Judika Illes’s Field Guide to Witches

Judika Illes’s Field Guide to Witches

September 21st, 2010

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?

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!

Click n this widget to order Judika’s fabulous books and support this blog!

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Love to Our Ancestors on Samhain: The Revealers

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.

On Cords

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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Love to Our Ancestors on Samhain : Stepping Out of the Shadows

Alexandrian Ritual

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 

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!

Doreen Valiente

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Witch Museum: Boscastle, Cornwal

Museum of Witches, Boscastle, Cornwall

Cornwall is the last stronghold of the Witches….


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.[46]

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 named Graham King – This is a place not to be missed!

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Love to Our Ancestors on Samhain: The Re-Awakeners

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.

We come closer to our time with the Grand Dame of the Witches and the Grandfather of modern Wicca. The last is an inspired poet of the kind Robert Graves spoke of in his pivotal classic The White Goddess. Poets have been and still are some if the most potent interpreters of the witchcraft stream…

They were all born at Midsummer. The uncanny patterns continue…

All Hallow E’en — The Wild Ride

In the hinder end of harvest, on All Hallow E’en,

When the Good Neighbors do ride, if I rede right,

Some buckled on a bane-wand, and some on a bean,

Aye trottand in troops from the twilight;

Some saddled on a she-ape, all graithed into green,

Some hobland on a hemp stalk, hovand to the height,

The King of Pharie and his court, with the Elf-queen,

With many elfish incubus was ridand that night.

Montgomerie (1515)

Margaret Murray:

Born: July 13, 1863/ Entered Faery: Nov. 13, 1963

Margaret Murray, author of The Witch Cult in Western Europe and The God of the Witches, was an Egyptologist who seems to have become obsessed with the idea of the Sacrificed King as described by James Frazer in The Golden Bough. Her search for evidence for this practice took her all the way back to the Stone Age where cave paintings of dancers masked as stags seemed to justify her thesis that there had once been an Old Religion in Europe, based on fertility rituals, in which dancers dressed as animals, particularly stags, and in which the Rite of the Sacrificed King was practiced to insure the production of crops.

Though her ideas have been proven groundless, her wonderful imaginative re-creation of an Old Religion in harmony with the nature, is frequently cited as the great inspiration behind modern Wicca as many were determined to bring back an ancient and extinct way of life.

Here she reveals what I feel is a true connection:

From The God of the Witches

Descriptions of fairies given by eye witnesses can be found in many accounts of the Middle Ages and slightly later. The sixteenth century was prolific in such accounts. John Walsh, the witch of Netherberry in Dorset, consulted fairies between the hours of twelve and one at noon and at midnight, and always went among the “hills” for the purpose. Besssie Dunlop in Ayrshire saw eight woman and four men, “the men clad in gentleman’s clothing, and the women had all plaids round them and were very seemly-like to see”; she was informed that these were “from the Court of Elfame”; she had previously received a visit from the Queen of Elfhame though without knowing at the time who her visitor was; she described the Queen as “a stout woman who came in to her and sat down on the form beside her and asked a drink at her and she gave it.” Alesoun Peirsoun, in Fifeshire, was ” convict for haunting and repairing with the good neighbors and the Queen of Elphane, and she had many good friends at that court which were of her own blood, who had good acquaintance with the Queen of Elphane.’  In Leith, Christina Livingstone affirmed “that her daughter was taken away with the Fairy folk, and that all the occult knowledge she had was by her daughter who met with the fairy.” Aberdeen was full of people who were well acquainted with fairies….”

The God of the Witches contains many evocative descriptions of these small, dark people of Bronze Age Britain who still walked around in the 17th century. When I first read this book back in 1979, I was totally smitten by it too.

Hail to Margaret Murray for planting the seeds!

Gerald Brousseau Gardener:

Born: June 13, 1884/ Entered Faery: Feb. 12, 1964

Origins of Wicca:

Gerald Gardner launched Wicca, the first religion based on the Old Religion of fertility and witchcraft described by Margaret Murray,  shortly after the end of World War II. He went public with his creation following the repeal of England’s Witchcraft Laws in 1951.  Gardnerian Wicca is a path of initiation, in which one’ s magical progress is marked by the attainment of degrees. Much of their information is secret and bound by oaths, which means it can never be shared with those outside the coven.

Gardnerian Witches identify  with their lineage, which is always traced back to Gardner himself and those he initiated.

The Book of Shadows:

One of Gerald Gardner’s most compelling magical creations was the  Book of Shadows. In reading about the original Book he made, it is clear the man was utterly inspired, for he tried to craft it like a Medieval Illuminated manuscript, filled with paintings and calligraphy — a very magical item like an ancient tome found in some  Medieval ruin charged with sorcery. Within a Gardnerian group, each member copies the coven’s  Book of Shadows and then adds to it with their own information.

His imagination was influenced by Charles Leland, Aleister Crowley, SJ MacGregor Mathers, and the books of Margaret Murray whose Old Religion he intended to re-create. I think he was also affected by the tribal rituals he must have seen when he worked in Malaysia as a civil servant, and a heavy dose of Arthurian Legend.

Gardnerian Wicca in the Public Eye:

Gardner was an educated folklorist and occultist, and claimed to have been initiated as a young man into a coven of New Forest witches by a woman named Dorothy Clutterbuck. When England repealed the last of its witchcraft laws  Gardner went public with his coven, much to the consternation of many other witches in England. His active courting of publicity led to a rift between him and Doreen Valiente, who had been one of his High Priestesses. Gardner formed a series of covens throughout England prior to his death in 1964.

Being initiated into the witch cult does not give a witch supernatural powers as I reckon them, but instructions are given, in rather veiled terms, in processes which develop various clairvoyant and other powers, in those who naturally possess them slightly. Some of these powers are akin to magnetism, mesmerism and suggestion, and depend on the possibility of forming a sort of human battery, as it were, of combined human wills working together to influence persons or events at a distance. they have instructions
on how to do this by practice…

Witchcraft Today — with introduction by Margaret Murray

Kathleen Raine

Born: June 14, 1900/ Entered Faery: July 6, 2003

Is this a lament for the loss of the Faeries?

The Wilderness

I came too late to the hills: they were swept bare
Winters before I was born of song and story,
Of spell or speech with power of oracle or invocation,

The great ash long dead by a roofless house, its branches rotten,
The voice of the crows an inarticulate cry,
And from the wells and springs the holy water ebbed away.

A child I ran in the wind on a withered moor
Crying out after those great presences who were not there,
Long lost in the forgetfulness of the forgotten.

Only the archaic forms themselves could tell!
In sacred speech of hoodie on gray stone, or hawk in air,
Of Eden where the lonely rowan bends over the dark pool.

Yet I have glimpsed the bright mountain behind the mountain,
Knowledge under the leaves, tasted the bitter berries red,
Drunk water cold and clear from an inexhaustible hidden fountain.

Kathleen Raine

I though to include the British poet Katheleen Raine not only because of her beautiful poetry, but because of her sensibilty. She seems to express a natural, even unconscious inclination towards witchcraft.

She is influenced by Yeats, himself a great forefather of magic and the mysteries –  which would alone would count her among our ancestors –  but she has also had a great attachment to the land. I think I may not be alone in sharing this quality with her.

Kathleen  was an independent scholar writing on William Blake and W. B. Yeats.
Known for her interest in various forms of spirituality, most prominently Platonism and Neoplatonism, she was a founder member of the Temenos Academy.

The story of her life is told in a three-volume autobiography that is notable for the author’s attempts to impose a mythical  structure on her memories, thus relating her own life to a larger pattern. Creating meaning out of life by the use of mythology and poetic inspiration is a very witchy thing to do.

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Stirring the Witchblood: John Barleycorn Must Die, A Lammas Ritual

Hail to the Corn King and the Harvest Queen!

In the Northern Hemisphere, early August has been the time to harvest the grain. The celebration is called Lammas in contemporary Witchcraft, and honors the spirit of the grain as it is made into bread and beer for the sustenance of the people. This celebration is as old a agriculture.

We celebrate Lammas on August first, but it was really celebrated on the Full Moon  after the turn of the month. I imagine that the light of the moon was needed to complete the harvest far into the night, and that the lunar tides were observed in planting and harvesting. The Full Moon is like the end of Summer, after fullness is waning and emptying in preparation for the coming darkness.

This year we have an eclipse of the Moon in Aquarius. Aquarius is represented by the Water Bearer, the Grail Bearer, the giver of life.  A Lunar Eclipse means the shadow of the Earth passes over the Moon. It is a time whens spirits are said to descend. For me it is an image of acceptance of sacrifice to the matrix of life.

We can celebrate by being conscious as we eat our bread today. I like to feed the birds. Perhaps you can donate bread to the food bank in you area. Being mindful that our food is a gift from Mother Earth on a global level will help to shift human consciousness about our relationship with the planet from exploitation to recognition that She provides our very lives to us.

I decided to bring back this old post of mine because this song celebrates Lammas as no other.
This is from the Golden Bough by James George Frazer:
We have seen now that corn-spirit is represented sometimes in human, sometimes in animal form, and that in both cases he is killed in the person of his representative and eaten sacramentally….the harvest suppers of our European peasants have furnished unmistakable examples of the sacramental eating of animals as representatives of the corn-spirit. but furthur…the new corn is itself eaten sacramentally, that is as the body of the corn-spirit…
In Wermland, Sweden, the farmer’s wife uses the grain of the last sheaf to bake a loaf in the shape of a little girl; this loaf is divided among the whole household and eaten by them. Here the loaf represents the corn-spirt conceived as a Maiden. just as in Scotland  the corn-spirit is similarly conceived  represented by the last sheaf made up in the form of a woman and bearing the name of Maiden…
In La Palisse in France, a man made of dough is hung upon the fir tree which is carried on the last harvest wagon. The tree and the doughman are taken to the mayor’s house and kept there until the vintage is over.
Then the close of the harvest is celebrated by a feast at which the mayor breaks the dough man in pieces and gives the pieces to the people to eat.”

When I was 15 this song came out and changed my life. It caused an explosion in my soul. The Earth was alive! It had been alive for our European ancestors who harvested the fields with compassion for old John Barleycorn, the personification of the grain.
I was never a city person, but grew up in Leicester, Massachusetts, a town with one road bordered by a gas station, an Italian restaurant, the library, and a cemetery from the Revolutionary War. (An interesting aside: when I was back there in Sept 2006, the graves of British soldiers were decorated with Union Jacks in honor of the British soldiers.) I loved the corn fields where, in the summer nights, the ripe stalks stood tall and dense as a forest, rustling, whispering to each other, accompanying  the mating calls of the crickets and frogs. Not far from the corn fields,  apple trees  bloomed cloud pale under the moonlight; the vast blueberry fields were bushy with ripe  fruit, fragrant in the summer heat.  The beauty of the tilled land was alive and full of spirits.
Like all great Faery tales John Barleycorn Must Die, with its subtext of human sacrifice for the sake of the land,  awakened  my Witchblood, and there was no going back to Christian consciousness alone.

The Spirit of the Grain, John Barleycorn Must Die

John Barleycorn

There were three men came out of the west
Their fortunes for to try,
And these three men made a solemn vow
John Barleycorn must die.

They’ve ploughed, they’ve sown, they’ve harrowed him in
Threw clods upon his head,
And these three men made a solemn vow
John Barleycorn was dead.

They let him lie for a very long time
Till the rains from Heaven did fall,
And little Sir John sprung up his head
And so amazed them all.

They’ve let him stand till Midsummer’s day,
Till he looked both pale and wan.
And little Sir John’s grown a long, long beard
And so become a man.

They’ve hired men with the scythes so sharp,
To cut him off at the knee,
They’ve rolled him and tied him by the waist,
Serving him most barbarously.

They’ve hired men with the sharp pitchforks,
Who pricked him through the heart
And the loader, he has served him worse than that,
For he’s bound him to the cart.

They’ve wheeled him around and around a field,
Till they came unto a barn,
And there they made a solemn oath
On poor John Barleycorn

They’ve hired men with the crab-tree sticks,
To cut him skin from bone,
And the miller, he has served him worse than that,
For he’s ground him between two stones.

And little Sir John and the nut brown bowl
And his brandy in the glass
And little Sir John and the nut brown bowl
Proved the strongest man at last

The huntsman, he can’t hunt the fox
Nor so loudly to blow his horn,
And the tinker, he can’t mend kettle nor pots
without a little barley corn

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The Burning Times

Jean d"Arc

CJean d'Arc

This series of videos is a Canadian documentary I saw a long time ago. It is beautifully produced and tells a story that has shaped our world even to this day. It takes about 90 minutes to watch them all.

I was amazed when I lived in London what difficulties I sometimes had with men who saw me, a Tarot reader, as a dangerous threat, and how often a woman was sinisterly labeled a “witch” just for being attractive. These ideas still hang around 300 years later. Ignorance still poses a danger to those of who choose to come out as Witches. There are still large numbers of people who don’t really understand what that really means.

I think one aspect should be considered. In my studies, it seems that the Spanish Inquisition was not for rural witches, or pagans, but for much bigger fish — the heretics with a big H, like Giordano Bruno — learned men whose ideas threatened the dogmas and power base of the Church. I believe it was the job, or whim, of the regional churches to do away with practice of the Old Ways among the people.

The Womens’ Spirituality Movement, represented in this film, may be a bit passe now as younger women seem pretty free of the repression imposed on those of us born before 1970. In my younger days, it was a huge thing for us to feel safe to say what was true for us, let alone forge a meaningful life that did not revolve around child rearing.

I love the music by Loreena McKennitt, who I have always suspected her of being one of us, and the little girl in Part Six who, when asked “What is a witch?” replies, “A witch is something that comes out of the ground on Halloween and gives everyone magical powers.”

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

From Selena who posted the film on YouTube

The Burning Times Documentary

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This beautifully crafted film is an in-depth look at the witch-hunts that swept through Europe just a few hundred years ago. False accusations and trials led to massive torture and burnings at the …

This beautifully crafted film is an in-depth look at the witch-hunts that swept through Europe just a few hundred years ago. False accusations and trials led to massive torture and burnings at the stake, and ultimately to the destruction of an organic way of life. The film advances the theory that widespread violence against women and the neglect of our environment today can be traced back to those times. Part two of a series of three films on women and spirituality, which includes Goddess Remembered and Full Circle.

REMARKS: I posted this video uncertain of how it would be received, though I suspected there were many others, particularly women, who would find it to be a clarifying link to our history. Even that word history erases the account of women, but such is the power of what happened during the Burning Times. I’ve read every single comment that has been posted, including the 15% or so that I moderate out, and I am glad that it has been so meaningful to Pagans, who have very few serious films to choose from that treat their roots with respect. Whether you are Pagan or not, the important thing to understand as you watch this video is that the Burning Times was a holocaust perpetuated on a culture that regarded women as patently valuable in spiritual and social importance, which seems the most obvious thing in the world to believe from simple observation of both ourselves biologically and nature at large. But that was the problem: a nature-based religion left no room for a centralized metaphysical authority, and no matter how hard Rome tried to coax these cultures into a comparatively nonsensical belief in order to better rule over their resources and land, an independent human’s natural curiosity leads one back to the rhythms of observable nature, and inevitably into questioning the authority of the Church. In order to destroy such a compellingly sensible view of the world — a view that was, in many respects, the ancient precursor of modern science — an act of genocidal terrorism was committed, for it was only that kind of fear that finally subdued people into accepting the counter-intuitive view that humans are separated from nature, and sublimated the recognition of the intrinsic duality between the feminine and male elements that underpins our very existence.

This was one of our darkest periods, one that brought out the very worst in people — our morbid sadistic bloodthirst that thrilled in the power of life and death over others — and it is, I think, fair to say that we still struggle with this now. Perhaps we always did. Even today, almost all women live with a distinct but unarticulated fear and uncertainty of their place in society, but perhaps in understanding what happened to bring that about — that it was a specific series of events that really happened, and her fear is that awful legacy — women may come to feel less isolated and more willing to move past that fear to find their own sense of purpose that they define for themselves. If this video plays any positive part in that, I am very happy for it.

UPDATE: You can buy the entire series here: http://www3.nfb.ca/collection/films/f…
Please consider buying it. Not only is it a fantastic series well worth having, but remember that buying the movies encourages more of these kinds of films to be made.

Three Princesses by Lucas Cranach

Three Princesses by Lucas Cranach, painter for Martin Luther

Check out my article The Wicked Women of Lucas Cranach by clicking here:


It discusses the interpretation of women by artist living during the height of the Burning Times.

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The Root of Confusion: Admission vs. Initiation

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.

The Neophyt by Aubrey Beardsley

The Neophyt by Aubrey Beardsley

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Interview with the Queen of the Witches: Maxine Sanders

Maxine Interviewed in Dutch Documentary

I posted this so you could hear Maxine’s voice and have a sense of her presence. I would have liked to do a podcast with her, but she is shy of technology. I don’t blame her. If I lived in the green hills of Wales, that would be enough for me too.

I hope this interview sparks discussion in the comments section. Just press Comments and let’s start talking! If you want to know more about Maxine read my review of her book Firechild, Firechild: The Life of Maxine Sanders, Witch Queen and Maxine Sanders: Queen of the Witches: Dawn Ritual

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Maxine Sanders Interviewed On A Dutch Witchcraft Documentary. This was originally upload on YouTube by lichtengel60 as part of a much longer Dutch documentary about Witchcraft. I figured it would`t be found by most UK viewers so cut it out and uploaded it separately. It is only a minute long but is still a nice clip and shows the lovely Maxine interviewed in 1995.

I discovered Maxine Sanders when I lived in London between 1998-2006. She fascinated me. Here was a witch that was beautiful, poetic, a figure from a fairy tale, and 1960′s icon as well. She had lived a life dedicated to Magic. She agreed to do this interview for me form the goodness of her heart really. It turned out to not be a good time for her. She is very busy and has her family needing her attention. Still, she gave some thought provoking answers to my rather personal questions. I had to ask her things I wanted to know, and I hope my readers will find these interesting as well.

From Maxine

This interview was given via email. It wasn’t easy as there was not the normal give and take of a conversation that leads from one thing to another. Plus I am totally new at this. So please forgive me if I didn’t make the most of this as far as the questions I asked.


Hello, Maxine.

I would like to thank you up front for taking the time to talk to me. I have given these questions a great deal of thought. Hopefully, you will enjoy discussing them.

Please feel free to answer, or not, if you don’t like a question. Or add if you are particularly interested.

Just so you know where I am coming from, I have not been initiated into Wicca or any Witchcraft Tradition, though I have been invited recently to join a coven. I think witchcraft is in my blood, though. I have ample evidence of that from my youth.
I didn’t join the coven because of time constraints, but I wish I could.


I have been away and am rather taken up with travel back and forth to London. My son has been seriously ill. He is still in hospital. My answers are alas brief, nonetheless they are as I feel. I find the in depth meanderings of mind only confusing to those who are really interested. If there is anything else I can help with please let me know.


Thank you so much.  (Lets send out a prayer for Maxine’s son, Victor, that he gets well soon.)

Questions and Answers


In reading things about you, reading your book, and just looking at you, I sense that, even if you had never met Alex Sanders, you would have been a witch. Do you have a response to the idea that there are people who are born witches, and how that guides their journey through life.


I believe some are born with magical potential and ability just as there are people who seemingly have a gift for maths or music. It is fate and fortune that help and enable these gifts to be enjoyed.


Is there a deep difference in energy between witch souls and other mystics?


The title Witch is given by Initiation or by village society where the person practices their art within the community etc. Witches are individuals who tend to specialize in particular aspects of magic and some are Witch and Mystic.


What marks a witch?


Initiation and training.


Where does it come from, this consciousness of the deeper Mysteries? Are we born with it, called to it, or did your mother teach you these things?


We have a vocation that is born of a natural consciousness. Circumstance of birth and upbringing brought me to the world of Witchcraft.


How does the Moon effect witches? What is the role of the Moon?
(Forgive me, I am a poet and I sometimes see images in the words that you may not see. If the questions are too vague, feel free to change them, ignore them, or ask me for clarification.)


Everything in the Universe effects us all. Witches are taught to be aware of the cycles of the planets and their effects. We work in the appropriate cycle to bring about affect.


I am very interested in the spirits of place. In Fire child, you suggest that Alderly Edge had a special energy. When I first lived in London, I lived near Hampstead Heath and on the first Samhain was assaulted, from 3AM – 6AM by the Horned God during six weeks of vivid dreams. There was a lot of related phenomena. I was terrified. When I finally stopped trying to block it, He entered me and I was on fire, on all levels, for three days and nights.
I was later told (by Christina at Treadwells) that Hampstead Heath was a stag hunting forest. Had I been initiated into Wicca, I might have known how to deal with this event, but it just erupted into my life and put me into shock.
In my earlier life, I dreamed all the time that I had stag antlers.
Can you address this issue of spirits of the land?


They are just that and I am aware of them and use them. A fully trained witch would not be hurt by them.


Why does the Horned God visit some people without being called? Or any Deity for that matter?


The Witch studies the natural and is empowered by their experience with these energies. The witches training includes safety techniques that include the wholeness and protection of self.


How have the places you have lived effected, or transformed your magic?


Every valley and vale is different and effects the magic of the witch.


Are cities better for lodge magic, and the rural places for witchcraft?


Magic and its effectiveness is dependent upon the individual practitioner.


Does it matter?


For me the place obviously matters, however the preparation and creation of the sacred place contributes enormously.


Can witches help to heal the Earth?


Witches have always been aware of the need to respect the Earth. We know the Earth does have the ability to heal itself. I believe it is our responsibility to continue in respectful behaviour and if it is possible this should be encouraged throughout the human race.

This is one of my favorite photos of Maxine and the Witches. It is from King of the Witches by June Johns, 1969.


I am interested in the interrelationship of Faery tradition and Witchcraft. Would you discuss the relationship between witches and the Faery — especially those in the British Isles?
Are they important to you or not?


All of the elemental kingdoms are important to the Witch and Occultist.


What about the Roots of the Tree of Life?
The Underworld realms. Shamans go there, but Qabbalists keep away. Do you have any feelings about that that you would like to share?


I have been practicing the Art of Witchcraft for over 45 years. However I am not an historian nor am I an authority on the subjects you mention, I am still the student, enjoying that status. I do believe we each have our speciality we have chosen to practice. We can only wear one pair of shoes at any time.


What happens to a witch’s power if she doesn’t practice magic for a time?


The laws of Witchcraft advise that we invoke often. Probably because we will loose it if we don’t.


Do some people HAVE to practice magic to be OK?




I traveled in Cornwall in 1997. On one leg of the trip, I wanted to find an old wishing well I had heard about. I was in the village, and asked some children if they knew about it. An old lady come up to me and smiled and pointed the way. I sensed I had met someone whose background had always been in the Old Religion.
When you were doing your work in the 1960s, were you aware of people in the British Isles still living an ancient way of life?


Yes, and I am still aware of them. I live in a rural area in North Wales and even now the Old Religion is still apparent.


(How cool is that!)

Were there covens, or is that a modern thing?


I believe coven is a comparatively modern term although I do think there have always been gatherings of magical practitioners


Have you met earlier generations of witches during your life, and did they teach you things?




As the Old Ways become more mainstream, domestication may become a concern. Mainstream and Domestic seem to me to equal loss of vividness, loss of power. Like churches where peoples’ prayers are empty.
How do you keep the witch soul alive when there are so many novices who become self appointed experts, and replace the deep truths with platitudes and shallow unsolicited advice?


It is my own practice in my own circle that is my responsibility to keep pure. Whilst Witches keep true to their highest ideals and disregard those who are ruled by ego born of earth, the Craft will be continue to be Hidden and true.


Have people tried to advise you as if you were born yesterday? lol




How do we protect the power of the Goddess and the Fay when so many take them for granted, or change them into household doodas, and generally disrespect the awesome power that they are?


The Goddess and the Fay are more than capable of protecting themselves. To doubt it enables the profane.


How do we keep the old ways from becoming an organized religion?


Remember the Craft are called ‘The hidden Children of the Goddess’.


Or in the face of that probability, how do we keep the portals open, in the right way, for ourselves?


It would seem appropriate that we remain hidden.


Many women find that when we are in the Spirit that our love life stops. I was told a Faery was very possessive of me and drove potential boyfriends away.
What do you make of that phenomenon?
Has it happened to you?


The path of the Initiate is that of vocation and dedication. It was my choice therefore I must live with the consequences.


Do you have anything you want to say to people who are drawn to the occult, and magic, but may not know what they are getting into?


Listen to the Inner voice and beware of those who boast.


What is the Dark Night of the Soul and its purpose?


The Dark Night of the Soul is experience of true Brilliance. The Brilliance is the realization of the inner reality of that experience.


Can goodness be found in the dark?


There is a saying ‘The Light shineth in Darkness’.


What do you say to those who insist God wants you to be happy all the time?


Happiness is of the moment. Continuous happiness would be difficult.  I rather think if would become boring, although it is possible to enjoy the moment and be at peace with all experience.


Are your cycles of death and rebirth fast or slow?
Are they intense or easy?
Why does the Goddess put us through such strong cycles?


We choose the path!


Right, right….of course. What is the goal?


The Moment.


I love in your book your sea working in Wales. It reminds me of Dion Fortune’s Sea Priestess and Apuleius’s vision of Isis in the Golden Ass. How breathtaking! Is this the type of magic you do all the time?


The intensity of the Sea Rite is truly breathtaking, it would be quite silly to do this kind of work regularly; it would loose its vitality.


Can I be your student? lol!


Bless you. I stopped teaching several years ago. I believe the Craft is experiential and extremely physical. Whilst as an Elder I can advise, my physical ability is compromised through time against which we are helpless.


I hope these questions are not too obtuse, Maxine. I want to know these answers from one of the very wise, so must others want to know.


I do wish you joy on your wonderful journey.

Thanks so much!

If you want a little more, please see my blog reviewing Maxine Sander’s autobiography by clicking this link: Firechild: The Life of Maxine Sanders, Witch Queen

Buy the book by clicking on this widget. there are other great Wicca books here as well but those connected to the Sanders.

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Witches Familiars: Witchery of the White Sow

Witchery of the White Sow

The pig shares its symbolic value with the boar. In Mesopotamia, at Catal Huyuk, in shrine EVI8, rows of breasts molded over jaws and tusks of boars express the idea that life comes from death.- Buffie Johnson

But, I hear you say, “Isn’t the White Sow the beast of Cerridwen, and is she not a Lammas Goddess, a Goddess of sacrifice? Why bring her to darken the door of Springtime? What has she got to do with flowering  Beltane?”

Let me tell you a little story.

As the trees are reflected in a mirror lake, their branches reaching across the water from their roots into the underwater sky, so do I climb the branches of the Underworld Tree from roots to branches that plunge deep into the earth. Before me is light for which I aim — a green sky shining between the leaves. Out in the light, I reach the topmost twigs, and drop down to the green grass below. Lifted by a wind, I float to the low hills glimmering on the horizon. Inside the door of the hill the Watcher,cloaked in scarlet and black, waits. A penny for your thoughts? I drop a coin into box and find the opening that leads into the Palace of the Faery Queen.

The Faery Hall at Beltane

The dome of the Faery Hall is supported by pillars of trees. Its floor is composed of black and white stones filed flat as tiles set out in squares like a chess board. On a green terrace are two carved and ancient thrones where sit the Horned God, and the Lady with Antlers, the Faery Queen. When they see me enter, their gray eyes glitter, they stir. The low bells toll, and the drums roll under the earth.

The Faery Court surrounds me, full of focused intent. They wear the clothes of Medieval France. Their movements are graceful, coy, unpredictable. Do not be fooled. The Faery, though beautiful, are one with nature and, like nature, they are wild.

A horn sounds  near and far away. A huge white sow enters the Hall. Waving black steamers float around her head. She sniffs the air when she sees me and next thing I know, I am under her feet. As she tramples me with her cloven hoofs, I hear a great drum beating, but it is not a drum. It is the unified breathing of the Faery Court, keeping time to her stomping and grinding me into the black and white stones of the floor. Soon, I am nothing but a smudge of darkness on the white square, and a spray of gray dust on the black ones.

There is silence, and then a blare of trumpets coming from somewhere between the pillar-trees.  Suddenly I see myself, the way all dreamers do, sitting sideways, and unladylike, on the back of the great white sow. I am dressed in a green gown, my waving golden hair is encircled with flowers. Hawthorn flowers entwine the Sow, who is also crowned May Queen, She Who is Reborn in Spring. Smiling, the Sow Goddess dances on the black and white floor, taking me with her. I raise my hands, palm up, as if to catch the rays of the sun. The Faery Court claps and laughs. Soon we are dancing in the bright green light as the Sow carries me around the Faery Hall.

This vision was prophetic. Literally. For when the long seven years in the dark forest of the Horned God’s initiation was over, I went out to a May Day celebration at the Deveraux Pub in London, and was made May Queen by a drawing of lots.

Here is what remains of my hawthorn crown. It has traveled many miles with me. They were elder witches that gave it to me.

Beltane and the Underworld Goddess

Beltane comes to pass in the sun sign of Taurus. At mid tide, the Sacred Cow sees her self in the mirror of a Full Scorpio Moon. As Taurus is birth and the nurturing of life, Scorpio is the sting of death whose weapon is the blade of sacrifice.

Because they were less expensive to feed and care for than bulls, sows appear as lesser sacrificial animals in vegitative festivities. Afterward they were eaten by worshippers who thus partook of the essence of the divinity. In Crete the pig was a favorite sacrificial animal at the Peak Sanctuary on Mount Juktas and other mountaintop shrines consecrated to the Lady of the Beasts. In Crete the Crone, as Goddess of Wisdom, takes the form of a Sow... Buffie Johnson, Lady of the Beasts


Fertility, death, resurrection are the threefold cycle of Earth. The pig with her litter of piglets, sucking her to the bones. The Sow that eats her young. The sacrificed pig who fertilizes the grain, whose death is the promise of life to come.

The Sow is the creature of the Underworld — she lies under the Earth, one with the soil seeded with grain. Divinized, the pig’s blood is given to the soil from which the Goddess springs up in the long days of May. All  spiral into, and out of each other, feeding on each other as life feeds on itself. Close to the forces of nature, the ancients lived these cycles day after day, night after night, season after season. The Full Moon in Scorpio reminded them, that in the fullness of Spring, the darkness of Death was waiting.

Sow and Reap

As early as the seventh millenium B.C.E., the sow was involved in vegetation rituals. The pig’s habit of rooting in the soil with its tusks is a primal image of the plowing of the soil. the sow’s fast growth, and wealth of piglets, made her a creature of plenty. The existence of an ancient Sow Oracle attests to her transformative nature, and intimacy with the powers of fertility — the main concern of agrarian cultures worldwide. Ancient votive figures of pigs have grains pressed into their bodies, making them one with the crops. Neolithic Priestesses wore sow masks to represent the Goddess as they copulated in the fields during Beltane.

The association of sowing and reaping with iconography of Old Man, Death, are well known.

The Sow Goddess acts as an epiphany of the Lady of the Plants. The Greek Goddess, Demeter carries a pig and a torch into Hades when she searches for Persephone. It is no accident that the only witness to Hades’ abduction of Persephone is a swine herd, and that the swineherd reports the rape to Hecate, Goddess of the dark side of the Moon.

As the pig is sacrificed to the Goddess to make the crops grow, the boar is often the agency of death. Set takes the form of a boar to kill Osiris. The Irish God Diarmid is killed by a boar — in fact many Grail Knights are wounded in the thigh by boars to be rescued by Faery Queens. The rites of Tammuz follow the same boar slain pattern as all the dying and resurrecting Gods of the Grain.


The Welsh Goddess, Cerridwen, has long associations with the White Sow, magic, and poetry. She is a Goddess of doorways between death and rebirth. A shape shifter, Inspiratrice, and witch, it was she that trampled me in the Faery Hall to initiate me into her Mysteries. It was she who dogged my steps for nine years.

Nine: Number of the months of human gestation. Sacred number of the Moon.

The  Black Book of Carmarthen  contains two poems by the bard Cuhelyn that associate Cerridwen with seeds, and therefore fertility and growth in the darkness of the Underworld. As she seeds the Earth, she seeds the imagination of poet, becoming his dark Muse:

A successful song of fruitful praise, relating to the bustling course of the host,

According to the sacred ode of Cyridwen, the goddess of various seeds,

The various seeds of poetic harmony, the exalted speech of the graduated minstrel–BBC III

Her Name

Scottish, Welsh) [KARE-id-ooín or KARE-id-win] Moon Goddess; Great Mother; Grain Goddess; Goddess of Nature. The white-corpse eating sow representing the Moon. Her symbol was a white sow. Death, fertility, regeneration, inspiration, magic, astrology, herbs, science, poetry, spells, knowledge.

Cerridwen is the goddess of dark prophetic powers. She is the keeper of the cauldron of the underworld, in which inspiration and divine knowledge are brewed. She is often equated with the famous Greek crone, Hecate, and to the Irish Badb. She is also sometimes related to the Greek Muses, only in a more violent and dark form.

Cerridwen’s name has many meanings that signify Moon, Sickle, Sow.

Cerid-wen: fair, beloved

Cerit: hooked, crooked Hook, sickle, ben: woman Crooked Backed Woman ( Sounds like the moon to me.)

Ceritwen: crooked white one

One can see that the round shape of the pig suggests pregnancy, the Moon. The cyclical swelling of her belly with unborn piglets decreasing to bone thinness after birth, mimics the phases of the Moon. While in Mexico, I saw a mother pig almost devoured by her suckling piglets who were almost the same size as she. The connotations of the life feeding on darkness as the sow almost dies to feed her young, are resonant. The crooked back of the Sow mirrors the crooked sickle moon, whose belly is in darkness.

The Moon, as has been discussed before, is the vessel of fertility, the place from whence the souls of the unborn descend to earthly incarnation.

Full Moon in Scorpio

Give me more death. — Pablo Neruda

The Poet and his Muse.

The artist must be taken sometimes against his or her will. The Muse possesses the artist, for the artist is the instrument through which the Goddess speaks. The creative process is a fire. It brings illumination, radiation, and sometimes pain, when one comes to close to the flames. The Goddess, Cerridwen, kept the Cauldron of Poetry and Rebirth. As Gwion’s fingers are spattered by the Witch’s brew, he gains the gift of prophetic speech. If he enters the cauldron he will be twice born, divinized, springing up like the grain from the soil of death. He becomes Taliesin, poet, prophet, divine son of the Goddess.

Beltane, your flowers spring from the death of winter. When the sun and moon are joined in the sign of the solar Bull and the lunar Cow, they procreate in the dark. The grass grows, the flowers bloom, the birds feast on buds, and worms that make the gardens fertile.

Merciless, the moon soon rises, and like a mirror, shines back to the joyous Great Mother Goddess her other face: Scorpion Queen of Samhain.

The cycles moves around and around, eternally, or as long as there is life on Earth. Sacrifice, Purification, Divination, and Rebirth. The transfigured Sow Goddess rules Beltane.

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