During the early years of the 20th century Pagan Renaissance and enigmatic and colorful character named Gwen Thompson was publicly engaged at a high level with the resurgence of witchcraft in the United States. She was a prolific correspondent with just about every figure in the fledgling Pagan movement and a frequent contributor to The Green Egg — a publication that was arguably the lifeline which bound the movement together during that early era. Gwen ran a small Coven out of her North Haven, CT home from which she mentored initiates in the lore she had inherited from her family line. At the time only a few others identified their Craft heritage as “Traditional Witchcraft.”
Not one to pull punches or be shy about her opinions, Gwen called it like she saw it and experienced it. Gwen Thompson passed to the Summerland in 1986 and the few published items available to the public are a handful of articles she submitted to the Green Egg. This “Virtual Interview” is a collection of excerpts from those articles. Please keep in mind that the original material was published over 30 years ago for a small and select audience.
Many of the Craft organizations operating in the open (circa mid 1970’s) are more theologically oriented than magical. Your Tradition has an extensive magical training program based upon both the Folk Magic Practices of the British Isles and the Western Magical systems. Can you speak to the requirement for the witch when approaching the Magic Arts?
The ingredients necessary for successful magical operation are: interest, concentration of will, and emotion. If the operator lacks confidence, the forces involved will not rally to produce the desired results. A successful, positive attitude must be inevitably produce positive results. The old saying nothing succeeds like cusses holds true in all cases. The simple scientific fact that like attracts like cannot be ignored.<
Self-doubt is a crippling state of mind that must be overcome before any degree of positive achievement can be reached. Self-doubters generally extend their mental inadequacies over such a wide area that they function in failure. Their attitudes reach out to others and nobody takes them seriously. The other extreme applies to those who are so involved with that they imagine to be personal power that they strut about like the barnyard rooster doing a great deal of crowing and flapping, until they, too, manage to achieve a similar response. Nobody takes them seriously.
The ideal attitude is one in which the magical practitioner adopts a serious, confident and emotionally determined attitude regarding the working of the rituals. Magic is a very private, personal thing. A degree of humility and respect for others is a necessary ingredient. The failure of any magical working generally lies within the functional ability of the practitioner rather than the ritual. Once can train a chimpanzee to ride a bicycle, but it doesn’t mean he’s going anywhere with it.
Some believe that the Craft is only about doing positive-based, Deosil workings and that cursing has no place in modern witchcraft. What is your take on this aspect of the Craft and magic practice?
There is no getting away from the fact that thoughts and attitudes can do cause harm when negatively directed. Hate can kill, but the one harboring it pays the greater price. When it is felt that measures must be taken to ensure the protection of oneself or a group, the safest and quite often the surest method is the magical operation involving self-defense. Self-defense rituals have a tendency to reverse hostile vibrations and to erect a psychological barrier of protection. The efficacy of such magic comes from repetitive sound and motion which tends to play upon the emotions of the practitioner. The emotions act as the cohesive force for the ritual.
The following is a simple defensive ritual that we have found most effective. It may be done by an individual or a group. It is not necessary that it be done within a consecrated circle, although this is quite often the case. You will require blue or white candles for each person taking part in the ritual.
All face North and say: “O Guardian of the North Wind, protect us against all evil that may come from the North. Return the evil to its source in the name of Our Lady Diana!”
All face West and say: “O Guardian of the West Wind, protect us against all evil that may come from the North. Return the evil to its source in the name of Our Lady Diana!”
All face South and say: “O Guardian of the South Wind, protect us against all evil that may come from the North. Return the evil to its source in the name of Our Lady Diana!”
All face East and say: “O Guardian of the Est Wind, protect us against all evil that may come from the North. Return the evil to its source in the name of Our Lady Diana!”
Light the blue or white candles which you must carry as you walk widdershins (anti-clockwise) chanting:
To bane, to bane…
Thrice take ye down
From whence ye came!
This chant must be continued for 15 minutes. At the end of that time, stop abruptly and make your mind as blank as possible, stare fixedly at the lower part of the candle flame (the blue section) for a minute or so. Then extinguish the candles. The candles used for this ritual must be discarded preferably in a brown bag containing flour.
You say that the Craft you practice teach is Traditional; passed down from generation to generation in your family. Can you tell us something about what it was like to grow up in a family that practiced witchcraft?
There is only one form of wisdom that time alone can bestow, and that is the lessons learned from experience. Our children were taught to respect the Old Ones, even though they were often people of little formal education and very simple in their ways. They had lived long and had, therefore, experienced much of life and its ways. Their advice through their own lessons learned was considered invaluable, and thus they were held in deep respect for those things in which they had learned wisdom.
Children were not taught to strive for perfection, but for wisdom. Perfection is a broad concept with different meanings for different people. It actually does not exit. The caution as: “Do not seek perfection in others unless you can give it.” Therefore… we have the counsel to “live an let live.
It seems that all Witches embrace Halloween with especial enthusiasm. What can you tell us about Halloween in your Tradition?
Who or what is Old Jack? Old Jack is another name for our Great Horned God of the Witches when he appears at the death of the year (Hallows) and takes complete charge over the winter months. As God of Death and Rebirth he reigns over the Hallows festival as Old Jack, and often an effigy is made to represent him. The effigy takes the form of the well known farmer’s Scarecrow (and possibly this where the old farm folk originally got their inspiration for the Scarecrow).
A Covenstead need not be located in a rural area for the member of its coven to construct Old Jack. He can be made as any scarecrow is, and placed in any part of an apartment, house or Circle Room. He can be as easily stuffed with old newspapers or dried leaves, and it is a fun project. Making an effigy of Old Jack is a sheer Pagan sport.
May I say to the purist who may chance to read this in no way is such an adventure insulting to our God. Being a God of death and rebirth does not diminish the fact that he is also a God of great joy, mirth and laughter. He may be fierce, but he also enjoys being acknowledged in happy ways.
For us, All Hallows is not a somber time at all. It is a time to remember our ancestors and commemorate our beloved dead: a time to communicate with them and to let them know we are aware of their existence. It is a time to search into past lives and to gain knowledge from them. To learn from that which has gone before the ideals we believe in.
Let Old Jack guard well your Hallows Circle and impart to him the magicks that you wish. He will not fail you, and soon he will be drawing snow and ice-designs upon some window panes in his aspect as Jack Frost as he rides the Mighty Northwinds.