Few words entice and incite like the word witchery. Thousands of selfidentified witches, pagans, and magical practitioners embrace the word, but seldom go beyond the practice of the wellaccepted and learned forms of "traditional" witchcraft to explore the path of oldwitchery. Orion Foxwood invites readers to walk on the path of oldstyle witchery, a naturebased practice that is as old as the swamps and as wild as the woods.
For the first time, Foxwood reveals some of his own deeply personal rituals and spells directly from his own grimoire of witchery; he highlights the differences (and similarities) between Wicca, "traditional" witchcraft, and old style witchery. By weaving his own path to witchery throughout the book, he gives readers examples of how to identify the way toward this path.
There is a revolution among the Pagan and Witchcraft communities, a movement away from prescribed ritual and neopagan practices and a reaching back toward what Foxwood says is in the heart of any true witch: a thundering call deep within their very blood to become a healer, a reckoner, a protector of magical arts, and a guardian of the wild woods.
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About the Author
Raven Grimassi is a neo-pagan scholar and the author of 17 books about witchcraft and the occult, including Old World Witchcraft. He is an avid researcher on folklore and folk magic practices, particularly in European cultures. He is currently the codirector of Elder of the Ash, Birch and Willow System of Old World Witchery. Visit him at www.ravengrimassi.net.
Read an Excerpt
The Flame in the Cauldron
A Book of Old-Style Witchery
By ORION FOXWOOD, Martin Bridge
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2015 Orion Foxwood
All rights reserved.
A VIEW ON TRADITIONAL WITCHCRAFT AND ITS PRACTICES
How do you destroy that which was never created?
This quote was shared with me when I was seventeen or eighteen years old and still living outside of Winchester, Virginia by a witch with whom I studied briefly, along with her husband who came to Virginia to visit their son who also lived there. Their practices were similar in feel to some of the spirit work I already knew from the conjuring, spirit-doctoring, and root-doctoring of Virginia and further south, and so it was easy for me to understand their philosophies and even some of their techniques. But at my young age, they were fascinating since they were the first people I'd ever met who said without any doubt or hesitation that they were witches. I found their clarity and genuine spirits to be just the inspiration and permission I needed to release the witch within. I had been drawn to the concept of a witch for years, and I had practiced forms of localized folk magic and the witchery I had gleaned from books, but this was the beginning of encountering something that felt old, connected, powerful, and life-altering. They initiated my journey beyond the intellect and into my spirit through the heart and soul of witchery. For this I am eternally grateful.
Throughout this book, I will be referring to traditional or old-style witchcraft as "witchery" as both an abbreviated term and to denote practices and types of witchcraft that are less about ceremonial practices, codified books of shadows, and complex systems. All of these concepts have great value. I have worked them and loved what I encountered. However, this book is about what findings I have gleaned through work with many forms of witchcraft, and determined to be the core power of what I know as witchery, a philosophy and practice that has survived into the modern world and thrives. I have compared my findings with other old-style witches and they concur with the premise of my findings. This sharing is not for proving or disproving history or the findings of other witches, but does provide some potent insights that I know are useful in the practice of contemporary witchcraft. One of my early teachers in witchcraft once told me, "Take the traditions and tools of the witch's craft and work them, use them, and understand them, then cast them away as the feeble crutches that they are." This was very wise advice for me, as there is a power behind all of these things that is the true object and ultimate deity of the witch. For me, this power is witchery and its deity is the life force itself. It is the power that flows through everything and connects it in a visible and invisible web and thus it is the very tribe of life in all its aspects of creation, destruction, and regeneration, or as I say, "The seen, the unseen, and the thresholds in between."
Witchery is about going to that power through its attributes (instead of phonetic names and anthropomorphic images), techniques (skills), and spiritual powers (both within and without) to make change and leverage a state of change in ourselves and in our world. It is a practice that is best taught and mentored by an experienced witch, but is often encountered by the natural witch who may grow in it, albeit with risk, alone and through direct contact with the spirit world. Whether it is through mentorship, initiation into a lineated system of contacted witchery, or through direct encounter and engagement with the primal forces, today the ways of witchery have a prime directive, I believe. This directive can be elucidated in many ways. One of the best ways I have heard our directive stated was recently spoken in the pop culture HBO series True Blood by the witch character named Antonia: "We must restore the sacred power of creation to this wounded Earth." Wise teaching can be found in the strangest places.
Though I do not believe that the power of creation has left this very human-wounded Earth, I do believe it is quite damaged by our pollution and other toxic influences, all fueled by illusions of isolation and desire to control nature. I am concerned that our own relationship with the sacred power of creation is teetering on the edge of danger and that witchery is needed now more than ever to help save humanity from itself. For the old pagan witch, as opposed to other types, the power of creation is our God or Goddess (if we are to use these terms at all), and all of our beliefs and practices are focused on a conscious relationship with it. This power can be tapped and directed by the witch through his or her own nature and the spirit within all natural processes without any tool but themselves. The forces are not invoked; they are encountered. They are not created; they create. A relationship with them is not about coercion; it is about co-creation. Witchery practices go into and encounter the spirit world on its territory, without any tools but what is within, and what is made by nature's hand. Any tools other than one's spirit and the entry points into the rhythm and power of nature are to get us beyond the need for them and into direct contact and communion with the forces on the grey roads, which link the seen and unseen worlds.
Witchery includes some of the oldest and most chthonic forms of witchcraft, and it is focused on direct contact, mediation, and conscious creation with the deep abiding forces that are always present in nature and cannot be destroyed. These forces ultimately defy specific names and symbols and can only be encountered by sensitizing and synchronizing our awareness with their forces that are beyond forms and that dwell at the core and edge of creation. They are approached, encountered, and embodied through powerful and often disturbing techniques that require the witch to step inside these forces, be molded by them, and then the witch becomes a spirit in the human world, a creature of the threshold. This in turn releases from us powerful spiritual and magical forces that we can direct to help ourselves, humanity, and the rest of nature toward a better, more integrated, healed, and empowered life. For the sincere witch in any practice that is nature-based, I feel that they eventually come into the spirit of witchery through ritual, tools, imagery, and techniques to eventually step beyond all of these and develop the skills to encounter the Oldest of Gods (the powers of nature) directly.
The core of witchery is about tapping into a creative life-force that is ancient, non-human (though we are a part of it), intelligent, daunting, and disturbing at times, and has been the object of natural magic since the beginning of the human quest to understand and even manipulate these forces toward a safe, happy, and healthy life. The spirit beings of witchery show themselves in countless forms throughout the spiritual, mystical, and magical practices of every culture in the world in some form or another. In fact, it is because of this attribute that the witch, ultimately, can enter into any rite, temple, church, synagogue, or other tradition or physical place designed for encountering the forces of creation and basically be at home. There is no entry into the realms of spirit that is unknown or forbidden to the witch once they have encountered the spirits and powers of witchery. However, it is also because of this attribute that the witch is feared, because he or she cannot be bound to any specific religion while able to access knowledge and power from all of them. This attribute opens the shadowy road between the predictable and the unpredictable, the wild and the tamed, and the comforting and the disturbing for any non-witch that encounters us while they are still caught in the illusions of isolation and all of the dampers that result from it. The illusion of isolation is a concept that my spirit wife and I developed to understand the core wounds and challenges to the human spirit. These wounds are what we call "the dampers on the blue flame" of the soul.
I call these dampers because they dampen the vibrancy of the soul's aliveness, which in my practices is seen as a fountain of blue flame that rises from the center of our being. There are four dampers: 1) the illusion of isolation and associated abandonment pain or shame; 2) the desire to possess and associated control issues fueled by fear; 3) the resentment of change and associated terror of the rhythms of life; and lastly, 4) the desire for absolutes or the desperate attempts to make life predictable and beholden to our fears of abandonment (the first damper). I have also discussed these dampers in my book, The Candle and the Crossroads: a Book of Appalachian Conjure and Southern Root Work (Weiser Books, 2012). In all of the spiritual, mystical, and magical work I do, these core wounds and paradoxes must be addressed and healed. They are the first thing that shows up and in many forms from the shadow realms within as we energized the currents of conjure or witchery within us. I will discuss more about these in chapter 5.
These attributes are a part of the power and practices of the edge-walking, natural witch who has been feared and revered for centuries and who is the type of witch that is the topic of this book. Witchery can never be truly bound to a doctrine, system, or set of absolute dictates; yet it can draw magical potency from them all. Its power is as wild and powerful as nature herself and is always treading the edge between human and "other." This is not to infer that we are not deeply ethical, because we most certainly are. Because we witches understand that we are bound together in a web of living spirit, we are even more scrutinizing of our ethics because we know that our work shakes the very web in which we dwell. The worker of witchery knows that the toucher is touched. This is an old saying in witchery warning that all that we touch touches us back, or to say it as my mother would: "If you lay down with dogs, you'll get fleas." (No offense to wonderful dogs.) Needless to say, this wisdom far from lacks moral muscle. In fact, it provides the witch with a lens through which to discern all actions and reactions within the very web of life that is the witch's Goddess. And the spirits and magic we conjure also conjure us.
The wild magic of the witch leaves him or her outside the approval of established religions and beyond the choking grasp of the hands of consensus reality. For this very reason, we have been sought after for help while being ostracized for our freedom of spirit and powerful presence in the spirit world. Witchery does not suffer fools well. It does not allow us to simply believe. It requires our wisdom and powerful skills to be grown out of direct encounters and direct experience; the kind that fosters powerful and earth-shattering wisdom. Witchery has a built-in self-cleaning mechanism that requires us to be honest and powerfully present in our lives as embodied and spiritual beings. There are witches who proclaim themselves as part of this spirit current but only find their illusive power in social status, specified doctrines, and social prowess. Those who do this eventually find that the old power of witchery suffers no fools and will not be mocked or abused.
In my travels, I encounter many people who self-identify as "traditional" or "old-line" witches. They appear to have elegant systems, traditions (mostly modern), and liturgy, but this is not necessarily the same as witchery. Again, the forms may point in the direction of witchery, but it is not witchery itself. In my opinion, there are too many self-proclaimed traditional witches who have lost, or never contacted, the old current of witchery—one that never relied on orthodoxy, lineated politics, specified deity forms, self-proclamation, or the doctrines of another witch to give them the power of witchery. Albeit, I have met some "witches" of this type who have some old power, and many who just have words and bitchery. This, dear readers, does not give the real power of witchery. The power of witchery comes when we go deeply inside the very powers of witchery and are remade in the spirit of nature's own powers. Being "re-natured" in this way and encountering the "preconditioned" state of being is like inserting our spiritual, mental, and emotional fingers in a metaphorical electrical socket. We become either energetically electrocuted or spiritually and magically enlightened or empowered. Once this happens to the witch, he or she grows beyond the dampers on the blue flame. Then he or she gains a connection to and understanding of witchery that defies explanation, is ever-present, and has no need of defense, for its touch is obvious to all who encounter this type of witch. I know many fine elders in witchcraft, some living and many who have died, who distilled their wisdom and experience into the timeless potency of witchery often near the close of their lives. It is my intention to honor their work and my own in sharing the insights in this chapter with each of you.
I am aware that this approach to witchery may not always be popular, but I make no apologies. I only offer an invitation. I make no direct judgments, for that is the providence of the Gods. I only offer food for thought, which is a treasured commodity for those who walk the ways of witchery. Now, back to the quote referenced at the beginning of this chapter and how it speaks to the spirit and power of witchery. Let me tell you more about how LC came to share it with me.
Beyond the Forms
One day, after I had gotten off of work, LC and her husband invited me to sit in the lounge of the restaurant and have a drink (which was a Coca-Cola at that time) and talk about what I thought witchery was. I told them about the Virginia conjure-work practices and what the books told me defined a witch. Heretofore, my understanding of the witch entirely came from the limited books I read because I knew no seasoned pagan witches in the area where I lived. Rather, all the folk magic workers of my birth culture worked within a Christian framework. Though powerful, this still did not answer the call in my spirit. They smiled wisely, patiently, and somewhat supportively and said that none of the elements I was mentioning had the spirit of witchery in them except the folk magic (conjure) of my culture. Honestly, this put me off for a moment. How could the books be wrong?
I told them about what I had read, which included the specific ways of casting magical circles, use of specific tools and terms, ornately decorated robes, and liturgy, and they agreed that these were indeed aspects of witchcraft as it is practiced in its modern forms, and that these methods had power. However, they told me that someone wrote or developed these practices, and thus they could and would perish, unlike witchery, which was immortal. Witchery, to them, was not a way of life that could be written down and fully explained. It was alive, direct, and had to be experienced through what one might think of as a personal gnosis between the witch, nature, and its spirit world. This seemed vague and too nonspecific for my young mind and immature spirit. I was confused then and spent nearly another twenty years thereafter either dismissing their words as mere opinions or just not being mature enough in my spirit to understand what they meant. After years of reading, researching, experiencing, and learning from several teachers, I have circled back to all of LC's teachings and those of my other elders, such as Lady Circe, to understand the elegant simplicity of their wisdom. There is a saying in witchcraft, "For witches this is law; from where they enter, there they must withdraw." Perhaps my circling back to the simplicity I was first taught is reflective of the wisdom of this saying. Because now, through understanding and becoming the very spirit of witchery, I have left the intellectual quest as being the core of the path, and am now living in the direct experience of the life of witchery itself. What a gift it is to us all, and nature presents its teaching through the gospel of life every day. Nature is the ultimate grimoire for witchery. Nature is our original ancestor. The moon, Earth, sun, and stars are the pillars of its temple. The four winds of witchery are its ministers. The tapestry of nature's creations is its choir and the space and starlight are its ancestral parents. Only when man can destroy all of these is witchery in peril, and thus it is immortal. This immortality is at the center of what LC wanted me to understand and access.
Excerpted from The Flame in the Cauldron by ORION FOXWOOD, Martin Bridge. Copyright © 2015 Orion Foxwood. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
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Table of Contents
Foreword Raven Grimassi xv
The Witch Lives xix
Introduction: The Origins of My Witchery xxi
Chapter 1 A View on Traditional Witchcraft and Its Practices 1
Chapter 2 The Witch-Blood and the Witch-Knowing 25
Chapter 3 Treading the Mill of Magic 49
Chapter 4 Tapping the Essence 65
Chapter 5 The Living Gods of the Old Art 79
Chapter 6 The Conjuration of the Witch-Flame 99
Chapter 7 A Magical Meeting Place of Witchery, Faery, and Conjure 109
Chapter 8 Thoughts on the Usefulness of These Three Practices 117
Chapter 9 Recommendations to the Seeker 121
Chapter 10 Charms, Spells, Additional Teachings, and Other Workings 125
Recommended Reading 143