Wildwood: FAQ27 April 2017
It occurs to me lately that for people who have interest in or questions regarding the contemporary witchcraft tradition called Wildwood there’s really nowhere to go. We let our website go, we have not been interested as a Tradition in publicly teaching or running regular rituals. Several years ago there was a distinct turning within. We are a small tradition, and despite that, and probably because I write books and teach publicly, there are several misconceptions about our Tradition, who we are, where we come from, and what we do. It should be noted however that I have never once written a book on the Wildwood Tradition or even from that perspective. The initiates in the inner court number in the 30s. We’re not teenagers. The average age of a Wildwood witch is 30-35, not 18-21. Currently our oldest initiate is turning 50 this year. But yes, the first coven was founded by four queer witches aged between 16-19 at Samhain 2006. We are not a tradition dedicated to young people, though our first coven originally was.
Here we go. If you do have another question not answered here please do contact me and I will include it in a revision if there are ample offerings. Note, these perspectives are mine and mine alone. I am one of the original co-founders of the Coven of the Wildwood, a midwife of the Tradition that flowered out of that founding, and have been one of the most active teachers of the Tradition.
Who founded the Wildwood Tradition?
Firstly, we are a House of Witchcraft. No one founded Witchcraft. At the heart of our cultus lies the legends of the Fallen Ones, the Watchers, the Good Neighbours, the teaching of Familiar Spirits, the Witches’ Gods, the First Witch and Her Coven of Guardians, and our namesake, the Wild Wood – the Witch’s Forest. These are the foundational principles and realities that form our Tradition. It is through mystic contact, sorcerous delving, sensual encounter, sexual epiphany, and the corroboration of Gnosis that lore has been discovered/recovered, consolidated, and retrieved. Many of us maintain that the most traditional, folkloric forms of Craft are spirit-led, ecstatic, transgressive initiations at the hands of the Great Powers themselves. These are the forces that rebirth the Witch, and thus our particular Tradition. We claim no unbroken lineage but the lineage of the Craft through Ara the First Witch and our mating with the Fallen Angels, the Fae Ones, and the marriage of Fetch and Daimon in each of us.
There is truly no simple way to answer this question. James Ana, who lives and works in Oxfordshire, and myself (Fio/Gede), are the two witches of the original founders who remained at the time that our Tradition was acknowledged and realised.
Will you teach me?
Our tradition, like many others, is an initiatory mystery tradition. There are Rites of Passage in our Tradition that endow certain magical currents and spirit contracts that some of us were harrowed and torn apart for to come to. Those of us who teach and initiate in the Tradition are committed to excellence, vulnerability, transparence (without breaking covenant or oath with Family), and the gifts of the Lady – Love, Truth, and Wisdom. We are not looking for converts to witchcraft; when we meet witches who we suspect are already Wildwood, then we agree to enter into learning and sharing agreements and what we call the Aspirant Journey can begin. No money passes between us for the teaching of our Tradition, but nor do we owe the sharing of our Tradition with anyone who might come looking. You might already know the Witch’s Forest intimately, in which case this might be a sign of resonance with our Tradition, or it might mean you have no need for it. The short answer is – I personally will not teach you. If it is meant to be, it will happen.
Do you work with degrees or another system of initiation?
We draw very little from what is available of Wicca in the open-source sense. And we have no contact with Freemasonry as a Tradition or a lineage. When a seeker is blessed as such we call them an Aspirant of the Wildwood. It is also customary to acknowledge each of ourselves in the same way; our Tradition draws from a Deep Well and is embedded in a wild landscape that has no perceivable end. We are always learning, growing, and deepening in our Tradition. When an Aspirant is prepared to walk through the first gate, the First Rite may occur. This rite aims to catalyse the Witch’s Initiation par excellence. This happens in its own time. When the mentor/teacher/initiator(s) trusts the Aspirant, and is trusted by the Aspirant; when there is the risk of Love, the love of Truth, and the desire for Wisdom, then the Perilous Quest is begun (again) and Beauty is revealed. Consider the old folk-tales of the Loathly Lady, or the Hag who is the Maid (a title for Our Grandmother)… a witch is harrowed by Fate, but if she risks all for Love, then the Truth is revealed, and we grow Wise with the Mighty Dead, and behold Beauty. We call this Dedication, but it is Initiation. After at least a year and a day within the Inner Court or Rose House of dedicants/initiates one may choose to take the Firebrand, and this catalyses another spiral-journey of initiation. At the culmination of this journey a rite of passage occurs which names one a Priest/ess of the Wildwood. We effectively marry the Wild Wood within ourselves and commit to serving the Tradition and the People (including the Spirits) of the Tradition.
Who are your Gods?
Our Gods are the Witches’ Gods. They are the Grandmother Weaver – Old Fate – the Hag who is the Maid – All and Nothing. They are the Grandfather Green Man – Bones in the Land – the Wind Wizard – the Old King of Life and Death. They are the Crescent-Crowned Goddess – Our Lady – the Rose Queen – the Queen of Witches. They are the Prince of Paradise – the Young One – the Horned-Cloaked God – the Master – the Devil. We often call them the Sacred Four. We invoke them a lot. Yes, we have private Names that we pass at the First Rite of Dedication for the Younger Gods – the Lady and the Prince, and – this only happens after a period of getting to know these Great-Noble Spirits with no cultural markers. I am personally very aware that our Gods are venerated in other Traditions that I have had intimacy with.
How do you practise ritual?
Let me count the ways. To enter ritual space and consciousness we might light a fire or a candle and pour libations to the Spirits of the Land and our Ancestors. We might cast a Circle to become the All and to concentrate the Centre of the Circumference where we are; we might lay the Compass to orient to Powers of the Cosmos and step between the worlds; we open Crossroads to allow the Spirits passage through and to align with the ancient witches. We enter trance states regularly, we raise power and work with life-force via myriad methods; we are an ecstatic, mystic, and sorcerous tradition. We cast spells, we divine, we practise possession with specific style, we fly to the Wild Wood and commune directly with the Powers that form and fashion Our Covenant. Each coven, each Wanderer (a non-group aligned Wildwood witch), has their own style. A ritual in my coven usually begins with an acknowledgement of the Traditional Owners of the Land and the Spirits therein, followed by a grounding and/or soul-cauldron alignment practice, opening of the Crossroads through Ara the First Witch, invocation of the Guardian Beasts, the Three Serpents, the Sacred Four, and then a traditional incantation to the Wild Wood hirself. Similar to many other Traditions we then might bless those Spirits in reverse order and formally and magically release the tension of the Crossroads or Circle, sending it out into the Land as a furious blessing.
Do you celebrate the Festivals?
Yes, and we have (a) particular Mythic Story/Mythos that we actively hinge on those Festivals. Each Feast has an important piece of the Mythos as the noticeable/observable happenings within the Book of Nature, as well as the ancestral or cultural responses to those happenings, help us to access certain parts of the Story. The Story is eternal and simultaneously completely embedded within the Seasonal Round of the Weaver within the Land. Not every Feast is necessarily marked with formal witchcraft ritual. Sometimes we simply observe certain customs. For instance between the Autumn Equinox (the Descent of Our Lady) and Midwinter (the Mother’s Night and birth of the Promised One) I tend my Ancestor Shrines in a more direct and often more focussed manner, though I bless and work with my Ancestors every daily. At Lammas or Lughnasadh (we use both names among ourselves) South-East Queensland Wildwood witches often make a pilgrimage to the ocean to mark the passing of Our Prince. We fashion a barge for Him out of fallen palm husks, place an effigy of Himself within it with fruits, flowers, and gifts He might need in the Otherworld. We then process dirge-like to the waves, in grief and celebration, knowing Our Lady has taken on the Black Veil and is shrieking and mourning, and the strongest or most agile swimmer will swim out passed the “Ninth Wave” and push the barge beyond. We know now that He has Passed.
Are you a gay tradition?
No, but we are certainly an intrinsically Queer tradition. I’m not speaking of sexual preference or orientation necessarily, though many, if not most, of our initiates are Queer in that way too. There are examples in our Mythos of manifold kinds of love and sex. We do not rely or hinge on perceived or essentialist gender polarity forms of magic. If one is queer, or gay, or trans, one would be very welcome and at home in our Tradition.
Why do you keep things secret?
We are a Family of Witches. Like most families, we have family traditions, customs, recipes, and stories. Generally speaking we only share that with family members. In fact, it’s likely not even relevant to other families. However, there are other Houses and Families of Witches that might find our recipes and stories to be of interest because they are similar or contrast curiously. Whatever you might think or read, 95% of our Tradition can not be known without having engaged magically with it. We keep Names etc. private or oathbound also to preserve the power and mystery of initiations at which these particularities are revealed and passed. This is how we know one is Family, but it’s not the most important thing. Love is a verb.
Are you a form of Wicca or Feri?
The answer to both is no. We are a Tradition unto ourselves. We share more in common with Anderson Feri than Wicca however. Certainly there is one practice that has been absorbed directly from Anderson Feri and that is the triple soul alignment, but the ways in which I pass that technique and those teachings are specific to Wildwood. Our lore often links the three souls to the three cauldrons to the three realms of Land, Sky, and Sea and to the three Ancestors of Blood, Land, and Craft. In fact there are several other correlations we make too! Our Tradition has been either indirectly or directly influenced by Reclaiming, Anderean Craft, and Anderson Faery (Feri). But to be clear, this has been through resonance rather than imposition. Certain Wildwood witches might work with the Iron and Pearl Pentacles, but that is usually because they are also Reclaiming or involved in some way with Feri. While the lore of the three souls is actually common to most folkloric witchcraft in Europe and European-derived traditions, Iron and Pearl are specific to Feri and Reclaiming. They are not Wildwood doctrines or techniques and are not taught as such.
You are only an 11-year old form of witchcraft, how do you call yourselves a Tradition?
This involves much more discussion, but in fact there are several contemporary traditions/forms of the Craft under 40-30 years old that are wide-spread and well-known. Each of these is often connected however either to a lineage or practice of folk magic, or experience ecstatic communion with Witchcraft tutelary spirits and have been recognised as vital and verified by established Witch-Houses who may even share lore or technique. Certainly this is the case for the Wildwood. In terms of generations of initiates, we are beyond the third generation of initiatory lineage (I taught ____ who taught ____ who taught___ who is teaching___) and most Wildwood Aspirants are now fourth or fifth generation depending on their teachers.