Editor’s note:It is an honor to share the wisdom of one of the Andersons’ earliest initiates with a wider audience. This reflection was originally published in early 2011—over ten years ago now—regarding the conflict of values that resulted in the writing of our principles. Since then Eldri’s essay has been my favorite explanation of why esoteric traditions must split from time to time, as part of a natural process of growth and change.In editing, I have preserved Eldri’s style of capitalization and punctuation (reminiscent of another poet, Emily Dickinson), as part of her distinctive voice.
No doubt in the future, there will be other splits, other divisions among those of the Andersons’ lineage. I pray that the witches of that time will realize that such separations can be necessary for the health of the whole and need not be acrimonious.
Long ago, all dogs were wolves. Now there are Many kinds of dogs—each with a thing they (to human eyes) Do well. The others are not ‘Wrong’, just not that breed… English Springers, American Springers—Now judged to ‘Different Standards’, still springers. Still dogs.
Apples: some sweet, some tart, some store well-, some with *Pink Flowers!*- all apples. No one would take them for plums.
Feri; some public, some private—*Still Feri*, just not the *Same kind* of Feri. Different needs, from deep in our souls—All still changing, and growing, all Her children.
…We are still working out our ‘standards’ here. To Stop kinstrife, this Had to happen—It Did Happen, years ago. (That part is done.) Nobody is ‘better’, ‘more Feri’ or ‘less Feri’—we are Different, and that is Good. When tribes get too big, they often divide—bands go different Directions- (hunt different game)—sometimes they meet up and camp together, later, then go separate ways once more. This is not war—only clan division.
Change happens—we are witches. We choose our paths, sometimes they diverge—that does not make us better, or worse, than those who have taken another path. But, we Cannot remain tied together, and still freely follow All Paths. —Paths need walking, some are called to one, some to another.
We chose to cut the rope instead of *Endlessly Tugging*, trying to make others follow One path, instead of the ones that call Their feet. Now we have fallen in a Heap—and some are hurt, and angry. Hopefully we can get up, go our ways, agree to ‘report back’ our adventures, when next our paths may cross—or *Write* in civil words, and with respect, what we have found.
I hear a lot of loose talk about ‘evolution’. I don’t buy it. We can Not know about that, we haven’t the time scale- Changes, sure, That we have Got. No one in our tradition is Exactly the same—as each other, as we were when we were ‘brought in’—and, isn’t that kind-of the point?
Folks are taking offense where *None was intended*—and then not listening when we say, that Is Not what we meant.
“Look, we had to move the work-bench, folks were jostling our elbows—”
Outsiders were Telling me what my tradition was… I get Tired of it. I spent many years defending the honor of Wolves (no, really, kids, they were Hated) or explaining that all ‘hippie chicks’ do not sleep with anything that moves… That part is done… but now I should start all over with my religion…? NO.
Now I can just say, “Sorry, you mean those other Feri, over there…” I can point to a page that explains, with *No Name Calling*, what *I* am about. I am private, and do not Owe my time to strangers, but feel like I ought to explain. “I am not a ‘red delicious’, I am some other apple from that!”
The word ‘intercourse’ is used for both speech and sex. This is no coincidence, and for those who practice magic, it points to deep truths about our interconnectedness, the relationship between witchcraft and shape-shifting, and the mystery of our embodiment at this difficult point in history. I offer this essay to you in the hope that it will change your shape to be a bit more like mine, that you may experience some of the blessings I have gathered in my sixty-nine years in this life.
But I’m running ahead of myself. We were talking of speech, and sex!
When I touch my lover, we are in dialogue. I enlarge and open my entire body, my hands and mind as much as my sex. In response to my touch, their breath changes: perhaps they sigh, or they reach to kiss; perhaps they arch their back. My touch arises when I imagine what my lover will become in response to my touch. Will they change with my touch, becoming like my internal image of their future? What I do next is guided by their sigh, or the change in their pulse, or what I hear in their breath, for this listening influences my image of what they are becoming, and this image dictates my body’s shape—that is, the entire constellation of my sense of self changes in response to this dialogue, and thus my hands and my body move. As my lover touches me, my breath changes: perhaps I sigh, or I reach to kiss; perhaps I arch my back in response to their touch. I change, and I become more like them.
Yet if my lover and I were talking, and I apprehended that which they meant to convey, how would this dialogue, in its bodily and mental essence, be any different from our lovemaking? In speech, meaning is conveyed by so much more than the dictionary meaning of the words. The shape of your bodymind when you speak conveys meaning, and I receive that meaning through the shape of my bodymind when I am touched by the sound of your words. As my bodymind apprehends your thoughts, in response to your words, I become more like you were when you spoke.
It was on the day of the solstice that I stood by my friend’s pond in New Mexico and watched the dragonflies make love. It was a warm day, and I watched for several hours as they hovered, remaining connected. Yet to say they ‘made love’ is presumptuous, anthropomorphic, because it assumes their experience of coupling parallels mine when I am with a lover. If I say ‘the dragonflies were making love,’ versus ‘the dragonflies were mating,’ I am implying that the dragonflies were not only having an experience, they were aware of that experience. I am even suggesting that the dragonflies were communicating their experience to me because I was able to watch them. I imagined that the shapes that I saw on that hot summer day meant the same to them as they would to me, were I to hold my body in a similar way.
Watching, I saw their slowly changing cojoined shape, and I remembered. I have been privileged to hold a similarly changing conjoined shape when receiving, when giving, while touching and being touched. And as I watched, my imaginal body, my palpable sense of ‘what could be,’ took on the dragonflies’ shape as I remembered communications of hands and lips and skin: how my body arched, and how my lover’s body arched; how their touch and my touch made us take on the same shape as these insects. More than that, however, I knew this: to have that shape was what told me (and perhaps also my lover) that the sex was love.
Was what the dragonflies were experiencing also love? Did my watching mind, taking on their trembling shape, allow me to become more like the dragonflies?
Sharing a Shape
You have a thought and you decide to speak to me. You speak words and I hear them, and I am changed by the meaning of the speech. Your desire that I comprehend your words suggests a desire that I become more like you. Your speaking does not necessarily involve a wish that I accept what you have said as truth. Rather, it is a wish that upon hearing your words, I will have thoughts and see imagery that reflects your own imagery as you spoke. Your desire, perhaps, is that my bodymind should hold a shape that resonates with your shape when you spoke, and that we might become more similar in the shapes we each hold.
What has happened to both of us to allow meaning to be shared? Observe as your speech arises in your mind and your breath, tongue, and lips move in concert; observe how meaning develops as your senses and mind receive and interpret my words. The process between us that we call conversation or dialogue is largely invisible to the inner-eye of the conscious mind. Yet larynx, lungs, diaphragm, tongue, eardrum, and middle ear are as much involved in speech as my hand and sex are when making love.
I feel a scintillation here in my bodymind as I speak words. The words direct how I shape the tissues and organs of my body to emit a sound that moves through the air to touch your ear. Upon hearing, you also create within yourself a similar scintillating structure, and this structure carries the meaning.
I have tried to catch the moment where sound becomes meaning and I have never succeeded. I hear the words and something happens within me: perhaps mind’s-eye images appear; or as you yell ‘Stop!’ I cease to move; or my own wordy thoughts bubble forth from my mouth in response. What occurs appears instantaneous and without an intermediate step. An internal dictionary does not seem an appropriate explanation; I can find no a priori mapping between word and image. Rather it seems that the process of conversation pervades my bodymind. It has no location and seems to have no clearly defined steps. Emotional affect, metaphorical imagery, and intellectual meaning all emerge and develop simultaneously within me when I either speak or listen.
The meaning of language, then, resides not in the words themselves, but rather in their effect on my embodiment. By sharing language, we share our bodies.
It is a commonplace to say, regarding relationships, that opposites attract. As with magnets, our differences connect us and bind us. Gravity, however, is a non-polar force: like attracts like. Language seems more like a type of gravity than a type of polarity. In dialogue, the desire for similarity, to become the other’s mirror, provides the binding force. The Moon and Earth are in their joint and loving orbit around the Sun because of a three-way mutual attraction due to gravity. In this oversimplified metaphor, they all love each other and dance together because they share a similarity, the state of having mass.
For there to be communication, both speaker and listener must also share a similarity. Perhaps communication is possible because language preserves memories of the shared history of our separate embodiments—in other words, we create a shared narrative to contain both our personal histories and the history of the relationship. A friend prefers another metaphor for this kind of non-polar, gravitational attraction: we resonate together, like affecting like, as sounds do. If I play a guitar in a room full of unattended guitars, all the guitars will sing, though more quietly than the one I am playing. Instead of sharing “mass,” the guitars share vibration.
Is dialogue, then, not so much a process where those involved become ‘like each other,’ but rather ‘in resonance, they create something in each other that has never existed before’?
A Shape-Shifter’s Blessing
I am a witch, and I cast spells. The words of my spells are crafted and spoken with careful intent, sometimes with a particular gesture or a specific breath pattern. My careful intent, the words, my gestures, this dance, all form my shape. When I speak a blessing, someone listens, and the world is touched, and the world’s shape is changed.
Speech, sex, magic: we are shape-shifters, ever-changing our shapes in response to the speaking world, and causing changes with our speech. This is witchcraft, and intercourse; and in the full bloom of our practice, perhaps it is also love.
For the sake of the union of Shekinah with her Holy-and-beloved-hidden-face-of-the-divine, We take upon ourselves the mitzvah (performing the beautiful deed), “That we love our neighbor as ourselves,” And by this merit We accept the gift Of our heartbeat and our breath, And we act within the world, As we open our mouths and speak.
As we navigate through our occult and especially our witchcraft studies, we often hear the phrase “to be hidden in plain sight.” For some of us, this philosophy passes as a side note about times past, when witches needed to be careful not to attract violence from the ignorant banal masses. But for others, it is a practice of perseverance in today’s so-called “modern age.”
Conflict around the idea of hiding in plain sight seems to arise from initiates and students who, having had to be “closeted” all of their lives, want to be free and to express who they are. And why should they not? After all, many have worked hard to leave toxic families and religions who view them as undesirable outliers that need to conform (or worse). They, as gay or trans or poly or merely called to The Work, have left much behind to create new family and community. So why should they not be loud and proud? Perhaps they should while living in the vast and crumbling empire that is America, where they can do so in relative safety in certain areas. I would not suggest such actions in places like Afghanistan, India or Ethiopia.
While Feri/Faery does accept and honor all of our “strange flowers,” as Victor put it, identity politics does not a witch make. A witch is fluid and transforming, walking the hidden roads, the roads “out of sight”: the moonlit roads of shadow, not the bright glaring sunlit roads of religious conversion. A witch may be many things, but many things are not a witch.
Now don’t hear me saying that you should repress yourself. I am not. What I am saying is that a witch needs to have the skill of being visible in either terror or beauty, or completely invisible depending on the situation at hand. Dear witches, most of this country does not like you, indeed fears you, and we all know where that can lead.
What does it mean to practice being hidden in plain sight? Unlike the color of our skin, we can hide our philosophies and religion much more easily. I believe that in order to practice this, we must go into “hostile territory”: places where we can practice not being seen, and then pushing that to being accepted and thought of as “one of the in crowd.” This can be different for everyone, but it is best practiced outside of toxic families of origin where one can be triggered and where the family knows of your past and your triggers. It may be that you join a group or club which interests you, say of gardeners who are mostly Christian, or a bowling league that is frequented by people who voted for the opposite candidate that you did. Whatever you choose, the possibilities are endless in this society.
Being hidden in plain sight also gives us a chance to push our comfort level in various social situations. For me, it was my job at a very conservative institution, where all the people who held power over me (from my immediate boss to the executives) were conservative Christians. Every board meeting was started with a Christian prayer. If I paraded into work demanding my “Pagan rights,” insisting on my high holy days of Beltane and Samhain, and waving around all my pentacle jewelry, how long do you think I would have lasted? The benefits of being in that job meant that not only did I not lose my job during the COVID pandemic (still raging as I write this), but I actually paid off all my debt AND got a raise AND was able to work from home. This benefited my family greatly, as I have a small child whom I must feed, and others who depend on my income.
I have been thought of as “one of them” for years. Is this my end goal? To be here in this environment? No. I have other plans that required these steps and which I will be keeping close and secret. My plans are my own.
Hiding in plain sight also is the practice of the fourth power of the Sphinx, “To Be Silent.” I have written other articles about this much-ignored power, and I find that it is often the hardest one for my brethren to follow, as one of the gifts of our tradition is glamour. Sometimes, the glamourer is themselves glamoured as they hold the dark mirror too close to their face! I will never understand those who post images of altars on Instagram or who “seek” students. But I digress.
In terms of application, the power “To Be Silent” and being “Hidden in Plain Sight” work well together. Think of the example I gave of my own situation, where I am thought of as belonging to a group that in all reality would fear and loathe me if they knew the true me. Most witches who follow “To Be Silent” think this means not sharing their workings or spells publicly or even talking about them at all until the Work is finished. Indeed, it does mean that, but it also means not attracting large amounts of negative energy while just merely living your life. Large amounts of negative thought from people will make it harder for you to navigate your life and workings. If all of the people around you, especially those responsible for your income or other necessary areas of life, hate you, then you can consider yourself all but cursed, even if they have no actual ability in that department. Constant hate or prayer has an effect. Being hidden helps to negate the unwanted influences of others, and if you need to strike an enemy or sweeten a boss, no one will see it coming or suspect you. People in the African Traditional Religions (ATRs) know this well.
This brings me to the main reason you should hide in plain sight — Climate Change.
No, really, hear me out.
The humorist Mark Twain is quoted as saying that “History doesn’t repeat, but it often rhymes.” I have found this strangely comforting during the times we live in as I have tried to make sense of the Trump presidency, the pandemic, and worsening climate change. Our times won’t be identical to historical times, but they will rhyme.
So how will history rhyme for us? How will our rhyme effect people like us and what can we do about it? Scientists are saying that by 2030, we will experience an increase in global temperatures by 1.5 degree Celsius or possibly 2 degrees, and it will be catastrophic — hell, it already is. So what happened to humans when we had a similar occurrence? Our last major shift of this kind is called the “Mini Ice Age” and the global temperatures dropped 1 degree Celsius, causing catastrophic climate change in vast areas of the globe, but especially in the Northern Hemisphere and Europe. This period lasted from around 1303 to 1860, and scientists have various theories as to why it happened. Decreased summer solar radiation? Volcanic pollutants? Both? Regardless of the reason, it happened, and society was never the same thereafter. Advancing glaciers destroyed farms in the Swiss Alps, ice seas surrounded Iceland for much of the year, severe famines occurred as traditional ways of medieval farming were challenged and had to be adapted, bread riots occurred, and people experienced mass hypothermia in winter due to the lack of fire fuel, as forests had long since been felled. Winter sucked during these centuries, and people dreaded it much as people are now dreading our summers as we warm the planet. We now have fire and smoke season in the West and flood season in the East.
Due to lack of understanding about climate combined with magical thinking in the majority of the populace, violent scapegoating occurred during the Mini Ice Age. This period was the height of the Inquisition. This was when the Malleus Maleficarum or Witches Hammer was written. (They really REALLY hated and feared our kind back then!) This was the period of the witch trials where witchcraft was seen as a major crime, unlike in the early Middle Ages where it was a minor crime largely ignored by the powers that be. According to the thinking of the time, who controlled the weather and made it bad? Witches. Who made the cows’ milk dry up? Witches. Who made women die in childbirth or not bear children at all? Witches. Who stunted crops or called in locusts? Witches. Many women died as a result of these issues, which were likely to have occurred due to climate change — not by the hand of the old midwife widow at the edge of town that no one liked because she cussed a lot and no man told her what to do.
But you know the story. Of course you do.
This was also a time of religious fervor and change in the West. The period started with the Protestant Reformation and a seemingly endless eruption of cults followed. Many people were persecuted, most notably in wars between Catholics and Protestants, but there were also other victims. Some were horribly killed, from old widows to Jews to foreigners, by the torch and pitchfork mobs that tried to relieve their collective fear, grief, and frustration with the spectacle of violence. How many of these victims were actual witches? Probably not many… or, not the smart ones anyway. The smart witches knew how to hide in plain sight. As the mobs progressed, the smart witches were packing up their wagons and going in the opposite direction!
In addition to the religious crazies (will they ever go away?), this was also a time of forward thinking, science, and enlightenment. In fact, one period is literally called “The Enlightenment,” and there are many influential occultists who emerged during these times. We often look to them as historical Mighty Dead: people such as Bruno, John Dee, Dr. Rudd and H.C. Agrippa, to name a few. Indeed, this was the Golden Age of the Grimoire!
Today, we are facing climate change so extreme that we may not make it through, as well as more dumb-ass magical thinking religionists. We see them from a distance now through the news media or social media; the torches and pitch forks are not quite in the rear-view mirror yet. These low-information religionists disavow actual science for the false prophets of YouTube. They scream that the COVID vaccine will microchip us and 5G cell service will fry our brains. They worship Donald Trump as a God emperor savior of America and Christianity. They have many new/old cults: new in name, old in flavor. There is the cult of Yoga Karen whose adherents eat organic food and try to get Black people killed by invoking the Old South trope of the “violated White woman.” There are the angry cults of the hypermasculine man which worship guns and rape and believe themselves to be heroes fighting against all evil. (I call them the Beer Belly Brigade.) And of course, let us not forget the cult of “Republican Jesus” who came to make us (well, White men) rich.
The mind boggles, but it also rhymes. We are back here to a place we have known before: climate catastrophe. Who are the scapegoats now? Jews, of course. Immigrants. Women, especially feminists. Gays, clearly. People of color. Liberals and Democrats. Could witches also be lumped in with these other scapegoats? Perhaps not in the same way we were hundreds of years ago, but if you look at the rhetoric of QAnon, you will see the “cannibal, devil worshiping” labels being applied to Democrats, Jews, feminists, gays and immigrants the same as they once were to witches. My guess is that we will be lumped in, especially those of us who happen to be gay, immigrant, witch women of color! I think that checks all the boxes, don’t you?
Many, many people believe in these conspiracy theories, and many of them have guns. They are extremely afraid because they are ignorant and they feel that they are losing control. But who can actually control Mother Nature?
The torches and pitchforks are sharper and hotter now, the weapons more devastating. Think tanks have concluded that the main driver behind the January 6 capital rioters was the fear of “being replaced” by people of color. Most of the rioters were upper middle class or elite White men.
In America, we have become fat on ignorance and empire as it crumbles around us. We are a people completely dependent on corporate food and shelter and work. Once those systems are disrupted more acutely (we saw this in 2020, and I guarantee you they will be again in the future), we will see these low-information, magical thinking, angry, fearful people come at us in unimaginable ways. We must not be targets. We must learn how to hide in plain sight. Don a red hat, camo shorts and wear a cross? Gross. But okay, I will do it if it means I can live and get the fuck out of Dodge. Know thy enemy and be clever. Be strategic. There are too few of us as it is.
In addition to hiding in plain sight, there is another concept that has been used to keep witches in the modern era safe, that of the “dual faith observance.” This practice was widely utilized by various witches and covens in England prior to the removal of the witchcraft laws in 1951. (The mediumship/fortune telling laws were not repealed in the UK until 2008. As of this writing, there are still anti-fortune telling laws in some US states.) Dual faith observance is the perfect way to hide in plain sight. Many witches and occultists attended church in the early 20th century. Some were even model citizens that were never suspected. Dual faith observance was also practiced in Europe after the Christian conversions. During the Mini Ice Age, occultists were priests, minor lords and extremely talented craftsmen. They attended church on Sunday, and then on the full moon they did other things.
I am not saying you need to adopt a dual observance and go to church, but it is a tactic, something to think about. The fact that anti-fortune telling laws are still on the books tells you that our kind are still feared. We could be perfect scapegoats for mobs, don’t you think?
Don’t be a scapegoat. Be able to hide. Be able to thrive. Be able to be a safe place/space for others of our kind in need. Don’t “die on your pentacle” as it were. We are not martyrs. We have done many things to survive and we will have much to do to help the Mother and our kindred before we leave the coil of this incarnation.
I write this to tell you that I want you to survive. Initiate, student, seeker, other: I WANT you to survive. More than that, I want you to thrive.
In order to do this, you will have to wear many masks. You will have to be quick and clever, and you will have to learn skills you never thought you would. You are going to have to be agile and not static in the coming days. You are going to have to gauge your enemy and the landscape around you. The plan for your life may not be the one you had in mind. Mine isn’t, but I plan on surviving. I plan on thriving, and I plan on helping this beautiful hurting Earth we all reside and depend on.
I also want to say that even though I may have had difficulties with brethren in the past or we did not see eye to eye, we are still of Her. I offer my hand and a knowing eye to show that I Will Be Silent, and I will help you should you ever find your way to my door in need.
To Will. To Know. To Dare. To Be Silent. Walk in Power. Walk in Her Bright Darkness.
“The old Kahunas would transmit their power from one to another via sperm. To be a Kahuna was to be bi-sexual because their relationships with their Gods was sexual. Homosexuals are so greatly feared in our culture because of an ancient memory of the awesome power of homosexual sorcerers.” –Victor Anderson 2/21/1995
The so-called “laws” of magic are descriptions of how magic works. There are many laws which are used singly or in combination to produce spells. The law of polarity is one description of the way in which magical body force is generated. Magic, in the traditions I am heir to, is of the body. The body is the battery, conduit and shaper of the power of the witches. So, it is no surprise that polarity is grounded in the body and is such a wonderful, delightful and powerful force. Freely accessible to all, everyone has the potential to feel it; the only requirement is to have a living body.
The Law of Polarity, like sex, is a straightforward function of the body. Unfortunately, it seems that many people make it more complicated than it is. By straightforward, I mean it’s easy for people to understand once the complicated social issues are stripped away.
The conceptual edifice that often accompanies the word “polarity” is fraught with emotional tensions. Rigid social conventions around gender and gender roles are overlaid onto a simple sexual attraction. The way that polarity is explained in some circles causes some to freeze their understanding of power into a small box and others to feel that it is a ridiculous concept that alienates many worthy people.
My understanding of the Law of Polarity is simply that it describes how sexual attraction can generate a lot of power. By power, I mean the energetic juice that exudes from our bodies and flows throughout the world around us. It is a power which fuels our magics. When there is sexual attraction between people, a joyful force is generated by the bodymind which is noticeable: noticeable in facial expressions, movements, and other changes in their bodies. The power is palpable to others. It’s called “polarity” because it’s like charged electrodes which are separate and yet emit a force around them. It is in the magically charged gap between the poles where the discharge happens, releasing the built up charge. When the charge is released, the deed is done and the spell is sent.
Simple biology! However, as humans, we have a need to elaborate, which in this case often confuses the issue. Some conflate the build-up of sexual tension and its release with unrelated issues of gender and sexuality. Yet power is power no matter what form it takes, and no matter what human form we happen to be in. In the womb, each and every one of us starts out as female in form. All the diverse bodies we see around us are manifestations of the female body, even the most apparently male ones. This reality is also expressed by the simple fact that every body contains both female and male sex hormones. Each person, of course, has their own unique mix.
A well-respected American Gardnerian high priestess of the most conservative line once used pheromones to explain why polarity must alternate only between females and males. As a medical professional, I kindly explained that in fact pheromones are a good explanation for why power doesn’t only flow between females and males. Pheromones are hormones that are excreted into the air around us. Pheromones work like hormones. Hormones are spread throughout the whole body equally. They operate in specific locations in the body because that’s where the receptors for the hormones are located. In terms of sexual attraction, the sexual pheromones emitted by every person present permeate the whole room equally. Pheromones do not travel in a straight line from person to person; they disperse into the whole space. Yet they only activate sexual/emotional feelings in those who have the proper receptors. Homosexual men and heterosexual women have receptors that are activated by male pheromones, so naturally both might experience sexual attraction for a male. Sexual attraction is sexual attraction regardless of gender.
An Alexandrian priestess once told me that her coven felt the energy of a circle moved only between the women and the men of their circles. It seems natural to me that would be the case in groups of heterosexuals, who are attracted to the opposite sex, but it isn’t natural for non-heterosexual members. Preconceived and learned ideas of social relationships come into play when we perceive power and may prevent us from perceiving realities we do not expect.
Some practitioners of witchcraft believe that the Goddess can only possess a female body. This belief seems to me to be based on the same narrow view of gender polarity that I have questioned above. It seems inconsistent to me to believe that the Great Goddess, who is the mother of all, can be found everywhere and in everything, except inside a man’s body! In fact, I know from experience that the Goddess can be wherever She wants! In Faerie witchcraft, which is historically older than Gardnerian witchcraft, it is common for both men and women to be possessed by both Goddesses and Gods. This practice does not harm them, it enriches their lives and the lives of those around them.
Some may wonder how non-gendered roles would work in traditions that have specific roles for women and men. In Feri witchcraft, there are typically no specific roles based on gender or sex. In some traditions of witchcraft, however, it is believed that women and men must fulfill certain ritual roles in order for the rite to be effective. Although women are allowed to fulfill the role of a man, men are forbidden to fulfill the role of a woman. Some have said in the past that women must rule the circle to counteract the harmful effects of living in a male-dominated society. That surely has a healing effect on the psyches of both women and men. For women to claim power and men to release control is most certainly an important part of healing our society by redressing wrongs. However, I personally feel that at this time in our history, equality is a more powerful longing and a greater force of positive and deeper change in our social structures.
One advantage of conceiving the power generated by Polarity as based on something broader than gender or biological sex is that power can be generated and recognized by everyone present regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression. There is no need to try to trap the power into flowing in narrow lines between specific participants. Power can thus be raised exponentially because there are no barriers to power. Energetically, pheromones cause the power to boil like water in a cauldron, roiling in all directions! Thus trans, non-binary or intersex members of the circle can fully participate.
In popular imagination, Gardnerians are famously connected to the concept of alternating female/male polarity. Once, I was in a California-Gardnerian coven meeting with some friends. The tradition is one that allows same-sex initiation. In that circle was a woman (a guest, not a priestess in the circle) who insisted that my male lover and I should not stand together even though she was standing next to four other women. Niklas and I refused to separate; the circle continued, and the Gods were pleased. The enforcement of the alternating female to male “rule” is an example of how these guidelines are social rather than magical or spiritual: it is as unequal as the distribution of women and men in that circle. Too often, such policing of behavior in witchcraft circles only pertains to and affects queer men.
Some say alternating female participants with male participants is the tradition that Gardner passed and thus it must be adhered to. However, what Gardner “passed” and what he did were not always the same. I once had the chance to ask Dayonis, who was for a time the high priestess of Gardner’s coven, if a man could cast a circle. She replied, “Of course; Gardner did!”
Clearly, such “rules” are adapted to suit an occasion. They can be used to uphold the integrity of a tradition or to denigrate and disempower members. The reality is that each of us is unique and valuable. What does it mean for our integrity if we don’t uphold that belief when we stand before the Gods?
Some covens hold the belief that a woman must teach a man and vice versa. If that is the case, then a woman must know the man’s parts and the man, the woman’s. A part or role cannot be known by reading it a few times. In order to know a role, one must perform it repeatedly. So, ironically, the only way for a woman to teach a man or a man to teach a woman is for there to be no gender-based roles at all.
Social concepts and rules that deny reality do not last. The Law of Polarity as I teach it acknowledges the power of people of all gender expressions and sexual orientations. I am confident that this view is the future of witchcraft.
In religious studies, a cosmology is a collection of sacred stories and philosophical teachings about the origin and nature of the universe. A cosmology helps practitioners of that religion to orient themselves in their lives. It describes what social harmony and right relationship with natural and divine forces look like. For example, many traditional Christians look to the biblical book of Genesis for their cosmology. The creation stories of Genesis tell them that the world is good, that human beings are caretakers of that world, and that humans get themselves into trouble when they violate the edicts of the biblical god.
For better or worse, beliefs such as these help many people navigate the confusing, inconsistent, and often unjust mess that is an actual human life. Cosmologies help the world feel like it makes sense even when the facts before our eyes do not. In this way, religion can help people deal calmly with adversity, or it may keep them passive when they should demand change.
Feri as an esoteric spirituality
Esoteric spiritualities like Feri (or tantric Buddhism or Western ceremonial magick or alchemical Daoism) also have cosmologies, but they function differently. These spiritualities are non-ideological in nature and are often critical of social norms and conventions. Their teachings are meant to be conveyed mouth to ear or in small groups, and they are easily distorted when co-opted by broad social or political movements.
Concepts that may be liberating for individuals in a particular time and place may have a different, even destructive resonance if they become part of a rigid ideology that is meant to order a whole society. A famous example of such distortion is the use of Friedrich Nietzsche’s esoteric notion of the will to power by German fascists. Nietzsche, a sensitive and passionate literary artist and thinker, is often remembered for his confrontational remark that “God is dead,” but he also wrote that he would only believe in a God who dances. His ideas, which were framed in the Romantic tradition of seeking individual freedom and artistic expression for the self, were part of his personal search for spiritual, intellectual, and artistic freedom. Nietzsche’s writings were published as part of his ongoing relationship with other artists and philosophers who were on a similar journey. They were never intended to prop up a political party or justify mass violence or warfare. I can only imagine the ugly use to which his writings were put was terribly painful to those who loved him and had benefitted from the artistic risks he took. [EDIT: An initiate friend tells me that Nietzsche’s sister, a proto-fascist and anti-Semite, inserted her own political statements into some of his works before publication. This occurred while she was his caretaker and literary executor and he was not able to handle his own affairs. I was not previously aware of this particular history and am saddened to hear it, though it expands my point.]
Like Nietzsche’s philosophy, esoteric teachings are high-context concepts that are meant to be conveyed within a framework that is not solely, or even primarily, intellectual. Esotericisms are not primarily systems of belief, but of practice informed by thought. Esoteric ideas conveyed outside of a container of guided practice can easily be misconstrued.
Sacred stories and philosophical concepts have a symbiotic relationship with practice in esoteric traditions. Esoteric concepts inform, support, and correct practice, and practice produces an embodied state that allows esoteric concepts to be understood in a way that deepens that practice. Additionally, healthy esoteric traditions are often said to have a “current” that can be received or experienced in a variety of ways. The experience of a tradition’s current awakens the understanding of the student or initiate, not intellectually, but through embodied knowing. The presence of such a current in the student helps them to encounter the tradition’s teachings in a life-affirming way, one that is harmonious with the tradition’s understanding of the universe.
In some Eastern esoteric traditions, the vision of reality that practice harmonizes with is called the view. The view is similar to a cosmology in that it presents a model of the universe. Unlike in religious traditions, however, the view is for use on an individual spiritual path; it is not intended to help maintain social stability.
Christopher Wallis, a Western practitioner-scholar of nondual Śaiva Tantra, emphasizes the concept of the view in Tantra Illuminated. He writes:
In the Indian tradition, the first and most crucial step is getting oriented to the View (darśana) of the path that you will walk. The Sanskrit word darśana is often translated as “philosophy,” but the connotations of that English word miss the mark. Darśana means worldview, vision of reality, and way of seeing; it is also a map of the path you will walk. We may understand the importance of View-orientation through an analogy: You might have all the right running gear, a snappy outfit and the best shoes, and you might be in great shape, but none of that will matter if you are running in the wrong direction. (Second edition 2013: 51)
In Feri, our creation myth is a view teaching. Because Feri is an oral tradition, there are many versions of this myth, but the most famous was published by Starhawk in her 1979 book The Spiral Dance:
Alone, awesome, complete within Herself, the Goddess, She whose name cannot be spoken, floated in the abyss of the outer darkness, before the beginning of all things. As She looked into the curved mirror of black space, She saw by her own light her radiant reflection, and fell in love with it. She drew it forth by the power that was in Her and made love to Herself, and called Her “Miria, the Wonderful.”
Their ecstasy burst forth in the single song of all that is, was, or ever shall be, and with the song came motion, waves that poured outward and became all the spheres and circles of the worlds. The Goddess became filled with love, swollen with love, and She gave birth to a rain of bright spirits that filled the worlds and became all beings. […]
All began in love; all seeks to return to love. Love is the law, the teacher of wisdom, and the great revealer of mysteries. (20th anniversary edition, 41)
Hubble Telescope: The Butterfly of the Galaxies (Public Domain)
The Feri creation myth and practice
At the risk of repeating myself, I want to emphasize again that esoteric teachings are non-ideological. They are not meant to be the philosophical basis of widespread political or social movements (although they may inspire or empower individuals within those movements). Esoteric teachings and lore are easily distorted when co-opted for ideological purposes.
The Feri creation myth does not present a philosophy or moral system by which people can be judged as worthy or unworthy. It is meant as a frame for practice that leads into the mystery of our embodiment.
The creation myth conveys much about the qualities of Feri. Ours is an embodied, fundamentally relational tradition that affirms the erotic nature of being in all things, especially the interdependent ecosystem of which humans are a part. The life force that we move in our practices arises from love and desire between Self and Other, who are part of each other, reflections of a divine and holy birth. We know that the universe began in lovemaking, not by word or commandment. We honor these ways of being not just in our overtly spiritual practices, but in every breath and moment of our lives. To practice Feri is to seek the constant awareness of God Hirself’s unfolding in us.
In Feri as I learned it and as I teach it, spiritual practice is at minimum a daily setting of intention that the whole human, embodied self be aligned with and under the guidance of the Godself, the individual’s reflection of God Hirself. What we are each doing on this earth is manifesting our individual divinity, as collectively all of being is manifesting divinity.
Spiritual practice does not always have to be complex or formal. In fact, during the householder phase of life, when we are focused on professional and family responsibilities, by necessity it is often quite ordinary: a morning prayer, a quick breath directed to the Godself in a spare moment, an offering made with minimal ceremony, or mindfulness practiced during a commute. It is not always a good time for the formalities of “witchcraft” to be a major life focus, with all the ritual and spellwork and trance journeys and other elaborate practices that can entail. But the commitment to manifesting the Godself must be consistent. Only regular contact with the Godself gives us a choice to do something other than simply recapitulate the patterns received from our families of origins or our life experiences (especially traumatic life experiences).
Refining the self to allow one’s divinity to manifest is not about spiritual accomplishment or impressing others or being a “priest” or a “witch” or an “adept” or any such social or intellectual achievement. It’s about being present to this one precious life, to the one unique manifestation of God Hirself that only you can bring through.
The role of view teachings in practice innovation
Many parts of the Feri tradition were held close by the Andersons and only shared in one-on-one or small group conversations in their home. However, they published their practices for aligning the parts of the human self with the Godself, initially in an article and later in the book Etheric Anatomy. I believe this reflected their feeling that these practices can be widely helpful for people, regardless of whether they are studying with a teacher of Feri. In my own training, I also benefited from the alignment exercises given by T. Thorn Coyle in Evolutionary Witchcraft.*
As my practice has deepened, I have come to understand the importance of view teaching in the evolution of an esoteric tradition. View teachings help to form the container of a tradition’s practice. They shape our creativity and help initiates to ensure that any new practices they innovate will help other initiates and students to embody the tradition’s current.
Some new practices, while not “wrong” per se, can be incompatible with the existing body of practice and can undermine students’ progress toward initiation. This is particularly common when non-initiates, or initiates who have not allowed their initiation experience to settle, attempt to create practices to teach to others.
At the risk of calling out a well-meaning but misguided teaching effort, I will give an example that illustrates my point. I once was given a handout written by an initiate of different witchcraft tradition, one that was heavily influenced by ceremonial magick. The handout appeared to be a variation on a chakra-aligning technique, except instead of chakras, the exercise used the names of the Feri parts of the self. The exercise instructed the student to “align and purify themselves” by running elaborate bridges of energy, not in a single line from root to crown, but up and down the middle pillar of the body, looping back and forth between different energy centers.
While this may have been a fine ceremonial magick exercise—I am not familiar enough with that system to know—it badly misconstrues how Feri understands the relationships within the human self. Alignment with the Godself is not a strenuous, mysterious, or difficult-to-achieve state requiring occult knowledge of energy centers or a specific pattern of visualization. It is a natural human birthright, one our dense and energy bodies are inclined to return to with gentle intention and presence. Alignment is also not a process of purification. Alignment, instead, is a state of communication and communion—warm, embodied, erotic relationship. To seek alignment is to evoke love, mutuality, and pleasure within and among the parts of the self.
In our natural human state, all our souls “speak as one” because they ARE one. No elaborate energy bridges or secret techniques are needed to connect them. They are not separate or alienated from each other; instead, they permeate each other. As Victor Anderson remarked to Willow Moon, “Talking to the Unihipili [Fetch] is like talking to yourself, because you are!” (personal communication 4/25/1995)
Every time we return to a view teaching like the Feri creation myth, we remind ourselves of what the experience of embodying our tradition feels like. Such teachings provide anchors that can keep us from getting lost in elaborate theological models which may titillate the Talker, but do not lead us deeper into the mystery of Self. Keeping the view in mind helps us to retain the energetic integrity of our tradition and ensure that, when we choose to guide students along this uncanny path, the transmission of our gifts will be robust and of benefit to all.
Love is indeed the law. Let us walk this path with all the care, grace, and attention we can muster.
* If you desire to train with a Feri teacher, it is best to avoid reading books or websites on how to practice the Feri tradition. A good teacher will tailor your training to your particular needs, and any habits you have developed from attempting to practice out of books will have to be undone. If you must read books from the Feri tradition, I recommend Etheric Anatomy by the Andersons, Cora Anderson’s autobiography Kitchen Witch, Cora’s biography of Victor In Mari’s Bower, and Victor’s two books of poetry, Thorns of the Bloodrose and Lilith’s Garden.
“Our Pagan community is growing and showing much bright promise. The Craft is a tough weed that will grow many strange flowers and bear strange fruits, so we must try and tolerate different ways of practicing it. Learn from what we see and if we cannot use it, let the others try, even if they eat bad fruit and go balls up!”
Feri can seem eclectic because it is still an oral tradition. We don’t use a book as a standard. As an oral tradition, our circle casting rite changes with each performance. The tradition morphs and grows as each initiate makes it their own and adds their own knowledge.
However, as all initiates know, there are basic understandings/approaches/exercises passed from one Feri practitioner to the next. That is the definition of a tradition. Yet our tradition is not static or stale; it lives and puts forth shoots from deep roots. Our roots are Feri’s cultural milieu.
The basic psycho-physical exercises passed from one generation to the next are like the scales in music which make further musical development possible. Without the experience of scales as a muscle memory, there is no musical creativity. Different cultures have different scales which inform their musical forms and thus their culture. Our traditional psycho-physical basic training informs and is informed by the cultural milieu of Feri. The basics provide a structure upon which creativity can thrive and yet still be a part of the traditional milieu. That is what is meant by a “living tradition.”
Of course, there are those within the circle of initiates who say this or that teaching of some initiates isn’t Feri. They may not recognize other lineages as kin. That is to be expected with any group of folks. To me, it seems to simply boil down to “How big do we want our community to be?” Some opt for a smaller group; some are more inclusive. As with any community, each of us has to figure that out for themselves depending upon what one finds comfortable and sustainable. However we may squabble among ourselves like a family, like a family we all have one thing in common. For a blood family, that is DNA; for us, it’s initiation.
Andy Goldsworthy – Montage by iuri – Sticks Framing a Lake (CC BY 2.0)
Feri is different from an eclectic tradition. Eclectic, I define (based on Merriam-Webster’s dictionary) as a collection of various diverse cultural artifacts. It has the connotation of being an indiscriminate mishmash of unrelated elements. Although Feri folds various cultural artifacts into our milieu, for those who are well trained in Feri, items are not added indiscriminately, but with a purpose. Typically additions come from a personal gnosis based on knowledge gained with integrity: that is, knowledge based in traditional forms that the initiate is heir to, not something solely gleaned from a book.
Feri is also different from a literary tradition. Literary traditions often judge inclusion into the corpus of a tradition by how closely the accepted literary forms are followed. Some literary traditions do not allow for changes in the corpus (in other words, the corpus is closed and new works cannot be added). In Feri, we do not use a book as an arbitrator of inclusion. However, it doesn’t mean that we aren’t literary folks. In fact, we don’t have one Book of Shadows, we have many! In Feri, any initiate can add to the corpus of their lineage.
We also have diverse lineages, some of which practice and teach in radically different ways. Yet, in the same way that one can recognize a story to be of the Arthurian legend milieu, even though the individual stories can be very different as told from different characters’ points of view, Feri initiates can recognize each other. In this way, Feri is similar to a literary tradition.
According to Albert B. Lord in The Singer of Tales, literary traditions arise from the belief that one specific performance of an art form is a “real” form of the art, even though the form changes with each performance. This is just like life: even though something may appear the same from day to day, each day that thing is subtly different, even if the difference isn’t noticed. The real form of the art is in its performance.
I don’t understand Feri to be an eclectic tradition, but instead a multicultural one. Perhaps because it has thrived in American soil for so long, Feri is yet another manifestation of America’s multicultural identity. For thousands of years, many various and diverse cultures have found a home here. Maybe Feri is a reflection of that. Or perhaps, Victor Anderson was correct when he suggested that Feri is the source of all magic, and its repository.
Raymond Allen Moore, known for his keen love of occult lore, his passion for learning in and of itself, and his scorchingly dry wit, died at age 60 on Thursday, April 29, 2021 in Concord, North Carolina.
Ray was born on February 13, 1961 in Chicago, Illinois. He was preceded in death by his parents and is survived by his two sons, wife, siblings and many friends in his spiritual community.
Ray as a young man in Chicago
Ray was deeply spiritual, curious and enthusiastic about life. He loved to read and collect books. He was passionate about math and science and had degrees in physics and mathematics.
Ray was a member of the Spiral Heart community in the Reclaiming Tradition and was an initiate of Thorn Coyle in the Feri Tradition. His friends and loved ones in these communities deeply mourn his loss while remembering his beautiful smile.
Ray with friend Sue in Chicago
“One memory I have of Ray is at Light Haven in NC. He was calling the Star Goddess for ritual, walking the floor in the ritual space, hands upraised. I could feel Her presence around him.“ ~Thorn Coyle
Ray and Darrah on Samhain
“I was touched when Ray surprised me one year when we met up at PantheaCon with a present of a beautifully preserved old 1960s issue of FAMOUS MONSTERS magazine. It had a wonderfully rendered painting of Barnabas Collins on the cover. I was so delighted and thrilled. I just remember Ray’s shy sweet smile as he watched me geeking out over the mag. He seemed even more pleased by my response than I was to receive such a memorable gift. That is a memory that will stay with me.” ~Shimmer
“He was really observant, and that made him the consummate gift giver. And you could see the triumph in his eyes. So sweet.” ~Cholla
Ray with friends at Feri Camp
“Ray sent and gifted DRGN with a copy of the Viridarium Umbris.” ~Ed Novem Grey
“Ray bought me a copy of Tom’s book. I didn’t have enough money at the time, and by the time I could afford it, all the copies were gone. Then Ray sent one to me and now I’m crying, as it will remind me of all the generosity of both of them. Graveyard Wanderers indeed. Ray did these things just randomly that were so generous and dear. It always caught me off guard. And it delighted me, to be honest. I delighted in the surprise of it.” ~Cholla
Swan, Carrie, and Ray at PantheaCon
“Remembering the time that he bought a bronze Ganesha statue in Berkeley California when we were visiting friends. He sat with the heavy statue on his lap on the airplane all the way back to East Coast.” ~Swan
“I remember him calling me and Ed at the shop to tell us he really supported what we were doing. He was also downsizing his library and knew we had a public occult library in our shop where folks could come and research/read/hang. So he donated 3-4 big boxes of books. It was the most generous donation we had ever received and it meant a lot. We still have many of the books he gifted us in our personal library.” ~Maya
Ray and Friends
“Ray would reach out regularly and check in. He was so good to me and really really supportive. Even when him and I would disagree, usually around something socio-political, he always always would keep reaching back and keep the connection going, even if I was PISSED. He took the connection very seriously and he was always so good at bringing things back to a relational place of care and love and some of our talks were just growing pains for him. He would actually hear me sometimes and he his opinion would shift. He also was a good teacher for me in regards to holding compassion, even when you don’t agree. We never stopped revisiting our connection and it was because he was relentless!!” ~Justin
Ray during the holidays
“I remember when he had aspected Krom in ritual and that was a profound experience for me.” ~Dalton
“Ray and I first got to know each other on a long bus trip after a workshop. At the time, I had only studied witchcraft in a workshop format, and I didn’t yet understand that there were other, family-based cultures of witchcraft with a different ethos. Ray was ahead of me in grasping how intimate witchcraft could be. We talked quite seriously on that bus ride, and while he didn’t immediately change my mind, I remember how he engaged with me, his patience. Later, through other experiences, I came to share his point of view. He could be prickly at times, but I always felt it was because he was so soft inside. I remember the last time I saw him, how his eyes sparkled when he smiled, and how potent it was to feel our kinship despite having seen each other rarely over the years. I will miss his generous spirit.” ~Helix
Cyn and Ray
“Looking at pictures of Ray and feeling his radiant smile and spirit make my heart both heavy and brilliant at the same time.” ~Susan
Thorn and Ray at Light Haven
“Things I remember most about Ray: Ray’s smile. Ray’s curiosity. Ray’s grateful attitude. Ray’s dedication to study and the Craft. Ray, calling the Star Goddess for ritual. Walking the magic, calling Her name.” ~Thorn
Ray and Swan in front of the western gate that he helped Niki build for Samhain one year
“Raymond Moore, when I met you I knew you were Awesome! You helped me build the Western gate; now you are on the other side of that gate flying free! Fly free as a Bird! Now you are with Your Ancestors & The Ancient Ones in the Circle of Life! I am glad I have met you & we have crossed paths, that memory now sits with me in my Heart. I am so glad I have met you. Fly free, Brother.” ~Niki Popovic
Cyn, Ray, and Swan
“I fondly recall studying tarot with Ray. He flew many times to California with Cyn and I to study with Thorn. He was a thoughtful and fun travel companion and my best friend.” ~Swan
In San Francisco, going to a ball with friends
“We had those big falling outs as well. But we worked hard together. And even though on any given day maybe we were talking, maybe not, we knew we loved each other. We laughed about it. I told him that I would never be so angry with him that I didn’t love him. He taught me a lot about that aphorism of Victor’s about always leaving that door open.” ~Cholla
Letters from Ray to Thorn
I hope you’ve been doing well!
I completed all of my coursework towards my B.S. in Physics degree last semester and am almost done with my B.A. in Math! Spring 2015 will see me graduating with both. It’s been a long journey, but worthwhile.
Much Love – Ray
* * *
Hi Aeptha and Thorn,
I just wanted to check-in with you to say thank you for the energy that was sent my way from the Naga ritual last weekend…
I had been texting with Swan the morning of the ritual. While I was in the shower, I felt myself filled with energy that made me start trancing and chanting… not something that usually happens there! The word that came to me was Bucca, which is a Cornish Witchcraft deity that I’ve been working with of late. He symbolizes the snake energy of the land and has a light and dark form, basically a Twin god form. I felt the top of my head open up, too, which tends to happen when I’m connecting to an energetic stream. When I got back to my computer, Swan had texted me with a simple message ‘Did you feel it?’ Wow… did I ever! Thank you both, as well as all who participated in the ritual, for what you gifted me with. I’m very grateful!
Saturday night, bursting with gratitude, I placed a Naga Kanya statue I’ve had for a number of years in the center of my living room and thanked the spirits for their help… chanting Naga to honor them. It felt very transformative!
Much love to you both!
To think that you are gone, over the crest of the hills As the Moon passes from her fullness, riding the sky, And the White Mare took you with her. To think that we will wait another life To drink wine from the horns, and leap the fire. Farewell from this world, but not from the circle. That place that is between the worlds Shall hold return in due time. Nothing is lost. The half of a fruit from the tree of Avalon Shall be our reminder, among the fallen leaves This life treads underfoot. Let the rain weep. Waken in sunlight from the Realms of Sleep.
~Doreen Valiente: “Elegy for a Dead Witch”
“May God Herself hold Ray close, and may Her light of wisdom and renewal guide him on his soul’s great journey. So be it.” ~Shimmer
We like to pride ourselves (often with good reason) on our ability to effect a change in our situation. Cora Anderson, shortly before her death, told me that the purpose of Feri witchcraft is to become a better person, which is to effect a change in ourselves.
I was talking with some Feri initiate friends the other day and the idea was expressed that this is a good time to do some collective magic to help heal the earth and our societies. Our societies are not separate from the earth because it is through our societies that we affect the earth.
To that end, it was proposed that those who are so inclined and able perform rites around this time of Earth Day and Beltaine for making right with our relations. Since all living beings are children of the Great Goddess, we are all relatives.
By this, I mean rites of offerings to nature spirits, rites of reconciliation of differences and atonement for mistakes. Many societies that still maintain a close connection to nature contend that when we pollute the environment, we harm the spirits of nature who then retaliate, in an attempt to stop the damage.
It is often believed that making appropriate offerings to the nature spirits and asking for forgiveness for our species’ harm to the natural world can help to heal the spirits and our relationship to nature. This in turn is a balm to the spirits of the world who then cease their justified attacks of pestilence and natural disasters.
However, it doesn’t stop there, because we also need to correct our relationships with each other as individuals, as societies, and as countries. Hatred and fear poison our relationships which then kill people. This is true on a personal level and a governmental level. Thus, it was proposed that we include working for establishing right relationships between nations: to encourage cooperation between countries, since each country is affected as well as their people. Cooperation is our only path forward from the path of destruction.
This includes justice for criminals regardless of their influence, because justice for one is justice for all. This also includes governments fulfilling their mandate to protect and benefit their citizens to reestablish harmony within their borders. Harmony within a society can only happen when its citizens are respected, treated fairly and with dignity by those in power. Thus authoritarian administrations must be dismantled by the people they wish to dominate and destroy.
For those who wish it, I offer the following prayer to accompany this work.
From primordially pure basic space
The unceasing magical display of your desire
Appears as a Great Queen, enthroned
Whose toes are strong roots deep in the earth
Whose coal black hair streams with stars
All appearances arise as your glorious body!
From your heart, flames flash out, burning all ideas about the offerings into ash
From your heart, wind blows the ashes of doubt far away
From your heart, water washes the offerings clean from limitations
From your heart flows rays of rainbow lights, touching and changing the offerings into the nectar of your wisdom, a balm to all ills!
[pour out fluid offerings onto the earth and burn fragrant wood/herbs, raising the smoke to the sky while chanting IAO for a while. For best results, pray with strong emotions and if possible, mingle your tears with the fluid offerings]
Please accept these offerings as a healing nectar, healing all hurt, all ill intent
Be satisfied with these offerings, all you spirits of the sky, land and sea
Clouds of offerings, as limitless as the sky and pleasing to the senses
Are the form of the wisdom of Godhirself and swell throughout the phenomenal world!
They are all that could be desired for the Gods, spiritual caretakers of the land and to those whom we owe debts of nourishment, home or wealth
To those harmful spirits who create disharmony and pestilence
To those who steal life force, those who cause insanity and fatal accidents
To those who take the essence of wealth and health
To those hostile spirits who live in cities and in the wild!
As the red flames burn and smoke arises, debts are repaid, whatever is desired instantly arises
As long as space endures, we give inexhaustible offerings to all those to whom we are connected and to those we have harmed whether intentionally or not
The evil deeds and harmful actions we have accumulated, may they be purified by these offerings of generosity
May all beings awaken to their original nature and live free from conditioned existence!
May illness, evil spirits and pollutions be purified
May plagues, famine, warfare and natural disasters be pacified
May all enemies and dangers be averted
May calamities and misfortune cease!
May this offering clear mental cloudiness, dullness and agitation
May this offering clear the conflicts of people and nations
May this offering repair mistakes
May this offering clear bad dreams and omens
May this offering clear the quarreling of peoples!
As the smoke fills the sky, it is offered to all the Gods and spirits who fill space
May their afflictions due to our negligence from today onward be cleansed!
As the flames and sparks shoot into the space between heaven and earth, they are offered to all the Gods and spirits who remain between heaven and earth
May their afflictions due to our negligence from today onward be cleansed!
As the flames swirl upon the earth, they are offered to all the Gods and spirits who live under the earth
May all their afflictions due to our negligence from today onward be cleansed!
May obscurations from harmful magic and incantations be cleared!
May obscurations from broken connections with Gods and spirits be cleared!
May obscurations from authoritarian destructive forces be cleared!
May obscurations of demonic possession be cleared!
May all broken and weakened words of honor be cleared!
In this way, all Gods and spirits cleared from the fog of afflictions experience supreme well being
May they all be pleased with these offerings and may their desires be fulfilled
May past debts and stubborn habits be released
Through the power of this generosity, may we all be filled with ecstatic wisdom!
May harmful spirits who remain here
Whether on the earth, above it or below
Always be loving toward beings
May we practice kindness both day and night!
Cora Anderson’s birthday is next week (January 26), and I have been thinking about her. Not just because of her birthday, which I usually celebrate with poetry or pie (both if possible!). But also because of this week’s presidential inauguration, in which Joe Biden was sworn in as our 46th president, and Kamala Harris as our vice president—the first woman, the first Black woman, and the first person of Indian descent to hold so high an office in our country.
Yet the height of the inauguration for me was the poem read by 22-year-old Black poet laureate Amanda Gorman, a long spoken-word piece that rang with hip-hop rhythms. I kept thinking, Cora would have loved this.
Victor too, I’m sure. But I never met Victor. For that matter, I only met Cora once, when she was bedridden and near the end of her life. Though the Andersons are my great-grandparents in the Craft, I know them mostly through family stories: tales told of their wisdom and their foibles, shared by initiates who knew them whenever we gather.
If you are looking for a witchcraft tradition to connect you with an international community of people who share a consistent philosophy—sorry, this isn’t it. Faery is a family. Families are messy and organic; family members fight with each other fiercely and love just as fiercely. We don’t hang together because we’re developing an ideology or creating an organized religion. We’re together because we recognize each other on a soul-deep level.
Victor Anderson approached the world as a multiracial person. He condemned American racism in interviews and celebrated the cultures and spirituality of Indigenous people and people of color. Learning from world cultures, especially marginalized world cultures, was one of the Andersons’ core values.
But Victor Anderson was not a guru to whom we can abdicate our moral responsibility. I cannot, on the basis of Victor’s life, tell you that “Faery is an essentially anti-racist witchcraft tradition” or give you a ten-step checklist for how to be properly anti-racist. (You can find such materials on your own in any case!)
We look up to the Andersons as we look up to beloved ancestors of blood. They were teachers and our grandparents in the Craft; to some of us, they were cherished friends. Therefore, though we take their teachings seriously, we don’t look to the Andersons to tell us our ethics, beliefs, or political philosophy. Those are our responsibility as individuals, as people who are living in the 21st century. It would be presumptuous for me to try to speak for the Andersons, even if I quoted their interviews. Like all people, they were dynamic and evolving. I know their views changed with the times, and neither of them saw more than a few years of the 21st century. I cannot know how they would have reacted to any current events.
And yet… I think Cora especially would have loved this year’s inauguration.
When I visited Cora, I hoped to ask her about her and Victor’s poetry, and to hear something about her experience of witchcraft. Sadly for me, she was often in and out of her body at that time, and conversation was difficult. But there was one thing that Cora definitely wanted to talk about: the potential election of Barack Obama. She was tremendously excited by the prospect and wanted to know that we shared that excitement.
I can only imagine that the inauguration of Kamala Harris would have thrilled the Andersons. Perhaps they would have seen in her the face of our Star Mother, whom Victor sometimes described as a lovely Black woman wrapped in the imagery of the American flag. As poets, perhaps they would have wept—as I did—at the sight of Amanda Gorman elegantly performing her poetry, calling us through pride into love:
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit, it’s the past we step into and how we repair it
I am thinking of Cora today, and of Victor too. And so I suggest—if you are seeking Faery, if you might want the Andersons to be your teachers, your grandparents in the Craft, or your friends and guides—honor Cora on her birthday next week. Read Amanda Gorman’s poem aloud. And pray that our nation and our leaders be held under the hand of Love.
To be Faery is to fall in love with your Self as you run straight toward that which you most fear.
Most adults move through the world in a state of internal conflict. Their thoughts run in circles of preoccupation with the past or the future; they have emotions but avoid expressing them, or they let them build up until they are expressed abruptly and unconstructively; and they abuse their bodies with drugs, unhealthy food, or lack of movement. Accordingly, their ability to set an intention and follow through on it, or to accurately identify and act on their deepest desires in a sustained way, is severely lacking.
One cannot be an effective witch in this state of affairs. A witch must be able to focus all their energies in a single direction, to pursue goals both mundane and lofty with consistency and passion. This is one of many reasons why the Andersons emphasized integration work, where we return to a natural state where the physical, animal, human, and divine parts of us are aligned. (For an introduction to what is often called “Triple Soul” work, see the Andersons’ book Etheric Anatomy.) Only when the many parts of the self are entwined in an erotic embrace and moving in concert can the witch manifest their Self in the world.
It can be difficult to begin this work when so many of us have been raised to be divided from ourselves. Our families or religions of origin may have taught us to repress our emotions or condemn some of them as wrong; we may have been led to believe that some desires are “spiritual” and good while others are dangerous, destructive, or downright evil. This kind of upbringing leads many of us to hide what we really think and feel, even from ourselves. Others may rebel against such systems by chasing desires willy-nilly, allowing our animal selves to run wild without guidance from the human self about how to tend to our own well-being or that of others. Neither of these approaches arises from integration and alignment. An aligned witch should evaluate and govern their own actions, but they are able to accept their emotions and desires without judgment. Without this open-eyed compassion, we cannot fully know ourselves.
Whether you are studying Faery with a teacher or are simply a seeker, one of the ways to begin the work of integration is to identify fears and desires. For those who have been conditioned to hide their desires from themselves, fears are often easier to identify, since anxiety is what haunts and motivates so much of modern life.
Faery initiate and Reclaiming co-founder Starhawk has often been known to say, “Where there is fear, there is power.” Fear is one way the animal self signals that we have given our power away to an external force. The most persistent fears are often the most productive to explore.
I should emphasize, however, that I am speaking here mainly of irrational or exaggerated fears. There are good, rational, survival-based reasons for avoiding dangerous situations or for engaging in them only while carefully calculating risks. The fears that are most productive to run toward are often interpersonal or those that invite creative self-expression. For some people, the fear will be expressed as intense and obsessive disgust. Our aversion to those externalized parts of ourselves can manifest as monomaniacal focus on manageable risks—for example, avoiding sexual relationships out of a debilitating horror of sexually transmitted infections. The persistence and intrusiveness of an aversion is a clue that it is concealing a lost part of the self.
For some of us, fear will manifest as anger or hatred. In my own sheltered youth, witchcraft and Paganism were targets of my contempt and anger. I was articulate and critical and able to find a thousand faults with the people who practiced these traditions. Yet my rejection of these forms of spirituality was actually a rejection of myself. The harder I fought them, the more those traditions appeared synchronistically in my life, attracted and tantalized me. When I recognized this and (initially holding my nose with disdain) began to read books, go to Pagan campouts, and participate in rituals even when doing so caused me anxiety, discomfort, and downright irritation, paths began to open up for me. I found friends who practiced those traditions whom I could respect; I found an ethical, talented teacher I could look up to. I started to make progress and become a bit less divided against myself.
Strong emotions of this type give clear indications of where the risky but growthful path lies for a given individual. Tackling these fears should never be rushed, however, nor should anyone pressure you to engage them prematurely. Claiming the power and Self that you have externalized in what you fear takes time, care, and careful engagement with the rejected object. To prepare, a meditative practice that gives you experience with tolerating uncomfortable emotions is essential. Buddhist or Western mindfulness practice can help us to regulate our emotions enough to curiously discover what is hidden behind our fear. If our fears are associated with trauma, it is a good idea to enlist the help of a trauma recovery therapist when beginning this kind of work.
To fall in love with our Self, we must also unfailingly respond to desire. Integration requires the gentle work of allowing the human self to befriend the animal self, and vice versa. Only when they are in a close, loving, and erotic relationship will the human self become consistently and completely aware of the animal self’s desires. These desires must be acted upon if the trust of the animal self is to be maintained—but they should be pursued with wisdom and guidance from the divine part of the self. Acting on desire should not result in behavior that is careless toward self and others.
However, if ever you find yourself struck speechless, burning with hunger for a new experience, or feeling yourself to be alive in a way you never have before: if you cannot safely move in the moment, you must make a plan to act. Wrap up or put on pause whatever stands between you and the desire. If the desire is inaccessible in some way, reflect: is there some other way you can approach the essence of the desire? If the desire is for a person who is not available for relationship, what elements of that person attract you, and are there other ways to bring those elements into your life? If the desire is to make music or art, are there ways you can lower your cost of living or survive on less in order to spend more time on projects? What loving risks can you take to manifest the desire? Such decisions feed our animal selves and allow the free flow of life force through all our parts—and cultivating the free flow of life force is an essential part of Faery.
Making a commitment to run toward fear and desire is a simple thing on the surface, but if we practice it in earnest, we will experience moments of towering joy and ego-destroying terror. Life will become vivid—and dangerous.
Are you seeking a Faery path? Make your promise now: never turn away from Self.