The Antinomian Nature of the Craft Movement

I had been planning to post next or soon a blog about Ozark Witchcraft, but I’ve decided against doing so, for several reasons, one being that I’ve had no direct contact with any Ozark Witches—except, I guess, for Cora Anderson, but we never talked about that—unlike the other flavors of the Craft that I’ve experienced or had friends who had and so on. What I know about the Ozarks is from reading; so I cannot discuss that in terms of my own life experience. Another reason is that several bloggers … [Read more...]

Before the Gardnerians: Rhea W. and the Feri Tradition

J. Gordon Melton's files, in the library of the University of California at Santa Barbara, contain letters from various traditional witches who know what American witchcraft was like before the influence of Gerald Gardner was felt. Rhea W. corresponded with Dr. Melton in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and allowed him to take notes on a conversation with her on June 21, 1980. He very generously allowed me to quote from her letters and his notes in my Crafting the Art of Magic, and I am … [Read more...]

Before the Gardnerians: The Fellowship of the Four Jewels and the Church of Aphrodite

  One day in about 1971, Larry and Catherine, two of the founding members of our Full Moon coven, brought me a file full of papers they thought I would be very interested in. I did not look at them right away, but when I did, I was beyond interested. They had received the papers from Gavin Arthur, a very well-known astrologer and grandson of President Chester Arthur, probably by way of his friend Don Dearth. The papers told me an amazing history.The Fellowship of the Four Jewels was founded … [Read more...]

Before the Gardnerians: Introducing the Magus, Part III

In his travels, Hansen encountered more Traditional Witches than probably anyone else had in the twentieth century, and his views on that sort of witchcraft are therefore extremely well-informed. He has written on this subject,  Traditional Witchcraft will probably go on as it has for centuries, with each ethnic witchcraft group trying to maintain its ethnic origins, while at the same time accumulating such magical varied practices from other groups as they are able to gather. In time a true … [Read more...]

Before the Gardnerians: Introducing the Magus, Part II

In his autobiographic essay, Hansen relates that in about 1955, through a series of “coincidences” involving a Tarot deck and a baker who always won his bets on horseraces by using numerology, a “nineteen-year-old redheaded nymph with green eyes” introduced him to Donald Nelson, who was “not unsympathetic to my quest [and] told me that if I wished to understand these arcane things, I should first study astrology,” and sold him some of Alan Leo’s books. Hansen and his wife then began serious study … [Read more...]

Before the Gardnerians: Introducing the Magus

 [This begins the first chapter of my forthcoming A Tapestry of Witches: A History of the Craft in America, Vol. I. The book itself will have much prefatory material explaining how, why, and what I am covering. Here I am going to just jump right into the stories.] Certainly there were people called Witches, or who called themselves Witches, in America before the arrival of Gardnerian Wicca in 1963. Sometimes the term meant merely people who practiced some sort of folk magic or had usable p … [Read more...]

Last Day of the Mysteries / Preview of a New History

Boedromion 23:The final events at Eleusis included the rite of the Plemochoai, top-shaped vases, which were tipped over, one toward the east, the other toward the west, just about at sunset, to pour a libation down into the earth, perhaps into a chasm (See Athenaios 11.496.)  It was probably also on this last day, and perhaps as part of the same ritual, that "looking up to the sky they cried `Rain!' and looking down at the earth they cried `Grow!'" (Given by Proklos on Plato's Timaeus, p. … [Read more...]

Today Only! The Secret of the Eleusinian Mysteries

Boedromion 22The central event in the Mysteries is the night-long ritual in the Telesterion, the Hall of Initiation.  The initiates stand on raised steps around the edges of the Telesterion, and see and hear something like a ritual drama. (That the rituals lasted all night is stated by Clinton, p. 38, citing I.G. II2, 3639; see also Greek Anthology, XI, Epigram 42.)  As Plutarch (Moralia, 81d-e) describes, "Just as persons who are being initiated into the Mysteries throng together at the o … [Read more...]

Boedromion 21: Preliminary Initiations Continue

On the day of the 20th and on through the 21st, the mustai are taken blindfolded through a series of purifications and consecrations, one at a time.  Each has a guide who had been initiated in a preceding year (referred to by Plutarch, Moralia, 765A), who could now see the procedures and so becomes an Epopt, "witness."  Candidates are seated on a low throne, with left foot on a fleece, veiled and holding a torch, with a priestess holding a winnowing basket overhead, as priests and/or priestesses … [Read more...]

Boedromion 20: First Day of the Initiations

At sunset, when the next day begins, torches are lit, and because the Greeks used a 7/8 rhythm (or something similar) for a procession, it turns into a torchlit dance.  They proceed not directly into Eleusis, but instead down to the beach, where there is a ritual concerning Aphrodite. (Perhaps this is where the scene of her rising from the sea belongs. Anyway, this is why at this point in our NROOGD Commemoration, we have the Priestess of Demeter take a skyclad dip in the surf.)  Here the mustai … [Read more...]