Editor’s Note: This post is in response to The Sundering of Feri by T. Thorn Coyle.
My sister Thorn makes some good points, and very convincing too. I will offer my own ideas of the sundering or schism, because it is similar to the schisms which occurred in Buddhism or Christianity, or even Islam. Yet this division, this sundering is in no way about claiming a one true way, that one approach to Feri is the only correct one. It’s more about demonstrating that there is another approach aside from two year intensives, weekend seminars and workshops, or ‘mail order’ correspondence courses via web groups and distance learning ensembles. That there are other avenues to learn this craft in which the fee is hard work, dedication and personal commitment, that the relationship isn’t one of teacher among many students, but as among brothers and sisters, parent and child, even lover to lover. Where the seeker/student is given the undivided attention of ones mentor/teacher/guide.
“Witchcraft is witchcraft, not witch dogma. It is a science, the oldest form of science. And it is time for us to go back and treat it that way. It’s not how many times you dance around the circle or get down on the floor and say this is for a point on the pentagram,this foot is for the other, and all that nonsense. It’s time to get down and think rightly. We should get together to discuss what we have learned, about each other, about medicine, about whatever it is we’re interested in. We should pool that knowledge together and keep it. That’s what we’re supposed to do.”
It would appear, we’re reduced to expressing the differences through ‘Dogma’, each of us bound to cite the teachings of the Andersons to support our positions, our views. But it is ‘Anderson Feri’, after all, and the Andersons were the main expounders of the tradition, it’s practices and it’s doctrines.
And yes,those teachings which Thorn cites are indeed a call to teach the people how to connect to the Gods, through connecting to themselves. and indeed Victor did say ‘All gods are Feri gods.” When told: “Today many Feris seem to focus on the cycle of the Gods.” His reply:
“Well, I think that it’s one of the signs that the religion has gone to pot. We don’t have a set pantheon, but we do deal with groups of gods. It depends on who we need to deal with. We deal with the gods of the trees, the gods of the rivers, the gods of the rocks, our own personal god. If we forget all that and stick our heads up in the sky we’re just going to get confused. The thing is that “pantheon” means many or all of the gods, from the Greek.“
Ah yes, the nature of the Gods of Feri. These Gods, these beings are not metaphors. They are not archetypes. They are very real. They are not limited by Human understandings of what is ‘okay’, of Human morals or ethics. They will indeed take you, if you do not have a strong individuality, a strong and healthy ego, a strong sense of self. They are dangerous. Victor often compared our tradition to Voudon, and other African diasporic traditions, drawing close parallels to the nature of our ‘Gods’ to those of The Loa. Perhaps we might hear from a practitioner of those traditions, as to approaching such beings unprepared.
Victor also related that he was concerned about folks approaching the gods in the intimate relationship which is a hallmark of the tradition, without the preparation needed. part of that preparation is the rite of initiation. He observed that those who hadn’t received the mystery “don’t even know the nature of the deity, the nature of the gods. It is only a peculiar speculation.”
Victor considered this tradition, as a science and also a religion:
“I would like to see it practiced as the religion of the people, the religion of the soil that comes up through your feet and through your genitals. Through your feelings, through all three parts of the soul. From the center of the earth to the heights of heaven. To be very natural, very normal, and very respectful and reverent.”
Melding the two together and within the Feri context, Feri is a science of connection, of re-connection. It is also the science of life and of living people and beings. And the “laboratory” as it were are living breathing beings.
Consider a standard definition of science:
- The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation and theoretical explanation of natural phenomena.
- Any methodological activity, discipline, or study.
- Any activity that appears to require study and method.
- Knowledge, esp. knowledge gained through experience.
Again, from Victor:
“One of the central teachings of real witchcraft is the nature of the human soul. But now it is being put down as mere id, ego and superego. Those are only three aspects of the personality. People disregard the fact that there are three entities that make up the human spirit. Each one of us is a trinity.”
“One of the grave things that is really needed is to return to the nature of the human soul, how we are put together. The etheric anatomy of the human being is very important……….We’ve got to quit that kind of thinking, this pop psychology. It has got to be set aside, because it is not witchcraft. Witchcraft is to get in there and discern what the other person feels and feel with it with them, to know with them what they know. The discernment of spirits, as Jewish wisdom calls it. We have to understand this, because otherwise we are just practicing a form. People do a lot of things to do some spell, whatever they think that is,and that’s like going into a laboratory and messing with Chemistry when you don’t know anything about it.“
One can’t do “discernment” one can’t really feel what another feels or know with them what they know without shared experience. That involves a closer relationship with folks that just doesn’t happen without a lot of face to face time. Nor can one observe, identify or explain phenomena without experiencing the phenomena( which happens to be in some cases “Students”) Nor as Victor mentions is it about ‘dancing around in a circle or which foot is what point, and all that ‘nonsense‘. That is just practicing a ‘Form’.
Either the self improvement aspect can stand alone from the religious aspects of Feri, or they depend on introduction to the “Feri Gods” et al. If the latter, then really one is approaching declaring Feri a ‘one true
religion‘. I mean for me I am perfectly fine with folks saying they are teaching the tools of Feri, as they see them being a benefit to others in their practice. Teaching the tools of Feri is different from teaching the religion of Feri.
I also see it as treating the tradition as a commodity, a product, with all the hype and advertising to create a demand, that then ‘needs’ to be filled. It’s pop spirituality. It’s evangelism, it’s proselytism as long as it continues to be connected to the ‘religion’ part.
Concerning the ‘Blames’, this sundering has been ongoing for decades before I received initiation into the tradition. I would add ‘not listening to the counsel of peers’, as one of these ‘Blames’. Concerns about this issue and all of the ramifications and possibilities have been continuously put forth over the years, and went unheeded. Those who have decided for themselves to teach Feri publicly, to teach it enmasse, to make Feri practices available to the public indiscriminately decided on their own to withdraw from discussions. Some few claimed autonomy. Some few claimed they as initiates had the right to do whatever they saw fit to do in regards to teaching, to materials held in common, and that any criticisms to the contrary were simply attempts for power over or control.
And yes, there were heated exchanges and impassioned discussions and things were said on both sides that were regrettable, but there were also attempts to reconcile which were refused out of hand, that were taken into the public arena well before this, and mischaracterized to support claims that initiates on the whole were dysfunctional and irrational in their disagreement and sought only power over and elitism.
And yes, Thorn is right. There are a combination of precipitating events, most of them are rooted in the tensions surrounding the ideas around autonomy in relation to community: i.e. the idea of a tradition with lore and liturgy held in common, and whether any single person has the right to do as they please with that commonly held material.
Cora wrote in Fifty Years:
“The real craft is a democracy, a religion of the common working people and not a set of beliefs dictated by a ruling class”
“Our tradition is a martial art as deadly as any taught in Japan. Our tradition is not made up of people who keep secrets because we think we are better than others, but because our knowledge is real and dangerous if gone beyond a certain point.“
I think that suffices to explain why there is a deep concern among some of us as to the idea of Feri becoming an open source tradition. It also suffices to demonstrate that the motives of those who wished to keep certain practices out of the public venues for unguided, indiscriminate use were not ‘power over’ or ‘egotism’, but for concern about safety.
Victor reports in People of the Earth, New Pagans speak out:
“People are always hollering about witchcraft is not a hierarchy and so on, but it is also not just a “dog eat dog” thing where everyone has the right to their own opinion, in the most pseudo-democratic way possible. That’s anarchy, it isn’t the Craft.”
There were a few attempts to come to an agreement, a consensus about materials, but some few chaffed at the idea, and later went back on their agreements. Some others appealed only to Victor or Cora as authority, for approval for what they wished to do, rather than advice and consent of their peers. Rather foisting a ‘ruling class’ position upon the Andersons, and also creating the appearance of one now. There’s so much more to the story than is related here.
I can’t claim the same credentials as Thorn or some others. I am a plain ordinary witch. I have studied the Craft and things occult and mysterious for some 35 years. Western Hermeticism, Kabbalah, Sanatana Dharma, Theosophy, much of the same things Thorn has studied and perhaps more indepth in some. I can only give you my word as an experienced witch, once that would have sufficed. I came to Feri after having studied within those paradigms. I find that they all fit into the ‘Feri Container’. Where Thorn finds a limit as it were, I found Feri as the distilled essence of them all. Solve et Coagula! “separate the subtle from the dross” as Trimegestus declared. Cora rightly considered her husband ‘The Einstein of the Craft’.
*Quotes from ‘Speak of the Devil’, an interview with Victor Anderson,in two parts from Witcheye Magazine vol.#2. unless otherwise attributed.
Henry resides in the Cape May area. He an old craft witch, Feri Initiate, and a member of Covenant of Rhiannon, one of the oldest continually practicing covens in New Jersey. www.covenantofrhiannon.org He will also be a contributor to Dead, Mad or Poet, an electronic journal and e-zine. http://www.deadmadorpoet.com/