Melusine Draco interview

Oct 20th, 2014 | By | Category: Articles, Pagan People

2264Melusine Draco is a Moon Books author, and a great many other things besides. I’ve enjoyed her books for some time, and it was a lot of fu getting to ask all the things I’d been wondering about…

Nimue: With Melusine Draco as a name, I’m thinking you either come from an especially cool family and/or that’s an interesting set of chosen affiliations. Are you willing to share anything on that score?

Melusine: My ‘real’ name is cool enough but Melusine Draco was a magical ‘given’ name that caused my old chum, occult author Alan Richardson to observe: “MD, as her name suggests, has long been plugged into the powerful currents of traditional witchcraft and ritual magic …”  It informs people what my magical ‘affiliations’ are without any need for discussion or explanation.  Originally it was my private ‘magical’ name but the cat was let out of the bag a long time ago and it was no longer magically valid – subsequently it became the identity of the public representative of Coven of the Scales and my nom de plume.  There’s often an identity crisis in the offing but we manage to keep things under control!
Nimue Brown: I’m old enough (just!) to remember when many covens did their level best not to be public. Was Coven of the Scales always public, or was there a ‘coming out’?
Melusine: Bob and Meriem Clay-Egerton were always accessible following the repeal of the Witchcraft Act in 1951, but after the first anti-occult campaign of the 1960s their old Moonraker coven had to go into the shadows, along with many other groups.  Coven of the Scales re-emerged in the late 1970s and remained an active opponent of the second anti-occult campaign of the 1980s which included the unsavory ‘Satanic child-abuse’ scandal.  I was introduced to them around this time by Chris Bray of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Mike Howard of The Cauldron.  I became the ‘public representative’ of Coven of the Scales following the Clay-Egerton’s deaths in 1988/9, and although we operate today as a ‘closed Order’ we still remain accessible to those who wish to learn more about pre-Gardnerian Old Craft.

Nimue: Has Gardner been more of a help or a hinderance to the Craft, would you say?

Melusine: I think Gerald Gardner should be respected for bringing the existence of witchcraft out of the shadows and into the public domain.  Whether his original rites and rituals bore any relation to the working methods of the New Forest witches it’s difficult to say because most of the originals were re-written by Doreen Valiente – and there’s very little left that we would recognise as Old Craft.  Gardner may have taken what he saw as a loosely connected series of impromptu/spontaneous workings  and formulated them into a coherent whole out of which has sprung contemporary Wicca.  I can only liken the differences to the tenets of faith that divide the Catholic and Anglican Church in that the former believes that the transubstantiation of the host becomes the body and blood of Christ; the latter believe it to be only a symbolic gesture.   On the surface it appears to be an unimportant dividing line but the differences are so great that the two can never become reconciled – or fully understood.   Old Craft remained true to the Old Ways, while Gardner offered a New Aeon faith for the masses (pun intended) that has now spread world-wide.  It’s all a matter of perspective.

Nimue: Do you have any sense of how many people were practicing the Old craft in the UK pre-Gardner?

Melusine: I’m not THAT old!!  Bob always spoke as though there were a fair number of individuals and small groups scattered about the country but they were usually elderly and preferred to remain in the shadows.  They only seem to have made contact after something had been published in a magazine like Mobius Strip or Lamp of Thoth – but these are only impressions.  The plight of those who did make their existence more public was reflected in the ghost-written ‘Coarse Witchcraft Trilogy’ – hence Old Craft groups retreating back into the shadows in the mid 1990s.  I personally have only had a working relationship with one other Old Craft group other than our own that was proven pre-Gardnerian.

Nimue: There seems to be a real flourishing of ‘traditional witchcraft’ at the moment, with a lot of claims to the pre-Gardnerian. Does this material square with your own experiences of pre-Gardnerian?

Melusine: In truth what I see generally bears no resemblance to what I was taught although we have to bear in mind that pre-Gardnerian witchcraft was never a coherent whole and varied considerably from county to county. If we look at the word ‘tradition’ in the dictionary, we find the definition: ‘oral transmission from generation to generation; a long established belief or custom; anything bound up with or continuing in the life of a family, community, etc.,’ and this epitomises what is meant by traditional witchcraft.  It is also taken to mean within Craft as coming from an established initiatory tradition although many of those writing books on ‘traditional’ witchcraft often fight shy of offering their readers any proof of their antecedents or ‘roots’.  Hence the confusion and conflicting viewpoints on what actually constitutes ‘traditional’ when it comes to belief and practice.  This can be compared to the use of the word ‘magick’ which is generally believed to differentiate between Craft magic and stage magic without having a clue where the term originated.  For example: within Coven of the Scales there are only three members who practice magick with a ‘k’ because they know what it signifies and have studied that particular sphere of magical working in some depth – which, incidentally, has nothing to do with witchcraft!   I think the current use of the term ‘traditional’ has become more an issue of semantics rather than a proof of experience.

Nimue: How important are antecedents? Or is the ability to do it and to innovate more important?

Melusine: Both are equally as important but for different reasons.  As Daniel Schulke of Three Hands Press has observed in his preface to Hands of Apostasy: A Witchcraft Anthology (to which CoS has contributed ‘Spirits and Deific Forms: Faith and Belief in British Old Craft’) “much written about traditional witchcraft was of poor quality, either crudely derivative of a few often-repeated sources, factually inaccurate, or simply plagiaristic. Though this situation persists, readership on this subject has grown increasingly sophisticated and discerning, and a few new voices have emerged from the collective hedge to articulate important and original perspectives on the Craft …All of these traditions share a common feature of extreme selectivity when it comes to prospective members, and the willingness to reject those proven unfit for the work.”

Magic is a dangerous pastime and these antecedents give a strong indication that those teaching it have been through the lengthy process of learning that enables them to pass on the inner workings of magical experience in a safe and accepted manner.  After all, you cannot teach yourself what you don’t know exists, just as you would not want to climb K2 in the company of someone whose only previous experience had been a casual hike in the Malvern Hills.

Natural ability and innovation are the key characteristics of a genuine witch and without them no one travels far along the magical path.   In our Arcanum course the beginning allows the prospective member to follow certain set tasks and exercises and report back with the results and sensations encountered.  As the course progresses extemporisation is encouraged so that the tutor can see whether there is any natural ability and innovative skills that can be encouraged and honed within the parameters of Old Craft.   We often find that solitary witches with this natural ability come to us because they want to add more structure to their magical lives and to explore the magical realms on a much deeper level.

Nimue: Changing tack a bit… of the books you’ve written, which one did you enjoy the most?

Melusine: Ooooh!  That’ a difficult one.  I’ve enjoyed them all for different reasons but if I’d got to choose it would be a toss up between Magic Crystals, Sacred Stones and The Atum-Re Revival.  Both books take that particular discipline of magical learning to another level and the challenge of doing that gave a real adrenalin rush. The one that’s given me the most satisfaction to see in print, however, is The Dictionary of Magic and Mystery because this was never intended for publication.  It was my own personal compilation put together over a 10-year period.  It’s the most comprehensive of its kind and I already have pages of additions ready for an amended edition; it’s an on-going processs which makes it an interesting one.

Nimue: Do you have a particular audience in mind when you’re writing, or do you just go where the inspiration takes you?

Melusine: That answer to that question is short and sweet.  I write when and where the ‘spirit moves’ – usually around one o’clock in the morning which often produces six good ideas before breakfast.

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One Comment to “Melusine Draco interview”

  1. I thank you for sharing parts of your life and experiences in Old Craft.

    Thank you

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