31 Days of Witchcraft: Day 7

Do you practice divination? If so, what techniques?

I do – primarily Tarot and working with the runes, though both of these are deeper than simple divination for me.  Any symbolic method is engrossing to me.  But I’ll honestly use anything that comes to hand.  I’ve seen a witch scry in the foamy head of their beer!


B is for Blasting – Responsibly

Over the victim’s burning head this chant this frenzy striking frenzy lightning crazing the mind this hymn of Fury, chaining the senses, ripping cross the lyre,withering lives of men! – Aeschylus

PBP2014d graphic

Now, cursing or hexing or blasting is always a hot topic in Craft communities.  With modern media, inaccurate as it can be, most people outside the Craft are now clueful enough that their first question isn’t, “So, do you curse people, then?” (though my grandmother, upon hearing that I was going to a Craft gathering some fifteen years ago, did politely ask, “So will you be drinking blood?”).  I’m not going to get into the politics of it here, the wars between the “harm-none-law-of-three-white-light-and-karma” and the “hex ’em til they glow them curse ’em in the dark”* schools.  I’m not interested in whether you think those who refrain from hexing are fluffy bunnies, or those who don’t are stereotypical tumblr kids trying to look dark and dangerous.

Personally I stand firmly by the adage that, “a witch who cannot hex cannot heal” (whoever you attribute it to); I also believe that doesn’t mean you have to go around throwing curses left and right.  Because I think a lot of people underestimate the power of blasting, and in doing so underestimate the power of the Craft as a whole.

I grew up around guns – shotguns, not handguns.  When my dad was teaching someone to use one for the first time, he’d set up an old car door or sheet of metal, and empty a cartridge into it.  Anyone who’d been fucking about tended to calm right down when they saw the hole that was left, and realise this wasn’t a toy gun they were holding.


Same with blasting.  One of the most constant things, real or imagined, that witches have been accused of through the ages: blasting the fertility of the fields, of livestock, of people.  It’s a power that has terrified people, and with good reason.  The power to deprive of sustenance, livelihood, creativity; the power to wither the fruit, literal or metaphorical, on the vine.  The traditional witch with her blackthorn blasting rod holds that power in her good left hand, just as she holds the power to bring life and healing and abundance in her crooked right one.

So I will admit to wincing when I see witches casually going on about all these curses they’ve done because someone annoyed them or upset them or because they were ‘in the mood’.  Do you treat your power so lightly?  Do you think so little of it?  Blasting isn’t something you do for cool points, to prove how witchy you are, or because you’re annoyed.  It’s something you do because it’s part of what we do, part of the balance of power we hold on that cusp between light and darkness.  Sometimes things need to be destroyed, sent back into the dark and earth.

Sometimes people do terrible things and should be punished (and one of the greatest curses seems hardly a curse at all: the mirror held up in front of the face, the may you know yourself, forcing them to see all the nasty squirming little bits of their own self we all hide from ourselves from day to day out of merited shame).  This is part of the responsibility we take upon ourselves when we pick up the tools of the Craft, if it’s to be anything more than a game.  With one eye that can wither worlds, the witch has to be careful where and how he looks.  Those are real bullets in that gun.  What are you willing do to?  How far are you willing to go?  What are you willing to be?  All questions we should ask ourselves, each time we pick up the real or metaphorical blasting rod.

These are old Powers; arguably the Oldest.  Creation; destruction.  Healing; harm.  Destroying the old world to build the new, again and again.  Are you willing to be a destroyer-of-worlds?  Yeah, it may sound cool, but think about the weight on your shoulders.  Maybe when you’re young, or innocent, and have never seen or lived a ruined life, it’s a weight you can carry lightly.  If you’ve stood in the heart of horror, though, if you’ve really seen suffering, you may pause before you ask: how much of this am I willing to inflict on someone else, even the most deserving?

And sometimes you have to do it anyway, and take that burden on yourself, because no one else is going to.  Because justice is not always there, and Life run rampant is a cancer, and you have chosen to stand on that line.  And sometimes you have to lay that curse upon yourself, to send that terrible squirming part back into the dark of your soul to be eaten and reborn.  And oh, how that can hurt.

So this is why I flinch when I see posts that say, “Oh, yeah, I was in the mood to curse something tonight, so I did X, Y and Z; this guy annoyed me, so I hexed him; my ex-lover pissed me off, so I cursed them to a ruined life.”  Maybe your curses have no power, and are simply a burning-off of emotional frustration.  But if they’re not, think hard before you curse someone to do more than step on the occasional upturned plug in the dark.  With our loaded shotgun, we don’t go round emptying cartridges willy-nilly into the local wildlife (and any people who happen to be wandering into the woods).  We hunt, take aim, fire.  We kill with mindfulness, and we eat our prey.

The Craft is not a game, any more than a loaded gun is a toy.  If that’s how you’re going to treat it, you have no respect for it, for the Old Powers, for your own power, for yourself – and maybe it’s time to put down the blackthorn rod and go back to the schoolyard, at least for now.

[*tip o’ the nip to Terry Pratchett]

A is for Absent

Due to constraints on my energy, mostly I’ll only be doing one week on each letter.  I look forward to seeing what the rest of you write!

Blessed Twelfth Day!

Today we bid farewell to the Beloved Dead, the ancestors and the rest of the Dead who have been with us since Samhain.  In this house, we will close the door to the house of the Beloved Dead on our altar that we opened at Samhain.  (Having spent mid-late December away from home, we didn’t have any decorations to take down.)  We’ll burn some incense in farewell, and also needles saved from last year’s tree, since we didn’t have one this year.  At the same time we’ll usher out any unwelcome spirits and tell the welcome to “go if you must, stay if you will”, and for all of them, “may peace be between us until next we meet”.

The liminal time is over.  Back home in England, the darkest time is past and the wheel is turning upwards towards Imbolc and spring, and it’s a time of joy for me.  At home here, it’s full winter now, with temperatures down to -40 and feet of snow (though today, as if in blessing, we actually have a day above zero) and it’s a difficult time for me.  Two sides to the face, two edges to the blade.

For me, it has very much been a time of grasping my tools again.  I’m hoping the liminal space I’ve been living in involuntarily since Lammas will start to pass away, though in honesty I don’t fully expect that until Imbolc itself.

But I have an auspiciously-times appointment today to help me, so I have some hope.  And I am aware of the tools I have once again, and as (I think?) Ivo Dominguez said, not to use your tools is a form of self-abuse.  Yesterday in a three-card-draw in readings with jasminekoran and bethirstyqueerheart, the card for the present was the Magician, moving away from the Heron.  I know that I will always walk in the runeline track of the Heron, but I must grasp the Magician’s staff and start to move, rather than the utter stillness of the hunting heron.  The reading was very much about agency, moving towards the Otter and the Woman Made Of Flowers.

I still have a very, very long way to go.  But I hope that with the blessings of the Two-Faced Gods, I will be able to start the journey.  That I am starting, have started it.  As well as a terrible, terrible time it’s also been a period of stillness, and of rest in its way, and part of me wants to whine (like Tennant’s Doctor Who, ha), that, “I don’t want to go.”  But I cannot – and will not – stay in this place.  I need to grasp my walking-stick, which is also the wand and the stang and Woden’s staff when he wanders the land, and follow in the path of the Ancestors and Powers who have come to guide me, as well as on the Heron Track Way.


(The Ancestor Card from the Greenwood Tarot by Chesca Potter)

A few days ago, doodling on the supercheap graphics tablet I was given for Christmas, I found myself drawing a Caribou Lichen Woman.  (I’m not going to reproduce it here cos I am not the best artist XD).  Like the caribou to the north of here, like the reindeer who my own long-ago ancestors followed, I have to seek for sustenance under the snow.  The sun *is* waxing, even if the weather outside is still frightful and will be for months to come.

I am still Witch and Magician, even in the grasp of this terrible sickness.  The sickness itself reminded me of it, as I lay in the mists of heron dreams.  It’s time to take that gift and grasp it.

(With thanks to shelby-villagewildswitch, whose generous reading helped me to focus these thoughts.)


A random fact for today:

Harold Godƿinson, last Saxon king of England, was crowned on this date in Westminster Abbey.

A is for Ancestral Land



Anyone who’s glanced through this blog will know that this is a subject crucial to my Craft and very close to my heart.  I’m an Englishman abroad, and many times it feels like being in exile in a magical sense.

I always knew I had a deep connection to my native land; it was the core of my Craft, at the times I was aware of it and in the darker times.  But I never expected, when I moved to Quebec to live with my wife (a decision I cannot regret <3), how deeply it would strike at the heart of my practice and my self.

I had moved within England previously, and the first time I was uprooted from my family’s land I had what I thought then was a bad crisis of disconnection – and that was maybe three hundred miles north.  I found magical landscapes of Kent and Northumbria and East Anglia were different, but I sank my roots into each of them.  But I learned to connect to the land there, and in each subsequent place I lived within England.  My roots were deep in the roots of the land, at the point where the oldest dead and the oldest gods blur and mingle, where the Wild Hunt rides along the old coffin-paths and ancient trackways – one of which I lived on as a child – where the Good Neighbours and the passed-into-the-land are not wholly separate.  This, even when I worked in other, more formal traditions, was the core of my Craft – but I was unaware of it.

And then I moved to another continent, and to a city, and to stolen and colonised land, and I was utterly lost.

It took me a long time to learn to connect to it at all, finding my way in through the occasional familiar plant, unfamiliar ones that chose to spoke to me.  But it was always very clear that the realm of the dead and the ancestors was off-limits to me, an immigrant connected to settler stock.  I could work with the landwights and the greenwights and my own gods, I could sink my taproot into the different soil of this foreign land to the centre of the earth, but all I could do with the ancestors of this land was to offer (well-deserved) reparations.  I must learn the situation of the people whose land this was, and was welcome to work for them, but the ancestral work was forbidden to me.  This is not my people’s land.

Here, the sky is very high, and the dead are not beneath my feet.

And so, as I say, I work in exile in many ways, finding small and sly ways in, meeting unexpected allies on the way.  The land – when it is not under many feet of snow and the wind chill puts the temperature at 40 below – is welcoming, more abundant and fecund than any I’ve known, growing crops more abundant than I could ever have imagined.  And my wife teaches me about the true wilderness that remains here, the great stretches of land unshaped by man.

And in a lot of ways, this voluntary and violent uprooting has caused me to re-awake into my Craft: to truly know what it is.  I had worked in different traditions, I had spent long and frustrating hours in meetings organising more meetings as well as workshops and classes, I had taught techniques and theories – and I had been blind to the real source of my own power, and was at a dangerously low and burned-out ebb.

My own power is darker and deeper and wilder than I had let it be for years, and however much this land welcomes me part of it will always be rooted in the land my ancestors have lived and died upon and fed the ancient trees and wildlife of, where their presence was everywhere from in the air to in my Gods.  I have been reawoken to an awareness of my own self that might have been many, many more years coming if I had not made the (less informed than I believed) decision to move.

Do I believe this connection to ancestral land is crucial to every witch?  That immigrants and those whose dead aren’t in the land can’t hold that power?  Not at all.  That power will reach for who it chooses, and there is more than one kind of ancestor.  A land that nourishes you may claim you, whoever you are – so long as your practice is never stolen or appropriated.  But for me, it is my blood and bones – and knowing that I can learn better to reach for that even across this vast ocean, even as I slowly and over years learn the steps of this foreign place, finding allies in sumac and cottonwood and milkweed.  I have relearned my Gods, and reawakened to my Self.  And for all the sense of exile, all the homesickness and strangeness, that is a lesson that I will never regret.