Month: July 2013

Jake Stratton Kent : Goetia versus secrecy, Masonry & bogus history

opening remarks

This is close to an outline manifesto, relevant to the POV of my writings and distilled from over 4 decades of involvement in magic, public and private. I’m sure many will reject it out of hand, or mount a defence of aspects of occultism it attacks – but nothing said here is unconsidered; while the unquestioning retention of what it opposes desperately requires critique. Some of it explains why I’m a controversial figure, who many traditionalists find too radical, and ‘post moderns’ consider old fashioned. These easy dismissals are neat ways of avoiding important issues, when in fact the similarities between the extremes are more extensive than the differences, which is part of the problem, as I outline below.

*Goetia versus secrecy, Masonry and bogus history in modern occultism*

The historical links between goetia and shamanism are very strong. If you are familiar with the ‘Greek shaman’ thesis of Burkert et al, ‘goes’ was originally the Greek for shaman, especially as psychopomp. Funnily enough the same word, in its later devalued sense could also mean ‘witch’. Properly understood goetia is – essentially – the one authentic and continuous link the modern Western tradition has with the past, and that includes modern witchcraft (as I believe Hutton pointed out, and he is certainly right historically speaking).

There are various reasons I find the ‘Masonic’ model a dead loss in the many, many areas of modern magic where it applies. I see two reasons for Masonry in magic, one good enough, the other p*** poor. The good enough one was as a cover for free thinkers in an age when – for example – non-attendance at Anglican church was an imprisonable offense in England. That time is over. The other I will come to later.

The whole Secret Society model is not only unhelpful, but actively counter-productive. It is the principle reason why so much energy is expended fighting tiny little wars between factions (between witch groups, between rival Golden Dawns, between thelemic groups etc etc). Energy that could be better spent elsewhere – like incorporating the real advances in recovering our tradition made possible by *non-secretive* sources like academia. Indeed, one reason parts of the grimoire community are advancing faster than any other area nowadays is that it doesn’t automatically include this model! Which, whether in Magical Orders or Witchcraft leads to infighting, stagnation and parochialism. I also have no more time for ‘invented history’, which the entire occult world seems to rely on to an alarming extent. But lets start with secrecy.

Nothing I’ve heard from witch groups or magical orders in the last forty plus years has led me to feel they possess *any* privileged information – let alone insights – regarding goetia. Its been more of the same for decades, indeed since the C19th it has hardly moved at all – at least, not among occultists.

From my perspective, what I’ve learned about goetia in the occult world as manifest since the C19th is very unimpressive. Even if someone is jealously guarding material from deeper into the C18th/C19th it still lacks a lot of context, info and insights now available from modern scholarship, the papyri etc. Things have stood still for so long that modern research has got further along without them, and they don’t want to catch up! Where magic is going is not like where it has been since early modern times, but very few have caught on to that.

Which brings me to the Bertiaux/Grant end of the spectrum, what I call ‘dark fluff’, a major epidemic in recent modern occultism. There are so many ‘darker than thou’ types out there playing silly games with the Qliphoth, Necronomicon, Atlantean initiations and such. The grasp of the roots of magic in this ‘niche’ is even more bogus than the ‘occult establishment’ of the C19th and its offshoots. Indeed, they are much more similar to that establishment than they imagine. Spookying up the Golden Dawn, Crowley and modern witchcraft with a dash of Lovecraft and Qliphoth etc is no more informed about the real roots of Western magic in goetia. Its just more of the same in all but the most superficial details.

Which brings me to the other aspect of ‘why we used masonry’. It was as a *substitute* for elements of the magical tradition we’d either lost, or felt uncomfortable with in a more orthodox religious environment than currently exists. Virtually every western school has relied on Masonry to fill in the gaps for so long that they are no longer very interested in recovering what it was substituting for. There is so much Masonic bathwater that has to go to make room for real babies in the bath, and change frightens people. Hence bogus history and Masonry predominate, even though there is much better information and different structures available.

The *real* roots of what has been called ‘black magic’ by later philosophies and religions, is in fact an incredibly rich tradition distinct from them, *not defined by opposition to them*, or even reliant on similar terms (qabalistic or neoplatonist).

In short, through clinging to bogus history and the secret society model, we are selling ourselves very short indeed as Western magicians.

ALWays

Jake

The ultimate question

He’s into mischief making, twarting lies, and casting spells
I see, from his expression, that boy’s charming me as well
He’s into old black magic, new tricks by the firelight
He’s got a new set of plans for every day and night

He’ll make you disobey your father and get banished down to Earth
He’ll toy with your emotions, and he’ll woo you with a smirk
‘Til he shows to you his worth! (Come on!)

Upside, inside out! He’s livin’ la vida Loki!
He’ll jump and smack you down, livin’ la vida Loki.
His hair is black as night, and his intentions are rather smoky.
HE DOES WHAT HE WANTS! Livin’ la vida Loki

Woke up on a place called Midgard, in the middle of the night
He took my hammer, said good riddance
Well I guess he’s won this fight

He never drinks the ale but asks for only the best wine
He duplicates and tricks, and will send shivers up your spine
‘Cause that Loki, he’s so fiiiine! (Aw yeah!)

Upside, inside out! He’s livin’ La vida Loki!
He’ll fight and take you down! Livin’ la vida Loki!
His eyes are forest green, and they’ll own you indefinitely!
He will make you swoon! Livin’ la vida Loki!

He let go of the Bifrost and came crashing down to Earth
He’ll make you live his crazy life and he’ll blow up half the land
‘Til he’s the only one that stands! (Oh yeah!)

Upside, inside out! He’s livin’ la vida Loki!
The Avengers don’t stand a chance! Livin’ la vida Loki!
He’ll put on his horned helm, and he’ll blow up Salem City!
He will rule us all! Livin’ la vida Loki!

Upside, inside out! He’s livin’ la vida Loki!
He’ll jump and smack you down, livin la vida Loki.
Put on that green cape, and conquer all the cities!
HE DOES WHAT HE WANTS! Livin’ la vida Loki!

 

…Now RevScott KNEEL AT MY FEET as I must read to you from the 2* book of the law. I’m about to give you a year and a day to prove yourself a worthy priest and finish the plastering and the painting in my hallway for free. 

Are we really endowed with free will?

In his 1943 book Physics and Philosophy, British physicist, astronomer and mathematician Sir James Jeans writes,

“Practically all modern philosophers of the first rank — Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Mill, Alexander, as well as many others — have been determinists in the sense of admitting the cogency of the arguments for determinism, but many have at the same time been indeterminists in the sense of hoping to find a loophole of escape from these arguments.  Often they conceded that our apparent freedom is an illusion, so that the only loophole they could hope to find would be an explanation as to how the illusion could originate.”

Now, think of a time when you made a choice you consider to be freely willed.

Then, say whether or not that choice was caused.

If you say the choice was caused, the causal regression makes free will impossible.

If you say the choice was uncaused, that would mean the choice was random. 

Random thoughts are not what we mean when we say we believe a thought is freely willed.

THE ORIGINS OF THE ILLUSION OF FREE WILL.

 

At about the 5th century BC, in his work On the Mind, the Greek Philosopher Leucippus penned the earliest known universal statement describing what we today understand as determinism, or the law of cause and effect:

 

“Nothing happens at random, but everything for a reason and by necessity.”

The concepts of will and free will are actually Christian in orgin. It was Saint Paul in his Letter to the Romans, which is dated at about 58 A.D., who first discovered this thing we call human will. He came to it by recognizing that he could not often do as much right as he wanted. Saint Paul wrote in Romans 7:15 that:

“I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I can’t.” I do what I don’t want to – what I hate.”

Nothing new was said on the matter for the next few hundred years until St. Augustine grappled with the concepts of evil and justice. Saint Augustine wrote in his book De Libero Arbitrio, 386-395 A.D., (translated as “On Free Will”)

“Evil deeds are punished by the justice of God. They would not be punished justly if they had not been performed voluntarily.”

The problem he saw was that if human beings do not have a free will, it would be unfair for God to arbitrarily reward or punish us. St. Augustine concluded that God could not be unfair, and so he created the concept of a human free will, whereby we earn our reward or punishment by what we freely do.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT.

Free will being an illusion, and not representative of how things really are, our belief in it is very problematic to our actions on both a personal and global level.  It leads to blame, accusations, conflict, competition, self-blame, arrogance, envy, and creates a lot of problems.  My hope is that as we overcome this illusion, we’ll create a much more intelligent, compassionate, and understanding world. 

When we say that we have a free will, we are saying that our decisions are completely up to us.  Neither genetics nor environment — including what we learned or didn’t learn in the past, can influence our behavior.  A free will would give us the ability to over-ride any, and all, influences, and make decisions completely on our own.

The two strongest refutations to that are that, firstly, we have an unconscious where all of our memories are stored.  That unconscious is obviously not in our control.  We’re not even conscious of it.  It’s also the part of our brain that contains the processes by which we make our decisions.  When we make a decision, we’re not thinking to ourselves, “Why exactly did I decide that?”  “What calculations did I use?”  This all takes place at the level of the unconscious.  If both the data and the processing for making decisions occur in the unconscious, obviously that makes free will impossible.  Our decisions are being made at a level of our mind that we’re not in control of, and that we’re not even aware of in real time. 

The second reason free will is impossible is that everything has a cause.  If we make a decision, there is a cause for that decision.  And there’s a cause for that cause, and a cause for that cause, and if you follow that chain of cause and effect back through its history, it stretches back to before we were born.   

Let’s begin refuting Frankfurt’s “Second Order Desires” claim against free will.  Harry Frankfurt is a philosopher who claims that while other animals have “first order” desires, human beings have both first and second order desires.  An example of a first order desire might be that we want something to eat because we’re on a diet, and want to lose some weight.  A second order desire, in this case, would be that we want something to eat, but would rather that we didn’t want something to eat.”  It’s a desire about a desire.

Frankfurt is saying that because we have second order desires, that prospect would somehow give us a free will.  There is no logic in that, as we’ll see later, but that’s his assertion.  Let’s first defend our animal friends.  Throughout history, we’ve made claims that animals don’t feel, and we’ve treated animals horribly because of this absurd notion.  Whether it is farm animals or lab animals, we refuse to acknowledge, and admit to ourselves, that they absolutely do feel pain. 

There is no evidence for the assertion that animals don’t have second order desires.  For example, a dog named Cachidulo lives an apartment, and wants to pee.  He wants to pee, but there is no one around to take him out for a walk.

Cachidulo knows that in the past when he’s gone to the bathroom on a carpet or other floor, he has been punished.  We can all relate to the idea that a dog would have that understanding.  Naturally, Cachidulo would very probably want to not want to go to the bathroom.  Cachidulo is probably saying to himself, “Gee I wish I didn’t have to go to the bathroom, because I would rather not get punished afterwards.  Dogs clearly have second order desires. 

Let’s say we have a second order desire.  We want to not want to eat, or we want to not want to smoke, or not want to whatever.  But, how would that grant us a free will?  A want is a reason, and whether it’s a direct want or a want about a want, it’s causal.  If it’s a want about a want – if I would want to not want to eat – there will be a reason for wanting that.  When you have a reason, you have a cause.  So, the simple refutation to these Frankfurt-style second order desire arguments for free will is “No, a second order desire in no way allows the decision to escape this law of causality that governs everything.

Second order desires are not a valid demonstration of free will because of causality.  Naturally, the causality of the unconscious refutes this claim equally well.  That second order desire – that wanting to not want something – is taking place at the level of the unconscious.  It is drawing from information stored in the unconscious.  There have to be reasons why we would want, or not want, to do something.  There is also our reasoning process.  If all of our data – our memories and other stored information – is in our unconscious, then the processing of our decisions must also be made at the level of the unconscious.  We can understand how we have no control over our unconscious.  The unconscious is certainly a part of us – no one is disputing that – but it’s a part that we have absolutely no real-time control over. 

It’s as if your hand was saying “I made this decision to put myself here,” whereas the reality is that your mind made the decision.  Our conscious mind simply becomes aware of decisions that the unconscious makes, and claims credit for them.  There are actually many experiments in neuroscience and psychology, like experiments with hypnosis, that demonstrate this misattribution.  For example, subjects are hypnotized and given a post-hypnotic suggestion to do something.  They come out of the hypnosis, and perform the post-hypnotic suggestion.  They are then asked why they did what they did.  They then make up a reason, or, more sincerely, plead ignorance.  They express no recognition, or knowledge, that the reason they did what they did was because of the post-hypnotic suggestion. 

Every decision is made at the level of the unconscious, because that is where at least some of the data is.  The decision making process must also be unconscious to be able to access that data.  Naturally, since we can’t control the unconscious, the decisions it makes cannot be thought of as having been freely made by our conscious mind.

Frankfurt had a few other claims that are a mistaken in terms of how they would allow for a free will.  He claims that free will is having the will that we want.  In other words, if we can want what we want to want, to him that’s free will.  But that’s not free will.  That’s just luck.  If we have a will to stop smoking, for example, and we’re actually able to succeed with this, we’re fortunate.  Such fortune in no way demonstrates that our want was freely willed.

When we consider the question of human will in terms of wants, or desires, we understand why free will is impossible.  We’re not in control of our desires.  Whether we desire a certain kind of food, or experience, or music, or clothing, or whatever, these are preferences that are the complete result of genetics and past experience.  We can’t, at the moment we’re making a decision, just choose our desires.  They have been chosen for us by this causal process of nature and nurture. 

Frankfurt makes another kind of curious assertion.  He says that some people are what he describes as “wontons.”  He says that these people don’t have impulse control.  They can’t control their impulses, so they naturally don’t have a free will.  He’s, of course, right about impulses.  We all have impulses, and to the extent that we can’t control them, that naturally demonstrates that the impulses, and not a free will, are controlling us.

But, he claims that those of us who can control our impulses have a free will.  Why does that not make sense?  Let’s say we control an impulse.  Why did we do that?  There must have been a reason.  Once we have a reason for doing something, we have a cause for doing something.  Naturally, that cause has a cause, and that cause has a cause, and you end up with a causal regression leading to before our planet was created. 

Any time there’s a question regarding why we do anything, or an assertion that we have a free will, the refutation is always the same.  For example, one plus one is always going to equal two.  That will be the answer whether the ones are in Roman numerals or Chinese characters, or whatever.  It’s always the same answer.  With any claim to a free will, there are two basic answers.  The first is causality.  If a decision, to control our impulse has a reason, that reason is a cause. 

Causality is the reason why the decision is not freely willed.  The other reason is the unconscious.  We generally tend to think somewhat linguistically.  Some of us think more in terms of imagery, but our thinking tends to involve the memory of concepts like “table,” and “chair,” which are stored in our memory.  In order to make a decision about whatever, we have to consider it.  If that information is not consciously available to us, it must be stored in the unconscious.  It has to be, because for it to be consciously available, we would have to be aware at the moment of any decision every word and every memory that we’ve ever had.  That is clearly impossible.  We have to study to take tests.  If we had a free will, we could just commit something to memory, and at test time just write it without hesitation, because we could freely draw whatever we willed from our memory bank.  Obviously, very few of us can do that to any substantial degree, and even we who can, at a certain point, fail at accessing the memories.  It is always our unconscious that allows us to access any of that information. 

The unconscious not only stores the data upon which we’re making decisions, impulse control, or whatever, but also our actual decision making processes.  Why are we deciding one way rather than another?  Is it a moral decision?  Is it a hedonic decision?  Is it a rational decision?  These are all considerations that are taking place at the unconscious level.  We obviously don’t consciously go through the entire process of why we’re making a decision when we think.  That’s often what a gut feeling is about.  Someone asks us something, and we wait for the answer to come to us. 

Let’s briefly discuss the notion of second order desires from the standpoint of desires.  Desires are conditioned to a great extent.  The foods we prefer are different from the foods people from other countries prefer.  This starts very early. 

We’re conditioned to like something, or not.  Sometimes even at a very early age, you find that mothers will try to get their kids to eat spinach and some other foods.  It doesn’t always work.  Sometimes our desires are genetic.  Our strongest desire – the one actually responsible for all of our decisions, including moral decisions– is the hedonic desire, or the desire to seek pleasure and avoid pain.  We’re hard-wired for that.  All organisms are hard-wired for that. 

Let’s consider a second order desire to stop eating.  Why would we want to do that?  Perhaps we want to be healthier, or happier, or whatever.  Any time we desire to not want something, there is a hedonic reason for that desire.  That reason relates to our well-being.  We predict that if we don’t want to want a certain thing, or don’t want to not want a certain thing, that will make our life, or the lives of those around us, better.  The hedonic imperative of always seeking pleasure and avoiding pain is a great way to understand why we don’t have a free will.  If all of our decisions are based on that imperative, obviously we can’t have a free will.

We generally talk about how our wills are completely determined by causality, and how the past moment completely determines our will.  But, we should remember that everything is completely causal.  If you go outside and see cars and people moving, and birds flying, take notice that everything is happening in a completely causal way.  We are actually taking part in a kind of movie, and reality, or our world, is the movie. 

It’s even more amazing than that, because generally with a movie, the actors get to interpret their roles somewhat.  Actors have some say in how they interpret their character, and play their role.  But in this movie called reality – our universe – we don’t even get to interpret our roles.  Our every reaction to everything is predetermined.  What I’m also saying is that it’s not just human behavior that is causal.  It’s not just animal behavior that is causal.  The Sun, and the rain, and the entirety of nature, are all causal.  It’s all predetermined.  I do not describe reality as “predestined,” because that relates to the religious concept that some people are pre-destined to a better or worse place in the afterlife.  But, essentially, everything that is happening at this moment in time is predetermined by cause and effect.

We’re spectators, rather than the writers.  We experience, rather than decide.  From a religious perspective, asserting that we have a free will is like asserting that we are mini-gods who “create” decisions.  However, if we believe in a God that is all-powerful, all powerful means that God’s decisions rule.  Our actions are basically expressing God’s will.  We’re instruments of God.  That way of understanding our human will makes a lot of sense to many of us.  It feels a lot better than describing us as robots or puppets, or computers. 

A computer is programmed to do certain tasks, and it has no free choice but to do those tasks.  We can accurately describe ourselves as robots or puppets or computers, but that self-definition is impersonal.  I believe in God, because I define God as everything, which makes God synonymous with our universe.  By retaining our belief in God, and understanding our lack of free will within that context, we personify both ourselves and our wider reality.  God is generally defined as omniscient, or all-knowing.  God is also often described as  omnipresent, or everywhere.  If God is everywhere, we are a part of God.  Everything is a part of God.  There isn’t anything that exists that isn’t a part of God.  Logically, if God created everything, S/He had to have created everything from Her/Himself.  From that standpoint, we’re the hands of God.  We’re the instruments of God, and the vehicles for God’s will. 

We’re certainly a part of God, but we’re not the decision making part.  There is a part of reality that you can define as either the causal past or God, although it’s more precisely defined as the causal past.  The question then arises; does God have a free will?  Can God break this law of causality?  I’m not sure S/He can.  I would hope S/He can’t, because I like to believe in a good and loving God.  That understanding obviously doesn’t make sense because there are so many not-so-good and unloving things in the world.  But, to the extent that I ascribe a free will to God, then I would have to hold Her/Him responsible.  If I understand that God is compelled by causality in every act, I can hold God as innocent as we are.

When we fall for the notion that we have a free will, we hold ourselves responsible.  We indict ourselves, and convict ourselves, and punish each other and ourselves.  When we understand that we don’t have a free will, and we hold ourselves as innocent, we’re much more understanding. 

Some of us are afraid that if we abandon the illusion of free will, everyone will just do whatever they want, because they will say, “You can’t blame me.  I’m programmed – blame the universe.”  The reason we would not let that happen is because we’re programmed, to be hedonic creatures.  We’re always going to seek pleasure and avoid pain, both as individuals and as a society.  This means that if someone is going around doing something that is not good for them, or us, we’re going to take steps to not allow that.  I trust you now understand why the Frankfurt second order desires argument for free will just doesn’t make sense. 

 

British Traditional Witchcraft: Bull-Crap

http://culture.pagannewswirecollective.com/tag/janet-farrar/

For those who may not be aware, Ms. Farrar (then Miss Owen) and her future-husband Stewart Farrar were initiated into Alexandrian Witchcraft by Alex Sanders in the early 1970s. They went on to publish a series of extremely influential early books on Wicca; if you have ever seen pictures of Witches from the early 1970s, likely as not, you have seen Ms. Farrar (who married Mr. Bone following Mr. Farrar’s death). She remains among the most significant of the Early Days High Priestesses; this lecture was a truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, causing me to gnash my teeth all the more that I had to miss it.

However, my friends Cory and Delphi were there (along with, as Delphi puts it, “half the Witch World of New York”), and they reported back to me what was said (the proceeding is based upon Cory’s written recollections, bolstered by his and Delphi’s verbal descriptions to me). In the first place (and they were both kind-of amazed and delighted that these words came out of Janet Farrar’s mouth): British Traditional Witchcraft is a “load of bull-crap.” Well, a load of bull-crap in the sense that, there are no British Traditional Witches to be found before Gerald Gardner, and certainly no British “Traditional” Witches to be found in the Witchcraft Traditions of British Culture before Gardner. (There are plainly British Witch “Traditions” to be seen in the British Isles before the 20th century; none, however, correspond to the Gardnerian- and subsequently Alexandrian- Traditions of Witchcraft, which again, as Ms. Farrar noted, do not exist prior to Mr. Gardner.)

In short, first Gerald Gardner, and then Alex Sanders, “made up” a fictitious, non-existing “history” of Traditional British Witches.  No more than what any Progressive Witch has noted at least since the mid-90s- but how bracing (as my friends found) to have it acknowledged so forthrightly by such a notable Elder in the Witchcraft Movements.

According to Cory, Ms. Farrar and Mr. Bone described Sanders as a “complete whack job,” who would hold all sorts of public rituals, inviting both the press and the police, for the publicity. Apparently, neither Mr. Gardner or Mr. Sanders were above “pulling someone’s leg,” and apparently Mr. Sanders, in particular, would tell the most outrageous lies to American Witches about the “authenticity and antiquity” of his Tradition, and then have a laugh over the “stupid Americans” when they had left. The problem became, these Americans would bring these stories home, and apparently some of them are now enshrined in American Traditional Witch-Lore- this stuff that Alex Sanders “made up” in a prankish mood.

Janet Farrar

As an example of Mr. Sanders’ character (who, I’m getting the impression, was sort of the P.T. Barnum- meaning, the American circus-showman- of modern Witchcraft): consider Ms. Farrar’s story of how she met Mr. Sanders. It was 1970; the Swinging Scene in London continued, fueled by Beatles-mania, and Alex Sanders (kind of like the Andy Warhol of the British Witch Happening, I’m getting), Mr. Sanders is giving a lecture on Witchcraft- meaning, being a part of an ancient, undiscovered Lineage of British Traditional Witches. Well, as you can see from the photos above and below, Ms. Farrar remains a strikingly attractive woman (and a lady who plainly does her yoga). Imagine Ms. Farrar as a Young Miss in the bloom of her twenty-year old beauty- who possesses, as Alex Sanders quickly determines, spying her in the audience- a photogenic presence that will subsequently yield dozens of significant early Wicca photographs. Seems that Mr. Sanders had agreed to perform a Witches’ “Initiation” for a photographer, and approached young Ms. Farrar (well, I guess, not Ms. “Farrar” yet) to be his model for the young “Witch Initiate.” As Mr. Sanders possessed a personal charisma, Ms. Farrar agreed. The journalist-photographer for that shoot, by the way, was Stewart Farrar. He and Ms. Farrar were initiated (for real) by Alex Sanders, married- and the rest, as they say, is Wiccan history.

Janet and Stewart Farrar

According to Cory, Ms. Farrar and Mr. Bone told how there was very little training in those days for initiation, and sometimes very little preparation. Apparently, one person who was initiated in a pub with a plastic knife, and a glass of whiskey, which the British Witches hold it to be valid. (I’m not sure that NYC Witches can complain too much, as I’ve heard stories about initiations being performed after nights in a bar.) Another Myth-Debunker was provided by their information that British Witches do not actually take titles. This came about as an innovation, because just one of Gardner’s High Priestesses, Monique Wilson, had fantasies of being an aristocrat (Ms. Wilson was apparently of modest birth). Out of this desire for regal nobility, Ms. Wilson began the use of “Lord” and “Lady” for Third Degree High Priests and High Priestesses. Monique passed this notion to her Down-Line in America, which is why there are all manner of “Lords and Ladies” running around the supposedly democratic United States, while British Witches are dumbfounded by it all. (If not actually offended, perhaps, some being “Working Class,” at the thought of “Poshing themselves off like a Toff.”) Cherished American Lineage Tradition, bites the dust as a Brits Witch’s presumption.

Ms. Farrar and Mr. Bone talked about how originally, there were no “Books of Shadows,” as such. Such books as Witches kept were meant to be each Witch’s personal diary and recipe-book. No Book was ever meant to be identical to another; they were never intended to be a “Sacred Text.” According to Cory, “They told how the Craft in Britain evolved, and adapted in relation to the times that surrounded them; how they took what they had received, and used it as a starting point in their own journeys.” (Which sounds very much like the “Eclectic” Movement in America.) They discussed how there was no interaction between Witches or Traditions until the advent of the Pagan Federation- a British development modeled on the Pagan Way of America (therefore, America’s own contribution to British Witchcraft).

But- and here is what I find inspiring, so I’m quoting Cory flat-out- ”But in all of this, they never gave the slightest notion that the Craft itself was fake or invalid. Rather their words and stories conveyed the deep-set belief that the Craft is a deep and beautiful expression of its followers’ spirituality. To the question of why the Goddess picked Sanders and Gardner to do the job, the answer was that these two individuals had the egos needed to drive the work through. Their egos, their flamboyance, and even their outrageous stories were what was needed to get the revival of Witchcraft off the ground. The birth of anything is seldom neat, clean or discreet. Rather it comes with much mess, much screaming and drama. Birth is after all a human thing, and Gerald Gardner and Alex Sanders were just the humans to do the job set forth by the Goddess.”

Such inspirational words. I gather that if Gerald Gardner and Alex Sanders had been running around going, Let me initiate you into this Syncretic Magickal System which I devised last week- maybe they would not have had many takers. It was the fascination with the idea of “surviving medieval Witchcraft” that drew people in- to the extent that Neo-Paganism is a force of its own, now.

It is interesting too, to reflect that the first emergent form of Neo-Paganism (British “Traditional” Witchcraft) was actually the first exercise in Eclectic Witchcraft. Listening to Cory and Delphi describe the evening, I remembered what Cory concluded in his guest-review of our friend Michael Lloyd’s Bull of Heaven, regarding Eddie Buczynski- he discovered that it was not the authenticity in the Craft that counted; it was the sincerity.

My admiration to Janet Farrar as a gracious lady, and as one of the Highest Priestesses in the Craft- one who both personally and through her books, has inspired a Generation of Witches.