Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Building a Cuveen

Halloween Altar

Slightly over two years into the process, I think it's safe to call our Cuveen a genuine success.

Although I, as Magistra, and the Magister had run a Wiccan-style training coven for many years, putting together a brand new group with a different ritual format, inner Contacts, and goals was a serious challenge. We had ritual tech that we had developed ourselves, that we had inherited from our late teacher, Peter Paddon, and that we wanted to incorporate from Gemma Gary's book on Cornish witchcraft. How could we marry these elements together without the result feeling awkward and kluged together?

Well, we've made it work. And by "we," I certainly do not mean just the Magister and I. Our students are truly excellent. They already were experienced, talented Witches; like skilled musicians from different bands coming together, our ability to work together productively, to "jam" with each other, was really good from the beginning. We have all built the Cuveen together, and they have both  contributed excellent material.

We spent several sessions developing our vision for the Compass. One of our students is gifted with drawing ability, and she painted it, which was quite helpful. That was the most important step: you can't really go anywhere until you have some idea of where is it you want to go. We mined the chants and invocations we had been taught or developed ourselves for the vision keys.

We worked out a sequence:

  • Gathering in our individual power and uniting it in purpose
  • Cleansing and warding the space and ourselves
  • Crossing over
  • Invoking the Fire and the Serpent
  • "Plowing the Bloody Furrow" and calling in the Airts and Familiars
  • Calling the Winds
  • Summoning the Ancestors
  • Invoking our Deities, who also serve as Openers of the Ways for wherever we are intending to "travel."
This sounds like a lot, and it is, but it goes quickly. It's a dynamic process; there aren't a lot of times where one person is saying something while the others stand around. We are usually all moving together. Our invocations are short; we pack a lot of meaning into few words. This helps ensure there are no spots where the power begins to sag and fade. We have memorized the various chants, which also prevents the power-sags caused by script fumbling and left-brain reading 

After we've laid the Compass, we then turn to the Working. At this point, we can tread the mill further down into the Land Below to meet with our animal familiars or other Beings. We can travel in common vision through spoken word. We can work magick -- bless, consecrate, heal, blast, celebrate, etc. Again, we work unscripted, and often we "go with the flow" and improvise as we receive messages from the Powers-That-Be, since we are all in an inspired trance at this point.

When we are done, there is a short sequence of closing steps we do, ending with a gesture of quiet and "shhhhhh...." This covers the Work with the magickal power of Silence, and reminds us to be silent as well, so the Work may proceed unhindered by "noisy cords" around it from us or the ritual space.

It took us probably a full year to develop it all and become comfortable with it. Our students had to learn the "what's" and "why's" behind it all, and we as the teachers had to expand our understanding greatly. (That's why teachers are also perpetual students: you never stop learning from the material.) It also took us a year, or more, to learn how to trust each other in ritual -- to know that if someone is given a chant or movement or idea on how to proceed, it will be good and that we should flow with it.

One student has initiated, and another is very close.  The Cuveen will be opening up for a few new students probably as soon as next winter. One of the things that has been brought home to me is that when it comes to our kind of working, smaller is better. Too many people and it would be hard to weave coherent magick out of all those different threads of power. 

Despite all we've done, the real work lies ahead. The real work is to get out onto the Land; to work for healing and protection for our local waterways and wild areas; and to develop relationships with the Spirits " 'round here." May our work continue to find the favor of the Powers-That-Be.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Accepting Letters of Interest Until 2 February 2016

This is a reminder that we are accepting letters of interest for Seekers into the newly-forming Cuveen of the Black Goat until 2 February, 2016.

The Cuveen of the Black Goat is being formed to teach and to explore the Cunning Craft, the Nameless Art. We draw our core methods of working from our teacher and initiator, the late Peter Paddon of Y Ffordd Wen. We also draw inspiration from the Cornish Witchcraft of Gemma Gary, the books of Robin Artisson, and the old Witchery of Orion Foxwood, among others.

The Cunning Craft is often called "traditional witchcraft," and is an expression of the Art that was collected, developed, and taught by Robert Cochrane in the 1960s. It is an animistic Crafting: shadowed and chthonic, more animistic and less formal than Wiccan-based crafting. The Cunning Craft draws upon the imagery found in old woodcuts, in folklore, in testimony from the witch trials. It is the Sabbatic Craft of the hooting Owl and the cawing Crow; the slithering Snake and the prance of the black Goat, the leaping of Toad and Hare.

Our goals are to teach the lore, world-view, and ritual techniques of the Cunning Craft, and then to establish a working group that will use them not only for personal Crafting advancement, but also for exploring the mysteries and subtle energies of the Eastern North Carolina land. Although we draw upon the ancestral heritage of the British Isles, we have lived in the New World for many generations, and it is time to develop relationships with the Unseen Powers of this land, these trees, these plants, these animals.

We work with the materials these authors and teachers have gifted us, but our Sovereignty as Crafters demands that we go out unto the Land, and UNDER the Land, and directly encounter our Kinfolk there. Therefore, the Cuveen's Crafting will ultimately be its own unique expression of the Crooked Path. And we expect every Cuveen member's personal Crafting to also be her, or his, unique expression of the Witch-Blood within.


Please send letters of interest to D. and A. Helvie, 650 Old Vanceboro Road, New Bern, NC 28560.

For private questions, email eternalharvestcraft@gmail.com

The Cuveen will meet every two weeks. Each meeting will consist of a training session (lecture and/or video) and a ritual to practice the material just learned.

The first meeting is Saturday, February 20, at 3:30 PM. This meeting is mandatory for all who wish to participate in this training round. We will discuss further meeting times and dates at this initial meeting as well as other organizational material.

The cost of the training is free, and right now, we do not have any coven dues, either. We will ask participants to chip in to buy firewood, candles, torch fuel, etc. or to bring that with them.

All students are considered "Seekers" and are welcome to participate in all training classes and rituals as long as the training cycle goes on - at least a year, perhaps a little more. Seekers are not obliged to dedicate or initiate. 
As individual Seekers mature in their abilities, they may choose to ask to become an Apprentice. This is a more formal declaration of dedication, or intent, to this particular Path of Witchery, and is expected to culminate in Initiation. After initiation, the Crafter is a Cunning Woman or a Cunning Man. A period of maturing in their Craft follows, after which the Cunning Crafter may become a Master Crafter.

Right now we ask participants to dress in all black. We will not be using typical witchcraft robes in the Cuveen, except under certain situations. As we begin to work together, we will discuss options for ritual wear that will be functional and affordable and yet assist us in developing the group mind.

We ask that every student acquire a pendant of "Baphomet"* that looks like this:

You can buy this from any vendor; however, we encourage you to support your local occult stores. If they don't have it in stock, they will gladly order it for you.

Right now there are three required books:

  • The Flame in the Cauldron by Orion Foxwood. This should be the first book you buy and read.

  • A Grimoire for Modern Cunning Folk by Peter Paddon. This will serve as a textbook. We have new, unused copies available for $9; the funds will go into the Eternal Harvest Church of Witchcraft account to support the activities of the Cuveen as well as the broader public activities of the Eternal Harvest Church of Witchcraft.

  • Traditional Witchcraft: A Cornish Book of Ways by Gemma Gary. Our slant on the Cunning Craft draws heavily on the Cornish Craft as practiced by Gemma Gary and her group.
  • There will be other highly recommended reading during the course.

*About Baphomet

The figure of the Goat has a vast amount of Pagan lore associated with it -- lore that crosses cultures, from the Middle East to the Mediterranean, from North Africa to Scandinavia, and into the British Isles. An entire book could be written about the Goat in the Pagan religions, and in Witchcraft in particular. (And, perhaps such a book already exists!) As we all know, the figure of the Goat was translated into "Satan" by the Church. The Knights Templar were accused of worshiping a Head called Baphomet, and that was one reason they got burned at the stake.

In the 19th century, a Christian occultist named Eliphas Levi created the famous image of the Templar's "Baphomet" that is depicted in the pendant above. This Baphomet is the "God of the Witches," a Divine Androgyne, composed of parts that are at once earthy and chthonic (the black goat head) and solar and celestial (the light between the horns, and more). It is not "Satan" by Levi's intent, and it is not "Satan" to us. There are Satanists who work with Baphomet in their own way, and we have no quarrel with that. But our goals and methods differ from most expressions of modern Satanism as we understand it.