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