On to one of my favorite chapters, Chapter 5 – Counter Magic and Protection. Peter Paddon, author, publisher, podcaster and cunning man, shares his thoughts on some of the subjects raised in this chapter.
Mr. Paddon is well known for his Crooked Path podcasts, the Crooked Path Journal and for his book, A Grimoire for Modern Cunningfolk. He is the owner of Pendraig Publishing, bringing quality books to the pagan community.
For your reading ease, bits from Mastering Witchcraft are quoted below, with discussion points. The bolded bits are Peter’s responses.
____________________________________________________________hapter Five, in which Our Hero makes Familiar with the Arte Magical, instructs us in the Care of Amulets, and proposes a novel use for the Humble Onion.
“Don’t delude yourself. The minute you set foot upon the path of witchcraft, a call rings out in the unseen world announcing the fact of your arrival.”
Have you experienced this yourself?
Yes – the act of setting foot upon the Path changes your perspective of the world, and also changes the world’s perspective of you. Working magick is like lighting a campfire at night, and it attracts attention from the equivalent of bugs, and from greater intelligences as well.
“Hertha, be pleased to grant that which I ask, protect this house and home and all who live therein, so shall I always thank you with due faith”
In what circumstances would/do you engage in magical ‘bargaining’?
In some traditions, bargaining is the normal way of working with deities, and even where it isn’t overt, it can take place in the form of offerings. Working with the Bright Gods is simple, because they have a vested interest in us, as they inhabit the forms we create for them, but for the Old Ones, the Dark Gods, they are not so dependent on us for their existence, and we need to get their attention, pique their interest, or get them involved in some way. This can often take the form of bargaining.
“…you should seal the egg into a previously prepared and exorcised black box cushioned within by some dark fabric – a piece of your discarded clothing is ideal. This box you must now bury deeply and permanently, either as nearly under the threshold of the house as you can manage or beneath your hearth, if you have one….The egg must be incorporated into the basic fabric of the house, if not the foundations … spit thrice into the hole, and then proceed to fill it in solidly and permanently… It is in fact the vestige of an ancient sacrificial earth ritual.”
What function does the egg serve? The spit? Any thoughts about the black box and clothing?
The egg is a life, and replaces the animal or human sacrifice that would have been done in older times. The spit is to incorporate the energy and magical authority of the practitioner – all body fluids contain life-force and are linked by DNA signature to the crafter – that is required to activate the working. It is a more personal way of charging the working with energy, and spitting on something was once considered a baptism, making the thing sacred (still true in Yaruba and other Afro-centric traditions).
Why a part of the house itself, rather than placed inside or outside?
Originally the sacrifice would be laid into the foundations, so the animal became part of the house, and its spirit would therefore eternally guard the house and its occupants.
“These … should suffice to cover any everyday contingencies such as occasional burst of hostile vibrations set up by the family rows over the dinner table, or those set humming by casual ‘overlooking’ of the envious next-door neighbor or visiting friends (probably totally unconsciously on their part).”
Would you consider smoothing family relations and averting envious thoughts to be an important part of protection? Why or why not?
The peace and quiet to work your art or follow your profession without being interrupted by squabbles, nosey-parkers etc., is to be treasured!
“…in order to be effective amulets, they must first have been formed by natural process … and second, they should also be found by the user rather than bought… don’t pass the [amulet] through fire and water; no purification or charging is necessary. It is an amulet, not a talisman, and is used au naturel, straight out of the Earth.”
“However, the second variety of witch ball is … a fisherman’s hollow glass net-float. As this is again an amulet, not a talisman, it should be the real thing. It receives its ‘consecration,’ or magical charge, during its actual use in fishing.”
Huson makes a distinction between amulets and talismans, and cautions us not to exorcise the former. He gives examples of manufactured objects, which are consecrated by their purpose and use. With tools, he instructs us to buy without bargaining, whereas amulets must be found by the user. What are your thoughts about these distinctions?
For me, the difference between an amulet and a talisman is that an amulet, whether found or made, is designed to “do its thing” indiscriminately for a long period of time – such as a lucky charm that brings good fortune to whoever possesses it, or a protective pendant that protects whoever wears it.
A Talisman, on the other hand, is usually created for a specific purpose, for a specific person, for a specific time. An amulet will give the bearer good fortune in business dealings, while a talisman will ensure that the person it was made for wins a specific court case.
Some amulets are found natural objects, such as hag stones, some are made, such as jewelry or corn dollies, and some are mundane items that have over the millennia become intrinsically imbued with magick, such as those glass floats, horseshoes, coffin and horseshoe nails, silver sixpences (or Mercury nickels in the US) and rabbit’s feet.
“The [amulets] should be hung or placed as near your hearth as possible. Failing that … simply hang them in the room you happen to spend most of your time in.”
Fire is a powerful agent of transformation, and the hearth, which captures/contains that force, is a powerful symbol which is woven deeply into our psyches. What modern substitutions could be made for the hearth, if any?
Some old-school traditions (my own path included) make use of a hearth-stone as the centerpiece of group or family workings. It is often a flat stone found in a dried-out riverbed or from a significant location. As the hearth was both the heat source and cooking place in old times, the kitchen stove can serve in that capacity for solo practitioners (“kitchen witches”).
Some traditions use the metaphor of the forge instead, and forge-fire is good as both a metaphor and as a magical visualization technique for manipulating magical energy.
“They [the amulets] should also be hung up ‘in Hertha’s name.’”
Why in the name of a deity, rather than on your own recognizance?
When you are working direct magick, your own authority, or that of your ancestors/predecessors is frequently enough, but a protective amulet needs to be attached to a constant source of power, and deities fit that need quite nicely.
Mandragores and Alrauns – selecting appropriate plant; feeding it for a lunar month with 13 drops of water/blood or water/milk; carving features of the opposite sex to your own, curing it in vervain smoke, and “looking to it for that night, as the old books put it delicately, ‘as your wife.’”
What is your opinion of this procedure, the symbols held within it, and its effectiveness?
I haven’t tried this technique myself, though I understand from those who have it can be very effective. It does follow the general principles for creating a magical life-form, though, which would have me leaning towards blood rather than milk. I would personally incorporate elements of the creation of Bloduwedd into it, but that is because I’m Welsh, not because there is anything missing per se.
“Though during coven practice the circle can be left and reentered without impairing its efficiency; when used as a means of magical defense, this is quite out of the question, serving as it does a completely different function, namely, that of keeping hostile currents out.”
“… save for the use of a telephone, which incidentally should be on your list as one of the things to take with you into the circle.”
Does a telephone constitute a pathway in and out of circle?
When working magick, having a phone handy would be the very last thing I wanted!
For purposes of house cleansings and protections, do you attend to electric outlets, toilets, sinks and tubs? What about telephones, computer lines, attic vents and foundation weep holes?
I have never felt the need to specifically do anything to these, as they are part of the intrinsic structure of the house, and not specified as doorways. On the other hand, I do pay particular attention to mirrors in the house, as they can traditionally be used as doorways just as much as windows and regular doors.
Is the exhaustive nature of the pathways into a home an argument for placing magical protections into the fabric of the house itself, as with burying of the egg referenced earlier?
Yes – if the structure is protected, then ALL of the structure is protected.
Huson also suggests some traditional protective measures:Draw pentagrams pointing outwards on your doorsteps Nail horseshoes or horns upward over any entrances Hang an old knife or sword on front and pack door, surrounded by wreath of bay leaves Hammer 3 iron nails into each of the doors – two below, one above, in triangle formation Bury a witch bottle beneath your doorsteps Place a saucer of vinegar in every room Place a newly cut onion half in each room
Are these protections familiar to you? Which, if any, have you used?
I’ve come across all of them – and not just in covens – and have used all of them except the vinegar and onions.
Do you have a favored method of protection that isn’t mentioned in this chapter that you’d like to share?
East Anglian Witches’ Ladder – a length of twine or hemp with black feathers (odd number) knotted into it. It is used mundanely to keep deer out of your garden, but it also deters unwanted spirits and misfortune. Hang it behind a door to prevent malice or misfortune from entering in.