Interview: Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone Pt. II|
Author: Caroline Kenner [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: June 21st. 2004
Times Viewed: 12,147
Webnote: if you missed Part I of this interview... Click HERE.
You have retained a three-degree system of initiation in your coven. Please tell us more. How much emphasis do you put on life experience in training a Witch?
The retention of the Third Degree system was not done in a dogmatic fashion. We had challenged its use. We amended our system to a one level initiation at one point with a dedication rite preceding and an eldership at a later date. Well, they just got referred to "First", "Second", and "Third" anyway and we ended up with a dedication ceremony preceding all of these resulting a four level system. This also meant we could incorporate a system of training related to the four elements of Earth, Water, Fire and Air. We have also toyed with the idea of a seven level system because of our emphasis on Chakras and a seven-world cosmology, but we aren't ready, as yet, to give up what we are already comfortable with.
For us the Degree System is really just a tool for training, everyone needs things to strive towards, what the psychologist Maslow referred to as his "Triangle of Needs". Why shouldn't we experiment with the Degree System? Its origins aren't in Witchcraft but from the alliance between Aleister Crowley and Gerald Gardner. If the forefathers of modern Witchcraft experimented why can't we? For us it is the training, which is more important than any initiation into a tradition, and that can be training in a group or as a solitary, but we put the emphasis on knowledge gained by experience rather than by intellectual knowledge. For this reason we put two experiential training tools, The Wiccan Cosmology and the use of chakras as a basis for magickal training in the book. Anyone can gain intellectual knowledge from a book, but it is experiential knowledge, which brings you face to face with the Mysteries and gives you wisdom, which is the more important.
As Witches we do not separate our spirituality from our everyday lives, so the knowledge we gain everyday must be as important as that we gain when we study the occult in circle. This is something that has not been emphasised enough. There are some who will always find it easier to understand the mysteries for this reason, a good example being nurses, doctors and others in the medical profession as they deal with the mysteries of life and death everyday. There was a time when our ancestors dealt with life and death everyday of their lives. Now, in modern society, we are distanced from such things.
include('words/words_2004/jgusa04.inc'); ?>How do you see Witchcraft being passed on in the future? Will there always be covens or will there be more worship circles led by priests and priestesses? Will there always be the goal of a universal priesthood within Witchcraft, or will there be people content to be congregants?
All of the above! They all have a place. This is all part of the diversity we are talking about. Our personal view (which could be wrong) is that we will see some larger organisations de-centralise, becoming confederations of covens, groves and worship groups etc. We are beginning to see this already. Successful communities are not made up of individuals, but of families, which are made up of individuals. What we have seen is covens acting as community focal points; in fact we have just come back from an event in London, The Beltane Bash where we have seen such a situation at work. We have also seen the same in the states, where covens organise Pagan events for there local community, acting as a hub. The advantage to this, is that there is a tight "family" at the centre whose values pervade into the community.
The biggest danger we face is the lure of "the big buck" in the equation. We are going to have to be wary of those who set up "Pagan organisations" purely for financial gain. The give away to who they are will be that they will refuse to be accountable to their "members" and will have no democratic representative structure. These are not Pagan organisations but companies with no community or spiritual goals. It is in there interest of such groups to encourage competition rather than unity, which causes discord in the community, so it likely that they will refuse to have anything to do with other Pagan organisations.
Regarding the idea of a "Universal Priesthood"; we do believe that by nature, Witchcraft is a Priesthood; the moment someone does the simplest spell for someone, they are acting as a "Priestess" or "Priest", helping them connect with the divine. Saying that we would also believe strongly that it is the role of the Witch to teach others to do this same connection. Witches are the teachers of spiritual connection, not the sole owners.
How do you work as a writing team? Do you agree completely on everything you write? When did Gavin join the writing team of Janet and Stewart? How has Stewart influenced Gavin's writing?
First of all, we miss Stewart! There have been some quite unkind comments regarding us "riding on his back". We are well aware that neither of us will ever have the same skills he had as a writer - he is from a dying generation of Pagan writers which will probably never be replaced. Our development as a team really started when Gavin moved to Ireland. He was fresh blood, and Stewart knew that he would give a fresh perspective to what he was working on at the time, which of course was The Pagan Path. He taught Gavin how to write; in fact he insisted he write to earn his keep! Gavin has always insisted that he is a researcher rather than a writer, being well aware that he has a poor word-hoard and grammatical skills. He had never really considered the possibility of writing before coming to Ireland.
Stewart headed up as team leader for The Pagan Path, with Janet and Gavin doing the research. The Healing Craft, the next book after this was, being a nurse, really Gavin's baby and he acted as team leader for this with Janet's knowledge of herbalism and ritual, and Stewart's editorial skills coming into play. After Stewart's death we were not sure if we would write again. We were very reliant on Stewart's writing and editorial skills, but one day Gavin got inspired by his muse and started tapping away!
The most important thing Stewart had ever taught us was "write about what you know" - As a team, Gavin is principally the one who taps it in, with Janet researching. In this respect it's really no different to the way Janet and Stewart worked before Gavin came along. The main difference is that Janet cross checks the work, while adding her own research. Generally we do agree on everything we write, although we do have the odd disagreement but we generally turn this into something productive.
Tell us more about Stewart. Many of us admired him greatly and were honored to meet him on your last visit to Maryland. He is much missed.
We think that one of the sad things will be that a whole generation will grow up in Paganism not knowing him. There is little doubt that he was a visionary, and he maintained a positive view of the world even in to his 80's. As early as the late 1970s he was predicting in his novels the environmental changes that we see today, and the growth of a Neo-Pagan movement. He strongly believed in the idea of "The Global Village"; that the world was becoming a smaller place due to such scientific creations such as the Internet and would ultimately become one community. He realised the Internet's potential very early regarding the benefits it would bring to communication both within the wider and the Pagan world.
If you take into account the length of Stewart's life, which was from 1916 to 2000, it amazes us still to think that he saw flight develop from wooden and daub bi-planes to the space shuttle. He fought in World War 2, and was one of the first to enter the death camps. He travelled the world as a journalist and worked with some of the greatest names of his generation. He even wrote a play with the poet laureate Sir John Betjamin. He managed to cram more into his lifetime more than most of us ever could!
What are the biggest changes in the Wiccan or Pagan community that you have seen over the past twenty years? What do you think our biggest challenges are as we move into this century?
I think the biggest change we have seen has to have been the creation of communities, as well as the striving for legal recognition. Also the popping up of new "Traditions" resulting in more of the diversity we have talked about. We also now have a multi-generational community with a younger generation who have very different origins from many of us "old timers". This younger generation was attracted to Paganism by popular culture such as TV shows and films etc. as opposed to our generation who were a bunch of politically active rebels! This has resulted in many of us "oldies" becoming quite dismissive of the younger, which is a shame as this new generation has much to contribute and should not be dismissed as "fluffy bunnies" -- a term we detest by the way! This generation is one of the first which is truly Pagan; many have been brought up within Pagan families or in multi-denominational communities and do not carry the same monotheistic baggage that many of us have had to learn to cast off. We think this will result in one of the biggest challenges for neo-Paganism and particularly Wicca, as the older generation strive to maintain the integrity of the philosophy and beliefs that have developed over the years, while the new generation attempt to incorporate new ideas which may be at odds with the old established doctrines.
Are you working on another book yet, now that Progressive Witchcraft is launched? What can we look forward to from you?
We are looking at several potential new books, and there are clues to some of the potential subjects in this interview. Over the last few year our work had been towards teaching and lecturing with small groups in Europe, the United States, Australian and New Zealand; the Inner Mysteries Intensives. It is from these workshops that Progressive Witchcraft evolved, as well as from our own coven. Our focus in these had been on energy work, but as they began to develop the emphasis shifted to trance as the gods hijacked them for their own purposes so to speak! In future we will be focusing on this, particularly trance-prophesy as an aspect of neo-Paganism and Wicca and will probably be developing a series of workshops to explore these areas. You never know what might develop from these!
Thank you, Janet and Gavin, for your fascinating insight into the past, present and future of Witchcraft. We salute your Goddess Freya and thank Her for inspiring you. Safe journeys to you during your travels.
Biography of Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone
Janet Farrar, a native Londoner, was initiated into the Alexandrian Tradition of Witchcraft by Alex and Maxine Sanders in 1970. She met her husband Stewart Farrar, a journalist, in Alex Sanders' coven, and they married in 1972. Together, Janet and Stewart wrote some of the most influential books in the Pagan movement. Janet and Stewart moved to the Republic of Ireland in 1976, where they continued their writing and research into Witchcraft and explored methods of magical training. In 1989, Janet and Stewart met Gavin Bone, an initiate of Seax-Wicca, a registered nurse, spiritual healer and reflexologist. Born in Portsmouth, England, Gavin is fascinated with the theory that Wicca's roots are in tribal shamanistic healing traditions rather than medieval ritual magic and their related secret societies. He has studied shamanism in a Northern European context, with particular focus on the Runes. Gavin moved to Ireland to join Janet and Stewart in 1992. Janet, Stewart and Gavin co-authored three books together before Stewart passed into the Summerland in 2000. Janet and Gavin are honorary members of the Strega tradition and hold third degree ordination in the Aquarian Tabernacle Church. Their new book, Progressive Witchcraft, is their most radical book to date, emphasizing the non-dogmatic creativity of Wicca. Progressive Witchcraft continues their profound influence on the cutting edge of Pagan philosophy and practice.
Their upcoming U.S.A. tour has them arriving the 26th and 27th of June in Denver at the New Age Trade Show. From there, they will travel to the West Coast in July to teach in Loomis and Oakland, California (July 9th, 10th and 11th.) After that, they will fly to the East Coast, teaching at the Chesapeake Pagan Community Summer Convention and Gathering in northeastern Maryland from July 16th to the 21st. They also have many bookstore appearances, in California, New York City, Connecticut and Maryland. (See the sidebar for full details.)
Farrar and Bone Bibiliography:
Janet and Stewart Farrar:
Eight Sabbats For Witches
The Witches' Way
The Witches' Goddess
The Witches' God
Spells and How They Work
Life and Times of a Modern Witch
Janet Farrar and Virginia Russel:
The Magical History of the Horse
Janet and Stewart Farrar and Gavin Bone:
The Pagan Path
The Healing Craft
The Dictionary of European Gods and Goddesses
Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone:
Article ID: 8508
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 5,051
Times Read: 12,147
Location: Silver Spring, Maryland
Author's Profile: To learn more about Caroline Kenner - Click HERE
Bio: Caroline Kenner is a Pagan Witch and shamanic healer living in Silver Spring, Maryland. She is a graduate of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies Three Year Program in shamanism and shamanic healing. Find out more about Caroline at www.mythkenner.com.
Photo by Bluebell (Email: email@example.com) and features (left to right) Feargal, Janet and Sylvia and Gavin
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