‘Winter Nights’, the Wotanist New Year

No other festival in the pagan calendar has as many associations with witchcraft, faeries and ghosts as Winter Nights, more commonly known as ‘Hallowe’en’ or  as ‘Samhain’ in Wicca and the Gaelic tradition.  The Old English name for this time was ‘Winterfylleth’, which according to the Anglo-Saxon historian, Bede, referred to the full moon that signalled the beginning of winter. Though it is unknown what the name of this blot was to the Norsemen, it has been suggested that it was what was known as ‘Álfablót’, meaning ‘elven sacrifice’. This blot was not a public ritual in Scandinavia, and was concerned primarily with the ancestral cult of the family and home. However, in the British Isles it has always been a more social festival, where folk would go to each others’ homes guising, wearing a scary costume so as to fool mischievous spirits who would mistake them for their own rather than humans that they could play tricks on.

Though the traditional date in Modern times is the 31st of October, this is due to the fact that we use an exclusively solar calendar, and so the festival would have been celebrated on or around the full moon nearest this time, as suggested by the Old English word fylleth, which meant the full moon. Nevertheless, the festival could last between three to seven days, and so celebrations were not confined to a single day. Whichever specific evening during this time was deemed best for communication with the spirit world was the time of the ancestral offering.

The primary focus of veneration would be one’s ancestors, and the ritual would involve a whole household. The family would gather around a bonfire to perform the blót, a feature which is still present in Celtic tradition. However, in Modern Britain it is now more of a feature of Guy Fawkes Night, which is a secularized version of All Hallows Eve that largely replaced the original folk festival following the Reformation and is celebrated on the 5th of November. The bonfire was meant to keep away evil spirits that dislike the light. Offerings from the harvest, such as crops or animals, were given to ensure good luck for the coming winter. It was at this time that the oldest and weakest cattle were to be sacrificed in order to be able to feed the rest of the herd over winter, and the ancestors’ spirits were invited to join in the feasting.

The jack-o’-lantern was originally a carved-out turnip which had a face that was meant to represent the household spirits, which are known as ‘brownies’ in Scots or ‘hobgoblins’ in English and as a ‘Kobold’ in German or ‘domovoi’ in Russian. These creatures are usually described as little hairy men who protect the household and are said to help to do housework in exchange for offering of bread or milk. If offended or neglected, they are likely to cause mess and play tricks on mortals. As these creatures were also most easily seen around during Winter Nights, their abilities to protect the home were utilized and were represented by the faces now carved into pumpkins, though this has generally lost its original meaning. These domestic spirits were not considered the same as the spirits of the ancestors, but they were tied to families and could follow them if they moved to a different home.

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Modern-day turnip Jack-o-lantern

As Winter Nights was a liminal time, contact with faeries or the dead was most successful around this time. It was for this reason that divination was a traditional part of Hallowe’en up until recently, though this aspect of the holiday is being revived along with the new acceptance of and interaction with the supernatural. Any reflective surface could be used to see visions, including a mirror, a crystal ball or a ‘keek stane’, a convex piece of reflective glass kept in a box in the Scottish tradition. It is at this time that special care was taken not to visit haunted places, though there are stories of foolish folk who came upon these places by chance or deliberately. Although the protective spirits of the ancestors and the brownies were most active around this time, so were potentially pernicious beings such as goblins or ghosts, which is why ghost stories are often told or set during this time. It was also a time when witches would be working magic, taking advantage of heightened contact with the spirit word, some of whom had ill intentions. It is for this reason that witches feature so prominently in Hallowe’en imagery.

As this holiday was meant to signify the coming of winter, death became more present in the minds of our ancestors who required the good luck from the ancestral spirits in order to increase their chances of surviving the cold season. This was the time of year that most young children died from sickness, and so it was necessary to make sure that the family was well protected from harmful forces. This time also marked the New Year, as it corresponded with the nightfall of the year-day, and in Ancient Europe, nightfall was considered to be the beginning of a new day. This corresponds to the festival of Diwali in Hinduism, and is also celebrated by Zoroastrians as Mehregan (though the Iranian New Year is tied to the Spring Equinox festival of Nowruz instead). As such, this was a time to wind down and prepare for longer nights and reduced outdoor activity, and folk in the past would have focused more on indoor activities such as spinning and weaving, woodworking and storytelling, which is another reason that this festival was so strongly associated with the home.

Halig Winterfylleth!

Wulf Willelmson

‘Night’

“Softly, leaves fall on the ground
Whispering without a sound
The cold stream is quickly flowing
And darkness is slowly growing

Sun sets behind the hills
The air is dry and chill
Somewhere a raven calls
And then the night falls

Up from the earth comes the moon
The stars will be appearing soon
Nothing stirs in the dark wood
And there is a calming mood

Deep is the murk, long is the night
High in the sky, the moon shines bright
An owl calls at every hour
Midnight, the peak of witches’ power

Wind begins to sway the trees
The first wave of morning breeze
Sun begins to rise again
And with grace, the dawn ascends”

Wulf Willelmson

European Entheogens: Folk Medicine and Magical Aids

If you have an apprehension towards the use of psychoactive plants and their effects on humans outside of the context of Modern pharmaceutical medicine, then you may not wish to read on about this particular subject. Even more so, this topic deals with some substances which are currently illegal or extremely dangerous to use without training, and thus are unsuitable for experimentation by most people. If this concept frightens or irks you, begone! It is better for those who do not know enough about the nature of such things to rely on the advice of professional practitioners, preferably ones who do not fall for the reductionist quackery of Modern medicine (though for most of us, this is unfortunately not the case). However, for those of you who feel compelled to explore such things in depth, or possibly those who feel the call to study the art of traditional medicine, I will present a summary of some of the main plants that can be used in a sacred or ‘shamanic’ context within European culture.

It just so happens that we are among those various peoples across the world who do not have a significant tradition remaining that involves the use of such substances. The main culprit for this current state is the mania that seized our lands from the late 15th to the 17th Centuries AD, which encouraged religious and secular authorities to root out all traces of feminine folk wisdom and brand the practitioners of such arts as ‘witches’. This followed the social calamity of the Black Death and was an attempt by the Judeo-Christian authorities to assert themselves when the drastic population reduction in Europe and the loss of central authority had made folk more reliant on traditional methods in order to survive.

Much of this involved consulting wise women who were skilled in potion brewing and ointment making, as well as the creation of good luck charms and the practice of divination. These disciplines are all inter-related, and many of them can be achieved by working with plants which were once considered sacred. Sadly, the imposition of Judeo-Christianity merely followed earlier, statist attempts to outlaw such substances within the Roman Empire, and under such circumstances the use of these substances typically loses its sacramental context and devolves into a recreational or criminal activity.

Among tribal societies, however, the knowledge of how to work with sacred plants is at the heart of the spiritual, physical and psychological well-being of the tribe and the individuals that use them in this way are treated with a mixture of fear and respect. On one hand, they have an intuitive understanding of what particular plant should treat a specific ailment, and also what the dosage should be depending on the individual requiring treatment. However, their working of potentially poisonous plants and the ability to travel to other worlds and converse with deities and other spiritual beings makes them potentially dangerous. The accusations levelled at women (and sometimes men) who were supposedly engaging in black magic during the Burning Times were not completely unfounded all of the time, as the ability to heal also enables the potential to harm; and so it would be naïve to assume that some of the cunning folk never employed poisoning or hexing, either as an abuse of power or as a way of teaching a lesson to a fool. However, the gift given to such individuals by the gods was one which could be taken away if misused, and so those involved in such practices had to abide by a deep adherence to natural law and know how to work above their own ego.

Below is a list of some of the more powerful substances that are known to have been used in native European tradition. I believe that it is important to focus on our own cultural perspective, as the adoption of practices from other cultures may not coincide with those of our forebears. It is unfortunate that we have experienced such a complete and utter devastation of the traditional use of entheogens in Modern Europe, and so most people’s understanding of these substances is tainted by harmful perspectives that are a result of prohibition.

Whether it be hysterical rejection of the use of such substances because of a belief in their inherently harmful nature and an ignorance of their positive uses, or a completely hedonistic worldview which sees such treasures as a way to ‘get high’ and only seeks such substances for the sake of pleasure, I find it necessary to give a third perspective which focuses on their sacred rather than profane usage. As there are many fantastic blogs which deal with herbal lore, I will only focus on those that are more suitable for a ritual context rather than those which are of a more mild nature and can be utilized for everyday use. Be warned that the penalties for messing with these things may end with a prison sentence or harming one’s body or mind because of side-effects, and I provide this list merely as a guide to entheogenic study.

Belladonna (Atropa Belladonna)

A-127-11 Atropa belladonna

This infamous plant is commonly known as ‘deadly nightshade’, a name which has been attached to it mainly to ward of children from eating the berries, which are luscious and sweet, but usually result in a painful death for them. The main chemical constituents are scopolamine and hyoscyamine, though the latter metabolizes into atropine upon drying and is the main chemical associated with this plant. These chemicals are known as ‘anticholinergics’ and are capable of inducing delirium, realistic or terrifying hallucinations, a rapid heart rate, difficulty urinating and stupor. However, they are also invaluable for their use in treating nausea, insomnia, toothache, low blood pressure and bradycardia (a dangerously slow heartbeat), and were historically used as sedatives before performing surgery.

Despite the lethal danger to children, Belladonna poisoning does not usually result in death for adults. However, its ability to trap a victim in a waking dream of hallucinations and delirium can have disastrous consequences for somebody who becomes poisoned by her, as they are reliant on others to make sure that they do not confuse their hallucinations for reality and injure or kill themselves in the process. It is for this reason that belladonna is feared for her dangerous power, and will only respond positively to those who employ her aid for reasonable purposes.

One particularly notable instance of its use for poisoning was at the Battle of Denmarkfield near Luncarty in Perthshire during the 11th Century. The Danes, led by Sweyn Knutson, had been pillaging Fife and besieged MacBeth near the River Almond. The Scottish king, Duncan, offered Sweyn and his army wine laced with Belladonna as a sign of truce. By nightfall, the soporific effects of the drug caused the Danes to pass out or become delirious, and were easily massacred by the Scots. Sweyn escaped, but the Danes were expelled from our land for good. There is a standing stone to mark the site of the battle near the village of Luncarty. Archaeological excavations have also unearthed remains of Belladonna seeds at the Medieval town of Elgin in Moray, and they are usually associated with monasteries. After the conversion to Christianity, much of the medicinal lore was kept in the hands of the monks, and healing herbs were a common feature of monastic gardens. Though Belladonna is fairly common in England, it is much rarer in Scotland, as it prefers chalky soil and much of our native soil is very acidic and dense in clay.

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Denmarkfield ‘King’s Stone’, said to commemorate the Battle of Denmarkfield, Luncarty

Aside from the medicinal uses mentioned above, Belladonna is known to have been used to induce trance and was used in the practice of astral projection, where the user is able to send their hama (‘soul-skin’ or ‘astral body’) into other worlds to attain visions for the sake of divination or healing. It is for this particular quality that the cunning folk sought her aid in private rituals, although they would usually have needed an assistant to watch over them while they journeyed. Typically, Belladonna was used in the form of a ‘flying ointment’ in conjunction with other, more poisonous herbs such as wolfsbane (aconitum napellus) or hemlock (conium maculatum). Atropine is unable to pass through the skin, and so this would reduce the negative effects on the body that would result from ingesting such a chemical. In this context, the entheogenic use would have been more secretive than that of some other substances, though it may have been used by a group of practitioners to achieve spirit flight.

The chemicals in Belladonna are also known to cause lycanthropy, a condition where the subject believes themselves to be a wolf, and may be connected to folklore about werewolves. An elite band of warriors in Norse society was known as the ulfheithnar, and they were supposedly able to invoke the spirit of the wolf to aid them in battle (much like the ‘berserkers’, whom I will mention shortly). It is possible that Belladonna was used in potions or ointments by these warriors for this purpose, and it could also have been used to contact one’s own spirit animal. Belladonna is sacred to Nerthuz and it can be used as part of a Saturday incense (though this is not recommended).

Cannabis (Cannabis Sativa)

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Ah, what a controversial herb this is! Found in every street in all corners of British society, this particular weed is widely utilized for its ability to treat nausea, calm the mind, relieve pain and increase appetite. Sadly, it is more often than not used as a recreational drug, and is associated with a black market that mass produces the plant without any regulation or oversight. As the result of prohibition, it is unable to be used for medicinal purposes unless in the extracted, chemical forms, though the non-psychoactive varieties of hemp are grown for their nutritious seeds which can be used to make oil, and also as a textile.

Nowadays, this herb is associated with Black gang culture and all of the thuggery and degeneracy that goes along with the criminal and recreational elements, but this is only a recent phenomenon. In the past, cannabis sativa was grown all over Europe for its value both as a medicine and as a textile, though it is probably not native. Its native range is probably Central Asia, and it was likely to have been introduced to Europe by the Aryans migrating from the Russian Steppe, where it grows wild in the form of cannabis ruderalis. Cannabis sativa is the cultivated form of the herb and has been widely utilized for its mind altering affects, particularly those relating to euphoria and creativity. The main chemical constituents of cannabis are THC and CBD, though the ratio of these may vary between different strains of the herb.

The connection between Cannabis and ecstasy (the state of being, not the drug MDMA) is well attested today and in ancient times. It is known by names such as ‘reliever of grief’ and ‘banisher of sorrow’, and was used to treat anxiety because of its ability to engage the more logical side of the brain and calm over-active emotions. It has been used by Indian ascetics known as sadhus to assist in meditation and to achieve liberation from the five senses. Naturally, the use of the herb for this purpose requires tremendous will and discipline, and so most folk prefer to utilize its ritual or medicinal uses.

One example is given by the Greek historian, Herodotus, who wrote that the Scythians of the Russian Steppe used Cannabis as part of a funeral ritual, where the seeds (he probably meant the flowers, which are known as ‘buds’ and do not look like flowers) were thrown on heated stones underneath a felt blanket and the resulting vapour was inhaled by the participants. The effects of the vapour were probably intended to soothe grief and accept the passing of a relative, by easing the attachment to that person temporarily. Cannabis was also used by the Ancient Celts, as excavations of an Iron Age chieftain’s grave in Hochdorf, Germany, have revealed traces of hashish (a refined form of Cannabis) on his cloak, suggesting that he was involved in using the sacrament. Hemp seeds have also been found among the clothing of women from Viking Age burials in Denmark, although it is not clear whether they were used for psychoactive purposes or simply for food. Even excavations of William Shakespeare’s home at Stratford-Upon-Avon have revealed traces of Cannabis in clay pipes found in what would have been the garden, supporting the idea that Cannabis has, and still is frequently used, by writers and poets for inspiration and creativity.

Cannabis is not known to be lethal in any capacity (though it may be adulterated with toxins as a result of illicit production) and while its medicinal effects are lauded by those with enough clarity to see them, it also has its downsides as a drug. Some people with a predisposition to addiction may find themselves indulging in the plant for psychological pain relief, something which is possible with Cannabis but must be accompanied by the appropriate therapy, otherwise it becomes a habit and a vice. Excessive use can cause a loss of motivation and apathy, and may even result in a worse mood when the effects of the drug have worn off.

An excessive dosage can also cause tachycardia (rapid heart rate), low blood pressure, hallucinations, anxiety and paranoia (although this last side-effect is probably due to the fact that it is illegal, as the stimulating nature of Cannabis would worsen the worry about this fact). However, within a medicinal context, such issues are rarely a cause for concern, and it is a dreadful shame that many who need pain relief are unable to access it and are forced to rely on the pharmaceutical extracts or on street dealers who have no interest in their well-being. In the UK, Cannabis is a Class B controlled substance, and being found in possession of it can result in up to 5 years in prison or an unlimited fine and it is illegal in most parts of the world. Cannabis is sacred to Freya and can be used for any magic involving love, as it is known to be an aphrodisiac.

Fly Agaric (Amanita Muscaria)

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This visually attractive red and white mushroom is ever present in European artistic aesthetics, as it is commonly portrayed as being surrounded by fairies and is usually associated with Father Christmas and his reindeer. It grows under birch and spruce trees and is native to all temperate and sub-Arctic parts of the world. Though not the ‘magic mushroom’ that will be covered later on in this article, it is still psychoactive, though it is difficult to assess its actual effects for unknown reasons. For some reason, it can either have negligible effects or produce an intense hallucinogenic experience and it is difficult to know how to achieve this.

It is known that the main chemicals of Fly Agaric are muscimol and ibotenic acid, as well as muscarine and muscazone. Muscimol is a hallucinogen, while the other chemicals are simply poisons, and the side effects that can be experienced by this drug include delirium, stupor, vomiting, sweating and low blood pressure, effects which are associated with ‘cholinergic’ drugs. For this reason, there is a lot of superstition surrounding the mushroom, and factors involved in the potency of the drug include the time of year picked, the conditions of the location where it grows (presumably soil acidity is a factor) and how it is dried. The mushroom eaten fresh and picked late in the year is known to produce the most side effects, while those picked earlier and dried are said to yield more positive results.

Though Fly Agaric is commonly described as lethal in mycology guides, this is incorrect, as it is only seriously dangerous raw and in large amounts and would even be eaten after parboiling by natives of Siberia and Asiatic peoples in Northern Europe. It has been observed among the Sami people that reindeer eat the mushroom, and that the poisonous effects are mitigated by drinking the urine from the reindeer after its ingestion. Such practices have also been followed by priests in Western Siberia, where the tribal priests take the mushroom and dispense their urine to their congregation.

In Eastern Siberia, use of the mushroom is less restricted, and it is not considered as essential that only the shaman can ingest the mushroom. The desired effects of Fly Agaric are similar to those of Belladonna and other plants carrying tropane alkaloids, though they have the opposite chemical mechanism on the brain and actually act as potentates or antidotes to atropine poisoning. While Fly Agaric may also cause delirium and stupor, the effects are known to be less unpleasant and dangerous as those of the tropanes, and in its dried form it is relatively safe to be ingested. The ability to induce dreamlike states and visions means that Fly Agaric is very valuable to shamans, and would also have been important to our European equivalents. Fly Agaric is not exactly used medicinally, being more utilized for its mind altering effects than anything else.

Interestingly, it has also become associated with the ‘berserkers’ of Norse lore, and it has been suggested that it was used to induce ‘battle frenzy’ among these men. ‘Berserker’ means ‘bear shirt’ and refers to the use of animal hides used to invoke the protection of an animal spirit. Though the connection between Fly Agaric and the berserker has been dismissed in more recent times, there is sufficient evidence that it was used by them. The Icelandic word for Fly Agric is berserkjasveppur, which means ‘berserker mushroom’ and it has also been connected to the Indo-Aryan sacrament known as Soma (analogous to the Iranian Haoma).

This substance was used by Aryan warriors to achieve mental clarity, though it is difficult to imagine how this was achieved with the stupefying effects of Fly Agaric. It is likely that a combination of and mixture with other substances as well as the intention and discipline in conjunction with ingestion were utilized to achieve this, though it is difficult to assert with certainty due to the lack of evidence regarding its effects. It has also been connected with esoteric Christianity and and teachings of Christ, as one anecdotal claim holds that the subject experienced visions of Heaven and Hell, reinforcing the idea of the connection to Christian imagery. Though not illegal to posses, it cannot be bought or sold under recently implemented drug laws in the UK, which prohibit the sale of non-approved psychoactive substances. Fly Agaric is sacred to Wotan and the dried skin can be used in smoking blends with other herbs.

Henbane (Hysoscyamus Niger)

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Another one of the tropane herbs, this plant is very similar in its actions to Belladonna, though it possesses its own distinct character and attributes. Henbane grows on waste ground and near the sea across Europe, though it is very rare and considered endangered in the wild. It is not native to Northern Europe, most likely originating in the Mediterranean, though it was brought here millennia ago. Traces of Henbane have been found in a clay pot from Balfarg, Fife, dating to around 3,000 BC, which suggests that it was used as part of a ritual. Henbane seeds have also been found among the burials of women in Viking Age Scandinavia (much like the hemp seeds, making a stronger case for the use of Cannabis as an entheogen). The effects of the herb are more or less the same as that of Belladonna, though it may be slightly less poisonous due to the small size and different chemical composition of the plant (Belladonna is a perennial shrub, while Henbane may come as an annual or biennial). Therefore, Henbane may be more suitable for ingestion than her sister, though this is not recommended due to the toxic nature of the tropane alkaloids.

Henbane was another ‘witches weed’ and was considered especially useful in treating toothache, though the potential side-effects mean that it is no longer used medicinally today. In a magical context, Henbane was plucked by naked virgin girls in Medieval Germany in a ritual attempting to attract rain. It was also part of a potion given by the Iranian prophet, Zoroaster, to King Vishtaspa, who went into a deathlike sleep for three days and travelled to Heaven in that time. Henbane was also used for more sinister purposes by the Ancient Gauls, who dipped their javelins in poison derived from the herb in order to inflict more damage upon their enemies. Henbane may also have been part of the potion given by Circe to Odysseus’ men in The Odyssey, since the connection between tropane alkaloids and believing oneself to be an animal, as well as the connection between Henbane and pigs (which is what they were turned into), may mean that the story is about a witch who stole the wits of men by giving them a potion that made them believe that they were pigs. Henbane is sacred to Nerthuz, though some prefer to attribute its power to Thor, on account of its use in rain-making rituals.

Liberty Cap Mushroom (Psilocybe Semilanceata)

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Also known as a ‘magic mushroom’, this is another substance which is prohibited under Modern law and has become associated with the worst aspects of the hippie culture and recreational drug use. Though more well-known than many of the other entheogens on this list, it is unique in being possibly the only psychedelic drug native to Europe. Psychadelics are different from other hallucinogens in that they do not produce delirium or dissociation, but rather they evoke colourful and geometric ‘visual distortions’ which are sought after by those looking for a step up from the curious effects of Cannabis.

Naturally, such substances are not suitable for social gatherings outside of a medicine ceremony and are frequently abused by party-goers, which can lead to unpleasant experiences. When used in an appropriate setting, magic mushrooms are useful in psychological therapy, and are known to treat depression and anxiety. Another difference between this fungus and the other entheogens on this list is that its medicinal values seem to be purely psychological and spiritual in nature, as is not known to relieve physical ailments. While they are not completely non-toxic, you would need to ingest and absurd amount of mushrooms to become poisoned, and as such they are safe to the human body for consumption in reasonable doses. The main chemical constituents are psylocin and psilocybin (which converts into psylocin during digestion).

Unfortunately, we know next to nothing about their use as an entheogen in Europe, the only clue being that in Ireland, they are known as ‘fairy mushrooms’. That and the fact that they can produce visual swirls and patterns that are reminiscent of Neolithic art suggests that they were known to our ancestors. Mesolithic cave paintings from Spain and Morocco depict strange beings holding mushrooms, and these are suggestive of shamanic use involving psychoactive mushrooms. Another small detail that may go unnoticed is the depiction of magic mushrooms in Medieval art, which feature occasionally and are curiously associated with the Apple of Eden, suggesting that Medieval Europeans knew more about these substances than we may have suspected.

If they were used in a similar way as by the natives of places like Mexico, then the Church would have taken a dim view of such practices and seen them as being used to communicate with devils. Such were the criticisms levelled at the use of magic mushrooms by the Catholic Church when it came to Mexico, and the suppression of these cults is a reasonable explanation as to why we have no indigenous tradition in Europe pertaining to the use of these mushrooms. If their use had been driven underground during the Middle Ages and only surfaced in art, we can be sure that the last vestiges were driven out of our lands during the Burning Times, and so we are left with a dearth of knowledge on how to use them.

Fortunately, we can speculate to some degree based on their usage in Mexico. They were used by the Aztecs and the Mazatecs in order to communicate with the gods, and the purpose was usually to discover a cure for an illness. They could have been used either by the healer alone, or by the healer and the patient if the illness was of a more metaphysical nature and required expelling negative entities from the patient. Typically, these healers are not looking for the fantastic visual effects, but for the intuitive voice that tells them what they need to know. Though magic mushrooms can have awful side effects, these can be mitigated by the guidance of an experienced healer and are not as commonly felt if the participant engages in preparation beforehand.

Usually, a participant would fast and abstain from meat, sex and alcohol for a few days before taking part in a medicine ceremony, as the mushroom cleans out the body on a spiritual level and any toxins remaining may lead to nausea and other discomfort when under its influence. Psilocybe semilanceata typically grows on pasture and grassland and is native to temperate zones, growing near, but not on, the dung of cows and sheep. Its association with cattle means that it is sacred to Frigg and its effects would also associate it with healers. Unfortunately, in the UK it is a Class A controlled substance, which may lead to up to 7 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine, and (like Cannabis) is illegal in most countries.

The use of these substances is something which is heavily looked down upon in our society, as it is deemed necessary for the state to have complete control over what medicines the people may have access to. Therefore, I neither promote nor encourage the use of such substances, as it is up to each individual to know if it is worth taking the risks that I have mentioned and if they can gain anything from their use. Some people are not meant to take certain substances due to risk factors, and so most of us will remain in the dark about their potential due to the restrictions on what can be done with them.

Though there is more and more evidence suggesting that our common perceptions of psychoactive plants are based on misinformation and lies, governments are slow to respond and prefer to maintain the unregulated black market rather than allow individuals to act responsibly and use what they can to treat illness. It must be kept in mind that if one does choose to use these drugs, then they must approach it with the utmost respect, as disregarding the spirit of the plant may anger it and may even be dangerous for the user. Therefore, it is important to remember what you are using them for and why you need to invoke their aid. Typically, other healing methods should be tried before attempting to deal with psychoactive drugs, and though some of these substances are not illegal, they are still capable of inflicting harm as much as they can heal. Tread carefully fellow travellers, as the world of entheogenic plant spirits is as dangerous as it is rewarding.

Wulf Willelmson

Satan

Having had a good look at Christianity and it’s various positive and negative forms, and also the various pagan myths of Teutonic lore, we will now shift our focus toward a particular feature of mythology that is a recurring theme throughout the history of religion. The being known as ‘Satan’ in Judeo-Christian mythology and as ‘Shaitan‘ in Islam, means ‘adversary’ and features as an antagonist either to God or mankind in different mythologies throughout the world. He is known in one sense as the embodiment of all evil, but also as a tragic or even sympathetic figure who rebelled against God and was cast out of Heaven.

The lore surrounding this dark figure is a mixture of pagan and Christian myths, and his association with the Judeo-Christian ‘God’ is either as the prosecutor of Job, as in the Old Testament, or as tempter of Jesus within the New Testament. However, his appearance as a horned man with goat legs and a trident is a mixture of pagan imagery, in particular the Greek forest god Pan and his Celtic cognate, Cernunnos, as well as the Greek sea god, Poseidon. To mainstream Christians, Muslims and Jews, he is seen as the one who leads you astray from the path of God and towards damnation, but he is perceived as a liberator and a figure of freedom in some pagan traditions; and sometimes is even seen as a god to be feared, rather than the more benevolent Creator deity.

Though ‘Satan’ is the name most commonly known in the West today, he is also known by the titles of ‘the Devil’ (whose name relates to words ‘devious’, ‘deviant’ and ‘devour’), Beelzebub (‘lord of the flies’, thought to derive from the Canaanite deity Ba’al) or even ‘prince of darkness’. He is also associated with Lucifer, although this is a slightly different figure that we will look at in more detail later on. In other cultures, Satan is known in different forms, such as Ahriman in Zoroastrianism, who is seen as the enemy of Ahura Mazda (‘God’) and deceiver of mankind. In Buddhism, he appears as the arch-demon Mara, who represents illusion and is the lord of death.

Within Teutonic mythology, the best fit for a Satanic figure would be Loki; who also represents illusion and deception and is the nemesis of Heimdall, guardian of the Bifrost Bridge to Asgard (the home of the Aesir and a place representing enlightenment). However, in other cultures he was seen as a deity to be worshipped, such as among the natives of Virginia, who called this being Oke, and some even performed human sacrifices of teenage boys to him. In Ancient Egypt, he was known as Seth or Set, and despite being the brother and slayer of the Sun god Osiris, he still had followers among the Ancient Egyptian kings, though his name was later blotted out in religious dedications. Even within the Old Testament, there are references to dual goat sacrifices, one to Yahweh and one to Azazel, lord of the desert, who is very similar to Set in his attributes.

Today, he is often seen as representing a very real force of evil that compels individuals to commit atrocities against others. The so-called ‘Church of Satan’ and its brand of Satanism are simply a pompous form of atheism that promotes mockery of Catholic Mass and very base individualism based off of capitalist ‘philosophy’. However, much more serious stories involving human sacrifice and child abuse have appeared in mass consciousness over the past few decades. This practice of Satanism was once associated with people usually characterized as mentally deranged heavy metal fans, particularly in the United States during the 1980s.

However, this extreme expression of teenage rebellion is not nearly as prevalent nor as disturbing as tales of ritualistic sacrifices of children by plutocratic elites, many of whom are said to be or have connections to world leaders. Due to the nature of such clandestine activities, such practices are difficult to prove. For instance, it is possible that such stories are made up in order to disseminate fear and paranoia and have no basis in truth. Such accusations are similar to those made against witches by the Catholic Church during the Burning Times. However, it would also stand to reason that if these things were happen among the wealthiest members of society, then they would have sufficient resources to cover it up and protect themselves from the wrath of the public. Either way, the idea of offering humans as a sacrifice to an infernal being are nothing new, and it is naïve to assume that such beliefs and practices are not still adhered to within the darkest corners of Man’s heart.

Thus, the nature of ‘Satan’ is multifaceted and not so easy to discern in terms of a singular being. He is a different sort of character depending on the context and how his role relates to other beings portrayed as ‘God’. For example, in the Book of Genesis, Satan is usually associated with the Apple of Eve, which was eaten by the first woman from the Tree of Knowledge. Though not explicitly mentioned as the name of the serpent who tempted Eve to eat the apple, it has been inferred from the theme of temptation to disobey that this figure represents Satan in this context. However, this story could be interpreted in different ways. On one hand, the Judeo-Christian interpretation is that Eve and her mate, Adam (the first man, whose name comes from Atum in Egyptian mythology) were damned by God and cast out of the Garden of Eden (‘paradise’) for their acts of disobedience; and so began the Fall of Man from spiritual grace.

On the other hand, a Gnostic or Luciferian perspective is to see the serpent as the spirit of curiosity, which encouraged Eve to disobey the tyrannical false god ‘Yahweh‘ and reach towards enlightenment. Both versions reflect either a Left-Hand Path or Right-Hand Path interpretation of the story, for which the meaning differs depending on one’s own values. For one on the Right-Hand Path, Satan more often is seen as a dangerous enemy, and one who tries to distract you from achieving your goals through temptation and deception. However, within the Left-Hand Path, any obstruction to liberty is seen as a hindrance and Satan can be a valuable ally in overcoming the bondage of psychological conditioning during one’s lifetime. It is at this point that it is worth distinguishing the figure of ‘Satan’ from that of ‘Lucifer’, who are often conflated but who generally represent two distinct but related beings. Satan is a figure who was originally seen as ‘the accuser’ and acted as God’s dispenser of justice on Earth in Judaic mythology. However, within Christianity he is seen as the ruler of Hell (based on both the Greek and Teutonic underworlds) and as a fallen angel and lord of demons.

lucifer

Lucifer is an angel or demigod known as Phosphoros in Greek and whose name means ‘morning star’, which is the planet Venus. He is a metaphor for the ‘light-bringer’ or seeker of enlightenment, and is associated with both Loki and Prometheus; who is said to have brought the divine gift of fire to Man (‘Loki’ means ‘lightning’ in both a metaphorical and literal sense). Within Judeo-Christian mythology (though not actually in the Bible) Lucifer is portrayed as the angel who led a rebellion against God when asked to bow before Adam, and who was cast down into Hell following his defeat and becoming Satan. In this way, he is similar to the Yazidi deity Melek Taus, though their Creator is said to have praised the archangel for his refusal to bow before any creature lower than he, for this is how he was created. In these terms, Lucifer is the one who chooses to rebel, and Satan is who he becomes in doing so.

This process may also, however, work in reverse. Wotanist mystic, Kalki Weisthor, has suggested that both the figures of Satan and Lucifer can be incorporated into Wotanism by adding Wotan as a third component. The idea is that one begins their journey on the Left-Hand Path by acting as Satan, and so undoing unhelpful social conditioning and false beliefs by refusing to follow what you have perceived to be the rules. The next step is to become Lucifer, which involves pursuing enlightenment and acting as a free agent, having done away with what restricted you before. The last step is to embody Wotan, after mastering the skills of magic and using one’s liberated position to come back into society as a teacher and as a leader.

I personally find this a very helpful concept, though it presumably does not work as well for those on the Right-Hand Path, who will want to stick to their principles and resist the urge to rebel, since it is not in their nature to do so. Satan is not so much to be feared but respected, and he is a figure that will remain as long as human consciousness can conceive of a negative force, pulling us either towards damnation or enlightenment. It is also worth keeping in mind that Satan can mean many different things to many different people, and that misunderstandings about his character have led to persecution and ostracism which arise from ignorance. As a friend or enemy, he is with us always, as a teacher, tempter or that which we despise but know we must embrace as a part of life.

Hail Satan!

Wulf Willelmson

The Dark Ages

The term ‘Dark Ages’ refers to the time also known as the Early Medieval (or ‘Early Historic’) period between the 5th and 11th centuries AD, and this is because we know little about events from the historical record in Western Europe compared to the Roman and Late Medieval periods. This can be contrasted with the Renaissance and the resurgence of paganism and occultism in this part of the world following the Middle Ages around the 16th Century. After the fall of Rome, the Continent was divided between pre-feudal, Teutonic kingships, while the British Isles descended into tribalism; where there was competition for land and resources between the native, Brittonic folk and Anglo-Saxon settlers.

However, despite the suggestion of genocide that has been proposed by some Modern archaeologists, there is no reason to believe that the Anglo-Saxons had some sort of ‘apartheid’ regime (something which can only be implemented through the state, which was not present in Britain following the Roman departure). Exterminating the Britons would have made little sense if much of the land was depopulated, a process which began in Late Antiquity and continued into the Dark Ages. It is certain that there were folk that came from what is now mainland Denmark and Northern Germany, though they arrived in Britain over a continuous time, as they were hired as mercenaries by the Romans and later the British petty kings to help fight the marauding Picts and Gaels. Thus, the Anglo-Saxons became more populous on the Eastern and Southern coasts of England, and eventually took control of the areas in which they formed the majority.

They could only have achieved this with the help of British pagans who felt alienated by their Christian rulers. There is reason to believe that the Anglo-Saxon warlords married into local noble families and gained power this way. The founder of Wessex, Kerdic, has a Celtic name, and so it is likely that he had an Anglo-Saxon father and British mother. Also, the Northumbrian king, Oswy, gained the territory of Rheged (Lancashire) through marrying a princess of that kingdom. It is for this reason that many Britons became absorbed into Anglo-Saxon culture through intermarriage and because of shared religious beliefs.

This is presumably what is meant in the Welsh Triads by the description of the Lloegrians (Britons of the South and East) coming into confederation with the Angles and Saxons. Though the Angles, Saxons and Jutes (who settled in Kent and also in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight) were three different tribes, they all spoke the same language and worshipped the same pantheon, which is why they are known culturally as Anglo-Saxons. Christianity subsequently fell out of favour among many of the Britons, but was reintroduced from Ireland by missionaries. These ‘Celtic Christians’ were more successful in converting the Britons than the earlier, state-imposed Roman Church, as they preached a doctrine that was more suited to Celtic culture and spirituality.

The first among the Teutonic tribes of England to be Christianized were the Jutes, whose close contact and trade with the Franks over in France, Belgium and the Netherlands exposed them to the later ‘Catholic Church’ that was more friendly to pagan customs. The Dark Age Roman missionaries were advised not to destroy pagan shrines, but to simply consecrate them in the name of Christ and convince the local people that they were Christians. In Late Antiquity, their methods included desecrating pagan shrines and attacking pagans, acts which did not win the hearts of the common folk. While the Jutes, Saxons and Mercians were converted to Roman Catholicism, the Northumbrians initially responded to the Church established by Saint Columba.

Edwin, was the first Northumbrian king to convert, though Oswy (a rival to Edwin and future King of Northumbria) converted to Christianity while he lived in exile in Iona. However, Oswy would eventually be responsible for turning his back on the Columban Church and agreed to revise the date of Easter to conform with mainstream Catholic custom at the Synod of Whitby; a move which would be followed by the Picts (in whose lands lived many Culdees, ‘hermit monks’ who preserved the Celtic tradition) and later at Iona itself. And so, the Catholic Church had succeeded in drawing the folk of the British Isles closer to its dogma, and went on to firmly establish Judeo-Christianity among the peoples of our land.

A similar process that occurred with the Britons and Anglo-Saxons may have also have happened among the inhabitants of the Northern Isles (and some of the Western Isles), and the Norsemen who settled there. These islands were some of the last places to be Christianized, and though they were attractive to the Culdees due to their isolation, they presumably did not bother the local pagans. The folk of the Northern Isles, especially in Shetland, have inherited much of their genetic lineage from the Norse. However, this does not mean that the natives were massacred by the Vikings. Rather, it suggests that they were more open to interaction with the Norsemen than with the mainland Picts and Gaels.

This may have been because the high kings of these peoples were known to raid the Northern Isles and the Hebrides, of which the goals were usually to capture booty and some slaves. It is important to note that chattel slavery was not widely practised in Britain before the introduction of Christianity, aside from kingdoms in the South-East who were in close contact with the Romans. Though there were many in European tribal society who were not free due to debt (and so were more like serfs), the market for this practice was only opened up through trade with the Mediterranean. Mercantile slavery was also not initially a feature of Scandinavian society, though they engaged in the practice once they began raiding other parts of Europe (especially in Ireland).

The place-names of the Isles show no trace of a Brittonic language such as Pictish, though we know that their culture was present in this part of the country at least so some degree because of the survival of some scattered Pictish symbol stones. However, the lack of Pictish material culture may also suggest that many of those living on the Isles before the Viking Age (between the 9th and 11th Centuries) were not Picts, and that this process may also have occurred over a longer period of time through cultural contact.The folk of the Northern Isles were converted to Christianity by the sword at the behest of the Norwegian king, Olaf Tryggvasson, who was one of the most bloodthirsty and fanatical Christian kings in history.

The Western Isles were presumably converted more gradually as they merged with the Isle of Man to form their own kingdom, independent from Norway. Gradually, the process of Norse domination reversed, as the folk of the Western Isles adopted the Gaelic tongue and were eventually incorporated into the Kingdom of Scotland in the 13th Century. This later period produced more literature than the previous Dark Ages, as the Catholic Church had secured a monopoly on the production of books among most of the European kingdoms (Eastern Europe underwent a similar process with the Orthodox Church, though pagan customs were still more prevalent there than in Western Europe).

However, despite the fact that the Dark Ages heralded the introduction of Christianity to Northern Europe and the Middles Ages were characterized by the domination of the Church, it was still a time of dual faith; meaning that while society maintained the veneer of Christianity, most of the folk traditions and customs of the Europeans at the time remained rooted in paganism. This was also reflected in the monastic literature, as myths from Ireland and Iceland were preserved by the dedication of some monks to maintaining the ancient tales, though they probably omitted details if they offended Christian sensitivities.

Even in France and Germany where the pagan myths had not been written down during the Dark Ages, the rise of Romance literature continued the common themes of Celtic literature, such as the legends of King Arthur and his knights. While Welsh monks managed to preserve earlier versions of these stories, the French and German versions were more heavily adapted to feudal society (with Arthur and his knights acting more according to contemporary ideas of chivalry rather than his status as a warlord in Welsh stories). However, they still contained the pagan and Celtic elements at their core, and had many parallels in Welsh mythology.

While the Church continued to control the narrative of the written word, most folk of the Dark Ages and the Middle Ages engaged in oral tradition, and they preserved their people’s history through storytelling rather than writing. Though some of these stories were written down at some point during the Middle Ages, it is certain that many more have been lost over the centuries. There have been many attempts to record the ancient legends about Finn MacCool and other Gaelic heroes in Scotland and Ireland throughout the Modern era, either as a transcript or as audio recordings. These recent retellings in many cases match the ‘Classical Gaelic’ versions written down in the Middle Ages.

This is a testament to how strong the continuity of oral tradition can be, which is vital to maintaining the survival of a people through reminding them of the deeds of their ancestors and providing guidance for future challenges. Texts (and for that matter, computer data) are liable to be destroyed easily, and as their content resides in something external to ourselves, thy are forgotten if committed to writing and then lost or destroyed. This is why so many powerful institutions seek to control the narrative through media, and it is more effective to do so through the means of text and pictures. One of the reasons why folk customs were demonized in the Burning Times was that they posed a threat to the established order by diverging from the mainstream narrative and surviving thanks to the folk that remembered them. These ‘cunning folk’ were most likely to be engaged in what was deemed ‘witchcraft’, such as fortune-telling and herbal medicine.

I am unfortunately pessimistic in regards to our own time, as I do believe that we are on the verge of another Dark Age, as events that mirror the situation during Late Antiquity that preceded the fall of the Western Roman Empire signal that the collapse of our civilization has already begun. Our society is constantly over-stretching its limits and we are likely to see such events as mass starvation and outbreak of disease, as environmental disasters such as soil erosion and floods will lead to these conditions in a way similar to the Late Roman period. As the Roman elites became so corrupt that they practically enslaved their own populations (as they were no longer receiving slaves from imperial expansion) and introduced foreign populations against the wishes of the people for the sake of their own political interests (the Roman military needed soldiers, the central banks need debt-slaves).

Now that the European empires have expanded and subsequently fought each other in two devastating Brother Wars, only the shells of these empires remain and are being filled with more and more people to prop up consumer culture. Ethnic and religious tensions tear apart empires, and I can easily see Britain descending into tribalism once more if the central authority breaks down and people are left to fend for themselves, just as Emperor Honorius told the British nobles that they would no longer be receiving soldiers from the empire, as Britain had become such a vulnerable province.

In such events, the Celtic peoples survived because they managed to maintain their oral culture and were not devastated by the coming of Christianity. However, the Britons of the South-East became absorbed into Anglo-Saxon culture because they no longer shared the beliefs of their countrymen, and because they became surrounded by foreigners with whom they had more in common spiritually. I do wonder if the vacuum that has been left by the widespread abandonment of Christianity in the West is now being filled by Islam, as it is also an organized religion that insists on spreading its message to all corners of the globe through persuasion or by the sword.

In this way, historical patterns repeat themselves and we can tell what may happen by paying attention to the past. With the loss of spirituality in the West, it must quickly be replaced by our native belief systems, otherwise we may see another wave of violence similar to that during the Dark Ages. Whereas the people under the Roman Empire were protected by the imperial army, the petty kingdoms of the Dark Ages relied on local militias and mercenaries, a situation which is also mirrored today in the Middle East. This is a result of the breakdown of societies, which happens as they become less homogeneous and different cultures compete to control the narrative. Many indigenous cultures around the world have now become endangered, including our own.

However, it is still possible that we could have another Renaissance, as we Europeans rediscover what we have lost and realize who we truly are. This may be possible after a population collapse in the wake of catastrophic events (as with the Black Death that signalled the end of the Middle Ages), and less people would mean that more resources would be available. However, it is only possible to achieve this with dedication in recovering our heritage and history, and by thinking of ourselves also as worthy of being remembered in legends.We are not, as Modern nihilistic thinking suggests, individuals that only exist for one lifetime, but are part of a chain that connects us to both our ancestors and our descendants.

This link may only persist by thinking less about ourselves and more about our families and our folk. One of the reasons that the Dark Ages were known for the prevalence of warfare was that scarcity of resources once the Anglo-Saxon population expanded led them to push further and further West. Many of the inhabitants of cities such as York were still living within the Roman walls, and so urban life continued in some parts of Britain after the Roman left. However, these areas were more susceptible to cultural assimilation, as they were cosmopolitan and did not have a sense of national identity in the same way that the Britons of the countryside did. In the same way, it is in the rural parts of our country where our culture will have a chance of survival.

Wulf Willelmson

‘Ostara’, Goddess of Dawn and Spring

As our second blót of the year, the Creed of Caledon has performed our first ‘Ostara blót’, and are looking towards the coming season with optimism and determination. ‘Ostara’ is the reconstructed form of the Germanic holiday known in Old English as Eostre and in Modern English as Easter. There is some variation as to when the festival is celebrated. Though it traditionally marks the Spring Equinox (which is when we have chosen to celebrate it), it may also be celebrated the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox, as in Western Christendom. ‘Ostara’ is the personification of the dawn, and is an alter-ego of Freya (whose twin brother, Frey, is associated with sunset). Traditionally, our forebears would perform this blót at dawn to greet the goddess of Spring. However, because of personal obligations (this year, the Spring Equinox was on a Monday, which does not work well with a regular work schedule), we chose to celebrate it on the evening prior, which is just as sacred a time to perform a blót as at dawn.

Because of it’s association with Freya and the Vanir, Ostara is a fertility festival, marking the blossoming of the flowers and the reproductive activities of the animals. Hares and rabbits in particular are associated with Ostara, and the ‘Easter Bunny’ which lays eggs is a symbol of fertility. This represents the possibilities in our lives that need to incubate before they can hatch in the summer (although the association with pregnancy would mean that the cycle begun at the Spring Equinox will complete at the Winter Solstice). In this sense, now that Winter has truly ended, we can now focus on starting projects and making changes in our lives. It’s astonishing to see how so many people choose to move house at this time of year, and it is also now that ‘Spring cleaning’ is necessary to prepare for Summer. Since Ostara follows Lent (another Christian tradition with origins in paganism), it also means that we can once again look forward to growing crops after the ‘hungry gap’, the early part of Spring when very little grows and food is even more scarce than in Winter. Now is the time to think about sowing seeds for the coming season, as the earth has become fertile once again. The Spring Equinox is important because it marks the point where day and night are equal in length, and so from this point the days will become longer than the nights. The extra sunlight will encourage growth and will hopefully encourage us to spend more time outside.

Though known as Easter or some variant of Passover (as in Judaism) in Europe, the Spring Equinox is also an important part of other Aryan cultures. In India and Nepal, the festival is known as Holi, which is ‘the festival of colours’, and is marked by people smearing each other with coloured dye and throwing water balloons at each other. It is also customary to imbibe bhang (a traditional drink with cannabis as the primary ingredient) as a way of getting in touch with the feminine energy of Springtime and feeling joy at the prospect of growing days and a fruitful season. Among the Iranian peoples, the festival is celebrated as Nowruz, and is traditionally the New Year in Central Asia. This time of the year is marked in all Aryan cultures as a time of increased activity, and a good opportunity to make good on personal promises or ‘New Year’s resolutions’, which are much harder to fulfil while the days are still dark and the weather is still cold. Though it is still cold in Scotland at this time of year, it is starting to get warm enough that we don’t have to pile on as much clothes to keep warm, and we can look forward to spending more time outside, either in Nature or simply in our back gardens or local parks. I have always personally had a certain distaste for Spring, though understanding the importance of the yearly cycle and coming to appreciate the religious and spiritual significance of the Spring Equinox has made me more content with this time of year.

Hail Ostara!

Wulf Willelmson

 

From Behind the Shadow Veil: The Rise of Traditionalist Witchcraft

There is a tremor rumbling through human consciousness that is only becoming more and more noticeable with each passing year. The status quo in terms of political, social and spiritual discourse is beginning to crack and ideas which have been buried for decades (sometimes even centuries) are finding their way into conversations when they wouldn’t have before. Over the years I have had an increasing interest in authentic magical and occult practices, and I do not seem to be alone. When I first began researching such things as I was moving from childhood and into adolescence, much of the discourse on topics magical and spiritual were held within the domain of the New Age movement. This can best be described essentially as a subculture and umbrella religion that has been carefully controlled and cultivated in its message so as to provide an outlet for dissatisfaction with the cold and calculated nature of our bureaucratic society, while still keeping one locked in the globalist mindset, specifically touting the mantra of “we are all one”. Nowadays, however, this is not so much the case. At the time when I began to research such topics, the internet was becoming prevalent, but still had less influence on public consciousness than mass media and what folk could find in their local library, if they bothered to look (sad to say, I never did). However, with the rise of social media and its eclipsing of television and newspapers as primary sources of information (particularly for younger generations), ideas which were previously filtered through the New Age movement, such as shamanism, magic and the use of entheogens are now shared within the context of exploring tradition, which has become particularly important to those of European descent.

One of the reasons that shamans were so fascinating to Western anthropologists was that our society had no real equivalent to such people. We had doctors, pharmacists, priests and other such professions (which are rolled into one within the shaman), but no ‘witch doctors’, who relied on spells and enchanted objects as part of their healing skills. This is because such ideas had been expunged from our society as part of the destruction of our folk heritage during the Burning Times, and so all that was left in the following 18th, 19th and 20th centuries was a secularized and distorted understanding of medicine and science. Therefore, those who went to study other cultures where this had not occurred found peoples who were ‘superstitious’, meaning that they engaged in magical thinking with regards to illness and cure. Shamans are typically animists, and so they see every living thing as possessed of a spirit, in addition to disembodied spirits which live in other dimensions and may have beneficial, detrimental or parasitic effects on humans.

Diseases are not seen to be caused by bacteria and viruses, but by vulnerable spots in one’s aura through which parasitic entities can drain your energy on the astral plane, which weakens the immune system and allows harmful microorganisms to proliferate, while your body’s attempt to fight these invaders manifests as symptoms. This is remedied not only with the use of healing herbs to strengthen the body, but also with talismans (which may also be the root of a herb) and chanting, to restore the balance of one’s energies and heal a broken aura. While such practices certainly require the power of imagination, it is not enough to simply ‘make things up’ in order to properly cure an illness. A knowledge of sacred words and tones in the human voice (something which can be aided by study of the runes) that resonate with the vibrations within a person is required in addition to a pharmacological knowledge of herbs and their effects.

The awareness of these practices among foreign peoples remained restricted mainly to academia, and were simply unavailable to most people, and various folk remedies that survived throughout the Modern era have been dismissed as ‘superstition’ and ‘auld wife’s tales’. This changed with the social upheaval that occurred in the 1960s, when disillusioned youths took to exploration of consciousness through mind-altering drugs, sexuality and spirituality. Tales of shamans in Tropical Mexico who took hallucinogenic mushrooms as part of their healing rituals and of sadhus (holy men) in India who imbibed cannabis to aid meditation became part of a cultural craze in the West, which was spurred on and accompanied by social alienation and rebellion against established authority. Experimentation with drugs and the native rituals associated with them led to an increase of interest in the occult, which had not been as strong since before the Second World War. This was reflected in emerging styles of music, as the psychedelic influenced rock music became more and more associated with the occult with references to Satanism and paganism.

Unfortunately, because the mass media still had influence over most people at the time, such practices degenerated into drug abuse and promiscuity as there was little information available on how to do such things properly. As these people were demonized by the media, their ideas were pushed further and further away from public consciousness, and the response from the United States and most other governments around the world was to ban the drugs that had become associated with the hippie movements, namely psychedelics. Cannabis had already been made illegal in the United Kingdom in the 1920s, though this was more to do with the interests of companies that produced pharmaceuticals, paper and plastic that felt threatened by the newly discovered uses for cannabis and hemp for all of these things, which would have been so cheap that there would be less need to rely on the extraction of oil and wood or on the production of synthetic pharmaceuticals.

The movement against the use of psychedelics and cannabis by the establishment meant that public support for the anti-war movement waned, as such ideas became associated with drug abuse and criminality. In response to the proliferation of heroin in the drug scene by gangs that ended up selling cannabis and psychedelics on the black market (as a result of criminalization), some hippies responded by becoming careless and overdosing people on psychedelics in an attempt to compete with the gangs pushing harder drugs. The terrible experiences that resulted from a lack of consideration for purpose, preparation and setting turned most ordinary folk away from using such substances, and so they became associated with a criminal subculture which sometimes led to the use of harder drugs. The New Age movement is not necessarily associated with drug use (in fact, most New Age practitioners advise against it), but it is evident that it arose from the turbulence associated with the transition from the 1960s into the 70s, and many who have an interest in New Age subjects also use cannabis or psychedelics. This subculture is generally associated with right-brained (emotionally driven) perceptions, the worship of pagan gods, the practice of Asian expressions of spiritual traditions such as yoga and meditation and experiencing spirituality as an individual.

However, despite the fact that this subculture is somewhat removed from mass society, there is still an association by those that are part of the movement with establishment ideals such as leftism and feminism, in addition to others that are against the establishment, like environmentalism. The New Age belief is a synthesis of ideas which takes from authentic tradition (such as the eight ‘sabbats’ in Wicca, which are based on Celtic and Germanic high festivals), but watered down to accommodate the Modern lifestyle (since Wicca was founded for the express purpose of promoting nudism, not paganism). It is something that provides a loosening from the control of your mind, but which still maintains its hold. Most mainstream ‘pagan’ organizations in the West today have explicitly multiculturalist, homo-normative and feminist ideals as part of their philosophies, which gives a conflicting and contradictory impression of paganism to most people. Paganism is the religion of the folk, and it does not extend to other peoples outside of a common acknowledgement of the gods and spirits. Certain esoteric traditions contain philosophies which transcend collective identities and are available to all peoples, but the common religion has always been based on shared heritage. The names and archetypes of deities are unique to each culture and do not translate precisely into others.

For example, Wotan is the chief deity and a god of war in Germanic culture, but in the Egyptian tradition his scribal and eloquent attributes are more heavily emphasized in the form of Thoth. Both gods are based on the same archetype but are also specific to each culture and can be seen as separate entities. The same goes for traditions in different countries, where one culture’s understanding of the significance and attributes of a certain plant or animal may differ from another. In the West, black is used to represent death, but in China they see white as a better colour to express this concept. This is why in authentic traditions, the practices consist of innovations by the people within a particular culture rather than from outside it. What works for one person might not work for another, and the same is true with the various races and peoples of the world. Universalist religions preach equality because it means that they can gain a monopoly on the minds of more people, by convincing them that they are all the same as long as they hold the same beliefs. However, you cannot make different peoples believe the same thing, as their inherent differences will be expressed through believing different things. The irony of most Neopagan attitudes is that they unwittingly promote ideals intended to erode their own traditions while basing their religious practices on such traditions.

Fortunately, this is beginning to change. Many of us have started to see that the demands for resources caused by mass immigration, for example, are in conflict with environmentalism, and that there is an inconsistency and hypocrisy in having empathy for other cultures, but disdain or apathy towards one’s own, especially if you consider yourself a ‘pagan’. At the moment, Folkish pagans are in the minority among those that consider themselves to be followers of the old gods, but changing political and social attitudes are having an impact on these movements. My own awakening to such ideas coincided with my study of entheogens alongside archaeology and history. What began as a curiosity about the altering of consciousness became a stronger interest in the traditions of my ancestors and in preserving my heritage. Working with sacred plants helps to get us in touch with Nature and discover her secrets, the old ways have a new appeal to those of us that see our society as almost completely disconnected from her. This practice goes beyond simply being escapist or making life in Modern society bearable enough to ignore its problems (as is the case with drug addiction and indulgence in Hollywood media), but seeks to actively restore and heal our currently decrepit human state with what has been missing from our society for hundreds of years.

The spirits are calling us from other worlds, and we can hear them better than before. We realize that we cannot simply dip our toes in the water in an attempt to fill our religious or philosophical needs o a superficial level, but that we have to embrace the Way and find out how to make these practices work today. Nature provides all of our needs, and there are many hidden cures for common ailments. Aside from the mainly psychological uses of illegal drugs such as psychadelics, physical problems can be solved by plants that can easily be grown or found in the wild. The bark from water elder can be used to ease menstrual cramps, while nightshades such as henbane and belladonna can be used to treat asthma and eczema. Even more mild herbs such as nettle can be drunk regularly for a variety of problems. As a reslt of the renwed interest in authentic practices, there is now more information than ever before on the internet about the uses of herbs in folk medicine and magical rituals. Sometimes this involves working with dangerous plants (recipes for ointments used for astral projection contained wolfsbane, the most poisonous herb in Europe), which has made such practices unappealing to most Neopagans.

However, with careful study and knowledge, one can reduce the harmful side effects of such dangerous chemicals, by knowing which plants counter their effects. The main principle is to be deliberate in intent, to know what you are working with such plants to achieve and how to go about it. When you see all plants and animals as beings in their own right, you learn to develop more respect for them, particularly the hallucinogenic ones, whose psychoactive effects on humans are a sign of high intelligence in the plant or mushroom. One thing to remember for those serious about engaging in ‘shamanic’ practices is that you do not interact with such organisms for fun, but that you work with them to achieve some sort of magical or medicinal benefit. As this is an exchange process, the spirit of the plants will also want certain things from you before they agree to work with you. This may include fasting, abstinence or a more general display of self-discipline before imbibing sacred plants and fungi. It should be stressed that in this context, the use of drugs for recreational as opposed to medicinal or spiritual uses is a sign of abuse, and will inhibit one’s ability to perform magical rituals properly, as the draining of energy that results from addiction and laziness means that you have less energy to put into your magic. The main demand from magical practice is self-mastery, to act as an adept of magic rather than the servant to desires or ideas. This also involves acting and thinking independently of any external authority, be it the public consensus or whatever religion you happen to be a part of.

Traditional witchcraft and Folkish paganism are still small movements within the wider counterculture, and are overshadowed by their ‘safe-bet’ counterparts in the form of Wicca and Neopaganism, but there is a growing interest in these subjects that goes beyond the modified forms of accepted norms offered by New Age beliefs. Cultural and racial awareness is taking hold all across the world, and part of this has to do with the availability of such resources on the internet. Not only can you study the culture and traditions of other countries, but also your own, which may have significance to somebody from another country but with a shared heritage (such as that between the British and Irish and many North Americans and Australasians). Over time, ‘paganism’ will become more and more associated with having a sense of identity through heritage and culture among all peoples, and the Universalist outlook which has dominated the New Age scene for the last half century will diminish. Those who are so abhorred by the ideas of self-determination and racial pride will abandon the idea of paganism in order to avoid being associated with ideas that they find repulsive, while those who value their traditions and ancestors more than mainstream society will only make our movement stronger by turning on their programmed beliefs and embracing freedom of expression and to go against what is considered ‘socially acceptable’ to say and do in our repressed society. While this is the result that we want, we will have to be wary of the authoritarians and their response, and it is possible that such a strong Folkish movement could end with an attempt to foist an oppressive Neo-Marxist or Islamic regime on our folk in order to combat what they see as “the rise of the racist far-right”. However, since the customs and values that we hold are those derived from the folk itself, it is likely that we will have those that have at least some awareness of their own heritage and do not see it as a bad thing will be on our side. They can’t get away with burning us at the stake, but they will try every way they can to shut down the threat of self-determination by using the media to turn the public against us. Thankfully, less of us watch television and read newspapers these days and more of us care about having freedom of religion, speech and expression.

Wulf Willelmson