I was recently given a sort of online interview regarding my involvement with Witchcraft, and thought that maybe some of you would find the answers to be interesting.
How did you come to the Craft?
I was always drawn to the idea of the Craft, but when I was 14 I found my first books on practical Witchcraft. After reading from as many different sources as I could find at the time, I wrote my own self-initiation and performed it under the full moon in my suburban backyard. I have since been formally initiated into various traditions of the Craft, but I consider this personal rite to be the moment in which I officially became a Witch.
When did you realize the Craft was for you?
I was always drawn to magick and the occult ever since I was a small child. I instinctively knew that Witchcraft was my calling. (I even told my mother at around age 2 that when I grew up I was going to be a Witch!)
What ethics do you think are necessary for Witchcraft?
Honesty, first and foremost with yourself.
Do you think everyone should or could be a Witch?
No. There is no path that everyone should be a part of. The universe is much too large to be serviced by any one religion. And of those who are called to follow Witchcraft, some will find that they are not able to do the Work; meaning that not everyone can become a Witch.
How do you view God and Goddess?
I view God Herself as the source of all things, of which we are a part. >From this incomprehensible source flows many forms, including those intelligences and powers that we might call gods and goddesses. I do not see 'God' and 'Goddess' as being separate beings, or at least not entirely so. I see them as temporarily differentiated energetic forms that arise from the androgynous source, that itself has arisen from the great Void.
What do you think is the importance of different traditions, and can anyone practice any of them?
I think that different traditions of the Craft (and of spirituality in general) offer the practitioner a wider array of choices and ideas when it comes to working with Divinity. What may work for me might not work so well for another. Not everyone can practice every tradition, as some will have core beliefs that are not in resonance with an individual practitioner.
What do you call yourself in terms of polytheist, monist, monotheist, etc.
I usually think of myself as a pantheist, as I hold that the universe, and God/dess are one and the same.
How did you find your own path?
The path that I identify with is the Feri tradition of Witchcraft. I first heard of 'Faery' (as it was commonly spelled then) in the pages of Starhawk's book The Spiral Dance.
How has it changed?
When I first came to Feri, it seemed rather secretive and elitist, and certainly those elements are still present in some factions of the Feri community. But the more that I worked with different lines of our tradition, the more I realized that this perspective was not universal. This realization was a sort of validating catalyst that enabled me to more fully embody the lessons that the gods and spirits had been teaching me; that my path was that of sharing what was necessary in order for the world (or at least an interested segment of it) to spiritually evolve. This has led me to create art and writings about our tradition, as well as offer traditional Feri teachings to a wider audience.
What does the Great Rite mean to you?
To many Witches of the British Traditionalist flavors, the Great Rite is the unification of the male/female Divine polarities; the marriage of the God to the Goddess. Because of the obvious gender polarity at play this is usually performed (either "actually", i.e. with sexual intercourse, or symbolically via athame and chalice) by practitioners of the opposite sex; a priest and a priestess. The magickal goal of this interaction is that of fertility. My understanding of The Great Rite differs somewhat. When we strip it to its core, The Great Rite is simply a ritual whose purpose is to unite Divine energies in a way that is sexually potent. One need not restrict it to an interplay of polarity, but may instead invoke the current of resonance. With this in mind there is no barrier to same gendered Deities (and practitioners) performing the rite, either symbolically or in actuality. Instead of the sole focus on fertility as evidenced in the previous definition, this understanding of the rite has ecstasy as its magickal goal.
What rituals do you do commonly with other people vs. alone?
With others I am more likely to perform rituals that honor the seasonal Sabbats, engage in Divine possession, or to perform larger spell workings that would benefit from the energies of larger participation.. While by myself I tend to work on cultivating a deeper understanding of the self, as well as interact with various spirits and inner contacts that are integral to my personal practice.
Are there rituals you do that you have never come across elsewhere?
In Feri there are certain rituals and exercises that I have not found in any other branch of Witchcraft which constitute an inner practice. In addition I have written some rituals and exercises to help achieve what I think are common magickal goals, but I have not as yet encountered similar in other traditions.
How did you find your patron deity(deities)?
I am primarily a devotee of the Blue God, who some in Feri know as Dian y Glas or (in another manifestation) as Melek Ta'us, the Peacock Angel. I first heard of the Blue God in the pages of The Spiral Dance and something inside me immediately 'clicked'.
Do you think every Witch needs to (or has) one specific skill they exceed in? And if so why?
I think that Witches (and people in general) tend to have a skill that they can cultivate and refine, but I do not think that excellence in any particular talent or field is necessarily required in order to be a Witch.
How do you view the elemental?
It all depends on how we are using the word. We might see 'the elemental' as referring to the realms of the five elements; earth, air, fire, water, and ether. When taken this way then I view the elemental as being a fundamental core of all life; these five powers being interconnected in all energetic patters throughout the universe to one degree or another.
In another sense, 'the elemental' can refer to a magickally created being (sometimes called a servitor, egregore, or thought-form) that is ritually brought to life for the purpose of performing a certain task or tasks. It is usually charged with energy of one or more of the five previously mentioned elements, as well as by the life force of the participants who are creating it.
What was most important in your life as a teen? And now?
In my teen years probably the most important goal in my life (although I would have been loathe to admit it) was to be liked and accepted by my peers. As a gay pagan teen I was often ridiculed and ostracized, leaving me feeling that I was outside normal society. On one level this served to become a great source of power, but at the time it was quite painful. I do think that I have carried this desire into my adulthood, but now have the tools necessary to consciously examine this drive, and to transform it into something that is useful. When I feel threatened socially I just remember that integrity is more important than popularity, and that (often) they are mutually exclusive.
Do you think there is a line drawn between Witches and magicians?
I think that Witches and magicians overlap in terms of certain practices and outlooks; a Witch can also be a magician, and a magician can also be a Witch. But they are not automatically synonymous.
If you have students coming to the Craft as teens, what things do you think are most important for them to learn first? Practice most?
First and foremost I think it is important to learn to meditate and to begin a spiritual practice. Grounding, centering, cleansing, and aligning to Divinity are the four most important practices that one can learn which form a foundation of one's practice. It is these tools that the practitioner will refer back to again and again, regardless of whatever other work he or she might also be engaged in. In fact, for any other work to become (and remain) potent, then one must be proficient in these foundational aspects of a spiritual practice.
What’s on your altar?
Symbols and statuary of various Gods and Goddesses, some of which I have made... a crystal ball, a couple of bells, my knife, my wand, a pentacle, a polished obsidian heart, a box of sea salt, a small bowl, a cauldron, a box which contains initiatory regalia, various candles, a wolf statue (my personal totemic symbol) and a raven statue (my husband's personal totemic symbol). I tend to change things on my altar every so often, and may include different herbs, flowers, crystals, and other symbols that I find appropriate at the time.
If you could give any piece of information to every teen seeking a spiritual path, or every teen Witch, what would it be?
While it is ultimately more important to follow your heart than it is to slavishly follow any particular tradition, there are many gifts that traditional practice can bring that are not at first apparent to the beginning practitioner, and in fact may at first seem silly, restrictive, or even "wrong". Only by working with a traditional practice in the way in which it is transmitted can allow the practitioner to fully master it, which will then enable one to effectively transcend it and steer clear of the trap of dogmatic thinking.
Do you use a broom and/or an aspurger? If so, what herbs do you use in it?
I own a besom which is largely decorative. Among other things it is decorated with hazel nuts.
Do you use a wand? Athame?
I own both of these tools, but do not use them very often. To me they are symbols of the elemental powers which they represent. I might use my knife to cut a cord or thread in ritual, and even to cast a circle in group rites, but when I am working on my own then I tend to not use tools unless specifically inspired to do so.
Do you have a daily meditation practice?
I have a consistent meditation practice, but I would not say that it is everyday, at least not formally. I have gone weeks or months without a formal sitting practice, but I have still practiced daily. I think that it is just as important to maintain an informal practice, which might consist of working with art and poetry, physical exercise, gardening, philosophical exercises, or simply "tuning in" and then mediating Divine presence. Part of the reason that I teach classes is that it keeps me working with certain elements of practice in a formal way, which when combined with my informal workings is enough to maintain a momentum in my practice.
How often do you meditate a day?
At least once a day. Sometimes it might be sitting formally at my altar and lighting a candle and speaking certain words. Sometimes it might be just sitting quietly and centering myself. At others it might be performing certain exercises while in the shower, or out walking. The combination of all of these types of meditation is what fuels a healthy spiritual practice for me.
What was the first meditation you learned?
A grounding meditation, known as "The Tree of Life". It is a simple meditation in which one energetically connects with the planet in order to reinforce one's presence in the here-and-now, as well as aligning the self with a larger body of physical energy.
Do you think meditation is a necessity in Witchcraft?
I do, but not necessarily in a formal sense. It can be just as effective to quiet the mind while tending a garden, or looking at great art, or while out walking. Spells and rituals are also a type of meditation practice. Ecstatic dance is another.
What type of things do you think meditation can help with?
It can certainly help with one's physical health, by lowering blood pressure and decreasing our stress levels. Emotionally it can allow us an opportunity to examine aspects of ourselves that might otherwise go unnoticed which may be causing problems for us. Spiritually it can cause us to be able to work directly with our own energy fields, which will give us greater understanding of our own lives and existence.
Do you think Inner Work is important? If so why?
Absolutely. Without an inner practice (in whatever form) one will likely not be able to tend and refine their own personal power, which is the ultimate goal for any Witch or magician.
A lot of people teach grounding using the Earth. My High Priestess taught me to ground in the other elements as well. Do you use this? (This question will be rephrased later, but it works for right now)
If one is grounding in the Earth (i.e. the planet) then one is grounding in all five of the elements. It is the difference between earth (the element) and Earth (the planet/planetary consciousness). By sending one's "roots" into the planet, one is connecting with everything that Earth (i.e. physical manifestation) has to offer; we ground/connect in the soil and stone (earth), we ground in the atmosphere and wind (air), we ground in the molten core and magma (fire), and we ground in the oceans, lakes and rivers (water). We also ground in the consciousness of the planet itself (ether) and relate ALL of these energies back to ourselves in order to reinforce that connection.
Does active meditation or quiet work better for you?
It depends on the situation. Sometimes I feel that quiet (passive) meditation is what is best. This is especially good for me in the morning before I start other activities. Sometimes I even do this in bed before getting up. Other times I feel that something more active is called for, and so will meditate while walking, while in the shower, and (occasionally) while driving.
Does your family know you’re a Witch? If so, how did they react?
Yes. I told my parents back when I was 19. I had already moved out on my own and so did not have the extra burden of needing to rely on them for my living situation if they did not approve. My mother was very curious and asked a lot of questions, which I was more than happy to answer. She is a big supporter of my spiritual life today.
Do you have any personal traditions you keep for the Sabbats?
The only Sabbats that I celebrate formally are Samhain and Beltane. For Samhain it is customary in the line of Feri in which I was taught, to revere the ancestors and to feed them with a rite known as the "Dumb Supper". After having prepared a meal for the ancestors, the Western Gate is opened and the ancestral spirits are invited to join us, as participants enjoy a meal in complete silence. In this we provide spiritual nourishment to our ancestors, who are an important part of the traditional Craft.
Have you found that your family history, or ancestry, has influenced your Craft?
In my early days I was drawn to all things Celtic, based on my Irish ancestry, but have since found that I do not connect with the specifically Irish gods. I do think that the overall Celtic world view (if one may be so bold as to make a gross over-generalization) has led me to my current understanding of the universe; that this world intersects with others that are largely unseen, but that can affect us nonetheless. The Irish tales of the faerie-folk (and especially the idea of the faerie realms) has certainly influenced my understanding of how the worlds work, which serves as a foundation for my magickal Craft.