Once again, thank you Jimahl for agreeing to this interview. It is appreciated.
Thursday, January 31, 2013
I’d like to thank Jimahl di Fiosa (thanks) for his willingness to indulge my curiosity byway of this interview where his three books (four really), the overarching story, and some completely random but not altogether off topic questions have been presented and answered.
Jimahl di Fiosa is a respected Elder and High Priest of Alexandrian witchcraft, having been initiated into the Craft in 1988. His interest in the occult spans many years, and most likely, many lifetimes as well.
Jimahl is also the author of the popular book TALK TO ME, When the Dead Speak with the Living, a practical guide to spirit communication. Having been introduced to the world of spirits as a young boy, Jimahl enjoys sharing his life among the spirits with others through speaking engagements and workshops.
“Early on in life I became a somewhat reluctant ambassador between the world of the living and the world of the dead,” Jimahl recently told an interviewer. “I resisted this reality for most of my adult life but have finally come to realize that the dead, like the living, deserve an opportunity to set the record straight once in a while.”
Jimahl's interest in the occult spans many years. He has devoted his spiritual path to exploring the mysteries of the Goddess and to the preservation of the Craft for future generations.
Jimahl recently returned from a series of interviews and speaking engagements in Brazil, where his books are enjoying a second printing in the Portuguese language.
Jimahl resides in New England with his husband Karagan and their two very happy cats named Storm and Charlie.
First of all, compliments to your father for the depth and variety of his book collection. When I was a teenager, my own father was much more focused on subscriptions to Field and Stream and Guns and Ammo than esoteric titles.
Secondly, you are perfectly correct in your assumption as to the catalyst for A Voice in the Forest. I had no intention of writing a book at the time, although I had been documenting this extraordinary experience from day one because I felt it was an immensely important work. There were so many reasons not to write the book - the confidence of those involved chief among them. A secondary de-motivator for me personally was the very real possibility of ridicule among my peers. As immediate as the experience was for me, I also realized how absurd the idea of communicating with the spirit of long dead Alex Sanders would most likely seem to the rest of the world. However, as time went on - and the communications themselves intensified in scope and depth-I sensed a greater message begin to emerge. Surprisingly, it had little to do with Alex Sanders. There was so much more there and I knew that Alex’s messages from beyond held much more universal truths.
In retrospect of course, I realized that the book had to be written. It was like flood water overreaching the banks - there was no way to hold it back. Years later, while researching A Coin for the Ferryman, I found this entry in Alex’s private journal. Let’s just say, I can relate.
“I had to do something because I couldn’t refuse. I couldn’t refuse because no one else in the world could do what I could do and a job had to be done.”
If truth be told, though I find contact with any of the Mighty Dead, and Alex in particular, to be fascinating, this was not what stood out to me as spectacular about this book; it was the slight peek into the workings of a functioning Alexandrian Coven, which I don’t believe has been written about much in the past couple of decades. Did you have much difficulty balancing telling the story and not telling too much?
You’re right. Many of the reviews of the book focused on the same aspect. No one was prepared to agree that the book represented genuine contact with Alex Sanders (although everyone had an opinion) but this rare glimpse into how a coven works (Alexandrian or not) seemed to be a welcome by-product of telling the story. I have to jump back a bit and make it clear that, with very few exceptions, most of the people who shared this experience with me were less than enthusiastic about me writing the book. This was their story as well and most preferred to keep it private. In some cases, polite indifference turned to animosity and the sacrifice of a few long term relationships became collateral damage. In the end, the compromise was that I would change names, personal details, and descriptions of places and events to protect anonymity.
With regard to telling the story but not giving too much away in the process, I found this balance fairly easily. The rituals described in the book are all real - particularly the Rite of Necromancy which still gives readers nightmares- yet I never once compromised material that traditional witches consider to be “oath bound.”
Up until this point I have only briefly mentioned the purpose behind this book; a telling of contact with Alex. Certainly you have had your share of skeptics, as is the case with any form of spirit communication; at what point did you know that this was a real contact through the veil to Alex and that this was not something that could be kept behind the shroud of secrecy that allows the intimacy at the center of traditional crafting?
There was never a moment when I didn’t believe - in the innermost corner of either my heart or mind - that the experience wasn’t real. Still, I made friends with the worst case scenario up front - I expected to be laughed at, ridiculed, and to a large extent ostracized from the worldwide Craft community. None of that mattered to be personally. I committed early on to telling the truth, despite the opposition, and those who know me well, will tell you that I never back down from a commitment. So I charged ahead - focusing on getting the story out there. The skeptics did not disappoint, but to my delight there were much fewer of them than I anticipated.
After the book had been out for nearly a year, a friend asked me if I had sent a copy to Maxine Sanders. Maxine, of course, was married to Alex for many years and is considered by many to be an expert on traditional witchcraft, as well as the world’s leading authority on the Alexandrian tradition. The truth was that I hadn’t sent her the book because I was terrified as to what she would think. So my friend (meaning well, I suppose) sent her off a copy behind my back. Her response shocked me, as much as it did the remainder of the skeptics. In an interview with a well-regarded pagan publication she said “I was sent a book from America called A Voice in the Forest. I was prepared to be skeptical, as there have been so many false contacts with Alex. I worked with Alex in mediumistic circles for many years and knew his techniques well. The contact described within the book was so obviously true it gave me goose bumps.” Many years later I would meet Maxine when we were both booked as guest speakers at a large pagan gathering. We hit it off immediately and have been friends ever since.
Later I would discover that Alex, clever man that he was, left tiny clues for friends and family sprinkled throughout the documented communications in the book. At the time I transcribed the spirit communication sessions these tidbits seemed so out of context that I nearly edited them out of the final manuscript. Thankfully, I left them in and it was through these clues that many of those who knew him personally were able to validate the work.
Your second book, All the King’s Children, in a way feels like an extension, and yet completely separated from A Voice in the Forest. Are the two connected purposely or is it incidental that any correlation exists?
All the King’s Children was meant to be a companion piece to the first book and a tribute to people everywhere (regardless of how we define religion or deity) who, like Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, still reach out against all odds in hopes of touching the hand of the divine. We never really get there but we will all die trying. The fact that the 16 wonderful people interviewed in the book are Alexandrian witches is secondary to the fact that they are human beings who refuse to settle for a life devoid of faith. Their individual stories are as inspiring as they are heart breaking. These are people who know their heart and will not be broken. Alex, again, is the common thread that binds the individual stories together. But ultimately, each voice stands alone, and the stories told embody universal themes such as love, loss, hope, and triumph over adversity.
The title is an obvious elusion to Alex and the Alexandrian Tradition given title, “King of the Witches.” It is a title that over the years has been the topic of much debate; would you weigh-in briefly with your thoughts on the subject?
I write about his in detail in A Coin for the Ferryman. The chapter is called, rather tongue-in-cheek The King Business. The simple fact is that the title is very real, but it is not something that Alex took upon himself. It was an honorary title given to him by his witches.
The beauty that I found when reading this book was the spectrum of stark differences that exists between the various Alexandrian Initiates, many who have never met, and yet they all have a common Craft that brings them together; which I am sure is the point. Correct me if I am wrong. Why write a book about practitioners of only one Tradition of Witchcraft? Doesn’t this limit your audience to only those interested in learning more about the Alexandrian Priesthood?
I think I touched on this theme earlier in this interview. The short answer is that I write about what I know, but at the same time, I remain very aware that, aside from serving as a kind of springboard for storytelling, the specific spirituality of those interviewed in All the King’s Children is not as important as the life experiences they so freely share. My hope is that followers of other traditions will follow the trail I’ve blazed and put out similar compilations.
I find the wit of the titles of these books to been evocative and thought provoking, especially so with the third, A Coin for the Ferryman. Whereas I have my own thoughts on the matter, how exactly is the third book a coin for the ferryman?
A Coin in the Ferryman provides an exceedingly different view of Alex than the much earlier work, King of the Witches: World of Alex Sanders, by June Johns. How would you describe the relationship between these two view points?
The two books really are polar opposites. It is helpful to keep in mind that the June Johns book was not the objective piece of journalism people might imagine. It was a vanity piece, engineered by Alex to generate publicity. It succeeded on a large scale and is still regarded, by today’s relaxed standards, as controversial. But it tells only one side of the story - that being the rather remarkable story of a magician who would become “King of the Witches.” The other consideration is that Alex was barely 40 years old at the time. He lived another 20+ years. As well intentioned as the early work may have been, it tells only a partial story of a man’s life.
I remember the genesis of Coin very clearly - I told Maxine that I felt very strongly that Alex needed a “proper biography” and that a lot had happened since “June Johns dropped by”. Her response was very matter- of -fact. She said “what do you wish to accomplish?” My response was “to show the man behind the myth - a man who was not a demon or a saint, but a man of flesh and blood.”
I hope that I have, in some small way, succeeded.
Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that at the time that contact was first made with Alex, that such contact with him wasn’t the goal, but that in the end he was the spirit that came knocking at the door that had been set up. Do you have any thought you’d like to share as to your reasoning on perhaps why Alex picked your coven out of all the available mediums through which to communicate?
I don’t know, frankly. Perhaps because we were the first group of people to inadvertently provide an available outlet for him. Remember that when the communication first began, Alex had been dead for ten years. As much as one may care for their beloved dead, the sad fact is that they are often relegated to the history books once the funeral is over. If we accept the premise that Alex’s spirit remained earthbound for over a decade because his work was unfinished, it must have been quite a relief for him to hear someone finally call out his name. I honestly think he would have responded to the plumber at that point. I did find it funny when I received an irate letter from a well-known UK witch who was angry that Alex had communicated with an American witch rather than a British one.
Your latest book gives a lot of details not otherwise privy to the public eye. I am sure it took a substantial amount of energy to collect and organize everything. Was there anything in particular that got left out, due to the desired volume size, just didn’t fit, or other, that you would have liked to have been able to include?
Due to the scope of the project, and despite my generally unflagging optimism, once I got started it didn’t seem possible that I would be able to finish the book. For one thing, I couldn’t afford to approach the research in the most obvious way - which would have been to travel to England and spend a lot of time digging through archives. Fortunately for me, I was able to use the wonderful tools of the 21st century to my advantage. Interviews with those who knew Alex intimately, hours and hours of them, were completed by phone and recorded for editing/transcription purposes. The Museum of Witchcraft in Cornwall threw open their archives to me - in many cases bringing in volunteers to sift through and scan hundreds of Alex related documents that had until then never been seen. The deeper I got into the preliminary work on the book, the more I realized that the universe was conspiring to help me. This was a humbling experience and I am truly grateful.
Regarding the scope of the material, I was saddened when a few people who knew Alex personally refused to speak with me. They made it clear that they didn’t respect me as a writer, my work, or my attempt to “set the record straight.” I didn’t know what to make of this at the time, and still don’t. Perhaps Alex inspired a sense of ownership in those whose lives he touched so deeply. Perhaps they felt that if they “shared” him with me, they would lose those memories in some way. I’m sure I’m being overly gracious to them even now. It could just be that they are thoughtless and envious people.
You’ve written three books on closely related topics. Are there any more projects forth coming or will we just have to wait and see?
When the third “Alex book” was published, Maxine Sanders predicted I would that I would write “four more books.” Nothing against Alex, but if this is true I would like the books to focus on other subject matter. Just like everyone else, I have my own story to tell.
Speaking of books you have written, I believe that you have a fourth book, Talk To Me: When The Dead Speak To The Living, though specifically not Alex related it is in regards to spirit communication, which started the whole journey to begin with. As it is the only book you’ve written that I haven’t read, could you offer a brief plug to wet the appetite and give me, and the readers, an idea of what treasures lay therein?
Oddly enough, this very modest book (just over 100 pages) outsells all of the Alex books 10-1. It’s basically a how-to type manual for communicating with the dead that anyone can pick up and put to immediate use. I wrote the book in response to the many emails and letters I received after “A Voice in the Forest” was published. As much of a character that Alex was, people wanted to know if it was possible for them to communicate with their own departed loved ones. And assuming so, how best to get the job done. In “Talk to Me” I share my life experiences as a medium and my personal thoughts on the afterlife. In the end, I leave people to their own conclusions, but stand by my belief that “the greatest mystery surrounding spirit communication is that there is no mystery.” Anyone can communicate with the dead as easily as they speak with the living. What they do with that ability is completely up to them.
If there was only one thing you could tell the world about Alex Sanders, what would it be?
I think Alex sums it up nicely in one of the spirit communications - “I was a man and men die all the time.” A remarkable man, no doubt, but still as mortal as the rest of us.
Wicca is classified as a New Religious Movement by Religious Studies scholars. The classic understanding of which is the enamoration of a charismatic leader around which the practitioners follow. In your opinion, was this the case with Alex? Or was the relationship between founder and subsequent Witches more complex? If so, how?
It’s too easy to look back and see a well-worn path where once there was none. In the beginning, Alex was just living his life and following his heart. He never intended to be a leader, charismatic or otherwise. In fact, the opposite is true. He did whatever he could, whenever he could, to get off the pedestal everyone kept insisting he stand upon. I truly believe this is why he often went out of his way to shake up the status quo. If he was (as many wish him to be) the beginning and the end of all that defines the Alexandrian “tradition,” the tradition would have died when he died. The fact is, it didn’t. His legacy continues today with thousands of Witches around the world continuing the work he started so many years ago. But these people are following their own vision - not his - and this vision is continually redefined and renewed with each new generation.
Despite the hype, the controversy, and the “love him or hate him” attitudes, Alex knew that we all share the same common ground. It’s what we each choose to do with the time we have on the earth plane that matters.
“Lost in a thicket bare-foot upon a thorned path.”
The ego is the first illusion that that becomes the foundation of separateness from the whole of all unto which must be overcome into order for the mind to immerse itself fully in the space of the point. There is a longing for this state of unity and so the denial brought on by false illusion creates pain, pain of hunger and thirst that is never quite satisfied.
The Self, the true self, that which transcends ego and is the star is called forth and placed center to heart and mind from the point where all of existence meets. This crossroads is the gateway around which all mysteries are, a gateway who’s key, door, light, and essence is embodied in the spirit, flesh, and mind that is I.
The feet are clothed in the dust of divine truth and rooted in the land of blood, bone, and flesh; and the Crown of Truth is forged in the fires of the earth, quenched by the heart waters, and resounded into the vibratory word of creation at the place where the two meet. The bridge between the jewels upon the brow and the dirt underfoot is known simultaneously and is the sum of life.
“Lost in a thicket bare-foot upon a thorned path.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
I have been Spanish Moss for a long time now. I took this name 17 years ago, I was in my early teens. Taking the name always felt like it was my adult name. Sure I have a birth name but I was never called it growing up. Nope. I was called by a shortened version of my middle name. As a result, it felt like my childhood name. Names were weird growing up for me. I was called by my first name at school but no so at home. So depending on how I knew someone my name changed… all up until that day I had decided on Spanish Moss.
I recall riding in my Uncle’s car with him and my cousin. My cousin and I were about 8-9 and were talking about what we wanted our magickal names to be. In typical that-age ego driven fashion I wanted it to be something fierce, awesome, cool, and glorious all at once. I never settled on one though because somehow my Uncle was able to explain to me and have me understand that I was trying to choose a name for the wrong reasons.
This was about the time that I started attending circle with CoR. I was the misfit in the name arena. All of the other kids had names, but not I. As a result, one well-meaning individual took to calling me a funny name in hopes it would encourage me to decide on something. It did not. It just made the tangle of names more complex.
I spent a lot of time from that conversation until I decided on the name I would choose four years later. In fact, I recall it quite easily. I was at an age where my association with CoR was no longer at a point of my tagging along with my Dad but of free choice. I needed a name for adoption into our ‘tribe’. In fact, I was on the way to the ritual itself when the name came to me. I had given up and was just going to let them choose something for me. Then the scene of the night, the torches, the moon shimmering off the water surrounding the peninsula, the candle lit path, the majestic oaks towering overhead, and the spanish moss draped thereon. In an instant, I knew.
I got odd looks when I said that was my name, and was even questioned on whether or not I was sure. I was. I never explained to them why I chose the name I did, or the unspoken meaning I would learn was there. All of that aside, the name took on a separate function.
Spanish Moss has become my name of adulthood. I took it when I was thirteen. From that moment almost all of friends, my peers, have called me by it. My birth name was used in formal settings; at school or later in legal functions. My childhood name was still used by my family, it felt only right that I was that name to them… still am. Since entering the work force I have been called by my parts of my legal name and occasionally by rank or job title. When I entered the Priesthood I took an inner craft name, the name to be called in circle only. Otherwise I don’t speak it. Names are important to me.
All of my names are important because they tell a story about where I have been, each telling a different viewpoint. Spanish Moss is the most important though. This name has really been the only constant name that I have known that spans my different worlds of function. As a result, unless I am at work or legally obliged, I introduce myself as Spanish Moss. I have been Spanish Moss in ritual before the altar, at the movie theatre, sitting around a fire with friends, leading festival rituals, when crying, when angry, when ecstatic… at each step along the path. This name has stood witness to my myth. It hangs upon my World Tree and notes each trial, triumph, and failure. I have had the name so long that there is no single function for it.
There is a conflict in Witch lore about names. Names are the stuff of ego and identity to this life. At the same time, something is not said to exist until it has been named. I think both are true. There is a part of our being that cannot be named, it is always of the realm of the Unmanifest, yet it exists. This potential moves into form and it is the form that is named. Our names are tied to one of the three alone, the part that anchors our identity to the singular focus amongst the myriad of lives.
Just thought I would share. Hopefully there is a lesson in there somewhere.
“Lost in a thicket bare-foot upon a thorned path.”
Monday, January 28, 2013
Contemporary Pagan Witchcraft has beliefs that are derived from two places; our lore and the beliefs that are born from our practice. In my last blog I briefly discussed beliefs being a product of practice, and in truth this is largely how the Craft interacts with beliefs. However; there is another bit that I didn’t mention as a source of beliefs—lore. Part of our lore, taken from myth, tales, ritual script, and a host of other places lays the ground work for beliefs to develop. For instance, our lore makes reference to the Underworld, think a moment about Samhain and this is clear. Herein the lore is the basis for the belief of such, the nature of which is not relayed except through the practices in which this ‘place’ is interacted with. The ideas of what the Underworld is thus vary quite a bit. What is important to note is that lore also informs about belief, in addition to practice.
Taking into consideration the tendency to stick with a belief centered paradigm and approach to the Craft, as mentioned, the lore tends to get more attention by those new to the path than practice does. From the perspective of the design of our Craft, this is backwards. Why? Well, consider exactly why it is that practice begets belief.
Practice begets belief because of the experience of the practices. Our community may debate the nature of deity, the Otherworld, cosmology, and a whole host of other things, but rarely is argument made by those that practice regularly on whether or not any of these exist. The nature of that existence is still argued, because Witches are opinionated folk and love to argue, but without specific qualifiers attached there is no debate because the experience of practicing our Craft informs us that, for example, the Otherworld exists, because we have been there, felt its touch, or otherwise interacted with it.
I know that I sound a bit preachy with all of this, but it needs to be said. A Witch is simply someone that practices Witchcraft. Take the craft (i.e. practice) out of Witchcraft there can be no Witch. The short of it all is that Witches do— that is our paradigm. The rest results therefrom as part of the journey. The journey is the goal, with no end and no beginning, all is now. Instead of trying to believe in a good life, live a good life—do it.
"Lost in a thicker bare-foot upon a thorned path."
Friday, January 25, 2013
The Contemporary Pagan community’s rhetoric in regards to identity is portrayed as being orthopraxis. True; but it is not the end of the story. As with all things, correct practice (orthopraxy) and correct belief (orthodoxy) are a spectrum, and not a linear one at that. Let’s make a quick comparison.
Judaism is recognized by Religious Studies scholars as being primarily orthopraxis. Within the scale of Judaism there are Reform Jews, Conservative Jews, Orthodox Jews, and other movements. Each one of these is its own organization for which individuals will identify, however, many simply identify outside of associated membership to any particular group. When the question is posed as to what makes a Jew a Jew, the answers include: ethnicity, membership with a synagogue or Judaism Organization, culture, or adherence to Judaism precepts and general beliefs. Depending upon the particular individual the answer will be any of these, all of these, only one of these, or even some other answer. What is agreed upon is what makes someone a Jew is their own conscious decision and identity through adherence to practices they find relevant to their own Judaism. Therein are many similarities to Contemporary Paganism.
Within Contemporary Paganism there is a large range of affiliation and identity: Reconstructionisms (Hellenism, Celtics, etc.), Druidisms (ADF, HoK, OBOD, ADOA, etc.), Heathenisms (Asatru, Odists, etc.) forms of Religious Witchcraft (BTW, TIW, Feri, TW, etc.), and a whole host of others, many of which identify, just like in Judaism, outside of any associated membership with a group. As for what makes someone a Contemporary Pagan, I think this is best summed up with the saying used in the Witchcraft currents, “Ask any two Witches what makes a Witch and get a dozen different and conflicting answers.” What the Mythical Christian Underworld of Eternal Damnation? Well, we as whole pretty much agree on one thing, just as in Judaism, and that is that what makes someone a Contemporary Pagan is their own conscious decision and identity through adherence to practices they find relevant to their own Contemporary Paganism. The smaller one makes the group therein the more similarities that exist in practice.
Let us just look as Contemporary Pagan Religious Witchcraft; British Traditional Wicca, Traditional Initiatory Witchcraft, Traditional Witchcraft, Feri Witchcraft and Unaffiliated Solitaire Witches. The main account of what unites all of these is the practice of Witchcraft. This Witchcraft is religious in nature and within the spectrum of Contemporary Paganism. Any specifics that can be given beyond this at this point will have exceptions. Luckily there are a few things that can be listed as the fairly universal, understanding the previous qualifier about exceptions. All of these practice within some form of polytheism. Note that I said practice and nothing about belief. The particular beliefs of that polytheistic practice may be duotheistic, oligotheism, monism, pantheisim, animism, humanism, something else, or some combination thereof.
There is something though that isn’t really discussed but should be. Practice begets belief, and similar practice tends to beget similar belief. As a result of this, there are a handful of beliefs within Contemporary Pagan Religious Witchcraft that are common. These beliefs aren’t universal, someone always has to be the exception, but generally speaking they exist as the balancing point opposite practice on the scale. There is no such thing as a religion that is pure orthopraxy or orthodox, each has some elements of the other. We happen to fall deep within the orthopraxy portion of said spectrum.
Bam! Some of those beliefs (Please note that the nature of these beliefs have been left out*):
-Immanent and transcendent divinity existing simultaneously.
-Legion of Being/s.
-Directional and Three Realm based mythos.
-Multiplicity of Self.
-Magick is effective.
-Polarity as a spectrum.
-The mind is the filter between Self and existence.
Got something you think should be on this list? Add it in the comments.
“Lost in a thicket bare-foot upon a thorned path.”
*For example, within theistic belief the deity may be defined as an internal function alone, such as being the expression of psychological archetypes in Humanism, or an external entity, or both, or neither, or any other multiple of combinations. All of the beliefs listed above are just as complicated, for that matter, this example has to be grossly simplified to explain briefly.
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Have you noticed? There is a pull in the air.
As some of you have seen, a couple of my previous blogs have all been in regards to change, transformation, endings and beginnings. Each of these is the same point upon the circle—an ever turning wheel. Change is a constant, which is not a surprise to anyone. However, the current in the stream is a different one, a strong one. I have felt its disruptive, shaping, molding, destroying, and creating influence for some time now. Attunement to the cycles is something that becomes second nature for those of us that live our practice based in alignment with the movement of existence.
I find myself standing at a crossroads, at this very moment, and I know others see and feel it as well, based upon their actions, comments, and conversations. Recognizing this occurrence, my mind has been turned towards witnessing and experiencing what has come, some of which I like and some of which I do not. Either way, acceptance has become a mantra. I have not fought, and don’t plan to, but I am shaping. Shaping reality is what Witches do.
Far too often when drastic change arrives the negative is the focus. I could easily make a list, but I don’t plan to; instead, I will build from the ashes upon the good and positive. My family has grown, I am in a new position at work and likely to transition to one even more to my liking, I have long established friendships that have weathered the storm for which I am grateful and will actively work to strengthen, and there is the work of the Gods that I share with my Traditions, Friends, and Family.
I generally don’t plan my blogs out in advance, though on occasion the muse comes and I take down notes to flush out later, but instead I write about what has occupied my contemplation as of late.
I stand at the crossroads and from here I shall make my libations of that which shall be cast to the past and use it to grow the young seeds of potential; this Witch has work to do.
“Lost in a thicket bare-foot upon a thorned path.”
Friday, January 18, 2013
It is common in Contemporary Pagan circles to describe different Witchcraft Traditions to new comers or outsiders as akin to a denomination. The truth is further removed. No Tradition is setup in that manner; the organization is different, much more decentralized. In an effort to uncover just what a Tradition is, I am going to talk about the different aspects, benefits, possible pitfalls, and forms of membership a bit.
A Tradition, with a capital 'T’, is a collection of Covens and Solitaires that share a common group practice and all have been initiated into that group. Joining a Tradition usually occurs via a Coven, although in some forms of Contemporary Pagan Witchcraft there are methods and procedures in place for solitaire affiliation. These Solitaires plus those individuals that were once a member of a Coven but have moved away, are still members of the Tradition so long as the Tradition recognizes their Initiation into the Tradition as legitimate. I fall into this category in a manner of speaking; at least for one Tradition with which I work. My Elders, Coven-mates, and Mentor are all in other states, some as far as the opposite coast, due to my having moved. Yet, I am still involved and engage in Tradition training, regular ritual and magickal efforts, albeit from afar, and group association is mostly through the internet and phone. It is the common praxis, shared traditions with a small ‘t’, and shared experience thereof, alongside initiation into the group, that make us a Tradition.
There are of course unaffiliated Contemporary Pagan Solitaires within the stream of Witchcraft. In fact they make up the bulk of Witches, with no Coven, Tradition, or group membership. Their path is just as legitimate. They are still Witches, just a different form of Witches that do not share any common group praxis. This blog is simply a rather random discourse in Tradition mechanics as a means for critical thought; the focus upon Tradition Witches, regardless of the form, is not a denouncement of the chosen path of the unaffiliated Solitaires. The bias towards Tradition is simply because I am a practicing Traditional Witch, I write what I know, and this blog is from the lore and perspective of such; so no intended offense for not covering that angle.
Joining a Tradition is not for everyone. For that matter, not every Tradition is right for the individual though there may be one that is. Also of note, a Tradition may be right but the Coven not. Finally there is the other side of the coin, not every individual is right for a Tradition or Coven. There is a lot of discernment, on all sides, that goes into the decision for Initiation. There are, however, many reasons and benefits to Traditional practice when the individual, Coven, and Tradition are all a good fit for one another. Why all the worry about everyone being a good match?
Working in a small Coven engaging in very intimate spiritual and magickal practice takes a lot of trust. The work of a Coven gets very emotional at times; people are vulnerable. Additionally, any time someone new joins the group they must learn the praxis so as to be able to be a functioning member of the group. Training people takes a lot of time and resources. I know, having been both a student and teacher. Most training from a group takes years of weekly classes on top of a couple of rituals per month. Most forms of Contemporary Pagan Witchcraft Traditions have taboos against charging for training. For example, in British Traditional Wicca (BTW) all teaching is strictly free because by teaching the teacher is paying back the training they received for free– Paying it forward. In many Traditional Initiatory Witchcraft Traditions, those which are BTW derived, the same is also true. I honestly cannot say what the standard is within Feri Traditions (Any Feri Initiations reading this feel free to comment). Of the several forms of Tradition Witchcraft I have encountered and studied, I know of only a few that has a small fee. That fee, however, is akin to Coven dues. All of that being considered, I know of no Tradition, regardless of form, that charges after Initiation. So taking the whole free but very involved training into account alongside the intimate nature of a working Coven and throw on top of this that nearly 90% of all Seekers quit, there is good reason for discernment both by Seekers and Initiates. I personally think that the benefits are well worth it though.
I’ve already mentioned that established Traditions provide extensive training, but that is not the only benefit. For that matter, I would not even say it is the most important. Working with a Tradition provides a community and fellowship. With such there is a sense of belonging and a support network. There are many types of support given; emotional support for when life is tough, magickal support, and the general support of friends. Spiritual delving takes a toll and is not easy. In those times, the Coven and Tradition has individuals that have been there, have more experience, a different perspective to the problem, and different backgrounds. There is also magickal support which comes from a group effort in workings but also at times when the individual cannot work. I have lost count of the amount of times I have worked with other Tradition members, magickally speaking, to aide one of our own that is in a hospital and does not have the means or health at hand. Note: There is more momentum behind magick from a unified group of skilled and trained Witches than from just one. Having an agreed upon way of doing things, the praxis, when in a group makes this all easier; no reinventing the wheel at each meeting.
There is a common misconception in the rhetoric of the greater Contemporary Pagan community outside of those that have been a member of Tradition. Often the reason given for being an unaffiliated Solitaire, granted not the only reason, is due to the desire not to have anyone telling them what to believe. After all, with most being converts from orthodox religions, this is usually a sticking point behind having left there. I only know of one so called Tradition that in anyway makes an attempt to tell their membership what beliefs are correct. Most do not. All that is done, however, is for the individual to be taught a system of working for when actively working in this particular group. When in another group or at home, one’s quirks, whims, beliefs, and personal practice are all their own. The Tradition only cares about the method when gathered for that purpose, to have everyone on the same page. There is a danger though.
New Seekers have no way to honestly discern between those Traditions that are ethical and only focus on practice from those, such as the one I eluded to earlier, that try to control their membership’s beliefs, often through deceit and cult-like behavior. Traditions that do not fit in this category constantly engage in an information campaign to let potential Seekers know of these problem groups. I, myself, on occasion have had to warn someone. Not to urge them towards my own Tradition/Coven, but out of concern for them because of knowledge I have, which they are not privy to, about the group they are approaching. For example, one well known organization actively seeks to infiltrate other groups so as to spy, steal Tradition lore, and act as an inside agent during Witch Wars, they even have a manual for how to do it.
There is also the possible issue revolving around group drama. From time to time every group has its share of drama, but some more so than others. Older Traditions and established Covens have generally worked past this stage by putting policies and check and balances in place. On occasion though, a leader with a bad case of ego and control issues takes on an integral role. In an established Tradition it is the other Elders that step in to rein that individual in, but if the Coven is not part of a larger Tradition or the Tradition itself is saturated with dysfunction then problems arises. This again is all for good reason on why a Seeker should spend time in the process when thinking about joining a group.
So long as the potential pitfalls surrounding dysfunctional groups can be avoided, there are many good things about working in a Tradition. The best part is not the training, magickal momentum, or sense of belonging. Nope, none of that. The best part when such a group has been found is simply the people, and everything that entails.
“Lost in a thicket bare-foot upon a thorned path.”
Thursday, January 17, 2013
Change being the only thing permanent is almost an oxymoron. Yet, in this paradox of constant movement and transformation is the root of both all of our troubles and all of our achievements and comforts. As a shaper and weaver of our path, it is an early lesson for the Witch to accept and learn to craft. Without the skill set associated with this lesson, the Witch would be completely subservient. For the knowing Witch there is hope.
The hope that is the light upon the brow of the Witch comes from the nature of existence and harnessing it. The outside world external to us is in eternal flux. Reflect back to being a small child and the comfort brought on when something became known. So many adults become cynical when each and every one of those things and all of the things trusted since then has fallen to the way side and are gone. People have died, are dying, and we ourselves have to face the truth that we are upon the same road—death looms. Friends come into our lives and leave just a quickly as their own path leads them, often times in conflict with our own. Material possessions pass by with such regularity that little is cherished into the long term. All of this and so much more brings pain to us.
At the same time that each turn of the wheel removes and casts away it adds and brings. People are born, are growing, and we too are learning with each step. The friends that stay, even if only for a short while, make life a shared experience of potential. Things alone does not make one happy but it is a great aide when meeting our root needs, without which we could not grow unto focuses beyond finding food, water, or shelter. There would be no pleasure, even in simplicity, without the basic necessities of stuff. All of this and so much more allows joy to come to us.
Although it may seem as such when explained this way, existence is not so polarized. Both sides of the coin exist entirely and simultaneously. Growth and death coexist at each moment. It is at this point, where the two meet, that life happens.
Each religion has its own diagnosis for life, the problem therein, and how to overcome it. Contemporary Pagan Witchcraft is no different. The problem is not, however, one pertaining to the nature of existence externally. Our entire interface with existence happens from a point of complete subjectivity and relative understanding thereof. The problem is our own making. The desire to utterly control the world beyond our grasp is the root. It is the root because this ability is impossible. We have control over a very limited aspect of life. This is important though, for here is the key.
That limited part of existence for which we do have control is vast, so vast it is cosmic. Our control is here. Here is where ever we are, who ever we are. The Craft of the Witch is simply about molding and shaping our part of the grand relationship to All. Change comes to us, inevitably so, and often times in a manner undesired or preventable. The response of the Witch is not of trying to force that which cannot be forced but to seize it, shape it, and direct it through our action. The tree may not be able to be prevented from falling, but whether or not the individual is standing beneath it when it comes down can be. Even when life crashes in and pours turmoil freely in a storm of trouble, even then there is control, control over attitude, method of approach, and actions. This is the altar of the Witch upon which they rest their tools, of mind, body, and soul, for crafting creation. If life is like the coin, we are the hand controlling the toss.
“Lost in a thicket bare-foot upon a thorned path.”
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
There is an intimate relationship between life and death. The body, our flesh, bones, and blood, are the vehicle within which we ride to our tomb; without this vital carriage life would never have been known. Yet death is the catalyst, the force, the spark that allows life to flourish. The most primal urges of desire are paved upon a road where the inevitability of death is a reality.
The body of our being is temporal. As is true with the physical bodies of all living creatures, our time is limited before the last great mystery is upon the doorstep knocking and culling the last breath that is the key to opening the gate of transformation. This universal truth stirs an equally universal yearning to promulgate flesh unto flesh unto flesh, the road of descent into eternity. Death courts the Lady of the Well of Life; He lay Her down beside the river that is the threshold where the two worlds meet.
Too many trees in a small plot in the forest make competition for resources and space for the sun to shine through a matter of life and death. The quality of life for all is lessened and it makes it difficult for new trees to find room to take root, reach for the canopy, and spread their branches. It is a balance, a gentle one that exists here. For if too few trees exist and the space between vast, then the means of reproduction, and life, becomes stagnate. So too must each of us find the balance of too much and too little in regards to all aspects of our existence. To flourish in a forest that has become too crowded a few trees must be pruned, death must come, and then there will be room for us to grow unto our potential.
Death is the blade that cuts us free as it thrusts into the chalice of potential, life is what is found at the point where the two meet.
“Lost in a thicket bare-foot upon a thorned path.”
Monday, January 7, 2013
Resounding through the fog of the mind chimes the singular moment tolling, calling, heralding the action as it happens. There is only stillness in the snapshot of the now and the illusion of movement onward with a simultaneous descent into the past, each instance a birth of the whole anew; a moment of creation, a moment of death.
Across the span of our sacred landsacpe arcs the tones of the bell. By our own hand the division is cast down and the holy is anointed. As the oil touches brow our focus casts illumination upon the star, a gate unto the joining of sun and moon within, throughout, and about.
"Lost in a thicket bare-foot upon a thorned path."
Saturday, January 5, 2013
I am planning on making a Fetch for some career related work. For those that don’t know what a Fetch is, it is the astral construct that resides in a Fetish (charm bag) whose purpose is those that the creator has bestowed upon them. I had one for about two years that was gifted to me and that I refreshed, as is traditional, at the one year mark. However, life happened and it didn’t get feed enough. So with the New Year and the pending reassignment to another work section, I thought I would resurrect some of the materia, only certain items can be reused from a Fetish, and put a new Fetch to work. As silence is the word of magick that allows it marinate and work behind the scenes I am going to explain how to put together and do all of this with one minor exception. The specifics of the example that will be given here apply to the career of a writer, which is not my profession.
Let’s pretend that as the creator of some other entity we are mad scientists bent on stitching together Frankenstein; it’s an analogy, just play along. Well, to do this all of the various body parts are going to be needed. Our fetch is going to need hands, feet, a heart, a head, a carriage, amongst other things.
The very first thing that needs to be decided upon is the heart. Now the heart of a Fetch is always a root—always. It is a root so as to root the Fetch into the work and to act as the center, the axis mundi, around which the work is done. For a career related Fetish we are going to go with High John the Conqueror Root. Whereas there are lots of associations with this root, herein the ‘conqueror’ aspect is what is desired.
For no particular reason, the hands are next. Each hand, however, has a slightly different purpose. The right hand is the hand that applies the work. I think that Deer’s Tongue (it’s a form of wild vanilla) would be good; used for prowess in one’s speech (the honey tongue as you were) and very handy for a writer. The left hand, which is for drawing things that are desired, we will use a Mercury Head Dime. It is a coin; it’s good for drawing money, which our writer wants to draw to them. However; this type of coin is especially good. Why? Well, it’s 90% silver, it is a coin, and it is associated with mercury. Mercury is the planet of communication. So all in one little hand/coin is the strong drawing communication of silver and money; pull the money here! Want one… Quadrivium Supplies has them here.
Now to decide on the feet; these are important as it is the feet that get-you-there. An individual walks with feet, they are for traveling. Same thing for a Fetch, the feet get ‘em where they are going. For one foot let us use Five Finger Grass, which is good for success in all things that our five finger touch (our craft), like writing is the craft of the writer. The other foot, I think, would do well to be a small charm (like for a charm bracelet) of a key, for unlocking the way ahead.
So far the hypothetical Fetch has arms, legs, and a torso (heart). Now it needs a head. Allspice Berries it is. These little berries are good for money in regards to business undertakings. As the head, these berries will have our Fetch thinking about nothing but attracting money via writing. This doesn’t mean the writer has to obsess, only that our astrally created construct does. Thoughts rooted in conquering the work by speech and drawing money to oneself via unlocked pathways and practicing our craft (writing). There are only three things left that are needed; a link, instructions, and a carriage.
The link is simply the tie between the Fetch and the creator, so that the Fetch knows where to send the fruits of its labor. This item needs to be something small and belonging to the writer, say a small clipping of hair. Now with all the various parts of the body assembled they need a carriage in which to ride forth in. In short, something practical to keep all of the pieces, a.k.a. our bag. Specifically in this case, a purple one; for royalty. Put all the items in the bag.
At this point our Fetish is nothing more than assembled parts, like a computer with no programming. This is where a petition paper comes in. On a scrape of parchment we will write the name of the writer, and other identifying information, like their sun sign and birth date, along with various symbols that represent our desire. Put the symbols on the paper first and then their name and identifying marks over top of them; so make those symbols belong to that person. Put this piece of paper in the small bag for the Fetch. Now tie the bag closed.
Like in the book Frankenstein, upon the table of work lay a lifeless body into which we need to zap life into. Pick of the Fetish and breathe deep into it, and then whisper the name of the Fetch to it several times (tell no one this name—ever), tell it what you want its job to be, and feed it for the first time. To feed it, just dab some appropriate condition oil onto it about once a week. Now all our writer has to do is carry the Fetish upon their person anytime they are at their craft, feed the Fetch once a week, and never allow anyone else to touch it, which will kill the construct.
Such is the basic process for Fetish making. There are some more advanced methods but here is not the place. Enjoy!
“Lost in a thicket bare-foot upon a thorned path.”