Besom, Stang and Sword: A Guide to Traditional Witchcraft, the Six-Fold Path & the Hidden Landscape
Written By: Christopher Orapello and Tara-Love Maguire
Numerous individuals are hearing the call of what has become known as traditional witchcraft. The primal practices, focused on the spirits of the land and one’s ancestral ties are providing centeredness in an all too modern world. With online covens and crystal cleansing apps, even the rustic practices of magick and neo-paganism are being transformed by modern innovations. Traditional witchcraft provides a sense of something older, tied to tradition and lore, and the hidden powers in the worlds around us. Many of the best and most popular books on the topic are written from a European perspective. The gorgeous works of art coming from Troy Books and Three Hands Press have provided us with some of the most beautiful writings on this practice. However, for those living in North America and elsewhere in the world, there can be a certain level of disconnection from these spirits and forces rooted in the lands of Old Europe and the British Isles. Besom, Stang and Sword; provides a link between the Old World practices that formed the traditions of witchcraft as we know them, with a uniquely North American perspective and reverence for one’s local landscape. It is a synthesis of animism, traditional European witchcraft and personal gnosis that has birthed the tradition known as Black Tree. The origins of the Black Tree tradition are in the New Jersey Pine Barrens on the east coast of the United States; also the name of the authors’ coven. By building this tradition, Orapello and Maguire, have unearthed a tradition of practice rooted in the local landscape and inspired by the spirits aligned with the practice of witchcraft.
“No gods, many spirits” Besom, Stang and Sword, p. 2)
The authors take a different approach to the practice of magick that distinguishes itself from modern neo-pagan practices centered around fertility and the harvest, a concept distant to those of us not living in an agrarian society. Their tradition takes a six rayed approach, rethinking the Witch’s Pyramid, while weaving together the core practices that make up the witch’s magickal repertoire.
“Our approach bypasses all the romanticized New Age fertility rites, harvest festivals, and medieval role playing that have become so persistently intertwined with modern paganism and witchcraft, and emphasizes a deeper engagement with the Land itself.” (Besom, Stang and Sword, p. 7)
This book presents a magickal practice not tied to a spiritual tradition, but based on the practices themselves. There are no patron gods or enigmatic Lord and Lady figures that are central in Wicca and other deity-centered traditions. Black Tree postulates an individual collection of personal spirits, familiars and natural forces. The gods of this tradition are seen as teachers and allies and are those entity that have an affinity with the practice of magick.
Each section culminates in a collection of further resources selected by the authors, providing one with additional avenues of study. Some of my favorite books are included in these lists, and the works included here are just as valuable as the information within each chapter. The suggested reading is one of my favorite parts of this book!
Down at the Crossroads
Chris and Tara-Love are the co-hosts of the popular podcast Down at the Crossroads bringing the diverse work of individuals in the Pagan community to their audience. Promoting authors, artists, musicians and organizations; Orapello and Maguire are responsible to introducing many creative minds to the wider community. Tara-Love has been a practicing with for over three decades and her roots run deep in her New Jersey home. Along, with partner Chris, who has a background in Western Occultism and ceremonial magick, the magickal duo have brought forth a way of practicing that will inspire many in their Great Work likely bringing to fruition a completely renewed version of American Traditional Witchcraft. Besom, Stang and Sword is available for pre-order, and will be available in December 2018. It comes highly recommended by many, myself included!