Liber Nox: A Traditional Witch’s Gramarye by Michael Howard

LiberNox300“Many traditional witches regard themselves as the stewards or guardians of ancient sites near where they live, such as stone circles, burial mounds, standing stones and hill-figures. They meet for rituals at remote crossroads or near the prehistoric trackways, ‘green roads’ and old drovers routes that often mark the spirit paths, ghost roads, faery paths, dragon tracks or ley lines that crisscross the countryside between ancient power centres. Such etheric paths are used for spirit travel to the Otherworld, hence the popular image of the witch flying through the sky on a broomstick, and are also the routes across the countryside taken by the Wild Hunt and other supernatural phenomena such as the Death Coach…”

In this concise and important treatise Michael Howard delineates between various modern neo-pagan Wiccan traditions, cunning folk traditions, heathen folk or the ‘pagani,’ and an assortment of ritual magicians and pathworkers in order to present a ‘gramarye’ distinctly for those who aspire to the ‘Old Craft.’ An experienced practitioner, writer, researcher, folklorist and magazine editor of the respected witchcraft magazine, The Cauldron (since 1976), Howard elucidates important elements of the ‘Traditional Craft,’ including preparation rituals, tools of ‘the Arte,’ fellowship of the coven and the casting of circles, finally taking us through the ‘Great Wheel of the Year’ and the assortment of sacred rites as performed within. The seasonal rituals that comprise the latter half are based on traditional witchcraft and folklore sources and have been specially written for this book.

With precise prose and a grand assortment of examples, Howard opens with a succinct history of the Traditional Craft. Somewhat in the spirit of Ronald Hutton’s seminal Triumph of the Moon it presents a compelling historical overview but one not bogged down with the flights of fancy that has blighted so many written accounts of witchcraft. Howard discusses cunning traditions, ancient paganism, the ‘burning times,’ the Arthurian tradition (‘Matter of Britain’), Faery lore, 19th Century esotericism (per the likes of Dion Fortune and Christine Hartley), agrarian practices, sacred landscapes, coven hierarchy, Cthtonic deities, and the Greater and Lesser Sabbaths that comprise the ‘Wheel of the Year.’ This opening section alone is worth the price of the book and will appeal to people with more philosophical or historical interests in the Craft, as well as those with more practical leanings.

The rest of this much-anticipated work follows the traditional Gramarye format in that it provides a practical handbook for ritual practice. Howard stresses the importance of ritual preparation, both for participants in the rite and their ceremonial tools. Those interested in entering the Craft will find instruction on casting the circle as well as practicing basic rites that span the calendric year. Throughout, Howard dispels various myths, untangles half-truths, but is always careful to preserve and encourage the rich diversity found within Traditional Witchcraft. Neither dogmatic nor condescending, this is a work that can be treasured by all manner of groups, covens, as well as solo practitioners and Hedge Witches. The book is beautifully illustrated by Gemma Gary and includes specific rituals complete with their incantatory and ceremonial poetry in the final section.

Skylight Press is thrilled to publish Liber Nox: A Traditional Witch’s Gramarye and hope to follow it with other titles in the pagan traditions.

Liber Nox is now available from various retail outlets such as Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk or direct from the Skylight Press website.

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Will Alexander nominated Poet Laureate of Los Angeles

Our congratulations to Will Alexander, who has been nominated ‘Poet Laureate’ of Los Angeles.  Learn more about Will here:

See the amazing poet read here:

Skylight Press has proudly published two of Will’s books, Diary As Sin (Novel) and Kaleidoscopic Omniscience (Poetry Collection), both of which are available from Amazon, Amazon UK, various other online vendors and direct from our website.  You can also ask your local bookshop to stock it.

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Michael Howard on Skylight Press

MichaelHowardMichael Howard is an Anglo-Irish writer, historical researcher and editor. His work has become well-known and much respected after some 38 books on witchcraft, paganism and western occultism, including various tomes on the Norse-Germanic runes, folk traditions, angelic magic, faery lore, occult secret societies, as well as historical witches and cunning folk. His books draw on his fifty years of experience as a practitioner in the esoteric traditions in addition to numerous in-depth researches into many aspects of occultism, especially in the field of traditional witchcraft and Wicca. Such titles include Children of Cain: A Study of Modern Traditional Witches, West Country Witches, Welsh Wizards and Witches, Modern Wicca: A History from Gerald Gardner to the Present, Secret Societies: Their Influence and Power from Antiquity to the Present Day, The Pillars of Tubal Cain (with Nigel Jackson), The Book of Fallen Angels and many more. He also helped to edit The Roebuck in the Thicket: An Anthology of the Robert Cochrane Witchcraft Tradition with Evan John Jones.

Works like Children of Cain contain detailed historical accounts of the craft traditions as well as studies of many innovative figures from the well known to the obscure. Eminent scholar, Dr. Ronald Hutton (author of The Triumph of the Moon and Pagan Britain), gave it high praise:

This is the best study yet written of a major set of modern British witchcraft traditions. Enriched by many valuable personal insights, as well as a fair appraisal of the written sources.”

Similarly Julia Philips, Editor of The Wiccan Magazine and founder of the Pan-Pacific Alliance had this to say:

“Thought-provoking and insightful, this is a book for anyone interested in traditional witchcraft and the many characters who have walked the crooked path… a breath of fresh air in a genre that too frequently sees rehashed, poorly researched material masquerading as ‘secrets.’”

Ben Fernee of Caduceus Books agrees:

“This work is a tour de force . . . and this shows in the wealth of detail and the incisiveness of the text. All lineages, vectors and groups within the Traditional Craft should feel that they have, most certainly, been placed on the map by this work . . .”

Howard is also revered for his pioneering work with The Cauldron witchcraft magazine, edited and published since 1976, which has given him unique insights into historical and modern esotericism. The Cauldron is a non-profit-making, independent, esoteric magazine featuring serious and in-depth articles on Traditional Witchcraft, Wicca, Ancient and Modern Paganism, Magic and Folklore, with a wide readership in the UK, the USA, Canada, Europe and Australasia.  It has been published quarterly in the UK (February, May, August and November) after being founded to cater to pagan witches, giving space in particular to non-Gardnerian traditions of witchcraft and so provided some balance to The Wiccan (now Pagan Dawn), mouthpiece of the Pagan Front (later the Pagan Federation).  Always interesting, sometimes controversial, it is one of the longest running magazines serving the worldwide magical community and this maturity is reflected in its contents as well as the stature of many of its contributors who are leading occultists in the esoteric tradition. Supremely well connected in that tradition, Howard is also a member of the Folklore Society, an Honorary Life Member of thePagan Federation UK and a member of the Friends of the Museum of Witchcraft at Boscastle, Cornwall.

Skylight Press is thrilled to publish Michael Howard’s upcoming book, Liber Nox: A Traditional Witch’s Gramarye.

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Foam of the Past by Fiona Macleod (Ed. Steve Blamires)

FoamofthePast300“…Fiona Macleod was clearly a gentlelady of breeding and intellect. She could be trusted. She was almost ‘one of us’ – but not quite. It was this slight difference that allowed her to deal with dark and frightening characters and subjects in a way that gave them the glamour of the Celtic Otherworld in an intriguing and believable manner. She was not threatening or dangerous in herself and she opened up a whole new world of language, ancient songs, poems and proverbs that had never before been presented to the English-speaking peoples south of the Scottish Highlands. Her subjects were taboo for other writers but she dealt with them in such a matter-of-fact way they came across as completely normal and routine. This somewhat disturbing treatment gave them an edge, an excitement, which was captured in her eloquence and strong use of dialogue…”

William Sharp (1855-1905) was the pen behind the writings of the mysterious Fiona Macleod. He kept her true identity a closely guarded secret. Many famous people - W.B. Yeats, “AE”, MacGregor Mathers, Dante Gabriel Rossetti – were involved in Sharp’s short life; he was a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and Yeats’ secret Celtic Mystical Order.

Who better to present a new anthology of Fiona Macleod’s writings than Steve Blamires, author of The Little Book of Great Enchantment, a wonderful biography of William Sharp, and The Chronicles of the Sidhe, a ground-breaking analysis of Fiona Macleod’s entire oeuvre? The first book revealed previously unknown secrets from the life of William Sharp and showed clearly how to recover the Faery lore contained in Fiona Macleod’s literary output. Blamires illustrated how the writings of Fiona Macleod are not only about the Realm of Faery but are authentic first-hand accounts from the Realm of Faery, revealing previously unknown Faery gods and goddesses, Faery belief, lore and magic. In his follow up work Blamires encouraged readers to seek the same sort of faery contact that William had with Fiona, although stressing the uniqueness and rarity of that particular instance. The book gave practical guidelines for travelling the realm of faery, careful to show that it is not all one-way communication but needful of the willingness of the subject.  Both books are available from Skylight Press.

We are thrilled then to offer Foam of the Past, a new ‘selected writings’ of Sharp’s channeled pseudonym who went on to become a darling of Victorian readers and one earnestly courted by the fin-de-siècle ‘Celtic Twilight’ movement. Both writers, whether flesh or spirit, can be said to be prolific and Blamires gathers a unique selection that mines a rich seam of popular work as well as previously unpublished material. With great care he collates a selection of some thirty or so pieces separated into various sections, each beginning with bibliographical notes as to where and when each piece first appeared, as well as pertinent comments as to why they are included it in the anthology. He also appends useful footnotes to explain Gaelic words and phrases so that non-native speakers may have a better understanding of the stories in what amounts to a wonderful introduction to Macleod’s unique oeuvre.

Skylight Press is proud to present this collection, one not to be missed, in that it includes provocative dark tales, early church musings, mystical ecritures, reveries of nature, political polemics and various delightful vignettes a plenty. Foam of the Past is a gleaming new jewel for Scottish literature and Gaelic culture.

Foam of the Past is now available from various retail outlets such as Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk or direct from the Skylight Press website.

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Magic & Literature in Seamless States of Convergence

We are often asked why we publish esoteric and spiritual works alongside works of literature.  For us, art (especially literature) and magic converge on one another seamlessly, and such convergences provide for interesting hybrid states within writing. While the genres we publish are wonderful in their own separate ways we love to explore theses unique overlaps. For example, we have a wonderful line of creative esoteric fictions – yet many of our esoteric titles are scholarly with literary appeal – and our visionary poets and experimental novelists often cross over into the esoteric realm with incantatory language and bardic vision.  As W.B. Yeats said, “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” For a succinct explanation on the relationship between art and magic – see Alan Moore’s comments in the video above.  

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De-fleshing out Characters in the Modern Novel

MooreAs we live in an age where we are producing novels and stories en masse it would seem that we should be somewhere near to perfecting the art of characterization in our fictions. Any writer worth their salt will know of the deep necessity to intrigue, titillate, harangue, inspire or simply relate to their readers, a notion that goes all the way back to Aristotle and his advice as to the formation of dramatis personae. And yet our books seem to become increasingly plot-driven, where narrative purpose is compelled through action rather than rhetorical study, in subservience to the old ‘showing vs telling’ motif drilled into most of us at primary schools. The in-depth character observations of the Victorians, for example, have now become a somewhat antiquated notion, even if we still love Dickens’ skilful use of caricatures and archetypes, though through active and selective exampling rather than narratological observance. In fact, a close examination of Aristotle would bear out the primacy of mythos (plot) over ethos (character) in support of current trends. What Athenian tragedists we would all make!

dark-light-neo-templar-timestorm-alan-richardson-paperback-cover-artBut given this proclivity to dramatic flow how does one avoid the reductive representation of the ancient stage and flesh out a novel accordingly? Surely we can’t throw out all the wisdom of the early fictioners who gave us lasting portraits from Tom Jones to Magwich to Holden Caulfield. How does one, say, create the sort of ‘round’ character that E.M. Forster advocated for in his Aspects of the Novel? As much as we don’t want to be ‘flat-earthers’ – we equally don’t want to be flat character creators where such are reduced to an actant with just a name and a voice. And yet modern fiction is full of unchanging two-dimensional characters storming through all manner of exotic and explosive plot. Surely complexity and development within a character needs some other expositional treatment that just shadowing and reporting the action that surrounds and binds said character. We would not have our microcosmic Blooms or our zoomorphic Samsas were we so narrowly restricted.

71H1XGWC57L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.gifRecent readings have reminded me that one way to create a round and dynamic character is to immediately divest them of the corporeal, thus severing the intelligence or what we might call the ‘soul’ from the bodily subservience that so often captivates the writer. One such severance can be found in the challenging novel, Voice of the Fire, by Alan Moore – his first breakaway from graphic fiction. Voice of the Fire is a brilliant character study by an author obsessed with a singular place, his hometown of Northampton (England), and the type of humanity that it historically produces. My favourite story in this novel-in-stories collection is a clever tale narrated by a disembodied head residing post-mortem on a pike as a direct result of the Fawkes/Catesby ‘gunpowder plot’ rebellion. A strong character emerges despite the fact that he is entirely reduced to scant physical form, wholly reliant on an external world to flesh in the details. A more comedic version of this can be found in Alan Richardson’s recent novel, Dark Light, where the Templar-revered severed head of John the Baptist embodies the notions of farce and enchantment despite post-bodily restrictions and the strong possibility of being inauthentic as a relic.

david_mitchell_ghostwrittenOf course, one can dispense with the physical state completely – or simply use the mortal coil to weave yarns past normal states of limitation. Tibor Fischer’s The Collector Collector invests consciousness into an antique bowl, a ‘ceramic sage’ capable of imparting the wonder of human history – but subject to the flawed tempers of humanesque existence. Animating such an object provides for a fascinating angle on human interaction and what would normally be undocumented moments. David Mitchell perfects the art of disembodiment in his astounding novel, Ghostwritten, where the main character is a migrating ‘noncorpum’ travelling through various human hosts, thus revealing the complexities of intertwining consciousness in a chanced contemporary existence. Allowing the central entity to shed skin and recoil repeatedly presents a roundly profound character, the compositry of which would not be serviceable in a single body.

So while writers are all the more exhorted to the common reading denominator of plot-driven verisimilitude of persons, there are breathing examples of characters that get beyond two-dimensionality to something especially human.

© Daniel Staniforth/2014

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Fiona Macleod on Skylight Press

36041_1_200pxMuch is still uncertain and undiscovered about the Scottish writer, William Sharp. Born in Paisley on the 12th September 1855, William Sharp passed away on the 12th of December 1905. He was buried within Castello di Maniace in Sicily, Italy at fifty years old.

William began his academic career at the Glasgow Academy moving on into the University of Glasgowwhere he studied from 1871 to 1872. Unfortunately Sharps’ early departure from University left him without a formal degree. A sickly past began to intrude into his life again when in 1872 he contracted typhoid, a disease brought on from ingesting contaminated foodstuffs or liquids.

From 1874 to 1891 Sharp engaged in a number of diverse careers ranging from such activities as working in a law office in Glasgow to servings a clerk position at a noteworthy London bank. Unfortunately, in 1976, as occurred only four years earlier, William’s health began deteriorating.

During this period, William joined the famous Rossetti Literary Group after an introduction by Sir Noel Paton to Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The group came to include member such as Philipp Bourke Marston, Swinburne and Hall Caine. William’s and his first cousin Elizabeth first made their acquaintance in the summer of 1863 upon his visits to an aunt and uncle in London. These introductions were the precursor to a love affair between William and Elizabeth that resulted in their marriage in 1884. Elizabeth Amelia Sharp would subsequently contribute greatly to William’s literary work.

William a distinguished writer and most notably considered to be a genius in literature, literary biography and poetry. Sharp was also a well-respected editor of poetry for such poets as Eugene Lee-Hamilton, Ossian and Walter Scott, to mention a few.

In 1891, after a holiday with Elizabeth to Germany and then Italy during the winter period, William met with a mutual friend Edith Wingate Rinder. The introduction of William Sharp to Edith Rinder was a turning point for Sharp’s personal life. It was here in Italy that a love affair between Sharp and Rinder began. This was also the start of a secret identity which would last till his death – the name “Fiona Macleod”.

UnknownSharp adopted the pseudonym Fiona Macleod which arose from the inspiration and arousal that Sharp felt in Edith’s presence. Sharp’s inspiration formed the basis for one of his greatest works, ‘Sospiri di Roma’ a small book of poems.

In 1895, literary works such as ‘Mountain Lovers’ and ‘Pharais’ signaled a dramatic change in Sharp’s life with the noticeable energy exhibited in his writing as reported by readers and critics alike. It was through these fictional characters as author that most of Sharp’s financial success as a writer would establish him as a genius of his era.

In 1910 after William Sharps’ death, Elizabeth Sharp began writing a biographical memoir that revealed the origin and necessity behind the double personality of William Sharp that was such a prominent feature of his literary works.

The above biography can be found on the Official Scotland.com Website.  Skylight Press is thrilled to publish Foam of the Past, a new and exciting collection of writings by Fiona Macleod, edited by Steve Blamires, who is also the author of The Little Book of Great Enchantment, a biography of William Sharp, and The Chronicles of the Sidhe, a ground-breaking analysis of Fiona Macleod’s entire oeuvre (both available from Skylight Press).

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