Our Coven Is Recruiting

Today we celebrate May Eve, one of the most magical Sabbats bringing new life, inspiration, and enchantment into our world – mundane and occult alike.

This is also the season when our Coven begins a new period of recruitment and so we welcome membership applications from those sincerely interested in Traditional English Witchcraft and the Old Ways.

If you came across our website wishing to find like-minded people to honor the Old Gods with, celebrate the Sabbats in the truly magical way – outdoors – and study Traditional Witchcraft of England and the Cotswolds, then perhaps this might be a sign for You.

We are a friendly, supportive group of individuals deeply interested in the old witchcraft practices and dedicated to honoring the Gods, our ancestors, and the Spirits of the land. We are very practically oriented and welcome all those who not only love to read and learn, but also to get out in the nature and live what they believe in.

We are happy to consider applications from those new to our Path as well as from those who have been walking it for a long time but miss the powerful experiences that working in a group offers.

Although we never charge for teaching or membership, we ask for and value commitment in our members. We look for the willingness to learn, do some memorization and those who are prepared to attend Coven meeting at least once a month.

If this appeals to you, please feel free to contact us at thecotswoldcoven@gmail.com.

Bright Blessings and Merry May Eve,

Veronika

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The Snowshill Manor Chest

chest 2Some of us have been to Snowshill Manor on more than one occasion and we all know of the secret room hidden in the roof.  For those who are unaware of both the place and the secret room here is a brief note:  Charles Wade purchased the manor just after World War 1 and as a trained architect with a family fortune, restored the manor from a dilapidated state and subsequently lived there.  There is much to say about Charles Wade and even more to say about his interests but this goes beyond the scope of my article.

When Charles Wade decided to retire to his family estate in the Caribbean, he made the extraordinary decision to leave both the manor and his vast collection of antiques to the National Trust.   The Trust began an inventory of the manor on Mr Wade’s departure and discovered a small hidden room in the roof in part of the main building.

In the secret room was a small collection of items of a witchcraft / occult nature.  No mention of this place had been made to the Trust about the room by Mr Wade and the National Trust -ultra conservative then and now, were horrified at the discovery.

At this time Cecil Williamson (of Boscastle fame) was running a witchcraft museum in Bourton on the Water, a small town a few miles away from Snowshill.  The Trust contacted him and requested that he take a look, he confirmed the occult nature of the secret room’s contents and to both his delight and surprise, was asked by the Trust to take away all the contents free of charge.

The museum in Bourton on the Water did not last long, the locals hated it and, Christianity still being strong in the 1950’s, saw the place as celebrating evil.

Cecil moved his collection to Cornwall and some of the items from the secret room are in the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, Cornwall to this day.

I have seen some of these items and do not find them to have a particularly ‘witchcraft’ theme.  But, although self-described ‘showman’ Cecil certainly made more out of the discoveries than was justified, there was undoubtedly some kind of ritual activity going on in the room.  I know this from private discussions with Snowshill Manor staff who are tacitly forbidden from speaking about the room.  To this day, the public are not permitted to see the room.  I have not seen the room except the tiny window which is the only obvious clue to its existence.  Furthermore, the entrance can only be accessed by a ladder.  Members of staff have privately told me that within the room the walls are decorated with hand painted ‘Kabbalistic’ symbols they believe were painted by Wade for ritual purposes.  It should be noted that Wade was very familiar with astrology and interested in the way the rooms aligned with astrological aspects – on one or two doors in the house there are astrological sigils intricately made of metal by Wade.

But the title of this article is the ‘Snowshill Manor Chest’.  There are lots and lots of chests in the Manor, however the chest referred to here is the chest that was in the secret room and taken away by Cecil Williamson in the 1950’s.  He described as a chest containing ritual clothing /costume, but there is no evidence of any such clothing being in the box when Cecil obtained it.

The magnificent chest resided intact in the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle until 2004.  Then in August of that year and immense flood hit the village and swept through the museum destroying many artefacts and sweeping some into the sea – one item was found washed up on the coast of South Wales!  The chest was damaged to such an extent that now only the front survives.  I would have liked to have seen the complete chest, but never have.  I would also like to have seen the extent of the damage to the chest before the front was removed and the rest discarded!   To my mind, this must have been by far the very best item from the hidden room.  Here are some photographs:

 

 

Fire of Azrael

fire of azrael

Azrael is the Cabbalistic Angel of Death in a positive aspect as consoler and comforter who assists an individual through the transition between life and death. His fire in this sense is a link to the ‘otherworld‘ of the spirits and through which they may communicate.

Many years ago we held a retreat at an old farmhouse in the English Lake District.  The farmhouse was over 400 years old and in a very remote valley – ideal for a retreat.  It was there that for the first time we constructed a ‘Fire of Azrael’   I had read about this strange divinatory fire in Dion Fortune’s book ‘The Sea Priestess’ ( I have read all Dion Fortune’s novels, most are a good read, this one, for me wasn’t), like most of her novels there are numerous occult references and layers of meaning which do not necessarily become obvious on a first reading.  The heroine:

‘took the poker in her hand and pushed the flaming driftwood to either side, and in the hollow center thus left she piled the woods of the Fire of Azrael. Then we sat and watched them take the flame. And in those hours while the tide rose there was delivered to me things whereof but few have dreamed and fewer still have known, and I learned why Troy was burnt for a woman‘.

Dion Fortune’s ‘recipe’ consists of cedar, sandalwood and juniper.  We added Fuga Daemonum to make sure nothing unwanted turned up.  The juniper we collected in the hills where it grows wild, cedar we cut from a branch of a Cedar of Lebanon growing in a village near Coventry …which still grows there to this day… and the sandalwood we purchased from a supplier of incense ingredients – this was expensive and so was less in quantity than the other three ingredients.  All the woods are resinous and so lighting them is easy. Once the flames begin to flare up, gaze into the fire and let your mind focus on what you see without any effort – don’t TRY to see anything, just let it happen, enjoy the beauty of the fire and relax.

This can be performed both robed or sky-clad. We didn’t light it on a beach but in the ancient and massive stone, candle-lit, hearth. As the fire sprung to life the sounds of the crackling woods, the scents of resins they contained and the colours of the flames was a truly strange and wonderful sight.  I have always enjoyed looking into a fires flickering flames and as the fire dies down the embers continues to dance and glow in the heat.  We saw strange things that night and I would recommend that you try it!

Anointing Oil – an old recipe

The witches that Gerald Gardner encountered back in the 1930’s had a simple recipe for anointing oil: In Gerald’s words, here it is:

“I have been shown a recipe for anointing oil.  This consisted of vervain, or mint crushed and steeped in olive oil or lard, left overnight, then squeezed through a cloth to remove the leaves.  Fresh leaves were then added and the squeezing repeated three or four times until it was strongly scented and ready to use”.

Vervain is easily grown, but in these days of chemicals everywhere killing everything that doesn’t make money, it isn’t easy to find in the wild like it used to be in Gerald’s day.  You can buy a packet of vervain seeds – but it must be ‘verbena officinalis’ and not any other variety as this is the wild one traditionally used by witches.  If you want to use mint instead, use bergamot mint as the smell is wonderful!

As to lard ………this has always been a traditional base for ‘flying ointments’, but olive oil is better (sweet almond oil could also be used) and the recipient will not have to worry that he or she has been covered in melted animal fat!

Simple Candle Making

candle

There are a variety of methods which may be employed to make candles. This article outlines the most common method which is both simple and economical.

 

Equipment:

  • Wax
  • Stearin
  • Moulds – plastic or flexible – or metal
  • Wick
  • Colour

 

There are Five basic steps in making candles, these are:

 

  1. Mould preparation:

Select the mould you wish to use and makes sure that it is clean.  Cut a length of wick at least 4cm longer than the length of the mould.  Thread the wick through the hole in the mould and seal around the wick aperture with wax so that molten wax will not escape when poured in – some people us blue tack for this but a piece of warmed and pliable wax is best.  At the open end, lay a small stick across the top of the mould and tie the loose end around the stick – the wick should run centrally through the mould.

 

  1. Wax Melting:

‘Paraffin wax’ melts at well below the boiling point of water.  It is best – although not essential – to use two pans one pan inside the other.  The outer, larger pan is filled about half full with the inner pan inside it.  Place the wax in the inner pan and heat until molten then add the stearin (1 part stearin to 10 parts wax).  Stearin improves the burning quality of the candle but it is not essential to add it, if using pure beeswax instead of paraffin wax, leave the mixture pure and do not add stearin.

 

  1. Colouring:

Add a colour dye if required a little at a time until the required intensity of colour is achieved.  A candle fragrance could be added if required.

 

DO NOT ALLOW THE MIXTURE TO BOIL OR BUBBLE!

 

  1. Pouring:

Pour slowly (a lipped pan is best for this) and try to avoid any air bubbles.  Pour until the wax almost touches the wick rod.

 

  1. Removing from the mould:

As the wax cools it will contract slightly leaving a slight depression at the solidifying base – if necessary this can be topped up with a little more molten wax.   Once set, cut the knot from the wick end as close as possible to the knot so that there is sufficient wick left to light the candle.  Remove the wick rod/stick from the open end of the mould and extract the candle. Trim any excess wick from the base.   If the candle does not come out of the mould, place it in a refrigerator for 10 minutes or alternatively run hot water over the outside of the mould for about 30 seconds.

 

It is best to let your candle set for 24 hours before using.

Witch’s guide to Frankincense

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Green Hojari (frankincense) burning in an ancient Etruscan incense bowl

Frankincense is an aromatic resin that is obtained from various species of the Boswellia tree species. It is widely used in the West both in the world of the occult and Christianity.

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Frankincense (Boswellia) tree

The name ‘frankincense’ is from the French: ‘franc encense’ meaning incense of high quality. There are many types of frankincense some of which are poor quality. The finest frankincense comes from Oman.

The very finest frankincense is ‘Green Sultan Hojari’ and is very expensive and sometimes impossible to obtain outside the Middle East – occasionally it can be obtained from specialist suppliers lucky enough to have contacts in Oman who have access to this precious commodity.

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‘tear drops’ of Green Sultan Hojari, just 10g costs around £25

Royal Green Hojari is undoubtedly the next best – it is expensive, but nowhere near as expensive as ‘Green Sultan’.

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Royal Green Hojari – price around £20 for 25g

There is also a Silver Hojari or ‘White’, but Green is superior in aroma. Silver is a good general quality grade.

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Silver Frankincense granules

Most commonly sold is the lower grade frankincense. The aroma is nothing like the finest grades, but for general use is far more economical. This grade is also ideal for use as a ‘base’ for incense blends; of course, you could use Green Sultan, but it would be like mixing the finest French wine with Pepsi …..somewhat of a waste!

Red Frankincense is seldom seen, but its aroma is unlike most frankincense varieties almost like musk.

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Red Frankincense ‘teardrops’

Black Frankincense is generally greyish in colour rather than black, the scent is good, but does not compare to the highest grades. It is usually exported – the Arabs buy green.

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Black Frankincense granules.

So, to sum up: VERY occasionally treat yourself to Royal Sultan Hojari if you can find and afford it, use Royal Green Hojari when you need to smell very high-quality frankincense or maybe for that special ritual. Use Red or Black when you want something different from your frankincense collection and the general quality for everyday rituals, esbats and blending.

….and finally, I suppose I should say something about how to burn it. You can use incense charcoal disks for all grades of frankincense, but maybe with Sultan and Royal Green, you may wish to treat it with the utmost respect by burning it the Japanese way with odourless charcoal covered with rice stalk ash and with a mica place resting on the ash upon which to place a small amount of this green treasure. This is the best way to burn incense if you wish to go to the trouble – many incense lovers in Arab countries use electric incense burners, but for me, this just lacks some ancient and special quality – a bit like the difference between the light of a full moon and an electric street lamp, although to be fair, it works just as well as the Japanese method and is easier.

Check out our supplier lists here!

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Roman lady with child making an offering of incense to the Gods