bad witch’s Guide

The Bad Witch’s Guide

May, 2018

 

 

The Bad Witch’s Guide to Beltane

 

I love Beltane. The flowers are just blooming. The green is just covering the hedgerows. It also happens to be my wedding anniversary!

There are huge celebrations all over the place, though not nearby it’s just that this year I am craving something quieter. Something a bit more romantic and I can’t quite put my finger on it. One of the best things we ever did was to do the Hastings East hill drumming and dancing in the dawn. On a hill in the ruins of a castle overlooking the sea we watched the light, a sliver of silver light creep, and turn red, then gold.

I’ve never done anything like that before or since. We were all done and dusted by 5.30 a.m. It was magickal. There were Morris dancers dressed in white. Pagan folks in regalia. Folks walking their dogs and people to watching the people.

After some food and a really good nap it was time for the huge parade. More Morris dancers and figures dressed as green men and women and Horned Gods drummed and danced through the streets. Dabbing people with green sponges. It really felt timeless. It felt like the whole town was magickally awake. The whole county!

A lot of pagans I know do camps from about this time of year. Where I had been busy, camping is not an option for me right now. Yet the pull of the wild still draws me. There is something utterly pagan about my island this time of year. Just under the skin of it.

Formal Beltane rituals can seem a bit hetro-centric but at its core Beltane is about the warmth of attraction. About reception and giving of energy. It is, at its core a ritual about balancing energy and understanding; within and in the world around us. It is the internal anima and animus finding momentum to create. It is about harnessing rather than repressing our wildness and turning it into something alive, be it art or science or poetry or an offspring. It is about the power of being alive and being grateful. Grateful for another year, another sunrise, a new day. It is a celebration of life.

It is not about what is in your pants, or whom you want to have sex with (if you want to have sex). That is a very limited view of self, sex, gender and identity. It is about the ritual. The receiving of energy, the channelling of energy, the using of energy to create something new. Ritual is a dream language, a psychological and social tool for healing and re-balancing a group and the self. When we exclude ourselves from the group or ritual we lose out on much of its power and deeper understandings.

As with all things this is a celebration of life has a touch of death with it too. Within Beltane’s warmth is the chill tingle of Samhain’s death. Acknowledging life means accepting death too. This roots you into and puts you out of time. You can see and feel the echo of your actions. Of course the bonfire was made of bone as well as wood. The death in the life as well as the life in the death.

For the May-pole and ribbons are only half of Beltane. The other part is about cleansing, warding off disease and illness through the power of death and fire. Cattle were driven through the ashes of bonfires, or between two large fires to do just that. People would dance around the fires and even jump over them. It was about dousing the hearth fires and re-lighting them from a group, a community fire. It was about re-igniting the heart within the home and community. Within the home. Within the self. It is to be in the dark, to be outside the usual bounds of social norms and to return changed for the better.

I recommend, if you are lucky and privileged enough to have folks nearby, to have get some folks together dance naked around a bonfire with at dawn. If that is not your bag, go and find a high spot. Climb a hill or go to a bridge or ancient ruined castle in the dark. Stand and wait in the darkness facing the east. Drum if you can. Or just be in the silence. Light a candle, or a fire if you can too. Watch the sunrise. Dance if you can. Or just stretch. Be at the mercy of the weather. No-one is outside the circle of life and death. After all it is the impulses and desire and joys that make us fully human.

 

The Bad Witch’s Guide

March, 2018

 

The Bad Witch Reviews

The Witch’s Spellbook

Enchantments, Incantations, and Rituals from Around the World

By Sarah Bartlett

I feel like I should begin by saying while this is a review, and I did read a book I feel reluctant to say the name of it.

Suffice to say it is a spell book. I feel like I would be much freer to comment without putting the name of this writer or the book title in this review.

The introduction starts with a story about how this person came to magick. They found a book (it happens to many) but what struck me was the kind of spell she choose to do.

It was a love spell, to get “back with her ex”.

I have ALL kinds of uncomfortable feelings about that sort of magick. Love spells like that mess with free will, cause more trouble than they are worth and tend to bring a new level of drama to relationships that is unhealthy and weird. If you care more about being with someone than whether or not they want to be with you…is that love? Love is. When you love someone you want their happiness above your own. I don’t know how it went down but apparently they’re still married! Yay?

So from the beginning I was a little ooked out. However I put it aside, after all, we all make mistakes, none of us are saints. I began the book proper.

First off was the most pointless circle casting I have ever seen. It literally had no idea what it was being cast for and the only quarter evoked was east, well you were asking them for inspiration, not protection, or empowerment, just inspiration. A circle casting is not merely magickal safety and good practice, but the ritual of making a space between places. There was no cleansing or blessing. No visualisation of any kind. It didn’t seem to know what it was, or whom it was for, this might be a running theme. Next came a very confusing pentagram drawing “explanation”. The best explanation I have when I teach is to use a clock face. Dependant on where you need to start and end (there are lots of places for many reasons) I’d say 7 up to 12, down to 5, up to 10, across to 2, then back down to 7. You can start anywhere this way working in both directions. Simple.

This is the point I was assaulted by some very odd full page colours, one being eye bleeding yellow and the next black. As a dyslexic person I found this very jarring and not good to try and read. The pages where to highlight the solar and respectively lunar. I can’t really remember if what it said was any good because it was such a struggle to read it. My immediate thought when I saw it was wow, that is really 90’s!

Onwards to the spell section.

It was set out like a recipe book, as many spell books are. I first noticed that there was a date in italics next to the name of the spell. It was December and I thought, oh, that’s a weird date to start on. I had a couple of reactions. The first one was how little explanation there was of the Goddess being evoked. This too would be a running theme of little to no research when evoking primarily Goddesses. I found the Goddess choice odd, the date for the spell wasn’t explained and I could find nothing much to connect the two. Next I was surprised by the amount of crystals and candles required. 6 pieces of mystic topaz! 5 candles of four different colours!

The spell was simple and not very specific. Now this Goddess is one of transitions, and they are NOT always fun or easy.

So let’s review: that is a Goddess whom can be at best difficult, at worst bloody, you’re to “make my life flower”. Using a circle that is basically made out of best wishes and paper. Using expensive crystals and a shit ton of candles.

At this point I started getting a headache.

IF and that is a big if, you wanted to use this spell with a well know patron Goddess, or one you hoped might become one, perhaps, with a better circle and actually asking the quarters to do their thing, maybe, maybe you could try this spell. I’m not sure why topaz. Or so many different coloured candles.

Now granted I am an old school Weatherwax witch. You’re either iz-ing or you ain’t. As my friend G would put it.

If I was asking for my life to blossom I might include, ya know, a flower. A bulb perhaps. A flower sacred to her or I could get at that weird time of year.

I digress.

My point first and foremost is would the spell work? Would what I want to happen or something like it happen? The answer with this is probably not. It didn’t even make sense within its self.

This was only the first spell.

Next we move from ancient Rome and December to China and August.

This time you are evoking spirits and hoping that because they love you they won’t do anything awful. The magickal alarm bells are ringing like an air raid siren at this point.

First off, let’s deal with the cultural appropriation shall we. The East Asian Ghost festivals are like a cross between Thanksgiving and Halloween, also known as, the Hungry Ghost festival. It is full of the rich cultures of the many countries and regions that celebrate this time in a multitude of ways. It is primarily a lunar festival. There you now know more about it than if you had read this book.

Here is just a random psychic’s opinion. DON’T INVITE SPIRITS INTO YOUR HOME. Just don’t.

Much like Day of the Dead in Mexico most families go to their ancestral shrines and leave offering there. Mostly it is a Buddhist festival but there is some Taoism and older stuff underneath too.

I’m not sure why you would want to evoke or work on a spell like this if it isn’t your culture or if you didn’t live in an Asian community. If you did you’d probably be doing whatever you usually do with your family anyway.

So we come back to do the spells make sense? Would they work with mostly as intended results? Nope and nope.

Third spell in. They call on Rhiannon and do not even give her the title Goddess, trust me, that won’t go down well. The wording of the spells seems to be calling really for magick and power.

This book doesn’t seem to know whom it is for. The spells don’t seem clear with intention vital for magick. The spells don’t have a logic to the desired outcome (the sympathetic component). They are not respectful or knowledgeable to the cultures, she mugs for magick small change. They don’t feel powerful or insightful.

In short if you know what you are doing you don’t need this book, if you don’t I would avoid it at all costs.

Magick isn’t something you need pretty rocks or large amount of candles for (though it is sometimes pleasant enough). Magick is the power of will, of change. It is asking for help to achieve it by what is powerful and sacred to you. Even if you don’t believe in Gods and spirits (some believe they are reflections of ourselves) then you should still treat them and other people’s beliefs and cultures with some basic respect.

I really wanted to try and find something good to say about this book but I really can’t. I mean the grammar is fine and it is not gibberish but short of that I can see no magickal logic in it what so ever.

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