Black, White, Red

Black, white and red are the three most significant colors of the Spiral Castle Tradition. This fact is particular to us, and it is not reflective of Traditional Witchcraft as a whole. However, our practice of finding significance in the interplay between these colors — indeed, of holding them as sacred beyond all other — has a long history from the Celtic roots of British Craft.

In Celtic, British and even some American lore, you can always tell when animals are sacred (or Otherworldly) because they are “marked” with the colors black, white and red. Spectral black dogs, red dogs, or white dogs with red ears are tell-tale hounds from other planes. Kine and swine (both sacred animals in their own right) are doubly sacred when colored similarly (solid black, solid red, solid white or white with red ears).

As we write about the Spiral Castle Tradition, you will undoubtedly notice the redundancy of these colors. Surely, you’ve already seen it in some places:

  • Black Goddess, White Goddess, Red God (Tubal Qayin)
  • athame, kerfane, shelg (3 knives)
  • Triple Soul

You will notice it in others instances, as well. In fact, you will soon start to see both the consistency with which these colors seem to present themselves throughout the Tradition, alongside the complexity with which they are interwoven.

We hope that as insights come to you, you’ll share them with us. After all, ’tis a  Crooked Path we walk … together, but alone.

August Totems: Swan

In our tradition we divide the year not only by eight solar and agricultural holidays, but also by the Kalends. We celebrate twelve months of the year by the common calendar, plus a special thirteenth month for Samhain.  These month cycles are associated with different totemic spirits. Each month is assigned an animal, a bird (or other flying creature), and a tree. August’s totems are Horse, Apple, and Swan.

The totemic associations are as follows:

Horse (Each) – travel, power, freedom, civilization
Apple (Quert) – beauty, choices, love, inspiration
Swan (Eala) – shape-shifting, love, grace, beauty


The Swan is often depicted with a silver or gold chain around the neck in Celtic legends — possibly a carry-over from the Aphrodite tradition of the golden sash. Aphrodite was a water-bird Goddess in early Proto-Indo European practice, and the Swan is heavily associated with her in Greek tradition. This is hardly a surprising connection, given that the Swan is very prominent in love stories in Celtic lands, including the tale of Oenghus and Yewberry (who is a Swan Maiden).

In Celtic lore, Swan is associated with Otherworldly travel and migration of the Soul. The “swan song” speaks of both grace and beauty (because Swan’s final song is said to be strikingly beautiful) and also of death and transition. Swan is often the poetic representation of the Soul itself in Celtic lore.

This bird’s skin and feathers were used to make the bard’s ceremonial cloak, according to Philip and Stephanie carr-Gomm’s Druid Animal Oracle. This is another sign of grace and beauty — the grace and beauty of word and song, which the celts understood to be very important to both art and magic.

Swans are intimately linked with shape-shifting in celtic lore, as well. Several tales speak of children and maidens who are changed (or can change themselves) into swans for one reason or another. Because of these shape-shifting characteristics, Swan is also further linked to Elphame and the realm of Faerie.

Swan is sacred to Oenghus, Lyr, Cuchulain, Aphrodite and Apollo.

Swan’s connections to Horse and Apple:

Swan, Horse and Apple are a very potent feminine, Faerie Totemic set in relation to the White Goddess (known/shown to us as Goda).

Tubal Cain (song)

“Tubal Cain” (circa 1846-56)
The Words by Charles Mackay, Esq.
The Music Composed and Sung by Henry Russell, 1812-1900.
[pages 81-88 from “One Hundred Songs by Henry Russell” (?)]

Old Tubal Cain was a man of might,
In the days when Earth was young;
By the fierce red light of his furnace bright,
The strokes of his hammer rung,
And he lifted high his brawny hand
On the iron, glowing clear,
Till the sparks rush’d out in scarlet rout,
As he fashion’d the sword and spear;
And he sang “Hura! for my handiwork!
Hurra for the spear and sword!
Hurra for the hand that shall wield them well,
For he shall be King and Lord!”

To Tubal Cain came many a one,
As he wrought by his roaring fire,
And each one pray’d for a strong steel blade,
As the crown of his own desire;
And he made them weapons sharp and strong
Till they shouted loud for glee,
And gave him gifts of pearls and gold,
And spoils of the forest free;
And they sang “Hurra for Tubal Cain
Who hath giv’n us strength anew­­
Hurra for the smith! hurra for the fire!
And hurra for the metal true!”

But a sudden change come o’re his head
Ere the setting of the sun;
And Tubal Cain was fill’d with pain
For the evil he had done;
He saw that men, with rage and hate,
Made war upon their kind;
And the land was red with the blood they shed
In their lust for carnage blind;
And he said “Alas! that ever I made,
Or that skill of mine should plan,
The spear and the sword for men whose joy
Is to slay their fellow man!”

Get it? Two ball cane. It’s a masonic pin.

And for many a day old Tubal Cain
Sat brooding o’er his woe;
And his hand forbore to smite the ore,
And his furnace smoulder’d low:
And he rose at last with a cheerful face,
And a bright courageous eye,
And bar’d his strong right arm for work,
While the quick flames mounted high;
And he sang “Hurra for my handiwork!
And the red sparks lit the air,­­
Not alone for the blade was the bright steel made,”
And he fashion’d the first ploughshare.

And men, taught wisdom from the past,
In friendship join’d their hands,­­
Hung the sword in the hall, the spear on the wall,
And plough’d the willing lands;
And sang “Hurra for Tubal Cain,
Our staunch good friend is he;
And for the ploughshare, and the plough,
To him our praise shall be.
But while oppression lifts its head,
Or a tyrant would be lord,
Though we may thank him for the plough,
We’ll not forget the sword.”

The Stang, The Broom and the Spiral Castle

I (Laurelei) have worked exclusively in covens that have used the Stang as a central point of focus in ritual. Because of this, I have a couple of nifty pics of Stangs that were once near and dear to my heart.

The picture above depicts the Stang adorned for a wedding — hung with an arrow, which is draped with a white linen shirt. This adornment is used in other situations, as well, which we’ll describe in detail in another post. (In the covens of my former Tradition, the Stang was located behind the main altar, which was oriented to one side of the ritual space. You’ll note how that differs from the Spiral Castle Tradition’s placement of the Stang in a moment.)

This particular Stang was made by one of my coven brothers. It had an Ash handle, iron horns (or prongs), iron foot, and an iron hook between the horns for hanging the ram’s skull, arrow and candle. It was a tremendous piece!

Fore-running Configuration of the Spiral Castle

The Stang in the picture above was the tool of the coven for which I served as HPS. It was a converted pitchfork, which meant that it also had an Ash handle and iron (cast-iron) horns. One of my coven brothers cut and ground down the middle prongs to provide us with the piece you see. At the time of this photo, it still needed its branding sanded off and its foot shod with iron.

In the Spiral Castle Tradition, the Spiral Castle itself  sits at the middle of our cosmological system. When we lay the compass, we signify this central focus by placing the Stang at the epicenter of the circle. At its base we place the anvil (and hammer), which is our Oath Stone; the skulls and crossed bones (representations and keys to the Ancestors); and our personal fetishes.

We envision the Spiral Castle as sitting atop a Tor, a ritual mound with a sacred chamber inside.

The Spiral Castle, the Stang and the Broom share a certain transvective power with each other. (In truth, the Broom’s base staff is a small Stang, as you will see soon.) What the Spiral Castle does for the entire Tradition (accesses ALL wisdom, ALL experience, ALL the realms, gates and airts), the Stang does for the Coven, and the Broom does for the individual Witch.

In his letters (have you started reading those yet?), Cochrane says that the Mystery of the Broom is “spinning without motion between three elements.” He also relates this Mystery to the Qabbalistic Middle Pillar and the “path to the 7 gates of perception.” He is, of course, talking about the practice of trance-work and meditation — and using these tools (the Broom, is the metaphor for the tool) in order to access ALL THAT IS.

The Broom (according to copies of Cochrane’s letters which I have that actually include illustrations) is constructed from a small, forked Ash staff. Between the prongs of the fork, a sacred stone is bound. The strips used for binding, the broom twigs, and the handle, are each different sacred woods. (Glaux is planning to reproduce the illustration soon.) The stone is a specific stone (which he calls “balanite,” and we have researched to be none other than basalt).

The Red Thread (and the Initiatory Process)

I have the sense that the Red Thread is one of the deeper Mysteries of the Craft as we are coming to know it. This sense is based on the fact that both Glaux and I find ourselves referring to it regularly in symbolic ways and during Craft discussions, but I am having difficulty putting my thoughts together in any coherent manner in this blog entry. The fact that we are able to point to the symbol as a deep point of connection for our magic, but verbalization seems to fail on some level, tells me that “here be a grave Mystery.”

Perhaps in order to approach the Mystery, we should only look at one aspect of it in this post. The Red Thread and the Initiatory Process. 

The “Red Thread” is the moniker we use to refer to the line of Witch Blood that connects us to Tubal Qayin. A few of us come to this Tradition with ties to Qayin, bonds or possibly even Witch Marks that we reinforce through charms or the process of admission into a curveen. Many create that link through specific ritual.

Our system of admission is actually quite simple. We have a beginning level which we call Greening. I’ll reserve full discussion of this level for another post, but I’ll say here that this is the level for “children” within this path — whether literal or figurative.

Next is Adoption, and it is at this time when the Red Thread is linked. This Tradition is linked very intimately to flow and nature of the family, so the Adoption corresponds to the time of puberty. When a child has come into physical, mental and emotional maturity sufficient for the study of basic magic, she may be brought into her Craft family. When a Seeker, regardless of physical age, has passed the period of initial giddiness and done some serious work and review of his aims as a Witch, he too is eligible for adoption into the Craft family.

The goals of the Adoption Rite (which you can also think of as a Dedication) are to forge a formal magical link between the student and the coven and to establish a formal training period of at least a year and a day. (This period is until the age of adulthood, in the case of family trad practitioners performing the Adoption with teens and tweens.)

This rite can happen at any of the Gates or Castles. In other words, it can happen at any Sabbat.

During the course of the ritual, the candidate is challenged and queried by the curveen members. Provided that she meets with approval at the end of all challenges, she will take blood oath on the anvil. There are two points to make note of here: 1) participation in the ritual doesn’t guarantee success; and 2) the anvil is the “oath stone” of the Tradition and is intimately linked in symbolic terms to Tubal Qayin. 

The candidate is given a Red Cord to wear at the waist, which is a reminder of the Red Thread itself, the umbilical cord, and the fire of Qayin’s forge. He is also given a bone and silver ring, which is symbolic of the bone soul (intimately related to the Red Thread and the Ancestors). The ring should be fitted to the Witch’s index finger in his power hand, as this is the ultimate location where he will be tattooed with the Stang (or Witch’s Mark) at his Raising.

July Totems: Eagle

In our tradition we divide the year not only by eight solar and agricultural holidays, but also by the Kalends. We celebrate twelve months of the year by the common calendar, plus a special thirteenth month for Samhain.  These month cycles are associated with different totemic spirits. Each month is assigned an animal, a bird (or other flying creature), and a tree. July’s totems are the Hound, the Eagle, and the Elm.

The totemic associations are as follows:

Hound (Cu) – loyalty, protection, guidance
Elm (Lemh) – elves, light, purification, wisdom
Eagle (Iolair) – light, renewal, loyalty, intelligence, courage

Golden Eagle
In America, the two primary species of eagle are the Golden Eagle and the Bald Eagle. It is a symbol of freedom for Americans, and it was likewise a royal and bird among Romans, Egyptian pharaohs, Greek Thebans and the Celts of Ireland and Scotland.
The eagle has a long association with sky Gods, such as Zeus and Asshur, which strengthens the bird’s connections to the sun, storms, lightning and fire. Eagle is often associated with war and bravery, as well.
Native Americans hold the Eagle in highest esteem among birds, and Eagle medicine was greatly prized. Most tribes have an eagle clan, for instance, and eagle songs, dances, and ceremonies are all well-known.
Druids, as well, valued eagle magic and were said to choose this form for shapeshifting for certain ceremonies. In fact, the eagle is almost as powerful and popular a bird in Celtic myth and legend as it is in Native American lore. It is one of the four most frequently mentioned birds in the Irish and British traditions (along with the raven, swan and crane). The eagle is particularly intertwined with the salmon at a symbolic level in Celtic myth – one representing the heights of intellect and vision; the other representing the depths of emotion and the unconscious.
Eagles are known for their swiftness, keen vision, strength, and courage.

July Totems: Elm

In our tradition we divide the year not only by eight solar and agricultural holidays, but also by the Kalends. We celebrate twelve months of the year by the common calendar, plus a special thirteenth month for Samhain.  These month cycles are associated with different totemic spirits. Each month is assigned an animal, a bird (or other flying creature), and a tree. July’s totems are the Hound, the Eagle, and the Elm.

The totemic associations are as follows:

Hound (Cu) – loyalty, protection, guidance
Elm (Lemh) – elves, light, purification, wisdom
Eagle (Iolair) – light, renewal, loyalty, intelligence, courage

Common tree in both England and America. Its folk name is “ Elven” (because of its long-standing association with elves, both the Seelie and Unseelie Courts of the Fey).
Attracts love when carried and protects against lightning strikes – both because of elven associations.
Associated with death, the grave and rebirth in legend and myth. At Orpheus’ song upon emerging from Hades’ underworld realm, the first Elm grove is said to have sprung into existence. Elm was also used for coffin wood later in English tradition, linking it to this early mythos and to the elven lore that connects the elves with burial mounds.
In Italy, Elm and Vine lore is intermingled, especially in the stories of Bacchus, due largely to the tree’s use as a vineyard superstructure.
Elm branches were carried by the clergy and members of the chorus during annual “beating of the bounds” ceremonies, thereby linking the tree with border-marking and rulership.

The Lame Step

The “lame step” is one of the old and identifying markers of Witches and of their God. And their Goddess. Nursery rhymes show us the evidence of the lame step in magic, the Forge God (the first and mightiest God of the CRAFT) is more often lamed than not, and the Witches’ Goddess  hobbled on a goose’s foot.

Let’s look at these examples, and then, let’s look at what the lamed step signifies.

Azazel (T’Qayin)

The Forge God and the Lame Step

The lame step could be said to originate, as it relates to magic, with the God of the Forge. As Glaux pointed out in her post regarding Witch Blood and Witch Marks, the first being worshiped as a Forge God has been linked to magic. (In his book Masks of Misrule, Nigel Jackson notes his assertion that T’Qayin and Azazel are the same being.) Nearly all Forge Gods were depicted with a lame step or a misshapen leg in antiquity. The mundane reason for this was very likely due to the residual heavy metal poisoning suffered by actual smiths — or the fact that otherwise strong men who had suffered some crippling childhood disease or injury could still be trained to blacksmith work. Whatever the case, the image of the smith is intimately linked with that of hobbled or ham-strung, yet powerful, man. A man who understands something (and potentially EVERYTHING) related to the alchemical process, and therefore magic. In the case of T’Qayin and Azazel, this image is that of a goat-footed God.

The goat-foot is one variation of lame step, and it is very intimately linked to the forge. That heavy metal poisoning we discussed bunched the muscles of the leg in a way that it pulled the smith’s legs and foot up into a position like he was walking on a stiletto heel. Goat-footed God.

The Goose-Footed Goddess


The lame step appears again in the Witches’ Goddess in at least one instance. In France, there is a notable story of La Reine Pedauque, the goose-footed queen. Though there is some casual optimism that her story is based a historical queen (named Berthe, who loved spinning fanciful tales for children), the goose-foot is never satisfactorily explained. What is absolutely clear is that La Reine Pedauque becomes (or always was) Mother Goose. Clearer still, with even a little digging and reflecting, is that Mother Goose, is so closely related to the Teutonic Hulda that they are reflections of one another.

Frau Hulda, Mother Hulda, Holda, Holle, Hel. She rides a goose through the night sky and is a spinner. She is the Dark Grandmother and the White Lady. In our Tradition, she sits in the Castle of Revelry at the Spring Equinox, the balance of light and dark and guards the Golden Lantern.

With her goose-foot, she shows us another aspect of the lame step.

The Lame Step in Nursery Rhymes

My dame has lost her shoe,
My master’s lost his fiddle stick
And knows not what to do.

What is my dame to do?
Till master finds his fiddle stick,
she’ll dance without her shoe.

Glaux and I love (and I mean LOVE) picking apart nursery rhymes for folkloric Craft clues. We’ll have to do some entries dedicated to some of the goodies we’ve found in them. This one caught our interest on a number of levels. I’ll stay away from the bits about how the magister needs his blackthorn staff (the master’s fiddle stick) and just point out that the dame is inviting the lame step here. Lots of nursery rhymes feature characters with just one shoe. This forces them to hobble a bit — like their God, like their Goddess. Here, the dame MUST, but then she goes into it gladly, dancing within the compass.

I can think of three others where characters lose a shoe. In one, the boy goes to bed in his stockings, but missing a shoe. In the second, a girl has lost one of her holiday shoes. In the third, the princess dances out of one of her shoes (and again the fiddler is mentioned). All of these not only point to the lame step, but also to the Witches’ Sabbat.

What is the Significance of the Lame Step?

The lame step, we’ve come to realize, is a marker for those who walk between the worlds. Symbolically, it represents having one foot in consensus reality and one foot in the realms beyond the veil. The lame step is a way of showing that you are between the worlds.

Before we had even made this connection, Glaux and I had decided that the compass would be laid by treading the mill using the lame step.

Papa Ghede

Interestingly, Glaux recently had a discussion with a friend and fellow Witch about the lame step, Ghede’s glasses, and bipolar disorder. It turns out that as we look around, a great many of the talented Witches that we know have bipolar, ourselves included. How much is this yet another variant on the lame step? The disorder is a hindrance in Mundania, and it is a trial, but it forces us to see things differently and to live  with a foot in two realms. It is a difficult balance, and our friend pointed out that we always have to be wary of getting too much information from one side or the other. Something to consider.

June Totems: Robin

American Robin

In the American Folkloric Witchcraft tradition, the Robin is one of the three totems for the month of June, along with Stag and Oak. Robin represents qualities that are kindred to these totems and to the Castle of Stone, Cernunnos and the Summer Solstice — all of which share this portion of the Wheel of the Year with it.

In England and America, we are talking about two different birds, when we refer to the Robin. Brits are referring to the redbreast, while Americans call the thrush (Turdus migratorius) the Robin. Both birds have red feathers on their breasts, earning them an association with fire.

Most mythologies only make vague reference to the Robin, the clear distinction being the Norse, who associated the bird with Thor and considered it to be a creature of the storm.

Robins are very territorial, and their red breasts signal other males to leave their space. Even their bright and cheery song is a used as a method of battling with other males for dominance over territory. Physical confrontations, on the other hand, tend to be symbolic. Male robins don’t seek to hurt each other physically.

The Robin’s bright blue egg is distinctive in color. Both male and female Robins share in the feeding of the young, which is a very active process for these birds. Hatchlings are born with no feathers at all, and feedings occur at an average of every twelve minutes. Even so, Robins manage to hatch more than one brood each year. This is a testament to their growth and incredible vitality.

The Castles, the Druid’s Egg and the Glass Sphere

Glaux’s Summer Solstice post sparked an interesting dinner table conversation at our house. This is often how magic and the Craft work for us. It is very much a family affair — and very much a crooked and winding path. Nothing is simple and direct. Neither of us sees the whole picture for what it is. One of us has an insight, and the other rounds it out.

In Tuesday’s post, Glaux wrote about the way in which snakes were believed to curl themselves into balls and harden into stone or glass. What she left unsaid in the post is something that excited us both at table. You see, one of the parts of American Folkloric Witchcraft as it is coming to us has to do with a system of Castles that are associated with the four solar holidays of the year — the equinoxes and solstices. Robert Cochrane writes a bit about a Castle structure in his letters, and it is something that resounded very significantly with us. My former HPS, who had studied at one time with a daughter coven in the Ancient Keltic Church, had also taught me and my covenmates a bit about a magical castle (but truly, only enough to whet our appetites and then leave us wanting more).

Most of what Glaux and I have come to understand about the Castles, we have come to via inspiration, research and luck. We work with five Castles, one in each cross-quarter of the compass and one at its center. The four at the cross-quarters are kept by two kings and two queens who each guard a treasure within their walls.

At the northwest, Janicot holds court in the Glass Castle, guarding the Glass Orb (honored at Winter Solstice). In the southwest, sits Cernunnos in the Stone Castle with the Stone Bowl (honored at Summer Solstice). At the northeast is Hulda in the Castle of Revelry, keeping watch over a golden lantern (honored at Spring Equinox). While Cerridwen holds court at Castle Perilous with the silver chalice (honored at Fall Equinox).

There is a great deal of symbolism worked into the information in the paragraph above. We’ll be getting into it in entries to follow, and with just this in hand, you have a lot that you can parse out. (You can also look to this graphic — which graces our blog — for the treasure’s symbols. The triskele in the center represents the Spiral Castle.)

What had Glaux and I excited was the fact that the snakes didn’t turn into Druids’ eggs only on Summer Solstice. This phenomenon happened at BOTH solstices. And the snakes were described as both stones and glass bubbles. Well! What do we have as our treasures at the solstices? A stone bowl (which we describe as being made of stone and being filled with stones) and a glass orb (or bubble).

The full magic of the Castles is still elusive, and we know that we are questing (and always will be) to understand it. But confirmations that our path is true — albeit crooked — make us two very happy Witches.

Create your website with
Get started