Interviews

Interview with John Michael Greer

April, 2009

john1

Patrick Claflin ©

“The and Practice of Geomancy”, by John Michael Greer is a must have for every magician.  Greer has blessed us all with his literary genius in a world where it is sorely needed, granting the reader a precise path leading to an accretion of astonishing magnitude by taking a knowledge long since forgotten and revitalizing it in to an engaging insightful and practical spiritual manner..

~ Michele Burke, Pagan Pages.org

Pagan Pages: This may sound like a strange question to ask to start an interview, but who is John Michael Greer tells us more about the man behind the book?

John Michael Greer: Well, you’ve met computer geeks, right?  Back in my teen years, I was an occult geek, the kind of kid who always had an armload of books checked out from the section of the library your mother didn’t want you to visit. Come to think of it, I still usually have an armload of books checked out from that part of the library, so I may still qualify as an occult geek. When most of my generations were getting into computers and first generation video games, I was studying occult philosophy and practicing rituals. Not a good career path at first – I spent quite a few years working at dead-end jobs while trying to break into print as a writer – but things finally came together in 1995, when I placed my first book with a publisher, and it’s been onward and upward since then.  To borrow a phrase from Jerry Garcia, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”

PP: How has being the Arch Druid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America (AODA), helped or hindered your work in geomancy divination?

JMG: Well, it’s certainly kept me busy with things other than geomancy. When I was elected Grand Archdruid of AODA in 2003, there were fewer than a dozen members of the order, and I was the youngest by nearly thirty years. We had a lot of rebuilding to do. I’ve had a lot of help, from the old guard and a lot of very talented newcomers alike, but a lot of things had to be pushed to one side.

PP: What inspired you the most in writing the and Practice of Geomancy?

JMG: The old geomantic texts from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The version of geomancy taught in those sources goes far beyond what you’ll find in most modern books on the subject – it’s deeper and more comprehensive, but it’s also much simpler to learn and use. Most of my work on this book was simply a matter of explaining the ancient techniques in modern language.

PP: Geomancy, what is it? And when did you first begin using it as a divination tool.

JMG: It’s a western equivalent of the I Ching, a divination system that uses sixteen figures formed from single and double dots. You cast four of them using a random method, and then use simple processes of rearrangement and addition to create twelve more figures from them, and interpret the resulting chart. Five hundred years ago it was one of the most popular oracles in the Western world; all through the middle ages and the Renaissance, if you wanted a divination, you were as likely to go to a geomancer as anything else.

I got started in geomancy in my teen years, when I began studying the Golden Dawn system of magic. The Golden Dawn teachings include a very simple form of geomancy, and it wasn’t until the early 1990s, when I found one of the old Latin geomancy texts, that I started to realize just how much more there was to the art. It’s far and away my favorite divination method these days.

PP: I have always been very much intrigued by astrology and geomancy, is the art of geomancy a very hard tool of divination to learn, if not can it be self taught or is it better to find a mentor?

JMG: Geomancy is much easier than astrology.  It’s one of the easiest oracles to learn how to use, because there’s not that much you have to memorize:  sixteen figures, a very simple process for casting a chart, and a set of rules for interpretation that most people can pick up in a few minutes. I usually find, when I do workshops in geomancy, that I can take people who’ve never had any exposure to geomancy at all, and have them casting and interpreting charts in about three hours. Still, you do not need a teacher; my book covers everything you need to know, and it’s perfectly possible to learn the art by picking up the book and studying it.

PP: `Can you give the readers a little detail into the history of Geomancy?

JMG: We do not actually know where geomancy comes from, though there is some evidence that it was invented in Africa. It first shows up in historical records in the 9th century in North Africa, and became popular all over the Arabic world. From there it spread into Europe, where it became as common as astrology for centuries. When the magical traditions of the Western world got tossed into the dumpster during the scientific revolution, though, it was almost completely forgotten, and only very simple forms of it were revived – before now, that is.

PP: What is the anima mundi?

JMG: You have heard of the Gaia Hypothesis, the scientific theory that the Earth is a living organism? Medieval and Renaissance magicians were there hundreds of years ago. The Latin phrase anima mundi literally means “soul of the world.” The old magicians insisted that the Earth is a living, conscious being, and the way the figures come out in geomantic charts were believed to be shaped by patterns in the anima mundi.

PP: In your book the and Practice of Geomancy the section entitled “the Soul of the World”, you speak about the differences in the traditional geomantic practices from most modern magical paths and can you give a little insight into how these paths can be successfully practiced today?

JMG: Most modern magicians, especially since Aleister Crowley popularized the concept, think of magic in terms of raw willpower forcing the universe to obey. The old medieval and Renaissance occultists had a different view. They saw that the currents of magical force in the cosmos could be used the way a sailboat uses the wind. Instead of trying to browbeat the universe into obedience, they caught the winds and tides of power and let the natural flow of things take them where they wanted to go. It is a much more elegant approach, and geomancy is one of the ways it can be done.

PP: How are the figures and the four elements linked to this form of divination?

JMG: Each of the sixteen figures is made up of four lines, and each line can have either a single or a double dot. Each line represents one of the elements; a single dot means the element is active, a double dot that the element is inactive. So each figure is a chart of the way the balance of elements is working at that moment in that part of your life.

PP: Can you explain to the readers what you feel the ethics of divination are?

JMG: To some extent that’s a question each diviner needs to settle for him or herself. There are things I won’t do for ethical reasons – for example, if somebody asked me for a reading about how to mess someone over, magically or otherwise, I’d tell them they have to ask some other diviner. There are also things I won’t do for legal reasons – anyone who tries to use divination to diagnose diseases, for example, is risking serious legal trouble.

PP: What happens when someone ask you to divine a question regarding a third party?

JMG: Geomancy has a special way of asking questions like that. The geomantic chart has twelve houses, just like an astrological chart, and any other person in your life is represented by one of those houses.  Each house contains one geomantic figure, and so that figure and its relationships to the rest of the chart can tell you a lot about the person who occupies that role in your life.

PP: How are meditation and scrying associated to geomancy?

JMG: Traditionally, oracles such as geomancy were not just used for divination. They are western methods of meditation – most people do not realize that – and of course there is also the art of scrying, which is the old word for what we now call clairvoyance or remote viewing. Both of those can be practiced using the geomantic figures as a foundation, with very good results.

PP: What are the main principles of geomantic magic and what would be a prime example of a geomantic ritual?

JMG: Since the geomantic figures are charts of elemental relationships, you can work very powerful magic by deciding which of those relationship patterns you need to strengthen in your own life, and using the geomantic figure that corresponds to it. The classic way to do that is to make a geomantic talisman of that figure and consecrate it with a ritual at an appropriate time, when the influences corresponding to that figure are at maximum power. The talisman then radiates that influence in your life. It is simple, elegant, and very effective.

PP: So tell me, do you foresee a new book in your near future?   If so will I have one of the first cracks at it LOL?

JMG:
This has been a very busy winter for me – due to publisher’s schedules, I have had three books just come out and another one due out any day now! Besides The and Practice of Geomancy, the books already out are The Long Descent, which is on the subject of peak oil and the future of industrial society, and The Fires of Shalsha, my first published science fiction novel.  The one that is about to come out is The UFO Phenomenon, which ought to offend true believers and diehard skeptics about equally. I’ll make sure you get a copy!

Beyond that, I’m actually between book projects just now – I haven’t decided what my next book will be. I’ll keep you posted.

Bountiful Blessings go out to John Michael Geer for his magnificent work in the and Practice of Geomancy.  I want to thank you for giving the world the opportunity to gain a working knowledge of an ancient and mysterious tool of divination.

May the blessings of Dagda be always with you.

Works of John Michael Greer:

Paths of Wisdom (Llewellyn, 1996; Thoth, 2007)

Circles of Power (Llewellyn, 1997)

Inside a Magical Lodge (Llewellyn, 1998)

Earth

    • Divination

  • , Earth Magic (Llewellyn, 1999)

    Monsters (Llewellyn, 2001)

    The New Encyclopedia of the Occult (Llewellyn, 2003)

    Learning Ritual Magic (with Clare Vaughn and Earl King Jr.; Weiser, 2004)

    Natural Magic (Llewellyn, 2000; reissued as Encyclopedia of Natural Magic in 2005)

    A World Full of Gods (ADF Publications, 2005)

    Academy of the Sword (translation of 1630 original; Chivalry helf, 2005)

    The Druidry Handbook (Weiser, 2006)

    The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies (HarperElement, 2006)

    Pagan Prayer Beads (with Clare Vaughn; Weiser, 2007)

    Atlantis (Llewellyn, 2007)

    The Geomancer’s Handbook (Renaissance Astrology, 2007)

    The Druid Magic Handbook (Weiser, 2008)

    The Long Descent (New Society, 2008)

    The and Practice of Geomancy (Weiser, 2009)

    The Fires of Shalsha (science fiction: Starseed Publications, 2009)

    The UFO Phenomenon (Llewellyn, 2009)

    The Ecotechnic Future (New Society, 2009)

    Associated Links:

    Ancient Order of Druids in America, http://www.aoda.org

    Archdruid Report blog, http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com

    Interview with Kala Ambrose

    April, 2009

    kala

    Courtesy of Kala Ambrose

    “9 Life Altering Lessons”, by Kala Ambrose, Kala’s inspirational genius leads the reader on an expedition throughout the ages revealing the secrets therein. Secrets that when practiced can lead not only the seasoned student but those just beginning to search for answers to life’s mysterious lessons.

    ~ Michele Burke, Pagan Pages.org

    Pagan Pages: What were the driving forces that led you to write the 9 Life Altering Lessons?
    Kala Ambrose: It was a very natural extension of myself to write 9 Lessons, though I also had a great amount of urging from both students from my mystery school here on the earth plane, as well as my guides and muses from the other planes.  There was a sense that the time has come, for mystery schools to come forward again and return to the place they once held, as a temple of light, learning, healing and magic. We’re evolving again as a species and each time the light circles back around for a renewed period of growth, mystery schools come forth again to teach as they say, to those who heed the call and who have the eyes in which to see and the ears to hear.  Mystery schools are always here in one form or another on the earth plane, sometimes more in the public eye than in other times.
    PP: From which mystery school do you draw your knowledge?
    KA: My knowledge comes from several mystery schools from Egypt, Greece, India and Sumeria, as well as a lifetime of study of comparative religion and ancient myths. As a child, I spent every moment I could in the library, reading and engaging in discussions with anyone who would listen to me there, about what was written incorrectly in the mythologies. I came back with intuitive ability as well as many memories from former lifetimes. I was very fortunate to have many family members who were both supportive and understanding of these abilities. My mother was a wonderful force for me in this way, allowing me to study the Tarot at the age of 13 as well as astrology and other ancient arts. I had a desire to attend as many different types of churches as I could experience and she allowed me to follow this feeling, rather than forcing me to only attend the church our family attended.

    I’ve lived around the country, from Louisiana, Texas, Alaska, Hawaii, California, Washington, Florida and other beautiful and sacred spaces. This allowed me to meet and attend a wide variety of temples, churches, and spiritual centers as well as study and interact with people from all religions.  I also enjoyed studying comparative religion, with a special attraction not just to Egypt, but to India, Sumeria and the Celtic culture.  I realized that all of these paths were leading me to the same place, which had to do with the ancient teachings of the mystery schools of ancient Egypt and Greece.  As I continued to work on myself spiritually, teachers began to appear to me in synchronistic ways, two of them from mystery schools that are very old and do not advertise, their belief is that if you are meant to find a teacher from one of these orders, your path will cross. When the time came, I did meet them and was able to study the teachings. This led to undergoing a series of rituals, which then fully opened the connection to my past lives, and remembering Who I Am, Where I Came From and What I Am Doing Here in the lifetime. A third mystery school that I studied with, which is a public school and is open to anyone, is Astara, which I highly recommend.  I now teach students at my mystery school, which is The Temple of Stella Maris, (www.templeofstellamaris.org)
    PP: Did it take you a long time to write the 9 Life Altering Lessons?
    KA: That’s a great question. Can I answer Yes and No. 🙂  I say Yes, because the book is based on lifetimes of learning bringing me to this point as a teacher of the ancient wisdom teachings, where I can effectively share this information, so the background work and research on this book, was literally lifetimes in the making.  As far as putting it onto paper, I find that I’m a fairly quick writer once I get started on a project. The actual writing of the book took 9 months. The number 9 was with me in many stages of this book and as in all things, I found this to be no accident.
    PP: What are the main principles of the 9 Life Altering Lessons and what would be a prime example of these principles?
    KA: The main principle of the book is to connect with the concept that we are not bound by the third dimensional world that we currently understand. We are able to explore, create and activate in the fourth, fifth and sixth dimensions and we are rapidly opening up to many more.  When working in these dimensions, we realize that we are limitless, ageless and part of the infinite. It is through this understanding where all magic takes place, in nature, on earth, in the higher realms and within and through each of us.

    This is not a new concept that we are Creators and that we have the ability to be more than we imagined, we’ve been taught this throughout the ages. The principles in my book, the nine (life-altering) lessons, explain the journey taken by students who wish to explore this path and connect with this flow of energy.   I mention how everything “old is new age again”, meaning that these conceptual teachings have been with humanity from the start and continue to cycle throughout the ages.  They have been shared in “exoteric” form, which loosely explain how one can think about something enough to attract it to them, but this is not the full teaching.

    Esoteric teachings explain the deep inner process, which takes a dedicated amount of study and transformation from the soul level. To be a Creator, there is work to be done and it requires more than wishing or thinking about it. There is a hermetic teaching, As Above, So Below, As Within, So Without.  This is a very deep teaching, which explains how the universe works and flows. It corresponds with who we are and that what we think about is expressed outwardly.  Each of the nine lessons build upon each other and are intertwined. For example, we really can’t explain As Above So Below, without referring to Lesson Five: We Are Greater Than We Remember Ourselves To Be, which discusses the axiom of Man Know Thyself, as was carved above temple doorways in ancient Greece. Until we can fully answer the question, Who Am I, it’s difficult to understand what is within or without or how we can activate and operate in the other dimensions. Humanity often searches outwardly to seek for answers, which leads to entertaining, but not necessarily enlightening answers. The knowledge you seek, is living inside of you at this moment. You have only but to seek to find.  This is why I say that I am not a teacher, but rather a guide, I am here to help you remember what you already know on a soul level.
    PP: Can you give the readers a little insight into the magical universe we live in?
    KA: Many of the fantasy movies you’ve seen, the books you’ve read, the thoughts you have, the dreams, no matter how fantastical, have truth in them.  You know this at a soul level, which is why the older and wiser the soul, the more you connect with the old ways and the new ways and are a dreamer and creative spirit. This is because you remember at a core level that anything and everything is possible. It feels very confusing sometimes to live here on the earth plane, where at this stage so many have forgotten about the magic of the universe and have tried to replace it with cold disconnected forms of logic, which physicists will one day prove, is completely illogical.  This is all part of the process and good comes from each experience. We move forward with each step, for we have moved out of a former period that was based on superstition without the balance of logical thought. The pendulum always swings widely to self-correct and we have been in a period of disconnection, where science became the new answer.  We are now headed toward a new period of understanding where science and spirituality will work together to further understand and uncover the mysteries of the universe in a more balanced and cohesive manner.

    We are incredible beings made from the spark of pure light and the possibilities of what we can create are infinite. Some souls remember this and carry the magic with them back into this lifetime and do their best to share it with others. The good news is, we are moving into a new cycle on this earth plane where the Divine Feminine energy returns. We are in the last breath of a patriarchal cycle and it is going out with a bang with one last expression of masculine energy, with the best and the worst displays including war and destruction, but also with some of the greatest creations and inventions to connect us all in this world. With the matriarchal energy returning in 2012, we will see a return to inner and outward connectedness and love along with a return to the fluid energy of intuition, a deeper connection with nature, and experiencing beauty in its true form.  Each soul chose to come back at this time and should be honored as it takes a great amount of energy from each soul on the earth plane to assist with the transformation from an old cycle into a new one.  The biggest risk is getting bogged down and thinking that the sorrow and struggle that we see here is overwhelming and we begin to feel disconnected. In actuality, in times where it seems that all is lost and that we are at our darkest hour, this is when we are but moments from the new dawn where all is made new again! Talk about a magical universe, did you know that every morning, at sunrise, there is a harmonic vibration that activates the energy for that entire day? When one studies the esoteric teachings, you can connect with that vibrational energy at sunrise and go forth to create your day. The universe is a fluid existence and each thought, word, action and deed causes a ripple or wave in the energy that is carried throughout. Reflect on that for a moment and realize the greatness living within and amongst you!
    PP: How are we the creation of our thoughts?
    KA: Here’s how I explain it to my neophyte students, (neophyte meaning new to the teachings).  I state, “There is no reality, there is only perception”. I give this example:  Imagine we are all standing in a park observing the scene around us. In the distance, we see a small boy holding a red balloon. In this moment each of us begin to have thoughts about this scene. One of us thinks, I miss being a kid, I love balloons, another person thinks, Red balloon, that reminds me of that 80’s song, 99 red balloons, another person thinks, where is that child’s mother, I cannot believe this child has been abandoned and left unattended in the park, another person thinks, Why is that child allowed to have a balloon, how irresponsible, as that the balloon will be let go and it will litter the environment and possibly choke a bird, another person thinks about wanting a child of their own; I could continue with this for hours of what each person would think. The point is, which is the reality of all of the thoughts we had here?  Our thoughts run in tandem with our personal experiences, wants, fears and desires. How we see the world is based upon all of these things in which we then perceive and create judgment.  When we live in our lower selves, our ego is very strong and has the belief that it is right with what it believes and convinces us that we know the right thing and others are doing the wrong thing. It’s a complex system and contributes to 99 percent of the anger, sadness and disconnected feelings we have in life. Your thoughts create your beliefs, which in turn create who you are, how you feel, how you react, and how you live.

    As a student of the ancient wisdom teachings, we learn to step out of ego and observe how our emotions can run out of control, which leads to so many problems in our life. We are human, and we have ego and emotions for a reason. The point is not for them to go away, but rather to master them, understanding their purpose and reining them in so they don’t run rampant and end up controlling us instead.
    PP: How does one know that only the good is real? If the good is all that is real then what is the bad?
    KA: As I say on Explore Your Spirit, “We are All One, One Energy, From One Light”.  This is the Alpha and the Omega, where it all begins and ends. The rest is the shadow, which is reflected in our fears.  These concepts are challenging to explain in a short answer, I’ll try to be as concise as I can. While we experience many emotions, when you boil them down to their basic nature, they are all connected to either love or fear.  We are born and created in the loving energy of the universe and come to this plane (playing field) to have experiences. During this process, we lose touch with our connection and the rest of the journey is to understand this connection and reconnect with it in different ways, thereby discovering and uncovering more about ourselves.  Along the way, we are met with unpleasant experiences. This leads to fear within us, as we wish not to feel further disconnected. When we feel fear, we describe it as bad, but even through that experience, we are learning more and growing, which is also expressed in the teaching, All that Happens, Happens for Good. Nine lessons goes into this concept in greater detail, as these are very esoteric, deep thought questions to ponder.
    PP: In the 9 Life Altering Lessons you say “we are all one”, how so?
    KA: To continue on this thought from the previous question, it is only here on the earth plane that we experience the concept of duality, male/female, summer/winter, yin/yang, sun/moon etc. We are all part of the one energy, which is seeking to know itself in continual unfolding levels. One way to do this is to experience the earth plane and its sense of duality. This journey teaches us more about ourselves and in doing so, brings this wisdom back into the greater consciousness. There are so many examples of how we are connected and part of the whole, which I discuss in depth in the book. One example I use to explain the concept of how we are separate but part of the whole is this visual… Each of us is a particle of sand and the (Universe/God/Goddess/Divine Energy) is the beach! Without the beach, a particle of sand is fairly meaningless, but without the sand, there is no beach…  To take this concept even deeper, it takes but a particle of sand in an oyster, to make a pearl…
    PP: If we are all one what is the connecting factor that makes us so?
    KA: Our soul, which is connected to the higher consciousness matrix. This matrix extends into every plane and we are each connected to it with a cord of energy running through us. This cord allows us to reach beyond our physical bodies into the higher realms.
    PP: Can you explain to the readers what you meant when you said “We are greater than we remember ourselves to be”?
    KA: Going back to where I discuss the magical universe in which we reside, I explain some of this concept. The point is, you simply are. Anything you have dreamed, you can achieve. Think back to some of the stories where the angels remarked that humanity was created in the image of God as well as being given the ultimate gift of free will. I mention the biblical reporting by angels as it’s so well known in the western world, but look at teachings of the eastern world as well as ancient wisdom and pagan teachings from around the world, they all say, we were given a great gift.  The esoteric teachings explain this gift in great detail and unravel its meaning to the core. One example of a teaching is the understanding that the earth was created with a word. A Word! And we are the only species on the earth plane with the power of speech, to express ourselves with words. Think about that, what power exists in the word and what do you create each day with your words? Has humanity been given gifts that are right under our noses and we don’t even recognize it?
    PP: If we are as you say “children of the universe” and “we are limitless and ageless” then how is it that “all that exists is now”? Would it have not also existed in our pasts as well as our future, our destinies as it were?


    KA:
    In the past, we understood time to be a linear movement, like the historic timelines we were shown in school. Time does not move in a linear fashion, it is cyclical, it winds around. Ok, so here’s the bigger concept to understand. We do not go through time… time goes through us! We are standing still, while time flows by. This is a deep teaching and when one understands the depth of this wisdom, this is how one can access and create at every level.  We are all we have ever been or will be. It is the perception of time that allows us to connect with a certain moment and gives us perspective of past, present or future.  All that exists is now, now is all there is. The rest is perception of time. It’s a brain buster I’ll admit, which is why the esoteric teachings are studied for years and not easily explained in short bursts. Trying to explain this in the form of a short answer, already brings about more questions, such as, well if we are all that we have ever been or will be, what’s the point of doing anything, since it’s already been done, which is certainly a logical question. It goes back to that gift we were given of free will and what I mentioned earlier about the universe not being solid, but instead being fluid, and each ripple or wave we create, causes an impact. Thus we are fluid, time is fluid and the universe is fluid and ever changing, so we as creators, have the ability to change time and space. Wow, talk about being greater than we remember ourselves to be!  These are the life altering, mind bending questions that students discuss in the esoteric teachings and where I begin in the 9 lessons book.
    PP: Can we look forward to reading any other books from you and if so I am going to get the first crack at it? LOL
    KA: Thanks for asking. I’m working on my next book now and would love to share it with you when it’s released.  Right now, I’ve created a series of Guided Meditations for people who want a more interactive form of connecting with their higher selves. The series is a three-part edition including the Spirit of Hawaii, Egyptian Mystery Temple and Tibetan Mountain Journey. These meditations are unique, as they are active and take you on a journey where you interact with guides, teachers and beings from other worlds. The energy builds in each one, raising your vibrational energy through the chakras and moving your consciousness into the higher self.  The meditation series is available for download through Audible.com and iTunes and will be released in CD form through Amazon in April 2009.  I will also be traveling and conducting workshops this fall on the wisdom teachings of ancient Egypt as well as holding workshops through tele-seminars and webinars online. Updates on where I’ll be traveling, teaching and upcoming online seminars and workshops can be found by subscribing to our free newsletter on the Explore Your Spirit website.

    PP: Bountiful Blessings go out to Kala Ambrose, thank you so very much for grating the readers and I such a fortuitous chance to get a firsthand look into the 9 life Altering Lessons. It has truly been awe inspiring. Again thank you.

    KA: It was a pleasure to connect with you Michele, thank you for your time, your energy and the wonderful questions. From my heart to yours and to all of your readers, I wish you great joy and abundance and encourage you to remember what an amazing and special soul you are!

    Links to Kala Ambrose:
    Author Website
    http://www.exploreyourspirit.com/

    Authors RSS feed
    http://exploreyourspirit.com/shows/exploreyourspirit.xml

    Authors Blog
    http://exploreyourspirit.com/blog/

    About the Book:
    9 Life Altering Lessons: Secrets of the Mystery Schools Unveiled
    http://www.9lessons.com

    Twitter
    http://twitter.com/KalaEYS

    Facebook:
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kala-Ambrose/39158751672?ref=ts

    YouTube:
    http://www.youtube.com/exploreyourspirit

    Interview With Author Kristin Madden

    February, 2009

    kristin

    Earlier in the month of January I was honored to speak with author Kristen Madden regarding her experiences, writing talent, her teachings, and where her path leading her in the months ahead.  Kristin Madden is a leader in the Shaman community not only as an author of several books, but also as the Dean of Ardantane’s School of Shamanic Studies, and a Master of the Avatar and a Druid, a tutor in the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, and a member of the Druid College of Healing.  I found her to be a very remarkable and rememberable person who brought a spark into my life and while reading her books, I can tell you she left a piece of herself with me that will always be with me.  I hope you enjoy getting to know Kristin as much as I did.  Kristin will for sure become a regular visitor to Pagan Pages as our years grow.  Now on to the Interview.

    Pagan Pages  (PP) I have to ask you this only because it affected me so much while reading “The Book of Shamanic Healing”.  While I was reading the book I found myself actually gong through a major transition in my life and it took me through some life changes that I was definitely surprised by.  While I wanted to call you to get advice and “Hey what is happening here LOL, I didn’t I just kept trekking on.  I am wondering, do you get a lot of emails from readers asking your advice when they are reading this particular book?

    Kristin Madden (KM) I do get a few emails asking for advice and I try to respond to all of them as quickly as I can.  I have been surprised at how many emails I have received requesting healing since that book came out.  But to be honest, “Shamanic Guide to Death and Dying” is by far the winner when it comes to eliciting reader emails.

    (PP) I know you were raised by a deathwalker and that you are the Dean of the Ardantane’s School of Shamanic Studies.  Was the book an inspiration from the school or before the school?   Can you also tell us a little about the school i.e. are their classes online, strictly in person only etc.

    (KM) The idea for “The Book of Shamanic Healing” began well before the School of Shamanic Studies.  It was something I worked on for 5-6 years before it was published. Some of the foundations of our classes are based in that book.

    The Ardantane School of Shamanic Studies is based at the Ardantane campus in Jemez Springs, New Mexico.  Most of our classes are held either there or in Albuquerque but we do travel fairly frequently to teach when someone sponsors a class.  I will be co-teaching Ardantane’s first online class this year with the Dean of Healing s. This one is a Celtic mysticism class and it will lead to additional offerings in future years.  For the certificate programs, up to 25% of the requirements may be “transferred” classes from other approved schools or teachers.

    The School of Shamanic Studies does not offer instruction in any specific cultural shamanic path.  However, the backgrounds of our instructors color their teaching and provide a unique addition to core shamanic methods.  Our faculty includes authors, biologists, nurses, psychotherapists, professors, engineers and more.  Their training ranges from indigenous shamanism to psychology, wilderness survival skills, Western and alternative medicine, various Pagan paths, and New Age technologies.

    We offer five levels of shamanic certificates:  Shamanic

    • Divination

  • , Shamanic Practitioner, Shamanic Healer, Earthcrafting, Death and Dying Specialist, and Master of Shamanic Studies.

    (PP) When does the online course start and how can our readers find it for those that are interested, like myself?

    (KM) I expect that online course to start in mid-February.  Readers can find more information by clicking the Calendar link at (www.ardantane.org)

    (PP) I have worked with my Shaman Guide in Houston several times and I found that difficult even in person, I have to hand you Kudos for being able to write this book with the details and in depth detail that you were able to give.  How long did it take to write and did you have any problems writing it?  Any shadows bothering you or your psychic abilities playing games or your spirit guides not cooperating?  I know I had problems while reading the book hence the questions.

    (KM) It took nearly 6 years to complete it. As you said, it is a complex and challenging subject, to say the least.  I put myself through everything I suggest the book and my family became test subjects as well!  Each chapter presented its own unique lessons for me but the Shadow chapter was the most surprising.  I share a bit about that in the opening of that chapter.  Let’s just say that when I journeyed to finish up the chapter, I found some surprising aspects of Self that really needed healing – ones that I had been previously “unaware” of.  It’s so easy to kid ourselves, isn’t it?

    (PP) When writing, “Dancing the Goddess Incarnate”, how did you pick those 9 Goddesses?

    (KM) That book was so much fun to write.  It was also very therapeutic for me during some extremely difficult years.  Dorothy and I each had an idea for a Maiden-Mother-Crone/Goddess book that we have been kicking around for a couple of years.  When we decided to combine our ideas, we had a list of goddesses that we planned to include.  Of course, our plans are not always what needs to be.  We quickly discovered that some of our planned goddesses weren’t really interested but others that we had not considered had strong ideas about the chapters that became theirs.  So I would have to say that we didn’t really pick the 9 goddesses, they told us who should be in the book.

    (PP) How did this book come about?  Will there be a sequel?  I see several questions asked all over the Internet from readers asking you this question so now is the time for an answer LOL.  The readers want to know.

    (KM) It all started when I was flipping through some old ideas I had for a Maiden-Mother-Crone book.  At the time, I was firmly entrenched in the Mother stage of life and Dorothy had already written “In Praise of the Crone”.  I gave her a call and asked if she had any interest in such a book.  She told me about her old, filed-away idea and this book just flowed magically from that point.

    As for whether or not there will be a sequel, I doubt it but one never knows.  I’ve said “no” several times only to have that book I said “no” to pester me until I finally wrote it.

    (PP) Well, for the sake of your fans everywhere I have to join in and say that I hope your “no” someday soon turns into a yes.  I have never had so much fun reading a book and getting to know 9 Goddess as I did reading, “Dancing the Goddess Incarnate”.

    (PP) I noticed that you are also a home schooling mom and have a book out about that, as well as, a cookbook.  Would you like to tell us about those?

    (KM) “Pagan Home schooling” came directly out of our home schooling experience.  When I started home schooling, there was so much that I had to search and explore and figure out for myself.  I didn’t want other parents to have to “reinvent the wheel” so I put it all into a book.  The other thing that I love about that book is that I was able to include many of the exercises and games that I couldn’t fit in “Pagan Parenting”.

    “Festival Feasts” is my new cookbook.  My family and I love to eat great food so learning to cook it was a fun and natural progression.  That book contains a full 5-course menu, plus a special beverage, for each of the eight Pagan holidays and the New, Full, and Dark Moon phases.  It also goes into food selection, preparation, feast planning, and ways to make the recipes your own.  My husband and I gained 15 pounds while I was writing this book and it was all worth it! My son keeps asking when I‘ll do another one.

    (PP) Kristin, As I said before you were raised by a deathwalker can you tell our readers a little about what a deathwalker is and a little bit about your life and your family.

    (KM) A deathwalker fulfills many roles in his or her family and community.  First and foremost, this is the person that guides the dead into the next world and passes on messages between the living and the departed. Deathwalkers may also perform rites of passage, act as grief counselors, work toward a conscious death for the dying, and more. I teach a deathwalking class at Ardantane every other year but there are some serious pre-requisites because this is an experience that can drop you right in the middle of all your fears, beliefs, and shadows. It is incredibly humbling.

    The deathwalker is tuned into the departed.  We know when someone passes because they often show up at our house, frequently before we get a phone call informing us of their passing.  They don’t need to knock on the front door, call you before showing up, and they seem to forget about personal privacy.  Everyone that lives in the home of a deathwalker, learns to recognize the signs of uninvited, non-corporeal guests. To be honest, in spite of the occasional craziness, growing up that way made Death a very natural and normal part of life for me and my son.  We don’t fear death because we know what lies beyond this life and we know that our loves ones are never truly gone.

    (PP) I know you have a busy schedule starting for 2009, would you like to discuss your speaking appearances?

    (KM) I cut back on my teaching at Ardantane a bit this year so, at this point, I only have three classes at Ardantane: Path of the Shaman (Shamanism 101) on Feb 28-Mar 1, Plants, Bones, Spirits, and Stones on August 22-23, and Deathwalking on Nov. 21-22.

    I’ll be speaking at 4 festivals (so far) this year: Pagan Unity Festival in Tennessee in May (www.paganunityfestival.org), Sacred Well Interfaith Celebration in south Texas in early October (www.sacredwell.org), Celebrating the Goddess Rising in New Orleans in mid-October (www.nolapaganpride.org), and GreenSong Grove’s Samhain Celebration, also in mid-October (www.greensonggrove.org).

    (PP) Where can our Readers purchase your books?

    (KM) They are available at any of the online booksellers and directly through the publishers. Many local bookstores also carry them but that seems to depend on the area and the store owner. You can always ask your local bookstore to order them for you.

    (PP) I know right now you have a new book out called “Magick, Mystery, and Medicine: Advanced Shamanic Healing”, which I will be reviewing in our March 2009 issue.  Would you like to give our readers a little insight what to expect?

    (KM) This is the follow-up to “The Book of Shamanic Healing”.  It includes topics I wasn’t able to delve into in that first book and contains material that has not been well covered in the shamanic literature to date.  It also includes more first-hand case studies and stories.  I would say that this book is a more advanced book than the first healing book.

    (PP) Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about Kristin Madden?

    (KM) Only that I appreciate every reader, every person that has attended one of my workshops, and everyone that is working toward their own healing more than I can say.  Healing begins with each of us. When we can begin to live our lives from a place of integrity and wholeness, our actions radiate out to help create a better world.

    (PP) Kristin, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with Pagan Pages.  I know this is a very busy hectic time with the 2009 starting, your school, your traveling schedule, and most importantly your family time.  I appreciate it very much.  Spending time with you and reading your books is a very enlighten  and soul awaking  experience.   I am currently reading your new book as I spoke about and can’t wait to see where it takes me.   I am confident that I am about to find out more about myself that I either (a) didn’t know or (b) where hidden deep and was afraid to let come forward and let go of and be free of.  I look forward to the journey ahead.

    (KM) Thank you so much for speaking with me and for all the work that you do!

    It is always a pleasure spending time with you, and your work and energy you give to the Pagan Community goes without speaking.  I have to say I am enjoying your new book very much and can’t wait to get with you once I have finished it.  With that, Pagan Pages looks forward to talking to you in a few months.

    Interview with M.R. Sellars

    February, 2009

    I was fortunate enough to catch up with M.R. Sellars between book signing events, etc. to learn more about his latest release, Blood Moon, as well as where he’s headed with the Rowan Gant Investigation series as a whole.  Known by some as the “Pagan Stephen King,” his novels are filled with paranormal horror coupled with suspenseful storylines centering around his Pagan protagonist, Rowan Gant.  So, it should come as no surprise that Sellars is a member of the HWA (Horror Writers Association) and is himself a Kitchen Witch.  When not touring, Sellars spends family time with his wife, daughter and rescued felines.

    sellars-004-by-anne-davis-of-gossamer-girls

    PaganPages (PP): I started with the sixth book, Love Is The Bond, in your RGI (Rowan Gant Investigation) Series, yet I had no problem following the storyline.  Is that because I started with your Miranda Trilogy Arc? Or did you intend for each of your now nine books in the RGI Series to be easily a stand-alone read as well?

    M.R. Sellars (MRS):
    It might just be that you’re quick on the uptake (LOL).

    Actually, there is a good possibility that starting with the first book in the Miranda Trilogy had something to do with it. That said, however, I endeavored to make the books stand-alone reads in the very beginning, so you could actually read Perfect Trust (3rd book) or Never Burn A Witch (2nd book) before reading Harm None (1st book) and still follow the storyline. Truth is, you could probably read any one of them out of sequence – except the three books in the Miranda Trilogy – and follow along just fine. Still, after Perfect Trust I started realizing that trying to make them “too self-contained” was going to be impossible without an enormous amount of rehashing – which tends to get boring. Any time you write a series, it is imperative that you re-introduce the characters in each book for those who may be starting out of sequence, as well as to refresh the memories of regular readers. And, you can’t deny the things that have happened in previous novels, as these are the things that have shaped the characters and made them grow into who they are in each installment. Therefore, you end up in a bit of a quandary… If you try to make them too self-contained, you are left with no choice but to explain “why” the character is like s/he is. This leads to quite a bit of drudgery in the prose, which takes the reader right out of the story and deposits them back at the bookstore/library looking for a more enjoyable read; and that is the kiss of death to an author.

    So, while for the most part I make a concerted effort to make the storyline somewhat self-contained, I try to avoid any long-winded flashbacks unless they are actually going to move the story forward in an entertaining and engaging fashion… And, of course, I used the word “somewhat” in the previous sentence because, as my long-time readers are aware, I am fairly well known for the “cliffhanger ending” that sets the future stage and drives you into the next novel. Therefore, they are never “really” self-contained. J

    PP: You’ve mentioned that your main character Rowan started off as a character named Wendy (from another manuscript you were writing).  I’ve told my friends when describing Love Is The Bond, All Acts Of Pleasure and The End Of Desire that your character Miranda doesn’t believe in giving her victims any rights, so their deaths are like her twisted versions of Miranda Rights (at least in my take on your writing).  How did you really come up with her character and name?

    MRS: Wendy was a case of inexperience, hormones, and living vicariously through the character herself. While the story itself was okay, I readily admit that I was far too young at that point to have had enough life experience, which is how we create believable characters. And, like I said, there were these hormones and I could make Wendy be whoever and whatever I wanted her to be…But, that’s better reserved for a letter to Penthouse or some such J

    Now, as to Miranda…

    “Mistress Miranda” was a different case entirely… Well, maybe not entirely, as I am sure some hormones still played a part in her creation (LOL)… In any event, she actually started out as nothing more than a germ of an idea. Back when I was writing Perfect Trust, I was already thinking about three books ahead – and I still do that. However, the thinking ahead often just encompasses a basic idea that starts getting fleshed out the closer I get to putting it on paper. The original concept for the “Killer Dominatrix” was actually based on the following idea:

    Rowan’s wife, Felicity, gets together with her old college roommate who comes into town on business. It just happens that said business revolves around the fact that she makes her living as a Pro Domme, and she is there to see a high profile client. Ben Storm, (Rowan’s cop friend) who by that time is divorced, takes a strong liking to Felicity’s friend – even to the point of taking her on a date – but he has no idea what her occupation is. Anyway, when the high profile client turns up dead, Felicity’s friend is implicated, Ben is forced to arrest her, and our intrepid, witchy duo set out to clear her of the impending charges.

    It was intended as a self-contained story. As you, and other readers know, that is a far cry from what actually ended up happening, and I’m not just talking about the trilogy aspect. By the time I reached the point where I was literally writing the story, the characters had grown and been through some events that I hadn’t foreseen. Characters tend to do that – they come to life. In a sense, they are almost like thought forms. We breathe life into them and they develop minds of their own. I know that sounds a bit insane, but honestly, I think most of us who write are just a little touched in the brainpan to begin with.

    Anyway, back to Miranda. By this point I had spent an enormous number of hours researching sexual predators and serial offenders. Not as a hobby, although I DO find it fascinating, but for the express purpose of being able to write my antagonists in an accurate light. As it turns out, while there are plenty of female serial offenders worldwide, the classification of sexual predator is almost non-existent where they are concerned. One theory is that because of societal expectations, female sexual predators are overlooked, and that they actually exist is numbers rivaling males. Another is that females are simply better at not getting caught, again, because of what society has taught us to expect from the gender roles.

    My twisted brain – much like some of the psychologist who wrote the papers I was studying – wanted to know what might happen if those female sexual predators started coming out of the woodwork in as blatant a sense as their male counterparts, and so, Miranda was born – a female sociopath. One who is wholly self-centered and has a skewed view of compassion and emotional attachment. And, since the RGI series deals with occult overtones to the cases, Voodoo/Hoodoo/Vodoun was a perfect fit since spirit possession is an accepted event within the practice, therefore allowing for a different sort of depth to the character. I don’t want to say any more than that since some readers of this interview might not have read the books just yet.

    In order to make Miranda herself convincing in her role as a Dominatrix, I did countless hours of research into the BDSM sub-culture. I actually have a close friend who is a Domme, so she was invaluable to me where the research was concerned. This information, I am sure, begs the question, “just how experiential was your research?”… Well, I’ll leave that to everyone’s imagination, but I will say this much. I have a safe word. (LOL).

    As to Miranda’s name, that was actually simple. It harkens from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and it means, “to be admired, and/or extraordinary.” That just seemed to fit the character, as she sees herself as one to be admired. And, yes, I do have to admit the Miranda Warning did cross my mind when I was coming up with the name, as evidenced by Ben Storm’s reference to it late in Love Is The Bond, so you get bonus points for picking up on that. J

    PP: When can Miranda fans expect Miranda, forthcoming in your RGI series, to be released?

    MRS: Miranda: A Rowan Gant Investigation, is slated for release in October of 2009, and will be the tenth book in the series. I’m not allowed to say much about it at the moment – although that will change in the months to come when the publicists start doing their thing. But, for now here is the “blurb” being used in the catalog:

    Picking up where Blood Moon leaves off, Rowan Gant finds that not only are his fears realized, they are worse than he had imagined, as sadistic, serial-killing dominatrix, Miranda, (The Miranda Trilogy—Love is the Bond, All Acts of Pleasure, and The End of Desire) has him on the end of her metaphorical—but no less terrifyingly real—leash.

    PP: In your latest release, Blood Moon, you included the real-life human sanguine vamps in your storyline.  I think it greatly added to the willing suspension of disbelief element.  What kind of research did you do on sanguine vamps to come up with their presence in your novel?

    MRS: Much like I did with the research into the BDSM community. I did quite a bit of reading and interviewing, for the most part. While I don’t rely entirely on the Internet, I do some of my research there as well. But, I don’t take anything I find on the World Wide Web at face value. I always make sure I can corroborate Internet info with sources outside the web, such as books or multiple interviews.

    I also do quite a bit of “people watching” to develop characters, and that can be done at various distances. In this particular case, I spent time lurking on forums dedicated to the vampire sub-culture and gleaning information there. I also talked to a self-proclaimed sanguine vamp that was a friend of a friend.

    This one, however, I won’t leave up to anyone’s imagination… No, I did not partake nor did I provide. While I can certainly be adventurous and open to new ideas, as far as I was concerned, that particular experience simply didn’t fall into my “need to know” purview.

    PP: Part of being a successful novelist, you attribute to touring.  Did you tour alone at first?  When did you start touring with Dorothy Morrison?  And, how much has that turned up the Fun Meter?

    MRS: Touring is key. Especially when you are first starting out. Look at it this way – nobody has any clue who you are or that you have written a book. Getting in front of people, introducing yourself, and above all, being entertaining, is what gets the books into the hands of the readers. Once you accomplish that, word of mouth kicks in.

    Initially, when I was completely unknown – unlike now, when a there are maybe a dozen folks across the US who recognize my name (LOL) – I begged and borrowed my way into events. I jumped through every hoop put before me, packed my family into a beat up VW microbus…well, actually it was a Honda Odyssey, but a VW microbus sounds so much more “sexy” and adventurous in a late 60’s early 70’s kind of way…and hit the road. If my family couldn’t come with me, I tossed my overnight bag and a couple of cases of books into my truck, and away I went. Back in those days – all of 9 years ago – I was still working a full time job, so all of my “touring” had to be done during my vacation time and/or days I would take off without pay. I have to admit that looking back on it now, I have no clue how I managed it. I was working a 50-hour per week job, my wife and I had finally managed to have a child after untold years of trying, I was writing, and on top of that I was trying to tour.  I suppose it was a good thing I was younger back then J

    At any rate, my initial touring was solo, or with my family on weekend gigs.

    Now, on to the “Morrison Factor”…One of my first major events was something called the Real Witches Ball in Columbus, Ohio. I had been there as an attendee in the past, but I managed to wrangle my way in as a speaker – again, footing my own bill for transportation, lodging, meals, etc… The organizer guaranteed me nothing more than the fact that I could present a couple a workshops, and if it went over okay, I could do another one. On top of that, I had to bring my own copies of  “Harm None”, for sale (the only book I had out at the time) because he refused to order and stock them – why? Because I was an unknown, and because it was fictional story. There was a pervasive idea in the ranks of metaphysical storeowners back then that “pagan fiction” doesn’t sell. Unfortunately, that sentiment still exists today among many, which sometimes makes it hard to find my books – and other pagan fiction – in the independent pagan stores.

    Anyhow, I got myself to this event, and just to initiate me as the new kid on the block the organizer had set me up to do the first workshop of the weekend – that being the 5PM Friday slot – the slot where you are lucky to get three people showing up. Well, knowing I had to pay my dues I sucked it up and headed to the venue where I was to give the workshop. My family had pretty much just dropped me off there and headed out to get checked into our motel on the outskirts of town, because we had been driving all day and arrived with only 30 or so minutes to spare. At this particular juncture, the RWB was a “street fair” and therefore my venue was one of the vacant storefronts that the organizer had rented for the weekend, a block or so away from the store proper.

    Now… Dorothy Morrison happened to be headlining this event, and I was already a fan of her work. In fact, I was so nervous that when I saw her in the store upon first arriving, I was unable to muster the courage to even walk up and say hello. So, anyway, here I am at the venue going over my notes, and people start coming in. I actually started to feel a bit better about things because I had more than three folks, and there were still people coming in. Since I had plenty of experience with public speaking there wasn’t a nerve issue there at all, so it was all good. I returned to going over my notes and when I looked up again a few minutes later as I was about to start the workshop, I couldn’t help but notice that Dorothy Morrison was now sitting in the front row.

    At THAT point, I became nervous… (LOL)

    As an aside, the story goes that the organizer had sent her down to see my workshop in order to keep me from feeling like the odd man out. I still maintain that she was sent there to spy on me and see if I was a f*ckup. (Grin)

    I knew I still had to do the workshop, so I tried to pretend she wasn’t there and launched into my spiel. I was presenting on “Paganism and its Treatment in Modern Fiction”. Luckily, it ended up being fantastic – to the point of me having standing room only, receiving an ovation at the end, and getting handshakes and hugs from several of the attendees. After folks cleared out, Morrison walks up to me and says, “Mister Sellars, when you’re finished here come see me at my table back at the store.”

    Nervous now gave way to abject fear. I was firmly convinced – of my own accord, I must admit – that I had said or done something during my workshop that was A) completely stupid, B) embarrassed the pagan community, or C) all of the above. And, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Dorothy Morrison herself was about to dress me down for doing it.

    So, I finished gathering my things and started trudging back to the store. Now, remember, this is Columbus, Ohio at the end of October, and my family and friends had more or less just dumped me out on the street in front of the store because they had plenty to deal with – getting checked in to the motel, seeing to our daughter who had just turned 1 a few days prior, getting something to eat, etc. Therefore, I had no coat and on top of that I was in fear for my metaphorical life since I was on my way to see the evil Dorothy Monster. It was dark, the temperature had dropped below freezing, and it was spitting snow. How much more depressing could it possibly become?

    After doing the “dead Murv walking” shuffle for a block – this only took about three minutes, but seemed like two hours – I arrived at the store, made my way to Morrison’s table and meekly said, “You wanted to see me?” Whereupon, Morrison invited me to sit down, have a drink, and proceeded to pick my brain about public speaking – seems she wasn’t as comfortable with it as me, and wanted some advice. Dorothy Morrison wanted advice from me… I was flabbergasted.

    There’s more to the story but I don’t want to bore you… At any rate, we’ve been best friends ever since. And, touring together followed very closely behind that incident – as in just a few short months later. That first tour is yet another story in and of itself.

    As to the “fun factor” – it definitely adds to it. But, even more than that it adds to the sanity factor. While Morrison and I still do events solo, or with other authors, or even together with other authors, we also have our tours with just the two of us. When we plan a tour we tend to think we are superhuman, then we end up having to do the things we have booked…What I mean is this – typically, we get on the road between 5 and 6 AM, sometimes earlier. So, this means we are up even earlier than that to get showers, pack, and throw things into the car. We drive several hours, arrive at a store, do a two or three hour meet n’ greet/signing, then get back into the car, drive a few more hours, check into our hotel, get cleaned up, drive to the evening gig which could be 10 minutes or two hours away, do a workshop, sign books, visit with folks, then drive back to the hotel. This is usually the point where we realize that it is now 11:30 PM and the last thing either of us had to eat was a stale bagel and a cup of really bad coffee at 5:30 AM on the way out of the previous town that morning. So, we grab a really awful burger at an all night dive – of course, it always tastes wonderful since we are starving – then get back to the hotel at 12:45 AM or so… Grab a few hours sleep, and then start all over again. We do this for 12 to 15 days straight. So, you see, sanity is the key. When you have a schedule like that it is imperative to have someone with you that you can trust, who you can cry with when it all gets to be just too much, and who you can laugh with when you want to cry for the second time on any given day.

    Morrison and I have toured together so long we are to the point where we tend to finish one another’s sentences. When I am driving I warn her if the road is going to get rough because she is generally stapling on her face while we are in between stores. Stuff like that. We are like siblings. In fact, we are both convinced that we had to have been siblings in a former life.

    Now, there is the pervasive rumor out there that we are married. Well, that’s kind of true. As in, we are both married, but to different people. Not each other. We actually find it kind of amusing.

    But, getting back to the fun… Well, yeah, we tend to cut up a bit. We’ve been known to sing old commercial jingles for 50 miles, and then there is also the incident where we stole a staff member’s golf cart at an event. Well, actually we’ve done that more than once, but hey, we’ve got to entertain ourselves somehow. J

    PP: Your lead character, Rowan Gant, is a modern day Witch and practicing Pagan.  Yet, his personal practices refreshingly add to the plot without overshadowing it.  Have your own Kitchen Witch practices tended to help cook up spicy story lines (couldn’t resist:-) in any way?

    MRS: When I first started writing the series I wanted to create something with a pagan flavor that didn’t involve hurian Legend, Dragons, Flying Brooms, or a trio of hotties battling demons. I wanted it to have actual pagan dynamics and realities. However, I also knew that for fiction to be successful across the board I was going to need to take things just a bit over the top. After all, it is fiction.

    So, while the magic works quite a bit easier for Rowan, and his psychic abilities are far more developed than the overwhelming majority, I definitely strive to find a balance between down to earth paganism and spirituality and the magic behind the Witchcraft. Not everyone agrees that I have accomplished this, but I’m happy with the blend I have formulated. And, in doing so, yes, I have drawn quite a bit from my own practices and experiences to create plots and subplots. As much as I hate to admit it, there is definitely a segment of my life that has been fictionalized and woven into the fabric of the stories.

    PP: Wonderful that you’re an outspoken believer in Pagan Anti-Discrimination and Religious Freedom in general.  Of all your lectures on the topic, which one do you feel made the greatest impact?

    MRS: That is actually a tougher question than you might imagine. But, since we are talking about the religious freedom aspect, I would have to say that it comes down to two different lectures. The first being, “Do Witches Really Ride Brooms?” That particular lecture is one that I used to do for anything from the Kiwanis club luncheons to the local library book club meetings. It was especially in demand around October as you can imagine. I haven’t presented it for a while now due to my touring schedule. But, basically, it is really a standard “what is Witchcraft and Paganism REALLY?” sort of lecture, the basic stuff. But, I have actually seen it first hand make an impact on people, and change their perceptions. Does it work for everyone? Certainly not, but hey, if I can open even one person’s eyes that’s a start.

    The other is the “Paganism and its Treatment in Modern Fiction” workshop. I’ve presented that to pagans and non-pagans, as well as a mix. When you lay out the fiction for everyone to see and are able to show them what really and truly is fiction, and what is real that has simply been incorporated into the fiction, it tends to open a few eyes too.

    PP: I know your sales have been phenomenal, and you now have a worldwide English-speaking audience.  Have your books been translated into other languages yet?  If so, which ones?  And, would you consider touring abroad in the future?

    MRS: I don’t know if phenomenal is completely accurate, but I definitely thank you for thinking so. (Grin). I admit I have enjoyed a bit of success, and that for the past few years the Rowan Gant Series has been making a splash on things such as the Amazon Horror/Occult bestseller list. But, I am a far cry from pulling in the kind of cash a King or a Grisham does – a far, far cry. Like, see that mountain range over there? Well, on the other side of it, all the way to the ocean, and then some kind of far cry. But, I digress…

    However, yes, according to my fan mail I have readers in Germany, the UK, and Malta just to name a few. As yet, none of my titles have been translated. There was a deal going a few years back where an Italian publisher was looking at picking up the foreign rights to the series, but nothing ever came of it. Not sure why. Maybe Rowan needed to eat more spaghetti.

    Touring abroad? Well, I already tour with Morrison (Badump-bump! Did I mention we pick at each other constantly? Another sign that we have to have been siblings.) But, seriously, sure, I actually wouldn’t be opposed to touring outside the US at some point. Although, my wife has already informed me that there are certain places I am not allowed to visit without her.

    PP: How can you be contacted for speaking engagements, etc.?

    MRS: Homing pigeon works. As do smoke signals. But both of those take a bit too much time. Really, the best way to contact me is through my website, www.mrsellars.com. Now, I am not going to blow smoke here (pun not intended) – if the email has to do with booking me, I tend to forward it to one of my publicists, quite honestly because most of the time they know far better where I am supposed to be and when I am supposed to be there than I do. On top of that, I don’t always know what they have cooking that I haven’t been told about yet – and, I have made the mistake of double booking myself so they don’t let me play with the schedule that much anymore. (LOL)…Especially Wendy. She’s mean like that. So, you can either go by the website and email me directly at mrsellars@sbcglobal.net, or you can email one of my publicists directly. They would be:

    Scott McCoy with Firestorm Publicity Services – S_McCoy@sbcglobal.net
    Wendy O’Brien with WillowTree Press – Wendy@willowtreepress.com
    Just be aware – Wendy is the pretty one, Scott is the funny one


    PP:
    Where can your books be purchased?

    MRS: Well, as I mentioned earlier, even after all these years there is still some resistance by independent pagan stores where fiction is concerned, although there are several throughout the US that carry the RGI series. Chain bookstores carry them as well, but on a limited basis – since I am with a smaller press they don’t automatically stock my books in every Barnes & Noble, or Borders. They leave it up to the managers, so I have been in chain stores where my books are prominently displayed, and then gone across town to another where they’ve never heard of me. It’s sort of hit and miss where they are concerned, unfortunately.

    Still, any, and I mean ANY bookstore can order the RGI novels as they are distributed nationally. I stress that because I have heard from fans that have told me that their local B&N, often in these cases staffed by highly religious folks, has told them that they couldn’t order the books. Well, it wasn’t that they couldn’t, it was that they wouldn’t. I don’t know how to fix that, other than to say, yes, Virginia, they CAN ordered. (If you are dealing with a pagan bookstore and they tell you they don’t know where to get them – tell them to contact Abyss or New Leaf.)

    But, if you can’t find them locally, and your store gives you too much lip, there is always Amazon.com, and B&N.com… They definitely sell them and they will be more than happy to take your money.

    And, finally, if you go to my website you can order them directly and get them autographed.

    Interview with Orion Foxwood

    February, 2009

    orionbook

    Courtesy of Orion Foxwood
    The Tree of Enchantment”, by Orion Foxwood is a gleaming light shinning in a world where it is sorely needed, granting the reader a well-defined path leading to an accumulation of astonishing magnitude. “The Tree of Enchantment”, is not just another mystical new age book it is a piece of literary genius, which offers the reader a glimpse into the profound knowledge of an authentic spiritual tradition.
    Excerpt from the Tree of Enchantment
    May you know and remember the truth and beauty that is your
    Essence… and your birthright.
    May you receive and claim it when it is revealed.
    May the forces of fear and atrophy tremble before your power.
    May the Vision keys open the doors most profound.
    May the Holy Fire sear the shadows and lights your way.
    May you find joy and contentment in knowing that you are a
    Member of the family of creation, bound in spirit and in truth
    and thus…
    You are always loved and you never walk alone.
    Blessed be the seeker and the Holy Tree.
    For all as one, so shall it be”.
    While working on this interview with Orion I have come to the understanding that one must open their eyes and their hearts to the Ancient One.

    Interview with Orion Foxwood

    orion

    Courtesy of Orion Foxwoo

    Pagan Pages (PP): How did you come about writing the book, what was the inspiration behind it?
    Orion Foxwood (OF): I have been working with the spirit world all of my life. I grew up in a very agricultural community in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, which is an area rife with folklore and practices. My family is known for having the “veil”, which is a folk term for the “caul”, a placental sheath that falls over the eyes of the newborn indicating a propensity for “the blessing” also known as the second sight or ESP. My sister and I were both born with it. Please understand that though this gift can be a true blessing it is also a frightening thing when you are a child getting visitations from the dead. Mt first “token” as we call signs or communications from the spirit world was of my father hanging from a rope. When my mother took me to confirm her fears (which were that my “veil” had parted and this was a token), it was indeed quite real. From then on I was visited by spirits of the dead, of the “soon to be born”, of the woods and rivers and all other forms. In short, my world was and is teaming with spirit life. My first book (The Faery Teachings, RJ Stewart ) was prompted by my love of the Faery and Ancestral spirit realms and a desire to assist humanity (as a embodied spirit type) and the other spirit beings (noncarnate / Faery and elemental and discarnate/ ancestral) to come back to its place at the metaphorical table of creation. It was my desire to give insights, both ancient and contemporary, on the living nature of our world animated by a core vision and a creation family of which we are a part. My second book called “The Tree of Enchantment: Ancient Wisdom and Magic Practices of the Faery Tradition” (Weiser ) was to provide a visionary roadmap with insights and techniques that would assist the human seeker to find their way back into communion and co-creative partnership with the attending spirits of creation. My hope is that this book will help the readers understand and embrace their sacred presence as individuals and as a member of the human and earth-based vision of creation itself. In short, I call the insights “the re-sacredizing of life” through: alignment, attunement and agreement of the three souls that comprise us and which interface with the attending spirits in the ancestral, Faery, elemental, natural and stellar realms.
    (PP): I have heard that you come from a very diverse background, would you like to elaborate on these diversities?
    (OF): Yeah, I guess I have been blessed to be exposed to and mentored by diverse streams of wisdom and training. I am very grateful for these opportunities and the many teachers that have guided and mentored me. My cultural and familial life exposed me to some Appalachian and Southern folk practices specifically focused on the second sight, healing practices, spirit communication, and conjures. I met two traditional witches from Brentwood Essex England in the early 80s while being a bus boy at a restaurant in Winchester Virginia. They gave me some old lore and practices that were the first “witchcraft” teachings I ever received. These teachings are at the core of my work as they work with the “Witches Mill” that taps and channels power resident in the Faery Paths/ trods (ley lines) and wells (gatherings of this power) innately in the earth. Then I found a book on Witchcraft that fit with everything I understood to be true and this lead me to seek training in Wicca and later in traditional witchcraft. I moved from Virginia to Maryland where I studied with several Wiccan style teachers and was initiated into a Welsh tradition and later into Alexandrian Wicca and a form, which my teacher called Celtic Wicca. The Celtic Wiccan studies introduced me to my Queen named the Lady Circe in Toledo, Ohio. She was a hereditary witch who later incorporated Wicca and other occult practices into her work. I really feel that all of my studies in Witchcraft culminated in meeting and working closely with this incredible witch, elder, wise woman, and friend. Before her transition into the Summerland’s, myself and two other people (Lady Meshlamthea of Toledo and Lord Malachi of Indiana) were honored to become her mantle bearers. All three of us carry her mantle with pride, love, honor and commitment.  I have also studied some Voodoo, mostly New Orleans practices and is part of a house founded by Mary Milan in New Orleans. Mary or “Bloody Mary” as she is known is as far as I am concerned the premier tour guide and poet priestess for New Orleans and its mystical and magical world (past and present). I have also studied closely with RJ Stewart who majorly influenced my Faery work. He is such a wise and ethical man! I have also studied closely with Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, who I consider to be one of the most anointed and sacred teachers I know.  I founded a coven in Maryland (along with my then life partner and a few of my initiates) called Foxwood temple of the Old Religion in 1990 and co-founded the Alliance of the Old Religion, a network of covens and elders committed to preserving the lineage and teachings of Lady Circe. I am so grateful to these teachers and friends for being such fine examples of sound spiritual and magical practices. In the professional world I have been trained in addictions counseling, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy and public health program development. I hold a Masters Degree in Human services. I really feel that all of these mystical, magical and mainstream education opportunities have formed the “me” I am today and the helpful impact I hope to provide to fellow seekers of truth and healing.
    (PP): How are you connected to the Celtic Appalachian tradition?
    (OF): I pretty much answered that above. Though, I would add that the culture and traditions I grew up in were not purely Appalachian though it was influenced by it. Rather, it was a culmination of slave magic and lore, Celtic and Native American practices as well as just plain old family traditions.
    (PP): How does Faery magic come in to this tradition?
    (OF): This is a good question. My family and the people I grew up with would have rarely used the words “Faery” or “Magic”. Sometimes they would refer to the “Little People” or other more localized terms like “Woods Folk”, “Water Men”, “Green People” and other terms. Occasionally someone would say “Faery” but that was usually someone who read about them in books or who descended from Irish heritage more recent in immigration to America than those who had been in the Valley for more that 2-300 years. However, the “veil” was always intimately connected to three types of tokens: 1) signatures that would come to the seer such as a knock at a door, which would then be opened and a vision would appear; 2) “dreaming true” or simply having foreknowledge of events, which my mother called “the knowing”; or 3) direct communication from ancestral and other types (usually nature ones) of spirit beings that would bring messages. My mother had the #1 and #2 types of tokens, while I have #2 and #3. Because of this type of “blessing”, I have always been able to be a “bridge for the spirits”. There was a significant amount of lore about approaching the ancestral and nature spirits in the family, shared with my mother by Ms. Granny and given to me in informal chats etc and other social settings by elders in the community. “Faery Tradition” as I understand it in a cultural context is not a body of tightly woven material, but rather stories, parables, practical techniques and suggestions for avoiding these beings, placating them or gaining their favor. I always had a particular affinity with the unseen company. In fact, many elders in the community said to me that I had an uncanny way with the spirits…one which they either rarely seen or never saw in their lifetimes. Occasionally, someone would simply clutch their children and cover their eyes when my mother or me walked by. Thank the Goddess; this was a rare occurrence, indeed…LOL!
    (PP): How has Lady Circe affected you and your teachings?
    (OF): Honestly, Lady Circe…my Witch Queen, was everything I ever hoped the Craft would be. She was honest, direct, ethical, practical and intensely regal. She was adamant about the Craft being a way of life and not a hobby, political statement. I truly feel that my whole life’s journey in the Craft was to find this incredible woman and carry her wisdoms forward. We would spend hours in her dining room drinking wine, staying up late while she shared incredible information and teachings with me. Also, for her, no one…Male or female was replicable and all were a part of the mystery of life. In fact one of her wonderful sayings was thus:
    “Ever are we mindful that She (the Lady) is the truth He (the Lord) upholds, and He is the pillar on which She stands.”
    She absolutely loved my Faery work. In fact, she still does. If you look at the first edition of my book entitled “The Faery Teachings”, her face is the image for the Weaver Goddess in the vision key cards that accompany the book. The vision keys are the major inner contacts, threshold points/ beings etc. in the Faery Seership work I teach. This use of her image was so in line with her wisdom for she taught “the invisible connections between visible things” and working with “the laws of nature”. For lady Circe, we witches are here to lead humanity to the light and the glory of the Goddess. As she once said, “we are here to cast light not shadows”. She considered the God and Goddess to be our parents and the Watchers, ancestral and Faery spirits to be our family.  For us, the Craft is a secret society bound by tradition and spirit contacts and in the end “if blood is thicker than water, tradition is thicker than blood”. However, in keeping with my Queen’s wisdom, “tradition and the teachings of the Old Craft are banks for the river and the spirit of the seeker is the river”. We all know that the primary difference between a river and a flood is the banks and their capacity to guide water from its source to its destination and back again. I am hopeful that I do my spirit mother honor in the way I carry the Craft and the Faery Teachings forward to those who seek to be one with the “Ole Power” that pulses throughout all levels of life and in and before all time. Blessed Be!!!!
    (PP): How does the whole system work and why does it work?
    (OF): The “Tree of Enchantment” book really lays out a detailed and hopefully clear approach to the system, which I call “Faery Seership”. By the way, those seekers who eventually work with me in the apprenticeship program become part of what I call “the House of Brigh”. Brigh is the name of my otherworld Faery wife and the primary contact for the inner lineage of teachings I share. She assists with insuring that the information is contacted material and true to the actual nature of the Faery and ancestral forces as they exist now. She also guides my outer form (the surface walker) as a conduit or “bridge” for introducing and cultivating the co-walking inner contacts that eventually comprise the team of each seership student. The book gives a grounded introduction to this work without over-exposing the student to forces that require the monitoring and mentorship of an advanced seer. The lore, images and poetic interpretations in the book introduce the seeker to concepts and contacts as well as energetic patterns that are already known to us on many levels. The intent of the material is to re-introduce the seeker (in this case reader) to the overall living spirit world and their place in it. The system starts where all things start for us incarnate beings…in the physical or “surface” world. It begins with working with the ancestral forces (blood, genetic and societal/ familial) and the elemental and nature-based forces that form our bodies and the bodies and patterns all around us on which we all depend for sustenance. Once these re-introductions occur, then the system leads the seeker inward to: 1. the river of blood and the redemption of paradox, followed by a systematic and sequential re-introduction to: 2. the web of life and fate (the Weaver and her attending spirit women; 3. the visionary purpose within self and the earth herself (the Dreamer and his Faery beings); 3. fulfilled destiny (the sacred stone); and then upward to the stellar realms where the seeker is tuned into the river of stars, which is the universal rhythm of which our beautiful earth and all her children are a part. There are other vision keys beyond that point, but that is advanced work and it is addressed in The Tree of Enchantment. This is an oversimplified summary of how the system works but I hope it gives you a good taste of a very deep well of wisdom and mountain of vision. The system serves to answer what I call the three sacred questions which are as follows: 1) who am I? 2) what is it (the creator, god all-that is, or whatever you call the source)? and 3) what is my role (personal vision) in it?   It is also aimed at cultivating a sacred approach to all life filled with enchantment and wonderment or what I call “the hidden heart of blue flame”.
    (PP): How does your Faery Seership effect you’re life and how you teach others?
    (OF): This work has absolutely transformed my life and this is consistent with the experiences of my students and many seekers who have worked with my published material. The teachings are very personal, non-hierarchical and familial when shared with others. In so many ways, it is very humble and folk based which is important in this age of lofty intellectual concepts and illusionary power maneuvers. I am always overcome with the sacred as it flows out of each student’s discovery of magic and truth through this work. In my personal life, working the material (and being worked by it) was often challenging because it forced me to “unbind the threads of illusion” and, we all have these threads to address in our spiritual development. Faery Seership is not for any seeker who avoids truth and transformation. It offers very real healing and spiritual growth benefits, but it is not an escape from reality…it is an emersion into it! I am overwhelmed with the number of people who have said this material gave their lives more meaning and tangible sacredness than they ever imagined possible. All I can say is that the Tree of Enchantments, the Vision Keys and the attending spirits are very generous and clearly, patient with humanity especially when we earnestly seek re-unification with the family of life as opposed to futile attempts to exploit or wage war on it. In the process of development through the Faery work, seekers begin to know that they are not outside the sacred (inherently flawed) and that they never walk alone through this “earth-school” where we live embodied and expand the realms through our discoveries.
    (PP): When did you begin the Faery seership apprentice program?
    (OF): About five or so years ago, I think. I currently have training houses in Florida and Maryland and have done some initial work for establishing a house in Northern Ireland. There are people in several other geographic areas in the U.S. and U.K. that have voiced interest in this work.
    (PP): Who initiated you into the old traditional craft?
    (OF): Again, though there are some overlays, the Craft is separate from the Faery Seership material. Many of the names of my initiators simply cannot be shared in such a public forum out of respect to them. I was originally initiated into a coven that practiced Welsh Witchcraft with some Native American Influences, then into Alexandrian Wicca up to the third degree High Priesthood.  My last initiator was an Elder in what she called Celtic Wicca where I attained the third degree as well. Her lineage was two generations from Lady Circe, who was my most influential teacher. Lady Circe was very much a public witch, so it is appropriate for me to disclose her name. Traditional Witches and Wiccans adhere to the Law of Secrecy for many reasons and I must honor our ways. Lady Circe along with her High Priest raised me to the Eldership through our most sacred rite called “the Bridge of Light”, in a public ceremony on Beltane 2002, Lady Circe the mantle of her lineage and tradition to Lady Meshlamthea, Lord Malachi and myself. Without a doubt, this was greatest honor of my life as a witch. I will always revere Lady Circe as my Queen, mentor and role model for what it means to be a witch of the highest standard.
    (PP): What is it you do (Teach, write, etc…)?
    (OF): I recently retired as the High Priest of Foxwood temple of the Old Religion though I continue to advise it as the Founding Elder.  I continue to advise and teach the Council of Elders for Foxwood temple in the tradition and practices of my teachers in Lady Circe’s lineage. I used to teach a lot more as I developed Priests and Priestesses to ensure the continence of our tradition and lineage. I could talk to you at length on these practices in another interview in the future if you like. Foxwood continues to teach seekers and if folks want more information they can go to Foxwood-temple.net.
    The primary material I teach in the public arena is Faery Seership and Southern Conjure magic. I already provided information on the Faery work. In the Southern Conjure material I teach crossroads, candle, and graveyard magic primarily. I do a lot of work with the ancestral spirits including the creation of what we call “soul or (soil) pots, entering and exiting graveyards, finding live graves (haunted ones), and other work within the confines of ethics and legality of course. From time to time I teach a series I call “The Ways of the Witch” where I share lore, practices and techniques. I also teach some material on the “veil” (second sight), its development, genetic components and use.
    (PP): How do your guided visionary processes work?
    (OF): The techniques I teach are focused on attunement, alignment and agreement of the threefold life (the three walkers) then I teach approach, engagement, exchange and mediation techniques with the inner contacts and attending spirit beings associated with the Tree of Enchantment. I have detailed a comprehensive seven-stage visionary process that forms the core of the visionary work as follows: 1) Anchoring (grounding and centering in the starting point); 2) attunement/ alignment of the walkers; attunement of the walkers to the “power of place” (the soul of the land where you are working; and alignment and attunement of the working space; 3) Opening the way between the worlds; 4) induction of the “rapture” (working trance/ luminal state); 5) traveling to the other world; 6) interaction with the inner-world presence/ spirit being; and 7) return and fusion (transference of the exchange or pattern to the outer world also known as “bridging”). The processes follow a specific formula though the exchange may differ depending on the beings encountered and the need of the partners or team (human and other). For clarity, the three walkers are as follows: a) the surface walker (the soul that “is” your physical form); b) the dream-walker (the subjective/liquid and underworld soul/body); and c) the star-walker (the transpersonal, stellar and electric/ energetic body/ soul). The visionary processes, as they work through the system works with all three of these in their realms and with the redeemed and helpful beings encountered there.
    (PP): When was your coven the Foxwood Temple founded?
    (OF): April 29, 1990. We have daughter covens in Utah, Virginia and Maryland and one aligned one in Oregon.
    (PP): Can you tell us about the alliance of the old religion?
    (OF): The Alliance of the Old Religion was spearheaded by Lady Circe and the three mantle carriers with the support and partnership of many of the Elders in the line and even with support and honorary membership of Elders from other lines such as Alexandrian Wicca, Strega and New Orleans Voodoo. When we had the original vision to form the Alliance for solidarity, support, cohesion and preservation of Lady Circe’s teachings we had no conscious idea that she would be transitioning into the Summerland’s soon thereafter. Our Goddess works our spirits in mysterious and perfect ways, doesn’t She? Because of the formation of the Alliance and the deep bonds between Lady Circe, the mantle carriers and Alliance membership, her lineage and teachings are assured to pass on and on to the generations of witches to come. We continue to meet, share, exchange and do magic and reverence of the Old Gods in the ways of our beloved Queen…Lady Circe. Long live the Queen!
    (PP): How important is family tradition and ancestral magick in the work and teaching you have done?
    (OF): In my Craft work it is central since we are preserving and teaching Lady Circe’s ancestral practices. Ancestral work is central to old-line witchcraft and is one of the hallmarks of authentic traditional Craft, as I understand it. I encourage my students and initiates to know the traditions of their blood too. Too much old lore and wisdom is being lost in our fast past post-industrial human life. This is sad because we are getting wings from new technology and intellectual approaches but too often losing the roots provided by tradition and heritage. These roots offer deep wisdom, cross-generational context, shared heritage and soulful meaning. In the Faery work, ancestral work is the first level of work and no other level can be approached without it with any exceptions EVER.  We were all born to carry forward our ancestors in the fulfillment of the vision of humanity and the planet. No one is exempt from this work. We were born to resolve ancestral paradox, heal ancestral pain, re-enchant the world and free the magical power of our world to bring the stars here and “heaven” (though we are not Christian in approach) here and now.
    (PP): How do you see Faery seership in America?
    (OF): I am astounded by the level of interest in this work. I am also honored to be a conduit and servant to the Tree of Enchantment. At the moment I have more interest than I can currently keep up with. In the near future, I hope to be teaching this work full-time as my way of life and career. Faery Seership offers important answers to the human quest. It re-introduces the seeker to the sacred presence of humanity (ancestral and living) to the whole creative spirit world. It helps to heal the abandonment pain of a species imbued with the free will to step outside the balance. If we humans can truly grasp our role in the vision and destiny of the planet(s) and the stars, it will hopefully see the sacred presence and role in all things and stop being a frightened, lonely war-mongering and parasitic child. Nature (inner and outer) has been patient and will embrace us. I only hope (and I truly believe) that we will awaken in time to become partners with the rest of life. This is the aim of The Tree of Enchantments and Faery Seership.
    (PP): In terms of the future of our community what do you view as most important?
    (OF): I have a lot of thoughts on this. Like so many minority groups, we suffer from internalized Pagan phobia” and “Witch phobia”. It is time to celebrate our diversity and put away the childish need for absolute rightness. Too often we are our worst enemies. I do believe we must keep each other ethical and accountable. I believe that the earth religions movement and eco-spirituality offers serious insights and answers as long as we stay focused on the spirit of our work. Also, too many of our teachers and Elders are dying without their lore, techniques and insights being preserved. We almost lost a lot of Lady Circe’s. Please folks, if you love and respect your teachings and your teachers…. take the time and make the commitment to preserve them (not literally your teachers mind you…mummies are out of fashion). We all know that the Goddess and the Old Ones before Time will replace what is not needful. Lest claim our needfulness in the world and let our wisdoms flow into a world that badly needs it.
    (PP): If people want to learn more about what you do or perhaps even contact you how would they do that?
    (OF): I do not have an Orion Foxwood or Faery Seership website as of yet though it is planned. Seekers can email me at Foxwood-temple.net or write me at P.O. Box 5128 Laurel MD 20726.
    (PP): Do you have any other works in progress?
    (OF): I continue to refine the material for the apprenticeship program. I have a bunch of new material I am developing and anticipate writing some more Faery work, ancestral magic and even one on what I call “the Living Goddess”. I have some other works in progress but as we say in the Craft, “Speak not lest the spell be broken”. LOL!!!!! I thank you and the readers for your time and interest in my work and that of my Elders. May we all find our place in the sacred circle!!!
    Bountiful Blessings and Thanks go out to Orion Foxwood, for his compelling insights into “The Tree of Enlightenment”, and the magick of the Faery tradition.
    Works of Orion Foxwood:
    – The Tree of Enchantment: Ancient Wisdom and Magic Practices of the Faery Tradition
    by Orion Foxwood
    October 2008, Paperback
    –  The Faery Teachings by Orion Foxwood
    February 2007, Paperback

    Interview with Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone

    January, 2009

    janetgavin

    Courtesy Of Janet and Gavin Bone ©

    Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone have skillfully put together a guide which grants the reader the capability to learn in ways never before possible, they have created a powerful tool that embraces and opens new doors to Progressive Witchcraft for all who wish to enter.

    Excerpt from Progressive Witchcraft:

    “You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” ~ Mahfouz Naguib

    It is evident that both Janet and Gavin are both clever and wise…
    Janet and Gavin were so gracious as to allow us this magnificent interview probing into their personal journeys of spirituality, life, and work. The past few weeks I have spent talking with Janet and Gavin have been not only a blessing from the Goddess and God but spiritually educational as well.
    Interview with Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone

    PP: Whenever one talks about Wiccan books, it is to be anticipated that one of the many books you wrote with Stewart Farrar is brought up. Looking back, how have your personal views have changed?

    Janet:

    Both our views (mine and Gavin’s) have changed over the years, but the same is true of anyone who practices a spiritual path.  Certainly I am not as traditionally orientated as I use to be. Stewart and I really ceased calling ourselves ‘Alexandrian’ when we moved to Ireland in 1976.   It was impossible to practice in an Alexandrian fashion and connect with the mythology and spirit of the land here. I think I’m broader in my outlook, but that comes I think from meeting witches all over the world as well as having contact with several native cultures, such as the Lesotho Sangoma, genuine Native American and Maori.  I think having contact with these cultures has put my practices and beliefs into perspective.  What sticks out in my mind most is the comment they all make regarding western neo-pagans. They all say we tend to be in ‘our heads’ too much – we tend to be intellectual over spiritual.

    PP: Janet and Gavin do you still consider yourselves to be a “Witch or ‘Sorceress/Sorcerer’”?

    Janet and Gavin:

    These are just words; useful descriptions of what you do, not who or what you.  We do witchcraft, so we are witches.  We also do sorcery – we work with energies and spirit forms, so we could easily also describe ourselves as ‘sorceress’ and ‘sorcerer’. The same applies to the way we should apply such terms as Wicca. It is important to remember what the word actually means; someone who ‘shapes or bends’ natural forces using their wisdom.  There is always the danger that these can become titles, that being a Wiccan means that you are only from a specific collection of traditions within witchcraft’ We do not believe this to be true. There is always the danger that the label will become more important than what you actually practice or the spirituality associated with it.

    We are, all of the above; witch, Wiccan and sorcer(ess) but foremost we have to say that we are Priestess and Priest. Again, a description or in this case a job description of someone who connects with a divinity for the benefit of their community. We are that before anything else, the rest are just useful descriptions.

    PP: Who, would you say, inspired you the most in your own path through the Mysteries?

    Janet and Gavin:  Well there have been different people at different times for both of us.

    Janet:  Certainly for me, Doreen Valiente.  I’ve always considered her my spiritual mentor. She was humorous, educated and down to earth.

    Gavin:  I can run off a whole list!  Some you wouldn’t necessarily associate with Witchcraft, including Brian Bates (author of The Way of Wyrd), Stephen Hawkins, and Ray Buckland.

    PP: Janet how do you feel your work to date was influenced by Doreen Valiente?

    Janet: I don’t think Eight Sabbats for Witches and The Witches Way (compiled as A Witches Bible).  Would have been as successful as they were without the input and support we received from Doreen.  She helped us through the maze of writings and contradictory histories of modern Wiccan and the Book of Shadows, so that we could produce something which was genuinely of benefit to those out there searching for Wicca.

    PP: What advice would you give to someone newly interested in Paganism or Witchcraft?

    Janet and Gavin: Shop around!  Stewart and I joined witchcraft and Alex and Maxine’s coven because that’s all there was around at the time. Now there’s much more choice: Druidism, Asatru, Chaos Magic and several different forms of Wicca. Don’t try to fit yourself in the box – find the box that fits you.  Unfortunately, there are still the egomaniacs setting themselves up as teachers who have only read a few books and have no experience, but you find that in every field. If you’re looking for a teacher they must have humility, a sense of humor and more importantly say ‘I’m still learning’!  But the most important teachers are yourself and the Gods; you can learn more from life than you can from any book or training course.

    PP: Janet, as one of the best known Priestesses in the modern Pagan community, how do you think that public opinion of Witchcraft and Paganism has changed over the last few decades?

    Janet and Gavin: This really depends on where you are?  Every country is different. Certainly in the UK, Ireland and some areas of the US it has become much more acceptable amongst the general public. Certainly the man or woman in the street is more familiar with the word ‘Wicca’ and generally realises it isn’t devil worship.  This certainly wasn’t true in the ’70’s.  As a movement, we are doing better with public relations than ever but we still need to get ‘out of the closet’ and realise that we are part of a bigger society.

    PP: If either of you could go back in time and change one thing you did,
    what would it be?

    Janet : Hard question.  All experiences are learning experiences.  So, if there was only one (and I presume the question is Craft orientated), it would be that I could have learnt not to be so soft on people who technically needed a good kick in the Yesods!  It has taken me the best part of 50 years to really say ‘No!’ to people.  That is what I would want to change the most.  As Doreen put it to me ‘sometimes the Lords of Karma where blue uniforms’.  If a person steals from you go to the police, even if that person is Craft.  If it is not a police matter, a good kick in the Yesods will suffice! Well, there is one other thing.   Back in the ’80’s Stewart and I appeared on BBC show one Halloween with several well-known witches as well as born again Christians.  I was asked by the presenter: ‘so, what do witches actually do at Halloween?’ and I replied ‘Well we call back the dead ritually and then we play with our nuts…’ I think I might change that!

    Gavin:  I’m not sure I’d actually change anything. I believe everything that has happened to me has happened for a reason. I’m a strong believer in the concept of weird, that although we have free-will there are something’s that are supposed to happen to us if we are to learn and grow.

    PP: What do you consider the highlights of your own writing careers to be?

    Janet: I don’t think there’s ever been just one highlight as such. Definitely co-authoring Eight Sabbats for Witches, it was such a wonderful book to research.  The wealth of folklore we discovered and experienced here in Ireland was breathtaking.  The market at the moment is flooded with witchcraft books, some good, some appalling. 9/11 in the US had a terrible effect on the book market in general, and sadly many publishers are under pressure from Christian fundamentalism to stop publishing books on the subject.  In the long term, however this may have a positive effect.   It may mean that only truly new concepts in Craft literature will be published, that gives many of us old writers time to draw breath, learn new skills and ideas and hopefully publish books that will be as challenging for all of us as I have found Eight Sabbats to have been.   It will also pave the way for some bright young minds to make names for themselves in Craft literature.

    Also, Stewart and I were very proud to be asked by Hayley Mills (the actress) to do a piece on the Craft to go into her book My God.  We were in the book alongside such famous people and Religious leaders as the Dali Lama.  All the proceeds went to the Save the Children Fund.  But of course, it’s not just a writing career anymore.  It’s now also a career as an international lecturer on the subject.  It feels weird just saying that, as it was something I never dreamed of happening when I first came into the Craft.  In which case, I think I think it also has to be being made honouree Lesotho Sangoma, the traditional healers in South Africa. I was very touched by what they said to Gavin and me.  There was recognition that we were the same regardless of culture or race or practise.   The singing and dancing went on for two days, and we were presented on the first day with our elders staffs.  I keep my beaded staff proudly next to our altar.

    Gavin: I should point out that I’m not sure I’ve ever really considered myself a writer, not in the same way Stewart was, anyway.  A researcher, yes, a person with ideas ‘outside the box’ he’s wanted to convey, also, yes, but not a professional author. I’m just not that talented.   Lecturing and workshops, well, that’s a bit different.  There are some things you know you are good at, and I can say (with a bit of ego, probably) that I am good at structuring and teaching practical workshops.  So, I think the highlight for me has been to sometimes ‘teach the teachers’. We’ve had several well known authors at our lectures and talks over the years, and it’s gratifying to know that you have taught them something that they can pass on.

    PP: How does working with Gavin compare to working with Stewart? And Gavin how does working with Janet compare to working with anyone else?

    Janet: Stewart was an old school writer.  Dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s. Gavin isn’t and he’s the first to point out that he regards himself as a researcher rather than a writer.  His real forte is in teaching, and this is obvious if you’ve ever been in one of our practical workshops.  He has an ability to simplify difficult subjects so that any can understand, making them interesting.  Stewart saw this immediately in him when they worked together on the first collaborative book The Pagan Path, so much so that he left all the material content of The Healing Craft to Gavin, apart from some of the rituals.  Stewart would also sit down every day and write a piece, plodding along whilst Gavin is a spontaneous writer. He gets sudden rushes of inspiration from goddess knows where and doesn’t stop writing until he’s finished.

    PP: Janet and Gavin, you have travelled all over the world teaching and promoting your work. Do you think that the views held in here in the USA, compared to that of the UK, Europe, etc are significantly different from each other?

    Janet and Gavin: Considerably, but that is something that we should expect within Wicca.  It isn’t a stagnant tradition; it’s shaped by the societies and attitudes it comes from.  For example, the US is a young vibrant culture; therefore we can expect Wicca there to be enthusiastic and forward thinking. That is not to say that this isn’t true amongst some people in the UK, but it is certainly more noticeable; and there are of course ‘old Guards’ in the US who make most traditional Gardnerians in the UK look positively revolutionary!  Australia has an extreme culture and has had to deal with the whole Southern hemisphere issue regarding Circle Casting and Festivals.  This has developed in different ways to the UK. No one-way is right, just different according to cultural needs.

    PP:  How do you deal with people who criticize you for your views and practices?

    Janet and Gavin: To those people who criticise us or anyone else in the Craft just for the sake of criticising, I say ‘get a life!’  If someone has a genuine criticism then I welcome that, it leads or should lead to positive discussion.  Unfortunately, in the British Craft scene particularly there is a tendency to ‘begrudgery’; criticism behind people’s backs purely out of envy because someone is perceived as having achieved some sort of higher status.  This has come about because individuals have come to see Wicca as some sort of social ladder rather than a spiritual path.

    I once heard a wonderfully funny statement: ‘The Farrar’s are famous, for being famous’. I thought that was hysterical. I always thought Stewart and myself were well known for writing books on witchcraft!

    I am well known amongst those who do really know me for having a wicked sense of humour.   I enjoy ‘shaking the tree’ to see what falls out!  But if someone wants to truly discuss or criticise Stewart, Gavin or myself then I will address his or her criticism seriously.  I am happy to answer genuine questions and am willing to back up my arguments. But I will not get involved in interpersonal conflicts or ‘bitchcraft’.

    An example, the classic criticism against Stewart and myself is ‘They gave away the secrets of the Craft in Eight Sabbats (A Witches’ Bible) and the contents of the BOS!’   The Sabbats and most of the rituals in these books were constructs’ of Stewart and myself, with added material from the original BOS.  It was Doreen Valiente who wrote the BOS material we were given and it was she who gave us permission to use it.  As Doreen said to us in a letter at the time:  ‘Some pieces of Gerald’s and much of it mine; as I technically own the copyright PUBLISH AND BE DAMNED’ Doreen wanted it published so we went for it!   As for the technical info on the Sabbats most of it came from an Irish writer called Maire McNeill and her book Festival of Lughnasa.

    It is an old writers saying: ‘Those who can, do. Those how can’t criticise’.  Most of the movers and shakers in the Craft get criticised. It’s par for the course, and I think I speak for all of us. Positive critique is good for the soul, it makes us think about our work. Criticism for the sake of itself is water off of a Duck’s back!  If you want to criticise someone because they do something different to you, go back to a Christian Church where you belong!

    PP: Do you feel that the Wiccan Tradition is in jeopardy of becoming a “Religion of the Book” with all of the emphasis placed on “Craft Laws”, lineage, and “traditional” teachings found in some circles?

    Janet and Gavin: There’s been a tendency by some to see these as being essential to being a Wiccan.  This has resulted over the years in conflicts and ‘witchwars’ between individuals, covens and traditions on who is and isn’t a Wiccan.  I certainly don’t believe just because somebody has the right lineage, a word for word handed down Book of Shadows, and follows the Craft Laws word for word that this makes automatically makes them a ‘Good Wiccan’.  Wicca has to be more than just these practises.  We have met many people who call themselves ‘Wiccan’ who do not have any of these but to quote Doreen Valiente ‘They have that look in the eye!   Wicca has to be about spirituality, and your practises should reflect that, not the other way around.  If not, we fall into the same mistakes monotheism made, going first into fixed doctrines and then into dogma.  We have seen this already occurring in some areas of the Wiccan community.  I’d rather taken on someone in my coven that has that look and no degrees or lineage, than someone who has a 3rd Degree from a good source, but has no understanding of the spirituality of witchcraft in their soul!

    Apart from anything else, none of what you have mentioned is really that old: Lineage, Book of Shadows, Craft Laws, etc in witchcraft, don’t go back before Gardner and the 1950’s.   They aren’t traditional to witchcraft.  Gardner brought lineage in from Freemasonry; the term Book of Shadows is Middle Eastern and Gardner created the Craft Laws after an argument with Doreen Valiente!  As for the ‘traditional teachings’ it’s never occurred to a lot of people that these have changed over the years with material added and taken away by various people, which is what should happen.  Most of the  ‘traditional material’ I have seen over the years, and we do have quite a collection of BOSs from several traditions, was all incorporated from the literature of the period and not from any ancient handed down source.   We can’t count the amount of times I’ve seen ‘traditional teachings’ which have included material taken from our books as well as other authors, which they or we had written themselves!   Alex once tried to pass off a handfasting ritual written by Stewart as from ‘an old traditional source’ claiming that it was ancient and handed down through his family! We need to stop this sort of self-deception and accept that Wicca is a new and still developing tradition, which is only 50 years young.

    We believe that we’re supposed to be emulating Gardner, Sanders etc. not dwelling on their every word as though they were prophets in the same way that Christianity does.  If they can create rituals, create systems, why can’t we? Wicca is supposed to be a religion of life, of creativity, of connection to Spirit.  It is not suppose to be about replacing old dogmas with new ones because people are not willing to let go or deal with the norms and values they were brought up with in a Christian culture.  Once you have come face to face with the underworld mysteries, and have made that connection to a specific face of the divine, you begin to realise that all of these things, lineage, BOS etc. are just a system; icing on the cake, but not the cake itself.

    PP: On your website you said that your group is associated with the Aquarian Tabernacle Church in Ireland. Can you tell us more about this?

    Janet and Gavin: We were involved in the setting up of ATC Ireland to get Wicca and paganism in the Republic legally accepted. Ireland, regardless of its Roman Catholic past is a very progressive country.  Most people don’t realise that unlike the UK it is actually a secular state. Church and State are not linked legally.  We cannot be attacked for our religion here as the constitution protects us under a law forbidding ‘incitement to religious hatred’. Ireland is also a signatory to the EEC and UN’s charters on human rights.

    It was necessary for us though to define Wicca as a religion, which we did under law.  Now if Wiccans or pagans are discriminated against or have any form of malicious behaviour used against them, the perpetrators are actually committing a crime.

    We are clergy in ATC Ireland. I rarely use the term Reverend to describe myself though. I do describe myself as ‘Clergy’. I consider that to be a job description rather than a hierarchical title. Perhaps I might call myself ‘the Irreverend Janet Farrar!’

    PP: Could you please define Progressive Witchcraft?

    Janet and Gavin: Both of us think it’s really important to point out that Progressive Wicca/Witchcraft, as we talk about it in our book is not a tradition in the generally accepted use of the word, nor did we ever intend it to be seen as a tradition.  If it was seen this way this would really be a dichotomy, as if anything, it ‘a traditional’.   The term ‘Progressive’ is used in a descriptive way.  It is a way of looking at Wicca/Witchcraft, an attitude towards it. Someone who might want to use the term is describing his or her belief that Wicca, or for that matter all spiritualities are not static.  They look to the future; they develop, change and evolve over time.  Saying this, they will look back to the truths of the past, but discard those things that they feel are now irrelevant to their spiritual growth.   A progressive Witch is therefore someone who questions and challenges the dogmas and doctrine that they see in Wicca and asks the question ‘are they relevant to me in the 21st Century?’   They believe that Witchcraft is a living, evolving tradition, which changes over time.

    The major difference is that the progressive Witch puts spirituality and therefore divinity at the centre of their practice.  This means all else follows from this, including ethics, morality, magical practice and even their life-style.  Connection with the divine as one of the many deities it manifests as becomes the most important aspect of their practice and life.  It is therefore a commitment, a vocation, to serve deity.  This does mean that deity is seen very differently to traditional Wicca.  The ideas of the Triple Goddess and Dual God, the standard archetypal way of viewing deity remains valid, but they are just seen as useful magical concepts. What is important is that emotional connection. This means that a progressive Witch is likely to be polytheistic in their outlook, believing that every path is valid and not necessarily believing that theirs is better than anyone else’s.

    They are also likely to adopt techniques, which may not necessarily be seen as Western Tradition.  Progressive Witchcraft therefore sticks to one of the oldest Craft axioms – if it works use it!

    PP: You have retained a three-degree system of initiation in your coven. Please tell us more. How much emphasis do you put on life experience in training a Witch?

    Janet and Gavin: For a while we very concerned that the degree system as we had been taught it was becoming hierarchical.  You have to remember that its origins are not in any form of traditional European pagan practise but from Ceremonial Ritual Magic and Freemasonry.   Our experience was that the degree system had become more about how long you had been in the Coven rather than how much you had learnt or how much spiritual connection you had made during that time.

    First we tried to do away with the degree system completely, going to a one-initiation system.  Very quickly we found this wasn’t enough; it didn’t fulfill the needs of the coven, so we introduced a dedication ritual, and eventually a third level – an eldership.  Well, we ended up eventually not with three levels but four!   We began to look at why this was. It really gets down to human psychology and the need for all of us to achieve goals.  If we don’t have them part of our own psyche sets them for us anyway, a process the psychologist Abraham Maslow called Self-Actualization.

    Our ‘degree’ system, if you can call it that is very different to the one we were actually taught.  It is based not just on the accumulation of knowledge and magical skill but also on spiritual achievement.  For us, initiation must be a spiritual experience, a spiritual ‘epiphany’ so to speak.  As Janet mentioned earlier, we strongly believe in the concept of ‘there is only initiator’ and that is the divine manifest as God or Goddess not ourselves.  This means that we believe that initiation can take place in the mundane life of the witch; in fact we don’t separate the mundane from the magical.  All life is magical; therefore an experience that changes you spiritually can take place in any area of your life, not just in the magic circle.  We try to reflect this in our initiation rites, and therefore also recognize that magical and spiritual wisdom can be obtained outside of circle.

    The other thing is that we teach that this system is irrelevant outside the circle.  It is not intended to be a system of hierarchy, which should be accepted by the wider pagan community. All our initiates know this and don’t make a big deal out being first or second or third degree out in the wider community. There is no ego attached to the system.

    PP: How do you see Witchcraft being passed on in the future? Will there be more worship circles led by priests and priestesses or will there always be covens? Will there always be the goal of a universal priesthood within Witchcraft, or will people content to be congregants?

    Janet and Gavin: All  of  the above, and that’s how it should be!  By nature Witchcraft is diverse. This isn’t its weakness, but its strength.  There is room for all.  Witches by nature are Priests and Priestesses; we will see this role taken more seriously with witches ‘ministering’ in their communities, but we doubt if there will ever be a ‘Universal Priesthood’.  Priest and Priestess will cease to be a title but become a job description. Ultimately a Priest/ess serves divinity and their community. This does of course mean a certain level of commitment is required which not everyone can give, so there will always be worship circles led by those more dedicated than others.

    PP: When did Gavin join the writing team of Janet and Stewart? How has Stewart influenced Gavin’s writing? How do you work as a writing team? Do you two always agree on everything you write?

    Janet:  Gavin started writing with us the moment he moved to Ireland. Stewart wanted to integrate him as ‘part of the team’.  He immediately went to work with us on the Pagan Path.  I don’t think you can really say that Stewart ‘influenced Gavin’s writing’. He certainly taught him the basics, but Gavin was already naturally gifted in research and putting ideas to paper.  Occasionally Gavin and Stewart did ‘bang heads’, mainly over style.  Stewart was from a ’40’s generation where you ‘crossed all your “t’s and “dotted all your I’s, whereas Gavin was from that ’70’s generation where language was seen as being more fluid;  generally any arguments, which were quickly settled, where over these generational differences rather than content.  I never had any problems with what Gavin has written; we always referred back to each other over everything.

    PP: Tell us more about Stewart. Stewart was greatly admired by all who knew him or of him. He will forever be missed.

    Janet and Gavin:  Stewart had an amazing life. When he was born man was just taking to the air. He witnessed the rise of Nazi-Germany, fought in the Second World War, witnessing firsthand the futility and barbarity of war, including entering Auschwitz. Watched the beginnings of the Cold-war, joined and left the Communist Party, worked as a journalist, a scriptwriter for TV and film, and as an author of Thrillers. He witnessed man walking on the moon and at the end of his life the plans being put under way for travel to Mars.  He had breadth of experience most of us will never have, and it was this that drew him to witchcraft as spirituality; the need for spiritual creativity to overcome the negative things he had seen during his lifetime.  He could be generous of heart sometimes to the detriment of his own needs. Yes, we will miss him too!

    PP: What are the biggest changes in the Wiccan or Pagan community that you have seen over the past twenty years? What are the challenges we face in the years to come?

    Janet and Gavin: Things have changed very fast in the last decade, let alone since when we both first came into the Craft.   The new generation coming in know much more about the Craft before they find join a coven than we did.  For us there were just a handful of books, if we could find them.  Now there is information freely available to everyone on the Internet on Witchcraft and the magical arts.  This means the new generation have higher expectations of those teaching them, plus in many cases they don’t have to throw of the monotheistic baggage that we did. They’ve been brought up in pluralist a society, which makes them more open to concepts within paganism.

    Both of us had to search to find groups.  Now there are contact networks, open meetings, organisations such as the Pagan Federation and even in some countries Pagan and Wiccan Churches.  Now the witch has a choice; they can be solitary or they can join a coven to train.  When we both came into the Craft we took what we could find, and you had to join a coven and be initiated before you were accepted as a witch.  Now you can pick and choose what tradition or way of working you would like.

    We believe that some of the major changes that occur in the Craft in the next decade will be in the way it is practiced.  Certainly the Craft is moving away from Ceremonial High Magic towards a more Shamanistic approach.  We believe this will continue and result in a more spiritually orientated Wicca with direct connection to the gods being the principle teaching.   We have already moved this way ourselves as have several other Covens and individuals that we know about. There will certainly be more emphasis on the Mysteries being taught because of this directional change.  The biggest challenge is going to be the avoiding of a ‘generation gap’ as the younger generation is already starting to move in this direction. They want more than just Circle Casting, The Wheel of the Year and the Four Elements as part of their training. They’re hungering for deeper teachings, and if witches of our generation don’t give to them, they will reject Wicca and create their own paths causing a schism in the witchcraft movement, if this isn’t happening already.

    PP: Are you currently working on any new exciting projects that you would like to share with the readers of Pagan Pages?

    Janet and Gavin:  We obviously are now up and running in cyberspace with our on-line course. The Progressive Magic course has now been running for over 10 months, and we hope to add some more modules to it.   As we said previously, we are now concentrating on working with deity particularly in the area of Trance-Prophesy.  We are currently are working on a book on the mechanics of this practice, and how to interact with the Gods on a personal level.

    Bountiful Blessings and Thanks go out to both Janet and Gavin, for your mesmerizing insights from Witchcrafts past, present and future.

    Collaborative Works of Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone

    Janet and Stewart Farrar:

    Eight Sabbats for Witches

    The Witches’ Way

    The Witches’ Goddess

    The Witches’ God

    Spells and How They Work

    Life and Times of a Modern Witch

    Janet and Stewart Farrar and Gavin Bone:

    The Pagan Path

    The Healing Craft

    The Dictionary of European Gods and Goddesses

    Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone:

    Progressive Witchcraft

    Interview With Author Diana Paxson

    December, 2008

    Although best-known for her fantasy work such as the Westria series, Diana Paxson recently came out with a book on shamanic journeying and trancework called Trance-Portation which came into my hands recently and quite swept me away. A frequent reader on the topic on altered states of consciousness and both traditional and neoshamanism, I found her take on the subject fascinatingly fresh and exiting, and couldn’t wait to ask her some more questions.

    PaganPages: Firstly, could you tell us more about yourself?

    Diana Paxson: I grew up in southern California, but have lived in Berkeley since graduating from Mills College. I also did an M.A. in Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley. My first magical experience was a ceremonial lodge run by Marion Zimmer Bradley and based on the work of Dion Fortune. Marion and I founded Darkmoon Circle, a women’s coven, together in 1978. It is still going strong. I have been a consecrated priestess since 1982. I began working with shamanic practices in the 80’s, and with Germanic paganism in the 90’s. I have written two books on that tradition, *Taking Up the Runes*, and *Essential Asatru*. However I am probably better known to most of the pagan community as the author of novels with pagan themes, including the Chronicles of Westria and the Avalon series, which I took over from Marion Zimmer Bradley. I am still very active in pagan activities in the San Francisco area, with Hrafnar Garth and the Fellowship of the Spiral Path.

    PP: There are a number of people, even practiced pagans that do not have a clear understanding of what shamanistic journeying is. Tell us more about what shamanistic journeying is – is it, for example, like astral projection?  What’s the difference?

    Diana: In astral projection, the etheric body actually leaves the corporeal flesh and moves around, usually in the physical world. In trance journeys, consciousness is altered, and awareness moves through inner worlds much as one does in a dream, except that one has control over where one goes and what one does, and can remember what happened.

    PP: How ‘real’ is shamanic journeying? Could it, for example, be considered an out-of-body experience?

    Diana: One journeys through a symbolic reality which is “real” in the sense that it can represent and affect physical reality, but it is not that reality. OOBEs on the other hand, project the energy body into the physical world (see answer to #2).

    PP: What is the relevance of shamanic journeying to the modern pagan or witch, and what are its particular benefits compared to other spiritual and magical practices?

    Diana: Spirit journeys are an excellent way to get the conscious and unconscious mind to talk to each other. Most people use them to get information, such as advice on healing, or to contact spirits or deities for guidance. Within the context of a journey one can also address problems through visualization, and work on healing.

    PP: What especially attracts you in the shamanic trance, as opposed to ritual magic or meditation, for example?

    Diana: In my experience they are mutually useful. The techniques addressed in the book can help one to focus and alter consciousness in preparation for ritual magic or deep meditation. I often include a trance journey as part of a larger ritual.

    PP: You write that in the beginning you had difficulty learning the techniques of trance, which is why Trance-Portation was written specifically as the ‘foolproof’ – methodical, inclusive and gradual – method of developing the ability for shamanic journeying. As a product of years of training and teaching, tell us the most common pitfalls the would-be traveler falls in. Have you had worse-case scenarios, and how did you overcome them?

    Diana: In my experience, there is no “fool-proof” method for anything, but the exercises I’ve worked out seem to work for a lot of people, especially if they are willing to adapt them to their own needs. Chapter 13 of the book addresses some of the problems that can occur. When you set out to deliberately stir up the contents of your unconscious, sometimes you wake dragons. Some people find that they need to take things more slowly, go back to basics, or not do this kind of work at all.

    PP: You were a prolific fantasy author before writing at least three books on spirituality and magick. How does your shamanic experience and/or allies affect your writing – both in fiction and non-fiction? Do you have any ‘rituals’ for when you write?

    Diana: My experience as a priestess in various pagan traditions has enabled me to write about the practical aspects of spiritual experience. I have had many of the experiences I describe, though I have to confess that my magic does not always work in such a spectacular or dependable way (in fiction, the candles always stay lit and no one ever forgets the cauldron). I do use trance techniques to get my unconscious working on plot problems, and invoke whatever deities are most prominent in the book.

    PP: In the section about finding a spirit ally or power animal, you mention that Michael Harner, the core shamanism trainer, counsels against using insects as allies – could elaborate on this belief, and add your own thoughts to it?

    Diana: Not really. I don’t have any insect allies myself, but I know some people who have worked with butterflies and bees without any difficulties.

    PP: Chock-full of practices and exercises, from sensing energy and communion with trees to mapping out the shamanic world you travel – your book includes so much! Including a section on re-living past lives in the shamanic state. I imagine this could have come handy researching your historical fantasy novels?

    Diana: I have used reincarnation as an element in the Avalon books, but have actually never set a novel in a period in which I believe I have had a past life. On the other hand, I suspect that at times I draw on the collective unconscious to access certain historical periods.

    PP: You also explain the use of cultural symbols as a sort mental doorway into the spiritual realm of that culture and what the symbol represents. How much does this depend on one’s understanding of the symbol and/or of the culture it comes from?

    Diana: The more you can learn about a culture, the more accurate your interpretations of the symbols and beings you encounter will be. Context can matter a great deal.

    PP: I was expecting and quite looking forward to a section devoted to the common shamanic technique of soul retrieval, but you have decided to pass over it as a technique too advanced for this book. Was that a difficult decision, and what brought it about?

    Diana: Sandra Ingerman not only invented that technique, she covers it extremely well in her book, so there was no need for me to do it again, especially since *Trance-Portation* is already pretty long.  I do think that before doing trance therapy with others, one should develop trance disciplines via the exercises in my book or other training.

    PP: However, your book devotes a lot of detail into a practice called Oracular Seidh or the Core Oracular Method. This is something extremely interesting that you have pioneered in reviving – please tell us more about that, and what led you to it.

    Diana: Seidh is a magical tradition from the Viking Age, which includes an oracular practice. I may have been the first to reconstruct the practice as a way to serve the pagan community today. Oracle work is another advanced technique which requires the skills covered in Trance-Portation. I am planning another book that will build on this one and cover the techniques I and my group have been using for almost twenty years.

    PP: What are the differences between the oracular seidh practice and practices in voudou and south-east Asian practices that seem similar?

    Diana: An oracle answers questions, drawing the information from the Otherworld, the spirits, or sometimes from gods. In Voudou ceremonies, mediums are possessed by gods, who may sometimes answer questions. Sometimes a god may speak through a seer in seidh, but answers given by gods convey their own opinions, whereas a purely oracular answer may be more balanced. Deity Possession is another topic that demands a book of its own.

    PP: Whereas other shamanic books are more dedicated to finding power animals and allies as well as soul retrieval, you have devoted a large portion of this book to seeking and communing with the gods. With a lot of modern paganism is in part an effort to rediscover and reaffirm the old gods, this is a very powerful way of connecting with one’s faith. You mention a very “interesting” first meeting with the Nordic god Odin. What kind of surprises have these first meetings had, and what have they revealed about the character of the gods?

    Diana: The main surprise was that this was the beginning of a relationship that has remained as vivid and important in my life as any human connection.
    Such a relationship can deeply enrich one’s life.

    PP: The possibility of discovering the spiritual realms and meeting deities – how much is this dependent on prior research, and how much can it be research in itself? How could one go about with little to no information?

    Diana: Research is a good place to begin. It will “prime the pump” and make it easier to contact a deity, it will help you to interpret what you learn, and it can act as a corrective to wishful thinking. On the other hand, you can benefit from what heathens call “UPG” (Unsupported Personal Gnosis), so long as you don’t insist that your insight is the only truth. If a lot of other people have the same UPG, you can begin to treat it as true, at least for our time.

    PP: This is a question of particular import for people whose ancestral beliefs and deities are all but forgotten. As someone with Finnish ancestry looking to get back to his roots, it is extremely difficult to learn much more than the names of the major deities of my ancestors. Could shamanic journeying be the new way for pagan reconstructionism?

    Diana: First, steep yourself in whatever information is available about the culture. Then do your journeying. To some extent this is what the Saami have had to do in order to reconstruct traditions interrupted and suppressed by the missionaries. You may not get “the” truth, but you will probably find “a” truth that will be useful.

    PP: Thank you again, Diana! Finally, is there perhaps another book in the works?

    Diana: Thank you for asking! <g> In fact, *Trance-Portation* is intended to be the foundation of a trilogy, of which the other two books will deal with Oracle Work and Deity Possession.  I will also continue to write novels. The book on which I am currently hard at work, *Sword of Avalon*, is set around 1200 B.C.E., covers the forging of Excalibur, and features guest appearances by several goddesses and gods.

    To learn more about the westria series, be sure to visit, www.westria.org; the home of the Avalon series is at www.avalonbooks.net; and more about Diana Paxson’s pagan work, visit http://www.hrafnar.org/.

    Interview with Raymond Buckland: The Father of American Witchcraft Debuts his First Fantasy Novel

    December, 2008

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    Raymond Buckland is a familiar name in our magical circles. Known as The Father of American Witchcraft for the instrumental role he played in introducing Wicca to the U.S., he is a respected occultist and the author of around 60 books, including the pagan classic Buckland’s Complete book of Witchcraft. He’s now turned his pen toward the fantasy genre, with the recent release of his first fantasy novel, The Torque of Kernow (Galde Press, Buckland , 2008). Buckland’s decades of magical practice add a strong dose of realism to his fantasy fiction; the Torque of Kernow is a fantastic tale, but the magical acts the characters perform throughout the story are quite authentic. When I heard about this book, I was very intrigued, so I caught up with Mr. Buckland to find out more about his debut on the fantasy literature scene.

    Melanie Harris: Did you draw on your knowledge of real magic when creating the
    elements of fantasy magic in the Torque of Kernow?

    Raymond Buckland: Yes I did. I try to bring in as much authenticity as possible, to make it “feel” right.

    MH: How long did it take you to write this book?

    RB: I actually started it fifteen years ago!  I did about a quarter of it but then it got pushed onto the back burner since I was writing non-fiction for several different publishers. I wasn’t able to get back to it until about two years ago, and then could only work on it sporadically.

    MH: Tell me about the setting for this story.

    RB: As a fantasy it is set in a make-believe world, but that world is very loosely based on the southwest of England. The name Kernow is the old name for Cornwall, in England.  I also incorporate slightly changed forms of the old names for Devon, Wales and Scotland.

    MH: Who is the most evil character in the book?

    RB: “Evil” is a harsh term. The apparent antagonist is Zobort who – we learn as the book progresses – is one of the last giants from Elbra. It was his race that originally had brought peace to Kernow and established a rulership, presenting a gold torque as the symbol of that rulership. When the torque was lost by an early ruler, Zobort was sent to try to find it. The story deals with the race between Zobort and the others to find that lost torque.

    MH: Tell me about the heroes of the story.

    RB: The main protagonist is Shyre, a young farmer who is more or less pushed into the position of organizing the fight against Zobort’s forces and of leading the search for the long lost torque. Joining him are Sannungor, an ancient warrior who has a heart of gold but lacks many of the qualities of leadership. He relishes the thought of possibly becoming the next ruler of Kernow. Keyran is a beautiful black woman who is fearless and an excellent fighter. There is mutual admiration between her and Shyre, leading to a romantic involvement. Along with the group there is a dwarf named Yost and a trelf (tree elf) named Ozal.

    MH: Is anything in the story based on a real-life personal experience?

    RB: I think most authors bring in personal experience to an extent. I have certainly drawn on my years of magical practice and nearly sixty years of research.

    MH: Now, although this is your first fantasy, this isn’t your first fiction novel, is it?

    RB: No, it isn’t the first. Two of my earlier (non-fantasy) fiction novels that a lot of people seem to enjoy are The Committee and Cardinal’s Sin. I also have three others – all centered around World War Two – that will eventually see the light of day through Galde Press. I’m looking forward to their publication.

    MH: I’ve heard you say you much prefer writing fiction to writing non-fiction. What do you love about writing fiction, and writing fantasy fiction in particular?

    RB: I love the opportunity to just let my imagination run riot! Non-fiction can be very restrictive. I enjoy research as much as writing so I try to make my stories as fact-based as possible, which I think helps them seem more authentic. I enjoy creating and developing characters, as well as situations. But I have always had more ideas than I can ever put down on paper and fantasy allows me to include a lot of what I feel.

    MH: Tell me something about your writing process for this story. For instance, did you plan it out first, or just start writing? Do you listen to music, or drink coffee while you write?

    RB: I always plan the whole story in some detail, long before I start writing the actual thing. But even doing that, I find that there is plenty of room for spontaneity. Often the characters will lead the story off in a direction I hadn’t originally intended! I also work out the details of all my main characters, so that there is consistency with them, with their thoughts and actions. I detail their physical appearance, family, background and upbringing, weaponry, abilities, idiosyncrasies (do they lisp, stutter, part their hair down the center, that sort of thing), etc. Much of the early work I do in my head to get it sorted out. I’ll then make notes, then rough out an outline. All the writing I do, these days, is on the computer. I used to do everything longhand, many years ago. I don’t have music playing while I write (too distracting), nor do I drink coffee. I do occasionally indulge my love of chocolate, however! I can sometimes gaze out of the window, at our sheep, ponies, grazing deer, and numerous woodland folk. It’s a wonderful setting in which to write. I live on a dirt road, miles from anywhere, with no neighbors.

    MH: What is your favorite book in the fantasy genre and what do you love about it?

    RB: It has to be Lord of the Rings. Tolkien was such a brilliant writer in so many ways. He was truly an inspiration. Many people don’t realize just how much he researched and how much he based his stories and characters on mythology of various types. He was very deep and in many ways a genius, to my mind.

    MH: Out of all the books that you’ve ever written, which are you most proud of?

    RB: That’s a difficult question! I’ve written about sixty books and love them all! I think “Kernow” (and the books that will follow it in the series) is right up there. The three encyclopedias (The Witch Book, The Fortunetelling Book, and The Spirit Book) are favorites as are “Big Blue” and “Big Red” (Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft and Buckland’s Book of Spirit Communication).

    MH: What sets the Torque of Kernow apart from other fantasy novels?

    RB: The authenticity of its magical practices…and the excellence of its writing! Sorry! (chuckles)

    MH: Well, there’s no sense in hiding the truth! Have you already written the other books in this series, or are you writing them now?

    RB: I’m writing them now and have plotted some of them. At my web site http://www.chroniclesofkernow.com you can read an extract from the second book in the series. I am, however, also writing another (non-fantasy) novel set in Victorian England, loosely based on the Order of the Golden Dawn, so I’m having to juggle my time between books. But then I’ve always been working on two or three books at the same time, so that’s not new!

    Find out more about Raymond Buckland and the Torque of Kernow at www.chroniclesofkernow.com and http://www.raybuckland.com

    Interview with Gail Wood The Shamanic Witch

    December, 2008

    Gail adroitly spins a guide that presents the reader the ability to shape shift and navigate through time, thought, and space. The basic foundations of Shamanism and witchcraft in Gail’s book, “The Shamanic Witch” go beyond the fundamental concepts we have become accustomed to. Reminding one of their own inherent abilities in the Shamanic tradition and edifies just how to put these abilities into practice in Shamanic Witchcraft. Gail has fashioned a powerful practice that once embraced opens up the path between the worlds which leads to affirmative changes in all who follow it.

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    Photo by: Dawn Van Hall
    Gail was gracious enough to allow us this wonderful interview probing into her personal journey throughout her life and her work. The past few weeks that I have spent talking with Gail have been not only spiritually educational but very exciting to say the least.

    Interview with Gail Woods The Shamanic Witch

    Pagan Pages  (PP): Gail could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?

    Gail Wood (Gail): I live in rural Central New York in a house that’s more than 125 years old; we live on nearly two beautiful acres.  Mouse, my partner, is the high priest of our coven and we have two very old dogs.  I’m a college library director at a state school. I love being a librarian.

    I went to college and graduate school at the University of Maryland.  We moved around a lot as a kid but where we always ended up was in Maryland where my mother is from; and that is where I will live when I retire.  I love the Atlantic Ocean beaches especially Assateague Island. I love to read and research and I do all sorts of needlework and sewing.  I love things that glitter!

    I’ve been a Witch before I knew it was called Wicca and I discovered that over twenty-five years ago.  I love Tarot and all sorts of divination, I love to teach.  I’m a Reiki Master, as well as a shamanic practitioner.

    PP: Gail do you consider yourselves to be a Witch or Shaman?

    Gail: Interesting question and the short answer are both.  I consider myself a shamanic witch.  It’s really difficult to get shamanic training that integrates witchcraft or Wicca into it.  Most shamanic teachers are not Wiccans or witches.  I wrote the book to demonstrate not only can it be done but also that the practice of witchcraft is very shamanic in nature.  My personal practice and identity is both shamanic and witchy.  I can’t separate them out anymore!

    PP: Who, would you say inspired you the most in your own path through the Mysteries?

    Gail: There’s not a one-person answer to that question!  My teacher, SunRaven, was one who taught me the basics of shamanic practice and then how to further and deepen the work.  My High Priestess in the RavenMyst tradition, Lady Hawke was the one that made me conscious that my shamanic practice is truly integrated into my Wiccan practice.  Kristin Madden is a great inspiration; she’s fun, funny, and a powerful journeyer.  I’m a great reader and taker of workshops, so there are a lot of writers, teachers, and workshop leaders to whom I owe a lot for inspiration.  I’m a member of an online writing witchy group and those authors give me lots of encouragement, insight, and inspiration.  If I start naming all the writers and teachers, the list would be long—plus I’d be afraid I’d leave someone out.  These days, too, I gather a lot of strength, creativity, and inspiration from my students both inside and outside the Craft, and of course, my partner Mouse and my dogs.

    PP: Gail how do you feel your work to date was influenced by Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone?

    Gail: Another interesting question.  Not consciously.  I have read every book by Janet and Stewart Farrar, and then the ones co-authored by Gavin Bone.  I liked Progressive Witchcraft a lot and remember thinking that this book will help me deepen my understanding.  Now I will go back and take a look at it again.

    PP: What advice would you give to someone newly interested in Paganism or Witchcraft?

    Gail: Find the path and the practice that resonates with your authentic self and don’t let others tell you it MUST be this way or that way.  Find what works for you.  I usually tell people to be as smart about their spirituality as they are with the other choices in their lives.  There are many paths and many ways to experience Spirit and what you owe to yourself is to find the one that resonates deeply with your own internal, eternal divine light.

    PP: Gail, how do you think that public opinion of Witchcraft and Paganism has changed over the last few decades?

    Gail: It’s been a very interesting transition.  When I started, there was very little information about Paganism.  You had to work very hard to find out how to practice and how to make it knowable to yourself.  I’m very grateful to the work of Scott Cunningham, Starhawk, Raymond Buckland, and the fictional work of Katherine Kurtz from those early days, and then later, Dorothy Morrison, Marion Green, and Caitlin and John Matthews.  Then, it seemed, that the information exploded and spilled out into the mainstream and lots of wonderful writers came into the foreground.  I think the controversies surrounding Silver Ravenwolf’s Teen Witch created awareness, both good and bad, outside the rather private pagan community.  Around that time, academics started publishing works and analyses on the pagan community.  Then good and dumb portrayals of Wicca and Witches started showing up in the media including episodes of sitcoms;  the long running show, Charmed, brought even more awareness, both correct and incorrect.  All sorts of things, factual and fictional, inspire us to move into more spiritual questing, so in some ways having a more real portrayal of Witches show up in the media is part of human nature.

    I think more and more people are looking at the values of pagan life and resonating with them.  They don’t necessarily want to be priests or priestesses, but they want to live as if all life is sacred and in harmony with nature.  Others want to live in the counter-culture and be iconoclastic and the pagan community offers that lifestyle as well.  I do see a growth in the Wiccan and pagan laity, to borrow a phrase from the mainstream religions.

    It’s rare nowadays that I have to explain that Wicca and witchcraft is not Satanism.  Most people seem to have a smattering of knowledge.  This is not to imply that people do not have a lot of wrong assumptions but there is usually awareness, though that awareness isn’t really deep or very factual.  Lately, I’ve been treated in some odd ways – as if I am weird-in-a-good-way, a curiosity, or as part of a chic, cool thing.  I don’t usually get treated as evil anymore and that is a blessing!

    PP: If you could go back in time and change one thing you did, what would it be?

    Gail:
    Personally and frankly, I would not spend so much time worrying, and specifically not spend so much time agonizing over how fat I was or was not; am or am not.  I would have danced more!  So I dance now…

    PP: What do you consider the highlights of your own writing careers to be?

    Gail: The Shamanic Witch has me very, very excited.  I reconnected with SunRaven and I think my writing has improved a great deal.  All the writing that I’ve had published has always made me very pleased and proud.  The writing I do is a result of the things I teach, so it’s wonderful to see my teaching take a different and new life in print.  It has also connected me with a lot of people I would not have known otherwise.

    PP: What are your views on sex, and sexual symbolism in the Craft? Does it, in your opinion, play an important role?

    Gail: Where to start?   I’m going to separate out the sexual symbolism of the beliefs of the Craft, such as creation stories and the Great Rite, from the sexual behavior of members of the Craft and the pagan community.

    The latter, sexual behavior, in all its permutations, orientations, encounters, coupling, poly-loving and more, is an important part of our counter-culture community.  As long as I have a choice and can choose in harmony with my own heart, then so should everyone else.  We all live in a long complex gender continuum and there aren’t many safe places for people to go outside the male-female polarity and discover who we are and what gives us joy.  I always hope everyone can find a space of safety and an absence of judgment.  With luck all of us can find not only tolerance but also acceptance and love.  I’ll admit I was shocked at my first festival years ago, but then I got over myself; and as long as I have choices of how far I will or will not go, then it’s all good.

    So then we get into the sexual symbolism in the practice of the Craft and the stories of the Great Rite.  It can make the Craft seem lurid and sensational.  The symbolism itself is beautiful and powerful because it helps us understand the fluid, flowing energy of the Universe.  That energy of ebb and flow, in and out, receiving and giving is made understandable in the performance of the Great Rite.  The challenge in ritual for the symbolic Great Rite in ritual is to be inclusive to all sexual orientations and gender identities.  The Great Rite becomes lurid when people think it’s only about the human male-female sex act.

    PP: How do you deal with people who criticize you for your views and practices?

    Gail: I work in academe and in our community, research, argument, skepticism, and discussion are part of life and I’m well trained in discussion and mental argument.  I am also very good at “agreeing to disagree.” When the criticism gets personal and mean-spirited, then I get my feelings hurt just like everyone else.  I have safe places to kvetch, vent, and process.   I have a good sense of humor, so I can often deflect some remarks that way.  I’d love to tell you that I’m always wise, erudite, articulate, and meet every criticism with the perfect words, but I’m human and I get tired, cranky, and vulnerable too.  I try to keep it all in balance and try not to return nasty for nasty.

    I had a funny experience when I found a Dark Moon community on the internet.  I was really excited.  And they were discussing my book, Rituals of the Dark Moon.  I thought this would really enrich my ongoing work with the Dark Moon.  The first thing I read was that someone really did not care for the book at all because the guided meditations didn’t have much detail.  As I make a stabbed in the heart motion, I also had to laugh remembering my grandmother’s expression of an eavesdropper never hearing any good about herself.  And to answer that criticism, I deliberately kept the meditation sparse so their own journeys could fill in the details.  Talk about your good intentions going awry!

    PP: What are the differences and similarities between Shamanic Witch craft and the Wiccan Tradition?

    Gail: It’s hard to put into words because it is so experiential.  The greatest example of difference in practice is that in my tradition and in my personal practice is that we open Center ritual.  When we open center, we call in the energies of above and below and open the gates to the Upper and Lower Worlds.  The connection between these worlds is ourselves, the Witch, who is rooted in the Lower world through the roots of the World Tree, and we spread our branches up into the Upper World.  The connection between those worlds is here, in the Middle World, with our bodies as the trunk and the tree.  I think in shamanic witchcraft we work deliberately with the totems, power animals, and spirit guides in the cosmology (Upper World, Middle World, and Lower World) of the shamanic practitioner.

    The traditional difference stated in some writing is that the shamanic practitioner sends his/her soul out of the body and journeys between the worlds while the Wiccan calls the spirits into the circle and works with them there.  I find this statement arguable.  One of my sister High Priestesses said once about a ritual that calls in the directions of North, East, South and West but does not open Center, that it was more witchy than shamanic.  I guess it was the nuance and texture of the experience in circle, rather than anything that I can articulate well.

    I find the Wiccan practices of aspecting, Drawing Down the Moon, and possession-like meditations, to be very shamanic in nature.  By inviting Deity into your body, you are journeying to gain wisdom and power and in service to the community, the essence of the definition and purpose of shamanism.

    PP:
    You hold the titles of Teacher, High Priestess, and clergy on your website.   You said that you are the High Priestess of the Coven of the Heron of RavenMyst Circle. Can you tell us more about this?

    Gail:
    I will start with RavenMyst Circle; we are a tradition, a group of several covens.  We are a degree-granting tradition, which is not a rank but rather a measure of progress in our studies and our service to our tradition and the larger community.  I was honored to enter RavenMyst as a Dedicant and progressed through my studies and challenges until I became a third degree High Priestess.  The wonderful thing about RavenMyst was that they honored the work I had done before I entered the tradition.  As a matter of fact, this book is an expansion of a challenge my High Priestess gave me to write a shamanic lesson for our tradition.  In our tradition, the mark of a third degree High Priestess is that she sees with the eyes of Spirit, and the union of my inner divine with that of the transcendent Divine, what we know of as Goddess and God, is kept clear and alive through consistent practice, service to community, and thorough an honest understanding of myself.  It is not a static title but more of a statement of ongoing practice.  At least that’s my experience of the High Priestess gig.

    Our tradition also offers ordination as legal clergy, as an option, and I went through the process to become ordained.  I can perform legal weddings and help facilitate other life passage ceremonies, as well as offer an open heart and listening ear.

    On my website, I said I was a teacher, too.  I believe that the call we hear to walk this path means that we work in harmony with our best talents and our burning passions.  Mine is to guide people to find the spiritual path that suits them in their soul.  That is what a Teacher is to me and as a result, not every one of my students has followed “my” path, but end up following the path of their calling.  I characterize it as, “I know stuff and I like to share.” I love what I teach.  I teach Tarot, shamanic practice, Wicca, and other fun things like tea-leaf reading, pendulums, and different ways of looking at the Goddesses and Gods (think chocolate!).  I recently retired from teaching Reiki because I felt that Spirit was telling me to leave that path for others to teach.  What I teach is strong, fluid, fun, and interests me, heart and soul.

    PP: Could you tell us more about the Basic journeys of the Shamanic Student?

    Gail: When you get down to it, the basic skills are what keep a practice going and going.  There are three overlapping worlds, the Upper World, the Middle World, and the Lower World.  We journey to these worlds to gather information, wisdom, and power; and we use those things to change ourselves and to help our community change and grow.  The Lower World is the home of our totems, power guides, and creatures who work with us in our journeywork purpose.  The Upper World is where our teachers reside and appear to us in human form as Gods, Goddesses, and revered heroes and humans.  The Middle World is this world of the material and includes the hidden realms of magic.

    The first journeys that form the basis of our shamanic practice are:  journey to the lower world to find your power animal; and journey to the upper world to find your teacher.  Another basic journey is to dance your power animal here in the Middle World.

    PP: In chapter three of your book Shamanic Witchcraft “Walking between the Worlds: Developing a Shamanic Practice” you talk about ‘Guided Visualization’ and Finding your Inner Shaman’ could you please elaborate on this further?

    Gail: The people I encounter come to meditation and trance work with expectations and fears gathered from the media and other sources but with little personal experience, or so they think.  In the media, they see images of monks, priests, and other holy people who are very disciplined in some methods of meditation and seekers think they have to emulate those behaviors to “be good at meditation.” What people don’t always realize is that we instinctually use guided visualization and trance work in our daily lives.  Since it’s instinctual, we aren’t doing it consciously or with discipline.  I use guided visualization to demonstrate that those of us who were raised in a media-enriched world can find a personal meditation practice that works for us.

    The “Finding Your Inner Shaman” guided visualization rocks!  One of my friends, Lady Phoenix Medusa in Rochester, NY introduced me to this meditation.  Because some form of shamanism was practiced in all the cultures of the world, I believe it is part of our heritage, part of our blood, bone, and sinew.  Modern folk, such as us, have to consciously reawaken our inner shamanic instinct.  The guided meditation in the book is one way to do that.  Once your inner shaman is discovered or reawakened, he or she becomes part of your active inner divine nature.  Once again!

    PP: Could you explain to the readers the differences between ‘Creatures and Spirits of the other realms?

    Gail: Nice catch!  I always wonder if someone is going to question that.  It’s a phrase I use in ritual to call in the ‘creatures and spirits’ of the directions, above and below.  I believe that that we humans see the world of spirit within our own human limitations.  The Animals and others appear to us in ways that we can understand them, so they might be a cartoon character, an animal we like, or a creature we encounter in our daily lives.  In circle, I want to allow the possibility of limitlessness so I tried to pick a phrase that would allow me to call in more than I could imagine into our circle – in perfect love and perfect trust, of course!

    PP: What system of initiation is used in your coven and in Shamanic Witch Craft?

    Gail: Much of the initiatory work in my coven and tradition is oathbound, meaning that I have taken oaths not to reveal parts of our practices including initiation.  We do that to continue our practices in safety and also to make each threshold ritual the best possible experience for the Witch.  Keeping parts of the practice secret is not to exclude people but to intensify the experience.  Truly, initiation comes from Spirit and we Witches are witnesses and facilitators of the experience.  Understanding comes from the experience of the initiation and not in the reading or telling of it!

    PP: How do you see Witchcraft being passed on in the future? Will there be more worship circles led by priests and priestesses or will there always be covens? Will there always be the goal of a universal priesthood within Witchcraft, or will people content to be congregants?

    Gail: I think there already is a pagan laity.  There are people who want to live in harmony with the sacred world and to live as a pagan but don’t want to write, facilitate or actively create their own worship.   I’ve heard people identify themselves as pagan agnostics and pagan atheists, saying they question or disbelieve in the existence of many gods, rather than just one.  What they really want to do is live life according to the values of sacred life and in harmony with nature and maybe a lot of the counter-culture activities as well, but they are not religious.

    How will Witchcraft be facilitated in the future?  I think the variety and diversity already exists and that will not only continue but flourish in keeping with individual need and desire.  I believe there will always be covens just as there will be open circles, public circles, groups that meet together in large and small numbers.  It’s up to the individuals how they want to meet together and the human imagination is enormously creative.  I think there will be more diversity in how people identify themselves both individually and as groups.

    PP: What are the biggest changes in the Wiccan or Pagan community that you have seen over the past twenty years? What are the challenges we face in the years to come?

    Gail: There is much more awareness in the general population about Wicca and by extension, paganism.  I don’t believe there’s much depth to that awareness but most people are generally aware that Wicca is a growing religion.  People make their own judgments about Wicca and often without a lot of information.  Seekers will come at all levels of dedication from curiosity and thrill-seekers, to people wanting to criticize and harm, to the dedicated and earnest.

    Some of the challenges we currently deal with are similar social issues everyone in society has to deal with, is how to function within a dominant culture with little sympathy or understanding of our lack of structure, money, and organization.  As examples, I think various pagan groups are facing decisions about non-profit status, money, insurance, and meeting places all the time.  As we grow larger than our living rooms and groves, where do we go, how do we worship, and how do we make it happen in consistent and effective ways.

    As we grow as a community, we need to think about children’s education and growth and organizations such as Spiral Scouts are great ways to help.  At the other end of the spectrum, how are we going to deal with our aged ones?  Nursing homes, hospitals, funeral homes, and all the services concerned with aging and illness do not usually encompass an ecumenical understanding of pagan religions.

    And, as the population in prisons continues to grow there are many incarcerated pagans un-served by the free world pagans.  I had a pagan prison ministry for more than five years.  My correspondence courses grew exponentially and the need for my services left me emotionally burnt out; it consumed so much of my time and resources, I finally had to stop.  In my experience, most free world pagans do not want anything to do with incarcerated pagans.  It is hard work and the few people who do the work are dedicated and honored folk, but they do toil alone often without support or understanding.

    And the bigger question about all these social issues seems to be, how do we address them and still maintain the free-wheeling, iconoclastic, counter-culture attitude that brought most of us to paganism in the first place.

    PP: Are you currently working on any new exciting projects that you would like to share with the readers of Pagan Pages?

    Gail: I have an idea percolating to do a book on the shamanic visions of the 21st century goddess called The Rowdy Goddess.  To take the understanding of various Goddesses, well-known and obscure, and approach her shamanically and see what happens!  I’ve done bits and pieces of that and would like to put that together.  I’ve been working on a Tarot book for pagans; it’s designed as a year-and-a-day study course and incorporates the holidays and other interesting tid-bits.  I’ve also wanted to write an advanced book on shamanic witchcraft called The Well-prepared Witch.  How to be a magical worker, a journeyer, and a spell-caster…..

    Bountiful Blessings and thank you Gail, for your mesmerizing insights into Shamanic Witchcrafts past, present and future

    Works of Gail Wood Include:

    Shamanic Witchcraft

    The Wild God: Rituals And Meditations on the Sacred Masculine

    Rituals of the Dark Moon: 13 Lunar Rites for a Magical Path

    Short Essays and

    “Sweet Dreams” in Cakes and Ale for the Pagan Soul.

    The Llewellyn Witches Calendar, various years including 2007-010

    Llewellyn’s Tarot Annual 2007 and 2008

    The Magical Almanac 2006 – 2010

    We’Moon Datebook and We’Moon on the Wall 2007

    Author Nigel Suckling

    November, 2008

    Being a huge Fae Fan, when Nigel Suckling’s book Faeries of the Celtic Lands plopped on my desk I was very excited, but also very guarded.  Having read a variety of Faery books, I expected this book to be much the same….’historic’ tales of Faery encounters, a brief dictionary of the Fae & Fae Clans, a bit lacking and usually a bit wrong.  I was pleasantly surprised by Nigel Suckling’s Faeries.   Nigel takes us through the world of Fae that Fae Fans dream of entering.  So complete in his writing Nigel Suckling takes us through the world of Fae from historic records of their first appearance, to the Celtic deities related to the Fae, to details on each clan of Fae like other writers have failed to catch.   If you are looking for an excellent book on Fae & Celtic Mythology I whole heartedly suggest reading Nigel Sucklings Faeries of the Celtic Lands.  In a  world full of boring Faery encounter books & fraudulent faery books, Faeries of the Celtic Lands is a refreshingly, educational alternative!  Nigel Suckling is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers and having read one book I am already looking forward to his others.

    Nigel was nice enough to take time to bless us with a wonderful interview delving into his personal life and his work.  Talking with him the past month, I found him to be as great a person as his books are.  Here is the interview:

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    Thank you for taking the time to speak with us & Our readers!

    First tell us about yourself, Nigel Suckling.  Where are you from, etc…

    I was born in Southern Africa in the closing days of the British Empire. I came to England at just 16 with the intention of finishing my education as quickly as possible and getting back out there, but within a couple of years I was seduced by the place and have happily stayed ever since, living halfway between London and the south coast.

    How many books, to date, have you published? Can you tell us briefly about them & on what subjects they are.

    I’ve lost count of the number of books overall because many involved interviewing artists for the texts of what were essentially their books rather than mine. But of those in which the writing played an equal or greater part I think it’s coming up for about twenty. The first book on which I was given a completely free hand by my publishers was one about unicorns which I wrote for the artists Linda and Roger Garland to illustrate. It remains one of my favourites.

    I have read your book Faeries of the Celtic Lands, the first question I am sure, readers will want to know is do you believe in Faeries?

    Tricky question, but the short answer is yes of course because otherwise why would I write about them?

    Have you had any experiences with them or seen them?

    Apart from at the Faery Ball in Penzance last year, I can’t really say I’ve bumped into many that I could pass the time of day with . Nor can I say I’ve ever seen one in the flesh for certain, but there have certainly been many times and places when I have felt their presence and would not have been at all surprised if one had suddenly materialized in front of me.

    Of all the Fae around the world what drew you to Celtic mythology & Fae?

    My mother’s family were Irish, despite having lived in India for several generations as members of the British Raj, so I grew up believing absolutely in leprechauns and crocks of gold at the end of rainbows and so on. Even when that faded I was left with curiosity about Celtic mythology which leads inevitably to the Fae. There is a quite distinct quality to the Celtic attitude towards faeries that gets you much closer to them than, say through Greek or even Nordic mythology, even though the faeries themselves are essentially the same everywhere.

    What compelled you to write Faeries of the Celtic Lands?  You mention in the prologue your fascination with Fae and Fae Lore, where does it stem from?

    The main impulse was that in the many years I spent delving into Celtic mythology I could find no clear overview so that is what I wanted to do with this book. My fascination with Fae lore in general I can’t really explain, it’s just always been there.

    When discussing Faeries, Pagan Lore & Beliefs always pop up, are you yourself Pagan?

    A few years ago I had to go into hospital for an operation and at some point a nurse asked what religion I was. I was tempted to say ‘pantheist’ but then realized that of course she only wanted to know what kind of priest to call if it all went wrong, so I just said ‘none’. Pagan is probably the best description of what I am but I find the mystical aspects of all religions fascinating, including the Bible faiths. They’re all trying to unravel the same mysteries.

    Do you follow a Celtic Path?

    Above my desk I have a detailed schematic of the Celtic year which is kind of my road map to life.

    Does your spiritual path affect you as a writer?

    Absolutely.

    We’d like to know a bit more about you, the person.

    You’d have to ask my wife really, although when someone did that the other day she said that after thirty years of marriage she still has no idea what makes me tick.  Perhaps that’s why we’re still together.

    What drew you to your profession?  Have you always wanted to be an author?

    Pretty much, from the age of about 20 anyway. Before that it was just one of several possibilities. I was interested but it didn’t seem a very practical way of making a living. Which is true enough, but I went for it anyway because for me there’s no feeling like the arrival of the first copies of a new book. Not just the physical sensations like the smell of freshly printed pages, but that feeling of having just plucked ideas from the ether and turned them into something concrete that complete strangers can pick up and share.

    If you could choose any other profession, what would it be and why?

    An artist maybe. Originally I was equally interested in art and writing but only the writing proved popular. I did draw the Celtic picture border in Faeries though, and all my books have a lot of art in them.

    How do you decide your topics for your books?

    Given the choice, I just go for whatever’s at the top of my list of interests at the time, which was the case with Celtic Faeries and its follow-up Book of the Vampire. There are always several possible books hovering at the back of my mind and many more sketched out in the Ideas file. Publishers quite often approach me with an idea though, and if it excites me I’ll happily go with that. So far they’ve always been topics I’ve wanted to tackle anyway.

    Do you have a favorite book/author?

    Closely rivalling Tolkien is Canadian author Robertson Davies whose Deptford trilogy completely astonished me when I first came across it by chance in the late 80s, attracted purely by the cover. He produced a string of equally wonderful novels up until his death in 1995. What I love is his ability to bring out the magic and wonder in the everyday world.

    Do you have any “Rituals” for when you write?

    Of course, but nothing very formal. Washing up, for instance, is an almost necessary stage in clearing the mind for a day’s writing and a useful therapy for whenever I get stuck. A friend called round once and asked why I was doing the washing up when I was supposed to be sweating on a tight deadline, but often it’s more fruitful than just hammering away pointlessly at the keyboard.

    Are you working on anything currently?

    Several things. A couple of projects are far too fragile to talk about yet, but one is another book on fairies, much more light-hearted this time. With Celtic Faeries I wanted to look into the deeper, serious side of Fae but of course there is also a purely fun side which is what I’m now exploring. It’s a kind of practical guide to fairy-spotting.

    Thank you so much Nigel.  I look forward to reading your upcoming books!!

    If you would like to know more about or read updates on Nigel Suckling, you can visit him on his site:

    http://www.unicorngarden.com/welcome2.htm

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