Cornish Charms And Cures

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Cornwall’s back-to-basic charms are impossible to resist

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Thank you very much for participating in this interview. Give us some information about the witchcraft you follow. Living in the West Penwith region of Cornwall, this means I study and pursue a practice of predominantly Cornish, and West Country folk-ceremonial witchcraft. Also there are the various oracular and divinatory methods, to seek answers or guidance. I was a very strange child; extremely shy and happiest in moments of solitude; especially in wild or wooded places with my mind on otherworldly matters. History, folklore, superstition and magic fascinated me, and I was fortunate that some of the schools I attended held interesting books relating to these subjects, and even directly to witchcraft, in their libraries.

I was fourteen or fifteen when I consciously decided to begin serious study of witchcraft practice. And so I worked instinctively; merging those things I took to from the modern Craft literature, my own ideas, and, importantly, what I could glean from Cornish witch-lore.

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  6. I also discovered much that was strikingly in line with my own instinctive practices, which served as a wonderful confirmation that I had been doing it right! Firstly one has to have the natural inclination. I feel one also has to develop and nurture the ability to seek instruction, wisdom and inspiration from the lonely wild places and the countryside.

    Then there is the studying of textual information, but the prior approach is the more important and without it, one cannot be a witch. One may dedicate oneself as a witch, or receive initiation into the Craft via apprenticeship to another practitioner, or via admission to a witch covine.

    In Cornish folklore, there are interesting traditions that one can become a witch by rescuing a stranded mermaid and bargaining with her for power in return, or by attending holy communion, and hiding away the wafer, to feed later at midnight to the Devil who will appear in the form of a giant toad, or by climbing onto a logan stone rocking stone nine times without causing it to move.

    Today there is a bewildering array of books available exploring the ways of witchcraft, although those that are worth reading are very few. I always recommend the books of witch and author Doreen Valiente to those seeking their first information on witchcraft; for her work straddles both traditional witchcraft and the Craft of the Wica. This extraordinary museum contains a huge collection of witchcraft related artefacts and regalia; many relating directly to the traditional magic of Cornwall and the West Country. Here I can only speak of my own approach to this, as every practitioner will have their own ways and methods.

    To date, all clients I have heard back from have reported that the guidance they have received has been very helpful, and some have had further question to ask. Gosh, there are many types of ritual; from simple daily devotions, to magical rites for all manner of needs, up to celebratory and devotional covine rites. For magical rites, the moon is very important. In its waxing tide to full, it is a good time to work for increase, empowerment, the encouragement or conjuration of things desired, and other generative workings.

    Potency, virtue and wisdom may be found in the land, as mentioned previously, and so the witch walks the land in pilgrimage to imbibe of these things, to be drawn upon and utilised later when needed. What holidays do witches celebrate? Whilst witchcraft is not a religion, nor do witches necessarily have to align themselves with any particular religion or spiritual philosophy, in Britain, and elsewhere in Europe, witches and folk-magical practitioners have traditionally operated within a curious, but not entirely contradictory, observance of Christianity and Paganism.

    The Divine is the Divine, and no living human, or their religions, can fully comprehend its true nature. Witch rites of worship are rites of Love, Beauty and Truth, and it is through The Bucca that we seek experiential phenomena and glimpses of the Divine Truth; for all goddesses and gods are fragments of that Truth. One tries to cultivate a permanent spiritual awareness, and within domestic life there are a variety of ways in which I interact with spirit.

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    Household charms need to be maintained through their regular acknowledgement, and household spirits kept happy through the provision of sustenance and comfort via hearthside rites of offering. That is a lovely question, and a happy one for me to think upon. Whilst, like all things, it has its costs, there are many wonderful benefits. TWTP: When was it that you first became aware of Witchcraft and what were your initial thoughts about those who practiced it?

    GG: Like many people, witches and witchcraft permeated my consciousness in childhood via fairytales, particularly those collected by the Brothers Grimm from Germanic folklore. As I lay in bed as a child, looking through my fairytale books, it was the wonderful illustrations that caught my imagination, more so than the stories; these strange and mysterious people, who seemed to have a foot in both the human world and the otherworldly, and who lived reclusively with animals, spirits and wonderful magical items, being at home in the darkling wood with its nocturnal creatures and hidden presences.

    TWTP: Do you remember when and the specific circumstances surrounding your own decision to embrace Witchcraft as part of your life? GG: Really, no. I remember as a child one summer, being in a ploughed field with my father who was looking for any ancient bits and bobs that might have been brought to the surface. So, off I plodded, up to the tree and gave it a kiss and made my wish — to be a witch.

    In the end, I chose not to attend school very much, other than being happy to take part in art class, I would often just take myself home, or would spend time in the school library reading through books on antiquities, folklore, superstitions, customs, country ways and witchcraft.

    Museum of Witchcraft and Magic

    I was already pursuing a path of witchcraft long before I left school. In either case, these creatures did indeed have life, existed, and were seen and experienced by others. I was immediately intruiged by the glimpses of these mysterious people, doing strange things in remote Cornish places; they seemed to be defiantly re-enchanting an increasingly mundane world. TWTP: What were some of the biggest misconceptions that you held that were dispelled once you understood what Witchcraft was all about as a practitioner and not as an outside observer?

    GG: Scale and diversity. I had believed that witches were an extremely rare breed, existing very few and far between, and that they were wonderfully strange, reclusive and otherworldly beings living entirely strange and otherworldly lives. There will also of course always be those with only a passing casual interest who label themselves witches; it is indeed a very broad term. TWTP: Could you talk about your views as to whether you approach Witchcraft strictly as a magickal practice or whether you feel that there is a spiritual component to the practice as well.

    GG: My approach is very definitely both operative and spiritual in nature. Whilst the old regional practices of folk magic that inspire my work might be seen to operate solely for the achievement of desired goals, perhaps in the areas of health, love, personal fortune, protection etc. The magic of what might be called traditional witchcraft might call upon the aid of the presences and virtues of the stream, holy well, hedge, wood or standing stone etc.

    As well as the potent and lonely places of the land, rites of spirit also occur in the home of the witch, particularly at the hearth where devotional rites of communion will be observed, or magic sent forth, often via the familiar spirit. Many of the old spells, rites and charms employed by the folk-magical practitioner of course make good use of Psalms, and call upon the power of saints, angels and the Holy Trinity.

    So, for practitioners who work in these ways, I would say that a clear distinction between magical and spiritual practice would be very difficult to make. Also, the Craft practiced by myself, and others of like ways, includes a working relationship with not only the spiritual reality of the land, but also certain manifestations of divinity, as well as rites of seasonal observance and initiatory mystery. And if it's mist and drizzle out there there's the wonderful woodburner to cheer the spirits and warm the cockles.

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