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  • Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone – Interview

    I had the opportunity to interview Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone  who were guests at Heartland Spirit Festival near Kansas City this past Memorial Day Weekend. They took several hours out of their hectic schedule to simply hang out in our merchant booth and chat about a wide range of subjects, for which I am extremely grateful!

    There are few people left who directly experienced many of the legendary figures of the rise of Neo-Pagan spirituality. Janet has a wealth of knowledge and stories from this era, and vivid descriptions of what they have experience.  Gavin articulates where their practice has led them  since he became part of the most famous Pagan triad, and the subsequent passage of Stuart Farrar. Together they represent a vision of an evolving practice of deity centered witchcraft.

    This interview is about 9000 words long, but to me it is just too interesting to edit much content out.  It will appear in three parts over the coming weeks. First some history and an overview of their current work, then more details about their current practice, and finally a look into the future.

    Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone

    Nels (N): You’re back in the states. How long has it been since you have been in the states?

    Gavin (G) : Nine months.

    Janet (J) : Yeah, nine months. We actually travel here a lot.

    G: We’re generally in the states every year. The last time we were in the Midwest was about 2002-2003.  We did INATS (International New Age Trade Show) the big trade fair in Colorado promoting Progressive Witchcraft. Before that we were in Wisconsin, so we haven’t done much in the Midwest for a while. But there’s been a lot more interest. We’ve been invited out towards Ohio August/September next year. Generally we spend a lot more time on the East Coast: New York, Connecticut, Florida. Those areas, mainly because we have connections there.

    J: We are actually linked to a group of covens in these places.  We don’t actually call them “our covens,” they are covens in their own right, but they are all linked together through us.

    G: Because they are covens that all follow the same philosophy.

    N: What is your philosophy for ritual, coven work, and magic now?

    Doreen Valiente 1922-1999

    J:  Ok, well let’s start at the beginning. Thanks to knowing, long before Gavin ever met her, Doreen Valiente, I had a totally different perspective on Witchcraft. Even if you look at that book, The Witches Bible. When we started off, Stewart and myself, we started off with Alex Sanders. After that basic training, we were running an Alexandrian coven. Far too short, to be honest, to have real experience. We winged it, as they say, but we learned as we went along. And when Stewart and I moved to Ireland in 1976, Stewart took a look through our Book of Shadows and said “There’s no meat on the bones of this. Let us start by investigating old Irish folk customs, and from that comes a great rise in Celtic mythology, and a lot of people are becoming fashionably Celtic.

    We lived, for the most part, in the most beautiful Celtic land, and a lot of those old festivals are sadly dying out now. We actually started resurrecting them ourselves, village folk festivals. We used to go along to them, and we used to experience them, and from 1976 to 1981 we traveled in various places across Ireland renting property to learn about what the locals still kept alive. Including the Midsummer bonfires, the Lughnasadh/Lammas festival, and we would glean knowledge. We would talk to the local people, the older people who remembered “ back in the days of my youth we did this, that, and the other.”

    We put all that into the first book we wrote, before it became The Witches Bible it was Eight Sabbats For Witches. And with Doreen Valiente’s permission, I hasten to add, because a lot of the original Book of Shadows was her work. She took one look at the work we were doing, because we got to know her, and we said “Look, do you approve of this?” And she said “Well, there’s a bit more to it than that. A lot of this is my material, the Charge and etc… You have my permission to print it and be damned!” We said, “Well, fine if we’ve got your permission it goes into the book.” Continue reading

    Orion Foxwood at Paganicon – Interview

    orion1

    Orion Foxwood

    Paganicon opens this Friday and one of the featured guests is Orion Foxwood. Orion Foxwood is the author of “The Faery Teachings”, “The Tree of Enchantment” and “The Candle and the Crossroads”; and the founder of the House of Brigh Faery Seership Institute and co-founder of Conjure Crossroads and 2hoodoos.com. He will be giving the keynote address at 7pm on the topic, “Paganism as a Co-Creative Call-to-Action”.  I talked to him by phone.

    Tell me a little about your personal journey?

     Orion Foxwood:  I am from Virginia, but live in Maryland right now, just outside of Washington, DC. I was born down in the Shenandoah Valley outside Winchester, Virginia. My early experience in magic was in Southern Folk Magic, conjure, although they don’t use that term much down there. My mother, myself, and my sister were all born with “the veil”, the covering of the face with the placental sheath. In southern Appalachian and many other cultures that denotes the second sight, the ability to see into the spirit world. Between the cultural practices and that veil, it solidified my journey in this kind of work.

    What did they call it in that region?

     O.F. :  They called it “spirit doctoring”, and people who did this kind of work are spirit doctors. Now and again you would hear the word conjure, that word is used a little more in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Texas. Another term used is “root work”, or “Hoodoo”  , but that is associated more along the Mississippi valley.

     Were you involved in witchcraft?

    O.F. :  When you grow up in a folk magical practice, you don’t necessarily see it as something special. I left from that period looking for more, and discovered witchcraft in my teens. I started corresponding with witches in the DC metro area. That is really what prompted my move to this area, and to learn the craft. I was initiated into a Welsh tradition and later a Celtic and then an Alexandrian Wiccan tradition. On the advice of my elders I eventually came back to the roots of my own cultural practices and integrated them into my practice.

    I have three major streams I work with. There is my Pagan witchcraft, Faery Seership, and Southern conjure. The Faery Seership grew along a parallel path with my craft work. I was influenced in a major way by R.J. Stewart in my Faery work, and through his work attained a contact in the spirit world named Brigh.  Brigh and I have continued to develop that work over the years. I teach much of that, it is more of an integrated, co-created practice working with the more invisible side of nature. All three streams of practices really come together with their own unique insights. They all have a way of speaking as to how my soul has grown; spiritually, magically, and mystically. They all support my work in the world, and within myself. They give me a broader set of language to often say the same things. It makes it easier to reach many kinds of “ears”, including people with different types of spirit work.

    Continue reading

    Crossed Quarters – Guest Editorial by Lisa Spiral

    Most Pagans are aware that the eight sabbats of Wicca are an artificial construction. They combine festivals of hunter/gatherer peoples with festivals of agriculture and animal husbandry. When you add to that an international following and crazy modern scheduling you have a practice of worship that is truly Neo-Pagan.

    Our quarter celebrations, the solstices and equinoxes, come to us from people’s who understood astronomy. These are real and measurable events in time and space. The tools and precision of measuring when these sabbats occur have changed over time. The events that they celebrate are fixed.

    The cross quarters, however, are seasonal celebrations. They mark events of weather and harvest that happen when they happen in the local area. We know from the names we call them by: Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasad, and Samhein that these are sabbats from more northern climates. These are celebrations of a people who were dependent on an unpredictable weather.

    They may have marked migration cycles. They may have marked the end of a harvest season. They may have marked blooming plants. They may have marked fertility of farm animals. But these kind of events occur at different times in different places in different years.

    Our calendars come to us from the Romans and the Roman Catholic Church. When these local festivals were assigned patron saints and attributed to saints days on the calendar they became more fixed in time. Of course the church calendar has changed once or twice over the last several thousand years and saints come and go. Continue reading

    Christopher Penczak – Interview with Paganicon Guest

    Christopher Penczak at Stonehenge

    I talked to Christopher Penczak about his appearance as featured Paganicon guest March 16-18th.  He is an energetic, prolific, and well spoken author whose writing have sought to synthesize and integrate many magical concepts with the practice of the Witchcraft.  He is offering three workshops and a ritual at Paganicon, so if you don’t come away understanding his perspective, you have missed out!

    Have you visited the Twin Cities area before?

    I have! Many years ago, right after I signed with Llewellyn, I spoke at Magus books, and visited. It was right after “Inner Temple of Witchcraft” had come out. I came out a few years later when Llewellyn moved, and believe I again visited Magus, and the Eye of Horus, I think they had just opened.  I am excited about my Paganicon experience, and my first real teaching opportunity in the area.

    Tell me about your presentations at Paganicon?

    The Awen Symbol

    The Three Rays of Witchcraft is from the book I am most excited about, it is from a few books back, the first one released from my own publishing house, Copper Cauldron.  It came to me from a vision, trying to reconcile my own experience differences between Wicca based Witchcraft and more folk-loric based Witchcraft, along with my more Qabalistic side, shamanistic side, and more “New Age” side.  A lot of my influence for the book ‘Ascension Magic’ came from theosophy, New Age, and light worker material which really doesn’t fit into the Witchcraft paradigm. I was experience a schism in my own spiritual practice and this is how it all came together for me. In meditation I experienced an image, a  vision of the Awen, the symbol from Druidic tradition, that was a little bit different. It brought together all these different ideas for me.  I got bolted right out of the meditation. It was a really unique experience for me because nine days later, I had the draft of the book written. It was inspired, and is my favorite book to date. For me it gets into deeper thoughts about magic and Witchcraft. What are we seeking through magic? What is the Witches version of ‘enlightenment’ ? The The Three Rays really deals with the concept of power, and your true will; Love, unconditional love; and wisdom. How do we get to be creatures that can hold love, power and wisdom at the same time?

    Continue reading

    Pagans in Prison – Inmates Comment

    The inmates at various Department of Correction Facilities have been tracking this discussion of Pagans in Prison, and are aware of the civil rights issue in Stillwater Prison.  Nearly all Pagans in prison find that path in prison. They have no history with a ‘Pagan community’. They have the idea that we as Pagans have a spiritual community like many Christian groups do. Inmates, therefore, tend to have a real idealized vision of our ‘Pagan community’. We are presumed to have facilities, programs, ministers, outreach programs, and the dedication to help our ‘brethren’ in need, and they know they certainly need help. Maybe they suffer from the same attitude we hold, we want a lot from our community and don’t have the time or resources to put a lot into it.


    Many of the facilities have functions, and  Faribault is considered an ‘exit’ facility. It houses over 2200 mainly low risk inmates, double bunked, with mainly shorter terms. They are preparing to leave incarceration in a few months to a few years, and will be approaching our community as they seek their Pagan paths.


    What do you want from the Pagan community as Pagans in Prison?

     We want to be able to learn more, and to be able to meet people in a positive fashion. We want to start building  some positive relationships now, that will be available to us once we get on the outside. Ninety percent of us are here because of the people we hung around with. When we get out, if we hang with the same people, we will be back in here. We need Pagan people to hang with! Continue reading

    Pagans in Prison – Women Ministers in Prisons

    Emrys Anu is a Wiccan Minister volunteering for the last six years at Rush City Correctional Facility.  She has volunteered in the past at Red Wing (18 months) and Stillwater Correctional Facility (2 yrs.).

    A Prison Beltane Altar

    What is it like working with your “guys”?

    They are funny, engaged, and interested. They are incredibly grateful for the time and interactions that any volunteers bring. Just to show up, look them in the eye and shake their hand and treat them like human beings. They don’t get that often enough except with the religious volunteers. I think that attitude sets the foundation for the engagement. We develop a give and take trust that makes education in this setting possible. The topics that we touch on are the difficult topics of life transformation. We don’t talk about their crimes, they all know that they are in their for a crime, we even joke about it. Once I mentioned, “Ya, well I get to go home after this”, and they replied, “Ya, they keep us here because we are criminals”. They know that they have made bad choices. In those moments when they are calm and grounded and connected, they want to be able to make better choices and know they don’t have the skills to do that. Continue reading

    Pagans in Prison – Wiccan Minister in Minnesota

    George A Edgar, Wiccan Minister and Pagan Prison Religious Volunteer at three Minnesota Correctional Institutions;  Stillwater, Faribault, and Shakopee

    How are these decisions about religious civil rights for Pagans in prison made ?

    The important decisions about what inmates can have or do in their religious practice are made by those that are least qualified and educated to do so. If you are pulled over for speeding it is the police officer who decides if you get a ticket, not a judge, a specialist in the law. If you say, ” I am on my way to minister to inmates”, they might just say, “Have a nice day”, and let you go. That has happened to me!  It is the same in the prison system, it is the guards and the chaplains who decide what goes on. When you get to the upper echelon, the Warden or the Department of Corrections, and they get excited, you tend to see draconian measures because they don’t want any headaches. They see things very practically, and the Pagans represent a slippery slope. They had to cave into the Native Americans. They allow outdoor ritual, the sweat lodge, the use of tobacco, now what if the Druids want that too? If you can get three or four guys together and a religious volunteer, you become a legitimate religious group. All of a sudden you may have thirty outdoor rituals a week, with special guards and space requirements. Where is the funding, where are the extra staff? They just don’t want the headache. They want to stop this as best they can.

    Continue reading

    Pagans in Prison – Religious Volunteer In Wisconsin

    Wade Mueller is a religious volunteer for Pagans in seven Wisconsin Correctional Institutions. He is tired, but receives so much from his prison experience, and sees such a need, that he can’t stop if it means letting his people down.

     Do you actively advocate for an inmates religious rights or requests?

     I have to stay away from that as I have absolutely no power as a volunteer aid, and so am in a very precarious position. I tend to be polite and courteous in order to get entry and or anything at all with the inmates. Once inside I act as a priest, a facilitator, they cannot even get together as a group unless I come in. I tell the guys, “What do you want to do with this time?”. Some really want to do in-depth, hard-core rituals. Then I encourage and help them write their own rituals, and then just watch over and maybe help them. I may facilitate discussion, help with meditation. It is different every time depending on who shows up. There are so many different paths and traditions that show up, and there is often conflict.
    Continue reading

    Pagans in Prison – Interview with Patrick McCollum

    This begins a series about Pagans in Prison, and those who ‘minister’ to them.  Religious volunteers report most Pagan prisoners find their Pagan path once they are incarcerated. The loss of freedom that prison represents is a strong motivator to find some meaning in life, and Pagan spirituality often offers the most relevant choice.  Prisoners are invisible to us, unless they get publicity.  I hope this series increases our  awareness of this part of our community for, sooner or later, many will return to our general society, and look for spiritual support.

    Patrick McCollum

    What is critical to understand within this topic, is the difference between loss of freedom, and loss of civil rights. Prisoners retain some civil rights even while in prison. Our Constitution’s First Amendment is about religious freedom, and within bounds, remains in force for those incarcerated.  I had the opportunity to interview one of the foremost authorities regarding religious civil rights and prison, and Patrick McCollum also happens to be a Pagan.  Read his qualifications at the end of this interview!

     There are prisoners convicted of state and federal crimes, often mixed together in state institutions, does it matter?

    The principles are exactly the same in the law. In federal prisons there are some additional provisions that grant additional rights, more than state prison systems, but what I’ll talk about is applicable to both systems.

    What are a prisoners civil rights regarding religion in prison?

    There was a law upheld by the Supreme Court (unanimous) in 2005, called the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, (RLUIPA)  which laid out the basics of what religious accommodation prisoner of all faiths have right to. What the act says is that the state is required to accommodate each and every inmates religious need.

    Continue reading

    Patheos Begins Series on Wicca

    Patheos, whom Newsweek Magazine just listed as the website to read to be smarter about religion, is running a series on Wicca in the Pagan Portal during the month of January. This is part of a monthly focus on different Pagan traditions in 2011.

    Every Monday and Friday in January Star Foster, Pagan Portal Manager, will ask a different question about Wicca. Responses to the first question – What makes someone Wiccan? – are already on the site.  Many well-known practitioners within Wicca are participating and readers are invited to send in their 250-500 word responses as well.  Below is a taste of what the series is like.

    Continue reading

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