Liber Umbrarum—A Book of Shadows
Casting the Circle
The usual rite for casting the circle is as follows, when working indoors. The procedure outdoors will, naturally, be slightly different; but most people will commence their witchcraft working in their own homes.
You will need a small table or chest, to serve as an altar. This should be placed in the middle of the space where you intend to work. Ascertain, with a compass if necessary, the position of the four cardinal points, north, south, east and west, and arrange your altar to be four-square to them, or as close to this as you can reasonably get.
Work by candle-light; but place your candles carefully, so that they are not likely to catch anything on fire (be particularly careful of swirling cloaks or robes, if you are not working in the nude). Ideally, you should have four candles round the room, placed east, south, west and north, and one upon the altar. However, if this is not practicable, then have just two candles upon the altar, or simply one large altar candle, if this gives sufficient light.
The ideal width for a magic circle is nine feet across. The old way to draw it was to get a cord four-and-a-half feet long, with a loop at one end. Then the witch took her black-hilted knife, the athame, and stuck it in the centre of the floor. In olden times, this floor was probably made of hard-packed earth, or of flagstones with interstices between them large enough to take the blade of a knife. The witch took the cord, slipped the loop over the athame, and proceeded to use the free end of the cord to draw the circle, with the aid of a bit of stick or chalk. Thus automatically she had a nine-foot circle; and she then placed in the centre the small table, box or stool she used as an altar. At the end of the rite, the circle was obliterated to prevent discovery.
Today, we usually have to improvise as best we can. Some people get a roll of plain carpet, on which they paint their circle. When they want to perform a ritual, they simply unroll their carpet on the floor, and roll it up again and put it away when the ritual is over. Others mark out a circle on their carpet with tape or twine. Others cut one out of felt and lay it on the floor, removing it again when they have finished.
Use your own ingenuity; but whatever you do, remember that you must consecrate and visualize the magic circle afresh each time you work. It is your effort and visualization that make a magic circle, not material things like twine or carpet.
Arrange the things you will need upon the altar. These will include your Book of Shadows, a censer or bowl of incense, a bell, the pentacle with its witchcraft symbols, and a small cauldron or a bowl to represent one, which should be half-filled with water. If you use a bowl, it should be black inside, as this makes a useful scrying instrument for clairvoyant vision. There should also be a small platter or bowl of clean earth or sand, to represent the element earth. You will probably also like to have a cup of wine to drink a toast to the Old Gods at some point in the ceremony.
If you do not have an actual censer or thurible to burn incense, then use joss-sticks or incense cones. Burn them in a metal bowl which has been partly filled with sand, so that the joss-sticks can be stuck upright into the sand, or the incense-cones placed upon it. The little oriental brass bowls which can be found in curio and bric-à-brac shops are ideal for this. Have spare incense available, so that it can be replenished as necessary.
None of these articles needs to be large; but they should be of good quality. If you buy second-hand things from curio shops to use in your ritual practice, always clean them well before you use them, to get rid of other influences that may be upon them. A good way to cleanse an article of unwanted influences, as well as cleaning it, is to place it for a while upon freshly dug earth, in bright sunshine. The more important things you use should be consecrated, and a ritual for this is given further on.
Remember, nothing you use for ritual should be used for anything else. Have a box or cupboard for your ritual things, and keep them wrapped up and put away when not in use.
Remember also that when you move in the circle you should move deosil, that is, sunwise or to the right. The other direction, widdershins, or to the left, is generally regarded as belonging to the realm of sinister, averse magic and cursing. The word ’sinister’ literally means ’left’ or ’to the left’.
Light the candles and the incense. Then take your ritual weapon, the staff, the sword or the athame, and charge it with the power of the four elements of life, thus. Standing before the altar, raise up the weapon, and then touch with it the platter of earth and say:
I call Earth to bind my spell.
Wave the weapon in the air, and say:
Air to speed its travel well.
Hold the weapon over the smoke of the incense, and say:
Bright as Fire shall it glow.
Dip the point of the weapon into the cauldron or bowl of water,
Deep as tide of Water flow.
Hold the weapon upright again, and say:
Count the elements four-fold,
In the fifth the spell shall hold.
Now, draw the circle with the magical weapon, tracing over the place where it is marked on the floor. Start at the east, then turn right-handed to the south, then to the west, then to the north, and so back to where you started. As you draw, visualize power pouring from your weapon in a jet of blue flame, and leaving a trail of blue astral fire behind it, so that your circle is a strong thought-form in the realm of the subtler forces. Go around the circle like this three times, chanting this rune:
Black spirits and white,
Red spirits and grey,
Hearken to the rune I say.
Four points of the circle, weave the spell,
East, south, west, north, your tale to tell.
East is red for the break of day,
South is white for the noontide hour,
In the west is twilight grey,
And north is black, for the place of power.
Three times round the circle’s cast.
Great ones, spirits from the past,
Witness it and guard it fast.
Then take up the bell, and pass again round the circle, starting at the east. Call upon the Great Ones who have gone before, saying:
I summon, stir and call ye, ye Mighty Ones of the East, the guardian spirits of witchdom, to witness these rites and to guard this circle.
Pass to the south, and say:
I summon, stir and call ye, ye Mighty Ones of the South, the guardian spirits of witchdom, to witness these rites and to guard this circle.
Pass to the west, and say:
I summon, stir and call ye, ye Mighty Ones of the West, the guardian spirits of witchdom, to witness these rites and to guard this circle.
Pass to the north, and say:
I summon, stir and call ye, ye Mighty Ones of the North, the guardian spirits of witchdom, to witness these rites and to guard this circle.
At each invocation, strike a note upon the bell, so that it reverberates, and as the sound dies away, you seem to hear it echoing upon the Inner Planes. The bell should not be loud, but resonant and musical. It may be struck with the back of the athame, if this produces the right note.
Complete the round of the circle to the point where you started (always do this). Then replace the bell upon the altar, and take up the censer of incense. Pass round the circle with it, east, south, west and north as before, and hold up the smoking incense at each quarter, as an offering to the guardian spirits.
The return to the centre of the circle, lift up the censer on high, and say:
In the height and in the deep,
Watch and ward eternal keep.
Replace the censer upon the altar, and strike once upon the bell.
Thus the magic circle is formed, and it is then ready for such rites as you choose, whether of initiation, clairvoyance, travelling in the spirit vision, consecration of weapons or talismans, or whatever work or celebration is to take place.
At the end of the ritual, close the circle by formally thanking the Old Ones for their protection. Do this by taking the censer of incense and offering it up at the four quarters as before, starting at the east and saying:
Guardians of the East, I thank you. Hail and farewell.
Pass to the south, and say:
Guardians of the South, I thank you. Hail and farewell.
Pass to the west, and say:
Guardians of the West, I thank you. Hail and farewell.
Pass to the north, and say:
Guardians of the North, I thank you. Hail and farewell.
Complete the circle back to where you started, and then return to the centre. Lift the censer upwards, and say:
Guardians of the Height, I thank you. Hail and farewell.
Replace the censer on the altar, and say:
Guardians of the Depths, I thank you. Hail and farewell.
Strike once upon the bell, and say:
The Rite is ended.
Then extinguish the altar candles first, before any others.
A Note Upon the Four Elements
The four elements of life, earth, water, air and fire, are considered to have a relationship to the four heavenly quarters, or cardinal points. This depends upon the nature of the four winds, as they affect a particular place. In Britain, a time-honoured attribution is:
East—Air (cold and dry)
South—Fire (warm and dry)
West-Water (warm and wet)
North-Earth (cold and wet)
A great elemental being, or Deva, a guardian of each of the four elements, is sometimes associated with each appropriate cardinal point of the circle.
Many practitioners of magic make a mental contact with the appropriate element at each cardinal point of the circle. That is, suppose they are using the elemental attributions given above, they would visualize and attempt to feel and hear rushing wind at the east, great flames of fire at the south, rivers and waterfalls or the sea at the west, and green hills or ploughed fields with their birds and animals at the north.
The fifth element, from which the other four emerge and into which they return, is Spirit, which the Eastern people call Akasha.
The colours here given for the cardinal points, namely red for east, white for south, grey for west and black for north, are the traditional colours of ’the four airts’, the old Celtic name for the four heavenly quarters. The idea that the north is the place of power is also Celtic, and dates from pre-Christian times. Hence the Christian church was somewhat distrustful of the dangerous pagan powers of the north. The attribution of the colour black to the north derives from the fact that it is the place of midnight, ’the witching hour’.
The Rite of Self-Initiation
The Rite of Self-Initiation should be performed either on one of the Great Sabbats, or one of the Lesser Sabbats, or on a night of the full moon, or in the time of the waxing moon.
Have the room warm, as you should work in the nude for this ritual, in token of stripping off all inhibitions and frustrations of the past. You may, however, wear such magical jewellery as appeals to you. In particular, a woman should always wear a necklace in the circle, as the goddess of witchcraft, whose living representative she is, wears one in most ancient representations we have of her. Diana of Ephesus, for instance, is shown wearing a necklace of acorns; Adya-Kali, the great mother goddess of the Tantrics of India, is naked, ’clothed in space’, save for her jewels and the Garland of Letters, the sacred Sanskrit alphabet, which she wears as a necklace. A man may prefer to wear a lamen; that is, a magical pendant with perhaps his astrological birth-sign upon it, or a symbol such as the ankh cross.
In addition, you may have a cloak to wrap around you when you sit in meditation; but for the more active part of the ritual the cloak should be discarded.
You will need all the things already described in the rite of forming the circle, and also a staff of oak, ash, rowan or thorn wood, preferably one which you have cut yourself on the night of the full moon. The circle is usually drawn with the sword or the athame; but as you have not yet got an athame, in this case you must use the staff. You will also need a small flask of anointing oil. This should always be pure vegetable oil; plain olive oil will do, though you may prefer to use a scented oil such as sandalwood.
Form the magic circle according to the instructions already given. Then stand with arms upraised, facing north, and repeat the Eleven-fold Invocation of the Word of Power, ABRAHADABRA:
This is the day, this is the hour,
Cry aloud the Word of Power—
By blazing noon or black midnight,
It is my will to seek the light—
Be far hence, all things profane,
From the portals of this fane—
Eleven-fold the right I claim,
By the virtue of this Name—
Faring forth adventurous,
By the pathway perilous—
Fend me from the fear of fear,
By the Voice of the Chief Seer—
Show within the darkest night
The Extension of the Light—
Great Ones who have gone before,
Speak the Blessing evermore—
Here between two worlds am I,
Child of the earth and sky—
Deeply do I dare assay
One step on the mystic way—
Aid me from the realms above,
Powers of Life and Light and Love—
Take the flask of anointing oil and pass it three times through the smoke of the incense. Then perform the three anointings: firstly upon the forehead, in the place of the third eye (that is, in the centre of the forehead, just above the place where the eye-brows meet; known in the eastern tradition as the Ajna Chakra). Then upon the breast, over the heart; and lastly upon the genitals. With the first anointing, say: Let the mind be free. With the second, say: Let the heart be free. With the third, say: Let the body be free.
Do the anointing by putting a spot of oil upon your finger, and making with it an X-shaped cross. This is the Rune gifu, meaning a gift or blessing. (In ancient times, this rune was carved upon drinking cups, because it was believed to protect people from poison. We still use the X-shape to represent a loving kiss.)
Now kneel before the altar, still facing north, and repeat in a low voice the following Invocation:
By night’s dark shade, and by this ritual hour,
Most ancient of the Gods, on you I call.
Remembrance of past lives in me awaken,
That day’s delusion no more shall enthrall.
I claim my life, my liberty, my light,
Part of all life that flows eternally.
I am the microcosm of the Whole,
Kindred of star and stone and greenwood tree.
Awake in me the power to do my will,
Kindle within me love’s eternal flame.
Accept me as your own, a pagan soul,
O Powers of Life, that did this Cosmos frame.
Pause for a moment in silence, with bowed head. Then change to a comfortable sitting position, cross-legged. Wrap yourself in a cloak, if you wish. Now begin mentally to formulate yourself and the altar as the centre of a mandala. Think to yourself something like this: ’The infinity of the height and the infinity of the depth. The infinity of the east and the infinity of the west. The infinity of the north and the infinity of the south. The circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. I and that Centre are One.’
Sit thus with eyes closed, in complete silence and stillness. Clear your mind as far as possible of all thought, even that of trying to achieve a higher state of consciousness. I cannot give you any directions for this, except those of the ancient Tibetan sage, Tilopa: ’Do not imagine, think, analyse, meditate, act; keep the mind in its natural state.’
You may find that the natural state of your mind is something much more wonderful than you knew!
It is in this time that your real self-initiation will take place, if your aspiration is sincere and the other conditions are conducive to it. You may feel yourself to have touched, even if only for a brief moment, upon a higher state of consciousness. You may see some vision in the mind’s eye; if so, a description of it should be written down immediately after the ritual is ended, as it is sure to have a meaning, even if this is not immediately apparent.
The length of this period of silence and stillness is up to you. Your own spontaneous feeling will tell you when it is time to end it. When it does, rise up, light fresh incense if necessary, and cense round the circle, deosil, raising the censer at the four quarters.
Then return before the altar, and repeat this Affirmation:
I am unique. There is no one else exactly like me. And yet I am One with the whole of Nature.
I have the right to be what I am. My essential Self is divine and beautiful. I have the right also to be better than I am, that the outer manifestation may be more true to the inner reality.
Beloved Pan, and all the other gods who haunt this place, grant me beauty in the inward soul, and may the outward and the inward life be at one.
Then break into a dance of rejoicing, deosil, round the circle. Let yourself go; clap hands, or shake the sistrum if you have one, or a tambourine, and chant these words and sounds over and over again:
O IO PAN!
IA IA ARADIA!
IO EVOHE KERNUNNO!
IO EVOHE DIANA!
(You will find that this chant falls into a natural rhythm. It is pronounced like this: O ee-oh Pan! O-ee-ah oh! Ee-ah ee-ah A-rah-dee-ah! Ee-oh ee-voh-ay Ker-nun-no! Ee-oh ee-voh-ay Di-an-ah!)
Do any steps you like, so long as you enjoy them. Keep it up until you are out of breath and want to stop. Then drop down in front of the altar, and lie there until you have got your breath back, and feel able to rise.
Take the wine, and end the ceremony by drinking a toast to the Old Gods: ’To the Old Ones! Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again!’
Sit for a few minutes more in meditation, if you like, just enjoying the atmosphere of the circle, the incense and the candlelight, and the sense of being naked and free. Then close the circle according to the form already given, by thanking the Old Ones for their protection, censing with the incense, striking upon the bell, and extinguishing the altar lights.
A Note Upon the Words of Power
ABRAHADABRA is the true version of the ancient Word of Power, of which the popular ’Abracadabra!’ as used by conjurers is just a faint and far-off echo. It is a word of eleven letters, five vowel-sounds and six consonants, signifying the Great Work, the union of the Microcosm (five, the pentagram), with the Macrocosm (six, the hexagram). Its Cabbalistic numeration is 418, and much elucidation of it will be found in The Qabalah of Aleister Crowley. It is the numerical equivalent of ATh IAO, ’the essence of IAO’; and also its digits added together, 4+1+8, add to 13, the witches’ number, the Cabbalistic equivalents of which are Achad, ’Unity’, and Ahbah, ’Love’.
It also contains the meanings of ’the Voice of the Chief Seer’ and ’Speak the Blessing’.
Iao is the ancient magical name of the Supreme God, containing both masculine and feminine elements within Itself.
Pan is the ancient Greek god whose form was universal: to Pan, ’the All’. He was the horned, goat-footed god of nature and the joy of life. Kernunno is a version of the name ’Cernunnos’, the Celtic horned god, similar to Pan, who was worshipped in Western Europe, including Britain, in pre-Christian times.
Aradia is the name of the moon goddess of the witches of Italy. She was described as the daughter of Diana; this probably means simply that she is a later version of the ancient moon goddess Diana, who in the old myths was the secret lover of Pan. Her still-surviving legends were collected by the great American folk-lorist, Charles Godfrey Leland, and published by him under the title of Aradia: or the Gospel of the Witches.
There is just a chance that the name ’Aradia’ is Celtic in origin, connected with airidh, the summer pastures to which the cattle were driven at Beltane (1 May), and from which they returned to winter quarters at Samhain (1 November). The Celts originated in central Europe, and spread south into Italy, as well as westwards to Spain and the British Isles.
IO EVOHE, IO and IA are some of the ancient cries or calls used by the ecstatic worshippers in the mystery cults of long ago.
THE RITE OF CONSECRATION
Having learned how to form a magic circle, and performed the Rite of Self-Initiation, you are now ready to consecrate your working tools and magical weapons.
This work of consecration can be carried out on one of the Ritual Occasions, and is better if it be done so; but if necessary to further your practice of the craft, it can be done at any time.
With regard to the number of the working tools or magical weapons, they can be many or few, as you require. The essential ones, however, are the staff, the athame, the cauldron, the pentacle and the cord; because these represent the four elements of life and the quintessence, or spirit. The staff corresponds to fire, the cauldron to water, the athame to air, the pentacle to earth, and the cord to spirit. The first four, in their essential nature, also correspond to the four suits of the ancient Tarot cards, the wands, the cups, the swords and the disks.
The four elements are also mystic symbols of human life. Fire is the life energy, the element most closely allied to spirit. Water is the feelings and instincts, the emotional life. Air is the mind, and earth is the physical body.
This is why witches and magicians use the magical sword. It is the weapon of air, and represents the power of thought. However, because of the danger of having a magical sword in the times of persecution, and the difficulty of obtaining a specially forged sword, unpolluted by association with war, witches came to use instead the athame, a large black-hiked knife. This could easily be disguised as a simple kitchen knife, especially if the owner was a woman; whereas a sword, in the hands of anyone except a person of rank, would immediately arouse suspicion.
In the same way, a witch’s staff or riding-pole, with the end carved, as it often was, in the shape of a phallus, could be disguised with a bunch of twigs to look like a common broomstick. The cauldron was just a cooking-pot, the cord a length of twine or a garter; while the pentacle was made of wax or wood, which in an emergency could be quickly destroyed in the kitchen fire, or else it was a stone which could be buried.
Today, there is less need for the tools of magic to be either disguised or expendable, so they can be somewhat more elaborate if you wish, and openly adorned with magic signs; though simple tools, well cared for, will serve you just as well. It is the power of a magical instrument to create atmosphere, the aura which it bears, that matters.
The pentacle can be painted in red upon a piece of smooth wood, according to the design in the illustration, and finished off with a coat of clear varnish, or it can be engraved upon metal.
The staff you will have already cut, and a good black-hilted knife is not difficult to obtain. There is no need for the knife to be very sharp, but it should be pointed, and capable of practical use for cutting herbs, etc.
If you are lucky, you may find a real old-fashioned ’gypsy-pot’, or small three-legged iron cauldron. Otherwise, a black or dark coloured earthenware bowl will do (other kinds of metal than iron are not really suitable, with the exception of silver, the moon’s metal, which is somewhat expensive!)
The cord should be scarlet, the colour of the lifeblood of men and animals, and hence the colour of life. During your ritual working, if it is not being used for anything else, the cord may be worn like a garter, tied round the left leg above the knee.
Form the circle according to the ritual already given. Then take the working tool or weapon to be consecrated, and hold it up with both hands over the altar, saying:
I take and consecrate this—(name the instrument), in the name of the Old Ones, unto the arts of magic.
Sprinkle the instrument with a little water from the cauldron, using a sprinkler of herbs if you wish, and saying:
I purify you with water.
Then hold the instrument in the smoke of the incense, and say:
I consecrate you with fire.
Then repeat the Prayer of Consecration:
I conjure you, O form of this instrument, by the Powers of Life that have created the heavens, the earth and the sea, and all things which they contain; by the virtues of the heavens, and of all the stars which rule therein; by the virtues of stones and herbs; by the virtues of the four elements; and in like manner by the virtues of the four winds of the air; herein to receive such consecration that we may obtain by you the perfect issue of our will. I conjure you to be a strength and defence against all enemies, visible and invisible, in every work of magic. So may it be.
Hold the instrument closely for a few moments, breathe on it, and will power into it.
The newly-consecrated instrument should, if possible, immediately be made a token use of. Thus, the athame should be used to draw the circle, the cauldron should be gazed into and passes with the hands be made over it, as if for scrying, and so on. If no other token use is convenient, then carry the newly-consecrated crated object deosil around the circle, lifting it up at the four quarters.
Explanation of the Pentacle and its Signs
The five-pointed star or pentagram is one of the oldest signs in the world. It represents, among other meanings, magic itself, the dominion of the spirit over the four elements of the material creation.
The circle which encloses it, being without beginning or ending, represents infinity and eternity. Another meaning of the pentagram is that it bears a rough resemblance to a human figure, as if standing upright with arms and legs outstretched. Hence the pentagram in a circle is a symbol of the human being in relation to the infinite.
The eight-armed figure in the centre of the pentagram represents the Eight Ritual Occasions of the witches’ year, four Greater Sabbats and four Lesser Sabbats. The Greater Sabbats are Candlemas, May Eve, Lammas and Hallowe’en. The Lesser Sabbats are the equinoxes and solstices. The eight of this symbol plus the five of the pentagram makes thirteen, the traditional number of the witches’ coven.
The three X-shaped crosses around the pentagram represent the three anointings of the initiation ceremony, ’two above and one below’; that is, two above the waist and one below it.
The two spirals or S-shapes represents the ancient symbol of the twin serpents, the dual forces of positive and negative, yang and yin, masculine and feminine, that underlie all manifestation.
The symbols on the three upper points of the pentagram are the two crescents of the waxing moon and the waning moon, and the circle of the full moon. Together they represent the primordial goddess of nature, often depicted in triple form as nymph, mother and crone, the three phases of the moon.
The symbols on the two lower points of the pentagram represent the two aspects of the ancient god of the witches. They are conventionalized drawings of a horned head and a skull and crossed bones. The former sign represents the horned god of life and fertility, and the latter the god of death and what lies beyond.
The Full Moon Esbat Rite
Form the circle in the usual manner. Then dance round the circle, deosil, nude if you wish, chanting the words used in the Self-Initiation Ceremony:
O IO PAN!
IA IA ARADIA!
IO EVOHE KERNUNNO!
IO EVOHE DIANA!
Do this in a joyful manner, for as long as you will. Remember, the meaning of the Esbat is rejoicing. The word is derived from the Old French s’esbattre, ’to frolic’; so leave your cares behind and rejoice.
Then rest by reclining or sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of the altar. When you feel sufficiently rested, take the wine-cup and consecrate the wine to drink a toast to the Old Gods.
Stand before the altar, and lift up the athame over the cup, grasping the hilt with both hands. Then say:
As the athame is the male, so the cup is the female, and conjoined they bring blessedness.
Lower the point of the athame into the cup, so that it dips into the wine. Then shake the drops of wine from the athame on to the floor within the circle.
Lay the athame upon the altar and take up the wine-cup. Lift it up and say:
To the Old Ones! Merry meet, merry part!
Take a sip of the wine, and then say: May we be joined fivefold with the Ancient Ones. With the wine for taste. (Take another sip of the wine, and then replace the cup upon the altar.) With the candle for sight. With the incense for smell. With the pentacle for touch. (Touch the pentacle upon the altar.) With the bell for hearing. (Take up the bell and strike a note upon it, listening until the sound dies away.)
This rite is known as the Communion of the Five Senses. When it is completed, light more incense if necessary, and cense around the circle, deosil, lifting up the incense at the four quarters.
Replace the censer upon the altar, and then recite the following Invocation, reading it from your Book of Shadows:
Diana of the rounded moon,
The queen of all enchantments here,
The wind is crying through the trees,
And we invoke thee to appear.
The cares of day departed are,
The realm of night belongs to thee;
And we in love and kinship join
With all things that are wild and free.
As powers of magic round us move,
Now let time’s self dissolve and fade.
Here in the place between the worlds
May we be one with nature made.
Thy consort is the Horned One,
Whose sevenfold pipes make music sweet.
Old Gods of life and love and light,
Be here as merrily we meet!
For ye the circle’s round we tread,
And unto ye the wine we pour;
The sacred Old Ones of this land,
Ye we invoke by ancient lore—
By magic moon and pagan spell,
By all the secrets of the night,
Dreams and desires and mystery,
Borne on the moonbeams’ silver light.
Now may we hear, or may we see,
Or may we know within the heart,
A token of true magic made,
Ere from this circle we depart.
Pause—and wait in silence, with eyes closed if you wish. There may come a sound, an outward manifestation, an inner vision, or a message or impression received by the inner mind. Any such should be recorded as soon as possible after the rite has ended.
When your own spontaneous feeling tells you to do so, end the period of silence by bowing towards the altar, and saying:
O goddess-queen of night,
O Horned One of might,
In earth and sky and sea
May peace and blessing be!
Now relax and sit or recline upon the floor again, and finish the wine in the cup. Pour some more if you wish, and sit and meditate and enjoy the atmosphere of the circle. You may care to try scrying, or reading the Tarot cards or the I Ching, or some other magical experiment. Or, if you wish, play some appropriate music—anything which you enjoy, and which is conducive to the occasion.
If you are working with another person, your partner in magic, this is the point at which you may, if you both wish, make love within the circle, and mentally offer your pleasure as homage to the Old Gods, who are happy to see people happy. (A ritual for initiating others will be given further on.)
If you need to leave the circle and re-enter it for any purpose, say to fetch something, then when you have returned inside redraw the circle, deosil, with the athame, starting at the east.
If you wish to do any particular magical work, then complete this first, and make love with your partner as the end and consummation of the Esbat.
Close the circle in the usual manner, according to the ritual already given.
If it is too cold to work comfortably in the nude, or if for any other reason you prefer to be clothed, do not wear your ordinary clothing in the circle. Wear instead a suitable cloak or robe, and sandals or soft slippers. The traditional witches’ robes were black, with a hood, something like a monk’s robe, the idea being that in the old times of persecution the witches could steal through the shadows to their meeting-place in these robes without being seen. Even if they were seen, one hooded figure looked very much like another, and there was less chance of being recognized. They would, of course, have been going along moonlit country lanes and through woods, rather than along lighted streets as we know them today.
The wine used for the toast may be whatever you prefer.
THE SABBAT RITE
In the witches’ year there are four Great Sabbats and four Lesser Sabbats, so that the year is divided up like a wheel with eight spokes.
The Great Sabbats are Candlemas (2 February), May Eve (30 April), Lammas (1 August), and Hallowe’en (31 October).
The Lesser Sabbats are the spring equinox, the summer solstice, the autumn equinox, and the winter solstice. These are not fixed dates, but vary a little each year, because they represent the times when day and night are equal, and also the longest day and the shortest day. These depend upon astronomical calculations; but the spring equinox is around 21 March, the summer solstice is around 21 June, the autumn equinox is around 21 September, and the winter solstice is around 21 December.
The Druids also celebrated these occasions, and to them the winter solstice was known as Alban Arthan, the spring equinox as Alban Eilir, the summer solstice as Alban Hefin, and the autumn equinox as Alban Elfed.
Of the Greater Sabbats, May Eve is also known as Walpurgis Night. The name of Beltane, meaning ’bright fire’, is also given both to May Eve and the summer solstice, because these dates were anciently celebrated with bonfires. An old name for the winter solstice festival is Yule, a word which has lived on as an alternative to the Christian ’Christmas’.
The Celtic people of Britain and Ireland called Candlemas Imbolc or Oimelc, May Eve Beltane, Lammas Lughnassadh, and Hallowe’en Samhain. These were the four great festivals of the pagan year, and are frequently referred to in Celtic mythology. (Samhain is pronounced Sav-een.)
You may, if you wish, decorate the room at each Sabbat with some flowers or branches appropriate to the season. If you have a worthy representation of the Moon Goddess and the Horned God, in the form of either statues or pictures, these too should be displayed somewhere in the room, with candles burning beside or in front of them.
As the Sabbat is a more important occasion than the Esbat, if the two dates should happen to coincide, or to fall so close to each other that it is not practical to celebrate them both, then preference should be given to celebrating the Sabbat.
There are two occasions in the year which are particularly potent for launching a new magical current. These are the spring equinox and the autumn equinox. (See Chapter 3.)
The Sabbat of Hallowe’en is particularly suitable for attempts to communicate with the spirits of those who have passed on, as this is the ancient festival of the dead, our ancestors and loved ones who have gone before. It is not, however, a grim occasion to pagans, but a time of cheerful remembrance and goodwill.
At Candlemas we celebrate the first signs of spring. On May Eve, we greet the coming summer. At Lammas, we rejoice at the beginning of the harvest. Hallowe’en is the commencement of winter, and the time when spirits are abroad. The equinoxes and solstices are the astronomical turning-points of the year.
By celebrating these old festivals, all of which can be traced historically to pre-Christian days, we declare our oneness with nature. We are not alienated; we belong here, and all life is one.
Form the circle in the usual manner. Then, standing before the altar, say: Hail to the Sabbat of—(give the name of whichever of the Sabbats it is). Give heed to the Witches’ Creed:
Then recite the Witches’ Creed, as follows, reading from your Book of Shadows:
The Witches’ Creed
Hear now the words of the witches,
The secrets we hid in the night,
When dark was our destiny’s pathway,
That now we bring forth into light.
Mysterious water and fire,
The earth and the wide-ranging air,
By hidden quintessence we know them,
And will and keep silent and dare.
The birth and rebirth of all nature,
The passing of winter and spring,
We share with the life universal,
Rejoice in the magical ring.
Four times in the year the Great Sabbat
Returns, and the witches are seen
At Lammas and Candlemas dancing,
On May Eve and old Hallowe’en.
When day-time and night-time are equal,
When sun is at greatest and least,
The four Lesser Sabbats are summoned,
Again witches gather in feast.
Thirteen silver moons in a year are,
Thirteen is the coven’s array.
Thirteen times at Esbat make merry,
For each golden year and a day.
The power was passed down the ages,
Each time between woman and man,
Each century unto the other,
Ere time and the ages began.
When drawn is the magical circle,
By sword or athame of power,
Its compass between the two worlds lies,
In Land of the Shades for that hour.
This world has no right then to know it,
And world of beyond will tell naught.
The oldest of Gods are invoked there,
The Great Work of magic is wrought.
For two are the mystical pillars,
That stand at the gate of the shrine,
And two are the powers of nature,
The forms and the forces divine.
The dark and the light in succession,
The opposites each unto each,
Shown forth as a God and a Goddess:
Of this did our ancestors teach.
By night he’s the wild wind’s rider,
The Horn’d One, the Lord of the Shades.
By day he’s the King of the Woodland,
The dweller in green forest glades.
She is youthful or old as she pleases,
She sails the torn clouds in her barque,
The bright silver lady of midnight,
The crone who weaves spells in the dark.
The master and mistress of magic,
They dwell in the deeps of the mind,
Immortal and ever-renewing,
With power to free or to bind.
So drink the good wine to the Old Gods,
And dance and make love in their praise,
Till Elphame’s fair land shall receive us
In peace at the end of our days.
And Do What You Will be the challenge,
So be it in Love that harms none,
For this is the only commandment.
By Magic of old, be it done!
Then take up the pentacle, and pass deosil with it round the circle, holding it up at the four quarters, east, south, west and north, and repeating each time:
Eight words the Witches’ Creed fulfil:
If it harms none, do what you will!
Replace the pentacle upon the altar, and strike once upon the bell, listening as the note dies away.
Now perform a slow dance, in silence, deosil three times round the circle, carrying the wand upright as a phallic symbol. On completing the first circuit, touch the platter of earth with the wand, and say: Life to the earth! On completing the second circuit, touch the cauldron of water with the wand, and say: Life to the water! On completing the third circuit, wave the wand in the air, and say: Life to the air! Life, luck and love to pagans all!
Then replace the wand upon the altar, and commence the round dance with the chant, followed by the Communion of the Five Senses, as at the Esbat.
Light more incense if necessary, and cense around the circle deosil, lifting up the incense at the four quarters.
Then perform such magical work as you wish to do, for example, consecration of ritual objects, scrying, divination, or working of spells. End the celebrations with lovemaking in the circle, if you wish, as at the Esbat. Close the circle in the usual manner.
The above is the basic pattern for the ceremony. Each coven may, and probably will, evolve its own particular variations. A coven will grow from the basis of, firstly, two people, a man and a woman who are partners in magic, and then such friends or relatives as they choose to invite to join them. When the coven has increased to more than the ritual number of thirteen, it should divide and form a new coven, and so on. The original founders will be the priest and priestess of the coven. When a new coven is formed, members will agree among themselves who is to leave the parent coven to form the new one, and they should elect a man and a woman to be the priest and priestess of the new coven. Thus the tradition has been carried on through the ages.
Two other important traditions are, firstly, that initiation into a coven should always be received from a person of the opposite sex; secondly, that the meeting-place of a coven should always be at least three miles from the meeting-place of any other coven, to avoid clashes of interest.
An exception to the first rule, however, is made in the case of one’s own children. A father may initiate his son, or a mother her daughter, because your child is in a sense a part of yourself.
With regard to the phallic wand used in the ceremony described above, it was the custom in olden times to carve and round the end of the wand into the rough shape of a phallus, as a symbol of the powers of life and fertility. This shape was often disguised by having a bunch of twigs tied round it, hence the witch’s broomstick. Sometimes the phallic appearance of the wand was produced by uprooting a young tree or sapling, and trimming the root into a suitable shape.
Initiation Into The Coven
All the rituals given so far are designed to be worked either by oneself or in the company of others. But as soon as you enter into partnership with another person, you have the nucleus of a coven. You may decide to remain simply a magical partnership, or go on to recruit other people.
Naturally, the utmost discretion is advisable, if you decide to take the latter course. Remember, you can do more with three people who have genuine enthusiasm and devotion, than you can with a dozen who are just there for a giggle.
Whether or not you decide to come out openly as a witch, or keep your beliefs and practices private, is entirely up to you. No one has the right to dictate to you upon this matter. There are, however, two considerations. One is that freedom of religion is your basic human right; the other is that if you do declare your adherence to witchcraft openly, you have spiked the guns of any blackmailers and bullies who may threaten to ’expose’ you.
However, the other extreme of deliberate publicity-seeking generally defeats its own object, as people then cease to take you seriously. It is obviously ridiculous to swear people to preserve ’the secrets of the art’, and then perform these so-called ’secret rites’ before the cameras of the popular press.
It is also both ridiculous and dishonest to swear people to conceal facts about the Old Religion, such as the names of the Celtic gods of Britain, which they can discover for themselves in the local library. Yet both of these examples of foolishness have been followed by witches since witchcraft came out of hiding in Britain, following the repeal of the Witchcraft Act in 1951.
Your best rules of guidance are those derived from discretion and commonsense. Remember the wise words of Gautama Buddha, who told his followers to ’take the Self as a lamp’, and to ’work out their own salvation with diligence’, accepting nothing on authority but only as it complied with their own reason and conscience.
With regard to the expenses of running a coven, these should be fairly shared among the members themselves, by mutual agreement. And if people cannot come to mutual agreement, about this or any other matter, then let the dissidents go off and ’do their own thing’. Do not go into the magic circle with any person with whom you are at enmity. Either be reconciled before you enter the circle, or one or the other of you should leave. Otherwise, your mutual ’bad vibrations’ will destroy all magical work.
The founding members of the coven, the priest and priestess, should direct the rites. Which of them takes the leading part is less important than that the ritual should be well carried out. Some people have more practical aptitude for the performance of ritual than others.
Probably the best arrangement, however, is when the ritual actions and speeches are divided between both partners. For instance, the one who has a better speaking voice can be responsible for reading or reciting the invocations, while the other carries out the actions, such as censing round the circle or striking upon the bell. When other people are in the circle, they can repeat some of the ritual in the form of responses, and so on.
When a number of others are in the circle, beside the priest and priestess, they will of course join in the dancing, following behind the leaders. They should always be ranged man and woman alternately around the circle.
The old name given to the male leader was ’the Devil of the coven’; this was probably first bestowed by Christian persecutors, but seems to have been ultimately adopted by the witches themselves. The name probably arose from the fact that on the Sabbats and other important occasions the priest assumed his ’grand array’, a costume of animal skins and a horned headdress, so that he really looked like the representative of the Horned God. There is no reason why the priest should not do this today, if he wishes.
The name given to the priestess was ’Queen of Elphame’, or ’Queen of the Sabbat’. Elphame is an old word meaning the Land of Faerie, the pagan paradise. The priestess was also called the Maiden of the Coven. She was regarded as the representative of the Moon Goddess.
In addition to the priest and priestess, there was also, especially in larger covens, an Officer, who could be either a man or a woman. It was the Officer’s job to attend to the business details, so to speak, and especially to summon people to the meetings.
When members of the Old Religion had acquired many years of experience, they were regarded as Elders. They might be too old to take a very active part in the rites, but they remained in the background and put their knowledge and experience at the disposal of younger folk.
These old names and offices seem quite practical to be continued in the present day. No one should grow too big-headed because they hold some rank in witchcraft; nevertheless, the holders of office are entitled to loyalty and respect. If you cannot respect them, do not elect them. If you do not like the way they do things, then take this book and get out and form your own coven—the more the merrier!
Candidates for initiation to the coven should be in good health both mentally and physically, and of legal adult age, preferably at least twenty-one years of age. Before the initiation, a new witch-name should be chosen for them by mutual agreement. In the case of self-initiation also, a new witch-name should be chosen for oneself.
Form the circle in the usual manner. The candidate should stand in the circle, nude, before the altar, while the priest or the priestess conducts the ceremony. The priest should initiate women candidates, while the priestess should initiate men, in accordance with the old rule that initiation into witchcraft should always pass from one sex to another. If other members of the coven are present, they should take their positions man and woman alternately around the circle.
The initiator should have the Charge of the Coven already written out in red ink upon a new piece of paper. This paper the initiator will read from, and it will then be ceremonially burnt, so the sheet of paper should not be too large or thick. It is written in red, because red is the colour of life, and in olden times magical sigils were frequently written in red as a means of symbolically giving life to them.
As in the ceremony of self-initiation, a small flask of suitable anointing oil will be needed, in order to put the three X-shaped marks upon the candidate.
The initiator commences by reading the Charge of the Coven to the candidate.
Initiator: This is the Charge of the Coven:
That you will keep secret what you are asked to keep secret, and never divulge the names or dwelling-place of our people unless by their consent.
That you will learn and try to master the Art Magical; but ever remember the rune: ’What good be tools without the inner light? What good be magic without wisdom-sight?’
That in due course you will strive to find a worthy pupil in magic, to whom in future years you can hand down the knowledge you acquire.
That you will never use the Art Magical merely to impress foolish persons, nor for any wrongful end.
That you will try to help the Craft of the Wise, and hold its honour as you would your own.
That you consider these vows taken before the Elder Gods; and that if you betray this Charge you accept as your just reward that retribution of destiny which overtakes those who basely betray the trust and confidence that others have placed in them. Know that none can escape the fate, be it curse or blessing, which they make for themselves, either in this life or in another life.
Will you answer truly this Charge, and keep it in your heart?
The Candidate should answer, ’I will’. In the event of the candidate changing his or her mind, and not wishing to accept the Charge, the ritual should be brought to an immediate end, and they should be permitted without argument to leave the circle and depart.
If the candidate answers in the affirmative, then the initiator says: ’Kneel before the altar, place your hand upon this pentacle (holds pentacle so that candidate can do this) and repeat after me: “I have heard the Charge and understand it. I swear to abide by it. May the Old Gods witness my words”.’
The initiator replaces the pentacle upon the altar, together with the paper upon which the Charge has been written, and strikes a note upon the bell. Then the paper is taken and burnt in the censer.
Initiator: As the smoke of this burning arises, so these words can never be revoked. By the earth and moon and sun, in name of magic be it done!
The initiator then kneels besides the candidate, places his or her right hand on the candidate’s head, and the left hand just beneath the candidate’s knee as the latter remains kneeling.
Initiator: Do you vow all between these hands to the Old Gods of witchcraft?
Candidate: I do.
Initiator: I will the powers of witchcraft into you.
There is a pause in silence, while the initiator and the candidate kneel together thus, before the altar. This is the ancient traditional posture for the transmission of initiation. It should be held for some moments, until such time as the initiator spontaneously feels it is time to resume the ceremony. Then he or she should arise, and assist the candidate to arise also.
Initiator: Arise and receive the witches’ mark.
The initiator then takes the flask of anointing oil, and marks the candidate three times with an X-shaped cross (the rune gifu, as in the rite of self-initiation), each time taking a spot of oil upon the finger for this purpose. The first mark is placed, as in the rite of self-initiation, in the middle of the forehead, the place of the ’third eye’; the second is placed upon the breast, over the heart; the third is placed upon the genitals. In giving the first mark, the initiator says: Let the mind be free. In giving the second, the initiator says: Let the heart be free. In giving the third, the initiator says: Let the body be free. I give you the witch-name of—(giving the witch-name that was chosen before-hand).
The initiator then embraces the candidate with the kiss of greeting.
Initiator: I recognize you as a pagan. Be from henceforward as a stone of the ancient circle, standing firmly based and balanced upon earth, yet open to the winds of heaven and enduring through time. Coven’s oath, keep troth!
If others are present, they too should give the candidate the kiss of greeting, or a handshake in the case of men greeting another man. As they do so, each should repeat the words, Coven’s oath, keep troth!
Then all should join in the round dance with the chant, as before described, followed by the consecration of wine and the Communion of the Five Senses. This may be followed as usual by magical work and/or love-making in the circle. The circle should be closed in the usual manner.
If the initiation is of one’s own first-chosen magical partner, either man or woman, then the rite should certainly be ended by sexual intercourse within the circle; because it is preferable that the partners should be upon the intimate terms of lovers if they want to be able to work real magic together. Apart from this, however, no one should have to take part in love-making in the circle unless they wish to. Moreover, if you choose someone to be your magical partner, then they should know quite clearly from the beginning what is involved. In fact, it is preferable that you should already be either lovers or husband and wife.
Remember, people’s bodies are their own. No one has the right, either by force or trickery, to violate them, especially in the name of magic. Remember also, however, that the Great Work of magic is the union of opposites, of which the union of male and female is one form, and that most potent, wherefore it is sometimes called the Great Rite.
In the event of someone who has already performed the rite of self-initiation, as given in this book, later wishing to become a member of someone else’s coven, they should still go through this rite of initiation into the coven in full. It will serve the dual purpose of linking them in fellowship with the rest of the coven, and confirming before others what has already been done in private.
The Coven Spell
The coven spell is magical work performed within the circle by the assembled coven. It may be described as a battery of wills, each person visualizing the thing that the coven wishes to bring about, concentrating on it and willing it to happen.
Evidently, therefore, the object of the rite must be decided beforehand, and everyone must agree that it should be made to come to pass. They must be in earnest, and keep their minds all the time upon their objective, while the spell is being performed. The power of thought is a very real and potent force, for good or ill. It can be greatly aided by visualization, either actual or in some symbolic form, of the thing one wants to come about.
The circle is formed in the usual manner, and if the occasion is an Esbat or a Sabbat, the prescribed ritual should be performed, as already given. Then when the time for magical working has arrived, the coven sit cross-legged around the circle, man and woman alternately, and join hands. The leader sits in the centre, with his or her back to the altar, so that the altar light illumines the Book of Shadows and enables it to be read from. The coven should be seated in whatever is the most convenient way, according to the number of people present. If there is enough to make a complete joined circle, so much the better. If not, let them make a semi-circle facing the leader.
If the occasion is not a Sabbat or an Esbat, then there should be some ritual done first, to get the coven into the mood for magical working, and to raise power. Have at least the round dance first, and then the Communion of the Five Senses. It is best also, upon every occasion, to proclaim the object of the rite beforehand, so that everyone has it clear in their mind before sitting down to concentrate as described above.
In order to do this, the leader should pass round the circle, deosil, carrying the phallic wand. The coven form up, man and woman alternately, and follow behind the leader, pacing deliberately round the circle. Starting at the east, the leader lifts up the phallic wand at each of the four quarters, saying each time: O guardian spirits of witchdom, we work this rite—(proclaiming what the object of the rite is).
This deliberate pacing of the circle is called ’circumambulating’. It is different from the wild joyousness of the round dance. It is light yet purposeful, rather like a hunter stalking game. Ceremonial magicians, as well as witches, make use of it in their rituals; and Aleister Crowley, in one of his telling phrases, has described it as ’the pace of the tiger who stalks the deer’. It is sometimes performed to the measured beating of a small drum, so that it is half-pacing and half-dancing. Once the purpose of the rite has been proclaimed, the coven may continue pacing round the circle for a while, if the leader wishes, in order to work up more power before sitting down to concentrate in the manner described above.
When they do settle down cross-legged in the circle, they may care to put a burning candle in the centre, to provide a point to concentrate on. A short, heavy candle is best for this, with the light close to the floor. It should be lit before the recitation of the spell commences, and extinguished when the spell ends.
The leader reads the coven spell from the Book of Shadows, and again the measured beating of a small drum may be used to accompany the working, if the leader has an assistant who can do this. Of course, an experienced leader will soon know the spell by heart, and can then accompany himself or herself with drum-beats or hand-clapping. Each time the line: We chant the coven spell, thus shall it be! occurs, the whole coven joins in. They should be instructed in this beforehand, so that they know what to do. They will soon start to sway spontaneously to the rhythm of the chant; the whole thing should be performed rhythmically.
The Coven Spell
O ancient ones of heaven, earth and sea,
We chant the coven spell, thus shall it be!
To music of the night-wind blowing free,
We chant the coven spell, thus shall it be!
The owl hoots within the hollow tree,
The black cat runs by night and silently,
The toad beneath the stone dwells secretly.
We chant the coven spell, thus shall it be!
To moon that draws the tides of air and sea,
We chant the coven spell, thus shall it be!
To god that bides beneath the greenwood tree,
We chant the coven spell, thus shall it be!
By witches’ garter bound about the knee,
By staff and cauldron and all powers that be,
We will the thing that in our minds we see,
We chant the coven spell, thus shall it be!
(At this point, all sit in silence for a time, concentrating hard and visualizing the thing they want to happen. Then the leader takes up the chant again).
The spell is flowing like the sea,
The spell is growing like the tree,
Like flame that burns and blazes free.
We chant the spell, thus shall it be!
We chant the spell, thus shall it be!
We chant the spell, thus shall it be!
On the second and third repetitions of We chant the spell, thus shall it be!, the whole coven joins in; and at the end, everyone cries out loudly It is! and claps hands. At this point, you release the spell into the astral plane. Let it go, and do not think about it any more at this time, or speculate on how or whether it is working. Otherwise, you will be like a man who plants a seed, and then keeps digging it up again to see whether it is growing or not.
For important or difficult matters, however, the spell may be repeated on three occasions. It is unusual for a spell to be repeated for more than three occasions, though this is sometimes done; but it is generally better to rest the matter if a spell has been done three times, and then take it up again later if necessary.
The circle should, of course, be closed in the usual manner at the end of this working.
The Seven-Pointed Star
The foregoing are the seven basic rituals which make up this Book of Shadows. The number seven has always been a magical and mystical number, in the occult philosophy of both east and west. Ancient India had its Seven Rishis, or wise men, and ancient Greece had its Seven Sages. There were the Seven Wonders of the pre-Christian world, and Christianity has its Seven Sacraments and Seven Deadly Sins, while the number seven occurs very frequently in the Bible. This sacredness of the number seven is taken from pagan sources, as it is found in the famous pagan romance, The Golden Ass by Lucius Apuleius, who was a priest of Isis. The story is a parable of his initiation, and he tells how he obtained a vision of the goddess upon the seashore by night, at the time of the full moon: ’Wherefore, shaking off my drowsy sleep I arose with a joyful face, and moved by a great affection to purify myself, I plunged my head seven times into the water of the sea; which number seven is convenable and agreeable to holy and divine things, as the worthy and sage philosopher Pythagoras hath declared.’ (William Adlington’s translation, 1566.)
There seems to be something basic about the number seven in nature. There are the seven colours of the rainbow, and the seven notes of the musical scale. Western science recognizes seven chief glands in the human body, called the endocrine glands; while Eastern yoga systems speak of the seven chakras, or centres of force, in man’s subtle body.
Medieval astrology had its seven sacred planets: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, and the Moon or Luna. These are the seven visible heavenly bodies which make up our solar system, the planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto not being visible to the naked eye. Strictly speaking, of course, the Sun and Moon are not planets, and are more correctly described as the two luminaries; but the term ’seven sacred planets’ was used for convenience. Everything upon earth is under the governance, astrologically speaking, of these seven influences.
This is the reason why we have the seven-day week. Each day is ruled by one of the planets. The Sun rules Sunday, the Moon Monday, Mars Tuesday, Mercury Wednesday, Jupiter Thursday, Venus Friday, and Saturn Saturday. These rulerships go back to the days of ancient Chaldea and Babylon.
Also, in the northern hemisphere, we have the most conspicuous constellation of the night sky, the Plough, or the Great Bear (Ursa Major), which points to the North Star, and which consists of a group of seven bright stars.
Occult philosophy connects the number seven with the planes of the universe. There are four planes, corresponding to the four elements; but as each plane above the physical has both a higher and a lower aspect, the planes can be tabulated as seven:
7. Higher Spiritual
6. Lower Spiritual
5. Higher Mental
4. Lower Mental
3. Higher Astral
2. Lower Astral
The terms ’higher’ and ’lower’ in this connection are purely figurative. The planes are not places, but states of consciousness, and they are interpenetrating.
All of these manifold correspondences of the mystic number seven are summed up in the seven-pointed star, which some traditions in Britain regard as the sign of authority in witchcraft. These traditions connect it with seven qualities, which they regard as the seven basic requirements for attainment in magic: humility, respect, trust, kindness, truth, honour and dignity.
The seven-pointed star, therefore, makes a suitable lamen for the leader of the coven to wear. A lamen is an old term for a magical pendant worn round the neck so that it hangs upon the breast over the heart.
It is a notable fact that if the signs of the seven planets are written round the star in the order of their apparent motion, from Saturn the slowest moving to Luna which has the swiftest apparent motion, then by tracing along the lines of the star one sees the order in which the planets rule the days of the week, beginning with Sunday (the Sun), passing to Monday (the Moon), and so on ending with Saturday (Saturn).
The seven-pointed star or heptagram is not a very easy figure to draw quickly; so witches have reason to be grateful to the people who designed Britain’s decimal coinage and gave us a seven-sided coin, the fifty pence piece. This provides us with an easy guide to drawing a small seven-pointed figure, from which a larger one can be elaborated. Hence the fifty-pence piece has come to be known in some circles as ’the witches’ coin’, just as the old twelve-sided threepenny piece was known as ’the astrologers’ coin’, because it provided the basis of a twelve-pointed figure for the signs of the Zodiac.
The Seven-Pointed Star
Seven is pre-eminently the sacred and mystical number. Most people are familiar with its popular connotations, such as the seven continents, the seven seas, and so on, and the belief that the seventh child of a seventh child has supernormal powers. But there is an important idea connected with this number which is less well known, and that is its association with the magic circle.
In the magic circle, we have the four quarters, or cardinal points, north, south, east and west, plus the height and depth, above and below. These are the six directions, and the centre of the circle, the place of stillness from which they all radiate, is the seventh.
Moreover, the occult traditions of ancient Egypt, and those of India and Tibet, declared the human being to consist of seven principles; not only the physical body which is apparent to normal sight, but other and more subtle bodies also, together with the mind which animates them. These beliefs were held centuries before the discoveries of modem physics, which have shown us that matter and energy are interchangeable terms, and that what we perceive as ’solid matter’ is simply energy manifesting in a particular way.
The Runes Of Andred
The word ’rune’ is used by witches in two senses. Firstly, as a rhyme which is recited or chanted during a ritual; secondly, as a letter of a magical alphabet. The Runes of Andred are the letters or signs of a magical alphabet which is named after the goddess Andred, who was worshipped in the area of the great forest called Coed Andred by the ancient British, and Andreds-weald by the Saxons. Parts of this forest still remain in the southern counties of England, particularly in Sussex. It was once of great extent, stretching from Hampshire to Kent. This alphabet was originated by a Sussex coven, by whose permission it is reproduced here.
The significance of a magical alphabet is that it compels the writer to concentrate more deeply on what they are writing, because they have to express it in an unfamiliar and strange-looking script. It will be noted that the runes are arranged in two rows of thirteen. When written down in a witch’s Book of Shadows, they should always be arranged thus, in order to connect them with the magic of the witches’ number thirteen, and also with the ’twin pillars’, the powers of male and female.
The way in which the runes are used is this. If the operator wishes to invoke some wished-for thing, they should choose the time of the waxing moon for the work. If instead their desire is to banish something, then the period of the waning moon should be chosen. (See Chapter 3.)
Then, taking a new, clean piece of paper or parchment, the operator first draws the appropriate symbol or sigil of the moon, waxing or waning as the case may be. The sigil of the waxing moon is a crescent with the horns pointing to the left. The sigil of the waning moon is a crescent with the horns pointing to the right.
Red ink should be used, in order to give potency to the writing, because red is the colour of life. Beneath the sigil of the moon, the operator writes down their wish, using the magical alphabet.
They must do this when they are alone, and cannot be disturbed; and they must keep the paper secretly, and show it to no one, or it wall lose its power.
The Runes of Andred
Then the writing should be hidden in a special box or a drawer, which should not contain anything else except perhaps some incense or scented herbs appropriate to the wish expressed. Witches of times past often used the little desks or bureaux which had small secret drawers in them, and one of the purposes of these secret drawers was to hide such written spells. A typical piece of furniture of this kind used to be on show in the Museum of Magic and Witchcraft, which was run by the late Gerald B. Gardner at Castletown, Isle of Man. It was among objects lent by an existing coven of witches, and possessed no less than seven secret drawers.
The paper or parchment should be kept thus for a lunar month, and then burnt. That is, when the moon returns to the same phase as it was in when the spell was written; say, so many days after new moon or full moon as the case may be. If the wish has not yet come to pass, the process may be repeated, another paper or parchment being prepared in the same manner, as often persistence and faith are necessary in order for the spell to work.
Each spell should be for one wish only. If the witch wants to work for more than one thing, a separate paper or parchment must be made for each matter.
The Runes of Andred, like other magical alphabets, can also be used for decorative purposes upon ritual objects, such as writing the name of a god or goddess, or some magical motto.
The Spell of the Cord
By the knot of one
The spell’s begun.
By the knot of two
It cometh true.
By the knot of three
Thus shall it be.
By the knot of four
’Tis strengthened more
By the knot of five
So may it thrive.
By the knot of six
The spell we fix
By the knot of seven
The stars of heaven.
By the knot of eight
The hand of fate.
By the knot of nine
The thing is mine.
Take a new piece of string, twine or cord. Perform the spell at midnight, the traditional ’witching hour’. You must be alone, in a room lit only by candlelight.
Have some incense burning. Get very clearly in your mind what you wish for. Concentrate on this and try to banish all other thoughts. Above all, believe in what you are doing. Work with faith in the magic that you do.
Pass the cord through the smoke of the incense, back and forth, while you whisper the words of your wish. Then begin to tie the knots, reciting the words of the spell as you do so. Keep concentrating hard on your wish and picture it coming true.
If you tie the knots in this order, you will find it easier to space them evenly:
That is, first tie a knot at either end of the cord, then a knot in the middle; then a knot half-way between each end and the middle, then a knot half-way between each of these knots. This will give you nine evenly-spaced knots. Practise a little first, if you wish; but use an old piece of string to practise with, because the cord you use for the actual spell must be new, one that has never been used for anything else.
When you have completed the nine knots, pass the cord again through the smoke of the incense. Then extinguish the candles and the incense. Go straight to bed, putting the cord under your pillow. You may have a significant dream, which will tell you something about your wish.
Carry the knotted cord with you as a talisman; but keep it hidden. Do not tell anyone else about it, except a fellow witch. Even then, be discreet. Remember, magic power is concentrated by silence and dissipated by babbling.
Invocation of the Moon Goddess
Diana, queen of night,
In all your beauty bright,
Shine on us here,
And with your silver beam
Unlock the gates of dream;
Rise bright and clear.
On earth and sky and sea,
Your magic mystery
Its spell shall cast,
Wherever leaf may grow,
Wherever tide may flow,
Till all be past.
O secret queen of power,
At this enchanted hour
We ask your boon.
May fortune’s favour fall
Upon true witches all,
O Lady Moon!
INVOCATION OF THE HORNED GOD
By the flame that burneth bright,
O Horned One!
We call thy name into the night,
O Ancient One!
Thee we invoke, by the moon-led sea,
By the standing stone and the twisted tree.
Thee we invoke, where gather thine own,
By the nameless shrine forgotten and lone.
Come where the round of the dance is trod,
Horn and hoof of the goatfoot god!
By moonlit meadow, on dusky hill,
When the haunted wood is husked and still,
Come to the charm of the chanted prayer,
As the moon bewitches the midnight air.
Evoke thy powers, that potent bide
In shining stream and the secret tide,
In fiery flame by starlight pale,
In shadowy host that rides the gale,
And by the fern-brakes fairy-haunted
Of forests wild and woods enchanted.
Come! O come!
To the heart-beat’s drum!
Come to us who gather below
When the broad white moon is climbing slow
Through the stars to the heaven’s height.
We hear thy hoofs on the wind of night!
As black tree-branches shake and sigh,
By joy and terror we know thee nigh.
We speak the spell thy power unlocks
At solstice, Sabbat and equinox,
Word of virtue the veil to rend,
From primal dawn to the wide world’s end,
Since time began—
The blessing of Pan!
Blessed be all in hearth and hold,
Blessed in all worth more than gold.
Blessed be in strength and love,
Blessed be, where’er we rove.
Vision fade not from our eyes
Of the pagan paradise Past
the gates of death and birth,
Our inheritance of earth.
From our soul the song of spring
Fade not in our wandering.
Our life with all life is one,
By blackest night or noonday sun.
Eldest of gods, on thee we call,
Blessing be on thy creatures all.
Chants and Dances
Here are some additional chants which can be used by the coven to accompany its dancing round the circle. This, incidentally, is the origin of the word ’carol’, which originally meant a round dance accompanied by singing. There were carols for May Day as well as Yuletide or Christmas, and the words of some of them are still preserved in English folklore. Here is an example, of unknown age or origin:
Here we come a-piping,
In Springtime and in May;
Green fruit a-ripening,
And Winter fled away.
The Queen she sits upon the strand,
Fair as lily, white as wand;
Seven billows on the sea,
Horses riding fast and free,
And bells beyond the sand.
’The Queen … fair as lily, white as wand’ is the White Goddess of the moon and of nature, the Lady of the May who is commemorated by the crowning of the May Queen in many a village carnival. The ’horses riding fast and free’ are the white horses of Manannan, the old Celtic god of the sea, the white-crested sea-waves. The ’bells beyond the sand’ are the sunken bells of Caer Arianrhod, or of the city of Ys, or of lost Lyonesse, or any of the other drowned cities of myth and legend, back to great Atlantis itself.
This is an instance of the way in which folksongs preserve ancient pagan lore. Another example of this is the old folksong ’Green Grow the Rushes-O’, of which there are many different versions, including two from Brittany, one of which is said to be Druidical.
May Eve was particularly significant to the Celts, as was November Eve or Hallowe’en, because in pre-Christian times these signified the two halves of the year. The summer half began on May Day and lasted until 1 November, when the winter half began, which lasted round until May Day again. The eve, or night before, was the time of celebration.
According to the beliefs of the Old Religion of the witches, the summer half of the year belongs to the Goddess, and the winter half to the Horned God. Hence the Sabbats of May Eve (or Walpurgis Night) and Hallowe’en are particularly important dates in the witch calendar.
Here, then, are the words of a chant which can be used with the round dance on May Eve:
Walpurgis Night, the time is right,
The ancient powers awake.
So dance and sing, around the ring,
And Beltane magic make.
Walpurgis Night, Walpurgis Night,
Upon the eve of May,
We’ll merry meet, and summer greet,
For ever and a day.
New life we see, in flower and tree,
And summer comes again.
Be free and fair, like earth and air,
The sunshine and the rain.
Walpurgis Night, Walpurgis Night, etc.
As magic fire be our desire
To tread the pagan way,
And our true will find and fulfil,
As dawns a brighter day.
Walpurgis Night, Walpurgis Night, etc.
The pagan powers this night be ours,
Let all the world be free,
And sorrow cast into the past,
And future blessed be!
Walpurgis Night, Walpurgis Night, etc.
The following is a similar chant for Hallowe’en. It can be used outdoors round a bonfire, or indoors round an extra large altar candle:
Fire red, summer’s dead,
Yet it shall return.
Clear and bright, in the night,
Burn, fire, burn!
Dance the ring, luck to bring,
When the year’s a-turning.
Chant the rhyme at Hallows-time,
When the fire’s burning.
Fire glow, vision show
Of the heart’s desire,
When the spell’s chanted well
Of the witching fire.
Dance the ring, luck to bring, etc.
Fire spark, when nights are dark,
Makes our winter’s mirth.
Red leaves fall, earth takes all,
Brings them to rebirth.
Dance the ring, luck to bring, etc.
Fire fair, earth and air,
And the heaven’s rain,
All blessed be, and so may we,
At Hallows-tide again.
Dance the ring, luck to bring, etc.
Finally, here is a merry chant, which can be used upon almost any occasion. It goes to the tune of the old folksong, ’The Lincolnshire Poacher’:
Come join the dance, that doth entrance,
And tread the circle’s round.
Be of good cheer, that gather here,
Upon this merry ground.
Good luck to we that faithful be,
And hold our craft so dear,
For ’tis our delight of a shiny night,
In the season of the year.
Oh, ’tis our delight of a shiny night,
In the season of the year.
While stars do shine, we pledge the wine
Unto the Gods of old.
Nor shall there fail the witch wassail,
Nor shall their fire grow cold.
Good luck to we that faithful be, etc.
Throughout, about and round about,
By flame that burneth bright,
We’ll dance and sing, around the ring,
At witching hour of night.
Good luck to we that faithful be, etc.