A Tapestry of Witches II: Lady Pythia and the Witchmage Tradition

This is an excerpt from A Tapestry of Witches: A History of the Craft in America, Volume II, from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s. Please note that the book will contain many footnotes.

"On Carrington Moss" (Gathering Material for Besoms) by David Moss.  From WikiMedia.
“On Carrington Moss” (Gathering Material for Besoms) by David Moss. From WikiMedia.

LADY PYTHIA

Lady Pythia provides an interesting example of the fact that many covens who reinvented the Craft for themselves were accepted as valid by Witches of other Traditions. She wrote to me:

My mundane name is Mary Elizabeth Witt. I was born in 1952. As a member of a Sodality, I wore a circlet with a white dress as we carried a much larger circlet up to a statue of Mary as Goddess, singing: “Oh Mary, we crown you with flowers today, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May” The only crucifixes were the small ones next to the clocks in the classrooms. The front of the Cathedral was a huge mosaic of Mary.  All the while, with no conflict, I called myself a Witch, as I had since age 5. “Witch” was my nickname in Catholic grade school and high school. The first books I got out of the library at age 5 were about witches, and by age 13 I’d read every occult book in the adult library too.  Because of a repeated past-life dream which lasted until the onset of my Moons at age 12, I knew we were not evil, and that lighting fires on hilltops was involved.  (There are more ‘recovered’ Catholics in the Midwest than I’ve ever met elsewhere. In fact, it is not uncommon to meet former RC priests and nuns, some of whom, in addition to being married to each other, are also Witches. There is one such couple in the diocese where I grew up.)

In order to clarify Pythia’s initiatory lineage, it will be useful to review the history of the Temple of the Pagan Way. After Robert and Donna Cole Schultz received their Gardnerian initiations from Madge Worthington and Arthur Edmonds in England in 1969, they returned to Chicago and founded the Coven of the Standing Stones. Donna soon teamed up with Herman Enderle, Richard and Janelle Clark, and others to found the Temple of the Pagan Way, using primarily Ed Fitch’s “Outer Court Book of Shadows” as their guidebook. She also then helped form the “Witches’ Inner Circle’ of the Temple,” which functioned as the first coven of what would come to be called the Pagan Way Tradition. Richard and Janelle then hived off in 1970 to found the Calumet Pagan Temple, and Stanley Modrzyk hived off the latter to found the First Temple of the Craft of W.I.C.A. in 1972, with Brenda Harmon, who had been High Priestess of the Witches’ Inner Circle, as his High Priestess. Pythia wrote:

The acronym W.I.C.A. was short for “Witches International Craft Association,”so called because of the numerous overseas as well as national Seekers and Craft folk with which Stan had connections and helped in those earliest years of Witchcraft in the ’70s. (It is also how many Gardnerians spell the Gardnerian Craft.) Stan had long been an activist Witch. His occult store, Sanctus Spiritus, was the first occult store in the U.S. to be in a mall; he and Brenda dealt with tremendous persecution and literal violence from conservative Christians before and after being “out of the Broom Closet Witches,” who did public info Craft work in many Chicago newspaper articles in the 70s.

I co-founded the Coven of the Floating Spiral with Peregrine and Thaelia in 1975,  and self-initiated in 1976 at Imbolc. (I  humbly and joyously handfasted Thaelia and Peregrine on Beltane/Eve, 1979. Some 30 years afterwards, Thaelia and Peregrine handfasted our coven’s ‘Jem’ and her new husband!) Although we are not Traditional Gardnerians, we are Traditional Witches and can trace our origin back to Donna Cole Schultz. We were doing in the 70s and 80s, pretty much on our own at the beginning, exactly what the NROOGD was doing in California and what Raymond Buckland had foreseen in the 1960s about the Craft growing and covens forming on their own before any contact with Gardnerian Craft—and we were doing it before even much contact with Witches in Cleveland,

My first-degree initiation did come from the first Pagan Way coven, but it was after my coven had been together for years already, functioning quite effectively as Traditional Eclectic.  My lineage was passed to me in August 1979 from the Lady through Brenda Harmon and Stanley Modrzyk.

I had been writing to Brenda and Stan for at least a year, including lengthy descriptions of our coven’s workings, before I met them in person and spent days with them at the Pan Pagan Festival in 1978. They told me that we came to them as already a practiced coven, that our rites, about which I had shared more than enough with them over two years, were so very close to core Craft circles that it was obvious we already were what we were and were doing what Witches elsewhere were doing. Hence, they said, my initiation and elevation were just to manifest on this plane what had already been occurring on the Planes Above. Learning in circle “by doing,” as we did, was traditional Craft practice.

Soon after Pythia’s initiation, Brenda and Stan parted, and Stan married Dorothy Sholeen, who remained High Priestess of The First Temple of the Craft thereafter, with Stan as her High Priest. Dorothy was a Third-Degree Gardnerian High Priestess, having been elevated by Bonnie K.L., who had been elevated by Donna Cole Schultz. However, when Dorothy and Stan got together, she did not bring him into the Gardnerian Tradition; instead, they built up their own rites, refining the materials of the First Temple of the Craft of W.I.C.A. 

As I was teaching English at University for the next few years, I was unable to sync with their schedules for my elevations until 1983, when they elevated me to High Priestess.  By that time my Coven had been in existence for almost 8 years (although we didn’t call it that formally until 1976 or so); we often had more than 13 active members, including a Council of Elders.

In 1985 Lady Pythia co-founded the Ohio Local Council of the Covenant of the Goddess, as was mentioned in an earlier blog..

 

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