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BOOK REVIEW: HEATHEN WARRIOR


REVIEW – HEATHEN WARRIOR

Stuart Brogan’s e-book HEATHEN WARRIOR is an approach to the ethics and magic of the Northern tradition – a refreshingly honest, modest and accurate attempt to translate Northern practices into the modern day. And it must be said that they translate remarkably well – despite their ancient origins, the honour and sense of the Norse text known as the Havamal provide a sound basis for contemporary moral practice. Honouring the elders, giving a moral education to the young, offering hospitality to guests and looking after the family form a large part of the modern ‘warrior way.’ Brogan gives a clear outline of each aspect of the Havamal, weaving this into personal experience (minus the grandiosity which makes many New Age guides so dubious – this is a book, and an author, with their feet firmly on the ground) and linking it with contemporary practices such as the martial arts.

Brogan speaks out strongly against current proponents of the Northern tradition who link heathen practices with Nazism. There’s some evidence, from the laws of the day, to suggest that the Vikings were (perhaps surprisingly) quite progressive for their time, particularly in regard to women. There is little to link this ancient group of people to the particularly modern form of nastiness that is Aryanism, and I completely agree with the author that this gives much of the heathen tradition an undeservedly bad name.

In short, this is highly recommended. It will give you a clear underpinning to Norse ethics and practices, and if you’re wondering where to get started with the heathen path, then this is the book for you.

Quarterly News Review


Again - a State of the Union business update, so skip if you want cat pics!

Well,

those of you who have seen the Cat & Cauldron shop in the last 4 months, and heard the mantra -

'we're shifting the shop around over the winter',

will be somewhat amused to see that most things are still in the 'wrong' places.

Shutting down the two premises in autumn took a lot of time and effort, and adjusting to the new single-shop regime, and also a lot more external work for both of us, has left us with little time/energy for the great internal reshuffle, but it is becoming critical as footfall now starts to increase.

That said, things are of course constantly changing. We are now the main public portal for the Helios School of Hermetic Magick, with one of our windows adorned with Ceremonial paraphernalia, and this has also encouraged us to get a proper working current mailing list together - if you've ordered from us any time since 2007 don't be surprised if you get a newsletter soon!

We have also added at least three more collections of books to the ever growing, now ever groaning shelves. Ghosts, Vampires, and antique Theosophical titles are now well represented, and in line with our more serious .

We are also in negotiation for a limited Share flotation, which will secure funds to upgrade our top quality stock. This is in direct response to the lack of interest the bank are showing in those of us trying to get out of the recession on our own thank you - we'd rather share the profits than keep paying your charges.....

On the web front, we have borrowed a camera and a light tent, and given a few quieter days towards the end of this month we will start to refresh and improve the quality of website pictures. We are also taking the opportunity to remove a lot of things which are no longer available. Web maintenance is indeed an Augean task.

T. is working in the Ring O Bells at Wookey, now run by Nigel Bourne, who has some interesting entries on his CV, and Liz has at least 3 separate teaching contracts. Working on our own again now, and especially with all the external duties, we're maybe not exactly 'comfortable' yet, but given that we only have one shop to manage, we're certainly comfortable-er.....

A new and hopefully calmer year


Business review - skip if you want pictures of cats......

2012 was eventful and fairly traumatic for us as a business.

A hard trading year as for everyone in retail, and changes were necessary for a number of reasons at the end of it. We loved our time at the Grail Centre, but with the site due to be developed into a housing estate, we had no security of tenure or access, and had to call it a day.

What the Gallery and workshop space proved unequivocally to us is that we CAN run top flight art exhibitions, art classes, evening talks, teaching and coaching sessions, and manage a multi-dimensional and multi-functional space. We are justifiably proud of what we achieved there and we hope that we can continue to facilitate further events in Glastonbury as other commitments permit.

We also had to make the tough decision to close the smaller of the two remaining shops. We chose to announce both closures simultaneously in October, when it became clear that we could not sustain the Magick Box through yet another tough winter.

Earlier in the year we lost our last employee who took voluntary redundancy to face and beat an illness. J. had been with me for 8 of the 9 years. That change alone dictated our pattern for the summer, where we could not keep both shops and the Gallery open daily, even with several regular volunteers. We also could not keep up the pace with all our other commitments.

All in all we viewed the concentration on the one shop as a positive move that would allow us a measure of calm in our lives. Eventually.

And we are moving slowly towards that process, but other influences are pushing us in other directions too. We were regular attendees an the Grail Centre art classes and as a consequence we are comfortable that 2013 will see any more of our own internally produced art lines. I have now sold a couple of painted drums and I am sure we can sell more. Cards, prints and originals will help us add value and keep it unique. Another strong influence has been the several book collections we have received from various sources, which have turned us into a fairly serious book shop without really trying. Right now we wish we had budget to buy a lot more, but selling books on commission has kept us busy and happy to sell, discuss and sort all those lovely books (from several genres).

We still have to clear the floor space and redesign now we have cut down from 3 premises to one, but that is cosmetic. We have maintenance to complete and storage to install, but that is a once-only task.

We have no intention of expanding again beyond the one shop, and this gives us a clear focus. We have to improve and update the website (MASSIVELY, after nearly 10 years), and we have to clear and refurbish the home workshop so that I can begin to make commissions and woodwork items for the shop again (it has been a few years now, but it essentially allows me a fair rate for my time!).

Our own health has also been of concern. I am getting older, and the continued stress of the recession has definitely taken its toll, so cutting down to one shop has taken both a financial AND logistical burden off us.

We have both sought external work to keep things going - L. is continuing her teaching work in English and Creative Writing, and I have taken a few hours a week a friends pub. Both are fun, exhausting, and keep us sane, by giving us other perspectives.

Overall, I am hopeful that thing will ease a little for us in 2013, but only because we have made it so - I am not at all confident that the recession, in retail terms at least, will be a long time shifting in the UK.

Just my thoughts.

If you've got this far I thank you and doubtless we will see you down the road.....

T.

Autumn leaves


SHOP MUSINGS!

Here are a number of seemingly unrelated issues and ideas regarding our direction for the next few months/years, which are being consolidated as I put thoughts on record.....

September may not seem like a logical time for a Company New Year, but it is the end of the tourist 'high season', and the town suddenly has more time for the 'serious' visitor. It also marks the slowing down of house guests, handfastings and customers who keep us over-busy all summer.

Apart from the perennial issue of survival during the quieter period (especially more acute during recession), it is now that we start to look at how to improve the shops. The recession has meant that we no longer have any paid staff, so we have to make very effective use of our time in the shops. Liz can often be spotted in the Magick Box writing or preparing English lessons or course materials for all her students.

Our theme for 2012 has been a continued moving back to our Pagan roots, and of increasing self-reliance, through expansion of our own ranges of hand-made goods and artwork. We are also gradually accommodating more and more books at Cat & Cauldron, as we have found the serious Esoteric Book market still holds up well, and is not being served by any other shop in town.

Given that we need to make 'dual use' of our shop time, we need to rationalize the space to incorporate Arts & Crafts benches, etc, whilst not losing too much retail space - never an easy compromise, especially with so many dusty herbs! We also desperately need to make more effective use of the upstairs area for shop stock and art materials etc, and generally TIDY UP.....

In brief, considerable floorplan and storage unit changes are coming in the Cat & Cauldron over the next few weeks, which will also have the effect of freeing up TWO complete rooms at home - which are currently over-run with stock, scrap and storage.

This process would have been started ages ago were it not for our continued lack of 'big transport', since the old Jeep had to come off the road last year. Our old stock room and the candle kitchen are in complete disarray, and we have consequently been unable to reclaim various areas of the shop and storage space in the Cat & Cauldron either.....

However, with the recent addition of a Land Rover Discovery to the vehicular pack, we can now shift storage units and boxes again, but there is so much STUFF it is difficult to know where to begin. What is needed now is a clear picture of what needs to go where, and then a few days of shifting to get the storage infrastructure in place, all of which will reveal much saleable stock, and make our lives easier, and hopefully increase the retail area by about 20%. It should also increase productivity considerably as more things will be in the 'right' place and easier to access.

All this is a moving feast, however, in more than one sense here of course, as we can rarely predict what will be popular with customers.

In the words of the Irishman who when asked the question -

'How do I get to Kilbeggan?'

replied

'If I was you I wouldn't start from here'.....

RIP Pickle


It has been a very long time since we posted anything on LJ, but I thought some of you who knew her might like to know that dear old Pickle, our tortoiseshell cat of 17 years, passed away today, after a relatively quick downturn, probably of kidney failure.

She was named Pickle for her propensity to get herself into them, and definitely used up all her lives, from falling in to the rain water trough and being locked in various lethal places, quite apart from having to put up with more than one psychotic dog on the premises.

She was an absolute cowbag if she got wind of a vet visit, to the extent that Liz STILL has a scar from a swipe Pickle took at her when we wanted to get her teeth looked at a few years ago. Ergo it was no great surprise when Liz told me that her final activity before she passed was to take a 'fuck off' swipe at her.

Having said that, she mellowed greatly in the last year after her sister passed away, and has spent the last few months sleeping on our heads at night, which is probably something I won't miss so much.....

I will miss her though. She has been around for rather more than a quarter of my life, and did a good job of CAT.

WE are actually struggling for pictures of her, but I do know a couple of people who are rather better at such things - so hopefully they will appear soon enough....

Unity Day


This was an event organised by the mayor of Glastonbury, in conjunction with the Pilgrim Reception Centre, to celebrate the number of different faith groups in the town. They sent a candle in a relay around various churches, temples etc throughout the day, and then invited everyone to congregate in Chalice Well gardens for a candle lighting ceremony: everyone who represented a particular group was asked to light their candle from the central relayed one and say a few words - in fact, no one, commendably, took it as an opportunity for grandstanding or speechmaking, possibly because we were all too cold. Thus, it was quite a brisk ceremony given that we had about 50 people directly participating and probably several times that in attendance. For the record, I was representing the occult: the perfect excuse for commenting, when the windblown candle failed to light, that there was a reason so many of us chose to work in the dark. It got a laugh, though.

Halfway through, I looked around at the collection of dog collars, robes, pentagrams and Sufi hats, and felt really proud of everyone. Most, if not all of the churches sent someone up, and the other faiths were pretty well represented although I think there were some demographic omissions: Glastonbury is too small to have its own mosque, for instance, but there are some individual Moslems in town. I managed to catch up with some of the Christians after the ceremony, and also have a chat with several people I've been wanting to talk to for some time. And then in time honoured fashion, we went to the pub.

I think this may become an annual event, and I hope it does. One of the most amusing things about all this has been the levels of frothing wrath that an account of the forthcoming event caused in some of the Guardian commentators: one would have thought that the population of Glastonbury been planning to don rucksacks and bomb central Damascus. Some people are obviously very threatened by the phenomenon of other people getting along and respecting one another's beliefs, but in the meantime, the rest of us can just get on with getting on with it.

'Voluntary' working while on benefits


I do realise this will open a platform for bleeding heart liberals to whine on and on, but
please read the WHOLE of this before you boil over.

PLEASE NOTE - people on JOBSEEKERS ALLOWANCE - i.e. STATE PAID BENEFITS (aka YOUR TAXES - and I mean YOURS, because, due to the present massive downturn in the economy, I no longer earn enough to pay any.....), are NOT, therefore, actually 'working for nothing', if asked to stack shelves at Tescos, or paint old lady's houses.....

I am not saying it is a perfect scheme, because it patently isn't, but there is, right now, a genuine shortage of work - particularly amongst the younger sector, while people like myself now have to contemplate working till we are 138, due to institutional Fu$"ups; but the idea is to give people on long-term benefits some hope, EXPERIENCE, and an all-important entry on their CV, where there is otherwise very little 'real' work for them.

We are considering taking on an 18yo as a volunteer, so he can get some work experience, which will otherwise be EXTREMELY hard for him to get. Given the dire state retail is in, we certainly cannot afford to pay him, and there is no job waiting for him with us at the end of his stint with us, but we will give him an opportunity to gain confidence in a working environment, and we will give him a reference for future employers.

Does that make us at Witchcraft Limited into pariahs? I would be sad if anyone on here thought so, especially as we are trying to give a young, desperately under-qualified, and totally inexperienced person SOME SORT of chance, yet larger employers are being castigated for doing their bit, even when they have made it CLEAR that there will be no work at the end of it, DUE TO THE STATE OF THE ECONOMY, which we can all see working, or rather NOT working right now.....

We owe it to those on these schemes to let them get on with it.

You are as always welcome to point out the error of my ways.....

BOOK REVIEW: THE OGHAM WOOD


Cliff Seruntine's THE OGHAM WOOD, published by Avalonia (http://avaloniabooks.co.uk/catalogue/magical-fiction/an-ogham-wood), is a classic form of tale: a man beset by terrible circumstances who comes to a place where he is an outsider, and gradually learns lessons about the past and his place in the scheme of things. Sweyn deSauld is coping, barely, with PTSD stemming from the tragic death of his beautiful, mysterious wife. A sailor, he lights out into the Pacific, but soon find himself far off course and approaching the island home of his late wife. Forced to land by the intervention of an unhuman creature, he is obliged to engage with the island community, a group of mixed Irish, Scots and Welsh immigrants who live a life similar to the Amish.

Sweyn finds that he has inherited a 'cottage' - the family home of his late wife. But it's not at all what he expected, and neither are the inhabitants: an ancient retainer, Coppin, and a strange girl who drifts around the woods adjoining the property. And there are some very odd people, and creatures, on the island, too. Slowly, Sweyn begins to find some answers about his dead wife, but they are not answers that he can readily accept...

Stories about people who enter what might loosely be termed the lands of the Celtic Twilight are, by now, a staple of the fantasy genre and it's hard to come across tales which bring much that is new to the party. However, by placing this particular story on the Pacific seaboard, Seruntine gives an entirely different flavour to the trope, and I can only describe this as a novel that is more than the sum of its parts. Whilst I have read a lot of this sort of thing, I found THE OGHAM WOOD to be a genuinely gripping read: it's definitely in the line of 'romantic Celtic history' rather than historical reality, but in a way that works. I found the characters engaging: Sweyn is a flawed, but sympathetic hero, the islanders are interesting, and I genuinely cared what happened to the people in this book. It also has a villain who is not a stock 'baddie' and whose behaviour stems from entirely explicable motives. But one of the principal reasons why this was such a compelling read for me were the descriptions of the island itself: it's very evocatively described, and although (were I to see this in a creative writing class) I'd suggest cutting back on adjective use, the style works. It's also a pleasure to read about things one knows nothing about (sailing and making cheese, in this case) but in which the author is obviously expert.

The novel is not without flaws: there are some glitches in viewpoint, a couple of historical issues which need to be ironed out in a second edition (someone is described as having a 'Victorian' viewpoint when he dates from the 18th C: this needs clarifying) and we're told rather too often about Sweyn's anger. But these are minor niggles: the plotting is tight and there is excellent use of drip-feeding information to the reader, the characters come alive and so does the island itself. I'll be reading this one again.

The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet


Published by Avalonia (www.avaloniabooks.co.uk) and edited by David Rankine, this is an exceptionally interesting and well put-together book, taking a close look at 17th century cunning man Arthur Gauntlet and his repertoire of charms, herbal remedies, angelic conjurations and prayers. But Rankine’s work also brings out another side of this particular kind of practice: as well as focusing on the actual components of the grimoire itself, he explores the connections between individuals in Gauntlet’s London, and the subsequent history of the grimoire itself and the hands through which it passed.

Gauntlet had an eclectic approach to magic, including charms derived from the Psalms, material from other texts such as the Key of Solomon, conjurations not only of spirits but also of fairies (‘Oberion’ makes an appearance), and the little-known Olympic spirits. Many of his charms are related to the usual range of subjects desired by folk who consult magical practitioners – charms for love, health, and finding treasure, plus prophecy and skrying. There’s even a charm involving a turnip, which in my mind conjures the shade of Baldrick, but the overall effect of reading through Gauntlet’s preoccupations gives the impression of a lively and enquiring mind, with a spirit of proto-empirical investigation. Gauntlet moves towards science, based on observation, then shies away from it again: the charm to attract familiar spirits involves the blood of a lapwing turning to worms (presumably maggots, if this is observational and not metaphorical), then back to a lapwing again. Half observation and half wild speculation – we might see this as an analogy for the two-steps-forward, one-step-back progress of scientific enquiry in this particular age.

It is this eclecticism of Gauntlet’s work – veering from folk magic to angelic conjuration and with much in between – that also serves as analogy to the social context in which Gauntlet was writing and working, and into which his grimoire subsequently passed. The connections between astrologers, playwrights, churchmen, politicians and cunning men and women, are fascinating in themselves: Gauntlet’s book was owned by Elias Ashmole (founder of the Ashmolean), a Lord Chancellor (Baron Somers), cunning-woman Ann Savadge, and astrologer John Humphreys, among others. The role played by women in the history of this grimoire is itself an interesting one: Gauntlet’s principal skryer was a woman named Sarah Skelhorn, and I would suggest that a serious study of the part played by women in the range of magical practice at this time would merit further consideration. Rankine’s work raises a number of questions which it would be well worth pursuing.

A few problems, mainly caused by funding issues, have held me up getting on with the MA (MRes).

I am shy 2 assignments, and I have to corral some time with my tutor/sponsor to get the project defined and scoped - I am just praying that I will find enough time to write enough up once I get a clear aim at what I am doing.

I was heartened today by the visit of a delightful young lady midway through her own MA, and all the way from UConn, trying to formulate a dissertation out of the way people value land or locations. I wished her good luck with that. Her research may have some bearing on my own project, which is around what Glastonbury needs to provide greater public access to 'local heritage resources' - archaeological, historical and mystical (so a fairly narrow, focussed, succinct brief there, then.....).....

I really need to break the back of the research in the winter months, which is completely counter-intuitive for the University, who are used to switching off and writing their own books in the darker days, so I will have to fight for attention and assistance, or, as usual, get on with it for myself.

That said, I enjoyed my first term, with time on campus, and in the labs full of skeletons and skulls, but I am equally enjoying the break!

I have started to read fiction again - currently with my nose in a glorious 70's rock romp, and recognising not only the players, but also the 'altered geography' of Wiltshire. More on that later - I intend to read a lot more outside academia in 2012, and like Liz with the 2 reviews earlier, I will be posting comments on here.

I also hope to post more regularly here again (although you may have heard that before too).....

Happy New Year all!

T

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