Joe Wilson, Part II

In October 1965 Pentagram sponsored a dinner at which Doreen Valiente was the keynote speaker. Her topic was essentially, “Now that `Old Gerald’ has passed over, what do we do next?” She stressed the need for cooperation among covens and for searching out forgotten groups of Witches throughout the world. The dinner was attended by a significant fraction of the Witches in Britain at that time. It established a network of friendships among coven and Craft leaders who had not known each other very well beforehand. [1250]

At first the columns of Pentagram were occupied with debate over whether the so-called “hereditaries” or the Gardnerians were the “true” form of the Craft, but before it could become too heated, Noel turned the magazine into what was essentially a scholarly journal on the occult, and in that form it continued on until about the end of the 1960s. Joe wrote,

 When I got it I found it full of information about something called “Wica” . . . “the Goddess”, Nature Religion, and the like. I showed it to Sean and he said . . .  “Oh no, not another ‘call to the covens.'” He didn’t think highly of them or that movement, and cited all sorts of examples of political in-fighting in similar groups. He advised me to ignore them—instead I ignored his advice.

Inspired by Pentagram, I started a four-page spirit-duplicated newsletter in early 1964, which I named The Waxing Moon. I was searching for other people who were practicing spirituality similar to that which “Sean” practiced. . . . I placed it in a bookstore near the University of Wichita . . . and put an advertisement for it in the classifieds of Fate magazine. . . . [and] got about 50 requests for it each time . . . Most of the people who wrote in response to my advertisement were searching for a way to get involved in this alternate form of spirituality. Some were just curious.

I published whatever information I could, and wrote personal letters to everyone who wrote to me. I’d often explain that I couldn’t do much for them, but I could sometimes put them in touch with other people in their geographical area so they could form their own study groups. None of my American correspondents claimed any first-hand knowledge of the Old Religion, though some did say they were familiar with the movement in England.

In 1965 I listed an advertisement for Pentagram in TWM, and placed an advertisement for The Waxing Moon in that publication. I received about 30 letters from people in England who had read my advertisement. I recognized one of them, Robert Cochrane, as a regular contributor to Pentagram. His writings were mystical, and at odds with what he said was the simplistic approach the Gardnerian Wicca writers seemed to have. He claimed to be a member of a family that had secretly kept these practices since before the persecutions of non-Christians in the dark ages. He called his group the “Clan of Tubal Cain.” I seriously doubt his historical claims now, but then I believed him. We corresponded for about six months before he died by his own hand. [Cochrane was also the “magister” who gave Justine Glass information for her book Witchcraft—The Sixth Sense, as well as the person who coined the term “Gardnerian.”.]

Cochrane, whose real name was Roy Bowers, agreed to teach me as much as he could by mail as a supplement to what I’d been learning through “Sean”. During our correspondence I learned that his viewpoint was similar to “Sean’s”—in fact, except for the fact that it was oriented to English soil, it blended and supplemented “Sean’s” teachings quite well. Much of the way he taught was through mystical questions such as “What two words were not spoken from the Cauldron?” The answers to the questions were less important than the process of answering them, and he was relentless about emphasizing the importance of that work. . . .

During 1964 and the first half of 1965 I made other contacts which significantly affected me during the next few years. Among those were Ruth Wynn-Owen, a Welsh actress, living in England, who practiced a form of the religion she called the Plant Bran, since her family claimed descent from the Welsh god Bran. I kind of adopted her as a substitute mother.. . .Another was John Score, an English Gardnerian. John was inspired by my starting The Waxing Moon, and said he wished they had something like that in England (since Pentagram had ceased publication). I told him to start one like I did, and so he did, and called it The Wiccan.

My most significant contacts in the United States were Bill and Helen Mohs, then from Culver City, near Los Angeles; Ed Fitch, an Air Force captain; and John and Jay Hansen, of Chicago. All of these people became close friends with me, first by correspondence, and later through personal meetings and association.

[Ed Fitch was the third member of the triumvirate who spearheaded creation of the Pagan Way, but I will need to describe Ed more fully when I get to the blogs specifically about Gardnerian Craft.]

Around the beginning of September 1966, Wilson received orders for duty in Thailand, and arranged for Bill and Helen Mohs to take over production of The Waxing Moon while he was away. He kept up a steady correspondence with them during that year, and upon his return to the States in December 1967, was able to stop off in Los Angeles to meet them.

 They had a longstanding interest in occult matters and although they did not seem to be as well read as I was in some areas, they were more knowledgeable in others. They told me of their experiences with the Ouija board and their interpretation that Aphrodite and Pan wanted them to reestablish their worship. They introduced me to some of their friends, and took me to what they called a “coven” meeting conducted by one of their female friends. It was very ceremonial, and foreign to anything I had experienced before. I recognized its primary elements as modifications and adaptations from A.E. Waite’s Book of Ceremonial Magic.

On January 2nd, 1968, Wilson took the letters and other papers that Bill had accumulated regarding The Waxing Moon, flew home, and began his assignment at Forbes AFB. He began publishing the magazine again, now by photo offset.

 I put a new advertisement in Fate and published two new issues during the first six months of my tour at Forbes AFB. Among the subscribers . . . were Jessie Wicker Bell, of Florida; Harold Moss, Sara Cunningham, Nancy Poss, Fred and Martha Adler, and numerous others in Southern California; Donna Cole in Chicago; Doreen Valiente and Derrek James, John Score, Ruth Wynn-Owen, and many others in England. I continued to write numerous letters to people both in the United States and England, introducing them to each other when they asked to be put in touch with someone with similar interests in their own geographical areas. . . . In response to my advertisement offering The Waxing Moon I was contacted by three writers who were doing books, [including]  Susan Roberts, [who] explained that she had a contract with Dell and asked for my help. I decided that I’d do what I could for her and eventually introduced her to Ed Fitch and John and Jay Hanson, as well as several other people who claimed to be practicing the Old Religion. . . . in early September [1968] Susan had a business trip to Indianapolis; so we had a chance to meet and she spent a couple of days interviewing me.


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