The recent lunar eclipse, wonderfully visible all night in Perth, was the culmination of over 20 years of magical-pagan training for me. On that night, as the moon was not, I received the final of seven ‘bindings’ in a magical-pagan tradition I have been blessed to work within since a trip to England in 1987. Now that my apprenticeship is complete, I will hopefully be able to talk more freely about this tradition in future.
There is no real distinct name for this tradition; each group and each generation seem to refer to it in different ways. Its internal mythology and all the material, songs, ways of magic and archives I have seen suggest it stems from the time of the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain. In medieval England its presence was more or less underground depending on the prevailing mood of the civil and sometime ecclesiastical authorities. Its main areas of activity were Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and by transplantation Warwickshire, Hampshire and Dorset.
Its mysteries and practices often merged with local and church tradition, sometimes being contained in plain sight within local song cycles and stories, as well as the architecture, decorations and motifs in local churches, graveyards, wells and village halls. An example of this is found in Alan Garner’s Strandloper novel where the mysteries are contained in a foliage leaf pattern on a church wall, only able to be understood during the exalted state of initiation.
Following the violence and changes of the Reformation, the tradition went more underground and began to merge with the bourgeoning magical-hermetic tradition. Its practices began to include more formal wording and Hermetic motifs. Some of the adepts of the tradition around this time include notable English ‘Rosicrucians’ such as Anne Finch, Lady Conway, and the circle that surrounded her and her family at Ragley Hall. The merged presence of the tradition and Rosicrucian-Hermetic motifs can also be found in the gardens, private chapels and surrounds of several stately homes in England. An excellent example of this is Arbury Hall in Warwickshire, not far from the home of McGregor Mathers of the Golden Dawn. An earlier, more public example is the Garden of Planets at Edzell Castle, Angus.
In providing a material and physical representation of the mysteries ‘in plain sight’ these noble families were continuing the tradition established previously in the decoration of wells and church grounds. Many of the these families have passed on the tradition, as well as English Rosicrucian-Hermetic lineage, through their descendants and close family friends right up until the present day. There is evidence in the letter archives I have seen that show Ronald Heaver and others from the early 20th century being involved in tradition, being close friends of one of the lineage holders. The resonance between the tradition and much of the work of RJ Stewart seems to stem from this connection. As readers of MOTO know, I require solid evidence before making historical claims, and have personally seen and experienced more than enough to satisfy my innate scepticism of the nature and age of the tradition.
We have coyly released surface elements of the tradition previously here and here, attributing them to the Simon Goodman collection as a convenient foil, as well as given hints on the work of Alan Garner and another novelist connected with the tradition – and a few more clues 🙂
I was blessed to discover the threads that led to the tradition when helping to clear the back yard of a friend’s newly brought property in one of the older river suburbs of Perth 25 years ago. There we discovered a grown over circle area and buried artefacts that made no sense to my fellow workers, but spoke volumes to me a newly initiated magician. Eventually, I tracked down the original owners, who were very elderly, and was ultimately given a letter of introduction to a hidden Master in the New Forest area, where I visited in 1987. More on this and the tradition in a later post…
And oh, by the way, the above account is a load of bollocks.
However, and here is the kicker – I defy anyone to prove this did NOT happen.
Such is the way with trying to prove a negative historically. Add to that the sub rosa activities and assertions of magicians and secret societies, and it becomes almost impossible to prove something someone claims did not happen. However, that is not evidence it did happen. Besides, like all good con men, there are many half truths, just about truths and could-be-true things in the account above. 🙂
So really, this MOTO post is about evidence and veracity. Just because someone says something, offers a few titbits of original interpretation of traditional material, makes lots of wonderful claims, it does not mean it is true. We can never prove it is not true, but without evidence – and I mean primary source letters, archives, documents etc – we can also never prove it is true. Of course I am thinking of the Golden Dawn and certain claims, counter-claims and hints being thrown around at the moment. Many of these, use the same structure and method of my little story above… analyse them for yourself and you will see what I mean 🙂
“Magicians”, Alan Richardson writes, “fib a lot”. How right he is 🙂