft. Weiser Books, York Beach, 2004.), indicating that he saw Aphrodite in this way, but not where he got the image from.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A holiday treat

I've had a lovely week off. Recreation means re-creation and a disengagement from the day to day grind is a necessary means of refreshment. I have had an orgy of old TV: I watched the Man from Uncle films: very formative on me when I was tiny, but rather corny in retrospect. Not a patch on The Avengers, the book on which arrived eventually. I've also discovered that the restoration is now complete and the last remaining radio series of the programme are now available here. They were broadcast in South Africa in the 1970s, were recorded by a man on a reel to reel tape recorder and from those only copies (not all of them survive) any copies of The Avengers on the radio come. They're mostly late stories, Tara King era, but recast to include my beloved Mrs Peel. Ages ago I bought a book about The Avengers in a charity shop. I had gone in with a female friend and the men behind the counter asked me, 'Which one did you fancy?' - obviously meaning which Avengers girl. So I said, 'Steed'.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The studious witch

Proverbially for us the teacher comes along when we are ready. Whether this be a person, a website or a book, witches are people who drink in their learning. Hopefully thoughtfully & critically!
I had a rather odd choice of books to start with: the first was Laurie Cabot's Power of the Witch. I still can't use her 'counting down to alpha' thing, which is also taught by Christopher Penczak. I then went straight on to Marian Green, but developed most of my own witchcraft from the wonderful Phyllis Curott.
Nowadays I don't tend to read much about witchcraft. People always decry the lack of advanced books, but in a sense they are impossible things, because once you take off you water wings as a witch, you go on on your own. I'm finding I'm reading the sources of witchcraft; the magical tradition, folklore, etc. I would stress the importance of not being too snobby about certain authors: I have even heard it said that the definition of a fluffbunny is that you believe everything in a book with a crescent moon on the spine! I do quite like Silver Ravenwolf, the most fluffy-bashed author, if she'd just tone down the relentless positivity.
What should be avoided is historical claims with no evidence to support them. It should be perfectly respectable in the magical community to say, 'I made this up & look what happened...', but we are not quick enough to question people who unthinkingly or mendaciously repeat rubbish.
The pictures are of Birmingham's previous and present Central Libraries. The next one is being built as we speak. The present one is 1970s ziggurat architecture, still with orange carpets & little natural light. Hopefully the colour pictures show how it swears at every other building surrounding it. There was a campaign to list it, which fortunately failed. The new one is...odd. What's the betting there'll be another new one in 30 years?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Conservative Party conference

The Conservative party are holding their conference in Birmingham at the International Convention Centre this week. Broad Street is crawling with coppers & the security is quite something: high fences, turnstiles... More than the last time. Could it be they're expecting trouble this time?
Everyone else has to get out of the way of an event like this. Broad Street is already single lane & it hasn't started yet. For those who work in the city travel will be a nightmare this week. This really pisses me off that these high-risk idiots are allowed to displace everyone else, just to have another bun fight at which they'll take something else away from the unsuspecting population.

Spirit of place: Rugby, & Rupert Brooke

To Rugby today. It is best known for the posh school where a boy first was sensible enough to think 'f*ck it', pick up the football in his hands, & lucky enough to get away with it. I never did, but had an unexpected aptitude for rugby over football at school.
The town itself is hardly worth writing about, but it's also known for an early crush of mine. When I was a very young queen Rupert Brooke was a bit of a gay icon: this seems to be built around the fact that he was devastatingly good-looking, & the evidence in one of his letters for one same-sex fling with a former school friend.
Far from seeing him as the golden youth now, I feel he comes across as a nasty piece of work in his letters to James Strachey, who had a raging pash for him, but Brooke just kept writing to him about women, except for that one letter. We all know basically straight men who might givr it a go once with a man (making them a one on the Kinsey scale), or who like the homosocial side of things & don't mind being with gay men. They may even have what are now known as bromances. But mark my words, they'll always go running to a woman. I see Brooke as torn between the conformist expectations of his family & the bohemian arty set he mixed with. He was temporarily a schoolmaster at Rugby school, yet could also show Virginia Woolf an instant erection, and wasn't above telling jokes about a sexually abused choir boy. He wasn't brilliant academically, he never really saw active service, & ultimately died of an infected thumb. It was after this that he was 'canonised'. Now you may be asking what he's doing here despite this, and your sneaking suspicion is correct: I would not have been able to say 'no' to him under any circumstances, & nurture a raging crush for this dead man still.
The Great Lover

I HAVE been so great a lover: filled my days
So proudly with the splendour of Love's praise,
The pain, the calm, and the astonishment,
Desire illimitable, and still content,
And all dear names men use, to cheat despair,         5
For the perplexed and viewless streams that bear
Our hearts at random down the dark of life.
Now, ere the unthinking silence on that strife
Steals down, I would cheat drowsy Death so far,
My night shall be remembered for a star  10
That outshone all the suns of all men's days.
Shall I not crown them with immortal praise
Whom I have loved, who have given me, dared with me
High secrets, and in darkness knelt to see
The inenarrable godhead of delight?  15
Love is a flame;—we have beaconed the world's night.
A city:—and we have built it, these and I.
An emperor:—we have taught the world to die.
So, for their sakes I loved, ere I go hence,
And the high cause of Love's magnificence,  20
And to keep loyalties young, I'll write those names
Golden for ever, eagles, crying flames,
And set them as a banner, that men may know,
To dare the generations, burn, and blow
Out on the wind of Time, shining and streaming....  25
These I have loved:
      White plates and cups, clean-gleaming,
Ringed with blue lines; and feathery, faery dust;
Wet roofs, beneath the lamp-light; the strong crust
Of friendly bread; and many-tasting food;  30
Rainbows; and the blue bitter smoke of wood;
And radiant raindrops couching in cool flowers;
And flowers themselves, that sway through sunny hours,
Dreaming of moths that drink them under the moon;
Then, the cool kindliness of sheets, that soon  35
Smooth away trouble; and the rough male kiss
Of blankets; grainy wood; live hair that is
Shining and free; blue-massing clouds; the keen
Unpassioned beauty of a great machine;
The benison of hot water; furs to touch;  40
The good smell of old clothes; and other such—
The comfortable smell of friendly fingers,
Hair's fragrance, and the musty reek that lingers
About dead leaves and last year's ferns....
                                    Dear names,
And thousand others throng to me! Royal flames;  45
Sweet water's dimpling laugh from tap or spring;
Holes in the ground; and voices that do sing:
Voices in laughter, too; and body's pain,
Soon turned to peace; and the deep-panting train;
Firm sands; the little dulling edge of foam  50
That browns and dwindles as the wave goes home;
And washen stones, gay for an hour; the cold
Graveness of iron; moist black earthen mould;
Sleep; and high places; footprints in the dew;
And oaks; and brown horse-chestnuts, glossy-new;  55
And new-peeled sticks; and shining pools on grass;—
All these have been my loves. And these shall pass.
Whatever passes not, in the great hour,
Nor all my passion, all my prayers, have power
To hold them with me through the gate of Death.  60
They'll play deserter, turn with the traitor breath,
Break the high bond we made, and sell Love's trust
And sacramented covenant to the dust.
—Oh, never a doubt but, somewhere, I shall wake,
And give what's left of love again, and make  65
New friends, now strangers....
                  But the best I've known,
Stays here, and changes, breaks, grows old, is blown
About the winds of the world, and fades from brains
Of living men, and dies.
                  Nothing remains.
O dear my loves, O faithless, once again  70
This one last gift I give: that after men
Shall know, and later lovers, far-removed
Praise you, "All these were lovely"; say, "He loved."

Bottle Spells

Today some thoughts while I wait for a train on this, one of my favourite magical acts. Bottle spells have a venerable history, are easy, and endlessly adaptable to your circumstances.
First it is necessary to feed my pretensions to this being an intelligent witchcraft blog, so here is the theory (why) underpinning the practice. These spells reference three in particular of the laws of magic (I reference Bonewits's version of these laws, although they have also been framed by other people, since he is one of the few Neopagan authors I would recommend unreservedly):

The Law of Association
Essence: if any two or more patterns have elements in common, the patterns interact "through" those common elements, and control of one pattern facilitates control over the other(s), depending (among other factors) upon the number, type and duration of common elements involved.
Remarks: This is probably one of the most important of the magical Laws and is directly connected to most of the others.
Keywords: "Commonality controls."
The Law of Similarity
Essence: Effects are liable to have an outward physical or mental "appearance" similar to their causes.
Remarks: Having an accurate image/sound/smell of an object or being facilitates control over it or them.
Keywords: "Look-alikes are alike."
The Law of Contagion
Essence: Objects or beings in physical or psychic contact with each other continue to interact after separation.
Remarks: Everyone your character has ever touched has a psychic link with him, though it is (probably) pretty weak unless the contact was intense and/or repeated frequently. Naturally having a part of someone's body (nails, hair, spit, blood, etc.) gives the best contagion link. Almost as good are objects of clothing, handkerchiefs, bedsheets, etc., that have absorbed sweat or other bodily fluids from the being your character wishes to magically influence.
Keywords: "Magic is contagious."
The theory is necessary since the usual reason spells fail or have unforeseen consequences is that people don't fully think through what they are doing, and fall at the first hurdle.
There are actually two approaches to the 'bottle' (the approach applies to any spell involving a container): it will either function as an arena for what is going to happen to the target of the spell, or it will function as the actual target of the spell, in whom or which something is going to happen by the spell.
First it is necessary to make some kind of magical link with the object of the spell, often done by using some part of them (classically, hair from a comb or nail clippings, etc), something which has been in contact with them, or if push comes to shove, if you have a psychic link with the person or thing, you can create an object link.
The only essential part of this is that the object makes some deep association for you personally with the object of the spell. If making a 'voodoo' doll does it for you, so be it. The advantage of that approach is that by your handling the doll while making it the connection is increased. If you have something of the person this can be incorporated in the doll, and the doll's anatomy can be used to represent the person's, for example sewing up the mouth to stop gossip, sewing up a rapist's genitals to give him erectile dysfunction, etc.
I find that if I am ready to do a spell the materials for it will either already be to hand or will come to hand while I am thinking about it.
If you see someone wearing jeans with a red tab on the seat, you know the manufacturer of these jeans without having to look at the leather label which will certainly be also there. Similarly every time a company writes to you they give you an object link in their logo. Other possibilities are an individual's signature (we all sign things all the time without thinking where it is going; I personally have different signatures professionally & privately); the cup someone has drunk from; photos are easily obtained online nowadays; you get the idea. At the risk of being repetitive the important thing is that it makes you think of the subject of the spell.
If you don't have an object link all is far from lost. I have cast spells using china ornaments & even a pig's ear, which reminded me of the subject. Dorothy Morrison has the wonderful idea of using Barbie dolls, which can be further personalised to look like the person & also lend themselves to having things done to them.
You could even use the person's name written on paper, which you then magically charge to 'be' the subject. You do this in whatever way works for you: magic is so like sex in this respect that it is quite difficult beyond Witchcraft 101 to give firm prescriptions; it also explains why people grow out of the books & teachers from which they learned so much. Whether you're a bells & smells witch, or a pure mental magic type, again the key is to do whatever you have to do to make the total connection between the object and the target of the spell. Personally I find I'm 'doing' less as I go on, & if I badly enough want that connection I'll make it be going over that neural pathway often enough.
The same applies for consecrating the 'bottle' as the object of the spell, if your spell requires going down that route. Remember in The Witches of Eastwick (I still can't see Cher as a convincing witch but the book is much more realistic, & provides a good example of an ill-thought-out spell going wrong) when they turn a biscuit barrel into a woman & then put feathers & things in it, which the woman keeps coughing up? Just like that. They baptised it, and by all means do so if that's your bag. Starhawk's Spiral Dance gives a formula to consecrate a poppet as a person as part of the binding spell.
If all this seems terribly arduous, magic is like decorating, the key is in the preparation, and so in time terms we are more than half way there.
The next step is to do to your object link what you want to happen to the object of the spell (Laws of Association & Similarity): this is why your connection between the object link & object of the spell is so important.
Bottle spells can be used for the binding spell with a twist, to contain & isolate the person's harm. I tend to use large glass jars for bottle spells, since the links I use are often large, & will often wrap them in foil to make the person's actions impact on themselves only.
What you put in the jar depends on the spell: honey to sweeten, vinegar to sour, garlic or chilli powder to remove, nails or pins to prick, glue to stick, and so on.
I do not recommend this, but if you had a sexual goal for the object you could ejaculate into it or put in menstrual blood.
The traditional witch bottles always had pins in, and this is still a major way of catching unwanted vibes around the house, without an object link. You fill the bottle with nails, pins, broken china & glass, and then fill it up with your urine. This is traditionally buried by your door, or can be kept in a dark corner.
If you have consecrated the bottle itself, obviously what you put in it is aimed at the object, for example honey to seeten a person.
One this is done what you do with the bottle depends on the spell. Traditionally they were put in a river if you wanted to wash something away. As I've said before I have difficulty forgetting completely about the spell, and these spells are ideal because you can either repeatedly put things in the bottle, give it a shake, etc, with the disadvantage that this tends to keep the object near you.
For total disposal I would still recommend the drain for liquids, recycling for recyclables & the bin for solids. For closure how you dispose of the things is very good, such as burying an object link. I know I'm over-egging the cake, but as the Hound of Hecate I like to put my waste in a dog mess bin!