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I am really pleased to announce that my latest book, Dionysos: Exciter to Frenzy is now available from all good bookshops, including direct from the publishers, Avalonia Books. This book has been an absolute journey in the making. As with my first book, Craft of the Wise: A Practical Guide, I was compelled to write this book and as such, it felt like quite a mission from start to finish! As the Introduction explains, my study was born out of a series of synchronicities, prophecies and other mystical occurrences which happened to our small ritual group in Hampshire, in the UK. Hampshire is a seemingly unlikely place for the Dionysian current to manifest. Both trained to our third degrees in Alexandrian Wicca, myself and my ritual partner began taking applications for our own ritual group in 2005. We were not a conventional Wiccan group; having received training with teachers from several different occult traditions, we were already working outside of the standard Wiccan framework. After a few years, we adopted the more general term of Initiatory Witchcraft, which allowed us to explore alternative mystery traditions and magical practices. it was all semantics of course – but it helped us in some way to remain true to our journey. In a way, the publication of my first book, Craft of the Wise: A Practical Guide to Paganism and Witchcraft, marked this moment – drawing a line beneath my previous work whilst also leaving one or two clues about the new direction our ritual group was taking. Craft of the Wise did not attempt to cover this new ground.

Within Initiatory Witchcraft, many of the ritual themes are received intuitively, and then reconstructed with historical research into that particular mystery tradition or practice. A lot of it is down to synchronicity, messages and intuitive work. There is very little scripted work. It is based on studying and recreating the more mystic aspects of ancient traditions. However, we often use the ritual framework from Wicca as a structure for the practice of the mysteries (either magical or theurgic) because it does work in terms of creating coherence and structure. We also found, through our own experiences, that the ethos of Wicca and Witchcraft (and the very nature of the gods and forces working within them) behave in a very similar way to the ecstatic cult of Dionysos, and gods and goddesses of a similar ilk – and are therefore conducive with the ritual and practice of Wicca. Ultimately, they seem to follow the same ‘current’ in the universe.

It is important for any reader to realise that this book is written from a modern Western Mystery Tradition viewpoint – the only viewpoint I can give. I would like to stress that the material in this book is only my own interpretation of what has already been written about the god, together with my own inspiration and ritual experiences. I hope that I have managed to step far enough away from modern practices (whilst still recognising parallels) in order to view the evidence from an objective point of view – but inevitably, my interpretations will be influenced by modern thinking. As the author Robert Brown writes, ‘our acquaintance with earlier times is probably insufficient to enable us to judge whether … a particular assumption is (correct) or not’, that is, no matter how well read we are on a subject, we will always be influenced by our modern way of thinking and preconceptions; but perhaps we have to accept this on some level as part of the natural evolution of the Dionysian cult.

The aim of my book is to present a historical study of Dionysos and a reliable basis upon which the Dionysian current can develop and grow. I believe that the way we work with the ancient gods should always be evolving and transforming in tune with the modern world, just like Dionysos himself – but that it is just as important that we unify well researched ancient practices with our modern interpretations.

Certainly, the Dionysian philosophy suggests that it is impossible to develop spiritually without also embracing the realities of life – for Dionysos is a god of substance. The ancient Greeks had two different words for our word, ‘life’ the first was ‘bios’ which referred to the literal, mortal existence of an individual, and the other was ‘zoe’, which referred to the ‘spirit’ of life. This ethos was reflected at the core of the Dionysian religion, which recognised both the reality of existence and also a profound spiritual awareness. Dionysos was sometimes described as ‘otherworldly without being world-denying’ the Dionysian cult brought religion and the corporeal into one, without negating the importance or viability of either; arguably, perhaps something that is missing in many spiritual and religious paths today.

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‘The fates made him perfect … the god with ox’s horns, crowned with wreaths of snakes – that’s why the Maenads twist in their hair wild snakes they capture.’  The Bacchae, 129-135, Euripides, c 400BCE

Dionysos, dancing his many-formed pattern of rebirth, challenge and liberation, is one of the most intriguing and intoxicating gods of the ancient world. In my new book ‘Dionysos: Exciter to Frenzy – A Study of the God Dionysos in Mysticism & Lore’ I explore the numerous facets of his personality and worship, revealing the hidden faces of the thrice-born god and the extent of his influence in the mysteries of the ancient world – and even in modern mysticism.

Dionysos: Exciter to Frenzy is due for publication with Avalonia Books in 2013.

Educational, Honest & Practical !!

A Review of SEIDR: The Gate is Open : working with Seidr, The High Seat and Norse Witchcraft – by Katie Gerrard

I have to admit that I was really excited when this book landed on my doormat, and I can only apologise for the length of time it has taken me to complete my review of this book – which in my opinion is educational, honest and practical.

Honesty is something that I have started to appreciate more and more in books such as this, and Katie Gerrard’s ‘Seidr: The Gate is Open’ is just that. She openly discusses her own journey into the northern tradition and her experiences of teaching the practice of Seidr, as well as encouraging the reader to come to their own conclusions, and find their own way. You can tell that Katie has been working with the practice of Seidr (and teaching it to others) for some time: she knows all the difficulties and hazards of both practising and teaching the art, and shows us how to avoid them.

Her writing is educational, practical and even amusing at times, particularly to those of us who have had similar experiences in the past and can relate. I couldn’t help but chuckle when she writes, “step back through the smoke wall … or step back through where the smoke wall was, as it is very unlikely that you will still have billowing smoke…” Only someone who actively works magic and ritual on a regular basis knows the frustration of charcoal blocks never lasting quite as long as you needed them to!! It’s these little touches that make this book so genuine.

That being said, the material is also extremely powerful, and wonderfully researched; and whilst Katie explains her practice as best as can possibly be achieved on paper, Seidr remains a mystery which is only revealed through personal experience. And there are plenty of practical tasks within ‘Seidr: The Gate is Open’ for the reader to do just that.

The book focuses on the benefit of trance in particular, something that I am extremely interested in. Katie discusses aids and techniques that can be used to enter altered states of consciousness, and also covers the importance of honouring the ancestors, and working with them. Katie also discusses the realities of the practice, something that often seems all too forgotten in modern paganism: that what we achieve on the astral plane really can (and should, in many cases) affect our lives on the physical plane. This book is certainly not one about theatrics. As Katie writes, ‘…remember that part of the Volva’s role is to walk the worlds … be prepared for something spectacular, and life changing.’

Fantastic book, which I am sure I will return to again and again … and again.

5 stars *****

Her Sacred Fires : A Journey to Hekate

This month has been extremely exciting. Myself and at least 40 other contributors from all around the world have been working towards our essays, prose and artwork for the new anthology ‘Hekate: Her Sacred Fires’, which is edited by Sorita d’Este of Avalonia Books and is a very personal study of an extraordinary Goddess. The spectrum of material covered in this anthology is as diverse as the forms of Hekate herself, emphasising her role as Light Bearer, Key Bearer, Initiatrix, World Soul, Mistress of Crossroads and the Serpent Mysteries. From the re-establishment of the ancient worship of the great mother goddess as Hekate in Thrace to meteorites and pilgrimages, Hekate’s presence around the world is vividly described and illustrated by her torchbearers.

The book is available now for pre-order at http://www.sacredfires.co.uk/ .

I was also given the opportunity to take part in the radio interview with Karagan, an Alexandrian Priest who runs the radioshow ‘Witchtalk’. With close to 20,000 listeners, Witchtalk aims to help people understand and have contact with paganism and witchcraft. The 3 hour interview was the first of its kind, and Karagan interviewed Sorita d’Este: of Avalonia Books; Maggin: a Hekate devotee and artist who has contributed to several books on Hekate; Mark Allan Smith: a contributor to Hekate: Her Sacred Fires and who has just released his new book about Hekate called ‘Queen of Hell‘; and myself, author of ‘Craft of the Wise’, and contributor of the essay ‘Swaying with the Serpent’.

‘Swaying with the Serpent’, is a study of the serpent-girdled Hekate: an aspect of the Goddess which embraces both Hekate’s chthonic aspects and her role as Mistress of Life. We find Hekate portrayed in ritual-trance prophesies as a ‘solar’ or ‘fire’ deity – the origin of the vital life force, which is often portrayed as a spiraling serpent-like energy. This type of symbolism is in many ways more in keeping with her original character, and Hekate’s roots can be found in such deities as Hekate of Lagina in south-west Turkey who was accompanied by serpents and worshipped as a deity of fertility and dance; the Syrian Goddess Atargatis who was originally revered as a serpent-girdled tutelary deity; and the chthonic aspects of the fertility Goddess Mater Magna of Anatolia. My essay also touches on the possible mysteries behind the cista mystica, Hekate’s role in trance prophesy, her association with Dionysos Sabazios and Bacchic frenzy, her role as feminine equivalent to the solar Gods Apollo and Helios, and her fitting role as the Wilful Goddess: ‘the one by whose will prayers are fulfilled and success granted’. The essay also looks at the serpent aspects of Hekate’s tool the Strophalos and its association with sacred sounds, and Hekate’s importance in the Eleusinian mysteries.

The idea for the book was conceived when Sorita d’Este had a vision of a thousand torches being lit for Hekate all over the world, and so it was fitting that on the 27th May 2010 I joined thousands of other Hekate dedicants from all around the world in ‘The Rite of Her Sacred Fires’, a ritual which was written by Sorita and which petitioned Hekate to allow the practitioner to explore Hekate’s mysteries. My ritual working partner Pete Ralls and myself were asked by Sorita to put together a contributor video a week before the ritual date, to show how the ritual might be adjusted to suit two people. This ritual can be found at the HerSacredFires YouTube channel.

 We decorated the altar and set to undertaking the ritual. No circle was cast; we find when working with individual rites such as this that a circle is not necessary. Our group practices initiatory witchcraft, which does not claim to be an old tradition – in fact, it is a very modern one, which finds its influences in British Traditional Wicca, Esoteric Magical Traditions, and the earlier historical Pagan beliefs and practices of such cultures as Egypt, Mesopotamia and Greece and Europe (whose practices form the basis of many magical techniques and pagan rites today). Initiatory Witchcraft is largely based upon intuitive messages and subsequent historical research and reconstruction, blending experiential and intuitive work with due reference to historical practices. We base our rituals upon certain themes, magic and mysteries of ancient pagan mystery cults; most of these themes are normally received intuitively and then reconstructed with serious historical research into that particular mystery tradition or practice. However Initiatory Witchcraft does often use elements of Traditional Wicca as a structure for its practice of the mysteries, either magical or theurgic (we are happy to use what actually works, and change or discard that which does not !) You can find out more about initiatory witchcraft and read or contribute associated articles at http://www.initiatorywitchcraft.co.uk/

The Rite of Her Sacred Fires was a true reflection of Hekate’s nature, and its role in bringing together thousands of pagans and occultists from all around the world was, I believe, unrivalled. If you would like to perform the Rite of Her Sacred Fires, you still can – the PDF can be found in several different languages, including Hellenic, at the Sacred Fires website. I hope that everyone will enjoy the book as much as I have enjoyed being involved in its inception. I for one cannot wait to see what all the other essays, prose and artwork have to offer! I am privileged to have met several of the contributors, and can vouch for the sheer dedication that so many of Hekate’s devotees have to Hekate. No doubt this book will be an inspiring expression of their dedication.

Hekate is alive: she is mistress of life, the source of the world soul, and keeper of blazing torches. She is empowering, enlivening, guiding, clever, liminal, and demanding. She is counterpart to Dionysos, god of ecstasy, and she is mistress of trance prophesy; she is the arbitrator who stands on the threshold between the material and the astral, and guides her devotees through the heights of the heavens and the depths of the underworld. Sway with Hekate, Mistress of Fire; Dance in her Flames!!

 Vikki Bramshaw – May 2010

The anthology HEKATE: HER SACRED FIRES containing essays, prose and artwork about the Goddess Hekate will be available for pre-order from Avalonia books from the end of May 2010. Myself and more than 45 other individuals from all around the world have all been working on this project for the last few months, and it has proved to be a huge success! There is a Facebook page dedicated to the project, through which you can find out more and also interact with other Hekate devotees – including a number of the contributors. Hail the Torchbearer, Mistress of Flames …

www.vikkibramshaw.co.uk

Vikki Bramshaw is an author specialising in pre-christian religion and esoteric traditions. Some of her passions are religious history, theurgy, initiatory rites, and trance. Her latest book, 'Dionysos: Exciter to Frenzy' was published with Avalonia Books in 2013.

Her first book, 'Craft of the Wise: A Practical Guide' was published with John Hunt Publishing in 2010, after which Vikki wrote for several anthologies with Avalonia Books including Swaying with the Serpent: A Study of the Serpent Girdled Hekate (featuring in the anthology 'Hekate: Her Sacred Fires' in 2010) and 'The Scorpion & the Bridal Bed' (featuring in the anthology 'VS: Thou Art That - That Thou Art' in 2011).

Vikki has also successfully completed several courses as part of her ongoing research, including The Origins of Human Behaviour with Oxford University. She is also a trained Holistic Healer with the Scottish Healing Association, and has studied an introductory course in counselling and transactional analysis with Peter Symonds College of Winchester.