Notes on hereditary and traditional British Witchcraft

For those who have recently entered the Magical Milieu of MOTO, Simon Goodman (d.1991) was a foundational figure in Australian Wicca and Paganism. When he died he left much of his collection of books, papers and correspondence to Murdoch University Library, where I was working at the time. Simon is still a controversial figure, as witnessed recently in some on-line and personal discussions. So whilst I have already made available some material from his collection on the Resources page, I thought I’d continue the project. And, in keeping with his heritage of of good-natured provocation, post something a little interesting. : )

These ‘Notes on hereditary and traditional British Witchcraft‘ are interesting for many, many reasons. For this (proactive) post the most relevant point is the conclusion an 80’s weekend gathering of UK Craft bigwigs, lineage holders etc came to. Provided of course these notes are accurate. Anyway, the conclusions read:

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“Basic Problems:

i. The craft offers no adequate means of spiritual growth.

ii. The craft has an ethical system, but does not offer adequate solutions to inflated egos.

iii. Egocentric High Priestesses are particularly prone to arise in the craft.

iv. Coven leaders do not necessarily adequately explain why power is being raised, with the possibilities of exploitation.”

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Anyway…if you can read the handwriting, you’ll find much to interest you. And if you are kind enough to do what I can’t be bothered doing and transcribe the bugger, please send us a copy for the other MOTO readers. Ta 🙂 Download here.

UPDATE: Andrew B. Watt has kindly started the task of transcription here. THANKS Andrew!

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Esoteric Perth

Perth from the Hills

Something I have been meaning to do for a while, and which since the publication of me book has been of interest, is to a say a little about where we live – Perth, Western Australia. More particularly, about its esoteric dimensions. On the purely mundane-physical level, Perth is a wonderful place. Now a large city – too large for me – it is still a great place to live. Dubbed the ‘best kept secret’ in the world for many years, the city has been the favourite of many visitors to Australia for all sorts of reasons. When I stay with my beloved in the hills of Perth and drive down, seeing the whole city beneath me, I am always moved by awe and love for this wonderful home of mine.

Noongar Calendar for Perth

The land here is magnificent, though still bearing the pain and disruption of colonial advancement and aboriginal massacre. Our seasonal cycle is sixfold, something a small group of us discovered twenty years ago when we realised a reversed ‘Eight Sabbat Cycle’ was not right for the actual land we live in. We spent the better part of 1991 and 1992 attuning to and listening to the Land and eventually came up with the EarthDreaming cycle. Years later, we found the local Noongar recognise six seasons, though ours were out by about a month, mainly I feel ‘cos we get our food from supermarkets these days. (Most Pagan and Wiccan groups in Perth, apart from those in the EarthDreaming tradition, have done little to incorporate the actual Perth seasonal cycle in their rites and still work the imported Sabbat cycle created by Nichols and Gardner in the 40s.)

In 1962 astronaut John Glenn passed over Perth as part of his orbit of the earth and thousands of street and porch lights were left on so the city was clearly visible from space (the rest of Western Australia and the Indian ocean were completely dark). Ever since then Perth has been known as the City of Light. Some New Agers, Wiccans and others have appropriated this tag to refer to the special spiritual qualities of Perth, which I do honestly feel exist, and which are remarked upon continually by esoteric and New Age visitors. Not that Perth does not have its fair share of spiritual dodgyness – it certainly does 🙂

Atlantean author of the ritual?

Back in the 80s the buzz in New Age circles was that the ancient sunken city of Atlantis had moved ‘under’ Perth. Yes, under. No one I spoke to was quite sure how this remarkable feat had occurred, but several were sure it had occurred and were now ‘in contact’ with the ancient Atlantean Priests far below our fair land.  Perhaps this is the genesis of such wonderful spiritual rites as this The Full Moon Ritual of Atlantis which comes from a Perth Wiccan source at this time (no, I am not transcribing it). Note how, in true pluralistic Wiccan fashion, the magic circle is a ‘Gypsy’ circle, indeed a royal one – that of The Circle of Queyne Maude of the Gypsies. Nice. (I’m not transcribing this one either).

In any case, despite such unlikely tectonic manoeuvres, Perth does have a nice spiritual rep about it. When I attended a conference on spirituality back in 1989, the Buddhist and Muslim speakers were surprised to discover that each of their international groups sent people to Perth and Western Australia for spiritual retreat, recovery and pilgrimage.  And let’s be fair, it is a gorgeous place to live and has produced or attracted more than its fair share of esoteric and depth spiritual folk.

For example, Buddhism – most American Buddhist centres do not have a resident teacher; someone authorized to teach and holding regular lessons. Instead lay teachers may hold meditation meetings with their teacher visiting once or twice a year. Now in Perth, still a small-medium city, we certainly do have centres like this. For example, the Diamond Way centre of the controversial Lama Ole. However, we also have centres with resident Lamas and teachers. Just of the top of my head (please do not take offence if someone does not appear on this list) there are:

All of these teachers are also internationally regarded – they are the ones travelling to other places, giving Dharma talks

Church of St John the Divine, Perth

However, years before the Tibetan diaspora Buddhism, of a sort, had already been promoted in Perth by the Theosophical Society. The TS and its cousins, Co-Masonry and the Liberal Catholic Church all had major centres in Perth. The leading light of this triumvirate, C.W. Leadbeater, saw Australia as a special land in the forthcoming evolution of humankind and his second major hub in Oz, after Sydney, was Perth. He actually died here and his ashes are a stone’s throw away from where I type. Later the Theosophical Liberal Catholic flame was continued in Perth with several prominent Australian Theosophists and Bishops stemming from our fair city.

Once Perth had caught up to the cultural changes happening in the 1960s, Wicca came along. To be fair there had been (and still are) rumours of more ancient Pagan happenings in the hills of Perth going back to the 1920’s, but little evidence. Wicca though was big thing in the City of Light. The main Australian promoter and initiator of Wicca in Australia, the late Simon Goodman, was from Perth. Therefore, for a long time Perth was the Australian Witchcraft capital, and remained so for some time, even after Simon had moved to a cushy government job in Canberra where he made good use of the photocopier, copying entire books for his network of covens across Australia. He returned here to die, tragically young, on the Vernal Equinox in 1991, leaving his extensive collection of documents to Murdoch University which I catalogued shortly after his death.

Contemporary with Simon, but still going strong in all areas of life, another Perthite, the Rev Dr Gregory Tillett became one of the leading world authorities on the occult, Theosophy and many other matters. He still is 🙂 Still in the 80s and 90s, Perth author, D. Jason Cooper published a number of good books on runes, numerology and other neat things with Llewellyn. At the same time, making good use of the ground broken by Simon Goodman, Perth became home to the first nationally recognised Neo-Pagan Church, The Church of Wicca, pipping the Canberra based Church of All Worlds to the title by a year or two. The CoW (an unfortunate acronym) was and is led by its flamboyant Arch-Priestess, Lady Tamara von Forslun, who it must be said annoyed more conservative and traditional Wiccans intensely. Despite once trying to convince me that a couple of vases (stamped on the bottom ‘made in India’) were from ‘the Temple of Diana’ in Rome and other shenanigans, I still have affection for the ol’ girl 🙂

So Perth has a fine and full esoteric history, and one that is continued today via the Internet, where a few of us have big shoes to full. Of the top of me head on the magical front alone, there is John McNair, esotericist, magician and musician for many years and producer of great Podcast interviews. Listen to his latest one with Bishop T. Allen Greenfield here.

Then there is the dashing and beautiful Mitzy Gaynor, a lady who is not afraid to tell it like it is, rub salt in self-inflicted wounds and challenge her Pagan community to give a damn and help stop kids starving in Africa. Mitzy also reminds me of the local Pagan charity WA-Pagan-Food-Pantry. And of course, there is the wonderful Fr. MvdV, magician in the esoteric Masonic tradition who has taken a break from Internet activity for a while, but who I hope will be back. All three, I am proud to say, were present at my book launch (Mitzy reverse-dragged up by donning a false beard and a bald-wig). There is also a fine and strong Wiccan and Pagan presence from Perth online – the excellent  Chaos Witch Blog – unscrewing the universe one lightbulb at a time (who can resist such a sub-title) and Teachings from the Temple, to name but two.

So, that’s Perth…small in one way, but very present in our online and esoteric world 🙂 Yay for Perth!

Traditional (pre-Gardner) British Witchcraft: Casting the Dancing Floor

Here is another reproduction from the Simon Goodman collection, which may or may not be interesting or useful. But at least it’s out there, not slowly succumbing to oxidation within a library vault 🙂 As with the last post, I am unsure of the claim for this ritual to stem from the “Middle 1800’s”. This is mainly because of the Triple Goddess motif within it, something that most modern scholars would say was not at all very common back then.

This ritual, like others which I will get around to reproducing eventually, stem from a well known magical writer who discovered a village somewhere in the UK where old pagan rituals and customs were still practised by the populace. Indeed, the village society itself was pagan and organised around the pagan year and customs. At the time the notes were gathered (mid-late 80s), the village’s pagan ways were dying and in decline. In order to preserve their basic beliefs and practices, the village elders authorised limited exposure of their beliefs and customs to magical folk. Hence these notes which are from a secret workshop for pagan leaders led by the magical writer involved with the village.

Now of course, sceptical or suspicious folk like me will be thinking of stories like the Wicker Man, Children of the Stones and Greenmantle – such is appeal of the theme of a pagan/magical village holding on to ways both ancient and arcane amidst a corrupt and magic-less modern world. I think there was even a Dr Who episode that incorporated it. Ever since I first read this material, which is very interesting in any by itself, I have not quite accepted its veracity and not quite rejected it. This is mainly due to the standing and reputation of the magical writer in question. I do find the whole village thing a bit hard to swallow, especially when we remember this has been used before by several writers to frame modern creations as traditional material (West Country Wicca by one time Perth resident ‘Rhiannon Ryall‘ comes immediately to mind). But, ‘true’ or not, the rituals themselves and the description of the pagan nature of the village are wonderful. Enjoy 🙂

I have kept as much as possible to the layout in the original document.

CASTING THE DANCING FLOOR Middle 1800’s.

MAIDEN    WIFE     HAG

BROOM    CUP    TORCH

All approach the place in single file, walking through the wood, singing and chanting. The sacred three at last.

When the place is reached, all make a circle with MAIDEN, WIFE AND HAG in centre, each carrying their symbol.

They dance around the circle once, then WIFE and HAG stand in the centre while MAIDEN goes to the NORTH holding BROOM in both hands over her head. She bows, then starting at NORTH, she sweeps out from the centre to outer circle.

MAIDEN AT EAST:

Out, out, all Laziness and sloth

Out, out, all Untidiness and dirt.

MAIDEN AT SOUTH

Out, out, all  Harsh words and wrath.

Out, out, all  Hatred and envy.

MAIDEN AT WEST

Out, out, all Shyness and lies.

Out, out, all Falseness and wiles.

MAIDEN AT NORTH

Out, out, all Bareness and death.

Out, out, all Evil and decay.

Returns to centre.

WIFE with CUP goes to Altar and bows. Fills CUP with Pure water and Salt. Starts at North and goes to EAST.

WIFE AT EAST

Fill up, fill up With energy and breath.

Fill up, fill up  With cleanliness and care.

FLINGS WATER

WIFE AT SOUTH

Fill up, fill up With sweet words of love.

Fill up, fill up With friendship and joy.

FLINGS WATER

WIFE AT WEST

Fill up, fill up With clear sight and truth.

Fill up, fill up With courage and good heart.

FLINGS WATER

WIFE AT NORTH

Fill up, fill up With fertile life.

Fill up, fill up With goodness and rebirth.

FLINGS WATER

HAG with TORCH goes to NORTH and bows. Waves FIRE over NORTH, moves to EAST.

HAG  AT EAST

Be charged, be charged with Light and life.

Be charged, be charged with Lusty vigour.

WAVES FIRE OVER EAST.

HAG AT SOUTH

Be charged, be charged with Dance and music.

Be charged, be charged with Wine and ale.

WAVES FIRE OVER SOUTH.

HAG AT WEST

Be charged, be charged with Harmony and gladness.

Be charged, be charged with Song and mirth.

WAVES FIRE OVER WEST.

HAG AT NORTH

Be charged, be charged with Eternal happiness.

Be charged, be charged with Eternal life.

WAVES FIRE OVER NORTH.

Returns to circle.

HAG and MAIDEN make arch with BROOM and TORCH

WIFE waits with CUP – (now refilled with Wine.)

WIFE (Beckons to FIRST MAN)

Welcome Sirrah with a kiss!

He drinks, kisses her, then between them they bring all others into circle.


Calling in the Moon: another for the Witches

During my late teens and early twenties I was following the advice of St Bob to ‘join as many occult groups as possible’. These days I think this advice rather flawed for a number of reasons. However, back then as a uni student with no family responsibilities I eagerly joined and associated with many interesting and strange groups indeed. I also collected and squirreled away many reams of useless papers, some of which I have not looked upon since. Every so often I remember something, dig into the archive boxes and come away not with my intended quarry but something forgotten and interesting. Hence this post.

One of the strangest bods I met around this time was a Witch in his mid 50s who had the unfortunate Craft name of ‘Weasel’. He however, was very proud of his name, which he said has been given to him by his ‘Magister’ from a traditional (pre-Gardnerian) English coven. We sniffed around each other on and off for a few months, playing the game of ‘you show me yours, and I’ll show you mine’ – occult secrets, that is 🙂

Eventually, I lent him some old Co-Masonic papers (privately printed but hardly secret) I found at the Trash and Treasure. In return he described several of the rites from his coven. These I jotted down in my diary, nodding excitedly, but secretly doubting the claim of a centuries old Witch religion in the UK. Some of what he described was fascinating, much simply a watered down version of Grimoric magic and the odd item, really bizarre. I came away accepting that he belonged to an old tradition of folk magic but balking at the Goddess religious aspect as he used modern concepts and terminology.

It was several years later that I discovered that many of the rituals that Weasel described were based upon or related to material Simon Goodman had collected and stored away in his immense occult collection. By then I had lost touch with him and to this day do not know if he was once part of Simon’s circle and had access to the material that way, or if he and Simon had a common source in the UK. This ‘Calling in the Moon’ rite is a case in point. Below are my (grammatically corrected) notes from Weasel’s description and here you can find the scanned in document from the Simon Goodman collection. One is obviously based upon or related to the other, though I do not know which is the older.

Now, despite the “In use since 1700” note to the Simon Goodman collection document, I doubt this ritual is that old. For one thing, the idea of “the Goddess” is too Wiccan and too contemporary. And secondly, the ritual from Simon’s collection purports to be from a rural area where, in 1700, the average commoner would not have easy access to three mirrors. This detail and others from Weasel leads me to conclude this ‘tradition’ started off as Grimoric one, practiced by the richer members of society. It may have later incorporated Wiccan beliefs and concepts.

Anyway, hopefully this is of interest or use 🙂

Calling the Moon

Oil, salt and water are needed to be present and three round mirrors.

This brings the Goddess of the Sky into the centre of the world. She comes through the womb of the priestess [Weasel used the term priestess in a generic sense; any woman doing magic was a priestess, any man was a priest].

An altar is erected upon the centre of the magical circle, outside in a clearing of the forest or bush. The moon must be able to be seen at the timing of the rite. High in the sky, well above the horizon.

Water, oil and salt are consecrated by lifting them to the moon in the old manner. [Weasel in another conversation explained this was by offering them to the moon and then touching them to forehead, lips and genitals].

The Priest bows and kisses the hand of the Priestess; she then blesses him, who rises and calls to the moon [Weasel had a card with the invocations and other words on, but I never saw it clearly so cannot be sure if he read the entire invocations to me or not].

Hail, most beautiful and fairest in heaven and upon the earth. Listen to my voice and hear my heart as I annoint this Priestess to call to thee.

Priest removes robe or opens cloak of Priestess, she naked underneath, no underwear [I remember Weasel saying ‘no knickers’ but I wrote ‘no underwear’ – obviously my distaste for that word goes back years 🙂 ]

Annoints first feet, knees, vulva (actual area), navel, both breasts, left then right, forehead.

Lies Priestess down next to altar or on altar if it is created bier fashion.

Takes first mirror, shows to Moon Goddess and pours water over it as reciting: Thou who art in every woman, young and old, smile into this mirror and fill it fully with thy secrets of the art (reflection in mirror) – fill it with the pearls of thy pleasure, fill it with the fire of thy fulfilment.

Mirror is placed on naked vulva, open legs if needed.

Priest takes another mirror and water, moves around so Moon can be seen in mirror on vulva and then pours water over it as reciting: Come most secret source of women and their mystery, touch this mirror with silver fingers and fill it with they warmth which welcomes the living wand of man until it blooms and seeds the welcoming furrow.

Mirror is placed on naked womb.

Priest takes another mirror and water, moves around so Moon can be seen in mirror on vulva and mirror on womb and then pours water over it as reciting: Welcome maiden of maidens, most precious, most loving of mothers, most wise of women. Enter into the mirror and use it to enter the heart of this Priestess.

Mirror is placed between breasts after touching left then right nipples.

Goddess is drawn into the Priestess at three points and She will then speak or mirrors removed for the Great Rite.”

 

I have never actually conducted this ritual in this manner, so am unsure how it works. Good luck to anyone who gives it a go 🙂

The Angelic Art by Alex Sanders or ‘the Occult Secrets of the Moon’.

I have finally got around to digging out some more material from the Simon Goodman collection of Witchcraft and related material which is held at Murdoch University in Perth.

When I first started cataloguing this collection all those years ago I noted a number of items with labels like “For Bone Fide Scholars Only” or “Not for Distribution”. Naturally enough I copied those items first, guessing I was in for some esoteric treat or other.

Sadly, there is nothing new under the sun – my own youthful naivety was as common as most of the material I found. However, there were some interesting bits and pieces, some of which I have already posted. And here’s another – ‘the Angelics’ by Alex Sanders

There was, and perhaps still is, a great deal of interest in these pages now let loose in unsuspecting cyberspace. I’ve known Wiccan High Priests who would give – well, if  not their own goolies, certainly somebody else’s for a copy. Writing on ‘the Angelics’, Simon says that after Alex Sanders’ death he asked his widow, Maxine what material could be made generally available and Maxine “specifically excluded” these teachings.

The big mystery for me is why – to my mind they are an incomplete example of standard astrological magic from the Renaissance onwards. Of interest though is the inclusion of Uranus (discovered late 18th century if me noggin serves me well) and not the other transpersonal planets (whoops, really planet singular now that poor Pluto has been downgraded). This could show an early 19th century provenance for the system. Or it could be the result of Alex himself, who was known to spend the odd evening getting pissed in a pub with a mate and a dictionary of Medieval English making up ancient laws and rituals that sounded great. Since these notes are a summary by Simon and Joanne Williams textual analysis, alas, is pointless.

Anyway, if you are a Wiccan and into these things – why not go study some proper Angelic magic? But if you’re a Wiccan interested in history or believe these Wiccan adaptations of tradition have power, beauty, truth or something I’m missing, then enjoy. In any case it’s now out of the library and into the net. 🙂

angelic-art-scan-simon-goodman-of-alex-sanders

Resources Page

The astute observer will notice a new Magic of the Ordinary page, “Resources”. There we will collect all links to the various Aura and other papers we have plonked up lately. You really should look, as thanks to Simon and Emily who have slogged over scanner and keyboard, there are some new ones 🙂 THANK YOU 🙂

We’ll update the resources page as we can, so leaving this main page for the classical Blog experience – me raving on about something or other 🙂 Since WordPress does not allow tagging extra pages though, I’ll put in the various tags about the material here. If your search or click has brought you here, click on the resources page and download happily. Thanks 🙂

One for the Witches…

It only occurred to me when replying to comments on this post, where I mentioned the Simon Goodman collection, that I have (copied and stored somewhere) some information that may be of interest to Witches and other Pagans.

Simon Goodman was one of the most influential early Wiccans and occultists in Australia, particularly Perth and Canberra. Shortly before his premature death (age 40) in 1991 Simon kindly donated his not inconsiderable library to the Murdoch University.

Some items of the collection were stolen within a week of its arrival at Murdoch, by three self-identified Wiccan women who gave false names. The rest I shelved, catalogued and read over the following months, copying items of interest.

Amongst my papers this morning I found this chant, based on the pursuit of Gwion-Bach by the Witch-Goddess Ceridwen. Now Celtic Wiccan stuff leaves me breathless – but only in the sense of being bored to death. But, whatever blows your hair back I guess. To be fair when I heard Phillip Carr-Gomm, Chosen Chief of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids tell the story of Gwion-Bach/Taliesin I was strongly touched and felt a transmission of spiritual blessings.

NOT FOR RELEASE

Cunning and arte he did not lack,
By, aye, Her whistle will fetch him back  –

“I flee from thee as an autumn hare,
A Child born of Earth without a care.
Forever I’ll stay in earthy form,
Wishing to be as I was born.”

“A speckled trout now I flee from thee.
A Child of Water rather I’ll be.
From Truth I hide in flowing form,
Wishing to stay as I was born. ”

“Into a bee then I shall go.
Dust-covered hummer, all secrets I know.
A Child of Air I’d rather be.
Like a thought I shall be free”

“From open fields to the miller’s house,
I flee from thee as a summer mouse.
From ripening grain a Fire Child,
Soul of crops and woodlands wild.”

“A seed, earth-grain, within this sack,
I shant be found, nor fetched back.
Grain of wheat, or grain of sand –
Each is made by the Mother’s hand.”

(Scanned version).

This chant was the subject of some secrecy and discussion in the 80s in Perth. As you can see, it is marked “Not for release” which meant it was originally to stay inside Simon’s circles of initiates. Since however, it was included in his donation to a library, obviously later on he was happy for it to be made available to a wider audience. I am unclear why so much fuss was made over this (and other) elements of Simon’s tradition.

Personally, Simon was unfailingly kind, polite and considerate in all his dealings with me, even though we disagreed on many topics. He also had a lovely habit of using his work facilities to make literally dozens of copies of entire books and handing them out to his students and friends without charge. He ran the Occult Reference Centre in Canberra for many years and shared an immense amount of resources and information over that time.

Of course Simon was not without his faults or detractors, including at times the King of the Witches himself, as this letter talking about the Pickingall Wicca theory shows:

5th Sept ’83.

Dear Simon,

I was born into the craft and having been born my grandmother told me to keep my hands out of my pockets and stand up straight. I think your ‘Pickingsgill disitation’ ( I can’t find words for it ) is very trite. You are keeping your hands in your pockets. You are teaching a type of Wicca I know not what of forsooth and forsake me you varlot.

This is not the way of the Wicca.

So, he moved steam rollers and threshing machines (so what) to me that is not Wicca. This is not the way of the Wicca. The Wicca is the worship of the Great Mother and the Mighty One who grants Her the power. Do something original that works not only in theory but in practice. Use your past experience with knowledge and wisdom you useless cunt.

I remain,

The King of Witches,

Alex Sanders.

(Scanned version).

Simon also played the leader-politics game of Wicca very well, which obviously annoyed people. One of his habits was to place fake adverts in the Sunday Times personal column requesting occult training and then see who would respond. He got some colourful replies, as this one shows. I have removed identifying names (the Baron bit is obviously false), but if you must know the gentleman in question is now running a coven in Queensland that insists on full sexual initiations to orgasm at each degree (whose orgasm, I would like to know :)) That should be enough for you to track him down if you must 🙂

Dear Sir/Madam,

I have read your advertisement in the Sunday Times with interest. This advertisement has been discussed, and at least one of us – vis myself, were instructed to contact you.’ We assume that you have heard of the hermetic order of the Golden Dawn,  which makes up the first five initiations or stations. The R.C. ( which is my own lodge), makes up the next three, whilst the S.S. makes up the last three stations of purety. The whole group of the ten stations aligning to the Tree of life is usually taken as being the Golden Dawn.

I should therefore, like to meet with you, and discuss your requirements. Training, I must warn you is long and hard. I therefore greet you, and look forward to receiving your reply.

I remain,

Yours sincerely
The Rt. Hon. XXX  (Baron Von XXX)

Adeptus Minor (the order of the RC) G.D.
High Priest – Wicca – Fide Defendem
G.O.K.T., S.O.K.O, K.E.P., Dr. Occ. Th, F.S.W.S.T., M.S.E.S., S.S.I.O.S.

(Scanned version).

*Sigh* Occultism in Australia in the 70s and 80s may be described by any number of adjectives, but certainly not boring 🙂 More from the Simon Goodman collection in later posts.