Part two of this interview series with Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone , guests at Heartland Spirit Festival , this continues from the second portion of our interview. This section of the interview focuses on life in Ireland and a look into where deity work is moving Neo-Paganism in the future.
Nels (N) : What happens when Pagan culture get truly in touch with their deities?
Janet (J) : This is the manifestation in Ireland, which is truly wonderful the resurgence of many of the old faith festivals. I am one of only five legal pagans in all of Ireland allowed to legally marry people. A legal solemnizer. I am on the health board as a hospital visitor. Ireland is a tiny island, but this is a major break through. Around 1982 Stewart and I won the first witchcraft case in Ireland and changed the law which had made witchcraft illegal. It went to the high court in Dublin, and was given compensation because when “Eight Sabbats’ (A Witches Bible) came out a journalist called it devil worshiping, porn blasphemy. We won the entire case and were taken out be all the high court judges for a champagne reception.
Gavin (G): This really explains what has been going on in Ireland at the moment. One of the effects of working the way we have is that now the deities don’t care whether you are Pagan or not. They want to come through, they want to speak, and they want the connection to develop. This happened in Ireland because as the Catholic church began to lose control from the early 2000’s the people of Ireland still wanted that connection to their spirituality. Initially they sought it through the Catholic church, but now we now find ourselves involved in ceremonies with the general public, particularly one at Samhain every year in County Meath at the Hill of Ward, also known as Tlachta.
J: Tlachta is the only witch goddess in the whole of Ireland that the church fathers, the monks, tried to write out of the history. But they ultimately failed.
G: Brid is not technically a witchcraft goddess, although some people say she is. Tlachta is the only goddess where the word witchcraft is actually associated with her. Every year there is a procession up the hill and the witches group, along with the Druids, are the ones that lead it. When we get to the top we tell the old story of her, and the traditional Samhain fire is lit. The majority of the people behind are not Pagan. They are good Catholics who are probably off to church on Sunday.
J: Half way up the hill is the well of Tlachta. We have a woman cloaked doing trance work and beside her we have a Knight in full armor, so if anyone hassles her, he is there. All the witches and Druids pass with their flaming torches and behind them come all the villagers singing, “Tlachta Lady, goddess fair, light your night on moonlit air…..” . They sing a chant to this goddess as we light our fires. These Catholics are singing to a Pagan goddess. When they have all passed the parents bring their children to the lady of the well, Tlachta herself, to prophesize for them. To put her hands on them, and bless them.
Video from Tlachta Samhain Ritual
(N) : Why this revival now?
G: This is where we are now as a community, asking this question ‘Why are we here?’ just a child does. In the late 1960’s Alex Sanders was asking the same question, “Why is this Pagan movement coming to being now?” At the birth of the revival in the 1950’s it was of course the first time mankind was capable of destroying the planet. If Now we look at what effect the Pagan movement has had through deities working in the background. I cite Matthew Fox [a dominican priest ] who was influenced by Starhawk [and includes her in interfaith work] and his influence with the church of England regarding Creationalist Spirituality. Now the Church of England has taken on ecological doctrines. That is a change in the world. In the pulpits, the official religion of England and the establishment are teaching ecology because of the Neo-Pagan movement.
J: In Ireland it is about the fact that one day, years ago, the Catholic church would honor these festivals, but now it doesn’t do it. What the Craft, and the Druids have done is we are bringing them back to their roots, that they want to be part of so it doesn’t die. The old story tellers round the fire, the Seanachai would sit round and tell the stories. People would enact and go through those old pre-Christian rituals. They didn’t know they were honoring the old gods, but they would do it. This has given them back what they really only lost from the 1940’s onward.
(N) : Do the Christians in Ireland see themselves as being transformed?
G: They see themselves as returning back to what they used to do, but it has changed.
(N) : How are you treated locally in Ireland now?
J: In our village in that we are living, well not so much a village anymore, but a suburb of Dublin. People walk up and say, “Hi Janet, Hi Gavin”. I do Tarot Readings for local people while Gavin is known as a local healer with ‘the cure for the sinuses.’
G: It is a tradition that every healer has a cure for something different. One day I was in a shop and a woman had terrible sinus problems, so I did healing on her and cleared them. In Ireland it is all word of mouth. Next thing you know people are turning up on our doorstep for healing.
(N) : Is speaking with the deities helping us?
G: As far as trance possession, it is about creating ripple, about dropping pebble in a pond. It is chaos theory, you make one little change and you change the world. You have got the divine, the spirit coming through. It doesn’t matter if it is coming through as Odin, the Macha, Isis, or a Hindu goddess, if it is the divine coming through it is causing change. When you change one person, you change the world. Now you are making a direct connection with the divine, so the ripples are getting slightly bigger. Genuine divine prophesy is not so much prophesy as it is divine direction. If you go back to the Greeks there are stories that describe the effects that divine prophesy can have. If you look at it from the negative viewpoint like Oedipus, it is all about what happens after prophesy, and the fact the Oedipus takes it from a negative viewpoint. If a deity comes through and tells prophesy to a person, it will have an effect on the larger world and cause some changes. This is what we have seen. This is the purpose, to change the world for the better.
From the qabalistic view of things you could call it the “lightning flash”. That is what we have been doing since the 1950’s bringing the lightning flash down. Originally in Wicca there was the God and Goddess. They were both feminine, Chockma -Binah, because we have a lunar God, and a Lunar goddess. Originally we had the one God, Kether. That is Yahwe, the man wearing the white dress and the beard sitting on the throne, who is actually baby Zeus. Now we are back to Chockma -Binah, that concept of the god and goddess is still really hard to connect with, but the lightning flash has been coming down. Now we have gone from this monotheistic idea where all gods are one god and all goddesses are one goddess, into polytheism, and it brings the lightning flash down.
(N) : Is there something beyond polytheism?
J: Beyond that is Animism. The problem with animism is unless you are going to go out into the woods with a knife in your hand and be willing to live of the land, for a long period of time you aren’t going to fully understand animism and make connection with the spirits of everything. You have to be willing to let go and be fully integrated into nature.
G: Unless you are willing to do this then you will never really make an animistic connection, so where we are at is polytheism. With polytheism you are bringing that lightning flash down into the world we have now. You are bringing that spirit down, it is beginning to happen.
J: I don’t call myself an animist, because I haven’t done it. Living in the country with Gavin as I do, we are more aware of the animistic aspect. We cannot claim that we have totally experienced it, but it is by our nose, and we are influenced by it. We are aware of what is there around us, and in the earth. Every morning I get up and watch out my windows out there, and I feel it. I feel the heartbeat of the earth, it is as simple as that. A lot of people in town unfortunately don’t feel it because it is not there. It is the closest we can get unless we go out and do it. We have one priest who is actually doing it. He is not yet an animist, but he does it. He teaches survival, you go out there with nothing.
G: I have met two or three animists in my life, and these are people who just go out in the woods with a knife. One is woman from Papau-New Guinea. Out there in the woods you begin to connect with the spirits over a period of time. Having to kill for food, and pick for food, that connects you so strongly you begin to see the spirits there. You only really experience that by being out in the woods or the jungle for a long period of time.
J: When we contact just that “touch” of animism. I get bit terribly by mosquitoes, I am food. I may say, ”Get off you bastards”, but I am so aware of why they are there. They don’t know they are hurting me, they are looking for food.
G; We have to be realistic about what we can experience. We are moving in the Pagan community into polytheism. I don’t think we will ever move into animism because we are not willing to move with that level of commitment, nor can we do that.
(N) : Why do you include medium-ship with this work?
G: One of the effects of working with the deities, is you also find out you are also working with the dead. Some of that is because we are also working with the goddess, the Cailleach, who is a death goddess.
J: She is also a goddess of the rocks of the land.
G: We ended up working in the area of passing souls over, at the time of disasters, like the great tsunami. We would bring the temple group together to make sure sould passed over. Sometimes we would work with dieties from that area. For the Indonesian Tsunami we ended up working with Quan yin, Ganesh, Mohammad, to get them over. Janet did a painting just a few weeks before the tsunami of the Durga, who is from that area. She kept inking in these temples and then washing water over them.
J: That is sensitive.
G: If you work with deities and the dead, you get sensitive to all the spirits. When you do trance possession and trance prophesy work it makes you sensitive to the spirits around you, what in Ireland we call the Sidhe. We have had experiences with them since. People that we have trained in that work have to understand all the spirit realms.
J: You know all the crystals you see people sell, and I like my crystals as well. They are all pretty, pretty. The only way to really feel them, what they are doing, remember they don’t react in time and space as we do, is to go deep underground into caves and see stalactites and stalagmites. Every drip that forms them, it takes thousands, millions of years to form them. That is the only way to really experience real element of those crystals, where they are just there. They are as old as time, they have been there and done that, and then a man comes in and shines a light on and discovers them.
(N) : How is trance possession relevant to others?
G: It is becoming more relevant. It is not just that one person pops up with it, it is spontaneous in different places. We have seen this before. This is what is happening, it is rising up. It is not just us working on this, there is Diana Paxson working on this, and others. We are not in competition, we are talking, “What are you doing, what have you experienced?”. This is how we are moving this forward.
J: This is why when people say, “What tradition are you?”, we say, “We are not, we have walked away from that.” That is not what it is about. We are Priest and Priestess of our deity. No matter who you are or what you are, it is nice to know where you came from. It is not about “lineage”, you are priest or priestess who serve the divine. If you want to do this work, and learn from it, we are here to help you.
(N) : How long have you been doing this particular kind of work?
G: When Janet and I got together, we were priest and priestesses of Freya, that was in 1993. That was one of the moving factors for ending up as a partnership.
J: I was started on this path with Doreen Valiente back in the 1980’s.
G: We started to experiment with the Seith. This was the original anglo saxon trance prophesy work. This was not originally trance possession work, but it has changed. We were trying to work with people at drawing down the moon and were looking at seith. That is how it started, and it evolved from there.
We started to publicly teach it at a couple of workshops in australia in 2002. eventually it developed to a two-day workshop with ecstatic ritual. On of the rules we developed was where ever we were to do the trance possession workshop must have done the other intensive beforehand. This is the energy work, and the cosmology.
(N) : Do people who do this work truly become servants of the Gods?
G: It is sometimes a process where it causes them to go through a spiritual initiation. For some people it is just an experience, for some it makes a major change. In two days you can really teach it completely, but you can put the mechanisms in place for them. If they want to carry on, well we always do back up.
(N) : Is a festival setting appropriate for learning trance possession?
G: At a festival we do just a light overview in an hour an a half to get the feel of it. You get the basics of what you learn and just get what you need to learn. At an intensive, if we have some of our students there, we can do a trance possession demonstration. That is what is coming up on the East coast, because we have lots of students out there.
G: We do two days, and the first day is all energy work. This includes the basic method for drawing down the moon. You can’t go full into the trance prophesy, but it goes through the energy work in one day, and then the spiritual cosmology, mythology, psychology the next day. This give people learning tools that work.
This concludes this Interview. Many thanks again to Janet and Gavin for spending several hours elaborating on what they offered as workshops at the festival, and frankly sharing their thoughts with me. They can be contacted through their website callaighe.com.
A Witches Bible – Janet and Stewart Farrar (Phoenix Publishing)
The Witches Goddess – Janet and Stewart Farrar (Phoenix Publishing)
The Witches God – Janet and Stewart Farrar (Phoenix Publishing)
Spells and How they Work – Janet and Stewart Farrar (Phoenix Publishing)
The Pagan Path – Janet and Stewart Farrar, and Gavin Bone (Phoenix Publishing)
The Healing Craft – Janet and Stewart Farrar, and Gavin Bone (Phoenix Publishing/Acorn Guild Publishing)
The Inner Mysteries – Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone (Achttp://www.callaighe.com/orn Guild Publishing)