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Article Specs

VxAcct: 208598

Article ID: 7737

Section: trads

Age Group: Adult

Posted: December 20th. 2003

Views: 54313

The Feri Tradition: Vicia Line

by Corvia Blackthorn

[WVox Sponsor]

Feri is an initiatory tradition of Witchcraft emphasizing "the more natural and wild forms of human magic and sorcery."[1] It contains a multiplicity of lineages or "lines, " all ultimately tracing back to Victor and Cora Anderson. The tradition's name has been spelled in a variety of ways. Early initiates used Fairy, Faery, or Faerie. Victor Anderson later changed the spelling to Feri. This was done to distinguish our tradition from others using similar terms. The change was not universally adopted, however, and some lines still use the earlier spellings.

Feri is an oral tradition with no canonical book of liturgy or lore. It also values creativity and individual exploration. This has naturally led to variations between the practices of different lines. The following article provides an outline of Feri as it is known and practiced in the Vicia line. In Vicia (pronounced vee-chee-ah) , we work with a body of lore and techniques passed from the Andersons to their personal initiates and covenmates. According to the Andersons, Vicia was also a very early name for the tradition. Vicia students are trained in person using the apprenticeship model. We do not charge money for training, and Vicia is not taught publicly.

Origins

The historical origin of Feri has long been debated, and it's doubtful a single account will ever be accepted by all. Most can agree, however, that the first known modern teachers of the Feri Tradition were Victor and Cora Anderson.

Victor Anderson sometimes referred to Feri as a devotional science. According to him, it was first practiced by a small dark-skinned people who came out of Africa tens of thousands of years ago. These were the original "Fairy Folk" or "Little People, " and they turn up under different names in the legends of many cultures (the Menehune of the Hawaiian islands are one example) . Victor linked these small dark people to the Picts of Scotland, and occasionally referred to the tradition he taught as "the Pictish tradition."[2] The Fairies were said to be strongly psychic and highly skilled in the magical arts. Victor considered himself a direct descendent of these small dark people and used to say, "I was not converted, I am kin to the Fairy race!" Because the Fairy Folk traveled so widely and lived so long ago, traces of Feri are found all around the world. (Some Feri Witches see this as a poetic explanation; others see it as literally true.)

The terminology can be a bit confusing because "Fairy" also refers to certain nature spirits and inhabitants of the etheric region. According to the Andersons, the small dark humans known as Fairies had a particularly close relationship to these spirit beings.[3] Victor said he considered Fairy/Feri a good name for the tradition because it included nature spirits, gods, and the ancestral race of small humans.

Modern History

Victor Henry Anderson was a gifted Craft priest, shaman, and poet. He was born in Clayton, New Mexico, on May 21, 1917. An accident in early childhood left Victor legally blind. He was, however, highly skilled in etheric sight and could clearly see auras and other etheric phenomena. Victor had a beautiful speaking and singing voice, some recordings of which still exist. He also played the accordion professionally.

Victor told of being initiated as a Witch in 1926 by a woman "of the Fairy race." An account of this event can be found in Margot Adler's classic book on neo-Paganism, Drawing Down the Moon. Not long afterward, Victor was introduced to Harpy Coven, a pre-Gardnerian group practicing Witchcraft in southern Oregon. The Harpy coveners recognized Victor's youthful talents and included him in their rituals. This coven disbanded around the beginning of World War II. Feri lore has preserved something of their names and professions, but the information is not public. As a teen, Victor was also brought into Vodou by a group of Haitians who were working in southern Oregon. Victor had many teachers throughout his life, and his memory was phenomenal. Like the bards of old, he possessed a vast store of memorized lore, poetry, spells, and songs.

Poetry was always an important part of Victor's life and his Craft. In 1970, he published Thorns of the Blood Rose, a collection of poetry he'd spent twenty-five years perfecting. As Victor remarked, "Every poem is a love letter to the Goddess." Before his death in 2001, Victor selected another set of poems for publication. These appeared in the 2005 volume, Lilith's Garden.

Cora Anderson was born Cora Ann Cremeans in Nyota, Alabama, on January 26, 1915. Her grandfather was a "root doctor" (herb doctor) who was also known as a "Druid." He'd been an herbal healer in Ireland before coming to the United States. Once here, he studied with Native Americans to learn the uses of the local plants. He cured Cora of a serious illness in her youth, and his medicinal and magical knowledge was passed down to her. The Cremeans family observed some interesting folkways, apparently Irish in origin. Cora also treasured the Gypsy lineage she traced back to her maternal grandmother.

Cora was a natural psychic and an authentic kitchen Witch. She worked for years as a hospital cook and would often infuse healing energy into the patients' food. She submitted cooking recipes to several well-known magazines during her life, and quite a few were published. Cora was also an author and a poet, whose writing frequently addressed themes of everyday life. Victor referred to Cora's verse as "Brushwood poetry." In honor of their fiftieth wedding anniversary in 1994, Cora wrote and published Fifty Years in the Feri Tradition. This book remains the definitive written work on Feri thealogy and thought.

Cora and Victor were introduced to each other in Bend, Oregon. Both immediately felt a sense of recognition. They soon realized that their previous acquaintance had been on the astral plane, where they'd traveled together and made love many times. They were married three days later on May 3, 1944. The newlyweds compared notes and found they'd both grown up in families with magical lore. One of the first things they did together was to build an altar. In 1945, their son Elon was born. His name was given to Cora in a dream and means "Oak" in Hebrew.

In 1948, the young family moved to Niles, California. They eventually purchased a home and settled for good in nearby San Leandro. In the mid-1950s, Victor and Cora read Gerald Gardner's Witchcraft Today with interest. It seemed that Witchcraft was becoming more public. Victor was encouraged by Leo Martello and several Witches from Italy to establish the Craft in California. The result was an early Anderson coven known as Mahealani, which is Hawaiian for "full moon."

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Andersons initiated several people. One was Gwydion Pendderwen (Tom DeLong) , a young man who was a friend of their son. Gwydion went on to become a major contributor to the developing direction of the tradition. He wrote Craft songs and poetry, and co-wrote rituals with Victor. Much was added to the existing practices of the Andersons at this time, including some of the Welsh lore that Gwydion so loved. There are some initiates, particularly those of Gwydion's lineage, who consider him a co-founder of the Feri Tradition.

In the early 1970s, the Andersons formed a new coven with Gwydion and Gwydion's initiate, Alison Harlow. When Gwydion married, his wife also joined the coven. Much of Gwydion's beautiful liturgical poetry was written around this time. The group stopped circling together in 1974, and most of the members went their separate ways. Gwydion continued to teach and initiate Witches. He also began teaching something he called "Faery Shamanism."

The Andersons were initiating new students as well. One of these was Starhawk. Her best-selling book, The Spiral Dance, was influenced by Feri Witchcraft and popularized such Feri concepts as the Iron and Pearl Pentagrams and the Three Selves. Another of these initiates was Gabriel Carillo (Caradoc ap Cador) . Gabriel began developing a systematized body of written teaching materials in the late 1970s. Using these materials, he started teaching "Faery" in a paid class setting in the early 1980s. This was a controversial step. What the Andersons taught was a personalized oral tradition, and they didn't charge money for Craft training. Gabriel's lineage came to be known as Bloodrose. Gabriel continued to expand and develop his materials over the following decades, teaching internationally and via the internet. Because of Gabriel's public accessibility, the majority of people now involved in Feri are related to Bloodrose in one way or another.

All told, the Andersons initiated some twenty-five to thirty people over a span of forty or so years. The Andersons' teaching method was very informal. There were no classes in an academic sense, only conversations and the occasional ritual, usually followed by a home-cooked meal. Discussions with Victor were non-linear and overflowing with information. Someone once aptly remarked that talking to Victor was like to trying to drink from a fire hose. Often the connecting threads and underlying patterns in the information didn't become apparent until later on. There was also a non-verbal component to Victor's teaching. He was a true shaman, and had the ability to shift the consciousness of his students on a level well below the surface of conversation.

Victor was knowledgeable about many subjects and spoke several languages. He was particularly interested in physics, astronomy, biology, chemistry, religion, anthropology, alchemy, and the occult. To Victor, these were neither contradictory nor unrelated fields of study. They were instead different sources of information about the same reality. Victor often referred to Witchcraft as a science, and he meant it literally. He taught that one should perceive first and then decide scientifically what to believe. Cora referred to him as "an Einstein of the occult, " and there are many who would agree.

Cora's teaching style was quieter, and she didn't mind that Victor usually had the limelight. She was very down to earth, straightforward, and practical in her Craft. Like Victor, there was no schism in her world between the magical and the mundane. Cora's athame was a small kitchen knife that she frequently employed while cooking. Cora was once asked by a curious visitor if she didn't mind having to reconsecrate her blade after using it to prepare a meal. She replied that she wasn't desecrating the knife, she was blessing the food!

Cora sometimes referred to herself as a simple hill Witch, but under that simplicity lay a profound understanding of both life and the Craft. One of the Andersons' early initiates put it very well when he wrote: "...the grassroots, hands-on approach of Craft truths that many of our hill people possess has not only preserved a more distinct honest direction to the older wisdom, but also contains within their oral tradition a basically unspoiled core." [4]

Core Beliefs

One very important belief in Vicia concerns the structure of the human being. We are taught that all humans have a four-fold nature: a physical body and a triune soul. In Vicia, the three spirits of the soul are sometimes referred to as Fetch, Talker, and Godself. [5] These three correspond in many ways to concepts found in Huna, a metaphysical system based on Hawaiian lore. [6]

Comprehending and working with our four-fold nature is essential to Vicia practice and magic. Extending our awareness to previously unperceived realities is also important. Vicia teaches us in detail about the different parts of our selves, and also about the different realms of perception. The Vicia worldview is fundamentally holistic, however. The ultimate goal is to work with all of these elements in a very natural and integrated way.

Another important belief in Vicia is that the gods are actual beings, not psychological constructs or inspirational ideas. Some lines of Feri focus on a pantheon of seven deities. However, in Vicia we "don't have a set pantheon, but we do deal with groups of gods. It depends on whom we need to deal with. We deal with the gods of the trees, the gods of the rivers, the gods of the rocks, our own personal god." [7]

In Vicia, we're all seen as part of a single family of evolving consciousness. There's a well-known quote from Victor and Cora that states, "God is self and self is God, and God is a person like myself." [8] In Vicia, our ultimate destiny is seen to be joining the company of the gods. This work is usually accomplished over the course of many lifetimes. Possession is sometimes practiced in Feri as a method for communing with deities. In Vicia, however, the emphasis is placed on training for self-possession. In other words, for union with one's own Godself.

The primordial deity in Vicia is a Trinity consisting of the Star Goddess and the Twins. The Star Goddess brought forth the Twins solely because She desired them. They are her son, lover, and other half. As Cora wrote, "Our Goddess is God Herself. Not only does She have a sex, but She is sex, both male and female." [9] According to Victor, "[T]o think of the Star Goddess as just the chief head of the Feri Pantheon is not right....God was first worshipped as the Mother and the dual Father/Son in one. Just like you have the proton in the center of the hydrogen atom and the electron going around it. It's just as simple as that." [10]

The Twins are not strictly male, as all gods contain both male and female within themselves. Victor taught, "Mere gender, as we think of it here, is always so restrictive. What gives rise to what we call gender, what feminine means and what masculine really means, is like we hear sounds in music or see colors in the spectrum." [11] The Twins may be encountered as a male/male pair, a male/female pair, or a female/female pair. The Twins can also combine as a single god (as two candle flames may be brought together to form a single flame) . Feri is quite unashamedly sexual, and all of the various pairings are seen as sexually active.

This fluid approach to gender, sexuality, and deity is one of the main characteristics of our tradition. Vicia is very open to different sexual orientations, and sexual magic is not confined to the heterosexual model. Sex is quite literally sacred. It is the wellspring of our creation. The universe itself is said to have been born of the Star Goddess' orgasm. [12]

Some of the core principles of Vicia are embodied in the Decagram, which is a combined expression of the Iron and Pearl Pentagrams. [13] The points of this ten-pointed star represent: Love, Wisdom, Knowledge, Law, Liberty, Sex, Self, Passion, Pride, and Power. Balance is sought in each point and between all of the points. A person who has achieved this balance is said to be "on their points."

Anyone who begins to study Vicia will soon realize that it can include elements from quite a few places and times. This is not random eclecticism, but rather the acknowledgement of an underlying perception of reality believed to be woven through all human cultures. The Star Goddess is truly She of Ten Thousand Names. She is known as Isis in Egypt, Mawu in west Africa, Kali in India, and Cerridwen in Wales. She may be encountered as a young girl, a mature woman, or an ancient and wise crone. The Twins appear in an equally varied number of forms. There's also a strand of Luciferianism in Vicia. As in Leland's Aradia: Gospel of the Witches, Lucifer is seen as the bright and shining consort of the Goddess.

Polynesian lore and magic is woven through Vicia, as is Vodou. Other strands include Kabbalah, Gaelic lore, European and American folk magic, as well as Native American concepts. Victor's personal heritage was diverse, and included Scottish, Spanish, and Native American ancestry (among others) . As Cora phrased it in Fifty Years in the Feri Tradition, Victor was "a regular League of Nations." Starhawk once said that Victor, "was allied spiritually with all the indigenous traditions of the planet; a true shaman. [14] Victor honored all his ancestral ties and teachers. Victor also encouraged his students to explore their own cultural roots and the magical lore of their personal heritages, as "a Witch's power is in their blood." [15] This is not a hard-and-fast rule however. Each person is an individual, and each person's pathway into the mysteries is unique.

Ethics and Standards of Conduct

The Andersons taught their students to develop "an impeccable inner spirituality, which is the foundation of the Feri Tradition." [16] We work to be in right relationship with the gods and with our fellow humans. We are expected to help our brothers and sisters in the Craft when they are in need. We are also expected not to "coddle weakness" in ourselves or in others. Victor spoke of the need to balance this concept with compassion for human frailty, and we do. At all times, we're encouraged to have a high regard both for ourselves and for others. We're not blind to the presence of evil, however. Martial magic is seen as a legitimate means of defending our selves and our communities. Vicia is not considered an easy or safe path to follow, but as Victor said many times, "Everything worthwhile is dangerous."

There's no corollary to the Wiccan Rede in Vicia. [17] Instead, there's a focus on honor and Kala. Kala is a word from Hawaiian, meaning "the light, luminescence, pure, bright." In Hawaiian, it also carries the meanings "to loosen, untie, free; to forgive." Cora Anderson wrote, "Keeping oneself Kala is extremely important in every activity of life....It means to keep oneself clean and bright and free from complexes within and without."[18] Complexes may be thought of as energy knotted up by guilt, shame, past trauma, or by deeply buried limiting beliefs. Keeping oneself Kala ensures an open flow of communication and energy between all three spirits of the soul. This is the ideal state from which to work magic.

Sexual ethics are also very important in Vicia. Victor taught that "we are a sex positive tradition, but you must know the heart of the one you approach. No one must ever be approached with force or poor intent." [19] Sexuality is not treated lightly nor is it seen as a game. We honor the commitments we make to each other as lovers or spouses. A state of sexual purity is sought, akin to the innocent sexuality of childhood. This state is known as the Black Heart of Innocence.

Organizational Structure and Role of Clergy

Feri doesn't have a set organizational structure. Covens exist, but so do solitary practitioners and loosely affiliated groups. The Vicia line generally favors covens and monogamous couples, though other arrangements are certainly possible. What structures do exist are usually non-hierarchical, and there's no separate clergy. On the other hand, Vicia does honor its elders and those who have mastered particular skills.

Vicia has a single initiation, and we have no degree system. Initiation comes relatively early in training and is seen as the beginning of the journey. There is no "self-initiation" into the tradition, although it's possible to practice some aspects of Vicia as a non-initiate. Initiation is seen as something numinous and irrevocable. It's not something to be entered into lightly.

At initiation, we are formally joined to the Goddess, the dual Consort, and the Gods. We also receive a passing of Power, known by some as the "current." All initiates have equal rights in Vicia. While a new initiate could technically begin initiating others right away, this is generally discouraged. New initiates are expected to deepen their knowledge before passing on what they've learned. As Cora wrote, "Initiation does not make you a full-blown highly trained Witch." [20]

Ways of Worship

Vicia is a way of life, a worldview. Worship may therefore be inherent in any and every action. Writing a poem or story, making love, singing, tending a garden, cooking a meal, creating art; all these and more may be seen as acts of reverence. More formal worship may be found in lunar and seasonal rituals, rites in honor of particular gods or spirits, or in various daily practices devoted to one's Godself , the Gods, or the Ancestors.

Vicia Witches celebrate the same eight great Sabbats as Wiccans, and usually in somewhat similar ways. At Beltane we might raise a Maypole, and at Samhain commune with our dead. We also observe lunar rites, along with more tradition-specific holidays.

Cora Anderson writes, "Only the ignorant insist that all our rituals are handed down verbatim from Witch to Witch. Just as the poet and musician can create great work through inspiration so we of the Old Religion can make new rituals and services to our Gods. This religion is not a dead fossil, but a living growing human experience." [21]

Author's Note: Any article such as this one can only provide a "Talker" sort of insight into Vicia. This is a bit like pointing out the tip of an iceberg bobbing above the waves. Vicia is a mystery tradition, which means it cannot be understood through words alone. Its deeper riches can only be reached through direct experience.

Copyright © 2003, 2009 Corvia Blackthorn

Images used above: 1) Victor Anderson with crystal ball, copyright © 1974 Susan Lohwasser; 2) Victor holding an ankh, copyright © 2010, Victor E. Anderson; 3) Victor and Cora as newlyweds, copyright © 2010, Victor E. Anderson.

REFERENCES

Print:

* Fifty Years in the Feri Tradition by Cora Anderson. The definitive text on the Andersons' Feri Tradition.

* Etheric Anatomy: The Three Selves and Astral Travel by Victor H. Anderson, with additional material from Cora Anderson.

* Thorns of the Blood Rose by Victor H. Anderson. His classic book of poetry.

* Lilith's Garden by Victor H. Anderson. The further poetry of Victor Anderson.

* By Witch Eye: Selections from the Feri Uprising, Vol.1 edited by Storm Faerywolf. Contains some interviews with Victor Anderson that are otherwise out of print, as well as writings from a variety of Feri lines.

* People of the Earth: The New Pagans Speak Out edited by Ellen Evert Hopman. Contains an interview with Victor conducted by Ellen Hopman.

* Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler. Contains an interview with Victor Anderson and an account of his initiation.

* The White Wand by Anaar. An exploration of the intersection of Feri and the Arts.

* The Spiral Dance by Starhawk. Contains some concepts from Feri, and related exercises, and meditations.

Internet Sources for the Andersons' Books:

* Carnivalia

* The White Wand

* Amazon

* Barnes & Noble

Other Links:

* Victor's memorial at Witchvox

* Cora's memorial at Witchvox

* Lilith's Lantern

Corvia Blackthorn

Bio: Corvia Blackthorn has studied the Craft in various forms for over thirty years, and has been an initiate of Vicia since 2002. She first met the Andersons in 1997 through her teachers and initiators, Kalessin and Jim Schutte (she was then using the name Phoenix Willow) . Kalessin (aka SoulFire) and Jim were initiated by the Andersons in 1996 and studied with Victor and Cora on a regular basis for many years. They were also members of the Andersons' final coven. The author wishes to thank them both for their ongoing wisdom, generosity, and constructive criticism. Corvia currently lives in southern Oregon.




[1] Victor Anderson, as quoted in Cora Anderson's book, Fifty Years in the Feri Tradition.

[2] "Some Pictish Views on the Old Religion, " Victor H. Anderson, Gnostica, November, 1974.

[3] See Fifty Years in the Feri Tradition for more on the subject.

[4] Dennis Strand, writing in the Foreword to Fifty Years in the Feri Tradition.

[5] For more information, see <http://www.lilithslantern.com/exercises.htm>.

[6] Huna was originally popularized in the writings of Max Freedom Long in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Victor knew Max Freedom Long, and was a member of his Huna Research organization. Victor had native Hawaiian teachers in his youth, and he spoke Hawaiian fluently. Victor agreed with much of Huna, although he felt Long had gotten some things wrong.

[7] Victor Anderson in Witch Eye #3, August 2000.

[8] Fifty Years in the Feri Tradition.

[9] Fifty Years in the Feri Tradition.

[10] Victor Anderson in Witch Eye #3, August 2000.

[11] Victor Anderson in Witch Eye #3, August 2000.

[12] Victor Anderson in Witch Eye #2, April 2000.

[13] Some information on the Iron and Pearl Pentagrams consistent with Victor and Cora's teaching may be found Starhawk's book, The Spiral Dance.

[14] Writing at Victor's memorial at Witchvox.

[15] Oral teaching from Victor Anderson, via Kalessin.

[16] Dennis Strand, writing in the Foreword to Fifty Years in the Feri Tradition.

[17] See <http://www.witchvox.com/basics/rede.html>.

[18] Fifty Years in the Feri Tradition.

[19] From a talk given by Victor in 2001.

[20] Fifty Years in the Feri Tradition.

[21] Fifty Years in the Feri Tradition.







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