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.
These three gentlemen were controversial figures even for witches. I was not that aware of Alex Sanders until I lived in England. When a told a friend of my discovery, he responded with, “Oh, wasn’t he just a television witch?” I had no idea. about that. I just thought he and Maxine were fascinating people. Robert Cochran’s style of witchcraft drew me very strongly. I later found how troubled he was. The American witch, Leo Martello, was an activist, very outspoken especially about animal cruelty and Gay rights.
Alex Sanders (Orrell Alexander Carter)
Born: June 6, 1926/ Entered Faery: March 30, 1988
The flamboyant Witch King, Alex Sanders, was reputed to have been initiated into witchcraft by his Welsh grandmother, Grandma Bibby, as a child. He had accidentally come upon her sitting stark naked in the middle of a circular cloth upon which curious objects were placed. The image of the classic witch, she swore the terrified Alex to secrecy, cutting him with a knife to mark as “one of us now.” Later on, she initiated him in the “old way”, launching his career as a witch.
The, perhaps apocryphal, biography of Alex Sanders, King of the Witches, by June Johns, 1969, ends with a very interesting interview. This section may put to rest some of the disturbing ritual imagery in films of Alexandrian witches found on youtube. The Questioner is June Johns:
Q: What is the difference between black witchcraft and white?
A: White is used for the good of the penitent and must not harm even his enemies. Black involves harm being done to either the petitioner or his enemies, or the sexual seduction of women.
Q: But doesn’t the use of the fith-fath ( doll) harm enemies?
A: No, it is only a means of silencing or restraining someone. Suppose we are asked to restrain a meddlesome mother-in-law. We fashion a doll in wax or plasticine, fasten its lips together with a safety pin, bind its limbs together and have the High Priestess breathe life into it as we recite the correct incantations. No harm is wished her, beyond the impulse to keep her mouth shut.
Robert Cochran (Roy Bowen)
Born: Jan. 26, 1931/ Entered Faery: July 3, 1066
I have always thought the Cat’s Cradle was witchy game. Here are the words of Robert Cochran, founder of the Clan of Tubal Cain, a mystical branch of witchcraft begun just after the 1951 repeal of the witchcraft laws in England.
by Roy Bowen
Pentagram (3) March 1965
“Cat’s cradle” as a game is interesting enough but as a form of witchery it becomes an interesting indication of the complex nature of the Craft. Each of the fingers on the hands of a witch has a defined meaning and purpose. It would be reasonable to assume that, to the knowing eye, the crosses and planes formed by the strings would tell much of a particular ritual.”
I found a couple of fascinating websites about Robert Cochran and the Clan of Tubal Cain in case you are interested. He had a very deep mind, and his letters are full of profound interpretations of poetry and symbolism.
Check out: http://www.cyberwitch.com/bowers/ and http://www.clanoftubalcain.co.uk/
Robert Cochran was born Roy Bowers in a down at heels area of London. He claimed that members of his family had been practitioners of an ancient pagan Witch-cult since at least the 17th century, and that two of them had been executed for it. He also claimed his great-grandfather was “the last Grand Master of the Staffordshire witches”, who cursed his grandparents for abandoning the Craft and converting to Methodism. His father had practiced witchcraft, but kept it a secret, and forbade his wife to tell his son, Roy. Despite her oath, his mother did in fact tell him. On finding this out, he immediately embraced his heritage.
“I come from the country of the oak, ash and thorn… I describe myself as a ‘pellar’. The People are formed in clans or families and describe themselves by the local name of the Deity. I am a member of the People of Goda – the Clan of Tubal Cain. We were known locally as ‘witches’, ‘the Good People’, Green gowns (females only), ‘Horsemen’ and finally Wizards.”
Robert Cochran worked as a blacksmith at a foundry, and later on a barge transporting coal along Britain’s network of canals. He would later remark that he saw traces of paganism in the folklore and folk art of both of these professions.
The Clan of Tubal Cain, 1951-1966
Around the time that the British 1735 Witchcraft Act was repealed in 1951, and it became legal to practice witchcraft in the United Kingdom, Cochrane, who was in his early twenties, founded a coven, and named it the “Clan of Tubal Cain” after the Biblical figure Tubal Cain, the first blacksmith. Blacksmiths have long been associated with wizardry because theyw ork with the four elements and bend iron to their will. Cochrane initiated his wife Jane and several others into the craft, and they then joined the coven. Among these was Evan John Jones, who would later become an author upon the subject of pagan witchcraft.
Cochrane ingested belladonna and Librium on Midsummer eve 1966, and died nine days later in hospital without recovering consciousness. He left a suicide note expressing his intent to kill himself “while of sound mind”.
Dr. Leo Louis Martello
Born: July 26, 1931/ Entered Faery: June 29. 2000
“In the Craft, there is no hard dogma. Hard drugs are forbidden. Mindless morons can’t be a compliment to our Mother Goddess. Sex is sacred, not something to be exhibited at a peep show. Power is something personal, not to be used over others, which is contrary to Craft ethics. Those who think the Old Religion will make them masters over others are slaves to their own self-delusions. A happy person is always a powerful person and is hated by those who aren’t. A happy person is in many ways selfish; in the Craft we must protect our best interests and ensure that the power that comes from joy remains constant, knowing that none of us are immune from the vicissitudes of life, but that our Old Religion will help us handle adversity. The Craft has survived for thousands of years. After everything else has come and gone, it will remain. And one day, in the coming Age of Aquarius, there will once again be magnificent temples to the Goddess”. from: Witchcraft: The Old Religion, 1973.
A fellow native of Massachusetts, Dr. Leo Louis Martello was certified hypnotist, graphologist, and author. During the 1960’s, he was involved in the early spread of Contemporary Witchcraft in America. Colorful and sometimes controversial, he worked tirelessly in the areas of Civil Rights, Animal Rights, and Gay and Lesbian Rights issues. He is famed for his manifesto seeking retribution for the torture and execution of Witches during the Witch hysteria of the 15th – 17th centuries in Europe, going so far as to filing suits of $500 million against the Roman Catholic Church and $100 million against Salem, Massachusetts.
His father was an immigrant Sicilian who owned a small farm, The stress of poverty during the Great Depression., tore his family apart and Leo was sent to a Catholic boarding school. Despite the hardships of his life, before the age of twenty-five Leo had achieved many things. A natural psychic, he studied palmistry and tarot with a Gypsy woman, learned hypnotism and graphology. By the time he was sixteen, he was making radio appearances, giving handwriting analyses and selling articles to magazines, at the same time continuing his education at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Like Alex Sanders, he also had a powerful grandmother whom he was said to resemble. Still in Sicily, Maria Concetta was a well-known Strega Maga (a female Witch) and a High Priestess of a secret coven called ‘Goddess of the Sikels’. After the sudden death of a local Mafiosi by heart attack, it was rumored that she had caused his death after he had threatened to kill her husband for not paying protection money.
Eventually, Leo’s father told him that his cousins from the old country wished to meet him. They had been watching him for years, waiting until he was ready to be brought back into the Old Religion. On the 26th of September 1951, Leo was initiated into his cousin’s secret Sicilian coven, and thus he became a Stregone Mago (a male Witch). The initiation involved a “bloodletting Oath”; he was never to reveal the secrets of the coven, its members, or any of their secret teachings.
In 1964, Leo sought the permission from his Sicilian coven to go public as a Witch. With their consent, he contacted other friends and associates leading to his initiation into Gardnerian, Alexandrian and Traditionalist traditions. He published his first book, Weird Ways of Witchcraft in 1969.
That ends my list of 13 witches for Samhain.
I’m sorry to have missed any, I know there are a few more who have passed beyond the veil.
When I describe them a being in Faery I really mean it. Consider what it means for a Faery Witch who can contact any of these Ancestors. I believe they are there to help us on our path in all their different ways — and not just via their many books and articles. So, if you have a Samhain Feast perhaps invite them to share with you by name. And if you do, let me know what happens.
Just click the COMMENTS tab at the top of the blog and you will have lots of room to express yourself and share with all of us.
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