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 … [Read more...]

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 … [Read more...]

Joe Wilson, the Pagan Way, and 1734

I’ve had to decide whether to write about Raymond Buckland next or Joe Wilson. Ray is the man who brought Gardnerian Craft to the New World, and I certainly will relate what I know about him, but looking at all the details, I think it’s more useful to tell Joe’s story first. The history of the Craft is not linear. During the late 1960s, at least a dozen threads popped into existence at almost the same time; logically, they should all be described simultaneously. In practice, only one tale can be … [Read more...]

Before the Gardnerians: CAW, RDNA, and DTG

Just to be through, I'm concluding this prefatory series with three groups that have been very important in Craft and Pagan history and that, at last technically, did predate the arrival of Gardnerian Craft in America. The Church of All Worlds  I have puzzled over where to fit the Church of All Worlds into the stories I am telling, because they were not at first part of the Craft or Pagan movements and did not intersect with the Craft until about 1970. However, I think CAW provides an example … [Read more...]

Before the Gardnerians: Four More Precursors

The Hollywood Coven  The Hollywood Coven was founded in 1967 by E. Tanssan of Hollywood, Florida. However, according to a letter by Kitty Lessing in an issue of Green Egg in 1972, Tanssan had been a member of the “Gundella” coven in Birmingham, MI, that was headed by a T. Milligan and had been established early in this century. Tanssan had succeeded Milligan as leader of the coven in the mid-1960s, shortly before the coven was disbanded because of police harassment, at which time Tanssan and som … [Read more...]

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...]


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