Joe Wilson, Part III: England

Wilson wanted to go to England to contact the many people he knew through his magazine who claimed to have knowledge of the Old Religion. In September 1969 he was assigned to RAF Upper Heyford, Oxfordshire, England.

 On the way I stopped in New York to visit Susan Roberts and look at the galley proofs of her book. Also at that meeting were Ed Fitch, Ray Buckland, John Hansen, and Joe Luchak. We agreed that her book was as accurate as possible, and knew that after publication it would generate a lot of mail. Ed, John, and I agreed to remain in constant postal contact to coordinate the efforts of dealing with the mail so it could all be answered. One of the things we discussed was the problem of so many people wanting to become involved with the Old Religion, but there being so few people who had any knowledge or lineage to refer them to.

Ed told me he had a partial solution. He had written two manuscripts that he gave me. . . . One was titled the “Outer Court Grimoire of Shadows”, and contained theory and exercises designed to develop psychic abilities. This was freely inspired by Franz Bardon’s book, Initiation into Hermetics. The other was titled the “Outer Court Book of Shadows.” This one was a series of formal rituals for each season of the year, the full moon, marriage, initiation, and so forth. . . . I thought the general concept was excellent and we made plans to expand the idea when Witches USA was released.

 I arrived at RAF Upper Heyford on a Friday afternoon. I signed in, was assigned a bunk in a barracks, and stored my luggage. Then I telephoned Ruth Wynn-Owen at her flat in London. She seemed thrilled to hear from me and invited me to come and visit. So that evening I took a train to London and followed her instructions for taking the tube (subway) to Ealing. I walked the few blocks from the station to 9 Queens Road where she lived.

We had a delightful meeting, and she introduced me to several others who were involved with the Old Religion.. . . Reg, a photographer and member of the Gardnerian Wicca that I had been corresponding with. . . . lived in northern England. . . . Colin and Marged, a young couple that had recently broken off from their old Gardnerian coven . . . [and] were forming their own. . . . recognized my involvement from the United States and gave me an open invitation to attend their circles when I came to London. . . [Through Reg, Wilson later met Pat Kopanski, who had initiated Alex Sanders. She] offered to initiate me and I accepted. I got my first degree that evening. Over the next month I made two more trips north where she gave me the second and third degrees. . . .

Back down south I attended Colin and Marged’s Full Moon rites each month. They were . . . modifying the Gardnerian tradition …[to give] a balance of responsibility between men and women. . . . I assisted them with several initiations during my stay, but never practiced that tradition elsewhere.

Ruth introduced me to Norman Giles, a man who lived in Oxford. He had been a friend of Roy Bowers aka Robert Cochran and was with him when he ritually drank the potion of poisonous herbs that took his life. Norman lived in a house that had been in his family for over 300 years. . . . I’d go and chat with him once a week and he taught me a lot about Roy’s orientation, some journeying and visionary techniques, and some psychic stuff, including how to do psychometry and a bit of palm reading, and a bit of folk magic. He gave me Roy’s letters to him. He also let me know that sometimes if not often Roy was mixing truth with falsehood, and showed me how certain things he had furnished me were obviously forgeries. I was hurt and disappointed.

I advertised The Waxing Moon in the British edition of Fate magazine and got a fair response. . . . . One [person] . . .  sent my letter and copy of TWM to his brother, Tony Kelly, in Wales. Tony and I began a long and detailed correspondence and established deep respect for each other. . . .

[After Susan Roberts’ Witches USA was published in mid 1970] we received a lot of mail. Among others, I established contact with Tom DeLong [Gwydion Pendderwen] of the San Francisco Bay area, who had written to me because our approaches to the Old Religion appeared to be similar. . . . I soon included him in the joint correspondence held with Tony Kelly, John Hansen, and Ed Fitch. When one of us wrote a letter we made carbon copies and sent it to everyone on the list. Some letters were three or four thousand words long. At least one of Tony’s contained over 10,000 words.

Hundreds of the letters we got were requests for information on how to start practicing the Old Religion. We jointly decided to take Ed’s idea of an Outer Court a step or two further and we collaborated on a book of pagan religious rituals and practices suitable for those who had to start without personal guidance. Each of us contributed something of substance from our own background to share, rituals, theories, and so forth. It turned out to be a fairly decent small book.

We decided to provide this information to anyone who asked for it in return for postage and printing costs. We also decided not to copyright it and to keep the authorship anonymous so that it could be freely copied and passed on to anyone else without guilt. . .

 Other members of the “committee of correspondence” were Fred and Martha Adler in Hawthorne, California; Susan Roberts in New York; and, through Wilson in England, John Score, the founder of The Wiccan, Tony Kelly, and the leaders of the Regency (derived from Cochrane) and Plant Bran covens in England. This led to the founding of the “Pagan Front” in the UK as a counterpart to the “Pagan Way” in America. While each initially worked together with the same aims, each evolved separately.

In America mailing centers were initially set up in North and South Dakota (by Ed Fitch) and in Philadelphia (by John Hansen), but there was so much demand for information that additional mailing centers were soon required. Hansen, who travelled widely on business, carried word of the new tradition to covens and other interested people across America.

 I found it impossible to pay for postage of The Waxing Moon (which was still the only witchcraft newsletter/magazine in the US) to the United States; so I asked John and Ed to take over publication there. They agreed, I gave them my U.S. mailing list, and we now had two separate editions being published, one for each country. Later this resulted in confusion; so, with my agreement, they changed the name of the U.S. edition to The Crystal Well. It became the official organ of “Pagan Way”. I turned The Waxing Moon into the official organ of “Pagan Movement in Britain and Ireland”. . . .

Pagan Movement was growing into a specific new non-initiatory religious tradition with a strong British flavor. . . . John Score formed his own group, which he called Pagan Front, as a screening for people interested in Gardnerian Wicca. . . . Pagan Front later became the Pagan Federation.

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