Contemporary Witchcraft – Pre-orders now being taken

I am delighted to be able to advise that pre-orders for my forthcoming book, Contemporary Witchcraft: Foundational Practices for a Magical Life, will open on Saturday, 5 September 2020, with physical copies expected to be received by the end of the month.

Contemporary Witchcraft: Foundational Practices for a Magical Life aims to set the series of foundational practices that will benefit any neophyte (beginner) interested in contemporary witchcraft (initiatory Wicca) or to magick in general. As I explain, how you design and build your practice is entirely up to you however with solid understanding of some foundational practices, you can be assured that you are effectively set for life, regardless of where your own path takes you.

 My initial instruction into contemporary witchcraft not only focused on the practical application of ritual and magick, but also the “behind the scenes” information, providing an insight into the psychological changes, as well as what is actually happening on the astral level. It is this understanding that enabled me to gain a stronger belief in the magical work that I was undertaking – a belief that also proved to be most beneficial during dark nights of the soul, the times of doubt when the logical mind saw me questioning what I had been dedicating much of my adult life to. 

Times may have changed, as have the needs and desires of people, and whilst spiritual practices also have changed, this does not necessarily mean that all of the original vision Gardner had is outdated and needs to be discarded. As the saying goes, we do not have to “throw the baby out with the bathwater”. When it comes to magick, there are still aspects and techniques that simply can only be learnt over time through the practice of the magical art. Such things cannot really be taught through the pages of a book or the internet. There are other aspects of magick that are best taught under physical instruction of a trained practitioner as opposed to a handful of inexperienced novices boasting about their alleged successes.

You can pre-order your early release copy of Contemporary Witchcraft: Foundational Practices for a Magical Life here for only $35 (includes postage within Australia).

The actual release date for Contemporary Witchcraft: Foundational Practices for a Magical Life is not until July 2021.

The Power of Words

My initial magical training included a number of timeless pearls that I believe still hold relevance today, one of them being the power (or energy) that words have. This belief in the power of words is not one that has been wrapped up in ancient esoteric secrecy that is only disclosed through appropriate hereditary initiations, nor has it been randomly plucked out of all obscurity. All throughout history, the power of word (or language) has been evident, being one of the first things targeted by an invading power (ie, where the conquered is forced to forego their language and adopt that of the conqueror).

In various metaphysical, neuro-linguistic and even new age teachings, students are instructed on the “power of words” and how they shape our perception of things including ourselves. Within the various magical communities it is the carefully chosen words that crafts the spell in order to achieve a desired goal, or expresses our devotion and requests to the Gods.

Even beyond the magical, mystical and metaphysical realms, most of us know the power of words – from a young age we are encouraged to believe that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”.

Why then, are seekers of the Craft insisting on calling themselves “baby witches”?

Apparently this is not a new phenomenon despite me only first coming across someone (an adult) referring themselves as such a month or so ago (clearly I live under a rock). However, since a recent TikTok incident where so-called “baby witches” attempted to “curse” the moon, social media and blogs have go overboard.

Now, I don’t watch TikTok so have no real interest in whether the moon got “cursed” or not, not I have the energy to invest in ascertaining any logic as to why someone would attempt to do that is in the first place, what is getting my goat is the phrase “baby witch”.

There have been some popular bloggers who have openly stated that to call a seeker or novice a “baby witch” is rather insulting because we all had to start somewhere. However, the only people I have come across calling anyone “baby witches” are novices or seekers themselves. And it is this use of the phrase that, for the life of me, I don’t understand.

When I was starting to take my first steps on the path that eventually evolved into contemporary witchcraft, I was a “seeker” for I was seeking knowledge, experience, the answers to my endless questions, and possibly a teacher/guide. I was also a “novice” as I was still relatively inexperienced when it came to the art of magic and the Craft. Another word that was used was that of being a “neophyte”, again referring to someone new and starting out on the path.

The word “baby” conjures up impressions of an infant, someone helpless and totally reliant upon others (adults). Babies are incapable of acting on their own behalf, are unaware of things that are potentially dangerous due to their inexperience with the concept of harm, not to mention having an intellectual awareness of fully understanding what is going on around them.

While calling yourself a “baby witch” may sound cute, it also implies the avoidance of taking responsibility, and that you are simply absorbing whatever you are being told without displaying and discernment about your own education, needs, and desires. The negative use is further highlighted when compared to the term “novice” where the latter, implies having full autonomy of your spiritual path and the direction you wish to follow.

In my forthcoming book, Contemporary Witchcraft: Foundational Practices for a Magical Life, I explain that one of the underlying aspects of this spiritual path is that “it calls upon its followers to engage in active participation as opposed to being merely spectators; and where each individual is ultimately responsible for the development of their own spiritual journey.”

How responsible are you prepared to be when it comes to your own spiritual and magical path?

Ebbing and Flowing with COVID-19

Only last week I was delighted to announce a couple of forthcoming events that I would be running at the Riverdell Spiritual Centre – one to celebrate the gateway of spring, Imbolc, on 1 August 2020, and the second was to celebrate and honour the Goddess of the Crossroads, Hekate, on 15 August 2020. Due the recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases across the border in Victoria, and the increasing risk of a potential resurgence here in South Australia, I have now decided to:

Cancel the Imbolc event at Riverdell Spiritual Centre altogether with much regret. If you have already booked through Riverdell, please contact them for a full refund.

The A Day with Hekate event will still remain at the Riverdell Spiritual Centre. Bookings are essential as there will be a strictly limited number of places available. Details of how you book your place can be found here.

At this stage, the August Gathering Around the Cauldron will also still be going ahead on Thursday, 6 August 2020. Booking are essential as due to social distancing observances, there are only a limited number of places being made available. You can book you place here.

Preparing for Spring

As the seasonal Wheel of the Year turns, it is not too long away before spring arrives. Even before Mid Winter my garden had been preparing itself with a display of early spring flowers.

This time of the year however there can appear to be a degree of false hope as the worse of the winter weather is often still to come. One thing that we do know for certain however is that life is starting to stir again.

Within contemporary witchcraft the first of the two spring festivals is Imbolc (Im-bulk), derived from the Irish Gaelic that means “in the belly” referring to the potential of all life that is in the belly of the Great Mother (Mother Earth), but also the pregnancy of other animals, particularly cattle and sheep, who give birth to their young around this time.  An alternative word is Oimelc, meaning “ewe’s milk”.  Although here in South Australia the lambs are often born around the autumn equinox to ensure that there is enough Winter grass for them to eat, in other parts of the country, and particularly in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, Imbolc heralds the birthing season for lambs.

Within contemporary witchcraft, the Goddess is often considered to be in her Maiden, or youthful aspect, while the God is in his Young Stag aspect. Their innocent reflects the lightness of the energies around them at this time of the year.

Nothing is so beautiful as spring –
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look like low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes lightning to hear him sing;
The glassy pear tree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
George Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

In the Northern Hemisphere, Imbolc falls around 1st February and is often connected with the Goddess Brighid, or Brid (pronounced “Bree” or “Breeid”), who later become known as Saint Brigit. Spanning both paganism and Christianity, Brighid/Brigit is renown for her healing, and protection, with her sacred shrine still be utilised today in Kildare, County Meath in Ireland. 

As a way of marking and honouring Imbolc, I will be holding a special Celebrate Imbolc – The Celtic Festival of Spring at the Riverdell Spiritual Centre on Saturday, 1 August 2020, where participants will not only learn about the historical origins of this Celtic festival, but they will connect with the Maiden Goddess through empowering meditations.

We will also be making our own protective Cros Bride (Brigit’s Cross) that will be empowered through sacred ceremony, and discover how to connect with the healing energies of St Brigit through candles that have been lit from her sacred flame at Kildare.

Tickets are only $50 (plus Eventbrite fees) and are available through this link.

All attendees go in the draw to win a copy of my book In Her Sacred Name: Writings on the Divine Feminine.

Saturday, 1 August 2020 from 11am to 3pm
Location: Riverdell Spiritual Centre, 51 Clifford Road, Hillier SA 5116

The Power of a Witch’s Healing

These days there are numerous forms of healing, both orthodox as well as alternative, and it is within this latter category where witches most often work, in particular in the area of spiritual healing.

It never ceases to amaze me the power of the collective group (ie, such as a coven) when we are all focused on a single topic. I recall an occurrence a few years ago when a coven member arrived for our regular meetup feeling under the weather. They stated that they were suffering from a lack of energy, not to mention other ailments for which orthodox medical advice had been sought. Yet nothing seemed to be working.

As part of the work we do is that of healing, during our ritual energy was directed to our coven member … and so powerful was the chant that even today I still vividly remember half expecting to find the member in question flattened against the wall (as in the movies).

They declared the next day that they had woken up filled with energy and ready to take on the world again, and it was the most alive that they have felt in a while. Further, that the discomfort and other effects of what they had been experiencing appeared to have ceased. We joked about what they would tell their doctor at the follow up appointment.

Healing is one of those skills that whilst we readily give to others, we tend to forget about ourselves … there is an old saying of “healer – heal thy self” … meaning that before we can heal others, we need to make sure that we are in fact in tiptop condition.

Asking for energy, for healing from coveners who we work with on a regular basis and who we perceive as members of our “magical” family should never be considered as a hindrance. For there will be times that each of us will need a little help from our magical brothers and sisters – especially these days as there seems to be an increasing amount of negativity circling (regardless of whether it is intentional or not).

In any case, the following song from Joe Cocker certainly comes to mind.

Blessings, Frances

A Little Book of Wicca

The latest offering from TDM Publishing is A Little Book of Wicca.

Consisting of some 60 pages, this short guide to Wicca, contemporary witchcraft, aims to be a perfect introduction to this earth-centric spiritual belief.

Commencing with a brief history of how Wicca came into being, it also covers the common beliefs and ethics found within Wicca, the perception of a dual deity (a God and a Goddess), sacred days and seasonal festivals, as well as information specifically to the Southern Hemisphere that is often overlooked in other books. A glossary containing some of the more commonly used terms is included as well as a recommended reading list.

A Little Book of Wicca is a perfectly priced introduction book for anyone interested in learning more about Wicca, or to being used as a guide to be given to family and friends in order to explain what this earth-centric spiritual belief is truly about.

Details:
ISBN: 9780244863067
Dimensions: A5 (5.83 x 8.27 in / 148 x 210 mm)

Cost: $15.99 (includes postage within Australia) available direct from TDM Publishing.

Some Myths about the Witch Trials

A 1655 pamphlet illustration of witches being hanged
In England witches were hanged, not burned. This illustration is taken from a 1655 pamphlet by Ralph Gardiner© Bettmann/Getty

Today I was rather surprised to be reminded of one of the misconceptions about the witch trials (or the “Burning Times” as it is often referred to within Pagan circles) that I had thought had been debunked by the 20th century – that some nine million people lost their lives after being accused of witchcraft. Apparently not.

As such, I thought I would share four of the more common misconceptions about the witch trials as discovered by Professor Diane Purkiss (Professor of English Literature at Keble College, University of Oxford).

1. Nine million witches died in the years of the witch persecutions: It is estimated that a more accurate figure is from 30,000 to 60,000 people were executed in the whole of the main era of witchcraft persecutions, from the commencement in 1427–36 in Savoy (in the western Alps) to the execution of Anna Goldi in the Swiss canton of Glarus in 1782. These figures include estimates for cases where no records exist.

Colour drawing showing people being burned in a public square as part of the Spanish Inquisition
The Spanish Inquisition persecuted those perceived as heretics by the Catholic Church, but witchcraft was largely regarded as a superstition, and wasn’t pursued as a heresy by officials except in rare cases© Prisma/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

2. Witches were burned at the stake: While people found guilty of practicing witchcraft were burnt at the stake across Europe and in Scotland, they were actually hung in England and America. In Scotland, they were straggled first before being burnt.

3. The Spanish Inquisition and the Catholic Church instigated the witch trials: Four of the major western Christian denominations (the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist and Anglican churches) persecuted witches to some degree, while the Eastern Christian, or Orthodox, churches carried out almost no witch-hunting. In England, Scotland, Scandinavia and Geneva, witch trials were carried out by Protestant states. The Spanish Inquisition executed only two witches in total.

4. King James I was terrified of witches and was responsible for their hunting and execution: More accused witches were executed in the last decade of Elizabeth I’s reign (1558–1603) than under her successor, James I (1603–25). The first Witchcraft Act was passed under Henry VIII, in 1542, and made all pact witchcraft (in which a deal is made with the Devil) or summoning of spirits a capital crime. The 1604 Witchcraft Act under James could be described as a reversion to that status quo rather than an innovation.

In Scotland, where he had ruled as James VI since 1587, James had personally intervened in the 1590 trial of the North Berwick witches, who were accused of attempting to kill him. He wrote the treatise Daemonologie, published in 1597. However, when King of England, James spent some time exposing fraudulent cases of demonic possession, rather than finding and prosecuting witches.

Sources:
Witch: Eight Myths and Misconceptions by Professor Diana Purkiss
“Witch Hunts”: Now and Then, Myths and Realities by Morgan Lamkin
Professor Pavlac’s Witch Hunts by Brian A. Pavlac

Further Reading:
The Witch: A History of Fear, from Ancient Times to the Present by Ronald Hutton (Yale University Press, 2018)
A New History of Witchcraft: Sorcerers, Heretics and Pagans by Jeffrey B Russell and Brooks Alexander (Thames and Hudson Ltd, 2007)
Witchcraft in Europe, 400-1700: A Documentary History by Alan Charles Kors (editor), Edward Peters (editor) (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000)
The Oxford Illustrated History of Witchcraft and Magic by Owen Davies (Oxford University Press, 2017)
The Witch in History: Early Modern and Twentieth-Century by Diane Purkiss (Routledge, 1996)
Witchcraft and Magic in Europe, Volume 4: The Period of the Witch Trials by Bengt Ankarloo (editor), Stuart Clark (editor) (University of Pennsylvania, 2002)

Imbolc – Return of the Maiden

The earth is in the slow process of returning back to life after the long winter’s sleep with the first tendrils cautiously making their appearance.  There is the likelihood of frosts, but despite this, early flowers are pushing their way to the surface – snowdrops, dwarf hyacinths, jonquils, early irises and even daffodils are appearing, making the statement that spring is on its way.  A fragile warming of the air can be felt as winter, usually the season of rest and withdrawal, comes to an end.  This is the time of uncertainty as the spirit reawakens, welcoming back the Maiden of Spring.

Imbolc (also spelt Imbolg) is the first festival of Spring, and is usually celebrated around 31st July or 1st August in the Southern Hemisphere, when the sun moves 15 degrees into Leo.  It is Irish-Gaelic and translated to mean “in the belly” referring to the potential of all life that is in the belly of the Great Mother (Mother Earth), but also the pregnancy of other animals, particularly cattle and sheep, who give birth to their young around this time.  An alternative word for Imbolc is Oimelc, meaning “ewe’s milk”.  Although here in South Australia the lambs are often born around the Autumn Equinox to ensure that there is enough winter grass for them to eat, in other parts of the country, and particularly in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, Imbolc heralds the birthing season for lambs.

The Crios Bridghid (Brighid’s Cross) is believed to have originated in the Connemara, located on the western side of Ireland and were traditionally made from reeds, rushes or straw.  The reeds were braided into a rope and formed into a circle, which was believed to hold protective powers.  Those who jumped through. Over time the circle became likened to a swastika cross, and it was believed to be a representation of the sun or even a fire wheel.  Once made, the cross would be placed over the doorways of houses, stables and barns, for protection and prosperity for the coming year.

You are invited to celebrate Imbolc – The Celtic Festival of Spring at the Riverdell Spiritual Centre (Hillier) on Saturday, 1 August 2020.
:: Connect with the Maiden Goddess through empowering meditations
:: Explore the journey of Brigid from Goddess to Saint
:: Make your own Crios Bridghid (Brighid’s Cross) that will be empowered through sacred ceremony
:: Discover how to connect with the healing energies of St Brigit through making your own healing candle.

All attendees go in the draw to win a copy of
In Her Sacred Name: Writings on the Divine Feminine.

Date: Saturday, 1 August 2020
Time: 11am to 3pm
Investment: $50.00
Venue: Riverdell Spiritual Centre, 51 Clifford Rd, Hillier SA 5116

Payment must be received by 20 July 2020 as there are limited places available.

Direct payment via Bank Transfer to:
Account Name: Frances Billinghurst
BSB: 325185
Account Number: 03146790
Please put your name for reference.

What is the Shadow? (Debbie Ford)

According to Debbie Ford (best-selling author of The Dark Side of the Light Chasers and The Secret of the Shadow), the shadow contains all the parts of ourselves that we try to hide, deny or suppress.  It is the keeper of all the aspects of ourselves that we dislike and the qualities that we judge as unacceptable.  The shadow wears many faces: angry, critical, fearful, lazy, controlling, selfish, weak, pathetic.  These are the faces we do not want to show the world and the faces we do not want to show ourselves.  

Most of us expend huge amounts of energy trying to get rid of or control these unwanted aspects of ourselves.  We hope that by hiding or fixing our “bad qualities” we will have the peace, success and happiness we desire.  Most of us are convinced that we are flawed and inadequate so we become masters of disguise, and go to great lengths to hide our bad qualities from those around us – even from ourselves.

The result of turning our backs on our dark side?  A life that slips by only half lived.  Dreams that are never realized, or worse, that lay buried under years of resignation and shame.  

Until we make peace with our shadow we will continue to be at war with ourselves and our outer world will mirror our inner struggle.  What we resist persists – and we will create and attract from others that which we most dislike in ourselves.  Until we feel authentic compassion for each and every aspect of ourselves, we will continue to draw forth people and events that will mirror the negative feelings we have about ourselves.  Until we take back our power and forgive ourselves for being human we will attract people who push our buttons and reactivate our emotional wounds.  And until we find the courage to love ourselves completely, we will never truly be able to experience the love from those around us.  

We do not need to guess how we really feel about ourselves at the deepest level, all we have to do is look at how the outer world treats us.

If we are not getting the respect, love and appreciation we desire from the outer world, it is more than likely we are not giving these things to ourselves.  This is the benevolence of the universe in action.  The whole world is a mirror of our own consciousness, and when we make peace with the disowned aspects of ourselves, we make peace with the world.

Registrations are currently open for the online month long sadhana (spiritual journey) that I will be hosting that incorporates exploring the shadow under the guidance of the Dark Goddess. Starting on Saturday, 6 June 2020 (just after the full moon) and concluding just before the following full moon on 4 July 2020 the Encountering the Dark Goddess sadhana journey is specifically designed to take participants into the realm of a chosen “darker” aspect of the divine feminine to explore the various aspects of their own shadow self in order to commence positive change at the deepest level.

Throughout the month long journey you will be provided with detailed information about the various Dark Goddesses, instructions as to how to set up altars and undertake daily devotional work, suitable prayers and a list of offerings for your chosen goddess, weekly emails containing metaphysical and psychoanalytic concepts regarding working with the Dark Goddess and the “Shadow Self”, group rituals and much more.

If the Encountering the Dark Goddess sadhana journey is something that calls to you, ensure that your register prior to Saturday, 6 June 2020. Details as to how you can do that are found here.

In my forthcoming book, Encountering the Dark Goddess: A Journey into the Shadow Realms, I share how to utilise the mythologies of specific Goddess whose very nature is about change, destruction, mask removal and much more, in ways designed to accept our own shadow.

Whether you seek healing from past trauma, release from fears or acceptance of the “unacceptable” aspects of your self through the power of meditation, ritual or inner journeying, Encountering the Dark Goddess: A Journey into the Shadow Realms offers itself up as a guide to assist you to embrace the ever changing aspects of life.

From my own personal experience (of which I share in this book) I am of the belief that when we connect the Dark Goddess, we are able to find the light within the darkness and our lives are enriched through the integration of all aspects of our soul as a perfect whole.

Encountering the Dark Goddess: A Journey into the Shadow Realms is being published by John Hunt Publishing and should be available for pre-order from mid-June 2020 through Amazon US, Amazon UK, Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones and the like, with ebook pre-orders appearing a month or so before its physical release in 26 March 2021.

The Power of Language

Having worked over 60 hours for the last couple of weeks, I find myself with the rarity of having a free weekend, resulting in finally catching up with emails, blog postings and other outstanding projections, including finalising the upcoming Encountering the Dark Goddess month long “sadhana” (spiritual journey) that will be commencing on 6 June 2020.

One of the blog posting that took interest was John Beckett’s The Power of Language and the Dangers of its Misuse. To know what you are doing (which includes the use of language) is one of the four powers of the sphinx which are taught within the Temple of the Dark Moon’s Outer Court training. As Beckett points out in his blog, “there is power in ritual language”, yet increasingly people often mistake what may be foreign to them as being “inherently deep and meaningful” without thinking about what they’re doing.

From a devotional perspective, there tends to be a difference in opinion as to whether you should communicate with deity in their cultural language, ie addressing prayers to Greek Gods in Greek, or mantras to Hindu deities in Sanskrit. While this maybe possible in some cases, as language is a human invention as a means of communication, many have evolved over time so would a devotee address Demeter, Hermes or Zeus in ancient or modern Greek? Surely being divine beings, deity (in whatever guise we mortals attach to them), have the ability to transcend language. Beckett offers examples of his experience as an American devotee of the Celtic God Cernunnos in his aforementioned blog.

Probably one of the more important comments Beckett makes is the reminder that there IS POWER in ritual language, especially if you are using something that taps into the collective unconscious that has been built up since its initial use. For example, the Latin Mass or the Islamic Call to Prayer. At the end of the day, ritual language does not need to be foreign or archaic, but you should know what the words means and when spoken, that your intent is appropriate. If you are going to use non-English words in your rituals, then put some effort into pronouncing them correctly.

Within contemporary witchcraft there is one such chant that debate still ensues today as to its meaning, and that is what is often referred to as “The Bagabi Incantation”:

Bagahi laca bachahé,
Lamac cahi achabahé,

Karrelyos.
Lamac lamec bachalyos,
Cabahagi sabalyos,

Baryolas.
Lagozatha cabyolas,
Samahac et famyolas,

Harrahya.

In the 1970s Michael Harrison allegedly examined the etymology and concluded that the words derived from the old Basque language, and was in effect some kind of witch rallying cry to gather for the work of the slaughter and harvest before feasting. Harrison provided a possible English interpretation:

Kill (or the Feast) in November; kill!
I shall transport thee there myself,
and without the aid of a sieve,
to scour the plates and dishes with sand:
work (which must be done) with those plates and dishes.
(We shall meet our friends) ready for the drinking-cup
if they shall go (to the Feast), their bellies full with
quaffing from the drinking-cup.
O Sons (of the Master) with your Families (shout His praises with the cry)’.
‘HURRAHYA’!

More recently, Sorita d’Este and David Rankine concluded that the Bagabi incantation had no actual linguistic equivalent in any language, barbarous version in grimoires, or old magickal papyri, and as such, “considering the villain in the original tale of Theophilus is a Jewish Magician, it is possible that the Bagabi is in fact a corrupted Hebrew Chant.”

Alternatively, it may have originated from a 13th century French religious drama, Le Miracle de Théophile by the Trouvère Rutebeuf that “refers to the legendary history of St Theophilus of Adana, who according to traditional saints’ legends made a pact with the Devil and repented of it … This play is the original source of an influential invocation to the Devil (in an unknown language) … given to the character Salatin … labelled a sorcerer.” The words that Salatin used to invoke the devil are those of the Bagabi incantation.

For those contemporary witchcraft practitioners who have used the Bagabi incantation in their rites, experiences similar to the Thelemic concept of the Barbarous Names of Power have been recorded. Aleister Crowley advised that “the most potent conjurations are those in an ancient and perhaps forgotten language, or even those couched in a corrupt and possibly meaningless jargon.” When used in evocation, barbarous names serve the purpose of exalting the mind from the vulgar world through a release from rational, discursive thought. They are used as a mechanism for provoking ecstatic consciousness, and therefore further indicating the power that language has within magical ritual.