Spaewives, Starets & Oracles

Practitioners of all three surviving branches of magick appear in This Iron Race and this is intended only as a quick guide to the various characteristics and practices of each tradition. In each case, they have suffered a marked decline in the last one-hundred and fifty years (especially in the case of the Red Branch which has been all but wiped out) and despite the resurgence of interest in the study and use of magick in the last few decades many of the practises and customs described here are no longer current.

The White Branch or Northern TraditionAn artist_s model ‘scrying_ with a crystal ball. Most spaers preferred to scry with water, rather than crystal, but the painting accurately shows the manner of dress. J. W. Waterho

Practitioners: Spaewives or rune-wives (archaic). Almost exclusively female.

Characters in This Iron Race: Eolhwynne, Ethelfeyrde, Sigel’inge, Gertyr.

Geographical distribution: Scandinavia (ex. Finland), Brittany, Northern France, Eireland, Britannia, Low Countries and Holy Roman Empire.Courtyard of the Iona Fellowship of Grace. The statue shows 'Grace', in the form of a dove, entering a young womanSchools: known as Fellowships of Grace (in France, Ecole d’Esoterique) the principal ones being: Iona (Scotland), Peel (IOM), Lindisfarne (Anglia) Mont Dragon (Brittany), Hills of Tara (Eireland), Aalborg (Denmark), Teutoburger Wald and Heidelberg (Germany) Carcassonne (France), Visby and Uppsala (Sweden).

Practices: Runic divination and charm making, weather reading, familiars, and plant lore. Bans use of magick for negative or aggressive purposes and for self-interest.

The Red (or sometimes Black) Branch or Eastern TraditionSeraphim of Sarov, the most famous Russian staretsPractitioners: Starets. Usually male.

Characters in This Iron Race: Arkadi Anokhin (aka Lazarus).

Geographical distribution: Austro-Hungarian Empire, Ottoman Empire, Bohemia, Finland, Russia, Ukraine and all regions north and east of the Black Sea.The old Akademi in Kiev is now a youth hostelSchools: known as Akademi in Russia, however the training of a starets is usually done through an apprenticeship to an older practitioner, rather than alongside his peers, as in the other traditions. Some attempt at educational reform was made under Peter the Great when Akademios were established at St Petersburg and Kiev (Russia), Riga (Estonia), Turku (Finland) and Prague (Austro-Hungarian Empire).

Practices: Self-flagellation, onanism, coitus with male and female partners, singly or in groups, alternate heating and cooling of the body (sa’una), animal sacrifice, smoke-reading and cartomancy. Unusually, the Red Branch discourages the use of familiars but starets may co-opt animals as and when required.

The Green Branch or Southern TraditionSanta Sylvia, sybil to the infamous Borgia family, painted by Leoonardo da Vinci c. 1489Practitioners: Oracles/Sibyls. Almost exclusively female.

Characters in This Iron Race: Graciana Zabala A’Guirre.

Geographic distribution: Iberian Peninsula, Provence, Italy, Balkans, Greece, Turkey and regions south and east of the Black Sea.Villa Sophia, Zaragoza, now the Black Narcissus night clubSchools: known as Villa Sophia, the principal ones are: Zaragoza, Montserrat and Gran Canaria, (Spain) Gernika, (Pays Vasco) Gozo, (Malta) Lesbos, (Greece), Venice and Ravenna (Italy).

Practices: Astrology, smoke and fire reading, demonancy, familiars, evil eye. Places dedication to the master at the centre and regards ethical issues as secondary.

The Root Branch or Western Tradition (Extinct)Plato the first chronicler of the Atlantis story, or its creatorPractitioners: Described as Prophets in Plato’s account and would seem to have been male and female.

Characters in This Iron Race: None, see below.

Geographic distribution: All three surviving Traditions believe they originated on the islands of Atlantis and Thule and cite the writings of Plato and Pytheas the Greek as evidence, however, modern geographers and historians claim both Thule and Atlantis are wholly mythical. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries Christian missionaries among the Inuit and other First-Nation Americans noted (even as they attempted to discourage their use!) that the natives’ magickal practises closely resembled those described by Plato and speculated that First-Nation Americans were the descendants of Atlanteans fleeing the destruction of ther homeland. For a few decades in the mid-1800s this became a popular theory among Neoplatonic scholars and Gramaryeans and Tamburlaine MacGregor elaborated on it in the third and final volume of This Iron Race, Devices and Executions, though it is unlikely he ever gave it much credibility. Subsequent to MacGregor’s time, ethnographic studies of First-Nation Americans proved that their magick is related to that of the Laplander and far-northern inhabitants of Siberia whose practices are so different from any of the three surviving Traditions they must be regarded as a wholly distinct form of magick.Thule. Detail from the Carta Marina, drawn by Olaus Magnus, 1539Schools: Plato’s text gives us the name of one school on Atlantis, however, scholars have disagreed on how it should be translated from the Ancient Greek. Most translate it as ‘House of the Blessed’ while a few maintain that ‘Electium’ is closer to the meaning. The seminary at Tara, in Eireland, claims it was founded by members of the House of the Blessed who landed in Eireland after the destruction of Atlantis; however this is dismissed by all reliable scholars.

Practices: The only authorities are Plato and Pytheas the Greek. Plato writes of divination using observation of birds, cartomancy, astrology, cloud-gazing, and the casting of seashells, however he is regarded as biased and unreliable in his use of source material and this may be an incomplete list. Pytheas the Greek also mentions scatomancy and animal sacrifice but his work On the Ocean only survives as a few references in other classical texts and in any event he was more concerned with astronomy and agricultural practices than magick. As its name suggests, the Root Branch is considered the origin of the Northern, Southern and Eastern Traditions and at various times each has claimed their practices are closest to those of Atlantis and Thule, although none has produced convincing evidence.mannin-university-supposrts-bard-of-tweeddale

Bard of Tweeddale


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