Doreen Valiente - Witch

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Richard Levy of the Centre For Pagan Studies talks to Lora OBrien, Irish Author and Guide to Ireland

RICHARD LEVY BIO: I began my pagan path at a young age but and magic is something I feel was always a part of my life. But with time I learned how to nourish this part of myself. I feel today we are encouraged to ignore these parts of who we are and it is something we re-learn. It is in many ways learning to do what breeze and river and bird do naturally. I studied philosophy and theology at university and whilst I did not have formal training I learned a lot from people I met along my path from Children to adults. Should people want to contact me about the interview they can contact me on:
LORA O'BRIEN BIO: Lora is a traditionally published Author, Teacher, and Guide: native born Irish, with strong personal and professional experience in our history, heritage, archaeology, mythology, & Irish Spirituality. She is a modern Draoí – a practitioner and priest of indigenous Irish magic and spirituality, in the simplest terms. Lora has been consciously following a pagan path for 25 years, and dedicated specifically to the Irish Goddess Mórrígan 14 years ago. She managed one of Ireland's most important sacred sites - Cruachán/Rathcroghan - for a decade, and is a co-founder and legal celebrant, a Reverend, with Pagan Life Rites Ireland.
Today's Interview: Richard Levy, admin on the Centre for Pagan Studies FB Group. When and where did your interest in Pagan/Earth based Spirituality begin? Whilst my vocabulary and intellectual understanding did not go far till I was twelve I would say it was present from my earliest memories. This came through in my interest and love of myths and faerie tales, which I still have. I give talks on this subject and perform storytelling to this day. I talked to everything: trees, toys and animals and loved films that involved magic, witches and wizards. I always wanted to be one. With this I also had psychic experiences, some I interpreted as evil or dangerous which I have learnt as I matured were not. I would see and speak with faerie and other beings and in some ways it held such a common place I didn't realise it was magical though I still wanted magic. How did you practically go about getting started, and what resources did you have available to you eg. books, teaching courses, events, people you met? I wanted to explore all this more and when I was 12, an esoteric shop opened in my local high street. I cant recall how but I had funds for some books and used my local library to take on as many books as I could on magic, paganism and divination. I met some pagans early on but they wore glittery robes and to my mind were more style over substance, this made me keep my distance. As I got older I tried again and found some intelligent, interesting and wonderful people. Additionally I joined a spiritualist circle which allowed me to practice my communication with spirits as well as divination and healing. What does being Pagan mean to you? (or your term of choice, please explain!) Pagan to me today is an umbrella term for those practicing earth based spirituality, often reinvented or restructured, which is good as a religion of the earth should evolve, which a religion of the book tends to struggle with. I am more inclined to use the term witch or magician as my focus is on magical work. To me these are working titles, I am not interested in hierarchical titles or being called adept etc (which I am not) simply I work with various powers and in doing so these terms are titles of that. Some see more in them and that is fine and some romanticise the terms and I am not sure how I feel about that. For me I have simply answered a calling but I still have to clean the kitchen and iron my clothes. To me a Pagan path is essentially, a narrative of the earth, within various traditions are its own nuances. What sort of things do you do on a daily/weekly, monthly or seasonal basis to explore or express your Spirituality? I do daily meditations and simple rituals of stillness. Seasonally I perform basic rituals to bring in the power of the season to flow through myself, home and land. Or I just walk among nature and let myself connect. On Spring Equinox I like to go to Kew Garden for example. I like to walk in my local woods and see how things are growing and how it feels. What advice do you wish someone had given you, that you would like to give people starting out on this path? I realise that magic is in all things. It is in ritual and conversation it is in the kabbalah and the sun, the moon and the rain. It is all around us all the time and in our childhoods. I realised one day I knew more than I realised and that the bible I was raised in (not fundamentally) was full of magic, along with the faerie tales I grew up with. It may seem obvious that faerie tales are full of magic, but getting at the patterns within them and the magical messages took me time. When we mature we think magic isnt faerie tales, we know it as something practical and powerful. In being mature we let go of Childish things, but there is a difference being childish and being childlike and being childlike. Being childlike is a gift. I think mystery is in that we know more than we are aware of and that awareness comes from experience. What is the name of the Facebook Group you admin, and how did you get involved there? (please feel free to provide group details eg. member numbers or general guidelines, and a link to group) The Centre of Pagan Studies has been going on for some time. I got involved last year after reading Philip Heselton's biography of Doreen Valiente. I had been looking to give back to the Pagan community and found Doreen to be an inspiration person who had been involved so decided to offer to help. The Centre for Pagan Studies FB Group is Here. What is the most frustrating thing for you about being involved with that group? I think it can be frustrating to find the right vocabulary. In magic and Paganism we do not really have our own language so we have to work quite philosophically to communicate effectively. I have seen people essentially agree with each other but end up arguing as their words are interpreted differently. Ultimately it is not really a problem just a shame its hard to bypass. What is the most satisfying thing for you about being involved with that group? The fact that we remember those who came before us who made strides for Paganism. We have set up blue plaques for people like Gerald Gardner and Doreen Valiente. Also people involved are very engaged in the subject matter and we discuss often some ancient practices which some people still practice or have come across. We attempt to provide both an educational resource (giving talks for example) and discussing these subject matters keeping it organic and shifting. If you could guarantee that each group member had read AT LEAST one book before joining, what book would that be? I think it would be hard to pin point one book but I would go back to faerie tales. To have read some of the Grimm brothers work and look into the early stories as well as the colour books (The yellow fairy book, red fairy book etc compiled by Andrew Lang). There are some great occult books out there and some bad ones, though I found all of those helped me develop a magical vocabulary. Further to this I would encourage to read history and anthropology as well as classical texts. Anything else youd like to share?! Whilst books are great the essence of magic is doing it and living it. The essence of paganism is in practicing it and living it. Keep it simple and embrace the stories you were told growing up and the cartoons you may have seen (often based on these books). When you have conversations remember language is insufficient to express magic and spirituality. So take care. When I talk to magical practitioners of various traditions if you work to find a common language, we find we have a lot in common. would encourage people to tread lightly and to take their time and to listen. Richard Levy works with the Centre for Pagan Studies and the Doreen Valiente Foundation.

Richard Levy of the Centre For Pagan Studies talks to Lora OBrien, Irish Author and Guide to Ireland

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Interviews with Well known Pagans and Witches Julia Phillips

Julia Phillips at the Rollright Stones
This interview was conducted by Richard Levy for the Centre For Pagan Studies in February 2018

1 – Could you tell us a little about how you got started in Wicca and why you were drawn to it?

I grew up in a haunted house with family members who were both aware of, and interested in, the supernatural. It was therefore no stretch of the imagination for me to accept that there are many things in this universe that are not currently explicable. I love mysteries!
One of my earliest memories though (aged five/six) was of spending time with my grandparents in very rural Ireland. We stayed with a friend of my grandmother’s in a small hamlet. The farmhouse had no gas, no electricity and no running water. It was one of my jobs each morning to carry billy cans to the spring a couple of fields away to fill with water and carry back to the farm. I also learned how to milk cows and make butter, and to cook on an open fire in cast iron cauldrons.
When Lammas came around and all the work in the fields had been finished, a céilí was held at the farmhouse where we were living. The whole community gathered and played, sang and danced into the wee hours. I have a vivid memory of one of the old farmers taking me outside and, while I was seated on his shoulders, he told me that the lights we could see flickering in the distance were the king and queen of the fairies and all their subjects. He said they were also celebrating Lammas and were in a procession on their way back to their home in hills. It was my birthday night (at midnight I reached the grand old age of six!) and his story telling was one of the most magical things I remember.
Like many others of my generation my formal introduction to practical occultism/paganism came through the Society of Psychical Research in Kensington. A friend and I frequently attended lectures and made good use of the extensive library. That led to me studying the tarot and astrology, which in turn led to me being invited to join a coven and be initiated.
Wicca turned out to be a great choice for me because it combines all those things that most appeal to me within one inclusive pathway. It is magical, spiritual, acknowledges the Mystery, and also provides a core directive to focus upon self-development: “keep pure your highest ideal, strive ever towards it, let naught stop you or turn you aside.”

2- Is there anything in The Craft you recall seeing more of when you were younger and you would like to see return?

For Wicca to remain a relevant, vibrant pathway it has to reflect the society in which it exists so whilst I might have a sense of wistful longing for the days when we relied upon personal interaction rather than Facebook groups, it’s not a realistic option for the 21st century. Indeed, my own branch of the family is so far flung that we rely heavily upon a private Facebook group for us all to keep in touch with each other.
The things about Wicca that I have always valued the most remain a part of my community today; Grand Sabbats, sharing ideas with other Wiccans, meeting up socially, knowing I have a wonderful family who are always there for me, no matter what… so for me, there isn’t anything I would like to see return as it never went away.

3 – Who I the Craft would you say influenced you the most?

There isn’t any one person. I have learned from a lot of different people and I continue to learn from them all today. One thing I treasure about my involvement in Wicca is that it has brought me into contact with some amazing, talented, and inspiring people I would never otherwise have met.

4 – Are there any must read books you would always recommend?

I think it’s good practice for people to read widely and then discriminate effectively! There is no replacement for practical experience and personal growth within a coven, but as a lover of books I am always going to encourage people to read. The classics are never going to go our of fashion – Gardner, Valiente, Crowley, Fortune et al. Vivianne Crowley’s books about Wicca are excellent and for an historical perspective, Ronald Hutton.
I have a particular interest in traditional witchcraft and some of the authors I most enjoy are Norman Cohn, Jeffrey Russell, Christina Larner and Owen Davies.
Tarot (my original area of study) is overflowing with books and tarot decks these days. I tend to go back to Wang, Crowley, Nicholls, and Kaplan, but there are many others I enjoy.
I am also a firm believer in the value of fiction. Studying academic (or at least non-fiction) texts is interesting but sometimes it takes a work of fiction to ignite that spark that leads to revelation.

5 – What other traditions influence your practice? / do you work with?

I teach a system of magic that we call Hermetics – it has nothing to do with Wicca or Franz Bardon, but is a system that has its origins in the ancient Hermetic Schools and developed through the philosophy of Paracelsus and the Renaissance practice of the Art of Memory.
I also practise a form of angelic magic based upon Madeline Montalban’s Order of the Morning Star, with my own interpretation of the Book of Enoch.

6 – Do you have a favourite Sabbat and why?

My favourite would be the Hallows, which is the point of the spiral that encourages Wiccans to explore the Sacred Mystery that is hidden from view. The Mystery remains but we can get a glimpse behind the veil and in my experience this will bring new insights, possibly moments of clarity, and even an epiphany.

7 – As time has gone has your approach to magic changed and dos it continue to change?

Gosh, I hope so! I’d be devastated if I thought I was doing the same things in the same way that I did them 40 years ago. I think a quote from Dion Fortune expresses my attitude to this very well:
“There are things I wrote of Spiritualism twenty years ago which, in the light of wider experience, I would not write today, and to cite these as evidence against me is to deny the possibility of human progress.” (Dion Fortune, December 1942)
I do think that the fundamental principles of magic are consistent though; hard work coupled with persistence and an ability to focus. What tools or techniques one uses are pretty much down to personal choice, but those three principles are critical.

8 – What are some of the lessons training others has taught you over the years?

Well, the first thing is I don’t train others in Wicca. Our coven is a group of equals and we all share ideas, knowledge, techniques, information, and so on. I might have a specific skill to pass on, but then another coven sibling will have something different to share, so it all works out.
In Hermetics, however, I do train others and I encourage (indeed, insist on!) respect for every member of the group so that no one ever feels shy or embarrassed about sharing an experience or asking a question. Also, no matter how abstract it may be, the experience or the learning is what that particular person needs at that moment and it should be accepted as such. It can be discussed and dissected but it should never be dismissed just because it might be something a little out of the ordinary.

9 – What general advice would you give a novice?

Rule One – never ignore your intuition. Rule Two – see Rule One.

I cannot count how many times I have read or heard people complain about a bad experience only to finish with, “he/she always felt somehow off to me.” Trust your intuition and if something feels off or wrong, then it is almost certainly something or someone to avoid.
I would also suggest you consider whether you have anything apart from Wicca in common with the other coven members. In our coven we share interests that go way beyond Wicca (theatre, music, good food, wine, books, movies etc.) and in my experience that’s a very sound basis for an effective group.

10 – What is the main kind of work you do now? Are you writing or training or trying to be less busy?

I retired almost a year ago but there is nothing “less busy” about my life! For the past 25 years I’ve been a CEO in (primarily) sport and I had thought life might ease off a little after retirement but that proved to be naïve on my part.
I’m a bit odd within the Wiccan world as my immediate Wiccan family is in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Canada, USA, and one in Malaysia (he was a member of my Melbourne coven but then moved back home to Malaysia after completing his PhD). I am incredibly blessed to be a part of such an amazing, vibrant family and I love visiting – have wand will travel! During April and May I will catch up with family in Melbourne, Sydney, British Columbia, Ontario and Indiana, which is an absolute delight to me.
Other than travelling, my book about the principles of Wicca (Witches of Oz) was published 25 years ago and I’m currently revising it for a third edition. I will also be editing magical diaries from the Hermetic Temple that Rufus Harrington and I ran in London in the 1980s for publication. It’s a fabulous insight into the magical world of some of the most talented magicians I have ever met and I’m looking forward to getting on with it when I get back to England at the end of May.
A few people contacted me about Hermetics recently and I have a couple of workshops in the diary, so that might lead to a regular group.

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Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Goddess Epona -

This Article is about the Gaulish Horse Goddess Epona, written for the Centre For Pagan Studies by Elaine Hindle

The name Epona comes from Iron Age Gaulish.
The word Epos means horse in Gaulish and derives from a proto-Indo- European root
Gaulish: os is the male ending and a being the female ending.
Personal names containing the word horse examples: Epacus, Epasius, Eppia
Tribal names also such the Scottish tribe the Epidii.
The name Epona means, divine mare or she who is like a mare.

Epona was worshipped in Western Europe.
She was the only Goddess to be adopted by the Roman military.
Dedications to her were found on both the Antonine and Hadrians walls.
Although her name is Gaulish, no inscriptions have been found in Gaulish but only in Latin or Greek.
It is likely that the Emperors Horse guards may have been the main unit to spread the Epona dedications throughout the Roman Empire.
Flanked by two horses, Epona is shown sitting on a throne holding a fruit basket on her lap.
But it is unclear whether the same applied regarding the spread of non-military artefacts e.g. sidesaddle Epona.
Depictions of Epona are mainly on bas-relief clay, some bronze and one wood.


The main depiction is of her sitting sideways on a horse, wearing a long dress, gathered under the bust and sometimes a cloak around her head. The horse or mare is usually walking to the right, or standing still. There may be reins. The goddess usually has her hand on the mane, neck or head, or sometimes carries a cornucopia. The other hand holds a patera (serving dish) or basket of fruit.
Sometimes there may also be a foal.


This depiction shows Epona either seated or standing facing forward, with two or four horses on either side of her, eating wheat or apples from her lap.
This imperial type was more common outside Gaul.


Much less common is Epona depicted riding a cart driven by horses or mules; one such has seven horses pulling the cart.
Epona was a protector of horses and was worshipped primarily by those whose work involved horses i.e. the cavalry, dispatch riders, scouts, mule drivers, carters, stable hands and grooms.
She was worshipped in temples by the Romans by praying, making vows, erecting altars, sacrificing animals, incense and wine.
Pipe clay figures of her were also found in the home.
She was also worshipped in the stables and altars and paintings have been found which were decorated with roses. She protected the horses and asses.

The origins of Epona before the Roman Empire are not well know, she may have been a native Gaulish Goddess, or a fusion Goddess created of Gaulish, Germanic and Danubian peoples when they formed the Roman Cavalry. Or perhaps she came from much older deities.