The Sundering of Feri

Part of the trouble is that Anderson Feri/Faery Tradition conflates four types of initiation, three as outlined by the late Isaac Bonewits:

Type One: Initiation as a recognition of a status already gained.

Type Two: Initiation as an ordeal of transformation.

Type Three: Initiation as a method for transferring spiritual knowledge and power.

And another, spoken of by John Michael Greer:

Type Four: Acceptance into the fold of the community or clan.

I wrote a whole article on initiation that I will not reprise here. I encourage you to go read it, but in summation, in my mind, there are as many varieties of initiation as there are human beings. The Mystery cannot be taught, and can never be bought or sold or spoken. The Mystery can only reveal itself in time.

There are Feri initiates who say that no matter how long someone has studied, no matter the rituals and devotions they offer, no matter their relationship to the Gods, unless they have initiation—this four-in-one rite—they are not Feri and never shall be. There are other initiates who disagree with this. I felt that tension in the tradition and decided that I had to change my approach or stretch things to a breaking point. Two years later, that break I feared is a reality.

There are so many strands woven into this broken fabric. There are those who would tell you that it is about secrets shared indiscriminately. And while there are things I still hold close, and that some initiates have shared which do indeed make me squirm when they are shown in bright light, I remind myself, "Cora herself said there were really only three secrets in the whole of the Craft." There are others who say we may teach practices, but should not teach of our Gods. And yet I say, "Victor himself said that anyone may approach our Gods and Guardians. He also said that all Gods are Feri Gods, because Feri is the religion of the human race," it is—in a poetic and metaphysically true fashion—as old as time itself. It beats in our blood. Who are we to deny anyone access? I could go on to write another essay on the power of the Gods and the reality of the Guardians and how they are their own entities, never to be held within the grasp of one tradition. And yet I also respect those who wish to hold things within a smaller container than those of us in the public eye are wont to do.

And then . . . there is still the merging of those four types of initiation, the power of which requires a very strong container indeed, which is why most of my initiates trained for many years before me, many years with me, and many years after me.

There are still others who say the split is about the charging of money for teaching, to which we can also say that Victor himself had no problem with the concept of charging the public for Craft services, or for teaching, as long as these people were not training toward the intimate act of initiation, and that regardless of what Victor or Cora said, did, or taught, each priest has her own autonomy and must choose how to walk this path. Yes, abuse can happen, but that is always the case.

Still others worry about forming a Feri priesthood separate from a Feri laity, or about commercialization, or . . . I cannot answer all of these concerns with the depth and respect that they warrant. That would require another book, and one likely written with the help of an anthropologist. The truth is that there is crossover between the sides of "mystery" and "openness" on almost every point.

All I can say is this: there has been regrettable behavior on both sides of the split, as well as heartfelt expression, poetry, pain, and hope. There are also many people who are not on any side at all, but who are, to paraphrase Rumi, "meeting in the field beyond right and wrong." This split feels painful, and yet also, in a strange way, right. It is another sign of the times.

At core, I feel the sundering of the Feri Tradition is a reflection of the tension seen all over the world right now, which is the tension felt in ages of transition. It has been said that we are moving from the Piscean to the Aquarian Age. Pisces wants to hold things close and in reclusion, within existing structures, striving for a beautiful purity. Aquarius wants to open up the windows of the Witch's hut—or sometimes bust down the walls - and let in some fresh air, while figuring out how to build something new. While I have great sympathy for the Pisceans, and think that likely there will always be those needed to hold that polarity, my work is firmly on the side of the non-conforming Aquarians, even when we vehemently disagree. The world needs us. The world is in trouble. We must bring the souls of body, culture, and spirit back together, or we shall surely perish, whether alone or together. To do this requires stepping out of the nurturing cave, and into the light.

1/24/2011 5:00:00 AM
  • Pagan
  • Numinous and Concrete
  • Feri Witchcraft
  • Initiation
  • Paganism
  • T. Thorn Coyle
    About T. Thorn Coyle
    T. Thorn Coyle is an internationally respected visionary and teacher of the magical and esoteric arts. The author of Make Magic of Your Life, Kissing the Limitless, and Evolutionary Witchcraft, she hosts the Elemental Castings podcast series, writes the blog Know Thyself, and has produced several CDs of sacred music. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook!