Some of you may know that I am an initiate of a Tradition of contemporary witchcraft called WildWood. I mention it in my workshops, referring to the wisdoms of other Wildwood witches or a practice that is public rather than private; if a witch enquired about my witchcraft it would be one of the primary things I would communicate to them. In my published books there are only ever snippets of information because in fact we keep most of our lore and mythos private to the Tradition for the same reasons I believe most other Traditions do. The power of silence, seething, containment, and intimate revelations.
I am profoundly in love with my first Tradition. I am an initiate of two other Craft traditions and I am working towards initiation in one other. I am in a deep dance of love and challenge with all my Traditions. I do feel that the political and the spiritual cannot be divorced and that witches work for Justice. I want to take this time and space to speak on what I can publicly share of WildWood Witchcraft.
WildWood Craft has its origins in what my dear friend Ravyn would call “the mythopoetic”. I do not claim to have founded the Tradition, though I was present at the initiation of the Coven that opened the door to the current that brought the Tradition into being. This happened in early 2006 at the Feast of Samhain on the eve of April 30th, 2006 in South-East Queensland, Australia. I along with one other – James Atherton – have been “there from the beginning” and yet we are in constant awe at the Deep Well that is our beloved Covenant with the Wild Wood, the Primal Witch’s Forest, and the Tradition we share in.
We do not hide that the original revelations of our beloved lore is in White Thread spirit-given gnosis and revelation. This came out of the practice of our witchcraft as those who helped to initiate the original Coven of the WildWood were already practising witches aligned to no particular Tradition. We were primarily spirit-led witches with minimal coven training and a great deal of book-based knowledge as well. From the beginning we knew we weren’t Wiccan, though we shared in adoration of the Primal Elements and a desire to mark the eight Feasts commonly observed in various ways today by many witches and Pagans. I was also born into a hereditary lineage of Balinese magic-makers, spirit-workers, seers and healers that gave me early context and vivid ancestral support.
Now WildWood Tradition is celebrated by a group of nearly 40 aspirants, dedicated initiates and Firebrand priestesses in Britain, the Netherlands, the United States, and along the East Coast of Australia down into Tasmania.
There are layers to our Tradition. One is the Fellowship which binds us together as a Covenant, a Family, a Clan, or several. One is human community which is anchored in bioregions, the largest centred in South-East Queensland. There are covens, working magical groups and houses, as well as Wanderers, our term for ‘solitaries’ as we are generally not of the opinion that a witch is ever alone. We do not possess initiatory degrees. We call apprentices or journeying students in Our Craft aspirants. That mind-state, or beginner’s mind, is often considered to be the ideal one to continuously cultivate. We also speak of dedication into the Inner Court, also called the Rose House by some, and then initiation as a Keeper of the Firebrand, a Priestess for and with the People of WildWood, which includes Our Spirits and Kin. Dedicants are definitely initiates in the pragmatic and sorcerous sense and Dedication is our First Rite at which our core mysteries we all share in common are passed. Names and Signs are revealed which are kept private to initiated witches of Our Tradition and lore becomes deeper, more anchored and liberated in shared Story and the texture and resin that is required of singing Craft Traditions.
Our core mysteries are held by the Sacred Four, the Witch-Wreathed Ones, the Great, Noble Spirits that are the Old Gods of the Witches. We publicly acknowledge Them as:
Grandmother Weaver, Old Fate
Grandfather Green Man, the Old One
Our Crescent-Crowned Goddess, the Rose Queen
Our Horned-Cloaked God, the Prince of Paradise
We also work with and celebrate the Mysteries and Magic of Our Guardians who are often considered to be aligned with the Primal Elements and particular gender(less) mysteries,
Earth, Mother Bear
Air, Horned Owl
Fire, Cunning Fox
Water, King Stag
Our Living Lineage and Legacy is held by the First Witch – Ara. Where the First Witch is, all witches are. Ara’s Stories are kept private, but what can be said is that She/They/We are the Seventh Secret at the Heart of the Crossroads. We acknowledge six directions/wandering ones/serpents of Power, being North, East, South, West, Above and Below. There are Potent Spirits with whom we may work and conjure at the Portals of Power opened by the anchoring of the Crossroads. We honour the Twin Serpents – She with the Black Scales and the White Eyes and He with the White Scales and the Black Eyes; we honour the Red Serpent with the Gold Eyes of Endless Desire, whose Name is Forever. We know the Formless Flame, the Blue and the Wild Green Fire.
Our Rose House also acknowledges and celebrates other Spirits that are specific to Our Tradition in Name and Sign, but in spirit are shared and common to other Craft threads I am privy to.
In the revelation and discovery of our own lore we have received corroboration by other peers in the Craft and thus personal or shared gnosis becomes verified in the context of wider Witchcraft. This has been an awe-filled and exciting process.
At the heart of Our Tradition lies a Story-sung nativity with the Wild Wood itself, the Witch’s Prime Other World. We journey into and through it; it flourishes inside of us and we find it in each other and all around us. Our Covenant with that Place and its Spirits is the make-or-break of Our Magic. If we stop this, then we cease the Work of Our Tradition. May it flourish.
In the Wild Wood conversations regarding what is modern or ancient, what is eclectic, syncretic, gnostic, red-thread inherited, traditional or Pagan or not dissolve in an alchemy of dreams.
By several definitions and standards including Michael Howard’s and Daniel A. Schulke’s* we are definitively traditional. And yet that self-identification within our own communities may not be considered significant beyond communications with other Traditions or orientation to Lore. Some of our number, including myself, are very much also involved in Reclaiming Witchcraft which grew out of a form of American Traditional Witchcraft often called Feri, or Faery. Reclaiming doesn’t actively claim Traditional Witchcraft or Wicca and usually is placed outside those conversations. Some of our number definitely identify as Traditional or Old Craft and therefore resonate with a particular Thread of WildWood known as Sophian, of which I am a member. To my knowledge no one claims Wiccan identity or lineage currently. Most of us would call ourselves Pagan or pagan. We are animistic, polytheistic, pan(en)theistic and sometimes henotheistic and zeroist/monist.
Our rituals occur at the times many other witches’ rites do. When we have a purpose or goal to achieve. When we require the audience and counsel of the Spirits. When the moon is dark, new and full; when the eight thresholds of the Year are passed through. Some of us possess very specific lore-endowment processes and rituals that are unique to the WildWood. We are private initiatory Mystery Craft as much as we are sorcerous, devotional spirit-workers.
At our rites, personal or communal, one may witness demarcations or declarations of ritual or sorcerous space. This may be a ritual Circle that is cast, or a Crossroads that is braided or travelled to; a candle may be lit and sung in front of, or we may go to where the Land, the Sky and the Sea meet. We anchor and drink up the Well in the Land, we align our Three Souls in the Three Cauldrons, blessing the Three Ancestors of Blood, Land and Craft, the Mighty Dead. We drum, rattle, dance, chant, sing, incant, rock or sway or sit in silence. We sink, we trance, we fare forth, we travel out on the Winds through the Wyrd. We divine with the lines in the hand, the remnants of tea leaves, the cards, the Runes, with the shadows cast on the side-walk. We practise possessory arts in which we draw in and open to the potent spirits of Our Beloved Great Ones. We craft charms, talismans, cast spells and ensorcel the worlds and ourselves. We ignite our Witch’s Sight and praise the Witch’s Light. We battle and dance with demons, banish and conjure spirits, heal wounds, bind, blast and sing souls back home. We tell stories, let ourselves become Storied, prophesy and… a lot of our most wild magics are without words and description.
When we guide and mentor others in the WildWood it is usually done either one-to-one in a teacher-apprentice model or within a coven or working group with one or two anchors. There are only a few initiated witches teaching the WildWood Craft currently outside of covens, never for pay and never to people who are unknown to us. If WildWood witchcraft is for you it will happen in the wyrd way. The Spirits will make it so. Whisper on the Winds, ripple the Deep Well, go to the Crossroads and lay down the Key.
We are a religion of poets, of artists, story-tellers, lovers, warriors and dreamers. We are priestesses of paradise and power. We are witches of a strange and queer Craft that remembers fire and noose, basket and stone, hearth and chimney, broomstick and knife, poison and medicine, familiar and descendant and a Greater Story that binds us together into liberation.
I will leave off with a piece of poetry that is incanted or sung at many of our Rites, as it was at our first formal full moon rite:
Deep beneath the shadow and power
of this Tree we call our Tower.
Day is fleeting, shadows fall,
across the Path our feet touch All.
End to end, this Circle’s Path,
blazing, shining as we laugh.
Dance the merry round with spark,
as we witches tread the Dark.
Wheel turning, eight-rayed sun,
Spiral-serpents birth the One.
Crescent Moon lays down Her claim
to Her Lover hanging lame.
And we the Witches of Wild Wood
stand where ancient stones once stood.
Now the Greening seeks the Grove
and that which rests in treasure trove…
*According to British Traditional Witch Michael Howard, the term Traditional Craft refers to “any non-Gardnerian, non-Alexandrian, non-Wiccan or pre-modern form of the Craft, especially if it has been inspired by historical forms of witchcraft and folk magic.” The current Magister of the Cultus Sabbati, Daniel Schulke, writes that Traditional Craft “refers to a coterie of initiatory lineages of ritual magic, spellcraft and devotional mysticism.”