Introduction

I am brother to dragons
and companion to owls

(Old Testament, Job 29:30)

Many people are drawn, these days, to the idea of witchcraft. Some seek religious freedom, some wish for magical powers, some wish to reawaken the ancient links with our Mother Earth, or seek healing of both body and spirit.

Some wish to be part of covens, to share ceremonies and regular meetings with like-minded folk in the comfort of their own homes. Others, however, have heard wilder music, playing to an older beat, and wish to reunite with Mother Nature, alone, out of doors, under the light of the stars and changing moonlight, in a simpler way. It is for those people I am writing this book. Those who seek covens have been well served by recent publications and they will find the contacts they require if they look diligently, but others who do not wish to join with a group, or cannot because of their work or family commitments, those who wish to master the ancient arts of magic, the personal pagan faith, the various ancient crafts alone, may need this guidance.

The solo occult path is a traditional one, following in the footsteps of the oracle, the hermit, the shaman or Druid priest. Even those who are able to share the festivals and healing rites with others may wish to develop their personal spiritual dimensions, gaining self-confidence and power as an individual witch as well as a member of a coven. But the solo path in any study is hard, and that which leads through the hidden worlds of witchcraft perhaps even more so, because it is dealing with intangible things, with 'inner worlds', with gods and goddesses, and ancient myths and magic.

Much of the work involves dealing with symbols, with mysterious forces, and seeing with illuminated vision things invisible to the ordinary, waking eye. Beginners will have to get used to dealing with the past, and the future, or aligning themselves with a new pattern of celebrations and milestones in the turning year, with the phases of the moon and with their own inner tides. They will have to make contact with the gods and goddesses, but they will find that the Mighty Ones are gentle, treating those nervously taking their first tentative steps into the world of magic as delicate chicks or small children. It does not mean that they are always so mild, and the student will soon discover their fiercer faces can be shown to protect or ward off interference. The kindliest goddess can still scold her children if their demands are excessive.

The purpose of this book is to show those who seek an alternative way that they may worship the pagan deities on their own, that they may master the ancient arts and magical crafts, just as their ancestors may have done. We may be living in a 'global village', but it still has a need for its traditional servants, the modern equivalent of a tinker, tailor, butcher, baker and candlestick-maker. It will need a healer who can see beyond the confines of the body and the limitations of a single symptom. It will need someone to set out the rituals which mark the times and tides; it will need a clairvoyant to plan for the future, and one with vision, who can look back into the far past and recover from that source lost wisdom for the waiting world.

Only the witch-finders said, 'Thou canst not be a witch alone!' History shows that each community had its own wise woman, calling her midwife, prophet, herbalist or comforter. Some of these were accused of crimes, tried and executed. Most were innocent, for those with the true knowledge kept their secrets, knew the future and took care to be hidden if the inquisitors came along. Their knowledge has not been lost; it has been hidden, forgotten and overlooked among many fragments of country life.

Among the half-remembered customs, traditional tales, old songs, folk plays and dances are the keys to a great store of wisdom, unwritten lore and magical arts. To reopen that storehouse may be a simple matter for those with common sense, and an enquiring mind. Those who care for the world, who honour Nature and wish for healing and harmony, those are the people who may rediscover the Earth Mother and inherit her bounty in this modern world.

All traditional crafts and magical skills have to be learned alone, for they are the technologies of the trained mind, the awakened heart, the keen eye, able to see other worlds than this. The religion of the newborn pagan has to come from the heart too, for there is no book, no dogma, no appointed priesthood to interpret scriptures written on the wind. The Old Ones are immanent; they are kindly although they have been miscalled, ignored, forgotten and maligned by followers of a newer faith. They do hear our prayers, give inspiration, offer consolation and guidance, and bless us with wholeness, if we ask them patiently and sincerely.

We have to seek them out in their old territory, the woods and downs, the high hills and the river valleys, on mountain peaks and in secret caves. Their voices may be heard on the wind, in the cries of birds, and the laughter of falling water. To know them is an individual quest for they have no man-made dwellings, they are too great to be contained in four walls. They are sunlight and moonshine, starlight and the inner light that shines from the newly kindled fire within each one who walks in their ways. Their worship is joy and rejoicing and their rituals are freedom of the spirit, dancing in harmony with Nature, life-long to a peaceful end. Their benediction is in quiet rain which will bring cleansing, and in starlight, which will bring hope, and in the light of the moon which will offer inner vision to those who wish to see.

What I am writing is not 'gospel', it is not holy writ carved on tablets of stone, but a treasure trove of ideas, gleaned from the fields of life over many years. Working with various pagan and witch teachers, with healers and folk-herbalists, with ordinary country folk long steeped in traditional lore, I have gathered all sorts of experiences over the last thirty or so years. From these I have tried to set out a pattern of training, of practical exercises, of mental and psychic arts which can help any individual find a way to the doors of 'Witchdom', and a path to the feet of the Goddess, from whom, ultimately, all knowledge, magic and power flows.

This is not an easy path to follow, nor is it for all. Those who set out upon the hidden ways need to desire that secret knowledge, long for it in their hearts, yearn for it in their souls, and be willing, in turn, to offer continuing personal dedication, commitment and love. It is not a religion anyone should be forced to follow by outsiders, but an internal upwelling of feeling of belonging to the Earth Mother and her consort, the Lord of the Wild. Worship and prayer should be natural experiences, becoming a regular part of all witches' daily life, as each one actually comes to know the forms of the Great Ones, their wisdom and power to change our lives. Like all human relationships, there has to be a coming together, a recognition of kinship, and an on-going desire to strengthen and renew that unity. Without these inner urges acts of ritual, of magic and of seasonal celebration are sham, and worthless in the eyes of the Eternal.

If you feel drawn to the old ways, to the rediscovery of abilities you have overlooked in this modern world, to a religious experience which offers direct and personal revelation to aspects of deities you will come to know, then perhaps the lessons and ideas set forth in this book will be helpful. It is only a guide book, a map of a possible journey, a description of what someone else has seen and felt. You will have to make the journey for yourself, being aware of your own circumstances, commitments to job and family, allocation of time and other resources.

None of the paths of magic leads away from the world, setting you free from life's troubles at a stroke; they lead you deeper in. They show you with unveiled eyes the reality of situations, relationships, and the need to come to grips with your own problems and solve them. The inner worlds are not an escape, but a harsh training school where the will is forged, the soul laid bare to the light of Truth, and any weaknesses shown clearly by the wisdom of the ages.

There will be many strange ideas to examine, many ancient arts to rediscover, much lore and folk tale, myth and symbol to be assimilated before it can be used. Magic offers many paradoxes, and you will undergo 'culture shocks' as your growing powers, abilities and sensitivity develop.

At the end of each chapter you will find a list of books to read, but these are by no means the only books worth looking at. Seek out others by the same authors or on the same subjects. It is possible that brand new titles which will help with your build-up of knowledge are being published now, so be willing to write to the various publishers and request their most up-to-date catalogues, or go on their mailing lists. Use your public library, requesting them to order some of the rarer or older books which may now be out of print. Don't scorn book learning, but don't imagine either that it holds all the wisdom you need.

You will also find, both in each chapter and at the end, some practical exercises for you to try. This is a matter for serious commitment, not just a skimmed read-through. Magic is at its most demanding and dangerous when it is dabbled with, so either try hard to work through the series of exercises in order, or ignore them altogether until you are ready.

Many of them, like the mental exercises of Meditation in its various forms, Creative Visualization or Inner Journeying, Concentration, and understanding Symbols, are studies which will continue throughout your magical career, if you become willing to do the on-going work. Although these are taught here within an occult framework, you will discover that they are equally valuable in the everyday world. If you can visualize it will aid your memory, if you can meditate you will be able to find calm in frantic moments, if you can concentrate you can solve all problems.

Ideally you should set aside a regular half-an-hour every day to study, read or try out the various old arts. Some of those periods ought to be out of doors, if only in a garden or park, so that you can learn about Mother Nature, sense her moods and changes. Some exercises can be shared with friends, some really do need a companion, and others are best tried alone. Do your best, and the gods will bless you.

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