The Witch Family

In the Craft we pray to be reincarnated with our loved ones, “that we may meet, and know each other, and love again.”  This refers not just to members of our genetic family, but to those rare friendships we make a few times in any lifetime, when we meet someone with whom we feel an immediate sympathy and a natural trust and openness.  These meetings are very mysterious. They seem to take place between people who have known each other before; there is a déjà vu quality about them.  Sometimes romantic love is involved, and then we seem to have met our soul-mate, the reflection of our inner being right out here in the world.  This feeling may or may not last; sometimes it is a brother or sister or friend we have found from another life, and we mistake that depth for romantic love.  On the other hand, our genetic brother or sister, whom we love dearly, may as well be living in another world from us, and all our lives we carry a feeling of regret that we could not get as close to them as to certain other people outside our family.


When we come into the Craft we are told “once a witch, always a witch.”  When we really come inside and are initiated, it is because we feel at home here; it is the same sort of feeling we get when we meet someone we seem to have known before.  We may not stay with a particular coven, we may even withdraw from active involvement in the Craft for the balance of a lifetime; but if we have once felt that feeling of having come home, then, no matter how far and long we stray, we shall have had intimations of our witch-family.


The witch-family reincarnates together, though not all of a family will choose to incarnate in a particular lifetime.  Some will stay on the other side and help their brothers and sisters in the physical world, sometimes appearing in their dreams as friends helping them out of difficult situations.  In several dreams I have been helped out of dank, unhealthy prisons by a vigorous, red-haired man who always appears to my right and, taking hold of my arm, walks me out with him into the sunlight and fresh air.  We walk a little way together, talking and laughing.  He throws his head back and laughs loud and long.  I have sometimes thought he is the God Thor, but it is just as possible that he is a brother from my witch-family, whom I may meet yet in this life, or who is not on this side now but waits for me in the Otherworld.


Sometimes members of our witch-family may choose to be born with us into our genetic family, and with these siblings, uncles, grandmothers, we will feel a special kinship which we would feel even if they were not our genetic relatives.  In other cases, a special friend will pass away early, after we have known her only a few years, yet our bond is so strong that we continue to feel connected to her, and when we talk to her spirit we are filled with that particular joy we felt in her presence when she was incarnate.


When we come inside the Craft and are initiated, we declare to the Watchers of the four quarters that we are reaching out now deliberately to our witch-family, and they take notice of us and begin connecting us up with the others, on this side as well as on the other side.  The Watchers are Great Ones, exalted non-human spirits, whom we address in Circle when we say “three times round the Circle’s cast; Great Ones, spirits from the past, witness it and guard it fast.”  The Great Ones are the four Watchers and our own witch-family’s Great One, while the ‘spirits from the past’ are ancestors and discarnate witches who no longer incarnate but live on the other side permanently, like the Sidhe.  The Berbers of North Africa said that if you can stay on the other side for 100 years, you will be transformed into a djinn and won’t have to reincarnate in a material body.


A wonderful account of Hindu witchcraft can be found in the book Kali’s Odiyya.[1]  The odiyyas came down from the hills and practiced bizarre rituals.  “The villagers’ profound reverence for these beings was matched only by an irrational fear of them.  We called them odiyyas or sorcerers – adepts of light and masters of benevolent magic.” [2]  This is an account by a Hindu shaman, who as a boy was called Shambu, of the mystic experiences of his childhood and adolescence under the guidance of his sorceress Aunt Preema, and of the relationship of spiritual and sexual love that develops between him and his cousin Sandhya, Preema’s daughter.


After a visionary experience, Sandhya asks her mother, “…why did I see Shambu as a different person when the White One embraced us?”  Her mother answers that the veil was lifted for a brief moment, and explains it is the veil “that separates the current incarnation from the past…”


Then Shambu speaks, with tears in his eyes.  He tells Sandhya that he saw her different also.


“ ‘The veil of forgetfulness is a merciful one, and is rarely sundered,’ continued my aunt. ‘But when it is rent, memories from the past will disrupt and uproot the being to the core.  Life is an experience of playful growth.  Often, beings grow in groups, merging and separating from incarnation to incarnation.” [3]


Aunt Preema goes on to say that Shambu and Sandhya have been together many lives, and have forged a special link through spiritual, that is Tantric, practices together.  They have become separated from their reincarnating group because of having some special karmas to fulfill.  Once that is done, they will be reunited with them.


So also when we come into the Craft we must not be overburdened with worldly problems that yet remain to be solved in this life.  We must have already begun to get a handle on our current lives, or we are not yet ready to rejoin our witch-family.  For this reason, when people become interested in our tradition of the Craft, we meet with them as students on an outside porch, as it were.  There we get to know them and they us, and there we celebrate our restful recreations, our Sabbats, with them.  In this way we get to know if they have fulfilled at least part of their karmas for this life and therefore are ready to come inside.  For those who seem ready for this, a dedication ceremony lets them into the vestibule, just inside the door of our hall, half in and half outside, where we celebrate our frolics together, our Esbats.  The vestibule is a way-station for them, a place where they live and study and practice for a year and a day.  At the end of that, if they feel really called to the Craft as to the road home, they may undergo the first degree of initiation, and now the inner door opens and they enter our hall, our common dwelling.


In the course of time, Sandhya and Shambu become a Tantric couple, but then Sandhya fulfills her destiny in this life: she falls ill and dies.  Shambu is grief-stricken, but through the guidance of his aunt he enters a visionary state where he is once again with Sandhya, who has recovered her inner name of Sveeta.


“Sveeta forced my chin around to face her again…’Yes, it’s me, Sveeta.  I am free, and our group is here!’ …A vibration issued down from her palm onto my crown and coursed through my body…’Look at your hand,’ Sveeta said.


“I held my arm out.  It luminesced.  Indeed, my entire body was luminescent.  I looked at the trees and was amazed to see them shimmer.


“ ‘You are now in the fringe of the astral world, your true world,’ Sveeta said.


“The phosphorence in the trees seemed to move…Suddenly a gigantic radiant form appeared amidst the trees, startling me.  Scintillating blue-black light clothed the being.  With its head cresting the treetops, it stood well over a hundred feet tall.” [4]


This Great One emerges from the forest and calling Shambu “My little Neela,” crouches before him with great gentleness.  Then the other human members of Neela’s group emerge from the forest.  He recognizes Prabha, who has incarnated as his Aunt Preema, and others whose identity is instantly revealed to him in a flood of memory.  Nishachii, the Great One, is Neela’s guardian, and, indeed, the guardian of the whole group.


Thus, as witches, we have to deal with five Great Ones: the Watchers of the four Quarters, who sponsor our development and the development of all witches from life to life; and the Great One who accompanies our witch-family from life to life, guarding us on both sides and making sure none of us goes too far astray down the winding ways of the Hidden Path.






BHAIRAVAN, Amaranda, Kali’s Odiyya; a Shaman’s True Story of Initiation, York Beach, Maine,       Nicolas-Hays, 2000.








The people in one’s coven may or may not be part of one’s witch-family.  One or two or all of the members of a coven may belong to the same witch-family (most likely the HP and HPS do), but not necessarily.  At initiation we notify the Watchers we wish to link up with our true witch-family again, and, when they deem the time to be right, they will help us to do so.  This may be one reason why some join a coven and later leave it:  their psychic links to their witch-family start to activate and at one point they realize that they are not quite home yet, as none of the other coveners is ‘family’ to them.


This means that the Great One who guards the witch-family is not necessarily a coven-guardian.  So when we say “Great Ones, spirits from the past,…” each witch should understand this as meaning his or her own Great One.  If more than one witch-family is involved in a coven, then it makes sense to say “Great Ones,” not “Great One” at that point.  It does not refer to the Watchers of the quarters, who are asked to guard the Circle later in the rite.


[1] See bibliography.

[2] Kali’s Odiyya, p. xiv.

[3] Ibid, pp. 59 – 60.

[4] Ibid, pp. 244 – 245.