Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

The Five-Petaled Primrose: A Magic Charm by Robert Graves

Poet and novelist Robert Graves (1895-1985), author of The White Goddess, generally eschewed magical practice.

I am no mystic, he wrote in 1960, I avoid participation in witchcraft, spiritualism, yoga, fortune-telling, automatic writing, and the like (Graves 1966, 488).

But we know that at least once, when asked for a magic charm, he complied, with interesting results.

Graves first met George and Joanna Simon in 1942, and maintained a lively correspondence with them thereafter. In 1946 Joanna suffered her second miscarriage, and Simon, an eminent medical doctor, wrote to Graves—presumably with tongue firmly in cheek—for magical advice on how to achieve the blessing of the Goddess on future pregnancies.


On April 15, 1945, Graves wrote back:

Magical instructions. Clear out all rubbish from the house (backs of drawers, under stairs, etc., between May 14 and June 14) and burn it, unless classifiable as salvage, in the back yard. A bunch of primroses would please the Goddess and, when nobody is snooping, a handful of pearl barley laid on a raised stone. The birds will eat it; but they belong to her. To show that you really are cultivating her, not the Holy God of the immaterial universe, the following charm will gratify her exceedingly. It is chockful of astrological magic (Graves 1984, 47-8).

He then writes, in a circle:



which he interprets as: 


'[T]he five feasts are enough for us, Artemis of the Nut-tree, when you are about' (i.e. the working week, excluding the Sabbath and Sunday, both of which Jehovah appropriated to himself). The formula S.T.C.D.Q. can also be represented with willow, holly, nut, oak, apple. The five-petaled primrose is an even neater sign, as John Donne recognized.


Live primrose then, and thrive

In your mysterious number five.


He concludes,


I think Wizard Graves has said enough for the present (Graves 1984, 48).


The Simons duly followed Graves' instructions.


Their daughter Helena was born just over a year later, on June 27, 1947.



Robert Graves, Between Moon and Moon: Selected Correspondence (1984), ed. Paul O' Prey. Moyer Bell Ltd. 

Robert Graves, The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth (1966). Farrar, Straus and Giroux


Last modified on
Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


Additional information