Silence, Oaths, and My Life in the F(a)eri(e) Tradition
Though I have always loved the term, I did not always use the word “warlock” to describe myself. While an outdated etymon persists in dominating the conversation about the viability of that terms’ use in modern parlance, it was not until I came to the Faery/Faerie/Feri tradition that I realized the full extent of its power.
I was always drawn to Faery. My childhood was filled with tales and superstitions from Ireland, the country which my great-grandparents called home. Witchcraft was in my soul from a very early age. At 14 I self-dedicated to the Craft and by 19 I was a founder of a small but dedicated coven. That year I read The Spiral Dance by Starhawk and I knew I had found home. Through her words, Faery came to me in the form of the Blue God; the laughing god of love.
I had no way of studying the tradition at the time and so I contented myself by studying other forms of the Craft, going as far as joining a local coven in an “established tradition” and even earning initiation. But something was missing for me.
An acquaintance later led me to formal study of Faery. He had heard of a private class being offered and remembered me saying that I wanted to study the tradition. I eagerly looked into it, signed up, paid my class fees, and proceeded to have my world opened. I learned so much in those few months. But as often is the case in ones early 20’s, I was not yet ready to make the commitment necessary to pursue a path as demanding as Faery.
A few years later the same acquaintance again magically appeared to tell me of yet another teacher offering a class. My husband and I signed up and started the long, slow process that in many ways changed my life.
At the time I formally began training in Faery I was wanting something more in my magical practice. Having already been a witch for many years, and also an accomplished teacher of the Craft, I had experience with magic that few at my then-tender age possessed. But my soul yearned for magic that I hadn’t found in books, or in classes, or even in the covens I had been a part of. Faery offered me something that tapped into a hidden place in my soul; that little place that whispered that magic was real and that we could tap into it if we only would let go and believe.
In the nearly six years that I was a student of the tradition I was led on a journey of self-discovery in which the main message was that each of us were our own divine authority. Using tools —both handed down in a traditional line, as well as those created on the spot— we scoured our inner landscapes for issues, complexes, and blocks, so that we could transform them with acts of magic and reclaim our lost life-force. In short, we were gathering our power.
Power is a big deal, especially for the Faery. Two of our most cherished traditional tools —the Iron and the Pearl Pentacles— each deal with Power and our relationship to its varying forms. In the religious narrative of our tradition —our “lore”— it is stressed that at the heart of Faery exists a current of mystical power (The “Faery Power”; often called “the current,” or simply, “the Power”). This Power, we are taught, has its origins in the Otherworld and is that which fuels a witch’s magic. It is amoral and even dangerous, but to those who are trained in its skilled use, it brings creativity, spiritual expansion, and a special connection to the ancestors of our tradition. Through its use, we are taught, we can better cultivate a personal connection to the Gods and Powers that be, and in so doing we become as the Gods themselves; self-authoritative and in servitude to no one. Our initiation is the magical passing of this Power from teacher to student, and the social recognition that this experience has taken place.
While the main message of Faery that I took away was one of cultivating one’s divine authority, there were other ideas and values at play that were not necessarily in resonance with that ideal. Part of the initiation as I experienced it was to take an Oath in part asking the new-initiate to hold certain values and curtail certain behaviors, such as keeping the details of the ritual they are about to experience a secret from the un-initiated, as well as to “protect [one’s] brothers and sisters of the Craft”. The text of the Oath was something that I recognized from my prior research on the Craft and I vowed to uphold it as a part of receiving initiation. I have never regretted that decision and consider that rite —as well as the Oath that I took— to be a mark of honor.
But I soon learned that others viewed this Oath in a very different light. When confronted with a sexual predator in our community and subsequently speaking out against him, I was vilified by some and told I had “broken my Oath” by sharing my story. An explosion ensued and I was subjected to attacks on my character. But what really struck me was how some had taken something that was often spoken of as being so beautiful —the Oath that “binds us all together”— and turned it into something ugly by turning it into a weapon. I watched as it became common to have a disagreement with someone within the cult and suddenly the charge of “Oath-breaker” would be swung like a hammer in order to try to shame and silence the opposition. The more I watched the more I started to question the purpose of “the Oath” within our tradition and was surprised to learn that it wasn’t “traditional” at all. At least not originally, and certainly not for everyone.
Since my initiation into the Bloodrose recension of the Faery tradition, I have tried to learn from initiates who were trained in other lines different from my own. Bloodrose, being arguably the largest line of the tradition in part due to the classroom model adopted by the lineage’s founder, has tended to dominate the public conversation about the tradition leading to some skewed ideas about the tradition as a whole. In speaking with those who studied with the traditions founders, Victor and Cora Anderson, I was surprised to find out that they were never administered any oaths, at their initiations or otherwise. Cora Anderson herself told us point-blank, “there are no oaths in Feri”. This alone proves that there is no universal Oath that “binds us all together” and so if we are looking for that which connects us, we must look elsewhere.
While I continue to honor the Oath that I took I do so not because I “made a promise” or that I fear some cosmic retribution (as another version of “the Oath” some in our tradition pass) but because I have personal ethics. I will not share the initiation rite because it’s at the core of our tradition to practice secrecy around its details, and I will continue to “protect my brothers and sisters of the Craft” because I am a good person. What I will NOT do, however, is turn a blind eye to damaging behavior in some misguided attempt to continue being recognized by my religious community. I had to face my fear around that issue when I broke my silence. It was one of the most difficult issues I had to face in my lifetime and through the tools of the tradition I was able to rise above my fear and act appropriately. For me this was an affirmation of the core of Faery: a practice to cultivate my divine authority and face my fears so that I could do whatever needed to be done to make a situation right. In other words, to be a warrior.
For some —even amongst a few initiates of Faery— I “broke my Oath” by speaking the truth. What I learned from this experience is that we must always be prepared to break our Oaths if we wish to claim our power and be truly free. If the Oath I took was intended to forbid me from acting according to my conscience, then I willfully break it and proclaim as such for the world to see. This is what the Faery tradition has taught me: sometimes you have to break the rules to do what is right. And if you want to call me an Oath-breaker for doing so, that is your choice. While I would not have considered it beforehand now I see it clearly: I am a warlock. And outdated etymon or not, thanks to the Faery tradition, I wear the title proudly.
For more of my writings on the term ‘warlock’ click HERE.