Ed Fitch at Heartland Pagan Festival – Interview

Ed Fitch before his workshop on the Magick of the Seven Seas.

Ed Fitch before his workshop on the Magick of the Seven Seas.

Edward Fitch is a Wiccan High Priest of the Gardnerian tradition and was a leading figure in the rise of contemporary Wicca and Paganism in America.  Fitch was an early initiate of Raymond and Rosemary Buckland (initiated by Gerald Gardner’s home coven) after they set up the first Gardnerian coven in America. Fitch also helped to organize and chaired two Pagan Ecumenical Councils to establish the Covenant of the Goddess (COG) as an international umbrella organization representing Pagans. Through the 1980s Fitch continued to perform as a Gardnerian High Priest, but his researches also led him to initiation in a number of other traditions and orders, including:  Faerie faith, Mohsian, the Order of Osiris, the Order of the Temple of Astarte, Norse, and Ceremonial magick.

 

Fitch is the original author of “Magical Rituals from the Crystal Well”, the Pagan Way Rituals, and two classic underground books on American witchcraft:  “The Grimoire of the Shadows” and “The Outer Court Book of Shadows” (later combined by Llewellyn Publications to be published as “A Grimoire of Shadows”) as well as the Norse volume,  “The Rites of Odin”. He also wrote (uncredited) “A Book of Pagan Rituals” and is the author of the forthcoming “Revised and Updated Rituals of the Pagan Way”. (He created the original “Pagan Way” ritual system in 1972.)

I had the chance to chat with Ed before one of his workshops as guest at Heartland Pagan Festival, near Leavenworth, KS.

What was your introduction to the craft like?
I had been looking for the craft for a long time, and had been totally isolated from it. I was in Baltimore and was getting restless.  I would go out to the airport, and go to their bookstore which featured science fiction. I was out there flipping through books and came upon “Sign of the Labrys”  by Margaret St. Clair  and words started jumping out at me; “moon power”, ‘priestess”,  “coven”. I started some research on what was this “Wicca”.   This was 1963 and there was nothing in the states that I knew about. I thought , ah ha, here is someone to contact, but how in the world do I do it? It took me a year to figure to contact the publisher. I did and got an invite to drop in and visit from Margaret and Eric St. Clair. I visited them in Richmond, Ca and thought nothing of the fact they had a ceremonial sword on the wall and the living room had a triple circle inscribed there in bronze. They were brilliant people and we had great conversations. I did not know but afterward they sent a letter about me to Ray and Rosemary Buckland in Long Island. I went back into the Air force and was assigned to Hanscom Air Force Base just outside of Boston. I began to visit Ray and Rosemary and very rapidly became part of the coven.

The very first time I was there we were chatting and it approached midnight. I was going to turn in and Ray said, “No, we will be doing a ritual. We will open the circle first and we will have you come in later on.”  They prepared a consecrating bath for everyone and he flipped me a towel and in his finest English accent said, “Here, this should soak up the blood.”  Everyone had their bath, and I had mine,  and went then all down and they left me sitting in the living room dressed only in my goose bumps. I could hear chanting and a little bit of laughter. I wondered what is this all about? I had done research and knew these people did not take blood sacrifices, but … just suppose that I am wrong?  After a while Ray came with his athame, in his devilish beard and mustache and said, “We are ready for you.”  At the dark entrance to the stairs going down I said; “After you.” and Ray said, “No, no, after you!”  I walked down the stairs into the complete darkness,  being very conscious that  someone was just behind be with a drawn blade. At the bottom a curtain was opened for me. There was the ceremonial room all lit in black light.  Suddenly a beautiful naked woman leaped out at me with a dagger and said, “Yummy, fresh blood!”  I nearly had heart failure. I later discovered they were very charming people with a great sense of humor.

Did you continue to work with them?
Well for a time but eventually the Air Force sent me to Vietnam, and on to Thailand. I had little contact over there, but began the writing (1967) of the “ The Outer Court Book of Shadows”, published by Llewellyn. Some of my writing from that time has a bit of an edge on it because, well, I was being shot at from time to time!  I had been working with Ray and Rosemary for some time, and writing material for them.

Did you ever run a coven as priest, or do you prefer to work solitary?
I had an interest long before I was initiated.  Initiations were done in pairs at that time, male and female, and I did have a small coven for a while. I was in the active military and was sent all over.  My lady and myself ended up going separate ways.  I have since sometimes worked as a coven and sometimes on my own.  I find it is very good to work as a coven because you can exchange ideas, and do power workings with them. Solitary you get to study and meditate. People have personalities and there are sometimes conflicts. When that happens it is best to just ease away genially and then do your own research and study.  I like both ways of working.  I like working with my people over here on advanced work and like to bounce my ideas off my people. Of the people that I train that I think will be the best maybe one out of ten will be really spectacular. The others will be mediocre, and one or two will be toxic. I have never been able to judge human nature that well. There are advantages to the traditional Wiccan time of waiting a year and a day before an initiation. When I got started there was such a demand that people wanted it faster than that. My material was written so  people could get into it a good deal faster.

fitch1Do you believe in magic?
Yes, and I believe in gravity, even green trees and beautiful women!  A person doesn’t believe in it, one lives it. Like talking to a tree. I taught myself to link into a tree and get its life force, get its feelings.  I go to the redwood forests in California and wow, this thing is three hundred feet tall, and I am tiny compared with it. I was on a ridge line outside Los Angeles hiking alone and came upon a snag that had been killed by lightning.  I gave it an offering of water around the base, and put my hands over it and my head against it. I immediately got a splitting head ache, like I had been hit by lightning. I was communicating with something that was dead.  There was a consciousness there that goes beyond death. I found that trees are all interlinked, but that is another matter.

Do you have a vision of what Wicca and magic is offering our society for the future?
Wicca and Paganism are going to be spreading more and more. We are probably going to be seeing some of the initial effects of it with the green movement and things like that.  We are gaining more of an understanding of some of the deeper aspects of life.  When I was working for Westinghouse some forty or fifty years ago we discovered by experiment that there is an understanding of reality beyond reality, the Multi-verse.  Reality is flexible, you can effect it with your own mind. I have learned how to affect it with mine.  You have to roll and live with what is out there, live with the natural world.  I stay away from cities as much as I can, because they are toxic. I have a strong dislike for anything chaotic. It is interesting to experience life in as many ways as possible.

Do you consider yourself a traditional Gardnerian?
Gardnerianism is my home, and from there I expand outward. I really feel a person should get a start in one tradition or another, from there, go with your DNA. If you have Norse blood, great, if you have African, great, go with that. Some of my best friends are in the Roman traditions. After you have got the tradition down then you can branch out and try other ones.

Do you have a personal set of deities?
There are many, many manifestations of the Gods and Goddesses. The Garderians work with the God and Goddess, but when I am up in the mountains I may give an invocation to Thor.  If  I am near the ocean I may work with the Lady of the Seas, or Poseidon, or what the hell, even Davy Jones.  There is only one deity force but he or she has ten thousand names and more. Just pick the ones you can relate to the best. I like the Goddess because she is pretty, and very, very magical. As Freya, she kicks butt!

How have your travels and the spirituality you found there influenced you?
The reason I did the Odinist book is because I spent several summers in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, and the British high country. The military sent me to the orient and I learned a bit of their view of things, and followed up on it with study. In Japan the oldest legend is that they were founded by the seven little Gods who sailed up from the south.  I still have a sculpture of this with the seven gods on their ship. Each has one  has one of the major aspects of civilization.  In Sumerian legend, Inanna wanted to get civilization started but her father had the seventy-two “Me”, magical scrolls, I think.  She sailed her boat up the river to the God, smoozed him and got him drunk, and then sweet talked him. She got all the Me loaded on her boat and sailed away before he knew what had happened. He was angry, but she had gotten the basis for civilization. I like Inanna, she was a sex goddess, a war-goddess, loved to go into taverns. She went down into hell, got killed and then came back again.

Where does your path lead you today?
I am going to continue writing because I want to get my ideas out. It helps people in their own paths and begins to change society in what little I can contribute to it. The royalties are trivial, but still good. Will I continue to work in a group? Yes, but I also continue to do researching  and reading and trying out new things. I have not lost any students as of yet, though I push the edge sometimes. I will have my elders coven come over and say, “Lets step on out, I want to have you do face and shape changing.”  I have a special technique that I have researched and written for this, and worked on for years with my ex-wife, Janine Renée . Through this you can change your appearance. You can actually feel the flesh and the bones moving and changing their appearance.  This is a trick, but the deepest part is what happens in the mind. Or lighting a magical flame. You have a candle and everyone concentrates on breathing the element of fire in and putting it there on the candle. It will light and the blue glow spreads all over, and onto your hands. This is great for healing, but that is yet another matter.

There are many things that I do not understand, but I am fascinated by them all. It’s a big, complex and intriguing universe of magic!

 

Nels Linde

Deborah Lipp at Paganicon – Interview

Paganicon 4 begins this Friday

Deborah Lipp

Deborah Lipp

March 14th  7pm – 16th 4pm

at the Doubletree Park Place

St. Louis Park , MN

Deborah Lipp and Oberon Zell-Ravenheart are Guests of Honor

I got the chance to interview Deborah Lipp about her appearance beginning Friday at Paganicon

You will be sharing the opening remarks for Paganicon with Oberon?
Yes, we have known each other for many years. We discussed the talk and were on the same page so we decided to work together on the keynote address. The talk will be about our Pagan history, its importance, and how to preserve it, and to know who we are, and then lead into some ideas about the future.  I published a memoir about a year ago, and now Oberon has one that has just come out. I was particularly affected by the death of my ex-husband (Isaac Bonewits), and felt very strongly the importance of history, of knowing who we are and who we came from.

You also have a long time history of participating in the Pagan festival movement?
I have been a festival participant quite literally from the beginning. I went to my first festival, well, right before I was initiated at age 21. Before my son was born, I went to 3-4 Pagan festivals a year. After his birth it was more difficult and I have slowed down, but I have been going to festivals for more than 30 years. Festivals were something that my high priestess, as a young witch, was very adamant about. Going to festivals was a way of meeting people, of exchanging ideas, of learning cool new chants to use in ritual. It was important. This is a part of Pagan history, too. As a young Pagan entering the community and you may not value festivals because they are corny, people dress funny, and you have to sleep in a tent. They don’t understand that the existence of the festival movement, which began in the eighties and didn’t really take off for another five years, transformed the face of the Pagan community. It is one of the most significant contributions to the Pagan community of the last thirty years. Before there was an internet, there was a Pagan festival movement.

Has the role of festivals changed over the years?
Electronic socializing has become really important. The fact that there are now so many ways to communicate as Pagans has diminished some of the importance of the festival movement. Now ten years after the rise of festivals we have what I would call the solitary movement. Prior to the publication of “Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner”, people were not solitary by choice. People were solitary because they could not find other people to work with, period. A solitary was a person who had not yet found a group. The idea that you can be solitary because you want to be was facilitated by the festival movement because you can be solitary and at festival still share ritual with others. There you have a community that you can connect with. People make fun of it, you know, Beltain and Samhain Pagans, party Pagans, and such. The fact is coven work is not for everyone. The festival movement provided a source of different models for how to be Pagan. Maybe you have a 11 months  private solitary practice and then one month at festival and spend time connecting with your community. For those of us who came up through a coven system, festivals were our first insight into other ways to express Paganism, and how to relate to our community.

What about the beginnings of indoor Pagan conferences?
They have been around our community just as long as any festival. The first indoor festival was Gnosticon. The convention style event has always been a part of the mix. Every festival type event will have its own particular flavor. Some are intellectual, or ritual “heavy hitters”. Other may have a music or arts focus, or be more “party” oriented. Some festivals are more geek oriented and have a relationship to that culture in their personality. I have been to festivals all over the world, from Australia to Canada to Brazil. The people pretty much all look alike, they all look like Pagans. You feel at home and a sense of community, but the style and personality will vary.

What will the “Way of Four” workshop at Paganicon cover?
This will be drawn from my book, The Way of Four, about the four elements.  The workshop will cover, “What are the four elements. What parts of life do they apply to? How do they affect you? How do you work with them? How do you use an understanding of the four elements to enhance your quality of life?” The attendees will help guide the direction that we go in during the workshop. It is sometimes very interpersonal and questions about elemental issues and ideas may direct the focus of the workshop. First and foremost it is about a basic understanding of the four elements. The four elements are the building blocks of all occultism. I am passionate about that. You cannot read the Tarot, do high magic, or use astrology without understanding the four elements. They affect not just Wicca or magic, but nearly everything in the occult. We will come away with a deep set of correspondences with the four elements and then learn to apply them to different situations. This is one of my favorite workshops.

You wrote two books on the Way of Four, though.
When I wrote The Way of Four, I was trying to be very complete. Write down everything about the four elements, four elements in meditation, in nature, in your love life, in your home, in work. This how I write. As I was doing this I eventually got to “spells” of the four elements. As I worked I several times said, “You know I could write a whole book about this.” Out of this came the book “The Way of Four Spellbook” which is specifically about spells and magic. It is really a “how to” instructional book rather than a recipe book, each spell serves as an example of the lesson just discussed in the book. A sex magic spell would fall under the element of fire type of spell. We can just mention that in the interview because then everyone will perk up and listen and want to attend the workshop!

The “Heroes Journey” workshop centers around the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Are you a fan?
Yes I actually performed in it at the Eighth Street Playhouse in New York City, back in the day. It was a floor show or, as it now called, a “shadow cast”. You perform the movie live while the movie is going on. I am very interested in pop culture as a modern mythology and a modern form of religious expression. Rocky Horror, with its passionate cult following, is the perfect event to have this discussion around.

What do bring to Paganicon that will attract us?
First, I talk a good game, I hope you have noticed this! I am very entertaining, part Wicca, part stand up comedy. People do appreciate that because most writers are introverts. I am very extroverted, very talkative, and that is fun to experience. You get the kind of knowledge you expect from someone who has written six books but I’m also someone who is used to being interactive and thinking on my feet. Many writers can’t take Q & A and have to work from a prepared text. I am not like that. I would never call myself an elder because I am still youthful, and very cute! I have been in the community for thirty years and know what I am doing. I have been all over the world and have a deep knowledge and experience about what I know. I write about traditional Wicca and Paganism as understood by a traditional Wiccan.

Paganicon begins this Friday at 7pm and runs through Sunday at 4pm.  Located just five minutes West of Downtown Minneapolis.

Featured Friday evening is the Keynote address and the opening of  “The Third Offering: A Sacred Gallery Space Arts”, and on Saturday at 8pm the “Embracing the Elements Equinox Ball”.

Registration is available for the whole event, by the day, or just for the Saturday Ball at the door. Lodging at the hotel is still available and extra.

Nels Linde

Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone – Interview Part 2 Deity and Trance

Part two of this interview series with Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone ,  guests at Heartland Spirit Festival , this continues from the first portion of our interview. This section of the interview focuses on the current practice of  Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone, what they have experienced with deity work and integrated.

Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone

Nels (N) :Is it easier to speak to the deities now?

Gavin (G) : Something interesting is going on, as Pagans we have been waking the gods since the 1950’s. Voudon and the Caribbean traditions has a few hundred years on us! When you go to a Voudon Bembe, with its ecstatic drumming and dancing,  they come through really strong, riding (possessing) the participants. We are now reaching the point where this beginning to happen now in modern neo-paganism, even though it has only been fifty years.  This is because we have been waking the gods up. We have noticed something interesting as we have done the work. We are forming a Neo-Pagan pantheon. We only have a finite amount of energy to give the gods as spirits as they wake up.  You see the same gods and goddess coming up all the time in our community. Hecate, Brid, Isis, Morrigan, Freja, Odin, Diana etc.  Because there is only this finite amount of energy for them, they are congregating and forming a  new pantheon.  All awakened gods from different cultures forming a pantheon, and redefining roles.

Hecate Photo: wikimedia

Over the years as we done trance possession we have kept having Hecate appearing, even though neither of us have felt inclined to work with her,  but now it seems we haven’t got much choice! As we did the trance prophesy she started coming through at almost every event and  public workshop. We had strange occurrences.  On one occasion we started  conversation wither her in Connecticut through a priestess in trance, and she finished with us, unprompted with a priestess in California.  Now it has reached a point where when she comes through somebody, I will know if it is Hecate, because she will burst into fits of laughter when she knows it is me!

Janet (J) :  The last time it happened in America she turned around and said to Gavin, “Oh God, it’s not you again”.

G:  She has been developing and evolving and  has taken on the role of teaching trance with in this new ‘pantheon’.

J:  She is taking on the role of a psychopomp for trance, quite fascinating.

G:  This does  mimic what happens in voudon. She is taking the same role as Elegba/Ellegua.  You also have other deities fulfilling other roles as well. That is what is starting to occur, as simple as that. You see it where Brid is taking over the healing role. Brid is forming into three Brid’s, the triple goddess Brid consisting of the original Celtic Brid, Saint Bridget, and Maman Bridget from Voudon. Every priestess we know who works with Brid has found that is what is occurring. Suddenly they get this dark aspect of Brid, this dark earth goddess, the Maman Bridget from Haiti. It is getting drawn to them to balance the other two aspects.

J:  There is the Brid of fire, who says right, you are going to be my priestess but I am going to put you through hell, put you on my anvil and beat the shit out of you! She is an initiatory type of goddess.

G:  The Morrigan is a protective type of goddess, the Macha.  We are also seeing that Freya, who is taking on a different type of role. She is a goddess of journeying.  Which is how this all started for us, by working Freya.

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Pagan and Poly – A Poly Family – an Interview Series

I talked to Johnny about his polyamorous family. His long term relationship was impacted early on by the birth of triplets. They are a family of six, with Ivy and Divi, and the triplets.

How long have you been involved in polyamory?
About 14 years, we had been looking for a third person for probably 3 or 4 years before we met Divi. We have been together almost ten years. It was something we felt might finish balancing our relationship.

Is your relationship legally formed?
With us it has been a matter of mutual respect  and honor. Treating the relationship as if it was a legal and binding marriage situation. You can’t do that in this society. Three people can own a home, it is hard for three people to own a car, it is even harder for three people to have a checking account with a money card for each. We have simply honored ourselves as a family, especially when it comes to the children. We have just always acted as though we have the same say, the same rights, same decision making authority. I am recorded as the father of the children.

Do you live together as a family?
We are a nuclear family. We went through the pregnancy together and are raising the kids together. We share the bills together.  Everything that the traditional nuclear family does, we do together, except there are three of us.

Photo: Jezebel.com

Were having the kids part of the motivation for polyamory?
Part of our search of finding a third was to open the possibility of having kids. It was something we had been talking about at the time the triplets came along. The triplets were spontaneously conceived, we weren’t using any fertility treatments. It is just the way things went.

Continue reading

DC Pagan Community Center Set For Year End Opening

The Open Hearth Foundation has secured a space for the District of Columbia (DC) Pagan Community Center.  I interviewed Iris Firemoon, foundation board member, about the securing of a space and the Community Center launch planned for December 31st.

Are you excited at the prospect of the DC Community Center opening?

DC Community Center Space

DC Community Center Space photo: Capital Witch

We are very excited! We signed a lease at the end of September, and took possession of the space on October 3rd. We have been hitting the ground running since then. Our official launch will be December 31st of this year, and we will have a launch party.

 How did you put this all together?

photo: Capitol Witch

The Open Hearth Foundation was founded in 1999.  Several groups, area leaders , and individuals came together and decided that they needed a space that could accommodate the kind of work that a lot of Pagan groups do. We need a space where we can stay past midnight; where we aren’t worried about out drums being too loud; we are not worried about inviting strangers or the public to our home and to putting our address on the internet; where we can store the things that a group may need. They noted all these things and built a framework for what they wanted in a Pagan Community Center. Over the last 12 years we have been raising the money to get there. Continue reading