Witch Craft Basics

Suffolk, learning basics

Sacred Fires:

     Fire is sacred in most religions and has been for a very long time. Fire is a double edged sword in that it can be good or bad for you but it is not evil. Fire can warm your house or burn it down, keep you warm or burn you! There are so many ways in which fire can be used either for the good of mankind or to adversely affect mankind. A blessing or a curse.

      Fire is said to be the gift of the Gods but conversely legend and myth also  state that it was stolen from the Gods.

THE ELEMENT OF FIRE is full of movement, joyful expansion, activity, passion and ecstatic bliss. It brings you dynamic enthusiasm, desire, joy, laughter and love. A person with a healthy fire element will feel happy, compassionate, light and playful. It is related to the heart and cardiovascular system. You can enhance the fire element in your body by visualizing that your heart looks like a sun emitting light, radiating heat and functioning normal and strong.

Sacred Fires Fire of Azrael:

Sacred Fires and  some Tree Law:

Wood of Nine Sacred Trees for Lár Bealtinne Fire

        When lighting your sacred Lár Bealtinne Fire or for that matter, any other sacred fire; I suppose we should try to follow the example of our ancient Celtic ancestors by constructing our fires from the wood of nine sacred trees. When I first came across this mentioned in a book on Celtic mythology and tried to follow it up I came up against the proverbial brick wall. Although some of the tales in the mythos of the Celts write about certain trees such as Oak, Ash, Birch and Apple there didn’t seem to be a list as such!

      When you look at Runes and the Ogham script you could theoretically choose any of the trees represented in both, though technically certain of them would be ruled out as they are not strictly trees in the accepted sense of the word. It wasn’t until I was researching an entirely different subject: that of the relationships in Scottish and Irish Gaelic that I came across the following verse which to my mind clarified eight of the sacred trees, which are as follows: Oak, Ash, Willow, Birch, Yew, Elm, Hazel and Alder: these are in no order of importance or preference.

        Too this list I would add either Apple as it crops up with a certain regularity in most Irish/Celtic mythological tales. Rowan as it was thought that the Druids used this wood to make their wands from and Holly which again was used to make wands and has a certain symbolism all of its own in most pagan religions. My own preposition is that all three could and should be used dependant on the time of the year: i.e. Holly in the “Gamos” (winter) half of the year: and Apple in the “Samos” (summer) half of the year and Rowan on Samhain as its wood is thought to protect against unfriendly spirits.

      The following is a poem from the “Carmina Gadelica” a collection of poems written in Scottish Gaelic and collected from the Highlands and Islands of Western Scotland by Dr Alexander Carmichael and is thought to be at least 150 years old. Some say it goes as far back as 1754, just before the break up of the Scottish Highlands when Scottish Gaelic was still relatively widely spoken.

Timber from Reay.

Choose the Willow of the Burnside mound,

Choose the Hazel of the rocky bound,

Choose the Alder with the marshes round,

Choose the Birch by falling waters found.

Choose the Ash-wood of the shady ground,

Choose the Yew-wood of the springing bound,

Choose the Elm-wood on the brae side found,

Choose the seasoned Oak by sunshine browned.

To this I would add one of the following three lines:

“Choose the Apple in the orchard found,

Choose the Holly with red berries bound,

Choose the Rowan with its magic bound”

       The following is a list containing trees that appear in the poem above plus others that could also be considered as being sacred the first eight are in the poem the rest are mentioned at some point in Celtic mythology. The first column is the English name: the second part is the Runic/Ogham name and the last part where my knowledge permits is in Irish Gaelic.


English Tree

Runic Name

Tree Irish




Apple; Apple Tree


Abhail; Crann-úil

Ash Tree



Birch Tree






Elm Tree


Crann Leamhán

Hawthorn Tree



Hazel Tree


Crann coill

Holly Tree


Crann Cuileann

Oak Tree


Crann Dair

Rowan Tree; Mountain Ash.



Willow Tree


Crann Sailteach

Yew Tree


Crann iúr


 Some Tree Law:

         In medieval Irish the words for ‘Sacred Grove’ are ‘Fid-nemith’ or ‘Fid-neimid’ both of which are derived from the older Celtic word ‘Nemetos’. ‘Nemetos’ means ‘Holy’ or ‘Sacred’. In Asia Minor in the year 280 BC it was recorded that the Gaul’s held a great council in a place called ‘Drunemeten’ which was thought to be the chief ‘Nemeton’ of the Druids.

NB. Lár Bealtinne fires are lit at dawn, while Samhain fires are lit at dusk.

On Sacred Trees in Ireland

     Indeed, there was great importance attached to certain trees especially in Ireland. If you look at texts like the Irish “Triads” which were put together in the Middle Ages, using much older material we can get a glimpse of how important the trees were to our ancestors. An extract from the “Irish Triads” gives us the following:

      “Three noble, sacred things, Groves or Temples, Filid or Poets, and Rulers. Three dead things that are paid for only with living things are an Apple tree, a Hazel bush, and a sacred grove.”

       I can only assume from this that to cut down one of these trees would Cost you your life! The Irish also named: presumably the five most sacred trees in all Ireland, as apposed to the nine sacred woods:

       “The Yew of Ross; the Ash in Tortu; the Ash of Dathi; the Oak of Mugna; the Ash of Usnach.”

      The last tree the Ash of Usnach/Usnech was believed to be at the centre or “omphalos” the navel stone of the island. Omphalos is a Greek word for navel, as an analogy of and to the centre of a culture! There is another early Irish law called the “Senchas Mor” in which is stated the fines for “cutting” certain trees. An extract of that law follows:

        “For the Chieftain trees: Oak, Hazel. Holly, Yew, Ash, Pine and Apple the fine is a cow for the cutting of the trunks a heifer for either limbs or branches. For the common trees: Alder, Willow, Hawthorn, Mountain Ash, Birch, Elm and Idha? (Possibly a type of Pine?) The fine is a cow for the whole tree and a heifer for the branches….”

        When St Patrick came to Ireland he commanded some of his followers to cut down some trees so that they could build a church. Unbeknown to him they chose to cut down the trees in a sacred grove. When St Patrick heard this he insisted that the trees must be left where they had fallen and that new trees had to he cut. He is later reported to have said that "the sound of an axe hitting a sacred tree was the worst sound he could ever hear in Ireland"! To me this is a gauge of the respect he had for the culture of Celtic Ireland, a country in which he had been a slave and had come back to, too spread the Christian religion.

Researched and written by Rainbird

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The fire of Azrael:

Fire Scrying.

Scrying by Fire is a method of divination used by Witches to see events of the past, present and future. This practice can be performed by burning driftwood by the seashore after the sun has set. (It may be performed in other locations as well by burning other types of wood.)

The method use is to let the fire burn down to a good bed of embers then allow your conscious mind to relax so that your unconscious mind can come to the forefront. It sometimes help to have some ritual words to help you slip into ASC (altered state of consciousness). When you have archived this you will or should see visions. This is akin to day dreaming.

The Fire of Azrael:

After the fire has burned down, and begins to die, place cedar, juniper, and three or four good handfuls of sandalwood chips (dependant on how much you can get) on the fire and let the fire regenerate again. Once the fire has regenerate and fire died down again look into the dying embers let your conscious mind relax so that your unconscious (subconscious) mind can take over.

Then once more allow your conscious mind to relax so that your unconscious mind can come to the forefront. It sometimes help to have some ritual words to help you slip into ASC. If your mind is relaxed enough you can see scenes of the past, sometimes the present and possible the future. Sometimes they are actual scenes, but more often than not they are symbolic scenes needing interpreting.The fire use in this divinatory method is frequently called the "Fire of Azrael" as described by Dion Fortune in The Sea Priestess. A.G.H.


Azrael is the angel of Death, or Transformation, and heralds change. The name means 'Whom God Helps'. Azrael is a psychopomp, a 'guide of souls'**, and as such Azrael shares some of the attributes of Hermes, Thoth and Anubis and would be attributed to the sphere of Hod on the Tree of Life.

She took the poker in her hand and pushed the flaming driftwood to either side, and in the hollow center thus left she piled the woods of the Fire of Azrael. Then we sat and watched them take the flame.

And in those hours while the tide rose there was delivered to me things whereof but few have dreamed and fewer still have known, and I learnt why Troy was burnt for a woman. For this woman was not one woman, but all women; and I, who mated with her, was not one man, but all men; but these things were part of the lore of the priesthood, and it is not lawful to speak of them.” taken from the book "The Sea Priestess" by Dion Fortune.

 According to Jung, a psychopomp is a mediator between the unconscious and conscious realms. It is symbolically personified in dreams such as a wise man or woman, or sometimes as a helpful animal (Spirit animal). In many cultures, the shaman also fulfills the role of the psychopomp.

**Psychopomps (from the Greek word psuchopompos, literally meaning the "guide of souls") are creatures, spirits, angels, or deities in many religions whose responsibility is to escort newly deceased souls to the afterlife. Psychopomps have been associated at different times and in different cultures with horses, Whip-poor-wills, ravens, dogs, crows, owls, sparrows, cuckoos, and harts. **

NB. This ritual can be performed anywhere not just on the sea shore, and you don’t have to use drift wood either. Any wood will do, as long as you use the sandalwood, cedar and juniper wood.

                                                                       Rainbird. )O( 2012 Oct 

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