author interviews


The Guises of The Morrigan
Irish Goddess of Sex & Battle – Her Myths, Powers & Mysteries
David Rankine & Sorita D’Este

Published by Avalonia

Review by Dr Nina Lazarus
From Bestower of Sovereignty to Earth Goddess, Goddess of Sex & Battle to Lady of the Beasts & Faery Queen and through the potent magic and sorcery which she uses to assume a variety of animal forms, the Morrígan is the most powerful of the Celtic Goddesses.

This book brings together for the first time the myths, powers & mysteries of the Morrígan to weave a complex tapestry showing her parallels to many other Goddesses and figures from both British and Gallic folklore, including Morgan Le Fay, the Banshee, Black Annis, Dana, Epona, the Glaistig, Grián, Modron, Nantosuelta and Rhiannon to name but a few.

Her roles in the territorial wars with the Fir Bolgs & the Fomorians, and as tutelary Goddess to the ill-fated Cú Chulainn are explored in detail. Her many guises, including that of Badb, Macha and Nemain, as well as that of the wise crone, the Cailleach, together with her roles in shaping the land, as the Washer at the Ford and as Faery Queen are explored alongside her better known roles as Goddess of Sex & Battle, are brought together in this volume for the first time.

The continued dominion of The Morrígan in mythology, folklore and literature shows the significant status that she held in the ancient Celtic world and continues to enjoy today.

This book will be of interest to anyone with an interest in Irish and British folklore, and of course to Pagans and Witches who work with The Morrigan!

Janet Farrar
Author Interview

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Janet Farrar is one of the most experienced Priestesses in the modern Pagan and Wiccan community. With her late husband Stewart Farrar, she co-authored many books on Witchcraft – including the classic “Eight Sabbats for Witches” and “What Witches Do”, which were subsequently released as “The Witches Bible”. She has been teaching and writing since the early 1970’s and lives in Ireland, from where she continues her work today with her partner Gavin Bone.

You can find out more about Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone by visiting their website: http://www.wicca.utvinternet.com

Interview by Sorita D’Este; Interview Date: January 2007

Please note: Many of the questions you will find below were inspired by questions by members of the Avalonia Community Discussion Forum. (ed. closed Beltane 2008)

All questions are indicated by “Q” and answers by Janet Farrar as “Janet”.

(c) Avalonia & Janet Farrar 2007.
All rights reserved, please do not reproduce this article without the written permission of the author(s). You are however welcome to share this interview with friends by linking to this page.

Without further chit-chat …
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THE INTERVIEW

Avalonia Interviews…
Janet Farrar
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Q -. When there is talk about Wiccan books, it is inevitable that one of the many books you wrote with your late husband Stewart Farrar, is mentioned. Looking back over the years, how do you think your own views have changed?

Janet – Both our views (mine and Gavin’s) have changed over the years, but the same is true of anyone who practises a spiritual path. Certainly I am not as traditionally orientated as I use to be. Stewart and myself really ceased calling ourselves ‘Alexandrian’ when we moved to Ireland in 1976. It was impossible to practise in an Alexandrian fashion and connect with the mythology and spirit of the land here. I think I’m broader in my outlook, but that comes I think from meeting witches all over the world as well as having contact with several native cultures, such as the Lesotho Sangoma, genuine Native American and Maori. I think having contact with these cultures has put my practises and beliefs into perspective.

Q – Do you still consider yourself to be a “Wiccan”?

Janet – What does that actually mean? People keep moving the goal posts on the word. It seems to mean something different wherever I go. Some seem to think it means that you are only from a Gardnerian or Alexandrian background; others see it as having a much broader meaning as I always have. It certainly seems to mean something different now to when I first became involved in the Craft in 1970, when it was used as a word of convenience if you didn’t want to frighten people with the term ‘witch’. It is worth noting that none of ours nor Doreen Valiente’s or any of the books of that period for that matter used the term ‘Wiccan’ on the title. They always used the term ‘witch’ or ‘witchcraft’.

Am I a ‘witch’; most definitely and it is the preferred term for myself. I rarely use the term Wiccan for the already mentioned reasons. It now means too many things to be really defining. Must admit, I do like the term ‘Sorceress’, it has a certain ring to it (I’m saying that with a twinkle in my eye!) In the end these terms ‘witch’, ‘Wiccan’, etc are all just words. They really don’t convey our true individual paths. They are useful boxes and we should remember that or we risk falling into sectarian conflict over who is and isn’t a Wiccan. This belongs in Christianity not in paganism.

Q – Opinions on Alex Sanders vary quite considerably – We have heard him called a Magus, a Charlatan, a Mad Man, a Genius and many other things. What are your own opinions on the man and his work?

Janet – I loved Alex, I owe him a lot. He was my original initiator. All of the things you have said about him above I consider being true. He was rogue, he could be kind, he could be cruel, he was a human being. He was what was needed in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s to get the witchcraft movement jump started. His work was incredibly important, as much as Gerald Gardners.

Without him several major ‘movers’ in Wicca wouldn’t be here today including myself, but if he was running a coven like he was in 1970 and I was asked if I would recommend anyone joining I would give a firm ‘No!’

Q – How do you feel your work to date was influenced by the work you did with Alex and Maxine in the early 1970’s?

Janet – It gave Stewart and myself a firm base to work from, but we quickly moved away from the Ceremonial Magic side when we moved to Ireland. After that Doreen Valiente became more of an influence on us. I don’t think people realise how eclectic Alex could be. He was more than happy to go ‘outside the box’ when he needed to. I think that influence has remained with me.

Q- What advice would you give to someone who is newly interested in Paganism or Witchcraft?

Janet – Shop around! Stewart and myself joined witchcraft and Alex and Maxine’s coven because that’s all there was around at the time. Now there’s much more choice: Druidism, Asatru, Chaos Magic and several different forms of Wicca. Don’t try to fit yourself in the box – find the box that fits you. Unfortunately, there are still the egomaniacs setting themselves up as teachers who have only read a few books and have no experience, but you find that in every field. If your looking for a teacher they must have humility, a sense of humour and more importantly say ‘I’m still learning’! But the most important teachers are yourself and the Gods; you can learn more from life than you can from any book or training course.

Q – Who, would you say, inspired you the most in your own path through the Mysteries?

Janet – I think principally Doreen Valiente, for her humour and earthiness. She taught me to stop taking myself so seriously. I think we all do that when we’re young, I certainly did! Doreen called a spade, a spade. Many years ago she gave me a task, and no, I’m not saying what that task was, but suffice to say it was not pleasant to perform. I do not regret doing it; that was my personal ‘honing in fire’. It cost me many friends and left me out on a limb for a while, but by the gods it was worth the flak it caused. One day her private letters to Stewart and myself will be made open to the Craft and then all will be revealed. We have a treasure trove of ‘insights’ from our Renee.

Doreen, Lois, Rae Bone always treated Stewart and myself as people, not Alexandrians. Lois always came over as serene and a very real human being. She and Wilf (her husband) were always special to Stewart and myself. Gavin met her for the first time a couple of years ago and adored her. They got on like a house on fire, probably because they’re both Nurses. It’s one thing he has expressed about these grand old ladies of the Craft ‘They are so grounded!’

Q- As one of the best known Priestesses in the modern Pagan community, how do you think that public opinion of Witchcraft and Paganism has changed over the last few decades?

Janet – This really depends on where you are? Every country is different. Certainly in the UK, Ireland and some areas of the US it has become much more acceptable amongst the general public. Certainly the man or woman in the street is more familiar with the word ‘Wicca’ and generally realises it isn’t devil worship. This certainly wasn’t true in the ‘70’s. As a movement, we are doing better with public relations than ever but we still need to get ‘out of the closet’ and realise that we are part of a bigger society.

Q – If you could go back in time and change one thing you did,
what would it be?

Janet – Hard question. All experiences are learning experiences. So, if there was only one (and I presume the question is Craft orientated), it would be that I could have learnt not to be so soft on people who technically needed a good kick in the Yesods! It has taken me the best part of 50 years to really say ‘No!’ to people. That is what I would want to change the most. As Doreen put it to me ‘sometimes the Lords of Karma wear blue uniforms’. If a person steals from you go to the police, even if that person is Craft. If it in not a police matter, a good kick in the Yesods will suffice! Well, there is one other thing. Back in the ‘80’s Stewart and myself appeared on BBC show one Halloween with several well-known witches as well as born again Christians. I was asked by the presenter: ‘so, what do witches actually do at Halloween?’ and I replied ‘Well we call back the dead ritually and then we play with our nuts…’ I think I might change that!

Q- What do you consider the highlights of your own writing career to be?

Janet – I don’t think there’s ever been just one highlight as such. Definitely co-authoring Eight Sabbats for Witches. It was such a wonderful book to research. The wealth of folklore we discovered and experienced here in Ireland was breathtaking. The market at the moment is flooded with witchcraft books, some good, some appalling. 9/11 in the US had a terrible effect on the book market in general, and sadly many publishers are under pressure from Christian fundamentalism to stop publishing books on the subject. In the long term, however this may have a positive effect. It may mean that only truly new concepts in Craft literature will be published, that gives many of us old writers time to draw breath, learn new skills and ideas and hopefully publish books that will be as challenging for all of us as I have found Eight Sabbats to have been. It will also pave the way for some bright young minds to make names for themselves in Craft literature.

Also, Stewart and I were very proud to be asked by Hayley Mills (the actress) to do a piece on the Craft to go into her book “My God”. We were in the book alongside such famous people and Religious leaders as the Dali Lama. All the proceeds went to the “Save The Children Fund”. But of course, it’s not just a writing career anymore. It’s now also a career as an international lecturer on the subject. It feels weird just saying that, as it was something I never dreamed of happening when I first came into the Craft. In which case, I think I think it also has to be being made honouree Lesotho Sangoma, the traditional healers in South Africa. I was very touched by what they said to Gavin and myself. There was recognition that we were the same regardless of culture or race or practise. The singing and dancing went on for two days, and we were presented on the first day with our elders staffs. I keep my beaded staff proudly next to our altar.

Q- These days you do a lot of your writing with Gavin Bone. How does working with Gavin compare to working with Stewart?

Janet – Stewart was an old school writer. Dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s. Gavin isn’t and he’s the first to point out that he regards himself as a researcher rather than a writer. His real forte is in teaching, and this is obvious if you’ve ever been in one of our practical workshops. He has an ability to simplify difficult subjects so that any can understand, making them interesting. Stewart saw this immediately in him when they worked together on the first collaborative book The Pagan Path, so much so that he left all the material content of The Healing Craft to Gavin, apart from some of the rituals. Stewart would also sit down everyday and write a piece, plodding along whilst Gavin is a spontaneous writer. He gets sudden rushes of inspiration from goddess knows where and doesn’t stop writing until he’s finished.

Q- You have travelled all over the world teaching and promoting your work. Do you think that the views held within the communities here in the UK, compared to that of the USA, Europe, Australasia etc are significantly different from each other?

Janet – Considerably, but that is some thing that we should expect within Wicca. It isn’t a stagnant tradition, it’s shaped by the societies and attitudes it comes from. For example, the US is a young vibrant culture, therefore we can expect Wicca there to be enthusiastic and forward thinking. That is not to say that this isn’t true amongst some people in the UK, but it is certainly more noticeable; and there are of course ‘old Guards’ in the US who make most traditional Gardnerians in the UK look positively revolutionary! Australia has an extreme culture and has had to deal with the whole Southern hemisphere issue regarding Circle Casting and Festivals. This has developed in different ways to the UK. No one-way is right, just different according to cultural needs.

Q- One of the questions raised by a couple of people on the Forums were in regards to fees charged for workshops and teaching. Do you feel that it is justified for Pagan Priests and Priestesses to charge a fee for courses, workshops and classes?

Janet – If those teaching weren’t able to charge for their time there would be no incentive for them to teach. Why bother? Why go through all that hassle? This idea of not charging comes from one statement in the Gardnerian Book of Shadows – Do not charge members of the Craft. Well, we certainly don’t charge members of the Craft for spell work, nor do we charge members of our coven for training. But when it comes to public workshops, lectures and teaching ‘The workman is worthy of his hire.’ We do keep our fees down. It’s our policy to go with local rates. This is because at one point we were actually told off by several speakers for undercharging! We were threatening to put them out of business. We also feel it is the responsibility of those charging to have some sort of bursary scheme for those who can’t necessarily afford the fees. We always do this.

Q – Quite a few people from the Avalonia Community Forums were interested in asking you about your book “Progressive Witchcraft” as of course David Rankine who was one of the authors of “Magick Without Peers – a Course in Progressive Witchcraft…” is a contributor to Avalonia (& my partner!). When the book was released there were mixed reviews and also of course an immediate comparison in some circles to the work done by the “Progressive Witchcraft Network” etc. How do you feel about the controversy and confusion caused by the use of the name?

Janet – Actually we weren’t aware of any confusion until this interview. Obviously it was limited to a small group of individuals. We had been in dialogue with David Rankine regarding the term before it was released and he had no problems with its use. We were both coming from the same direction and using the term Progressive as an adjective rather than a term for a tradition. To quote David Rankine on this: ‘We used the term progressive witchcraft to describe practice rather than a tradition as you are now doing’. As progressive witchcraft is a practise, the practise of a form of witchcraft, which is forward thinking no body, can really object to the others using the term. We did of course make a point of referencing David and Karin Rainbird within the book as being the first to use the term.

As for reviews, well on the whole they were pretty positive. I certainly wouldn’t agree that they were all mixed, possibly in the UK but certainly not internationally. Any good review will point out failings in a piece of literature, you should expect this. Likewise, even a very negative review should have a redeeming point. I certainly wouldn’t trust the motives behind a review that is completely positive or completely negative, and any good publisher will also tell you that. The reviewer is far from being objective and they will have some sort of axe to grind. The real tester of a book is sales, and sales of Progressive Witchcraft have steadily increased since its release date. In fact, in the last year we have continually heard positive comments about the book as the word about it gets around.

Q- Whilst we are on the subject of controversies: What are your views on sex, and sexual symbolism in the Craft? Does it, in your opinion, play an important role?

Janet – Certainly within our own practise sexual symbolism continues to play an important part, as it should in any true mystery tradition, which works in the areas of Shadow and Bright-Shadow. We still live in a sexually repressed society, so allowing that repressed nature out is still necessary if you are going to understand yourself and approach the Mysteries. Saying that we certainly don’t galavant around naked all the time in ritual – it’s bloody cold in Ireland – we reserve skyclad for specific occasions. We do teach sex based magic including a revised form of Great Rite, but this is restricted to couples in the Coven and all personal practises are private not public.

Q- How do you deal with people who criticise you for your views and practices?

Janet – To those people who criticise us or anyone else in the Craft just for the sake of criticising, I say ‘get a life!’ If someone has a genuine criticism then I welcome that, it leads or should lead to positive discussion. Unfortunately, in the British Craft scene particularly there is a tendency to ‘begrudgery’; criticism behind people’s backs purely out of envy because someone is perceived as having achieved some sort of higher status. This has come about because individuals have come to see Wicca as some sort of social ladder rather than a spiritual path.

I once heard a wonderfully funny statement: ‘The Farrars are famous, for being famous’. I thought that was hysterical. I always thought Stewart and myself were well known for writing books on witchcraft!

I am well known amongst those who do really know me for having a wicked sense of humour. I enjoy ‘shaking the tree’ to see what falls out! But if someone wants to truly discuss or criticise Stewart, Gavin or myself then I will address his or her criticism seriously. I am happy to answer genuine questions and am willing to back up my arguments. But I will not get involved in interpersonal conflicts or ‘bitchcraft’.

An example, the classic criticism against Stewart and myself is ‘They gave away the secrets of the Craft in Eight Sabbats (A Witches’ Bible) and the contents of the BOS!’ The Sabbats and most of the rituals in these books were contructs of Stewart and myself, with added material from the original BOS. It was Doreen Valiente who wrote the BOS material we were given and it was she who gave us permission to use it. As Doreen said to us in a letter at the time: ‘Some pieces of Geralds and much of it mine. I technically own the copyright PUBLISH AND BE DAMNED!’ Doreen wanted it published so we went for it! As for the technical info. on the Sabbats most of it came from an Irish writer called Maire McNeill and her book Festival of Lughnasa.

It is an old writers saying: ‘Those who can, do. Those who can’t criticise’. Most of the movers and shakers in the Craft get criticised. It’s par for the course, and I think I speak for all of us. Positive critique is good for the soul, it makes us think about our work. Criticism for the sake of itself is water off of a Duck’s back! If you want to criticise someone because they do something different to you, go back to a Christian Church where you belong!

Q- Do you feel that the Wiccan Tradition is at risk of becoming a “Religion of the Book” with so much emphasis placed on lineage, Books of Shadows, “Craft Laws” and “traditional” teachings in some circles?

Janet – There’s been a tendency by some to see these as being essential to being a Wiccan. This has resulted over the years in conflicts and ‘witchwars’ between individuals, covens and traditions on who is and isn’t a Wiccan. I certainly don’t believe just because somebody has the right lineage, a word for word handed down Book of Shadows, and follows the Craft Laws word for word that this makes automatically makes them a ‘Good Wiccan’. Wicca has to be more than just these practises. I have met many people who call themselves ‘Wiccan’ who do not have any of these but to quote Doreen Valiente ‘They have that look in the eye! Wicca has to be about spirituality, and your practises should reflect that, not the other way around. If not, we fall into the same mistakes monotheism made, going first into fixed doctrines and then into dogma. I have seen this already occurring in some areas of the Wiccan community. I’d rather taken on someone in my coven that has that look and no degrees or lineage, than someone who has a 3rd Degree from a good source, but has no understanding of the spirituality of witchcraft in their soul!

Apart from anything else, none of what you have mentioned is really that old: Lineage, Book of Shadows, Craft Laws, etc in witchcraft, don’t go back before Gardner and the 1950’s. They aren’t traditional to witchcraft. Gardner brought lineage in from Freemasonry; the term Book of Shadows is Middle Eastern and Gardner created the Craft Laws after an argument with Doreen Valiente! As for the ‘traditional teachings’ it’s never occurred to a lot of people that these have changed over the years with material added and taken away by various people, which is what should happen. Most of the ‘traditional material’ I have seen over the years, and we do have quite a collection of BOSs from several traditions, was all incorporated from the literature of the period and not from any ancient handed down source. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve seen ‘traditional teachings’ which have included material taken from our books as well as other authors, which they or we had written themselves! Alex once tried to pass off a handfasting ritual written by Stewart as from ‘an old traditional source’ claiming that it was ancient and handed down through his family! We need to stop this sort of self-deception and accept that Wicca is a new and still developing tradition, which is only 50 years young.

I believe that we’re suppose to be emulating Gardner, Sanders etc. not dwelling on their every word as though they were prophets in the same way that Christianity does. If they can create rituals, create systems, why can’t we? Wicca is supposed to be a religion of life, of creativity, of connection to Spirit. It is not suppose to be about replacing old dogmas with new ones because people are not willing to let go or deal with the norms and values they were brought up with in a Christian culture. Once you have come face to face with the underworld mysteries, and have made that connection to a specific face of the divine, you begin to realise that all of these things, lineage, BOS etc. are just a system; icing on the cake, but not the cake itself.

Q- I noticed that you say on your website that your group is associated with the Aquarian Tabernacle Church in Ireland. Can you tell us more about this?

Janet – ATC Ireland was set up to get Wicca and paganism in Ireland legally accepted. Ireland, regardless of its Roman Catholic past is a very progressive country. Most people don’t realise that unlike the UK it is actually a secular state. Church and State are not linked legally. We cannot be attacked for our religion here as the constitution protects us under a law forbidding ‘incitement to religious hatred’. Ireland is also a signatory to the EEC and UN’s charters on human rights.

It was necessary for us though to define Wicca as a religion, which we did under law. Now if Wiccans or pagans are discriminated against or have any form of malicious behaviour used against them, the perpetrators are actually committing a crime.

We are clergy in ATC Ireland. I rarely use the term Reverend to describe myself though. I do describe myself as ‘Clergy’. I consider that to be a job description rather than a hierarchical title. Perhaps I might call myself ‘the Irreverend Janet Farrar!’
Fun / General Questions
What is your favourite colour?

Love them all, but Autumnal colours are my strong favourites; yummy, rich and warm.
Have you got any pets?

Yes, 5 cats and a Goat called Fanny. At one time Stewart and myself lived with my father and two coven members in a huge Georgian House. Between us we had 5 Dogs, 22 Cats, 8 Horses and Ponies, a Tortoise, 40 assorted Chickens, Ducks and Guinea Fowl, a Donkey, 10 Rabbits, a Seagull and a Rook. Thank the God and Goddess for understanding Landlords!
Have you got any children?

Not of my own, just everyone else’s Kids. Oh, the joy of being Aunty Jan!
Which is your favourite Goddess?

Freya is my special Lady. Bast, because of my Cats. Kali and the Durga because I like strong women. Isis because of my darling Stewart. Sekmet because kitty has claws, and Artemis, who saved my life from a psychotic Gynaecologist! Heck, I love them all, but my beloved Freya is my supreme Goddess.
Which is your favourite fruit?

Strawberries, Grapes, Starfruit and Plums.
Do you like Marmite?

Oh, yes! In hot water as a drink. I also adore Twiglets.
What starsign are you?

Cancer. June 24th, so I am close to a Gemini cusp. I have Moon in Scorpio, and Libra rising.

Q- Are there any exciting new projects you are working on that you would like to share with our visitors?

Janet – At the moment I’m very excited about Stewart’s novels being re-released. Both Omega and Twelve Maidens should be in the shops by the end of February. Apart from that we do have a very busy year, in fact our calendar is already booked and we’re already being asked about 2008. At present our main emphasis of work is in Trance-Prophecy. This came out of Drawing Down the Moon initially, but we have since looked at several other traditions including Voudon and Santeria. This is because found several gaps in the Wiccan process from the perspective of trance. We are doing several practical workshops on the subject over the next year and we are currently working on a book on the subject. We are also venturing in multi-media: on-line seminars and DVD-Video.

Another book is also in the pipeline. It’s going to be called “Sex Magic for the Solitary Practitioner”. Not sure who we’re going to dedicate that to yet, but I’m sure someone will come to mind…

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We would like to thank Janet Farrar for taking the time to do this interview, and for giving such forthright answers to the questions posed. It has been an absolute pleasure and privilege to be able to include this here for visitors to Avalonia. Best still to see such a wicked sense of humour alive and well within the modern Pagan community, where so many sometimes take themselves way too seriously!

You can find out more about Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone by visiting their website: http://www.wicca.utvinternet.com

Aaron Leitch
Author Interview

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Aaron Leitch is the author of Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires: The Classical Texts of Magick Deciphered a book that should interest all students of grimoire and ceremonial magick, as well as related practices. You can find out more about Aaron by visiting his website: http://kheph777.tripod.com

“Aaron Leitch has been a scholar and spiritual seeker for nearly two decades. His explorations have taken him into many fascinating areas of human spirituality, their history and their modern practice. His writings (both in print and on the web) cover such varied fields as Middle Eastern Religion and Mythology, Shamanism, Neoplatonism, Hermeticism and Alchemy, Traditional Wicca and Neopaganism, The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Thelema, Angelology, Qabalah, Enochiana, African Diaspora Religions, Pow-wow and Hoodoo folk traditions, Psychology and Consciousness Expansion, Cyberspace, Modern Social Commentary, and several student resources. His most recent project is Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires, released by Llewellyn Worldwide in October 2005.”

Interview by Sorita D’Este; Interview Date: January 2007
(c) Avalonia & Aaron Leitch 2007.

All rights reserved, please do not reproduce this article without the written permission of the author(s). You are welcome to share this interview with friends by linking to this page.

Without further ado….
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THE INTERVIEW
Avalonia Interviews
AARON LEITCH
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[Avalonia: Aaron Leitch, with his fiance Carrie.]

Sorita: Aaron, you were obviously magickally active in your teens, what was your first experience of ritual within a group context and how did it affect you?

Aaron: I have been magickally active since I was about 15. However, my earliest years were very solitary. I knew a few others who were interested in occult subjects – but none of us had any direction or the slightest clue what books to read, etc. We were sub-urbanite kids whose closest encounter with real occultism was probably the Ouija board! On my own, I was developing a kind of intuitive image-magick (or talismanic magick), and checking out any occult-related book I could find from the public library.

I didn’t encounter real occultists until I struck out on my own for the first time at 18- drawn to the Larkspur Renaissance Faire (just south of Denver, Colorado). I joined the Faire as a stage magician, and soon discovered that it was pretty much the heart of the Denver Pagan community. It was there I embraced Neopaganism, fell in with a group of fellow Witches and moved to Denver. Thus, my first group ritual experiences were among “non-denominational” Wiccans and Neopagans in the campsite behind the Larkspur Faire, and a few within the Faire site itself! Then, of course, I attended or participated in all sorts of rituals around Denver for the months I lived there. It was many years before I found another community of occultists that were as sincere and “real” as the bulk of the Denver Pagan community!

How did it affect me? Wow! It was literally the starting-point of my entire life. It was not only my coming-of-age experience, but also the initiation of my mystical quest. It shaped my view of the world, and it is the very time and place where I decided to do exactly what I do today.

Sorita : Who would you say have been the biggest influences on your magickal development and why?

Aaron: Now that question is a bit hard to answer! There have been so many people that have influenced me along my path- I could probably write a book about that subject alone! Should it start with those few people among my friends and family who rebelled against the typical Southern Christian mould and taught me that there IS a mystical side to the universe? My mother chose to embrace her psychic gifts, and regularly strove to produce New Testament-style miracles. My father, a strict atheist, even taught me to accept mathematical infinity- meaning the Universe has no true beginning or end, and all things are possible in that infinity. (We were camping in the mountains at the time – debating whether or not the Big Bang was really the “beginning” of the Universe.)

Then, of course, there are those folks in Denver. I admit that what I do today does not draw a lot from Neopaganism- but I wouldn’t change my origins in the hip 90s Neopagan movement (just a heartbeat before it was co-opted by the mass media. There was no “The Craft” or “Charmed” or “Buffy” when I was in Denver!). It was also one of my brothers there that handed me my first copy of “Modern Magick” by Donald Michael Kraig – which truly launched me on my magickal path.

And that, of course, brings me to all of the incredible authors that have influenced me. Don Kraig is first and foremost as my magickal “fore parent.” Then there were Israel Regardie, Chic and Tabatha Cicero, Stuart Myers and others. Some of these folks I’ve even had the incredible fortune of knowing personally, and they’ve taught me a heck of a lot! After them, of course, have to come the authors of the classical grimoires – such as Agrippa, Dee, and the hundreds of unknown scribes who preserved the occult secrets I practice today! There are also Robert Heinlein, Robert Anton Wilson, Douglas Rushkoff and a host of other authors that have shaped my world-view over the years.

And finally, I should also mention that there are a few secret adepts in my life – who have been working for a *very* long time, but have produced no writings, have no official associations and whose names you would not know. Yet, they have a profound affect on the people with whom they come into contact. I have learned vast amounts of knowledge thanks to their years of experience.

Aaron Leitch – Author of the “Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires”Sorita : You say that you feel the grimoires reflect a survival of shamanism in medieval Europe? Beyond the parallels you draw with non-European traditions, what evidence do you feel there is for this conclusion?

Aaron: My first clue to the shamanic nature of the grimoires was certainly thanks to the parallels they shared with such traditions as the Afro-Caribbean religions, American Powwow and Hoodoo folk traditions, etc. As I continued my research, I found examples of grimoire-style practices in shamanic cultures around the world. (Keep in mind I’m using the term “shamanism” in its purely generic, anthropological sense.) Those are the parallels you mentioned in your question. However, all of those parallels are just illustrations of the basic premise. What is most important is to arrive at a workable definition of “shamanism”, and then see if that definition applies to the material recorded in the European grimoires.

First, what does an anthropologist mean when he or she describes a practice as “shamanic”? I looked into the work of several authorities on the subject – scholars like Mircea Eliade, James Davila, and even modern shamans like Jim DeKorn and Robert Anton Wilson (just to name a few). What I found wasn’t so much a cohesive definition of “shamanism’ as much as a list of practices that *collectively* make a tradition shamanic. Shamans engage in trance visions (involving celestial flights, journeys into the underworld, etc). They employ spirit familiars. They perform direct (face-to-face) intercessions with the Gods on behalf of their tribe/community. Plus they perform very specific social roles – such as presiding over the various passages of life (birth, coming of age, death and more), casting out demons and curing sickness. While priests can sometimes fulfill these same social roles, the shaman never works under the authority of an organized temple priesthood. In fact, where the priest is generally educated in his art in a university-style setting, the shaman most often learns his art directly from his spiritual Patrons and familiars.

Finally, does all of this apply to the Solomonic grimoires? I believe it does! As I illustrate in “Secrets…”, there are plenty of grimoiric spells to create visions, open gateways into other realms, etc. There is no question that the grimoires teach the summoning of spirit familiars and guardian Angels who can teach the aspirant all kinds of magickal secrets. Plus, a review of medieval records shows that the grimoiric mages did indeed fulfill many of the social roles of the shaman- performing spells for love, protection, finding lost items, exorcising spirits, etc. It is true that many of them were employed in some manner by the Church – but what we see in their grimoires were practices most definitely *not* sanctioned by the Church authorities. These “clerical shamans” were, in fact, the very first victims of the infamous Inquisitions.

Sorita: In “Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires” you cover most of the themes in that corpus of material clearly and concisely. Was there any particular reason why you left out the Olympic Spirits?

Aaron: Yes there is indeed a reason. Though it isn’t really a reason why I *excluded* the Olympic Spirits, so much as a specific reason I *included* those Angels I did. As I wrote “Secrets…” I kept an eye toward what I intended to write in my later work on Dee’s magickal system. In that sense, “Secrets…” will serve as a primer for the more advanced Enochian work. If you take a close look at the Angels listed (in “grimoire fashion”) in chapter eight, you’ll find that most of them are found in Dee’s Enochian magick.

The only exception to that are the seven Planetary Intelligences. I included them because I have personally worked with some of them (mainly Iophiel and Tiriel). These Angels are great to work with, especially for beginners in the Art. Plus, They are necessary to work with the Planetary Spirits I list in chapter twelve.

I should also add that the Intelligences and the Olympic Spirits are very similar creatures. As are the Planetary Angels (Sabathiel, Zedekiel, etc) and even Dee’s Heptarchic Royalty.

Sorita: You explore the relevance of the concepts of mental circuitry espoused by Leary and developed by Robert Anton Wilson in your book. Do you feel the scientific approach of mental circuitry represents an attitude that is lacking in modern magick?

Aaron: I don’t think that it is “lacking” in the sense that it isn’t available. If you look into the Thelemic community, they are very aware of the consciousness expansion movement- as embodied by folks like Wilson and Leary. However, I do believe that material has had a limited penetration into the Neopagan, Golden Dawn and other magickal communities. That is why I included such a detailed presentation of the Eight Circuits of Consciousness, the process of Sensory Deprivation, the ritual use of psychotropics, etc. in “Secrets…” – because I knew my book would have an appeal across many community boundaries, and it would be the first introduction to those concepts for many non-Thelemic readers. (Meanwhile, the Thelemites surely are thrilled to see it there!)

However, while we are on this subject, I should also point out that I do *not* agree with the “psychology as magick” mindset! The study of the human mind is certainly indispensable to the magickal path – it is as important as an engine is to a car. Yet, psychology is no more “magick” than an engine is “a car.” (That’s why I put the psychology in “Secrets…” in the first part- the theoretical material, but did not mention it in the second part- the practical material.)

To put it simply, I accept Robert Heinlein’s concept that “Reality as Myth” is as valid a world view as “Reality as Science.” In fact, I go one further and suggest that each one compliments the other. (If you’ve read Francis Yates’ “Rosicrucian Enlightenment”, you’ll have an idea what I’m getting at.)

Sorita : Is there a particular grimoire that you prefer to the others? What is it and why is this the case?

Aaron: You bet! There is only one grimoire I have worked completely all the way through, and I continue to practice it as my primary system to this very day: the Book of Abramelin. That grimoire preserves in the Western Mystery Tradition the universal formula of Priesthood Initiation. It is found in different forms in all cultures that produce either shamans or priests (in other words- all cultures!). It is the foundation of everything I do today.

Of course, I also work a lot of “generic” Solomonic magick- as you can see in the second half of the Key of Solomon the King, or in the second half of “Secrets…” (I mainly work with the Seven Archangels- Cassiel, Sachiel and that lot. You can read two separate evocations of the Archangel Michael on my MySpace Blog.) Plus I’m working on putting together a full set of Enochian tools and furniture *exactly* as the Angels instruct in Dee’s records. Yet, even when I do this kind of work, I begin by going into my Oratory and invoking my Holy Guardian Angel first.

Sorita : You are involved with the online Hermetic Sanctuary of Ma’at within the Stella Matutina. What are the main differences between the work of this order and the other online Golden Dawn variants around today?

Aaron: Most of the online Golden Dawn schools – and even most of the physical ones!- have created their own unique versions of the Golden Dawn system. And that’s just great, because it allows aspirants a choice between different philosophies and approaches, so they can find what works best for them. The Sanctuary of Ma’at is unique in its own right, because we chose to pick up the very same Stella Matutina tradition published by Israel Regardie and expanded by Chic and Tabatha Cicero. (Their book “Self Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition” serves as our primary text book.) Thus, what we offer is the Traditional GD approach.

Of course, keep in mind that the Sanctuary of Ma’at is just an online school. Students advance by taking tests, and performing either Self-Initiation ceremonies at home or finding others to perform full group Rites. However, it does not give any kind of official lineage or membership in a physical Order. The Sanctuary of Ma’at is, in fact, run by a very real-world Order that has taken the name “Stella Matutina.” Members of the Sanctuary of Ma’at are not required to join the Stella Matutina, but are invited to do so. (They have to begin again in Neophyte and take the official Temple initiations, in person, but their tests are waived.)

You can learn more about the Ordo Stella Matutina and the Sanctuary of Ma’at at http://www.ritual-magic.com

Sorita : You have made a lot of detailed material available online. Will we be seeing more of this material converted into books in the future?

Aaron: Without a doubt! I have plans for books on Abramelin, Enochian Magick, the Angelical Language, the modern Solomonic tradition and more – and you can see many of my ideas in their primordial forms in the essays at my homepage.

Sorita : Your article “The Ancient Gods & Neo-Paganism” contains more sense than most books on the subject. Have there been specific experiences which have led you to this lucidity, or has it arisen more through prolonged practice? [Click here for the article]

Aaron: First, I have to say “thanks!” for the positive words about my article! It’s one of my earliest pieces, and I’m glad that it still stands today. As for your question:

I would say it was a lot of both! My world view really began to change once I met the Santero who publishes as Ocha Ni’lele.” He was the first person- whom I found credible as a wizard- who introduced me to the “non-psychological” view of magick. Before that, I had been convinced that magick was “all in the head”, and that the Angels and spirits we work with are just aspects of our psyches. Ocha Ni’lele expanded my awareness beyond that viewpoint- and I came to realize that a literal belief in the Gods and magick was foundational to most pre-modern magickal systems. (My essay “Ancient Gods…” was written about this time.) What truly hooked me was the discovery that my talks with the Santero were opening my eyes to obscure texts like Agrippa’s “Occult Philosophy”, the “Book of Abramelin”, the “Key of Solomon” and other grimoires.

I had, of course, been striving to understand and work with the grimoires for years. This new world view suddenly gave me the key to comprehending the “incomprehensible” texts. The magickal methods were based on the unspoken assumption that the Angels and spirits are literally real- such as giving offerings in payment, making the tools out of specific materials, observing the ritual purifications and prayers, etc. In psychology-based magickal theory, the tools are just props. In the Solomonic tradition, the tools are a major part of the interface between man and spirit – they are part of its shamanic core. (Take a look at the construction of the Holy Water Sprinkler, for example- as explained in chapter six of “Secrets…”)

I also have to admit I had had experiences in my early magickal practice- cases where a God or Angel seemed to reach right down and touch me in some way. One of my Patron Gods is the Egyptian Horus, and He let me know that quite distinctly. My Pagan name of “Khephera” was given to me by the God of the same name. Even earlier than that- as I was still learning the ritual known as the “Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram”- I experienced the Archangel Michael move about and act on His own. There were other such experiences that, I would suppose, opened me up to the revelations I would have when I later encountered Santeria and finally grasped the “secrets of the grimoires.”

Sorita : You raise some interesting points in your article “The Magick of Abramelin”. Have you performed this operation and if so how relevant do you feel it is today?

Aaron: Well, I guess I’ve already answered most of this! Yes, I performed the Abramelin Rite (the French version- as the German original was something of a myth at the time!). The picture I use on my Myspace profile was taken about a month after I performed the Rite – and those are the Abramelin Robes you see. There are further pictures in the photos section of my Solomonic Yahoo Group – such as the Altar, the Oratory, the Tools, etc.

As I said before, the Abramelin Rite is one manifestation of the universal formula for initiating a new Priest, Shaman or Prophet. It is foundational all the way to the core of human civilization- encoded in our very DNA. And, among the Western Mystery Tradition, it is the only book of its kind. Thus, it is “our” version of that universal formula. I believe every single aspect of “shamanism” I outlined previously is covered in some way in the Book of Abramelin.

Not only is it relevant today, it is vitally needed! The 21st Century is wide open in the magickal- or Aeonic- sense. We need shamans and priests for the new millennium, as many as we can get and as fast as we can get them! Otherwise, other people with their own greedy agendas will establish the new spiritual trends…

And, believe me, the idea that Abramelin is impossible in the modern world is a fantasy! The six-month version, especially, is much easier (that is, less complex and involved) than what a Santerian aspirant goes through to be crowned a Santo. The Santerian initiate has a much wider social support system, but Abramelin is simplified in comparison. So it is not impossible – just not “easy.” Unfortunately, the claim that something is “not possible in today’s world” is all too often an out for the armchair magician. I hope my books- from “Secrets….” to my work on Abramelin and Enochian magick- will help to dispel that myth.

Sorita : Your forthcoming work “The Angelical Language” looks to be far more comprehensive and practical than previous published works on the Enochian tongue. Could you explain the process that led you to write this work and its scope?

Aaron: To begin with, I guess I have a natural interest in linguistics and etymology. I was never a fan of what we would call “English class” in school – but I’ve always been fascinated by the view of language as a living, ever-changing thing. (Which also explains my interest in the Qabalah.) So I suppose the pump was primed, you might say.

However, I have to credit the project’s initiation to Robert Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land.” As you likely know, that is a story about Michael Smith- the sole survivor of a spaceship crash on Mars, who was subsequently raised by native Martians. When a later expedition discovered the fully-grown man on Mars, they brought him back to Earth- where he displayed a natural ability to perform a variety of physics-defying miracles. He claimed anyone could do these things if they just knew how- but when asked, he said he could only explain in Martian. The rest of the book depicts the rise of a school/church wherein Michael teaches aspirants the Martian language, and then uses it to teach them how to alter reality.

You may also know that some folks put together a real-world organization, based on Heinlein’s descriptions of the “Church of All Worlds” in “Stranger…” However, since there is no Martian language to learn, the real Church of All Worlds had to adopt another language that- once learned (or “grokked”)- would allow one to perform miracles. The language they chose was Magick.

It was with all of this in mind that I read “Stranger…” for the first time (in my very early 20s). As I read about Michael Smith teaching his students the concepts of Martian, I had one of those rare experiences of the Angels reaching right down and touching me. The message was simple: “Learn fluently as much of Our Language as we have already given you, and We will give you more.” In that instant I knew I had to learn each and every scrap of information about the Angelical Language recorded in the bulk of Dee’s diaries.

Aaron Leitch and his fiance, CarrieFurthermore, I needed to discover if “the Enochian Language stands up to grammatical analysis.” While nearly every text on the Language makes this claim, none of them actually present or point to any such analysis. Therefore, I was going to have to do it myself… My goal was to be able to pray, invoke and speak to Angels and spirits fluently in the Angelical Tongue.

I won’t go into my entire process of analysis here – it is outlined in the introduction to the upcoming book(s). However, what transpired was a ten year(!) project that resulted in: a complete grammatical analysis of Dee’s Angelical Language, an Encyclopedic Lexicon containing every Angelical word found throughout Dee’s journals (including all of his marginal notations, pronunciation notes, and new commentary from myself), many previously-undiscovered root words and word-elements, a new easy-to-understand pronunciation key (based entirely on Dee’s pronunciation notes), a fully corrected version of the 48 Angelical Keys (in both a numerical cross-reference version *and* what I call an “Angelical Psalter” for use in ceremony), PLUS the saga of the reception of the Language by Dee and Kelley and every scrap of information the Angels gave about the Language and its proper use. (This includes a massive exploration of Dee’s “Book of Enoch” – also called the “Book of Loagaeth”, or “Speech from God”- which is the source of the Angelical Tongue).

To top it all off, I have also created stand-alone essays concerning how to use Angelical in Agrippa-style occultism, how to properly pronounce the Language and even a 14-lesson Grammar Course that will take the student from the basic principles of the Language all the way to translating English texts into Angelical.

Having created all of these resources for my own education (I’m still learning the Language!), I also wish to release them to the public. Dee’s Angelical fits the bill as the “Mystery Language of the West”, and its influence on our modern systems of magick has been profound. I hope to help revive the Language in its original form, and help establish it as a significant Sacred Tongue in our magickal culture.

Sorita : What advice would you give to someone who is new to magickal practice, who is wanting to explore Enochian and Grimoire related practices?

Aaron: I think the beginner would do best to start out with something like Don Kraig’s “Modern Magick” or the Cicero’s “Self Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition.” If not those, then go with some other established initiatory system- like the degrees of Thelema, or those of Traditional Wicca. The point is that you should have some magickal grounding and initiatory spiritual growth before getting into these powerful systems. Even the authors of the grimoires were often members of secret esoteric societies, or had attained certain offices or Orders within the Church.

Now, let me qualify that just a bit: I would not say you absolutely *have* to begin with a Golden Dawn or similar system before touching the grimoires. I believe a beginner could work through the progressive system I outline in “Secrets…” and eventually develop a successful Solomonic practice. However, keep in mind that this is old and powerful magick, and it simply can’t hurt to have something solid to fall back upon. The corpus of Golden Dawn related material- with such useful tools as the LBRP- is a great foundation.

However- I must also warn students- especially those who come from such Western initiatory traditions- to leave their assumptions behind when they come to Enochian or Solomonic magick. Again, remember that these systems represent the “Old Magick”, and it doesn’t work upon the philosophies of Golden Dawn or Wiccan ceremony! Now, folks who come at the grimoires from systems like Santeria, Hoodoo and other shamanic/folk traditions (even the real fam-trad Witches) have little problem grokking the Solomonic methods. But, Western aspirants often bring the wrong basic assumptions into the magick. (I once had a Hermetic practitioner tell me that Santerian workers were “crazy” because they don’t start their work with an LBRP! That kind of attitude will only keep the grimoires closed to you! As they say “Let he who hath eyes see!”)

Sorita: Is there anything else you would like to share about thoughts you haven’t already discussed or exciting new projects?

Aaron: Whew! I think that about covers it! Without a doubt, these were some thought-provoking and insightful questions! I am thankful and honored that you’ve given me this rare opportunity to share these thoughts!
In LVX
Aaron
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Thank you Aaron for taking the time to share your views and thoughts with our visitors and for answering all my questions! Those who would like to find out more about Aaron’s work should find visiting his website interesting and useful: http://kheph777.tripod.com it contains lots of interesting and original articles, as well as plenty of other useful resources. You can also order Aaron’s book from Amazon (if you have not done so already!) and find out more about his work:

Emma Restall-Orr
Avalonia Author Interview

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The Interview
by Sorita
( January 2005: Bobcat indicates answers by Emma Restall Orr, Q indicates question posed by Sorita)

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Q: A couple of years ago you started a new Druid organisation called THE DRUID NETWORK (TDN). How did this happen and who can get involved?

Bobcat: In the early 1990s, I became joint chief of The British Druid Order (BDO) and worked for that organization with my co-chief Philip Shallcrass (Greywolf) for almost a decade. However, tidal flows were taking Greywolf and I in different directions, and through enormous heartache we went our separate ways a few years ago. For a while the BDO drifted, but there is a strong loyalty for that Order which Greywolf and I had built up with the magical energy of our partnership, and it is finding its feet once again.

One of the problems I had with running an Order was the inevitable issue of membership, of being in or out, so the organization I inaugurated at Imbolc 2002 was not an Order but an international network for the Druid / Pagan community. The point of the Druid Network (TDN) was to provide a resource for anyone interested in Druidry and we run the website for that reason, with project coordinators doing their own autonomous thing, running areas and pages that reflect their own interests and skills. We hope to support anyone who is keen to express their creativity and share teaching. There is information about events, courses, books, Druid groups (Orders, Groves, Gorseddau), a look at the media, the environment, politics, ethics, green living, and so on.

You can subscribe to the Network in order to use the secure database of other subscribers and their particular interests and skills, and in this way individuals in the community can freely share their experience and understanding of the tradition. We also have a number of forums for subscribers; because subscribers can’t remain anonymous, the forums are free from sour politics and bitchy critical energy. We encourage folk to take responsibility for the power of their own opinions.

Perhaps it is simply because I don’t like exclusivity or the ‘club’ mentality! The Network runs specifically to encourage individuals in their own spiritual journeys, without them needing to join anything at all, nor to use any particular label. If they do belong to an Order or a Grove, or they feel themselves to be Heathen or Wiccan, they can still be a part of the Network, taking and contributing in whatever way they wish.

We run it on wholly Pagan spiritual tenets, ensuring there is honourable communication and interaction in every aspect of what it does, not only in terms of relationships within the staff and with the community, but in our banking and printing and dealings with other organizations. There is celebration of the diversity of our Pagan community.

A long answer, so I’ll write no more.
Check out the website : http://www.druidnetwork.org

Q: What inspired you to take the name “Bobcat” ?

Bobcat: Weird, hey? I’ve always been a cat, and through most of my life I have worked magically with the panther of my childhood experiences in South America. But when I first came out of the darkness of my solitude (provoked mainly by becoming a mother) and started working with other people spiritually, the panther in me was not impressed at all. In fact, she was wholly unhelpful. It was the journey of magical initiations and teaching that drew me deeper into Druidry that allowed another cat to emerge within me, one that I’d always felt but had never seen objectively. This cat was slightly less antisocial, and helped me come out of my profoundly solitary life.

It was a beautiful young seer who named the cat, recognizing what kind of cat she was, saying the word first to me in Lakota and making my whole soul shudder with recognition. Because the name Emma has never sat with me comfortably, the name Bobcat stuck. As to who she is, the Bobcat : she is the side of me that just about manages the light of day.

Q: Awen, is considered an important part of Druid spirituality. What, in your opinion, is the best way to experience Awen?

Bobcat: The answer is : in sacred relationship. Awen, simply defined, is the experience of total consciousness of the life force upon the web that connects us, spirit to spirit. In other words, we are filled with the visceral experience of being (or being alive) as we touch and are touched by another being, being alive. How, then, do we wake ourselves to this experience, or provoke it?

To someone just beginning in the tradition, reaching to understand the concept of Awen, I would suggest that it is most easily found in moments when all the world disappears except the focus of one shared sensation : we can do it in the climax of pleasure when we make love in trust and truth, soul-naked. Yet to the Druid, that sharing is possible in other ways that aren’t necessarily sexual. A deep intimacy can be found with the rain, the darkness, the moon, an ancestor, star light, the mist, a river, the land itself, even the spirit of our tribe. It is in this profound relationship that we find natural honour; but also here that we find the exquisite divine inspiration that in Druidry we call Awen.

For some, it is experiential relationship and connection with a deity that provokes Awen, but to talk about that we’d need to consider all the different definitions of deity. If we stick with poetry, evading the complications of theology and metaphysics, being touched by a god or goddess is another sound way of feeling the Awen.

Q: There has been much discussion on the subject of whether Druidry can be considered Pagan or not, with some claiming that it has Christian roots due to the beliefs of some of the revivalists. Do you think that it can be considered as a purely Pagan path, or does it allow for other religious thought also?

Bobcat: There is Christianity hiding in all corners of modern Paganism, not just Druidry! However, it is true that most Druids are happy to accept the Non-conformist Christianity of the 18th and 19th century revivalists, while many other Pagans tend to duck the Christian in their history. Fully a part of its time, the Enlightenment monotheistic vision was a powerful influence on Druidry, and some in the tradition continue to be inspired by that vision. Others adapt it to embrace later psychology and psychotherapy, still acknowledging spirit and deity as a blend of metaphor and mystery.

I rather like the anarchic all-embracing diversity of modern Druidry, and happily share ceremony and feasting with folk who call themselves Christians within Druidry, just as I welcome the Wiccans, Heathens, humanists and psychotherapists. I don’t necessarily understand their vision, but I find it rewarding to discuss ideas, theologies and perspectives.

What holds it together is the invocation of the word – Druidry – which calls with honour to our ancestral religious and spiritual heritage. Beyond that, commonalities are debated. I would assert them to be these : reverence for the powers of nature, respect for the ancestors, and the love of learning that is the quest for the beautiful patterns of the multiverse! Our specific understanding or practical devotion to deity or deities are not what defines a Druid.

I myself am an animist polytheist. That may seem a long way from a Druid colleague who is also a Quaker, or from another a Protestant minister and a Druid. Yet, in many ways that is theologically and practicably no further than I am from another colleague who calls herself a Pagan Druid who honours (her vision of) Brighid, her craft shining with the Brighid’s sunfire, her life brilliant with the energy of light and community. Or another who honours any number of goddesses, believing them all to be faces of the one Goddess she calls Isis.

We all honour the sacred in nature and our ancestors, and we all quest the patterns of the web. Beyond that, we’re all different.

Q: Another tradition which is often linked to Druidry is Shamanism, with some people claiming that Druidry is a form of British Shamanism, is this a realistic view of Druidry?

Bobcat: It is another word that is understood by different people in different ways. If you understand Shamanism to be a spirituality that reveres nature, that acknowledges every part of nature to have its own spirit, or soul or consciousness, and that it is possible to communicate with those spirits (of tree, river, beetle, ancestor, valley and so on), then most Druids would acknowledge their tradition to be shamanic. Many would go further in understanding that it is possible to leave this shared reality and journey to parallel realities, other worlds of consciousness, in order to interact with spirits and/or gods.

By this definition (which seems to be one most commonly used), I would describe my own Druidry as shamanic. I would also say that Druidry as a whole, the mainstream of Druidry, is increasingly shamanic. People are becoming more interested and courageous in exploring spiritual paths of ecstasy and mud.

Q: One of the Wicca groups I run, is called Vitriol Grove, which has often lead people to believe that we are involved in Druidry. Why are Druid groups called “groves” and do you feel that it is appropriate for non-druid groups to use the term also?

Bobcat: When the Romans encountered Druidry some 2000 years ago, they related that Druids celebrated their religion in sacred groves. However, words mistranslated from the Latin, and assumptions made about the normal practice of Druids (as opposed to what they might be doing during a period of Roman conquest and persecution), imply that Druids always made their temples in forest groves. It is more likely that they celebrated with significantly more flexibility, crafting a temple where it was relevant and appropriate.

So has the word become attached to Druidry, and I heartily encourage folk to sever that stiffened thread. Let us all use language in ways that make most sense to us as individuals, enriching our spiritual vision and practice. If that provokes misunderstanding, then hopefully ensuing discussions will only waken minds.

Q: Your books have contributed and inspired to many more people wanting to find out more about Druidry. Who or what inspired your own interest in Druidry?

Bobcat: What inspired me? A childhood following my parents (my father an ornithologist, my mother a botanist), wandering through the wild places of this beautiful planet, sharing their wonder at nature’s extraordinary wealth, learning from nature’s brutality, and finding nature’s beauty even amidst the concrete mess of human construction. I was brought up with an understanding that nature was everything.

Beyond that, a genetic illness which I still cope with led me to quest understanding and motivation to stay alive. I read and read, exploring philosophy and spirituality, theology and poetry, seeking answers to the ancient questions. Yet, 20 years ago, there were no books on Druidry that inspired me at all. In my reading, my vision of Druidry came direct from Caesar and the Arthurian myths. And of course, Getafix, the Druid in the Asterix comics which were a staple of my childhood.

So, to precis the above : what inspired my Druidry in the beginning was my love of nature and Getafix. Since then, my inspiration has also come from colleagues in the community.

Q: Do you think that Druids and Wiccans have much in common?

Bobcat: Some Druids and some Wiccans have a good deal in common. Some have very little in common. And sometimes I feel I have not much in common with either of them! It sounds trite, but actually I believe these labels are wearing thin, and individuals are finding commonalities regardless.

Q: One of my friends had a huge crush on you, describing you as a beautiful fairy (so much so that he undertook a study of Druidry!). I have also heard people describe you as a modern day Morgan Le Fey, how do you feel about this kind of attention and has it ever lead to problems or humorous situations?

Bobcat: The Morgan le Fey issue has been with me for a very long time. People would say to me, “I’ve just read a book about you!” The book was Mists of Avalon and, when eventually I got to read it in the early 90s, I could see glimmers of myself but on the whole felt rather awkward about the whole notion. My principal goddess is darkness, I live a fairly solitary magical life, I work deeply with the sidhe, and I can be fierce when I feel ferocity is justified, but I am still human.

So yes, occasional problems, when people object to me being human, holding expectations they have crafted of their own image of who I am, expectations I can’t (or won’t) fulfil. And of course, rumours and spiteful chatter put around by folk who don’t like anyone they perceive threatens their own status. I’ve slept with more people than I know, according to gossip. In the winter of 96, I apparently moved in with Ronald Hutton for three long months (a fact that he and I only discovered sometime the following spring).

Q: You are known to be very environmentally conscious, how would you advise modern Pagans to get involved in looking after our resources and planet?

Bobcat: Primarily, the most powerful way that we can get involved is with every penny that we spend. We are given the vote every four years or so in terms of the politics of who runs our country, but almost every day of our lives we are voting for far more powerful authorities : the commercial giants who run the capitalist world within which we live.

It takes work, dedication and the willingness to change, but every journey starts with a step. I do all I can in my life to ensure that I never buy a thing from companies who I feel are unethical : Unilever, Procter and Gamble, SmithKline Beecham, Nestle, Cadbury, Tesco, Philip Morris, Gap, M&S, Walmart, and so on. I don’t buy American petrol, anything produced in Israel, anything from the animal industry, the legal or illegal drugs industry. I’m very careful about the dirtiest trades, buying only organic and fair trade: coffee, tea, chocolate, sugar, cotton, and so on. Shifting to a ‘green’ electricity supplier is important. Using an ethical bank, like the Co Op is another key change.

Secondly, I feel that dedicating a percentage of my annual income to give to charity is an important commitment. A proportion of this goes to planting trees to help with being ‘carbon neutral’. Because my own income is so low and erratic, I tend to do my accounts at the end of each month and see what I can give and who is in need that month, then at the end of the year, around Yule, working out the balance of the household income and make sure that more is given to those who need it.

Thirdly, clothes … buy second hand! It’s virtually the only ethical option if you want to wear anything other than hemp and natural dyes.

Fourthly, recycling …
I could go on.

Perhaps a good rule of thumb is to stop once a month, at your moon tide rite (full or new), and make a commitment to another change. For example, this month, give up unethical chocolate and only buy Green and Blacks, Kaoka and other organic/fair trade brands. Next month, buy no tins anymore. Step by step.

Q: The Druid Network has also organised a Tree Planting scheme, how can people get involved with this?

Bobcat: This is a project that is still in construction. It is easy enough to contribute, by sending the £5.50 and adding to the fund. We are currently in negotiation with several companies that are looking at schemes for planting trees in areas that need regeneration and resanctifying. We don’t feel it is important for the Network to own land, but it is essential and more useful to work with companies that do own land and are keen to have it crafted into beautiful sacred places that will then be protected.

Big news on this is about to break, so I won’t say more. Keep an eye on our website and especially on the Environment pages.

Q: What is the best way for someone to find out more about Druidry?

Bobcat: Spend 48 hours in the woods.

It’s a fast answer but true in terms of the ‘best’ way. However, there are other ways. The usual ways : Come to Druid camp, come on a Druid retreat, talk to folk in the tradition, read a few books, get involved with forums and discussion groups, check out who’s talking at conferences, challenge people, ask questions, listen.

Then spend 48 hours in the woods.

If you are serious, find a teacher who is serious, and will take you seriously. It’ll change your life completely, opening doors to extraordinary freedom, inner strength and creativity.

A good number of courses, workshops, camps, etc, are advertized on the website.

Q: Do you have a favourite song at the moment?

Bobcat: I have been listening to the Manic Street Preacher’s new album, Lifeblood, which I think is their best to date. My son has just picked up Robbie William’s Greatest Hits, and plays it on repeat, which can be a little wearing. My husband has just put together a CD of Iggy Pop and David Bowie tracks, which is wonderful. If I had to choose one song? : Iggy Pop’s ‘Some Weird Sin’.

Q: What are you reading at the moment?

Bobcat: A few books. Arthur Schopenhaur : a German philosopher of the early nineteenth century. If you can clamber over his pessimism about human reality, he has beautiful ideas and is an exceptional writer. I’m also reading John Lydon’s book, Rotten : another crazy soul who I don’t think I would like if I met, but a man with vision and experience that has changed a great many people’s lives.

Q: Any exciting plans for 2005?

Bobcat: Two books are half written, but apart from that, I’m open to offers …

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Books by Emma Restall-Orr

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Thank you to Bobcat for granting this interview for Avalonia! We enjoyed every moment of it. For permission to reproduce this article please contact us first – (c)2005 Emma Restall Orr (Bobcat) & Avalonia.

For those of you wanting to find out more about Bobcat, her workshops and other events, together with information on THE DRUID NETWORK please visit their website: http://www.druidnetwork.org

Chic Cicero & Sandra Tabatha Cicero
Avalonia Author Interview

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The Interview
by Avalonia
( February 2005: A indicates answer by Chic Cicero & Sandra Tabatha Cicero,
Q indicates questions by Avalonia)

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Q: As Chief Adepts of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, you have published many books on the subject of the Golden Dawn. This is something that you are evidently passionate about. What do you think are the strengths of the Golden Dawn system of magick?

A: Nearly everyone will agree that no organization has had a greater impact on ceremonial magic than the Golden Dawn. Almost every aspect of the Golden Dawn’s curriculum has been absorbed into modern Western magic and esoteric belief. The Golden Dawn is not a religion, although religious symbolism and ideas permeate its teachings.

We believe that one of the major strengths of the Golden Dawn system is its inherent design. It was intended to be a school and repository of esoteric knowledge, where men and women could learn the fundamentals of the magical arts and the various elements of Western mysticism and spiritual philosophy. Students are guided through a series of initiatory rites, which each new grade attained leading to ever more rigorous areas of magical study, covering such topics as meditation, Qabalah, astrology, tarot, divination, inner alchemy, etc. Students absorb this material in gradual stages designed not to overwhelm them or cause psychic imbalance. Those students who are admitted into the higher grades learn the practical side of magic-the assumption of godforms, the creation and consecration of talismans, Enochian magic, skrying and astral work, and so forth.

We find the Golden Dawn’s method of teaching magic in careful, measured steps works much than the “sink or swim” technique of overloading students with advanced magical workings that they are not properly prepared for.

Q: The Golden Dawn system of magick mixes a range of different world pantheons with Christian symbolism. Are there any of these that you personally consider to be more significant for someone working this system of magick?

A: Along with Christian and Greek symbolism, the Egyptian pantheon certainly plays an important role in the Golden Dawn system. Many Egyptophiles are naturally drawn to the Order’s teachings. Much of the Order’s work on the subtle planes involves the visualization and assumption of Egyptian godforms such as Isis, Nephthys, Thoth, and others. The Outer Order of the Golden Dawn has been described as “Osirian” in essence. This is because the Egyptian god Osiris, embodied by the Hierophant, plays a crucial role in the astral work of the Neophyte Hall and the Outer Order in general.

The legend of Osiris, who was an “ordinary” god (if you can say such a thing) until his death, dismemberment, and resurrection is a kind of model or pattern for the candidate of the Mysteries-who “dies” to an old way of life, is symbolically “dismembered” by the initiatory process of self-analysis, and is “reborn” to a new spiritual way of life. Osiris is the perfect deity to symbolize this process, because in addition to being a magical process, this is also a psychological as well as an alchemical one. In analytical psychology this “Osirian” process is called analysis, confrontation (with the shadow), and self-realization. In alchemy it is known as separation, purification, and recombination. In magic it is referred to as purification, consecration, and union. All of these terms are used to describe the same basic purifying experience. In the Outer Order of the Golden Dawn, the student must examine his or her own inner workings-separating (“dismembering”) by defining and analyzing the various components of the psyche. The initiatory process works to purify and consecrate these psychic components until at length they are recombined, reunited, and realized (“resurrected”) in a more exalted or spiritualized Whole.

The work of the soul, like the work of alchemy is cyclical, and so this process will be repeated on a higher level in the more advanced grades of the Golden Dawn’s Second Order (the R.R. et A.C.). Here the Egyptian and Osirian paradigm remains, but it also morphs into the symbolism of Rosicrucianism and mystical Christianity. Here the initiate is introduced to the legend of Christian Rosencreutz, which is itself an allegory of the life of Christ. It should be apparent that throughout the Golden Dawn system, the model of a dying and resurrected Deity takes precedence, precisely because it symbolizes the continual process of alchemical growth and spiritual evolution.

Q: As a magickal couple, do you both have very similar interests or are they widely different?

A: Our interests are virtually identical. It was our attraction to the Golden Dawn that first brought us together over twenty years ago. I suppose we could drag out that tired old phrase “soul mates” but “spiritual companions” sounds less dated. We continue to find a never-ending source of richness and inspiration in the teachings of the Golden Dawn. And we enjoy exploring the system together. We feel that we are very lucky that way.

We share an interest in Egyptology, Biblical archeology, and Christian mysticism. If we could point to any slight difference in our other interests, however, it would be that Chic has more of an interest in Freemasonry and Tabatha has more of an attraction to ancient Babylonian culture and mythos. But this difference in interest is very slight.

Q: Your workshops are very popular and successful, what do you attribute this to?

A: We would like to think it’s because people “get it” that we’re not interested in attracting followers, or pretending that we are greatest magicians on the planet, or trying to fleece people out of their money. There are some “teachers” who seem to be on a power trip-they want to dictate to other people what to do and when to do it, or want to use the hard work of others as their own personal cash cow. Seeing a spiritual/magical system being abused in such a way gets depressing sometimes.

One of the things that first attracted us to Israel Regardie’s books was his style of writing-the way he truly seemed to care about helping spiritual seekers. You could feel his passion for the Great Work throughout his work. On the other hand, we’ve read a few books and websites whose authors seem to write with a condescending attitude toward their readers, rant and rave against other authors and groups, or make claims to be the only “Anointed Ones” on the planet to have found “The One True Way” of all magic. We never wanted our books to sound arrogant in that way-ever. Most readers of esoteric books are intelligent. They can tell when something smells like buffalo chips.

Some people live to tear down others out of jealously, fear of competition, or whatever. Unfortunately this is just as true for the magical community as it is for human society as a whole. This has become especially easy in the age of the Internet where anonymous cowards start flame wars while hiding behind phony screen names. That is just plain childish and stupid-and completely unspiritual. You have to wonder about the mental health of people who claim to be spiritually advanced and yet spend large amounts of their time posting hateful gossip and slander.

Whether we agree with them or not, we do not slam other authors or other magical groups, and we advise our students to follow suit. In fact, other than posting articles to our website, we don’t post on the Internet at all. We much prefer talking face to face with live individuals. It’s much more satisfying.

We both have day jobs and work for our lunch money. So we have to laugh when people assume that the Golden Dawn has made us rich. We can honestly tell you that the Golden Dawn has cost us thousands and thousands of dollars-it’s a labor of love for us. We love the system and that’s why we’ve spent 25 years or more building temples, making wands, and trying to help students with the Work. We try to keep it real. If we don’t know the answer to something, we’ll say so. Teaching and learning is a symbiotic relationship. There are times when we learn new things from our students. We love that. As we like to say: We are all Neophytes. We can all learn something from each other.

Q: Will you be doing any workshops in the UK during 2005?

A: Yes, we will be giving a workshop on Spiritual Alchemy in London on Saturday, April 30th, at Regent’s College. Details will be posted to our website. We will also be back in the UK sometimes in the fall, to give a workshop in Nottingham.

Q: Who has inspired you the most on your respective magickal paths?

A: That’s easy. Israel Regardie has had a huge impact on us both personally and magically. As you know, Regardie was the author of several books on magic. He is credited with removing the veil of secrecy surrounding modern occultism and ceremonial magic.

Regardie was born in England in 1907, but he spent most of his life living in the United States. In 1926 he was initiated into the Societas Rosicruciana in America, a Rosicrucian group that used Golden Dawn rituals. In 1928 he took a job in Paris working as a secretary for Aleister Crowley, a famous (we might say infamous) magical author and magician.

As a young man, Regardie studied every magical book he could get his hands on and by 1932, he had become a magical author in his own right. It was during that year that he published two books: A Garden of Pomegranates, which described the mystical system known as the Qabalah, and The Tree of Life which is considered his greatest work. It was the publication of the Tree of Life which resulted in Regardie being invited to join the Stella Matutina, a major offshoot of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (which had ceased to exist under that name in 1903). Regardie went on to write several more books, including The Golden Dawn: An Account of the Teachings, Rites and Ceremonies of the Order of the Golden Dawn and The Middle Pillar, which explored the common ground between magic and modern psychology. Later Regardie become a chiropractor and a psycho-therapist. He died in 1985, but his books are considered classics among magical text books.

In The Tree of Life Regardie drew a comparison between the mystical systems of Western Magic and Eastern Yoga-how they were alike and how they were different. But he was mainly interested in describing Western Magic, or the magic that developed in the major civilizations of the West. This type of magic is sometimes called theurgy, which is Greek for “God Working.” Theurgy is an ancient form of magic used for personal growth, spiritual evolution, and for becoming closer to the Divine. Regardie was not interested in hexes or spell-casting in order to get rich, curse your enemies, or to make someone fall in love with you. Regardie had very little tolerance for such things. He was mainly interested in magic as a system for self-healing as well as for spiritual evolution and psychic growth.

We began communicating with Regardie in 1981 and in the summer of 1982 he came to Columbus, Georgia to consecrate our Golden Dawn temple and Vault. (A series of letters from Regardie from around that time can found on our website.) In addition to being a great teacher, Regardie was a just fun person to be around. He was a real person. He enjoyed things as diverse as professional wrestling and classical music. He simply loved life. He wanted his friends to call him Francis-“None of this Dr. Regardie, s**t!” he would say. He had an impish Scorpio sense of humor and got a kick out of sending stinging quick-witted barbs on occasion. He was a knowledgeable and talented magician, as well as a gentle, ethical man who worked to help others.

Q: Do you feel that modern writers try to psychologise magick too much?

A: Some authors psychologize magic too much, others not enough. Some writers believe that “it’s all in your head” while others seem to believe that “it’s all in the hands of the gods.” The truth lies somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. Some authors do fall into the trap of the “psychologization of magic.” They proclaim that deities, angels, and spirits are simply creations of the human mind. Although pop psychologists derive their thinking from the theories of Swiss psychologist Carl G. Jung and others, they misunderstand Jung, who had a plaque above the front door of his home which read in Latin: “Bidden or not bidden, God is present.”

It all comes back to the old Hermetic axiom of “As Above, so Below.” God, gods, angels, and spirits exist out in the Greater Universe, just they exist within its mirror-the Lesser Universe of the human soul. To affect a change in one is to affect a change in the other. The Divine life force (known variously as the astral light, chi, prana, etc.) permeates everything. The Divine gave us the human mind, the most powerful magical tool we possess. And it is through the human mind that we are able to visualize and invoke gods, angels, and spirits-those Divine forces within us that are connected to their mirror image out in the Greater Universe. Magic strikes a balance between psychology and spirituality.

Q: We are often asked about the roots of Wicca, and certainly when it comes to practices Wicca has “borrowed” quite significant ideas and material from the Golden Dawn. What do you consider the most important roots of the Golden Dawn system of magick?

A: Much of this is covered in Chapter One of our book The Essential Golden Dawn. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn takes the first part of its name from the Hermetic Tradition or Hermeticism. This in turn is named after a human incarnation of Hermes-Thoth, the Greek god of communication combined with the Egyptian god of wisdom and magic. The roots of the Hermetic Tradition can be traced back to the Hellenistic period at the beginning of the Common Era, when the great cultures of Egypt and Greece merged after Alexander the Great conquered the known world. The cultural center of Alexandria bought together a variety of different religions, philosophies, and traditions that resulted in a new synthesis of beliefs and practices that would become known as Hermetism-the ancient source of modern Hermeticism.

Although Hermetism was attributed to an avatar of the Egyptian god of wisdom, and was Egyptian in essence, this new tradition embraced not only the richness of Egyptian religion, but also the many faces of Classical Greek philosophy and religion, particularly the teachings of Platonism, Neoplatonism, Stoicism, Neopythagorism, and Iamblichan theurgy. It also embraced the magical teachings and angelic hierarchy of Judaism, as well as Zoroastrianism and the many forms of Christianity and Gnosticism.

What did ancient Hermetism gain from this mixture? From Egyptian religion came the standard for magical formulae, potent ritual techniques, and some of the earliest ideas about the human soul. From the Greek philosophers came new insights about the universe and humanity’s place within it, including the theories on the four elements, the mystical power of numbers, and the evolution of the human soul. The Greek Mystery religions brought a deeply personal relationship between human worshipers and their beloved gods. Stoicism provided an emphasis on virtue, rationality, and moral conduct. Neopythagorism, Neoplatonism, Gnosticism, and the ancient Christian sects supplied the vocabulary and primary ideas of ancient mysticism. Iamblichan theurgy outlined basic magical techniques are still in use today.

In the fifteenth century, Renaissance scholars and Christian mages helped transform ancient Hermetism into modern Hermeticism. New elements were added to the tradition in the seventeenth century-namely Rosicrucianism, an esoteric path that emphasized alchemy, Qalabah, and Christian mysticism. A century later, aspects of Freemasonry, particularly Masonic ritual structure, was firmly imbedded into the mix.

All of these components helped to shape the Golden Dawn.

Q: What advice would you give to a newcomer who is interested in the Golden Dawn?

A: The best advice we can give is to read as much as they can about the subject. Read everything. Read books by Israel Regardie and Dion Fortune. Read our books. Read books by R.A. Gilbert, Pat Zalewski, John Michael Greer, and Darcy Küntz. Read Mary K. Greer’s Women of the Golden Dawn and Susan Johnston Graf’s W.B. Yeats-Twentieth Century Magus. Read books by Paul Foster Case and The Magicians of the Golden Dawn by Ellic Howe. And yes, you should read books by Aleister Crowley (even if you don’t like Crowley) and Arthur Edward Waite (even if you have a hard time getting through his ponderous writing style). One good introductory book is Learning Ritual Magic by John Michael Greer, Clare Vaughn, and Earl King, Jr. Just read everything.

Joining a Masonic or Co-Masonic type of organization will give readers some idea of the underlying formation and organization that was behind the structuring of the Golden Dawn system. John Michael Greer’s book Inside a Magical Lodge: Group Ritual in the Western Tradition will also help in this regard.

Be discriminating when it comes to joining any magical group, whether it’s Golden Dawn or any other tradition. (And keep sniffing the air for those infamous buffalo chips!) There is no group operating today that can prove that it has an unbroken line of institutional lineage back to the original Golden Dawn which ceased to exist in 1903, so forget about finding a group with real “apostolic succession.” Looking for Secret Chiefs under the bed is a complete waste of time-time that could be better spent actually doing the Work. The Great Work is the only important consideration.

In fact, don’t feel like you have to join a group at all. Maybe you simply want to start a small Golden Dawn study group with your friends. Maybe self-initiation is a route you might consider. If you really want to join an established group, there are many different Golden Dawn Orders that offer teachings-some groups teach traditional Golden Dawn while other blend Golden Dawn with other traditions such as Wicca or Thelema-which is perfectly fine so long as these distinctions are made clear at the outset. So find a group that fits you and your needs.

But we also recommend putting the books and study work aside on occasion and connecting with the rest of humanity-our brothers and sisters on this spinning globe. (Just because most people in Western society are not into magic does not give magicians the right to look down their noses and call them “troglodytes.” Many ordinary people may in fact be more spiritual than a good many magicians!) Magical folk, especially ceremonial magicians, tend to be recluses and hermits. And sometimes people use magic just like they use food, alcohol, or drugs-as an escape mechanism for avoiding human interaction. An obsessive or fanatical approach to magic may lead to the pitfalls of magical practice-ego-inflation and messianic complexes. Israel Regardie suggested that magical students undergo some form of psychotherapy to guard against this phenomenon. It is vitally important for students to maintain a healthy balance between the magical world and the secular world of everyday human contact. True spiritual growth is meant to be a benefit to all of humanity. So get out into the world. Do charity work. Connect. Watch a good movie. Play with the dog. Live a little.

Q: The Golden Dawn has an inherent structure of hierarchy, yet today many newcomers to the magickal world seem to show an interest in systems that allow them complete freedom, without the need to commit. What are your feelings on eclectic solitary practises which have resulted as a consequence?

A: It important to realize that most Golden Dawn Orders follow the hierarchical structure of a school, where the teachers, rather than the students, get to set the curriculum. A school is not a democracy. If someone has a problem following an established curriculum, maybe a school is not the right setting for them.

However, thanks to people like Israel Regardie, the Golden Dawn system of magic can be fully explored by solitary practitioners and groups of like-minded people who simply to wish to study the Golden Dawn tradition on their own. They can learn rituals like the LBRP, the Middle Pillar, and the Rose Cross Ritual, and even the initiation rituals and adapt them to their own style of working. They can study the Golden Dawn’s teachings on tarot, geomancy, Enochian, the creation of talismans, the Z-documents, etc.

You have to remember that when Regardie published all of this material, the remnants of the Golden Dawn-the last temples of the A.O. and the Stella Matutina-were in a severe state of decline. Regardie felt that the Golden Dawn Order system was fading into extinction. He felt that the only way future generations could benefit from the Golden Dawn’s teachings was to publish them. In 1937 he could not have imagined that Golden Dawn Orders and temples would make a come-back the way that they have in recent years. He probably assumed that everyone in the future would eventually be working on their own without the benefit of temples. Many of his later books where written with this in mind. He was a firm believer in the value of self-initiation.

So like Regardie, we have no problem with eclectic solo practices that have developed along the way. Many solitary magicians have come up valuable insights and good results which have proven to be beneficial to others working Golden Dawn magic. And again, some magicians working on their own or with others have adapted the Golden Dawn’s teachings by adding material from other traditions to suit their own likes and needs. There is nothing wrong with this.

That being said, there is a great benefit to be had in the traditional Golden Dawn Order system. It is very valuable to learn from people who have already experienced what you seek to experience. Also, the Order system is set up in such a way as to insure slow and steady progress of spiritual growth, in order to minimize the problems of magical burn-out, psychic imbalance, and ego-inflation. Also, sticking to one spiritual path is a form of discipline. A discipline is a routine of training and self-control that is designed to produce specific results and personal improvements. Someone who does not follow a specific spiritual discipline or established curriculum cannot expect to have the same experience or the same results as someone who does.

Q: The Golden Dawn system was created at the end of the 19th century, how much do you feel it has evolved since then?

A: We feel that it’s pretty hard to improve upon the original. We are amused when every once in a while somebody suggests that because we stick to the traditional Osirian model of the Golden Dawn, we are somehow working a “outdated” system that is stuck in the past and has no relevance in today’s world-as if Egyptian deities such as Osiris and Isis have a limited shelf-life. We would like to think that the old “your system is outdated compared to mine” argument-which has been used in the past by some Christians against Pagans and Jews, and in more recent times by some Neo-pagans against Christians-is itself considered outdated and un-evolved by true students of the Mysteries. The Golden Dawn is not a religion, but it teaches us to “hold all Religions in reverence, for there is none but contains a Ray from the Ineffable Light that you are seeking.”

One way that the Golden Dawn has evolved is that system is far more accessible than it has ever been before. There are more people today who consider themselves Golden Dawn magicians than at any other time. During the Victorian era, members were primarily Christian. Today, people from various religions are drawn to the Golden Dawn, including a large number of Neo-pagans. We have seen Buddhists, Jewish Rabbis, Catholic Priests, Gnostic Priests, Wiccan High Priestesses, and Protestant Ministers included among those who are drawn to the Golden Dawn.

The traditional Golden Dawn Order system is founded upon an excellent bedrock of quality magical studies, ritual practices, and principles that are just as valid and useful today as they were over one hundred years ago. And the traditional Golden Dawn teachings, as we know them, have continued to evolve to accommodate new discoveries in various Western magical systems (such as Enochian), psychology, and archeology (particularly Egyptology and Coptic studies) while remaining true to its Osirian/Rosicrucian roots. It is a living system worked by living magicians who continue to add to the tradition with new insights.

Q: You describe Enochian Magick as the pinnacle of the Golden Dawn system and incredibly magickally potent, how much experience do you feel a newcomer should have before they turn their hand to practicing Enochian Magick?

A: When we were working through the Outer Order grades of the Golden Dawn, Regardie himself told us to leave Enochian alone until we were ready for it. A person who is just beginning to learn how to swim needs to stay at the shallow end of the pool before jumping headlong into the deep end. It’s the same way with magic or anything else for that matter. It is our view that students at the beginner’s level should learn the basics of magic first. The Golden Dawn system of Enochian requires that magicians be competent in all other areas of the Golden Dawn’s teachings prior to performing any advanced Enochian workings. This means that the magician must be skilled in his or her knowledge of the qabalah, astrology, geomancy, tarot, visualization, skrying, the projection of energy, vibration of divine names, etc. Much of the Golden Dawn’s Enochian magic revolves around skrying, angelic evocation, and astral work.

Until they reach a certain level of proficiency in their fundamental studies, Golden Dawn students of the Outer Order are given the Enochian system in small doses. This is because the Outer Order of the Golden Dawn is a school where the student first learns the ABC’s of magic before performing advanced magical procedures. This is one of the hallmarks of the Golden Dawn system.

Each student is an individual and some are going to learn at a faster rate than others. It’s also important for magical teachers and temple chiefs to be able to judge when someone might be getting ahead of themselves and becoming unbalanced by performing too much magical work. If someone is getting extreme, blow-out spiritual visions from performing a simple rite such as the Qabalistic Cross, it would be wise for them to proceed very slowly with the Work-saving Enochian for last. Since the Enochian was designed to be the “pinnacle” of the Golden Dawn system, it should be set aside until the student is ready.

The Golden Dawn Enochian Skrying Tarot was designed with this in mind. Although it was designed and based upon the teachings of the Golden Dawn, we realize that students both within and without the Golden Dawn tradition may use it. It was for this reason that we designed the Skrying Tarot system with three levels of expertise in mind: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. Beginners can use the cards purely as a divination tool, without having to perform complex workings of Enochian magic. As they develop more skills in the magical arts, in whatever tradition they are following, they may advance to the higher levels.

Q: You recently published The Golden Dawn Enochian Skrying Tarot. What inspired you to create this synthesis?

A: We can’t take credit for The Golden Dawn Enochian Skrying Tarot. It was the brainchild of our good friends, Bill and Judi Genaw, who were both formerly employed by the space industry in Florida. Bill is an engineer who used to fire up the Titan and Aries rockets. Judi is an artist with a lot of experience with computer graphics. One day they came over to our house with a prototype deck of what would eventual become the Skrying Tarot. We immediately realized what a useful tool the deck would be for those who wanted to study the Enochian system and use the cards for skrying into the Enochian Pyramid Squares-an important aspect of Enochian magic in the higher grades of the Golden Dawn system. We were also very excited by the fact that the Western elemental symbols (what we have come to call Western Tattvas) formed an entirely new system for skrying on the backs of the cards which perfectly matched the correspondences on the Enochian side of the cards. We decided to call the entire system The Golden Dawn Enochian Skrying Tarot-and the individual sides would be called The Enochian Watchtower Tarot (front side) and The Western Tattva Tarot (back side).

So the four of us set about fleshing out the system for what was to become the only double-sided deck that we are aware of. At first we thought that the deck’s primary use would be only as a tool for skrying, astral projection, and visionary work. But the more we worked on it, the more it became obvious that the deck could be a powerful tool for divination-not just on one side but on both sides. So then we set about coming up with keywords and divinatory interpretations for both sides of each card of the deck-89 cards times two! It was a long, hard process that took about five years to complete. It was a challenging and unique deck to produce, but we believe the result was well worth it.

Q: Are you working on any books or projects at the moment which you can discuss?

A: Yes, we have a new tarot deck coming out in January of 2006-The Babylonian Tarot-based on the cosmology and legends of ancient Mesopotamia. It is comprised of 83 cards, seventy-eight of which are the traditional cards of the tarot, with qabalistic, zodiacal, planetary, and elemental attributions that completely correspond with those of modern Hermetic decks such as our own previous deck The Golden Dawn Magical Tarot. There are five additional cards in this deck, including one extra trump and four extra court cards. The extra trump card is that of “Genesis” which has no number and is the first card in the deck, because we were trying to capture the antiquity of Mesopotamia and the creation of universe described in the great Babylonian epic known as the Enuma Elish. As for the extra court cards, a traditional tarot has four court types: the King (sometimes called the Knight) the Queen, Prince (also called the Knight at times), and the Princess (the Page or Knave). These correspond to the four elements of Fire, Water, Air, and Earth. The Babylonian Tarot includes a fifth court card type, the Kerub, who represents the element of Spirit.

Also, we have just finished up a book on Tarot Talismans, which uses five different decks to illustrate how to use the cards as talismans and amulets. Different talismanic purposes are described for every card in the deck, and consecration rituals are also provided. A large part of the book covers the angels of the tarot cards and how to invoke them, including making sigils and telesmatic images of these beings. Although the book is based on Golden Dawn teachings and techniques, we have tried to make it accessible to practitioners of many different spiritual paths.

Q: Where can readers go to find out more about the Golden Dawn in general and your books in particular?

A: Many of our books are published by Llewellyn publications (www.llewellyn.com). We also have a book that was published in England by Thoth Publications (www.thoth.co.uk) called Secrets of a Golden Dawn Temple: Book I, Creating Magical Tools.

We maintain a website for the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn at http://www.hermeticgoldendawn.org. There readers can find several articles on magic, tarot, astrology, biographies of famous ceremonial magicians and other topics by many of the magical community’s most respected authors, as well as numerous book reviews. We also have several links to a wide variety of resources that your readers can explore.

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Thank you to Chic & Sandra Tabatha Cicero for granting this interview for Avalonia! It has been an honour and a pleasure !
Please note: For permission to reproduce this article please contact us first – (c)2005 Chic Cicero; Sandra Tabatha Cicero & Avalonia.

Chic Cicero was born in Buffalo, New York. A former musician and businessman, Chic has been a practicing ceremonial magician for the past thirty years. He was a close personal friend of Israel Regardie. Having established a Golden Dawn Temple in 1977, Chic was of one of the key persons who helped Regardie resurrect a legitimate branch of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in the United States in the early 1980’s.

Sandra Tabatha Cicero was born in Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee in 1982 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts.

Both Chic and Tabatha are Chief Adepts of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn who have written several books published by Llewellyn. They share an enthusiasm for the esoteric sciences as well as a love of ritual, dance, music, and the creative arts. They live in Florida with their cat, Lealah, where they work and practice magic.

For those of you wanting to find out more about the work done by the Cicero’s please visit the website of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

Chic Cicero & Sandra Tabatha Cicero
Avalonia Author Interview

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The Interview
by Avalonia
( February 2005: A indicates answer by Chic Cicero & Sandra Tabatha Cicero,
Q indicates questions by Avalonia)

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Q: As Chief Adepts of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, you have published many books on the subject of the Golden Dawn. This is something that you are evidently passionate about. What do you think are the strengths of the Golden Dawn system of magick?

A: Nearly everyone will agree that no organization has had a greater impact on ceremonial magic than the Golden Dawn. Almost every aspect of the Golden Dawn’s curriculum has been absorbed into modern Western magic and esoteric belief. The Golden Dawn is not a religion, although religious symbolism and ideas permeate its teachings.

We believe that one of the major strengths of the Golden Dawn system is its inherent design. It was intended to be a school and repository of esoteric knowledge, where men and women could learn the fundamentals of the magical arts and the various elements of Western mysticism and spiritual philosophy. Students are guided through a series of initiatory rites, which each new grade attained leading to ever more rigorous areas of magical study, covering such topics as meditation, Qabalah, astrology, tarot, divination, inner alchemy, etc. Students absorb this material in gradual stages designed not to overwhelm them or cause psychic imbalance. Those students who are admitted into the higher grades learn the practical side of magic-the assumption of godforms, the creation and consecration of talismans, Enochian magic, skrying and astral work, and so forth.

We find the Golden Dawn’s method of teaching magic in careful, measured steps works much than the “sink or swim” technique of overloading students with advanced magical workings that they are not properly prepared for.

Q: The Golden Dawn system of magick mixes a range of different world pantheons with Christian symbolism. Are there any of these that you personally consider to be more significant for someone working this system of magick?

A: Along with Christian and Greek symbolism, the Egyptian pantheon certainly plays an important role in the Golden Dawn system. Many Egyptophiles are naturally drawn to the Order’s teachings. Much of the Order’s work on the subtle planes involves the visualization and assumption of Egyptian godforms such as Isis, Nephthys, Thoth, and others. The Outer Order of the Golden Dawn has been described as “Osirian” in essence. This is because the Egyptian god Osiris, embodied by the Hierophant, plays a crucial role in the astral work of the Neophyte Hall and the Outer Order in general.

The legend of Osiris, who was an “ordinary” god (if you can say such a thing) until his death, dismemberment, and resurrection is a kind of model or pattern for the candidate of the Mysteries-who “dies” to an old way of life, is symbolically “dismembered” by the initiatory process of self-analysis, and is “reborn” to a new spiritual way of life. Osiris is the perfect deity to symbolize this process, because in addition to being a magical process, this is also a psychological as well as an alchemical one. In analytical psychology this “Osirian” process is called analysis, confrontation (with the shadow), and self-realization. In alchemy it is known as separation, purification, and recombination. In magic it is referred to as purification, consecration, and union. All of these terms are used to describe the same basic purifying experience. In the Outer Order of the Golden Dawn, the student must examine his or her own inner workings-separating (“dismembering”) by defining and analyzing the various components of the psyche. The initiatory process works to purify and consecrate these psychic components until at length they are recombined, reunited, and realized (“resurrected”) in a more exalted or spiritualized Whole.

The work of the soul, like the work of alchemy is cyclical, and so this process will be repeated on a higher level in the more advanced grades of the Golden Dawn’s Second Order (the R.R. et A.C.). Here the Egyptian and Osirian paradigm remains, but it also morphs into the symbolism of Rosicrucianism and mystical Christianity. Here the initiate is introduced to the legend of Christian Rosencreutz, which is itself an allegory of the life of Christ. It should be apparent that throughout the Golden Dawn system, the model of a dying and resurrected Deity takes precedence, precisely because it symbolizes the continual process of alchemical growth and spiritual evolution.

Q: As a magickal couple, do you both have very similar interests or are they widely different?

A: Our interests are virtually identical. It was our attraction to the Golden Dawn that first brought us together over twenty years ago. I suppose we could drag out that tired old phrase “soul mates” but “spiritual companions” sounds less dated. We continue to find a never-ending source of richness and inspiration in the teachings of the Golden Dawn. And we enjoy exploring the system together. We feel that we are very lucky that way.

We share an interest in Egyptology, Biblical archeology, and Christian mysticism. If we could point to any slight difference in our other interests, however, it would be that Chic has more of an interest in Freemasonry and Tabatha has more of an attraction to ancient Babylonian culture and mythos. But this difference in interest is very slight.

Q: Your workshops are very popular and successful, what do you attribute this to?

A: We would like to think it’s because people “get it” that we’re not interested in attracting followers, or pretending that we are greatest magicians on the planet, or trying to fleece people out of their money. There are some “teachers” who seem to be on a power trip-they want to dictate to other people what to do and when to do it, or want to use the hard work of others as their own personal cash cow. Seeing a spiritual/magical system being abused in such a way gets depressing sometimes.

One of the things that first attracted us to Israel Regardie’s books was his style of writing-the way he truly seemed to care about helping spiritual seekers. You could feel his passion for the Great Work throughout his work. On the other hand, we’ve read a few books and websites whose authors seem to write with a condescending attitude toward their readers, rant and rave against other authors and groups, or make claims to be the only “Anointed Ones” on the planet to have found “The One True Way” of all magic. We never wanted our books to sound arrogant in that way-ever. Most readers of esoteric books are intelligent. They can tell when something smells like buffalo chips.

Some people live to tear down others out of jealously, fear of competition, or whatever. Unfortunately this is just as true for the magical community as it is for human society as a whole. This has become especially easy in the age of the Internet where anonymous cowards start flame wars while hiding behind phony screen names. That is just plain childish and stupid-and completely unspiritual. You have to wonder about the mental health of people who claim to be spiritually advanced and yet spend large amounts of their time posting hateful gossip and slander.

Whether we agree with them or not, we do not slam other authors or other magical groups, and we advise our students to follow suit. In fact, other than posting articles to our website, we don’t post on the Internet at all. We much prefer talking face to face with live individuals. It’s much more satisfying.

We both have day jobs and work for our lunch money. So we have to laugh when people assume that the Golden Dawn has made us rich. We can honestly tell you that the Golden Dawn has cost us thousands and thousands of dollars-it’s a labor of love for us. We love the system and that’s why we’ve spent 25 years or more building temples, making wands, and trying to help students with the Work. We try to keep it real. If we don’t know the answer to something, we’ll say so. Teaching and learning is a symbiotic relationship. There are times when we learn new things from our students. We love that. As we like to say: We are all Neophytes. We can all learn something from each other.

Q: Will you be doing any workshops in the UK during 2005?

A: Yes, we will be giving a workshop on Spiritual Alchemy in London on Saturday, April 30th, at Regent’s College. Details will be posted to our website. We will also be back in the UK sometimes in the fall, to give a workshop in Nottingham.

Q: Who has inspired you the most on your respective magickal paths?

A: That’s easy. Israel Regardie has had a huge impact on us both personally and magically. As you know, Regardie was the author of several books on magic. He is credited with removing the veil of secrecy surrounding modern occultism and ceremonial magic.

Regardie was born in England in 1907, but he spent most of his life living in the United States. In 1926 he was initiated into the Societas Rosicruciana in America, a Rosicrucian group that used Golden Dawn rituals. In 1928 he took a job in Paris working as a secretary for Aleister Crowley, a famous (we might say infamous) magical author and magician.

As a young man, Regardie studied every magical book he could get his hands on and by 1932, he had become a magical author in his own right. It was during that year that he published two books: A Garden of Pomegranates, which described the mystical system known as the Qabalah, and The Tree of Life which is considered his greatest work. It was the publication of the Tree of Life which resulted in Regardie being invited to join the Stella Matutina, a major offshoot of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (which had ceased to exist under that name in 1903). Regardie went on to write several more books, including The Golden Dawn: An Account of the Teachings, Rites and Ceremonies of the Order of the Golden Dawn and The Middle Pillar, which explored the common ground between magic and modern psychology. Later Regardie become a chiropractor and a psycho-therapist. He died in 1985, but his books are considered classics among magical text books.

In The Tree of Life Regardie drew a comparison between the mystical systems of Western Magic and Eastern Yoga-how they were alike and how they were different. But he was mainly interested in describing Western Magic, or the magic that developed in the major civilizations of the West. This type of magic is sometimes called theurgy, which is Greek for “God Working.” Theurgy is an ancient form of magic used for personal growth, spiritual evolution, and for becoming closer to the Divine. Regardie was not interested in hexes or spell-casting in order to get rich, curse your enemies, or to make someone fall in love with you. Regardie had very little tolerance for such things. He was mainly interested in magic as a system for self-healing as well as for spiritual evolution and psychic growth.

We began communicating with Regardie in 1981 and in the summer of 1982 he came to Columbus, Georgia to consecrate our Golden Dawn temple and Vault. (A series of letters from Regardie from around that time can found on our website.) In addition to being a great teacher, Regardie was a just fun person to be around. He was a real person. He enjoyed things as diverse as professional wrestling and classical music. He simply loved life. He wanted his friends to call him Francis-“None of this Dr. Regardie, s**t!” he would say. He had an impish Scorpio sense of humor and got a kick out of sending stinging quick-witted barbs on occasion. He was a knowledgeable and talented magician, as well as a gentle, ethical man who worked to help others.

Q: Do you feel that modern writers try to psychologise magick too much?

A: Some authors psychologize magic too much, others not enough. Some writers believe that “it’s all in your head” while others seem to believe that “it’s all in the hands of the gods.” The truth lies somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. Some authors do fall into the trap of the “psychologization of magic.” They proclaim that deities, angels, and spirits are simply creations of the human mind. Although pop psychologists derive their thinking from the theories of Swiss psychologist Carl G. Jung and others, they misunderstand Jung, who had a plaque above the front door of his home which read in Latin: “Bidden or not bidden, God is present.”

It all comes back to the old Hermetic axiom of “As Above, so Below.” God, gods, angels, and spirits exist out in the Greater Universe, just they exist within its mirror-the Lesser Universe of the human soul. To affect a change in one is to affect a change in the other. The Divine life force (known variously as the astral light, chi, prana, etc.) permeates everything. The Divine gave us the human mind, the most powerful magical tool we possess. And it is through the human mind that we are able to visualize and invoke gods, angels, and spirits-those Divine forces within us that are connected to their mirror image out in the Greater Universe. Magic strikes a balance between psychology and spirituality.

Q: We are often asked about the roots of Wicca, and certainly when it comes to practices Wicca has “borrowed” quite significant ideas and material from the Golden Dawn. What do you consider the most important roots of the Golden Dawn system of magick?

A: Much of this is covered in Chapter One of our book The Essential Golden Dawn. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn takes the first part of its name from the Hermetic Tradition or Hermeticism. This in turn is named after a human incarnation of Hermes-Thoth, the Greek god of communication combined with the Egyptian god of wisdom and magic. The roots of the Hermetic Tradition can be traced back to the Hellenistic period at the beginning of the Common Era, when the great cultures of Egypt and Greece merged after Alexander the Great conquered the known world. The cultural center of Alexandria bought together a variety of different religions, philosophies, and traditions that resulted in a new synthesis of beliefs and practices that would become known as Hermetism-the ancient source of modern Hermeticism.

Although Hermetism was attributed to an avatar of the Egyptian god of wisdom, and was Egyptian in essence, this new tradition embraced not only the richness of Egyptian religion, but also the many faces of Classical Greek philosophy and religion, particularly the teachings of Platonism, Neoplatonism, Stoicism, Neopythagorism, and Iamblichan theurgy. It also embraced the magical teachings and angelic hierarchy of Judaism, as well as Zoroastrianism and the many forms of Christianity and Gnosticism.

What did ancient Hermetism gain from this mixture? From Egyptian religion came the standard for magical formulae, potent ritual techniques, and some of the earliest ideas about the human soul. From the Greek philosophers came new insights about the universe and humanity’s place within it, including the theories on the four elements, the mystical power of numbers, and the evolution of the human soul. The Greek Mystery religions brought a deeply personal relationship between human worshipers and their beloved gods. Stoicism provided an emphasis on virtue, rationality, and moral conduct. Neopythagorism, Neoplatonism, Gnosticism, and the ancient Christian sects supplied the vocabulary and primary ideas of ancient mysticism. Iamblichan theurgy outlined basic magical techniques are still in use today.

In the fifteenth century, Renaissance scholars and Christian mages helped transform ancient Hermetism into modern Hermeticism. New elements were added to the tradition in the seventeenth century-namely Rosicrucianism, an esoteric path that emphasized alchemy, Qalabah, and Christian mysticism. A century later, aspects of Freemasonry, particularly Masonic ritual structure, was firmly imbedded into the mix.

All of these components helped to shape the Golden Dawn.

Q: What advice would you give to a newcomer who is interested in the Golden Dawn?

A: The best advice we can give is to read as much as they can about the subject. Read everything. Read books by Israel Regardie and Dion Fortune. Read our books. Read books by R.A. Gilbert, Pat Zalewski, John Michael Greer, and Darcy Küntz. Read Mary K. Greer’s Women of the Golden Dawn and Susan Johnston Graf’s W.B. Yeats-Twentieth Century Magus. Read books by Paul Foster Case and The Magicians of the Golden Dawn by Ellic Howe. And yes, you should read books by Aleister Crowley (even if you don’t like Crowley) and Arthur Edward Waite (even if you have a hard time getting through his ponderous writing style). One good introductory book is Learning Ritual Magic by John Michael Greer, Clare Vaughn, and Earl King, Jr. Just read everything.

Joining a Masonic or Co-Masonic type of organization will give readers some idea of the underlying formation and organization that was behind the structuring of the Golden Dawn system. John Michael Greer’s book Inside a Magical Lodge: Group Ritual in the Western Tradition will also help in this regard.

Be discriminating when it comes to joining any magical group, whether it’s Golden Dawn or any other tradition. (And keep sniffing the air for those infamous buffalo chips!) There is no group operating today that can prove that it has an unbroken line of institutional lineage back to the original Golden Dawn which ceased to exist in 1903, so forget about finding a group with real “apostolic succession.” Looking for Secret Chiefs under the bed is a complete waste of time-time that could be better spent actually doing the Work. The Great Work is the only important consideration.

In fact, don’t feel like you have to join a group at all. Maybe you simply want to start a small Golden Dawn study group with your friends. Maybe self-initiation is a route you might consider. If you really want to join an established group, there are many different Golden Dawn Orders that offer teachings-some groups teach traditional Golden Dawn while other blend Golden Dawn with other traditions such as Wicca or Thelema-which is perfectly fine so long as these distinctions are made clear at the outset. So find a group that fits you and your needs.

But we also recommend putting the books and study work aside on occasion and connecting with the rest of humanity-our brothers and sisters on this spinning globe. (Just because most people in Western society are not into magic does not give magicians the right to look down their noses and call them “troglodytes.” Many ordinary people may in fact be more spiritual than a good many magicians!) Magical folk, especially ceremonial magicians, tend to be recluses and hermits. And sometimes people use magic just like they use food, alcohol, or drugs-as an escape mechanism for avoiding human interaction. An obsessive or fanatical approach to magic may lead to the pitfalls of magical practice-ego-inflation and messianic complexes. Israel Regardie suggested that magical students undergo some form of psychotherapy to guard against this phenomenon. It is vitally important for students to maintain a healthy balance between the magical world and the secular world of everyday human contact. True spiritual growth is meant to be a benefit to all of humanity. So get out into the world. Do charity work. Connect. Watch a good movie. Play with the dog. Live a little.

Q: The Golden Dawn has an inherent structure of hierarchy, yet today many newcomers to the magickal world seem to show an interest in systems that allow them complete freedom, without the need to commit. What are your feelings on eclectic solitary practises which have resulted as a consequence?

A: It important to realize that most Golden Dawn Orders follow the hierarchical structure of a school, where the teachers, rather than the students, get to set the curriculum. A school is not a democracy. If someone has a problem following an established curriculum, maybe a school is not the right setting for them.

However, thanks to people like Israel Regardie, the Golden Dawn system of magic can be fully explored by solitary practitioners and groups of like-minded people who simply to wish to study the Golden Dawn tradition on their own. They can learn rituals like the LBRP, the Middle Pillar, and the Rose Cross Ritual, and even the initiation rituals and adapt them to their own style of working. They can study the Golden Dawn’s teachings on tarot, geomancy, Enochian, the creation of talismans, the Z-documents, etc.

You have to remember that when Regardie published all of this material, the remnants of the Golden Dawn-the last temples of the A.O. and the Stella Matutina-were in a severe state of decline. Regardie felt that the Golden Dawn Order system was fading into extinction. He felt that the only way future generations could benefit from the Golden Dawn’s teachings was to publish them. In 1937 he could not have imagined that Golden Dawn Orders and temples would make a come-back the way that they have in recent years. He probably assumed that everyone in the future would eventually be working on their own without the benefit of temples. Many of his later books where written with this in mind. He was a firm believer in the value of self-initiation.

So like Regardie, we have no problem with eclectic solo practices that have developed along the way. Many solitary magicians have come up valuable insights and good results which have proven to be beneficial to others working Golden Dawn magic. And again, some magicians working on their own or with others have adapted the Golden Dawn’s teachings by adding material from other traditions to suit their own likes and needs. There is nothing wrong with this.

That being said, there is a great benefit to be had in the traditional Golden Dawn Order system. It is very valuable to learn from people who have already experienced what you seek to experience. Also, the Order system is set up in such a way as to insure slow and steady progress of spiritual growth, in order to minimize the problems of magical burn-out, psychic imbalance, and ego-inflation. Also, sticking to one spiritual path is a form of discipline. A discipline is a routine of training and self-control that is designed to produce specific results and personal improvements. Someone who does not follow a specific spiritual discipline or established curriculum cannot expect to have the same experience or the same results as someone who does.

Q: The Golden Dawn system was created at the end of the 19th century, how much do you feel it has evolved since then?

A: We feel that it’s pretty hard to improve upon the original. We are amused when every once in a while somebody suggests that because we stick to the traditional Osirian model of the Golden Dawn, we are somehow working a “outdated” system that is stuck in the past and has no relevance in today’s world-as if Egyptian deities such as Osiris and Isis have a limited shelf-life. We would like to think that the old “your system is outdated compared to mine” argument-which has been used in the past by some Christians against Pagans and Jews, and in more recent times by some Neo-pagans against Christians-is itself considered outdated and un-evolved by true students of the Mysteries. The Golden Dawn is not a religion, but it teaches us to “hold all Religions in reverence, for there is none but contains a Ray from the Ineffable Light that you are seeking.”

One way that the Golden Dawn has evolved is that system is far more accessible than it has ever been before. There are more people today who consider themselves Golden Dawn magicians than at any other time. During the Victorian era, members were primarily Christian. Today, people from various religions are drawn to the Golden Dawn, including a large number of Neo-pagans. We have seen Buddhists, Jewish Rabbis, Catholic Priests, Gnostic Priests, Wiccan High Priestesses, and Protestant Ministers included among those who are drawn to the Golden Dawn.

The traditional Golden Dawn Order system is founded upon an excellent bedrock of quality magical studies, ritual practices, and principles that are just as valid and useful today as they were over one hundred years ago. And the traditional Golden Dawn teachings, as we know them, have continued to evolve to accommodate new discoveries in various Western magical systems (such as Enochian), psychology, and archeology (particularly Egyptology and Coptic studies) while remaining true to its Osirian/Rosicrucian roots. It is a living system worked by living magicians who continue to add to the tradition with new insights.

Q: You describe Enochian Magick as the pinnacle of the Golden Dawn system and incredibly magickally potent, how much experience do you feel a newcomer should have before they turn their hand to practicing Enochian Magick?

A: When we were working through the Outer Order grades of the Golden Dawn, Regardie himself told us to leave Enochian alone until we were ready for it. A person who is just beginning to learn how to swim needs to stay at the shallow end of the pool before jumping headlong into the deep end. It’s the same way with magic or anything else for that matter. It is our view that students at the beginner’s level should learn the basics of magic first. The Golden Dawn system of Enochian requires that magicians be competent in all other areas of the Golden Dawn’s teachings prior to performing any advanced Enochian workings. This means that the magician must be skilled in his or her knowledge of the qabalah, astrology, geomancy, tarot, visualization, skrying, the projection of energy, vibration of divine names, etc. Much of the Golden Dawn’s Enochian magic revolves around skrying, angelic evocation, and astral work.

Until they reach a certain level of proficiency in their fundamental studies, Golden Dawn students of the Outer Order are given the Enochian system in small doses. This is because the Outer Order of the Golden Dawn is a school where the student first learns the ABC’s of magic before performing advanced magical procedures. This is one of the hallmarks of the Golden Dawn system.

Each student is an individual and some are going to learn at a faster rate than others. It’s also important for magical teachers and temple chiefs to be able to judge when someone might be getting ahead of themselves and becoming unbalanced by performing too much magical work. If someone is getting extreme, blow-out spiritual visions from performing a simple rite such as the Qabalistic Cross, it would be wise for them to proceed very slowly with the Work-saving Enochian for last. Since the Enochian was designed to be the “pinnacle” of the Golden Dawn system, it should be set aside until the student is ready.

The Golden Dawn Enochian Skrying Tarot was designed with this in mind. Although it was designed and based upon the teachings of the Golden Dawn, we realize that students both within and without the Golden Dawn tradition may use it. It was for this reason that we designed the Skrying Tarot system with three levels of expertise in mind: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. Beginners can use the cards purely as a divination tool, without having to perform complex workings of Enochian magic. As they develop more skills in the magical arts, in whatever tradition they are following, they may advance to the higher levels.

Q: You recently published The Golden Dawn Enochian Skrying Tarot. What inspired you to create this synthesis?

A: We can’t take credit for The Golden Dawn Enochian Skrying Tarot. It was the brainchild of our good friends, Bill and Judi Genaw, who were both formerly employed by the space industry in Florida. Bill is an engineer who used to fire up the Titan and Aries rockets. Judi is an artist with a lot of experience with computer graphics. One day they came over to our house with a prototype deck of what would eventual become the Skrying Tarot. We immediately realized what a useful tool the deck would be for those who wanted to study the Enochian system and use the cards for skrying into the Enochian Pyramid Squares-an important aspect of Enochian magic in the higher grades of the Golden Dawn system. We were also very excited by the fact that the Western elemental symbols (what we have come to call Western Tattvas) formed an entirely new system for skrying on the backs of the cards which perfectly matched the correspondences on the Enochian side of the cards. We decided to call the entire system The Golden Dawn Enochian Skrying Tarot-and the individual sides would be called The Enochian Watchtower Tarot (front side) and The Western Tattva Tarot (back side).

So the four of us set about fleshing out the system for what was to become the only double-sided deck that we are aware of. At first we thought that the deck’s primary use would be only as a tool for skrying, astral projection, and visionary work. But the more we worked on it, the more it became obvious that the deck could be a powerful tool for divination-not just on one side but on both sides. So then we set about coming up with keywords and divinatory interpretations for both sides of each card of the deck-89 cards times two! It was a long, hard process that took about five years to complete. It was a challenging and unique deck to produce, but we believe the result was well worth it.

Q: Are you working on any books or projects at the moment which you can discuss?

A: Yes, we have a new tarot deck coming out in January of 2006-The Babylonian Tarot-based on the cosmology and legends of ancient Mesopotamia. It is comprised of 83 cards, seventy-eight of which are the traditional cards of the tarot, with qabalistic, zodiacal, planetary, and elemental attributions that completely correspond with those of modern Hermetic decks such as our own previous deck The Golden Dawn Magical Tarot. There are five additional cards in this deck, including one extra trump and four extra court cards. The extra trump card is that of “Genesis” which has no number and is the first card in the deck, because we were trying to capture the antiquity of Mesopotamia and the creation of universe described in the great Babylonian epic known as the Enuma Elish. As for the extra court cards, a traditional tarot has four court types: the King (sometimes called the Knight) the Queen, Prince (also called the Knight at times), and the Princess (the Page or Knave). These correspond to the four elements of Fire, Water, Air, and Earth. The Babylonian Tarot includes a fifth court card type, the Kerub, who represents the element of Spirit.

Also, we have just finished up a book on Tarot Talismans, which uses five different decks to illustrate how to use the cards as talismans and amulets. Different talismanic purposes are described for every card in the deck, and consecration rituals are also provided. A large part of the book covers the angels of the tarot cards and how to invoke them, including making sigils and telesmatic images of these beings. Although the book is based on Golden Dawn teachings and techniques, we have tried to make it accessible to practitioners of many different spiritual paths.

Q: Where can readers go to find out more about the Golden Dawn in general and your books in particular?

A: Many of our books are published by Llewellyn publications (www.llewellyn.com). We also have a book that was published in England by Thoth Publications (www.thoth.co.uk) called Secrets of a Golden Dawn Temple: Book I, Creating Magical Tools.

We maintain a website for the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn at http://www.hermeticgoldendawn.org. There readers can find several articles on magic, tarot, astrology, biographies of famous ceremonial magicians and other topics by many of the magical community’s most respected authors, as well as numerous book reviews. We also have several links to a wide variety of resources that your readers can explore.

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Thank you to Chic & Sandra Tabatha Cicero for granting this interview for Avalonia! It has been an honour and a pleasure !
Please note: For permission to reproduce this article please contact us first – (c)2005 Chic Cicero; Sandra Tabatha Cicero & Avalonia.

Chic Cicero was born in Buffalo, New York. A former musician and businessman, Chic has been a practicing ceremonial magician for the past thirty years. He was a close personal friend of Israel Regardie. Having established a Golden Dawn Temple in 1977, Chic was of one of the key persons who helped Regardie resurrect a legitimate branch of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in the United States in the early 1980’s.

Sandra Tabatha Cicero was born in Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee in 1982 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts.

Both Chic and Tabatha are Chief Adepts of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn who have written several books published by Llewellyn. They share an enthusiasm for the esoteric sciences as well as a love of ritual, dance, music, and the creative arts. They live in Florida with their cat, Lealah, where they work and practice magic.

For those of you wanting to find out more about the work done by the Cicero’s please visit the website of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

Christopher Penczak
Avalonia Author Interviews

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The Interview
by Sorita
( May 2005: CP indicates answers by Christopher Penczak, Q indicates question posed by Sorita)

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Q: Your book on Reiki is very lucid and practical, and you obviously value the system. What do you see the benefits of Reiki being for Witches?

CP: Well I think that Reiki is very helpful for anybody, but in particularly for anybody in any magickal practice, not just witchcraft. Reiki as a system is a way of safely and effortless tapping into a form of energy that is primarily used for healing. It doesn’t require a lot of focus or ritual. So if you are in pain, you can effortless tap into this healing power without having to do a formal ritual or having to exercise extreme focus. I use Reiki all the time in my everyday life. In a magickal practice, that energy can also be directed in spell craft and ritual. You can use it to add to your circle, candle magick, herbs and charms. It gives you a new source of energy, new methods of directing it by using a new symbolic alphabet to channel the energy and a new view point in using energy. Reiki comes from a Japanese Buddhist background, and stressed the ideas of non-attachment and “for the highest good” in it’s system, much like some forms of magick. Using Reiki in your magick can help you balance the perspective of directing your will towards your goal, yet simultaneously be detached on a personal level to how it manifests. Reiki in magick helps you let go of control, yet still have results. I know that’s been a struggle for me in my practice, and understanding some of the Eastern philosophies and applying them to my Western traditions has been extremely helpful.

Q: In a recent article, you compare Magick to Cooking (Watkins Review 10), but then say cooking isn’t your strong suite, what do you feel are your strong points?

CP: Definitely not the domestic arts. Lol. Thankfully I am handfasted to a wonderful man who is not only an excellent writer and game designer in his own right (www.stevekenson.com), he’s a much better cook. I think my strongest talent is teaching. I love to teach, be it one on one, groups or lecture halls. I think everything else flows out of the desire to teach, from my private sessions in healing work, to my books. On the more domestic front, I make good herbal preparations. Well, perhaps not good tasting, but effective medicines. I’m a pretty good gardener when I devote the time to it. And not a bad signing voice when I’m in shape. I actually have a degree in music performance. My instrument was voice, though that seems like a different life now.

Q: Your temple of Witchcraft series of books, seems aimed at redressing the balance for the ever growing number of solitary witches, by providing more focus and structure. What inspired you to write these books?

CP: The books are actually based on the series of classes that I teach my students. I didn’t plan on writing them, or even becoming a teacher. I was running a small meditation/moon ritual group, not a coven. I was asked by members of the group, and some other friends, to teach witchcraft. I came from a background that was not lineage focused, but classes and workshops that focused on providing a space for a transformational experience. My friends wanted something similar. I used the notes of my own training with Laurie Cabot to put together a class. I added other thoughts and ideas that were important to me and created my own Witchcraft One class. That became the foundation of The Inner Temple of Witchcraft. After the first class, that group wanted another level of training. Then another. Eventually I saw an elemental scheme working out. I started including a lot of information that I added to my own practice, but I didn’t learn as a part of my foundational training, such as spirit work and shamanic healing, or ceremonial magick. I drew from a lot of traditions and sources because my belief in the Craft is that even though it may be known by different names across the globe, when you have people honoring the Earth and Sky, Mother and Father, acting as guardians to the natural and spirit worlds, turning the wheel of the year and doing magick, you have some form of witchcraft.

As I began teaching more publicly, I found that my training was a little different than what was available to most people. I had a lot of people interested, but they couldn’t travel to me for workshops. I eventually figured a class in book format was the best way to reach people who wanted the teachings, but not necessarily to take classes in person. I’ve had a lot of luck myself with such books, and with correspondence courses, so I though it would be an effective method to teach others who want to learn my system. I’ve found there are far more willing students than covens available to train, so books become a strong source for those seeking witchcraft. I wanted to create something that would be grounded, solid and cover a wide range of topics and ideas. I’ve had a lot of people use the books in their own training covens because I don’t necessarily give one way to do anything, but teach the ideas and explain why people might do a specific technique that way. When you present the ideas, rather than dogma, it gives you a lot of flexibility. Yet the ideas and theory make sure people understand how things work and stay on stable ground.

Q: You spoke at several events in London last year, did you notice any big differences between those interested in Witchcraft in the UK and in the USA?

CP: My London experience was quite broad, so it’s hard to dump everybody in the UK or in the US into one pile. I did find some differences in terminology. In the US, Wicca is quite a broad term. For some, particularly after Wicca for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham, it became a broad base term, often the default “less scary” word when talking about witchcraft to others. Most people didn’t know what Wicca was ten years ago. In many circles, Wicca and witchcraft are used interchangeably. For some the difference is a big deal. as many identify as Wiccan or witch, but not both, but usually Americans are pretty mellow about it. We usually refer to Gardnerian and Alexandrian lines as British Traditional. I was forewarned by American witches who visited the UK that the meanings were a bit different and folks in London did tell me several times that I was using the wrong terminology, even after I defined my terms and shared my point of view during my lecture. Most in the UK look at the British Traditional forms as Wicca and the practice of magick and non initiated witches as witchcraft. People were adamant about it. It was kind of funny looking back on it now.

At least in the London social circles I was in, there seemed to be more of a call towards more traditional practices and lineage based groups, yet when I got a few people to share with me their practices, it didn’t seem that traditional to me. I spoke to a few Gardnerians using Vodou lwa in their rituals. I love the idea and have a soft spot for the lwa, but it doesn’t strike me as being very British Traditional. I love hearing about people’s personal experiences, and sharing my own. Not to prove a point, but just to hear the diversity of experience. I’m more for experience than theory when you get down to it. I found few people in the UK willing to share their experiences. I was told what happens in the circle, stays in the circle. I can understand, but US witches are usually more inclined to share. Perhaps they are a little too inclined to share, I don’t know. It did strike me odd. When I lead a meditation in a book signing lecture, I usually go around the room and everybody shares. When I was in London, no one wanted to share anything.

I also found that those pushing the more traditional forms of the craft looked at a lot of American traditions with suspicion. When I brought up the Feri tradition, Georgians or Cabot Tradition, I was told they weren’t recognized in the UK. I’m not sure if that’s really true, or just for that particular person. Someone even told me they felt Raymond Buckland was radical. To Americans he is seen as our grandfather of the craft and somewhat traditional, even though he opened up a lot of freedom in his Seax Tradition and shared a lot of information in his books. Some of my London friends assure me that I just met up with some folks on the extreme side of either spectrum and that US and UK pagans are not all that different. And I did meet quite a few people who were quite lovely and reminded me of those in my communities in the US, so I probably did see some extremes. I’m sure someone from the UK visiting America might find quite a few radical people and assume that every pagan in the US was like that. I’ll be back in London next November for Witchfest, so I’m looking forward to meeting more people and having another good time.

Q: The high quality and quantity of your literary output, suggests a driven man! What brought you to where you are on your path now?

CP: I just write fast and now that I find myself doing witchy things full time, I need to keep busy. People write one book and think they can live the rest of their life off it, but it doesn’t work that way. Like anybody else, I put 40 hours into my job. Some weeks even more. Now I split it between writing, teaching and seeing clients for readings and healing sessions. I try to write books I would want to read. Though there is always going to be a certain amount of covering the same ground, particularly to recap for newbies, since you never know if your book is the first book on witchcraft they pick up, I try to write something different, from a different perspective. I try to only write about things that I have taught for a while. So usually they books start out as workshops and class hand outs, and eventually build in details to become books. I’ve been working on this stuff for many years before my first book every came out.

I actually had plans of being a musician. Specifically I wanted to be a rock star. I worked at a recording studio/record label in Cambridge, MA, and was making contacts, but I got a clear message from the Goddess to start teaching more. When I finally agreed to her demands, I lost my job and couldn’t find another even though the economy at the time was booming. I put up a flyer for witchcraft and meditation classes, and got the phone ringing off the hook. I’ve been teaching every since, slowly building a practice, and taking my days to write down my class lessons into longer handouts, which eventually became books. I think teaching and writing now is my “true will” so to speak, and the universe will continue to support this path for as long as I need to do it. When I need to do something else, hopefully that will be clear. I envision myself doing some sort of youth social services later in life, but I’m not sure what at this point.

Q: Purification and healing are themes that occur a lot in your work, and you obviously feel are important, what other practices would you stress as being important?

CP: I think meditation is the number one tool in any spiritual practice. If you don’t learn to clear your mind and listen to the universe, very little else will come from your practice. The wisdom you gain through regular meditation will tell you often not to do a spell, even though you can do it.

Regular ritual, even if its not full circle, is also critical. I teach my students the practice of an altar devotional, a method of connecting with the divine through something similar to a prayer, where you are thankful for your blessings but also using intention to create your day. Regular meditation and ritual are the two biggest factors in my own practice, and what I like to stress to others.

Q: In Gay Witchcraft, you put over a very encompassing and inclusive perspective of gender, emphasizing balance. How much of a role do you feel personal sexuality should play in spirituality?

CP: I guess it depends on the spiritual tradition you have chosen. For witchcraft, I think sexuality is inherent in our tradition and can’t be ignored, yet to focus solely on it, or solely on one aspect of it, such as literal fertility, misses the point. Many mystical traditions either seek to sublimate the sexual urge into spiritual energy, or embrace sexual energy to open the awareness to higher spiritual consciousness. Both can work, but I’m not for repressing anything, so I think sexual energy should be embraced. Like any relationship, first you have to have a healthy relationship with yourself. Only then you can direct it towards others. Understanding your own sexual energy – physically, but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually, is essential to a healthy relationship where sex can be a part of your spirituality. Like love, if you are not in tune with love energy for yourself, you can never truly love another. Geesh, I sound like an advertisement for masturbation, but that’s only part of it. Witchcraft helps us face our sexual feelings, straight or GLBT, break any negative social conditioning and truly embrace the sacredness of it. Sex has played a bit part of my own spiritual development and I’m sure it will continue to do so.

Q: Of all the many subjects that you give talks and workshops on, which one is closest to your heart?

CP: Healing. Of all the things I teach and write about, healing wins hands down. I want to write a comprehensive healing book, but the topic is so vast, I’m not sure where to start. To me, the bumper sticker “Witches Heal” says it all. We do. That’s what this practice is about for me. Self healing first, so then you can help others.

Q: Between writing, speaking and giving workshop, you live a very magickally active life. How do you keep your feet on the ground?

CP: I think maintaining a regular spiritual practice of meditation and ritual keeps you grounded. Doing life stuff, all the mundane things like housework, paying the bills, sleeping in late on your day off and gardening helps. I also think having a loving supportive real network of family and friends keeps you grounded. We all need people who love us enough to tell us when we’re being a jerk, or to help us calm down when things are too intense.

Q: You are one of the founders of the Gifts of Grace Foundation in New Hampshire, can you tell us a bit about their work?

CP: Well at the moment I’m not longer a member, yet still supportive of the work. It’s really the mastermind of my yoga teacher Stephanie Rutt, and her Tree of Life Interfaith ministries. Gifts of Grace – http://www.giftsofgracefoundation.org – official mission statement is “The Gifts of Grace is a non-profit foundation promoting interfaith awareness. We support people of all religions and spiritual paths in coming together to serve the common good of our world family through service.” Basically we’re about service, from supporting and sponsoring events on the local and national level. One of our most successful projects was a quilting program where community members come together to make nice, warm quilts. Have are sent to the local homeless and women’s shelters while the other half is sent to Eastern Europe. We’ve also done food drives and money raising events for local charities. One of my favorite programs that I was personally involved in was providing Reiki, Massage and other healing services to the caregivers of those who are suffering from Alzheimer’s. Imagine this witch doing Reiki in the community center of a Catholic Church! I couldn’t believe it until we were there. Gifts of Grace and Tree of Life also supports a lot of community workshops to demonstrate the principles of different religions to the community.

Q: Any new exciting projects you can tell us about?

CP: Oh, lots of things are on the horizon. I’ll be in a documentary on Paganism in the US called Moonrise. It should be out next fall and distributed by Red Wheel/Weiser. My next book, The Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft and its accompanying CD set will be out by July 2005. After that I have a spell book called Instant Magick, that described spells that require no tools. I’m currently researching for a book on demons and a book on gay sex magick. Both are lots of fun.

Thanks so much. I enjoyed talking with you.

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Thank you to Christopher Penczak for taking the time to answer all our questions, its been a pleasure and a privilege to delve into your world! For permission to reproduce this article please contact us first – (c) 2005 Christopher Penczak & Avalonia

Remember if you want to find out more about Christopher’s workshops and books visit his website – there are also all kinds of great articles on there, including a biography – click here

Christopher Penczak is the author of the books City Magick (Samuel Weiser, 2001), Spirit Allies (Samuel Weiser, 2002), The Inner Temple of Witchcraft (Llewellyn 2002), Gay Witchcraft: Empowering the Tribe (Weiser Books, 2003) and The Outer Temple of Witchcraft (Llewellyn, 2004). He is an eclectic witch, healer and teacher in the New England area.

David Rankine
Avalonia Author Interviews

The Interview
by Dr.Nina Lazarus
( December 2004 : DR indicates David Rankine, Q indicates question posed by Nina)

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Q: I have just read your latest book “Becoming Magick” published by Mandrake of Oxford. What inspired you to write this book?

DR: This was the book I have been meaning to write for many years! I am a great believer in pushing the boundaries and trying out new ideas, and the inspiration came from working through some old ideas and material I had worked on back in the late 80s, which I was placing within the context of more recent magickal work. Before I knew it the book had pretty much taken form!

Q: In the book you mention “Greyfox” as being a magickian that you have done a lot of work with over the years. Can you tell us a bit more about him?

DR: Greyfox is the magickal name of Graham Jebbett, a magickal colleague and friend, who is one of the most dedicated magickians I know and perhaps a little crazy too! You have to be to perform the Bornless as a daily practice for more than fifteen years! He lives out in Somerset, which means we don’t get to see each other all the time, but he still helps me out by testing out new ideas I have and is an excellent person to bounce crazy notions off!

Q: 2004 must have been a busy year for you, as your book with Stephen Skinner “The Practical Angel Magic of Dr. John Dee’s Enochian Tables” has also just been published by Golden Hoard Press. How did you meet Stephen and what is it like to work with him?

DR: I was introduced to Stephen through a mutual friend. It is fantastic working with him, as we have very similar ideas about magick, and I am learning a lot from the experience. His book “Techniques of High Magic” (with Francis King) was the first practical book I worked through as a teenager, so to work with the author of my initial inspiration is a great experience, as his breadth of knowledge and experience is phenomenal!

Q: Do you enjoy giving lectures at Pagan Conferences? You are known to speak on a wide range of subjects, which is your favourite and why?

DR: I do enjoy giving lectures very much, particularly when there is an opportunity for questions at the end, as it is always worthwhile to see what sort of interest and ideas my talks produce. My favourite subject to lecture on – that is a tricky one! Possibly Qabalah, as I feel this is a subject that is best appreciated through experience, and books often fail to convey the vital essence of Qabalah, its beauty and simplicity as a practical system. In lectures and workshops this can be expressed more clearly and it is a great feeling to see people put pieces together and understand a concept or technique they might have been struggling with.

Q: I remember reading somewhere that you have been writing for a long time, and of course you have just published your fourth book with several forthcoming in 2005. What was the first thing you wrote which got published?

DR: I think the first thing I wrote that got published was a piece on the 32nd path in a pagan magazine called Evohe! that was produced in Oxford back in 1987. I went on to co-edit the magazine shortly afterwards, so I assume it went down well!

Q: In “Becoming Magick” you present a new system of English Gematria, which you call Prime Qabalah (or PQ for short), gematria is one of those subjects which make most Witches cringe at the thought of mathematics. What do you enjoy about it ?

DR : I love the simplicity and universality of numbers. I use gematria as a way of prompting the intuition to make connections and spark off inspiration. If I don’t make a connection within about 15 seconds I leave it rather than sit and spend hours trying to force it.

Q: How did you first become involved in Magick?

DR: The condensed version is probably easiest! As a child I was fascinated with mythology, and read voraciously on world mythologies. When I was 10 I discovered the “Tao Teh King”, which is still my favourite book, and this inspired me to start looking at other books. Then at 14 I bought a selection of books on magick, read them, started practising the techniques in them and decided that was what I would dedicate my life to.

Q: Wicca is often described as “fluffy” by magickians and occultists, yet you seem to enjoy the best of both worlds. What, for you, is the best thing about Wicca?

DR: For me the best thing about Wicca is that it has a pared down and effective ritual structure that still gives plenty of scope for intense magickal and mystical experiences, and also allows participants the ability to develop their personal relationship with deity. Of course the material presented in the Book of Shadows is a bare skeleton, which is filled out by different covens and traditions according to their preferences, but the core is the elegant simplicity given by Gardner, and then added to by his followers and Alex Sanders.

That is what I did in Progressive Wicca and also in the Starstone Network with Sorita d’Este – added a flavour which worked for us – in my case one heavily influenced by my ritual magic training and lineage.

Q: You have given talks and lead workshops on working with the Irish Goddess The Morrigan, a Goddess who is often associated with sex and battle. Any plans to write a book on this interesting Goddess?

DR: Yes, a book on the Morrigan is in the pipeline. I have started working on one with Sorita, but we have a number of other projects and commitments to finish first before we can get the Morrigan book complete.

Q: Who inspired you the most on your magickal path?

DR: This is a really difficult question to answer, and really needs a list with categories for periods in history! I have been inspired greatly by people whose work I feel is magickal even if not defined as belonging specifically to the genre, like the anthropologist Mircea Eliade, Wilhelm Riech, and the consciousness pioneer Stanislav Grof. To pick out one magician would be extremely difficult and probably be unfair as I have been inspired by quite a few of them!

Graeme K Talboys & Julie White

Avalonia Author Interviews
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The Interview
by Avalonia
( February 2005: GKT indicates answer by Graeme Talboys and JW indicates answer by Julie White,
Q indicates questions by Avalonia)

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Q: – Arianrhod’s Dance is a great title for a book, how did you come to decide on it?

GKT / JW : Titles are extremely important and we wanted something that conveyed both the Celtic roots of the Druid Way and the cyclic nature of life and ritual. Arianrhod is a daughter of the Great Mother Goddess Dôn. She plays an important part in Welsh mythology, but we chose her specifically because of her astronomical associations. Her name means ‘silver wheel’ and she is closely linked both with the Moon and the great circle of the constellations. As an important part of ancient Celtic and modern Druid ritual has been based on the dance of the Earth, Moon, and Sun against the background of the stars, we felt that Arianrhod’s Dance would be a fitting title. It also pays homage to an oft-neglected deity whilst also, we hope, conveying something of the celebratory nature of ritual.

Q: – How important is the Goddess Arianrhod to Druids?

GKT / JW : Druids have a curious relationship with deity (and a few would contend they have no relationship at all – but that’s another discussion!). Rather than worship the deities they recognize as distant and omnipotent beings, Druids work closely with them to learn the lessons they can impart. They strive to understand the actual and symbolic strengths, roles, and spiritual meaning of individual deities and the myths in which they feature, working through them to invoke a deeper understanding of the universe. This means that all deities are important, but for different reasons. The importance waxes and wanes in accord with the seasons or with whatever other rites are being enacted. Nor is the relationship with deity confined to ritual, for Druids believe that spirit resides in all things at all times and this is often symbolized by or focussed within a specific deistic form. Thus, the Land, which is of vital importance to Druids, is often symbolized in the form of a goddess of sovereignty. Specific locations may also be associated with specific deities whose personality or story is reflected in the landscape.

The differences in importance also extend to the relationships that individual Druids develop with deity. We are all different and respond to the world according to our own natures. In working with spirit and deity, each Druid tends to develop a special relationship with one or two deities. These may change over time, but many Druids work with and are guided by the same deity throughout their life. Julie, for example, works most closely with Morgan – a healer and teacher. Graeme has a particular affinity with Lug and, as a consequence, with Myrddin. Coming from a long line of farmers, shepherds, and smiths, he also has a great affection for Brigid.

Q: Do you feel that it is important for someone wishing to practise Druidry to have a connection to the places in which it originated? Would it, for instance, be as appropriate to practise Druidry in Tasmania (Aus) as it would be in Wales or Scotland?

GKT / JW :This is an extremely complex subject. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 18) states that ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change their religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest their religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.’ It is a right that we support absolutely. In that respect one has the right to be Druid irrespective of whether you live in Snowdonia, the Freycinet Peninsula Tasmania), or a pressure dome half way up Mons Olympus on Mars.

Whether it is entirely appropriate is another question. It is a matter of roots. To be Druid is to draw from Celtic heritage. The Celtic speaking peoples derived their understanding of the world and their spiritual and religious beliefs from the land in which they lived. Yet they were (and still are) inveterate travellers and they took their vision of the world with them. However, they always applied it to the place in which they found themselves. That is why, for example, Welsh, Breton, and Irish mythology are different in detail and ambience whilst clearly having a common genesis.

We do not know how the beliefs of ancestral Celts would have evolved beyond Europe, although there are clear signs that along the borders with the Germanic tribes there was a melding of ideas and beliefs. Did, for example, the Celts that formed the personal bodyguard of the Ptolemies continue with their native beliefs, or did they immerse themselves in Greco-Egyptian culture? And those Celtic remains found in China. Would they have become Taoists or Confucianists, or would they have sought for signs of Celtic deity in the alien landscape?

Of course, the world is a very different place. Celts have been instrumental in most of the great colonizations of the planet – often forced out of their homelands. And for all that they were nominally Christian; they no doubt took many of the old ways with them. It is no surprise, therefore, that the old ways are re-emerging all over the world. The pagan impulse is deeply embedded in the human psyche.

Those who become Druid in places that were not originally Celtic, are aware of the local deities and work in sympathy with them – which is not the same as appropriating them. Pre-Christian Celts did not proselytize, nor were they imperialistic. Like modern Druids, they would probably have kept their own ways in private whilst also acknowledging that they were guests in another land that has its own spiritual traditions.

Q: Which is your favourite sacred site in Britain? Why?

JW – My favourite sacred site is Arbor Low in Derbyshire. A Druid friend was kind enough to take me there once when I visited the Peaks. I was so shocked at the power of the place. When the visitors left and we were alone, about to start an Autumn Equinox ritual, the place seemed to hum and you could see lights flashing round and round. I ended up having to lie down. Over forty ley lines converge there and it is the most central of all the stone circles. It is certainly well worth a visit. My other two sites are Hollingbury, an ancient Druid site that overlooks my house, and any place where water meets the shoreline. I do like Stonehenge, and had the honour to preside over a ritual there sometime back, but it seemed to me to be tired of all the people who take from it without ever giving back.

GKT – For me, it has to be The Mount in Lewes, East Sussex. This is an artificial mound made of chalk and covered with turf. The structure bears an uncanny (and possibly deliberate) resemblance to Silbury Hill, although it is considerably smaller at forty-feet in height. A spiral path winds its way about the hill, originally starting at the north east and completing one and a quarter turns before reaching the flattened summit. Although a number of theories exist about its origin, it is almost certainly late Neolithic in origin.

Quite apart from its antiquity – or perhaps because of that – it has exerted a magical influence on my life. I passed The Mount twice a day (and sometimes more) on my way to and from school. It became a familiar site in what was a fecund and largely happy time of my life. It was also a favourite haunt – far enough from school to get away from the less edifying aspects of state education (of which there were mercifully few for me) and close enough to reach without wasting too much time.

On its slopes, I would enjoy the long summer days everyone seems to have had in their youth; watch the summer stars and listen to the distant sounds of the worlds; talk with friends and share hopes and ideas; write poetry; read; listen to music; and dream. It was the hub of a wider circle in which much of my social life was lived and in which I developed my love of words – both spoken and written. It was also at the heart of that place where my spirit flowered and I began my first steps along the Druid Way.

Wherever I go now, The Mount is always with me, part of my sacred inner landscape – a place where the latent spirit within me was given form and shown a way to travel that would honour the Land and the Goddess in whose honour the Hill was first raised.

Q: Do you think that there has been a lot of cross fertilisation between the rituals of Druidry and that of Wicca?

GKT / JW : We are not sure that either of us knows enough about present-day Wiccan practise to comment. However, as both groups are pagan and both groups are to be found largely in north western Europe (and emigrant communities derived from north western Europe), there will inevitably be similarities. There was certainly a great deal of communion between Druids and Wiccans in the earlier parts of the twentieth century that led to a common approach to ritual.

There is, now, a growing movement within druidry, especially amongst Hedge Druids, that sees much of the last few centuries to have been a journey deeper and deeper into a cul-de-sac. The recent flowering of study into ancestral Celts has allowed the opportunity to begin uncovering what is currently known as the Celtic metaphysic and exploring modes of thought and ways of seeing the world that motivated ancestral Druids. From this, new approaches to ritual are emerging which, whilst they may be no more ‘authentic’ than any other, are based directly on readings of pre-Christian material.

Q: If you were asked to describe Druidry to someone who has never heard of Druids, what would you say?

GKT / JW :In a single sentence, it would be something like: “It is a pagan Way that understands and relates with the world through the medium of ancestral Celtic understanding and beliefs.” Of course, that would require a good deal of explanation – especially the word ‘pagan’, which can elicit such antipathy.

Q: What is the most important aspect of Druidry – the quintessence without which it would not hold the same appeal and mystery?

JW – The most important aspect of Druidry for me has to be Service. That is, teaching and helping others walk their Way; giving back to the Land, the Goddess, and the ancestors; and keeping the tradition alive.

GKT – Truth. This has always been of paramount concern to Druids. Their many roles in ancestral Celtic society demanded it of them. They were witnesses to all the events of Celtic life and needed to be able to recall and recount these events accurately. But the notion of Truth is much wider than a mere accuracy of recall. Truth is the very foundation of existence and equally the foundation of the way in which ancestral Celts and modern Druids view the world. This is not just the veracity of language, but also the Truth of thought and action, the Truth of dream and relationship. It is the very measure of how much we are in accord with the natural world. That is the paradigm. We cannot, as human beings, avoid having an impact on the planet (both materially and spiritually), but we can try to live our lives as individuals and collectively in a way that mitigates that impact. Acting in accord with natural systems is the basis of Truth. It is a matter of having reverence for the Land, the Mother who gave us life. This has wide reaching implications for all that we do and gives rise to all the other qualities that are held dear by Druids, especially Service (which is the active element of Truth), honour and responsibility, respect, justice, and courage.

Our answers reflect our natures. Julie is more inclined to practice whilst Graeme inclines to philosophical enquiry (which is probably why we write so well together).

8 – Just like the stereotype for a Witch is an old woman with a crooked nose flying on a broomstick, so many people hold the image of men in white robes, carrying staffs and swords, descending on Stonehenge for Midsummer, as being the archetypal image of a Druid. Do you feel that this image is damaging to Druids in any way?

Whilst it is annoying (like all those programmes on television that cannot mention paganism without the need for gothic imagery and mention of human sacrifice), I suspect that the Druid Way is far too deeply embedded in real people and the real world for such images to be damaging. However, whilst it may not damage those who are already Druid, those who play up to the stereotype and indulge in strange antics do have the potential to put many people off investigating the Druid Way and finding their intended spiritual path. That is reprehensible and is something all Druids – indeed, all pagans – should consider when they put themselves in the public eye.

9 – There are many training courses and workshops being offered all over the UK for people wanting to learn more about Druidry. What do you feel the best way to be for someone wanting to learn more and become a Druid?

What makes a Druid has much more to do with how they conduct their lives than it does with ‘esoteric’ knowledge (there is none in the Druid Way), book learning, or belonging to an Order. We have both studied with and graduated from an Order (OBOD), we have both studied the material produced by other Orders and groups, and we have both attended other courses and workshops. Neither of us has found any of them entirely satisfactory. This is partly because we both came to such things after many years of personal study and practice.

This is not to condemn such material or courses and workshops. For those new to the Way, they provide a structured introduction to what can be a daunting landscape of new ideas and understanding, as well as the companionship of fellow travellers and experienced practitioners. By all means, people should consider such a way into being Druid. However, they should do so with two things in mind. The first is that such things are just introductions. Completing a course does not make anyone Druid; it merely starts them on a lifelong path where learning and practice go hand in hand. The second is that for all our ancestors were introduced to the mysteries (and a whole lot else) in schools and colleges, they did not belong to Orders as some modern Druids do (for they are an invention of the Revivalists). Whilst they kept in close touch their fellows, ancestral Druids spent their lives working in and for their own communities.

By far the best way to become Druid is to make contact with the Land. This requires no grand ritual or initiation, no special knowledge. It means taking notice of what is happening to the world just outside your door, it means tending your garden (if you are lucky enough to have one), it means walking in woodland and opening yourself to the experience, it means slowing your life and living as simply as you can. These are the best first steps as they produce a new way of looking at the world, one that our ancestors possessed. Then you are ready to learn more specific things about ancestral Celts, their Druids, and how that applies in the world today.

Q: What were your own first steps on the path of Druidry? Do you think things have changed much since then?

JW – My first steps in Druidry go way back nearly fifty years when I was about four. My father taught me all about nature and would take me to see hares and sunrises. I still love both. I knew way back then that they were important. I was also extremely interest in Faerie from early age and believed in Arthur the moment I heard of him. Later in the 1960s, I knew a few witches who were in Alex Saunders coven, but the Craft did not ring true to me, although much of the paganism did. I always saw the Solstice Sunrise, honoured the Land, Sea and Sky and just got on with my own brand of Celtic based spirituality.

Much later, in the early 1990s I joined OBOD and went through their three-grade system, ending up as a tutor for five years. I left, as I felt the Order was far too large. When I left, I formed the Spiral Light Grove with some other women. This was a ‘closed’ Grove and it went very well for a few years until we all decided to work alone. We are all still good friends and keep in touch. I met Graeme through OBOD (for me the best thing to happen throughout those years in the Order) and we both share a common core in our Druidry, even though we live at different ends of the country.

Has Druidry changed? Yes, but I don’t feel it is for the better. I honestly believe that huge organizations are counter-productive as people have a tendency to focus on the organization and follow the leaders rather than the tides of the Land. Many people believe that these leaders know all the answers, and I know they don’t. The answers are inside us and in nature. We need to ask the Goddess and listen to what she has to say. I also think many of the teachings have become watered down and far too New Age. Much of the Celtic metaphysic has gone. My own Druidry has changed because I have gone full circle and I now feel as I did when I was a child.

GKT – Although my early childhood was largely urban, we were lucky enough to live on the edge of Richmond Park. My very earliest memories include playing beneath the trees and listening to the stags belling in the dusk. By the time I reached my early teens, I was living in Sussex and spent a great deal of time walking on the Downs. There was no conscious feeling of being pagan, but I did enjoy an enormous freedom of body and of spirit, for my parents were trusting and content to allow me to explore where I chose.

I was thirteen (in the mid-1960s) when I consciously began to explore spiritual ideas in general, paganism more specifically, and the Druid Way in particular. I was lucky in having an English teacher who introduced us to ‘The Sword in the Stone’ by T.H.White and further encouraged us to read the rest of ‘The Once and Future King’. I was enthralled. Not just because it is a wonderfully eccentric tale that fizzes with magic and humour, but also because it made sense to me on a deeper level.

Arthurian material became an obsession (it still is) as did Myrddin, who led me to the ancestral Druids and the culture of which they were an integral part. I began to understand the world in a way that made a great deal more sense than that on which present-day society is based. For quarter of a century, I made what sense of it I could through my own researches and by spending as much time as possible in the company of trees.

I joined OBOD around the same time as Julie although, by then, I was living in Jarrow. Although studying their course material presented new avenues of exploration for me – and put me in touch with Julie – I left the Order not too long after I graduated. I have never been comfortable with human authority and, like Julie, feel that Orders can stand in the way of what is really important – our relationship with the Land.

I, too, feel that I have completed a great cycle. I started as a Hedge Druid and have returned to that. I began by searching on my own and have also returned to that. A new cycle has begun for both of us in that we now run the Hedge Druid Network which is, principally, a means for Hedge Druids to exchange ideas and experiences without having to be subject to the strictures of an Order.

Q: Graeme, I noticed that you have a fictional work “Wealden Hill” as forthcoming. When will that be available and can you tell us more about it?

GKT: Production on the novel has been delayed, I’m afraid, partly because I was contracted to write a book on the Druid Way for O-Books (see below). It is in need of some editorial work as I first wrote it twenty years ago, and it shows. I’m hoping that I can work on it later this year and make the prose a little less purple. If all goes well it will be ready by the winter solstice.

The story was inspired by a conversation I overheard one evening whilst quietly supping Harvey’s ale in the Lewes Arms. Two ancient gentlemen – rustic characters straight out of a Hardy novel – were sitting next to me, talking over old times and one of them said to the other that his grandfather had spent time away with the fraeries (a Sussex dialect word for faeries).

As it was a beautiful summer night and I was young(ish) and healthy in those days, I walked home the long way round – about nine miles, with a detour over the Downs before making my way along the river valley to Newhaven. During the course of the walk (across the landscape in which the novel was later set), I mulled over what I had heard and decided to write a realistic story that would recount the experiences of a mid-Victorian man who encountered Faery.

The novel explores the dislocation of a person who is torn between two worlds, two ways of life, and two loves – one of which he is not even certain exists until it is too late.

Q: Any other exciting projects you are working on and are able to tell us about?

JW – My writing is currently focussed on material for ‘GreenWay’, the magazine that Graeme and I produce for the Hedge Druid Network. We are also working on another joint project entitled ‘Answers to some questions you are likely to be asked if you tell someone you are Druid’. It is a book that Druids can give to concerned relatives and loved ones that explains simply what Druids are, what they do, and that they are not a threat to society, family, or relationships. I have also recently started research for a longer-term project, which is unlikely to see the light of day for a year or two. Watch the Grey House in the Woods website for details.

GKT – I am giving a talk at DruidCon later this year [go to click here for details]. Ill-health generally prevents me from travelling otherwise I would do more of this sort of thing. Much of my time these days is given over to writing, to administering Grey House in the Woods, and editing GreenWay.

I have a number of books at various stages of production. Most of last year was spent researching and writing ‘Way of the Druid’ [click here] which is due out at the end of this year.

As well as ‘Wealden Hill’, I am working on two more Greywind books to complete the triad of titles; will be putting the finishing touches to ‘Hob’ (a modern day adventure for younger readers that recounts the adventures of two young people who become involved in a dispute between a pwcca and Gwyn-ap-Nudd); am considering publishing some poetry; and have half a dozen other writing projects at various stages of development.

We interviewed Druids and authors Graeme K Talboys and Julie White about their work, their writing, their favourite sites and their own journeys through the mysteries. We hope that you enjoy this interview!

Graeme K Talboys & Julie White

Avalonia Author Interviews
*************
The Interview
by Avalonia
( February 2005: GKT indicates answer by Graeme Talboys and JW indicates answer by Julie White,
Q indicates questions by Avalonia)

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Q: – Arianrhod’s Dance is a great title for a book, how did you come to decide on it?

GKT / JW : Titles are extremely important and we wanted something that conveyed both the Celtic roots of the Druid Way and the cyclic nature of life and ritual. Arianrhod is a daughter of the Great Mother Goddess Dôn. She plays an important part in Welsh mythology, but we chose her specifically because of her astronomical associations. Her name means ‘silver wheel’ and she is closely linked both with the Moon and the great circle of the constellations. As an important part of ancient Celtic and modern Druid ritual has been based on the dance of the Earth, Moon, and Sun against the background of the stars, we felt that Arianrhod’s Dance would be a fitting title. It also pays homage to an oft-neglected deity whilst also, we hope, conveying something of the celebratory nature of ritual.

Q: – How important is the Goddess Arianrhod to Druids?

GKT / JW : Druids have a curious relationship with deity (and a few would contend they have no relationship at all – but that’s another discussion!). Rather than worship the deities they recognize as distant and omnipotent beings, Druids work closely with them to learn the lessons they can impart. They strive to understand the actual and symbolic strengths, roles, and spiritual meaning of individual deities and the myths in which they feature, working through them to invoke a deeper understanding of the universe. This means that all deities are important, but for different reasons. The importance waxes and wanes in accord with the seasons or with whatever other rites are being enacted. Nor is the relationship with deity confined to ritual, for Druids believe that spirit resides in all things at all times and this is often symbolized by or focussed within a specific deistic form. Thus, the Land, which is of vital importance to Druids, is often symbolized in the form of a goddess of sovereignty. Specific locations may also be associated with specific deities whose personality or story is reflected in the landscape.

The differences in importance also extend to the relationships that individual Druids develop with deity. We are all different and respond to the world according to our own natures. In working with spirit and deity, each Druid tends to develop a special relationship with one or two deities. These may change over time, but many Druids work with and are guided by the same deity throughout their life. Julie, for example, works most closely with Morgan – a healer and teacher. Graeme has a particular affinity with Lug and, as a consequence, with Myrddin. Coming from a long line of farmers, shepherds, and smiths, he also has a great affection for Brigid.

Q: Do you feel that it is important for someone wishing to practise Druidry to have a connection to the places in which it originated? Would it, for instance, be as appropriate to practise Druidry in Tasmania (Aus) as it would be in Wales or Scotland?

GKT / JW :This is an extremely complex subject. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 18) states that ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change their religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest their religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.’ It is a right that we support absolutely. In that respect one has the right to be Druid irrespective of whether you live in Snowdonia, the Freycinet Peninsula Tasmania), or a pressure dome half way up Mons Olympus on Mars.

Whether it is entirely appropriate is another question. It is a matter of roots. To be Druid is to draw from Celtic heritage. The Celtic speaking peoples derived their understanding of the world and their spiritual and religious beliefs from the land in which they lived. Yet they were (and still are) inveterate travellers and they took their vision of the world with them. However, they always applied it to the place in which they found themselves. That is why, for example, Welsh, Breton, and Irish mythology are different in detail and ambience whilst clearly having a common genesis.

We do not know how the beliefs of ancestral Celts would have evolved beyond Europe, although there are clear signs that along the borders with the Germanic tribes there was a melding of ideas and beliefs. Did, for example, the Celts that formed the personal bodyguard of the Ptolemies continue with their native beliefs, or did they immerse themselves in Greco-Egyptian culture? And those Celtic remains found in China. Would they have become Taoists or Confucianists, or would they have sought for signs of Celtic deity in the alien landscape?

Of course, the world is a very different place. Celts have been instrumental in most of the great colonizations of the planet – often forced out of their homelands. And for all that they were nominally Christian; they no doubt took many of the old ways with them. It is no surprise, therefore, that the old ways are re-emerging all over the world. The pagan impulse is deeply embedded in the human psyche.

Those who become Druid in places that were not originally Celtic, are aware of the local deities and work in sympathy with them – which is not the same as appropriating them. Pre-Christian Celts did not proselytize, nor were they imperialistic. Like modern Druids, they would probably have kept their own ways in private whilst also acknowledging that they were guests in another land that has its own spiritual traditions.

Q: Which is your favourite sacred site in Britain? Why?

JW – My favourite sacred site is Arbor Low in Derbyshire. A Druid friend was kind enough to take me there once when I visited the Peaks. I was so shocked at the power of the place. When the visitors left and we were alone, about to start an Autumn Equinox ritual, the place seemed to hum and you could see lights flashing round and round. I ended up having to lie down. Over forty ley lines converge there and it is the most central of all the stone circles. It is certainly well worth a visit. My other two sites are Hollingbury, an ancient Druid site that overlooks my house, and any place where water meets the shoreline. I do like Stonehenge, and had the honour to preside over a ritual there sometime back, but it seemed to me to be tired of all the people who take from it without ever giving back.

GKT – For me, it has to be The Mount in Lewes, East Sussex. This is an artificial mound made of chalk and covered with turf. The structure bears an uncanny (and possibly deliberate) resemblance to Silbury Hill, although it is considerably smaller at forty-feet in height. A spiral path winds its way about the hill, originally starting at the north east and completing one and a quarter turns before reaching the flattened summit. Although a number of theories exist about its origin, it is almost certainly late Neolithic in origin.

Quite apart from its antiquity – or perhaps because of that – it has exerted a magical influence on my life. I passed The Mount twice a day (and sometimes more) on my way to and from school. It became a familiar site in what was a fecund and largely happy time of my life. It was also a favourite haunt – far enough from school to get away from the less edifying aspects of state education (of which there were mercifully few for me) and close enough to reach without wasting too much time.

On its slopes, I would enjoy the long summer days everyone seems to have had in their youth; watch the summer stars and listen to the distant sounds of the worlds; talk with friends and share hopes and ideas; write poetry; read; listen to music; and dream. It was the hub of a wider circle in which much of my social life was lived and in which I developed my love of words – both spoken and written. It was also at the heart of that place where my spirit flowered and I began my first steps along the Druid Way.

Wherever I go now, The Mount is always with me, part of my sacred inner landscape – a place where the latent spirit within me was given form and shown a way to travel that would honour the Land and the Goddess in whose honour the Hill was first raised.

Q: Do you think that there has been a lot of cross fertilisation between the rituals of Druidry and that of Wicca?

GKT / JW : We are not sure that either of us knows enough about present-day Wiccan practise to comment. However, as both groups are pagan and both groups are to be found largely in north western Europe (and emigrant communities derived from north western Europe), there will inevitably be similarities. There was certainly a great deal of communion between Druids and Wiccans in the earlier parts of the twentieth century that led to a common approach to ritual.

There is, now, a growing movement within druidry, especially amongst Hedge Druids, that sees much of the last few centuries to have been a journey deeper and deeper into a cul-de-sac. The recent flowering of study into ancestral Celts has allowed the opportunity to begin uncovering what is currently known as the Celtic metaphysic and exploring modes of thought and ways of seeing the world that motivated ancestral Druids. From this, new approaches to ritual are emerging which, whilst they may be no more ‘authentic’ than any other, are based directly on readings of pre-Christian material.

Q: If you were asked to describe Druidry to someone who has never heard of Druids, what would you say?

GKT / JW :In a single sentence, it would be something like: “It is a pagan Way that understands and relates with the world through the medium of ancestral Celtic understanding and beliefs.” Of course, that would require a good deal of explanation – especially the word ‘pagan’, which can elicit such antipathy.

Q: What is the most important aspect of Druidry – the quintessence without which it would not hold the same appeal and mystery?

JW – The most important aspect of Druidry for me has to be Service. That is, teaching and helping others walk their Way; giving back to the Land, the Goddess, and the ancestors; and keeping the tradition alive.

GKT – Truth. This has always been of paramount concern to Druids. Their many roles in ancestral Celtic society demanded it of them. They were witnesses to all the events of Celtic life and needed to be able to recall and recount these events accurately. But the notion of Truth is much wider than a mere accuracy of recall. Truth is the very foundation of existence and equally the foundation of the way in which ancestral Celts and modern Druids view the world. This is not just the veracity of language, but also the Truth of thought and action, the Truth of dream and relationship. It is the very measure of how much we are in accord with the natural world. That is the paradigm. We cannot, as human beings, avoid having an impact on the planet (both materially and spiritually), but we can try to live our lives as individuals and collectively in a way that mitigates that impact. Acting in accord with natural systems is the basis of Truth. It is a matter of having reverence for the Land, the Mother who gave us life. This has wide reaching implications for all that we do and gives rise to all the other qualities that are held dear by Druids, especially Service (which is the active element of Truth), honour and responsibility, respect, justice, and courage.

Our answers reflect our natures. Julie is more inclined to practice whilst Graeme inclines to philosophical enquiry (which is probably why we write so well together).

8 – Just like the stereotype for a Witch is an old woman with a crooked nose flying on a broomstick, so many people hold the image of men in white robes, carrying staffs and swords, descending on Stonehenge for Midsummer, as being the archetypal image of a Druid. Do you feel that this image is damaging to Druids in any way?

Whilst it is annoying (like all those programmes on television that cannot mention paganism without the need for gothic imagery and mention of human sacrifice), I suspect that the Druid Way is far too deeply embedded in real people and the real world for such images to be damaging. However, whilst it may not damage those who are already Druid, those who play up to the stereotype and indulge in strange antics do have the potential to put many people off investigating the Druid Way and finding their intended spiritual path. That is reprehensible and is something all Druids – indeed, all pagans – should consider when they put themselves in the public eye.

9 – There are many training courses and workshops being offered all over the UK for people wanting to learn more about Druidry. What do you feel the best way to be for someone wanting to learn more and become a Druid?

What makes a Druid has much more to do with how they conduct their lives than it does with ‘esoteric’ knowledge (there is none in the Druid Way), book learning, or belonging to an Order. We have both studied with and graduated from an Order (OBOD), we have both studied the material produced by other Orders and groups, and we have both attended other courses and workshops. Neither of us has found any of them entirely satisfactory. This is partly because we both came to such things after many years of personal study and practice.

This is not to condemn such material or courses and workshops. For those new to the Way, they provide a structured introduction to what can be a daunting landscape of new ideas and understanding, as well as the companionship of fellow travellers and experienced practitioners. By all means, people should consider such a way into being Druid. However, they should do so with two things in mind. The first is that such things are just introductions. Completing a course does not make anyone Druid; it merely starts them on a lifelong path where learning and practice go hand in hand. The second is that for all our ancestors were introduced to the mysteries (and a whole lot else) in schools and colleges, they did not belong to Orders as some modern Druids do (for they are an invention of the Revivalists). Whilst they kept in close touch their fellows, ancestral Druids spent their lives working in and for their own communities.

By far the best way to become Druid is to make contact with the Land. This requires no grand ritual or initiation, no special knowledge. It means taking notice of what is happening to the world just outside your door, it means tending your garden (if you are lucky enough to have one), it means walking in woodland and opening yourself to the experience, it means slowing your life and living as simply as you can. These are the best first steps as they produce a new way of looking at the world, one that our ancestors possessed. Then you are ready to learn more specific things about ancestral Celts, their Druids, and how that applies in the world today.

Q: What were your own first steps on the path of Druidry? Do you think things have changed much since then?

JW – My first steps in Druidry go way back nearly fifty years when I was about four. My father taught me all about nature and would take me to see hares and sunrises. I still love both. I knew way back then that they were important. I was also extremely interest in Faerie from early age and believed in Arthur the moment I heard of him. Later in the 1960s, I knew a few witches who were in Alex Saunders coven, but the Craft did not ring true to me, although much of the paganism did. I always saw the Solstice Sunrise, honoured the Land, Sea and Sky and just got on with my own brand of Celtic based spirituality.

Much later, in the early 1990s I joined OBOD and went through their three-grade system, ending up as a tutor for five years. I left, as I felt the Order was far too large. When I left, I formed the Spiral Light Grove with some other women. This was a ‘closed’ Grove and it went very well for a few years until we all decided to work alone. We are all still good friends and keep in touch. I met Graeme through OBOD (for me the best thing to happen throughout those years in the Order) and we both share a common core in our Druidry, even though we live at different ends of the country.

Has Druidry changed? Yes, but I don’t feel it is for the better. I honestly believe that huge organizations are counter-productive as people have a tendency to focus on the organization and follow the leaders rather than the tides of the Land. Many people believe that these leaders know all the answers, and I know they don’t. The answers are inside us and in nature. We need to ask the Goddess and listen to what she has to say. I also think many of the teachings have become watered down and far too New Age. Much of the Celtic metaphysic has gone. My own Druidry has changed because I have gone full circle and I now feel as I did when I was a child.

GKT – Although my early childhood was largely urban, we were lucky enough to live on the edge of Richmond Park. My very earliest memories include playing beneath the trees and listening to the stags belling in the dusk. By the time I reached my early teens, I was living in Sussex and spent a great deal of time walking on the Downs. There was no conscious feeling of being pagan, but I did enjoy an enormous freedom of body and of spirit, for my parents were trusting and content to allow me to explore where I chose.

I was thirteen (in the mid-1960s) when I consciously began to explore spiritual ideas in general, paganism more specifically, and the Druid Way in particular. I was lucky in having an English teacher who introduced us to ‘The Sword in the Stone’ by T.H.White and further encouraged us to read the rest of ‘The Once and Future King’. I was enthralled. Not just because it is a wonderfully eccentric tale that fizzes with magic and humour, but also because it made sense to me on a deeper level.

Arthurian material became an obsession (it still is) as did Myrddin, who led me to the ancestral Druids and the culture of which they were an integral part. I began to understand the world in a way that made a great deal more sense than that on which present-day society is based. For quarter of a century, I made what sense of it I could through my own researches and by spending as much time as possible in the company of trees.

I joined OBOD around the same time as Julie although, by then, I was living in Jarrow. Although studying their course material presented new avenues of exploration for me – and put me in touch with Julie – I left the Order not too long after I graduated. I have never been comfortable with human authority and, like Julie, feel that Orders can stand in the way of what is really important – our relationship with the Land.

I, too, feel that I have completed a great cycle. I started as a Hedge Druid and have returned to that. I began by searching on my own and have also returned to that. A new cycle has begun for both of us in that we now run the Hedge Druid Network which is, principally, a means for Hedge Druids to exchange ideas and experiences without having to be subject to the strictures of an Order.

Q: Graeme, I noticed that you have a fictional work “Wealden Hill” as forthcoming. When will that be available and can you tell us more about it?

GKT: Production on the novel has been delayed, I’m afraid, partly because I was contracted to write a book on the Druid Way for O-Books (see below). It is in need of some editorial work as I first wrote it twenty years ago, and it shows. I’m hoping that I can work on it later this year and make the prose a little less purple. If all goes well it will be ready by the winter solstice.

The story was inspired by a conversation I overheard one evening whilst quietly supping Harvey’s ale in the Lewes Arms. Two ancient gentlemen – rustic characters straight out of a Hardy novel – were sitting next to me, talking over old times and one of them said to the other that his grandfather had spent time away with the fraeries (a Sussex dialect word for faeries).

As it was a beautiful summer night and I was young(ish) and healthy in those days, I walked home the long way round – about nine miles, with a detour over the Downs before making my way along the river valley to Newhaven. During the course of the walk (across the landscape in which the novel was later set), I mulled over what I had heard and decided to write a realistic story that would recount the experiences of a mid-Victorian man who encountered Faery.

The novel explores the dislocation of a person who is torn between two worlds, two ways of life, and two loves – one of which he is not even certain exists until it is too late.

Q: Any other exciting projects you are working on and are able to tell us about?

JW – My writing is currently focussed on material for ‘GreenWay’, the magazine that Graeme and I produce for the Hedge Druid Network. We are also working on another joint project entitled ‘Answers to some questions you are likely to be asked if you tell someone you are Druid’. It is a book that Druids can give to concerned relatives and loved ones that explains simply what Druids are, what they do, and that they are not a threat to society, family, or relationships. I have also recently started research for a longer-term project, which is unlikely to see the light of day for a year or two. Watch the Grey House in the Woods website for details.

GKT – I am giving a talk at DruidCon later this year [go to click here for details]. Ill-health generally prevents me from travelling otherwise I would do more of this sort of thing. Much of my time these days is given over to writing, to administering Grey House in the Woods, and editing GreenWay.

I have a number of books at various stages of production. Most of last year was spent researching and writing ‘Way of the Druid’ [click here] which is due out at the end of this year.

As well as ‘Wealden Hill’, I am working on two more Greywind books to complete the triad of titles; will be putting the finishing touches to ‘Hob’ (a modern day adventure for younger readers that recounts the adventures of two young people who become involved in a dispute between a pwcca and Gwyn-ap-Nudd); am considering publishing some poetry; and have half a dozen other writing projects at various stages of development.

We interviewed Druids and authors Graeme K Talboys and Julie White about their work, their writing, their favourite sites and their own journeys through the mysteries. We hope that you enjoy this interview!

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