I came of age in the 1970s. Those were the early days of the feminist movement. I always loved femininity, so the idea of becoming a miniature – (and the was the word they used) man had no appeal foe me. I was always a rebel and wanted to be seen as a realm person, having equality with men, but I did not want to be one. I was also always very drawn to the moon. I was a natural clairvoyant and telepath, and artist and visionary. Of curse back then there was not really any language for those things, especially in traditional New England. I had to come to the west coast to find put that I “wasn’t really from here.” and that I ” shouldn’t try to fit in.”
In the 1980s the Women’s Spirituality Movement emerged. I have since learned that most “movements” are concocted by socila engineers to promote their hidden agendas and that indeed the feminist movement was a CIA psy-op designed to get women into the workplace so they could be taxed. But since I had to deal with this movement, spirituality resonated with me much more that any corporate ambition. I was working class so that was all Greek to me.
The books were pretty good too. The Jungian things, books like Moon Moon by Anne Kent Rush produced in those hand made 1970;s hippy style paperbacks, books like Margaret Murray’s God of the Witches, and especially Dione Fortune’s Sea Priestesss. I had also studied Surrealism in art school and read about the girl friend of one of the famous painters or poets…hmmm. I think Paul Eluard, describing his girlfriend as mysterious, in the garden at night, a witch. These works resonated with me and my natural affinity to nature.
I grew up in nature. My playground was the woods, exploring the woods, discovering wildlife, reading fairy tales, dressing in my mother;s cats off clothes, pretending to be otherworldly among the trees, at the woodland lake, in the meadow with the ancient stone walls. Woman as sibyl, as shamaness, as fairy take witch had a great appeal for me. I was not alone in this. We all grew up much closer to nature than people do now despite their “green movement” which isn’t really green but corporate. The forest was my refuge and my healer, a place of magic.
As a forest person, I’d always been naturally attracted to Druidry. The White Goddess by Robert Graves sealed that resonance for me.
Over the last 20 years a very dark strain has entered in. Via heavy metal music, horror films, books. Satanism has replaced the lovey celebratory nature of the seasonal rituals and “witchcraft” seems to be deteriorating into the evil that our Medieval ancestors feared. Perhaps even then the art of the wise woman, the healer , the shaman, the cunning man deteriorated into evil, just as the pagan religions fell into orgies of human sacrifice and war.
This development has been extremely distressing to me. I do not want to be associated with this darkness. When I played Cameron / Babalon in Babalon in London, I did it as a creative project ( I had been an actress at one time). I had no idea who jack Parsons and Marjorie Cameron people were. Playing the Babalon roletwas fun, but as I hate war, I was disturbed at the Jack Parson’s excitement invoking “Force and Fire, my friend, Force and Fire” as the most desired reality in the Aeon of Horus. I never liked Crowley and still don’t. I am not a destroyer, but a preserver and creator. I feel I’ve spent my life watching everything I love being destroyed.
Now, I feel the old mythopoetic path of witchery is being destroyed. This probably has more to do with why I don’t write to this blog any more than anything else. These ideas work great in fiction, so that is where I will explore these themes. In fiction light and dark can dance without raining bombs on innocent people in sacrifice to some awful un-God. The theme of human sacrifice haunts us all because it is in our ancestral memories, but frankly it is the devil in the psyche that Christ sought to redeem so that it could end forever. The whole thrust of Christianity is to raise consciousness to a high vibrational level, thereby starving the dark lords and escaping their clutches. This is why they hate Christ. I never hated Christ. In fact, before I lived in London, my witchcraft was solidly aligned with the Virgin Mary.
Anyway this is my little rant. I wish for all my readers who are drawn to Malifecium that you see the error of your vision, that is it is a form of demonic brain washing manufactured to bring you down to the lowest common denominator. It backfires. It will not feed you.
The Wicca religion is filled with beauty, but one must always know that the God it celebrates is the Devil. It doesn’t have to be, but it seemd to be going more and more in that direction. This is the Being that is being uploaded into the ethers now. Not a nature God, or joyful, fertilizing spirit, but something evil.
Maxine Sanders even writes about it in the opening to her autobiography, Firechild describing a Druid ritual at Stonehenge in 1968:
“The ceremony went on until the killing of the old king when, after a few moments of dramatic knife waving it became apparent that the play acting was taking a sinister turn. Alex ( Sanders) was suffering sincere but blunt jabs that were trying to penetrate the beautiful, luckily thick, robes he was wearing; there was terror in his eyes and panic in his voice. The normally sedate priests and priestesses were screaming for the lifeblood of the old Oak King, the king of the witches, my husband…. This was witchcraft!”
So it was spelled out even then. I am curious about what you think.
Although my soul resonates with the old Night Religion, I am not Wiccan. That is nothing against Wicca, merely my own preference to stay free of group-minds. I have certainly learned a lot from Wiccan teachings over the years, those that have been available to the public through books and things. Back around 1980, I found many of the early witchcraft books very inspiring, such as The Spiral Dance, The White Goddess, The Sea Priestess, etc. There was very good one long out of print called Moon, Moon. One of the primary figures that fascinated me was the Triple Moon Goddess.
One of her most evocative images was as a row of three identical mothers in peaked hoods carved in stone on some ancient Roman wall. These three mothers are primal. I later discovered the concept of the Triple Moon Goddess: Maiden, Mother and Crone. I don’t recall, or don’t remember, the origin of this idea, but it was everywhere. As a sky watcher since childhood and a moon lover, this symbolism just never felt right. Clearly, in my original, un-indoctrinated, mind, the moon did not have three phases, but four. Somehow, like the famous Durer etching of the “Three Witches”, the obvious four had been reduced to three and, despite the obvious presence of the fourth figure, this mistake continues to be made. ( see my postFour Witches, Three Graces, or Something Else). The old academic mind has seemed to be entranced by the Three Graces, the Three Muses, the Three Fates, the Norns, to a blinding degree. Why do they ignore the fourth? What are they afraid of?
I rebelled against mainline Feminism, hanging on to my femininity at all costs. Not only did I enjoy embodying that quality, I knew the inherent, soulful power of it. I was actually frightened by the idea of giving that up to become to a kind of imitation and therefore lesser “man”, for that could only lead to drainage of the woman’s wild soul. In those days the alternate path was made available through “Women’s Studies”. Under that umbrella was the Women’s Spirituality Movement where, in the bookstores, the ancient mythologies of the world could be found. There I found my elders, the Grandmothers who, if I sifted through the pop-ideological nonsense, I found keys to the deep knowing.
Clearly the moon has four phases: Waxing Crescent, Full Moon, Waning Crescent, and Dark Moon, wrongfully called the New Moon. The term New Moon more accurately describes the slim first crescent as the moon re-appears in the sky after three nights of darkness. This is Diana’s bow. (The varying iconography of the Goddess Diana is worthy of another blog post). It seems the Dark Moon is being left out. Perhaps it is because it is the Black Moon of Death.
Back in the 1980s “Women’s Mysteries” were so-called because no one ever talked about things like menstruation which is our distinct connection to the moon. Womanhood was equated to giving birth. We were meant to represent fertility only in the most active stages: either being the Maiden in preparation for conception of children, the Mother, pregnant and nurturing, or the Grandmother, or Crone (another mis-applied term) taking care to guide the younger ones. These are beautiful concepts, but by leaving out the Dark Mother — the real Crone — the ancient Old One — does not protect us from the disturbing subject of death, rather it cuts us off from the natural cycle of Life, Death, and Re-birth. It severs us from our souls.
There may have been a hidden agenda as well in hiding knowledge of this fourth phase of the moon that has to do with the Dark Side of the Moon. There are two issues here.
1: Denial of the Dark Moon is denial of the Dark Predator in the psyche. By keeping our inner darkness unconscious, we remain children ( as Patriarchy wants us to be) Naive and easy prey to externalizations of the evil force. By recognizing and owning this wild creature within, we are empowered by it, able to fight and defend ourselves and those we love like mother bears. we also earn how stop pushing, to let go, to rest, to allow rejuvenation and rebirth, safe in the silence of the Dark Mother.
Esoterically the Moon has always been considered to be the gateway of souls falling from Heaven to the Sub-Lunar atmosphere to enter a quickened womb to be born again on earth. This purpose is that of the life-giving phase of Waxing to Full Moon that is the sign of the Fertile Mother.
Spirits of the Dead by Kieron Rhys-Johnson
2: There is an esoteric planet behind the moon, at the Dark Side. This is called the Eighth Sphere, portal to the realm of the dead.
This Eight Sphere is a tricky issue, for it is said that it is a realm of hungry ghosts, or demons. The Women’s Spirituality Movement of the 1980s slipped into the larger New Age Movement ( all these “movements” crikey!) so easily that almost became synonymous. (As a born clairvoyant, I was drawn into this “movement” against my will as I knew my abilities had nothing to do with any commercial/ political “movement” but were a natural condition of my soul. Clairvoyance is Seer-ship. It does not depend on spirits to see into the Unseen, but are symptoms of an awakened Inner Eye.) The job of the New Age was partly to seduce some people into becoming dependent upon spirits by joining the ranks of Channelers and Trance Mediums. ( I was warned against Mediumship very early on) These methods of “communicating with the dead” lead directly into contact with that Eighth Sphere, home to the the Shells and what Qabbalists call the Qlippoth. These things want your soul.
I will not elaborate further on this, except to say that the two are Not the same thing. In the esoteric realm it is so important to get the symbolism straight because symbols are keys to the psychic core. They effect you in subtle ways which is one reason why so much of this stuff was, until very recent times, kept secret.
Secrecy cuts both ways, of course. My goal is enliven Soul.
Christian Influences on Our Perception of the Moon
I just want to share a fragment of my forthcoming book, The Grail Keepers’ Tarot, to illustrate an important junction in how lunar, and therefore female and fertility symbolism may have come to be manipulated for propaganda purposes. It comes under my description of Trump number 18, The Moon, depicted in my tarot deck as The Three Maries of the Sea.
“The image of the Three Marys of the Sea may have its roots in the pagan Triune Goddess of the Moon, or the Three Fates—-Spinner, Weaver and Cutter of the cord. The moon and the sea are of course inseparable, for the tides are ruled by the phases of the Moon. The introduction of the dark-skinned servant, Sara the Egyptian, suggests the hidden presence of the fourth lunar phase, the dark moon. In the old legend, the Three Marys threw Sara overboard, but a raft took shape beneath her and she was saved. On a symbolic level, this cruel behavior is early evidence of the Christian tendency to fear the hidden side of things, things that only come out in the total darkness, and move at the edges of consciousness, banished deities like Sara, who are yet saved by the invisible ones. Many of the Black Madonnas of France and Spain are associated with the hidden Sara of the black moon.”
Sara is worshipped under ground, in a cave, a place reserved in the ancient world, for the dead.
This is not glorify death, or to encourage a Death Cult. Not by any means. Nihilism leads to all kinds of abuses and has to do with that Eighth Sphere. But to deny the existence of that fourth, Dark Moon, is to flee the very cycles of life that lead to our deepest natures, our courage and maturity. Denial of this dark makes perpetual children of us. The Ancient Mother is ultimately our teacher and protector.
Those who disagree with me are free to comment. This is a deep topic, prone to dogmas and worthy of debate.
Interview by Kala Ambrose: author, psychic intuitive, wisdom teacher, inspirational speaker, muse, oracle and voice of The Explore Your Spirit with Kala Show at www.ExploreYourSpirit.com
Reprinted with her kind permission.
My good friend Judika Illes has written the most sumptuous encyclopedias. Her 5000 Spells, Encyclopedia of Witchcraft,Encyclopedia of Spirits have been sources of endless inspiration and fascination. They are great reference books for not only magic but history, anthropology, and culture. This is a wonderful interview she did with Kala Ambrose–and she even quotes yours truly.
Welcome to Kala’s Quick Five, where I chat with fascinating authors, artists, teachers and researchers and ask them five questions about their work. My guest today is Judika Illes, an independent scholar, educator, and author of several books of folklore, folkways, and mythology about the subjects of magic, the occult, divination, diverse spiritual traditions, witchcraft, and the paranormal. She has a certification in therapeutic aromatherapy and taught introductory courses on that subject for the Australasian College of Herbal Studies (2000-2002). She is a practitioner of taromancy, tasseography, and other forms of divination. Her published books include The Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells, The Encyclopedia of Spirits, The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, and the topic of our interview today – The Weiser Field Guide to Witches.
Kala: Judika, it’s a pleasure to speak with you again. I so enjoyed our conversation on the Explore Your Spirit with Kala Show, where we discussed your work and your book, Magic When You Need It. We’re back again, this time to discuss your new book, The Weiser Field Guide to Witches: From Hexes to Hermione Granger, From Salem to the Land of Oz, which hits the stores on October 1, 2010. What prompted you to write a field guide about witches?
Judika: My very earliest encounters with books of magic and metaphysics involved the old Samuel Weiser bookshop in New York City and so it is such a wonderful, marvelous karmic turn of events that I now find myself affiliated with the Weiser publishing house whose historic roots stretch back to that store. Last year, Weiser Publishing initiated a metaphysical field guide series: Raymond Buckland’s The Weiser Field Guide to Ghosts was the first book in the series. When Weiser asked whether I would like to write a field guide to witches, I jumped at the chance. I am honored to be following in Raymond Buckland’s footsteps and I feel so blessed to be working with Weiser Books.
Kala: The book covers famed historical legends including Aleister Crowley and Marie Laveau to popular cinematic figures such as Harry Potter and the Wicked Witch of the West. I’m excited to see that you included historical figures as well as modern day pop icons. I saw Wicked performed live this year and found it to be a fantastic twist and representation. What did you uncover during your research for this book that you found to be most fascinating?
> Judika: Did you read Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, the Gregory Maguire novel that the musical is based upon? I loved it. It addressed a lot of my own personal issues with the MGM movie, The Wizard of Oz. These issues are discussed more fully in one of my other books, The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, which has substantial sections devoted to L. Frank Baum’s novel, The Wizard of Oz, the movie versions, and Maguire’s novel. I would really like to see the Wicked musical one day.
I’m always fascinated by twists, always trying to look at old subjects from different or fresh perspectives. I can’t say that there’s one most fascinating thing in The Weiser Field Guide to Witches for me because the entire topic enthralls me. There’s nothing about witches, witchcraft, or even just perceptions about witches and witchcraft that doesn’t interest me. But I am always uncovering new details. Researching is like intellectual archaeology and so you’re always digging up something new, something that will help you re-examine a topic from different angles. During the researching of The Weiser Field Guide to Witches, I was able to uncover new details about people I’ve written about before- new for me, anyway.
For example, while writing this book, I read a lot of Sybil Leek’s work: now I’ve loved Sybil Leek since I was a kid and saw her on television, I think on the Mike Douglas show but I did not know she had written a children’s book, The Jackdaw and the Witch. I also hadn’t realized that all of Sybil’s many books, many of which were best-sellers, are now out of print, which I find very distressing.
For a change, I focused on Franz Bardon’s involvement with folk magic and herbalism, something that is rarely discussed as emphasis tends to be on his work with Hermetics. For those unfamiliar with him, Franz Bardon is an extremely significant figure in the history of witchcraft and magical practice but he was a modest man who lived behind the Iron Curtain and is all too often overlooked.
Many of the details of Veronica Franco’s life were new and surprising for me. She was a Venetian courtesan who survived Europe’s witch hunts. She was a rarity: a well-educated, very literate and articulate woman who successfully defended herself against witchcraft charges and was freed. When you write about the history of witches and witchcraft, you inevitably tell a lot of sad stories. Veronica did not have an entirely happy ending—she was quite poor at the end of her life—but it was a nice change to discuss a witchcraft-accusation tale that did not end in complete tragedy.
> Kala: Of all of the titles that women have claimed, the term witch I believe, has been the most misused, misunderstood and misrepresented over the centuries. I have past life memories of practicing the wise woman ways and being condemned for doing so in those past lives. It is so sad at times to still see how misunderstood the term is to this day. Can you define and bring some clarity to our readers on who witches were and who they are today?
> Judika: I have similar past life memories, Kala. My absolute favorite definition of “witch” is from author Aline DeWinter—I quote it in The Weiser Field Guide to Witches: “A Witch is a person who sees everything as alive and powerful. We walk in a sacred manner and all of nature responds.” I can’t possibly say it any better.
For me, a witch is a person possessing both spiritual freedom and personal power. A witch has a kind of freedom of soul and mind, even if she sometimes finds herself oppressed by life’s circumstances in other ways. A witch is in touch with her own personal spiritual and magical power and makes conscious choices and decisions regarding when and if and how to access and use that power. I think those are eternal definitions that apply now and forever.
But the word “witch” also gets very carelessly thrown around a lot: it’s evolved into an umbrella term encompassing incredibly diverse, often contradictory definitions. That’s as true now as it was in the past. The word “witch” has historically been applied to healers, priestesses, magical practitioners, shamans, and practitioners of polytheistic faiths. It’s also used as a derogatory term for people interested in the occult, unconventional people, and also as a misogynistic term for women in general, especially uppity women who don’t display sufficient submissiveness.
I am constantly asked whether I’m a witch and my consistent response is to ask the questioner to define the word “witch” for me, which usually really annoys them. Now I’m not a particularly confrontational person but it’s crucial that the word “witch” be defined: you have to be careful because one person’s definition is not the same as another’s. I define “witch” very positively. I have always loved and admired witches: as a child, I perceived Hansel and Gretel as a tragedy because the witch was murdered. Hansel and Gretel was a really stressful story for me to hear but I was worried about the witch, not the kids. However, I am well aware that not everyone shares my perspective. So when someone asks you if you are a witch, for safety’s sake, before you answer, you need to know whether they perceive witches as role models or as servants of Satan.
>High Priestess by Thomas Dodd
> Kala: In your book, you also explore the ancient goddesses including Isis, Hekate, and Aradia among others. Do you feel that the calling of the high priestess is returning? Many express an awareness that the Divine Feminine energy is rising at this time, how do you feel this will affect the world?
> Judika: Lilith, Kybele, Yemaya, and Oshun are also among those included in The Weiser Field Guide to Witches. And Naamah and Nephthys, too. I can’t overlook my Ladies! I create field guides and encyclopedias and so I try very hard to write from a neutral position. I present a lot of diverse information, I’m not writing only about my own personal experiences but, that said, a lot of what I write about is very personal to me. I write from within the traditions, not merely as an observer.
I think the calling of the high priestess has never gone away—the difference is that in the 21st century more of us are now in a position to heed that call and to demonstrate our devotion in a public fashion and thus serve as inspiration and encouragement to others. So the response to the calling can expand exponentially whereas previously, for reasons of safety, these practices had to be maintained under deep cover, very discreetly and secretly and on a much smaller scale. If the Divine Feminine energy is nurtured and allowed and encouraged to rise, then that will be humanity’s salvation. We are in trouble without it. But it is very much a calling.
There is a basic shamanic tenet that the Call of the Spirits—or a specific deity or goddess—can only be ignored at your own risk. If you feel that call in your heart, mind, or in your blood or bones, you must respond. The alternative is depression, illness, general frustration and unhappiness. But the wonderful thing is that the spirits—and I use that word as an equalizer, I write about so many of them from so many traditions that I very consciously try not to impose a hierarchy—the spirits do respond. They speak with us and will negotiate methods of veneration and communication that suit each of us. So just as there are many ways to be a witch, there are many ways to be a high priestess. And new paths are being forged all the time. We are blessed to live in a magical and spiritual renaissance and it is crucial that we nurture and protect it.
> Kala: Judika, looking back at your life thus far in review, how has your practice of the metaphysical arts enhanced and affected your life. Have you been surprised by the journey along the way?
> Judika: Kala, it has enhanced and affected every aspect of my life. I cannot even begin to imagine who I would be without it. I do believe in the concept of the witchblood. My fascination and identification with witches, witchcraft, and metaphysics manifested at such an early age: it was just there inside me from the start. I can’t even begin to explain it otherwise. I have personally had a very circuitous spiritual journey, a surprising and unpredictable personal path. For example, what I am working on now is another massive encyclopedia, this one devoted to saints of many spiritual traditions. If you had told me twenty years ago that I’d be working with saints, I would have laughed. I wouldn’t have believed you. And yet here I am.
Kala: Judika, thank you for joining me here on Kala’s Quick Five. More about Judika and her book The Weiser Field Guide to Witches at www.judikailles.com
> Judika: Thank you so much, Kala! It’s always a pleasure speaking with you!
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I was wondering what kind of article I can write for this website. And then it just hit me – there are so many categories and topics here, so many things Aline is talking about, why not merge them all together?
I begun my adventure with the supernatural in 2005. I am definitely young explorer of the paranormal, but I already know a few things. What was it that I begun with? Psionics – a little bit of a fluffy and childish approach to psychic development. But I wanted more, so from fluffy websites I moved to reading books, from there to occult practices – different systems, from Tai Chi meditation to Norse Runes, from Shamanism to Chaos Magick. With time, all of this merged into one thing. No longer was I talking about different systems, different practices. The terms became worthless, and even troubling as I was talking with people.
Everyone got their own set of terms. I was unable to communicate with Chaos mages, Wiccans thought I was a vampire, vampires thought I was just an asshole, but most people thought I had no idea what I was talking about – while in reality, they were those who had no idea what the occult really is. Not all of them, of course, I’ve met many people who thought like me.
For me, shamanism, psychic abilities, chaos magick, Norse runes, tarot — all of this is the same thing. They are the same kinds of occult practices – using our will to use some supernatural energies to shape the universe we live in as we want it, or at least -to perceive the universe using extraordinary means – like divination systems (runes, tarot, i ching) or psychic abilities, different forms of clairvoyance.
It is my belief that people who think that ancient shaman and modern Chaos mage perform different occult arts, those people are simple wrong and there are a lot more for them to learn. Every single occult practice is based on four elements:
Needs to be prepared for the practice. Occult orders usually create whole temples, modern psychic vampyres simple cleanse the place of negative energies, Wiccan creates altars, psychics turned one room into simple meditative space. This creates a place where higher energies are created. And these enrages support the occult art process.
There are so many terms: PSI, Ki, Chi, Prana, Kia, Odic Force, Ethers and many more. But these terms represent the very same energy, the energy that cannot be easily defined, but the energy that is used to shape the universe (telekinesis, law of attraction, different forms of occult spells), and transfer information (telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, astral projections).
The Goal :
What do you want to achieve? What is your goal? It is something we want, it might be a wish to send a telepathic message to a friend, or attract $10 000 USD within next 24 hours. The goal is what we want to achieve while sitting in specific place, using specific energies, with…
The power that shapes the universe and our life. When you have the goal, the will the I really want this to happen and the power to make it happen.
Those are four primary elements of every occult practice. If you will look closer, you will find all these elements in every magical or psychical system in existence.
Odin: Eric Tesol
Choosing Your Occult System
Everyone of us have to choose the system to follow – some people choose Wicca, some Chaos Magick, some becomes psychics, and some mix all the systems there are. As one wise magus said, “With time each one of us creates his own practical system.”
If the principles are all the same, there is really no difference which system you will choose.
But you need to feel the system. That is where some books come to be – for example, I do not really feel good with modern occult systems, but I read some books about Hebrew occultism, and I was always fascinated with Norse mythology. In my practice I often use Hebrew rites, and I am a big fan of runes, I have implemented some rites from Runic Magick in my own practice.
These are the archetypes, and you should read a lot of books in order to find out which archetype speaks to you. Thor is a god of War, but I prefer Thor over Mars from Roman mythology – although these are the same archetypes, I respond better to Thor – therefore, my occult practices gives me better results, only because I perceive Norse archetypes as more powerful and more real. Someone else would say I’m nuts, because the only real spirits are these from The Goetia. But the reality is – we’re still dealing with the same archetypes.
The same thing relates to divination – I prefer Norse Runes over Tarot cards, but I don’t think either of these systems is better than the other one. Some people prefer Tarot because they feel it – I don’t feel the cards, I feel the Runes.
Terminology is the Source
The source of all problems. I do not say we should create ultimate set of terms for all occult practices, it is impossible. But based on this article, you must understand that you need to keep an open mind. Never assume that someone is lying or have no idea what he’s talking about, or he is just wrong. Discuss the case, try to get to the bottom of things. If I say PSI and someone from India will say Prana, I will simplified things in such manner, so the guy will know that what he calls Prana, I call PSI. You get it?
Because at the source, all things are the same – you say tomato, I say tomato. With hundreds of years, different terms and names has been created to represent the same things. Around different terms, different systems of beliefs has been created. But at the very core, it’s all the same – the place, the energy, the goal and the will to shape the universe. This creates magick, this creates the occult philosophy.
People face problems without understanding this – they practice psychic abilities, and they wonder if they should start practicing some magick system, and vice versa. Let me tell you something: As long as the occult system works for you – stick with it. After all, what matters the most, is the result of your practice. Everything else is just the language that is too limited to explain what we really think…
Nathan is AN energy worker and paranormal investigator based in Poland, Europe.
He IS also non-fiction writer, check out his “Psychic Development Guidebook”
The gorgeous production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by the Ballet Russes is charged with eroticism and the glamor that goes with it. Indeed Shakespeare’s play with its two pairs of lover lost in the moonlit forest, love spells, jealousies, flirtations, deceptions, bands of flower fairies led by the Trickster Faun, Puck, is a rite of fertility magic. The choreographer has captured the hive quality of fairy beings, fused together in dances of sensuality and ecstasy. Oberon enters with his train of night and crown of branches. Beside him is the child, a grim reminder of the sacrifices of old, for it is Midsummer when the Summer King gives his life to the harvest. Titania is tricked by Puck into making love to one of his hoofed brethren, a donkey, for the fairies do not discriminate.
Faeries are more than nature spirits. They are the spiritual Intelligences of the earth. Its is Faery from which life springs and to which it returns in never-ending cycles of death and rebirth. Earth is a sexual planet. We see this all around us: constant reproduction, growth, flourishing, impregnating and dying off so more life can be born. This is what earth does. It what faeries do. Therefore Earth is also a Love planet, for love charges eroticism with spiritual power. Mothers tend their young with love so that they will have the strength to survive.
Faeries serve the life force. They are morally neutral but can be bent to human will. To those in harmony, the faeries will appear beautiful and grant gifts of knowledge and creative power. To those of wicked intent who call upon them for selfish purposes, the fairies will take on that pollution.
It’s sad that so there is so much left hand path magic going on today because the spirit world is darkening and suffering and becoming distorted by it, and we see what is happening to the earth. The dark and light Seelie Courts are a totally modern pop phenomenon brought about during the primal rift that separated the worlds.
In the old fertility religions, the peasants would couple in the fields in imitation of the faeries. They shared the erotic life of Faery in recognition that this is the way of the Earth. Done with full spiritual awareness of the energies involved, this was good magical participation at the high tides of the solar festivals. I believe blood sacrifice associated with Midsummer were a degradation of the original rites, because blood was used to embody spirits. This was not necessary before the coming of the Wasteland.
Wells and Springs are Entrances to Faery
Wells were one of the main entrances and exits between Faery and the outer world. The Arthurian Legend of the Wasteland describes what happened when these portals between the worlds were shut down by invaders. In The Elucidation, the tale is told of a temple of priestesses that tended the sacred wells. A drink of water from the Priestesses of the Wells was charged with healing power because of its links with the Love vibrations of the Earth and wisdom of the Faeries.
An army of brutal, warlord invaders, led by King Amangons, attacked the Priestess’s temple and raped them and stole their sacred goblet. After that, the wells were closed and the faeries were buried underground, no longer able to interact with mortals and help the earth to flourish. rape destroyed the the sacred sexuality of women and corrupted the lustiness of men to brutality. The continuity of the life forces was severed, the links between the world broken. Thus the earth did not bear fruit and was laid waste.
This was when the sacrifice of the Summer King came about represented by the little boy who is King for a Day with Oberon.
The importance of Faery can thus be seen as very great. Every wound to Mother Earth is a wound to Faery and to the spiritual envelope that is the Anima Mundi or Soul of the World. can we restore the Wasteland before it too late? Even in the Arthurian legend in the 12th century the Grail, representative of the cup of the Priestesses of the Wells, was withdrawn because of war and destruction of sacred sexuality and feminine.
Sharon Tate in “Eye of the Devil”, 1963. Initiated by Alex Sanders in preparation for her role as Odile LeCaray, she may have been a natural witch. Her Astrological chart with its strong Neptunian influence suggest this may be so.
drawn to dark, mysterious things?
not just interested in Vampires and Faeries, you want to be one?
unable to stay away from books about witchcraft and sorcery?
able to see or sense ghosts, and the past lives of places?
excited about going to places like Salem, or Whitby?
into dark glamor and wish to convey a powerful presence?
compelled by the Mysteries?
having trouble staying in your body? Are out of body experiences a away of life?
Since childhood you have practiced rituals to either placate the Gods, or communicate with spirits.
in a natural deep communion with nature and the spirits in trees, plants, animals, and landscapes.
passionate that sacred things and places must be protected.
more perceptive than most other people you know?
convinced that you have to keep these qualities to yourself.
These are just some of the possible traits that can indicate that you may be a hereditary witch — that you are a carrier of the Witch Blood
Margaret Hamilton caught on fire while filming the Wizard f Oz!
How it Used to Be
I grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s, in a small town of Irish and French Catholics in Massachusetts. Witches were believed to be either fairy tale characters or evil old women who were burned at the stake in the Middle Ages.
England had serious laws against witchcraft until 1951. After these laws were repealed, Gerald Gardner went public with Wicca, a religion he developed by cobbling together folk lore, the ideas of Margaret Murray, some involvement with British magical traditions, and perhaps with a mix of the tribal ritual he may have seen in his years as a civil servant in Indonesia.
Robert Cochran came along later claiming to come from a long line of witches, as did Sibyl Leek. Still, the idea of a family carrying on an unbroken heritage of witchcraft or magical practices was considered a very wild claim. Yet some people seemed to be born with psychic and magical powers, were clearly drawn to tales of witchery and magic, and had the imagination to create communities of like minded souls who came together to be witches.
Those desires had to come from some place! This is where the idea of the Witch Blood was born. It may have been Robert Cochran who coined the term to describe people who for some inexplicable reason were willing to risk everything — jobs, houses, partners, families, etc. in order to pursue the path of witchcraft. Witch Queen Maxine Sanders was driven out of her home by frightened neighbors and had another house torched when they found out she was a Witch, even though she had done them no harm.
The conclusion was that, just as in fairy tales in which the Beggar Maid is discovered to be a Princess by virtue of her uncharacteristic beauty and refinement, someone with witch blood in their veins can be spotted by other witches. Perhaps there are people who come from families where the Craft was practiced long ago. These practices went underground, or were replaced with Christianity, but something remains in the genes that is passed down to one or members of the family unrecognized, or misunderstood.
Dormant Witch Blood can also be ignited by Initiation into Wicca, Faery Witchcraft practices, and the creation of a magical way of life.
Carole Bohanon is the new witch at Wookey Hole Caves, England.
Today, many people have been born into witch families, and raised in the Craft. There is no doubt that they are hereditary witches and carry the Witch Blood. There is no mystery surrounding it as there when I was a young person just finding this stuff out about myself.
Still, I am sure that there are some in the current generation who feel these things and have no role models in their families. Their families may even be fundamentalist Christians — I have known a few people like that. Some Christians doth protest too much, and some ex-witches have gone into Christianity because of bad experiences in covens, or after frightening themselves when the magic actually works! They can be the most virulent antagonists against witchcraft.
Of course films and now television are currently having a field day with witches. Teenagers can take them on as role models, and in many cases, not be stigmatized as weirdos. In general, I have found witches to be a pretty happy lot, optimistic and creative, imaginative and fun loving. If sinister overtones are there, it is because of the dark cycle we all must go through, and the way some us walk between the worlds. Some witches are also sociopaths, but that isn’t just because they are witches, nor is sociopathology exclusive to witches and magicians.
If you have found yourself wandering in the woods, or walking the hills like a lost soul, hoping somewhere deep inside, where even you cannot verbalize it, that you will find them, then you might be blessed with the witch blood. If you leave offerings for the spirits, try to engage others to sit in a circle and call the spirits, if you feel you have a secret name, you might have the witch blood. If you are more drawn to these things than “normal” activities, are more comfortable in nature than in a church, if you can’t get your nose out of certain types of books….then I may have news for you….
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).
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.
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 very interesting video was made in the 1960′s about the Witch Museum in Boscastle, Cornwall, bought by Gerald Gardener in 1952 — the year after the repeal of the witchcraft ban!
This video is very atmospheric, dramatically sensationalizing the dark side the Magic that has such a hold over people who fear it. I include it here as a reminder of what anyone coming out as a Witch in England was up against at that time. These kind of media portrayals continue, but it was much worse in the 1960′s.
It is also a nice bit of Halloween spookiness…
I pirated a little clip from wikipedia about Gerald Gardener’s involvement with the Museum of Witchcraft.
The Museum of Magic and Witchcraft, 1951-1963
Gardner at the wishing well outside the Museum of Magic and Witchcraft at the Witches’ Mill on the Isle of Man.
In 1951, Gardner travelled to the Isle of Man, where, in the town of Castletown, he became employed by Cecil Williamson at the Museum of Magic and Witchcraft as the director and “resident witch”. On 29 July 1951 The Sunday Pictorial published an article about the museum named “Calling All Covens!”, in which Gardner declared:
Of course I’m a witch. And I get great fun out of it.
Williamson and Gardner later fell out, when Gardner accused Williamson of focusing on sensationalist aspects of witchcraft in his museum exhibits, and Williamson said of Gardner that he was a “vain, self-centered man, tight with his money, and more interested in outlets for his nudist and voyeuristic activities, than in learning anything about authentic witchcraft”.
In 1952, Gardner bought the museum from Williamson, and started running it using his own private collection for the exhibits, including items such as the signed OTO charter issued by Crowley. Williamson meanwhile began his own museum, named the Museum of Witchcraft, across the channel in England.
Youtube channel where I found this video. He has lots of cool stuff!
Black & White footage of the Museum Of Witchcraft in Boscastle in the late 1960`s whislt it was under the ownershop of Cecil Williamson. Still open today and owned and run by a wonderful chap name…
Black & White footage of the Museum Of Witchcraft in Boscastle in the late 1960`s whislt it was under the ownershop of Cecil Williamson. Still open today and owned and run by a wonderful chap named Graham King – This is a place not to be missed!
I found this very interesting article by Trystn Branwynn at Trystn’s Occult Journal and got his permission to reprint it here. Since Initiation is one of the main focuses of Winterspells, I found Trystn’s ideas very compelling. His thesis that Initialtion is granted by the Destroyer Gods, that the path of Magic is transformational — not just a fun ride to the Otherworld, is a very important one.
This isn’t to scare people off, but you must know what the path is and where it leads if you choose to step upon it. For some of the choice was made lifetimes ago.
The Root of Confusion: Admission vs Initiation
by Trystn Branwynn
Reprinted from Trystn’s Occult Journal
I find a lot of confusion among occult and pagan practitioners between the terms “Initiation” and “Admission.” I’ve seen this confusion expressed by my friend Caroline Tully who said “I’m a member of several groups and their “initiation” is nothing more than “Welcome to the club.”” I’ve further seen it in Gardnerians who insist that nobody can be a Witch unless they are “…initiated in a circle like I was …” I’ve further seen eclectics pontificate “I’ll never initiate, it would tape my wings down” and “I would only self initiate.” That sad fact is that not one of the above statements is true and all express the confusion between Initiation and Admission.
A person cannot initiate themselves. Nor can a person initiate another person. This is Admission – “Welcome to the club.” Shani Oates, the Maid of the Clan of Tubal Cain has expounded beautifully on this point and her words, once published, will be well worth the reading. Admission rites may be intended to trigger an initiatory experience, but they are far from guaranteed to work although many groups insist that they work every time and insist that someone going through their rite is an initiate, whether they show the signs of successful initiation or not. This means that a great many groups and lines find themselves weighed down with a dearth of failures who do nothing to carry the stream forward, and often do everything possible to attract attention to themselves. Such individuals often run about insisting that “to be an initiate” one must “be an activist” or subscribe to a particular political ideology. Not only are these statements flagrantly false, their result is the creation of organizations that do nothing more than mimic the function of Christendom and its various churches. The hallmark of this mentality is a sense of abjection or victimhood that, far from carrying the stream forward, does everything possible to stunt its growth.
An Initiatory Experience consists of a collision – and I use this word with full intent – with Spirit. The spirit in question will be an initiating spirit – a Lightbringer and/or a Destroyer. The great Initiators are, in fact, the Destroyers. These figures include Cain, Woden, Taliesin, Legba, Herodia, Abraxas, Lugus, Lucifer, and other figures who have passed through the process of the Initiation. This is to say that they have destroyed or sundered their world, recreated it, and survived Death thus becoming the embodiments of the evolution of the Divine Consciousness. The Destroyers are the Great Mothers – The Morrigan, Hekate, Lilith, Ereshkigal, Isis, Gode, Freyjavigdis, La Madonna Negra, and others of their kind. Far from being the “gentle, laughing goddess” these beings stand at the center of the crossroads – at the point of ultimate destruction – created by the confluence of the seven worlds, offering rebirth and recreation.
Neither of these spirits should be sought out lightly. They are not gentle and their love is death. But it is this Death that the would-be Initiate must court, experience, and survive.
The mythic imagery of this process and its symbols is well known and very nearly universal. We find its symbols in Hindi, German, Welsh, African, Irish, Finnish, and Christian mythos, just to name a few sources.
It must also be understood that worship is neither the key nor the desired result of this process. The key and desired results are Epiphany and Apotheosis. This is to say that the Initiate does not seek to follow meekly in line behind the Lightbringer, nor to grovel at the feet of the Destroyer, but instead to realize his or her own inner Godhead and become a Lightbringer in his or her own right. This is why I said earlier that Initiation entails a collision with Spirit. The process feels as though one’s life has experienced a “train wreck.” One’s world or world-view is destroyed utterly in a cataclysmic process and then recreated in the image of Spirit.
The desired result of the Mystery of Initiation is not “now you’re a member of group X.” It is “Now you are on the road, intended by the True Gods.” It is not “Now you will have “good karma” but rather “Now you have overthrown karma and surpassed most of the spirits men call “gods.” This ties to the point I made earlier that “the gods” do not evolve. This is not their purpose, nor is it their nature, and the idea that they do is largely a product of pop-culture. The purpose of most of the spirits men call “gods” is to cause and catalyze human evolution. Indeed, most of these spirits were human at one time and have, in fact, evolved as far as they are able, and have become the servants of the terrible Pale Dame Fate. Again, our heritage or birthright is not to likewise become the slaves of Fate, but to overthrow this terrible foe, and transform her into Wyrd – Destiny – that we carve with our own hands. This is the upshot of the views expressed by such luminaries as Gautama Buddha, Robert Cochrane, Pythagoras, and others of like kind. But all of these figures also express their own cautionary tales, their own Poisoned Chalices, for the body is subject to Fate and that which is mortal will eventually fall prey to one of her traps. In the end, she lines her nest with our bones.
Paul Huson from the back of my copy of Mastering Witchcraft, 1970
Paul Huson is one the most interesting writers on the occult. His approach to witchcraft has inspired many magical people since the publication of his classic Mastering Witchcraft in 1970. He is a proponent of ‘Traditional Witchcraft’ , rather than Wicca. The most apparent difference between these two approaches is that, while Wicca is a highly structured religion that mixes Masonic Lodge Magic with fertility rites aligned with the cycles of nature, Traditional Witchcraft is a way of life filled with magical spells and charms based on folk traditions in harmony with the land. A lot of readers feel that, in Mastering Witchcraft, Paul Huson cuts to the chase and provides instruction and guidance in how to begin life as a Traditional Witch.
Since reading Mastering Witchcraft and The Devil’s Picture Book long ago, I have been burning with curiosity about this man and wonder at his deep authority on the ancient practices, spells, charms, regalia of witchcraft.
Huson’s originality and dramatic writing stlye contribute a great to the enjoyment of reading his books, as he creates an aura of mystery around his subjects. He is also an artist, and his books are full of many delightful line drawings. His new Tarot Deck Dame Fortuna’s Wheel displays his talent for elegant, evocative images that read like a charm. Many of the concepts he discusses in Mystical Origins of the Tarot, for instance the use of the figures of the Nine Worthies for the Tarot Courts, have made their way into his Tarot deck to great effect.
He is delightful man and shares a lot of wonderful bits of information on tarot and magic in the interview.
Paul Huson was born on September 19, 1942 in London, England, the son of the author Edward Richard Carl Huson and painter and motion picture costume designer Olga Lehmann. “He claims that one of his Scottish ancestors, Alice Huson, was hanged as a witch in the seventeenth century. While he works in motion pictures and T.V., he has had a lifelong interest in the occult.” –(from the cover flap on Mastering Witchcraft.)
Huson currently lives in Los Angeles. His partner and frequent collaborator is William Bast
Arlene: Hi Paul! I would like to thank you in advance for sharing your thoughts and ideas with my readers and myself. Why don’t we begin with a little background about you. What brought you into magic and witchcraft?
Paul: I discovered I could scry at a very early age, when I was still a tot – something I suspect a lot of children can do; later I found I also often seemed to be able affect the course of simple events by the power of concentrated thought. To try to explain these things I read whatever occult or magical books I could lay my hands on, and in the early ‘fifties wrote to G.B.Gardner to describe my experiences after I read his book “Witchcraft Today”. He put me in touch with the Society of the Inner Light, although he doubted they would accept me for magical tutoring at such an early age. In fact I waited a couple of years until I had entered college, and then the SIL accepted me as a student.
Arlene: Whenever I read Mastering Witchcraft, I imagine you must have come from a long line of witches. Is this true?
Paul: Alas, no. At least, not as far as I know. An Alice Huson was prosecuted for witchcraft in seventeenth century England, but I have no proof I’m her descendant. In fact I do happen to be directly descended from one of Oliver Cromwell’s extremely Puritan generals, and I’m quite sure he had no connection with Alice H. However, back in the sixties, if you shared a name with anyone accused of witchcraft in the historical record, it gave you status in the witchy circles I attended. When Putnams heard about this conceit of mine, it appeared in the advertising blurb on the book flap with a lot of other gothic stuff; along the way Alice also somehow acquired a Scottish provenance. Arlene: How were you able to master witchcraft at such a young age?
Paul: I would never have claimed to be a master of the craft. However, again, the title of the book resulted from a compromise with the editorial dept. The manuscript I submitted had originally been entitled “So You Want to be a Witch?” However, they wanted to call it by what I considered the rather stodgy “Witches, Warlocks & Covens” – in fact, they already had the graphic of this title designed and ready to print. I thought the teaching element was missing, so suggested “Mastering Witchcraft: a Practical Guide for Witches, Warlocks and Covens” as a compromise, which allowed Putnams to use their graphic.
Arlene: What is the difference between Traditional Witchcraft and Wicca? Can you elaborate so readers understand?
Paul: Traditional witchcraft is what Margaret Murray — a British historian who during the twenties advanced the notion that Witchcraft was originally a clandestine pagan religion that had continued to exist alongside Christianity — referred to as “Operative Witchcraft”, to distinguish it from what she called “Ritual Witchcraft”. Operative Witchcraft, to use her words, encompassed all charms and spells, whether used by a professed witch or by a professed Christian, whether intended for good or for evil, for killing or for curing. Ritual Witchcraft on the other hand, embraced the religious beliefs and ritual of those who practiced what Murray referred to as the Dianic Cult, the worship of a deity that was incarnate in a man, a woman, or an animal, traces of which she believed were to be found in Italy, in Southern France, and in the English Midlands. The god was named Janus or Dianus, the goddess Diana. “Wicca” or “Wica” was arguably G.B. Gardner’s own personal take on the Dianic cult. “Mastering Witchcraft” for the most part dealt with processes of Operative Witchcraft that I had learned over the years, but it also gave a nod to the cult aspect in the final chapter. It was not basically a Wiccan tract, although it drew on a lot of the same material that Gardner did.
Arlene: Where did you see your first Tarot deck? Was it one you were drawn to, or was it a gift?
Paul: During the 1950s I used to read articles about tarot written by one Madeline Montalban in a UK magazine named “Prediction”. They featured illustrations of the RWS (Rider Waite Smith) deck, and I used to faithfully copy them onto file cards and arrange them around my bedroom for meditation purposes. I acquired my first deck, an Insight Institute one designed by Frank Lind, by mail order from “Prediction” magazine, sometime soon after I wrote to Gardner.
Arlene: What is it about cards that hooked you in so that you spend a lifetime exploring this subject?
Paul: I was attracted to the standard deck of cards when I was still a very small child, and used to lay them out on the pattern of the living room carpet to contemplate them. Something about those strange little people featured on the Court cards magnetized me. Who were they? What powers did they possess? How did they relate to one another? Maybe I psychically intuited their history, even that early.
Arlene: Do you practice cartomancy?
Paul: Yes, to a limited extent. I don’t really fancy precognitive divination, although my friends tell me I’m accurate in my tarot forecasting. Actually I’m more interested in tarot history and the varied forms of the cards themselves.
Arlene: In The Devil’s Picture Book, you suggest that the Fool and Magician are a duality — twins in a sense.
Fool comes out of a childhood dream, and the first person he meets is a — thimble rigger?
Most Tarot creators, influenced I think, by Christianity –like Waite– created the myth that the Fool goes on the spiritual path expecting a gentle awakening The first person he meets is a lofty practitioner of Magic, an Initiate. Before this interpretation, you suggest the Magician was more of con artist.
Can you explore the interpretation of the Magician as Mage vs. the Carnival trickster of the older decks, and how that skews the Fool’s journey?
Paul: I believe interpreting the Juggler (as I prefer to call him) as a mage puts undue emphasis on this lowly card. It’s not for nothing that he comes at the very beginning of the deck among the Lesser Trumps, right after the Fool. In the oldest decks the Juggler is a quite obviously a mercurial Mountebank, a Tregatour, a Street Huckster, who is bamboozling the crowd with the oldest trick in the book, the Cups and Ball trick or Find the Lady. He was elevated to mage status by Éliphas Lévi during the nineteenth century as part of Lévi’s transformation of tarot into an instrument of Transcendental Magic – not even the earliest commentators on the cards, Court de Gébelin, de Mellet or Etteilla himself, made that mistake. I feel that making the Juggler into an all-wise wizard is just plain wrong. Real magic, per se, is not actually represented in the historical tarot.
Arlene: It puts a different spin on the Major Arcana as a whole as well, don’t you think? It seems much more earthbound in the Magician is a con.
Paul: Precisely. The Lesser Trumps are supposed to be earthbound. That’s exactly their point. The tarot trump parade describes an arc beginning with the lowest of the low, the homeless Fool, climbs through all the ranks of society, through betrayal and death and hell, and finally ends up in the celestial regions with sun moon and stars and finally eternity, as shown in the so-called Greater Trumps. As I say in my most recent book “Mystical Origins of the Tarot”, basically they tell of the soul’s journey through life into the afterlife, an archetypal and perennial story recounted in Christian imagery typical of the late medieval period.
Arlene: How do the Fool and the Magician mirror each other?
Paul: I would say as victim and victimizer. The person who is ruled by the Moon, taken in by the person who is ruled by Mercury.
Fool & Juggler
Arlene: Where does this idea of the Fool’s Journey come from? Do you agree with it?
Paul: I think A. E. Waite first introduced it in his book “A Handbook of Cartomancy, Fortune Telling and Occult Divination” that was published under his pseudonym “Grand Orient” in 1889. I do agree with it to some extent, although I don’t think the historical trumps had the exact connotation Waite placed on them. Allow me to quote him: “As regards the Fool … signifies the consummation of everything, when that which began his initiation at zero attains the term of all numeration and existence. The card which bears no number passes through all the numbered cards and is changed in each, as the natural man passes through worlds of lesser experience, worlds of devotion, worlds of successive attainment, and receives the everlasting wisdom as the gift of perseverance.” This is basically a neoplatonic idea, and there are wise folk who believe the tarot originally had this kind of deep philosophical underpinning, although I have yet to be convinced of that. I think it can be read into the cards, but I don’t think they were originally conceived with this in mind.
Arlene: Do you think the trumps were always arranged in the order we have them in now?
Paul: Pretty much, with only minor exceptions of a card here or there. In some decks the Justice trump figured among the Greater Trumps at the end of the sequence, but I suspect this only happened because it was similar to, and therefore linked thematically with, the Last Judgment. The Fool, being without number, can theoretically be placed anywhere, but generally he is placed at the beginning, sometimes at the end. The Florentine Minchiate on the other hand have an entire zodiac, four more Virtues and the four Aristotelian elements shoehorned in between the Lesser and Greater Trumps, but this was a later innovation made for the sake of complicating the game and probably introduced by folk who knew little and cared less about the original meanings of the trumps.
Arlene: Was there any perception that they needed to be in any order?
Paul: We have documentations of the various marginally divergent orders; these can be found in Kaplan’s tarot encyclopedias.
Arlene: Do the numbers on the cards have relevance to the images on the trumps, and what are they?
Paul: Some tarot historians believe they do, but they’re in the minority. Personally I don’t think there are any numerological connotations, except maybe for the Fool’s lack of number, and the fairly consistent placing of Death in the thirteenth position.
Arlene: Does Tarot belong to the Qabbalistic Tree of Life, or this a conceit?
Paul: A conceit is putting it mildly! The Society of the Inner Light, having inherited the notion from the Golden Dawn, presented me with the idea as a factoid, but try as I might I couldn’t really fit the tarot onto the tree however I arranged it. Something always didn’t quite fit and had to be fudged, and calling it a blind for the uninitiated didn’t do anything repair the damage. When you analyzed the god names of the Sephiroth, for instance, they had nothing intrinsically to do with the planets.
If you wanted a Gnostic planetary ladder, you really didn’t need to tie it to the Sephiroth at all. Then when you add up the signs of the zodiac, the seven planets and the four elements, they result in 23, not 22. Furthermore none of the verses of the Sepher Yetzirah really made any sense paired with the trumps, either. I finally came to the conclusion that the Qabalistic theory was an utterly mistaken concoction of Lévi’s.
Arlene:I love the idea that Tarot trumps were influenced by Mystery plays. I have seen many Italian paintings of Gods and Goddesses on floats with all their icons around them, that look just like Tarot cards. Do you have any new thoughts that you could share about this history, maybe ideas that didn’t get into the book?
Arlene:How do you imagine card games were played that included the Major Arcana?
Paul: Rather like Bridge without bidding, or Whist. You had to follow suit. The object was to win tricks, and every trick contributed to the point-count total, which included extra points for the courts and trumps. The Fool could be played sacrificially if trumps were led and you had a high trump you wanted to protect.
Arlene: If they weren’t used for play, what was the intention in creating them and adding them to the playing cards that you know of or can guess? Were they always meant to spiritual tools for meditation and divination?
Paul: No sequence of trumps, either in cut or uncut sheet-form, has yet been discovered unattached to the pip and court cards of the Minor Arcana. This leads one to suspect they never had an independent existence. However, a negative like this is very difficult to prove. Just because we haven’t found a solo trump sequence doesn’t prove that one never existed. It’s tempting to believe the sequence originated in some other work, possibly didactic or devotional, maybe even divinatory, like one of the many sortilege wheels of images that were consulted in medieval times.
Arlene: Do you know the history of the use of Tarot for divination? What about playing cards?
Paul: In 2005 tarot historian Ross Caldwell discovered a paragraph in De Rerum Praenotione, a text proscribing various types of divination published in 1507 by one of Savonarola’s disciples, one Gianfranceso Pico della Mirandola, that includes divination by the images depicted on playing cards, so we have documented evidence that card divination existed in the sixteenth century. I’m sure the practice goes much further back however. If you think about it, card reading is basically a type of sortilege, a divinatory practice dating back to the time of ancient Greece at least.
Arlene:The Pope Joan angle so interesting. Why do you think she was replaced by the High Priestess?
Paul: I think Court de Gébelin was the first to call her this. Undoubtedly his Ancient Egyptian take on the cards was the cause.
Arlene: Does their symbolism match? How is Pope Joan like and unlike the High Priestess?
Paul: Well, again, like the Juggler, elevating the Female Pope to the rank of a High Priestess works against the basic meaning of all the Lesser Trumps. She follows the Juggler in the sequence at the beginning because she’s low in virtuous ranking, a heretic, something bold and scandalous and outrageous, not because she’s the mysterious and mystical wisdom figure Lévi and all his followers turned her into. Interestingly de Mellet had the right idea, I think, when he deciphered her (only negatively) as Pride and Idolatry, taking his cue from her Besançon incarnation as Juno with her peacock. But maybe the substitutions of Juno for the FP and Jupiter for the Pope were not so far off the mark, after all?
Arlene: Besides the presence of 2 Popes, and one being a woman, why did the Church dislike Tarot and playing cards in general?
Paul: As far as the Catholic church was concerned, chiefly because they were used for gambling. I think the fact that cards were used for unsanctioned sortilege too could also hardly have endeared them. We do have a seventeenth century English Puritan rant against playing cards as actually being pagan gods disguised as legendary heroes such as Charlemagne and Lancelot, which indicates the Protestant church’s attitude at its most extreme.
Arlene: The Church didn’t like the Tarot, but it still survives. Like the Grail legends, Tarot is stronger than its persecutors. You even mention a connection between Tarot and the Holy Grail when you discuss the emblems of the suits. What is it about these subjects that makes them so powerful they have never been driven underground and lost?
Paul:I think it’s that mysterious something Jung was striving after when he coined his theory of archetypes, certain compelling patterns in nature that also find expression throughout humanity as complex recurring symbols in dream and vision.
Arlene: I painted a Grail tarot in the 1990′s. They seem to be naturally connected.
Paul: The arrival of playing cards in Europe and the popularity of Grail stories appear to be roughly contemporaneous. Historians also believe the cup suit came in with Mamluk cards, from the middle east. Maybe the Grail legend is also a middle eastern import? The connection seems tenuous to me at best, however. But I do feel that any literate person playing with a cup suit in the late middle ages or early Renaissance would have been bound to note the Cup/Grail similarity, whether or not there were a connection of provenance.
Ace of Cups by Paul Huson
Arlene: If Tarot was a Teaching tool, what was it meant to teach? What were these images meant to represent to illiterate people? They certainly are not very Biblical. Any thoughts on that?
Paul: Not Biblical, but religious and philosophical in the way that Morality plays were.
Arlene:You have a side that is little known, I think. A screenwriter! Have you written any screenplays about the colorful characters you discuss in Mystical Origins of the Tarot. I thought Etteilla had an exciting story, as does Levi. Can you share anything about your film work as related to occult subjects?
Paul: I’m working on a script dealing with what you might call the occult at present, but would rather not talk about it.
Arlene:Fair enough. Your Dame Fortune’s Wheel Tarot is really lovely. It reads clearly and precisely. No clutter. It speaks. Non-traditional decks, though artistically beautiful, are sometimes unreadable, I find. Can you address the issue of how the correct images carry divinatory power, where more innovative Tarots may not?
Paul: Power lies in the baldness and simplicity of the original images. They work together as a thematic unit, and add up to more than the sum of their parts. I think we should also remember that the trumps were originally drawn from what one would have to call the world of medieval pop entertainment, the imagery of medieval drama, mystery and morality plays, chansons de geste and works of historical romance, Arthur and Charlemagne. They are, to fall back on the cliché, quite literally archetypal.
Dame Fortune's Wheel
Arlene: What is next for you? Do you practice magic? Do you give seminars, or talks?
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Paul: I shall be concentrating on my screenplay and my next book. I only very occasionally practice the Art these days. And no, I don’t give seminars or talks.
I think I’ve probably shared too much already…
I hope this isn’t all too daunting!
Thank you again Paul Huson. That was totally fascinating and enjoyable!
Please hit ” comments” at the top of the post and let me know what you think. There is so much food for thought in here!
If you would like to read Paul Huson’s works click on the Amazon link below. His Dame Fortune’s Wheel tarot can also be purchased from
Llewelyn’s or at Alidstore.com. Part of own Tarot of the Holy Grail, now Grail Keepers’ Tarot can be found on page 95 in the volume 4 of the Encyclopedia of the Tarot.