THE DIVIL’S CROWN

•June 12, 2015 • 2 Comments

The Divil’s Crown

 Visconti-fool

“The Hunter, Old Tubal and the Roebuck in the Thicket are one and the same!”

Upon His hoary brow, three curling flame-like strands dance in the hazy light; seen, unseen, gestural, metaphysical; this fire-brand of shin, the triple fire and triple horns belong to Him alone. Eponymous and eternal wanderer, He steps out, lowering his piercing gaze to draw down His favoured hat, to veil His Virtue, from profane eyes. Who today would see that blazing sigil; smiling inwardly, He yet bears the mark with pride!

The Jestor’s hat both mirrors and mocks the black felted Tricorn, much favoured by the Devil Himself

His trident, tight within the Fool’s grasp, is shadowed in that seasoned staff,  a-mocking by tinkling bell, His hayfork’s iron Tines. Three tangs. But why? What medieval jape obscures a mystery here? Robert Cochrane casually refers to two such characters, each completing in the other, two halves of one whole, not in opposition, but in harmony. In tandem. Denial of either one leads to madness. Embrace the whole, leads to discovery of the genius within.

Each new seeker is metaphorically a ‘fool,’ yet has much to teach us; the ‘blind’ lead the blinded. Perhaps the fool is simply blind because his eyes do not yet ‘see’ and we are ‘blind’ because, in seeing so much, we are often oblivious to peripheral activity – that is, we look but do not truly ‘see all that is hidden in plain sight.’

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” the wise holy fool – the alpha omega zero point paradox, neither the end nor the beginning, androgynous hermaphrodite who is all and nothing. ..the ‘simpleton’’ who is yet all knowing; pregnant with potential for renewal, yet desiring it not, seeking freely, openly, guided ever from within, not being distracted from without; the self, connected in purity to the Source, inflamed with divine vigour, enfolded by the wings of Fate, the fool dances on.”

Connection with and through the Egregore is essential; intrinsic to a Clan/family tradition and its virtue through the tutelary deity, mediated by the totem. An Egregore, the ‘source of virtue’ facilitates a spiritual ancestry from which its ‘People’ descend, just as a common blood ancestor will be present if we look back far enough. To work with the weight of such history and heritage requires first an awareness of, an acknowledgment of who we are within and along that stream. How then, does anyone even begin to define themselves, less still, what they do? The Fool dances blithely along, oblivious of all title and label; the devil ‘advocates’ all, guised in plethoric obscurity.

“What do witches call themselves? They call themselves by the name of their Gods. I am Od’s man, since in me the spirit of Od lives.” And “Now, what do I call myself. I don’t. Witch is as good a name as any, failing that ‘Fool’ might be a better word. I am a child of Tubal Cain, the Hairy One.” 

The Head-Kinsman of a Clan stands as its Chief/Leader/Father, and in some cases, even as a minor king. A Chief may claim only what is given by this right of heritage, charged thereafter to ‘hold’ it within that virtue; no more, and no less than is deeded to his care. And for this, he must give all in return. Under the Law he has a solemn duty.

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The use of the term king, as in Young/Old Horn King, stems from the Anglo-Saxon cyning, which breaks down as cyn = people; ing = originating from: giving us the meaning of cyning/king as a natural descendant from a specific ancestry, from an identifiable ‘people’ to whom ‘his’ family belong. Most probably, this concept will be unfamiliar to those whose perception of a ruler and a king has been defined by the Latin Rex/Regina adopted with much support during the medieval period and especially by the Church.  However, this was not how our Anglo Saxon forebears conceived of the relationship between a Clan and its King/ Head- Kinsman. His power rested not upon the virtue of land ownership but as leader of his People. One respected Anglo Saxon dictionary explains the concept of cyning thusly:

“He is the representation of the people, and springs from them, as a son does from his parents. The Anglo-Saxon king was elected from the people; he was, therefore, the king of the people. He was the chosen representative of the people, their embodiment, the child, not the father of the people.”

His sworn duty to them was to be their guardian, protector, leader and representative. It is extremely intriguing that this role was undertaken as the product/progeny of ‘his’ people; a position holding some contrast to the sole autocracy of being ‘parent’ over them. The ‘child’ is born of and through the ‘People’ it serves to represent, fulfilling the mysteries proper as a product of ancestry, a child of his historical parentage, and also father to generations yet to be… and so on in perpetuity by Virtue of the Group Mind and Group Soul.

A Head-Kinsman therefore functions as an intermediary known best by the honour and position of his ‘Father;’ hence the emphasis of the ‘Father’ within their name and the declaration: ‘I worship the gods of my Father’s Father…’  Hence many refer to Odhin as: ‘All father.’ Somewhat ironically the Church adopted this concept in naming each King a ‘son’ of Mother Church.

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Robert Cochrane’s understanding of these basic Craft tenets is very evident in his given descriptive of who he is within the path he embraced, its guides and its historical context under a Tutelary deity, clearly noted in the name of his Clan:

  • Clan Tubal Cain = descendants of Tubal Cain (an heretical line, spiritual heterodoxy, a civilising force of evolution)
  • The People of Goda = the priestly line (priesthood of)

Identity of an inherent cultural premise, a Faith its adherents are hereby avowed to uphold by sacred oath. ie: as ‘Od’s men:’

This signifies the Drighton principle of the Virtue of Suzerainty, implementing the right to rule by deed of ancestry, again a contrast to the Sovereign claim to rule by ‘divine’ right. It is a hoary stream indeed we follow.

History is replete with examples of dynasties and of dynastic wars. And yet, scant mention is given to the canny tribes peoples who developed and implemented a system to combat this, who were so successful, it endured in some places for 1200 years. From the 4th century onwards, these Blessed Isles witnessed the influx of migrating tribes from Northern Europe and the Baltic regions.

In this world, any attempt at clarification…

“… will be a difficult task, since talking about the People (We describe ourselves as such) is a matter that every hereditary group trains out of its members.’ The religion is also more, mystical than most – so words are very poor approximations of what we actually discover or feel about our beliefs.” 

History has preserved for us a wealth of material to draw example from that others may learn of their precedents in a forgotten and neglected heritage. Succession to leadership was never democratic. Neither was it initially dynastic, and least, not in the way we are accustomed to. Custom and tradition were carefully monitored, observing to the letter of the law their strongest tenets in order to avoid nepotism and despotism by encroachment or upheaval.  To preserve the virtue of a lineage and of a family heritage, the best protection resided in an official, and duly appointed heir, elected from amongst the senior, male adults within the family.  This was by far, the preferred rule, rather than the Regency of an infant child, later history has familiarised us with.

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Within the Saxon Heptarchy, noted also amongst the Germans and the Scandinavians, the more natural system of Tanistry thrived, which raises the possibility that Scottish and Anglicised regions of Briton must have inherited such a bone-fide legacy of Tanistry naturally.

For any leader to place so much trust in his successor, he must first prove his worth. Trials and quests were set to inspire confidence in his choice to their people. Trust in leadership is primary. The Tanist, having completed his task and effected his display of loyalty, would then declare his trust, a troth avowed before the old gods. Those chosen would typically be drawn from a pool of men, whose own great-grandfathers, grandfathers or uncles had at some point been the elective ‘Tanist.’  As successor he must be of sound mind, a natural warrior, a learned man – a loyal man; one who reflects the virtue to hold the line of kin-ship.

Thereafter, he would be his leader, chief or Head-Kinsman’s ‘second -in-command,’ effectively his right-hand man, his surrogate even when called upon to serve  their people.  It is a heavy office that requires a very dedicated and gifted person to fully support his Head-Kinsman. An official declaration of his heir as far in advance of his own death as possible ensures smooth transference of duty – one to the other, vouchsafing the unity of the Clan, without disruption.

The Clan is likewise governed by this carefully monitored system of ‘Tanistry,’ to cover all eventualities possible in fate. Community is everything. Many myths and tales recall this arcane system of succession that binds all within an ancestral chain, wrought in their shared fate. Our mentor declared:

“The curse of Ol Tubal lies in the management of the Clan itself. You are stuck with it until you feel the need to download it on someone else and when you do, you’ll get a tremendous feeling of lightness and relief. In the end you find if you let it, it will rule your entire life and that quite simply is, the ‘curse.’

Again, Robert Cochrane invoked this arcane premise when he announced:

 “I carry within my physical body the totality of all the witches that have been in my family and their virtue for many centuries, if I call upon my ancestors, I call upon forces than are within myself and exterior…, now you know what I mean when I speak of the burden of Time.”

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And so, the duty to commit to continuity was discharged. From within Cochrane’s Clan, Evan John Jones was the Tanist, the leader elected by Cochrane to succeed him as Magister of the Clan, heir to the tradition as its Head-Kinsman. Humbly and reluctantly, he valiantly ‘held’ a position so many have misunderstood. He said of himself, that it was ‘Hobson’s choice, and a poor choice at that!’ 

Well he knew though, how directly Clan Tradition held full accord with historical precedents, serving Craft and Cultural history; although there is no distinction of course.  Imperative roles assigned to each of three jewels in the divil’s crown continue to secure the merit of three distinct yet involved mysteries.

secrecy ….has nothing to do with protecting the Mysteries, since all that can be said about the Mysteries has already been written into folklore, myth and legend. What is not forthcoming is the explanation.”

Towards the end of its term as an embedded system of succession, medieval Barons struggled in the tide of sweeping change to maintain the high bar set by the Great Chiefs of Old, battling to observe even the most fundamental  Laws of hospitality, of protection, of duty and care to all those under their aegis. Their livelihood and well-being, ever at the behest of the Head-Kinsman, ensured a full purse, a roof over their heads, and a warm hearth around which to gather and feed their own families in return for their loyalty.

It is somewhat ironic how constriction generated freedom, a release that revived mercantile wealth, cultural tolerance, economic and artistic growth. These are the threads from which the extant tapestry of Craft hangs, threadbare, faded, but attached to roots that stand firm. Threads may be traced back, picked up and darned, re-working the bonds of the new upon and through the bounds of the old…as is meet to do so. And what do our skeins reveal?

In order of Hierarchy, after the Head-Kinsman, Chieftains, known better today as Earls and Barons from whom the Tanist/ Toiseach found selection, each headed their own individual houses or smaller family units, collectively forming a Clan. These positions were maintained as an hereditary right, again with each ‘chief’ elected to uphold his title. As an hereditary office and historical body politic, they established the court regime, consistent with their own era. In times of war and conflict, these would be the men the Head-Kinsman called upon. Though the Chief was the Laird, Liege Lord, and Drighton, he alone was the Ruler of Law. Devotion of duty, one to the other between him and those held in troth, established the compact of gyfu.

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Nonetheless, these suffered erosion during the 12th century when English court influences connived to abandon those traditions in favour of another more dynastic, hereditary sovereignty. Those displaced men were the those same hereditary barons  and earls who fought and defended their rights against a tyrant king, forcing him to sign the now infamous ‘Magna carta,’ whence he attempted to dissolve those rights. That document has been woefully misrepresented ever since; one thing it was certainly never drafted for, was to protect the rights of all men – only free men of means.

“The fundamental difference between the clan system of society and the feudal system which was destined to supersede it, was that the authority of the clan chief was based on personal and blood relationship, while that of the feudal superior is based upon tenure of land.”

Clearly, the more spiritual aspects and the customs surrounding a leader, especially with deference to his ancestral links were maintained through Crafts and Frith Guilds.  Therefore a Magister/Master as Head-Kinsman and the Tanist are one and the same through that patrimony, and through their Lady and Maid who holds the virtue for the Clan, hence duty to him under the Law, and absolute allegiance to her, exactly as Cochrane stated under Clan Law.  She is not chosen by man, but man chooses his own successor. The Lady, in her role as Seer, becomes Cup-bearer, and if prompted to do so by her virtue, will accept and acknowledge him. By the ‘Godstone,’ she wields the ‘Cup and Stang,’ by the hearth-stone, she serves them. Through her, the Pale Guiden is the gift of life and death, wisdom and insanity.

“The Hunter, Old Tubal Cain, and the Roebuck, are one and the same divine presence in the shape of Fate or Wyrd.”

Evan John Jones selected and appointed Robin-the-dart as his Tanist, who in turn was vouchsafed by The Maid. Tubal’s Mill turns, and another is now named as the Clan’s appointed Tanist to the current Magister; vouchsafed by the Maid, as tradition demands, for the continuity of the People – Ulric Gestumblindi Goding.

One need not peer too deeply into these traditions to discover them, replete throughout the rich heritage of our folkloric histories and mythical historicity’s. Some of these developed from the mythical ages through into the medieval periods and into the eras of strong feminine cults from which arose ‘Marionism and Courtly Love.’

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Above all, Cochrane notes the mechanics of Clanship, of fealty within the hierarchy as it flows from the Egregore through the principals of titular heads, and then the gyfu of ‘return,’ back towards the Egregore – a perfect symbiosis. Underpinning his exemplary facet of magical enterprise, all is the grist for the Mill, creating the true context for the winding of its cogs.

Reiterated below is possibly the finest explanation of what Traditional Craft is and how it operates. Cochrane explores duty, the charge to the ancestors, the work itself, mentorship and tradition.

blood must be possessed to gain the ear of the gods, and that witch blood re-occurs every second or third generation, and in the same pattern physically.” 

The canny hierarchy of the Clans deftly re-organised into trades and guilds, each possessed of apprentices, customs, rites and lore; each possessed of strict ‘family’ codes of adoption and rejection.

I in turn recognise the authority of others who are higher than myself, and that authority, once stated, is absolute, do what we may……My job, is to train and organise, fulfil the letter of the law, and to function, to discipline and to curse, as well as to elevate and expound…. We have to train any new members to a certain level, develop any hidden power they may have, and finally to teach them how to manipulate virtue. We may be the last of the old school, but we still uphold the old attitudes and expect the same. Above we two rises another authority whose writ is older than ours, to that authority, we give absolute allegiance, and whose function it is to train us and work with us…. I was in the fortunate position of having been blooded, therefore I have some hold on their ears.”

Blood and Bone – source the virtue within every Egregore!

In Clan family traditions, these tenets remain observed by too few. We count ourselves most fortunate that we do.

Academic treatises have covered this historical peculiarity, and one of the most succinct is available free on Google Books here:

https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=zEBkAAAAMAAJ&rdid=book-zEBkAAAAMAAJ&rdot=1

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[EXTRACT COPYRIGHT OF SHANI OATES – TAKEN FROM A FORTHCOMING PUBLICATION ‘TUBAL’S MILL: THE ROUND OF LIFE :A CRITIQUE of THE ROBERT COCHRANE TRADITION’

A Merrie May – Folklore celebrations

•May 8, 2015 • Leave a Comment

 These works are compiled from various internet sources and almanacs. All links have been left in for ease of access to them. Thank you and enjoy!

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May Day, Beltaine

It’s the merrie, merrie month, as the English have long called the beautiful month of May.

Their ancestors, the Anglo-Saxons, called it thrimilce, because at this time of year cows can be milked three times a day. The modern name is thought by some scholars to come from the Latin ‘Maia’ (consort of Jupiter, mother of Hermes, or Mercury), the goddess of growth and increase. It is also connected with major, because in the Northern Hemisphere, May is a beautiful time of Spring growth.

Despite the congeniality of the month, it was also an old belief that May is an unlucky month in which to be married. This superstition, current even today, is Roman in origin and was mentioned by the Roman poet, Ovid. Lovers should wait until the propitious month of June before tying the knot.

Those born in the first three weeks of May were born under the sign of Taurus, and from May 21 to June 20, Gemini is the ruling sun sign and represents the mythological twins Castor and Pollux, the twins of Leda, who appeared to sailors in storms with fires on their heads.

 

Many old sayings refer to May, but of course one must remember that they generally refer to the month in the Northern Hemisphere.

One old proverb goes, “Cast not a clout till May is out”, folk meaning, do not shed your winter clothing (clout) too early in the year, because cold weather can still come. Maia is one of the Pleiades which rises and sets at the beginning and end of the agricultural season. Another says “Wash a blanket in May/Wash a dear one away”, indicating that death will strike the family or friends of those who do so. 

Some other May proverbs are:

Be it weal or be it woe,
Beans blow before May doth go.

Come it early or come it late,
In May comes the cow-quake.

A swarm of bees in May
Is worth a load of hay.
A swarm of bees in June
Is worth a silver spoon.
A swarm of bees in July
Is not worth a fly.

The haddocks are good,
When dipped in May flood.

Mist in May, and heat in June,
Make the harvest right soon.

A hot May makes a fat churchyard. 
(Meaning that many people will die.)

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Festivals in May

The Northern nations have many festivals in May because the weather turns to a suitable temperature and Mother Nature turns on her most beautiful colours and fragrances.

For example, the Macedonians, on the Orthodox Feast Day of St George (May 6), dance the hora and perform various ancient rituals and games associated with eggs, as we do at Easter.

At Helston, Cornwall, on May 8, the townsfolk have for centuries celebrated Furry Day, with dances, songs and rites whose origins and purpose have long been lost in the mists of time.

The English for two hundred years or more celebrated Shick-Shack Day (or, Oak Apple Day) on May 29, the birthday of King Charles II who brought back monarchy to Britain after the strict Puritan regime of Oliver Cromwell.

May, however, is known especially for May Day, the first day of the month, which in olden times was celebrated as the great, colourful Spring festival, with May poles that were danced around, and fairs at which dramas, often featuring Robin Hood and his “merrie men”, were performed. Morris dancers were and still are a delightful part of the English May Day. 

In the Celtic tradition, now popular with neo-Pagans, the day is called Beltaine (or Beltane). The Scots used to light bel-fires on the hilltops and drive their cattle through the flames in a ritual which was either to destroy vermin and protect the cattle from disease, or to prepare the beasts for sacrifice.

May Day commenced in ancient Rome, with youths going into the fields, dancing and singing in honour of Flora, goddess of fruits and flowers. The goddess Bona Dea, too, was celebrated at around this time, in women-only rites.

In recent years, May Day became an annual celebration not so much of the glories of Spring but of the traditions of the labour movement.

Some May Day folklore snippets

Chimney sweeps’ festival
May Day was in olden times the first day of the London chimney-sweeps’ festival, a three day revel in which chimney sweeps wore gold paper and flowers on their clothes and hats. They also had their shovels and faces lined with pink paint and white chalk. They chose a grandly-dressed lord and lady from some other profession, the lady often being a boy in extravagant female attire. 

As part of chimney-sweeps’ revels it was customary for a boy to move about in a framework of branches covered in leaves. He was called Jack-in-the-green. Jack, a Green Man sometimes also showed up in London suburbs, hailing from the country, amusing the public with rustic dancing. He carried a flower-decked walking stick.

Bonfires
From time immemorial, bonfires have been associated with May Eve and May Day in Britain. Originally dedicated to the pagan solar god Bel, or Balder, in Ireland these fires were once called Balder’s balefires. Until the nineteenth century, May Day bonfires were still lit in the Scottish highlands, Ireland and the Isle of Man, among the peasantry.

A-Maying
In Britain it used to be customary today to go a-Maying, or gathering flowers and branches, particularly of the May bush.

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May Queen
In old Britain on May Day, folk elected the Queen of the May, a pretty girl to preside over the day’s events, which usually meant sitting in a garlanded bower all day and being admired by the whole village.

The old British (and French) custom the Queen of the May today came from the ancient Roman veneration of Flora, May Queen and goddess of flowers and youthful pleasures, for whom a sexually licentious festival was held at this time of year. In some villages, children carried around a finely-dressed doll called the Lady of the May. With little copies of maypoles, they went about the village asking for a halfpenny.

May cows
Up until the early nineteenth century in Britain, on May Day milkmaids would dress up a cow in garlands. They, too, dressed in flowers and danced around the cow. In earlier times they were accompanied by a man wearing a bulky frame on which were hung flowers, silver flagons and dishes. The silverware was rented out at an hourly rate by pawnbrokers.

May cosmetics
On the morning of May Day, Scottish lasses used to go out early and wash their faces in dew, a sure potion for preserving beauty. In Edinburgh the favourite place to do this was Arthur’s Seat. Similarly, at Anhalth, Germany, girls did the same to get rid of freckles.

Royal May Day
In medieval England, even the king and queen joined in with the May Day festivities. Chaucer wrote that early on May Day Forth goeth all the court, both most and least, to fetch the flowers fresh.

May scapegoat
In old Scotland and Ireland, May Day rituals were, among other things, an attempt to stop the spread of witchcraft. Whoever received a piece of cake marked with charcoal served as scapegoat for witches, becoming a figure of terror and being pelted with eggshells. (By way of comparison, in Germany it was customary to throw eggshells at a disagreeable stranger.)

Garland Dressing, Charlton-on-Oxmoor, Oxfordshire, UK
A wooden cross is bedecked with Yew and Box tree leaves.

Unlucky weddings

From as early as Roman times comes the tradition mentioned by Ovid, and still prevalent in Europe, that May is an unlucky month in which to be married. This is probably because in Rome this was the month for the festival of Bona Dea (the goddess of chastity), and the feasts of the dead called Lemuralia.

 

Fair Flora! Now attend thy sportful feast,
Of which some days I with design have past;
A part in April and a part in May
Thou claim’st, and both command my tuneful lay;
And as the confines of two months are thine
To sing of both the double task be mine.
Latin poet Ovid, Fasti, v, 185, for Flora (Floralia) Apr 28May 3   Roman calendar

Oak before ash, we’re in for a splash, ash before oak we’re in for a soak.
Traditional British weather prognostication saying for May

Hoar-frost on May 1st indicates a good harvest.
Traditional English proverb

The later the blackthorn in bloom after May 1st, the better the rye and harvest.
Traditional English proverb

Nut for the slut; plum for the glum
Bramble if she ramble; gorse for the whores.
[Traditional English saying]: one should preferably leave            hawthorn at a friend’s door for their luck, but other plants are an insult. I suggest you leave the gorse at home.

 

Mary we crown you with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels
And Queen of the May.
Contemporary folk song sung by Roman Catholic schoolchildren in the UK. The month of May is dedicated to Mary.

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May crowning

May crowning is a traditional Roman Catholic ritual that occurs in the month of May of every year. In some countries, it takes place on or about May 1, however, in many United States Catholic parishes, it takes place on Mothers’ Day.

 

And forth goeth al the court, both moste and leste,
To feche the floures freshe.
Chaucer, referring to the practice of gathering flowers on May Day

The hawthorn‘s later orgiastic use corresponds with the cult of the Goddess Flora, and accounts for the English medieval habit of riding out on May Morning to pluck flowering hawthorn boughs and dance around the maypole. Hawthorn blossom has, for many men, a strong scent of female sexuality; which is why the Turks use a flowering branch as an erotic symbol.
Robert Graves (18951985), The White Goddess, p. 176

Sin no more, as we have done, by staying
But, my Corinna, come, let’s go a Maying.
Robert Herrick (15911674)

Hark! The sea-faring wild-fowl loud proclaim
My coming, and the swarming of the bees.
These are my heralds, and behold! my name
Is written in blossoms on the hawthorn-trees.
I tell the mariner when to sail the seas;
I waft o’er all the land from far away
The breath and bloom of the Hesperides,
My birthplace. I am Maia. I am May.
HW Longfellow (1807 – ‘82); The Poet’s Calendar for May

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HINDSIGHT

•May 4, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Hindsight.

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One eye upon the world I keep

One eye within my soul so deep.

One soft heart that bleeds for all

One heart beating, till I fall.

One Mind to know the whim of fate,

One Mind alone, sensing the bait.

My arms about thee wildly flail,

My arms, hang taut ‘pon the nail.

My legs, now flaccid, dance no more;

My legs, wither slowly, to the core.

 

 

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My body writhes in death’s embrace,

My body, soothed finds peace, apace.

One soul to flee this thriving hell,

One soul freed by the blessed bell.

One godhead calling out my name,

 

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One godhead smiling, renews the game.

For Life is life, and death is death,

But death is life and life is death.

She pulls the cords and all must shift,

She pulls them not, to cast adrift.

One darkened night of the soul to bear

One darkened eternity of despair.

Reeled in, I am of no concern,

Reeled in, turn, and again I turn.

Upon Her great wheel, grinding, all,

Be swift, be sharp, drop not the ball.

Upon Her great wheel, grinding, all,

Be swift, be sharp, drop not the ball.

The Toad, Death and the Maiden

•April 2, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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“Save Mushrooms and the Fungus race, that grow as All-Hallows Tide takes place”

 

Superstition is a curious thing.

It has been considered in some areas of the world unwise to pick fungi on All Hallows Eve, for souls reside within; so to kill a hapless toad or frog upon the road confers the same cause to humankind. A certain variety of fungi, hailed as the star of the north, the cosmic dragon, is of great beneficence to our race.

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Anglo-Saxon lore lends mystery to this mix in their idiosyncratic spelling of tode (for death, in reference to poisonous fungi) but also for the warty creature we all know and love. Credence for the former pertaining to the latter is given in an obscure 17th century account by De Lancre when asked to investigate the usage of certain unctuous salves. As Magistrate for Bordeaux, his conclusion baldly reported unequivocal ‘witchcraft practises’ concerning the Basque community, blaming them for the manufacture of:

“solid and liquid poisons made out of toads for the purpose of ruining fruit crops, and even poison in the powder form made out of grilled toads which, when mixed with clouds, harms fruit trees…the strongest poison was used for killing, and even the old and skilled witches, those best able to change themselves into beasts and perform other feats, were cautious with it…”[i]

Fairy rings composed of puck’s foot, fairy farts and dragon’s breath are the baneful spores of everything ranging from the tiny champignon to the dryad’s saddle, with puff balls aplenty in between. Glistening and dewy in the pale morning light, they have been described in derogatory terms as witch’s spittle and fairy stools [also a pun on ‘stool’ as excrement!].

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None of us are in any doubt as to the psychological processes afoot, whence poor Alice in all naiveté, consumes with glee her magical mushrooms at the behest of a stoned caterpillar, lounging on a prize specimen ‘tode’ whilst partaking smoothly of his own bubbling hookah! Witches brimstone spews pungent sulphuric spores o’er those who stamp where angels fear to tread. From peace to fury then.

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Horses too, that trample faerie rings in the wetlands of the Somerset levels are cursed with scramble-foot (becoming lame) overnight! And on St John’s Eve in Sweden, special bonfires are constructed at crossroads of nine sacred woods into which onlookers fling the bäran, a type of impecunious toadstool to thwart torment from unpleasant sprites abound that night.[ii]

“ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes and groves.. you demi-puppets that by moonshine do green sour ringlets make; whereof the ewe not bites; and you whose pastime is to make midnight mushrooms.”[iii]

 Portable fire, as magic flame, glows fiercely in the cunning hand that favours the threaded striations of autumnal puff balls, as noted in John Gerard’s ‘Herball’, and discovered by bewildered archaeologists at Skarae Brae. Anglo-Saxon Mycophobia asserts most fearfully how:

“Few are good to eat, they do suffocate and strangle the eater.. to those, that love such strange meates, beware of licking honey among the thorns, lest the sweetness of one, counterfeit the sharpness of the other.”

Ambivalent at best, deadly for certain, the devil’s own reeking carrion, the jellied eggs so prosaically named by Gerard as ‘Pricke mushrome,’have conversely been one moment a panacea; the next a plague. Raven’s bread, squirrel’s bread, earth calluses too, range in their efficacy, from the edible to the vitriolic – and yet, truly, are they the divine entheogen and food of the gods.  Infamous for inducing sexual frenzy in nun’s, hysteria in simple peasants, and holy fire among monks, their reputation precedes them most perturbingly.

danse_macabre1

“what d’ye lack, what d’ye lack? I can pound a toad in a mortar, and make a broth of it, and stir with a dead man’s hand. Sprinkle it on thine enemy while he sleeps and he will turn into a black viper, and his own mother will slay him.”[iv]

Toads play dead. Everyone must, at some time, have held up a sorry limp and warty creature, and thinking it dead, placed it back in the undergrowth, only to see it hop away with a canny wink. Cunning is its maxim. Its life oft depends on’t. Failing this ruse, they puff up or excrete unpleasant irritations. Changing even gender when necessary in their erstwhile determination to procreate; advancing wilfully upon a female to mate even when fatally injured. Maidens bathing in their seething lathers have been much lauded for their beauty and sexual prowess. Aphrodite, born from the foaming waters is indeed the most sensuous of maidens fair, leading to the legendary demand for elixir of toad as a favoured aphrodisiac.

Bufo_bufo_04_13Jul2009

Equally, toad venom has thrice been a ploy to kill a King of England.[v] Odd when we consider the toad (or frog) to be the prince himself, cursed to inhabit the body of the most despised and ugly creature of folklore, the most famous in legend being Grimm’s Prince, otherwise known as ‘Iron Henry.’ From blood, bile and bone, to breath, stone and foam, the poison of this magical creature purveys the doom of all hapless souls who merit its worth as measured in body parts.

Emblem of Merovingian Kings, the fleur de lys prevailed and won the field, when arteful enchantment too bright to behold as gilded fountain fell, a golden dew upon the lily of the maid.

???????????????????????????????Into Eve’s ear, Satan as the venomous toad, drips poison, quothe Milton in ‘Paradise Lost;’ yet Graeham’s renegade toad, for his sins, adores better the sleek body of his bright and noisy motor car! Though long and languid, his most amorous glare, from horny toad alighting upon a maiden fair, there to fascinate and bewitch; tis but chickens that hatch the basilisk, from eggs exposed to cockatrice, their virtue yet reigns in Medusa’spittle! –  for baneful woe, I’m told. And so, as famulus to amulet, in spite, are both applied; for wael then, or woe? All depends upon your purse of course!

As maiden fair, the Laidly Worm, a most curious tale of yore, of whispered breath that uttereth of exploits with knight, castle and rowan wood; the striking flinch of such a whip, soft with drops of water holy, secure the hag’s release in body, soul et all – sad victim of the devil’s brood, the fateful procurator of Charon’s packet land to land, with nought but Lethe between. Harnessed in number, they plough the fields at dawn, to blight the crops that ruefully stand upon the devil’s acre.

Edward_Burne-Jones_-_The_fight-_St_George_kills_the_dragon_VI_-_Google_Art_Project

In Wotan’s rade, the flaming horses snort their frenzied spittle to the ground, the seed of next year’s crop of fungi spawn, of devil’s hat’s, hexenpils, and faerie fodder.[vi] Gruel for reindeer and soma for the shaman. This eye of Agni, doth enflame the mind, to frenzy and delight, to dance, and race, to join the devil’s flight. Palaeolithic Mother, with hybrid legs of toad, giver of life and death, love and ecstasy? Oh veiled emblem of sacred liminality, by manna do we shift, twixt everywhere and nowhere; all knowing all being; to cure and heal, of death’s lingering throes. Tis all in fate’s sweet bitter mix!

220px-SophieAndersonTakethefairfaceofWomanGreat King and leather bag, horse’s mane and brightest bairn, to wit or woe – it’s all the same! From chthonic god to burial bowl, cremation platter and lickspittle’s spade, all mock the great toad’s bulk, yet in vain magics doth weave the fate of one to the other in pale facsimile. African toads, the scapegoat become, when humankind festers at some unknown colic. Saturated in serotonins and dopamines, why seeketh eleswhere the god gene? Look no further, this toad can make you fly, dance, laugh and cry, swear, en-trance, affront to dare and chance, so follow moon and pool to seething in ecstatic communion, bold and clear.

Dead or fetish, oil or potion – and all to appease an angry god. Tenacious and sly, deadly and ecstatic, whose globular eye mirrors the insanity abound. Why lick a toad when you can milk it? But then, in scathing tone I rage, Why milk it when you can kill it? Right? Preserved thus forever, at your behest, its ‘olu’ virtue the ‘must have’ prize, a jewelled sceptre of sovereign might. For this the poor wee beast is cursed. Then Karma calls: for She is the beast that curses all.

 Allegory_of_Music_(Echecs_amoureux)

 

[i] Toads and Toadstools Adrian Morgan p14, Celestial Arts, CA. 1995

[ii] P30

[iii] Shakespeare – The Tempest

[iv] Oscar Wilde – The Fisherman and His Soul

[v] Morgan, p61

[vi] Morgan, p96

all images courtesy of wiki commons

Mother’s day – a hallowing, a reckoning

•March 15, 2015 • 4 Comments

william-adolphe_bouguereau_1825-1905_-_pieta_1876

when falling, fall swiftly…..

 

fall swiftly and do pause not to consider the beauty of the heavens, lathing about you as celestial kalas dazzle all senses…..

 

in all things fall the hardest, the fastest, burn brightest, witness

Her dazzling beauty, in all shining colours, aglow upon the star: His are immediate, of the green and rotting earth, and of blackened deed..

 

when dancing, dance with the devil, follow the rhythm of the soul, take flight as the body aches for sweet scented straw, slumber upon silken pillows of dream….

 7._Luna_Księżyc_-_władczyni_Rakathere to dream the dark, dream the beauty of the aeons; seek visions of light and shadow, morphing all creation.. Fate draws all star-crossed lovers to the qutub of ablution, all is deemed fit, perfect feathers – the better for flying!

mother

 

when hungry, feast upon the bounty of the gods, for humanity will keep you a starving waif, in all things strive….choose love, not hate… pit your wits against the enemy within..

 

how the body doth yearn for the joy and fulfilment of touch, for love’s sweet caress, and yet, many forget whose love sustains, whence all others fail?

 

who secures this, resounds in voice and deed – She for whom the desert enflames, for whom doth seas boil and mountains freeze into glacial shards, diametric prisms of light, refracted creation, falling upon the created…

 

when the Great Ma taketh me, be sure to take my heart, take my body – wrestle with it not, my soul is thine from the beginning – more I cannot give, less I may not….

 William-Adolphe_Bouguereau_(1825-1905)_-_Charity_(1878)

who then are my brothers? who are my sisters, who are my gods – children spake the dream of man to itself of things to come, yet to be, …. from this moment hence, what wael and woe is woven thereof, what future do we gift?

 

in the cave of broken bones the wolf hustled the bear.. what of mankind, sayeth he to the bear, his time is up, he is no more. Not so responded the bear, all things are useful, are they not, our Mother did not tease all that breaths from Her loins for naught… there is a light, and purpose true in this especial breed ….. the wolf looked puzzled, and thoughtfully nodded..

 

in their dawn, they sought to master the moment – forgetting that infinity determines not their span of years; herein, upon the manifest plane, how do they play now their allotted time?

they err, they fuck, they eat, they sleep they war – repeat!

 william_bouguereau_-_el_primer_duelowhence She calls your number for the final dance, fear it not – blessed Mother, only the gift of life is precious, it is given to the best of men, that when they fall, they fall swiftly……

 

images:

1  William Adolphe Bouguereau – Pieta
2 Hans Sebald Beham –  Venus, from The Seven Planets with the Signs of the Zodiac, 1539
3 Hans Sebald Beham –  Luna, from The Seven Planets with the Signs of the Zodiac, 1539
4 William Adolphe Bouguereau  – Charity
5  William Adolphe Bouguereau  – The First Mourning

12th Night: Hunting the Wren

•January 1, 2015 • 1 Comment

 

 

 

 

Saturnalia and the celebrations of Janus ran alongside the solstice celebrations of the birth of the new son/sun/aeon within all the ancient mystery religions. Janus wields the key [of life] in his left hand and the sceptre [of death and judgement] in his right hand. These two emblems once signified power and glory, wisdom and might, truth and revelation, past and future, mercy and severity.IMAG0243

He is the first and the last, the end and the beginning, a seeming paradox. But in reality these concepts symbolize unity and wholeness, not polarity, for all is within the one, and the one is within the whole.

 He is represented in the sky by the constellation of Gemini, which appears appropriately in the midwinter sky, in the east. Janus is also perceived as the Master of Destiny, being a product of ‘kairos’ – sacred time, rather than linear time.  His two faces depict the synthesis of priest and monarch, a true unity in spirit. Curiously, this leads him to represent all symbols of inversion and mutual sacrifice. ‘Sacrifice’ in all its forms, ranging from the primitive forms of actual life to personal acts [psychological] and those of humility, of placing one’s own needs last  form the oldest and most universal acts of piety. Archaeological evidence reveals its practise going back many, many millennia.

 9ca6e65f84d047cccc3e317fa9407938

More than an act of mediation between the sacrificer and deity, it is the call of blood to blood, of life to life in death and beyond death – an eternity within the realms and province of the universal life spirit –the supreme life force, the generative essence of all mankind. in holy communion; a recognition of mutual symbiosis.

It honours our begetting, from god to man, and so we reciprocate, man to god. Moreover in times of Ur-Khaos, it was believed by our primitive ancestors that only blood sacrifice achieved equilibrium and harmony, life in death and death in life.

 But it would be wrong of us to dismiss this as ignorant superstition, rather it belies a deeply instinctive act underpinning almost all religions from Hinduism to Christianity, and from paganism to Judaism. It forces us to re-evaluate everything we do magically, after all, everything we eat dies for us, so isn’t it more appropriate that we give all life taken some meaning and relevance? Even more significantly, the giving of anything precious, or the banishment of anything unnecessary to our progress brings a closeness to god that cannot be ignored, impelling a true fusion of spirit, a unity of microcosm and macrocosm, signifying the end of disharmony and khaos.

 pig_sThe date for this act is thus perfectly placed within the epiphanic rite of Twelfth Night, a date sacred for millennia, beginning with the celebration of the new son/sun and culminating with the renewal of blood awareness, covenanting the magisterial ties to the gods.Throughout Old Europe, Greece, Rome and Egypt, the Midwinter festivals, all celebrated this darker aspect of life in death – of sacrifice. Saturn, the dark Lord of Misrule, has a Celtic counterpartBran [Lord of Death, oracular wisdom, prophecy and necromancy], to whom the wren is sacred.

Here, the wren is known as the ‘King’ of birds, and is subsequently killed by the ‘Robin’ who then becomes king for a time. This annual sacrifice takes place as you would expect during the midwinter festivals and places the totem animal – the wren, whose death is taboo at any other time, firmly in the role of scapegoat – of substitute for the king who must shed his blood for the health and salvation of his clan and community. This royal bird becomes the ‘Blood Royal’ spilled in a ritual that takes us back to the first time, when kingship was established upon earth from the gods.

The Wren-boys of Dun by John Campbell

Related to this is the myth of the twin waxing and waning year kings, the youthful, vibrant and wild Holly King [of the waxing, solar seasons] and the wise, old ‘father’ Oak King [of the waning, lunar seasons], its origins and truths being garbled in the mists of time. They are here represented by their sacred totems: robin [holly] and wren [oak]. Once killed, the ‘Wren’ is then mounted upon a stang or pole and paraded around the boundaries by he who has slain it – the ‘Robin’ in recognition that he is alive and King for another year. This assertive activity is accompanied by the following verse:

 

“We hunted the Wren for Robin the Bobbin

We hunted the Wren for Jack the Can

We hunted the Wren for Robin the Bobbin

We hunted the Wren for everyone.”

 

If we look further into the following verses we can see that the ‘Wren’ is in fact a substitute for the death of a man, who is hunted, killed and consumed.

 

“Oh where are you going? says Milder to Malder.

We may not tell you says Festle to Fose –

We’re off to the wild wood, says John the Red Nose

We’re off to the wild wood, says John the Red Nose.

 

And what will you do there? says Milder to Malder.

We may not tell you says Festle to Fose.

We’ll hunt the Cutty Wren says John the Red Nose.

We’ll hunt the Cutty wren says John the Red Nose.

 

How will you shoot him?……

With bows and arrows………

 That will not do -….

What will do then?….

Big guns and cannons !….

 

How will you bring him home?….

On four men’s strong shoulders…

 

That will not do-…..

What will do then?…

Big cart and big wagons….

 

How will you cut him up?…

With [hunting] knives and with [pitch] forks.

 SONY DSC

That will not do-…

What will do then?….

Big hatchets and cleavers.

 

How will you cook him?…

In pots and in pans.

 werewolf-woodcut-243x200

That will not do-…

What will do then?…

In a bloody great brass cauldron!…

 

Who’ll get the spare ribs?…

We’ll give all to the poor.”

 

Bill Gray, in citing the celebration of the ‘Cult of Kingship’, writes – “They gave their late leader the most honourable burial of all – in their own stomachs.”

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We all know that eventually human sacrifice evolved into animal sacrifice, finally developing into the form of the Eucharist, used by Church and Craft alike, for blood is the power and seed of life.

This Midwinter Sacrifice has within the Craft become symbolized by the death of the Wren, [whom even the Druids recognized as King of the birds] the totemic substitute of the Old, Oak King, a manifest and graphic substitute that illustrates how life comes from death retaining as it does its own seeds of generation. The ‘Robin’, totem of the Young Horned, Holly King and synonym for the dying King where ‘Hunter and Hunted are but One’. This solemn rite recognizes that sacrifice is necessary for the continuation of life, for without death there would be no life. 

 Twelve days of chaos and reversal signifying the primordial state are transformed into balance and harmony, of order restored – a recognition of the introduction of cosmic Law  of Maat. In order to assert these principles within the temporal realms, we feast on pork and toast the gods and ancestors. But Why?

 

Pig and its wild counterpart, the boar, represent for many ancient religions the definitive sacrificial animal, sacred to the many peoples of Old Europe and Asia [Norse, the Greeks, the Turks, Egyptians and Hindus’]. Even for the Semitic peoples, the proscription to eat it actually reveals a ‘taboo’, wherein the ancestral totem is forbidden consumption. This feasting animal, traditional served whole with an apple in its mouth reveals a significant esoteric secret. Apples, the fruit of immortality, contain the sacred starry pentagram of seeds within, announcing both our heavenly origins and the promise of new life. These seeds hold the soul, to be reborn from the earth, the body of the Mother.

The Boar’s Head Carol

      The boar’s head in hand bring I,


Bedeck’d with bays and rosemary.

      I pray you, my masters, be merry

                   Quot estis in convivio.

                     Caput apri defero
Reddens laudes Domino

                     The boar’s head, as I understand,

                     Is the rarest dish in all this land,

                    Which thus bedeck’d with a gay garland

                     Let us servire cantico

                     Caput apri defero 

                    Reddens laudes Domino

      Our steward hath provided this
      In honor of the King of Bliss;
      Which, on this day to be served is
          In

Reginensi atrio.

                     Caput apri defero
Reddens laudes Domino

      The mightiest hunter of them all
      We honor in this festal hall
      Born of a humble Virgin mild,
      Heaven’s King became a little child:

                    Caput apri defero
Reddens laudes Domino

He hunted down through earth and hell

That swart boar Death until it fell.

      This mighty deed for us was done,
      Therefore sing we in unison:

                    Caput apri defero
Reddens laudes Domino

      Let not this boar’s head cause alarm,
      The huntsman drew his power to harm.
      So death, which still appears so grim,
      Has yielded all its power to Him!

                    Caput apri defero
Reddens laudes Domino

 

 

And so the old boar is sacrificed for holy feast; yet first it is presented holding the seeds of its own generation within its mouth, the seat of the soul – hence the kiss of death that draws it out.

This fruit of immortality is no more than the ‘soul-cake’ exclaimed within midwinter folk songs.

Fermented apples in the form of apple ales and ciders are used for the ‘Wassail cup’ [to your health], a seasonal drink that on a mundane level toasts the immediate company, the ancestors and the gods.

 

 

Trees, especially fruiting ones are also hailed to induce their productive blessings. More esoterically, the ‘Bragarfull’   –  Holy Cup,  is drunk at Twelfth Night to raise a toast to the ancestors and to all to come.  This rite offers the most beautiful of all Eucharist’s, drawn from the spirit of sacrifice, and of binding to the Gods  in Truth and Beauty.

 

Eucharist :    Buddhist Tantra – Amrita;  Gnostic – Kia ; Islam/Sufi – Haoma’; Judaic/Kabbalah – Manna.

 

These names refer to deeper essences within or fused with the wine or mead as the Houzel – the ‘flesh’ of the gods and source of all life, ergo, magick.  Partaken in all religious and magickal practices for aeons.

 

Mass:           A ritual service for ingestion of magickally enhanced body/flesh/substance of the gods – literally or figuratively.

Sacrifice:      The giving up of something precious as an offering to God. To offer something of little or no value dishonours your gods. It is a spiritually powerful tool for bringing you closer to them.

Life follows death in an unending circle, and thus the energy is self-perpetuating.

 This kind of ritualistic and sacrificial conception of life is found in many ancient texts. The sacrifice is an act that forms an immediate bridge between the doer and his fulfillment. 

Sacrifice is in the form of renunciation of fruits of action. Every work becomes a sacrifice without attachment and desire of fruits. The renunciation of the fruits that may result from an action in error is surrendered before it becomes manifest. Detached and disinterested actions are desirable both for individual progress on the path of spirituality and the welfare of others. A desire-less work becomes a sacrifice, a work of love and establishes a link between the doer and his God. Thus, each and every work is a ritual, a prayer if done out of love of the humanity and without selfish motives.

 

 

Worship the gods with sacrifice,

And they will nourish you in their turn.

Thus nourishing one another

You shall reap the highest good.

Cherished by your sacrifice,

The gods shall grant you your desires.

  A thief verily is he who enjoys their boons

   Without giving anything in return.

   Longing for success on earth

   They sacrifice to the gods,

   For quickly success is born

   From sacrifice in this world of man.

   Of one unattached and liberated,

   With mind absorbed in knowledge,

   His actions become a sacrifice,

   His entire actions melt away.

   Brahman is all, the clarified butter,

   The offerer and the fire.

   Unto Brahman verily he goes who contemplates

   On Brahman alone in all his actions.

The Bhagavad Gita,III ll-12; lV,23-24.

……………………………………………………………………..

 

 

Waes Hael!!!

 

Images: wiki commons and digilibraries and Dayton art Inst. & Shani Oates

The Mistletoe Bough

•December 17, 2014 • 1 Comment

A Yuletide Gothic Romance: THE MISTLETOE BOUGH

 by Thomas Haynes Bayly

 SONY DSC

The mistletoe hung in the castle hall,
The holly branch shone on the old oak wall;
And the baron’s retainers were blithe and gay,
And keeping their Christmas holiday.
The baron beheld with a father’s pride
His beautiful child, young Lovell’s bride;
While she with her bright eyes seemed to be
The star of the goodly company.
Oh, the mistletoe bough.
Oh, the mistletoe bough.

SONY DSC

“I’m weary of dancing now,” she cried;
“Here, tarry a moment — I’ll hide, I’ll hide!
And, Lovell, be sure thou’rt first to trace
The clew to my secret lurking-place.”
Away she ran — and her friends began
Each tower to search, and each nook to scan;
And young Lovell cried, “O, where dost thou hide?
I’m lonesome without thee, my own dear bride.”
Oh, the mistletoe bough.
Oh, the mistletoe bough.

425px-Westall-Ophelia

They sought her that night, and they sought her next day,
And they sought her in vain while a week passed away;
In the highest, the lowest, the loneliest spot,
Young Lovell sought wildly — but found her not.
And years flew by, and their grief at last
Was told as a sorrowful tale long past;
And when Lovell appeared the children cried,
“See! the old man weeps for his fairy bride.”
Oh, the mistletoe bough.
Oh, the mistletoe bough.

Tamerlane

At length an oak chest, that had long lain hid,
Was found in the castle — they raised the lid,
And a skeleton form lay mouldering there
In the bridal wreath of that lady fair!
O, sad was her fate! — in sportive jest
She hid from her lord in the old oak chest.
It closed with a spring! — and, dreadful doom,
The bride lay clasped in her living tomb!
Oh, the mistletoe bough.
Oh, the mistletoe bough.

IMAG0002_COVER (4)

All images copyright of shani oates except Ophelia [wiki]

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