Storm Faerywolf is an author, teacher, and warlock with over 30 years experience practicing witchcraft, and over 20 years teaching it. He holds the Black Wand of the Master in the Faery Tradition and is the founder of his own lineage, BlueRose. He also happens to have a book out today, Betwixt and Between: Exploring the Faery Tradition of Witchcraft, and I recently had the pleasure of chatting with him.
You identify as a warlock? Can you explain the significance of that choice?
Though many Pagans are under the impression that it is a dirty word, a warlock is simply a male witch. Its original meaning had to do with the breaking of an oath, but that meaning was squarely in the context of the Christian Church and not to any witches' coven, contrary to popular Wiccan assertions. While the word 'witch' tends to conjure up feminine imagery, I identify as a warlock as a means to help me better reclaim the divine masculine. This is important because in the absence of a positive relationship to the masculine we are left with its shadow: the patriarchal machine of oppression and violence. I claim the title of warlock in order to combat this and to better understand what it means for me to be a man practicing the Craft.
You hold the Black Wand in the Faery Tradition, can you tell us what that means and give us a brief introduction to the tradition?
The Faery tradition is a form of American Traditional Witchcraft. It stems from the teachings and initiatory lineage of the late Victor & Cora Anderson and Gwydion Pendderwen. While many consider Victor to have been the founder of our tradition, he repeatedly asserted that he was not the founder but instead a "Grandmaster and Fairy Chief", having been initiated into the tradition at an early age. He was definitely the seminal teacher of our particular branch of Witchcraft and initiated some influential luminaries of the Craft including Starhawk and the late Allison Harlow.
The Black Wand is an honorific specific to our tradition that denotes the holder as a "Master" of sorcery (or, in some lines a "grandmaster"). It signifies one as an elder of Faery and grants the ability to start a new lineage within he tradition. A holder of this wand has made a pledge to assist other witches with their workings and to act as a resource for the tradition. What it does not do is grant any authority over any other initiate. It should be noted that our tradition is quite diverse and as a result not all lines recognize the use of the wands. All initiates are autonomous and equal in the eyes of the tradition.
How does Faery differ from other traditions, like Wicca or Traditional Witchcraft for example?
Unlike most other forms of modern Witchcraft its origins are quite separate from Gardner's Wicca and our customs and practices may differ, sometimes considerably. While Wicca tends to be focused on a hetero-normative agricultural fertility mode, Faery focuses much more on ecstatic experience; the shamanic techniques of traveling between the worlds, and of spirit contact. Certain Wiccan laws and guidelines do not apply in our path (such as the Threefold Law or Wiccan Rede) and we have no religious prohibitions against such practices as hexing.
Why are there so few books available about Faery?
Though Faery as a practice has proven to be quite influential on the larger Pagan movement (much to do with the works of Starhawk and T. Thorn Coyle) in terms of the number of initiates we are still a rather small tradition, with a high estimate being 350-400 initiates worldwide. When Victor and Cora were first teaching (in the 1950s and 60s) the predominate culture within Faery was one of secrecy. In speaking with Cora Anderson before she died she revealed to me that this secrecy was born of practical concerns. For example: in the 1950s if it was known that you were a witch you were likely inviting violence or a visit from the authorities who might even take away your children.) In the modern world (and especially in the San Francisco Bay Area where Victor and Cora lived and taught) these issues became less of a concern as the political climate become more accepting. While Cora was adamant that there were actually few secrets in our tradition, some earlier initiates continued their practice of strict secrecy in regards to every aspect of their practice, and the reasons for said secrecy became "blurry" having gained a religious significance instead of simply a practical one. This has been one of the main points of contention between the differing lineages of our tradition in that some who practice a more secretive form have insisted that those of us who were not trained in a similar way to adopt their values instead of our own. This fundamentalism has created some of the many "witch wars" in our tradition and to many outsiders we are known to be a contentious bunch as a result. When authors have published books with information about our tradition they have sometimes been met with threats and smear campaigns designed to attack their characters. This has given some of us who work in a more open way some pause, as we have not wished to invite the abuse of the more cult-minded of our peers. Incidentally, this was one of the main reasons that I decided to write my book, as the values I was trained with might otherwise fall by the wayside as our history is misunderstood or rewritten.
What's with all the different spellings of Faery?
This is what has been called a 'branding nightmare'. First and foremost, Faery is primarily an oral tradition and as such spelling was never a concern. There are many legitimate ways to spell Faery (Faerie, Fairy, Feri), this last being Victor's attempt in the mid 1990s to differentiate our tradition from those others that might also bear a similar sounding name. This was never universally adopted (as we have no central governing body) and many of us began our training prior to Victor's switch. I have adopted many spellings over the years but now tend to use the 'Faery' spelling as that was what I was originally working with and to me it better reflects our lineages' focus on working with the folkloric elements of the Faery realm (which some readers may be surprised to learn is not a universal practice in the larger tradition). In the end, all spellings can be used by a legitimate initiate, though their choice may give some insight as to what lineage they represent and what style of practice they offer.
Is there a short ritual or practice from Faery that you would be willing to share that people can use in their daily life right now?
A foundational ritual in our traditio is a simple cleansing rite often referred to as Kala, or what I call the Waters of Purity. This is an exercise that is part of a Faery practitioners regular practice and may be performed every day, or even multiple times a day, as needed. All you would need to perform this rite is a glass of fresh water.
Begin by performing whatever grounding or alignment exercises you would normally use. It is not necessary in our tradition to cast a circle for every working, but if you feel more comfortable doing so then follow your intuition. When you are ready, hold the cup of water in your hands and contemplate something that has been troubling you. It can be big or small. As you meditate on this issue pay special attention to how you are feeling, both emotionally as well as physically. This is the "negative" energy that you hold inside that is associated with this issue. As you breathe slowly and deeply in a rhythm, imagine this energy as being transferred into the water, which takes on this charge and may now appear to your symbolic mind as being tainted and toxic. This is the "poison" that you have held inside yourself. When you feel you have expelled as much as you are able, take a cleansing breath and hold the cup to heart level. Now you may wish to call upon any spirits, guide, or deities with whom you usually work. Or you may just wish to connect to your "higher self" and ask that this negative energy be transformed. As you continue to breathe, imagine the starlight of your higher self (deity, guide, spirit, etc.) as moving through your crown and out through your breath in the form of a white fire, which infuses the poisonous water with spiritual light. Do this for the span of several breaths, imagining the water now transforming into a brilliant light, completely transformed from its previous negative form and into pure life force. When you feel that this transformation is complete (or as complete as you can make it in the moment) reverently drink the water, imagining this light moving into your body and this life force merging with the fluids of your body. When you are finished, just sit for a moment contemplating this new feeling of purity and freedom. The rite is said to be finished with your next urination, at which time you are releasing those energies that "do not belong to you" back into the cycle of water.
Where can people purchase your book, find out more about you, and study with you?
My latest book, Betwixt and Between: Exploring the Faery Tradition of Witchcraft was published by Llewellyn Worldwide and is available wherever books are sold. I encourage everyone to support their local independent bookstore or occult supply shop, but you may also purchase a signed copy from my store, The Mystic Dream.
To find out more about me and my work, including my classes and travel schedule, please visit my website at faerywolf.com.