hud! I sat up quickly in bed, hearing the strange sound outside my door. Upon getting up to discover its cause I find a parcel from Scarlet Imprint containing a hard cover copy of Serpent Songs: An Anthology of Traditional Craft curated by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold and full of the writings of familiar practitioners. Normally receiving one Scarlet Imprint’s works in the mail alone would be exciting, but this time my own words sing within the pages for I am one of its serpents and I sing a song of bones and blood in the final chapter. I stroked the olive grey cloth and admired the shining serpents, undulating endpapers, and pages of gilded letters. I cleansed and blessed the tome with holy water and suffumigations of sandalwood incense. Like all of Scarlet Imprint’s hard covers it is a beautiful book with a beautiful design, beautiful fonts, and beautiful thick paper filled with beautiful words. In the world there are few quality collections containing the writings of modern Traditional Witchcraft practitioners. This one is full of the voices of hedge riders, folk magicians, cunning men, seers, and witches. We are all so very different and yet the heart of our magics share a similar rhythm.
“Because of its diversity Traditional Witchcraft remains misunderstood. Some even see it as a vacant term that can be filled with whatever one chooses. That is not my intention. Even if Traditional Witchcraft varies — sometimes dramatically — in its expression, there are vectors of commonality to be found. It is those vectors that brought together this gathering of serpentine voices under the Traditional Witchcraft landmarks: blood, night, land and crossroads.”
~ Prelude by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold
Perhaps by reading the experiences, practices, and research of other magicians we can better grasp the ever-growing and changing entity that is modern Traditional Craft and discover what kind of creature it has become. Few agree on its definitions, but its hands-on praxis cannot be disputed when left to the beliefs and rituals of an individual magician. Traditional Witchcraft can be subversive, controversial, visceral, and dark when compared to other forms of the Craft. It is not everyone’s cup of tea, though some try to sweeten it and use the term to their own ego’s needs, as Nicholaj hints at in the prelude. A wolf in lamb’s clothing is still a wolf and Witchcraft will forever be its true self no matter how much we dress it up and redefine it.
For this anthology I chose to write of the Mysteries of Beast, Blood and Bone. Animal necromancy and the use of animal parts for magic and ritual tools is something seldom spoken of in modern Craft and modern publishing. Because of this, it is the thing I get asked the most questions about. The majority of people hide from the ethical quandaries and odious work with death. Others glorify it and think they must process a pile of corpses in order to be a witch. Death is a cruel god and, I think most learn quickly, one they don’t want to work closely with. If you want to make a living from death, become a funeral director. If you want to make sacred ritual items as your ancient ancestors would have for yourself and your coven, then become a bone collector.
“I am an animist, a folk magician, and a rootworker. It is not just herbs I work with in my folk magic, but also skulls and bones, hearts and tongues. I practice the lost art of working with beast, blood, and bone in order to rebirth the ancient nature of Witch as a wild and primal creature; surrounded by spirits, anointed with blood, dressed in hides, and adorned with talismans of bone, tooth, and claw.”
“The magic of beasts is sympathetic magic, fetiche magic, and death magic, but it is also sensual magic. It is the feel of the Saturn finger dipped in warm blood, of softest fur on barest skin, of sharpest tooth and talon biting in, of a raw heart on the tongue, and the scent of decay deep in the lungs. It is the rendered fat of a flying ointment like smooth silk across the brow, and it is the tactile, dirty, grounding sorcery of the here and now. It is an amoral, carnal, fleshly, and sensory feast of visceral magic combining the sacred and the profane.”
~ Excerpts of ‘The Mysteries of Beast, Blood and Bone’ from Serpent Songs
My essay contains a “Formulary of the Beast”, offering knowledge of how to use eyes, tongues, hearts and bones in rites of folk magic and witchcraft. It is a dirty and poetic piece peppered with black and white photographs of my work with skulls and bones. Its content is not for everyone, but its purpose is to simply be a window into the life one Witch and her practice free of white-washing that it may help to show what the fully fleshed body of Traditional Craft is composed of.
The fine Serpentine edition of Serpent Songs has sold out, but the Sylvan and Bibliotheque Rouge editions are now available for order through Scarlet Imprint.