Founded in 1971 by Elizabeth Pepper, the long-time art director of Gourmet magazine, The Witches' Almanac is a witty, literate, and sophisticated publication that appeals to general readers as well as hard-core Wiccans and magicians. On one level, it is a pop reference that will fascinate anyone interested in folklore, mythology, and culture, but on another, it is the most sophisticated and wide-ranging annual guide available today for occultists and mysticism enthusiasts.
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 theme of Issue 38 (Spring 2019 to Spring 2020) is Animals: Friends and Familiars. Also included are the following articles: "Beer and Witches," "Gargoyles," "Horseshoes," "Transgender in the Craft," and "Coefficient of Weirdness, Part 3." New authors include Sorita d'Este, Lon Milo DuQuette, David Rankine, and Mat Auryn.
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.
Read an Excerpt
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
by Timi Chasen
CITY BENEATH THE SAND The temples of Trapani, Sicily are familiar to archaeologists the world over, but more may be hiding beneath the ruined sanctuaries than originally thought. Situated on the island's picturesque West Coast, the Selinunte Archaeological Park, which claims to be the largest archaeological area in Europe, is comprised of nearly 700 acres of classical ruins. But geological researchers using a specially designed six-armed "hexicopter" drone with a thermal imaging attachment have been able to map what they believe to be a small city beneath the packed dirt and rock — far larger than their previous estimations.
Recently made famous among occult communities as the location of the oldest-known evidence of a cult to the mighty Goddess Hekate in the Greek-speaking ancient world, Selinunte now appears to possibly harbor the remains of a miniature Pompeii or Herculaneum beneath its already considerable treasures.
Destroyed by Carthaginians in 409 BCE and uninhabited since the First Punic War, archaeologists have been revealing troves of antiquities from the area, from statues and votive objects to a clever pipe system which fed running water to homes within the city. If the fancy cameras are correct, we can expect plenty more wonders from this magical spot in the coming years.
CONJURE THIS Carleton University of Canada is looking for a new chair in the Study of the Conjuring Arts. Located in Ottawa, Ontario, the institution of higher learning (whose mascot is the Raven, no less) was recently searching for qualified individuals to fill the position dedicated to all things magical, allowing their scope to be rather broad in the process. Thus, the enviable position is open to any historian, anthropologist or other social scientist with an accredited PhD whose focus falls upon mystical, religious, occult or stage magical practices.
The chair itself was made available by a grant from the Slaight Family Foundation of two million dollars, later matched by the University itself. The foundation was established by philanthropist Allan Slaight, who made his fortune in mass media shortly after working as a travelling stage magician. With the money came a donated library of over 1600 magical books and essays, which will be overseen by the chair when the position is finally filled.
It appears plenty of applicants have been sending in their resumes since the job has been posted, and we here at the Witches' Almanac are willing to bet at least some of them are reading these words right now.
BAG LUNCH Leading researchers have been experimenting with certain types of caterpillars known colloquially as wax worms, believing they may have found a possible aid in the fight against the perpetual dilemma of plastics pollution. Discovered by accident when wax worm specimens for a different research project kept devouring portions of their temporary plastic bag containment units, scientists found the critters could not only eat but fully digest the polymers without any apparent discomfort.
The worms normally eat beeswax, which is a rather complex compound, described as a "natural plastic" by one researcher, and holds a strikingly similar chemical composition to polyethylene — one of the toughest and most commonly-used plastics. Currently, scientists are attempting to figure out precisely how the little wrigglers break down the substances in question, so they might find a way to safely synthesize the process down the road. Mandibles crossed.
SACRED STONE The Northern English city of Chester still contains an ancient shrine to the Roman Goddess Minerva, in a picturesque park along the river Dee. Built by the ancient workers who labored in a massive quarry that used to surround the venerable fain, the humble yet solid relic has stood carved into a mass of sandstone for nearly 2000 years, in a green space later dedicated to King Edward the Peaceable.
Minerva was equivalent in many ways to the Greek Goddess Athena, divine matron of warriors, scholars and craftspeople. Though the years have been long and hard, her carved outline is still clearly visible in the rock face, with helmet, spear and owl upon her shoulder. To the right of the image, carved into the same huge stone, is a cave now barred from entry with iron, believed by many to be initially cut by the same laborers who constructed the shrine. It was renamed Edgar's Cave1 after the aforementioned monarch in the 10th century, but it is said some still make pilgrimages there in honor of its sacred genitrix.
REPAIRING MITHRAS Those fancying a more subterranean Roman Britain experience need look no further than the recently reopened Mithraeum in London's Victoria district. Axis bombs destroyed sections of the City of Westminster during the Blitz, and an ancient, underground temple to the God Mithras was rediscovered nine years later during postwar reconstruction. After being moved from its original location, it has stood in various stages of disrepair until the property was purchased by the financial giant Bloomberg in 2012. Shortly after the plot was acquired, archaeologists were given the green light to investigate the area for more Roman artifacts which had been missed in the 1954 dig — and missed they were. Nearly three tons of animal bones were found on the property, along with ancient pairs of shoes, bits of clothing, and approximately 63,000 shards of Roman-era pottery. Now, an interactive museum with elegant walkways and dramatic lighting receives about 600 visitors per day.
Though the earliest written record of the God Mithras dates back to a treaty between the Hittites and Mitanni around 1400 BCE, the deity's story became far more complex over the centuries as both Hindu and Zoroastrian sources absorbed his worship into their pantheons. The Romans, themselves claiming to hail from Anatolian lands originally, reintroduced worship of the enigmatic immortal shortly after Pompey's war against a Mediterranean king whose name meant "gift of Mithra"— Mithridates VI of Pontus. By then, the deity had absorbed aspects of various Solar Gods, the hero Perseus, as well as a great deal of Stoic astro-mythology and came to Roman-controlled lands via a secretive, initiates-only mystery cult.
For more on the mysterious Mithras, feel free to check out TheWitchesAlmanac.com/mithras/CHAPTER 2
News from The Witches' Almanac
Glad tidings from the staff
It has been a year since we have launched our overhaul to The Witches' Almanac site and cart — TheWitchesAlmanac.com. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. We've been busy uploading content and user experience awareness to each of the sections. We started the process by updating In Memoriam, our homage to some past elders who have graced this plane with their presence. It is unfortunate that we added Raymond Buckland to this list of elders — All Hail the Traveler! Also updated is Merry Meetings, putting up all the interviews we have conducted with various Witches, magicians and mages. And finally, where other updates are concerned, we have expanded Almanac Extras! capturing all of the Extras! going back to 2008. For navigation convenience, break out the three most recent years under their own headings, with the archive capturing the balance of Extras! articles.
Of course, there are other areas of The Witches' Almanac site worth checking on regularly such asAuthor Bios,Seasonal Recipe and Sites of Awe. The latter two are updated on a regular basis. If there is something we are not capturing that you think we should, shoot an email toinfo@TheWitchesAlmanac.com.
The Witches' Almanac is especially privileged to welcome new authors Mat Auryn, Debbie Chapnick, Sorita d'Este, Lon Milo DuQuette, Alan Richardson, David Rankine and Oberon Zell — each contributing incredible articles.
You might not have noticed that we added, as well as changed, several yearly features. John Michael Greer has given us a total rewrite of Moon Gardening. Lending his expertise to geomancy divination, each year John Michael will offer insight into one of the 16 classic signs. Of course, the Tarot and Celtic Tree features will continue to have their places in the Almanac.
The coming year promises to be yet another banner year for us here at The Witches' Almanac. We will be offering grimoires which promise to surprise and elevate the reader. This year will see the debut of The Witches' Almanac Wall Calendar. Our readers have told us time and again how much they enjoy the many insights provided in the Moon Calendar in each issue. We have heeded your advice: The standard Moon phases, channeled actions and an expanded version of the topic featured in the Moon Calendar will be available in a full-size wall calendar.
Finally, we are pleased to announce that The Witches' Almanac is now the exclusive distributor of Atramentous Press publications in America. Atramentous' offerings would be a remarkable addition to anyone's library. You can view Atramentous Press' publications at /TheWitchesAlmanac.com/Atramentous/CHAPTER 3
The Mari Lwyd
A Welsh Living Tradition of Death
DARK AND COLD. The night is still. You hold your breath as the clock ticks closer toward midnight. A knocking is heard. The heart stops. Death is at your door.
During the darkest part of the year, when spirits of the dead walk across the land of the living. When the living slam shut the doors and bar the window to the biting cold. When it feels like the lords of Winter will never lessen their grip. It is then that Mari Lwyd comes to chase away the darkness.
The snap of her teeth, the ring of her bell, the calls of her retinue herald her coming. She is instantly recognisable — a real horse's skull, teeth intact, glass bottle eyes, shrouded in white sheets, reined, adorned with ribbons, lace, maybe flowers and led by the ostler at the head of a party of revellers processing amongst communities in south Wales.
It is almost midnight. The new year tantalisingly close, yet out of grasp. The party rattle windows. A fear grows.
Midnight. Midnight. Midnight. Midnight. Hark at the hands of the clock. Now dead men rise in the frost of the stars And fists on the coffins knock.
–Vernon Watkins Ballad of the Mari Lwyd
As you crack the door ajar slightly and stare into the beer bottle eyes of the Mari you are transported. Carried from this world to hers. Taken into a place between places.
Juxtaposed against the sight of a skeletal horse's head draped in ghostly sheets are the hauntingly beautiful melodies of her carol. The voices and poetry wrap around you and carry you further into her clutches.
It is a striking experience, and one which is growing in popularity once again. Today the Mari Lwyd is a reconstruction, primarily an entertainment in most places, and it is doubtful that many taking part will be aware of its ancient origins.
But this is a ritual of liminality — a conversation between life and death. It is a chasing away of the old and the clearing of the dead ready for the new life of the New year.
One might meet the Mari for the first time in a small Welsh market town. Tucked away in the corner of an old-fashioned pub with roaring fire a commotion starts. Locals and strangers alike run to the windows to watch the Mari proceed down the street toward us. Hardcore old timers are wiser, using this moment of excitement to make it to the bar and order the next round of drinks.
Catching only glimpses of the strange party heading nearer, soon there's a rattling of the door and breaking somewhat with tradition, the party makes its way into the bar where the Pwnco begins.
The Pwnco is a sort of verbal contest, a poetic back and forth between the Mari Party and those inside. It can be rowdy, somewhat out of tune, but full of merriment. The Mari may be accompanied by a small troop — the leader cracking his stick on the tables, a few singers with flat caps or blackened faces and a gent in a top hat. It is difficult to draw one's attention away from the skull. Logically one knows it is a person with a skull on a long stick, but in the midst of even the simplest of rituals, it is death herself — a still point in the midst of the merriment. Led from table to table the eyes pull one in — drawn to the mystical world of Welsh magical traditions.
Once prepared the Mari is led from house to house, pub to pub, around the town seeking entry by means of a riddle and poetic battle. Almost all versions of the Mari maintain the traditional introductory verses, although the specifics of tune and wording may vary. As with all elements of the ritual, these could be made up on the spot, or are sometimes recorded and passed down through generations.
The verses generally announce the coming of the Mari Party, describe their journey and ask for food and refreshment to be prepared.
Once the people in the house have responded, the Pwnco begins. A back and forth, a battle of wits. A few good-humoured insults. If the Mari outsmarts the household then she can enter — so they must put up a good fight. The length of this section can vary enormously depending on the creativity and perseverance of each party.
Below is one example of Pwnco which remains popular across a number of communities. It was collected in a popular book on carolling traditions without its originating location being recorded. It is possible that it might have been introduced to many places in recent years by participants researching this less used element of the ritual rather than indicating a widespread traditional use of this format.
Of course, eventually the Mari will be victorious, not least because of her hundreds of years of experience! Additionally her presence within the house is a blessing upon it and as such the inhabitants want her to enter.
After entering the house a party begins! The carols and songs performed by the company are an eclectic mix, once again different in each local area. In Llantrisant we find examples of carols which have their root in the mid-Wales plygain tradition such as Ar Gyfer Heddiw'r Bore. Again, this points to an evolving and nonstatic tradition of the Mari, as well as a mingling of Christian and Pagan beliefs. It is likely these were introduced to the community in the heyday of the mining industry when significant population movements took place into the industrial areas of South Wales.
Ar gyfer heddiw'r bore
The eating, drinking and general horse-play (pun intended) are an essential part of the Mari ceremony. It is here that the real work is done — the chasing away of the unwanted spirits. It is a simple matter of raising and focusing energy, both directed and magnified by the bones of the horse. After all, only the dead can chase the dead away.
A Ritual of Liminality
That the Mari Lwyd is a ritual of liminality is clear. Liminal space is the place between two realms of reality and can be physical, psychological or time-bound. The Mari occurs in all three spaces.
It is physically in a doorway — between inside and out. Between the revellers and the householders.
It is psychologically between joy and terror — the merriment of the party and the grotesque form of an undead horse. Indeed it is between life and death.
It is in the liminal time between years. Whilst there is a broad timeframe for Mari to appear all are linked with the New Year in some way, be it the secular, Celtic or even Julian calendar. More broadly it can be seen as a time of seasonal transition.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Witches' Almanac"
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Table of Contents
Year of the Earth Boar 7
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow 8
News from The Witches' Almanac: Glad tidings from the staff 13
The Mari Lwyd: A Welsh Living Tradition of Death 14
Marijuana-Da Ma: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis sativa forma indica, Cannabis ruderalis 18
The Deities of Animals 20
Glastonbury's Magic 23
Excerpt from: The Witchcraft of Dame Darrel 26
Tarot's The Star 28
The Keys to the Kingdom 29
Why & How Animal Omens Work 32
The Holy Guardian Angel: It's a love Story 35
Moon Gardening 40
The Moon Calendar 42
Chinese Zodiac Animal Signs 44
Looking Back: Daughter of Darkness 46
The Hawk: William Butler Yeats 48
The Geomantic Figures: Puer 50
Cookies for the Birds 52
Full Moon Names 54
The Jade Emperor's Race: How the Chinese Zodiac signs came to be 56
Celtic Tree-Reed: Ngetal 58
White Raven Anthony P. Jones 60
Sexual Blasphemy: Lovers Desecrate the Temple 62
Aesop's Fable: The Vain Jackdaw 64
Kitchen Magic: The Star 68
New World Faeries 72
Trans gender Questions: Among Witches and Pagans 76
Coiling Serpents 78
2019 Sunrise and Sunset Times: Providence, San Francisco, Sydney, London 80
Window on the Weather 81
Magic and the Two Dimensions of Language: Notes Toward a General Theory of Magic, Part III 86
Andersen's Fairy Tale: The Farm-Yard Cock and the Weather-Cock 90
Embracing the Witch's Bodies 94
Dark Lord of the Forest 98
Purple and Pleasure: The Folklore and Magic of Amethyst 99
Annwfn & The Western Isles 102
Corvids: Friend or foe? 104
The Spider Thread from Hell 108
William Gray meets his Inner Light 109
The Vulture, the Parrot and the Antelope: Lessons from the Animal Kingdom for Mankind 112
Codex Gigas: The Devil's Bible 118
Dog Magic, Canine Shamanism and Dreams 120
Merry Meetings: An interview with Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki 123
Notable Quotations: Animals 129
The Fixed Stars Sirius: The Dog Star 130
Rain Spell 132
Mysterious Feather Crowns: Omens of Death or Angelic Blessings? 134
Talisman: Wedjat-The Eye of Horus 139
An Astrological Overview: Nikola Tesla-The Benevolent Wizard and Futurist 140
The Black Dog 145
The Infinity Symbol 148
Horse Creatures 150
Understanding Familiar Spirits For What They Aren't 152
Moon Cycles 156
Astrological Keys 158
Eclipses and Retrogrades 159
Rig Veda: 177.10 184
Sites of Awe: America's Stonehenge 185
From a Witch's Mailbox 192