Neil & Alicen Geddes-Ward
Avalonia Author Interviews
Neil & Alicen Geddes-Ward are a well-known magickal couple in the UK, Neil is a magickal artist extrodinaire and both are known for their workshops and talks on Faeriecraft at conferences around the country.
They have just completed their first book together “Fairiecraft” which is published by Hay House, it will be available from June 2005 (USA July 2005, Australia October 2005)
In it they share their knowledge, experiences and other ideas about working with the Faeries based on their own work and research. They are also currently working on putting together what will be the first ever Museum & Gallery of Faeries in the UK!
We asked them about their work, the new book, Neil’s art, living in Orkney and much more. For more information on Neil’s artwork please visit his website – click here
( May 2005: NGW indicates answers by Neil Gedes-Ward, AGW indicates answers by Alicen Geddes-Ward, Q indicates question posed by Sorita)
Q. Your artwork is often featured in magazines such as Witchcraft & Wicca, Pagan Dawn and many more. It is also featured in your forthcoming book. When did you first realise you had a talent for art?
NGW: Well when I was at my infant school, at about aged 5 or 6, I saw all the other children paint the typical blue strip of sky at the top of the paintings above a house to represent the sky. I however, always thought somehow this was wrong and always painted my skies all the way down to the ground to meet the horizon. After all, this is how it looked to me when I looked out of the window. But it was just not my observation of skies. My father was a technical illustrator for Martin Baker, the Ejection Seat company. He used to draw very detailed exploded drawings of technical bits of how these seats fitted into aircraft. And this was long before anyone was using computers. So my ‘talent’ I think came from him, as all my four brothers could also draw. When I got older, I would go in for painting competitions on Blue Peter or Magpie and other shows, and perhaps come as a runner up or close second or something. All my school friends used to get me to draw their pictures for them for their school projects as well. There was also a very nice kind teacher called Mr Young, who called me his ‘little artist’. So I think I found out as time went on, that what I found to be very natural and sometimes easy for me, was quite difficult for others.
Q: How did the two of you first meet?
NGW: We met about 1989 at a pyschic delevoping circle at a ladies house who was running it. I was very surprised to meet a young girl at this time in a group such as this, as in all the other psyhic groups I had worked with, it was older people. I had before I met Alicen, felt a bit of a lone young ‘spook’ as my friends called me. Shortly afterwards Alicen suggested that we form our own young peoples developing group and that’s really how we got together.
Q: You both seem to have a passion for working with the Faerie-folk, when did this start?
NGW: Well even before I met Alicen, I was drawing limp little faeries in Sesame Seed Buns for a laugh! So I was a little bit influenced by them especialy through my wacky humour.
AGW: I began to work with the faeries quite by accident when I was 19 years old in the psychic developing circle where I met Neil. I wanted to become a medium and contact spirit guides and the deceased, but the faeries had other ideas! I was always known as the ‘fey one’ in the group as other members of the group would always see faeries around my chair. Whenever I was trying to meditate in the group, very often I had an elf who would do his best to interrupt me, pull my clothes and make me jump with all sorts of pranks. When we ‘hived off’ to start the young persons group, the same thing happened again and instead of contacting the intended spirit guides, nature spirits, moon goddesses and faerie folk were the ones who came through and wanted my attention. At last I got the message and began listening to them and when I began to do this in earnest, things really started to unfold for me spiritually.
Q: Your book “Faeriecraft, Treading the Path of Faerie Magic”, is due out soon. What can readers expect to learn from the book?
AGW: This is a book for beginners and the experienced Wiccan who has already dipped their toes into working with the faeries. Readers can learn how to work with the faeries and exactly how to go about this. The book stems from my own experiences and how by listening to the faeries, they have taught me the best ways to reach out to them. The book includes ways to create a faerie altar in your home, garden or wild place. How to meditate with the faeries. How to work safely with them and to observe their faerie lores. Faeriecraft also gives guidance on working with the faerie kings and queens, who are the equavalent to gods and goddesses in the faeriecraft pathway. There are seasonal rituals to work through and chapters on what to wear, which tools to use and how to use them to guide you through every step of a faerie ritual. A final chapter is the icing on the faerie cake; where rituals for a faerie baby naming ceremony, faerie wedding, coming of age and passing are also included. The book introduces Faeriecraft as a life pathway and priesthood, in the same way that Wicca is embraced. Faeriecraft is also illustrated throughout with Neil’s beautiful faerie images. He promises that there will be no distressed faeries in sesame seed buns in the book!
Q: You have recently moved to Orkney, an island of the North of Scotland -what inspired this move?
AGW: A myriad of reasons! One of the main goals was to open a gallery of Neil’s artwork; something which we could not achieve in the south east of England. We also wanted a simpler, less stressfull lifestyle and most importantly, somewhere safe and with a sense of freedom for our two children to grow up in. Scotland has always been close to our hearts and for fifteen years, this has been our dream to move to the wilds of Scotland. We both have Scottish heritage and have spent almost every holiday since we were married in Scotland. We just have a love for the countryside here and the slower way of life.
Q: There are many sacred places in Orkney, have you had time in your busy schedules to visit any of these?
We managed to visit some of these in the year before we moved here. We have visited The Ring of Brodgar, which is fantastically imposing and full of magical vibes. Here visitors are just able to walk into the stone circle, there is no fee, no fences and no gift shop; what a refreshing change! We have also seen The Stones of Stenness nearby. We still haven’t made it to Maeshowe, which we are desperate to visit. Perhaps later this summer we will get the chance?
Q: Alicen, whenever I have seen you at events over the last few years, I cannot help but be reminded of an elf-queen every time I see you. I don’t know whether or not this is as you are known for your connection with the little people, or whether there is something more to it. Is this something other people remarked on?
AGW: Thank you for the kind observation. I do not think I am unusual in this fey type of appearance among people who are drawn to work with the faeries. Most people I know who seek the faeries are physical reminders of the fey in varying degrees. This would seem a strange phenonema and one which I have been pondering over the reason for many years. I have recently learnt that people who are drawn to the faeries are humans with faerie souls who have incarnated as humans to do the faeries work in human form and become faerie ‘ambassadors’ for want of a better word. In answer to your question, I am always amused at how many people remark on my ‘faerie’ appearance, it is something I did not realise myself until it was pointed out to me and is not a conscious decision to appear in this way. A lady only today said to Neil that she was intrigued by my fey looks. There’s definitely something weird going on!
Q: On a recent visit to your website I noticed that there was a personal account of experience with the Goddess Hecate. Do you work with Hecate in your personal work and do you think there is any connection between Hecate and the faerie-folk?
AGW: At one time Hecate was very prominant in our lives, this was to do with the conception, pregnancy and birth of our daughter and also many miscarriages which I have had over the years. However, our relationship with her came to a natural end as we entered different spiritual and emotional phases. We have never consciously intended to work with Hecate, but she has made her mark on our lives and opened new psychic and creative doors for us. Some sources do link the way in which Hecate showed herself to us with the faeries; as a winged woman, bringing omens of death, birth and rebirth, however, at the time we did not connect the two. We keep an open mind on the faerie connection and Hecate.
Q: The Faerie are famed for being fickle and demanding, do you have any advice for someone who wants to work with them?
AGW / NGW : Faerielore is very simple, you just stick to their rules and you will be fine. The golden rules are; Never drink eat or dance with faerie folk. Also never say thank you, but leave them a small token of appreciation instead such as their favourites of honey, cake, bread, cream or milk. Respect and love animals and nature and the faeries will return that love to you with interest.
Q: Do you think that Faeries can be classed as part of the elemental kingdoms? If so how would you describe their nature?
AGW: This is a very good question as there is much confusion generally over whether faeries are elementals. Faeries are known to fall into four distinct categories:
Creatures and Demons – for example; unicorns, dragons, centaurs etc.
Faerie Enchanters and Enchantresses – humans with a faerie destiny or previous faerie incarnation.
Elfin or Faerie People – A race of faerie people known as the Trooping Faeries or the Faerie Aristocracy. The most well-known is the Irish Tuatha De Danaan.
The Elemental Faeries – These are the guardians and spirits of nature and fall into four categories; the sylphs of air, the salamanders of fire, the undines of water and the gnomes of the earth. These are truly the spiritual embodiments of nature and the intelligent consciousness of the land. They are very definitely faerie and belong to the kingdom of nature; that spiritual dimension with which we can reach through and touch Faerie Land. They are very different from the Elfin or Faerie People, who are much more like humans, but with magical traits. The elemental faeries are wilder, with a mutable form and are very much the intrinsic guardians of natural places, taking on the traits of their element in their appearance and ways. Their natures are governed by the element that they belong to. The sylph faeries of course would be quick and flighty. They are communicators; carrying messages from our souls and dreams on the breeze. They represent freedom, not just physical freedom, but of thought, of being, of existing.
Q: Which books would you recommend to someone wanting to find out more about working with the Faerie?
AGW / NGW: All books by Brian Froud as well as being beautiful to look at, are also very informative and contain valid and genuine information on faeries. Anna Franklin’s Encyclopedia of Faeries is brilliant and a great resource. Also all books by Kisma K. Stepanich are extremely worthwhile, she really knows her stuff and has researched them to the minutest detail.
Q: Neil, in your artwork you often use photographs of models as a basis for the figures. How do you choose your models?
NGW: Firstly, one of the chief things I would prefer when using a model for a painting or drawing, is that they are Pagan or of a similar ilk. This is because when you ask them to pose say with a chalice or athame etc, they know what you are on about and can get into the mood very comfortably and not think, what’s this guy on? I have used some people in some of my faerie drawings who were not pagan but they knew of pagan friends. But then again, they were very faerie orientated anyway. Another factor I use, is do they look good or right for the subject I have in mind. For instance, very recently at Witchfest England, I met a guy at our talk on Faeriecraft, whom looked very Gnome like. So I asked him if he would be interested in being a Gnome King for me. He was very flattered and excited to be chosen for a drawing. As this chap was a pagan anyway, I was halfway there so to speak. Some people just fit a Fey look and I ask them if I meet them at a conference, others just fit a very witchy look. A friend of mine, Matt, just to me looked like a Green Man type with his large build, long hair and beard. So I did a painting of him and called it ‘Lord of the Woods’. So sometimes a person’s look might inspire a picture and sometimes, I am thinking of a particular type of person who I would need to be a certain subject. It’s a very creative process. Incidently, I use photos rather than get the models to pose for me for hours on end, as this is a more cost effective method of time saving for both me and the model. They only have to pose for about an hour and I can take loads of photos for different purposes.I might end up with 2 or 3 paintings from one photo shoot.
(If you are interested in an example of how Neil paints- click here)
Q: Do you have a favourite painting out of the many you have done? Why?
NGW: Well I mentioned Lord of the Woods above, and this for some reason, attracts me. Manypeople have said that they seem to recognise the character’s face in this picture as someone they know. This picture has been taken all over the UK, and everywhere people say, I know a bloke who just looks like him! So they buy a print of it! One guy I spoke to recently said that whenever he felt depressed and down, he would come downstairs and see this picture and it would always make him smile! So it’s nice to know that I can cheer people up through my art. Other favourites include The Witching Hour and Gallows Wake. But the public like those ones too!
Q: Any other exciting projects that you are working on and can tell us about?
Yes, we are presently putting together possibly the first Museum and Gallery of Faeries ever in the UK. It will be called ‘Orkney Faerie Museum and Gallery’, and it will be based on the Island of Westray in Orkney. We hope to be open by early August 2005, maybe sooner. It will feature my Faerie Art of drawings and paintings, but also displays including ‘One of a kind’ Faerie sculptures , some made by me, and some made by another talented Faerie Artist. It will concentrate on the Faerie Legends of Orkney and spread out a little to other Faerie Legends that we know of from elsewhere.It will also be a focal point for those practicing Faeriecraft, as we will be holding residential workshops. With all the attractions of Stone Circles and burial mounds and sacred places in Orkney, it will be an added bonus for visitors to these mystical Isles!
Neil & Alicen are both giving workshops and talks at Witchfest conferences this year – they also usually have a stall exhibiting prints of Neil’s artwork, greeting cards, Alicen’s Faerie CD’s, Journey to the Faeries, and The Faerie Cottage, which are both meditational CD’s that Alicen and Neil worked on with New Age Musician Llewellyn – and of course as soon as the book is available they should have that available too. For more information on Witchfest please – click here
Thank you to Alicen & Neil Geddes-Ward for taking the time and answering all our questions! We hope you have enjoyed reading this interview as much as we enjoyed putting it together. For permission to reproduce this article please contact us first – (c) Alicen & Neil Geddess-Ward & Avalonia. Artwork & Photographs (c) Neil & Alicen Geddes-Ward.