Sunday, 8 March 2009

Traditional Witchcraft by Gemma Gary

Reviewed by Alex Langstone

Occasionally a book is published which really catches my eye, a book that is unique and written with authority and an understanding of the subject matter. A book where something can be read within its pages that is different and original, that hasn't been constantly regurgitated, re-written or plagiarised! Traditional Witchcraft, a Cornish Book of Ways by Gemma Gary is one of these rare books.

The author has researched and practised her Craft over many years and gives us an insight into West Country Witchcraft away from the worlds of neo-paganism and Wicca. It is a great joy to read, and will breathe new life into the often very boring world of published witchcraft books!

Traditional Witchcraft, a Cornish Book of Ways reveals a pathway into the shadowy and secretive worlds of the Cult of Cunning and Wise in modern Cornwall. A path much removed from the showy "High Priestess Wicca", and the current dreadful trend of "Secular Paganism". This book shows the reader a different, vibrant tradition. The way of the Pellar, of the Serpent path and of the Sprowl. An alternative magical current, a snaking serpentine system of sorcery that rises from the land and infuses us with the sacred mystical regional magic of the past and future.

Many will say that real Witchcraft should be secret, and it should. But, Gemma Gary has given us a glimpse of the folk practises of Cornish Cunning, and as a folklorist, I welcome this glimpse with open arms. This book is packed with fascinating lore from Cornwall and the West Country and will be a valuable addition to the bookshelves of anyone who has an interest in the folklore, legends, mystery and magic of the far west! It is also interesting to note that whilst the author speaks about regional differences within Traditional Witchcraft, I for one find it interesting to note the many similarities. Poetic chapter headings include: The Furry Nights, Bucca and The Cunning Troyl - superb stuff! There is also a useful glossary of terms and a contact and resource list.

Traditional Witchcraft, a Cornish Book of Ways is an interesting, thought provoking and entertaining read, and a book that I can thoroughly recommend.

Published by Troy Books

Priced at £13.99, available from the publisher or direct from the author via her excellent website

Monday, 2 March 2009

Spring Folk Festival Round Up

The folk traditions of Beltane are numerous. A time to celebrate Spring, and to welcome in the Summer. A festival of fertility and a celebration of nature's beauty. A time to honour all that is Sacred within Nature. Britain has a plethora of festivals at this special time of year, and to get us in the mood, folklorist and esoteric explorer Alex Langstone delves into some of them.


With Spring just around the corner, and the promise of warmer days and lighter evenings, I thought I would look forward to some of the great and unusual British folk festivals that the season brings forth annually. There are plenty to chose from, but here are some of the best from Shropshire, Yorkshire, Edinburgh, Cornwall and North Essex.


This fantastic community festival is held in Edinburgh, and along with the other fire festivals is celebrated on Calton Hill every year on April 30th. Visit their fantastic website here or better still, visit the unique festival!

Fire Arch, Calton Hill, Edinburgh

For a unique May Day holiday weekend, Shropshire's Clun Green Man festival looks set to be a top contender. Click banner above to check out their website, and see below for a taster of the colourful weekend!

The iconic Green Man of Clun

Shropshire Bedlams Border Morris

Another cracking festival is held at Thornborough Henge in Yorkshire on Sunday 3rd May and will include the mystery play "The May Eve Haul - The Birth of Taliesin" performed by The Sacred Brigantia Players. Children coming to the event are invited to bring water pistols so that they can participate in the play! The event is free, and it all kicks off at midday. Camping is available at a nearby camp site. For details click banner above.

The Green Knight of Thornborough Henge

The Padstow 'Oss

The Padstow 'Obby 'Oss is one of Cornwall's most famous festivals and it all happens every year on 1st May. Come early as the town gets absolutely packed, but I would thoroughly recommend that you visit at least once in your life!

See here for details of this fantastic ancient celebration of the return of Summer.

Padstow 'Obby 'Oss Musicians


At the end of May the annual Morris Dancing bash is held at Thaxted in Essex. This visual spectacle is an amazing gathering of Morris clans from around the country, and all forms of Morris are there to be seen!

This festival is the spiritual home of the Thaxted Horn Dance, which is performed at dusk, unlike its counterpart at Abbots Bromley in the autumn. Visit the Thaxted Morris website for more details of the amazing and unusual festival. See website here

Thaxted Morris

Lastly we have the Penzance May Horns Beltane Procession! Revived in 2008, the festival was a huge success last year, with many of the townsfolk processing along the seafront, led by the Green Man and the May Queen, who were joined by many musicians and dancers.

This years do is to be held on Sunday May 3rd. Please click banner above to go to the website.

The May Horns Green Man of Penzance

There are hundreds more events like these across Britain, many of them virtually unknown outside the towns and villages that hold them. Seek them out, for they are a valuable living resource of folk tradition and magic, often hidden amongst seemingly every day things within these colourful and entertaining celebrations of the ancient feast of Beltane.