Samhain is a time to honor our ancestors.
Time to lay out a feast and invite them to dine, to share their presence with us while the veil is thin.
So, in respect for those who came before, I have made a small Ancestral Gallery of Witches. Give them a smile, tip your hat, light a candle and say thank you for blazing the trail and holding open the gates of Elfhame. It took a lot of courage, in those old days, to walk between the worlds. My original plan was to give space to thirteen of our forebears in one blog post, but i realized, not everyone would know them, so I shall make a series of posts with three in each — a good magical number. It is amazing to discover these great teachers and mentors all over again and to remember how they kept magic alive for all of us, sometimes at great personal risk.
The three following Witches carried the movement forward each in their different ways.
Stewart Farrar, the journalist, wrote many books that dispelled the negative perception of Witchcraft and made it approachable, almost acceptable.
Sybil Leek — well she was the first Witch I ever knew of. She was a public personality in the 1960′s in America and her book Sybil Leek’s Love Signs or something to that effect was all over the place. I almost didn’t include due to the cheesiness of my her 1960′s PR, but I have discovered in my research, a very interesting person.
Doreen Valiente was the poetess who increased the deep glamor of the Craft with evocative imagery and emotional power. She did not approve of the attention seekers, yet still found herself in the spotlight.
Charm Against an Egg-boat
You must break the shell to bits, for fear
The witches should make it a boat, my dear:
For over the sea, away from home,
Far by night the witches roam.
Stewart Farrar: Born: June 28, 1916 / Entered Faery: Feb 7, 2000
Stewart Farrar was an unlikely witch.
Farrar was one of the first British officers to enter Auschwitz, an experience that greatly influenced his personal and political beliefs. It led him to explore philosophies such as Marxism, and at the time he met Alex and Maxine Sanders, he was an agnostic with only a marginal interest in witchcraft.
Farrar was a natural and prolific writer. Back in England after the war, he began a career as a journalist and also wrote detective fiction. It was when he was sent to cover a screening of The Legend of the Witches that he met Alex and Maxine. Though he wasn’t sure of Wicca, she was fascinated by them. The result was one of the most important books on witchcraft, What Witches Do and Farrar’s initiation into the Sanders’ coven. The term Alexandrian Tradition was coined by Stewart Farrar.
While working magic with the Sanders, Farrar met Janet Owen who was to become hos seventh wife. They came to prominence as Alexandrian Witches writing many important books together. The most well know is A Witches Bible.
Witches are practical people;
philosophy to them is not just an intellectual exercise -
they have to put it into practice in their everyday lives,
and in their working,
if philosophy is to have any meaning.
From: A Witches’ Bible, by Janet and Stewart Farrar, published by Phoenix Publishing (1984).
Sybil Leek: Born: Feb. 22,1917 / Entered Faery: Nov. 26, 1982
All human beings have magic in them. The secret is to know how to use this magic, and astrology is a vital tool for doing just that…
~ Sybil Leek, 1972.
Sybil Leek had an utterly amazing life. Like a character in a romantic novel, she was born into a wealthy Staffordshire family that was fascinated by the magic and the occult, beginning in the 16th century with her ancestor, Molly Leigh. Her father taught her about nature and the power of herbs, talked to her about deep metaphysical subjects on long walks over the hills. Her grandmother taught her Astrology, psychic arts, and divination. They entertained great thinkers like H.G.Wells, and even Aleister Crowley who encouraged her to become a poet.
She married a concert pianist at 16 and was widowed at 18. To recover from her grief, her grandmother sent to her to coven in France to be their High Priestess. When she returned to England she lived in the New Forest, the place that Gerald Gardner claimed to have been schooled in Witchcraft. Bored by the place, she ran off with the Gypsies!
Chased out England, she moved to America where she became a regular on talk shows and wrote sixty books on Witchcraft, Magic and Astrology, as well as stories about her extraordinary life. While in L.A. she met Israel Regardie with whom she studied Qabbalah and practiced Golden dawn rituals. She is credited with being the one of the first environmentalist Witches.
Sybil Leek was an excellent Astologer and this is an amusing quote from one of her many books:
Sometimes astronomers and scientists make dogmatic statements in print that “they have never discovered any truth in the claims of astrology.” What they probably mean is that they have not taken the trouble to study it other than simply reading a three-line version of Sun-sign astrology in their local newspaper. Such dogmatic statements should really open up a whole forum in which the scientist should truthfully answer the question “Have you ever studied astrology?” I can only presume that fear is the basis of all such statements. Why do people become illogical and emotional when they speak of astrology? Are they afraid we may all regress into a primitive state in which their work may not be justified or appreciated? Are they afraid that astrology may be opening doors to new scientific discoveries and new dimensions of reality and may upset their status quo? Of course, anything written in a controversial vein about astrology generally hits the headlines, but it is the idea of controversy, not the validity of an argument, that really makes news…
Doreen Edith Dominy Valiente:
Born: Jan. 4, 1922/ Entered Faery: Sept. 1, 1999
I find this photo above most mysterious. I think its the intensity of her face that does it.
She is the poet of the Craft. Her version of the Charge of the Goddess has come down to us as the primary invocation
to the Queen of Heaven, the Great Goddess in all her forms.
I have posted the Charge of the Goddess here: Wicca: The Charge of the Goddess
You will have to scroll down below the Bluebeard’s Castle stuff to find it.
Doreen Valiente was High Priestess in Gerald Gardner’s Bricket Wood coven. While he loved the limelight, she felt the Craft should maintain its age-old secrecy. I find it interesting that the Priestesses of two major covens of this period, Doreen, Maxine Sanders, were very reluctant to go public with their Path, while connected to men who wanted gloried in the attention. Perhaps that is because the history of the Witch Craze suggests that those who ere put to death were predominantly women, or maybe that women enjoy the hidden, more subtle, magical powers of moonlight.
This wonderful poem by Doreen says it all.
The Witches’ Creed
Hear Now the words of the witches,
The secrets we hid in the night,
When dark was our destiny’s pathway,
That now we bring forth into light.
Mysterious water and fire,
The earth and the wide-ranging air,
By hidden quintessence we know them,
And will and keep silent and dare.
The birth and rebirth of all nature,
The passing of winter and spring,
We share with the life universal,
Rejoice in the magical ring.
Four times in the year the Great Sabbat Returns,
and the witches are seen
At Lammas and Candlemas dancing,
On May Eve and old Hallowe’en.
When day-time and night-time are equal,
When sun is at greatest and least,
The four Lesser Sabbats are summoned,
And Witches gather in feast.
Thirteen silver moons in a year are,
Thirteen is the coven’s array.
Thiteen times at Esbat make merry,
For each golden year and a day.
The power that was passed down the age,
Each time between woman and man,
Each century unto the other,
Ere time and the ages began.
When drawn is the magical circle,
By sword or athame of power,
Its compass between two worlds lies,
In land of the shades for that hour.
This world has no right then to know it,
And world of beyond will tell naught.
The oldest of Gods are invoked there,
The Great Work of magic is wrought.
For the two are mystical pillars,
That stand at the gate of the shrine,
And two are the powers of nature,
The forms and the forces divine.
The dark and the light in succession,
The opposites each unto each,
Shown forth as a God and a Goddess:
Of this our ancestors teach.
By night he’s the wild wind’s rider,
The Horn’d One, the Lord of the Shades.
By day he’s the King of the Woodland,
The dweller in green forest glades.
She is youthful or old as she pleases,
She sails the torn clouds in her barque,
The bright silver lady of midnight,
The crone who weaves spells in the dark.
The master and mistress of magic,
Thet dwell in the deeps of the mind,
Immortal and ever-renewing,
With power to free or to bind.
So drink the good wine to the Old Gods,
And Dance and make love in their praise,
Till Elphame’s fair land shall receive us
In peace at the end of our days.
And Do What You Will be the challenge,
So be it Love that harms none,
For this is the only commandment.
By Magic of old, be it done!
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