In her wonderful book "The Witch's Path: Advancing Your Craft At Every Level" Gardnerian High Priestess Thorn Mooney asks us: "Are you a Witch? How do you know" What makes someone a Witch? Where does your understanding of what is a Witch come from? ..... ". This blog post is my attempt to address these questions.
Over the years I have performed in succession; (1) A Faery Witch self-initiation (2) a slightly modified Traditional Witch self-initiation and (3) a Seax Wiccan self-initiation, but unfortunately in no case afterwards could I confidently call myself a witch, perhaps because the idea of initiation by another initiate into a recognised lineage has always been - since I was a thirteen year old wannabe witch - essential for me to believe myelf to be a “real witch”. The Garderian/Alexandrian ideal of initiation has always been my standard and as that standard did not seem possible to attain I looked elsewhere. …. However, in early 2021, having discovered that I already share in the Church of the Grail succession from Dion Fortune (hereafter often referred to as DF) through a mutual sub-conditione episcopal consecration with an American bishop friend, I immediately felt that this esoteric lineage - along with our sacramental succession from Aleister Crowley - could fill the Wiccan-lineage shaped hole in my witch identity. I had to ask myself, do I really need Gerald Gardner’s succession from a bunch of Theosophists who believed they were Margaret Murray type witches in a previous life (well, I wouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, to be honest!); when I already have an initiatic succession from two of the greatest magicians of the 20th century? What Crowley lacked in virtue is amply supplied by our highly ethical DF and what she may have lacked in magical confidence is balanced by Crowley’s unshakable conviction that he did in fact have real “magickal” power. Neither mage, of course, chose to identify as witches, though apparently Crowley did claim to have been initiated into the “Pickingill Craft” (Traditional Witchcraft) as a young man. Crowley also had a considerable influence on the development of Wicca, the Wiccan liturgy in particular, to such an extent in fact that Professor Ronald Hutton, the great historian of Wicca, even went so far as to suggest that Crowley could be considered "the God-father of Wicca". I would add that if Crowley were the God-father of Wicca then surely Dion Fortune may be considered the God-mother, as her novels in particular were a great inspiration for that first generation of Wiccans. The lineages we have received, therefore, from these two greatest magicians of the 20th century, in combination, form a strong strand of initiatory power which we might refer to as "proto-Garderian" for without the influence of Dion Fortune and Aleister Crowley, Wicca would have been very different , if indeed it existed at all.
However, even possessing as we do that tactile esoteric succession from both Crowley and Fortune, one might legitimately ask, if the intent of the rite is not also vital in passing on whatever supernatural power may be invoked? In the case of a sacramental succession in an esoteric Christian context the intention was clearly to pass on Christian or Gnostic episcopacy rather than a magical lineage, and especially not a witch lineage (as few, if any, of DF’s era had really thought of that yet), however, I can only appeal to my personal gnosis to explain how having a tangible connection with both Crowley and DF can provide a servicable Wiccan lineage.
The Laying on of Hands in the context of an episcopal consecration - the intention of which is always to channel supernatural energy - appears to create a link like a telephone wire or a computer connection, not only between the consecrator and the candidate, but also with every other participant in the lineage, past and future. Once the crown chakra has been opened and the energy poured into the candidate that individual is forever linked energetically to all of the others, both living and departed, in the lineage. One might also compare it to the reception of DNA from ones ancestors and passed on to ones descendents. In my experience, once physically and spiritually installed, a line of succession can then be activated as a channel of communication between the members of the lineage. Since I became aware of my already installed Church of the Grail line, it has been thus activated and utilised to connect with the members of that lineage, most especially DF, in developing our Avalonian work.
The Guild of the Master Jesus (later called the Church of the Grail) was always close to her heart and I am sure that now, from her vantage point in the world of Spirit, she is thrilled to see us using the rituals and meditations again, but I also feel she is very comfortable with Avalonian Druidcraft, as there was ever a part of her which yearned for a true experience of Paganism, and surely if it is Paganism with the atmosphere of her beloved Avalon, so much the better. Passing on in 1946, DF was a potent influence on that first generation of post war Witches and I really feel in my blood and bones that she is quite comfortable with the idea of White Witchcraft in a devotional and magical context, though being the devout Anglican she was, it would be essential to “keep it clean”. Obviously she would have nothing to do with the increasing prevalence of various shades of grey and even black in today’s Wiccan world, just as she kept a prudent distance from Crowley’s amorality.
One might observe, however, that Wiccan initiation is not just about receiving a lineage, it is also about the initiatory experience itself. I have to agree to a certain extent, as I have been fortunate to receive about twelve Masonic degrees plus six Rosicrucian and four Martinist grades in person, so I have experienced esoteric initiations, and as a result truly know myself to be a Mason, Rosicrucian and Martinist, even if not a very active pratitioner of any of them at this stage. The Masonic experience, however, is of historical importance to us in the Wiccan context as several of the members of the Witch Cult that initiated Gardner were Co-masons and Gardner himself was also a Freemason. Consequently Wiccan ritual bears the Masonic imprint, both from the New Forest Coven and from the Ordo Templi Orientis rituals which Gardner obtained from Crowley. My own Masonic first and third degrees. in particular, were extremely formative for my identity as an initiate, much more so than my three OBOD self-initiations I have to admit, so I do believe that the initiatory experience in a group context is unique and can be particularly powerful, however, the fact is that it is not always possible for people to be initiated by another individual or group. Observing this problem back in 1974 Raymond Buckland, himself a Gardnerian initiate, was inspired to start Seax Wicca, which provides for both solitary self-dedication and group initiation rituals and this is the model we have found most servicable for Avalonian Druidcraft. A ceremony of initiation can be useful in many ways, primarily as a trigger for interior initiation, but the power of initiation actually comes from the Divine, for as DF reminds us, “All the Gods are one God and all the Goddesses are one Goddess, and there is One Initiator”.
Recently, a friend brought me a present of some homemade cheese presented on a beautiful saucer edged with a pink rose pattern. Pink roses have actually been a recurring pattern since I had afternoon tea with Auntie Vi in Chalice Orchard on a shamanic journey last spring, so whenever pink roses or peonies appear I know that DF is close by. I am thankful, not only for the initiatory lineages which help us form a connection with the Elders of our tradition, but equally I am thankful for the training I received many years ago in Spiritualist mediumship and Celtic shamanism, that are so essential to our particular way of magical working. I have discovered the confidence to call myself a witch at last and have equal confidence that our initiations in the Avalonian Tradition are truly connected and as good as any other. Our tradition may be not be to everyone’s taste, but it is our tradition and we can be proud of it. Blessed Be!
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