Thursday, September 26, 2013

Spirit of place: Jewellery Quarter

I've previously touched on Birmingham's jewellery quarter - in reality a posh way of saying 'the south end of Hockley'. This is a part of the city for which I have an affection: I must be getting old because this is an affection for what it used to be. In my misspent youth, the entry onto the canal bank here was a notorious picking up point - a friend once expressed her incredulity that there should be so many men hanging around there on a Saturday night, & her disbelief that they were looking for sex. Also the canal bank there used to be dark & unfrequented - almost designed as a gay hang out - but all that changed when people once again started living there & the area was cleared up.
You see this gentrification has partly displaced the spirit of place *as I knew it*. The spirit was most apparent at the weekend, when the factories & other businesses were closed. The jewellery quarter is relatively cut off from the rest of the city centre, so it genuinely felt like everyone had just upped & abandoned it. If I had to put my finger on that spirit, it would feel almost like the atmosphere deliberately created in the 1990s Avengers film - a London where there was nobody about ever, & the 60s had never ended. The spirit of the jewellery quarter is more focussed than that, though, on industry, making a living, the work of beautification, it is constantly shifting & changing.
I feel the spirit is best exemplified by the so-called warstone, a lump of felsite stone deposited near where it is now in the last ice age, between 10 & 100000 years ago. Felsite is apparently fine-grained volcanic rock that may or may not incorporate other crystals. I was talking with a witch friend the other day about how crystals do absolutely nothing for me - I get nothing from them, although I do from fossils. Strange then that I get this sense of busyness from the warstone. I had a chat with it while I ate lunch today - it's not restful because there's loads of stuff going on inside it.
The rock is on the edge of Warstone Lane Cemetery, famous for Birmingham's catacombs, that you can't get in nowadays. They felt different today - what struck me when I first went there was the smug bourgeois feel of the graves, a sense of stifling respectability. Today an anguished entity latched on to me straight away. You would not believe the sheer angst of this dead person, already dead over a century. She latched on to me because I could sense her, but she frankly had got stuck in being anguished & wanted & needed to be moved on. I simply told her to move on - it took quite some insistence actually - & she was gone, onto whatever's next.
My lack of fear of, or rather obsession with, graveyards & death was one of the things that should have alerted me to being a witch years ago. In retrospect I was - how I hate this word - 'destined' to be a priest of Hecate, on account of being inexorably drawn into endings & beginnings. Imagine my delight as a very young - but still unaware - witch to find this hymn in the old standard edition of Hymns A & M. Living closer to death, with more fear of it suddenly happening & less ability to prevent it, made the Victorians more matter of fact about death. Now it would probably be considered 'morbid' - at least that's what I got called when I went round happily singing this to myself as a teenager. Death is the ultimate reality that the witch mediates - it's also the one there is least point in trying to avoid. Oh, perhaps I should just comment that this is a *children's* hymn:

Within the churchyard, side by side,
Are many long low graves;
And some have stones set over them,
On some the green grass waves.

Full many a little Christian child,
Woman, and man, lies there;
And we pass near them every time
When we go in to prayer.

They cannot hear our footsteps come,
They do not see us pass;
They cannot feel the warm bright sun
That shines upon the grass.

They do not hear when the great bell
Is ringing overhead;
They cannot rise and come to church
With us, for they are dead.

But we believe a day shall come
When all the dead will rise,
When they who sleep down in the grass,
Will ope again their eyes.

For Christ our Lord was buried once,
He died and rose again,
He conquered death, He left the grave;
And so will Christian men.

So when the friends we love the best
Lie in their churchyard bed,
We must not cry too bitterly
Over the happy dead;

Because, for our dear Savior's sake,
Our sins are all forgiv'n;
And Christians only fall asleep
To wake again in Heav'n.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tarot: 3 of Swords going on 4 of Swords

Time for the aftermath. I was genuinely dreading going to work today, it has been the scene of much conflict recently & I was expecting a full scale battle. The upshot, though, is: we've won. For various good reasons, which I can't explain in this forum, it was necessary to make sure that various things didn't go the way certain people wanted them to. These people cloaked their actions in apparently good intentions, but it was clear that the only effect their course of action would have would be negative.
So in fact if I'd read the card Waite's way I would have had to have read it as meaning loss, etc, for the opposition. There is also an interesting synchronicity. Today was the day I gave a dog three treats shaped like keys. Hmmm... I wouldn't have made a connection between Hecate & the 3 of Swords, but there are just too many synchronicities going on here.
I now have three (yes, three) days off work so can follow Vyvyan Basterd's example in the morning! The instability of the  three of Swords has to be resolved & the four is the place to do it. While having a lie down. Once again I would feel that Smith's image is perhaps slightly limiting for this card: the four swords stabilise the energy, so that the meanings to me could range from a sort of modus vivandi established in the midst of various problems, to a stagnation in the energy leading to stubbornly sticking by a bad marriage, even to a situation of institutionalised abuse. Waite rightly picks up on the martial and conflictual energy here:

'The effigy of a knight in the attitude of prayer, at full length upon his tomb. Divinatory Meanings: Vigilance, retreat, solitude, hermit's repose, exile, tomb and coffin. It is these last that have suggested the design. Reversed: Wise administration, circumspection, economy, avarice, precaution, testament.' (

Tarot: Three of Swords

It may seem eccentric, but this is my blog & if I want to illustrate a post about the 3 of Swords with a screen capture of Vyvyan Basterd modelling the 4 of Swords, I will. So there.

My tarot card for today is the 3 of Swords. No, don't seem to be trembling in fear of the imminent despair, loss & separation that is on my way. Sometimes my strange tendency to interpret tarot cards in a 'reversed' way, or at least differently to how everyone else does, has advantages. My personal opinion is that this card has been done a great disservice over the past century, starting with Waite, who has this to say about it:

'Three swords piercing a heart; cloud and rain behind. Divinatory Meanings: Removal, absence, delay, division, rupture, dispersion, and all that the design signifies naturally, being too simple and obvious to call for specific enumeration. Reversed: Mental alienation, error, loss, distraction, disorder, confusion.' (

I feel the meaning of this card is only simple & obvious if you limit it by using the sort of illustration Waite did: in this I am coming down on the side of those non-pictorial tarot deck purists. I find it helpful to read with a different tarot deck from time to time, & today I picked up a tarocco piemontese I've had sitting in the wardrobe for some time. It's one of the sort where the trumps & court cards are split half way down so that you see two halves of the image. Reversals? I think not. And this kind of deck only goes to reinforce the tarot's origin as playing cards.
However in that sort of deck, there are two perceptable directions to the pip cards, something that became very apparent when I took out all the swords & laid them in a line across the altar. The odd numbers in that sort of deck have a sword in the centre of the swords cards, which feels different depending on whether the sword is pointing up or down. Downwards it feels more like a statement of something that's just there, almost like an ornamental sword hanging on the wall. Upwards it feels like one is armed for a declaration of war.
Because swords - along with their modern cognates of things that cut & pierce generally - are of use to us as well as victimising us. We use things that cut to divide things - both in a literal sense, & I suppose in a speculative sense of dividing truth from fiction, one thing from another, etc. Similarly things which pierce - drills, knives, nails - can be used to 'hole' things but also sometimes to join.
So the energy of this card isn't as simple as it looks. The fear of swords is seen in the sword's modern equivalent of the gun. The sword/gun is in a position to make a terminal 'piercing' of someone: our society therefore feels the need both to control this dangerous potential, while there is also a thriving trade in under the counter guns.
And the three thing contributes to this card's unpredictability by destabilising the two before it stabilises again in the four. Two-become-three indicates the 'birth' of something new. This could be seen as a new 'prick', or trouble, but I am a witch, I intend to make use of everything that is given me. So I am not only armed for the battle, I will take any nonsense sent my way & turn it against you. Have I successfully reversed the meaning of this card?
The 3 comes before the 4, & is the necessary prelude to it. To get to the 4 you have to do the battle bit so you can have a rest afterwards. After today I have three days off work & am looking forward to a rest after dealing with the 'pricks' that will almost certainly come my way today.
I've done something else to give myself a rest. To paraphrase the Jewish saying: God couldn't be everywhere so she made witches. Witches can't be everywhere so they make magical entities. This is one of my favourite magics: it's easy & allows the kind of irony that my magic always has, for example I usually make them nourished by the very behaviour in others that they are aimed at. If people think they can get away with things when they think I'm not watching, they've got another thing coming. This is the trouble with being a witch - particularly one whose sacred vocation is the removal of malevolence - you attract things that need sorting because you're often the only person who can or will, which reinforces the need to take care of oneself.
Just for a change from this post prompted by the always militaristic Swords, I've done something nice recently. I reviewed my List & took someone off it without his life becoming a living hell. The spell I cast on this person caused the desired change in his behaviour to me, so he need not be on the list any more. This is actually the first time I've removed someone from it before they have completely left my orbit, so is partly in the way of an experiment. Who knows, perhaps the battle will be with him!
Affirmation: today I am armed to deal with any attacks that come my way and tomorrow will rest after an honourable affray.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Laurence Soper again

You didn't think I'd forgotten about him, did you? This post is partly a vehicle for the more recent picture I failed to post before. I'm glad to say the curse of the witch community - in fact I feel like all sensible people are working on him, since the two previous posts about him on here have gained a *lot* of hits.
What is happening with him: 3 of Cups reversed. I normally don't do reversals, but I'm using Lo Scarabeo's Book of Thoth Etteilla tarot, & it's difficult not to. Etteilla's keyword is 'expedition d'affaires': things are speeding up, which to my mind could go either way. Where is he hiding: Judgement reversed. Either way up Etteilla's keyword is the same: 'le jugement'. He will be revealed by the person hiding him.
My affirmation: 'Andrew Soper is brought to justice so that no harm can come to children'.
Of course this does not address what abuse does to the targets. What I do keep hearing is purely being believed finally is the most therapeutic thing that could happen. It will leave you screwed up for life, but at least finally the reality is acknowledged. This is like the importance of naming the problem in witchcraft.
Some of the effects are spelled out in the rest of this post, which is a 'reblog' of info from a Catholic website (
Working in this area is challenging in so many ways, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. It is always the victims of this terrible crime that one's heart goes out to. The stories of the St Benedict's abuse survivors are poignantly similar to those of poorer victims from the other side of the tracks. These Old Priorians do not recall privilege but pain, including breakdowns, being sectioned, becoming anti-social and violent. One recalled a classmate becoming a prostitute, another committing suicide.

Families too were fractured by the abuse: some parents could not believe that any priest would behave so, others near destroyed by their inability to protect their beloved child.

A former pupil told me he was haunted by other children's cries. 'Some of us used to gather outside the studies of Fr Pearce (now serving a prison sentence) making noise to signal our presence, when classmates he had targeted for "extra tuition" were summoned there. Back then, of course, we had only the most rudimentary vocabulary for what we knew or suspected was going on.'

Soper today has put himself outside both the law and the church through disappearing. Police have obtained a European Arrest Warrant, and Ealing Abbey has confirmed that: 'Laurence Soper has been dismissed from the monastery. He is no longer a monk or a member of the community. By virtue of this, he is canonically suspended from priestly ministry.'

The Vatican ordered an inquiry following the Lord Carlile's independent report on the scandal, this listed five allegations on five occasions against Soper, the first Apostolic Visitation in Britain in living memory. Its findings will not be made public. But Soper was also an ordained priest and may now be laicised. The abbey has confirmed: 'His case has been passed to the Congregation for Religious in Rome and the matter is now in their hands.'

So where is Soper now? Police suspect that he may still be in Italy. But that is a guess. Publicising the facts can only help.

Andrew Charles Kingsdon Soper was born in Hendon, Middlesex, on September 17 1943, to Alan Kingsdon Soper and Anne, maiden name Morris. His Penzance-born father married his mother in Cardiff in 1936. He was a distant cousin of the socialist and Methodist peer Lord Donald Soper, but apparently never met him. He was his parents' only child.

He is around 5.7, pale, with 'grey or blue eyes', and slim built. He needs spectacles or contact lenses, and is grey-haired. A former pupil recalls a distinctive' "high-pitched voice", another a "nasal" voice, and "slightly posh received pronunciation accent". He attended St Benedict's as a boy, and many suspect that he is in a remote, contemplative monastery abroad, sheltered by monks who are misguided or do not know his real background.

Soper briefly worked for Barclays Bank before entering the monastery in 1964. He taught at St Benedict's from 1973-83, and became bursar between 1975-1991. He was elected Ruling Abbot from 1991-2000, but quit Britain in 2001 for Rome.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What Witchcraft Is

I notice a recurring theme in my posts, of defining & redefining witchcraft & the witch figure over & over. It would surely limit the multi-faceted witch figure too much to stick to, or even attempt, a simple definition of who we are & what we do. A dictionary-style definition such as that used in the concise Oxford for Wicca (the neo-pagan religion) leaves us in exactly the same position. Given that I'm quite capable of posting completely contradictory posts on this, before I contradict myself again today I will attempt a synthesis: witchcraft is what is done by those who call themselves witches, which is a collection of beliefs or practices proper to the individual or group, & which tends to be known when you see it, even if the individual practitioner does not call what s/he does, witchcraft. That's that cleared up then.
One of the aspects usually soft-pedalled in witchcraft's more 'ceremonial' forms is that of martial art. The virtues of balance, philosophy of praxis & form, & use of energy found in martial arts is very much as found in witchcraft. I wrote the following quote from Rae Bone in my book of shadows years ago (I'm afraid I have lost the reference), which is pure martial artist:
'There are three divisions of our philosophy which we, seeking ancient wisdom & ultimate good, must exercise. First there is avoidance & pursuit; a Witch must not fail in anything she has the will to achieve, nor fall into any misfortune that she can avoid. The second concerns her desires & aversions: she must attain a balance, so that he personal life is orderly, with no single thing done heedlessly. The third is concerned with seeking security from delusions & apprehensions. She must become sure of herself in every way in her private life, & in her public one, & in the way she is concerned with others.'
In aikido dojos there is a sort of shrine called a kamiza. Unfortunately there are no schools of witchcraft where you can try out what you learn on the mats. Our dojo is of necessity the world & the altar is our kamiza. Our consecration/dedication/initiation - however that may have come about - is our entry into the dojo of witchcraft & puts us in the way of learning experiences.
I have recently myself learned what will probably be a very basic point to others. I have cast a banishing spell, which brought all sorts of ills in its wake. At first I thought this was merely the kickback, until I woke one morning with a plan to sort it all formed in my head: I had to create something to fill the vacuum I had created, which would otherwise just have been filled with any old psychic gunk that was passing.
That done, it feels much better. I have also spent today cleaning the house from top to bottom. For the martial artist cleaning the dojo or the witch cleaning the house this is never just plain housework, & should not be approached disdainfully. This is another similarity, that both the witch & the martial artist can both invest apparently insignificant actions with meaning, & also find meaning in these actions.
Another source for witchcraft for me is also related to combat: I am re-reading Mao Tse Tung on Guerrilla Warfare. This may sound strange, but when I say that it's a particular approach to the subject of strategy, its relevance will become clear. This is often a shortcoming in the philosophy of witchcraft, because a lot of witches are in denial about combat & having enemies. Some witches like to talk about maintaining the balance as if to imply that homeostasis in nature is not a continual shifting between polar opposites. This is bizarre since there is an element of combat in most of the magics in the world: witness the hoodoo formulas Essence of Bend Over & Boss Fix, for example. The simple fact is the world is full of piss-takers, the screwy, the manipulative, & the downright nasty, people who will use other people for no better reason than they happen to be there. I will deal with them because that is what I am consecrated to do, this is my holy & divine task, I just want to make sure there's a certain economy of movement as I do it.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

On the lack of need for a witchcraft lineage

Yesterday I came across a video on youtube, showing the initiation of a young male witch into Janet & Stewart Farrar's coven in what looks like the 1970s. Unusually for witches of my stamp I have a lot of time for Wiccans, whether Gardnerian or Alexandrian: it tends to be more that they don't have time for us!
There are several things I love about the video: I always forget how plummy Janet Farrar is, but can never forget that she is a vicar's daughter. I love the way Stewart's smoking a fag while Janet is instructing the initiand in the purpose of the scourge. I particularly love the bit where Janet talks about the question every witch asks from time to time: 'Why me?'. I also love Janet's explanation of ritual nudity as relating to the witch's quest to be truly oneself: one of the more frightening disciplines of the witch is being stripped of everything that is not authentic. Even if unlooked for, this will happen as part of ones progress into the mysteries. Where we hedge witches part from the Wiccans would be in such things as Stewart's horned helmet: the power & significance of horns may be present in the hedge witch's cosmology, but it would rarely necessitate wearing special ritual garb, & in the quest for authenticity a horned helmet could make things difficult at the office.
What I would see the Alexandrian initiate as gaining (how exciting if he's still a witch, reads this & posts a comment!) Is entry into a particular magical current. The authenticity or otherwise of this current is no big deal to me personally. The full implications of this initiation would no doubt take years or even decades in their working out, but he is the inheritor of an established magical tradition involving spiritual entities, currents, & rituals.
This is the - almost - respectable face of witchcraft. There is something doubtful in our society about making something up yourself. The professional's abilities are more highly prized than the amateur's. A long pedigree or tradition is seen in part as the guarantor of something. This is not only in witchcraft: we all know the value placed on lineage & tradition in Christianity. I'm always interested that zen practitioners list their lineage like qualifications. Hinduism has the tradition of the guru. For the purposes of this post I will call this the 'Catholic' tradition: you get it from someone else.
In dynmic tension/polarity/dualism/whatever to this is what I will call the 'Protestant' tradition - I'm plundering Christianity for these words, but you could also call them Wicca/Hedgewitch approaches. In this approach anyone can do it. In some traditions of Vodou you have to be initiated, but Marie Laveau is rumoured never to have been initiated. In Christianity it takes the form of the presence of Jesus in the individual believer.
I feel this is a more authentic approach for the witch: the whole point of modern witchcraft is that it has developed in reaction to the established religions around us & G*ddess help us if we aim them. To say 'only people initiated into X tradition are the real thing' is to my mind a dodgy dynamic. The power relation of saying that anyone can be a witch, anyone can perform magic, anyone can access the 'spiritual' currents, to me is much more healthy.
It it doubtless a more doubtful, less signposted way, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Facing Reality: an Aspect of the Witch Figure

I tend to identify more as Nanny Ogg (always get the young man's name & address), but there's also a Granny Weatherwax in me itching to get out. This has been prompted by my recent thinking about clerical (& other) sexual (& other) abuse. Granny Weatherwax is always totally sure of where she is - if anyone's lost it's the rest of the world - & emphasises the importance of knowing what's real, what's not, & what's the difference. For this reason she is a much more solitary figure than Nanny Ogg - as am I - because people like not to face reality: this is a basic human coping strategy.
I feel this is the single linking factor between all the cases of abuse I have ever heard of: people refused to face reality, which is why they continued as they did. A major event of my own journey into witchcraft - which I've posted about before - was as a young adult I experienced emotional abuse, & my mother didn't believe me. She only came to believe it was happening on the say-so of a family friend. The practice in holding firm to what I knew to be true despite all the pressure from my nearest & dearest was invaluable in preparing me to be a witch.  Apart from anything else, it's not reasonable systematically to disbelieve your own son & expect not to destroy the relationship.
Because this is the prevalent expectation in society: parents ought to be able to bring up their children without f*cking them up. Schools ought to be safe places. Teachers should be pillars of society. Babysitters should be reliable. Clergy also ought to be eminently respectable men of God.
The problem arises when people insist on believing all these things when they are not so. One of the reasons people don't like witches is that we are the -as it were - anti to everything in society. We are an anti-religion. We are figures of hatred & evil personified.
The reality is that abuse of children is most often by someone known to them, even their parents. The reality is we are all most likely to be abused, even killed, by our nearest & dearest over a stranger.
Yet society persists in painting some people as the goodies & others as the baddies. The reason for the hatred of witches is because the witch figure is the figure onto which all of society's ills are projected: we are a mirror for everything they don't like about themselves. We are the ones who are supposed to go around abusing people & eating babies. Eeeuuuuuurrch!
What we can do is keep ourselves grounded in reality, so that we can hold up the mirror when something is wrong. The priest in Scotland who has been dismissed fo whistle-blowing in the media (after *years* of trying to get the hierarchy to listen to him) is far closer to being one of us then he probably realises.
The other risk is this: because people like things clear-cut they then move on to another unreal model of good/evil which still ignores reality. There is a tendency to see a Catholic priest & think 'kiddy fiddler' - I would guess that probably Catholic priests are the most scrutinised profession & also the profession most frightened to be left alone with children. Because people don't look at objective criteria they fix on a target for suspicion, which may mean overlooking a real abuser.
The other thing about reality is that it involves being fantastically brave. Child abusers can spend years building up respectable reputations for themselves, & raising an alert to a suspicion means going against the grain. I do not think it is possible ever completely to prevent all abuse, but all the cases I've read about have in common that someone knew. Some more clergy records from California have been released - of religious priests - & once again their superiors knew.
If a major witch thing is knowing, then it also behoves us to do something when we know something. That's what being a witch is all about.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Catholic Church: don't be taken in

Do not believe people with a privilege to maintain when they say things have changed. Ironically this post was prompted by a news item today & will take the form of some reblogs, one about the treatment of a Catholic priest who whistle blew about his own treatment, which is the item which prompted this post, as illustrating the Catholic Church's *current* approach. The other follows on from a previous post about the defunct Fort Augustus Abbey school. I am delighted that targets of abuse (you won't catch me using the word victim) are suing the religious Congregation that ran the Abbey. That is a profound magical act in the domain of Pentacles: these people have to feel the pain before they'll stop inflicting it on others.

Scotland on Sunday

Published on the 08 September 2013

A PRIEST who has campaigned for the Catholic Church's hierarchy to act against a fellow priest he claims abused him has been dismissed from his diocese and issued with a formal warning for speaking to the press, it has been claimed.

Father Patrick Lawson, who has described the church as a 'big mafia' which is seeking to 'destroy him,' is understood to have been issued a decree of removal by Bishop John Cunningham last week.

Fr Lawson claims that as a seminarian, he was abused in 1996 by Father Paul Moore, a parish priest, at St Quivox Church in Prestwick. He has also said that the church has failed to deal appropriately with his complaint over the intervening 17 years.

The allegations strike yet another blow to the church's credibility as it seeks to move on from the scandal surrounding Cardinal Keith O'Brien and decades of abuse in the Catholic boarding school, Fort Augustus Abbey.

Posted by Kathy Shaw at 3:04 PM

Alleged victims of abuse to sue school
Herald Scotland

Monday 9 September 2013

VICTIMS of alleged physical and sexual abuse by monks at a former Catholic boarding school are to launch a lawsuit for hundreds of thousands of pounds compensation.

The six who attended Fort Augustus Abbey school, in the Highlands, have instructed an English law firm to sue the Benedictine Order, which ran the institution. David Greenwood, a solicitor for Switalskis, said the firm would be seeking between 30,000 to 100,000 per person depending on the abuse and how it had affected their life and ability to secure employment.

Posted by Kathy Shaw at 7:32 AM

Former pupils take Church to court over school abuse
The Times

A legal case involving hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation against the Roman Catholic Church is to be launched by victims of physical and sexual abuse at Fort Augustus Abbey School in the Highlands.

Six former pupils have instructed Switalskis, an English law firm, to sue the Benedictine Order which ran the school until it closed in 1993.

Posted by Kathy Shaw at 7:28 AM

Saturday, September 7, 2013

God is pissed

A millstone
Pissed here means as in the American sense, not the British sense of drunk, the word just seems to fit the context better.
One of the roles of the witch is a prophetic one. Prophecy isn't merely the statement of what will happen, but the prophet is the mouthpiece for the divine, so prophecy can be as much a commandment or judgment as a prediction.  This is an idea which tends to be played down amongst us, however divination could be seen as prophetic, as could the Goddess's speech after drawing down the moon in Wicca. The only thing I neglected to say in my post about the magical diary was to reference both Starhawk's & Margot Adler's assertions that their two books about witchcraft, published on the same day on opposite coasts of the US, were in part a reflection of how they wished the Craft to be, not how it was. The prophetic act of writing caused the Craft to become more like it was in the books. The word of the prophet makes what they assert, happen.
I have a prophecy, which I was in two minds about publishing until it was confirmed by a friend's dream (don't worry, I won't tell anyone you've met Mary). The prophecy is this: the God of the Christians has found the Church lacking, it is under his judgment. This relates to the sexual abuse crisis, but is about corruption of all sorts in the church. In case anyone should think themselves immune, nor is it limited to Catholics. Your Messiah says so:
It were better for him, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should scandalize one of these little ones. (Luke 17:2, Douay-Rheims translation)
Elsewhere the Messiah of the Christians also warns them that they must be wary of false prophets:
'Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves.' (Matt 7:15, American Standard Version). 
The test is that you know them by their fruits: nowhere does Jesus expect his Church to bear the fruit of people damaged by abuse.
The twist in this one is that the messiah of the witches also says so: I first began thinking about this when I read the following passage in Aradia: Gospel of the Witches:
'When a priest shall do you harm, [...] With the good or advantage of Zion, you will do him always a double harm in my name, the name of Diana, Queen of witches.'
And Diana also commands the witches, when the priest expects them to accept his religion to state ours in these terms:
'I have come to destroy evil people, & I will destroy them'. (Both passages are from the Pazzaglini translation)
These words hit me like a hammer: I had not registered before that witches are commanded in Aradia to return the harm priests do, & to tell the priest directly that we are here to destroy evil people. So that's two Messiahs warning Christians who go around harming people.
I must seem to be taking an overly fundamentalist approach to Aradia here: in case this passage is read by Christians, perhaps I should explain that it is not considered inspired scripture. Our religion is not a revealed one - it doesn't need to be, because we all have access to the divine source of creation & inspiration. Aradia is firmly in a - now discredited - theory that witchcraft was/is a radical movement in reaction to oppression. In a prophetic sense, it doesn't matter that the 'old religion' Leland found Maddalena describing (for payment, allegedly, after instruction in what he expected to find) never actually existed. The witch figure is at the centre here, & the idea of eccelsiastical corruption causing the existence of witches is also found in the radical French historian Michelet:
'At what date, then, did the witch first appear? I say unfalteringly, "In the age of despair": of that deep despair which the gentry of the Church engendered. Unfalteringly do I say, "The witch is a crime of their own achieving."' (J. Michelet: La Sorciere: The Witch of the Middle ages, translated by L J Trotter. Marshall & Company, London, 1863, p. 9)
To Christians who use their position to abuse others, & to those Christians who cover up this abuse: I say - you are under the judgment of your God, & are found wanting. He so despairs of you that he allows witches - the enemies of the church is there ever were - to use magic to expose you & cause your downfall. He says repent. If you seriously believe the Gospel you preach, can you really face the fate he has for you? I feel there is something changing in our milieu as humans: the old structures are empty shells, & giving way to the presence both of the new witches & the new Christians.
To those who would believe that things have changed & the abuse & cover-ups are in the past I would say - don't you believe it. Humans like to think that everything's alright. Humans also like security so they're not exactly going to put themselves through an exhaustive investigation leaving no stone unturned.
These people's attitude has not changed, as witness these recent posts on another blog:
'I've just been watching Sins of Our Fathers again, and decided to pay particular attention to the interview with Richard Yeo, Abbot President of the English Benedictine Congregation.
'He started out by saying that he was "very sorry about any abuse that may have been committed at Fort Augustus", which of course very neatly avoids admitting that any abuse in fact had been committed there. These kinds of mealy-mouthed non-apologies are actually worse than useless. For victims and any right-thinking person, they just make the blood boil.' (
'One can only conclude that they [Ealing Abbey]  didn't really want a report that got to the bottom of their safeguarding problems, given how happy they have been with this report.'
'So this has essentially been a PR exercise aimed at rehabilitating the reputation of the school at a cost of about £633,000. That comes to an extra £633 or so on the fees for every pupil in the school, spread over 2 years. Given that a proportion of pupils are on scholarships and bursaries, it has cost more for those pupils who pay full fees.' (
'Of the 31 Catholic priests convicted of child sex crimes over the last 10 years, eight (i.e. over a quarter) have been Benedictine monks from one or other of these [English Benedictine Congregation] houses.
'And in every single case, the reaction of the Abbot has been to cover up the abuse, perhaps move the monk to another house, but never to voluntarily report the matter to the authorities.
'That speaks to me not of a problem of one or two individuals but rather of something seriously wrong with the institutional fabric of the Benedictine order.' (
Beware also the minimising of the risk & the harm of those who would say that the quotes above are all from one author, Jonathan West. It just happens that I've been following his blog. Impugning the motives of those who would expose real abuse & lack of safeguards, is to be as guilty as the abbots who move abusers around.
And to witches & other magical people I would say this: if we ever had a mission it is now. We are faced by an 'egregore' of abuse that will not stop unless it is stopped. We must exert our will to stop abusers in their tracks. We must exert our will to keep children safe. We must not be taken in by empty promises & facile avoidance of responsibility. This is our opportunity to make a really positive change in the world we live in & all our communities.  I've focussed on the Christians in this post because that is the context I've been thinking about, but abuse must stop, wherever it is found.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The magical diary

To the new Library of Birmingham ( for the first time today. I wasn't convinced Birmingham needed a new library, even while the existing one's faults were glaring, but all I can say is: Well done, Birmingham. It is one sexy building. It is sheer pleasure to walk around (the old library was a chore), & in fact seemed to have drawn in all manner of men & women for a look. The building is not the issue, you may say, but the point I'm making is that the library is the route to independent thinking & liberation. Librarians, surprisingly, are often anarchists, because their profession is all about freedom of information. Books are always the first things fascists burn because they are keen to restrict access to information.
We witches have a strange relationship with books, first among them being the fabled 'Book of Shadows'. In reality you get a book of shadows handed down to you when initiated into a tradition. The pseudo-history for the complete absence of old ones is that they were traditionally burned after the owner's death; the real reason none exist is that there were none before the 1940s.
Hedge witches like me tend to write their own, but I feel their function is slightly different. In initiatory traditions, the transmission of the tradition is partly through the handed down Book of Shadows. The source for our tradition is the hedge, which may include a book or books but will always be less neat.
What is downplayed in witchcraft over ceremonial magic is the practice of the magical diary - to our disadvantage, I feel. I have kept one for a number of years now - sporadically at times, needless to say, but it has always been to my great benefit when I've been disciplined enough to stick to it:

It allows you to see the development of trains of thought & patterns - either things to give further thought to, or even things which will help towards self-knowledge.

The magical diary enables the witch to see what works & what doesn't - it forms the lab notebook of an evidence-based witchcraft.

It can be enormously encouraging to have a record of what you have done in the past. You *have* caused changed in the past & can do so again.

We magical people know that naming the problem is often enough to master it, & the simple fact of writing your magical activities down reinforces them. It provides you with a record to refer to which can almost function as a magical partner in reminding & supporting you.

It is the record of your own changing as a magical person - looking back over several years' of diaries shows how you have changed when you may not notice it day by day.

Finally it is the record of your divine interaction with the divine, bringing the divine through mind to matter & thus creating. This may sound like a tall claim, but this is the whole point of both magic & of keeping a magical diary. We are almost writing a sacred scripture as we go along.

It is this last one that for me melds the purposes of Book of Shadows & magical diary. Gardner's earlier Books of Shadows were plainly partly notebooks, diaries, which developed into fuller rituals. It is this process before the 'final version' that goes on in the magical diary. Personally if the house was burning down I would try to rescue the diaries but wouldn't be so bothered about my Book of Shadows: all the important stuff is anyway in my head. The diaries are a road map, a record of the journey, & both a picture & recipe for an outcome.
Besides, a friend has promised to publish them when I'm dead, & since then they've become much more outrageous. Would *you* want to be named in my magical diary?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Witchcraft as the religion of what is right

If there is one certainty in the history of modern witchcraft, it is that witchcraft was never 'the old religion'. Until it was attached to our movement that phrase was used by Catholics to refer to Catholicism over & against the new religion of Protestantism.
There is even some controversy in the movement as to whether it is a religion at all. Certainly we lack some of the things which make other religions: witches are famously non-joiners & the group aspect of religion can sometimes be missing for us. While the solitary thing may have started because of the sheer numbers of people who couldn't get into covens, a number of solitaries now wouldn't have it any other way. Since a lot of Wicca & witchcraft practices have been developed in reaction to existing religion - Christianity foremost - we can look like the exact opposite of a sensible religion.
However one aspect of religion is very present for us. The word religion comes from two Latin words, re & ligare - to bind up again, reconnect, tie together. There are overtones of law & order in this, especially in Mediaeval Latin: this is why Roman Catholics who are members of religious orders are called religious.
The sense of 'right order' is very important to witches: strange given that that is virtually the exact opposite of how the uninitiated see us! As a witch I must know for a certainty that if I go around using other people, bullying, abusing, even generally being an idiot, I cannot expect this to bite me in the bum. As a witch I have to have a sense of right: I have to be passionate about what is right & bound to it. I have to do & in fact be what is right, because there will be occasions when I am the only one who will.
This sense of rightness - as opposed to a code of ethics - is another reason we are a scandal to outsiders. Proper religions tell you what to do, often in excruciating detail. We have the gall not only to build the maligned witch figure into our religion, but even to claim that we are so bound to what is right that we don't need a developed ethical code.
We even manage to turn the witch figure on its head by being passionate for what is right, rather than the wild orgiastic hedonism envisioned by the media. The implications of rightness, as in right order, law, even natural law, can be quite unexpected. It is clear that evolution is not the steady unbroken line pictured in school textbooks - there are sometimes unexpected leaps, & sometimes we can be called on to be that leap. Crowley defined 'black' magicians as those who will not embrace change but only want things to remain as they want them, & when we venture out into the unknown it can simply be because of our attachment to the right.
The dreadfully unfashionable subject of purity raises its ugly head here, & I don't mean by that not having sex & wearing immaculate white underwear. My mother was brought up a Primitive Methodist & as a result has a strange relationship with alcohol - you keep it in the house, but that's only for visitors, if you drink it yourself you're an alcoholic. She seriously has made out that I'm an alcoholic because I will have a drink before my evening meal.  Once again anyone who would restrict purity like that is doing it a disservice - it is far more an attachment to the one thing necessary, a getting rid of distractions from your life that prevent your single-minded pursuit of what is necessary. Alex Sanders used to say 'Nothing on my altar, only truth,' but my personal preference would be to have 'Impossible is nothing' written on every altar. If I restrict myself by making some things impossible I may prevent myself doing what is right.
Last night I did a spell while on the phone with a friend. I took the poppet I already had - actually a doll I bought in a charity shop that reminds me of the person - ground its head under my foot, banged it against the wall repeatedly. Perhaps I should say I was feeling phenomenally wound up by this person's pettiness & bullying - that is something which will never receive mercy from me - & both needed to get rid of that & also felt it was time to do what I had planned. I invoked the Goddess into me - & boy is she pissed. Not only my curse is invoked but this woman is under the judgement of the Goddess.  Together with my friend mentally, but me doing the actions, I slammed the doll into a tupperware box, slammed in garlic with such force the bulbs burst - all the time muttering incantations - poured over vinegar & then emptied in enough of a certain herb to choke her, before putting the lid on & wrapping it in foil with shiny side inwards. It's now in the bin with the contents of the cat's litter trays.
I think I can truthfully say that spell breaks pretty much all of the rules in the books, but that's the point. It is to illustrate my point that to do what is right - in this case get rid of a bully - you sometimes have to do what you're not supposed to to attain the 'impossible'. To make impossible possible you have to rid yourself of all such limiting phrases as can't mustn't shouldn't.
In fact this kind of post is exactly the sort of post I envisaged when I started this blog, in reaction to a lack of advanced witchcraft books. Because this is advnaced witchcraft, free of the limits imposed by many beginners books. By following the rules of beginners books you prevent yourself attaining the impossible.
And is important for the witch to remind herself of what she's done in the past, since although we are bound to what is right it can be easy to despair. I personally have a list which lives on my altar, which I can look at to remind myself of the impossible things I've done before.
Since as witches we must not only wish for miracles but in fact expect them here's one now. Two and a half years ago I was diagnosed with Chronic Open Angle Glaucoma. In this disease pressure builds up in the eye, distorting the optic disc - although not changing your sight until there is marked damage. At the time I was diagnosed I had damage to both optic discs, which is not curable & cannot heal itself. The best outcome with treatment is to prevent progression of damage & sight loss.  Glaucoma is also chronic - you have it for life. The damage to my optic discs has now gone. This is 'impossible' but has happened. There is no way the position could have reversed itself but it has - I now have the disease before glaucoma - ocular hypertension - & remain on eyedrops to reduce the pressure & of course under medical care - only an irresponsible witch would not take care their eyes were receiving specialist care in the circumstances.
Impossible? Meh.