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INTERVIEW: Language of the Landscape
Martha Gray, author of Grimalkyn: The Witch’s Cat, talks to prolific esoteric author, Melusine Draco, about Life, the Universe and Everything.
Having caught up with Melusine Draco in her mountain lair, it isn’t difficult to see why the spirit of the landscape has such an impact in her writing. As Michael Howard of The Cauldron wrote, she was an initiate of the late Bob Clay-Egerton’s traditional Coven of the Scales and has been a practicing occultist, magical teacher and writer on esoteric subjects for over twenty years. And as fellow esoteric author, Alan Richardson, observes: “Melusine Draco, as her name suggests, has long been plugged into the powerful currents of traditional witchcraft and ritual magic. She is one of the real ones ...”
Surprisingly, the lady herself is not the stereotypical High Priestess and is refreshingly down to earth, as the tone of her books reveals. “I can’t be doing with all the posing and posturing and it was something that Bob [Clay-Egerton] would have quickly knocked out of us if we’d tried to adopt it. He was a past-master at deflating monstrous egos and always went straight for the jugular if anyone showed signs of being precious.” In fact, speaking from experience, meet her at any pagan conference or workshop and you won’t find any outward or give-away traces of witchiness at all.
She has just finished proofing Traditional Witchcraft & the Pagan Revival to Moon Books (an imprint of John Hunt Publishing) and plans to take a break from magical writing and work on a novel. There is now time to talk about the ‘Traditional Witchcraft’ series: “Traditional witchcraft is of the Earth, earthy … and to be a true witch means having a close, almost unearthly bond with Nature. Without a thorough grounding in natural history, how can a witch hope to recognise the unusual phenomena of the flora and fauna they encounter in their daily lives when it comes to receiving the ‘signs’?”
Does this mean Melusine Draco is an eco-witch? “Certainly not. I’m country born and bred and learned from a very early age to accept that Nature is the domain of both male and female of each species – and red in tooth and claw. Even the flora can be dangerous if you don’t understand what you are handling. Our Arcanum course teaches the art of learning to see through Old Craft eyes, and it’s surprising the number of so-called experienced practitioners who come to us, and do not have this affinity with the natural world. Without it you can play about with coloured candles and joss sticks until kingdom come, but it won’t make you an Old Craft witch.”
In case this seems to be an over simplistic approach to Craft, Andy Lloyd Book Reviews puts her writing in its proper perspective: “The ‘Traditional Witchcraft’ series provides varied information about what it means to be a practising witch in modern times. In places, it feels like a guide, or self-help book. But there is much more to it than that. What strikes me is the amount of science running through the book. To understand nature is to live as a part of nature, and ultimately to become one with its changing patterns and cycles, to synchronise one’s own psychic or magical energy with natural tidal forces and the elements. So a witch, like no other religious practitioner that I’m aware of, must study her environment carefully, and attune her life to it … The learning is multi-disciplinary, and feels almost as if one was studying a textbook written by a poet … it has that sense of quiet wonder about it, supported by education, knowledge and, above all, wisdom.”
In fact, the whole Traditional Witchcraft series has been structured along the lines of a distance learning course (in both paperback and e-book format), so that the would-be traditional witch has a step by step guide to follow. Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living (originally published as Mean Streets Witchcraft) is the first in the series and as the title suggests, is aimed at the majority of pagans living in an urban environment rather than insisting that a witch must live in the country before he/she can learn about traditional British Old Craft. The second step is revealed in Traditional Witchcraft for the Seashore (and one of her favourite titles) teaches us how to work with the natural tides within our own natural environment, even if we don’t live by the sea.
Step three, Traditional Witchcraft for Fields and Hedgerows, covers what most of us would think of in terms of traditional Craft, and brings us back into the comfort zone where we feel safe and secure – before step four casts us back out into the more hostile world of Traditional Witchcraft for the Woods and Forests. As our tutor tells us, the magical energies differ quite considerably between the two environments.
It was intriguing to learn why the historical view of Traditional Witchcraft and the Pagan Revival was left until step five, but Ms Draco doesn’t look at things like normal mortals! “It’s not until we’ve been studying traditional Craft for a while that we start to notice both the differences and the similarities between the various disciplines. We want to know where our beliefs come from; to trace our antecedents; and to understand why some of our ways are often diametrically opposed to those of other traditions we read about. That is why the fifth in the series was written as a magical anthropology; simply to make sense of some of the things we’ve never recognised before.”
Not all her books, however, are favourably received. Some reviewers claim there is nothing new contained within them, or that there are no great revelations in the text. “Craft learning is about forty percent information and sixty percent intuition, but it’s also about realising when intuition is telling us that we don’t have all the information. There are books claiming to reveal the ‘secrets’ of traditional Craft - but intuition should tell us that if the secrets can be revealed in the reading of one book, then the author can’t have that much to reveal. The real secret is that there are no secrets, only a system of revelation that eventually leads us to a series of guides or teachers, to further our progress along the Path to the Mysteries.”
There is the unspoken thought that she is trying to commit all the fundamental Coven of the Scales teaching to print so that the basics of Bob and Meriem Clay-Egerton’s approach to traditional British Old Craft is saved for posterity – hence the passing reference to the Mysteries, which will form the basis for the sixth and final title in the series: Traditional Witchcraft and the Path to the Mysteries. “To fully understand the Mysteries, we must be fully integrated into the natural world so that reading the signs and portents becomes second nature. The ritual and psycho-drama associated with witchcraft is, of course, a means to an end for those with little personal witch-power, and there is nothing wrong with this approach if it is necessary. But a ‘real’ witch can summon up and project that energy in the middle of Euston station during a wet Monday rush hour because to quote a line from a favourite poem of mine: ‘Even in the city’s throng, I feel the freshness of the steams …’. Nature is with us at every step but we need to learn the language.”
Finally, are there any other words of wisdom that she’d like to impart? “How about have trust in the Lord, and keep your powder dry! Take it to mean have faith in your own personal Craft abilities, and learn to keep your witch-power primed for use at all times.”
For full details of Martha Gray’s book Grimalkyn: The Witch’s Cat and the Traditional Witchcraft series by Melusine Draco’s go to Moon Books at www.moon-books.com
Arcanum website: www.covenofthescales.com
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