I’ve meant to blog just a little sooner since our last post, but I have been distracted in my free time with the most wonderful book: “Doreen Valiente, Witch” by Philip Heselton.
This book is the official biography of Doreen Valiente, of whom many people view as the “Mother of Modern Witchcraft” because of her influential poetry and rituals that have helped to propel witchcraft forward into the 21st century and Philip does an amazing job chronicling Doreen’s life in it. The amazing thing about this book is there is much in it that is very surprising that he has found. There is much still to be learned about this remarkable lady!
Heselton is an author I have come to respect very much. I have not read all of his books yet, but he did release a two-part book on Gerald Gardner titled, “Witchfather” and I have also enjoyed reading. I also highly enjoyed reading the research he published as “Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration” in the U.K.
The curious thing about the memory of Doreen’s contributions is that today when you seem to mention her, many witches today only connect Doreen as a Gardnerian.
It is true that Doreen wrote some of her most lasting poetry when she was in partnership with Gerald Gardner as High Priestess of his coven at Fiveacres Naturist Club, (a nudist camp that Gardner eventually acquired) but Doreen was also an initiate of at LEAST four other witchcraft traditions (possibly a great deal more that we don’t know about!) – And actually, she seemed to have possibly only spent a small portion of her magical ritual work and life within the Gardnerian tradition – at least from her writings and as an outsider’s perspective.
The picture that I get from not only reading Doreen’s books (I own and love them all) and also from reading Philip Heselton’s amazing biography on her is that it paints a picture that Doreen was simply a lover of witchcraft in whatever form it could be found: plain and simple. Whatever interesting forms of witchcraft that survived or that she stumbled upon or traditions that were created anew last week; Doreen seemed to be interested in learning about them and bridging a gap between multiple traditions: whenever and wherever she found them in England. In my opinion, it gives us a picture of an extraordinary lady who was interested in preserving the Craft and not someone who drew lines in the sand trying to say, “My tradition is better than your tradition, which is better than….” Sometimes we see this attitude today, but fortunately I believe we are waking up to a time when we are coming to appreciate the differences in traditions (and even lines within the same traditions) and the beauty that each shares.
My prayer to this end is, “Please forgive us, O Great Mother Goddess! We are slow at learning the unity and beauty that can be found in many different lines and traditions. Let us look at witches of other traditions as our peers, and realize there is a magical path out there that is right for everyone. We are learning, even though it may seem we are learning at a slow pace, but we sure are trying. Blessed Be, O Great Mother Goddess!”
I’m a little over halfway finished with the book already and I must say it is not disappointing. Anyone who is interested in the writings of Doreen Valiente or just general witchcraft history would enjoy this very much. It has been one that is hard for me to put down as I am enjoying it so much.
Now – on to other things……
During times spent in contemplation and reflection, one interesting piece of information is why the Moon Goddess is always described as the “Silver Lady” at times, or why we typically may draw the moon in silver?
This may seem like such a basic thing to some of us, but it was something that I have always taken for granted and never really had to think about it.
Is it just because ceremonial magical tables indicate that “Silver” is the metal of the moon – such as when learning to make talismans care of the instructions found in the “Key of Solomon?”
The moon isn’t silver – she is typically white, or depending on what is going on – sometimes red-orange, sometimes pinkish, but generally always white. So why silver?
In that moment, I flashed back to when I was 15 years old and trying to learn about witchcraft from books, self-discovery and through re-awakening what I had “lost” and I then fully remembered why she was associated with the metal silver…..
When I was 15, I remember the first time I decided to try an experiment of prayer to the Lady underneath the full moon, and that was to pay homage to the Moon and ask her for a special petition. (At the time, I had read the classic, “Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches” by LeLand which recommended asking for things from the Goddess “once a month, when the moon is full.”) So I took an old fashioned green-glass bowl and cut a red rose from the garden and floated the rose on top of the water in the bowl.
At approximately 2 A.M. when you could neither hear, nor see any traffic; I went outside under the bright, full moon. There was nothing in sight and nothing around me. It was only me, the moon, my bowl of water with a rose floating in it and the sounds of the insects all around me.
As I stood outside and enjoyed my time “moon bathing” under Her light and speaking my prayers to the Goddess, I began to look around me and my surroundings and everything in sight was bathed in silver light. The green grass, the green trees, the gray stones, the red bricks all were highlighted in silver. That which wasn’t bathed in silver-light, was black because it was shaded by something else.
Looking down at my skin and arms, they also ceased to be their normal tone and were highlighted in silver – everything that you could see with your eyes was in a very bright, silver color.
Now: I understand what I once knew and stupidly forgot. Everything under a bright full moon night, if you are in a place without artificial lights all around you, is highlighted in silver.
I wanted to take a few moments and write this article for all of you because I think many of us witches that had the opportunity and privilege to be able to practice their craft in the country side may see some of these things and understand that many suburban and city witches may not know.
Just the same, many city witches teach the country witches back with wisdom they have gained in their locale.
Regardless of where life takes us: the countryside, the seashore, the city or the suburbs: there will always be someone that has mastered the magical arts within that particular environment.
(For those who are curious, I believe I used an altered form of the “Orphic Hymn to the Moon” when I made that prayer at 15, which at the time was one of my favorites as a teenager to use by re-working the invocations and hymns it contained.)