Nicnevin is the goddess of witches and magic . She guards her mountain, Ben Nevis, and all of nature around, and has been known to appear as both an old crone or a beautiful young woman. On November 10th, Old November Eve, She was celebrated with a feast throughout the Scottish countryside, as She rode through the air followed by Her Unseelie host of spirits and creatures. It is said that, on this night between the hours of 9 and 10, She makes Herself visible to the world of mortals.
Then a clear Companie came soon after closs,
Nicneven with her Nymphs, in number anew,
With Charms from Caitness and Chanrie in Ross,
Whose Cunning consists in casting a Clew…
Nicnevin is the Queen of Elphame, the queen of the fairies, spirits, and strange creatures, queen of the Unseelie Court of Alba. She reigns with a male consort at her side, but his name is never given, it is my guess he changes with her moods. She is the Gyre Carline and appears sometimes in the Scottish tales as Habetrot, a crone-like spirit known for her magical powers of spinning, weaving and clothmaking. It is said she wears a long grey mantle and carries a white wand and can appear as an old crone or a beautiful young woman. White geese are sacred to her and their cackling may herald her arrival. In this we see she is linked with the Germanic goddess Holda… Hel, queen of the Underworld, the leader of the Wild Hunt in Norse legend. She is Mother Nicnevin, queen of witches, the Mother of Witches, the “great muckle Wallowa”. “This was the name given to the grand Mother Witch, the very Hecate of Scottish popular superstition. Her name was bestowed, in one or two instances, upon sorceresses, who were held to resemble her by their superior skill in Hell’s black grammar'” (Source).
Samhuinn Eve is the night of Nicnevin. Some say her sacred days are November 9th and 11th, but it is truley Samhuin when she rides the skies with her Unseelie host, and between the hours of 9 and 10pm she allows herself and her host to be visible to mortal eyes… It is said on this night at dusk she rises from the underworld, passing through Shoni’s realm beneath the sea to rise into the world of mortals and open the gate to the Otherworld so the spirits of the dead may cross to our world. Her Unseelie host of spirits and dark creatures fly with her into the skies, and woe any man who crosses their path. Yule, or Midwinter is also said to be one of her sacred days. The women of our ancestors would always ensure to finish any spinning before Yule and empty their distaffs as Nicnevin would punish any woman found working on her sacred day by stealing the valuable fibre left on their distaffs…
Contrary to what some folklorists say, Nicnevin is not really the Cailleach – the Scots Beira. Instead, Nicnevin is a part of the Cailleach; her darker half, the hag-crone, one piece of the whole. Cailleach is a primordial creation goddess, a giantess, the stones and bones of Alba – an ancient Earth Goddess. Nicnevin is the daughter of the Cailleach as “nic” means “daughter of” and Nevin refers to Ben Nevis, the Cailleach’s seat of power, the tallest mountain in Alba. The Cailleach is said to embody the mountains and Ben Nevis is her favourite for she can see all her creation and her kingdom from its heights.
Nicnevin is a goddess of witches, magic, crossroads, and is linked to the dark moon – invoke her for any ritual, rite or spell for your witchcraft as a Wiccan would invoke the god and goddess at every rite. She must be invoked to travel to the Otherworld or underworld and it is still best to ask for her protection when travelling after dark. Her domain and associations are much the same as Hekate and Hel’s, but with Scottish cultural differences of course. She can grant the ability to talk to spirits of all realms and to travel between worlds. She can also grant specific magical powers if you spend the night on one of her hills, a crossroads, or by the sea in a place where land, sea and sky are all represented. You can ask for a witch’s power, for divinatory skills, plant knowledge, skills with certain spells and witchcraft practices… To do this you must bring offerings for her, arrive at dusk, invoke Nicneven and wait for her. If she does not arrive, come the next night and the next… nine at the most. If she does not arrive by the ninth time, that power is not meant for you. If she does arrive – or sends a spirit in her place, state out loud what you wish and leave your offering right away. Do not scream, do not run away in fear or you will forfeit your gift. As a Scots goddess she prefers libations – your best bet is whiskey, mead, cider or a good ale. Do not cheap out, give her the good stuff or home brew if you make it.
To Invoke Nicnevin for Ritual or Rites
To invoke the Queen of Elphame, recite this call: “O Micol, Micol regina Pigmeorum veni” and first there will be a gentle wind, then a whirlwind, and then a storm in which she will appear in all her glory (Darker Superstitions of Scotland, p. 537)
To invoke her for a rite, hold a cup of libations to the sky and shout:
“Nicenevin! Nicnevin! Queen of Witches! I call to thee!
I ask in your grace that you part the veil of night,
And open the gate to the Otherworld.
As we give honor to our ancestors,
We give honor to you who guides them here!
Drink with us and aid our rite,
In the name of the grand Mother Witch!”
To invoke her during ritual sing The Witches’ Reel from 1591, to hear how it is to be sung listen to Green Crown’s version:
Cummer gae ye afore, cummer gae ye,
Gin ye winna gae, cummer let me,
Linkin lithely widdershins,
Cummers carlin cron and queyn
Roun gae we.
Cummer go ye before, cummer go ye
If ye willna go before, cummer let me
Loupin’ lightly widdershins
Kilted coats and fleein’ hair
Three times three
Cummer go ye before, cummer go ye
If ye willna go before, cummer let me
Whirlin’ skirlin’ widdershins
De’il tak the hindmost
Wha’er she be
The Witches’ Charm ~ To Dedicate Yourself to Nicnevin
Documented in the Orkeys by folklorist Walter Traill Dennison in the 1880s, the witches’ charm is a dedication ritual to the witch gods from whom the witch wishes to attain magical powers. During the full moon, go to a solitary beach on the sea. Turn yourself around three times witherlins and lay down on the beach at the ebb — the area between high and low tide. Place a stone at each of your outstretched hands and feet, one at the head, one at the chest cavity, and one over the heart totalling seven stones. Speak aloud:
O Mistress Queen of all that’s ill,
Come fill me with the Witches’ Skill,
And I shall serve with all my will.
Trow take me if I sin!
Trow take me if I fly!
Trow take me when I cannot!
Come take me now, and take me all,
Take lungs and liver, organs and feet,
Take me, take me, now I say!
From the brow of the head, to the tip of the toe.
Take all that’s out and in of me.
Take hair and hide and all to thee.
Take heart and brains, flesh, blood and bones,
Take all between the seven stones!
In the name of the Great Dark Witch!
Lay quiet and meditate for a few moments, then open your eyes, turn on your left side, rise and throw each stone individually into the sea crying: “Trow take me with each throw!”.