Of Chalk & Flint
Of Chalk and Flint: A Way of Norfolk Magic
My experience of writing Of Chalk and Flint: A Way of Norfolk Magic could not have been a more different to the speedy, almost frenetic process of putting A Witch’s Kitchen together.
I suppose it was sometime after completing my herbal medicine degree, in 2008, that I began writing down magical ideas, having been unable to do so during the four intensive years of full time study, combined with holding down a job so that I could pay my way. Of course, I had kept up my own magical practice, but all my reading and writing had necessarily to be focused on herbs and all matters medical.
Gradually, the desire to write began to grow again, and I started to write my regular articles for Quest and Pagan Dawn. I also wrote a few articles for Mike Howard’s The Cauldron, which has now sadly ceased publication since his death in 2015. It was two Cauldron articles which really made me think about writing a whole book on Norfolk magic. The first was a piece about our use of old, agricultural tools in ritual and magic, and the second was an article about
the Fair Folk of Norfolk.
I suppose it was the Fair Folk work which made me think about how under-represented Norfolk has been in writings about magical areas of the country. Some writers even claim that there is no tradition of Fair Folk here, and that it all happens in Ireland and Cornwall, and yet these beings, who are not often visible but live beside us, can, I’m sure, be found in different forms throughout the entirety of the country, and indeed the world.
Every landscape has its own spiritual beings and its own magic, which is uniquely suited to its geology, its weather conditions, its plant and animal life and the consequent preoccupations of those human souls who live and work there. So, I thought, having lived for so long in Norfolk and derived so many benefits from the magic which flows through the sacred landscape, it was time to produce a piece of work in honour of the county which had given me so much, a magnificent magical gesture which would set out something of the work we do here and how we adapt our magic to our 21 st century lifestyles.
I was very definite that I did not wish to write an academic tome about witches and magicians and spells of past times, interesting as these things are, because that information is already available, thanks to the efforts of a number of excellent researchers and writers. I needed to acknowledge the past and our magical ancestors, of course, because that is such an important part of what we still see etched into the landscape and its buildings, but I hoped to put across how we use our understanding of these things as a foundation for the magic we are working now.
So, I began gathering material, revisiting particular places of significance, making notes and planning the structure of the book. But the writing progressed in fits and starts and there were always time-consuming things which distracted me from this, my most important of tasks. I was helping to set up The School of Herbal Medicine, in Porlock, Somerset, which involved a lot of writing and travelling to the West Country; I had to write a lot for the everyday paid work I was doing; then various other events occurred which required attention.
In 2015, I wrote the Norfolk Harvest closing ritual for the Harvest Moon conference at the Puppet Theatre in Norwich, and the heady
excitement of the whole event, of Gemma Gary and Jane Cox inspiring us to create our Ickeny horse, and of so many people expressing an interest in Norfolk magic, I thought that would be the moment when I sat down at my computer and completed the project. The feeling was enhanced by a kind invitation from Nigel Pearson to speak about Norfolk magic at the launch of his own book about East Anglian magic, The Devil’s Plantation. For various reasons, though, it would take another three years before I was satisfied with what I had been able to write. Perhaps it just needed all that time to evolve slowly and to emerge into the world at a auspicious moment. After all, some foods are best quickly fried while others require hours of bubbling in a cauldron to ensure that they are as
succulent and perfect as they can be.
Now, Chalk and Flint begins with an invocation of the county and of the Lord and Lady of Norfolk, before winding its way through the sacred landscape and some of the magical treasures to be found there. I write of the magical stones, which are glacial erratics, full of power yet often hidden and difficult to find, the special trees, the sacred wells and their stories, and the magic of the coastline and the wide, open skies. I offer a glimpse of some of the other spiritual beings who inhabit the landscape, such as the saints and heroes, the Fair Folk and the gods of various traditions with whom local practitioners choose to work. The book traces too the patterns of the year and how each festival becomes a landmark in our annual quest through the seasons. Working closely with the land means that the materials we use for our work are usually local and this is reflected in a chapter concerning examples of the materia magica we gather from all around us.
Our magical tools are often agricultural, but there are many other items which are important to us, such as our baskets, for attracting good fortune and lovely foraged items, our wooden knives and spoons which we like to make ourselves, wands with wooden or antler handles and belemnite tips, and our chalices, which are so important for the sharing of the ritual drinks which are the elixir of the mysteries. Operative magic is a vital part of what we do and who we are, so there is a whole chapter devoted to the kind of spells and rituals which we like to work, drawing on old, traditional ideas but with our own modern needs and requirements taken into account. The magical community in Norfolk is vibrant and varied, and the book considers some of the magical groups, moots and covens which have existed here over the past quarter of a century and acknowledges the contribution of many individuals and groups to the enchanted life of the area.
The illustrations in the book are by the wonderful artist, writer and occultist, Gemma Gary, who has beautifully captured the feel of the items she has selected to draw, and created a magnificent glyph of the agricultural tools for the front cover, which has a special magic all of its own.
The book draws to a close with an account of the harvest ritual performed at the Harvest Moon conference in 2015, an amazing moment of well-known speakers and experienced and new practitioners, from near and far, all coming together to celebrate the county and the success of the event.
The final thought on the book’s last page serves as a closure to the “ritual” of the book, which begins with an invocation and presents a magical journey through time and places, in which spiritual beings appear, gifts are given and inspiration received.
This book is a celebration of Norfolk and of the Nameless Tradition of witchcraft and magic which draws upon the spiritual energy of the land and its beings. I have poured my life and soul into these 374 pages, checking every detail, crafting every word and bringing through the magic as the gods require.
I offer it as a resource for those working magically in Norfolk but also for anyone interested in seeking insights into natural magic, witchcraft and working with the power of the land.
Both special and standard edition copies of the book are available to purchase via Troybooks.co.uk
Signed paperback copies are also available at Inanna's Magical Gifts, Norwich
Paperback Edition: gloss laminate cover.
Special Edition: a limited edition of 150 hand-numbered examples bound in Natural cotton book-cloth with black foil-blocking, mottled slate end papers and black & white head and tail bands. 90gsm cream paper stock.
Standard Hardback Edition: bound in charcoal Cotton weave textured paper binding with white foil-blocking, speckled Dove Grey end papers and black & white head and tail bands. 90gsm cream paper stock.
Fine Edition: A Hand bound edition of 18 examples bound in a dark chestnut quarter leather and fine cloth binding with gold foil blocking on the leather to the front and spine, housed in a fully lined black library buckram blind embossed slip case. 90gsm cream paper stock.