Serpent Songs

Serpent Songs


Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold (Ed.)

Fine edition

Limited to 64 copies; bound in full green leather; the cover bears a serpent and vesica blocked in black and gold; custom marbled endpapers, all edges gilt, ribboned and presented in a slipcase.
– Sold out

Standard hardback edition

Limited to 750 copies; bound in olive cloth, black and gold serpent device stamped on front, custom printed endpapers; ; text printed in black with gold.
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Bibliothèque Rouge edition

Unlimited paperback; isbn 978-0-9574492-2-0
– £17

8vo (240 × 170 mm)
224 pp
Black and white illustrations and photographs

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Serpent Songs is an anthology of the voices of Traditional Craft: the words and works of those who remain untamed, cunning folk, exorcists, pellars, sorgin, witches and mystics. A collection of fifteen essays, Serpent Songs is introduced and curated by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold through whose contacts we encounter the worlds of lone individuals and tradition holders, from both family and clan, and are allowed a rare glimpse into the workings of the more secretive practitioners of the Craft.

Traditional Craft is intimately bound to the spirit of the land. Thus Serpent Songs contains the accounts of Cornish and Basque witchcraft, the relatively unknown Swedish Trolldom, the persecuted Bogomils, and the oft misrepresented Italian Streghoneria. Members of 1734 and Clan Tubal Cain are among those who choose to share their experiences and perspectives. Light is shed on such important figures as Robert Cochrane, Evan John-Jones and Andrew Chumbley amongst others, but more than illustrious ancestors, traditional craft is revealed as a living throng.

These are the voices of those who work the art and this book details their practices, struggles and wayward journeys. Serpent Songs takes a crooked path through the landscape, from historical studies to practical acts, from lonely stone stiles set between deep hedges to the warm entrails of animals and forays into the caves and woods. It is a wide ranging work that deals with the issues of witch blood, taboo, the other, the liminal state, fire, dream, art and need as vectors of the Craft. What emerges is not a narrow definition of what it means to engage in Traditional Craft, but a set of shared characteristics and approaches which become evident despite the cultural gulfs in place and time. These are the voices who for the most part operate in silence but now wish to be heard.

Contents + contributors

Prelude: The Other Blood – Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold
The Witch’s Cross – Gemma Gary
The Spirit of True Blood – Shani Oates
Lezekoak – Arkaitz Urbeltz
A Gathering of Light and Shadows – Stuart Inman and Jane Sparkes
The Fall and Rise of an English Cunning One – Tony MacLeod
Stregoneria: A Roman Furnace – Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold
But the House of my Father will Stand – Xabier Bakaikoa Urbeltz
Bucca and the Cornish Cult of Pellar – Steve Patterson
Exorcists, Conjurors and Cunning Men in Post-Reformation England – Richard Parkinson
The Liturgy of Taboo – Francis Ashwood
Trolldom – Johannes Gårdbäck
Bogomilian & Byzantine Influences on Traditional Craft – Radomir Ristic
But to Assist the Soul’s Interior Revolution: The art of Andrew Chumbley and aspects of Sabbatic Craft – Anne Morris
Passersby: Potential, Crossroads & Wayfaring on the Serpent Road – Jesse Hathaway Diaz
The Mysteries of Beast, Blood & Bone – Sarah Anne Lawless


Prelude: The Other Blood

So what it boils down to is the fact that as times change the Craft changes with them. – Robert Cochrane

 The cunning man who charms away a wart, the astrologer who casts an election and fashions a talisman for a given purpose, or the lonely walker who blesses a barren womb are all people who practice parts of the plethora of the Craft. Yet there is a tendency to limit what is referred to as traditional witchcraft to just a few groups. As a result of this exclusivity the great diversity of the craft, its richness, risks becoming lost. Yet, when you call upon the spirits and they answer, who can deny you this connection?

Traditional witchcraft is a set of practices born from need, land and blood. It is the art of working one’s fate and the art of working hedge, hill and mound for one’s benefit or that of a group or conclave of people and their needs. The witch in the traditional sense is someone who is aware of their pedigree, the particular blood that sets them apart. Because of its diversity traditional witchcraft remains misunderstood.

Some even see it as a vacant term that can be filled with whatever meaning one chooses. That is not my intention. Even if traditional witchcraft varies – sometimes dramatically – in its expression, there are vectors of commonality to be found. It is those vectors that brought together this gathering of serpentine voices under the traditional witchcraft landmarks: blood, night, land and crossroads.

The other blood can be passed on horizontally, blood to blood, flesh to flesh, it can also be awakened by the celestial fire. Within whom and where this fiery blood is quickened is bound to give a unique expression, because Traditional Witchcraft is a poetic reality of night and nature that, whilst adopting various guises, gives form to the possibility of the incursion of the other. It is here we find the nerve of the Craft. It is the song of those who cross hedge and veil, it is the fire of those who make their fate and it is the memory of blood and need making signs across the scales of the earth ... My own perception of traditional craft has developed over nearly two decades. In this time I have been blessed to meet pilgrims and masters of what I term the craft of the wise. Like many I became aware of the term 'traditional witchcraft' through the letters and writings of Robert Cochrane and my search was rewarded by encountering a host of wonderful practitioners of the art, where kinship was mutually recognised. Some of these individuals are bound into the book which you now hold, others have informed it in more subtle ways. This collection of songs surely testifies to the burgeoning diversity of traditional craft in all its expressions. It is with great pleasure I give to your hand and eye the song of fifteen of these serpentine vertebræ.