Guest Post: Why I Am A Faerie Witch

[Willow Moon has had a long and abiding interest in traditional Witchcraft since the 70′s which led him to be initiated and trained in a number of Witchcraft traditions.  In the early 80′s he met his first primary Tibetan Buddhist teacher. He started learning Buddhist practice and Tibetan language by engaging in week long mediation retreats and daily puja. Since that time he has continued to study both magic and meditation on a daily basis and in longer retreats. He is active in teaching Faerie Witchcraft.]

 

“The Witch” Salvatore Rosa 1646

Faerie witchcraft is the natural religion of my heart. The practice of it fills my soul with the warmth of wisdom and my body with the joy of success in the skillful application of spiritual power. It is a path of self/world discovery through learning, experience and engagement. The practice of Faerie feeds me in all my aspects: nourishing my body, increasing my ability to communicate with others and augmenting my soul so that all parts of my being grow equally in grace and knowledge.

WHERE I CAME FROM

I used to be a devout Christian until I realized at a young age that my spiritual experiences were not valued, believed or encouraged by the religious community I was a part of. The life of trees, plants and animals were valued only for what they could provide, not simply appreciated for the beauty of their existence. Thus I drew away from Christian teachings and communities as I came to understand the endemic Christian imperative to dominate the world instead of living in cooperation with others. The rules and regulations of the Bible seem to deny the realities and needs of individuals and all too often a select few are emphasized while others are ignored.Because of the discrepancy between Christ’s teachings and the behavior of the community, I was in a limbo where I felt Christ had a precious message to love your neighbor as yourself, but which many churches did not follow. So after a number of years I started searching for a spiritual path that spoke to me in a caring and hopeful voice. I discovered books like “Black Elk Speaks” which spoke to me directly of the sacredness of the world and all its people, regardless of whether they walked on two legs or not. The Lakota teachings and the teachings of other American tribes touched my heart in a way that no Christian teaching could because they spoke of the immediate experience of the sacred as something lived here and now, not dead and gone as a part of history.

Unfortunately, at that time I had no connection to any native tribal people in my area because they had already been massacred. Thus I continued to search for a meaningful and living spiritual community in which I could fully participate and that would accept and value me as I am. I began researching Hinduism and Buddhism which are still widely practiced and honored by many people despite invasions through the centuries. In Hinduism I found a faith based on a deep love of the divine in all its diverse forms and a beautiful tradition rich in worship and culture.  I was also most impressed by the Buddha’s emphasis on compassion for all living beings, which are all on the path toward total happiness and freedom. I still practice both Hindu devotions and Buddhist meditations to this day, because I continue to find them to be spiritually and emotionally fulfilling.

I happened to meet some Witches and read some books on Witchcraft, which proved to be both spiritually invigorating and a cultural group in which I felt completely accepted.  I found that the respect Witches in general showed to other living beings was refreshing and a true basis for any spirituality. Much later, when studying medicine I learned of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which is the understanding that one must meet physical safety and emotional goals as a basis for real spiritual development. Without having a physical and emotional healthy environment in place, one’s spiritual aspirations are a fantasy. At that time in my life, I didn’t know about Maslow’s hierarchy, but I found Witchcraft to be the only spiritual path that included physical and emotional well-being as an integral part of the path and that it seemed important.

My first exposure to Witchcraft in the 1970’s was to a traditional Witch family group based in Texas.  I was surprised that they completely accepted two homosexual men as part of their group.  This was the first time I had ever seen homosexuals accepted for who they were, not tolerated simply for their fabulous contributions to the group. I thought maybe I could also be valued for being alive, not merely accepted only for as long as I pretended to be like everyone else. I continued to seek out other Witches and eventually contacted Gwydion Pendderwen through his magazine “Nemeton.” He was a student and initiate of Victor Anderson’s Faery tradition.

I was eventually able to meet Gwydion, Alison and Cynthia in their home in Piedmont, CA and was delighted by their immense knowledge and unmitigated kindness. They took me to the first Covenant of the Goddess meeting on their land called “Coeden Brith” where I met many Witches and celebrated in the forest with them. Finding Witchcraft was like finding my home, I felt safe and a part of a greater community that accepted me as I was.

I eventually came to study with Nightwing Coven, which was a NROOGD Coven. This Witchcraft tradition was created as a classroom experiment at San Francisco State University.  One of the students who started this tradition is my dear friend Judy who mentored me in NROOGD. I worked with Nightwing for years, finally attaining a white cord initiation before moving to another state.

When I returned to the San Francisco Bay area, I reconnected to Nightwing Coven and attained the NROOGD red cord and later the final initiation of the black cord. In addition, I was initiated into Bill Love’s Witch family tradition and I studied, trained and attained the third degree in Alexandrian, Gardnerian and Minoan traditions. I sought training and initiations in so many traditions, because as my first Buddhist teacher encouraged me to do, I wanted to get a complete and well-rounded education.

I value all I have learned from the various traditions I have studied and the many wonderful people who I continue to connect with. Eventually, however, I came back to and trained in Victor Anderson’s tradition which at this time was called “Faerie” or “Feri.”  Being fully initiated into this tradition was like entering my spiritual home. It was an especially beautiful experience to be initiated by my husband, something that is impossible in Gardnerian Witchcraft. As far as I know, only in Faerie, and the Gardnerian offshoots of the Minoan and California Gardnerian traditions, is it acceptable for a woman to initiate another woman or a man to initiate another man.

ORAL TRADITION VS WRITTEN TRADITION

I prefer Faerie over all the other traditions of Witchcraft I have been trained in, because even with our private books of Faerie magic and written shared traditional lore it is still an oral tradition.  This is different than literary traditions that have a Book against which all rites must be compared in order to ascertain traditional practice and belief. In the days before the internet, it was assumed that all correct traditional practice and belief were the same. Since then, people have been communicating more directly with each other, and Crafters in various traditions have learned that there is a lot of variation of practice and belief even within the same line of traditional initiation.I think it is extreme to value a book over the lived experiences of people. I think it is abhorrent to value ink over blood. A book if burned can be rewritten or republished but a person cannot.  To devalue, dehumanize, criminalize, torture or kill another person because of what another person wrote is a prescription for social insanity. I believe that everyone simply by being born is as valuable as anyone else. One can never predict what a person is capable of contributing to the community! Although books can contribute much to society they can never create like a human. Thus books as a product of people can never be greater than the people who wrote them. People by nature are fallible and so are the books they create. Some like to pretend that a book is written by a God, and they elevate the words of a certain book over those of a living person, but that is merely worshiping the book over the living presence of the divine found in every living being. Worshiping any object as divine in and of itself (even a book) is idolatry.

In addition, holding a book to a higher level of esteem than people leads to many kinds of crimes against the people who don’t measure up to the written word. A plethora of modern news stories are proof of this, with all the horrible things people do to others because of what they read in a “sacred text” or were told to believe by spiritual leaders who rely on those texts. Lies and crimes done in the name of a God are still lies or crimes.

Once, I was speaking with several elders of the New Wiccan Church and the California Gardnerian tradition.  They said that Faerie was not a real tradition because nobody did the same thing as everyone else. Of course, this was before the internet had revealed that even Gardnerians don’t all do or believe the same thing. Ironically, creating their own initiation scripts is a forte of California Gardnerian Craft as are its innovative seasonal rituals, yet they considered California Gardnerian Craft to be a “real” tradition! I explained to them that Faerie was indeed a tradition, but it is an oral tradition as opposed to a literary one. Faerie does not look to any particular book to “prove” we are a tradition or to “prove” one’s initiatory status. We have a traditional body of lore and practice in which we have a similar cultural approach to ethics, the Deities and the methods of magic. From our cultural matrix arise new forms which convey the same cultural patterns, like a mandrake which looks different every year yet arises from the same root. In Alfred Lord’s book “Singer of Tales” he states that in oral cultures it is recognized that every performance of a song, dance, story or ritual is unique. Yet the song remains the same regardless of changes in detail or nuance. In the same way that the many diverse stories of King Arthur and the Grail are very different, yet they can all be recognized as a part of the same mythic cycle. When a folk performance is written down it becomes a frozen snapshot of the past not the living present. As such it is not an accurate measure of the living tradition.

POLARITY

Gardnerian Craft considers its Book of Shadows as a true measure of traditionalist practice and belief.  Because of faster communication, we know today that what many lines assume to be the correct version is yet again another version of someone else’s idea of the correct version. Yet this does not prevent some Gardnerians from insisting that queer people cannot work Gardnerian magic within a Gardnerian circle with their natural same-sex working partners, because of “polarity.”“Polarity” has been the term used to denounce the workings of same-sex couples, while at the same time shoring up the privileges of non-gay couples. “Polarity” is the “reason” why gay people cannot work together in a Gardnerian circle. If one were to ask what “polarity” is, one gets conflicting answers. One well-known and highly respected Priestess in the Long Island line of Gardnerian Craft once explained “polarity” with a scientific sounding proof. She said that “polarity” operated like pheromones in that they flowed from male to female or female to male and caused an excited state which could be tapped into as a source of magical power.

The Priestess’s explanation wasn’t an explanation in favor of “polarity” working only for non-gay people and the “reason” why same-sex working couples were taboo! Using pheromones as a model to explain “polarity” actually shows why “polarity” would work for gay working couples as well as non-gay couples. A gay man would be affected by the pheromones of any man in the circle that he found attractive! Thus, I have come to believe that “polarity” is simply the same thing as good old sexual attraction. It is the sexual attraction felt between two people that act as a source of magical power. It is sexual attraction that makes the working “juicy.” It can be physically felt only between those who are attracted to each other. “Polarity” would not work between a non-gay and a gay man, but only between gay or bi-sexual men.  It makes sense that Gardner as a heterosexual would feel “polarity” only with a woman, and write about it as such. It is incorrect however, to assume the same for everyone in all Gardnerian circles. Although the Alexandrian tradition was started by a bi-sexual man and they have historically been much more welcoming of gay men and lesbians as equals in their circles, in America this seems to be changing. It seems that American Alexandrian Witches are introducing alternating male-female partners in their circles. One Alexandrian Priestess once told me in her experience and the experience of her coven, power only flowed from a woman to a man to a woman in a straight line across the circle. I think this is a worthwhile observation but I wonder if these observations are related to the sexual orientation of the group members or simply their expectations. Ironically, I have seen this insisted upon in circles where two men are not allowed to stand or sit together while at the same time everyone on the other side of the circle are women. Three to five women for every man – talk about gender imbalance! However, it only seems to bother the “polarity” people when two men are together!

For some gay men it doesn’t bother them to only work with a woman as a partner in circle, they follow the rules and they are happy. They have told me that it is no big deal to work magic with only a woman for a few hours a month.  I understand them as I have worked magic with women to good effect. However, it is my feeling that when one is in the sacred circle and in the presence of the Gods, it is the most important time to be honest with yourself! To act like a heterosexual so the other people in the circle feel okay about me is not something I want to do in the Gods’ presence. I feel it belittles my relationship with the Gods to lie to Them by playing the role of something I am not.

In Faerie Witchcraft we do not generally talk about “polarity” as if it were a process that demanded women and men in alternate positions. Victor Anderson himself was bi-sexual and he never said anything that could be construed as homophobic or heterocentric to me during the many years I visited him.  In his opinion a man was equal to a woman in power and could do anything a woman could do except give birth.  Although he asked one Faerie initiate (who was also Gardnerian) to only initiate cross-sex, he told me that of course a man can cast circles, initiate and work with another man and it is the same for women working together. This is the general consensus of our tribe:  that all are equal in the circle of initiates regardless of gender.  For the Gods display every combination of gender just as humans do. In our tradition the extreme points of masculine and feminine (on a sexual spectrum) are respected and honored and They are seen as the exception that They are in life.

SCHISM

Like many spiritual traditions before, Faerie has split into different camps and some would say they have become different traditions. The Faerie camp has stepped away from the Feri camp because of ethical concerns. The Faerie camp tends to frown upon public/online teaching in favor of free private teaching which is more personal, protracted and intensive. Faerie initiates do not charge students for teaching. This goes back to the fact that Victor and Cora never charged for their teaching. Victor would charge for a reading, and he did say it was okay to charge for general classes in magical skills. Victor however thought it was inappropriate to charge someone for learning Faerie in the same way that we would not charge for teaching a family member the family trade. Faerie is the root of what has become commercialized Feri, whose practitioners publish and sell material that was freely given to them and held in the common trust of the tradition. Now some of them hold the copyright to material that used to belong to all Faerie initiates. Some even claim they are the authors of traditional lore.

CONCLUSION

Faerie witchcraft is natural to me.  I don’t have to try to be someone else, act like someone else or believe as someone else does. I can be myself and allow the Gods to be Themselves as well. I don’t have to make up stories about the Gods to “prove” my own personal biases in order to make others follow those biases. I can live my life as a spiritual being and allow others to find their own fulfillment without my judgment or interference. Faerie supports me in my spiritual development without insisting I mold myself into something else demanded by spiritual “authorities.” It is a religion that allows me to grow into a better version of myself, not forcing me to emulate someone else to gain entrance into the heavenly “toy store.” It is truly a religion for those who love individual freedom and who cannot live as a sheep following wolves. We do not insult our Gods by trampling on Their greatest gift to us of “free will.”  By exercising our free will to think and act for ourselves we give the highest honor to the Gods.

Exercising our free will and our spiritual talents through spells and charms, gives us excellent tools with which to change our world for the better. Most of us do not have the big bucks to influence politicians like the billionaires and corporations to make public policies that favor their interests over the interests of the public. Magic is a tool at our disposal that anyone can use to level the political playing field. Although we all have one vote we can use magic to influence our politicians to favor integrity and the common good.  We do not have to ask for their permission to influence them, for the policies they make on behalf of their rich benefactors already affect us all. Instead of us accepting that they can pollute our air, water and food with impunity, destroy our education and election systems for their benefit, we can raise power (together and individually) to end their wholesale destruction of our Mother Earth and our way of life. This is not to replace protesting, voting, writing, litigation, running for office and encouraging politicians to do the right thing, but magic is a powerful adjunct to influence politician’s hopes, courage and dreams to make a better life for everyone. Just as with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in this way our needs are met and we can proceed upon the path of happiness and total freedom with confidence.

About Niki Whiting

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