Founded in 1971 by Elizabeth Pepper, the art director of Gourmet magazine for many years, The Witches' Almanac is a witty, literate, and sophisticated publication that appeals to general readers as well as hard-core Wiccans. At one level, it is a pop reference that will fascinate anyone interested in folklore, mythology, and culture, but at another, it is the most sophisticated and wide-ranging annual guide available today for the mystical enthusiast.
Modeled after the Old Farmers' Almanac, it includes information related to the annual Moon calendar (weather forecasts and horoscopes) as well as legends, rituals, herbal secrets, mystic incantations, interviews, and many a curious tale of good and evil. Although it is an annual publication, only about 15 percent of the content is specific to the date range of each issue.
The Witches' Almanac features more than 140 pages of interesting and timeless articles about witchcraft, magic, herbalism, charms, spells, and related topics written by authors from the witchcraft and magical communities. The theme of Issue 36 (Spring 2017 - Spring 2018) is Water: Our Primal Source. Included are "The Coffin Ring," "A Beekeeper's Year," "The Margate Grotto," "Speaking in Tongues," "Poppets," and "Thomas the Rhymer."
About the Author
Theitic is a notable member of the occult community. He became editor;publisher of The Witches' Almanac Ltd. upon the death of founder Elizabeth Pepper in 2005.
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The Witches' Almanac
By The Witches' Almanac Ltd.
THE WITCHES' ALMANAC, LTD.Copyright © 2016 The Witches' Almanac, Ltd.
All rights reserved.
A Hymn in Praise of Neptune
Of Neptune's empire let us sing,
At whose command the waves obey;
To whom the rivers tribute pay,
Down the high mountains sliding:
To whom the scaly nation yields
Homage for the crystal fields
Wherein they dwell:
And every sea-god pays a gem
Yearly out of his wat'ry cell
To deck great Neptune's diadem.
The Tritons dancing in a ring
Before his palace gates do make
The water with their echoes quake,
Like the great thunder sounding:
The sea-nymphs chant their accents shrill,
And the sirens, taught to kill
With their sweet voice,
Make ev'ry echoing rock reply
Unto their gentle murmuring noise
The praise of Neptune's empery.
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
by Timi Chasen
IRON OF THE SKY. The treasure trove of King Tutankhamun was filled with dozens of stunningly gorgeous and priceless artifacts. Many were hand crafted by the greatest smiths and jewelers a pharaoh could find, but it appears at least one of ol' Tut's implements may have first fallen from the heavens.
An already priceless dagger found in the collection, resting upon the boyking's thigh and obviously forged by a master bladesmith, appears to have begun as a venerable piece of meteorite. The blade itself is a combination of iron, nickel and cobalt only found in those pieces of metal which have literally fallen from the sky.
Iron meteorites, though certainly rare, were not unknown to the ancient Egyptians. Around the same time the fireball fell from the stratosphere, a composite hieroglyph began occurring in papyri and inscriptions from the region: "Iron of the Sky." Conveniently the ancients kept detailed historical records, so much so that a combined team of modern Egyptian and Italian researchers had at least twenty documented cases of meteorites making landfall in the land of Khem from which to choose. Eventually, advanced technology was able to confirm its composition to match that of the Kharga meteorite, which landed on a plateau near a seaport approximately 150 miles west of Alexandria.
IS THAT A COIN IN YOUR POCKET? In the remote village of Holmavik rests the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft. Dedicated to preserving some of the weirder aspects of Icelandic history, the museum exhibits various examples of sorcerous rune carvings, mesmerizing sigil parchments and mysterious spell relics from the region, many of them centuries old. Never seen a runic storm charm made from an imposing fish skull? That will be remedied if one stops on by.
The museum's most talked-about attraction is an odd set of pants. Called Necropants, these gruesome slacks were made from human skin and are said to impart wealth and power to their wearer. In life, a person would have made a pact with a sorcerer, bequeathing their lower hide upon death for certain favors. Then, in a complex post-mortem ceremony, the wizard would have carved and peeled the pants from their corpse while using as few cuts as possible. After donning the pants, the sorcerer would insert a special coin in the ahem front pouch of the trousers in order to ensure riches came their way. In addition to the pair of grisly undergarments, the museum also hosts a curious stone bowl used to worship the Old Norse Gods, with DNA evidence confirming its use in ritual animal sacrifice — interestingly, the only Norse ritual artifact of its kind so far found with concrete proof of such practices.
NEW HOME FOR OLD GODS. Still north but about 1300 miles east, animal sacrifices to the Norse Gods is precisely how the newly-built Valheim Hof of Denmark opened its doors in May 2016. A temple to Odin and all of the deities of the Old Norse Pantheon, this beautiful wooden structure rises in three tiers surrounded by trees, with a carved dragon head adorning each roof peak.
The opening ceremony involved a sacrifice of nine roosters to the All-Father which were consumed as part of a sacred meal, as well as songs, prayers and supplications to the Gods. Both the Speaker of the Danish Parliament and its Minister of Integration were in attendance, causing a bit of controversy among the more staunchly conservative members of the local government.
The Hof opens up into a beautiful rustic wooden hall with exposed beams and carved wooden accents. A glorious tribute and working temple dedicated to the Deities of old.
UPON THIS ROCK I CARVE MY CHURCH. Though many temples have been built, re-built and renovated over the centuries, very few if any have been carved from a single block of stone. Just such a temple was constructed over 1200 years ago at the behest of Krishna I of the Rashtrakuta Dynasty. Known as the Kailash Temple, this massive feat of artistic engineering was carved from the top down using only basic hand tools and chisels, with humans and elephants slowly removing over 400,000 tons of stone within the course of two decades. The magnificent multi-tiered result is as impressive as it is stunningly beautiful.
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the fane includes dozens of inspired representations and illustrated sagas of the deity and attendant animal allies such as sacred bulls and elephants, as well as friezes and statues of other personalities within the pantheon. All of it was executed in exquisite detail with extreme care by brilliant artisans and craftspeople. As if that weren't enough reason to visit, Kailash is merely a single portion of a much larger temple complex known as the Ellora Caves, where 34 other ancient monasteries and temples reside.
CAVE OF WONDER Neanderthals have been getting a bad rap for decades now, stereotyped by most folks to be little more than knuckle-dragging brutes. However, new evidence found at the base of the French Pyrenees may prove them to have had a spiritual side as well.
An ancient rockslide had obscured the entrance to a narrow cave which may contain evidence of religious worship dating deep into the Pleistocene Era. The cave, hidden over 1,100 feet deep underground, consisted of hundreds of stalactite pieces (they kept most of the stalagmites intact), carefully broken and arranged in a series of rings. Throughout the cave there was also evidence of numerous fires and the bones of bears and other animals arranged in neat piles, in a manner hinting at religious reverence.
The astonishing age of the structure's limestone formations came about through a special technique of uranium dating, able to pinpoint the time the stalactites were broken off of the ceiling, since carbon dating processes apparently lack accuracy for determining the age of anything older than 50,000 years. How old did the stalactites turn out to be through this process — 175,000 years or so, give or take a millennium or two, making it well more than 100,000 years older than the earliest cave paintings we've ever found. The only hominids anywhere near the area at that time were, you guessed it, Neanderthals.
GREEN DRAGON KINGDOM. Bhutan, a landlocked country residing on the Eastern end of the Himalayan range, is known for its graceful Buddhist temples and breathtaking mountain landscapes. Now, it is coming to be known as the only carbon negative developing country in the world. This is due to both to its strict environmental laws as well as scores of its caring citizens. Apparently, approximately 72 percent of the entire country is forested, with measures built into the constitution ensuring that at least 60 percent will remain wild and unmolested.
In addition, the country's inhabitants are more than willing to plant trees en masse. A team of 100 Bhutanese, in honor of the 60th birthday of their 4th Dragon King who abdicated the throne to his son, broke a world record by planting 49,672 trees in one hour. More recently 82,000 households planted trees in honor of the current Dragon Queen's first child.
It is said the kingdom of approximately 750,000 people produces about 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year, while its extensive mountainous woodlands have the ability to nullify the impact of over four times that amount.
SOL COUGHING. Scientists have been paying close attention to some dark spots on the Sun's surface recently. Called coronal holes, these massive discolorations can only be spotted with specialized infrared technology and apparently have the potential to cause some serious damage.
Generally, our nearest star's perpetual nuclear combustion creates a series of magnetic fields which tend to loop up and then back down toward its surface. What has NASA worried is that these coronal holes appear to be instances where those fields are instead shot out into the void. Considering the potency of these expulsions, astronauts fear they may actually damage life-supporting equipment and communications in space, while some scientists worry that if sent out at the right trajectory, these runaway magnetic fields may also seriously damage satellite and communication technology here on Earth.
Unfortunately, only time will tell if Sol's less stable manifestations will cause problems for our friendly explorers of the stars. Until then, "Houston" has their eyes peeled. Let us hope these emanations disrupt little more than a stray Twitter feed or two.
The Blessed Raven
A tale of a talking head and a cauldron
THE STORY of Bendigeidfran (Bran the Blessed or more literally The Blessed Raven) is one of the fantastical happenings of an ancient divinely bred king, a giant of stature and ability, his regenerative magical cauldron and his prophetic disembodied head.
As related by the storytellers of Ancient Prydain, Bran the Blessed wished to forge an alliance with the Island of Erin (Ireland) and so gave his sister Branwen in betrothal to Matholwch the King of Ireland. Now Bran the Blessed in his hubris failed to consult his half-brother Efnisien. On hearing of his exclusion from such an important decision, Efnisien became enraged. As the wedding feast ensued, he stole away from festivities and maimed the horses of the Irish king Matholwch in revenge of the slight. Efnisien's actions were such an offense that Bran the Blessed had no choice but to offer the Irish king his most prized possession, his wondrous magical cauldron, in reparation. Matholwch though vexed accepted the compensation and set off to his homeland with his new wife in tow and an apparent alliance in place.
Matholwch arrived back in Erin satisfied with the apology, however his court and people would not forget so easily the insults hoisted upon the King and the people of Erin. However, time would bide the issue for a bit. Several years passed and the sister of Bran the Blessed bore to Matholwch and the people of Erin a prince who was given the name Gwern. With an heir procured for the people of Erin, Matholwch was reminded of the insult visited on him at the court of Bran and was soon persuaded to banish Branwen from the court to work as a scullery maid in the kitchens. To further the insult to the high born Branwen, each day she was beaten and her ears boxed by the butcher.
Matholwch decreed that no man should be allowed to travel to Prydain, for fear and as an assurance that news of Branwen's mistreatment would not reach Bran the Blessed's court. Branwen in her desperation trained a starling to carry news to her brother. Bran was indeed angered when the starling relayed the message and immediately gathered his army to cross to Erin. Now such was Bran the Blessed's stature that there was not a boat that could accommodate his great size, so he waded across the sea alongside his retinue.
Matholwch's sentinels saw a great shape making its way towards Erin and warned the king of the approaching danger. The King of Erin immediately knew the Giant of Prydain was coming to avenge his sister, so Matholwch and his court made their way to the west of the great island retreating for fear of their fate at the hands of the giant. The mighty forces of Bran the Blessed pursued the King of Erin's retinue, crossing all the mighty rivers of Erin, even the Linon River. Matholwch set his magicians to work, enchanting the river with a lodestone to drag any passing ship into the depths. Bran the Blessed read the omens and immediately stretched his giant body across the Linon bank to bank so his men could march over him, cornering the Irish king and his court.
At last cornered, Matholwch sued for peace and offered to abdicate in favor of his son and Bran's nephew, Gwern. Bran accepted the terms of peace, additionally insisting that a great public celebration should take place and the people of Erin should build a great house that could not only host a grand feast but accommodate Bran the Blessed's great stature. Matholwch and his advisors quickly agreed and set the feast.
The court of Matholwch convinced him to again complicate the situation. They would place one hundred soldiers in leather sacks and hang them like bags of flour from the pillars of the great hall, thus planning a surprise attack once the feast had begun. These assassins would jump out and murder Bran as he ate. Efnisien immediately saw through the ploy and immediately questioned the contents of the sacks. Feeling the head of a man within one he pinched it, crushing the assassin's skull. He gave all one hundred sacks the same treatment until all the would-be murderers were dispatched, telling no one of the actual contents. In one final act of retribution, again haste driven by rage, Efnisien thrust Gwern the newly crowned king of Erin into the great fire set in the hearth of the hall, killing the boy.
The battle that ensued was indeed a bloody one and the soldiers of Erin would have been defeated readily, save for the magicians of Matholwch's court. They knew the secret of the magic cauldron gifted to their king by Bran the Blessed. It was the Cauldron of Rebirth, reanimating the lifeless bodies of the fallen soldiers once they were placed into the cauldron. But even the cauldron could not save the men of Erin, for in an act of contrition Efnisien threw himself into the cauldron and pushed with all his might against the sides, bursting the cauldron and sacrificing himself. Only the dead could go into the Cauldron of Rebirth, the living had no place in it. Bran the Blessed's retinue were victorious, killing the entirety of Erin save seven pregnant women who would be the future of the now defeated Kingdom of Erin.
While Bran the Blessed's retinue were victorious, celebration was not to be had. There were only seven surviving from Prydain and the great giant had been wounded with a dolorous blow to the heel by a poisoned spear. Bran the Blessed survived long enough to request his head be cut off and be taken back to his homeland. It was then that the men of Prydain realized Bran was indeed of the otherworld. His disembodied head instructed them to bring his head back to Caer-Lundein (London) where they would bury it in Gwynfryn (The White Mount). There, his head would protect Prydain for eternity, as long as it remained undisturbed.
Though an enormous retinue had travelled to Erin, only eight returned with the head, one of which was Branwen. When Branwen reached Prydain she died of the great grief she carried in her heart. The head of Bran the Blessed gave one further instruction to the brave seven; they were to retire to Harlech. They did so and for seven years the head of Bran continued to provide them with stories and prophecy, the seven men not perceiving the passing of time. This continued until at last one of the men opened the eastward facing door, immediately realizing that their charge must be completed.
The seven made their way to Caer-Lundein and buried the head in the White Mount facing the continent. There it stayed protecting Prydain until Arthur's arrogance would have otherwise.
Thus ends the story of the giant Bran the Blessed.
Story retold by –Gwion Vran
Excerpted from The Witches' Almanac by The Witches' Almanac Ltd.. Copyright © 2016 The Witches' Almanac, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission of THE WITCHES' ALMANAC, LTD..
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