Friends and kin are sharing stories about their Craft history. These are important. As many of the people involved are now dead, I don’t mind naming some of the names, other’s I’ll keep to myself…and some have been public for a long time.
So, despite being raised in a nominally Christian home (Mother was Assembly of God, Dad was Southern Baptist), I somehow wound up a Witch.
I’ve previously written about how the Goddess Diana claimed me as a child (“Now and Always, Mine: A reflection on being a Child of Diana” © 2015 published in Reflections in Diana’s Mirror: A Devotional for the Queen of Heaven Anthology edited by Jonathan Sousa, availble through Amazon and elsewhere).
The story of how Lucifer told me of his fall from Heaven occured around that same time, but that’s a Tail of a Different Nature (which is likely going to be included in an upcoming work, as well as the story of how I met my Great-great-great grandmother, some 40+ years after she died.)
In Ninth Grade, while living in Las Vegas, my best friend was the son of a couple of Alexandrians in the Air Force (what is it about the Military and Wiccans, anyway?). While they wouldn’t teach either of us anything serious about the Craft, they would answer questions, once in a while. While living here, I also was a frequent stop-in-and-browse customer of Bell, Book & Candle, a shop that Sybil Leek was apparently co-owner of, although I never knew that at the time. Mostly, I saw Charmain and Tarotstar, who mainly kept an eye on the teenagers who stopped in – shoplifting was (and sadly, still is) a thing in such establishments, even if I wasn’t one to indulge.
My senior year of High School, living back in the Mojave Desert of California, my new best friend and I met while reaching for the same book in the library … a copy of Paul Christian’s “The History and Practice of Magic.” We bonded almost immediately over the shared interest. Together with a couple of other teenagers, we formed a coven; Danny told us he had belonged to a coven in San Luis Obispo the year before (he and his mather had only recently moved to our town, where she was the new Editor of the local newspaper), and one of the others was “a Satanist” … none of us really knew what we were doing. Paul Huson’s book, Mastering Witchcraft, had just come out, and it formed the basis for a lot of what we did. I’ve often wondered over the decades since, just how many other teenagers got their start with it.
A year later, as a Freshman in college, I had several experiences that made me seek out a Witch. The people I asked about it directed me towards someone else, who declined to answer the question directly, but told me to look in the pages of Fate magazine for contacts. So I did.
There were several advertisements for witchcraft schools, magical orders, and what not. The one that caught my eye was for a group called “Nemeton”, located near San Francisco. I wrote them. A few days later, I received a rely, thanking me for my interest, provided information on joining the organization (which I did), and three names and addresses:
Harold Moss, of the Church of the Eternal Source, an Egyptian group in the Los Angeles area,
Ed Fitch, then located, I think, in Upland, CA, and
George “Pat” Patterson, located in Bakersfield.
I wrote to the first two, and received a reply a month or so later from Harold Moss, but never heard back from Ed. I told him many years later, that had he answered his mail, I might have been a Gardnerian years before that ever happened. We laughed. But, Bakersfield! That was where I was. And it had a telephone number.
I still remember that telephone number, out-of-date area code and all, nearly 50 years later. I called it, and an answering machine responded with “For a free copy of the Truth about Witchcraft, leave your name and address…” I was in the middle of leaving my information, relating how I had received the number, when the line went active and a man’s voice responded. Pat and I spoke for several minutes, and made arrangements to come over for a visit/interview. I biked over (it was maybe 4-5 miles from the college to his home), and we talked some more. He invited me to come over the following Tuesday to meet “the others”.
Yeah, that wasn’t ominous in the least, right?
Six weeks later, I was being initiated into the Georgian Tradition. Two years later, I was a 3rd degree, and my focus was changing, due largely to people I had met through Nemeton and the founding of Covenant of the Goddess, in 1975.
“Lady Gwen Thompson” of the New England Coven of Traditionalist Witches (N.E.C.T.W.) had been an early correspondent of Patterson’s, as were Eddie Buczynski and Lady Seana/Judith McNally (although by the time I knew her she went by Siobhan, instead) of the Welsh Traditionalist Witchcraft aka the Traditionalist Gwyddoniaid. Lady Seana had sent her High Priest out to elevate my then High Priestess to third Degree in the Welsh Tradition, and I was also subsequently elevated using those rites as well. Around this time, I enlisted in the US NAvy, and wrote to Lady Gwen, inquiring if distance study might be an option. Her reply was that no one she knew would teach me while I was in the military, however, “if it is meant to be, a way will appear.” Keep that thought in mind.
Eddie had been a student of Lady Gwen’s, and after leaving, he founded the NY/Brooklyn Welsh Tradition, and there were a lot of similarities between the two branches. These became my primary focus in the Craft, although along the way I also picked up bits and pieces from other people as well – Fred & Martha Adler, Gwydion Pendderwen, Joe Wilson, some people in the San Deigo area, as well as my studies in Tibetan Bon and much later, Shinto. Some pieces blended more fully than others; some pieces remain part of my *personal* practice to this day.
Along the way I’ve had the fortune to meet a number of interesting people from other streams of the Craft, studied with a few of them and declined to do so with others. (“Back in the day”, I used to be able to say that I knew pretty much everyone who was public in the Craft at least by name. Times have changed -=a lot=- since then!) I worked in that general milieu for roughly a decade, into the mid-1980s.
In 1981, following that military enlistment, I met Raven, and made her the Lady of my Life; we’ve been together ever since. In 1984, Raven and I met two Elders from the Tuatha de Danann Tradition.
Murtagh and Gwethalyn were Initiates, originally from the East Coast, but now living in Southern California, from the Tuatha de Danann tradition, a related branch of the N.E.C.T.W. family tree. After months of talk and visits, they agreed to elevate Raven and I to the Third Degree as a way to tie our two lines together, and we were reinitiated/elevated to 3° “by the Old Rites” — meaning those of the N.E.C.T.W. itself. With that event, we began a process that eventually resulted in the both of us being brought formally into the N.E.C.T.W., and around 1991 or 92, we flew to New York to visit with Gwion from the New York Welsh Tradition and Theitic of N.E.C.T.W.. There we spent an enjoyable weekend doing ritual, discussion, and shopping. The following year Theitic flew out to Seattle and spent a weekend talking with us, culminating in our being elevated to High Priestess and High Priest in N.E.C.T.W.
The years pass, visits happen. Covens grow, die, hive and rebirth.
Over the years, some things became more pressing for me — my need to transition from male to female, something I have struggled with since early childhood.
Discussions happen, more years pass. In 2013, I transitioned, finally.
In September 2019, Raven and I traveled to Rhode Island, where our Tradition is centered. I entered into Circle, I recalled those words from Lady Gwynne so many years ago, and came home again, and was made a High Priestess, in the presence of N.E.C.T.W. Elders, Priests and Priestesses each.
As the Grateful Dead put it:
Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me;
Other times I can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been.
And along the way, I have been initiated into the Gardnerian and the N.R.O.O.G.D Traditions, among others.
My personal practice is generally based around that of the N.E.C.T.W. with elements that I have adopted from some of those other people; however, our Coven Practice is strictly that of the N.E.C.T.W.