At the feet of the Maid: An Interview with Shani Oates, Maid of the Clan of Tubal Cain
Friday, 23 December 2011
At the feet of the Maid: An Interview with Shani Oates, Maid of the Clan of Tubal Cain
Shani, before joining Clan Tubal Cain, you were a member of a Gardnerian Wiccan coven. Could you please tell us how you came to enter the Gardnerian Craft, and how you journeyed from that into Traditional Witchcraft, becoming the Maid of The Clan?
I am pleased that you asked, as I have not yet had the opportunity to explain this aspect of my spiritual argosy. After a lifetime dedicated to folk magic practices, eclectic occultisms and tentative exploration of various metaphysical orders, I emerged from my solitary working status in 1996 acting on a guiding impulse to seek contact with other Craft practitioners.
After reading a remarkable article by Evan John Jones that set my head afire, I composed a letter stating my appreciation to the editor of The Cauldron.
Unbeknownst to myself at that time, this letter was passed on to John, initiating our seven year friendship and professional relationship that lasted until his death in 2003.
During the two years between 96 and 98, I continued to meet many souls from all streams and lineages, all with something interesting to offer. I also made several profound friendships, and it was for them I accepted the invitation to explore Gardnerian Wicca through their HPS, even though I made it perfectly clear that it was not a vocation for me, and that my heart resided firmly in the Call of the Horned Piper and the Path of One.
This course of action ran parallel to my true path, my true calling and then, eventually, in 1998, after two years of close and continued correspondence with Evan John. Jones, I was both delighted and astonished when John invited me to his home in Brighton, whereupon he urgently announced his intention to appoint me as Maid, successor de facto as the one to head the Clan of Tubal Cain.
He desired actuation immediately, and so I returned a month later in September to undertake completion via the necessary rites. He was totally unperturbed by my two year advancement within Wicca, being of the opinion that it mattered little and interfered not a jot! In fact he seemed rather pleased that I had done something with my time, getting to know other good folk, the dynamics of group work and the politics of the Craft. Both things he considered vital for the task ahead of me. He then instructed me to appoint an acting Magister, whence he began mentoring us closely. Under his exacting tutelage, we were gifted immeasurable insights, skills and knowledge regarding far more than the Clan. At the end of the first year, he stepped down, his duty done, ceremoniously handing over his office, all Clan Regalia (as unequivocal symbols of authority), the Inner rites and key information regarding the Clan’s history etc. Traditionally, these things are given only to the assigned heirs whose public pronouncement determines their legitimacy. Only then did I feel the full weight of the sole mantle, its import and its responsibilities.
Traditional Witchcraft (at least Clan Tubal Cain) doesn’t fall under the umbrella of Neo-Paganism. Could you tell us something of the difference between Wicca and Traditional Witchcraft?
This is a fundamental question you have raised, which although covered in my book, is important enough to be discussed further, where ever possible in fact. Due to its import and intrinsic significance, it is one that may crop up within several answers.
Angelic, faerie or daemonic spirits (often perceived as ancestors) evolved from disparate sources, from merging cultures, overlaying and enriching the synthesis of shared religious ideals. Overtime, magic began to emulate mundane life, rather than life emulating magic. Gradually, these formed the three main branches of the Craft, which are not mutually exclusive, and which do in fact share considerable overlap. Very briefly, and with great generalization, there is Hereditary Craft – a folk magic tradition, and an important repository of secret customs that are handed down from one generation to the next. These are family versions of the same principles that underpin the whole Craft. Autocratic and hierarchical, each family will have its own beliefs and generally remain closed to outsiders. Rites and rituals are also idiosyncratic to specific families. Their Gods are tutelary, recognizing specific ancestral deities having names known only to them.
Traditional Craft however, is more flexible and eclectic, absorbing current trends by adaptation in order to survive. It has loose associations and affiliations, but is often though by no means always, autonomous. Deities are amorphous, largely unnamed syntheses, referred to vaguely as the old ones, or other quaint colloquialisms. It has subsumed a variety of teachings from Anglo-Saxon hexcraft, Arabic talismanic theurgy, Judaic Kabbalah, Bardic traditions, ‘Celtic’ Christianity, and in some cases, gnostic heresies. Moreover, many see true sabbatical craft practice as being oneiric. This night flight of the dream state, where free of matter, the spirit is enjoined to its true purpose.
Wicca springs from a different Muse entirely from that of Traditional Craft, a title under which considerable variety thrives. Wiccan priestesses are appointed to head and lead their own covens, which are entirely autonomous, disseminating the ‘up line’ ad infinitum, sharing in theory, equal status, having clear rights to initiate others into the Wiccan system. However, each offshoot/splinter group acquires a new name in accord with their new autonomy. They do not share a homogenous name as Craft families do, nor do they all share and revere a specific deity. Rather, each coven arbitrarily decides upon a name, a pair of deities whom they will then concentrate upon and work through.
Clanships operate very differently, on every point mentioned above in fact. Each Clan remains a closed unit, retaining its (often hereditary) line within. This lineage is received and passed once only by all those to whom the mantle is gifted in accordance with virtue. Robert Cochrane allegedly received his authority from a female relative, which was imparted to his wife, who gave this up to John and thus finally to myself. A Clan therefore is headed by only one working couple at any one time, having no parallel whatsoever within Wicca. Clanships do allow for adoptions from kindred groups into its patronage.
A Clan is a very specific term that determines a group of people united by actual or perceived kinship and descent. Clan members will frequently recognize a founding member or apical ancestor where actual lineage patterns remain improvable or unknown. Kinship-based bonds may also be only symbolical in nature, where all people within the Clan share this given (common) ancestor that symbolizes their identity and cohesion as a family. This ancestor is however, not always human and will then be referred to as an atavistic totem.
The eponymous personage to whom any Clan becomes know by is generally derived from just such a primal ancestor. As the Clan of Tubal Cain are and remain a ‘people’ aligned to a perceived Tutelary deity (real or mythical) we are subject to the principle of Suzerainty. Where-ever we are, the Suzerain (Maid) is paramount, independent and irrespective of any ruling monarch. Traditionally, Suzerainty is applied to feudalism, and all the principles of vassalage, liege lords etc. What this means effectively, is that a Lord or Chieftain (primarily, and his good lady wife) hold the mantle of reciprocity and service via an oath to and from his/her people, with all parties duty bound under its sacrosanct mutually obligatory premise declared in troth to the god/s of those people. This implies therefore an element of divine authority and responsibility.
Therefore, we are not however geocentric and draw Virtue from an ancestral lineage centred not in the land, having no blood acre, but in its people. Our whole Cosmology negates geo-centricity. We remain aligned to the histories of its peoples. A people subsumes its gods through evolution and progress, but a geocentric monarchy or system such as Wicca may not. Any faith or practice rooted in the land is tied to that of its prevailing Oligarchy. The nomad on the other hand retains the faith of his ancestors – I follow the gods of my father’s father etc. Virtue is of the line, then, not land, not even mythically. Traditionals vary in belief also, many having Gnostic or dual-faith principles rooted within syncretised Christianity. Similarly gnostics have a history of being travelling mendicants – bound by no land or state. Wicca of course is primarily Pagan, specifically, neo-Pagan, being a radical construct developed in the latter half of the 20th century that draws upon the 18th century Romantic revival of classical paganism, of ‘Arcadia’ through various artistic media. This false hope in a grim world had been the primary intellectual motivation that pushed forward into later Victorian occultism, all of which remained distinct from associations with Witchcraft. Many of its exponents were practicing Christians.
Our concept of sacred space again runs contra to Wicca. Freedom of movement is granted in and out of the ring – no barrier exists, indicating an acceptance of the power and force of the gods through nature as omnipresent and omniscient. Areas used in modern traditional Witchcraft can encompass more than one circle; movement between them is ardently encouraged. These include locations at caves, hilltops, forests, bridges, lakes – whatever is appropriate to the rite being performed, whether divination, spell-casting or communion. This highlights yet another difference between the traditions of Wicca that readily absorbed military and ceremonial fears regarding invasion and contagion; but those traditions more redolent of archaic shamanism, draw upon older forms that do not generally advocate or subscribe to this concern, and which do in fact actively invoke and evoke ancestral spirits with whom to share sacred space. Naturally, there are exceptions in either case. Moreover, this distinction highlights again the unjust prejudice levied against those practitioners who refrain from ‘banishing’ the spirits for whom the rituals are intended to contact! It was and should be the intent that marks an act as baleful, not this procedure.
Witches have always been perceived negatively, but the Cunning-folk, having a greater repertoire of practice and services were considered useful, that is at least, by the ordinary folk. When the age of reason dawned, bringing with it industrialization and urbanization, it diminished greatly the need for and belief in Witchcraft and its attendant superstitions. Survival occurred mainly in rural pockets, within family communities largely isolated from the spreading socialization, the modern disease. It lingered, finally withering in the wake of two world wars, devolving into quaint but tenacious traditions, quietly in the shadows.
Then in 1951, Gerald Gardner shattered the peace with his vision of a Pagan revival. He re-styled the archaic practice of Wicca and launched it onto a world nostalgic for customs and traditions of the past it believed lost in the decimation of war and creeping intellectualism. The New-Age had begun. An old idea took new form, presented as the new occultism, the presentable face of Paganism. Gardner especially, astutely distanced his Pagan revival from the stain of any perceived demonic occultism linked to the medieval practices of Witchcraft, adhering more closely in fact to the acceptable role of the cunning-folk, or wise-person, promoting what has since been described habitually and erroneously, as ‘white Witchcraft’.
This is a moral distinction that has no existence in reality. The morals of the person alone dictate how they use and express their Craft, not the other way around. This is a false assumption that has no historical precedent, yet exists to disguise the ugly and unpalatable aspects of the Craft’s real history. Even so, this extremely popular generic Paganism of Gardner’s has proved an effective if somewhat romantic synthesis that has now established itself firmly as a ‘tradition’, in the strictest sense. Influenced by ceremonial and contemporary occult schools, he devised rituals free of such constraints, with more levity than their archaic counterparts, and which utilized the tools and drama of all three. I do of course relate this without bias or prejudice, as I am obviously an initiate of that line.
Folk-magic traditions continued running parallel to, but mainly in the shadow of this forthright movement. Other traditions, influenced and encouraged by his success, became revived or adapted, incorporating the optimism and philosophical outlook of the 60’s and early 70’s, embracing especially ‘Celtic’ nationalism. These were vastly different in style, belief and practice to the pioneering and popular Paganism of Gardner. Many of these were far simpler and less theatrical, many adhered to earthier magics, and others expressed lofty and deeply spiritual magics, borne of mysticisms more redolent of a biblical age. Each one was autonomous, separate from the greater Pagan homogeny of the newly emerging Wicca. Labeled by many as the new religion, converts abandoned the Christian faith adopting this new self-styled Paganism in its stead.
There is great truth in the statement that, though many Pagans consider themselves to be Witches, very few Witches would consider themselves Pagan. Historically, Witches adhere to the faith of their prevailing or predominant culture, be that Heathenism or more latterly, Christianity.
This is equally true from America to Asia. There neither is nor was a conflict of interest. This highlights again the contrast between ancient and modern usage of certain terms, especially, for example, ‘Hedge-Witch’, that now, as a result of the revival of Paganism, describes persons totally unlike their historically Christian antecedents, and who are now largely Pagan.
Some minor differences however may naturally exist between other Clans and Families and my own. Within Wicca, specific systematic magical training is offered through the grades with a view to moving on to form additional groups.
Traditional Craft on the other hand maintains an intrinsic organic philosophy having no formal training. Magical awareness is preferentially awakened through a natural shift in perspective in accord with phenomenal experiences gained via circumstance and opportunity dedicated and centred around the family. Again, unlike Wicca, The Magister of the Clan leads the Rites and for very different reasons. Neo-Paganism, Wicca and Traditional Craft are as distinct from each other as they are from other faiths/beliefs/religions. They are not from the same root and cannot be reconciled. Respect and tolerance should be mutual however. Specifically then, we can summarize these precepts as: Traditional Craft practices are rooted in the post Witch-craze resurgence of Cunning-folk traditions and folk magics of the mid 1700’s – a gritty and pragmatic craft at the popular level. Neo-Paganism, conversely, was a middle-class intellectual revival borne of the Romantic movement from around the same period. Wicca attempted to merge both paradigms in the mid 20th century, and all three have diverged yet further in principle if not practice.
What is the role of the Maid in the Clan?
The Maid holds the Line and Compass. She embodies the Egregore, the Soul and Mind of her Clan. In some other Clans this role may fall upon the Magister. However, categorizing males and females into specific social roles creates binaries/polarities, in which individuals feel they have to be at one end of an artificially imposed linear spectrum and must identify themselves (unnaturally) as a man or woman. These artificial boundaries have generated much political debate and has spawned a great many theories regarding why and how gender is applied.
Saturn rules all boundaries, yet his impositions urge us to exceed them, to transcend and evolve our understanding. But to achieve this we must first explore and assimilate all that exists within those boundaries before turning our attention to those without. Conventional roles ascribed to mythological concepts facilitate this, actuating by accumulation the epicene nature of our genus.
All mystical and especially Gnostic traditions have utilized this pedagogical methodology to great effect through individual anagogical epiphanies.
In many mystical traditions, especially of the Qabbalah, the Shekinah represents the feminine aspect of God’s essence. Christianity considers the Holy Spirit as Neuter. For Hindus, male gods are vitalized by female virtue via their Shaktis. Only through unification of both does Shiva become the Cosmic Lord.
In the absence of Shakti, he is deemed lifeless; through her does he achieve his potential. Hinduism expresses that each human carries within himself both male and female elements, which are forces rather than sexes, the union of which through realization brings Truth. This understanding obliterates all material distinction between male and female completely.
Within CTC, we follow this archaic assignation of Virtue, which is perceived as neuter, to manifest within the corporeal female form [i.e.: Maid] in order that she fulfils this role in reflection of the greater cosmic myth both she and the Magister of the Clan embody. To deny or attempt to alter this balanced pattern would negate the cultural Mythos upon which it is predicated.
Of course in theory a Magister could hold Virtue for the Clan and a Maid could uphold the Law/Covenant, but such a reversal would serve no good purpose. Their Mysteries are taught separately at first only to give definition to the third set of Mysteries by which they are transcended. Only through initial and primary study of these biased roles does this third neuter role become vividly experienced. These roles are gender biased, and deliberately so, but so finely tuned are the Clan’s rituals, they facilitate the requisite Gnostic apprehension of the numinous devoid of all but their own Truths. Other Traditions will find other ways to fulfil these criteria.
Of course things may change but this would reflect a lack of understanding of the purpose in the distinct roles of Maid and Magister, which are not bound in dogma but in the reflection of the Maid as the Tree of life and the Magister as the priest king who, as supreme psychopomp, becomes entombed (like Merlin) within it rather than upon it… not sacrificed, but preserved to speak, through the leaves, its knowledge.
Obviously such metaphors do maintain the concepts of mediation and embodiment within our Mythos to gender, but I’m happy with this because in this case, there is no purpose served for a reversal of roles, nothing is to be gained by a women fixating upon the law, because as Maid she teaches those mysteries that all may transcend them in true gnosis, and similarly for any man to be fixated upon holding virtue, rather than teaching its qualities for transcendence among the female mysteries, is again to miss their purpose. Ego becomes an uneasy distraction, a manifest obsession.
But I have to add that ours is totally unlike Wicca, a goddess-worshipping cult where the woman as High Priestess takes precedence, assuming a superior role distinctly absent from ours wherein the Magister heads the Clan. In Wicca, the HPS chooses her HP and together they perpetuate a disparate Mythos based entirely on their sexual rather than gender roles. In CTC, the Magister mediates for his stream through his Maid who holds it.
This is an important distinction; the Maid receives Virtue in order for her to actuate her gender role within the mysteries, not because of her sex. This ensures that with her as his filter, the Egregoric virtue remains balanced. He appoints her (again unlike the process within Wicca) and if the stream acknowledges that choice, she may claim Virtue from him.
This delegation is not a product consigned to the 60’s and Roy and John, but to all mystical traditions as mentioned earlier. Wicca asserts an imbalance though its negation of the male and male deific status. CTC does not worship ‘a’ Goddess, in fact it seeks gnosis that results only from the understanding that occurs when such false notions are aborted. Our Mysteries generate a process of evolution.
Naturally, when a Magister is without a Maid, he retains a hold on the Virtue of a Clan, executed through the ‘Hamingja, (protective ancestral enforcement of fate), albeit as an unbalanced force, not because he is male, but because he is unable to express the fully explore and express the Mysteries by himself within a Clan context. This does not negate his personal ability to access and fulfil his own evolution through neuter spirit as an individual. But for those within his Clan, for whom he represents and embodies its Tutelary Deity, he manifests what she mediates. He thus becomes the Lord of this World and she the heavenly or otherworld noumena. These roles cannot be reversed through our male and female sex based units, although they are experienced via their dedicated gender based mysteries.
Some, though by no means all, Traditional groups uphold this archaic formulae of Covenanted, feudal and archaic Suzerainty. Those most likely to follow a more andro-centric locus are predictably the ones based in the late 18th century crafts and guilds of Horsemen, traditions of Cunning-men, Pellars and such forth. Generally speaking (and again there are exceptions) these tend not to have such mystical aspirations as those which follow the more archaic traditions of the Luciferian Stream. Robert Cochrane was torn between the two. On the one hand his family upheld the code of the horsemen and pellars, but he received a more inspired download from a more archaic place. With John’s help and substantial input, he was able to formulate a vibrant Tradition, fueled by a primal force, yet accessible through a conventional Compass, effectively anchoring the Mysteries within it.
Robert Cochrane makes mention of the Angel of Light in his letters and in an interview with Michael Howard, you stated that there is, unreservedly, a Luciferian element in Clan Tubal Cain. I think that the majority of our readers probably have a Christian background, and the minute the name Lucifer is mentioned, all sorts of alarm bells go off. Is Lucifer the same as the Christian Satan? Who do you understand Lucifer to be and what role does he play in Traditional Craft?
An excellent question and one I am grateful for the opportunity by which I may offer my considered musings that will hopefully negate these querulous concerns. There are many religions the world over that have since their inception subverted the gods of opposing faiths into demons or even the devil, the dark bogeyman of all bad novels, nightmares and ‘B’ movies. Never-the-less the energy and beliefs attributed to these thought forms are diametrically opposed to that invested by the adherents of those blighted and maligned faiths; and so a duality arises. Again it is the duty of all occultists to clarify this discrepancy and for the True Craft to distance itself from the promotion of false and negative imagery. The knowledge not just how to live but how to die, how to prepare for death, how to be, to become, how to extend our mortal limitations; these are the gifts of the True Craft, the bounty of Cain, the Father of all.
It is worth re-iterating that no concept of a devil existed in the time of Isaiah (Is. 14:12). Neither in fact, does his much misappropriated personage, Hel-el ben Shahar bear any associations with Venus. English literature records its earliest references to Lucifer as Satan c 1000 CE and as the Morning Star as late as c1050 CE.
Lucifer, however, is not Satan, He never was. Neither was Satan ever the Devil. Such blind prejudice jeopardizes the value of Truth in face of the perpetual Lie. The Christian Devil is a fictional construct, a symbol formed as a theological necessity for an insecure Church during a time of socio-religious turmoil. This personage provided a rod with which to subdue unruly pagans ripe with superstitions and correlate mythologies. Fear made the populace gullible, so much so that even now in the wake of rationalism, many blithely adhere to illusion and falsehoods.
Several revisionist bibles indiscriminately use the term Lucifer, daystar and morning star, except the NWT, which substitutes a more enlightened and accurate translation of the Masoretic phrase into Shining One. Modern parlance and word comprehension suffers many perversions from original meanings and use. To those contexts we should apply our analyses as scholars. Hel-el could mean God of the Sun, but it more properly means simply bright one or shining one.
Three patterns developed the character and form of Lucifer as the Devil. The first, of theology, was inspired by Persian dualism suggesting the concept of Satan as a figure of evil, separate and distinct from God; second, the psychological aspect of free will allowed angels, including the fallen, to choose their allegiances, and finally, the historical abuse of myth. Heaven and Hell as places of reward and punishment inhabited by human beings, rather than realms of upper and underworld gods, was yet another consequence of Persian dualism.
Lucifer is the prime avatar, whose light of gnosis is the source of evolution for mankind. He reveals the blinding Truth. The Craft holds within its core a religion at once profound and sublime and for those of us who share these principles of enlightenment, the light extends from the dark; it is not covered by it.
What do you understand the ultimate goal or purpose of Witchcraft to be?
We of course have the Covenant, a Law that binds the people to it, a concept of destiny achieved through surrender. This concept of destiny, our goal or Grail if you like, could be expressed as the purpose of our Craft. Again, you have highlighted a primary divergence from Paganism and especially of neo-Paganism. Robert Cochrane avoided absolute classification, regarding each term: witch, pagan, sorcerer, or occultist as pejorative, vague and self-limiting, and all negating the latent spiritual aspects of his Craft. Instead he preferred Pellar, which for him implied a priest of the people. For him, priest was used in the fullest sense of the word, not as a title of a man working within a morally, spiritually and ethically bankrupt orthodoxy, but in the archaic sense of a master of destiny, a controller of fate, a rider of the hidden realms, a shaman and medicine man, a seeker and preserver of all wisdom.
The Truth is perceived only by those who earn it, not in an elitist egotistical manner, per se, but by singular dedication and objective surrender to the ineffable. Gnosis is imparted in the oneiric realms wherein the seeker is seduced to remain. This ‘other world’ is all we would wish it to be and yet, if we fail to return to these realms to effect its manifestation, we have defaulted the alchemy of transmogrification. This balance, its comprehension and maintenance constitutes the true work of a Witch.
Where we are going and how we move forward is quite meaningless unless we learn how we arrived at this juncture… in other words, why is there such variety in the beliefs and practices of Witchcraft today, if all it ever professed to be was maleficent sorcery? Surely, there must be something we have missed? And there is!
You see, Witchcraft in Britain never was based in the Western or modern revival of classical paganism, though its roots are sourced from within Northern, Heathen, and to some extent, the classical past, from a time when magic and religion had not yet been separated. In fact, many of today’s magical practices, especially those regarding divination, necromancy and sorcery find their origin from within the antique world of the 2nd millennium BCE in the Middle-Eastern regions of Mesopotamia. Traditional Craft is rooted in that multifarious antique world, preserving the tenets and principles of its archaic religious mysticisms.
The Craft remains the pattern by which we set our lives and the means to effect change within it. It is primarily of the people and as such it must reflect the needs and purpose of its practitioners. Although historically and traditionally the Craft has been championed as a repository of the sorcerous arte and of cunning, I, like my direct predecessors, believe the Craft maintains deeper secrets, of subtle yet perceptible gnosis within its rites and philosophies, all of which reveal the legacy and vestiges of an ancient wisdom. Alchemical formulae may be gleaned from its arcane praxis, hidden yet salvageable.
Thomas Aquinas, a medieval church theologian said “God’s existence can be grasped by unaided reason, but knowing his nature requires the grace of revelation.” Plato also believed that only what is eternally true can be properly said to be known – all else is flux. Agrippa described magic as a faculty of wonderful virtue, full of high mysteries and containing the most profound contemplation of secret things.
Clearly then, magical rituals should entail greater things than winning fortunes, raising demons, or blasting enemies; we should be engaged in the raising of the soul beyond such materially motivated trivia. The synaptic gap between ourselves and divinity is not breached by our acquisitions, by having more, but by becoming more, by conscious expansion of a subconscious process. In this way we swell our capacity of being within the One. No-one can be taught the secrets of occultism, these are yielded in force not form, and these must be experienced by each individual aspirant. No book or word exists that can reveal these secrets.
No amount of intellectualizing or understanding alone will induce these experiences, in fact, it may seriously compromise it. Paradoxically, unwarranted passion induces a fervour of desire that also blocks complete sublimation of the self. The late Magus Bill Gray said “We survive by Spirit and Matter, but we evolve through Mind and Soul. Inspired by our ideas we grow into our Gods, for they are what we must become!” Only a balance of Mind and Soul (heart) combining hermetic and orphic practice will bring us to the equilibrium – the Qutub point of spiritual evolution. Bill Gray also believed that all rites and ritual came under the auspices of Hermes Trismegistus, prevalent again within the threefold way of inner illumination of the aspirant, awake upon the path of gnosis.
We consider the celestial causalities as primary, not those tied into the land; we seek harmony with the Source, not Gaia. I would say the titanic, primal forces are of creation rather than of nature, which distinguishes them from fertility and from the land, they are in fact cosmological. Within the Clan of Tubal Cain this instigated the concept of ‘the fall’ where our disconnection, our humanity was reflected back onto the primal forces and they became debased and trivial. The divine flame (Lucifer) is beyond this and is the essence by which we may aspire to transcend the hyle, the form of our nature. We seek to transcend this form through knowledge, not of the deities we created but the forces that created, enlightened and now guide us; we need only allow them access. “In fate and the overcoming of fate lies the True Grail.”
In the preface to your new book ‘Tubelo’s Green Fire’, Robin-the-Dart (Magister of Clan Tubal Cain) writes “The purpose of this book is to convey, in principle, the Word. And the Word conveys Revelation.” What or who is the Word? Are we considering something similar to the idea of the Logos as First Principle?
A Jesuit palaeontologist has described the thinking layer of our existence as the noosphere, placing it alongside the lithosphere, the atmosphere and biosphere in terms of existence. Within this noosphere of the Earth each one of us is as a sub-atomic cell within our own brain, contributing to the whole whilst remaining oblivious of it, at least consciously. Individual consciousness simply flows from the greater sea of consciousness of the source, each vibratory strand terminating in the self. In this sense we believe ourselves to be individuals, yet in reality we collectively form the Multi-Verse of Gaia, linked in symbiosis with all other living, forms of sentient force. She is the Noosphere, the Logos, the Spirit of Creation, the Universal spirit of Consciousness – Psyche. The Gnostics prayed to Grace as the divine (wisdom) feminine principle – The Trimorphic Protennoia, the triple-formed Primal Thought, who bears more than a passing association with Hekate! Acceptance brings individuation.
In the Nag Hammadi texts (Pistis Sophia/Virgin of Light), the Magdalene is associated closely with Sophia, the partner of God – she is both the Word and Wisdom. Scholars now believe strong elements of eroticism prevalent among the texts reveal the true nature of this relationship. Serpents have always denoted wisdom and these too are totems of Hekate. Sophia is the judge of the dead and this is another role attributable to Hekate, rather than Isis. Moreover it was the (Roman) Christian Gnostics who Identified Sophia with Isis. From their Roman cultural viewpoint, Isis became the predominant ‘Queen of Heaven’ usurping several former claimants to this title. Disguised as Sophia, her role as saviour within the obscure realms of philosophy deeply affected scholars, alert to her true forms of Illuminatrix and Initiatrix.
Truth is the Grail of being – the wisdom of Sophia. She is the Anima-Mundi, the World Soul, the collective soul of humanity. When all are redeemed, she is redeemed, and thus re-united within the One, all unite within a blaze of effulgent glory – all existence ceases and no souls re-incarnate. She is the Fire of Prometheus – the Luciferian Gnosis of Tubal Cain.
Some of the imagery or symbols used by the Clan appear to have Biblical references (the Word, Lucifer, even Tubal Cain has a mention in the book of Genesis). Are they Biblical references, and, if so, how can Biblical references be reconciled or used in Traditional Craft, when one would think that the two are diametrically opposed?
For Robert Cochrane, the Craft was a “Mystical religion, a revealed philosophy, with strong affinities to many Christian beliefs. The Faith is concerned only with truth; that brings man into closer contact with the Gods and himself – the realization of truth as opposed to illusion – fulfilled only by service.”
Cochrane opined that the keys to understanding the truth lay with the guardians of the Tradition, discarnate ancestors and deific forms who benefit the next generation of spiritual heirs. “Prayer is the ladder that binds the body to the earth whilst the soul ascends into the dizzying heights of the heavens. Magical subtlety is about inference rather than obfuscation, in a world where things are not always as they seem. This grail quest correlates with the fulfillment of gnosis under the ‘Order of the Sun’, the life’s work of a true mystic.”
He was of course inspired by the whole history of his Craft, and was able to incorporate its relevancies into the subtler methodologies of his teachings and Mythos; “What do witches call themselves? They call themselves by the names of their Gods, I am Od’s (Woden’s) man, since in me the spirit of Od lives, yet I am a child of Tubal Cain the Hairy One.” ‘Truth’ was also the absolute name for the Godhead, it being outside any religious affiliations, systems and therefore beyond even illusion. He also believed that each person’s vision represented individual subjective Truth.
Throughout western history, Witchcraft was seen as a syncretism of Christian ideas based upon pagan religious concepts; hence the survival of so many pagan and folk superstitions relating to protection against malignant acts. In social and anthropological terms, Witchcraft has maintained a negative reputation and proscriptions against sorcery are known to have existed for over four millennia.
Cunning-folk were individuals who were seen as being in some way different from those around them. They had knowledge and gifts that in times past were perceived as hereditary, or even obtained from a supernatural source, generally from the Fey, the Faerie folk. Importantly, many of the charms used by them, were later recorded in medical Leech-books blending herbalism, folk magic and Christian observances, involving relics and scraps of liturgy together as forms of healing. Of great interest specifically are the abundant charms for protection against Witchcraft: how to lift a curse, how to deflect a hex and how to cure visitations of malscrung (all acts of malice).
Perpetuated in oral tradition, the almost legendary magical expertise of these cunning-folk as they came to be known by the 15th century, ranged from simple acts of folk magic to complex sorceries and enchantments, and were often regarded as the most unsavoury and unscrupulous of persons. Their secrets or tricks of the trade were closely guarded, often preserved within the family as a trade or business, just as a blacksmith or carpenter might. Most significantly, these practitioners were nominal Christians! They were certainly not pagans! Both Witches and Cunning-folk fulfilled their roles in society, anterior to religious vocation.
Following on from the above question, the Clan seems also to include Pagan, mythological and folkloric references (like Hekate, Sile na gigh, and the Wild Hunt) – how do these fit in to Traditional Craft?
Many myths and legends require re-interpretation and this is in fact what I am attempting to do – removing the many glosses that have accumulated from the numerous exoteric writers imparting their truths, obfuscating the kernels of wisdom within them. This freedom will then allow new seekers a journey free of political and religious dogma and confusion. All such tales hold vital clues to concepts and contexts largely lost to us. Moreover, many of them are actually built upon principles pertinent to the folk magics and lore of Traditional Craft praxes. Following the teachings of E. J. Jones and Robert Cochrane before him, these tales serve as vehicles of transmission through use of analogy and allegory.
Myth celebrates cyclical time; against which annual celebrations of recurrence, suspended in the dreamtime of the eternal present, preserve indelibly the relationship between man, his environment, and the Universe. It is important to assert here the distinction between the cycle of the year and that of time itself. The repetitive progression of the seasons of the year simply provides an appropriate vehicle by which the genus of the myth unfolds. Cain rises, fecunds the earth, the harvest is reaped, Cain dies. But the myth is not the story of the sowing and harvesting of the grain associated with this or any other agricultural deity, but that of the concept of Cain as the original and eternal progenitor. It relates the concept of palingenesis – the cosmic cycle of deification in which the old god perceived as the father dies, and the new god, his son or younger version of himself, is reborn. It is one of sacrifice, dispersal and re-union within itself.
These myths are again linked to the celestial and cosmological micro-macrocosmic relationships of the earth and the heavens, giving rise to our calendar, both esoterically and exoterically. Against this symbiosis, the unconscious mind utilizes specific symbols that alert the conscious mind of its origins and purpose within this eternal cycle of life that removes the fear of death as a finality. History satisfies the conscious mind, myth satisfies the unconscious mind.
Clan Tubal Cain is not polytheistic, nor is it duo-theistic. In strict accord with its Traditional Mythos, it follows the principle of a Monolatrous practice This effectively elevates an atavistic presence recognized in the Tutelary God – Tubal Cain with whom the Clan preserve a covenanted relationship. Beyond this singular preference for a mediating entity, we acknowledge the Father and the Triune Goddess and other deities of whom Tubal is but one of choice. Within the Craft of Tubal Cain, Fate as the manifold Goddess of life and death and as the controller of ‘life in time,’ is a force understood to be above the gods.
Robert Cochrane asserted that ‘all ritual must be prayer’; petition then, not coercion. This repeatedly stresses imperative knowledge of the Higher Will exceeding the needs of the Lower Will.
Who is Tubal Cain?
Tubal Cain, the hairy one, is a mythical progenitor and benefactor of the human race, heir to an unknown and non-human race, archaic and primal. He is embodied in all things wild and all things tame, he is the master of the animals, yet tiller of the earth. He forges metals for the corn and killing fields. Ancestral Priest-King imbued with the generative spiritual fire of the elder gods, he is the hunter and hunted, the lover and the beloved. He is the alchemical serpent king of wisdom, and sacred horned Ur goat of enchantments, mighty warrior and the champion of the individual, the pioneer, the recluse, the mystic and the mage.
Tubal Cain as an avatar of Lucifer, is seen by many as the supreme deity of the Craft. Tracing the chronology and history of ‘the Devil’, traditional Witch Master and ‘Prince of this World’ has revealed many esoteric mysteries regarding his origins and variant roles. He is Lord of the Manifest worlds, reflected in the spirit, soul and body of Man, thus He wears the Triregnum – the Three Crowned Tiara that represents his threefold nature and divine light. He is the pole/point /qutub and He communicates through the sonic sound – Logos. Those who shine forth this reflected light must veil their faces; to reveal means to draw aside and re-veil means to cover again, giving us the mask.
The subtitle of ‘Tubelo’s Green Fire’ reads “Mythos, Ethos, Female, Male & Priestly Mysteries of the Clan of Tubal Cain”. What do you understand the term Mysteries to mean?
If I may paraphrase Robert Cochrane here, the Mysteries are the means by which we come to know ourselves as the product of God. Male and Female Mysteries are taught separately at first only to give definition to the third set of Mysteries by which they are transcended.
In myth, when the king has lost his way and his faith, then, through his role as the priest/king, his people are bereft – the barren landscape in which they starve is a graphic only, a narrative device, a literary motif of the mystical writers. His faith/wisdom (Pistis-Sophia) needs restoration and re-union within the Hieros Gamos to restore his Virtue. The Grail has nothing to do with the land or womanhood in the absolute sense. This association was made by linking Pistis Sophia with Mary in the Marionanism of that period in order to again promote the role of the Church in the blessed right and ability of the Monarch to rule.
Again, the idea of male gods and heroes sacrificed to themselves is a later Christian gloss on the early myths of immolation and self mutilation that formed the journey of many ancient religions, revealing more about their primitive brutality than their spirituality. More enlightened descent myths of a Promethean nature do of course reveal an element of punishment by the older gods for bringing wisdom to mankind, a punishment they willingly accept, but this is not the same as willingly sacrificing oneself for their own knowledge as did Odin, an act that also had nothing to do with maidens, altruism, or salvation of humanity.
Many kings actively engaged in near annihilation of all family contenders who might usurp them. Queens were political acquisitions, their blood-line was unimportant. Their dowered lands, however, were. Because the grail is gnosis/wisdom, anyone may therefore be a seeker – the grail is pure and may be won by the true pilgrim; that is all that we believe; no more no less.
It has nothing to do with monarchs, land, fertility, just the pursuit of Truth. Hindu chauvinism along with the Grail Mysteries of the medieval era do in fact typify the spiritual evolution for men on the back of women; but the fact that human error/ego/bias has failed a glorious and sublime principle, should not prevent us from utilizing it to it full and desired fruition. The harmony is here one of equality, a union of force and form. It is not about supremacy or subjugation nor a lack of one for the other. Within gnosticism, this imbalance was not engaged or indulged…both men and women, as individuals achieved enlightenment supported by their community.
Any woman may learn the principles of sacrifice in order to evolve, though we do not need to associate ourselves with self-immolation through a male hero motivated by themes of self-glorification and immortality on the manifest plane, the true mystery of Christ is not to be found on the tree.
The Clan teaches through practice “with the sacred tenets of Truth, Beauty and Love”. Could you expand on these sacred tenets and how people might implement them in their own practice?
This question is linked intrinsically to one previously asked. The Mythos of a people is its people and while the Egregore must evolve through growth of awareness and the mediating perceptions of an ever increasing spiritual alignment, change must become a natural development of that unconsciously. Conscious change is rooted in subjectivity, human frailty, desire etc. and therefore manipulated against the Truth to which the Egregore must remain bound. Beauty and Love are the two other elements of the Mysteries by which we attain epiphanic gnosis. As individuals, the links are forged through the cumulative experiences of ancestral souls through whom the Mythos has served as a vehicle for their evolution within the Mysteries.
We may change form, style, praxes etc. but not the core, which is the Egregore itself! We may change our perceptions and our approach, how we teach etc. but the Luciferian premise, the gnostic principalities of the Clan must remain. It is this Truth that shines as a beacon, it is what people recognize, it is what they feel when introduced to it; it is a true tradition. We are a people not of a book, not of a land, but of a particular ancestry. Our history is complex, our spirituality is not.
History and myth combine to weave a pattern that determines a group identity. Our spirit is a collective that has evolved from this origin. We like many others, traverse a mythic landscape and engage in metaphor, but this is of little use to anyone not engaged in our Mysteries under the Tutelage of that deity. Yet if the Mysteries do not engage in the history of its adherents then how are its descendents to evolve in Truth? There can be no validation of context if the context cannot be traced laterally, mythically and retrospectively. Triangulation plots the course of Truth.
A glance at the contents of ‘Tubelo’s Green Fire’ shows no mention of spells and charms, of course, your book is not a ‘how to’ or a ‘Witchcraft 101 course’, yet Evan John Jones’ book ‘Witchcraft: A Tradition Renewed’ makes it clear that magic is a part of the Clan. What role does magic play in the Clan and how do you feel it should be used? The preface to your book makes mention several times of poetry and poetic insight. I’m sure that many people will think of poetry in terms of what is written in The Wiccan Rede: “To bind the spell every time, let the spell be spake in rhyme…”. What do you understand by poetry and what is its role in Traditional Craft?
A sacred bond is forged between mentor and student, somewhat more akin to the eastern schools, where students offer fealty and un-avowed loyalty to their Masters. These Masters may teach one to one by oral transmission. Some written material has survived the passage of time, and this is zealously guarded in most, but sadly not all cases. Poetry and myth, taught through allegory and experience were, then as now, the vehicles by which the sacred Mysteries are revealed. As such they are without structure, subject only to the requisite needs and spontaneity of each student. Lessons are often impromptu and conducted without ceremony.
Traditional Craft as a practicing arte is neither pagan nor religious. But it often incorporates spiritual aspirations. Religion is one of humanity’s essential traits that distinguish us from the animal kingdom. We are self aware and we are aware of deity. Paganism as a reference to divinity is man’s natural state; all belief and magical practice evolves from this fundamental premise. Atheism is not a natural state. Cults are by their nature sectarian; religion is not. Therefore it is perception and not belief that divides us. Perception then separates us not only from the rest of humanity as individuals, but from deity.
Mysticism is the driving force within diverse religions that recognizes this impedance and which seeks to elevate its adherents beyond these self inflicted boundaries. Truth is above all doctrine, and the Word is received by everyone with ears to hear it. Whether belief takes root in spirituality or religion, it is bound by magical praxes and indulged by the individual practitioner. Mysticism remains the driving force towards Truth. And there is no religion higher than Truth. Magic is practiced within and without religion and within and without the Craft. In fact the essence of all true religion is magic. In magical terms the Priest and the Magus are One.
Annual narratives relating legend, myth and folk history, are dramatized still, in which unfold the themes of creation, existence and evolution in sync with the motion of the stars and the seasons. They are living myths, in remembrance of our heritage and lineage as created beings and are in accord with ancient tradition, preserving and continuing our role in the evolution of that legacy. Myth preserves the magic of creation, of life and the mystery of death. Magic has been man’s greatest tool because it employs the greatest force – that of man’s own Will!
When this force is combined with gnosis we are able to transcend the spirals of existence and achieve our true purpose. This is the greatest gift of all, and many have sought it and not prevailed. Over time the Craft has been the natural repository of myth, knowledge and magical practice as these things have declined from use within society, either through suppression, ignorance or ambivalence. Sadly, much of it only exists in fragmentary forms, such as folklore or superstitions. Other more archaic knowledge has been preserved in discernable forms within certain branches of the traditional Craft. Mythopoesis is that process of poetic envisioning, a magical process of engagement with myth on its own terms inducing understanding through direct apprehension of its core truths.
What do you foresee for the future of Paganism and Witchcraft?
Tradition is not then the rigour of the status quo – it lives and breathes, it is the vital heart and soul of all culture, and like any living organism it should adapt itself with each generation. To perform the same rites as our revered forebears and ancestors without alteration to form does indeed honour them, but serves no point of contact that breaches their world with our own. The context shifts like sand with the passage of time.
In extension of this, Mystery Schools are more concerned with particular initiates, drawn from miscellaneous sources, of re-incarnated souls seeking advancement and ultimately, enlightenment. Each will be initiates of differing levels, yet all sharing the same focus, bound by the same spiritual heritage, bestowed by angelic forces that designated this sacred gnosis to mankind aeons ago. It is opined that the keys to understanding the truth lay with the guardians of a Tradition, the discarnate ancestors and deific forms who benefit the next generation of spiritual heirs. So in reality, there exists a huge span of practice ranging from simple folk magic at one end of this spectrum, to quite sophisticated ceremonial magics, involving complex liturgies and angelic magics in the revelation of the divine mysteries, of life and initiatory death, involving communion, sacred sexuality and ascension.
Magic then, is best understood as a methodology of practice, religion as one of expression. Together they exemplify the true nature of beliefs and practices valued in both the ancient and modern worlds. If the Craft is to survive, it must re-align its praxes to avoid devolution into superstitions that are contra to the principles of science in harmony with gnosis. As we evolve, we must do so from a point of Truth. There should be no guilt to tarnish the mantle of our inheritance. What we amend, we do to evolve in spirit, moving ever forwards away from primitivisms, away from fear and superstition.
We must embrace the purpose, the meaning and the essence of the force upon which the form rests, intrinsically, inherently and energetically. Remember we only borrow our legacy; it is loaned to us for a short period of time within the greater span of eternity. In that all too brief moment it is ours and we must make it so. We must re-unite the qualities of magic and religion, of spirituality and gnosis. This is how I believe the Craft will survive in the next century. It must draw nourishment from its roots, from all the magical traditions of mankind. Regarding the Craft community, it must embrace inclusive holism. Regarding the community of Craft, it must preserve unique exclusivity.
My answers here are edited , and have been drawn from ‘Tubelo’s Green Fire’ and ‘The Arcane Veil,’ in which all these concepts are discussed at length.*
[New Images from wiki commons, by simeon soloman, burne jones and Holman-hunt]
My thanks * to ‘Ameth’, re-blogged from http://sunofthedawn.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/at-feet-of-maid-interview-with-shani.html