Editor’s Note: I am pleased to say that Willow Moon has granted us permission to share articles written by himself and his late husband Niklas Gander (also known as Tom Johnson) in the early 2000s. Willow and Niklas have been important mentors to me and many others in our beloved Feri tradition. Their generosity in sharing their knowledge, wisdom, and experience has touched many of us over the years, both those who have been their students and those who have corresponded with them from a distance. Their thoughtful contributions to the Witch Eye zine and to online discussion lists helped make them two of our most respected elders. We are deeply grateful that Willow Moon has continued to share his work here on the Anderson-Faery.org blog.
Niklas was a scholar of the Swedish grimoire tradition and an initiate of multiple lineages of witchcraft. He crossed over in 2014 and was beautifully memorialized in The Wild Hunt. Niklas is very much missed, and we are blessed to honor him as one of our ancestors in the Craft.
How many Feri witches does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Only one, so long as you yearn for the feeling of the curve of your own bulb, radiant in your own darkness–just as She did as She first turned on the Light.
How many Feri witches does it take to screw in a light bulb?
An infinite number, for all life in all the worlds screws in Her womb, Her radiantly dark/light bulb.
How many Feri witches does it take to screw in a light bulb?
There is no simple answer, as there is significant dispute among the various lines of the tradition about the exact number required. The discussions about this issue are often heated and even acrimonious. However, all agree that the current is dangerous, and that in changing light bulbs, one will become either dead, mad, or an electrician.
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.
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.
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.
What occurred at my initiation caught me by surprise. Until I entered ‘the room’, I did not know the rubric, the appearance of the room, what my Oathmother and their assistants would do, nor what I would be called on to say or do. No one had told me how it would feel or how I would feel afterwards, other than cautions not to expect ‘wonders’. During my studies I desired initiation, too strongly perhaps, yet I worked quite hard not to find out any of the secrets of that ritual in advance. My Oathmother and those who mentored me obliged by not spilling their beans either. Because I had few expectations beyond ‘this will be important’, I was shocked by the beauty of the ritual, one that began a recrystallization of the sense of my life. Yet was it surprise that made the beauty shocking and provided fuel to power that magic?
More than seven years earlier I received a call from a divinity. It was an instruction, not a command, perhaps best seen as an offer that would be made only once: “In order to [address a very mundane issue] you must learn use your intensity with ultimate skill.” Accepting that god’s direction led to my taking up study of the Anderson Craft. With considerable serendipity, I connected with a skilled and compassionate teacher, a fine match perhaps not because of our similarities, but because of our differences.
I was not a particularly wise student and the seven-year process was not easy, nor did this training match what I thought it would be like when I began. My assumed strengths so often were identified as peripheral, even detrimental to my goal, and the areas where my teacher and my mentors focused my training were so often not my strengths but rather where I was, in their judgment, weakest. My multiple decades studying hermetic Qabalah with a skilled adept became beside the point. My skills were worthy of respect, and my teachers were pleased to acknowledge my prior diligence. Yet it was my teacher’s continually frustrating role to keep saying, ‘NO! Qabalah is not Feri’, or to emphatically demand I re-do work, because, ‘Rudolf Steiner is not Feri!’ If I anticipated the next piece of work, rather than just doing it, it could simply fail and need to be redone later.
During my seven years as a student, I was nearly dropped by my teacher more than once. These explosions always occurred when I presumed I knew beforehand what was being taught, why it was being taught, and what I was going to learn. I may have been wise enough to not delve too much into the secrets of initiation, yet I had to be hit by the teacher’s stick again and again to learn a great secret: I was a student because I did not know the Craft, while my Oathmother-to-be had been ordained by ‘Our Line’, both the living and those mightily dead, and the Gods, to take me down paths that I simply could not travel myself – that I had to learn to listen!
And I found out the only reason to walk those paths was to know myself. Yes, I made friends (the closest ever in my long life), learned lore and even a few secrets, grievously hurt and lost friends because of my ego, and even began to learn a bit of how to use my intensity with skill (if not yet ‘ultimate’). But that skill was so often not how to enlarge myself, to become more intense, but rather right-sizing, a surrender, above all how to listen and …
… trust in my teacher was required. I was handing parts of my Souls into my teacher’s hands. For though I felt this burning need to study, if I thought I knew where I was going, I would not get there. No, my teacher was not perfect, we argued, I felt they dropped my souls more than once, even broke my heart as I sometimes broke theirs. Yet this surrender to my teacher’s guidance, of allowing them to surprise me, was the essence of being trained in our tradition and the only possible path to initiation.
Shortly after my initiation, I commented to a friend, now a fellow initiate, “This cannot be taken away.” They responded, “No, it cannot.” Have there been ‘wonders’ since my initiation? If by ‘wonders’ one means many shattering spiritual events, I would have to say no. My teacher and mentors were right to say, “Do not expect wonders.” However, the winds of the world seem to blow more strongly, or perhaps I just pay more attention. Intuition arises more easily, synchronicities are more common. Emotions and the effect of what is said and done in relationships on myself and on others are far brighter, and sometimes far darker. Words spoken and actions taken seem to pack more clout. It is both easier to speak truth, and not doing so has deeper consequences. These changes continue and seem to be increasing over time. Perhaps my training is what allowed me not to expect wonders, but rather to gain the strength to navigate the changes in me that continue to evolve and to emerge—and, perhaps, to remain open to being surprised.
Following up on Helix’s challenge for us to write an article on each of the principles, this piece addresses Principle Five: We honor our oaths to aid and defend our brothers and sisters.
In 2011, the Feri Tradition split. Why that happened will be attributed to as many causes as there are initiates. I have heard people claim that the division is a false one, because we share the same Mystery and Current and we share the same gods. But this is not entirely true. For whatever reasons I hear others give as to why Anderson Faery and Feri split, for me it was that we did not share a crucial mystery. We did not share the Oath as a value across the tradition.
I say this because for me the Oath is a mystery. When we receive the Great Mystery that makes us a Faery witch at initiation, it changes us. It makes us something else. You can see it when you circle with initiates. At some point in the circle, their facial features change. Their eyes become longer; their teeth sharper. They look feral, a word that shares a root with our very name. The Mystery awakens something in us that culture has tried to breed out of us, something precious and terrible.
But the Oath is a mystery of its own, a private mystery that is internal to the initiate. It is a transformation born of submission, the willingness to bend the knee and swear allegiance with powers that are wild beyond imagining, and to the others who have done so before you. It is not surrendering your life force, it is offering it as an act of power, affirming that you are the only being in all the universes who is able to do so.
Doing this transformed me. Where the Mystery that we share made me something else, swearing the Oath made me something more. The Oath bonds the initiate to the tradition and makes that initiate part of something greater than themselves. For those who want to never have to consider others in their actions, or enter into the social contract of a tradition, it is the wrong thing to do. It should never be sworn. But for those who want to be part of something larger, it is the right thing to do, and cannot be omitted.
My Oathmother used to tease me about my initiation. When the time came for me to take my oath, she began the preamble about what I would be swearing to. She asked me if I was willing to swear this Oath. And I just stood there. And stood there. And stood there. She laughed that they were going to grow old there waiting for me to step up and speak. Keep in mind that I had already studied for 7 years in this tradition. Initiation had always been my goal. But in that moment, I still had to think about it. I mean, if you are going to swear to something forever, five minutes might be understandable!
As I heard her speak it, for some reason it occurred to me for the first time, that this was for real. An Oath is a magical act. It would seal my fate forever. The Oath was not a collection of pretty words. It is not a formality. For me, it was offering up all I had and was to the gods I had come to know and adore as my own. It would tie me to a tradition of lore, spirits, and initiates. After I said the words, I would belong to them. They would belong to me. I would never be alone.
My tradition has seen some hard times. Infighting, court trials and issues of sexual exploitation are just a few things that have challenged us. The fighting had grown endless and the lack of accountability was making us hopeless. People had decided to post lore online, were turning Feri into a business, and laughed that none of us could stop them. This was true, we could not. One person had even laughed that my students would be sworn to aid and defend him, but he and his would not have to reciprocate. Which, of course, is not how oaths work.
I will admit that I had a crisis of faith at that point. Was I the only initiate who believed in my Oath? Yet, I knew that something had moved in me, something had happened. I had experienced a mystery. In the end, it did not matter what others thought. In that moment, I understood something that changed how I thought about this forever. The truth came to me as a whisper, and it broke my heart. I realized that this person was not my kin. I was not sworn to him for the very reason that he was not sworn to me. That he and I were different. We were both witches, but we were different kinds of witches. We belonged to different traditions and had a different experience of what it meant to belong to a tradition. When I swore, I had experienced a mystery. I had embraced the part of me that could swear forever and defend with my life. And he had not.
In all the upheaval that happened at this time, it became apparent that I was not alone. There were others who also took their Oath seriously. For all these people, the Oath was a mystery. They too had come away in a sense of wonder, not at some magical happening, but at a realization about themselves. They had found a commitment and ferocity they had not really understood before. That clarity moves something deep inside. You realize in those years you were studying, you had changed. You had become someone you had hoped you would become. You stood there to swear on your own damnation because you knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you were up to it.
There are lots of people in the Feri tradition who keep their Oaths. The great majority of them are unaligned Feri who wanted nothing to do with this split. There are many still there who I respect deeply, and many whom I still call friends, even in our difference. At the same time, the lack of accountability in the face of very real crisis saddened me. So, when an elder of the craft bid us to secede, we did. We could no longer conscientiously allow what was happening to go on in our name.
If you think it was easy, you are wrong. If you think it was done in a fit of pique, you are also wrong. It was done in sorrow and despair and was something that should have happened much earlier. It was the effort of last resort, and it took courage to leave. The Oath is for forging those bonds that hold a tradition together, and those bonds were absent. Honestly, if folks had not been so open about how little they valued their Oaths, we would likely still be there fighting. For me the split meant that I knew where I stood and who I could count on. I admit that I was surprised both by those who swore, and those who felt that speaking those words were a formality. It felt right to me. It felt like I could finally stop fighting.
If you do not have what is required to swear the Oath and mean it, you will break when things get hard. That is also what the Oath is for. It is for making a witch who cannot break. It is for making us stronger, a blade of the Star Goddess, forged in a star and doused in the great abyss. So, yes, I took five minutes. And then my eyes grew long, and my teeth grew sharper. And I said, “Yes. Yes, I will swear.”
So no, we do not share all the mysteries. We worship the same gods. We have some lore in common, and some lore that is different. Both traditions are home to poets and bards and sorcerers. The more time we are apart, the more we grow into different cycles. We hold the same Current, we keep the same Names, and have known the same Mystery. But in the end, the difference is woven into our skin and flesh. We are not made of the same stuff. This does not make me their enemy, nor does it make me their kin. What it makes these witches is different. And what it makes me is a witch of my word.
Faery/Feri is an ecstatic tradition of witchcraft. That means it’s an embodied tradition, and it’s a lineage passed physically. By its very nature it requires in-person transmission. But many of us, for various reasons, will never live near an initiate or be able to travel to visit one. What do we do if this flavor of the craft speaks to us and we find ourselves without access to a teacher?
The first big thing we must do is let go of expectation. A sure way to get ourselves into the weeds is by trying to compel something to happen. To learn any esoteric system, but especially one that is left-hand, a trustworthy, responsible teacher with integrity is paramount. If you try to force your access to a teacher you will end up settling — and that’s a bad, potentially even dangerous idea.
So, just take a deep breath and let it go. Let go of your expectation around Anderson Faery. Let’s do it together. Ready? Deep breath… and let go.
Now let’s chat about some things you *can* do.
Work on Your Self
A key tenet of Anderson Faery is the divine nature of the human self in its multi-part form. The self can be developed and explored through many systems and practices. This is not dependent on Faery. Start here. Begin the tasks of self-reflection, personal development, and resiliency training. You might find an established meditation group nearby, search for a good therapist to explore with, or ask like-minded friends to form a regular sitting group with you. A healthy, balanced Self is the cornerstone for any human, Faery witch or otherwise.
If you’re struggling to find an open-minded therapist in your area, look for therapists who advertise a specialty in LGBTQ+ issues. Many of these therapists are also familiar with alternative spiritual paths and will not pathologize or be put off by your spiritual interests.
Deconstruct Your Worldview
The dismantling of the conventional worldview to intentionally cultivate an enchanted, embodied, interconnected worldview is a foundational practice within Anderson Faery. A good way to go about this is through study. There are many books available that will let you see a little more sideways and question aspects of culture you may not have before.
A list of reading material that might be helpful is below. Don’t rush these books. Instead go slowly, contemplatively, making notes as thoughts arise. It’s by spending time with mind-expanding concepts that transformation occurs. Maybe that sitting group you formed could read through these together?
The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World by David Abram
Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy by Barbara Ehrenreich
The Joy Diet: Ten Daily Practices for a Happier Life by Martha Beck
Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessell van der Kolk
Eros and Touch from a Pagan Perspective: Divided for Love’s Sake by Christine Hoff Kraemer (if price puts it out of reach, check archive.org)
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
The Reenchantment of the World by Morris Berman
Fiction and poetry can also be powerful tools for re-orienting yourself to the world. Both Victor and Cora Anderson were poets. Their seriousness about poetry was such that Cora spent their entire life savings to publish Victor’s first book of poetry, Thorns of the Bloodrose. Good poetry can encourage us to think non-linearly and open us to subtle experiences that can only be pointed to with words; good fiction can challenge us to see layers to the world that we never guessed at before. Read widely: classics, speculative fiction, mythology, anything that shifts your perspective or makes you jump out of your seat with sudden recognition. We can’t tell you which writers will open your heart and blow your mind, but Helix loves Steppenwolf and The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse, and Traci loves Fiona Macleod (William Sharp) and The Wood Wife by Terri Windling.
Get to Know Your Ancestors
Like many ecstatic traditions, Anderson Faery has a strong thread of Ancestral veneration. Whether you have a nurturing or harmful relationship with ancestors of blood, their genetic heritage is still yours. The work of a witch is to explore those threads, heal them so S/He Hirself is healed, and strengthen their resiliency for the benefit of our descendants. Yet this is not purely imaginal. If you aren’t up to date on the new science of heritability, you might look at It Didn’t Start With You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are And How To End The Cycle by Mark Wolynn.
A practical first step in the process of forming relationship with your ancestors is to create a dedicated space for offerings. This can be as simple as a clean surface with a little cup for water. Add family photographs or heirlooms if you like. Pour fresh water in the cup and say a little blessing over it, such as, “May my ancestors be blessed, may my descendants be blessed.” There is more elaborate and complex work that can be done, but this small step will take you far.
Leave Your House
If this all sounds very heady thus far, it has been. An educated witch is a prepared witch, but the body is included in that. Get out of your box — out of your car, your room, your apartment, your house — and put your feet and elbows in the grass. Explore the land around you. This may be a city park, a strip of wild grasses along a curb, or rambling lanes in the deep countryside. You don’t need to do anything out there, just observe. Be polite. Say hello to other living beings you meet — in your out-loud voice. Witches may be uncanny, quirky, and psychic, but we rarely read each other’s minds, so don’t expect other-than-human persons (big or small) to read yours.
Observe the clouds and the winds where you live. From which direction do they predominantly blow? What does the wind from those different directions feel like on your skin, what sensations do you get, is there a taste? Record your observations in some way. It doesn’t have to be with words. Use movement, poetry, painting, clay, or music. Continue these observations for other living beings, like animals, rivers, birds, insects, trees, flowers. Pick up rubbish (as an offering and act of service) and spend time with the persons you meet. You’ll be surprised at the strong friendships you build by just showing up and sitting with someone, whether they are human or not.
Speaking of art, explore yours. How do you express your creativity? Do you move your body, perhaps through ecstatic dance, yoga, line-dancing, or ballet? Do you paint, draw, sew, or knit? Dedicate time to the cultivation and expression of your creativity. Creativity is life force, and Anderson Faery focuses strongly on feeding and expressing this part of our Self. You don’t need to spend money on this pursuit, but it should be something you create a regular practice around. Allowing creative expression to flow keeps our channels of life force open and clear.
This is a sex-positive tradition because Sex is Life. Have sex not for procreative purposes, but for pleasure, either with yourself alone, with an enthusiastic partner, or through deliberate erotic connection with the land.
We value pleasure, just as we value personal responsibility. We value knowing and owning our choices, behavior, and actions. Hopefully part of your study on dismantling worldview has led you to question cultural norms around sexuality and to ask yourself what your own authentic views are. What is the nature of your sexuality, and how can you nurture it and express it in healthy, responsible ways?
Try taking a bath or shower while fully focusing on the feel of the water moving over your skin. Simple, huh? Really experience it. What does the water trickling over your ankle bone feel like, or the small of your back, or your shoulder? Better yet, go outside: lie on the ground under the full sun. Spread your body out, expose a bit of skin, and feel the rays of the sun absorbing into the flesh of your bicep, your thigh, your stomach: the fleshy parts. Breathe. Can you let your full attention rest with the sensations of your body, its pleasures and its pains? Can you love your own flesh, and the flesh of the land, the way you might adore a human lover?
If That Which You Seek You Do Not Find Within, You Will Never Find It Without
You might not know it, but you have just learned some of the mysteries of Anderson Faery. Hold them with care, cherish them, and let them unfold in your life.
May it be so.
Those who are seeking more information about Faery witchcraft and the writings of the Andersons are invited to join the Seekers of Faery Google group.
As part of my daily practice of devotion to the Star Goddess, I have said the following Faery Tradition prayer nearly every morning for over ten years. There are days when I have blithely taken the words for granted as they flew out of my still sleepy mouth. But there are glorious mornings when these words reverberate through and awaken my sluggish spirit.
“Holy Mother, in whom we Live, Move and Have our Being, from You all Things emerge and unto you all things return.”
This morning was one of those thrilling mornings when I keenly felt my connection to the ALL. The living vibrancy of this prayer suffused my body in warmth and happy joy. To live in accord with these words means that I have consideration for the place I live, my environment, and the landscape upon which I carry out the routine of my days.
The outside is not just a place for me to get through on my way from Point A and B after I leave my house and get into my car to go somewhere. I’m most comfortable, at ease, happy, and myself when I am outside. I live upon and with the earth. We as humans are the earth. Our bodies are not separate from this planet we inhabit. The matter that makes up our flesh comes from the earth.
I emphatically equate the Earth, all the plants, and every particle of matter with our Holy Mother, the Star Goddess. She is star matter, the elements, and all that I can comprehend.
It is all such a wonder: we humans, animals, plants, and beings come from the earth which spills out of and into the complex universe. We all fold into the cleft of the earth, the universe, and our Holy Mother.
Our emotions, feelings, and thoughts flow into and out of her. She is vast and can feel distant to our human perception of her. But she is always with us, the breath woven into the very fabric of our beings. Immanence through and through…
Beauty, Darkness, Light, Sound, Movement, Energy, and Love.
For me she is the wild, rabid soul of our Earth’s Nature and the Life Giver of the Universe.