When I think of the Faery Tradition of Witchcraft in a modern context, one name comes immediately to mind… Storm Faerywolf. With the heart of a poet, a soothing lyrical voice and the ecstatic ritual drama of a mystic – these qualities cannot help but make their way into his magick and writing as it just radiates from his soul naturally. Storm Faerywolf is professional author, teacher, warlock, and co-owner of The Mystic Dream, a metaphysical and occult retail shop in Walnut Creek, CA.
An initiate of the Faery tradition, he holds the Black Wand of a Master and has over thirty years experience practicing the Craft and teaching for more than twenty. He is the founder of BlueRose, his own school and lineage of Faery, offering classes internationally both in-person and online. He is the author of Betwixt & Between: Exploring the Faery Tradition of Witchcraft and The Stars Within the Earth, and is a founding teacher of the Black Rose school of witchcraft. His work has been featured in magazines, blogs, and podcasts, most notably Modern Witch, where he is currently a co-host. I decided to reach out to Storm to learn more about the his Faery Tradition and his work.
First of all, I love origin stories and learning the background of magickal practitioners. How did you get involved with magick and how did you find the Faery/Feri tradtion?
As cliché as it probably sounds, I have always been interested in magic and specifically witchcraft. When I was two years old I told my mother that I wanted to be a witch when I grew up. This, likely, had more to do with re-runs of Bewitched than it did spiritual empowerment, but whatever the impetus, it stuck and here I am. From that point onward, I was drawn to all things magic and occult and I would study incessantly. I began experimenting with tarot cards, pendulums, and psychic development. I read about religion, mythology, herbalism, and ritual. Books like “A Witches’ Bible Compleat”, “Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs”, and “Mastering Witchcraft” were early influences on my Craft worldview.
I first learned of Faery/Feri tradition when I was 19 in the pages of Starhawk’s “The Spiral Dance”. There I would learn of the blind poet and shaman, Victor Anderson, who was the Grandmaster of the tradition, as well as the Blue God, Dian y Glas, who was describes simply as “the laughing god of love”. Something in that brief description clicked with me and I knew that I had to find this particular tradition of the Craft. While there were apparently a few public teachers at that time, I was not aware of them and so contented myself with self-study until I eventually found a local teacher who was offering classes. I did this for a couple months, but life in one’s early-20s did not lend itself to stability, and so I dropped out after a couple months. I continued my own studied with what I had learned, along with whatever written materials on the tradition and the Craft at large I had available. Then, Cora Anderson released her book, “Fifty Years in the Feri Tradition” in which the Anderson’s home address in San Leandro, California was printed. At the prompting of my husband I called 411, got their number, and made the call, which resulted in a surprising (and lengthy!) phone call with Victor in which he offered to train me in the tradition over long distance. Almost immediately after I found a local initiate who was offering classes and I opted for that route instead, and this time it “stuck”.
You embrace the title of “warlock” for yourself as opposed to the word “witch” which is usually used for both genders these days. Many witches even view “warlock” as a dirty word. Why did you choose to embrace this term for yourself?
I identify with both words, but tend to use “warlock” more often because it is the least understood and therefore prompts discussion.
A driving theme in my own spiritual pursuits has been to understand the Divine Masculine, which in my opinion has been largely corrupted over the past 2000 years and so in great need of work. Witchcraft has done a lot for women, in that it presents images and ideologies that speak specifically to understanding the Divine Feminine, which is essential if our spirituality –and society at large—is going to evolve. As a result, the vast majority of images and connotations about the Craft are female-centered, leaving some men looking for their own Mysteries, in much the same way that our sisters have done.
The Divine Masculine does not get healed by being ignored, or shamed, or demonized, or any of the other things that Patriarchy uses as a weapon against non-conformists. My work is to look at what it means to be ‘masculine’ and where that impacts my spiritual relationship with the universe. Because of the gender-balance in witchcraft (and because of my own identity as a gay man) I have been able to look at what it means to be ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ somewhat outside of the societal assumptions, and so use the term ‘warlock’ as a means to keep the focus on the issues of masculinity in the Craft. My deity spans a spectrum of genders. But myself –in this body, and in this mind—do not. I am a gay cis male. And my Craft reflects that on a personal level.
I use the term ‘warlock’ because I am a man who practices witchcraft. Warlock means (and has consistently meant for over 500 years) simply ‘a male witch’. The funny thing is that everybody pretty much agrees with that; historians, scholars, academics… that is until you get into Neo-Pagan circles which is where it all breaks down. It has become sort of a “pet peeve” with me, in that so many Pagans today are under the (false) impression that they are in possession of some specialized knowledge about that term, citing a Wiccan fallacy when they equate “warlock” with a previous etymon of “oathbreaker”. To this specifically I want to say that language simply does not work that way; literally thousands of terms that we use today had different or even opposite meanings than how they may have been used originally or in the past. But I don’t see Pagans arguing against the terms symposium (originally a drinking party akin to a “kegger”), silly (originally, “things worthy or blessed”), or apology (originally a “defense”). “Warlock” is treated differently in Neo-Pagan circles for no other reason than someone decided it made them sound cool and “in the know” if they were to insist that “real witches” find it an insult because of a revisionist and limited understanding of the nature of language. When a Pagan tries to school me on the words “real” meaning, I will usually point them in the direction of etymology, specifically the “etymological fallacy”, which clearly demonstrates how words change meanings all the time and how a previous etymon has no bearing on a words current definition. Let me say this again for the people in the back: Previous meanings of words have no bearing on a words current definition. None. At all. To insist otherwise (and so completely selectively) is somewhat of an intellectual embarrassment, in my opinion.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Faery/Feri Tradition of Witchcraft, can you give us a brief history lesson on the background of the tradition? Where did it originate? How old is it?
The mythological history of the Faery witchcraft tradition states that it is handed down from the times in which the ancients communed with the angels that walked the earth, the “Guardians” or “Watchers” of our Craft. It is said that they blended with humankind and that their offspring was the Faery race from which our tradition is descended. Historically, it began with the teachings of the late Victor Anderson, who claimed a childhood initiation into the Craft when he was 9 (in 1926) and then later was initiated into a coven in Oregon (in 1932 at age 15). He practiced and taught “the Craft” privately until the 1960s when public knowledge of witchcraft began to grow. It was in the 60s and 70s when the name “Faery” was accidentally applied to our specific tradition; a reference to the Irish ‘Faery Doctors’ with whom the early practitioners of our tradition identified.
There seem to be some similarities between the Faery/Feri Tradition of Witchcraft and that of both Wicca and Sabbatical Witchcraft. What do you feel are some major differences between Faery/Feri and other traditions?
Our Faery tradition is syncretic beast; it follows what I believe to be a basic, unwritten rule that governs all of witchcraft: if it works, use it. Therefore, there are components that we have taken from other paths, such as ceremonial magick and Wicca (‘Casting a Circle’, working with a 5-element model, etc.). Another reason for similarity is that we are tapping into a similar stream, or drawing from the same well, so to speak. This is the reason that certain aspects of our tradition can be seen elsewhere, such as in our oneiric praxis which parallels that of Sabbatic Witchcraft, or our use of a 3-soul model much as is seen in Huna or in folkloric Celtic tradition.
I think a main difference between us and Wicca would be that we do not exclusively focus on a cosmology based on a polaric gender-binary. Where the mysteries of Wicca center on the agricultural wheel of the year, Faery focuses more on tides of psychic power and a relationship with the many spirit-beings that populate our worldview. We also do not follow a standard Wiccan pattern of energy work, which for those not educated in our practices has sometimes caused confusion. We do not “ground” energy after our rituals (we consider that to be a “waste”) but instead direct it toward a magical goal or prayer. Our practices are less based in ritual forms and more on poetic and ecstatic experience.
Why is the tradition named Faery/Feri and why are there various spellings of the tradition’s name?
The name “Faery” became accidentally attached to our tradition, largely due to the works of the late Gwydion Pendderwen, who in the 1960s and until his death in 1982, was keenly involved in working with the Irish and Welsh lore of “the little people”. This and the association between our practice of offering magic to non-witches and that of the Irish “Faery Doctors”, led some to start calling it “Faery” or “Fairy”. Back in those early days there wasn’t the emphasis on different traditions as there is today and our tradition was mostly just referred to as “the Craft”, or “Vicia” which lends its name now to a specific lineage of our trad. Since Faery is primarily an oral tradition, there is no “official spelling” which has lent to it being spelled in any number of ways for many different reasons. In the 1990s, Victor began using the spelling “Feri” in an effort to help differentiate our tradition from the numerous other paths that bear some version of the name “Faery/Fairy/Faerie”.
I have used numerous spellings to refer to our tradition but now primarily use “Faery” as it speaks to the folkloric praxis that plays a huge role in our lineage (not all lineages of our tradition work in a folkloric way). This was also the spelling that I was first exposed to when learning of this tradition, so it speaks to my sense of nostalgia, as well. (Plus, I never liked the “Feri” spelling as it smacks of someone who cannot properly spell.) 😉
When the common person thinks of a faery they to think of a romanticized image of a small petite Victorian sprite. Most witches have a very different view on the fae. How does the Faery/Feri tradition view the fae? What are the significance of Faeries within the tradition?
Not all lineages of our tradition work directly with the fae, and so our tradition’s view of them is far from universal. But if there is one little bit that might be seen as a common perspective it would be that “Faery” is primarily “things of magic and enchantment”, with the realm and race being a secondary meaning. ‘Faery’ is seen as being outside the confines of human morality, as demonstrated in the many folktales that describe the Faery encounter, and when we are in that magical state of Enchantment we likewise find ourselves in that amoral state.
What distinguishes your tradition of BlueRose Faery from other Faery/Feri traditions?
All lineages of Faery/Faerie/Fairy/Feri will –by necessity and design of the tradition itself—take those precious few core elements that are universally taught, and take them in new and interesting directions. We are a path that encourages art and creative expression. As a result, there is a high level of diversity when looking at the overall tradition. BlueRose seeks to bring together many different practices and teachings from the different lines, and so in BlueRose you will find elements of BloodRose alongside those from Vanthe, NightHares, Vicia, among others. BlueRose is also relatively transparent when compared to the teaching styles of some other lineages, and we are not afraid of innovation and experimentation, which has led us to expand into offering teaching long distance, using the many technological tools we have available to us today. This has put us at odds, at times, with some of the more “fundamentally inclined” lineages and covens which would prefer that no information about Faery witchcraft be made publicly available at all. To that I can only say that I went back and asked Cora Anderson about what exactly was secret in our Craft and she responded that “very few” things were actually secret, pointing to the historical practice of secrecy being one that was born out of the necessity of the times, more than anything. (I.e. in the 50s if you told people that you were a witch then you would likely get rock thrown through your windows. Or worse.) How I received the tradition was in a much more open manner, and so I will continue to pass on the tradition in the spirit in which I was taught.
One of the stories in the book Betwixt & Between that you share is the story of the Peacock and the Shepherd which really struck a chord with me. It emphasizes compassion for evil to heal it instead of condoning or trying to smite it. How do you think this is applicable to the world today?
I think that this is one of our most important and relevant myths! Often, when we judge someone or something as being “evil” we use that label as a means to justify our unwillingness to try to further understand it. It’s more of a means to end a conversation than to try to bring balance to a situation. Victor Anderson reportedly defined ‘evil’ as being “life force that is twisted against itself’, indicating that there is the possibility to un-twist, or to heal it. Under this definition one way to look at ‘evil’ would be as ‘weakness’. “We do not coddle weakness,” a famous saying in our tradition begins. The lesser known ending to that statement is, “But neither do we condemn it in others.” Evil is an imbalance. The job of a priest or priestess is to mediate divine presence into the world, and to bring balance to a situation. In the words of Faerie initiate and teacher, Francesca DeGrandis, “A good priest makes all things sound.” We must look first to our own evil, our own weaknesses, and instead of condemning them we need to embrace them with compassion. Only once we have stopped denying our own Shadow can we begin to help heal the Shadow of the world.
The deities of Faery seem to take on the names and symbols of other deities (i.e. Dian y Glas as Melek Taus, Lucifer, Shiva, etc.) Would it be correct to say that Faery is a soft-polytheistic tradition?
First, I could never speak for the tradition as a whole. There are many intelligent and talented Faery initiates and practitioners who would strongly deny that our tradition embodies soft-polytheism; their practice embracing what could easy be seen as being the opposite. Victor Anderson was widely cited as saying “the Gods are not archetypes” which led to a wave of hard-polytheism to permeate our tradition’s culture. And yet, it is a common practice in our tradition to look toward the manifestations of deity in other cultures as signposts to help us learn about the nature of deity in general. This is why we see our Blue God, Dian y Glas, in the stories of Eros, Lucifer, and Krishna, for example, or Hecate, Baba Yaga, and the Callieach in our dark goddess, Ana.
My personal understanding of deity requires that I approach them first and foremost as a mystery. The bottom line is that I cannot know the true nature of deity, making discussions of hard-polytheism and soft-polytheism the height of hubris, in my opinion. I can only know my relationship to them, and I can say that my relationship with deity has evolved and changed over the years. Just when I think I have it all figured out something comes around the corner and I am reminded that we are all perpetual students of the Craft. Faery witchcraft, at its core, is a mystery tradition.
Are there any new projects on the horizon we can look forward to?
I am currently finishing up work on my 5th book (my 2nd for Llewellyn), the working title of which is “Forbidden Mysteries: Shadows and Demons of Faery Witchcraft”. It’s a look at some of the ‘darker’ practices of our tradition including necromancy, possession, cursing, and the infamous “Demon Work”.
After that, I will be doing a little book tour in Massachusetts at Robin’s Nest in Bellingham and then at Enchanted in Salem. Then will be presenting at Templefest in New Hampshire this August before flying off to Germany to teach a private Faery tradition retreat with my good friend (and Faery Grandmaster) Anaar, and then immediately afterward we fly to the UK to do the same.
When I return I will be finishing up a couple more writing projects for Llewellyn and then working on my downloadable class on the Iron Pentacle (a core Faery tradition magical tool) which will be available soon on our teaching site, MysticDreamAcademy.com. I am also in the process of creating a witches’ grimoire for gay men, and some other projects that I’m not quite yet ready to announce. Stay tuned to Faerywolf.com for updates!
Also – Check out My Review of Betwixt & Between