Black spirits and white,
Red spirits and grey,
Come ye, come ye, come ye that may.
Throughout and about, around and around,
The circle be drawn, the circle be bound.
There is a part of the Inner Planes, the Other World, which is called Witchdom. There you may learn much, if you can contact it. There are spells and chants, dances and music and such woods and streams as delight the hearts of witches. … Nothing is lost, but much is stored deep. … Do not be in a hurry. Find few people and good. When the full moon is out, you can come close to Witchdom. The rays of the moon have power, when they bathe the earth with its light. It is the window, in more ways than one. You too can see through the window.– John (“Nicholas”) Breakspeare, as channeled by Doreen Valiente, 1966
The Waning Moon, void-of-course, the Wheel turning steeply towards Samhain–it’s not surprising that my thoughts turn to matters beyond this narrow span of years that limit mortal life. Tonight I mark the first solar return of the passing of one of my dearest friends and mentors in the Craft, Niklas Gander. There seem to be a huge crowd of mediocre, listless people who hang on endlessly while those whom the gods love die young (as the Greeks said of old). But what can one do. Those who are remembered, and kept close in our hearts, live. And as Nicholas Breakspeare wrote through Old Doreen’s pen nearly fifty years ago now, much is stored deep.
I have been thinking of Niklas, and of another Brother of the Art we lost last year, Brian Dragon, as I have been reading Stephen Skinner’s fascinating volume, Techniques of Solomonic Magic. I have become sufficiently engaged with Skinner’s narrative to page the prequel, Techniques of Greco-Egyptian Magic, from the library . It’s fascinating, to judge from what the most up-to-date scholarship has confirmed, just how much of magical practice persisted from the era of Pax Romana down to a very recent age. Francis Barrett’s The Magus, originally published in 1801, drew largely upon Agrippa, who was firmly in the Solomonic tradition. That tradition, in turn, seems mostly to have drawn from Greco-Egyptian sources–sources I would call Hermetic, but then, I’m just a practitioner, not a scholar. And if I’m not mistaken, The Magus was a key work in the activities of the Cambridge magical circle of the early 19th century, which led on to the magical revival of the mid to late years of the Victorian era. I’m finding it all very thought-provoking to read through. If I could call Niklas and discuss it with him, I know at some point he would ask me: “But Shimmer, what impact does it have upon your practice?” Because a Witch is above all things practical. But Niklas also loved learning for its own sake, and unfolded many vivid tableaux of lost lore before me during our conversations. I cherish those memories.
I remember one night of sharing stories and songs of the Art that enthralled us both, over the telephone. Even though we were disembodied voices to one another, a picture built up in my mind of both of us hovering over the hearth in our cowls and cloaks, brooding over the darkly shimmering flames of an autumnal fire, sharing the mead of good companionship and the wise words of the Old Ones. Somewhere, somehow, that fellowship goes on. The Wisdom weaves Herself ever more fully into the tapestry of the lives of those who continue both on this plane and in the Beyond, and the time that is to come may yet bring new secrets to light for us, of Witchery yet undreamt-of.
…Nothing is lost.
This half of a fruit from the tree of Avalon
Shall be our reminder, among the fallen leaves
This life treads underfoot. Let the rain weep.
Waken in sunlight from the Realms of Sleep.
–Doreen Valiente, Elegy for a Dead Witch