Warriors of the Word by Michael Newton

This book tells you about the culture of the Highlanders of Scotland, focusing on documents from the Middle Ages to the Jacobites.  It gives a wealth of detail about their lives and some pointers about ritual.

I recommend it for anyone following a Scottish path, and it’s an interesting read for people who don’t follow a Scottish path.

Coincidences and Free Will

I believe that some things we decide for ourselves, while deities can prod us to do various things via coincidences.

For example, I got into paganism and witchcraft because I was prodded.  One day I volunteered for a lock duty.  A lock duty is when volunteers man the canal locks for the boats and the boats give us a tip which goes to the upkeep of the locks.

When I got to where I was staying for the lock duty I was told that it would only take one day of the weekend and we’d go to a mediaeval fayre the day before the lock duty.  I’d never been to one, so I said that I’d give it a try.

When we got to the mediaeval fayre my future betrothed and I got separated from the rest of the group.  If we hadn’t been separated from the rest of the group I would not have looked at the Coven of Artemis stall and bought a magazine.

I didn’t join the Coven of Artemis, but that series of what a lot of people would call “coincidences” led me to search out paganism on the web, which led to me joining my first pagan forum, which was the now defunct UK Pagan.

Not all coincidences are deities prodding us to do something.  The problem with coincidences is that not everything in this world has a meaning.  We could spend our whole lives trying to make sense of coincidences, when in fact some of them mean nothing.


We all use labels to define ourselves and to identify us to others.  As most pagans and witches need a short paragraph to adequately define what they do it’s easy to start worrying about what you call yourself.

For example, I follow various Irish deities and am a polytheist.  I also practice witchcraft and try to reconstruct the practices and values which the Irish had before Christian times.

If a Christian said they were a Baptist or were Church of England, we’d know exactly what they were because those labels are set in stone, but for a pagan or a witch, it’s different because the labels are not defined so well.  At various times I call myself an Irish Traditional Witch, Irish Pagan or Irish Polytheist.  I keep the labels to a maximum of three words because it gets too complex after that.

However, if I call myself a Traditional Witch, not all traditional witches follow deities, so that label does not encompass all I do.  Neither does “Irish Pagan” as not all pagans do witchcraft and not all pagans are polytheists.  If I call myself “Irish Polytheist” I have the same trouble as calling myself an Irish Pagan as not all polytheists do witchcraft.

Furthermore, if we examine the label “Christian” then we find that Christians worship the same deity, celebrate the same festivals, take communion and worship in churches.  Whereas a pagan may or may not celebrate various festivals and can follow any number from one deity up to many.

Yes, it’s complicated.  This is because most of the paganism and witchcraft we practice today is still in it’s infancy and very unorganised.  So don’t worry too much about what you call yourself, especially as some labels are still shaping themselves into a coherent sound.  And it’s okay for you to call yourself a “bog-standard Pagan” which some do.

What Witches Do

In the process of writing this book Stuart Farrar was initiated into Alexandrian Wicca.  This book has been updated from when he first wrote it as things have changed since then.

The book was an interesting read and gave me an insight into Alexandrian Wicca, which seems to be mainly ceremonial witchcraft.  I found out that I use the same sort of clairvoyance as they do but gained nothing else from the book, except for the knowledge why the Gardnerians were (and possibly still are) unhappy with the Alexandrians.  According to this book, Alex Sanders used their Book of Shadows as the one “passed down by his grandmother” and called Gerald Gardner “a first degree witch” in an interview at the back of the book.

If you’re interested in Alexandrian Wicca or Wicca in general then get this book.  Otherwise don’t bother.

Beltane Part Three

In the afternoon I went for a walk in the woods.  I took an offering of water for my tribal tree and an offering of water for the guardian tree in the old part of the woods.

First I gave the offering to my tribal tree and talked with it for a while.  Then I went to find the guardian tree of the old woods.  This is a very old beech tree, with a huge trunk which dominates the old woods.  A circle of logs has been placed around the tree so people can sit on them.

I gave it the offering of water while walking around it in a circle.  I did talk to this tree and it was suspicious of what I was doing.  We humans have not treated the old part of the forest well, so it is suspicious of all humans.  I plan to give it an offering of water every time I give an offering to our tribal tree.  Hopefully it will become less suspicious of me in time.

Beltane Part 2 – Celebration

So far, when I have been celebrating I have written a new ritual each time.  This keeps my rituals from getting stale and formulaic.  It’s easier to introduce new ideas and concepts in them and since the last time I have performed them I have done more, read more and am slightly different from the last time I performed them.

But this time I dug out the ritual I had used last time.  This time I am up to my neck in things to do at work and at home and I realised that I just wasn’t going to be able to plan anything.

First I made salt water by dissolving sea salt in water to honour Donn, as he drowned in the sea.  He was one of the Milesians who came to Ireland on Beltane and eventually settled on the half of Ireland above ground, giving the Tuatha De Danaan the half below ground.  I plan to pick up some real sea water next month for ritual purposes as I live several hours drive away from the sea.

This is the first ritual in a while I have not done outside.  Donn is the god who takes the dead to his house : Tech Duinn on the Beara peninsula in Ireland, and it was fitting that my altar is in the darkest room in the house.  I set my altar up with stones, some polished by the sea, some polished by hand and did my ritual.  I am keeping my altar to him up for a noinden, which is a nine-day period.

Beltane Part 1

I’m splitting my Beltane activities into three parts, so each post deals with different things.

As usual on Beltane I had breakfast and then a bath. I was surprised when I found myself thinking about doing a meditation after my bath, as I usually meditate after ritual.

So for once taking the hint and realising there was some purpose to this, I meditated and met Donn. This is his day (more about that in Part 2) and he wasn’t happy with me.

The Friends of Linslade Wood had organised a Dawn Chorus walk, where they listened to the dawn chorus at 4:30 a.m. and identified the birds singing. Originally I’d said I would go and then changed my mind because I was already aching from walking around London.

For me, part of my path is keeping my word and Donn wasn’t happy with me because I’d said I’d go and then didn’t keep my word. So from now on I have to be careful with what I say. I can say I may do things if I’m not sure, but once I’ve said I’ll do something then I have to do it. At his instigation I have written a list of things I’ve said I’ll do and haven’t got around to them, which isn’t as long as I thought it would be.

It may seem funny to some for me to have to keep my word as part of my path. Part of it is that I do try to get back to things that my ancestors would have done; and one of the values that I espouse is to keep my word. It’s often hard to do, but I have noticed that when I do it things go easier for me, even if they’re hard to put in motion.

With the way things are going doing all the things I’ve said I’ll do will take a while to do. I’m planning my wedding and trying to sort out the infrastructure of the garden so we can actually get down to planting things in it next year, so a lot of things are taking a back seat. I said I’d write some aspen lore for someone last year and have only just started it…