Thursday, 16 August 2018

News: Witchcraft, Witches and Witch Hunts

It has been a few weeks since I last did a round-up of news relating to witchcraft. I'm catching up - so here is a rather long list of links to stories about witches past, present and fictional:

"The Wizard of Oz and a brief history of the witch hat" - story at Syfy Wire:

"Beyond the Stereotypes – What is Witchcraft?" - interview with a traditional witch at Sputnik International:

"Witch Windows" - story at Atlas Obscura:

"How a small Fife town became a 'hotbed of witch-finding and punishing'" - story about a historical witch hunt, at The Scotsman:

"Concern over witch-hunting" - story about modern witch hunts, at The Telegraph India:

"Known as the Black Witches of Salem, these women caused massive hysteria in a US town in the 1690s" = story bout Black history, at Face2Face Africa

"Pagan outcry over fencing at Jersey tomb site" - story at BBC News:

"Charmed bolstered its writing room with an actual witch" - story at Syfy Wire:

"A Halifax 'school of witchcraft' guides people on their spiritual paths" - story at

"The magical roots of feminism on film" - story at Syfy Wire-:

"A Discovery of Witches cast: Who is in the cast of A Discovery of Witches on Sky" - story at

"'The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion' Review: Terrible Title, Kick-Ass Movie (Fantasia 2018)" - story at Film School Rejects:

Picture: Witches: five silhouetted figures. The file comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom. Refer to Wellcome blog post

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

This Week's Pagan Events in London & Outside

Here is a listing of general events in London plus a few in other parts of England that could be of interest to pagans over the next week or so. If you know of an event that you want listed, please email the details to me at

Now to Sunday 2 September; Paul Kidby: Discworld and Beyond. Art exhibition relating to Terry Pratchett's fiction. Venue: Maidstone Museum, St Faith's Street, Maidstone, Kent, ME14 1LH. Tickets are adults £4, children £2.

Now - 28 October. Roman Dead. Exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands. Venue: No.1 Warehouse, West India Quay, London E14 4AL. Free entry.

Wednesday 15 August; Stories at the Garden Museum. Storytelling with London Dreamtime. Venue: The Garden Museum 5 Lambeth Palace Rd, Lambeth, London SE1 7LB. Time: 11.30am. Price: free. For more details, email or visit

Wednesday 15 August; Sarcophagi from ancient Egypt - gallery talk. Venue: Room 4, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG. Time: 1.15pm. Free entry. For more details visit:

Wednesday 15 August; Time to Meditate - group meditation (every Wednesday). Venue: Buddha on a Bicycle, Covent Garden, London. Arrive 6pm for 6.10pm start. Donations of £3 recommended. Details:

Wednesday 15 August; Astral Projection Workshop with Jade Shaw. Venue: She's Lost Control, 42 Valentine Road, London E9 7AD. Time: 7pm-9.30pm. Tickets: £30.

Wednesday 15 August; More Mead Moot promoted by Pagan FutureFests. Venue: Hope Pub, 48 West Street, Carshalton SM5 2PR. Time: from 7.30pm. Meets on the third Wednesday of each month.

Friday 17 August; Fragrances (outside speaker) at the Witches' Banquet Fruit Moon. Venue: Souk Medina, 1a Shorts Gardens, London WC2H. Time: 6.15pm. Advance booking recommended.

Saturday 18 August; Morning tour: an introduction to ancient Egypt. Venue: Room 4, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG. Time: 8.50am. Tickets £30. For more details visit:

Saturday 18 - Sunday 19 August; Lancashire Witches Weekend. Series of events for all ages. Venue: Lancaster Castle, Castle Parade,Lancaster, Lancashire, LA1 1YJ. Ticket prices vary from event to event. Details

Saturday 18 August; 42 Acres and Mylky Moon Lab: Follow Your Flow – Menstrual Empowerment and Storytelling. Venue: 42 Acres, 66 Leonard Street, London EC2A 4LW. Time: 10am-5pm. Tickets: £55/£70.

Saturday 18 August; Witch Bottles for Practical Magic. Afternoon workshop with Tanya Moulding . Venue: Treadwells, 33 Store Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7BS. Time: 1pm to 4pm. Tickets £30. Tel: 0207 419 8507 or email:

Sunday 19 August; Pagan Pride South Summer Festival 2018. Venue: Palmerston Park, Southampton. Time: 10am-6pm. Free event.

Sunday 19 August; Shamanic workshop. Venue: Woodford Church at 9 Grove Crescent, South Woodford, London E18 2JR. Time 11am-4pm. Cost: £10, bring your own lunch.

Sunday 19 August; Making Blended Incense for Magic. Afternoon workshop with Rebecca Beattie. Venue: Treadwells, 33 Store Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7BS. Time: 1pm to 5.30pm. Tickets £40. Tel: 0207 419 8507 or email:

Sunday 19 August; Mindfulness and Spirituality: A Day of Talks. Venue: 22A Blenheim Grove, London, SE15 4QN. Time: 13.30pm-5.30pm. Tickets: £12.

Sunday 19 August (date to be confirmed); Dawn of the Oak. Pagan moot (normally on the third Sunday of each month). Venue: The Sir John Oldcastle, Farringdon Road/Greville Street, London EC1M 3JF. Time: 3pm-6pm.

Monday 20 August; Practical Sigil Magic. Evening seminar  workshop with Mark Vincent . Venue: Treadwells, 33 Store Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7BS. Time: 7pm. Tickets £20. Tel: 0207 419 8507 or email:

Tuesday 21 August; Witches of London Gathering. Venue: front bar of the Cittie of Yorke, 22 High Holborn, London WC1V 6BS. Starting 7.30pm. Meets on the third Tuesday of each month. For any questions email or visit

Thursday 23 August; Wasteland to Pureland. Talk by Doug Duncan and Catherine Pawasarat. Venue: Watkins Books, 19-21 Cecil Court, London WC2N 4EZ. Time: 6.30pm. Free event. For more details Tel 020 7836 2182 or visit the website

Thursday 23 August; Vigil at Crossbones to honour The Goose and the outcast dead of Cross Bones Graveyard and the dead and wounded of the London Bridge attacks. Bring a flower, a ribbon, a totem or memento to tie to the shrine. Gather from 6.45pm for a 7pm start in Redcross Way outside the Memorial Gates, London SE1 1TA. For more details, visit

Thursday 23 August; Drink and Draw social evening. Venue: Treadwells, 33 Store Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7BS. Time: 7pm. Tickets £10. Tel: 0207 419 8507 or email:

Friday 24 – Monday 27 August; Into the Wild Festival. Venue: Chiddinglye Farm, Selsfield Road, West Hoathly, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19 4QS. Weekend adult tickets £113, Sunday adult tickets £50.

Friday 24 August; Holistic Sound Bath Meditation - Summoning The Sacred (weekly ceremonial gathering). Venue: Training Points Fitness and Therapy, 5-6 Coopers Yard, Crystal Palace, London SE19 1TN. Time: 7pm. Entry £15/£13.

Friday 24 August; A Night of Pagan Poetry organised by Math Jones and Eileen Thenamelessone. Venue Poetry Cafe, Covent Garden, London. Time: 7.30pm.

Friday 24 August; A Ceremony of Love with Luxmi and Aphrodite. Full moon ritual by Thames with London Woodland Witches Magicians and Outdoor Pagans. Meeting  by the main door of Tate Modern at 7.30pm for a ritual on the river bank at 8pm. Cost: £3/£2. You must reserve a place in advance. Wear outdoor clothes and bring food and drink to share. Details and bookings:

Saturday 25 August; Morning tour: an introduction to ancient Egypt. Venue: Room 4, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG. Time: 8.50am. Tickets £30. For more details visit:

Saturday 25 August; Men's Mysteries Workshop. Venue: Wicca Moon, 50 Well Hall Rd, London, SE9 6SH. Time: noon-5pm. Cost: £35.99 each including a fantastic ritual kit for you to take home. Tel: 020 8850 7803.

Saturday 25 August; Tarot Cards for Absolute Beginners – Minor Arcana. Afternoon workshop with Sue Terry. Venue: Treadwells, 33 Store Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7BS. Time: 1pm start. Tickets £40. Tel: 0207 419 8507 or email:

Sunday 26 August; Herb Magic: Spells, Lore and Workings. Afternoon Class with Rebecca Beattie. Venue: Treadwells, 33 Store Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7BS. Time: 1pm start. Tickets £40. Tel: 0207 419 8507 or email:

Sunday 26 August; Luna Iter - Journey of the moon - for Pagan and Wiccan Seekers with Luna Iter- Wiccan Seekers London NE. Pub moot followed by a ritual close to each full moon. Venue: Pembury Tavern, 90 Amhurst Road, Hackney. Moot starts at 4.30pm, then at 6pm moving to a historic site for the ritual. Fee: £4/£5.

Sunday 26 August; Full Moon Magic Ceremony. Venue: London, NW1 7SU (exact address will be provided after booking). Time: 7.45pm. Tickets: £18.

Please note: I do not organise any of these events. Although I try to make sure my listings are accurate I am not always aware of changes, cancellations or ticket availability. Please contact the organisers for more details before attending any event. If you spot something that needs changing or adding, do leave a comment.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Magical Dolls: Egyptian Paddle Dolls for Fertility

This is the oldest doll in the collection of the Museum of Childhood. It is a paddle doll that was made in Ancient Egypt in about 1300BCE. It is carved from wood in the shape of a paddle, which is where the name comes from.

There is also an Egyptian paddle doll in the Cuming Museum collection, which you can view online. The Cuming's website describes it as being a ceremonial object with a magical function as well as being just a child's toy. It says:
One side has the faint remains of a painted figure of the hippopotamus fertility goddess Taweret, who protected women during childbirth.
The doll would originally have had a 'wig' of clay beads strung on cord attached to the head. Paddle dolls were a stylised depiction of a woman with an emphasis on the hips and pubic area. They were used as toys but had a ritualistic and protective function, particularly as a fertility symbol.
The Petrie Museum of Egyptian archaeology has several examples. You can see some in the museum or view them online. Paddle dolls were often painted red and black and sometimes had exaggerated drawings of the female genital region, which makes sense if they were meant as fertility symbols.

As I say in my book Pagan Portals - Poppets and Magical Dolls, in Ancient Egyptian civilisation, image magic using figurines was very popular. I will be blogging about other examples in the future.

In the run-up to my book launch I have been blogging about magical dolls you can see in museums around England. These include Merrythoughts and Akua'Ba in the Museum of Childhood, good luck dolls from the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic and a healing doll from the Horniman Museum. My intention is to show that poppets aren't all about sticking pins and cursing!

My book is officially published on August 31. On September 8; I will be reading from Pagan Portals - Poppets and Magical Dolls at Wicca Moon, 50 Well Hall Road, London SE9 6SH at 2pm. For further details contact, call 0208 850 7803 or visit

You will be able to buy copies at Wicca Moon. You can also view Pagan Portals - Poppets and Magical Dolls on Amazon and order the book from Treadwell's.

The Museum of Childhood is at Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 9PA, the Petrie Museum is at Malet Pl, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 6BT.

Links and previous related posts

Monday, 13 August 2018

Magical Dolls: Mystery of Edinburgh's Miniature Coffins

The latest issue of Fortean Times has arrived on my doorstep and I am really excited to see it contains a feature on the 17 miniature coffins containing effigies of men found in Edinburgh in 1836.

I mention the Edinburgh figurines my book Pagan Portals - Poppets and Magic Dolls in my entry on dolls of remembrance:
Dolls of Remembrance
[Folklorist] Edward Lovett mentioned that in 1836 some boys found coffin-like boxes each containing a small doll in a concealed cave on Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh. He said similar boxes had been discovered in Germany and Brittany. There the folklore was that if a sailor was lost at sea and the body not recovered, a small doll or cross was made to represent the person, put in a box and a service for the dead performed over it. Those dolls were all put into one place, usually under the effigy of Saint Nicholas – the patron saint of seamen as well as famed for giving toys to children at Yule.
Even today, a doll can be a wonderful way to remember and honour a loved one who has passed on. If possible, use clothing and other items that belonged to them to make either the entire doll or its clothing. If you have a lock of their hair – or just a strand or two from their comb or hairbrush, include that in the doll. You can adorn it with jewellery or other small trinkets that belonged to them.
The Fortean Times goes into more details about who the Edinburgh figurines might represent. Possibilities include grave robbers Burke and Hare's 17 victims, and the leaders of a popularist uprising in Scotland in 1820. Some of the rebels were executed, while others were transported to Australia. The idea that the dolls were drowned sailors is considered less likely nowadays because the miniatures are not dressed like sailors and no ships had sunk with large-scale loss of Scottish seamen at around that time.

The article gives the most detailed look at Edinburgh's Miniature coffins that I have come across. I wish I had been able to read it before I wrote my book.

But, whatever spell or rite those particular dolls were intended for, the idea that you can make a miniature doll to remember or honour someone you will never see again is still a valid one.

I made a small poppet to remember my father by, out of the fabric of one of his ties. You can see it in the photo on the left.

If you are interested in the history and folklore relating to poppets and magical dolls, I would strongly recommend reading the Fortean Times' article on the Edinburgh coffins. The magazine currently has a special offer allowing you to order 3 issues for £1 if you subscribe. You can find out more here:

You can view my book Pagan Portals - Poppets and Magical Dolls on Amazon.

Links and previous related posts

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Witchcraft: Making a Terry Pratchett-Style Shamble

I've always thought there was quite a bit of true magical insight in Terry Pratchett's portraying of witchcraft. Yesterday I made a shamble following  instructions at an exhibition at the Maidstone Museum - Paul Kidby: Discworld and Beyond.

Paul Kidby was the illustrator of Terry’s Discworld books. Much of the exhibition shows his illustrations for the novels - which are gorgeous and also heavily influenced by British folklore.

However, my favourite part was a shamble tree (pictured right) - and anyone who goes there can learn how to make one to add to the display.

Shambles first appear in The Wee Free Men, which I admit I haven't read yet. According to both mediawiki and the description at the Maidstone exhibition:
A shamble (also called a shambles) is a handmade device used by witches to detect or amplify magic. It can even be used for protection or to send a spell. The device itself is not magical. Shambles are like spectacles, they help you see, but don't see for you. A conversant witch can assemble a shamble in a matter of seconds using stuff like strings, twigs, leaves, feathers, beads, coloured paper, an egg or even a beetle. The whole thing looks like a "cat's cradle", or some sort of nest made of rubbish. The ingredients are not really important, although the centre should contain a live ingredient (e.g. an egg or a beetle.

The magic lies in its assembly and use, which is to catch the moment. "The way you tie the knots," said Miss Level, who was a Research Witch, "the way the string runs - the freshness of the egg, perhaps, and the moisture in the air - the tension of the twigs and the kind of things that you just happen to have in your pocket at that moment - even the way the wind is blowing. All these things make a kind of... of picture of the here-and-now when you move them right."
Now, that might be fictional magic, but it makes sense to me. When I create or enchant an object for spells or rituals - whether for candle magic, poppet-making or anything else - I often use whatever I have to hand rather than going out and buying things specially. I also believe most of the magic comes from the witch herself and the energy raised. Physical things are mainly just a focus.

The witch who trained me explained that all magic does is tweak the threads of the Web of Life. So, anything using string or wool is a perfect representation of that. The other objects you incorporate can have traditional symbolism - a four-leaf clover for luck, for example - or they can relate to the place, time and those who are with you.

At Paul Kidby: Discworld and Beyond, these were the instructions to make a shamble:
  • See what items or fluff you have in your handbag or pocket or use stuff from the box
  • Tie two sticks for your main frame
  • Use the string to tie all your bits to the twigs
  • Hang your shamble from the tree
I only found a hair elastic in my pocket, which I wrapped around my twigs and tied to the tree. You might be able to see it about two-thirds of the way up in the photo at the top right.

If you do make a shamble, please don't leave it tied to any living tree outdoors without permission of the tree and its human owner. Plastic and other artificial fibres don't rot away and can be a hazard to wildlife as well as eventually harming the tree itself.

Another interesting fact is that the young witch Tiffany Aching had a shepherd's crown hanging from her shamble. This was used in the title of Terry Pratchett's last book. Shepherd's crowns are fossils of sea-urchins. Real-life witch Doreen Valiente also prized them highly. She collected them on walks in Sussex and made them into a necklace, which she wore when practising magic.

Paul Kidby: Discworld and Beyond runs until Sunday 2 September at Maidstone Museum, St Faith's Street, Maidstone, Kent, ME14 1LH. Tickets are adults £4, children £2.

Links and previous related posts