The Red Path
Rituals among the Faithful
Casting the Witchâ€™s Circle
Blue Moon Bondi
Sacred Earth Medicine
2018 | may
BONDI BLUE MOON Blessings beneath star and sea! At the rising of the Moon may the Witches find you. Upon a moonlit shore, we gather to the sound of the chanted call.
FULL MOON EVENT
PHOTO CREDITS Cover montage is composed of two images “what lies beyond” byNakhana and “bones” by Pauline Greefhorst
AMONG THE FAITHFUL
Local coven Nuit’s Veil took the
Ceremonies that mark births,
opportunity to celebrate the rising
deaths, and marriages, while
of two full moons, on January 2
still common practice, are not the
MAGICK SYMBOLS IN THE ALCHEMY SPACE
and 31, 2018. The gathered group
reason a growing number
Sacred geometry is the study of
witnessed the rare timing of a blue
of Australians are holding
shape and form and how they
moon and a total lunar eclipse at
sacred rituals. Commercing in
relate to the spiritual realms.
the second moon.
this issue of OTHER magazine we
For thousands of years, sacred
The WitchesWorkshop community
explore the emerging trend from
geometry has been used in art and
was invited to join members of
among alternative sub-cultures
architecture, much of which draws
Nuit’s Veil to share in this unique
in holding ceremonies. Starting
from patterns in nature. If you
THERE ARE OTHER WAYS OF SEEING THE WORLD.
event; the healing Cancerian moon
with Witches. The practice of
have ever wanted to explore the
and the extrovert Leo moon.
magickal ceremony is missing from
mysteries and secrets associated
To find out about future ritual
the lives of many Australians. So
with sacred geometry, local artist
nights, join the WitchesWorkshop
why are these rituals so important
Lisa Winter guides meditation
to Witches, and particularly the
rituals at the ALCHEMY Space
practice of skyclad ritual? Find out
A magazine for people who are interested in the unfamiliar other. PEOPLE + ART + PHOTOGRAPHY + MUSIC + BOOKS + FILM + PLACES + SPIRITUALITY OTHER people with unusual or unique and creative pursuits. Those who have an alternative, spirituality, humanitarian, occult or artistic quest. Published occasionally.
on Page 8.
Editor Damiana Fortune Sub-editor Carmel Catanuto Art Director Timothy Hartridge Writers Sam Blackadder, Caroline Tully
THE RED ROAD
SACRED EARTH MAGIC
Editorial inquiries firstname.lastname@example.org Website other-magazine.com Facebook OtherMagazine Published by Manuscript Design Copyright The copyright remains with the original writers, artists and photographers. No part of this publication should be reproduced without the written premision of the Publisher. Disclaimer All responsible effort has been made to correctly attribute information and accuracy of our sources and images. We aim for standards of integrity and ethical behavior with this publication. While no personal responsibility is accepted by the Publisher we do fact check all content for our magazine. Please contact us if you can provide more accurate details or wish to question the content. 2 | OTHER MAGAZINE · MARCH 2018
The adoption of inspired indigenous North American Indian
NEW MOON INTENTIONS
ART & MEDITATION
spiritual teachings has gained
The New Moon lunar cycle
momentum among many Western
has long been used as a focus
Pagans. The ‘Red Road’ is the
for intentions for in personal
name given as an English-language
development. Bronwen Iferd of
CAST THE WITCH’S CIRCLE
concept of modern shamanism,
Heartwork Wholistic Therapy
and many pagans are undertaking
leads this monthly class to
The popular workshop ‘Casting
the practise. Read about one
reconnect you with the new moon
the Witch’s Circe’ ran again in
witch’s immersion into a Sacred
phase, which shines a light on
February 2018. Read more about
Tobacco ceremony with Sydney
your intuition, the feminine, and
the story behind this popular
Medicine worker Tara Fischer of
reflective states of consciousness.
workshop and its creator and
Embodied Sacred Life.
Visit New mOOn Intentions at
founder Tim Ozpagan of the
See Page 6.
the ALCHEMY space, Newtown
The Witches’ Workshop Tim Ozpagan, founder of the Witches Workshop—on witchcraft, covens and the rise of an online community W
ITCHCRAFT has always been a deep and abiding part of my life. I’ve been a practicing witch since my tweens. Like many of us who are drawn to follow the path of the witch, I was hesitant and shy about letting others know of my secret passion for Witchcraft and the Occult. And who could blame me? My family did not support my interests in Witchcraft, and the religious schools I attended sure didn’t. I’d learnt not to talk about such things especially in front of Christian relatives and some school friends because I had been labelled as a ‘bad influence’ on other children. Moving forward a couple of decades and it would seem I was a ‘bad influence’ on a good many more—WitchesWorkshop, the Facebook community I’d set up had grown to be one of the largest Aussie Pagan communities around. WitchesWorkshop was created to support Witches with a place to share their interests and connect with one another. Our online community started in 1999, the same year I created ‘Casting the Witch’s Circle’ workshop. Today, I’m not the only one offering workshops and retreats. Many people are running classes, gatherings, and witch camps, which are promoted on WitchesWorkshop and are helping to grow our community. These are provided by community leaders with similar goals to my own; to see the development of our community and the initiation of witches in experiences of the psychic reality.
Mentor for a Witch Personal psychic experiences may be your teachers, but who are you going to talk to about these experiences? Psychic experiences have never been far from me—my family home was haunted, and in my childhood, I had numerous visions of my future. By the time I had reached my late teens, I was having out of body experiences and was actively involved in spell casting. My teachers were from two invaluable sources. The first was what books I could find in MARCH 2018 · OTHER MAGAZINE | 3
“Think of the coven as an alchemical vessel… the key purpose of this vessel is to incubate witches.” libraries, or else what I could buy with my meagre pocket-money. The second was a chance discovery I made through my grandmother. On my twelfth birthday, I had saved enough pocket-money to buy a Tarot deck. With the deck of cards still in their plastic wrapping, I traveled out to visit my grandmother. It had been an impulse decision to see her. When I arrived at her door with my cards in hand, she said in her gentle, knowing voice, “Put them away dear. I’ll show you how to read the cards.” To say, I was utterly taken aback, would be the understatement of my entire life up until that moment. Then my grandmother produced her own set of cards and began to tell me the story of how her mother, my great-grandmother, had learned all this from the English gypsies. As might be imagined, hearing that my family had connections to gypsies and fortunetelling only served to reinforce my sense of purpose; I knew I’d got the Tarot cards for a reason. But how come I’d never heard about this before now? I got a distinct impression that I wasn’t to tell anyone, it would be a secret bond she and I would have. Later, she shared more secrets about the spells taught to her as a child. My great-grandmother was a Witch! By my late teens, I needed something more potent than books and the secrets my Nan had shared about my great-grandmother; I needed the company of other witches. I was ready to leave behind the solitary witch’s life and using the only thing I had at my disposal; I cast a spell to attract other witches to me. It worked. Within a week I had met five people—a policeman, a secretary, a hairdresser, an antique dealer, and a restaurant owner. All were natural witches, concealing their double lives behind regular jobs. Our coven, an untrained hodgepodge of apprentices, had to rely on our instincts and our inherent psychic ability. We soon developed ritual forms that would provide a better structure from which we would work magick. Later, more rituals would come from further 4 | OTHER MAGAZINE · MARCH 2018
afield. A side effect of the original spell was that it attracted experienced witches and magicians into our field of contact. While they lived too far away geographically to work with us, they did provide more rituals to use and offered guidance; they became our first witch mentors.
The next time they call you a Witch, you will be In the workshops I run today, you’ll hear me say, “Witchcraft is a do-it-yourself project.” You can understand why when you know how I started. My philosophy in teaching is to use students’ own life experience and to incorporate these directly into ritual. While I have long identified as a Witch, it’s something not all students have when they start. And it’s not solely a problem of selfconfidence, the lack of experience compounds it. Comments like, “I am afraid I won’t be doing it right,” reveals the difficulty it is more about them being able to trust their intuition. Fortunately, this is easily fixed, and I show them how in the first workshop of “Casting the Witch’s Circle.” I explain why it important to use your own words. I know self-confidence will come from the practice, so by the time they are doing the last ritual, students are self-assured and calling themselves “Witches,” and that’s a foundation you can build on.
Lesson from a Coven circle In a country, as vast as Australia using the WitchesWorkshop online community can be a shortcut to finding others who are running workshops and covens. The most important thing is just to begin the work. Even creating informal study groups can be a way to explore the path of the Witch. From the time of my first coven, I was widely read on the subjects of the occult—sharing what I knew was second nature. I drew on my
WHAT IS THE WITCH-WITHIN ? TIM OZPAGAN DISCUSSNG WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A WITCH
knowledge of witchcraft, magick, tarot, and astrology and the coven was enthusiastic about putting all of this immediately into practice. The more we shared, the more we grew as mentors for ourselves.
I view the idea of the Witch more as a psychic phenomena of the Self.
If you get a chance to work with others don’t squander it. Do as much as you can to encourage each other to share your practices. Create a safe space that provides acceptance and inclusion. Don’t take your group for granted; good covens are the exception.
but at certain times the emergence can be felt, and this its usually during
Being a Witch is less about religion and more to do with the practice of Magick and Initiation into the Mysteries. In other words, I’m not functioning as a 'Witch' 24 hours of the day, periods of psychic stress or focus. In fact, many of the practices of Witchcraft help aid the emergence of the Witch-within. These include, the use of inspired ritual, rhythmic drumming, firelight, the sensuality of nudity and dance, all the things that help us to step aside from ego-centred consciousness. This awakening of the natural Witch can, therefore,
Running a coven is a collaborative affair. It’s important that everyone not only owns the coven but that each member has enough maturity to respect their peers. “Owning the coven” has nothing to do with telling others what to do, but it does have everything to do with being a responsible member and helping others to function well in the group.
be experienced by any sincere person if they explore their wild and uninhibited nature, for it is in these neglected places of the psyche that the instinctual Witch can thrive and be directly experienced. The domain of the natural or wild Witch is unapologetic in its awakening from deep within the psyche. This Witch is that part of ourselves that yearns for the return of night (the unconscious hours), she leads us to seek out the uncivilised parts of our nature so that we
Whether you are working in a study group, or go on to form a coven, be determined to make your experiences significant and authentic in all that you do. Treat all the psychic experiences you share with your group as the intimate and sacred mysteries of the Circle; demand this same regard for your work from others.
may cultivate and extend her powers. This Witch is unrestrained by social mores, a true heretic of society and makes us connect with our true selves when we feel we don't fit in. When being a Witch is experienced in this way, as our link to Nature, we may begin to reanimate our primitive and forgotten powers. Being a Witch under these conditions is not a religious label, but is more to do
Think of the coven as an alchemical vessel, a cauldron if you like. The purpose of this vessel is to incubate witches. Put the right ingredients in, and it will transform the contents from those who lack confidence and experience into a real coven of witches.
with experiencing our instinctual and psychic powers as an expression of magick. These natural instincts may manifest in a variety of familiar and unfamiliar forms. Our intuition is one such form it can take, while others include clairvoyance, astral and psychic projections and even a natural ability to heal; all are manifestations of the Witch. This approach in using an alternative interpretation to what it may
What’s your story?
mean to be a Witch places a greater emphasis upon the personal psychic function and the importance of personal experience. By looking for the
OTHER magazine is collecting stories about how you
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the Mysteries and be using self-initiative in the contribution of our psychic study and knowledge base. We will almost certainly find higher value in
Contact us with your story, photos and contact details.
our own experiences above that of others as a basis for belief. Perhaps
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old Gerald Gardner (the Father of Modern Witchcraft) had it right when
best story featured in the magazine. Submit it to us.
he spoke of Witchcraft in the following terms:
Send to email@example.com "It is the old case of: Unless you experience it yourself you will never Need some tips on writing a good story? Check out
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JOIN WITCHESWORKSHOP MARCH 2018 · OTHER MAGAZINE | 5
The Red Road: medicine soul journeys By Tim Ozpagan The adoption of inspired indigenous American Indian spiritual teachings has gained momentum among many Western Pagans. The ‘Red Road’ is a name given as an Englishlanguage concept of the right-path-of-life or shamanism. These traditions resonate with modern Pagan values, which include a profound reverence for the Earth as the Great Mother, as well as equality for women and respect for life.
ometimes called the Medicine Path, its roots draw from ancient indigenous knowledge practised for thousands of years on the American continent. It’s many forms preserve customs that hold a deep relationship with the Earth Mother.
a red cloth, the altar on which she placed various items. These included flowers, pottery images and several small candles; it looked beautiful. We sat waiting, and I felt a deep sense of the sacred entering us.
Sacred Tabacco ceremonies
Several small bottles of flower water, Agua de Florida were on the altar. It is a sweet smelling cologne made in Peru and widely used by shamans all over South America for purification. Isabel, an apprentice assisting Tara, carefully poured the floral water into my cupped hands. I was instructed to rub my hands together, clap three times and then, in a washing action, brush along my arms and over my head. I was being purified, and I smelt gorgeous.
Dum, dumdum; dum, dumdum...like a heartbeat, the medicine woman beat a simple rhythm on her drum... I don’t now recall her exact words, but they reminded me of this chanted song, “Earth my body, water my blood, air my breath and fire my spirit...” Recently I undertook a Sacred Tobacco ceremony with Tara Fischer, an experienced medicine woman, who regularly conducts her work in Sydney. The ceremonies she offers are for anyone who is seeking healing and personal transformation. Preserved in these Medicine practices, as with modern Western Witchcraft, is a deep connection to the psychic reality. Medicine work is a living spirituality and concerned about the here-and-now. The plant Medicines too are alive, perceived as spiritual teachers, they penetrate into our existence via the body, mind and soul. In the Medicine world plants are your spiritual teachers and doctors. The different types of Medicine do specific types of psycho-spiritual-physical work on you. The Sacred Tobacco ceremonies are practiced by many indigenous peoples and can be still found throughout the Americas... but Tara was doing her healing work in the inner-west suburb of Newtown, in Sydney Australia. The evening at the Alchemy space in Newtown was hot, a big overhead fan quietly created waves of cooling air for the group of the 20 visitors. “Dum, dumdum; dum, dumdum...” the beat of the Medicine drum created a sense of the ancient and the sacred. The night was alive, and Tara set the space by saluting the four elements. We sat in a circle watching her offer the prayer for the work. At the centre of the room was 6 | OTHER MAGAZINE · MARCH 2018
This was my third Sacred Tobacco ceremony and the strongest yet. I had attended a previous ritual last year, also with Tara, while my first ceremony had been a special night with a South American Medicine worker, Gheraldo. He is a young man with a traditional lineage in Medicine work coming from his South American roots. Gheraldo’s ceremony was an exotic night; he began by donning the feathered condor headdress he had received from his teacher’s teacher. That night was full of wild elemental energies and the winds whipped around us; at one point I thought the roof of our sacred space would be torn off.
Entry into the Medicine From the start of Tara’s ceremony, I could sense many healing presences. These were shades that stood behind or else knelt in front of each person. I felt the touch of gentle hands on my shoulders; they were poised waiting for the healing part of the ceremony to start. Tara’s three helpers administer the jungle tobacco, rapé, via a special blowpipe. This jungle plant variety is ground down into a powder; just like old-fashioned snuff powder. I received my dose, first through the left nostril, (the feminine channel) and then through the right nostril (masculine channel). The Medicine worker then performs a mini-ritual, gently touching the heart, the arms, the shoulders, the Third Eye and the top of the head. After about a minute or less, the effects begin. All the other
participants on the night have a very different relationship with this plant Medicine compared with my reactions. The strength and type of tobacco used makes a huge difference in how it affects you. I received a potent dose. Soon after I had received the rapé, I apparently turned a shade of white resembling “a pale zombie.” I rode a wave, and then another, and another. With each cycle, I went deeper. It is a woozy, painful descent. My temperature rose and fell, and I entered a cold sweat.
build more physical stamina.) During the ‘fire’ stage I was sweating profusely. With my temperature so elevated, the sweat flowed out of me like a hot water stream. During Medicine work, you may purge, and sweating is one form this can take. In the Medicine world, all purging is called quite rightly ‘getting well.’ You may purge, throwup, sweat, have emotional tears streaming, or be shaking uncontrollably. This is what getting well looks like. Currently, I feel aware and clear.
Of course, the whole point is not all these physical reactions. The point of undergoing this ordeal is for healing. While you can’t control these physical experiences in this Medicine work, you must surrender to it, you can set your ‘intention.’ I had prepared my intention at the start of the ceremony. This was spoken out loud by each person during the opening of the sacred space. My intention for the ceremony was to release the psychic energy I had experienced as a projection on to me. Recently, I had experienced this as images of snakes hurling themselves at me in my dreams. So my intention for this night was to provide release from this ‘bad juju.’ That’s the first part of the intention, the “get-rid-of-andheal-me” part. The other side of the intention is what you want to ‘bring in’. My ‘B-side song’ for the night was to set me straight with clarity on a number of projects; to get me on track I needed focus. The next day after the ceremony I wrote to Tara to say, “[I have had]…such a profound clearing, much more than I had expected. The Medicine seems to have given me a new perspective on my descent and where I stand now. A little death with a great rebirth, although I’m under no illusion, I still have much work to do in the coming months.” Indeed, the rapé was more than just healing me. It also healed the person who caused the injury. I came to a new understanding of the Medicine work. The psychic attack I had experienced transformed both me and the other. Tara’s apprentices assisted each person in processing the Medicine by moving around to each one of them. When Tara came over to me I was at the midpoint of my journey and she gave me profoundly encouraging and healing words. She then combined her words with touch; she tapped gently on my lower back and also over my heart. The tapping had an immediate effect of aligning me. I felt physically more upright, but this was merely the outer effect, the real aligning was happening at my inner-core. I felt psychically clearer. Having Tara work on me was a high point of the night. Tara uses the description “integrated elements” to talk about the alchemical like transformation you undergo during the stages of the ceremony. Physically, by the final stage, I was shattered. (Note to self: must get fitter and
Soul journeys Ordeals that the Medicine takes you through is to clear away things that we have taken on and aren’t good for us. ‘Taking something on’ is also a metaphor for blindly accepting things as they are or resigning ourselves to circumstances. Again, Tara’s wise words of remedy echoed to me a memory of another Medicine worker I encountered several decades ago. I worked briefly with a Medicine man named Sun Bear. He was an American Indian, and his simple message was, “Don’t give away your personal power.” Hearing the same message now from Tara had a resonance. The Tobacco spirit had some big lessons for me to experience. Perhaps this was to have more respect for this Medicine. It was certainly a reminder that it takes very little to push me into the spirit world. It wasn't easy…but to be fair, a big part of that has to do with my relationship with tobacco. Tobacco and I don’t get along. It doesn't have an enjoyable physical effect on me, and Tara tells you this may be the case before you start. While this experience was less visionary than previous soul-journeys, it was on track with my intention, clear blocks and set me on track with my work. The rise of interest in the Red Road, or Medicine Path is having a profound impact on Westerners, particularly those with an Earth-based spirituality. It is experienced in the Pagan community, as a shift of awareness; the Great Mother is returning. Medicine teachers, like Tara, have a common goal—to initiate humanity by awakening us out of unconscious sleep, the dream of existence. They offer a means to see the connectedness of all things, the earth, the animals, and yes even monkey-minded humanity. In sharing this experience, I hope to have given some insight to Sacred Tobacco ceremonies; and the level of integrity teachers like Tara provide for us. Although next time, I think I may only take the light rapé.
CONNECT WITH TARA MARCH 2018 · OTHER MAGAZINE | 7
Why do rituals matter so much to witches? Are witches’ rituals different from other mainstream religions? Is ritual a point of contact to the soul?
8 | OTHER MAGAZINE · MARCH 2018
“When I enter into the ritual circle I can cast off all semblance of my daily life, I put the ego aside and become fully immersed in the Other…” OUTSIDE of ceremonies that mark births, deaths and marriages, spiritual rituals
and certainly magickal rituals are largely missing from the lives of most Australians. So why is ritual so important to witches and particularly skyclad ritual? For 32 year-old Tori, ritual is a sacred act, “When I enter into the ritual circle I can cast off all semblance of my daily life, put the ego aside and become fully immersed in the ‘Other’. It’s my time for remembering and honouring soulful things.” By day Tori is an IT Systems Specialist, but by night, especially at full moons, she enters the ritual world of her coven. Tori came out publicly about her ritual practices when she appeared in the BBC documentary Rituals: Around the world in 80 Faiths. Screened here in Australia (on the SBS network), the program’s host, the Rev. Peter Owen-Jones spent a year-long odyssey exploring the great variety of ritual used by people to get in touch with the spiritual. Commenting about her choice of witchcraft as a spiritual path and her ritual practices, Tori revealed she had grownup near Glastonbury, Somerset; considered by many
broad and there’s not a set of rules that you need to abide by. It’s very personal. It’s a personal practice.”
The Generation asking “Y”? In Rebecca Huntley’s study “The World according to Y” she addresses the question of spirituality, religion and participation in ritual for the Generation Y-ers. Huntly has a Ph.D. in Gender Studies and says of Generation-Y, “There’s a broad interest in healthy lifestyles, yoga, meditation, psychic readings, tarot cards, angel-worship, popular paganism in the form of witchcraft and occult practices—all these interests have a spiritual dimension that offers inspiration, peace, guidance and a belief in something bigger and more profound than the tangible world around us.” Similarly, Professor Ruth Webber from the Australian Catholic University, an expert on young people and
“Generation ‘Y’ are more inclined to want to be in the spiritual driver’s seat ” the Celtic spiritual-heart of the UK. Tori had a regular Christian upbringing until she was a teen, she then left after discovering paganism and psychic practices that made more sense to her. “At the time I had no idea about ritual or covens so I assumed I had to go it alone and studied largely through reading. It wasn’t until I travelled to Sydney that I realised I was yearning for connection with other witches.” Rev. Peter Owen-Jones in the documentary Rituals asked Tori very directly, “Why are you a witch?” Tori explained, “I was a Christian, but it didn’t answer all my questions. It was a set of beliefs that were imposed upon me, and made me feel I wasn’t good enough for their god.” “But doesn’t witchcraft also have a set of beliefs,” suggested Peter, “that it imposes on its adherents?”” Smiling, Tori replied, “Not at all. The belief structure is so
spirituality, reports her observation of Generation Y-ers that they “…adopt a more organic and eclectic approach to their search for spiritual meaning.” Generation Y is more inclined to want to be in the spiritual driver’s seat “…one that attempts to escape the confines of formal organizations and rigid hierarchies.” [p.167, Y] After all, the tarnished character of organised religion has had to address the predatory reputation of its leaders; the Church has done little to reinforce spiritual honesty. Tori, a Generation X-er, also revealed her Church experiences did a lot to undermine her self-confidence, “I was constantly made to feel shame in my Church for the way I dressed and for having boyfriends, and I was fearful of a vengeful God that was going to punish me, rather than a loving and accepting God. To me, Witchcraft talked about acceptance, and limitlessness, as well as the obvious
MARCH 2018 · OTHER MAGAZINE | 9
“Watching the fire rise in the cauldron as we ‘kiss the serpent’ and raise the cone of power…” associations with the Earth being sacred. I was also intrigued by the paranormal, which my Church deemed as dabbling in ‘evil’—Witchcraft embraces the paranormal and that excited me.” Like Tori’s generation, the younger Generation Y-ers, according Dr. Huntley’s study, find their way into witchcraft informally; through reading books, magazines, film and of course the internet. Sociology experts Professor Helen A. Berger (West Chester University of Pennsylvania) and Associate Professor of Sociology Dr. Douglas Ezzy (University of Tasmania) with their grassroots research offer more specific insight on the subject of teens and witchcraft. Despite traditional religion’s concern over teen involvement with witchcraft, Berger and Ezzy believe their study challenges this stereotype about spiritual danger to teens. In “Teenage Witches: magical youth and the search for the self” Berger and Ezzy found that many young witches in Australia, the UK and USA share similar practices with older more experienced witches. This is especially so in what is considered the expression of the sacred. Typically this is in celebrating the eight seasonal ritual sabbats and monthly lunar esbats; or at least as much as they can while still living at home. Berger and Ezzy ventured further and discovered “… there is a growing trend, particularly among solitary teen practitioners, to focus on the use of magic and ritual for self-transformation…” It’s the notion that through the use of ritual magick practitioners of the witchcraft, young or old, can transform their lives. “Witches identify areas of their personalities or lives that require change, and focus on changing those things…”[p.33 TW] Encouraged by this deeper self-reflective expression, Prof. Dr. Douglas Ezzy says, “While the books [on witchcraft] tend to emphasize instrumental magic, teenagers’ practices tend more toward religious and spiritual experience.” [p.240 TW]
Lifting the veil Asking Tori what she recalls of her early ritual experiences in the coven and how these differed from solitary practice she says, “My first rituals were with “Nuit’s Veil” coven in Sydney. These were both exciting and terrifying at the same time. I was amazed at the beauty and openness of the coven’s full moon ritual, and how welcoming and accepting the coven members were. I had never experienced anything like it. At first I was terrified of doing something wrong, but it didn’t take long to relax into it and begin to go with the flow.”
“I was also extremely apprehensive about working skyclad. For an English prude with body issues, letting other people see me naked was akin to my worst nightmare. Thankfully the process was so beautiful and rich with mythology, that in no time at all I had forgotten my fears and being skyclad felt like the most natural thing in the world. It would now feel peculiar to me to take part in rituals clothed!” Sharing his fears about possible consequences of participating in witchcraft ritual, Rev. Peter OwenJones, says, “I feel I’m placing my soul at mortal risk just through being here…at the Salem witch-trails, people were condemned to death for far less than this.” Standing before the coven altar, Rev. Peter Owen-Jones cast his eyes over carved images of the Goddess and Horned God, a silver pentagram, goat’s horns, burning candles on cobra-headed candlesticks and fuming incense. Donning a robe he says apprehensively, “…They’ve asked me if I want to take part…these witches are very persuasive, but just how far am I prepared to go? I don’t think I’m gonna turn into a frog or… disappear in a cloud of smoke…I don’t think that happens. But still…dancing with the devil? There’s still that little nagging doubt.” As if to remind himself Peter tells us, “I’m a Church of England priest and I’ve just been told to remove my underwear by a witch.” I’m starting to ask myself, “What, exactly, have I let myself in for?”
Skyclad ritual Tori explained, “I can go and do a ritual under the moon by myself, or do a meditation any time, but it’s only when a group of witches dance skyclad and take part in ritual together that the energies are whipped up into a frenzy and you walk away feeling changed somehow.” Having entered the full moon esbat rituals many times, Tori reveals, “The ritual itself is so sensual and moving that you can lose yourself in the flowing energies and enter that ‘other realm’. It’s in that realm—for me—that the healing takes place. As soon as I smell the frankincense burning and feel the sabbat oils on my skin I am instantly transported into a wild, sensual world where witches dance naked by firelight, time is suspended and magick happens.” After about two and half hours of ritual and dancing Rev. Peter Owen-Jones takes his leave from the coven and reflects on his experiences of witchcraft ritual. “Inside the circle, the channelling of strange forces continued long into the night…but perhaps there is something I can learn from all of this.” Continuing his thoughts about the ritual
THINGS you should know
Peter says, “It’s very easy to be sidetracked by lots of naked flesh everywhere, but really, that’s not the point.” Struggling to make sense of the experience he adds, “The point is a joining with you, your body and the Earth… and I think it [witchcraft] speaks of an appreciation or a relationship with the environment which we don’t have any more.” Tori commenting on her own experience says, “Watching the fire rise in the cauldron as we ‘kiss the serpent’ and raise the cone of power is a reminder of how powerful these subtle energies really are. There’s something wild and ecstatic about the combination of darkness, raw fire and dance that taps into my primitive nature and allows me a pocket of freedom from my corporate persona.” Rev. Peter Owen-Jones summarises his feelings about witchcraft rituals, “...I think, really, it sort of says we’re all different and there are some of us which are going to need to sit in pews and say our prayers, and there are some of us that are going to need to jump around naked in front of a [fiery] cauldron, saying ‘Kiss the serpent!’
A checklist for finding & joining a Coven Being a member of coven is not for everyone, but for many experienced witches it’s the place where friendships are formed and their occult study begins in earnest. Tim Ozpagan is the founder of Nuit’s Veil coven, which has run for over a decade. Gleaned from his Coven archives are a few tips to help assist you while seeking out a coven or those wanting to lead a group. Making contact with covens in Australia, despite the advent of the Internet, has not it made any easier to know where to start. The following 13 points are issues likely to face anyone who decides they want coven involvement. Tim advises just like finding love on the Internet there’s both stories of disappointment and success. Be realistic rather than idealistic and treat your coven adventure like any relationship, one where it’s sure to be a delicate compromise between what you may want, balanced against what the coven expects of you. Tim invites you to join the WitchesWorkshop Facebook community a great place to begin your serach.
Before You Begin 1. Making contact. The first step can be done safely through enquiry on the Internet. You’ll find public pagan events and social meetings.
References: “Rituals: Around the World in 80 Faiths” 2009 is available in DVD from ABC shops. “The World according to Y: inside the new adult generation” by Rebecca Huntley, pub. Allen & Unwin, 2006. “Teenage Witches: magical youth and the search for the self” by Helen A. Berger and Douglas Ezzy, Rutgers University Press 2007 Read more about Nuit’s Veil coven and WitchesWorkshop at witchesworkshop.com
One of the best ways to meet serious minded people though is in workshops. These are generally focused events and where you are likely to get any questions you have addressed in a supportive environment. 2. Education. Even if you are doing workshops, or attending other public pagan events, it’s still important to take responsibility for your own education. The fastest way is through reading. Reading widely will help you to understand your subject. Ask what others are reading or what they recommend. 3. Types of coven. There are many styles of approach to working groups and covens. Some have an emphasis on ritual practice, while others have a laissez-faire approach. Find-out what others have experienced first-hand and be up-front about what you are looking for in group practice. 4. The grapevine. Don’t rely on gossip. Pagans are notorious at exaggerating the reputations of leaders, both as heroes and villains.
Keeping It Real 5. The studies. Does the coven you’re looking into provide areas of interests and study that you will engage you? Let’s face it, the easiest way to learn anything is when you are involved and enthusiastic about your studies.
MARCH 2018 · OTHER MAGAZINE | 11
THINGS you should know
NUIT’S VEIL COVEN SYDNEY TRAINING THE COVEN Nuit’s Veil Coven is a training coven that embraces a contemporary interpretation of traditional witchcraft. Combining a fusion of Wicca, Hermetic and Thelema magick, Shamanism, and Alchemy the coven explores many varieties of psychic experiences and practices.
6. The communication. Is the communication between the coven
BABLON’S RISING COVEN
members open? A healthy relationship is one where respect is in
WOLLONGONG TRAINING COVEN
evidence and where you can honestly express your thoughts and
Babalon’s Rising Coven started in 2007 and is currently located
ideas without fear of being dismissed.
in Wollongong, south of Sydney, NSW Australia. A Thelemic based coven and also drawing on Shamanic and Chaos magical practices.
7. Is there a plan? Is the leadership consultative? What direction is the group headed in? In order to be part of the ‘team’ everyone needs to know where they are going and part of the planning.
COVEN TRAINING & WITCH CAMPS People seek involvement in Witchcraft for a variety of reasons, but
8. Making a contribution. Is there room for you to make a
central to those goals is an experience of the psychic reality. Our
contribution? While initially you might be happy following the
rituals are designed to help the student in achieving a direct and
group’s lead, in order to be a true member of a coven you need
personal experience of the psychic reality. We offer training in the
to own the coven, i.e. be able to take responsibility and contribute.
use of ritual through our workshops and retreats. See our website for updates. WitchesWorkshop.com
9. How much time? This is probably one of the most underestimated areas with group involvement, do you have the time to commit to the coven work and meetings? Any serious coven will expect you to learn material in your own time, as well as taking an active role to attend any regular meetings. Some covens also hold occasional retreats, so find out what the work schedule is likely to be. 10. Parting ways. Getting into a coven is just one side a coin, you need to now how you might also leave the group, or when necessary, take time out? How well both you and the coven handle this will impact on future involvement. 11. How are initiations obtained? A mature coven leadership will have clear guidelines for the obtaining of initiations and advancement in the group. It will not be favouritism, everyone will be treated equally. 12. Whose psychic reality? Are the beliefs held by the coven open
IN THE NEXT ISSUE
to interpretation or rigidly adhered to? Mythology treated as literal
Interview with Maxine Sanders, the co-founder of the modern
is a major problem facing many religions; it also misses the point
Alexandrian Wicca movement. Special interviews with author-
of myth as metaphor and the possiblity of an individual experience
witch Ly De Angeles and Alexandra Tenet.
of the mysteries.
Do It Yourself
NEVER MISS AN ISSUE
13. Finding a place to start. If all else fails, begin a study group.
Never miss an issue. OTHER magazine is collecting stories
You can start simply by using a few good books and putting
about how you started in your pagan and magickal practices.
things into practice. Network with others in the community
If you have an inspiring story to share, please submit your work
and find mentors who’ll be supportive to your goal in getting
a coven established.
12 | OTHER MAGAZINE · MARCH 2018
In this issue: the story of Witches Workshop, Casting the Witch's Circle workshop, Rituals among the Faithful, The Red Path, 13 Things about...
Published on Mar 31, 2018
In this issue: the story of Witches Workshop, Casting the Witch's Circle workshop, Rituals among the Faithful, The Red Path, 13 Things about...