Book Review – Besom, Stang & Sword: A Guide to Traditional Witchcraft, the Six-Fold Path & the Hidden Landscape by Christopher Orapello and Tara Love Maguire

February, 2019

Book Review

Besom, Stang & Sword

A Guide to Traditional Witchcraft, the Six-Fold Path & the Hidden Landscape

by Christopher Orapello and Tara Love Maguire

*A Special Opportunity:

Christopher and Tara will be teaching at Delmarva Pagan Pride Day on April 28th.

Location: The Green in front of Legislative hall in Dover Delaware

Info: FB page-

There is a stirring within the community of those who identify as witches as what was old has been lovingly and carefully made new again by those who stand at the gates of modern witchcraft. Besom, Stang and Sword is a guide of practice that evolved from the reweaving of Traditional Witchcraft and adding just enough of the evolved form of that practice to create something unique, new and highly relevant to our times.

The authors have done due diligence in both the scholarly rationale and the grassroots approach to the practice of witchcraft and its newer derivative form of Wicca. What emerged was the creation of their own path called the Blacktree Tradition….. a modern, nonreligious form of traditional witchcraft that is rooted in each witch’s specific region. Instead of deities, it deals with the spirits of the land and the ancestors-no gods, many spirits…

Chapter 1jumps right into the discussion of what Traditional Witchcraft is at its roots. As the authors state there are many types of practice that have presented themselves forged from the essential of a practice that is steeped in cultural practices such as Shamanism, Seidr and Hoodoo and magickal traditions, such as Victor and Cora Anderson Feri and Cultus Sabbati. All of the usual topics related to a pagan path and in particular, that of witchcraft are given attention and perspective that pulls together some of the more disjointed pieces of a puzzle that is complex, rich and deep. The Devil and the negative connotation that has come to be associated with those practitioners of the craft is addressed and the reality of this beings energy as being neither good nor evil, but a necessary component in the natural order of a practice rooted in the land. Blacktree calls to the Devil as the Witch Lord, the Lord of the Paths and is considered the embodiment of nature itself. This is a perspective that takes us beyond the semantics and associations accumulated around these that prevent us from seeing beyond and more broadly as to the deeper meanings.

You will find within each chapter the basics of teachings that form a solid foundation for stepping onto the path of the witch. Spell work, Diviniation, the Sabbats, Lunations, Hedgewitchery and more complete this instruction. Each chapter rich with theory and magickal technique. For those who are familiar with a Wiccan or other path that is similar to the principals of witchcraft, you will see the variances in application and tools that are of prominence in traditional witchcraft that have often take a side place of importance more recently.

The title of the book, Besom, Stang and Sword give reference to these three tools being those closely related to the natural world. This is further evidenced in the premise of Traditional Witchcraft and its roots being tied to the earth and at a time when many of the manufactured ritual items that adorn our altars and work were not available. Use of the Besom and Stang takes us back to those cultural roots of witchcraft and making use of and empowering all that we were given from the land itself. We are also introduced to some lesser-known tools, their purpose and how they may be used or created.

The author’s statement in the introduction nicely sums up the treasures and value of this book..

..Our perspective anchors itself with one foot firmly planted in the lessons of the past and the other stepping into the boldest future, while staying focused on the natural evolution of the craft…

I would highly recommend this book as a required read for those new to the craft and more importantly those who consider themselves seasoned and working witches. My gratitude to Christopher and Tara for being able to in such an articulate and grounded way call forth the best of what was and the vision of a practice that evolves and grows in an organic and natural way that we have long forgotten the simplicity, complexity and beauty of.

For More Information about Blacktree Coven:

Besom, Stang & Sword: A Guide to Traditional Witchcraft, the Six-Fold Path & the Hidden Landscape on Amazon


About the Author:

Robin Fennelly is a Wiccan High Priestess, teacher, poet and author.

She is the author of (click on book titles for more information):

The Inner Chamber Volume One on Amazon

It’s Written in the Stars


The Inner Chamber, Vol. Two

poetry of the Spheres (Volume 2) on Amazon


The Inner Chamber, Vol. Three

Awakening the Paths on Amazon


A Year With Gaia on Amazon

The Eternal Cord

Temple of the Sun and Moon on Amazon

Luminous Devotions

The Magickal Pen Volume One (Volume 1) on Amazon

A Collection of Esoteric Writings

The Elemental Year on Amazon

Aligning the Parts of SELF

The Enchanted Gate on Amazon

Musings on the Magick of the Natural World

Sleeping with the Goddess on Amazon

Nights of Devotion

A Weekly Reflection on Amazon

Musings for the Year

Her books are available on Amazon or on this website and her Blogs can be found atRobin Fennelly 

Follow Robin on Instagram & Facebook.

Witches Soul Work

April, 2015

Witches Soul Work Part 4: The Path of the Stang

“If that which thou seek thy find not within thee, thy will never find it without.” (1)

The Craft involves deep soul work leading to understanding the authentic self, the connection with the divine, and understanding the Mysteries. If you were Buddhist you might called this enlightenment. What is enlightenment for Witches? Many people new to the Craft read the beginner books and think that that is all there is. I would like to share with you some of the ways that Traditional Witches do soul work, the way they approach and understand the Mysteries and an exploration of what the Mysteries are. This idea was inspired by a course called Soul Work from Cherry Hill Seminary ( and from a comment by a woman on our local pagan internet site who said that she was quitting our group because we were not serious (i.e. we are fluffy) about our spiritual work. (Thank you dear!) The Craft is the most deeply spiritual path I know, but because it is hidden it is not so easy to find.


The Path of the Stang
The path of the Stang as we practice it is a part of the old knowledge of Greencrafting. In this work we go deeper into the understanding of the magick of the natural world by learning about the life of trees. We address many questions including:

How is the energy of trees connected to the life of this planet?
How does the Divine manifest through trees?
How are you connected to life through trees?

This path gradually reveals the tapestry of creation, and the healing rhythms that make up the flowing sap of life. Be prepared to be transformed, healed and to find within yourself the deep wisdom of nature.

What is a Stang?
This is the main ritual tool used for this pathworking. The Witch carries it as a staff when walking in the woods, uses it to mark a circle or sets it up as a movable altar. A Stang is a forked ritual staff traditionally only found within the Craft and is usually of Ash wood but could be made of any tree found where you live. It serves as an altar and is a physical representation of the World Tree or Bile (pronounced Bee-lee) known in Norse mythology as Ygdrasil. It can also be a staff of office for the Coven Summoner or High Priest and could also represent the Horned God. The Stang is thrust into the ground and decorated to form the altar in the center of the cast circle. If you are doing ritual inside you can put it into a pot of earth.

The Guardian or Mother Tree
One tree on each “land” (area) or in each forest seems to have more presence or energy than the other trees. It seems more awake, more real. This tree guards the land and holds the magical energy of the land. It communicates with all other trees through its roots. You need to find this tree in the neighbourhood where you live or the wild area where you work magically. This tree can become your ally and guide to the magick of trees. When you find this tree, walk past it often and if you can, spend time sitting under its branches. I once had a Guardian tree growing on someone’s front lawn! Obviously I couldn’t spend time sitting under it, but I tried to walk past it at night or whenever I could. Often I found that the tree had dropped small branches and pinecones onto the sidewalk (for me?) so I picked them up and brought them home.

To connect with the Guardian Tree try walking the land in an altered or clear-minded state of consciousness and connecting with the energy of your tree. Make very good notes. How does the energy feel around the tree? How far does that energy extend? Not only do you have to get to know the energy of your land, but also the land has to get to know you. Diana Beresford-Kroeger (2) calls this ‘tree bathing’. (To learn more about her work and how trees can save the world, see the link below.) If you can’t meditate under the tree you can imagine yourself walking to the tree and sitting under it and then meditate as if you were there. When you are ready, introduce yourself to the tree and ask if it will be your ally and guide to the world of tree magic. Trees are very generous but they move at a much slower pace than we do. You may have to wait a while for the answer!

It’s also important to research the magickal and medicinal properties of your Guardian Tree. For example: Willow tree is connected with the element of water and the moon. (3)Willow is a healer and Willow bark contains a chemical called salicin that is similar to aspirin. What are the lessons of this tree?

Mapping the Land

When you think you are ready and your relationship with your Guardian tree has been established, create a map of the trees in your area. Usually the center of the map will be the Guardian tree and you walk East, South, West and North in awareness and see how far the energy of the tree extends. Draw a map with your Guardian tree in the center and then identify all the trees around it. This is easier to do in an urban forest but usually trees tend to grow in clumps so you don’t have to draw each individual tree if you are working in a forest. You can ask your Guardian tree to let you know which tree you need to meet next, as if it was introducing you to a friend. When you have identified and researched all the trees in your area, try to spend some time with them and listen to what they have to say to you.

All of this work is going to take time and for us Walking People, the Standing People (trees) might seem frustratingly slow! But once you are a friend of the trees, they never forget you! After your introduction to the trees where you live the next step is to learn about the important trees in the world. You can look up Diana Beresford-Kroeger’s list on her blog about trees saving the world (4) or read her book “The Global Forest”.

Celtic Tree Calendar and the Oghams
Another way to organize your learning is to use the Celtic Tree Calendar and the Oghams. The Ogham alphabet is a series of strokes cut from a vertical line, each mark corresponding to a letter and a tree. In fact there are many Ogham alphabets and the tree Ogham is only one of them. The tree calendar associates each calendar month with a different tree and corresponding Ogham. (5) Using our Willow Tree for example, the tree is called Saille and the Ogham looks like this a vertical stick with four lines branching off to the right. It is the fourth letter in the tree alphabet. This tree is associated with the fourth Lunar month after the Full Moon closest to Yule. Yes the tree calendar is a lunar and not a solar calendar ; each full moon marks the first day of the new month. Usually Willow month would land around April and would be associated with Beltane. Studying a tree each month, spending time searching for and sitting with that tree and learning its wisdom is a huge part of the Path of the Stang.

As with all the other articles in this series, I am only able to give you a small taste of what the spiritual and magical work is like in the Craft. I have been told that the Witches Craft is very old, very new, hidden and secret, easily accessible to all, mysterious spirituality, silly foolishness and so many other conflicting ideas. So where does the truth lie? What the Craft is depends on your perspective and your willingness to open your heart to the Goddess. This includes listening at the knee of the Standing People. I hope you enjoyed these ideas and that your quest is full of adventure and happy synchronicity.


1. Charge of the Goddess by Doreen Valiente


3. Beyerl, Paul. 1998. A Compendium of herbal Magick. Phoenix Publishing, Custer, Washington. pp.357-358.

4. Beresford-Kroeger, Diana. Ten Trees that can save the World.

Blamires, Steve. 1997. Celtic Tree Mysteries. Llewellyn Publishing, Woodbury, MN.