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© Storm Genevieve Black 2015. All Rights Reserved

First published in Townsville Soul Newsletter December 2015

If you have been following my articles, you will undoubtedly by now, have noticed the phrase “(pronounced: ...)” which appears throughout the articles I write. I do this because it has often been commented on by the folk I have taught, that when learning the craft “it is like having to learn another language as you go.” This is because when learning Traditional Witchcraft, and indeed Wicca, the roots of the belief you are learning about are Anglo-Saxon and Celtic (pronouced: Keltik) and there, conveniently we have our first example. When the word Celtic is pronounced with a soft sounding C “Seltik” it is the name of a Scottish football / soccer team. When we refer to the ancient people of  the Celtic lands, we use their native tongue, and so a hard sounding C “Keltik”. The Celt's (pronounced: Kelt's) had no soft sounding C in their alphabet. Also it is worth noting here that the letter K does not appear in the language of the Britons until some time in the 12th Century. Therefore those who practice Magick with a K have learned a later version of the craft, which as a result, is not so traditional but more synonymous with the ceremonial magic of the Golden Dawn. The hard sounding C of the Celtic language also gives us words such as Wicca (pronounced: Wicker) and Coven (pronounced: Kovern). The K is not the only addition to the alphabet however, the letters W and Y have also been added later. In fact, in a copy if the Gaelic (Irish) alphabet printed in 1711 the letters J, Q, V, X and Z are also missing. So how do you manage to communicate with only 18 characters left in your alphabet? Well the simple answer is, with the use of word construction. As with the ß character, translating to a double S in English from German, you will notice the “DD” that appears in many Welsh words and names which when spoken sounds like the “th” in think, Blodeuwedd (pronounced; Blood-i-weth) for example. This is however something we do in our own language too, with the combined use of the letters ph which when spoken sound like the letter F.

The letter Y is easily replaced when the letters I or E or a combination of both are used in its place, and the letter W can be heard when the letters M and H are seen together as in Samhain (pronounced: Sow-ain). Then of course there are the silent letters. As with our own use of the letter “G” in gnome, gnat, and many other words beginning “gn” they are not always silent, the G has its own sound, but in certain words, for example in our upcoming Sabbat Lughnasadh (pronounced: Lu-na-sa) and in the word Sidhe (pronounced: She) the “gh” and the “dh” are both silent. In fact in most cases when the letter H follows a D or a G it renders the preceding letter silent. The letter H then is a defining character in the Celtic language. It has its own use, but also has the ability to silence, or change the sound of the letters it follows.

Why then do we have a Book of Shadows, and not a Booc of Shadamhs? Quite simply, because very little was recorded in written form by the Anglo-Saxons or Celts. The book of Shadows is a modern aid, It is personal to each and every witch, and contains a shadow of everything they have done in their magical life. It does contain spells, but it is not a Grimoire (from the French “grammaire” and literally meaning a book of magic spells, and invocations). A Book of Shadows is a diary of its writers own personal path. A record of anything and everything they felt was important enough to go into it. In the past it was traditional for the Witches book to be buried or cremated with its owner upon their death, not only so that there was no mortal record of their workings, but also so that they would have their record with them for wherever they ended up. Now we keep these diaries because there is so much to remember, it is always useful to be able to look things up and refresh your memory rather than having to remember everything by tales, poems or song lyrics. Especially now that the skills of reading and writing are far more common practice than they once were. The written alphabet we use today however was generously given to us by the Romans when they came over to Britain and began recording things in their own language, using their own alphabet. Before that there were very few books to be found, as there was little point writing everything down when nobody could read it.