About Us: Pieces of Interest
The following are our views on various issues. We have published them here for a couple of reasons. First, because they are the commonest questions that we are asked with regard to how we practise; and secondly, to prevent us being misrepresented by the incorrect statements that are sometimes circulated regarding what we have suppose to have said or done (all Wiccan Authors have to face the 'rumour mill').
They do not necessarily represent the views of others within Witchcraft; we respect their right to different views as long as these views remain consistent with the Wicca Rede; 'An it harm none; Do what thou will', and they respect our right to differ as well. Some may note that these views are different to those expressed in our older books - remember these were published over 20 years ago! All things change, and that includes ourselves. We consider ourselves to be still in a process of growth and learning.
What is Witchcraft and what is a Witch: For us, Witchcraft has its origins in the Pre-Christian Priesthoods of Europe. It is, to all intense and purposes, the survivals of Western/Northern European Shamanistic Practise. The major tenet of Witchcraft has always been 'if it works, use it!'. As such it encompasses an earthbased spirituality, while intrinsically being a tradition of service to the Gods and the community the Witch lives in. A Witch is, and always shall be, a healer for these reasons.
Modern origins of Wicca: Over 30 years, we have seen no evidence to suggest modern Wiccan practise goes back beyond the 1950's. In fact, we have plenty of evidence to the opposite. We do not feel that this invalidates modern Witchcraft, quite the reverse: although the practise is young, the underlying philosophies are ancient and still valid, even in todays modern society. For us witchcraft is a dynamic, evolving tradition which will has survived for this reason. We believe that the likes of Gardner, Sanders etc. did what was right for their period of history; we feel it is important that we should do what is right for ours! They did make mistakes, but don't we all - its all part of the learning process.
God, Goddess and Polytheism: We consider ourselves to be polytheists not duo-theists. This has come about because of our experiences with working with deity over the years. We see spirit is immanent and therefore in ourselves as well as in nature. We work with many god and goddess forms; some from nature, some ancestral forms. We regard these as REAL spirit forms and personalities, even though we understand the psychology behind them. Because of this, we cannot, by any other definition be anything else but polytheistic.
Initiation: For us initiation comes from Spirit - god and goddess or whatever face you put on it. In old Gardnerian Laws this was stated as 'there is only one true initiator'; meaning deity working through the self. We therefore see initiation as being 'a passage right of entry' into the coven or at a later stage as 'a passage right of acceptance, ephiphany or realisation' that a truly spiritual initiation has taken place.
Self-Initiation: We do not believe there truly is such a thing as 'self-initiation', as we believe initiation comes from spirit (see above). Therefore, if you perform an initiation by yourself and deity comes through how can it be 'self initiation' when it is deity that initiates you! Saying this we do not belive you can 'self-initiate' into traditions such as Gardnerian or Alexandrian as they require lineage (apostolic succession). You must abide by the rules of those traditions.
Sexual-Initiation: We have no moral problems with covens using sexual initiation. We believe it is important that anyone approaching a coven who uses this form should be informed right from the beginning about its use. They must be given the choice; if they don't like it they can always walk away and find another coven/initiator. For an initiate or pre-initiate to suddenly be told just prior to initiation that it will be sexual, we consider unacceptable, immoral and manipulative! Sexual initiation must be safe, sane and consentual. Our personal view is that sexual initiation should only take place between partners already in an existing, stable, loving, relationship and this should be done privately. We personally, do not use sexual initiation, except in those circumstances. We feel it is to open to misuse and abuse.
Traditions: Our research has suggested that the idea of traditions within Wicca came about due to an argument. Regardless, they are here to stay and must therefore serve a purpose. We have seen traditions evolve over the years. The old style are dying out being replaced by 'Coven Based Traditions' as we call them that are honest about their origins and do not feel the need to 'have originated with granny!' These are self contained systems which encourage experimentation and growth. We believe evolution, just as it is a major factor in nature, must be a factor in a nature based religion.
What Tradition Do We follow: We do not follow any specific tradition although our origins are in Alexandrian and Seax-Wica. We are progressive in our outlook, and could easily describe our method as 'Deity Based Wicca' or 'Progressive Witchcraft' these are descriptive terms rather than named traditions. We use what works, applying magical systems and ritual as tools for connection with deity. At present this includes Shamanism and Trance-Prophesy work.
Lineage and Hereditary Witchcraft: Lineage has its origins in Wicca out of Co-masonry (Fellowship of Crotona). It is apostolic succession with its origins in Christianity not Paganism. We do not believe it is a good judge of someones ability as a Witch; we feel training is much more important. In the past it has been mis-used as a way of acceptance without doing the work! To date the only hereditary witches we have met have been Italian Strega. We believe there are few true survivals.
Degree System: This has its origins in the same place as Lineage. We attempted to amend the degree system some time ago. This is because we had origins in two traditions. We wanted to make something more organic and natural to replace it. What we found was that witches liked the degree system too much! There is a good reason for this, a psychological process outlined by Maslow - his Hierarchy of Needs. Basically people need goals. We now have a four level system starting with a Dedication level going up to third. It is not hierarchical though, but based on acheivement.
The Rede: We do actually follow the Wiccan Rede (Eight Words Wiccan Rede Fulfil: An it harm none do what thou will) although we are also aware of its philosophical and ethical limitations, mainly around what constitutes 'harm' and who 'none' actually applies to. These can both be subjectively interpreted. Most religions have tomes of books related to ethics and laws: it is infact quite arrogant of us to think we can sum everything up in this one law. If this was not true Gardner/Valiente would have not created the Wiccan Laws that they did. Likewise our celtic and norse ancestors both had systems of ethics and laws which were more than just one statement (the Brehon Laws and the Havamal repectively). An ethical philosopher would call the Rede 'a utilitarian ethic' e.g. an ethic which is useful in specific situations. We feel it should not be accepted dogamatically, but philosophised over by the individual witch to see how it applies to them in everyday life.
What we call ourselves: We use the terms 'Priest' and 'Priestess' to describe ourselves (principally of the Goddess Freya); as far as we are concerned these are job descriptions not hierarchical titles. Janet no longer uses the term 'High Priestess' to describe herself prefering the term 'Priestess' or just plain 'witch', and Gavin does similar. This is a personal decision and we respect others rights to use such a title when appropriate. We have no time for self proclaimed media hunting 'Kings' or 'Queens' of Witches'. We are most definetly 'Wiccan Republicans'.
The Mysteries: We believe the spiritual mysteries are intrinsic part of Witchcraft. This is unavoidable as 'the first thing magic changes is the self'. It is therefore impossible to be a witch without having to go through periods of self-development and personal growth. We work the three mysteries related to the degree system.
Training and the Coven: We consider training the most important factor in Witchcraft. More important even, than lineage, degree system or initiation. We do not believe that the learning process ever stops, even after death. Therefore there is no such thing as someone 'who knows everything about Witchcraft' - we would certainly not say that about ourselves. People are just farther down the path. For us, the Coven is there to provide a forum for training and brother/sisterhood.
Black and White Magic: We don't use either! For us there is no such thing. The use of 'Black' and 'White' are very much dualist terms of Christian origin. If you wanted a colour for what sort of magic we use we'd say 'Purple' and 'Green'! We agree very much with Isaac Bonewits on this issue in his book Real Magic.
Alternative Sexuality and the Craft: Most of the pagan community are aware that prior to Stewart Farrar's death, we were in a polyfidelitous relationship - Janet had two husbands and none of us went outside of that relationship. This was a mutual agreement between all of us. Since his death, we have decided to remain in a monogamous relationship in the normal judeo-christian pattern. We are not exponents of polyamory neither are we against it; we have many friends in successful poly 'families'. Our view is: 'all acts of love and pleasure are mine' sayeth the Goddess and this applies to all safe, sane and consentual forms of sexuality. For us sexuality is a personal, spiritual thing, as with most witches, and should be treated with maturity. We consider sexual manipulation, rape, paedophilia and other sexual crimes to be an anathema to the Goddess.
Homosexuality and the Craft: This has already been covered above, but probably needs to be re-iterated. We have been initiating gay people into Wicca since the early 1980's and have even performed same sex handfastings. We see no reason why they should not be initiated as Witches - for us sexual polarity, or sexual preference for that matter, is not an issue. In our experience we have found that most gays entering the craft have already dealt with issues related to anima/animus which would not normally be dealt with by heterosexuals until 2nd degree.
Prejudice: We hold no truck with prejudice of any form, be it homophobic, racist, sexist etc. We do not believe that such prejudices should be tolerated within Wicca, and feel they go against the principles of the Wiccan Rede.
Conflict with other Religions: There is no reason why a Witch should 'hate' TRUE christianity or any other true spiritual path, for that matter. The enemy is fundamentalism and this even exists within Paganism. A Witch should be comfortable in any place of worship and should see the similarities rather than the differences between religions.
Were we (Janet and Stewart Farrar) Oath breakers?: Quite simply, we were not. This came about because we published material in The Witches Bible/Eight Sabbats/Witches Way related to the Gardnerian Book of Shadows. We did this with written permission of the copyright holder and co-author - Doreen Valiente. These documents remain in our archive. At the time (early 1980's), Alexandrians were not accepted as craft by the Gardnerians and therefore we could not be bound by a Gardnerian Oath which we had not taken.
Conflict Situations (Witch Wars): Our views on Witchwars can be found at www.witchvox.com/wars/ww_gavin.html It's not our policy to get involved in disputes and conflict situations. We rarely know both sides of the story. Neither are we particularly interested in them. We prefer to remain neutral in situations where we are not directly involved. We make sure that BOTH parties know this when this occurs, and have a policy of 'transparency' - cc'd mailing to both parties. You cannot change the views of your enemies; only your friends. We therefore do not enter into personal conflicts with people.
Rumours: It is inevitable rumours will go around about us - it's unavoidable as we are publicly known. We have had many amusing ones over the years, and not so amusing ones! It is our policy to bring rumours 'out into the light'. In our experience they are like a virus which relies on damp, dark places to survive and die when exposed to the light of truth. We attack the rumour not the rumour monger. In our experience most rumours are self-defeating and tell you more about the purveyor of the rumour than the person their aimed at. Our exception is when slander occurs accussing us of illegal acts; we respond with legal action as anyone would.
We are not Perfect!: We prefer people to see us as
human beings not 'icons'. We feel to be regarded as such is dangerous; not
just to others, but also to our own egos! There is no longer any place
for the 'cult
of personality' (Sanders, Gardner etc) within Wicca, and we feel such days
are over (with good riddance!). We are human beings who eat, shit and screw
up like everyone else! We do not tolerate being pedestalled for this reason.
We have the policy of politely, but humoursly, 'jumping off the pedestal and running
away!' when it occurs.