One area of my home is dedicated as a workshop for magical experiments. Once I bought an antique armoire, painted and gilded it, and then consecrated its use for magic. It serves not only as a permanent altar, but also a very useful storage space for my ever-growing collection of magical materials and artifacts. Since so many people who have seen it wonder what all I’ve got in there, let me give you a peak inside. Items marked with an * will have further details at the bottom…
The Red Book of S et L – My personal book of shadows. Essentially the true Book of Faustus.*
Mortar and pestle
Bundle of sage
Cauldron of Ogun*
Fetish of Eleggua* (I messed up and made two 8’s) 8. Deck prism
Assorted candles, figurine candle
Herb jars *
Chicken foot charm
Book of Sigils*
Hawaiian Baby Woodrose seeds
Witches’ Flying Ointment (by Sarah Anne Lawless)
Morning Glory seeds
Sacred jewelry, kept in a clay pot I made
Vision potion herbal blend
(Located underneath 26) Packets of baneful plant seeds. Henbane, atropa belladonna, cinquefoil and others.
Hot plate for burning vessels
The altar level, which I decided not to release full photos of, contains many other items including the orisha Osun, ceremonial tools of the Golden Dawn, active spells, mojo bags, offerings, bells, wands and everything else.
Any magic mirror of mine needs to be fancy as fuck.
A proper cauldron. Not just for cooking but also for large potion batches–ayahuasca comes to mind…
Gays and their disposable income, what can I say?
1: One of my most prized possessions, The Red Book contains a record of my most interesting magical experiments, frequently used spells and ceremonies, correspondences, and spiritual writings. It is of course for my eyes only. Our coven has a separate Book of Shadows for common use.
4, 6, & 8: These Santeria/Yoruba items came to me purely by chance. When I used to work at a homeless shelter, people would come by with donations of all kinds. Sometimes they were useful things, sometimes they just wanted a place to drop their junk. One day a donation came in that was an old box full of strange objects that no one wanted to touch. When I opened the box, here was this head figurine, an iron cauldron, railroad spikes, a metal rooster, and another mysterious box with small animal bones, dust and a written spell. All these items were covered in grease and looked well used. Since fate determined that they would show up on my desk, I decided to take them home and maintain their dignified presence, rather than see them be thrown away.
11: About a dozen herbs are nicely bottled up off-camera here. They include things like wild lettuce, mugwort, damiana, High John, salvia divinorum, foxglove, rose petals, and others.
14: Similar to The Red Book, the less formal Sigil Book is a worksheet for sigil making and destroying. Some sigil drafts remain although their meanings are mostly forgotten by me when I look back. It is mainly a nostalgia piece.
Italian traditional witchcraft, la stregheria, is an amalgamation of centuries of influence from all corners of the Mediterranean. By the Middle Ages, it had been re-planted in the Christian tradition. But its roots are massively ancient–built upon the remnants of the old religio romana, and infused during the days of the empire with elements from Grecian and Egyptian magical systems. I recently came across this clandestine rite intended to transport the magical practitioner to the Italian city of Benevento, known since the 13th century as an infamous gathering place for witches sabbats.
As in other traditions, the crossroads is a typical place where the magician may encounter spirits with whom to do their working. Here he would place offerings to the dead and to the goddess Hecate. Mulled wine and grain, and the meat of a pig respectively. Once offered, the magician summons the goddess and asks that a portal be opened allowing passage between the worlds.
On the ground, he marks out a five-pointed star facing Westward. At each point placing a lit candle, and a skeleton key at the center. Gazing at the key unto the point of trance, gently he blows across each flame three times saying:
Sotto aero e sopra vento
Sotto acqua e sotto vento
Menami la noce Benevento
Then he immediately picks up the key in his left hand, closing his eyes and slowly exhaling. While exhaling, he imagines the star opening as a doorway, allowing himself to enter into and move through the portal. The magician finds himself surrounded by the stars of the night sky, moving through them and flying over the land, the sea and the mountains. He finds a clearing lit by torches, and, exhaling, descends himself to rest near the walnut tree at Benevento. This is the gathering place of the witches who have come to feast and revel with the gods.
The magician, visualizing, sees a banquet table filled with food. Others come to join him. He continues feasting, making merry and observing all the goings-on around him. As torches process away, he sees in the distance an ornate throne sitting at the base of the walnut tree. Upon the throne is seated the Great Sabbatic Goat, the Horned One. The crown of his head is lit with a torch, and this is flanked by two great horns. This is the Lord of Nature, Pan himself. The banqueters gather around the one enthroned to dance, their vigor inflamed by the wine and food. The magician moves himself about, all the while dancing and watching around him as the dancing turns into a Bacchic frenzy.
Suddenly the magician sees a person standing behind the Black Goat, offering a fig to eat. This fig is the symbol of these hidden mysteries. He takes it and eats it, the culmination of this strange communion.
When he has decided the time has come to leave, the magician summons his five-pointed star portal again, and pronounces his enchantment to return:
Sotto aero e sopra vento Sotto acqua e sotto vento Portami via da Benevento
Again he perceives the opening of the stellar portal, and, slowly inhaling and lifting his arms aloft, is surrounded by the stars of night, his soul flying swiftly through the air and over the world below. Finally exhaling, his arms slowly lowered to the ground, he opens his eyes to his return back the crossroads from whence he first departed.
“To journey to the walnut tree is to awaken the Primal Conscious, through which the ancient forms reconnect. It is a return to the Old Ones known to our ancestors before the world was reshaped by human minds. In ancient times, the serpent was venerated at the site of the tree. The serpent has always been the revealer of truth, the enlightener, and the guardian of the seed of light. The seed that lies under the protection of the serpent gives way to the grand harvest. Thus are the cakes and wine featured at the Sabbat banquet. For it is here that one comes to know that within, which is of the eternal Gods.” – From To Fly By Night, The Craft of the Hedgewitch
Details of Zuber’s engravings from the 1926 biographical work by Maurice Garçon, La Vie Execrable de Guillemette Babin, Sorciere. These scans are from the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections at the Cornell University Library.
Last Sunday, the coven I belong to, who you may remember from A Vision of Satan, A Night of Magic, hosted a fantastic Lunar Eclipse party for friends and the public. It was a blustery, cold and cloudy day and we were afraid the moon would be hidden all night. However as the time came to perform our Eclipse ritual, the sky quickly opened up to reveal the moon shining brightly on a perfectly clear night. It is very difficult to write a ritual for the general public, most of whom are non-magical thinkers but I think we did well.
We presented a nondenominational symbolic Drawing Down of the Moon, whose persona our lovely coven member Diana was gracious enough to take on. This included a dance of the planets who aligned into a Lunar Eclipse formation. The attendees blessed themselves with eclipse water, and cast their intentions into the cauldron to be burned. We had an attendance of about 40 people.
In the middle of the ritual, we looked up to see the shadow of the Earth cast sharply onto the now crescent Moon. At that moment, I had a sense I was standing on the top of the whole world, and the great scope of local cosmic space was revealed to me. The Moon before me, the Sun behind me, and the whole sphere of the Earth below me. We were all aligned.
The rest of the night was spent partying, watching the eclipse unfold with telescopes and cameras, and getting real fucked up in the smoking tent. After the group dwindled down, and the eclipse was still in motion, a smaller group of us performed the ritual binding of Donald Trump, with great effect.
If you’re feeling nosy, you can enjoy these timelapses of the ritual and a birds eye view of the party, which was in my own back yard. These are 360 videos that are best viewed in the YouTube app.
If you are a witch, like me, of a non-Wiccan, non-Pagan persuasion, this newly released book may be present the path for you. Orapello and Maguire have put together their own tradition of witchcraft that makes sense for modern times. This book serves as a reminder that we are people of the land, and we are each tied to the land where we live. There may be little need for gods from an ancient bygone country which we have never seen or heard. Instead we should favor indigenous plants and animals, local customs, the spirits and ancestors of our own land, and the seasons not only of our own region, but seasons that make sense to modern living (that is, a non-agrarian society that has little fear of food scarcity or timing rituals around harvest or famine). This is especially poignant as Americans with a shorter breadth of history and folklore native to our home country.
As the title would suggest, the tools of this craft are traditional as well, but adaptable to our own needs. The authors lay out a sixfold path of traditional witchcraft which includes: History and lore, magick, divination, herbalism, necromancy and hedgewitchery. Their system flips the established yet contrived order of the elemental corners upside down, in favor of one that makes more locative sense to the user’s common sense. There is no shortage of animism or ancestors here, along with their two primary deities who are the masculine and feminine deifications of Nature itself.
I myself will be adopting many of their ideas into my regular magical work. This kind of magic ties the blood of Man to the soil of the Earth in a deep and meaningful way. What’s more is it raises our awareness of the world immediately around us and our relationship with it. Rather than adopting a witchcraft tradition which is a confused occultic hodgepodge amalgamation of other peoples’ ideas (or worse, a confused “New Age” practice that has no coherency or basis in reality whatsoever), Besom Stang & Sword inspire the reader to make their own path, and more importantly, forge a living tradition that is woven into their own world.