Decades ago, one of the only methods of people finding witches in our tradition to inquire about training was if you found a note on one of the bulletin boards of a local store that was known to be frequented by folks interested in occult subjects. These notes would include the location and date of where to find the coven…. one trick though, these notes were only written in the “Witches Alphabet” which means you would only find the coven if you were able to translate what the note paper was talking about. Without the translation, the note would look like complete gibberish. This means that you would have to have obtained a bit of knowledge first. This may be easier today, but it wasn’t an easy task in the 1970s and early 1980s when this method was employed!
Even this secret letter method was rare, as typically most people that joined various covens in Pennsylvania at the time was because “you knew someone” or you “knew somebody, who knew somebody.”
Another method to meet witches for training and coven-contacts was through occult stores who catered to an occult clientele.
Another elder and teacher of mine, Tarostar, who worked in the occult supplies trade since 1967, told me how it was common to hear just about every claim and story from the people who would frequent the occult shops. I can only imagine the many colorful tales that he must have heard from people from people back then!
Fast forward 30 years (or more) later:
I find myself sitting at a lecture at a metaphysical shop and all of a sudden, I overhear seekers who are seeking out witches connected to my coven. They had heard over the years many urban legends from our past history and some that still float around to this day. (Many of the tales were fanciful, some rooted in fact, and some downright crazy!) Carefully, I had to decide if I would play an interested party to the conversation, reveal my identity, or quietly listen in silence…
These are just a small selection of tales to demonstrate not even the tip of the iceberg on how seekers would find their way to a coven. This brings us to the reason for this article, which is to review a newly released book, Traditional Wicca: A Seeker’s Guide by author Thorn Mooney and published by Llewellyn Publications.
In this book, Mooney sets out to write a practical guide for seekers of what we may call Traditional Wicca.
You might hear this term, Traditional Wicca, called different things or described differently depending on where you live or the communities you circle within. For example, in Europe you might hear the term “Initiatory Wicca,” whereas in the United States, you might hear the term described as “British Traditional Wicca.” Nevertheless, these are but colloquial terms to describe a similar thing.
It took me a few days to gather my thoughts after reading this book in order to allow what was discussed to be properly digested inwardly and express my opinion fairly. Because I know Thorn Mooney, and I have attended a workshop by her; I didn’t want the fact that I admire her greatly as a person and as a witch-priestess to flavor my thoughts automatically to the positive if there was anything in the book that I disagreed with.
I soon found out there were no worries of this. Page after page I felt a strong “yes,” turn the page, “yes again.” I found myself agreeing with all I was reading.
If you are familiar with our website, you will already know that the folks who are members of Wolfa Coven practices a traditional practice and we are not new to the art of witchcraft. You might ask what value that members of our own Wolfa Coven would find in a seeker’s guide, but first….
I will get this right out of the way from the beginning and say that I found not only great enjoyment, but plenty of invaluable insight with this book. I will explain:
The first reason that absolutely surprised me when I read Mooney’s Traditional Wiccais how inclusive it is regarding geographical differences so that the seeker can find ideas to come in to contact with covens no matter what their location is. I will give you an example to illustrate this:
For example, if you live in England, a common place for public meetings to find other witches are sometimes called pub-moots or just moots. Another good witch-friend of mine told me about Witches Cafes that can be found in continental Europe. Maybe your area has something on a less frequent basis, like once a year Pagan Pride Days? Maybe none of these options exist! Don’t worry, Mooney has PLENTY of ideas for you!
The reason that I think it awesome how these geographical possibilities exist is because even if you live in an area with a vibrant and plentiful witch-population, some of opportunities available to others may not be found in your area, and you can easily get ideas for more resources that you wouldn’t think possible.
For example, you won’t find a moot, Witch-meet-up, or such in my own local area. This is not for anyone’s lack of trying, but for some reason, the concept just has never taken off locally. I’ve known local witches to even try what they called Coffee Klatches with no success on that front either. So even though you may not find that in our local area, you will find plenty of stores, listings online and various events you could attend – particularly in the spring, summer and autumn times of the year.
Mooney is very inclusive of possibilities that will help you spark your interest, as well as traditions. For example, when it comes to the title, Traditional Wicca itself, some folks may only think of two of the many traditions within Traditional Wicca that have the most initiates and the greatest amount of material written about them and their practices – but this can’t be further from the truth. What Mooney discusses in her book, Traditional Wicca, can be used and helpful in joining any of the traditions that identify as traditional, and even traditions that are not!
The next thing that I was very happy to see listed in Thorn’s book is advice on “how” you can contact a coven and ask for more information. So if you are going to approach a traditional coven, what should you say? What is going to get your email or letter answers rather than ignored?
Mooney also helps seekers in this book look for what seems to be possible signs of a healthy coven. Her list of red flags on what to look out for is spot on. If I was personally seeking a coven, that section of red flags would most likely become my checklist to watch out for! I felt that I agreed with her on her assessment of what is a red flag. (If you lead a coven, this would be a good list as well to assess your own coven with!)
The last chapter of her book is titled, Some Guidance for the New Initiate, and this information is invaluable!
Most importantly, Mooney helps straighten out some misunderstandings that can at times be passed around like water-cooler gossip. For example, many seekers have great misunderstanding about hierarchy, nudity in ritual and what a vouch is and she corrects some erroneous beliefs about what initiation into a coven is really all about. (In secular culture, we seem almost blind to Rites of Passage, Admittance and Acceptance making the idea of “initiation” something easily misunderstood. Possibly because of Thorn Mooney’s religious studies background, she provides some amazing thoughts to think about that I have never thought about previously. Even when I look at my magical background, having been initiated multiple times, I still had much more to learn on the subject and I was happy that Mooney schooled me in this with her book.)
Now at this time, I want to share why I found so much value out of this book as well, being someone who has already been initiated and functioning as a High Priest within the circles I am part of:
We call our particular bunch of witches a large witchcraft-family, meaning, that in the year 2018, there are more of us all around the country now connected back to our coven here in Pennsylvania in some way or another than had existed previously. While they are each their own autonomous units, there is common lore that all are familiar with, even though they may identify differently and have different methods that work for them. It is the old “witches grapevine” in action, connecting us all in some way, across tradition lines.
Because of such a network, Mooney’s book provides quite a comprehensive look on different ways that covens can lay breadcrumbs in the modern day so the right seekers will be able to find their way to seeking. Possibly the old method of putting a note in the Witches Alphabet in a store might be outdated and possibly no longer work, and perhaps it might?
More importantly than that, it gives seekers the tools and skills to search us out and how to find us!
Lastly, I wanted to comment on another shining light that can be gained from this book:
Throughout the book, you will find listed mini-sections called “From the Circle” in which Mooney shares wisdom of seeking the Craft, written by seekers, initiates and elders alike. I’m always attracted to books that include other magical folks within the pages. To me, it gives another perspective – sometimes supporting the author’s own view and sometimes providing an alternative view. I think that the ability to do that and showcase a variety of opinions, across traditions and perspectives, is valuable, and shows inclusivity and humility – which to me are valuable and honorable traits.
Another book that came out years ago that I just loved that included wisdom from a great number of witches is titled Keepers of the Flame which was written and compiled by Morgana Davies and Aradia Lynch, which was written at probably the most opportune time before many of our beloved elders have transitioned into their next incarnation.
One witch that I was happy they included in the Keepers of the Flame book was Christine Jones, who was one of Sybil Leek’s last students. We consider her a part of our greater Wicca-family. Christine, who was also British by birth and immigrated to the US like Sybil, has been remembered and her teachings have been carried on and well-preserved and she considered a departed Horsa elder in her own right.
I was also happy to read interviews from other witches in Keepers of the Flame who I admire that are still with us, such as the fantastic Dana Corby of the Mohsian Tradition. I am also of the High Priesthood in the Mohsian Tradition as well, so this is also a keepsake for information from Corby’s perspective as well who also has a great deal of experience and always has something fascinating to share and teach.
Because of my love for seeing such perspectives represented in books like Keepers of the Flame, I paid extra attention to the snippets titled From the Circle in Mooney’s book, from seekers, initiates and elders alike!
Another subject that Mooney’s book taught me further about is the concept of “Outer Courts.” The concept of outer courts are not something you typically find in our neck of the woods, so it gave me some additional information about why some folks within the High Priesthood of traditional covens operate Outer Court covens.
I think it is safe to say that we will most likely be seeing more well-written books and materials by Thorn Mooney in the future! I know I look forward to attending future workshops given by her. So whether you are a seeker, initiate or seasoned Wicca elder, please consider reading Mooney’s book. There are many insights within it that I am sure we all haven’t considered. It is also clear how much careful thought and planning she did to put this book together to make it useful for everyone, in which we are ever grateful!
Blessed Be, Thorn Nightwind
*You may click on the titles of the books below or throughout the article above in order to find them on amazon for purchase. You may also find them at your local retailer.
Resources & Works Cited:
Mooney, Thorn; Traditional Wicca
Davies, Morgana & Lynch, Aradia; Keepers of the Flame