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Sunday, 28 February 2010

'Earth, Air, Fire & Water: More Techniques of Natural Magic' by Scott Cunningham

'Earth, Air, Fire & Water: More Techniques of Natural Magic' was written by Scott Cunningham as a follow up to 'Earth Power', published over ten years prior.

Despite his Wiccan beginnings Scott Cunningham's writing bears very little impression of this. As with the majority of Scott Cunningham books 'Earth, Air, Fire & Water' focuses on what he terms "folk magic", which he goes on to describe as "the magic of the people".

The book in a joy to read, and long after your first reading, when you inevitably flick back though it's pages in reference you will find yourself inadvertently losing at least an hour or so, reading chapter after chapter, after being caught up in the writing. Cunningham's passion for his subject matter is apparent from the very start. Utilising his skills as a creative writer to set the scene of the book and beckon you into his world.

"A figure moves between tangled trunks, seeking the clearing. Soon the ancient oaks part to reveal a stream. The woman kneels on the stream's grassy bank and places her hands onto the ground. The steady pulse of the earth's energy comforts her."
(Chapter 1: This is Magic)

The main reason I love this book is that is it not your average spell book, although it does list several examples. What 'Earth, Air, Fire & Water' does, is give you a tool to create your own. This book gives you a guided magical tour of the four elements. It tells you the many and varied ways in which each element can be utilized, for an array of different spells. It also provides a fantastic chapter giving a step by step breakdown on building rituals.

The whole book is a testament to Cunningham's belief that magic is about people building a personal connection with the natural world.

For me 'Earth, Air, Fire & Water' will always be one of the first books I recommend to anyone new to witchcraft and spell casting. That said, I know many more seasoned practitioners that have read it several times over and use it for reference purposes regularly.

Cunningham manages to write in such a way that allows this book to be utilised by practitioners from a wide range of magical backgrounds and pagan paths, but at the same time holds a tone that leaves you feeling you've had a personal glimpse into the authors life.

I really can't recommend this book enough, if you don't own it, you should!

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Why I am Pagan

Why am I a Pagan? Now there is a question to make me think!

Well like many other Pagans I wasn’t brought up in a Pagan household. In fact spirituality wasn’t ever a really big thing in my household. I was christened Church of England as a baby and after that didn’t enter a church for reasons other than weddings and christenings for years. As a young teenager I chose to become involved in the church. I simply couldn’t accept a world without spirituality in it and Christianity seemed the obvious option. It was main stream, it was easily accessible, and what parents in their right mind would object to their teenage daughter taking an interest in the Bible.

But, something didn’t sit right. I felt like I was trying to hard, like it just didn’t sit naturally with me. Around my mid-teens I became interested in witchcraft. I started reading whatever I could on the subject, though ten years ago there was a lot less information readily available than there is now. In my quest for information on witchcraft I inevitably learnt about paganism and all that it encompasses… now this felt right!

As this article is entitled ‘Why I am a Pagan’ and not ‘What is a Pagan?’ I won’t go into to great detail on the many and varied paths within Paganism. Although my personal beliefs fit well towards the centre of the wide road of earth based religions, one of the reasons I love paganism so much is how wide this road is in the first place.

The more time I spend in the Pagan community, whether it is online or in person, the more I feel spirituality is more a journey than a final destination. I once read somewhere “when you stop learning, you are truly old”. With Paganism I’ll never stop learning. Every person is a new set of theories, a new perspective and a new set of practices.

It doesn’t take a lot to work out that any community that embraces such diversity within its own belief system, embraces diversity in all it’s forms. There is very little right and wrong within paganism, just differences. Differences that are celebrated. Differences that become talking points. Differences that then bring us closer. Anyone can find their place in paganism, an encouraging place, where you will be encouraged to celebrate your beliefs rather than someone else’s.

Monday, 15 February 2010

The Riding Mill Witches

In 17th century England the Tyne valley was said to be the home of up to 5 covens of witches. But while not much is known of the majority of those magical practitioners, or whether they were indeed real or not, one coven has had it’s story told over and over again.

In Riding Mill, a short walk from the station will bring you to a rather charming Public House called ‘The Wellington’. A place once known as ‘The Riding House’, which was said to play host to the now infamous Riding Mill witches. In the early 1670’s a woman by the name of Anne Armstrong of Birches Nook, decided to appoint herself a local witch finder.

Her accusations began with tales of witches becoming swallows and flying under horses bellies to curse them and their riders. Before long her finger of accusation was pointed firmly at three local women. Anne Foster of Stocksfield, Anne Dryden of Prudhoe and Lucy Thompson of Mickley all took starring roles in Anne Foster's colourful accusations.

One off the better known stories tells how Anne Armstrong had woken one night to find herself saddled like a horse. She claimed Anne Forster rode her across the pack horse bridge where she witnessed the three women dancing with the Devil at The Riding House.

In 1673, the three woman stood trial for Witchcraft at Morpeth Magistrates. Anne Armstrong was, of course, called to the witness box, and certainly didn’t hold back. She told of how she had seen the women shape shift on numerous occasions, not just into cats and hares, but also into bumble bees that rode on wooden spoons. She also told how she had witnessed them at The Riding House dancing and swinging on ropes before a man they called God.

After a particularly harrowing performance in the witness box the Judges presiding over the case decided Anne Armstrong’s accounts were too far-fetched to have any truth to them. The case was thrown out and the three women released.

Whether they really were a practicing coven or not is a question you’ll have to answer for yourself. It isn't, however, the only unanswered question in this story. Shortly after the women’s release Anne Armstrong was found hanged in The Riding House scullery.

Did the stress of the trial become to much for her? Or, was it the witches' revenge?

Friday, 12 February 2010

Forever More

In the Summerlands that wait,
I’ll wait for you my dear,
Their beauty will mean nothing,
If I don’t have you near.

My breathing is now shallow,
As this life draw towards it’s end,
My proudest memory of it,
Having you as lover and best friend.

The young strong arms I held you with,
Now aged skin wrapping bone,
I have no fear of pain and death,
But I can’t bear to leave you alone.

But to the Summerlands I’ll journey,
For you I’ll wait by that other worlds door,
Our love won’t last a lifetime,
It will last forever more.